They went back to Klamath Falls the next day, just checking in.
But nothing had changed. The old schoolhouse was still there, and there were no signs of recent activity.
So they took another hunt, this time in Montana. Some deer hunters had run into a wendigo there, so the Winchesters found it and killed it, saving the hunters in the process. Another win.
Another vengeful spirit -- in Idaho this time -- took them away from Klamath again, and a week later they got a call from Bobby asking for their help with a nest of vampires in Wyoming.
By the end of the month they were in South Dakota, and when Dean suggested they check in on Bobby, Other!Sam got tears in his eyes and nodded vigorously.
Bobby was pleased to see them, but Other!Sam's reaction was heartbreaking. He grabbed the older man in an embrace that would've lasted till Tuesday if Dean hadn't finally pulled them apart.
"Hey, hey," he murmured to Other!Sam. "Come on, man. It's ok. It's just Bobby."
Other!Sam nodded, took a shaky breath, released the man who had meant so much to him in that other world, stood staring at him with tears streaming down his cheeks while Bobby stared back uncomfortably, seeing his own death in Other!Sam's eyes and feeling pretty spooked.
"So, in your world I'm dead, huh?" Bobby said finally.
Other!Sam nodded, wiping his messy face with the sleeve of his jacket, which only made it worse.
"Well, I hope it was a good death," Bobby muttered.
Other!Sam shook his head, waterworks starting again, and Dean reached out and rubbed his back, pulled him away toward the bathroom before he could blurt out "We killed you!" as it looked like he was about to.
"Come on, Sam, let's get you cleaned up," Dean murmured, shooting a warning glance at Bobby, who was still staring at Other!Sam with horrid fascination.
"So you guys sound like real bad-asses in your world," Bobby noted later, once Other!Sam had come out of his freak-out and had a beer in his hand.
They were sitting on Bobby's porch, watching the sun set over the salvage yard, and Dean was thinking how a whole month had gone by with Sam still trapped in that other place. He was on his third beer and was considering getting pretty drunk tonight.
Other!Sam was brooding again, his face dark with memories of his world. His frown deepened.
"We're seriously bad news, if that's what you mean," he said. "You mess with us, you end up dead, mostly, whether you deserve it or not. It's not a good thing."
"Killing evil sons-o-bitches is what we do, boy," Bobby reminded him. "Trust me, it's a good thing."
Other!Sam shook his head.
"It's a curse," he stated flatly. "Wherever we go, people die. Good people. And the sick thing is, whatever we do to try to stop it just keeps coming back and biting us in the ass. Dean and I, we're so tangled up in evil shit all we can do is die. Except every time we do, some asshole angel or monster brings us back and it starts all over again."
Other!Sam closed his eyes. "I'm tired, Bobby," he said. "Sometimes I just want it to stop. All of it."
Bobby listened, his face getting darker by the minute. Dean could see he was building up to a pissed-off-Bobby lecture, and he was just relieved not to be the target of it, for once.
"Well boo hoo, Sam," Bobby burst out finally. "You think just because you lose a few people you can just give up the fight? What does that mean for the people you lost? Huh? That they died for nothin'? Well, I can speak for myself when I say I don't want my death to be in vain, and if I died in your world fighting alongside you and Dean, you can bet I knew exactly what I was doin'. So don't you dare take that away from me, you little shit, or I will haunt your ass."
"You already did," Other!Sam sighed.
"Well, good!" Bobby exclaimed. "You obviously deserved it! Now you listen to me, Sam Winchester, and if you know me at all you know I don't mince words when it comes to you boys -- you're like my own sons, so you better listen to me like I was your father, that worthless son-of-a-bitch..."
"Bobby," Dean admonished gently.
"Just tellin' it like it is, Dean," Bobby insisted.
"Bobby, I know you mean well, but you don't know what it's like in our world," Other!Sam was shaking his head. "Dean and I may have started out doing a little good, saving a few people. But since the angels got involved -- fuck, even before that -- we've caused more destruction than good. Bobby, in our world, we are the monsters."
"Well, I don't believe that for a minute, son," Bobby said. "My guess is, you and your Dean are having a little fight right now, and once you get past that, things will start to make sense again."
