When he brings it up with Dean, Dean just shrugs, says maybe they didn't want to make it too easy in case someone ever infiltrates. Then he goes back to waving a scimitar around, and Sam knows the conversation is done for him. It's a good enough answer, but Sam doesn't think that's it. There's way too much stuff collected here that is much too valuable. The Men of Letters were damn well counting on this place never being found. And they were right. It's already outlived all of them.
He figures it out the first time he goes exploring in earnest: you can’t make a map of a place that changes. For all Dean's loving playing with the antiques he finds, he's been pretty uncurious about figuring out just how far their new hideout extends. He says he doesn’t even know what Sam's talking about, that what they see is what they get, but that's not true.
The bunker is huge. Limitless. Every time Sam opens a door, he finds a secret passageway. He always turns back, nervous of getting lost and being cut off, but the temptation to keep going is hard to fight. When he tries to bring Dean back with him, he opens doors he swears there were hallways behind and all that's there is a broom closet.
He doesn’t tell Dean what he's thinking. He stops trying to show him, because it sounds crazy, right?
The walls are shifting. The doors don't lead to the same places every time. The staircases move when he's not looking. And tonight—tonight he can feel it, tugging him on and on and on and on. The hallways narrow out to one door, one turn, one way he can take. The bunker is trying to show him something. Like it's alive. He can feel the desire as it twists his path. Even thinking of the danger, of the fact that he might get lost and die out here and never see Dean again—even that's not enough to fight the floor and the ceiling and the walls as they will him ever further.
Finally he reaches a door and he knows: this is it. Whatever he finds behind it is what he's being led to. Whatever it is, it's going to be important. He even pauses to take a deep breath as he grips the handle and holds it while the door swings open.
He doesn't know if it's disappointment or embarrassment that undercuts the laugh he lets out once he looks inside. The room is empty—huge and bare except for the one lonely mirror sitting directly in the middle of it. He sure built that up for nothing.
Sam would normally be wary of something like this; it's been locked up down here so long, sequestered off in this section of the bunker that's nearly impossible to find, kept by itself. Only truly dangerous items get that treatment. But it's just a mirror.
The spirit of adventure hasn't quite left him, apparently. He walks up to it, circles around, observing. The frame seems to be made of solid gold, and it's carved extravagantly. At the top of the mirror there are words in a language Sam doesn't recognize. He reaches up—even with his height, he can't reach the top without rising to his toes—and runs his fingers through the grooves.
Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi
Taking a step back, Sam looks at his reflection and feels himself jump in his skin. Dean is behind him. He laughs at his own paranoia as he turns to face his brother, says, "Dude, did you follow me? You could have at least let me—"
His words echo in the silent chamber for a few seconds before they fall down dead. Dean isn't there. No one is. But Sam saw him clear as day.
He turns back to the mirror. Dean is closer now than he was when Sam turned to face him. He's looking at Sam kinda funny, though. With dark eyes, and Sam nearly looks away he's so ashamed, but it's enchanting. Then Dean bridges the distance between them and puts his arm around Sam's middle, burying his face in Sam's neck. Kissing, sucking at the skin.
Sam reaches up to touch his flesh. He feels like he's on fire. Nothing. He smoothes his hand over his stomach, but his is the only hand there.
He shatters as if he was the one made of glass.
He’d spent four hours last night sitting in front of that mirror. Legs crossed on the ground, his hands and eyes glued to the glass surface, watching as Dean touched him, kissed him, fucked him. When he finally got up to leave, it was about the time the sun would be rising outside. His ass and legs numb from sitting in the same spot, so turned on he couldn’t think straight, and the crushing shame and wanting that he’s known so well for so many years of his life overwhelming him.
It’ll be the same thing if he goes back tonight. And he’ll be there again the night after. Once he gives in, he won’t ever leave. Sam knows an addiction when it starts scratching up inside of him.
But he finds himself on his feet, and like a powerful current, the bunker drags Sam along. He doesn’t know if it’s the same path he took yesterday, the twists and turns too many and too variable to keep track of. All he can focus on is what he’ll find at the end.
Dean. Dean, but a Dean as fucked as he is. A Dean who loves him.
