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Sincerely, Sam

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Sam Winchester is thirty-three years old.

Or maybe two hundred and thirty-three years old.

He doesn’t think it matters much. He feels old as shit regardless.

Too old to be dealing with British Woman of Letters who think they’re entitled to be torturing him for information.

Great, really fucking great you can defend your country which last he checked was the size of what? Oregon? Try doing fifty of them and then come back and demand information, maybe then he’ll be willing to talk.

God, he’s tired. Old and tired. Why couldn’t they just retire instead of Dean having to go blow himself up in the name of saving the planet? Being tortured gives you a lot of time to think about all the ways you and your brother could have ended the year that didn’t involve cattle prods and dying.

Mostly he misses Dean.

The rest of the time is spent giving a giant fuck you to Miss Letters, her lovely assistant, and every single one of their questions.

He wishes it would irritate them more, praying to anything that will listen that one of them will get mad and hit a little too hard, aim a little too high, stab a little too deep…

He really misses Dean.

Sam Winchester is fifteen years old.

He also has a geometry test he really has to study for in the morning but that’s been put on hold for the moment.

A werewolf hunt will do that.

“Sam! Keep up, kid! We have another five miles and I don’t need your ass pulling us back!” Dad calls from where he’s leading their small party through the forest. The moon is full and bright tonight so Sam can easily see the stern look his father shoots his way before turning back to the map a park ranger had drawn for them.

Yeah, his geometry test isn’t exactly the forethought in anyone’s mind.

“C’mon Sammy,” A stray hand brushes through his hair as Dean walks past, fingers gently massaging over his scalp before twisting the thick locks in an annoying tug. “Werewolf ain't gonna gank itself.”

‘Doesn’t mean we have to be the ones to,’ Sam thinks but manages to hold his tongue. Dean was in a good mood and as much as Sam was annoyed at having to be here he wasn’t going to put a dampener on it. Besides, he knew the only reason he was being dragged along on the hunt was because their Dad thought he was slacking on his training. He wasn’t trying to, he did everything like he was supposed to even if he whined and talked shit through most of it- it was just difficult to live up the standard when it was set by your near perfect big brother.

Sam didn’t fault Dean for it, his brother put his heart and soul to hunting and training and being an early bloomer of height and muscle he just seemed made for the tests their dad put them through. Sam… Sam wasn’t.

He’s short and skinny and the only thing that came naturally to him was running which while part of their fitness regime wasn’t what their Dad liked to focus on.

No, it was knot tying, target practice, and of course sparring.

Lots and lots of sparring.

Which in his case meant lots and lots of Dean sticking Sam’s head into his armpit and pinning him into the dirt.

So maybe he isn't as eager as Dean is, that didn’t mean he doesn't do everything their father asked of them. He shouldn’t be punished with a pointless werewolf hunt just because he can’t pin his brother who has almost a hundred pounds on him.

“Sammy quit thinking so loud.” Dean murmurs with a smile, breaking him out of his thoughts as he brushed their shoulders together, eyes soft like they only ever were for him.

“It’s Sam,” He grumbles and turns his focus back to the hunt, letting his shoulder linger slightly against Dean’s before pulling away.

Dad and Bobby were farther ahead, looking like they were arguing about something which was nothing new. The two had been arguing for the past month since they pulled into Sioux Falls and crashed at Bobby’s place. “I’m tellin you, we corner this thing it’s gonna be on us before we can reload- best case is to sneak up on it.” Bobby voices gruffly, tapping a finger at something on the map.

“No way Singer, this ain’t my first werewolf so stop acting like you’re senior on this. We corner it, we shoot it, end of story. We have the advantage of numbers so why the hell shouldn’t we use that?”
Sam and Dean both roll their eyes and share a look, knowing the men would likely be arguing about this until the literally ran straight into the wolf.

“You doing good?” Dean asks, nodding to Sam’s pockets. “How many silver bullets do you have? Remember, shoot straight for the heart, no shit anywhere else - and stay behind me.“ He looks at Sam with a raised eyebrow, his tone leaving no room for arguments.

Sam knew Dean was fine with him coming on hunts as long as their Dad followed one rule; Dean was always with him. His brother was usually quick to fall in line under their father but Sam inspires the exception. The few occasions where John tried to take him on hunts when Dean’s been gone had been met with the full force of an angry and protective big brother that not even John Winchester wanted to mess with. Sam is equal parts pleased and exasperated on the matter, it mostly depends on what exactly Dean is trying to protect him from.

Dean insisting Sam isn’t ready to hunt zombies and the two get to stay home and watch movies? Pleased.

Dean deciding Sam can’t walk home alone from school because there’s a vampire on the run in town? Exasperated.

“I know, Dean.” Sam sighs. “I know, silver bullet to the heart and stay close, I’m not an idiot.”

“Never said you were, Kiddo. Doesn’t hurts to make sure we have our bases covered.” Dean says smoothly, adjusting the hold on his rifle.

Sam shakes his head, turning back to the path as they continued their trek through the forest. Everyone thinks he can’t handle himself, that he was just good for research and that’s all. Maybe he’ll show them on this hunt, take point and kill the werewolf before anyone else could move.

Yeah okay, not likely but still he could imagine the look on his Dad’s and Dean’s face…

They continued, the occasional streak of blood on the grass letting them know they were heading in the right direction as they moved deeper into the forest.

“You’re gonna regret it Winchester, an ambushed approach is the only way this is going to work” Bobby growls after they had circled the rocky area of a mountain outcrop for the fourth time, both of the older hunters determined that this was where the den must be.

“Cornered! Cornered is going to ensure we have the upper hand!” John hisses, voice at whisper level but still managing to carry just as much bite as a full yell. Sam is content to watch the two of them, Bobby being one of the only people that could wind up his father and Sam finds it amusing to watch the two grisly hunters go at it like school girls.

“Hey, Sammy look at this.”

He turns and took the two steps closer to Dean he needed to see what his brother was looking at, moving his flashlight to point at the ground. “What?”

Dean gestures to an imprint in the dirt, Sam squinting to try and see if there was anything interesting there but found nothing. “Um, what about it?”

“Footprint, Sam. We need to work on your tracking.”

Sam rolls his eyes, “I know it’s a footprint, there’s footprints everywhere Dean. We’re in a national park.”

Dean ignores him and squats down, motioning for Sam to keep the flashlight pointed at the ground. “Yeah but this is fresh… and by where we think a werewolf is lurking around.” He frowns in concern, quickly standing up and pulling Sam over to where their Dad and Bobby were still arguing.

“Guys? I think we might have a problem.”

“Yeah? Is it Singer’s shit plan of ambushing a werewolf?”

“No sir, I’m pretty sure we have fresh human tracks around the den. Looks like a woman’s so it’s none of ours and it can’t be more than an hour.”

That quickly shuts the two men up, the possibility of the hunt also being a rescue mission adding an urgency to their plan now that lives could be at stake.

“Okay, we need to find the trail again, we can’t just wait around here for the thing to show up if it’s hunting whoever was passing through.” John starts, crossing his arms as he looked at Bobby. “You’re the the best tracker we got.”

Bobby nods and circles the rocks once more before picking up what seemed to be something large moving through foliage and gestured for them to follow and they quickly fall in line. Dean pressing firmly against Sam’s side with his hand repeatedly twitching to the left, Sam knowing he was resisting wrapping it around his shoulders as he needed both hands to steady the rifle for a clean shot.

He barely has time to laugh at his brother’s mother henning when Bobby lets out a shout of surprise, a ring of electric blue writing on the ground circling the rock formation bursting into view before disappearing once again when he stepped back.

“What in the name of-” John gaps before moving forward to where Bobby had been, the writing appearing once more before disappearing when as he yanks his hand back.

“It’s… It’s a shield of some kind.” Bobby starts, staring at where the writing had been. “Won't let us out.”

“A shield?” Dean slowly lowered his rifle and let go of where he had Sam press against his chest, both arms wrapped in front of him so he could aim his gun properly.

“No idea what that language is but the general principal seems to be like a devil’s trap.” Bobby says slowly, taking a moment to examine the grass where the writing was appearing.

“Devils trap? That’s the thing you catch demons in right?” Dean asks curiously, John giving a nod of confirmation. “That’s right. So you’re saying this is some kind of human trap, Singer?” He pauses. “… Thinking demons put this trap down?”

Sam knows from Dean that demons are extremely rare and besides the one that killed their mother their father had only ever come across one other and it had gotten away before he’d been able to do anything. The things were the darkest kind of evil, very powerful, and to be stayed far away from if you weren’t equipped to handle it. He doesn’t like the thought of one deciding to trap them in the middle of the forest on the night of a full moon.

“Shit, Dean.” Sam whispers to his brother. “We don’t have anything- holy water or bibles and I don’t know any exorcisms!”

“Hey- it’s going to be okay. We’ll be fine, we don’t even know it’s demons.” Dean murmurs, rubbing his back gently as he listens to Bobby and John talk.

“Let's not freak out over nothing,” Bobby frowns, looking over at Sam and then John. “Just said it looked like it worked like a demon trap. This could be from anything.”

“Very true, Mr. Singer.”

They turn in shock, all four men quickly raising their guns to point at the young woman in an expensive-looking pantsuit that is standing a few feet in front of them in the circle.

“I can assure you all that it is indeed not demons you need to worry about.” She smiles reassuringly, perfect white teeth glinting in the moonlight. “At least for the moment.”

“Neither is a werewolf, as all four of you fell for the ruse hook line and sinker.” She laughs airily, not bothered in the slightest that she was the only one doing so. She takes a step closer and immediately Dean tugs Sam firmly behind him, the teen not arguing as he was just as freaked out by the creepy woman. Who the hell knows if she was telling the truth? She totally could be a demon and Sam wasn’t about to go toe to toe with her.

“So sorry, I seem to have you all on edge.” She gestures casually to their guns. “Let me make this simple. I’m Amanda and you have something I want.” She crouches down slightly so she was at eye level with Sam who was stubbornly trying to see from behind Dean’s back. “You are much less impressive than I ever imagined.”

Sam scowls, forgetting his fear as it’s replaced with irritation- he’s very impressive thank you! Just because he’s currently hiding behind his big brother’s hulking frame did not deduct any points from his impressiveness scale.

“The song and dance is very exciting but why don’t you get to the explanation- or better yet let us out.” Dad growls, nodding behind them to the invisible shield. “And we sure as hell ain’t gonna give you anything but if you let us go we might not shoot you.”

Amanda lets out another laugh and rises to her feet. “You John Winchester are exactly as I thought.” She smiles pleasantly. “And no I won’t be letting you go just yet, I still need what I came for. Rest assured though I will pay you handsomely for it.”

She folds her hands business like and smiles at them in what is obviously meant to placate but only makes Dean tighten his hold on Sam and John and Bobby steady their weapons.

“I have one hundred thousand dollars in cash I am willing to give you right now.” She says seriously, tone taking on that of a business quality and a sense of detachment. Sam wonders if she got all that money from trapping people in blue circles and stealing from them. He grins slightly and makes a note to hash out with Dean the finer details of demonic highway robbery.

“All I ask in exchange is Sam Winchester.”

What.

Bobby and John look like that was the last thing they ever expected to come out of this woman’s mouth, staring at her like she has three heads while Dean snarls and holds Sam tighter.

He’s pretty sure Dean thinks everyone is out to take Sam from him though so this is probably not surprising to his paranoid big brother.

“One hundred thousand dollars. In cash. I do believe that’s a fair bargain.” She repeats, keeping her voice steady which annoys Sam even more. He’s not cattle, this isn’t an auction. For apparently dabbling in human trafficking she seems really calm about this entire ordeal and Sam decides that he hopes she is a demon because a human doing this disgusts him even more.

“What do you want from me? That’s a lot of money for some random kid.” Sam voices, sticking his head out from behind Dean despite his brother’s best efforts to push him back.

“Yes, but you are no ‘random kid’, Sam.” Amanda smiles. “We need you for something very important.”

Oh god, they’re going to kill him. She’s a cannibal and they like teenage boy flesh and Sam is going to be made into a soup because what the hell else could this creep think he was important for?

“He’s fifteen,” Dad says roughly, drawing Amanda’s eyes away from Sam. “He’s fifteen, inexperienced, and clumsy. What exactly could you be using him for?”

He’s not really mad, John didn’t say anything Sam didn’t already know himself but it’s never fun to hear your father who doubles as your trainer call you clumsy.

There’s something in the way he asks that makes Sam’s skin crawl though, the way he questions what they’ll be using him for like he already has an idea. Like he scared.

Whatever was in his tone quickly passes though and Sam’s left looking at the cold glare of his father as he tried to figure out the woman’s game. Whatever, he was probably seeing things. Dad being scared? John Winchester? They were more likely to quit hunting and settle down in the suburbs than his Dad be scared of some weirdo chick from the forest so he pushed it out of his mind. He must have been seeing things.

“I know this is a lot to take in and I promise I will answer all your questions but first I need you to come with me.” Amanda turns to the side and gestures toward the rocky formation.

Apparently, she also sensed that none of them were about to follow her.

“You really don’t have much of a choice. You come with me and we negotiate or you rot in this circle.” She adds before walking toward the rocks.

Damn it.

Dad sighs and leads the group forward, Dean looking like he wants to argue but seems to realize rotting in the forest isn’t exactly a better option. He tightens his arm that’s practically glued to Sam’s shoulders and nudges him forward, eyes narrowed as he scans for any possible trick that could try and take his brother.

They follow Amanda deeper into the rocks and turn a blind corner that drops down into what seems to be an old mine shaft.

A mine shaft.

Seriously? Does Amanda have a horror movie fetish?

Sam wants to laugh but the more he thinks about it the more his Amanda being a cannibal theory makes sense and that’s about the most sobering thought he’s had all day.

Mine shaft: 1 Sam: 0

It’s a long climb down.

Dad and Bobby are being unnaturally quiet as they walk, everyone very aware they have no idea what they’re walking into and even less prepared to handle it.

Dean’s holding Sam so tight he knows that the only way someone’s taking him away is if they slice his arm off.

It’s comforting until he remembers the growing likelihood of cannibalism being in the mix.

Finally, the tunnel they’ve been following opens up into a large room, mine carts and rails rusting along the side walls and the thick smell of wet rock and dirt in the air. It’s nice for a few seconds, the sense of claustrophobia from the cramped tunnels disappearing and there’s a slight draft of fresh air coming from one of the other shoots. Then it ends, everyone quickly noticing the figures standing against the far end of the wall and things seem to get more complicated.

“Well then, let's begin.” Amanda smiles, crossing her arms primly in front of her. “I know you think I’m being unreasonable, mysterious, or any other description you’d like to tack on-“

“A bitch.” Dean offers.

“-whatever it may be I assure you it’s simply to keep the utmost of privacy for my clients, we could not speak in the open air. You see I’m legal adviser to some important people who are in desperate need of help and you are the only ones who can provide it. Does that not appeal to you? You’re hunters, think of this like any other job.”

Bobby let out a humorless laugh, “You’re acting like you rich bastards are helpless- whatever the hell that circle was outside was incredibly powerful. If you can make something like that you ain’t in need of our help- not that we’d be givin it anyway.” He narrows his eyes slightly, looking at the shadowed figures behind Amanda. “I’m thinking one of you might be a witch.”

“I assure you, no witches among us.” Amanda smiles, “But don’t take my word for it, let me make some introductions.” She turns so they could see the three people behind her, still shadowy and look incredibly uncomfortable with the arrangement.

“Mr. and Mrs. Astor.” She gestures to the man and woman in their late sixties, standing to the side of what looked like a burlap bag in a chair. God- was the bag for him? Were they going to use it to drag him out of here? Sam curls closer into Dean’s side.

“And their assistant Bames.” The large man next to the Astor’s nods in confirmation, Sam guessing he was more bodyguard than assistant by the all-black dress code and fists the size of melons but hey, maybe he shouldn’t be stereotypical.

The giant’s fists twitched and Sam swallowed dryly, wondering if they were going to be used on him and decided he was going to stereotype all he wanted if this dude was going to be hitting him.

What the hell did these people want from him? A punching bag for their butler? Because for all the secrecy there sure didn’t seem to be a point to any of this.

“This is real great and all but why don’t you get to the fucking point and skip the introductions?” John interrupts with a snarl. “Because this doesn’t tell us anything and I’d like to get to the part where you say what the hell you want with my boy and I tell you to go to hell.”

John Winchester to the rescue.

“Right, right,” Amanda says soothingly. “Let me remind you this is all on good terms. We’ve left you your weapons as a sign of good faith though you should know if you hurt any of us you will not be getting through the shield.” She let that sink in before continuing. “I will be frank with you, the Astor’s daughter Cynthia dabbled in the darker laws of supernatural before her passing. She sold her soul to a demon.” 

Sam and Dean share a look, their knowledge of demons limited and neither had ever heard of soul bargaining before besides in old myths. Sam didn’t think it was actually possible.

One look at John and Bobby’s dark knowing frowns confirms it though, the older hunters apparently well read on it as if either had ever come across one he was pretty sure that would have been a frequently told dinner story.

“Ain’t nothing we can do for her, can’t break a demon’s pact.” Bobby says and he sounds almost apologetic making Sam wonder what exactly happens when the devil comes for your soul if Bobby seems to feel bad for these people.

“No, no, that was years ago. Long since died. Sold her soul when she was fifteen.” Amanda waves her hand dismissively. “No, she’s done her time and came back as a demon, we’ve just barely been able to track her down.”

“Wait- hold on. You’re saying that their daughter went to hell, turned into a demon, and they found her again?” John asks incredulously, “Bull. Shit. And what this has to do with Sam is even more BS.”

Amanda rolls her eyes impatiently. “You don’t have to take my word for it, we have her here.”

She gestured to Bames who picked up the chair with the burlap bag and suddenly things were starting to click into place, Sam’s eyes widening as he realized that burlap bag was shaped an awful lot like a person and seemed to be twitching as it was carried into the middle of the room.

“Sam,” Amanda smiles as she addresses him once more, Dean tugging him protectively into his chest. “Meet Cynthia.”

She undoes several chains that are locked firmly around the bag, too small to have been seen in the shadows and Sam wonders how the hell he could have missed that there was a person inside there. He reaches down to grip tightly to Dean’s wrist, having no idea what to expect when he sees a demon for the first time.

The chains drop to the floor loudly, startling everyone with how thick the tension in the room is before quickly the bag is pulled off and a young girl who can’t be more the twelve is blinking slowly as her eyes adjust to the light.

Sam feels like laughing and calling the police, this is a mistake, this girl is the farthest thing from a demon and she looks like she’s about to cry – holy shit they have a twelve-year-old chained up to a wooden chair what the hell is wrong with these people.

“Help!” She cries tearfully, straining against the chains with as much force as she can muster, a weak sob falling from her lips.

“This is sick,” John growls, though Bobby seems more hesitant, calculating eyes looking over the girl and Sam wonders what the hell has gotten into him to think for one second that this was okay.

“You people are fucking psycho- is this what you’re going to do to Sam? Chain him up and trick people into thinking he’s a demon?” Dean snarls at Amanda.

“Haven’t come across many demons have you boys?” She asks casually as if they weren’t all accusing her of kidnapping and child abuse and being straight up insane while a child sobs next to her.

Amanda doesn’t wait for an answer as she pulls out a water bottle from her purse and promptly splashes the girl with it.

The resulting scream echoes throughout the room, sounding like a wounded animal rather than a human child.

“You fucking cunt!” The girl hisses, eyes black as she glares at Amanda, steam still hissing off her burning face.

Okay.

Maybe not crazy then.

“Holy shit,” Dean murmurs into Sam’s hair, never taking his eyes of the girl who was now thrashing in the chains with a lot more strength then she should have, the chair nearly falling over.

“So. Like I said, Cynthia.” She gestures to the girl. “Fully demonic but we’ve locked her into the body with a little magic help.”

“So you have a demon. What exactly do you want Sam to do with it? He doesn’t know the first thing about exorcizing one.” Dad asks, his obvious contempt for the demon not well hidden.

“Good, because they don’t want an exorcism. They’re looking to cure their daughter.”

“Cure?” Dad laughs, “Cure what? She’s not sick, this isn’t the flu! She’s a demon. No amount of money is going to save your daughter!” He calls back to the parents, completely fed up with whatever this was.

“Actually, we can.” Amanda interrupts, moving in front of Dad and Bobby.

“We can? Oh- hear that Winchester? We can cure demons! Wonder why no one brought that up before, sure might have helped things.” Bobby snarks.

“It’s privy knowledge, only a handful of people have ever heard of such things and it wasn’t hunters.” She says coolly. “We know of only four people who have learned the entirety of the process, the actual instructions being lost to time.”

“Lost to time? Then why does it fucking matter!” Dean growls, and Sam can hear how exhausted and done he is with everything.

“And who exactly is giving you this information? It sounds like a load of horse shit.” Dad adds.

Amanda rubs her nose, obviously equally as frustrated as they were feeling and Sam wished she would just get on with it then and help everyone out.

“1958, is the year Father Max Thompson successfully developed a process of curing demons and finally found success… or at least until he was killed and the demon he’d cured subsequently died as well.”

“Doesn’t sound like much a cure then,” Dean says pointedly. “Why the hell are you trying to use something like that.”

“We aren’t,” Amanda explains. “From two officially noted attempts, only one stands successful. While Father Thompson’s helped to pave the way it wasn’t the finalized version of the cure.”

“Great, so what? You’re going to use Sam as bait to try and lure some scientist out and cure your demon?” Dean asks, hands firmly across Sam’s chest that let Amanda clearly see that wasn’t happening.

“No. That’s our problem. The only true successful demon cure wasn’t performed until 2014.”

They stare at Amanda.

“Lady, you are making absolutely no sense- how the fuck do you know what’s going on in 2014 and who cured the demon?” Dean asks, Sam proud of him for resisting the twitch he felt to grab his gun.

“Doesn’t matter how we got the information, we know it and it’s been confirmed. But Sam, this is where you come in.” She turns and moved closer, stopping when Dean looked ready to sock her across the jaw if she took another step.

“We need you Sam, we need your future self to help us because Sam Winchester is the only known person to have successfully cured a demon.”

Chapter Text

It’s an awkward silence.

Sam’s very familiar with them, they typically follow any introduction he makes to new people that hint at just how weird his life is.

“So let me get this straight, you’ve gone through all this trouble to set up a fake werewolf hunt and trap us in this mine to say that Sam’s going to cure a demon at some point?” Dad’s obviously holding onto whatever thin strands of composure he has left by the rawness in his tone. And the thick vein that stands out in his neck. Sam’s very familiar with that vein too.

“As much as I’d love to continue in circles with this, we’re short on time.” Amanda dismisses their obvious questions and turns back toward Bames. “I was telling the truth about no witches being present, but I suppose I withheld that Bames is a warlock.”

The hulking man steps up next to Amanda, her head barely reaching his chest. Does magical power directly correlate to size? Is this giant guy a better warlock because his body can house more magic? Sam leans forward slightly as if proximity could answer his questions but Dean’s quick to pull him back into the safety of his chest.

Reign it in geek boy, Sam can read in his eyes, his curiosities transparent to his brother and he withholds the urge to stick his tongue out

“We just need to talk to your future self and have him perform the cure, from what we’ve researched it should only take about an hour. An hour of your time in exchange for the life of this young woman and a suitcase of cash. Surely you can see it’s a fair trade.” Amanda gestures to the demon who looks utterly bored with the entire situation. Apparently, the prospect of being cured isn’t high up for her in entertainment value.

Sam has his doubts, the first of which is him curing demons in the future? If everything goes well he’ll be on a one-way bus trip to college as soon as he graduates and out of hunting forever but hey, maybe he picks it up as a hobby or something. Followed closely after is the authenticity of an actual time travel spell. From what’s he read at Bobby’s and the few witch hunts Dad’s been on that shouldn’t be something any witch or warlock can just conjure up. Manipulating dimensions like that are spell's he’s seen referenced but they always require impossible ingredients like blood from the first vampire or angel feathers. 

Sam’s pretty sure half of the ingredients in those kind of spells are metaphorical but don’t ask him what angel feathers are supposed to be representing.

Still, these people seemed convinced and if this girl gets to live …

Dean must see the look of acceptance on his face as suddenly his arms tighten even more around him, his brother bending down to completely shield Sam from Amanda’s gaze. “Not gonna happen, Lady. You ain’t touching him with your whacked up hoodoo.” Dean answers for him.

"Well it’s not really up to you. We’re asking nicely and we’d hope the threat of being trapped would be enough encouragement but apparently not. We’ll do it by force.”

Dad’s immediately reaching for his gun, not liking at all the threat in Amanda’s voice, eyes dark as he moved to step in front of his boys. “You don’t touch Sam.”

Even with everything going to shit having their Dad in all his righteous anger standing in front of them and Dean’s arms wrapped tight around him, he feels safe. It’s probably stupid but as Dean turns Sam’s head to press into his chest, not wanting him to see the ensuring blowing of brains, he can’t help but think of how much he loves his family despite their issues.

Amanda surprises them all by laughing and Sam’s starting to get really fed up with the noise.

Bames waves a hand and suddenly they’re flying back against the stone wall, Bobby who’d been trying to sneak around to go from the back hit’s last and hardest, shouting a few swears that would have made Dean blush if they weren’t in the middle of a warlock fight.

“Let us out of this, asshole!” Dean spits, pushing against his invisible bonds as Amanda walks toward Sam.

“This wont hurt,” She promises, though he really isn't going to trust anything coming out of her mouth. Bames starts to murmur in a language he's never heard before, a bowl of swirling green mush in his hand that seems to be shimering.

Shit. This might be for real.

He squirms harder, trying to reach for Dean- suddenly scared of what’s going to happen - when Bames grabs his face to hold him still and Dean hissis out a flurry of curses.

It’s slimy and ice cold when the goop touches his skin and from the way Bames is moving his hand he assumes he’s drawing some kind of sigil. How does this even work? Is his future self going to possess his body? Is he going to blink out of existence? Is he going to drop dead?

He curses himself for not asking more questions and struggles harder against the force keeping him pressed against the wall, the unknown scarier than the prospect of time travel. He wants his brother and he tries to turn his head to at least catch Dean's eyes, relaxing slightly when he's able to see just the corner of his face against Bame's hand keeping him still. Dean is already looking steadily at him, trying to stay calm and assuring and despite knowing it's a facade it still helps to calm Sam's racing heart. 

Bames dips his hand once more into his bowl and drags the slime down to Sam’s throat, his murmurings turning into a full chant before Sam’s vision starts to go white, Dean’s panicked yelling for him to stay awake the last thing he hears before everything fades away. 

Sam Winchester is still waiting to die.

He’s being very patient, honestly.

Seems his torturers know just how to keep him on the verge of falling completely into the abyss like he wants to. He’s been burned, hypothermic, drugged, and shot within the course of a few days and it’s not doing a whole lot for his moral.

Still, he has that light on the horizon. When she finally realizes he won’t tell her anything and wastes him he’ll hopefully get to see his brother again in the empty or whever the hell they end up. Won't stop until he finds him. 

Don’t say that kind of shit, Sammy. You can fight this.

Sam shakes his head, Dean’s voice clear as day but he knows it’s not real. Knows that the instinctive part of him that’s trying its hardest to survive is pulling out all the stops.

“I miss you,” Sam murmurs out loud instead.

He can hear the sigh of affectionate exasperation, almost feel the puff of warm breath against his ear. “Heaven ain’t really living up to the standards without you here either, bitch.”  

He cracks a painful smile, his split lip reopening and blood dripping into his mouth but he doesn’t care. “Shut up, Jerk.”

“Don’t matter though, Darlin’. What you’re gonna do is fight this motherfucker and find Cas. Have him heal you and then take Lady Bitch apart piece by piece.” The big brother fury in Dean’s tone is comforting and Sam imagines leaning back into his chest, letting go and knowing he’s safe as his brother goes on a rant about all the ways he’s going to kill everyone who’s hurt him.

It’s a short but sweet reprieve from the hell hole he’s currently stuck in and soon enough Lady Bevell’s clack of heels on wood rotted stairs bring him back to the present.

“Well Sam, had a nice nap? I think we’re ready to begin.” She goes to her tray of tools, hand hovering over the selection a moment before settling on a long razor sharp blade.

“It’s not the most advanced or creative measures of torture but sometimes you have to go back to traditional means to get what you want.” She reasons, moving to stand in front of Sam’s chair.

“Names please, Sam?”

“Fuck you.”

The sharp slice into his hip is fast and clean, the pain not even taking hold until she’s withdrawn.

“Again, names please, Sam?”

“F-Fuck you.”

This time it’s to his bicep, the blade piercing cleanly through muscle with little resistance.

They develop a pattern, question and then the blade, the pool of blood dripping around Sam the only thing making progress.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think you can handle much more without going into advanced shock so we’ll stop for now.” She eyes the wounds on his body critically. “We’ll give you an hour to sit on this and then I’ll patch you up. Really think Sam, because we can continue this until you’re more holes than body.”

She leaves him with that before making her exit back upstairs.

Sam slumps back against his chair, vaguely registering Dean’s fuming array of colorful swears in the back of his head as he takes in the damage. Nothing vital, mostly just skin and muscle damage. A potential risk for infection but he doubts his captors would let that happen.

He won’t die from this.

The wave of disappointment he feels is overwhelming and causes his inner Dean to switch gears.

Hey, don’t you dare be like that. You’re Sam Fucking Winchester and you’re going to make it out of this, chin up Sammy. I know it hurts but pain means you’re still alive- no don’t give me a sigh, that’s a good thing.

He shrugs, the wound in his shoulder flaring and causing him to wince. God this sucked, this entire situation sucked.

He wiggles against his bindings, and the chair rocks with the movement.

He pauses and does it again.

He’s chained to the floor but that’s to simply keep him from running off, there’s enough give for him to fall backward…

Backward onto hard unforgiving concrete.

Sam’s snapped a few necks in his time. He’s heard of people breaking their own on accident from a smaller fall than this.

He just needs to be careful, make sure to use enough force to snap through the vertebra completely. He shivers at the thought of being competently paralyzed at Lady Bevell's will and it almost makes him reconsider.

Almost.

He knows what he’s doing and the realization that he can be with Dean in only a few moments quiets any doubts he has. Unfortunately, it also makes Dean lose his shit.

Are you fucking kidding me! Sammy you are not doing this! I- I forbid you!

“You forbid me?” Sam laughs softly, starting to rock back and forth to pick up a good momentum, the chair creaking as it switches balance on its legs.

Yes, I fucking forbid you breaking your own neck! God, how in the ever loving hell did you get into Stanford because obviously you’re a fucking idiot!

Sam rolled his eyes fondly, focusing on Dean’s voice and letting it soothe the last of his nerves as he pushed off the ground with all his weight and was suddenly slamming backward with his head turned at an unnatural angle, body tensed and ready for the-

He gasped when instead of the sharp burst of pain at his neck he was suddenly vacuum squeezed, his first thought being that Castiel had somehow rescued him and was flying him out of the basement.

That couldn’t be it though because this suffocatingly tight pressure seems to stretch on for eternity. He can’t breathe, can’t even feel his lungs and the pain only seems to get more intense before finally it releases in a burst of light and air and he’s falling face first into the dirt.

God, he’s never loved dirt more than he does in that moment, his finger’s digging into the soil as he takes in deep gasping breaths with his head pressed into it. He’s out, he’s out of the stupid basement. He’s somewhere with dirt and cold damp air but he couldn’t care less. Anywhere was better than that hell hole.

His heart is aching while his body celebrates, knowing that he’d been so close to being with Dean in the empty or wherever the hell they’re destined to end up. While the air and freedom are nice the painful hole in his chest isn’t going anywhere.

He takes another deep breath, willing himself not to break over this. He needs to be strong, figure out what happened and then decide where to go from there. It takes a moment, his ears are ringing and he has zero desire to make the effort to raise his head right now but slowly words are starting to form.

“-ttion. Can you hear me? Sam? You seem to have lost a lot of blood.”  

Blood loss. That’s right, he’s bleeding still. He tries to say that it’s okay, that all the blood on him looks worse it is but his throat is dry and nothing comes out. He licks his lips and takes another breath, forcing himself up with his arms so he’s kneeling.

He’s in a mine.

The damp air suddenly makes sense as he slowly takes in the dimly lit cavern, a few scared faces in the distant and a large man off in the corner, though Sam thinks he’s probably taller than the stranger.

No Cas.

“Sam,” Finger’s snap in front of his face and he blinks slowly as his gaze is pulled to the woman bending down to his height. “Hi, I know this must be overwhelming for you.”

He opens his mouth to speak, coughing a few times before managing to rasp, “How do you know my name?” Because honestly, if she’s another angel seeking revenge he’s going to put a bullet between his own teeth right now.

“It’s a really long story, and you look like you need to be taken to the hospital.” She turns to the man dressed in black beside her. “You said the spell wouldn’t damage him.”

“It didn’t, there’s no way for the spell to have caused such wounds. They must have been sustained before.”

His voice is deep and Sam immediately senses power from his words, a warlock most likely.

“Yeah- Nothing new on me from whatever spell work you used. This was all here.” Sam’s voice strengthens as he talks and his vision sharpens, feeling better as he focuses on figuring out what’s going on. “So did Cas ask you to get me?”

By their blank stares he’s going to guess no.

“We actually brought you. We need your help. But Sam, I don’t think you know where you are.”

Sam raises an eyebrow, about to start making guesses based on what he can see by the detailing of the mine and rock types when a voice rings out.

“Don’t talk to them, Sam!”

Dean. It’s Dean. He doesn’t even have to turn to know heart and soul who that voice belongs to but it doesn’t make any sense. Dean is dead but that’s not right either because that voice doesn’t belong to his brother who left him. No, it’s a boy who’s taller than him and wears a worn leather jacket and steals kisses from him out the window of the impala.

Shit.

He turns and locks eyes with a much younger big brother whose protective gaze is just as fiery at nineteen as it is at thirty-seven. It takes a lot of effort but eventually he manages to look away, taking in the sight of much a much younger Dad and Bobby who look just as shocked to see him. 

Well fuck, apparently time travel spells work now. He’d be a lot more excited if they hadn’t just made his baby brother disappear and a hulking lump replace him.

Okay, yeah. That lump is still his brother but where the hell do these people get off thinking they can just come in and fuck them over like this? No one touches Sam and he cannot wait to introduce Amanda to his Tarus as soon as they figure out how to get through that stupid barrier. 

And maybe he’ll take a trip to the future himself and shoot whatever punk had messed Sammy up so bad. Had made Dean’s heart stop when his future little brother had landed on the floor a mess of blood and bruises and so still he’d thought he was dead.

Amanda’s still giving her spiel on helping them for the greater good and money and what not but Sam doesn’t seem to be buying it thank god.  

“How are we supposed to get out of here?” He whispers to Dad and Bobby, thankfully their captors seem pretty distracted with Sam’s appearance.

“That warlock’s spell is strong but I’m more concerned with how we’re going to move him through the mine shaft. It’s uphill and steep and that boy doesn’t look good.” Bobby murmurs, nodding to Sam. “Look at his feet, they’re flambéed.”

Dean winces, because yeah. They look terrible and Dad has a weird look in his eye like he want’s to say something but is holding back. “He’s not going to be much use, he’s still bleeding and who knows how long that’s been going on." 

"We're not leaving him." Bobby frowns and at least someone is thinking clearly. 

"We don't know that he's actually Sam - we have no idea what kind of magic they used and I'm not going to trust that woman's word on anything." 

Dean does his best not to roll his eyes, he already knows all he needs to. That man is Sammy and that’s about all there is to it. “I'm not leaving without him." He tells his Dad point blank. 

They’re broken out of their meeting by the demon’s loud cry, apparently giving a second go at winning their mercy. The whole thing is messed up and he can’t help the instinctive urge to help the girl even though he knows what she really is. The burlap hood had been put back on at some point but apparently Bames had taken it off to show Sam.

“Why the hell are you keeping a demon down here?” Sam asks as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world that the little girl wasn’t human.

Amanda looks surprised before smiling, “You obviously know what you’re doing. I like that. Despite common telling, myth hardly ever maketh the man if you know what I mean.”

“Lot of myths about me when I’m- what year is this ’98?-  when I’m fifteen?”

Sam seems to be taking this weirdly well. Maybe he’s lost more blood than they can see because no way should you be so calm about being pulled back in time. 

“You’d be surprised,” Amanda says simply. “Anyway, if you do what we ask we’ll send you home with a large sum of money and no one will ever have to know you were gone. Oh! And we have your essentials.” She smiles like she has some sort of deal breaker items and a back duffle bag is suddenly being passed over by Bames.

“How the hell did you get that?”

“We only wanted you Sam, and we wanted to assure you we were serious.”

Dean can’t see what’s inside the bag from here but he can see Sam’s carefully blank expression. So whatever’s in there is probably useful then. Maybe some cool future laser beam gun or something. He’s seen The Jetson’s, he knows what’s coming in the next twenty years.  

“And what exactly is it you’ve done all this work for?” Sam asks evenly, eyeing Amanda with a cool expression.

“We need you to cure a demon. This demon- Cynthia.” She gestures back to the girl in the chair and instead of scoffing or denying it Sam just looks critical.

“How long has the host been dead?” He asks, sitting up a bit on his knee’s and god, he looks terrible. His clothes covered in blood and dirt and stuck to him like he hasn’t changed in days. What the hell was he pulled out of?

“The host? The host isn’t dead, Cynthia possessed her a few days ago and we only did the basic trapping sigils to keep her inside.”

“So,” Sam clears his throat, his voice growing darker and Dean can't help but listen intently, voice clear and powerful and he shivers at the knowledge this is the man his brother would become. “You’re telling me you want to kill an innocent girl so a demon can live in her body? A demon you then want me to cure?” He laughs humorlessly. “Sorry to ruin all your plans but no." 

Amanda’s face pinches, that obviously the wrong answer. “We’re not going to kill anyone. You are.” She pulls a handgun out of her jacket and immediately Dean, Dad, and Bobby all squirm for their guns under the invisible force keeping them pressed against the wall, it against everything in them to be unarmed when there was a close threat.

“I’m not,” Sam says, his tone bored.

“Is he crazy?” Bobby hisses to Dad, “That boy’s gonna get himself killed if he keeps sassing her.”

Dad shakes his head, eyes never leaving the weapon, “He's being an idiot but at least we know it’s definitely, Sam.”

Dean snorts because yeah, if anyone was going to mouth off during this it would be his little brother.

“No, see you are because if you shoot me or any of my people we won't open up the force field trapping your family down her and if you don’t kill the demon I won’t send you back home. You’re stuck, Sammy.” She coos.

“It’s Sam,” He snarls into her face and holy shit if there was any doubt who this dude is it’s completely gone now. That familiar quip only in a deeper and wiser voice than the usual whine he's used to hearing it in is all the assurance he needs.

“And you're going to do what I ask.” She presses the gun into Sam’s hand, eyes full of the knowledge that she had the man in front of her pinned.

Sam takes a deep breath, staring at the gun before back to Amanda. “You’ve really thought this out and I can appreciate that. Truly I can. But you didn’t take one thing into consideration.”

Amanda looks doubtful but cracks a small smile, “Alright, I’ll bite. What did I miss?”

"That I have someone waiting on me.” He smiles before abruptly the gun is turned to his own chest, Dean finding himself screaming out his brother’s name at the same time a large crash rocks the entire cavern, muffling the sound of the gunshot. 

 

Chapter Text

The beeping from the hospital monitor is slow and steady. As much as it’s reassuring its also way too loud for the silence that’s developed between the three men gathered around the hospital bed.

Sam’s unconscious, face slack in sleep and as much as it’s reassuring to see him pain free Dean wants answers damn it. The stubborn kid seems content to keep sleeping though, having not so much as blinked since taking a bullet to the chest. A bullet that had just barely missed his heart and the doctors were still marveling at how much of a miracle it was.

It wasn’t a miracle. His little brother had tried to kill himself right in front of his face and the only thing that had stopped Sam was the drilling from the rescue team. The bang of the machinery had shifted his hand at the same time he’d pulled the trigger. Lucky sure, he could agree with that, but not a miracle.

A miracle would have been Dean being there to knock some sense into him.

A miracle would be his fifteen-year-old brother in the Impala next to him instead of sitting in a hospital with the thirty-year-old version.

“What are we gonna do?” Dean murmurs, rubbing his hands over his face. “How are we supposed to get Sammy back? How are we supposed to fix him-” He gestures to Sam helplessly, the doctor’s laundry list of ailments still ringing in his head. Apparently all that blood had been from multiple stab wounds and a fucking bullet hole in his leg that reopened.

Stabbed. Sammy had been stabbed over twelve times.

And burned with what he heard the doctors saying looked like a flame torch. And branded with a cattle iron. 

Dean had to excuse himself after that, heading to the bathroom and dry heaving through the rage that was building up inside. Sammy who just wanted to pet puppies and gave the sweetest dimpled smiles had been tortured. Who the hell had done this to his brother?

And where the fuck was future Dean?

“We need him to wake up first,” Dad says gruffly, rubbing a hand over the scruff of his beard. He looks tired and Dean knows how he feels with the mess they’re in only seeming to have piled on thicker in the past day.

Sammy had shot himself right as a rescue team had broken through the mine wall, opening it up enough for a gurney to be lowered down which most likely had ended up saving Sam’s life with the noise and resulting crash throwing off his hand.

It was more dumb luck, some rangers happened to be in the area and saw the blood trail planted by Amanda and had radioed in for a search and rescue team. Within the hour they were being airlifted by helicopter out of the mine and over the shield with Amanda, Bames, and the demon family of three nowhere to be seen.

It’s good they ran. Dean didn’t think it would look very good on him if the rescue team had come down to find five bodies and the same amount of bullets missing from his gun.  

The hospital had of course been a mad house; Sam being wheeled to the OR before Dean could even give him a threatening pep talk to make sure he made it out okay and damn it if that didn’t eat at him the entire time those doors were closed.

All three were looked over by the doctor but with no more than a few cuts and bruises between them they were quickly ushered back into the waiting room. That was when the real fun started. Paperwork.

They had all easily reached for their fake I.D.s, not even thinking about it as they filled out the proper insurance forms and witness statements that were needed for the search and rescue report. It was second nature; Dean could do it in his sleep.

Then they’d gotten to Sam’s.

“Um… how old is he?” Bobby asks, scratching his head as he stared at the date of birth space. They couldn’t write in Sam’s real date since it was obvious that the giant on the operating table wasn’t fifteen but they hadn’t exactly gotten a good enough look at him to gauge his age either.

Dean scowls and quickly scribbles in May 2nd, ignoring the gaping space where the year should be. Where 1983 should be.

He hates not knowing such basic things about his little brother. He’d been filling out Sam’s medical sheets for school since he first started kindergarten and to suddenly not even know how old the kid was? It left a bad taste in his mouth. 

“He looked like he was in his thirties?” Dean murmurs, thinking back to holding Sam against his chest as the rescue team came in, the way he’d gripped back just as tightly. “They were talking about things he did in 2014 right? So at least that old.”

He hadn’t really been paying attention to what decade his brother was in as he’d tried to keep him from losing what little blood was still in his body.

“Damn,” Dad sighs, shaking his head. “Thirties? He’s fifteen for god’s sake- he’s too short for his own good and watches Thundercats.” His voice brakes and Dean clenches his fists, his Dad’s words striking a cord and he’s trying hard to keep it together. He’s not going to cry in the waiting room in front of Dad and Bobby.

"Fine then. Thirties. 2014 would put him at thirty-one.” Dad reaches for the form and scribbles in 1967.

The nurses had been skeptical to believe that Sam was related to them and they had floundered for a moment when it became obvious they had no I.D. for Sam and nothing to connect him to their family. He was an adult and the hospital was hesitant to let them see him with no references. That’s when they’d had to get creative.

“He was in a gang and we’ve just found him. Violent type. They acted out when they heard he was trying to leave, forced us all into that mine” Dad says to the nurse sadly. “He’s my younger brother and we’ve been looking for him for years.”

It’s stupid but Dean feels a rush of possessiveness over that. Sam’s his little brother, no one else’s. He has to shove his hands in his pockets to hide his clenching fists as he’s pretty sure the nurse will take that as suspicious.

