February 7th, 2015

Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side - Chapter 1

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.

Other!Sam winced.

"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-Crowbar-to-Shit Winchester!"

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.


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side


When Other!Sam got back, it was getting late, but he seemed in a little better mood. He nodded "hey," at Dean as he made his way into the bathroom to shower, and when he came out he seemed more relaxed, or at least a little less uptight, which Dean decided was maybe all he could hope for with this obviously more high-strung model of his brother.

They went over the case together, agreeing that things did not look good. Dean assured Other!Sam that his Sam might be having more luck on his side of this thing, and Other!Sam agreed reluctantly, especially after Dean mentioned that he'd checked with Bobby to be sure the old hunter hadn't unearthed anything like this "other universe portal" thing in his vast experience. He hadn't, but Other!Sam was impressed.

"Bobby's alive over here?" he blurted, making Dean wince.

It had occurred to Dean that Other!Sam's world might have a lot of differences, not least of which might be the relationship between the brothers. Not that he was looking for it, exactly, but he had already sensed a definite coolness in the way Other!Sam treated him. Irritation, annoyance -- those responses from Sam were familiar, but the total lack of any overt signs of physical affection, that was -- just off somehow. Dean was used to sparring with his brother -- friendly teasing and wrestling, both verbal and physical, were a normal part of their interaction with each other, the latter most often ending in the relieving of some sexual tension, thank god. 'Cause they sure didn't hold back when it came to that aspect of their relationship. No need to. It had been a normal part of their partnership for so long it had become a permanent part of who they were together. It was so easy and comfortable between them that they had pretty much forgotten a time when they wondered if there was something wrong with them for loving each other that way.

It was just the Winchester Way.

But not, apparently, the Other!Winchester way.

Which made Dean curious to find out what other differences there were between their lives and the lives of these weirdly repressed doppelgängers.

But when he suggested to Other!Sam that they hit a local bar and just hang out together for an evening, Other!Sam seemed genuinely surprised.

"You want me to go out to a bar with you?" he repeated, like it was the craziest thing he'd ever heard.

"Yeah," Dean nodded. "Is that so strange?"

"Yes, Dean, actually, it is," Other!Sam said, his jaw tightening and eyes pinching like he expected to be the butt of a joke.

"Well, I don't know what to tell you, Sam," Dean flung his arms out helplessly. "My Sam and I go out to bars together all the time. Best way to pick up chicks, right?"

"Yeah, I guess," Other!Sam agreed, but seemed extremely hesitant, unsure.

"Come on, Sammy," Dean coaxed. "We've been at this for hours and we've got bupkis. Definitely time for a break. I'm buyin'."

Other!Sam still seemed reluctant, but also maybe a little pleased. At least Dean imagined he saw that in the kid's face.

And after they were settled at a table in the bar with their beers Dean asked,

"So, your Dean never takes you to bars, huh?"

Other!Sam lowered his eyes, grinning bashfully, playing with the label on his bottle.

"He says I'm awkward with girls," Other!Sam said, and Dean shrugged.

"Yeah, so?" he prompted. "Awkward is cute. Girls like the shy, sensitive type. Presents a challenge."

Other!Sam peered up at Dean from under his hair, which was just about the cutest thing ever.

"He says I'm a liability," Other!Sam insisted. "He says I'm a buzz kill."

Dean frowned. "Your brother sounds like kind of an asshole," he noted, and Other!Sam grinned and lowered his eyes again.

"Nah, he's alright," Other!Sam said loyally. "He's my brother, ya know?"

Dean let out a long breath. "Yeah, I do," he agreed, taking a long swig of his beer, missing Sam suddenly.

"So what's your brother like?" Other!Sam asked. "Your Sam?"

Dean shrugged. "Obsessive, driven, loyal, brave, bad-ass." Gorgeous, hung like a horse, incredible in bed...

Other!Sam was looking at him like a drowning man, like he couldn't believe what he was hearing but couldn't get enough.

"Don't get me wrong," Dean said with a little smirk. "Kid's also sweaty, whiny, bitchy sometimes, especially when he's not getting what he needs. I have to make him eat, 'cause he forgets when he's working and then he gets really cranky. And when he's deep into something he doesn't sleep, so I gotta help him with that too." Don't say it. Don't.

Other!Sam raised his eyebrows. "You get him drunk?"

Dean gave a small laugh. "No, no. Drunk Sammy is Silly Sammy. Totally ridiculous. To be avoided at all costs."

"So -- you hit him?" Other!Sam suggested hesitantly.

Dean stared. "What? No! Just to knock him out? What are you talking about?"

Other!Sam flinched, looked down at his beer, and Dean felt his eyes widen, then narrow into a frown.

"Are you saying he hits you?" he asked, feeling anger coiling in his stomach. "Your brother hits you?"

Other!Sam shrugged. "I hit him too," he said. "We fight a lot. Relieves the tension, I guess."

Sex is healthier, Dean thought. Fewer concussions. Usually.

"Doesn't sound very brotherly," he noted grimly, liking his doppelgänger less and less.

Other!Sam shrugged again. "He's Dean," he said simply. "He likes to be in control. The boss. Big brother."

Dean felt himself blush involuntarily. If Other!Sam only knew what lay under that macho veneer...

Suddenly Dean felt an overwhelming urge to show him. Give Other!Sam a peek behind the curtain, so to speak.

Ha! What a surprise Other!Dean would get! Suddenly his Sammy could know all kinds of things he never suspected about himself. Dean could teach Other!Sam to push buttons Other!Dean didn't even know he had.

Yeah, and just how was he gonna do that? By cheating on Sam?

Yeah, not so good.

He shook his head, trying to clear it. Took another swig of beer. Other!Sam was peering at him curiously, and Dean had to hope the flush in his cheeks could be accounted for by the beer. He heard Sam's voice in his head telling him how hot he looked when he blushed, and it made him even more self-conscious.


Dean set the beer bottle down and cleared his throat.

"Yeah, don't be so sure," he said. "The whole macho thing is a little over-rated. Sometimes it's kind of a cover for something."

Other!Sam huffed a breath that almost sounded like relief. "Yeah, that's what I told him," he said. "He overcompensates. That's why everybody thinks we're gay."

Dean choked. "What?"

Other!Sam shrugged. "Nobody ever believes we're brothers," he said, shaking his head, then looking up at Dean with an expression of disbelief. "What, that doesn't happen to you guys?"

Dean shook his head.

"Never," he lied. Truth was, it just didn't matter anymore, if it ever had. "We've adopted more of a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, I guess. We don't exactly go around broadcasting that we're brothers. Simplifies things."

"Ah," Other!Sam nodded, then frowned. "But then -- So you're okay with that? With the whole gay thing, I mean."

Dean shrugged, took another sip of beer. "I figure it doesn't really apply to us," he said. "Me and Sam, we've got our own deal. Not really anybody else's business."

"Huh," Other!Sam was still frowning. "I guess I never thought of it that way."

The kid looked so lost, so overwhelmed by Dean's attention, it broke Dean's heart.

Ah, fuck it. Sam would totally understand. Will totally forgive him. This just cannot be allowed to continue.

Dean pulled a couple of bills from his pocket, threw them on the table as he stood up.

"Let's get outta here," he said.

Other!Sam rose to go too, obviously used to taking orders, and they moved together toward the door. Dean noticed Other!Sam shoot an apologetic glance at the waitress, who had been eyeing them since they came in, obviously hoping for a little attention of her own from Dean, disappointed when he clearly had eyes only for his brother.

When they reached the dark parking lot Dean didn't hesitate. Crowding Other!Sam up against the passenger side of the Impala, he only let Other!Sam take a minute to register what was happening before he grabbed the lapels of his jacket and pulled him in -- and down -- so that he could press his mouth against that open-mouthed, stupid expression on Other!Sam's lips.

Other!Sam gave a surprised grunt, his whole body tensing and going still, and Dean only held the kiss for a minute, enough to let Other!Sam feel Dean's intention pressed against his gargantuan thigh, before he let go, stepping back so he could return Other!Sam's startled gaze with a wink and a smirk.

Then he left the poor bastard to think through what the hell had just happened -- because he knew Sam, and this version of Sam would be processing, processing -- as Dean moved around to the driver's door, got in, started the car.

"You coming?" he called to Other!Sam, who was still standing next to the car with his fingers pressed to his lips.

And then Other!Sam was getting into the car, folding his long legs against the dash, deliberately not looking at Dean but sneaking glances once the car started moving, silent and thinking, thinking, thinking. Dean could practically hear the gears shifting in his Not-brother's head as he drove them the short distance to the motel, parked, got out, locked the car, threw a glance at Other!Sam across the hood, lifting his eyebrows in a look that always got his Sam going because he knew exactly what was coming.

This Sam, though, just looked wide-eyed back at him like he couldn't believe this was happening. And when they entered the motel and Other!Sam suddenly understood why there was only one bed in the room -- yeah, Sam, that's right, we always take the room with the king, get it now? -- well. that was just priceless.

And totally hot.

And really, the boy was smart, as Dean knew he would be, and it didn't take much to get him going because really, he was so on board with this he couldn't get his clothes off fast enough, ripping that pretty green shirt in the process and losing buttons all over the place. And Dean barely had time to reach for him before Other!Sam was all over him, biting and grunting and tearing off Dean's clothes. They stumbled onto the bed, arms and legs and clothes and mouths all tangled together, and it was rough and quick and they were only half-undressed before Other!Sam was grinding against him and sinking his teeth into Dean's neck and bellowing as he came in his jeans while Dean held him, just held him as he shook out his orgasm, gave a few more thrusts as he came down, then collapsed in a big, sweaty heap on top of Dean, breathing hard into his neck.

For several minutes they lay still, Dean stroking small circles across Other!Sam's bare back, until his breathing slowed and evened out and his upstairs brain came back on line. Then Other!Sam's lips pressed a gentle kiss against Dean's neck, where Dean could feel the bruise already forming, and his big hands moved down the silky skin of Dean's sides where they had rucked his tee up to his armpits in Other!Sam's desperate need to find bare skin, and Other!Sam rolled to the side, then onto his back, staring up at the ceiling with a look of bliss and shock and awe on his face that Dean knew well.

"You okay?" Dean asked.

Other!Sam barked out a shallow laugh.

"Yeah," he huffed out, then turned his head to meet Dean's gaze. "How long? You and Sam -- how long?"

Dean shrugged. "Since forever, I guess," he said. "Since you were old enough to figure out how hot I am."

Sam frowned. "I didn't go to Stanford?"

"Oh, you went," Dean nodded. "You left. Fucker."

"But I came back," Sam nodded. "I couldn't stay away. And this -- "

"Started up again, yeah," Dean nodded. "Ever since. You and me. Well, him and me."

"Fuck." Other!Sam stared up at the ceiling, processing.

"Pretty much, yeah," Dean agreed.

Other!Sam turned his head and stared at him again, drinking in Dean's features like a starving man, and Dean grinned back at him.

"He's gonna hate you for this," Other!Sam whispered. "For cheating on him. With me."

Dean pushed himself up on his elbows, then sat all the way up and pulled his tee-shirt off over his head, turning toward Other!Sam, whose eyes were growing dark again as he watched Dean undress.