The mirror seems grander than it had when Sam discovered it the night before. It fills the room now, nothing like the scarce, empty space he’d seen when he walked in here yesterday. He wonders if it’s a completely different room altogether, but it doesn’t matter for long.
“Sammy.” The mirror doesn’t talk, but it’s easy enough to read Dean’s lips. He reaches out, and Sam’s fingers mimic the gesture, finding the cold flat surface of the mirror with an electric shock of disappointment.
Dean’s smile doesn’t falter though. He pulls in the mirror image of Sam, and Sam watches his own body move inside the glass while he’s standing still on the other side. They seem to fuse together, him and Dean, lips melting into lips and hands every bit as desperate as Sam would be, given the chance.
It’s just a mirror, he reminds himself. It’s nothing but an illusion.
But his heart fights back. Get out, his brain tells him, but he stays. It’s not real…but what if it is? What if it might be? The mirror is clearly magic. What if it tells the future? What if it’s showing Sam something he will have?
Why shouldn’t it? This bunker’s already given Dean his dream: his own bedroom, the home he’s never let himself admit out loud he wanted. Why not Sam, too? Why can’t Sam just have Dean? He was led here—the bunker wouldn’t have brought him just to torture him. Maybe Dean has been trying to tell him this, and the mirror is helping them along.
He would stop if he could. Whether it tells the future or not, Sam knows he's not gaining anything like this, sitting in front of the indifferent glass and wasting away. But he's been wanting Dean so long, so much, and he never thought…he never thought he'd get to see his brother like this.
It's going to drive him crazy.
So he does what he knows he has to, even though the thought of it makes his chest ache. He watches Dean laugh, naked and sated, as he grabs for Sam—then he puts his fist through the glass, punching again and again even though it's damn well broken already, his hand is bleeding, and all he's doing is getting shards buried in his punctured skin.
He doesn't realize he's crying as he does it until he stops and his face is burning up. It's good, he tells himself. It's proof he did the right thing. He was way too attached.
Finding the way back to his room and Dean is easy after that. The bunker doesn't try to lose him in the maze of passageways it usually does, maybe because there's no mystery left to cloak. Sam stumbles through the door of the room the mirror is in, or at least the remains of the mirror, and finds himself face-to-face with Dean again.
Dean's not the reflection version of himself. When he leaps to his feet and rushes to Sam's side, it's not for a kiss. The pain throbbing in his wrist is minimal next to that, but Sam lets Dean grab his hand anyway, happy to see how worried Dean still gets over every bullshit injury.
"What the hell?" Dean asks, taking Sam's wrist gently and leading him to the table. "How did you even get this?"
Sam licks his lips and casts his eyes away, because sometimes he gets reality and fantasies mixed up, especially lately, and the strong hold of Dean's fingers is making his blood pump faster. "Just clumsy," he says. "The lighting was bad and I walked into a mirror."
"You walked into a mirror?" Dean asks, raising an eyebrow as he begins to spread out a first aid kit to dress Sam's wounds.
Sam's injury is pretty clearly from punching glass, but hey, if anyone isn't allowed to judge other people for taking their anger out on inanimate objects, it's Dean. So when Sam nods, Dean does, too.
"Yeah," he says, voice a little hollow. "Yeah, okay Sam. You walked into a mirror."
Sam stares at the way his brother's throat works as he swallows and wonders just what the hell is wrong with him.
"But you gotta be more careful from now on, okay?"
He shrugs, letting Dean pull a sliver of glass out of him. Sam closes his eyes, not wanting to look at it, worried even this tiny piece will be enchanted. He'll go back and try to put the damn thing back together if Dean doesn't stop dressing his wound so damn attentively.
"Where the hell were you, anyway?" Dean asks, startling Sam out of his thoughts. Which is for the best. "I feel like you've been MIA every time I try to talk to you for the last week. Skipping meals and everything."
Dean is trying to sound nonchalant about it, but Sam knows how to detect worry even in his brother's most detached tones by now. Still, it's over and there's no reason to worry Dean.
"I've just needed some time to think," he says.
The expression on Dean's face after that is dim, and Sam hates himself for causing it. "Don’t think too hard, Sammy."
