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Title: In Follis Veritas
Genre: Gen
Word count: 1,793
Rating: PG
Summary: Set after 8.23. One of the artifacts in the Men of Letters' bunker causes Dean and Sam to switch bodies, and a number of truths suddenly become clear.

A/N: Written as a pinch-hit for spnspringfling for cas_novak, based on all three prompts at once.

"Dean, what the hell were you thinking?"

"I was trying to cheer up my little brother, okay?"

Sam raised his eyebrows. "With an antique clown doll?"

"Sam, that is amazing. You can make the same bitchface as you always do when it's not actually your face."

"Shut up, Dean." Sam wrinkled his nose. "God, that sounds weird to say to myself."

"You're not yourself. I mean, you still are yourself. Whatever." Dean threw his hands up.

My hands, Sam reminded himself. Whatever, the pissy-sounding Dean in his head said. Out loud, Sam asked, "I don't suppose you have any idea how long this is going to last?"

"What's the matter, you can't handle all of my awesome at once?" Dean asked.

"I can't handle being this short."

"I am not short," Dean retorted, looming closer.

Sam only looked up at him from under his eyebrows. Dean's eyebrows. Whatever.

Dean rolled his eyes. "I didn't know it was going to do this in the first place," he said, gesturing back and forth between the two of them. "So no, I have no frickin' clue."

"Awesome." Sam took a step back, ready to reach out for the chair to steady himself the same way he had been for weeks. But he felt strong on his feet for the first time since…since before the second trial, he thought. He looked down at Dean's familiar hands and arms, not used to seeing them from this angle, and marveled at how sturdy they felt, how free and unburdened. Even after returning from the attempted third trial, that feeling of something weighing him down hadn't completely gone away, until now.

When he looked up, he saw himself—Dean—swaying on his feet. "Whoa," Sam said, reaching out for him. Dean's arm fit right over his own shoulders, and he lowered Dean into the chair where he'd been sitting earlier, poring over Internet reports about the aftermath of the "comet storm" from a week ago.

"I'm fine," Dean growled, jerking away from him.

Sam wanted to laugh. Instead he said, "Believe me, I know."

"I bet." Dean drew in a slow, deep breath, and Sam recognized the careful inhale so as not to set off a coughing spell. "You've been lying your ass off, haven't you?"

"I've been fine enough to do the job," Sam replied.

"Not feeling like this, you haven't."

"It's not Hell, Dean. It's fine."

Dean looked at him sharply, or at least it would have been sharp if his hair wasn't falling in his face. Sam began to understand the constant ragging about getting a haircut.

But he also saw that Dean understood what he was saying, that any pain visited upon his body topside was something bearable. Still, Dean grumbled, "At least tell me it's been getting better."

"Since the third trial, yeah." He didn't have to tell Dean that it wasn't all better, though: that had to be obvious from the deep ache Dean would be feeling in his bones and the careful way he was breathing. Sam had had months to adjust to it, after all, instead of being thrown into it without any warning. "C'mon, like you wouldn't be the same way if you were the one doing the trials."

Dean's gaze cut away, and Sam recognized the guilty look on his face all too well from the mirror. Not that Dean was ever apologetic for taking something on himself that he wouldn't let other people do, especially Sam. That the shoe was on the other foot here must be a real—

Oh. Oh.

Sam leaned forward onto his elbows, feeling the pull of an unfamiliar scar across his shoulder, missing the familiar mark on his own back where a blade had set so much of their lives into motion. "It's not your fault, you know."

"I'm the one who thought it would be funny to show you the damn clown. Should've checked it for hex marks first."

"No, not that." Sam impatiently shook his head, which felt far too light without his hair. "Whatever the trials changed in me. You're thinking it should have been you all along, aren't you?"

"We agreed that I was going to be the one—"

"You agreed that you were going to be the one, Dean. But when it didn't work out that way…Look, you know I couldn't have gotten as far as I did without you, right? That I could only get through it because I knew you had my back?"

"Where 'getting through it' meant sacrificing yourself like a goddamn martyr," Dean growled.

