Disclaimer: Gezz! I can't believe that after over a year I get to once again think up a way to say no.
A/N: What can I say? You were all sent in a time loop, and it really hasn't been over a year, it's only been just over a week? Screw it. It's been over a year. Almost two actually—crap! Well, nevertheless, I am momentarily back. And thanks to what? All those horrible writers out there! Haha. No, seriously.
So my hiatus is thanks to my getting a job, moving super far away, starting school, and having about a billion other things going on my life. I still loyally watch Supernatural every Wednesday and will often, when procrastinating against school work, watch older episodes of the show. This happened the other day, and I happen to watch the episode where Sam and Dean die and go to heaven. They enter into one of Sam's greatest memories; the Flagstaff one, and Dean gives a brief 'teaser' about how Sam had been missing for two weeks on his watch, and all of that. Immediately I remembered that little side story, and came onto fanfiction to see people's versions of the Flagstaff story. And I swear, every single one of those stories has a mean, and evil John beating his kids, and whatnot. I know Dean gave a look when he said '…and when Dad came home…', but c'mon… John would never have hurt his kids—he could have gave that look for any number of reasons. And so absolutely frustrated with everyone's versions of Flagstaff, I decided to write my own.
This story is long folks… it just kept going. And since I am rusty at writing, it may not be the best, but I hope you do like it. I love nice guy John (even JDM said he hates how they have tarnished his character and that he doesn't think John would be bad), and so wrote this one up. Please review! If for no other reason than to get me out of the 730-something reviews! Haha, enjoy!
Genre: Angst and fluff
Summary: Sam spent one of the best two weeks of his life in Flagstaff. But like every vacation, you eventually have to go home.
Sam loved his brother. He loved his Dad too, even though he didn't get to see him nearly as much as he wanted sometimes. The thirteen year old simply couldn't be around them any more—he couldn't take the life of a hunter that his family seemed to prize above all else.
"Hey Sammy, what do you want for dinner?" Dean stuck his head into the bedroom the brother's shared where Sam sat on his bed reading a book.
"Did Dad leave money?" Sam's plan was in place, and in order to do what he needed to do, he had to get his brother out of the small rented house.
"He left us a twenty to last until he gets back tomorrow," Dean smiled, "Want some fries and a burger from down the street?"
Dean's grin widened, "They have great pie. Want to come with me for the walk?"
Sam shook his head, "No thanks. I'm going to finish off this chapter and then jump in the shower."
"Okay," Dean turned around and headed towards the living room, "I'll be back."
The second his brother was out of sight, Sam went down to his hands and knees on the floor. His ears straining for any sign of Dean coming back down the hall, the youngest Winchester grabbed an old tin lunchbox he'd hidden and brought it in front of him. The plan of leaving had been brewing in Sam's mind for months; since his last big fight with John about a hunt. The one thing Sam knew he'd need was money and so had been saving up carefully, stashing his money in the box.
"Okay," Sam could feel butterflies forming in his stomach as he heard Dean leave out the front door, "I got an hour until the bus leaves."
He heard in passing conversation several months ago about Uncle Bobby spending some time briefly in Flagstaff, and the name had stuck in Sam's head. They were close, currently staying in Deming, New Mexico, and Sam had checked with the local bus line to see when the bus left to Flagstaff.
Every day at 6PM they had told him. It was currently four minutes after five.
After shoving the nearly two hundred dollars he had managed to collect into his wallet, Sam grabbed a pre-packed backpack he'd stashed in the closet and left the bedroom. Quickly he stopped in the bathroom, opened the door, turned on the shower, and closed the door again.
"That should buy me some time," Sam smirked to himself as he made sure the door was locked.
All he had to do was make sure he was on the bus before Dean realized he was missing.
Sam was dead.
He had been killed, and his bloody body was lying in a ditch, the hot summer heat having dried the pool of blood, distorting the teen's features into that of something you'd see in a horror movie. It wasn't even something supernatural that had killed his brother either; he'd been hitchhiking along the highway and a person who thought that supper hour was the perfect time to get drunk hit him. Sam had suffered greatly, his body not succumbing to the injuries right away. He cried in the ditch for over an hour after the drunk driver sped off down the road. Sobbed out Dean's name, and slowly bled to death in the most gruesome and painful way Dean could imagine.
