Touching the mirror is a mistake. Dean knows touching the mirror is a mistake. But there is something so mesmerizing about it, about the liquid shine of the round smooth glass and Dean literally can't stop himself from reaching out to trace the tip of one finger along the mirror's surface.
Icy shards of white hot pain slice through his body. For one moment, Dean's a live wire, a conduit of energy crackling lightning bright and then it's over. His hand falls to his side and he stumbles to his knees, choking on nothing more than aftershock.
"What the hell," he gasps, but no one answers. It takes a moment to gather himself and when he does, Dean leaves the room that holds the mirror, expecting to find his brother and angel, Sam and Castiel are gone. The dark and dusty hallway is empty save Dean.
"Sam?" Dean calls out, forcing the word through his growing panic. "Cas?"
Again, there is no answer and Dean trades fear for anger because anger is easier. He tugs out his cell phone and flips it open, dialing Sam. It rings and rings and Dean only hears Sam's voice when he's sent to Sam's voice mail. The same thing happens with Castiel's number.
This is so not funny.
Dean pulls out his gun and carefully steps down the grimy stairs to the ground floor, calling out for his brother and their angel every few steps. It's not until he's near the front door that he finally hears a sound. Pressing himself close along the wall beside the door, Dean slows his breath and listens hard.
"Please be careful,” a voice says from outside on the front porch.
The voice both relaxes and upsets Dean because it's good to know Cas is alive, but why the hell did he leave Dean when he must have heard him gasping in pain on the floor above? Dean's hand settles on the knob and he starts to turn it, but then another voice answers Cas and it shocks Dean to stillness.
"I'm always careful, Cas."
It's a woman's voice, dark and smoky and it makes Dean think of shadows in a bar. He doesn't recognize it, but Castiel obviously does because he sighs and speaks again.
"That is a lie," Castiel says sternly. "You're reckless. The job of watching over you requires far too much effort."
Watching over her? Since when did Cas get new humans to watch over?
"Oh yeah, well, I didn't hear you complaining last night," she says with a smile Dean can hear.
Something dark and unpleasant curls in Dean's chest. Dean never thought he knew every detail of Castiel’s existence, but he did think he knew everything Castiel did on Earth and that includes overly intimate relationships with women he doesn't know. Dean doesn't like her innuendo. Not one bit.
"That's not exactly what I meant," Castiel says, but now he sounds amused.
"Hey, you picked me, you're stuck with me. Good and bad," she says and they are close enough now that Dean can hear the unmistakable sounds of kissing. The unpleasant feeling in Dean's chest explodes into a kind of blind rage Dean doesn't even understand and that's enough. He rips open the door and stares at Castiel.
"What the fuck, dude?"
Castiel's eyes widen only slightly and he sways backwards, but for him, that's nearly an overreaction. The woman beside him covers her own surprise so fast Dean only has a second to register her cropped brown hair, green eyes and squared jaw before there's a gun in his face.
"Stay back," she snarls and the way she positions herself in front of Cas would be endearing if it weren't Dean’s angel. "Who are you?"
"Who am I?" Dean asks, incredulous. "Who are you?" His eyes snap over her head to Cas, who is studying Dean, his eyebrows a dark line of concern across his forehead. "Cas, who is this chick? Where's Sam? "
"That's it," she snaps, cocking her gun to emphasize her words. "Tell me who you are and how you know Sam or I swear to God, I'm blowing you away."
It's this threat that's makes Dean realize this situation is something other than Cas hiding a girlfriend from him. He recognizes that look in her eyes. That insane protective glint shining in eyes that suddenly look a lot more familiar than he realized. Cas having a secret lover is one thing. But there’s no way Dean wouldn’t know someone this overtly defensive of his own brother.
Dean steps back and holds up his hands a little, needing the distance to look at the woman and really see her. She is exceptionally tall for a girl, maybe only an inch or two shorter than him. Her body is lean and hard, but with enough curves to be considered feminine. Not Dean's type, not with the short hair and flat chest, but she's attractive in an athletic kinda way.
"No, DeAnna," Cas suddenly pipes up, laying a hand on the girl's arm. "That wouldn't be a good idea."
"Why not?" she asks just as Dean says, "DeAnna?"
"I recognize him," Castiel says with faint disbelief. "There is...I sense...he's-"
"Spit it out, Cas," the woman and Dean say in tandem. She frowns at him, but Dean keeps his eyes on the angel and holds his breath because he's almost positive he knows what Cas is going to say and it's so fucked up, he can't think straight. Especially not when he remembers the way this chick was all over Cas just before going onto a job.
"He carries my Grace," Castiel says quickly.
"Excuse me?" Jealousy scorches her words and Dean would laugh if he weren't busy trying not to panic. His other self, his female self turns to Castiel, but keeps her gun trained on Dean. “You been pumping other people full of your Grace?”
“Of course not,” Cas says, sounding annoyed. “This is you, DeAnna. A version of you from another reality.”
“No fucking way,” she murmurs.
“Great,” Dean sighs, rubbing his temple. Just great. Not only did he get sucked into an alternate dimension, he got the one where he’s a girl. A girl that’s apparently screwing his angel.
“Fucking mirrors,” he mutters.
"The only thing I can think to say is touch it again," Castiel says.
Dean and DeAnna both look at him like his head is on fire.
