One moment, Dean Winchester is twenty-six years old, driving his 1967 Chevy Impala through a mountain pass somewhere between South Dakota and Montana, and the next he is falling onto his knees on a concrete floor. Somewhere in between, there was an unpleasant sensation of being yanked backwards by the nape of his neck and a blink of spinning blackness, but the change was so instantaneous that it's barely a memory. The Who that had been blasting from his car's speakers is gone and in the sudden silence, he hears a faintly annoyed British voice saying "There you go. As promised, one solution to your little problem."
"Goddamn it, Crowley. Crowley! Get your ass back here."
There's something both familiar and wrong about this second voice. Dean gets a grip on the dizziness and surges to his feet, drawing his gun automatically and taking in the room.
His instinctive observations hit him first: there are three adult men in the room, all bigger and older than him. Probably hunters. They seem to be in a basement - no windows and only the one door. There's a broken devil's trap with a chair in the center and a stool next to it with… a cup of tea?
"Whoa, whoa, Dean, hey."
The man directly between Dean and the door holds up his hands. His voice is unsettling too, and then Dean looks at him, really looks beyond his half-panicked initial assessment of him as a giant between himself and the exit.
Instinct again has Dean half-lowering the gun before his conscious thought kicks in and he raises it to point directly at the man's chest.
"Who the hell are you?" Dean spits out. Because the man in front of him looks a lot like Sam, he even sounds like Sam, but it's all wrong. The man's voice is deeper, his inflection off. His hair is almost shoulder length and his body is all filled out and tapered and he holds himself like he knows how to handle his indecently long limbs, not like he's an overgrown puppy. And his face… Dean hasn't got a clue what's going on, but even so, this stranger's face kind of breaks his heart. It's so much like Sammy's, but like something is broken in there. Like his kid brother has had twenty years of hell dumped on his head all at once.
The man sighs, hands still outstretched. "This is going to be hard to explain, but it's me. It's Sam."
"You're going to have to try a little harder than that with me, Benjamin Button. What are you and where the hell am I?"
Dean can see the two other guys shifting in his peripheral vision, but he doesn't tear his eyes away from this Supposedly-Sam's tired face.
"Um… okay. Look, how old are you? Twenty-five? Twenty-six?"
Dean scowls. "I'm the one pointing the gun, I ask the questions here."
"Yeah, fair, I get that," Sam says calmly, placatingly. "But it'll help me explain. You haven't, uh… you haven't come to pick me up at Stanford yet, have you?"
Dean stares at him. No one is supposed to know Sam's at college - it's better, safer, if everyone just thinks he died or ran off. No reason to send word to the creepy crawlies to pick off the lone brother for some Winchester revenge.
"Twenty-six," Dean says grudgingly. He doesn't add that he can't imagine how he would end up at Stanford anytime soon. He and Sam haven't spoken in about three years. The first year, Sam tried to stay in touch, but Dean was still angry and hurt and he'd made those conversations short and stilted. Now, Sam calls Bobby once a year and Bobby calls Dean, who eventually drops into the conversation with his dad the fact that Sam is still alive and, apparently, doing well.
Dean can't think of anything that would make him go "get" his brother. Well, maybe if dad or Bobby died, but…
"Okay," Sam says. "Okay. Uh. Look, I know you're probably not going to believe me right now, but time travel is real. Rare, but real. This is the year 2020, and I'm me. I can prove it, okay? Our parents are John and Mary Winchester. Our mom died in a fire when I was six months old and you were four. You carried me out of the house and basically raised me for our whole childhood. One time when dad left us alone in the Impala too long, we carved our initials into the frame and they're still there. We're named after our mom's parents, Samuel and Deanna Campbell."
"Wait," Dean says. He lowers his gun slightly, although his heart is still hammering. "What?"
"Too soon, Sammy," one of the other men says, and it's the gruff voice Dean heard earlier when he crash landed on his knees.
He turns to take a good look at the two other guys and immediately raises the gun again, finger going to the trigger.
Dean supposes this is supposed to be him in fifteen-some years, and it's a trippy resemblance, but Christ, this older Dean looks like he's been through two decades of war and a couple of stints in rehab. He's been as broken as Sam, washed out, the lines etched deep around his eyes. His hair is roughly the same, at least, but his beard is scruffy and Dean is pretty sure there's some gray in it.
His voice has changed dramatically too, more so than Sam's. It's like somewhere along the way he swallowed some gravel or… or maybe screamed himself hoarse enough that he never fully recovered.
There is something shuttered about this version of himself, if that's what this really is, something locked away in his eyes that Dean can't really understand. He's also looking at Dean with a waning shock and barely disguised hatred. He is holding a copy of the same gun in Dean's hand.
Supposedly-Sam hastily steps between them.
"Okay, right, you don't know about your grandparents yet, sorry. But look please, Dean… both of you. Everyone just put their guns down, please. I'm really Sam, and this is really Dean. And, uh, that's Cas." Sam jerks his head towards the other guy. "But you haven't met him yet."
Cas looks more like an accountant than a hunter and Dean only takes a cursory glance at him.
"Cas, can you please hand me the holy water?"