Dean blinked twice, bringing himself back to reality as he stared at the empty shower.
"Sammy," Dean's mouth was dry as his heart pounded and his body shook.
He had returned back to the small house at just after six, the meal having taken longer than thought to cook at the diner. After a quick check in the bedroom, Dean heard the shower running, and assumed his little brother was in the bathroom. It wasn't until nearly six-thirty that Dean banged on the bathroom door, and five minutes after that before he jimmied it open. A thousand thoughts could have come to the older brother's mind when he saw the room empty, and yet the first one was that Sam was dead.
"Sam!" Dean shut off the shower, and tried to convince his brain that the idea that Sam was dead was a little dramatic.
His heart still racing, Dean checked all the rooms, knowing already that they'd be empty. Forcing himself to calm down, he then went into their bedroom and looked for any sign of a note; nothing.
"Damn it Sammy!" Dean shouted, pounding his hand against the end table.
With a painful lump forming in his throat, Dean grabbed his keys for the Impala off of the table, and left out the door—with any luck Sam would be somewhere close by in town.
"I swear Sam, if anything happened to you…" the tears he'd been holding back finally began to leak over as Dean maneuvered the car down streets, his eyes scanning for any sign of his brother.
He couldn't explain the feeling that was growing in his gut; the sensation that something really bad had happened to Sam. It always seemed to be while the kid was in his care that something happened, and this time, Dean knew, it was bad. He also knew that it was something that he should call backup on; Bobby, Pastor Jim, or even their Dad.
But Dean didn't. The hope that he'd find his brother at some point brought him searching well into the night.
Dean sat numbly on the couch waiting. It was just before two in the afternoon, and he knew his Dad was going to be home any minute. He had yet to find Sam, or talk with anyone who had. The entire night Dean had gone to every single hotel in the city, and talked with people in every convenience store and all night gas bar, but nobody had seen any sign of the missing teenager. Now, Dean knew, he'd need to tell his Dad.
The sound of John's truck pulling up caused Dean's heart to pound as he sat up more. Three quick raps at the door preceded John's unlocking it and entering. The hunter looked beat, and set down his duffel bag beside the door before looking up to see his eldest son.
"Dean," John gasped slightly at his condition, "…Dean, what's wrong? Where's Sammy?"
Dean would have laughed in almost any other circumstance. He almost forgot how intuitive his Dad could be sometimes.
"Dad… he's missing."
"What do you mean missing?" John's voice rose an octave as he immediately headed towards the bedroom his boys shared.
"Yesterday I went to get supper and—" Dean began to explain as he followed his father.
"Yesterday!?" John bellowed out swivelling around to face Dean, "This happened yesterday? Why the hell didn't you call me Dean?"
"I'm sorry Dad," the eighteen year old struggled to contain his emotions.
"Your thirteen year old brother goes missing, and you call me the minute it happens!" John's voice bounced off the walls.
"How'd it happen?" John questioned as he continued to look through the rooms of the house, "Was there any signs of an entry, or any sulfur anywhere? Anything."
"No," Dean shook his head as they stopped in the living room, "Nothing. When I got back from picking up the food, the shower was running, and Sammy was just… gone."
John was breathing deep, and could feel emotions bubbling up dangerously inside of him, "Have you called around town? Checked out the hotels and talked with people?"
"Yeah," Dean could feel his lower lip begin to tremble slightly, "I'm so sorry Dad. This is all my fault. I think something took him."
"Stay here," John whispered out the order as he walked back down the hall to his own room.
Once in his room, John closed and locked the door. He could feel immediately the tears falling down his unshaven face as his breathing quickened. John knew he couldn't fully blame his eldest boy; Dean had done nothing that John wouldn't have done. Sam was thirteen, and was more than capable enough to be left on his own for a food run. Hell, the teen had already been left on his own for brief moments of time during hunts. Dean may have thought that something demonic had taken Sammy, but John had a different gut feeling. Sam had been miserable for a long time now, and the eldest Winchester knew he'd taken off.
Which terrified John more than anything. Sam was a smart kid. If he didn't want to be found, then he wasn't going to be found.
