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Learning How To Fly Chapter 8

Chapter Eight


*


Chapter 8

*

“We need to bring Sergeant Winchester to My’arria,” Teyla insisted. “They will trade with us if we have a shaman. Dean would qualify for their definition.”

“If they want parlor tricks,” Rodney mumbled, “any one of my team would qualify. They’re that backwards.”

Elizabeth shot Rodney a glare that shut him up. “What would qualify a shaman, Teyla?” she asked.

“They had a test. A shaman activates an Ancient device and passes through.”

Elizabeth looked at John. He threw his hands up in the air. “It is Ancient, mostly, but it flatly ignored me.”

“Rodney?”

“Oh, now I’m allowed to speak.”

“Rodney.”

“Fine. Sorry. Yes, Ancient. No, I don’t know why Sheppard can’t get it to work. As far as I know, it’s not broken.”

“Thank you, Rodney.”

“All the Ancient devices react weird to Winchester,” Sheppard mused. “He still can’t fly a jumper that he hasn’t helped fix but once he does, the jumper prefers him at the wheel. But if there’s nothing wrong with the jumper initially and he’s just tinkering, nothing changes. And let’s not forget the Chair.”

Elizabeth was distracted for a moment. “Rodney, have your teams figured out what Winchester was revealing while he was in the Chair?”

“Not a clue,” Rodney sounded even more peeved. If one listened to Rodney talk about Winchester, the sergeant did everything just to confound the scientist.

“Okay, back on topic,” Elizabeth turned to Teyla. “Why do you think Winchester would be the best person for this mission?”

“For all the reasons previously mentioned. If John cannot activate an Ancient device, Dean might be able to. Also, the tribal elder will ask if Dean is a shaman. Though he does not refer to himself as such, he can honestly reply that others do.”

“What’s on the line?” Was it worth it, sending Dean out on off-world missions again?

“They’ve got a third-filled ZPM that they have no use for,” Rodney blurted out.

Elizabeth blinked. And now they were getting around to mentioning it? “They won’t trade it with anyone else?”

Rodney snorted, “Something about a prophecy or some such ridiculous babble. Only a worthy shaman is allowed to take it.”

John leaned forward to stop Rodney’s tirade. “Bottom line: They don’t care what we have to trade. They only care who they are trading with.”

It sounded too good to be true. “Very well,” Elizabeth made the decision. “Team 1 and Team 4 are cleared for the mission to My’arria. As soon as you can get everything together.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Dismissed.”

Her office cleared out in a hurry.

*

“Samuel Winchester?”

Sam looked up from his study notes and his gaze instantly became shuttered. The general in the Air Force blues was horribly out of place on the Stanford University campus. Brian Quaid, Sam’s study partner for History of Law immediately crossed his arms across his chest looking defiant. The general had a lackey at his elbow and wasn’t the least concerned about the glares he was receiving from the students around.

“I’m not interested,” Sam said.

The man took two steps forward and spoke quietly. “It’s about your brother.”

What the hell was Dean involved in now? And how badly would the aftershocks shake Sam’s world? “I haven’t seen or talked to my brother in three years.”

“I know, but he still listed you as next of kin.”

Not the earthquake he was expecting, but the ground beneath his feet was starting to tilt dangerously. “He’s dead?”

“Not yet.” The general looked around as the many eavesdroppers. Most didn’t even pretend that they weren’t listening. “Look, can we talk in private?”

Sam nodded once. Brian reached for Sam’s hand. “You don’t have to go with them,” Brian reminded Sam. “If your brother hasn’t bothered to talk to you, you don’t have to do anything for him, especially if he chose the military over his own family.”

Sam pulled away. It wasn’t as if Brian would understand. No one in his family had owned a gun for four generations and they were proud of it. They had protested the Civil War and every war since. Last year, Brian had gotten into a brawl with a Navy sailor, but since Brian still carried around the seaman’s black-edged picture in his wallet, Sam wondered what and who had actually started the fight. None of that mattered now. “He’s my brother,” Sam explained.

Brian shook his head. “You’re too good for him, Sam.”

“My car is this way.” The general led the way to the nearest parking lot, where campus security was trying to force a driver to move. The driver never did acknowledge them, but he sure hopped to when he saw the general. He opened the back door to Humvee and moved to the driver’s seat. Sam was the first to get into the vehicle, the general was going to be next, but he pushed his lackey in before the man started a fight with the heckling students that had congregated.

“That’s enough, Cunningham,” the general chided as he got comfortable across the way from Sam and the lackey. “McCormick,” he addressed the driver. “Drive around the city for a while.”

“But sir…”

“Cunningham. You’re here for a reason, that’s not to start a fight with a bunch of co-eds.”

“Yes, sir.” Cunningham opened his laptop and his briefcase. He handed the general two sets of papers.

“Who are you?” Sam asked.

The general looked a little sheepish. “Jack O’Neill, with two L’s.”

“What are you in charge of?”

Now the general was on familiar ground. “I’ll tell you after you sign the non-disclosure forms.”

“No,” Sam said. “What does this have to do with my brother?”

“Dean got caught in a machine, one that traps a person in their worst memories. We need your help to identify them and to bring him back to his normal self.”

