12 April 2012 @ 02:42 pm



2 Months Later

Sam wipes the back of his hand across his forehead. Their new apartment is air conditioned but he's sticky and hot from moving the furniture around his room, trying to figure out the way he likes it best. Mom let him have his extra large bed from his room back at the Roadhouse. He'd been happy, excited to keep that little bit of home. He hadn't thought about how much work it would be to get into his bedroom and then to have to slide it around to each wall until it was just right. But the work was worth it and now he has a room that's more comfortable than he imagined it would be.

The couch they set up earlier is just soft enough that he sighs in relief when he finally sits down. Dean and Jo will be back with dinner from some take out place near the apartment building, soon and Sam pats his grumbling belly consolingly. The room feels too big right now, though. He fights to squash the niggling worry creeping up in the back of his mind; keeps telling himself that he'll be fine on his own for a little while.

For the most part, Sam has been able to work through his fears that Dean will leave him for good. His brother hasn't given any indication that he plans to leave him or thinks that Sam isn't worth the trouble. That attitude has gone a long way towards lifting that weight from Sam's shoulders. There isn't something wrong with him. He isn't worthless, no matter what that shifter said.

But he still worries when he's left alone, with nothing to distract him but his own thoughts. Especially because since Dean showed up at home two months ago, Sam's rarely been on his own. He's had his brother with him. Or Jo, or Mom, or Uncle Bobby. Even Ash. He tells himself that he isn't alone now, not really. Mom and Uncle Bobby are downstairs, grabbing the last of their supplies and Dean will be back soon, Jo right behind him.

"Ya gonna sit there like a potato all day or ya gonna come help an old man out?"

Bobby's voice jolts Sam out of his thoughts and Sam breathes a grateful sigh. He watches the hunter standing in the doorway for a moment, smirking.

"Don't say it," the man says just as Sam opens his mouth.

"Oh come on," Sam whines, but he levers himself off the couch and walks over to his uncle. "D'you really think we'll need this much salt?"

There are four bags of rock salt about the length of Sam's shoulder to his waist lying at Uncle Bobby's feet. It must have taken more than one trip for him to get them all here, even with the elevator to help. "Why didn't you come get me earlier?"

"Dean said you were finishing getting your room set up. Now you gonna help me or what?

Sam chuckles. "Yeah, yeah."

The bags are heavy, even for Sam who's been helping Mom with crates at the bar since he was sixteen. They can only carry one at a time each. It takes a couple of minutes, but they get the salt into the apartment and Sam leads Uncle Bobby to the closet he and Dean have designated for his brother's hunting supplies.

"Seems a little excessive. Even for you, Uncle Bobby," Sam says when he closes the closet door. "You and Mom and Dean have all triple checked the wards already."

"You can never be too careful, squirt."

The grim look on Uncle Bobby's face speaks volumes.

He hasn't forgotten about Belial. Won't ever be able to forget him and Sam knows he'll be able to recognize him even if he shows up wearing a different host the next time they're face to face. The Roadhouse is one of the most warded places he could have lived, only outdone by Singer's Salvage Yard, and Sam knows that he was lucky to have ended up there. He had managed to push that fear away, keeping the demon's last words to him - See you later, kiddo - from repeating over and over when he decided to continue with school. The fear that he'll meet that other demon Belial had been trying to steal him away from, Azazel. But that the other people in his life, the ones closest to him, are doing what they can to keep him protected, even when he won't be living with all of them anymore, means more to him than he can put into words.

"Thanks," he chokes out around the lump in his throat. He swipes the knuckle of his hand over his traitorously wet eyes. Sam is beyond grateful when Bobby busies himself with looking around the room, giving him a moment to calm down.

"All right, who's hungry?"

Dean blunders into the room, breaking tension he was unaware had been there in the first place. Sam grins, pats his stomach when it growls again at the smell of take-out. He takes one of the bags from his brother and follows him to the coffee table sitting in front of the couch. There's a small TV on the other side of it. Not the best or biggest out there, but it's better than some Sam remembers from the motel rooms they used to frequent and definitely better than having nothing.

Mom walks through the door a moment later, Jo just behind her. His sister has the last bag of food on her arm and Mom is carrying the small ice chest from the truck that she wouldn't let Sam look in for the whole drive here.

"Everything put away, boys?" she asks, glancing between Sam and Uncle Bobby. Sam nods towards the closet.

"Yeah. We're stocked and warded against anything that might try to find its way in."

