Well, this little fic has generated more response than I expected! Thanks to everyone following it and to those of you kind enough to leave reviews. It's been pointed out that I've included some inaccuracies regarding Lawrence. My apologies for that, but I did have my reasons. (Other than being too lazy to look it up. Honest!)
And now, the conclusion:
Ch 6: The Decision
Sam marched through the waiting room, not sparing a glance for George or Jessica. He heard her running footsteps coming after him. Sam paused at the doors leading to the parking area.
"Sam? Baby, what happened?" she asked when she caught up.
Sam glanced down briefly, holding the door open. When Jess did not walk through right away, he glared at her. "Riding or walking?"
Jessica appeared startled as she hurried through the door. Sam followed her to the rental. He did not hold her door open, simply using the remote to unlock the doors. Tense silence filled the car as he drove Jessica back to his supposed mother's house. He sat in the driveway for several minutes with the motor running.
"Sam?" Jessica asked in a timid voice. "Are we going in?"
He gripped the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles turned white. "You are."
"Me?" She glanced at the house before her eyes settled back on him. "Baby, it's your mother's house. Don't you want to come inside? I'll bet she'll make your favorite kind of hot chocolate."
The cold molded plastic warmed as he tried to pour his anger and frustration through his hands into it. He hated it here. Jessica was wrong. She wasn't the sweet understanding girl he loved at first sight. Mom being alive was so, so, so wrong. Were mothers really like this? And Dean missed it? And Dean. Oh, that obnoxious, self-centered, annoying, jackass...
He couldn't look at fake-Jess. He couldn't. "Go inside," he said in as neutral a voice as he could manage.
"You're just going to sit out here?" she asked, her voice going up an octave. "Really?"
"No." He took a deep breath, held it for a count of twenty, let it out. "I'm going to the bar."
"Oh, well." Jess settled back into her seat. "We can do that. Don't blame you, really. I mean, after having to deal with Dean." He looked over in time to see her rolling her eyes. "That would drive anybody to drink. I can't imagine what Carmen sees in him. I mean sure, he's good looking, but there has to be more for a relationship to work, right?"
Sam slammed his hand against the steering wheel. Jess gasped as she jumped in her seat.
"Get. Out." It took all of his willpower not to yell or scream.
Her eyes went really wide. She swallowed hard as she opened the door. "You will be coming back? Later?"
Sam let out a defeated sigh. "It's not like I have anywhere else to go."
The sweet smile, the smile he remembered so clearly, spread slowly, filled with the promise of forgiveness. "Okay, Baby. I'll be waiting."
He nodded stiffly. Some time alone, to process, was what he needed. Just a little time. And maybe a pair of jeans.
Sam nursed his whiskey, half hoping the jackass he hustled at darts last time would show up. He could use a decent fight.
Fitting into the crowd much better this time in jeans, t-shirt and a button-down overshirt, Sam sat at the far end of the bar. He could keep an eye on the door from here, too. When a familiar figure stepped in, squinting into the dim light, Sam let out a sigh. Busted.
"Hey, Sam." Dean sat on the stool next to him.
"What do you want?" Sam asked. The whiskey was doing its job, he didn't sound nearly as ticked off as he felt.
"Nothing." Dean spread his hands in surrender. He motioned to the bartender who brought a beer bottle and frosted glass over. Dean poured the beer into his glass like one of those preppie kids he liked to make fun of. "What are you doing here?"
Sam shot his brother-look-alike a glare before draining the rest of his whiskey. "Nothing."
"Looks like you're getting plowed to me," Dean said. He chuckled.
Sam could hear the strain in Dean's voice, but he really didn't care. About an hour ago he realized he had an errand to run and a good drive ahead of him before nightfall. The whiskey was just to fortify his resolve. After mulling over the meeting with George, Sam knew what he had to do. He couldn't live this life, this lie. Not even having Jessica back made this life worth it. How sad was that? Plus, among supposedly 'normal' family, Sam stuck out like a sore thumb.
Sam threw a few bills down on the bar. "It'd take a lot more than that," he stated flatly before turning away.
Now he needed a butcher shop, possibly a kosher one, for the lamb's blood. Surely a city the size of Lawrence had at least one.
"Sam!" Dean's call sounded at his back. It took every ounce of restraint Sam still possessed to ignore it. He slammed the car door of the rental, wishing he were driving the Impala, but even in this altered facsimile of life Dean owned his favorite car. Not that Sam would have it any other way, it was one of the few things here he still found promising.
When he arrived back at Mom's, he found the Impala sitting in the front drive. Sam slipped the container of lamb's blood, disguised in a plain brown paper bag, into the pocket of his new denim jacket. Silver knives were hard to come by in this town, but he guessed Mom had a full set of silver dining ware. She seemed the type.
