A/N: Thank you all for the favs, follows, and reviews. Have to say I'm pretty floored at how many of you there are, given that this is a crossover.

Short Answer section: Shura will most likely show up. I'm interested in writing her interacting with Dean.

I'm liking how you are all viewing the story so far, though I hope my direction won't disappoint anyone.

VI: A Knot in Time

Rin chattered every now and then through the first hour as they drove out of Sioux Falls, while Yukio remained pensive and silent. It was nothing to amount to a proper conversation—more or less Rin commenting on the scenery and buildings, and how different it was to home.

Once they were on a long stretch of road, though, passing by expanses of pastures and trees, Yukio let out a long sigh and looked away from the window.

"We can all agree that, at some point, we were fictional to the others, right?" he asked, and Sam turned his head back.

"Mhm" agreed Dean, tapping his hand against the steering wheel. "You two in a manga, and us in a tv series, right?"

Yukio nodded, leaning back into the seat. "But everyone around us doesn't seem to remember that there was a tv series called Supernatural. And I've heard your names mentioned by other exorcists in legitimate discussions."

Sam blinked, nodding to himself. "And Bobby talks like he's knew your father for a long time, but up until a week ago you were just characters."

"But Bobby was getting files down for Fujimoto, wasn't he?"

Yukio nodded, and Rin rubbed his chin.

"What are you saying?"

"Sam and Dean aren't fictional anymore for us, and we're not fictional for them now, either. And it seems like it's not isolated, but to the point where nobody remembers either of us were fictional in the first place…except for the four people in this car."

"But Bobby knowing Fujimoto puts a wrench in the works" Sam mused. "Somehow he knew a fictional character as real before Dean even knew about you two. He said he got out the papers for Mephisto five months ago."

"So when the old man died" muttered Rin, folding his arms and scratching his head. "Does that mean he's been 'real' to Bobby for that whole time? It seems weird."

The car went quiet aside from Dean's music, all four thinking hard.

It was Dean who spoke up, his brow furrowed. "Hang on. I've been back for nearly a month."

"…Yeah, and?" Sam asked, before his eyes widened and his eyebrows went up. "Which means what happened with Lilith was five months ago."

"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?" Rin said, leaning forward. "That's fucking nuts! There's no way!"

"Actually it sounds pretty viable" Sam murmured, shaking his head a bit. "And it's the only tie we have, though it still doesn't explain why Bobby 'knew' Fujimoto."

"Unless Mephisto used the moment Dean died. Decided he thought it was interesting enough to mess with" Yukio said, leaning his elbow on the ledge of the door and pressing his head against his hand. "And an exorcist's death at the same moment was how he decided to cross it over. Maybe Dean's death coinciding with our father's death was enough to create a hole, and it's spread from there."

"You're saying that like this Mephisto is capable of crossing two parallel universes" Sam said incredulously, and Dean grunted irritably.

"It's possible, Sammy. He's the King of Time and Space. Who knows what the extent of his powers actually is."

"He's the what?" Sam said, jaw slipping open.

"Samael, demon King of time and space" said Rin lazily, stretching and cracking his knuckles. "He's Satan's second eldest, I think. So uh, yeah."

"…Does that make him your brother?" Sam asked, and Rin made an annoyed noise and threw himself back into his seat.

"We don't talk about that" he muttered.

"…Fair enough" replied Sam, sitting back in his chair properly. "So Mephisto's behind all of this…well, if we had any intention of going to back to being fictional to one another, it just went down the drain."

"Yeah, pretty much" Dean agreed with a nod. "He's not a demon any of us are capable of handling. I don't think Ruby's knife would even work."

Dean grimaced as he said the name, as though he'd just eaten something bitter. Sam sighed, while the Okumuras didn't say anything, it was fairly clear they'd picked up the tension that had just settled on the older pair.

"So…you guys really couldn't see Castiel's wings?" Rin asked, trying to break the silence.

