CHAPTER 2

The next few days did nothing to ease those doubts in Sam's mind. Adam was okay most of the daylight hours, with only a few violent episodes each day, but the nights were a different story altogether. The kid had regular night terrors far worse than anything either Winchester had ever experienced, waking up screaming and gasping and often retching. Dean had agreed to let Sam give him some heavy-dosage sleeping pills but they didn't seem to work. In fact, Sam suspected they made things worse because Adam's body was fighting the drugs as well as the terrors.

Adam still refused to talk about his hallucinations. Whenever the subject came up, he would simply zone out, a blank expression taking over his face and an immediate silence following. It often took a while to bring him back out of this withdrawn state so the brothers stopped asking. Dean was insistent Adam would talk about it when he was ready but Sam was harboring serious doubts the kid would ever be ready.

They had been quietly watching TV on the fifth evening when Adam started fidgeting. Just a finger twitch here and there or a quick, sideways glance into empty space but enough that one would notice if they were looking for it. Dean had pointed out that thiswas usually a precursor to an 'episode' so Sam stiffened and called Dean's name in a hushed voice to get his attention. So far, the eldest Winchester had been having better success in pulling Adam out of the fits of terror and bringing him back to reality. Sam had his suspicions that stemmed from some resentment Adam bore towards him for abandoning him in the cage when Sam was pulled out, but he tried not to dwell on that, the guilty memory of wrapping his fists in Michael's t-shirt and dragging his little brother down there to start with still far too fresh.

Dean, who had been dozing off, rolled over with a groggy "Huh?"

That was all the warning he got because Adam was suddenly on his feet on the adjacent bed, back pressed up against the wall, shouting at the air in front of him. "NO! I won't do it! You can't make me! No, please, please, please, please…."

Then he was running, bolting off the bed and towards the motel room door. Sam caught him mid-stride and tried to hold him steady by the upper arms but the terrified young man was lashing out at him with both his hands and his feet. He grunted as a few hard swings hit their mark.

Dean was suddenly there to help, trying to get a grip on the flailing wrists to stop Sam from taking another hit to the face.

"Adam, it's not real, remember?" he was saying forcefully. "You're okay! Me and Sam gotcha, okay? It's not real!"

But Adam wasn't listening and the terror-induced adrenaline was giving him extra strength and speed and making it difficult to restrain him without hurting him. Sam didn't even see Adam's hand pull free from Dean's grip or reach behind the eldest of the wrestling brothers. All he did see was the hand re-emerge with Dean's gun in its grasp.

"Dean!" he shouted as the pearl-handled .45 turned to point at Dean's face.

It was as if the next two seconds of utter chaos happened in infinitely slow motion. Sam lunged for the gun, his eyes glued to the sight of Adam's finger squeezing the trigger, the hammer dropping, the chamber spinning. The shot went off just as his hand slammed into the weapon and all three of them went tumbling to the ground.

Sam snatched the gun amidst the tangle of limbs and twisted Adam's arm up behind his back, forcing the kid onto his stomach on the floor and pinning him firmly with his body before even taking a breath.

"Dean!" he called again, looking up to see if his brother still had his face. Sam's heart literally stopped beating until he realized Dean was still moving, pushing himself up until he was in the seated position.

Dean's eyes were wide and he pressed a hand to the side of his head. "Shit that was close!" he gasped.

"You hurt?" Sam's voice was breathless with a panic that was just starting to subside as he noted the lack of blood.

Dean shook his head, his efforts to pull himself together being played out on his face. "Nah," he managed. "Whizzed right past my frickin'ear."

Adam's shouting had stopped by now and his whole body was heaving with muffled sobs. Sam lifted his bulk off him quickly, releasing his arm and rolling him over.

"He's gone, he's gone," Adam said through breathless gasps, tears starting to roll down his face.

Dean reacted immediately, moving forward and helping Adam to the sitting position. "That's right, he's gone," he soothed. "Just us now."