"He'll get over it," Dean murmured as he leaned down to press his lips to Other!Sam's. "He'd figure we did it anyway, even if we didn't. He knows me, and I ain't very good at fasting."

"Fuck," Other!Sam murmured into Dean's mouth.

And they were off again.

* *

Later -- much later, after they had worn each other out and showered together and gone at it again and finally fallen asleep wrapped around each other, warm and naked and exhausted -- Other!Sam tracing lazy circles on Dean's chest and belly as he spooned him, pressing his lips into the tiny hairs on the back of Dean's neck until Dean laced his fingers through Other!Sam's and hugged his arm against his chest, stilling it -- Other!Sam whispered The Words, and Dean smiled.

"No, you don't, Sam," he rumbled softly. "You love him. There's a difference. I'm not him."

Other!Sam's lips pressed against Dean's neck again.

"Fuck," he whispered. "I am so fucked."

Yes, you are, Sammy, Dean thought smugly. Yes, you are.


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side - Ch. 3

Over breakfast the next morning Other!Sam asked endless questions, and Dean answered, patiently for the most part.

Things were very different between the two universes, and it seemed that Other!Sam's world had definitely got the short end of the stick.

For one thing, everybody was dead. Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Ash, Pamela, Kevin Tran -- who Dean had never even heard of but who was apparently really important to Other!Sam in that other world.


"Dad?" Other!Sam choked, wouldn't stop coughing for a full five minutes so that Dean had to grab the waitress and get him more water, slap him on the back and finally scoot into the booth next to him to hold him because he was weeping.

"Dad's alive?" Other!Sam coughed when he could finally speak again, tears streaming out of his eyes.

And yeah, Other!Sam was just as messy when he cried. Dean used up the entire pile of napkins wiping at Other!Sam's face, rubbing his big back and murmuring quietly till he calmed down.

"But what about the yellow-eyed demon?" Other!Sam asked, wide-eyed with shock.

"Dad killed him," Dean shrugged. "Years ago. Just after I picked you up from Stanford."

"So -- " Other!Sam frowned, thinking. "So you never made a deal? With the crossroads demon?"

Dean frowned. "What deal?"

"My life for forty years in Hell?"

Dean stared. What the fuck?

Other!Sam slid his hand over Dean's thigh, squeezed gently.

"Your Sam is a lucky guy," he said. "Things are really different in my world."

They covered more ground, established that there were no angels in Dean's world -- Freakin' angels, man! You gotta be kidding me! -- and no apocalypse -- Holy Shit! -- and then Other!Sam wanted to talk to Dad, so Dean called him, and Other!Sam burst into tears again as soon as he heard his father's voice, so that Dean had to take the phone away and explain to John Winchester that something weird had happened but Dean and Sam were taking care of it.

"Why'd you call, Dean?" John's deep voice was rough, demanding.

"Yeah, sorry, Dad," Dean muttered. "Sammy just needed to hear your voice. He's feeling a little homesick."

"Well, tell him to buck up and get the job done. I'm busy on a case here. I don't need you boys calling me every five minutes."

"Yes, sir," Dean nodded, heard the call end on John's side, put his phone away.

"Same old Dad," Other!Sam huffed a laugh, shaking his head. "Still an asshole."

"Sam -- " Dean started to admonish, then realized it really didn't matter.

"Come on," he said instead. "Let's get back to the motel. See if Bobby has anything for us."

* *

"So what do you guys do?" Other!Sam asked later, after talking to Bobby, who had bupkis for them but promised to call or email every hunter he could to see if anybody had ever heard of any phenomenon like the one the Winchesters had encountered. Other!Sam had taken his time talking to Bobby, obviously appreciating the chance to just talk to the old hunter. Sorta broke Dean's heart, watching him keep Bobby on the phone, just chatting, long after the central conversation was over.

They were back in the diner -- a different one -- chowing down on burgers and beer.

"What d'ya mean?" Dean asked, taking a swig of his beer and biting into his burger.

"I mean, there's no angels, demons seem to be fairly rare and garden variety bad-ass, nothing end-of-the-world scary -- so what do you guys do all the time? Just regular, run-of-the-mill hunting?"

Dean stared at him. "Uh -- yeah? We're hunters. It's what we do. Ghosts, monsters, occasional demon."

"So you and Sam -- you never -- I mean you always -- " Other!Sam stuttered, clearing uncomfortable.

Dean lifted his eyebrows. "What, Sam?" he demanded. "We never what?"

Other!Sam took a deep breath, looked into Dean's eyes with an expression of such sorrow and pain it broke Dean's heart.


"You never died?" Other!Sam whispered finally.

Dean was startled. Again. What the fuck?

"Goddamn it, Sam," he stared. "Your world is seriously fucked up. Are you saying I died? So how am I alive?"

Other!Sam shook his head. "It's complicated," he answered. "In my world, you and me -- we die and resurrect. A lot. Or enough, anyway. It sucks."

Dean was still staring. "This is some seriously fucked up shit, man," he said finally, taking another bite of his burger. "I think I need another beer."

And because Dean couldn't help himself -- his morbid curiosity got the better of him and it was his turn to ask some questions, finding out how really miserable Other!Sam's existence was in that other universe, so that he had to get out of there and take him back to the motel and just fuck his brains out so he could forget for awhile.

Because Jesus Fucking Christ Other!Sam's world just sucked egg. All that death and no sex.

And his Sam was trapped there, which sucked most of all.

"You know, you could just stay here," Dean suggested idly as they lay in the dark later, languid and warm and wrapped around each other. "Once Sam opens the portal again and gets his ass back over here, you don't have to go back."

Other!Sam snorted dismissively. "Yeah, right. I bet your Sam would just love that."

"After living in your world for a few days, he would totally understand. Maybe he can bring your Dean back here too." The thought of facing his doppelgänger was more than a little creepy, but if it meant keeping Other!Sam safe, it seemed worth it somehow.

Other!Sam ran his hand into Dean's hair, tipped his face closer so they were breathing the same air.

"I don't think he'd come," Other!Sam said softly. "He feels responsible for all the shit that's happened in our world. He'll never stop trying to fix it; that's who he is. Leaving it would feel like desertion to him."

"Yeah, I get that," Dean said after a minute, letting Other!Sam rub noses, lay soft kisses along his cheek and jaw.

"My Dean is a broken man," Other!Sam murmured. "And I love him so much it hurts."

Dean pulled Other!Sam in for a deep, long kiss. It was becoming harder to imagine losing this sadder, harder version of Sam, whose life was even more messed up than his. Dean's instinct to protect and care for Other!Sam -- and all the Sams in all the universes -- just overwhelmed him.

But the possibility of leaving his Sam in that hell-on-earth world Other!Sam came from was even worse.

Once Other!Sam was asleep, Dean slipped out of bed and into the bathroom to call Bobby.

"You know what time it is, boy?" The twang in Bobby's voice was even more pronounced when he was sleepy.

"Sorry, Bobby," Dean muttered. "I couldn't sleep. Wondering if you found anything."

"Well, considering the last time you called was only two freakin' hours ago -- No, Genius, I've turned up exactly two-thousand-fifty-six-million tons of stinking, smelly nothin', got it? Exactly the same as two hours ago. So leave me alone for awhile, will ya?"

"OK, Bobby. I hear ya." Dean couldn't help sounding defeated.

Bobby sighed.

"Oh for god's sake," Bobby growled, but his voice was softer. "I know you're missing your brother, Dean. I wish I had some magic spell that could bring him back pronto. This thing has got everybody stumped. It's like something out of Star Trek. So unless they can get a handle on it from the other side, I just don't know what we can do."

Dean sucked in a breath, tried to steady his voice.

"Okay, Bobby, I hear ya," he said again. "It's okay."

"Oh, it's definitely not okay, Dean," Bobby answered grimly. "From talking to that kid earlier, I can tell things are bad in that world. I've never heard Sam so shook up."

"Yeah, well that's because you're dead in his world," Dean said. "Everybody is. Even us, apparently, which is messed up in so many ways I can't even wrap my head around it. I can't stand thinking about Sam being there --- "

"So don't," Bobby said sharply. "He's smart. If there's a way to open that portal, get back here, Sam will find it."

Dean took a deep breath, ran his hand over his face.

"Yeah, I guess you're right, Bobby," he said finally. "I just wish it was me and not him over there."

"You can be grateful it's him and not you, Dean," Bobby reminded him. "'Cause I hate to say it, but anybody can see who's got the brains in this outfit. And you may be pretty and all, but -- "

"Okay, I got it," Dean was grinning despite himself.

"Now get some sleep," Bobby commanded, and hung up.

* *

The next day was spent interviewing the families of the missing and new arrivals from the other universe. One of them had moved away, and since Dean didn't want to leave the area in case Sam opened the portal and came back, they stayed in town to work the local angle of the case.

Two of the four formerly missing people had absolutely nothing helpful to say, although their stories sounded like something out of a Rip-Van-Winkle story. Their lives had been fairly identical on both sides of the portal. They were just high school kids who had been exploring the abandoned schoolhouse when the bright light happened. They were so scared they dropped their flashlights and ran, only to discover when they got home that things had changed, subtly. One family had a dog which had not been there before, although everyone insisted the dog had been part of the family for years. The other one had apparently been in a car accident in the past year and was supposed to have a scar that had mysteriously disappeared, according to his freaked-out mother.

The teenagers ended up going back to the schoolhouse the following week to retrieve their flashlights, and the same thing happened -- another flashing light. Only this time when they went home, their families were overjoyed to see them, insisting they had been gone for over a week, and the changes they had observed before had reversed themselves again and returned to "normal." No dog, no car accident.

The third person they interviewed was a building inspector who said he had been hired by the city to determine whether the old schoolhouse was still up to code.

Unfortunately, when he returned to the city office to file his report, no one knew who he was. Worse, his family -- two kids, a wife, house, family -- all were gone. It was if he had never existed.

It took Sam and Dean awhile to find the man, who was now homeless and alcoholic and living on the street, and his story was so sad Dean almost told him the truth, determined to get him back to his life in the other world. Other!Sam shook his head; for him it was just another fail, another instance of fucking things up and not being able to fix them.

Dean was beginning to see why Other!Sam's big back was so stooped all the time. He was a man who wore the weight of the world on his shoulders, and it didn't sit easy.

After a week had passed, the not-really-brothers went back to the schoolhouse, hoping that whatever magical event had transported the teenagers back to their world might happen on some kind of regular schedule.

By that time, Other!Sam had theorized that there might be more than one alternative universe, given the story the kids had told. And there was no telling whether this one was still directly connected to the one Sam had disappeared into.

Dean could feel himself losing hope, and he clung to Other!Sam that night with a kind of heated desperation, as if he could force Sam to return to him simply by force of will. Other!Sam held him and kissed him with extra tenderness that night, trying to provide the comfort Dean craved, somehow knowing his clumsy attempts were inadequate.

The next morning Dean announced they were going hunting.

He had found a case a couple of towns over -- vengeful spirit terrorizing employees in the basement of a public library -- and Dean insisted they take the job.

Other!Sam seemed to understand that Dean needed to work, needed to get his mind off the endless waiting and hoping, so he agreed right away and they headed out.

