Sam was at the desk in the kitchen when Bobby came through the door carrying a lapful of grocery bags. Sam jumped up, awkwardly grabbing the books and papers, coffee and sandwich he had in front of himself. He hadn't heard them come back from the store. Dean wasn't going to be far behind.
"Sorry. I'm sorry. I'll just - let me just get out of your way. Here. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
"Where've you been keeping yourself boy?" Bobby asked. "I looked for you all morning."
"Uh - I've been - I'll just - let me get out of your way."
He fled the kitchen. Bobby said something behind him, but Sam didn't stop, he didn't listen. He knew he should help bring in the bags, help put away the food, but if he had to talk to anybody, even Bobby, even Dean…he couldn't bear having to talk with anybody right now. He took the stairs, bypassed the room he apparently wasn't sharing with Dean and slipped behind the door that led up to the attic.
Bobby couldn't follow him up here and Dean wouldn't know to look.
If it even occurred to him to look.
Sam had explored these stairs and attic the first time they ever stopped at Bobby's house, all those years ago. Even here there were books, piles and piles up either side of the staircase and filling the unfinished eaves, and Sam spent hours up here poring over them.
But he'd never camped out up here. Until now.
They'd driven pretty much straight through from Carthage back to Bobby's and got here just about midnight Friday. Dean had done all the driving, all the driving, and Sam had endured the trip in the passenger seat, trying hard to not take up any space or air or water or anything.
It was his fault. It was all his fault. Ellen was dead because of him. Jo was dead because of him. All those people in Carthage were dead because of him. Every person hurt or killed because of anything that happened because Lucifer was walking free, was Sam's fault.
Dean had to think so, too. He had to believe it was all Sam's fault. He'd hardly said anything the whole trip. When Cas winged them back to the car, Dean'd brushed off Sam's attempts to look at the whack on his head, anxious to get in the car and on their way.
Away from Carthage.
Away from Lucifer.
Away from the charred splinters and bits that used to be Ellen and Jo.
Away from one more blunt reminder of Sam's guilt.
When they finally dragged into Bobby's yard, Sam wasn't even sure he should go inside the house. Wherever he went, death and destruction and the spectre of his own part in it - past and potential - followed right along with him. He didn't want to bring that into Bobby's house. The night was cold but he could survive spending it in the Impala. Better that than being around people who didn't want him being around.
He was about to make some excuse, any excuse, to stay outside, as he pulled his backpack from the trunk, but Dean was already at the door with his duffel in his hand and he impatiently waved Sam into the house.
Bobby was waiting for them just inside the door.
"You boys all right?"
He asked it of Dean. Even though the question referred to both of them, Dean got to decide for Sam if he was all right, and Sam wondered what he was going to say. But Dean only spat out a mirthless laugh and shook his head like he didn't know. Then Bobby looked at Sam and Sam didn't know how to answer the concern he saw there. Anger he would've understood, accusations he knew he deserved. Concern made him uncomfortable. He dropped his eyes and took a half step to be more behind Dean.
"Whyn't you boys drop your gear by the stairs? Got whiskey waiting in the library. You sure look like you could use it. Lord know I could."
So they went in and drank one or two or three shots each, Bobby in front of the fire, Dean on the couch, Sam standing near the door to the kitchen. Nobody said anything.
When the whiskey was gone, Bobby went to the desk and lifted up the picture he'd taken of all of them that night. Sam could hardly look at the picture. He'd felt such hope that night that they'd find Lucifer and end Lucifer and end the Apocalypse, and life would go back to normal. Winchester normal anyway.
Sam had prayed that it would happen that way.
He should've known better.
Bobby wheeled closer to the fire and Dean and Sam moved close behind him and watched him set the photograph into the fire. And still no one said anything. Sam watched Ellen and Jo burn away, and it hurt just as bad as any salt and burn of their remains would hurt, and all of Sam's hope burned away with them.
He wasn't sure what to do then. Bobby looked sad, Dean looked furious, and Sam moved off to the side until he knew what he should do. Maybe he could go out to the car now. Maybe he'd be able to sneak outside and nobody would notice. Even if he didn't sleep, at least he'd be out of everybody's way. And they'd be out of his.
Dean looked at him though and sighed and scrubbed a hand over the back of his neck.
"Sam - go upstairs and get some sleep. I gotta talk to Bobby."
