Dean fell over, blood running along the hilt of the blade and dripping onto his hands. His whole body trembled and he gasped. "I'm supposed to…" he coughed, his eyes widening when the familiar copper taste of blood coating the inside of his mouth.
Instantly Sam knelt so the younger man could look at the wound. He squeezed Dean's shoulder and with his free hand gingerly he pressed the area around the stab. "Ninety percent sure… Jesus Dean…"
The older Winchester looked up, "Where's Mom? And Jess…?" But he and Sam were alone with no sign the others had ever been there. Was all that just a nightmare? He had been wrong, he hadn't woken up so he was stuck here… wherever here was. And he stabbed himself? What was wrong with him?
" your phone? Where's you're phone Dean?" Sam asked, breaking through the painful hazy that had begun to cloud Dean's consciousness. "I'm going to get you help, I'm not gonna let you…"
Sam threw his head back and downed the mug quickly, trying to resist the urge to gag as it covered the inside of his mouth and throat. When he finished he looked at Bobby expectantly, "What's supposed to happen?"
The older hunter looked to the side, "Your daddy told me it felt like falling backwards with your eyes closed, when you have no idea when you'll hit the ground but you know you will. I'm assuming he means it may get a bit… weird."
"Weird is something we deal with all the time Bobby," Sam said with a sarcastic smile on his face. It turned into a contemplative frown as he asked, "When did my Dad use it?"
Bobby opened his mouth to answer, and then closed it slowly, lost in thought. A moment passed and he wasn't looking at Sam anymore – he wasn't looking at anything at all.
Sam stepped closer to his friend a bit concerned. "Bobby?" He asked tentatively. The young hunter waved his hand in front of Bobby's face, slightly disquieted when no response was given. It was as though Bobby froze in time, locked in perpetual apprehension over Sam and Dean.
The youngest Winchester stepped back to take in the whole room, which seemed a bit grey and hazy. "Yeah… a bit weird is right…" Sam acknowledged as he turned around. Fear for his brother gripped the hunter and he ran upstairs to check on Dean. Sam felt an icy chill when he discovered Dean wasn't in the bed anymore – there was no trace of him even being there. Sam paced the room, nothing that belonged to the Winchester family was there anymore… all of it had simply vanished. In the place of twin beds there was an old desk and matching chair. Loose-leaf papers littered the room, and Sam bent over to pick a few of them up. He leafed through them, and while there was writing on them was blurred or gibberish.
The papers fell out of his hands and scattered around the room. Sam gulped and went back downstairs, fully expecting to see Bobby gone too but the hunter was still standing there still as a statue. He bit his thumbnail anxiously, obviously Dean wasn't here and Sam was pretty certain time freezing classified as weird. So where would Dean be if not at Bobby's? Sam moved aside curtains to look outside into the salvage yard… nope… the Impala wasn't there either. If Bobby snapped out of it he should know where Sam went, so the young hunter grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. In hasty chicken scratch, he wrote out – I'll call you when I find Dean. Sam Winchester.
He stuffed the paper in Bobby's hand and it stayed suspended even though it wasn't properly held by the older man.
Sam ventured outside, blinking at the bright early morning light which greeted him. With the Impala gone, Sam would have to get creative to find Dean. A truck in the yard looked suspiciously familiar to the young man and after a moment it struck him that it was his father's… or… had been his father's. Sam looked back over his shoulder at the farmhouse and said, "I don't think you're gonna miss it much Bobby…"
Hotwiring the truck, Sam threw it into gear and offered up a silent prayer of thanks that it worked. He tapped the top of the steering wheel, debating where to go. If Sam was right in assuming that Dean wished John hadn't made his deal there was no telling where John was and the youngest Winchester seriously doubted that even in a dream world, would John Winchester pick up his phone. It would be nice to see his father though… tell him… Sam shook his head, it wouldn't be his father, it'd be Dean's idea of their father. John would probably be six foot twenty with a shotgun in one hand and a Captain America shield in another.
