Summary: Sam's visions seem to get the best of him. Is Dean the key to setting him free? Action takes place directly after Croatoan.
Thank you to Faye for the great beta on this fic. If you readers had only seen the first draft of this you'd understand how much time and energy Faye put into it to make it better.
(Lyrics to "Blow Up the Outside World" by Chris Cornell)
Blow Up the Outside World – Prologue
Sunlight danced across the water while white cirrus clouds streaked across the blue sky. It was a brilliant, beautiful day and after their recent trauma Dean and Sam should have been relaxing instead of having such a serious discussion.
"Right before Dad died, he told me something. Told me something about you," Dean said as he looked into the distance.
"What? Dean, what did he tell you?" Sam prompted Dean, not wanting the moment to slip away.
Sam knew this was going to be a life changing moment. Dean had been keeping something bottled up inside, something that was making him crazy with worry, and now he was finally going to trust Sam with it.
Sam felt the tension vibrating through his body and began clenching and unclenching his hands in an effort to keep from going over to Dean and shaking the truth out of him.
Dean had promised to watch over Sam and decided that the best way to do this was to tell Sam everything he knew. Finally Dean turned and looked Sam in the eye, ready to unburden himself, and that's when the vision hit Sam.
Sam dropped to his knees on the dirt ground and covered his head with his arms as he willed the pain stabbing through his temples to wane. The pain was so sharp he couldn't catch his breath. But that was the least of his problems as the picture show inside his head began to play.
Sam stood in the dark, facing off against the Fire Demon. Energy danced along his body, his skin crackled with blue light. Reaching out he grabbed onto the being responsible for so much death and suffering. Energy transferred directly into the ground from Sam's own body and then a bright light pulverizing everything. The Demon was gone. And so was Sam…
The sign said, Welcome to New Madrid, Missouri. A blond young man about Sam's age transferred a blue orb of light from one hand to the other. Suddenly he hurled it at a house. The house ignited in flames…
The picture shifted rapidly to an argument between him and his brother. No, I won't let you do this...Sam, there's got to be another way. I'm sorry Dean, this is the only way to end it. Dean pulled back his fist. Sam's head snapped back as he staggered. Darkness.
Lastly, a sign for Cairo, Illinois, a massive stone and glass house for rent, a man in distress screaming…
Dean, crouched down next to Sam, rubbed his hand up and down Sam's back. He hated watching what the visions did to his brother. And this was one helluva vision. Sam had been staring off, pupils unfocused, for several minutes. Concerned that Sam still hadn't surfaced from the vision Dean was becoming anxious. He watched in surprise as Sam pitched head first toward the hard ground.
"I've gotcha," Dean murmured as he caught and cradled his baby brother against his chest. He waited for Sam's eyes to open.
"Sammy, Goddammit don't do this. You've never passed out from a vision before." Dean saw Sam's chest moving up and down and he felt his heart beating but his brother was scaring him. He should be blinking open his eyes and telling Dean what he saw, not lying so still and gray.
Dean knew the nearest hospital was more than forty minutes away. Not wanting to take a chance with Sam's life he decided to load him into the Impala and head for help.
Blow Up the Outside World – Part 1 (And nothing seems to break me)
Nothing seems to kill me no matter how hard I try
Nothing is closing my eyes
Nothing can beat me down for your pain or delight
And nothing seems to break me
No matter how hard I fall nothing can break me at all
Not one for giving up though not invincible I know
Sam abruptly woke up in the passenger seat of the Impala.
Dean jumped as Sam began to speak. The last time Dean had looked over at the passenger seat Sam still seemed to be out of it.
"Dean, we've got to head for Southern Illinois," Sam said, a pleading note in his voice.
Dean, out of his mind with worry when Sam had passed out in the middle of his vision, was determined to not give in to Sam this time.
"No way, Jose. You're going to see a doctor. That was quite a fainting spell. They teach you that in sissy California?" Dean asked. His brusk manner was just a front. He was still crazy with worry over his younger brother.
You've got to trust me Dean, a doctor can't help me.
Sam didn't say those words out loud. At this point Sam knew there was very little he could say to Dean to change his mind. Dean's hands were clenched around the steering wheel and his jaw was set. He was digging in his heels.
"Dean, please, you have to take us to Cairo, Illinois. I'm sorry I passed out on you but we need to get there. Trust me, now that the vision has passed I'm fine," Sam was trying to reason with Dean.
"So what exactly did this vision show you?" Dean wanted to believe that Sam was okay but Sam still looked shaky.
Sam closed his eyes and rubbed his right temple trying to remember the last part of his vision. "I saw a sign that said Cairo, Illinois and there was this house…stone and glass. We were at this house and there was a scream. I don't know what happened but we have to go there." Sam was having trouble conveying his strong need, really a compulsion, to get to Cairo. But somehow Dean understood him.
