Warnings: Spoilers up to the latter half of Season 6. Some mild swearing.
In keeping with Supernatural tradition, the title is from a classic rock (sort of) song, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by the Hollies. Only 2 chapters long. Many thanks to The Lilac Elf of Lothlorien for her terrific beta-work!
Summary: What if Sam wasn't the only Winchester freed from the cage? What if Adam wasn't given a wall to hold the horrors at bay? How would Sam and Dean deal with the mess that used to be their brother? Sam&Dean-centric (Sam's POV)
HE AIN'T HEAVY
Bobby was on the phone in his den, his index finger jammed in his free ear to block out the sound of the escalating argument behind him about who played the best Batman: West or Bale. He finished up his conversation with a solemn 'thanks' and hung up, sliding his cell back into his back pocket and turning around with a tired sigh.
Sam saw the reluctant look the older man gave them, as if hesitant or even unwilling to interrupt the once-familiar banter that had just recently started up again after Sam's soul had been returned to him. He cringed instinctively at the brief thought of what he had done in all those months with no soul, no conscience. He was fairly sure Cas had given him the abbreviated version but together with the few glimpses of memories he had to go on, he decided that was bad enough. The relief reflected on the faces of Dean and Bobby every time he said something even remotely kind or considerate was a clear indication he had been a different person altogether, someone who probably should have been exterminated like any of the monsters they spent their lives hunting.
Bobby finally cleared his throat to get their attention, giving Dean in particular an apologetic look and Sam knew that didn't bode well for whatever news the older man was about to deliver.
"That was Delray, a hunter from New Mexico," Bobby announced when the brothers finally shut up and looked his way. "Seems he went to check out a story in Kansas of a kid who was officially dead showing up out of the blue, alive and kicking."
Dean groaned. "That's just awesome. More friggin' zombies."
Sam ignored the standard Dean-gripe. "So, what? This hunter needs our help on the case?"
Bobby shook his head. "No, it ain't that, exactly. He was just giving me a courtesy call 'cause when he interviewed the kid, your names came up." He paused, a worried frown pulling at his forehead. Sam and Dean remained silent, looking at him expectantly.
"Do we know him?" Sam finally asked, not sure where this was going.
"Yeah," Bobby nodded gravely. "Kid says his name is Adam Milligan."
Dean drove through the night—the same stiff, determined look on his face he had held there during those months searching for Dad. Sam wanted to ask what his brother was thinking but knew he wouldn't get a truthful answer. Not yet, anyway. Dean was still processing—carefully holding everything inside until he could figure out if this really was Adam and how screwed up the kid was. Then he'd decide how to react. Sam just hoped this didn't turn out to be a hoax or another case of too-late-to-save-the-kid, because he was pretty sure Dean wasn't ready for another one of those.
Honestly, neither was he.
The young man claiming to be Adam Milligan had been found wandering the streets not far from Stull Cemetery showing signs of 'belligerence and intent to cause self-harm' by screaming and yelling and running blindly into traffic. Police had managed to subdue him but had ended up handing him over to the local psychiatric hospital where he was now under mandatory 24-7 care. The facts certainly did point to this being Adam, though hopefully without a pissed off Archangel still inside.
They entered the hospital as Special Agents Nugent and Kilmister, figuring they'd have to prove they were family to see him otherwise and that wasn't an option without a little more time to fake paperwork. Their badges were flashed in unison at the front desk and again at the orderly manning the security door to the locked wing.
"Uh, now's not really a good time for an interview, agents," the orderly told them politely as he buzzed them through the first door.
"We'll be the judge of that," Dean snapped.
"Why not?" Sam asked, his tone a little more calm than his brother's.
The orderly shrugged and waved towards another door twenty feet down the hall. "See for yourselves."
There was a loud commotion coming from the other side of the door. The brothers barged through to see three men in white wresting with a violently thrashing and screaming patient in green hospital clothes.
It was Adam. Or it sure as hell looked like him.
