A/N: Hey guys, I'm back with a new fic! I apologize once again for being so absent these last few months, I hope you all understand that all of my university work and a lot of important life stuff forced itself into my usual writing-time... -.- There will be updates for my three ongoing fics soon I hope, just bear with me please haha :)
A few words about this oneshot... I seriously have no excuse for this. Just popped into my head after a new episode one night. It's got no message, no plot and no point. Except maybe my own sincere dislike for how they are destroying the show in Season 9. Ugh, I really really DON'T LIKE Season 9... If you do, I hope this will still induce some form of amusement ;)
. . .
Sam responded by turning around and grabbing the stack of cups sitting on the table behind him and basically ripping the plastic wrap off them. From the expression on his face one could have thought that the specific items had inflicted a great personal damage on him.
Shrugging slightly to himself, Dean turned around as well and reached to pull out the newly purchased bottle of hard, brown liquor. It usually had such an alluring look to him, but now he felt not even a glass of hunter's helper could extinguish the cold and gnawing feeling that was tearing away at his bones. That feeling of absolute emptiness.
Free will's an illusion, Dean.
No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't seem to shake those fucking bastard's words.
That's why you're going to say yes.
They were all so sure that he was gonna say yes. That both of them were, actually. It was them against the world, the universe, heaven, hell, destiny and God himself. Just the two of them, as it always had been for that matter. He had just never expected that fact to grow to such dramatic proportions.
Who were they kidding really? Dean was stubborn enough to insist to everyone else, including Sam that he was the only one deciding how to live his own pathetic life, but inside the hopelessness was clawing its way into his fear-infested brain more and more every day. With the odds they were facing, they didn't really have much of a choice left.
No choice, only destiny. The fuckers were even forcing him to start thinking like them!
He had no choice, because the alternative was just too damn horrible to think about. And he tried so hard not to do so, tried every day not to think about any of the images that were burned into his memory forever. There was just no denying a future that you yourself had already laid eyes on.
They were screwed. They were completely and utterly screwed.
Turning the bottle thoughtfully over in his hands, Dean was just about to open it to allow himself a generous helping, when he suddenly heard his brother's surprised voice behind him.
Dean whipped around just in time to see Sam grab hold of the staggering angel, who despite his non-human nature looked dreadfully pale.
"Hey, hey, hey! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa," Sam repeated, while struggling to hold Castiel in an upright position and Dean bolted to his side within seconds to grab the angel's other side.
"Cas!" he called out anxiously, while gripping his friend's arm.
"Dean, no, wait"- Cas stammered incoherently and his gaze looked strangely bleary, as if he wasn't really with them.
"Hey, we got you!" Sam said decisively, giving the angel a slight shake.
"No, no, it's too much, I can't"- Cas kept rambling and the brothers exchanged a helpless glare. "Let go, I can't control – Dean, get away!"
Before Dean could fully realize what Castiel was even talking about – was it just him or was Cas getting blurry? Was he like out of control of his zapping mojo? – there was a loud gush of mind-numbing noise surrounding them. It sounded like wind, but at the same time it wasn't wind and everything around him seemed to dissolve into a storm of colors. Everything but Sam's face, who seemed just as bewildered and freaked out as him.
Then all of a sudden it just stopped. The world no longer spun, the ground was stable, their surroundings were solid. Except for the sole fact that Dean had no idea where they were.
"Jesus!" Sam exclaimed, jolting a few steps back and looking around himself with a frantic expression.
"Whoa!" Dean gasped and then mimicked his brother's motions of examining their whereabouts. "Son of a bitch, what the hell was that? What happened, where the hell is Cas?" He spun around himself, taking in the strange room. "Where the friggin' hell are we?"
"I-I don't know," Sam responded helplessly. "Dean, calm down, we have to figure out – what"- But he didn't seem to know what exactly they should figure out first.
"What the hell happened?" Dean went on repeating himself. "I mean, did you hear what Cas was saying, did you hear that? It was like something was fucking with him, man!"
"Yeah, I know, Dean, I have no idea!" Sam said impatiently. "Is this an angel thing?"
"Why would the angels send us to" – Dean looked around himself once again, still confused – "where the hell are we anyway?"
There were bookshelves, lots and lots of bookshelves, but other than that the place more had a feel of some kind of giant garage. "I don't know…" Sam said again. "A library… maybe?"
The parts of the walls that weren't covered in books displayed a rusty colored brick design. There were massive wooden tables, which looked like they could be several hundred years old, but a large metal staircase gave the whole thing a more modern flair. Dean's best educated guess might've been that they were on an old movie set from an eighties horror flick, but years of experience in supernatural creepyness had taught him to never take things at face value.
"Dude," he turned back to his brother. "What the hell?"
"I don't know," Sam murmured in confusion.
"No seriously, what the hell?" Dean demanded once more.