Sam got to his feet, leaving his brother to deal with Adam while he clicked the safety back on Dean's gun and started packing the duffels. "We need to move," he said urgently, putting all his other thoughts on hold for the time being. "There was a gunshot. Someone will have called the cops."

~X~X~X~X~X~X~

Adam was asleep in the back of the car before Sam brought up the incident. Dean waved a dismissive hand n the air.

"Yeah, I know, I screwed up. I was sleeping and forgot I had the gun there. My bad."

Sam gave him an incredulous look. "That's not really the point, Dean," he exclaimed. "He almost shot you."

"Like I said, my bad," Dean repeated, reaching over and turning up the radio to end the conversation.

Sam sighed but let it go. Bobby called a few minutes after they settled into the latest motel room and Sam spoke to their old friend in a hushed voice for a few minutes before hanging up. He got a questioning look from Dean.

"What's Bobby sayin'?"

"He thinks we need to figure out who brought Adam back and why." Sam couldn't agree more.

Dean just shrugged. "I don't really care. Point is he's out."

"Yeah, and when you got pulled out, there was a reason, remember?" Sam pointed out, surprised that he would even have to. "Bobby thinks something big could be going down."

"Well, I say we lay low and keep on moving and stay the hell out of it," was Dean's abrupt reply. "Don't go looking at a gift horse and all that."

"Dean, it may not be that simple."

"Then we make it that simple." With that, Dean got up, went into the bathroom, and closed the door.

Sam let out a hissed exhale in exasperation at Dean's refusal to see the bigger picture. "When is it ever that simple?" he mumbled to himself, glancing at Adam who was sitting quietly at the chair by the window, staring out through the dirty glass with vacant eyes.

Their next argument came almost a day later after Adam had gone into what appeared to be near convulsions at the tail end of one of his episodes. Sam could no longer keep quiet and he gave voice to his doubts, questioning the wisdom of taking Adam out of the hospital.

"His hallucinations aren't getting any better. They may even be getting worse," he told Dean. "He jumped out of a moving car, he hit his head on the side of the tub, he got a bloody nose when he ran into a wall, he hit me with a chair, he almost shot you." Sam counted the worst incidents off on his fingers as he spoke. "He needs the meds and the proper care he was getting at the hospital."

Sam tried to ignore the stricken look on his brother's face. "He was still having the hallucinations at the hospital," Dean argued. "The meds didn't stop them. All they did was make him a zombie in between the fits."

"He needs a safe environment."

"We'll just have to be more careful with weapons and heavy objects."

"So, how do you plan on fixing him, Dean?" Sam challenged, his frustration showing.

"I don't know, okay," Dean fired back, his voice getting angry. "I'm just as clueless as you are on how to help him! Maybe we can't fix him. Maybe he can't be fixed! But if he's with us then he's not alone. Let's just be there for him when he needs us and just … just keep going."

Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. He knew Dean meant well but couldn't help but think his solution wasn't enough. His little brother was probably dying and his big brother was going to have to suffer through watching it happen… and there didn't seem to be a damn thing Sam could do to stop it.

Adam chose that moment to rejoin them, coming out of the bathroom with his lower half wrapped in a towel and sitting down quietly on the edge of one of the beds. Dean instantly put on a forced smile and walked over to hand him some clothes. He gave him a light nudge on the shoulder. "Hey kid, you feel like Chinese food tonight?"

~X~X~X~X~X~X~

Two days later and two states over, in the motel they had stopped at after fleeing the scene of destruction that their last motel room had become, Adam sat quietly watching TV while Dean took a much needed shower. The eldest sibling emerged from the bathroom freshly bandaged and stitched and grumbling about how badly he needed a beer and a bacon cheeseburger.

He didn't get very far because Sam cornered him by the bathroom door, just standing in front of him with a hand on his hip and a frown on his face. Dean rolled his eyes and sighed. "Dude, I'm fine. It was my fault - I shoulda given him the plastic cutlery." He moved to push past Sam.

