Sam felt like hugging the life out of his brother. He had no words for how thrilled he was at having his suspicions come true. Ever since mom had called him and told him that Dean had turned up out of nowhere, he had desperately hoped that it was 'his' brother, the one from the other reality, the one he had grown up with, and not some emotionally damaged stranger he would have to get to know from scratch.

He knew his behavior had been off-putting ever since he had arrived, but he had been scared stiff that opening up to Dean would prove to be the wrong thing to do. Even though behavior-wise Dean had more or less acted like himself, that didn't necessarily mean that he was who Sam hoped he was. It was only when Dean had pulled that damned necklace out from inside his t-shirt that Sam had dared open up to the hope. The fact that Dean had used the name McGillicuddy should probably have been the first tip-off, but Sam did believe in coincidence and that could have been one.

"Okay, enough, dude! You're crushing me," Dean growled and pushed back, his tone husky.

Sam let go reluctantly and knew Dean would probably bust his chops for being teary-eyed. He almost chuckled when he realized that Dean was just as close to tears as he was. "No chick-flick moments?" he asked, still craving some verification.

"You know it, man," Dean agreed, sniffed and scrubbed a hand over his face. Then he sighed, took a step back and eyed Sam closely for a moment before he punched him hard on the shoulder. "You bastard! Do you have any frigging idea of how worried I was?" he snapped.

Sam rubbed his shoulder, a little surprised by that reaction. "It wasn't really my fault, man," he countered.

"I know," Dean said and cooled down again instantly. "This damned alcohol withdrawal crap is making me unstable," he said and held up a hand, which was shivering lightly.

"You're really an alcoholic?" Sam asked, worried now. "Dean ..."

"Don't go there, okay? I don't wanna hear it. I'm a pathetic excuse for a human being. I can't exist without my brother without hitting rock bottom," he said and chuckled joylessly. "Only reason I didn't off myself was because I thought you might still be out there somewhere."

"Don't talk like that, man," Sam chastised, a little rattled by Dean's words. "It hasn't exactly been a breeze here too."

"No?" Dean asked and eyed him with obvious surprise. "You've had mom and dad for a year, man. You're back at Stanford. Doesn't seem like you've had it that hard."

Even though those words should have hurt, Sam couldn't get mad at Dean right now. But he did feel the need to defend himself. "Do you have any idea how draining it is to pretend this is where I should be? I can't let my guard down for even a second when I'm around others. And mom and dad? That's the worst. Dad's nothing like he was in our reality. This guy's jolly. I mean, talk about an antithesis. It was driving me nuts in the beginning. I kept expecting him to yell at me, to tell me to shape up. All he did was this whole worry-act, kept asking me why I did it, if I was suicidal, crap like that. I had to fake the amnesia. I had no idea what the hell was going on at first."

Dean raked all ten fingers through his hair. "Man, this is so surreal it bites," he growled.

"I know. I tried to find a way back, Dean. I've been researching it every spare minute I've had," Sam said.

Dean returned to the couch and dropped down on it and Sam followed him and sat down next to him.

"That's one piss-poor job you've done of that then," Dean muttered, then glanced at him. To Sam's immediate surprise, Dean was still fighting the tears. "I thought all kinds of things, man. I ... searched for you everywhere. Bobby was on the case from the get-go. But nothing. I even went back to ... well, here, to talk to Missouri. She had nothing on you. She didn't think you were dead, so I kept looking. And I kept hunting. But ... dammit ... I wanted to quit so bad. I just didn't see the point in it any more." He drew in a deep breath and held it, then slumped back on the couch and exhaled in a sigh. "Then I wake up here and mom's here and dad's here and I ... couldn't bring up the frigging courage to ask about you. But then mom told me about you, about the accident, and I didn't know what to think. What the hell happened, man?"

Sam sighed in return and shook his head lightly, propped his elbows on his knees and folded his hands. "I don't know," he admitted. "It must have been the demon's doing. One minute we're at that park and that storm's really kicking in and then suddenly everything's still and then this car comes racing out of nowhere. It clipped me, threw me off my feet, before it hit a tree head-on. Four of them got thrown out, the fifth ..." He shook his head again and grimaced. "He hit the steering wheel with enough force that I heard his rib cage crack. He must have been dead on impact. And then everything blew up. The gas tank was leaking like crazy and some of the electrical system sparked. I got knocked out by some sort of debris when it blew and I guess the ... driver got thrown clear, which would account for why they didn't know who was driving, but he still burned to a crisp. He must have had only alcohol in his veins."

Dean was watching him, a frown furrowing his brow. "You saw him?" he asked.

Sam nodded and glanced at him. "He was me," he said and grimaced. "This reality's me," he added. "I woke up in the hospital and dad was sitting there, holding my damned hand. I thought I'd died. I thought ..." He paused and took a deep breath. "I didn't know what to make of it all, so I pretended to have amnesia. And then mom turned up. And I was half expecting you to be there too."

