Summary: Sam is leaving for Stanford and their father is telling him to never come back. There's no way in hell Dean can just let Sam go, it's Sam! So what if Dean went to Stanford with Sam? Maybe not right away but what if they didn't lose contact?

Setting: Pre-Series

Warnings: AU. There will be no Jess. Bad!John (not evil, just an ass). The usual mild language and mild violence. Absolutely no Wincest! The brothers will be much closer than they are in canon, a little more physical, but there is absolutely no Wincest, no romantic illusions behind any of it. Brotherly fluff.

Author's Note: No set update schedule, chapters come as I finish them. I hope you enjoy, please review :]

Chapter 1

"If you walk out that door, Sam, don't you ever come back!"

Dean felt his heart stop completely as he stared at his father and little brother in abject horror. He stood behind John who was completely stiff even as his body shook with rage. Sam stood in the doorway of the week's motel, his bag on his shoulder and a glare turned on John. Dean could see what John couldn't though. He could see something else in Sam because he knew his little brother.

Sam was hurt, hurt that their father was kicking him out instead of being proud of his accomplishment. He had a full ride to Stanford and their father didn't give a damn. He could see how excited Sam was to get the chance to go to Stanford and his fear of being on his own. He could see Sam's sadness that if he walked out to do what he had always wanted he would be leaving his family behind and, based on John's words, would never see them again. He could see Sam's horror at having to decide between Stanford and Dean because that's what John was making him do. He could see Sam's heart breaking at wanting to go to school even if it meant leaving Dean but not wanting to ever lose his big brother.

Dean didn't know what to do as he stared at Sam. He wanted to yell at Sam, say John didn't mean it. He wanted to yell at Sam, tell him not to go. He wanted to yell at Sam, tell him how proud he was of his baby brother. He wanted to yell at Sam, tell him to run far away so he could get away from their horrific life. He wanted to break down and cry at the thought of not having his little brother by his side. He wanted to pull Sam into his arms and never let go. He wanted to yell at John, tell him to be a father for once.

Then Sam looked directly at him, made sure their eyes connected. Dean felt his heart break a little more as Sam gave him a look of apology and so full of love before he turned and walked out of the motel.

He flinched at the growl that came out of John before the man slammed the motel door so hard it made the walls rattle.

"Let's go, Dean. We have work."

Dean couldn't look away from the door, blinking at it as though it was what was now keeping him from Sam. A piece of wood was hiding Sam from him.


With watery eyes that he paid no attention to, he looked at his father who was packing his bag.

"Let's go, Dean. Your brother made his choice."

"Dad..." Dean said, swallowing thickly when his voice cracked. "Tell him...tell him he can co-come back."

"No, Dean," John said, zipping his duffle. "He made his choice. He chose to abandon us, the job, your mother. I will not allow him to just come back when he decides California is not what he wanted."


"Let's go," John said, gesturing to Dean's bag on the floor next to Dean's feet.

Dean looked down at his bag and reached down to grab it. John nodded, thinking his son was obeying him. He frowned when Dean headed for the door and opened it.

"Dean, where are you going?"

Dean turned around to face his father. He gazed at the man who was supposed to be his father but had been his drill sergeant. This man was supposed to be the one who protected and raised him and Sam but had instead been an absentee father, leaving the raising and protecting to Dean. This man was supposed to be the one who encouraged the accomplishments of his sons but was instead the obsessive soldier, leaving the encouragement to Dean.

He swallowed again and shook his head, stepping out into the heavy rainfall that was happening outside. He walked over to the Impala, his baby, and ignored his father's calls. He tossed his bag in the backseat and pulled out his keys, still ignoring John's angry shouts. He dropped into the driver's seat and started the engine, staring at John in the motel room's doorway through the windshield as his father gestured and yelled for his return. He put the car in reverse and backed away from the motel, still staring at his father. He put the car in drive and pulled away, his eyes glancing at the rearview mirror once to spot his father. He put his eyes back on the road and drove, not once looking back.

He wasn't driving long before he spotted the tall figure walking along the side of the road. He honked lightly once and pulled over, his headlights illuminating a soaked Sam as his brother turned to look at the car in surprise. His eyes followed Sam as Sam hesitantly walked around to the driver's side and he opened the window.

