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Sam was gone by the time Dean reached the motel. That was okay, though – Dean knew where the bane of his existence was headed, after all. Fortunately, in regard to Dean, Sam’s psychic abilities seemed to be blind.

Finding out the exact address of the Milligans in Windom wasn’t hard. Dean reached the city at night. A search through the local motels told him that his brother hadn’t checked into any of them, but he found the old, green Sedan that had been reported as stolen after his meeting with Sam parked at the side of the road not far from the Milligans’ empty house the next day.

Dean waited outside, never even attempting to conceal his presence. It didn’t take long, in the end, for Sam to emerge and come back to the car. He had washed his hair and shaved, but he still looked like shit warmed over.

Maybe he actually looked worse, and not only because of the bruise blooming on his left cheek.

He saw Dean immediately, stopped and froze for a moment, then he walked towards his stolen car as if nothing had happened, his expression blank.

“No one home, I gather?” Dean asked. “You find those ghouls yet?”

Sam looked at him, face still blank. He didn’t look guarded. He looked like he was too tired to form an expression. “You read my mail.”

“Yeah. So, those ghouls…”

“Weren’t there, but I found traces of them under the house. Shouldn’t be too hard to track them down.”

“Good. You’re going tomorrow?”

“Tonight.”

Dean grimaced. “If you go tonight, they’ll kill you. Sleep might be a good idea first. And food.”

Instead of replying, Sam pulled open the door of the Sedan. Dean never gave it a chance to open more than a crack before he pushed it closed. “Get in the Impala,” he ordered.

Sam looked at him, at his car, at the Impala and then down the street. He seemed to weigh his options. Dean waited impatiently until Sam reached the conclusion that in his current state he had no hope of getting away.

Eventually, Sam grabbed his duffel and the bag containing his laptop from the trunk and got in the Impala. Dean watched him sink into the passenger seat and close his eyes.

“Where’s your motel?” he asked a minute later, after starting the car.

“Don’t have one,” Sam muttered.

“You got here yesterday.”

“Slept in the car.”

Dean frowned in disapproval. He’d slept in the car as well, but that was a different matter – if only because he was older, and maybe because his little brother looked like he really needed a bed.

Without a word he drove over to one of the motels he had checked for Sam the night before. It was one of the better ones, but Dean had some money left. Being constantly on the lookout didn’t leave much time for indulging himself.

He made Sam come along when he got the room, in case his brother got the idea that Dean would certainly give up on him if he stole his car. Sam didn’t protest, didn’t say anything at all. When they entered the room he stood beside the door, looking lost.

“So,” Dean prompted. “Visions, huh?”

Sam blinked at him.

“They’ve been getting stronger?”

“I haven’t had a vision in years,” Sam told him. “Not since Azazel died.”

“Azazel?”

“The demon.”

Demons had names. Who would’ve thought?

“How did you find all those cases, then?”

“What are you doing here, Dean?” Sam asked tiredly. “I told you-”

“You told me a lot of bullshit. I have no idea why you’re trying to push me away, but it’s not working, so you can spill it now. Are you in trouble?”

“No.”

“Well, you look like you are. When’s the last time you had a break? Or ate, for that matter?”

“The only trouble I’ve had was you,” Sam explains without force. “Hard to get a break with you constantly on my trail.”

“I lost your trail for weeks at a time. Don’t give me that crap!”

Sam looked helpless. Pleading. “Go away, Dean,” he begged, desperation finally bringing some life to his voice. “There’s nothing I can give to you. Nothing at all!”

“Okay, calm down, dude.” Dean lifted his hands and took a step back when it looked like Sam was going to have a hysterical breakdown at any moment. Maybe he would cry. Sammy was prone to crying, and Dean couldn’t stand that. “You know what, I’m starving. So I’m gonna order takeout now, and we’ll talk after you had a nap.”

There was no protest, no reply at all. Dean made the call to a little fast food place just around the corner that promised to have the food delivered in less than ten minutes. Afterwards, Dean wasted a few of those minutes trying to get Sam away from the door, hoping that would make him look less ready to bolt. With some effort, he eventually managed to make his brother stand beside the bed instead, though he wouldn’t sit down on it. Sam’s hands were trembling, he noticed, then he thought of the pills he’d found in the duffle and of Wyatt’s suspicion.