"NO! Don't let him take me back! Get away from me! No, no no! I'm out!"
Other patients were fleeing or being ushered away by nurses and the three orderlies seemed to be barely keeping the patient restrained. Sam automatically wrapped a hand in Dean's suit jacket, tugging backwards just in time to stop him from diving into the fray and decking the orderlies. A syringe was emptied into the flesh at the top of the patient's back side and the screaming stopped abruptly as Adam sagged into the arms of the men in white.
"Just let me die again," he slurred, his hand fisted in an orderly's sleeve. "Please. Maybe I'll go back to Heaven."
Then he was out, and was promptly half carried and half dragged away by two of the men in white.
"Dean, wait," Sam breathed in warning, feeling his brother's muscles tensing in readiness to break free of his grip and follow.
The orderly from the door was standing next to them by this point. "See?" he said matter-of-factly. "Not a good time for an interview."
"You didn't need to pump him full of drugs," Dean seethed. "You try talking to him?"
The man didn't hide his offended expression. "We know what we're doing here, agent," he said coolly. "That patient is experiencing a full-blown psychotic episode. There's no talking to him when he has these fits."
"How often does it happen?" Sam asked, his stomach in knots over the upsetting scene they had just witnessed, Adam's last words on continual replay in his mind.
The orderly sighed. "Few times a day - on a good day. We've only had him here for a week so they're still working on a diagnosis but… basically, the kid's a mess."
"Can we see his file?" Sam pressed, trying to think past the sound of Adam's desperate cries in his head.
"Sorry," the orderly shook his head. "Need a court order for that. You know the drill."
"Of course, of course," Sam agreed quickly.
"Well, he'll be out for the night so…" the man gestured towards the doors behind them.
"Yeah, right," Sam nodded, glancing at Dean who was suddenly being unusually quiet, a tense look etched on his face. "When would be a good time to come back?"
"You can try in the morning if you like," the orderly suggested. "Can't make any guarantees, though."
"We'll be here," Dean answered curtly and the brothers left, walking out to the car in silence.
It wasn't until they were checked in to a nearby motel and dropping their duffels on their respective beds before Sam finally spoke. "Do you think he remembers everything?" he blurted.
"What? The cage?" Dean snorted. "Did that look like someone who doesn't remember to you?"
Sam's shoulders slumped and he sat down heavily on the end of his bed. "He doesn't have a wall," he said quietly.
Dean gave him a hard look. "That's not on you," he said before grabbing his shaving kit and heading towards the bathroom. He paused halfway there and spoke without turning around. "Don't get all … Sammy about this, okay?"
Sam's look of incredulity went unseen by the elder Winchester who disappeared abruptly into the bathroom and closed the door. Sam let out an audible 'hmph' at the irony of his brother's comment and lay back on the bed. Taking on undue guilt and blame was definitely Dean's thing far more than it was his. Neither had broached the subject of fault regarding Adam since Bobby got the phone call yesterday but it was clearly weighing heavily on both of them.
The next morning, Adam was awake and lucid when the federal agents arrived to question him. They were led into his room where he sat on a chair gazing out the window.
"Adam, you have some more people from the government here to see you," said the doctor who had shown them in. The announcement got no reaction. The doctor turned to Sam and Dean. "Don't expect much," he told them. "And don't push. You can ask your questions but if he starts to get upset, you need to stop right away."
"Thanks, Doctor," Sam nodded, standing aside to hint for the man to leave so they could talk freely.
"We'll be right outside," the doctor nodded, taking heed of the polite suggestion.
As soon as the door was closed, Dean pulled the flask of holy water from his jacket and unscrewed the top while Sam used his large frame to block the slotted window in the door. Dean moved round to crouch in front of Adam.
"Hey Adam," he said quietly. "Remember me?"
Adam looked his way but didn't answer.
"It's me—your brother, Dean," Dean continued, his voice calm and friendly. "Listen, I'm just gonna pour a little water on your hand, okay?" He lifted the flask.
