Hey guys! So here's the start of the 3rd story in my 'Safe...' series. I know it's long overdue and I apologize for the wait, I hope this chapter makes up for it! I think the main reason why it took me so long to get finished was because I have a lot of new things planned for Sammy and I wasn't quite sure how or where to start... hopefully, I picked a good place. Also, this story takes place during Sam's senior year at Lawrence High.

For new readers, in order for a lot of this story to make sense, I would recommend that you read the first 2 stories, 'Safe in the Arms of Love' and 'Into the Real World'.

Thanks for checking my story out and I can't wait to hear what all of you have to say! I hope you enjoy it! Thanks again for reading! :)


Dean smiled as he climbed into the passenger seat of Sam's SUV, the one he'd gotten for his birthday almost two years ago. He breathed deep as a sense of nervousness began to fill him. Dean knew that should today go the way they hoped that it would, a big step in Sam's journey to independence would be accomplished and that made him a bit anxious. It wasn't that he didn't want his brother to develop his own sense of self or his independence, it was just that if Sam passed his driving test today then that would mean that he would be putting his brother's life in the hands of all of the other crazy drivers out there and he wasn't quite sure he could handle that. This will be good for him Dean told himself as he reached over to pat his brother on the back. "Let's get this show on the road."

Sam nodded and took a nervous but excited breath as he turned the key in the ignition and checked his mirrors. A moment later, he began to cautiously pull out of their driveway and then headed in the direction of the Lawrence Department of Motor Vehicles building.

~DW/SW~

"You'll do great." Dean encouraged as he climbed out of the car after Sam had pulled the large car into one of the two testing lanes. And if you don't pass, then that's okay too he thought to himself but he didn't necessarily want to even indicate to his brother that he thought there was a chance of failure as he knew that the kid was probably already thinking that himself.

Sam nodded but Dean could tell that his brother was nervous beyond words. This was their second trip here as the first one had ended in near disaster. Sam had been nervous to start with and his anxiety had only increased when the older, burly man had climbed into the passenger seat. Dean knew his brother had tried to get past his fear of being alone with strange men but in the end, Sam hadn't been able to do it. Looking back, Dean realized that Sam wasn't ready for his license then anyhow, he hadn't been all that confident in his ability or himself. Now though, the kid had a lot more practice under his belt and he hoped that Sam's shyness and dislike of strangers wouldn't deter him. Seeing that the testing person wasn't out there yet, Dean decided to give his brother a quick run through. "Show me your hand signals." He instructed.

Sam bit his lip and then leaned out of the open car window. "Left," He said before he put his arm up and then proceeded to point his arm out straight and then hang it downward to display the signs for straight and a right turn.

Dean smiled. "Good, kay where are your emergency flashers?" He asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

Sam reached forward and pulled the stock down towards him flashing his lights.

Dean nodded. "Excellent!" He tested Sam on a few other items before the testing person walked out and over to their car. He bid his brother good luck and then walked up to the platform to wait, praying that it would go well. Dean figured that getting his license would not only help Sam in his independence, it would also help to raise his confidence some more. Sam wasn't as shy or withdrawn as he had been three years ago but his brother still wasn't the most outgoing or confident person in the world.

~DW/SW~

Sam smiled nervously at the middle aged woman as she climbed into the passenger seat of his truck. He felt like he had done okay at the signals and he hoped that his actual driving would be passing. It had been beyond embarrassing, no matter what his friends or brother had said when he had had to admit that he hadn't even be able to leave the DMV parking lot last time.

"Start the car please." The woman instructed. "And we're going to make a right out of the driveway okay?"

Sam nodded and cautiously let off the break, hoping he wasn't giving it too much gas for her. Turning his right blinker on, Sam checked to make sure it was clear and pulled out of the driveway.

"Stay on this road and when you get to the second stop sign, turn left." She told him.

Sam swallowed thickly, the atmosphere in the car was tense as he concentrated on the orders she gave him and tried to do his best. He knew he did fine when he was driving with Dean but he guessed that a part of that was due to just how comfortable he was around his brother. Dean never belittled him or made him feel like an idiot, no matter what he did. In the recent weeks though, Sam had also driven with Sean, Mike, and Rachel just to try to get himself used to driving with other people.

