Disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowing.
A/N: I wrote this a while ago as a tag to 5.16 but it fit well with the May/June prompt at the Summer of SamLove community on LiveJournal (Dean learns something new about Sam). It might be stretching a bit. I procrastinated so this is unbeta'ed. I apologize for any errors.
Warning: Spoilers for 5.16 Dark Side of The Moon and minor spoilers for 4.13 After School Special.
Summary: Before they can make it back to Earth, there's one last memory to revisit.
When Sam opened his eyes he didn't feel any different. There wasn't a flash of light or the feeling of air rushing back into his lungs.
Instead he was standing in a different motel room, one he hadn't been shot and killed in, with a very pissed Dean beside him.
"Where the hell are we now?" Dean asked as he began inspecting the room.
Sam shrugged as he joined Dean's search but it only took him a second to recognize the duffle bags sitting atop the table.
"I don't think we're on Earth yet." Sam grabbed the tan duffle and turned back toward Dean. "Look familiar?"
Dean's eyes went wide for a second before his look of wonder turned to annoyance, "This better not be another one of your stupid memories."
"I don't remember this but—"
He quickly abandoned his thought when he heard the muffled voices on the other side of the motel door. As the key slipped into the lock Sam waited for Dean to move but instead they both stood there, watching as the knob twisted and the door swung opened.
A slightly younger version of Dean stepped into the room and Sam found himself swallowing the lump that suddenly formed in his throat. It'd been so long since he'd seen this Dean, the Dean that Sam looked up to in both the literal and figurative sense.
Dean plops down onto the closest bed and immediately reaches for the remote, switching on the tiny TV beside Sam. Even as the brighter version of familiar green eyes look in Sam's direction, there's no recognition of his presence.
In all the other memories one of them had been able to interact and fill their vacant spot but seemed neither of them was needed for this one. His suspicion was confirmed as he watched a much younger and smaller version of himself shuffle through the open door.
Sam looked over at Dean—the adult version standing beside him—and noticed him watching the scene closely as Sam sluggishly shuts the door before plopping onto the bed beside Dean.
"Now I remember this." Sam whispered.
"Really?" Dean rolled his eyes and sat down in one of the hard chairs. "Maybe this is one of the times you told me you hated me."
He sat down across from Dean and shook his head, eyes never leaving the bed in front of him. "Just watch."
"I'm not really in the mood, Sam."
He took a deep breath and chose to ignore his brother. The memories Dean saw weren't ones Sam would have put in his top five but that didn't change that they were important to him.
He couldn't make Dean understand and he knew his brother was pissed but Sam thought maybe God was helping him out one last time. Certainly someone wanted them to be here, back in the motel in a moment that meant way more to Sam than getting a stupid letter from Stanford.
"Wanna tell me what happened now?" Dean asked, not taking his eyes off the TV.
"Someone steal your lunch money?"
Sam smiled slightly and shook his head. "I don't think kids do that anymore, Dean."
"Then what's got your panties in a bunch?"
"They made me talk to the guidance counselor today." Sam sighed. "He had quite a lot to say."
"Don't tell me you listened to that junk?"Dean grabbed the remote and put the TV on mute before sitting up straighter and turning toward Sam. "They only work in schools because they can't get a real job."
"That's not true." Sam defended. "I think he knows what he's talking about."
"Then what did he say?"
"That most kids who move around like us drop out of high school."
Dean shrugged, turning back toward the TV. "So what?"
"I don't want to drop out, Dean."
"It doesn't make you stupid or anything."
Sam's eyes went wide and he sat up straighter, turning so that he blocked the TV slightly, "I don't think that. I know you're planning to drop out but it's because you hate school and heck, you don't need school. You already know what you want to do, what you're good at but I don't."
"You're good at hunting, Sam."
"Not nearly as good as you and Dad are. I'm not sure hunting's what I want to do with my life."
"So you think school is?"
"I think school will help be figure it out." Sam shrugged and lowered his head, fiddling with his fingers. "I feel like I actually fit in there, Dean. It's some place that makes me feel good about myself and I like it there."
"Then what are you worried about?"
"What if the counselors right?" Sam looked up at Dean with the small worry lines that had already begun to develop on his brow. "What if Dad makes me drop out?"
"I wouldn't let him."
"What if I end up failing out instead?"
At that Dean sat up and laughed. He turned toward Sam andgrabbed his brother's shoulders so that the two were looking into each other's eyes.
"That's not going to happen."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because you're my little brother." Dean smiled as if that answered everything. "You're the smartest 9th grader in any school we go to and you work your ass off at everything because failure isn't in your vocabulary—even if you have a freakishly large vocabulary. Dude, you could get into any college you wanted and I know you would make the best doctor or lawyer. Probably rob people blind but at least you'd do the job right."
"Really?" Sam stared at him but slowly a smile curled at his lips and his cheeks started to blush.
Sam lunged forward on the bed and wrapped his thin arms around Dean's wide shoulders. "Thanks, Dean!"
"Don't mention it." Dean rolled his eyes but returned the embrace.
Sam felt his chest tighten as the memory played out before him and he couldn't help but smile as he was reminded why he had always wanted to do so well in school.
It hadn't been because some English teacher asked him what he wanted to do or told him he didn't have to go into the family business. In reality, it started long before that.
It started when Dean first picked up a book and read it to Sam; when he first taught Sam the alphabet song.
It began when Dean took Sam to kindergarten and then listened with genuine interest as Sam rambled on about everything he did that day.
Sam wanted to make Dean proud and he may have screwed up a few times or gone about it in the wrong way, but that was still an ever present desire.
Sam didn't know how to make Dean understand that he was one of the main reasons Sam even applied for college. Dean had been the one who helped him stick with school, never let Sam stop trying, even when Sam himself didn't know he was about to give up on things.
It had been Dean who lied to Dad on many occasions when Sam had been finishing up a project instead of training. Dean had even helped him on many of those projects.
He wouldn't have made it as far as he did if it weren't for Dean helping him, encouraging him to keep going.
Then when the time came and John kicked him out, Sam didn't know what to do.
Dean wouldn't look at him and John just kept yelling so he ran.
He was going to school where he actually fit in and did well. Dean should have known how much it meant to Sam but unfortunately the thrill of being accepted meant the pain of his family turning their backs on him.
Now he could see how walking out wasn't such a great move but he had been a kid looking for somewhere to belong. Hadn't he proven he'd been wrong? That he never belonged at school or in any type or normal environment.
He'd always belong with his family, with Dean.
"You always were a nerd." Dean whispered, as if the memory versions of themselves could overhear the conversation. "You have the strangest memories, dude."
"I like this one." Sam didn't look at him, his eyes still focused on the memory.
He turned around and smiled at Dean, "Because it reminds me that I wasn't always a failure."
"Only thing you ever failed at was being cool."
Dean shrugged. "You're welcome."
"I mean it, man." Sam stared at Dean for as long as Dean would hold eye contact.
"And I said you're welcome." Dean shook his head and quickly turned away. "Now can we try to figure out how to get out of this Ghost of Winchesters' Past moment please?"
"Maybe we should hold hands." Sam smiled and held out his hand only have it slapped away just as he suspected.
"I've had enough of your girly crap."
"I love you too."