Dean pushed his way through the tall ferns at the edge of the forest, emerging into a small clearing. The night sky above was filled with stars, and the moon lit up an unusual fallen tree in the center of the meadow with runes carved on its side.
The same runes he had seen on the same tree in the same clearing not five minutes before.
How did he get so turned around only 20 minutes after he lost Sam? Hikers had gone missing in the dense woods and they were checking out a local legend about a ghost, snatching people when the moon was full.
Dean looked around one more time before deciding to head right instead of left. The ferns ahead of him rustled and he unholstered his Taurus. Instead of a lost deer or a vengeful ghost, Sam stepped out.
Only it wasn’t his Sam. His Sam had broad shoulders, two days worth of scruff and hair past his ears. This Sam was more slender with soft bangs across his forehead and cheeks that barely needed a razor.
Dean kept the gun raised, pointed at the imposter. "Who are you?"
“Dean! Where have you been?” Even his voice sounded like Sam’s did in high school, not the deep tones of the man that he would become but higher, more uncertain. “Where’s Dad?"
The plaintive question made Dean’s heart skip a beat. The creature certainly knew how to screw with him, pretending to be his brother back when Sam still needed him. Not like now, when they argued and hid things from each other.
He waved his gun once more at the thing wearing Sam’s face. "What do you want? Where is Sam?"
"I am Sam! Who else do you think it is? And why do you look so old?"
Sam walked forward, scuffing his white Chuck Taylors in the dirt, just like Dean told him not to when they were younger. The kid looked at Dean with those big blue-green eyes, filled with hurt and a need for comfort, and he was overwhelmed by the desire to protect his little brother.
"Dean, they told me we could go home if you came with me now."
Dean’s eyes narrowed. "Who told you?"
"A man and a woman. They brought me here but then disappeared. Please, Dean, can we just go back to the motel and wait for Dad?"
Young Sam extended his hand, delicate fingers reaching for Dean. Maybe this wasn’t the monster at all, just another version of Sam snatched from the past.
Dean reached out his hand, just as he heard a crash out of the forest behind him. He whipped his gun around once more, only to be met with another Sam. His Sam, long hair and scruff and bitchface intact.
He turned back around to the vision of his little brother which smiled at Dean, dimples and all, as it began to glow gently, dissipating on the wind.