Disclaimer: I own nothing, unfortunately. The boys belong to Kripke and the CW.

Spoilers: Some slight spoilers for S1, nothing too big.

AN: This has probably been done before, but this is what I think would have been running through Sam's mind at the time. I'm still pretty new at all this, so let me know what you think!

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It was probably one of the hardest things he'd ever have to do.

Walk away.

Walk out that door and not look back. Leave behind the only family he had ever known in pursuit of a brighter future, a future that wasn't clouded by darkness and pain. Maybe even live a life that wasn't dictated by the strong pull of revenge that had surrounded his family since before he could remember.

As he waited by the bus stop, he tried to pull himself together, strengthen his resolve, and reassure himself that he had finally made the right decision. Finally stepped up to the plate and made a decision that he thought was best for his family.

It had been a long time coming. He had been thinking about this for a couple of years now, planning for the day that he would leave his family. Leave his family. The more he thought about it, the harder it was not to turn around and run back the way he had come.

He couldn't do this. What made him think that he could drop everything he had ever known, and start fresh. Be normal. His dad would laugh at that thought. Normal. They had never been normal. Well not since that night so long ago. Truth was, it was him that had never known normal, and he yearned for that more than anything. Well, almost anything. Normal wasn't the only thing he was leaving for and he wished, not for the first time, that his family could see that.

As the bus pulled up in front of him, it took every ounce of self control he possessed to get on. With his meager belongs in a duffle slung over his shoulder, he made his way to the back of the bus and took a seat by the window. He couldn't believe he was doing this. He couldn't wrap his mind around the fact that he had left, left his family, left his brother. But he had made his decision, he wasn't backing down now. He wasn't going to let all his hard work, all the grief and pain that his decision had caused, be for nothing. Now that he was here, on this bus headed for normal, he was determined to make the most of it. Determined to make something of himself, and finally give his father a reason to be proud of him.

"Don't come back!"

It echoed in his mind. The last words his father spoke to him before he closed that door. Closed the door between himself and the only people he had ever truly known and loved. The words bounced around in his mind, making his chest tighten at their implication.

Did his father really mean that?

Could he really never come home?

Would he ever see his family again if he followed through with his plan, his dreams?

The questions nearly choked him. He couldn't think about that now. He needed to believe that his family would never turn their backs on him, not like they thought he had done to them. They would understand in time, he was sure of it. They would see that they were better off if he wasn't around to screw things up, to get in their way.

He had been more of a hindrance these days anyway. Constantly butting heads with his father, and always getting his brother hurt.

He could never stand to see him hurt. To see his brother's blood was like a physical pain, and it was a pain he would never learn to endure.

"As long as I'm around, nothing bad is going to happen to you."

These words only added to the chaos he called a mind. All the words echoed so loudly that he hardly noticed the outside world around him. It was just him and his thoughts, in an empty bus, in the middle of nowhere, headed to normal.

He knew what these words meant. He had heard his brother speak those words only dozens of times, and he was sure if and when he ever saw his brother again it wouldn't be long before he heard that declaration once again. That's what it was too, a declaration, a declaration to his younger brother. He knew that when his brother told him this, he was telling him that he would do whatever it took to keep him safe, to protect him. And as much as he loved when his brother said these words, found a comfort in them that he couldn't even express, he hated them just a much. Because he knew, he knew that his brother would do anything and everything in his power to stand by his promise. And big brother never broke his promises.

It was these very thoughts that found him sitting alone on this bus, driving in the middle of nowhere. It had always scared him, the lengths his brother was willing to go to protect him, but it wasn't until he got a little older that he saw just how bad things could go.

Every hit his brother took for him, every hunt that went bad and resulted in his brother getting hurt instead of him, for him, placed more of his brother's blood on his hands. He could only take so much; his brother could only take so much. He knew that one of these days they weren't going to be so lucky, that one day they were going to see what "whatever it takes" truly meant.

He wasn't willing to wait around long enough to find out.

So he left. He left to protect his brother, protect his family, and in the process maybe even make something of himself.

He wasn't trying to fool anyone, he had never felt the passion for the hunt like his brother and father did. But that didn't mean he hated it as much as they might have thought either. He could lose himself in the research, bury himself in old, dusty books, and spend hours at a time in a library, all of which called to him, and appealed to him in ways the actual hunt itself never could. So as much as he might not have liked the actual killing aspects of the hunt, he did however, love the research.

Too bad it wasn't enough.

It was clear that his father wasn't happy with his preference, and he made it well known that his love of knowledge, in all things, wasn't the most valuable skill in hunting. Oh it was important, a hunter needed to know what he was getting himself into, but in his father's eyes you learned what you needed to know and that was enough. His love of school and learning was hardly an issue worth discussing in his family.

He hated how easily and efficiently his father could crush his love for something. Twist it around so that it lost all meaning. His father's pushing and constant put downs only strengthened his resolve. If his skills weren't good enough for the hunt, he could put them to better use elsewhere, and do a few other things while he was at it.

If he could make himself happy and keep his family safe, then he was all for it. Only problem was, he couldn't be with is family while he did this. The more he thought about it, the more he thought he was dong the right thing, and unfortunately the more he realized how completely and utterly lost he was going to be without his family.

Sine he could remember he had never been away from his family for long. Most of the time when his father was on a hunt, he would always be with his brother, and the few times they both went on a hunt together he was only left alone for a couple days at a time. No, he had never been away from his family for long, and the thought made his head spin. All of his questions and doubts came crashing down on him, dragging him down, crushing him, until he could hardly breathe.

It took a few moments to get his breathing under control, to clear his head, and steady himself. He couldn't lose it now, he was so close. All he had to do was get to California and start his new life. His family would be safer, better off without him, and he could finally do things he liked to do. He could study, and spend as much time as he wanted in a library, do all the things his father would never let him do. He could become a lawyer and still help people. He didn't have to hunt to do that. He could help them in his own way, a safer way.

As the miles passed beneath him, he realized he could try to convince himself all the way to Stanford that he was doing the right thing, but in his heart he knew he was still walking out on his family. He was still walking away from his brother, the one person that had always been there for him, always protected and loved him without question. And this was how he repaid him. This was how he repaid him for all his years of dedication, and sacrifice. The thought that he was a terrible brother staggered him, but he also knew in his heart that no matter how hurt and betrayed his brother might feel, at least he would live to feel that way. And maybe, just maybe, if he wasn't around, his brother could finally have the chance to think about himself for once, and not be so consumed by protecting his little brother.

He knew it wouldn't be easy. He knew that waking up every morning and not seeing his brother in the other bed would break his heart with each sunrise. He knew that not being able to talk to his brother every second of every day, not hearing his sarcastic remarks, and not hearing the "bitch" to his "jerk" was going to slowly kill him. But staying with his family, continuing to hunt, watching his brother risk his life time and time again to protect him was only killing him faster. He couldn't live like that anymore, but he wasn't so sure he could live without it either.

But he didn't have many choices, his options were limited, and he knew he needed to make the decision that he thought was best for everyone. That didn't mean he wasn't going to be leaving a little piece of his soul back in that motel room. It didn't mean that he wouldn't wake up everyday from here on out and continue to look to the other side of the room hoping that the first thing he saw that day would be his brother. That the first thing he saw was Dean. His decision wasn't an easy one, but it had to be made. He just hoped it was the right one. And he prayed that he wasn't going to lose his family forever because of it.

As the bus drove on, and he watched the scenery pass by as if in slow motion, a lone tear made its way down his cheek.

That day, Sam Winchester did one of the hardest things he would ever have to do, he walked away.