They rode in silence the next few miles, till Dean's unerring sense of direction found them a comfortable, greasy roadside diner where they could join humanity again. Dean left Other!Sam staring morosely at his plate while he stepped outside to call Bobby, filling him in on the angel thing and Other!Sam's weird stories.
"Heaven?" Bobby's voice practically dripped with skepticism. "That's a new one. And angels are scary, Dean. If that's what just visited you, it's definitely not a good thing."
"Wait -- you've heard of these things? Angels are real in this world too?" Dean frowned into his phone.
"There's lore, yeah," Bobby said. "But it's old. Real old. The idea is angels only come to earth when something big is happening, or about to happen. And I mean big, as in end-of-the-world big."
It was almost night already, and Dean found himself staring up, watching the stars as they lit up one by one in the darkening sky.
"So you think what that angel said could be true," he clarified. "If we open the Devil's Gate, we could destroy the world."
"I would say getting visited by an angel qualifies as an omen, Dean," Bobby agreed. "What does Sam think?"
Dean took a deep breath. "Sam thinks he's destroying the world," he breathed out. "Single-handed. Thinks he's Satan or something. Usual crap."
Bobby was silent for a moment. Dean waited, watching his breath fog in the chill night air.
"Dean," Bobby said finally, and his voice was low and full of warning. "If this thing goes bad -- "
"Not gonna go bad," Dean insisted with every ounce of bravado he could convey. "We're gonna open that door, get Sam out, close it again. End of story."
"And this Sam goes back," Bobby clarified.
Dean clenched his jaw, didn't answer.
"Dean -- "
"Yeah, we give this one back," Dean agreed. "Can't have two Sams here now, can we? Upsetting the balance of nature or whatever."
Dean and Other!Sam were silent on the drive to the cemetery, each lost in his own thoughts of how things had gone, where things were going, what it all meant.
At least Dean was. He didn't really want to know what Other!Sam was thinking. Had a feeling it wasn't good, whatever it was.
And the thing was, he knew he should've been asking more questions, getting everything he could from Other!Sam about what they were up against. As it was, he was going in mostly blind, without crucial information about what happens when one of these doors into Hell gets opened.
But the thing was, he didn't want to know. He was pretty sure whatever Other!Sam could tell him would not help their current situation one bit, and might actually make him doubt himself, which was not something he could let happen. He needed to keep his determination, his focus. Because this was about rescuing his brother, and nothing was going to change that. He didn't need to start second-guessing himself or the mission now.
When they rolled up to the cemetery and Other!Sam told him to stop, he did. The night had turned cloudless and dark, moon in its earliest, darkest phase. He could barely make out the darker shadows of trees against the flat landscape, the only indication that this place was different from all the empty, endless Wyoming landscape they had just been traveling for the past several miles.
As Dean closed the car door he heard the slamming of another door a few feet behind him, knew someone -- Ellen? Bobby? -- had followed him down the little side road, lights off and quieter than the rumbling motor of the Impala. He drew his gun instinctively, waited a moment as Other!Sam got out and stood on the other side of the car, silent and watchful, following Dean's lead.
Dean recognized his father's hulking shape even before he moved out of the shadows of the trees lining the road, but he struggled to contain his relief. Dad didn't need to see how much it meant to him that he was here.
"Hey, Dad," Dean breathed as John closed the distance between them, glancing warily at Other!Sam, who had moved around the car to flank Dean's left. "Didn't know if you'd come."
"Had to get my boy back," John's eyes softened slightly. "Besides, I guess you can't do this without my magic gun."
John patted his pocket, then shot a warning glare at Other!Sam.
"Winchesters and their guns," Bobby muttered as he moved up behind John.
Then Dean noticed other hunters, standing back quietly among the trees, watching them.
Ellen Harvelle moved into the road behind Bobby, Jo at her shoulder. Ash must've stayed home with the baby, Dean realized, which was good because Ash had always been a little less steady and predictable on hunts.
Dean felt grateful to have them.
"OK, let's get this done," he said, looking up at Sam to lead the way.
The cemetery was old, that was obvious. Some of the headstones had come loose and fallen over with time, some tilted over at odd angles. Yet the ground around the graves was strangely dead. Old brush and leaves crushed underfoot, but nothing alive. Nothing growing.