"What are you doing?" Sam said, his eyes darting around behind his wet hair uncomfortably.

"Thought you might want a ride to the bus station," Dean said, proud that his voice didn't betray the storm that was ravaging his mind. "One last ride in the Impala before you're an uptight law student."

Sam met his eyes and his lips twitched. He was silent for a long while, just staring at Dean and standing in the rain. Dean was becoming sure that Sam was going to refuse when he nodded, his expression turning uncertain as though he thought Dean might throw the offer back at him and take off.

"Get in then," Dean said, rolling the window up as Sam walked back to the passenger's side. "Wait!" he said, startling Sam who had been about to sit.

"What?" Sam said, watching and then rolling his eyes when Dean grabbed a blanket from the backseat and draped it over the passenger's seat. "Seriously?"

"Just because you look like a wet dog doesn't mean you have to drench my baby like one," Dean said and Sam snorted, settling beside him on the bench seat. Dean waited until Sam was settled, noting how his little brother held his duffle to his chest almost self-consciously, and then pulled back onto the road.

The silence between them that was usually so comfortable was filled with tension. Sam fiddled with one of the straps on his bag, pulling at a long thread that was coming loose while staring out his window into the dark. Dean's hands tightened around the wheel every few minutes and his left leg bounced the best it could in the car, his eyes fixed on the road.

"Why are you doing this?" Sam asked quietly, staring down at his duffle to avoid eye contact.

Dean glanced over at him. "Dad's the one who said to not come back. I still want to see you. You're still my brother. I don't want things to be bad between us."

"Aren't you pissed at me?" Sam said and even though it wasn't said aloud, Dean heard the 'Don't you hate me?' loud and clear.

"I think I was at first, in the initial moments of you saying you were leaving," Dean said after a long pause. "Maybe I still kind of am, I don't know. Either way I'm not mad enough to let you just walk out and think I hate you. Besides, don't tell me you didn't want one last ride in my baby?" He smiled over at Sam, pleased and feeling himself warm inside when he saw Sam's responding smile.

"I'll miss her," he whispered and Dean caught the way Sam's fingers danced lightly over the door, almost reverently.

Dean pushed back the tears that burned his eyes. "When do you have to be in California?"

"Uh, school doesn't start for three days but I wanted to get there early so I could get settled. You know, find my classes, my dorm, get my books and other things."

"You're living on campus?"

Sam nodded. "The first month's rent is covered in my scholarship. I have to find some kind of work. Also why I wanted to get there early."

"You have to get a job in a month? Tight schedule," Dean said and Sam hummed.

Sam felt his stomach flip when he saw the bus station up the road. His fingers tightened on his bag and he took a deep breath. "Dean, I-I, uh, want you to know. I'm not doing this to get away from you, not even a little bit. This is nothing to do with you and, had Dad not said to never come back, I had always planned to come back. I don't really want to hunt anymore, not right now, but I had planned on tracking you both down on holidays and during breaks. I-I'll still try to find you or at least call you. I-I'm gonna...miss you." He ended in a whisper and his fingers were white on his bag where they had tightened around the material.

Dean saw Sam getting ready to get out of the car when it stopped at the station and made sure to look straight ahead when he drove right on by. He immediately felt Sam's confusion though.

"Dean? You—the bus stop—"

"Thinkin' maybe I could drive you to California," he said, keeping his voice casual.

"It's thirty hours away," Sam said. "What about...what about Dad?"

"He can survive thirty hours," Dean said. "What do you say?" He finally looked over at his little brother who was gazing at him with wide eyes. "One last road trip?"

Sam knew his eyes were tearing but he couldn't help it, didn't care. Maybe he wouldn't lose his brother after all. He could handle losing his father. He couldn't handle it if he lost Dean. "One last road trip," he said and smiled at Dean's grin of happiness.

"Come on, dude, you were hopeless! You tripped over those big ass feet of yours so many times and pretty much destroyed the restaurant."

"I did not! I knocked a few plates off a couple tables."

Sam and Dean laughed as they recalled Sam's few clumsy early teenage years. He had been fourteen when he got his first growth spurt that brought him up to the same height as Dean's chin. Unfamiliar with his long limbs, Sam had been uncoordinated and clumsy until he was sixteen and got that final spurt that made him grow past Dean. Not long after his growth spurt, they had been in a diner with their dad and Sam had gotten up to use the washroom. His feet got tangled and he tripped all over the diner, smacking into the surrounding tables and knocking the patrons' food to the floor.