"Sammy…" John gripped the edge of a large, mirrored dresser, his breath continuing to come in gasps, "Sammy, why?"
With each blink of his eyes, John saw his boy out on his own. Alone in a world that held more evil than good it seemed. A world that was intent on destroying the Winchesters. Finally the anger, fear and worry bubbled over in John.
"Damn it!" John roared, smashing a clenched fist against the large glass mirror.
The shards of glass seemed to fly in slow motion, and the bizarre sense of release came to John as he felt the pain in his hand. Vaguely aware of the banging and yelling from the door, John breathed deep, and stared down at his bloodied hand.
"Dad!" Dean's voice came panicked from outside the door, "Dad!"
His head cleared up, John walked over and opened the door.
"Dad," Dean gasped, "Are you okay? Your hand is bleeding."
"I'm fine," John nodded, walking past a stunned Dean, "Now listen up. There's a few things that I need you to do. You need to go down to the bus station to get them to put up a missing persons notice for Sam, and then to the airport to do the same. If he hasn't already left the area, that will stop him from doing so. I'm going to call Bobby, Caleb and Pastor Jim to get some more hands on this, and to help me check to see if anything didtake him."
Dean relaxed slightly at the plan, "Okay."
"When you're done at the bus station and airport, I want you to drive around and look. And then when you're done, drive some more," John placed a hand on Dean's shoulder, "Don't worry, we'll find him."
Fourteen days later…
Sam sighed as he sat on the couch. The moment he sat down, the large, golden retriever he'd named Bones came wagging up to him, placing its head on Sam's lap.
"Hey boy, how's it going?" Sam scratched under his ears, "Miss me?"
The dog whined slightly and Sam smiled. The past fourteen days had been almost like a dream to the teen. The nervous bubbles in his stomach had turned into excitement once Sam got on the road towards Flagstaff. The money he had saved up allowed him to get a hotel room at 'Route 14 Hotel' for a week, and after talking with the manager the teen had managed to convince him he was sixteen, and got an under the table maintenance job for twenty-five dollars a day. Two days into staying there, a stray dog found its way to the off the road hotel, and Sam adopted the pet.
Everything had been going great until the manager noticed the dog, and had given Sam two days to find it a home.
"I found someone today Bonsey," Sam had a lump in his throat, "They're coming this evening to get you."
The dog looked questionably up at Sam.
"It's okay," Sam continued to pet him, "It's a real family. They even have two kids that will play with you, and you can run around all you want. You'll be happy."
Tears Sam never realized were there came down his face, "You can have a real family with people that love you and will take care of you. They'll be there for you, and make sure that you're never alone. Even when you think you want to be…"
Sam wiped away the tears from his face, and knew immediately what he had to do. The two weeks he'd spent on his own were undoubtedly some of the best of his life, but the words he spoke to his beloved dog were also true to himself. He needed his family. Picking up the phone by the bed, Sam pressed in the numbers that he'd had memorized since his Dad got a cell phone.
"Hello?" John's voice came through after only one ring.
"Dad?" Sam was forced to clear his throat, "Dad, it's Sam."
"Sammy?!" John's voice cracked, "Sammy, where are you? Are you okay?"
Sam smiled to himself, "I'm alright Dad."
"Where are you?" John's voice sounded anxious.
"I'm at the Route 16 Hotel in Flagstaff," Sam supplied, "Dad… I'm really sorry. Can I come home?"
There was a long pause, and when John spoke again, his voice quivered slightly, "Of course son. You said Route 16 Hotel in Flagstaff? What room?"
"Room eight," again Sam felt warm tears crawl down his face as he pet a concerned acting Bones, "Thank you Dad."
"Just stay there," John instructed, "Your brother is out looking for you with the car right now, so we'll meet up there. Are you safe?"
"Yes," Sam nodded despite knowing his Dad couldn't see him.
"We'll be there by tomorrow morning," John forced his voice calm.
"Okay," Sam whispered, "Bye Dad."
"I'll see you soon Sammy."
Sam hung up the phone and took a deep breath looking down at Bones. The dog continued to beg for attention as it looked up at his clearly upset master.
"It's okay Bones," Sam forced a smile, "We're both going to our family."
