He woke up with a start, disoriented for a few moments until everything fell back into place and he sat up slowly and sent a long look around the room. He hadn't slept like this in over a year now and it struck him in part as being unfaithful. How could he sleep and relax while Sam might be out there somewhere, in need of help?

With a sudden bad taste in his mouth, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and planted his feet on the floor, then glanced at his watch. He had been out cold for nearly four hours. "Crap," he muttered, got up and patted over to the door on bare feet. The house was silent.

Carefully, he opened the door and stepped out onto the landing before he heard their voices drifting up from downstairs.

"It's going to be tough. Mark my words," John said. He sounded tense, like he had always sounded right before a hunt. 'Not the same man', Dean thought to himself.

"Oh, stop being such a worrywart, sweety," Mary replied. She sounded a bit tired. "How can you even think this is a bad thing?"

"I don't think it's a bad thing, Mary. I'm just ... what if it turns out to be wrong?" John countered, his tone now suddenly full of concern.

"It's not wrong. You heard the doctor. You saw the papers. They did the test three times. There's no doubt that he is Dean and ... I don't have to see the results of a damned test to know he's my son, John. I know. I can feel it. I look at him and I know."

Her agitated response was answered by silence. Dean grabbed onto the banister and just stood there. It wasn't right to listen in on their conversation, but he couldn't stop himself. They were discussing his reality and John was obviously leaning toward not believing in it.

"I want to believe this, Mary," John finally said, his voice oddly thick. "God, I want to believe this more than anything in this damned world. It's a miracle if ever there was one. But ... after this long?"

It was hard for Dean to get upset about this discussion. He understood John's reservations. He could easily place himself in his father's shoes and in essence John was right, wasn't he? He wasn't their long-lost son. He belonged in another reality, where both his parents were dead and his brother was missing. He dropped his head and struggled against the surging agony those thoughts brought with them.

"He said so himself. He didn't know, John. He had no idea that this McGillicuddy guy wasn't his father. And how was he supposed to know? He was six months old when he was taken, for pity's sake," Mary countered sadly.

"Then all that crap about the illness ... it was all a lie? What we went through back then, Mary? What he went through? If we had stopped the treatments, he would just have gone on living?" John sounded angry all of a sudden, upset. "He was nothing but a damned baby and he suffered the torments of Hell for three months at their hands and then some stranger just swoops in and takes him away and he's fine?"

"I know. It's hard to understand. But it happened. We have the bloodwork to prove it, John. Can't you just be happy about this?" She was pleading with him now, wanting to accept this at face value and Dean once again got the impression that she was so desperate for this to be true that she was willing to accept it without question.

"You're convinced?" John asked, his tone subdued. "You believe this?"

"One hundred percent, honey. One hundred and ten percent. That up there is my boy, my son. It's another miracle. We've already had one and now we have another. And there is no doubt in my mind. None whatsoever. He is our son."

Dean wondered what exactly had been wrong with the other him and it suddenly struck him as incredibly cruel that he was here, posing as the baby that had obviously died at the age of six months. Especially considering that he was going to look for a way to leave again. And it wasn't even because he didn't want to stay. There was really nothing he wanted more apart from finding his brother again. And that was the main reason for that he even considered finding a way back.

In general, he figured he wasn't to blame for this situation though. He hadn't made the first move here. Officer Murphy had been the one to connect the dots and put him in touch with his parents. Chances were he would never have known they were out there if she hadn't taken that extra step. He would have researched how to get back to his own reality or spent time in this reality searching for Sam until he had realized that this wasn't where he belonged or something had killed him.

"Dean?"

He started and looked down toward the bottom of the stairs to find his father standing there. "Uh ... hey," he said, a little rattled at being busted at eavesdropping.

"You okay?" John asked while eying him thoughtfully.

"Yeah, fine," he said and pushed away from the banister, then made his way downstairs.

"Did you sleep?" Mary asked. She stood next to a high-backed easy chair in the livingroom.

Dean nodded, glanced at John and longed for the recognition in his father's eyes. This half suspicion, half hope he saw in the man's eyes was disconcerting to say the least.