Someplace this old, Dean would have expected the land to have reclaimed it years ago. But either someone had been tending it until recently -- maybe in the past few years at least -- or there was something different about the soil here, something that was keeping life at bay altogether.
Then they saw it.
The mausoleum was a fairly small one, but it stood dead center and the ground around it was perfectly clear, no weeds or leaves or dead brush at all.
In the same moment, the wind picked up. Then a flash of lightening, followed by a clap of thunder that was so close it couldn't possibly be natural. They would've seen and heard the storm rumbling in the distance if it had been coming in a natural way.
Other!Sam stopped for a moment and stared up. The clouds forming overheard were moving fast, roiling and bubbling in strange patterns, clearly coming together directly over the mausoleum itself.
Dean glanced at Bobby, then at Other!Sam.
"Did this happen before?" he yelled over the rush of the wind.
Other!Sam nodded, hair flying wildly around his face.
"Demonic omens," he shouted. "For weeks before."
Bobby frowned. "Well, we ain't had any of those," he shouted. "So what's that mean?"
Lightening flashed, followed immediately by a loud crack.
"No demon sightings for years," Ellen was yelling. "We figured we got 'em all, or drove them out of the country, at least."
The storm was intensifying, making speech more challenging. They were in the clearing in front of the mausoleum doors now, and John was pulling out the colt. Bobby was reciting the spell, burying the little bag of Cold Oak soil in the ground in front of the stone steps. Dean could see the pentagram carved into the seam of the doors, could see the round keyhole where the barrel of the colt would fit perfectly.. He pulled out his phone and glanced at it.
"It's time," he shouted, pushing speed dial and putting the phone to his ear, putting his fingers against his other ear so he could listen for his brother's voice.
Relief flooded him at the sound, and Dean realized he had been worrying he wouldn't get reception with the storm's interference.
"We're in position," he yelled into the phone. "Remember what we said, Sammy, ok?"
"Ok, Dean," Sam sounded anxious. He was breathing hard, like he'd been running.
"Everything ok on your end, Sam?" Dean asked, anxiety creeping coldly up his spine.
"It will be in a minute," Sam's answer was firm, confident.
"Ok then," Dean nodded. "Let's do this thing."
He nodded at John, who moved forward with the gun raised. Dean glanced back at the assembled hunters, counted roughly a dozen good men and a handful of women,, all silent and grim and ready for anything. It made his chest swell with pride, and when he glanced up at Other!Sam and read the anxious expectation creasing his forehead and making wrinkles around his almond eyes, Dean threw him an encouraging smile. Because yeah, they could do this. This is what they did. This is who they are, and if there was one thing he wanted to leave Other!Sam with, it was a sense of having succeeded at this one thing, that no matter how badly things had gone in his world, here in this one the Winchesters were pretty good at their jobs.
The wind picked up again as the colt slid into place in the mausoleum door, and a loud crack of thunder made Dean's ears ring. Another instantaneous lighting strike filled the air with the smell of ozone and something sour which Dean's brain had only a second to process as sulfur before the gears on the door were grinding into place, turning on ancient hinges with supernatural power.
"Get ready!" he shouted over the roar of the wind and the almost continuous lightening strikes as the door made its final mechanical movement, locking into place. Dean widened his stance, bracing himself squarely in front of the entrance as the doors began to move outward of their own accord, groaning with disuse. A smell of dust and old bones wafted out as the doors first pulled apart, and Dean felt Other!Sam's hand on his shoulder, then fisting the back of his jacket. Dean put his arm out in front of Other!Sam in a protective gesture that was completely unconscious as the first crack of light appeared between the separating doors.
Then everything happened very fast.
The light from inside the mausoleum grew brighter as the doors swung open -- a red, fiery brightness that flooded the area in front of the doors and illuminated the hunters' faces in a dark-orange glow that made them look bathed in blood. Then a flash of white light overwhelmed the red and Dean put his arm up to shield his eyes, squinting to see through the glare.
Two familiar figures stood inside the tomb, facing him, shadowed by the light shining from behind them.
"Sam?!" Dean yelled above the roar of the storm, and the taller of the two figures started.
"Dean!" he could hear his brother's booming voice through the noise, saw him start forward toward him.
But Other!Dean reached out and grabbed his arm.
"Wait!" he yelled. "Send my brother in first!"
Dean felt his anger rise instantly, threatening to choke him in its righteous fury.
