Song Remains the Same

Chapter 87 / Worst Case Scenario

"The past is dead, the life I had is gone."

In a quiet and dim bedroom, a lingerie-clad Daphne Allen had just sat down across Emmanuel's lap while facing him and slipping her legs onto either side of him. It was then that she gently initiated a soft, cautious kiss onto his lips. Her hands trailed across his shoulders then one gently snuck into the hair at the back of his head as her warm breath fanned out across his mouth. Her lips softly pressed against his once, twice, three times in soft, careful kisses, then parted open to deepen the kiss tentatively.

Emmanuel felt himself responding more and more to her touches and embrace… but responding negatively. Her kisses felt alien and strange to him, out of place, wrong. He sat there stiffly, unsure of what to do, because perhaps he owed this to her after intruding on her life, her home, her hospitality. But the second she tried to deepen the kiss, he couldn't let it continue. He reacted from a gut instinct that said this is not right and abruptly pulled away, grabbing her wrists to stop her from touching him. He breathlessly stared at her, his heart racing in panic and dismay. She looked surprised and hurt when he rejected her kiss. Swallowing through a dry mouth and throat, Emmanuel stumbled verbally. "Daphne, no—I, I can't." He was confused and alarmed and his every instinct told him nonoNO. The silence was deafening and awkward and Emmanuel felt very put on the spot, very vulnerable, very upset. When Daphne said nothing and just stared with an upset expression on her face, he had to fill the silence. "I—this feels very wrong to me," he said, voice wavering because of his sickeningly thundering heart.

Daphne was shrinking back from him, her eyes showing disappointment and embarrassment. "Do you not… am I not good enough?" she asked in a whisper, obviously feeling very self-conscious.

She had been so kind and welcoming to him, so accommodating—which was why he felt guilty for telling her no and for upsetting her. He almost reconsidered out of mere politeness, but he couldn't because the thought of kissing her or being physically intimate with her beyond that was repulsive to him. He was semi ashamed of himself for his negative reaction. Was something wrong with him? Or was it something else? And it wasn't because she wasn't attractive or appealing. He recognized that she was physically alluring to some extent, but he didn't connect with that or feel allured to her at all. Perhaps he was gay, he thought. Or even asexual. Or something else altogether. All he knew was that he did not want this. "Y-you're very beautiful," he assured quickly, flustered and trying to blame himself for the problem at hand, "But… I'm… I'm just not comfortable with this."

Daphne hesitated then nodded stiffly, her face betraying her hurt feelings. She got up off of him and grabbed a robe that was hanging off the end of the bed, put it on and covered herself up. She was looking down the entire time, seeming upset to the point of getting teary-eyed. "I thought…" she started, then shook her head. Her voice lowered to an ashamed whisper. "I'm sorry."

Feeling so bad—he did care about her, this woman who had befriended and cared for him out of the goodness of her own heart—Emmanuel stood slowly, hesitant to approach her. He didn't like to see her sad, but at the same time, he thought if he tried to comfort her, she might misinterpret things. So he just stood there, unsure of what to do and hyper-aware of how tension-filled the silence was. He looked down, feeling embarrassed and confused and unsure of what he should say, if anything.

…He was bothered by this, he did know that much. Daphne approaching him like that felt off to him somehow. He had known for some time of her attraction to him… it had been obvious in how she always found excuses to touch him or hold his hand, how she was always looking at him with burning, longing eyes. But… shouldn't they wait longer and see if his memory returned? Shouldn't he want what she wanted too? He hadn't ever given her reason to think he wanted her in the same way and he'd hoped perhaps if he ignored and sidestepped her attraction to him, she would let go of it and forget it. But it seemed that the more time passed, the more Daphne longed for him.

As if she knew what he was thinking, Daphne's eyes flickered up to him a few nervous, mortified times. "I'm sorry, Emmanuel, I just—I just I have… feelings, and I thought… I thought maybe you did too." She hugged an awkward arm around herself and the other one hung uselessly at her side.

He had feelings, but not feelings that were for her. He tried to explain himself without making her feel worse. He couldn't think of a way to explain it except to ask a question. "What if I'm… what if I'm married?" It was a logical, reasonable conclusion to make and wonder about. He was probably around thirty-eight or thirty-nine years of age… many men were married at that age. His greatest worry was that someone was out there looking for him, that he belonged somewhere and was going to make a horrible mistake with Daphne.

Her eyes flickered up to him in slight guilt at his question, but she defended herself and dismissed that notion. "You weren't wearing a ring when I found you…" She stood there awkwardly, fidgeting her bare feet on the carpet and looking down. "Married men usually wear a wedding ring."

"Well, what if I'm—with someone?" Emmanuel asked, feeling frustrated because the point he was trying to make seemed lost on her. It just didn't seem right to do anything physical until they knew who he was. And maybe even then he wouldn't want to, either.

Daphne frowned a little and looked up at him, appearing very thoughtful and resigned. "I don't think you are with someone." She hesitated strongly, seeming very unsure about saying what she said next. "Because—I've had visions, Emmanuel."

"…Visions?" he asked, newly perplexed at this information. What did that mean?

"Yes." She sat down on the bed and picked at a spot on the robe near her knee. "I was waiting for the right time to tell you… I—I don't want you to think I'm crazy." She began to mumble to herself in an upset tone. "Everyone always thinks that, judges me…" she steeled herself and thought a minute, sighed softly as a small, secretive smile began to pull at her lips. "But I know what I know. And I was chosen. I'm special." Her smile grew, her confidence returned as she looked at him. "And so are you. More special than I guessed." She meant because he'd healed her just a little while ago. She reached out and took his hand and held it gently, looked up into his eyes. He didn't pull away, but he was immediately uncomfortable again. "I foresaw our meeting," she said earnestly, intriguing and mystifying Emmanuel all at once. "And God told me… he told me you were gonna be someone very important to me." She wet her lips nervously, hopefully. "M-my husband." Emmanuel blinked a few times rapidly, so taken aback. Husband? She had foreseen it? He didn't know what to think of her confession. She looked mildly chagrinned and let go of his hand. "You think I'm crazy."

Emmanuel was cautiously trusting of her—he had no reason to think Daphne was lying, and his instincts said she wasn't mentally unstable either… but… he had to admit, he was very startled and uncertain about what she had just told him. She was looking at him apprehensively, worried that he thought she was crazy. "No," he said, reassuring her with some amount of distraction and a slight lack of conviction. "I—I'm just—this is all very overwhelming for me." First he had come-to with no memories of his life before that moment in the lake… then he had discovered he didn't eat, sleep, or have other basic human functions… then he somehow instantly healed her physical injuries with a touch… now she said God had been part of this arrangement? He didn't understand, but nothing else quite seemed to make sense either. "I was able to heal you, Daphne," he said, processing it out loud and trying to think of how all these strange pieces of the puzzle could fit together. "Your legs were burned and… with… with a mere touch, I took away those injuries." How was it even possible?

