Dean wakes to the feeling of being watched, groggy and aching from a bump on the back of his head. He’s upright, carpet under his fingertips where they brush against the floor, but he’s still restrained- feels like rope around his wrists, chafing against his skin and keeping him more or less in one spot.
It’s confusion that prompts Dean to force his eyes open, and though it takes a second to focus once he blinks away the sleepy uncertainty- yeah, it’s hard to deny that he recognizes the man that stares back at him.
“Find somebody else’s face to wear,” he mutters, shifting in place as he tries to get more comfortable and judge whether or not he’ll be able to wiggle out of these ropes. “It’s weird talking to a mirror.”
The shifter just smiles at him, and it’s softer than it should be. It’s strange seeing that expression on his own face, so Dean looks away, feeling uneasy. He hears the shifter coming closer and braces himself, but it’s a slow going and when the thing reaches him, it just crouches down, close enough to touch.
“You know, I went into this thinking I was going to kill you.” It sounds thoughtful, and Dean stares hard at the ground, trying to be subtle as he continues to work at the ropes. There must be something silver around here for him to use. “That’s how it usually goes. Better not to leave any witnesses, ‘cause that just makes things complicated.”
“Where’s my brother?” Dean demands, because he doesn’t want to hear the monologue and he can feel that life-long anxiety growing in the part of his chest where Sam lives. “What did you do to him?”
He gets a laugh out of that, and when he makes himself look up- yeah, the shifter’s still smiling at him, a touch of amusement in its expression. As unsettling as it is to be looking at himself like this, Dean doesn’t turn away this time.
“Sammy? He’s fine,” the shifter says with a little shrug. “Left him tied up in the sewer. He’s a smart kid, I’m sure he’ll think his way out.” He pauses for a moment, then, looking at Dean like there’s something fascinating about him. “I’m not sure I could’ve brought myself to kill him, either, and I think that’s your fault. Everything you’ve got up here, it’s…” He reaches up and taps Dean’s temple with one finger, smiling faintly. “You’re pretty messed up about him, aren’t you?”
“Shut up.” Dean has no desire to sit here and listen to a monster lecture him about his own mental state. The ropes are starting to give a little, and he keeps working with renewed determination.
“Right, sure. Let’s talk about something else, then.” All of Dean’s focus is ripped away from his efforts to escape when a calloused hand cups his jaw, tender enough to turn his stomach for reasons he doesn’t want to identify. “Let’s talk about you.”
Dean makes one half-hearted attempt to pull out of the shifter’s grip, but the way its fingers tighten in warning is enough to shut that down. Breathing out hard through his nose, Dean begrudgingly responds. “Let’s not.”
A soft laugh, and Dean feels the shifter’s thumb stroke over his skin, something that makes his heart beat a little faster. “That’s right. Nobody ever wants to talk about you, do they? It’s always about Sam, or Daddy, or your poor, poor mother. But it’s never about you. Why not?”
This is rapidly approaching territory that Dean wants nothing to do with, and he throws subtlety to the wind as he keeps fighting at his restraints, briefly wishing he didn’t have thumbs so it would be easier to slip free. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The shifter sighs, and somehow moves even closer, still cupping Dean’s face like he’s made of porcelain. “You can’t lie to me, Dean. I know everything that you know. I am you. Nobody else in the entire world is ever going to understand you like I do.”
And that tugs at something deep in Dean’s chest, something that leaves him breathless for a moment, that makes him want to press into the touch for a brief, overwhelming moment. He doesn’t know what to say, and the shifter seems to take that a cue to keep talking.
“I know every fear, Dean. Every insecurity. Every want, every need…” Its hand slides up to cradle Dean’s cheek in full, careful and soft, and Dean’s not even trying to get free anymore, a lump caught in his throat. “Every dream you’ve ever had that never came true. How hard you tried for Dad. How much it hurts every time somebody leaves you.”
“What do you want?” Dean croaks out, and the shifter smiles at him, too gentle. Too kind.
“I’ll never leave you,” it tells him softly, and it’s moving closer, and Dean feels the burn of tears trying to well up in his eyes. This shouldn’t be hitting him as hard as it is. “I won’t abandon you like they all did. We can make each other happy, Dean, because we’re the same. We don’t have to pretend for each other.”
And Dean opens his mouth like he’s going to respond- like he has even the first thought of what to say to an offer like that, or how to vocalize the twisted-up thing taking up the space in his chest- and that’s when somebody breaks the door down, and the shifter’s barely got time to whip its head around before Sam pulls the trigger.
It doesn’t make a sound as it slumps, dead, halfway in Dean’s lap. Its hand slips away and leaves him feeling cold.
Sam reaches him seconds after that, and asks if he’s okay. Unties him and checks him for injuries and makes sure that the shifter isn’t going to get up again. Dean doesn’t really hear any of it, his heart beating too loud in his ears and something heavy tangled up in his chest that makes it hard to breathe.
“We don’t have to pretend for each other.”
Sam asks if he’s okay, and Dean slaps on a smile and forces out a joke about missing his own funeral. His brother doesn’t pry, and Dean’s left aching for it, but he does what he always does and buries that feeling somewhere too deep to touch.
In this life, it’s naive of him to bother wishing for anything else.