Sam almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. “Is that even possible?”

O’Neill shrugged. “My nerds say so. The shrinks concur. Something about targeting the part of the brain where the worst of the memories are held and how the more intense a memory is, the easier it is to find… or something. And then there’s the fact that we can’t get Dean to wake up.”

“Why are you using Dean’s first name?” Sam knew enough about the military to know that O’Neill should be saying ‘Winchester.’

O’Neill flushed a little and eyed Cunningham. “He saved my life. So we keep tabs on each other.”

That was news to Cunningham.

“So will you sign?”

“I want proof.”

“And I need you to sign before I hand you Dean’s jacket.”

“No.”

“McCormick,” O’Neill addressed the driver. “Plan A.”

“Yessir.”

Sam wasn’t pleased that he was so predictable. The driver didn’t even change lanes. Soon, McCormick pulled onto a residential street and stopped. O’Neill opened the door and a male figure stepped into the Humvee from the blinding sun with a full duffle bag.

Caleb?” Sam was so stunned at the familiar face that he didn’t notice the Humvee pull back into traffic.

“Hey, kid.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Your brother asked me to babysit the old man.”

“Hey now,” O’Neill protested. “He asked you to be my bodyguard, not babysitter.”

“Same thing.”

O’Neill huffed. “So Winchester, Dean’s signed on the dotted line, so has Caleb. If we don’t get the information from you, Dean might die. None of us want that.”

“Is it a spell?” Sam asked.

Cunningham choked. “Is he nuts?”

“Captain,” O’Neill warned. He was quickly losing patience. “Will you sign already, Winchester?”

Sam looked at Caleb. He couldn’t read the man like he could his own family but the hunter was himself and he knew what was going on and knew that Dean was in danger. “Give me the papers.”

Cunningham handed over the papers. Unlike most in this situation, Sam got himself comfortable and started to read. O’Neill must have been briefed on this aspect of Sam’s character, because he merely took out his own paperwork and started on it. Caleb, being a hunter, got out his knife and a whetstone and sharpened the knife.

That weirded Cunningham out, but it comforted Sam. He was so used to studying when someone else was cleaning weapons that he had a rag soaked in gun oil on his desk during finals’ week.

Once Sam had read all of the fine print, he held out a hand to Cunningham for a pen and then signed. When he looked up, O’Neill was feigning engrossment in his papers.

“So what’s really going on?” Sam asked.

O’Neill handed over a folder, Dean’s military jacket. Sam eagerly read the high scores Dean earned in Marine boot camp (just like Dad) and then demolitions training (no surprise there) and then… “Where’s the rest of this?”

“It’s classified.”

“I just signed a non-disclosure form,” Sam reminded.

“I know. But this involves a little more. The question is: will you go where Dean is and personally help his team spring Dean from his little mental prison, or do I… and Captain Cunningham interview you and send a report to the shrink on the base? A woman that Dean has taken great pains to avoid.”

No surprise there either. Dean’s worst memories would all have supernatural connotations. If Sam told the truth, would the shrink even believe him? O’Neill knew all this which was why he had searched Sam out. “How long will I be gone?”

O’Neill relaxed and Sam realized that he had been played just as smoothly as if Dean had been pulling the strings. O’Neill was smarter than his first impression. Sam would watch him carefully. Sam caught Caleb’s eyes and the shorter man nodded shortly. O’Neill was trust-worthy and wanted Dean to survive.

“Provided that you can save Dean within a couple of hours…” O’Neill shrugged, “A week. A couple days to get there and a couple days back, if nothing goes wrong. Dean’s health was too precarious to send him home. His doc said no and I don’t argue with the docs; their needles are too big.”

Sam wasn’t too sure what to think of the aside. “What about my classes?”

“We’ll have someone explain everything that they can say, which is nothing, but Davis is really good about explaining nothing.” O’Neill paused. “Davis can handle it, I’m sure.”

It should have been a confusing statement but Sam recognized that O’Neill was pretty good about saying nothing while he was explaining everything. “I’m in.”

O’Neill handed over yet another set of papers.

“What’s this?”

“Declaring that you won’t hold the US military liable if anything happens to your person while in our care.”

Sam glared.

“Dean is in the middle of a hot zone.”

Sam read this paperwork, signed and again wondered what the hell Dean had gotten himself into. “Why are you going through all this for my brother?”

“I told you, he helped me out of a tight spot,” O’Neill said.

“Sir,” the driver drew everyone’s attention. “We’re at the airport.”

“Are you coming?” asked O’Neill.

“Don’t I need to pack?”

“No. We’ll supply a uniform and Dean should have all the crazy stuff you could need, he sure has asked for enough of it. You can borrow from T while you’re on the base stateside. Weir will take care of you on her end. She likes your brother too.”

“I’ll have to call my girlfriend.”

O’Neill tossed him a cell phone. “You can’t tell her anything.”

“You haven’t told me anything,” Sam countered.

O’Neill tried to look abashed and failed miserly. “Oh yeah, but I will.”

Sam rang his apartment and was pleased that Jess answered the phone and not a machine. She shouldn’t have been home yet. He tried to explain that his brother was in trouble and no one could find his dad. All the people from the Humvee eavesdropped shamelessly. From the rolled eyes of O’Neill, the general knew John Winchester. Cunningham was impressed with the way that Sam could fudge the truth. It was sad how fast he fell into old habits. He didn’t want to lie to Jess –more than about his family history.

