“So you guys are just the friendly, local ghostbusters,” Dean accuses Sam when he gets back to the bunker.
Sam frowns as he starts unpacking the groceries. “We help out in the community when we’re needed,” he agrees, confused. “Don’t you do that in your world?”
“It doesn’t really come up!” Dean huffs out a breath in disbelief. “Nobody in town knows who we are, in our world. Dad’s prime directive: don’t give the talk unless absolutely necessary.”
“You know. Monsters are real. That talk.” Dean shakes his head. “They’re civilians, man. It’s dangerous for them to know the truth. They’re not trained to protect themselves like we are.”
Sam shrugs, still confused. “That’s why we’re here,” he says matter-of-factly. “We protect them, if necessary. Besides, the town is heavily warded. Nothing evil ever comes to Lebanon.”
“Except ghosts!” Dean snaps. “Ruth Carson says there’s one in her barn.”
Sam chuckles, ducking his head. “Ruth’s ghost isn’t dangerous. It isn’t even a ghost. It’s just a sprite that likes to play in the hayloft. It’s perfectly harmless. When Ruth was a little girl, she used to play with it. It misses that, so sometimes it tries to get her attention. It just wants to get her to come out and play. It doesn’t realize how annoying it’s being, now that she’s a middle-aged woman who doesn’t want to play with an imaginary friend anymore.”
Dean’s flabbergasted. “And Grandpa Glen?” He practically squeaks. “You did a séance for the cashier in the grocery store? She’s not exactly happy about it, by the way. Says her dad and his brothers won’t stop fighting now.”
Sam winces. “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done that,” he admits. “I thought it would help, knowing their father’s wishes. It just made things worse, apparently.”
“So you’re this town’s Pamela.” Dean shakes his head. “My Sam, he repressed his psychic powers. Dad was suspicious of them because of the demon blood.”
“Demon blood?” Sam’s eyes widen behind his glasses. It’s cute.
But now it’s Dean’s turn to wince. He’s not sure he should tell Sam about the demon blood. Obviously, things are radically different here in that regard. This Sam doesn’t need to know how fucked-up his counterpart’s life really was, does he?
“Never mind.” Dean pulls steaks out of the grocery bag. “Let’s eat. I’m starving.”
They eat in companionable silence. Dean feels Sam glancing at him, like he wants to ask, but Dean keeps his eyes on his food. They wash and dry the dishes like they always do. It feels normal. Regular.
Dean checks on his dead brother afterwards, falls asleep drinking and talking to him. He’s only half-aware when Sam comes to collect him, takes him gently to bed and tucks him in, pulling his boots off before leaving him to sleep.
The next day, after research and dinner, Sam follows Dean into the infirmary for his third night’s vigil.
“If you’re psychic, can you sense him? Is he still here?” Dean asks.
Sam closes his eyes, goes still as Dean watches and waits. He already knows the answer, but he needs confirmation.
When Sam opens his eyes, he gives a little shake of his head. “He’s gone, Dean.”
Dean nods, clenching his jaw. “That’s what I thought. I wish I knew he was safe, that’s all.”
“Yeah. Billie threatened to throw us into the Empty when we died. I wish I knew he made it to Heaven instead.”
“Heaven’s real in your world?” Sam’s eyes widen.
“Oh yeah. It’s a place where you get to live out your favorite memories, forever. Sam and me — we’ve been there.”
“You have?” Sam takes the chair across the bed, facing Dean over his brother’s body.
“Yeah.” Dean finds himself telling the story, explaining Heaven to Sam, telling him about their visit there, all those years ago.
Sam listens, nods. It feels good to talk about it, which is something Dean never expected. Sam is patient, interested. He’s a good listener.
“Soulmates,” he says when Dean finishes the tale. He’s nodding slightly. “Like me and my brother.”
“What?” Dean wasn’t expecting that. “You and your brother are soulmates?”
Sam frowns. “You thought you and your Sam were the only ones?” He shifts on his chair uneasily. “We’ve known since we were kids. Psychic fortune-teller at a circus in Boise told us, but I already knew. I could sense Dean, sometimes.” He puts his hand over his heart. “Right here.”
Dean’s opens his own hand against his chest reflexively, recalling the times he’s felt something, too. He and Sam have always known, too. It’s the same way he knows Sam’s not here now, even if he hasn’t been able to acknowledge it before.
Dean lifts his eyes to Sam, who’s looking down at the body on the bed thoughtfully.
“You know, it’s possible that your brother is waiting for you in Heaven,” Dean says. “I know I would be, if our situation was reversed. I’d want you to live out your life, try to find some happiness for a while. Try to keep on fighting the good fight.”
