Back from Dallascon and feeling good, if broke! Thanks for waiting for the next part, guys! Hope you enjoy it.
Warning for graphic violence and some slight non-con elements. This one-shot is a tagfic to 'Skin'.
When Sam claws his way back into consciousness, the first thing he's aware of is a tight, choking pressure around his throat and a feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. He blinks, confused, into the dimness, trying to think past the pain pounding through his skull. He's sitting, tied up tight, and something is deeply, deeply wrong.
As soon as he sees the monster wearing Dean's face, he remembers.
"Where's my brother?" Sam croaks, dread quickly tipping into a panic that grabs hold of his lungs and squeezes, sends his heart pounding in his chest.
The creature smiles, easy 'Heya, Sammy' grin, and Sam feel sick with it. Wants to wipe it away, want to rip Dean's skin right off the bastard's face.
"I wouldn't worry about him," the shifter says; he steps closer, rasps knuckles across Sam's jaw. "I'd worry about you."
Sam tries to pull away and the ropes wound around his neck choke him like a leash.
"Where is he?" Sam grits out, chest heaving.
"You don't really want to know," the shifter tells him amiably. "I swear, the more I learn about you two? About your family? Man, and I thought my life was fucked up."
"Learn?" Sam repeats, brow furrowing.
The shifter frowns for a moment, clutches at his head as if he's in pain before standing and pasting the same carefree grin on Dean's face. He whistles.
"Man. Has he got some issues with you."
The creature leans in again, brushing the hair out of Sam's face. Sam forces himself to stay motionless, glaring. Without warning, the shifter backhands Sam so hard that his head snaps to the side, ropes around his neck cutting off his airflow. He opens his mouth to gasp for breath and watches a glob of blood dribble out onto his jeans.
The shifter makes a gentle shh-ing noise.
"It's okay, Sammy," he says, the same hand he used to strike Sam winding through his hair, blunt nails scratching at the short hairs at the nape of his neck just like Dean sometimes does. "I'm sorry, you just get to me sometimes, you know?"
"You're not my brother," Sam says lowly, glaring up at the creature from beneath his bangs.
"Yes, I am," the thing tells him, grabbing a fistful of Sam's hair and yanking his head back until their faces are less than an inch apart, warm breath fanning over Sam's lips. "I am your brother. You just don't want to hear it. But then again, you never do want to hear me, do you?"
He stands up straight, steps back, and spreads his arms wide.
"I mean, look at me. I'm a grown-ass man. And not just that – I'm a hunter. While you were building dioramas of the Alamo, I was actually listening to Dad. I did my training, learned everything he had to teach me, and I was hunting creepy crawlies on my own for years while you were sipping soy lattes in Palo Alto. Come on. Big brother can take care of himself."
Sam swallows with a click.
"Just tell me where Dean is," he says and wishes it didn't sound like a plea.
The shifter acts like he didn't hear him.
"But you just won't believe that, will you?" he continues, tucking his thumbs into the pockets of Dean's jeans. "I know I fucked up in Louisiana. I own that. And it's not that I'm not grateful you busted your ass to get me out of there, I am! But ever since then, you've looked at me different, like you don't trust me anymore – to take care of the job, to take care of us… It's like you're just waiting for me to screw up, and I know it's only a matter of time until I do. And then? Then you're gonna have all the proof you need. Then you're gonna leave me."
This isn't Dean. Sam knows that, but somehow it is, just the same, and no matter how much he wants to, he can't make himself stop listening.
"What are you talking about?" he asks, heart still hammering in his throat.
The shifter lets out a breath through its nose, looks away and then up at the ceiling, clenches his jaw tight, and God, he's so much like Sam's brother that it burns, boils, glues his eyes to the monster in front of him and won't let him go.
"People always leave me," the shifter says. "You did. Hell, I did everything – everything – Dad ever asked, and he left me to die like I was nothing. And do you know why, Sam?"
Because he's a bastard, Sam thinks. Because he's selfish and obsessed, and when I get my hands on him—
"It's because Dad knows what I am. I'm not a thinker like you or him. I'm a tool – dumb meat – and if I can't do my job like I'm supposed to, what's the point of keeping me around?" He pinches his lips shut, and then says: "The second he heard that the thing that killed Mom had shown up again, he was gone. Because he knows what I am. Because Mom is worth more to him dead than I ever was alive."
Sam digs his nails into his palms.
"And it's going to be the same for you with Jess," the shifter continues. "All it'll take is one big screw up like before, and you'll figure that out. You'll leave me behind, just like Dad did."