"Nope. I saw them on the wall when I first met him, but not any other time. Looks like a regular dude" Dean said. "Kinda nutty regular dude."

The older Okumura raised his eyebrows, before pouting out his bottom lip and scratching his chin. "Maybe they don't have spirit wounds."

"…I'm pretty sure we've been injured by a monster once or twice" Dean deadpanned, giving Rin a quick sideways glance.

"Yeah, but since we became real? Hmmm?"

"Refresh me on what a spirit wound is?" Sam queried, raising an eyebrow.

"A wound inflicted by a demon, or monster in your case I suppose. Once you have one you can see them from then on" said Yukio, who had returned to staring out the window and didn't turn his head toward the Winchesters this time.

"…have we been injured this past week?" Dean asked, and Sam frowned, considering it for a moment.

"I don't think we have. But we can see…uh…"

"You can see Rin's physical traits without a spirit wound, if you're aware enough to look" Yukio murmured.

"Yeah—the only way to test it would be—"

Yukio kicked Rin with his foot from the other side of the car, only just hard enough to draw Rin's attention as Yukio gave him a look that was nothing short of a death glare.

"Don't you even think about it."

"I wasn't going to, four-eyes!" Rin snapped, looking just as pissed. "Do I look stupid?"

"Should I answer that or should I just glare?" Yukio hissed irritably, and Rin gave him a frustrated look but didn't reply. Eventually Yukio just sighed, turning his head back to face the window.

"So uh, Rin. Did you get the eye drops for Godaiin?" Dean asked hesitantly, and Rin instantly perked up.

"Yeah! Except he didn't end up using them, dammit. But hey, it's his choice" he finished with a shrug, leaning back into his seat, as Dean let out a heavy sigh. Sam gave him a confused look, and Dean silently replied with a look that said they'd discuss it later.

Just before night encroached, they happened upon a gas station and pulled up to refill. It was dingy, and quiet, on the edge of a small town without much of anything. It was familiar territory for the Winchesters but something that definitely wasn't for the Okumuras—while they had left True Cross Town once or twice, most of their trips had been short due to how often Fujimoto was away. It wasn't until Rin was finally informed of what had actually been going on that he realized exactly why that was.

After Dean had filled up and paid for the Impala's tank, he gave the two brothers what little hard cash he had and told them to grab something to eat and drink for all of them—they still had a fair way to go and it was going to have to be their dinner. Yukio didn't seemed fazed by having to pick up food from a gas station, but Rin looked a little more annoyed, probably because he usually cooked a decent meal for himself.

Once they'd headed into the store, Dean and Sam retreated behind the gas station, where the rays of the setting sun painted the dingy store in pink and gold.

"Ok, what was up in the car? Yukio seems pissed. Like, really pissed" Sam said, folding his arms and shifting his weight between his feet.

"The usual bullshit" Dean muttered, grimacing and his shoved his hands in the pockets. "The question I asked Rin was to check 'when' they're from, and from Rin's response, Yukio just went through a whole lotta crap. Like, the Vatican swearing him to silence with a demon contract that'll kill him if he blabs, and a nightmare where his brother said whatever's going on with him was a good thing kinda crap."

"…Ouch" said Sam, glancing back at the gas station windows, where Rin and Yukio were still browsing. "…details on the nightmare?"

"That's just it, too" Dean said, ground himself and hunching his shoulders a bit. "There's nothing to say whether it was or wasn't a nightmare. If it wasn't a nightmare, he somehow managed to end up back in his dorm with no clue how he got there."

"…Coulda been possessed?" Sam suggested, cocking his head. "Do they have the tattoos?"

"Tattoos weren't part of their world until a week ago, Sammy, and I doubt Rin could even get one. Be pretty hilarious if a tattoo magically showed up though."

Sam grimaced a little at that. "So it was just his brother saying the demon stuff is a good thing?"

