Title: Walking Away, And Coming Back Again.

Summary: When Sam left for Stanford, their family shattered. Will Sam be there when his brother and father need him? Or are they just too broken? Pre-Series and leading up to Pilot.

A/N: So, this was originally part of The Bandage Cuts Me Deeper, but it really had nothing to do with story, so I cut it away and made it its own story. Aren't you thrilled? I know I am.

Chapter one, He Who Walked Away

He remembered the day he saw Sammy march out that door.

How could he not remember every single detail perfectly? It was only undyingly etched onto the inside of his eyelids after all.

As he stood there, a twenty one year old, he watched his seventeen year old brother turn away from their father. Dean could remember exactly what Sam had been wearing. He was wearing an aged pair of jeans that didn't exactly sit on his waist right, they were about a size too big, but Dean had outgrown them and graciously offered them to Sam. He was only wearing them because the wash still hadn't been done.

"I don't need your clothes!" Sam had yelled at him when Dean came in their room, offering the cherished pair of jeans. Dean had killed his first demon in those jeans, they weren't just pants, they were a memory he was offering to Sam. It was a double stab to the heart to see his baby brother walk away in those jeans.

He was wearing an old shirt that had also been Dean's, and before that, it had been their father's. It was light heather gray and was extremely worn, gossamer about described it. The bottom hem looked like someone had taken scissors to it, a nip there and a nip here, until it was frayed more than a hippy's cut-offs. The breast pocket was ripping in one corner. The only thing it could hold was a small trinket, normally a pocket knife for those stylish on the go hunters. Over the fading tee-shirt was an army green sweatshirt coat, fairly new. Sam had bought it with some birthday money their grandmother had sent him. He had yet to take it off in the four days he had owned it. And finally, he was wearing those stupid black and white Nikes he loved so damned much. It's not like he played any sports, Dean was just fine with those nameless department store shores, to think about spending sixty dollars on shoes… he needed a paper bag to breathe into.

"I don't want to live like this anymore! I want to be normal for once! I got a full ride to Stanford Dad! Do you even know how hard I've worked for this?" Sam yelled. Dean sure did. He knew how many all nighters Sam had pulled, how many books he had read, how many straight A report cards and letters of recommendation he had busted his ass to get. All Dad knew was that Sam didn't want to learn how to hunt, he didn't want to avenge Mary's death, not like did. "I don't want to live your life!" Sam yelled. Dean had been sitting on the stairs, watching them without being seen, just as their father had taught them to do. They were in the living room, the TV was just static, a result of John's inability to remember to pay their bills.

John Winchester just stared at his son. Just stared. Sam wished more than anything that his father couldn't see through him, he wished that his father didn't know how this was eating him inside. But at least he knew Sam was telling the truth. Sam looked down and chewed on his lower lip, looking for the right words to express his emotions.

"I don't…" He looked up into his father's glassy eyes. Sam could never remember a time when their father didn't appear to be on autopilot. Sam sighed. "I don't want to be part of this family anymore." He whispered. On the stairs, Dean's fists tightened around the envelope he was holding. The crinkle of paper alerted the oldest and youngest Winchester of his presence. Sam looked to his older brother, but Dean just turned his head.

John continued to stare at his baby boy, the child he had raised entirely on his own. What had he done so wrong? What was it that made Sam and Dean so completely different? Why couldn't Sam see that they needed him? He wanted to just tell Sammy he loved him and that he was proud and to shell out all of his money so Sam could buy new books and an awesome sound system for his dorm room, but that wasn't John Winchester, at least not the man he was now.

"You leave this family, you don't ever come back." John whispered, his heart breaking again as the words left his mouth. His jaw was set and he looked like a brick wall, except his eyes weren't glassed, they were wet. If Sam hadn't been so ashamed and upset and looked into his father's eyes he would have seen the truth there. John was begging his son, pleading with his baby boy to just set that freaking duffle bag down and just stay. Just stay and be my son like you used to be. Dean stood up and walked down two steps.