He paused near the big black car to peer inside. Dean was sleeping behind the wheel, head leaning against the window. Just more proof this man was not his brother. The real Dean would not have fallen asleep waiting on him.
Sam opened the front door as quietly as possible. He didn't want Jess or Mom to catch him here, much less have to explain the need for a silver knife. He doubted the 'it's the only way to kill a djinn' explanation would work on them. He'd probably find himself locked up in the psyche ward of the hospital for a few days.
Mom's silver chest had a really cheesy lock. Why did she even need to lock it, he wondered, as he picked the lock. As he expected, the silver utensils were perfectly arranged. Sam selected one silver knife, tested its balance, then slipped it into his pocket.
"You know she's going to assume I took that," Dean's voice said from over his shoulder.
Sam gritted his teeth in irritation. This Dean shouldn't have been able to sneak up on him. Period.
"I don't care," he snapped, spinning around.
Dean stood just behind him, hands stuck in his pockets, watching curiously. "Are you really stealing from Mom?"
Sam put the knife in his other pocket. "Look, I just need a silver knife tonight. You can bring it back tomorrow."
The eyebrow above Dean's right eye lifted. "I can bring it back? And where will you be?"
Sam opened his mouth to answer, realized the absurdity of his explanation, and slammed it shut again. "Home," he finally answered. "I hope."
"California?" Dean snorted. "Figures."
"Not exactly," Sam admitted. He glanced at his watch, it was getting late. "I have to go."
He brushed past the imitation of his brother to leave, but he could hear the familiar footsteps behind him. "Go away," he called out without bothering to turn around.
"I'm going to follow you, Sam. So you can either ride with me, or try to lose me. You and I both know I can out-drive you any day of the week."
Sam paused in his single-minded trek to the rental. It would be nice to be inside the Impala again, but this Dean was more of a liability than anything. However, Sam suspected even in this reality Dean could indeed out-drive him.
"Fine," he sighed, turning toward the black car, "but I'm driving."
The keys flashed through the air. Sam snagged them as they arced toward his face. "Just like that?" he demanded. "You're going to let me drive?"
Dean shrugged as he headed for the passenger door. "It's the only way I get to come along, right?"
Sam nodded silently as he opened the driver's door. He fell behind the wheel, like he usually did back home when it was his turn to drive. The engine fired up and Sam listened to the steady hum for a moment. It sounded good.
"Give it a tune-up recently?" he asked as he backed out.
"Yeah, it was running a little rough, so I figured I'd better take care of things before Dad decided to come back and haunt my ass for not taking care of his car." Dean chuckled.
"Not funny," Sam snapped, the image of their father's body burning permanently etched on his brain.
"Sorry," Dean mumbled.
Sam's elbow kept colliding with the container in his pocket, making driving uncomfortable. At the next red light, he pulled out the brown bag to set next to him on the seat. When he hit the interstate, he pointed the car away from Lawrence and towards the djinn's warehouse.
"Where are we headed?" Dean asked in a voice which made it clear this was merely older brother humoring younger brother.
"There's something I have to do," Sam declared.
"What's in the bag?" Dean asked, picking it up. "Does it have anything to do with your mysterious mission?"
Sam shook his head. "Dude, you really don't want to look in there. Why did you want to come along, anyway? I thought we were supposed to hate each other."
"We're brothers." Dean shrugged, studying the paper bag in his hand. "I guess maybe it was something you said in George's office, about neither one of us being a very good brother." He held up the bag, turning it around in the dim illumination from the highway lights. "It took me a few hours, and a lot of calls to Carmen, but I finally realized you were right. Neither one of us is to blame, it's both our faults."
He stuck his hand inside the bag.
"I really don't think you want to do that, Dean," Sam warned, already knowing it was a lost cause. If Dean didn't think he'd lost it before, he certainly would now.
"Yeah?" Dean chuckled. "Why? Is it illegal?" He pulled the container out with flourish, like he just caught Sam with his hand in the cookie jar. "What the hell is this?"
"Exactly what it looks like," Sam replied with resignation, pushing down on the accelerator. If the car was going fast enough, Dean shouldn't try to pull anything stupid or dangerous, like jumping out.
"It looks like blood!" Dean turned in his seat to face Sam. "Sam, what the hell is this?" He shook the container in Sam's face.
Sam calmly took it from his almost-brother to set back on the seat. "It's blood," he replied, "lamb's blood."
"Lamb's blood?" Dean's shout filled the car, overpowering the noise from the engine. "What the hell do you need lamb's blood, hell any kind of blood, for?"
"I need a silver knife dipped in lamb's blood," Sam explained calmly.
"For?" Dean demanded, sounding so much like his brother Sam smiled at it.