"That's all you got, Cas?" DeAnna says with no small amount of sarcasm. Dean snickers quietly. Yeah, it's weird as fuck seeing himself as a chick, but at least she's awesome.
Castiel frowns with his whole being.
"I have more information at my disposal than you could know in the entirety of your life and this is the only solution that presents itself. Dean came here through the mirror. He must go back the same way."
Looks like being in a mirror world hasn't changed Castiel all that much.
"Yeah, but...what if it doesn't go back to the right world?" DeAnna asks reasonably and that touches the secret fear Dean realizes has been growing in his mind.
"I am concerned about that as well," Castiel admits. "Of course, I had planned on asking my brothers for advice. But I do think this is the proper course of action."
"Okay," DeAnna says. "So go. Talk. Come back with answers."
To Dean's surprise, Castiel leans over to peck DeAnna on the mouth before he disappears with a gust of wind. He raises an eyebrow at her.
"Shut up," DeAnna growls. At least she has the good sense to blush. "Cas likes it, okay?"
"So you're whipped," Dean concludes, but his joke doesn't have the desired outcome. DeAnna just smiles this crazy distracted grin and nods.
"You bet your ass, Boy Me," she says happily.
Discomfort curdles Dean's insides. A thought here and there is one thing. Those are easily squashed. But this...DeAnna looks like she's really in love. Even being a girl doesn't dismiss the very real panic at the idea of any version of himself feeling those kinds of feelings for Castiel.
"You look like you're gonna ralph," DeAnna comments. "I know what you're thinking. How could we love him? He's so weird and awkward and not a chick, blah blah blah."
"Easy for you to say," Dean snaps. "You're a woman!"
DeAnna's gaze cools considerably.
"What makes you think I like dudes any more than you do?"
For a second, Dean is lost and then it clicks in his head. He shouldn't be so pleased. He really shouldn't, but learning that his female counterpart is a lesbian is so completely awesome.
She slaps the back of his head.
"Quit being so me about this and listen. You're not straight. I'm not gay. So stop acting like you don't like both and hit that. Seriously," she says over Dean's objections. "You won't regret it. He's a fucking tiger in the sack."
Dean makes a face. This is not awesome anymore. "C'mon, stop...he's an angel. He's not...he shouldn't be doing that."
"Oh I know. We've been through this," she says, nodding eagerly. "He shouldn't be fucking random people and becoming a sad shell of himself. I totally agree."
Her hand, so much smaller than Dean's and yet so very familiar, lands on his arm.
"I'm going to say something very gay, so prepare yourself." She only gives him a few seconds before continuing. "It's different with love, okay? If he's in love and if I know my Castiels, he's totally gone on you, then it's different."
Her Castiel saves Dean from having to answer. His return doesn't steal DeAnna's attention though and Dean's gaze is locked on hers when Castiel starts talking.
"Alright, I've checked and all my brothers agree that it's best if you touch the mirror again," he announces.
"Right," DeAnna murmurs. She shakes herself a little, the intensity melting off her face and she smiles at Castiel. "Thanks, babe."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Well, I guess I'll just...you know, get out of your disgusting lovefest."
Castiel's head cocks to the side and Dean's chest tightens. So very like his...like the other Castiel.
"It's uncanny how very similar you are to DeAnna," Castiel says and that bit of creepy coincidence makes Dean step up to the mirror.
"Well, here goes nothing," he says.
He reaches out and the mirror takes him in.
Even through the flickering remnants of the sharp pains that accompany traveling through the mirror, Dean can tell he's not in the right universe. There are three women standing six feet from the mirror, each one with identical expressions of surprise. One of them is DeAnna. Complete with the short haircut and battered blue jeans and green t-shirt combination she wore in the previous universe.
Dean barely notices her. His attention is immediately snared by the giantess beside her. This chick is tall. At least the same height as Dean's Castiel, if not taller. Her silky brown hair flows down around her face and neck until it reaches one of the biggest racks Dean's ever seen. He's actually shocked by the size of this woman's chest, but not shocked enough that he doesn't notice the rest of her body is equally curvy. Her tight blue jeans and white button down blouse don't do anything to hide the effect.
This woman is dangerously hot.
And yet, even as Dean is thinking it, he realizes it's a very distant assessment. Like you might feel while looking at a nice painting. It's pretty, yeah, but you don't wanna hang it on your living room wall.
"This is very unusual."
The voice belongs to the third woman. It's soft and rough, like maybe she'd been smoking for twenty years and the sound of it spikes a shiver up Dean's spine. His eyes flick to her face and his lips part.
Forget the other chick. This has to be the hottest woman Dean's ever seen.
His stomach immediately ties itself in knots and his heart rate picks up like it does when...
Her head cocks to the side. "You are...DeAnna Winchester?"
"Well, Dean, but yeah," he says.
DeAnna and the other girl's eyes widen with surprise.
"You've gotta be kidding me," DeAnna grunts, but the other girl is contemplating Dean closely, her hazel eyes narrowed in thought.
"I don't know. He's got your eyes and mouth," she says.
"Hey," Dean protests, although it's not like he can really deny it.
"Thanks for your support, Sam."
Oh right. Of course. Now that DeAnna's said it, Dean realizes he'd known. Of course, he'd known. It's Dean and Sam. He'd recognize him or her anywhere and anywhen. Even subconsciously. A certain measure of relief eases the tension Dean's feeling. If he'd been turned on by Sam, he'd have to just kill himself.
