Note from Rose: Translations not given in the text will appear when you place your mouse over foreign language dialogue; we figured that was the easiest way to work them in, since there’s so much non-English being thrown around. However, some idiomatic exclamations don’t easily translate back into English, so the translations given for those phrases will be the nearest English equivalent.

Mirror

By Enola Jones and San Antonio Rose

November 14, 2006

The Hunt was going pear-shaped faster and faster. The poltergeist was huge and powerful and Dean was its punching bag. “LOOK OUT!” Sam wailed as it hit his brother with a bureau – across the head. “NO!”

“S’mmy, ’m... ’s geht...” Dean’s eyes crossed almost comically, and he slumped to the ground unconscious.

Sam got the poltergeist destroyed and Dean to the Impala, driving him right to the motel and tending to his head wound there. Dean swam in and out of consciousness, seldom becoming lucid enough to get out more than a garbled word or two. Sam was just about to get him to an ambulance when he surfaced again.

“Thank God.”

Dean frowned blearily at him. “Sammy? Was ist los?

Sam stroked his hair. “Easy, it’s okay.”

Dean slapped his hand away. Mir geht’s gut, Mann. Hau ab.”

“Dean, why are you prattling in German?”

Wie, bitte?

“Dean, stop it!”

Dean’s frown deepened. “Du, beruhige dich. Wie gesagt, mir geht’s gut.”

“DEAN. This isn’t FUNNY. I can’t UNDERSTAND you!”

Verdammt noch mal, Sammy, RUHE!

“I understood my name and the ‘dammit.’”

Dean chuckled a little. “Na, dann.”

“... Dean, why are you speaking German?”

Dean frowned. “Wie, bitte? Ich spreche doch Englisch.”

Sam suddenly held up a hand. “Repeat after me, Dean. Please, just do this, okay?”

Dean blinked. “Doch, okay.”

Sam nodded. “Here we go. What.”

Was.”

Sam nodded. “Please.”

Bitte.”

“Okay, that’s half of what you keep saying.” He thought for a second, then smiled. “Bitch.”

Aas.”

Sam grinned. “You are speaking German, Dean.”

Du, mach den Kopf zu,” Dean grumbled and rubbed at his head.

Sam dialed his cell. “... Bobby? Can you speak German?”

“What do you think, idjit?” Bobby growled.

“I think suddenly Dean is speaking like he’s from Berlin and I can’t understand him.

“Well, if he’s speaking Berlinisch, even I cain’t help you. But lemme talk to him.”

Sam handed the phone to Dean.

Dean pinched the bridge of his nose briefly as if that would clear his headache. “Hallo, Bobby. Wie geht’s?

“What do you hear, Dean?” Bobby asked. “English or German?”

Was meinst du, was höre ich? Sam glaubt, ich spreche Deutsch. Ist total Quatsch.”

“Not hardly nonsense, boy. I’m hearin’ German come outta you, too.”

Unsinn! Bobby, was... ich hab’ nur ’ne Erschutterung bekommen. Der verdammte Poltergeist hat mich gegen ’ne Schrank gestoßen.”

“May be crazy, but I’m hearin’ German.”

Wie kann das mal sein? Es ist nur eine verdammte Erschutterung!!

“And you think you’re speaking English. Okay, try writing something down for Sam.”

Dean blew the air out of his cheeks. “Okay.”

Sam’s eyes went wide when he did and nodded. “It’s English.”

Dean smirked. “Natürlich.”

“Still hearin’ German.”

Dean threw up his hands in defeat.

“Sorry, man.”

Na, was soll ich uberhaupt denn? Wenn ihr recht habt, wenn ich eigentlich nicht mehr Englisch spreche....”

Over the phone, Bobby said, “You are speaking German. So I suggest you keep it as nonverbal as you can ’til I get there to play translator. Got me?”

Na klar.”

“Great. See you in the morning.”

Klasse. Auf Wiederhören.”

He hung up and Sam looked at Dean.

Was?

“What did he say?” He handed him a pad.

Dean jotted down a reply and handed the pad to Sam: He said to keep it non-verbal, y el estará aquí mañana para la traducción.

Sam blinked and looked at him. “Dean, say something. Anything.”

Was zum Teufel....”

“O-KAY. Dean, you’re writing Spanish and speaking German.”

Du verarscht mich doch.”

Sam smiled ruefully. “Sorry, man.”

Dean grabbed the pad back, stared at it, and started swearing loudly in German. And Latin. And Gaelic and a couple of other languages Sam didn’t know he knew.

“Dean...” He repeated the words back to him so that Dean could hear what he sounded like.

Not that it helped. “Wahnsinn, Sam! Heller Wahnsinn! Verdammt noch mal, es ist nur eine Erschutterung! Warum diese... diese....” Evidently he was reaching for a word that he didn’t know even in English.

“Polyglot,” Sam grinned. “You’re a polyglot!”

Ich polyglotte dich,” Dean grumbled.

Dich... that’s you, right? Ich is I?”

Richtig.” Dean paused. “Woher weiß ich das?

“I don’t know what you’re saying again.”

Dean bit his lip in thought, then tried Sign. I’m saying things I don’t think I should know how to say.

Sam nodded. “You don’t clearly remember knowing German.”

Nee.” Dean caught himself. No. And from what you ask, it’s like... not textbook stuff.

“No, it’s more conversational. Your note was idiomatic.”

Verdammt.” Dean shook his head. You sure it was just a poltergeist?

“At this point? Not really.” Sam sighed. “Not if it did this to you.”

Dean rubbed at his forehead wearily. “Maledictus.”

“Now you’ve switched to Latin.”

Dean nodded. Meant to.

Sam’s eyes went wide. “So if you can switch between languages... just switch to English.”

Dean shot him a look. Das geht nicht, Sam. Ich wusste nicht am Anfang, dass ich überhaupt nicht Englisch sprach.”

Sam frowned at him.

Dean sighed. It’s not that easy. And the fact that you didn’t hear that in English proves it.

“That was you trying to speak English.”

Dean nodded.

“Wow.”

Dean’s raised eyebrow and grimace said it all.

“A true polyglot, then.”

Dean rolled his eyes. Except something’s jammed my gears.

“And locked it off of English.”

Genau.” ... Exactly.

“So far I’ve counted six languages.”

Dean rubbed the back of his neck. I don’t remember learning more than ASL, Spanish, and Latin.

“And I’ve counted those and German, Gaelic, and Russian.”

Dean frowned in confusion.

Sam nodded.

Dean rubbed his forehead again and sighed.

“Let’s get some dinner and some sleep.”

Dean nodded and winced a little.

“Head still hurt?”

“Mm.”

“Lay down. I’ll get you some food.”

Dean nodded again and sank back down on his bed.

Sam left the room and called Bobby. “How far out are you?” he half-whined.

“I’ll bring breakfast,” Bobby replied gruffly. “What’s he done now?”

“Spanish. Gaelic. ASL. Russian. Latin.”

“Sam, he don’t know half those languages.”

“He’s speaking them. Idiomatically. Fluently.”

“What the hell was in that house, kid?”

“Just a poltergeist!” His voice was trembling. “Just a damned poltergeist!”

“All right, Sam, just... just calm down. We’ll get this figured out as soon as we can. Keep treatin’ the concussion, and don’t let this language barrier get to you. You know your brother; you can read him like a book if you try.”

“He can’t... he can’t speak English anymore, Uncle Bobby. He managed Sign and Spanish, and I speak both of those, so it’s not so much a barrier, but when-when-when he tries to speak English, it comes out German!”

“Sam, I’m on my way. I’ll be there as quick as I can, less’n you got some way to put a warp drive on this car.”

“I’ll tell Dean.” His laugh came out bitter. “He’ll figure it out.”

Bobby chuckled. “He might just do that, ’less he got his bell rung worse’n we thought.”

Sam started to cry.

“Hey, hey. We’ll fix this, Sam.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m being such a damned girl about this....”

Bobby’s blink was almost audible. “What did you say?”

“I said I don’t know why I’m being such a damned girl about this.”

“Sam... maybe Dean ain’t the only one who’s been whammied.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re both beat to hell, and you’re scared this is somethin’ you cain’t fix. I can understand you gettin’ a little teary-eyed over that. But I ain’t never heard you call yourself a girl before.”

“Well, sometimes I am! I mean, like now....”

“Yeah, but it’s Dean who calls you Samantha.”

Sam scoffed. “Yeah, I know.” He took a deep breath. “Okay, gonna get some food. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Sam... you need to talk, you call me.”

“I will.” And he hung up without saying goodbye.

That wasn’t like Sam.

