THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

My first multi-chapter fic of 2014 - wishing a year of health, wealth and happiness to all my readers!

Dean's novel idea to help the brothers out of a financial crisis gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, 'finding yourself'. Trouble is, once you've found yourself, what the heck do you do with yourself?

My usual rules apply with this fic; no particular resemblance to canon, rated T for a few naughty words. There may be vague spoilers for season 8 onwards because some of it takes place in and around the 'B' place. I see this as being a kind of humorous,angsty,hurt/comfort with a dash of friendship and happy families and maybe a pinch of cracky madness.

Disclaimer: Looked down the back of the sofa in the closet - nope, don't own them.

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Chapter 1

It was 2.36 in the morning when Sam awoke, to the rumble of his cellphone vibrating on the nightstand. Groping blearily through the dark he picked up the phone and fumbled clumsily with the touch screen, eventually answering the call.

"What?" he croaked groggily into the tiny device.

It was 2.37 in the morning when Sam really wished he hadn't woken up ...

xxxxx

One month ago …

Sitting slumped at the Batcave's massive dining table, Sam was looking at some mail that Dean had picked up from their local PO Box whilst on a grocery run that morning.

He sighed as he ran long fingers through his increasingly unkempt bangs.

"Okay," snapped Dean, who had settled opposite his clearly preoccupied sibling with his still-booted feet resting on the table's highly polished surface; "out with it. You've been moping around like a eunuch in a whorehouse for the last week; what's wrong?"

Sam took a deep breath, the kind that usually precedes catastrophically bad news, before answering. "Dean, we're flat broke," he announced glumly; "we've barely got a cent to our name."

Swinging his feet down from the table Dean leaned forward with a frown; "whad'y mean? I applied for two credit cards a couple of weeks ago."

Sam waved the mail he had been scanning in front of Dean's bewildered face; "yeah well, apparently your fake IDs are no more convincing than your real one – they've both been refused."

Dean bristled furiously; "Sonofabitch! Why?"

Sam shrugged again; "I guess the credit companies are clamping down – there's a recession going on in case you hadn't noticed."

"Bastards," Dean snorted; "but my baby needs a new tail light."

Sam shook his head; "I need a new coat; you need a new pair of boots; we need to buy more salt, we'll eventually need to buy more food," Sam sighed again; "as far as I know, that twenty bucks you took to the store to buy groceries this morning is everything we had."

"I got change," Dean announced brightly, rummaging in the pocket of his jeans and emptying a handful of coins onto the table; the two of them watched miserably as they rattled and spun into a small pile in the middle of the table.

Sam studied the small jumble of coins; "okay, now we have four bucks sixty to our name."

"We'll go to the bar downtown tonight," Dean suggested, effecting his most reassuring voice; "hustle some pool – hey, they might have a poker game going on."

Sam smiled wearily and shook his head; "they know us now, all the local bars do. That's the problem with having a permanent base; if we want to hustle pool, we've gotta travel further afield, and that means using gas we can't afford to burn."

The brothers fell into a despondent silence.

"I noticed the garage in town was advertising for a cashier," Sam eventually announced; "I'm gonna take a ride over there tomorrow and tell them I'm interested."

"What, like, do a real job?" Dean snorted.

"Yes Dean, a real job that pays real money," Sam replied irritably; "desperate times call for desperate measures."

"What about the hunt?" Dean pleaded; "we can't jus' give it up."

"No, you're right, one of us'll have to keep our hand in," Sam agreed with a nod; "at least until we can get back on our feet, and in that case it's best that it's you – you're the natural hunter, and somehow, I don't think you're cut out for the service industry!"

"This sucks," Dean eventually grumbled.

Sam gave a humourless smile; "sure does."

xxxxx

The following morning, Sam shuffled sleepily into the kitchen after an uncomfortably restless night, to be greeted not by the usual sight of his brother standing in the corner, scratching his ass through saggy sweatpants and brewing coffee, but by a hastily written note on the kitchen table.

'Gone out, see you later. Don't get a job yet.'