It felt good to get on the road again, and Dean could almost imagine it was his Sam sitting next to him in the passenger seat. He was wearing Sam's clothes, muttering occasionally about how retro Sam's taste in shirts was -- Dean had to explain that Sam had dated a fashion-designer for awhile who had custom-designed an entire wardrobe for him in his gargantuan size -- a point that seemed to shock Other!Sam.

"Sam dated a girl?"

Dean was driving single-handed, enjoying the wind taking sips along his skin as he leaned one bare arm on the open window. He glanced at Other!Sam, noting his look of surprise.

"Yeah," Dean nodded. "About two years ago. He and I were taking a little break."

Other!Sam took a breath, frowned. "I know it's none of my business, but -- I guess I just thought -- you two have so much together -- And it's not like the demon-blood addiction happened here, or Lucifer and the angel rebellion creating all the tension between us like there was in our world -- "

"Shit happens," Dean shrugged. "Sam gets moody and anxious sometimes. He just needs breaks. I've learned that if I can let him go, he comes back happier. It's just how it is with us."

Other!Sam was staring openly at him, his expression both astonished and revelatory.

"But doesn't it scare you? That he might not come back, I mean?"

Dean frowned, tightened his hand on the wheel for a minute, thinking. Then he shook his head.

"It did, at first," he admitted. "I was pretty pissed when he left for Stanford."

"But you got over it. You moved on." Other!Sam shook his head. "My Dean can't. Or won't." He huffed out a breath. "He's so afraid of losing me, he does terrible things just to keep me with him. Terrible things."

Dean frowned, suddenly not so sure he wanted to hear how dark-side Other!Dean had gone.

"I'm sure it's not as terrible as you think," he suggested gruffly. "You're just being over-sensitive."

"People die around us all the time," Other!Sam insisted. "Everyone who gets too close to us."

"It's not your fault, Sam," Dean said firmly. "I know you. You don't have an evil bone in your body."

Other!Sam huffed sardonically. "Maybe no evil bones, but I have evil blood. Or at least I did, before I got cleansed last year. Now I'm pure, I guess. Pure enough for an angel to possess."

Dean winced. This just gets weirder and weirder.

"You were possessed by an angel," Dean shook his head. "Do I even want to know?"

"Wasn't the first time," Other!Sam muttered grimly, and Dean glanced at him, noted Other!Sam's clenched jaw and brooding glare, and wished he could fix it.

"OK, time to stop for burgers," Dean announced, and Other!Sam turned his gaze on his not-brother.

"Seriously?" Other!Sam huffed, raising his eyebrows. "Dude, you and food -- sometimes I think it's just an excuse."

"Works, dun it?" Dean shrugged, hearing his own Kansas twang asserting itself, something that always made Sam smile.

After lunch they drove to a motel, booked a room where they could change into suits for their investigation. The ghost was a former custodian who had been unlucky in love with a young librarian, so it was taking its frustration out on anyone who wandered into the basement. After a routine salt-and-burn later that night, the Winchesters returned to their motel to shower and make out, pumped and grateful.

"This," Other!Sam announced when they lay tangled together.

He brushed the back of his hand along Dean's cheek gently, and Dean gazed at him expectantly.

"I mean, this is what we used to be like," Other!Sam went on. "Hunting things, saving people. Together. Simple."

"Well, I don't know about simple," Dean grunted. "Kinda dangerous sometimes. This case was pretty straight-forward, but sometimes it gets a little hairy."

"No, I know," Other!Sam nodded. "I remember. It's just -- for me, it's like going back to an earlier time in my life. Don't get me wrong, I like it. It's a helluva lot easier."

"You think this is easy?" Dean felt himself getting defensive.

"No -- it's just less complicated," Other!Sam clarified.

"I'll show you less complicated, you egotistical little bitch," Dean growled, pushing Other!Sam onto his back so he could devour his chest with his mouth.

Other!Sam couldn't speak coherently for awhile after that, which was just fine with Dean.


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side Ch. 4

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.

"Does Dad?"

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.


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side - Chapter 5

In the morning Bobby sent them to town to gather supplies while he did some research and made some calls.

When they got back, Booby was on the phone, and it was pretty clear from his side of the conversation that Other!Dean was on the other end of the call.

"Kid's so sure he's got everything under control," he muttered to Dean when he finished the call. "I need to make some more calls."

The rumble of a monster pick-up truck in the yard caught their attention, and Bobby rolled his eyes.

"Great," he muttered. "It's a goddamn Winchester family reunion."

"Dad?" Other!Sam's face registered utter shock as he recognized the sound of the truck.

Dean shrugged, almost as surprised as Other!Sam. John Winchester didn't participate in group jobs. It just wasn't his style. And he never hunted with his sons anymore. It was like he'd left that part of himself behind as soon as he'd killed the thing that had killed their mother, and that was all there was to it. Once, when Sam had gone off on one of his self-discovery binges, and Dean had been so miserable he could barely stand up, Bobby had called John and insisted he do something, and John had actually reached out to Dean. Had taken him on a hunt again like he used to do when Dean was a kid.

But it hadn't been the same, and Dean had missed Sam so much he wasn't really on his game, and although he did the job, his heart wasn't in it and John had finally called Sam and ordered his younger son to "Get your ass over here and pick up your brother."

And Sam miraculously obeyed, for once in his life.

That was the last time Dean had seen his dad.

Till now.

"We need the colt," Bobby said by way of explanation when Dean shot a questioning look at him.

"You called him?" Dean clarified, and Bobby shrugged. "Did you tell him about Sam?"

Bobby shrugged again. "Had to. He wanted to know what I needed the colt for. What was I gonna say? That I needed the antique gun that killed the thing that killed his wife for target practice?"

So Dean and Other!Sam barely had time to step out onto the porch to greet him before John was on them, pushing past Dean and grabbing Other!Sam by the lapels, throwing him against the wall of the house, then getting right up into his face and grabbing Other!Sam's jacket again, shaking him violently.

"Where's my son, you son-of-a-bitch?" he snarled, slamming Other!Sam against the house again.

"Whoa whoa -- hey, Dad, it's ok -- " Dean tried to push his way between them, and John took a step back, letting Other!Sam go.

"It's not your brother, Dean," John spat out. "That thing is some kind of freak."

Other!Sam was staring, open-mouthed, at John, and when he uttered the word "freak" Other!Sam visibly flinched.

"Hey, it's ok," Dean said again. "Sam's ok. We're getting him back. We do this thing right, we should have him back tonight. This one goes home. Good times."

John's eyes flicked to Dean for a moment, his jaw working. He gave a small nod to acknowledge Dean's words, then shifted awkwardly, fixing Other!Sam with another dark look.

"You stay the hell away from me," he snarled, his voice low and threatening, index finger raised like a pistol at Other!Sam's face.

Other!Sam raised his palms in a gesture of surrender. "No problem, man," he huffed out, finally recovered from his initial shock at seeing the man he had grieved for eight years. "I'm not your son. I get it."

"John," Bobby was in the doorway behind them, nodding at the elder Winchester, who nodded back at him in greeting.

Dean put his hand on Other!Sam's shoulder. "Come on, Sam," he murmured. "We got work to do."

* *
"Where are we going?" Other!Sam asked as they hit the highway, the Impala's comforting rumble beneath them, the road stretching out ahead of them to the southwest.

Dean shrugged. "Thought you might like to visit some more of your ghosts," he said. "We've got a few hours to kill, and I'm pretty sure it's a good idea to get as far away from Dad as we can for a little while."

"Yeah," Other!Sam took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "That was -- Weird doesn't even begin to describe what that was."

Dean nodded. "Dad's gotten a little intense in his old age," he said.

"He and Bobby get along?" Other!Sam asked.

Dean shrugged again. "Well enough, I guess," he said. "Dad doesn't get along with many people. He keeps to himself, mostly."

"Same old same old," Other!Sam said, bitterness creeping into his tone again.

They were silent for a moment, staring out at the landscape.

Then Dean couldn't stand it, so he asked, "In your world, Dad's been gone awhile, right?"

Other!Sam nodded tightly, keeping his eyes on the fields rolling by outside.

"So how did it happen?" Dean squared his shoulders, determined but filled with anxiety. Why the fuck was he doing this to himself? "He must've gone down fighting, right?"

Other!Sam said nothing for a moment, and Dean started to worry he wouldn't tell him, but finally Other!Sam turned his head and Dean could feel him looking, just looking at his profile and thinking.

Dean waited, almost started to get uncomfortable under the gaze of his not-brother, when Other!Sam sighed and turned his head away again.

"It's complicated," Other!Sam said. "But if what you want to know is, did he die a hero? Then yes, he died a hero. He died saving you."

Dean felt his insides go cold, flooded with guilt and anger and the glimmer of something dark and self-destructive.

"So -- did that happen before you died?" Dean was starting to understand why Other!Dean was such an asshole.

"About a year before, yeah," Other!Sam confirmed.

"Wow," Dean took another deep breath, fighting the knot forming in his chest. "I'm starting to get a real sense for just how personally fucked up things are in your world. I mean, monsters and ghosts and fighting things -- I get all that. But losing your family -- man, I don't know. Sounds like your Dean could use a few years in the loony bin, the poor bastard."

He meant it lightly, but Other!Sam's face registered grim, grim, grim.


But he'd opened the can of worms now, and he couldn't help himself.

"But you came back," Dean pushed. "So something brought you back. How did that happen, exactly?"

"Dean -- " Other!Sam let out an exasperated sigh.

Dean knew that sigh. That was Sam saying "Don't ask, you're not gonna like the answer."

Only this time, after hearing Other!Sam talk to his brother in angry, hushed tones on the phone last night, after getting a pretty good sense for how bad things were in that other world -- this time Dean felt like he really needed to know. He was beginning to get the idea that the other Winchesters were somehow central to the messed up situation on the other side, and that meant he and Sam were important somehow too.

He'd never considered the idea of having a destiny. It was counter-intuitive to the way that he thought of himself. He was Dean Winchester, regular guy. Well, except for the fact that he hunted monsters and saved people. Sort of like a supernatural fireman, that was how he'd come to think of himself after all these years. Charging into danger to save someone from some kind of threatening creature was a lot like charging into a burning building to haul people out.

Because of course when it had happened to him he had been too small. Too small to save his mom.

But he had at least saved his baby brother, and he'd always taken some pride in that. It gave him the confidence to get the job done, to avoid the nagging pit of self-doubt and failure his father had ingrained in him from an early age. His father, whose guilt at not being able to save his own wife had triggered a life-long psychotic break.

So things could be worse, 'cause at least Dean had Sam.

And keeping Sam safe -- the prime directive -- was a helluva lot less psychically damaging than the kind of twisted need for revenge that had driven John Winchester all those years.

"I need to know, Sam," Dean said now, darting a warning glance at his not-brother. "You and your Dean seem to be at the center of things in your world, and I need to know how that is."

"The center of things," Other!Sam scoffed. "You make it sound like some sort of hero's destiny or something, when really it's more like a curse."

"Damn it, Sam, just tell me what happened," Dean was losing patience, feeling panic rising in his chest. Something was so not right here.

Sam took a deep breath, stared out the window for a minute without answering.

