Title: Across the Universe
Genre: AU/AR - canon, angst, H/C, pre-slash.
Characters, Pairing(s): Sam/Cas, Dean, Lisa, YED.
Word Count: 2451
Warnings: some violence, probable spoilers.
A/N: I'd like to thank my betas - rock_chick_333, nicole_sill, verucasalt123 & kimberlelly.
Summary: It took five alternate universes for Sam to find a Castiel to keep.
I. Everything is Broken
Sam knows what the world should look like – at least in comparison to where he’s from - but that’s not how he finds it here. There’s a dark cloud of sadness lingering over the cities, something akin to global depression hanging over every single person. It’s…terrible. There’s no other word for it but that.
It never got this bad in Sam’s world’s version of events.
The world isn’t doing so well, and, when Sam finds Dean in the Impala, holding his head, Dean doesn’t look too good either. Lisa rushes out, and Sam realizes this is the promise that Dean said he’d keep – to live with Lisa and have a normal life. That would mean Sam is still in Hell here, for now. Or maybe he never got out…
Bobby is nowhere that Sam can detect – a perk of using this weird, realm-travelling pendant – and Castiel seems to be missing also. But that could just mean Castiel is in Heaven, dealing with the mess up there.
When Dean steps out of the Impala, coming into the light of the street lamps, Sam’s next breath chokes him as it leaves his lungs. The scars – no doubt due to the damage Sam inflicted while Lucifer was wearing his skin – are still there, vile, and just as gruesome as they were when Sam saw them in that brief moment before he jumped into The Pit.
If Dean isn’t healed and Bobby’s nowhere around, then Castiel isn’t just gone, he was never brought back by God. Maybe in this world Castiel was considered a traitor. Maybe he was ignored by his Father. Not that any of that changes the outcome.
That would explain Dean keeping his word.
Dean’s family is gone, every single one of them, and Dean has no choice, really, but to hold on to that final promise. No-one is left for Dean but Lisa.
Lisa wraps her arms around Dean, and he smiles. The cuts and bruises look worse, deeper somehow. She squeezes him to her, and Dean lets her in – just like he would with the closest members of his family. But Dean wouldn’t be like that with her, so Sam knows Dean’s not himself. Not in the least.
Sam leaves for another parallel universe, feeling dread down to his bones.
II. Nowhere to Go But Down
Dean is dead.
The yellow-eyed demon is hissing that into the shell of the other Sam’s ear. Sam, our hero in search of solace, of course arrives just in time to see this Sam falling apart, crying, shaking with the news. The demon grins, laughs above him.
Sam doesn’t know why he stays any longer. Castiel is obviously nowhere if Dean never even met Lilith or Bela. Dean hadn’t even survived past Jessica burning up on Sam’s ceiling. And this Sam – without Dean – wouldn’t believe in angels, therefore could not call for Castiel’s help in this situation. Heaven wouldn’t want to help the boy with the demon blood, the wretched Winchester, anyway.
Maybe Sam has a sick, demented interest – he’s always suspected he isn’t normal – in a world that’s not his own. One that would never be his own.
He stays a bit longer. Long enough that the Sam of this place regains his composure, stands up as tall as he can manage, looks Azazel straight in the eye and says: “What do I have to do for you to bring Dean back?”
Sam can’t stay after that, not while he sees Azazel cutting into the flesh of his forearm, letting it drip out of him so the other Sam can drink from him. That’s not something Sam wants to witness from the outside. Being in it – craving and needing, and draining demons – was bad enough already.
Leaving this world is easy for Sam; he knows nothing good can come from a deal with a powerful demon like Azazel. He squeezes the necklace once in his palm, without taking off his neck, and it brings him elsewhere.
III. Envy at Its Peak
Everything seems pretty…normal. Decent, even.
The Sam from this world must be out at the library or getting food, because Castiel and Dean are in the motel room alone, but there are still two bags of clothes around. That’s a good sign. At least they’re all alive in this universe.
Castiel looks around the room, then towards Dean. Sam wonders if Castiel even ever sees other people besides Dean, whether they’re alone or not. So, when Castiel asks if they’re by themselves, Sam can’t help but think it’s kind of pointless.