Although, the thought leads to another that has Dean's stomach clenching.
Stupid slobbering dickheads with their paws all over this Sam. God, if Dean actually did have a sister, Sam would never ever get laid.
"Dean?" Sam says, sounding perplexed. Dean shakes himself.
"Sorry. Look, this mirror thing keeps sending me to the wrong reality. I don't know what it is. The Cas in the last world went to ask around, but he couldn't figure it out. So, maybe you could try again, only this time actually find something?" Dean says, directing his attention to the female Castiel.
That flare of possessive desire heats him once again, but Dean tries to step back from it and consider her without the haze of lust clouding his mind. What he sees is surprising.
She's actually sort of plain.
Not ugly by any stretch of the imagination. Her face is cute enough. Oval-shaped with a small mouth and a button nose. The hair hanging loose around her shoulders is thin and light brown, truthfully more of a blond. The only feature of her face that's really striking are the eyes. They're an intense deep brown. So dark that Dean can barely see a difference between the iris and pupil and while that's not such a surprising color, combined with the blond hair, it seems unusual.
But it's more than just a weird color. This Castiel stares as much as the male version and there is something in her gaze that Dean recognizes. A spark that makes these eyes as odd and striking as the blue ones Dean associates with Castiel.
Maybe it was never the color that made them stand out.
She's short. The top of her head barely reaches halfway up DeAnna's neck and her body is slight. Curvier than DeAnna's and she's got a nice respectably sized chest hidden under her navy pea coat, but she's not really like the bombshells that Dean usually dates.
But holy fuck is she ever gorgeous.
"Stop staring at her," DeAnna snaps.
"Sorry," Dean grumbles, even though he's not. He just doesn't want to fight a murderous jealous version of himself. "I take it you are also fucking the angel."
"I'm going to ask for advice from my brothers," Castiel says before DeAnna can answer and then she's gone.
"Well, this is awkward," Sam murmurs, inspecting her dark red nails.
It figures Sam would be the whole make-up and nails kinda chick. Seriously, DeAnna must spend all her time fighting guys off of Sam. Then again, Dean doesn't keep Sam from the ladies, so maybe DeAnna just high fives her Sam after she scores another douchebag. Dean curls his lip. The idea taunts him.
"You got a problem with me and Cas?" DeAnna asks, arms crossed defensively over her chest. Dean gets the impression that her relationship with this Castiel is rather newer than the last DeAnna's relationship.
"No," Dean says, even though, yeah, it still freaks him out. "But hey, at least you're with the right gender this time."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know...because she's a girl and you're a girl," Dean says slowly. "And you're a lesbian..."
"I'm not a lesbian," DeAnna says, one eyebrow raising up her forehead. "Well, I mean, I'm with a chick, so yeah, but...not that Cas is really a girl. But she's Cas, so you know..."
DeAnna trails off to an awkward silence. Oh yeah, she definitely just started screwing Castiel. Dean allows himself a moment to contemplate how it would look.
"Stop imagining it!" DeAnna snarls.
So apparently, Dean is angry and possessive early in relationships that actually matter to him. Good to know.
"I take it Castiel isn't always a girl," DeAnna says after a moment of stilted silence. Dean wishes Sam would wander back from her unconvincing fascination with looking out a nearby window.
"Yeah, my Cas, I mean the one from my reality, is a dude."
"What's he look like?"
"I don't know. Taller. Black hair, blue eyes, always wearing a trench coat."
The first smile Dean has yet to see on this version of himself tugs at DeAnna's mouth.
"So in another dimension, Cas' pea coat is a trench coat?"
He snickers. Of course Castiel is stuck in that same outfit. A pea coat and khaki pants instead of the trench coat and blue suit, but consistent nonetheless. Some things are universal.
"Yeah, I thought about stealing it and burning the damned thing, but I'd hate to see a grown angel cry," Dean says and when DeAnna chuckles, Dean feels like he's won some kind of competition. He's surprisingly hard to get along with when he's in a bad mood. Sam must never know Dean had that thought.
"Are you fucking him?" DeAnna asks.
"No," Dean answers, rather too quickly. "I'm not...I don't..."
But he does. Dean did recognize the feeling he had when looking at the female version of Castiel. That low curl of desire made a thousand times stronger by a stupid fondness that came out of nowhere. And that's when it hits Dean.
His reaction to this Castiel is what he's been trying to quell all along. The feeling isn't stronger because this Castiel is a girl. It's just clearer because he's not afraid of the sensation when Castiel is in this form.
"Are you okay?" DeAnna asks worriedly.
Dean shakes his head.
"What the hell happened-"
"I am sorry, Dean," Castiel says when she explodes into existence to interrupt DeAnna. "My brothers and I both believe you will not be able to manipulate the direction this portal takes you. It's unlike anything I have ever seen."
Great. If the angels don't know what's going on, then Dean's in really deep shit.
"Right. Okay. Um, I should..." He points towards the mirror, feeling dazed and uncomfortable.
Sam starts to say something, but Dean just wants out. Before the words reach his ears, his fingers are grazing the glass and he's gone.
The pain is easier to bear this time. Instead of white-hot electric forks of pain scattering across his body, the sensation feels more like a sharp ache in his bones. Still not pleasant, but less shocking. Dean wonders if this is his new lot in life. To travel through dimension after dimension until the sensation of passing is little more than a pleasant warmth.
