And so we come to the end. Thanks so much to everyone for reviewing, favoriting, alerting and just plain reading! I'm thinking about turning this into a series. There are lots of things I'd like to explore with these characters pre-series and if you all are interested in reading, I'd be happy to write it. Truth be told, I'd love to see a prequel tv series to Supernatural with all three of the boys hunting and living their lives out. Anyway, we'll see what the future brings. Until then, keep an eye out for a one-shot Dean/Lisa h/c piece called Pinned that I will try and get posted before the premiere next Friday the 24th!

Enjoy this last part!

Part 5: Sick and Tired

It turned out that Bobby was the missing ingredient in Dean's recovery. He had only stayed a few hours. Just long enough to make sure that everything he had brought for Dean was working and that Sam and John weren't going to kill one another. Or friendly fire Dean. Sam silently pledged to not raise his voice to John for at least a week. For Dean's sake. And maybe just a little because he thought Bobby might kill him.

John was keeping his distance. Ironically, since Bobby had kicked them both out of the motel room days earlier, they hadn't had a fight. Hadn't really spoken that much at all. It was like John knew that a line had been crossed and there was no coming back from it. In those moments, as the two had stood outside, staring at each other awkwardly, Sam realized for certain that he had to go to Stanford. He felt scared and sad and guilty and selfish. He didn't want to hurt his dad and he especially didn't want to hurt his brother. He felt remorse for all the people that he wouldn't be around to save. But leaving this life was the right thing to do. He had never felt more certain of anything in his life.

Sam spent the next three days watching Dean sleep. It was the strangest thing in the world to see Dean so still, to not hear his voice, to not interact with him. He knew that Dean was getting better and that his body was just forcing him into the rest it so badly needed to heal. But Sam didn't like it. He didn't like the grimaces of pain that swept across his brother's face whenever he tried to shift positions. He detested the paleness of Dean's skin from bloodless and exhaustion. He abhorred the soft moans and groans and occasional screams and grunts that burst from Dean's mouth as he reacted to the nightmares and the pain that wreaked havoc on his weakened state.

But mostly, he hated that his brother was hurt and with that, the realization that while this may have been Dean's first real major injury, it certainly wasn't going to be his last. It was only going to get worse as they got older, wiser and more daring, and battled bigger and nastier evils. It was the way things were, plain and simple. Dean would be hurt like this again. So would John. Sam didn't want any part of it. He didn't want to watch his brother or his father destroy themselves in the name of vengeance and righteousness. John and Dean could do whatever they wanted to do, were entitled to it, but it didn't mean that Sam had to stick around and watch. He wouldn't. He didn't need that kind of pain, either for himself or for his family.

Dean's head rolled back and forth on the pillow, a series of ragged whimpers spilling from his lips. Sam grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze. "Easy," Sam uttered, watching as Dean's rapid fire breathing ignited the bullet wound in Dean's gut, his brother's forehead crinkling in obvious pain, a tortured moan gargling out of his throat.

"Come on, Dean. Stop." Sam grasped Dean's hand even tighter, his thumb rubbing the soft skin on the top of Dean's hand. The effect was almost immediate. Dean's breathing slowed and the lines across his face smoothed out. Within a minute, Dean was back to peaceful pain free dream time. For whatever reason, Sam's presence was the only thing that seemed to calm Dean down when he was unconscious and hurting. Maybe it was a brother thing or maybe it was Dean's need to always stay strong for him. But Sam being there, touching him, whispering in his ear, seemed to be the thing that was putting Dean over the edge from a slow painful recuperation into honest to goodness progress towards rapid recovery. Sam was happy to oblige. It was the least he could do for his brother after everything Dean had done for him. His whole life.

Sam knew his leaving was going to be rough on Dean. There was a small part of him that thanked his lucky stars that Dean had been down for the count the last few days. He wasn't sure if he would've had the courage to make this choice with Dean loud, proud and gung ho in his ear all day. But Sam couldn't be Dean's reason for existence anymore. He didn't need or he even want Dean looking out for him. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate it. It was that he needed to grow up, be his own man, make his own decisions, make his own mistakes. He didn't want to live his life according to the gospel of John anymore. If Dean wanted to, that was his choice. Sam couldn't anymore. He hoped that Dean would understand. He even thought about asking Dean to join him, but he decided against it, first because he knew Dean would never ditch their dad and second because in reality, he needed to break free of Dean as well. He needed to be on his own. Truly on his own. At least for a little while. He wanted to see what else was out there. It didn't have to be forever. He needed a taste of the life that they fought so fiercely for the people they saved.