McCormick returned from the airport tower reporting that the Air Force jet was prepped and ready to go. He saluted the general and drove the Humvee back to wherever it came from. Caleb handed Sam his duffle bag. From the clinking, it was full of weapons. Sam refused to look inside. He itched to double-check the guns. O’Neill led the way to the jet and then sat in the pilot’s seat. It didn’t surprise Sam that General O’Neill would fly the plane. Caleb made himself comfortable so quickly that Sam knew that this was old hat for him. Caleb trusted the general on many levels.

O’Neill flew quietly and intently. With Cunningham there, Sam couldn’t question Caleb. O’Neill wouldn’t answer questions about Dean saying that Sam shouldn’t distract the pilot. Sam huffed and watched the clouds drift by.

What had Dean gotten into this time? Black ops? Everyone had heard horror stories of those soldiers. John Winchester had spent some time there and Sam wondered about O’Neill. He was a little too practical and non-linear in his thinking to have been a desk jockey his entire career. Sam had too much time with his own thoughts. He knew that it was about to get worse. O’Neill had said that it would take days to get there. Sam would be crazy with worry by the time that he arrived.

Then O’Neill landed them in Colorado, which Sam only knew because Cunningham made an off hand comment. Caleb disappeared into the shadows, Cunningham was dispatched to make nice with the local air control tower and O’Neill drove them to Cheyenne Mountain.

Sam was led down into the bowels of the military complex, given BDU’s and then escorted to the Gate Room.

Then he was told about aliens and the Pegasus galaxy. O’Neill handed him a briefcase full of files, had someone dial a ‘gate address.’ Sam overheard some argument about the worth of one Marine versus the power of a ZPM needed to open the wormhole. He didn’t understand it before he was pushed through the wormhole –by O’Neill himself.

His next freezing breath was halfway between the Milky Way and Pegasus.

He used the air to curse secretive generals and annoying brothers.

The soldier welcomed him to the Mid-way station and offered to escort Sam to his temporary quarters. Sam smiled using his old you-want-to-tell-me-everything smile from his days of interviewing supernatural witnesses. Instead of quarters, Sam asked for coffee and a chance to pick the soldier’s brain.

Corporal James Bird cheerfully agreed. The Mid-way station was a boring post, but it was strategic and needed guarding.

Sam systematically extracted every piece of useful information out of the poor Marine and he still wasn’t ready for the scheduled dialing of Atlantis.

*

Atlantis was everything that he had dreamed of and more. The people were no nonsense and wary. They considered Dean to be one of theirs and Sam really wanted to flaunt his prior claim. Weir –the director of Atlantis- and Sheppard –the CO- tried to fill Sam in on what had occurred. They gave him the most basic of instructions about the Pegasus galaxy and then ushered him towards a puddlejumper. Thankfully, the two hadn’t told him anything new. Between Bird and O’Neill, Sam had heard, read or figured out most of their warnings and standard operating procedures. He was just as eager as they for the mission to begin.

He would explore Atlantis when his brother was safe again.

*

Sam sat in the back of the puddlejumper (he was in a ship built by aliens over ten thousand years ago) as Colonel John Sheppard piloted them to the planet (planet!) of My’arria. Sam knew that he had to get over this culture shock and fast, but it still blew him away. Every time he had a moment to stop and think, the alien-ness of all overwhelmed him.

“We already know that Ronon and Pacosky can follow Winchester into the Shaman Test,” Sheppard reminded everyone. “Winchester –younger- is going to go with them and pull Winchester –older- out. Any questions?”

The acidic doctor muttered about voodoo and Sam resisted the impulse to educate him on how dangerous and powerful voodoo really was. Sheppard landed on My’arria and Sam wondered if voodoo was an accurate comparison. From the chocolate skin of the natives to the colorful and noisy necklaces, Sam was greatly reminded of New Orleans. Had they tried to trap Dean in their Shaman’s test?

Sam followed the Atlantis team to a piece of Ancient architecture. Two men were guarding the active doorway. Sam looked through the doorway. He could see Dean beyond the blur of energy. His brother was standing there, motionless, and looking confused. He had manacles on his wrists and something metal wrapped around his head and he wasn’t fighting either.

“Why isn’t he fighting?” Sam murmured.

“He doesn’t see or feel them,” one of the guards answered.

Sam eyed the guard. “How can he not?”

“It’s not what he sees or feels,” said the guard. “Anyone on the other side of the energy field sees a street of middle-class suburbia.”

“Sergeant John Pacosky and Staff Sergeant Steve Ohlman are Winchester’s teammates,” John told Sam. “Guys, this is Sam Winchester, our Winchester’s brother.”

“Stanford?” Pacosky asked Sam.

Sam nodded yes. Pacosky must also be a friend if Dean had told him that much.

“Getting back on track, the Ancients excelled at created virtual environments,” McKay told Sam. “According to the translation,” McKay pointed at the strange writings, “This environment is based on the main subject’s worst memories.”

