a/n: I've been bouncing around an idea for a sequel to my fic "All My Love" for a long while. That fic I wrote after "Swan Song" and it was a very emotional story of a grief stricken Dean who took the transcript of Chuck's manuscript to a remote place for reading and drinking and found the amulet in Sam's bag. The idea of the sequel was Dean taking Sam to the same place and telling him about finding the amulet. I could never find the right premise where it worked right, until now.
After "The Born-Again Identity" I wondered what would happen if Sam decided to stay in the mental institution because he still wasn't quite right. This story follows that premise and picks up two months later. Dean takes Sam on a day trip. Guess where? This is a pretty emotional story too, but I was dying to write a tearful brotherly bonding moment. We've only had one of those this season.
Title of the fic comes from a Beck song. If you read the lyrics, they're sarcastic. He's anything but fine. This is a one shot. I hope it lives up to the original fic!
Sam gazed out the tall window overlooking the garden from the second floor. It was sunny today, a rarity. Or at least Sam thought so. Truth be told, as many times as he's seen this view, most days he didn't notice if it was sunny or not. Everything always looked bleak. Perhaps he was looking forward to today after all. Then why was his stomach in knots?
He focused on the young woman putting in a fresh row of pansies in one of the beds. Sam couldn't remember if he ever planted a flower in the ground. Most of his holes in the earth had to be big enough for bodies. A flower certainly would have been refreshing. He was surprised he knew those were pansies. Yellow and blue. He always liked yellow and blue. Most of everything he saw was grey and black. Or red.
He didn't know what to think anymore. Everything still felt so numb. The past few months had been a blur - day in, day out, unable to identify with anything or anyone. He wanted to feel the simple pleasure that came from planting a flower on a spring day, but those days had long since passed him by.
A knock on the door ruined his mindless observations. Sam sighed, for it was time. He wasn't sure if he was ready. "Come in," he instructed.
His heart sank when Dean came in, wearing a weakly painted yet optimistic smile. He gave his brother credit for trying. At least he didn't come in looking all gruff and anxious to go. Sam wasn't in a hurry.
"Hey," Dean said, closing the door behind him.
"Hey," Sam replied, turning his attention back to the woman in the garden. She should be enjoying this more, Sam thought. He heard Dean's footsteps move toward him.
"How have you been Sammy? It's been..."
"Six weeks," Sam replied. "I'm doing fine."
"Really, you've been okay?" Dean asked with a tinge of hope.
"No," Sam said, never taking his eyes away from the window.
Dean frowned and walked over to the bed. Sam had a book by the table. Slaughterhouse Five. Awesome light reading material, not suspicious at all, Dean thought, sarcastically. He could tell instantly Sam still wasn't in a good place.
"We don't have to do this if you don't want to."
Sam didn't answer, continuing to watch the woman, who was now covering the flower petals with dirt.
"I mean, you aren't even dressed yet," Dean continued nervously. Sam was lost elsewhere. He accepted Sam wasn't going to be right today, maybe not ever. Coming today was a bad idea, but it was an anniversary. "Let's do this another day."
"No, I'll go with you," Sam said. He didn't want to. But even after all their time apart, all this time where he's been trying desperately to pull himself together, he still couldn't disappoint Dean.
Dean's smile widened slightly. "It's a beautiful day, I'll put the windows down all the way. Come on, it'll feel good to get out."
Sam grinned a little over Dean trying. "I know. It's just..."
"Look, I get it. You haven't been out ever since...If it's not cool with you...I just don't want to rush things."
Sam looked away from the window and over at his cautious brother. Dean's little glimpse of optimism was something Sam always appreciated. He shouldn't be afraid, even though he was petrified. "I'll get dressed."
"No rush," Dean answered. "I'll just wait here. There's a hot chick down there planting roses."
"Pansies," Sam corrected.
Dean went to say something then stopped. "You realize you set yourself up there, right?"
Sam cracked a small smile and nodded. He went into the bathroom to change.
Sam thought his heart was going to explode from his chest the second he stepped foot into the lobby. He was a nervous jumble when Dean signed him out, but did his best to hide it. He wasn't sure how Dean pulled off getting the doctors to approve a day trip. Perhaps because Dean was the official guardian, and it's not like he was there by mandate anymore. He was moved from the secure ward weeks ago, when they finally decided he wasn't suicidal.
