It began as a routine investigation.
Four people had gone missing in an old, unused schoolhouse in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and in their place four people had appeared who seemed to have no idea where they were or what had happened to them.
Which might have led the brothers to conclude that nothing supernatural had happened, except that two of the people who came out were not only not two of the four who had gone into the schoolhouse. They were people who did not exist. No birth records, no one who knew or recognized or remembered them, although they claimed to have lives with loved ones who tragically had no idea who they were or who also did not exist.
So now Sam and Dean were checking the place out, and so far nothing had happened.
Until suddenly, as they were leaving the large cavernous space that had once been the school's gymnasium, the entire room started to glow. Then grow brighter, although the source of the light wasn't immediately apparent.
Until it was.
The flash of light blinded them momentarily, and then again as it flooded the room, radiating all around them with a low-pitched hum that they could almost hear.
Sam and Dean put their arms up to shield their eyes from the glare, squinting to see into the tunnel. There were two figures there, shadowed against the glare of the light, almost impossible to make out until they moved, their bodies blocking the light source so that they could make out the familiar shapes of their own bodies, backlit in the glare.
Just as Dean was calling "What the hell?" to his doppelgänger, the hum grew louder and the light flashed again, then went out all together, leaving two people in the room -- himself and Sam.
But now Sam was standing across the room, staring at him with the same confused, wary expression, wearing an unfamiliar shirt and jacket, and Dean had a sinking feeling that this was not his Sam.
"Sam!" He whirled around, looking for his brother, shooting a fierce glare at the other Sam. "Where's my brother, you son-of-a-bitch?"
"You tell me!" the other Sam bellowed. "Where's Dean? What have you done with him?"
"OK, this isn't funny," Dean glared back. "You tell me where my brother is or so help me, I'll -- "
"You'll what? Shoot me?" the other Sam challenged. "You could do that? 'Cause my Dean, he's not exactly the brother-shooting type."
"Shut up!" Dean ordered, panic rising in his chest. "Listen, you asshole, I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but we've got plenty of experience with shapeshifters, and I can tell you -- "
"I'm not a shapeshifter, Dean!" Other!Sam huffed, exasperated.
"Yeah, well then you must know there's ways to test for that," Dean glowered ominously.
"Okay, yeah, I've got a silver knife, and I'm just gonna reach for it slowly and I'm gonna cut my arm so you can see I'm not a shapeshifter, okay?" Sam held his hands out, palms up, and Dean nodded.
"Okay, I'll do the same," he agreed, "and a flask of holy water..."
Sam took a deep breath, let it out in a long sigh of resignation, then nodded in agreement.
The testing took them under a minute, then they both wrapped their bleeding arms, dried their faces, pulled their jackets back on, watching each other warily the entire time.
"Okay," Sam said. "So that's settled. Can we figure out how to get our brothers back now?"
Three hours later, they were no closer to figuring out what had happened. After a thorough search of the schoolhouse, they agreed there seemed to be no concrete evidence that explained what the hell had happened to their brothers, nor to the other four people who had gone missing from this place, so they agreed to reconnoiter to Dean's motel room to research the phenomenon they were now directly (and personally) affected by.
Other!Sam didn't recognize the motel -- apparently he and "his" Dean had checked into a different one, across town -- but he seemed relieved when he saw "his" laptop, and immediately got to work researching incidents of universe overlapping, which was his working theory of what had happened to them.
Because, as Other!Sam explained, it seemed that the schoolhouse was a kind of portal between parallel universes, and he had switched places with Dean's brother, who was presumably working on the same theory with Other!Dean in the other universe now that they had (presumably) tested each other and found their way back to Other!Dean's motel.
"This is giving me a headache," Dean announced as Other!Sam answered his gazillionth question about what he thought was probably going on in the other universe. "Because you know me, or at least the other me, well enough to know that I'm feeling like shooting something right about now."
Other!Sam glanced up at him and frowned.
"Go eat something, Dean," he ordered. "You'll feel better after you have a cheeseburger."
"Are you telling me to eat a cheeseburger?" Dean looked incredulous. "Because my Sam would never say that. He's always trying to get me to eat my veggies."
Other!Sam's frown deepened.
"Seriously, dude, I'm trying to work here," he said. "I can tell your blood sugar is low 'cause you always start pacing and threatening to shoot things when you're hungry. So go eat already and let me work!"