"Dean, no. Just…no." Sam wasn't letting it go this time. "It's not that I don't want to help him, or that I don't think of him as family. I mean, it's a matter of his own safety. Can't you see that? We can't give him what he needs."

"We're what he needs."

"My God, this is like banging my head against a brick wall."

"You're the one who's starting to sound like a broken record, dude."

Sam knew he was going to have to lay it out there to make his point. "Don't deny the kid proper care because you're feeling guilty, Dean," he said bluntly.

Dean's whole body tensed and his green eyes stared at Sam intently for a long minute but he never denied the guilt.

Sam took a deep breath, pretty sure he had hit the nail on the head. "I dragged him down there, Dean. Not you."

Dean was quick to answer this time. "No, you dragged Michael down there. And Michael should have been in me. That was my gig, not Adam's."

"I didn't have to take Michael with me," Sam admitted out loud for the first time.

Dean shook his head. "That prick would have started this thing all over again if you hadn't and you know it."

"Death could have gotten Adam's soul out instead…"

"And I chose you. I did. That's on me, Sam."

Sam slumped his shoulders and exhaled loudly, closing his eyes for a brief second. He knew there was no point in arguing with his brother when it came to blame. He would just have to work with it. "Okay," he said finally. "So can we at least admit that this whole thing—what we're doing here—is all out of guilt?"

Dean's jaw clenched and he straightened himself up. "No," he said stiffly. "I feel guilty, alright. I do. I always do. Hell, it's my thing, okay? But this," he pointed past Sam to Adam. "This isn't about that. This is about family and looking after your own." With that he pushed past his taller brother and walked purposely over to Adam, dropping himself down on the bed next to him with his back against the headboard. He grabbed the remote, effectively ending the discussion yet again. "Hey, kid, what are you watching?"

~X~X~X~X~X~X~

Dean avoided moments alone with Sam for the next few days and it wasn't hard for Sam to figure out why. He didn't back down, however, and kept pressing his argument every chance he got.

Adam had good days and bad days over the next week and it was mostly Dean who got through to him and calmed him when he lost it and turned violent. It was mostly Dean who got half-sentences or spoken answers to questions. Adam hadn't smiled even once since joining them but seemed to be lucid more often than he was spaced out and withdrawn. Sam couldn't help but feel a little hurt their new brother seemed to be bonding with Dean while still rarely even looking Sam in the eye. Dean had clearly picked up on it also for he reminded Sam quietly one night that Sam had been down in the cage with Adam for most of the time so it was likely just that he brought back memories that Dean didn't. He said he was sure that would lessen with time. Sam nodded his thanks for the reassurance but wasn't so sure.

They ate breakfast in the motel room as usual. Adam didn't fare well going out which meant thateating in diners was no longer an option. Sam swallowed the last of his soggy pancakes andwatched as Adam stood up wordlessly to clear the plates and put them all in the garbage on the far side of the room.

"So what's the plan for today?" Sam asked, curiously.

Dean tipped his head towards Adam. "He's the plan, Sam."

Sam sighed. "So what's the plan for the next day, Dean? And the day after that?" Dean's expression hardened but Sam didn't back down. "I mean, what if this doesn't change? We can't leave him alone. We certainly can't hunt."

"Then we don't hunt!" Dean stood up, kicking his chair back with a loud scraping sound.

"So, what? We live the rest of our lives in this motel room?" Sam challenged.

"If need be."

"It's been two weeks. At least at the institution he had the gardens. He had proper medication and could go for walks without freaking."

"He was alone!" Dean's voice was raised in anger.

"And now he's a prisoner in a chain of seedy motel rooms."

"Damnit Sam, he's our brother."

"This isn't what's best for him. This…" he waved his hand around the tacky room, "…is your guilt at work."

Dean made a scoffing sound to the contrary. "Give it some time, goddamnit," he said through clenched teeth.

"How long, Dean? How long before you realize he might not get any better? Are we going to spend the rest of our lives dragging him from one skuzzy motel room to another?"