“You on drugs?” he asked.

“I thought we were going to postpone the conversation.”

“Yeah, alright. Just answer the question, bitch.”

“No.”

“No what?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Okay.” Dean wished the delivery boy would hurry up. “Are you lying to me?”

Sam glared at him through the strands of hair that had fallen into his face. “What the hell do you want from me, jerk?”

Finally, a sign of life. Dean almost grinned. It would have been inappropriate in the face of the topic and the general tension, but he felt like grinning anyway. He had his brother back. After three years of searching without pause, there he was, in the flesh, alive and breathing.

It was over.

A knock on the door made Sam jump and Dean curse. He’d wished the food would arrive quickly to break the tense mood some, but now it only served to fix the tenseness after it already started to crack. He got their food, paid, and began to unpack it, constantly keeping one eye on Sam in case he tried to run.

He’d ordered burgers, fries, and a large chicken salad for Sam. Dean placed it on the table and Sam watched him silently until Dean walked over to him and pulled him into a tight, rough hug.

Sam stood still. He didn’t tense, he didn’t try to get away, but he didn’t hug back either. For what felt like an hour Dean simply held him close, distantly noting all the bones he could feel under the too wide clothes. He couldn’t bring himself to let go.

An eternity went by before Sam shifted in his arms and Dean felt hands rest on his back, just loosely, merely touching without holding on. At the same time Sam seemed to sink into Dean’s embrace, and then his body started shaking with silent sobs as everything broke and he cried into his brother’s shoulder.

Dean understood. Sam had been alone, too.

*-*-*-*

If Dean had hoped that just because Sam had shed some tears on his shirt he would miraculously open up and tell his brother everything he wanted to know, he found himself bitterly disappointed. Sam barely could be talked into eating, and after finishing about half of his salad, he curled up on the bed Dean had meant for himself and closed his eyes.

He wasn’t sleeping, Dean could tell. His breathing was all wrong and even with his eyes closed he seemed alert, his entire attention on the room. Perhaps waiting for Dean to fall asleep.

Dean didn’t sleep. He sat in his chair, watching his brother, and was prepared to continue doing so all night. Just seeing Sam seemed incredible after so long. He wouldn’t risk going to sleep just to wake up to an empty room.

At some point he turned his head to look at the window, lost in thought. Due to the light inside and the darkness outside he didn’t see anything beyond the reflection of the room, but that reflection was revealing enough, because it showed him that there was a man standing, inexplicably, right behind him.

Dean jumped up and startled Sam with the noise of the chair falling over.

The very same moment, Dean realised that he made a fatal error feeling safe in this room just because it was secured by salt lines, iron and arcane symbols. The man in the trench coat had gotten inside none the less – the very same man who’d come before and made Dean forget he ever saw him simply by touching his forehead.

And Dean’s gun was lying on the second bed, completely out of reach.

So Dean couldn’t shoot the guy. He could, however, get his forehead and his memories out of the guy’s reach, at which point he toppled over the chair. He could also shout a warning to Sam and do his best to get between the stranger and his brother.

The stranger tilted his head to the side and looked at Dean through narrowed eyes, as if he was a particularly interesting specimen of an alien species.

Beside him, Sam sat up, but he didn’t lunge for the gun, nor did he seem alarmed, as he should. Instead, he gave the stranger a confused frown.

“Hey, Cas,” he said, his voice still uncharacteristically flat and lacking energy. “What are you doing here?”

“Wait, what?” Dean looked from one to the other and didn’t like the situation any more than before. “You know him?”

Sam was silent for a moment before he nodded reluctantly. “That’s Castiel,” he explained. “He’s… a friend.”

“A friend? What kind of friend? The kind that has some kind of hold over you and sucks out your life force? Because let me tell you, Sammy, you’re not looking so awesome.” Hey, it was a theory, and maybe not even so far off. Remembering how awful he felt after that Cas guy touched him, Dean was willing to actually consider it.

Sam scowled at him. “Don’t be stupid, Dean.”

“It’s not my intent to harm your brother,” Castiel assured Dean, who didn’t buy it.