"Son of a bitch," Dean whispered. "How the hell did you ... I mean ..."

"It was tough at first. I had to watch my step, kept my distance from dad, got to know mom a little better. I stayed here, with them, for about three months. At first I couldn't leave the house at all. Dad kept insisting I should do a detox-program and the doc kept telling him that my alcohol level was non-existent, that he assumed I hadn't even been drunk during the accident. Which I of course hadn't been. But there's no doubt the other me was wasted. And he was driving the car. He got four of his friends killed."

"Holy crap," Dean muttered. "So ... you say you researched how to get back? You must have found something. What'd you find?"

Sam made a face. "That's just it, Dean. I found nothing. Absolutely nothing. The supernatural aspect doesn't exist in this reality," he said. "There are no books on it, there are no psychics out there. I've checked everything up and down, backwards and forwards and there's nothing out there. Anything concerning the supernatural is fairytales and make-believe. It's not real here."

Dean stared at him, full of disbelief. "You're shitting me, right?" he asked.

"No. I thought about looking up Bobby in this reality, but I figured since dad's not a hunter, why should he be? I did find him. He has a salvage yard here too. But ... I didn't call. I wouldn't have known how to tell him what I wanted without sounding like a complete nutcase," Sam said and scratched the back of his head.

"Bobby moved heaven and earth to find you, man. I contacted Ellen, Missouri, everyone I could think of and nothing. You had just vanished off the face of the Earth. It was creepy like hell," Dean countered. "And then a week ago Bobby and I go up against this demon that likes to collapse buildings on top of people. And it did. And the next thing I know, I wake up in this place and this cop found out who I was ..." He trailed off and turned a little to face Sam better. "DNA-profiles. They're a newer thing, aren't they?"

"In our reality, yeah. Here, not so much. Cops have been using them for the past fifty years. Doesn't surprise me that they managed to find out who you are. And you don't have a record here, considering that this reality's you died at the age of six months." Sam slumped against the back of the couch with a sigh. "When I realized that I wouldn't be able to get back on my own ... I nearly lost it, man," he admitted. "I was scared stiff of what was happening to you, but I couldn't find a way back. I tried."

Dean just sat there and looked at him for a moment, then he smiled vaguely. "No demons?" he asked and Sam shook his head. "Nothing supernatural out there?"

"Nope," Sam agreed. "It's like Heaven."

Dean glanced up at the ceiling. "Maybe that's it," he tried.

Sam shook his head lightly. "Don't think so. There are still wars out there. People are still dying. Everything is just ... less. And ... the weird thing about this reality is ... no religion."

Dean frowned and focused on him again. "What?" he asked, stunned.

"Religion doesn't exist here any more. Think about it. On the drive here from the hospital, did you see any churches?" Sam asked, watching Dean's reaction closely.

Dean considered it for a moment. "I don't know. I wasn't really paying attention," he said.

"Well, there are none. I asked Greg – that's my roommate at Stanford – and he looked at me like I was some kind of freak, said everybody knew that religion had been abolished about a hundred years go. Worldwide. Fortunately, he attributed my question to my head injury. The wars out there ... none of them are religion-based. It's disputes over territory and crap like that. No suicide bombers flying into anything in the name of their god."

Dean blinked, then arched both brows. "Huh," he muttered. "Well, I'll be damned."

"I could use some coffee," Sam said after a moment.

"Yeah, me too," Dean agreed and smirked. "Since beer's out of the question, I guess we'll have to stick with coffee."

"Yeah. But that's okay. I don't mind," Sam said.

"I wouldn't have thought you would, dude," Dean countered.

They both got up and relocated to the kitchen. Dean dropped down on a chair by the kitchen table. "Grab me those ... detox-pills, will ya?" he asked and nodded toward the array of pill bottles Mary had set out on the kitchen counter.

Sam grabbed one of them, eyed the label, then threw it to Dean, who caught it and shook out two tablets. "How long are you going to stay on these?" he asked.

"As long as it takes to get this crap out of my system. Funny thing is, I don't even want a drink. I get the jitters, get sick and dizzy, but I don't wanna drink," he said and dry-swallowed the pills.

"Well, then you're on the right path, aren't you?" Sam asked and smirked.

"Sam, we gotta figure out what to do here. I mean ... I was all gung-ho on finding a way to get back to our reality because I thought you were stuck there somewhere, but now ..." He paused, rested his arms on the table top and just stared down at the wooden surface.

"What about Bobby? I mean ... I'd be all for staying here if it wasn't for Bobby," Sam said and sat down while the coffee machine sputtered away in the background. Dean's reluctance to look up and his silence made Sam a little nervous. "Dean?" he asked. "What is it?"