Sighing, Sam looked at his phone, weighing the pros and cons of calling his father. He screwed his face up into a scowl and dialed his father's number, fully expecting the line to be dead or reach voice mail.
He was right on one count. He reached the voicemail but it wasn't John Winchester.
A distinctly feminine voice came over the line, "Hey, you've reached Mary Winchester. I must have the phone off or I'm busy at the moment. Leave your name, number, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. If this is regarding November 2nd, call my son Sam at 650-795-0880."
Sam stared dumbly at the phone.
Hey, you've reached Mary Winchester…
His mother was alive.
Dean wished his mother had survived that November night back in 1983.
The youngest Winchester had to take a few deep breathes before shutting his phone. He pulled off the empty highway and slumped so his forehead rested against the cool steering wheel. He had to go home, back to Lawrence. With steely resolve, Sam once more put the truck into gear and gripped the wheel. It made sense that Dean would wish for that. He always put family first, before anything else – even himself.
He frowned and looked out the front window… the world had gone freaking Langoliers on him but now at least he had someplace to go. The landscape around him was grey and muted as though it was an afterthought, and Sam reasoned that had mostly to do with Dean. This dream world was constructed based on Dean's perception, and although the hunter had been across the country countless time his brain could only handle so much. Places like Bobby's and Harvelle's Roadhouse were put on the imaginative backburner because they had to do with hunting and since Dean's wish was to have their mother alive they weren't important because they didn't hunt things.
Sam found that his assumption was right, that as he got closer and closer to Lawrence the landscape around him changed and grew more and more vivid as though it was coming to life. Soon there were other cars on the streets and pedestrians milling around. All signs of life were greatly exaggerated as he drove into town and Sam felt the whole situation was a little too Stepford for his liking.
He gunned the accelerator and his eyes widened as the truck barreled toward a vehicle turning at an intersection. Sam quickly tried to turn his own vehicle away but prepared for a crash. When no crash occurred Sam had to blink as the car drove away harmlessly.
The hunter stumbled out of his truck and looked around him quickly. No one seemed to notice him… no one could see him standing in the middle of the busy intersection and cars whizzed past him in a blur. So there, while he was should have been risking life and limb in the midst so many speeding cars Sam stood without notice.
"Hey!" He yelled at one of the people along the sidewalks. He ran over to the teen, avoiding cars along the way. Sam waved his hand in front of the young man but drew no reaction. He was a freaking ghost to these people. Curiously he grabbed a stack of newspapers near by and threw it into the air, catching some of the loose paper in his hands and others passed through him like air.
Great, Sam thought, now it's a gamble if I can even touch things. Sam had been wondering when he'd find out how much he could affect this world and boy did he get the answer for that question. He ran his hands through his hair anxiously, thinking of all the problems that could and probably would happen if and when he found Dean. If nobody could see or hear him what hope would there be that Dean would be able to?
Abandoning the truck in the street, Sam started to follow the sidewalk, passing by university students and others without note. It was only after about ten minutes of walking did Sam notice something peculiar about the faces in the crowd – he knew all of them. It was like Dean filled the town with people they'd known or helped throughout their life.
Over at a Starbucks Jo Harvelle was sipping a coffee with Cassie. The little girl and her mother Sam and Dean had saved last year before the demon kidnapped their father were window shopping. Andy and Meg were on the corner promoting some homelessness shelter with… Is that Doogie Howser? Not only that but more people from television and movies were walking around casually, like Jessica Alba passing him on a messenger bike, Harold and Kumar were at White Castle, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray were arguing about crossing the beams, and Bruce Campbell in… no lie… a S-Mart apron looking at chainsaws.