"Like you wouldn't have done the same."

"That's different. You know how to live without me, Sam. You managed it for a whole year. But me, I…." Dean trailed off and shook his head, long hair flying. "I turned down a shot at ridding the world of fucking demonkind because I couldn't handle being on my own."

"That's not all there is to it. We never really thought it through, you know? Like, what would happen when someone dies who really should be in Hell?" Dean gave him a sharp look, and Sam went on, "Don't tell me you've never come across someone who fits that description."

"The gates would have been shut against demons, Sam, not human souls."

"The gates would have been shut," Sam said. "We don't know if that was one-way or two-way. What would happen to the souls Heaven wouldn't take if there was no way to send them to Hell?"

"Guess we're not going to find out, are we?" Dean impatiently shoved his hair back off of his face. "God, how can you see with all of this? Fuckin' clown statue."

Sam sighed and sat back in the chair. The faded blue-and-yellow figurine was still lying on the table between them where they'd dropped it too late after feeling the flash of power wash over them. "It's not a clown, anyway," he said, gesturing at the thing. "It's a jester, or maybe a fool."

Dean made a face. "Big freakin' difference."

"Jesters are much older. In medieval times, they were sometimes the only ones allowed to speak the honest truth to the king without fear of reprisal." Sam reached out and touched the worn, embroidered cloth of the little statue, but whatever power had flickered from it earlier was gone. "They were sometimes like tricksters, too, depending on the culture and the time period."

"Oh, God, that's all we need right now." Dean drew in a breath to say more, but started coughing. He waved Sam off with a sideways glare, but Sam got up for a glass of water anyway. He knew from experience that the water itself wouldn't help, but the caring gesture made a world of difference. From the look Dean shot him when he set down the glass of water, he knew Dean felt the same way, even if he'd never admit it.

After the glass was empty, Dean sat back in the chair. "You're right, okay? It should have been me. It was supposed to be me who killed the hellhound, it should have been me who had to go back into Hell, and it should have been me who was…" He looked down at his arms—at Sam's arms—as if they were still lit from within. "Who had to go through all that."

"Why?" Sam asked, folding his arms over his chest.

"Because I wasn't strong enough in the first place." Dean was staring as intently at the jester as if he was trying to light it on fire with his eyes. "Because if I hadn't broken in Hell, if I hadn't been so damn pathetic that I couldn't live without you for a day without going to the crossroads, none of this would have happened. The apocalypse, Crowley going back for all of those people we saved, the angels falling…none of it."

"You think all of this is your fault?" Sam stared at him incredulously. "I'm the one who's been weak, Dean. I couldn't kill Azazel when he had Dad. I let Jake live in Cold Oak. I couldn't sacrifice Nancy to kill Lilith, and if I'd been able to do any one of those things, none of that would have happened, either. So yeah, maybe part of wanting to do these trials was to prove to myself that I was strong enough to do what had to be done."

"That is so much bullshit. You overcame the fucking devil, Sam. That's stronger than anyone else could ever be."

"Only because you were there with me."

Silence fell in the bunker. Sam sank back into his chair, fiddling with the tiny bell on the jester's cap. "That's why I couldn't hunt anymore. With Amelia. Because you weren't there."

"Thought it was because you didn't want that life anymore."

"It wasn't a life I wanted if you weren't in it."

"Oh, God." Dean poked at the jester. "You're still talking like a girl when you're in my body. That's just wrong."

Sam kept going as if Dean hadn't spoken, knowing that otherwise, he might not get the words out, the ones that made him sound as weak as he was afraid he was. "I need you, all right? I need my big brother."

Dean's hand came to rest on the figurine. "I'm here, Sam." He cleared his throat. "You know that, right?"

"Yeah, I do." Sam flicked the little bell one more time.

Dean's voice lowered. "And you gotta know that I need you, too."

He started to reply when he felt the same buzzing as before under his fingertips. He had time to exchange one startled glance with Dean before the rug was being yanked out from under him, everything twisting sideways in a kaleidoscope of blue and yellow.