"It's the only way to kill a djinn," he replied.
"A what?" Dean's voice was softer now, and scared. Sam almost felt sorry for him, but he was the one who wanted to come along.
"It's a kind of genie," Sam explained. "It's killing people and I have to kill it."
"You have to kill it?" Dean asked. "With a silver knife dipped in lamb's blood?" He pulled out his cell. "Yeah, okay, Sam. Whatever you say."
Sam groaned as he snatched Dean's cell. He rolled down his window to throw it out. "I'm not crazy, Dean." The car was long gone by the time it shattered on the pavement. Sam saw one large piece fly up in his rearview mirror. "I hope you had insurance on it."
"Dude!" Dean spun around in the seat. "I can't believe you threw away my phone! My phone! Carmen might call." He glared at Sam. "What then, huh? What if Carmen calls and I don't answer? She'll think..."
"She'll think you're cheating on her?" Sam laughed. "Your little brother is driving your car to parts unknown, with a silver knife, a bottle of blood, and a crazy story and you're worried about what will happen if your girlfriend calls?" He laughed again. "Dude, you're even more screwed up here than you are back home."
"Hey, I've worked really hard getting Carmen to trust me. She's the best thing that ever..." Dean's voice trailed off. Sam waited. "What the hell do you mean I'm more screwed up here than back home?"
Sam shrugged, hoping this Dean really was just a cheap copy and wouldn't remember anything after he hopefully made it back where he belonged.
"Dean, you're my brother. I love you and I'd die for you, but you're seriously screwed up." Sam shrugged again. "Hell, we both are."
"Really?" Dean drummed his fingers on the door. "I'm pretty sure I know how screwed up I am. How are you screwed up?"
"Didn't we just cover that?" Sam asked, holding up the lamb's blood with one hand.
Dean shook his head at Sam. "Right. I'm still trying to wrap my head around my boring law school brother being the unstable one."
Sam stopped in front of the warehouse. Dean fell asleep over an hour ago, after quizzing Sam mercilessly about the djinn. None of his explanations seemed to satisfy this version of his brother, which Sam found more than a little annoying. He hadn't realized how he took Dean's trust for granted. Dean never questioned his research or his methods, only his conclusions. Sam now understood it was the reason their hunts were so successful.
He reached over to shake Dean by the shoulder. "Huh? What?" Dean blinked sleep heavy eyes at the night surrounding them. "Where are we?"
"Well, we're not in Kansas," Sam told him, opening the door. Out of the car, he dipped his knife in the lamb's blood before heading into the warehouse.
"So you think this genie, who doesn't look like Barbara Eden, is inside?" Dean asked, eying the building sceptically.
"I know it is," Sam replied. He pressed a finger against his lips as he pushed open the warehouse door.
Dean followed closely, making way too much noise for Sam's taste. They found a room with dessicated human bodies chained to a pole. Disgusted, Sam checked them out. It looked like they had been drained of all their blood. He glanced over to check on Dean.
Dean stood near the wall, eyes wide and frightened, one hand pressed against his mouth. Silently, Sam agreed. It was disgusting. He moved away to take Dean by the elbow, leading him into the next room. In this room a yellowish light filled even the dark corners. Sam stared at the far wall, thinking there was something he should see there. He heard a noise.
Sam ducked around the corner, Dean close by his side. They moved together to stand under the stairs. The djinn, far scarier now that Sam could see what it looked like, headed downstairs. It looked like a bald man covered with tattoos. Its eyes glowed with a menacing energy. Sam felt a sharp pressure on his forearm. A glance down showed him Dean was gripping his arm. He avoided seeing the frightened look on his brother's face, that type of thing always sent his stomach lurching.
The djinn reached the bottom floor and turned towards another room. Sam followed, Dean close by his side. They watched, silently, as the djinn approached a young girl hanging by her chained wrists. It checked a bag hanging by her side, a bag filled with her blood. When it drank from the bag, its eyes glowed brightly, like the blood recharged its powers. Sam's stomach did the lurching thing anyway.
Dean's hand on his arm tightened, dragging him back into a corner. The djinn left, passing right in front of their hiding place.
"We have to get out of here," Dean hissed in his ear. "Before it comes back."
Sam held up the knife. "No," he whispered, "we have to kill it."
Dean pointed into the other room. "Did you see that?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper. "Did you? It's going to do that to us! We go home and call the police." He gave Sam a 'duh' look. "Problem solved."
"Dean," Sam whispered patiently, "the police don't know how to deal with something like this. We do."
"We?" he hissed back in panic. "What the hell do you mean we?"
Sam sighed, very close to losing his temper. "Look, just go wait in the car. I'll be out in a minute."