"What -- " Other!Sam's look of shock was classic. "How did you -- "
"Like I said, I know you, Sam, and when you're this down on yourself it's 'cause you and Dean are having one of your stupid lover's spats, so just get past it and go back to being the idjits we all know and love to get mad at. Obviously, you two are supposed to save the world. 'Cause that's what I'm countin' on, and you know I ain't been wrong yet."
Other!Sam was still staring, open-mouthed, and when he lifted his eyes to Dean, his not-brother just shrugged, took a swig of beer, and smacked his lips.
And that was the moment that Dean's phone blared out Led Zeppelin and Dean stood up like a shot. Only one person had that ringtone.
"Sam?" he put the phone to his ear.
"Hey, Dean," the voice of his Sam -- his brother -- filled his head and his heart so fast he felt faint for a moment, had to grab the back of the chair for support. "Where are you?"
"We're at Bobby's," Dean grounded out, struggling to fight back the sudden lump in his throat. "Where the hell are you?"
"We're still here," Sam said. "We're in Klamath. In the schoolhouse."
"Wait there," Dean ordered. "I'm on my way."
"No, Dean, listen. We're on the other side. The other Klamath. We've been here the whole time -- well, except for taking a week to drive to Kansas to do research," Sam's voice was fading, and Dean felt panic rising in his chest. He raised his eyes automatically to meet Other!Sam's.
"Yeah, I'm still here," Sam's voice sounded clearer again. "Signal's being routed through a satellite that keeps drifting in and out of one of these portals in space. That's how we can talk to each other."
"Yeah?" Dean was so not interested in the details. "So can this satellite get you home?"
"Not unless we have a space shuttle with navigational control at our disposal," Sam huffed out a laugh.
"So what's the plan?"
"Dean has the plan," Sam said. "He has -- friends over here who have a pretty good understanding of this kind of thing. I think we need to trust him on this. I think you need to trust him."
"Like hell," Dean felt his hackles rise at the mention of his doppelgänger, and he realized he had serious issues with the dude who had wreaked such havoc with Other!Sam's life. He was damned if he would take orders from the bastard.
There was silence for a moment on the other end, then Dean could hear a deep voice rumbling in the background and realized Other!Dean was there too.
"Sam?" Dean raised his eyes, met Other!Sam's gaze, reading the anxiety there.
"We all have to get to someplace called Devil's Gate," Sam said. "It's in Wyoming. It's about a day's drive for us, same as you. so we can meet there tomorrow night."
"Devil's Gate?" Dean echoed. Other!Sam took a sharp breath; his face registered shock and more than a little fear. Dean frowned. "What's at Devil's Gate?" he said into the phone.
"Some serious power, according to Dean's friend," Sam answered. "It can open a portal so that Sam and I can cross over and go home."
The look on Other!Sam's face was raising all kinds of warning bells in Dean's mind, which made him mad as hell.
"Sam, you tell that son-of-a-bitch he's not giving the orders around here," he growled into the phone. "This is my universe and he's on my turf now. And I am not traipsing all over the country just because he says so -- "
"Dean," Sam's gentle voice cut in. "He wants to talk to Bobby."
"Well, fuck that! Asshat killed Bobby in his world. He lost his chance to talk to Bobby."
"Dean -- "
"No, Sam. You just tell him he can go fuck himself! In fact, put him on.I'll tell him myself."
"Dean, I don't think that's a good idea -- "
There was a shuffling sound and Sam's voice cut off, to be replaced by someone breathing into the phone -- someone who did not sound like Sam.
"This is Dean Winchester," the voice on the phone did not sound like his, but Dean realized that was just the weird reality of not being used to hearing his voice outside his own head. It was disconcerting, to say the least.
But it only took Dean a minute to recover. He was that mad.
"Listen, you son-of-a-bitch," Dean growled into the phone. "If you hurt my brother I swear to God I'll -- "
"Shut the fuck up," Other!Dean growled back at him. "I need to speak to Bobby."
"Not on your life, you dickwad douchebag asshat -- " Dean let fly a few more invectives before he felt Other!Sam's hand over his, gently pulling the phone away, laying his other hand on his chest, just over his heart.
Somehow the touch managed to soothe him, and he met Other!Sam's eyes as he let him take the phone away, press it to his own ear. Other!Sam was calm, his hazel eyes soft with compassion. Dean stared back and felt his anger and tension slough off his shoulders.