Suffice to say Dean had been in tears from laughing, Sam had been red with embarrassment as he stammered apologies, and John had been irritated, dragging them from the diner before they could finish their food.

"You were a mess, kid," Dean said, still chuckling.

"If I was it was because of you. You were the one that helped me learn to walk," Sam said.

"Hey! You walked fine as a kid. Just because you couldn't control them when you got those giant clown feet," Dean said and grinned at Sam with the use of 'clown'.

"Shut up about the clowns," Sam grumbled but couldn't erase his smile as Dean laughed again. "And there's nothing wrong with my feet. Yours are just unnaturally small."

"Watch it with the unnatural, dude," Dean said, trying to sound threatening but sounded highly amused.

"It's you," Sam said as though it explained everything.

Dean scowled. "Shut up."

Sam chuckled and then yawned. They had been driving for a little over thirteen hours, having stopped only for gas, the bathroom, and a quick run-in for snacks. It was going on three in the morning and he knew they both needed to sleep but neither wanted to stop and miss any time together. They only had seventeen hours left of their drive to California and they wanted to make sure they had every minute before they separated, possibly for good if John had anything to say about it.

Sam knew exactly what was going to happen and he grew sober at the remembered thought. Sure, Dean was bringing him to Stanford but he was still the son that always did what he was told. Dean was the 'good' son, the son John was proud of, the son John liked. So Dean would drop him off at school and then go back to hunting with their dad. Now that Sam was a failure, the runaway, the abandoner, Dad would never let Sam see Dean again. He wouldn't want Sam to influence Dean in anyway because he knew the brothers held more influence over each other than he did over the both of them. Dean might even begin to agree with Dad after a while, agree that Sam was nothing but trouble and a failure, and agree it was better to not see Sam.

No matter what, Sam was sure that once Dean dropped him off in California, he would never see his big brother again.

And that was why he refused to go to sleep. He had to spend all the time he had left with Dean before he lost him to their father and hunting forever. Dad would keep Dean in hunting even if Dean might want out. Dad would never let Dean walk away.

Because of that, the day would eventually come that he got a knock on the door and a police officer or another hunter told him that Dean had been killed.

His hands clenched but had nothing to hold on to as he had tossed his duffle in the backseat as he relaxed with his brother. He closed his eyes, hoping it would keep the future away.


His jumped a little at his brother's voice and he opened his eyes again.

"Sammy, you okay?"

He made himself look over at Dean who was glancing at him in concern.

"Fine, I'm fine," Sam said, wincing at the different tone in his voice that clearly revealed he was close to tears.

Ignore it, ignore it, please ignore it, he pleaded, hoping Dean would just leave it alone.

Dean continued to give him a contemplative gaze before turning back to the road. "I think we should stop somewhere for the night. Last thing we need is for me to fall asleep and crash my baby into a tree."

Sam's heart stuttered at the thought of losing time with Dean because of something as ridiculous as sleep but kept the thoughts to himself. He didn't need to freak Dean out with his chick flick moment.

"Yeah, okay," he said instead, keeping his eyes on where the headlights were touching the road.

"You sure you're alright?"

"Fine." Sam nodded. "Just tired."

"There's a motel up the road apparently. We'll crash there for the night," Dean said and Sam nodded again in agreement. He could feel Dean's skeptical and worried glances but ignored them. He was not about to tell Dean about their inevitable separation and how he felt it shattering him.

Sam rolled his eyes at himself. Sounds like we're married.

No, they were something better. They were brothers. Even in that regard they knew they were different. They had a much different, much deeper relationship than anyone they had ever met. They couldn't explain it but it was there and they knew it. They could feel it and knew if their brother died, they would not be able to survive, go on. They held something between them and knew somehow the both of them had to be alive to keep it going.

And now they were going to be apart.

"Come on, dude. You're coming with me."

He realized they were stopped in front of a motel and looked over at Dean.

"What?" he said lamely.

"Exactly," Dean said. "Don't know what's up with you but I am not leaving you in the car. Come on, let's go."