She nodded and stood and her eyes were soft on him. "I know. It was a miracle."

He barely heard her. Deep in thought with his eyes downcast, Emmanuel continued to think out loud. "What if I can do that again? What if I'm some kind of… of healer?" It suddenly began to make sense to him. He felt a certain degree of hope begin to grow inside. For the past month or so since crawling out of a lake naked, he'd been lost and despairing inside, searching for his reason for existing. He didn't think it was to putter around Daphne's home and tend to her garden and spend an inordinate amount of time restless and waiting for something that never came. Perhaps this was the thing he'd been waiting for. "Maybe that's my purpose," he said, becoming a little more excited at the prospect of being a healer, a helper, a world-changer. "Maybe that's why God put me here." He looked at her, breathless and beginning to feel a sense of elation. It felt right to him, and not much had in recent times.

Daphne nodded, and he could see she was visibly restraining herself from touching him—she looked so happy, brimming with fondness and joy. "I think you're right," she said softly, smiling at him with great emotion. "You're supposed to help people. And he put me in your path for a reason, maybe so that I can be your helper." She couldn't resist. She laid a soft hand onto his chest, stood close to him, gazed up at him. Emmanuel became withdrawn, his slight smile fading. Daphne was about to say something important to her. He could tell. Her voice was a bare whisper, her eyes were completely vulnerable. "If… if I told you I loved you, what would you say in return?"

Her question struck a sense of panic into him again and he felt so put on the spot. What kind of answer was he supposed to give? He gave the only one he knew how. "I would say thank you, that's very kind."

Mild disappointment flickered across her face, then acceptance. She took it in stride, nodded understandingly, her hand touching his arm now and rubbing up and down a few times in a soothing manner. He listened to the sound of her hand making fabric swish and tried not to feel as repelled as he did. "We're just getting to know each other, Emmanuel," she said quietly, eyes searching his unnervingly. "It's okay to be scared. I'm scared too. But I'm here for you."

He felt his eyebrows working in toward each other. She spoke like her opinions and vision were the final authority, but Emmanuel couldn't shake this fear, this anxiety, this feeling. "But what if I have a family?" he asked, imagining a woman grieving for him, a woman he couldn't remember. "A wife? Children? What if someone is looking for me?"

Daphne shook her head. "No one is."

"But how do you know?" he asked, confounded by her calm confident answer.

"I feel it," she murmured reassuringly. "I know it. Emmanuel… you have to trust me. God showed me those visions. And he knows more than you or I. He said we were supposed to be together. He sent you to me." Everything she said rubbed him the wrong way, but he didn't know how to protest. She seemed so convicted and convinced. She seemed to know it as fact, doubt nothing. Seeing his misgivings, Daphne grew a twinge impatient. "Think about it, Emmanuel. If I hadn't found you, if I hadn't taken you in—who would have? A strange man with no memory? A man who isn't fully human?" Shocked, Emmanuel's face fell and Daphne looked at him steadily. "I know you don't sleep or need to eat," she told him quietly. "I know you aren't like me." Emmanuel was very shocked. Had she been watching him? How did she know that? Was she going to send him away now? Out into a world he felt largely afraid of? Apparently not. She saw his fear and was compassionate, loving even. "Don't you see?" she asked, touching his face like a mother might a child. "I'm… I understand you. I accept you. For what ever you are, because God put this love inside of me for you."

Unsure, cornered, pressured, Emmanuel realized that tonight, Daphne had decided to give him an ultimatum. Without saying it, without putting it into full words, she was asking him to stop worrying about whoever he'd been before and trust her, bend to her wishes… or possibly be kicked out of her home altogether. That thought sent his chest into knots of anxiety. Where would he go? What would he do? Was it normal to feel so much fear about being alone in the world? Daphne smiled at him gently. "It's okay if you need more time," she said, soothingly. "But… whenever you're ready I want… I want you to move into this room with me." Emmanuel's eyes jumped back up to hers again, and he was afraid all over again. "Share the bed," she said, clarifying herself timidly. "W-we don't have to do anything but… I just want you near me, if that's okay."

It was a request he hadn't been prepared for, and now that she had asked it of him, he didn't know what to say. He had to admit… he'd rather be here with her, the person he knew, the routine he was growing used to, than be left out in the cold. But he had no desire to be close to her like that. She was looking up at him with love-filled eyes. "I've waited for you all my life, Emmanuel," she said. He swallowed thickly, looked away. The things she was saying were putting enormous amounts of pressure onto him, and he didn't feel equipped to know how to reply. He simply didn't feel the same as she did… but if he said no, if he declined to lay in bed with her at night, would she make him leave? Daphne was peering at him in what looked like worry and care. "Say something?" she prompted, tone sweet.

Emmanuel looked into her eyes slowly. His fear of the unknown and his self-preservation instinct won out. So that is why he nodded once, softly. "I'll stay with you."

Four words he didn't want to say or follow through on. But he did.

He laid down quietly and let her do what she wanted. She cuddled into his side, said more things about fate and destiny and love and Emmanuel was more and more disheartened by her words by the minute. When she fell asleep, he was glad, and he felt guilty for being glad. He was awake all night just as he knew he would be. Daphne remained curled up on him as she slept deeply. He felt a sense of grief and pain as she laid there against him. The hours crawled by and Emmanuel could only think that she didn't feel right. His mind kept wandering to its own limits, trying to break through the wall that had been built to keep him in an amnesiac state. Sometimes when he glanced down at the woman at his side and caught sight of only a brown head of hair, his heart would leap up for a reason he couldn't decipher. Then he would see distinguishing facial features and the feeling of elation died away into that agonized feeling once more.

At the edge of his mind, he felt so anxious, like he needed to go somewhere and do something, like someone was calling his name and like he was needed. This feeling was so constant—he'd felt like he was supposed to be somewhere else ever since he had woken up choking water at the bottom of a lake—but in nearly a month, he hadn't discovered where that place was or what that relentless call was. But that night especially, the feeling was intense. The most intense it had been. So intense, in fact, that as he stared up at the dark ceiling, tears gathered in his eyes as despair made his chest tight. He felt as though he were praying silently and wordlessly that night, calling out with the spirit inside of him to God above, interceding on someone's behalf. Whose, he did not know.

Castiel—who didn't remember that was his true name—couldn't remember his wife, his only love, his Alex. He didn't know what had happened to her, he didn't remember what he had done, he had no knowledge of his role played in devastating her life. His mind was empty of all he had been before. But in his pocket, that single object he had been found holding remained and he curled his fingers around it, wishing he knew what that penny on a chain meant.

