a/n: Ash said in "Dark Side of the Moon" that Sam and Dean had both been to Heaven more times than anyone he knew, but they had forgotten about it thanks to the angels mind-wiping them.

This is my interpretation of the first Winchester visit to the Pearly Gates.

Takes place just after 2.22 "All Hell Breaks Loose – Part 1".

Sam woke up with a jerk, as though he had heard his name called. He was lying on his back and staring up at a plain white ceiling. Sunlight and the shadows of billowing curtains danced across it, and the aura of late summer lightened the conditioned air. It was clean and cool and smelled faintly like fabric softener and baby powder.

Sitting up slowly, Sam felt a phantom pain between his shoulder blades, but it came and went too quickly to merit more than a fleeting thought. More important, the young man felt, was how he had gotten here.

Sam sat there on the floor and kneaded his forehead with his fingertips, trying to push through the fog in his brain. He remembered . . . a diner. It was raining, and Dean wanted extra onions. And pie. No surprises there. But what then?

It was all a haze. Whatever had happened between then and now couldn't have been good; Sam had a sick feeling sitting, cold and clammy, in his gut.

"Dean?" he hissed, not daring to call louder. Something about this place made him feel as though whispering were the only acceptable tone of voice. Like he was in a church or a cemetery. "Dean, are you there?"

There was no answer. Frowning, Sam pulled himself to his feet and looked around. The room was barren except for the open window and a clock. Instead of numbers, it had pictures of cars and airplanes. The hands were stuck on 8:12. For some reason, it made the cold, clammy feeling worse.

There was a door, too. Sam breathed a sigh of relief. Doors were usually good – they indicated an escape route. He made for it. His hand was hovering over the doorknob when it turned by itself and he backed up as the door swung slowly and soundlessly open. He reached inside his jacket for his gun, but found the pocket empty.

"Sam."

The woman must have been in her late-thirties. Her blond hair fell around her face in loose ringlets. She smiled warmly, the first wrinkles of graceful old age creasing the skin around her mouth and eyes.

"Mom?" Sam breathed in disbelief.

"It's me, sweetie," Mary Winchester said softly. She stepped forward, arms outstretched and ready to embrace her son, but Sam stepped backward, the implications of her appearance beginning to dawn in his clearing mind.

"You're dead," he breathed.

Mary's smile faded. "Yes. I am." She hesitated. "And so are you."

"But I can't be," Sam attempted an incredulous laugh but it came out more of a choke.

"You are, honey. Jake stabbed you in the back with a knife, don't you remember? You died in your brother's arms. Right now your body's lying on a mattress in a cheap motel room."

Sam wanted to disbelieve her, shout at her for lying and make her tell him what had really happened. But the flood of memories was starting to rush through the mental dam his subconscious had put up. The haunted town of Cold Oak, South Dakota. The Yellow-Eyed Demon – Andy, Lily, Ava . . . Jake. The pain in Sam's back returned with a vengeance, and his eyes bugged out as his legs buckled.

Mary crossed the distance between them and grabbed his coat front, steadying him. "Sam, calm down," she said sternly, as though admonishing a child for throwing a temper tantrum. "You're going to be fine."

"Fine?" Sam regained his balance and pushed away from her. "I'm dead."

"You're in Heaven. And now nothing can ever hurt you again." Mary reached up to stroke his cheek. "No more nightmares, no more premonitions, no more monsters." Sam didn't notice her fingers trailing down his cheek. He stared into space, attempting to wrap his head around the idea. It was pretty heavy stuff – death, Heaven. How was he even in allowed in Heaven with demon blood coursing through his veins?

"What about Dean?" Sam asked suddenly.

Mary looked away, setting her face in a way that would have stopped Sam's heart – if Sam's heart had not already been stopped. "What is it?" he demanded. "What aren't you telling me?"

"I think you should try and forget about Dean," Mary said slowly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you shouldn't worry about him anymore. He's beyond your help." She sighed. "You can stop feeling answerable to him now. You're free – in Paradise."

"Some Paradise," Sam spat. "I'm not forgetting about Dean. If he's in trouble then I'm going to find a way to help."

Mary was clearly losing patience with her son. "You're dead, Sam," she said brusquely.

"Exactly. Which is why I have to find a way to contact Dean. Now. He's going to do something stupid, I know it." Sam's eyes widened as he realized the implications of Dean's rash actions. "He's going to try to bring me back, like Dad did for him. He's going to try and make a deal!"

Before Mary could say anything more, Sam pushed past her and burst out the door.