"I don't know!" Sam responded more loudly.
Letting his gaze drift across their strange surroundings once again, Dean found that he just couldn't make sense of it. If this was an angel-doing, why the hell would the feathered dicks teleport them to an unknown and totally random place after Michael himself had just finished teaching them the lesson of a lifetime? That sure as hell couldn't be the case.
"It can't be an angel thing, man," Dean uttered his thoughts to Sam. "It's not their m.o., plus they put us through enough crap even for them for one day!"
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "But… what, then? Did Cas send us here or something?"
Dean recalled Castiel's strange words right after he had appeared in their Motel room. "I don't know, man, you heard the stuff he was saying," he responded. "Maybe he was out of control or something, you know, had his mojo all messed up from returning from the past."
"So he sent us to a totally random and probably halfway across the globe spot," Sam concluded his thought. "And I'm guessing he's also got no idea where we are…"
Dean stared at his brother for a moment, before sighing. "Awesome," he stated gruffly.
The two of them silently looked around the so-called library again. "So how do we get outta here?" Dean then wondered.
Sam was just about to answer, when his gaze suddenly fell upon something that neither of the two brothers had noticed until now. "Dean, look…" he slightly nudged his brother. "There's someone here."
Indeed there seemed to be a student up ahead in the back of the room that they hadn't noticed in their excitement until now. The Asian looking kid had a load of books and papers stacked up before him, so Dean assumed he was studying or something. How the guy had managed to keep up his work with their frantic and supernaturally sudden appearance was beyond him.
"Oh, good, let's ask him," he said while moving toward the student.
Despite his casual answer, he still moved warily though, for you could never know if this was some kind of trap. A good hunter was always a slightly paranoid one. Hazards of their occupation.
"Hey, uh, excuse me!" Dean called when they were closer to the kid. "Hello?"
The kid didn't react right away, so Sam tried. "Hey, we're kinda lost… do you know where we can find our way outta here?"
To the brother's surprise, the boy still didn't lift his head and continued working as if nothing had interrupted him. Was he wearing earplugs or something?
"Um, hello?" Sam tried again and Dean could see that his brother had put on his typical benevolent and innocently kind Sammy-boy expression that always made everybody fall in love with him. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
But the student still didn't react. "Ok, this is weird," Dean pointed out with a frown. The two of them were now standing directly in front of the table and it seemed that the boy still didn't notice them.
"Is he like… deaf or something?" Sam wondered.
"Huh," Dean moved a step closer and came to a stop right next to the kid. As if he were testing a wild animal, he stretched out his hand and waved back and forth before the guy's face. Nothing. "So great, he's blind too," he sighed in frustration.
"Dean, he can't be blind," Sam corrected his brother insistently. "He's studying."
"Yeah, I know that!" Dean growled. "What the fuck is going on here? Can he just not see us, or" – he stretched his hand out again to touch the boy's shoulder and flinched when it passed right through what was supposed to be solid flesh. It was like he wasn't even there. "Whoa!"
The brothers shared a shocked gaze, before Dean withdrew his hand to examine it. "What the…"
Sam reached out to touch the table before him, but was met with the same results as his brother. "Are we…" he looked anxiously over at his older brother. "Are we dead or something?"
Instantly the big brother-protection urge set in with Dean, when he saw the slight glint of fear in Sammy's eyes. "No, I don't thinks so, Sammy," he said soothingly, before returning to his usual gruff voice. "I mean, c'mon, we're one of the few people that actually know dying'll send you to heaven, right? I don't know 'bout you, but this ain't look like heaven to me."
Sam nodded, looking more relaxed again. "Yeah, that makes sense," he responded. "But still, man, it's like that time Pamela sent us to free the Reaper before" – he paused for a moment, trying to avoid speaking the words that they both knew hovered between them. Before I let Lucifer out of the cage.
He hastily continued toward the concerned matter. "It's like we're not really here…" he murmured and then suddenly cast a questioning look at his brother. "Wait, can I…" He stepped forward and stretched out his hand, placing it squarely against Dean's chest. It was solid and compact and there, just like always.
"I can touch you!" Sam said, a hint of excitement coloring his voice.
"So it's not a Pamela thing…" Dean concluded, racking his brain as hard as he could, but still coming up blank. He had never heard of something like this.
"Yeah…" Sam murmured, gazing at his hand that was still sitting on Dean's chest. "But what is it then?" He absent-mindedly moved his hand around a few inches.
"By all means, feel it up, Sammy," Dean said, a cocky smirk sitting on his face while he wiggled his eyebrows.
Sam instantly withdrew his hand, looking embarrassed and angry at the same time. "Shut up," he retorted, usual bitch-face firmly in place.
Dean chuckled in self-satisfaction, but before either of them could say or do anything more, the kid at the table suddenly jumped up, looking excited and exhausted at the same time.