Dean stared at him for a moment, or rather at his broad back hunched over the computer table, dark green button-down shirt pulled tight across big muscles, sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
Nice color on him, Dean reflected. Never seen Sam wear that particular shade of green before, but it sure looked good on him. Brought out the reddish-gold highlights in his hair and looked totally amazing next to his tan skin. His hair curling down over his collar in back looked particularly soft and touchable too.
Fuck! Stop the idle admiration of Not!Brother! What the hell!
OK, definitely time to go get a burger.
"I'll be right back," he muttered, grabbing his jacket off the bed and heading to the door.
Not!Sam didn't even answer. Bastard.
"My Sam eats a lot of salads," Dean announced when he got back with the take-out bags. "So I got you one."
"Thanks," Other!Sam muttered, still staring intently at the laptop screen. In fact, it looked to Dean as if he hadn't moved since he left. Not that that was unusual. Sam was intense like this, too. It usually took a power-outtage (or a blow-job) to get him to close that damn thing once he was on a hunt like this.
Huh. Wonder how that aspect of things were going in the other universe, Dean speculated as he flung himself onto the bed and pulled out his burger, setting his soda on the nightstand. He grabbed the remote and flipped on the t.v., searching the daytime channels for re-runs of Dr. Sexy, M.D.
"Dude, do you mind?" Other!Sam turned around in his chair, shooting a classic Sam-glare at Dean and gesturing at the t.v.
Dean took another bite of his burger, blinked at his Not-Brother, and shrugged.
"You should take a break," he said around a mouthful of burger.
"Gross, Dean," he complained. "I swear, you're like a five-year-old sometimes."
Dean grinned, still open-mouthed, and Other!Sam rolled his eyes, turned his back, bent over the laptop again, mumbling to himself.
"What's that, Sammy?" Dean demanded.
"You heard me," Other!Sam grumbled. "You need to get laid."
"I -- " Dean choked. "Are you fuckin' kidding me? Look who's talking, Mr. My-Ass-Is-Clenched-So-Tight-I-Need-A-Cro
Other!Sam gave a disgusted huff. "Nice image, Dean," he gritted out, proving Dean's point completely.
"Seriously, man," Dean pushed. "How long has it been? In your universe, I mean. 'Cause my Sam, he's on a pretty regular schedule. Keep those pipes clean, dude! Takes the edge off."
He finished his burger and took a long sip of his soda, watching Other!Sam's shoulders tense visibly under his tight green shirt.
Dean waited a minute, and when Other!Sam didn't answer he turned up the t.v. and watched those strong, muscled shoulders flex a little more, waiting.
A minute later, Other!Sam lifted his head, scooted his chair back, and slammed the laptop shut.
"I'm going for a run," he announced, then glanced around the room for his duffel. "Your Sam does run, right?"
Dean nodded, gesturing toward the bathroom. "His running clothes are in there," he said. "He usually goes out first thing in the morning, so they might be a little damp."
"Fuck!" Other!Sam muttered, not looking at Dean as he headed into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
Dean waited while Other!Sam crashed around in the bathroom for a few minutes, then came stomping out, passing Dean without a glance and left, slamming the door behind him.
Dean waited another minute, to be sure Other!Sam didn't change his mind, then he switched off the t.v. and grabbed the laptop, bringing it back to the bed with him to check up on Other!Sam's research.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much to find. The incidents of universe slipping, or whatever the hell Other!Sam seemed to think this was, were pretty near zilch. Unlike monsters and ghosts, travel between universes was just not something that was easy to hunt. Sure, people disappeared, but there was usually some ordinary reason for that -- like they skipped town to avoid paying child support, or they were really murdered by a wife or husband and later ended up found in a shallow grave somewhere. There were even incidents of people appearing to show up out of nowhere, but those events were usually explained when it turned out the person was suffering from amnesia or Alzheimer's.
Other!Sam had also been looking into the history of the old schoolhouse itself, and again finding bupkis. Until recently, there were no reports of missing people there or anyone showing up there who wasn't supposed to be there.
So whatever was happening, it was localized to that one place, at least in this universe, and to this one point in time, again at least in this universe.
Which begged the question, why? Why this place and time? And what the hell was happening in the other universe?
Because maybe things were different over there. Maybe this thing was happening with greater frequency and in more places there. Maybe there was some way to find an answer, but not from this side.
Which meant it was all up to Sam and Other!Dean to figure it out.
Well, if anyone could make sense of all this, Dean knew, it would be Sam. His Sam. Not this tight-assed bitchy little prig who had his brother's name and face and kick-ass body.
Even if he did look hot in green.