Cas brings Sam a jug of water with a cross hanging in it from a shelf against the far wall. Dean watches carefully as Sam takes a drink, makes a face, and hands the bottle to the older Dean. Older Dean scowls but he takes a drink without flinching.
"Not demons." Sam says. "You got silver on you, or do you trust mine?"
Not taking his eyes off them, Dean reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out the knife with the silver blade. He cuts his own arm first, then trades Sam for the holy water, even though Sam hasn't asked him for proof.
Sam and then older Dean use the knife to cut thin lines in their arms. Dean notes absently that all three of them chose to do it in the exact same spot, with the exact same movement. It's eerie.
The dizziness hits Dean again and he put his hand to his head for a second as nausea rises in his stomach.
"Hey, hey, you okay?" Sam asks, reaching out a hand before thinking better of it. Older Dean has tucked his gun back into his jeans and Dean reluctantly does the same. He doesn't trust these people, doesn't know if he believes them, but they haven't tried to hurt him yet and he doesn't know what else to do.
"Say I believe you," Dean says. The dizzy spell is fading. "What the hell am I doing here, in the future?"
"Ahh, well." Sam looks at the accountant guy for some reason.
"I should check his timeline," Cas says. "See when we can send him back to." And with a light rustling sound he disappears.
"Cas!" Older Dean yells, then swears, gripping his hair in his hands momentarily. "Stubborn idiot."
"What-" Dean says, looking between Sam and older Dean. "What the fuck was that?"
"Um, look, it's probably better if we don't tell you. Time travel is tricky. We don't want to screw up the timeline."
"Let's just say, we don't want you here anymore than you want to be here, kid," older Dean says, an undercurrent of animosity running through his forced drawl. "Cas can get you back to wherever you were before you got pulled here, clean up your memory, and you get to go on living your life exactly as intended. Lucky you."
There are layers there that Dean's not sure he wants to pry at. Sam shoots older Dean a look that is equal parts exasperation and concern. And it's that, more than anything else, that makes Dean's shoulders sag.
"You're really Sam?" Dean asks, quieter than before. Maybe he should be more interested in his future self, but honestly he doesn't really want to look at him. It's too freaky. Sam freaks him out too, but it's also been years since Dean has seen his brother and his heart aches for this version of him. He gets that it's not the Sammy he knows, but there's something there. Something that deep down told him the instant they locked eyes that this was his brother.
Sam nods, giving him a tired little smile. "Yeah, it's me."
"What the hell happened to you, man?"
Sam laughs and runs a hand through his ridiculous hair.
"Yeah, and what's with the hair, Rapunzel?"
Older Dean elbows Sam in the side. "Told you. You, me, clippers."
Sam shakes his head at both of them and his smile is a little more like Dean remembers.
Before he can answer, or evade, there's the same rustling sound and Cas reappears in the room.
Dean reaches for his gun automatically again but stops himself from drawing it.
Cas' face is pale and drawn and he staggers as he tries to find his feet on the concrete floor. Older Dean rushes to catch him, one arm around him, his other hand pressing to his chest and Cas nearly falls into him.
"Cas, you dumbass," older Dean mutters. "You could have gotten yourself killed. You don't have the juice to be jumping timelines."
"Thank you for your assessment of my powers," Cas says dryly. "Next time I will ask for your opinion on nonlinear interdimensional geometry before becoming a dispersed wavelength of electromagnetic radiation."
Cas rights himself, his fingers trailing across older Dean's wrist where his hand presses his chest. Older Dean drops his hands and takes a step back, but Dean doesn't miss how close that still leaves Cas in his personal space.
Dean narrows his eyes. He doesn't do touching with anyone other than Sammy, and chicks he's hoping to sleep with, and this guy is neither so why are their arms practically brushing?
"Okay, snipe at each other later," Sam says as older Dean opens his mouth to retort. "Cas, what's the word?"
Cas looks at Dean and his gaze is intense and curious. It feels like he's looking through Dean, but… It's like he's looking into Dean's soul without any trepidation, like he already knows Dean and knows exactly what he'll find there and none of it scares him.
Cas looks at Dean like he's family or a best friend, like he's someone Cas loves.
No one has ever looked at Dean like that. Maybe Sam, but certainly not recently.
Dean finds he can't think of anything to say in response to those eyes so he just stares back, waiting for it to be over.
"I can't take him back," Cas says finally. His voice is even more gravelly than older Dean's. "He's not missing from the timeline."
"What? Shit. You think Crowley took him from a multiverse?"
Cas shakes his head, finally tearing his gaze from Dean to level that intense look at older Dean. "No. He's definitely you. I don't know how Crowley did it, but…"
"So, what, he's a carbon copy or something?" Older Dean sounds disgusted and Dean feels himself bristling. "What the hell are we supposed to do with him if we can't send him back?"
"Maybe have Crowley re-fuse them?" Sam suggests, frowning.
"Maybe," Cas says. "But I doubt that an uncloning spell would -"
"Y'all get that I'm standing right here, don't you?" Dean interrupts. They all turn to look at him, Sam looking slightly guilty, Cas still curious, and Dean radiating anger.
"Right. Sorry, Dean," Sam says. "This is weird for us too."
"Are you going to tell me what's going on here?"
Sam glances at Cas again. "Is it safe to tell him?"
