Disclaimer - I don't own Supernatural and I don't own any towns. If I did, I'd be a happy camper. As it were, Kripke gets to be the happy camper.
Note: This is supposed to fill in the blank left by the Flagstaff memory mentioned in "Dark Side of the Moon". Sam's sixteen and Dean's twenty. This isn't necessarily how I think things went down, but it's a what-if scenario.
Also, Craig Donavan is not, nor was he ever, real. I know. 'Craig' was what I called this fic before it had a title, though, so there's that.
Title is taken from Pink Floyd, because it's so apropos. I figure a fic about an episode named after Floyd should also be named after Floyd.
"I told you, you need to stay here."
Dean flopped down on the motel bed with a groan. "Why?"
"Because, Dean," John said, barely glancing up from the map he was studying. "It's a simple salt-and-burn about an hour from here. There'll barely be anything for me to do. Sammy would probably enjoy your company, anyway. How 'bout it, Sam?"
Sam, whose newly-lanky frame was scrunched in the small chair by the window, grunted in response. He was trying to finish his homework and Dean's continued pleas to go with their father on this latest hunt were making it difficult to focus.
"Dad, why can't I take this one my –"
Dean was abruptly cut off by John's cell phone. Shaking his head at his eldest and sending him a look that was clearly meant to tell him that the conversation was over, John flipped it open. "Bobby, do you have the . . . Okay, fine. Guess it was stupid to even ask."
He walked toward the window and peeked through the moth-eaten curtain, throwing light in Sam's eyes. Sam blinked before sighing and planting his face in his book, the sound of his forehead smacking against the paper loud enough to make John and Dean look at him.
"Yeah, Bobby, I was just packin' up. I figure I'll be finished with this by tomorrow. Right, thanks." John flipped his phone shut and turned to look at Sam fully. "Sam, d'you mind doing a bit of research for me or is that book too comfortable?"
Sam's voice was muffled by the textbook. "I've got homework."
John ruffled the sixteen-year-old's hair. "We'll be out of Oklahoma in a few days and you'll be in a completely new school. That homework's not important."
"It is if you want to go to college," Sam muttered into the book.
John laughed, walking back to the discarded map on the bed he slept in whenever he was at the motel with the boys. He unfolded it and grabbed a pen from the nightstand.
Raising his head from its makeshift pillow, Sam frowned. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing, Sammy." John was still grinning as his eyes tracked the route he'd need to take to get to the place Bobby'd mentioned. He put the pen in his mouth as he reached for the napkin he'd jotted coordinates on earlier. "It's just . . . college."
Sam's eyes narrowed. "What about it?"
It was John's turn to frown as he caught the underlying tone. He looked at Sam over the top of the map; the teen had straightened himself out and was sitting almost at attention, staring straight at him with that look. The look that immediately set John's blood to boiling every time it was sent his way.
It was the look that always preceded an argument.
John was frustrated and a bit confused. "You're not serious, Sam."
Dean, who had been walking toward the bathroom, froze in his tracks. He knew when things were about to get heated with his father and brother, and alarm bells were ringing loud and clear. He had known of Sam's plans of going on to college once he graduated - he'd been the one Sam had gushed to when they'd driven by the college campus on their way into Weatherford. The kid was a sucker for education and he soaked it up like a sponge, but there was no room for college in their line of work. Dean hadn't had the heart to mention that to his brother yet, though he was almost positive Sam knew the facts - John Winchester would never willingly let him walk away from hunting for something as silly as higher education.
Since Sam turned thirteen, he'd become increasingly rebellious as the years flew by. He yearned for the normalcy that their life lacked and fought their father about it constantly. He had issues with blindly following orders, too - something that was unforgivable to John.
Dean just hoped that Sam would step down from this particular argument - a hope that was dashed as soon as Sam opened his mouth.
"Why wouldn't I be serious?" Sam asked. He wanted John to say what needed to be voiced - the fact that Sam was never going to college so long as his dad was around to keep him chained to his personal obsession.
John let out another laugh, bitter this time. "You're not going to college, Sam."
"Why, because I need to stay here and help you with your sick obsession? I don't want this to be my life forever!"