"Shut up," Sam grounds out. "Dean doesn't think that." He can't.
"You sure about that, Sammy?" the shifter asks, smiling again. "I mean, it's not like it'd be the first time."
He strides over to where he'd been standing when Sam woke up, starts packing weapons – torture tools – into a duffle bag.
"You know, you and Dad think you're so different." He gives a little, bitter laugh. "You are just like him, now more than ever. You're obsessed with finding the thing that killed Jess. And believe me when I say that I want to toast that son of a bitch as much as you do, but do you really think you're gonna find Dad, waste the baddie, and be back at Stanford in time for the new semester? Go to law school? Hang out at the Book Nook with pretty little Becky and her ex-con brother on the weekends?"
He shoves a length of rope into the bag with a tight smile.
"Dad always said this was temporary, too. He said it for twenty-two years. But you know as well as I do that he'll be doing it until he dies, and so will I. Yeah, I used to think you'd be the one to get out – used to hate you for it sometimes, too – but now? You're in it, Sam. You've got this look in your eyes that's just like Dad's, and I know. You're not going to make it out of this. I don't think you even want to."
Sam swallows thickly.
"I do," he says weakly. "I'm not like my dad. This is not going to be my life. When this is over, we're going to get out."
The shifter pauses in the act of stuffing a hunting knife into his duffle. He hefts the bag, walks back over, and drops it by Sam's side, crouching down in front of him.
"Sammy," he says with a little grin. "Be serious. We're gonna – what – ice this thing, move to California, get us a little house with a white picket fence? You'll be a lawyer, I'll open up a garage, we'll hunt on the weekends instead of golfing? You still singing that tune? Come on, little brother. Fool me once."
He draws the blade of his hunting knife across Sam's cheekbone, trails down to trace his lips. He moves it lower, digs it into the flesh at the base of Sam's neck and watches his blood bloom with glittering eyes.
"You think you can save me, Sam?" he says softly. "Look at reality, kiddo. You can't save anyone. You can't even save yourself."
The shifter stands, tucks the knife into Dean's jacket and shoulders the duffle bag.
"You know, this has been fun," he says. "I was just about to use this body to go pay a visit to your good friend Becky. Have some fun, maybe use your body later if I felt like it."
He grins, a twisted gash of gleaming white that looks nothing like Dean at all.
"But this is just too good to pass up," he says. "I'll be back soon. And I think I'll have you for dessert."
Even after Dean calls out to him (rush of relief so strong Sam wants to sob and has to laugh), after they get out, get the shifter away from Becky and put out an APB on Dean in the process, Sam knows it isn't over. They still have to kill the thing, sure, but it's more than that. The shifter's words – spoken with his brothers lips, sure and dangerous, like a promise – have him checking over his shoulder, watching Dean close, hackles raised.
He doesn't tell Dean about what the shifter said. Not any of it. Dean's taking this personally enough already, and Sam knows better than anyone how reckless his brother can get, especially in the grips of 'protect Sammy' rage.
It's best to keep him in the dark until they waste the thing. If not forever.
After he and Dean are forced to split up and Sam gets himself out of police custody (they want to hold him, sure enough, but Sam wasn't pre-law for nothing), Sam ends up back at Becca's, trying to somehow explain that the man who attacked her wasn't his brother but a monster that looked like his brother. It's the first time he's had to tell someone who knows him – thinks they know him – what it is that he and Dean do, and it makes his palms sweat and his mouth dry in spite of the beer that he's draining way more quickly than he means too, and it probably comes out all wrong, because Becca looks skeptical and maybe a little amused, like she can't quite believe this is the lie Sam has come up with to defend his big brother.
"You are crazy," she says, and Sam has time to feel his heart sink before everything goes white.
He wakes up on the floor of Rebecca's parents' rec room, hands and feet tied together. He realizes the mistake he's made before he even sees Dean, rolling up his sleeves and looking down at Sam with the same familiar smirk Sam's brother wears when he's about to make the bad guy hurt.
"Rise and shine, Sammy," the shifter says easily. "We had a date, remember?"
Sam draws a quick breath through his nose, subtly testing his bonds. Apparently the shifter has downloaded Dean's knot tying skills now, too, because there's even less give than before. The creature smirks at him before striding over to the attached kitchen, opening up drawers and examining the knives until he finds one he likes.
"What are you going to do to me?" Sam asks him, still trying futilely to disentangle himself from the ropes.
"It's not what I'm going to do to you," the shifter tells him. "It's what Dean's going to do. And I think you already know."