"Fuck you!" he shouted back, even as he could feel Other!Sam moving forward, gently pushing against Dean's arm. "My brother comes out first!"
"It's ok, Dean," Other!Sam had one hand on his shoulder, the other on his wrist, reassuring and steady, gently pushing his arm down. "I'll go. He'll never let your brother go if I don't go first."
Dean turned his head, looked up at Other!Sam, at the concern and compassion in those almond-shaped eyes, and for a moment time seemed to stand still and it was just the two of them, silent and alone -- no storm, no other hunters, no other brothers. Just Dean and this sad, beautiful man who had been his companion, his lover, for such a short time but it seemed like forever because he was Sam, just Sam a little different.
"It's ok, Dean," Other!Sam said again, slipping one hand up to cup the back of Dean's head, folding Dean's arm between their bodies as he stepped forward and slipped his other hand up so he was holding Dean's face in his huge, warm hands.
For a minute Dean thought he was going to kiss him, right here in front of everyone.
And the crazy thing was, he didn't care. Let them see. Let Other!Dean see what he was missing, the asshole.
Other!Sam held his face, rubbing his thumbs along Dean's cheekbones, hazel eyes soft and wet, for what seemed like an eternity.
Then he was leaning in and tipping Dean's head down at the same time, so that Other!Sam's lips pressed against Dean's forehead, leaving a kiss there that felt like a brand, hot and hard and almost bruising.
As Other!Sam drew back Dean let out a long breath, realized he'd been holding it the whole time.
"Goodbye, Dean," Other!Sam said, his voice sounding choked as he stepped back, then turned away.
And Dean almost grabbed him back, almost surged forward to clutch at that broad back, moving away from him toward the light, his shoulders stooping as he took on the mantle of that other Sam, the one whose brother was so damaged he couldn't even love him, couldn't even make the effort to understand him --
"Sam!" he heard his own voice wailing in his head, but at the last second he pressed his lips together, swallowing the cry even as he felt tears slipping down his cheeks.
"You take care of him, you son-of-a-bitch!" he yelled at Other!Dean instead.
He watched helplessly as Other!Dean gave Sam a little push, sending him forward towards his brother. As he and Other!Sam passed, they looked at each other, and although their faces were in shadow against the bright light behind them, Other!Sam started when he looked into Sam's face, turned back to Dean as if he meant to say something.
Then Other!Dean was grabbing Other!Sam's shoulder and wrist, pulling him in with a parody of Other!Sam's earlier hold on Dean, and Sam was in his arms, holding on for dear life and tucking his chin into Dean's shoulder, bending over him in that familiar crushing embrace that was all Sam.
Dean was vaguely aware of his dad and Bobby and Ellen and the other hunters crowding up around them to shut the doors, was aware of the bright light fading and the red, demonic light growing more intensely as the hunters struggled to close the gate -- but most of all he was aware of Other!Sam's voice, yelling back to him as the doors clanged shut and the bright light swallowed him away forever.
"Dean! It's a trick! It's got Sam!"
Other!Sam's final words rang in Dean's ears, making no sense at first as he held his brother's warm, heavy weight in his arms, breath hot and damp on his neck.
Sam was murmuring, "Missed you, man," and "Dean," and then pulling back a little so he could kiss him --
"Sam, no," Dean breathed, aware of his dad and the others turning back from closing the gate, aware of the storm still ravaging his cheeks and hair and pulling on his clothes.
Then Sam's mouth was on his, crushing his lips, hot hungry tongue pushing into his mouth, huge hands running through his hair, holding his head still so Sam's mouth could devour his brother's, biting and claiming and wild with need.
But something was wrong.
Sam was pulling back again, sensing Dean's hesitation maybe, and Dean was aware of Jo's gasp from somewhere off to his right, Bobby yelling at him -- "Dean, that's not Sam!" -- Other!Sam's final words "It's in Sam!" echoing in his mind --
Then he was gazing into Sam's eyes.
And they were a deep, intense red.
Dean scrambled backwards so fast he almost fell. Hands caught him -- Dad, Ellen -- but all he saw was Sam's eyes, Sam's mouth curling into an almost friendly smile.
"Hello, Squirrel," Sam's voice was lilting, lighter than usual. "You don't know me, but on the other side, you and I are besties."