He watched Dean get out of the car and grab his bag from the backseat. With a very clear gesture for Sam to get out of the car, Dean walked around the front and waited by Sam's door. Sam shook himself into movement and, snatching his duffle out of the back, got out to join his brother. He tried to smile at Dean when his brother frowned at him again but he couldn't seem to pull himself out of the depressing thoughts of never seeing Dean again.

Dean eventually gave up trying to find out what was wrong for the moment and headed into the motel's office, Sam behind him. They booked their usual, a room with two singles and just for the night. Dropping a key in Sam's hand, they headed out to room three.

Sitting on the bed farthest from the door, Sam looked around and knew he would not miss all the motel rooms while he was at school. There were a lot of things he wouldn't miss. If he was totally honest, there was only one thing he would miss.


He looked over at Dean who was shuffling through his bag to find his bathroom items to get ready for bed.

He would miss seeing his brother every day. Yeah, they fought and sometimes fought often but they were brothers that spent all their time together. Fighting was inevitable. He would miss it, the stupid little arguments that they later laughed about as apology. He would miss knowing his brother was around and that he could see him anytime he wanted. It wouldn't be the same having to talk over the phone if their father would even allow that. He was sure that Dad would cut him off completely.

Dean was his own person, definitely, but he was also loyal to their father which meant that when it came time for Dean to choose—and Dad would make him choose—Sam wasn't sure he would be Dean's choice.

"All right, that's it."

Sam looked up in surprise at Dean's words and watched as Dean sat on the edge of the other bed, bringing him so close to Sam that their knees were touching.

"Spill it, Sam."


Dean rolled his eyes. "You're moping."

"I am not," Sam said indignantly.

Dean smirked. "You are, Sammy, so tell me what's up. What is driving you crazy in that head of yours?"

He would miss being called 'Sammy', not that he would ever tell Dean. Sam sighed. "It's nothing, Dean. Just thinking."

"I got that much." Dean looked at him patiently and with his own look that manipulated Sam. Dean always talked about Sam's puppy dog expression but was unaware he had his own look that Sam couldn't ever ignore.

"It's stupid," Sam said even though he knew he'd be telling his brother regardless now.

"Maybe it's not. Tell me and I'll let you know," Dean said.

Sam looked at him from behind his long hair. He really didn't want to say anything. What if Dean confirmed it all? What if Dean laughed at him? What if Dean decided he didn't want to deal with Sam's stupid fears and took off? But...would he ever get to do this with Dean again? Would he ever be able to sit and talk to Dean, tell his big brother what was bothering him so Dean could fix it? They might never have one of Dean's dreaded 'chick flick moments' again.

So he took a deep breath and looked down at his tightly clasped hands.

"I, uh, I'm just thinking about Stanford, when we get there," Sam said.

"All right, what about it? Nervous?" Dean said and Sam hated that he sounded so understanding. It was going to be impossible to say goodbye to Dean.

"No, well, yeah, I am but that's not what I'm thinking about," Sam said. "Just thinking about what'll happen when you drop me off, when you leave. Probably won't see you again, not with Dad around. He'll never let me come around so I won't see you again. This is, uh, this is it, I guess. And I'm...I'm gonna miss you."

He cursed when he felt tears fill his eyes. He waited in the silence that followed, tense, waiting for Dean's reaction and response.

"Dad can't keep us from seeing each other," Dean finally said. "He can't keep me from my little brother and if he tries then he can go back to hunting all alone. Besides, we have cell phones too, don't we? And do I or do I not have my own car?"

Sam looked at him in shock. "'ve always followed Dad. He'd be pissed at you for disobeying and for leaving."

"Then he can be pissed at me," Dean said with a small shrug. He eyed Sam and leaned forward. "Nothing—no state line, no school, not even Dad—will keep me away from you. I plan to still see you all the time, call you constantly, email you. You're going to California, Sam, to school. You're not going to the sun, not that that would change anything."

"You're serious."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Course I am! You may be a big college boy now but you're still my little brother."

His eyes bright, Sam reached out and pulled Dean into a hug, ignoring the fact that Dean hated such things. He wrapped his arms tightly around Dean's torso and rested his chin on Dean's shoulder, their temples pressed together. He closed his eyes against the burn of tears when he felt Dean hold him back just as tight, a hand on the back of his head and buried in his hair.

Despite the talk and clear up, he still had to say goodbye to Dean when they got to Stanford and Sam was becoming less and less sure that he'd be able to do it.