When he eventually regained his memories, he would be so deeply horrified at himself for forgetting it all and not knowing what that coin was. But that night, he remained ignorant to the truth of the matter. He didn't know that at the very same moment, the one he had moved Heaven and earth for was nearly a thousand miles away, bleeding out alone in a bed as he laid beside the wrong woman. He didn't know the love of his life should have died that same night and would have, had it not been for what he did when he had been playing God…

He didn't know.

The Next Day

Somewhere near the edge of consciousness, she could hear some beeping, some rustling, some indistinct voices. Evidence of something going on around her. But whatever it was, Alex didn't really catch hold of those sounds very well because she was so preoccupied internally. In what felt like a fever dream, she was with her dad and her brothers again, deep inside of an old memory. They say when you die, your life flashes before your eyes. Alex, having died twice and trying for a third and final time, was eighteen again in her mind and remembering the beginning of the end: Sam leaving. Or the circumstances that had pushed him to that point, anyway.

It had started normally enough. She, Sam, and Dean had all been on a job working late at night with Dad who had been across town, following one of the people they suspected as being a very dangerous werewolf. Sam, who had been slowly pulling away from the family and the life in general, made a mistake and fell asleep in the car while he was supposed to be conducting surveillance on the secondary suspect. Dean and Alex, who had gone to get food (which Dad would have been pissed about), had come back just in time for Dad to show up and find out that they had no idea where the suspect had gone to. Dean took the blame without missing a beat, lying and saying he was the one who fell asleep and lost the lead. In the foulest of moods, John Winchester had ripped into his kids, berating them all for their 'endless bullshit' and all their 'selfish, lazy, entitled disrespect' of him. It shouldn't have been a big deal—they probably could have tracked down the missing werewolf easily, but Dad had insisted on taking that small hiccup and turning it into something huge. Maybe it was stress, maybe it was how Sam had been pulling away further and further from the life, maybe it was a million other things. But it had been horrible and surprising, and it had taken the Winchesters by total surprise. Alex had started crying at the things said—and when Dad saw tears in her eyes, it had just made him all the angrier. He wasn't like most fathers. When his children cried, he didn't get concerned and tenderhearted. He got angry and accused them of being weak, of being babies. Alex hadn't cried in front of him in years. And it set him off further.

The twins stood behind their bigger brother as their father ranted mostly at Dean, but Dad's words had cut them all down. Alex remembered them verbatim. Dad's harsh, angry, commanding voice was hard to forget, as was the look on his twisted, furious face. He had gone off completely, going down an embittered tangent that seemed to have little to do with what had actually happened. "There's a job, you do it," he continued, barely pausing to take in a breath. "I give you a command, you follow it. You know what we do and you know what this is, don't pretend you don't. We do what needs to be done and you don't question why. You put the personal to the left; it doesn't matter who gets hurt, it doesn't matter what gets broke, if it's not the job, it doesnotmatter. What we do, we don't have time to be peoplewhat matters is taking down the enemy, you hear me?" Dad had looked at Alex then, seemingly disgusted with her. "You wanna cry about your feelings? Hm? Really? Here? Now? You don't get to have feelings." His glare moved to Sam. "This is the job. We rush into battle, we're soldiers. You get hurt in the fight, you suck it up and hold it down and you don't question. You keep fighting until you got nothing left and then, when you're all used up—you keep going. You sacrifice everything normal people would have because you have to, you go until you got nothing then you go further." Stewing, having cowed all three of his children, John Winchester let the silence hang for a second before he laid down one final, ugly proclamation. "You're all adults now, so either act like it and quit playing the bullshit kid games with me or get the hell out of this family. It's that simple." After dropping that bomb, he'd told them he was gonna finish the damn job himself then stormed off and left them by themselves.

Sam had left for Stanford not even a week after that incident.

The family fell apart from there even further—but honestly, had it ever really been together enough to fall apart? With the three siblings cut into a separate two and one, life changed completely. Dean and Alex were all but dismissed by their dad, who no longer traveled with them consistently. He treated them more like colleagues or partners than as his kids for awhile. Wounded pride, self-loathing, aversion, who knew why he kept his distance. But he did. He barely communicated with them except to tell them about jobs and hunts he needed help with, and he was always brusque and short when they saw him. But then, three years into that routine, he'd suddenly started coming around again and even staying with them again occasionally. He'd even tried (very awkwardly and standoffishly) a few times to connect with Alex, shocking her completely. She should have known he was about to die in a year's time. And she should have remembered that fact she learned for later in life: when things looked up, when the going got good, when she felt hope for the future… look out. Things were about to crash and burn.

As messed up as Dad had been, as distant and as demanding and as hurtful, Alex still wished so badly he had been in her life more. She still, to this dying day, wanted him to have been more than the man he turned out to be. She tried to see the good, she tried to understand why he was the way he was, she tried to believe he had done the things he had for the right reasons. And honestly, now, at the end of her existence… she understood. She had watched the love of her life die in front of her eyes. She had been subjected to insane horrors and pain for almost thirty years now. Who in their right mind would stick around just to get more guaranteed pain and heartache? Not her. It was over. She couldn't bear the scars that had been inflicted onto her. She didn't want to live with them, she wasn't going to stick around and wait to lose Sam, Dean, Bobby. She was out. She was done. It was over.

Only… she was pretty sure she was still alive. Pain radiated from her wrist and filled her entire body. She felt dehydrated and stiff, woozy, sore, dizzy, so sick. Her cotton-filled, stuffed-up ears caught a muffled female voice. Concentrating on it, Alex was able to pick up a conversation happening nearby.

"I don't understand," said the first person in a furtive low voice. "She should be dead. She shouldn't be alive right now point blank."

"Chalk it up to a miracle?" a second voice suggested.

The first person sounded doubtful. "Or something creepy…"

There was a light chuckle. "Come on, Gail. Not everything's from the Twilight Zone. There are anomalies. Or, as the church-goers call them, 'miracles'."

An audible scoff. "So this girl loses over fifty percent of the blood she's got… which, oh yeah, is fatal… and somehow she's still alive? Did you see the size of the hole she gouged in herself?! And I mean her organs don't shut down… she doesn't go into cardiac arrest… and she doesn't die from that insane amount of blood loss…? All that's not X-Files stuff? She literally can't be alive right now—like, it's not scientifically possible."

"Oh my god, Gail. Somehow, she's alive. Yeah, it's weird, it's off the books, it's not really possible, but let's just call it a win and stop with the crazy conclusions, huh? I know you. You're about to start suggesting she's a robot or a government experiment or something."

"…You make me sound like a total wacko!" Gail protested. Then, a reluctant pause. "I mean, she could be one of those clones I read about on the conspiracy websites, they're genetically modified, maybe she don't even need blood."