"Well alright then," she says with a smile, sitting on the floor by the food-laden coffee table, her back to the TV. The ice chest makes a wet, sloshing sound when she puts sets it down.

Jo settles in next to their Mom and Uncle Bobby chooses a spot on the couch. He grumbles under his breath and Sam snickers when he catches bits and pieces that sound like, "Too old to sit on the damn floor". He ducks out of the way of the hand his uncle swipes at him, bumping into Dean. But his brother barely budges against his weight. And he doesn't say anything about it when Sam doesn't move away, instead relaxing into his side.

His Mom and sister smile at the two of them and Sam rolls his eyes, but smiles back. He sees his brother smiling, too, out of the corner of his eye. It's tempting to laugh at how ridiculous they're being. And he knows that Dean is probably itching to mock all of them. But after they all finish eating, his Mom and Jo and Uncle Bobby will be heading out, leaving him and Dean to their apartment. Classes start next week and they want to give him and his brother time to get used to their place and get to know the area a little more before he's bogged down by homework and Dean's busy job searching and researching hunts close by. So Sam doesn't mind that they're being more than a little sappy because it's the last time he'll be seeing the people he's called family for the past four years until his first break in the semester and he isn't quite ready to say goodbye yet.

They pass the cartons of food around, piling heaps of Chinese take-out with plastic forks onto paper plates because the real ones his Mom gave him are still in the boxes marked "Dinnerware" in the kitchen. When everyone's plate is full, his Mom leans over and opens the ice chest. Its hinges squeak in protest, lid opening to reveal ice and cold glass bottles of beer. She takes one out and pauses for a just a moment before holding it out to Sam.

Eyes widening, he looks from her to the bottle and back again.

"Mom?" he asks, taking the offering hesitantly. It's a shock because she had always been adamant while he helped at the bar that working there didn't mean he was allowed to drink what he was serving.

She smirks a little, brown eyes warm and proud. Sam is still a little surprised when anyone gives him a look like that. It makes his stomach do a flip, leaves him feeling warm and happy. She doesn't say anything right away. Instead she grabs another two bottles out and hands them to Uncle Bobby and Dean, setting one for herself just above her plate.

"I'm really proud'a you, Sam," is what comes out of her mouth when she finally speaks.

"Thanks," he says after a quiet moment, forcing himself to stop opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish.

"But if I hear about you drinkin' more than an occasional beer before you're twenty-one, I ain't afraid to drive up here and give you a piece'a my mind," she finishes with a stern look that's softened by the way her lips twitch up.

"Yes, ma'am," he chuckles, twisting the cap off of his beer and taking a small sip. It's cold and bitter and not the best tasting thing he's ever had to drink. But he takes another sip anyways.

"Why didn't I get one?"

Jo crosses her arms over her chest, pouting. She glares when Sam snickers behind his bottle.

"You're only seventeen, dear," Ellen says, patting her daughter's arm.

"But Mom, Sam – "

"Sam is starting college in a couple days. When you start college next year, you'll get one."

Jo huffs, rolling her eyes, but she nods. "Fine."

"Shut up," she says when Sam sticks his tongue out at her. But she laughs a little and scoops up some fried rice.

Sam starts eating too and soon the room is filled with the soft sound of chewing and plastic against paper.

All too soon, they've all eaten. Sam is pleasantly full and Dean's satisfied groan beside him indicates his brother is as well. His Mom grabs each now-empty plate despite his protests, "Let me mother you this one last time, hon."

"You'll see the boy in a couple months, Ellen," Bobby exasperates, but he smiles at her with fond indulgence.

Cleaning is fast and easy with only paper plates and plastic forks to worry about. His Mom throws them all into the empty plastic bags the food came in and Dean nods towards Jo, bumping Sam's shoulder when she starts grabbing the cartons that still have some food in them. He gets up and grabs some, too, following her into the kitchen to put the leftovers away in the refrigerator.

"You know you can call me anytime."

Jo speaks so quietly that Sam almost doesn't hear her. When he turns away from the open refrigerator she's looking down at the countertop, fingers fidgeting with the top to one of the containers. Standing up straight, he lets the door shut closed behind him and takes a short step to stand next to her, nudging her with his elbow.

She looks up at him with wet eyes and the sight causes his to mist up as well. It hit him days ago, when they were first brought his bed into his new bedroom, that he was going to be without her for the first time in four years. She'd had nights away from home, staying with friends from school when Mom let her. But this isn't just a night apart. He won't see her again until Thanksgiving break, and then it'll only be for a couple of days. It's going to be hard to know that she isn't just a bedroom away if he needs her. But her words now ease some tension he hadn't realized was curling in his gut.