On the other end of the line, Bobby cursed under his breath and tried to coax a little more speed out of the Chevelle. Something was badly, badly wrong with his boys, and he couldn’t get to them fast enough.

Sam woke Dean up after 3 hours. “Time for the check.”

Dean blinked up at him blearily. Was sagst du da?

“Wake up.”

Dean groaned. “Kaffee, bitte.”

Bitte – please... Kaffee sounds like... coffee?” He handed the cup over.

Danke.” Dean guzzled the coffee without opening his eyes beyond slits.

“Head hurting?”

“Mm.”

Sam handed him some pills.

Dean blinked at them and frowned a little. “Was...”

“Painkillers.”

Dean shook his head and handed them back. “Paracetamol. Nichts stärkeres.”

“It’s aspirin, not paracetamol.”

Dean grunted and held his hand out again. “’Schuldigung.”

From his tone, he figured that Dean had apologized. “It’s okay.”

Dean took the aspirin and washed it down with the rest of the coffee. Then he tapped his wrist where his watch normally sat.

Sam handed it over.

Dean glared at Sam and squinted at the watch face, moving it around as if he couldn’t get his eyes to focus on it.

“Head hurts that bad, huh? It’s 1 AM.”

Danke.” Dean sighed and slapped the watch back on the nightstand.

“Still German,” Sam sighed, moving to his own bed.

The caffeine clearly wasn’t doing much for Dean, who put the coffee cup on the nightstand and lay down again. “Schlaf wohl, Sammy.”

“Night, Deanie.”

Dean froze, then looked at Sam in alarm. “Deanie?!”

Sam laughed softly as he lay down.

Dean sat up. “Du, seit wann nennst du mir bloß Deanie?

“Can’t understand you....” he sing-songed.

Dean snarled. “Exorcisamus te, omnis immundus spiritus...”

“I understand THAT,” he laughed, turning to face him. “I’m not possessed.”

Dann WARUM SPRICHST DU WIE MEG?

Sam sat up. “Meg? What about Meg?”

Dean’s jaw twitched as he switched to ASL. Listen to yourself. You sound like Meg.

“No, I don’t.”

Kann dich nicht verstehen,” Dean echoed back in the same mocking sing-song.

“I do not sound like MEG!”

Na, wer, dann?” Dean demanded before remembering to sign. Well, who DO you sound like, then?

“I don’t know. But I’m not possessed.”

And why the hell did you call me Deanie?

“You call me Sammy!”

So what? I’m your big brother. You NEVER call me Deanie. Dean paused. That was Mom.

“Just thought it’d match. You know – Sammy. Deanie.”

Dean looked at him like he’d grown an extra head.

“I’m serious!”

Dean grabbed his phone and dialed. He barely gave Bobby time to answer before yelping, “Este es LOCO!

“Well, at least it’s not German now,” Bobby snorted.

Dean grumbled under his breath. Aber im Ernst, Bobby, etwas ist los hier. Er nennt mir Deanie, zum Teufel noch mal!

“He did what?” But it was disbelief, not misunderstanding. “Deanie??”

Zwar!

“Aw, crap. Look, I’m two hours out.”

Dean blew the air out of his cheeks. “Okay. Ich versuche, ihn nicht zu mördern, bevor du an kommst.

“You do that, I’ll put you right beside him.”

Dean chuckled. “Bis dann, Bobby.”

“See you in two hours. Rest.”

Ja, okay. Wiederhör'n.” He hung up with a sigh.

Sam had dozed off.

Dean just watched him for a moment, shaking his head a little. “Was zum Teufel, Sam...” he whispered.

Sam’s eyes opened.

Bobby’s two hours out, Dean signed.

He nodded. “Beer?”

Dean looked at him oddly. “Nein, danke.”

Sam nodded and got a beer for himself. He popped it open and stared out the window at the stars as he drank it.

Dean sighed and got up, then pulled his flask of holy water out of his jacket and walked over to Sam. “Sam.”

“Hm?”

Dean pushed the flask against his chest in a way that clearly meant Drink this.

Sam picked it up and took a huge swig.

No reaction.

Dean shrugged with his eyebrows and took the flask back. Sam smirked at him and went back to bed.

Two hours, Dean told himself, clenching his jaw again. Just two hours. That’s all I gotta get through without knocking him into next week.

Bobby pulled up exactly two hours later.

Dean met him at the door, clearly in pain from the concussion but just as clearly worried about Sam. “Bobby, Gott sei dank. Ich weiß nicht, was hier los ist, aber....”

“Yeah, me neither. Get in there.”

Dean nodded and stepped back to let Bobby into the room.

Bobby walked in and looked at Sam’s sleeping form. “Anything else weird happen?”

Er fragte, ob ich Bier mochte. Bier. Mit Erschutterung. Sonst ich bin nicht so blöd, Bobby!

Bobby sighed. “I think he got whammied, too.”

Dean sighed as well. “Nur eine verdammte Poltergeist. Keine Hexe, nichts außerordentliches. Und jetzt... dieses.

“Yeah. This. You a polyglot, him weird.”

Was sollen wir tun?

“First off, you wake him up.”

Dean grabbed a pillow off his bed and threw it at Sam as hard as he could.

Sam came up yelling, a knife in his hand.

Wide-eyed, Dean held up his hands. “Whoa, Sam! Sind nur uns!

“It’s just us!” Bobby translated.

Sam blinked and frowned. “Thought you weren’t gonna be here till morning.”

“It’s after midnight. It counts.”

Sam chuckled and the knife vanished, seemingly, into thin air.

That, at least, was all Sam.

Dean sighed. “Du, was ist los mit dir?

When Bobby translated, Sam sighed. “I’m just... I dunno.”

“Well, that’s specific,” said Bobby dryly.

Sam glared at him

“Sam, you’re givin’ your brother pet names that you never used even as a kid.”

“I told him, I just thought we’d match! He calls me Sammy all’a time, so I tried out ‘Deanie’ for size.”

Dean gave Bobby the raised eyebrow that meant See what I mean?

“How old are you?” Bobby asked Sam.

Sam frowned. “I’m 27, why?”

Dean and Bobby exchanged a look of alarm. “What year is it?” Bobby pressed.

“Are you cracked? It’s 2006!”

“And what year were you born?”

“1983... wait.” He frowned. “That don’t add up.”

“Doesn’t.”

“That’s what I said.”

“No, you said ‘don’t.’”

Sam took a deep breath. “I’m gonna need an IV of coffee if we’re gonna play this game.”

Ist kein Spiel, Alter,” Dean said flatly. “Herr Student spricht nicht so schleppend, aber du, jetzt....”

Bobby translated, and Sam groaned. “Dude, I JUST WOKE UP...”

“You called me Uncle Bobby on the phone,” Bobby noted.

“Well, yeah...”

“I’m gonna ask you again, boy. How old are you?”

Sam’s eyes rolled upward and stayed there as he considered that. “I’m 23.”

“Now, why’d you have to think about that?”

“Because I think I’m 27 but the math’s wrong.”

“Even at 27, you wouldn’t be tryin’ to call your brother ‘Deanie’ just ’cause he calls you Sammy.”

“Would you LAY OFF? I won’t do it again, okay? Sheesh!”

“Sam.” Bobby made his voice as gentle as possible. “We’re tryin’ to figure out what’s goin’ on here. Your brother’s speakin’ languages he never learned, and you’re switchin’ from sounding your normal 23-year-old self to sounding... well, yeah, maybe 27, to sounding... five.”

“FIVE!” Sam roared. “I am NOT FIVE!”

“How old are you, then?”

“I’m TWENTY-THREE!”

“You’re sure?”

Sam shot up off the bed.  “I don’t have to sit here and listen to this.”

“Sam,” said Dean sternly.

And Sam erupted. He poured out vehemence all over Dean and Bobby. Dean listened for as long as he could stand to do so and then laid Sam out with a single punch.

Sam collapsed without a word onto the bed.

Wie gesagt,” Dean said tightly. “Maledictus.” Then he closed his eyes and swayed a little.

“You lay down,” Bobby told him.

Dean nodded and staggered back to bed.

Bobby sighed and studied his ‘nephews’ – who were quickly becoming as close to him as sons. They were both suffering.

Then he sat down at the small table and began rifling through the research materials the boys had gathered for the hunt. There had to be something they’d missed somewhere if they’d both fallen under a curse at that house.

It took him about an hour, but he found it. The thing was a simple poltergeist – in a house rumored to be the house of a witch.

But hadn’t Dean said that there wasn’t a witch involved? How had they reached that conclusion?

He looked at it closer and realized why they had thought so. It was local legend. Not fact.