John was aware of Dean pulling up behind his truck with the Impala. He double checked the name of the hotel before getting out; a quick glance let him know that Dean was doing the same.
"Hey Dad…" Dean's voice cracked, "I'm uh… just going to wait out here."
John studied his eldest for a moment before speaking, "Are you okay?"
Dean nodded, and ran a hand across his rough face. John echoed the nod and turned back towards the hotel. He knew exactly how Dean was feeling—an intense accumulation of emotions that John himself felt. Relief for the fact that Sam was alive; something that had seemed less and less likely as the past 15 days passed by. Anger that he had taken off with no notice, no word or even a note of his plans. And then the emotion that he knew that Dean was really struggling with; guilt.
Trying to ignore his own guilt, John looked down at the paper in his hand for the number of the room Sam was staying in. As he walked up to the door, the hunter swallowed hard before knocking. It opened almost immediately, and John looked into the face of his thirteen year old.
"Hey Dad," Sam whispered, moving back away from the door.
John walked in, and closed the door behind him, "…Sammy."
Time seemed to slow to a crawl as the two eyed each other. Sam looked at his Dad and noted the dark circles under his eyes and the overall exhausted look. John on the other hand, immediately scanned his youngest son's body for any type of injuries.
Once satisfied that Sam seemed physically okay, John swallowed hard and spoke in a low, dangerous voice, "What the hell were you thinking Sam?"
"I'm sorry Dad," Sam choked out, the tears he swore he wouldn't let show escaping.
John sighed; damn the waterworks!
"Sammy…" John was forced to clear his own throat before sighing, "C'mere."
Sam hesitated only a moment before taking the one step to his Dad's opened arms. Burying his face into his Dad's leather jacket, Sam squeezed his eyes shut. He'd just had the best two weeks that he could ever remember having, and yet once he saw his Dad, he realized how much he missed his family.
John pulled his son back, and brushed some of the sloppy hair off his face, "You're grounded."
Sam nodded, and whispered through his emotions, "Yessir."
"And you're put on cleaning duty for all the weapons for the next month."
John smiled wearily, "And if you ever think about doing something like this again, you will be used as target practice."
This got a small laugh out of Sam, "I'm really sorry Dad."
John nodded, "I know," again he eyed his son up and down, "Are you alright? Have you eaten lately?"
Sam nodded, "I'm okay."
John breathed deep, "Good. Go grab your stuff."
"Where's Dean?" Sam furrowed his brow.
"He's waiting outside," John glanced towards the door, "He's in pretty rough shape because of what you did. It's going to take a lot of work to fix this with you guys."
"I know," Sam could feel the lump forming back in his throat as he grabbed his bag, "…is he really mad?"
John knew that mad wasn't the right word. Since the moment Dean had noticed Sam was missing, he had thought something terrible had happened to his brother. John had felt that fear only three times in his entire life; the day his Dad walked out on him when he was just a child, the night of the fire when Mary died, and seeing five year old Sam being attacked be a Shtriga. John had tried to convince Dean that they shouldn't jump to conclusions until they knew something for sure, but the elder hunter knew that when the mind was convinced of something, it was hard to think otherwise.
"Sam…" John thought how best to word it to the thirteen year old, "Your brother has gone through a lot these two weeks. But everything will be okay, I promise. Alright?"
Sam nodded and walked towards the door. John stopped him before they left, and placed a hand onto the side of Sam's face, forcing him to look up.
"Dad…" again, Sam felt renewed tears filling his eyes.
"Sammy," John found the art of forming coherent words difficult, "Your brother and I… you know we love you very much, and don't want anything to happen to you, right?"
A single tear fell down Sam's left cheek and he nodded, "I know."
John pulled Sam in for another hug, using the opportunity to wipe his own eyes with the back of his hand. The moment passed, and wordlessly John opened up the door to the bright outside. Sam, his bag flung over one shoulder, walked out, and immediately scanned the area for his brother.
"Dean," Sam whispered when he finally spotted him standing against the front of the Impala.
Dean stood up, and after a brief moment looked at his Dad.
"He's alright," John had passed a halted Sam about ten feet in front of the Impala, "I'm going to head back home." He looked at Dean, "I expect you boys back by tomorrow afternoon at the latest. Sammy is grounded for the next two months, and has a lot of cleaning to do. I'll give you guys some food money."