Still, the gang cover story helps cover up a lot of questions everyone seems to want to ask. Gangs dragging families into abandoned mines and torturing their own members with blow torches seems to make enough sense that they leave them alone about it.

 

Dean sighs and focuses on the present, unable to take his eyes off Sam’s face as he walks to the bed. The harsh light of the hospital lets him see his brother in stark detail and he takes in all the changes and similarities to the fifteen-year-old model.

His hair is ridiculously long and It makes his heart ache.

“You think all this is from something he was hunting?” He asks, gesturing to Sam’s body that’s covered in gauze and IV’s from all his injuries.

“Looks human to me.” John eyes his youngest critically, crossing his arms as he looks over Sam from a distance with a heavy darkness in his eyes. “I had friends in the service who were captured and came out with those type of marks. Whatever did this to him was trained and it was to cause pain not kill. He was tortured and I’d say for information if what Amanda was saying is true.”

Right. Sammy’s supposed to be able to cure demons and that sounds like something to be tortured over if there ever was one.

“This is proof though, Dean. I know you love your brother but you need to be cautious. We don’t know this Sam and we have no idea what kind of people he was running in circles with.” Dad put’s a hand on his shoulder and despite how much he disagrees with it the weight is comforting.

“Let’s just wait and talk to him before we jump to any conclusions.” Bobby chimes in from the plastic chair he’s made himself at home in, a few books that he’d had in his bag out and open.

That’s what was nice about having Bobby on hunts, he always came prepared with most of the research so he and Dad could jump right into the physical aspects of the case without having to sit in the library for half a day which sucked ass.

Sammy enjoyed it though.

He wonders if Sam still likes researching. Did he finish Lord of the Rings? He heard they were supposed to be making a movie about it and he already promised Sammy he’d take him when it hit theaters …

There's a light knock at the door before the day nurse walks in, smiling pleasantly at them as she looks over Sam’s chart. She’s the picture of calm but Dean’s been hustling since he was thirteen and knows a poker face when he see’s one. By the way Dad and Bobby sit up higher they notice it too.

“Sam’s doing great,” She assures them, turning to flash another soothing smile but her audience can hear the unspoken ‘but’.

“There are a few things that we’d like to talk to you about if you’d take a seat?” She nods to Dad and hesitates at Dean, it obvious she’s debating whether or not she should ask him to leave. He resists laughing at how stupid that request would be and sits himself down next to his Dad on the couch with a pointed look that lets her know there was no way in hell he was going anywhere.

“Alright then,” She clears her throat and shuffles through her papers. “You told us your brother was in a gang?”

Dad nods, schooling his expression into sadness to match the lie but doesn’t say anything more. When it came to keeping up a cover story, the less you said the easier it is to keep things straight.

The nurse nods, looking tentatively down at her notes as Dean wishes she’d just get on with whatever this was.

“… Do you know much about the gang? I know this might be hard to stomach Mr. Winchester but we have reason to believe he might actually have been affiliated with a cult.” She says as delicately as possible when dropping this kind of news.

A cult? Shit, did they go through their bags or something? Yeah, it might look bad but usually they could talk their way out of the abundance of salt and rosaries. He hadn't looked in Sam's yet though, maybe something gave them away in there. He shared a look with Bobby and Dad.

“We… don’t really know. Contact with him has been extremely limited.” Dad starts, Dean agreeing that it was best to try and play the victim family card as heavy as they could. Ignorance was their friend in this situation and he nodded along in agreement. “What makes you think it’s a cult and not a gang?”

The nurse bit her lip before moving to Sam’s bed, Dean stiffening when she reached to touch his brother but forced himself to relax when she simply rested it against his skin. “He’s covered in scars, very serious injuries from what we can tell which makes sense if he was in a violent gang but-“ She gently took hold of Sam’s hand and raised it so the palm was facing out. “These aren’t palm lines, these are scars.” She traced over a multitude of thin silvery lines that cut across Sam’s hand. “Both hands have the thin and very precise scars which make it likely it was a knife.” She put Sam’s hand back down.

“Normally, we wouldn’t have even noticed that kind of thing but when we… when we took his X-Rays we were concerned …” She shook her head, walking over to the light box and pinning the X-Ray’s from her folder into place before turning on the light.

“What the hell-?”

Dean gaped as he stared at the X-Ray of Sam’s chest, his rib cage on full display. What caught his attention though were the clearly carved symbols tracing up and down the ribs like someone had used his brother’s bones as notebook paper.

“Singer-” Dad murmured, stepping closer to look at the ribs and completely ignoring the nurse. “What language is that?”

Dean was forced to sidestep out of the way so the two men could get a good look, Bobby shaking his head but refraining from commenting with the nurse still hovering close.

“Doctor Perez worked in South America for a few years and he’s the one who identified the knife marks on his hands after we called him down to look at the X-Rays. He’d worked in several towns with histories of religious cults and treated many of their victims.” The nurse explains softly. “He said he could talk with Sam once he wakes up if you’d like? It can be hard for people to phase out of cults and especially when they bare so many markers like his ribs and tattoo.”

“Tattoo?” Dad asks abruptly, finally turning away from the X-Rays.

The nurse frowns, most likely considering patient confidentiality but if she’s talking about this stuff to them in the first place Dean’s pretty sure the hospital is considering Sam at risk enough to skirt the system.

“I suppose if you haven’t had contact with him you wouldn’t know…” She untied the back of Sam’s gown and eased the side down so his chest was exposed, a black sigil tattoo right over his heart.

“I know it’s hard to hear but Sam might benefit from speaking with someone about what he’s been through. Shot and tortured are big obstacles to process, especially as it appears he was firmly devoted to whatever group he was in.” She gestured to his ribs as if getting your bones branded in a weird language is a common devotion method. Dean has to take a deep breath to keep from yelling at her to stop being so calm about this.

Dad nods but it’s mostly to get her out of here, giving the nurse his thanks and some excuse about them being alone to process until she finally leaves the room.

“What the hell are they?” Dean asks as soon as the door shuts, stepping up next to Bobby to stare at the weird symbols. “They look like Egyptian writing or something.”  

“I’ve never seen anything like it but how did he even have them written on his ribs in the first place is the bigger question.” Bobby says gruffly, not knowing much about the situation obviously irritating him.

“So Sam’s just what? Tattooed and carved up and with shit we have no clue what it is?”

“Dean, he’s not fifteen. He’s an adult and I’m guessing they’re some sort of protection sigils if anything.” Bobby murmurs, squinting closer at the X-Rays.

Dean’s clenches his hands into fists and he’s seriously considering punching the wall. Why is everyone acting so relaxed about this? The fucking nurse and her soothing voice and Bobby as he flips through the book and compares languages – You don’t just decide to get that done to your body! God, when Sammy gets back to normal they’re going to be having a serious conversation about body modification …  

“Knock, knock.” They all turn, another nurse smiling in the doorway and Dean can’t help but roll his eyes. His brother was tortured, why does the hospital think smiling about it will help anyone?

“We’re about to run some tests and the doctors would like the room, would you come with me to a family waiting area?” She asks with another smile that has Dean’s jaw clenching. He wants to stay here with Sam not follow the smiling nurse and drink shit coffee while the doctors poke his brother.

He doesn’t really have a choice though so he sighs and follows Dad and Bobby down the hall, the nurse babbling about recent renovation and other bullshit he doesn’t care about.

“So we have coffee and local broadcasting,” She explains as they walk into the small private waiting room. Sure enough there’s a coffee pot in the corner and the local news playing on the small television though why she thought they couldn’t figure that out themselves is beyond him. Grief makes you numb not blind.

“How long will the tests take?” Dad asks as Dean heads over to put a pot of coffee on, not planning on sleeping anytime soon. He hides a slight smile at the earnestness peeking through Dad’s gruff exterior. He’s just as nervous about being away from Sam despite his typical rough hunter facade and the reminder is comforting that Sammy is well protected by the three of them.

“Mmm, could be up to an hour,” She glances down at her clipboard and lets the heavy door swing shut behind her. “Though I doubt you’ll live that long.” Her eyes suddenly flash black and Dean’s dropping his coffee to the floor in favor of pulling his gun from his jeans.

“My my my you Winchester do seem to attract trouble. There are stories but I think I’m one of the first to stand face to face with you in a long time.” She grins wickedly at Dad who’s glaring and not letting his gun leave her face.

Two demon sightings in three days? This couldn’t be a coincidence.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Dean hisses, letting his anger bubble to the surface to calm his nerves. They weren’t prepared for this, demons didn’t just pop up out of nowhere- he’d never even seen one till the mine. He glanced to Bobby, hoping to god he had an exorcism memorized but by the way he was holding his gun and glancing around the room for something to help he doubted it.

“Well, there seems to be a bit of a disturbance in the force.” She winked, Dean taken aback by the fact this demon had apparently seen Star Wars but quickly refocused. “Young Sammy ain’t so young anymore so our plans are being fast tracked a bit.” She shrugged and paced the room, all three of the hunter’s guns following her.

“Please, you do know those won’t hurt me right? Just hurt Miss Olive.” She tapped her chest where a nurses I.D. with the matching name was pinned. “And she’s already been through quite enough today, I don’t think you should add getting shot to the list.”

Dad grits his teeth, hating being stuck like this and at the mercy of a demon no less but he doesn’t have a lot of choices here. “What do you want?”

“Well, Sam of course- was that not obvious? Sorry, I’ll try and slow it down for you. I. Want. Sam.” She says exaggeratedly. “If you didn’t get it that time I can’t help you.”

Dean glares, having thought demons would be more… monster like? This bitch is just annoying. “Well you ain’t getting him so why don’t you crawl back into hell like a good little demon?”

“Dean, right? The oldest? Big brother?” She grins. “Well Dean-o, my Dad asked a big favor of me and I’m not about to let him down.” She glances between Dean and John. “You know all about that don’t you?”

Dean sneers, finger twitching on the trigger but Dad steps in front of him before he can do any damage. “You’re going to leave that girl and go back to where you came from.” He growls, voice dripping with contempt for the thing in front of him.

“Oh am I?” She snickers, taking a step forward and smiling wider when they all flinch. “What exactly are you going to do about it? You’re helpless John Winchester. No matter how much you train and research you’re just as in the dark as you were when your sweet little wife burned.”

Dean’s blood is boiling and he’s thinking it would be beneficial to put a bullet between the bitch’s eyes even if it didn’t do anything and Dad seems to agree by the way he moves to lunge forward. Bobby is quicker, gripping both their shoulders and pulling them back warningly. “She’s winding you up, she’s a demon. That’s what they do. You let her get under your skin and she wins.” He growls. “Don’t be idiots.”

“Yeah,” She mimics, “Don’t let me win.”

It’s obvious she’s messing with them and that irritates Dean more than anything. They’re nothing but playthings to her and there’s nothing they can do about it.

“So let’s get down to business, I wanna know everything.” She clasps her hands together, savoring their combined attention on her. “What happened? How’d he get here?”

Dean just glares as she’s met by only silence. “Oh c’mon,” She whines, “See theres two ways this can go. One, you tell me what I want.” She waves a single digit in the air before adding a second. “Two, I kill you and just go take sleeping beauty myself but I’m really curious about what happened so It’d be nice if you’d work with me.”

“You’re just going to kill us even if we do talk,” Dad counters, his gun steady.

“True, but this way you get to live a little longer.” She grins lazily, knowing she has all the time in the world. “So which is it? One or two?”

“How about we add a three?”

Dean jerks his head to the side and there’s Sam, wearing hospital scrubs and both his bag and their own slung over his shoulders. “You get the hell out of here and I don’t kill you.”

He still can’t get used to that voice, deep and reverberating in place of Sam’s cracking teen pitch that Dean teases him mercilessly about.

The demon looks delighted by the addition, walking up to Sam and Dean’s suddenly struck by just how tall his brother is- taller than both him and their Dad by a few inches. Shit, he needs to stop giving Sam milk.

“Sam Winchester,” She breathes, “Look who’s all grown up.”

“You have ten seconds to get out of that body before I make you.” Sam tells her evenly and how the hell is he so unaffected by this? He’s wearing scrubs and unarmored and acting like the demon isn’t anything more than the nurse she’s possessing.

“Awww, that’s cute Sam. I like a man who thinks he’s in charge but unfortunately we’re going to need to take this conversation downstairs.” She reaches for his hand but Sam pulls it out of the way.

“Right, well since you’re so set on staying I have a few questions.” Sam digs into his bag for something as he talks, not even looking at the demon and Dean wants to scream at him to try and at least act like he cares. “How’d you figure out I was here?”

The demon laughs, humored by his nonchalance. “Sammy I’m not answering anything till you come with me.”  

“Okay, let me rephrase.” His hands suddenly jerk up, grabbing the demon's mouth and shoving what look like open salt packets inside before slamming her jaw closed. The results are immediate, steam billowing out of her mouth as she screamed around Sam’s clamped hand, body convulsing in pain. “Tell me how you knew I was here?”

Her body jerks and she reaches a hand up but Sam’s quick to shove it down, more salt on his hand that makes her wrist burn and sizzle. He removes his hand from her mouth after a moment but her only answer is to spit in his face. “Please,” She laughs. “This ain’t shit.”

Sam nods along like he’s agreeing with her, something crossing his face in understanding before he holds her down again. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus –“

A pillar of black smoke is suddenly shooting out of the woman’s mouth, billowing in the room before passing through the ceiling and Dean realizes he’s watching an exorcism. It’s nothing like he’d ever thought, the smoke and Sam’s powerful voice banishing the demon both additions he hadn’t expected to be present.  

The smoke suddenly is gone and the woman goes limp, letting out a soft cry as she opens her blue eyes and stares up at Sam. “You’re okay,” He soothes, rubbing her shoulder soothingly but apparently that was the wrong thing to say as she jerks away and starts to scream.

“Shit,” Sam’s back on his feet and shoving one of the bags into Dean’s arms. “We gotta go.”

“Can’t assault a nurse and get away with it these days,” Dean jokes because what the hell else is he supposed to do when he just watched a demon be exorcised and a woman is screaming bloody murder at them.

“No, you really can’t.” Sam cracks a dimpled grin and suddenly Dean feels a rush of calm as he looks up- and isn’t that strange in itself- at his brother and knows that they’ll figure this out.

“C’mon-“ Dad interrupts them, opening up the door and all four of them hurry down the hallway, heading for the stairwell.

It’s several floors down and by the time they reach the parking garage Sam is panting hard, hand gripping his chest and the pad that’s taped over the gunshot wound. “Shit,” Dean quickly pulls Sam’s arm over his shoulder to help take some of his weight and hell if it’s a lot more than he’s used to. “C’mon, Sammy.”

Dad’s looking a bit nervous about Dean being so close to Sam but he doesn’t comment as they find a truck and Bobby quickly breaks into it, the engine soon revving in confirmation for them to hope in.

“Easy,” Dean murmurs as he opens up the door and tries to ease Sam in. The trucks lifted, the seat needing to be climbed into even from Sam’s height but it’s obvious he’s used up whatever adrenaline was keeping him going in his fight with the demon.  “Okay, on three-“ He says confidently, despite knowing there’s no way he’s going to be able to get Sam in there without some awkward pushing. Still, he’s not going to let his brother fall so he grips tighter and on the third count lifts up as Sam pulls, barely missing the seat when Dad suddenly steps forward and grips Sam’s other arm, the three of them quickly getting him settled in the back seat.

“Thanks,” Sam breathes, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the seatback as Dean climbs in next to him. Dad’s soon in the passenger seat and Bobby peels out of the garage, the hospital fading into the distance as they head back to Sioux Falls.

 

Chapter Text

It smells like spaghetti. 

Sam cracks a sleepy smile because spaghetti means Dean’s home from the store and wants to make a nice dinner for them and he should probably break out the good wine-- He rolls over, comfortable in his warm thoughts of noodles and garlic bread and Dean when he nearly topples off the bed, long arms and quick reflexes the only things keeping him from smacking against the wood.

He blinks several times, that odd distortion of waking up somewhere he didn’t fall asleep hazing his mind but it’s different this time because Sam hasn’t woken up here in years.

He’s at Bobby’s.

But not Bobby’s like he knew it last, this is Bobby’s from his childhood. This is Bobby’s from him and Dean running around in the car yard and staying up late to read ancient séances with his surrogate uncle. It’s weirdly comforting and yet it still makes the skin on the back of his neck prickle. Sam knows a ghost when he sees one.

The bed is the old cot he and Dean used to share, much too small for his large frame now but he’s glad they put him here instead of in Bobby’s room or the spare bedroom their dad slept in. At least here he’s in his own territory and he needs that if he’s going to figure out what to do.

The whole situation… well, it had gone to shit fast. All he’d wanted was to buy a train ticket on the express instead of the scenic to see his big brother again. He should know better than trying to rush his reaper as apparently time travel punishments are now a thing. Dean was probably laughing at him from wherever he was, laughing at the huge pile of shit he now had to deal with on top of the crazy British woman.

He sighs and reaches for the notebook and pen he knew his younger self kept in the nightstand, stretching out on the hardwood with his back against the bed. He flicks through the pages to find a blank place, eyes scanning over homework notes, case information, library book number–

He freezes at the corner of one the pages, DW + SW in the corner with a heart around—

He quickly turns the page, cheeks flushing bright red as if his Dean was about to walk around the corner and start cackling about how much of a sap Sam was. Dean can laugh all he wants but Sam knows his brother would tear it out and pocket it, probably put it in his wallet or something equally sappy …

He shakes his head, getting off track. Quickly he flips to a blank page and starts a list, scribbling in the first few issues he had to deal with that were at the top of his mind.

 

 TO DO

 

- Figure out time travel logistics

- Deal with Amanda, Demon, and Demon’s family

- Meg

- Dean

 

He pauses on Meg’s name, scrunching his nose slightly as he thought back to their confrontation in the hospital. She was back working for her Dad which he was assuming meant Azazel knew he was here. Still, Meg was still Meg somewhere in there and he knows the demon can be swayed to see the benefits of siding with him if he can just get her to listen for a few minutes. He needs some sort of backup and unfortunately 1998 Bobby Singer and John Winchester don’t really cut it for what he has in mind. There was always Crowley …

He sighs and adds a few additions to Meg’s name, giving the short list a once over. He’d prefer Dean to be at the top of the list but he knows that he needs to finish the mess that’s been made here before he can join his big brother. He can already see the disappointed look on his face if Sam arrived with a story of leaving Amanda unchecked. Disappointing Dean is the last thing he ever wants to do.

He nods in agreement to himself before wincing at the shot of pain that seemed to echo through his body. Right. He’s been pretty fucked over in the past few days.

 

TO DO

 

- Figure out time travel logistics  

- Deal with Amanda, Demon, and Demon’s family

- Meg? Crowley? Back up

- Dean

- Pain killers

 

He glances at his watch, six o’clock being the usual time Bobby liked to eat so they were still following a schedule after everything that had happened. It’s oddly comforting. He heaves himself back up to stand, taking note of the fresh bandages on his feet and over the bullet wounds with a slight smile. There were perks to being with his family but Sam isn’t about to risk their lives with something they were in no way prepared to deal with. The dull ache in his chest at the thought of sitting down to eat for the first time without Dean something he’s trying not to think about. Besides, the sooner he finishes whatever’s going on with Amanda the sooner he can go to his brother.

He grabs his black duffle from the corner of the room, thankful to whoever had left it there and to Amanda for deciding to bring it back in time with him. The woman was dangerous but she is also allowing Sam to wear his own underwear.

He grabs a set of clothes from the duffle, not really caring what he wore as much as he was curious about how exactly Amanda had gotten the bag. He didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth as his laptop, gun, and cellphone were currently sitting underneath all his clothes like they’d been when he’d first checked it in the mine, but something doesn’t sit right with how exactly she’d known to take it.  He pulls on his shirt with a wince, the bullet wound still fresh and the small incisions along his arms from Bevell sting like a bitch when he moves them too far. He’s functioning though, and that’s all he needs to get out of here and start hunting down Amanda.

Quietly, he grabs his list and tucks it in his pocket followed by his gun in the back of his jeans. Just the security of the weapon on his hip made Sam feel more like himself and with the confidence of a seasoned hunter, he quietly shifts over the floorboards, knowing exactly where to step as to not alert anyone downstairs that he was awake. His feet are already aching with only a few small steps but he doesn't have time to wait for them to heal.

The door slowly creaks open, Sam holding his breath as he waits for any sort of movement up the stairs but none comes. From the sound of it everyone is in the kitchen and he’ll need to hurry to take advantage of the unguarded side door. He moves swiftly across the hallway, pausing in the bathroom to steal a first aid kit and Bobby’s stash of good pain pills before continuing down the stairs.

Each step makes his breath catch both in pain and worry over getting caught but he’s sneaked out with Dean enough times to know exactly how to maneuver the stairs and is soon at the bottom and slipping into the library on the opposite end of the kitchen. He pauses to do a scan for any books that could come in handy, grabbing a few he knows have information on time manipulation while the buzz of voices filters through the walls.

“How long do you think he’ll sleep?” Dean’s nervous voice makes Sam inwardly sigh, knowing leaving was going to hurt his brother which was never something he enjoyed.

“You saw how he looked, don’t expect him to so much as stir for a few more hours. Grab some plates and set the table, kiddo.”

“The longer he sleeps the longer we have to figure out a plan. I don’t like this, Singer. We have no idea what this version of Sam is dabbling in. The demon back at the hospital? Something bigger is going on here.”

Dad's right, there is something bigger going on and Sam isn’t about to get his family caught up in it more than they already were. He grabs one more book and stuffs it in his bag before moving to the side screen door, pushing it open and slipping into the cool evening air without so much as a whisper.

The fresh air helps to push away the lingering haze of sleep and Sam can’t help the smile that tugs on his lips as he walks out to the car yard. It still thick with memories from his childhood and long nights saving the world with this place as their home base. It soothes some basic part of him to be returning home even if it was just for a moment.

He sticks to the shadows and away from the kitchen windows as he walks around to the front of the house, taking the long way in search of a car he could take. No luck though, Bobby not seeming to be working on anything that could make it past the front gate in once piece. This means he’ll have to steal Bobby’s truck or his Dad’s… or the Impala.

It’s childish but half of him wants to take her just for all the times Dean smacked his hand off the driving wheel, getting back at his big brother in true little brother fashion. Still, he knows this younger version of Dean is going crazy without his own Sam and taking his Baby would just be kicking him while he was down. Dad’s truck it is then, the arsenal he knows is in the back will come in handy anyway.

He crouches low despite how it pulls on his bullet wounds as to not be spotted from the house and walks around to the driver side door, grabbing the handle to let himself in – shit. It’s locked.

Muttering to himself about his Dad unable to do him this one favor he grabs a bobby pin from his bag and starts working on the handle lock. It’s tedious work but he can feel the lock just about to pop after only a few moments of wiggling. “Thank, god.” He mutters when suddenly something furry brushes past his legs making Sam stiffen. He glances down expecting the worst only to find a Rottweiler puppy looking up at him, its stubby little tail wagging back and forth happily.

“Rumsfeld,” Sam hisses, glancing up at the house before back to the dog. "Go on.” He gestures for the puppy to move but it instead sits right down, panting happily up at Sam.

“No,” Sam groans softly in frustration which apparently the dog takes personally as high pitched puppy cries start to fill the night air, Rumsfeld beside himself at Sam’s rejection. The porch light suddenly flicks on and Sam doesn’t even think before drooping to the ground, grabbing the dog against his chest and rolling underneath the truck.

“Shhh, good boy.” Sam whispers, scratching the puppy’s ears which immediately appeases it to licking at Sam’s face instead of crying.

“Rumsfeld!” Bobby shouts, Sam’s grip on the dog tightening as to not give away their position. Rumsfeld’s ears perk up but he seems to think Sam is a much better use of his time and continues to lick at his face.

Sam holds his breath as he watches Bobby’s long shadow spread across the front yard before abruptly disappearing when he flips off the porch light. “Dumb mutt.”

The breath he’d been holding releases and Sam grins down at the puppy on his chest. “At least you recognized me.” He whispers, Rumsfeld giving him another lick in response.

Cautiously, in case Bobby is still watching, Sam peeks back out from underneath the truck, his body is killing him but at least he seems to be in the clear. He crawls out with Rumsfeld, letting the puppy down to rub up against his leg while he works on the lock.

“And- got it.” Sam grins in triumph, leaning down to give the puppy a head rub to celebrate before climbing into his truck. He slings his bag onto the passenger seat with a grin and quietly pulls off the underside panel to start hotwiring the car. This is the easy part and he barely focuses on what he’s doing, more concerned with thinking through where exactly he’s going to go next and how to find Amanda when he hears the crunch of gravel. It doesn’t stop and Rumsfeld's still laying next to the car which means-

“Excuse me? Sir?”

“Oh, god no.” Sam groans, resisting the urge to smack his head on the steering wheel. It’s a woman and he can see the flash of a badge in his rearview mirror.

“Sir, this is the police and I need you to exit the vehicle.”  

He could try to run, just snap the wires together and make a break for it but he doesn’t need an APB out on him right now.

“I’m coming,” He sighs, getting out of the car and raising his hands over his head for good measure. He knows small town cops can get trigger happy.

“Thank you. You want to tell me what you’re doing on Mr. Singer’s property?”

The voice is way too familiar to be a coincidence but Sam can’t see the woman properly in the low lighting. He squints, hoping she’d step forward a bit but he knows he probably looks intimidating with his height and getting caught in the middle of trying to carjack a truck. “It’s a buddy of mine’s, I’m just getting my bag out of it.” He says smoothly.

“Yeah? Your buddy not give you the keys? I saw you pick the lock.”

Shit. “He couldn’t find them and I really needed the bag.” He smiles, hoping that might soften the blow he’s about to get because he knows she isn’t buying any of this.

“Right. So Mr. Singer can verify your story?” She asks but Sam can already see her reaching for the cuffs. “Why don’t I go ask him right now?”

Sam can’t go to jail, he has no money or ID that doesn’t put his age at fifteen and it will look too suspicious. Suspicious enough to get him picked up on the radar of higher ups and he really can’t afford to be anything less than inconspicuous with demons looking for him.  He knows Bobby will vouch for him but once they know he’s awake and trying to escape they won’t let him go easy. He doesn’t put it above his dad to tie him up if he thinks Sam was a high enough risk. He’s stuck between two hard places with no way out.

He’s leaning toward getting handcuffed, putting his chances on being able to break himself out of a police car over his Dad being reasonable about this situation. God, hopefully they leave his bag alone. Everything’s password protected but he doesn’t put it above Dean to not try and get into his phone and disable it for a year. He glances over at the duffle, biting his lip over whether or not he can hide it under the seats when he notices the bulge in the left pocket where he kept his ID’s. He might not be screwed after all.

“Officer, I’m here on very sensitive bureau business and I know this looks bad but I’m working undercover.” Yeah okay, it still sounds like bullshit but it was the only thing he had.

The policewoman obviously thinks the same thing as she switches from reaching for her handcuffs to her gun. “Bureau? You want me to think you’re FBI?”

“I have proof,” Sam says quickly, keeping his arms high despite how it pulls on his bandages and leans them toward the car. “I have my badge; I can show you.”

There’s a flash of hesitation before she grabs her gun and pulls it out, keeping it trained on Sam. “Sir, I need you to keep your hands where I can see them.”

“It’s just in my bag.” Sam stresses. “You can get it if you want.”

The officer slowly lowers her gun before sighing and moves to the side of the car, opening the passenger door and staring across at Sam. “This is your bag? Where’s the badge?”  

“Left side pocket.” He murmurs.  

He waits until she reaches into the bag, her hand with the gun falling down to her side and allowing him to snap the badge out of her hand. The dates won't match up on the badge and it’s better to play asshole agent then charged with impersonating an FBI agent.

She has her gun back on him but he has what he needs, letting the badge fall open for her to see it before closing it again. “My information is confidential, only the higher ups know I’m even here.”  

He can tell she’s rolling her eyes even in the dim lighting but her gun is down for now and she leans against the passenger seat toward him. “Sioux Falls needs a highly confidential FBI agent undercover?”

‘You’d be surprised’, Sam thinks but gives her a reassuring smile. “Nothing to worry about ma’am, I’ll be out of here tonight.”

“You do that.” She’s still suspicious but there’s nothing Sam can do about that, he’s going to be out of South Dakota by morning anyway.

The officer drums her fingers against Sam’s bag, stalling, which is strange. What exactly does she think she can- ?

“Say, we don’t get FBI here very often. It’d be a shame if you left without experiencing some real hospitality.”  She gives him a flashing smile that he can make out even in the dark and it makes his stomach turn. She’s not letting go without a fight.

“Really ma’am, I’ve enjoyed my stay but I need to get going.”

“Nonsense, it’s only six thirty. I know for a fact Bobby wouldn’t want any guests leaving before they’ve been fed. It’s just not our way around here.”

Bobby is the town drunk as far as any of its people are concerned so either this woman has no idea who Bobby is or she thinks Sam is full of shit and trying to call him on it. Judging by her smugness he’s putting his money on the later. God, he did not have time to deal with this but he couldn’t just hotwire the truck with her standing there.

“I ate earlier.” He grumbles, glancing back at the house to make sure no ones been alerted to the conversation going on.

“You looking for someone?”

She’s quicker than she should be for some small town cop and its just Sam’s luck to have her on his ass.

“No,” He says too fast. It’s a rookie mistake but he’s stressed and hasn’t taken any of his pain medication yet and just want’s to get out of this place that reeks of everything he’s lost.

“Well the only someone that’s in that house is Mr. Singer so why don’t I call him on out here and you can say goodbye before you head out on your little trip?" She grins and before he can tell her off or even reach across to knock her out she's yelling. "Bobby! Come introduce me to your friend!”

Sam lets his head fall to the leather seat of the couch, wondering how far he’d get if he just left on foot. The screen door pushes open and the porch light flickers on, Bobby’s gruff voice echoing across the yard. “Mills, what the hell are you doing on my property? I ain’t broken the law!”

Mills?

Sam glances up, the light from the porch illuminating a late twenties Jody Mills looking just as inconvenienced to see Bobby as he was to see her, the two glaring at each other across the drive. He’s struck by a powerful urge to hug her, the woman across from him the closest thing he’s ever had to a mother and right now he needs that kind of comfort. He resists though, pretty sure all he’d get from trying is a taser to the neck.

He’s proud though, Jody just as tenacious in her younger years as she is in his time, running around playing sheriff and mother to her adopted daughters. He wonders if this is what Dean felt like when he saw their mother in the past.

“Sam.” John Winchester’s voice rings out clear and stern, Sam feeling his heart sink the same way it did when he was a teenager which is irritating in itself. He want’s to just ignore it but his feet are in agony and he’s not sure he can even push a pedal to drive at this point.

“Have a good night, Agent Sam.” Jody calls after him as he makes his way back up to the porch.

 

 

“So you were going to steal my truck? That was your big plan?” Dad’s pacing in front of where he’s sitting on Bobby’s couch but the pain killers Dean made him swallow have already started making things hazy so the intimidation play isn’t working out very well. Even if he wasn’t high on med’s, Sam stopped being scared of his Dad around the time he sent an application off to Stanford.

Dean’s sitting on the other couch, having put up a fight about getting to sit with Sam but Dad wasn’t in the mood to be pressed and Dean sensed that. This left Sam with Bobby and he could tell the older man seemed to be having trouble adjusting to his height. Even with both sitting down Sam was a good head taller than him and Bobby knew it if the odd glances were anything to go off of.

“Sam! This effects all of us, not just you! There are real consequences here!”

Sam can’t help it, he laughs. There’s an edge to it that even he can hear and it’s unsettling, it obvious not all is right with him.

He shakes his head as he comes down from the laughter, wiping his eyes as he looks at his dad. “You have no clue about consequences.” He says easily but his eyes are hard and locked on John’s. “So don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t do because I guarantee you I’ve thought it through an infinite amount more than you ever will.”

He’s done then, getting up on shaky feet and making his way to the steps despite how badly each step make’s his stomach twist in agony. He’s not a child and he’s not going to be pushed around by his Dad while he’s here.

The steps are slow going but around halfway Dean appears, slipping under Sam’s arm and helps him the rest of the way. It’s sweet, especially after how much of an asshole he was in the living room but Dean’s always been quick to forgive him.

He want’s to tug on this Dean’s shirt, burry his face in his neck and be carried around like he’s a kid again. Except he won't fit and Dean can’t pick him up and this boy is just a small fragment of the man Sam feels like he’s drowning without.

Dean sits him down on the bed and doesn’t listen to any of his half-hearted protests as he lifts up Sam’s feet and takes off the bloody bandages. His feet are a mess from being on them for too long and even if John’s reasoning is skewed he really shouldn’t have tried to leave so early. Still, if he gives them a day to rest he’d probably be okay for driving as long as he didn’t make too many stops…

“Stay.”

He frowns, head turning to look at Dean who’s staring right back at him. It’s the first time he’s actually really looked at this Dean and he remembers why he was avoiding it when his heart nearly stops.

Green eyes, wise beyond their time that always seem to be able to stare right into the depths of Sam’s soul. Dean may look different but his eyes are the same ones that Sam said goodbye to what feels like only day’s ago. “What?” He murmurs, remembering vaguely that Dean has said something.

“Stay. Please.”

Sam frowns, his brother’s hands are shaking a bit as they clean the blood from his feet and Sam’s at a loss. Dean as a teenager was his hero, a man who could save anyone and make anything better with only a few dollars and a riffle. The kid in front of him looks pale with dark circles under his eyes, worry and stress seeming to take their toll. He’s so much smaller than Sam’s memories and while this should add up to disappointment, it doesn’t. Sam still want’s to burry his head against this Dean’s chest, still feels just as safe with his shaky hands handling his bandages, wants to tuck in close and have this Dean tell him everything is going to be okay.

This Dean is still his big brother and Sam would do anything for him.

“Yeah.” He murmurs, dropping his gaze down to the bed. He knows there’s a slight awkwardness in the air, Dean probably has a lot of questions about the future. About them.

“Good. You can’t go anywhere without me, okay? I don’t care about consequences or whatever. Someone needs to be watching out for your dumbass if being on your own get’s you in this much trouble.”  He grins slightly and Sam’s heart melts.

“Okay.” He agrees. ‘Never wanted to go anywhere without you anyway.’ 

 

Chapter Text

Sam sleeps for eighteen hours. Apparently, his body is about as happy with his escape attempt as his Dad is but at least he feels a bit better when he wakes up for the second time to the smell of dinner.

He knows better than to put pressure on his bare feet and instead reaches for the painkillers Dean must have left for him on the side table. He’ll give that about fifteen minutes to kick in before trying to walk.

He sighs and lays back on the bed, the embarrassment of last night fresh in his mind and makes the task of going downstairs and facing his family all the more daunting.

He knows they need to talk but he still can’t figure out what he’s supposed to say. It’s all been fighting up to this point, a language all of them can understand regardless if it’s up against Amanda or Meg. But what’s he supposed to say when Bobby asked why he looks so fucked over? When Dad asks why he tried to run?

When Dean asks where his older self was.

His throat goes dry, eyes threatening to tear up but he’s not going to give in. He’s not going to fucking cry in his old bedroom at Bobby’s. Dean’s probably looking down at him from heaven or something – he has no clue how it fucking works but he doubts time is that big of a deal up there – and he’s not going to be a wuss in front of him, not going to make him worry over nothing.

Still, if Dean is in heaven and able to see him...

“I miss you.” He murmurs up at the ceiling, voice cracking slightly. He’s at risk of sounding like a broken record these days, the only sentence he can ever get out but of course, it doesn’t even come close to describing how he feels about the missing piece of his soul, his very being.

It’s times like these that are the worst. The quiet moments stolen when the day slows down and his mind has nothing to focus on. He has to keep going, has to keep thinking on the next task or else the weight of this living hell starts to settle on his chest.

There’s a gun under his pillow, a pocket knife on the side table, an entire cabinet filled with Hospital grade medication down the hall…

He’s literal seconds away from being next to his brother, a slash of the wrist or a swallow of pills away from pressing his face into Dean’s neck and begging for forgiveness…

There’s a crash of pans downstairs, Bobby seeming to fumble with whatever he was trying to get down but the noise brings Sam’s focus back to the present with a jerk. Not yet. He’ll make Dean proud and fix this mess, make sure his younger self gets back to where he’s supposed to before finally getting to have his peace.

He doesn’t linger after that, no point in risking another ride down that train of thought. He only had so much self-control when it came to Dean temptation.

---

He doesn’t bother to hide his steps this time as he makes his way down the stairs. His feet hurt but the four pairs of thick socks he has on do a good job to cushion the worst of the pain. He barely makes it to the bottom before Dean’s there, taking Sam’s arm and pulling it over his shoulder as he leads him to a chair in the kitchen and forces him to prop his feet up.

“Dean,” Sam grumbles but Dean’s already lifting his legs onto the pillowed chair and giving him a look to shut the hell up.

“So.” John announces loudly from the kitchen, narrow eyes telling him he wasn’t the least bit impressed with the interaction, even more distrustful since Sam had attempted to leave. “Sam.”

It’s a verification and Sam resists rolling his eyes. “Yes?”

Bobby’s unimpressed by the entire act and put down a plate of pancakes on the table with a loud smack that broke the tension. “Everyone sit your asses down. We’re gonna eat and you can talk while we do it.”

Sam can't help but grin as everyone sat up to the table, reaching for some pancakes to fill up his plate, realizing how hungry he was after not eating since showing up here.

Dean takes the place next to Sam, Bobby and John on the other side and despite all the tension, bacon, pancakes, and juice are all passed without issue.

Bobby’s pancakes are as good as he remembered but the tightening in his chest over the thought of his own Bobby and how much he missed the man across from him made him put down his fork.

“So.” John repeats, ready to start this again. “Where the hell is my son?”

The fierce protectiveness in his tone surprised Sam, having never thought of his father to be one to show that kind of care for him out loud. By the way Dean and Bobby eye him seriously he assumed the feeling was mutual and he'd get choked up if he wasn't being threatened.

“He’s fine, as far as I can tell this was just a manipulation spell.” Sam answers, taking a swig of orange juice. “He’s most likely in limbo.”

“What does that mean?” Dean askes before John can comment, the worry and fear he’d been feeling for his little brother for the past few days breaking through his voice and Sam is just now seeing the bags of sleepless worry under his eyes.

“It’s like a waiting room, I’ve taken over his place here for a bit so his soul or essence is now waiting until I leave.” He assures, not wanting Dean to work himself up over this.

“Well, lets get him back then if it’s such a big deal.” Dean says firmly, arms crossing over his chest, a quirk Sam knew he did to make himself look older.

“It’s not that simple, there’s spell work and a full moon involved-“

“So at least a month?” Bobby clarifies with a frown and John stiffens.

“At least. I’d still have to figure out the exact location of Sam’s soul…” Yeah okay, that was all a lie, if the spell was what he thought it was it would take him no time at all to bring the kid back but while Amanda might not be worrying his family right now it sure as hell concerned Sam to be having a warlock running around trying to manipulate his timeline.

“So you don’t know.” John says, and for a moment Sam feels as young and belittled as he had when he was thirteen.

“I don’t have facts, but no one can in this situation.”

“He’s doing his best John, this is complicated magic.” Bobby murmurs, the burden on Sam’s shoulders lessening a bit. Fuck he missed that man.

“Okay so Sam’s safe.” Dean repeats, eyeing Sam to make sure he wasn’t being bullshited. “And we can get him out when you figure out how?”

“Just like he’s sleeping, and yes.” Sam gives him a weak smile, it hurting a bit to have this interaction.

“Great, so now that that’s settled would you like to get into what the hell everything in the cave was about?” John asked.

“I don’t – what do you want to know?”

“Curing demons? You were bleeding out right in front of us? What exactly are you doing in the future, Sam?”

Where to even begin?

“I… I had a disagreement with someone and it escalated.” Sam says carefully, mind flashing back to Lady Bevell’s roll of knives.

“Disagreement?” John asks tightly. “Dean go feed the dog.”

Dean gaps, eyes narrowing in what was sure to be a rare move of disobedience but one look at the seriousness on John’s face made him grudging stand, shoving his chair into the table and slamming the front door behind him to let his disagreement still be known.

As soon as Dean is out of earshot John leans across the table, eyes full of something Sam couldn’t identify. “Sam, I was in the war, I know torture when I see it.”

Torture. John didn’t know a thing about torture. Lady Bevel didn’t either.

“No monster burns feet, no monster slices to cause pain but not bleed out- these are well-practiced torture methods, Sam. Military grade. That plus whatever that bitch from the tunnels wants- it seems like you’re into deep shit with humans.”

It must be so strange, Sam thought, to be John Winchester. To think that the line between human and monster could so clearly be drawn in the sand. Of course, Sam himself had been shoved onto the opposite side of that line so he really shouldn’t be all that surprised. “It’s a bit more complicated than that.”

His Dad is from an age where a ghost hunt is something that could take several weeks and Azazel is just a whisper in the wind. John Winchester is damn good at what he does but Sam would consider their areas of work to barely overlap these days. It reminds him that he needs to work on his list. He needs help that’s a bit more experienced.

“Fuck that, Sam whatever you’re dealing with is affecting us! It affected my boy!”

Sam’s wide eyed at the endearment that was practically the John Winchester equivalent of an I love you but it doesn't last long, the moment breaking by the front door banging open, Jody Mills standing there with Dean close behind, obviously taking this as his invite to come back in.

“Mills? What the hell are you doing here? Two visits in two days why that’s – “

“Cut it Singer, we need a tow truck up on Larry’s farm.”

Bobby frowns, standing up and leaning onto the table. “What’s going on?”

Jody chews her lip, obviously trying to remain strong but she’s new at this job and it’s not like a lot happens in their small town to toughen her up. She’s shaken and Sam wishes he could hug her. “Larry and Jen are dead.”

Bobby pales but heads to the counter to grab his keys, there a hushed quiet over the kitchen but Jody isn’t having any of that, eyes daggers as she looks at Sam.

“Isn’t this what you’re supposed to be dealing with, Agent?” She spits before slamming the door behind her.


“We should check it out anyway, Larry and Jen were pretty young and I had a buddy tell me he thought there was a vamp nest working their way around this area. Bit higher up north I thought but still, won’t hurt nothin’ to look.” Bobby reasons as he pulls on his jacket.

Dean and John are on board, heading upstairs to get dressed and Sam’s left in the kitchen with a sinking feeling of dread in his stomach.

----


It’s small town and Bobby’s already getting let past the yellow tape so it’s not that hard for Dean and John to step over behind him, claiming to be part of the towing business so they can do a little investigating. Not that there's any reason for the tow truck people to see a crime scene but that's all in the charm Dean likes about these places. Sam lagged at the house so they’d left him behind to rest up or whatever though Dean doubts he was going to listen to them.

He’s Sammy after all, and his little brother didn’t do well with getting told what to do no matter how old and especially if it was for his own good.

His heart aches for the little brat that was missing from his side, constantly feeling the ghost of Sammy just within reach. Sam said Sammy was okay though, had promised. So he figured now was the time to focus on helping older Sam with whatever dog died and made his face stuck in a permanent frown.

He sighs dramatically as they walk up the long road to the house, wondering why the hell he has to have such bitchy brothers.

Larry and Jen’s farmhouse is at the top of the hill but before they’re even halfway the smell hits hard.

“What in the sweet Lord’s name is that?” Bobby gasps.

The Mills lady doesn’t seem to want to talk about it, ignoring them as they finish the rest of the climb. They peak the hill and the smell suddenly because absolutely putrid, Dean covering his mouth with his shirt to try filter it but abruptly drops it when he sees the source.

Fifteen cows litter the yard, their corpses baking in the hot sun, stomachs disembowel and their contents spilling out for the birds to pick at. The grass squelches with blood as Mills leads them through the mess and up to the porch where they can see the rest of the animal pins. Dean wishes he hadn’t.

Pigs, chickens, sheep – all disemboweled and left to rot.

“What- what kind of monster does this?” Dean asks under his breath, looking up at Bobby and Dad for answers but they both look equally as lost for words and that scares the shit out of him.

