Disclaimer: I own nothing. No copyright infringement intended.
Thanks go to SnarkyMuch2 for beta'ing this and for patiently steering me through the plotting and writing process.
This story picks up midway through Hello, Cruel World (7.02) and takes an alternate path from the warehouse scene.
~ Chapter One ~
"Oh, this can't be good," Dean muttered as he pulled up beside a grungy looking factory. Though it was late, and the parking lot was empty of all but a black van, lights blazed in the high windows. With a sinking feeling in his gut, he climbed from the car and started towards the door.
Sam didn't hear the car pull up outside. His attention was focused on the gun in his hand. Its weight was familiar and comforting in his hand. Seemingly without thought, Sam tilted the gun so its barrel shone in the overhead light. It would be so easy…
"Sam! Sam!" Dean's voice broke into Sam's distracted appraisal of the weapon.
"Oh look. Another me."
Sam's head snapped up, and he saw a second Dean walk through the steel door.
"Sam, what are you doing?" he demanded.
Sam's head snapped between the Dean standing beside him—the Dean that had driven him to this place—and the newcomer. His mind reeled as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. In his distraction, the new Dean had come closer, too close; his presence made Sam even more anxious. He raised his gun and pointed it at the new Dean.
Dean's hands flew up in front of him. "Whoa, whoa!" He couldn't believe Sam, his brother, was pointing a gun at him.
"I was with you, Dean!" Sam said desperately. He looked as if he was on the verge of tears.
"Okay. Well, here I am." Dean tried to sound reasonable, but his fear made his voice a little unsteady.
"No. No, I don't, I..." Sam's eyes looked to his left and then fell on Dean again. "I can't know that for sure. You understand me?"
Dean understood all too well. Sam was in the grips of something Dean couldn't fight for him, and it physically hurt him to watch Sam's struggle. He marshaled his expression into something hopefully reassuring to Sam and spoke. "Okay, now we're gonna have to start small."
"I don't remember driving here," Sam said and then looked to his left again, as if someone else was there, talking to him.
Dean was concerned, wondering what Lucifer was whispering to him. His concern morphed into something drastically different as Sam raised his gun and shot at thin air.
"Whoa, whoa, Sam! This discussion does not require a weapon's discharge!" Dean bellowed, his hands still held up in front of him.
Sam nodded vaguely, his breaths coming in heavy gasps. Slowly, he lowered his gun.
Breathing an inaudible sigh of relief, Dean stepped a little closer to his brother.
"Look at me," he said. "Come on. You don't know what's real? Look, man, I've been to Hell. Okay, I know a thing or two about torture. Enough to know that it feels different. Than the pain of this, this regular, stupid, crappy this."
"No, no. How can you know that for sure?" Sam implored Dean with his gaze, the way he did when he was a child and was scared.
Dean felt a wave of sadness as he recognized the expression in his adult brother's face. It didn't belong there anymore. Sam was a grown man now. He shouldn't look so childlike in his fear.
"Let me see your hand," Dean said as he reached out toward his brother. Sam offered his right hand, but that was not the one Dean needed to prove his point. "No, no, the gimp hand. Let me see it."
Sam's head snapped to the left again, and his forehead creased. Dean knew he was listening to Lucifer again. He used Sam's distraction to grab Sam's left hand.
"Hey!" Dean shook Sam's injured hand. "This is real. Not a year ago, not in Hell, now. I was with you when you cut it. I sewed it up! Look!" Hating what he had been forced to do to reach his brother, Dean squeezed Sam's bandaged hand, pressing against the recently stitched wound. At the same moment, he reached out and grabbed the barrel of the gun in Sam's hand.
Sam drew in a hissed breath as the pain registered, and he winced away from Dean involuntarily.
"This is different, right?" Dean said remorselessly. "Than the crap that's tearing at your walnut. I'm different, right?
Sam snatched his hand away from Dean, and his eyes widened.
"See? Now you know," the Dean standing to Sam's left said. "I would never hurt you like that. I could never. Lucifer is the one that hurts you, not me."
In that moment, it all became clear to Sam. There were two Deans with him, but only one was his brother. The other was a fallen angel with a grudge to bear. And only one of them would hurt Sam.
Dean saw something shift in Sam's eyes, and his heart sank. He hadn't reached him. He had been so sure he would. For him, the pain of real life and the pain of Hell were different. Something in Sam's broken mind had stopped him from seeing the truth.
Before he could think to stop him, Sam snatched the gun back from Dean and raised it in front of him, pointing it directly at Dean's heart.
"No," he said in a hoarse voice. "The real Dean wouldn't hurt me. You are the one that hurts me, Lucifer." He spat the name. "You can't trick me again."
Dean's eyes widened. He understood at last. Sam wasn't seeing Lucifer and Dean; he was seeing two Dean's. It had been a favorite pastime of Alastair's to mimic Sam's face as he tortured him. Now Lucifer was employing the same technique, and Sam wasn't able to tell the difference.
"Sammy, it's me," he said desperately. "Look at me."
Sam's hand shook as he leveled the gun at his brother. "You're not Dean."
"I am! Look into my eyes, Sam. Tell me you can't see the truth."
Sam laughed harshly. He knew better than to risk staring into Lucifer's eyes. "I don't think so." He took a step forward, holding the gun out in front of him, and Dean took an automatic step back. "I am leaving now, and Dean is coming with me."
"Sam, no!" Dean cried. "That's not, whoever you are seeing, that's not me. I'm Dean. Whatever you are seeing, it's not real. It's just your brain screwing with you again."
To Dean's horror, Sam turned to his left and nodded. "I know that, Dean. But what if he follows me?" He stayed silent for a moment as he listened intently to someone that existed only in his mind. "You're right." He looked pleased by whatever it was he had heard. Keeping the gun trained on Dean, Sam stepped around him and backed towards the door.
"Sam, no," Dean pleaded. "Don't do this. Don't leave."
Sam tilted his head to the side as he surveyed Dean. It hurt Dean to have his brother looking at him with such hatred.
"We're leaving now, and you won't be able to follow us. I know the truth now, and you can't trick me again."
"Sammy, please," Dean said desperately.
Dean was barely had time to leap out of the way as he saw Sam's finger twitch towards the trigger. A second later, a shot rang out and ricocheted from a pipe in the opposite wall.
"You don't call me Sammy," Sam hissed. "Only he gets to do that." He gestured at the empty space beside him.
Dean was at a loss. He couldn't move to stop Sam, not without risking his life, and words didn't seem to be enough to reach him now. He was forced to watch as Sam backed through the door, casting him a baleful glare as he disappeared.
A minute later, Dean heard the sound of an engine rumbling to life and tires crunching on the gravel of the parking lot. His heart sank as he realized that was the sound of his brother disappearing from his life, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He waited until the sounds of the van had faded, and then he drew in a shaky breath. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his phone and dialed. A moment later, Bobby's gruff voice came over the receiver. "Dean, we've got a problem."
"Same here," Dean said. "And I bet mine trumps yours."
"I guess that depends on your opinion of Leviathans. I've just had a close encounter with one, and it wasn't pretty."
Dean cursed under his breath. "Dammit, Bobby. I don't need this right now."
"Well, I'm sorry, princess. What has your panties in a bunch?"
"Sam is gone. He pulled a gun on me and took off."
Bobby let loose a stream of cuss words. "Any idea where he went?"
"None," Dean said. "And you haven't heard the best part yet. He's got a new co-pilot, and his name's Lucifer."
Thank you for reading. I would love to know what you think, so please take a moment to leave a comment or review.