"Yes!" he sighed dramatically, holding a bunch of white pages full of weird scribbles in his hands. "Finally…"
From his reaction Dean guessed that the student had just had some kind of a breakthrough, though his expression wasn't triumphant enough for it to have been a huge success. What kind of a fucking library was this anyway? If this was part of some weird school, he sure as hell was glad he wasn't going here.
"Guys!" The tired looking boy yelled loudly toward one of the backdoors of the room. "Hey guys, come on, I think I got something!"
Only moments after the call had finished sounding out through the structure, there was scuffling that could be heard in the distance, indicating that someone was on the move to answer his request.
"Reckon whoever that is won't see us either?" Sam asked.
Dean opened his mouth to respond, but his words died in his throat when he looked upon the man who entered the room.
What the hell?
What the fucking hell?
This wasn't happening, now he was sure this wasn't happening. He was going crazy, seeing things. Michael had dosed him up with a great big helping of crazy when laying his fingers on him, because this couldn't be real.
Because the man who was now walking toward them in response to the kid's call was him. Dean. Looking exactly the same, except for the more mature and relaxed look on his face, the lack of darkness and doom in his eyes and the well… everything.
"Dean…" Sam whispered behind him and Dean turned around to see his brother looking completely freaked out. "What the hell?"
"That's…" Dean said in confusion, watching the doppelganger as if he might do something freakish at any moment. "That's – me – but"- he turned around to look at his brother again. "Are you seeing this, it ain't just me, right?"
"What's going on, Kevin?" the other Dean asked the Asian kid. "What'd you find?"
"He's"- Sam looked at Dean in shock and then back at the doppelganger. "You're"-
Was this a 2014 thing? Dean felt that he shouldn't be so surprised at seeing his own mirror image as it had already happened to him once before, but still this wasn't anything that you tended to get used to.
A moment later things decided to get even weirder, as a third man entered the room, making the two Winchesters freeze in their tracks once again. Both of them gaped in shock, mouths hanging slightly open, at the tall figure of a second version of Sam heading their way.
In comparison to the doppelganger-Dean, this one in fact looked very different to his bewildered little brother standing next to him. For starters he looked a whole lot older, at least a few years judging by his face and one couldn't help but notice the even longer hair and the generous amount of facial hair that he seemed to have grown. All in all it was Sam, but it still wasn't Sam, for he looked completely different.
"Oh my God!" Sam exclaimed from next to Dean, looking even more startled than during that time when they had gone after a murderous clown. "Is that"-
"Dude," Dean stated. "Your hair."
"Shut up!" Sam instantly hissed. "That's not, I'm – He's not"-
"What did you find?" fake-Sam asked the same question his fake-brother had.
Dean threw his brother an incredulous look. "Dude, what the hell?" he demanded.
"I don't know," Sam shook his head.
"No, seriously, what the hell?" he repeated once again.
"I don't know!" Sam retorted aggressively.
"Come on, one theory," Dean suggested, looking back and forth between their creepy doppelgangers and his little brother. "Any theory!"
"Uh… we're stuck in a weird parallel universe dimension?" Sam phrased his answer more as a question.
Dean stared at him for a moment, before responding. "That's your theory? That's stupid!"
"Well, how do you explain the"- Sam looked over at their almost-mirror images again and performed a somewhat awkward wave with his hand. "…that?"
"I don't know, shifters?" Dean suggested.
"That can't see us?" Sam sighed in frustration. "It doesn't make sense, man, why would we be trapped here like some weird invisible… non-corporeal ghosts here if this was just the… normal world?"
"I got no frickin' clue," Dean muttered darkly.
Sam shook his head, as if trying to clear it from all this mess. "Are they – we" – he frowned, trying to figure out how to best refer to the mirror images. – "even… us?"
The two doppelgangers were currently going through the pages of random scribbles that the kid, Kevin or whatever had wanted to show them. "That's your big news?" fake-Sam then asked, looking through the notes with a skeptical frown on his face. "That you translated the tablet into… doodles?"
"It's Keneoform," Kevin answered.
Dean threw his brother a questioning gaze, but Sam shook his head to indicate that he had no idea what that was either.
"I hit a wall translating the tablet into English," the kid explained to the confused doppelgangers. "But I found an ancient codex, linking the angel script to"-
"Who whoa, what?" Dean interrupted, forgetting for a moment that none of them could hear him. "Angel script?"
-"and the footnotes into Elemite, which… is"-
"Doodles?" fake-Dean asked, a highly skeptical look on his face.
"E-exctint," Kevin murmured apologetically.
"What Doodles, man, he said Angel script, why did he say Angel script?" Dean called out loudly and looked over at his brother, but Sam could only once again shake his head.
"So it's a dead end!" fake-Dean proclaimed with a sigh that indicated he hadn't expected anything else.
"Uh, not quite," Kevin went on, going over the pages that the doppelganger had just chucked onto the table.