Just when he opened his mouth to ask just what exactly Castiel was, Sam interrupted him by asking, “What’s going on, Cas? Did something happen?”

“Dean found you.”

“Yeah, I noticed that.”

“Wait,” Dean jumped in. “He’s been helping you run from me all the time?” He laughed bitterly. “Well, that actually makes sense.”

“Not exactly,” Sam denied. “He’s been…busy elsewhere. I haven’t actually seen him in ages.”

“Yeah? So it was just a coincidence he broke into my room one night and erased my memories?”

Sam’s head snapped around to face Castiel the second Dean finished the sentence. “He did what?” he hissed.

“You didn’t know?”

Sam ignored Dean. He got off the bed and stepped over to the man in the coat, suddenly seeming a lot taller than he had a moment ago, as if he’d grown. “Cas, what did you do?”

“I merely blocked some surface memories. The block wasn’t even very strong – as you see, it didn’t hold long.”

“Why would you do that? You had no right!”

Which was what Dean should have been saying. Not that he didn’t agree, but Sam’s strong reaction surprised him.

“I thought it would be in the best interest of both of you,” Castiel said defensively. “Zachariah had tracked him down and tried to get the plan back on track despite all the alterations.”

If possible, Sam’s face turned even whiter at the words. “Zachariah? But I thought… How is that even possible?”

“Angels are sensitive to change. He knew this wasn’t how things are supposed to be – as did Gabriel when you confronted him on that campus. Don’t worry,” Cas added quickly when Sam looked like he was going to throw up. “I killed Zachariah, and Gabriel won’t bother any of you.”

“What the heck are you talking about?” Dean asked.

He was ignored by both parties. “You killed him?” Sam asked, somewhere between shocked and hopeful.

“Yes. It was the most practical option.”

“What about Michael? Raphael? Cas, this wasn’t supposed to… What happens after I…”

“I will take care of everything,” Castiel promised, but Sam still looked like he was about to freak out. He ran his hands through his overlong hair, glancing at Dean but still not talking to him.

“And what about Dean? He shouldn’t even be here, and now I don’t know…” He stopped and stared at Cas again as if a thought had just come to him. “You’re not going to erase his memories. You can’t do that to him – not after everything he’s done for you!”

“What exactly did I do?” Dean asked, confused and irritated. “Could you please stop acting as if I’m not standing right here?”

They probably could, but neither of them did. “Sam,” Cas said, raising his hands in a calming gesture. “You’re exhausted. You need rest.”

Judging by the look on his face, Sam’s mind was still moving quick enough to understand at once what those words implied. But his body wasn’t able to react in time to get away before Castiel pressed the tips of two fingers to his forehead. He caught Sam when he collapsed bonelessly in his arms.

“Sam!” Dean yelled, finally lunging for the gun as Castiel hoisted Sam into his arms as if he weighed nothing. “What have you done to him?”

“Nothing harmful,” Castiel answered, calmly ignoring the gun pointed at him. “I merely allowed his body to find the sleep it craved.” With a few long steps, he walked past the empty bed Sam had just abandoned and placed the limp body of Dean’s brother on the bed furthest from the door. “You prefer it like this, don’t you?” he asked, removing the duffel Dean had thrown onto the end.

Dean felt puzzled for a moment and hoped it didn’t show on his face. “You are aware that now there is nothing in the way of the bullet I’m gonna fire at you?”

“There would be no point in doing so, except to make noise.”

“Yeah, your friend at the bar said the same thing.”

“Zachariah wasn’t my friend.”

“Whatever.” Dean raised the gun a little higher to aim for the guy’s face. “Fact is I haven’t tested that theory yet.”

Cas let out a long suffering sigh. “The first time we met, you stabbed me with a demon-killing knife. It had no effect on me. Neither did the bullets Bobby fired. This time, it would be even less effective, if that were possible.”

“The first…?” That was it. The anger that had been battling with confusion finally won. “You erased my memories before? What gave you the fucking right? Don’t come closer!” he hissed when Cas took a step toward him, and took a step back himself. Then another one, and then he walked around the bed to check Sam’s breathing, all without taking his eyes or gunpoint off the stranger. “And what demon-killing knife? There is no such thing.”