"Hello?" Other!Sam spoke into the phone, keeping his hand on Dean's chest for a moment more, until he was sure Dean was calmer. Then Other!Sam lowered his eyes so he could focus on talking to his brother, and Dean watched him, noting the tightening of his jaw, the short, sharp tone of his responses. "What's this about Devil's Gate?"
Other!Sam paused for so long Dean almost grabbed the phone back from him. He watched the emotions flicker across Other!Sam's face as he listened to his brother, and it just made him want to punch the guy, soothe the rigid lines in Other!Sam's forehead, kiss away the tension in his mouth and jaw.
Other!Sam's eyes flicked to him, as if he knew what Dean was thinking, and his face visibly relaxed for a moment before he turned his attention back to his brother.
But Dean had seen the soft look in his eyes -- it was sadness. Other!Sam was already giving in to whatever his brother was telling him, but he wasn't happy about it.
Other!Sam took a deep breath, spoke again into the phone. "Yeah. Right. OK. No, he'll be fine with it. Yeah, Dean. I got it."
Other!Sam listened for another minute, then glanced at Bobby. "He looks good. Like Bobby. No, like before. Yeah. No, I don't think you need to talk to him. Seriously, dude, just deal."
Other!Sam paused for several minutes, obviously listening to a tirade from the other side. Dean watched as his jaw clenched and unclenched, recognizing the stubborn Winchester will-power at work. He let himself feel a little amused at Other!Sam when he finally got a word in.
"OK, whatever, Dean," Other!Sam muttered. "I'm not putting him on."
And Other!Dean was clearly yelling again, because Other!Sam went silent for another stretch before he said, "OK. We'll see you tomorrow, then," ending the call and handing the phone back to Dean.
"What's Devil's Gate, Sam?" Dean demanded, and Other!Sam sighed.
"In our world it's a kind of door," he said, squaring his shoulders and shifting his feet. Dean had the distinct impression that the very idea of this "door" made Other!Sam nervous.
"What kind of door?" Dean pressed, exchanging glances with Bobby.
Other!Sam took a deep breath, raising his eyes to Dean's, then glancing at Bobby.
"It's a door into Hell," he answered grimly.
"Oh, that sounds peachy," Bobby exhaled sharply.
"There's a lot of power there," Other!Sam sighed. "Dean and your Sam think if they open it from their side it will pack enough punch to open a portal into this world."
His eyes met Dean's, and Dean read the doubt and uncertainty there.
"You don't think it will," Dean noted.
"I don't know, Dean," Other!Sam said. "In our world, that Gate got opened once and all Hell broke lose. Literally. I don't know what it will do to this world. Maybe nothing. But maybe it will loose hundreds of demons into this world, like it did in ours. That's not a risk I'm happy taking. We've spent the past six years trying to close the gates of Hell. I'm not excited about the idea of opening one."
"If it works, we get our brothers back," Dean said, determined to keep on track to the main point. "Sam thinks it will work."
Other!Sam huffed out a breath. "Your Sam hasn't lived in my world very long," he said grimly. "He doesn't see how fucked up things have been there since we opened that Gate."
"But if it works, Sam comes home," Dean insisted.
"Dean, that's not all that's at stake here," Other!Sam turned to Bobby. "You see that, at least, don't you?"
Bobby raised his eyebrows, glancing from one Winchester to the other before answering.
"I've seen you boys get yourselves in a mess o' trouble more times than I can count," he said. "And every single time it comes down to -- if one of you needs saving, the other one is willing to risk Heaven and Hell to save him. Doesn't seem to work any other way, so I quit having a say about anything involving you two idjits years ago. Never made a lick o' difference."
"Thanks, Bobby," Other!Sam frowned at him. "Real helpful."
Bobby shrugged. "Just sayin'," he grumbled.
The phone in Bobby's house rang then, and Bobby looked so relieved as he went in to get it Dean felt a little guilty.
Till he heard Bobby's voice say, "Dean?" into the phone and Dean realized that Other!Dean had called the old hunter directly.
"What the hell's he doing?" Dean demanded, and Other!Sam shrugged.
"He's Dean," Other!Sam said as if it was obvious, but when he saw the blank look on Dean's face he elaborated. "You know, control freak, bossy, has to do everything himself because he doesn't trust anyone else to do it right?" He lowered his eyes, adding, "Especially his brother" in a bitter tone that went straight to Dean's heart.