"So it is an angel thing?" Dean asked, moving to stand next to the freakish fake-Sam and get a look at the scribbles. "What the hell is going on here?"
"Dean, shut up," Sam hissed from behind him. "We gotta hear what they're saying!"
-"I was able to decipher one phrase from Metatron's footnotes," Kevin said. "Falling angels."
Dean gaped at fake-Dean and fake-Sam, who cast each other meaningful looks, as if they were all supposed to know exactly what this meant. "What?" Dean asked, looking from the doppelgangers over at his brother. "What the hell does that mean?"
"The footnotes refer to Metatron's spell?" fake-Sam went on talking, but he didn't care.
"Falling angels," Sam repeated the phrase with a bewildered expression. "Do you think that means Lucifer? I mean, he was the only angel that ever fell from heaven, right?"
"Yeah, but why angels, in the plural?" Dean wondered aloud, while the three people next to them continued in their conversation. "And why the fuck is it suddenly a spell?" He looked over at fake-Sam who had now stepped over to the bookshelves. "I don't know what the hell's going on here, but besides the" – he waved his hand toward the doppelgangers – "that, this universe seems to be deep in the crap-pot, man!"
Sam was wearing his deeply thoughtful expression, the one he always had when he was trying to figure something out. "Maybe it's Lucifer that's doing this…" he suggested. "Maybe he's found a way to make other angels fall…"
"And what, he's got help from the friggin' Transformer Megatron?" Dean asked with obvious disbelief.
"Metatron, Dean," Sam sighed. "Not Megatron."
"And who's that?"
Sam hesitated for a second, before responding. "No clue."
They were both interrupted by the sound of a phone ringing and looked over to see fake-Dean answering it. It was highly disconcerting to see his own face perform so many movements that he had no control over.
"It's probably not us, right?" Dean murmured to Sam, watching his double rise from the chair and walk a few steps away from the table. "It can't be us, probably some… freakish, parallel universe reincarnations or… I don't know!"
"I thought you said my theory was stupid," Sam stated.
Before Dean could retort something nasty, they both froze once again at the doppelganger's words. This seemed to happen a lot in this world
"Well, hello to you too, Cas," fake-Dean chuckled slightly into his phone. "How are you?
Dean and Sam gaped at each other once again and knew that they were both thinking the same thing.
"CAS?" Dean exclaimed. "Our Cas?"
"I" – Sam shook his head helplessly, looking just as surprised as Dean felt. "I don't know…"
"All right, so how do you wanna do this?" fake-Dean asked the presumed angel. "Help me out with the latest scene or should I pick you up, what?"
"Pick him up?" Dean frowned in confusion. "No, wait, that doesn't make sense… That can't be Cas, right?"
"No," Sam shook his head. "I mean, there's no reason why he couldn't just zap…" He looked around the weird library once again, for in all the other insanity the question about their whereabouts had suddenly grown unimportant. "Where are we anyway?"
"Cas… hello?" fake-Dean said into the phone. "Hey, you sure everything's"- And he suddenly removed the phone from his ear and frowned at it, evidently having lost his connection. Had something happened to Cas? No wait, it couldn't be their Cas… right?
"I'm gonna get whiplash," Dean grunted to himself.
They were forced to spend the next ten minutes watching fake-Dean explaining something about three bodies and reports of a strange substance in Idaho that Cas or whoever had informed him about to his fake-brother, while he packed a large bag in a room that seemed more homelike than anything Dean had set foot in for years. He was starting to suspect that this wasn't really a library at all.
"Dean…" Sam murmured, launching his latest attempt on trying to assess what was going on here. "Do you think we… live here?"
"Sammy, we don't even know if they're… us," Dean insisted. "They could just be weird look-alikes or something, they didn't say our names or anything!"
"Dean, come on," fake-Sam sighed, running a hand through his freakishly long hair. "You gotta give me more than that!"
"Crap," Dean growled.
"Dean, do you think… this could be the future?" Sam suddenly wondered.
Dean watched his doppelganger casually give the other man some more information about the potential case. "Trust me," he murmured darkly. "This ain't the future…"
Sam gave him an enquiring look. "What the hell does that mean?"
Dean sighed. "It means that there's no way in hell that guys like us could ever get to be in places like" – he waved a hand around loosely – "this. Sammy, the world is in the fucking toilet, man! Nothing like this could ever happen."
Great, now with the puppy-dog eyes. Dean quickly turned back to the doppelgangers to avoid having to look into his brother's pain-stricken face.
"Then I'm coming with you, Dean," fake-Sam said.
"No, no, Sammy, it's ok," fake-Dean responded, shaking his head. "I'll take this one and you can lay low and you know… get your strength back."
Get his strength back? What the hell had happened? Fake-Sam looked all right from what Dean could tell.