“There is a demon-killing gun. Why not a knife as well? And I never touched your memories except that once.”

“Sure. Then what were you talking about just now?”

“About nothing that ever happened.” Castiel sighed, and then added, “It’s complicated.”

“I bet.”

“I merely meant to emphasise that shooting me would have no point.”

In reply, Dean shot him.

*-*-*-*

When Dean’s magazine was empty, he sat down on the edge of the bed and listened to what Castiel had to say to him. He still didn’t trust him, but he was out of bullets, and the guy hadn’t tried to kill him yet.

That didn’t keep him from flinching away when Castiel came too close.

“I’m not going to harm you,” Sam’s friend assured him, sounding slightly irritated. “Nor will I touch your memories.”

“How would I know that? I didn’t hear you actually make that promise.”

“Sam doesn’t want me to. He has… issues… with memory loss.”

“Yeah? Then how come I am the one who has no idea what’s going on here?” Dean glanced at his brother, who had managed to sleep through an entire magazine being fired right beside him.

And so, apparently, had everyone else at the motel.

“How do you know Sam, anyway?” Dean added, because it seemed related enough to his first question.

Castiel sighed and sat down on the bed opposite Dean. “That,” he said, “is a very long story.”

*-*-*-*

Dean got to hear the story. The entire long, fucking awful story that left him confused, incredulous and overwhelmed. Then, after it had a moment to sink in, he realised how absurd it was and was convinced Castiel was pulling his leg. Then he was just confused again, angry and lost because all evidence pointed to that story actually being true.

What Castiel told him was that he and Sam came from a different future. “Gabriel was right when he promised your father wasn’t in Hell,” the alleged angel explained. “He is in heaven, along with your mother. But he would have gone to Hell had Sam not killed him.”

“Because he was possessed?” Dean asked, sceptical and unwilling to be the idiot who believed something like this.

“No. He would have done it to save you, Dean.”

“Why would he do that?” Dean asked, automatically and without thought – it didn’t make sense. Before Castiel could answer, though, his brain moved the question aside in order to be sceptical again. “Are you trying to tell me that’s why Sam killed him? Because he knew what would happen otherwise?”

“Yes.”

“How convenient. Guess that excuses all the shit he’s done to me the last few years.” Dean looked at his brother, but Sam still slept, oblivious, so close to Dean their bodies were touching. The anger that wanted to well up in Dean never erupted, but it didn’t go away either.

“It actually does,” Cas explained without batting an eye. “Since Sam shot your father and the demon within him, the demon didn’t get away. Your car wasn’t hit by a truck and John Winchester didn’t have to sell his soul to the demon that killed his wife in order to safe you from your fatal injuries. Azazel’s chosen children were never abducted and Sam never killed, which means you never sold your soul to bring him back.”

Dean had to call for a break again after hearing that. The thought of Sam dying was like a knife to the stomach, but what came out his lips was, “So I went to Hell, too?”

“No,” Castiel said flatly. “But you would have. As a matter of fact, that is how we met.” And then he told Dean the story of how he pulled him out of Hell after forty years that were only four months in the world of the living, and how those four months had kind-of-sorta broken Sam, and how Sam then proceeded to accidentally and with the best intentions open the door to Lucifer’s cage and started the apocalypse.

And how he ended it.

So originally, pretty much every male member of Dean’s family had ended up in Hell, and now no one did. That, at least, was good – or it would have been good, had Dean actually believed that story.

“If it’s so easy to go back in time and change things, why didn’t you do it a lot sooner? And how come Sam went back, and I didn’t?” Yep, things were still not making sense here.

“We didn’t take this route before because it was impossible,” Castiel replied. “History can’t be changed – at least until very recently, from my point of view. But the course of history was derailed when the apocalypse was averted and…” He hesitated for a second before choosing a word. “Possibilities presented themselves. It still needed a lot of time and effort to be able to make this journey. And I couldn’t have caused the change myself. I needed someone else to do it for me.”

“But why Sam? Why not me?”