Dean shook his head lightly, then glanced up at him. "I'm pretty sure he's dead," he said quietly, then cleared his throat. "He was with me when the roof of that damned warehouse collapsed. It buried him. There's no way in hell that he could have survived that."

Sam chomped down on his lower lip. The joy over finding his brother again was a little dimmed by this bit of news. "Aw man," he muttered.

"Yeah," Dean agreed and sighed. "It sucks out loud."

Sam nodded and thought about what that meant for awhile. "Are you sure? I mean ... there's no way he could have gotten out of it in one piece?"

Dean shook his head. "Nope, not a chance, man. The pile that buried him would have squashed a damned elephant flat. I think the world of Bobby, man, but unless he's immortal and invulnerable, there's no way he could have survived that."

Sam sighed. "Damn," he muttered. "So ... there's really nothing for us to go back to except more hunting?"

"That's right. And without Bobby it's gonna be damned difficult," Dean agreed and looked up to meet Sam's eyes. "And ... truth be told, man ... I don't wanna go back."

Sam just sat there for a moment and stared back at him. Then he got up to grab the coffee pot and two mugs before sitting down again. He poured them both a cup of coffee, then pushed one mug across to Dean.

"Say something, Sam," Dean pushed. "What do you think? I mean ... hell ... haven't we given enough? Besides ... leaving here wouldn't be fair to mom and dad. If we both leave, they have nothing left. Then they're gonna have to face the fact that both their kids are dead. That's not really a legacy I wanna leave them with."

"I don't know, Dean. I mean ... in the books these kinds of decisions always have consequences. Like ... what about the people we know in our reality? Ellen? Jo? Missouri even? Are we just gonna leave them to their own devices?" Sam asked. Truth be told, he wanted to stay too. There was that one little titbit of information he hadn't shared with Dean yet, but he couldn't really justify staying. Not yet.

"Sam, we can't save everybody. And ... we're not the only hunters there. There are others fighting the good fight. Are you gonna sit there and tell me that us leaving will somehow bring about the end of the world?" Dean countered and smiled a little uncertainly. "I mean ... I know there's this big thing hanging over your head there, but ... think about it, man ... you'd be free of that here. You can finish school, get a good job, marry some ..." He trailed off, his eyes widening a bit. "Maybe Jess is alive in this reality, huh? Maybe you could find her and hook up with her here?"

Sam made a face. "She is," he said and met Dean's eyes. "And I have."

His words surprised Dean. "And you wanna leave that?" he asked.

Sam wrapped both hands around his mug and stared down into the coffee for a second, then half shrugged. "Not really," he admitted and looked up. "I just ..."

"Just nothing, Sam. We've given up enough, man. We've been through enough crap in our lives. Maybe this is payback. Maybe this is what we get for having paid our dues in blood, sweat and tears," Dean said and he sounded a tad agitated. "We get a second chance at a life that was taken away from us. Dude ... this 'feels' right to me. It 'feels' like home." He made a sweeping gesture with one hand. "I want this, Sam. More than anything else I've ever wanted in my damned life. If there's nothing supernatural out there ... and mom and dad are around ... I don't need to ..." He stopped, let his hand drop.

"You don't need to look out for me any more," Sam completed the sentence for him and nodded in understanding. "No, you don't. Not here, anyway. And you don't need to worry about what dad said before he died, because ... that crap doesn't work here. I haven't had a single vision since I got here, Dean. Not one. And Greg has been filling me in. And mom and dad have told me just about everything the other me has been through before he ... died. And they're happy that 'I' turned things around. I'm acing school. And dad's making good money on the garage. The only thing they were missing was you. And now you're here ..." He smiled. "I think you're right. I think we should stay."

***

Liberty Hall
Lawrence, Kansas

John slipped an arm around Mary's shoulders when they stopped at the curb outside the theater and he briefly glanced up at the evening sky. "Well, that was a good movie," he said.

Mary glanced up at him. "Are you kidding me?" she asked. "We just walked out and it isn't even halfway done."

He grimaced lightly. "Okay, so it wasn't good," he said.

"It was good. But you weren't paying attention," she said and slipped an arm around his back. "So, what's on your mind? Are you worried about what's going on back at the house?"

He kissed her brow, then guided her across the street to the car. "Quite frankly, I'm a little worried there might not be a house to come back to," he admitted and gave her a sheepish grin.

"I really don't think they're going to get that rowdy," Mary said and opened the passenger side door. "They're both grown up and ... well ... Dean seems pretty responsible."

"I'm not worried about Dean. He's on board with everything we suggest, so you're probably right about him. But Sam ... that's a different issue," John countered and stopped at the driver side door and looked at her over the top of the car.