It sounded like the first person was pretty done with the conversation. "You really need to get out more."

Alex was blinking woozily and trying to get her bearings, but her eyesight was blurred and doubled. She groaned without even realizing it, and the two nearby women were jolted out of their conversation and hurried over. Alex was vastly puzzled and dazed. Wait… were they talking about her? Alex tried to move but found herself unable. "Where am I?" she croaked, seeing signs of a hospital around herself. She became cognizant of a needle in her arm and of the fact that she was laying down in a small hospital bed.

"Saint Patrick Hospital in Missoula," one of the nurses answered, checking the machine readout and glancing at Alex carefully. "Got here early this mornin' from Sunny Meadows after a resident found you. How you feelin', hon?"

So this wasn't Heaven or Hell. It was just more of the same. It hadn't worked. I'm alive. Alex let her head flop back down onto the pillow behind her head. "Terrible." Every part of her body rang with horrible, sore, searing pain. Her muscles protested every movement and every function she was capable of felt sluggish and labored.

"I bet," the nurse said sympathetically. "Well, we've got you on an IV drip and—" Alex abruptly began trying to roll out of bed but was fighting a losing battle. The nurse held her down gently by a shoulder, stopping the attempt before it really started. "Hey, take it easy. You lost a lot of blood. More than anyone else I've ever heard of. We gave you an emergency transfer, but you're still going to feel pretty bad for awhile. Get comfortable, dear." She pulled out a clipboard from the end of the bed as Alex continued to look around dumbly. She felt tied down or something. The nurse was talking, and Alex struggled to concentrate and blink way doubled, blurring vision. "We have some emergency contacts on file for you… a Dean and Sam Smith?" Alex's clarity jumped up out of a sudden rush of fear and her eyes darted to the nurse. "You want me to notify them?"

There was only one answer for that question. "No. No," Alex said forcefully, unable to cope with imagining them knowing what she'd tried to do. She tried to sit up again and realized she was strapped into the bed. She gaped down at the wrist restraints, noticing them for the first time. "…What the hell are these for?!" she asked, flabbergasted.

Gail smiled wanly. "Well, when you try and kill yourself, we have to make sure you won't do it again," she said, then her face softened in sympathy. She contemplated Alex for a second. "Is it really all that bad, sweetheart?"

Alex, morose and tired and not sure how she felt in the current moment except depressed as hell, only had one answer for that question. She stared at the ceiling and all she could think of or remember was Cas, walking into a lake. Her brothers off somewhere in hiding as Leviathan did god-knows-what to the world. And her, giving up and useless and laying down on the job, a total disappointment to herself and to her dad's legacy. Was it really all that bad? Her voice was a soft, pained murmur. "You have no idea."

Yes. It really was all that bad. The worst. Alex stared at the water-stained ceiling with unseeing eyes.

Why the hell am I still alive? They said I should be dead. I know I should be dead. I made sure of it

And then it abruptly smacked her in the face like a brick. She realized why she was still alive after losing too much blood. Why she was still alive even though the nurses said it was impossible for her to be.

Anyone else would have been dead. Anyone else wouldn't be on their way to the morgue.

But she wasn't 'anyone else.' She was the girl who an angel had fallen in love with and been driven to madness by. She was the girl who had been dragged around, killed, then resurrected by a confused, power-high monster inhabiting her husband's body. And when this creature had brought her back to life, he'd said something she hadn't understood. "I brought you back better than before." And Alex now realized with a sickened sense horror taking over her body what he must have meant by that. He had somehow made sure she wouldn't die, probably ever. He had broken the laws of nature and done something to her and made it so that she would go on living even if she was meant to die. He had taken away that choice from her, he had made sure she would live whether she wanted to or not. And that was the final, true horror for her. She had no choice and there was no undoing this—was there?

Questions and doubts and the idea of the future began to overwhelm her as it sank in.

What does this mean? That I'm going to be alive, what, forever?

She could barely process that thought. What it truly meant began to dawn on her, leaving her feeling short of breath and struggling to comprehend her future.

If I can't die, I'll just live and live and live. But everyone else I know will die. I'll be alone, forever. What if literally nothing can kill me or end this misery called existence?

Tears began to gather as her chest clenched tight and raced.

Cas, how could you do this to me? How could you let this happen?!

I don't want to live!

Alex despaired and began to weep loudly at the thought of being alive forever, of ending up without family, without friends, of enduring years and years of loneliness and solitude in a world she had never really loved or fit in with to begin with… how was she supposed to do this? Walk through life alone, burdened, so scarred and destroyed by the years she'd been subjected to? Would the nightmares ever end? Would she ever wake up and not want her brothers like a child would want her parents? Would she ever be in a place where she wasn't consumed by the pain of wondering where her angel had gone to as his final resting place? Would she ever stop wondering if she could have somehow saved him from the bitter end that had befallen him? Would she ever stop feeling like a jagged broken piece of herself?

All she had wanted was for all the thoughts and feelings and guilts to be gone—she had wanted it all to end, which was why she tried to take her own life—and now she was aware that there was no escaping from herself or the things she couldn't stand. And that was too much to carry, too much to fathom. It was too much and she was choking on her own alarm and seeing vibrating, dizzying stars as her throat closed up and breaths became almost impossible to take in.

Alone. Forever. Every person I ever loved dead and gone and me here, whether I want to be or not.

Her thoughts sent her spiraling headlong into another violent panic attack that turned into something worse. The heart rate monitor she was hooked up to screamed as her pulse skyrocketed to insane, fatal levels. Nurses and doctors rushed in to respond to the patient who shouldn't have been alive at all.

Sam and Dean, holed up and hiding two hours away in an old hunting cabin belonging to Rufus Turner, didn't know how bad off their sister was. If they'd known, if they'd had even the slightest clue of how suicidal and hopeless she really was, they would have found a way to get to her, stay with her and help her through it all. But they didn't know.

Castiel, a thousand miles away, was in a bed with a woman who wasn't his wife. Daphne was waking up and calling him Emmanuel and telling him good morning. And at the same moment, Alex Winchester was dying of stress-induced cardiac arrest alone and scared. But even though she should have died, she would live, because a power-crazed angel-turned-god had made it so she would never stop breathing, functioning, living.

Christmas came and went, a hollow mockery of whatever grand holiday it was supposed to be. At Sunny Meadows, they hung up tacky worn out red, green, and gold decorations that looked like they were from the eighties. The staff put up a plastic tree with a winged angel on top. An unknown resident kicked the tree over and threw the angel across the room in the middle of the night. The tree recovered and was set back up the next day, but the angel figurine was ruined.

Three guesses who the culprit was.