Sam remembers Zach's house, how the blood spatter had decorated every surface, how the shifter kept his victims alive and in pain for hours before finally killing them, and feels bile rise up in his gut.
"My brother's still out there," Sam tells him. "He'll find me. He'll kill you for this."
The shifter shrugs easily.
"If the cops don't find him first," he says, fixing himself a drink at the bar.
"They won't," Sam shakes his head. "They'll never catch Dean. He's too good."
"'Cause he's never gotten caught before," the shifter says pointedly, taking a long sip as he walks around to lean against the table.
Sam glares up at him.
"That was one time," he snaps. "It won't happen again."
"C'mon, Sammy," the thing grins, setting down his glass and picking up the kitchen knife, holding it up to watch it glimmer in the dim light. "You don't really believe that."
"Stop calling me 'Sammy,'" Sam snarls. "You're not my brother."
"Thought we went over this already, buddy boy. I am your brother, in every way that counts."
The shifter stabs the knife into the pool table, and Sam sees his opening, is already getting reading to jump up when the shifter seems to think better. He snatches up the knife again, plants a foot on either side of Sam's body and sinks to his knees.
"You're not gonna try to make a break for it, now, are you?" he exclaims with a sharp burst of manic energy. "Come on! Things are just starting to get good!"
He digs the knife into the mark he'd left on Sam neck earlier, punches through the beginnings of the scab before drawing it down to cut a swath across Sam's collar bone. Sam grits his teeth to keep himself from crying out.
"It'd be easier to just kill you," the shifter says, his voice calmer now, almost pleasant, "but like I said before, this is just too goddamn good to resist. Should've done this in the first place instead of wasting time on Blondie. She did cry so pretty, though."
Sam swallows a groan as the shifter shoves his shirt up and makes a long cut from the jut of his ribs to the line of his hipbone.
"That what it's about, right?" Sam rasps. "Their pain? That what you get off on?"
The shifter smiles at him, reaches out and ruffles Sam's hair.
"Trying to keep me talkin', huh?" he grins, standing and tossing the knife onto the pool table. "That's good, just like Dad taught us. And hey, you know, I never mind talking about myself."
He picks up a pool cue, tests the weight in his palm.
"But you're wrong. Anybody could hurt people," he says, giving a few experimental swings. "I show them the truth."
"The truth?" Sam asks, eyes trained on the blunt instrument in the monster's hands.
The shifter nods.
"They think they're so perfect, so normal. And they may look it on the outside, but under their skin? They're all monsters. They're all freaks." The grin on his face is pure, skin-crawling delight. "You people think you know each other, but the truth is, you're all hiding these nasty, brutal thoughts deep down inside. All I do is let them out."
He draws back and hits Sam across the ribs with the pool cue. Sam cries out in the surprise and pain.
"It's always the same," the shifter tells him. "At first, they're confused, shocked. They can't believe what's happening, can't believe the man they love could ever turn on them. When you start hurting them, they always ask 'Why?' So I tell them."
He cracks the pool cue against Sam's chest again.
"Go on, Sam. Ask me 'Why?'"
Sam gasps, tries instinctively to curl into himself and gets a boot planted on his chest for his trouble.
"You're not him," he spits.
"Sometimes they get angry," the shifter continues, pressing down until Sam wheezes, "but everyone begs eventually. They'll try to defend themselves any way they can. 'I didn't mean it like that! I told you, nothing happened! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'll be better just please don't kill me!'"
He cracks the cue against Sam's legs before tossing it aside, strolling around the room like he's looking for something.
"They'll go on like that for hours if you don't close up their mouths. But it doesn't really matter what they say. You can see it in their eyes. That moment when all their hope finally dies. All of the fight just goes right out of them. They understand. Then I let them go. Only then."
He selects an autographed baseball bat from the far wall.
"I should have known I'd never get that from Becky. But you? Little brother, you are the full package deal, even if you aren't really my type. I mean, she may be hot, but let's face facts, this skin is a hundred times more interested in you, in one way or another."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Sam demands, calculating how much damage he's taken, wondering frantically why his brother isn't here, if maybe the shifter is right, if the police really did catch Dean, if he's hurt, trapped somewhere without Sam to help him.
The shifter laughs softly, abandons the bat on the table to straddle Sam again, planting his elbows on either side of his head. His hips move minutely against Sam's in a raspy swivel, and Sam turns away, eyes shut tight and throat working.