The red eyes shone like wet blood for a moment, then switched back to their normal hazel color as the demon curled Sam's lips into a wider smile.
"Crowley," Dean guessed, and the demon possessing Sam's body made an elaborate and very swishy bow.
"In the flesh," he agreed, still smiling broadly. "Well, in Moose's flesh anyway."
Sam's large hands moved down his own body slowly, suggestively, cupping between his legs with a quick squeeze before moving back up to squeeze Sam's tight pecs.
"Nice, firm flesh too," Crowley noted smarmily. "I can see why you can't resist, Squirrel."
Dean clenched his fists, felt his jaw moving in fury.
"Get out of my brother," he growled, then Bobby's voice -- incanting in Latin -- caught his attention.
Caught Crowley's attention too. Sam's eyes went red and his arm shot out toward Bobby, and suddenly the old hunter was flying backwards, hitting the ground with a loud thud and a crack as his head slammed into one one of the headstones, then lay motionless.
John's voice picked up the chant, then Ellen's, and suddenly bodies were flying everywhere. Dean watched helplessly as John slammed backwards into the side of the mausoleum, then slid to the ground with his neck at an odd angle, eyes half-mast.
"Dad!" Dean heard the anguish in his own voice as he watched his father die, disbelief choking down any grief he might have felt in the shock of the moment.
Ellen, Jo, several other old friends met the same fate in a gruesome massacre that happened so fast Dean didn't even have time to react.
The storm was picking up again and now the doors to the Devil's Gate were opening again, seemingly of their own accord, and blood-red light was flooding the cemetery, covered as it was now in fresh bodies. Dean watched in horror as dozens of demons smoked out of the open gate, taking off into the night sky to find meat suits, ignoring the bodies on the ground.
That's when Dean noticed the colt, lying on the ground not a food from his father's dead hand.
Crowley followed his gaze, smirked.
"What're you going to do, Squirrel," he asked with a sly grin. "Shoot you brother? You really think you can do that?"
Crowley shook Sam's head, the look on his face changing to something almost pitying. "That was the whole problem, you see," he said quietly, his voice almost gentle now. "You couldn't kill your brother. Even though he was a monster. Even though he was the devil himself. You couldn't do it."
Dean stared, colt forgotten as Crowley's words sunk in, making his blood run cold with fear.
Because even though demons lie, he knew with absolute certainty that this one was telling the truth.
Crowley blinked, looked surprised as he read the expression in Dean's face, then gave a single laugh that sounded so much like Sam it brought tears to Dean's eyes.
"Moose didn't tell you, did he?" Crowley asked, then shook his head once. "Of course he didn't. He couldn't."
Crowley took a breath, let the words sink in, watching Dean's face closely.
"Sammy has demon blood in him, Dean," he said, voice soft and only slightly mocking now. "Azazel dripped blood into his mouth that night. The night your mum died. See, your mum made a deal, before Sammy was even conceived. She offered him up, y'see. She gave him to Azazel before he was even born."
Dean felt his vision cloud over, felt his head fill with hot, pounding fear.
"No," he heard his voice whisper, and Crowley nodded, mocking sympathy parodying Sam's natural look of concern.
"Oh, yes," Crowley nodded again. "And now he's the perfect vessel for Satan himself. And you and he are going to bring about the apocalypse here, just like you did in the other world."
"No," Dean shook his head, sick dread congealing in his stomach, rage and despair clouding his vision. "I won't do it."
Crowley tilted Sam's head, pursed his lips.
"Yes, you will," he said in Sam's soft voice. "You'll do it because you love your brother, Dean. And now -- " Crowley looked around at the bodies strewn at their feet. "Now he's all you've got."
He started to turn away, as if he was just going to stroll out of here, and then turned back as another thought hit him.
"Oh, and all your former girlfriends -- not that there were that many, after Sam here stole your heart -- and that nice fashion designer and curator in upstate New York who dated Sam for awhile, other people you don't even know yet but who might be friends since they were your pals in the other world -- I've just sent my demons to kill them all.
"So you really are alone, Dean," Crowley finished, Sam's softest smile planted mockingly on his lips.
"You son-of-a-bitch," Dean growled, clenching his fists and his jaw reflexively. "I will kill you. If it's the last thing I do -- "
"Funny, that's what the other Dean kept telling me," Crowley shrugged. "Instead, look where I am!" He spread his arms expansively. "Ruler of another kingdom."
