A/N: First of all, thanks to everyone of you who reviewed, you really helped me keep going! This story was very difficult to write, so thanks again!
Second, I apologize for not updating sooner. I meant to post this a week ago, but ffn was giving me trouble, so I decided to wait a little longer... Sorry...
Also, no Deans were hurt during the writing of this fic. Sam, however, had a paper cut, a really bruised ego, and one hell of a hangover... ;)
I hope you enjoyed the ride, and please review !
Chapter Twenty Three - Epilogue
Last time on 'I Wanna Know Why'…
"You're what?" Dean asked after a long moment of awkward silence.
"I'm leaving." Sam repeated resolutely. "I'm going back to school."
"Now?" Dean smiled a little panicked smile. "But we still have work to do." he tried.
"You said it yourself, Dean. There'll always be work to do, there'll always be something to hunt. But I'm done. I'm out. I can't do this anymore. I won't."
It's been three weeks since Sam returned to Stanford, and life was good. He smoothed things up with the dean of admissions and got himself re-enrolled, he moved back into the dorms and immediately clicked with his new roommate. He even got a job at a nearby pizza place. His classes will start soon enough, and Sam found himself looking forward to it. Things were coming together, finally. Sam couldn't remember why he's ever left here in the first place.
His roommate, Tyler, reminded him a lot of his brother. That is, had Dean chosen to go to pre-med instead of hunting. Tyler was pretty good looking, a smart mouth, and loved to party. He managed to drag Sam with him to one of the parties, and it's a good thing he did, because, man, did he miss out the first time around.
He kept having this nagging feeling that there was something missing, but he couldn't put his finger on it. This was so not like the first time he had gone to college. There was no guilt this time – Dean had let him go, they didn't fight. Everything was alright between them. And there was no awkwardness – he's done this before; he knew the right things to say now, the right places to be. And thanks to Dean, he definitely knew the right beer to drink and the right way to play pool.
Yes, this time he was going to do this right. In the past three weeks, he's already made at least as many friends as he had the last time he was here. They didn't know about Jess, so there wasn't the awkwardness involved with that, and he didn't mind talking about his family this time around. Of course, he didn't really tell them the truth, but it was still better. Life was definitely looking up.
Until the first vision came, that is. And it didn't just come, it came with a punch strong enough to knock Sam out cold and leave a pounding headache for hours later. Sam had trouble understanding the spinning images. Breathless and in pain, he had called his brother. There was no answer.
Sam barely made it to the bathroom before he started throwing up, nearly passing out again. He somehow managed to crawl back into bed. And the next thing he knew, it was morning, and he felt like he had had a couple dozens of beers the previous nights.
It took a few hours for Sam to remember the vision. Only, it wasn't exactly a vision. Then again, they have been weird lately, so he couldn't be sure. He saw Lynn on the ceiling – that couldn't have been a vision, since Lynn was dead now. She died on the ceiling, as a matter of fact. And there were other things. Things he couldn't make sense of. High school things. Staying late after soccer practice because Dean hadn't come to pick him up, talking to a strange man in dark sunglasses after sundown… It was too strange. It had never happened, so why was he seeing this?
He remembered that day though, the day Dean was late to pick him up because dad got himself arrested and Dean had to bail him out with the money Dean had put away for that guitar he had had his eyes on for months. And then dad was angry with Dean for not picking Sam up in time. Yes, Sam remembered that day. He remembered how quiet Dean had been, and how he just wanted to be left alone. Sam remembered that day very well, because that was the first time he seriously thought about going to college to get the hell away from his family. He just couldn't remember any creepy guy in sunglasses.
The visions, nightmares - or whatever else they might have been – didn't end with that painful first one. No, there were others. Most of them alike, most of them featured the weird sunglasses guy and something bad happening to Dean. It took Sam a long time to figure it out. An entire week, with up to four of these 'visions' per day. Sam had to tell Tyler he was suffering from migraines to get him off his back. But Sam finally figured it out. He finally understood. He remembered. And then had a panic attack of massive proportions.
I'll never do it! I'll never hurt my brother!
It looks to me you're doing a damn fine job, Sammy. Almost got the job done five years ago… You left, didn't you? And it was almost over. Would have been, if you hadn't picked up the damned phone that time he called… He had the gun and everything…
Sam used to think it was impossible. Dean would never do something that stupid. Dean would never hurt himself. Dean would never give up.