Cas shrugs. "I don't know. I suppose so. If we can't send him back, then it won't matter what he knows."
"Whoa, hold on," older Dean says. "He's not just staying here."
Sam's concerned exasperation is back. "What else do you suggest?"
Older Dean scowls. "We summon Crowley back and -"
"And hand over a copy of you to him? Really?"
"Hey!" Dean interrupts their argument again. "I'm not just some copy of a person."
"No, of course not, you're just a useless kid me," older Dean snaps.
" Dean ," Sam says sharply.
"I'm not a kid," Dean snaps back. He's starting to think he might not like this warped version of himself at all.
Older Dean breathes out a string of profanities and stalks out of the room, his shoulders tense. Sam starts to go after him, then stops, looking back at Dean with a pained expression before exchanging glances with Cas. Dean gets the impression that they are having a silent conversation, an entirely mental version of rock paper scissors they've played before for Which one of us deals with him today?
It kind of makes Dean feel a weird sort of affection towards them both.
It's Cas who nods and moves past Sam to the open door. He glances back once at Dean, his eyes still intense on him, before he disappears, footsteps echoing down the hall.
Sam sighs, running his hand through his ridiculous hair again. "Sorry about Dean - I mean, uh, the other Dean, you know. He's just freaked."
"Yeah, no shit," Dean says. He feels better now that it's just him and Sam, even if it's not his Sam. "He's not the only one. What happened to him? To me? Actually, no, scratch that. Where are we? And why the fuck am I here?"
"Well," Sam draws the word out. "I suppose it doesn't matter if I tell you. Everything's going to take a long time to explain, but I'll do my best, okay?" Sam looks around and walks over to the stool in the middle of the devil's trap. He places the cup of tea on the floor and nods to the chair beside him. After a moment's hesitation, Dean joins him.
"We're in Kansas, in an underground bunker that belonged to a secret society called The Men of Letters. They're basically nonexistent in the US now, but once they kept all the info on monsters. Uh, let's save the full story of how Dean and I found this place for another time, but, basically, dad's father was a member which means we're legacies. The place was abandoned and incredibly well-protected when we found it, so… we live here now. We're still on the road a lot, but… this is home.
"As for why you're here? It's complicated but, uh." Sam shifts uncomfortably. "We asked someone unreliable for help and he said he had a solution. He didn't tell us what it was going to be before he brought you here, and I honestly have no idea how he did it."
Dean ignores the second revelation in ten minutes about the grandparents he's gone his whole life without knowing anything about, ignores Sam casually mentioning that this place, this permanent fixture that might not be a normal house but is something more than four wheels or a motel room, is their home. That the Winchesters just have a home now. He files this away to freak out about later, ignores the strange and complicated feelings trying to make themselves known over it. "What am I supposed to be a solution for?"
Sam's face is weary, like he's spent a lifetime not sleeping, a lifetime being chased by something. "Dean's cursed," he says after a long pause. "Got hit by something strong, something of demonic origin, we think, which is why we went to Crowley, the guy who brought you here. He's… let's just say he's something of an expert in demons. Anyway, in three weeks, at the next new moon, an ancient Greek marksman named Cerodicus is going to turn up with an arrow patterned to Dean's soul. So far, we've got nothing on how to stop it. But we didn't ask for this," he adds hastily. "We're not going to let either of you die. We'll just… we'll figure it out, we always do."
Dean takes a deep breath. Figures. He's just some carbon copy sacrifice to save a self he doesn't even recognize. Sure. Why not?
"Okay…" he says, drawing the word out slowly. "And do you guys play with time much, or?"
Sam's laugh is more bitter than anything. "We try not to. It's more complicated than it's worth, trust me."
Dean has too many questions and every partial answer Sam gives him just adds more to the pile. His head still hurts and none of this is helping. He sinks his face into his palms for a second, ignoring his dad's voice in his head telling him never to take his eyes off the enemy.
Dean believes this is Sam. There's just something about him, beneath all the crap he's been through, that is so innately Dean's little brother.
"So okay," Dean says into the darkness of his palms. "It's 2020 you said? Jesus, that's not even a real year. You've got to be, what?" Dean does the mental math. "Thirty-seven? And I'm… forty-one?"
"Yep. Crazy, right?"
Dean scrubs his hands over his face and makes himself sit up, looking at Sam again and trying not to marvel about what all of this means.
"You're telling me that I live to be forty? " Dean says. His voice cracks a little. "Dude, I'm practically an old man."
Sam is smiling at him, a little sadly, maybe, but like he's glad to be with Dean too. It's all too fucking weird.
"Oh you are definitely an old man," Sam says. "Grumpy and semi-alcoholic and stubborn as ever. If we had a lawn you would be yelling at kids to get off it."
Dean lets himself smile a little. He'll take semi-alcoholic any day. "Sounds like Bobby."
The look on Sam's face reminds Dean of a question he should have already asked, a question that he's pretty sure he knows the answer to. He looks at the floor, at the lines of the devil's trap beneath his feet.
Sam's silence is answer enough. Dean swallows, closes his eyes.
Again, the silence answers for Sam.
Dean breathes out long and low. "Okay," he says. He doesn't even know what he's feeling. Hunters don't live long, and John and Bobby were already practically geriatric in hunter years. But both of them gone… "Okay. When?"