Reaching out Dean clasped Sam on the left shoulder briefly. "So you don't know what happens but you feel like we need to be there?" Dean glanced at Sam and saw relief spread across his face. In fact his whole body seemed to relax.
"Yeah, I know. I sound a little crazy. There's just something…" Sam still couldn't describe what was drawing him across country.
"Let me guess, there's just something pulling you there and you can't describe it. I got it. We'll skip the doctor on one condition – we're going to stop each night to rest. You can't keep pushing yourself like this, Sam, you have to learn to relax," Dean stated.
To his thinking this wasn't up for discussion. It was his responsibility to make sure Sam was okay and he knew in the weeks after their Dad's death he hadn't been there for Sam like he should have been.
Sam started to argue, "But…" but Dean quickly shut him down.
"Shut it, Sam. That's my final offer. Take it or leave it." Dean knew he sounded like a hard ass but sometimes with Sam you had to be firm.
Sam, realizing that this was the best compromise he would get, acquiesced to Dean's plan, "Okay. Let me know when you want me to drive."
"You swooned a little while ago. Do you really think I'd trust my most prized possession to you?" Dean replied as he executed a U-turn and headed the car east.
Sam leaned back against the flat pillow, a sigh escaping his lips. His eyes restlessly roamed around the motel room. It was lacking in any personality but it was cheap and it was clean. The carpet was a drab yellow which was reflected in the faded yellow and gold wallpaper – the décor had definitely seen better days. But then again the Winchesters had seen better days, too.
It had been five days since the demonic plague, which Sam had privately taken to referring to as Croatoan, had ripped through Oregon as well as through Dean's and Sam's lives. The people of River Grove had all disappeared and Dean and Sam were lucky to have gotten out with their lives.
Of course when they had thought Sam had been infected Dean had been willing to throw in the towel and join Sam in death. It didn't make any sense. His big brother was nothing if not a fighter, the kind of guy who never quit, even when the odds were stacked against him. To hear Dean say that he was tired, that he wanted to give up--well, that had certainly been enough to unnerveSam.
But Dean had a lot on his mind. He'd been on the verge of telling Sam what their Dad said right before he died and then Sam had suffered the grand mal of visions.
Before the vision had hit Sam was hurt that Dean was holding back information from him, about him. After his vision the hurt had faded to be replaced with terror. Whatever their father had said to Dean was enough to turn his big brother practically suicidal. He handed his prized car keys over to strangers, kept a gun with a bullet meant for each of them, and was willing to wait for the inevitable.
Sam no longer felt the need to badger him for information or details. If Dean wanted him to know then he would tell him. Dean didn't need the added stress of his freaky little brother pestering him.
The freaky little brother who hadn't contracted the demonic virus although he'd been directly exposed to tainted blood. Sam was still having trouble with the implications of that development. If Dean had misgivings about Sam and his abilities before this would surely send them through the roof.
Sam felt that he continually let Dean down but at least they were still together and working on a lead of sorts.
At least upon waking Sam had blurted out the right destination. That was one thing he'd managed to do right lately. After a search on the internet he'd found an article about arson committed in New Madrid, Missouri. Sam suspected he'd dialed in to another one of the "Chosen Children" and witnessed him torching a house where five people had died in the fire.
Sam hadn't even mentioned this part of the vision to Dean; he knew Dean was spooked about what was happening and he didn't want to stress him out further. As it turned out there was nothing the brothers could do to stop that tragedy but maybe there was time to prevent something from happening in Illinois.
Dean quietly opened the bathroom door, steam billowing out behind him. The paint was cracked and the facilities were outdated but the hot water had been endless and the water pressure heavenly. His eyes swept over the room noting with satisfaction that Sam appeared to be sleeping on one of the beds. The rest would really do the kid some good. At least that's what he hoped.
Dean discarded the towel, quickly pulling on clothing as he tried not to wake Sam.
Dean knew something was wrong with Sam. At first he'd thought Sam was giving him the cold shoulder because he wouldn't tell him what Dad had said right before his death.
Sam was like a terrier – once he got his teeth into something he didn't let go. But let go was exactly what he'd done in this instance. Not once had he tried to get Dean to talk about their Dad, or his feelings, or anything. Now he worried that the vision had damaged Sam somehow. He was uncommunicative, almost silent.
Dean jumped as Sam jerkily sat up on the bed. "I hope you left me some hot water." Both brothers cringed at the hoarse, croaking sound of Sam's voice.
Dean felt some of his concern lift. Maybe that was what was wrong with Sam. He'd caught something. Some run-of-the-mill, non-demonic virus.
Sam could see the wheels turning in Dean's head. No wonder Dean was concerned--he sounded terrible. But Sam was pretty certain that he wasn't sick. He suspected his voice was hoarse from disuse. After all, he'd been so lost in his own thoughts, trying to figure out his visions, he hadn't talked to Dean in practically twenty-four hours. It was a wonder Dean hadn't dumped his ass off at the nearest ER.