But what happened to his boys wasn’t legend.

He sat back and ran a hand over his mouth and chin. Looked like he had some serious digging to do come morning.

Dean slowly sat up and looked around. “Merde,” he whispered before laying back down and closing his eyes.

Bobby blinked. French was new. “Dean?”

“Mm?”

“What’s goin’ on, son?”

Tengo un dolor de cabeza mala.”

“When’s the last time you took something?”

His eyes canted upward and his lips pursed slightly. “Circa... siete?

Bobby frowned; he’d gotten there at 3. “Seven PM or 7 AM?”

Siete de la mañana.”

“Dean...” Bobby was as worried by the time slip as by the fact that Dean was suddenly speaking exclusively Spanish. Es ist nur halb fünf morgens.”

Dean’s eyes widened. “Halb fünf morgens??

Doch. Ich bin um drei angekommen.”

Dean lowered his head and cursed in five languages.

Bobby got up and took him the aspirin bottle and a cup of water, then rubbed his shoulder gently. “Hey. We’ll fix this.”

Dean nodded miserably.

“Here.” Bobby shook the aspirin into Dean’s hand and waited while he washed them down. “Need an ice pack? Cold compress?”

Ja.”

Bobby patted his shoulder and went to the bathroom for washrags. Picking two that looked tolerably clean, he soaked them both in cold water and wrung them out. One he took straight to Dean and gently placed it over the boy’s eyes; the other he filled with ice from the room’s small freezer and tied the corners together. “Here’s the ice pack,” he said as he brought it to Dean. “Where do you need it?”

Cabeza.”

“I knew that, idjit.” He set the ice pack in Dean’s hand. “I’ll let you place it, okay?”

Dean did so, right on the top and slightly to the right.

Over the language center of his brain.

“Aw, hell,” Bobby breathed. “That ain’t where you got whacked, is it?”

Ja.”

Bobby frowned and sat down on the edge of the bed. “You did get hit there? Lemme see.”

Dean sat up and bowed his head.

Bobby prodded gently, and sure enough, there was a good-sized goose-egg right over the language center. “Huh.”

Merde!

“Sorry, son. You can lie back down now.”

He did so with a soft groan.

“Listen, Dean... this don’t explain everything, but where you got hit is right over the part of the brain that controls language. I’m bettin’ that’s got somethin’ to do with what’s goin’ on with you.”

Dean, eyes closed, gave him a thumbs-up and settled the washrag and ice pack back in place.

“We may need to risk a hospital after breakfast, make sure this ain’t permanent.”

Nein.”

“I’m not a neurologist, Dean. Until we know for sure that it’s solely the result of a curse....”

Sam stirred, opening his eyes.

Bobby looked over at him. “Hey, Sam.”

“Hey. What’s with Dean?”

“Well, he’s switchin’ languages more now, and it looks like that head injury’s dead over the language center of the brain. Don’t explain why you’re both losin’ time, but... it’s somethin’.”

“He’s losin’ time?”

“Little. Couldn’t remember when he took his last dose of aspirin.”

“Huh.”

“How’s your jaw?”

“Sore. I can’t believe he clocked me.”

Dean snorted. “Dummkopf.”

“Now that, I understood.”

Dean smirked, but Bobby was willing to bet the only lines around the eyes hidden under the washrag were lines of pain.

“So how soon can he be mobile? We need to head out.”

Bobby scowled. “You are loco, boy. He’s got a headache the size of the Chrysler Building. We ain’t movin’ him until tomorrow at best.”

“We can’t stay. That’s not right.”

Bobby’s eyes narrowed. “He stays put—John.”

Sam’s eyes narrowed in return. “Stop that. Dad’s dead.”

“And you and he were always a lot alike, but I ain’t never heard you sound so much like him before.”

“I’m just doing what he would have wanted. He wanted us to leave.”

“No, he wanted you to look after your brother.”

His jaw ticked. “Dean will be fine.”

“Eventually. Not in the next twelve hours, not even in the next 24. He’s concussed, Sam. And if you two are cursed, we need to find the cause and break it ’fore you go harin’ off on your next hunt.”

“Azazel isn’t gonna stop—”

“Azazel?! Boy, have you lost your mind... or your soul?”

“We have to be ready! He’s not gonna stop for us to recover! We just have to suck it up and go on!”

Padre,” Dean grumbled.

Bobby got up and got in Sam’s face. “Dean is in no fit state to suck it up, John. You wanna go, you can take my car. But head injuries are not something to mess around with. Until I am satisfied that Dean’s not in danger of permanent brain damage, he and I are staying here.”

Sam looked stunned. “... I’m actin’ like him, huh?”

Dean and Bobby gave almost identical derisive snorts. “Just a little,” said Bobby.

Sam sighed. “Something’s wrong, Uncle Bobby.”

“You’re tellin’ me, kid.”

“This... isn’t me.”

“No. It ain’t. Talk to me, Sam. What’s goin’ on in there?”

“It’s all... mixed up.”

“Mixed up how?”

“I can’t think right. So much rage...”

Bobby frowned in concern. “Where’s the rage coming from?”

“I didn’t get to be who I wanted... I gave him everything and became his soldier....”

“Gave who everything, Sam?”

“Dad!”

“You sure?” Bobby asked as gently as possible. “I remember you going to college, even though John told you not to.”

“I didn’t!”

Moment mal.” Dean got up with a quiet groan and rummaged in his duffle for a moment, then brought a well-worn envelope over to Sam and handed it to him. Bobby didn’t have to look to know what it was; it figured Dean would have kept Sam’s Stanford acceptance letter all these years.

Then he went and got John’s journal, opened it to what Bobby assumed was the entry after Sam had left, and brought that to Sam as well.

Du hast gegangen,” he said quietly when Sam looked at him in confusion. “Du hast Jura studiert. Du hast dich in Jess verliebt. Erinnerst du dich?

“Who’s Jess?”

Dean’s face crumpled. You were going to marry her. But Yellow Eyes killed her.

Sam chuckled. “I never was going to marry. This is my life.”

Dean shook his head, and a tear rolled down his cheek. No, Sam, he signed. He killed her. Just like he killed Mom. I pulled you out of the fire.

“I don’t remember.”

It was November 2, 2005.

“When Dad went missing.”

Right after we got back from the Woman in White in Jericho.

“I remember that.”

I took you back to Stanford because you had a law school interview.

“Why don’t I remember it?”

“Good question,” replied Bobby. “What do you remember from those years?”

“Hunting. I never left them in my mind.”

“Specific hunts?”

His mouth opened – and then his face went slack. “... it’s all a blur.”

Dean looked at Bobby in despair.

Sam shook his head. “Eh, well, it don’t really matter.”

Zum Teufel bedeutet es nichts,” Dean snarled before remembering to sign. The hell it doesn’t. You lose four years of memories and suddenly turn into Dad except when you sound like a kid? That is not nothing.

“If anything, I GAINED four,” Sam shot back. “27 now, remember?”

Quod es demonstravit.”

“And that’s another thing,” Bobby added. “What do you remember between 2006 and 2010?”

He opened his mouth, then frowned. “... not too much.”

Bobby frowned as well. “But you do remember something?”

“Bits and pieces. Pain. Fire. Blood.”

“Hunts?”

“A few.”

“Do you remember details, like what you were hunting? Where, when, why?”

“Yeah! Vampires and demons and....”

“And?” Bobby prompted at the same time Dean said “Und?

“I had a lover. A brunette. And she was a demon and we killed her.”

Dean’s eyebrows tried to disappear into his hairline.

Sam shrugged.

“Killed her?” Bobby repeated. “With the Colt?”

“No, a knife. That killed demons.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“She gave it to me.”

Dean blinked; Bobby noticed that his color was fading a little, but he seemed determined to stay vertical until they got to the bottom of this. “Warum hatte eine Dämonin ein Messer, dass Dämonen tötet?

“She was pretending to be on our side, so she needed it to be real.”

“Why would she do that?” Bobby asked quietly.

Sam chuckled “That’s one of the gaps.”

“And why did you kill her? Last I looked, you two were pretty concerned about the effect on the host.”

“I didn’t. You did.”

Dean and Bobby looked at each other in confusion.

“I held her and you ran her through.”

Why, Sam? Dean signed with that confused and worried frown that gave the lie to Sam being the only puppy in the family. What did she do?

“Lied to us. Hurt me. Tricked me into releasing something... horrible.”

Dean swallowed, and his face got a little more ashen. Did we kill that?

“No. But we trapped it. And a lot of good people died.”

Dean bit his lip. Who?

Sam shook his head.