"Sam," Dean started again, "Either you tell me now or I'm putting the breaks on this thing. Right now."

"You wouldn't do that," Other!Sam breathed. "You wouldn't leave Sam over there."

"He's a big boy," Dean insisted. "He can take care of himself. He's done it before. And if I decide we're not doin' this, he'll understand. He'd get it. He gets me."

Other!Sam visibly flinched at that. His face scrunched into an agony of indecision, and Dean had to fight the urge to comfort him, to offer reassurance that everything was gonna be ok.

Because he was starting to think it wasn't gonna be ok. At all.

"What the hell happened, Sam?" Dean tried again. "I heard you on the phone last night. I need to know what's going on. You owe me that."

Other!Sam darted a glance at him, his eyes full of pain.

"I'm not him, ok?" Dean said. "I deserve to know what's going on."

Other!Sam let out a sigh.

"I know you do, Dean," he said finally, his voice sad, tired. "And I don't know why I think I can make it better by not telling you, or by sugar-coating it somehow. I just wish you didn't have to know, that's all. You and Sam have a life here. It's a good life. You may not see it that way, but from where I'm standing, it looks pretty good. Pretty straight-forward."

"For two monster-hunting incestuous bachelors, I guess we do ok," Dean agreed with a shrug. "Not exactly the life I had planned for Sam, but -- "

"But it's a life he chose," Other!Sam interrupted. "It's clearly what he wants. You're not holding him back, or hanging anything over his head to make him stay with you. He wants this life. He loves you."

Dean shrugged again, noncommittal.

"I hate the thought of spoiling that, Dean," Other!Sam continued. "I can't tell you how much I hate that. You two deserve to be happy, and you obviously are happy."

"Spit it out, Sam," Dean growled, anger replacing his earlier panic. "Whatever you have to say, I can handle it. We'll deal with it, like we always have."

Other!Sam's breath hitched, and Dean resisted the urge to glance at him, spoil the moment. He knew that sound -- Other!Sam was caught. He always went for Dean's confident "It's-us-againt-the-world" and "we can get the job done if we do it together" spiel, and Dean knew it.

It only took Other!Sam another moment to spill, and Dean could feel him close his eyes and square his shoulders, take a deep breath as he gave in to his brother/not-brother.

"Dean made a deal," Other!Sam said, his voice low and intense. "With a demon. My life for his. He got one year out of it, then he went to Hell. For forty years."

Dean sucked in a breath, controlled the urge to curse. Waited.

"After the first thirty years, he started torturing souls," Other!Sam continued. "Was pretty well on his way to becoming a demon."

"A demon?" Dean couldn't stop himself. What the hell?

Other!Sam nodded. "Demons used to be human. They're human souls gone bad long enough in hell."

Shit. Fuck.

"So what happened?" Dean pursued, his hands growing slick on the steering wheel as he broke out in a cold sweat.

Other!Sam hesitated for only a moment this time, then muttered, "Oh, what the hell. An angel pulled him out."

Dean choked. "An angel?" What the fuck! "Those are real?"

"In our world, yeah," Other!Sam nodded. "Pretty sure we covered that already."

Dean was speechless. The idea of spending forty years in Hell was bad enough -- he could almost get that, imagine the experience as a kind of penance for letting his dad make a deal to save him, for letting Sam get hurt in the first place, for not protecting his family.

But being saved from Hell by an angel?

"Why?" he demanded finally. "Why did an angel pull me out of Hell?"

Other!Sam huffed out a breath.

"Why do you think, Dean?" His voice dripped bitterness and frustration.

Dean knew then. Knew the answer. Understood this was another fuck job.

As if it could be anything else.

"So the angels needed me to do something for them," he guessed hotly. "They needed somebody who had spent forty years in Hell and learned to torture and kill without remorse. Somebody who was already half-demon."

"Somebody who would do anything for his brother," Other!Sam continued, not really correcting Dean, just adding to his litany. "Somebody who was so far gone he would destroy the world to save him."

Dean faltered then, frowning. What? How did Sam have anything to do with this?

"They wanted me to destroy the world?" he tried, hesitant.

"Yeah," Other!Sam huffed. "They wanted you to bring on the fuckin' apocalypse. You and me. Because of our Winchester bloodline. We're perfect vessels for archangels, Dean. It's in our fuckin' DNA."

Dean was silent for a moment, too shocked to speak. To think. And the sick thing was, it all sounded true. Sounded right. Made sense.


"So Bobby was right," he said finally, and his voice sounded funny to himself -- hoarse and gravelly and dark. "The Winchester brothers are important after all."

Other!Sam looked at him then -- Dean could feel him staring, glanced over and saw the look of startled horror and revelation on his not-brother's face, frowned.

"What?" he demanded. "I miss something?"

"It's not you, Dean," Other!Sam said, his voice sounding wounded, pleading. "This isn't your story. None of these things have happened to you. That's why I'm telling you all this, because you can change it. You don't have to go down that road. You and your Sam -- and your dad -- you're on a different path. A better one, the way I see it. It's all happened differently for you these past eight years, and it's gonna stay that way, if I have any say in the matter. If I can keep Dean from fucking it all up for you."

Dean frowned.

"This isn't all up to you, Sam," he said gruffly. "We're gonna do this together. It's a job, simple as that, ok? We do it right, we get our brothers back. None of the rest of it matters. None of it."

Dean could feel Other!Sam's eyes on him, glanced over to catch the doubtful, pinched look he knew would be on his not-brother's face.

"I need your head in the game here, Sam," he insisted. "We've got a job to do, and I need to know you've got my back. So do you have my back on this, Sam? Can I count on you?"

When Other!Sam didn't answer, Dean glanced over again, raising his eyebrows, and Other!Sam gave a tight nod, his face a mask of misery and self-doubt that made Dean want to pull over to the side of the road and show him exactly how to take his mind off his troubles.

Unfortunately, they were running short on time.


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side - Chapter 6


They rode in silence for a long time then, Other!Sam brooding, Dean processing what he had just heard, till Dean couldn't stand it anymore and turned on the radio. Except of course out here in the middle of nowhere, Nebraska, there wasn't much in the way of decent radio -- so of course he put on Zeppelin and Other!Sam groaned and complained and Dean flashed a grin at him and drummed along on the steering wheel until Other!Sam slid down on the seat and crossed his arms across his massive chest and relaxed again, lost in the familiar, comforting sounds and smells of home.

When they pulled up to the Roadhouse it was a little after noon. Other!Sam climbed out of the car with a look of wonder on his face, and Dean clapped him on the back and led him inside, where REO Speedwagon blared from the jukebox and Ellen Harvelle stood at the bar, looking up with a smile of pure pleasure as they came inside.

"Well, look who it is," she drawled, leaving her post to cross around where she could fold them both into warm hugs.

"Hi Ellen," Other!Sam breathed as she pulled him in, squeezing his eyes shut in an obvious effort to fight back tears. He held her a minute longer than was necessary, and when he released her she pulled back to look up at him with an expression of compassion spiced with her special brand of country street-smarts that Dean always appreciated in her. She was exactly the kind of woman he could've married, if the cards had lined up right and their ages weren't so different. But instead, Ellen had Jo -- and Ash, who surprised him by turning out steadier and less geeky than he could have imagined eight years ago when he first met the mullet-headed genius.

As if he heard himself being thought about, Ash was suddenly there, his arm around his wife, and Other!Sam stared at them like he'd seen another ghost -- which Dean knew was exactly what he was seeing, from his point of view.

"Ash? and Jo?" Other!Sam breathed. "You two are together?"

Jo lifted her ring finger to show off an impressive diamond match-set. "Going on five years now," she said proudly. "And two-year-old Billy makes three." She crouched down as a little tow-headed boy ran out from behind the bar and into her arms, and Dean watched as Other!Sam's face registered the existence of a child who had never even been born in his world.

"Well, if it isn't the Winchesters," Rufus Turner's booming voice sounded behind them, and Dean turned to find his hand clasped warmly in both of Rufus's, who then turned to offer the same to Other!Sam. "Good to see you boys," Rufus noted. "I hear there's some trouble brewin' in Wyoming tonight."

Dean nodded. "You in?" he asked. "We could sure use the help."

"We're all in," Ellen noted. "Just tell us what to do."

Other!Sam was looking panicked, his eyes darting from one to the other of the faces around him, haunted.

"Uh, Dean, I don't know if that's a good idea -- " he said hesitantly. "I think maybe we should handle this one ourselves."

Dean frowned for a minute, a feeling of foreboding eroding his confidence.

Then he shook his head. "These people are good hunters, Sam," he said. "You said yourself we don't know what to expect. Bobby called these folks because he could see we could use the back up. I trust his call on that. You should too."

Other!Sam took a deep breath. "It's not that, Dean," he said. "I just don't want to put anyone else in danger."

"If there's a demon-door somewhere on this earth, Sam, we're already in danger," Ellen said. "It's only a matter of time before that thing opens on its own, and it's just one state over. Better we figure out how to stop it now, get a handle on the thing before it gets a handle on us first."

Other!Sam shook his head, but Dean could see he wasn't going to keep arguing. Nobody was listening anyway.

Word had spread quickly of a plan to kill demons. Other hunters, clearly alerted to the job and looking to join, strode up as they moved a few tables together, sat down with a bottle or two provided by Ellen, and went over the details. Dean recognized Dan Elkins, his dad's old hunting partner, as well as Isaac and Tamara Jackson. Other!Sam's haunted gaze moved from one face to the next, and Dean got a sinking feeling they were all dead in his world.


Then he pushed the feeling down firmly so he could focus on the job at hand.

"So, Sam thinks the thing we need is in a safe in your basement," Dean explained to Ellen once they were seated, a bottle of whiskey and some pretzels on the table between them.

Ellen looked from one to the other of the Winchesters, considering.

"You mean the map," she clarified, and Other!Sam nodded.

"It's a one-hundred-square mile devil's trap," Other!Sam explained. "Built by Samuel Colt. The Devil's Gate is in the center of it."

"So we just walk into this devil's trap and open the gate?" Ellen said. "Then what?"

"That's what we're not so sure about," Dean said. "We think once the gate opens, the blast of power or energy or whatever will open a temporary portal between our world and the place Sam comes from. My brother should be able to step through."

"Along with about a hundred demons," Ellen said.

"Not if we get the gate shut again fast enough," Dean said. "Sam thinks we'll have about a minute to get the gate closed again after he comes through."

"A minute. As in sixty seconds." Ellen's voice was dry, disbelieving.

Dean nodded.

"Seems like a pretty big risk for such a small return," Isaac commented. "Why should we go to all that trouble for one man? What's so special about Sam Winchester? No offense," he added, glancing at Other!Sam.

"None taken, believe me," Other!Sam breathed bitterly.

Dean felt rage building in his chest, took a minute to simmer down before answering.

"He's got valuable intel," he said, keeping his voice deadly quiet, calm. "Sam's knowledge of that other world is essential if we're gonna survive what's coming. He thinks there are breaches between our two worlds that are starting to cause things to bleed through -- demons, yeah, but other stuff too. He's spent almost two months over there, understands what we're up against. We're gonna need him if we want to stop these things from taking over this world."