Mills opens the door and this whole trip just keeps getting worse because there’s a woman hanging from the ceiling, face and neck clawed to shreds around the make shift noose made from a belt. Her stomach is spilt open just like the cows and Dean hopes she’d at least been dead when whatever sick fuck did this to her.

Her husband isn’t much better, laying on his back with all four limbs torn from their sockets and blood pooling thick on the floor.

Mills swallows and turns back to face them, eyeing Bobby with a look of desperation. “You’re not supposed to see this but I know you hang around weirdos and some of them are actual professional weirdos. You think maybe you could ask about this? Off the record?”

Bobby nods with a sigh, taking off his hat as he looks over at his distant neighbors. “I’ll ask around.”

His obvious he’s not expecting to get much but Mills seems more concerned about at least having tried and Dean can admire that.

He’s hoping that they could speed up the little exchange and get the hell out when the sound of the officers outside the door comes through and Sam suddenly walks in.

He’s wearing a really nice suit, the kind him and dad always try to copy when they buy theirs for cheap from costume shops but Sam's is the real deal, standing out in the room full of jeans and small town cop uniforms.

“Uh excuse me,” One of the officers whos been directing some others in the corner steps over and Dean stiffens on instinct, sheriff badge flashing on his chest. “This is a closed crime scene.”

Sam smiles easily, white teeth that actually fit in mouth and those dimples that make his heart beat a little faster are still there. “Good job Sheriff, I appreciate you keeping such a close eye on things.”

He winks like him and the dude are good friends which throws the officer off a bit like he doesn’t know if he should wink back or toss Sam out. “Sir-“

Sam opens up his jacket and smooth as silk pulls out an FBI badge, flashing it for longer than Dean and John could ever do with their basic ID’s, let alone law enforcement.

“Oh uh, I had no clue the Bureau worked so fast.”

“I was in the area.” Sam hums, tucking his badge back into his jacket and flicking out a pen and notebook. What the hell?

“So, anyone in the area report anything odd? Odd lights, sounds, smells?”

The sheriff raised an eyebrow. “Besides the obvious?”

“I mean before it was called it.” Sam clarified patiently.

“Well… No. They live out of the way. Only reason anyone knew was the mailman came up here.”

“Good thing it wasn’t on a Sunday then, right Sherif?” Sam quips, closing his note book and heading for the bodies, leaving the bewildered officer behind.

“Break into any cars today, agent?” Mills asks, siding up to Sam and Dean instantly stiffens, moving to stand on Sam’s other side because this lady didn’t get to suddenly be his brother’s right hand in this.

“Just one,” Sam murmurs absently, much more focused on the bodies than anything else and John pauses before glaring when he realizes the implications.

Dean waits Jody out, firmly by Sam’s side and he knows that this chick is here actually doing a job and it doesn’t take more than a few minutes before she’s called back outside and they can have some extra privacy. The officers inside more concerned with their own conversations to really interrupt.

“You’re supposed to be resting,” He hisses, eyeing Sam’s feet and where he knows the bullet wound is, not to mention the rest of the fucked up shit healing on his brother’s body. “Go home.”

“I’m fine, Dean. Relax.” Sam sighs with an eye roll- a fucking eye roll!

“Don’t be a bitch, I can see your feet are hurtin’.” He moves closer, getting Sam to rest his arm on his shoulder to help take some of the weight off. “Hows that?”

“Fine.” Sam grumbles, trying to tug on his arm half heartedly but Dean could tell it helped too much to give up and shifted to take more weight.

Regardless of whatever the fuck is going on in the future, Sam still leans into him as he surveys the bodies, pressing closer than necessary and their breathing falling into synch just like always. Thank god.

“I like the monkey suit.” Dean murmurs under his breath, focusing on helping Sam and the new spicy way he smells on top of the regular layer of books and soap he’s used to. It helps to distract from all the blood and guts.

“Shut up,” Sam grunts, a ghost of a smile but it’s gone before Dean can even blink.

“You still think it’s vamps?” Dad asks Bobby, eyeing the mess of blood but Sam shakes his head, eyes tight and mouth thin as he looks at the floor and Dean knows that whatever’s going on in his big brain isn’t good.

“Well, it sure as shit ain't something I’ve seen before.” Bobby chimes in when Sam seems distracted in the blood pools or whatever the hell he’s seeing that the rest of them mere mortals can’t.

“I wouldn't give them that much credit this is pretty sloppy, I have an idea though.” Sam frowns, stepping away from Dean and walking around the tape to get a better view of the bodies, a slight limp to his step but there’s still a confidence to it that sets him at ease. Sam’s in control and knows what he’s doing despite all the weirdness.

He kneels down on the side of the yellow tape, using his pen tip to scrap at the drying blood pool on the floor. “And from the farmer’s hand cometh the cow and the sheep and the pig and the chicken, yay, even the wife, all bearing fruit for harvest.” He murmurs, eyes fixed on the wood that was slowly reappearing under last nights paint job. He barely finishes his weird little bible verse before the pen abruptly falls into the mess. Sam’s staring with wide eyes at the black burns on the floor and Dean feels like he wants to throw up.

“What the hell is that?” John hisses, leaning over to watch as Sam scraps away more blood and more weird symbols appear, eyeing the police officers to make sure they weren’t coming back over.

Sam’s mouth hardens, sitting back on his legs as he eyes what looked to Dean like a bunch of squiggles. “It’s part of the ceremony, but this shouldn’t be happening now – this shouldn’t be happening for years.” His voice cracks with panic and it scares Dean, Sam was supposed to have this down, just like the badge and the demon in the hospital.

John isn’t satisfied with playing the guessing game when the stakes are so high and kneels down next to him, hand gripping Sam’s shoulder. “Sam, what is it?”

The order is clear and Sam responds on instinct, back straightening and eyes going right to their fathers, a distinct direction sometimes needed in the middle of whatever he was working through. The height difference is strange but for a second they're father and son.

“It’s a seal. It’s wrong and out of order and whoever did this has no idea what to do but they’re trying – someone’s trying to open the cage.”

Chapter Text

Cynthia is screaming again and Amanda is this close to taking a vial of holy water and shoving it down the demon’s throat. She doesn’t though, she’s paid too much to lose her cool like that. Money may not buy happiness but it does buy a patient lawyer.

The Astor’s, darling family that they were, weren’t exactly comfortable with Cynthia staying at their home while their daughter was still ‘sickly’ as they like to call it. Which is fine, Amanda deals with the supernatural and its victims as her regular clientele and most of them prefer to not get too close.

That’s why she had the room made, her attic transformed into a cozy but secure living space for whatever she might need to store up there and so far it had held up fine. Werewolves, vampires, and even a few ghosts had been locked up tight in her little DIY prison. Of course, with the money her clients paid it was nothing less than luxurious even if the occupants didn’t quite see it that way during their stay.

Cynthia is currently chained up to a lovely Italian leather couch she’d bought on her last trip from Europe. Even if her screams don't quite show it, Amanda knows the damn thing is a pleasure to sit in.

“Ms. Astor.” Amanda sighs, undoing the lock and checking the warding on the door before stepping into the room. The wailing is ear-splitting without the protection of the metal door and she winces.

Cynthia strains against her chains, her pink dress twisted up around her body as she squirms to get out but of course, it’s no use. Her cheeks are flushed and eyes too wide which is a bit concerning. Amanda’s never dealt with demon’s before her but she doesn’t think that’s normal. “Ms. Astor, I need you to use your words so I can help you.”

Cynthia pants, drool leaking from her mouth as she focuses in on the woman in front of her. “It’s too loud!”

Yeah, it really was, but Amanda’s pretty sure the demon wasn’t talking about her own screaming. “What is? If you tell me I can help.”

She writhes against the metal chains keeping her against her chair, head banging back against the leather cover before thrusting forward against her chest, over and over like she was trying to break her own neck.

“Cynthia!” She grabbed her head, holding it steady as she looked into the black eyes that still made her shiver no matter how often she saw them.

“They- They know he’s here!” The demon screams, thrashing in Amanda’s hand as if the knowledge was too much. “They’re trying to open - open some kind of gate? They need something - no someone. They need someone in hell. Someone specific- a girl- a demon."

Amanda doesn't like the sound of that, eyes flickering over to the warded lock keeping Cynthia tied down. “They know who’s here?”

“Sam.” Cynthia pants as she twists against Amanda’s touch. “That- that guy you brought here to cure me. My brothers and sisters are celebrating.” Her body calms as she stares up at Amanda with those terrible big black eyes. “They want to thank you personally.”

~~

Sam groans, rolling on the cold concrete floor as hands prod at his face and back. “Quit it, De’n.”

The hands are persistent though and he finds himself glancing up into the light to see a bewildered blonde woman’s face. The sight of a stranger is enough to wake him all the way up and he quickly scoots away, putting some distance between them in the – is he in a basement?

“Sam?” She asks tentatively. She has an English accent, a fancy one like in the period dramas he makes Dean watch with him at the nicer motels.

“Who are you?” He shoots back, not comfortable with her knowing his name. Everything’s blurry, they were on a werewolf hunt and then a cave? Maybe …

Holy shit.

“I’m not going to hurt you – we’re not going to hurt you.” She says seriously and for the first time Sam sees the other person in the room, a dark-haired woman who looks like she could snap his neck with her fingers.

“W-Where am I?” He manages to ask, eyes flickering over the room they’re in. There are chains and a broken chair on the floor that is covered in blood and he’s starting to feel sick.

“Sam, there’s a lot of magic that just happened in this room. Can you tell me what you think happened?” She’s talking so smoothly, voice comforting and motherly and he finds himself listening despite knowing better.

“I – we were in a cave.” He chews his lip, still trying to figure it out himself. “We were hunting something...”

The woman frowns, glancing wordlessly back at her companion who nodds, something Sam can't understand passing between them.

“Okay, we’re going to figure this out. You don’t have to be scared.” She smiles at him and reaches out her hand but Sam isn't going to give in so easily.

“I’m not scared.” He says firmly because he can't be, he’s confused and worried for his family and a million other things but scared won't help anything. Scared gets you dead, he needs to be smart.

Sam tentatively stands up, still trying to wrap his head around all of this. He’s here in some kind of creepy basement because apparently his whole life is supposed to imitate a bad horror movie.

“What year is it?”

It’s out of his mouth before he can be self-conscious over how stupid it sounds. Everything feels a bit hazy and something is nagging at him insistently that there's soemthing wrong, he's not supposed to be here. 

The blonde woman purses her lips, kneeling down so she’s on level with Sam. He wants to feel insulted but she smells like cinnamon and her hand is soft and comforting when it gently rests on his shoulder. “2016.” She says carefully, eyeing him for a reaction.

He's not nearly as shocked as he should be, the weight of time travel feeling more like deja vu - it's weirder that he feels like he already knows that than the actual time travel itself. 

“Was – was future me here?” He frowns, the blood and chains by the chair a bit of an eyesore in the already creepy basement.

The woman seems to pick up on what he’s not saying, eyes following his to the chair and immediately shakes her head. “No, not there.” She smiles kindly and something passes over her face before it’s gone as quick as it came. “You were working with us.”

“Working with-?“

“I’ll explain everything in a minute, why don’t we get you upstairs and cleaned up and you can tell me how you got here.” She helps him stand, a strong arm holding him up as they make their way to the stairs. “I’m Toni.”

“Sam,” He hums in return, leaning into her without a second thought.

He can practically hear Dean telling him off, after all, stranger danger is key to the Winchester survival kit. Toni isn't a stranger though he reasons, his future self knows her and she was being nothing but nice. Soft touches and reassuring smiles exactly what he needs after everything today and Toni is giving them away like candy. He's only human.

Which is how he finds himself bundled up in a big quilt and eating pancakes in the kitchen above the cellar.

“So this isn’t your house?” He asks, swallowing a big bite of syrup soaked pancakes. He saw Toni fumbling a bit in the kitchen as she searched for a pan which means she either never cooked or the place was new to her and judging by the pancakes he's going with the later.

“No, we’re borrowing it for a few days. We needed your help for a bit of a problem we’ve been having.” She explains, flipping over the next batch of pancakes. “We’re with the Men of Letters, ever heard of it?”

Sam shakes his head as he takes another bite.

“No, I suppose you wouldn’t have. Well we’re with the British branch and we’ve been looking for some allies over here in the states and you’ve been helping us.” She explains. “Hunting is a lot bigger these days, more monsters out there. But there’s also more people helping, people like us and you Sam.”

“That sounds pretty official for hunting.” He frowns because what the hell? This lady is acting like offing ghosts is her nine to five and home by dinner.

“Oh, it is. We’re not – how can I put this? Hunting doesn’t have to be an obsession, Sam.” She says seriously and the way she’s looking at him feels a little too personal. “It can be a job, a dedicated one and with calculated risks, but it’s not a death sentence. The men of letters bring stability to a noble profession. We’re changing the world and with our help monsters stay under control. It’s not about responding to a monster that’s already killed people, it’s about keeping them from ever harming anyone. Do I look like the type to be camping out in a truck for two days and eating fast food for every meal?” She smiles.

Sam shakes his head, a bit in shock at what she was saying.

“Because that’s not how we do it. I have a home Sam, a family. And sure there’s short business trips here and there and threats to take care of but I’m very much in control of what I do. The men of letters only take the best and they give the best in return. State of the art weaponry, excellent pay, and a range of support agents at your disposal. And you deserve no less, Sam.”

She put the spatula down, turning to look at him eye to eye. “Summa Cum Laude Stanford Graduate, excellent references, and eighteen years of training under John Winchester. You weren’t trapped in hunting, Sam. You chose the men of letters and we were lucky enough to have you.”

It’s too much, everything she’s saying. His entire life revolved around not having a choice, never being able to choose what he wanted and now he gets to have this? Get’s to have a college education from one of the best schools in the states? To not be stuck on back roads in the middle of nowhere jumping from town to town with no end in sight? Gets to do this his own way while maybe still making his dad proud? But most importantly – “Is Dean with me?”

Toni is expecting the question, he can see the small crack of a smile on her face and if that’s not confirmation she knows future him he doesn’t know what is. Of course, hopefully, she didn’t know them too much…

“You and Dean work together, you two wouldn’t have it any other way.” She confirms and Sam feels his chest release at the idea of a future with his brother. The the two of them as partners even twenty years on. It’s the best thing to come out of this shitty day.

“Is he here? Can I see him?” He asks, sitting up a bit taller as if adult Dean would be walking around the corner at any moment. Adult Dean, now that was a weird thought… and a bit of a dangerous one considering how tight his pants suddenly felt.

“Unfortunately no, we’re in the middle of some important networking with hunters and Dean is working in deep cover in connection to that a few states. We needed one of you here and one of you there, couldn’t be helped.” She sighs. “And unfortunately we can’t meet up with him until we finish our work here.”

Sam frowns, not liking the sound of that. “Why not?”

“Well, Dean depends on what we’re doing here. All of us are trying to get more freelance hunters to join up with the Men of Letters. They’re stubborn, people who want to do it solo or the old-fashioned way.”

It sounds like she was describing John Winchester to a T and Sam resisted rolling his eyes because he completely understands. “Yeah, I get that. My dad would make me sort through ten newspapers instead of just going to look it up at the library computer.”

“Exactly, it’s not their fault but we’re in a bit of a tight spot right now and need all the extra hands we can have. Dean’s undercover in a big hunting family and if we play our cards right we can show them that we have a strong enough American hunting force behind us that they’ll want to join.”

“They’ll feel safe if they see there’s a lot of people like them already on the team.” Sam agrees, “I know my dad wouldn’t join up with a big group but if he saw my Uncle Bobby and Caleb had he’d reconsider.”

“It’s just a shame, we needed your older self’s connections to start recruiting here and with him gone who knows how long Dean could be undercover. It could actually be a bit of a risk…” She frowns.

Sam doesn't like the sound of that, the idea of Dean somewhere without him, counting on Sam to get something done and it not happening or even hurting him. “I could help.”

“No Sam, I can’t ask you to do that. We need to figure out how to get you back to your own time.” She frowns

“No,” Sam says firmly. “Dean needs help and I might not know as many people as my future self does but I still know hunters. Hunters with kids who hopefully are hunting on their own now.” If not dead, but he figures he needs to be positive if he is going to be joining up with these Men of Letters.

Toni nods slowly. “You know, that just might work… you really will help us? Help Dean.”

As if there was even a choice. “Yeah, I want to do everything I can.”

Toni smiles, that weird glint in her eye again. “You’re too noble Sam.”

“Care to explain to me what that was all about?”

Toni Bevell huffs, focusing on the dishes she was scrubbing rather than her companion. “Keep your voice down, he’s sleeping.”

“He won’t wake up, I put the drug in his milk since you were so against adding it to his pancakes. Why was that again?”

Lady Bevell turns, giving her a dark look. “If you have something to say, Ms. Watt, I suggest you say it.”

“Gladly. I know Winchester looks like a child but he’s fifteen. He’s not a kid Bevell.”

“I know that. I never said he was.” She scrubs harder at the stubborn skillet.

“You miss your son. I understand that it must be hard to be away but that doesn’t mean a teenage Sam Winchester is who you latch onto. We have a job to do and the demonic readings we got when that kid appeared in the basement were off the charts. We need to tell Ketch.”

“No, leave Ketch out of this. This is my assignment and he can go to hell.” She lets the pan fall, splashing in the sink as she turns back to face Watt. “Who knows what he’d do now that we have two time warping anomalies on the radar.”

“He’d do exactly what we should be doing! Dropping Sam Winchester off with his brother and getting him off our hands. This isn’t our problem Bevell, someone is messing with timelines and we’re going to have to focus on the source. We can trust Dean to get his kid brother back to the right time, he can at least do that much with that angel.”

“No. We keep him here.” Lady Bevell sighs, tucking a stray hair behind her ear that fell out of her bun. “He’s useful to us, Sam was never going to tell us anything about the hunters. This Sam is jumping at the chance.”

“Hunters are the least of our problems if those readings are accurate! And besides, his information isn’t going to be even half reliable, most of the people he knows are going to be dead – “

“Enough.” Lady Bevell raises a hand, silencing Watt. “I said we keep him and we’re keeping him.”

“You’re kidnapping a child, Bevell. Know the line you’re crossing. I’ll kick adult Winchester ass any day but playing house with the miniature version?”

Lady Bevell purses her lips, turning back to the sink and starting to scrub.

Watt isn’t on board with babysitting the kid version of Sam Winchester to begin with and adding the layers of lies they had to keep up in front of him was just another addition of hassle. Bevell was good though, the kid ate up everything they said about his future being a sparkly version of working with the Men of Letters. It would be sad if she gave a shit.

Still, if Bevell wants to focus on recruiting hunters and ignore the strange demon readings that is her prerogative and Watt would just deal with how the cards fell like always. She’s adaptable like that, it’s why she still has her job.

Of course, the other reason she still has her job is because she’s damn good at it, take now for instance as she stuffs Sam Winchester’s shit into a backpack. He’d had only a few things on him and they’d confiscated most of it but it was good to make this as convincing as possible. Watt had faked a lot of deaths, including several of her own, and it didn’t pay to be anything less than thorough.

Bevell is in the office with Sam, all smiles as she cozies up next to him and they write down names of prospective hunters or whatever. While her boss plays mom she’s doing the dirty work but then again how is that anything different?

She doesn’t need anything from them, grabbed a swab of spit while the runt was asleep a few hours ago and she’s just waiting on the husk to finish baking. The house stinks like cooked flesh but Bevell put a ham in the oven so everything melds into one disgustingly similar scent.

Her watch dings and she grabs a baking mitt on her way down to the basement where their equipment is. The metal coffin-like box is warm to the touch which is a good sign and when she lifts the lid a very charred looking body peeks back at her. It’s completely synthetic of course, a test tube that needed only a little bit of DNA and some fancy spell work from their cursed box and a body double was born. A little tweaking and they had the right age, the corpse nearly doubled on itself to fit all six feet and change inside.

“Thank god,” She sighs. The spit hadn’t been her first choice, not when they had so much blood from the Sam at the age they needed the body but she worried the scrapping it off the floor or knives would lead to contamination in the DNA the angel might pick up on. That doesn't matter now though, they have what they need.

The body isn’t more than a general shape and scarred skin, more of a charred husk with a few striking features to match it with Sam Winchester. If she needed a lifelike body that would take over a day but thankfully this will do just fine.

She heaves the husk over her shoulder, dragging it out of the box and onto the table. While it’s definitely charred looking it isn’t the burned shell she’s going for which is where the blowtorch comes in. Fifteen minutes of burning flesh and melting muscle she has a body that looks like it’s gone through a half-assed pyre. Perfect.

She wraps it up in some sheets from upstairs, mummifying a homemade corpse while Sam and Bevell laugh from the living room.

She only had a few hours and it looks pretty damn good if she does say so. The proportions and cheeks bones exactly right and if she’d left the little skin that had formed it would have been the perfect shade.

She takes Sam’s phone and presses speed dial, absently fiddling with the strips of fabric around fake Sam’s neck. It goes to voicemail, figures.

“Hi, Dean. You still have our veterinary friends phone? Maybe you should answer your own instead of stealing others because I have a delivery for you. Fourteenth and Main, I wouldn’t wait very long to pick it up”

..

The drop goes smoothly and she gets the body settled next to the abandoned shed just in time for her to disappear into the trees. She has a cloaking charm on her ring so there’s no risk of exposure and she needs to make sure they take the bait.

They pull up in the damn muscle car because subtle is a foreign word to the Winchesters. Dean and the angel and – who the hell is that?

Watt stiffens, grabbing her binoculars to get a better view of the blonde woman. She wasn’t in the debriefing file and the Winchesters weren’t known to just take on new companions. “Fuck.” She frowns, not liking having such a huge unknown in her plan.
She turns on her earpiece, needing to gauge what they're saying, this addition putting too many variables in what was an airtight drop. Damn Bevell and wanting to keep the stupid kid.

“What are we looking for?” The woman’s asking, seeming a bit out of her element for some reason. It reminds her a bit of the younger Sam but Watt can’t place why.

“Anything- a box, a phone, a clue- anything!” She winces, turning down the volume slightly at Dean’s loud panicked commands. He’s pacing, looking like a caged animal but this prison is all psychological.

“A body.”

Its Castiel, the deep dry tone gives away his species as much as the beeping of the radar in her bag. He’s spotted the white sheets first and it’s only moments before Dean’s kneeling in front of it, tearing at the strips with his fingers.

She doesn’t look at the body, knows the gruesome sight well after having created it. Instead, her eyes are on Dean, watching the pure shock and denial as he tries to process what he’s seeing, the slow swallowing of realization and finally the sweet victory of a broken spirit –

A scream echos through the field, startling Watt so hard she almost drops her binoculars. Dean is screaming, raw and unfiltered and a sound like no human should make. It’s broken yes, but not in the way she was expecting.

Rage is what she’s hearing. Rage of not just a broken man, but a broken warrior. Watt has broken a lot of people in her time but she’s starting to think cracking Dean Winchester might have broken all the wrong things.

She can see the woman backing up several steps, looking as surprised as Watt is at what’s happening before them.

The screaming abruptly cuts off, Dean pushing his face into the bodys shoulder and rocking it like a toddler. Sobs are coming from her earpiece, sobs, and whispers of dark things she can’t quite make out. They sound like promises though and she doubts they bode well for her.

Something feels wrong, the air too warm and the distance between her and the group comforting before is now almost suffocatingly close. She needs to leave.

“They’re dead.”

It’s a dark whisper, a bit louder than the rest of whatever’s being murmured for synthetic Sam’s deaf ears and she can’t help but feel it’s for her.

She picks up the pace, not stopping until she’s at the car and putting dust between herself and Dean Winchester, the sickening prick of static on her neck something she’s not felt in years. Fear. 

 

Chapter Text

“So what exactly is this cage?” John asks Sam for what’s probably the tenth time since the chaos that had gone down at the farm. Like every other time, Sam doesn’t listen and just keeps writing on Bobby’s chalkboard in the living room.

It’s a mess, scribbles that only Sam seems to be able to understand, notes from the radio that he has blaring in the corner and scrolling to different channels every few minutes. If Sam didn’t always act with this kind of crazed obsession when he focused on something, Dean would think he’d gone off the deep end.

Bobby seems to understand that he ain’t getting shit out of Sam and has switched tactics, now flipping through pages in a book and Dean would bet money he’s trying to look up the scripture Sam referenced back at the house.

Dean hates this, ever since they met the Amanda woman it feels like his worlds been turned upside down and he doesn’t know shit. It’s frustrating as hell on top of the fact that Dean is still short a little brother and despite everyone seeming to be fine with Sam’s little claim of Sammy being in limbo that doesn’t stop Dean from wanting to cry when he goes to sleep without the little shit besides him.

Sam takes a step back, the limp in his leg still obvious but he stands a bit more steady on his feet which is a good sign that the bandages are holding up. Good, at least he can take care of some version of Sam.

“We have a problem.” Sam murmurs, voice measured but a weight to it that Dean doesn’t like.

“Yeah, kinda figured when I saw those sliced up cows.” Dean says dryly, crossing his arms as he stares at Sam. “Cut the shit Sam, what’s going on?”

“You have to understand, if what I think is going on is actually going on – it means that I’ve fucked up a twenty-year timeline.” He murmurs, eyes seeming so much heavier and older than they should be and Dean feels like something is very wrong.

“Okay,” Bobby says carefully. “We can fix a timeline, Sam, it’s not the end of the world. Now I don’t have the most experience with this sort of thing but it can be done.”

Judging by the soft look of appreciation Sam threw at Bobby, that was the right thing to say but instead of nodding and agreeing and taking a load off everyone’s back Sam had to be a little bitch and drop, “Actually I'm going to be blunt here, If I don’t find a way to fix this it will be the end of the world.”

“What the hell does that mean?” John groans, and Dean’s right along with him. Apparently, the future is full of demons and the world ending and not quite as bright as Dean would have liked it to be.

“Look, we’re already breaking about a hundred rules of time traveling and I have no idea what kind of effect it’s having on my own time.” Sam sighs, rubbing his temple like he did when he was stressed. “But I’m a bit stuck here because there’s no way I can just leave this-“ He gestured to the chalkboard like they should all know what the hell this was.

“Sam,” John says firmly, putting his hands carefully on his youngest shoulders, mindful of his bad side. “I know this is a lot, and you’re right – we don’t understand half of it. You came here and were dumped in the middle of a shitty situation and we’re all still trying to adjust. But if whatever you’re going on about is on the scale of the world ending then don’t you think you should share it with us? We don’t have to know all the details but if what you’re talking about is true, then it’s our time that’s going to end, and that affects us.”

Sometimes Dean is really grateful for his Dad. John Winchester doesn’t always see eye to eye with his sons but Dean always knows without a doubt that he is loved- even when if it’s tough love. John hates being kept in the dark, but Dean can see he’s trying to help Sam calm down first.

Sam seems to come back to himself a little, John’s heavy hand on his shoulder guiding him down to the couch. He takes a deep breath, those eyes always calculating except this time Dean hopes it’s on clearing this shit up a little more.

John decides that Sam needs a little help because he clears his throat first to break the silence. “Let’s start from the beginning.” He offers, giving Sam a direction to at least guide the openness of the conversation. “You’re Sam. My son. And you’re from the future.”

Sam nods in confirmation. “Yeah, you want to check to make sure I’m not a shifter or something?”

“I did the first night you slept here, but even if I didn't, I think we’re a little past that at this point.”

Sam cracks a small smile and sits up, breathing a bit easier now. “Okay.” He murmurs, that deep business tone coming back into his voice and Dean is lying if he says it doesn’t do things to his insides. “My situation is a little bit complicated and we don’t have time to go into all of it but I’m still hunting and the injuries I had when I came here- I don’t think they have anything to do with our current situation. It was all Amanda who pulled me through.”

“You think that bitch will be back?” Dean asks curiously, fingers flicking slightly like he wanted to make a grab for his knife. “I have some unfinished business.” Like showing Amanda what exactly happens to people who take Sammy away from his big brother’s side.

“Okay, Swayze.” Sam scoffs, making Dean huff because if anyone should be taking his threats seriously it was the person he was making them for.

“So Amanda choose you because you can cure demons.” Bobby recounts, sipping on the beer he’d grabbed for himself out of the fridge. It was a damn good idea; Dean thinks this conversation might be a bit easier to get your head around when buzzed.

“I guess.” Sam shrugs. “I think there’s a bit more to it than that, she would have had a few options and she went with the most complicated out of all of them.”

“Options? You mean like you have options when you’re trying to save someone who’s a demon?” Bobby asks curiously, inching forward a little on the couch. There’s very little information on demons circling and Dean’s pretty sure Bobby has the most extensive library around so anything they can get out of Sam will help loads.

Sam raises an eyebrow because of course, he isn’t going to give them anything more than what he thought they needed, the little shit.

“Right, this is a need to know basis.” Bobby sighs.

“Don’t worry, you help us figure out a lot of this stuff later.” Sam grins, putting a hand on Bobby's shoulder. It’s a bit strange to watch, Dean realizing that while Sam obviously sees Bobby as a familial figure there’s not a power imbalance anymore. Sam was grown up in his relationships too, and for the first time, Dean considers what their relationship must be like in the future with a bit more seriousness.

“So I still have to do all the heavy lifting for you Winchesters, is that what I’m hearing?”

It breaks a little of the tension as they laugh and Dad shoots a glare at Bobby but there’s no heat in it. “Right, so back to the world ending part.”

Sam’s smile dies on his lips and he stands, looking over at the chalkboard and his notes before back to them. “in the rejected pages of the book of Thomas there are accounts of God caging… something up.” He explains slowly. “Something that should never be opened but because God can never do anything without a contingency plan, he made a key to the cage.”

Dean looks up at his brother blankly, not liking where this was going. He knows Sam sometimes goes off with Pastor Jim to pray in the little chapel and likes to light candles if they ever pass by an offering table but this is a completely new level of religious. “God isn’t real Sam.”

Sam looks at all three of them, takes in their hardened faces and sighs. His face is unreadable for a moment and Dean really doesn’t want to do this but if Sam needs a reminder for all the reasons god doesn’t fucking exist he’ll give them to him. Sam can't look at them like that, like believing in God wasn't a stupid thing that got you killed. “If God was real we’d have a mom, if God was real none of this fucking shit would happen to us – to anyone. If God was real, he wouldn’t have taken you away.”

The outburst is louder than he intended, his chest hurting a bit and he realizes that it’s from trying not to add tears to the mix. He’d been strong, a good soldier and went along with all this crazy shit to try and help this big version of his little brother but none of that was good enough when Sammy wasn’t here. He swallows hard, feeling his Dad’s gaze on his neck and he takes a deep breath before cracking a cocky grin. “Come on now Sammy, if god was real you wouldn’t still be a virgin.”

Dad whacks the back of his head and Bobby snuffs out a reminder about manners which is exactly what he wants as the attention shifts away from him and his almost tears. It wasn’t even true of course, Dean able to account in Technicolor just how and when Sam lost his virginity but the only people who know that are him and the sasquatch currently staring at him.

He frowns, raising an eyebrow to challenge Sam on whatever the hell he was looking at but Sam just continues to look for a moment. Dean feels naked, he’s supposed to be the one who can assess and figure out what’s wrong with Sam in one look but here Sam is doing the same thing to him. He feels pinned, the heat of the gaze is too much and not enough all at once and he feels… loved.

It’s such a fucking sappy thought. He knows Sam loves him and obviously, older Sam loves him too (the extent of which was still up in the air but at least now he had somewhat of an idea) but this feels different. There’s weight and history and things Dean doesn’t even comprehend the intensity of and it scares him.   

Sam’s eyes finally flick back to the board, whatever passed between them gone for the moment and Dean’s chest sags slightly. What felt like an eternity was only the briefest of seconds judging on Bobby and Dad’s lack of reaction.

“I know we all have our different opinion on the existence of God, which is fine. But for the sake of what I’m explaining you’re going to need to at least believe that at one point there was a god- or something like a god.” Sam offers to them.

There’s a slight grumbling, everyone having seen too much of the darker side of humanity to want to believe in a divine entity but they all go with it. “So there’s a cage with some big baddie inside of it and God made a key for it?” Dean sums up.

“Right, except he knew he couldn’t just make a key, he’d need to make it a bit more difficult to open up this cage. So he created seals, they’re in the Bible and in a few other lost works- too many to count. But if you follow the directions and complete the task, you’ve broken a seal or unlocked one lock on the cage. Break sixty-six of them and you’ve got yourself an open door.

“So you’re saying that what happened out at the farm was a seal? Someone broke a seal to try and open this cage?” Bobby asks, frown deepening into the lines of his face. Dad has that cold and calculating look in his eyes, the same one he always gets when he’s taking in a new evil.

“Yes, but that’s where this gets a bit confusing.” Sam frowns as he turns to the chalkboard. “The seals can be done in any order, doesn’t matter which one you do when except for the very first and the very last and I know for a fact the first seal hasn’t been broken.”

“So why are we worried then?” Dad asks, crossing his arms. It’s not rude, just blunt, John likes things straight to the point especially when that point is something he needs to kill. Sam usually takes it the wrong way though and Dean’s already bracing himself for a fight. It doesn’t come though, Dean glancing up in surprise to see Sam considering his chalkboard still.

“It’s not really about someone trying to open the cage, it’s more about someone trying to do it twenty years too early.” Sam clarifies. “Things just don’t make…. Sense.” He pauses. “Unless Meg was telling the truth.”

“Meg?” Dean asks, echoing the confusion he can feel in the others. It’s not fun playing guess Sam’s riddles and he sure as hell would have remembered Sam mentioning a girl.

“Yeah- her names not important. She was saying that they were speeding things up.” Sam must have been eavesdropping while they were thinking a demon was about to kill them, again he was a little shit. “I thought they meant something else but I guess this makes sense too…”

He turns back to the board, leaving them with the jack squat that explanation gave them. Also apparently demons had names and Sam was going to call the crazy hospital bitch Meg on top of believing in a higher power. He really should be taking notes on all the things he apparently didn’t teach Sammy – first up not to fucking name demons when you were supposed to be ganking them.

“I’m not going into details so please don’t ask.” Sam sighs after a moment, more scripture and markings Dean doesn’t understand on the chalkboard. “I think they’re trying to open up the cage ahead of schedule because I’m here, even though they obviously don’t have all the pieces in place yet. I’d be willing to bet they don’t know that the seals need to be done in order and that’s why they’re scrambling.”

“Why would you being here make them want to open it faster?” Dad asks slowly, something shadowy in his face that Dean isn’t able to interpret. Sam obviously can though because he swallows hard, looking almost guilty.

“They don’t have all the details yet, but right now they think they need me to do something in order to open one of the seals.” Sam says slowly, choosing his words very carefully.

 “You’re saying this from experience, did you open a seal, Sam? Did this happen in your time?” John’s gaze is hard as he stands to look at his son, a powerful presence even with Sam’s extra inches.

“I don’t have the time to try and explain to you everything with the seals- and even if I did I can’t because who knows how much I’ve already told you guys I shouldn’t have. I have a connection to this, I’m not going to deny that. But the world is still spinning in my time and we aren’t worried about the seals.”

It’s a promise, and Dean watches as John meet Sam’s gaze, deciding whether or not he’s going to accept Sam’s story and by extent Sam himself. The tension is clear between them and whatever silent conversation they are having is completely their own. “Okay.” John finally murmurs, taking a slight step back. “So these seals aren’t in danger?” 

Sam sighs, his relief echoing Dean’s own as a little bit of acceptance falls over the family. This was their situation, might as well try and trust each other as they worked to get out of it. “I don’t know. I’m more concerned about how desperate they are to try and open the do – the seals. They already sent a demon after us and if they’re dead set on moving forward with this plan they’re going to figure out soon enough that they’re not doing things in the right order.”

“What exactly is the right order?” Bobby asks curiously, standing up and eyeing some of his annotated bibles for anything that could help. “The first seal?”

Sam’s hands visibly clench around his piece of chalk, so subtle Dean is pretty sure he was the only one who notices. Whatever this is, he already doesn’t like it if it makes Sam react like that. “Book of Revelation.”

Bobby grabs a random bible and flicks to the correct book, passing it over to Sam who seems very familiar with how easily he flicks to it. “And it is written, that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man sheds blood in Hell. As he breaks, so shall it break.” He murmurs, eyes not even moving along the passage, the words spilling from his lips as memorized verse.

“Sounds like it’s not a seal you can break in a day.” Bobby muses as he reads it over again, making a little note in the corner of the page.

Sam cracks a small smile. “No, the righteous man doesn’t break easily.”

Dean saddles himself back up to Sam’s side, having enough of whoever this righteous man is and whatever weird hero worship Sam has for him. “So seals and demons, what are we going to about them?”

“Good question, we can’t do anything until we know what we’re up against. I know who’s pushing this but we need to know how much information they have and what they’re planning on doing.” Sam hummed. “We need to talk to someone on the inside.”

It’s silent for a moment, what’s Sam’s saying making zero sense because that would mean –

“You want to summon a demon?” John hisses.

“Yes,” Sam nods. “I do, and it’s going to be perfectly safe, I just need a few things.”

“Boy, you ain’t summoning a demon under my roof.” Bobby scoffs at the idea. “Demons ain’t nothin’ but trouble and I don’t want one knowing my address.”

“Well where else am I supposed to do it, it’s not like we have a lot of options here.” Sam points out, ignoring their protests as he goes to Bobby’s spell cabinet. He pops in the four-digit combo into the lock, surprising all three of them since John doesn’t even know what that is.

Sam takes a few things out and sets them on the table, nothing looking too crazy. Witch hazel, sage- the dried fruits were a bit weird but whatever, Sam was the expert here. Maybe demons got snacky after being summoned.

The chalk from Bobby’s desk is next, Sam having them help him clear away the furniture in the library since it’s obvious he’s going to do this with or without anyone’s consent. The floor empty, Sam gets down on the hardwood and starts to draw. First, a devils trap, Dean able to recognize that from the books and the one Bobby has over the front door but this one’s different, more complex and seems to glow slightly as Sam draws against the wood.

“You doing this freehand?” John comments, pride for his son coloring his tone and Dean can’t help but puff up his chest a little because damn right Sammy can do cool demon traps without even looking. His boy has always been clever and Sam’s just as quick and brilliant as Dean always knew he’d be. 

“Yeah,” Sam gives John a slight modest smile, before moving into the middle of the circle and starting on a separate looking sigil. This one using triangles and complex looking marks that has Bobby trying to copy them down for reference but unable to keep up with Sam’s hand.

When Sam finally stands the result is nothing less than impressive, intricate lettering and symbols cover the ground in Sam’s steady handwriting and seem to pulse with power. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Bobby murmurs.  

“You don’t need this kind of thing yet.” Sam says as he double checks his work before grabbing the bowl. It takes moments to prepare the offering compared to the sigils, but Sam still has the careful and measured look as he precisely makes sure each ingredient is correct.

Three candles are lit and the bowl is set down in the middle of the circle and Dean can feel the power in the room rise in anticipation. Goosebumps rise on his skin and the magnetic draw of the trap almost pull his eyes off Sam but he wants to watch this. His brother looks beautiful, face glowing slightly from the light coming off the circle and that intense look he’d always gotten when he was completely focused on his work.

A knife is drawn, Dean having to force himself to hold still and not intervene as Sam grabs his pocket knife and slices his own palm.

“Blood from the summoner.” John murmurs, eyes locked on Sam’s hand as he meticulously cuts into the skin, those scars the nurse had mentioned making a lot more sense.

Dean doesn’t know what he’s referring to but Bobby has his back, eyes never leaving the circle as he leans a bit closer to Dean. “Only the darkest and most binding rituals require a bloodletting.” He says, voice hushed.

It’s a lot to take in, his baby brother looking like he belongs nowhere else as he lets his blood drip into an offering bowl. It’s fucking bad ass and Dean’s still just as proud.

There’s an intake of breath, the lights flickering as the first drop hits the mixture. Dean can feel the rise of power, the air seeming to pulse with expectation when it –

It stops. Nothing happens.

Sam frowns and kneels down to look at the bowl as the lights steady themselves and the air doesn’t seem particularly different. 

Shit, after all that and it hadn’t worked.

“Hey, that was really cool.” He grins, stepping up to Sam’s side and putting a hand on his back. “Never seen nothin’ like it, bet you just gotta look at the book again or something – or maybe we gotta turn the lights off, the flickering coulda scared the thing off.”

Sam looks amused when he glances up at him from where he’s kneeling over the bowl which isn’t the reaction Dean was preparing for. “It worked, Dean. He just doesn’t want to answer me. 

“I never said it didn’t work.” He huffed, excuse him for wanting to support Sam’s demon summoning through trial and error. “What’s the guys' problem, can’t even show up for us?”

“Probably thinks he’s too busy for us, we should try again in an hour or so. Sometimes you have to pester them a few times to get them to show face.” He sighs and stands up, looking burnt out and Dean has a feeling it isn’t just from the ritual.

“Well if we’re taking a break I’ll make up some food.” Bobby offers, patting Dean on that back as he heads for the kitchen. “Any requests?”

“How about none of that shit chili you tried to say was food last night.” John offers, following him into the kitchen to probably grab another beer and supervise Bobby’s cooking.

It’s a brief exchange but by the time Dean turns, Sam’s already slipped out of the room with the only evidence giving him away the screen door still hanging slightly open.

 

 

It’s hard to be around them. One minute he wants to hug all three of them and the next he wants to get as far away from them as he can before he can cause any more hurt.

But someone’s trying to free Lucifer a few decades too early and while Sam’s not as much concerned with that as he is of Calvary Cemetery being blown open. The first seal had to wait, Dean had to be set on his path that would allow him to be Michaels' vessel but filling the world back up with demons and letting Lilith out could very much still come to pass. The result would be world-altering and Sam can’t let that happen – can’t let it change the peace Dean had died to restore to his own time.

If Sam needs more proof of the Winchester curse it’s here, having to clean up messes in the past when all he wants is to finally get a little rest and join his brother.

“Sam?”

Sam frowns, blinking out of his thoughts from where he’s sitting on the hood of some old junker. Rumsfeld’s in his lap, the puppy happily licking at Sam’s wrist as he idly strokes through his fur.

“You okay?” Dean slides himself up next to Sam on the hood, not caring in the slightest about the age or time difference between them. Big brother instincts come first no matter what versions of themselves they are apparently and Sam is grateful.

“Yeah, just a lot to think about. A lot going on. Can’t really tell you any of it.” He shoots Dean a small smile, his brother already groaning and bumping their shoulders together in irritation.

“You’re still such a pain in my ass, I hope you know that.”

“I do,” Sam assures him with a laugh, but it’s weighed down considering there’s no one in the future to tell him so.

“So obviously I have a lot of questions.”

“Obviously.” Sam agrees.

“Shut the sass… so you and me. We’re hunting?”

Dean’s trying to play it cool, Sam knows all his tells and holds back a smile at the way he pops his collar and doesn’t quite look Sam in the eye as he waits for an answer.

“Yeah, I took a little break but you came and reminded me that there’s not a whole lot better than the two of us being partners.” He’s teasing Dean on purpose, can’t help it when his brother gets that frustrated little twitch in his lips.

“Partners?” Dean clears his throat.

“Uh huh.”

There’s a beat of silence before there’s a hand on Sam’s, making him glance down. While his fingers have always been longer, Dean’s palms are much bigger, able to cup Sam’s face as easy as he palms a basketball one-handed. They’re covering both his hands right now, Dean’s touch warm and possessive as he presses Sam’s hand between both of his own


“You’ve been a little shit all day, I’d hoped you’d grow out of that.”

“No you didn’t.” Sam murmurs, voice dropping to a soft whisper because this feels delicate right now, Dean so young and him feeling so very old but big brother always knows just what to do as one hand lets go to reach up and tuck his hair back behind his ear.

“Yeah, I didn’t." 

Sam lets his eyes close, for a brief moment the weight on his shoulders lifts and it’s just him and Dean. There’s no British Men of Letters or Amanda or Lilith and most importantly Dean is right here and breathing and nothing else matters.

“Why are you hurting so bad, little brother?” Dean murmurs softly, fingers tangling in Sam’s hair.

