Well, the time has come. Final chapter. I appreciate all of the readers and reviewers so much. You've kept me going on this and now we're at the end. I hope you enjoy.
Two weeks later
Dean shoved the last bite of his bacon cheeseburger, with extra onions, into his mouth then licked at the gob of catsup that oozed down his chin, all the while watching his brother who sat across from him at the small hotel table. Sam had his chin resting in his hand, his eyes staring down at the soggy food in his go container, fork moving idly through the mush that he had turned his dinner into. He had been quiet since he had left the hospital, more quiet than usual. His father and brother were beginning to get concerned that he was sinking down into a deep depression and they tried everything they could to engage him in conversation as well as take him out of the room as often as his healing heart allowed, but still he remained quiet and sullen, barely eating as well as sleeping a great deal of the time. Dean glanced over at his father and met his worried gaze then turned back to his brother.
"Uh…hey, Sammy…I've heard that you get more out of your food if you actually eat it, so what'dya say you take a bite or two, okay?" Dean coaxed, his eyes once more glancing John's way to find his father watching his brother intently.
Sam raised his eyes to Dean and shrugged. "'m not really hungry," he mumbled before dropping his dull eyes once more.
"How can you not be hungry, Sam?" John queried as he set his fork down onto the table. "You've hardly eaten a thing since you left the hospital. If that doesn't change, you're gonna end up right back in there. Is that what you want?" he continued.
Sam slowly straightened and looked at his father. "No…I just don't feel like eating," he said in resigned reply.
"You gotta eat, kiddo. You're losing more weight than you can afford to lose," John stated, his dark eyes leaving Sam for a moment to glance at his eldest son before returning to his youngest.
Sam dropped his fork into his container and pushed back from the table. He looked first at his brother then at his father. "Why can't you just drop it? I eat…some…I go to the hospital every day and do my PT…I watch TV and go to the park. Everything you guys want me to do, I do. So I'm not eating all that much…so what!" he cried as he pushed to his feet, his body swaying ever so slightly before he was able to gain steady ground and make his way to his bed where he plopped down and dropped his face into his shaky hands.
Dean looked to his father before he stood and walked over to where Sam sat. He sat next to Sam and leaned over, his green eyes seeking out his brother's hazel ones. "Sammy…look at me. Come on, bro…look at me," he coaxed as he gently nudged Sam with his shoulder.
Finally, Sam pulled his face up from his hands and glanced over at his brother. "Dean…just…I'm sorry, okay?" he said softly.
"What's going on with you, Sammy? We thought once you got out of that hospital you'd come back around to yourself. And once you got yourself registered for your classes we thought you'd be bouncing off the walls. Now, all you want to do is sleep. Tell me what's wrong…please," Dean pleaded.
Sam sighed as he gazed at his brother. He knew he was causing his family to worry and he hated it, but he just couldn't bring himself out of his funk. He had so much going through his head that the only way to shut it off was to sleep. He had to force every bit e of food into his mouth and actually chewing and swallowing was a chore he just didn't have the energy for.
"I…I don't know, Dean. I'm trying…I am, but…but I…" Sam started, his voice trailing off as a lump formed in his throat and his eyes filled with tears.
Dean wrapped an arm around Sam's slumped shoulders and gently pulled him close. John couldn't stand it anymore and stood from the table then moved to the bed and dropped down onto his knees in front of his youngest son.
"Sam, we know you're trying. I can't even begin to imagine what you've gone through, what you're still going through, but I do know that me and Dean can help you, if you let us. Tell us what's going on and then let us help you," John said as he rested his hand on Sam's knee.
Sam looked up and gifted his father with a small, quivering smile. "I…I just don't know what to do, Dad…I feel so…lost, you know? I mean, I want to go to school, but then I don't and…"
"Wait, what do you mean you don't?" Dean asked.
Sam shook his head lightly then brushed at a tear that managed to slip down his cheek. He glanced over to his brother and bit at his lower lip. "I'm scared, Dean. I…I'm scared for me, but I'm mostly scared for you and Dad and I think that maybe I should just call them and tell them I'm not coming. I…I don't know what to do," he finally cried, his chin dropping so that his hair covered his tear filled eyes.
John swallowed against the lump in his throat and reached out to take Sam's chin in his hand. He gently raised his son's face and smiled when Sam's woeful eyes met his. "Sammy…what are you afraid of? You'll be fine. You've already been put in touch with a cardiologist in Palo Alto…everything is set. You don't need to be afraid," he said softly.
"Why would you be afraid for Dad and me?" Dean pushed further as he gave his brother's shoulder a gentle squeeze.
Sam glanced over at him and shrugged. "You guys worry so much about me…I'm just afraid that you'll get yourselves hurt or ki…." Sam cried, his voice cutting off before he could say the dreaded word. Finally, he continued in a whisper. "I couldn't live with it, Dean. It'd be my fault and I just couldn't live with it."