"Holy water," Adam said simply.
Dean grinned and let out a deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah, holy water. Is that alright?"
Adam held out his hand. Dean poured a splash of the water on it and Sam watched Dean's face as the eldest Winchester studied Adam for an adverse reaction. All Sam saw was relief. That relief grew as Dean went through the various tests, all permitted calmly and quietly by Adam - silver, picture with a flash, and a tooth inspection.
It was Adam. Holy shit, it was really Adam.
Sam swallowed past the lump in his throat when Dean pulled the kid up to his feet suddenly and wrapped his arms around him, whispering something in his ear Sam couldn't hear. Adam returned the hug weakly and allowed Sam to do the same but still remained quiet.
"So you recognize us? You remember us?" Sam asked as Adam sat back down.
A slow nod was the only response.
"Do you know…?" Sam hesitated. "Adam, do you know how you got here? How you got out?"
Adam shook his head. "They don't understand," he said softly, his gaze returning to the gardens outside the window.
"Understand what?" Dean asked. "Who doesn't understand?"
Adam's green eyes flitted towards the door of the room.
"The doctors?" Dean inferred then let out a snort. "'Course they don't. They don't know squat."
"Sam and Dean," Adam said slowly, still looking out the window. "My brothers. Sam."
Dean spared Sam a worried look as they both took seats in the remaining plastic chairs. "Yeah, that's us. We're here."
"You're here now," Adam repeated, his words slow and hushed. "But you weren't."
Sam saw Dean's jaw clench and knew the comment had hit the eldest of the brothers the same way it had hit him.
"No, no we weren't," Dean recovered quickly. "But we are now. So, what do you do in this place for fun, kid?" he continued, reaching over to pull a book from a nearby shelf. "Wuthering Heights? Seriously? Geesh." He dropped it back down. "Ah! How about poker?" he lifted a deck of cards triumphantly in his hand. "Trust me, Sam here's an easy win."
"Sam," Adam repeated, turning his head to face the tallest of them.
"Yeah," Sam forced a smile. "He's right. Apparently I have too many tells. But I did beat this few-hundred year old witch in a game…"
"Why'd you leave me there, Sam?" It was said in barely more than a whisper.
Sam's heart missed a beat and his throat constricted at the question, leaving him unable to answer. "I…I…"
"That wasn't his faul…" Dean began but was cut off by a shout from Adam.
"NO! No! I won't!" The young man was suddenly on his feet, his chair tumbling noisily to the floor behind him. His eyes were wide and his breath was coming out in pants as he stared at the empty bed and backed frantically away from it. "STOP IT! NO! DON'T!"
Dean rose quickly and took a deliberate step to put himself between Adam and whatever he was looking at on the empty bed. He reached out to grip the kid's shoulder. "Whoa, whoa, take it easy."
Adam snapped and lashed out, his fist hitting a surprised Dean in the jaw and sending him sprawling. Sam held his hands up in a placating gesture, calling Adam's name repeatedly to calm him but before he could get a response, the door was open and two orderlies and the doctor were in the room. They pounced on the patient and quickly pinned him, dragging him towards the bed, kicking and screaming.
"No, don't!" Sam jumped to intervene when he saw the orderlies opening the wrist restraints at the sides of the bed.
"He doesn't need those!" Dean added, struggling to his feet.
The doctor spun towards them. "I'm afraid your interview is over," he said sharply.
"Get your meatheads to take your hands off him," Dean hissed, reaching for one of the large orderlies.
"Agent Kilmister!" the doctor snapped, stepping in front of him. "Let us handle this! You have no jurisdiction here. I suggest you leave or I will have you reported."
Adam was still shouting and fighting the men in white and it was Sam who stepped forward, yanking one of the men around by the shoulder.
"Sam!" he heard his big brother calling his name in his bossy, command-tone. He spun to see Dean standing calmly behind the doctor, shaking his head at him. "Agent Nugent, the doctor's right," Dean said calmly, though his voice was clearly forced. "The interview's over. Let the professionals handle this."