“Because you were dead and Sam was dying.” Not the answer Dean wanted to hear, but Castiel continued before he could ask. “I was… fighting a war against an archangel, Raphael, who wanted to get the apocalypse back on track. After everything you and Sam sacrificed to prevent it, I could not allow that to happen, but I was losing the war. Then you were killed and Sam, too, was fatally wounded by one of Raphael’s agents. The nature of the injuries was such that I could not restore your bodies. All I could do was send Sam’s soul back in time, reinstate it in his own younger body. You were already gone. That is the reason, I believe, why Sam didn’t fight harder.” The angel didn’t give Dean a chance to swallow that. “There was no plan to my action beyond the intention to give Sam back his brother and, I admit, the hope he would be able to change things in a way we would all benefit from. Especially you, Dean.”

“Me?”

“You are my friend. I saw this as an opportunity to repay you for all the sacrifices you made and offer you a better life. You deserve it.”

Castiel looked so genuine through that that Dean almost laughed. “Seriously?” he asked instead, incredulous. “Did you really think I’d be happy with my dad gone and my brother on the run from me? Or did Sam fuck that up all on his own?”

“Like I said, there was no plan. Sam’s soul arrived only moments before he killed Azazel. He found himself in this situation without warning. However, with one spontaneous action, he managed to prevent the apocalypse and the war I’ve been losing, and most importantly give you a chance at happiness.”

“Happiness?” Dean echoed? “Are you fucking kidding me? He killed Dad! Okay, I get that,” he added quickly when it looked like Cas was going to protest. “It was necessary, it was better for everyone. Alright. But then he left! He left me alone, and expected me to be happy about it? Would it have killed him to at least give me an explanation?”

“What explanation would that have been?”

“All the crap you just told me!”

“And then?” Castiel asked. “If he had wanted to leave after that, would you have let him?”

“Why would he want to leave me so badly?” A thought came to Dean – there was so much he didn’t know about that other world. “Did he hate me in the future?”

“…Yes,” the angel said, though Dean didn’t miss the second of hesitation. “Things were difficult between you, and he could barely stand your presence. If you still care about him, leave him alone. Find someone else and live your life. Forget he existed.”

Dean stared at him. Then he said, “Bullshit.”

Castiel blinked.

“Sam was trying to drive me away, and now you’re trying to do the same. For your information, Sam was better at it, and it still didn’t work, so why don’t you just give up and tell me what the hell’s going on?”

Dean had to restrain himself not to yell, even though Sam probably would have slept through that as well. Although, as if he’d sensed Dean’s agitation, Sam whimpered softly in his sleep and tossed his head left to right, only once.

While Dean, on instinct, ran a hand through Sam’s hair to calm him Castiel looked down at him and said, “Sam is going to die.”

Dean’s hand stilled. “What?”

“He’s not going to last much longer, and he knew it from the moment he was send back,” Castiel explained with some regret in his voice. “That is why he wanted you to let him go. In his original timeline, losing him destroyed you. He wished to create a distance between you so you would find someone else to… emotionally attach to and either forget about him or only look back at him in anger. If his plan had worked out, you wouldn’t have cared when he died, if you’d ever learned about it at all.”

His words left Dean numb and sort of overwhelmed. It made sense, a part of him whispered – it was the kind of fucked up plan Sammy would come up with because Sammy’s brain was gigantic but he rarely ever used it.

And it explained why he was so pale, so thin, so weary. He was dying. Dean was going to lose him.

“What’s wrong with him?” he heard his own voice ask. An illness that was there all along, that was the only explanation. Changing history didn’t chance this. Sam had been sick for years and Dean didn’t know.

“It’s his soul,” Castiel said gravely. “It’s killing him.”

Dean stared. “Come again? How can his soul kill him?”

“It was badly damaged. When he was in Hell. The memories were blocked at first, but they are coming back more and more. It’s more than he can bear – than anyone could bear. They are literally killing him. If he does not die of physical causes before, he will eventually go insane and lose touch with reality forever.”

Dean was still staring, his mind refusing to take in the information. But his investigative instincts kicked in, making his body take over the questioning without his mind’s cooperation.

“Sam wasn’t in Hell,” he said numbly. “Not this time.”

He realises that wasn’t true before the last word left his mouth. Before Castiel explained, “I send Sam’s soul back in time. It didn’t change, still carries all the damage. For him, everything still happened. The only way the old timeline still exists is in his memories.”

