Chapter Two

Dean stood up and came toward Jane. "I need you to come with me. I'm sorry, I know you probably don't want to have anything to do with any of this –"

Jane had held up her hand to stop him. "Dean, let me explain something to you about being able to 'read' people. It's an enormous invasion of privacy. I know that, and I try to respect certain boundaries. If there is something supernatural afoot, well, I relax some of those rules out of necessity. But, with your brother, he's doing what he's doing out of his own free will. I'm not interested in violating that. He's not under any spell or outside influence."

Dean nodded. "I get that, I do. And, I'm not asking you to try to influence him. I just want to talk to him. If you can hook up to him and tell him what I'm saying ---"

Jane tilted her head, looked toward the fireplace. "Hmm. How strong is the connection between you two?"

Dean floundered at that. What could he say to convey his connection to Sam? He's like my right arm? Everything that means home? Without him, I kinda run off the rails? "Um. Pretty damn strong, I would say."

She nodded. "I would agree, based on the glimpse I had from Sam. What if I got you in to talk to him?"

Dean's eyebrows went up. "What?"

Jane's looked back at him. "Sometimes, if the connection between two people is strong enough, I can link them together. That way, I'll stay out of it. Whether Sam comes back or not, that will be up to you. I'm like, I don't know, a telephone, but the words will have to come from you."

Dean let a kernel of hope settle in his chest. "You would do that? Come with me right now? Just like that?"

Jane looked down at her hands. "I had family once." Then, she looked up at him, gave him a surprisingly charming half grin. "And, once I've been in someone's head, I kind of know him, you know? And, your Sam? There was something about him…I'd like to give you a chance to get him back."

Dean smiled at her, really smiled, feeling so grateful and connected to her in that moment. "Yeah. Yeah, thanks." Then, he stood. "Now, let's move."

Turns out, Jane wasn't a fussy traveler. She put out some food for the dog, told Delilah to keep watch, put on her gloves, grabbed a satchel and off they went.

In the car, Dean called Cookie. "Hey, Cookie. He doin' any better?"

Cookie's voice was soft and subdued. "Hi, Dean. Ah, are you nearby?"

Dean drove faster. "Getting closer. How's Sam?"

Another quiet pause. "You'd better get here soon, honey."

Dean grit his teeth, pressed down harder on the gas. "I'll be there in an hour."

Sam had never been to a cook-out. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered why that was? Here he stood, in front of a grill, flipping burgers and watching people relax in his and Jess's back yard. Someone came through the back gate. It was Andy Gallagher, carrying a six pack. He gave Sam an uncomplicated grin. "Dude! Where's the cooler?"

Sam raised the spatula in greeting. "On the patio. Ava, show Andy where the cooler is."

Ava turned from where she and Brady, her fiancé, were setting up the croquet. "Sure, Sam. Hey, Andy, how's it goin'?"

Sam flipped the burgers. How long do these things cook? He looked over at Jessica. She was laughing with Meg Masters. Sam thought it was good to see Meg looking so clear-eyed and relaxed. Why was that, again? He shrugged. Didn't matter. She was having a good time.

Someone came up behind him and slapped him on the back. "Those things almost ready? I'm starving."

Sam glanced over, smiled. "Hey. Yeah, I think we're about there. Grab me a beer, would you?"

Steve Wondell handed him a beer, right from the icy cooler. Sam looked around. This was so great. But, there was something…it felt like someone else should be here. He couldn't think who, though, which was bugging him a little bit. He scanned the gathering. Mom and Dad were sitting under the overhang of the patio, laughing about something. Mom leaned in and gave dad a kiss, he stroked her hair and smiled at her. There was Hendrickson and Bella, chatting over under a tree. It was just as it should be. He was happy, the sun was shining, Jess was laughing. So, what was he missing?

Dean and Jane walked in to Sam's room. Jane went right to Sam and put her hands on her hips. She just stood there, staring. Finally, she nodded, started peeling her gloves off. She looked back over her shoulder at Dean. "You ready?"

Dean went closer, couldn't help staring at Sam himself. Sam looked horrible. Pale and gaunt and vacant. "What should I do?"

Jane pointed to the chair on the other side of the bed. "Drag that close. When I put you with Sam, your body will pretty much wilt, like a puppet without strings. Make sure you're comfortable and not in danger of falling. Close and lock the door. Pull those curtains. We do not have a lot of time, here, Dean. Sam's spirit is wanting to go, and his body's about ready to let it."

Dean did as she asked, got situated in the chair, his elbows leaning on Sam's bed. Jane came over to stand by Sam's head. She did some deep breathing. "Can't do the privacy shield, Dean. I've got to go in fast and hard, use all my energy for that, okay? I won't linger on you, but I will pick up…stuff. And, I'm sorry for that."

Dean didn't let himself have an opinion about that. Jane, reading all his 'stuff.' Good luck with that, was all he thought. He just stared at Sam. "Let's do this."