When he reaches the room, the mirror is standing right in the middle of it. In one piece. There's no sign that it was ever broken at all except for the ache that resurges in his hand when he looks at it.
The last time Sam was this relieved, his brother was wrapping his arms around him, somehow back from purgatory without any help from Sam. The last time he was this disappointed, his brother hated him for trying to love someone the right way instead of the sick way he's always going to love when Dean is alive.
He steps in front of the glass, and Dean is already waiting for him. He takes Sam's injured hand, pressing a kiss against the bandages, shaking his head at Sam for hurting himself. He doesn't seem the least bit upset that Sam tried to break him into so many pieces.
After that, it's another week and a half, and the addiction's only getting worse. Sam doesn't know if he sees more of Dean or his reflection, and their research on the second trial is going nowhere with Sam so uncommitted to it.
"Stop right there."
Sam pauses, his hand on the latch of a door, feeling his heart sink. He turns slowly to face Dean, hoping he looks innocent instead of like he just got caught, well, on his way to watch what amounts to porn with his brother in the starring role.
Dean braces his hands on the back of a chair. "You need to eat something."
"Not hungry," Sam replies. "Had breakfast. Is that all?"
"Is that—?" Dean laughs lightly, shaking his head. "Man, I've tried to be considerate, but this is getting ridiculous. What the hell's been up with you lately?"
"It's none of your business," says Sam, turning his back. "If that's all…"
He begins to open the door, trying to make his escape, but then he feels Dean come up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Sam, talk to me, man. I thought we agreed we were done with secrets."
Sam closes his eyes against a wave of guilt that washes over him, but how can he tell Dean the truth?
On the other hand, how is the vision ever going to be their future if he never lets Dean know what he wants?
Before he gets a chance to second-guess himself, Sam says, "Come with me if you want to know. I'll show you."
Dean's eyebrows draw together. "Sam, there's nothing in there except some storage."
Sam opens the door and finally, finally he's the one who's right instead of Dean. The hallway in front of them looks like it stretches on for miles.
"Holy shit," Dean says, wide-eyed.
"We've seen weirder," Sam tells him, and Dean shrugs, his gaping mouth closing and his head nodding agreeably.
He follows Sam into the hall. "You know how to find our way back, right? I shouldn't mark which door is ours?"
"What good'll that do?" Sam points behind them. "Yesterday this was a broom closet. Marking the doors won't make them lead to the same places."
Dean shakes his head, taking a step back. "So how are we gonna know our way back?"
Sam grabs his brother's wrist with his good hand and leads him forward. "The same way we know our way there. Just let the bunker lead."
"I don't like it," he says, but his eyes move down to their hands and after a short hesitation, he looks up at Sam and nods.
The walk isn't long this time. Maybe the bunker doesn't want Dean to lose his patience, or maybe it's rightfully concerned Sam will lose his nerve. After about ten minutes of opening doors and chasing passages, Sam gets the usual rush that tells him the mirror is behind the next door.
"Here we are." Sam opens the door and reveals the room, large and empty but for the grand looking glass standing in the middle.
Dean stands next to him for a long, quiet minute. "You brought me all this way for a fancy mirror? Dude, how did you ever get a girl to sleep with you?"
He doesn't move from his place in the doorway, worried he'll try to cover the glass so Dean can't see if he does. "Look in it."
After Dean has a few steps on him, Sam follows, eager to observe the expression on Dean's face when he sees what they do on the other side. Dean has the same intense reaction Sam did the first time he looks inside, eyes going round in the first second, turning away to look at Sam and then back to the reflection.
He looks delighted. He looks so happy—Sam doesn't know that he's ever seen Dean this happy. He feels everything inside of himself ready to fly out in a million directions, but just before he grabs Dean and takes the fatal plunge, kissing his brother as hard as the Sam in the mirror ever did, Dean says, "Mom? Dad?"
Sam wants to shake him. Wants to punch his brother like he'd punched the reflection last week. He's looking right where Dean is, and all he sees is their bodies draped together.
Dean's hand comes up to touch the mirror in a stance Sam knows too well by now. "Look at them, Sam. They're alive."
Shaking his head, Sam tries to keep his voice from cracking. "That's not what I see."