"And generally asking about it. But the whole chapter was a god damn nightmare. To quote it roughly, the main thought was somethin' like 'is something eating at me, before too long it's so spread out it can't be undone, and by the time anyone realizes it's too late'."

Sam paled a bit at the quote, licking his bottom lip. "That's harsh."

"Yeah, tell me about it. Just thinking about that chapter gives me the heebie jeebies."

The gas station door tinkled, and a babble of arguing voices met their ears.

"Why can't they just get a portable stovetop and cook on that?"

"Are you listening to yourself right now?"

"I'm just saying that all this greasy bought food can't be good for them. Imagine if Dean was in the middle of a fight and keeled over from a heart attack from high cholesterol. Imagine how ridiculous that would be, Yukio."

"Rin, listen. They don't get a lot of creature comforts. They have to sleep in grimy questionable motel rooms with crappy coffee and insect infestations. Eating a sweet pie or a donut or a burrito after dealing with monsters and that kind of crap is probably the highlight of their day."

"Maybe I should start bringing them boxed lunches" Rin mused, and the Winchesters looked at each other incredulously.

"That's kind of adorable" Sam said. "He seems… genuinely concerned about what we're eating."

"Yeah, he probably is" said Dean, shrugging a bit. "He's that kinda guy."

Sam raised his eyebrows, as Dean headed back to the Impala to meet up with the other two, who had now stopped arguing and were almost at the car.

"How'd you go?" Dean asked, looking at the bags they had.

"Erm…some hot food from the warmer, bananas, bottles of water…" Rin said, looking into the bag. "Couple of protein bars and a blackberry pie."

The older Winchester's face instantly lit up and Sam chuckled almost incredulously. "You know about the pie."

"Of course we know about the pie" Yukio said, adjusting his glasses and smiling a little.

"Hey, don't give me any of the credit. You were the one who remembered, not me" said Rin, rifling through the bag and getting out a banana.

Dean almost looked like he was about to cry with pride, and Sam gave him a disbelieving look, before shaking his head. "Let's get moving before you insist on adopting them" Sam muttered, nudging his brother and stepping toward the passenger side door. Dean rolled his eyes, following suit and heading to the driver's side as the Okumuras also got in.

The Impala's engine revved to life and they pulled out of the gas station, Sam having taken ownership of the supply bag and sorting out dinner.

"Do you eat in the Impala often?" Rin asked, as Sam handed him one of the chiko rolls he'd bought. The gas station hadn't had a wide variety, but it was enough to keep going.

"Only on long trips" Sam explained, handing Yukio something else and grabbing himself out a sausage roll. "We can't really afford to stop and eat when the drive is this long, though sometimes we do anyway."

Dean nodded, pulling out another chiko roll for himself, being very careful as he bit it as to not drop crumbs everywhere. "Anyone get pastry anywhere and I'm throwing you in the first river I see" he said shortly, and Sam snorted a little, shaking his head.

"Yeah, I'd like to see how that would pan out" he muttered, pulling out a bottle of water.

They ate the rest of the meal mostly in silence, out of fear opening their mouths and dropping crumbs would invoke Dean's wrath. Once he was finished, Sam looked over to Dean.

"Do you want to pull over now and switch, or should I get some rest first?"

The older brother's brow furrowed in thought, his fingers tapping against the steering wheel before he sighed, switching on the indicator and pulling over onto the bitumen.

"Guess that's a yes" Sam said, looking a bit surprised but unbuckling his seat belt and getting out without asking any further questions. Dean also got out, walking around the back and pulling off his jacket before slipping into the passenger's side.

"Do you want me to wake you up?" Sam asked, buckling his seat belt.

"Don't worry about it" Dean replied stiffly, using the jacket as a blanket. "I'll wake up in my own time."

Sam raised an eyebrow, but ended up not saying anything again, pulling back out onto the road and glancing back at the Okumuras.

