Title - Two Years

Summary - Trying to escape a life of credit card fraud and dingy motel rooms, Sam goes off to college only to have the past come crashing into Palo Alto.

Dean: "You know in almost two years I've never bothered you. Never asked you for a thing."

Galveston, Texas
August 5, 2003

It must have been a good twenty minutes ago that the phone first rang. Dean began to wonder whom his dad had been talking to for so long and about what. Lowering the music playing on his walkman to a soft hum, he tried to be as subtle as possible in his eavesdropping. John said several 'uh-huhs' and 'yeahs' before a final 'thanks, Ellen' was said. John hung up the phone and turned his attention to his son, a grave look on his face.

"Dean," John said as he gently tapped his son's foot. "There's something that needs your immediate attention."

Dean took off the headphones and stared at his dad before asking what he said to make it seem believable that he wasn't listening in on a conversation. If there was one thing that would upset John, it was when his children poked their noses in things that didn't concern them. Always asking fifty questions about things he didn't want to talk about, or remember. When John wanted them to know something, he told them. If he didn't mention it, then his children shouldn't bother with such things. John let out a sigh before telling him again that something needed immediate attention.

"So what? We're leaving this gig?"

"No. I'm staying here to finish it. You're leaving."

"Without you? Are you going to catch up with me?"

"No, Dude, this is a solo hunt for you."

It wasn't like John to allow Dean to go on a solo hunt. Dean was eighteen when he went on his first solo hunt and hadn't been on one since. Right after flunking out of high school his senior year and somehow managing to get his GED, Dean's 'graduation' present was to take care of a simple salt and burn in a cemetery two towns over from where they were staying… alone. It wasn't like John to allow his kids to hunt by themselves, but he promised Dean if he finished school, he'd be allowed to go on a hunt by himself. It wasn't such a simple salt and burn as predicted, but turned out to be a nasty son of a bitch that held him captive in a cave and resulting in John and Sammy coming to the rescue. It wasn't one of his finer moments in life. Dean spent the next week in the hospital after that hunt. Ever since then, John refused to allow Dean to go on any kind of hunt by himself.

"Where am I going?"

"Palo Alto."

"Excuse me? Is something wrong with Sammy?"

"No, not yet at least. A… friend of mine called. She caught wind of some killings of college kids at Stanford. You need to take care of it before something happens to Sam."

"And you're not going because you're still mad at him," he said flatly.

"Dean, I'm not mad at your brother. I would love to see him again, try to make amends, but quite frankly, you know Sammy. He's stubborn and he's not going to want to see me. He sees me anywhere near Palo Alto hunting; I'll never hear the end of it. You, on the other hand, he wouldn't mind. You two were always close."

"What if Sam sees me hunting and bitches me out?"

"He wouldn't mind nearly as much as he would if it was me."

"That's bullshit, Dad, and you know it. You two said a lot of shit that you didn't mean when Sammy left… can't you two just kiss and make up? I mean, come on, Sammy and I made up."

"You've been in contact with Sammy?"

Dean faltered, quickly thinking of something to say. Sure, when Sam let the door hit him on the ass on the way out, Dean went after him and drove him to a bus stop three towns away. Sure, they'd argued before he went into the bus station, jabbing at Dean that he was going to be just like Dad one day. They'd fought about it, not nearly as heated as John and Sam's fight, but they fought like never before. It took nearly two weeks before Dean packed up the courage and rang his little brother after John passed out on the nearest bed thanks to some heavy drinking. They talked for nearly two hours, working everything out. Apologized, had a complete and utter chick-flick moment but promised to keep in touch. So Dean sent Sam letters and postcards every now and then. In return, Sam left voicemail messages. Then when John was away or fast asleep, the two would talk on the phone as though Sam never left, as though they were sitting outside together like old times.

"Off and on," Dean admitted. "Last time we talked, he was fine."

"How often do you two talk?"

"Couple times a month if not less. I haven't talked to him since June though. He's been busy."

"On the phone?"

"No, Dad, telepathically."