Sam doesn’t even know how to begin to answer the question, but Dean’s moving on.

“And where the fuck am I?”

It’s harsh, Dean obviously pissed off at his older self which is funny and heart-wrenchingly depressing at the same time. “Not your fault.”

“Yeah well, why don’t you let me decide that.” Dean huffs, leaning forward so their foreheads are pressed together. He has a hand on Sam’s neck to keep him pressed close as if Sam would ever be anywhere other than right here if he had the choice. “You didn’t answer the question.”

“You’re busy.”

Dean pulls back with a glare, dropping the hand in Sam’s hair but keeps the other holding his hand. “Bullshit.”


“I can’t tell you, too much on the line. You’d be pissed at me if I told you.” Sam didn’t actually know what Dean would think about this, but he figured Dean would support him in using his brother as an out for something he didn’t want to talk about. 

Dean just shakes his head, frustrated as he looks away from Sam. “You think Sammy thinks I’m too busy for him?” He murmurs. “Thinks I’m too busy and not looking for him?”

“What? Of course not – if he knows anything it’s that you’re coming to get him.” Sam says immediately. “No doubt in his mind.”

“Is he sleeping in limbo or can he feels how long it’s been?”

Sam sighs, not actually knowing how any of it worked beyond what he’d read in the bunker. Switching spells usually involved a limbo state for the unneeded version which was sent to limbo until the beings were switched back. He’d never seen or heard of one actually done besides the theoretical accounts but he assumed that since Amanda didn’t want to actually hurt him and Sam was still alive that was what was being used. “He should be asleep. But he’s okay, the whole point of limbo is to keep the person safe.”

Dean nods, but it doesn’t look like his words did much to comfort him. “The sooner we take care of these demons and Amanda the sooner we get him back.”

“Exactly.” Sam agrees, glad they’re on the same page for wanting to get this done as soon as possible. He holds a little tighter to Dean’s hand, the downside of leaving this time also apparent.

Dean raises an eyebrow as he feels Sam’s little squeeze, turning to look curiously at him. “You’re so sure that Sammy knows I’m coming to get him, but you haven’t said anything about your Dean coming to get you.” 

Sam’s mouth goes dry, not really knowing what to say to that because he’s right.

Dean sits up, getting on his knees so he’s taller than Sam and very gently tangling his fingers in Sam’s hair to make him look up. “Sam.” He murmurs, soft and fierce. “I will always come and get you. I don’t care if it’s time travel or demons or that fucking god you seem to believe in. None of that will ever stop me – won’t even come close.”

Sam finds himself nodding along which makes no sense because Dean’s dead and Dean can’t come and get him if he’s dead but it strikes a chord somewhere deep inside him. It feels like hope.

Dean’s got that protective glint in his eyes, strong fingers keeping his head steady and it’s exactly what he needed, so much so that when Dean leans in and presses his lips to Sam’s in a deep kiss he immediately kisses back.

It’s tender but also passionate, Dean never the type to hold back just how much he loves Sam when they’re intimate and he sure as hell isn’t starting now. Lips suck and claim at his mouth, Dean’s message of possessive hunger mixing with the softness of his tongue swiping over Sam’s and the fingers curling to rub his back while pressing them tight together.

Sam’s own fingers seem to move up to Dean’s hair, tangling in the familiar short locks to try and get his mouth closer. His body burns like it only ever does with Dean, everything too hot and too much but that’s what made it perfect.

“I love you –”Sam murmurs against his lips, managing to gasp it out between Dean’s biting kisses. It feels important, like he can say it to this Dean, even if he can’t to his own.

“Love you – love you so much Sam- “ Dean presses a sucking kiss to his pulse point before heading back up to shower butterfly kisses over his eyes and nose. “Perfect little brother.”

It’s perfect, and Sam’s head is hazy on all the reasons it’s not a good idea to do this as he reaches lower to tug on Dean’s belt. His brother seems to agree with his line of thinking because hands are fumbling between them when a sharp crash comes from the house, followed by a loud shout that sounds like Bobby.

It’s a bucket of cold water, Sam immediately jumping up off the junker and nearly tripping on Rumsfeld who had settled down in the grass.

“Boys!” John yells from the porch, Sam and Dean scrambling to right their shirts and belts and get over the car. “We’ve got a demon!”

 

….

 

“Sam, I’ve done this several times and we’ve had very bad luck on getting people to listen to our cause, I really don’t think they’re going to start if we take them to a gas station restaurant.”

She’s right, well not about it working but her tone about the dingy gas station off I-40 is expected. It has the usual gas station convenience store to the left and the right has been converted into a little Wendy’s. It’s perfect.

“People want to be in places they feel safe, going to your fancy meet up spot isn’t going to do that.” Sam reasons as he sits down next to Lady Bevell in the booth.

It’s been a bit of an uphill battle, Sam really wants to impress these people, especially since his older self works with them but Bevell had been hesitant to follow some of his ideas. To be honest he has no clue how she ever got his future self and Dean to sign up in the first place. He doesn’t want to ask though, thinks that might come off as a bit rude.

He’s got a good feeling about this one though, and when the bell dings to announce a new customer Sam had to work to not grin as Jessie Carter walks into the gas station. He’s hesitant which makes sense, but he spots the two of them and makes his way over, sliding into the seat across from them.

It’s insane, Sam’s still trying to wrap his head around the whole future thing but here in front of him is living proof. Three weeks ago Jessie and his Dad had stopped through town and stayed with them, helping John finish up a ghost in the neighboring suburb. Jessie had been seventeen then, right smack in the middle between Sam and Dean age wise and he’d always been cool about hanging out with both of them. They’d gone to the movies, Jessie eating a huge tub of popcorn all by himself and Dean managing to hold Sam’s hand through the entire movie without him noticing a thing.

Jessie was thirty-five now, looking like he’d finally grown into the muscle he’d always been packing but his hairline doesn’t look quite as thick.

Sam has to remind himself not to stare despite how mind-boggling it is to have someone who he watched Blade with a few weeks ago as a teenager now old enough to be around his father's age. There's also the small problem of Jessie recognizing Sam, but he and Toni had both decided that the odds of that were pretty unlikely with how long it had been and how crazy it would sound. Still, he has on a beanie just in case.

“I’m only meeting you as a favor to my old man,” Jessie says up front and Sam can hear his throat crackle from years of chain smoking. He’d already had a three-year habit going when Sam last saw him.

“Yes, and we appreciate that. Elijah’s father spoke very highly of the two of you.” Toni smiles, trying to set the hunter at ease but he doesn’t seem convinced.

Elijah is his new name, needing some sort of cover since he can’t go by Sam Winchester around these people. Elijah’s father is a big hunter who knew a lot of other people’s fathers. It’s a who’s who with no one really knowing anybody, but Sam knows hunters are loyal and as long as he knows people’s names and a few odd dates in the past he can get them to at least show up.

“So what’s this about?” Jessie asks and Sam catches sight of the ugly looking claw mark going up the side of his neck. It’s silvery in the light, a normal animal didn’t do that.

“We’re starting up a branch in America and we want people who know the area and the creatures in it to be our starting agents. We being the British Men of Letters.”

Jessie just gives her a blank stare, obviously having never heard of it.

“Right,” Toni continued, “We’re just like you hunters except we give you a mainframe to work under. Tools at your disposal, contacts, and all the work you could ask for. Plus, you’d actually be getting paid to do your job.”

“So you want me to be your little hunting dog you send off to do your dirty work? You tell me where to go and I just run off no questions asked?” He raises an eyebrow. “I work for myself.”

“You’re working on your own, think of it more as a way station.” Sam smiles, leaning forward in his seat. “You take the assignments you want and get to have some backup. We’ve all been in a shitty spot where there are one too many vamps and no backup's on the way, right?”

Jessie frowns slightly, not responding but Sam can tell he has his attention. “This gives you backup, powerful backup that can be there quickly and with all the right tools. Plus, you’d never have to research another hunt if you didn’t want to, just drop right in and do the fun part without all the paperwork.”

It’s almost too easy, Jessie’s been scared of vampires since one almost bit him when he was fifteen and Sam doesn’t know any hunters who actually enjoy the desk job aspect of the job. But Jessie’s still a hunter and even though Sam can tell he’s tempted he still sticks to his roots.

“I’ll… I’ll think about it.”

He takes the card Toni offers him and is out the door before Sam can blink. His first day and he already screwed up, Jessie was supposed to be easy and he couldn’t even get him to join on.

He turns to Toni, an apology on his lips but instead of anger he finds the woman positively beaming. “Sam! That was amazing!”

“That- that was?”

“Yes! We’ve never had someone take the card – that’s just a brilliant step forward! With a little more practice I’m sure we can start bringing more over.”

Sam’s very confused, he didn’t think that almost getting someone contacted as anything other than a failure but if Toni was happy that must mean he didn’t completely screw up. “Thanks.” He says tentatively. “I promise I’ll get them next time, this is a really amazing group to work with, I’ll help them see it.”

“I know you will.” She grins and ruffles his hair before abruptly standing. “You know, I think I can feel a change in the wind Sam. Our luck is shifting because of you, this calls for ice cream.”

It’s such a random thing for the woman to say but Sam’s not going to turn down ice cream so he lets her out of the booth with an excited grin. Something big is going on here and even if he doesn’t really know exactly what it is, it still feels nice to be included and wanted as part of the team.

The line is pretty long and there’s only one girl working the register so Sam slips over to the convenience store half, eyeing the rack of hats in the corner. Toni had given him her black beanie but it kind of itches and he’d rather have one that fits his head a bit better.

They have a good selection, although half of them are novelty hats that he can’t help bit try on just to see how stupid he looks in the mirror. He’s got on one with big dog ears that flop into his eyes and a protruding snout when he hears snorting from behind him.

“You look insane.” It’s a girl, she looks a bit older than Sam but not by much.

“Uh, thanks.” He never really knows how to talk to girls, especially pretty ones. He tries to think what Dean would say but all that springs to mind is too disgusting for him to even try to imitate.

“You don’t talk much?” Okay, that was just rude, especially when she’s looking at him like he’s slow on the uptake.

“No,” He grumbles, and he realizes how stupid he must look arguing over this with the stupid hat on.

Before he can take it off though she’s pulling one off the rack, this one with kitten ears and a big tuft of fur on the top. “Here, I’ll look insane with you.”

She crowds closer to Sam, stepping up into his personal space with her head pressing against his so they can look in the mirror together. He’s pretty sure Dean would call this flirting, but everything any girl does with Dean is flirting so he can’t be very sure.

They look very stupid, both their hats flopping into each other's eyes and the girl breaks out into a crooked little smile. “Nice, I’ve kinda been wanting one of these. Sometimes you just need to wear stupid shit and throw everyone off. Alex would hate it.” She snickers, tossing her long blonde curls over her shoulder as she adjusts the hat.

“My brother would love them, probably buy me one and force me to wear it.”  Sam cracks a smile. “Is Alex your sister? Is she with you?”

“Kinda - and nah, she’s too good for stuff like this. She’s back at the house, I told Jody I’d go with her to fill the gasoline tank but we probably have to go home quick anyway.”

“Why?” Sam asks, picking out a hat with a giant hot dog on it, figuring that might be more annoying to her sister if that was what she was going for.

“Because my – let’s call him my Uncle, it’s complicated. Anyway, he called and whenever he calls it usually means shits about to go down.” She smiles at his hat choice, pulling off the cat and replacing it with the hot dog. “This is fucking perfect.”

“Aw, one of those uncles.” Sam laughs, as if he has any idea what it’s like to have any sort of extended family. Still, she looks really cute with the hot dog hat and Sam’s happy that he helped her – plus he can brag to Dean later that he talked with a cool pretty girl without any help from him whatsoever.

“You from here?” She asks curiously, popping her gum loudly.

Sam shakes his head, “No, just passing through with my friend.”

“Damn, would have been cool to meet up or something. We could have worn our hats together and freaked some people out. What’s your name then?”

“Elijah.” Sam smiles, because he needs to practice introducing himself that way anyway. It still sounds a little strange but he’ll come around to it soon.

“Mines Claire.” She reaches out and gives him a high five and Sam can’t help but grin a bit. She really does seem cool and cool people hardly ever want to talk to him.

“Claire!” There’s a woman at the door to the store, eyes wide and hand gripping the phone like a vice. “We’re going!”

Claire doesn’t give him a second glance, dropping the hats and following the woman out of the store. Judging on whatever kind of Uncle Claire had he was sure glad he didn’t have any.

Something’s obviously wrong though, his eyes lingering in concern as he watches them get into the truck, going a bit too fast as they turn out of the parking lot.

 

 

Claire doesn’t even know what to say, everything feeling too choked up as Jody speeds down the road to their house. Perks of being the sheriff is no one stops them but Claire almost wishes she’d slow down because the real horror won’t start until they arrive at the house.

But in true Jody fashion, she skids into the driveway at full speed, pushing the door open and leaping up the steps to get to her boys. Claire is slower, not wanting to face the scene she knows is going on inside but her feet still move and she’s met with the inevitable as she turns the corner of the house to the door Jody left wide open.  

Dean’s sitting on the couch, and she can see Castiel and a blonde woman she doesn’t know after she crosses the step and closes the door behind her.

“Dean, honey.” Jody’s murmuring, Dean pressed up against her chest with both his arms locked tight around her as Jody murmurs softly into his hair and rubs his back. The blonde woman looks strangely uncomfortable with the interaction and Claire wants to yell at her to get out if she has such a problem with it.

She doesn’t want to look at Dean’s face, she doesn’t because there will be the answer to all her questions. Jody gave her a few details but there’s no way they can be true, they can’t, they just can’t. But then she turns and sees Dean’s tears and it’s so jarring, feels like a punch to the stomach because Dean Winchester doesn’t cry.

There's no sound, just Dean's red eyes that are harder and she's ever seen them. They look dead and Claire wishes he would be more vocal, sob or scream or do anything! 

“Where’s Sam?” She stutters out, heart betraying what her mind already knows but it’s wrong it’s wrong it’s wrong.  

No one answers her.

Chapter Text

Sam’s body is in the guest bedroom despite them really not having the space but it wasn’t like anyone was about to go head to head with Dean on the matter. Claire’s pretty sure they should have buried it two days ago when Dean showed up but from what she’s gathered in bits and pieces it’s pretty charred and Castiel isn’t going to let it start smelling regardless. She can’t bring herself to look under the shroud so she’ll take his word on it.

With Sam in the guest bedroom, Dean’s been taking the couch and Claire’s bunking in with Alex so the new woman can have her bedroom. Her name’s Mary and she’s Dean’s mom- the one that burned on the ceiling and is the whole reason Dean’s dad and Dean himself got into hunting. Probably the reason her own father is dead and his body is walking around with an angel inside it if she thinks about it too hard. She tries not to.

The house is stuffed with people but nearly silent, whispers and half conversations cut off when someone else walks in the room. She and Alex have had their fair share of murmurings late into the night, pausing only when Jody’s footsteps creep down the hall to check on them. They’re all mostly saying the same things but loss makes everything feel too personal for group conversation.

“You think it was a trade?” Alex whispers softly.

It’s three AM and the room is that kind of soft darkness that loosens your tongue. Claire can’t see her face but she can picture Alex biting her cheek, a habit she has when she’s thinking. It’s a good question, one that makes Claire’s stomach curl a bit.

“Like he traded Sam for his mom? Dean wouldn’t do that don’t be stupid.”

“No,” Alex murmurs. “Like The Darkness told him he would get his mom but since when is anything ever free, especially something that smells like a deal? Seems like an awfully big gift to just dump on him, even if she thought she owed him one.”

“I thought I was supposed to be the paranoid one?”

“C’mon Claire. Dean gets his Mom back and five days later Sam’s in a body bag? They don’t even know when he died, it could have been that same day.”

Doubt creeps into her head and she hates it. Dean and Sam have an odd little place in her heart that she can’t really explain. They had been the big light at the end of the tunnel when she thought she had nothing else. The romanticism of role models was hard to come by after everything she’s been through but the two of them managed to fit the job anyway. She wants to be like them, the confidence, the strength, the independence- and a small part of her that’s still too bruised to talk about wants the companionship. A brother who will never leave you, forces of heaven and hell be damned, sounds pretty good compared to two drop dead parents. The idea that even unintentionally Dean would sell off Sam for his long-dead mother feels like a betrayal of everything she thought they valued.

“I heard Jody talking about it.” Claire murmurs after letting the idea stew in the heavy silence.

“By heard you mean you hid and listened in.”

“Shut up. She was talking to Cas, apparently, Dean said the darkness gave him what he needed most.”

“Funny, you wouldn’t think that by looking at him.”

“So the Darkness gives Dean what he needs the most and then what? Takes away Sam? That doesn’t make sense, and if she was going to take him away wouldn’t she do her signature fog thing and not have some British Lady shoot him?”

“I dunno, I’m just saying this whole thing seems a bit too clean.” Alex sighs, turning onto her side to face Claire despite the darkness of the room. “I’d of thought you’d be all over this Miss Junior Hunter.”

“Right, because I want to go up to Dean and tell him that it’s his fault Sam’s dead- maybe even ask to have a look at the body.” She shakes her head, stomach rolling at the word ‘body’. Sam’s body. The man who was supposed to teach her how to do sutures when he came to visit next time. “I uh, think there might be a Wendigo a few towns over – in Bridgeport.” She murmurs, switching the subject before the tears she was blinking back could fall.

“Is that the real reason you wanted to go with Jody to fill up the gas tanks?” Alex rolls her eyes, not putting up a fight about switching to something lighter when everything still felt so bruised with loss. “You can’t just go torch a town, Claire.”

“I’m not – it’s in the forest dumbass.”

“Right, so there’s a wendigo in Bridgeport, just like there was a skinwalker in Clayton?”

“Any hunter would have confused that deer road kill for skinwalker shedding.”

“I bet.” Alex grins. “Too bad you didn’t get your gas then; wendigo gets to live another day.”

“Yeah, I was a bit distracted anyway so even if Dean hadn’t called I probably wouldn’t have gotten it.” Claire clears her throat.

“You? Distracted? What could possibly distract the great hunter Claire Novak? Alex teases, snickering when a pillow hits her shoulder.

“… A boy- shut up! I’m not telling you anything – Alex stop laughing!”

“A boy! Oh my god has something living and breathing actually made you want to do something other than kill it?”

“I hate you.”

“Tell me about this boy then.” She grins, dropping her hand off the bed to poke at Claire’s head. After two days of mourning, she was latching onto this small bit of lighthearted teasing, anything to try and break through the dark clouds that had settled over the house, even for a few minutes. “C’mon, he must be just amazing.”

“He was just nice looking, I don’t know what you want me to say.” Claire huffs, cheeks flaming red but was smiling slightly in her pillow. “… he had a nice ass.”

Alex grins, fist bumping the air. “Nice! Very good choice, I see you’re not completely lost when it comes to your taste in partners.”

“… I uh, may have been a complete stalker and took a picture of him.”

“Claire! I happen to personally know the sheriff of this town and this crime will not go unpunished.” Alex says sternly before reaching her hand out. “Let’s see that ass.”

Claire produces her phone, scrolling to the right picture before handing it up for Alex’s inspection with an uncharacteristically shy smile.

“Okay, ten out of ten for that ass- wait- Claire, this kid’s short.” Alex squints at the phone. “Minus five points for coming up to my elbow.”

Claire leans up, looking at the picture of Alex’s shoulder. Elijah was standing at the hat rack where she’d first approached him, having zero idea she was being a giant creep and taking a picture of him. Brown hair that curled around his ears and the deep dimples clearly visible despite the shaky quality. Her legs had started walking toward him before she could even process the warm flush that worked its way up her skin when she caught sight of him.

“Okay, to be fair I think he’s a bit younger than me. Really mature though, you wouldn’t know it when you talk to him.” She defends because yeah, the guy is pretty short.

“There’s still hope for him to get another inch or two, wouldn’t count on it though.” Alex hums, zooming in on his face. “Really cute, did you get his number? Are you taking him on a romantic night out to the shooting range?”

“No and no, he said he wasn’t from around here and then Jody called me before I could ask where he was from and it all kinda moved really fast.”

“Young love.” Alex sighs contently, handing the phone back to Claire. “Maybe you’ll catch him around again, and if not I bet that girl with the glasses you punched the baseball Captain for will be more than happy to go to the shooting range with you.”

“I hate you so much.” Claire groans, cheeks once again burning as she covered herself with the blanket.

“I know you do.” Alex smiles sweetly, tugging at Claire’s curls before turning over to sleep.

 --

The brief burst of laughter they’d had last night is gone in the morning, the reality of what they were living more pronounced in the daylight. The house is full of whispers again despite everyone being awake and it makes Claire feel like tiptoeing when she heads toward the kitchen.

Dean’s sitting up at the bar, a cup of coffee in his hand and his gaze blankly fixed on the fridge. She’s startled, pausing in the doorway before quietly making her way in but Dean doesn’t seem to notice her hesitation or her general presence at all.

It’s weird, she hasn’t seen Dean alone since he came to the house and being one on one with him like this makes her skin prickle. It’s mostly the eyes, they’re not quite looking at what he’s staring at but the raw intensity behind them is unsettling.

“Hey,” Claire says softly, hoping not to startle him. She can see the white knuckled grip on his mug and the tense line of muscle in his back, everything about him coiled to strike.

He doesn’t though, and she was silly to think that she could sneak up on Dean Winchester in socked feet. Instead, his eyes just flicker to hers, some of the tension relaxing but not enough to still seem anything but threatening. He nods to her, barely a shift of the head but it’s as good a greeting as she’s going to get.

She’s saved by Jody who pads into the kitchen moments later and puts an arm around Dean’s shoulders, pulling him to lean slightly into her. He doesn’t react other than letting her pull him in but that’s a feat in of itself and Claire leaves it to her as she pours herself some cereal.

“How’s this morning?” Jody asks. It’s never ‘How are you doing?’, Jody knows the answer to that.

“Fine.” Dean’s voice is gruff, barely audible through the thick grumble of it.

“You think it’s time today?” She's soft and even, not pressuring in the slightest but Claire can see Dean’s eyes darken from across the kitchen.

“No.” It’s not open for discussion and after hearing this conversation everyday she’s beginning to wonder if the guest bedroom is going to become a tomb since Dean won’t let anyone burn Sam.

“Dean, we can’t just keep him in there. He would want to be burned, the hunter’s ceremony he deserves.” Jody murmurs, rubbing his shoulder to try and help him relax.

Dean stiffens, eyes flashing as he pulls off the chair and away from Jody. “He deserves to be alive.”

“I know, I know he does but what do you think this is doing Dean? Leaving him on the bed isn’t going to bring Sam back.”

“I know that! But if we find Rowena and she can put his soul back we need a body – I’m not letting him be burned when we still have options, he still could – “ He breaks off, voice thick and Claire drops her gaze, feels like she shouldn’t be seeing Dean Winchester so broken.

“He still could what?” Jody gently touches his face, trying to ground him despite being a poor replacement for the only thing that had ever been able to calm the rage that burned deep within Dean Winchester.

They all know what he meant without Dean having to choke out the words and it breaks what was left of Claire’s strength. She’s out the door and in her truck before she can admit her own cowardice.

 

“He just appeared – like smoke- “ Bobby is huffing slightly as he leads them into the living room where John is standing guard with a vial of holy water at the ready. One look at his face is all the confirmation Sam needs for how he feels, the pure hatred rolling off him like waves is obvious his opinion on demons don't differ from the last time he’d seen his father.

There’s a man standing in the circle, middle aged and greasy hair curling under his trucker hat. His flannel and stained jeans match the rest of the group and he’d fit right in if it wasn’t for the black eyes staring curiously back at them. He doesn’t seem to be going for the Oscar performance of denial like Cynthia had been.

“Wow, look what we have here. Lot of talk in hell about what your little ragtag group’s been up to.” He drawls, nasally voice already making Sam roll his eyes. “Cute little circle you have here. Even cuter that you think it’ll hold me.”

“I’d like to think so.” Sam says pleasantly, crossing his arms as he leans against the desk. “You’re not Crowley.”

“This ain’t exactly a crossroads is it?” The demon snorts. “Made a lot of fuss with that summoning spell though, figured I’d come down and see what it was all about. Bit disappointing so far.”

“I’ll bet.”

The demon narrows his eyes. “Lot of talk about you, hardly living up to the reputation you’ve got spreading Sam. I’d have expected more from one of the chosen.”

“Well, it’s your lucky day.”  Sam smiles and stands up straight. “I’m in need of a bit of information and you seem like just the kind of nosey asshole I’m looking for.”

“Sam,” John says warningly but Sam ignores him, walking over to his duffle to casually rustle through it. He knows exactly where everything is, but Dean always told him tension builds terror and no knife can cut as deep as fear.

The demon seems taken aback by the casualness, not knowing where to place the next verbal attack but Sam doesn’t give him a chance as he zips through a pocket. “You said something about rumors in hell? Care to share?”

“I knew it, you kids are nothing more than entitled brats on an ego trip, Azazel was an idiot to think you humans could do more than we could.” He laughs cruelly, a jab to avoid the question but Sam can sense the bitterness in his tone.

“Passed over for the promotion were we? Sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah, I bet.” He spits, the thick glob landing just before Sam’s feet.

Dean’s eyes narrow and he steps around Bobby. “You wanna try that again jackass?” He growls, glare just as unwavering on a demon as it is on a high school bully.

“Dean, it’s fine.” Sam murmurs, nudging him gently. No need to start anything violent when his feet and ribs are still killing him, and he can see his brother’s hands twitching for a punch at how uncooperative their guest was being.

“Touchy aren’t we? You’d think your little team would be used to demons by now, isn’t that what Papa Winchester is all about? Hunting down the thing that went bump in the night and killed his pretty little wife?” The lazy grin he shoots at John is all teeth. “How’s that going for you?”

“You son of a bitch-“ John growls, moving forward before slamming into Sam’s chest. He’d seen this one coming a mile away.

“It’s what he wants, Dad. He’s a demon.” Sam sighs, pushing him back against the wall. “They try to get under your skin, don’t let it.”

He turns back to the demon who’s smiling pleasantly back at him, like they two of them have some sort of inside joke. “Family drama, amiright?”

 God, he hates the ones who think they’re funny.

“I’m sure you have plenty of things to get on with so I’m going to speed this up.” He explains, leaning back against the desk with the bag. “Is Hell trying to start breaking seals?”  

“Seals? Well, I didn’t give you enough credit Sammy, look who’s already read ahead.”

“Why?” Sam asks with an edge, patience thinning. “Why now? Why are they trying to open up the door?”

“I honestly blame it on poor leadership, I mean how longs it been since Azazel found the entrance to the cage? A few decades?”  He narrows his eyes. “Decades of nothing. Of waiting and sitting on our asses as heaven dominates the realms. But what could we do? Nothing. Until you showed up.”

“What’s he talking about Sam?” John frowns, eyes flickering between the demon and his son.

“Oh we’re done, I think you’ve gotten just enough of your teaser.” He snickers and opens his mouth but Sam’s quicker, demon blade drawn from the duffle as he steps forward. “Very cute, you gonna stab me with your stick- “ He breaks off in a curdling scream as the knife breaks the skin on his chest, Sam crudely carving a devils trap into the hosts struggling body.

“What did you do to him?” Bobby gaps, watching the demon wither on the ground inside the circle.

“I trapped him in his vessel.” Sam murmurs offhandedly, distracted by this new information. “Can’t let him leave just yet in case he wasn’t bluffing about being able to ghost the circle.”

“Whoa.” Dean grins, “You gotta teach me that one, Sammy.” He leans over the devil's trap to take a closer peak but Sam quickly pulls him back.

“He’s still dangerous Dean. And now he’s pissed on top of it.” He flips the knife around in his hand before grabbing some of the holy water and tossing it on the demon. “Get up.”

The man withers, skin hissing as it burns at contact with the water but it’s the humiliation that seems to be really breaking him. “Fuck off.”

“I need answers and lucky for me you seem to be in everyone’s business down there.”

He glares, that spark of enjoyment at the situation extinguished. “I know what that knife can do. You think I’m going to give you anything when I know you’re just going to kill me when you’re through? Like I said, fuck off and just do it.”

Sam’s pretty sure the past is going to kill him purely out of frustration before he gets anywhere close to getting back to his own time.  He’s wearing thin after only a few days on top of how broken he’d already been in that basement. 

At least that’s the excuse he tells himself when he hauls the demon up by the collar of its shirt, stepping over the line of the demon trap carelessly in order to pin the man against the wall.

“That’s how you want to play it?” He draws his knife slow, dragging it up the demon’s neck to rest just under his chin, eyeing the hummingbird flutter of his pulse. “You really think there aren’t worse things I can do to you?”

If there was one pro to this entire situation it was that demons here weren’t used to having anything to compete with. Being so scarce and so powerful meant there weren’t a lot of predators yet. Heaven hadn’t dropped the angels down and they were too random and organized to start bringing waves of hunters onto their radar. So the slight gratification that curled in his gut at the shocked terror rolling over the demons face at being bested by a human was at least somewhat entertaining. 

“You don’t want to cooperate that’s fine, wouldn’t be the first or the last time. But let me tell you, by the time I sink my knife into your chest-“ He leans forward, letting the knife sink shallowly into skin as he rested his weight on his arm, mouth next to ear. “It’ll be a mercy kill.”

The whimper of submission is all he needs to hear before he’s dumping the demon back to the floor. The guys not a solider, too squirmy for that. If anything he’s a glorified PA, probably out doing some recon for his boss. All the better, soldiers don’t ask questions but gossipy office aids do. He’ll at least be able to tell him what’s going on in the rumor mill he knows dominants hells politics. He has a feeling he already knows what his next errand is going to be though and he tries to not to roll his eyes.

“Why does me being here change anything? There’s an entire plan set in motion, what’s making Azazel want to move faster?” He asks, wiping the blood off his knife on his jeans.

The demon moves to sit up a little, nervously gathering his thoughts. Good boy, make this easier on both of us. “Azazel doesn’t want to move faster.” He explains, rubbing the cut on his throat. “He’s got his grand plan but it’s still years off and he wants to wait it out – without telling any of us any of the details of course.” He says bitterly. “And before we didn’t have a choice, just had to follow along with the King’s grand plan but then you showed up.”

Sam frowns, not liking where this is going and strongly considers pushing the rest of his family out of the room but he feels glued to the floor. “What happened when I came here?” He asks, steeling his voice to not allow the creeping dread to break through.

He started talking to us.” The demon’s face spreads into a crude grin. “So many didn’t believe but he broke through our doubt and started to show us. Show us you.”

His heart’s stops, it’s not beating because this can’t be happening.  “You’re lying.”

“Azazel always said you were the favorite but it’s so much more, he showed another way, one against Azazel’s plan.” He shrugs. “It’s a civil war downstairs, Azazel trying to maintain order with our father whispering in everyone’s heads a call to action. No more hiding in the scarps of humanities darker lusts. We can be stronger and larger, and with our guiding father risen from the depths he’s been wrongly imprisoned. No more waiting.” He stood up on his knees. “I doubted you before, but you’ve proven yourself. Everything we want is through you, just as he said.”

“Shut up!” Sam growls, white knuckled grip on his knife as he stares down at the demon’s cruelly earnest face.

“Sam-“ Dean frowns, stepping forward to grip his shoulder but Sam barely feels it, his world narrowing to this demon and his poisonous words.

“Don’t fight it, this is what he said you were made to do.” The demon soothes and it makes Sam want to throw up. “You’re meant to lead us.”

“Who?” John pushes forward, Sam in a daze and barely able to stand his ground let alone stop his father from approaching the demon. “Who’s telling you this?”

The demon smiles that ugly grin but there’s blood dripping between his rotting teeth and coating his lips and Sam’s hand is wet with blood because somehow it’s gripping the knife that’s lodged just between the ribs, the demons last breath still hanging in the air.

“Lucifer.”

 ----

 

Bridgeport is a bit of a hell hole, but it works for what Claire’s after. Mr. and Mrs. Cloake reported their sons missing a few days ago and their camp looks appropriately clawed up to be something bigger than the bear on the police reports.

This is later confirmed when Claire’s sprinting through the woods with a fifteen-foot monster chasing after her. “Fuck – Fuck – Fuck –“

She’d found the damn things cave and gotten the teenagers out right when it decided to show back up again. Three bottles of hairspray for her makeshift flamethrower turned out to not be enough to kill fifteen feet of wendigo. Definitely make it mad though.

She's running out of breath and options and knowing that the wendigo had to be just playing with her to let her outrun it made it harder to think.

“Here!” 

She glances up in time to see a can being tossed at her and her reflexes barely catch it while her minds still trying to catch up with what kind of god rains down hairspray. She doesn’t question it though, throwing her weight around to drop to her back, sliding in the leaves as she flicks her lighter and the tunnel of fire hits the Wendigo straight in the face.

She keeps her aim steady, focusing it on just the head instead of all over like she’d made the mistake of before but the can is emptying and the thing still isn’t fucking dead-

There’s sudden movement behind the wendigo and like the hairspray god himself is smiling down on her a second fume of hairspray flame thrower meets hers. The double attack seems to be too much, the thing screaming and thrashing before finally falling in a heap to the ground, it’s charred remains still sizzling.

“That was pretty badass.” 

It’s Elijah, he’s in the same clothes as yesterday and holding a gas station plastic bag filled with hairspray bottles and it’s both the weirdest and the best thing she’s ever seen.

“You- You saved my ass dude.” She pants, giving him a grateful wave as she lays back in the dirt with a huff. “Give me a minute before I ask the obvious.”

Elijah nods, checking the wendigo over before moving to sit next to her, leaves crunching as he gets comfortable and waits for her to catch her breath like a real gentleman.

“So-“ She sits up, stretching out her aching legs. Alex told her it helps the muscles recover faster or some shit after one of her nursing classes. “You’re a hunter then.”

Elijah shrugs, eyeing her curiously. “You said you had a whole family, how are you out here hunting alone?”

“I’m the only one that hunts – well that’s not true. Jody hunts if it’s a direct problem but she also has to be the Sheriff so she literally can’t quit her day job. Alex wants to be a nurse and is doing these after school programs so she can go straight to working at the hospital after graduation which is about the most boring thing I’ve ever heard.”

“That’s really cool, good for her for getting ahead like that. 

Claire frowns, glancing over at the boy but he seems serious. “She’s not hunting though; doesn’t that bother you? I mean you obviously know your shit enough to kill a wendigo.”

“Why would it bother me?” He laughs, and Claire is a bit captivated by the sound. “I’ve never really had a choice, it’s cool that your mom – or Jody or whatever lets you guys do what you want.”

“Does that mean that your mom doesn’t?” She asks with a frown. 

“Mom’s dead.” He shrugs. “Dad went a bit off the deep end, obsessed with killing the thing that took her. Trained me and my brother up to be hunters and it’s sort of the family business. We don’t get a choice.”

“That… sucks.” She admits. “But your dad’s not wrong, my mom and my dad were both killed by monsters- I hunt for them. Jody’s not my bio mom.”

 “It’s not going to bring my mom back though.” Elijah sighs, edge of frustration to his tone and it’s obvious this is a conversation he’s had a lot. Whether with himself or his dad she doesn’t know. “Moms dead. That’s it. We can hunt every damn thing off the face of this earth and it doesn’t change anything. My dad’s going to kill himself trying to get the thing that took her and he’s going to drag my brother with him.” He says bitterly. 

Claire frowns, resting her chin on her knees as she thinks that over. “Well, what would you do if you weren’t hunting?”

“College.” Sam says immediately, “I’ve already started looking into schools, I’ve had a really cool counselor at this school we’re at now and I think even though I keep switching curriculums I can do a decent transcript.”

“What do you mean switching?”

“We move around a lot. Dad just goes wherever the next hunt is so that’s where we go to school if we stay there long enough to even enroll. There’s a perk, I guess, because every school is different but I’ve been to over thirty high schools and I’m only a sophomore. Not as fun.” 

“You’re a sophomore?” Claire blurts, cheeks burning slightly at the interruption. 

“Uh, yeah?”

“Sorry- I’m a senior. I just thought you were older.” She clears her throat. “Anyway , as much as I’d love to be on the road like that, I get what it’s like to have a parent telling you off for what you want to do. It’s not fair for your dad to be a hard ass about you wanting to go to college.” 

Elijah smiles slightly. “Thanks.”

“Yeah, well, it’s true.” She bumps their shoulders together. “So who’s the lady you were with yesterday if it’s just your brother and your dad?”

“That’s Toni, she’s helping me out right now. My brother is on a big hunt and I’m helping make sure things run smoothly so he can come home okay.” He digs the toe of his sneaker into the dirt, the brother of his obviously heavy on his mind which is sweet. The kid has a big heart and it makes Claire’s flutter a bit.

“You might have heard of her? She’s got like this big shot hunter’s league she’s put together. Older hunters are resisting it though; you know how they are to change.”

She blinks, focusing back on the conversation. “Hunter league?”

“Yeah, like a who’s who of the big names in the community I guess. She’s still trying to win over people but they have hunters all over the world working for them and it’s like this big network based out of London. Lots of resources and lots of leads.”

That doesn’t sit well with her, something off about what Elijah’s suggesting. “Sounds kind of like a hunter mob.” She says bluntly. “Anyway, Jody’s a sheriff and a hunter – well sort of – anyway she’s in with tons of hunters all over the country. She would have heard of something like this, and she hasn’t said anything.”

“You said she doesn’t want you hunting though, maybe she just doesn’t want you to join up.” Elijah points out gently.

It stings but he has a point, she wouldn’t put it past Jody to not mention something like this to her if she thought Claire was a flight risk. Doesn’t make it hurt any less though.

“Whatever.“ She shrugs, flicking a long piece of hair out of her eyes. “So who’s in this top secret hunter mob then?”

Elijah grins, obviously proud of the little line up of the group he’s saddled up with and she can’t help but be a bit jealous. Here’s this kid who doesn’t even want the life she’s been trying so hard to break into for years. Life can be a real bitch.

“Well, Dean Winchester for one.” He drops after an appropriate pause for drama, chest puffing out in pride.

Scratch that.

Claire’s giggles make Sam deflate, giving her a bitchy look at the opposite of the reaction he’d been expecting. “What? Don’t you know who that is?”

“Of course I know what Dean Winchester is you dork.” She snorts, jealousy easing. There was no stupid top secret hunting group and Jody wasn’t keeping it from her, her little keystone of trust was secure. “I may not be a full hunter but anyone even sort of involved knows who he is. He’s actually a family friend – I know him really well and I can tell you first hand he’s not in some secret club.”

She expects disappointment, maybe even some fun arguing back and forth but instead, Elijah is looking at her with such serious concern that it has her giggles drying up. “It’s not a big deal, Dean’s famous I’m sure it’s just a line she uses to try and hire on more people. Wouldn’t be the first time someone’s dropped a Winchester name. I’m sure your dad was all about getting the opportunity to work with him which is what she would want .”

Elijah nods slowly. “So you uh, know him personally?”

Claire nods, careful of how she proceeds. While Elijah was cute she wasn’t going to make Dean deal with a fanboy when their house was a safe place for him right now while he mourned. “Yeah, we go way back. He’s friends with Jody and he helped me out a few years ago. Pops in now and then.”

“Can you – Can you tell me about him?” He asks casually, but there’s a tight crack of nerves to his voice. Cute, the kid’s a super fan.

“Sure, he’s not like the stories though so you might be disappointed. He’s a giant dick. But he’s also a hero.”

“Yeah?” Elijah lays back against the dead leaves and Claire finds herself following despite knowing she’s going to be picking them out of her hair for hours. The charred wendigo is all but forgotten a few feet away.

“Yeah.” She confirms with a smile. “Would do anything to save anybody- he has done everything to save everybody.”  More than Elijah would ever know, that the only reason he could lay here was because Dean took care of the darkness but lost his brother in the process.

“Is he, you know, happy?”

From the few people she’s met who’ve wanted to know about the Winchester’s, no one has ever asked her that. It hurts that it has to be now. But she doesn’t have to talk about Sam and as much as she’d usually interject with how the younger Winchester was just as cool as his brother, she doesn’t feel like defending a memory. Sam was a fucking blessing to everyone that had the privilege of getting a moment with him, and it’s a smudge on his memory to have to explain that when he’s not even in the ground.

“He’s good.” She lies. “Driving with his brother, hunting.”    

“What’s his favorite food?”

Claire laughs, some of the tension breaking. “Uh, cheeseburger? Lots of onions his breath always stinks when they come back from a dinner. He loves whatever Jody’s cooking though, just likes a home cooked meal I guess. Pie too, he ate like three at Thanksgiving.”

He stares up at the darkening sky, quiet for a moment. “Toni really had me.”

Claire frowns, biting her lip. “You’re going to be okay though? Your dad can come pick you up and then you guys can go get your brother?”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that but I’ll figure it out. Where did Dean head off to the last time you saw him?”

“He didn’t say. This sounds kind of weird Elijah, you sure you’re okay?”

She watches as he sits up, brushing the dirt off his jeans. “Don’t worry about me, Toni’s going to want to move towns and I’ll just hitchhike at one of the stops.”

“I have a truck, I can take you back to wherever you guys are staying and drop you off at the bus station?” She offers, the entire situation just not sitting right with her and apparently she was the only one worrying about this fifteen-year-old.

“No, she’s back at the hotel and I don’t want to make her suspicious. It’s the Best Western and it’s crawling with cameras so if she wanted she could file an abduction report. I’ll just slip away later, that’ll be easier without her catching on.” Elijah says calmly as he gathers up his hairspray bottles.

Claire bites her lip, not liking the implications of Elijah feeling like he has to sneak in order to get away. “I’m going to give you my number okay? I want you to call me when you get away from her or if something goes wrong. I’ve got my own wheels and way too much time on my hands so it’s not a huge deal.” She says firmly. “Give me your phone.”

Elijah’s getting shifty, eyes moving away from hers to look at the path out of the forest. “I don’t have one.”

“You don’t have a – whatever.” She grabs his arm, pulling a sharpie out of her backpack and scrawls her number against his wrist, pulling the sleeve of his hoodie down to cover it when she’s done. “Ask to use someone’s.”

 Elijah chews his lip as he looks down at the number but Claire really isn’t having it with his hesitation, nudging his chin up to look at her. “Hey! Answer honestly, are you in some deep shit?”

“No – no it’s nothing like that I’m just confused.” He tugs away from her, shouldering the bag. “Honestly I appreciate it but don’t worry about me.”

“Elijah.” She repeats, catching his hand and keeping him from running off. It’s soft in hers despite the gun callouses. “Listen. I know what it’s like to not have a place to go home to even if you’ve got a parent running around out there. Jody is a good person, won’t ask questions and get’s the hunting lifestyle. If you need somewhere to stay we can take you in.”

He pauses, taking a moment before looking back at her. “Thank you.” He says honestly. “But I need to go Claire.” 

Before she can argue further he’s slipped her grip, veering into the thicker trees and out of sight as night starts to darken the treetops.

 

---

 

Castiel has never thought of himself as particularly sociable. When it comes to strangers and casual acquaintances he can make passing conversation if it is required of him but he’d much rather leave it to someone more skilled in the art of conversation. Small talk doesn’t do much for him.

So it is quite curious that Mary Winchester seems to gravitate toward him for company while they stay at Jody’s. He isn’t averse to her companionship; he simply doesn’t understand the conditions of it.

She’s sitting with him again this evening, Dean in the kitchen with Jody and Castiel having made himself a spot in the living room in an attempt to sort through the weak leads they’ve compiled. It’s menial work, barely a handful of his countless senses enough to do the task.

“It’s hard you know?” Mary murmurs softly, sitting down on the floor next to where he has Dean’s laptop open.

It’s the fifth time she’s come to sit next to him since they’ve arrived but the first attempt she’d made to breach the subject they’ve all been avoiding. “Understandable.”

“No, I mean it’s hard because it isn’t understandable. I feel so lost in all this, what I’m supposed to be feeling and what I actually am.” She explains softly, opening up under his simple observation of a mother’s evolutionary attachment to her children. Perhaps he is better at this than he gives himself credit for 

“What are you feeling?”

