Disclaimer: If I owned them, they would have hugged by now.
Summary: Even if the young man had a place to call home, he couldn't go back there. His father had driven the final nail into that coffin nearly a year ago when he told his youngest son to get out and stay gone.
You Can't Go Home
Sam Winchester unlocked the door and stepped into his two-bedroom apartment. Setting his book bag on the bare table, he glanced around the empty room. The living area was completely vacant, save the small and too-stiff couch that decorated the dwelling when Sam had moved in nearly nine months ago. The kitchen was simply made up of an old wooden table and a few scattered appliances, no longer cluttered with the assortment of books and empty coffee cups that once lined the counters. Making his way down the hall, Sam peered into the tiny bathroom and noted the absence of several items that once adorned the sink. There was no second razor. No expensive bottle of cologne. And Sam's toothbrush stood alone. As he made his way towards his room, he stopped to gaze into the empty bedroom across the hall. All that was left in the small room was the rusted bed frame and a small wooden desk. His roommate had moved out. Gone for the summer.
"What are you gonna do after finals?"
Eighteen-year-old Sam looked up from his laptop and over at his roommate. Tom was lying back on the couch, one arm resting above his head while the other fiddled aimlessly with the remote. He was a stocky kid - built the complete opposite of Sam. His 5'10", two hundred-pound frame made him a perfect fit for the school's rugby team, whereas Sam always imagined himself trying out for basketball. That is, if he ever got the nerve. The question caught him off guard and he feigned confusion as his mind raced for an appropriate reply.
"I said, what are you gonna do after finals?"
Saving his work, Sam closed the laptop and turned his chair towards Tom. "Uhh, I don't know yet."
"Dude, finals are next week. How could you not know what you're doing?" Tom gave up on his search for a decent program and settled on an old rerun of Saved By the Bell
"Uhh, I guess I've been so busy with school that I haven't really given it a thought."
That was partially true. Sam had spent his freshman year of college in an exhausting pattern of going to class and studying, with occasional meal breaks in between. The life of a pre-law student left little room for much else, but the young man was far from oblivious as to what the summer held in store for him.
Glancing at his roommate and realizing that the man probably wasn't satisfied with that response, Sam spoke before Tom could. "What do you think you'll do?"
Shifting positions on the sofa so he was now facing Sam, Tom replied, "I'm gonna head home after my last exam - probably get a job landscaping with my dad." Hesitating, Tom locked eyes with his roommate and halfheartedly asked, "Are you going home?"
Home. A four-letter word that might as well have been foreign to the young Winchester. In the nine months that he had been at Stanford, Sam had never mentioned the word to anyone. He never spoke of his family, even when prompted. He'd simply say that they weren't on good terms and hoped that that would suffice.
It usually did.
But now, with Tom sitting across from him and imploring him to answer, Sam found himself at a loss for words.
"I- I can't go home," was all Sam could muster. He collected his things from the table and retreated to his bedroom.
Heading back out to the living room, Sam plopped himself on the stiff couch and took in the empty room once more. The place was completely bare, as all of Sam's meager possessions were kept in his bedroom. Most of the apartment's extras were courtesy of Tom. The stereo, the Play Station, the television - they were all his roommate's. and although Tom had done his best to make Sam feel included, Sam always felt as though he was a guest in another man's home.
Home. There was that word again. Sam Winchester could define any term in his law books. He could ace any vocabulary test thrown his way. But when it came to wrapping his mind around the word "home," he found himself at a complete loss.
Sam had never had a home. At least, not that he could remember. His impression of home went up in flames the night his mother was killed, leaving him traveling the country with his father and older brother, Dean. Sam knew that the seedy motels and strangers' houses they stayed in were not the definition of home, and when he got to college, he thought he might have finally found it.
But glancing around the apartment, noting the absence of furniture, activity, and most importantly, a companion, Sam knew that this was not his home either.
"I can't go home."
The words spoken just over a week ago replayed in Sam's mind as he began to mull over the coming months.
His roommate was gone - back to San Antonio until the end of August. He'd extended a well-intentioned invitation to Sam to join him in going to Texas, but the young Winchester politely declined. He recalled spending a few days in June in San Antonio as a boy while his father dealt with a shape shifter, and all Sam could distinctly remember about that time was the ungodly heat. Boy, was it hot. But even if the weather was nice - even if Tom lived in Maui or Malibu or someplace equally as ideal - it still wouldn't be Sam's home.
His only other friend on campus had packed up and left as well. He'd gone back to St. Louis to spend time with his family. Sam was alone and would remain so until the start of school at the end of August.
The pre-law student planned to get a job at the local grocery store. It wasn't exactly his dream job, but the pay was decent, the store was within walking distance of Sam's apartment, and most importantly, the hours were plentiful. He'd hoped that immersing himself in his work would take his mind off of the fact that he was completely and utterly alone.
May soon turned to June and June gave way to July, and all the while, Sam grew more and more lonely. It was a feeling he should have been used to, having moved from place to place as a child and never really having the time for friends.
But back then, even when the pain of permanently being the outsider threatened to overwhelm him, Sam had always had his brother.