"You two should get some rest, as well."

"Alright" said Rin, stretching his arms above his head and yawning, immediately pulling off his jacket and snuggling into the corner of the Impala.

"You too" said Dean, looking around the chair at Yukio with a stern expression. The younger Okumura gave him a mildly frustrated glare before grimacing, putting his glasses in his pocket, folding his arms and closing his eyes.

Dean rolled his eyes upward, before indicating for Sam to keep an eye on him. He looked a little confused, but shrugged and nodded his head as Dean got comfy.

He'd agreed to switching over with Sam earlier than usual because he'd been feeling drowsy—it had been a long day, despite them not actually doing much, and his eyes itched with the need to sleep. Even though he already knew what was waiting behind his eyelids.

Screams. Cries for help, for mercy, throats hoarse and bloody from desperation. Flickering lights of red and blacks and blues, burning and etched into his vision, along with those faces, mouthing and crying for him to stop, no, please, nonostopSTOPPLEASESTOPSTOPNOLEAVEMEALONESTOPNOPLEASE—

He woke with a jolt, grunting and looking around in confusion for a second before he realized he were he was, still in the Impala, Sam tapping his fingers against the steering wheel and quietly humming to himself. He wasn't there. That wasn't him.

Not anymore, at least.

"Hey" he groaned, shifting a bit in his seat, and Sam looked over.

"Nightmares?" he asked, and Dean was thankful his jacket covered the wince.

"Yeah, usual stuff…" he said vaguely, yawning and averting his eyes, before looking into the back seat.

Rin was fast asleep, his tongue lolling out of his mouth and his eyes half open, looking like something straight out of The Exorcist. The only dead giveaway he was asleep were the snores he was making every third or so breath, and just how deeply slumped into the chair he was.

Yukio, however, was awake, his eyes firmly plastered on a dark brown bound book and his face a mask of concentration.

"Did he sleep?" Dean asked, and Yukio huffed out of his nose as Sam nodded.

"Woke up about half an hour ago the same way you did" he said shortly, and Dean raised his eyebrows, glancing back at Yukio.

"If you tell me to go back to sleep I'm going to hit you with this book" he said quietly, turning the page and shifting in his seat a little.

Dean gave him an annoyed look, turning back to the front, grabbing two of the remaining bottles of water and the pie out of the bag and handing the water to Yukio.

The younger boy murmured 'thank you', unscrewing the cap and taking a long drink before putting the lid firmly back on and going back to reading.

"Are you really going to eat the pie first thing after waking up?" Sam asked incredulously.

"I'm not eating your damn bananas" Dean muttered, unwrapping the sweet pastry and sliding it out of the tray so he could have a bite. He'd had better, from the various actual cafes, diners and pit stops they'd eaten at over the course of their lives, but it definitely wasn't bad.

Dean ate in silence, consuming about half of the sweet before stowing it back in the bag. "Ok, time to switch" he said, looking at Sam, who nodded and pulled over. They repeated the earlier exchange, Dean sliding into the driver's seat and sliding the seat back forward as Sam made himself comfortable.

"We've still got a way to go" Dean said, looking at the time and mentally calculating how far they'd travelled in his head.

"Mm. Wake me up if you need to" Sam said, closing his eyes. Dean made an effort to still his usual ticks and movements, as he usually did when Sam was trying to get to sleep—although not above pranking his brother into waking up, Sam actually had a bit of difficulty falling asleep to begin with, even if he did sleep longer and heavier than Dean.

Maybe it was from the first few years, when Sam had lived in blissful ignorance and Dean had been his warden, his guardian, his protector. He'd had that ideology drilled into him by his father, that mindset of a soldier—he'd been taught to wake at the slightest thing out of place, a jump or a creak, and that had meant needing to be able to fall asleep whenever he had the chance. So sleep came easy. True rest? Dean hadn't started finding that until the sweet numbness of whiskey had become the substitute for a lullaby.

