Character: Sam (Gen)
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Summary: Pre-Series story. It's not even an hour on the bus before Sam starts having doubts.
Author's Notes: Happy Birthday to girlguidejones! Hope your day was lovely, and that this makes it a little better. This started out as the 60_minute_fics "On My Own" prompt, combined with "Convinced" from my Switch_25 table.
It's not even an hour on the bus before Sam starts having doubts.
Yes, college is what he wants—absolutely. Going to Stanford with a full scholarship is like having a dream offered up to him in daylight; sometimes he still can't believe it's real.
That's not the part he wonders about. He's good with that—pretty much has been for the last four months since he got the letter. He had a lot of time to get used to that future over the summer, going through the motions with Dad and Dean while knowing that he finally had something to look forward to. Something private, something safe... something that was entirely his alone.
God, that had felt good. Knowing that he did it all by himself, in spite of everything about their lives that had made it so damn hard… he was proud of that, even if nobody else was (and screw them for acting like succeeding at school was some pointless, passing thing).
No, the doubts are all about Dad and his anger—that fucking ultimatum Dad dished out. Not that he was going to cave in to that, because he's already had a lifetime of that militaristic bullshit, and Dad's My way or the highway attitude was worn out and old when Sam was eight.
So it wouldn't have changed his mind anyway, but Sam's pissed that Dad went there, that he made things harder than they had to be.
Because leaving—even for awhile, which is more like a year at a time—isn't something Sam is used to. Their family stuck together tight no matter where they happened to be; that was the only constant he had, growing up.
Sure, there were times he fantasized about leaving—mainly, getting out from under Dad's thumb. But every teenager does that—it's part of becoming independent. So yeah, he planned to go to college and create a future on his own terms, but he didn't plan on divorcing his family. It wasn't supposed to be a permanent thing—Jesus, some kids' families even visited them at college.
Sam's family doesn't stay put long enough to do anything like other people. They're modern-day gypsies, with a different after-hours agenda. As far as Sam's concerned, they move one step closer to getting themselves killed every time they set off on a hunt.
He was already worried enough that there might not be anyone to come home to.
Dean loves it, of course, loves all that crap—the hunting, the weapons, the lifestyle, the lore. He's Dad's perfect little soldier, First Lieutenant in the Winchester Family Corps. Dean'll probably be happy to spend even more of their time hunting, now that they don't have to worry about Sam's school schedule.
The mental picture of the two of them, stalking through the woods on weekends like a bunch of gun-nut survivalists, is so perfect and ridiculous that it makes Sam roll his eyes.
It's better, though, than the images he actually remembers. Dean's face going white at the dinner table when the subject of Stanford first came up. The stiff set of Dean's jaw when the two of them discussed it over the next month— discussions that sometimes escalated to yelling, and other times ended with Dean's voice dropping down to hoarseness while his lips trembled in betrayal.
Most of all, because it was just hours ago, Sam remembers the bleakness in Dean's eyes at the bus stop. Dean wouldn't hug him goodbye—not because they never do that anymore, but because he was afraid of something, of making Sam's leaving real or maybe of breaking from the inside-out if Sam so much as touched him.
"You could come with me," Sam had said, knowing that Dean wouldn't, but just needing to make Dean understand that Sam wasn't leaving him.
Maybe Dean heard him and maybe he didn't. He just shook his head sadly, eyes never meeting Sam's.
Sam can't stand to think about it, about whether Dean will ever step out from under Dad's shadow. About whether not coming back to "the family" means that saying-goodbye moment was it— that Dean will honor Dad's directive and Sam won't see him again either.
The bus is hot and stuffy, and Sam suddenly feels sick. Who will love Dean now that he's gone? Not that Sam was the best little brother ever, and they had their share of bickering over the years, but still… all Dean's got now is Dad. Even though Dean hangs on Dad's every word, practically lives for his approval (which Sam thought was stupid before, but now it just seems sad), what Dad gives back is in short supply. What if that's not enough to make Dean happy?
Fuck, he just—he can't fix Dad and Dean. He can't. Not what's inside them, not what's between them.
They'll have to work their own way through that, without him. Maybe Dean'll get tired of living on crumbs, and they'll have some options. Maybe. He's not counting on it.
Rain starts up along the prairie, and the road whish-hushes through the background of Sam's thoughts. He's got his own problems ahead of him—new people, new setting. But they'll be the problems of any other Freshman for a change, and Sam's good at this kind of thing. He's had plenty of practice.
He's still feeling bitter, obviously, from the way things stand, thanks to Dad drawing those goddamn battle lines.
"If you go, then don't come back." The words had burned all the way down after Dad spoke them. Sam probably should have seen them coming, after everything, and yet he didn't.
But it made the choice easier.
As the distance between him and his past grows larger with every passing mile… Sam thinks he might even be a little bit grateful for that.
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