"What do you mean?" Dean asks, looking to the mirror, then Sam, then pointing to the mirror and deflecting his attention again. "They're right there. They look good, huh?"
Sam licks his lips and shrugs, trying not to act as heartbroken as he is by this realization. "We don't see the same thing."
"What do you mean?" He only seems half interested in Sam's answer. He's completely absorbed in the picture in front of him. "It's a mirror, how can we not see the same thing?"
"I don't know," Sam answers weakly. "I don't know."
They stand quietly, shoulder to shoulder for another half minute or so. Sam can see how upset he is in the mirror, his eyes as they get watery. Next to him, Dean reaches up to brush his hand over that Sam's cheek, and Sam doesn't know who he hates more: the real Dean who doesn't want him, or the fake one who does.
He watches Dean's face as he falls more and more in love with whatever is going on in the mirror, and Sam feels such a sharp stab of guilt. Dean will get addicted, too. Sam brought him here and got him hooked—and for what? He's never going to get his brother to touch him the way that copy is doing in front of his eyes.
Suddenly, Dean moves, trying to reach into the glass. "Hey, where are they going?"
He watches, sad at first, and then his body tenses, eyes a bright green as they get rounder than Sam's ever seen them. "What are you doing?"
After a pause, Dean's expression gets confused, stuck somewhere between delighted and furious. By the time he turns to look at Sam, it's all steel in his gaze, and his tone is cold and demanding, "What the fuck is this thing?"
Sam shakes his head. "I don't know," he says, walking a few paces to his left and sitting down on the ground cross-legged. He can't stand to compare the difference between his Dean and the fake one anymore. "I thought maybe it showed the future."
"Mom and Dad are already dead," Dean reminds him, turning to look down. "This is never going to be real."
Sam swallows that with as much dignity as he can, nodding as he looks away. "Yeah. I was wrong."
"So what the hell is it, then?" Dean asks coolly. "Another world, maybe? Some better world?"
That's as good as any guess Sam has, but then he looks up at the gold letters carved on the top, the words Sam's been ignoring for weeks in favor of the reflection. From this angle, it's suddenly so clear—so embarrassingly obvious. The language is English. The words are backwards and weirdly spaced, but the mirror says what it does as plain as day.
Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi; I show not your face but your heart's desire.
Now that he knows what it does, Sam realizes it couldn't have been anything else. Dean sees what Sam would if he weren't so fucking twisted: their family, safe and alive the way they should be. Sam sees what shouldn't ever be, the only family he's wanted for longer than he wants to think about.
"It shows you your deepest desire," Sam finally answers, hearing the defeated tone before Dean reacts to it. "That's it. Just a fantasy."
Dean nods, his eyes dull, looking resigned. He presses his hand to the glass for another long second, then pulls away and turns his back to it. "C'mon, Sam. Let's get the hell out of here."
Sam wants to laugh. Dean's response is the one he should have had weeks ago. He hates the mirror, doesn't want to stand in front of it a moment longer. Dean's always been better at separating the fake from the real, even when it would feel better not to; Sam's always been a little wrong in the head.
"Yeah," he says, rising to his feet and brushing his hands off on the back of his jeans. "Yeah, okay."
Dean doesn’t ask Sam what he saw in the mirror on the way back like Sam is expecting. It's a small but appreciated mercy, because Sam's not really in a state to think of a convincing lie right now.
When they finally find the bunker's main room, Dean immediately heads for his bedroom, leaving Sam behind without a word. As an afterthought, though, he stops at the door and turns to Sam. "Sammy. Don't go back to it again. It's no good for either of us."
Sam doesn't say anything. He ducks into his room and closes the door. He knows he'll be back in front of that mirror tomorrow.
Maybe it should have gotten less alluring, but now Sam knows this is the only way he'll ever get Dean, so instead of trying to forget about it like Dean advised, Sam is more hooked than ever.
Unsurprisingly, he drifts off that night in bed, his eyes fixed straight ahead of him. The mirror is set up so that when Sam lies like this, he can see his brother crowded up behind him, arm wrapped around him, lips grazing Sam's neck as he sleeps.