Once Sam spotted the Impala parked out front in the distance, the bright sunlight bouncing off it's shiny trim, some doubts faded. He remembered the day Dean visited proudly proclaiming that his baby was back on the road. That was the last time he saw him. Sam barely remembered that day. It wasn't one of his better days. It was no wonder Dean hadn't been back since. He felt comfort knowing the old girl was watching out for his big brother.
Sam felt guilty he couldn't be there for Dean. That guilt plagued him since the first time he told Dean he was staying at the hospital, right after Castiel took away the psychosis. That didn't take away the memories.
"What do you mean you aren't leaving?" Dean asked, incredulous that Sam would even entertain the idea of staying in this place.
"You have to back me on this Dean. My head isn't right. I can't be out there like this." Sam knew Dean wouldn't take this well, but the flashbacks were too overwhelming.
Dean tried to be sympathetic. "I've been there too man. I can help. We can work through this."
"Not this time Dean. I'm with the doctors on this one. I'm too messed up right now."
Dean struggled to understand Sam's words. "What do you expect me to do?"
"Get on with your life. Do what you do best. I can't be there with you. I'll hold you back."
"I can't leave you in here."
"Yes, you can."
"Sam?" Dean asked.
Sam snapped out of his memory. "Yeah, I'm ready." As soon as they got outside, Sam stopped to take in a long gulp of the fresh late spring air. It was winter when they wheeled him into this place.
"Something wrong?" Dean asked.
Sam shook his head. "No, this feels good." It did. No voices, no hallucinations, no monsters out to get him. Just a pure moment of the warm sun hitting him, his hair lifting away from his face slightly in the breeze.
"Want me to come pick up you up while you enjoy this?"
Sam shook his head. "No, I'll walk with you."
Each step toward the Impala gave him more and more butterflies, but they were good ones. The creak of the passenger door was like music to his ears, like a song he hadn't heard in years. He fought an emotional rush inside him, scrunching his lips to prevent an outburst. Those came pretty easy these days.
"It's okay," Dean said, smiling. "I actually cried real tears when I got her out of storage. I'm never letting her go again. I don't care if it means certain death."
They both climbed into the car, and for the first time in a while, Sam felt like he was home. He dropped his eyes toward his lap and finally let a tear slip.
Dean smiled from ear to ear. The last time he saw Sam in tears, it was during one of his really bad episodes. The orderlies had to sedate Sam and told him not to come back until Sam was better. The doctors still gave him reports, saying that bad day set Sam back a good week from his recovery. He felt lucky it was only that long. It scared him.
Dean turned the key, and the roar of the engine lit up Sam's face. Dean put the car in reverse and pulled out of the drive. Before going forward, he took one more look at Sam. "You sure, you cool with this?"
Sam looked relaxed. "Yeah, I'm sure." Dean put the car in forward gear and took them on their way.
The Impala hummed, the warm spring wind blew in their faces, and Sam didn't say a word. Dean wasn't sure what to say. After Sam was put in the hospital, Dean didn't know what to do. The coaching from the doctors helped, after all they were the experts. But Sam didn't suffer just any breakdown. Cass told him after they found Raphael's vessel that severe mental breaks were common for those possessed by angels. They leave behind residual damage and a connection remains. Given that Lucifer was an archangel, Sam was especially lucky he wasn't left a vegetable. Sam losing his mind was just part of the normal process.
The thought of Cass again made Dean's stomach drop. He checked in on him and Meg before getting Sam. He was still the same drooling mess. It wasn't lost on him that could have been Sam, or worse. Despite everything that happened, he was still grateful Sam was alive.
"How have you been doing, Dean?" Sam asked, breaking the silence.
"Me? I've been okay."
"Have you?" Sam pointed to the back of the car, which was littered with take out garbage and other stuff.
"There's no way we're having this conversation. Anything that's been upsetting me does not compare to what you've been through. I couldn't even talk to you on the phone until two weeks ago."