Dean could feel Other!Sam's eyes on him and deliberately avoided returning the look of disbelief on his not-brother's face. Yeah, so maybe the "breach" thing was stretching it a bit, but Dean had seen enough sci-fi t.v. shows to make up all kinds of crazy shit. And he had years of experience as a liar, as Other!Sam well knew.

And that last part, at least, was true. Sam did understand that world better than anyone, present company excepted, and his knowledge of things over there would help them, especially if all those things got loose.

Isaac still looked skeptical, was still weighing the cost versus benefit of rescuing Dean's brother.

But of course it didn't really matter what Isaac thought, because one way or another, Dean was going to do this thing, even if he had to do it alone.

Which he wouldn't, since Other!Sam would be there, at least. And probably Bobby and his dad as well.

"Well I, for one, am in," Ellen announced, and several voices immediately chimed in.

"Let's kick some demon ass," Ash agreed, pumping his fist, amid a chorus of testosterone-infused "Yeah!"s and back claps for Dean and Other!Sam.

Ellen retrieved the map from the basement safe and they spread it on the table. Other!Sam drew the pentagram connecting the five frontier-era churches, then circled the location of the old cowboy cemetery in the center. Since Other!Sam was the only one who had actually been to the cemetery before, he and Dean would lead the way, and the rest of the group agreed to gather weapons and meet on the highway on the way down just after dark, which should allow them time to get to the cemetery and set demon traps before the appointed time.

While Other!Sam said his goodbyes to the visiting hunters, Dean called Bobby to give him an update. Dean watched Other!Sam's gaze linger on each of his friends in turn, drinking in their existence with a mixture of relief and sorrow as he promised to see them again soon. As usual, Ash was staying home with the baby so Jo could come along -- Dean felt some pride at the skilled hunter Jo had become over the years, thought fondly of how Jo had taken her earlier crush on him and channeled it into a serious drive to become a better hunter than either of her parents.

Good thing he hadn't let that happen, he reflected now as he watched her with her husband and child. Of course he'd been so wrapped up in Sam at the time he hadn't really paid her much attention anyway. And he couldn't remember the moment he realized her interest in him was less romantic and more sisterly, but as he watched her now she raised her eyes to his and smiled, then glanced at his not-brother, then back at him with a nod, her unspoken promise to use all the skill and natural ability Dean and her dad had inspired in her to help him get his brother back, because she trusted him.

And because she knew what his brother meant to Dean and knew she had never really had a chance against that more-than-brothers bond between the Winchesters.

"Dean," Other!Sam was calling him out of his reverie, and he jerked his head around to meet Other!Sam's eyes. "Time to get going, man."

Other!Sam's slanted hazel eyes softened for a moment as they met Dean's, and suddenly Dean wanted to gather the big guy into his arms and just hold him for awhile --

OK, time to go.

* *
The drive west was uneventful for the first hour or so.

And then it wasn't.

One minute they were barreling up the highway towards Wyoming, the next there was a man standing in the middle of the fuckin' road and Dean was slamming on the brakes and swerving and finally skidding to a stop on the shoulder, having narrowly avoided hitting the dude.

Dean was pretty sure he had already been swearing, but now that they were stopped and he was shaking and panting a little after the superhuman way he'd managed to control the car, he let out one more "What the fuck!" before turning to Other!Sam.

"You okay?"

The words were automatic, as was Other!Sam's nod and Dean's relief that Other!Sam hadn't gone through the windshield head-first.

So far, so good.

But when he glanced back at the road, expecting to see the crazy dude still standing there, he was gone.

"Where -- " he started to say, when a deep voice spoke from directly behind him and he jumped a mile.

"Hello, Dean."

Dude was in the back seat. Shitfuck!

Dean was out of the car and had his gun drawn before he could think. It was shear instinct; anything that moved that fast was a threat, a supernatural something, and that meant --

But Other!Sam wasn't moving, didn't seem to find it the least bit strange to have a guy in a trench coat suddenly appear in the car, and was in fact speaking to the creature.

"Hey, Cas."

Dean stared at Other!Sam, then at the thing in his car.

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, keeping his gun trained on the creature but guessing from Other!Sam's reaction that it wasn't a threat after all.

Although it was obviously supernatural. Nothing natural moved that fast.

"He's Castiel," Other!Sam provided helpfully. "He's an Angel of the Lord."

"He -- where -- No, we do not have those here," Dean felt panic rising in his chest, so he used his anger to help him control it. "I thought you said the angels were dicks."

Other!Sam shrugged. "Cas is the exception," he said. "He's the one who pulled Dean out of Hell."

Dean glared at Castiel again; serious blue eyes stared back at him intently.

Dude was pretty good-looking. For a dude.

"Okay," Dean nodded, frowning. "So what's he doing here?"

Suddenly the thing was gone, and in the next second it was standing right in front of him, blue eyes boring into Dean's like they could see right through to his soul.


Dean jumped back, almost shooting his baby.

Which was so not cool.

"What the hell, Sam!" he yelled at his not-brother, taking another step back from Castiel, who either had no sense of personal space or was deliberately teasing him. Either way, the thing was a menace.

"I have come to stop you from doing what you're about to do, Dean," Castiel said in his deep, gravelly voice. "You must not open the Devil's Gate."

"It's ok, Dean," Other!Sam was out of the car now, raising his hands in a calming gesture. "You can put the gun down. Castiel won't hurt you."

Other!Sam tilted his head toward the angel, raising his eyebrows.

"Right, Cas?"

"Of course I won't hurt him," Castiel confirmed with a shake of his head that was almost human. "If there's one thing I've learned from recent experience, it's how very precious human life is. Especially Winchesters'."

"Ok," Dean was still unwilling to lower his gun, although he was feeling pretty sure this creature couldn't be damaged by it. It made him feel a little more confident to pretend that it could, was all.

"So what do you want?" he demanded, trying to sound tougher than he felt.

"Cas, how are you even here?" Other!Sam was rounding the front of the car to stand behind Dean, facing Castiel, and Dean shifted his feet into a protective stance, guarding his not-brother, which somehow made him feel more confident.

Which was probably why Other!Sam was doing it.

"I slipped in through the portal in space," Castiel said. "Did Sam not tell you?"

'Tell us what?" Dean demanded, starting only a little as he felt Other!Sam's hand on his shoulder, felt his muscles relaxing under the comforting touch.

Castiel exchanged a glance with Other!Sam and Dean felt Other!Sam's hand move gently down his arm until his hand was covering Dean's.

"Put the gun down, Dean," Other!Sam breathed into his ear, and Dean shot one more threatening look at the angel-thing before complying. He felt more exposed, too vulnerable under the scrutiny of those blue, blue eyes, wondered briefly if Other!Dean and Castiel ever --

Wow. His mind did not just go there.

Dropping his eyes and clearing his throat, he shifted deliberately away from Other!Sam, still holding his gun loosely in his grip, but pointed at the ground now.

"Ok, so you're friends with an angel," he muttered, nodding his head toward Other!Sam and still not looking back at those intense blue eyes. "You have a monster -- a supernatural creature -- for a friend." He shook his head. "This is not the way Dad raised us."

His eyes flicked up to meet Other!Sam's. His not-brother was looking back at him sympathetically, just waiting for him to absorb the truth.

"This is weird for me, man," Dean huffed out the words, and Other!Sam nodded.

"I know, Dean," Other!Sam gave him a tentative smile. "It's ok. Castiel's one of the good guys. You can trust him."

Dean felt panic rise again, shot a glance at the angel-thing and its damn eyes, shook his head vehemently.

"I don't know if I'm ready for that," he muttered. "I can not shoot him, though, I guess."

Castiel shifted, lifted its chin, huffed out a breath. Sounded a little exasperated. Sounded almost human.

"Sam, we don't have time for this," Castiel said impatiently.

Impatiently? Angel things could be impatient?

"You need to make him understand," Castiel tried again, speaking to Other!Sam and gesturing at Dean. "He obviously trusts you. What Dean and Crowley have planned will cause the end of this world. You can't let them do that, Sam."

Other!Sam looked agitated suddenly, frowning and clenching his fists.

"Can't you talk to him, Cas? Tell him to stop what he's doing?" Other!Sam asked, and Dean had that odd feeling again -- that Castiel and the other Dean were --

Castiel looked uncomfortable, lowered his eyes.

"He doesn't listen to me," the angel said, sounding almost miserable. "All he thinks about is getting you back, Sam. Whatever it takes."

Dean didn't so much not enjoy being talked about as if he wasn't there, as listening to Other!Sam and this angel thing talk about his doppelgänger as if Dean wasn't there.

This was so messed up.

"Hey, I'm right here," Dean tried. "I get that the other Dean wants his brother back. I'm the same way. So you better start explaining if you think I'd put a stop to something that does that. 'Cause from where I'm standing, I gotta say I agree with this Sam's brother, for once. We gotta do this. Gotta put things right and get our Sams back where they belong."

Other!Sam stared at him, and Dean didn't look but he was pretty sure the angel was staring at him too.

"What? Did I sprout horns or something? How can you think I wouldn't do whatever it took to get you back, Sam? If you were stranded in some other place and I found a way to get you out, yeah, I'd do it. Whatever the risks."

Other!Sam licked his lips, exchanged a look with Castiel.

And then Dean had to look too, because the angel thing was -- flickering. It was like he was there, but he wasn't there.

"Cas?" Other!Sam noticed it too, looked worried. "What's happening? You're fading."

Castiel looked up, then back at them, his expression even more intense than before.

"I don't have long," he said, and his voice sounded suddenly far away, then closer again. "The earth is moving and the portal is going out of range. I can't stay here."

He seemed to flicker again, and this time when he spoke his voice was thinner, as if it came down a long tunnel.

"You have to stop it, Dean," he said. "You're the only one who can."

Another flicker, then Castiel was gone.

Dean and Other!Sam stared at the space where the angel had been, then reflexively looked around to see if he would reappear, but after a minute or two they gave up and turned to each other.

Other!Sam's face was a mask of doubt and uncertainty.

"Ok, then," he said finally. "Now we know."

Dean stared at him, feeling his defenses rise.

"Now we know what, Sam?" he demanded, spreading his arms in a questioning gesture, his right hand still gripping his gun. "You believe that douche-bag? Huh? We just had a visit from a goddamn angel who told us the world is ending and you believe that shit?"

Other!Sam sighed. "Yeah, Dean, I do. I know Castiel. He isn't just any angel. He's our friend in the other world. He's saved us more times than I can count. Saved Dean, saved me. And if he says this thing we're doing is gonna destroy this world then yeah, I believe him."

"He's a goddamn angel, Sam," Dean insisted. "He's a supernatural thing. Things lie. They all lie."

Other!Sam took a deep breath. "I know it's hard for you to believe, Dean, but not all supernatural creatures are bad. There are some -- this one particularly -- who have actually helped us."

Dean shook his head. "No, no, no. They only help you if it gets them something. Then they fuck you up. This guy -- this angel -- he's got an agenda, man. He needs you only as long as he can use you. That's what this is. That's all this is. Sam, I can't believe you would fall for this."

Besides, he's clearly fucking your brother.

Other!Sam was shaking his head. "You're just gonna have to trust me on this, Dean," he said.