“But…” Another thought popped up and for the moment pushed aside everything else. It made Dean feel vaguely sick. “Does that mean he, this guy, that he took my brother’s place? My Sam, from my timeline, the one who would have been if nothing had been changed? That he erased him from existence?” He felt his insides clench up and he thought he might end up hating someone, everyone.

Castiel shook his head. “This is the Sam that would have been if nothing had been altered,” he said gently. “You are the one who is different.”

*-*-*-*

It was a lot to take in. A damn lot to take in. And Dean still wasn’t sure he was buying it.

Only, he kind of was. It all fit the picture so well. It was absolutely crazy, but it made sense. In a way.

He wouldn’t be able to make any decisions about whether he believed it or not until he was able to talk to Sam. Sam, who was dying. Sam, who was lying on the bed, tossing and whimpering and dying.

“Why did you tell me all this?” Dean had asked Castiel, just before the angel fluttered back to Heaven to play harp on a cloud, or whatever it was he did all day. “Why didn’t you just erase my memory again and zap Sammy off to Africa?”

“Because you would still have come after him. Even if I had taken all traces of Sam from your memory, you wouldn’t have been able to find happiness. You belong together – I had known from the start, but I owed it to Sam to try it his way. He meant well for you, Dean. But keeping you separated will only result in more suffering, for both of you. Sam, too, deserves better than that.” With that, the angel left the way he came and Dean was alone with the quiet sounds of his brother’s distress.

Sam started crying at one point – quietly, like he didn’t want to disturb anyone. Dean tried to wake him but whatever the angel had done to him was stronger than Dean’s shaking and gentle slaps. He’d have feared his brother would never wake up again if Cas hadn’t seemed to genuinely care about him.

He was still worried. Sitting beside his suffering (dying) brother being useless had never been one of his strong points.

All he could do was stroke Sam’s hair, hold his hand, talk to him as if he could hear him; girly shit like that, but it had always worked when Sam was younger. Eventually, Sam calmed down, and finally, so did Dean.

It was almost dawn by that time. Dean was exhausted – so fucking tired, and by then, after hours of frantic thinking, he felt just numb enough to find rest. Sam was sleeping peacefully now, as if Dean’s touch had taken the nightmares away, and so it seemed only logical to stay close. Dean didn’t even intend to sleep when he stretched out beside his brother for the first time in years. He just wanted to give his aching back a break, rest his burning eyes a little.

He was asleep within seconds.

When he woke up, it was noon at least. Dean hadn’t slept as good since before Dad died, and it made him feel a little guilty that he got so much rest while Sam spent half the night running from one nightmare (memory?) to the next.

He could have told himself that Sam didn’t deserve any better for all the shit he put Dean through, but yeah, who was he kidding?

Sam stirred when Dean did. Rolled to his side and then sat up – feet on the ground, his back to Dean. Groggy. Dark circles under his eyes, still, after twelve hours of sleep. Maybe a little less pale than before but still looking pretty miserable.

Dying.

There was so damn much Dean wanted to say to his brother. What he did say, in the end, was, “Alternate future, huh?”

It seemed a good starting point.

Sam blinked at him, something like resignation on his face. It was the emotion Dean had seen most since their reunion. Not joy, not shame, but resignation that Dean was here now and Sam couldn’t do anything about it.

“Cas told you?” It wasn’t quite a question – how else would Dean know?

“You mean it’s true?”

“Well. Yeah. I guess – I mean, I don’t know what he told you, but generally, yes. Alternate future. I’m sorry.”

What the heck was he apologizing for? “So, all these hunts you did. Those weren’t visions, it was you remembering doing them before.”

Sam nodded. He looked wary.

“So what happens now? What happens next?”

“Next I’m going to save Kate and Adam Milligan from being eaten by ghouls.”

“Uh, no. You won’t.”

Sam’s gaze became a lot sharper when he glared at Dean, obviously expecting an argument. So Dean hurried to add, “While you were getting your beauty sleep, your buddy from heaven told me he already took care of them. You’re done here.”

Sam made a non-committal sound, nodded slowly, and looked right through Dean as wheels were turning in his head. “Dean,” he finally said, just when big brother was beginning to grow impatient. “There’s something you should know. About Adam.”

