A/N: Special thanks to Beckydaspatz for her excellent movie-reference suggestions. Can you find them?
After setting up the wards Bobby gave him and warning Sam to stay put, Dean reluctantly left the motel. He wanted to take Sam with him, but in his current condition it just wasn't safe. Of course, leaving him behind, defenseless, wasn't much better.
Dean stood at the door of the old rabbi's house, his lock pick making swift work of the simple lock. He hoped to find the golem there, kill it, and get back to Sam before anything else could happen. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Dean snorted. How often were things that simple for them?
Dean's quick search found the house empty, but there were signs that the golem had been there often over the last year. Every surface was coated in the same fine dirt he'd seen in the victims' homes. Following the thickest path, he discovered the entrance to the hidden basement behind a bookshelf. Dean couldn't fathom why a rabbi needed a secret basement, but he didn't really care either. He just wanted to gank this thing and get Sammy back to normal.
Dean's flashlight revealed corpses in varying stages of decay piled in a heap in one corner. The pattern smeared on the center of the floor was broken by candles and other ritual items. The pattern appeared smudged by bootprints, the items in the center scattered around as if kicked in a scuffle. Against one wall, he found a freshly-made hole in the wall, a rusty pipe, a large concentration of the now-clichéd dirt, and barefooted prints heading toward the stairway. Unfortunately, Dean found no sign of where the golem was currently. Other than confirming the golem's hiding place, the excursion proved fruitless.
Dean's heart raced with the realization that he'd left Sam alone and relatively unprotected at the motel. If the golem wasn't here, it was likely tracking Sam down to finish the job. Dean rushed back to the Impala, hoping he wasn't too late.
It stood outside the motel room, hand resting lightly on the door. It could sense the chosen one mere feet away. It could also sense the wards meant to keep it away. Fortunately, it already possessed most of hunter's memories and intelligence. Breaking the wards would be a simple matter. Reveling in its newly-acquired skill, it quickly picked the lock and entered the room.
The figure on the bed looked, recognition flashing across vacant eyes as the man scuttled across the bed to cower in the farthest corner. Putting its new skills to use, it easily broke the wards and stepped across the worn carpet. It crouched down before the wreck in the corner, drawing a whimper from the cowering figure. Gripping flailing arms that tried to fight it away, it eagerly began taking what it needed to complete its final form. The figure in its grasp became listless, slumping further to the floor as muscles forgot how to function.
The process finished, it stood, stepping away from the pile of bones and tissues on the floor. That pathetic lump was no longer important. It was Sam now.
And it was beautiful!
The open door to their room confirmed Dean's fears, sending him flying from the Impala, barely remembering to throw it into park and remove the key. Sam stood in the center of the room, admiring himself in the cracked mirror hanging over the TV. Another Sam slumped in the corner, eyes unfocused and glazed, mouth slack, a line of drool trailing down his chin.
The thing pretending to be Sam turned away from the mirror, flashing the same smile that Sam had used a thousand times over. "Hi, Dean. You're just in time." Dean had barely enough warning to reach for the gun tucked into his back waistband as the golem sped across the room, gripping Dean tightly by the throat. Dean pulled the gun out, aiming it at the creature. Without releasing its grip on Dean's windpipe, the golem grabbed Dean's wrist, squeezing until the hunter released the weapon.
"Give me back my brother, you sonofabitch." Dean choked out.
"Dean, Dean. Don't you see?" The thing responded, the reasonable tone sounding eerily like Sam when he tried to talk Dean out of doing something stupid. "I'm your brother. That mess on the floor is nothing now. Worthless. I'm the one who matters now."
"You're not Sam! You're just a cheap copy." Dean's hoarse voice was thick with anger.
Golem-Sam's eyes turned sad and regretful. "I know you'll never accept me. It's too bad, really. I would've enjoyed having a brother." With one powerful thrust, the thing tossed Dean against the wall. Dean crashed to the floor, his back blazing with the all-too-familiar pain of impact.
Shaking the fuzz from his brain, he slipped his hidden knife from the sheath in his boot. The golem closed the distance between them, using both hands to grab Dean again by the neck, lifting him until his feet hung inches from the floor. Gasping for air, Dean kicked futilely, his vision dimming. Desperate, he raised the knife. Remembering what Bobby said about breaking the lettering embedded on the golem's forehead, plunging it deep into the golem's brow, hoping it would do the trick.
