The Long and Winding Road (amypond45) wrote,
The Long and Winding Road
amypond45

Until the Morning Comes - PART SIX

For a moment, all was darkness. But Sam barely had time to consider that he might be dead when a bright light appeared like an explosion, startling him and making him jump. Sound rushed in, too loud and chaotic for Sam to process at first, but quickly becoming distinguishable as voices, as feet walking on uncarpeted floors, as metal doors clanging. The bright light began to fade to shapes and colors, then figures and objects appeared and Sam realized he was still standing in the dinosaur room at the Natural History Museum, but everything was different.

For one, the lights were on. People milled about like they were just here on a casual sight-seeing visit, like it was a normal afternoon on a normal day. Sam turned, made brief eye-contact with a security guard standing at the door to the lobby, but there was nothing demonic about him. He was human, as were all the other people here. No demons anywhere, no sign of Azazel.

"Sam!"

Sam whirled toward the familiar voice and there was Dean, running toward him from the other side of the room. He was whole and unbloodied and very much alive, and Sam didn't even feel himself moving forward, meeting his brother halfway, bodies crashing together in a tight hug, tight enough to feel each other's hearts pounding in their chests. They held each other for so long Sam sensed the security guard growing restless. Sam turned his face into Dean's hair, breathing deep as he could feel Dean doing in his shoulder, eyes closed, shaking with relief. Then Sam had to see, and Dean must've had the same thought because their hands were moving, seeking injuries. Sam cupped Dean's head, peering down into his face where there was no sign of bruising, then Sam stepped back so he could look down at Dean's chest, laying his hand there to convince himself that Dean's wounds were gone.

Not just healed, but gone. As if they'd never existed. As if they'd never happened in the first place.

Sam touched his own torso, then pulled up his tee-shirt to find nothing but smooth, bare skin, a little more tan than usual, especially against Dean's pale hand as Dean examined the site of the wound he had stitched and dressed not one week before.

"What the hell just happened?"

Dean said it first, but Sam was thinking it, too.

"I don't know," Sam answered truthfully.

"Hey, you boys can't do that in here," the security guard called out, and Sam realized how intimate they were, practically undressing each other in their haste to be sure the other one was all right, hands all over each other's exposed skin. They weren't kissing, or even embracing at that point, but they might as well be for the way they were touching each other. It probably looked like they were feeling each other up.

Which wouldn't be far off, of course. Sam's relief was palpable, and he knew Dean's was, too, and if they'd been alone right now, with or without a bed, he felt sure they would have expressed exactly how grateful they were to be alive in the most intimate way possible.

So yeah, the security guard had the right to ask them to leave.

The lobby was full of people, families mostly, all going about the business of enjoying a day at the museum. Sam and Dean staggered out the open front doors into the almost-blinding sunlight of an early spring afternoon, holding onto each other as they stumbled down the front steps, literally dazed and confused. The scene outside was just as normal, with students lying out on the lawn, reading or just basking in the sun. Cars moved on the avenue, people walked along the sidewalks. There were no demons, no smell of sulfur, no black-eyed humans, no sign of the storm that had been raging when Sam entered the museum less than an hour before.

They found the Impala parked two blocks away, on a side-street on the way to their family home. They started walking that way by mutual agreement, without speaking a word, but when Dean saw the car he was visibly relieved.

"Ah, baby, thank God you made it," he breathed as he ran his hands over the hood, along the roof.

"Isn't this where you left her?" Sam asked as he pulled the passenger door open.

"Sam, the last thing I remember after you hit me in that motel room is waking up in the trunk of some demon's car with the stink of sulfur in my lungs and a gag in my mouth," Dean growled as he cranked the ignition.

"Sorry about that," Sam murmured, immediately contrite. He couldn't remember now why he thought it had been a good idea to leave Dean behind in the first place.

"Yeah, well, just make sure it never happens again," Dean echoed Sam's thoughts, and Sam nodded.

They decided to pretend they were on a case, starting their investigation with the new science building. None of the research assistants they spoke to had ever heard of any experiments involving children.

