Author's Note: Okay, so this story was originally only going to be four chapters. However chapter four turned out being a lot longer than I thought! This one is a more mild, angsty one so my apologies! I promise we WILL get to the more scarier stuff and Sam's Hell stuff! That'll be coming up next chapter. Dean has to work through the mirrors to find his Sammy! Anyway, thank you SO MUCH to everybody who's read and reviewed so far! Leaving reviews really helps to keep me inspired and writing, so thank you to all of you guys for that! And now, onto the next installment! I hope you enjoy it all! Much love!
Dean couldn't help but feel slightly rattled by these realistic forms of his brother appearing in front of him after a particularly powerful memory, but at the same time it was like that time he and Sam had went to Heaven, shot down by hunters Roy and Walt. He remembered the fireworks, the field, the Fourth of July, his little brother happy, smiling and dancing in an array of sparks. As if on cue, Dean glanced over at the next mirror and there was the memory. Fourteen year old Sam and eighteen year old Dean held sparklers and laughed at each other. Sammy's smile was wide, his laughter was near contagious and Dean couldn't help but find himself smiling as he peered into the mirror. He remembered the wonderful sensation of that night, the mischievous feelings both he and Sam had as they set off one illegal set of fireworks after another, and nearly burned down the field. The moment the fire had started, they exchanged glances and both said "oh shit" in unison. They'd grabbed their empty box that had stowed the fireworks and dashed off back to the car, both laughing near breathless before taking off so they wouldn't be found out. It warmed Dean's heart to know Sam still held this moment in his memories. This one in particular had been special to him, and it would seem it had been for Sam as well.
Dean ventured on, watching different images in the mirror. Some memories he didn't recognize or know. Some made his heart ache for his little brother or made his stomach twist painfully at some of the sights. Sammy and his dad arguing over soccer, arguing over hunts, yelling at each other for extremely off-the-wall, pointless things. He watched himself get in the middle of more fights between Sam and their father than Dean could count. There were nights when John would take off for weeks at a time, leaving his boys alone to attend school and for Dean to care for Sam. There were nights Dean would be awake, sitting in the living room or the next bed over in a motel room, listening to his brother cry himself to sleep, and he remembered how infuriated that had made him feel to this day. Still, Dean continued on, the memories growing younger and Sammy growing older.
A lot of memories made Dean angry, and he was tempted more than once to put his fist through the glass, but out of respect for Sam, he didn't. One memory in particular was when John tried to teach Sam how to drive. All he did was bark orders at the poor, flustered kid who ended up putting them into a ditch because he was so shaken by John practically biting his head off for every slight mistake Sam might have made behind the wheel. Dean had to pride himself on being the one who taught Sam how to drive and didn't yell his head off at Sam's mistakes. Instead of looking at his brother with scared eyes, he had looked at Dean with adoration and appreciation. Dean smirked as that memory popped up in the mirrors of a seventeen year old Sam behind the wheel of Dean's beloved Impala while the older Winchester gently explained the mechanisms of driving his baby, and before long, Dean was leaning back comfortably in the bench seat with his arms folded behind his head and shades on while Sam took them for a smooth cruise.
His heart began pounding in his chest when he came upon a memory he didn't remember. No, of course he wouldn't remember this one. Sam had been alone. He was sitting upstairs in his room in that old house they'd shacked up at for a time. Scattered about on the desktop were college applications. There were applications to Yale University, Princeton University, and Dean's eyes fell on the one in particular that changed everything; Stanford University. He could see Sam's eyes were focused on the Stanford application, his pen flicking back and forth nervously. He filled them out as precise as possible and slid them into big, yellow envelopes. Dean watched as Sam slid off of his chair, went down the stairs quietly and peered around the staircase. Nobody had been home that day it would seem. Sam was by himself for the time being, so he slipped out the door and went out to the mailbox. The mail hadn't been picked up yet as the flag was still up, and so Sam slipped his college applications into the mailbox, took a few quick looks around and then hurried back into the house.
The mirror changed to another memory. Sam was standing in the kitchen, looking at his acceptance letter from Stanford University. He was clutching it in his hands which were shaking and rattling the paper, but the eighteen year old was so excited, he could barely contain the brightness in his eyes or the corners of his lips upturning. However, nervousness could clearly be seen in his body language and Dean swallowed hard. He remembered this night. It had been one of the worst nights of his entire life. The night his little brother left home. Dean didn't want to watch, but couldn't keep himself from staring straight into the glass as the scene of that night played out before his eyes.