"You must be hungry," John said.

In a sense, this whole thing felt off, but he couldn't get himself to feel that it was wrong. It didn't feel wrong. It felt like home, just like it had been twisted a little and it was up to him to straighten everything out again. "Yeah, I am," he agreed to John's suggestion. "I didn't really eat anything this morning," he added with an almost apologetic smile.

"Well, then you definitely need something to eat. Taking medication on an empty stomach is not a good idea," Mary said, stepped up beside him and slipped an arm around his back. "What would you like?"

This would take some getting used to, this concern she showed him. It kept sparking childhood memories from before the fire. "Uh ... whatever you have," he said. "I'm not picky."

That made her smile. "He's just like you, John," she said and glanced at his father. "You wanna do the honors?"

Dean frowned and focused on his father before he could think about an appropriate reaction, but John didn't notice. He merely smirked lightly, shrugged and disappeared into the kitchen. "He cooks?" he asked and glanced back at Mary.

"Oh yes, he does," she agreed. "And he's good at it too."

"Wow," he muttered. "Elroy didn't cook. All I ever got came out of a can or from a diner somewhere."

"We'll have to feed you some decent food then," Mary said with a smile and ushered him into the livingroom. "Sit down for a moment, Dean. There's a few things I'd like to tell you."

A little apprehensive, he did as he was told and sank down on the couch while wondering what to expect. He assumed there were some ground rules in this household he was supposed to follow. Mary settled down next to him and he just couldn't take his eyes off her long enough to look around. Some part of him was scared shitless that she would disappear if he took his eyes off her. It was silly, really, but he couldn't help it.

"First and foremost, this is your home now. So anything you want to do, you just do it. You don't have to ask first, okay?" She eyed him closely for a moment and he nodded in response. "That goes for when you're hungry too. The fridge is always full. No need to ask. You just go for it." Again he nodded without a word and she countered it with a nod of her own. "There is one thing that we haven't mentioned yet," she added and now it was her turn to look a little apprehensive. "We figured it might be best not to get into that until you were home."

"Into what?" he asked, not sure what to expect next. She looked like she wasn't entirely happy about the situation.

"You have a brother," she said and her expression was so much Sam's expression that he almost didn't get the gist of what she was saying. "A younger brother," she added.

In part he was thrilled and in part scared by this bit of news. So Sam did exist in this reality too. He hadn't asked about siblings himself because he had been scared of the answer, really. The thought that Sam might not exist here had been heartbreaking. But, on the other hand, it still wouldn't be 'his' Sam, it would be a stranger looking like his brother. "A brother," he muttered, aware he had to go along with the charade for now. "Wow. What's ... his name?"

Mary smiled, obviously relieved by his reaction. "Sam," she said. "He's four years younger and he's currently at Stanford. He's going to be a lawyer," she added and there was no denying the pride in her voice.

He blinked. "Wow," he repeated. "That's ... great. I always wanted a little brother." He chomped down on his lower lip and sent a glance around the room, finally catching the few photos that were set up here and there. "Is that him?" he asked, well aware that it was when he spotted a graduation photo. He rose to retrieve it and was almost overwhelmed by concern for 'his' Sam.

"Yes, that's Sam when he graduated high school," Mary said and stepped up beside him. "He's ... uhm ... he's a very ... sweet boy."

The hesitation in Mary's voice made him glance at her, unsure of what she meant by that. "Well ... he's been an only child until now, so ..." he tried.

She smiled ruefully and sighed lightly. "Well, I guess we were just ... overprotective about him because of what happened to you and ... or rather what we thought had happened to you."

"That's ... understandable," he said and returned his attention to the photo in its frame.

"He's a brat."

They both looked over at John, who had just stepped through from the kitchen. "No, he's not," Mary disagreed. "Not anymore, anyway," she amended.

John sighed lightly. "Dinner's ready. I hope you like steak," he said and nodded toward the kitchen.

He nodded once in reply to the food-related question, then frowned lightly, which pulled at the healing gash on his brow. "What do you mean, he's a brat?" Dean asked. It would seem that the relationship between his father and his brother wasn't any better here than it had been in his reality, which was really sad.