"You're everything to him, you stupid Sasquatch," Dean murmured fondly, and Other!Sam huffed out a bitter laugh. "Even if he's too stubborn to admit it."
"Yeah, well, that's a big part of the problem, isn't it?" Other!Sam said. "If I didn't loom so large in his life maybe he could see a little better."
"He'll never let you go, Sam," Dean said quietly. "It ain't in him."
Other!Sam looked up, staring. "But you and Sam -- you said you -- he had a girlfriend -- "
Dean shifted awkwardly, ran a hand over his face, glanced away, cleared his throat.
"I hated it," he said finally, his voice rough. "Every goddamn minute. When he's not here, I'm not -- myself. I'm not complete. That's just the way it is."
"But you -- you said -- "
"I know what I said," Dean nodded. "I'm just sayin', letting Sam go -- " He shook his head. "I do it, when he needs it, but it hurts like hell. It's never what I want. Never."
"But you do it, for him," Other!Sam clarified. "Because you love him, Dean. That's what you do when you love somebody. You put their needs before your own. Even if it means you have to let them go."
Other!Sam shook his head. "My Dean can't do that."
Dean's chest was aching with the need to gather the huge man into his arms, struggling at the same time with embarrassment at the turn of the conversation. Some things, he knew he just couldn't talk about. Loving his brother was high on that list, which made no sense, he knew, but was just the way it was. In his book, love was something you do, not something you talk about.
Fortunately, Bobby took that moment to interrupt them.
"Well, that was weird." Bobby was glaring at Dean. "Boy's bossier than you are, if that's even possible."
Other!Sam looked at him expectantly. Dean was still staring down at his beer, fighting to control his discomfort at being compared to that other Winchester.
Bobby seemed to sense the mood on the porch and frowned.
"OK, I'm changin' the channel," he announced gruffly. "Gonna start some grub. When you two are done with your little episode of Not So Young Anymore But Still Plenty Restless, feel free to join me."
He shuffled back inside the house, letting the screen door slam behind him.
Other!Sam and Dean stared at each other for a moment, then burst into giggles.
Which quickly became outright belly-wrenching laughter, the full-on kind that made your eyes water and your chest heave. Dean finally had to bend over with his hands on his knees to try to catch a breath, and Other!Sam put his hand on Dean's shoulder to keep from falling over.
It was a full minute before they could straighten up and look at each other again, then Bobby called "Are you done out there? 'Cuz I could use a hand in here," which was somehow the funniest thing they had ever heard and set them off again for another minute and a half.
After pork and beans and beer and some kind of green vegetable that Other!Sam managed to cut up into a sort of makeshift salad -- because Dean was so not letting Other!Sam eat the beans if they were gonna share a continent together (and he did not want to spend their last night sleeping alone in the Impala) -- they spent a little time going over the case. Other!Dean had said something about needing ingredients for a spell in order to open the portal from this side, had figured Bobby had those things, which he did for the most part. Whatever he didn't have he figured he could collect from a couple of fellow hunters and the pharmacy and hardware store in town. They needed to stop in Cold Oak to get some ghost-contaminated soil, which made Other!Sam visibly nervous.
"What's in Cold Oak?" Dean demanded.
"That's where it started, in my world," Other!Sam said, and he wouldn't meet Dean's eyes when he said it, so Dean had an idea whatever happened was pretty bad.
After Bobby went to bed ("Big day tomorrow, boys. This old man needs some serious shut-eye first.") Other!Sam started to spread blankets on the couch.
"I'll take the floor," he told Dean, who said nothing, just moved up behind Other!Sam and took his wrist, pulling him around to face him.
"We'll both take the floor," he said softly, reaching up to tangle his fingers in Other!Sam's hair, pulling his face down for a kiss.
Dean's chest was swelling with love and longing and wishing things could be different, so he kissed Other!Sam tenderly, almost chastely, letting his fingers play with the soft hair at the back of Other!Sam's neck, cupping Other!Sam's cheek and running his thumb along the angular line of his jaw.
He was already missing this same-yet-different not-brother, fully aware that if this thing they were planning to do tomorrow actually worked, he would never see Other!Sam again. And as much as he felt grateful that he would have his Sam back again, he sensed that there would always be a funny little hole in his heart where this one belonged.