"I don't like that tone. You speak to me with respect, you understand me?"

"Sorry, Sir."

John sighed, running a tired hand over his face. He sat down on the bed, one hand reaching out and gently patting Dean's knee. They stared at one another, and Dean immediately understood. It was always Dean and Sam. They were always together growing up with their pranks and inside jokes that John couldn't make sense of. It was Dean who took care of Sammy. Dean who taught his brother how to tie his shoes, ride a bike, throw a football, how to shave, learn to drive, and everything else that a father was supposed to show his son. Dean was the one Sam went to when he was hurt. A skinned knee, a cut, a bruise, Sam would run to Dean and ask to make it better. Dean would oblige with a band-aid and a kiss. When Sam had a problem with school, girls, friends, or hunting even, he'd go to Dean for advice and never to his father. It was Dean who would sit with Sammy at the kitchen table and help him with his math work, who helped him learn his lines for a school play. It was Dean that Sam kept in touch with after he went to Stanford, checking up on his estranged family. Sam never needed John, because he had Dean. Looking at his father, Dean knew how much that hurt John… how much of a failure it made him in the eyes of Sammy.

"I'll go."

"Sammy needs you," John's voice was heavy and bleak. "You protect him, you hear me?"

"I will. You know I will, Dad. I've been doing it since the day he was born."

"Keep me updated, okay, Kid?"

"Promise."

"Be careful. Listen to me, you salt every door and window in your motel room. When you leave that motel, make sure it's locked and secure and put up the 'do no disturb' sign. When you leave the Impala, make sure it's locked up. Make sure you always have your cell, a gun, a knife, and salt on you at all times. If you need help, you call me or Caleb. If you can't get to us, call Pastor Jim. If you don't think you can do it by yourself, get the hell out of there. I don't want you getting hurt. Remember, shot first and ask questions later, you got that? Lastly, watch out for Sammy. Make sure he has enough money and isn't living on the streets or anything like that. Go around his dorm or apartment or wherever he's living and make sure the place is salted and protected." John got up, went towards his duffle bag, and pulled out an envelope filled with money. "Here's three thousand. Make sure Sammy gets it. Tell him it's from you and not me. Here's a thousand for you. You need more money, take one of the credit cards and charge it."

"Isn't this your gun fund for Caleb?" Dean questioned as he took the money.

"Yeah, but when you get back, we're going to pull our poker scam, all right?"

"Gotcha."

"Is the Impala well stocked? I can give Caleb a call and get you whatever you need, you know that, right? I'll pay him back after we hit a few bars."

"I'm good, Dad, seriously. Stop worrying."

"I don't like you hunting alone, you know that."

"Dude, I'm twenty-four. I'm ready."

"Yeah, well last time-"

"Last time was a fluke and six years ago on top of that. I was some cocky teenager who thought nothing could touch me."

"Right, exactly. Now you're just some cocky twenty-four year old."

It was weird to say the least. Driving without following his dad's black Sierra Grande wasn't something that happened very often. He had been on the road for only a day and it was unsettling not to see the truck in front of him. It took him nearly a year to get over the fact that Sam wasn't sitting in the backseat of the Impala with his nose in some book. Dean partly thought that John gave him the Impala so that the older Winchester wouldn't have to watch his son stare longingly in the backseat any longer. It didn't matter either way, Dean was happy to have the Impala. He just felt empty driving by himself without Sammy in the car and John not in front of him.

When he reached Palo Alto, he immediately recognized the town. How many times had his dad and him been there to check up on Sammy? Granted, Sam never knew that his father stepped foot in Palo Alto; however, Dean had talked to him on occasion when they did pass through. Dean would tell his little brother that he had a gig close and refused to talk about their dad except the conversational, "Dad's fine."