Coming to the stop sign, Sam wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans and sighed nervously before he turned onto the residential street and dropping his speed to twenty-five miles per hour. Over the next ten minutes, Sam continued to obey the orders he was given driving the car as gently as he could but staying as close to the speed limit as possible.

"Okay, turn down here and then pull back into the parking lot and park in one of the two spots in front of the building please." The woman said in her not unfriendly but certainly not warm tone of voice.

Sam nodded and parked the car in the first spot, putting the parking brake on and then turning the car off. Feeling nervous and unsure of how he had done, Sam kept his gaze forward watched as Dean stood when he saw that they were back. He flashed his brother a small smile, turning his head when the woman began to speak.

"Congratulations, you passed." She said as she handed him back his paperwork.

Sam's eyes widened and he smiled. "I… I did?" He asked, shock coating his voice.

She nodded. "You gotta take it easier around the turns but yes, you passed. You can get your temporary license if you come with me and then an official one will be mailed to you sometime next week."

Sam nodded back and opened the car door, stuffing the keys into the pocket of his jeans.

Dean saw the smile on his brother's face as he and the woman walked towards him. "How'd it go?" He asked with a smile on his face too.

"I passed!" Sam shouted, smiling brightly. "I actually passed!"

Dean nodded as he glanced at the woman, silently asking for any reassurance she could give him that the kid was actually ready for this.

"He's gotta slow down on the turns a little but other than that he did really well." She told him when she saw the proud but excited look on Dean's face.

"Wow, good job kiddo." He said patting his brother on the shoulder and pulling Sam in for a quick hug. Now just promise me that you won't get yourself killed Dean silently thought to himself before he followed his brother and the woman inside the building.

~DW/SW~

A week had passed since Sam had gotten his driver's license and as the kid was still nervous to be on his own, he had only stuck to small trips that were close to home. Dean would have him go to the supermarket to do the grocery shopping or if they ordered take out, sometimes Sam would go pick it up. Dean smiled as he watched Sam pull into the driveway, pausing in his conversation with their new next door neighbor, Layla, a woman who looked to be in her mid-fifties. She had moved in about two months ago and at least from what Dean knew, she was widowed but had two grown children; the youngest being only a year younger than him.

Dean grinned proudly when Sam climbed out of the Explorer and Kate exited from the front passenger seat. Getting his license had done just what Dean had thought it would; it had given his brother a boost in confidence and he was glad to see that positive affect. Sam had hated asking for rides from anyone, always afraid that he would be asking too much or putting the person out but now that Sam had his own license, the kid would smile when he announced that he had somewhere to go. Dean hoped that confidence would help Sam to accept more invitations to go out and do things.

"Hey guys!" He shouted. In a way, he was surprised that his brother's relationship with Kate had lasted this long. The start of the relationship, especially as it became more physical, had been really rocky and hard for Sam to deal with and at times, Sam still had freak outs that he wasn't being or doing what she wanted. Dean knew that Sam and Kate hadn't had sex yet and he kind of doubted that they would, at least not for a while. Hell, Dean was pretty sure that Sam and Kate hadn't even moved passed kissing yet. His brother had had that to a certain degree and he knew Sam wanted a 'real' relationship, one where he actually connected with someone and it wasn't just about what they could get from him or his body. There was also the fact that Sam still felt unsure of himself at times and what it was exactly that he had to offer someone other than just a good time. Unfortunately, Dean also knew that keeping the relationship slow was scaring his brother as Sam worried that Kate would grow bored with him if he didn't put out.

"Hey Dean, hi Layla." Sam smiled as he and Kate walked over to the pair, hands joined.

"Hi Sam." Layla replied while nodding at Kate, not having been introduced to the young girl before.

"Ah Kate, this is our neighbor Layla… Layla, this is my girlfriend, Kate." Sam said, introducing the two and smiling nervously as he did so.