"Dean, come on," fake-Sam chuckled. "It's been weeks since the Trials and I'm sleeping really well, trust me. You don't have to worry."
"Trials?" Dean murmured questioningly over to Sam. "What Trials?"
"Yeah, I know," fake-Dean said casually, zipping his packed bag up. "But uh, you know, we can't be too careful." He chuckled awkwardly.
Fake-Sam nodded with a consenting smile.
"Dude, what's going on here?" Sam asked from the side, looking slightly outraged and Dean knew that they were both thinking the same thing. There was something about the awkward way the Dean-doppelganger was speaking that had instantly alarmed them both. "Why am I – he – not saying anything?"
"He actually bought that?" Dean said quietly to himself.
"Come on, he's obviously hiding something!" Sam kept on bitching. "What is wrong with him?"
"All right," fake-Dean announced, swinging the bag over his shoulder. "Let's get this show on the road!"
However he stayed still on the spot for a moment and gave his brother a very weird look, almost as if he was trying to read his mind and calculate a reaction. "Is everybody ok with me going to have a look at this?"
Fake-Sam stared dumbly at fake-Dean for a moment and then raised his brows, apparently not getting what he was trying to say at all.
"Dude, what the hell?" Dean shook his head at the weirdness playing out before him.
"I am everybody," fake-Sam stated, as if that needed confirmation.
"Right, all right," fake-Dean said conversationally, acting immediately as if that weird moment had never taken place and moved toward the door.
"What the hell is going on here?" Sam asked angrily as they both hurried after their doppelgangers. "What isn't he telling me? What's wrong with me?" He frowned and corrected himself. "Him."
"Since when am I such a frickin' bad liar?" Dean wondered quietly.
"Ask him what's going on!" Sam yelled at his mirror image, from whom he was now only inches away. "He's hiding something from you, ask him!"
"Sammy, you know he can't hear you, right?" Dean interfered cautiously.
"Shut up!" Sam bitched with a pissed off expression. "I wanna know what kinda crap he's got him into!"
"Dude, on second thought, maybe that's not us," Dean pointed us. "They don't sound like us and they don't act like us! You don't even look like… you!" He stared at the Sammy-doppelganger again, shaking his head. "God, that hair. Wanna bet you could braid it?"
He chuckled slightly over his own joke, but immediately shut up when he caught a glimpse of his brother's bitch-face.
"And you're not even gonna see him when you're in Idaho?" fake-Sam was saying to fake-Dean. Somehow he seemed to find the whole Cas-issue a lot more important than the fact that his brother was obviously lying to his face.
"Well, like I said, as long as he's catnip for angels, he's keeping his distance," fake-Dean responded with a shrug.
"Catnip for angels?" Dean repeated with a look that screamed irritation and incredulity. "Ok, that's it. Now we know they're crazy."
"Maybe they're still after Cas for rebelling…" Sam wondered slowly.
"They're possessed," Dean suddenly decided while analyzing the doppelgangers. "That's gotta be it."
When Sam cast him a more than disbelieving gaze, he shrugged helplessly. "What?" he demanded. "You got a better idea?"
. . .
Seeing as they were in kind of a hopeless situation regarding their current state – as they could neither ask anyone for help nor even touch a computer to find out what was happening – the brothers soon decided to follow fake-Dean out on his barely-a-case mission. Dean figured that if this trip somehow involved the angel, then maybe there was a small chance that he could help them, perceive them on some weird other level, even if he couldn't see them.
However up until now they had wasted quite some time not knowing where to find Castiel while fake-Dean checked out some crime scene that was all but covered in pink residue. Dean actually had to take a short breather for that one.
"So we're dealing with some pink-shit-spewing son of a bitch? What retarded monkey's ass you think that one crawled out of?"
Now they were sitting in the parking lot to small gas station and listened to fake-Dean lead yet another one of his phone calls with fake-Sam. With every passing moment it was starting to piss Dean off more and more.
"I'm getting tired of this shit, man!" he vented, walking back and forth next to the glossy black car (there was even a fake-baby in this world) "What the hell are we even doing hanging around this… douchebag?"
Sam raised his brows in silent amusement, while Dean walked up to his oblivious doppelganger and stopped to glare at him only inches away. "I hate you!" he stated with a hostile tone of voice. "You hear me? You're a dick!"
"Have you tried Professor Morrison?" the other man said in response to something his fake-brother had said on the other line.
Dean angrily stalked back to his brother's side, his hands firmly dug into his pockets. "I don't like this!" he growled.
"Really?" Sam asked, his voice dripping from sarcasm. "I had no idea."
"What's he even doing at this dump?" Dean kept going, as if Sam hadn't said anything. "I thought he was gonna go look for Cas!" Sam opened his mouth to say something, but Dean cut him off. "You hear that?" he yelled over to his doppelganger again. "You're useless!"
