Written for the Wincest Big Bang
Fic masterpost: AO3
Art masterpost: LJ
A/N: Thanks to beta anotherwinchesterfangirl who always saves me! Artist fridayblues was the sweetest to work with - stepping in as a pinch hitter to create the most amazing art.
Tags: Stanford era, unrequited relationship, canon divergent, hallucinations
Summary: Sam wakes up in a strange bed, a strange apartment, and living in domestic bliss with Dean and a dog named Mothra. Obviously, either he's lost his mind or all of this is a dream.
He looked down at the blank screen of his phone. No texts. No messages.
It wasn’t surprising after five months of radio silence. Sam still held out a small sliver of hope with Christmas only two days away. He frowned and flipped the phone shut, stuffing it in his hoodie pocket as he picked up his beer.
Palo Alto had plenty of bars with pricey wine lists and whiskey flights, but Sam liked the dive bars like this where there were three beers on tap and they were all Budweiser.
The bartender flipped a switch and the night lights behind the bar came up, signalling the official shift from day drinking to live music. Sam blinked at the strobe of bright blue light and ducked his head away, turning to look at the guy on the bar stool next to him.
He was blonde and young, the same age as Sam with the same type of hand-me-down clothes. No doubt he had the same kind of fake ID in his pocket.
“What’s your name?” Sam asked, shouting over the band that was warming up on the little stage in the corner. Finishing up finals for the semester and seeing off his roommate for the Christmas break made him feel untethered and a little loose. All that waited for him tonight was the beer in his hand and a dark, empty dorm room.
The sun glowed orange behind his closed eyelids, as insistent and annoying as an alarm clock, and Sam blinked them open in confusion. The light was all wrong - his dorm room window faced west, not east, so morning light never bothered him. Damn, he slept in. He had been thinking about catching an early train up to San Francisco and looking around a few bookstores in North Beach before starting on his reading list for the Native American Mythology class next semester.
Sam turned to look for his alarm clock and realized it wasn’t the sun that was wrong - it was the room.
The walls and bedding that surrounded him were a clean bright white - not the messy riot of their dorm room - and he bolted upright, sheets pooling around his waist. This generic kind of white was the color of old hospitals and new construction and it meant trouble.
Something must have happened to him last night. Maybe there was an accident, a blow hard enough to knock him out, and he was brought here - wherever here was.
The thing was, the sheets under his hands were nice. He spent enough time as a child with Dean or Dad lying in hospital beds to know that they didn’t use high-thread count sheets, and the milk crate at the side of the bed that the lamp and clock radio sat on looked more like something snagged from behind the cafeteria at the dorm.
So what the fuck? Or more precisely, where the fuck was he?
Sam pushed back against the headboard and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to remember last night. After helping Brady pack his bags and catch the airport shuttle, he drank a few beers at a bar, some campus pick-up joint that was nothing more than a big screen tv, cheap chicken wings, and a bad Journey cover band on stage in the back.
“What’s your name?”
“Jesse.” The guy spun towards him on the bar stool, his lips curled up in a cocky smile. He wasn’t Sam’s type -- too short, too slender, and eyes that were too blue -- but Sam was always a sucker for a cocky smile. “What’s yours?”
“Sam.” He smiled back, showing dimples over his beer. “So, what are you doing for the break?”
Jesse leaned in towards him and licked his lips. “Break? Oh, no, I don’t go to school here.”
Sam ran a hand through his hair. There was a guy last night, not anyone he knew, not anyone special, just some guy he sat next to.
And what the hell had they been drinking? Boilermakers, for some reason that escaped him now. Five beers and five shots of whisky later and it seemed like a good idea to head over to Sam's place.
As they walked into his dorm room, Sam flipped the light switch several times and nothing happened. Damn it, maintenance probably shut off one of the breakers, forgetting he was up here on the third floor.
Hands settled on his waist from behind. “We don’t need lights for what I’m going to do to you.”
A shiver ran up Sam’s spine at the touch. He turned around and looked down at the blonde and the blue, and knew it was all wrong, but it was alright for now. Their lips met in that dark room.
How did he end up here in this apartment? Sam tamped down a nauseating wave of anxiety. He might have a few drinks now and then, but that was it. But getting blackout drunk? That was Dad’s way to cope; Sam wasn’t like that. He chose never to be like that.
He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and his foot landed on a pair of black jeans and a black concert t-shirt crumpled on the floor. Sam reached down to pick up the shirt and chuffed out a laugh. Metallica. Of course he would sleep with some random guy who had Dean’s taste in music and clothes.
What was it they say about insanity? It's doing the same thing over and over again - wanting the same thing over and over - when there's no way to get it.
Sam should take this one-night stand as a lesson. If he really wanted a normal life, he should meet a nice dentistry student who drives a Subaru and takes his laundry back to his mom every weekend.
Standing up, he stretched his arms above his head and caught a glimpse of himself in a mirrored closet door. The reflection was an odd sight and he stumbled closer. Naked from the waist up, his chest and neck were covered in red bite marks and mouth-shaped bruises. He pushed on one of the bruises, curious, and closed his eyes against the fresh pain and the sudden throb in his cock.