January stretched out seemingly forever with a bleak, dead landscape and long, dark days. The empty and chilled season felt like Alex's own heart to her. The trees—once full of vibrant life and growth—were bare-branched and stark to look at, no longer soft and beautiful. The grass had thinned out and turned from happy green to a tired almost-gray. The dirt was hard and cold, the frigid air stung if you breathed it in too deeply.

Life was strange for Alex… it was hollow, disjointed, drug-addled. There was Ativan for whenever she was too riled up or upset—it put her in a pleasant fog of forgetfulness and dumb tranquility, it made everything slow down and turn to a warm molasses. Then there was Oxycontin for the physical pain she'd been in after the suicide attempt—and she honestly didn't even need the pain management anymore, but she still took it, becoming dependent on the feeling of euphoria and happiness the pills gave her. The high got harder and harder to obtain and she started having to go outside of her prescription to get enough pills to feel good. Those were tough times, and when she looked back in the future, she'd see herself for what she really was: an addict. But at the time, she just felt like a lost kid who needed a band-aid. The thought of not getting that band-aid was the worst thing she could imagine. And it wasn't like addictions and major issues didn't run rampant in her family to begin with… she was kind of screwed from the get go.

Therapy and counseling at Sunny Meadows were both jokes to Alex. Some days she did give some effort to both when she felt like she had it in herself to try and get better. But that feeling was always short-lived and followed by immense guilt and exhaustion. Her mind conjured images and words from her loved ones, Dad mostly. He was her inner voice of shame and failure, the constant nagging reminder that she had failed and given up at the one thing she'd been raised to do: hunt. Save people. Be strong even when it wasn't possible.

But she was tired of being strong and of fighting through her problems for the sake of others. She had never been good enough for her father, she had never been quite what he wanted. She was a disappointment, right? So now she really was a disappointment. She was done pretending to be someone other than who she truly was. It was time to accept what Dad had always known: that Alex was a useless waste of space, that she only served to drag her family down, that she wasn't anyone worth loving or being around. She was weak, co-dependent, intrinsically flawed, and a bother.

When she managed to sleep, she had nightmares in which her brothers despised her completely and told her how pathetic they thought she was as she cried and begged for them to love her again please—it felt so real that some days she couldn't remember that those dreams weren't real. She had dreams where Cas was drowning at the bottom of a lake and reaching out for her and she wasn't able to get to him. She re-lived every pain and beauty he'd given her in dreamscapes, both waking and sleeping. She grieved his loss without ceasing, she wished for a different outcome, she furiously cursed God and fate and herself and Cas especially for everything that had happened. And yet…

Her heart and soul loved and missed him and mourned him with everything she had. Letting go seemed impossible. Not that she was trying to let goshe kept his ring with her, always in her pocket—it used to fit her index finger but it was a few sizes too big for her now. The only thing she could figure was that Castiel must have tried it on once and angelically, magically resized it to his own finger. A thought that killed her all over again… Cas, wanting to wear that damn ring. She imagined him wearing it and she imagined him holding her and she imagined that everything was okay. Then she would look around and see the blank walls of Sunny Meadows, she would recognize how alone she was, she would hug her own arms around herself because she was so starved for physical comfort. She would wonder what kind of freak longed for the angel who had killed her and then brought her back to live forever all alone.

He had done something irreversible to her, he had scarred her and left a mark she would bear forever. Who could have told her those spellbinding blue eyes and the entity behind them would ruin her forever? Who could have said the one who healed her and helped her would be the one who hurt her beyond compare? Alex still didn't understand how this could have happened to her. She didn't understand how Castiel—sweet, tender, careful, loving Castiel—could have done what he did. It had happened and she remembered but she still couldn't quite believe it. She grieved for what might have been if he had only told her the truth earlier, if he had trusted her and let her help him. But now they would never know.

He died in final sacrifice returning those souls. Souls he'd taken in to save her from what he'd done in the first place. His was another death that felt like her fault even if it wasn't.

And he didn't even have a gravestone. The man, the angel, whatever he was… the one she had loved was just gone forever. Without true closure, without a funeral, without explanation. It wasn't right. Nothing remained of him to remember him by. He had lived and died and not owned a single worldly possession. Instead, he had left his marks and imprints on a heart and soul of a human girl. And those marks were eternal, but what about some kind of legacy in the corporeal world? There was none. He was a fire and a storm, he was fierce and gentle and so breathtaking. So it didn't feel right that he could disappear so entirely, leave nothing behind for her to have or hold onto except a ring that she had given him in the first place. Surely there had to be more. But there wasn't.

His coat had disappeared out of the Impala. And his body had exploded or rotted at the bottom of a fucking lake. And that was the end of him, of his story. Their story.

She would never hear his voice again. He would never smile at her again or hold her close and trace fingers through her hair as his tender, warm eyes spoke to hers without words. She would never have what she wanted most from him: more time. Instead, she would live out the rest of her days unable to die even though inside she felt dead already. It would be so much easier not to feel. That's why the drugs were so important to her. They killed her thoughts and emotions, dumbed them down, made them bearable.


But there were days when she could do nothing but feel and think. She reflected on her entire existence, trying to pinpoint where it all went wrong, trying to figure out why she would break now after everything. Back when she'd been in her early twenties, Alex had been okay. She'd sort of accepted her lot in life as Dean's sidekick. It had almost been stable and it hadn't been that bad, the two of them doing hunts and drifting around and meeting Dad for jobs here and there. Then Sam had come back into the mix and they had to learn to be a family again. Together, the three of them had fought against always-greatening odds and always-worsening circumstances. Each time their heads broke above water, another wave crashed down, practically drowning them. And then Castiel. The final undertow that dragged Alex down…

He had shown her what total happiness and euphoric love was, then taken it away and left her with nothing. Nothing. She couldn't face herself or her family or who she had failed to become. So she didn't.

When she wasn't high or numb from whatever pill she was currently on, Alex was left with nothing but sadness and a longing for the way things had once been. For awhile, she'd be glum and depressed, then anger and despair and helplessness would build up and make her volatile. That was usually when staff would jam her veins full of Ativan and put her in temporary solitary… which just meant she was stuck in her tiny room alone with a huge male nurse who watched her every move as she laid there in a glazed over stupor under the influence of the drug. She'd get straight again, her mind would come back to her, and it would begin all over again.

It was a vicious cycle, one she managed to hide from her family. Sam and Dean were off somewhere in hiding from the Leviathan, plus Dean had the broken leg, so he wasn't exactly mobile. They couldn't visit for fear of being seen and endangering Alex, either. But they called on the regular and Alex performed, made them think she was sad but doing better. What a lie. But she just didn't want them to be worried about her or how bad it was, how miserable she was, how desperately she just needed them to come see her and give her a hug, some encouragement. She didn't tell them. They had enough going on. So, thinking she was saving them the trouble, imagining herself some kind of brave heroine for keeping them in the dark like that, Alex told herself is was fine to lie to them.


