Genre/Rating : Gen, PG-13
Spoilers: Tales place after Sin City
Characters: Dean, Sam
Word count: 3,665
Summary: An encounter with a charmed stone leaves Dean with a changed Sam, and a terrifying new reality.
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit.
He was one nasty son of a bitch.
Dean stared at the demon trapped in the circle. He was already twitching from the words that Sam was reciting, the smoke billowing from beneath his collar. Dean hoped he had a long, painful trip back to the Pit.
"It's not going to end this way," the demon said through gritted teeth.
"You keep telling yourself that." Dean circled the trapped demon, his gaze occasionally flickering upward to keep an eye on Sam. He knew it was silly for him to keep thinking Sam came back wrong, but he kept looking for that reassurance away.
Sam, appearing none the wiser, kept up the exorcism, just like he had always done. Dean allowed his gaze to linger, double-checking just one more time, before he went back to stalking the demon. Only this time, he found the demon smiling. He wasn't smiling to taunt Dean, or mock the situation. This was a full smile, one gleaming with hellish delight only reserved for a demon, and that joy was focused solely on Sam.
Dean felt his back prickling. Angry, he stepped closer to the circle. "What the hell are you smiling about?"
The demon ignored him, eyes only for Sam. He chuckled even as he stood there convulsing. "If you're not going to step up to the plate, then we'll find a way."
Dean grunted and threw holy water in the demon's face. "Don't you talk to him." He turned his head, trying not to show concern that Sam had stopped. "Sam?"
Sam went back to reading the exorcism. Once again, Dean started his slow stalk around the circle. There was something about this demon that set him on edge. Not that they all didn't, but he didn't like the way this one seem so focused on his brother, so intense and determined.
Dean was so busy staring at the demon he nearly missed the item in the demon's hand. His eyes widened. "Sam!"
The demon chucked the stone at Sam. Even as Dean bolted over to Sam to intercept, it was too late. Sam looked up, saw the stone, his natural reflexes kicking in as he caught it. As soon as the stone touched Sam's hand there was hearty rumble, like the ground was splitting, and suddenly Dean found himself ripped sheer across the room by an unseen force.
He braced himself for impact. Dean's body hit the wall full force, his head cracking against the cement. He felt his body slide against the wall as it slumped to the floor. Little dots of white flashed before his eyes before they were quickly consumed by a growing blackness. He struggled against the coming darkness, the numbness and the detachment, as he saw Sam's confused face split and distort under his failing vision. Then, everything around him went into a dead silence and he was gone.
An urgent tugging brought him back.
"Dean." A shake. "Come on, Dean."
Dean groaned. Everything seemed to echo around him and there was a painful, sharp throbbing at the back of his head.
He reached up to touch the source of the pain and winced. He could already feel the lump forming under his hair. With a sigh, he slumped back against the wall. He just wanted to drift off again.
He felt a sharp digging pain in his shoulder as Sam shook him again. "No. Get up."
It took effort, but he finally willed himself to open his eyes.
Two Sams danced in front of him.
Dean scowled. "Fantastic. I'm seeing double."
One of the Sams grimaced, but the other didn't. Dean wasn't sure what kind of double vision could do that sort of trick, but he thought it was kinda neat. In fact, he thought it was funny and all kinds of awesome until the other one dug his fingers into his other shoulder.
The smile wiped clean from Dean's face. "What the hell?"
The identical Sams sighed in unison. "We have a problem."
* * * *
As soon as the Sams helped him to his feet, Dean pushed them away and drew his gun. Sure, he could barely stand on his own and the room kept going swish, but there was no way in hell he was getting any closer to Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum until he figured out what was going on.
He tried to focus and take aim. "Which –" He swallowed hard and steadied himself. "Where's Sam?"
"We're Sam," they said together.
"Good Lord," Dean muttered. "They're in stereo."
"Dean, we think that the stone had some kind of duplication effect," the first Sam said.
"Duplication? Like a Xerox?" He kept his gun raised. "So, one of you isn't real. Which is which?"
"It doesn't work like that," the other Sam said. "We've split or something. Equally the same. Same memories. Same everything."
Dean wasn't hearing this. Crazy stuff like this wasn't normal. It wasn't natural. And Sam…and Sam weren't fazed one bit. They were just cool as a cucumber.
"You're taking this well," he said.
"We've had plenty of time," they said together.
"What?" Dean looked over their shoulders, squinting through his aching haze to the circle. He frowned. The demon was gone. Hell, the circle was gone.