When Sam wakes the next morning, Dean is still behind him. He asks for a kiss, and Sam wonders if he'll ask for a kiss every morning. Sam will always want to give it to him. He watches now as the version of himself in the mirror grins against his brother's lips, pulling Dean back down to him, and nearly lets out a sob.
He doesn't leave his room once that day. He's so absorbed in the mirror that he doesn't hear when Dean knocks on the door and lets himself in. But he hears the air Dean sucks in when he sees the mirror in Sam's room, the disappointed "Sammy" he whispers.
Sam's so far gone, he hardly cares. In the mirror, Dean comes into view as he crawls up from under the covers, a dirty smile on his face. Sam shivers and turns away from it. "What do you want?"
Dean's lips thin, but he sits down at the edge of Sam's bed. "Sam. You gotta come eat something. We have to get out of this bunker, get some fresh air. We'll find a hunt tomorrow, okay?"
Sam shakes his head. "I don't want a hunt," he says. "I want…"
He and Dean both look over at the mirror at the same time. Dean's eyes get dark, and Sam thinks it's only the mirror version until he looks up and sees Dean's face as it flinches away from the reflection.
"Fuck, Sam, come on, really? This is not okay."
Sam stares up at the ceiling and says nothing. He's not going to try to make an argument for it. Just because it's not okay doesn't mean he's going to stop. Anyway, it's probably more okay than actually kissing his brother. Dean wouldn't like that any better.
They sit for a long time until finally Dean says, "Just go already."
Sam sits up, looking at him with a puzzled expression. "Dean?"
"I know what you see in the mirror, Sam. I know it's Amelia. Jesus, I didn't realize how much you loved her until—I wouldn't have asked you to stay if I realized you would be this miserable. For God's sake, you seemed fine until this mirror thing started."
"Dean," Sam says, about to correct him.
"No." Dean pushes the hand Sam is trying to press against his chest away and shakes his head. "Look, it doesn't mean anything that you're here if the rest of you is with her. Just go back. You spend more time in front of this mirror than with me, anyway, it's like you're a ghost. It's no way to live and you're going to start resenting me for taking her away from you, so just go back and tell her you changed your mind and I'll do the stupid trials. You won't ever have to go a day without her, and I won't have to live thinking I ruined your one shot."
"That's not what I see," Sam says, interrupting Dean when he pauses before he can launch into another rant. "I don’t see her."
"Don't lie to me."
Sam huffs out a laugh. "I'm not lying, man. Why would I lie when you're giving me a chance to go chasing after her?"
Dean looks at him for a long time, then down at his hands. "You thought it showed the future."
"My future isn't with her," he tells Dean. "I told myself it was while you were gone and even then, I don't think I really believed it. She and I were both pretending, and she got her real happy ending and I…I don't need to cling to her anymore."
"Then what?" Dean asks, pointing to the mirror but very deliberately avoiding his reflection. "What the hell is so spellbinding that you've hardly spent three hours away from this thing in the last three weeks?"
Sam considers telling him, but he can't. He can’t. Dean will hate him, and that's the only thing Sam can't handle.
Dean makes a face Sam can't read, like he's just found a clue and is trying to see if it fits into place. "Sam," he says in a low voice. "Tell me what you see."
"You don't really want to know."
"I'll tell you what I see," he replies.
Sam snorts. "You already told me. You see Mom and Dad."
"I see our family. I see the family I wish we had." Dean gives Sam a weak smile. "Mom and Dad are alive and healthy and they're so happy. You should see them."
Dean coughs uncomfortably, scooting away from Sam a little. His voice gets so quiet Sam has to sit up even more to hear him. "But when they walk away, Sam. That's the best part."
Sam opens his mouth to ask what happens, but Dean looks up at him before he gets a chance, the intensity in his gaze almost like a challenge, and Sam can't let himself get lost in it. "When they walk away, you kiss me like we've been doing it our whole lives."
It takes less than a second for Sam to process that information before he's bunching his fist in the collar of Dean's shirt, pulling his brother down until their mouths crash together. Dean's kiss is better than Sam ever could have imagined it, and Sam's imagined it plenty.