Sam knew it was time to put his game face on. Dean was all he had left in the world and he didn't want to drive him away. And he certainly couldn't get anything done if Dean hauled him off to have doctors poke and prod at him
Sam cleared his throat and tried again. "It sounds like Cairo has turned into quite a ghost town," Sam said as he gathered some clean clothes together. "The population was 6,000 in 1980 and now it's down to 3,000."
"That's weird. Are you thinking the population is down because of something supernatural?" Dean said as he watched Sam slowly moving around the room. He couldn't quite shake the feeling that something was wrong with his brother.
"Maybe. I found the name and number of a realtor. Do you want to call him and see if there are any two story stone and glass homes for sale in the area?" Sam was trying to sound low key but that was the only substantial clue he had from his vision and he wanted to find out what it meant.
Dean picked up on the tension in his brother's voice and his worry meter notched up a level. "I'll call him while you hit the showers. Dude, you are not going to believe the water pressure. It's a thing of beauty." Dean covered his heart with hands and sighed.
He wanted Sam to relax. Maybe even smile. He wasn't sure what was wrong with Sam, but the level of stress his baby brother seemed to be carrying certainly couldn't be helping him.
He was rewarded by a quick flash of white teeth. "You'd better not be lying. That last place had a fine mist, not a shower. We could have sued them for false advertising."
Sam disappeared into the bathroom as Dean picked up the phone. He wondered if this was how Sam had felt in trying to deal with Dean directly after their Dad's death. Everything was surface talk and meaningless. And frustrating.
"Thank you so much for agreeing to show us the house so quickly, Mr. Johnson. We appreciate you dropping everything to accommodate us." Dean had a wide smile plastered to his face that was making his face ache. He was laying it on pretty thick but Sam wasn't jumping in to help. Sam always made this talking to the locals look so effortless.
"My pleasure, Mr. Whitecastle. I can't believe a member of the Whitecastle family is interested in Cairo. I absolutely adore your hamburgers." Mr. Johnson simpered at Dean.
Sam at least was paying attention because he rolled his eyes when Mr. Johnson started talking about white castle hamburgers. The burgers were actually by White Castle. It was true – a sucker was born every minute. And then he got his first look at the house and the conversation around him faded out.
Two stories of stone and glass built into a hill with a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. This was the place from his vision.
"Sam, are you ready to go inside?" Dean said as he took Sam's elbow and started leading him toward the door. Dean didn't like the way Sam had zoned out and he was looking gray and drawn again.
"This is it," Sam quietly said as he allowed himself to be steered through the front door. Dean squeezed his arm before letting him go to trail after Mr. Johnson.
"If you'll come right this way…" Mr. Johnson broke off as his cell phone rang loudly. "Would you please excuse me for just a moment? I need to take this. Please feel free to look around on your own. I'll be right back." Mr. Johnson went back outside where he began speaking heatedly to someone.
Dean pulled out his EMF and cranked it on. "I'm going to take this upstairs and check things out. You feel up to poking around down here or do you want to come with me?" Dean didn't want to step on independent Sam's toes but he knew he'd feel better if Sam came with him.
"I'm good down here," Sam said as he peaked outside at Mr. Johnson. "It looks like he'll be a while." Sam smiled at Dean but the smile didn't reach his eyes.
"Okay, yell if you see anything, Haley Joel." Dean watched Sam nod his head yes but his jibe hadn't drawn a response. He sighed as he climbed the stairs.
As Dean headed up the grand mahogany staircase, Sam started wandering around the great room. There was a large stone fireplace and wood beams were visible on the ceiling. Very lodge like. He wandered toward the back of the house where a huge swimming pool was visible.
He was standing in front of a sliding glass door, contemplating going outside, when he heard Dean call his name. Turning around he started to answer when he felt the pull of another vision. Only it wasn't a new vision.
He and Dean were arguing. He has his mind set on something and Dean is pleading with him to give up his idea.
" No, I won't let you do this...Sam, there's got to be another way."
"I'm sorry Dean, this is the only way to end it."
"Sammy, you okay?" Dean had raced downstairs when Sam hadn't replied and found Sam staring into space with a dazed look on his face.
Sam turned his back on Dean to grab his bag when Dean tugged him around and surprised him with a right hook.
Dean reached out with his right hand to touch Sam's arm…
Sam, not expecting Dean to hit him, staggered back. Sam blacked out…
The vision of Dean hitting Sam coincided with Dean touching Sam's arm in real time and the results were disastrous.
Sam, caught up in the vision, staggered back at the light pressure of Dean's touch. Losing his balance he crashed back into, and through, the double plate glass sliding door.
Dean stood in horror as he watched Sam shatter the door. Ignoring the glass strewn across the floor he stepped through the ruined door and knelt down next to his motionless brother. Sam was lying on his right side, cuts welling with blood across his face and arm.
Blood soaked the patio floor. Too much blood.