My future roommate and I are having an argument about proper grammar. What do you all think? Should the first phrase of the disclaimer be: "My mind goes to very strange places?" Or should it be "My mind goes very strange places?" I say the "to" is implied, and unnecessary. My future roommate says the "to" is necessary. Please let me know in a review! (The vote is currently 5-1 in my favor among our other friends.)

My mind goes very strange places Kripke and the writers obviously didn't go. So, since this isn't what we saw in the actual show, I don't own Supernatural, or the quotes taken from the actual episode. This is an AU for Lazarus Rising, and my take on that expression we saw cross Sam's face when he saw Dean. Because I'm weird, my mind connected it to the look of realization he got when he figured out in was the Trickster in the time loop, added in my soft spot for Dark!Sam at the end of Mystery Spot, and… this is what came out. Enjoy!

Constructs and Confusion

I had just gotten out of the shower when I heard Ruby at the door. Maybe the pizza had finally gotten here; my stomach was growling in anticipation. I went to the middle of the room so I could see who it was. "Hey is that –?" I asked, glancing first at Ruby then at the people standing at the door and stopped midquestion in shock. I had to be hallucinating or dreaming, because there was no possible way that Dean was standing there. Nothing I tried to bring him back had worked. Dean was still stuck in hell, as every demon we had sent back downstairs had reminded me. So, the question remained, what was he – a shapeshifter, revenant, demon, or something else?

I hadn't noticed the other person, but as Ruby shifted a bit, I saw Bobby off to the side. But once again, there was no way it was him– I had covered my tracks too thoroughly, and there was no way he knew the alias to track my cell. The little smile he had on his face jogged my memory to a similar little smile – the Trickster's. It would be just like him too, to show up with some kind of Dean clone to rub my face in my failure to save him, especially looking like Bobby, as a reminder of those six hellish months in the time loop. My jaw clenched in anger. There was no way I was letting him out of here without some form of retribution. A small part of me niggled with doubt – what if it really was them? I would have to tread carefully to make sure.

In the time this took to flash through my mind, the Dean-thing had smiled at me and said in an achingly familiar voice, "Heya, Sammy." I swallowed, suddenly nervous. I thought I would be prepared for it to act like my brother, but I wasn't, not really. His death still hurt so, so much.

I knew one thing – I didn't want Ruby around when this went down. I wasn't sure whether or not she knew about the time loop, and if she didn't, then she shouldn't ever learn about it, at least not from me. Turning to her, I smiled and said, "Hey, why don't you go down and try calling the pizza place again to see what's taking so long? It's been over 45 minutes, after all." She nodded and moved through the doorway, brushing past Dean's shoulder as she did so, confirming his solidity. Then she was gone, leaving me alone with them.

"C'mon in," I said over my shoulder as I turned around, trying to keep the anger off my face and out of my voice. It wouldn't do to tip them off too early, after all. "I –uh wasn't expecting you to show up this soon." I continued as I got to my duffel and reached for the stake I knew was in there. "Thought you would've waited two more months, round it out to a nice even year. 'Happy anniversary, your brother's been dead twelve whole months' kinda thing. Or let me guess, there's something else you want to drill into my freakish Cro-Magnon skull."

The Trickster's – as Bobby that is- voice reached my ears, "What the hell-"

I interrupted him before he could continue the masquerade. "You made a mistake coming here. You think you can come waltzing in here and rub my face in the fact that Dean's dead without repercussions?" I turned to face them and continued, "Because you seem to have forgotten one little fact," I lunged at 'Bobby', stake in hand. Before he had time to move, he was slammed up against the wall with the stake at his heart. Cocking my head to the side and smirking back, I said, "You forgot the little loophole in our deal. You sought me out this time– I didn't come looking for you. So you're fair game."

I stood firm, using my greater bulk and height as the Dean clone tried to pull me off Bobby, trying to protect its creator. Dean spoke, "Sam, what the hell do you think you're doing? That's Bobby! You know, friend of Dad's, we've known him since we were kids?"

Hearing Dean's voice again almost made me falter, but I pressed on. "Then if you really are Bobby, you won't mind answering my question." I decided to ask him something from the time loop, since the Trickster and I were the only ones to remember anything from that period.