Sam’s eyes fill with tears and he swallows thickly. “I know.”
“Hey, come on now.” Dean’s protective big-brother instincts kick in like a flipped switch. He gets up, gesturing to Sam to follow him. “Let’s get you some rest. We can start this fresh in the morning again.”
He shepherds Sam down the corridor, one hand on his arm, the other on his back. When they reach Sam’s bedroom door, Dean gives Sam’s neck a little squeeze, reassuring.
“You’ll be all right, Sam,” he says. “You’re strong. You’ll be okay.”
Sam turns, and suddenly they’re pressed almost chest to chest and Dean’s not strong enough to step away.
“That’s just it, Dean,” Sam says, voice choked, pleading. “I’m not. I’m really not okay. I don’t think I ever will be.”
“Yes, you will,” Dean murmurs, fighting down the erection he’s sprouted from being this close. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath through his nose, taking in Sam’s scent, his heat. When he opens his eyes again, Sam’s right there, leaning in, eyes on Dean’s mouth.
The kiss is desperate and messy. Sam’s half-crying, gasping. His hands cling and clutch, grasping Dean’s back, his hair, his ass. Dean holds on as best he can, letting Sam take what he needs, giving Sam whatever he can because that’s all he’s ever done. It’s all he knows how to do. He knows it’s wrong, fucked-up in ways he can’t wrap his head around. Dean’s not this guy’s brother, he’s not the guy Sam’s missing. But Dean’s programmed to give in to Sam’s needs. He can’t do anything else. It just isn’t in him.
They stumble backwards into Sam’s bedroom, pulling off clothes while fighting to keep their mouths and hands on each other. It’s like so many other times, times when Dean and his brother survived another death-defying hunt, when they were so grateful to be alive and in each other’s arms the sex seemed completely beside the point. Inadequate to their frantic desire to hold each other as close as humanly possible, to get under each other’s skin and inside each other’s bones, to touch and cling to the part of each other that was deeper than anything physical.
Losing each other is always disastrous. Being without each other is always a train-wreck waiting to happen, and it’s been three days for Dean, over a week for Sam. Their bodies don’t know the difference between the brother they love most and the not-brother in their arms. It’s just as intense and insane and messed-up as it always is. Sam comes with a shout that echoes through the entire bunker, making Dean come a moment later. They lie panting and sticky together afterwards, too relaxed and fucked out to move.
“So this is obviously a thing with you and your brother,” Dean notes when he gets his breath back. “How the hell did you...?”
He can’t finish the sentence, but Sam knows. He grins, dimples on full display.
“There’s spells,” he says as he shifts under Dean’s weight. “Silence spells so nobody can hear a thing.”
Dean thinks about that. “Huh. I just can’t believe you got away with it with Dad right here.”
Sam squirms, winces. “Yeah, Dad’s pretty good at not seeing what’s right in front of his nose sometimes. He’s myopic about some things.”
Dean nods. Yeah, he could see that. John Winchester was good at ignoring things that didn’t fit with his obsessive world-view.
“Yeah,” he agrees. “Mom was like that, too.”
“Yeah?” Sam’s tone is hopeful, interested. “What was she like?”
“Committed to hunting, that’s for sure,” Dean says softly. His mother will always be something of a mystery to him, although he’s glad he had the chance to get to know her. “Didn’t your brother tell you about her?”
“Dean never talked about her,” Sam says. “Her death hurt him too bad, I think. He was awfully young when she died. I don’t think he ever got over it.”
“Yeah.” Dean nods. “I know what that’s like.”
“You do?” Sam’s confusion mixes with an eagerness to hear another story about his not-family, but Dean’s done for tonight.
“It’s a story for another night, Samuel,” he says with a light chuckle. “Time to sleep.”
Dean cleans them up, but when he tries to go back to his own room, Sam begs him to stay, puppy eyes on full display, and Dean can’t resist that. He snuggles down behind Sam on Sam’s bed, wrapping an arm around his big body, spooning him, and they fall asleep like that. Dean tells himself it’s not cheating on his brother because Sam isn’t even here, but he feels guilty anyway. It’s just more than he can bear, having his dead brother’s body lying in the infirmary while this other Sam is right here, alive and needy and missing his brother so much he can barely breathe.
Dean’s going to have to accept that this is just something that happens when there’s another Sam around while his is gone. It was probably inevitable from the moment he landed in this universe.
Sam is Sam, Dean’s body and heart tell him. This is just the way it is.