They were driving through Palo Alto and Sam swore he could see Stanford up ahead even if it wasn't actually possible to see Stanford. Despite everything, they had both slept well the previous night, even better once Sam had silently crawled into Dean's bed. They would forever deny it but it had been a final night of childhood comforts. There would be no more sharing a room so there would be no more big brother to make little brother's nights better.

There would be no more big brother to help little brother through school.

There would be no more big brother to make little brother's bad days better.

There would be no more big brother to make little brother laugh even when he didn't want to.

There would be no more big brother and little brother period.

There would be no more Sam and Dean.

And if that thought didn't make Sam's stomach clench painfully with anxiety...

Sam grimaced and surreptitiously wrapped an arm around his stomach as the Impala got steadily closer to Stanford. He wanted nothing more than to go to Stanford and he was excited to start this part of his life, to start his experience as a pre-law student, but how was he supposed to do it without Dean? Had Dean stayed behind in that motel with John then Sam might've had a slightly easier time because there would be no painfully impossible goodbye. He could've come to Stanford and pretended that it was alright because Dean was pissed at him, hated him.

But this...he had to actually say goodbye to his brother and risk never seeing him again with the knowledge that Dean did still care about him despite his decision to come to Stanford.

His stomach clenched again and he winced, now feeling nauseous. His chest was beginning to hurt as well and his head began to feel light. It was becoming harder to take a regular breath and each time he tried, his chest constricted. Tears were sitting in the corner of his eyes now and it felt like water was rushing in his ears. He thought he felt pressure on his shoulder but he was feeling detached from his body except for the pain in his chest and the nausea in his stomach.

He had no idea that the Impala had been pulled onto the side of the road and stopped. He had no idea that Dean was no longer in the driver's seat but was rushing around the car to Sam's side. He had no idea that his door was being nearly wrenched open. He was hardly aware of being turned in the seat so that his legs dropped out of the door, his feet on the ground.

"Breathe, Sammy."

There was a hand on his neck and another holding one of his hands over his heart. He tried to focus on the contact he knew was his brother's but focusing on anything was becoming impossible. He felt his and Dean's hands leave his chest and then press against something else, but he didn't care.

"Breathe, damn it! Come on, Sam, just take a breath. Feel my breathing and match it."

The hand on his neck squeezed and his hand was held against something solid. Despite the odd tingling throughout his body he could feel material under his fingers. He moved them slightly, just enough to lightly hook the material.

"Focus on my breathing. Feel my chest move. It's alright, Sammy, just breathe for me."

The rushing water in his ears was fading slightly. He became aware of the solid thing under his hand moving. He tried to focus on the movement. It was a steady rise and fall. It was calm, comforting, soothing.

Which meant it was Dean.

The rushing got quieter until it was gone. His chest expanded a little, drawing in more air than before. Feeling began to return to his body so he felt the hand leave his neck and brush back his bangs. Soon he was drawing breaths in time with Dean and he could feel himself calming down. He wasn't completely sure just what had happened but he was glad it was over.

He opened his eyes and they immediately settled on Dean who knelt on the ground right beside the car and had a worried expression on his face even as he continued to hold Sam's hand to his chest.


Keeping his eyes on Dean's, Sam tried to tell his brother that he was okay, that it was over, that he wasn't in danger of dying or anything while he continued to even out his breathing. His hand clenched and held a fist-full of Dean's shirt to help ground him.

"Dude, what was that about? What could have possibly triggered a panic attack?" Dean said, fully aware of what had just attacked his brother. Sam had always been prone to nightmares, fevers, and panic attacks, none of which had gone away as he got older. The panic attacks came less frequently but they still occurred and it was still only Dean that could ever pull him out of one.

"M'kay," Sam mumbled and quirked a smile when he heard Dean snort.

"Sure you are," Dean said. "What happened?"

Now he felt himself going red at the thought of telling Dean what had set off the panic attack. What was he supposed to say? He had hyperventilated because he thought of saying goodbye to his brother? Even after Dean had promised they would stay in contact, would see each other. Hell, Dean had basically said he would ditch their father for Sam if Sam even hinted that it's what he wanted.


Sam met his brother's eyes again and sighed.

"We should get to Stanford. I still have to find my dorm and my classes."