When the dust cleared, it was the familiar weight on his shoulders, like the fifty-pound backpacks Dad used to make them do PT with, that made Sam realize they had switched back. From the way Dean was lifting his head up and shaking back his shoulders, he could see the relief at having that same burden removed. Guilt flashed briefly across Dean's face before he poked at the figurine again. "This isn't a jester," he said. "It's one of those damn Hallmark clowns."

"Harlequin," Sam corrected, glad to shake his hair off his face once again.

"No, that was just like being in a Hallmark movie."

"And you would know that how?"

The patented Dean Winchester Glare of Death he got in response made Sam smile. Even if he never got Dean to admit again some of the things he'd said a moment ago, Sam knew the truth.

And really, that was all he needed to carry on.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 21st, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
Nice exploration of the crap they've been through. I really like the ending. And thank you, thank you, thank you for getting the homophone right in:

and he lowered Dean into the chair where he'd been sitting earlier, poring over Internet reports about the aftermath of the "comet storm" from a week ago.

Why, for the love of GOD, do so many people think it's "pouring" in this context?


I liked this. :)
Jun. 28th, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I've always wanted to write bodyswap, and it seemed like a good excuse for a conversation.

And you're welcome! My personal "favorites" are faze/phase and baited/bated. *shudder*
Jun. 22nd, 2013 12:12 am (UTC)
It all seems so simple when you tell it! Of course they would each feel that way. I'm so glad they're on the same page now!
Jun. 28th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
Not that they'd ever have that straightforward a conversation for real. ;) But I'm glad you liked it!
Jun. 23rd, 2013 03:43 am (UTC)
Good very good. I was thinking that Dean should not be playing with the things in the MOL bunker. He doesn't know what the words are on them - he called them hieroglyphics well - that means DON'T TOUCH. But we know Dean does that.

Thank you this was good.
Jun. 28th, 2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
I'm astonished at the extent to which someone who should know better just picks things up and plays with them--but that provides for some good fic opportunities as well. ;)
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:20 am (UTC)
Excellent bodyswap story!
Aug. 25th, 2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jan. 11th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC)
Wow, I have no idea how I missed,this when it was posted but it's damn perfect. It's everything they need to realize and say (and of course never will). I often think that Dean set things in motion by bringing Sam back the first time, but I forget that Sam didn't kill Jake. So many thing interconnect.

fantastic. Loved it.
Jan. 12th, 2014 04:54 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it!
Jan. 12th, 2014 05:11 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. This is just all kinds of beautiful!
Jan. 15th, 2014 08:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Feb. 17th, 2014 09:24 am (UTC)
I'm another one who missed this at the time of posting. Nicely done, with just the right amount of angst.
Chemm80's rant about poring made me chuckle though - now is this an American thing to use peaked for piqued? Because that REALLY bugs me.
Feb. 17th, 2014 09:59 am (UTC)
Ugh, yes, seeing "peaked my interest" makes me want to throw something. It's as bad as "reigning in" something. My advisor would say it's a consequence of Kids These Days listening to words instead of reading them.

Also, thanks for the comment! :)
May. 1st, 2014 08:05 pm (UTC)
Loved this. I really appreciated the balanced view of what has happened to these boys, the guilt they must both be feeling. Sometimes I feel like I keep reading "it was all Sam's fault" fics and it really gets to me. So much happened to bring them where they are now and so much of it either completely beyond their control or where I honestly can't say I blame them for the decisions they made given the circumstances. I tend to avoid fics based on later series to avoid getting annoyed (I have a big soft spot for Sam so I feel protective), but I'm really glad I made the exception. Thanks.
May. 13th, 2014 12:53 am (UTC)
Thank you! I've always considered myself bi-bro but have swung more to the Sam!girl side in recent years. Still, I want to try and keep it balanced even if the writers can't. Thanks for giving it a shot, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Apr. 18th, 2018 12:55 pm (UTC)
Picked out a body-swap fic this morning (something I have never actually read before) figuring it would be a lighthearted romp with the boys. But...wow...turned out to be a beautifully done piece of long overdue conversation that so desperately needed to happen!! Well done!!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )