Title: Miles Before I Sleep
Summary: An AU in which Sam never went to Stanford.
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or any of their respective characters. No money is being made from this.
Warnings: AU. Slight sex scene, language.
Author's Note #1: Love to my betas Christie and Michelle. Comments an constructive criticism are so very, very welcome.
Sam tore the letter up six miles outside of Wadsworth, Wisconsin, population 881. He dropped the pieces over the side of the wooden footbridge he'd stopped on, his heart still hammering, wet locks of sweat-soaked hair falling in his eyes. The shower of paper snow was swallowed by the brown tinted water that ran under his feet.
By the time he got back to the motel, the sun had just about finished setting. Sam's nose ran because it was cold for early May, and his eyes were red and glassy from the run and the cold and the loss.
The door stuck the first time he tried to open it, just like it had been doing for the last six months, but it came open with a pop after Sam pressed his shoulder into the wood and shoved.
His dad's hard dark eyes were what caught him first, but it was Dean's white pinched face that kept him from bolting back out the door and off into the wide open world.
The night of his high school graduation Sam was drunk thanks to a case of beer and a bottle of Jack Daniels both supplied by Dean. He couldn't remember where his father had gone, just that he was gone. The world seemed to tilt around him, and all the motel room lights blended together in a hazy yellow glow. Dean, as expected, was a great deal drunker than Sam. His older brother laughed too loud, and his grin stretched so wide Sam was sure his face would crack from the strain. He'd thrown an arm around Sam's shoulders and varied between smacking him on the back and ruffling his hair.
"You looked like such a geek in that robe, Sammy," Dean said. The words slurred and bled across the parking lot. "Think about it dude. You're never going to have to walk into another class room, take another test, write another essay. You are free, little brother."
That night, Sam drifted in the soft hazy space between waking and dreaming, Dean's snores cushioning him from all sides. Keeping his breathing slow and deep, Sam lined up the different bits and pieces of his soul and psyche that made him who he was, that made him Sam, and scrutinized their worth. He turned the pieces over in his mind, measured and weighed them, tested their strength and flexibility and carefully recorded the outcomes. There were so many parts that he was no longer going to be able to keep. There was no way they would fit into a life that didn't include brand new books or campus maps, dining hall plans or room keys or solid unchanging addresses. Sam felt something shriek deep within the caverns of his heart when he reached for the first one, and had Dean not turned over with a sleep soaked question on his lips, the teenager may have reconsidered.
His executions were swift.
The dream showed up once a week at least. It wasn't a hard dream to interpret. Sam had earned an A in AP psychology. Sam had earned an A in everything actually, but it wasn't like A's matters now, and he was doing his best to forget the time when they had.
It always started in the Impala.
His body would be stretched across a back seat that he'd been too tall to stretch out across comfortably for over two years. The air was humid and hard to breath, and the rubber of his gym shoes squeaked across the glass of the rolled up window. Long, lanky torrents of static spilled out from the radio's speakers occasionally broken by bits of the nightly news.
Sometimes he got the feeling that he hadn't started off alone, but his companion, if there had ever been one, had disappeared into the night for reasons unknown.
The air got warmer by degrees, and soon Sam was sitting-up and gasping. The doors wouldn't open, and Sam would try them all, and the windows wouldn't break no matter how many times he kicked, and he'd flop against the leather writhing and suffocating and fighting off death.
Somehow, even in the middle of all of this, he was always able to hear the scratching. It was a slow high pitched squeal that made his teeth hurt, and goose bumps break out across his arms. It came from above him, and was accompanied by a dull thumping sound that beat a rhythm across the black steel. The edges of his vision would blur, but Sam never passed out in the dream, just waited for the thing on the roof to claw its way in.
He was slogging through Louisiana bog water, eyes on his father's broad back, thinking about leeches and crocodiles as big as horses when he realized that he hadn't called Dad "Dad" since the day he chose.
Oh sure, he'd mentally refereed to the man as such. Dad told him to go get milk, Dad said one more mile, Dad told him to sharpen the knives, Dad was the one to yell, "duck" when a poltergeist in New Hampshire sent a computer monitor in his direction, but the word hadn't rattled around his mouth for months.
"Sam. You have the rowan wood?"
Some days it was ok.