Oh crap, Sam realized with a start. That was exactly what Dean intended to do. Dean had given up his childhood to take care of Sam and now he was going to give up the rest of his life to take care of Adam. Well that just wasn't fair. Sam didn't want that for Dean. Dean deserved more than that.

Dean apparently didn't agree for he was on his feet now, his jaw clenched with anger. "I'm so freaking tired of having this same argument with you over and over, Sam!"

Sam thumped a fist down onto the table. "I'm trying to do what's best for Adam!"

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Dean threw his hands in the air. "No one's keeping you here! If you don't want to help, then don't." He pointed towards the door. "If our brother is too much of an inconvenience then don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!"

Sam's jaw dropped. "It's not that!" he yelled, horrified that Dean would ever think he didn't care. He would jump back in the pit of it would help Adam. He would give him his own 'wall' if he could. "How can you even think that of me?" he demanded, his voice hitching in his utter disappointment. "I'm trying to do what's…"

His words were cut off by a loud clatter on the other side of the room. They both spun to see the lamp smash into a hundred pieces on the floor. Adam was practically hyperventilating, his green eyes wide with terror.

"Shit," Dean breathed, taking three long strides across the room to Adam's side.

Adam began flailing and the usual screams of "No!" and "Leave me alone!" and "I won't do it!" began to stream out of his mouth. Dean parried his way past the fists flying at him and pulled Adam in close to his chest, pinning his arms at his sides as he hugged him.

"It's alright, it's alright," he repeated, keeping his voice calm despite Adam's panic. "I gotcha, he's not real, Adam. I'm real. Listen to me. I'm your brother. I'm real. He can't hurt you, I gotcha."

Sam stood where he was and watched as the scene unfolded. Adam fought and cried out and Dean stood his ground — a calm, unwavering presence offering soothing comfort through the panic and terror. Adam finally collapsed in Dean's arms and the pair sank to the floor. Sam felt a lump in his throat as Adam's shouts and pleas dissolved into sobs, muffled as his face was buried in the front of Dean's shirt. Dean was still holding him, still repeating words of comfort as his hand gently stroked Adam's hair.

That was when it hit Sam. He had a vague recollection of waking from a nightmare as a child and finding comfort in much the same way, wrapped safely in Dean's arms, a soothing voice in his ear and fingers running gently through his uncut hair. It wasn't a specific memory but rather an amalgamation of several all rolled into one indistinct notion. Dean was good at this, he realized with a start, as if this was somehow a new revelation. Dean had always been good at this. This was what Dean did. He had done it for Sam. Hell, he had even done it for their dad. And he would do it for Adam, no question about it.

Maybe Dean had some things right. Maybe he had a couple of valid points in his argument after all. Adam was family and as such, their responsibility. That much Sam had never doubted. But maybe, just maybe, they could do better than a bunch of oblivious doctors who didn't have any idea what a scarred soul actually meant and would be trying to pigeon-hole a diagnosis of Adam to suit one of their pre-determined conditions. As hunters, they knew things the doctors didn't.

Had avenues the doctors didn't…

He swallowed and took a deep breath, his plan already formulating in his brain. Dean may be satisfied with the status quo but Sam wanted more — he wanted more for both of his brothers. He realized that after all he and Dean had been through, after everything, they hadn't really changed all that much. Dean was still willing to cling to whatever scraps of happiness destiny threw his way — a distant father, a restless discontented Sam, a car for a home, and now a broken mess of a brother — where as Sam still refused to settle and doggedly kept striving for more. Well, he was going to do the same now, only it wasn't more for him he was seeking this time. It was more for Adam and more for Dean.

He gazed upon the sad scene in front of him. God knows they both deserved more than this.

~X~X~X~X~X~X~

Dr. Robert was easy to find, still running his 'medical practice' out of back room in a dirty Asian grocery store. His sullen, goth assistant didn't crack a single smile as she worked, preparing the syringe while the shady doctor hooked up the sensor nodes to Sam's chest.