As he pulled back from the kiss, savoring the taste of Other!Sam's soft bottom lip, he wondered idly how many Other!Sams were out there, and felt absolutely certain he could love them all.
"Wait -- does Bobby know?" Other!Sam asked as Dean released his mouth. He glanced nervously toward the hallway, toward the stairs to Bobby's bedroom.
Dean smiled. "Probably," he muttered. "It doesn't exactly come up in conversation, but yeah -- I think he knows."
Other!Sam stiffened as another thought hit him.
Dean pulled back a little, eyes wide. "Hell, no, Sam, are you crazy?"
Other!Sam relaxed. "Yeah," he breathed. "Dad always was pretty clueless."
Dean was still holding Other!Sam's face in his hands, rubbing his thumb along his jaw, caressing the stubbled chin and dimpled cheek.
"Last night on earth, Sammy," he breathed softly. "You wanna -- " He let his words trail off suggestively.
Other!Sam grinned adorably. "Can't believe you use the same line. You're so much like him, how can you be so different?"
"Hell if I know," Dean murmured, and Other!Sam's eyes filled with tears in the moment before his lips claimed Dean's.
Later, when they lay warm and sleepy and tangled together in Bobby's blankets on Bobby's floor, Dean asked, "What happened at Cold Oak?"
Other!Sam stiffened, and he was silent for so long Dean decided he wasn't going to tell him.
But finally he said, "I died. For the first time. It started a chain of events that hasn't really stopped. Probably never will."
"What, so now you're immortal?" Dean teased, but Other!Sam was so silent and serious Dean had to kiss him again, caress the tension out of his face and shoulders, fighting down his own sense of dread and foreboding at the thought of how seriously fucked-up things were in that other universe.
"How did it happen?" he asked when he thought Other!Sam was finally relaxed again.
"Dude stabbed me in the back," Other!Sam said. "You were there, saw the whole thing. Held me while I died."
"Fuck," Dean breathed. He hated to ask, but knew he needed to know. They were lying on their sides, facing each other, and when Dean slid his hand over Other!Sam's back, unconsciously feeling for the scar, Other!Sam squirmed a little under his hand, seemed to know what Dean was searching for.
"Not there now," he explained softly. "My body was all healed up when I got back from Hell. None of the old scars." He snorted a laugh, sounding bitter again. "Dean said he had been re-hymenated. Said it made him a virgin again."
Yeah, Dean really did not want to know this.
"So what do you think's gonna happen tomorrow?" he asked, mostly to change the subject so they did not have to mention Other!Dean's sex life again.
Other!Sam shrugged, but wouldn't meet Dean's gaze.
"If this Devil's Gate thing is as powerful in this world as it is in yours, we're gonna need all the help we can get," Dean noted. "It's a good thing Bobby called for backup."
Other!Sam nodded, still not meeting Dean's eyes.
"And you're gonna get your brother back," Dean finished. "That's a good thing, i'n't it?"
When Other!Sam didn't respond this time, Dean slipped his fingers under his chin, tipping his face up.
Other!Sam kept his eyes down stubbornly for another minute, but Dean persisted.
"Sam?" he coaxed, and the hazel eyes finally opened, met his. They were shining with tears.
"Gonna miss this," Other!Sam almost whispered, his voice broken. "Gonna miss you."
Dean felt his eyes crinkle in a smile. He stroked Other!Sam's cheek, ran his fingers through Other!Sam's hair.
"I'm awesome," he noted, tipping his lips up into a mocking grin.
"Yes, you are," Other!Sam agreed, his eyes lingering on Dean's lips for a moment before he leaned in to claim them.
In the night, Dean woke to find the place next to him empty. It was still dark, and for a moment he wasn't sure what had woken him.
Then he heard Other!Sam's whispered voice and realized that Other!Sam was behind him, in the kitchen, talking to someone on his phone, and from the tone of his side of the conversation, it was pretty clear to Dean who Other!Sam was talking to.
Dean lay still, listening to the urgency and anxiety in Other!Sam's voice as he berated his brother over the plan to open Devil's Gate, and when Other!Sam ended the call abruptly it was clear he had hung up on him.
After a minute, Other!Sam returned to him, slipping quietly under the blanket next to Dean and scooping him into his arms when he realized Dean was awake.