This is insane. Dean does this kind of crazy stuff. Not me.
If his panic had sparked before, it flared bright now as his eyes dropped to the pants he was wearing. They were green flannel soft flannel and he fingered a familiar tear in the right knee.
Shit, these were his pajamas - the ones he wore almost every night.
He searched the floor for more of his clothes. Nothing - which meant he walked across campus drunk in his pajamas - no, wait, shirtless and drunk in his pajamas - to some strange guy’s apartment for round two of some one-night stand that he couldn’t remember.
If Dean heard about this, his big brother would laugh his ass off.
I need to leave.
Cracking open the bedroom door, Sam didn't hear any noises from the apartment below. The stairwell and carpet and layout looked familiar, reminding him of his old Chem partner’s place in married housing.
Please tell me this guy isn't married.
He walked soundlessly down the carpeted stairs, to where a Christmas tree stood in the corner of the small living room, lit up with presents underneath. The sight of those bright lights made Sam stutter to a stop, grasping the handrail. Really, this couldn’t get any worse.
A family lives here.
He and Dean never celebrated the holidays much growing up, not with the constant moving and lack of space. The tree in this living room wasn't fancy with its thrift shop ornaments, but put together with love and nicer than anything they ever had.
As he held onto the handrail and stood on the second to last riser, his bare toes hanging over the carpeted edge, Sam felt a pang and wondered where Dad and Dean were at this moment. They would probably celebrate this year by drinking a beer together at the local bar, or they might forget all about the holidays working a case.
The smell of brewed coffee got his attention, and he wandered into a small quiet kitchen in the back looking for clues. It was neat and empty like the rest of the house, and a coffee maker sat on the counter with a yellow sticky note stuck next to it. Sam glanced around, unsure if the note was for him or someone else, but curiosity got the better of him and he peeled it off the slick granite.
No. No. No. This wasn’t right.
Sam recognized this handwriting. He had seen it all his life. But it made no sense. Not here. Not now.
Made you coffee but I ended
up drinking it all - that's what
you get for sleeping in.
See you after class. D
The front door of the apartment swung open and he threw the note back down on the counter. If he thought this was some kind of dream before, he was sure of it when his brother walked in.
Dean looked different. Last Sam had seen him, his face was gaunt and Dad's leather jacket hung loose around his shoulders. He had been upset, unable to face Sam after the argument with Dad ended.
This Dean looked good, with longer hair and tan skin that made the freckles on his face jump out, which contrasted perfectly against the dark red of the Stanford hoodie he was wearing. He looks relaxed. Not like he's waiting for something bad to happen, or someone to start shouting. He looks like every dirty dream Sam had since he was fifteen, where he and Dean would swap clothes and he could smell his brother on him all day.
When Dean spotted Sam frozen at the kitchen counter, his eyes crinkled up and he shared one of those closed-lipped smiles, trying to be tough and not succeeding. “So, you're finally up? Always said you were a lightweight when you drank whisky.”
Five months without hearing that voice, without seeing that smile, and it made his heart ache so badly that he rubbed his palm against his chest to ease the pain.
Dean tossed his backpack on the couch, as if he had done it a hundred times before, and walked past Sam to fill the glass carafe from the coffeemaker. He glanced out the kitchen window while the water ran from the faucet, not noticing how Sam stared with an open mouth.
Don't talk. Don't wake up. If this was a dream, then all he wanted was to hang on to this Dean for a few more minutes.
“Remind me to kick your ass for suggesting that early Econ class. It’s torture, man.” Dean flipped the switch on the old Mr Coffee machine, before turning to face Sam. “What's wrong with you this morning? You getting sick again?”
He reached out his hand and pressed the back of it against Sam's forehead. It was too heavy and dry for a dream, and the comfort felt real, like Sam remembered from when they were kids. Whenever he was hurt or in pain, Dean would be there to find a way to make it better, and after a while Sam didn't mind sprained ankles and scraped knees because Dean's attention would be focused on him.
Dean stood so close to him that Sam could see the grassy green color of his eyes and smell the Ivory soap he used, a scent that had made Sam crazy during high school when they would bump up against each other in the motel bathroom. Now that same soapy smell surrounded him and Sam took a drag of it, filling his mouth and lungs with it, a sense memory to take with him when he woke up.
“Well, you feel alright. Maybe you just need some coffee. And bacon. Bacon cures anything.”
Dean slipped his hand down to cup the back of Sam's neck and that's when the world tilted. Soft lips pressed against his, leaving the taste of coffee and toothpaste on his tongue. Unexpected and warm, Sam surprised himself by sinking into the kiss, bringing his hands up to grip the back of Dean's arms.
It wasn't until he had to break it off to take a breath, his lungs burning from lack of oxygen, and he pushed back against Dean, that he realized his hands were touching a breathing living body.
Not some misty dream, but flesh and muscle and bone, and the wall of panic from before slammed into him.
“No, no, no.” Sam shook his head and stumbled back.