“You, Ronon,” Sheppard indicated a tall man in dreadlocks, “and Pacosky will go into the machine, find our Winchester and get him to leave. Understood?”

Sam nodded and wanted to shake his brother. Only for Dean would Sam step blind into a potentially horrible hunt. Ronon stepped into the energy field. Immediately, he took on Dean’s dazed and confused expression. The headband and the manacles wrapped around Ronon.

“They seem to have no problems getting in and getting out,” Sheppard told Sam. “They’ve done it a couple of times. The scientists seem to think that because this is supposed to be a short term virtual reality…”

“Environment,” McKay corrected.

Sheppard ignored him and kept on talking, “everyone is standing instead on lying down. The manacles are to keep you in place in there.”

Sam nodded once and didn’t show any fear as he stepped into a representation of his brother’s nightmares. There was an odd black-blank spot in Sam’s awareness and then Sam knew he was there, wherever there was.

When Sam opened his eyes, Ronon Dex and John Pacosky were waiting for him. It was night in the middle of suburbia, just as Pacosky had reported. Sam didn’t recognize anything. It could be any of a thousand hunts. Figuring out Dean's worst memory couldn't be easy, could it?

Ronon and Pacosky were standing there. Sam was the one who knew the most about Dean.

"Where is Dean?" Ronon demanded. "None of the doors on this street will open to us and we can’t kick them down."

Sam pushed by the two men. He spied a clue down the street and started jogging toward the only home he knew: the Impala. The jogging changed into a sprint when it finally dawned on him the Impala was parked in front of which house.

No. No. No.

Did Dean really remember . . .?

Sam slid when he tried to stop at the Impala's trunk. He patted his pockets automatically before realizing that this was Dean's dreamworld; they would have limited power here. Miraculously, Sam's hand hit upon the Impala's keys in his jean’s pocket. Sam dug them out and opened the trunk. He revealed the weapon's cache beneath the false bottom, grabbed a shotgun and a handful of salt shells, and finished off with an ax and a couple of knives. He ignored the tiny whisper in the back of his head that said that the trunk should not be full of weapons at this early of a date. Ronon looked on approvingly. Pacosky wasn't sure if he was supposed to be stunned or impressed with Dean's civilian brother. Sam hefted the ax and went straight for the front door of that house. In seconds, Sam was inside. He ran up the stairs. His father had told the story enough times that Sam had a general layout of his childhood home.

"Dean!" Sam yelled. "Damn it, Dean, answer me!" He didn't want to see this. He hadn't expected this to be Dean's worst memory. His dad’s sure, but Dean shouldn’t remember this. He shouldn’t have seen this. Sam kicked in the door to the nursery. The first thing he noticed was the pretty blond on the ceiling, bleeding, dying, in a perpetual state of fire ignition. This wasn't real, he told himself. It was too late to save her. Twenty-two years too late. Only Dean mattered here.

Then Sam saw little four-year-old Dean. He had climbed up the side of the crib. He was reaching for six-month-old Sammy. Grown up Sam ignored his mother dying and the words of shock and horror from Ronon and Pacosky.

"Dean," Sam leaned so that he was in the little boy's direct line of sight. "This isn't happening. How about I get you out of here?"

"I have to get Sammy out of here."

"Dean."

The boy thrust out his chin in an achingly familiar gesture. "I take care of Sammy. Dad is 'posed to put Sammy in my arms and I run. I don't stop and don't look back. Daddy said so."

"Dean."

"I'm not leaving without Sammy."

Ronon grew tired with the standoff. He stalked forward and with one arm reached in to baby Sammy. With the other arm, Ronon scooped Dean up from the crib railing and set him onto the floor. Dean immediately put his arms out for the baby. God, he was nothing more than a baby himself. Ronon complied with the unspoken demand and four year old Dean held baby Sammy tightly.

"Run, Dean," the man growled. "Don't stop and don't look back."

Dean obeyed. Sam saw the first hints of Dad's 'good little soldier' that he had so despised when he was an angsty teenager. Now he despised himself.

Ronon and Pacosky followed little Dean down the stairs. Sam had to pause. He had to face this too.

He finally said, "I'm sorry, Mom." Only then did he run out of the house. The nursery exploded into flames behind him. The three soldiers (one pint-sized) were waiting outside. Ronon sat on the Impala with Dean and little Sammy in his arms. The fire of this living nightmare lit their faces in some twisted manner. Sam grabbed Pacosky’s arm. “You guys told me that we had to break Dean out of the memory. What aren’t you telling me?”

Pacosky jerked his arm back. “He’s been in that room for days trying to save your life. He’s just a kid. Maybe five?”

“He’s four,” Sam corrected. “How do I get my brother back?”

Pacosky turned whiter if that was even possible. “You don’t reason with a four year old. We’re going to have to talk him through it. We have to get him to the point where we can reason with him. We have to talk to four year old Dean until he grows up.”

Sam grit his teeth. He stalked over to Ronon and the boys. He softened as he looked at his brother. Dean was protecting little Sammy so fiercely.

“Dean, my name is Sam.”

Dean was silent.

“You are really good at taking care of Sammy.”

Dean met his eyes.

“You always were.”

