Disclaimer: Don't own Supernatural or the Winchesters. Anything you don't recognize is ours.

A/N: AU in so far as, in our 'verse John comes from a long line of Supernatural Hunters and there will be small allusions to that fact throughout some of these 'chapters'. We have more of these, so if you want more let us know.

Enjoy!


Broken Soul

California

August 2001

"So you're just gonna leave? You're gonna turn your back on everything you've ever known, and walk away!"

Sam sighed, and continued stuffing his clothing in the second of two duffle bags, "He's left me no choice, Dean."

"You always have a choice, Sam!" Dean replied.

"What choice!" Sam snapped, facing his brother, his gaze narrowed in rare temper, "He made it for me when he told me to get out and never come back!"

Dean spun on his heel, pacing to give himself time to rein in his temper, "No, Sammy. You made the choice when you decided to go to college and leave the family business."

"And that's a crime?" Sam asked, "Wanting to be…normal…is a sin?"

"We're Winchesters, Sammy." Dean replied, "We're not normal."

"Well, I'm going to be." Sam vowed, lifting one of the duffle bags to his shoulder, "All this hunting…it's not me. Not anymore."

There was a stretch of silence as Dean studied his brother's set expression. Finally he heaved a sigh and shook his head, making his way to the door, "Find your own ride, Sammy. I'm not helping you run away."

Then he was gone, leaving Sam alone in the small bedroom of the rundown house the Winchesters had lived in the last few years as a permanent home base, for education purposes for both Sam and Dean, though mainly for Sam, while they traveled to any gig they found. The younger Winchester heaved a shuddery sigh, forcing down the pain from the almost physical blow his brother had just dealt him by walking away.

It didn't occur to him at the moment that he'd been about to do the walking himself.

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Stopping in the middle of the small dorm Sam dropped his bags on one of the two, as yet, unclaimed bunks and sighed, looking around the room. It was small, barely half the size of the small room he'd shared with Dean on and off for the last few years, and by the looks of things he was sharing this small space with at least one other person, if not two.

The road to college had been one heck of a trial. As if finding a cab to actually navigate the busy streets wasn't hard enough during move-in day, he then had the misfortune of still feeling like an outsider.

While Sam had always been good at school, he had always been, and still was, so different than the other students. Those other students had all been with parents, friends, and siblings who all came in full cars ready to wish their loved ones good luck. By comparison, Sam, with his two duffle bags, and second hand clothes, looked like a lost puppy.

But the hardest part to watch was the families going to say goodbye.

The boy in the room next to Sam's had come with both his parents, and what looked like a younger brother. The father had simply declared how proud he was of his son, which touched a fresh ache in Sam's heart, remembering all too well the last words he and his father had spoken to each other. The younger brother had simply clapped his older brother on the shoulder, clearly wanting to say more, but refusing to acknowledge affection in public. That made Sam smile a little because it was something Dean would have done. Then the mother had thrown her arms around her son, trying not to cry but not succeeding. Sam had had to shut the door on that scene…because all he'd felt was a void.

Shaking his head he sat down beside his bags, elbows braced on his knees, head in his hands. Letting his mind wander he slipped in and out of a light doze, having developed the skill of dozing in an upright position during the last nine or ten years he'd spent hunting. Slowly, as he settled into more of a real sleep he slipped sideways until he was lying with his head pillowed on one of his bags.

What could have been minutes or hours later he was awakened by a sharp whisper, "Dude, keep it down. He's obviously tired, don't wake him."

For a moment he let himself believe he was back home, and it was Dean who spoke, but as full wakefulness returned, so did his memory. Suddenly wide awake he shot up into a sitting position, his hunter instincts on high alert, and found himself the object of study.

There were two other guys in the dorm room, one, a black kid about Sam's own age, sitting on the opposite bed reading a book, the other sitting a couple feet away at a desk. The one on the bed grinned at Sam, setting his book down, and held out a hand to shake.

"Hey, Dude. I'm Jason Hart. I'm your roommate." He motioned to the kid at the desk, "Curt Mason, from across the hall. You'll see him a lot, he likes to mooch off me."

"Uh, Sam," Sam responded, having to think a moment, more accustomed to giving a false name rather than his real one, and accepted the offered handshake, "Sam Winchester."