"I know you know this isn't over," Dean said and Sam nodded with a little smile. Sure he was aware. He just wanted to do it at Stanford where it was possible for him to walk away. Not that he ever wanted to walk away from Dean but he usually did when he was embarrassed. "Alright then. We're almost there."

Sam nodded again and pulled his legs back into the car with a smile when Dean pulled back after patting the side of his head. He settled as Dean pulled the Impala back onto the road and they continued through Palo Alto to Stanford.

They were silent as they completed the final stretch of the drive. Sam stared out the windshield, imagining he could see Stanford up until the point when he actually could, and tried to ignore the way his stomach clenched again with nerves. Why was this freaking him out so much? Hadn't he always wanted to go to college? He was getting out of the hunting life and he was going to college, it's what he wanted, right? So why was it like he didn't want to be there? Was it just nerves about actually going to college? About being on his own? About being away from Dean? About Dean leaving and possibly never seeing him again because of their father?

Then the Impala was parked and they were staring at Stanford University.

And Sam made absolutely no move to get out and begin this part of his life.

"Sam? You okay?"

He turned his head and looked at Dean who was looking at him with half concern and half curiosity.

"This is it," Sam said, looking back at the place that would be his home for four years.

Dean nodded. "This is it." He nudged Sam's shoulder and then opened his door. "Come on, let's get your stuff and find your room."

Sam watched his brother get out of the car for a moment and then followed suit. He really didn't have anything so Dean just handed him his duffle from the trunk.

"Go shopping, dude," Dean said, shutting the trunk. "Gotta have clothes and things to make the place yours."

They walked around the car and Sam was surprised when Dean continued towards the school.

"You're coming with me?" Sam said.

"Gotta see where my little brother's going to be living, don't I?" Dean said. "Have to make sure it's good enough."

Sam smiled. "I don't have much of a choice. I get what they give me."

Dean shrugged. "Either way."

Still smiling, Sam walked with Dean into the school and, following other people and signs, they found the correct office where he got his schedule and also his dorm information. Looking at the map of campus he had been given, Sam began to lead the way to the residence hall his room was in. They were about to enter the Florence Moore Hall when Dean's phone beeped.

Sam immediately tensed and his face fell before hardening. He looked down at the papers in his hands, fiddling with them as Dean took out his phone. He looked inside the building as an attempt to distract himself, spotting the stairs that he would have to take up to the second floor.

"Are you going to go in, Sammy, or just stare at the hallway?"

He spun back around to look at Dean in surprise. "What about—wasn't that Dad?"

"Yeah, what about it?" Dean said.

"He's telling you to go back, isn't he? Isn't he mad at you?"

"So what if he is? He can survive a little while longer without me," Dean said. "Try to remember that I said I'd be here for you if you needed me and probably even when you don't want me."

Sam's lips twitched. Slapping Sam's back, Dean walked into the building and they quickly found Sam's room on the second floor. He had been given a single so he didn't have to worry about roommates. They went around inspecting—well, Dean inspected—and also examined the clearly well worn items. The dorm was basically furnished with a bed, simple bedding, a dresser, a sofa, a small fridge, a microwave, and an oven. The window in the living area had a view of a small courtyard complete with a huge tree.

"How much is the rent for this place?" Dean asked. "Once you have to start paying."

"Seven eighty-five a month."

"Seven hundred dollars?" Dean said, his eyes wide.

Sam smirked. "Better than the twelve hundred dollar dorms."

"Good God," Dean muttered and Sam chuckled quietly.

Eventually the inspection was finished and Sam had chucked his bag on the bed before following Dean back out to where the Impala was parked. Sam felt the good mood he had gotten while looking around his dorm with Dean disappear. He stared at the Impala sadly to avoid looking at his brother, sure if he did that he would lose it. He would miss the Impala. It had been his home for eighteen years. He had grown up in that backseat.

"So, Sammy," Dean said, sounding awkward and Sam looked at him, half amused and half ridiculously upset. "Kick ass but...have fun. Loosen up a little. Make sure you've got stories that don't involve a dusty book when I come visit."

If you come visit. Guess we'll see how strong a hold Dad has on you, Sam thought but made sure not to say a thing. "I'll do my best."

Dean's expression softened into a fond smile as he kept his eyes on his little brother. "I know you will."