Dean’s lip twitches and Sam’s seen that, but he can’t place it; he can’t understand it in this context. Dean replies with a low, dragged-out ‘yes’, and Castiel stalks across the room, right up in Dean’s space, leaning in – just that inch closer that he’s never passed – to kiss Dean.
And this – unlike the scars on Dean’s face, Castiel exploding, Sam drinking demon blood straight out of Azazel’s wrist – Sam cannot sit here, sit through this, and watch them.
Sam thinks at first that it’s because it’s a private moment, or because seeing his big brother getting it on with an angel is blasphemous. Or maybe even the fact that it is Dean - the one who basically raised Sam - and it’s leaning slowly toward being incestuous and voyeuristic. But it’s none of those things.
All Sam sees is Castiel’s delicate hands, his slightly chapped lips moving, the emotion he puts into this – that he puts into nothing else – and it hurts.
It hurts Sam because he wants this, so badly, and he never knew. It hurts because Castiel and Dean just fit so well together. And Sam never has with anyone but Jessica.
The next world can’t be worse than this Sam decides as he leaves.
IV. No Return in Sight
Sam’s watching the other Sam lie in a psychiatric hospital bed with Dean nearby. From the relief on Dean’s face, Sam can tell, in this world too, Castiel stripped away the wall and all that came with it, taking it into his vessel. So this Sam is just recovering from Lucifer’s hallucinations being taken out.
Sam watches, feeling hopeful, for Castiel to return. It’s different from what happened in Sam’s world – Castiel having been left in the hospital with Meg – but every place has been different thus far.
When Castiel doesn’t come back after a day, Dean calls out for him. Then, when this world’s Sam is feeling better, he calls him. Just to thank Castiel.
No answer, no flutter of wings - just absence.
Sam doesn’t like the feeling he has, the same one the Sam from this world is probably getting, but he keeps waiting along with them. It’s not like a Winchester to give up hope.
Sam and Dean leave the hospital – after asking Meg to let them know if she ever hears from Castiel. Sam follows them in the back seat of the Impala, silently watching, hidden from them through sheer will rather than the pendant. What the heart wants is what it provides.
They go on hunts – salt and burns mostly – and Sam gives them a hand, using the memories from his time in his world, hoping things aren’t too different so he can keep them out of harm’s way. It’s lucky they don’t notice, though.
Dean, when he thinks his Sam is busy or far away, calls out to Castiel, talks to him. But Castiel never shows up or responds.
Sam tries a few times as well, mostly feeling like it’s wasted effort. Castiel has always answered Dean before coming to anyone else. And besides, if Sam’s heart isn’t in it, his words won’t reach Castiel’s ears.
There’s patience, and then there’s Sam’s brand of patience.
Castiel doesn’t show up, even after five years. And, although the Sam of this world hasn’t given up, Sam has.
Fortunately, Sam doesn’t have to live in this time if he doesn’t want to. There’s only one more world he can travel to, and he prays it’s the one he will stay in. He leaves them behind, wishing the Sam here good luck. Maybe his patience will be rewarded one day.
Sam’s fingers are barely wrapped around the necklace, and he’s gone.
V. Fate Smiles upon Me
Sam’s never met this version of Castiel, but Dean had told him about Emmanuel many, many times. Mostly while making fun of Castiel (since he was back to himself in their world).
There’s panic in Emmanuel’s eyes that Sam can’t remember ever seeing in Castiel’s. Dean is giving him a quick, unsatisfying-but-efficient, rundown of what he needs to do to break into the hospital, and Emmanuel looks like he’s about to throw up by the end of it.
Emmanuel shakes his head, says no, and that he won’t be able to do it. He doesn’t believe he’s an angel. He doesn’t believe Dean. It’s shocking, especially since Sam has seen how they are in more than one world now. Castiel never doubts Dean. To a fault, even.
The disbelief only gets worse when the demons make their presence known. Emmanuel takes one look at their black eyes, and refuses to set foot in or around the hospital. So Dean, being the stupid but amazing brother that he is, goes toward them alone – without Castiel.