“Sammy?” Dean's brow was creased in concern.
Sam bolted through a sliding door off the kitchen onto a wooden deck. It felt like deep claws had pierced his ribcage, holding him tight across his chest, and he gulped down the morning air. He sank down on the steps, his vision whiting out around the edges, and he drop his head between his knees.
Think, Sam, think. Could be a shifter. He remembered his dad talking about how shifters could slip into your life disguised as people you knew, but the problem with that was he didn't know this Dean and he didn’t know this place. Neither had no connection to his real life, his true memories, in any way.
A kiss. Sam’s hand snuck up to rub along his lips which were still tingling.
Maybe some kind of parallel universe? Sam had seen a lot of things but even that idea seemed far fetched to him, something out of C.S. Lewis or a Philip K. Dick novel. Ghosts and shifters were real; Narnia not so much.
Which left one thing. He was losing his mind. He was broken inside and this was all a hallucination.
Sam rocked back and forth on the steps, and was gulping down air that never seemed to reach his lungs, when a wet, cold nose pressed against his ear. Sam jerked his head up and a golden retriever began to lick his face and hands.
Bones. That was his first thought - the dog he had fed leftover pizza to in the high mountains of Arizona - but this wasn’t Bones. Her well-brushed red-gold coat and new leather collar said she wasn't a stray either. Sam let the dog lave at his stubbled cheeks, grounding himself in the feel of its soft fur between his fingers and the sounds of its happy panting.
“Hey there.” At the sound of his voice, the dog sat between Sam's legs, wagging its tail expectantly and a smile tugged at his lips. Sam nuzzled into its neck. “Good girl.”
“Shoo, Mothra, go back to your doghouse.” Sam straightened up at Dean's voice and felt his warm presence settle on the step next to him. The dog obediently ran over to a wooden dog house and laid down inside. A shoulder bumped Sam’s. “Seems like you’re having a bad morning. What’s going on?”
His brother - not my brother, just a hallucination - was holding out one of two cups of coffee. Sam could run, he could attack, but he accepted the mug, looking down at the light brown color. Double cream, just the way he started drinking it when he got to Stanford.
“Dean…” Sam stared into his eyes, unsure what he wanted to say. “Wait, Mothra?”
Dean glared at the dog, who put her head on her paws, her bushy tail thumping the inside of the dog house. “Big, annoying, prone to destruction? Like I said before, you pick the dog, but I pick the name.”
A large hand grabbed the back of Sam’s neck once again, tugging softly at his hair, to bring his attention back around to Dean.
“Sam, it's okay. I get it. This time of year is tough for both of us. I thought getting a tree and decorating might help us make some traditions of our own.” Dean glanced over his shoulder back at the apartment, corners of his mouth turned down. “Maybe I was wrong. I'll take it down.”
That frown tugged at Sam. He had lived with a Dean-shaped hole inside himself for months, and in any world, any hallucination, he didn't want to see his brother upset. “No, I like it. Don't change anything.”
Dean ruffled his hair. “Finish up that coffee. After being sick last week, you can't be late for McNulty’s class.”
Sick? Maybe that was it. Some kind of fever dream. Or a case of encephalitis. Maybe selective amnesia. Sad when the idea that he was unconscious and lying in a hospital somewhere was the best case scenario in his crazy life. Whatever this was, a dream, a hallucination, he was willing to go with it for now.
Sam took another sip of the coffee, strong despite the milk, the way his brother brewed it on motel hot pads and cheap coffee makers when they were growing up. If he didn't give it too much thought, if he didn’t push too hard, this could be the best dream Sam ever had.
Or it could be great if he didn't have to sit through McNulty’s Ethics class. He wasn’t sure why his dreamworld would have his least-favorite class and make it identical in every way to the one he had in real life, from the professor’s tiny cramped writing on the board to his sonorous voice that made Sam want to curl up and sleep the hour away. He couldn’t wait to get out of there and figure out what was going on.
Sam pushed through the glass door and emerged into the late morning sun, when he heard his name being called.
“Hey, Winchester!” His roommate, Brady, pushed through the surging crowd. “Long time, no see.”
Sam smiled. Tyson Brady had been the first person he met at orientation and his roommate for the past six months. Despite his entitled life, Brady was good people and they bonded over having your life planned out for you.
“I just saw you yesterday.”
Brady’s forehead scrunched up. “What are you talking about, man? I haven't seen you in two months. Your boyfriend won't let me come over anymore.”
“Boyfriend?” Sam said, recovering quickly. “Oh yeah. Well, Dean can be a little protective.”
“Try irrationally possessive.”
Sam shook his head and a flash of brown over Brady’s shoulder caught his attention. There was Dean standing across the quad, staring at him. Only this was the Dean he remembered, with short darker hair and Dad’s leather jacket. No textbooks or hoodies in sight. Their eyes met and his brother began waving his arms to get Sam’s attention. His brother’s eyes were wide and his lips kept moving as if to yell but no sound came out. Sam cocked his head and took two steps forward before a group of students knocked past him in their rush to get to the next class. When he looked up again, Dean was gone.