Dean shook his head, shoving Sam toward the wall. "No, Sam. It'll kill you and...and..." He swallowed convulsively. "Drink your blood." All the color drained from Dean's face and Sam wondered, again, if there was anything of his brother in this imitation.
"Let's go. Now."
That voice sounded like Dean. Too bad Sam's mind was made up.
He headed for the stairs, determined to kill the djinn and set things back to rights.
He froze. It was the one voice which still held the most power over him, even more than Dean. Sam turned his head slowly. Jessica stood in the middle of the room, wearing the beautiful white dress he dreamed of. He turned around to face her. She approached him quickly, gliding through the room as if she walked on air.
"Sam, baby," Jess crooned at him. One delicate hand stroked the side of his face. "Is it really so bad? Here you have me, and Dean has someone, just like you always wanted."
Did he? Was this Sam's wish, not just to be normal but for Dean to have some happiness too? And now he wanted to take it away, selfish person that he was.
"And you both have me," Mom said, appearing behind Jess. "I know I'm not your father, but surely I am better. I don't yell, don't expect you to follow in my footsteps. And your brother is happy. Isn't that worth something?"
"Everything," Sam breathed. "But it isn't real, is it? I'm stuck in some kind of warped dreamworld, aren't I. None of this is real."
"It feels real," Dean told him, standing next to Jess and Mom. "We can have full, long lives here and it will be real, to you."
Sam thought of his brother, fighting the djinn alone in the warehouse. His real brother, finding him chained up and his blood being drained. What would Dean do? Sam had to help his brother, he was needed back there.
There was an old wives' tale about dreams, Sam recalled.
"Aren't we good enough?" Carmen appeared beside Dean. "I'll make your brother happy, happier than he could ever be in your world. Isn't that worth it? Don't you want him to be happy?"
"Yeah," Sam breathed, thoughts rushing in circles, but one thought stood out from all the others: Dean was looking for him back in the real world, and his brother would never stop. Never.
Sam turned the knife around in his hand. He looked each of them in the eye, lingering on Dean's familiar hazel eyes. "Sorry," he whispered as the knife plunged towards his stomach.
Should it hurt this much? Sam doubled over, gasping. The caring faces standing over him, cheeks covered in tears, faded. Sam closed his eyes, desperately trying to breathe.
"Sam!" Dean's voice bellowed in his ears. "Sam."
Sam forced his eyes to open. Dean stood over him, such a familiar expression of concern and worry it made Sam smile.
"Where am I?" he asked, shocked his throat felt so sore and dry. Sam tried to sit up, but his muscles did not want to work.
"Easy, big guy," Dean told him, pushing him back down. "You've been out of it for about a day."
"Huh?" Sam blinked hard, clearing his fuzzy vision. He noticed a bag attached to the wall with a pushpin. Sam followed the tube coming from it with his eyes, right down to his arm. "Is that an IV?" he asked.
"Yeah." Dean blew out a long breath as he sat heavily on the other bed. "Didn't want you getting dehydrated."
"The djinn?" Sam asked.
"Dead," his brother replied flatly. "I found it giving you an electric hug and took care of it. You, uh, didn't wake up." Dean ran a hand over his head, rubbing hard over the top. "I was starting to get worried."
"Starting." Sam snorted in disbelief. All those images of worried-Dean had been coming from here, reality. "How long before Bobby arrives?"
Dean glanced away briefly before his gaze settled back on Sam. "Couple of hours, depending on traffic."
Sam chuckled at his brother, his real, honest-to-God brother. Relief washed over him in torrents. Jess was still gone, and he might even miss the annoying woman who was supposed to be his mother, but Dean was here. Broken, screwed up, lonely Dean, the best brother in existence, was here, right here.
"Were there any other survivors?" Sam asked.
Dean nodded. "A girl. I took her to the hospital before I brought you back here."
"I don't know if she's going to wake up," Sam admitted.
Dean shrugged. "The doctors said she has a good chance of recovery. Another day or two..." He shook his head. "We got there just in time for her."
Sam nearly explained what he meant, but at the intense expression on Dean's face he thought better of it. "Good," he said instead. "What about the warehouse?"
"Anonymous tip to the local cops from a payphone around the corner from the hospital, right after I helped myself to a few bags of saline." Dean gave him a small worried smile. "How're you feeling?"
"Like I was in a wreck," Sam said. "Dean, next time we find a djinn, let's bring some back-up."
Dean smiled at him. "Getting slow, Sammy. Letting a fugly get the drop on you like that."
Sam grinned. "About time you called me Sammy," he muttered. "Wake me up when Bobby gets here."
He felt the comforter move as Dean tucked him in. He wanted to laugh, but he was too damned tired. Who needed that annoying woman for a mother when he had a brother like Dean?