This trip was different now. Could he even go to Sammy and tell him what was going on? Would his little brother get the stick out of his ass and actually hunt with him? Dean doubted it. If there was one thing that was consistent about Sam, it was that he was stubborn. He made a big point about how hunting ruined their childhood before he stormed out of their small apartment nearly two years before, how hunting changed their dad, made him more like their drill sergeant than a father. Sam yelled at John that Dean was more of a father to him than John ever was or ever would be. Sam wouldn't just join in on a job after that fight.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Sam sat in a room filled with his college friends. Jess, Will, Vanessa, Penelope, and Sam sat with a grief counselor. Their friend, Derek, had just been the latest victim in a string of murders of college students in the area. Found murdered in his apartment building with the words, "You're next, 'Nessa" scribbled in Derek's blood over the bed for his roommate and girlfriend Vanessa to see. He was the fifth victim. The first four had been roommates. One roommate would die with a variation of the message on the wall and a couple days later the other roommate would be found dead wherever they happened to be staying.

It was Jess's idea to get a group counseling session in the first place. Vanessa was her best friend, and she hated seeing her so torn up. Hell, they were all torn up but that didn't mean that Sam felt comfortable talking about their sadness with a complete stranger. He only went because Jess begged him to. His girlfriend of only two months just had to look at him, ask him softly with tears in her eyes to do this for her… for Derek before he caved.

Death wasn't something that was wildly talked about in the Winchester family, nor was sharing your emotions. Their father had instilled the "don't ask, don't tell" method when it came to such things. John, experiencing the death of his wife, never talked about that night unless Sam and Dean gained up on him, pushing him until he would finally give in and retell a quick recollection of events. Each time he did this, they would get a couple new small details but never enough to satisfy their need to understand what exactly happened to their mother.

After the grief session, in which Sam refused to talk just like the previous one the group went to, he was the first one out of the stuffy room. Inside, he knew he had to do something about what was happening at Stanford before his father and brother got whiff of it. They would come barreling into Palo Alto dragging him back to a life of credit card fraud and dingy motel rooms. He would be forced to go back to the life of lying about his name, about who he really was. Not that he didn't lie about his past at Stanford, but at least he could tell people his real name.

"Sam!" Jess shouted after him, her face red and puffy.

He turned around, his hands stuffed in his pocket. None of his friends understood how he was taking it so well. It wasn't that he wasn't upset, because he was devastated. The fact that he was raised to be a solider, to keep a face of indifference, to not show your weakness in front of others had been drilled into his head so often that he couldn't let his friends see how upset he really was. The words that his father bore into him from a young age echoed in his mind, "Gotta keep your game face on, Sammy. Don't let them see weakness, they'll feed off it."

"Sam, you can't keep this bottled up inside of you. You need to talk about Derek's death."

Jessica reached out, rubbing a hand down his arm. He knew she meant well, but that wasn't how he dealt with things, wasn't how he was raised to deal with things. There had only been one person who had ever seen him cry: Dean. His brother was the only one he would open up to, the only one he felt completely comfortable talking about anything with. Even though Dean hated talking about feelings and all that wishy-washy crap, he was always there for Sam when he needed it the most. He would make a joke, sometimes call him a girl, but in the end would sit with his brother and listen intently. He would try to offer the best advice he could. It didn't matter if that advice was shitty, unusable; it was just nice that Dean would listen to him as though he was the only thing that mattered in the whole world.

"Jess, I'm not bottling this up inside. I'm dealing with it. We were all Derek's friends…" he trailed off, not quite sure where he was going.

"'Nessa's scared out of her mind, thinking she's going to be next. Sam… there's this pattern going on, and what if this maniac goes after her next? It's in his MO."

Jess sounded so scared, looked so childlike. It broke Sam's heart to see her look so helpless. He had grown up with this kind of thing to the point that it was half expected it to happen no matter where he ran. Sam, though he hated to admit it, was certain this was something supernatural. The way the bodies were found… it was as though they were attacked by something half-human, half-animal. The bodies had huge claw marks gashed into them. Sam had been wrecking his brain for the pass month of what this thing could possibly be but was certain that his dad had never went up against something quite like this. It wasn't like he could call his brother or his dad for that matter without them going all gung ho with guns blazing like usual.

"Vanessa's going to be fine. She's leaving tomorrow morning to go back home until this cools down."