“Dean?” he shouted.
“Are you okay, Sam?” Brady’s arm rested on his arm. “You don't look so good, buddy. How about I buy you a coffee?”
“No, I need to find Dean.” Sam craned his neck back and forth to catch sight of him, but Brady's grip on his arm drug his attention back to his friend.
“Sam, I haven't seen you in months and now you tell me you need to run back to your boyfriend. Gotta say that doesn't sound healthy,” Brady said.
“We’ll do it another time. Soon, I promise. I just need to find Dean right now.”
Brady let go and stepped back, but his smile was painfully tight. “Sure. It's just that, ever since he showed up, you've been so wrapped up in him, you don't see anything that's right in front of you.”
That stopped Sam for a moment. This was his friend in the real world and he was right here in whatever this dream world was. In the first few days after they’d met, Sam had wondered if they might become more. Brady was funny and supportive, and there was a certain type of freedom there that came without any emotional baggage.
Only one problem - he wasn't the one person who meant the world to Sam. The one person he would lay his life down for.
“I'm sorry. I have to go right now.” Sam took off at a jog, zig zagging across the quad as he went, searching the crowd for brown leather and short, spiked hair.
An hour later, he threw open the door to the apartment. The search for the real Dean went nowhere, looking in every quad and coffee shop on campus, so it was time to go back to this dream Dean for some answers.
The Christmas tree lights were on, despite the afternoon sun coming in the windows. Dean was leaning over, placing a present beneath the lower branches. The box was wrapped in red-and-white wrapping paper with a large silver bow on top and it felt too much, like one of those store display presents that were empty and light. All the gifts they exchanged growing up were hidden beneath brown paper bags or newspaper, but those cheaply-wrapped candy bars and comic books, even that stolen Sapphire Barbie, meant the world to him because they came from his brother.
Dean straightened up when he heard the door close. “Did you stick around after class? That old roommate of yours talk you into a study session? I swear to God that guy just can't let go.”
“We need to talk.” He may not have wanted this dream to end, and he had Dean exactly the way he wanted him, but Sam knew that something was wrong with his brother. His real brother. And he wasn't going to leave him alone out in the real world.
“Sam, what's wrong?” Dean felt his forehead again while guiding him to the couch. “You're all flushed. You really are sick.”
The urgency of the situation seemed to recede as he looked into his brother’s worried green eyes and felt Dean's hand on his face. Sam brought his hands up to rest on the soft cotton of what must have been he discarded Metallica shirt that he saw on the bedroom floor earlier that morning.
Looking in those eyes, it brought back memories of skinned knees and Dean being there for him every time he was hurt. Dean walking him back from school everyday, making sure he got his homework done, goading him into keeping in shape for hunting, teasing him about girls and reading books.
But Sam had wanted more. He dreamed of fingertips finding each other under the sheet in the dark. He was selfish - he wanted all of Dean's attention and his affection, not to share him with a stream of nameless girls in nameless cities, and certainly not to share him with some never-ending quest to satisfy their dad's vengeance.
Now, in this world, he had that.
“Where is Dad?” That was not the first question he expected to ask.
The corners of Dean's mouth turned down and Sam could feel his soft exhale against his arm hairs. “Geez, you really are sick, Sam. C’mon, lay down.”
Sam grabbed Dean's hand, curling into his chest. “I'm serious. If you're here, where's Dad?”
The pause was significant, and Sam felt a swooping sensation in his gut.
“Sam…” Dean breathed out. “I know this is a really tough time of year for you, for us. Maybe we should have gone back to Kansas to visit his grave, rather than trying to celebrate the holidays like this. Because, really, what do we know about all this Bing Crosby White Christmas stuff?” He gestured to the tree in the corner, his arm flopping half heartedly.
“I'm sorry.” He didn't know what the apology was for, just something that needed to be said.
Dean fussed around him, and in his emotional exhaustion, Sam let him. Months had gone by since he last saw his brother - the real Dean - or his Dad. Sam had tucked away his pain when he came to Stanford, buried it underneath all the chaos of classes and dorm life so that he didn't have to think about the loneliness.
Underneath the loneliness was the constant worry. All the hunts that they went on had the potential to turn bad and bloody, and Sam wouldn't be there.
Settled back on a couch in this make-believe apartment with a knitted afghan wrapped around him, he wondered what would be wrong with staying here just a little while longer. In this world, Dean loved him and more importantly, he was with him.
Dean settled in next to him on the edge of the couch, placing a firm hand on his chest, rubbing along Sam’s sternum with his thumb. “This is all my fault. I never should have let you go to class today. It's my job to take care of you.”
“You always do,” Sam said with a wan smile, as his eyelids began to droop. Maybe if he got a little sleep, all of this would make more sense.
The last thing he felt as his eyes closed was Dean's murmur against his temple. “Get some rest, little brother.”