Dean smiled at him from the pool table in Ohio, and Sam saluted him with an illegally bought beer. Dad made French toast and dumped a load of canned peaches over the top before handing his youngest a plate in Wyoming. He and his brother ran hard across the pavement during training sessions that Sam no longer complains about in North Carolina, Dean next to him breathing hard and fast and flying. Those days it was ok.
Other days, he felt like he was burning from the inside out.
In west Kentucky he left Dean to play poker in a smoke filled corner of the only bar in town. John was farther off, hustling pool with the locals and neither of them noticed when Sam slipped out the door, his hand around the waist of a red headed female.
She was a little thing in a low cut top and knee high boots. She giggled a lot, freckle spotted hands covering a freckle spotted nose whenever the noise escaped. Bright blue eyes dancing, she pressed him back against the bar's brick wall and sucked him off before he could remember why exactly he'd brought her out here in the first place. Sam made sure to give her plenty of time to pull away before he came.
The bricks were rough under the pads of his fingers, and as he watched her brush the dirt off her knees he batted away the voice that told him blow-job or no blow-job he would have had a much better night alone in the room with a book.
Sam hadn't caught the girl's name in the bar, and didn't ask for it when she invited him back to her car either.
"Only the car though, OK? I've got a roommate at home studying for midterms."
They're in Nevada the day Sam turned nineteen. The current hunt looked as though it would keep them situated in one spot for a few solid months, and for the first time since Sam's graduation his dad rented an apartment rather than settling them in a motel room.
A small part of Sam cheered at the thought of sleeping in the same bed for more than a night or two. It wanted to see how the shadows laid out at different points of the day, open his eyes to the same white painted ceiling every morning and grow familiar with the noises the building made when it settled for the night. He allowed those thoughts for the space of a few breaths and then destroyed them. He couldn't stay in that head space for long, couldn't be that Sam anymore. He'd go crazy.
Three days in, Dad and Dean started having soft halting conversations whenever they thought Sam was out of ear shot. He ignored them when they did this, cleaned whatever gun happens to be nearest, reorganized the first aid kit and ran until his muscles burned. It was important to stay busy.
When Dean slid a community college catalogue across the table at breakfast one morning Sam felt like he'd been slapped.
"Thought you might want to renew your geek boy credentials," Dean said with an earnest smile. "Take a class or two while we're here."
Sam was as surprised as the rest of his family when laughter bubbled up from his chest, though he wasn't as panicked as Dean or as surprised as his father when the laughter didn't stop and he cackled until his eye burned and watered.
The drugs a hospital in Milwaukee pumped into his body made him feel muzzy and lost.
"Sammy, you awake?"
His dad and brother flanked him, Dean to his left, and his father to his right. They were staring at him oddly. They'd been staring at him oddly for the last few months. It took Sam a minute of squirming and empty eyed blinking before he realized he was being restrained.
"Son, you have to stay calm."
"Sammy, be cool. The doctor said-"
"Take them off!"
His voice sounded like a roar, and something inside him broke at the relief in the action.
"Dean, no! Leave them, and go get the nurse."
He got a flash of Dean's terrified face before his brother disappeared from sight.
"Sam, you will stay calm," John barked, wrapping his hands around Sam's forearms trying to get his youngest to stop thrashing.
It was the first time in a long time that Sam disobeyed an order.
Dean punched him outside a bar in Tallahassee, Florida.
Sam's ass barely connected with the pavement before his big brother hauled him up again, dirty hands gripping the folds of his jacket, tequila on his breath.
"Sammy, I-jesus fuck Sam."
Sam encircled the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger and pinched gently. It was bleeding, but not broken.
"You have to talk to me about this. You have to tell me what you're doing!"
Sam wanted to, wanted to talk until his tongue was tired and his mouth dry, but the want was destroyed as soon as it surfaced. He had to be vigilant when it came to letting echoes of Old Sam slip out, though he noticed that the echoes were weaker now, and softer than before.
Dean pitched forward, and Sam held his brother's shoulders as the older man vomited.
The day that the last of these prowling echoes disappeared forever was one Sam had first waited for with dread and now waited for with longing. On that day, he would be solid and unified, strong and trustworthy. His mind would be clear and his purpose would be sure, and he would move without the fear that his feet would try to finish the run he'd started back in Wadsworth, Wisconsin, population 881. He would be free.