He glowered at his mirror image. "Leaving Sammy alone when there's obviously something wrong with him," he grumbled in displeasure. "We don't do that, you son of a bitch!"
"Dean," Sam sighed in irritation. "You done?"
Dean looked back at his brother with an equally annoyed glare.
"Four victims suddenly exploded," fake-Dean informed the man on the other end of the line. "I've tried EMF, I've looked for hex bags…"
While he went on explaining his standard hunting procedure, Dean noticed beyond the layer of annoyance just how confused and hopeful and incredibly young Sam looked at that moment. His eyes kept wandering over their surroundings, as if he could not believe the peace and the quiet and the normal everyday life playing itself out around them.
Dean knew what his brother was thinking even before he said it out loud. "You think…" he asked cautiously. "You think maybe Lucifer was… defeated?"
The vulnerability in Sammy's voice made Dean suddenly forget about the almost comical crazy they had landed in here at the moment and remember the tremendous horror they had come from. It was like his brother was letting himself speak aloud a wish that he had never even dared contemplate, because of how utterly hopeless it was.
"Yeah, maybe…" Dean responded, following Sam's gaze toward the customers leaving the small gas station's shop. "Or maybe he didn't exist in the first place."
His eyes soon fell back on the doppelganger, who was just now ending his conversation. "Nah, man, that's… not necessary. I got this one covered."
"Or maybe," Dean piped up, feeling pissed again. "Lucifer took over the whole frickin' planet!" He loosely stretched out his arms, gesturing at their surroundings. "Maybe this is hell on earth!"
Noticing Sam's once again raised brows, he shrugged. "Wouldn't be such a stretch."
"What's he looking at?" Sam then asked and Dean realized that the skeptical look hadn't been directed at him, but at the doppelganger still leaning on the Impala and gazing thoughtfully into the shop window before him.
Dean let his eyes wander in the same direction and paused when he looked upon the only thing that could've caught his mirror image's attraction. It was a guy. A young salesman with dark hair, working at the cash register and his doppelganger was almost wistfully staring at him.
With a confused look toward his brother, Dean asked: "So is he" – he shook his head from all the insanity – "me – dating guys now?"
Sam's brows seemed to climb even higher on his forehead.
They followed fake-Dean inside the store, cause really, what else could they do as long as they couldn't see or touch anything? The doppelganger walked right up to the counter, standing in line behind a blonde woman to talk to the man who was working there.
"I'll have some beef jerky and a pack of menthols," he said cheerfully as soon as it was his turn.
It took the two Winchesters all but a few seconds to recognize the familiar face in the blue employee vest. They hadn't been able to notice through the window, but up close it was more than obvious.
"What the…" Dean murmured.
"Cas?" Sam asked, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. "Is he… working?"
"Oh no, man," Dean groaned. "No, no, this is all kinds of messed up!"
"You surprised me," fake-Cas was saying to fake-Dean at the moment, looking around in annoyance. It was obvious that he wasn't very happy to see his friend.
"Well, the feeling is mutual," fake-Dean responded. "I mean, I knew you had to lay low from the angel threat, but, uh, wow. This is some cover!"
"I'll say!" Dean agreed, though Sam instantly shushed him, trying to hear what the two men were saying.
"My Grace is gone," Cas' mirror image said angrily and the two brothers shared a shocked gaze at the revelation. "What did you expect?"
"His Grace?" Dean hissed. "What does that"-
-"Any idea how hard it was?" For some reason fake-Cas sounded incredibly reproachful, as if that was somehow his friend's fault.
"He's human!" Sam hissed back at his brother, as both of them continued to follow the conversation.
"When I fell to earth, I didn't just lose my powers. I –" he sighed in disappointment. "I had nothing."
Dean stared at the doppelganger of his angelic friend and couldn't help feeling sorry for him. He wondered how this might've happened, if Cas had been entirely expelled from heaven due to helping them in the apocalypse. But then again, he had no idea if that had even happened here, so there was no way to tell.
"Now... I'm a sales associate," fake-Cas said with a small smile, suddenly holding a proud and almost childlike excitement within his appearance.
The feeling of pity was gone as fast as it had come. For a full moment Dean stared at this weird version of the former angel Castiel. "Is he possessed?" he then blurted out loudly.
He threw his brother a questioning gaze, but all Sam could do was give a helpless shrug in response.
"I'm responsible for inventory, sales, customer service…" fake-Cas counted down, as if that somehow made his new job-description sound better. "I keep this place" – he sincerely thanked the delivery guy whose clipboard he had just signed. – "clean and presentable. And when my manager's busy, I even prepare the food."
"Um…" Sam asked, that confused and young expression again visible on his face. "Y-you're seeing this too, right?"
"Wow," fake-Dean nodded with a weirdly annoying interest. "So you went from fighting… heavenly battles… to nuking taquitos?"
Cas nodded proudly. "Nachos too," he said brightly.