John was pissed now. He tossed the now-forgotten map on the floor and strode purposefully toward Sam, who was standing with his chin slightly raised in defiance. "Obsession, huh? You know that thing killed your mother. Those things out there that we hunt kill innocent people every day. Why the hell do you think you have the right to stand there and put your selfishness above their lives?"
Sam didn't even blink. "Why is it our job to help everyone? Why do we - I - have to sacrifice our lives so everyone else can live theirs?"
"Because we know about the supernatural, Sam! We know, so we use it to help those who don't! Why is that so damn hard for you to get?"
"So you think Mom would still be here if she'd known? Or if you had? Whose job was it to save her?"
John moved quickly, and Sam was left with a bloody lip and a red welt across his cheek before he could blink. He stood there, breathing hard, as his father cracked his knuckles and chose his words.
"You have some growing up to do. You need to get it in your head that this is your life and there's no changing that. You can have false dreams about going on to be something else, but they're nothing but that - dreams. You're stuck here.
"I'll be back as soon as this hunt is taken care of, like it should be. Sam, get that research done - the info is on the table. Dean, watch your brother." And without so much as a backwards glance, John Winchester left the room. A moment later, they heard the truck engine come to life and then fade away as their father drove off.
When he was gone, Sam rubbed his cheek absentmindedly. He sat back down in the chair and eyed the sigils that John had hastily scribbled on the back of Sam's math homework - which was probably for the best, since he'd be spending the rest of the night researching them instead of doing the homework they'd defiled.
"Shouldn't egg him on, dude. You should've seen that coming a mile away."
Sam groaned. "Shut up."
That had never stopped Dean before. "Seriously, Sam. You should've just dropped it."
"You didn't drop it when he said you couldn't go on this hunt."
Dean glared, then grabbed the keys to the Impala off of the nightstand. "Whatever. I'm not stayin' here with you if you're gonna be in a bitchy mood."
When he was well and truly alone, Sam sighed and looked at the sigils again. His mind began to wander back to his father's words, though, and soon that was all he could think about. He wanted - needed - to get out.
Dean fumbled for the motel room key as he tried to hold the bag full of food in one arm. When he'd finally gotten the door open, he set the greasy bag on the table and searched for the light switch. He couldn't remember the lights being off before, but he had left during the day - it was well into the night now and Sam must be in bed.
"Up an' at 'em, Sammy! Food's gettin' cold." He flipped the switch and the room was flooded with the cheap fluorescent lighting they had become used to in their lives of constant roadside motels.
It took him a moment to realize that Sam wasn't in bed; both beds were empty and there were still papers from earlier strewn across them. Then, as he took in the entire room as a whole for the first time since coming back, red flags began popping up.
The drawers of the nightstand where pulled out and empty of everything but the Smith & Wesson Dean had put in the bottom drawer just in case something happened to the one under his pillow. The cash was gone.
The dresser was in a similar state, though nothing was missing as far as Dean could tell. He frowned.
"Sam?" No answer.
Dean rushed to the bathroom, finding the door wide open and the light off. When he turned it on, he found nothing out of the ordinary except the absence of his little brother.
It was as he was leaving the small bathroom that he noticed - Sam's toothbrush was gone. Gut clenching painfully, Dean strode toward the dresser and looked in the bottom drawer - nothing.
Sam's stuff was gone.
Sam was gone.
"Thanks for the ride again, ma'am."
The woman smiled at the teen, eating up the charm he'd laid on thick. "My pleasure. I couldn't let you keep walking along the road alone all night! Where are you heading, anyway?"
Sam had no idea. He'd been lucky enough to catch a ride after walking for half an hour on the side of the first main road he got to. They'd been driving for about fifteen minutes now, and as they passed a road sign and it caught the glow of the car's headlights, Sam thought of something that sounded at least somewhat acceptable. You know, in a 'shot-in-the-dark' sort of way. "I'm traveling along Route 66. I learned about it in school and decided to spend my break traveling the road."
"Oh, you wouldn't believe how many people do that." She waved her hand dismissively. "But anyway, hon, I can get you as far as Shamrock. I'm heading there to see relatives."
Sam nodded, not really knowing or caring where Shamrock was. The only thing that mattered was the pavement passing under the car - each mile taking him further away from his problems.
A gas station that was lit up like Christmas made him think of food.