Dean pulled his brother closer and made sure Sam was looking at him before he began to speak. "Listen, Sam…yes, we do worry about you. But, we'd worry whether you were with us or not. That's just the way we are. We're not going to let ourselves get distracted on a hunt. If we did and something happened to us, we'd leave you alone and that just is not gonna happen. You need to stop worrying about that…you're making yourself sick and you need to stop," he said.
"Your brother's right, Sam," John said, smiling when Sam turned his eyes to him. "College is obviously something you've wanted…worked to achieve for a long time. Don't toss it away because of us. Look, I'd love for you to stay with us, but…but I want you to be happy too. I've overlooked your wants for far too long, cast them off as unimportant when they're not. I'm sorry for that, Sammy."
Sam smiled at his father, a sad, but genuine smile. "I…I don't know if I can do it, Dad. Now that it's really happening, I just don't know. I've never been apart from you guys. What if I get there and I fail? What if all of the other students hate me? I won't have anybody to turn to…to talk to. I don't think I can go…I…" he cried softly.
"Sam, listen to me," Dean started, waiting to continue until his brother was looking his way. "You aren't gonna fail. You're gonna take that school by storm. They won't know what hit 'em. And nobody is gonna hate you. They may be jealous…wonder why they even bother when they couldn't even begin to be as smart as you, but they won't hate you. You're gonna have so many friends, and you won't have to worry about up and leaving at a moments notice," he continued, his eyes moving over to meet the guilt ridden face of his father.
"We'll only be a phone call away, Sam. If you need to talk, you call. If you need us there, you call. I've already made it known that I will only take hunts on the West coast or there abouts. We'll be able to be in Palo Alto within a day. We'll drop in whenever we're close. It's your choice, Sammy…but you need to base it on what you want and not on your worry for us," John said.
Sam gazed at his father then to his brother. He finally returned his eyes to John and nodded. "I really want to go, Dad…I'm just so scared," he softly said, his eyes shimmering with unshed tears.
"It's always scary to leave home. You'll be fine. You're tough…you'll find your way," John said in reply.
Sam smiled and nodded. "Thanks, Dad…thanks, Dean," he said.
"Hey, not a problem, little brother, " Dean quipped, happy to see his brother smile again. He glanced over at the table and frowned. "We do have another problem though," he said with a serious look.
Sam furrowed his brow and looked at his brother. "What?" he asked nervously.
"Well, I refuse to have my little brother reflect badly upon me by going to college as a stick figure. All those coeds? Man, I envy you, Sammy, but you gotta get some meat on your bones. Girls don't go for skinny guys," Dean said with a grin.
"I'm not really…" Sam started, his words cut off by a loud grumble coming from his stomach. His face flushed a deep pink as he glanced sheepishly up at his family.
"Yeah…uh huh," Dean said as he stood and gently pulled his brother up with him. "Let's get you something to eat." Dean grinned at his father as the man rose to his feet, both men's eyes squarely on their youngest family member.
Sam placed his hand over his still grumbling stomach and smiled. "I guess I could eat a little," he said as he moved toward his chair and the cold slop he'd left there.
"Whoa, wait a second," Dean said as he grabbed Sam's arm.
"What? I thought you wanted me to eat," Sam said with confusion.
"Yeah, but not that," Dean replied as he guided Sam toward the door. "It's a nice night out. We can go to the diner. I'm starving!"
"But…you just ate a bacon cheeseburger…disgustingly so I might add," Sam said, his voice tinged with both confusion and amusement.
"Yeah, Sammy…ONE cheeseburger. Plus, Dad didn't get me any pie, so come on…let's go!" Dean cried as he pulled Sam toward the door.
Sam shook his head and glanced at John, smiling when John just shrugged his shoulders and grinned. The three left the hotel room, the youngest kept safely between the other two and finally it seemed as if everything may just be okay.
Sam stood on the sidewalk, his wide eyes sweeping over the large building before him. His duffel bag was swung over one shoulder and another larger bag sat at his feet. He glanced over his shoulder as his father and brother stepped up to him, their eyes also taking in the building that their youngest family member would be calling home for the next few years. Sam smiled nervously as he made eye contact with each man before dropping his gaze to the bag at his feet. He had so much he wanted to say, but the words escaped him now. He couldn't believe he was finally here, couldn't believe he would have to watch his family drive away and leave him behind. It was what he had wanted, but that didn't make it easy now that the time had finally come. The fears he'd held inside were still there, still strong, but he had promised his family that he would be strong. He had no intention of breaking that promise. He glanced to his right when he felt a firm, yet gentle hand grasp his arm.