Jamie, who hadn't managed to get the Leviathans' interest, came in person a couple times to check on her and Alex wasn't sure if she was able to fool her very shrewd friend or not. In a classic deflection tactic, Alex always tried to turn the conversation around to Jamie so that Alex's wellbeing wasn't explored as thoroughly. What she found out was that Jamie was spending a lot of time with Dean and Sam, helping them out and doing small jobs with Bobby in the area. Jealousy was not what Alex had expected to feel. But she did. It felt like she'd been replaced. Maybe she had been.

But it was nothing she hadn't brought onto herself, after all. So, she stowed that bitterness and that hurt she felt. Buried it under more pills and tried not to think about how unhappy she was with herself and how sick she was that some other girl, Jamie or not, was where she used to be.

This was just her life now. And she had to accept it. There was quite literally no other choice.

Two Months After the Suicide Attempt…

In early February on a foggy, overcast day, Alex was in the rec room at Sunny Meadows. A few other residents were there too, but things were quiet, boring even. The rec room was basically just a little bigger than the cafeteria—it had a pool table, a television, couches, a few tables, a bookshelf, some board games, a guitar with two broken strings, a fish tank with a few depressed tropical fish swimming around in the murky water. A few huge, old arcade game stations were pushed up together to block a hallway that led into the shut-down portion of Sunny Meadows that hadn't been renovated or used since the eighties or something—Alex had never paid much attention when it was discussed. A few big windows let some natural light into the room, but the space was still very bland and felt dank because of bare florescent lighting on the low ceilings.

Alex sat sort of hidden against the back of one of the couches, facing the wall where the bookshelf was. The arcade games were close, too. Pac Mac, Street Fighter, some shooting game too. She wasn't supposed to, but she was smoking a cigarette. As long as staff didn't catch her, she didn't care.

Blump. Blump. Blump.

Beside her, the source of that constant noise, Zip sat with his back leaned on the couch and his knees bent up casually. He had a faded old tennis ball and was throwing it with one hand against the nearby wall, catching it as it bounced back down off the floor, then throwing it again in a steady, predictable pattern.

Blump. Blump. Blump.

"They need to get the damn cable fixed," Alex complained sullenly, flicking cigarette ash onto the linoleum flooring carelessly. This was getting old. How long did it take to fix that stuff, anyway? It had been like a couple weeks at least. They'd gotten it fixed twice and it had gone right out again inexplicably. Without TV, Alex was going insane. Well… more insane.

Zip glanced over at her with bright, playful eyes, pausing his endless wall ball. "Surely there's more to life than Jerry Springer and reruns of The A-Team," he quipped, that forever almost-smile shyly playing on his lips. He used the tennis ball as he gestured at her. "Or are you really that dependent on external sources of contrived entertainment to get you by?" He grinned with his trademark not-confident-but-still-hopeful demeanor and resumed bouncing the ball.

He was such a snarky little shit. "Shut up you asshole," Alex muttered, trying to hide her slight amusement. He had that forever-nervous and hyper-intellectual personality that made him awkward and insufferable… and endearing, it turned out. She didn't want to like him, but he'd grown on her the past couple months whether she had wanted him to or not. He was harmless, funny, and very sweet hearted in a neurotic, paranoid, jumpy way. That and he wasn't threatening at all—he was shorter than her by like an inch and weighed like all of a hundred-and-thirty pounds and didn't look like he'd ever picked up anything except maybe a computer hard drive. He was goofy and always the most anxious person in the room, he was persistent and kind of cool sometimes and a total dork. He'd taken a liking to her for whatever reason and sort of attached himself to her. He followed her around like a stray puppy. He was the one who had found her after the suicide attempt and alerted the staff. And she wouldn't go so far as to call them friends, but she knew they pretty much were.

She and Zip weren't the only young people there, but the residents were predominantly middle-aged at Sunny Meadows. There was Gothic Steve, who was schizophrenic and narcissistic. There was Sad Martha who cried all day long and missed her cats and had no family. She checked in and out of the center repeatedly. There was Fat Mark, who was trying to work through his alcoholism and losing his entire family in a car crash. There was Meth-head Dakota and Anxiety-Disorder Jordan and Bulimic Andi and OCD-controlled Jay. And there was PTSD Craig. He was a war vet. But he didn't seem old enough to be. It was a bunch of people who had admitted there was a problem and had committed themselves to getting help. Most seemed to make progress. But Alex stagnated. And Zip seemed the same… sort of resigned to being messed up in the head forever. He was doing what Alex was: using Sunny Meadows as a way to escape from the real world and all the responsibilities it held. Maybe that's why they took to each other. They were the same kind of person.

In the past couple months, Alex had learned a few things about Zip. He had been a successful and super-promising software and code writer in his senior year of college, he even had an internship with Google lined up. And then, as he put it, he couldn't hold it together anymore and cracked, drowned completely under his stress and issues. Apparently he'd had problems for awhile but something about the internship or pressure from his family had sent him over the edge and he'd decided to check himself into Sunny Meadows to get some help. He seemed like a private person and he always hesitated when the topic turned to his personal life, and Alex understood. She never told him much either, or she tried not to. But apparently she would blab all kinds of things to him when she was drugged out. She couldn't remember telling him half the shit he knew about her and her family, but then again, she couldn't remember much point blank about the past couple months. It all blended together in a weird mish-mash collage of moments plucked out of obscurity.

Blump. Blump. Blump.

Alex took a long drag off her cigarette and glanced at Zip very briefly sidelong as he kept throwing that damn ball one-handed. He'd finally stopped wearing the one same outfit of red swimming trunks and the KSU hoodie—he'd worn those clothes for weeks, never changing at all. He blamed it on some 'super fucked up neuroses I have, heh.' But these days he was changing every day. Today he was in ratty jeans and a gray hoodie and a plain blue shirt. He was smoking a cigarette, too. He was the one who had brought her the cigarettes, actually. He liked to sneak off campus a lot and bring things back like cigarettes, booze, sometimes weed—all the things that weren't allowed at Sunny Meadows. Residents weren't really supposed to leave without signing out and being cleared but Zip was surprisingly daring for a 'neurotic bastard.' That's what he called himself.

Zip was also the one who helped her get Kickers. That's what they called Oxycontin painkillers on the street. Alex was indebted to him in the worst, most shameful way. But he got her on a level that no one else could at the moment. He had never judged her, ever, on her substance addiction or her usually rude behavior. And that was kind of nice. He never acted like she owed him anything. And that was also pretty cool.