"Trials using kids are illegal anyway," one of them said, as if that should be obvious. All of the staff and students were human, according to Sam's spidey-sense, as Dean called Sam's ability to sense demons. The place was as clean as the rest of the campus, no sign of having been overrun by anything supernatural anywhere, no kidnapped children to rescue.

Dean wasn't quite ready to call John, and Sam respected that; he understood that it might take a while before Dean was prepared to hear John's voice again. They drove by the old house, but there were clearly people living there now. A man was mowing the lawn, a child's tricycle sat in the driveway, two boys were tossing a ball around in the yard next door. Then Dean called Bobby, who seemed surprised to hear from them.

"I thought you boys were still in California," he said, and Dean breathed out a sigh of relief.

"We heard there was some demon activity in Lawrence," Dean suggested.

"Lawrence, Kansas?" Bobby sounded surprised. "First I've heard o' that. What've ya got?"

Dean exchanged glances with Sam, who shrugged and started to chew on his bottom lip.

"Nothin', I guess," Dean said into the phone. "I guess we got nothin' after all."

"Hey, you boys might want to call your dad," Bobby said. "Bastard's been calling here looking for you, like I got you two on a leash or somethin'. Like I'm the one who's the father. Asshole. Sorry. I'm not too good with the whole absentee dad thing."

"It's okay, Bobby," Dean murmured, and Sam could see him starting to choke up so he reached for the phone, pulled it away from Dean's trembling fingers.

Bobby confirmed that John was fine, as far as he knew. Not that he cared, but that was beside the point. John Winchester hadn't disappeared. Wasn't possessed by a master demon, much less the one that had killed his wife.

They spoke another minute or two and Bobby confirmed that no demon activity had been reported anywhere in the country for years. Bobby didn't even seem to remember the demon he trapped in his basement when Sam was fifteen, or the one before that when Sam had been rescued from the warehouse fire.

It was when Bobby acted like he had no memory of that fire, in which hunters had stormed a training facility full of shape-shifters, that Sam realized things were weirder than he had thought.

Sam had to make one more call before he let another minute go by.

"Hello? Sam?" the familiar female voice rang in his ears like the clearest bell, the purest music.

"Hey, Jess," Sam choked out, his voice breaking as a lump rose in his throat and his eyes teared up.

"Sam? Are you okay?" Jessica sounded concerned, ever the sensitive, caring friend, and Sam took a deep breath, steadied himself.

Thank you, he said silently, sending out a prayer of gratitude, just in case someone was listening.

Once Sam had established that Jessica was, in fact, fine and studying for final exams in her dorm room as any normal college sophomore should be doing at this time of year, he dared to ask about Brady and discovered that he, too, was fine. Not behaving abnormally. Not possessed. Not dead.

Jessica seemed surprised when Sam asked about her family. "Everybody's fine," she insisted, bewildered. "They're looking forward to seeing you and Dean when you take me home this summer. You're still planning to do that, right?"

"Yes. Absolutely," Sam lied to mask his own confusion and relief.

Dean was anxious to get out of Lawrence at that point, since there was clearly no case for them there after all, and he wanted to put as much distance between them and this place of horror and tragedy as they possibly could. But Sam insisted they stop to make sure Missouri was okay.

She didn't seem to recognize them. It was weird, having to introduce themselves to someone Sam had thought of as a close friend for years, and she picked up on that right away.

"I'm not who you thought I'd be," she noted as she led them inside to her sitting room. "You were expecting someone else."

"Not exactly," Sam said. "It's just – this is going to sound really weird, but you kinda saved my life seven years ago."

"Well, I don't see many children in my business," Missouri said. "And seeing as how you can't be more than sixteen right now..."

"I'm nineteen," Sam corrected her.

"Actually, I think you just had your birthday, so you're twenty," Dean corrected, and Sam glanced up at the calendar on Missouri's wall. May, 2003.

"Why don't you boys tell me why you're here," Missouri suggested. "I could guess, but I'm pretty sure you already know how you feel about each other, so you're not here for advice on your love lives."

"No, ma'am," Dean shook his head. "We've got that straight."

"Well, not exactly straight..." Sam snickered, and Dean turned halfway around on the couch to stare at him.

"Did you just make a joke?" Dean asked, feigning shock. "Did I hear right? Did Sam Winchester just make a joke?"