Standing beside the kitchen counter, Sam held the crumpled scrap of paper reading the words over and over again, as if doing so would somehow change their meaning.

A knot of angry concern began to tighten in the pit of his stomach; what on earth is the reckless ass getting himself into now?

xxxxx

It was late afternoon by the time Dean returned to the Batcave, and his cheerful entrance was halted abruptly by the intimidating sight of two hundred and fifteen pounds of pissed-off brother standing in the doorway, long arms folded across an indignantly huffed chest, together with a bitchface of nobel prize proportions.

"Hey Sa …"

"What the hell crap have you been getting into?" Sam snorted.

Rolling his eyes, Dean sidled round Sam's immovable bulk. fumbling in his jacket pocket, he produced a wad of dollar bills.

"You're welcome," he stated blankly; "there's a thousand here; I counted them twice."

As Sam's eyes widened, his vocabulary narrowed; "a thou … but … wh-how ...?"

His brain gave up the attempt of coherent speech with a sense of totally wasted effort.

Dean waggled the the bills and made a show of fanning himself with them; "it was while I was in the post office pickin' up our mail yesterday," He began; "I …"

"You didn't steal it?" Sam blurted in horror.

Dean stared in grim silence at him; "I'm gonna pretend you didn't say that so I don't have to smack you one," he stated flatly.

Sam had the good grace to look ashamed; "I'm sorry," he mumbled sheepishly into his chest.

"As I was sayin'," Dean continued forcefully; "when I was in the Post Office, I saw a notice from some local pharmaceutical company advertising for fit men under forty to undergo clinical trials today, and that they would pay a thousand dollars to anyone who volunteered and was selected for the trial."

"Clinical trials?" Sam parroted, concern beginning to furrow his brow.

"Yeah," Dean shrugged; "so after what you were sayin' yesterday, I figured we could use a thousand bucks, so this morning, I got up at the crack of dawn and went over there so I could be first in line."

"Clinical trials?" Sam repeated absently; "why didn't you tell me?"

Dean sighed, giving a theatrical eye-roll. "Because I knew you'd throw a bitch fit, just like the one you're havin' now," he snorted; "anyhow, I was the first one there, an' they jus' did some tests, and told me I was the ideal candidate – they were only looking for one."

"Tests? What sort of tests?" Sam asked cautiously.

"Oh, they jus' asked me a load of questions about my health," Dean replied nonchalently; "prodded me about for a few minutes, took some blood an' made me pee in a jar," he replied; "nothing major."

Sam could feel his brain beginning to engage again, and with it, began to wither under a heavy sense of doom with every word that Dean said.

"So what was the clinical trial for?"

Dean shrugged again; "I dunno," he snapped; "they said something about using the blood to test some medicine for treating some new crappy organ-melting disease in some godforsaken jungle hell-hole that I've never heard of." He gestured toward the money on the table beside them; "what do I care what they do with it? It's not like I'm using it any more, is it?" He paused for a moment to see if Sam had anything to add to his crashing logic; "and, anyway, if it helps them cure some poor bastard, and gives us some spending power then it's all good, right?"

"Well, I guess so," Sam murmured hesitantly, "but why did they only want young male applicants?" He could see that Dean was beginning to fidget, indicating that his attention span, along with this conversation, was rapidly dwindling.

"They said something about testing it on different uh, demo - um, y'know, uh, dem …" Dean's voice tailed off, seemingly lost for the necessary word.

"Demographic groups?" Sam prompted.

"Yeah," Dean replied impatiently; "that's it, demographic groups. This time they wanted to get blood and stuff from a young guy to test this medicine on," he explained; "then next time I guess they'll ask for a young woman, or an old woman, or maybe a ninety-year-old Chinaman with a wooden leg. Jeeze Sam, I'm not a scientist, I don't know how these things work. I just signed up for the trial to get the cash. Can't we just leave it at that?"

Sam rubbed his forehead, he could feel a headache coming on. "Uh yeah, okay – thanks dude, that money's gonna be a massive help." He hesitated for a moment; "just tell me one thing Dean, and I promise I'll drop the subject," Sam's face grew deathly serious; "they didn't give you any drugs or injections or potions?"