Sam frowned, for he didn't like the fact his breakdown got worse after he stopped hearing Lucifer's voice. At least Lucifer was a distraction. Once he was left alone with his own thoughts, the flashbacks took over. He vividly remembered being back in Hell. It felt like he'd been gone for years again. Years of his life and soul being burned away, ripped to shreds by Lucifer and Michael's constant torture. He stopped there, for he couldn't have a panic attack in front of Dean. He wanted this day to work for his brother.
"Yeah, well, I'm okay now."
"Didn't think so." Dean was at least glad they were talking. "I got a place in town, and I've been hunting nearby. I wasn't about to leave you."
"You've been hanging around town for two months?"
Dean shrugged. "I liked how they were normal cases. Nothing very exciting or dangerous. Certainly didn't run into any big mouths."
"That's good." Sam looked out the window, the flat Indiana landscape catching his eye. "It's funny, I never asked you where we were going."
"You'll see. It's really not that far. Hour and a half. Quite frankly, I wasn't sure I wanted to take you where I am, but I think you're in okay shape."
"You do realize you're messing with a nut who may or may not have taken his meds today?"
"I'm aware," Dean answered, not concerned. Actually, a joke coming from Sam felt really good.
Sam smiled. That got Dean going too. "Now that's something I definitely haven't seen in a while. It's awesome."
Sam returned to his window gazing, trusting that whatever Dean had in store, he'd be okay with it.
"Mind if I ask you a question?" Dean asked.
"Sure," Sam answered.
"You sure that Slaughterhouse Five is something a guy in a mental ward should be reading?"
Sam shrugged. "Why not?"
"Why not? Because Billy Pilgrim was a delusional whack job."
Sam gave Dean a look of disdain. "He learned through his madness to accept and deal with all the horrible, tragic crap that came his way through his life."
"He was a nut."
"So it goes."
"Oh yeah, that makes me feel better." Dean didn't push it any further when Sam went back to his window gazing.
It was another hour before Dean turned down a random road. Or it seemed random to Sam. Dean certainly looked like he knew where he was going. Suddenly the car slowed and turned onto a dirt drive, riddled with potholes. They bounced back and forth most of the way down, Sam impressed by how much the rough road made Dean smile. His brother always did love the country roads. They always made him sick.
The road led to an abandoned farm. Sam was definitely curious now. Dean drove past the house around the back and behind the completely capsized barn. He positioned the car so they could get the best view of the unkept, overgrown, wide open field.
Dean turned off the engine and stepped outside. He walked over to the hood and leaned against it, gazing at the meadow surrounding him. Sam got out of the car, wanting to ask why it was this place he had to take him to, but he figured Dean would explain. He closely examined Dean, who pulled out Bobby's flask and starting drinking while looking at the surroundings. Sam walked around and slid onto the Impala hood. They sat in silence for what seemed like hours, but it was really only a few minutes.
"Today is May 13th," Dean said, still looking forward and watching the afternoon sky.
"The day I said yes to Lucifer." Sam thought that he should be sad, or sentimental, or say something more, but the truth is, after all he'd been through since then, it was only the beginning. He stretched out on the hood of the Impala more, deciding the warm sun wasn't so bad.
"I found this place a week after it happened," Dean said.
"Huh?" Sam answered.
"I was at Lisa's and was tore up pretty bad. I couldn't even function. Then Lisa, got a delivery."
"It was the most recent book from one Carver Edlund. She read it and burst into tears. So in my grief I grabbed the book, took baby out and found this place."
"Really? Did you read it?"
"Oh, I read it. Had a lot of things in there that took me by surprise." He took another drink before going on. "How much you suffered while being possessed, how you only broke through after seeing the toys in the car door, how scared you were before...it really killed me Sam."
Sam felt some tears rush to his eyes. "All that was in there? That had to be rough, reading that."
"I didn't give a crap how rough it was for me. All I knew is after all that, you ended up being tortured in Hell. I mean where's the justice in that? Where's the reward for your sacrifice?" Dean slid on the hood next to Sam, taking another long swig from the flask. He tried to calm himself, wanting to remain cool for Sam, but this was very upsetting for him. The past several months have been.
"We just keep getting deeper and deeper in crap Sam. I mean, look just what happened to you. It seems that we end up out of the frying pan and right back into the flames to get what's left of our asses burned off."