"I'm sorry," Sam says. "I know it's a lot to handle all at once. It's…" he trails off. "Dad died about a year from where you were, back in 2006."
Dean's not going to cry. That's his future and this Sam's distant past. It's a grief out of time. He's not going to cry, not when dad is still alive to him and long dead to Sam. "How'd it happen? Was it the thing that killed mom?"
Sam doesn't answer for a moment. "Yeah, in a manner of speaking, it was."
"Did he take the bastard down with him?" Dean turns his face away and rubs his nose before he makes himself look back at Sam. Sam is staring off into the distance, frowning faintly.
"No, not exactly. But we did get him, Dean. The demon who killed mom, his name was Azazel. About a year after dad's death, you're the one who kills him."
Dean doesn't know what to say to that. He sits stock still, letting it sink in. His whole life, his only purpose, his only use , has been hunting, pulled into his father's obsession to find the monster that murdered their mother and ended Dean's childhood.
In the last few years, Dean has quietly been letting himself suspect that they'd never find the thing that did it. He was kind of okay with that, as long as it meant that his dad didn't die doing something stupid, as long he didn't leave Dean on his own with this weight on his shoulders. But apparently, that's exactly what happened.
It doesn't make sense to Dean. He knows that his dad is a better hunter than him. He'll never measure up to John. So how the hell could he kill something that John couldn't?
"But dad… How exactly did he die? I mean, how the hell did we get to something that dad couldn't?"
Sam's pauses are filled with unsaid things that Dean can't guess at. He hates that, hates that there are things that he doesn't know about this Sam, that they haven't shared.
"Dad died saving you, Dean. It was… he sacrificed himself to keep you alive."
There is nothing Dean can say to that except "Why?" Dean hears his own voice breaking. "Why would he do that? I'm not… he can't have…"
"Because he loved you," Sam says firmly - Sam, who had run away from dad more than once, who had yelled at Dean that he was a coward to stay, who'd accused him of being nothing more than a whipping boy and their father of being a shell of obsessed grief, who'd almost seemed to hate John from the moment he'd hit puberty. "He loved both of us. I know he was crap at showing it, and it took me a long time to understand, but he did. I'm sorry. You deserve his apology from him, not me, but just know… just know that dad wished he could fix things, Dean. He never did, and I don't think he could have, even if he'd lived, but for what it's worth, he wanted to."
Dean picks at the threads of his jeans, overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with any of this emotional whiplash. "He didn't have anything to apologize for," Dean says gruffly. "The man was a damn hero."
Sam's little sigh is pained. "Okay. I don't really… Maybe now's not the time to get into that. Let's talk about it later, when we've got you caught up, yeah?"
"And Bobby?" Dean reminds him, letting the topic of their dad go with some relief. Things between John Winchester and his oldest son have been… strained, back in Dean's timeline. Things were bad after Sam left them for college, and pretty soon Dean and his dad were barely hunting together, mostly meeting up every few weeks so John could pass on orders and hand off jobs to him.
"Bobby…" Sam shakes his head like he's trying to clear it. "God, I think it was eight years ago. He… he took a bullet during a job. Didn't make it. He, uh, he kind of stuck around for awhile as a ghost though, haunting us."
" What?" Dean stares at Sam's faint amusement. Every expression on this man's face is complicated, nuanced in ways he doesn't fully understand. "How could you let him just hang around as a ghost?"
"It was Bobby." Sam shrugs, like this explains everything. And, thinking about the stubborn old drunk, it kind of does. "And we missed him. I still miss him, all the time."
"Yeah." Dean's having a hard time swallowing again. Bobby has always been there, even when John wasn't. The idea that if he drove to Sioux Falls, Bobby wouldn't be there at Singer Salvage Yard is impossible to internalize.
"Well. What about you?" Dean asks, forcibly changing the subject.
Sam raises his eyebrows. "What about me?"
"I mean, you're here in Kansas with me, future me, obviously hunting. I get it's been a long time for you, but you and me, we ain't exactly talking at the moment. You're supposed to be at Stanford, becoming some fancy lawyer or something and forgetting all about us."
Something painful flickers across Sam's face again and Dean feels bad for his glib words, his big brother instinct kicking in again even though this Sammy is eleven years older than him.
"I never forgot about you," Sam says quietly to the floor. "Never. I thought about you all the time at Stanford. Thought about calling you pretty much every day the first year. Look, Dean, you and me, we've had years to work through this, but I want you to know that I'm sorry for leaving the way I did. I was young and angry at the world, and I needed… I needed time and space to become less hot-headed. I needed to get away from dad for a little while. But it was never about leaving you, and I'm sorry that we lost contact for those years. That was never how I meant for things to go. I missed you so much, I just got too stubborn."
They do not do this. Dean and Sam, they don't talk about their feelings like this, not really. Not when it's about each other, at least. Dean thinks, around the pang in his stomach and burn in his eyes, that Sammy must become a full on sap with age.
Sam graciously pretends not to notice that Dean has to wipe his eyes, so Dean socks him roughly on the shoulder just to restore some kind of balance.
"Hey, I missed you too, bitch. Sorry I was stubborn too."