"This is so bizarre…" Sam breathed, massaging his temple and diverting his eyes as those two idiots from Hellhounds brushed past him. A headache began to pound and Sam was starting to feel sick with the amount of life and color that surrounded him. He stopped for a moment, staring at a flower shop (manned by "that Constance bitch") at a figure with his back turned toward him. Sam froze as the figure turned around, clutching a fresh bouquet of flowers.
It was him.
Sam stared at himself from across the street. It was really him. But at the same time it wasn't, because he was dressed in brand name clothes and had slightly shorter hair. And he looked… happy. The other Sam had a boyish smile on his face and bounce in his step and Sam half expected his counterpart to start whistling that annoying zippity-freaking-do-dah song.It was a foreign look for him, and Sam couldn't remember the last time he looked at a mirror and hadn't been scared of the man that looked back at him. Too many bouts of mourning Jessica and his father, too many days fighting to rescue Dean from the shadow of death, and too many nights spent conflicted over his destiny.
He glared at himself, even though it was just a figment of his imagination Sam found it hard not to be angry at Dean for imagining him this way. Sam had thought he'd been through that with his brother, they had both been through so much and Sam wanted his brother to believe him that after everything they'd gone through Sam had given up being normal… given up trying to be normal. They were freaks, and Sam just wanted his brother back so he wouldn't have to be a freak alone…
He needed to find Dean and get him to wake up. Sam pursed his lips, shooting daggers at his doppelganger, but at least he found his ticket to find Dean.
The hunter followed the other Sam through the town, and stalked him up to the old Winchester home. The other man opened the trunk of his rental to pull out a large suitcase and Sam imagined that his other self had flown in just that afternoon. He followed himself up the front steps to the porch and when the other man closed the front door, Sam pushed the front door open gingerly and stepped inside, barely making a whisper. To the other Sam he must be nothing more than the wind. He had to take a moment as he went inside, having a "Sam Winchester… this could have been your life" moment. It was all… everything he ever could have wanted, and everything he wished had happened. Pictures lined the walls and every flat surface inside the house – pictures of him and Dean, Sam's graduation… even a picture of John and Mary dancing at some black tie affair.
How much different would it be if he had been the one to fight the Djinn alone? What would he have wished for? Dean wanted Mary Winchester to live and what Sam wanted most was not to be chosen by some demon.
And then there was… Sam almost had to laugh, it was such an absurd thought but it wasn't something a person saw everyday. The back of his own head… what a funny thing…
Sam paused, stretching his back as he continued to scope the living room.
He stopped. Over the mantle there was a neatly folded American flag in a frame and a somber picture of his father in full uniform. Quiet dread filled Sam as he stared at the flag, and although his father didn't talk much about his time in the marines, but even still he had picked up from school and college many of the practices of the United States military… and unless he was sorely mistaken, which he hoped he was, John Winchester was dead.
The youngest Winchester stepped closer to the small shrine. His father didn't have the same creases along his face… Without his mother's death, it meant that the Winchester men never went hunter… meaning his father didn't need to worry about the stress and dangers of raising his young sons on the road. But why would Dean's wish not include his father? His brother practically worshiped the ground John walked on and revered the man's journal more than the Bible.
He frowned, even in a wish his brother couldn't make himself happy.
But here… looking at all the pictures… Sam wondered if Dean unconsciously did that so he wouldn't have to see his father any other way than he did growing up. A man on a mission from God… that was John Winchester to Dean… not some blue-collar family man.
Even still, he couldn't help but mourn the loss of his father here in their Lawrence home constructed in Dean's mind. Sam touched a picture of Dean and John – Dean in the baseball uniform for the University of Kansas Jayhawks and John in proud dad paraphernalia. Daddy's little soldier…
The other Sam seemed to hover in the living room, as though he could sense Sam's presence. Sam eyed himself critically as the other man stared in his direction although he couldn't see the other man. His doppelganger shivered and shook his head, choosing to ignore that feeling and he turned into the kitchen. Sam gave a lasting look at his father's memorial before following himself, stopping just to stand in the kitchen doorway unnoticed.