Just like when Sam was five, and Dad and Dean had stuff to talk about but not around him.
Then Dean walked away like there was no question that was what was going to happen and Sam slunk upstairs, carrying his backpack and Dean's duffel. He laid on his bed and didn't fall asleep and Dean never came up. When Sam snuck back downstairs a few hours later, the sun was coming up, Bobby was nowhere around, and Dean was asleep on the couch.
Sam went back upstairs, buried himself in his pillow and didn't sleep for a long time.
Finally though, he did fall asleep and woke up to Dean going through his duffel on the other bed. Sam watched him through eyes that felt swollen and sticky. When Dean found whatever he was looking for, he turned to leave and saw that Sam was awake.
"Hey. Didn't mean to wake you up. Go back to sleep, it's still early." And then he was out the door and Sam heard him hurrying downstairs.
So Sam stayed out of Dean's way, and out of Bobby's way, and out of his own way. He'd remembered the attic, this warren of books and trunks and bits of Bobby's long-past life. When Dean and Bobby were eating breakfast, he spirited a pillow and a blanket up here, brought his lap top up, and got started going through the books.
Anything to keep from going downstairs.
Nobody had bothered him yet, thank God. He'd spent the whole day up here, only going down if he had to use the bathroom. When Dean and Bobby drove off together in the Impala, Sam risked enough time in the kitchen to get some coffee and a hasty sandwich. Only because he knew nobody else was around. Because he couldn't stand to be around anyone right now.
So thank God - no one had bothered him.
Probably though God didn't have anything to do with it. Probably God didn't want to have anything to do with Sam at all. Probably all those times Sam had prayed to Him, God turned his radio up, trying to drown out the sound of Sam's voice.
Probably, probably, probably...
When Dean came back from hell, Sam had dared to believe that it was because he'd prayed for it. Until he realized that God had brought Dean back to stop him, stop Sam. Dad told Dean he'd have to kill Sam; God pretty much was telling Dean the same thing. No wonder God never answered any of Sam's prayers. God was praying somebody would end him.
Sam'd started praying, really praying, when he found out he might go darkside. He'd kept praying all the while he was trying to save Dean from hell, praying he'd find some way to keep his promise to save his brother. He'd prayed while Dean was in hell, praying that God would bring Dean back. And he kept praying while he was drinking demon blood, praying he could find some way to stop.
Now here he was - batting exactly zero.
There was still some part inside of him that thought, hoped, wanted to believe, that God had brought Dean back because Sam needed him. But if God answered prayers like that, Sam wouldn't be sitting here alone and in misery. If God heard Sam's prayers, Dean would be -
- Dean would be with him.
But Dean was out in the yard, talking with Bobby, Sam could hear them out the window he was camped near.
Dean wasn't with him, on so many levels.
If God answered prayers, Dean wouldn't have gone to hell, and Sam wouldn't have gone 'darkside'. If God answered prayers, Jack Montgomery wouldn't have died, Pamela wouldn't have died, Adam wouldn't have died. Ellen and Jo wouldn't have died.
Lilith wouldn't have died.
Okay, so maybe Sam had prayed for that one. Made sense that would be the one prayer of his that God would answer.
Maybe it was just Sam's prayers for himself that God didn't answer.
Maybe Sam should just stop praying.
He put the books and the computer aside and laid himself down on his makeshift bed. He'd fall asleep and maybe when he woke up - maybe things wouldn't be so bad.
And maybe it just didn't matter anyway.
He wanted to be tired, he really did. But he felt - nothing. Not tired, not energized, just - there. Guilty. Worthless. Hopeless.
He'd let himself feel some real hope when Ellen and Jo worked with them on finding Crowley, and tracking Lucifer to Carthage. They knew by then, what his guilt was. Word was traveling through the hunting community, and they heard and they didn't judge.
And then they died.
And they didn't just die, they were blown apart.
People Sam loved didn't just die, he destroyed them.
He destroyed everything.
The only good thing was that he was out of family and friends he could kill or maim for the first time.
How many other people in the world could say that?
He closed his eyes and tried to calm his mind, concentrating on the feeling of the hard floor under the thin blanket, the musty smell of the books, the motes of dust spiraling around him, the shadows stretching out across the floor as the sun began to set.
