Notes: Longest story ever. I hope you enjoy it. As always, thanks for all the reviews/favorites/alerts. They mean the world to me. Standard disclaimers apply.


When I went to bed that night, I expected to wake up to a normal day. I'd jog a couple miles, drink ungodly amounts of coffee, and start working the city beat. Maybe I'd run down a few bad guys, if I was lucky. More likely I'd be called to deal with a noise disturbance or domestic dispute.

Instead, I get a call at 0100 hours.

Blearily, I force open my eyes as a jazz tone blares to life. My phone is resting on the desk on the other side of the room. Knowing that it could be important, I roll myself out of bed and nearly fall to the floor as I do so.

I fumble in the darkness and stub my toe on the desk chair as a reward. Hissing in pain, I grab for my phone. Just as I do so, the sound of jazz stops. I let out a groan, and am about to see who called when the phone starts ringing again. A frown crosses my face as I answer it. To call back so quickly must mean it's really important.

"Hello?"

"I'm fifty miles north of Baltimore at a Denny's. Come pick me up."

It's Sam. His voice is hard and sharp, as if he's trying to hold something back.

"Okay, I'll be there in an hour," I say slowly. I'm concerned at the 'me' part. Shouldn't he be with Dad and Dean?

"Thanks," there is a slight hitch in his voice, "bye."

There's a knot forming in my stomach as I flip the phone shut. My first thoughts are that a hunt has gone wrong. But as I get dressed, I find myself nixing the idea. Sam would have started the conversation differently if someone was hurt or missing.

The next moments are a blur as I quickly get to my car and head for the interstate. Soon, I'm blazing down the road at 90 miles per hour while trying to figure out what was wrong with Sam.

I haven't really had time to spend much time with my family lately. Sure, they come collect me every now and then when I have a break, but because I have a paying job I can't really move like the wind anymore. We do talk on the phone every week though.

I'm trying to think back on the conversations I've had with Sam lately. He's told me about a few hunts, expressed his anger at being in the middle of his graduating class due to his wonky transcripts and credits transferring differently, told me he's been fighting with Dad more, and…and suddenly it dawns on me of what this could be about. Two weeks ago he found out he was accepted to Stanford.

Everything seems to fall into place now. The knot in my stomach tightens, and I pull into Denny's. I glance at the clock and find that I made it in a half hour.

With a sense of dread, I get out and lock the car. All that's left to do is find Sam. I enter the small, 24-hour Denny's, triggering the tinkling of a bell. The hostess is about to try and seat me, but I wave her off as I notice the unmistakable form of my Sasquatch-sized little brother.

I walk over to him and try to break the ice with a joke. "Is this seat taken?"

God, Sam's a sight for sore eyes. His hair is as girly as it has always been, and even as tired and drained as he must be, he still flashes dimples when he smiles at me.

"Thanks for coming, Tony."

"It's no problem. Now, tell me what's up," I get right to the point as I slide into the red vinyl seat across from Sam.

We're interrupted by a waitress approaching the booth before Sam can say anything. I quickly order a coffee, and before long she has left and returned with the steaming cup of caffeine.

I fix my eyes on Sam, silently telling him to begin.

"I finally told Dad my college plans."

I'm silent as I absorb this piece of information. "And?"

"And we fought. Then Dad issued an ultimatum."

Sam is stabbing at a rubbery looking pancake; anything to avoid looking at me as he tells his story.

"And what did he say, exactly?" I ask as I gently still his prodding with my hand. Sam finally looks me in the eye, and what he says next leaves me cold.

"He said, 'Son, if you walk out that door, don't you ever come back.' So, I grabbed my duffel and left Dodge."

"Where was Dean during all of this?"

"Dean was there for the whole fight. He ran after me. Tried to tell me that Dad didn't mean it, that he would talk to him. I told him we both know that Dad meant exactly what he said."

We're both silent as we take in the gravity of what happened. Finally, I ask, "What happened next?"

"I hot-wired a car. Drove thirty miles before ditching it and borrowed another and drove to the next town. I then rode a bus here, and called you."

I bring a hand up to my tired face and rub my eyes. When I told Dad I was leaving for college, he was upset but accepted it. But things have always been different between Dad and Sam. Dad's always been more protective and worried about Sam. Although I don't know a lot of the details, it probably all stems from the nursery fire that triggered John Winchester's (and by extension, his sons') quest for revenge. It isn't fair, but Dad probably feels that Sam, above everyone, should have the drive to hunt down the Yellow Eyed Demon.

"What do you want to do now?" I ask, because the ball is in Sam's court. Only he can decide what is going to happen from here on out. Well, him and Dad, but Dad's a stubborn SOB who isn't going to change his mind.

"I'm going to hitch-hike my way up to Palo Alto. I'll work there before school starts and live in a hotel. I have a full ride, so once school starts I'm all set."

"Hitch-hike, huh?" I finally take a sip of my coffee. It's burnt, but drinkable.

"I can't expect you to take a break from work to drive me there. And Dean…he's not too happy with me right now. He'll try to fix things between me and Dad, but when he realizes it's useless…I'm not going to ask him to take me to Stanford."

"While I can't take you personally, I can take you to an airport. And you can stay with me until move-in day. You don't need to leave for Cali right away."

Sam gives a wry grin, and I know that he's going to refuse. I try not to let the disappointment show.

"Thanks, Tony, but I need to do this on my own."

"At least let me take you to an airport. Don't want my little brother becoming eye-candy for a trucker, now do i?" I lightly joke.

It was a lame joke, but Sam laughs anyway. God, I love this kid.

"Okay," he agrees.

We finish our coffee and pay before leaving. The return trip home seems a lot longer. Sam falls asleep in the passenger seat. He's always been able to conk out in a car.

When we arrive at my apartment building, I nudge Sam awake. He drooled a little, and I spend the elevator ride up the room teasing him.

I unlock the door only to find Dean sitting on my couch, nursing a beer.

"Thought you'd come here," he greets Sam.

Sam swallows and takes a seat on the reclining chair I pulled out of a dumpster. I head for the kitchen nook to reheat some leftovers.

"So, what'd Dad say?" Sam asks, already knowing the answer.

Dean is silent and his jaw is clenched tight. He finally replies, "Dad's a stubborn SOB; kind of like you."

Sam snorts, "Then you know there's nothing you can say that will make me stay."

"I'm not even going to ask you to. You want a normal, apple pie lifestyle. I'm not going to get in the way of that."

Sam frowns, "That doesn't mean I don't want you in my life, Dean."

"What do you think I am, stupid? Of course I know that. You couldn't get rid of me even if you wanted to. We've already been through this with Tony. I know how this is going to work. It'll just be a bit before Dad gets his head out of his ass."

By the end of the conversation, I've joined Dean on the couch. I lay a steaming pile of pizza on the coffee table.

"To Sam's new life," I toast as I take a slice of pizza.

"Here, here!" Dean responds, grabbing a slice.

Sam laughs, and joins in the early morning gorging.

We don't know what's in store for tomorrow (or rather, later today), but we'll take comfort in that we'll always be there for one another.