"Shut up," Sam groused, grinning ear-to-ear because he couldn't help himself. "You're an idiot."

"Oh no, I am not letting that go," Dean bumped Sam's shoulder a little too hard, so Sam bumped him back, even harder, making Dean reach out to catch himself on the arm of the couch as Sam snickered again.

Missouri rolled her eyes and let out a long sigh. "All right, so it's not about love," she said. "Money? I'm sensing one of you has a promising future as a fancy-pants lawyer, if you play your cards right."

"Him," Dean cocked his thumb at Sam, and Missouri nodded.

"All right then, so what do you need from me? It sounds like you two have it all figured out."

Sam decided the best approach was the most direct, so he got right down to it.

"Do you think it's possible to alter reality?" he asked, throwing out the question he'd been asking himself since shortly after he and Dean left the museum. "I mean, one minute you're living a certain life, and the next minute things are different? Not everything, but maybe a few key details?"

"How do you mean, different?" Missouri looked decidedly uncomfortable suddenly.

"Well, for example, old friends don't remember you," Sam said gently. "Other friends who were – who had died, for example, are alive again."

Missouri frowned, shook her head a little as if she was trying to clear it. "That's not really what I do," she said. "What you're talking about's a little over my pay-grade. You got a question like that, seems to me you need to talk to somebody who teaches theoretical physics at the University, not some old palm-reader like me."

"You're not just a palm-reader," Sam smiled. "I know you as a powerful psychic."

Missouri shook her head vigorously, got up as if she'd just seen a ghost, busied herself clearing dishes and rubbing her hands on a towel. "I don't know what you're talking about," she muttered, eyes flicking nervously between Sam and Dean, not really looking at either of them. "I'm just a simple palm-reader. I read minds, help people with their problems, help with the occasional spirit-cleansing. Just like it says in the book." She gestured at the telephone book on her coffee-table.

Sam could see he'd pushed her too far; she looked spooked, and although Sam suspected there were things she knew, things she could sense about them that she wouldn't tell them, he understood that he couldn't demand her confidence. Missouri – his Missouri – had placed her trust in a twelve-year-old boy, had been a kind of substitute mother to him, helping him grow up and face the challenges of being a psychic and a hunter. She had helped him deal with his past, with the violation that had happened when he was a baby, with his complicated and inappropriate feelings for his brother.

This woman didn't remember any of that. She'd never done any of it, hadn't become the woman who helped raise a troubled boy whose special gifts she had long ago learned to accept. This woman looked at him with anxiety and more than a little fear. She could tell he was powerful, and it scared her. When Sam and Dean rose to go, Sam knew he couldn't give her the hug he wanted to, couldn't shower her with the love and appreciation he felt for all she had done for him. He didn't want to make her uncomfortable.

But on the front steps she reached out and touched his arm.

"You're welcome," she said, then shook her head as Sam turned to face her again. "I'm sorry I don't know what I did for you, but I can see you have a pure heart, Sam. As long as you keep that boy by your side, you're gonna be just fine."

"Yes, ma'am," Sam nodded, glancing over his shoulder at Dean.

Back in the car, Sam was silent for so long that he almost jumped when Dean put his hand on Sam's knee and squeezed.

"No more brooding, okay?" he said, and Sam blinked, then glanced at his brother's profile before turning his attention to the road in front of him. It had grown dark and Sam hadn't even noticed. "Whatever happened back there, I'm taking it as a win, okay? Just so we're clear."

Sam took a deep breath and nodded. Despite the sadness in his chest when he thought about Missouri, he knew Dean was right.

"So you think you did that?" Dean continued. "Altered reality or whatever?"

"I don't know," Sam admitted. "Maybe."

"And nobody else knows, right? Just you and me?"

"I guess," Sam sighed. "I guess it's just us."

"Huh," Dean nodded.

"So where are we headed?" Sam asked, realizing for the first time that he'd never asked. Just being in the car with Dean felt so good, so right, it didn't seem to matter where they were going.

"Home, I guess," Dean shrugged. "I mean, temporary home. Apparently I moved out to California with you after all."

Sam blinked, glanced at Dean's profile. "You did?" he said. "How do you know?"