Kate smiled happily when Sam referred to her as his girlfriend and gently squeezed his hand, silently telling him that she approved of the title. "Hi." She replied reaching out with her free right hand to shake hands with Layla.

"It's nice to meet you." Layla responded.

"What are you guys up to today?" Dean asked curiously a moment later.

Sam shrugged. "Don't really know yet… probably just hang out for a while… might take Ace on a walk later. Is that okay or do you ah, want the house?" Sam added suddenly, remembering that Rachel was coming over tonight.

Dean shook his head. "Course you guys can hang out here, you know that." He reassured. He and Rachel were still going out, it had been a little over a year, to be exact. Remembering that he was supposed to pick her up since her car had broken down a few days ago, he checked his watch and saw that he had about a half hour before he had to leave.

"So you guys ready to start school on Monday?" He asked, finding it hard to believe that Sam was going to be a senior in high school this year. It seemed as if the kid had just started being tutored by Mike yesterday.

Kate smiled and nodded. "Oh yeah, I can't wait for Senior prom and Senior week." She answered excitedly.

Dean chuckled as he remembered his own prom. "Yeah, those were some good times. What about you?" He nudged his brother a little, wondering why Sam was so quiet about this topic. Dean thought that his brother would still be described as a quiet kid but instead of it being due to fear and worry, it was just that he was reserved and definitely, more of an observer rather than a participator.

Sam shrugged. "We'll see how the year goes, right?" He asked looking at his brother with what Dean thought was a bit of uncertainty.

What…? Dean asked himself but before he had the chance to voice his question, Sam was turning to Kate.

"You wanna go see what's on?" He asked with the smile back on his face leaving Dean to wonder if he had imagined the unsure look on his brother's face.

Kate nodded. "Yeah sure."

"Alright, are you going to go get Rachel?" Sam asked even as he took a step up the driveway, pulling Kate behind him.

Dean's eyebrows furrowed in confusion at his brother's avoidance but nodded anyways, pulling his keys from his pocket.

"Okay, we'll see you when you get back." Sam said before he tried to hurry away.

"Bye Dean," Kate smiled before she followed after Sam, quickly turning around to say bye to Layla as well. "And it was nice to meet you."

"You too." The woman answered, smiling sweetly at the two teens.

"Sam!" Dean shouted a moment later, glad when Sam paused and turned back to him. "I shouldn't be longer than an hour but if I go to pick up dinner, what do you feel like?"

Sam thought about it for a moment before he shrugged. "You decide… I'm not really hungry tonight."

Dean nodded in response and watched as his brother and Kate entered the front door of their house, all the while trying to make sense of Sam's evasive behavior. That was weird Dean thought to himself but he shook his head and smiled back at their neighbor. "Well, I should get going. Nice talking to you." He said taking a step towards the Impala that was parked a few feet away.

Layla smiled back. "Hopefully, we can talk again soon." She said brightly before she headed towards her mailbox and waved as Dean drove away.

~DW/SW~

It was now around nine-thirty at night and both girls had been dropped off at their respective homes, leaving the house to just Sam, Dean, and Ace once again. "Alright, I'm going to bed." Sam announced as he stood from his seat on the couch. Ace got up from his bed in the corner and wandered down the hall, presumably to fall asleep in Sam's room for the night.

"What? Dude, it's not even ten yet… come on, let's hang out for a while." Dean encouraged as he still hadn't been able to ask his brother what was up earlier today. Maybe he's just nervous about school starting… he's always anxious when something new happens Dean thought, hoping that whatever was on his brother's mind was as simple as that.

Sam looked at Dean and bit his lip. "Ugh, fine but don't be mad at me when I growl at you tomorrow morning!" He huffed.

Dean laughed. "I'll give you some coffee and you'll love me." He argued.

Sam mock-glared at his brother before a smile began to break out on his face. "Make it that vanilla latte I had last week and yeah, I might."

Dean shook his head laughing as he chucked a pillow in his brother's direction. "You are such a girl! Should I leave you the latest '17' magazine with your frou-frou drink too?" He teased affectionately.