"Oh, hell no," Dean murmured in discontent as he shook his head, trying to unsee what he had just witnessed. "No, I don't care what the hell that is, that isn't Cas!"
"Maybe he was hurt…?" Sam wondered carefully over his brother's annoyed comments. "You know, from the fall?"
"He doesn't even look like Cas, man!" Dean went on ranting angrily. "I mean, look at the pathetic…" His eyes quickly ran over the man's entire appearance, the unusual clothing, the tidy hair and the cheerful glint in his eyes. "…Everything!"
"Maybe he's got brain damage…" Sam said unsurely and Dean couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or if he was in fact asking himself a legit question. Who knew, with this absolutely topsy-turvy reality it might even be true.
"Dude, what the hell?" Dean growled in frustration.
"I don't know," Sam sighed.
"No, seriously," Dean retorted more angrily. "What the hell?"
"I don't know!" Sam exclaimed in obvious irritation.
Things went from bad to worse when they watched fake-Cas work for another half-hour and explain to a stubborn fake-Dean just exactly why he would wanna work in such a dump. The real Dean could not wrap his head around any of the borderline unnatural things he was seeing, like his alter ego trying to convince a fragile and unprotected Cas to accompany him on his hunt (guess he had given up on protecting his loved ones indefinitely) or the fact that the man in question somehow found it more important to clean up after a customer in the bathroom instead of finding out what was killing people.
At some point a woman, evidently his boss showed up and the two doppelgangers ended up discussing the pros and cons of going on a date. When fake-Cas listed as definite pro that he was "pretty sure she isn't a Reaper intent on killing me," Dean didn't even have the energy to feel bewildered anymore. So now Reapers were killing people. Great. What did even need that whole accompanying-souls-to-the-beyond-shit for anymore?
By the time fake-Cas let out stuff like "there's a real dignity in what I do – human dignity," he knew he was definitely going crazy.
"Don't like this universe, Sammy!" Dean grumbled angrily. "We need to get out of this universe, pronto!"
"Yeah," Sam responded with a disturbed look on his face. "No argument here."
"Attaboy!" fake-Dean said to fake-Cas when he had finally convinced him to join him on the hunt. "I'll go get the car."
"Not just yet," the former angel stopped him, looking annoyed. "I have to clean the bathroom?"
Dean looked over at his brother with a distraught look on his face. "Sammy…" he said tiredly. "What happened to us?"
. . .
They hadn't even fully left the gas station's parking lot, when Dean started fervently yelling at the sky.
"Cas!" he shouted scornfully. "Real Castiel! Strap your fucking wings on and get us out of here!"
"Dean…" Sam said from behind him.
"Cas, come on!" Dean continued yelling. "I know you can hear me, where the fucking hell did you send us?"
"Dean, you're not helping!" Sam interrupted him angrily. "He's not gonna hear us, he doesn't even know where we are!"
"Oh, so now you've suddenly got a better plan?" Dean retorted, turning back to glare at his brother.
"No, I don't," Sam went on insistently. "But anything beats screaming your lungs out, Dean!"
Dean shook his head, annoyed with Sam's logical reasoning and went back to trying to contact the angel. "Cas!" he yelled. "Hello? Anyone!" He stretched out his arms in a welcoming gesture. "Get us out of this frickin' nightmare!"
Sam sighed to himself and simply placed his hands on his hips, deciding to wait until his brother had finished.
"Come on, man!" Dean growled in frustration. "You can't just leave us here to rot! Cas, dammit, get your ass down here!"
He breathed heavily and started pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. The decision between joining the strange doppelgangers in their hunt for the pink slush-monster and trying to figure out another option as to what they were supposed to do now, hadn't been a hard one. It was obvious that fake-Cas wouldn't be able to provide the help they had hoped for. But unfortunately they didn't have much of a starting point. Actually, Dean thought to himself, they were pretty much screwed. If one of those frickin' angels didn't decide to get off his lazy ass and come for them, they were royally and completely screwed.
"Dean," Sam said tiredly. "He's not coming."
"Shut up," Dean spat. "Course he is."
"How, Dean?" Sam exclaimed. "How would he possibly find us here?"
"Because this is Cas!" Dean yelled angrily. "No matter how bad we screw up, he's always there and because God knows what Lucifer is fucking doing in our world while we're stuck here with this freak show!"
He hadn't even been aware of his last thought before he spoke it aloud. The tone of near desperation in his voice surprised him and he instantly hated himself when he saw the ever-present shadow of guilt pass over his little brother's face. He was never going to shake that. Ever. He would be stuck with that for the rest of his life.
"Come on, Cas!" he went back to roaring around himself. "Get your fucking ass down here! We're waiting for you, you son of a bitch!" This had to work. It would work. "Come on!"
"COME ON!" Dean roared.
"Dean," Sam said.
"Shut up, Sam!" Dean shouted at him, determined to make this work.