Sam smiles. "Jerk."
At least something is right with this world.
"So do you want to see the bunker? Let me give you a tour. I can try to answer your questions while I show you around and maybe Cas'll have talked Dean - other Dean - off the ledge by dinner."
Dean gets up and follows Sam out into a windowless hallway. It looks like a military base or something and it's kind of really cool. "What the hell is your Dean's problem, anyway? If he's me, then what the fuck does he think I'm going to do?"
Dean notices Sam's hesitation as he leads him up the hallway, just a step ahead with his freakishly long legs.
"Don't be too hard on him. He's just… I think it freaks him out to be reminded of who he was and everything that he's lost since he was you. He's been through a lot. I should let him tell you, but… yeah. We've both been through it, you know?"
That much is obvious. Dean is a little afraid to ask what it is that's made both of them look like they've lived through the end of the world. Because hell, maybe they have.
"This is my room, by the way, if you need to find me later. Dean's room is that one, Cas is down the hall." Sam jerks his thumb at the three doors in turn.
Dean raises his eyebrows. "Wait, this Cas guy lives here too? Who is he, anyway? Or I guess, what is he?"
Sam laughs as he leads Dean up a flight of stairs. "Oh man. I don't know where to start unpacking that. Yeah, Cas lives with us. Most of the time, anyway. He's, uh, a friend. Our best friend, honestly. And I'll tell you what he is, but you're not going to believe me."
"Half an hour ago I didn't believe in time travel, so try me."
They come up the stairs into a huge living room with hardwood floors and furniture that looks like it's been set up for researching. Books and newspapers are scattered across various surfaces, Manila folders stacked on coffee tables and dusty volumes left piled in an armchair. The living room opens out into the dining room/kitchen area and Dean feels a stab of jealousy. He never really gets to cook in a full kitchen, not one that's actually working and properly stocked and isn't just a toaster and a hotplate. He wonders furtively if he'll be here long enough to convince Sam to let him make a meal. This might not be his Sammy, but the engrained need to provide for his little brother is strong.
"Cas - Castiel - is an angel."
Dean stops coveting the kitchen and turns to glare at Sam. "You're pulling my leg."
Sam shrugs, spreading his arms wide. "I said you wouldn't believe me."
Dean narrows his eyes and tries to spot any of his brother's tells. Either Sammy developed an incredible poker face in the last decade and a half, or he's telling the truth.
"Angel, like, angels? Like, fluffy wings and a halo? Angels like there's a God and a heaven and a divine plan?"
"Uh…" it's another pause full of the unspoken. "God and the divine plan is a long story. But yeah, basically."
"You're fucking kidding me."
"And an angel just lives here? As our friend? As like a roommate?"
Sam looks distinctly uncomfortable. He ushers Dean toward the black metal stairs that lead up to another row of doors. "Let me show you the library. But yeah. Pretty much."
The library is huge. Even Dean, who was never as into books as Sam, is impressed. Plus these volumes look seriously old, more like Bobby's collection than anything you'd find in a public library, which Dean is guessing means they have some pretty rare lore on their hands. He whistles.
"Damn, Sammy, speaking of Heaven, this must be yours."
Sam shuts the doors behind them and walks over to one of the tables in the middle of the room, running his hand along the couple of books left out there. "It's been useful, for sure."
"Seriously, Sam, what's an angel doing slumming it in a hunter's bunker in Kansas? Shouldn't he be, I don't know, out dispensing the wrath of God or making miracles?"
"Probably. Cas doesn't really do that anymore, though. He's not exactly on the best of terms with Heaven."
Everything Dean thinks he's getting a grip on the situation, he ends up staring at Sam in another level of disbelief.
"Are you trying to tell me we're, like, harboring a fugitive from God or something?"
Sam laughs. "No. Not really. Pretty sure God knows exactly where we all are." The way Sam says this is slightly bitter and it feels personal. "Anyway," he goes on, before Dean can ask about that can of worms. "Cas isn't the only other person living here. There's this kid - uh, this guy, Jack. He's technically close to your age. I think you'll like him. He's out of town on a job at the moment, but he'll be back in a few days."
"And who exactly is Jack?" It's been so long since Dean felt like he had anyone. All he's had the last three years has been the Impala, the open road, and hook-ups in crappy motels or the back of his car.
It's an odd feeling, to be jealous of something he supposedly gets to have in the future, but Dean doesn't know how long he might be sticking around to enjoy this weird Full-House scenario or if anyone but Sam will actually give him the time of day here.
"Jack is… he's kind of our kid. It's another very long story, but, basically, yeah, he's our kid - technically he's been alive for three years, but he's got the body of a twenty-six-year-old and the mentality of maybe, like, sixteen. Do you know what nephilim are?"
Dean shakes his head, dumbstruck that he didn't think to ask some very basic questions here right off the bat. He lets Sam explain first.
"They're the child of an angel and a human. Very rare, very frowned upon by Heaven. Jack was born three years ago, and nephilim grow up quick in some ways, but we've kind of been raising him in other ways."
"But… is he… I mean, you say he's our kid, but whose kid is he, really?"