And even then, the hangovers were no picnic.

Dean glanced sideways, to Sam, whose breathing had slowed and was now snoring quietly. A quick look backward showed that Yukio had barely moved from the spot he'd been in when Dean had woken up, the only sign being a few less pages left of the book.

"When was the last time you got more than eight hours sleep, huh?" Dean asked, his voice a bit quieter than usual.

"When was the last time you did?" Yukio replied shortly, shifting his leg a bit.

The older man raised his eyebrows, breathing out his nose. "Yeah, but I'm not the one who's not an adult, here."

"Five months ago" Yukio sneered, sliding a book mark into the tome and snapping it shut. "Does that answer your question or do you want a detailed sleep schedule from the last five years?"

Dean grunted, taking a moment to rub his forehead, before pressing his head into the back of the seat. "Are you going to be like this while we're on the job, 'cause—"

"Dean" Yukio said, his tone sharp. "Do you really want to know why I'm uptight? Because it has nothing to do with my life back home."

"Well it'd certainly make me less annoyed about it" he huffed, and Yukio sighed.

"I have spent the last eight years of my life hiding the details of everything regarding what I do and who we are. I have lived in perpetual fear of the day that I might let slip our secret, and for a time that my brother may let it slip and the repercussions would be our deaths. My fear of that wasn't misplaced, and there's still a strong chance we're not going to live to see our twentieth birthdays. So, how am I supposed to react, when I know who you are and what you do, and now you know every secret and story we have to tell? What am I supposed to think, when I can't even comprehend why you haven't put a bullet in our heads?"

The older Winchester remained silent for a good few minutes, absorbing what Yukio had said and thinking about what would be the best thing to say. He doubted he could fully alleviate Yukio's worries—it was fair enough to be afraid. Dean didn't blame him in the slightest. But in saying that, the dichotomy of hunter and quarry was not one Dean wanted between himself and the Okumuras—the more time he spent with them as real, flesh and blood people, the stronger that feeling became.

"Did you maybe consider that us knowin' your story is why you're still alive?" Dean asked quietly, and Yukio's head snapped up, his brow furrowing in confusion.

"Sure, I know things. A lot of things. There's a lot I don't, but there's a lot I do. And from that I decided that you two weren't people I wanted to kill. If I only knew the bad, then yeah, maybe you two would be on my list…but I don't only know the bad. And if you only knew the bad about me n' Sam, I'm sure it'd be the same deal, right? We ain't exactly done everything by the book. Hell, we had a group of ghosts show up a few weeks back preaching that to us and intent on ripping our hearts out for it. So…maybe you've got a bit of bad blood in you, maybe you weren't born under the best circumstances. And I sure as hell ain't the kid of any demon, but I know how that feels, and you've got enough shit in your life without getting it from us."

Dean drew in a deep breath after speaking, hoping he'd gotten his point across. He was not the most eloquent speaker, and his English teachers over the years had not skirted around that fact.

"…And Sam?"

"I didn't say I liked the power crap" Dean huffed. "I'll tell you right now I threw the damn manga across the room like four times over your brother's bullshit."

Dean barely refrained from adding "and your bullshit", because while the temptation was high, now was definitely not the right time to be bringing that up.

"…Thanks" Yukio murmured, looking out the window to the darkened sky. "Most people don't see it that way. It's easier to see someone for who they are upfront, and to most my brother's nothing more than a demonic delinquent."

"Rin's a good kid. This road trip alone is proof of that" Dean said. "He's just prone to bad decision making."

Yukio let out a breath through his nose, before pulling his jacket back up around him. "Bad decision making seems to be a trait we share" he said, his voice absent. "I guess we all do it, sometime or another."

The teen shrugged, pulling off his glasses again and curling up, as Dean swallowed thickly, focusing his eyes back onto the lonely road and the steady sound of the Impala's engine.