Sam silently nodded, for what Dean said couldn't be more true. It's a reality that's been staring at him in the face for months now. "I've had a lot of time to think about things over the last two months Dean. It's been overwhelming. These doctors, they keep talking to me, wanting to know why I'm so depressed and anxious, what could have happened that was so bad. I couldn't tell them. They couldn't begin to understand. It all got to me though. I couldn't pretend it wasn't real anymore."
"You don't know how many times I was ready to check myself in, join you in the room next door," Dean said. "I've been such a jerk Sam. I've been so focused on my own problems, my own depression and grief, that I never noticed what the hallucinations were doing to you. How bad they were tearing you apart. No one should have to live like that. It wasn't right. It wasn't normal."
"You can't blame yourself Dean. I can't blame me or anyone else for this either. Stuff happens we can't control. That's the one thing I've been learning to do in there. Letting go of the guilt and blame. Doesn't always work. Most of the time I've ended up trying like mad to figure out why I couldn't be strong enough for you."
Dean looked at Sam sternly. "Strong enough? My God Sam, you're the strongest person I've ever known. You've had to endure...I just don't know of any person that could take all that even for a minute. You held out far longer that anyone else would have. I'm proud of how strong you are."
Sam pressed his lips together, trying hard not to get to emotional. "I still wish I could be there covering your back."
"You don't worry about that. That'll happen when you're ready. Don't rush things. All I want is for you to be alright."
Sam took in a deep, uneven breath. He didn't want to be upset by this. He'd been dying to talk to Dean for a while about things. He wondered why they didn't open up to each other anymore. He swiped his face with his hand, hoping that would help pull him together.
Dean still felt pangs of regret for bringing Sam here. Maybe this wasn't a wise idea. He felt like he had to try something though. When the doctor suggested it might be good for Sam to get out and spend time with him, this was the first place that popped into his mind.
"When I came out here two years ago, after reading and then drinking and crying, I felt better. I went back to Lisa and Ben and pulled it together for them even though I was out of my mind with grief. I brought you here hoping this place could give you the same kind of magic Sam. I need you to get better too."
Sam nodded, letting a few of those tears slide down his cheek now. "I'm getting there. I want to be okay. I'm tired of not being okay."
Sam sighed, sitting up again on the Impala. It really did feel good to be with her again. More than he ever knew. "I got the same question every day in group therapy, about whatever my trauma was. 'Tell us how that made you feel Sam.' No one wanted to know how I felt that day. No one ever asks how I feel right now."
"How do you feel Sam?" Dean was actually scared to ask, and he knew why the others were too. Usually the response involves blowing ones brains out.
"I'm scared Dean. I'm absolutely terrified. More so now than when I was actually being tortured. What makes it worse is that's exactly what Lucifer wanted."
"Do you still see him?" Dean asked, trepidation in his voice over what the answer might be.
"I do in flashbacks. At first I kept reliving those days in Hell over and over. Therapy has helped. You want to know how long it took me to accept that seeing him wasn't normal? I'm scared he'll come back. I'm scared he'll push me too far again."
Dean nodded, understanding for sure, but not having a good answer.
Sam continued. "The mind benders think that I invented Lucifer in my head to block out the flashbacks. I wish that was true. They're vivid and terrifying. Part of me thinks seeing Lucifer wasn't so bad."
"Right, until he tried to kill you through sleep deprivation."
Sam shrugged. "Yeah, well that remains to be seen. Was that him or me? That's why this is all so confusing. Whatever's happening in my brain, it scares me."
"I gotta admit, it's scared me too Sam. I've never understood this head stuff. Lord knows I haven't dealt with things all that well. But you do know I'm here for you, right?"
Sam nodded. "I do, and I really appreciate it, but you can't be inside my head. You haven't had to live in that institution the last few months." Sam sighed, stopping for a minute watching Dean's solemn face. He wasn't saying it right. "Before Bobby died, he told me that we should be more worried about ourselves than each other. He's right. You need to get on with your life. You don't need me dragging you down."
"Well, I don't think Bobby had this in mind when he said that. Look Sam, if you don't ever want to hunt again, that's okay with me. But I will never stop being there for you."
Sam choked, with a few more tears breaking free. "Thanks. I don't think I'm ever going to be the same Dean. Too much is haunting me now. Too much crap has surfaced. I'm broken."