The woman he'd caught a ride with had dropped him off in the town and from there he'd walked in search of either another ride. He'd managed to sleep for an hour on the drive, so sleeping wasn't a problem at the moment. He was hungry, though.
A tiny bell tinkled as he opened the door. Sam glanced around the dingy place, trying to find something edible and cheap.
As he was leaving the store with his chips and soda, Sam saw a rack of postcards. He picked one up and slipped it in his jacket, leaving quickly.
He wasn't one to steal - well, he wasn't one to do it on a regular basis. But it was just a postcard, and Sam wanted to know where he was. Plus, it'd be a nice little souvenir of his trip into rebellion.
Flipping the card over, Sam bypassed the corny salutation and read the bit about the location. Shamrock, Texas. He'd managed to put a state between himself and his family.
After that it became something of a tradition. With every new town Sam blew through, he'd 'pick up' a postcard. And he did go through a lot of towns. His duffel was getting full of the buggers, for he was actually (without intending to) traveling along Route 66. Under different circumstances, Sam would've been fascinated. However, in light of the situation, he was just determined to keep moving.
"This is John Winchester, leave a message."
Dean cursed and threw the phone on the bed. He'd been trying to reach John since he'd found Sam missing. But, it was the same as always - their father would answer the phone when he finished the hunt or when he damn-near felt like it. Dean could leave as many voicemails as he wanted, but that wouldn't make his dad answer.
It was morning now - Sam had been gone for the entire night. Dean had no idea where he could've gone or what had finally broken in his stubborn brother to cause him to run away. He'd taken the Impala out on the town to search, thinking Sam might've just wandered there; he didn't have a car, after all, so how far could the kid get? But he wasn't in the town and one person swore they'd seen a kid hitch a ride the night before, heading west.
Tracking him shouldn't be too hard. Dean knew Sam better than anyone, and he could work with that to find him. It would take awhile, though - especially without help.
With that thought in mind, Dean moved around the room and gathered everything that was theirs. Within five minutes he'd cleaned it out, and now the Impala was loaded and ready to eat up the road in search of wayward little brother.
As the engine roared to life, Dean's cell rang in his jacket pocket. He scrambled to answer, not even bothering to check the display.
"No, Dean." It was John. Dean slumped in his seat, relieved and disappointed at the same time. "What happened?"
"Sam ran off."
There was a pause. "And where were you, Dean?"
Dean grimaced. "I was out at the bar in town. When I got back, Sam was gone and so was his duffle and the cash in the drawer."
"Dammit, Dean! You had one job while I was gone, and you failed!" There was another pause as John willed himself to be calm. "Where the hell did he go?"
"West. Someone in town saw him catch a ride with a woman who'd stopped into town for gas on her way to Shamrock, Texas. She'd chatted to the gas station clerk about visiting her relatives."
"Texas?" John's voice was incredulous. "Okay. Dean, go after him. I'll start out as soon as I can."
The call ended and Dean shut his phone with a sigh, tossing it into the passenger seat. He shifted the car into gear and sped off.
"Right, well you're in New Mex. Very close to the Arizona border, though - you're comin' up on Gallup."
Sam nodded, readjusting the strap on his duffle bag. He'd gotten picked up and driven across two states last night and most of this morning, and now he was having a bit more trouble. The road he was on was very empty, and cars were sparse. He'd walked for a few miles before he'd decided to stop and ask where he was.
The kid he was talking to - and he was just a kid, a little older than Sam and just a bit taller - had seen him walking through the gas station convenience store and had started the conversation. Sam was grateful for the information, but the kid was coming on a bit too strong in the helpful stranger department. He also kept eyeing Sam's jacket like a hungry dog.
"What did you say your name was again?"
"I didn't," Sam replied, leaving the store with a meager lunch and a new postcard. The kid, who had said his name was Levi, followed him. Sam's hackles raised immediately.
"I getcha, I getcha," Levi said, shaking his head. "Well where are ya headin', kid?"
Sam rolled his eyes, heading toward the highway. He rattled off the closest state. "West. Arizona."
Levi blinked, then grinned. "On foot? How do ya plan on managing that? Ya know . . . I could arrange a ride for you all the way to Winslow."
Stopping, Sam turned to the teen with narrowed eyes. "How? And what's in it for you?"