He doesn't wonder long though because when he looks into the room, Dean sees himself kissing Castiel.
Not DeAnna. Plain old dick-owning male Dean Winchester with his tongue shoved down very male Castiel's throat.
God, it's so weird. Seeing himself for the first time in this state. With his hands clutching desperately at Castiel's stupid trench coat and moaning like a two-dollar whore.
Dean knows that moan. He recognizes it, even if he's never heard it with such urgency before. It means he's fucking gagging for it.
A wave of heat, both arousal and humiliation, crashes through him and he can't move. He's glued to spot, watching Castiel fumble with the other Dean's zipper as he bites at other Dean's jaw. Neither of them have noticed him. Dean wonders how often they stop in the middle of hunts to fuck against walls.
His brain comes back online when Castiel sinks to his knees.
It's far too much. Dean spins around and claps both hands against the mirror.
It occurs to Dean as he lands on his feet once more than eventually he's going to have to spend more than fifteen minutes in each of these realities. Sooner or later, he'll have to take a leak, if nothing else. Not to mention needing food and sleep. He seems to be arriving at more or less the same time in each world, but it's probably been at least an hour since he left his own reality.
He can already tell this won't be a good reality to stop in.
There's a gun in his face.
"What the hell is it, Cas?" the other Dean snarls.
Frankly, Dean prefers being threatened to seeing himself tongue-fucking Castiel.
"It's you," Castiel answers in that low enticing tone. She's the same blond-haired woman from two realities ago. There must only be two choices then. This chick or Jimmy. She's just as unbelievably hot as she was the last time, but there's something drastically different about her.
"You knocked her up?" Dean shouts.
"What the fuck?" other Dean growls. "This is me, Cas? What the hell is going on?"
Castiel's hands rest on her slightly rounded stomach. Dean's not an expert on pregnancy, but it looks like Castiel has only just begun to show. An exquisite kind of boiling rage darkens his vision and without thinking too hard about it, Dean smacks the gun out of other Dean's hands.
"You knocked her up and then let her go on hunts?"
Other Dean's surprise shows clearly on his face. Obviously he didn't expect Dean to attack like this, but Dean knows himself. He wouldn't shoot anything that Castiel didn't find dangerous.
"You try telling her anything!" other Dean growls. "I told her to stay at home, but she kept saying she could take care of us and the baby and I should just shut the hell up."
Dean lifts an eyebrow at Castiel. "You said that?"
"Dean is paraphrasing," Castiel says in a perfectly deadpan tone.
God, Dean wants to fuck her so damn bad. She's definitely rocking that pregnancy glow thing.
"How is an Angel pregnant anyway?" Dean asks, shaking off the feeling.
"Fuck that," other Dean says. "How are you even here?"
Castiel steps between them, pinning first her Dean with an annoyed glare and then Dean himself.
"I am not fully angelic," she explains. "I still have my powers, but living away from my brothers has somewhat curtailed them."
An old guilt flares in Dean's chest. Castiel, stuck away from home and losing his abilities because of Dean. It's not fair to him. Dean's never been worth it.
"Stop it," she says, sounding so very like a normal grumpy pregnant woman that Dean can't help smiling at her. "I chose this life."
"What about her," Dean says, nodding towards Castiel's middle. "Your vessel."
Sadness glows in her deep brown eyes, but it's nothing compared to the crushing guilt in other Dean's face. They don't have to say anything. Like Jimmy, this woman must have died when the archangels attacked Castiel. Or some other time. Either way, she's gone now and Castiel is stuck in her body.
"Okay, so my turn now?" other Dean says, crossing his arms and matching Castiel's glare. "Why is he here?"
"I don't know exactly," she admits. "But he carries the evidence of my Grace. He is you, but from another place. Another world."
"There actually are multiple dimensions?" other Dean asks skeptically. "This sounds like something Samantha would love."
"Samantha," Dean says, nodding. "You got a sister, huh."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Mine's a Samuel."
Other Dean makes a face. "That's fucked up, dude."
"I should go ask my brothers for help-"
"Don't bother," Dean says with a sigh. "They never say anything useful. I'm just going to..." He points to the mirror. "So yeah. Congratulations on your weird hybrid baby."
He touches the mirror before other Dean can return an insult.
"Dean, you scared the shit out of me!"
He stares. Rubs his eyes and stares again, but what he's seeing doesn't change.
"Are you okay?" Jess asks, her pretty blue eyes filled with concern.
For a moment, Dean is transported back to that dreamworld the djinn created for him. Jess alive and well and his mother too, but his relationship with Sam screwed all to hell. He wonders if there are realities out there where he and Sam never got along. He wonders if this reality is one.
He's stalling for time.
"Uh, Jess," he says. "Um...hey, is Cas around?"
She snorts inelegantly and Dean can't help smiling. Even making less than graceful sounds, Jess is beautiful. Well, it's more than just simple beauty. There's a sparkle about her that draws you in, one that has nothing to do with her looks, though there's no denying she's hot. She exudes a kind of feminine warmth that no man can resist, regardless of whether they like pussy or cock. At least no man Dean wants to know.
"He's your main squeeze, not mine," she teases.
Nervous tension fills Dean's belly. So, this is a male Castiel world.
"Look, I'm not really-"
Which is when he's interrupted, of course.