"We spoiled him and it turned him into a brat. He's a brilliant kid, though," John said and followed them into the kitchen.

"He's different now," Mary said and waved at the chairs around the kitchen table. "Sit," she added.

Dean sat down and marveled at the meal set out on the table. It again dredged up a flash-memory of before the fire, of sitting at this table, eating dinner with his parents, listening to them banter. 'Not the same people', he reminded himself and looked up to meet Mary's eyes across the table. "Why is he different now?"

She glanced at John, who sighed. "He had an accident a while ago. He was out joyriding with some of his buddies and they crashed the car into a tree," he said and just stared down at his plate for a moment, then looked up to meet Dean's gaze. There were equal parts disappointment, sadness and something else in his eyes that Dean couldn't really decipher. "Everybody died but Sam. He was in the hospital for a month with severe head trauma. It messed him up real good, but he came out a better person at the end of it."

Mary shook her head. "I grant you that he was a spoiled brat before that. He didn't seem to care about anything or anybody. But after the accident ..." She trailed off with a light shrug. "Well, he lost his memory. Clean slate. He could start over and he's picked it all up very quickly. Two months after the accident, he was back on his feet and went back to school. One of his other friends there helped him out, reintroduced him to everything, and since then it's been smooth sailing."

"Yeah, there's nothing like a near-death experience to shake you up enough to get you back on track," John agreed a little gruffly.

Mary disapproved of his choice of words, but didn't call him on it. "It was a horrible accident. We both felt sorry for the parents of the other boys, but ... we also felt blessed that Sam made it. If we had lost him too ..." Mary stopped, drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment. "I can't even begin to imagine," she confessed.

"But he's fine now?" Dean asked, unable to hide his concern at this point.

His parents eyed him for a second, then glanced at each other, and he wondered what that reaction was all about. "Yes, he is," Mary agreed. "Oh, and he's coming home. I called him, told him about this. He'll be here the day after tomorrow. With his grades this good now, he can take a little time off now and then."

"There's just one thing you need to know about your brother," John said. Mary gave him a disapproving glance again, which he obviously chose to ignore again.

"What's that?" Dean asked.

"He's ... not as open as he used to be. It may take him a day or two to get used to you," John said. "He can be a bit rude. The doctors say that it's a side-effect of the accident and he can't help it."

Oh great. Not only would he have to deal with a Sam who didn't know him, he would have to put up with rudeness as well? He made sure that none of this showed in his expression and nodded. "Okay, I'll keep that in mind," he said and looked from one to the other and back again. "Any other siblings?"

John smirked. "No, we had plenty to keep our days full with Sam. Never a dull moment with that boy," he said and there was a certain amount of pride in his voice now. "He was just about the most curious kid I've ever met. Talk about yacking an ear off. No explanation we could offer was ever good enough."

Okay, so some things were the same. Dean wondered when this Sam had gone bad and turned into a rotten apple, though.

"So, what about you?" John continued and eyed him a bit sharply.

Dean almost grimaced, but quickly covered the urge by digging into the steak. "Elroy didn't have much money. I couldn't go to college. So I just ... worked with him," he said.

"And what exactly did he do for a living?" John pushed.

"Traveling salesman," Dean said, aware that he would probably have to elaborate on that.

"What'd he sell?" John asked, proving him right.

"I don't know. All sorts of stuff. Vacuum cleaners, cutlery, gadgets. I just mostly traveled around with him. We took turns driving and he took care of business," Dean said. "Sometimes he went off on his own and left me at a motel somewhere." Even though most of what he said wasn't exactly a lie, he still couldn't face them. He just figured they saw it as embarrassment over this life he'd led and that was fine with him. He just didn't want to see the disappointment or pity they might display, but he couldn't convince himself to decorate this tale and make it sound like he'd had a carefree life. Besides, he'd already set the stage for a drama and changing it now would arouse suspicion.

"So, you sold stuff too?" John continued, his tone even.

"John," Mary said quietly.

"What? I wanna know what kind of life he had," John countered defensively.

