“Love is lovelier the second time around. Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground” ~ lyrics by Sammy Cahn
He could see both of their faces in the elevator mirror, and they both had matching expressions that said, ‘not this shit again!’ which was funny because of where they were. He smiled and his brother returned the smile, stood up a little straighter, making the yellow polo shirt pull even more tightly across his chest. He knew he needed to look away, even in a mirror, Sam was going to notice. Adjusting his suspenders under his suit jacket was a good diversion.
“Sammy, why the hell are we here again?” Dean asked, meeting Sam’s eyes in the elevator mirror.
Sam’s smiling face clouded over in confusion. “I’m sorry, have we met? I mean, I know your name of course, since I kind of work for you and all. And I should probably just uh…go, here’s my floor,” Sam babbled, exiting the elevator the moment the doors opened on the executive floor.
Dean followed behind him, wondering what the hell Sam was playing at, they needed to figure out how to get back home from wherever the hell they were this time. It had to be angels again, right?
Of course that was when he ran right into Sam who was doubling back to the elevator in a heedless rush. They collided, full force and Dean was going down to the marble floor if not for Sam’s big hands grabbing him around the waist. They stopped for a moment that stretched longer than Sam’s hair, curling around that yellow polo’s collar.
“We need to figure out how to get out of here,” Dean said, taking a step backwards and having to stop because of the potted palm. Sam had him practically backed into the wall here, he just needed some space.
Sam’s eyes went from surprised to confused to compassionate understanding in a moment which made Dean wonder again, what was going on with Sam.
“I had heard—uh, about your loss recently, Mr. Smith. It’s really hard losing family like that,” Sam said all wavering voice and sincere concern.
“What are you talking about? Why are you calling me Mr. Smith?”
“Well, I didn’t think we were on a first name basis. My momma raised me to wait until I knew that for sure, especially in the workplace with a superior.”
Dean could tell then, right then and there down to his toes that while this was still his Sam, the man did not know him besides someone that he worked for and that was so many kinds of wrong it was pointless to try and count it up.
He sighed and looked past Sam’s broad, yellow-knit covered shoulders over the floor of elegant executive offices that went as far as he could see. “Listen, Sam, I need some help with my desktop system, would you mind giving it a look?”
“Sure, I’d be happy to check it out for you, Mr. Smith. I haven’t shown my face downstairs yet, so I’ll be right back up, okay?”
“That’d be great, and you can go ahead and call me, Dean,” Dean said.
Sam seemed to stand up even straighter at that, practically blocking out the tasteful lighting fixtures above. “Sure thing, I’ll be back in just a sec, Dean.”
Dean was shaking his head at himself as he stood watching as Sam hustled off to the elevator bay. How had he found a pair of khakis that fit those long legs of his so well? Not to mention how they hugged his—
“Nice of you to finally join us this morning, Mr. Smith,” a smarmy voice interrupted his entirely inappropriate thoughts.
“Okay, what the hell is this, some kind of this-is-your-life re-run?” Dean demanded.
“That is a very strange way to address your immediate superior, Mr. Smith.”
“You’re not—you can’t be kidding me right now. No, c’mon really is it you, Zachariah?”
“Your surprise is so very very touching, Dean,” Zachariah snarked.
“No, really, I stabbed you in the face, you died, I saw the outline of your wings,” Dean said.
Zachariah practically growled in the back of his throat, he raised a hand and crushed it into a fist, his face going red with effort. Dean braced himself but nothing happened, not a damn thing, the angel had no juice.
“Let’s just say, my boss has a sense of humor, unlike yours. Let’s both just get back to work, and leave the past in the past, huh, champ?” Zachariah said. “Your monthly sales reports are still due on my desk in an hour.” Zachariah stalked away down towards the corner office, the office lights glancing off his bald head striking Dean as an off-center halo.
The last thing he remembered was Amara and God showing up in the bunker, just as he and Sam had been sitting down to eat the dinner he’d spent all afternoon preparing. His stomach growled at the thought of the lasagna cooling on the kitchen table, the big bowl of Caesar salad, freshly made croutons going soggy in the dressing. The two glasses of red wine that would be stale by the time they got back. If they got ba—no, when they got back home.
