A/N: I have this set somewhere in Season 3.
Even when just sitting on the hood, Sam is on the passenger side of the Impala. It's reflex, habit, instinct. Boots on the paint, knees in the air, his ass still in the place where it has sat for years now. To the right of the steering wheel. A key player but not in the lead. Important to whatever mission but not the driving force. On the front line but not taking point. The little brother. Sammy.
Out here in the rain, free from the confines of the metal box they call home, Sam can think clearly. He can allow his mind to think past the dashboard horizon that is stagnant and static in front of him every single day of his life. He can think without having to get away from the larger-than-life aura that radiates from, and ripples around, his brother. Dean's very self requires so much of the energy and power that surrounds the brothers that there is often little of the necessary vitality needed for Sam's musings to take true flight. Out here in the rain, Sam can think big.
He looks at the racks of old, used up, bald tires in front of him. Wonders about the miles they rolled over as they made their way to Bobby's place. What they passed by, what they stopped in front of, where they've been. Sam wonders if they ever crossed paths with the Winchesters. Sam thinks of the miles he and Dean have covered and wonders if they themselves look so worn, so old, to the people they meet. Sometimes Sam feels that old. Feels that worn. Feels that used. He remembers with a smile full of regret that his dad did. Dad looked worn out by the miles long before he ran out of road.
Sam lets his eyes wander. There's more to look at here than broken yellow lines and leafless trees passing by in a flat, never-ending Midwest tableau. He takes a moment to remember the hours he spent playing in this dirty, dangerous, haphazardly unkempt salvage yard. The faded and falling blue shack held so many wonderfully unfindable hiding places. The wet pavement, as cracked as it ever was, reveals spots just flat enough for playing marbles. He and Dean never took the marbles with them when they left; they were always kept safe in their room here. Their room here… Sam realizes with a pleased grin that this place, too, was their home. It's not the first time he has come to that conclusion, but out on the road, on that endless ever-growing black top, it can be easy to forget.
All the places that should have been home run through his mind in swift succession. The house he doesn't really remember but will never be allowed to forget. Lawrence should have been home. It should be where he played hide and seek and marbles. It should be where he took prom pictures, where he climbed trees, where Dean ditched him to go off with friends. But none of that happened. No home in Lawrence, no prom, no being ditched by a brother who became a father at four years old.
Flagstaff could have been home. It was just him and a dog that was just as lost as Sam had ever been. No Dad, no Dean, no Impala, no hunting. Just room to think. And a loneliness he understood, that he could pin to a reason. Not that feeling of overwhelming isolation without a clear cause he often felt while surrounded by his family. In Flagstaff, it was okay that he wasn't like his father or his brother. He could be like Sam, and that was okay. He thought it could be his home, but then Dean found him, and Sam realized his home was with Dean. For a while.
Stanford should have been home. For a while, Sam thinks ruefully, he believed it was. Friends, an apartment, a future, love. He had all those things. But evil stalked him there, dictated the moves of those around him and guided his path more than he is even now prepared to acknowledge; though somewhere deep inside, he knows. He knows something broke his life there. He knows a demon killed his dream. No home at Stanford. Just the memories of what might have been.
The rain comes down harder, and Sam shakes himself free of the melancholy reverie. Or as free from melancholy as he can get. The real problem, the thought that sparked the need for space, is still nagging. It's always there. How do I keep Dean out of Hell? Sam has no answer. Bobby has no answer. The books have no answer.
But Sam is going to find the answer. He doesn't want the next question to be How do I get Dean out of Hell?
There simply isn't enough space in the world to think that through.
"What the hell are you doing sitting out in the rain? What's wrong with you, Sammy?"
"Nothing," Sam tells his brother as he rounds the corner, duffel in hand, ready to hit the open road and save people. They always save the other people. At this moment, that thought gives him little comfort. Sam sighs. "You ready to go?" he asks as he slips into the car, out of the rain.