“I’m mourning but not in the same way. All of you knew him as a person but for me, Sam was just a baby. When I walked into his nursery that night and saw the demon over him I just assumed… the worst. I’ve already mourned my baby when I was dead, and now it feels like I’m a bad mother for not being able to muster up a few tears for a second round of it.”

“You’re not a bad mother Mary, no one expects you to have the same connection to a person you’ve never met. I understand that this must be conflicting, but perhaps now would be a good time to focus on the relationship you can have?” He nods through the open door of the kitchen where Dean can just be seen sitting at the table with Jody. “A mother’s love would not be amiss as he tries to heal.”

“I just don’t want to overstep my bounds, he seems so fragile like this. I want to help not break him.”

“Doing nothing doesn’t help, you won’t know unless you make an attempt.”

She gives him a small thoughtful nod and he feels proud of himself for helping, even if it’s in this small way. His failures of not being able to protect Sam or rescue him in time still hang like chains around his neck. 

She stands but Dean beats her to the door, a drive in him that the household hasn’t seen in days. “Grab your stuff Cas, we’re going.”

“Going?” Mary asks.

Castiel simply stands. “Where?”

“We’ve got a lead, Jody’s been in touch with a realtor who says she rented out a place to a British woman a week ago. Rural property with a basement.”

“Dean, storming right into their base is a stupid thing to do!” Mary frowns, grabbing her son by the shoulder. “What if they’re still in there?”

Dean glances down at her, unimpressed at the waste of time and face worryingly blank. “I hope to god they are.”

She quickly drops her hand, Castiel guessing the man in front of her was not matching with what she envisioned her four-year-old to grow into.

“Go with them. They won’t say no to more back up and someone needs to keep him from killing himself.” Jody murmurs, stepping up behind Mary and wrapping a comforting arm around her shoulders. “I know it’s rough going but he needs family. 

Castiel offers Mary his arm politely but she gently pushes it down in favor of grabbing the gun bag. “Let's go.” 

“Jody!” Claire is suddenly in the midst of them, panting slightly despite the walk from her car not being that laborious. “Jody- where’s everyone going?”

“They’ve got a lead on the British woman,” Jody frowns, walking over to feel her head. “Why are you panting? And smell like burnt hairspray?”

“A long story but you guys can’t leave! Listen, so I maybe didn’t go to school today and found a Wendigo in Bridgeport – Don’t get mad that’s not the important part!” Claire says defensively when she sees Jody’s eyes narrow.

“You were hunting a wendigo! On your own!”

“Not on my own! There was this boy named Elijah who I met the other day – look that doesn’t matter but he helped me take down the wendigo. He’s a hunter’s kid but he’s traveling around with some lady named Toni who’s scamming him.”

“Wait, what?” Jody rubs her temples, sitting down on the couch. “Slow down, okay so a boy named Elijah is being scammed and you want me to forget about you hunting a wendigo because of this?”

“He said that this woman named Toni had been telling him about a big hunters network that was all around the world and they’d started it here in America – that Dean was a part of it.”

Jody glances back at Dean who had paused in the doorway to hear what Claire was yelling about. “So? Lots of rumors in the mill.”

“Okay, so I know this is going to sound crazy but I saw Toni with Elijah yesterday, she was wearing super nice clothes and stuck out in the middle of the diner. Looked nothing like a hunter and Elijah’s dad apparently believes the whole hunter network lie and dropped him off with this woman. He’s all by himself and when I told him she was lying to him he was scared of her, I could see it.”

“Let me get my uniform on and I’ll call this in,” Jody quickly stands but Claire stops her.

“No, it’s more than that. I gave him my number and told him to call if he needed help but when I left I started thinking.” She bites her lip. “He’s all on his own and was being super vague about where his Dad is and I think she might be threatening his brother. He said he had to help her in order to help him.”

There was silence. 

“I know it’s crazy! But no one else seems to care about Elijah and I think this is way more dangerous than he’s letting on. She’s a businesswoman with hunter connections and she might hurt him if the police come knocking on their hotel door.”

“We’re not protective services Claire,” Dean says gruffly and Cas resists rolling his eyes at the hypocrisy.

“Dean, you’ve got a slim lead and this is in the next town over. You really can’t just go check on them?” Jody squeezes Claire’s arm supportively as she gives Dean a ‘listen to me, i'm your mother’ look.

He notices Mary is avoiding the gaze.

“Fine.” Dean growls and drops his duffle to the ground. “We’ll look into it but then it’s straight on the road after. Where were they staying?”

“The Best Western in Bridgeport.” Claire sighs in relief as the group moves to take what they need out of the travel bags littering the floor.

Castiel doesn’t know how valid of a lead it is, but a boy is potentially in danger and playing superhero wouldn’t be such a bad thing for Dean to do in his hopeless state so he’s supportive.

“This is stupid,” Dean grumbles as they follow Claire’s truck onto the freeway an hour later, Jody and Mary in the backseat as Cas rides shotgun. “Kid’s probably just fine.”

“It will annoy you if you don’t investigate and that will, in turn, annoy me.” He says knowingly as he looks out the window, the scenery a blur of lights against the dark sky.

 

------

 

He’s so so fucking stupid. 

Why did he believe her, why did he fucking believe her when he woke up in a god damn torture room of a basement? Dean’s always saying he’s so smart but doesn’t ever look with his eyes and Sam thinks his brother should get an award for most insightful because he’s never felt it applied more.

She’d known everything, exactly what to say to make him believe her and he wants to smack himself over how much a red flag that was. He was enticed by shiny toys and candy and she’d snatched him right up.

He hadn’t believed Claire right away, it too easy to claim you knew someone but her description of Dean was spot on even with the twenty-year difference. Dean would be riding around the country in the Impala, that was where he fit. Not in some British Men of Letters organization.

As much as he’s frustrated and still trying to process through Toni’s motives, the relief at knowing Dean is safe and not undercover in a monster den somewhere is overwhelming. He’s safe and happy and not in any active danger of getting killed. He might even be able to help.

Before he can even contemplate the idea of meeting the future version of his big brother - and wasn’t that just an insane thought?- he needs to get away from Toni. Maybe if he hadn’t woken up in a basement complete with chains and blood he’s pretty sure was his older selves he’d be more open to confronting her,  but for now, he’d rather not risk it.

He’d told Toni he was going for a walk down to the library and had been intent on doing so when he’d heard Mr. and Mrs. Cloake talking to their neighbors about their missing sons and how the park rangers had confirmed no bear sightings in a hundred miles despite what the file was claiming.

Sam may be pulling away from his father and hunting but he isn’t heartless, and since Wendigo’s tended to keep their prey there was no way he wasn’t going to at least check if any of the victims were still alive. 

That was five hours ago and hopefully, Toni is too engrossed in her work to comment on the long absence, especially since Sam has nothing to prove for it and he didn’t really know what kind of reaction Toni would have to him breaking the supposed protocol the BML had for taking care of monsters. 

If there’s one perk, he’d never been in anything nicer than a Motel Six so staying at the hotels Toni put them up in was pretty exciting. She usually sprung for adjoined rooms so they could both have a little privacy and it had been so new and exciting when they’d started their trip. Now he appreciates that he can plan his escape in peace.

He heads up the elevator, the lobby and hallway practically deserted as Bridgeport was a bit of a dump even by Winchester standards but the deer hunting season brought in enough to warrant a nicer hotel.  Or at least he assumed so judging by the mass of hunting pamphlets and coupons in their room and the front desk.

He swipes his card and steps inside, holding his breath for a moment but Toni isn’t waiting for him on the bed or anything sinister. God, he needs to stop watching true crime films with Dean.

The shower is hot and the soap the good kind that doesn’t leave a sticky film afterward which he appreciates after scrubbing his body to try and get rid of the scent of burnt flesh and dirt.

“Did you have fun at the library?” 

He jumps slightly, in a pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt Toni had given him and midway through turning down the bed.


“Yeah, not really anything useful though.” He says casually, doing his best to keep the conversation short.

“I told you.” She laughs lightly, reaching over to pat Sam’s shoulder affectionately and where it used to leave a warm feeling in his chest is only ice. “I’ll show you the Men of Letters Library sometime, it’s absolutely massive and the perfect resource for academic hunters like yourself.”

“My older self and Dean use it?” He asks before he can stop himself, looking her right in the eye.

She smiles, not even a twitch of a tell on her face amongst the complete sincerity. “Of course, you two are a frequent visitors.”

Any lingering guilt about his plans are gone with just that one innocent smile and he doesn’t even hesitate to steal the cash out of her supplies bag after Toni went to bed. 

He doesn’t get much sleep, his duffle loaded with snacks from the mini fridge and anything he thought he could take out from under Toni’s nose without alerting her to something amiss in the morning. They usually pack up quick and make a food stop in the next town and he’s already planning an escape using the cover of a bathroom break and the early morning haze of sleep Toni tends to stay in before high priced coffee. She’s not expecting him to give her the slip and he’s praying it works to his advantage.

He’s deciding between hitchhiking and wiring a car and which will have less camera vision when there’s footsteps down the hall. The hotel has been next to silent the entire time they’ve been here so the noise is jarring to his already tense nerves. The pounding on the door seconds later practically makes him jump out of bed.

“Sam.” 

Toni is by his side and shaking him firmly, pulling him off the bed and to his feet.  “We need to go.”

The pounding starts up again, echoing bangs from Toni’s side of the connected rooms.

“What’s going on, who is that?” He frowns, grabbing his duffle and slinging it over his shoulder as he slips into his sneakers.

“A very bad man, if he gets in he’ll kill us both.” She says softly, leaving her suitcase and large dry cleaning bags behind as she heads toward the window and silently opens the drawn curtains.

The moon illuminates the dark bedroom, both of their faces silver as Toni pulls open the window and straddles the ledge gracefully in her silk sleeping gown. “You trust me?”

He doesn’t, but if Toni’s scared of whatever’s trying to hammer his way in he’d rather take his chances with a few story jump.

“Drop down to the balcony, there’s a terrace underneath and we can ease our way down.” She takes his duffle and her small purse, letting them drop to the balcony on the floor below them with a thump. “Now.”

Sam ignores the hand on his back, climbing out the window and lowering himself down until just his hands grip the ledge. He takes a deep breath than drops, landing in a crouch on the balcony below. The curtains inside the glass doors are drawn tight and he hopes that the occupants are sound sleepers.

Toni drops silently, throwing their bags off the ledge on onto the grass to the left, the large garden terrace to their right the escape path. 

It’s another drop, this one longer than the first and his knees are aching a bit when he lands on the cobblestone but they’re on the ground and if he’s lucky he might be able to slip away a few hours early.

“Sam.” Toni hisses, pulling his arm down the stairs to grab their things. “We need to get to the car-“

“Elijah!”

Sam jerks his head up, Claire’s blonde hair sticking out of their open hotel window, several shadowy figures in the room behind her. “Claire?”

“You know her?” Toni drops his hands in betrayal, like talking to hunters hadn’t been the entire point of the operation they were on. Or at least that she’d pretended they were on.

“I-“ He doesn’t get to make up an excuse because Toni sees something in the window that causes her to scowl and instead of running toward the parking lot she’s grabbing Sam’s arm and sprinting toward the hotel lobby. 

He can hear Claire call his fake name again and other loud voices that cut off when Toni slams the control on the automatic doors, locking them closed.

“If you’d like to live I suggest you leave.” She casually tells the shocked receptionist and security guard.

‘Don’t be a hero.’ Sam prays, not doubting this woman to kill a roomful of civilians after everything else he got wrong about her. 

The receptionist scurries out quickly, not waiting for the security guard who looks caught between his job and self-preservation, but a small town weekend security gig must not have been worth it because he soon follows. Thank god.

As soon as he’s gone Toni starts to block the doors, locking the elevator and service entrances before drawing out a dagger from her pajama top – holy shit.

“Toni?” Sam asks nervously but she’s ignoring him still, slicing the dagger against her palm and using the blood to trace some weird design onto the wall.

“That better keep them out for awhile.” She huffs, wrapping her hand delicately with a handkerchief. “Get behind the service, desk Samuel.”

“It’s Sam.” He grumbles but she’s still holding that dagger and looking desperate so he does as she asks. He manages to grab his duffle on the way, quickly kicking it under the desk.

“Get down and don’t come out. Whatever these people told you was a lie, you can’t go with them.” She says firmly but there’s a waver to her voice that catches Sam off guard. Toni’s scared.

She disappears behind the lobby bar, the sound of clinking bottles and cupboards opening and closing letting Sam hear but not see her from his position behind the large counter.

“Who the fuck is this bitch?”

It’s distant, the voice working its way through two double glass doors but he can still feel it like an ache deep in his bones. Dean.

He has to dig his nails into his palms to keep from crying out, running over, doing anything to get some sort of contact. It’s only been a few days but it feels like it’s been weeks without his own Dean and constantly worrying about somehow hurting this older version. He needs Dean, and any version is still always his big brother. 

“She’s got Elijah in there! Can’t Cas just fly in?”

“… Dean, there are wards. She’s warded the lobby I can’t enter.”

There’s a scraping sound, Sam peeking his head around the corner to see two people forcing open the first set of automatic doors.

They finally give with a loud crash, Toni flinching as she flicks her gun safety off just in time for the second set of doors to be pulled open.

“Look, we just want the kid. No need for the song and dance, you give him up and no one needs to get hurt” Dean offers, scratching out the strange rune on the wall before raising his hands in submission when he spots the gun.

Fuck.

Sam’s breath catches in his throat at the sight of his brother, and no question it’s Dean. The familiar curve of his jaw he’s spent countless hours kissing and sucking at to get his brother’s attention, the strong bowlegged stance he’d knelt between, the hard green eyes he’d watched make decisions no kid should ever have to.

The familiarity of him was comforting but the changes made his head spin. Dean was big, looking to be as tall as their father and even wider set with strong shoulders and muscled arms pronounced even through the two layers he was sporting. He was a mountain and Sam felt his own short beanpole frame, even more, when staring at him. Of fucking course Dean grew into that, he’d bet everything he did it just to spite him.

“So quick to forgive and forget Dean?” Toni raises an eyebrow.

It’s like someone flipped a switch on his brother, Dean’s relaxed and easy stance stiffening into hard angels with a snarl, gun drawn. “It’s you.”

“Is that-?” Sam’s eyes are pulled toward Dean’s companions, a woman in a police uniform, an older blonde woman, and a man in a … trench. The policewoman is talking to the strangely dressed dark-haired man, glancing uncomfortably between Dean and Toni with her own gun raised.

“That’s the voice we heard on the phone at the veterinarian’s house.” The man explains softly but his gaze on Toni is burning with such hatred Sam swears it was like they were glowing.

They… knew Toni?

“You have no idea the things I’m going to do to you.” Dean bites out through gritted teeth, the tone making Sam want to cower deeper under the desk. He’s never heard his brother like this… like a killer.

Toni’s hands are trembling, she’s cornered, outgunned, and without back up and if she thought Sam was going to call someone for her she’s sorely mistaken. He doesn’t like Watt and has no idea how to use her strange future phone anyway. 

“Too little too late though, isn’t it Dean?” She smiles tightly, buying herself time.  “Several days in fact. Sorry, we couldn’t do more for Sam, we were in too big of a rush for a proper pyre.”

“Don’t you fucking dare say his name.” Dean snarls, the bite of it making everyone flinch.

Oh god. Toni didn’t- 

“Alright, you wear it out enough for the both of us. Just like he did to yours. Wouldn’t stop screaming it those last few hours. How does it feel knowing the last thing he did was call out for big brother? Too bad he never thought you’d actually come for him due to the little detail of your apparent death.”

Dean’s shaking but unlike Toni, it’s with barely contained rage. She’s baiting him but why? What good does an angry Dean do other than get you a quick death? He knows Toni’s resourceful though and he scans over her from his hidden position, trying to figure out what her game was. 

Their little group is at a standstill. Toni has the better position for her shot but is outnumbered by the three guns pointed at her. By the time she could fire off one round she’d have three in her head. 

“I got into his pretty little head and saw all sorts of things. He was so shy about the good stuff though, had to really coax it out of him to let me see a few special things.” She raises an eyebrow. “Didn’t take him for being so… vocal. Even with his mouth full.”  

Sam’s cheeks burn, a squeak barely muffled into his hands as he stares in mortification, resisting the urge to burry himself under the desk and never come out.

She takes a step backward when Dean’s blind rage pulls him forward and suddenly Sam has an angle on the table Toni was standing next to, her purse looking suspiciously more bulky than it had when they were climbing out of the hotel.

What she was doing behind the bar suddenly clicks.

“Dean!”

He’s scrambling out from behind the counter and sprinting the short distance to his brother, Toni shouting something but it’s lost as he barrels into Dean’s legs. He may be short and skinny but his dad had taught him how to use it to his advantage to take down a bigger opponent.  

Dean’s legs buckle at the surprise hit from the side and he goes down, Sam’s force propelling them behind a lounge couch as the purse explodes.

Broken glass shrapnel propels itself into the walls and furniture, the dividing wall between lobby and lounge keeping the rest of the group safe from debris. Something’s burning though, smoke starting to taint the air from whatever the blast ignited.

He can’t see Toni anymore but the couch is largely obstructing his view and the rest of his senses are focused on the warm body he’s currently laying on top of.

“Dean- Dean we need to move!” The man in the trenchcoat is leaning over them and Sam feels a bit hazy as he stares back up into his blue eyes. Why does he look so confused? Why isn’t he as happy as Sam is? Dean’s here!

He tries to voice this but his mouth feels like sandpaper and it’s not worth the effort. 

“Elijah? Elijah!” Claire’s there too and she smells like flowers which is much nicer than the smoke but Dean’s musky smell is still the best ever. He doesn’t tell her because he doesn’t want her to feel bad for something she can’t control.

There’s a hand in his hair and then suddenly there’s not and big green eyes are staring down at him in shocked disbelief.

“Dean we need to get him to a hospital – his leg.”

There’s a nice voice, a woman talking to him and he wishes he could see her – shit he closed his eyes – he manages to open them up again in time to see a head of blonde hair and gentle eyes that have looked back at him from his dad’s wallet pocket since he can remember.

“Mom?” He whispers.

There’s sobbing above him but it’s not the woman, she just looks confused. Sam’s confused too because she looks an awful lot like his mom but his moms dead.

Then Dean’s eyes are back over him, his head still firmly lodged on something – legs they’re legs- Dean’s legs – but they’re suspiciously wet this time which makes him frown. Dean never cries in front of him unless it’s serious. 

“D’n?”

They just seem to get more wet which Sam hates but he can’t seem to make his arms move to touch his brother’s hand, or any part of him for that matter. It’s all too heavy and he’s too tired.

“Heya Sammy.” Dean smiles wetly and nothing feels heavy anymore under his brother’s encompassing gaze.

Sam floats.

Chapter Text

It’s a tense car ride, Dad insisted on driving which fine- Sam can let him have that one if it means toning down some of the death glares but so far no such luck. Just silence as he rides shotgun and Dean lounges out on the backseat. Bobby decided to sit this one out.

He doesn’t blame him, he doesn’t want to be stuck in this car either.

The Impala is a sight for sore eyes, a bit of constant home in a place where everything else is different. He’s almost drunk on the urge to close his eyes and let the timelessness of it take him somewhere else. Of course, the small inconsistencies give her away; the smell of Dad’s preferred gun oil instead of Dean’s, the seats still a bit too tough to be completely broken in yet, and of course the driver himself in Sam’s peripherals.

“Are we gonna talk about it?” Dean breaks the silence and isn’t that just like his big brother? Ever the negotiator between the famous Winchester temper he shared with his father. The guilt pinches at his heart for how many times Dean got hurt in the crossfire.

John doesn’t look up from the road, eyes hard as they follow the dotted line on the pavement.

“Dad.” Dean stresses. “Come on.”

John’s grip just tightens on the wheel and Sam rolls his eyes, turning to look out the window as neat farmland turns to abandoned fields the farther out they drive.

Another mile of silence.

“You two are really just going to ignore this?”

Sam huffs, it’s not his fault their Dad is being such an ass about this and he shouldn’t have to be the one to break the silence first. He crosses his arms stubbornly but quickly drops them when he realizes how childish that looks. He avoids making eye contact in the overhead mirror, having a feeling the act hadn’t gone unnoticed.

“Nothing fucking changes.” Dean growls under his breath before leaning his arms on the front bench between Sam and their Dad. “So Lucifer is a thing, any opinions?”

“Dean.” John growls.

“I mean, I still think God is a load of shit but the devil? That I can definitely get behind a little easier. Can’t say I’ve seen any miracles or angels but demons and curses I know.”

“That’s not actually correct, Lucifer doesn’t cur-“

“-So he’s in a cage? Locked up tight till some poor sucker gets tortured in hell like you said? Why are we concerned then?”

Sam had to hand it to Dean as John’s grip loosened a little on the wheel, listening in.

“Because Lucifer doesn’t really care about the – prophecy? Destiny? Whatever you want to call it. The universe decided a long time ago how things were going to go down and now everyone’s supposed to play their part. Righteous man in hell, Lilith being killed, a bunch of steps that go on even after the cage has been opened but Lucifer isn't going to play by the rules.”

“Like what?” John asks softly.

He’s already in too deep, no point in hiding the extent of the stakes at risk. “Like… like the end of the world.” Sam says honestly.

Dean raises an eyebrow. “Like Mad Max shit?”

“No, like four horsemen and plagues.”

“You mean the Apocalypse, the actual biblical Apocalypse.” John’s voice wavers, looking so far out of his depth that Sam feels sorry for him.

He leans forward, trying his best to look as open and honest as one can in the passenger side of an antique car that his body was already too big for. “Dad this isn’t your battle, I’m here and I’m going to stop this before it can start. I swear to you.”

“But it’s yours. It’s going to be Dean’s and my Sam’s.” He squeezes his hands tighter around the wheel and Sam feels lost for words.

“It’s not… we get through it. Dean and I.” He murmurs because what else can he say? That it wasn’t hard? That it didn’t break them? Because it was and it did but they got back up and they got back together and they learned to live with the scars.

John can’t look at him, lips pursed and eyes crinkled in obvious pain.

He’s never seen his dad like this, and certainly not about him and Dean. He always knew he was loved and their Dad did the best he could in his mind but all lot of that peace didn’t come till much later in his life. To see right in front of him the obvious love John Winchester had for his sons in the period of his life when he doubted it the most makes a part of him he hasn’t thought about in years ache. 

“It’s not something I would wish on anyone… but we live. We save the world. And honestly, I wouldn’t trust that on anyone other than us at this point.” He laughs softly. “We’re used to the big jobs.”

John doesn’t look particularly comforted by that and Sam abruptly realizes how short sighted his father’s goals really were. Avenging your dead wife doesn’t exactly come with a timeline and what exactly did his Dad think they were going to do after they killed yellow eyes? At this point they were so far from being able to take on demons that the idea couldn’t have even crossed his mind.

The Winchester men were all driven by something and while Dean’s had always been loyalty to his family and the hunting cause of helping people, John’s heart was fixated on revenge. No matter how many times his Dad had used the excuse of saving lives for every disappointment of his childhood, it was always behind the veil of furthering his knowledge and skill to finally take down the demon.

He wonders if John had lived to see them kill Azazel how long he would have lasted without the fire of revenge before biting his own bullet.

“Save the fucking world.” Dean grins, leaning his chin on his arms over the bench seat. “I like the sound of that.”

“Don’t get big headed, you haven’t done anything yet.” John gruffs and just like that their back to normal – or as normal as what they could be given their current situation. Sam will take it.

“So – and I say this with a fucking grain of salt.” John starts, already looking like he’s regretting delving into this. “Lucifer is real.”

“Very.” Sam confirms. And he’d be the first person to testify to that.

“I get it Sam, you’re from the future where you apparently have confirmation god exists and Lucifer is locked up in a cage somewhere but the rest of us – I need a little bit more to go on.”

His Dad’s reaching out and Sam can certainty meet him halfway.

“You know demons are real, and think of how big of a jump that was too except even with all the evidence you yourself saw? I know angels seem a bit more out there but if you can believe in one you can’t believe in the other? Because if demons are real someone had to create them.”

“So the stories are true then? The Bible?”

“What’s in the Bible about angels? Besides telling Mary she’s knocked up and all that.” Dean hums, having never been one for biblical study even under hunting conditions. It had always been Sam with Pastor Jim in the little chapel reciting the four gospels.

“A lot. If God's being referred to it’s most likely angels doing the heavy lifting… he prefers not to get involved.”

“You think?” John snorts and Sam keeps the painful laugh at the irony to himself.

“So god’s real, he’s locked up Lucifer, and there’s a big prophecy about how to get him out that the devil’s ignoring to speed up the process?” Dean sums up casually, glancing up at Sam. “Is this what every day is like in the future?”

“Give or take.”

“Maybe I need to start making some changes then.” Dean flicks a lock of his hair, Sam barely even noticing it feels so natural between them.

He needs to figure out how to get home.

Fortunately, the few things he can control are falling into place as they pull down another deserted back road, a cabin just in the distance behind the empty dirt crossroads.

“Come on.” Sam sighs, getting out of the car and stretching his legs. John is side eyeing him as Sam is once again above his eye level and he can’t help but feel a bit smug.

“I still don’t like this.” John growls, opening up the trunk and digging around for a container. “Cat bone- what else?”

“Dirt from a graveyard, I snagged some from Bobby’s.” Sam reaches over and grabs the little paper sack from the corner, dumping it inside the lunchbox in his Dad’s hands.

“So they just appear? That’s all you have to do and they show up?” Dean frowns over at the crossroads, hand twitching for his knife.

“Yep, they need to make it easy.” He pulls out his wallet, digging through his I.D.’s for one he doesn’t feel like keeping and glances at his old NSA card. “Can’t make deals if the clients can’t figure out how to attend the meeting.”

John raises an eyebrow, leaning over his shoulder. “Who the hell do you have doing your badges?”

“Dean’s pretty good with a laminator and a black light.” He finds himself saying but his mind is on the card, remembering Dean laughing across from him in the bunker kitchen as he pressed the barcode into their matching I.D. cards for the case of the week. The lecherous grin when he’d walked into the kitchen with a bit of a limp, the brush of calloused fingers against his cheek when he’d sat down next to him, the snark of his ugly mug on the card -

He clenches his fist to keep from pocketing the card, something so meaningless compared to the countless items that Dean had touched in his life now feeling like his brother’s very memory hinged on it. He was losing his mind but if it kept Dean close then Sam would gladly go insane over a card.

“Hey.” Dean’s ghost is touching his arm and John is scouting ahead but it isn’t a ghost because there’s warmth to the touch and a steady hand to his back. “Sammy, breathe.”

The intake of breath is pure instinct, following his brother’s guidance the most natural reaction he has.

“You’re okay little brother, c’mon. This dude can’t be that bad right? I saw you fucking stab that demon, you can take anything.”

He can’t, and that’s been well documented but this Dean doesn’t have to know that yet. Doesn’t have to know that Sam’s inability cost his brother his life.

“Yeah sorry, shoulder’s starting to ache again.” He manages a wiry grin as Dean’s face immediately scrunches in concern, reaching a hand out to check over the wrappings of both bullet wounds. Looks like the twenty year age gap has finally allowed him to get one past-

“You fucking suck at lying dude, would’ve thought you’d learned that by now.” Dean rolls his eyes, using the excuse to check the bleeding on the bandages Sam had been avoiding letting him see since he’d arrived. He finds himself out of his flannel and t-shirt hanging off one shoulder before he can respond.

Apparently, Dean’s Sam centered lie detector works just fine across timelines because of course it did.

“Dude, we’re about to summon a demon am I not allowed to be a little hesitant?” He asks innocently, batting at Dean’s hands to get him to let go of his shoulder. “It doesn’t hurt- Dean let go.”

“When’s the last time you even changed these?” Dean ignores his complaints and keeps a firm hold on his arm to check over both wounds, digging for fresh bandages in the trunk with one hand. “And yeah, you should be. Except I just watched you knife a black eyed freak without breaking a sweat. You don’t hesitate, Sammy, you go for the kill.” He gently rewraps his shoulder, satisfied with the healing progress and tears the end off with his teeth. “Just like I taught you.”

“You didn’t teach me how to kill demons, Dean.” He says petulantly, feeling like a kid again as Dean plays nurse with his wounds.

“Not what I’m talking about.” He finishes tying the second bandage around his torso, tearing it with a pleased grunt at how clean and tight the end result was. “I’m checking those again as soon as we’re done here.”

Sam’s too stubborn to admit that it feels better but by the smug look on his brother’s face, he doesn’t have to.

Dean was a big brother first and foremost, that never changing regardless of what was going on between them sexually. So with Sam’s arm bandaged and his big brother’s protective instincts sated, Dean’s eyes start to roam over the amount of skin Sam’s showing with a completely different focus.

Sam has been naked in front of his big brother since day one of his existence, it just a part of living on the road together and in each other’s pockets, let alone any other additions they eventually got up to. So for Sam’s cheeks to suddenly go red at a teenage Dean’s attention to his stomach is beyond ridiculous.

“I do a hundred fucking crunches every morning and you sit around eating lucky charms but look who’s got the fucking eight pack.” Dean murmurs, fingertips lightly brushing over Sam’s stomach and making his skin prickle. “You little bitch.”

“Crucnhes-“ He swallows the sudden dryness in his throat. “Crunches aren’t actually that effective for abs.”

“Uh huh.” Dean’s hand trails up his stomach, barely grazing over his nipple before gently taking the collar of his shirt that was hanging awkwardly on one side of his body. Carefully, he eases his shoulder through the sleeve before smoothing it down tugging the flannel over top.   

“Sam! Dean! We’re burning daylight!”

“You sure you’re up for this?” Dean’s breath is warm against his skin as his fingers make quick work of the flannel buttons.

“It’s not the demon, I promise.” He catches Dean’s hand in his own, very aware of their dad in the distance but with his brother and the car blocking them mostly from view they’re somewhat safe.

Dean doesn’t answer for a moment, just letting him hold his hand as his eyes search Sam’s own. “But it’s something.” It’s not a question and Sam doesn’t answer it regardless.

Their Dad is calling for them again but Sam can’t break the hold, his world seeming seconds away from crumbling around him these days but one steady touch from Dean and he can weather another storm. He’s scared he’s becoming dependent on it and there’s no question Dean would enable him.

“Get your fancy knife and let’s hit it then.” He lets go and before Sam can grapple for the hold again he’s getting a pat on the back and Dean’s leading him toward the crossroads.

“Just us, can’t see any sign of anyone for miles.” John explains when they meet in the middle, the lunchbox held out away from his body like he didn’t want it to touch him more than necessary.

“Let’s keep it that way.” Sam kneels down, digging a few handfuls of the soft dirt up with his hands before putting the lunchbox down inside the shallow hole. There’s no guilt when he tosses in the ID picture, the warmth of Dean’s hands on his chest still seeping into his skin as he covers the box up with dirt. 

“… That’s it?” Dean glances around, the cicadas in the trees still buzzing and the sun just as warm as it started to sink on the horizon line.

“Give it a minute, someone’s going to show.”

“Sounds like you summon a lot of demons in your time, Sam.” There’s an edge of accusation in John’s even tone.

“I wouldn’t say a lot.” He answers casually, refusing to rise to the bait. His Dad could say whatever he wanted but half of their fights were started because John was in a mood to lash out and had just the right words to make Sam throw the first verbal punch. “Hunting’s a different world in the future Dad, you’ll need to keep up with the change.”

John’s eye twitches, “Funny you say that because that lawyer woman seemed to think you were the only one across all of fucking time who could do what she needed to that demon. Doesn’t sound like it’s hunting that’s changed.” 

Sam’s eyes narrow, turning around to face his father. “If you’re trying to accuse me of something just say it.”

There’s hesitation, John realizing that he has to stare up at his son with them chest to chest and giving him pause that Sam would never get tired of. He wasn’t fifteen and ninety pounds anymore and despite there never being any physical confrontation between them he could now hold his own against his father. “There’s a lot you’re not telling us.”

“There’s a lot you don’t need to know.”

John grinds his teeth, Dean tensing from where he’s watching the two of them wearily and Sam knows the face he’s making. He’s not sure if stopping the fight or letting it play out is the better option, the same expression was on his face when John held up the Stanford letter that night.

“My my, what a show. You Winchester men certainly don’t disappoint.”

The smooth English accent is almost a welcoming sound at this point, Sam, and John both turning to where Dean was gaping with his gun drawn at Crowley who had assumedly snapped into existence in front of him.

“Well, gentleman, who’s here to strike a deal?”

 

 

His head hurts. It’s the first coherent thought to float through Sam’s head followed very shortly by the realization that he can’t feel his legs.

Oddly enough he doesn’t panic, everything sort of hazy and soft and a part of Sam’s brain that’s not quite all the way asleep helpfully reminds him that he’s probably on some serious pain meds.

He should be concerned, obvious questions slowly forming across his mind but they don’t linger longer than a few seconds. He’s comfortable, more comfortable than he's been in days.

His head is pillowed on something soft, two strong points of pressure wrapped tight around him to keep him there. He’s safe.

Other senses are filtering in, vibrations under his ear that he can’t quite make sense of but he ignores that in favor of the soft musky scent he’s burying his face into. It’s comforting despite the unfamiliar edge to it, gun oil and some sort of strange soap but underneath all that is–

“D’n?”

He forces his eyes open, light blinding him as he works through the drug induced fog of his brain because the last thing he remembers is Toni waving her gun at his big brother.

“Woah- Sam easy.”

He blinks, finding himself staring up into the deep green eyes but they don’t distract him from the wave of anxiety. “You- Toni and the explosion! There was smoke-!”

He barely can get out a complete sentence but Dean doesn’t look particularly bothered, simply rubbing a hand in circles down his back. “You’re safe, the couch took the worst of it and we got out before the place went up.”

“You- you’re okay?”

Dean nods easily, continuing the slow easy circles. “Thanks to you, kiddo.”

“I- my leg?”

“Didn’t quite clear the blast, we dosed you up and now that you’re awake Cas can fix you up good as new.”

Sam nods slowly before his breath catches in his throat, brain promptly short circuiting as he stares up at his brother. The strong jaw, scars, stubble, and lines that were all absent on his Dean and reminded him just who exactly he was pressed up against.

“You’re- you’re- Dean-“ He glances down at their position, his body curled in against Dean’s side with his brother’s strong arm firmly around his waist. “Sorry- I didn’t mean to be all over you-“ He can feel his cheeks burning bright red, the flush creeping down to his neck as he tries to choke out an excuse for being a bed octopus.

Dean’s arm just tightens around him, locking him in place against his chest. “I am and you’re not.”

His face does the seemingly impossible by going even redder. The man in front of him had to be in his mid thirties, much older than anyone Sam had ever been this close to but he finds himself leaning his head back into his neck, letting their bodies stay tangled up as much as his leg could allow. “Hi.”

Dean cracks a smile and Sam’s breath gets caught by just how stunning his big brother is as a man compared to the young adult his Dean is still growing into. Not that he was playing favorites of course.

“Hey.” Dean’s voice is rough and world weary, deeper than Sam ever expected but he’s instantly taken by it, able to still hear the boyish humor in the tone that he’s been used to his whole life.

Sam chews his lip, countless questions on the tip of his tongue now that the haze of medicine and his brother’s gaze have cleared some but one sticks out above the rest. “… this is pretty close?”

It’s such a stupid way to phrase it and he wants to smack himself. Just because he’s taken with this older version doesn’t mean that Dean particularly likes him back and isn’t going to dump his ass somewhere for being a fucking idiot.

Dean raises an eyebrow, having caught the very clumsy question Sam hadn’t even been able to voice. “You think we wouldn’t be?”

“No!” It comes out much louder than he meant and he smacks a hand over his mouth, not knowing about who else was in the house but Dean just snickers.

“No.” He starts again, “This is just… a ways into the future and… things change.”

“What sort of things?” Dean nudges Sam’s head out from where’s it’s hidden in his shoulder.

“Girls.” He murmurs before he can stop himself but it’s true so he keeps going despite the return of the damn blush. “Uh, just a general loss of interest?” 

“In you or incest?”

They skirt around the ‘I’ word so for Dean to just say it so bluntly makes Sam’s stomach do a flip that’s both sick pleasure and strong discomfort. And god he did not need that reminder of just how fucked up he is. “Both?”

Dean hums like he’s considering the answer but regardless of the older version, Sam knows when his brother’s putting on a show. “You think I’ve lost interest in you?”

“Well-“

Dean leans in close, warm breath almost brushing Sam’s lips. “Sammy. Not once in my life have I ever not loved you with everything I have. Not fucking once. So no, I’m not going to wake up one day and decide that incest just isn’t for me. Because you’re it for me, kiddo. You’re the only thing that’s ever going to be for me.”

The intensity of Dean’s gaze keeps Sam locked in place, having no choice but to listen to his brother’s casual declaration of forever. Sam knows Dean loves him but they don’t say it that often and when they do it’s not like this.

“Oh.” He manages to get out but Dean doesn’t seem that bothered, just contently looking down at him like there was nowhere else he’d rather be. “So just to clarify we’re still…whatever we are?”

“Are you asking me if I’m your boyfriend, Sam?”

“Dean!” Sam pushes his face into his brother’s neck in embarrassment, taking a deep breath of the musky scent that was just familiar enough to be comforting and new enough to entice. It should feel weird practically cuddling a man three times his age but it didn’t, the casual intimacy he’d never not known between them coming as natural as breathing.

“Didn’t realize you needed me to take you to prom for this to be serious, need to step up my game to treat you right.” Dean teases, tugging at Sam’s shaggy hair and for one moment both of his Dean’s are one and the same.

“I hate you, you’re such an ass.” Sam grumbles, pulling away from his neck to shoot Dean a mock glare that his brother returns with a smirk, eyes crinkling in an attractive way.

Dean’s hand stops the teasing tugging and instead settles into threading his fingers through his hair in slow massaging strokes. Sam can feel his eyes drooping as he lays his head back down against Dean’s chest, his favorite position to lay with his brother in and it’s no different here.

“Yeah, we still are.”

It takes him a moment to even remember the question Dean was answering but when he does his chest warms pleasantly, not surprised but still pleased. “Good.”

Dean’s goes quiet, the only sound their in sync breathing for several long moments and it’s a comfortable silence.

Of course, Sam can’t just turn off his brain no matter how much he wants to just lull back to sleep, especially with the nagging feeling tugging at something worrying inside him.

“Toni… Toni said something back at the hotel.” Dean’s reaction doesn’t make him feel better, the sudden tension in the arms around him almost answering his question for him.

Sam sits up, fighting a bit against the tight hold Dean has on him but his brother’s arms loosen enough to let him. They’re face to face, or as much as they can be because even with Dean leaning against the headboard and Sam sitting straight up there’s still a height difference.

“Sammy,” Dean warns softly, that teasing lightness that had been there not moments again completely gone.

“Am I dead, Dean?”

Dean’s hand comes up to gently touch his face, rough thumb swiping over Sam’s cheek as he tries to figure out what to say. “I didn’t get there in time.” He murmurs finally, voice cracking with a kind of pain Sam can barely comprehend. 

He doesn’t know what the protocol is for learning that you’ve died when you visit the future but Sam barely feels anything other than slight surprise. Dean was hurting and that was all that he cared about. 

“Dean.” Sam forgoes any sense of space and swings a leg over his brother’s waist, sliding himself up to sit on his lap. “It’s not your fault.”

“You don’t know what happened.” Dean bites out roughly and if Sam didn’t know his big brother inside and out he would have flinched.

“I know that whatever you’re blaming yourself for is stupid.” He puts bluntly. “I’m an adult here Dean, whatever choices I made were mine.”

“No Sam, you’re mine. Mine to look after, mine to take care of, and mine to help fix whatever goes sideways. But guess who didn’t show up?”

“That’s not-“

“Me.” Dean grits out, voice cracking with that same pain again. “You thought I was dead. And I know you Sam, you would have fought and kicked ass but the moment the outlook wasn’t great… you would have let go instead of holding out. Because you thought I would be waiting for you on the other side.”

“Why did I think you were dead?” His voice quivers slightly.

“It’s a long story, I gave myself up thinking I was saving the world but it ended up being a lot less dramatic than that. And even then I didn’t think I’d be gone for long.” He glances at Sam’s questioning gaze but doesn’t elaborate. “But you didn’t know that. We had a lead, we were working on your location and then we got a call…  too late.”

“Still not your fault.” Sam murmurs as he reaches out to touch Dean’s clenched fist, the violent anger and pain radiating off him making Sam sick to his stomach that Toni could hurt his brother so deeply.

“And I know that your Sam wouldn’t blame you either.” He adds when Dean doesn’t comment. “And if he thought he was going to get to see you he would have been happy. I would have.”

“I don’t care.” Dean growls, arms suddenly wrapping tight around Sam’s waist as he pulls him in against his chest, arms bruising in their hold. “Don’t fucking care about anything, I just want you here.”

There’s a questionable edge to what Dean is saying but before Sam can ask the bedroom door is opening. As someone who’s only intimate partner was his brother and opening doors meant only one thing, Sam nearly broke an arm trying to get off Dean’s lap and out of his hold in the seconds before whoever it was came in.

“What- Sam-?” Unfortunately, Dean’s reaction to his seemingly random fit was to tighten his arms around him, ensuring Sam was stuck in place glued to his brother’s chest and straddling his waist when their guest walked in.

“Jody told me to bring in coffee- oh, good to see he’s awake.”

Sam turns to look over his shoulder at the dark haired man in a trench coat he vaguely remembers from the night before, doing his best not to look caught red handed. “This uh- Dean was just checking my leg.”

Castiel raises an eyebrow while Dean just laughs, making the flush once again return to Sam’s face.

“He knows, Sam.” Dean explains, turning Sam around so his back was to his chest and able to see the man – Castiel – without straining his neck.

“…Knows?”

“I am very much aware of your sexual relationship.” Castiel supplies, walking over to pass Dean a mug of coffee and eyeing their position. “Though I will ask you refrain from intercourse until I’ve healed his leg.”

“Cas!” Dean splutters, putting the coffee down on the nightstand and wiping his face. “We weren’t’ doing that.”

“You do realize how many times you’ve said that to me when you were indeed doing that.” 

“Well, maybe you should stop dropping in on us.”

“If I have valuable information time is of the essence and it’s not like witnessing your penis inside your brother is anything new-“

“I’m Sam.” Sam interrupts, holding out his hand to stop Castiel from saying anything else, at this rate he’s going to spontaneously combust from the amount of heat on his face. 

“I’m aware.”

“Yeah but… I’ve never met you and you’ve never met this me?”

“I suppose.” Castiel smiles slightly and it helps to mellow out the intensity of his blue eyes. “I’m Castiel, it is a pleasure.” He shakes Sam’s hand once before moving down the bed.

“You sustained considerable shrapnel damage but Dean was able to clean out most of the wound. I am not operating at full power so you’ll have to settle for a slower mending.”

“What does that mean?” Dean frowns, chin coming down to rest on Sam’s head.

“It means that I can keep the pain marginally at bay and start to mend from the inside out but at a slower pace. He should be fine by morning but with his unique anatomy I'd like to proceed with caution.”

“Are you a warlock?” Sam frowns, pulling his leg back, something about the thought making him want to curl back up against Dean. 

“No, I’m an angel.” Castiel says absently, placing a hand firmly on Sam’s leg.

“Cas.” Dean hisses but Sam can barely hear it as he gapes at the man in front of him, Castiel’s eyes suddenly glowing with what can only be described as the grace of God as his leg is enveloped in fiery warmth.

“How are you here? How do we know an... an angel?” He feels nearly faint with the mere idea of having even seeing an angel, let alone even getting to talk to one like they were doing now.

“See Dean? He believes, it’s not as groundbreaking as you acted upon my materialization for you.” Castiel rolls his eyes and leans in toward Sam. “He shot me.”

“You fucker, you weren’t going around performing miracles when I met you, you were blowing open barn doors.”

Castiel just smiles and pats Sam’s leg, skin seeming to slowly knit back together where the glass had sliced it open. “To answer your question, I am simply very fond of the two of you.”

“But you’re an angel…” Sam lowers his voice. “And incest is a sin.”