You left, didn't you? And it was almost over.
Every time the sunglasses guy showed up, Dean was hurt – but never physically. And then Sam thought about the past few months, ever since the accident. Thought back to Dean's nightmares and the fact he didn't seem so enthusiastic about hunting the Demon anymore. Dean's been hunting for this Demon his whole life. After what happened at the cabin Sam figured they all wanted that Demon dead even more. But Dean… It was almost like he was scared of facing it again. It made no sense at all.
Sam kept thinking about it. About how, even after he had found out what was physically wrong with his brother, there was still something off about Dean. Dean didn't have nightmares, that was Sam's private little hell, and Dean wasn't allowed in. Sam had to think hard to remember the last time Dean had had a nightmare before the accident. Before their brush with the Demon.
It came down to the simple conclusion. Something was still hurting his brother. The Demon was still hurting his brother, pushing him to the edge – and waiting for Sam to push him over it.
Your brother needs a reason, Sam. Something to give his life meaning, a reason to keep going. A way to make peace with his life, if you will. And for some stupid, sentimental reason, he chose you, Sammy. And that just couldn't have been better for us, could it?
And God, he left. He pushed Dean over that edge, he just knew it…
Sam tried calling Dean again from the hospital Tyler insisted on taking him to. There was no answer.
Sam tried calling Dean again and again, with the same result. He had left countless voicemails, but Dean never called him back.
Sam even tried calling his father – he was willing to endure the expected furious tirade about him going back to college instead of hunting for the thing that killed his mother, he was willing to risk his father's rage and alienation if it meant his dad knew where Dean was, if it meant Dean was okay.
As expected, the first phone call to his father didn't yield much. Learning that Sam has once again abandoned their quest, his father had been too angry to even listen to the reason Sam was calling. The second and third calls were about the same. On the forth call, he was finally able to get his father to listen. He had to check his ears to make sure his eardrums were intact after that call, suddenly very grateful for the distance from his father.
Two more days passed with no word from Dean, and every hour drove Sam closer to insanity, closer to his own edge. He couldn't stand the thought he was the cause of his brother's downfall. He couldn't live with the thought he might have been the reason Dean killed himself. He couldn't breathe at the thought Dean might already be dead.
Sam jumped at the ringing of his cell phone, answering it before it had the chance to ring again.
"Dean?" he cried hopefully, fearfully.
"It's me, Sammy." Sam had to blink the tears of desperation away. He wiped his eyes, trying to get past the lump in his throat.
"Dad," he said thickly.
"I take it there's been no word yet." John said somberly.
"No." Sam said, forcing himself to stop shaking.
"I spoke with a couple of guys I know, I asked them to keep an eye out for the car. Could've been easier if he still had the Impala." John said in a tired voice. Sam didn't answer. It must have been another hard blow. Dean loved that car. Sam was missing it, and he didn't love it half as much as Dean did. God, how could he not have seen this coming? Why didn't he stop it? "How long has it been since you've talked to your brother?" John asked after a moment of silence. "I mean, he's changed, Sammy. He hasn't talked to me in almost three months. You need to let him cool off a bit. Maybe wait a couple more days and he'll…"
"It's been a month, dad." Sam stopped him, "I haven't spoken to Dean in a month." He said, wondering how the hell he'd let a month pass by without checking in on his brother. The first time he had gone to college, he had gotten two postcards the first month, and now nothing. Sam ran his fingers through his hair, feeling the bile rising in his throat. He forced himself to swallow it down, take a deep breath. "I really think there's something wrong, dad. I really think something's happened to him." Sam said.
"Well, I spoke to my contacts. No one's heard from him, Sammy." Sam bit his lower lip, trying to keep from crying.
"Just keep trying, dad, okay? We have to find him, we have to make sure he's okay." Sam said, his voice cracking.
"We will." John promised. "We'll find him. He'll be alright, Sam." He said, and soon after ended the call.
Sam sat on his bed, the phone still in his hand, feeling sick to his stomach.
I don't want you to leave the second this thing's over, Sam! Why'd you think I drag you everywhere? Huh? I mean, why'd you think I came and got you at Stanford in the first place? You, and me, and dad… I want us to… I want us to be together again. I want us to be a family again…
Sam, look… the three of us, that's all we have. It's all I have. Sometimes I feel like I'm barely holdin' it together, man…Without you and dad…
With a shaky hand, Sam dialed Dean's number one more time, blinking the tears away when he heard his brother's voicemail.