"Biologically? Not any of ours. I guess Cas is more of a dad to him than you or me, but we're all family." Sam says the word ferociously, and Dean knows that no matter what else may have changed, Sam still has the same understanding of what family means. Dean's just going to try and take his word for it that this ragtag couple of supernatural beings come to mean something to him.
"I gotta know, are there any other kids? I mean, have you or I had…?"
Sam laughs. "Oh God, no. No, man, you're safe."
Dean doesn't know if he's relieved or not. Secretly, he's always kind of wanted kids. But he also can't imagine raising a kid with the way he lives, not even if he had a home base like this. He doesn't want to raise a kid like he was raised, for all he loves his dad.
"What about girls, Sammy? You hitched yet?"
Watching Sam get flustered is always fun. That hasn't changed either. "No, I… I mean, there's a girl, maybe. We haven't… I don't know. It's not…" Sam stops waving his giant hands around and shoves them into his jacket pockets. "No, I'm definitely not hitched. Hopefully you'll get to meet Eileen, she's great, she's a hunter too, but… we're just testing the waters."
Dean grins at him, enjoying the fact that he can still tease this mammoth of a man. "I'll bet," he says. "And me? I'll bet crabby future Dean is still a bachelor."
Sam gets that same distinctively uncomfortable look on his face that he had earlier.
"What? Am I not? Do you not like her or something? Shit." Dean thinks about the deep lines and tragedy etched into his future self's face. "Am I, like, a widower?"
"No, it's nothing like that." Sam's hesitant, shifty tone isn't exactly reassuring. "It's nothing bad, it's just… complicated."
Sam searches his face, and Dean doesn't have a clue what he's looking for, so he just raises his eyebrows at him and crosses his arms, waiting.
"I probably shouldn't tell you," Sam says finally. "But I'm going to, because I don't want you to freak out if you realize it on your own, okay? And Dean should be the one to tell you, but if you ask him about it, he is going to freak out, and I just don't want either of you to get screwed up over it. I don't want Dean - the other Dean, sorry - to ruin things for himself by panicking or doing something stupid when he's in this headspace over you being here already."
"Dude, what are you even talking about?" Dean is starting to get a little freaked out just from Sam's tone. He can't imagine what's got Sam this keyed up over some sort of relationship or whatever is going on with older Dean. Maybe he's turned into a nymphomaniac. Or maybe his dick has been fucking cursed. Or…
Sam takes a deep breath. "Okay. Look. Don't freak out, but you and Cas are kind of… you know."
It takes a second for the icy feeling to start dripping down Dean's spine, but then it's running its full course in record time, spilling down into his stomach too.
Dean folds his arms even more tightly into himself.
"No," he says, and his voice is icy too. "I don't know. What the fuck are you trying to say?"
"Dean, it's… it's a different time in 2020. Marriage equality is legal now, there's a lesbian coach in the NFL, and pretty much no one except super conservative religious douchebags gives a crap about sexual orientation. So it's -"
"I'm not gay," Dean says, and even he can hear the defensive anger in his voice.
"Okay," Sam says, holding up his hands placatingly again. His concerned exasperation is back and Dean forgot how annoying it was when it was aimed at him. "But it would be fine if you were. Or bi or pan, or whatever."
"What the hell is pan?" Dean asks scathingly, just to give himself some time.
"Pansexual. It's - you know what? Nevermind, it's not important. The point is that literally no one cares, except you - I mean, future you. The other Dean. God this is still weird. I'm just saying, I'm sorry I'm bringing it up, I know you're not ready to talk about it and we don't have to. Just. Try not to have a crisis over it in front of Dean? Please."
Dean is definitely having a crisis over it right fucking now.
There are a lot of ways that Dean has failed his family. He knows he's never been good enough for John - not tough enough, not smart enough, not macho enough. And he knows he wasn't enough for Sam either, not enough for him to stay. He was always supposed to take care of Sam, and he'd messed that up pretty majorly more than once. He'd let him get hurt or let him run off or let them run out of food. And Dean had tried - he'd really tried so hard all his life to do right by his family, but he could never seem to stop fucking up in all these simple, obvious ways.
Dean has fucked up in other ways too, but he's locked his secrets up and kept himself off the edge with the knowledge that at least no one had to know about those failures. They couldn't hurt anyone but him if no one knew.
So Sam is definitely not supposed to be looking at him with his head slightly cocked to one side, worry in his big ol' puppy-dog eyes, casually speaking into existence something that Dean has already decided he will take with him to the grave.
Dean isn't even gay. He definitely likes girls, no question there, no sir. He could be bi, maybe, but he's never even slept with a guy.
Not by choice anyway.
He's never had sex with a guy because he wanted to, and not because he had to. Dean views his body as a resource, and an expendable one at that. He learned it early on, in the broken bones and bruises and hasty stitches done with dental floss in motel bathrooms with no anesthesia. His body is more about being something he can use than it is about being a part of his actual sense of self, of personhood. His body has been a commodity for as long as he's been able to swing a knife or shoot a gun. So when he figured out he could use it to make money, to put food on the table for him and Sam, of course he had.
But it's not like he does that anymore. It's not like he wanted to do it in the first place, anymore than he wants to get thrown into things in a fight.
Dean does what he has to in order to survive or to take care of his family. That's it. What he wants, especially what his body wants, doesn't really factor into the equation.