His dream was cold, like leaving the front door open during a blizzard kind of cold. The temperature was uncomfortable and he went to reach for the afghan only to find he was unable to move. He opened his eyes and his dimly lit dorm room came into focus. It was just as he left it yesterday. Brady's side of the room is in disarray, sheets pulled down and comforter thrown on the floor, his toothbrush discarded on the milk crate that he used as a nightstand. Sam's side was stacked high with novels and textbooks, even a few books on folklore and creatures, all to keep him busy over the quiet Christmas break at school. He had special permission from the R.A. and the building manager to stay here by himself, since he had nowhere better to go for the holidays.
Sam tried to sit up again, but couldn't move. One glance at his wrists, bound to the wooden bed frame with leather belts, explained it. Something else was in the room with him, a shadow moving around the edges of the room, and he started to yell for Dean, the real Dean, the one who could save him. Then there was a tug on his hair and a blue hand in front of his face, and Sam felt the world go dark again.
And that's when he woke up in his brother's arms, with the Christmas tree lights winking merrily in the corner and Dean slapping his cheek.
“Wake up! C’mon, Sam, wake up!”
“Nooooo…” He tried to scramble back but was tangled hopelessly in the blanket, instead pushing back on the thing pretending to be Dean. “Get away from me!”
“Sam, it's me. Nobody's gonna hurt you. It was just a nightmare.”
Dean held him in place until the worst of his panic attack had passed. Sam pushed himself into a sitting position, and Dean ducked his head to see under the bangs that fell into his face, cupping Sam’s cheek.
“You know that, don't you? I would never let anyone hurt you.” Despite the hair and the tan, Dean looked the same as he always did. That mix of strong and soft, invincible and vulnerable - the same foundation that Sam had built his life around.
His brother leaned in, hand still resting on Sam’s cheek, and kissed him deeply. Wet and smooth like one of Sam’s teenage dreams, but the lips and tongue were cool and Sam felt the ghost of those leather belts tighten around his wrists and ankles once more. He pulled back, swallowing hard against the bile that rose in his throat.
“I know that.” Sam played with the fringe of the afghan between his fingers. “You know what sounds really good right now? Tomato rice soup.”
Dean stood up and smiled in relief. “I can do that. Why don't you stay right here, and figure out a movie or something else for us to watch. Or even better, how about opening a few presents early?”
“Sure.” Sam watched him leave the room, before pulling off the blanket, and listened for the clank of the sauce pot on the cooktop and Dean's humming before slipping his feet into shoes and making his way to the door.
He paused with his fingers wrapped around the metal doorknob, as he recognized the song fake-Dean was humming. “Hey Jude” and tomato rice soup? Whoever or whatever this thing was, it was good. Just not good enough to keep him here.
He figured he had about a five-minute head start but Dean would probably jump in the car and catch up quickly, so he hopped on the first bike he saw that wasn't locked up.
Cutting across campus on the paths should have been a ten-minute ride, but there was a protest in the quad that blocked him, and he had to take a detour by the gymnasium.
Swerving around the pedestrians, he was almost knocked on his ass by Brady.
“Hey, man, are you, okay? First, you abandon me and now, you almost run me over. Dude, what is going on with you.” His roommate, or not-roommate, looked concerned again and Sam didn't have time for this, dodging away as Brady tried to grab the handlebars.
He pedaled as fast as he could around the law school building and skidded into the bike racks in front of his dorm. The building looked the same as it did when he left for the bar last night. Or was that the night before? How long had he been stuck here?
Approaching the granite steps of the dorm, Sam threw the bike down next to the bike racks and ran up the stairs. Pushing the front door open, he blinked as he was plunged into darkness. Sam stumbled a few steps further then turned back towards the dorm’s front doors. No brilliant sunlight, no crowds of students walking by. Only darkness and quiet sidewalks.
Sam turned and waited for a moment, head cocked, like a deer in the forest aware that a predator was never far. There was nothing, the silence consuming, so he continued forward, bypassing the elevator for the stairs and an easy run up two flights to his room. His foot was on the first tread when he heard it.
He would always respond to that voice. As a child, as a adult, during a hunt, or inside a dream. He couldn't deny the power it had over him. Sam turned around and felt his heart clench.
Dean was right behind him. The Stanford hoodie was gone and Dad’s old leather jacket was in its place. His hair was shorter and spiked in front, just like the night Sam left for Stanford, but his face was wrong. Tranquil and passive in a way that Dean’s never was. Sam could read every line, every flicker across his brother’s face. The annoyance when Sam made a mess in the car. The amusement when a prank went better than expected. The bliss from a great meal. His brother’s emotions swung like a pendulum between two extremes, but it rarely rested in the middle at contentment and peace.
This still wasn’t his Dean, just another iteration. He needed to find his way back to his real brother, and in order to do that, he needed to face whatever was waiting in his dorm room.
“Dean, I need your help--”
“Wait, Sammy. I need to talk to you.” Dean reached for Sam’s wrist, and when the hand settled, the flesh was cool to the touch. “Come with me. There's so much I need to tell you. So much you need to know.” This brother pulled but there was no substance behind it.
“No.” Sam backed up onto the next step.