The first demon dies quickly, but the next one grabs Ruby’s knife from Dean, and throws it out of reach – which leaves Dean without any defense. Dean is choking, scratching at the restricting hold around his neck, his feet dangling off the ground, and turning blue in the face. Emmanuel holds his head, eyes wide and torn.
Sam knows something is happening; he just hopes it’s something good.
Castiel’s memories must have pushed through at seeing his first charge (ever) being strangled to death. His duty as a protector will always be that strong. Sam can practically see the moment Castiel’s memories return and hit him – even though it’s just a flash, a half-second.
Then the demon is crying out in agony, instantly letting go of Dean, and falling lifeless to the ground. Castiel saved Dean. And, no matter how many times Sam will see that, he’ll always be blown away by it.
And then they rush inside to save this Sam, too. Sam follows close behind, still invisible to them both apparently. His heart’s just not in it yet.
They’re running in, pushing past Meg but… Sam is gone. They waited too long. Castiel waited too long, didn’t trust Dean’s judgment like he would in other realms. Like he has in almost every dimension Sam has been to.
So Sam, here, in this alternate reality, is dead.
Castiel is a fighter, though, just like Dean. He tries to get other Sam out of his head, away from Lucifer and the hallucinations. Then Dean is the one who has to push Castiel off, saying it’s too late. Somehow, Dean’s become the voice of reason in this world.
Dean looks exhausted, broken in a way Sam wishes he could un-see right away. Castiel doesn’t look any better. They’re both already starting to grieve. But they - they shouldn’t need to. sam isn’t gone; there’s one standing right here. They need him, and he needs them.
It’s time for Sam to let his heart decide.
Sam is squeezing the pendant to him, holding back his own tears when Dean starts grabbing at the white outfit on the other Sam. Castiel isn’t holding Dean back, he’s joining in, face screwed up in a way that makes Sam’s heart ache. The pendant glows red for a second, then shatters into minuscule pieces of glass, too small to even cut Sam’s fingers. The remnants are slowly pulled away, circling Sam’s palm, and just…nowhere.
Sam stumbles into view, lets them notice him while he processes this. He’s done it, he’s here. He’s going to stay here permanently, and make it work. Sam doesn’t speak at first; he gives them a few moments to come to terms with what they’re seeing instead. If anyone can believe in alternate universes, it would be Dean and Castiel.
Castiel can tell Sam’s different, and the same, in a split second. But Dean is already taking out a knife to hurt Sam with. Grieving or not, Dean knows his priorities. Castiel stops Dean before he gets to Sam.
“No, Dean. This is Sam. It’s just not this Sam.” He points to the one lying lifeless on the bed.
Dean grunts, wiping his eyes, and says, “Talk.”
Sam tells Dean everything he can. About how in his world both Dean and Castiel died, that he’s been looking for a way to make things right, to fit in, to have them again. Or at least to warn them before another version of Sam had to deal with that same pain. Sam explains that he’s lived through what’s happened here already because Castiel had saved him in his own world.
What Sam leaves out is where Dean and Castiel died: in Purgatory. He’s going to prevent that from happening in this reality, if it’s the last thing he does. But before any of that can be possible –
“Let me stay with you,” Sam demands, hands balled into fists, needing this second chance to make things right. They’re his only chance at having his family back with him. He doesn’t know what he’ll do if they don’t want him around.
Dean doesn’t even question it, just drags Sam in for a rough, meaningful hug, the knife clattering to the tiles. It’s like every other time Sam’s died and come back to life.
Castiel simply nods, pressing his fingers to both Winchesters’ heads, and then they’re off.
Sam waits until they’re alone to say what he’s figured out. Castiel is the one. And he hopes Dean isn’t also dating Castiel in this world, because Sam won’t survive spending the rest of his life watching what he could be having.
It’s a risk, Sam knows, but he takes it. There’s nowhere left for him to go now.
Sam starts by telling Castiel that he never had a chance to say something important to the Castiel back in his world, but Castiel says ‘I love you’ first. For some time, they’ve both been feeling the same way. Circumstances just seemed to be against them in other places.
When they’re leaving one of many motel rooms, Sam spots the pendant in a garbage can near the front door. He doesn’t pick it up, doesn’t even consider it, and takes Castiel’s hand in his own instead.
It’s someone else’s turn to look for their happiness.
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