He didn't want to stay up here all night, but he didn't want Dean to have to sleep on the couch again either. Well, after Bobby and Dean went to bed, after Dean went to bed in the room on the second floor, then Sam could go down and sleep on the couch. Even not being long enough, the couch was more comfortable than this floor.
But maybe he didn't deserve comfort.
He didn't deserve it.
He'd just stay up here all night.
But he didn't want to stay up here. Not all night. Not even one minute more. He wanted to be downstairs.
He wanted to deserve being comfortable.
He wanted Dean to not hate him. If God would answer only one of Sam's prayers for himself, it would be that Dean not hate him.
But God didn't answer those prayers.
Sam took a deep breath and closed his eyes and resigned himself to spend the rest of forever holed up in this dark, dusty, attic.
If only God would answer that prayer…
From downstairs, Sam heard Bobby call his name. Maybe he was calling him for dinner, which Sam didn't want to do. Maybe he needed help, which Sam wouldn't ignore. He got up from his uncomfortable bed and walked down to the first floor. Bobby was waiting at the bottom of the stairs.
"Bobby, did you call me?"
"I called you."
"What do you need?" He expected Bobby to be in the kitchen, needing help with dinner or dishes.
"I need you to eat dinner with your family. I need you to stop hiding out in the attic."
Sam felt a twist of guilt and embarrassment that he'd been caught out.
"You knew I was there?"
"Dean knew you were there. He knew you'd be there since before you were there."
"He didn't come looking for me." Sam said down to his feet. He thought to himself, 'but I didn't want him to come looking for me, did I?'
"He knew you needed the time alone. That's why he spent all day out shopping for things this house isn't gonna need for another week. He knew you needed some time to yourself."
"What? But -." The idea surprised Sam. " - I thought - he didn't want me around." Sam looked across the hall toward the library and his memories of the night before. "He said - last night he said he needed to talk to you - he told me to go upstairs so he could talk to you. Then he didn't even sleep in the same room with me."
"He told you to go upstairs because you looked about ready to drop." Bobby told him. "And all he wanted to ask was if there were any oil filters for the Impala here. He wanted to change the oil 'fore you get on the road again. And he fell asleep on the couch because he had too much whiskey on not enough food. He sat down and went out like a light. He wasn't avoiding you, son. All he could think about today was how you were doing."
Sam could only stare at Bobby. None of what he was saying made sense, and yet – somehow – it was everything Sam had wanted to hear. Dean didn't hate him. He just knew Sam well enough to give him the space Sam couldn't ask for.
Bobby returned his gaze.
"Oh." He answered Sam. "You mighta thought you were alone in this house all day, but let me tell you, Dean was right here with you the whole time."
Then Bobby turned away, wheeling into the library, and Sam sat down on the stairs, trying to let it all sink in.
Dean didn't hate him. He wasn't alone.
A loud banging on the wall startled Sam and he sat up to find Dean striding into the hallway from the front door.
"All right, 'me time' is over, Garbo. Dinner in five."
And Bobby wheeled himself into the house right behind Dean.
How did Bobby get outside so fast from the kitchen?
"Dinner? Food? Evening meal? Sitting at a table with your family, not eating make-do sandwiches with the dust mites and spiders upstairs…Sam? You listening to me?"
"Yeah, I'm listening. I just – Bobby?"
"I – were you – I thought – I thought you were in the library."
"Nah, I was supervising Dean's oil change. Can't leave him too long on his own, y'know. C'mon, if we don't get the chicken out of the oven, it'll be dry."
He wheeled into the kitchen and Dean started to follow him, but stopped when Sam didn't move.
"You OK?" Dean asked.
"I thought -." Sam looked up at Dean but decided not to tell him about his phantom conversation. At least not until he'd figured it out for himself. "I thought Bobby was in the library. I thought I heard him call me for dinner."
"That was your stomach calling you. And considering how little you've had to eat today, I can imagine it sounding a lot like Bobby. C'mon, food's getting cold."
Dean went into the kitchen, but Sam took a few steps first into the library. Nothing was different, nothing was out of place, nothing was out of the ordinary. Back, behind him in the kitchen, he heard Dean say to the real Bobby,
"Told you he just needed a little breathing room. He's gonna be okay. We'll get through this."
With one last look around the library, Sam offered up the first prayer of the rest of his life.