“Sammy,” he sighed out, soft as a breath. “It doesn't have to be this way. You can come back and we can live out this dream. No one to judge us. No one to stop us. Why would you want to go back? A father who judges everything you do and a brother who doesn’t want you, not the way you want him to. I can be everything you need.”
The precipice was there, looking into his brother’s face -- the love and peace and goddamn normalcy -- all Sam needed was to let himself fall. He could walk away with this Dean now, be enveloped in white in their big soft bed, and feel Dean lying behind him, warm and real with his breath on his neck. He would never have to wake up. No more hunts, no research, and Dean no longer in danger. A life free and clear from the supernatural.
Except that it wasn't. Whatever was going on with this dream, the source of it was supernatural, and it was upstairs in his dorm room.
Sam pulled his arm away, and felt a flash of guilt at the betrayal that crossed not-Dean's face, before he turned to sprint up the stairs two at a time.
His room was at the far end of the third floor. Sam loved it when he moved in because of the views of the quad below. Brady bitched about how far it was from the action in the lobby and tv rooms on the first floor, but Sam appreciated the quiet. No one came looking for him in this little corner of the world. He could sleep without being disturbed by partying students or hunters returning in the middle of the night. He could read his textbooks at his desk without interruption from people passing through or fathers asking him to do research.
Sam stopped and listened, waiting for the sound of steps, but it was quiet. He moved silently through the dark hall, the only light being the red emergency exit sign at the far stairwell. When he signed a waiver that allowed him to stay through the holidays, the RA made sure that he understood that the cafeteria would be shut down along with the main lifts on the floor. What the guy didn’t understand was that given some of the dives that the Winchesters stayed in throughout the years, this dorm room was Club Med to Sam. A building manager and some security guards might come through periodically, but if anything happened, they made it clear that Sam was on his own.
Nothing he wasn’t used to.
A dim blue light glowed from under his doorway at the far end of that hall. Same blue as the light behind the bar last night (or the night before that?). It wasn’t until his chest felt like it was exploding that he realized he was holding his breath. His Puma sneakers were whisper soft as he approached the door.
A shadow broke up the blue light and Sam froze. He had no weapon, nothing to protect himself, but if this was a dream or vision, he didn't know if any of that would matter. A hand touched his sleeve and he almost jumped out of his skin.
“You don't need to go in there.” There was that voice again that comforted him though skinned knees and nightmares.
Sam was always at his best when his brother was next to him. Now, he needed support, even if it was only from a dream. “What’s inside?”
Fake-Dean smiled fondly. “You aren't going to like it, but then again you always were the stubborn one.”
Sam swung the door open. It was exactly like the vision earlier that day. His dorm room was messy with Brady's bed unmade and his drawers open from where he’d packed the day before, and the neat stack of textbooks on Sam’s desk where he planned to get a jump on next semester’s course load.
Only thing different was his body lying on the bed, wrists and legs tied with leather belts to the bed frame.
It was an odd sensation looking down at his unconscious body. Like looking in a mirror, only Sam was able to see where his wrists were bound by the belts, the skin underneath raw and bruised. He was wearing the same grey t-shirt and jeans that he wore to the bar that night. His hair was sweaty and unkempt where it was fanned out on the pillow, and the dark circles under his eyes were accentuated by how pale his skin was.
“I told you that you weren't gonna like it.”
This time it wasn’t Dean. It was the blonde guy from the bar, Jesse, standing across the room from him.
“Most people sink right into the dream and never wake up. But you? I'm not sure how, but you just keep fighting it.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed, looking for some clue as what he was dealing with, but all he could see were dark swirling tattoos around Jessie’s wrists that hadn’t been there when they first met.
“Let's just say that I have experience with things like you.”
“Things like me, huh?” Jesse shook his head slowly, his eyes glittering a midnight blue in the dark. “You've never met anyone like me. But it doesn't matter. I'm gonna have to dose you once more tonight, which means you probably won't last more than a few hours. It's a shame, really, because you have been one sweet meal.”
Jessie licked his lips, his tongue crawling over them like a thick wet slug. Sam edged further into the room, getting closer to his body but circling away from the monster.
“What I want to know is how you did it, how you knocked me out.” Keep ‘em talking, Sam. They always love to talk.
“All it took was a touch.” Jessie held his hand up, and the tattoo grew like a vine up his arm and into a ball of blue flame that lit the ends of his fingertips. “You were more than glad to bring me back to your room that night. Such a little slut.”
Sam cringed, but kept his focus, angling down to touch his own body, checking out the IV drip that trailed away from his arm to a nearby rack. Smart, he thought, keeping me alive for days when there was no one around to notice. The monster made a move towards his body, and Sam stepped between, realizing too late that his dream body could do nothing to stop what was happening in the real world.
The reality was that his life would end and he could only watch.
Jesse smirked at him and started to take another step, before stuttering to a stop. The smile on his face and the blue glow in his palm faded, as the point of a dagger pushed through his chest. Blood, black in the darkness of the room, seeped from the wound and Sam stared in confusion. As the djinn sagged, Sam saw Dean behind it, holding the body up on the point of the knife.