Dean's vision was almost completely red now, fury rippling through his muscles like liquid fire.
"I must say, it's been fun," Crowley was saying, but all Dean could see was death. Everywhere.
And in the middle of it, his brother, his Sam, face twisted in that horrible, taunting grin.
"I do believe it's time for me to get back into my own body," Crowley was crooning. "But before I go, Squirrel, I thought I'd leave you with one last death."
That's when Dean noticed the hunter running up behind Sam, silent as a fox, long-handled knife held low and firm in his grasp.
Jake, Dean thought in the split second before the hunter thrust his knife into Sam's back, hilt-deep, and twisted. His name is Jake.
Dean was screaming, his voice hoarse from yelling, moving forward out of pure instinct to catch his brother's body as he slumped forward.
Sam's body jerked with the force of the blow, then his head fell back, mouth open in a silent scream as red smoke streamed forth from deep inside him, long and thick and snake-like, moving up over Dean's head and toward the mausoleum, which was wide open now and pulsing with that red, infernal light.
Then Dean was on his knees, holding his brother's dying body, sobbing incoherently into his neck, nonsense syllables bursting free as Sam's head rolled back and his eyes slid shut -- no, no, Sammy, no -- I've got you -- you're gonna be fine -- stay with me, Sam -- Goddamn it, Sam! I said stay with me! Sam!
The tears were flowing freely now, bathing Sam's hair and neck, dampening the collar of his shirt and jacket.
Dean was only vaguely aware that Jake's demon had smoked out, leaving another dead hunter on the ground behind Sam, only vaguely aware that he was alone, that the storm had died down, that it was suddenly silent in the cemetery, the only sound his own gasping breath as he sobbed his brother's name over and over helplessly, rocking his lifeless body in his arms, pressing useless kisses across his still-warm skin.
"And so it begins. Again."
A sharp voice with an English accent, dripping with dry British sarcasm, spoke from behind Dean, from the door to the mausoleum.
"So touching," the voice spoke again. "A brother's final farewells."
Dean didn't move, couldn't -- probably never would. He would just die here, clutching Sam's dead body, endlessly whispering Sam's name.
The Englishman -- Crowley, the King of Hell -- descended the steps of the house of death and crossed behind Sam, into Dean's field of vision. The man was short, stocky, handsome in a kind of teddy-bear way, well-dressed.
Dean squeezed his eyes shut, ignoring the bastard, buried his face in Sam's neck, his body shaking with sobs, holding tight to the last thing on earth he would ever love. His reason for living.
"Well, I hate to wreak havoc and run," Crowley said dryly. "But I've got a world to destroy and a whole new kingdom to run. So unless there's something else I can do for you -- "
"Go to Hell," Dean growled out, lifting his head long enough to glare at the demon king, tears blurring his vision.
"Very well, darling," Crowley shrugged, raising his hands in a gesture of mocking surrender. "But if you change your mind -- decide to make a deal for your brother's life, for example, hint hint, ya moron -- you know where to find me. I used to be a simple crossroads demon, you know. Just in case you don't have those in this world."
"Fuck you," Dean grated out, and Crowley shrugged again.
"Sorry -- been there, done that, got the tee-shirt. And I have to say, Dean, you're not as good in bed as your brother. All that self-pity. And always with the tears! Good thing there's a Kevin Tran in this world. Looking forward to tasting his blood again -- "
Dean ignored him, focused instead on laying his brother down, cradling his head gently, trailing his fingers across his cheek and lips, Cool now, lifeless.
Crowley was watching him, but in an idle and inattentive way, still going on in that mocking tone of his.
"I get it," he purred. "You need a little time to think about it. Let it sink in. Just don't let it go too long. Bodies start to decompose fairly quickly in this climate -- "
Dean clenched his right hand, brought it up slowly, clutching the colt. He met Crowley's eyes the moment before the King of Hell realized what was happening, but by then it was too late.
"This is for my brother, you son-of-a-bitch," Dean muttered fiercely as he pulled the trigger.
The shock on Crowley's face as the bullet hit him squarely between the eyes was almost comical. But as he was torn apart from the insides and the red, glowing light of his infernal life crackled and burned out, all expression slid away and his face slackened, eyes rolling up into their sockets just before they closed and his body slid to the ground, dead, dead, dead.