He pulls his brother into bed on top of him, Dean shoving at the covers between them like he'll die if he doesn’t get his hands on Sam. It's more than Sam can believe is real except that for the first time, he can actually feel Dean's desperation, can actually grab back at it, instead of having to passively stare at a reflection of something he'll never get.
They pause as Dean pushes at Sam's shirt, fighting to get it off, and Sam sits up, yanking it over his head. Then Dean disposes of his own shirt, grabbing Sam's one good hand and pressing it against his chest before crushing in for another kiss. Now, Sam kind of regrets punching that mirror; he'd like two hands to touch Dean with.
"Dean," Sam gasps against his brother's mouth. "Fuck, really?"
"Shut up," Dean replies, "and kiss me."
Sam laughs at that, turning his face away so that Dean's hungry mouth lands on his neck. Dean rolls with the punches—that's always been something he's good at—his tongue swiping out at Sam's collar, and Sam gasps.
In the mirror…Dean is doing the exact same thing, and the gasps Sam's reflection lets out match his own. It's just a mirror now. Nothing special about it. Nothing irresistible except for how fucking hot Dean is as his mouth trails down Sam's chest, lapping up sweat like it's holy water.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Sam murmurs, staring into the glass across from his bed, not because of a fantasy for once but because the reality of what's going on is so goddamn gorgeous he can't even blink. He's had dreams like this, but dreams are nothing next to seeing the actual expression Dean makes when he pushes Sam's boxers down along with his own and their cocks meet for the first time.
Sam looks down at them, the way they fit together, Dean's dick a little shorter and thicker than Sam's as his brother's wrist wraps around them both and begins to stroke. Sam's too fucking turned on, too blown away this is happening, to do anything more than thrust up and moan his brother's name, watching the way his own face shifts. Dean makes his deepest wishes seem insignificant next to the rough, calloused touch of his hand.
"God, Sam," Dean mutters, his hand speeding up as he works them together. "Sam, fuck. I've wanted this so long, you don’t know. Thought about your dick in my mouth, in me. Thought about tying you up or," he laughs, sending only a momentary glimpse to the mirror across the room, "making you watch me fuck you."
The sound Sam lets out in response to that is not a word; he's not even thinking clearly enough to know what it was supposed to be. All he knows is the feel of Dean's palm and the crazed look in his own eyes as he watches their bodies grind together in the mirror. He's got a great view of Dean's ass as he pumps his body up and down in rhythm with Sam, of Dean's goddamn amazing back, and the way his hand nearly covers an entire shoulder when he releases the sheets he'd been grasping so tightly and reaches up to pull Dean in closer to him.
Dean's panting fills his ear, and before Sam wants to let go of this, he's coming into his brother's hand. Dean is a pro—he twists his hand immediately, making Sam's orgasm swell up even stronger toward the end and then milks Sam for all he's worth, using Sam's come as lube while he finishes himself off with a low grunt.
He collapses on top of Sam, and Sam spreads his legs to make room for Dean to lie there, disbelieving of the weight even as it anchors him, making him really accept what just happened and that it was not a dream or a fantasy or a reflection in some cursed mirror.
"Holy fuck," Sam says once his breath has returned to him.
"Yeah," Dean replies, turning his head as he rests it on Sam's chest. Sam moves his hand up from Dean's back, curling his fingers in the short hairs on the back of his brother's head.
He doesn’t miss the way Dean winces when he looks into the mirror, his eyes immediately closing. "We should get rid of that thing."
"Yeah," Sam agrees, not even wanting to look in it now that he's got Dean. He doesn't want to know if it's Jess smiling down at him or something darker, his mouth attached to a demon's veins. No, not now that's he's finally happy. He got his heart's desire, whatever he's still lusting after can't be all that great.
Nevertheless, Sam's curious. "What did you see this time?"
"Pie," Dean replies, his voice sounding tired, his face still pressed against Sam's chest.
He looks content, and Sam knows he's lying, but he laughs anyway. "What kind?"
"Oh, all kinds," Dean continues, yawning. "All my favorite flavors. Cherry, pecan, apple, incest."
Sam snorts. "We'll go get some pie tomorrow," he promises.
"Deal," Dean replies. He lifts his head and smiles at Sam, coming up for a quick kiss. "Until then, you'll do."