He tried to get himself to focus, before Sam showed up and set him off on paths he shouldn’t be going down, he was not going there after all these years of studiously ignoring and over-compensating. Yeah, he’d always had those thoughts about Sam, and as the good big brother he always tried his best to be, he’d kept them hidden from Sam. As one should, obviously. It would be better if he didn’t have them of course, but he did have them, always had and he supposed he always would. Back to being resigned to loving and desiring the one person in the world he could never…
But returning to the subject of Amara and Chuck, they’d looked happy there in the bunker’s kitchen, and he could swear he remembered that they’d been giggling, but what had it been about? Chuck had said something about giving him what he really wanted this time since Amara had screwed up the first time.
Dean sat down in the comfortable leather chair at his desk and sipped at his hazelnut latte. It was coming back to him now, they’d come back to Earth to sort out the convoluted mess that was Jack, Lucifer and Mary. There had been something about needing to put the systems of both Heaven and Hell back on track.
“You two did your best holding it together for us, now go be happy,” Chuck had said with that twinkle in his eye. And then he and Sam had been in the elevator. And only one of them remembered who they were. That had to be for a reason. How were he and Sam supposed to be happy if they weren’t starting out on the same page? How was that even fair?
There was a quiet knock at the door and without thinking he said, “Yeah, come in."
Sam opened the door a little hesitantly. “Hey, Mr. Smi—uh, Dean, got my stuff. Show me what’s going on with your system.”
Dean rolled back slightly from his desk leaving Sam space to join him. “It’s not booting up when I turn it on,” Dean said, leaning around Sam to push the button on the computer under his desk.
Sam crouched down next to him and their shoulders brushed. Dean watched in fascination as Sam’s head tilted as he listened to the straining electronic sounds coming from his computer. Sam pressed into his shoulder for a moment more and then quickly crawled under the desk. Dean could hear him fooling with the computer’s cables and cords, but he was more interested in what Sam’s body looked like in that position when seen from this close.
He scrambled to pull his suit coat together over his lap as Sam backed out from underneath the desk.
“Go ahead and try it again,” Sam said.
He leaned in and pressed the on button, brushing against the glossy sheath of Sam’s hair. The small hairs on the back of his hand stood up at attention and a drizzle of desire trickled down his spine at the contact.
The machine whirred and clunked back to life, the usual log-in screen appearing. Dean typed in his login and password, the same as on his one back home: Impala67 and May021983. He was disappointed when it worked, because that meant Sam was going to leave.
Sam stood up from his crouch below the desk, and Dean rolled back a bit in his chair to stare up at him. Sam noticed his stare and adjusted his shoulders with a deep breath and a nervous smile.
“Looks like it’s working now. But I’ll put you on the list for an upgrade, it sounds like your CPU is working too hard. It might be something small like just the fan not functioning well enough, but you may also need an upgraded CPU to handle the SAS you’re running.”
Dean was dazzled by the waves of competence and helpfulness, as well as the way his brother was looking at him. What was it Sam was seeing? He was just in a suit, like any other time they played at being Feds. Dean touched his hair, remembering the hair styling oil from last time. Sam closely tracked the movements of his hand. Dean felt himself begin to blush at the attention and his hand moved to the back of his neck in his self-comfort gesture. The one that Sam had told him was one of his ‘tells’ a long time ago. This Sam was seeing it for the first time, and made him gentle his smile even more, like he was holding in an ‘awww cute’ comment. Dean scowled a little at that and Sam took a step back, shaking his head to break his stare.
“Thanks for coming up so quickly, Sam. You pretty much saved my ass today, I owe you one,” Dean said.
“Any time, Dean. I’ll let you get started on your day,” Sam said, backing out of the door with a little wave and an almost wink of one eye.
“Bye, Sam,” Dean said with his own wave. He wished he had a reason to have Sam stay here, so he’d know where he was in this strange world, not even knowing who the hell he was. And this place was haunted too, he just remembered, so there was some real danger to worry about.
A knock at his door made him drop that worry. First Amara and then Chuck entered his office, closing the door behind them.
“Hi, Dean,” Amara said.
“What the hell is this? You bring us back to the real world right the fuck now!” Dean demanded.
“We’re just here to place the quarterly order for our company,” Amara said with a sickly sweet smile.
“No—don’t even bother, Amara. I don’t know what this is supposed to be, some kind of curse or test or whatever, just please, bring us back home,” Dean said.
“Mr. Smith, may I call you Dean?” Chuck asked, extending a hand for a confused Dean to shake. “We need to set some ground rules for this interaction. I can’t have you yelling at my partner here.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just having a very confusing day,” Dean said, sitting back into his chair and letting his head sink into his hands for a moment to regain some composure.