Dean stared for another moment, then brought his arm down, letting the colt slip down to the side, turning his eyes back to his brother's body.
"I'm sorry, Sam," he whispered, tears sliding down his cheeks again as he sat back on his heels, still kneeling in the dirt between his brother's and his father's bodies. "Oh God, I'm so sorry."
He took a deep breath.
"I couldn't do it, Sam," he said. "That deal the other Dean made, it changed him. I saw what it did to his brother. And I couldn't do that to you. I love you so much, man. Oh God, please forgive me. I'm so, so sorry."
Dean pulled the colt into his lap, ran his fingers up and down the warm barrel, checked the chamber. Two bullets left.
He took another deep breath, looked down at his brother's body again, then at his dad's.
"I'm sorry, Dad," he choked out, his voice cracking . "I couldn't keep him safe. You said -- you told me to keep him safe and I -- I failed, Dad. I'm so fuckin' sorry."
Dean felt his voice break again as a fresh round of sobbing tore through him. He held the gun in both hands, fingers moving up and down the barrel, caressing it. He lowered his eyes to the gun and waited until he could get himself under control again, till his hands stopped shaking.
Then he turned the gun barrel up in that direction he had always been trained never to do, toward his own face. He would do this quickly, before he had time to think about it. One quick shot, up through the roof of his mouth and into his brain --
Something about the deep voice made him pause. He sensed, rather than saw, a flutter of huge wings, and suddenly the tax accountant was there, just standing there next to Crowley's body, looking at him with an expression of such soulful sorrow --
Castiel. The angel.
"Dean, put the gun down," Castiel said, his voice quiet and commanding.
For a moment Dean just stared at him, too shocked to answer. Then he glanced down and saw the colt lying on the ground and realized he had obeyed without even meaning to.
Then his brain kicked into gear again.
Two bullets. There are two bullets left. One for me, one for this douche-bag thing in a trench coat. He just needed to distract the bastard for a minute so he could reach for the gun --
"What are you doing here?" Dean demanded, glaring at the angel. He was still on his knees between the bodies of his family, and he was suddenly aware of how seriously pathetic he must appear.
"You called me," Castiel answered, tilting his head to one side. "You were praying."
"The fuck I was," Dean answered shortly. "I don't pray. Sure as hell ain't gonna start now."
Castiel frowned, and Dean could see (with some satisfaction) that he had stumped the stupid son-of-a-bitch. Maybe the other Dean didn't have the balls to talk to angels that way. Ha. Asshole and a pussy.
"Dean, you cannot kill me with that gun," Castiel said, and Dean frowned. Fuck.
But maybe he was bluffing. Gun was supposed to be able to kill anything, right?
But now the asshole was expecting it. Dean's luck may have been with him long enough to kill the demon, but he wasn't sure he could count on it to take out the angel.
"And I cannot allow you to kill yourself," Castiel continued, and suddenly the colt was gone.
Just gone. Disappeared.
"Where -- " he started to protest, struggling to his feet. He was damned if he was gonna talk to this thing on his knees for one more minute.
"It's in a safe place," Castiel said. He was looking down at the bodies now, his face creasing into sorrow again. "Sam."
Dean felt rage rise in his throat, took a step toward the angel with his fist raised before he even knew what he was doing.
"You shut the fuck up!" he shouted. "You don't get to say his name! You get away from him! You fuckin' caused this, you and your God and your Heaven and your asshole dickwad mother-fuckin' douche-bag world -- "
Dean knew he was sputtering. Didn't care.
"I can bring him back," Castiel's quiet voice broke through Dean's angry diatribe, making him instantly fall silent.
He stared at the angel, whose eyes were still on Sam. As Dean watched in shocked silence, the angel lifted his eyes until they met Dean's, sad and soulful and endlessly blue.
Dean's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"What?" He was fighting down the hope surging in his chest with every once of strength in his body.
Castiel just looked at him, then nodded. "I can bring one of them back," he said. "I don't have the power for more than that. You will have to choose."
"What's the catch?" Dean asked skeptically, but Castiel shook his head.
"No catch," he said gently. "But only one."
"Sam," Dean said immediately, not even taking a minute to think. "Bring Sam back."
"Very well," Castiel agreed with a soft sigh, as if he had already known the answer Dean would give but was still relieved to hear it. He moved forward and knelt, touching his fingertips to Sam's forehead.