Dean rattled the key chain in the ignition. "Apartment key," he noted. "Plus, I remember doing it."

Sam frowned. "You remember? How do you remember something that never happened?"

Dean cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck before answering. "Well obviously it did happen, Sam, since I've got the key."

Sam stared at the offending piece of metal for a moment, then shook his head. "I don't remember that," he stated flatly, tingles running up his spine. "How can you remember something I don't?"

Dean shrugged. "Same way you remember stuff I don't," he suggested. "Like you and me growing up together in the house in Lawrence."

Sam shook his head. "This is gonna make us crazy," he said.

"Agreed," Dean said quickly. "I say we stop somewhere and get drunk. Forget the whole thing."

And Sam had to admit that sounded like a pretty good idea right about now.

So they pulled into the Lazy Pines Motel because it had internet service and Sam needed to research all the differences in the timelines, just to make sure most major events had happened in the same way here. While he was working, Dean went out to find food and a liquor store and came back with enough booze to kill a small army. Sam said nothing because after what had almost happened back in Lawrence he figured Dean deserved to get just as drunk as he possibly could. And when at a certain point Dean pulled the laptop away and climbed onto Sam's lap, breath smelling like whiskey as he straddled the chair and pulled his tee-shirt off over his head, exposing his flawless pale chest, free of scars and sprinkled with freckles, Sam wasn't arguing that either.

"You sure?" Sam asked as he ran his hands up over Dean's strong back, relishing the feel of the smooth, warm skin.

"We do this all the time," Dean said. "I remember." He dipped his head and touched his lips to Sam's, sliding one hand into Sam's hair so he could hold his head the way he wanted. It felt good, and Sam hardened immediately, settled his hands on Dean's hips to pull him closer.

"What do you remember?" Sam gasped as Dean kissed across his cheek to his ear.

"Everything," Dean breathed, letting his tongue swipe along the shell of Sam's ear. "I remember growing up together, after Mom died."

"Wait, what?" The blood was rushing south pretty fast, given the way Dean was lap dancing, grinding his crotch against Sam's. But Sam was pretty sure Dean had just said something kind of important, and he probably needed to figure it out.

"Uh-huh." Dean grabbed one of Sam's hands, rubbed Sam's thumb over his own nipple and moaned wantonly. "I've got two sets of memories now, just like you."

Sam opened his mouth to ask another question and Dean kissed him, plunging his tongue inside while rubbing his nipple over Sam's hand until Sam got with the program and pinched it, making Dean gasp and pull back.

"Fuck, Sam," he breathed as he ground down on Sam's dick, the denim between them creating just enough friction to keep Sam on the edge. "Need you to fuck me."

Dean kissed him hard and deep again, grinding and undulating in Sam's lap, spreading himself open, gasping as Sam continued to roll Dean's nipple between his thumb and forefinger. Sam slid his other hand down Dean's back to his ass, sliding his long middle finger down Dean's crack, rubbing at his hole through his jeans.

"You sure?" Sam asked again when Dean came up for air, panting as he pushed back against Sam's finger.

"Oh yeah," Dean moaned as he kissed along Sam's cheek, tipped Sam's head back so he could suck and kiss Sam's neck. "Need to forget. Need you to make me forget."

Sam swallowed convulsively against the lump in his throat, moved almost to tears despite his state of near total wanton depravity. Dean nipped Sam's adam's apple, then licked it to relieve the sting. Sam tipped Dean back, holding him with one arm around his back, the other spread across his ass as he stood up, staggering only a little under Dean's weight and the awkward angle. Dean wrapped his legs around Sam's waist and kept kissing his neck as Sam carried him to the bed and laid him down on his back.

"Off," Dean growled, tugging on Sam's shirts, and Sam stood back to undress, kicking off his shoes as he removed his shirts, watching Dean as he unbuckled his belt. Dean was already barefooted and belt-less, and when he unzipped his jeans and pushed them down off his hips Sam saw that he was bare there too. Sam watched Dean fist his own dick as Sam unzipped his jeans and pushed them down, letting his swollen dick bob free.

Dean licked his lips as he stared at Sam's cock, spreading his bow legs wider in blatant invitation.