“Yes, I can imagine, your first day back at work after a family tragedy, it’s understandable,” Amara said.
Dean looked up at her sharply. That was the second time he’d heard something like that, the first was from Sam. “What do you mean?”
“Wasn’t it your mother and step-brother who were recently lost?” Chuck asked.
Dean nodded, trying to put it all back into focus. The alternative universe they’d tried to rescue Mom and Jack from, going through the rift with the angels. All the death and destruction there, having to return without even finding them.
“I’m sure they’re in a better place,” Amara said, the faux concern wasn’t selling the platitude.
“You would know,” Dean said, a bitter taste in his mouth at the words. She was the one who’d ripped Mary out of her Heaven, hopefully she’d put her back there. “She back where she belongs at least?”
“Yes, Dean, she is, think that’ll help us close our deal here?” Chuck interrupted.
“Depends on the deal, Chuck. Listen, I don’t know what you two are playing at, but Sam and me, we need a damn break here.”
“Dean, that’s what this is, a break for you and Sam. When you’re done here with what you need to learn, then we’ll let you decide if you want to go back or not, okay?” Amara asked, so perky that Dean wanted to reach out and mess up her perfect hairstyle and scream right into her face.
“Why can’t you just tell me, save me some time?” Dean asked.
“We all know the answer to that particular question. Listen, we’ll be back the moment you figure this out. Get to it now,” Chuck said encouragingly as he stood up. “Amara, we need to catch our train to Chicago.”
“Train?” Amara asked.
“You’re going to love it, sis,” Chuck said, guiding her out through the office door. It swung closed behind them and Dean put his head down on his crossed arms on his desk, looking out at the early spring blue sky. Why couldn’t they just be straight with him? All this mystery for no good reason was just irritating.
Dean’s cell phone buzzed with a message from an unknown number. He opened it up and read it with a growing smile on his face.
Dean, I hope this isn’t too forward, and that you’re not mad that I’m texting you. I swiped one of your business cards off your desk to get the number. Anyway…do you think we could go get a drink or coffee or something after work? I have some things I need to ask you. Thanks, Sam
Dean smiled as he wrote his reply. He had to keep some space between them, so it would have to be the option of coffee, drinks might be too easily misinterpreted. Since Sam was making the first move, he wanted to be cautious and not lead him on into anything.
Sam, Not mad, nope, glad you texted me. And sure, coffee sounds fine. I might have a dinner meeting, so will 5:30 at the Starbucks in the lobby work for you?
Dean was surprised at how happy he was to get both a happy face and winking emoji in response. He wasn’t sure what his brother meant by it, but he’d have a chance to ask him tonight.
Coffee turned into dinner without Dean consciously making that decision. There was something about being with this version of Sam, unfettered by his memories and worries, free and easy with his laughter, it was more than intoxicating it was addictive. He wasn’t going to be able to get enough of this. He still had no idea what the hell he was supposed to learn, but he hoped it took a while so he could soak up all the happy-Sam goodness.
The dessert was being served by the time Dean came out of his Sam-stupor,
“I still can’t get over how familiar you are. The first time I saw you in the elevator, it was such a strong feeling. Then you told me to ‘save it for the health club, pal’ and I tried to not think about it.”
“I’m sorry about that, Sam,” Dean said, reaching across the table to place a hand on top of Sam’s. He was surprised when Sam twined their fingers together and sparkled at him even more brightly through the dimness of the restaurant.
“And I’m sorry about the whole thing with your family,” Sam said with this sincerity that seriously melted Dean’s heart.
“It’s really okay, thanks. Hey, let’s get out of here, huh?” Dean said, reluctantly letting go of Sam’s hand and standing up from the table. He guided Sam out of the restaurant with one hand on Sam’s warm lower back.
They were at the door to Sam’s apartment building much too soon, Dean didn’t want this perfect night to be over. Sam didn’t seem to either, shocking Dean as he gathered him in his arms and leaned down to brush his lips gently against Dean’s with a quiet ‘hmm’ questioning sound that broke Dean's heart the rest of the way. How could he possibly tell this man no and make it stick? How could he ever really mean it?
He pushed himself away, out of Sam’s arms and mumbled a sorry that no one believed and practically ran away. He spent all night tossing and turning, having horrible dreams of Sam dying, throat ripped out by a monster in a dark tunnel, alternating with another of Sam naked in his bed, Dean biting him in the same place on Sam’s neck, as Sam writhed underneath him, perfect body hot and warm against his own.