Instantly Sam's eyes flew, he took a deep, gasping breath and sat straight up, pulling deep breaths into his lungs as Dean fell to his knees beside him, grabbing onto his shoulder with one hand, the front of his jacket with the other.
Sam's eyes fluttered up to his brother's face, clear and bright and the most beautiful, beautiful things Dean had ever seen.
And his brother's voice? Yeah, definitely the most beautiful sound.
Dean's eyes filled with tears again as he ran his hands over his brother's body, checking for injuries, coming away covered with blood, pulling his shirt up so he could check the hole in his back.
It was gone. Completely. No scarring. Just like Other!Sam's smooth skin in exactly the same place --
"Sammy," Dean's hands were on his brother's face now, leaving blood on his cheeks, pulling him in till he could reach his lips, kissing and kissing the soft, warm mouth as Dean's hands clutched his hair, his shirts, held the back of his neck so he could deepen the kiss, needing to be inside and all over his brother, never to stop touching him again.
It was Sam who pulled away first, pushing Dean back gently so he could turn his head, staring at the carnage around them.
"What happened?" Sam asked, frowning as he struggled with his memories, then shoved away from Dean as he noticed their father's body.
"Dad? Dean, what the hell happened?" Sam was on his knees, bending over their father, his face collapsing into horrified grief as he ran his hands over his father's body. "What the hell happened here?"
Dean took a deep breath, not letting himself take his eyes off his brother yet, overcome with relief, every other sensation muted and dull in the face of it.
"He brought you back," Dean said. "Sammy, you were dead and he brought you back. He -- "
Dean looked around, but the angel was gone.
"Who?" Sam was confused, his face twisted in shock and horror. "Who did this? Oh my god, Dean, how did this happen?" He noticed Ellen's body, Jo's, Bobby's, all the familiar faces -- all dead.
"Castiel," Dean whispered. "The angel."
Sam stared at him then, his eyes wild and full of tears.
"Castiel did this?" he clarified. "But he was our friend. On the other side, he was our friend."
Dean shook his head. "Castiel brought you back, Sam. You were dead too. Everybody was dead. And I -- "
Sam understood then. Smart boy. Despite the shock, he figured it out.
Or rather, he remembered.
Dean could see Sam's face crumbling into agonized realization, suddenly claiming the jumbled memories which had been repressed for the first moments after he awakened.
Sam lifted his haunted, desperate gaze finally, met Dean's eyes.
"I did this," Sam whispered, his voice cracking with misery.
"No, Sam," Dean spoke sharply, fiercely, willing his brother to accept his word as truth. "You did not do this. That demon did this. Crowley."
Sam shook his head, tears slipping down his cheeks.
"I trusted him," Sam said, and Dean could tell by the hurt tone in Sam's voice that he was talking about Other!Dean. "I believed him when he said he could handle Crowley. Because I knew he just wanted his brother back. He said as soon as we were through, Crowley would be on his way. Leave us alone. Crowley was just there to open the Gate."
"Yeah, well somebody got double-crossed," Dean said grimly.
Sam stared, wiped a hand across his eyes, shook his head again.
"He lied," Sam breathed. "He just lied."
"Looks like," he agreed.
It wasn't a surprise to Dean that the other Dean had lied to Sam, but Sam seemed genuinely surprised, and deeply betrayed. Bastard had clearly done a number on him, had played him for a fool, and Dean wished there was a way he could pay the bastard back. Wished he could kill him.
And while they were at it, Dean wished he could just forget about the demon blood thing. Sam so did not need to know all that. Didn't make a lick o' difference one way or the other to him, to Dean. Sam was still Sam, and he was alive and here and that was what mattered. Everything else -- they would work it out. Like they always did.
Dean wondered vaguely why Other!Sam hadn't told him about the demon blood, but then he figured Other!Sam had hoped Dean never would know, figured it would be better if he didn't know some things, like how his little brother was infected with something evil. Sure hadn't mattered for the past thirty years. Why would it make any difference now?
Maybe it wasn't even in him anymore, since Azazel died. Or maybe it was permanently dormant, since the demon that put it there was gone so it could never be triggered. Could never do any harm.
At any rate, right here, right now, there was work to do. Sad, messy, hard work.
NEXT CHAPTER - MASTERPOST