"You called him?" Dean clarified, and Other!Sam nodded, digging his chin into Dean's hair as Dean pushed his face into the warm muscled skin of Other!Sam's broad chest.
For a moment they lay still, breathing in the other's scent. Dean let his hand wander down Other!Sam's belly, rest at the waistband of his boxers as he slid his thigh more snugly between Other!Sam's legs, eliciting a small hitched breath.
"Who's Crowley?" Dean asked into Other!Sam's firm, over-heated skin.
He felt Other!Sam stiffen, his whole body going tense, and he was silent so long Dean thought he wouldn't answer.
Dean finally raised his head, looking up at Other!Sam, who was looking down at him with an expression of such anguish Dean gasped.
"What is it, Sam?" he demanded, pushing himself back so he could half-sit up next to Other!Sam, raising himself on his elbows, then reaching up to turn Other!Sam's face toward him.
"What's wrong?" Dean asked again, and Other!Sam let out a long, shuddering breath, his body shaking with sobs as the tears flowed out of his lovely eyes, down his handsome face.
Dean reached for his own discarded tee-shirt, let Other!Sam dry his eyes on it as he threaded his fingers gently through Other!Sam's soft hair.
"Come on, buddy," he murmured. "Pull it together. You're ok. I've got you."
The low rumble of Dean's voice and his comforting words pierced through Other!Sam's misery after a minute or so, then it took another minute for Other!Sam to gather his thoughts into a coherent response.
Dean waited patiently, stroking Other!Sam's hair until he was able to collect himself, look up at Dean with shining, red-rimmed eyes and flushed cheeks.
"My brother and I have been going through a tough time lately," he said finally. "Dean did something -- he let something really bad happen."
Other!Sam took a deep breath, looked away for a minute, gathering his thoughts again, before returning his gaze to Dean's.
"So he left for awhile," Other!Sam continued.
Dean raised his eyebrows at that.
"Wait, your brother -- he left you?" he clarified, unable to get his mind around the concept. "How could he do that?"
Other!Sam gave a nod.
"Yeah, he thinks he's poison. Figured I was better off without him," Other!Sam said.
Dean gaped, struggling to imagine the level of depraved self-loathing that kind of behavior would take.
"Dude is dangerous," he said finally. "His head's in a really bad place."
Other!Sam frowned at him. "How do you know?" he asked.
Dean shrugged. "I'm him," he said simply. "I get how he thinks. And if he's leaving you, thinking you're better off without him, deliberately staying away from you -- That's just fucked up, man."
Other!Sam was still frowning, considering.
"So who's Crowley?" Dean asked again.
Other!Sam raised his eyebrows, opened his mouth to answer, then frowned again.
"He's -- " Dean could see the flicker of anxiety in his eyes and suddenly knew that Other!Sam was about to lie to him.
"He's a hunting buddy of Dean's," Other!Sam answered. "Somebody Dean would never hunt with normally, but after he left -- "
"So this guy is bad news," Dean clarified.
Other!Sam wouldn't meet Dean's eyes, just flicked a short glance at him and nodded.
"Yeah, pretty much," Other!Sam agreed.
"And while your brother was awol he hung out with this -- Crowley," Dean stated the obvious.
Other!Sam gave another short nod.
"Jealousy's a bitch, Sam," Dean tried to lighten the mood. "Six-foot, green-eyed bitch."
Other!Sam lifted his eyes then, gaze startled, then softening as he saw the smile in Dean's eyes.
"You -- " Other!Sam breathed. "How do you just know this stuff?"
Dean shrugged. "Good instincts," he noted. "Sam says I've got good instincts."
"Yeah, you do," Other!Sam agreed, his gaze dropping to Dean's mouth.
Dean let his hand wander down Other!Sam's cheek, stroked his bottom lip with his thumb until Other!Sam's fingers closed around his wrist, pulled him down for a kiss, then rolled Dean onto his back and surged over him, slipping his leg between Dean's and grinding into him as he deepened the kiss.
And if Other!Sam's lovemaking was a little more intense and needy than usual, a little more purposeful, then Dean was letting that happen. Because it was so deeply ingrained in him to give Sam what he needed, even this broken, damaged Sam who was not his brother yet felt and tasted just like him.
They would deal with the rest of the world tomorrow.