Dean glanced up at his mother, then shifted his attention to his father. "No, I didn't. I just ... tagged along," he said in reply to John's question.

"Were you going to learn the same trade? I mean, you're twenty-eight now. You can't make a living of hustling pool. Did you learn anything?" John pushed on.

Mary sighed lightly and pursed her lips in a disapproving way.

"I'm pretty good with cars," Dean said, hoping to somehow stop what he saw as an impending explosion from his father.

John stared at him for a second, then arched an eyebrow. "You are?" he asked and Dean nodded. "How good?"

"I rebuilt a car from scratch," he said and met John's eyes. Some small part of him was hoping to read recognition there, but of course it wouldn't be there. Hell, it wouldn't have been there in 'his' dad. He had rebuilt the Impala after John had died. "It was totaled. I put a few weeks into it and got it up and running again."

"Huh," John muttered, then glanced at Mary. "Well, then maybe you can come to work with me. We can see how good you are and ..."

"He owns half a garage," Mary inserted.

"I already told him that," John said, his tone a little gruff again.

Mary frowned at him and he obviously became aware of his tone and gave her a sheepish smile in return. "How was I supposed to know that you've told him that?" she asked a little sharply.

"I didn't ..." John stopped, then shook his head. "You couldn't," he finally agreed. "Anyway," he plowed on, shifting his attention back to Dean. "If you're up for it, you can help me with the cars and we can see how good you are."

Now there was a thought that really thrilled him to the core of his being; working on cars side by side with dad. "I'd love to," he said, hard pressed to not grin like an idiot.

That changed John's attitude instantly. He went from being borderline aggressive and slightly suspicious to smirking. "Well, great. That's settled then," he said. "Eat. You've barely touched your food."

Dean glanced down at his plate and couldn't help a subdued smile. He figured if he had really been abducted as a baby and had spent his life on the road with a traveling salesman pretending to be his father, he should probably have been more reluctant and apprehensive about them, but he just couldn't muster the strength to keep his distance and keep up that charade. He was home and it felt damned good.

***

The next day was just about the best Dean could remember. The nagging guilt that he was here enjoying life while 'his' Sam was out there somewhere, probably in dire need of help, put a bit of a cramp in his happiness, but he couldn't stop himself from enjoying it. He didn't leave the house the whole day, just hung around his mother and got to know her better. And she certainly didn't seem to mind his presence.

John came home around dinner time. "Alistair is driving me nuts," he proclaimed when he stepped through the door. "That man has his head so far up his ..."

"John!" Mary warned, then smirked at him. "What'd he do now?" she then asked.

He brushed the fingers of his right hand through his hair and sighed deeply. "He's insisting on hiring that no-good slacker of a nephew of his. That kid couldn't put a bolt and a nut together and get anything useful out of it. How the hell is he going to help us with the damned cars?"

"Alistair is going to see the error of his ways the moment his nephew bodges up a job. Besides, if you want to hire Dean, you can't very well tell Alistair he can't hire his nephew, now can you?" Mary countered with a knowing smile on her lips.

John grinned at her, then kissed her brow. "I knew I married you for a reason," he said, which made her snort.

"Go get cleaned up. You smell like a gas station," she said, then arched an eyebrow at Dean behind his back.

"I saw that," John said and disappeared upstairs.

"If it's going to be a problem ..." Dean started, but Mary held up a hand.

"It is not going to be a problem," she said. "You would not believe how often I've heard that as the first sentence when he steps through the door. 'Alistair is driving me nuts' is his mantra," she added with a forgiving smile.

A bit later, John came back down. "So, what have you been doing today?" he asked, glanced from Mary to Dean and back again. "And, by the way, Sam called. He'll be here tomorrow morning instead of tomorrow evening. Guess the kid's eager to meet his brother."

"So, he's not driving then?" Mary asked.

"Nope. I promised to pick him up at the airport," John said.

"He has his own car?" Dean asked.

"No, he doesn't. He says he doesn't want one after the accident," John said. "He usually flies."

"So you won't be going to work tomorrow then?" Mary asked while eying him thoughtfully.