Just that fast, the fire, the house, baby Sammy and the Impala disappeared. They were in the middle of a tiny apartment, one of hundreds throughout the United States that had housed the Winchesters. Sam turned and saw a supernatural creature hovering over the little boy in the bed.

“What the hell is that?” Pacosky swore.

Sam answered, “I don’t recognize it.” Was that another young version of himself?

“You mean you should?” Dean’s friend was uncomfortable with the concept.

“It’s a striga,” Dean whispered. “A type of witch that feeds off of children.”

“How do we kill it, Dean?” Sam asked.

Dean reached for a shotgun propped against the doorframe and lifted it to his shoulder. “Have to hit it while…” Dean swallowed hard, “while it’s feeding.”

Ronon pulled his blaster and aimed. Sam and Pacosky readied their guns. As soon as the striga reached out a hand, much like how the wraith feed, and the men saw the strange glowing, they all fired. Dean fired as well. The striga disappeared. The boy in the bed never stirred.

Ronon put a kind hand on little Dean’s shoulder. “You did well, Dean,” he said.

Dean’s head tilted upward at an alarming speed. “That’s not what Dad said.”

“What did Dad say,” Sam asked curiously, slowly.

“Nothing, but he just looked at me and I knew that he didn’t trust me to take care of Sammy anymore. I was supposed to be here and watch Sammy but I went to the arcade for an hour while Sammy was sleeping. Sammy got hurt because of me.”

Sam put aside his anger at his father and knelt before his brother. “I trust you to take care of me, Dean.”

“You’re not my Sammy.”

Sam smiled at him. “I go by Sam now. Sammy is a chubby twelve year old kid.”

“You’re big,” Dean said. “You don’t need me.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do, you… jerk.”

“Bitch.”

Sam waited. “You didn’t start calling me that until I was in… third grade, I think. Jerk.”

“Bitch,” Dean responded and this time, he looked older. Early-teen, at least.

“Are you going to get yourself out of this dream world?” Sam taunted. “Or am I going to have to pick you up and carry you out like a girl.” Obviously he would have to be aggressive to get Dean’s attention.

Dean changed his stance and looked Sam in his eyes. Now Dean was almost eighteen. “Just try it. You haven’t beat me at hand to hand, since… ever.”

“If anyone is fighting Dean, it should be me,” Ronon butted into the conversation. “I win.”

Dean turned to look at Ronon and comprehension dawned. Sam watched as Dean’s face and body matured into that of hard-bodied Marine. “Hey, Dean,” Sam said.

Dean looked from Ronon to Sam, confused. “Where are we? You two have never met.”

“We’re in an Ancient device in the middle of the Pegasus Galaxy,” Sam answered. “General O’Neill sent me all the way out here to pull your sorry ass out of the fire. Can we leave now?”

“Sure,” Dean looked around. “Which way is out?”

“We’re in your head,” Pacosky finally said. “You have to make the door.”

Dean faced the new grey landscape of nothing and suddenly a door appeared. To Sam, it looked like the door into Uncle Bobby’s house. Dean opened the door and stepped out of the dreamworld and onto the planet in the Pegasus Galaxy. Pacosky and Ronon immediately followed. Sam took one last look around and then stepped out into the sun.

Unfortunately, Dean’s body hadn’t had enough nutrients while in the dream state so he hit the ground as soon as he was awake. Sheppard and Ohlman hurried everyone into the jumper and back to Atlantis. Sam spent his first full night in the Ancient city sleeping in the uncomfortable chairs in the infirmary, waiting for his brother to wake up.

*

Dean woke up in the infirmary. He growled with displeasure. He didn’t even remember why he was here this time. He better figure it out in a hurry, or he would be spending even more time in this hated place.

“And Sleeping Beauty awakes,” a familiar voice drawled.

Dean turned to the voice, a welcoming smile already on his lips. Then he tried to match Sammy up with the Atlantis infirmary and a connection in his head shorted out. “What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you too, jerk.”

“You look good, Sammy.” And he did look good, relaxed and fit. “What are you doing here?”

“The name’s Sam,” his baby brother bit out. “And you, damsel, needed rescued.”

“Why did they bring you in? We’ve got battalions of Marines here for rescues. What are you doing in Atlantis?” Dean was beginning to feel like a broken record.

“None of them knew anything about your true history or how to fight your worst memories.”

Dean slid his eyes to the side. Was that why he had been dreaming about his mother? Sudden he remembered the ‘Shaman’s Test’ and knew this was going to suck.

Sam leaned forward, all earnest, like Dean was a witness that he needed to cajole into telling them the outlandish truth. “Why did you never tell me?” Sam knew what specifically he was talking about and knew that Dean would be able to read his expression. Dean could as if they had never been separated.

“It didn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does. She’s my mother too.”

Dean glared at his brother. “Convenient for you to remember that now! You said very different things just before you stormed out and ran off to Stanford.”

“If you would have told me beforehand, I wouldn’t have mentioned it!”

“So it’s alright to use Mom’s death against Dad, but not against me?”

“You were four. Dad was an adult. He should have grieved in a healthier manner.”

“You’re frickin’ killing me, Sam. You are arguing that Dad’s grief had to logical!”

A gentle clearing of the throat stopped the argument in its tracks. Dean looked up and saw Dr. Weir, Dr. Beckett and Dr. Heightmeyer. “And my day has just gone to hell in a hand basket.”

