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There's no place like Broward

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“—it was the heat of the moment, telling me what my heart meant,
the heat of the moment, showed in her eyes—“

Sam’s eyes flew open in shock, and he jack-knifed upright in the motel bed, the cheap yellow coverlet falling from his chest to pool at his waist. He knew the next words he would hear like he knew his own name.

“Rise and shine, Sammy!”

Dean was sitting on the bed beside Sam’s own, tying the laces of his boots and singing along to the Asia song spilling from the clock radio between the two beds. They were in the motel in Broward County. And it was Tuesday. Again.

“No,” Sam whispered. His gaze moved around the room. Same putrid green walls. Same tiny bathroom. Same stained beige rug. He was back. “No. No, no, no, no, no-no-nonononoNONONO!!!!!!” He found himself shaking all over as he shouted, and suddenly Dean was kneeling on the bed beside him, his hands grasping Sam’s shoulders, his eyes frightened.

“Sam? Sammy! What’s wrong?”

“No! We can’t be here! This can’t be real!” Sam gasped. He was hyperventilating in his panic, and Dean rubbed one hand soothingly in circles between his shoulder blades, trying to calm him.

“It’s okay, Sammy, everything’s okay,” he assured his brother.

“No it’s not, Dean!” Sam snarled. “Nothing’s okay!”

“Sam—“

“I can’t do this again, Dean! I can’t! It’s 2012, goddammit!”

Dean’s brow crinkled. “What?”

“It’s 2012, not 2008! I can’t be here!”

“What the hell are you talking about, Sam?” Dean asked, bewildered. “Twenty-twelve what? Is that coordinates?”

Sam took a deep breath and then stared at his brother. Dean looked so . . . young. So innocent. He had forgotten. This was a Dean before Hell, before the Apocalypse, before all the lies and the betrayals. Sam felt an ache in his chest. He missed this Dean, the one who flirted with tired, middle-aged waitresses to make them smile; who laughed at his own terrible jokes; who played silly pranks. He missed the Dean who still had faith in his little brother.

And now Sam was going to have to watch him die. Again.

“I can’t,” he whispered, his voice breaking. It was too much to bear after all that had happened.

Dean was staring apprehensively back at Sam. “Can’t what, Sam?” he asked, just as softly.

“I can’t watch you die again, Dean.”

“I’m not dyin’, Sammy,” Dean stated. Sam winced, and Dean scowled, remembering his deal. “Well, not today, anyway.” he grumbled. Sam just shook his head mournfully and closed his eyes.

“This is all just a hallucination,” he breathed. “That's all this is. This isn’t real. I’m in 2012, I’m in Rufus’s cabin, and this is all just in my screwed up head.” He ground the thumb of his right hand into the palm of his left, and then stopped, puzzled, and looked at his hand. His palm showed just a faint tracery of lines over smooth, unbroken skin. No scar. Sam looked up at his brother helplessly.

“Dean?”

“I’m right here, Sam,” Dean reassured him. “This is not a hallucination, dude. Trust me.”

Sam looked miserably around the dismal motel room. “But I’m back in Broward County.”

Dean frowned and shook his head. “Sam, we’ve never been here before. We just got here last night. Missing person, remember?”

“No, Dean. I’ve been here before,” Sam insisted. “I was stuck in a time loop.”

“A time loop? You mean, like Groundhog Day?”

Exactly. Like Groundhog Day. And now I’m stuck in it again.”

Dean eyed Sam as if he had suddenly begun speaking in tongues. “Again? You mean you were stuck in a time loop before? So, more than one?”

“No,” Sam said irritably. “I’m stuck back in the same one, from four years ago.”

Dean’s brows flew up. “You were stuck in a time loop at Stanford?”

“No, I mean today, Dean!” Sam shouted. “Today, this Tuesday. This Tuesday is four years ago for me!”

Dean threw his hands in the air and backed away from Sam, shaking his head. “Ya lost me again, Sam.”

“Gabriel.” Sam said suddenly. He threw the coverlet aside and jumped to his feet to pace manically about the room.

“Who’s Gabriel?” Dean asked, confused.

"The angel Gabriel."

"Angel?!?! No such thing, Sammy." Sam rolled his eyes.

“He’s Loki, Dean. The trickster. Except he’s not." Sam paused, and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "But it can’t be him; he’s dead.” He narrowed his eyes, considering. “Except maybe he’s not now.” He looked thoughtful. “If this is 2008--"

"--IF?" Dean sputtered.

"--Then he’s alive. He has to be here.” Sam hurried to his duffel bag to dress.

“Seriously-- IF it's 2008? How can it not be 2008?” Dean demanded, as Sam quickly donned his jeans and a couple of shirts. “Sam? Dude! What the hell is going on with you?”

“We gotta find Gabriel,” Sam said. He pulled on his loafers and grabbed his jacket. “And find out why he’s doing this to me again.” He snatched the keys off the little round table and opened the motel door. “Come on, Dean.”

Dean stood silently with his hands in his pockets, glowering in frustration at his brother, and Sam sighed.

“Just trust me, dude. We’re gonna go get breakfast, okay?” he coaxed his brother. Reluctant acquiescence spread across Dean’s face, and he followed Sam out the door.

“Is this all from some vision you had last night?” Dean asked, as they hurried down the street. “I thought you weren’t having those—“

Sam reached out suddenly, snagged the sleeve of Dean’s jacket, and yanked him unceremoniously to the left, side-stepping his brother around the open manhole on the street corner.

“Whoa, holy crap!” Dean exclaimed, staggering to keep his feet under him. “That was close!” Sam just gritted his teeth, tightened his grip on his brother’s jacket, and dragged him, protesting weakly, down the sidewalk. He only released him after they had entered the relative safety of the diner.

Sam walked directly over to the gray-haired man in the suit sitting at the counter eating pancakes. Dean watched, a bewildered expression on his face, as Sam tentatively touched the man on the arm.

“Just tell me what you want, Gabriel,” he said softly. His voice was defeated, as leaden as February sky.

The man turned and looked at Sam for a moment, and then smirked.

“What I want?” He said teasingly. His lips curled into a mocking smile. “I’m already getting what I want, Sammy. You in Hell.” Sam felt a dreamy terror wash over him as the man’s face began to dissolve into a different, far more familiar visage. His tormenter was an archangel, all right; it just wasn’t the one he thought.

“Sam?”

Sam turned to see Dean standing in the middle of the restaurant, his eyes pleading with his brother for answers. Lucifer caught Sam’s eye and smiled slyly. He pointed his index finger at Dean.

“Bang.” he said. Sam watched in frozen horror as Dean’s eyes rolled up in his head. He collapsed in a heap on the worn tiles, shuddered once, and was still. Sam closed his eyes.

Lucifer reached out and patted Sam affectionately on the cheek. “You know, I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of playing with you, Sammy,” he said. “You are just too much fun. I should keep you in Broward County forever.” Sam tried to pull away, and Lucifer slipped his hand to the back of Sam’s neck. His grip was like iron, holding Sam immobile. He pressed his forehead to Sam’s, and frightened hazel eyes stared back into icy blue.

“Didn’t you know?” Lucifer purred. His cold eyes danced with delight. “I taught Gabriel every trick he knew.”