Old brown leather jacket, short hair, gold amulet around his neck - the real Dean. The only one that counted.
The vision only lasted for a moment. As the djinn fell to the ground, Sam felt vertigo take hold, his stomach rolling over and his vision became tunneled before it narrowed down to black all together. Before he lost consciousness completely, he could hear Dean calling.
I'm here. I'm right here. Don't leave me, Dean.
His stomach flipped over once again, as his eyes fluttered up to Dean's face, tight with concern. The bone-deep pain he felt in every limb was pushed down as he looked up at his brother, who held Sam’s face between his palms, slapping lightly.
“That's my boy. C’mon, Sammy, wake up.” When Sam's head fell to the side, heavy and useless, Dean grabbed his chin and shook it. “No, no, you can sleep later, Sammy. Now's the time to wake up.”
“It's Sam,” he croaked.
Dean barked out a laugh and brought their foreheads together. “Thought I’d lost you, little brother.”
Dean moved quickly to unhook the buckles, releasing Sam’s arms from the headboard and then lowering them down gently. As the blood flow returned, Sam grunted as a drill of pins and needles raced along his shoulders and triceps.
He sat up on the mattress, as Dean squatted down between his knees and continued to rub his legs, green eyes returning again and again to Sam's face with concern.
“What was that?” Sam asked, his voice sounding like metal drug across gravel, as he nodded to the body on the floor, black blood pooling underneath it on the linoleum.
Dean sighed, not looking away from Sam's face. “I wasn't sure and you wouldn't wake up, so I had to call Dad. It's a djinn.”
“A genie? At Stanford?”
The small laugh he gave almost tipped him over and Dean eased down flat again, pulling the pillow under his head. He started to close his eyes but the idea of dropping off the edge again, drowning in a dream-nightmare, away from this Dean, made him shiver awake. His brother's eyes were inches away and Sam felt his face flush, thinking about the kisses they shared in that other world.
“Why are you here, Dean?”
Dean reached out and cupped Sam’s cheek. “Just checking up on you. Make sure you were okay. Christmas just wasn't going to be the same without my trusty geek sidekick.” His smile faded. “Don’t know what I would have done if--”
Sam’s shoulders began to shake and his teeth to chatter, and he was once again plunged into a feeling of having no control over his own body as it went into shock.
“Shit, Sam.” Dean stood up and stripped off his dad’s leather jacket, kicking off his boots at the foot of the bed. He rolled Sam upright and peeled off the grey t-shirt Sam wore that was stiff with three days worth of sweat.
“Dean, I can do it--”
His brother ignored him and began to unbuckle Sam’s jeans. It was an awkward angle but Dean was able to pull them off. Sam shivered in the open air as Dean yanked down the bed sheets. Memories of that soft king-size bed in their dream apartment crossed his mind. He followed Dean’s instructions and crawled in, surprised and relieved to feel the bed dip and Dean’s chest pressed against his back, as his brother crawled in right behind him.
“Goddamn it, Sam, don’t make me take you to the hospital.”
Dean threw his arm over Sam and hugged him tight. The two of them hadn’t shared a bed in years, not since Sam was twelve years old, but he sunk into the familiarity of it—the feeling of warmth and comfort, being protected against the rest of the world. Sam pressed back into Dean’s chest.
“I’m fine,” he whispered, unable to stop his voice and his body from shaking.
“You better be,” Dean whispered back, placing a kiss on the back of his neck.
When Sam woke, the afternoon sun was pouring in his dorm room window and he blinked against the brightness. He shot up out of the bed, remembering the attack and the restraints, the djinn’s blue blood leaking all over the dorm floor. But the room looked the same as before, except for his brother, kicked back on Brady’s bed, looking at Sam’s laptop.
“Where’s the…” he said, motioning to the clean floor in front of him.
“Took care of everything while you were out, Sleeping Beauty. Bet you didn’t know they had an incinerator in the basement here.” Dean lowered the laptop lid to study Sam’s face. “How are you feeling?”
“Better.” He rubbed at his arm where the IV had been inserted. The blue-black of the bruise in the crock of his arm would take a week or so to disappear.
“Good, because Dad will be here in a few hours.”
Sam sighed and hung his head. “You shouldn’t have called him.” The two of us have things to talk about.
“Had to call him about the djinn and how to kill it. You didn’t think Dad was just gonna sit by, knowing you had been attacked, do ya?” Dean ran a hand over the scruff on his cheeks. “He was in Oklahoma and is hauling ass to get here. Means we have time to talk.”
Sam’s head snapped back up. “About what?”
Dean kicked at the ground with the toe of his shoe. “Like, maybe you should come with us when we leave.”
Sam's mouth dropped open but nothing came out.
“C’mon, Sam,” Dean said, throwing his hands in the air. “You had to expect this. I’m not gonna leave you on your own. I can’t just walk away now, not when--”
Dean met his eyes for the briefest of moments before looking away, studying the bulletin board above Sam’s desk. He fingered the edge of a photo tacked up there, that captured the two of them, so small and happy, sitting on John’s lap on the hood of the Impala. It had been an impulsive grab as Sam had left the house that night.