The golem dropped Dean, who fell to the floor coughing and heaving air into his starved lungs. As he watched, the golem disintegrated into a heap of dirt. "Well, okay. Housekeeping is going to love us."
A thump from the corner drew his attention to Sam, who convulsed violently. Dean ran to his brother's side, unable to do anything beyond keeping Sam from hurting himself further as he thrashed against the wall. When the seizures finally ended, Dean moved Sam to the nearest bed, covering his long frame with a blanket. Keeping vigil over his brother, helplessly wondering whether his brother would wake as Sam or an empty shell.
The dawn glow found Dean sitting on the edge of the bed keeping watch over his brother. Over and over through the long night, he'd checked Sam's pulse, monitored his breathing, smoothed his brow, paced, and waited.
Still Sam slept.
Dean rose and crossed to the door, opening it to lean against the doorframe. He watched the sky grow brighter, the orange rays of sunlight setting trees and buildings aglow. He breathed deeply of the crisp air, trying to calm his restless spirit.
Startled by the unexpected sound of Sam's voice, Dean turned to see his brother propped up on one arm, gently rubbing his temple. Crossing the room quickly, Dean sat gently on the bed.
"Sammy? You in there?"
"Think so." Sam's voice sounded rough from disuse.
"Good enough. How're you feeling?"
Dean snorted. "Yeah, I bet. You think you can sit up?"
Sam nodded, rubbing his mammoth hands over his face. "Yeah, I think so."
Dean helped his brother move to settle on the edge of the bed and handed him a glass of water, admonishing Sam to sip slowly when he chugged the tepid liquid.
Sam glanced around the room, taking in the dent in the wall and the pile of dirt on the floor. Gesturing to the dirt, he asked, "What's that?"
"That's what's left of the golem. I stabbed it in the head."
"So, how much do you remember?"
"Everything, I think. I woke up in a basement and that thing came at me. I remember getting free and running. You found me and brought me home and..."
Sam's face wrinkled in confusion and disgust. "Dude, tell me we didn't shower together."
Dean laughed, the knot in his gut easing for the first time in days. "Yeah, you wish. Hungry?"
"Good. Let's eat and then we'll head back to the Shire, Samwise. I'm gonna pack up. You... don't move."
"Not moving. Got it."
Dean grinned as he moved around the room, packing up their meager belongings.
After a huge breakfast for both men, the brothers sat in comfortable silence, enjoying the open highway. The radio played low in the background.
Dean glanced at Sam again for what could have been the hundredth time since starting out. Sam tried to ignore it. After all, he should be used to it by now. Dean always kept a closer eye on him after a particularly difficult hunt.
"So, you figured out that it was a golem." Sam hoped to distract Dean from his own thoughts.
"Who, Smeagol? Of course. You're not the only smart one in the family, genius."
Sam chuckled. "What tipped you off? The papers I copied on golems or the page in my notepad where I wrote 'GOLEM' in huge letters and circled it a few times?"
"Shaddup." Dean shot a grin at his brother before growing more serious. "I found the bodies."
"Lemme guess... you found them in the basement where the golem was keeping me."
"Right. I put in an anonymous call to the cops. They shoulda found them all by now."
"One thing I don't get, though."
"The old rabbi tried to make this golem into a carbon copy of his wife, right?"
"Right." Sam responded with a yawn as he settled more comfortably in the seat.
"Well, why bother? Seems like a lot of hassle for a golem that would only keep its form for six weeks." Dean glanced over at his brother, his eyebrows raised in question.
"From what I read, golem are supposed to keep their form until their creator releases them. I think the rabbi must not have been able to finish the ritual before the golem turned on it, so it was incomplete. It had to keep refreshing its image."
"Whatever. What really matters is that we stopped it. And Sammy, the next time I say no hunt..."
"I'll listen." Sam finished for him, grinning tiredly.
"Damn right, you will." Dean tried to glower but failed. He was just glad to have his brother back.
Sam curled over in his seat and rested his head against the window. Soon his breathing evened out and he relaxed into a light sleep. Dean turned the radio up slightly and settled in for a long drive. The tires of his Impala ate the asphalt and his brother slept in the passenger seat. This was as good as it got in Dean's world, and he intended to enjoy it for as long as he could.