None of them looked insulted, though Sam was looking scandalized.

“If you upset my patient,” Beckett warned Sam, “I will have you removed.”

“It’s all right,” Dean was quick to say.

“I’ll behave, Dr. Beckett,” Sam promised. He nodded at the director, “Dr. Weir.” Of course, he would have met them already.

Weir motioned to the other woman. “Sam, this is Doctor Kate Heightmeyer.”

Sam stood and shook her hand across Dean’s bed. Frickin’ long arms there, Stretch. Dean watched Heightmeyer observe Sammy not be intimidating with his size. Sam could loom as easily as Ronon but rarely chose to. “She’s the shrink,” he filled in helpfully.

And instead of closing down like any other Hunter Dean knew, Sammy actually brightened. “I’m delighted to see that this command is committed to their people’s psychological health as well as their physical, ma’am. I’m Sam Winchester.”

Dean rolled his eyes and muttered, “suck up,” quietly.

Heightmeyer smiled, “I’m glad to hear that, Sam. So you won’t mind joining some of our sessions before you leave.”

“No, ma’am.”

Dean addressed Weir. “I don’t have time for a shrink in my schedule.”

“You do now,” she replied. “Lorne has your new schedule.”

“Aye and you won’t be leaving that bed for a day,” Beckett added. “Kate can talk to you here.”

“Doc!” Dean protested.

Weir glared at him. “Sergeant Winchester, whatever your psychological… hang-ups are, they trapped you in the piece of Ancient technology and we can’t have that happen again. You haven’t finished your job in Atlantis, we won’t let you go that easily. You’re meeting with Heightmeyer daily, until she says otherwise. Is that understood?”

Dean knew that he couldn’t dodge this order. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good.” She nodded sharply. “Then I will be leaving you in Kate and Carson’s capable hands. Get better soon, Dean. You have to return to My’arria to accept the ZPM.” She left, ignoring Sam’s glare.

Heightmeyer looked to Beckett. “When can we begin?”

“Later today,” Beckett insisted. “First we have to examine Winchester.” He looked at Sam. “Why don’t you walk down to the kitchen and eat. We’ll be done with your brother by time you get back.”

Sam met Dean’s eyes. Acceptance, even willingness. Dean might not like it but he wasn’t going to fight Beckett at least. “Bring me back some pie,” Dean ordered.

Sam double-checked with Beckett. “A small piece of pie,” the physician conditioned.

Sam knocked his knuckles once again Dean’s bed and walked out with Heightmeyer, already chatting. Dean took a deep breath to ready himself for Beckett’s examination. It wasn’t going to be as bad as normal.

Sam was here. Even a shrink couldn’t make this day bad.

*

Jessica Moore accepted the thin package from Colonel Davis, the same man who had told the university that Sam was going to be gone for more time than originally planned. He smiled at her as told her that this was a message from her boyfriend. Right in front of the stranger, she ripped the package open to reveal a DVD. Jess hurried until she got the DVD working and the TV turned on.

She didn’t relax until she saw Sam’s face smiling at her. “Hi Jess, I got here safe and sound and it was touch and go with Dean for a little while, but he’s better now.” Jessica frowned. Than why wasn’t Sam home? And where was Sam? She didn’t gather any clues from the purposefully non-descript background.

“But due to Dean’s convalescence and that part of this was caused by our rather turbulent, unresolved history, the director of the base has insisted that Dean get some therapy.” Sam sighed and surprisingly enough, it was a happy one. Why was Sam using lawyer words? “I have wanted Dean to speak to psychologist since I was eight and knew what they were and how they could help. We have issues from our childhood.”

Jessica had figured that, but Sam had refused to speak of them.

“Dr. Heightmeyer is really good and she asked for me to stay and help, since I’m more communicative than Dean about it.”

Since when? Or was Dean even worse? What was worse than total silence?

“Jess, I know that this seems like a silly reason to stay in a war zone, but I have wanted… healing for so long that I’m taking advantage of this. Don’t worry. The director refuses to let me off base, not even to see Dean’s work.”

The director should be court-martialed for even considering it. Why the hell was Sam asking to get off a base in the middle of a war zone? Sam always played it safe, didn’t he?

“I’ll be home safe and sound before too long and with the hope that Dean will be stopping by on his leave.”

”Sammy!” someone yelled off camera.

Sam rolled his eyes. “You might not think that Dean and I patching our relationship is a good thing, or even a halfway decent reason to stay. Hell, I’m probably going to regret it ‘cause I’m sure that Dean will say something crass and obscene the first time he meets you like he does every other pretty girl…”

“Hey, Sammy. Quit giving your girl a bad impression of me and let’s go. We have a poker tournament to win.”

Sam’s eyes were tracking his unseen brother. He looked at ease and happy and Jess was suddenly very worried and not for Sam’s health. “Do you want to say ‘hi’?”

“Dude, I never could think of anything to say to you when we get the chance to send messages, what the hell would I say to some chick I’ve never met?”

Sam smiled at the camera one last time. “Love you, Jess, and I’ll see you soon.”

The video suddenly faded to black and Jess sat there, numb. What did this mean?