Dean shook his head smartly; "nope," he reassured, "I promise, hunters honour, they didn't give me anything apart from a cup of tea and a cookie after they took the blood."

Sam sighed, slightly reassured that Dean wouldn't be keeling over with rabies or something equally unpleasant in the foreseeable future.

Shimmying past his brother, Dean descended down into the bunker and dropped heavily into the couch, grabbing a copy of Musclecar Weekly on his way down. "Make the coffee, bitch," he snorted; "on the subject of blood, there's way too much of it in my caffeine stream!"

Sam looked down at the money and wished he could be pleased about it. Deep in the little part of his mind that knew every cloud had a crappy lining, a dark shadow of foreboding began to take up residence.

xxxxx

Over the following weeks, much to Dean's disgust, Sam watched his brother like a hawk; scanning him for the slightest signs that something, anything could be wrong.

Every sniffle, every cough, every grumble of Dean's ever-demanding stomach gave Sam palpitations, but eventually even Sam, with his propensity for worrying, couldn't deny the fact that Dean was in great shape. The elder Winchester was robust, fit, and energetic; he was positively radiant with healthful vigour.

Added to that, a spate of profitable nights in various bars a couple of towns along and a successful credit card application which meant that the Winchesters' particularly unique brand of solvency was finally restored, and life was definitely looking up.

So it did come as something of a shock, when, at 2.36 am on this particular morning, a month after Dean's clinical trial, Sam received a call from the local police informing him that they were currently holding Dean, under arrest for public indecency, having run, naked as a jaybird and soaking wet, into an all-night diner whereupon he had helped himself to a large carton of orange juice and a bunch of bananas.

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tbc

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A/N I'm bringing back my O/C, Tom Matthews for this fic. Tom is a doctor who runs an 'off the books' clinic, looking after hunters. He's an old friend of Bobby Singer, and has been seen previously in my fics, Dry, Hair of the Dog and The Darkest Realm. If you haven't got to know Tom through those fics - here's a little background on him:

Dry: Tom Matthews was plump, short and had dark brown eyes which spoke a thousand words; Sam liked him and trusted him immediately.

The Darkest Realm: (A conversation between Sam and Bobby)

"you should see Tom in there, Bobby, he's amazing. He should have been a hostage negotiator."

"Funny you should say that son; he used to be in the police very many years ago; Police Medical Officer, that's how we got to know each other - over a few mysteriously eviscerated cadavers."

"Nice," Sam cocked an eyebrow.

"I managed to keep him in blissful ignorance until one day one of those eviscerated cadavers calmly hopped off the gurney, pinned him against the wall and tried to throttle him."

Sam's eyes widened in shock, "what happened?"

"I sliced it's head off with a silver machete."

"Of course then I had to come clean," Bobby smiled as he remembered telling Tom the whole story of the hunting fraternity and the creatures they hunted.

"Did he believe you?" Sam asked, curious.

Bobby shrugged, "he'd just been half-strangled by a three day dead, decomposing corpse with half it's ribcage blown away and it's lungs in a jar the other side of the room. Kinda hard to be shocked by anything after that."

Sam managed a brief smile, "fair point!"

Bobby continued, "in fact, the thing that shocked Tom the most was that us hunters got no recognition and no support."

"Sounds like Tom," smiled Sam.

"Three years after that, Tom was at a murder scene. Standard robbery; nothing supernatural or anythin', just humans being dicks to each other and he accidentally disturbed one of the bad guys who was hiding in a closet. The guy shot him point blank in the chest."

Sam gasped, "crap."

"It was bad, real bad" sighed Bobby, "Tom almost died; bullet missed his heart, but tore one of his lungs up bad. He spent months in hospital, an' when he came out, he wasn't ever gonna be fit enough to carry on in the police so they medically retired him. Gave him a real handsome pay-off, and that's what he used to set up his little clinic, just to support guys like us."

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