"Why would other Dean freak out if you're saying him and Cas are already together?" Dean finally asks the floor. He's still got his arms crossed about as tight as they'll go.
Sam sighs. "Because he hasn't actually talked to me about it yet. He knows that I know, and I know that he knows that I know - everyone knows everything. He's just not ready to say it. Which is ridiculous, because he and Cas have been hooking up for years now, and honestly most of our friends are queer, so it's not like he doesn't know I'd be okay with it. To be honest, I think he hasn't told me because he's scared to admit it to himself."
"If he hasn't told you, maybe you're just reading it wrong," Dean says stubbornly. Truth be told, he wouldn't bet on that. Not after seeing the way older Dean rushed to catch Cas, the way their hands had lingered over each other in just those small moments. The way Cas had looked at both Deans so intensely.
"Maybe," Sam says, shrugging. "Maybe they bicker like an old married couple because they're just best friends. Maybe when they fight the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife because they're both just that intense. Maybe Cas sneaks out of his room some mornings because they're up all night talking. Maybe Dean makes Led Zeppelin mix-tapes for all his buddies."
Dean keeps his eyes locked on the floor, but he lets his arms drop. "He made him a Zeppelin tape?"
Neither of them has to say it. It's one of the few stories John ever told them about Mary, about how she had asked him out with a mix-tape of Led Zeppelin songs and that was when John knew she was The One.
The boys never had much of their mother, every memory and story like this was safeguarded. Dean knows that it means something bigger than he can really understand that his older self would make this gesture. He and Cas aren't just hooking up, which would be one thing.
"Am I… Is he in love with him?"
Sam is quiet for long enough that Dean makes himself look up. Sam's sadness is as complicated as any of his other expressions. It's part sympathy, part worry, part something like grief.
"I hope so, Dean. I really do. It's what they both deserve."
Dean scrubs a hand over his face, pulling the threads of his composure back into his iron grip. "Tell you what, Sammy, I need a damn drink. You got any alcohol in this bunker?"
Older Dean unsurprisingly keeps a well-stocked liquor cabinet - at least in the sense that it is full of cheap whiskey. There's beer in the fridge too, and Dean shoots his first glass of whiskey, pours himself another and takes a beer with him to the long dining room table. Sam grabs a beer too, but there's still too much concern in his eyes as he watches Dean drink.
Dean for his part is feeling too many conflicting emotions to process. Shock, grief, jealousy, anger, confusion, fear, relief - they're all in there swirling around and the only way Dean knows how to deal with any of them is by drowning them in alcohol.
"Hey, tell me something, did Blink-182 ever get back together?" Dean asks. He wants to establish the conversation far away from where they left it in the library, and Sam seems perfectly willing to oblige.
"Briefly, yeah, in 2009. They put out a new album, but don't worry, you hate it. I was surprised, honestly, I'd have put odds on them killing each other before they ever worked together again."
"Yeah, well, strange reunions do happen." Dean flashes a grin at his brother. "Man, so I've got fifteen years of music and movies to catch up on, huh?"
"They made some Star Wars sequels."
"Shut up." Dean's eyes light up, and he doesn't care that he's too old to geek out about this. "Really? Tell me they're not crap."
"I haven't seen them all, but Dean liked everything except the last in the trilogy. Apparently they jumped the shark on that one."
"Ah, man. Still… that's awesome. What else?"
"Uh, Fallout Boy broke up and got back together." Sam knows the band is one of Dean's guilty pleasures so he doesn't even try to belittle it. "It's kind of hard to think what you'd be interested in… Oh, Doctor Sexy is in it's like fifteenth season or something."
Dean scowls at his brother's amusement. "Hey. Don't make fun of my medical dramas, you know there's never anything good on when we're on the road."
"I'm just saying, fifteen seasons of anything is too many seasons."
Dean would have argued that Doctor Sexy could never get old, not with its perfectly constructed format of hot doctor drama and sex, but Cas chooses that moment to walk into the kitchen and Dean finds himself entirely unwilling to talk about hot doctor sex in front of the guy.
If Dean was the type of guy to blush, he's pretty sure he'd be red all over, but as it is he just feels the flush of warmth in his chest and throws back the last of his whiskey. Sam looks nervously between them before focusing on Cas.
"How's he doing?"
Cas shrugs, the folds of his ridiculous trench coat rustling in the stillness of the room. Dean has already figured out that the walls seem at least partially sound-proof.
"About how you'd expect. He's down at the range. I don't imagine he'll be up any time soon."
"Wait a sec," Dean says before Sam can respond. "You guys have a gun range? Like, here, in the bunker?"
"Yep," Sam says, seeming to smile in spite of himself at Dean's disbelief and excitement. "Pretty cool, right?"
"Sammy, if you guys want to trade in for a less grumpy Dean, I promise I'll be a saint."
Sam shakes his head. "He'll grow on you, I swear. But you're welcome to use the range if you want. Maybe, uh, give other Dean a little time to blow off some steam first."
Cas is standing at the far end of the table, staring at Dean again with his head cocked slightly to the side.