Sam pouted, bringing out his puppy dog eyes. "But it tastes really good… better than that sewer sludge you drink." Sam mumbled, continuing to pout.

"Okay, fine, I'll get you your frilly drink now stop with the puppy eyes, you're worse than Ace!" Dean exclaimed groaning when Sam started to laugh.

"Got ya!" He grinned, sitting back on the couch.

"Yeah, yeah whatever." Dean grumbled before he turned the volume back up on the show they were watching. I guess it can't be bugging him that bad he thought, missing the way Sam worried his bottom lip nervously.

~DW/SW~

Two days later, Sam sat on the football field, surrounded by his friends as they watched all of the freshmen go by. He could see some of them laughing with their own groups while others were wandering around trying not to look too out of it and lost. He remembered what that was like, to walk through the halls of the high school campus trying to find your way, both physically and socially. It had been unnerving to say the least and he certainly didn't envy the people he was currently watching.

"You okay?" Sam heard and turned to see Kate sitting beside him, gently leaning against his side.

Smiling, he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her a little closer. "Yeah, I'm okay… just thinking." He answered.

"About what?" Kate pushed, she could tell that he was distracted by whatever was on his mind and she couldn't figure out if it was a good thing or not.

"Nothing important." Sam said, shrugging off his girlfriend's concern, rolling his eyes when she gave him a pointed look. "I'm okay, I swear." When his friends got concerned, they could be as bad as Dean sometimes.

"Fine, I believe you." Kate smiled. "So, guess what?"

"I don't know what?" He asked, glad that she had let up on trying to figure out what was bugging him. It isn't that important he tried to convince himself even though he knew that his brother would argue differently though he wasn't sure why.

"I heard back from State!" Kate squealed excitedly causing the rest of their group to look over at her.

"You did?" James asked. "Wow, what did they say?" Though with how excited the girl was, he highly doubted that she hadn't gotten in.

"I got early acceptance." She explained. "So long as I keep up my A's and all of that then I've got a place there next year."

"Congrats, I'm really happy for you." Sam smiled sincerely as he hugged Kate. He knew how badly she had wanted to go to the University of Missouri. Why you would want to leave is beyond me Sam thought to himself, hiding his nerves.

"Thanks," Kate smiled back at Sam and returned the hug. She stood so she could hug Bobby and James too as well as Annie, James' new girlfriend. "So, any idea about you guys?" She asked, curious as to where her friends thought they were going to go.

Sam crossed his arms over his chest and listened quietly as his friends explained where they had applied to and which ones mattered the most to them. Silently, he hoped that no one would notice that he hadn't said anything as he had no idea what he would tell them if they asked.

~DW/SW~

"Hey Sammy!" Dean shouted from the living room a couple of days after Sam had started his senior year. He walked into the kitchen and dumped the pile of mail onto the counter, grabbing only the piece he was interested in.

"Yeah Dean?" Sam shouted back, pausing in the hall when he didn't see his brother in the living room.

"Come here, I need you to help me with something?" Dean said, standing up and holding the large, thick envelope in his hand.

"What is it?" Sam asked as he walked out to the living room, tucking his cell phone back into the pocket of his pants.

"Your senior pictures came and I need to send them back soon so you gotta help me pick the one you want." Dean explained as he held up the envelope for his brother to see.

"Oh…" Sam drifted off, not sounding or looking nearly half as excited as Dean had expected him to be.

What in the world is going on with you? Dean asked himself as Sam walked over to him and took a seat on the couch. Dean shook his head, wondering what had gotten into his kid brother that he wasn't excited about almost being done with high school. Dean knew that all of Sam's friends were excited that they were in their last year… hell; he remembered just how excited he and Mike had been. And they had all had a good time in high school. But for his brother, high school had been less than okay for the majority of it. While the past year had been alright, Dean knew that high school was far from being his brother's favorite place. I thought you'd be ecstatic to be getting out of there he thought before he turned his attention back to his brother and the envelope. "Alright, let's see here…" He smiled as he opened the envelope and shook its contents out onto the coffee table.