Sam walked from the kitchen slowly and into the living room where John was seated on the chair, the coffee table pulled up in front of him. There was a dirty, ragged towel spread out across the table. The Winchesters' weaponry lay scattered about with gun brush bores and cleaning products. Dean sat opposite of John on the couch in pretty much the same position, weaponry lying on a towel in front of him. Dean was holding his favorite gun, sliding a bore through the barrel while John was focused on a shotgun halfway taken apart. Sam walked into the living room unnoticed by his father or his brother. He cleared out his throat. "Hey, Dad? Dean?"
"Sam, why don't you pull up a seat and help us out," John ordered, not taking his eyes off of the piece of shotgun he held up in front of his face, one eye opened and the other squeezed shut, peering inside of it. "I hate it when blood sits too long in the guns. It becomes congealed and makes it really hard to clean," the older hunter muttered.
"Umm, Dad? Can it wait? I have something really important I want to talk about," Sam started, the nervousness clearly heard in his tone. John looked up at Sam, and so did Dean.
"Something wrong, Sammy? You find a hunt or something you're not sure of?" their father inquired, eyeing Sam as though he were trying to read him. Dean did have to give himself credit. He was the only one who had ever been able to read Sam. He'd been the only one who always knew or was close to knowing what was on Sam's mind. Call it the 'big brother radar' if you will, but Dean knew his little brother better than anybody did.
"No, Dad. I don't think that's it," Dean piped up and sat down his gun and the brush bore. "What's up, Sammy?" his twenty-two year old self coaxed. "You can tell us, little brother."
"O-okay, well. Something came in the mail for me. I thought you guys might want to see it," the younger Winchester began, holding his acceptance letter to Stanford behind his back.
"What is it?" John asked, sounding rather careless and more focused on cleaning his hunting tools.
"Dad, can't you pay attention to me just this once?" Sam pleaded softly. "Please? This is really important to me."
John looked sharply up at Sam, while Dean pushed himself up and walked over to meet his younger brother. "Dad," Dean spoke up in a warning tone, seeing that expression on his stubborn father's face and knowing he was about to say something to say. "What is it, Sammy?" the older brother asked, turning his attention back toward a now very nervous-looking Sam, and he was nervous. Poor Sam was starting to break out in a light sweat. Dean could see the small beads of moisture forming on his kid brother's forehead.
John huffed a sigh and set his equipment down on the table to turn toward Sam. "Alright, son. What's this all about?"
"Well, before I graduated I had talked to some teachers about what I'd like to do with my future, and I decided that I want to go to college," Sam stated in a firm, clear tone. "So, I filled out some applications and I got this back." Sam slipped the acceptance paper out from behind his back and held it up for his father and Dean to see. "It's a scholarship! A full ride, Dad! That means I don't have to pay for tuition, books, nothing! It's all covered because of the scholarship and it's for Stanford University. Dad, this is one of the most prestigious schools in the entire country! I mean I've been really thinking about it, and this is what I want to do! Dad? Dean? I want to go college, and I want to be a lawyer."
Dean just gaped at Sam, while John stared thoughtfully at his son for a moment before bursting out laughing. "Well, that's great son. I'm glad you were smart enough to earn a scholarship to a big school. Too bad you can't go, huh?" John turned back toward his weapons, still chuckling.
The look of excitement on Sam's face quickly turned to one of confusion and conviction. "Dad… I'm going to school. I'm going to this college. I don't want to be a hunter. I want to be a lawyer! I want to be successful! I'll still be helping people, but I don't want to live this life forever, Dad."
"What exactly do you mean by that, Sam? Is it because we're not living a life full of glamour behind a white picket fence in a big, beautiful house? Is it because you don't have a big, rich life, Sam? Are we just not good enough for your big city dreams?"
Sam looked flabbergasted and then his expression changed to that of a hurt one. "No, Dad. Not at all. That's not what I meant. I just meant that-," but he was cut off by more of John's angry words. The oldest Winchester rose to his feet now, and Dean stood in between him and Sam. Sam was taller than Dean now, and he could easily still see John over Dean's shoulder. Dean recalled how much that irritated him whenever he'd try and get in between one of Sam and Dad's wars. He figured that night, Sam should've counted his lucky stars that none of the weapons were put together for proper use.
"You know something, Sam? Maybe you should just go. Maybe you should just get the hell out of here! You never can do anything right anyway, and you're nothing like your brother. You want to go to school? Then fine. Get out of my sight. I don't even want to see you right now," John snapped, venom clearly heard in his tone.
"Dad, that is ENOUGH!" Dean shouted, grabbing ahold of his father's arm that began to rear back, his hand thrown back as though he were to propel a hard slap across Sam's face. "You stop it right! Both of you! This is ridiculous!" But John didn't seem to hear Dean. He just continued glaring daggers into his youngest son's hazel eyes.