"Oh, I have a friend who's on his merry way down there this afternoon. He's in Gallup and will take ya where ya need to go."
"And I really do like your jacket, kid. It gets kinda cold this time of year and, as ya can see, I don't have one."
Sam looked down at his jacket, frowning. It'd be nice to just get a straight ride all the way into Arizona, and it was just his jacket.
Levi's smile grew wider as Sam tossed the jacket at him. He eyed the inside of the collar, looking for the tag. "S.W.? Those your initials? Ah, never mind, doesn't matter. Look, I'll call your ride - all ya have to do is get to Gallup by three."
Sam made a noise in his throat, wanting to get on the road again. Without another word, he turned toward the road and began the long walk to Gallup.
Dean had followed Sam's trail for the rest of the day and well into the night. He was at a gas station in a small town just outside of Gallup, New Mexico, and the guy at the register inside the convenience store had mentioned seeing Sam. Other than that, though, he was far from helpful.
The trail had gone cold.
Dean sighed and put his forehead against the steering wheel. "Where are you, Sammy?"
He needed to make a decision now and follow the instinct that growing up as a hunter had instilled in him. If Sam had been here, he was probably heading toward the next town.
He reached the town in record time and stopped at a small diner. Diners were great places for town gossip, and maybe someone had seen Sam.
He slid into a booth and ordered a coffee, scanning the room in one sweep. There were a few people eating, but the place was fairly deserted. Dean's shoulders slumped as he took a long pull from his cup.
"-just terrible. And no one knows where they went or if they're even still alive. The people just . . . disappear."
"From the road?"
"Apparently, yes. There've been empty cars found in the middle of the road outside of town. Always on the same stretch of road, though."
Dean's ears, trained in the art of professional eavesdropping, picked up on this conversation halfway through. The women seated across the room were huddled close and were frowning.
"You know the worst part, though? Supposedly, a kid disappeared. Someone saw a teenage boy walking that stretch of road get snatched."
"They saw what took him?"
"No, but they heard the boy scream for help. By the time they got there, he was gone and there was . . . Well, there was a fair amount of blood."
Dean's blood went cold. It could be Sam out there, hurt and in the clutches of something supernatural. He ran a hand over his face, trying to breathe easier. It could be coincidence - and not everything was supernaturally-linked. But Dean's gut refused to stop twisting, and this sounded like a case - a case that had found his brother.
Flagstaff was a lot more crowded than the other towns he'd gone through. As he sat on the curb outside of yet another gas station, eating his cheap and tasteless meal, Sam watched the town buzz with activity. It was getting late and the sun was setting, but he wasn't planning on moving right away. He'd been moving for two days and it was beginning to wear on him; he was seriously considering using some of the cash he'd taken from the nightstand to get a motel room for the night.
He was abruptly brought out of his thoughts by a crunching sound. Looking down, he immediately jumped in surprise. "Hey!"
There was a skinny golden retriever head rustling through his bag of chips. Sam hadn't even noticed the dog before, and was too surprised to take the food away. He watched, bemused, as the dog snuffled through the rest of the bag and then raised its crumb-speckled head to look at him.
"Hi," Sam said, reaching out to pat the dog. He swept the crumbs out of his fur and the dog licked the salt from his fingers. Sam laughed. "Where did you come from?"
The dog was incredibly skinny, though - Sam could see his bones through his coat. If he wasn't a stray, then the dog was severely mistreated. Brushing crumbs off of himself, Sam stood and threw his trash away; he then eyed the dog, considering.
"You don't have anyplace to go, do you boy? Me neither."
The dog followed Sam as he made his way through the town, looking for the cheapest motel to crash for the night. He could smuggle the dog in the room - strays needed to stick together.
The beam of the flashlight cut through the trees, illuminating nothing but more woods. Dean had left the diner and done his own research into the stretch of road that he was sure Sam had taken. It was probably the fastest hunt he'd ever been on, but Dean was working with a personal drive.
The stretch of road that was haunted - and it was haunted, Dean soon found out - had been the hunting grounds for a serial killer back in the late 70s. The man, Craig Donavan, would stop cars on the pretense of hitchhiking, then pull the victims into the woods and mutilate them for nothing but fun.