"You were out a good hour," the second Sam explained. "Sam and I finished the exorcism, disposed of the body, and looked around for the missing charmed stone, but we couldn't find it."
Dean just kept staring. He didn't know what to say. He didn't know if it was the concussion slowing him down, or if he'd just finally gone insane. None of this made any sense to him, but he didn't have the strength to sort through the mess alone.
He just wanted Sam back. The real Sam. And he couldn't tell the difference. He didn't know who these people were or if they really were Sam.
He squeezed his eyes shut, battling against the pounding in his head.
Dean jerked, realizing one of the Sams had eased up to him. He'd never heard him get close. "Let's get back to the motel," he said, taking the gun from Dean's hand. "We'll figure things out after you get some rest."
Dean opened his mouth to protest, but the other Sam came to his opposite side and grabbed him by the shoulder. Before he knew it, they both were guiding him out of the warehouse and toward the Impala. Too stunned and tired to argue, Dean allowed them to lead him away, choosing to file away the persistent nagging in the back of his mind for when he could think a little more clearly.
* * * *
Having to hear Sam prattle on was bad enough on a good day. Having to hear two Sams prattle on with each other on a bad day was a freakin' nightmare.
Dean sat at the table in their motel room, ice pack to his thundering head, staring as the two Sams exchanged theories on the magical stone. Or at least, he tried to follow what they were saying. Half the time, one would finish the other's thought before he was done, and sometimes they didn't say anything, but had that creepy look in their faces that made Dean think they had some weird creepy-ass psychic thing going on between them.
And considering the source…
"So, for those of us not playing mental ping-pong…"
One of the Sams offered a sheepish smile. "Sorry."
The other leaned back in his chair and rested his arms on his outstretched legs. "We're thinking it's some kind of Vedic charm."
Dean shook his head and winced. "How do you know that?"
They both shrugged.
Dean found himself tensing even more. No demon was just going to chuck ancient Hindu rocks at hunters. He started to have the sinking feeling something was really wrong here.
"So, how'd it go missing?" he asked. "Just poof?"
The second Sam shook his head. "We're a little foggy on what happened right after we touched it. Whatever happened had enough force to throw you across the room. We're thinking the power in the stone knocked it clear as soon as we split."
Both of the Sams stared at him, waiting for him to respond. He had no clue what the expected him to say. He would have assumed a lot more freaking out from them, or at least some pitiful lame excuse to pick on him. Instead, they just stared.
"Okay…" Dean took the bag of ice from his head and tossed it on the table into a sloppy wet mess. He grabbed his cell. "I bet Bobby can think of something."
One of the Sams rose and stood over him. "I don't think we need Bobby right now." He snapped the cell phone shut.
Dean watched the Sam slide it across the table. When he glanced up, the other Sam was already standing across from him, staring. Just staring.
He shifted in his seat. "I'm gonna get more ice," he said quickly as he grabbed his cell and shoved it into his pocket.
Dean refused to look back at the Sams, knowing full well their stony blank gaze was burning a hole in his back. Trying to keep cool, he opened the mini-freezer and grabbed some ice. As soon as he had a minute to himself, he was calling Bobby. No way was he going to wait for the freakish duo to go all Carrie on him.
He couldn't have gotten the Double Mint Twins. Instead, he got two rejects from the Village of the Damned. He just hoped whatever had happened to Sammy, he could find a way to reverse it. He hoped that whatever that stone did, it hadn't accelerated whatever else was already wrong with him.
With a sigh, he shut the freezer. As he turned, he felt the ground shift beneath him.
Dean winced and held onto the wall, struggling not to collapse. There was a blinding flash behind him. He squeezed his eyes shut and blocked out the pulsing, only opening them once he felt the tremor subside.
Dean dropped the ice to the floor.
Four Sams stared back at him.
* * * *
Dean sat in a chair propped up against the wall. He figured on average Sam multiplied every couple of hours, so it was just a matter of time before it happened again. At least the sixteen Sams working busily in front of him had something to do.
"You're upset," one of the Sams said as he came to stand beside him. Dean had nicknamed him Number 5.
Dean eyed the Sams. One was surfing various websites on his laptop, looking for any information on Vedic symbols. Another one had Dad's journal. Another had a stack of books. Two of them were rearranging God knew what in their poor excuse for a kitchen. Yet another two were comparing notes. Some were on the floor. Somewhere Dean had lost count.
"You multiply faster than bunnies."
Five took a sip of coffee. "You're just jealous."