A ripple of something...longing, pain...whispered through him. Jason's mannerisms, and speech pattern, even the grin on his face, reminded Sam painfully of Dean. On one hand, it comforted him, making him feel slightly more at home, but on the other...it hurt to be faced with someone so similar to Dean, yet nothing like Dean at all.

Sitting back, unaware of Sam's well-hidden thoughts, Jason glanced at the two duffle bags, "Dude, is that all you brought?"

Sam gave a slightly sheepish laugh, "That's all I own. Well, that and a bike."

Curt shook his head, "You're joking, right?"

Mirroring the headshake Sam sighed, "Nope."

Jason cocked a brow, "Not gonna take up much room, are ya?"

Lifting one shoulder in a shrug Sam released another sigh, "Except for the added room of a rented laptop, which will be here tomorrow…guess not."

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Hours later Sam stopped outside the door of his dorm room, regretting his decision to let Jason and Curt drag him out to an off-campus party at Jason's cousin's. Alcohol, loud music, and girls galore…

Sam had been forced to do some pretty fast talking to escape when he had. Jason was certainly going to be an interesting roommate because he sure didn't listen when Sam had gently explained that he wasn't a big drinker.

Another Dean-like quality. One Sam had always been annoyed at in his brother, but suddenly found ironically, though still annoyingly, endearing in Jason.

Shaking his head at the twists life threw at a person, Sam dug his key from his pocket to unlock the door. The moment he stepped into the dorm and let the door swing shut behind him Sam knew something was amiss.

Someone had been inside.

Letting his gaze scan the darkened room for anything out of place he instinctively stepped toward his bed where his unpacked bags still sat. It was only when he glanced down at the bed that he noticed the familiar box sitting beside the bags.

A box he knew hadn't been there when he'd left earlier.

Reaching back to flip on the lights Sam sat down on his bed, picking up the box. He simply sat there for a moment, studying it. Polished mahogany, branded on the lid with a Celtic Shield Knot of Protection, etched in ancient antique gold, outlined in crimson. It was old beyond measure, even John had no idea how far back it's history went, yet had few blemishes on it's gleaming surface.

Sam had received it when he was nine, from Dean, claiming it had been in the family for years, passed down through the oldest son for too many generations to count. Dean had chosen to give it, and it's contents, to Sam, breaking that tradition.

Lightly tracing the protection knot on the lid Sam reached up to pull off the leather cord around his neck, using the key hanging on it to unlock the box, and lifted the surprisingly heavy lid. A folded sheet of paper was settled inside the box, on top of the hand held scythe nestled snugly in the velvet lined, padded box. Sam swallowed thickly at the sight of Dean's familiar, loopy scrawl, spelling out 'Sammy' on the paper. The name he loved to hate because it always came from Dean.

Pulling in a deep breath he lifted the paper out of the box, hesitating a moment, somewhat leery of what his brother had written. The last time he'd seen Dean, the elder Winchester had been more than a little upset at him for leaving.

Releasing the breath he unfolded the paper and read the short note:

'I forgive you for leaving this life, the hunt, behind, for leaving Dad. You're my little brother, Sammy. Always will be, and I love you. That won't change. But I can't forgive you for leaving me. Not yet.'

Almost without thinking Sam got to his feet and moved over to the window, and looked out. He located the black Impala parked on the street just out of reach of the street light moments before Dean drove away. Placing his hand on the window glass, palm flat, Sam released a shuddery sigh.

"I love you, too, Dean," he murmured before turning way. At that moment Sam felt the same pain that Dean had felt because he understood. The two of them had been each other's shadow for years…in fact Sam had no memories in his entire life that didn't include Dean. That fact brought tears to Sam's eyes for the first time in years since tonight was going to be the first night of his life without his brother.

Ignoring the outside world, Sam didn't see that seconds later a truck pulled to a stop in almost the exact place the Impala had recently vacated. John Winchester got out to more easily locate the window he sought. He sighed as he was just able to make out Sam's back as his younger son turned away from the window.

He watched for a moment, until Sam was fully out of sight, sighing, "Be safe, Sammy. I'm proud of you."

END