Walking through the woods that had been used recently to stash the new victims, Dean was getting sicker and his stomach was tied in so many knots he thought it'd never come untied again. He'd found three of Donavan's latest victims since entering the woods - they were so horrendously torn up and slashed that he couldn't even make out the gender. He'd also found Donavan himself - the man had committed suicide when he caught wind that police were on to him - and salted and burned the bastard.
He hadn't found a kid, though, and he wasn't sure if that called for relief or not. He was combing the woods near the road on his way back to the Impala, hoping against hope that he didn't find anything else.
Just as he was nearing the edge of the woods, though - a fair bit off from where he'd started - his flashlight caught something reflective at the base of a tree. Dean swallowed, moving as slowly as he dared toward it.
What he saw made his stomach drop and his heart leap into his throat.
It was a kid - the kid they'd mentioned in the diner. He was tall and thin, looking like he'd recently grown into his height and was still getting used to it. His hair was brown and longish, and he was wearing a jacket that looked just like Sam's. Trying to swallow past the lump in his throat, Dean reached out and pulled down the jacket's collar, searching for the proof he was almost positive was there.
Dean shut his eyes and drew in a shaky breath, trying to breathe but failing. He needed to do this. Steeling himself, Dean carefully flipped the figure over so he lay on his back. A strangled cry escaped Dean's throat before he could stop it and he found himself backing away, scrabbling at the underbrush in a mad attempt to put distance between himself and what lay in front of him.
The faceless corpse of his little brother stared up at him in the night.
It had been two weeks.
Two weeks ago, Sam had left his family. He'd traveled west, going along old Route 66 and collecting postcards the entire way. He'd met people and he'd been able to live as normally as he could manage while staying in a crappy motel room and living off of the most inexpensive food he could find.
He'd stayed with the dog and the dog had stayed with him, seemingly content with this new-found life of food and shelter. Sam had named him Bones, for the dog still had a visible ribcage and Sam couldn't just call him 'dog' for two weeks. They were together in the same boat - just them against the world, alone but for each other.
If he was honest with himself, though, he was starting to lose sight of why he was doing this. Sure, he wanted to be normal and he wanted to go to college in the future. Sure, he hated hunting and had no interest in living his life doing something he hated. But he did miss his family, no matter how much his father ground on his nerves. They were all they had left.
He was getting sick, and his voice was threatening to disappear. It's what he got, though, for traveling so far in so short a time and barely getting any sleep. A cold he could deal with.
Sam was also running out of money, however, which was a more pressing issue than anything else. He couldn't live like this for much longer, and he knew he'd eventually lose steam and call Dean. The only thing holding him off at the moment was the thought of his father and the screaming match that was bound to shake the cosmos once he dared show his face round John Winchester again.
He absentmindedly stroked Bones' silky head as the dog slept on the motel bed next to him as he flipped through the channels of the static-ridden television set. He paused on a news broadcast, old habits dying hard.
It was a rather gruesome story - one that would have immediately caught his father's attention and got Dean excited about the prospect of a hunt. People had been taken off the road on one stretch of New Mexican roadway and brutally slaughtered, faces slashed past the point of recognition and into the field where you needed dental records to identify. Sam's interest was, admittedly, piqued - especially when he went through his route to Flagstaff in his mind and realized that he'd traveled that road.
When the news report flashed images of the victims before they were taken, Sam stiffened. He recognized one of them - the youngest and last taken.
It was Levi.
Sam bolted from his bed and grabbed some change from his duffel. He needed to make a call.
Dean's face was buried in his hands.
It had been almost two weeks since he'd found Sam's corpse in New Mexico. Two weeks since he'd called his dad to tell him that he'd failed in watching out for his little brother. Two weeks since John had met Dean in Gallup and had gone into his own personal world of grief.
It had been hell, and Dean was slowly but surely losing his will to keep going. Everything was a chore, and he wasn't living anymore - he was existing. He was drowning in the Dean Winchester brand of guilt and remorse, and his only lifeline he'd ever had was dead.
Now he was driving through the small town, looking for comfort in the road but not wanting to leave his father behind in the town for too long. He barely flinched when his cell started blaring from his pocket. His voice was stiff as he answered, "Hello?"
Dean stepped on the brakes so fast that the car screeched in protest and slid a few feet, finally coming to a stop in the middle of the road. People were shouting at him and gesturing wildly from their cars, but Dean barely noticed.