Honestly, Dean doesn't know if he's attracted to the guy or not. All that eye contact is intense, and he's not sure if he likes it, even if the attention feels kind of nice. It isn't the hungry kind of look Dean is used to from older men - even if Cas fits the usual demographic of Dean's past clientele. Those looks always made Dean feel like he was being undressed and objectified. That hunger was about his body being on display.
There is something hungry in Cas' gaze, but his eyes aren't trying to peel off Dean's clothes. They're going straight through him instead, like he wants to confirm that he knows Dean. Like he left a handprint on his Dean's soul and he wants to know if Dean can feel it too. It's weird and personal and Dean just doesn't know what to do with it.
"Cas," he says, aiming for a casual drawl and lifting his empty whiskey glass. "You wanna drill me with your eyes like that, bring a guy a drink first."
Cas, it turns out, is almost as fun to fluster as Sam. A pair of nerds, the two of them. Cas immediately drops his eyes and mutters "My apologies." He nearly trips over his own feet going towards the liquor cabinet.
Sam shoots Dean a warning look from across the table.
"What?" Dean says innocently, taking a drink of his own beer. The whiskey is just starting to calm him down enough that the thought that this might be kind of fun has actually entered his head. When in Rome, right? "I didn't want to get up."
"Please just… be nice," Sam says in a low voice.
"I'm always nice, Sammy."
Sam rolls his eyes and Dean feels such a rush of fondness for his brother. He'd missed him so much. It had nearly killed him when Sam walked out. It had just about ripped his heart out of his chest. But here they are, living together, hunting together, brothers again.
That's all Dean wants, he realizes. He just wants Sam back. If he ever does get back to his timeline or whatever, he'll do whatever it takes to get Sam back in his life. And if he stays here… if he stays, he will just have to find a way to make himself indispensable, to convince this Sam that he's not just a carbon copy of the Dean he used to know. He can do that, he thinks. Sam already looks at him like he cares about him - which, honestly, is weird enough. Not that Sam hasn't always cared about Dean, it's just… Dean was the big brother. Looking out for Sammy was his job.
Cas reappears with the half-empty bottle of Jameson's, brings it over to Dean, and actually pours it for him like he's the waitstaff.
"Thanks," Dean says, offering him his most rakish smile. He stops himself from adding a sarcastic "sweetheart", but only for Sam's sake.
"You're welcome," Cas says, formal and unironic. He takes a seat a couple chairs down from Dean and, to Dean's surprise, pours a glass of whiskey for himself.
"Angels drink alcohol?" Dean can't help himself from asking.
"Imbibing outside of communion is generally frowned upon," Cas says, nevertheless sipping from his glass. He takes it with a straight face, no reaction to the sting at all. "But it takes much more than a bottle of whiskey to have much of an effect on me. Besides which, I have an impressive list of infractions against me already, so no reason not to drink."
"Yeah? What kind of infractions?"
Cas looks at Dean and raises an eyebrow. "Would you like the list alphabetically, chronologically, or in order of severity?"
Dean's mouth quirks up involuntarily. Cas' deadpan sardonic humor is something he can understand.
"To damnation," Dean says, raising his glass.
Cas returns the cheers, but Dean doesn't miss the look he casts at Sam or the way his brother's face crumples momentarily.
Dean will ask what it means, he will, but he doesn't know how much more information he can take right now. So he shoots his third glass of whiskey back and finishes his beer before standing up.
"What time is it?" Dean has already checked his own watch and it's broken. Figures.
Sam pulls a rectangular something out of his jeans pocket. "Half past six, why?"
"Because I'm gonna cook you dinner. What the hell is that?"
Sam looks confused for a moment before he realizes Dean is gesturing at the rectangle in his hand. "Oh. It's my phone. Right, you're still probably using a flip phone, huh?"
Dean reaches into his pocket before he realizes he must have left his phones - all of them - in the Impala back in 2005.
"Here, let me show you."
Dean comes around and leans over Sam's shoulder. Somehow, after everything, this Sam still manages to smell like his brother. It's weirdly comforting.
The phone, however, is not.
"What the fuck," Dean says.
Sam laughs. "Yeah. It's basically a mini computer in your pocket. You can make calls and send texts." Sam points to two of the nonsensical icons on his screen. "But you can also use the internet, Google, email, all of it."
Dean whistles. "Time travel and pocket computers. This is some Star Trek shit. I want one."
"We'll get you one. Kind of necessary these days. Here, you can take mine for now. You'll just have to answer it if anyone calls, could be a case."
"Use mine instead," Cas offers. He takes out a similar phone and slides it across the table, offering them both a little shrug. "I barely know how to use it anyway. The only person likely to call me is Jack, and he's out of range for a couple more days."
Dean drops Sam's phone and picks up Cas' instead. When he clicks it on there's a background of animated bees. "Thanks, Cas. Uh. Bees?"
Sam snorts into his arm and Cas looks faintly pained.
"Dean put that on there and I don't know how to change it."
Dean grins, even though he doesn't fully get it. "Okay, sure. Hey, I think it needs a password."
Cas looks suddenly flustered again. He gets up and clears the glasses and the mostly empty bottle of whiskey into his hands before he says "It's 0-1-2-4."
Dean doesn't understand Cas' hasty retreat into the kitchen or Sam's cough until he types the numbers in and realizes that it's his own birthday.