"After all you've been through, you should be. I'm broken too Sam. Have been for a long while. That's why it's more important than ever we be there for each other. I haven't been doing that lately. I'm really sorry."
"Thanks. That means a lot." Sam deeply sighed, clearly upset now.
Dean smiled. "Good. Would you like a beer?"
"Yeah, that would be good." Dean slid off the hood and fetched two cold ones from the cooler in the back while Sam leaned backward on the hood, admiring the falling afternoon sun in the sky. He suddenly recalled Dean's declaration when they reunited in Missouri, after he set Lucifer free. The words echoed in his head. "We keep each other human." That made him cry a little harder.
Dean silently handed Sam his beer, not saying a word while Sam let his emotions go. He climbed back on to the hood next to his brother, waiting patiently for Sam to work it out.
Sam appreciated how his brother could be so supportive by just being there. "What now Dean?" Sam asked, after a few minutes of letting it all out.
Dean shrugged. "I have no idea."
They both watched the sky in the stillness of the warm afternoon. They stayed silent until dark, watching the sun fall and the moon and stars rise. It was like old times again. Both turned off their minds and didn't think about anything except how amazing the skies were.
Eventually, in the dark night, Sam started laughing.
"What?" Dean asked.
"I think I missed curfew," Sam said.
"I believe you did," said Dean, now laughing too. Sam laughed harder.
"What's so funny? I'm the one in hot water," Dean said.
"Think about it, all the crap we've faced and I'm sweating over one simple rule violation."
"It's hardly simple. They've probably got an APB out now for an escaped mental patient and his hoodlum older brother."
That made Sam laugh harder. "In a car that could easily be spotted from outer space," Sam added.
Now they both were in hysterics.
"Thanks Dean," Sam said once they stopped. "I really had a great day."
"It's not over yet." Dean slid off the hood and went into the backseat, pulling something out from his bag. He went back to Sam and let the item dangle from his hand. Sam's eyes widened in shock, seeing the moonlight barely illuminate the amulet in his brother's hand.
"You found that?"
"In your bag, the night I came out here. I got to admit, it tore me up pretty bad finding it."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wore it for a little bit, but without you around, it wasn't the same. I always kept it around, in my pocket or bag, pulling it out when I felt bad or wanted to remember. It just didn't mean what it used to. Then you came back soulless, then the wall broke, and the time was never right to bring it out."
"Why now?" Sam asked.
Dean handed it to him, and Sam rested it in the palm of his hand. It looked so old and worn, kind of like both of them.
"Cause you could use a good luck charm right now," Dean answered. "Just keep it in your pocket or something. Pull it out and think of family whenever things don't seem right."
Sam grasped onto the charm in this hand, feeling the magic already. "I will," he said in broken voice.
"Good." Dean offered Sam another beer, but he shook it off.
"Mind if we head back now?" Sam asked. "I'm getting really tired."
Dean's heart sank, but he understood. "Sure."
They both climbed into the Impala and headed back to the hospital. Dean noticed that brooding gaze of his brother's as he looked out the window the entire time. He tried not to smile. Sam was finding his way back again.
Three weeks later
Sam gazed out the tall window overlooking the garden from the second floor. The roses were staring to bloom now, while the pansies withered a little from the early summer heat. The woman who maintained the garden sprinkled them with water. He loved the symbolism. Some flowers blossom while some fade from the heat. With a little care, those weaker blooms would bounce back. If Dean knew I was paying so much attention to flowers, he'll never let me hear the end of it, Sam thought.
A knock on the door interrupted his mindless observations. "Come in," he said.
Dean was amazed this time. "You're dressed."
"Yeah, I'm getting out of here, right?" Sam grabbed his bag on the bed, very eager to go.
"Great, let's go. Did you say goodbye to Cass?"
"Yeah. I told him we aren't giving up on him."
"I said the same thing, which is why we're going to stay at my place in town for a while longer. We need to be here for him."
Sam smiled. "I like that plan."
As they left the room, Sam reached into his pocket, fighting off his small rush of nervousness by clutching onto the amulet. He wasn't sure what trials and adventures were waiting for him on the outside, but with his brother by his side again, he was going to be okay.
a/n: Thanks for reading! I know AU isn't everyone's favorite, but this just wouldn't get out of my head.