"I know. You didn't think I'd run away to college and forget all about my little sister, did you?"

"Yeah right. I'm impossible to forget."

"Damn straight," he chuckles, wrapping his arms tight around her. "Love you, Jo."

"I love you, too. And I’m gonna miss you. Won't miss your stupid pranks, though." She smacks his arm and he pulls back, rubbing the spot exaggeratedly.

"Pfft, my pranks are hilarious," he grumbles.

They put the rest of the leftovers into the fridge in silence. When they come out, Uncle Bobby is checking the supplies in the closet for the fourth time, listing things to Dean who keeps nodding. The bag of trash is hanging from his Mom's arm, swinging loosely.

"All right, you boys are all set," Bobby says with a firm nod.

That seems to be the cue for them to leave and Sam nods. "We'll walk you guys out."

The five of them take the elevator down to the first level. Their silence feels heavy to Sam, weighed down with the unease of being on his own again. The past four years with the Harvelles have flown by too quickly and he almost wants to cling to them and go back home. But this is his chance to make his own life, despite what John Winchester tried to do to him. The saying goes that the best revenge is living well. And this is Sam's first step to doing just that.

He sniffs when they make it outside, pausing by Uncle Bobby's Ford truck. Jo steps up first, collides so hard with Sam's chest that he staggers back. Dean's hand between his shoulder blades helps steady him and he hugs her back, buries his face in his sister's hair and breathes her in for just a moment. Jo pulls away hesitantly, wiping quickly at her eyes, and moves to Dean while their Mom takes a step closer. She reaches up to pet Sam's hair a little, tries pushing his bangs out of his eyes but they stubbornly fall right back down. They share a laugh and Sam opens his arms. It's hard to keep calm, but he doesn't want to cry. He's done that enough in his life, when things were bad and only seemed to get worse. But now things are looking up and he isn't going to cry when he's got something to be happy about.

"Go to class and study, but don't forget to live a little okay?"

He nods and Dean comes up behind him again, arms empty of Jo now. "Don't worry, Ellen. I'll make sure the kid gets out once in a while."

She sniffles a little when she pulls back but she's smiling and Sam lets her go slowly.

Uncle Bobby fidgets with his cap, pausing when he seems to realize what he's doing and rolling his eyes at himself. His hand lands heavily on Sam's shoulder and he smiles. "Be safe, squirt."

"Yes, sir," Sam says with a nod, voice rough.

"Good. See you in a couple months. Keep your idjit brother out of trouble and call me once in a while."

Dean scoffs, mumbling, "Keep yourself out of trouble," behind them.

"I can do that."

The man nods and squeezes Sam's shoulder before turning and getting into the driver's seat. Sam and Dean take a couple of steps back while Jo gets in on the other side, followed by his Mom.

He never fooled himself into believing he could have this. Not even before he'd been adopted into the Harvelle's family. Back when he'd been a Winchester, even at ten he'd known there was no getting out of what he did. He still planned to try at the time, but then John had sold him and he'd gotten away only to wind up alone for four years without school and without a family.

But here he is. At University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In his own apartment. And with his big brother. Somehow, against all odds, Sam has found something he's always wanted. A family that's supported him, even though they aren't blood. He worked through years missed at school well enough to earn a scholarship that paid for his classes and books. And Dean is back in his life, willing to find a job somewhere in town and only take hunts close enough to their place that he can be done in a couple of days.

Sam had never fooled himself into believing he could have this, but he does. And even with the possibility of another run-in with Belial looming somewhere in the future, Sam is happy.

Sam smiles, a little wistful and a lot content, and waves goodbye to his family. Dean puts a solid arm against his back. His hand is warm and steadying at the nape of his neck and Sam leans a little further into his brother's side. Uncle Bobby honks the truck's horn and then they're driving off, leaving Sam and Dean alone.

"You okay, Sammy?"

He nods, turning to look at Dean. They're eye-level now, and Sam thinks he's still got some growing to do. Not much longer before he ends up taller than his older brother.

"Better than."

Dean grins, eyes crinkling at the corners. He lets go of Sam's neck to drape his arm the rest of the way across Sam's shoulders.

Neither of them moves to go back up to the apartment until long after the truck's headlights have disappeared into the distance.


Soon – Jo and her brothers


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