"So, same as your brother a few months ago, huh?" the doctor asked. "Three minutes?"

Sam nodded, lying down on the cold, metal table and trying to keep his nerves in check. "Yeah, that should do it."

It didn't hurt really, being killed by injection. He didn't feel his heart slowing or his breathing stopping and he didn't hear the flatline of the rickety monitor the doctor had hooked up to his chest. He simply opened his eyes to find himself standing next to his lifeless body and immediately headed back down to the main store.

He was confronted within seconds by a man he assumed was a reaper.

"You're not supposed to be here," the grim-faced man told him sharply.

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Sam replied. "I need to speak to your boss. He around?"

The reaper snorted. "You can't be serious. You can't just summon Death, even if you are Sam Winchester."

"Well, at least you know who I am. Tell him it's urgent." Three minutes wasn't a lot of time. "Tell him it's about souls," he added, hoping that would catch Death's attention.

The reaper pursed his lips then disappeared only to re-appear two seconds later. "He's not coming," he said bluntly.

Sam was about to argue but the reaper held up his hand and cut him off. "But I have a message from him," he announced. "He says the veil is not a supermarket. If you and your brother keep trespassing here, he may be so inclined as to keep you here to teach you a lesson."

"Okay," Sam placated. "Point made. Won't happen again, I promise. But I'm here about the wall he put in my head."

"The answer is no."

"You don't even know my question."

"One wall is all you get."

Sam swallowed. This wasn't going as planned. "But Adam…"

"My boss didn't bring your little brother back. Quite frankly, he doesn't care who did. One wall is all you get. That was the deal and Death doesn't renegotiate."

"Fine." Sam was out of options. "Give Adam my wall."

The reaper shook his head. "It doesn't work that way."

"Why not?"

The reaper didn't answer the question. "You and your brother need to remember your place," he warned. "My boss says to let Dean know he hasn't been keeping up his end of the deal. If he doesn't start making some headway, Death may take back the one wall you do have."

Sam let out a deep breath, trying to figure out what his next argument should be. "Then let me remember some of it at least," he said despairingly. "I need to know what he went through. I need to know how to help him." He glanced at his watch. A minute and a half left.

"Trust me, you don't want that," the reaper said.

Sam was about to assure him that was exactly what he wanted when suddenly there was a terrible pain in his chest, his vision went blank, and he found himself gasping for air. He sat up to find he was on the table in the doctor's room again, a machine beeping frantically behind him.

He sucked in a huge gulp of air and ripped the wires off his chest as his eyes searched out the doctor. "I had over a minute left!" he panted angrily. "You brought me back early!"

The doctor shrugged. "Well, Dean here wasn't exactly in a patient mood."

Sam turned to see his brother standing a few feet away. Damn, he looked pissed.

"Dean," Sam said dumbly, still trying to catch his breath as he swung his weak legs over the side of the table. "Where's Adam?" he stalled.

"With Bobby." Dean's voice was low and simmering with barely contained fury. Sam knew enough to know it was partly masked worry but wasn't looking forward to the conversation that was about to take place.

The doctor and his assistant clearly weren't either because they were gone from the room in mere seconds, leaving Sam alone with his big brother.

"What the hell are you doing, Sam?" Dean finally ground out. "Don't you think this is playing with fire?"

"You did it for me!" Sam defended.

"That's different."

"Why?" Sam fired back, pushing himself off the table and gripping its edge tightly as he steadied his legs beneath him. "Why, Dean? 'Cause it was you doing it? 'Cause you're my big brother and you get to risk your life for me?" He saw Dean's mouth move to answer but didn't let him. "Well I'm Adam's big brother," he continued fervently. "So tell me, how is this any different?"

Dean was quiet for a long, tense minute and Sam used it to button up his shirt. When Dean finally spoke, his voice was strained but quiet and he surprisingly didn't press the subject. "So did you have any luck with Death?" he asked.