"What if this guy follows her back to New Mexico?"

Sam didn't say anything. He didn't know exactly what this thing was that was killing, so who knew if the thing would follow her to keep the pattern. Maybe it would just move on to the next set of victims and forget all about Vanessa. Somehow, he doubted it. If he didn't catch and kill this thing, it was sure to get Vanessa as soon as she stepped foot back into Palo Alto.

That night, when Sam was sure Will was asleep in the apartment they shared, he went to the closet and dug for a box piled under notebooks for school. He pulled out a black case with a lock on it. Stuffing the key into the lock, the box opened to reveal an array of guns, knives, and bottles of holy water courtesy of Dean before he went off to college.

"Dude, if you're leaving without Dad or me there to protect you, you gotta take some equipment just in case."

Taking it just to please his big brother, he stuffed the weapons into his duffle bag two years previous. Once he got to California, he immediately bought something to stash the things away in because he didn't want any roommate he might acquire to see such gear. Once he first got to Palo Alto, he lived alone in a shabby motel so he kept a gun on his bedside table and salted all entrances. When the semester started and he moved into a dormitory, he stashed everything away and didn't even put down the salt lines. That was proven to be a very interesting month as he panicked every time he heard the slightest noise knowing that protection wasn't there, knowing that his father wasn't in the next room keeping a close eye on the place, knowing that Dean wasn't in the next bed over with a knife under his pillow.

He got over his anxiety in due time. The case filled with weapons hadn't seen the light of day since he put the crap in there after he left the motel room. The gun in his hand felt heavier than he remembered, but still familiar. Sliding the gun down his back and into the waistband of his jeans felt foreign. He hadn't done this in a couple years, hadn't been hunting in what seemed like forever. The life he tried so hard to get away from as now storming at him without mercy. He had to do it. He was the only one who could stop it. He grabbed a bottle of holy water and stuffed it into the pocket of his jacket before making his way to the kitchen to grab a container of salt just in case. If there was one thing that his father said he couldn't live without, it was salt. John was obsessed with making sure salt lines were in place and would be beyond angry if either him or Dean messed with them. That was rule number one of the Winchester handbook: Don't mess with the salt.

Not having a care, Sam stepped out into the cool California night. Not exactly knowing where to start, he decided on the sewers. It seemed like every nasty supernatural beast lived in the sewers. It had to have a nest or something underground. It was the only way. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, Sam climbed down in the nearest sewer entrance. It was wet and smelled disgusting, not to mention incredibly dark. Why the hell didn't he bring a flashlight?

Reaching into his pocket, Sam pulled out his cell phone and opened it. He adjusted it in front of him letting the small amount of blue light guide him. He was beginning to think this was the stupidest idea he ever had when he heard a noise up ahead. Pulling the gun out of his jeans, he adjusted it in front of him. The gun felt weird in his hands as his phone went crashing to the floor. He started to crouch down it get it when a shot was fired at him. Sam plastered his body onto the wet floor, right into a foul smelling puddle.

"Don't shoot!" he shouted. "I'm a person!"

The only thing that Sam could think was, 'Great, a freakin' hunter found me.' He prayed to all that was holy that it wasn't his father. Anyone but John Winchester. Hell, he'd rather see the monster but not his dad.

"Sammy?" a familiar voice questioned.

Sam looked up to see a blinding light hit his face. Bringing a hand up to shield his eyes, he tried to look pass the light to see who it was even though he knew from just the voice who it was. Sure enough it was his brother. Sam mentally cursed at his father. The number two rule in the Winchester handbook: shoot first and ask questions later. That stupid rule nearly got him shot. Dean reached out a hand and helped his brother up off the ground.

"Dude, you smell like shit," Dean said with a smirk. "What the hell are you doing down here at one in the morning?"

"What are you doing here?"

"I asked you first, Dude."

"Looking for the thing that's been killing college students."

"You're hunting?" Dean asked in disbelief, a tone of mocking in his voice.

"No."

"Sammy-"

"It's Sam."