"Trust you?" Dean was determined not to lose it, but it was taking real effort. "You and your brother are in cahoots with supernatural monsters and you want me to trust you."

Dean shook his head, scrubbed his free hand across his face.

"I should probably just shoot you," he muttered, but of course Other!Sam knew he wouldn't. Couldn't.

But he had to know, because his brain was demanding that he know, despite what his heart was telling him.

"You said you went to Hell, Sam," Dean said. "Does that make you a demon? Have I been sleeping with a demon?"

Even as he said it, his guts clenched painfully and he stared up into Other!Sam's eyes, daring him to lie.

But Other!Sam's gaze flicked away, then closed tight as he lowered his head, jaw clenching. Dean felt the ground give way under him and he almost sank to his knees right there in the dirt.

"Sam?" his voice sounded pleading, even to his own ears.

Other!Sam opened his eyes, glanced at him, then away again.

"No, Dean," he breathed out. "I'm not a demon."

"OK, so what then?" Dean pressed. "What's happened to you these past eight years? 'Cause you are definitely not the Sam I know. You've changed. My Sam would never be friends with something supernatural. My Sam would never make deals with demons or be besties with an angel or go to Hell and come back -- come back with all his wounds healed and -- "

"I'm not him, Dean," Other!Sam broke in, catching Dean's eye. "I'm not your brother. And anyway, how do you know he never had a friend who was supernatural? Did you ever ask him?"

Dean stared, felt his mouth drop open in shock.

"You're kidding, right?" he demanded, but the look on Other!Sam's face gave him all the answer he needed.


"Stupid, selfish, sentimental -- " he muttered, still reeling at the thought of his brother actually befriending one of the evil sons-o-bitches they hunted, but realizing at the same time that it made a kind of sense. Sam had always been a sucker for sob stories, and those evil things that haunted their hunts were definitely the sorriest dumb-asses on God's green earth.

Which begged the question.

"So if there's angels, does that mean -- " Dean was pretty sure of the answer, but he had to ask. And he could tell by the way Other!Sam lowered his eyes and shifted uncomfortably, that he hadn't needed to.

"Didn't think so," Dean answered himself before Other!Sam could beat him to it.

"Dean," Other!Sam's voice was soft, and the eyes he raised to Dean's face were filled with compassion. "We don't know, ok? We just don't know. Doesn't mean He doesn't exist. In fact, some of the stuff that's happened -- sometimes we think -- I mean, the main thing is there's been no proof He doesn't exist, despite all we've learned and seen and done."

Dean stared at his not-brother, riveted, torn between the need to hear more about a world where God might exist and the urge to mock Other!Sam's misplaced faith.

Other!Sam's lips tipped up into a tiny smile, reading the skepticism and desperation in Dean's face.

"There's Heaven, Dean," he said gently. "We've been there."

Dean frowned, pursed his lips, suddenly noticed his gun was still in his hand.

"'Course you have," he muttered as he clicked the safety back on and tucked the gun back into his pocket. "If there's Hell, there's gotta be Heaven. And angels. Makes perfect sense. All of it."

Other!Sam sighed. "Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, back to before all of it, and just start fresh." He pushed his hands through his hair and shifted his weight, staring out across the hood of the car at the barren landscape.

"When I'm with you, I can almost believe none of it happened," Other!Sam continued, turning his warm hazel gaze on his not-brother. "You may think I'm nothing like your Sam, and I get that. I'm not. But you -- you are the brother I looked up to when I was growing up. You have his courage, and his strength, and his certainty. You're the Dean I knew before all the bad stuff happened. And I -- I really loved that guy."

Dean looked away uncomfortably.

"Bad stuff happened, Sam," he insisted gruffly. "Mom died. We lost our home. Grew up in the life, moving around, hustling -- Bad stuff."

Other!Sam shook his head. "I just wish I'd known how good we had it," he said. "I wish I could've appreciated it more. Wish I could've appreciated you more. You and Dad. 'Cause it just wasn't that bad, Dean. We had each other, we had fun together. Our life was simple and straightforward and it had purpose. We saved people, did good things. And now you and your brother have been doing that for the past eight years while me and Dean have been falling apart and wrecking things and destroying everything we touch -- "

He put his head down, shifted again with one hand on his hip, rubbing the back of his neck with the other.

Dean watched him, fascinated. No one had ever envied their life before, but after all the revelations of the past twenty-four hours, he was beginning to see things from Other!Sam's point of view. And he had to agree; there was a certain simplicity in what they did. In how they lived. And after almost nine years of it, day in and day out, despite the times they spent apart, Dean had to admit he felt a certain pride in what they had accomplished. It wasn't flashy or save-the-world meaningful, but it helped. He was certain of that. He and Sam had helped people. Made a difference.

It was a good thing. Almost a good life.

But Other!Sam was still staring at the dirt, still rubbing the back of his neck. And Dean couldn't stand to watch that.

"Come on." He reached out and slapped Other!Sam's arm lightly. "Let's get some food. Your blood sugar's low, that's all it is."


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side - Chapter 7

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.

Still --

"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."

Dean shrugged.

"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.


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side - Chapter 8

It took several hours to build the pyre and burn the bodies. Luckily, they were so far from anywhere that the smoke wouldn't be a problem, and the physical labor kept them from thinking too much.

They called Ash, explained what had happened, listening to his stunned silence, waited to burn Ellen and Jo until he arrived, left their bodies for last until Ash was able to be there. While they watched and waited for the pyre to burn they made rough plans for hunting the escaped demons, focused on the job at hand. Anything to avoid the crushing grief that threatened to cripple them.

When the fire was nothing but smoking embers Sam finally changed his bloody shirts and climbed into the passenger seat of the Impala next to his brother. Ash offered to let them stay at the Roadhouse as long as they wanted, but they declined, preferring to hit the road and start hunting the things that were killing everyone they had ever loved. They didn't bother going back to Bobby's house either, probably wouldn't for a long time. Ash promised to bring some hunters down later to retrieve the cars and trucks parked along the old cemetery road.

Ash didn't hug them goodbye, and they could see by the hollowed-out look in his eyes that it would be a long time before he could stand to see them again. They understood, said their goodbyes, took off across Nebraska towards Kansas.

* *

The next night they holed up in the crappiest, most flea-bitten rat-trap they could find -- the kind of place that suited their mood when they were feeling particularly penitent and in need of some excess self-flagellation. Having shared a bottle of Jack to ease the pain in their guts and hopefully stave off some nightmares (if they were drunk enough they might be able to forget ALL THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILY JUST GOT KILLED IN FRONT OF THEM for a little while) they lay draped all over each other on the king-sized bed, and Dean knew he hadn't had enough to drink because he couldn't fall asleep, just kept seeing those bodies everywhere and the heavy feel of them in his arms as he lugged them up to the pyre, laying another body out gently on another blanket, rolling it up carefully, tying it up, covering another beloved face one last time --

His phone was buzzing on the bedside table, and Dean couldn't help himself. No one they cared about was still alive, so who the fuck --

Then he knew.

Gently untangling himself from Sam's sleep-heavy limbs, Dean climbed out of the bed, pulling his phone with him as he headed to the bathroom, shutting the door as softly as possible before lifting it to his ear.

"Yeah," he growled quietly into the phone.

The hitched breath on the other end of the call confirmed his guess, but he waited anyway.


Dean pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath before answering.

"Yeah, Sam, it's me," he confirmed.

"You're ok?" Other!Sam's voice was shaking, and Dean could tell he was choking back tears.

Dean felt tired suddenly. Tired and on the verge of tears. Problem was, he was all cried out, and beyond exhausted. This was not supposed to happen. And now Other!Sam was not supposed to call this way and bring it all back. He was supposed to be long gone, back in his other life, with his other brother, doing his other things that did not involve cleaning up the bodies of everyone they had ever loved and burning them in an ancient cemetery in the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming.

"Define ok," Dean breathed finally. "If you mean am I still alive, no thanks to your fuck of a brother and his asshole King of Hell pal, then yeah, Sam. I'm ok."

"Is Sam -- ?"

"Yeah, Sam's fine too," Dean snapped. "Just peachy, as a matter of fact, for a guy who's been stabbed in the back after watching his demon-possessed body slaughter everyone he ever loved in front of his eyes. Sam's fine. Thanks for asking."

Another pause, then the inevitable next question just tumbled forth, as Dean knew it would

"Did Crowley -- "

"Dead," Dean punched out. "I shot him with my magic gun. Too late to save Dad's life, or Bobby's, or Ellen's or Jo's or Rufus's or Isaac's or that kid whose name I can't even remember or about half a dozen other good people, but yeah. I killed him. So you can tell your fuck of a brother his buddy's dead. My condolences."

He took a deep breath, pushing his anger down, but all he could see was red.

"He killed Sam too," Dean continued when he could hear Other!Sam's shaky breathing, knew he was fighting back tears or maybe crying, he didn't really care. "He made a demon-possessed hunter stab my little brother in the back. I held my dying brother in my arms and he made jokes like I was somebody else. Like I was your brother."

The line was silent for a moment, then Other!Sam drew a deep, shaky breath.

"I'm sorry, Dean," he said finally. "I know it doesn't make up for -- for any of it, but I am really sorry."

"Yeah, well sorry don't cut it, Sam, and you know that," Dean growled, anger cutting through his exhaustion. "And I've kinda got my hands full here now, so if you don't mind -- now that you've satisfied your morbid curiosity -- you can just lose this number, ok? 'Cause I'm not gonna pick up if you call again, you got me?"

He let his words sink in, heard the satisfying gasp of Other!Sam's voice as he lost it on the other end, let himself imagine the handsome face all contorted and smeared with tears and snot.


"I should go," Dean muttered.

But Other!Sam had one more question.

"Sam's ok," he said, his voice thick with tears. "You said Sam's ok. What happened? How did you bring him back? Dean, please don't tell me you -- "

"No!" Dean huffed. "Hell no. No deals. No -- possessions. Just your angel. The one from the highway. He said it was a clean deal, though. Said there wasn't a catch."

Dean felt a finger of cold dread then, had to push the point.

"Right, Sam?" he demanded. "No catch, he said. Tell me right now that's not a lie."

He could almost see Other!Sam shaking his shaggy head.

"He wasn't lying," he confirmed, and Dean let out his breath, realized he'd been holding it. "If Castiel healed Sam, he won't take it back. He won't make you pay. I told you, Castiel's one of the good guys."

"Well, good for him, 'cause at this point, my brother and I are just about as far from being the good guys as we can get. So I hope he has some friends somewhere, cause we sure as hell don't, thanks to you assholes."

Dean leaned his head against the cool tile of the bathroom wall and closed his eyes.

"I mean it, Sam," he said firmly. "Don't call again. You've done enough, now just leave us alone."

But he waited, listening to Other!Sam's breathing for another moment, the urge to comfort his little brother so ingrained he couldn't just hang up on him, which is what he knew he needed to do, especially since Other!Sam was still crying softly and couldn't seem to get it together enough to end the call.

Finally the call cut out on its own, as Dean knew it would do eventually when whatever link they had between their worlds was severed by the earth's rotation or whatever.

He finished in the bathroom and turned out the light, crossed back to the bed and slipped as quietly as he could under the covers, but he knew Sam was awake, on his side staring at him in the dark.