"He's been a model of decorum and tranquility ever since the accident, John. You are going to have to cut him some slack. His grades have jumped through the roof and we haven't had a single complaint from the faculty since. He has really turned his life around. Can't you just acknowledge that for what it is?" she asked.

He knew she was getting tired of his suspicious nature where Sam was concerned, but he had a hard time letting go of the image his youngest son had burnt into his mind for the past twenty-two years. "All it takes is one little thing to push him back over the edge, Mary. You know what the doctors said. If his memory suddenly snaps back, he could be back to being the way he was before." He braced one hand against the roof of the car. "I know this isn't a nice thing to say, but I hope he doesn't regain his memory. I hope he remains the way he is now, paranoia and all."

She sighed lightly. "Well, I think you're going to get your wish. It's been a year now and he hasn't regained his memory. He swears he's not drinking any more and I haven't seen him smoke even once. He was wasting his intelligence and now he's making up for it big time. You two get along great when he's home and he calls us every week. When did he do that before?"

"I know," John said. They both got in the car and John slid the key into the ignition, then just sat there for a moment. "Maybe Dean will have a beneficial influence on him." He then glanced over at her. "Do you think he needs therapy?"

Mary frowned lightly. "Who, Dean?" she asked and he nodded. "No, I don't think so. He seems pretty balanced. The only thing is, of course, that he doesn't seem to have a dime to his name. What are we going to do about that? At some point, he'll probably want his own place."

John smirked lightly. "I've got that covered," he said. "Stan owns a building in town. From what I know, it's a nice place. I'm sure we can work something out with him."

"Stan, as in our banker Stan?" Mary asked.

"The same," John agreed and turned the key in the ignition. "Dean can work with me until he finds out what he wants to do. It's not a big deal. He'll be making enough money in no time and after that ... well, we'll see."

That pulled a smile from her. "You've got all the bases covered, don't you?" she asked.

"You know me. I don't like loose ends," he countered. "Let's get home. I'm not gonna be happy until I see the house is still standing."

"Worrywart," she chastised him, still smiling.

By the time they reached their road, John had to admit to himself that he was more than worried. Sam's behavior since coming home had been too close to his old self to make him feel at ease. When they pulled up in front of the house, they both just sat there for a minute and looked in at it.

"Looks quiet," Mary said. "Maybe they've gone to bed," she added and glanced at her watch.

"Just because it looks quiet doesn't mean it's not a battlefield in there," John said, shut off the engine and got out of the car.

Mary followed suit and together they walked up the path to the front door.

John opened the door, feeling all kinds of apprehensive, and was honestly surprised to see the hall still in pristine condition. A quick glance into the livingroom and then den gave him the same impression. And there was no sign of the boys anywhere. He frowned while helping Mary out of her coat. "Where are they?" he asked.

Mary smirked. "Kitchen," she said and nodded toward the only lights that were on in the house. She took the lead and stopped in the doorway into the kitchen.

John stopped behind her and eyed the scene unfolding in front of them with nothing short of surprise.

The boys hadn't noticed them. Sam was slumped in his chair, his back to the door, and he chuckled softly at something Dean had just said. Dean had his hands wrapped around a coffee mug and was slowly turning it, his eyes on the beverage, a grin on his lips.

"Well, I'll be damned," John exclaimed, unable to keep his surprise to himself.

They both looked up and the fact alone that they seemed so at ease in each others company was completely baffling.

"Well, I'm glad you two got to talk," Mary said. "Looks like you're getting along."

As usual, his lovely wife took everything in stride, and John once again wondered if anything in this world could rattle her too much.

Dean smirked. "I just told him some jokes. It's an icebreaker every time," he said, his tone sarcastic.

Sam snorted and shook his head. "He's a real comedian, this one," he said and grinned at Dean.

Mary stepped up behind Sam and grabbed his shoulders, then leaned in to press a kiss onto his temple. "Your father was convinced you would tear the house down," she said. "Which is why we're back early."

John smiled a little ruefully and stepped into the kitchen. "You got any coffee left?" he asked.

"Plenty," Dean said, got up and got him a mug. "Mom?" he asked and she nodded.

John watched them for a moment, more than a little confused about this development. With Sam's attitude earlier, he would have expected a maybe gradual thawing, maybe nothing at all. This, however, was baffling on the best of days. He accepted the mug Dean handed him and settled down at the table. Mary sat down too. "Well, I guess miracles do happen, huh?" he asked and looked from Sam to Dean and back again.

"Well, if you can't beat'em, join'em, right?" Sam asked and met Dean's gaze. They eyed each other for a moment and John had the distinct impression that they were communicating wordlessly. He almost chuckled at the idea and shrugged it off. Maybe this was just some sort of truce they had come up with to placate their parents. Time would tell if these two would continue to get along this well.

***