Can’t or won’t?

“Can’t.”

Dean nodded—and swayed dangerously.

“Back to bed, you,” Sam said.

Dean smiled a little. “Mein Sammy,” he whispered before toppling forward into Sam’s arms.

“I understood THAT,” Sam whispered, tucking Dean in and sitting on the bed, rubbing his arm.

Bobby settled the ice pack and cold compress back on Dean’s head and eyes, respectively, then put a gentle hand on Sam’s shoulder. “We’ll stop this somehow,” he whispered. “Whatever’s doin’ this to the two of you, whatever leads up to you hookin’ up with a demon... we’ll stop it.”

“I know ya will, Uncle Bobby,” he whispered back, his eyes huge and trusting.

Bobby shifted his hand to squeeze the back of Sam’s neck. “C’mon. You need your rest, too.”

“Not tired.”

“I mean it, Sam.”

He pouted but lay down.

Bobby sat back down with a sigh and tried to process what he’d just learned. Sam was remembering things that hadn’t happened yet—and they were clearly memories, given that Bobby had once seen Sam when one of his visions hit. Something big was going to go down between then and 2010, something that evidently left Sam reacting like John’s perfect soldier.

But why the hell was Sam remembering it now?

Was this some kind of perverse new type of vision? Or given the timing—and it was one hell of a coincidence—was it linked to what was happening to Dean... and possibly something that was going to leave all three of them way, way out of their depth?

Gabriel was on edge. He couldn’t put his finger on why, beyond a general sense of Holy disturbance in the Force, Batman! It was all he could do to show up to work like the regular schmuck—or was that S. Muck?—that he was pretending to be.

His radio beeped.

“Yo,” he replied into it.

“You’re needed on the fourth floor.”

“Right.” He clipped the radio back on his belt and trudged up the stairs.

He could hear the pipes rattling as he approached the room.  Tamping down his anxiety—hello, Archangel Gabriel, Power of God—he took a deep breath and opened the door.

The door slammed closed behind him as soon as he was five steps in. And a very familiar sense of power closed around him, meaning he couldn’t leave now even if he wanted to.

He sighed. “Hello, Kali.”

“Loki. I missed you.”

“Missed you, too, toots, but let’s not play games—for once, I’m not in the mood. Do you know what’s going on or don’t you?”

“You feel it, then, too.”

“Of course I do.”

“What is it?”

Gabriel sighed. “I don’t know.”

She gaped at him.

“Kali, this isn’t—” He stopped himself before he could say anything like Dad never said anything about this kind of thing happening, whatever it is. “It’s like something’s tearing at the fabric of reality, only that doesn’t make sense.”

“If that’s so... then there’s someone who might be able to help.”

Gabriel frowned in confusion until he realized who she meant. “Atropos.”

She smiled and vanished.

Gabriel sighed and conjured himself a recliner and a big mug of cocoa. Then, after fortifying himself with the chocolate, he closed his eyes and tried to feel out the cause of the disturbance. It didn’t take long for him to find it. He just... couldn’t quite make sense of it. He thought he knew every being Dad had created, but these....

These were... evil incarnate.

He was still trying to figure out what he was seeing when Kali returned with Atropos. He took Atropos’s hand and fed it into her.

She sighed wearily. “I suspected as much.”

“What ARE they?”

She conjured herself a chair of her own and sat. “They’re leviathans, Loki. Yahweh locked them away in Purgatory long before the rest of us came along.”

“Why are they disturbing us now?” he asked, spreading his hands. “What in all the hells is going on?”

“It’s a long story, but the short version is... the angels finally managed to do what humanity couldn’t quite. They opened the wrong doors one time too many.”

“So how do we fix it?”

“Honestly, Loki, I’m not sure if we can. I mean, one of the fault lines runs all the way back to 1861. But...” She paused and thought for a moment. “No, it might not be too late after all. But there are two humans who are at the center of all this; we need to involve them.”

He nodded and stood, changing from his janitor’s jumpsuit to his usual clothing with a thought. “All right, point me in their direction. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

“Don’t think you’re going anywhere without me,” Kali stated.

Gabriel smiled and pulled her close. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

Atropos stood and took Gabriel’s other hand. Then she chanted something in Greek, and suddenly they were standing outside a shabby motel, next to a sleek black ‘67 Impala.

Gabriel whistled. “Sharp car....”

“Sharp hunters,” Atropos returned. “Though they’re not feeling so sharp right now; the shockwaves are doing a number on both of them.”

“Shall we?” Kali smiled.

Gabriel smiled back and marched up to the door of the motel room, rapping out a quick shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits. It was opened by a grizzled man with a beard.

Gabriel might be deep undercover, but he wasn’t so far cut off from Heaven that he couldn’t recognize the man or the two younger men in the room behind him. He was surprised, but hid it swiftly. “Bobby Singer?”

“Who wants t’know?” the man growled.

“This is Atropos, this is Kali, and you can call me Loki. We’d like a word.”

“Then say your piece.”

“It concerns the Winchesters. They need to hear it, and we need to get out of this parking lot before we attract attention. Three gods in one place gets kind of conspicuous, if you know what I mean.”

Dean looked at them. “Tres? Dejarlos entrar, Bobby.”

Bobby looked over his shoulder at Dean for a moment, then sized each of them up before stepping aside to let them in. Gabriel rapped his knuckles on the doorframe as he passed, setting wards that the humans wouldn’t be able to see even if they felt their effect.

Both goddesses looked at him and then grinned. Then they all turned to the Winchesters.

Gabriel glanced around the grungy room and sighed. “This won’t do.” He snapped his fingers, and suddenly the room was much cleaner and had much nicer furnishings, including a recliner for Bobby and a couch where the goddesses and Gabriel seated themselves.

Suddenly Bobby had his gun out. “You’re a Trickster.”

Gabriel held up both hands in a gesture of surrender. “Easy, Singer. Yes, I am a Trickster, but I’m on your side. And there’s a lot more going on here than Dean getting whacked on the head.”

We listen, Dean signed.

“I’ll let you start,” Gabriel said to Atropos. “You take the what, I’ll take the why.”

Atropos nodded. “Fair enough. Sam, Dean, the symptoms you’re experiencing are the result of a serious disruption in the fabric of space-time.”

They all looked at her, and she suddenly had their full attention.

“I’m afraid, given the nature of the problem, I have to begin at the end. In May of 2013, a race of monsters known as leviathans will manage to trace a young cambion named Jesse Turner. Knowing that the forces of Hell will have already attempted to recruit young Turner to be the Antichrist once before, the leviathans will attack him in force to try to kill him. Turner will attempt to defend himself, but he will have spent too much of his life hiding and will not have perfect control of his powers. The result will be something akin to a supernatural nuclear explosion, but its effect will not be limited to that time and place.

“By then, space-time will be weakened from the opening of a number of interdimensional rifts that should never have opened at all. The blast in 2013 will send shockwaves back to a period of significant instability and will essentially mean that the year from May 2010 to May 2011... repeats itself, but with different events. Space-time will buckle and compress, so that a year’s time will both pass and not pass. The shockwaves from that buckling are what we’re feeling now.”

Wieso?” Dean was back to German again.

“One of the reasons for the instability is that certain humans and certain angels have been meddling in the past. Most of the trips have resulted in closed causality loops, and the only one that resulted in a significant change in history has been undone. But time travel of that sort still bends space-time in a way that it was not meant to bend, and those weaknesses—fault lines, really—cannot be unmade. All of them pass through this year... and your lives in particular.”

“I’ll be 27 in 2010,” Sam suddenly said. “That’s why I think I am, isn’t it?”

“Likely,” Atropos nodded. “And it would account for any memories you might have of things that haven’t happened yet.”

Sam nodded firmly.

“It might... also account for out-of-character behavior,” she added quietly. “You will spend that first part of the loop without your soul.”

Bobby’s eyes went huge and snapped to Sam. “That’s why you act like John!”

Gabriel laughed in spite of himself. “John Winchester did have a soul!”

“That’s not what I mean, you idjit Trickster. I meant that John operated on intellect alone. He shut down all his emotions except revenge after Mary was murdered.”

“Ah. Well, there you do have a point. Without a soul, Sam won’t be capable of experiencing the full human range of emotions or of reasoning rightly; he’ll be similar to a high-functioning sociopath. And the demon blood won’t help matters any.”

“Demon blood?” all three yelped, even though Dean’s was in Spanish.

