Dean was ransacking his duffel bag and mumbling under his breath, "Come on, it's got to be around here somewhere." He was currently looking for a wad of twenty dollar bills that he had won in a poker game a few weeks back. He reached the bottom of his bag still empty-handed.

He thought back to the night when he'd won the money. He brought Sam to the bar with him. Sam hadn't wanted to come and he was still underage, but Dean insisted, saying now that Sam had graduated from high school he needed to start bringing home the bacon. Despite that, Dean wound up playing and after he'd won—of course! He'd given the money to Sam because he didn't want to have $500 on him when he went home with…what was her name? Dean shrugged, it didn't matter.

He began going through the pockets of Sam's dirty clothes, making a mental note that they needed to do laundry soon. He got a whiff of a dirty pair of boxers. Make that really soon. Dean smirked as he triumphantly pulled the bills out of Sam's jeans. "Gotcha," he muttered, putting the money in his own pants pocket.

Dean moved to start putting the clothes back in the bag when he saw a white envelope sticking out from beneath one of Sam's shirts. He had to wonder what Sam had gotten in the mail that would be so important that he would actually hold on to it. Figuring it was well within his big brother rights to be nosy, he snatched the letter up, then froze when he saw the return address.

It was from Stanford University, addressed to a P.O. Box in Texas that Dean had never heard of. His heart rate sped up at what this letter was probably about. He tried to convince himself that Stanford might just be begging Sam to come to their college, but he'd surely turn them down. He didn't believe his own story though, and deep down he knew what he'd see when he opened the envelope. He pulled the piece of paper out and just held it for a moment, before getting up the courage to unfold it.

Dean's heart sank into his gut and a huge lump formed in his throat when he saw that the first word of the letter was "Congratulations." He skimmed over the rest of the letter, not wanting to believe what he was seeing. He knew Sam wasn't crazy about the life they led. He knew Sam wanted a normal life. He just never thought Sam would actually leave behind his family to get it.

His brain was still trying to work through what he'd just read when he heard the door to their apartment open and Sam call, "Dean!"

Sam was all smiles as he bounded up the stairs to the small apartment that the Winchesters were currently living in. It had been a great day. He'd gotten his diploma, made some money legally, and Amy hadn't laughed in his face when he asked her out. He'd never admit it, but Dean was to thank for that. Sam had tried a couple of times to flirt with Amy using Dean's tactics. At least, until Dean had seen him doing it, at which point he slapped Sam upside the head and told him to just be himself. That turned out to be really good advice.

He unlocked the door and walked into the kitchen of the apartment. Beyond that was the living room and to the left were the two bedrooms and bathroom. "Dean!" he called. He frowned when he didn't get a response. He knew Dean was home, he'd seen the impala out front and there wasn't anything within walking distance. "Dean?" he tried in a more cautious tone.

Sam walked to the bedroom he shared with his brother, opened the door, and suddenly his good mood was gone. Because Dean was sitting on his bed, holding Sam's acceptance letter in his hand, and when he turned to Sam, he looked like he'd just lost his best friend. Sam felt horribly guilty, knowing he was the one who'd put that look there. "Dean," he said in a pleading tone.

Dean turned back toward the letter, neatly refolding it and returning it to its envelope. He turned it over a few times before putting it back on Sam's duffel. "Sam," he said, not so much addressing his brother as acknowledging his presence.

Sam's mouth opened and closed a few times as he tried to think of the right way address this. "I was gonna tell you."

"Before or after you left?"

Sam cringed. He knew he kind of deserved that and really didn't have a response. He kept meaning to tell Dean, but it never seemed like the right moment.

"Why, Sam?"

"I really was gonna tell you…"

Dean stood, facing him. "I mean, why are you leaving?"

Sam was incredulous. "Why?" Because he was sick of wondering if his father or brother were going to die on their next hunt. He was tired of stitching up a barely conscious Dean and popping shoulders back into their sockets. And if he ever saw another emergency room, it would be too soon. "I hate this life, Dean. I want to be normal. I want a normal job with normal friends who don't know a dozen different ways to repel a vengeful spirit."

"Sam, what we do is important."

Sam was suddenly angry. "Don't you give me that speech! I get that enough from Dad."

Dean looked down, "Sam..." he started, but didn't say anything else.

Sam felt anger and sadness overwhelm him at the name, which didn't make sense. He'd been nagging Dean to call him "Sam" for years. So why was he really hoping that Dean would call him "Sammy" again?

"Why don't you come with me?" he blurted out. Sam had wanted to ask Dean this after carefully explaining all the reasons why it wasn't disloyal for children to move away from their parents. But, considering the circumstances, the question had just slipped.

Dean's eyes widened in surprise. Then he shook his head. "I can't just run off and leave Dad, Sam."

Sam was frustrated, "Dean, you're twenty-two! It's perfectly normal for you to go off on your own."

Dean shook his head again, grabbing his jacket and heading for the apartment door. "We're not normal, Sam." He looked back at his brother. "At least, I'm not."

"Where are you going?" Sam asked.

"I'm not gonna be here when you tell Dad. That's the last thing I want to see right now."

He closed the door behind him. Sam heard the impala's engine start up and fade as his brother drove further away.

Sam stomped his feet as he marched down the side of the road. He was so mad at his father. He was actually glad that Dean hadn't been there. He knew his brother didn't like the fights that he got into with their dad and this fight was by far the loudest they'd ever had. The neighbors had been pounding on the walls, telling them to shut up.

Sam looked down, kicking a pebble as he walked. A voice said, "Hey," and he looked up.

The impala was parked along the side of the road and Dean was leaning against the driver's side of the car, hands in his jacket pockets.

"Hey," Sam responded. He furrowed his brow. "What are you doing here?"

"Figured you'd be too law-abiding to steal a car, which meant you'd head for the bus station." He pulled open the driver's side door. "I can take you the rest of the way."

Sam walked over and took the passenger seat. The car was silent for once as Dean drove away. Sam said, "He told me if I left I shouldn't come back." He looked at Dean to see if that got a reaction. It didn't. "We got pretty loud. It's probably a good thing you weren't there."

There was still no reaction from Dean and Sam sighed, "Aren't you gonna say anything?" This really was not how he wanted his departure to go. Sure, arguing with his dad sucked, but it would have hurt even more if Dean was mad at him.

Dean tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "What do you want me to say, Sam?"

Sam shrugged, but looked at his brother. "That you get it. That you're okay with this." He mentally added, that you still care about me, but didn't vocalize it. Dean didn't say anything, so Sam turned and looked out the window for the rest of the ride. He felt a stinging sensation in his eyes, but he was absolutely not crying.

Dean pulled up to the bus stop and said, "I don't get it. And I'm not okay with it." Sam nodded his head, not turning from the window. Dean swatted his arm and it was almost playful, so Sam looked at him. "But…you're still my pain-in-the-ass little brother." Sam managed a small smile and Dean said, "Take care of yourself, Sammy."

"You too," Sam said, for once not correcting Dean on his name. He climbed out of the car and watched the impala drive away. Then he went into the building, bought a ticket and sat waiting for his bus. Only about ten minutes passed before it arrived. He stood up to leave and it was only then that he put his hand in his pocket. Puzzled, he pulled out a roll of money. It looked like about $500. He smiled, remembering nights spent playing pool in smoky bars and illegal poker games going on in back rooms. He put the money back in his pocket, then he got on the bus.

A/N: This was completely unedited, so please excuse any mistakes. It turned out a lot more centered on Sam that I originally intended. I might be persuaded to do a second chapter, mostly from Dean's POV if enough people review. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.