She jumped when the TV screen lightened again and a strange man sat down in front of the camera. He looked thin and bruised and his long sleeve shirt didn’t quite hide the bandages around his wrists. Jess suddenly felt two inches tall. No one had said that Dean had been captured and tortured, but it sure looked like it.

“Hey, I mean Hi Jess. My name is Dean and I’m Sammy’s brother. Now I sound like I’m at an AA meeting or some shit like that. Uh… sorry. I’d erase this and try again but this is already my third time. If I met you in a bar, I could probably talk you into my bed, ‘specially if you really are as hot as the picture in Sam’s wallet.”

Jess blinked. Yeah, Dean was hot, but she couldn’t see jumping in bed with him, even if she wasn’t Sam’s girlfriend. It was odd listening to someone this bluntly honest. Why was this man having a problem with a shrink? Or was he just trying to keep his brother with him?

“Dude, you know that you are totally out of Sammy’s league, right? In case you didn’t guess, I don’t do good with anyone long term. Sammy was always trying to make friends and I was always trying to get laid. Kate, that’s our shrink, says that I have abandonment issues and refuse to let anyone get close enough to hurt.” He looked a little startled. “Huh, maybe I should answer all her stupid questions like this in private… anyway. Uh… Sammy’ll be home soon, if I have to hog tie him and toss him… onto a transport. You take care of him? Please? It’s always been my job, but he’s looking happy, so you must be better at it than me.”

Jess wondered if Dean was seeing the same Sam she was, because Sam in the previous part of the video was pretty satisfied and content and very, very happy.

“When –if Sam proposes, don’t let him wait until I get to the States to get married. You grab him right up. No use waiting for something that might never happen.”

Jess was stunned. Blunt. Honest. Dean was… not done.

“You take care of my boy, okay?”

My Boy. Sam hadn’t mentioned that Dean had basically raised him, but Dean had a father’s pride for Sam. Dean was heartbreaking. He loved Sam so much.

“And please don’t show this to Sam unless he’s trying to put off the wedding on account of me. Please? He’d tease me forever at the literal chick flick moment.” Dean glanced at his watch. “Hell, five minutes. Well, bye Jess, maybe someday we’ll meet in person.”

Dean didn’t make promises that he couldn’t follow through on. This time when the video ended, Jess was confused and scared and maybe she understood just a little bit more. She would wait and see.

That was all she could do: wait and see.

She suddenly felt a hell of a lot more solidarity and empathy for all the significant others of those in the military. When Sam returned, he was never, ever going to visit Dean outside of the United States again.

All this worrying was for the birds.

She didn’t know who to talk to about Sam’s absence, but found a willing ear in Brian Quaid, a quasi-friend of Sam’s. Jess had never really spoken to Brian before since he was so quiet, but Brian asked her more than any other of their friends if Sam was doing alright and when Sam was going to return. When Jess finally admitted that Sam’s absence could go on for a while, Brian promised her that he would make some calls and would move things along.

Jess was so happy that someone else was on her side that she gave Brian a big hug. Brian didn’t blush nearly as much as Jess thought he would. Maybe Brian was growing up as well.

The next day, Brian turned up dead. Sweet Brian was dead and without any obvious cause? The coroner said that it had happened weeks ago, but every one on campus knew better. The student body sent around a petition to replace the coroner with someone who knew how to do his job.

Why did things have to fall apart while Sam was away? Jess wanted Sam home and she wanted Sam home now.

*

While the first twenty-four hours in the Pegasus Galaxy had been fraught with worry, now Sam was practically on vacation. He caught up with Ash, and had that been a surprise familiar face. Sam agreed that Ash didn’t have enough hunting experience to have even attempted to walk into Dean’s nightmare via the Shaman’s Test. As back-up, Ash sucked. As research, Ash rocked. That was just how things worked and Sam wasn’t mad that he had been dragged all the way to Pegasus when Ash was already ‘in town.’ No, it was totally worth it. Sam and Dean had a standing appointment with Heightmeyer at 0800. By 1000hrs, Kate was frustrated with them and sent them to Beckett, where the Scotsman chided Dean for a good half hour. Dean hated these tests almost as much as the shrink time.

Sam would con his brother into a footrace, with increasing distances as Dean’s health improved. The run would help Dean dispel his frustration. 1100hrs would be an early lunch. Most of the times, they would just pick something up and take it to the experimental jumper bay. Dean and Ash would work on the weapons platform and Sam would read the books from Missouri. Dean had asked him to find some more protective sigils and wards for Atlantis. The Marine was sick and tired of the Seal of Solomon and its affect on his health. He had already painted some Devil’s traps, but preferred the stronger signs.

Sam had painted the Seal on several of the jumper ramps and while Dean said that he felt the energy from them, they didn’t have the power of Dean’s. Sam thought that there was a feedback loop with Atlantis herself, but since Atlantis hated Sam, she couldn’t do the same for him.

Yes, the city of Atlantis was almost sentient and belligerence was its predominant feeling toward Sam.