Sam swallowed thickly and felt his eyes burn. This was it. He had to say goodbye. He had to let Dean go. He couldn't. He couldn't do it. He couldn't say goodbye to his brother. It was Dean. Dean was his...everything, his mother and father and friend and partner and brother and every other possible role he had had to play throughout Sam's life. How was he supposed to say goodbye to Dean? How was he supposed to have a semblance of a life when Dean had always made and been his life?

And if that's not creepily co-dependent, I don't know what is, Sam mused as he hastily swiped at tears before they could fall, turning red when he knew Dean had seen.

"Sammy," Dean said quietly. As Sam's head dropped, Dean crouched slightly to try and catch Sam's eye. He stepped closer and put a hand on Sam's arm, and wasn't surprised when he was knocked back a few steps by his little brother's body crashing into him. Sam's arms wrapped around Dean and held on so tight it was almost suffocating while burying his face in Dean's shoulder. Dean responded instantly, laying one hand on Sam's back and the other on the back of Sam's neck. He closed his eyes as his heart ached a little when he felt Sam shaking lightly as he cried but tried not to cry.

"I don't think I can do this, De'n," Sam mumbled into Dean's shoulder but, even muffled, Dean didn't miss the way a letter was dropped from his name. It was a common sign of when Sam was in pain, overtired, drugged or sick, or extremely upset.

"Yes, you can, Sammy. You are more than capable. I know you can do this and you'll do great," Dean said, mentally rolling his eyes at the chick flick he was voluntarily having in front of a university.

"I've never been on my own," Sam said, sounding calmer but not making a move to release Dean.

"I know you haven't but this will be a good experience for you. Besides, I know you've always wanted your own place, your own room," Dean said, his hand absently moving up and down Sam's back. He sighed when Sam continued to cling to him. "Sammy, listen to me. This is something you've wanted all your life. You've been preparing for this for years. You want this, Sam, and you can do this."

"I don't want you to leave," Sam whispered and had they not still been hugging, Dean probably wouldn't have heard the words.

Dean forced Sam to back up slightly, just enough to be able to meet Sam's eyes but maintained contact. He kept one hand on Sam's arm and his other on Sam's neck.

"I'm going to visit, Sam, and you're going to track me down on holidays when I forget how to use a calendar. We are going to call each other and text each other and email. This is not the last time we are ever going to see each other for the rest of our lives. This is a new part in your life. I'll be featured but this is your time. You're doing something you want, Sam. You're not trapped in hunting."

"Dean, what if I'm not good enough for college?"

Dean gave him an incredulous look. "Dude, what the hell? You remember you've got a full ride here, right? You've always been the college boy, the one of us that would be able to succeed in the academic world. And I am so glad it's you. Sammy..."

Sam looked at him in question as his big brother trailed off.

Dean sighed and then looked at Sam in amusement. "You've filled your chick flick quota for the year with this, bitch. Sammy...I'm proud of you and you are going to do nothing but kick ass because you're Sammy and that's just what you do."

Sam's eyes shone and he crushed Dean in a hug again. Dean chuckled and let his hands rest on Sam's back. They stood that way for another long while before Dean once again sighed.

"I have to go, Sam," he said quietly and winced at the way Sam tensed. They pulled apart again and Sam did nothing to hide his tears. The sight made Dean's chest hurt; he hated when Sam cried, no matter the context. "I will come back. Until then I can text you and call you every day until you get sick of me."

Sam gave a choked laugh. "I'm gonna miss you."

"Won't be far, Sammy," Dean said and Sam nodded. "Do me proud, kid."

"I will, I promise."

Dean smiled. "I know."

Squeezing Sam's shoulder, Dean pulled his keys out and walked around to the driver's side. Sam watched Dean settle in the Impala and listened one last time to the familiar rumble of the car's engine. The passenger window was rolled down and Dean leaned over on the bench seat to look at Sam out the window.

"Sam," Dean said and Sam leaned down to see his brother, silently questioning him. Dean grinned. "Either watch some porn or get laid, dude. You're in college."


Dean laughed and then mock saluted his little brother. "Later, College Boy!"

Sam couldn't help but laugh even as his heart clenched when the Impala pulled away. He raised a hand in a wave and continued to stare after the car until it was no longer visible, taking his big brother with it.