“That's where this went.” Dean removed the pushpin and held the picture.
“Dean, I'm sorry--” for so many things, he thought. Sam laid back down on the bed, exhausted.
His brother sat on the edge of his bed and Sam curled up around his pillow memorizing a new scar on Dean's right thumb and the way Dad's leather jacket hung loose from his shoulders.
“What did you dream about, Sammy?” Dean asked, still stroking the corner of the photo.
“What?” He went for surprised, but his voice cracked in the lie.
“The djinn. You can tell me, won't be mad at you, Sammy.”
He pulled at the frayed corner of the pillowcase, caught a loose thread and started to pull, when Dean's hand wrapped around his fingers. He then drew the hand down to trace his fingers along the raw circle of skin around Sam's wrist.
“I know what it was,” he said and Sam looked up. Those green eyes meant safety, family, home to him, and Dean had never been good at hiding how he felt from Sam, his heart an open wound to all of Sam's jabs growing up. When Dean tilted his head down, Sam's breath stopped in his throat.
“A house, a dog, a white picket fence. Right? Was there a girl, Sammy?”
He shook his head. “No girl.”
Dean pulled his hand back, a thoughtful look on his face, and Sam didn’t want to see more. He was tired. The djinn drained his batteries almost to empty, and he wondered whether he would ever be able to fully recharge. But as long as Dean was here, it didn’t matter. He closed his eyes, this time unafraid to drift off.
“--don't care about that, Dean. He's not staying.”
Sam listened without opening his eyes. Unfortunately, John Winchester had the senses of a hawk.
“Sam, good, you're awake.” The mattress dipped and his eyes opened as his dad sat down next to him. His big hand trailed through Sam's hair and smelled of gas station soap and motor oil. “How are you feeling?”
He examined John in the same way that he was sure that his dad was looking at him. The dark hair was a little greyer than Sam remembered and there's a new scar across his forearm that bore the signature of Dean's neat stitches.
“Dad,” he said, sitting up and wrapping his arms around the man. John seemed uncertain for a minute before returning the hug and that put a crack in Sam's heart. He rested his cheek on his dad’s canvas jacket, like a child who fell asleep in the car, and breathed him in.
John squeezed and Sam groaned a little under the force of it. “It'll be good to have you back.”
And Sam's heart - the one that felt like it was breaking just a moment before - shuttered up and he felt the old anger crawling back up his throat once more. “Back?”
John stood up and looked over his shoulder at Dean. “Start packing up your brother's stuff and I'll bring the car around.”
“No.” Sam felt twelve years old all over again, like the past five months had never happened. He looked down at his bandaged wrists and felt the smart of tears. “No, absolutely not.”
“It's not safe.” His dad had already turned his back to Sam, and over his shoulder, Dean's head dropped down, eyes on the floor. “Dean, you need to--”
“Fuck that.” Sam pushed the covers off and stood up, and for the first time, he realized that he was as tall as his father.
“Excuse me?” John's voice dropped to the lower register, the one that put the fear of God into two little boys messing around in the back seat of the Impala.
“I'm no safer with you than I am staying here. Hell, Dad, you drag us right to where the monsters are,” he said, a tumble of desperate and angry words thrown up against that broad back, and he was unable to stop. “And then you leave us alone. You leave. How is that better?”
When he looked at Dean, his brother's eyes were wide, just like the last night he fought with John. I don't want this. I don't want Dean to go. “If you make me leave, I'll just run away again.”
The words hung in the air - childish and desperate. John stopped but didn't turn around, taking a deep breath before pulling his car keys out of his pocket.
He pointed a finger at Dean. “Take care of this.” He swept out of the room and both brothers took a deep breath.
“You both are such idiots,” Dean muttered. He held his hand out to Sam. “Give me your phone.”
Sam looked up from his phone, and Brady jogged across the quad to join him.
“Just got back this morning and missed you in the room.” Brady bumped his shoulder and gave him a shit-eating smile. “You make good use of our room, while I was gone?”
When Sam looked sheepishly back at his phone screen, Brady snorted.
“There's gotta be a story there.” His roommate adjusted the strap of his backpack over his shoulder. “What class you heading to this morning?”
Sam sighed. “McNulty. Ethics and Politics. I swear that guy is inescapable, even in my dreams.”
“Well, at least you can catch up on your sleep in his class.”
Sam's phone buzzed in his hand, and he looked down at the screen and smiled.
His roommate jostled his shoulder to see the screen. “New girlfriend?”
Sam pushed him back but not before Brady saw the name.
“Dean, huh? New boyfriend then.” Brady studied his face for a minute. “Well, he better not be one of those possessive bastards. Because after classes today, I'm taking you out for a beer.” He clapped Sam's shoulder before running off the other way to Econ.
Sam glanced back down at the small blue screen and smiled as he typed. Going to class now. Roommate wants to grab a beer later.
His phone was quiet for a minute then a message popped up. Okay, we’re heading up to Portland. Don't forget to check in tonight. Promise?