Ash thought it was funny that Atlantis hated a person as much as she hated him. Sam had to make sure that he matched his brother step for step as they wandered the city –which granted, was rarely a problem. If there was enough space for a door to shut between the brothers, the door would shut. And Atlantis would not open any door for Sam. Sam had a sneaking suspicion that even if he got the ATA gene therapy, Atlantis would not cooperate with him. The gene therapy had not been offered, not unless Sam had signed on the dotted line to join the expedition. Sam couldn’t do that; he had his life on Earth still.

Some moments, he did think about staying. He loved seeing Dean with real friends and in a place where he was valued.

*

Since the My’arrians would only hand the ZPM over to the Shaman, Weir sent Dean off-planet as soon as Beckett and Heightmeyer said he could go. Dean tried not to be embarrassed while surrounded by both his team and the first contact team. Dean decided then and there that he never wanted to be President, the Secret Service would have driven him nuts. Sam wasn’t thrilled at being left behind but Weir (and Sheppard) were not going to cave to his pleading and plaintive looks nor his arguments about being there once before.

Dean got it done as soon as possible; he had plans that didn’t involve getting dragged to Weir’s office every time Sam wanted to plead his case.

My’arria was oddly anticlimactic. They came, the My’arrians saw that Dean was still alive. The natives handed over the ZPM and then they returned. Sheppard even had let Dean drive Jumper 17 and didn’t comment when the jumper crooned Motorhead the whole time. If Sammy had been allowed to come, it would have been a perfect mission.

*

”I’m glad you’re here,” Pacosky admitted to Sam at lunch. “Dean doesn’t even notice that I’m avoiding him because I’m having problems with his memories.”

Sam shrugged. “Dean’s pretty sure that your Seal will get stronger once you accept what happened.”

Pacosky stared and then winced. “So he has noticed.”

“Sure, but he doesn’t blame you. The striga and the demon that killed our mother are only the two worst memories for Dean. I would have had different ones. Growing up, we met many different people who crossed the supernatural. Most tried to forget as soon as we drove out of town.”

“I’m not going to forget,” Pacosky said intently. “I want to beat the hell out of your father though.”

“Join the club.”

“Dean’s getting better?”

“Dean’s good.”

“I figured that he had to be close since Weir let him go back to My’arria.” Pacosky looked down at the table. “I have a meeting scheduled with Heightmeyer.”

Sam smiled. This Marine was a good enough friend to go to a shrink voluntarily. “Good. She’s excellent.”

*

Fighting with Ronon could be fun if one didn’t mind bruises and occasionally blood. For some reason, Ronon seemed to be aiming for John’s nose more than usual. John had no idea why, but it was getting predictable. John had been able to get in a few more good jabs to his opponent’s stomach. Ronon had just taken it. In fact, the big man had left his stomach exposed yet again and this time, when John jabbed in, Ronon knocked him across the face.

He got that bloody nose after all.

Ronon rung his bell but good. John vaguely remembered Sam Winchester being there and holding a handkerchief to his nose but then he was in the infirmary and Carson was chiding him. Had Winchester been there? Or had John replaced one tall fighter with the other in his dazed state?

*

John ran to the infirmary as soon as he got the news: Ronon and Pacosky had been found unconscious surrounded by a painted Seal in one of the hallways leading to the ZPM chamber. Winchester had been behaving himself –for once. He had been working on the puddlejumper weapons platform.

Beckett examined the two men and declared that they had symptoms similar to Winchester’s after he worked on a Seal. John sent Rodney and the Winchesters to the hallway to investigate the new Seal. Both parties agreed that it was strong enough to keep a wraith captive. Or they were as sure as they could be without testing it.

Winchester –Dean, not Sam- showed up in the infirmary just as the two men were waking. Beckett chided Pacosky on his lack of witnesses. In between teasing the two men, Dean reminded them that the orders just said that someone with an affinity for the Seal had to practice with someone who didn’t. Up until now, Ronon had been uselessly scribbling the strange symbols with the rest of them.

John wondered about what the My’arria report was missing. The camaraderie between the three men had increased. Ronon’s report had been brief, as usual. Pacosky and Winchester’s report had not seemed rehearsed, but now John wondered if they had compared notes. He wondered if he should pursue it or let it slide.

For now, he would let it slide.

*

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
rishabree
May. 21st, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
Hi - I'm enjoying the heck out of this and am moving onto the next part right now, but I wanted to drop you a quick note that this part is accidentally mostly in italics.
amanofmydreams
May. 21st, 2010 08:50 am (UTC)
I don't know if I have mentioned this but you nailed O'Neill, I love him and how he talks about just about everything and how Davis can explain nothing very very well. Its perfection, and I'm so happy to see that Sammy is in the story and willing...kinda to drop everything to go and help his brother without knowing much about anything.

ohhh friend and demon and now no demon in friend body? Not good for anyone....bites lip

also not sure if you meant for it to happen but half of this chapter is in Italic....

I love that the city hates Sammy and his demon blood, great little add there!!!

Another thing I love that the jumpers have totally picked up on Dean's music. Kinda perfection since Dean is his vechicles :D

YAY Ronon is on the Supernatural Train also. PERFECT
renenzant
Aug. 6th, 2017 08:55 am (UTC)
I really like Sam here :D
Also, Heightmeyer meeting...
I reread this several times now, and just keep wondering how will any of them explain-without-actually-telling about their supernatural childhood..
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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