"Sammy!" His mother smiled as the two embraced. He kissed her cheek and handed her the bouquet of flowers. "I didn't expect you here so early, I would've cleaned up a bit," she said, fussing with her hair, laying the flowers on the kitchen table.
The other Sam took it in stride, "Plane got in early, I would've called you but I didn't have any reception."
The unnoticed ghost in the door frame watched with muted jealousy… he kept trying to tell himself, this isn't you, this isn't Mom, and this isn't your life… She was so much like she had been when he and Dean worked that job in their old house – so beautiful and young…
She was everything the Winchesters missed in real life, innocent… pure… radiant… the exact opposite of everything the Winchesters had come to know in their lives. Mary Winchester didn't look much older than she did in the few remaining pictures the brothers had, maybe a few wrinkles from smiling, but overall she was exactly what Dean would want from his mother in this dream.
She made surprised look with her face and jumped out of her seat, jumping to the stove top. "You'll have to forgive me Sammy, I was just making dinner for us when you got here," she said cheerily.
"No problem," the other Sam said, leaning back in his own chair, "You need any help?"
"Nope," she replied, waving him off, "Just go ahead and bring your bags up to your room. Take a shower and food will be ready by then."
Sam watched his twin look over his mother's shoulder at what she was cooking before retreating back to his rental. He stayed and took a seat at the table and watched as his mother busied herself cooking, taking in all the tiny movements and tried to capture it all for posterity. Sure, it wasn't really his mother, but she was the closest thing Sam had to her and probably the closest thing he'd ever get.
Sam sighed; he wished he knew his mother as long as his father and brother, to be able to have that driving force in his life. He frowned, he sort of did… while it wasn't the same, and Jess was just as big a part of his life as Mary had been for his father.
He drew in a quick breath… Jess. Was she alive?
Sam stood up, and quickly ran to follow his doppelganger… he had to know if Jess was alive…
Behind him, Mary Winchester caught a shadow move in the corner of her eye and she turned to look to where Sam had been moments earlier. "Sam?" She asked into the empty kitchen, although no one was there.
Sam's feet instinctively guided him up the stairs to his nursery, as though his body knew where to go even though he'd only been to the house once since his father took he and his brother away after Mary's death. Rushing into the room he saw himself unpacking onto the bed and Sam walked around the man looking for tell tale signs of what his life could be and most importantly, what about Jessica?
It looked as though the man had packed for a long stay, plenty of clothes and a fresh package of socks told that story. Little nit picky things Sam looked for, such as an old Marines jacket, a Stanford hat, and Sam's breathe hitched as he saw himself neatly fold a shirt he knew Jess had bought for him. Sam felt the familiar heartbreak in his chest as the other man so casually buried it under more shirts and things – he had that shirt for the longest time after Jess's death, and when it met the usual end for Winchester wear he mourned its passing than he should've let it. He hadn't told Dean about that, he didn't think he needed to…
The young hunter was mostly over the death of his girlfriend, he had since moved on with other flames (not nearly as many as Dean) but he could understand how his father felt after their mom dying. He loved Jess deeply, and he truly believed she was the one he would spend the rest of his life with, and no one would ever come close to that again, not really. Hunter's weren't the ideal partner, and his lifestyle prevented anyone from getting close.
The other man had gathered up a few stray things and left the room without even noticing Sam. The hunter lingered there, hovering over the bed and pulled out the shirt. He looked at it mournfully… no matter how much he wished, Jess wasn't coming back.
A call from downstairs brought him back to the present, a reminder of his task at hand. Mary yelled up the stairs to her youngest asking, "You want to see Dean tonight or tomorrow baby?!"
Muffled by the sound of the shower, the other Sam replied loudly, "I'm pretty beat, and besides, I think it's after hours!"
"Okay," Mary sighed.