"You fucked him," he said softly when Dean turned his head to meet the gleaming hazel eyes in the gloom. Sam's eyes looked dark, unreadable


Dean closed his eyes, turned his head away.

"It's not what you think," he muttered lamely. "You were gone. I didn't know if I'd ever see you again."

Sam huffed out a breath. "How long was I gone before you started fucking him?"

Dean felt the heat rise in his cheeks, across his chest. He opened his eyes and glanced at his brother, who hadn't moved and was still staring at him, still with that dark, impenetrable look.

"How long, Dean?" Sam pressed, his voice still quiet, intense but not outright angry. Yet.


"Dean?" Fucker was not giving up.

"Almost twelve hours, ok?" he said in a rush. "It was still ten o'clock in the morning when you disappeared. We looked for you, then we went back to the motel for research, worked our asses off, man! OK? He's just like you. Very focused."

"So you got him drunk first," Sam clarified.

Dean stared at his brother for another moment, then turned away and sat up.

"I'm gonna sleep on the couch," he announced. He felt Sam's eyes on his back and made a show of throwing himself down on the small sofa, crossing his legs and arms and shifting around petulantly, trying to get comfortable. When he could finally lie still without something poking into his back and threatening to twist his head off he heard his brother shifting in the big bed, spreading himself out and then pulled the covers up. The stillness in the room had become almost deafening when Dean heard his brother mutter.


Dean felt his chest unclench then, felt his face relax, knowing that he might have to sleep alone for awhile, and Sam would keep the penance going even after they were sharing the bed again, but eventually he would let it go, like he always did.

Also because it was Dean's turn, since he hadn't transgressed in years (in fact, he could barely remember the last time he had even thought about somebody else, and that was just twisted) while Sam had gone off with Miss My-Dresses-Are-Upside-Down-And-You-Like-It for several months last year and it had nearly destroyed Dean and Sam really still owed him on that one.

So yeah, just like he had told Other!Sam when he started the thing between them, Sam would come around.

Probably sooner rather than later, judging by the little breathy noises he was making in his sleep.

Huh. Little shit got off on the idea of Dean fucking somebody else. Store that one up to use later, he thought caustically.


* *
It took Sam less than twenty-four hours to cave.

When they were ready for bed the next night Sam yanked the blankets down and scooted over to make room.

"You sure?" Dean raised an eyebrow.

Sam huffed out a breath and turned over so his back was to Dean and said nothing, but the invitation was clear. Which was a good thing because this motel had no couch and Dean did not look forward to lying down on the dubious indoor-outdoor carpeting, although he had done worse things.

Once they were settled on the bed, both on their sides turned away from each other, carefully not touching, and Dean was finally feeling sleep creeping into his tired muscles (aching from last night's cramped doze on the lumpy couch) Sam said,

"Was he good?"

Aw damn. He had to ask.

"Sam -- " Dean warned, but Sam was turning over, facing him.

"Was he?" he insisted, and Dean rolled onto his back reluctantly, turned his head so he could face those slanted hazel eyes.

"You were gone, Sam," Dean said again. "I was worried sick about you."

"So you cheated," Sam accused.

Dean sighed. "We shouldn't be talking about this."

"We have to talk about this, Dean," Sam insisted. "You cheated on me. With my own doppelgänger. Do you even know how kinky that sounds?"

Dean took a deep breath. "I don't know what you want me to say, Sam."

"Just answer the question, Dean," Sam said through gritted teeth. "Was he good?"

Dean cleared his throat. "The sex was ok," he said finally. "Nothin' great. He cried a lot. Missed his brother. Dude's got some serious issues on that front."

Sam's eyes filmed over and lowered. He sucked in a breath, then turned onto his back, stared at the ceiling. Dean lay still, waiting, knowing Sam well enough to let him process quietly for awhile.

Finally, Sam gave a little nod, turned his head to look at his brother again, his face a little more relaxed now, less tense.

"Yeah, that brother of his is something, all right," Sam agreed. "Like you all Vader-ed out. Not quite dark side, but definitely going there. You know they don't -- "

"Yeah, I got that," Dean grunted. "I got the sense that's half the problem right there."

Sam frowned. "Dude's on a hair-trigger fuse. Doesn't even like to be touched. One time we rubbed shoulders accidentally and he almost whaled on me."

Dean grit his teeth, his chest flooding with impotent rage. The need to punish Other!Dean was overwhelming. And useless. It left him seething.

Sam was shaking his head. "I still can't get over you hitting on him. What was that?"

Dean couldn't answer. He didn't exactly understand it himself. He stared helplessly at Sam, who was still waiting for a response, so he finally said the only thing he could think of.

"He smelled like you, man. His hair, his skin. He felt like you when I touched him. Tasted like you."

Dean took a deep breath, looked away. "And he needed me. He was broken and hurting and -- he needed me. You, all needy and sad and in pain -- not something I can just walk away from. It ain't in me."

He looked up to see how Sam was taking it, found Sam gazing at him with an odd mixture of bemused revelation, like he understood but couldn't quite believe what he was hearing.

Dean shrugged. "He was you, Sam," he said. "Except you with a whole mess of misery inside. I had to do something. I just had to." He cleared his throat again, looked away. "When we -- you know. He seemed so -- so grateful. Pretty sad I guess."

Sam stared at him, wincing only briefly, searching his eyes in the gloom. When Sam's eyes dropped to his mouth, Dean looked away uncomfortably., feeling the heat creep into his cheeks. He didn't want to read the signals wrong, but when Sam looked at him like that it usually meant --

Dean felt the bed sink as Sam suddenly moved closer, right up against him, hovering over him. He looked up, startled, as Sam's huge, warm hand cupped his cheek. His lips parted as Sam slid his thumb over the bottom one, the look on his face soft and fond.

"You -- " Sam breathed. "You don't even know how amazing you are."

Dean looked away, embarrassed, shifting uncomfortably under Sam's weight, his fingers, his heated gaze.

"The other Dean, he's like something dark and empty and really, really sad," Sam said, shivering a little with the memory. "He loves his brother, but his love is like this obsession, this unhealthy addiction he can't shake. It's not even human."

Dean lifted his gaze to his brother's, drinking in the handsome face and beautiful, soulful eyes,

For the first time, he wondered if the way he loved Sam was a kind of sickness. Could have anything to do with the demon blood coursing through his veins.

And if Other!Dean had known about the blood from the beginning, would he have fought the feelings he had for Other!Sam? Would he have assumed he was bewitched or bedeviled by his brother? And if he had denied those feelings all these years, hated himself for them even though he blamed the demon blood for wanting his brother that way --

Yeah, Dean could see how years of that kind of repression and self-hatred could eat away at Other!Dean, make him literally sick inside.

Combined with forty years in Hell, of course. Powerful recipe for degradation if he ever heard one.

But Dean had not spent the past fifteen years loving his brother in secret. Sam knew exactly how he felt. Treasured and returned those feelings. And though they might have both worried about the morality of their relationship years ago, they had so long since come to terms with and accepted it, accepted each other without recrimination or regret or self-loathing -- it was woven into the very fabric of their beings. They had something special. People who observed it had even told them so, when they were sensitive enough to see it.

There was just no way this had anything to do with that demon blood thing.


Walker in pink

Break On Through to the Other Side - Chapter 9

Nevertheless, Dean found himself on the phone with Other!Sam again a week later, pacing in the parking lot while Sam was inside searching the 'net for cases of demonic possession.

"Oh, and by the way. When were you gonna tell me about the demon blood, Sam? Huh? I had to hear it from Crowley."

"Oh God," Other!Sam breathed.

"No, not Him. Definitely not Him," Dean growled. He took a deep breath, wishing -- hoping -- this was nothing, but not quite daring to believe it.

"Sam, tell me it doesn't matter," he pushed. "Tell me my brother having demon blood in his veins is not going to make him turn dark-side."

The anguished, choked sound that burst out of Other!Sam sounded like a sob.

"Fuck," Dean breathed.

"I'm sorry, Dean," Other!Sam said again. "I didn't tell you about that because I was hoping it didn't matter in your world. Your dad killed Yellow-Eyes, and nothing happened after that the way it did here, so I was thinking maybe none of those things I went through would happen for you guys."

Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. Tired, tired, tired. He was so fucking tired.

"What things, Sam?" he asked. "What do I need to watch out for? Is my brother gonna grow horns? Start killing people with his mind?"

"No, no," Other!Sam responded quickly.

"So what then? What can happen?"

Other!Sam took a deep breath. "I started having visions," he said reluctantly, like it was causing him pain to have to remember. "A few days before Jess died. Death visions. I -- I saw her die."

Dean couldn't believe what he was hearing. He already knew about that. Relief flooded him suddenly like a punch in the gut. This might be something he could handle after all.

"Sam had those too," he said out-loud now. "For almost that whole first year after I picked him up from Stanford. But they stopped as soon as the demon was dead. We figured it was connected because Dad had found other kids with psychic powers, all born about the same time. Figured the demon had been creating some kind of army."

"That's right," Sam agreed. "Azazel bled into all of us."

"Dad never mentioned the blood," Dean said. "But he must have known."

"Yeah, he knew," Other!Sam said. "But it sounds like he decided not to tell you, once he could see that Azazel's death stopped the visions."

"Your dad told you," Dean clarified.

"No," Other!Sam said, his voice still and small. "He told Dean he might have to kill me. Then he died."

"Fuck," Dean breathed.

"Yeah," Other!Sam agreed.

Dean took a deep breath, closed his eyes.

"Ok, I gotta go."

"Hey Dean?"


"How's Sam doing?"

Dean scrubbed a hand over his face, shuffled his feet.

"Yeah -- no -- he's ok," he said. "Still pretty beat up about what happened, obviously. Thinks it's his fault for not figuring out what your brother was doing."

Other!Sam huffed out a breath. "It's not his fault," he said quietly.

"Yeah, tell him that," Dean groused. "And just so we're clear, Sam, if I ever have the chance, I will kill your brother."

"Yeah, I get that," Other!Sam sighed. "Right now, I'm pretty sure he deserves it."

* *

Other!Sam called once a week for awhile. He seemed to need the contact, and Dean didn't have the heart to refuse it. Sam frowned his disapproval whenever he caught Dean talking to his doppelgänger, but he seemed to accept it when Dean assured him he drew the line at phone sex.

Until the night the poor bastard drunk-dialed him and Dean spent almost the whole night locked in the bathroom, talking Other!Sam down off the edge of some serious self-hatred.

Finally he told Other!Sam exactly what he should have told him from the beginning.

"You have to tell him, Sam. You have to tell him how you feel. This is never gonna get better otherwise."

"But I'm not -- Dean, I'm in love with you, not him," Other!Sam sobbed. "I want you."

"No, Sam, you're just confused," Dean insisted. "This was always about him. You and me -- that was just an excuse. Never would've happened if you weren't already in love with him. You know that, you stupid jackass. Now you need to man up and tell him."

"He doesn't love me like that," Other!Sam whined, sobbing softly. "He thinks it's sick. He told me so when he found out about you."

Dean felt his anger rising, clenched his jaw.