Dean forced a smile. "I'm the real deal. The one and only."
Five just gave him a patronizing pat on the shoulder. "Yes, you're very special."
Dean bit back a reply, a little unnerved at how close this Sam was hovering over him. "You find anything yet?"
"No, but we should soon. It's called division of labor."
"Yeah. And you're doing what exactly?"
"Supervising." He chuckled. "We'll be switching in an hour." He pressed his hand down on Dean's shoulder. Hard. "See? We didn't need Bobby for this. We're really efficient this way."
Dean let out a nervous laugh. "Oh yeah. I see just fine. Gonna suck for you all when we fix it."
The smile faded from Sam's face. He didn't say anything more, but gazed through him, making Dean squirm inside. There was a deadness in his eyes that chilled Dean to the core.
He needed to get back to the warehouse and find that damn stone. He needed to do something. There had to be some answers back at the warehouse or at least some clues that had been left behind.
He heard a chuckle from one of the Sams at the computer. "This says that multiple instances of matter taking up the same space and time could disrupt the harmony of the universe."
"Well, then I guess we'll just have to kill a few of us."
The room erupted into a ripple of laughter.
He had to go now.
Slowly, Dean rose to his feet. He noticed two of the Sams look up to watch him. He decided not to say anything as he nonchalantly headed for the exit. Not surprisingly, one of the Sams met him at the door.
"Where are you going, Dean?" He pressed his hand against the door as Dean reached for the handle.
Dean glanced over his shoulder. Now ten of the Sams were staring at him. He shuddered.
"Hungry?" He forced another gleaming smile. "I'm starving. Nothing like a good conk to the head to give you the munchies." He rubbed his hands together, ignoring the little voice in his head that insisted on not feeding them after midnight. "Any takers?"
Sixteen voices all called out in unison for cheese pizza.
"Okay, cheese it is." Dean grabbed at the handle, but the Sam in front of him – Fifteen – didn't budge.
"I'll come with you," he said.
Dean chuckled. "I think I can handle it."
Fifteen loomed closer, his eyes dark. "I said I'll come with you."
Dean looked up at this Sam. He towered over him at his full height, his gaze unwavering. Never in as long as Sam was taller than him, had Sam ever intentionally used his size against him, not in any real threatening way. Not as Sam. Not ever.
He stared into those dark empty eyes and knew right then this wasn't Sam. He might wear Sam's face, speak in Sam's voice, walk with Sam's gait, but he wasn't Sam. None of them were Sam.
He swallowed hard. He knew what that meant.
"I'll start the car," Dean said in a hollow voice. "Meet me outside in five."
* * * *
The Impala peeled out of the lot. From his rear view mirror, he could see seven of the Sams running after him. He hit the gas.
Dean sped toward the warehouse, blowing lights, stop signs, and taking back roads – whatever he could do to get there faster. By now, there could be thirty-two seriously deranged Sam Winchester clones planning the apocalypse right here in Des Moines. He hated to leave them all behind, his mind not even willing to entertain ideas of what the hell they could be doing. But if he was going to find a way to stop them, he had to figure out what happened and take it from there.
That meant going back to the warehouse.
The Impala pulled into the dusty dirt lot outside of the abandoned warehouse. He couldn't believe just a few hours ago they had been battling a demon on the grounds and now his big concern was to make sure Sam stopped pulling Gizmo tricks left and right.
He hopped out of the Impala and rushed into the warehouse. Dean started in the initial room where they had faced the demon. He checked under the rotting wooden boxes and in the corners where old newspaper and rusted machinery lay to waste.
"Dammit!" He wiped his face. He had no clue how to fix this.
He started for the adjoining room. He peeked inside, and flashed a light around the room. There were tons of unopened crates, some old wooden chairs that looked like they had seen better days, and a used printing press that just looked painful.
He didn't know what he expected to find in here. Maybe he was just hoping something would break.
At least there was always Bobby. Dean flipped open his phone and started to dial when he stopped, frowned, and took another step inside. There was a faint sound, like a muffled thumping. Dean followed the noise toward the right corner of the room, only to stop in front of a worn closet. He drew his gun, took a deep breath, and swung the door open.
Sam, gagged and bound, sat tied to a crumbled chair.
Dean blinked at him. He didn't think this day could get any worse. Angry, he ripped the tape from Sam's gagged mouth.
"Who are you?"
"It's me. It's Sam."
"Yeah, you and like sixteen others."