Dean nodded as John handed him some bills from his pocket.
"Enjoy the sunlight Sam," John smirked to try and ease the tension he felt in the air, "You won't be seeing it for a while."
Sam wordlessly nodded.
John walked up to Sam and placed a hand on his shoulder, "Remember what we talked about."
With that the hunter got into his truck and pulled out of the parking lot. Sam then looked over at Dean, and though the sun was warm on his bare arms, goose bumps crawled through his body. He had never seen his brother look the way he did, and for a brief moment he wondered if Dean was going to walk over and clock him one.
"Dean… I'm so sorry," Sam found himself apologizing for what seemed the like the umpteenth time.
"No… Sam… you're not," Dean forced his voice calm, "You're not sorry. At least not for what you should be."
Sam frowned and took a few more step closer, "What do you mean?"
"Why are you sorry?"
Sam took a deep breath, "Because I scared you and Dad. I took off without telling you guys, and you thought that something bad had happened."
Dean shook his head, "You're thirteen. I can count already way too many times that I thought something bad has happened to you, and you've taken off a hell of a lot more times than you should have," he paused a moment, "Of course never for this long. You should be sorry for that. But that's not why I am ready to drive off and leave your ass here; let you find your own way back to New Mexico."
Sam felt his heart beat quicken, "I-I don't know…"
"Family, Sammy. Family," Dean let the warm feeling of anger take over any other emotions that wanted to come out, "Think about it Sam! All we have is each other, and you left. Mom left when I was four, and now you've decided to leave too. And not because a demon has killed you, not because something bad did happen, but because what? You didn't want to put up with Dad's training? You don't like sharing a room with me? Sam, you abandoned your family."
Sam stared down his feet, "I didn't think of it that way."
"You didn't think at all," Dean corrected.
"I know," Sam looked back up, "And I promise I'll never do that again. I just… I guess I just needed to get away from our life for a while. And I never thought of it has abandoning my family." With large green eyes, Sam looked at his brother, "Please believe me."
Dean sighed, "I believe you Sammy. You just gotta realize… you scared the holy hell out of me. And Dad. When you were gone… for two weeks man…"
Sam gave a small smile, "You missed me."
To Sam's relief, Dean reciprocated the smile, "Don't even try it Sammy."
"You totally missed me Dean," Sam was standing almost directly beside him now.
Dean wrapped his harm around his little brother, "Yeah, but at this range, my aim is bound to be better."
Sam laughed and leaned into Dean's chest, his whispered voice hoarse, "I missed you too Dean."
The elder brought his other arm around to pull Sam in close for a hug, resting his face on the top of his brother's mop top. For nearly a minute the brothers held the position, the tension of the past fifteen days leaving Dean in a bizarre mixture of tears and the odd escaping chuckle. Sam, on the other hand, held tight to his brother, realizing how true his words had been. His family may have annoyed him some days to the point of wanting to escape to the other side of the world, but they really were the most important people in his life.
"C'mon," Dean finally spoke as he moved back, "Let's go home."
"Okay," Sam took a deep breath and headed towards the passenger side.
"I bet you we can beat Dad home," Dean grinned.
Sam relaxed at Dean's teasing, "No way. Dad knows all the shortcuts."
"Ten bucks says I'll beat him," Dean gave a sideways glance, the car engine roaring to life.
The Impala squealed out of the dusty parking lot of what had been Sam's home for fifteen days. They were fifteen of the best days of Sam's life, and would continue to be even as the teen got older. He had escaped, even for a short amount of time, a life which had monsters under the beds, and demons possessing people. He had a normal life, a dog, a job, and nothing in his life to remind him that there was evil in the world. Sam was happy to be back with his family, and had been completely honest when he cried with his Dad, apologizing, and when he hugged Dean and told him how much he'd missed him. If he had the choice to be anywhere at that moment, it was in the Impala beside his big brother, and yet if he had the chance to go back in time, he'd have done everything exactly the same. Sam Winchester had escaped, if even for fifteen short days. But he was back with his family again, and it would be another five years before the youngest Winchester would take off again.