"You know, I was four when Mom died," the thing pretending to be his brother says, leaning in close, tangling his fingers in Sam's hair and then abruptly tightening his grip, forcing Sam to look up at him. "Dad couldn't get me to talk for months after. Not that he talked to me much, either. He drove and drove and left us in motel rooms, came back hours later with books or guns or covered in blood. He'd drink, and he'd paper the room with pictures of monsters, maps, and printouts, and you just cried all the damn time, like you were just as confused and scared as I was."
He smooths a calloused palm over Sam's cheek.
"And Dad would say 'Dean, take care of your brother.' Four years old. What the hell did I know about taking care of a baby? But I'd do it anyway. It's all I could do. It was my job. I wouldn't talk to anyone, but I'd talk to you. Didn't have to say much. Just your name. Just 'Shh, Sammy.'"
He pulls back a fist and hits Sam so hard that he feels his nose crack, eruption of blood that pours down his chin into his mouth, makes him cry out in agony.
"Shh, Sammy," the shifter says, palms gentle on his cheeks again, stroking, soothing. "Shh. Just like that. And you'd always be quiet for me. Not for Dad. Just me."
"You. Are not. Him," Sam grits out, trying uselessly to squirm away from the creature's hold.
"I remember a little later, Dad tried sending me to kindergarten," the shifter continues, ignoring Sam's outburst. "I liked it. Seeing other kids again, so many toys, so much space to move. But as soon as I got out, I could hear you crying, even before I saw the Impala and Dad standing next to it holding you. Your face was all red, eyes swollen up 'cause you must've been crying for hours, and the second you spotted me, you were trying to squirm away from Dad, chubby little arms reaching for me, and you said 'Dean!' Your first word, and it was my name. Because you wanted me."
He thumbs at the pained tears that have leaked from Sam's eyes, shifts his hips down hard so Sam makes a wet, breathy sound.
"Dad wouldn't send me back after that, but I knew I shouldn't care. Because I had a job."
He hits Sam again, over and over until Dean's knuckles are bloody, and Sam's face is on fire, splitting at the seams.
"Dean," Sam manages to rasp, not sure if he's talking to the shifter or calling for his brother. "Please-!"
The shifter laughs, stands and wraps his hand around the bat, watches as Sam coughs out blood and spittle, rolling over onto his side to hide his face in the carpet.
"Go on, Sammy. Ask me," he says in a hushed, almost reverent voice. "Ask your brother why he's going to kill you."
"Hey!" Sam hears that same voice shout, and then there's two Dean's struggling with each other, fists flying and legs kicking out, faces set in identical expressions of hardened rage.
A gun goes off, and Sam watches one of them crumple, and for a second, he's just not sure which one it is. He fights the urge to scream and thrash against Becky's hands when he feels them gently cradling him. He wants, needs, to crawl over there and help his brother, but he can't get his stupid, broken body to cooperate.
The Dean who's still standing reaches down and snaps his amulet off of the other's neck, and then Sam knows that it's Dean – the real Dean, his Dean – and he's alive and safe and there, and finally, fucking finally Sam can breathe again.
Sam reaches out for him, has to touch him to really make sure, and he thinks Dean feels the same, because he's being dragged out of Becky's arms. Dean's hand cradles the back of his head, his broken nose gets smashed up against his brother's jacket, and Sam doesn't even care how much it hurts because it's so good.
Dean jokes about the whole thing later, throws around quips about attending his own funeral and looking pretty good for a dead guy. He shrugs Sam off when he tries to bring up the things the shifter said to him with a shake of his head and a smile that cracks a little at the edges. ("It wasn't me, Sammy. Just forget about it. Don't let him get in your head.")
Dean jokes, but he doesn't say anything when Sam, shaky and sore and covered in bandages, flops down next to him in bed that night. They lay there quietly, shoulder blades pressed together, exhaling and inhaling in turn, and Sam tells himself that Dean is right, that they're alive and safe and together, and that must mean everything's okay.
He's able to fall asleep that night, but the shifter is still there, waiting for him in his dreams.
So that was 'Skin' in the Brother's Blood 'Verse.
We hope it was everything you dreamed and more. We're pretty happy with it, but then, we've got a pretty well documented thing for bad-touching brothers. Well, almost bad-touching. Still a little fuzzy on that one, actually, and believe me, that made writing the warnings for this a bitch. We're gonna check in with the boys again on the 13th! And of course, as we scoot through the boy's hunting adventures, we're hard at work on Father's Gun.
I'm not gonna give plot points or word counts, but suffice to say, it is a doozy so far.
Thanks for reading, and remember to leave a review and put me on author alerts or check back for more of this 'verse!