“The Milligan boy? What about him?”

Once again, Sam was silent for a long time. “He’s,” he finally said. “He. Well.” He shook his head. “Never mind.”

“He’s what, Sam?” Dean asked, impatience finally winning over.

“Forget it, Dean. Just. I’ll tell you later, okay? Just give me… give me a minute.”

“What’s wrong?” Dean’s irritation immediately turned to concern, but Sam shook his head again.

“Just tired.”

“Well, it was a rough night,” Dean had to admit. “Some friend you have there. Knocks you out and then fucks off to leave you to your nightmares. Seriously, that guy’s a dick.”

“No, it’s okay,” Sam said tiredly. “I don’t like it when he does that without my consent, but it actually helps. I sleep better when he puts me under.”

Dean thought back to the tossing, the whimpers. “That was better?”

Sam just nodded.

“Jesus, Sammy! What does it look like when you have a bad night?”

“I’m trying to avoid those.” Sam offered a weak grin, even as Dean’s brain did the math.

“That why you look like death warmed over? You avoid bad dreams by not sleeping?”

Sam shrugged. “It’s the only method I can think of.” He snorted softly. “Oh, don’t give me that look. It’s not like I didn’t try. I tried everything, even those pills you gave me. They don’t help. And neither does getting black-out drunk.”

“Wait, what?” The confusion was back again. “I never gave you any pills.”

His words resulted in Sam staring at him for a good ten seconds. “Right,” he finally said. “Sorry.”

“Was that an alternate future thing?”

“You could say that.”

“You come from a strange universe, Sammy.” Dean forced a grin, because if he didn’t try to make fun of the situation, he’d go crazy. “As if I’d ever support your drug habit.”

Judging by the way Sam flinched at his words; it was exactly the wrong thing to say. “No,” he whispered. “You wouldn’t.”

“So, what are those pills I found in your duffle?” Dean asked uncomfortably, trying to move on and hoping he actually was. “I thought sleeping pills don’t work.”

Sam frowned at him. It was a rather bitchy expression that was totally Little Brother and actually made Dean feel a bit better. “You went through my stuff?” Sam asked, as if he couldn’t believe Dean would do something that outrageous.

Or at least that Dean hadn’t grown out of stuff like that after he hit twenty-five.

“Dude,” Dean said. “You ran from me for three years. It’s not even a glass house.”

Sam didn’t look like he thought that argument counted. “Don’t go through my stuff, Dean! I’m not a teenager – you can’t go through my bags anymore in hopes of finding condoms to tease me about.”

Dean snorted. “Like you ever got laid, bitch. And it’s not like you have anything interesting in there anyway. What did you do all these years when you weren’t hunting? Surf the internet for gay porn?”

“Nah, that would have reminded me too much of you.”

Dean couldn’t help himself – he laughed. That was Sam, alright. And he had him back. They had each other back. Everything else they’d work out with time, no matter what Castiel said.

Everything would be okay. For this moment, everything was okay, and because of that, Dean was willing to let go of his question for now and just enjoy the moment while it lasted.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
findmeastory
Dec. 28th, 2011 02:25 am (UTC)
What a wonderful, heart warming story. It broke my heart to see Sam so broken, but still trying to make everything right. Thank you.
vail_kagami
Dec. 29th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! :)
Glad you liked it!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 6th, 2012 10:32 am (UTC)
Ah, the Explanation... you build so much tension, and there is so much mystery and then somehow you have to give it an outlet and eventually explain what's going on. That's always hard. Especially here, b/c obviously we, the readers, don't need as much information (granted we're familiar with the spn-plot) as Dean does.

Stupid Sammy, trying to protect his brother like this - he should have known, that Dean can't let him go without any explanation. But then again, he hardly could let him go with an explanation (as seen in the original timeline). It robbed them of three years together, although he knows, his time is especially precious. It's really sad, how he didn't see another way.
vail_kagami
Oct. 6th, 2012 12:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, giving to a character an explanation that the reader already knows is always a little difficult. I hope it more or less worked here.

Sam is a bit of an idiot, but that's what he does. At least they got each other back in the end.
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