Disclaimer: Unsurprisingly, I own neither the Winchesters nor Emily Dickinson's poetry.

Summary: Set immediately pre-Pilot: Dean tries to get up the courage to go see Sam.

I Years had been from Home
And now before the Door
I dared not enter, lest a Face
I never saw before

Stare stolid into mine
And ask my Business there—
"My Business but a Life I left
Was such remaining there?"

I leaned upon the Awe—
I lingered with Before—
The Second like an Ocean rolled
And broke against my ear—

I laughed a crumbling Laugh
That I could fear a Door
Who Consternation compassed
And never winced before.

I fitted to the Latch
My Hand, with trembling care
Lest back the awful Door should spring
And leave me in the Floor—

Then moved my Fingers off
As cautiously as Glass
And held my ears, and like a Thief
Fled gasping from the House—

Emily Dickinson

I Years Had Been From Home

He's been here before. Three or four times a year for the last three years, like the seasons. It always starts with his dad casually mentioning that there was something in the Los Angeles Times or the Las Vegas Sun, and they'd made three trips—pilgrimages—before Dean caught on.

They don't head west directly, because this is the sort of thing that, to succeed, needs subtlety and nonchalance and an air of the casual, and then there's that unwritten rule that multi-day trips must route through South Dakota, which was purely incidental until who else but Sam, at age eight, in the middle of reading a book in which the narrator's mother always drove to the post office before heading for her destination, observed that they always drove through South Dakota. As Dean knows only too well, the shortest trip from A to B is rarely a straight line.

So it's a wraith in Corpus Christi, a black dog in Cheyenne, and oh yeah, remember that article in the Stockton paper?

So he's been here before. The last time (and it's been too long since then), it was May, and they'd loitered in the café up the street for hours, waiting for Sam to leave his apartment. They'd telephoned from a gas station and hung up as soon as the call was answered; he was home.

It had been warm, summer really, which he understood was unusual for the area at this time of year, and pedestrians wore shorts and t-shirts and smiled and laughed gaily. Children ran up the street and rang their bicycles' bells, their sweet giggles carrying over the soft breeze. The sun brilliant and the sky azure, and he had to angle his head sideways to see things clearly—had to look at them obliquely or they wouldn't focus.

He always prefers the winter visits.

It isn't the first time that he's thought about coming here on his own, either. Anytime he's west of—hell, anytime he's west of Kansas, he gets edgy. Preoccupied. Impatient. He thinks of might-have-beens and never-will-bes, and curses the Winchester obstinacy. He sees his dad in Sammy—or saw, at any rate, since one of those shared characteristics is a tenacity that's out of this world and an ability to hold a grudge like you wouldn't believe.

If his brother's like his dad, the corollary is that he's like his mom. But he doesn't remember—never knew—what she was like, and it seems somehow pretentious to assume that he's inherited her personality.

And so if he's going to think about this at all, he'd rather think about those qualities of his dad's that he's got, like a stubborn streak a mile wide, and then he's back where he's started.

And he knows that he's stalling but he doesn't care. He's by himself, which isn't in and of itself unusual, except that the only two people in the entire world who could change that statement, that fact, that unadulterated truth, and make it past, are AWOL, and the acronym is right in too many ways.

The last constant didn't even give any explanation, any warning, any reason for his absence. The other constant—he isn't scared of anything, but he's scared of it.

It's safer in this world with only two constants, both for them and for you, which Sam never understood. Funny, since he is the one who likes spending time by himself.

He reminds himself that he's stalling, but even musing over his—Sam's three-year-old words echo through his head: "Lots of people lose their spouses in house fires! They don't go on a decades-long rampage, and raise their children on the side of the interstate! They buy another house in the suburbs and remarry and get over it and don't turn their household—and I'm using that word in its loosest sense—into a dysfunctional mess!"

And that rage is why he's still in the car, at the curb. Decision made by default, he turns the key, fusses with the heater, rummages around on the floor for his box of cassette tapes, debates the merits of AC/DC over Styx, and then wonders why he's prolonging the leaving. The longer he's here, the more attention he'll draw.

And the simple answer, he realizes as he gets out of the car and tucks the keys into his coat pocket, is because he isn't going to find home under the seat or in the Sacramento Gazette or even in South Dakota. He's going to find it through that door and up the stairs. It's been three years in the waiting, but at long last, he's coming home.