Sam grimaced, looking at the pay phone like it would bite him. He'd called Bobby to ask about his dad and Dean's whereabouts, but what he learned instead was still making his head hurt.
The gruff voice grunted, inviting the caller to continue. "What d'ya want? Who is this?"
Sam blinked in confusion before realizing that his cold was affecting his voice. Not really wanting to give up his location quite yet, he played the stranger card and let Bobby believe what he would.
"Bobby, where's John Winchester?"
"What d'ya want with John Winchester?"
Sam sighed. "There's a hunt out in -"
Bobby cut him off. "John's out of the game at the moment. His kid just died bout a week ago. So whatever job you think you've got, I'm the one you'll have to deal with."
Sam, who had dropped the phone in shock at Bobby's words, hastily picked it up again and slammed it on the receiver.
His mind was racing a mile a minute, going through all possible scenarios that would merit Bobby's statement. The blaringly obvious reason was staring him in the face, but he was trying not to look at it.
Did something happen to Dean?
While he'd been holed up here in Arizona, had his older brother been killed? Was the last thing he'd ever said to him something petty and stupid? Sam felt sick.
So he did the only thing he could think of: he put in another coin and dialed his brother's cell number.
The voice who answered made Sam want to cry with relief. "Dean?"
There was a pause, then his ears were assaulted with a screeching noise that sounded like Dean had floored the brake pedal. "Sam?"
His brother sounded incredulous. Sam frowned, wondering at the tone. "Yeah, it's me. Where are you?"
Another pause. "Sam . . . Where are you?"
Sam bit his lip. "Flagstaff."
There was a weird sound like whooshing air, as if Dean had let out a breath and then forgotten to take another afterwards. When he spoke again, his voice was even, but there was a slight tremor. "Okay. I'm going to come get you. Don't . . . Don't leave, alright? Stay where you are."
Sam nodded before realizing that Dean couldn't see him. "Alright. Dean?"
His older brother's voice sounded a bit off. "Yeah, Sam?"
Bones was padding after him as he walked down the street, and Sam occasionally glanced down and found the dog looking up at him with eyes that seemed to know what was going to happen.
Sam had to find somewhere for Bones to go once he'd gone. His father would never let him keep a dog, and it wasn't like their lives were ideal for pets. So Sam was out on the town, spending his last few hours of solitude trying to find a new home for his friend.
Sitting on a bench in the park, his eyes wandered over to a couple as they watched their small daughter play in the sandbox. He thought a moment, then walked over to them, putting on his best puppy-dog look and mustering up a few tears that weren't entirely false.
Dean eased the Impala into the parking lot of the crappy motel. He couldn't see Sam anywhere, so he got out of the car and walked over to the room Sam said he was staying in and opened the unlocked door.
The first thing Dean noticed was the postcards - there were tons of them, from every town from here to Oklahoma, taped to the wall. His eyes followed the glossy, cardstock version of the route his brother had taken to get to this point. He couldn't help the lump that entered his throat when he saw one from Gallup. Shaking his head, he turned away from the cards.
Sam was standing in the middle of the room, worrying the strap of his duffle bag like he couldn't control his hands. He looked up as Dean entered and there were tears in his little brother's eyes.
"Aw, Sammy." And with that, Dean strode over and gathered Sam in a hug. They'd have a lot to talk about, and some things needed to be said, but for now they were content with just the other's presence - the physical proof that the other was alive and well.
"Buckle up, Sam. We're headin' out."
Sam did what his brother said, then glanced out the passenger window. The sun was setting on Flagstaff, Arizona when the Impala pulled out of the motel parking lot and sped off, heading east.
He was glad to be with his brother again, of that Sam was certain. But there was a part of him that would miss the time he'd spent here. It was his first real taste of freedom, and he'd enjoyed the flavor.
This had taught Sam something. He could leave whenever he wanted to, and there was nothing his father could ever do about it. If Sam wanted to go to college, he could just leave. If Sam wanted out of this life, all he had to do was pack up and make a new life for himself. This trip had taught him that he could make it on his own, and someday he'd set out for good.
One day he'd taste this freedom again, but for now he'd wait and content himself with what he had.
A/N: And so ends my first foray into Supernatural fanfic writing. Hope you enjoyed reading!