"Right, Sammy, you were so hunting. I'm proud of you. You just can't walk away from it." Dean checked over his brother quickly for injuries. "Doesn't it feel nice?"

"I'm not hunting, Dean," Sam seethed.

"Oh, so you just take strolls in the sewer with a gun for no reason?"

"No, I was just looking around to make sure these murders aren't supernatural so you and Dad wouldn't come here guns a blazin'."

"Too late for that."

"So where is Dad?"

"In Galveston working a job."

"Why aren't you there?"

"Because there's a job in Stanford to do. Honestly, Sammy, did you think that I wouldn't come make sure you weren't getting your insides ripped out?"

"I can take care of myself."

"Dude, don't make me tell the tales of your stupid mistakes while hunting."

"You were always the one in the hospitals, not me," Sam snapped back.

"Yeah, because I was trying to protect your ass. If you didn't pull half the crap that you did back then, I wouldn't have been in the hospital nearly as much." Dean sighed as he looked around briefly. "You know any of the victims?"

"The last one, Derek Kilmer, was good friends with my roommate so we started hanging out."

"Does Derek have his own roommate?"

"His girlfriend, Vanessa Greggs."

"Set up a meeting for me."

"Dean, it doesn't matter. She's leaving tomorrow morning for New Mexico. She won't be hunted."

"Call her. Make sure she's all right. It might make its move tonight if it knows she's leaving."

"What is this thing?"

"I don't know yet. Come on. We'll swing by her place, check it out, make sure she lives."

Dean and Sam made their way out of the sewer and towards the Impala. Sam remembered the Impala all too well seeing as it was really the only place he could call home. He spent more time in that car than anywhere else. Pulling out his cell phone, Sam dialed Jessica's number since Vanessa was staying there for the time being. It took forever for Jess to pick up the phone, her voice thick with sleep.

"'Lo?"

"Jess, it's me, Sam. Is Vanessa all right?"

"Sam? It's pass one in the morning…"

"Can you just check?" Sam pleaded as he slid into the front seat of the muscle car, Dean already in the driver's.

"Hold on."

Dean revved the engine before pulling out on the street, briefly asking which way to go. Sam pointed north quickly as he listened to Jess talk in muffled tones. He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding when he heard a tired response. Giving Dean a thumbs up, Sam apologized for waking her up and admitted he was just worried about the two girls living alone at a time like this. Closing the lid to his phone, he glanced over at Dean.

"So tomorrow, you want to start hunting this bitch down?" asked Dean.

"I can't, Dean."

"Come on, Sammy, we can work around your school schedule. You'll find that I have absolutely nothing to do so I'm free whenever. I can check up a few leads while you're in class."

"The semester doesn't start until September."

"Then you have all the time in the world to hunt!"

"I have a job."

"Why do you need a job? I thought you got a full ride to Stanford. You lied to me?"

"No, I did get a full ride, but that doesn't include summer housing, food, textbooks, supplies… it just covers my housing while school is in session and the class cost."

"Where you working?'

"Some café'."

"How much will you make this month?"

"Umm… six bucks an hour so probably around a thousand."

"Dude, I'll give you three thousand if you quit your job and go hunting with me."

"Where did you get three thousand dollars to just give away to me?"

"I am a pool master. Not to mention Dad and I do this poker stunt."

"Poker stunt?"

"We pretend like we don't know each other and play at the same table. We have motions we do to tell each other what exactly our hands are. You know Dad, he's a master at poker and can call a bluff a mile away. So we play the guys at the table and come out with a fortune." Dean smirked and sounded all too proud of cheating. "We have to pay Caleb with money from now on. He won't accept our fake credit cards because twice now he didn't get his money since the credit card companies found out what was going on before he could get the cash. Pissed him off that's for sure."

"Nice, Dean."

"What? Dad paid Caleb back with cash. You honestly think Dad would try to con a friend?"

"Dad cons everyone he meets," Sam retorted bitterly.

"I can't believe this," Dean muttered.

"What?"

"Dad's not even here and you're picking a fight with him. Can't you just let what happened go? You and Dad both said things you didn't mean."