"Dad, come on…" Dean said rationally. John raised a flexed hand in Dean's general direction and Dean stopped, as the hand signal motioned for him to do. John never once took his eyes off of Sam. Dean held out his hands in front of him, ever so slight and twisted his mouth into the early beginnings of a smile, his silent way to say "I love you both, stop the madness." But John's hand stayed raised and his eyes stayed focused, so Dean's mouth never spoke those words.

"Dean, go get in the car, we have a demon to find." John said calmly, finally breaking Sam from his daze. They were staring at each other again, but John's eyes had glazed over once more and Sam all together missed the only time John could have become his father again. Dean nodded and walked down the stairs.

"Yes Sir." He walked out the front door slowly, stopping to sit on the stoop, hoping to hear more of their conversation. Moments later the door opened. Dean turned and saw Sam standing there, his knuckles white from his grip on the handle of his army green duffle bag.

Army green had been Sam's favorite color ever since he was eleven. John had taken them with him on a particularly dangerous hunt. The particular demon fed on bottled emotions, and John knew he could resist anything if he felt his boys were in danger. He often hated himself for using his boys as a weapon, but every time they got away unharmed, or relatively unharmed, he was okay with it.

A fair of sorts had been in the town where the demon resided and John took his boys to it. While Dean most enjoyed the animals Sam was fascinated by obstacle course set up by the Army Reserve. He had wanted to do it, but you had to be at least fifteen. Sam had been so upset.

Dean came to his rescue that day and ran the course in record time for his age group. They gave him a complementary army green sweatshirt with the words "An Army Of One" printed on the back. He had given it to Sam and ever since then army green had been his favorite color.

Now, almost an adult, Sam looked at his brother, sitting on the stoop. Dean turned his face out to the front yard of the gross motel they were staying at this week, or month. He knew Sam was staring at his back, boring holes in his soul. Sammy had always been able to know exactly how he was feeling.

"You leaving?" Dean asked in a gruff voice, struggling to keep his tone and expression emotionless, while his chest was swelling with feelings of love, pain, confusion and anger. Mostly jealously.

He didn't have to look to know that Sam was nodding. Dean chewed on the corner of his bottom lip.

"Take care of yourself Sam." Dean whispered and rose to his feet. He turned to look at his brother. Sam swallowed, his eyes full of unshed tears.

"Dean, look man, I won't…" Sam stopped when John walked out of the room, stopping between his two boys. He always came between them, somehow he found a way, whether it was intentional or unintentional. He was the rift between them. Dean was fighting to prove his loyalty and Sam was fighting to get away. John completely ignored Sam and slapped a silver pistol into Dean's hand.

"Come on Dean. We wouldn't want to keep Samuel from his first day of college." He said coldly, walking determinedly towards the Impala. Sam and Dean watched him get inside and start the car. Sam snorted and shook his head in an almost amused disbelief. He had expected more resistance. He had expected their father to forbid him to go, to tie him down, to guilt trip him… he had definitely not expected him to just let go.

Dean ignored the tears rolling down his baby brother's cheeks and fought against the ones in his own. Dean took a deep breath, putting the gun in his belt and concealing it with his shirt. He took one last look at his brother, giving him a stare hug. "Goodbye Sammy." He whispered and walked to the car without looking back.

Dean got in the passenger side of the car and looked at the envelope he still held in his clammy palm. As they pulled out of the parking lot, leaving Sam alone on the stoop, Dean ripped it open. It was a Hallmark card. The front read; So You're Going To College? There was a tall, thin geeky looking kid on the front that had reminded Dean so much of Sam that he couldn't resist when he saw it at the local Fred Meyer. Dean opened it slowly to read what he had written just that morning when Sam had told him the news.

"Not that you'll ever need it, but I included my famous recipe for the hang-over helper." Dean smiled, he really was a genius when it came to fixing a hang-over in time to salt and burn some bones. "Look Sam, I'm really proud of you. As much as I hate the thought of you leaving and being on your own, I know you can do it. Just don't become a stranger. Love, your brother Dean."

"What's that?" John asked and Dean became aware of his father's presence, remembering that if the car was moving someone had to be driving it. Dean shut the card and crinkled it in his hand.

"Nothing, it doesn't matter." Dean explained and tossed it out the window.