Castiel's voice echoes up the stairs. Dean's nerves spike. He's yet to actually speak with a male Castiel who's already in a relationship with Other Dean. There's no reason to be so nervous, surely. It doesn't change anything about him. It's not as though Castiel will suddenly know more about him, not really.
Because he's not this Dean.
"In here, Cas," she calls back.
It's obvious Castiel knows he isn't the right Dean. As soon as those compelling blue eyes fall on him, Castiel whips in front of Jess, pushing her back protectively. An embarrassing warmth glows in Dean's chest. Of course Castiel would be protective of Jess.
"It's okay," Dean says. "Alternate reality mirror."
Jess' expression is utterly bewildered, but Dean sees Castiel's understanding in the relaxing of his shoulders. He still doesn't move away from Jess, though. Maybe this might be a good reality to pause for a break.
"What's going on, Cas?" Jess asks from behind him.
"This is not the Dean from our reality."
"I just left Dean in the Impala and came to find you. We're ready to leave. This man is Dean Winchester, but he is not from this world," Castiel explains.
"The mirror," Dean says. "Look, it's a long story. I was wondering..." But before he can ask for help, a question niggles into his consciousness and Dean can't stop it from immediately coming out of his mouth. "Where's Sam?"
Both Castiel and Jess' postures and expressions radically change. Stunning grief dims Jess' bright gaze and she seems to crumble in on herself. Castiel slips his arm around her shoulder, rubbing soothing circles into her back and glaring at Dean, as if he hurt Jess on purpose. Tension fills Dean's stomach, making him feel sick.
"What?" he asks, his voice stony. "What happened?"
"Is he...is he alive?" Jess asks in an odd blank tone. "In your world?"
Dean falters. He doesn't want to explain what happened to her. Finding out you apparently like dick is one thing. It’d be nothing to compared to learning you were dead in another reality. Just considering it gives him a strange vulnerable feeling.
"Yeah," he finally says, but doesn't offer anything else.
"He's been gone for years here," Jess says. The sadness filtering into her lifeless voice is a cold comfort. "He died in the fire."
"The fire? You mean when we started hunting?" Dean asks in amazement. "But how?"
"He saved me from the demon, but it killed him. I don't think it meant to, but there was a struggle...so really, if it weren't for me-"
"Jessica," Castiel interrupts. "Please don't. We've discussed-"
"It's true, Cas!" Jess snaps, tearing out of his grasp and spinning on him. "You have no idea what it's like, Cas, okay? All this time and all those other people, none of them matter. Sam was...I loved him, Cas and he's gone," she whispers. "Could you just get over it if Dean died?"
Dean starts backing away towards the mirror. He shouldn't be seeing this. He shouldn't be seeing the pain in Castiel's eyes, the very idea of Dean's death dragging his whole posture down with sorrow. These two share a history and an affection not connected to Dean. This Jess' grief over her lost lover isn't for him to witness.
The man she lost is not his Sam. His Sam is alive and well.
Jess looks away from Castiel's stricken expression. Dean frowns. Castiel's eyes hold more than mere sadness. Fear and panic crowd his melancholy.
"How does this mirror work?"
"Wait, you can't-"
"Don't tell me what I can and can't do!" She surges into Dean's space, determination etched into every line of her face. "I saw your expression when you saw me. You looked like you'd seen a ghost. I'm gone, aren't I? I died in the fire instead of Sam."
"Jess," Dean says weakly.
Her jaw clenches tight once, twice and then she nods.
"I'm going through."
"You can't just leave us," Castiel says, true devastation coloring his tone, making Dean's chest ache.
"I'm not...Cas, I wouldn't go without talking to Dean first," Jess says, turning back to him. "You guys have each other. I'm not saying I won't miss the hell out of you," she says with a watery chuckle. "We've been hunting together for three years. I've been with Dean for almost seven! I wouldn't just leave like that," she promises and Dean watches in fascination as she lays her forehead against Castiel's. He had no idea Castiel could have a relationship like this. "But it's Sam. You'd go if it were Dean," she murmurs.
And it's true. Dean knows it's true deep down with the same certainty as death and taxes and his love for Sam.
"Jessica," Castiel murmurs. "I don't want you to go."
His arms encircle her, pulling her into an embrace that speaks of love and...family. Guilt squeezes around his chest like heavy iron bands. If he'd never come here, she'd never have known. He's breaking up Castiel's little family.
"Jess," he starts, but when she looks up at him, Dean pauses.
The hope in her eyes eases the tightness in his chest.
"Good luck," he struggles to say and then he touches the glass.
Dean isn't a fan of God, but as the mirror whisks him away, he can't help shooting a fervent prayer into the void.
Help her find him.
Dean doesn't care if this is a reality where he's a hermaphrodite and Castiel has tentacles, he's stopping for lunch. His stomach rumbles with hunger that isn't at all helped by the constant jolts of traveling pain. Dean's tired of stepping through the glass. He's tired of this ugly murky house. If nothing else, he wants some fresh air.
There's no one waiting for him in this world. It's disconcerting, but since it happened in the first reality, Dean tries not to worry about it as he makes his way out of the room. God, he hopes this isn't a world with a dead Sam or psycho Castiel or something equally horrifying. He's committed himself to this world. He doesn't want to have to turn around and sprint back to relative safety.