Freedom thoughts were riddling through Sam's brain as the motel door suddenly swung open, causing Sam to jump like he'd been caught watching porn. John barged through the door looking antsy. Sam didn't like the look in his father's eye. He liked what came out of his mouth even less.

"We gotta move. Heat's up the way. Won't be long before they catch up to us."

Sam sighed and looked down at Dean, gripping his hand tighter. "He's doing better. In case you wanted to ask." He didn't bother to raise his voice. There wasn't any point.

John snuck a glance at Dean and then swiftly looked away, almost like it hurt to look at him. "I found an abandoned house that should work for a few weeks. It's comfortable, centrally located. Let him get better and then serve as base of ops to hunt the witch."

"Whatever," Sam muttered, his hand reaching for his back pocket, almost wanting to throw the letter in John's face. But he couldn't. Not yet. Not til he knew Dean would be okay. Physically anyway.

"Look, Sammy," John began, "I know you think this is my fault…"

"He's going to be okay," Sam interrupted. "That's all that matters."

John nodded. "Yeah," he said almost as an afterthought. He approached Dean tentatively like he was he was about to pick up a baby for the first time. Sam let go of Dean's hand and shifted away, letting John take over handling Dean.

"Dean," John said firmly, placing a solid hand on his eldest's shoulder.

Dean flinched but didn't wake up.

"Dean, I need you to wake up," John said, his voice louder and gruffer.

On cue, Dean's eyes flicked open, followed by a grimace that spread rapidly across his whole face. Dean moaned in pain. "Wha…whats…whats…up?"

Dean's voice was like broken glass. It truly hurt Sam to hear Dean speak. Instinctively, Sam reached for Dean's hand again, giving it a comforting tug.

"Hey," John whispered near Dean's ear, squeezing his other arm. "I'm sorry kiddo…I don't want to do this to you…but we gotta move, Dean. Cops are on us. I found us a nice comfy house to hold up in for a few weeks."

Dean hesitated before acknowledging his father. "Okay," he muttered shakily. The hesitation along with the look of pure misery lit in Dean's eyes was a testament to just how much he had to have been hurting.

"Maybe we should give him something first, dad," Sam said, nearly feeling the pain Dean was in.

"No…just do it…get it…over with," Dean breathed, his jaw clenching tightly, his eyes not able to meet Sam's or John's. "Please," he added, his tone lit with shame.

"You got it, son," John said, nodding his head so sharply Sam thought it might snap off. "Come on Sam, let's get him moving."

Sam wanted to tell John to go to hell. He wanted to call the police and have him arrested and have an ambulance take Dean to the hospital. He wanted to scream at John until he was blue in the face and tell him each and every time he had pissed him off, let him down or pushed him too far. He wanted to shake Dean and ask him what the hell was wrong with him that he would put up with all of this and what was worse, accept it as normal. But he didn't do any of those things.

Instead, Sam did what he was told and nudged Dean into a sitting position, gritting his teeth at the winces of pain that his brother was desperately trying to hide. John tossed Sam a gray T-shirt and Sam pulled Dean's arm's out and had the shirt on his older brother before he had a chance to bitch about being able to dress himself, which they all damn well knew was an impossibility at the moment. Sam swiveled Dean around so his legs were hanging over the edge of the bed.

John had the opening to a pair of jeans waiting at each foot.

Dean groaned in protest. "Dad, I can…"

"Just go with it," John said, pulling the pant legs up and then putting socks on each of Dean's feet. "Your brother and I can do this a hell of a lot faster than you and with a lot less pain."

Dean grumbled, but was too out of it to voice much more of a fight. Sam weaved a grey flannel through Dean's arms while John busied himself with tying Dean's boots. Thirty seconds later, Dean was fully dressed and could possible even pass for human if you ignored his bed-headed hair and ashen face.

"You ready, son?" John asked, giving Dean's knee a tender pat.

Dean gulped. "Yeah."