Bobby nodded at the facsimile of my brother, saying, "Just let him ask, Dean." Then he turned to me and grumbled, "Maybe that'll put a lick of sense back in your head, ya idjit!"

"Fine. Where did I take out a nest of vampires – Dallas or San Antonio?" I asked. If he guessed either Dallas or San Antonio, it might actually be Bobby, since I had killed them in Austin. But if he said Austin, I was staking him right there.

Rather than answer my question, he exploded in rage, Dean not far behind. Simultaneously they shouted, "You did WHAT???????" Dean's grip on my jacket tightened as if he was going to shake me.

Bobby continued, "You took on a nest without calling me for backup? You trying to get your damn self killed? I'd kick your ass if your brother would let me do it first."

Dean picked up the remonstration. "Did you forget everything Dad's taught us? Even he wanted our help going after Luthor and his gang; and you tried to take out a nest by yourself? A whole nest? Damn it Sammy – you shouldn't have done that!"

I had had enough of the acting; it was too close to comfort for me. "Stop it! That's enough – you can quit the charade now." I gestured at Bobby with the stake. "You may be Bobby, but you – " I turned my head to Dean, "are NOT my brother. There's no way that you're really Dean."

"Oh, so you want to ask me a question too, huh? Lay it on me Sammy. Then maybe you'll actually freaking believe us when we say we're us and not whatever creatures you think we are!" Dean yelled in frustration.

I turned to Dean, letting the helplessness I had been feeling ever since he was sent to Hell boil over into anger, and directed it toward him. "You-are-not-my-brother." I hissed and looked at him. "Because if you were," and here I poked him in the chest, "you'd have the amulet that Dad gave you for your birthday. And you're not wearing it."

Dean's mouth opened and closed again with a snap. "That's it, that's the best your Stanford-educated brain could come up with? Where's my amulet? Sometimes I wonder how you got the brains in the family, geek boy. First off, you know damn well that you, not Dad gave it to me, and it wasn't on my birthday either, it was Christmas of '91." He looked smug. At least he had caught that change, but he still hadn't answered the question.

"Where is it?" I asked, watching his face fall as he realized correcting my 'mistake' wasn't going to be enough proof for me.

He shrugged. "How am I supposed to know that– I've been in Hell for the past four months, Sam. I would have assumed that you would have buried me with it on, but since I didn't wake up wearing it I have no freaking clue. Did you keep it in my baby's glove box or something? Oh, and you'd better have taken damn good care of my car, bitch."

That response was so Dean I was almost convinced. But I just needed to be sure he wasn't a shapeshifter or something else, so I dropped the stake from its position near Bobby's heart and grabbed the silver knife from my duffel. Holding out the knife for him to take, hilt-first, he rolled his eyes as he took it.

"What, again with the knife? I just went through all this at Bobby's house. This had better be the last freaking time, or so help me..." he grumbled as he rolled his sleeve up and showed a scabbing cut on his upper arm, making a new incision on his forearm below. Blood welled up from the cut and ran down his arm, but there was no reaction to the actual silver of the knife.

I finally had all my proof – this was really Dean. The enormity of having my brother back made my knees buckle a little, before I asked half in shock, "Dean?" hoping that it was really truly him and this wasn't just another dream or some kind of hallucination. I had missed him so, so much.

He heard the broken tone of my voice and gave me one of his dazzling smiles. "Yeah, Sammy, it's me. Like I've been trying to tell you for the past five minutes, it's really me."

I'd been holding my feelings in check until now, but now I latched onto him in a huge hug. Expecting him to pull away immediately due to the sheer chick-flickiness of the moment, I was surprised and gratified when he didn't try and break free but hugged me just as fiercely. My eyes stung as they filled with tears, but I didn't let the tears fall or well over.

He pulled back with a final squeeze and then his eyes hardened into what I liked to call big brother mode. "Now that's over with, mind telling me exactly what that little greeting was all about? Last I checked, going around and threatening your family with stakes and knives isn't exactly the best way to reconnect after I've been gone for four months."

I sighed and moved over to the couch. Bobby and Dean followed, Dean sitting next to me and Bobby across from us on my bed. "Well, I kinda thought you might have been the Trickster, since he loves tormenting me so much. It starts with that time loop, where you died over and over again on all those Tuesdays. You remember once I finally figured out who was causing it, and we confronted him to make the time loops stop, right?"