“There is no direct commandment anywhere in the original biblical manuscripts or later decrees that labels it as such. Neither is homosexual intercourse.” He adds knowingly. “God is very aware of your sexual relationship, in great detail actually.”

“Okay, okay, enough. You’re going to overwhelm him.” Dean huffs, rubbing Sam’s back as he tried to process the idea of God being okay with him and Dean.

“Have you discussed how he came to be here?” Castiel asks curiously, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

It’s a good question, one Sam has been preparing to answer but before he can get it out, Dean’s answering for him. “I told you, Toni obviously. She was going to use him against me, probably try and kill him in front of me.”

“What?” He turns to stare up at his brother. “Where’d you get that?”

Dean shares a look with Castiel before glancing back down at Sam.  “I know this is a lot but Cas went back to that bitch’s hotel room and went through her stuff. When you feel a bit better we'll go through it." 

"No, I want to now. You think Toni was going to kill me?" 

"No, Dean's being imaginative we have no proof of that." Castiel explains. "The only hard evidence that wasn't encrypted was her notebook." 

"Notebook? I never saw her with a notebook." Sam frowns, trying to think back to what Toni might have been writing in it - hell even plotting his murder in front of him. 

"Cas, not here. He just woke up." Dean growls. 

"What's going on, what does it say." Sam pushes at Dean's arms to let go of him. 

"He deserves to know Dean, besides, he might require special treatment for his condition." 

"Condition? Did she poison me or something?" Sam looks between them desperately, the horror of not knowing has to be worse than whatever they were keeping from him. 

"Cas-" Dean warns, reaching over to push the angel toward the door. "Go, we're not talking about this right now." 

"It's not that bad Dean, I don't understand your concern over this, a changeling of this quality is sure to lead a long and happy life."  

Sam stares at the two of them. “You don’t seriously believe -?”

Dean shoots Castiel a death glare so strong Sam would cower if he didn't feel like his world was already going sideways. "Get the fuck out Cas." He snarls before smoothing a hand through Sam's hair. "On the pages of Toni's notebook were instructions on how to use a changeling box." 

"That doesn't mean anything - it doesn't." Sam says firmly, refusing to give in to the tightness in his chest. 

“You’re still Sam, we know that. She must have used some hair or something off my Sam and made you. Just more psychological torture, she seems fond of that.” He murmurs darkly.

“Dean you have to know how crazy what you’re saying is. A changeling wouldn’t be a younger copy even if she did somehow manage to do the spell - and how do you even know it's for me!”

“Hey, don’t freak out. We’re going to figure this out.” Dean soothes.

“Are you going to kill me? Changelings are monsters, is that what you want to do!”

“No!” Dean growls, grabbing Sam’s hands and holding them tight. “No one’s touching you.”

“I’m not a changeling though! I remember what happened- I remember –“ He trails off, mouth going dry at the fuzzy memories he’d been holding on so tightly to after waking up with this head throbbing on concrete. They were in a cave… hunting a werewolf… there was a woman ... and then he was here. With Toni reassuring him that everything would be alright and feeding him pancakes.

Oh god.

Tears well up in his eyes and he can’t stand to look at either of them, pulling his legs up to hide his face in. It’s childish but he can’t do this, can’t have Dean watching him as he falls apart. He’s not human, he’s a monster but that’s not even the worst of it because all he can feel is his heartbreaking and the pounding realization that he’s never going to see his Dean again. His Dean was a memory, his Dean wasn’t looking for anyone. His Dean had a Sam that never went missing.

He’s sobbing loudly but he doesn’t care, doesn’t care about anything other than the brother he can’t have.

“Shhh, I’m here. I gotcha.”

There are strong arms picking him up, bundling him in against a warm chest and Sam let’s go, tearfully crying out all the pain of betrayal and confusion that this world had greeted him with since the very beginning.  

“Crowley.” Sam acknowledges, keeping his demon knife firmly pocketed as a sign of good faith.

“Sam Winchester, done your homework I see. For some reason, I’m thinking this little meeting isn’t about making a deal though.”

“You’d be right. I’d like to talk to you-“ He held his hands up innocently. “Just talking, no tricks. There’s a cabin back behind those trees, neutral ground.”

“Usually I don't negotiate with terrorists but what the hell, my schedule just opened up. Best be on our way then, rumor has it monsters come out after dark in these parts.” He grins slowly at Dean who looks properly weirded out. “Unless you had something you wanted?”

“He doesn’t.” Sam steps in front of Dean and nods for Crowley to start walking ahead of them, leaving no room for argument.

The demon rolls his eyes but humors them, heading off into the thick trees that eventually opened up to the abandoned cabin. “Quaint.”

John wasn’t nearly as patient about the comments, nudging his rifle against Crowley’s back to get him to hurry it up. “Shut up.”

One moment he was holding the rifle and the next his fingers were gripping air, the gun turning to smoke in John’s hands.

“What the hell!” John wipes his hands on his pants as if to get the demonic magic off his skin, staring with wide eyes at the dissipating smoke that was once his favorite rifle.

“Tell me to shut up again and it’ll be your cock that goes next.” Crowley says conversationally, already turning his back to John and heading into the house.

The cabin was only a shell in Sam’s time, long since rummaged over by scavengers and squatters and made the perfect out of the way spot to bring particularly difficult monsters. Now though, the place looked pristine in comparison. It couldn’t have been abandoned for more than a year, cobwebs and a thick layer of dust settled over everything but the furniture was all still in place and even a TV in the corner.

“So, as much as I like social visits I’m going to assume the prodigal son isn’t here just to introduce himself?” Crowley asks, sitting himself down on an old recliner, a cup of tea seeming to appear out of nowhere. “Do you have a 'Sam for the Crown' pin to give me?”

“He’s not going to be your damn king.” John spits, Sam putting a hand on his shoulder to ease him back.

“Is that so? How disappointing. You know better than anyone what kind of promise he has.”

“What does that mean?” Dean turns toward their father with a frown.

“Look,” Sam interrupts before that conversation could go any farther. “If I have my way there’s not going to be a new king and Lucifer isn’t going to get out. And I’m going to be direct here, I need your help.”

“My help?” Crowley grins in amusement. “That’s rich coming from this group. You want help from a demon?”

“If we had any other choice we’d be there instead of with you piece of filth,” John growls.

Crowley just looks even more entertained, stirring his tea fondly as he watched John seethe. “I do believe you would.” He turns back to Sam. “So why me?”

Because you’re a stubborn piece of shit but I know from our history you get things done when you have a stake in the game. “Because you know as well as I do what the demons are forgetting about Lucifer.”

There’s a flicker of surprise on Crowley’s face and Sam fights to keep the satisfaction off his own.

“So you’ve figured out not all demons are created equal, good for you.” Crowley shrugs it off casually. “I don’t see your point.”

“Because I’m sure you’ve already realized that if Lucifer’s let out of his cage he’s going to want every last living thing on this planet destroyed. And that includes demons.”

“Wait, what?” Dean holds up a hand. “Woah, I thought Lucifer was supposed to be like that big daddy?”

“We’re a disposable army, Lucifer isn’t a demon and we’re not angels. We’re cannon fodder in his temper tantrum against Daddy and big brother and what do you think’s going to happen after he burns humanity off the face of the earth?” He leans forward, eyes flickering a shade toward red. “We’re next.”

 “That doesn’t make any sense, why would he just kill off his allies like that?” John scoffs. “You’re bullshitting.”

“Because Lucifer is known to operate under a sound mind of logic.” Crowley snarls sarcastically. “Get over yourself, you know nothing about the devil. You’re a small time hunter with an even smaller agenda, a nobody who’s in way over his head.”

John glares but Crowley doesn’t care, turning back to Sam with thinning patience. “So Lucifer’s going to kill us, what else is new?”

“We’re going to stop it, at least for now. Lucifer’s cage isn’t ready to be opened just yet.”

“Ah yes, the time traveling boy king from the future. Don’t take this the wrong way but I wouldn’t watch that TV show.”

“I don’t care what you think about the situation, believe me or not Lucifer is our focus.” Sam says firmly. “And I need eyes on the inside.”

“A spy. You want me to be your spy.” Crowley’s eyes narrow, insulted. “I’m the King of the Crossroads you ass, not some pencil pusher.”

“Right, and there’s no one more connected than you.” Sam says seriously, knowing this is his one shot and needs to layer it on thick. “Azazel is just the face of the operation, you’re the one controls most of the soul output, recruiting the very thing that keeps hell operational. Some random worker bee couldn’t tell me nearly as much as the information you get your hands on.”

Crowley knows what he’s doing but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t eat up the praise, looking smugly at Sam as he sips his drink. “That’s right, glad to hear you understand that even if you took over as king it would be under my discretion.” He downs the rest of his glass and sets it down. “What do you want to know?”

“Everything you can tell me.” Sam stresses, moving to sit down across from Crowley. “But first, I need to know where your mother is.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“My mother?” Crowley snorts, his amusement at the situation fast drying up. “Samuel, I thought it was cute that you summoned me out of all the big bad demons so I humored you, got to see what the little boy king was really like and what he wanted. But I draw the line at backstories, this isn’t a slumber party.”

“I don’t care about the shit going on between you two, I just want to know where she is. Do you have any idea where she might be?”

“The bitch is long dead and good riddance too, wouldn’t want her coexisting with Lucifer. Make my life bloody miserable.” He shudders but it’s more for performance, dark eyes analytical as they try and guess Sam’s game.

“Okay, but if she wasn’t dead? Where would Rowena be if she was hiding out somewhere?” Sam stresses, rubbing his face to try and keep the frustration off it.

“My my, you know the bitch’s name, aren’t we just full of surprises. Tell me, if you know so much about me and everything going on here why can’t you just find the woman’s grave yourself?”

Sam takes a deep breath, closing his eyes before opening them up again. He needs Crowley, he can’t burn this bridge by taking out his frustrations on the dick. “Tell me about Hell then.”

“A fucking Civil War, what else would you expect? And you’re the unofficial leader of the rebels. Good on you, mate.” His eyes drift back over to John, the demon able to sense exactly which jabs to place where. “Bet you’re real proud of your boy, Johnny.”

John grunts, able to keep his cool after the earlier exchange and his youngest leading by example. It makes Sam feel a bit proud in the odd way that time travel allows you to teach your father a skill you won’t learn for another decade.

Sam clears his throat to bring Crowley’s attention back onto him. “I need details. Who’s breaking the seals and why?”

“Why else? Lucifer starts whispering in your ear about power you start to go a little crazy. Things don’t exactly have to make sense for you to do them. Also, the service from the cage is dismal so what those idiots are calling communication with their master is more like a few broken sentences over a static landline. They know seals need to be broken, that seems to be the extent they’ve worked out. And instead of waiting for more instructions they’ve just started breaking them.”

“So they don’t know about Lilith?” Sam asks tentatively.

“No. Well, they certainly know that Lilith is trapped in hell but at the moment they don’t know that she’s the key to breaking seals, to getting this ball rolling.” He shrugs. “Not the brightest bunch.”

“You’re thinking that’s going to change?”

“I’m thinking that you’ve somehow motivated Lucifer to start talking to his spawn for the first time in a millennium. Nothing would surprise me at this point. Lucifer knows you’re here Sam and he’s picking at scabs to make his demons bleed for your attention.”

There’s silence, Dean’s gaze heavy on the back of Sam’s neck and he doesn’t need to turn around to see the guarded looks his father and brother have.

“Look,” Sam sighs. “I just showed up here, I have no interest in taking on Lucifer.”

“That may be but Lucifer has quite the interest in you. Pretty single minded about it too.” Crowley raises an eyebrow. “Prophecy or not that’s quite the gift you have there Winchester. Not many people can say they get down under the devil’s skin.”

“I don’t – “ He rubs his face tiredly. “I want nothing to do with him. Demons trying to break seals right now is a big problem that could potentially screw up this time and my own, my first priority is stopping that.”

Crowley doesn’t look particularly impressed. “You do know that you could end this whole thing before it even starts?”

“What are you talking about?”

“God, I hate hunters. So hard headed, can never see how these massive problems you make for yourself are actually opportunities.” He gestures to the group with barely hidden disgust. “You need to take the damn crown.”

“This is a waste of fucking time, I told you, Sam. And you - you’re deluded.” John hisses down at Crowley. “You and all your slimy little friends are on something if you think Sam is going to steep down to that level. To /become/ one of you.”

Crowley looks back at John innocently. “Isn’t he already?”

If Sam thought the silence was heavy before it’s practically deafening now, John looking like he’s about to combust his face is turning the angry shade of red he’s so familiar with.

John’s glare is cold as death. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”  

“Aw, how cute. You think denial is going to make it disappear?”

“What does that mean?” Dean has a white knuckled grip on his rifle, knowing that whatever this is, it can’t be good.

“Nothing, Dean. Demons lie. It’s what they’re best at.” John growls, stepping in front of his son to shield him from Crowley’s gaze, like the truth could be covered simply by breaking eye contact.

“It’s true, but we do on occasion let a few truths slip out. Especially when no one else wants to talk about them. It’s funny how surprised you all are, as if I would just come to have a chat out of the goodness of my heart.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Sam says through gritted teeth. He’s come to terms with his blood, he has. He’s tainted, so much so that not even the purification rituals could clean the bad out of him. But that didn’t have to make him a bad person, and he refused to give Azazel that power even from beyond the grave. Dean had believed he was good, and Sam wasn’t going to disappoint him again.

“Oh, but it does.” Crowley grins. “See, you’re not a demon Sammy. You’re human, with just that delicious little piece of Azazel coursing through your veins and a body with Lucifer’s name burned into the very atoms of it’s being. You’re not a mindless drone, you’re not anything anyone’s ever seen before.”

“And you think that makes me want to be king?”

“It makes you the best choice for king. You’re not a demon, you’re not human. You’re something else, something that has the potential to be successful.”

“This is crazy Sam, you’re not actually listening to this idiot.” John looks over at him but under the disdain for the conversation is suspicion, like this has been Sam’s plan all along.

“No.” He says firmly, not even thinking about Crowley, more concerned with getting that look off his Dad’s face. The look that echoed back to ‘he told me I had to save you’ and ‘he said I might have to kill you, Sam’

“It’s a shame, we could have had something magical.”

“My brother ain’t gonna be your guinea pig.” Dean huffs, stepping around Crowley and taking Sam’s arm, gently tugging him back from the couches. “We have what we need right? We can go?”

“Yeah-“ He clears his throat, embarrassed at how weak it sounds. “Yeah, we’re good.” He turns back toward Crowley. “If anything changes you’ll keep in touch?”

Crowley does a mock salute. “For both of our interests, I’ll keep an ear out. And perhaps you’ll reconsider my proposal.”

“He won’t,” John says firmly, leading the charge out of the cabin.

 

 

Sam sleeps. It’s a good sleep, best of his life. Though that might not mean much considering it apparently began only a few days ago.

Dean’s arms are warm and strong around him, his body curling around Sam like how his Dean does when Sam’s had a bad nightmare. It’s comforting, even if the memories around it are fake, someone else’s to remember.

He doesn’t understand why Dean is humoring him like this but he’s too scared to ask, afraid that he’ll stop if he points out the obvious. He’s holding on okay right now but only because Dean’s hands are constantly within reach and his gruff voice he’s already getting used to only a breath away. Even if he’s fake Sam, real Dean is still the glue that holds all his broken pieces together.

He’d cried himself into silence yesterday, sobbing into Dean’s chest until his eyes could barely stay open. Dean had just held him, promising that everything was going to be okay and he wasn’t going to leave but Sam has serious doubts about both.

It’s early now, Dean asleep and his warm breath brushing Sam’s ear with every exhale. The sun is just barely starting to glow through the blinds but the sounds coming from down the hall are what woke him up.

Banging, frying, voices.   

Dean’s arm curls tighter around his waist at a particularly loud crash of pans, and it warms his stomach for a minute before he remembers that it’s not for him. Dean’s protecting Sam… not whatever he is.

The warmth turns to boiling shame and he needs to get out, can’t be so close to someone pretending to love him – love someone who’s not him.

It takes a minute; this Dean is a lot stronger than the one he remembers but he uses the same trick to slip out from his arms. It helps a little to not be pressed so close, feeling his breathing coming a little easier as he walks over to the window.

He has no idea what to do.

He doesn’t belong here, his memories misplaced and not his own and a Dean that’s already lived an entire life with his own Sam. He’s only fifteen. There was so much he wanted to do, college …  running away with Dean… all of that is obsolete now.  

There was no goal of getting back home, no trying to save Dean. He just existed, a project created by Toni that never got to fulfill its purpose.

He chews his lip, quietly pushing down one of the plastic blinds so he could peek outside, curious as to where exactly they were.  Farmland is just visible in the glow of dawn, a few houses starting to light up as they got ready for the day.

It’s normal in almost a jarring way, a sight that would be no different now or twenty years ago when his memories were made. The future was different but people tended to stay the same.

He wonders if Toni’s somewhere out there.

Unlikely, but still possible. Maybe she got hurt in the blast and was recovering out in some abandoned house, stitching her wounds and waiting for Watt to come and get her.

He hopes she bleeds out.

The fire’s back this time but it’s not shame that burns in his stomach, it’s anger. If anyone was to blame for his situation it was Toni, Toni for creating him to hurt Dean – Toni for killing the real Sam – Dean’s Sam. Sam might not be able to go to college now but maybe he’ll be able to make Toni regret creating something to live such a painful existence.

“Hey,” Dean’s voice is sleep warm and thick as it comes up behind him, steps creepily silent for how big of a man he is. “You feel better?”

Sam shrugs, trying not to flinch when Dean’s hand comes down to rest on his shoulder. It should be comforting but all he feels is how it’s not really meant for him. “Are you going to try and kill Toni?”

If he expected Dean to flinch he’s disappointed, Dean not seeming bothered by the question in the slightest as he nudges Sam back to lean into his chest, arm lazily draped over his shoulder and across his body. “She was dead the moment she took you.”

“Not me.” Sam corrects softly but Dean doesn’t answer, just yawning loudly and leaning down to nuzzle into Sam’s neck with a sleepy sigh, making him frown. “Dean-“ The affection is misplaced because it shouldn’t be for him, not for an imposter of his brother’s body.

Dean pulls away before Sam can point out the obvious, not looking bothered as he stretches his arms behind his back and shoots Sam a smile. “You hungry kiddo?”

His is … maybe the conversation can wait till after breakfast.

The house is bustling, people he sort of remembers from the day before rushing around the living room and kitchen. He doesn’t remember if there were any names given at the holdup with Toni, his attention having been firmly fixed on Dean.

“Smells good Jodes.” Dean grins.

The dark haired woman – Jodes? – freezes from where she’s pouring pancake batter, looking over at Dean with barely concealed shock. A quick glance at the others confirms similar expressions and Sam feels his face heat up. They were probably wondering why Dean hadn’t gotten rid of him yet.

Before he can apologize Dean is rolling his eyes and nudging Sam forward with him into the kitchen. “Shut up, can I help with anything?”

‘Jodes’ recovers fastest, shoving a plate into Dean’s hands and piling it up with fresh pancakes. “You’re going to eat every one of these, you here me?” She says seriously a warning finger jabbing into Dean’s chest and Sam’s positive that if anyone could make Dean eat something it would be her. Not that he usually needed a lot of encouragement to eat.

He frowns, wondering about Dean’s eating habits when the woman is suddenly in front of him, smiling as she passes him a plate. “Nice to see you up, you gave us quite a scare.”

“Sorry, ma’am.” He says sincerely. “Thanks for having me here.”

The woman’s face softens, her hand moving to touch Sam’s hair before quickly pulling it back. He wants to tell her that he doesn’t mind but then he remembers that she might not want to touch him for another reason and lets it go. “Now those are some manners, everyone around here could learn a thing or two about those.” She smiles and hands him a glass of juice.  “You can stay here as long as you like – and none of that ma’am stuff. I’m Jody.”

“Jody.” He confirms with a small smile. He can’t help but like this woman. “I’m Sam – “ He cuts off, realizing that it might be inappropriate to say that in front of these people when they’d just lost the actual Sam but then who was he supposed to be  - ?

“Sam.” She squeezes his hand, pulling him out of his crisis with a soft smile. “I know.”

He doesn’t know what that’s supposed to mean but Dean’s moving him through the line, putting bacon, eggs, and some fruit onto his plate as they work their way around the counter. Castiel is there, picking at an apple with disinterest and a dark haired girl he’s never seen before.

Dean’s hand on his shoulder leads him past the table and into the living room, nudging him to sit down on the couch with his food.

“Is this okay?” He frowns and nods to the kitchen where Jody was, not wanting to anger the woman who had been so kind to him by eating on the couch.

“She doesn’t care.” Dean waves a hand and takes a big bite of pancakes, groaning at the taste. “Jody these are amazing!”

“You can have seconds Dean, you don’t need to sweet talk to get them!” Jody calls back and Dean grins, shaking his head as he takes another bite.

It’s incredibly domestic and Sam doesn’t quite know how to process it.

“Who is she?” He murmurs softly, not wanting to insult their host.

“Jody? An old friend, we meet her when things start to go to hell and she steps up. We owe her our asses several times over.”

“And one day I’m going to cash in on that.” Jody grins, walking over with her own plate and sitting down on the recliner. “Is it okay Sam? I can whip up an omelet or something.”

Sam shakes his head quickly, “No – it’s great thank you.” He takes a bit bite of pancakes, unable to help but be reminded of his first day with Toni. Even with the bad memories they were still good pancakes and he doesn’t want to be a bad guest.

“Well let me know if you change your mind, we have lots for seconds.” She smiles. “Claire’s asleep but she’ll be excited to see you’re up.”

 “Claire’s here – you’re her Jody.” He says as it clicks in his head. “She was amazing – I wouldn’t have known not to trust Toni without her.” It’s the truth but he feels compelled to really stress it to Jody, remembering Claire’s comments about her not liking the hunting. Sam knows what it feels like to have parental disapproval for something you love and even if it’s something small he wants to support Claire.

“Toni’s a professional liar, don’t take it personally.” Dean drapes an arm across the back of Sam’s side of the couch, fingers absently playing with his hair.

“Still,” Sam says firmly. “without her I would probably still be running around with Toni.”

Jody nods but there’s a smile pulling at her lips, one that Sam can’t understand the meaning of but is pretty sure it’s not pride at Claire’s hunting abilities. “I’m sure Claire would love to hear that from you.”

“Uh, sure.” He shrugs, having already been planning on thanking Claire for her part in the whole operation.

Jody doesn’t seem done though, still smiling at him before looking over at Dean with a slightly raised eyebrow. Whatever that grin means Dean doesn’t seem to agree, eyes narrowing as he shakes his head pointedly.

Jody just hums and turns back to her plate, that same grin stuck on her face as she eats her own food.

Sam feels like he’s missed an entire conversation but Dean’s quick to change the subject. “We’re going to go check out the lead on the house.” He explains to Jody, sipping on his coffee.

“Toni isn’t stupid enough to go back there.” She frowns.

“I know but she might have left something behind, we can’t know too much about this bitch.” Dean’s voice is firm, making it clear he isn’t going to be talked out of it.

Jody nods slowly, her concern obvious but she doesn’t fight Dean on this. “Just be careful.”

“Always am.”

Jody sighs but leaves it at that. “So Sam, anything you’d like to get up to while they’re out?”

Before panic can build up at why they would be separating Dean’s answering for him. “He’s coming with me.”

“… He’s fifteen Dean. You’re talking him with you while you hunt a psychopath?”   

“It’s ill advised.” Castiel chimes in from the kitchen table and Sam opinion of the angel suddenly isn’t quite so shining.

“He’s coming.” Dean growls. “He’s got more info on this bitch than all of us put together and – he just is. He’s coming.”

Sam chews his lip nervously, grateful beyond words that Dean isn’t going to leave him but still confused as to why. Dean doesn’t seem to be doubting his decision though, looking challengingly at Castiel and Jody’s concerned faces.

It’s nice that they’re thinking of him, or at least thinking about Dean and how he shouldn’t be alone with a potentially dangerous monster. Dean needs good people like that in his life.

“Why are you guys this loud this early?” Claire groans, padding into the living room in worn sleep pants and a tank top.

Sam respects her on several different levels, her ability to hunt the wendigo was incredibly skilled, her kindness to him as a random passerby was appreciated and might just have saved his life, and her insight into the situation allowed them to get the jump on Toni. But he still can’t help but let his eyes wander down slightly to her breasts in the tight top.

There’s never going to be anyone for him but Dean, he knows that. But it’s kind of thrilling to have such a cool and pretty girl like Claire have an interest in him, even if that interest is just friendly. He’s never really had friends who are girls so it’s a new and exciting thing, one that he wishes he could talk about with the Dean from his memories.

“Hi, Claire.” He smiles at her, happy to see her again and with no monsters or evil con artists around to interrupt.  

Claire didn’t seem to have noticed him when she first walked in but his voice brings her sleepy gaze to meet his, eyes widening in recognition. “You’re awake! Oh my god!”

She’s there then, soft and warm as she pulls him into a hug that’s so strong his breath nearly rushes out of him as she squeezes. “Claire!” He laughs, squeezing her back.

“Eli – or I guess it’s Sam then.” She pauses, pulling back to look at him. “Why’d you lie about your name, did you already know you were a … you know.”

Sam shook his head. “No, Toni and I were talking to hunters from my time – or the time I remember at least - and thought it’d be better if I had a fake name.”

“So I should call you Sam?” She clarifies, sitting down between the edge of the couch and Sam, it a tight squeeze so most of her thigh was draped over Sam’s legs.

 “Yeah- yeah that’s fine.” He nods, the idea of not even being allowed to go by his name making his stomach roll but he’ll need to get used to it, this was going to be his life now.

“I’m so happy you’re okay, the whole thing was a shit show and we barely got to you in time-“ She wraps an arm around Sam’s shoulders and pulls him in tight. “So you’re going to stay with us then?”

“No.” The ice in his voice makes Sam and Claire jump apart, staring up Dean who was looking at them with thinly veiled irritation.

Sam feels his throat close up in shame, hands immediately falling into his lap and away from Claire. Of course, Dean didn’t want a thing like him touching the people he cared about, it was obvious he loved this family and having a freak in the house was just something he tolerated until he could kill Toni. He was humoring Sam to keep him cooperative.

“What do you mean no?” Claire crosses her arms and Sam wants to sink right into the couch and disappear.

Dean meets Claire’s defiance with an equally cold gaze. “I mean no he’s not staying with you.”

“Okay!” Jody interrupts them, standing up from the recliner. “Why don’t you guys get packed then and I’ll see if I can get you some leftovers for the road. Claire, you have school.”

Claire huffs a massive sigh, only breaking her glaring contest with Dean when Jody pulls her up off the couch. “Don’t let him tell you what to do you Eli- Sam, he’s not the boss of you.” She tosses over her shoulder as she makes her way down the hall.

It occurs to him that Claire is the only person who didn’t actually know who he was when they met… and liked him anyway. Claire didn’t know that he was Sam Winchester or a changeling or anything in between. She had no expectations and Sam couldn’t help but smile after her, feeling a bit of comfort that someone was looking out for him who didn’t care what he was supposed to be.

Dean coughs loudly, pulling Sam’s gaze off of Claire and up to him. “God, no time Sammy, we need to be on the road now.” The arm that was resting on the back of the couch moves down to rest heavy and warm on his shoulder’s, hand gently pressing flat over his heart.

“Why do we have to go now? Toni isn’t there.” He murmurs, this older Dean’s musky scent and presence a bit overwhelming and took a bit of getting used to when he draped himself all over Sam like this.

“Just is, evidence could be going cold.” Dean says confidently, as if that made any sense at all.

It doesn’t really matter though, the sooner they get this done the sooner they can catch Toni and then Sam can finally be free to… well he’s still trying to figure out what comes next for him. He’s trying not to think too far though, because the ache for the one person he can’t have might just answer the question for him.

He lets Dean guide him back into the kitchen where his bag from the hotel is sitting against the wall in the corner. It’s obviously been gone through but it’s not like there was anything in there particularly important anyway. He digs through it, checking to make sure he’ll have what he needs for the road trip since it’ll be a few days drive back to where this whole thing started.

“- supply run, you’re not going to wait for her to get back? She shouldn’t be too long.” Jody murmurs, Sam just catching the end of the conversation as her and Dean rinse dishes.

“I’m not waiting around Jody, she’ll understand that.”

“You’re avoiding this Dean – “ Jody frowns, turning on the facet to add more water to the sink and effectively muting the conversation for a moment “- isn’t her fault. It’s Amara’s, try and remember that.”

Dean’s shoulders heave in a big sigh, “Just like I said Jody, tell her I had somewhere to be.”

Jody doesn’t look particularly impressed but Dean’s done with the dishes and heading over to Sam instead. “Let’s hit the road, kiddo.”

Sam nods, figuring there was only so much pretending everyone could do for his sake and they had been so kind and welcoming while he was here. At the very least Dean had good people looking after him, a family.

“Really, thank you so much for letting me stay here. The food was amazing.” He says sincerely to Jody as Dean swings both their duffels onto his shoulders.

“Sam honey, you don’t need to thank me. You’re always welcome to crash here and eat all the food you like.” She pats his cheek affectionately, like he really was the person whose memories he had. It’s nice to pretend for a moment.

“Tell Claire I said goodbye- and that if I can find a phone I’ll call her.” He adds, frowning slightly at Jody’s knowing smile. Fuck, he wanted to help Claire out if she got herself into more trouble with a hunt but maybe he’d just ratted her out to Jody.

“We’re going!” Dean announces loudly, interrupting them before Jody can add anything, grabbing Sam’s wrist and pulling him toward the door.

“Okay- I’m coming Dean, god!” Sam huffs, pulling at the grip but Dean’s hand is like a vice around his wrist until they get past the door. He’s about to put up another fight about being tugged on but the words die in his throat as he stares at the Impala sitting in the driveway. “Whoa – you still have it?”

“Her Sammy, Baby’s a her. And what kind of question even is that?” Dean pops the trunk and tosses both their duffles in before walking around to get into the driver’s seat. “You comin?”

Sam nods, unable to help the grin that spreads on his face as he takes in the waxy shine of the car, Dean obviously just as obsessed with it as he remembers. He grabs the door for the backseat but Dean rolls his eyes, locking it before Sam can open it up. “Come on Sam, we’re in a hurry. You can check the whole thing out later.” He pats the passenger seat before unlocking the car again.

“But… shouldn’t Castiel sit in the front? I’m okay back here.”

“Cas is doing me a favor, he’ll meet up with us when we get there. And even if he wasn’t this is your seat.” He pats it again for emphasis.

‘You mean his seat’ A voice in his head supplies but it’s a nice sentiment so he doesn’t ruin it with those thoughts, just hops into the passenger’s seat and buckles in.

It’s a quiet drive, the windows cracked down and the engine humming as they head off down the road, the kind of raw familiarity that makes Sam almost sleep with the urge to just lay down and rest. Like this was the only place where he can actually feel like he belongs.

It’s a nice thought but doesn’t last long, his head buzzing with what he’s supposed to do after he’s lived out his use and the deep pain of missing his own Dean and the fake memories that keep trying to push to the surface.

He’s so caught up in the whirlwind that is his head he barely notices when Dean takes a hand off the wheel and rests it on top of his own.

It’s warm and gentle, much bigger than he’s used to but still somehow feels the same. It’s nice and comforting and he’s glad for the touch until Dean intertwines their fingers together and brings them up to his mouth in a soft kiss.

Sam’s pulls his hand away and into his lap so fast he accidentally smacks his elbow into the door. “What was that for?” He’s trying to be calm but what Dean’s doing is the last thing he needs right now.

“I’m sorry – I didn’t think about the age thing – was it really that bad?” Dean frowns, glancing over at him before back to the road, face slightly red.

“I don’t want you to pretend. It was nice last night when I was freaking out but we can’t – I don’t want you to do this.” He says slowly, trying to organize his thoughts. “It’s just going to make it harder later.”

“Later?” Dean’s trying to look at him but can’t take his eyes off the road in the tight weave of the road they’re winding

“Yeah, when we finish this … when we get Toni or at least have a better idea of what’s going on. Not much I can help with after that.” Sam clarifies carefully.

Dean’s frown deepens as he passes the car in front of them, speeding with a practiced hand down the road. “And then what happens?”

“Well… if you let me go then I’d figure something out. I wouldn’t bother you I swear, I’d go up to Canada or something, try and finish school if I can.”

“What even – Sammy what kind of dumbass plan is that? Canada?” Dean looks over at him incredulously before back to the road. “Why do you have to go? Huh?”

“Don’t be a dick Dean, you know why.”

“No, I really don’t. You have nowhere to go so what’s got you so pressed on leaving. You’re fifteen for Christ’s sake.”

“Because I’m not Sam! Okay? I’m not him! But it feels like I am and I know it’s weird for all of you guys and you think I’m some sort of freak but I can’t – I can’t just pretend that my memories aren’t there. That in my head you’re not my brother.” His voice breaks and he fights it, needing to get this out. “And it kills me every time you pretend like there’s nothing wrong – like I’m him and you’re not going to dump me or kill me as soon as you don’t need me anymore.”

The car swerves hard, Sam getting thrown back into the seat as they pull off to the side of the road at an angle, facing away from the rush of cars on the road.

“Okay,” Dean growls, throwing the car into park before turning to face Sam. “What the actual fuck are you talking about?”

“I-“

“Because you seriously can’t think that I’m just over here waiting to shove a knife through your heart. That as soon as we’re done you’ll be lucky if I toss you out onto the road.”

“Dean – “

“Who cares what you are Sam! Both of us have been our fair share of supernatural fucked up and we’ve made it through, and whatever this witch box made seems pretty damn mellow in comparison as far as I’m concerned. We’ve run all the tests, Cas is a bit low on power right now but he can at least tell that you’re not a threat.”

He leans forward, gently taking back the hand that Sam had pulled away. “I don’t give a fuck what you are. Those memories you have might not have come from you originally but they’re still yours – they’re still Sam’s. I mean what the fuck even makes a person, huh? Because I’m pretty sure if someone took all my memories away I wouldn’t still be the same Dean.”

“But I was made, I wasn’t born, I was probably cooked up in some cave somewhere,” Sam says weakly, eyes wet as he looks up into Dean’s. “I don’t get how you can look at me and not just see some fake.”

Dean shakes his head, eyes fierce as they hold Sam’s, not letting him look away from this. “We found out pretty quickly what you were. I was still trying to process everything, thinking angels and timelines and all this shit when Cas found the note, looked you over, and told me what was going on. And you know how I felt Sam? When I heard what you were?”

Sam shook his head, glued under Dean’s gaze.

“My Sam’s dead, he is and there’s nothing I can do about it right now but I’m still a selfish man. I need you Sammy, I can’t function without you being right next to me when I wake up and the last thing I see when I go to bed – and every other fucking minute of the day too. It’s in my DNA or something, I’m just not built to live like this.” He shakes his head, the misery of his existence etched on every inch of his face and Sam’s heart aches in understanding.  

“So when Cas told me what you were… I was relieved.” Dean murmurs, eyes wet as he touches Sam’s cheek. “Because it meant I could keep you.”  

He shakes his head, refusing to believe that he could be wanted like this. “It’s not the real thing.”

“Sam.” Dean says softly, thumb rubbing over his cheek. “Don’t take this from me. Please. Because if you leave - if I lose you again – I don’t know if I’d survive that.” He leans his head against Sam’s. “And you are. You’re Sam. I wouldn’t be asking for this if I thought you weren’t him in every way that matters.”  

He can’t quite believe it, everything Dean’s saying and wanting him to believe too good to be true, something he doesn’t deserve. “Dean – “ He shakes his head, trying not to break down at the weight of his identity crisis.

“Hey,” Dean murmurs, eyes searching over his face in that familiar way that meant he was trying to fix whatever was hurting him, but too bad for Dean because Sam wasn’t able to be –

Soft lips are suddenly pressing against his. Dean’s mouth warm as he pulls Sam’s bottom lip in to deepen it, big hands pressing into his back to pull him closer and for the first time since learned the truth he feels like Sam Winchester. No strings attached.

If he’s embarrassed later when Dean’s holding his hand and talking about everything they’re going to do after they tie up loose ends, he doesn’t mention it. Just letting himself sink into the role that he might just get to keep.

It’s a two days drive to the farm, one spent in a blur of motel bed sharing and lingering gazes on both their ends. While Sam would love any version of Dean he knows that loss is what’s driving them together on either end. Dean’s gaze is constantly flickering up instead of down when he starts talking and Sam keeps grasping at air for a hand that’s higher than he’s used to.

“This is it.” He nods as they pull up the long driveway, the house standing quietly in the sunny afternoon air. “No cars.”

“Still, can’t be too careful.” Dean parks the car in the driveway and gets ’s out, surveying the property for a few moments.

“It’s pretty,”  Sam comments, shoving his hands in his pockets.

His brother doesn’t add anything, just checks his gun before leading Sam up to the door which is unsurprisingly locked.

“Hold on,” Dean’s boot is slamming into the lock before Sam can even take a step back, whatever happened in this house drawing him in and nothing was going to stand in his way.

“We ate in there and I slept upstairs...”  He explains as they walk into the dark hallway, the house feeling creepily still. He’s been in countless haunted buildings in his life but this place makes the skin on his neck prickle more than any other. It’s just wrong. Whatever happened here – happened to him – was wrong.

They creep over the floorboards, what was a comforting farmhouse when he’d first visited now seeming to creak and groan with whispers and shadows at every turn. Toni and Watt waiting to jump out at them with guns drawn despite knowing they had to be in hiding after what went down.

Dean’s moving ahead in that weirdly silent way that doesn’t match his size, taking point with such confidence he sort of reminds him of their Dad… which is weird and he quickly tries to push that off.

The kitchen is mostly empty, the pancake mix they’d used still sitting on the counter from when Toni fed him her spiel on helping Dean and getting to live his dream life. It makes him nauseous just looking at it and he quickly turns, only to face the dark door on the side wall.  

“There … that’s where I woke up.”

“Through here?” Dean walks over and touches the handle slowly before yanking it open and aiming his gun down the dark stairs.  

Sam peeks his head out from Dean’s side to look down as well, sunlight streaming in through the small windows and making the dirt and dust float lazily around the basement. It looked empty.

“Stay here.” Dean orders firmly, stepping down the stairs and turning to disappear from Sam’s view.

He holds his breath for a moment, not knowing if Toni had any other tricks up her sleeve and not wanting to underestimate her a second time. No attack comes though, just the harsh sound of his own breathing in musty air.

He tries to be patient, really he does, but with how quiet Dean is he can’t trust that some sort of supernatural creature Toni kept leashed down there didn’t silently take him down and he was bleeding to death just inches from Sam’s line of sight. He’s starting to feel bad for all the times he’d told Dean he was paranoid.

After fifteen minutes he can’t take it anymore and darts down the stairs, his knife raised defensively for whatever had taken his brother but Dean isn’t bleeding out, or hurt in the slightest.

He’s kneeling in the middle of the room, eyes closed, and gripping what looks like a shirt.

Dean’s name dies on his tongue, whatever he was going to say feeling lost and irreverent, the quiet of the room now almost sacred. Sam knows his brother isn’t a religious man but if he didn’t know better he’d say Dean was praying.

The basement is the same as when he came to, chains in the middle of the room, a broken chair laying in the corner, and what was still fresh blood when he’d woken up is now dry and cracking under Dean’s knees. He doesn’t want to know exactly how the real Sam died.

Nothing seems to be happening though, Dean just kneeling without any sort of explanation and while Sam would love for his brother to embrace a bit of prayer now and again they are trying to catch Toni.

“Dean?” He asks, his voice jarringly loud as it breaks the silence.

Dean flinches, fingers digging into the shirt before he reluctantly stands. “Sorry – doesn’t look like anything’s down here.”

“What were you doing?” He nods toward where he was kneeling.

“Nothing Sam, drop it.” 

Sam frowns, eyeing up his brother and the shirt in his hands. “Is that Sam’s?”

Dean swallows, looking past Sam as his thumb rubs against the cotton fabric. “It’s mine.”

He doesn’t need to say anything else, Sam already knows what happened. If he thought Dean was dead the first thing he’d do would be to pull on his clothes, an old comfort he’s done since he was little.

“It’s – it’s covered in blood.” He continues softly, catching Sam off guard but he stays quiet, willing to be a sounding board if Dean needs to get it off his chest. “There’s blood everywhere…”

There is. And the picture it makes isn’t a pleasant one.

“If I found him in time would he even have made it?” Dean shakes his head, gripping so tight to the shirt he can see the seams pulling. “Maybe Amara knew what she was doing the whole fucking time.”

“Who's-?”

“Where the hell are you!” Dean bursts out, Sam stumbling back in surprise at the volume. “I’m here! I’m waiting for you!”

The house stands silent, mocking the pain filling the room.

“We didn’t burn you, I didn’t let them – you were supposed to be here – “ Dean drops back down to his knees, burying his face in the dirty shirt and Sam can’t help but feel every single inch that’s lacking what his brother needs.  

Dean swears are muffled into the shirt and Sam flounders for what to do, both of them lost in their own missing pieces.

“… If he’s not here then he’s in heaven right?” Sam whispers, that the only positive he could come up with after several minutes of thinking. He doesn’t quite believe that any version of him could get up there but he knows Dean would disagree.

“No – maybe? We’re supposed to go to some shithole called the empty but Cas thinks that god would have trumped that so Sam could be in heaven.” Dean rubs his finger over a dark stain on the fabric. “He was supposed to be here.”

It’s been days since Sam’s death and it seems Dean put off the final confirmation. Schrodinger had a box. Toni had a basement. If you don’t check, you’ll never know what’s really inside.

Sam scoots over, leaning into his brother’s side as he looks at the disgusting shirt Dean was gripping like a lifeline. “If I thought you were dead then I would have wanted to go meet you, I wouldn’t want to wait around as a ghost.”

“I know but I thought… we’re soulmates, maybe when you died you could have sensed I was too somehow. Held on for me.”

“Soulmates?” Sam bites his lip, cheeks heating up slightly. “That’s uh – that’s a lot.”

“We are – or we were. That’s the only real difference with this version of you.”


“I don’t have a soul?”

Dean nods, loosening his grip on the shirt a bit too let Sam’s hand slip between his. “Yeah, that’s how Cas knew what you were, that you weren’t human and you could stay. Took him a long ass time to figure it out too, was going crazy with the weird faces he was making. But I’m sure you can see from your memories, how bad it hurt when we weren’t together? What it felt like when I was fifteen and came home after a month of being away on a hunt with dad? That was the fucking worst, only thing I wanted to do was hold my little brother.”

Sam's lip is starting to bleed but he continues to bite it, looking down at their linked fingers. “What does it feel like now?”

Dean stills under his hands, green eyes flickering to his. “Unimaginable, Sam. I can’t even explain it. It’s like someone took one of my lungs – I can still breathe but it’s not going to be for very long and every single breath is going to hurt like hell until it finally kills me.”

He knows he’s just a copy of memories but he feels that hurt for his own Dean deep inside of him, in the rawest way possible. He doesn’t want to belittle Dean’s pain with a poor reproduction though so he doesn’t try and relate it. This Dean is hurting and it’s still painful when he can’t do anything to help.

“How can you fix it? Is there a way to make it stop hurting? … Maybe having me as a reminder is making it worse.”

“No.” Dean’s arms tighten around him, anchoring Sam against his side, the shirt dropping to the ground. “No, you’re perfect Sam. I’m just trying to figure my own shit out – god I shouldn’t have even taken you here. I’m an idiot.” He shakes his head and stands up, hand firmly in Sam’s.

“Dean I’m serious- “

“I am too. You’re what matters to me, Sam. You’re here and alive and breathing and I love you. I needed to get a bit of closure and that’s done… and maybe a bit more help.”

Sam’s a little dazed at the casual drop of the L word, trailing after Dean as he’s lead by their joined hands up the stairs that it takes him a minute to process what had just been said. “What – what kind of help?”

“There’s a woman I know, a psychic. If anyone knows about Soulmates it’s her and she might be able to help me.”

“Psychic?” Sam asks as they leave the house, not even bothering to close the door behind them. Apparently finding evidence of where Toni might be hadn’t ever been part of the plan.