Castiel is standing at the foot of the stairs, apparently monitoring the area while his other self and possibly Sam do some scouting. Dean's not entirely sure.
His head tilts so far to one side, Dean seriously worries it's going to topple off his neck. An emotion Dean strongly suspects is wistfulness flares in his chest. Stupid nerdy angel.
"Yeah, it's me. Same as your Dean. Or DeAnna," he adds, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. "I came out of the mirror. Long story. Hey, listen, could you take me somewhere to get something to eat?"
It's not fair to expect each new world's inhabitants to be up to speed on the situation, but Dean refuses to let that moment of shocked disbelief linger. Castiel is an angel and Dean's seen crazier shit than this his entire life. Getting with the program should be a quick process for everyone involved.
"Another reality?" Castiel studies him. Soon enough, Dean sees that familiar moment of understanding clearing the confusion in Castiel's eyes. "Why are you here?"
"I didn't mean to. I'm trying to find the way back and before you start, you can go ask your brothers later. I'm hungry. Where is other me anyway?"
Castiel nods to a door. "You required a bathroom."
They've been talking for about three minutes. Add the at least two minutes it took Dean to run into Castiel and he has a pretty good idea of how this reality worked out.
"I'm a chick, aren't I?"
"You are female, yes," Castiel confirms.
"Are you fucking her?" Castiel's brief confusion makes Dean roll his eyes. "Not currently, dumbass. I mean, are you a couple?"
Anyone else might not see the slight irritation that darkens Castiel's eyes. It's probably not a good sign that Dean feels absurdly proud he can.
Awesome. So he gets prolonged exposure to this disturbing love affair. The only saving grace is that it's DeAnna and not Dean. He's just not ready to watch himself mack on Castiel for more than five minutes together.
"Well, could you tell me to hurry the fuck-"
DeAnna walks out of the bathroom before Dean even finishes his sentence. True to form, she's dressed in that same jeans and t-shirt combination from the other worlds. The only significant difference to her outfit is the shining silver band on the ring finger of her left hand. Dean's heart skips a beat.
"Are we engaged?"
She crosses her arms over her chest and raises an eyebrow at him.
"I don't remember inviting anyone else into this relationship," she says before glancing to Castiel. "Who is this clown? One of your brothers?"
"Hell, no," Dean snaps.
"He is you."
Which, of course, leads to the requisite explanation. Luckily, Dean/DeAnna have pretty much always believed everything Castiel has ever told them. So it's not long before her annoyed suspicion turns to shock and then to intense curiosity.
"Awesome," she says as she gives Dean a good once-over. "I'm a pretty hot guy. Right, Cas?"
"So anyway," Dean hurries to say before Castiel can answer. "I've been traveling through realities for a couple of hours now and I'm fucking hungry."
"God, me too," she says. "Let's go eat at that one diner."
Dean knows the one. They ate breakfast there what must be nearly half a day ago. It sounds perfect. But then, anything sounds good right now.
"Well, then, if DeAnna is taking you to eat, I should go consult my brothers," Castiel says. "I'll return shortly."
And of course, he has to collect his kiss before he can go. Who knew Castiel was such a sap? DeAnna's cheeks are slightly red when he pulls back, but Dean just shrugs.
"Angels," he says.
"Seriously," she agrees. "C'mon. We'll have to swing by and pick up Sam and Mark."
"Who the fuck is Mark?"
Ideas whirl through his mind. Another hunter? Another unknown cousin? One of Castiel's brothers? Sam's new boyfriend? He snorts at the last idea, but his grin falls away when he catches the odd troubled look on DeAnna's face.
"Well, it's just...I guess it makes sense since you're a dude and Castiel is a dude, but god, that sucks that you don't have Mark," she says, her mouth turning down at one side like it does when Dean's trying not to let something bug him even though it really really does.
"Okay," Dean says uneasily. "So who he is?"
It's unsettling not driving the Impala. A part of Dean wants to demand that he drive his own car, but his rational mind knows it's not his place. This particular beauty is DeAnna's and despite being a girl, she knows how to handle her just fine. Given that the car's also in great shape, Dean figures Dad didn't give a shit that he had a daughter instead of a son. There's something pleasing about that notion.
However, there is nothing pleasing about the idea of a version of himself giving birth.
Dean's not stupid. DeAnna's a girl. She's got girl parts and presumably at least a hint of the desire to procreate. Dean knows the basic rules of upkeep for a female body, but the actual practice of dealing with birth control and...all that other stuff freaks Dean the hell out.
But whatever. It's weird, but no big deal.
It's the stupid low gut-wrenching jealousy that makes Dean want to stab out his own eyeballs.
Not jealousy that he can't get pregnant because really, Dean's just fine and dandy with that part. But Dean knows himself well enough to understand how badly he wants a family of his own. So badly that he tried to force his way into a family where he didn't fit. And here this version of Dean got that without any fuss. With someone she actually loves.
Dean can't exactly do that with his own Castiel.
"So hey," he blurts, eager to turn his thoughts to happier topics. "How old is Mark?"
"Six months," she says.
Dean shivers. He can't ever think of six-month old babies without getting a prickle of fear up his spine.
"Dude, I know," DeAnna says, nodding in sympathy. "On his six-month birthday, I stayed up all night long and I made Cas stay with me too. But nothing happened."
"Does Cas leave a lot at night?"