Sam looked at the closed door of the bathroom puzzled and confused by his twin's use of the words "after hours." Was Dean in jail? Or a hospital of some kind? He quickly descended downstairs to investigate where his brother could be, and he followed his mother into the kitchen where she began to set plates for the two of them.
She jumped when she looked up and saw Sam, who was equally surprised that she could see him. "Sam I thought you were in the shower…" she said slowly, her eyes travelling up and down his person.
"Uhh…" Sam faltered, "I was looking for the number for Dean… figured I'd give them a call to see if they were…" He stumbled over the sentence, and couldn't find it to lie to his mother.
"You wanted to call the hospital to see if visiting hours were still open?" She suggested. Mary pointed over to the refrigerator, "Number's on the fridge. Finish your shower before dinner gets cold though hun. And you shouldn't leave the water running like that."
Sam gulped and nodded weakly before pulling the small business card off the door of the fridge. He pocketed it and smiled awkwardly at Mary. "It's just… it's so good to see you Mom," he said finally. Sam pulled her into a hug, holding her tightly as he tried to imagine what growing up would have been like if he could have hugged her like this more.
She patted his back patronizingly, "It's good to see you too Sammy."
He left unnoticed from the Winchester family home and stole one of the neighbor's cars to drive to the hospital. More and more people were beginning to look up at him rather than just passing through but the large majority still didn't see him. Sam assumed that his persona was establishing itself into Dean's psyche and that sort of mumbo jumbo.
Sam didn't know where to start looking for his brother when he got there and attempts to talk to the nurses failed spectacularly. In one instance a patient in a wheelchair could see him but the doctor with him couldn't and Sam could only imagine that if any of this were real the patient would be carted off to the…
The young hunter felt his stomach dropped as the thought came to him. He worked his way over to the nurse's station and typed quickly into the computer his brother's name. No need for aliases, Sam thought ruefully. Finding Dean's room number, Sam walked briskly up two sets of stairs before he found the doors to the psychology department.
It didn't house many patients, so Sam didn't have to wait long to find Dean's room number. He pushed the door open, and saw a curled figure facing the back wall.
"Dean?" Sam asked, watching his brother shiver slightly underneath the covers. Sam knew that the nurses and the doctors couldn't hear or see him, but he silently prayed Dean could. Rustling from the covers gave him hope as Dean turned his just enough for Sam to be within eyesight. "Can you hear me Dean?" Sam asked again, stepping closer to Dean's bed cautiously.
"Sam?" Dean croaked.
The younger brother returned with a wide genuine smile, "Yeah Dean, it's Sam. God… I'm so glad you can see me. Listen, we need to get you…"
"Where's Jessica?" his brother mumbled, closing his eyes and turning back towards the wall.
"Jess?" Sam asked, confused. "No, Jess isn't with me. It's just me and Bobby's waiting for you too…"
An uncomfortable silence hung between the two of them before Sam shuffled closer to his brother, "What happened to you Dean?" He asked gently. Sam was so confused, why was Dean in the hospital at all? Why in the world did he wish for this? Sam sat at the foot of Dean's bed, but the older man just curled in on himself. "Dean?"
"I don't know Sam, I'm sorry…"
"Sorry for what?"
Dean didn't say anything, but pulled himself against the wall so he could look at Sam, "I thought you were going to wear that girly flowery shirt."
Sam raised an eyebrow and looked down at his drab hoodie and plaid button down, "Dude I always wear this."
"I'm surprised Jess let you out of the house," Dean said, giving the younger man a small smile.
The youngest Winchester returned with a smile… maybe this was going to be okay… maybe they were going to be okay.
"I'm sorry Sam," Dean said again sadly.
"For what?" Sam repeated.
"For trying to kill myself, for not believing you," Dean let loose a strained laugh, "But hey, at least there's no such thing as ghosts right?"
(A/N: Forgotten disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural in any way unfortunately. Oh and try to count how many references I've thrown into this chapter haha. Leave a review!)