“Not like pick a number, look into the ball, love is in your future type. Like a real actual psychic. I haven’t seen her in a while but she’s good. The best.” He holds the passenger door open for Sam, letting climb into the car before following around and getting into the driver's seat. “It’s a days drive but it’ll be worth it.”

“Worth what? What’s a psychic going to do?” Sam asks, not following Dean in the slightest as he grabs for his seatbelt. 

Dean just looks over at him with an intensity that Sam can’t even begin to interpret, face going red and his eyes dropping down. “Dean-“

“Just enjoy the ride, Sam.” Dean hums, reaching over and spinning the dial to get a local rock station. “It’s a long drive to Kansas.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s a long drive to Kansas and Dean barely stops for gas in his rush to get there. Sam doesn’t know much about this psychic woman but whatever she does must be important.

Must have to do with the real Sam.

He doesn’t really understand what Dean wants with the woman, his reasons vague and the music turned up loud so Sam can’t ask for clarification. He has that wide eyed, tight knuckled grip on the wheel that Sam’s only ever seen on his dad when he had a lead on the demon that killed mom. Something to sooth the immediate ache when the long term agony of existence was impossible to fix.

It’s an uncomfortable awareness, this comparison between the two. There’s a whiskey bottle rolling in the back seat and while Dean’s jacket isn’t leather it smells like gunpowder and blood all the same. A killer with a broken heart sits beside him and that’s no different than his memories from twenty years previous. He’s searching for something to set them apart, the darkness of the cab only broken by the quick flash of an occasional yellow street light but he can still see what’s missing just fine.

“Where’s the amulet?”

Dean stiffens, that raw look wavering slightly but he doesn’t look over. “We have it, it’s back at the bunker – where we live.”

Sam doesn’t correct him, this body has never lived with Dean anywhere but it’s not a fight he wants to go into now.

“Why don’t you wear it?”

Dean opens his mouth before closing it once again, remaining silent.

Sam scrunches his nose, the hurt tightening in his chest shouldn’t be so personal but he can’t help how real that Christmas night is to him. He’s a hypocrite for thinking Dean can’t say they lived together when he’s nearly in tears for a memory he never lived.

Dean frowns, his concern evident but Sam doesn’t want it, curling up against the door and closing his eyes. There’s only one Dean he wants right now.

It’s a mean thought, especially after everything Dean’s done to try and convince him that he’s not a replacement and he doesn’t think of him as some sort of puppet in his brother’s likeness –  but it doesn’t mean that Sam doesn’t miss his nineteen-year-old brother, especially when he’s trying to get the same connection from the older version in his thirties.

Him and his Dad don’t see eye to eye because of his big revenge mission and now he’s starting to wonder how long it’s going to be before he’s storming out away from Dean with arguments that can’t be sorted with rough hugs and tight apologies.

They get to Lawrence a little after dawn, foggy early morning haze making the farm town look even sleepier.

“It’s five in the morning, you’re seriously just going to wake her up?” Sam frowns as they pull up to a cozy brick house, nothing standing out at him as particularly physic but besides putting a big crystal ball in the front lawn he doesn’t really know what would.

“She knows we’re coming.” Dean shuts the door behind him, much too assertive this early in the morning.

Sam scrambles after him and up to the porch, Dean barely pressing the doorbell before it was pulled open, an elderly black woman giving them each a once over.

“Dean Winchester, it’s been awhile.” She huffs, “You forget to call?”

Dean gives her a charming grin, leaning on the door frame. “Aw c’mon Missouri, we keep in touch.”

“You wipe that grin right off your face, we both know you only come ‘round when shit hits the fan. And you reek of the stuff.”

They’re pulled inside, the Missouri woman fussing over Sam until he’s wrapped up in a blanket on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate. The living room is a bit more on brand, chimes of animal bones are hanging over the TV and the bowl on the coffee table is overflowing with bright crystals and stones. Overall it’s pretty tame, and he’s honestly a bit disappointed.

“All the good stuff’s in the back.” Missouri winks at him.

She’s moving off to shuffle around her magazines to make a space for herself on the opposite side by the time Sam realizes what she’d been referring to, glancing at Dean wide eyed.

“She does that, spooky huh?”

“Yeah.” He grins slightly, knowing it was silly but he’d been into magic as a kid and couldn't help but be fascinated by the performance.

“So. Do I even want to know how this mess started?” She asks, settling into her recliner and gestures a hand between Sam and Dean.

Dean shrugs, warming his hands against his coffee mug. “I swear I’m not here to have you do anything crazy… I just didn’t know anywhere else to go. There’s not exactly a guide for how to go through this and out of anyone I thought you’d be able to help.”

“Help with what, Dean?” Missouri asks gently, eyes creasing as her gaze suddenly sent shivers down Sam’s spine.

“This has been a week from hell and a few days ago it suddenly was like I could actually breathe again but that doesn’t mean everything doesn’t still feel and taste like shit. I’m hurting Sam though, by being like this. I can’t give him what he needs.” He reaches a hand over and grabs Sam’s thigh tightly, squeezing as if to ground himself while Sam’s face heats up. Neither Dean or Missouri react to him having his hand so casually lingering like that though which turns his blush from embarrassed to mortified. 

“Does everyone know?” He grumbles under his breath but neither of them seems to hear him either.

Missouri frowns, “And you resorted to this?”

“I tried for days, talked to every contact, read every book, prayed to every damn god, angel, and demon and nothing.” Dean’s hand trembles a bit on his leg. “And I was ready to just say fuck it and join him but now with him…” Dean glances at Sam. “I’m not about to make the mistake of leaving twice.”

“Leaving?” Missouri’s frown deepens. “Dean, you can’t keep him.”

Dean’s eyes darken, his hand tightening possessively on Sam’s leg. “I didn’t come here to ask for opinions Missouri.”

“Well you sure as hell are going to get one because you aren’t keeping that boy, but you had to have known that before you even stepped in here.”

“What does that mean?” Sam eyes the two of them, fingers curling into the blanket around his shoulders. He knows though, Missouri thinks Dean should have offed him in the car before even walking up to her porch.

“I want to weaken the bond.” Dean growls, effectively putting an end to the argument.

Sam blinks at the tense silence that follows, having no idea where the weight in Dean’s words is coming from. What bond?

“Dean Winchester, why would you do a stupid thing like that?” Missouri snaps, leaning forward on the edge of her chair like she was about to get up and smack him.

“This isn’t news Missouri, him not being here is going to kill me – you and I both know it will. And yeah, any other time I would be fucking – freaking, sorry – ecstatic but I can’t right now.” He nods down at Sam. “Like I said, I’m not leaving him again.”

“When I saw the state of your soul when you walked in here I thought you wanted me to help heal it – I have no idea what you’re playing with but it’s dark Dean, to shred you as deep as what I’m seeing shouldn’t be taken likely.” She meets his gaze with so much pity Sam’s glad he doesn’t share her gift.

“I didn’t do this – he’s dead Missouri! What did you think it would look like?” Dean spits, anger masking the hurt as his head falls into his hands.

“Dean,” She murmurs, voice suddenly soft as she reaches over and puts a hand on Dean’s knee. “I don’t think I understand what’s going on, can you fill me in a little?”

“Sam’s dead.” Dean’s hollow voice is muffled by his hands and Sam wishes he could reach over and hold them instead. But just like in the basement he knows it’s not enough.

Missouri’s brow creases but she doesn’t say anything for a moment, rubbing Dean’s knee until his breathing is a bit more even. “Who’s this then?”

Dean leans his head up, eyes a bit red as he gives her a skeptical glare. “Don’t do that to him, as far as I’m concerned he is him where it matters.”

Sam curls up a little, the politics of his existence not something he really wants to listen in on and he already feels useless enough with Dean breaking down over someone Sam isn’t.

Missouri’s gaze flickers between the two of them. “Dean, baby, I know you’re hurting but he needs to go home. Think of how worried his own big brother is?” She squeezes his knee. “You’d just be passing on this nightmare, not solving it. And not to mention rewriting Sam out of your past.” It’s gentle but firm, soothingly guiding Dean to sense except nothing this woman is saying is doing anything but making Sam’s stomach sick and his heart ache.

“I thought you said she was a real psychic.” He murmurs, gaze firmly fixed on the floor. There’s a rule somewhere that only one Winchester can cry in public at a time.

He hears Dean shift, a big hand suddenly pressing gently into his back and some of the pressure in his chest releases, breathing coming easier as he leans into Dean’s side.

“It took Cas awhile to tell too, I think Toni just really knows her shit.” He sighs, pressing a soft kiss to Sam’s temple before straightening up. “He’s a changeling Missouri.”

The bomb is dropped gently but Sam still tenses, knowing how disgusting and invasive it must be to suddenly realize who you think you’re talking to is a copy made to trick you. He hides his face in Dean’s arm, the blanket snug against his chest.

The last thing he was expecting is laughter.

It’s short and quick, but a laugh nonetheless despite Missouri trying to quickly gain her composure. “Where did you get that in your heads?”

Dean’s eyes narrow. “Castiel.”

“Right well, he might want to get his eyes checked.” She shakes her head fondly and reaches over to pat Sam’s leg. “Honey, don’t listen to the stuffy old angel, you’re not a changeling.”

“Yeah – Yeah I am.” Sam huffs, having felt like a joke for the past few days and now he was actually being laughed at like one. Last time he goes to a ‘real’ psychic. “Toni had a witch box in her basement, I’m a copy.”

“You’re you Sam, don’t say it like that.” Dean frowns, nudging him.

“I’m just saying it cause it’s true.”

“So both of you think that the most reasonable explanation for a fifteen year old Sam Winchester appearing is that whoever this Toni is was somehow able to make a perfect replica of him?”

“Don’t – it’s not stupid. Castiel looked me over and said I didn’t have a soul and was a changeling. He’s an angel! And- and – I don’t remember anything! I don’t know how I got here, I just remember waking up in Toni’s basement and the box was down there –“ He breaks off tearfully, hands shaking as he’s forced to rationalize a hellish existence  – but the alternative is entertaining the idea of hope and, honestly, that just might kill him.

“Well let’s just fact check that real quick.” Missouri takes his hand gently in hers, hands soft and warm and with her leaning in like this Sam can smell sage. “Dean?”

Dean’s face is carefully blank, already guarded for the ensuring blow. The Winchester men knew how to take devastation, their father’s very first lesson. Still, he gives Missouri his hand.

“Always tricky with this kind of thing, tends to need a little help to bridge the gap.” She murmurs, holding both of their hands as she closes her eyes. “Even one as strong as yours.”

“Missouri what the hell are you trying to – “ Dean cut off with a choked sound.

Sam would have asked if he was okay but he was in the middle of his own crisis, chest starting to burn as Missouri slipped his hand into Dean’s, it only getting stronger with the direct contact.

There were no words for it, the sensation of completion something he’d never appreciated until he’d lost it. The very fabric of his existence had felt shredded since he’d arrived here, the absence of Dean in every inch of his skin. And while he still ached for the Dean from his memories the raw misery of it was fading, replaced with the warmth of belonging.

He glances up at his brother and it’s like an entirely new person is sitting there. Instead of the shadow of familiarity, there was an explosion of color and bright, this older version of Dean going from black and white to blazing Technicolor. The fears and doubts about this man he’d had since he’d arrived wash away, replaced by only the hunger and need to be as close as possible.

The few inches of space between them suddenly feels like miles and Sam’s pushing himself up and into Dean’s waiting arms without a single stray thought of hesitation. Just like at the hotel before all the changeling shit had been dropped on him, there had only been Dean and Sam would move hell or high water to get to him.

Dean’s arms are trembling as they wrap around him and yeah, he gets that. It’s a lot but it’s a lot of an amazing thing and he can barely contain himself as he pulls back to grin at his big brother - his big brother, full stop.

Dean’s smile is tight as it meets his which is all sorts of wrong – doesn’t Dean get it? He’s Sam, was always Sam this entire time!

“I’m not a changeling.” He reminds him with a teary grin, “I’m Sam.”

“Yeah, you are.” There’s that tight smile again that makes his stomach churn. Something’s wrong, but that doesn’t make any sense because for the first time since this whole mess started everything is right. He’s Sam and he’s with Dean – that’s about as right as the world is going to get right now.

“Dean, c’mon.” He frowns, shaking his brother’s shoulder.

Dean’s eyes darken and with their souls as raw and connected as they were in that moment, Sam can feel when he snaps.

The arm around his waist tightens, not painfully but enough that Sam knew he wasn’t going anywhere even if he tried to fight. It’s a far cry from the careful weight Dean had been wrapping around his shoulders since he woke up. “Let’s go, Sam.”

“Dean,” Missouri says calmly, eyes flickering down to the arm around Sam’s waist. “you know what this means. I don’t know what happened or how he got here but he needs to go back.”

“Pretty sure I already told you I wasn’t asking for opinions.” Dean’s voice is calm and the smile he gives Missouri is charming as ever but the ice behind it would have made Sam bolt if he’d seen it ten minutes before.

“He’s got a family, his Daddy and his brother are probably worried sick about him. Think about that Dean, your fifteen-year-old brother going missing and no leads.”

“Sounds like a problem for them.”

Oh god. He’d been so caught up in knowing that he was an actual person and not some kind of copy he didn’t even think about how he got here – what he’d left behind. His Dean wasn’t a memory, he was real. And while Sam could now see the Dean next to him and the one from the past as one person it didn’t mean he was about to leave his original big brother.

“Dean, I gotta go back. He’s going to kill me.” Sam grins slightly, nudging at Dean’s shoulder to get him to lighten up a bit.

The hand around his waist tightens. “He’s not going to because you’re not going back.”

Sam laughs but it dies off halfway through when Dean doesn’t even crack a smile. “What are you talking about?”

Dean’s eyes are dark as he finally looks down at Sam. “You’re staying here. With me.”

“You know what kind of damage that will cause? What that will do to everything the two of you have worked for? How many people have died for your cause? All of that will be thrown away when you start messing with such a crucial piece of time. I can help you Dean, but he needs to go home.” Missouri says carefully, watching Dean with a measured gaze.  

“Help me how? I thought he was a blessing, that Sam might have given him to me even – knew that I needed something or I’d follow right behind him as soon as killed that bitch. A perfect copy but of fucking course that’s too good to be true. I can’t get one damn break!” His voice rattles the bowl of crystals on the coffee table but Missouri doesn’t flinch.

“I know that losing your brother has been devastating but we can work through this- “

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, you have no idea what this feels like – and now that you’ve healed the bond between us, you think I’m just going to let it be torn up again? That I’m going to let him go?”

“I know that if you don’t you’re going to put your friends in a very uncomfortable position.” Missouri says slowly.

“If you think for one second that will make me give Sam up you don’t know me at all.”

“Dean stop.” Sam grabs for his brother’s hand, tugging at him to pull his attention from Missouri. “This isn’t on her, I want to go back too.”

“Hey – Sammy,” Dean dropped down to kneel in front of him, big hand cupping Sam’s cheek and damn it if it still didn’t give him butterflies despite the situation. “This isn’t cut and dry kiddo.”

“I’m not going to leave you though, we promised.” He reminds him slowly, flashes of green grass, whispered promises, and chaste kisses warming their souls.  

“He’s going to be okay, he’s young, he’ll figure it out.” Dean says simply, rubbing his thumb over Sam’s cheek. “I’ve got a few decades on him and I’m not about to spend any more without you.”

It takes losing something to appreciate it, and now having a name for why him and Dean are they way they are explains so much about their relationship. He wouldn’t give up being Dean’s soulmate for the world but right now all he can see is the tragic reality of having a love as devoted as theirs. He doesn’t need Missouri’s help to feel the ache of loss and desperation in Dean’s eyes. When his older self died he took two souls with him.

“Don’t do this.” He says childishly, tears welling up in his eyes. He doesn’t want to leave Dean but he can’t just abandon this one either, his soul feeling split right down the middle.

“Don’t cry, shhh, it’s going to be okay. I’m going to take care of everything.” Dean hums, pulling Sam in against his chest and like a traitor Sam goes willingly, pressing his face into his brother’s neck. “He doesn’t know how to take care of you, Sam. He does his best but he’s still figuring his own shit out, and I’m not going to let you go back to that.”

“He’s going to be by himself, I don’t want him to be alone.” Sam sniffs, digging his fingers into Dean’s shirt.

“We can talk about this at home,” Dean easily lifts Sam up, adjusting his hold as Sam murmurs tearfully into his shoulder.

“You aren’t taking him.” Missouri steps in front of them. “I have a feeling that if I let you step out this door no ones going to see Sam again.”

“Missouri, don’t make me do this.” Dean sighs tiredly.

“No ones making you do anything, Dean.”

Dean’s hand reaches back into his pants and Sam just sees the flash of his glock before it’s pointed at Missouri. “Just move to the side and no one has to know I was ever here.”

“You really think that’s going to work?” She crosses her arms, unphased by the sight of the gun.

Sam kicks, trying to get out of Dean’s hold but his brother’s arm is locked tight. “You can’t shoot her!”

“I came here and you helped me. You’ve always been a friend Missouri, help me out here.” Dean asks sincerely, the safety still firmly locked.

Missouri barely has time to scowl before she stumbles slightly and Sam’s first thought is that she’s been shot. Dean’s gun hasn’t moved though, his brother looking as confused as he was and Sam took it as an opportunity to wiggle out of his hold and land on his feet.

"What the hell was that!”

Dean didn’t grace that with a response, shaking his head to clear it before kneeling down next to Missouri and cushioning her head. “Missouri, can you hear me?”

The woman’s eyes were glazed over, frosty as she stared at something past their heads before starting to cough. “You Winchester’s always dragging me into something – I’m too old to be playing these kind of messaging games.”

“Are you okay?” Sam frowns, taking her hand and helping her sit up.

“Fine, need something a lot more powerful to do any real damage.” She sighs before smacking Dean’s arm. “I didn’t forget your little show either.”

“I’m not letting him go Missouri.” Dean says firmly but helps her up and into her armchair.

“That should be the least of your problems, looks like someone left me a message.”

“What, like someone sent it into your head just now?” Dean raises an eyebrow.

“No, like someone left it and made me forget it, only to have me remember it when someone triggers it. Which apparently was you trying to get me to move out of the way while waving that damn gun around.”

“What was the message?” Sam asks curiously, and yeah, Dean almost tried to shoot an innocent old woman but still… secret psychic messages were really cool.

“More like directions.” She sighs, getting up out of her chair with a bit of help from Sam and Dean and heading for the mantle above the fireplace. “Who knows what one of you shoved down here…”

Missouri pushes her hand in and pulls out a creased letter, frowning at the unmarked envelope.  “A lot of fuss for something you could have just used a stamp for.” She hands it across to Dean.

“How do you know it’s for me?” He frowns, hands curled into fists on his lap. Sam reaches over and wiggles his hand into one, holding tightly to try and calm some of the lingering tension.

“Because it was you that triggered the memory, that’s as good as a delivery address in my book.” She shakes the letter in front of his face until Dean sighs and reaches up to take it.

Sam curiously leans his head on Dean’s arm to try and get a peek of what was inside, Claire and Toni’s comments on Dean’s reputation filling him with little brother pride that Dean was this cool to be getting psychic letters.  

 

Dean,

There’s a woman in Maryville, Tennessee named Amanda Spencer. Go talk to her.

Chantanogo.


Sam

PS- If you don’t take care of my little brother I’m going to break your legs and then beat you with them.  

 

 

Sam stares at the handwriting, tentatively reaching out to touch the addition at the bottom, his brother’s familiar sharp scrawl a physical reminder of just how much he misses him. “This is from Dean.”

He barely hears the words leave his lips, blood rushing through his ears and his mouth dry.

Dean’s not paying any attention to him, staring at the letter like his entire world had narrowed down to just a single piece of paper.

“What’s it say?” Missouri asks curiously.

“The letter says it’s from Sam  - me I guess? But that’s Dean’s handwriting at the bottom.” Sam traces a finger over the letter, the weight of what he was looking at sinking in. “Does that mean I’m alive?”

It’s strange, he’d never really had a chance to process his own future death, not actually thinking of it as his own. Still, the relief of knowing he isn’t actually going to bleed out in Toni’s basement is sweet. He gets to live on past his thirties, something he never thought would be possible if he stayed in hunting.

God, his standards have lowered since he got here.

Missouri goes to look at the letter but Dean snatches it back, turning with shaky hands to keep holding it. His eyes don’t move, whatever the letter said wasn’t as important as the name at the bottom.

“It’s true right? That’s younger you – and older me. He’s alive and they’re together!” Sam grins, feeling like it had been years since he’d felt this light. No one was dead, neither of his Dean’s had to be alone.

He could go home… maybe. If he somehow ended up in Toni’s basement from the past then he can certainly go back. Hopefully.

“How are we supposed to do it? I guess Toni switched us but why would she want to do that?” he rambles, itching to get back but having no idea where to start. “We should go back, tell Castiel – “

“We’re going Tennessee.” Dean finally lifts his eyes from the letter, carefully pocketing it into his jacket. “Sorry for the fuss Missouri, but we should head out.”

“You threatened to shoot me Dean Winchester, best remember that next time you want to come around.” She scolds but hugs Dean all the same.

Missouri was either very forgiving or could see into Dean’s head enough to know that he’d been in a desperate situation and was bluffing. Or at least Sam hopes that was the reason behind his little stint.

“Don’t judge too harshly.” Missouri murmurs as she leans down to give Sam a squeeze.

He flushes, but politely thanks her for the hot chocolate and letter before scampering back over to Dean who was waiting by the door.

 

 

Sam sighs, resting his weight on the ice machine as he fumbles with the lock. Just one day on the road and his body’s already threatening to give out on him.

The lock gives and he uses the motel bucket itself to scoop the ice, his bad shoulder acting up and all he can think about is the lukewarm shower waiting for him down the row.

“We need to talk.”

John Winchester stands with his back to the parking lot, still dressed from their day on the road and the rabbit foot motel key sticking out of his pocket.

“What’s up?” He put his bucket on top of the machine, considering the hassle of hitting up the vending machine across the street but there’s no way his feet are going to forgive him for that.

A rough arm is suddenly pushing against his chest, pinning him back to the cinderblock wall with a shove. Apparently, his divided attention wasn’t acceptable because his Dad’s face is glaring up into his. “You lied to me.”

Sam raises an eyebrow, more caught up that his dad having to almost stand on his toes to pin him at this height.

“Azazel? The demon blood? You’re going to tell me what the fuck is going on right now.” 

His amusement dies quickly, staring down at this young and inexperienced version of his father who still wore so much of that hurt on his sleeve rather than the stone faced model of his memories. There’s fear there too, and whether that’s for fifteen-year-old Sam or himself he doesn’t know.

“Sounds like you know a lot of it.” He says calmly. John overreacting never went well and Sam’s anger cooled to a sizzle a long time ago.

“Don’t bullshit me, who's Azazel? Yellow eyes -  Is that his name?”

Sam remembers this desperation. Remembers how it almost got Dean killed.

“Why does it matter if you know his name? You can’t take on a demon Dad, especially not one like that.”

“I’ve taken out a demon.” John growls, the pressure on Sam’s chest increasing.

“Exorcised you mean? That’s not killing demons, that’s just sending them right back to hell where they can waltz right back out given enough time.”

“You think that because you’re from the future it changes anything? You’re still my son Sam and I’m still your father – killing the demon that murdered your mother has always been the goal and you’re going to tell me what I need to know.” He growls, deep and dark with the familiar drive that had taken them all across the lower forty-eight before Sam could even walk.  

“We kill it. Where I’m from he’s dead.” Sam meets his father’s eyes. 

“Dead.” John repeats, a weight on his shoulders lifting slightly. “We finally end it?”.

Sam nods.

“Good – “ John lets the arm drop off Sam’s chest, taking a shaky breath. “That’s good.”

Sam shrugs, not particularly in the mood to rehash his younger days when he was already reliving them and reached up to grab his ice bucket.

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“You don’t need to know about Azazel right now.”

“So that is his name? And he… “ He hesitates, dark eyes calculating as they look over Sam.

“Dad.” Sam lets the ice bucket clank back onto the metal, turning to face his father with the little patience he had for this conversation dried up. “What the hell are you looking for?”

 John doesn’t answer, but the weight of his gaze is something Sam still has nightmares about.

It breaks something in him. He’s spent his entire life trying to live with the taint flowing through his veins, feeling substandard, dirty, and less than human. And this judgmental gaze was where it all started.

But Sam wasn’t fifteen anymore

He’s in John’s face then, six foot and change towering over his father and giving him no choice but to slam back into the wall. “You have no idea what Azazel really did to me.”

There’s no demon blood in his system, no Lucifer haunting his thoughts, but Sam feels the flash of vindictive power when John flinches at the bite of his words.

“I don’t know how much you know, and I really don’t care. Because Azazel? He’s about the least of what’s fucked up inside of me.” The words are tumbling out of his mouth, the tables turned for the first time in his life and it feels good. Feels powerful. The ache in his chest for his big brother burns but Dean’s not here to reign him back in, to give him a reason to want to stay in control.

“What the hell are you? That demon didn’t seem to think you were human.” John’s hesitates, his obvious assumption hanging in the air.

“Human. You don’t get an excuse for an easy out.”

He’s done, the conversation long over and it might be less than ideal to leave it on whether or not John might kill him but Sam doesn’t really care. He gets his ice, pushes back John with his good arm and doesn’t let his exhaustion show until he’s safe in the privacy of his room, door slamming behind him.

“Fuck.” He grunts, dropping the ice on the table and letting his body flop onto the rickety twin bed in the middle of the room. He’d been halfway through asking for a double at reception before he’d made the hasty correction.

Water stained popcorn ceiling is his current view and if he drops his gaze a little in either direction he can admire the faded orange floral wallpaper that tastefully matches the cockroach he can see scuttling up the wall.

Home sweet home.

He closes his eyes, gently massaging at his temples to try and unwind. His Dad had a tendency to blow things out of proportion and a paranoid suspicion of Sam’s true intentions but what else was new? There was no excuse for going off like that, he needs to get himself under control or things could very easily spiral into an early apocalypse.

His body aches but he wants the shower more than the regret in the morning of going to bed without it so he rolls off the bed. Enough mopping for one day.

The shower is hot, small mercies that help soothe the aches in his body as he leans his head against the cool tile to fit under the shower head. His mind drifts as he watches the steam curl over the curtain rod, thinking about what Dean was doing. If he’d managed to get into heaven or was raising hell down in the empty. If he was taking care of himself. If he could feel how long it was taking Sam to get back to him.

The thought bites and he grabs his shampoo, not in any position to have a breakdown in the shower. He’s tired, and if he starts down this road he’s going to end up with a bottle of whiskey on the couch John Winchester style.

He quickly washes, scrubbing everything over and giving his hair a quick condition before stepping out. His feet are raw and pink against the thin shower mat but the burns are healing, Toni’s touch is slowly disappearing and he can’t help but feel it like a timer of how long he’s been gone. But who the hell was missing him in his time?

Teeth brushed, wounds wrapped, the tiny provided towel replaced with his pajama pants, and he steps out of the bathroom in a cloud of steam.

“You took long enough, save some hot water for the other paying customers.” Dean’s eyes flick over before back to the TV, laying back on Sam’s twin as he flicks through the pay per view options.

“You’re supposed to be in with Dad.” Sam sighs, walking over to his duffle to pull out a loose t-shirt.  

“You got him real fired up, came in and had his shot of whiskey and was out like a light. Probably waking the manager with how hard he’s snoring.” He switches to the next trailer, the remote sticking and making an audible click with each press.

“You should follow his lead. We’ve been driving all day, I’m sure you’re tired.”

“Snoring remember? Thought I’d bunk in here with you.”

“I don’t think Dad’s going to be a huge fan of that.”

He can feel Dean’s eyes on him as he lifts the t-shirt up, bare skin prickling in the cool air before the cotton slides over his chest and covers it from view.

“Your stitches look better.” Dean murmurs, “I’m going to rewrap that in the morning.”

Sam doesn’t bother arguing that, walking over to the bed and kicking the side lightly. “Only one bed dude, go back to Dad’s.”

“Seriously? When has that ever been a thing?” He rolls his eyes. “Suck it up and get in bed, Sammy.”

It’s ridiculous but even now there’s the pull to listen to his big brother and maybe a small bit of him he’s trying so hard to ignore wants to be close to Dean in any way that he can have him.

He climbs onto the bed, getting settled on the edge to put a bit of distance between them but Dean isn’t having any of it. He barely lays down before arms are tugging him in against the pillows and a blanket is being tucked up around him, the two of them tangled up in the middle of the bed like they used to when they were kids.

“Dean- “

“Shut up Sam, it’s cold. This is survival 101.”

“It’s like seventy degrees outside.”

Dean’s grinning at him and Sam can’t help but laugh. It feels good, amazing even, and for one split second it’s just him and Dean in some nameless motel curled up together like they have been their entire lives.

Of course it doesn’t last, his Dean is dead and it feels like the entire universe is conspiring against him being able to join his brother. The smile falls and it hurts to look into the young face that he’ll cause so much pain.

“Sam.” Dean murmurs softly, “I hate when you lie to me.”

They’re so close like this, closer than he’s let them be since he arrived. Dean’s breath is ghosting his cheek as they look at each other in the dim light of the TV. It was a bad idea but he can’t pull himself away.

“You know I can’t talk about – “

“Dude stop with the bullshit, Dad and I know way more than we’re supposed to. I’ve read the comics, I know that you’re going to have to like delete or memories Men in Black style or some shit. So why can’t you just be upfront with me?”

Sam swallows, avoiding Dean’s gaze. They know too much, he’s known that since the hospital and what happened with Meg and that he’ll have to do something about it eventually.

“Because it hurts.” He says honestly, glancing back at his brother. “We don’t exactly live a sunshine and daisies kind of life.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“It’s… It’s rough Dean. There’s a lot of shit coming down the road that we never expected.”

“Sounds like life, Sammy.” He shrugs. “I’m not like Dad, I don’t need to know the details of every hunt you’ve been on or whatever. I just need to know that you’re okay.”

“I am.”

“Sam.” Dean sits up slightly, leaning on his arm to look down at him and once again Sam feels like he’s a teenager, his brother’s stern stare pinning him against the mattress. “We don’t lie to each other – I need you to talk to me. I can deal with all the time travel and apocalypse bullshit in the world as long as I know that me and you have each others backs.”

“We don’t, Dean.” He bites, tired of all of these stupid expectations. He’s spent his entire life helping people and the one time he wants to fade out of existence the universe gives him a giant fuck you. He’s tired and the only reason he’s still alive is to help make sure he doesn’t screw up the past so much Dean’s sacrifice for the future is meaningless. “If I could take the first bus out of this hellhole past I would.”

It’s purposefully mean, words meant to hurt just like what he’d thrown at his Dad. But this is Dean, not John.

Dean doesn’t pull back, knowing eyes much too aware of Sam’s bullshit but Sam’s sorry anyway, rolling to face Dean and get rid of some of the distance between them. “I didn’t mean that - ”

“Would you really?” Dean interrupts.

“What? 

“Would you really take the first bus? If some random witch burst in here and handed you a good to go spell that would take you right back to where you came from … would you go?”

Yes. Of course. Except when he goes to say exactly that the words dry up in his throat, what exactly he’d left behind still fresh in his mind. Blood, and pain – Toni. But even if this hypothetical witch could let him choose the destination in his own time where would he go? The bunker was compromised and most likely Sam was as well if Toni was really set on him helping her recruit American hunters. He couldn’t go to Jody and the girls… couldn’t show his face to half the casual friendships they’d tentatively made over the years. He couldn’t chance marking them with a spot Toni would hunt down.

He would have to hunt Toni on his own, and after he’d killed her he’d die that way too.

It wasn’t like he had anything else in mind. He wanted it fast and effective, a sure fire way to not have to wait to see Dean any longer than he had to. But he hadn’t considered just how alone he’d be in however long it took to hunt down that bitch.

A hand presses into his shoulder, callused and warm through his thin t-shirt.

He’s frustrated, hurt, and missing half of his soul here. But he’s not alone. He’s been cautious of it, knowing that even just a taste of it would be too risky but either Sam has the choice to be the worlds biggest asshole or he can actually enjoy a bit of his time here.

Dean’s right – he’ll have to make him forget all this anyway.

“That’s what I thought.” Dean murmurs, sitting up to lean against the cheap wood headboard, something off about his tone. 

Sam cautiously follows, their shoulders a line of heat where they press together as the TV flickers to commercial. A siren echoes from the highway outside.

“You said you want us to be honest… we can be honest.” Sam says finally, not really knowing if he’s doing to for Dean or for himself. Maybe a little of both.

“Yeah? Where the hell is future me?”

The harshness surprises him, having no idea where this came from but with how Dean’s hands are fisting in the sheets he probably should have. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know how else I can spell it out, Sam. Where am I? Where’s your brother?”

It was easy when Toni had rounded the corner, gun in hand. She’d asked and Sam had spit out the news of Dean’s death like it could somehow hurt her as much as it was hurting him. He’d said it again and again in that basement but now in front of his big brother the words felt thick on his tongue.

Dean stares at him, at everything he’s not saying. “You don’t think he’s coming to get you.”

“I can get myself out of this – you don’t have to clean up my messes all the time you know that right?”

Dean’s eyes narrow. “You’re full of shit, what the hell am I doing that you don’t think I’d be trying to get you.”

“I never said that!”

“You don’t have to Sam! I can see it – I can fucking see that you think that you’re on your on here!”

It hurts because yeah, that about sums up Sam’s life right now. His last hope was Cas but if the angel didn’t come for him at Toni’s he doubted he’d be able to do much for him in the past.

It’s rare to see his brother so worked up but this Dean is still a teenager, wears his heart a bit more on his sleeve and his little brother hasn’t broken his heart yet.

“Dean, c’mon. We’re going to figure this out you don’t need to worry – “

“What if he thinks it too?”

Dean’s stubbornly refusing to look at him, eyes locked on the TV as his fingers tangle in the blankets. He bites his lip and Sam’s heart sinks in understanding.

“It’s not the same-“

“You don’t know that! You talk a big game about Sammy bein’ in limbo or whatever but what if he’s awake huh? What if he’s awake and it’s going on days now and he thinks – he thinks I’ve forgotten about him?”

“He hasn’t, there’s no way he thinks that – “

“You do!” Dean glared up at him but the anger there wasn’t directed at Sam, no it was the special brand Dean always saved just for his own self hatred.

Sam’s been so caught up in his own misery of life without his brother that he’d barely given a thought to the similar hell Dean was going through. At this point in their lives Sam can’t remember being separated for longer than a week from his brother and that was with constant phone calls whenever the hunt lulled. Dean was going through his own withdrawals.

“I’m trying here Sam. I really am. So we gotta stop demons from wrecking the place a few years early – I’m on it. But I’ve got a missing little brother that it’s taking everything in me not to grab the impala and hit the nearest witch, wizard, or physic to track down. You say he’s safe, I believe you. You say that you have to stay here until you can switch the two of you, fine. But not for one second have I stopped thinking about him.”

Dean shakes his head, looking up at Sam with the ferocious intensity of a big brother, eyes hard and deathly serious as they locked. “If he’s safe, if he’s hungry, if he’s cold – if he’s scared. I haven’t slept since that damn mine because I can’t hear him breathing next to me. Every part of me is connected to him, every single part and I wouldn’t have it any other goddamn way.”

Sam’s eyes are wet, he can feel the damp on his cheeks but it barely registers as he stares at this young version of his big brother. They don’t really talk about everything that’s between them and if someone asked Sam would have probably told them there aren’t any words for it. But here Dean is, reminding him just how undeserving he is to have this man as his big brother – how much he loves him.

“So tell me, Sammy,” Dean asks, and he’s much closer than before, leaning up so Sam isn’t quite looking down anymore. “how could you think that future me isn’t trying to find you? Because if you seriously believe that then I’m walking out this door right now to figure out how to switch you two – Lucifer and the end of the world can go fuck itself – but I’m not going to let my Sam think that I’m not coming.”

Sam knows he’s not lying. Knows that Dean really will let the entire world come tumbling to an end at the very suggestion that Sam's lost faith in him.

“He’s dead.”

It still tastes like an insult but not for Dean, at Sam himself for not being able to bring back his brother. Not being able to do what Dean did for him over and over again.

Dean’s staring at him, “What?”

“Dead. He died.”

Dean’s eyes widen slightly but that’s about it, his own demise not particularly groundbreaking apparently. “When?”

“About three days before I got here – maybe. Wasn’t exactly keeping track of time where I was.”

It’s quiet, and he’s waiting for Dean to just get up and leave. Disgusted by the failure that is Sam and all of his shortcomings but instead, there’s a warm hand on his neck, gently nudging him to look back up.

“Kinda explains a lot.” Dean murmurs, rubbing his thumb over Sam’s cheekbone. “Obviously I got questions, want to know exactly how heroic it was when I went down.” He cracks a little smile. “But first I need to take care of my little brother.”

It takes a moment for Sam to realize Dean meant him and not his younger self but at that point he was being nudged down to lay flat on the bed. “Wait, what-?”

Dean presses a thumb to his lips. “You need to turn that big brain of yours off.”

It says something about his state of mind that it takes Dean pulling off both their t-shirts and leaning down to kiss around his bandages that he gets a clue.

“We can’t- we aren’t – Dean this isn’t happening.”

“What isn’t?” Dean murmurs, licking his tongue up to the hollow of his throat.

This.” Sam hisses, suddenly scandalized that people could hear despite the shouting they’d just been doing. “We aren’t having – we aren’t doing this.”

Dean snorts against his skin, pressing a lingering kiss to the mole on his chin before sitting up slightly. “Sex, Sam. It’s called sex. I thought we got over this.”

“Still isn’t happening.”

“Mmm, and why is that?” Dean asks curiously, laying down on Sam’s chest and resting his chin in his hands.

“Have you seen us? I’m as old as Dad!”

“Dude, I think we’re long past any issues with incest.”

Sam’s face burns and nudges his brother’s shoulder. “Don’t be an ass, you’re nineteen and I’m thirty three. Do the math. 

“Uh fifte- no fourteen.” Dean counts back mentally. “Your point?”

“This is wrong.”

Dean rolls his eyes, pushing back so he’s kneeling on either side of Sam’s chest. “So is fucking my fourteen year old brother, you didn’t seem to have a problem with it back then. How did it go again?” He hums, considering before putting on a high pitched voice. “Oh god Dean, please! I can’t wait until I’m eighteen! Want you so much! Want your super sexy body all over me.”

A smile cracks Sam’s facade despite how hard he’s trying to stay reasonable – one of them had to. “Pretty sure that’s not how it went.”

“Nope, that’s an exact quote.” Dean grins, leaning in and pressing a soft kiss to Sam’s lips. “Trust me, I’m the oldest.”

It’s soft and sweet, Dean’s lips a familiar comfort no matter the age difference between them. His brother’s hands are gently tugging at his pants and his voice a soothing murmur in his ear.

Sam’s never claimed to be a strong man.

He aches for his brother in ways he can’t quite comprehend and right in front of him is an offering to have a bit of him back. He’s going to be selfish for once. As soon as he kisses back Dean wastes no time, pajama pants tossed over the edge of the bed and the sheet pushed down so that every inch was visible in the pale light of the flickering TV.

“Can’t say I haven’t been a bit obsessed with what’s under here.” Dean teases with a grin, fingers dipping into the waistband of Sam’s black briefs. “Little brother’s grown up a lot.”

It should be weird but his cock thickens at the comment, Dean trailing kisses over his hip bone as he slowly slides the material down and off with a flick of the wrist.

He feels exposed, Dean’s eyes dark as they take in the long length of his cock, categorizing every inch of him that’s different. “Fuck, you’re gorgeous.” He whispers, absently reaching down to pull off his own boxers.

Sam knows very well the comparison between them and can see the exact moment Dean realizes it too.

His brother groans, leaning down to press his body against Sam’s, grinding his hips into the soft of his stomach as he breathes hot and wet between kisses. “You’re taller than me Sammy, but big brother’s still big where it counts, huh?”

Sam rolls his eyes but rides it out, pushing his hips up into Dean’s as he realizes just how much he needs this. Needs his dorky brother making stupid comments that make Sam’s blood burn while simultaneously pushing Sam towards a pleasure he can never reach on his own. Big brother and lover all rolled up into one perfect package that makes Sam’s head spin with just how perfect it is. The whole soulmate sometimes makes perfect sense.

There’s lube in Sam’s bag and out of all the kissing and touching so far that’s what makes him hesitate. It’s strawberry lube, they’d run out of their usual unscented stuff and instead of just going to the Walmart a town over Dean had made a dash for the small convenience store down from the bunker. Strawberry was what he’d come back with and it had nearly made Dean’s room smell like a fruit salad for two days.

“What?” Dean frowns, rubbing his hand over Sam’s chest.

“Nothing.” Sam shakes his head to clear the lingering memories, passing it over to Dean’s outstretched hand.

It’s a bit different then what’s he’s become used to, watching Dean move down between his legs. For one, Dean always starts off with rimming him and Sam can already feel the lube being worked in slow circles around his hole.

He closes his eyes, enjoying the gentle stretching as Dean presses wet open mouthed kisses up the underside of his cock. He distantly remembers that Dean didn’t rim him until he was around sixteen. Sixteen? It might have been seventeen but he doesn’t quite remember the hunt…

He trails off, remembering that he’s supposed to be having sex not trying to recall sexual milestones. Except they’re not really having sex yet because Dean hasn’t even worked in a finger, still just rubbing at Sam’s hole – which was nice – but fuck it felt like he was already drenched with lube.

“Don’t use it all before we even start.” He laughs, nudging Dean with his knee.

“Shut up, I know you like it messy.” Dean grins, barely breaching him with a fingertip before pulling back to rub some more.

He’s confused before the obvious occurs to him. Dean’s used to prepping a Sam who’s still quite new to sex and his brother would never in a million years have allowed him to feel even a hint of pain.  

It’s sweet but Sam’s desperate for Dean’s touch and can’t even remember the last time he’s come.

“Dean,” Sam reaches out to gently nudge at Dean’s hand.

“Hm? Is this okay?” He frowns, stilling his fingers and running a soothing hand up Sam’s stomach.

“Yeah, I just want to try something a bit different.” He sits up, guiding Dean down to switch places with him, his brother looking up at him, confused. 

“I don’t think we’ve done this yet.” He explains, grabbing the lube and squeezing a generous amount onto his fingers before reaching down and pushing in three inside himself at once.

Dean’s gaping at him.

He feels light for the first time in a while, showing off for Dean and not worrying about the future or past or anything other than the two of them in this room right now. Dean’s right, he needs this.

“Holyshit Sam- holyshit that was so fucking hot. Can I see? Want to see you fucking yourself with those big fingers.”

“Yeah.” He smiles, leaning back so Dean had a better view of what exactly he was doing to his hole. He doesn’t linger, a few deep stretches and he’s good to go.

Dean’s still babbling and it’s cute but Sam has his sights set on something else, pulling out his fingers and squirting some lube onto Dean’s cock before sinking down till his ass met his brother’s hips.

“Jesus Christ Sam!”

Yeah he probably could have used a bit more stretching, but Dean’s looking like he was just elevated to a different plane of existence. Definitely worth it.  

He starts moving slow, getting used to the heavy glide of the cock inside of him for a moment. It’s familiar, and if he closes his eyes he can almost pretend he’s back at the bunker, riding Dean after losing whatever stupid bet they’d made on the last hunt.

But he’s not in the bunker. He’s here, with a Dean who’s a little skinnier, a little less experienced, but who’s looking up at Sam with just as much love as always. It’s more than enough. 

“You’re so beautiful you know that?” Dean interrupts, a hand moving up Sam’s stomach to trace over his anti possession tattoo. “All grown up.” The pride in Dean’s tone makes the flush on Sam’s chest a bit darker

“Thanks to you.” Sam reminds him gently, rolling his hips into Dean’s lazy thrust. In tune, as always.

Dean doesn’t comment, just traces over every inch of him with his eyes, memorizing him.