Seven pictures fell out of the manila envelope and Dean carefully separated them, laying all of them out on the table. "Which one do you like best?" Dean asked a couple of minutes later when Sam had yet to say anything. Without indicating which ones he liked and which ones he didn't as he wanted his brother's honest opinion, Dean carefully separated the glossy pictures into two groups.

Sam shrugged.

"Come on Sam, don't make this be up to only me… this should be your choice too." Dean encouraged, nudging Sam a little with his shoulder.

"I don't even know if I'm going to college… why should this matter so much?" Sam asked him a few minutes later causing a look of absolute shock to appear on his brother's face.

"What the hell do you mean you're not going to college Sam? Why the hell wouldn't you want to go to college?!" Dean asked feeling absolutely stunned. I guess it does kind of make sense now though Dean thought. Anytime he had approached the subject or anything close to the end of the year and what happened after, Sam would either clam up or turn the conversation elsewhere. Well, screw that! Dean thought with his mind made up. His kid brother was one of the smartest people he knew, he'd be damned if the kid wasn't getting a college education.

Sam shrugged again. "I… I do want to go… it's just that college is so expensive and it's not like we really have all that much money." Swallowing hard, Sam turned his gaze to his lap. He didn't want to make his brother feel guilty for this, not when Dean had done so much for him already. He figured that if he really tried hard, then maybe he could save up some money and down the road, go to the local junior college or something.

Dean sighed as he ran his hands through his hair. "Sam, trust me, we have enough for you to go to college okay. If you want to go, then I'll find a way to make it work. And we have that money we won from your court case… I put that in a trust fund for you so don't worry, you can go. For sure, you can go Sam."

Sam stared at his big brother. "You… you did?" He asked with surprise in his voice. He had always known that they had received that money but he had never really thought much about it though. It wasn't as if Dean brought it up every time Sam had needed or asked for something and flaunted it in his brother's face by saying 'well, only if we use that money you got from social services' so he had essentially forgotten about it as money hadn't ever really meant safety or acceptance to him. Should I make him spend that money on my education? Sam wondered.

Dean nodded. "Yup, sure did." A little over a year and a half ago, Sam had been awarded some money from social services to pay for the neglect that they had both directly and indirectly caused and been a part of. Though Dean was grateful to have that extra cash and resources, he knew that no amount of money could ever make up for what had been done to Sam… he just hoped that it would help to give something back to the kid.

"Oh…" Sam drifted off again but this time with a thoughtful look on his face. A few minutes later, Dean found out what was on Sam's mind when his brother spoke again. "If we have enough money for me to go to college, then why aren't you going?" He asked. "I mean, you're plenty smart too."

Dean laughed a little at his brother's compliment. "Thanks," He smiled. "But ah, it's okay. I've got the shop to take care of."

"But still…" Sam started, wondering why his brother wanted this so badly for him but not for himself.

"Sammy, it's okay… I went to college, I did." Dean answered with a small, sad smile painted on his face.

"You did… when?" Sam asked, trying to calculate just when his brother would have been able to go to school.

"I was at the end of my third year when my parents died… somebody had to take over the shop and I didn't want anybody else in there… not then, at least." Dean explained, now very thankful for the fact that he had extra help and a second mechanic.

Sam nodded, still biting his lip nervously. What if I'm not ready? Dean seems to think this will be alright and it's just picking out a picture… it's not like I'm actually packing my bags or anything. Sam argued with himself even as he pasted a smile onto his face and pointed to one of the pictures. "I like that one." He said as he placed his index finger on the third picture Dean had lain out.

Dean nodded as he picked the picture up and studied it. Sam was smiling brightly and to Dean, it looked a little bit like his brother was care-free in the moment. You're a kid, you should be carefree Dean thought to himself. "Yeah, it's a good shot of you." He agreed as he grabbed the information that told him how to order it and began to fill the papers out all the while wondering why his brother had seemed so surprised at the thought that he would want him to go to school.


Hey! So, how was that? Was it a good start? I hope so. I promise there's lot more to come. Please let me know what you thought of the chapter, I really do enjoy hearing back from all of you! Thanks again and I will try to get the next chapter posted soon. :)