Sam grabbed Dean's left arm and slung it over his shoulder while John stood up and grabbed Dean's right. Dean screamed as his body straightened out. The agonized sound didn't stop Sam or John's forward motion. Instead, it spurred them on to get the job done as fast as humanly possible. Sam could feel the sweat, the trembles, the misery, the sheer pain rolling off his brother. "Keep going, Dean. We're almost there."

They made it past the motel door and then it was straight out to the Impala, which was luckily parked all of three feet from their room. Sam opened the passenger's side door and shoved the front seat up. Then he took almost all of Dean's weight from John and literally hoisted him into the back seat. Dean collapsed into the corner behind the driver's side seat, his head coming to rest against the window, his eyes squeezed shut, his panting breaths fogging up the window.

"You alright?" Sam asked, resting his hand against Dean's flushed cheek. Dean merely nodded without speaking or opening his eyes, which in Dean speak, meant he was pretty damn fair from alright.

Sam backed himself out of the car and looked upon his father, his hand resting against his back pocket. "I'll go get us checked out. Prolly best not to put your face out there for everybody to remember."

"Prolly best," John said, looking at Dean in the car, his eyes turning wistful for a moment, like he was in a trance.

"Dad?" Sam asked, taken aback.

John pulled himself out of whatever spell he'd been under. "Yeah, check us out, Sammy. I'll pack up the car." John stared at him then like he had just stared at Dean, the spell returning. He looked like he wanted to really talk to Sam. Not just bark orders or shout commands, but have a real father son conversation. But he didn't say a word. He abruptly turned and walked back into the motel room, leaving Sam standing alone in the parking lot.

Sam took a last glance at Dean, sucked in a huge breath and then hustled towards the motel office, pulling out the letter of acceptance with shaking hands. He pushed through the office door with his shoulder, eyeing an old man behind the desk who looked like Burt Reynolds. The man looked him up and down, sizing him up. Like he knew Sam was up to something.

"Checking out," Sam said awkwardly. "109."

"Did you enjoy your stay, sir?" the man asked.

"It was a learning experience," Sam said.

The man typed something into the computer "You're square."

"Good." Sam spread the crinkled up letter out on a desk and with trembling fingers reached for one of the motel's pens.

His heart thudded in his ears. He felt dizzy. His throat was dry. He wanted to hurl. He wanted to cry. He felt like he was going to die.

He signed his name. Samuel Winchester. It was official. He was starting a new life. A feeling of calm spread through him. He had made the right choice.

Sam put the letter in the reply envelope it had come with and sealed it before handing it to the motel clerk. "Sir, you mind putting this in your outgoing mail?"

Burt looked at the envelope. "Stanford, huh? Good school."

"Yeah," Sam said proudly. "Yeah, it is a good school."

Sam was floating on air by the time he got back to the car. He was finally free. His own life could truly begin. As he saw fit. And nobody else. One month. That's all he had to get through. It would give him just enough time to ensure that Dean was fully recuperated. And it would give him a chance to say goodbye.

Sam clamored into the shotgun seat of the Impala and looked back at Dean, who looked like death warmed over. He noticed that John had already put the medical kit in the car, so Sam reached inside and pulled out a bottle of pain pills, palming three in his hand. "Hey Dean, you awake?"

"Huh?" Dean groaned.

"I got something for ya," Sam said. "Should make the journey a little less painful."

Dean opened one eye and saw the pills in Sam's hands. He reached for them without protest. Before Sam could find something for Dean to drink them down with, Dean had already dry swallowed them. "Thanks Sammy," he murmured before he wrapped his arms around himself and sunk deeper into the corner, his eyes drooping shut. "Thanks for everything."

Sam smiled sadly. "That's what brother's are for. You taught me that."

Dean gave him a weak smile before fading into completely into oblivion.

Seconds later, John joined them in the car, tossing one final bag over at Sam. "We good to go?" John asked, looking back at Dean and then at Sam.

"Yeah," Sam agreed, looking out the window at nothing in particular. One month. "We're good to go."

That's All Folks!

Few after notes:

The rundown house John refers to is the house that we see in the background in Dark Side of the Moon when Sam and Dean relive the night Sam leaves for Stanford. I figured that would work with my own timeline as well as the shows. Also, all the chapter titles are taken from Black Sabbath songs and the name In These Black Days is the name of a tribute album for the group. Little trivia for ya. Thanks so much for sticking with me to the end and I'll catch ya on the next adventure!