"Dean. Dean, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it, I'm sorry! I didn't really want to leave, I… I wasn't thinking straight…" he let out a shaky breath, "I want back, man. Please, Dean, I want back. I want you to come and get me and I want us to do this together. I want us to hunt this thing together. You hear me? I want to keep hunting with you, just please, man, pick up! Please!" Sam couldn't control his tears any longer and they now streaked down his cheeks. Dean didn't pick up. He didn't call Sam back. Not now, and not after any of the dozens of messages Sam had left him before.
Sam jolted awake, his heart pounding in his chest. It took him a moment to get his eyes to focus, a moment longer to realize what it was that woke him up at the ungodly hour of… 3:47 AM. His cell phone was ringing. Who the hell would be calling at nearly four in the morning? Sam thought bitterly. And then his heart raced even faster. Dean! It was just like his brother to shut the entire world off for two whole weeks only to call him at four in the morning. At least he hoped it was Dean. God, please let it be Dean and not some hospital or coroner's office...
With trembling hands, Sam reached for his cell phone. He cried out in relief when the number on the screen was indeed his brother's. Sending a silent prayer of thanks to whatever deity that was listening, Sam flipped his phone open.
"Dean?" he asked, his voice coming out more like a croak.
"Sam." That word, that one word brought Sam to tears. He laughed hysterically, still crying, his breath hitching.
"Dean! Oh, God, I'm so happy you called, man." Sam said quickly, shoving his covers aside and throwing his long legs off the bed, sitting up. "Dean, I didn't mean it. Any of it. You were right, it was a trap. It was the Demon, Dean, I remember now. It was a trap. The Demon, it's playing with us, it's playing with our minds." Sam said quickly. There was so much he needed to say, so much he needed Dean to hear. "I want back, Dean. I want to be with you." Sam said, a smile growing on his lips. Dean called. Dean is alive, and he called, and he is going to come for Sam, and then they'll both go hunt this Demon down. "Dean?" Sam asked when the silence stretched.
"No." And all the color was drained from Sam's face. His stomach lurched, his mouth went dry.
"What? Why?" Sam demanded.
"You don't need me, Sam." Dean said dryly. "You don't want back. You're happy where you are, you don't need me."
"W-No, Dean, no. You got it all wrong. You're the only thing I need. You're my family. I don't want you out of my life, man, I never did. I miss you so much… Just, please, Dean… I want back. We're good together, better than good. We make one hell of a team, you said so yourself. Just, please, man… I want back." Sam said, wondering if Dean could actually hear his heart thrumming over the phone. There was another pregnant pause before Dean asked,
"You sure?" Sam grinned, wiping his tears.
"Never been more sure of anything in my life." He said confidently. His grin faltered as the seconds passed "Dean?"
"You don't want this, Sam. You're already back at school. This is your chance. Take it. Be a lawyer. Be normal. This is your chance to be a person again, Sam. It's what you want." Dean said, and Sam flinched at his own words, being tossed at him. Is that what it sounded like to him?
"You're wrong. I was wrong. I don't want normal." the long pause that followed told Sam Dean wasn't buying it. "Okay, so maybe, I do. But not like this. Not all or nothing, Dean. I want my family. I want you, that's the most important thing, do you understand? We can have both worlds, Dean. It doesn't have to be black and white, all or nothing, we can have it both. We could hunt, and take a couple of months off every now and then when we get to someplace nice. We could have a home, Dean. You, and me, and... dad..." Sam swallowed, his heart beating so fast it actually hurt. There was another long pause as Dean considered Sam's words and Sam tried to stop from shaking, wiping another tear with the back of his hand.
"Well if you're so sure, you'd better get your scrawny little ass down here. I'm serious, man, if you're not in the car in ten minutes, I'm driving away." Sam's smile could have lit up an entire city.
"I'll be there in five, jerk." He said, already getting up and starting to pack.
"You know, if we're gonna do this, we've got to work on your insults, College Boy, Formally Known as Geek. Seriously, that jerk thing is getting a little tired." Dean said and Sam let out a laugh, already feeling the stress and tension ebbing away.
"Oh, and Dean?"