I looked for Dean's nod before continuing. "Well, it worked and it was Wednesday, but there's something I didn't tell you. The Wednesday you remember… it wasn't the first Wednesday. There was another Wednesday before that one; and on that Wednesday you were shot in the parking lot and died again. But since the Trickster had let us out of the loop, it didn't reset. I waited for it to reset, but it never did," my voice hitched a little with remembered grief and shock, the instant I realized Wednesday's death was permanent, and my thought that Dean didn't even get a whole year before he was taken away from me.

Dean spoke then, "Well something must've happened to make it reset, because obviously you had another Wednesday."

Bobby glared at Dean. "Let him finish, ya idgit. Go on, Sam."

I swallowed nervously. I hadn't ever wanted Dean to know about the six months in that other loop, didn't want him to worry about what had happened to me, how dark I had become. "After you died, well, I went a little nuts. I became obsessed with finding the Trickster so I could make him reverse it, or kill him if he wouldn't. A lot like Dad was, actually. I took any hunt I could in order to get closer to him, cut out Bobby and Ellen and everyone else we had known. That's when I took out the vampire's nest in Austin. I became like a machine: I organized the Impala's trunk, only ate and slept when I absolutely had to. I couldn't feel anything but cold anger and grief. But the Trickster was always at least a step ahead, until he finally got fed up."

Shaking my head, I plowed on, into the hardest part of the story. "About six months after you died, I got a call from Bobby saying he had found a ritual to summon the Trickster, and I met up with him. But it wasn't Bobby, just a construct of the Trickster's." I decided to skip the part about the blood and killing who I thought was Bobby – that was something no one else but the Trickster would know. "The Trickster showed up, said he was tired of me chasing him everywhere and that he wanted it to stop. That it had all been a game, a test, to show me what life without Dean would be like. And a lesson, to keep me from continuing the cycle of deals, that if I continued the cycle it would never stop; we'd just keep on selling our souls for each other."

Dean ground his teeth together audibly and snarled, "When I get my hands on that bastard, I'm gonna…"

I didn't let him finish. "No, Dean you can't."

He looked at me in shock. "Why not? You can't tell me you're not itching to get some payback for what he put you through, Sam!"

I tore my eyes away in shame. "You can't, because I made him an offer Dean. I was so desperate to have you back, I begged him to turn time back to that Wednesday when you died. I said that I wouldn't try and hunt him ever again, that if there was some case that even looked like his M.O., we'd steer clear. And he accepted it. He snapped his fingers, I woke up on Wednesday, and you know the rest."

Bobby spoke up this time. "So that's what you meant when you mentioned the deal earlier, before you attacked me, and why you insisted Dean had been dead for ten months instead of four."

I nodded. "Uh, yeah, that was it."

Dean stood up and looked down at me. There was steel in his voice as he asked, "So what did you do this time, Sammy? Apparently you didn't take the Trickster's little lesson to heart."

"I didn't do anything, Dean!" I protested.

But he kept going like he hadn't even heard me. "What was the cost this time, Sam? Your soul? Or was it something worse? Huh, now you're some demon's bitch boy? I didn't want to be saved like this! And don't lie to me, either."

I stood up now, angry that he was dismissing the fact that I had revealed one of my deepest failures and shames to him like it was nothing. "I'm not lying! I tried everything, I swear to God! I tried opening the Devil's Gate, I even tried to bargain, Dean, but no demon would deal! It was my fault you were rotting in hell, and I couldn't do anything to save you! Anything at all! I wish it had been me, but it wasn't. I'm sorry, Dean." My voice wavered and cracked as I tried to apologize for everything he had been through in Hell and my weakness in being unable to get him out, "I'm sorry."

And just like that, Dean was my big brother again, this time soothing me. "It's ok, Sam, I believe you. It just makes this whole thing a lot harder, because now we don't have any leads on who sprung me from the pit."

As we sat down again and turned to the issue of finding out Dean's mystery rescuer, everything fell back into place, familiar and comforting. After four months without him, I was determined to make every second count this time. I wasn't going to lose him again. Because now, I was strong enough to stop anything similar from happening. Ever again.

Well, there you go! My longest one-shot ever, and one of the toughest to write, too! I agonized over the best way to write this for months. So, please leave a review and let me know how it turned out, ok?