"I can't even believe you, Sam. We've done nothing for the past eighteen years but search for this thing that took your mother away from you boys, and now you run? We fight, we hunt, and we save lives, but if people being saved is unimportant to you and doesn't matter, then just get out of my face. Get away from me. I can't even be in the same room with you. This is just…," John trailed off before turning away from Sam and Dean both, furious. He picked grabbed the phone from the nearby end table and launched it across the room. It made impact on the wall and broke into a bunch of little pieces before gravity claimed it.
Sam's breathing was erratic, causing his chest to heave with every intake. "Dad…this has nothing to do with that!" the youngest shot back, trying to defend himself. "Of course I want people's lives to be saved, but I'm not good enough, Dad, just like you said! I'm not! All my life I have done my best to try and do everything you ask of me. I've worked hard, I've been raised like a warrior when I just wanted to live like a normal kid. I wanted to play soccer, but no. I had to sneak off to do that. I learned bow hunting because you insisted on it. I spent hours upon hours training from the time I learned these things exist until now. I just want to go to college, Dad! That doesn't mean I'm running away from you or Dean!"
"Yes it does, Sam. You are leaving. You are walking out on YOUR FAMILY!" their father exploded. "We obviously don't mean that much to you if you're just gonna take off and leave us all alone here! You're a selfish kid, Sam Winchester. Downright careless and selfish!"
"That's not true, Dad!" Sam's voice raised, beseeching, and Dean couldn't help but cringe as he heard the tears brimming in his voice. Sam looked at Dean, begging, imploring for his older brother to understand.
"Sam? Dad? Please, c'mon guys. This is ridiculous. We can work this out. We just need to talk about it. Please," the twenty-two year old Dean practically begged his brother and father. The memory just made Dean's heart sink. He remembered what it felt like for him, but Sam… He never knew that this still haunted Sam to this very day.
"I can't do this. FUCK this!" Sam cursed, turning sharply on his heel and stormed away. He raced up the stairs and into his room. Dean never saw this bit of Sam's memories because he'd been downstairs the whole time arguing with his father. Inside of his room, Sam dropped onto his bed, clutching his acceptance letter tightly in his hands, causing the sides of it to crinkle from the force of his grip. Dean watched the first tears fall and splash onto the paper, before Sam let go of the paper and he watched it fall, drifting slowly down to the floor, landing in between Sam's feet. He watched his kid brother bury his face into his hands and weep quietly. "Why isn't he proud of me? Most parents would be proud of their kids that score a scholarship to such a good school. Why can't he be happy for me? Why does he have to do this to me?"
Dean listened to Sam whisper to himself between sobs and watched his brother with his face buried into his hands, his shoulders trembling and jerking and the occasional sniffling from behind Sam's hands. It nearly broke his heart. Dean reached a hand out to touch the glass, aching and longing to hold his little brother in his arms and make all of that pain go away. His heart dropped further into his stomach, when his fingers just reached the cool glass once more, and he caressed the glass as if trying to comfort his brother from the other side of the mirror. "God, Sammy. I had no idea… I had no idea how hurt you were. If I had known… I just thought you were angry and going against Dad like you two always did. I'm sorry, Sammy." Dean could hear the footsteps coming up the stairs now, and he saw Sam raise his wet face from his hands and glare at the door.
Sam must've assumed it was their father judging by the venomous expression that crossed his devastated face. He grabbed his duffel bag and slammed it down in the bed angrily before whipping around back to his dresser and grabbing handfuls of clothes out and throwing them onto the bed. The door opened, but Dean saw that Sam did not even bother looking up.
"So, you're really serious about this, Sammy?" Dean questioned his little brother, approaching the bed and sitting on the end of it. Sam looked up at his brother, and Dean watched himself visibly cringe from the look on his brother's face. Sam's face was red and wet with angry tears, and he could see the moisture clinging to Sam's eyelashes.
"Don't try and talk me out of it, Dean," Sam responded in a thick voice, folding up clothes and haphazardly throwing them into his duffel bag, not even caring if they were adequately folded or not. He really wanted out.
"C'mon, Sammy. Dad's just having a bad night. He's scared of losing you. He doesn't want you to leave because he loves you," Dean insisted.
Sam snorted at his brother and turned toward him to look at him once more. "Oh, really? Is that so, Dean? Is that why he treats me so poorly? Why he yells at me for every tiny little thing? Even when, when… when his own son scores a full scholarship ride to Stanford?" Sam's voice broke on the last word and he turned away from his older brother to resume his packing.