“Yeah, this is where I take over the explanation. There’s a specific reason those fault lines intersect your lives: you wouldn’t exist as you are now had certain angels not seen fit to manipulate the past to force your lives to fit a particular narrative. Part of that narrative required a predestination paradox. In 2008, Dean was sent back to 1973, supposedly to gain information about the plan Azazel—that’s the yellow-eyed demon—has for Sam and the kids like him, but the angel who gave the order knew that Dean would try to stop Azazel and in so doing would inadvertently draw the demon’s attention to Mary. Azazel then killed your grandparents and your dad and offered your mom a deal: your dad’s life for permission to enter your house in ten years’ time.

“Now, the reason he needed that permission was that Lucifer had charged him with finding a ‘special child’ and infecting that child with demon blood on the night he turned six months old. Luci wants Sam specifically, but he couldn’t tell Azazel that, so Azazel’s been infecting a select few out of each generation. The demon blood produces psychic powers, but it can also result in anger that puts ’roid rage to shame.”

Yarost,” Dean muttered, glaring at Sam.

“I’m not drinking it anymore!” Sam roared back, then blinked. “Wait, what?! Why the hell did I say that?”

Gabriel just nodded. “Yep. That’s part of the plan—get you hooked on drinking the stuff to amplify your powers and keep you from thinking straight so that you can be goaded into killing Lilith and letting Luci out of his cage.”

“Why are you shootin’ straight with us?” Bobby demanded.

“Because we have to fix this now before the whole damn universe implodes.”

“So how the hell do we fix THIS?” Sam erupted.

“Simple,” said Kali. “We kill Azazel.”

“Good luck there,” Sam scoffed, back to ‘John, Jr.’

“Your father may have relinquished the Colt, but that is hardly the only weapon capable of the task.” She drew a scimitar out of the air and twirled it with seeming carelessness.

Sam was instantly fascinated.

“Kali’s right,” stated Atropos. “Killing Azazel won’t undo the damage to the past, but it will change the future enough to stabilize the present.”

Will stop Sammy’s shifts? Dean signed.

“I can’t promise, but it should. If Azazel dies now, the chain of events that leads to Sam’s soulless year and a half won’t be triggered.”

“But the demon blood?” Bobby asked.

“He’ll still have it, unfortunately. But because the infection is tied to Azazel, the effect will be lessened significantly, and the visions will most likely cease. And again, the chain of events leading to the addiction will be broken. Sam should go back to what you know as normal.”

Do it, signed Dean.

“We’ll need your help,” said Gabriel.

Dean and Sam nodded.

Gabriel nodded back. “Here’s the plan.”

Sam checked the contents of the duffle one last time before leaving the car. He still remembered the list of ingredients John had asked him to get from Bobby, and everything was in place.

The goddesses were hidden and the Trickster was – somewhere.

Dean was back at the motel with Bobby. His balance had started to go shortly after he began slipping into Czech, of all languages. Besides, this was going to work better with Dean not being in the immediate vicinity.

“It’ll work, Dean,” Bobby smiled.

Hoffentlich,” Dean whispered, barely able to stand the sound of his own voice. “Ich... ich will nicht ihn verlieren, Bobby. Was würde ich ohne ihn tun?

“You won’t lose him, boy. He’ll come back to us.”

Dean just nodded miserably and tried to fall asleep.

Bobby let him, keeping watch with one eye on the phone and the other on the clock.

Sam finished the sigil and counted mentally. He struck the match, touched it to the bowl, and recited the incantation.

The fire flared... and there he was, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “Howdy, Sam.”

“Hi,” he said, smirking as he dropped his bombshell. “Azazel.”

Azazel raised an eyebrow. “You got smart awful fast. How do you know my name?”

He smirked. “An anomaly popped up in my bloodwork. Seems my blood’s not completely human,” he gave the cover story they’d come up with. “And I did research and found out the denizens of Hell and your name was pretty prominent.”

Azazel inclined his head. “So why’d you summon me? You just want to kill me on principle? Or send me home? Good luck with either one.”

“Neither one. I wanna know why my blood is like it is. I wanna know what happened with my dad.”

Do you?” Azazel began to circle Sam. “Why this sudden curiosity? Why do you care what John did? I killed him just like I had your precious little Jessica killed. Isn’t that all that matters?”

“I care because the Colt went missing just after and that’s too big of a coincidence. Why did you kill my mom? Why did you kill my dad? Why did you kill Jessica? Why the hell am I so special that you gotta kill everyone I love?”

Azazel shook his head. “Sam, Sam, Sam. You always were my favorite. Here, let me show you a little something.”

Sam waited. And a sudden headache drove him to his knees—followed by a vision of Azazel standing over a crib, chanting quietly, then slicing open a vein and dripping blood into a baby’s mouth. The baby began to cry as its eyes flashed gold... and then....

“Oh, G-d,” Sam sobbed. “... that’s me.... What the hell did you DO to me?”

“Better than mother’s milk,” Azazel purred. “I gave you strength, Sam, and power you’ve barely begun to taste. We need you.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Hell, Sam. We need someone to lead the army in the coming war.”

“Is that why you did this to me? To make me a – a general for HELL?”

“Oh, no. Not just that. Sam... if I’m right about you, you are so incredibly special, you have no idea. You aren’t just our leader... you’re the chosen one.”

Sam’s eyes narrowed. “You sure love talkin’ in riddles. Try speaking plainly.”

“Lucifer, Sam. If I’m right—and I do believe I am—you... are Lucifer’s vessel.”

Those narrow eyes went huge. “... WHAT?” he roared, looking decidedly sick.

“You’re from a rare bloodline, Sam—two rare bloodlines, to be honest—and the fact that you’re the second son is rarer still. You and Dean, you’re the keys. You can start this Apocalypse... and with you, Lucifer will win it all. Dean will never accept Michael; the angels will have to find him a lesser vessel who’d be no match for you even now.”

“I don’t get a say in this?”

Azazel shrugged. “Of course you get a say. Lucifer’s still an angel, y’know, and angels can’t possess humans without permission. But you’ll say yes.”

“I’d rather serve you than him.”

Azazel blinked. “Come again?”

“I would rather serve you than him.”

Azazel stared at him for a moment. “What exactly are you proposing, Sammy?”

“That if this blood makes me so damn special, and if I have to serve someone, I’d rather serve the devil I know than the real Devil.”

“... I work for Lucifer, Sam. I just told you that.”

Sam growled and seemed to slump. He crouched down, his arms dangling between his legs.

“However... I’m willing to... keep an open mind. Name your price.”

He looked up at Azazel. “You leave Dean and Bobby alone.”

Azazel scoffed. “Aiming low, Sam. What else?”

“What else is there?”

“Oh, come on. There’s some other reason you called me.” He studied Sam for a moment. “Something’s wrong with Dean, is that it?”

Sam’s breathing quickened. “... he—he can’t talk right.”

“Can’t talk right? What do you mean?”

“His brain’s been damaged. He can’t speak English and can’t control what language he’s talking in.”

Azazel raised an eyebrow. “You know, your dad didn’t try to bargain with me until Dean was on his deathbed.”

“And Dean thinks he killed Dad because of that,” Sam snorted. Following the idea that just ‘snapped’ into his head, he added, “But not before he told Dean that if he couldn’t save me he’d have to kill me.”

Azazel’s eyebrows shot up at that. “Did he, now? You think Dean will pose a problem if you do pledge your loyalty to me? He always was Daddy’s good little soldier.”

“I know.” Sam put all the disgust of ‘soullessness’ into his voice. “Drives me insane.”

“So why do you want me to heal him?”

“He’s m’brother.” Sam raised his chin. “And I love him.”

“He’s a liability, Sam.”

“How so?”

“You know what he’s like. And even if he does go along with us, he’s your Achilles heel. All the angels would have to do is take him.”

Sam’s eyes closed and he slumps again with a defeated sigh. “I can’t friggin’ win.”

“Ah. I haven’t said no yet.”

Sam raised devastated eyes to him.

“I just want to make sure I’ve got your terms clear. I heal Dean and make sure he and Bobby are left alone, and you’ll pledge your absolute obedience to me and only me. Is that right?”

“Only you. Nobody above you or below you.”

Azazel nodded thoughtfully. “An unusual deal. I’ll need a moment to consider it.”

“Please,” Sam whispered. “I can’t live in this tension anymore.”

And a bowstring twanged from the shadows, and then the demon had an arrow sticking out of his chest, hellfire sparking around the edges of the wound.

Sam stood and watched, smirking.

Azazel’s mouth worked in silent shock before he wheezed, “Y-you....”

But he was cut off by another arrow.

“By the way,” Sam said to the dying demon, “You’ve been conned.”

“Wh-h-how....”