"I swear you've grown again, Sam," he smirked as he stroked himself, and Sam flushed hot with embarrassment.

"You think you can take me, big brother?" he teased, stroking himself languidly, ducking his chin so he could look up at Dean from under his bangs.

"Oh, I know I can," Dean flirted back, reaching down between his spread legs to expose his hole, making Sam gasp. "Oh yeah. We do this all the time, according to my memories. Piece o' cake."

"Oh my God," Sam moaned, gripping himself and closing his eyes against the sight that nearly put an end to the game before it had started. Dean had always been beautiful to him, but this new vulnerability was strange and exciting at the same time. Until recently, Dean had been bigger as well as older, the big brother who was always in control, always the boss, and certainly always the top in their sex lives.

But in the last two years Sam had not only grown over Dean's head height-wise; he'd built more muscle, too. And even though they'd only had sex once in the past year that Sam could remember, it had been completely different from the times before that. Dean not only didn't mind that Sam was bigger now; he seemed to get off on it.

"Come on, Sam, what are you waiting for?" Dean panted, squirming as he pushed his fingers into his ass, opening himself up dry.

"Jesus, Dean. When did you start being such a bottom?"

"Shut up!" Dean growled, working his ass furiously. "I'm still a top! I just top from the bottom now."

"Oh yeah? I'd like to see that!"

So Dean showed him. He made Sam get the lube first, though, then he pushed Sam down onto his back on the bed and kissed him senseless, working himself open the whole time, slapping Sam's hands away when he tried to help.

"You just do that thing you do with those huge paws of yours, Sasquatch," Dean insisted, then showed Sam how well he liked to be touched, caressed, and massaged everywhere, especially his nipples and his ass.

Of course, most of this was familiar to Sam; he'd always known about Dean's erogenous zones, and he'd gotten pretty good at kissing and licking in all the right places. What was new was the way Sam's hands spanning Dean's ass or his back or chest was such a turn-on for them both.

It wasn't until he was balls deep in Dean's ass, with Dean writhing and panting on top of him, lips slack and slick with Sam's spit, eyes heavy-lidded and almost black with pleasure, that Sam understood.

It shocked him, and he knew instinctively it was something he would never, ever talk about with Dean. But there it was, obvious in a way that should have made Sam sick to his stomach, but that in fact only made him love Dean more. Dean had never felt loved by his father. He'd never felt good enough. He'd been abandoned emotionally by a father too obsessed with revenge to give his son the love and attention he craved, and as a result Dean had grown up looking for his absent father in every man he met.

Including Sam, now that he was a man, or at least now that he had outgrown his brother.

It made Sam ache to think how the demon must have read Dean's mind, must have known how badly Dean craved his father's love. That Azazel had used that knowledge to take advantage of Dean in the worst possible way just made Sam wish he could go back and kill Azazel all over again. Slowly. Painfully.

"Come here." Sam reached up, pulled Dean down so he could kiss him as he thrust up into his warm body, projecting as he did the acceptance and understanding he felt for his brother, needing Dean to feel it, hoping beyond hope that it could be enough, that Sam's love could compensate for all that lost father-love, all those years of loneliness and need.

"You're mine now, Dean," Sam murmured against Dean's ear as he thrust. "All mine. Always."

He felt Dean's body tense and go still, then he shuddered and gasped as he came, warm fluid between their stomachs.

"That's it, that's it. I gotcha," Sam murmured, and then he was releasing deep inside Dean's body, almost blacking out with the intensity of it as Dean collapsed on top of him, breathing hard.

They lay still for several minutes, dozing off and on. At some point Sam pulled himself out from underneath his brother, padded to the bathroom to clean up, brought a warm washcloth for Dean. The older Winchester was still dead to the world, but when Sam scooted in next to him, pushing him over so he could gently wash him off, Dean purred contentedly. He snuggled up against Sam afterwards, letting Sam put an arm around him as Dean lay his head on Sam's chest, pressing his ear over Sam's heart.

After a few minutes Sam assumed Dean had fallen asleep, so it surprised him when Dean spoke.

"I guess we're even now," he rumbled sleepily, and Sam tightened his arm around him, squeezed his shoulder.