"Well, no, but he thought I was being 'overly cautious'," she says in a fairly decent imitation of Castiel's gruff monotone.
"That's what I said!"
They share an amused glance. It's almost like having a twin sister. An extremely close twin sister that lives inside your head, but a sister nonetheless. Even presented with the evidence, Dean has a hard time thinking of this person as his exact copy and not just because she's a woman. She's had her own life experiences, things Dean's not done and vice versa.
"So I don't get it," he says. "Why'd you even have a baby?"
Starting a family while hunting isn't unheard of. But Dean can't imagine he'd be ready for a kid after only a couple of months of being with Castiel.
"We didn't mean to," DeAnna admits. "We're usually better about condoms and all that shit, but there was a really bad hunt awhile back and I thought Cas died."
Dean winces. He will never get used to that particular feeling.
"Yeah, it sucked balls and when he was okay, I kinda went crazy on him. And nine months later, I had Mark."
That figures. If Dean Winchester were going to get pregnant, it would be because of fear-fueled absentmindedness.
"Is he all the way human?" he asks, thinking of the pregnant Castiel and the child he'd called a 'hybrid'.
"Well...mostly. He has a human soul, according to Castiel. He says that since he's alone in the vessel, the body is fully joined with his grace. Or some shit like that. Anyway, the point is, Mark might be a little angelic, but we're not sure how. The only thing he really does that's weird is mind-meld with Cas."
"Excuse me?" Dean asks, his voice going somewhat embarrassingly high on the last word. DeAnna snorts with laughter.
"Yeah, tell me about it. With me, he's a normal baby. Cries when he's hungry or whatever, but when Cas is around, they just kind of stare at each other and he knows what Mark needs. It's not like he's talking to him. Just sort of...sharing impressions is how Cas explained it," she says. "Anyway, I could give a shit how it works. I just know it's awesome at 2 o'clock in the morning when I haven't got a clue what's wrong with him."
It does sound rather convenient. So maybe there are perks to being in a relationship with an Angel of the Lord.
"And you left him with Sam," Dean says, smiling fondly. "Uncle Sammy...wait, Sam's a dude, right?"
DeAnna gives him a curious look. "Yeah. You've seen Sam as a girl? An actual girl and not just a man-child that acts like one?"
"Awesome. And yes I have. She's got huge tits."
"Figures," DeAnna says.
DeAnna calls Sam ahead of time and explains the situation. Dean hears his tinny exclamation of surprise through the phone followed by about 47 million questions. DeAnna finally tells him to shut up and hangs up on him. It's good to know that some aspects of their relationship remain the same.
Sam meets them at the door of their motel room and when he sees Dean, his lips part in surprise.
"I wasn't ready for this," he says as he stares at Dean like his head's on backwards. "This is so weird."
It is weird. Dean isn't accustomed to his little brother looking at him without a hint of recognition.
"Snap out of it, Mongo," DeAnna says. "Where's my kid?"
"In the crib," Sam murmurs, his eyes still locked on Dean's face. His fascination is both annoying and so very Sam.
"Hey," Dean says. "I said, snap out of it."
"Dean, c'mere," DeAnna calls from inside the motel room. "Mark's got that half-asleep drug addict thing going on. It's hilarious."
Dean takes a deep breath, but it does nothing to steady his nerves. DeAnna had nine months of getting used to the idea before meeting her son. Dean's had half an hour. And no matter how much it might feel that way, Mark is not his child. Just an echo of another life. Of something that will never be his.
Now her voice sounds gruff and tense, the way it does when Dean's trying to hide worry. He shakes himself. In his life, he'll never know anyone as well as he knows this woman and yet they only just met. Because of the obvious differences between them, speaking to her is even more surreal than speaking to the male exact copy of himself.
"Yeah," he croaks and then walks into the room.
DeAnna's holding Mark. For some reason, Dean almost expected her to look awkward, but Mark fits as well in her arms as Sammy always did. Dean really needs to work on accepting that he's good with children.
"Well, this is him," DeAnna says. "D'you want to hold him?"
His chest aches with a melancholy sort of desire. He nods and holds his breath as DeAnna carefully transfers Mark into his waiting arms. As he looks down into sleepy blue eyes, all Dean can think is this is Castiel's kid.
The ache grows.
"Hey," Dean says quietly. Mark is still so little. Totally reliant on DeAnna and Castiel. And at that moment, on Dean. He feels incredibly powerful.
"Well, he's not crying, so that must be a good sign," DeAnna jokes.
Mark watches Dean closely. That can't be normal. Dean could swear the kid looks confused. He wonders if Mark is doing a weird half-angel scan on him and trying to figure out why Mommy is a boy now.
"He looks like me," Dean comments, the words squeezing past a nearly closed throat.
"When I was this age, yeah. Like the pictures of me. But that's Cas' nose."
The shape of his face and those sweet drowsy eyes are pure Winchester, but the nose is a carbon copy of Castiel's and how weird is that? A child in any reality with Dean's smile and Castiel's nose and who knows which of their personality traits. He could grow up to have Castiel's intensity and Dean's charisma and maybe a bit of Sam's geekiness. Their good qualities would make a great kid, Dean decides as he bounces Mark lightly in his arms.
Mark suddenly yawns and Dean's heart nearly stops.
"No wonder Sam teased me so much when he was born," she says. "I acted like a fu-...like an idiot every time he did something new."