“Why, Azazel... haven’t you learned by now?” the blonde woman with glasses stepped out from around Sam. She smiled at him. “You need to stop trying to control Fate.”

While Azazel struggled for an adequate response to that, a silver sword shimmered into Sam’s right hand. Without a moment’s hesitation, he plunged it deep into the demon’s heart and twisted it.

Azazel’s eyes went huge and he seemed to fold in on himself.

“That’s for my mother,” Sam snarled and jerked the sword out again, then watched dispassionately as the demon fell, burning from within.

Kali and Loki walked up. “You doin’ okay there, Samwise?” Loki asked.

Sam looked at him. Then back down to the demon. “And for Dad,” he whispered. “And for Jess.”

Then he swayed, dropped the sword, and collapsed. Gabriel just managed to catch him before he hit the ground.

“... what the...” Kali gasped.

“He’ll be all right,” Atropos said quietly. “Space-time’s knitting itself back together, but since Sam’s suffered such significant effects from the disturbance, he’ll be unconscious until both space-time and his psyche have sorted themselves out.”

“Where’d he get that sword?”

“That,” said Loki, “is a professional secret, toots.” And he, Sam, and the sword vanished.

Kali groaned. “I HATE it when he does that.”

Atropos sighed and shook her head.

Dean shot to his feet – and nearly overbalanced – when Gabriel appeared cradling Sam. “SAMMY!” he yelped.

“Easy, Dean,” Gabriel replied. “It’s done. He’ll be fine when he wakes up.”

¿Cuando será que?” Dean demanded, his voice shaking.

“When everything is fixed. Lie down.” And Gabriel moved toward the other side of Dean’s bed.

Dean was yelling at him. Every word was a different language.

Gabriel gently lowered Sam onto the bed. “I said lie down, squirt.”

He gestured at Gabriel, but his legs just wouldn’t hold him any longer.

With a sigh, Gabriel snapped his fingers, and Dean found himself in bed beside Sam. “He is FINE, Dean. Go back to sleep.”

Dean curled up and put a hand over Sam’s heart and only then did he sleep.

Gabriel shook his head in fond annoyance and walked back around the bed. “I’m not a healer, Singer,” he said without looking at Bobby, “but I’ll do what I can for him.” Then he carded his fingers through Dean’s hair, sending subtle waves of power into the young man’s head.

Dean whimpered.

“Shh. It’s okay, Deano.”

“... hurrrrz....”

Bobby’s eyes flew wide open.

“It’s okay,” Gabriel repeated.

Dean whimpered again and then went still and silent.

Gabriel caressed the top of his head again and then stepped away from the bed.

“... that... that was English,” Bobby gasped. “That was English!”

“Yeah. It was. He’s probably still gonna have a headache when he wakes up, but....”

“But you’ve got him back speaking English....”

Gabriel shrugged. “It’s a start.”

“A start?”

“Bobby, I told you, I’m not a healer. I don’t know how much damage will be left.”

“But Sam – Sam will wake up.”

“Yeah, he will. His brain just needs to sort out what memories are his and what bled through from the timeline we’ve just averted.”

“And then Dean will wake up and we’ll see what’s left.”

“Right.” Gabriel paused. “It is a good sign that he’s speaking English... though if you wanted....” He trailed off with a devious grin.

“What?” Bobby demanded.

“I don’t have to put him all the way back to normal.”

Bobby’s eyes narrowed. “Explain.”

“Oh, I’d restore him to full health, don’t worry. And English would still be his native and default. But how many languages did he curse me out in?”

Bobby rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, mentally counting. He blinked at Gabriel. “Ten.”

Gabriel replied with an eyebrow waggle worthy of Groucho Marx.

“Are you sayin’ you wanna leave him a polyglot?”

“Bingo.”

Bobby began to laugh softly. “That would actually help us out. Huh – a Trickster wanting to help us.”

“Ah. You caught me on a good day.”

“So long as English is his default and he doesn’t lose it again.” Bobby smiled and shook his head. “John would kill me.”

Gabriel chuckled. “Nah, I’m not that cruel. I reserve the right to use the mute button on ’im, though.”

“No.”

“Aw, come on. It wouldn’t be permanent even if I did.”

Bobby just looked at him.

“Oh, fine. Only in extreme emergencies when his life depends on shutting up for five seconds.”

Bobby chuckled. “I’m actually starting to like you.”

That caught Gabriel off-guard for a second. “Really? Funny... I’m starting to like you mooks, too.”

“So let’s see how Dean is when he wakes up and go from there.”

Just then Sam stirred, rolled over, snuggled closer to Dean, and stilled again. Seconds later he was snoring softly.

Gabriel’s eyebrows rose.

Bobby smiled a little. “Oh, yeah. Sam will be fine.”

“So that’s natural for him?”

“Maybe not since he left for college, but when they were little, they’d curl up together like that all the time.”

Gabriel nodded and watched the brothers sleep.

They were still asleep when Kali and Atropos returned. Gabriel smiled at them.

“I have disposed of the corpse,” Kali informed him.

“Good,” Gabriel nodded. He looked at Atropos. “And the demon inside is truly gone.”

Atropos gave him a knowing look. “Yes, it’s gone. And I still have the job Yahweh gave me, and I seriously doubt anyone will be letting the leviathans out for at least the next decade.”

He nodded. “Then I think our job here is mostly done.”

“Mostly?” the goddesses chorused.

“It’ll be completely done when these two muttonheads are okay again.” He paused. “And there’s someone else I need to talk to.” He hugged Kali. “I’ll see you in a little while.”

Kali huffed. “You’ll see me when I want you to.” But she kissed him before she vanished.

He turned back to Atropos. “Thank you, Milady.”

“And thank you... Loki.” She gave him that knowing look again before leaving.

With that, he turned to Bobby.

“You stickin’ around?” Bobby asked.

“In a while. I want to make sure these mooks are okay, like I said.” He snapped his fingers and vanished.

Bobby sighed, somewhat at a loss as to what to make of it all. Then he went over to the bed and drew the covers over his sleeping boys.

When Gabriel returned, he was smiling.

Bobby raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“His mind is waking up.” Gabriel put a hand on Dean’s forehead and raised the other one. “I’m waking him up now.”

“Ge’y’r damn han’offm’head,” Dean grumbled into Sam’s shoulder.

Gabriel chuckled and snapped his fingers. Then he winked at Bobby and vanished.

Dean turned enough to squint one eye at Bobby. “Is he gone?”

“He’s gone.”

“’S it over?”

“When Sam wakes up, we’ll know.”

Dean nodded.

“How you doing?”

Dean groaned. “Habe noch ’ne Kopf... schmerz. Um. Did... did I just speak German?”

“You did,” Bobby groaned.

“’Cause that sounded like German.”

His eyes widened. “You can hear the difference now? Did you do that on purpose?”

“I can hear the difference, but I didn’t do it on purpose... it’s like the thought just formed that way, and that’s how it came out.”

Bobby snarled out, “He said English would be your default.”

“It is, it’s just... hell, don’t tell me your gears don’t stick when you’ve been translatin’ too long.”

Staring at him in disbelief, Bobby suddenly chuckled and Dean could see him relax. “Point taken.”

Dean managed a weak smile. “Good. Cafe, por favor.”

A la mesa, idioto.”

Dean groaned again and started to roll away from Sam.

Sam protested.

Dean immediately stopped and rolled back to him. “Sammy?”

His eyes slowly opened.

“Hey. You okay in there, dude?”

“... Dean?”

“Yeah.”

“I can understand you....”

“You should. I’m speakin’ English.”

Sam laughed softly.

“How are you?”

“My head hurts.”

“Really? That makes two of us.”

“Yeah, but I’m not the one concussed.”

“Dude, you got whammied with four years of memories that hadn’t happened yet. I think you’ve got a reason.”

Sam hummed and closed his eyes.

“Speakin’ of memories....”

“Yeah?”

Dean swallowed, unsure how to ask his question. “You... remember Stanford now?”

A slight smile curved his lips. “Yeah.”

“You remember how old you are?”

“Dude, I’m 23.”

“And... the demon chick?”

Sam shivered, his eyes opening. “Doesn’t exist.”

Dean let out a quiet sigh of relief, his head tilting forward a little so that his forehead met Sam’s. “Awesome.”

“That future... it’s gone.”

A tear slipped down Dean’s cheek.

Sam frowned, reaching up. “Hey... what’s this?”

Dean sounded wrecked when he whispered, “The last thing Dad said to me... he s-said....”

“I know. That was.... That was in the memories. You told me eventually.”

“But if that future’s gone, then... then it doesn’t matter. You’re safe.”