Sam shook his head tiredly. "No," he sighed. "He flat-out refused to help Adam."

Dean just nodded. "That's what I figured," he said, reaching out to give Sam an elbow as support for the walk to the car. "Let's just get back. Bobby's not as young as he used to be."

Sam snorted. "Don't let him hear you say that."

~X~X~X~X~X~X~

The next few days were pretty much the same, with Adam losing his grip on the reality around him two or three times a day, sometimes violently and sometimes in a more heartbreaking manner. It was usually Dean who dealt with the situation, stepping in and talking the kid back each time. The end of the week found them in a cash-only rat hole near Tucson, depleting the last of their cash reserves so Dean pulled on his coat and went out to hustle some money at the local bar, leaving Adam in Sam's care for a couple of hours.

Adam was sitting on the bed watching TV, much the same way he had spent most of his days since joining his brothers. It was a rerun of 'Friends' playing, one of Sam's least favorite shows so he was sitting over at the table on his laptop, doing some hunting research for Bobby but with very little success.

His intense concentration on the lore website in front of him must have been why he missed the signs of an upcoming episode, the small twitches, gasps, and clenching of the fists. It wasn't until the first shout had escaped Adam's mouth that he looked up and saw the kid's eyes wide with fear.

He raced across the room but Adam had already tumbled off the other side of the bed, kicking and screaming at the bedside table. The phone and the Gideon's Bible went flying and by the time Sam had run around the bed, Adam was on his feet again, the wooden drawer in his hands. He launched it at Sam, who simply shielded his face and took the hit before moving forward again.

"No!" Adam was screaming, eyes still wild. "I won't do it!"

"Adam, it's me," Sam said in a strong, calm voice, mimicking Dean in these situations. "He's not real. It's just me. It's your brother, Sam."

"No! You can't make me! Leave me alone!"

Sam's words apparently had no effect. Sensing this was about to escalate even further, he lunged forward, grabbing Adam's arms and pulling him to the floor before he could hop over the bed and get away. A running Adam was always trouble and much harder to catch without two of them to corner him.

Adam kicked and punched and struggled for all he was worth but Sam just took the hits, not letting go until he could manage to wrap his legs around Adam's torso and pin his arms with his hands. He kept up a stream of voiced reassurances that Lucifer wasn't here and he wouldn't let him hurt Adam again until he felt the young man's body stop fighting and sag into his hold.

"I won't do it, I won't do it," Adam repeated the by-now familiar words.

"I know you won't," Sam answered absently, having no idea what the words were even referring to. "I gotcha. It's me, Sam. I know you won't."

Adam was sitting on the floor with his back to Sam, who had a strong arm folded across the young man's chest, holding him tightly against him. At his last words, he felt the kid's muscles relax and the fingers wrapped around his forearm loosened. This was usually when Adam started crying and Sam prepared himself for the emotional outpour.

Instead, Adam leaned his head sideways, letting it rest on Sam's bicep as his breathing returned to a normal rate. "Sam," he whispered, not turning to face his older brother as he spoke.

"Yeah, it's me," Sam answered, trying to sound comforting.

"I won't do it, you know."

The words were quiet but clear, not spoken through broken sobs as expected. Sam was surprised and curious at the same time. "Won't do what?" he ventured, realizing questions usually ended up sending the kid crawling into himself and turning out the lights. He took the risk anyway.

"I won't do what he wants."

"Lucifer?" Sam asked, his voice hushed also and his chin practically resting on the top of Adam's head as they sat huddled together on the floor.

Adam nodded.

"What does he want you to do?"

"Finish what he started."

Sam was encouraged at getting answers for the first time. "What's that?" he pressed gently.

"Kill you and Dean."

Oh crap. So much made sense now. The screams of 'I won't!' and 'You can't make me!', the violent outbursts often directed at him or Dean, mostly Dean, and oh shit – the incident with the gun! Mistaken identity or momentarily giving in?