John smirked. "No, I won't. He's coming in early and asked if I could pick him up. As I said, he's a brat. He has no regard for letting his old man get some decent sleep," he said.

Mary rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Yeah, like you're not jumping at the chance of some alone time with him," she chastised and winked at Dean. "Put these two in a room together and nobody else gets a word in edgewise. I know where Sam gets his need to talk from."

It would seem that Dean's initial opinion of John's and Sam's relationship was wrong. They obviously hadn't gotten along that well before the accident, but that seemed to have changed and that at least was something to look forward to. "I've been known to talk a lot as well," he said quietly.

Mary arched both brows. "Oh great," she said and chuckled. "Now I have three of you in the house? I'll never be able to get a word in edgewise again." With a shake of the head, she headed into the kitchen, muttering under her breath.

Dean watched her go and couldn't help loving the snark.

"Don't mind her. She gets that way sometimes," John said with a smirk. He said it loud enough for Mary to hear him.

"Shut up," came the instant reply. "Keep that up, mister, and you're going to bed hungry."

"Another thing you have to be careful about. She'll cut you off from food like nobody's business if you tick her off," John added and winked at Dean. "You're a horrible woman. I have no idea why I married you. My mother kept commenting on that as well," he added loudly.

Mary turned up in the doorway to the kitchen again, her hands on her hips, her expression classic Sam. "Just for your information, buster, your mother adored me," she said, her tone dripping with sarcasm. Then she focused on Dean. "Don't worry about us. It's nothing serious."

Obviously something about his expression had prompted her to explain and he gave her a smile. "I kinda caught the sarcasm there," he said.

"Ah good. You'll fit right in," she countered, gave John a warning look and returned to the kitchen.

John merely chuckled. "I love her to bits," he said. "So, you rebuilt a car from scratch? What kind of a car was that?"

Dean blinked, a little surprised. "Uh ... a 1967 Chevy Impala," Dean said and followed John into the livingroom where they both settled down. "You have one of those too, don't you?"

John frowned briefly. "Oh, you mean the photo upstairs?" he asked and Dean nodded. "Nah, that's a 1972 Impala. And I sold her a few years ago. The truck is more useful."

Damn. That was not what he had wanted to hear. But then again, it hadn't been 'the' Impala. "I guess," he agreed with a light shrug.

"How come you don't have that car any more?" John asked.

Dean considered that little slipup for a moment, then shrugged again. "I didn't make enough money for gas and Elroy didn't think I needed a car, so he sold it," he said and grimaced at the lie.

John obviously saw that grimace for something other than the discomfort at lying. "Was he tough on you?" he asked.

Dean shrugged and fidgeted a little, not sure how far he should take this. "He kept me in line," he said, which wasn't a lie per se. "We spent a lot of time together, but ... he was always very ... sad, I guess. And that made him distant. He didn't really have room for me."

"He didn't beat you, did he?" John pressed on quietly.

Dean met his eyes and just sat there for a moment. Then he shook his head lightly. "No, he didn't. He cared about me in his own odd way. He just wasn't a very affectionate man," he said. "It makes me wonder why he ..." It was difficult to question why this imaginary man had done what he had done when it wasn't real.

"I'm guessing the guy must have been desperate. If his own son died and his wife was dead too, maybe he couldn't face being alone and just grabbed you instead," John said. He was trying to be reasonable, but it was obvious that he was ticked off about the situation. "It's good that he's not around any more though. I would have taken him apart if he were."

Dean almost smirked at that, but quickly got that urge under control. He wasn't supposed to think it was funny, that much he knew. "He did the best he could with what he had. He was a good father."

"Doesn't sound like it to me," John said, then shook his head. "Never mind. Let's go get some dinner and then I'm off to bed. I gotta get up before the crack of dawn to pick up that brat of a brother you've got," he added and rose.

At that Dean did smirk and rose too. He was a bit nervous about the impending encounter. It would be hard work keeping up the charade and not letting his guard down. From the graduation photo, Dean knew that 'this' Sam looked just like 'his' Sam and it would make it that much more difficult for him to tell them apart.