"So, Sammy…you need help getting your stuff up to your room?" Dean asked with a small smirk, his snarky, outward demeanor not quite covering up just how twisted up his insides felt.
Sam smiled and gave his brother his patented eye roll. "Uh…no, Dean…I think I can handle my two bags just fine. Thanks anyway," he said softly.
"Uh…yeah…okay. Maybe Dad and I should check out your dorm room though, just to be sure…"
"It's fine, Dean. You guys already researched the entire campus. No red flags on hauntings or poltergeists. No demon signs or any other sign of paranormal or supernatural influences here," Sam said, the young man covering up just how thankful he was for his brother's protectiveness.
"Can't be too safe, Sammy. I got my EMF detector and…"
"Dean…your brother will be fine. Like he said, we've checked the entire place out. It's clean. Plus, I'm sure Sam will take all of the necessary precautions to keep any unwanted…uh…guests out. Right, Sammy?" John interjected with a serious glance at his youngest son.
"Yes, Dad. I'll salt all of the openings. I'll put up all the protections…discreetly. Now, you guys better get going. That banshee isn't gonna take a break and wait for you to come take her down," Sam said, though a part of him wanted his family to stay.
"Yeah…we better get on the road. Dean, say goodbye and let's hit it," John said as he took a step back from his sons.
Dean moved in front of Sam and looked up at his face…(and wasn't that just wrong on every level?). He reached out his hand and waited until Sam offered his in return before he firmly shook the hand. "You be safe, kid…I don't want to have to come save your ass," he said before shaking his head and pulling his brother into his arms. "I mean it, Sammy…anything at all, you call us," he whispered into Sam's ear as he gave his back a few strong pats.
"I will, Dean…don't worry," Sam said in reply as he was finally let loose by his obviously nervous brother.
Dean nodded and dropped his eyes to the ground. He stepped aside as John stepped up to Sam and watched as John immediately drew Sam into his arms. "I know I've never told you this, Sammy, but I'm so damned proud of you," he said as he held his youngest tight.
Sam pulled away and stared in shock at his father's face. The words he'd longed to hear, but never in a million years thought he ever would, had just been uttered and he had absolutely no idea how to respond. "I…I…th-thanks, Dad," he finally said, his eyes shining brightly.
John smiled as he stepped back. "You're gonna do great here, Sammy," he said, his voice wavering ever so slightly.
Sam smiled before glancing at his brother and giving him a nod. "So…uh…I better get up there before my roommate shows up and gets the best bed," he said softly.
"Yeah…uh…take care of yourself, Sammy," Dean replied as he backed toward the Impala, his eyes never leaving his brother.
"I will. You too," Sam said with a warm smile.
"We will. Bye, Sam. I love you," John said then turned to make his way around the Impala to the driver's side.
"Love you both," Sam said and watched as Dean smiled, his green eyes shining, before he climbed into the car.
Sam watched his family pull away from the curb and slowly drive down the street. He walked to the edge of the sidewalk so he could see them, only moving toward the dorm building when the Impala disappeared from sight. He gazed up at the building one more time then reached down for his other bag. He walked toward the entrance, pulled the door open and disappeared inside.
Dean glanced over at his father, noticing the deathgrip the man had on the steering wheel and the way he stared stoically ahead. This was killing John and Dean knew it. He knew it because it was killing him too. Never had Sam been left behind before, other than when he was little and it was absolutely necessary. Those times though, Sam had been left with Bobby or Pastor Jim, not with complete strangers who had no idea what was out there in the world. He was completely on his own and even the fact that they'd always stay as close to Palo Alto as they could didn't make either of the men feel any better. A lot could happen in the time it took them to get back to Sam, if a call for help ever came. John let out a shaky sigh and with one hand he beat furiously on the steering wheel.
"Dad?" Dean asked as he stared at his father with concern.
"I'm leaving my boy," John said softly, his eyes never leaving the street ahead of him. "My baby."
Dean could see the tears brimming in his father's eyes, but he didn't say a word about them. He swallowed deeply and blinked back his own tears, willing his heart to stop racing before he spoke. Finally, he found his voice.
"Dad…he'll be okay," he said shakily.
John glanced over at his eldest son and nodded once before returning his eyes to the road. "I know he will. It just doesn't feel right…leaving him behind like this," he said.
"Not behind, Dad. We're not leaving him behind. We're giving him that bit of normal that he's always wanted," Dean said in reply.
"Yeah…normal," John said as he guided the Impala through the city before getting onto the highway that would take them to their next hunt.
They drove in silence the rest of the way, both determined to finish the hunt as quickly as they could so they could turn around and get back to where they belonged. Back to where their hearts resided. Back to Sam, whether he knew they were there or not.
So, that's it. Please let me know if you liked the ending, or even if you didn't. Love you all.