"Dean, what…?" Sam didn't understand but he backed off, trusting Dean. How was Dean able to stand the desperation and fear in Adam's cries? Was he really going to walk away and let them strap the terrified kid down?
"Thanks, Doc," Dean said before spinning on his heel and leaving the room quickly. Sam followed, throwing one last glance back at his little brother being strapped to the bed, tears streaming from his eyes and indecipherable words spilling from his mouth in heart wrenching sobs.
"Okay, what was that all about?" Sam demanded as they walked out the front doors and across the parking lot towards the Impala. "I would have thought you of all people wouldn't have just left him like that."
Dean opened the driver's door and sank into the seat, waiting for Sam to follow suit before answering. "I'm not leaving him," he said simply.
"What do you mean?" Sam asked, warily.
Dean leaned forward and turned the ignition over, sitting back when the engine roared to life. "I mean, tonight we're coming back here and we're getting Adam the hell out of there."
The words and the repercussions of Dean's plan took a few seconds to sink in before Sam could respond. Oh crap.
"Wait, Dean," Sam fought to clear his mind of the emotional aspects of what had just happened and see reason. He had always been able to do that better than his brother who, despite his aversion to any semblance of sharing feelings, tended to react emotionally to things close to his heart. "I don't think that's such a good idea," he said evenly.
Dean narrowed his eyes at him. "A minute ago, you were ready to deck the orderly!"
"Yeah, but seriously — think about it. He's messed up. He needs help. He was down there longer than me and he doesn't have a wall keeping it all at bay. You really think we can keep him safe and… sane?"
"He's not staying in there."
"He's getting help in there."
"Help? They don't know what's wrong with him. We do. We've both been there, Sam. You may not remember it, but you gotta know that these doctors and shrinks -" the last three words said with a generous measure of disdain, "-aren't ever gonna understand what he's been through. They think he's psychotic!"
"He is psychotic, Dean. For real reasons that they may think aren't real, but he still needs help. Professional help."
"In this situation, we're the professionals." Dean stared forward for a long moment, his jaw clenched so tightly Sam could see the beat of his pulse in his cheek. "We're his family and we're not leaving him in there," he added more quietly but with a resolve Sam knew better than to argue with.
Sam nodded, honestly not knowing what the right thing to do was. "Okay," he conceded. "Maybe you're right. We'll come back tonight and get him."
Adam was in a drug-induced sleep when they came for him using stolen key cards, his wrists strapped to the side rails of his bed. Sam threw him into a fireman's carry and they made their way out the back door, the only resistance coming in the form of a middle-aged security guard who dropped like a sack when Dean's fist slammed him onto the wall.
It was just before dawn when Sam first began to regret their decision to 'rescue' Adam. The kid finally woke up in the back seat as they neared the Kansas border. A low groan was the only warning they had that he was even stirring before he was screaming and thrashing about, his fists and feet slamming into every inside surface of the car.
Dean applied the brakes but the Impala was still going twenty miles per hour when Adam managed to get the back door open and launched himself out onto the asphalt.
"Damnit!" Dean yelled, hammering the brakes on the rest of the way and fishtailing the car wildly on the road. Sam was out and running before it came to a full stop and reached Adam the same time the Impala reversed up next to them.
Adam was still pulling himself together, traces of blood beginning to ooze out of the nasty-looking graze he had on his left cheek. Sam knelt down next to him and gripped his shoulder in a reassuring manner. "You alright?" he asked, the pitch of his voice high with worry.
Adam nodded in reply, not looking Sam directly in the eye as he pushed himself stiffly up onto his hands and knees. Dean was crouched next to them within a few seconds, pulling the young man up to his knees and patting him down in the standard Winchester search for injuries. Adam allowed it without resistance but winced and let out a pained gasp when Dean's fingers touched his stomach. Dean pulled up the torn green hospital top and swore at the sight. Even in the dim light of the moon, Sam could make out the series of bloody scrapes on the kid's left side, pieces of grit leaving little black specks throughout. His left arm hadn't fared much better.