***

The following morning

Dean had woken up when John had left the house and had decided to get up right there and then. To his immediate surprise, his mother wasn't up yet and that meant he had some time to himself before he had to face the Sam of this reality. The first thing he did was take the pills he had been told to take. There was no way he was going to let his parents down on this one.

To pass the time, he went in search of something that might help him in his quest to both find a way back to where he had been and to find 'his' Sam. He wasn't expecting much when he browsed through the books in the livingroom and he didn't find anything on the supernatural, which meant he would have to hit the library at some point. He hadn't seen a computer around anywhere and he began to realize how much he had come to rely on that damned gadget over the years that Sam had lugged it around with him.

With little else to do, he trailed through the ground floor of the house, familiarizing himself with the layout yet again, then went down into the basement to look around. It was cluttered with stuff, old furniture, boxes of clothes, old paintings and other things that made up the life his parents had shared so far. John had a workbench down here as well, all organized and tidy, but there was no indication anywhere that anything supernatural had happened here.

After a while, he heard the floor give upstairs and figured his mother was up now, but he remained in the basement for a bit longer because he had found a box of photos. Most of them were of his mother holding a baby and a quick glance at the back told him those photos were of him. Or rather the alternate him. He settled down on a box and went through those photos. There were a few that had been taken at a hospital, but it looked more like it had been right after his birth rather than prior to his death.

He made a face at that thought. It was odd, thinking of himself as dead.

The sudden sound of the front door upstairs closing made him look up. The floor above creaked again and it was clear to him that dad had returned. Suddenly anxious, he drew in deep breath, put the photos back in their box and headed up the stairs. It was time to face this reality's Sam.

"It's so good to have you home," Mary said, hugging Sam tightly. "How are you?" she asked and leaned back a little.

"I'm fine, mom," he said with a warm smile. "A little tired. I don't know what I was thinking, flying that early."

Dean had stopped just outside the basement door and stood there and watched them. It was a definite disadvantage that this reality's Sam looked just like 'his' Sam.

"Not to mention dragging your old man out of bed before the crack of dawn because you're too cheap to take a cab," John inserted and clapped a hand onto Sam's shoulder, which drew an almost ecstatic smile from Sam.

"I don't remember twisting your arm, old man," he countered, his tone sarcastic.

"Who are you calling old, punk?" John shot back, squeezed Sam's shoulder and then suddenly realized Dean was present.

Mary glanced back at him and smiled warmly. "Come meet your brother," she said and held a hand out to him.

All Dean had eyes for at that moment was Sam. And it twisted his heart when Sam's otherwise warm expression cooled down instantly when he laid eyes on Dean. The smile vanished and the look in his eyes became cautious, appraising and suspicious.

"Sam, that's Dean," John said.

Sam stared at him and Dean stared back and after a moment the silence between them just became too awkward. "Hi Sam," Dean finally said. "Good to ... meet you."

All Sam did was stare at him. He said nothing and his expression remained cool and appraising.

Mary glanced at John, who shrugged lightly. "Well, there's plenty of time to get to know each other. He's taken a week off from school," John finally said.

"I'm glad to have you home, Sam," Mary said, attempting to sound cheerful.

But the atmosphere was laden with something that bordered on hostility and Dean could honestly admit that he didn't blame Sam. The kid had been an only child his entire life and now he would have to share his parents with a virtual stranger? He didn't know what to say, so decided to keep his trap shut rather than stepping in it and alienating Sam from the get-go.

Sam's attention shifted back to his mother and the smile returned, albeit a little reluctantly. "It's good to be here," he said. "I'll just take my stuff upstairs." With another brief look in Dean's direction, he grabbed his bags and disappeared upstairs.

Dean sighed lightly. He hadn't expected a warm welcome, but he had at least hoped that Sam would make an effort, which he didn't seem willing to do.

John glanced up the stairs, then waved him closer. "I warned you. He's going to be that way for a few days. But he'll come around," he said. "Just keep talking to him. The worst you can get out of it is a 'shut up'. But that will be progress."

Dean nodded. "I didn't exactly expect him to be ecstatic about this," he confessed.

"Enough of this glumness," Mary said. "Let's have some breakfast."

***