"I meant what I said, and I know he meant what he said. You see, Dean, when people are angry, they tend to tell the truth."

"You don't hate Dad," Dean reasoned.

"Not exactly but I hated the way he treated us, the way he raised us - or lack there of. He raised us like we were in the military, like we were soldiers. We weren't allowed to be kids. We had gun training instead of soccer practice. We had code words and phrases for every possible situation. Dad taught us to lie, to steal, to kill. It's not the life we should have had."

"Dad did what he did to protect us, Sam. He knew what was out there so he had to prepare us so we didn't die. He already lost Mom, and he couldn't lose us too."

"You honestly think Mom would have wanted us to have that kind of childhood?"

"At least we're alive," Dean snapped back. "Let it go. It happened."

The Impala pulled up across the street of a small apartment building. Sam quickly pointed out which window belonged to Jess's apartment before lapsing into silence. There was no use arguing with Dean about their dad. Dean had a blind sense of loyalty when it came to John and in return, their dad was proud of Dean no matter what happened. The perfect son, the good son who followed orders and rarely talked back.

Sam stretched his legs out in front of him, slowly sliding down in his seat. He was dead tired and didn't feel like being on a stakeout. It just figured that Dean would show up and somehow manage to drag Sam into the job. Closing his eyes just to rest them, Sam ended up falling asleep. It wasn't until a glare of sun shining in his eyes did he wake up, confused on where he was. He was leaning against someone. Picking up his head, he realized that somehow through the night he ended up using Dean's shoulder for a pillow.

"Morning, Sleeping Beauty," his brother greeted.

"Anything?" Sam asked as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

"I don't think so. The whole building seemed quiet."

"I need to get to work…" he trailed off looking over at his brother. "Can you drop me off?"

"You're really not going to take me up on my offer? Hell, I'll make it four grand."

"Dean, I don't want to hunt anymore. I told Dad that I was done with it, and I'm sticking to it. This is my life, I made my decision."

"Take the three thousand as a late birthday present."

Dean reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope stuffed with hundreds, fifties, and even some twenties. Sam shook his head, telling Dean he didn't need the money. The older brother insisted, shoving the envelope into Sam's jacket pocket.

"Just take it, okay? Jesus Christ, Sammy."

"I don't need your charity."

"Charity? Dude, you're my brother, and I'm worried about you out here all by yourself. You could be living in a dumpster for all I know."

Sam let out a groan before opening the car door. He slammed it shut and poked his head through the open window. His hands gripped the car, his knuckles turning white. The brothers stared at each other for a few seconds.

"I get off from work at five. It's… I work at a Starbucks, okay? Yes, I know that you think Starbucks is… that it's not coffee, but I get a discount, you know, and I can't live without coffee. You and Dad got me addicted, and it's the only affordable way I can get coffee."

"Dude, I'm so disappointed. I mean, mocha lattes and crap like that? That isn't coffee!"

"I'll go check out some stuff with you after my shift ends, okay? Just… wait outside in the Impala. I don't want you going in there and… being Dean."

"Like I'd actually go into the Devil Coffee Shop," he replied with a smirk. "What do you mean, 'being Dean'? You make it sound like a bad thing."

"I don't need my older brother hitting on my co-workers and then having a one-night stand, all right? I have to work with these people."

"Whatever, Dude. Get in the car, I'll drive you."

"Nah, I gotta get to my apartment and change. I only live down the block. Go to the library and research."

With a tight smile, Sam pushed himself off the car. He walked down the sidewalk with his hands stuffed in his pockets. Dean watched him go, a small smirk gracing his features. Relieved that Sammy was going to be part of the hunt, Dean turned the key and drove off towards the library.

Author's Notes - I hope you enjoyed the first chapter; it was more of a set-up for future chapters than anything else. I've always thought about that line from the pilot where Dean said he hadn't bothered Sam in two years, so I thought something might of happened to stop them from communicating. So this is my version of what happened. Please review and tell me if I should go on or just stop now.