"Sammy, c'mon man. Don't do this," Dean pleaded with his little brother. "You guys just need some cooling off time, and then things will be better. You'll see."
Sam sniffled again and glanced back at Dean. "I'm sorry, Dean. I'm so sorry I'm not more like you. I don't know why, but I'm just not. Everything I do turns to complete and total crap, Dean. I can't do anything right at all. No matter how hard I try, it's never good enough. In Dad's eyes, I just can't do anything. You heard him. I'm either too slow or too fast or too lazy or too loud. I can't do it anymore, Dean. I've tried so hard more than you know to please Dad. I can't Dean. I'm just a screw up. In his eyes and in yours too," Sam's voice was beginning to tremble now with the onslaught of new tears.
"Sam, you know that's not true," Dean insisted. "You're the best little brother to me. You always have been. Everybody makes mistakes, Sammy. You shouldn't beat yourself up over it. I don't want you to change anything about yourself. You're definitely not a screw up either."
"I'm so sorry I'm not more like you, Dean. I tried to be, but I'm just… I'm not. I can't be. I'm not perfect. I can't be perfect like he wants me to be," Sam made a head gesture toward their father who was somewhere downstairs." I feel like Dad is going on this slow suicide mission, and he's just dragging us along for the ride. I'm so unhappy with all of this, Dean. Sometimes I feel like I'm dying inside. I know how pathetic that sounds, but it's true."
Sam turned his eyes down to Dean's who was gazing up at him from the bed. Sam shoved the last of his clothes into his bag and walked out of the bedroom and went into the bathroom, grabbing his toothbrush and toothpaste. He tossed them into the bag along with some books a few other things and then zipped it up. Then the younger Winchester stood upright, slinging the bag over his shoulder. "I can't do this anymore, Dean." Sam raised his free hand and scrubbed away the tears on his face, and then ran it down his mouth. "I'm going."
Twenty-two year old Dean sighed, dropping his head and running a hand through his hair unable to contain his frustration. Dean knew he always had a bad habit of lashing out when he felt frustrated, angry, scared and upset. He had been feeling all of the above. "You know what? Fine. You do that, Sam. You go and you see what happens to you when me and Dad can't come running to save your ass every single time you have a nightmare or get sick or get yourself into a bad situation," his younger self snapped at his little brother. Dean could remember how he'd instantly felt sorry when he saw that look of deep inside hurt on Sam's face. "Dad's right. You ARE selfish."
"If that's truly what you want to believe, Dean. Then go ahead. I can't stop you," Sam just told him softly. "But I'm not going down, Dean. Not with him, and not just to hunt this thing. I want a life, Dean. You should have one too." Sam didn't give Dean the chance to respond before he walked out of the door, duffel bag slung over his shoulder. He stomped down the stairs where John stood in the kitchen, and he glanced at his father.
John was glaring daggers into Sam at this point, but the younger Winchester no longer had it in him to care. "You walk out that door, don't you ever come back," his father growled at him, his voice low, deadly and serious.
Sam just gave his father a hard stare, before turning and walking out the door, slamming it shut behind him. Dean ran down the stairs, dashed to the window and watched as Sam began walking down the road, wiping at his face and nose every once in awhile to clear tears, and the cramp in his heart intensified.
"I remember that night like it was yesterday," Sam's voice spoke up next to Dean who found himself turning toward his right to see his little brother all of eighteen years old, looking exactly like he did that night Sam left for Stanford, standing next to him. "That was probably one of the worst nights of my life," the kid spoke with a slight chuckle, rubbing his hand on the back of his neck. "I think that was the first time I really felt truly alone, but I was pretty determined too. I really wanted to go to school and make something of myself," he said thoughtfully, rubbing at his chin. "Though no matter how hard I try, I can never put that night out of my head. I still don't understand it. Not at all."
"Why did you go, Sammy? Why did things have to turn out the way they did?" Dean questioned his little brother, doing the best to speak around the emotions clogging his throat.
"Because, Dean. You know why. I couldn't do it anymore. I felt like I was dying a little bit at a time each day, and I had to get out before it killed me. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to become a lawyer, marry a girl, have a family of my own," Sam responded softly, looking at Dean through his tuft of hair falling into his eyes. "You know, I had planned on buying a house for you and Dad to come and stay at, next to my own house. A place that you guys could call home should you ever need a break from hunting, or just needed a place to stay or decided to get out of the life. I never wanted to break the family up though, Dean. That was never my intention," the eighteen year old did his best to explain.