Sam swivels his hips just right, grinning at the hitch in Dean’s breathing. Reverence turns to a glare and the hips underneath him thrust up a bit harder.

“You’re being a little shit.”

“I know.”

Dean sits up, pushing Sam a little off balance but he catches himself with a hand on the headboard, ending up firmly seated in his lap. “Um, I’m a bit too big – “

“Shut up.” Dean pulls Sam in with a growl and even though his legs are practically hanging off the bed and he can barely keep his balance there’s no way in hell he’s moving.

Hands are fisting in hair, Dean giving him no choice but to take his biting kisses as the mattress slams against the bed with how hard they’re moving together. It’s not enough, the two of them never able to get quite as close as they need but they sure as hell try. Sweat drips between them, skin sticking against skin, and a shaky hand – no idea if it’s his or Dean’s – reaches between them to rub at Sam’s cock.

Sam comes first because that’s Dean’s number one rule in any time, shaking with the power of it and barely resists screaming out his brother’s name. A small logical part of him remembers that their dad is only a few rooms away and he manages to muffle it with a bite to Dean’s shoulder.

He distantly feels Dean tremble against him, hips stuttering in their rhythm before pushing in deep and he can’t help but kiss his brother sweetly as he rocks against Dean through his orgasm.

“Well.” He says later, staring up at the ceiling once again. They’re on the floor, the bed a lost cause with the amount of lube they’d used and little forward thinking when Dean pulled out.

Dean turns on the duvet, nothing but a sheet wrapped around his shoulders since everything else went into their makeshift mattress. “Don’t over think this.”

“I’m not.” He grumbles. “I’m just saying, we should probably talk about it.”

“About what? We had sex. We always have sex.”

Sam gives him a look but is too tired to argue his point. His feet still hurt but now joining them are his ass and thighs, but the painkiller he took after cleaning them both off was starting to take hold.

“We do right? Or we did?” Dean asks softly.

“Yeah.” Sam murmurs. “We did.”

Dean nudges into his shoulder, getting him to lay his head under his chin the way they’ve slept since they were kids. It comforts something basic inside of him, too tired to do much more than tangle his legs with his brother's and go to sleep.

His watch is flashing three thirty when he wakes up next, sleep exhausted and clouded by pain meds it takes him awhile to figure out what woke him up. Dean’s snoring softly, pressed in close to his side but that’s white noise. He’s settling in to go back to sleep when he stiffens.

Someone’s knocking at the door.

 

Chapter Text

Out of all the emotions Sam’s seen play out on this Dean over the past few days since meeting him, anger was probably the most common. The rage seems to be just boiling under his big brother’s skin – and isn’t that nice to say. His big brother. This Dean was his big brother, no changeling shit involved. He assumed most of it came from losing the future version of Sam but now that they knew that Dean’s Sam was alive, Sam was slightly confused at the crushingly tight grip Dean had on his phone and the death glare on the road.

“Um… Dean?” He asks softly because honestly, the whole thing that had just gone down at Missouri’s was still reeling in his head. Reminded him of that first moment he’d seen Dean in the hotel lobby, strong and dark and without any doubt a killer. While he could feel that bubbling and intense bond between the two of them, there was still that sharp reminder that this Dean was much older and weighed down with things Sam couldn’t even imagine. You don’t become a hunter legend without some serious shit happening.

Dean doesn’t even glance at him, stabbing a few digits on his phone for what feels like the tenth time and putting it up to his ear. “Answer you bastard –“

He assumes whoever’s on the end of the line has some sort of self perseveration to know not to pick up. Good for them, except Sam has to put up with Dean repeatedly calling the damn number over and over again.

Dean seems to be realizing he’s bordering on manic at this point and when Sam hears the call go to an automated voicemail he doesn’t hang up to radial, instead waiting for the beep.

“You son of a bitch.” Dean growls into the line. “You fucking bastard, you knew, didn’t you. You knew and you lied to me.”

Sam stares wide eyed at Dean, feeling like he shouldn’t be hearing whatever this conversation was about.

“You better have a damn good reason Cas, because if you show up with some bullshit excuse I’m not going to be responsible for what I do.”

Cas? Castiel? Oh.

Castiel had said he was a changeling.

Dean ends the call and shoves his phone back into his pocket with a huff and Sam tentatively takes that as his cue, scooting a bit closer and leaning against Dean’s side. “Don’t be pissed.”

“I’m not pissed.” Dean growls, but his arm comes up to wrap tight around Sam’s shoulder, the warm heavy pressure a familiar comfort.

It’s nice to have this again, the touches without having to overthink them. The easy compatibility that came like when he first woke up before his world broke with Castiel’s announcement.

“You think he knew and lied about it?” He asks softly, looking out on the road. He can’t wrap his head around the idea, an angel lying? It’s one of the ten commandments for god’s sake.

“He knew something wasn’t right, when we were there in the lobby and you were bleeding out on my lap he looked – he was shocked. And Cas doesn’t shock easy.”

“How did you meet him?” He murmurs, changing the subject before he could work Dean up even more, and purposely avoiding some of the heavier things he wanted to bring up. And honestly, how the hell did his brother meet an angel?

“World went to shit a few years back so heaven sent their little messengers downstairs to hurry things along. Cas was one of them and ended up switching to our side.”

“Heaven wasn’t on your side?” He frowned. “It’s heaven. They’re the good guys.”

“Angel’s are the biggest dicks you’ve ever met, including Cas right now. God is a bit of an asshole too.”

His mouth is gaping, he knows it is but he can’t quite communicate to his brain to close it.

Dean glances down at him after the sudden lapse of silence, the anger softening to fondness as he takes in Sam. “Don’t let me blow your mind too much, little brother.”

He doesn’t even know what to say with this kind of information but settles on, “We have a weird life.” Right. Understatement of the century, their current situation case in point.

Dean’s rubbing the back of his neck though, that familiar circular way that always makes him sleepy and he tucks himself in close as the afternoon sun warms their skin. If he closes his eyes it’s almost like he’s back in his own time, the smell and feel of Dean and the familiar hum of the Impala just the same.

Dean’s hand drifts down, rubbing over his back before resting comfortably on his hip. They fit. Even if their situation is upside down and him and his future self are misplaced, the two of them will always line up perfectly, no matter when.

“Why does everyone know?” He asks after a moment, breaking the comfortable silence.

“Know what?” Dean raises an eyebrow, keeping his eyes on the road but squeezes Sam’s hip.

“That we’re… what we are.”

“Brothers? Well, Sammy, we share the same Dad see - ”

Sam pinches the sensitive spot under Dean’s elbow, shutting him up as he flinches and laughs. “Oh, you mean the incest thing?”

He scrunches his nose. “You keep saying that word.”

“Incest? I hate to break it to you kiddo but that’s what we’ve been doing.”

“I know that.” He huffs. “It just… makes it sound dirty. And reminds me it’s illegal.”

“Mmm, brother fucking work better for you? Sibling hook up? Fraternal dicking?”

“Dean!” He giggling now, Dean’s hands not helping as they tease at his stomach.

“No more illegal then you still being underage. Or credit card fraud. Or identity theft. Or us killing a big handful of monsters who happen to have citizen status.”

“Okay, okay, I get it.” He pushes at Dean’s side before settling back in. “We just don’t usually say it like that. Me and my Dean.”

“You’re still getting used to it.” Dean shrugs. “I know I was still trying to figure out the morals behind wanting to suck my little brother’s brains out of his dick at eighteen.”

Sam’s face heats up bright red, flashes of screaming Dean’s name in dirty hotel rooms as his brother did just that not helping.

Dean gives him a teasing nudge before his face gets serious, “I dunno, I’ve never felt guilty about us Sam. The legalities sure, hoping I don’t get you taken away by CPS but never guilty about what we’re doing. Also, you think it’s hot when I say it in bed.” He grins.

Sam rolls his eyes but it does nothing to alleviate his still burning cheeks and the now matching warmth in his stomach. “You didn’t answer my question though.”

“How people know we’re together? It’s not actually that many, I mean for you it probably is because you two can’t tell anyone but we can be a bit more relaxed about it. Missouri knows cause what doesn’t that lady not know? And Cas kind of lives with us off and on so when you’re screaming my name it’s not exactly subtle…”

“Like you don’t scream too.” Sam huffs, “Jody doesn’t know?”

“Well, that’s kind of a gray area. We haven’t told her and she’s never like, walked in on us like Cas but I think she suspects. Apparently, the two of us aren’t as covert as we like to think or so I’m told.”

“Did Dad… did Dad ever find out?” He asks softly.

“No.” Dean shakes his head. “Never. We were always careful and honestly, I doubt he would have picked up on it even if we weren’t. We were close and he thought it was a good thing, we’d take care of each other and watch each other’s backs and I don’t think he thought much more about it than that.”

“Good.” He breathes out a quick sigh of relief, “Still weird these people are apparently okay with incest.”

“Brother fucking Sammy, c’mon.”

 

 

The sweet relief of alcohol couldn’t have come soon enough for John Winchester and after his nightcap he’d passed out on the bed, the sound of Dean brushing his teeth in the bathroom barely registering as he succumbed to the darkness of a dreamless sleep.

Here there was nothing to worry about. No time travel, no apocalypse, and no youngest sons to make him contemplate things that make what’s left of his soul shrivel. 

Of course, that can’t last, and much too soon there’s cold water being splashed in his face and instead of Dean or even a much too tall Sam standing over him he’s met by several of the motel patrons he’d scoped out earlier.

“Up.” A short woman with dark red hair seems to be the leader, moving in front of the little gaggle and spinning a knife in her hands. “Aint go all day Johnny.”

His vision is swimming but he has his gun out and steady hands trained on the young woman before he can drunkenly get his bearings. Marine training is instinct and it’s saved his life more than once when his brain has been much slower than his hands.

His thoughts are still in a drunken haze as he takes in the little group, eyes flickering to the broken salt lines.

“Oh don’t worry, your cute little guards held us back. Too bad the main desk controls the AC for all the rooms though.” She grins, shark like as she swings that knife again, the blasting air conditioning blowing her hair slightly. “Now get up.”

Their eyes all flicker black and John’s never sobered up so quickly. Demons. There are demons in his room, more than he’s ever seen in one place and they’re threatening him. His eyes flick over to the other bed -  empty. Good. He prays to the god he despises that Dean is out at some bar across town with no plans to be back soon.

“What the hell do you want.” He spits, not moving the gun or up from his bed.

“From you? Nothing.” She laughs. “You’re the tiniest little speck of the big picture John, you and that pretty little wife of yours are barely afterthoughts to the big performance.”

She steps forward, grabbing the gun and he fires, the bullet going straight through her hand but she barely flinches. “For your whole life being devoted to killing a demon I really thought you’d be better at this.” She tuts, throwing his gun across the room and with a strength boggling to her tiny form hauls him to his feet 

Another one of them moves behind him, the maid, he recognizes distantly. Handcuffs are slapped and tightened around his wrists and despite knowing better he still pulls at them, metal cutting into flesh. “I’m going to kill you. Every last one of you.” He seethes into the redheads face, the raw rage like an open wound as he meets those black eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Save it.” She waves a hand and opens the door, two of the demons grabbing one of his arms each and haul him outside despite his best attempts to fight or at least slow them down.

He’s expecting to be shoved into a car or maybe disappear into smoke like he’d heard Bobby describe but instead of that, they move down the motel sidewalk to another room. Sam’s room. 

Fuck.

He hisses against his captors, shoving and kicking and doing his best to delay them. He might have a rough time with Sam but that doesn’t mean he’s going to let some demons jump him without warning. He gets a punch in the face for his efforts, blood dripping from his split lip as he watches the short demon knock on the door. 

They’re going for surprise, they’re going to jump him. It’s all he can think as he stares with rising panic at the door, no one coming to answer after a few long moments.

She knocks again and he can tell her patience is thinning and he’s bracing himself for whatever plan B these fuckers have when the door opens and Sam is standing there in what looks like hastily thrown on jeans and a t-shirt. 

While John’s shock had cost him critical seconds Sam doesn’t look nearly as surprised, eyeing the demon with a tired sigh. “Meg.” He acknowledges. 

Right. The shit stains have names. It’s such a bizarre concept, these things that terrorize and ruin lives without an ounce of humanity having names to call their own. 

“Sammy.” She smiles. “I assume you know the drill? We got your daddy and you’ll come with us unless you want to see him gutted in the parking lot.”

There’s movement behind Sam and his blood runs ice cold, Dean’s angry face peeking out from behind his brother. Fuck he hadn’t left, he’d just gone over to see Sam.

“Big bro can come too.” The woman – Meg? – smiles. “It’ll be a party.”

Sam’s eyes darken at that but he stays cool, eyes calculated and unreadable and it’s such a bizarre expression to see on those eyes that still look the same as his teenage son. 

“Lead the way.” He says, nudging Dean out who’s wearing a very odd arrangement of what looks like a too big t-shirt, the leather jacket John gave him, and a pair of boxers. They must be getting low on laundry if those were his pyjama options. 

They’re in front of the motel one moment and then the next they’re in a creaking building, hay crunching under his boots and the wind rattling the walls around them. Barn then. Old. Probably in the middle of nowhere.

They must have made it a bit of a hideout thought because they go down into a cellar and there are prison bars and what looks suspiciously like blood stained to the dirt floor. The place was moved in and they’d already had the welcome party it seems.

They’re shoved through the door to the little cell, John’s handcuffs being left on as the door is locked behind them. He’s expecting the climax, for the torturing and demonic evil to begin but they’re left alone. The demons heading up the stairs and the light flickering off, only the moon through the cracks in the floorboards above let them see the outlines of each other’s faces.

“Well,” Dean whispers into the dark. “Fuck.”

 

 

Tennessee isn’t a long drive from Kansas but while Dean’s going twenty over the speed limit he still eventually needs to sleep especially after not getting any the night before. They’ve just crossed out of Missouri and over the border when he starts to lag, car swaying dangerously with Dean pushing two days of little sleep. There’s no motels close by but it’s not like they’re going to be sleeping for very long so Sam’s nothing but relieved when he pulls off to the side of the road.

Dean pulls out the blankets from the trunk, spreading one out over the leather in the backseat before climbing in and laying out over it. “C’ mere, kiddo.”

Sam kicks his shoes off into the stairwell and put his jacket in the front seat before climbing onto Dean and shutting the door behind him.

Dean’s arms open and he crawls into them without any hesitation, the doubts of this morning long erased as he wraps his arms around his brother and sinks in against his chest. He feels different, wider and more muscle underneath his shirt and Sam still hasn’t quite gotten used to the changes and what they do to his insides. 

“… How are you feeling?” He asks after a moment, not really knowing how to phrase the obvious questions he’s been dying to ask since Missouri’s. Your real brother’s alive! I’m not a changeling! You threatened to shoot Missouri! How does all of that make you feel?

Stupid.

The chest underneath him exhales in a sigh and Sam focuses on the strong and steady heartbeat under his ear. “We don’t have to talk about it.”

“I know… I’m just trying to wrap my head around it is all.”

“Why did you get so mad back at the house?”

Dean’s quiet for a long moment and Sam thinks he’s not going to answer before there’s a huff of breath against his hair. “I told you before. When Cas told me there wasn’t more time travel going on I was relieved. My entire world had ended and it was like I got a little piece of it back that made me want to keep going again. Shoulda known it was the real you though, a fake wouldn’t have made me feel like I do.”

“And how do you?”  He asks because he’s an annoying little brother and wears the title proudly.

“You know how I feel brat.” Dean rolls his eyes and ruffles his hair. “I’m constantly drowning in this shitty world but when I’m with you I can breathe just fine. Always been like that and it was like that in the hotel when I touched you.”

Sam could get very easily distracted down the road Dean was going but he had a point to this conversation. “And back at the house?”

“When she told me you were real… Sammy.” Dean’s voice broke slightly and the arms around Sam tightened. “Might as well have pulled me out of the ocean only to drop me back under again. I wasn’t strong enough. Not after the past few days. I would have killed anyone that tried to take you away from me.”

Sam doesn’t doubt it, the fire in Dean’s eyes when he stared down Missouri – a friend – the lengths this man would go for him scare him slightly. But even at fifteen, Sam can’t say he his blood doesn’t boil at the thought of someone threatening to take Dean away from him.

“But now we have the letter,” Sam says quietly.

“Yeah.” Dean confirms. “And a hell of a lot more questions.”

“And your Sam’s alive.” He nudges Dean’s ribs gently.

Dean doesn’t answer that and Sam frowns, glancing up at him. “Dean?”

“We… We don’t know what’s going on.” He says slowly. “Toni seems to be three steps ahead of us at every turn and until we kill that bitch we need to treat everything a bit hesitantly. I mean she somehow pulled you here from the past.”

“You think the letter’s not real?” His stomach starts to sink, the sight of Dean’s handwriting burned into his brain with how much raw hope it had given him but now it feels like water slipping through his grasping fingers.

“No. I just think that if we get to Tennessee and find out that Sam’s still dead- “ Dean swallows, staring up at the top of the Impala and even in the darkness Sam can see the way his jaw is clenched tight. “That would be it.”

Sam’s hands fist in Dean’s jacket but words don’t come, no idea how to comfort that kind of all consuming despair. He can’t say not to do it because the idea of a world without Dean isn’t one Sam wants to live in and he doesn’t want to be the worlds biggest hypocrite. 

“He’s alive. You’re going to get back to him and I’m going to go back to my Dean and everyone’s going to be just fine.”  He says softly. Because someone has to 

“Okay, Sammy.” Dean murmurs and he’s humouring him but it doesn’t feel like he’s giving up. At least not yet.

“Besides, I don’t want to be stuck with your old ass for much longer.” He huffs to break the depressing atmosphere and it works, Dean smacking his thigh in rebuttal.

“Old? Sammy, I am in the prime of my life – you’re blessed to get to hang out with me. 

Dean’s grinning, he can feel it against his hair and even if he can’t bring this time’s Sam back, at least he can make sure Dean knows he’s not alone. If only for a minute.  

Dean reaches down for the blanket to put on top of them and Sam huffs, wiggling on top of him. “Your belt is digging into my stomach.” He grumbles.

“Smooth Sammy, your lines always did charm the ladies.” Dean teases, nudging Sam to sit up on his lap as he pushed his flannel up and started to undo the buckle.

The metal clacks loudly in the silence of the car and Sam can’t help the slight blush at how domestic this is – how domestic their life must be even with all the hunting. No Dad to tell them what to do or breathe down their necks, just him and Dean on the open road with quiet moments like this. And the bunker – whatever the hell that place is Dean keeps talking about. Places for them to be just them, like this.

It’s stupid to be getting sappy over Dean taking off his damn belt – this is why his brother calls him a pansy – but Dean’s paying more attention to trying to pull off where the belt’s gotten caught against his jean loop from the awkward position of trying to take it off laying down.

“Here.” Sam grins, it nice to see that even this God version of his big brother can fumble with basic tasks. He reaches down, hands occupied over Dean’s crotch as he tugs and pulls until the belt pops free from where it’s snagged.

Dean’s hands have since disappeared, and he looks up triumphantly only to find his brother with his arms resting behind his head looking down on him with dark eyes. His stomach is suddenly so full of butterflies he should be puking them.

“Take it off for me?” He asks, voice rough and deeper than Sam could have ever imagined it getting but thanks God – the one Dean apparently knows – that it happened anyway.

He nods, head feeling a bit light but he carefully pulls the belt out of each loop, Dean lifting up his hips to help and undressing something that isn’t even a real piece of clothing shouldn’t feel so sensual.

His jeans are loose now, a happy trail of hair thicker and darker than what Sam knows peeking out from the strip of flesh between his pants and shirt. He reaches out to touch it, fingers grazing over the familiar freckles that cover Dean’s stomach.

A hitched sound comes from above him, reminding him in that warm possessive way that Sam isn’t the only one affected. That somehow, some impossible way, this man who Sam can only ever see as perfect wants him back just as fiercely. 

“Can I see?” The question comes out breathless, but before he can even feel embarrassed Dean is nodding, sitting up slightly to pull off his jacket and letting it fall to the footwell below them.

The light flannel joins in and then he’s in just a t-shirt, black cotton snug against his skin and Sam’s can’t help but run his fingers over it until he gets to the bottom, pulling it up and over Dean’s head and arms until his chest is bare and the shirt drops from Sam’s limp hand.

If he thought his brother was a god before than he’s now upgraded to a titan.

His hand looks small as he runs it across his defined stomach, fingers catching on scar tissue every few inches and remind him that even though the years have been good to Dean theres is still a hunting lifestyle.

“Not quite as pretty as I used to be.” Dean jokes, like the body Sam’s touching isn’t perfect in every way.

“You’re always – you’re always pretty.” Sam huffs, cheeks flushing because honestly, why the hell does Dean get to be sex on legs for his entire life 

Dean grins wide, a shark who’s caught the first hint of blood in the water. “You think so, Sammy?” 

“You’re an ass.” He huffs, kicking at his brother as his cheeks burn. 

“Hey now – c’mere.”

There are hands on his waist again only this time they’re pulling, bringing him up and settling him right over the zip of Dean’s jeans, his ass digging into the rough material as he gaps a little, his face going from pink to bright red in seconds. “Um – “ 

Dean lays back down against the seat, head propped up slightly by the door as he gazes up at Sam straddling his lap like it’s the most natural thing in the world. “Anyway, you were saying?”

Sam blinks down at him – at his middle aged brother who’s dick he is currently sitting on. Through clothes, yeah but it was the general idea of the whole thing.

“Um.” He repeats because what was he saying?

“Is this weird?” Dean runs a hand up his side. “I mean besides the obvious age stuff and what not. If you’re feeling weird I’ll stop.”

Yeah, stopping isn’t something he wants to be doing anytime soon. He shakes his head.

Dean’s eyeing him thoughtfully, not doing anything more than running his hand up and down Sam’s side.

“What?”  He asks self consciously which is dumb, he’s the one fully clothed while Dean is laying bare chested and with his jeans riding low.

Dean shrugs, “You just look exactly like you did in my memory. Which is the point, time travel and all that. but it’s a little bit of a mind fuck.” He cracks a smile. “The two of us were just getting started into the serious shit at your age, a lot of my favorite memories are with you looking like this.”

“We’ve always done serious stuff.” He argues but his cheeks haven’t cooled down at all and he knows it gives him away. What the hell, might as well humor him and it’s not like he’s not curious. “Which ones are your favorite?”  

“Let’s see… when you rode me in the back of the pickup at Bobby’s house. That’s a good one. Or when we were freezing in the little house in Minnesota and I tucked us both under two blankets on that shitty bed and made sure you were nice and warm.” He winked.

Sam swallowed, nodding as he did his best not to squirm on top of Dean. “You… You holding my hand and teaching me to deep throat – which is still a gross way to say it.” He offers quickly and it’s stupid to include the hand part but it’s the little things Dean did that made Sam’s entire body ignite.

“Yeah? I couldn’t remember if you were a little older or not when that happened.”

“Well…I’m not perfect at it but… I dunno I think I’m okay.” He crossed his arms defensively. 

Dean’s quiet for a moment, eyes holding nothing but adoration as they look up at him and it makes Sam hungry in that way only Dean can cause.

“I… I could show you?”

If Dean was expecting something it wasn’t that based on the little jerk of his chin and it feels good to have surprised him. To have caught this man off guard who seems to know everything about him.

“I wasn’t trying to start anything, I’m not trying to get anything from you, Sammy.” He says quickly.

“I know, I want to.” He shrugs, making his eyes a little wider and letting his hair fall into his face.

Dean breathes out, nodding. “Yeah. Yeah, you can show me, Sammy.”

He beams because he gets to prove Dean wrong but also that even after all these years his big brother melts at his best weapon. He wiggles back a little so he can undo Dean’s jeans, gently pulling down the zip and unbuttoning them before reaching for the bulge in the boxers underneath.

 

  

John’s been locked up before. He’s been tortured and starved and questioned until he didn’t know which way was up but this was putting a different kind of fear in his bones. Him and his sons locked up by demons with no weapons and no one on the outside to look for them wasn’t a situation he knew how to prepare for.

Deep breath. Panicking wasn’t going to do anything but get them killed and he started eyeing the walls of the cell for anything useful to get them free. Or at least a sharp edge he could pick the cuffs off with.

“What the hell do they want? This have to do with the shit that demon dude was talking about? Crow- whatever?” Dean asks as he runs his hands over the floor of the cell, probably looking for something for his cuffs too. Good boy.

“Crowley.” Sam corrects absently, looking up at the ceiling as if that’s going to answer any of their problems.

“Yeah, he was talking about all sorts of crazy shit with you and hell, you think these guys want you to free Lucifer?”

“No, Meg’s with them. Meg wants Lucifer free but Azazel is her dad, she’ll be loyal to him first and he doesn’t want to open the cage just yet.”

“Demons have parents?” He hears Dean distantly ask and the whole thing is so ridiculous he wants to slam his head against the bars of their cell. Everything was so much simpler last week, when demons didn’t have names or family trees and they weren’t stalking him in his motel room.

“It doesn’t matter; we’re not waiting around to find out what they want.” He growls, shutting up whatever line of thought Dean was going down. His son needs to remember that this wasn’t their Sam and all this information he has had to have come from some concerning source.

“You’ve got a plan to get us out?”

He turns, Sam looking down at him – and damnit he hates that in a petty way he’ll never admit. “No, but I’m not about to be at the mercy of demons. You were pretty capable back at the hospital and at Bobby’s, any other tricks you have up your sleeve?”

 “No weapons, no salt, and no backup. Not exactly a lot to work at.” He mumbles under his breath and it hits him hard how familiar that is, how his snarky teenage son is still alive and well in this man.

Sam’s there then, behind him and long fingers and touching over his wrists as he works the lock, the cuffs releasing with a click after a moment. “We’ll figure out a plan.” 

Easier said than done, but he turns around and Sam’s got a bobby pin that he must have snagged off the demon bitch’s head and suddenly maybe their chances aren’t so shit after all. 

The cuffs clink and fall to the ground and it’s like a weight off his shoulders, able to think a bit more clearly with his hands now part of the equation. “Two exits, can’t go back up the stairs but it looks like there’s a cellar door there if we can manage to get out of this damn cage.” He starts, scanning the bars for any weaknesses.

“They’re newly outfitted, I don’t think they’re going to give way any time soon and it might be better to play along as helpless, at least until they open the cage next.” Sam explains and John’s back to wanting to pull his hair out at the idea of just sitting around for the demons to come back.

“Right.” He says through his teeth because what the hell else are they supposed to do? “What’s our advantage – you seem to know the bitch. Meg or whatever.”

“We’re familiar. Meg isn’t actually her name, just what we called her after the first host she was running around in when we met her. She doesn’t seem to really care though.”

“Familiar as in you know some secret weaknesses?” Dean asks hopefully, testing the strength of the door bars.

“Familiar as in we tried to kill each other for years and had an enemy of my enemy situation when we weren’t.” He explains and John’s left once again trying to get his head around the idea that there were sons of bitches out there bigger and bladder then the demon he’d been trying to track down. 

“Not quite as useful, and I take it you don’t have that fancy knife on you?” John sighs

“Back at the motel.”

Square one then. He fists a hand in his hair and tries to think, mind buzzing with how the hell they’re supposed to get out of this one. “What the hell do they even want? I thought the demons were supporting you.”

“Unofficially,” Sam says quickly, a sharp edge of correction to his voice that John hears all too well and once again wonders about that nerve they’re dancing around. “And not all of them – and Meg definitely not. Azazel is her father, she’ll have sided with him and waiting to open – to break the seals. 

There it was again. The hesitancy. The correction. Yet another thing they weren’t being told and it scares him what Sam thinks they can’t handle after already having been briefed on the existence of God and the devil.

“Very good Sammy boy.”

The bitch is back, her voice airy as it drifts with her down the stairs, carrying with it a raw power even with her petite vessel. She’s got her goons trailing behind but it’s obvious to anyone with eyes who’s running the kidnapping. 

“Azazel’s gotten a lot busier since you showed up. Hell’s not usually so… active.” She grins, twirling a long dagger between her fingers as she steps off the stairs and maker her way over. “It’ll be over soon though. Once we take care of the source of the issue.”

“And what would that be?” Dean growls, the stupid boy. He can’t help but be proud though as his son snarls at a demon without a hint of fear.

“Our little Sammy of course. And probably the rest of the Scooby gang but we’ll see where the night takes us.” 

John sneers, all teeth as he moves in front of his sons. It’s pure instinct, not an ounce of hesitation as he protects his two boys. Sam doesn’t seem to be getting with the program though, stupidly tall and can still see the demon fine from behind John’s shoulder. 

“You know you can’t kill me. Even you don’t want that kind of cosmic tear in time.” He says calmly, and it’s not the reaction the demon was looking for because her face tightens slightly, the thing even uglier when mad.

“I doubt it – “ She nods to bandages peeking out from Sam’s boots and the healing skin on his face. “- you can still get fucked up and nothing terrible's happened so might as well give it a try.”

Over his dead body – but then he’s pressed against the wall, held tight there by some invisible force and he glares at the two demons responsible, conveying the depth of the hatred and just what he’s going to do to them when he gets out of here.

Dean’s less subtle, but then that’s always been his oldest. “Sam! Don’t you fucking touch him!”

He winces at the volume but it barely registers as they both are forced to watch as Meg drags Sam forward and into the main room, the cage slamming shut behind her and they both fall to the ground as it locks. 

Sam’s calm, he can see that even from here but after everything they’ve been through he can’t help but wonder how much of it is a facade. He’s a little stunned at how much the thought scares him. 

Sam’s silent as he’s forced into the rickety old dentist’s chair that looks like it’s been dragged out of some B-List horror movie. His arms and legs are bound down and still his youngest barely even flinches.

“The whole situation is… irritating to put it mildly. We had a plan, a really good one. We had to play the long game but good things come to those who wait right? But then you had to show up.” Meg bites, trailing a finger over Sam’s jaw, pushing it just barely between his lips. He can see Dean vibrating with barely contained rage at his side but he’s just grateful the knife in the bitch’s other hand hasn’t been brought into play yet.

“Sorry for getting in the way I guess?” Sam offers, and the demon doesn’t take well to his cool attitude, digging her nail into the soft skin of Sam’s cheek and making him wince. 

“That’s the thing. I don’t really think you are. Like at all. I think that you enjoy fucking up our plans and making my father have to disobey Lucifer. This ends now – this rebellion in hell ends now. And you know why?” 

Sam shakes his head minutely.

“Because I’m going to kill you.” She brings up her knife, replacing her thumb with it against Sam’s face like a caress. “No one for the people to rally behind if the little boy king is dead. And let’s face it Sammy – you? A King? I mean we’ve had our eyes on you for awhile, just like all our other special little kids but there’s no way in hell you were ever going to be reigning champ. Lucifer’s desperate to come out, must have taken a liking to a mature contender finally ready to open up the gates to get the ball rolling early – but my father and I aren’t so short sighted.”

The words are reeling in John’s head – special children? Oh god oh god – not Sam. Not Sammy. He’d known something was wrong, hadn’t dug too deep afraid of what he might find. But the writing on the wall was hard to miss when he started to catch murmuring of deals and other reports of dead women in children’s nurseries. This Sam was so tentative, it obvious his involvement in the darkness John had tried so hard to cast out only making him more suspicious. 

His fists are white knuckled against the bars, this cell the only thing keeping him from tearing off the heads of these monsters. They were talking about watching his baby – they wanted to kill Sam. “Don’t fucking touch him!”

Dean’s snarling at the two demons closest to them, looking seconds away from breaking the bars himself and while Meg’s own anger is pliable it seems Sam is the only one in the room looking composed despite being strapped down and a knife against his face

“Meg.” He says, tone dangerously condescending and there’s that fucking attitude again – “You can’t kill me.”

“Oh I can. And you’re about to see how creative I can be.” The knife moves, tracing down to the hollow of Sam’s throat.

“I mean, you can. But besides the tear - that’s not going to make Lucifer very happy. And sounds like he’s already pretty pissed at Azazel for trying to keep him chained.”

“He’ll be understanding once we get him out – once we do it properly.”

“Mmm, he might not be so understanding about killing me though.” Sam drops it casually, the bait shiny and colorful and too obvious but Meg can’t help but bite.

“Why?” She huffs, knife still against his throat.

“Because I’m not just one of your special little children. I’m not just another throwaway experiment. I’m marked by the devil himself and let me tell you first hand – Lucifer? He doesn’t like people touching what’s his.”

Meg takes the knife off Sam’s throat so fast it’s inhuman, doubt and shock written all over her face but she’s not willing to risk the knife. “No – that’s not. No. 

“Yes.” Sam hums, leaning forward in the chair, chest straining against the straps. “You think just anyone could have woken him up? That he would start talking to hell after a millennium without a good reason?  He’s not restless, he’s not trying for an early exit. Lucifer knows I’m out here. He’s not fighting to get back to his demons – he’s fighting to get to me. 

John can’t breathe, his world narrowed to the tiny window of Sam’s chair and the demon. None of this can be real though because what Sam’s saying isn’t possible. It can’t be. Please don’t let it be –

“You’re lying!” Meg is shouting but it’s garbled, her voice sounding like John’s thoughts but he can see her through the haze, pale and panicking as her hand shakily drops the knife to grip Sam’s shirt.

“You know I’m not. You can feel him on me – inside me. I reek of him and where he’s been. It was cute of you to think that you could hurt me, like this big show would have actually gotten me to talk about what I’m sure you’ve been wanting to know. The future. Who wins this big war. Because lets be real here Meg, you’re only loyal to one thing and that’s whoever’s wearing the crown. But you won’t get anything out of me. I’ve been caged in with Lucifer for long then you’ve existed. What the hell do you think you could do to me to make me talk?”

It’s the breaking point, but not one any of them expected because one moment Meg is staring at Sam and the next she’s shoving open the cage cell and dragging John out into the open despite his attempts at slowing her down. 

“You’re right – I can’t hurt you. But you know who’s a bit more my usual style?” Her knife glistens in the air as it soars right back to her hand and hovers dangerously over his chest. His breathing his tight and he’s not about to die at the hands of this maniac with yellow eyes out there but it beats this bitch focusing on Sam. He holds onto that as the knife comes down, going clean through his shoulder and wounding to cause pain rather than kill. She’s aiming for a drawn out death then but he isn’t going to give her the satisfaction of a sound. He grits his teeth in preparation for the next hit. 

“Stop!” Sam’s voice, deep and unfamiliar yet still his son rings out desperately somewhere distant as the knife comes down again, this time right in his chest, the sudden breathlessness and pooling warmth making it a guarantee she hit a lung.

Dean’s screaming now too, both of his boys desperate and all he wants to do is get to them. Help them. He can’t leave – they still haven’t sent Sam back to his time, haven’t brought their Sammy home – he wants to see that little face before he goes. See both of his boys happy in the backseat as they drive with the Zeppelin tape at full volume down some dirt road….

He’s lost track of time, everything a haze of blood and pain. He’s on the floor now he realizes distantly, slumped to the side on the cool dirt and his eyes fluttering as his vision hazes in and out of focus. Sounds are foggy, seeming to be too slow than too fast as he watches Sam strain and the chest straps break against his chest – since when did the kid get that strong – while the two lackey demons rush him. He wants to shout, tell him to watch out but his tongue feels like cotton. Meg isn’t by him anymore though but he can hear her – behind him maybe? Oh god, that’s where Dean is –  he needs to get to Dean -- He blinks, trying to get some of the haze to clear and his vision sharpens just in time to see Sam bite down on the arm of one of the demons, blood pooling down his mouth and staining his shirt red.

He doesn’t even know what he’s looking at, one minute there were three demons and the next there are three shells laying on the floor along with him and Sam’s kneeling down next to him.

“Dad – c’mon Dad please. You can’t go like this.”

He huffs, because this isn’t exactly his idea and even if he could get out words he has no idea what he’d say, still trying to unpack the blur of the past few seconds while steadily losing blood.

Sam’s hands are on him though, big and strong and so different from the little ones he’d passed a gun to just a week before.

“Dad.” Sam says but he’s more focused on what he’s doing with his hands. They’re not touching anymore but hovering, and if he wasn’t halfway dead he’d swear he was watching his skin knit back together.

He’s dying, he knows he’s dying until suddenly he’s not. The world has rushed back in and he’s laying in a pile of his own blood very much not dying with holes that were in his body very much not there anymore. 

Sam is though, kneeling in front of him with blood dripping from his mouth and hands stained crimson. It’s funny he thinks, out of all the differences in this version and his own that wet and wide eyed guilty expression is still exactly the same.

 

….

 

“Your throat still hurt?” Dean frowns in concern as they drive past a sign welcoming them to Maryville, Tennessee. It’s still early, too early for making a house call but Sam doesn’t know if Dean’s going to be able to wait until a decent hour.

“Fine.” He hums, voice still a little scratchy and while Dean’s his usual mother henning Sam can still see right through him to the small little smirk that keeps pulling at his mouth. “God, you never change.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you still do this. You’re super concerned but also like, stupidly proud of yourself like some caveman.” He teases, reaching across the seat to nudge his brother with a grin.

“I’m not proud of myself, I’m proud of you Sammy. I mean that was an awful lot you were able to swallow down last night – “

“Oh my god, shut up.” He laughs, cheeks pink as he rolls his eyes. “You are though, you always strut around about stuff like this after. I thought it would eventually stop.”

“Okay, come on. That’s not true, I’ve done that like once.”

“Not counting today? Or when you first fucked me, you remember that don’t you?”

“Duh.”

“You thought I was going to like, bleed out my ass or something in the morning.” He snickers. “You went out and bought all this cream stuff and made me lay on my stomach – and I was fine, just sore! – but it was like every time I winced when I sat down you wanted to kiss it better and also pat yourself on the back.”

“I like leaving a mark, okay? I like a little something that’s left over the next day that reminds you that I was there.”

“No one else is ever there.”

“That’s not the point.”

Sam rolls his eyes, as they pull into a drive-thru and grab some breakfast before sorting out a game plan. McDonald's has a smoothie option in the future, fucking finally. He sips his strawberry smoothie as they sit out in the parking lot, leaning up on his knees to looks over Dean’s shoulder at his phone as they search up the name in the letter in google.

“So cool how you just have this in your pocket. Can carry it around instead of having to go to the library.”

“Mmm, also don’t have to pay for pay per view.”

“Gross, Dean.” 

Amanda Spencer brings up a host of results but only one for Maryville Tennessee that Dean promptly clicks on.

 “A lawyer?” Sam asks doubtfully. “Why would I tell us to go talk to a lawyer?”

Dean shrugs as they scroll through the clean and modern looking website, stock images and buzz words without meaning scattered about the page. He clicks on the about section and a picture of the woman comes up and instantly a twinge of … something twists in Sam’s head. It’s gone instantly, an echo of something making him feel a bit off balance but they have more important things than his weird deja vu.

“Looks a little too clean if you ask me. Nothing on here about clients, all very fake looking.” Dean frowns.

“Why would she make a fake website though?”

“Dunno. Why would you even need a website if you’re the only lawyer in a small town?”

Sam shrugs, this only leading to more questions and not any closer to the letter. It was only six in the morning but he didn’t stop Dean from starting the car up again and heading down the road. Barging in before coffee was their thing at this point.

Amanda lived and practiced in the same house, everything very quaint and had a small town vibe that Sam usually enjoyed in the places they lived for an extended period. He liked that everyone was close and nobody seemed to be in a rush.

They pulled into the driveway, a sign in the yard confirming the place as the practice of Ms. Spencer but that her hours didn’t start until nine.

“C’mon.” Dean shuts the car door behind him, not bothering with the sign as he walked up the front porch steps and gave the doorbell a buzz.

Just from the small glass panes on either side of the door, Sam could tell the house was upscale. Crystal on the side table and thick lush carpet runners trailed down the hardwood floor that he could see.

“Seems pretty loaded for a lawyer here. Did the website say what kind she was?”

“No.” Dean hums absently. “But I have a feeling it might be something a little niche.” He glances up at his brother’s tone, following his eye line to the sigils just visible around the top of the door. “Those are demonic wards.”

Sam stiffens, not liking what that might mean but trusting that his brother and his future self wouldn’t have purposely led them into a trap. Dean doesn’t seem particularly concerned but he can tell in the way his hand twitches next to the hip he packs on that he’s a bit more on guard.

The door cracks open suddenly, the latch still in place so it’s only just enough for a woman’s face to peek through. “I’m not currently open, please come back during hours.”

She makes to close the door but Dean’s boot stops it, jamming it open as the woman’s wide blue eyes blinked in surprise.

“Think of it as a social visit then.” Dean smiles but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes.  

“…Did someone send you? Look – I don’t do intermediaries so if a client has a complaint they can talk about it in person – “

“Sam Winchester.” Dean interrupts bluntly. “Does that name mean anything to you?”

There’s a pause, those piercing blue eyes blinking owlishly at them. “Move your boot.”

Dean raises an eyebrow.

“Move it so I can unlatch the door.”

He does, sliding his foot back and the door quickly shuts before opening all the way to reveal a tall woman in her late fifties, hair pinned back and lace robe slipping around her slim shoulders.

“Well, you better come in then.” Amanda Spencer sighs, gesturing a hand into her home.

The place is exactly like he saw through the window, luxury seeped into every inch of the modest little two story in a sleep little nowhere town. His feet sink into the carpet when Amanda makes them take off their shoes and every step is highlighted by the new items on display on tables and shelves and stuffed into every nook of the house. Jewels, statues, insects frozen in amber, bones that looked particularly human, and even a real tiger skin rug sat on the floor of the living room she guided them into. He didn’t even know where to look it was all so glitteringly distracting.

“Quite a collection,” Dean comments mildly as they sit down. “weird place for it.”

“A display in the home is a display worth investing in.”

“I mean that I can count four cursed items on just one of your bookshelves and can’t help but feel everything else in here is a little misplaced for the area.”

Amanda delicately shrugs. “I’ve had to relocate. My business is not without its risks.” 

“And what business is that?”

“Law. Should think that’s a bit obvious from the sign. But I assume you mean the specialty and that would be the supernatural.”

“A supernatural lawyer?” Sam asks doubtfully, glancing at Dean who looks just as unconvinced.

“Don’t look at me like that, I know all about you Winchester’s and you out of everyone should know how deals work. People caught in a tangled web of legalities and red tape, who do they come to? A lawyer who’s familiar with the court they’re in.”

“You represent what? People who’ve made demon deals? 

“Originally, but then I realized the market was a lot bigger. You’d be surprised how many people need supernatural representation. And I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty when need be.”

“I guess your services aren’t cheap.”

“Oh no, definitely not.” She grins. “But how can you put a price on the services I provide? Literally life and death. Heaven or hell.”

“So how the hell do you know Sam then? Because he hasn’t made a demon deal.”

There was an edge of vulnerability there, a hesitation like Dean wasn’t quite sure anymore and Sam had to resist reaching out to take his hand.

“No. he didn’t.” Amanda gives him a reassuring smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “I was ambitious when I was younger you know… always tried to go after the next challenge. And Sam well… what bigger challenge could there be then bending a Winchester? 

Dean pauses, eyes wide and dark as he stares at Amanda. “You – “

“I didn’t hurt him.” She quickly reassures. “I didn’t, I swear to you. My memories are a bit fuzzy on the whole thing, probably on purpose but I wouldn’t do that.”

“What do you mean your memories? Sam’s alive? Where is he?”

“Alive? Yes, of course, he’s alive. He’s back in the past, switched places with this one.” She nods at Sam, taking him in for the first time and he squirms under her gaze. “Nice to see you again by the way.”

“Again?” Sam’s mouth is dry as he stares back at those blue eyes, so weirdly familiar.

“Funny, and I thought I was bad. Amnesia wasn’t supposed to be a side effect. Then again Bames was a bit of a bastard.” She frowns. “You really have no idea who I am? Or what happened?”

Sam shakes his head weakly.

“There’s only so much I can do.” She sits up out of her chair, making Dean stiffen at the sudden movement but she ignores him in favor of heading to the bookshelf. “But I can at least put this right.”

“You’re not doing anything to him, sounds like your whacked up mojo has done enough,” Dean growls.

“I’m not going to hurt him.” She rolls her eyes. “I’m going to restore his memories.”