"No, Dean, look!" Sam insisted, pointing to something behind Dean.
It had worked.
When Dean turned around, he saw none other than the familiar, slightly swaying figure of their favorite angel standing before him. Cas was here and he really was Cas, none of that freaky, blue-vested and hair-neatly-combed doppelganger stuff. Dirty beige trench coat, blue tie askew and dark hair tousled he was one hundred percent there.
"Cas!" he exclaimed in relief.
"I found you…" the angel gasped, sounding exhausted. "Dean… Sam…"
And he extended both his arms and without warning grabbed them both by the arms, inducing that short and mind-numbing sensation of being whipped through time and space before they were finally back in the crappy old motel room that they had left an eternity ago.
Sam and Dean both took a relieved look at their surroundings, but immediately focused back on the angel who was still swaying before them.
"You son of a bitch!" Dean said, feeling dazed. "You made it!"
"I… I did?" Castiel asked unsurely. "I'm very surprised."
There was something almost resembling a smile visible on his face, before his eyes rolled back and his knees buckled under him.
The two brothers instantly rushed forward to hold him up once again and Dean secretly prayed that the horrible experience would not be repeating itself. "Whoa!" Sam called out. "You're ok, we've got you…"
Cas groaned slightly as they dragged him over to the bed, dumping his weak body unceremoniously onto the mattress.
"You ok?" Dean asked and only got a further groan in response. Who knew that angels could get so whiny. "You mind telling us what the hell happened back there?"
Castiel's previously closed eyes reopened again to show a guilty and remorseful expression. "I am sorry," he murmured sincerely. "The travelling it… it was too much for me, I – I no longer had my powers under control…"
"Your mojo was wacky, dude," Dean chuckled humorlessly and Cas nodded in defeat. "We weren't even really there, it was like a ghost thing."
Cas nodded once more. "I seem to have… to have sent you to a far-off dimension, I am truly sorry…" he went on weakly, but Sam lifted his hands to make soothing gestures.
"It's ok," he said earnestly with the soulful and understanding gaze that only Sammy-eyes could provide. "It's ok, Cas, why don't you get some rest, all right?"
While the angel still murmured to himself, slowly drifting out of consciousness, Dean shook his head to himself and gave his brother a dark look. "Well, I could use that drink now."
Sam nodded. "Yeah."
A slight chuckle escaped Dean's throat at the absurdity they had just escaped. "Man, wasn't that a goddamn, screwed-to-hell type universe!"
"Kinda like we are?" Sam asked smirking.
When they were both settled in with their glass of hunter's helper, the entire truth of his world came crashing back down on Dean in one go. Telling his mother the horrible truth of what her future held for her. Watching his baby brother die right before his eyes. Seeing his inevitable doom talking to him out of the oblivious shell of his father's body. Telling him that there was one big perfect and fateful plan that he would never be able to stop. Oh, the joy.
"Well…" he sighed after swallowing a big mouthful. "This is it."
"This is what?" Sam wanted to know.
Dean shrugged. "Team Free Will. One ex-blood junkie, one dropout with six bucks to his name… and Mr. Comatose over there." He gestured at Cas' lifeless form on the bed. "It's awesome."
"It's not funny," Sam said quietly.
"I'm not laughing," Dean responded darkly.
The both sipped their drinks in the depressing silence that now spread and Dean found himself wondering if Sam was thinking about the same things he was.
"They all say we'll say yes."
It was soft, cautious and terrified and so incredibly heartbreaking.
"I know," Dean agreed. "It's getting annoying."
It was almost sad, how fast their crazy and hilarious adventure was forgotten in the face of their inevitable doom. Ridiculous really.
"What if they're right?" Sam asked quietly.
Dean took a big gulp of his drink and relished the burning sensation in his throat before responding. "They're not."
Sam didn't seem convinced. "I mean, why would we, either of us?" he wondered. "But… I've been weak before…"
"Sam," Dean immediately interfered, for he would not have it, he would not have Sammy put himself down again.
"Michael got Dad to say yes," Sam said almost desperately, also thinking of their dreadful trip to the past. His sorrowful eyes seemed to plead to his big brother to just fix this.
"That was different," Dean insisted. "Anna was about to kill Mom!"
Sam remained silent for a moment and looked down into his half-empty cup of brown liquor. "And if you could save Mom?" he whispered. "What would you say?"
They stood in silence for a long moment, each of them brooding over the weight of their current situation. There was nothing they could do. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. They wouldn't be able to stop it.
"Well, I'll tell you one thing that'll never happen," Dean suddenly announced, snapping out of his gloomy state with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Sam gave him a questioning look.
"That hair," Dean determined gesturing at Sam's head and shuddering slightly at the thought of it.
And he playfully cocked his brows at his little brother and listened wistfully as Sam's heartfelt chuckle died away like the last blossoms of springtime.