When Sam would come home from school, upset because some bully called him a freak, his brother was there with comforting words and a fist of steel that left no room for a repeat offense.
When Sam would get picked last in gym class, his brother was there to show him how to shoot a lay-up or throw a spiral and make sure that he was never picked last again.
When Sam made the school play, his brother was there on opening night, front row center.
Dean had always been there for Sam, no matter what.
But now, as Sam stepped into the apartment and set his work apron on the back of the chair, his brother was not there.
There was no one to offer him a beer and then call him a wuss when he refused. There was no one to poke fun at the green striped apron he was forced to wear to the grocery store. There was no one to laugh with, no one to argue with, no one to sit with and just enjoy each other's company.
"I can't go home."
The words replayed in his head like over and over like some bad song he couldn't turn off. Even if the young man had a place to call home, he couldn't go back there. His father had driven the final nail into that coffin nearly a year ago when he told his youngest son to get out and stay gone.
No, Sam couldn't go home, so he continued with his mundane routine of wake up, go to work, eat dinner, go to bed.
The grocery store was closed on the Fourth of July, and Sam found himself completely jaded. With no car, no television, and no one to spend the day with, the man had no idea what to do with himself.
He spent the morning reminiscing about the Fourth of Julys he'd spent with his brother when they were kids. He recalled one summer in particular in which Dean had taken him to the local park. They had spent the entire day together, listening to the live band and feasting on funnel cake and Sam's favorite, snow cones. Sam loved the watermelon ones and made Dean stand in line for fifteen minutes to get one, but the look on the little boy's face when he took his first bite prompted the older brother to push aside his annoyance in favor of a more pleasant emotion - affection.
Later that day, Dean had even entered a pie eating contest, coming in second and demanding a recount, because surely the man next to him had cheated somehow.
Sam smiled at the memory of his older brother accosting the judges and pointing to his devoured pies, traces of blueberry coating his lips. That had been one of the best days Sam had ever had, and it was all thanks to Dean.
His silent reverie was interrupted by a pounding on the door. Unsure of who could possibly need him on a deserted campus, on a holiday no less, Sam cautiously unlocked the door and peered outside.
What he saw took his breath away.
Standing on the porch, a case of beer in one hand and a duffel bag in the other, was Dean Winchester.
Sam couldn't speak. Hell, he could barely breathe. A wealth of emotions fought for supremacy as he took in the sight of his brother. Here. On his doorstep.
"You gonna invite me in or what?" Dean shoved his brother aside and disappeared into the apartment, leaving one very overwhelmed Sam Winchester staring out the front door.
Finally getting his bearings, the younger man made his way into the living room where his brother now stood.
"Geeze Sammy, you'd think a college boy would invest in some furniture or something."
"I- " Sam was at a loss for words. He'd spent eleven lonely months without his brother, wishing and hoping for the day the older man would appear on his doorstep.
But now that it was actually happening, now that Dean was actually here, Sam couldn't quite believe it. He was certain that he'd lost his brother for good the day he chose college over hunting.
But now, staring at the man before him, Sam realized how ridiculous his thinking had been. It was his father who had refused to accept his decision, not Dean. It was his father who had virtually kicked Sam out of his life, not Dean.
No, Dean had stood by and watched it happen, torn between his brother's happiness and his own.
Dean had opted for the former, because no matter how miserable he might be, he always had Sam's best interest at heart.
Suddenly realizing that he had yet to say a word, Sam finally spoke. "Wh- What are you doing here?"
Setting the case of beer down on the table and placing his bag on the floor, Dean turned to his brother.
"Can't a guy bring his brother some brewskis? 'Cause I know your goody-goody ass stocks the fridge with, what, diet soda?"
Opening the refrigerator, Dean peered inside and smirked. "Fanta, Sam? Are you serious?"
"Shut up!" was all the younger man could muster at the moment.
Closing the refrigerator, Dean laughed and approached his brother. "It's good to see you, Sammy," he said as he pulled his brother into a hug.
"You too, man." Sam's words were muffled by the fabric of Dean's t-shirt.
Pulling away, Dean took a step towards the door.
"Where are we going, Dean?"
"Dude, it's the Fourth. I figured we could hit up one of those little barbeques and grab some snow cones. I'll even spring for a watermelon," he said with a grin.
All Sam could do was smile.
And now, sitting in the passenger's seat of Dean's Impala, the feelings of solitude that had enveloped Sam for the last eleven months were suddenly chased away. They were replaced with feelings of comfort and happiness, two sensations that Sam feared he'd never feel again.
Dean popped in his favorite Metallica cassette and turned the knob to the right, adjusting the volume just low enough so that the brothers could speak without shouting.
Easing himself into the familiar warmth of his brother's company, Sam finally relaxed.
"Hey Sammy, you think they'll have a pie eating contest?"
Who says you can't go home?
A/N: I know that in the pilot,Dean and Sam hadn't seen each other in two years, but hey, that's why it's called fiction, right? ;)
Reviews are much appreciated, as they let me know what I'm doing right and what needs improvement.