"Yeah, he would say that," he growled. "And let me tell you what's sick. Him going more than fifteen years not telling you he's in love with you because he thinks he can keep you normal somehow. Thinks he can save you from his own obsession. Thinks that even if you say you want him it's his fault for wanting you first. Thinks it makes him some kind of pedophile.

"But see the thing is, you're not a fifteen-year-old kid, Sam."

Dean was fierce, determined to get through to Other!Sam. Make him understand.

"You're a grown man who knows his own mind now. Your brother doesn't get to tell you how you feel, see. He doesn't get to control everything anymore. And let me tell you something."

Dean wasn't sure whether this would work, but he was sure gonna give it his best shot.

"He's had fifteen years to repress his feelings and it's not gonna be easy breaking through his -- dumbass Winchester stubbornness. You might have to sit on him. I mean it, Sam. SIT ON HIM. But if you do, if you really hang in there and force him to face it, you will get through to him.

"He just needs you to convince him that it's what YOU want. 'Cause in the long run, he can't say no to you. Your needs. He's programmed to give you what you want. He just has to be convinced it really is what you want. You get me?"

Other!Sam was silent, his sobbing reduced to quiet gasps and the occasional sniffle.

"Sam?" Dean used his most commanding voice. "You hear what I'm saying to you? 'Cause you gotta trust me on this. Sam?"

Sam let out a long sigh.

"I hear you," he said softly. "I'll try."

"Ok, good," Dean grunted, satisfied. "And Sam, I want you to promise me something, ok?"

Dean could sense Other!Sam's nod through the phone connection.

"You make this work, you don't call me again. OK? You've got everything you need right there. You don't need -- you don't call again after you get him to man up, ya got me?"

"Dean -- " Other!Sam's choked cry nearly broke Dean's heart.

"No," he insisted through clenched teeth. "I mean it, Sam. You get this done, you don't need me. You just gotta trust me on this, Sam. Don't let him wiggle out of this. You sit on him. Make him 'fess up. 'Cause he will, Sam. It's what he wants, ya gotta believe me. Don't give up, don't back down. He'll break, I promise you."

Other!Sam was panting, fighting back sobs again.

"You got me, Sam?" Dean pushed. "Do we have a deal?"

Other!Sam took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Dean waited, clenching his free fist and fighting with his own emotions.


Finally, Other!Sam let out a small breath, sniffed, then Dean could almost see another small nod.

"Yeah, ok. Deal."

Dean took a deep breath of his own.

"Alright then," he said. "Goodbye, Sam. Good luck."

Other!Sam said nothing, probably wouldn't, so Dean ended the call, stood holding the phone for a minute, steadying himself.

When he finally turned, Sam was standing in the doorway, arms folded, leaning against the frame, his eyes dark.

Dean flushed, looked away from that intense gaze, shuffled uncomfortably.

"It's over, Sam," Dean muttered finally, sensing that Sam wasn't about to budge, was waiting for him to make the first move.

"Yeah, I got that," Sam said, jaw working.

"He -- " Dean felt tears threatening at the back of his eyes. "He's gonna fix things with his brother."

Sam huffed out a breath. "About time," he muttered.

His voice sounded bitter, and Dean couldn't resist glancing up. "I'm gonna throw the phone away," he offered, and Sam nodded, not meeting his eyes.

"I don't know what you want me to do, Sam," Dean threw his arms wide in a gesture of helplessness.

Sam moved so fast then that Dean didn't have time to react. Suddenly Sam was just there, in his space, grabbing his shirt and pushing him up against the wall, crowding against him, in his face.

"I want you to be my brother," Sam growled, shaking him. "Mine. Nobody else's. Just mine."

Before Dean could recover, could answer, Sam's mouth crashed down on his, taking his breath away. Sam's kiss was bruising, possessive. His hands were everywhere, clutching, squeezing, claiming every inch of his body so that Dean could have no doubt as to his intention. When Sam finally tore his mouth away it was only to bury his face in Dean's neck, sucking and nipping there, claiming and marking almost brutally as his hands slipped into Dean's boxers to cup his bare ass. Dean's lips felt stung, swollen; he could taste blood. As Sam's fingers dug into the meat of his ass then slid into his crack Dean let out a deep moan, bucking up against Sam's erection as Sam's teeth sank into the crook of his neck. Dean's reaction seemed to enflame Sam; he lifted his head long enough to look at his brother's face, his eyes blown and dark, lips parted and slick, cheeks flushed -- then he attacked Dean's mouth with renewed hunger, fucking into him with his tongue, sliding a dry finger back and forth over his entrance, teasing, before pushing inside, making Dean wince. He was holding onto Sam's waist, sliding his hands under the waistband of his sweatpants to touch his warm, smooth skin, just holding on as Sam fucked him with his tongue and finger.

Then, just as suddenly as he was there, he wasn't. Dean's eyes fluttered open, missing his brother's touch instantly, blinking up at Sam, who was pulling his shirt off, reaching for Dean's. Sam's massive, muscled chest filled Dean's vision as Sam yanked his shirt up, then held his wrists against the wall over his head, still tangled in the shirt with one of Sam's huge hands holding them there as his other hand slipped down Dean's bare chest, squeezing his left pec, over his heart, sliding down over his stomach into his boxers. Sam leaned in as his hand wrapped around Dean's erection, then slipped down and cupped his balls.

"Mine," Sam whispered against Dean's mouth, squeezing gently, possessively. "Say it."

Dean shivered as Sam's clever fingers stroked the sensitive skin of his perineum, eyes slipping closed.

Sam drew back instantly, gave his balls another gentle squeeze.

"Say it!" he hissed, shaking Dean's wrists insistently.

"Yeah, ok, Sam," Dean choked out. "Yours."

"Look at me when you say it!" Sam squeezed and shook him again, and Dean's eyes flew open, stared up at his brother's dark, fierce expression, shivering uncontrollably.

"Yours, Sam," Dean agreed, voice rough with his own need. "Only yours."

* *
Later, after Sam had made it abundantly clear that yeah, Dean was his alright, and they lay thoroughly fucked out across the bed, tangled and sweaty and almost in tears with exhaustion, Sam said,

"Tomorrow we get tattoos."

Dean was too tired to do more than grunt in response.

Sam's hand slid up over his chest, over his heart, pressed a little as he said,

"Here. Anti-possession tattoos."

And all Dean could do was nod and breathe out "Okay" before he slid into sleep.

* *

Other!Sam didn't call again, although Dean found the phone on the floor of the bathroom the next morning and kept it, probably against his better judgment, but he just didn't give it much thought.

Which is pretty much the way he was functioning these days. As long as he could focus on the work -- on killing all the evil sons-of-bitches he'd let out into the world -- he could keep most of the nightmares away, control most of the grief.

It took them over a year to track down and kill the last of the demons. Without their king the demons were unorganized, stupid, and lazy. Easy pickings, really. Especially after Sam showed Dean where to find the special blade that could easily kill them, so that they didn't even need to rely on exorcisms anymore. Nevertheless, they got the matching anti-possession tattoos Sam demanded, and Sam made Dean promise he would never, ever let him be possessed again by anything, even if it meant saving his life.

And Dean agreed, since he couldn't imagine a situation where that might be necessary anyway.

After another year passed and they had found no more demons, Sam announced it was time to do a little nesting. He had done some research and found a place in Kansas, he said. Not far from their old hometown, but not too close to bring up unhappy memories either.

The Men of Letters bunker was a revelation to Dean. A home obviously designed for them, left to them by a secret society once run by their grandfather, though the man had died before they were born. Dean spent the first day just exploring the place, picking out and decorating his own room, washing out the kitchen and fixing their first meal there. Scoping out the garage and finding the perfect home for his baby.

Sam sat in the library the whole time, researching. When Dean asked him what he was doing, he admitted to looking up instances of travel between alternate universes, just to make sure what had happened to them wasn't likely to happen again.

It was a subject they rarely talked about, except the few times Sam mentioned out of the blue how he knew certain things because he had learned about them "over there." Like the bunker. The wound was still too fresh, even after two years, and except for the first few weeks of crying jags and nightmares, and those never-again-mentioned phone calls from Other!Sam, neither of them had ever brought up that night in Wyoming directly. They comforted each other when one of them needed it but never spoke about it or alluded to it much the rest of the time. Killing demons helped, and keeping their minds on their jobs and their heads in the game had always been the best antidote for grief for them, passed down from their father. And since they were pretty sure now that they had got the last of the bastards, Dean was starting to relax again, beginning to hope that things were getting back to normal. He liked to think they had started to put the whole thing behind them.

But lately Sam had been acting morbid again. The simple hunter's life had never been enough for Sam, and Dean had always worried that one day Sam would just leave, find something more satisfying. More meaningful than just chasing down monsters and ending them. Never mind the fact that they were getting older. They were both in their thirties now. Dean would be forty in just three more years. There would come a time when his reflexes just wouldn't be what they should be.

Which was what made the Men of Letters bunker so cool. With this place as a home-base the Winchesters were positioned for a second career as advisors and consultants to a whole new generation of hunters and monster-killers. It automatically put them in the position of elder-statesmen to the entire universe of supernatural-creature gankers. Like Bobby only better equipped.


And just like that, Dean's thoughts plummeted into grief again.

Funny how the littlest thought could set it off.

Bobby would've loved this place, he thought, unable to go down there once the door had been opened.

He wandered back into the library, put an open beer on the table next to his brother, who barely looked up from his books. Stood watching him for awhile, sipping his beer, till Sam finally glanced up, read his mood instantly, frowned.

"Hey," Sam said, gesturing to the chair across the table. "You're welcome to join me."

Dean shook his head.

"Nah, I think I'll just go check out the garage again," he rolled his shoulders and moved off toward the basement, determined to shake the melancholia from his bones.

He had a moment's panic as he took a shower and got ready for bed. What if Sam didn't come? What if now that they had all this space Sam would stay in his own room from now on? They would just stop co-sleeping, and gradually grow apart until they were like an old married couple that no longer shared more than a passing touch --

But just as he was about to turn out the light and slip under the covers on his side of the bed, the door opened and Sam stuck his head in.

"Hey," he said, only slightly hesitant. "My bed's a mess, so I figured -- "

Dean tried not to grin too wide. "Yeah, sure," he shrugged, patting the bed next to him. "Always welcome, Sammy."

The relief on Sam's face was classic, and Dean felt himself breathe easier, picked up a book so that he didn't embarrass Sam by staring as his brother undressed, then slid into bed next to him, pulling the blankets up around them.

Dean put the book down, reached up to turn out the light, pulled Sam into his arms, pressed his lips against his forehead as Sam snuggled into his chest, big body all warm and solid, limbs everywhere.

"Goodnight, Sam," he whispered into Sam's hair.

"Goodnight, Dean," his brother murmured against his chest.

And it may have been a long, long way from perfect, but for now, it was what they had. And it was better than a lot of things, better than it could've been.

As Dean drifted into sleep, the thought of Other!Sam and his life in that other world slid across his consciousness, and he hoped things really had worked out for his not-brother and Other!Dean, even if they didn't deserve it.

Because really, no matter how miserable things got, no matter how many stupid mistakes and choices led to death and destruction and everything fucked all-to-hell, when the Winchesters had each other there was something wild and wonderful in the world.

Even when they were too stubborn to see it.