Jane put her hand on Sam's forehead, she gasped softly. Then, she put her hand on Dean's. He felt his head drop to the bed, and then he was zooming down a bright tunnel of blue and white light.

Sam felt something thump in his head. Just that, a quiet 'thump' somewhere behind him. He turned. And there was Dean. That's who'd been missing. Sam was so happy to see him. He threw his arms around Dean and hugged him tight. "There you are! I missed you, Dean." He stepped back, gave Dean a smile. "Hey, you hungry?"

Dean looked at Sam and wondered if he'd ever seen him look so carefree. His whole demeanor was so un-Sam. He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, he looked tanned and healthy and relaxed. His smile was, in a word, beautiful. No shadows behind it, nothing reserved or suspicious or guilty. Just sunshine and happiness. His arm went around Dean's shoulders. "Hey, you know everybody, right? Mom, Dean's here." And Dean looked over into the smiling eyes of his mother. Dad was there, arm around her waist. Mom smiled at him. "Dean, we missed you."

Dean was unable to think for a long moment. There were mom and dad, together. And, when he could take his eyes off them, he saw Jessica. As he took in all the people filling the sunny backyard, Dean felt his chest get tight. Oh, Jesus, Sam. These were all the people who Sam felt responsible for killing. And they were all alive and well, drinking beer and laughing. Happy. And Dean didn't let himself sink into it. Ignore it. There's no time. He turned back to Sam. "Sammy, I'm so sorry."

Sam's laughed. "Don't be sorry. I'm so glad you're here. Andy, get Dean a beer, will ya?"

Dean looked at Sam, really looked at him. "Sam, I need you to come back. Please."

And, as Dean watched, he saw a chink in the bright, happy smile. "What? Come back where? We're just where we need to be. Here."

Dean put his hand on Sam's arm. "Sammy. There isn't much time. I need you to come back with me. Right now."

The sun dimmed. The conversations died. It got quiet. Dean could see when Sam started to get it. His smile disappeared completely. His head dropped, eyes looking down at the ground. "Dean, no."

And, in that moment, Dean hated their life. He hated that this wasn't Sam's reality. It would never be his life. Sam's life was heavy and dark and full of hurt. But, he was needed there. Not just by Dean. If this apocalypse crap was going to be put down, Sam had to help. All Dean had to do was convince him of that in, like, the next two minutes. Because who would want to go back to that?

Dean said the truest thing he could think of. "Sam, I can't do it by myself."

Sam looked up at him, and here was the familiar haunted, sad gaze. "Yes, you can. You'll do it better by yourself."

Dean shook his head. "No. That's not true. It's never been true. I need you with me, Sam."

Sam sighed, a deep, sad sound. "I don't want to do that anymore. I don't think I can do it anymore." He looked out at the yard. Everyone had gone silent. Smiles gone, bodies still. The sun was gone, the sky had turned dark. He looked back at Dean. "Please, Dean. Let me stay."

Dean stared at Sam, willing him to understand. "I can't, Sammy. I know why you want to. I truly do. But, staying means dying. It means giving up and letting the bad guys win. It means leaving me to deal with it all alone." He gave Sam a small smile. "How is that fair?"

Sam stared back at him. They just stood like that for long moments. And then, the people around them were gone. The yard was gone. They were standing in dark, indigo light. Sam put his hand on Dean's arm. "I'm afraid all the time."

Dean nodded. "I know. Me, too."

"It will never end."

Dean sighed. "Yeah."

"You kind of hate me, back there."

Dean shook his head. "Not true, Sam."

Sam watched him. "It is." He gave Dean's arm a squeeze. "It makes it unbearable there, you know?"

Dean's eyes stung. "I'm sorry. I don't hate you, Sam. I could never hate you. Jesus."

Sam let go of his arm. "It's okay. I know why you do. Can't say I blame you. I just can't live with it anymore. Okay?" And Sam took a step back.

Dean stepped closer and took Sam's face in his hands. "It's not okay that you think I hate you. I don't. I wouldn't. I'm pissed, yeah. I'm working on some trust issues, okay. But, Sam, believe me when I tell you I could never hate you."

And Sam stared at him, trying to read the truth. Dean felt like his whole damn world rested on whether or not Sam believed him. He willed the truth to Sam. Sam's expression didn't change. Man up and say the words, Dean. It's his life. "You're my little brother. I love you, you damned idiot. Always have. Always will."

Sam's head tilted, one eyebrow went up. "Yeah? Really?"

In for a penny…"Don't leave me to do this shit by myself, Sammy. I will eat a bullet in a week."

"Don't say that. You'd be fine. You're going to kill Lucifer and save the world."

"Not if my selfish bastard of a brother makes me eat a bullet, I'm not."

Sam finally, finally, gave him a little smile. "I don't think you really would, but it's nice of you to say so."

"Nice to say I'll eat a bullet?"

"Well, yeah. It's sweet. You know, for us."

Dean had to smile at that. "Your subconscious is pretty sappy."