"How so?"

"You remember us growing up together, and now I do, too," Dean murmured, and Sam could feel him smiling against his skin.

"Huh," Sam huffed out a breath. He made a mental note to ask Dean more about his new childhood "memories," feeling vaguely sad that they apparently didn't include a normal home and parents who loved him, like Sam's did.

"Sam?" Dean's cheek vibrated against Sam's chest. It tickled.

"Yeah?"

"You're sure he's dead, right?" Dean's voice was small, despite how deep it was.

Sam opened his eyes, stared blankly into the dark for a moment, remembering the moment when everything shifted. He remembered the feeling of suffocation and death, understood now that it wasn't his death he was feeling, nor Dean's.

"Yeah," Sam said softly. "Pretty sure."

"We need to tell Dad," Dean mumbled, relief making him sleepy.

Sam was silent for a moment, considering how the news would affect John, how it would take the wind out of his sails to find out the thing he spent Sam's entire lifetime hunting was already dead, killed by the child John had distrusted so much.

"Yeah," Sam agreed. "We'll leave him a voicemail."

Dean's lips touched Sam's skin, over his heart, and he snuggled closer against Sam's side, sliding one leg between Sam's so his dick pressed tight against Sam's hip.

"Okay," he breathed, and Sam sighed contentedly. "G'nite."

Sam turned his face into the top of Dean's head and breathed in again, closing his eyes as he hugged Dean, holding him close.

Never letting him go.


**//**

They talked about it in the weeks and months that followed, so that by the time John showed up at their door that summer, looking for their help on a routine ghost-hunt, they had their story nearly straight.

In this reality, Dean had carried Sam out of the house the night of the fire that killed their mom. The boys had been raised together, on the road with their dad, training to be hunters, in pursuit of the demon that killed their mother. They were each other's everything, and falling in love wasn't even a question, although Dean had insisted they wait to consummate the sexual part of their relationship until Sam was of age.

"So you knew we were brothers from the beginning, but you let the sex happen anyway?" Sam was flabbergasted. "All this time I thought you were freaked when you found out we were brothers, and in this time-line you were okay with it because you already knew? Do you realize how fucked up that is?"

Dean shrugged. "What can I tell you, Sam? It just wasn't as big of a deal in the other reality. In this reality, I mean. Whatever. Maybe it felt more normal, you know? I never got used to thinking we weren't related first."

"Huh." No, that really didn't make better sense, but Sam figured he should probably let it go, not try to think about it too hard. Eventually, maybe he'd even learn to get used to it.

They had a lot of these conversations at first, as Sam tried to piece together the differences, all the changes. It worried him for a while that Dean had changed, too, that in fact his Dean had ceased to exist and had been replaced by this Dean who had other memories, other scars, who really belonged in this time-line.

But Dean assured him that couldn't be true because he remembered things the other way, too.

"So in this timeline, nobody knew about the psychic thing, right? And it's still there," Sam said. "I mean, it's still part of us. We must have been such freaks, growing up."

Dean shook his head and explained that Sam's ability didn't manifest in this timeline until he hit puberty.

"Although you were always a dreamer," Dean said. "We both had a lot of weird dreams and nightmares growing up. Sleeping together helped, at least until it got awkward."

"I bet," Sam rolled his eyes, and Dean shoved him.

Sam tried to imagine how isolated their early lives must've been, how lonely, but Dean shook his head violently when Sam suggested that he must've been a burden to Dean.

"You were wicked smart, Sam," Dean insisted. "Dad left us alone a lot when we were little, and I mean a lot. Having you with me instead of being all alone like I was in the other timeline, man, that was way better. You can't even imagine how good that felt."

Sometimes, Sam got frustrated because he couldn't remember something like Dean did; he would find a picture of them together as children and wrack his brain as if he could force the memory to materialize. It was a kind of disability, having a life-time memory gap, and it made him crazy at times to think of all the pieces of himself that he could never recover. Being with Dean when he was five, for example; what was that like? How had that shaped the man he had become?

But of course Sam could remember being with Dean at that age; it was just a different memory than the one Dean had. A happier one, at least for him.