“I’m safe.” Sam beamed. “And you’re safe.”

Another tear slipped out. “Sammy, you have no idea... it’s been killing me to keep this from you, to even have to think about having to kill you.”

“Wait, what?” Bobby yelped. “KILL him?”

Dean nodded, but Sam replied for him. “Dad told Dean that if he couldn’t save me, he’d have to kill me. Guess he knew more about the demon blood than he told anyone.”

Bobby shook his head. “That damned fool!”

“Bobby, it’s over,” Dean said. “Nothin’s coming for us now. Nothin’s gonna turn Sam darkside. So can we just... get over our headaches and maybe go on vacation or something?”

“I’ll get the aspirin.”

“And my coffee?” That came out a little whinier than Dean intended.

“And your coffee, whiny brat,” Bobby teased.

Dean snorted and dredged up an insult in Japanese.

Bobby shot back in kind and then headed to the bathroom to get the aspirin.

When Dean turned back, Sam was staring at him with eyes so wide he had a wild mental image of them rolling out of their sockets and rolling away screaming.

“What?”

“You... j-just....”

Dean smirked.

Sam’s jaw lowered as realization seemed to slam into him. “Omig-d!” he gasped. “You’re – You’re still a polyglot!”

“I’ll polyglot you,” Dean grumbled good-naturedly—in English this time.

“And you still....” Sam suddenly grabbed him and hugged him.

“Gah! Concussion!” But Dean hugged him back.

Bobby returned with the pills and coffee.

“Okay, you giant girl, lemme breathe,” Dean rumbled into Sam’s ear.

Sam pulled back, grinning so large his dimples were showing.

Dean smiled back wearily. “We good?”

“We’re good.”

Dean patted Sam’s shoulder, rolled onto his back, and eased himself upright with a groan. Bobby handed him the aspirin, which he took with a grateful nod and washed down with the coffee.

Sam took some, too.

“I’m serious, dude,” Dean said after he finished his mug of coffee. “Let’s go to the Grand Canyon. Go back to New York, look up Sarah, see if she’s still single. Hell, there’s a chick in Indiana I’d love to see again—yoga instructor, Lisa Braeden. Bendiest weekend of my life.”

Sam held up a hand. “I don’t want to know any more about that weekend, thank you.” Then he found himself frowning deeply. “On second thought, seeing her is a good thing.”

Dean frowned. “Why?”

“You were there nearly eight years ago, right?”

Dean’s frown deepened. “Dude, what are you ‘remembering’? You’re not—” His eyes went wide. “You’re not saying... I’ve got a kid?!”

Sam shrugged. “Little boy.”

Dean’s eyes slid shut as he cursed quietly in Russian. “How’d we find out? Something come after them?”

“Yeah. ’Bout a year from now.”

Dean exhaled slowly. “Okay. So we got time to hit the Grand Canyon first.”

Sam laughed. “We got time.”

Dean looked over at him then. “Would... would you be okay? I mean, settling down, retiring? Maybe you could even go back to school—Cicero’s not that far from Indianapolis.”

“And what would I major in?” Sam spread his hands. “Dude, that ship SAILED.”

“So? I just... I am so incredibly tired, Sam, and it’s not just the concussion. But I don’t know if I can quit without you.”

“And I don’t know if I can quit hunting all together. It’s like you said awhile back – it’s like Dad wants us to pick up where he left off.”

“So... maybe we compromise. Weekend hunts, that kind of thing. I can’t just let you take off alone.”

Sam smiled. “And I don’t think you’re tired of hunting. You told me once you’d not last a month in ‘normal’ without trying to blow your brains out. I think you’re tired of the weight Dad put on you. Dean – that weight’s GONE.”

Dean shook his head. “No, dude. I mean, yeah, the whole ‘save you or kill you’ bit, that’s gone, but... Dad made a damn deal to save my life. Hell, I should have died back in March when I got electrocuted. That doesn’t just go away, Sam.”

“Then allow me to ease your burden,” a strange voice said.

Three heads snapped to face the new arrival. “Who the hell are you?” Dean growled.

“My name is Castiel,” the stranger nodded.

“And what the hell are you?”

“I am an angel of the Lord,” the man with the unnatural-looking blue eyes answered.

“There’s...” no such thing, Dean started to say before he remembered what Atropos and Loki had said. “Why are you here?”

“To speak to you, Dean. You carry twin burdens unnecessarily.”

“What do you mean?”

“May I sit?”

“Sure,” Sam replied before Dean could object. “Here, let me—” He started to get up, but a wave of vertigo forced him to sink back down on the bed.

Castiel sat beside him and nodded. “You will be all right.” He turned to Dean. “You bear the burden of thinking you are on borrowed time.”

“I am. Two people have died for me.”

“And more have been saved by the fact you exist.”

Dean’s gaze fell to his lap. “That won’t bring back Dad. Or Mom.”

“No. But they are together now.”

Dean looked up, frowning in confusion—then frowned deeper as his fists clenched. “No. No, don’t you dare tell me Mom’s in Hell.”

Castiel frowned, then his eyes went wide in comprehension. “No, of course not! I am telling you that when Azazel was destroyed, his deals were undone as the threads unraveled. We were able to rescue your father from Hell, and he is with Mary Campbell Winchester in Heaven.”

Anger faded back into confusion as Dean’s fists relaxed. “What? But—how—why....”

“It was a holy deal with an unholy creature – and thus able to be undone.”

Sam frowned. “A holy deal?”

“Yes,” Castiel nodded. “One made from the strongest of loves – that sacrificial love of a parent for a child.”

Dean searched Castiel’s face. “You got Dad out... but... why? Why do you care?”

“I ... do not understand.”

“Good things don’t just happen. Not to us.”

“They do. All the time. You are just too blinded by grief and depression to see them.”

Dean scoffed.

“And about the repair with your heart—”

Dean looked at him.

“It truly was not your time to go. The man the Reaper killed is in Heaven with his family.”

Dean’s voice shook a little as he asked, “What about Layla? She believed.”

A smile touched the angel’s lips. “Layla lives.”

Dean’s eyes went wide. “She... does?”

“She does. She is happily married and currently pregnant with twins.”

“But....”

“Yes?”

“The... the brain cancer....”

“It was never cancer. She was misdiagnosed.”

Dean’s mouth fell open.

“She moved from her mother, got a second opinion, and found it is smaller than she was told and benign.”

Dean managed to close his mouth before running a shaking hand over it, fighting tears.

Castiel put a hand on his arm. “She LIVES, Dean.”

Dean’s eyes closed, and he swallowed convulsively.

The angel waited.

“Why?” Dean finally croaked. “Why me? Why us? What’s so damn special about this family?”

Sam opened his mouth, but Castiel answered. “You are descendants of hunters that stretch back to the foundation of this country – and before. You have a fabled and strong bloodline that makes you attractive to the supernatural.”

Dean frowned. “Dad was from a family of mechanics.”

“The Campbells are hunters.”

Both brothers stared at Castiel.

“Your mother left the life to marry your father.”

“So that’s what he meant,” Sam whispered.

“Yes,” Castiel nodded. “That’s what he meant.”

“Wait,” Dean demanded. “That’s what who meant?”

“Loki,” Sam said. “A Trickster who healed us.”

Dean’s eyes slipped shut. “I’m gonna blame this on the concussion, but I have no damn clue what you’re talking about, Sam.”

Sam told him the short version of what Azazel had said.

Dean frowned a little, even with his eyes closed. “Well, there’s gotta be something special about Dad’s line, too, then....” Then he snorted. “Hell, I’m just makin’ my headache worse tryin’ to make sense of all this.”

Sam looked at Castiel, who gazed back at him. Then Sam took a deep breath. “Dad’s bloodline makes us – specially adapted – to helping people. Apparently we... we heal faster than normal people.”

Dean’s eyes opened just enough to let him glare at Sam. “You know more than you’re telling, and one day I will get it out of you.”

“All right, fine,” Sam sighed. “It also makes us super-attractive to two major players of the Apocalypse in the future-that-was-wiped-out. But that’s a moot point now.”

“Your brother is correct,” Castiel said. “And that is the entire truth of it.”

Dean sighed and let his eyes close again. “Swell. So can we take our damn vacation or not?”

“In the morning.” He leaned forward and brushed his hand over the top of Dean’s head. “For tonight, rest.”

Dean sighed again, sagged, and slowly tilted sideways until his head came to rest on Sam’s shoulder.

Sam looked at him, then up at Castiel.

“He will rest now.” The angel turned to Bobby. “As for you....”

“Yeah?” Bobby returned.

“John Winchester may be gone.” He stood. “But they do not lack a father. Thanks to you. Be blessed.”