Alex started a new cigarette after finishing her first and Zip noticed, watching her closely with that hesitant little smile hiding in his eyes and lips. She usually smoked one at a time. But today, she wanted two. And he commented on it. "So, is the extra smoke to cope with the added stress, or are you just really wanting to get lung cancer a little sooner?" Alex looked at him pointedly, questioningly, challengingly. And here she had just been thinking he never judged her. He seemed knowing and sympathetic. "It's been awhile since your brothers called you."

His insight startled her. It had been awhile. Like a week, almost. And it was gnawing at Alex. But, she knew that the boys weren't holed up in hiding anymore. They were hunting again and Dean was on two legs again. So Alex just hoped that was why she hadn't heard from them. A little grumpy from being seen through like that, she tried to scoff it off. "Whoopty-freaking-do, so they haven't called in a few days. I don't care."

Zip scoffed impishly. "Psh. Come on. I know you look forward to those calls. They're practically your reason for living." It was supposed to be a joke, but it sort of stung.

Alex stared at the cigarette smoldering between her fingers and she fought anger, annoyance, denial. She had no reason for living, except that she had to. "They'll call when they can," she muttered cynically. "They're busy." Inside though, she wanted to cry and ask 'why haven't they called? Are they finally giving up on me? I'd give up on me too, though…' Like she did with Jamie, she turned the conversation around in an attempt to get herself out from under the magnifying glass. "So why don't you ever get calls, huh?" she asked Zip sort of challengingly. "Or visits? Your family really hate you that much?"

His easygoing demeanor faltered a little. She'd touched a nerve. He took a few seconds, working his face in a thoughtful, cautious frown. "Let's just put it this way. My, um… my family doesn't want me around. I'm not good enough for them, you know?" He paused, looking off with a bittersweet thoughtful look on his face. "I guess I'm the quote-unquote black sheep of the family, if you will." He laughed softly, derisively, self-deprecatingly, seeming to have given up on himself somehow. "Then add in all my psychological shortcomings and mental complications and… yeah. They're probably glad I'm gone. I don't actually care if they call or visit, honestly. In fact, they can fuck off if you ask me. Bunch of entitled, petty, sanctimonious nihilists with ego problems. I could write a book on the ironies and hypocrisies they perpetuate." He looked at her sidelong, and his young face, his expressive eyes, his captivating pale blue eyes held onto hers. His voice softened, and away went the clipped tone, the overdone verbosity. "But I'd rather be here with you."

Her eyes snapped to his. He did that sometimes. Out of the blue looked at her and got so intense then said something she hadn't expected. Something that made her sort of uncomfortable and aware that his interest in her wasn't just as a friend. She did what she always did when his little crush manifested. She got sarcastic and flippant. "A mentally unstable girl with multiple addictions," she wisecracked, trying to dodge the special attention. "Good for you, Zip."

He took her in stride and returned to making the ball thump against the wall continuously. "I don't think those things define you," he said simply. "We all have to find ways to cope."

Touched by his words and his forever-pleasant responses, Alex was left feeling bad about how rude she was with him sometimes. She was contrite and quiet as she toed her shoe at a scuff on the floor. "Yeah, well…"

He was too nice. What was the catch? In her experience, everything came with a catch.

Attention from males made her completely uncomfortable these days. If they looked at her too long, if they seemed interested or too watchful, she got a panicked and freaked out feeling in the back of her mind. Being nearly raped twice did that to a girl. She remembered the attacks she'd been through without warning every few days, and it left her feeling terrified by the need to protect herself from that ever happening again. She almost always wore Dean's oversized jacket over whatever outfit she had on, hiding herself and her body unconsciously. She was hyper-vigilant and suspicious of everyone, she sometimes thought everyone was out to get her. She'd even brought it up in counseling a few times. She'd brought up a lot of things in counseling that she didn't know how to cope with. But as soon as she put the facts out there and the doctor tried to get her to process, Alex would shut down and refuse to discuss it further.

For whatever reason, Zip had never intimidated her that way. He felt different to her. Pure, somehow. But his obvious interest in her still worried her sometimes. Made her want to back off and tell him it was never gonna happen, to go ahead and get lost. But he was kind of her only friend at the moment. And he got drugs for her. So she kept her mouth shut and never said much of anything when his feelings were apparent.

"Residents!" came a loud, booming voice from somewhere close by. "It's time for art therapy."

"Oh good." Alex stubbed out her cigarette and hoped none of the smoke had been visible over the top of the couch. She smiled wanly. "Let's go draw ourselves as trees."

Zip grinned at her conspiratorially. "Hey, if you're feeling particularly rebellious, you could render your likeness in the form of a potted plant or perhaps even a growth of ivy if you really feel like an anarchist."

Alex made a ridiculous face at him. Who talked like that? "Wow, did you swallow the dictionary this morning?" she asked, sarcastic and teasing at the same time. But mostly sarcastic. As usual, her attempts to make him stand off only made him chuckle. He shoved his cigarette butt underneath the couch to hide it and she did the same, then they went and joined the group.

A few minutes into the bullshit called art therapy, Alex got a phone call. It was Sam, and she could tell right away that something was wrong. He said he was on his way to see her and that Dean wasn't with him.

Two Days Later

In Doctor Schulz's office at Sunny Meadows, Dean flipped through a file drawer quickly, trying to be quiet. He glanced up and around continuously, convinced someone was about to catch him. Jamie said he'd have ten minutes tops, and he'd already used one minute up. She was out there causing some kind of distraction and keeping an eye out as he did something that was possibly a little underhanded… looked for his sister's confidential patient file. Alex didn't even know he was there yet, and she wasn't gonna know until he'd figured out the deal with her. See, her phone calls were always sort of surface-level and short, and he couldn't shake the feeling that she wasn't telling him the full story. Sam had felt the same, and Jamie had too. So he was gonna do a little, uh, research and see exactly what was going on.

The past couple months had been horrible for Dean. Stuck in some cabin with a jacked up leg, his sister on her own in a mental institution, his brother up to no good, Bobby and Jamie tackling Leviathan stuff… Dean hated sitting around and being useless, which was exactly what he'd been. He also hated not being there for his siblings, and he was so unhappy with how things were unfolding right now for the most part. He wanted to grab his sister and insist she wasn't gonna stay here a minute longer and that was final. But he was trying to respect her wishes, even if they were stupid and even if they made no sense to him. He didn't understand why she would want to be here at all, period, ever. He just wanted his family back together. He just wanted things back to how they used to be.

Dean finally located his sister's file and pulled it out, began to read the first page voraciously. He hadn't been sure what to expect, but he wasn't prepared for what he found.

Sunny Meadows Mental Health Center
File #45-800-76761
Two Month Patient Evaluation for Alexandra
"Alex" Smith
Prepared by Doctor J. Alan Schulz, M.D.