"He says he'll let me go if he gets you back but…but I won't. I won't do it."

Sam gave Adam's head an awkward pat, again trying to imitate Dean's reassuring presence. "I know you won't," he said soothingly.

"I have something now and he doesn't want me to have anything."

Something. Sam was fairly certain that 'something' meant Sam and Dean. Family. Something good. Adam had something good after years of nothing but bad and his tortured soul couldn't just accept it. His own subconscious was terrorizing him with hallucinations demanding he destroy it.

"He's not real, Adam. He's gone. You're free. You're out of there. We both are."

"Sam?"

"Yeah?"

"Why'd you leave me there with him?"

Damnit. There was that question again. Sam closed his eyes for a second, glad Adam had his back to him and couldn't see his guilt-ridden face. "I'm sorry, Adam," he told him sincerely. "I am. I had no choice." He swallowed. "Was it…? Was it a lot worse after I left?"

Adam nodded and the pair remained silent for a long time, neither moving. "You took it for me for so long," Adam finally murmured.

Sam frowned in puzzlement. "Took what?"

"Everything. Everything he dished out, you took so I wouldn't have to." His voice dropped to but a whisper. "Then you left."

"God, I'm sorry, Adam. I'm so sorry." Adam shook his head, turning on his side and leaning his head more heavily on Sam's arm as if settling in for sleep. Sam didn't complain and simply bent his knees and shifted his weight sideways a little to get more comfortable. "I'm sorry," he repeated.

"Don't be," Adam replied. "You took it for me."

Sam couldn't help but feel a big chunk of guilt lifted from his shoulders. Not all of it, not by a long shot, but a sizable portion. He had stuck up for Adam in the cage, shielded him, faced Lucifer for him. He had protected him like a big brother should. "You know he's not real, right?" he prompted. "Lucifer. The one that keeps speaking to you. He can't hurt you anymore."

Adam bobbed his head in a barely perceptible nod. "I know that. Most of the time. But sometimes, it just seems so…sometimes I forget. I forget I'm out."

"And that's why you withdraw? Close down?" Sam pressed.

He got another nod. "It's the only way to get rid of him."

"Well, I'm here now and I'm not leaving you again, okay?"

Yet another nod. "And Dean."

"That's right. Me and Dean." Sam blinked his eyes, fighting back tears as his emotions suddenly overcame his composure. There was a silence while he pulled himself together before whispering to Adam. "You believe me, right?"

"Yeah."

Sam knew the conversation wasn't anything more than a tiny hurdle in a long, long road and he wasn't fooling himself into believing Adam would ever be fine, but he couldn't help but see this as a step forward and found himself daring to believe that Dean had been right about a few things. Adam just needed some time to open up. Maybe the kid would eventually get to a point where he was at least glad to be alive. Maybe even find some measure of peace. Hell, by sticking together, maybe all three Winchesters could have a little bit of that.

When Dean returned to the room, Sam and Adam were sitting one on each bed, their backs up against the headboard, munching potato chips. Dean gave Sam a questioning look at the sight of the broken drawer and Sam returned it with a subtle nod to say everything was okay at the moment.

Dean threw off his jacket and plopped down on the bed next to Adam, his eyes widening in pleasure at the TV screen when he saw what was on. "Is this Dr. Sexy?" he asked nobody in particular.

Adam nodded, not moving as his eldest brother got comfortable at his side. "New episode, too," he offered.

Sam rolled his eyes and groaned. "You two are so much alike it's scary," he joked. "It's like I have to live with two Deans now."

Then the most beautiful thing happened. Adam graced them with a smile. A timid one, but a smile nonetheless. "Sucks to be you," the youngest sibling said quietly.

Sam and Dean both caught the joking tone and the smile and instant grins appeared on their faces.

"Not from where I'm sitting," Sam said, staring over at his two brothers on the other bed, settling in side by side to watch the ridiculous antics of Dr. Sexy, MD. "Not from where I'm sitting."

~THE END~