"Cas was worse," Sam chimes in. "His entire body vibrated with silent excitement every time Mark moved a muscle."
It's not right how easily Dean can imagine Castiel doing that.
"Yeah, Mark's made us all complete morons," DeAnna says fondly.
Dean smiles. He can easily imagine that too.
Castiel returns right after they take their seats at the diner. Somehow, DeAnna's got him trained well enough that he actually uses the door like a regular person instead of appearing out of thin air. He'd ask her how she did it, but Dean suspects it has to do with tits and ass and he's not ready to consider that sort of step with his Castiel.
"I'm sorry, Dean-"
"Yeah, yeah," Dean interrupts him, but without any heat to his tone. "You guys have no idea what's going on."
Castiel's expression of regretful concern is more comforting than Dean would have thought. He takes a seat beside DeAnna and spares a slight smile for the baby tucked in her arms.
"Hello, Mark," he says. His smile grows when Mark's tiny arms flail and reach for him.
"Hey, Dean, watch this," DeAnna says as she hands Mark to Castiel. "Do the face, Cas."
The face? Already, Dean's amused. The concept of Castiel making a face to tickle a child, especially his own, is downright ridiculous and hysterical. Without realizing he's doing it, Dean leans forward to get a better look. Castiel carefully arranges Mark in his arms and lifts him until their faces are level. For a long moment, Castiel only stares blankly at Mark and then suddenly, he takes in deep breath and puffs out his cheeks as far as he can. It's the only thing he changes about his face and the instant it happens, Mark breaks into peals of shockingly loud laughter. A few heads turn their way, each stranger with a fond smile for the young father and the adorable baby laughter.
Dean hates the way it makes his heart pound.
Not his baby. Not his Castiel.
But if not the baby, Castiel would be yours, his brain reminds him.
Not if I don't get home, Dean snarls back.
"You really have no clue what the mirror is made from?" Dean asks, ignoring Sam's jolt of surprise at Dean's clipped tones. As well as DeAnna's knowing look.
Castiel's cheeks flatten.
"I've never seen anything like it. It's power is strong, but foreign to me. I examined it closely and found no markings on it. The frame itself is made from ordinary wood, but the glass is a substance I've never encountered before," Castiel explains, bouncing Mark gently in his arms to ease a bit of fussing. "My natural instinct is to warn you away from it altogether, but I think I know DeAnna well enough to know you won't do that."
"I can't," Dean says, shaking his head. "I can't just leave my Sam and Cas."
"Yeah, you better not," Sam says. "Cas is a big baby without you."
His tone lilts upwards. An obvious attempt to lighten the mood. One that Dean allows. He grins and rolls his eyes and if it doesn't show true joy, no one comments on it. They let the conversation turn to differences and similarities in upbringing as lunch progresses. Dean laughs when he learns that they lost their virginity to same girl, who apparently couldn't resist the allure of Dean Winchester, no matter his form. The quickly squashed flash of jealousy in Castiel's eyes over the topic sticks in Dean's mind, but he doesn't call Castiel on it. Instead, he focuses on DeAnna and Sam, even on Mark.
It's just too weird to look at Castiel and see the same deeply abiding love on his face that's there when Cas looks at DeAnna.
"Do you have to go back right after lunch?" Sam asks. "You could stay the night and get some rest."
Sam's familiar worry makes Dean smile.
"Nah, I'm not tired. I just want to go home."
And I can't take much more of this, he thinks as he watches Castiel gently put Mark back in DeAnna's arms so he can go pay the bill.
"In fact, I better get going," he says.
DeAnna apparently understands what Dean needs because she slides out of the booth and jerks her head towards the door.
"Come on. I'll drive you back now and save you the big dramatic goodbye," she offers.
"Oh," Sam says, disappointed.
"You wanna trade me in already, Samantha?" DeAnna asks with a frown.
"Shut up! It's interesting. And it's you, but not-"
"I get it, Sammy," Dean cuts in. The poor guy looks so flustered and upset that Dean gives him a short impulsive hug. "I'll see you around, I'm sure."
Then he slips out the door without a backwards glance.
It takes DeAnna a few moments to strap Mark into his car seat. When she climbs in beside him, Dean can't look her in the eye.
"I'll explain it to him," she promises. "He's used to the Winchester method of dealing with emotional trauma."
"It's in every world," he whispers. "Every world I've gone to, it's me and Cas. In some form or another. Except mine."
"So you're slower." She starts the car and pulls out of the lot. "You'll get there. If you're freaked out about it, tough shit. Falling in love with an angel is stupid, but we're stupid," she says with a shrug. "If you're worried about the fact that you like dick, all I can say is...dicks are awesome."
"Wow," Dean says, finally turning to look at her. "I really have a way with words."
She grins. "Play with the baby. You only have a few more minutes."
Dean obeys. On the way back to the mirror house, he stays turned in his seat, making faces at Mark and letting him grasp one of Dean's fingers in his tiny hand. Being the focus of all the trusting love is so damned addictive that Dean finds himself wishing he and Castiel could adopt. The change this journey is creating in him doesn't strike Dean until after he waves goodbye to DeAnna and Mark.
He's seriously thinking about Castiel and kids.
The thought is firmly shaken off. No reason to freak out yet. He's got to find a way back to his world first.
Turning, Dean trudges into the house and back up the stairs to his next chance.