He shoved his hands down into his pockets and lowered his head, allowing his hair to shield his eyes from Dean's view. Dean felt his heart warm and clench at the same time at Sam's words. He turned fully toward his little brother. "I just wanted to go to school, Dean. That's all. Honest. I wasn't running away from the family. Dad closed the door on me. He told me if I left, not to ever come back. He kicked me out of the house, and all I wanted was to go to college. Most parents are proud of their kids when they score a full ride to a school like Stanford, Dean. Most parents don't kick their children out of the house and tell them to stay gone."
"Dad was proud, Sammy. Dad was really proud, but he was also really scared. He knows what was out there. You knew it too, Sam," the older Winchester.
"I did know that. I still do. That's why I wanted out of this life," Sam tried to explain. "You know what the hardest part was of all of this though, Dean?"
"It wasn't listening to Dad insult me or tell me to get out of the house and never come back. It was leaving you, Dean. I wanted you to come with me, but I knew you wouldn't. I never wanted to go without taking you with me, Dean. I wanted you to be there. I wanted you getting on that bus with me to Palo Alto and to never look back, because I'm not whole without my big brother, Dean," Sam told him. He lifted his head, his hazel eyes wet. "I just wanted you to know that. I never hated you. I never resented you, and I was never angry at you. I just wanted you to be there with me too. Maybe even you could've gone to college too, Dean and had what you wanted."
Dean honestly felt his heart stop for a moment. He never knew that Sam had wanted him to be there with him. All these years, Dean was just convinced that Sam had been running away from his family, running away from hunting, running away from the truth, and maybe in a sense he had been running away from it all, but he'd never been running from Dean. No, he'd wanted Dean next to him. He had wanted Dean there cheering him on while he aced each course throughout college. He had wanted Dean there, going to school and making a real, normal life for himself just as well. Sam's innocence nearly crippled Dean right there. He had been just a shy, inward, hardworking young man who wanted to make a happy, healthy and normal life for himself and his family. Dean's heart wanted to break at the prospect of it all, knowing that Sam's hopes and dreams went down the toilet, and now look at what had become of him. If only his eighteen year old self had known he was the true vessel for Lucifer, that he was going to end up up spending 180 years in Hell, in Lucifer's cage with two vengeful and furious archangels destroying his soul, rendering him a broken shell.
"Sorry, Dean," the young Sam told his brother, scuffing the toe of his sneaker against the floor. "I just wanted you to know all that."
Dean placed both hands on his brother's slightly broadened shoulders. "I know, Sammy. I understand that now. I know you did. Thank you, Sam. Seriously. I don't know when I became so soft," Dean added with an eye roll, and the corners of his eighteen year old brother's lips turned upward into a weak smile. "But, thank you little bro."
Sam brought a hand up and placed it on his brother's arm, smiling a bit more now. "You're welcome, Dean. Don't worry. Everything is going to be okay. I'm here for you. I'm with you, and I'll protect you too, Dean. I promise."
Dean drew his eyebrows inward, furrowing them in confusion. The last few Sams he'd met told him the exact same thing. "Why do you keep saying that, Sam? What do you have to protect me from? Isn't that my job? My job is to take care of you, to protect you."
"And you do Dean, but just trust me, okay? Please, just trust me. Keep on going, don't stop til you find me, and I promise I'll protect you, Dean." And with that, the eighteen year old form of his brother disappeared before Dean's eyes.
The older Winchester felt his own eyes widen, and he scratched the back of his head in confusion. He was starting to feel irritated with this. That was three Sams who had told him the same thing now, so what was going on? What did Sam mean? Was something coming for him? Here he was, weaving in and out through Sam's memories, getting his heart broken, finding things he never knew, learning things he never wanted to learn, and things he did want to learn that made him both happy and angry at the same time. Feeling his frustration building up, Dean whirled around to face the mirror that was replaying Sam's memory of that night, and with a yell Dean raised a fist and launched it straight into the mirror. The glass shattered upon impact, but then as fast as it hit the floor and lay in glistening shards scattered around Dean, the mirror repaired itself. Dean glanced down at his fist to find that it was not cut up and bloody. No tiny shards of glass were embedded into his hand which he found even more strange, and the memory went on.
"I DON'T UNDERSTAND ANY OF THIS! SAM! IF YOU'RE THERE, ANSWER ME DAMMIT!" but there was no answer, only the sound of Sam's voice that night, earnest and sad and angry. Dean let out a heavy sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "Son of a bitch," he muttered to himself before lifting a foot and walking on past the mirrors and away from that horrible memory. All he wanted was to find his little brother and find him now before it got worse, before Sam could fall into something that Dean couldn't pull him back from. He just wanted to make Sam better. He just wanted to help him, and truly, inside of his little brother's freaky head, Dean felt nothing but helpless.