Sam stared at him. Freakin' stared. "Sixteen?" he asked. "Wow, we must be really efficient."
"I'm glad you think so."
Sam shook his head. "Dean, you've got to get out of here. They turned against the demon and shoved me in the closet. I don't know what the stone did, but it's not good."
"I know. It's got Vedic symbols on it."
Sam frowned. "Yeah, how did you know?"
He shrugged. "I'm good like that."
"Yeah, whatever. But we've got to go." He started to tug at his restraints. "One stayed with me and is around here somewhere. He keeps chanting some hymn over the stone the demon threw at me."
"How do I know you're Sam?" Dean might have fallen for it once, but he sure as hell wasn't going to fall for it again. "How do I know you're not messing with my head?"
Sam huffed. "Okay, fine. You know what? You just stand there and do nothing and let my doppelgangers keep multiplying until infinity. I'm sure we can do much more damage than any army of you could."
Dean frowned. "I could do some damage."
Sam snorted. "Yeah, right."
Dean muttered under his breath. At least this Sam had some personality, even if that meant he was going to kick his ass when this was all over.
With a swift clink, Dean took out his knife and cut through the bonds on Sam's hands and ankles. If there was one thing he'd learned in all his years of hunting, it was to trust his instincts. And this time, they were telling him to trust Sam.
Sam stumbled to his feet and rubbed at his bruised hands. Then his eyes widened. "Dean! Behind you!"
Dean spun around to meet a swift blow to the face. He stumbled back, and as he righted himself, he found a Sam stalking toward him. He had no time to react.
His Sam charged forward. The two Sams became a tangled mess of kicks and punches, each mirroring the other. It was like watching that really cool junkyard scene from Superman III, only not quite as awesome.
The only problem was that Dean couldn't tell them apart.
The two kept swinging, getting nowhere, as they continued to mirror each other. Dean tried to jump in to help, but he didn't know which side he'd be fighting.
Then he heard a loud creak and groan.
Footsteps. Thunderous footsteps.
He had the sinking feeling those footsteps were being made by sixteen pairs of identical feet.
Neither Sam budged. He started toward them, his dagger and gun drawn, and that's where he saw it. He could see Sam's bruises.
'Sam," he called. Dean tossed him his gun.
Sam managed to catch it and with a swift dash, he struck the clone in the head. The clone crumpled to the ground. Then, before Dean could say anything, Sam shot the clone point blank.
Dean stopped dead in his tracks. "Dude. You just killed you."
Sam blinked. "I did."
"Man, that's like homicidal suicide. Does that count as suicide?"
Sam shrugged. "I don't care. I just want to go."
Dean couldn't argue with that. Only, he had to be sure this was Sam. Really Sam.
He soon got his answer. The clone popped and fizzled, vanishing in a puff of smoke. Not quite as awesome as the toy store scene with the bright light, but Dean would take it.
Dean took a cautious step back and eased himself to the door, dagger in hand. When he poked his head outside, he didn't see any of the other Sams. Not one. Confused, he turned to the one remaining.
"He was the first one," Sam explained. "I guess once he was dead, the others vanished with him."
"Huh." Dean wasn't about to argue.
Meanwhile, Sam grabbed on old rag on the ground and carefully grabbed the stone that was left in the clone's wake. He covered it completely and held it up for Dean to see. "We should secure this at Dad's storage."
Dean nodded. He wasn't about to go through that again.
Part of him couldn't help but wonder just what the Sams had expected to get out of him. They could have killed him like they did with the demon. For a moment, he felt sick, wondering if the Sams had kept him for some sort of sick pleasure, like beating a dog that had no where to go but back to his abusive master.
Dean didn't like that thought.
"You know, you were a real pain in the ass tonight," Dean said. "One of you is more than enough."
That brought a smile to Sam's battered face. "Too much for you to handle?"
"Nah. No problem at all."
Neither of them said anything else for the rest of the night. They spent the wee hours of the morning searching the town and keeping an eye out for any strange activity. They found none. There was no sign of his little mini-army of obsessive-compulsive psychic freaks. There was no sign of anything off color in Des Moines that night. Everything seemed perfectly normal.
But it wasn't. Everything was far from normal, far from what he could handle. Tonight he had seen just another glimpse of what Sam could become. And he feared that one day, Sam would be too much for him to handle, or worse, after he was long gone and burning in Hell, Sam would be free to embrace that side of himself.
It wouldn't take sixteen Sams to bring this world to its knees. And that scared Dean more than anything this job threw at him, even the fires of Hell itself.