“I am,” Bobby breathed. “Every damn day.”

A nod, and the three were alone.

Bobby let out a long, slow exhale. “Well. You hungry, Sam?”

“Actually, Bobby? I think I’d like to just rest here awhile. “ Sam beamed. “We’ve got a trip to the Grand Canyon to set out on tomorrow.”

“I meant carry-outs, idjit,” Bobby replied with a smile.

Sam smiled, his eyes slowly closing. “Sure. Anything.”

“Okay. I’ll be back in a few.” And Bobby slipped out quietly, sending a silent prayer of thanks to a God who apparently did exist after all.

Sam curled up with his sleeping brother and his last thought before sleep submerged him was a prayer of sheer gratitude that they were both finally and permanently safe – and that his memories of four years of hell were now nothing more than a horrible nightmare.

Epilogue

July 4, 2011
Cicero, IN

“Not more books!” Dean cried when he looked in the box Sam had just brought into the house. “Where the hell did Gwen get these from?!”

“EBay—I think,” Sam replied. “Or maybe an estate sale. I don’t remember. Anyway, she said earliest possible, but it’s not urgent.”

Dean muttered something uncomplimentary about their third cousin in Mandarin, since it wasn’t one of the languages he’d taught Ben yet.

“Ash hook you up with the new version of Trados yet?”

“Yeah, but for most of these texts, the only good it does is give me a concordance. It’s not like they repeat themselves much.”

Sam blinked.  “I thought—”

“Yeah, I’m still workin’ for the agency, but it seems like half of my projects anymore are for hunters.  Those creeps from Garber tried to stiff me again, by the way.”

Sam sighed.  “I’ll see if Olivia can knock some sense into ’em.  They obviously didn’t listen to Ellen, and they still think I’m the Antichrist.”

Dean snorted.  “What about Gwen?”

“Too young and too pretty.  They’d blow her off—at their own peril, granted, but still.”

“Dude,” Dean laughed. “I’d pay money to see that fight!”

Sam paused to picture it, then laughed. “So would I!”

Dean returned to the box of books. “So let’s see what she sent this time...”

The folio volumes were old but well cared for, and a quick glance at each showed them to be a set of Latin bestiaries. Several of the creatures described were far from the run-of-the-mill animals that usually showed up in such texts, however, and Dean suspected that Gwen suspected the lore might be useful.

Sam tapped him on the shoulder, and he realized he had been muttering. “What were you saying? It sounded like Latin but you were going so fast...”

Dean shook his head. “Nothing. Just looks like good reference material, that’s all.”

“Cool.” Sam smiled, then sobered. “Hey, you’re bruised.” He reached out and ran a fingertip down the pinky side of Dean’s right hand. “Did you fall again?”

Dean snorted. “Just stumbled. Caught myself on the doorframe.”

Sam nodded. He knew Dean was telling the truth -- the price for his polyglot gifts was what Dean had termed “Terminal Clumsiness” -- balance issues and a severe hit to his hand-eye coordination. In a civilian life, it was no big deal.

But it had been the death knell to Dean’s ability to Hunt.

So Dean had followed through on his idea to reunite with Lisa. She was good for him, patient with his occasional fumbles and pratfalls, and their son Ben practically worshipped Dean. Plus, there was a translation agency in Indianapolis that paid better than a garage would pay a mechanic, so Dean was set. Then, after the incident with the changelings, they had decided to make their relationship official.

Dean Braeden had even been called in by FBI Agent Victor Henricksen to translate symbols left behind in the aftermath of hunts gone sideways. Dean had hesitated to give up the Winchester name legally, but in the grand scheme of things, it had turned out to be worth it.

“So,” Dean said, loading the books back into the box, “is Adam coming or not?”

“He is. He and his mom are going to spend Thanksgiving Day here.”

“I meant today, for the barbeque.”

“No. Neither of them could get off work.”

Dean nodded. It had taken some time for him to get used to the idea that they had a half-brother, but Sam had told him long enough before the ghouls turned up in Windom that they had not only saved the Milligans but managed to build a friendship with them. Adam didn’t know what the family business was--Dean’s cover was “pest control,” and Sam went with it--but he didn’t need to know now. And even if his relationship with Sam and Dean was less than brotherly, it was still better than what Sam remembered from that other timeline.

Not to mention that both Milligans were still alive. Always a win in Dean’s book.

“You seen Jo lately?” Dean continued. “Heard she went after a Leshii a couple months back.”

“She did. Came home wearing a matching set of leg braces. She’s still in PT and Ellen thinks she can graduate to a cane next week.” Sam took a sip of his beer. “She said not to stare at her girl.”

Dean frowned. “Is she... is she done?”

Sam smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “You know Jo. Soon as she heals, she’ll be back out there. Rufus is gonna be her partner now. He thinks he can do a better job than those idiots who were training her and using her as bait.”

Dean shook his head and cursed under his breath again. “Well, at least Rufus knows better than to take stupid risks with other people’s lives.”

“Exactly. Word is he and Bobby and Ellen teamed up on the bastards.”

“Now there’s another fight I’d pay money to have seen.”

“Bobby taped it.”

Dean’s eyebrows shot up. “Really?”

“I’ll call him and have him bring it.”

Dean grinned, then sobered. “Nah, better save it for the next time I’m up there. Lisa wouldn’t want us watching it where Ben might see.”

Sam shrugged.

“Anybody home?” a familiar voice called from the front door.

“In here,” the brothers chorused.

“Aha! Thought you muttonheads might be out back already.”

Loki had taken some explaining, given that he’d showed up at the JP’s office uninvited for Dean and Lisa’s wedding. He didn’t drop by often, but he showed up often enough and at strange enough times that Dean felt he needed to give Lisa what little information he knew about the guy.

Dean stood, swaying dangerously. “It’s about that time, isn’t it?”

Sam instinctively reached out to steady him.

“Thanks, man.”

“You okay, dude?”

“Sat too damn long.”

“Can you walk?”

He tested it. “Yeah, world’s stationary again.”

Sam blew the air out of his cheeks. “Good. Let’s head on out there.”

Ben had volunteered to man the grill while Dean was inside, and Dean was pleased to discover that he was actually doing a good job with the hamburgers.

“Hey, not bad,” he praised.

Ben grinned up at him proudly. “Thanks, Dad.”

Ruffling his son’s hair, Dean got a beer for himself and Sam.

Loki, on the other hand, made straight for the desserts.

“Figures,” Dean quipped.

“What? Not my fault your wife makes the best apple crumb cake in the state.” Loki helped himself to a large slice and shoveled a huge bite into his mouth.

“It’ll BE your fault if I have to make another one!” Lisa snapped as she came out back bearing a tray of drinks.

“Oh, fine.” Loki snapped his fingers, and a new slice grew to replace the one he’d taken.

Lisa just rolled her eyes and shook her head, used to his antics by now. “Hey, Sam! Are you here alone?”

“Nah, Bobby’s a half hour or so out.” He kissed her cheek, stealing the tray from her grasp as he did so.

She chuckled. “You know you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Sioux Falls isn’t exactly close.”

“Thanks.”

“I take it the skinwalker hunt went well?”

He blinked, then smiled. “I’m still in awe that you are so accepting. Yeah, it went well.”

She shrugged. “After the thing with the changelings, I kind of have to be. I’m still amazed you were able to stop it so fast, before it could take Ben.”

Sam set the tray down. “It was our job. But hey, it brought you back into our lives before—” As if on cue, Dean tripped on his own feet and nearly faceplanted into the garden, but managed to get his feet back under him. Sam sighed. “Before his co-ordination got completely blown to hell.”

Lisa sighed, too. “You okay, honey?”

A thumbs-up shot their way and Dean checked on Ben and the grill again.

“I’m glad he’s here,” Lisa whispered to Sam. “Knowing what... well. I’d worry.”

Sam nodded, then slid her a teasing smile. “I just wish I could have seen your expression when you realized he wasn’t as shallow or dumb as he was playing at.”

Lisa drew herself up in mock offense. “Why, Sam Winchester, whatever makes you think I was surprised?”

His teasing smile morphed into a knowing smirk. “Because you were pretending the same thing.”

She laughed.

And Sam grinned so big his dimples threatened to crack his face as he looked around at the back yard and the supernatural creature mingling with the humans. At Bobby’s battered Chevelle pulling up beside the ever-present Impala. At his brother who was having a high-spirited discussion with his son, switching easily between English and German and Latin and Spanish.

Sam felt ‘home’ settle into his bones like it hadn’t since Stanford.

Freedom felt fantastic.

END

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