Dean worried that the timelines might shift again, that Sam would leave him, maybe to go back to that other timeline. But Sam was adamant that killing Azazel had destroyed that other reality. There was no going back. He didn't know how he knew, but he was sure about that. Sometimes he feared the possibility of doing it again, though, of something happening that might push that button in his brain and shift him into yet another reality.

He didn't mention his fears to Dean, though. He knew it would take something as drastic as Dean's impending death, or maybe his own, to cause that to happen, and he planned to do everything he could to keep them safe from now on.

And anyway, even if it happened again, Sam felt sure Dean would be right there with him, and ultimately that was all that mattered to him anyway.

It was weirdest when they spent time with Bobby or their dad, who shared Dean's memories but not Sam's. But of course Bobby was used to Sam being a little "off," and Dean filled in the details if necessary when he and Bobby talked about something that had happened in the past. Nevertheless, Sam missed the Bobby he remembered, who had spoken up for him when they first brought him home, who had been a staunch supporter and from whom they learned so much growing up. Who had known about Sam and Dean and their soul-bond, with all its intimate details. And sometimes he caught Bobby looking at him a little funny, like he could tell that Sam was different, that this wasn't the Sam he knew.

John was oblivious, of course. He surfaced periodically when he needed their help on a hunt, then disappeared for days, chasing some lead he didn't share with them. So, business as usual. He was still on his quest for vengeance, and Sam might've felt sorry for him if he didn't remember exactly what kind of bastard John Winchester could be. Dean insisted they try to explain what had happened, how they had killed the thing that killed their mother, hoping maybe that knowledge would bring John some peace. But of course John didn't believe them, couldn't imagine that they could accomplish something that John had spent the last twenty years pursuing. He wanted details, and Dean wouldn't let Sam reveal his psychic power to John, which told Sam just how much Dean trusted his father, even after all they'd been through.

Sam didn't care whether or not John knew he was a psychic freak, but the story of Azazel's death really wasn't his to tell. If Dean ever wanted to explain in detail to their dad exactly how the demon had died, that was up to him, not Sam.

Which meant, of course, that John would never know.

In some ways, it didn't matter anyway. John's whole identity was so invested in his quest that he would never give it up, even if Sam and Dean could produce evidence that Azazel was dead, which they couldn't really do. Besides, the world was still full of evil creatures that needed to be stopped, and John and his boys had their work cut out for them.

Dean hadn't had visions in this timeline, and Sam was just fine with that. Dean's memories of the past few years in this timeline were hazy and dream-like, just as Sam's were when he remembered his other childhood; he remembered growing up, moving with Sam to California, spending the past two years working odd jobs while Sam was in school. But the details just wouldn't come, and they finally decided it just wasn't that important. They both knew what had really happened that day in the Natural History Museum, and if the other timeline was a little shadowy, that didn't really matter.

Sam was so relieved to find Jessica alive in this timeline that he almost hugged the life out of her the first time he saw her. When she laughed at him and asked if he'd had another weird dream, his mouth fell open in shock, which made her laugh even harder.

"Oh my God, you should see your face!" she exclaimed delightedly. "I'm kidding! Jeez, Sam! You're always so sensitive about your psychic thing, but I think it's awesome. You know I do!"

Finding out that he had revealed the family secrets to Jess in this timeline was almost as weird as learning that he and Brady hadn't had sex after all.

"Not that I didn't think about it," Brady confided one night over beers. "But you had Dean. And that dude's got muscles, man. And moves!" He leaned close and whispered, "Jessica says he's got a gun. So nuh-uh. I'm not stupid."

"So you're my one and only," Sam shook his head that night when he and Dean were alone. "No one else ever touched this."

"Hmmm," Dean grinned as he snuggled up under Sam's bare, sweaty arm. "Just the way it should be."

And Sam had to agree with that. It wasn't perfect, and their lives would never be normal, of course, but Sam and Dean were making a way for themselves. Once Sam finished his bachelor's degree he could go on to law school, eventually forging a career that could give them a fall-back when they decided to stop hunting altogether.

Or maybe not. The world was open to them, they were young and in love and free of the darkest part of their past, and for now it was enough.

Or at least it was a start.

fin

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