"Can you get up, dude?" Dean asked gently. "We'll get you to a motel and take care of these, huh?"
Adam nodded and accepted Dean's help to his feet and back to the car. Sam let out a deep breath, trying not to think of how much worse this could have been and how this wouldn't have happened in the hospital. Even though the kid seemed calm now, Sam climbed into the back seat with him this time, just as a precaution.
Adam mostly listened and simply nodded silently as they explained that they'd broken him out of the hospital and that he would be staying with them. He didn't actually voice a thank-you but didn't seem upset with the revelation either. In fact, as Sam studied him over the next three hours as they drove until they reached a motel Dean deemed far enough away, he realized the kid seemed apathetic about pretty much everything. Dean did an admirable job of keeping the conversation going but rarely got a reply past a nod or shake of the head.
Sam remembered the day they had spent with Adam after Zachariah had pulled him out of Heaven when Dean had refused to say yes to Michael. He had been anything but complacent. He had been strong-willed and determined and had an attitude on him that Sam couldn't help but liken to Dean's — cocky and mouthy and one hundred percent faithful to his family. Of course, at the time, the only person he had considered his family had been his Mom and in the end, he had revealed his location to the angels and been taken as bait for Dean. It wasn't a surprise the angels had then somehow convinced him to say yes and when Sam had let Lucifer in and shown up in that cemetery in Kansas for the big showdown, nobody was surprised to see Michael wearing Adam.
But that brash, cocky kid was gone now and the determined, hopeful look in his green eyes had been replaced by a haunted, empty stare. For the hundredth time since hearing of Adam's return, Sam wished he had an idea of what had gone on in the cage. Wished he could remember at least some of it. But he didn't dare 'scratch that itch' as Death had put it because the last time he'd done that, it hadn't ended well for him.
Lunch was burgers, as usual. Adam ate obediently but didn't seem fussy over what kind of burger or what was on it. Dean put on the TV and they sat around the motel room for a couple of hours until the peace was suddenly broken by Adam yelling pleas and defiant phrases and throwing a wooden chair at an invisible assailant at the foot on the bed.
It didn't take long to figure out the 'Go away!'s and the 'Leave me alone!'s were aimed at a hallucinatory Lucifer and not at the Winchesters. Or maybe it was Michael, but Lucifer seemed the more likely culprit, all things considered. Adam wasn't answering any questions about it and neither big brother was willing to push.
They managed to get him calm again without physically restraining him. Dean kept placing himself in front of the kid, blocking his view of whatever was scaring him and telling him over and over that whatever it was wasn't real, that he and Sam were real. It seemed to work … this time. Sam wasn't getting his hopes up.
It was early evening before Cas finally made an appearance. He wasn't amused at the scolding he received from Dean for taking so long to answer the call and sternly reminded the brothers there was a civil war going on upstairs. He didn't know who or what had pulled Adam from the cage, or why, but mercifully put the kid to sleep before checking for a soul.
It was there. Thank God, Adam's soul was there.
Cas healed Adam's cuts from the road but that was the end to the good fortune the angel brought with him for he was unable to grant Dean's request to 'please just fix him'. "I'm afraid there is nothing I can do about his mental state," Cas admitted apologetically. "The boy's soul is damaged. Fixing that is beyond any angel's capabilities."
He didn't stay long and as soon as he disappeared, it hit Sam that the brothers were alone in this. They had decided they couldn't go back to Bobby's in case whoever had brought Adam topside went looking for him there. Now Cas couldn't even help. He looked down at Adam who was sleeping peacefully on top of the floral print bedspread, his face looking so young and vulnerable. How were they supposed to help him? Could they even help him? Were they helping him now or were they simply denying him the best care he could be getting?
...continued next chapter...
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