The patient was admitted November 21, 2012 to Sunny Meadows with referral papers from Laurelwood Mental Health Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Miss Smith is a young woman in her late twenties exhibiting signs of PTSD, anxiety disorder, bi-polar tendencies, and mild psychosis. She had frequent panic attacks upon admission. Ativan was administered and psychotherapy was given and the attacks are less. I do not believe the patient has panic disorder, but that she was responding with a lack of coping mechanisms to severe trauma she endured in recent times. Her other diagnoses are being addressed in therapy and counseling.

While on campus at Sunny Meadows, the patient has displayed depressive and catatonic behaviors as well as hyper-agitated and aggressive phases. The patient has engaged in silent vigils followed by violent outbursts, once attacking a resident for standing too close to her, another time destroying another's personal property in a fit of anger. The patient utilizes belligerent verbal threats and acts of bullying as a means of self-defense. She attempts to sabotage most friendships and relationships that have been presented to her while here at the center. However, Miss Smith has developed a relationship of sorts with resident Kyle "Zip" Young. They are often seen together and seem to have formed some kind of bond over their similar issues. This is a positive circumstance that I have encouraged.

Her sleeping patterns seem irregular and hyper-vigilant and she complains of all-consuming nightmares. She has been caught wandering the halls numerous times and staff report she complains of exhaustion regularly. Sleep aids have been administered accordingly. Evaluation at this time is that dosage may need to be increased as sleep is still not at an adequate level.

Miss Smith may have some issues telling reality from fantasy. She has been known to talk about angels, demons, exorcisms, monsters, "Leviathan" and "Behemoth" as well as a variety of other fable/folklore creatures from American and Biblical legends and her involvement with said creatures. I have noted the patient oftentimes seems to want for me, her therapist, to believe she is more mentally unstable than she is. She expresses little concern about what others think of her more far-fetched beliefs in the supernatural, in fact she seems amused at times by my questions on the matter. I believe this is another controlling defense mechanism and her way of attempting to manipulate a situation to her own advantage so that she feels comfortable and in control instead of afraid and out of control.

The name 'Castiel' has come into therapy conversation quite a few times and I recognize that this figure or person, real or otherwise, is an important and triggering figure for Miss Smith. She claims that he was her husband, that her family disapproved, and that his untimely demise is what she blames for all of her problems. However, I have gathered that many factors are influencing the mental break she is experiencing and the behaviors she exhibits. Throughout our multiple therapy sessions, I have compiled a list of losses and traumas the patient has been subjected to.

The traumas are as follows. Alex Smith states she was physically and emotionally abused by her father in her childhood and that his unforeseen death was without closure for her. She states that her mother died in a fire that burned her home to the ground when she was six months of age and that loss has followed her for her entire life. She claims to have spent twenty plus years mute and unable to speak, she stated that she was constantly bullied and ostracized by her peers in school for her disability. She states her life was not 'normal' and that her childhood was not whole or healthy. She expresses that her two brothers, Sam and Dean, were the only two figures in her life who were there with any permanency and that Sam, her twin, left the family at age eighteen. This makes her eldest brother Dean the solitary figure she perceives to have never let her down. The patient expresses great guilt over her role in her family's life and her indebtedness to continue in the family business (she would not say what sort of business the family owns). In my opinion, this guilt is unhealthy and detrimental to her personal growth.

However, her childhood traumas are not her greatest. Perhaps her greatest source of emotional conflict is, again, Castiel. She states that his death (after a series of detrimental deceptions) was the final tipping point for her, as well as learning about a miscarriage she had in 2010. She states she only recently learned of this miscarriage and the news was a great source of grief and guilt for her.

Vague statements about sexual assaults and other abuse suffered at the hands of her family and husband have been made in counseling, but she refuses to delve any deeper into the matters. It is my professional opinion that Miss Smith is holding onto great trauma and refusing to face and/or process her feelings on many matters will only serve to worsen her condition.

The patient attempted suicide in December by gouging a wrist. She was admitted to the local hospital for several days after nearly succeeding. Once she was re-admitted to the center, she was put onto suicide watch for two weeks. She has not made any more attempts and expresses that she will not try again.

Miss Smith still does not give much concerted effort to the program at this time and shows little interest in improving. My recommendation at this time for her plan of action is more therapy and ideally, a breakthrough. The patient will make no progress until she decides to put in the effort needed to grow.

The file ended there. Dean held that piece of paper and stared at it with a dry mouth and a broken heart. His head was spinning, his stomach was churning. Suicide? She'd had a miscarriage?

How did a brother even begin to process hearing how bad off his sister was? How was he supposed to know what to do or feel? His phone buzzed and he pulled it out, in a daze. On the screen, a text from Jamie that simply said Time's up.

Shit. Forced into action, Dean shoved the file back where he'd found it, slammed the file cabinet shut, made it halfway across the room. Then the door opened and a slight, older man with leathery, wrinkled skin and a careworn face stopped short. He was holding a clipboard and looked startled to see Dean in his office. "E… excuse me, sir, what are you doing in here?" the doctor asked, frowning deeply.

Thinking quick, Dean said the first thing that came to mind. "Whoa, this isn't the bathroom!" Managing it despite his inner grief, he feigned confusion and amusement and walked out. But the second he was in the clear, his face dropped, his emotions were written right onto his face, and he wanted to cry. The words from that file raced through his mind over and over again, and all he could think was somehow this was his fault. He'd allowed this to happen to her.

At the top of the hall, Jamie waited. She was becoming a more and more familiar sight to him. She took one look at his face and knew. "What's wrong?" she asked softly as he got close, her eyebrows knitting inward as she looked at him closely and carefully.

Dean shook his head, tried to pull himself together. But all he could think about was how much pain his baby sister had to be in to want to kill herself. How he was a failure, a joke, and no one wanted him around. Alex didn't even care enough to let him know how she really felt, he had to find out from a damn file that she had attempted suicide. Sam thought Dean was a monster and didn't want to be around him anymore. What was wrong? "Everything," he managed, trying to give a soft laugh. But it sounded more like misery than anything else.

Jamie didn't ask for elaboration. Wordlessly, she touched his arm and hesitated, then cautiously hugged him. The first time she'd hugged anyone in a long, long time. Dean almost didn't accept the hug. And then he gave in and he let it happen, put his arms around her and held on tight, shut his eyes tight.

In his mind, he pictured Alex and Sam young, happy, carefree. It probably wasn't even a real memory.

Author's Notes: ;_; this was a shorter chapter (is 12k really "SHORT"? lol) for ya. 'Cause I've been so busy and writing is slow... Next chapter: Dean confronts Alex on some of the file contents