Sam considered. "Is that where we are?"

Dean nodded. "Yeah. Something like that."

"So, we have to go back?"

"Yeah. And, ah, time is of the essence, Sam."

And Sam watched him for another long moment. "It was really great to not be out there, Dean."

Dean nodded. "I know, man. I'm sorry to pull you out. Well, not sorry, cause, you know, you're like two minutes from kicking the bucket, but, sorry for you that it will never be real."

"Thanks. Your subconscious is pretty sappy, too, Dean."

Jane's voice whispered over them. "Let's go, boys. Follow the frickin' light and come out of there."

Sam looked around. "Who was that? And what light are we supposed to follow?"

Dean looked around, too. "That was Jane. And I think that's the exit." He pointed over Sam's shoulder, where the blue and white streaks were arching.

Sam turned toward it, sighed. Then looked over at Dean. "Okay. Let's go."

When Dean raised his head, he was back next to Sam's bed, holding Sam's hand in both of his. He glanced up and saw Jane with her eyes closed and breathing in great gulps. She was getting a hold of it, though, and slowing down. He looked at Sam. There was color back in his cheeks, and his nose twitched and his eyelids fluttered. Dean smiled. That's what I'm talking about.

He stared at Sam a little longer. Jane cleared her throat behind him. "Dean. He won't remember any of that."

Dean glanced up at her. "You mean his picnic of dead people?"

She almost smiled. "No. Well, yes. That, and, your telling him you don't hate him."

Dean looked down. "Yeah. You heard all that, huh?"

She breathed out a deep sigh. "It's weird poking around in people's minds, Dean. You get to see what they truly think, what they truly feel and then, you see how they keep it all hidden in their regular life. You obviously are very important to him. He needs something from you, and you need to decide if you're going to give it to him." She dusted her hands together. Pulled her gloves on. "I'll leave you to it. I've got to get out of here. Being around all these people, all these sick people is going to make my skin peel off and my head explode."

Dean stood up. "Well, there's a word picture. Jane, I don't even know what to say. You saved him." You saved me.

Jane gave him another of her long, uncomfortable stares. "Dean, he came back for you, I had nothing to do with that." She nodded toward Sam. "He's big and strong, and really, remarkably brave, but…really, so fragile right now. Don't make him earn your love for now, hmm? How about you give it to him for free, just for a little while?" She picked up her bag, turned toward the door.

Dean was reluctant to leave Sam, but, hell, he owed her big. "I can take you back, if you're ready to go."

She considered him. "I think you need to stay here. I have a ride coming, no worries."

Well, that was mysterious. Dean put a hand out toward her. "Jane, I don't know how to thank you. If you ever need anything, anytime…Get in touch with Bobby. He always knows where to kind us."

She nodded, went to the door. "You have an interesting little family, Dean Winchester. You're on my radar now, so, I will be checking up on you." She pulled open the door, leaned back a moment from the wave of people passing by. Steadied herself with a deep breath. Glanced over her shoulder one last time. "I have a feeling we'll see each other again. Good bye, Dean."

And she was gone. Dean sank back down back on his chair next to Sam. He could feel Sam breathing, sense that he was back in there. The jittery feeling riding in Dean's gut for the last day or so was gone. He just sat there and basked in his brother's Sam-ness.

He leaned in and whispered to Sam, "I hope you don't expect me to go all sappy once you wake up, Sam. That shit is only for emergencies." But, Dean knew what Jane had been telling him. Sam's subconscious thought Dean hated him. And, that was all on Dean. He had to work harder on getting rid of the distance between them. Because next time it might not be a minor bump on the head. Next time, one of them might check out for real. If that ever happened, Sam was going to know that Dean had his back, no matter what. He could give him that.

The door opened again. Dr. Jacoby came in. He nodded at Dean. He had two other doctors with him. "Mr. Perkins. This is Dr. Rinaldi and Dr. Payton. Ah, they're here to try to assess your brother's failure to revive. I'm sorry, but, he doesn't have much time. If you could just make room for them?"

Dean didn't move. He pointed to the heart monitor that had been up to 140 bpm when he came in with Jane. It was now down to 110. Dean smiled into their dour faces. "I think he's doing better."

And, as if he heard Dean talking, Sam made a humming noise and turned his head toward him. Dean leaned closer. "Sam, nap time is over, man. It's time to open your eyes and greet the day."

All three doctors stared at Sam, looked at their charts, tracked the monitors, it didn't make sense to them, clearly. They seemed kind of pissed off that Sam was coming around. Dean shrugged. Whatever. Friggin' doctors.

And then, Sam's eyelids fluttered and opened. He looked disoriented until his gaze settled on his brother. "Dean?"

Dean raised a brow, put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "Sam? You okay in there?"

Sam swallowed, closed his eyes. One side of his mouth went up in a tiny smirk. "Yeah. Just peachy."

Dean turned toward the doctors, gave them a megawatt grin. "See? He's peachy."

The End