California Dreaming

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or the lyrics to the title song.

Sam Winchester stared at the acceptance letter in his hand. He couldn't believe it- it seemed too good to be true! Stanford! He could go to Stanford! Get out of the hunting life, meet normal people, and make friends! He gulped. Every time Sam looked at the letter he imagined it to be some sort of cruel joke, like it would vanish into thin air if he wanted it too badly.

A full-ride to Stanford, how great was that? It wasn't like Sam hadn't worked hard for it either. Between trying to finish high school and being dragged all across the States on his father's hunts, sometimes Sam doubted if his grades were even up to par. Sam had been to five different high schools in the last year. Five! Always having to drop out suddenly when John told his sons they were moving on.

But now all that hard work had finally paid off! The only problem was telling his father. Sam had waited and waited, the letter carefully hidden away until there was no more time to lose or he caught Dad at a good time.

Now there was no more time to procrastinate. It was now or never. The Winchesters had just finished up from hunting a particularly nasty banshee and John was in as good a mood as he ever was.

They had been squatting in an old house for about three weeks and Sam was sure Dad was eager to leave, get on with the next hunt. Sam couldn't wait any longer. Sam had to tell his Dad. Sam had to tell him that night, leave right away if he still wanted to get to Stanford. It was only mid-July but Sam knew that as soon as he told his Dad he had to leave.

Whether he likes it or not, Sam thought; but, oh God I hope he's gonna be okay with this. Please, please let Dad be okay with this.

Sam folded the letter neatly and clenched it in one sweaty hand as he made his way downstairs. The last time Sam had seen John, he had been sitting at the rickety kitchen table cleaning a shotgun and humming some rock song under his breath. The steps creaked as Sam slowly made his way down and John looked up.

Sam stopped, trying not to look guilty and waited for his father's attention to go back to the weapon he was cleaning. Sam let out a breath as John began singing quietly again, perhaps thinking his youngest was only coming down for something to drink.

Sam stepped into the kitchen and cleared his throat.

John looked up curiously, "Yeah?"

"Dad, I uh, we need to talk," Sam muttered, hating how nervous he sounded.

John set the gun down and wiped grease off his hands with an already smeary cloth.

Sam's heart was pounding in his chest.

"Sam?" John asked when his son failed to continue.

Again Sam cleared his throat and pulled the acceptance letter out from behind himself and showed it to John.

"What's this?" Sam's father asked and took the letter, reading it over.

Sam watched John carefully, trying to gauge his reaction.

When John finished reading the letter he looked up at Sam and laughed. He set the letter on the table.

Sam gulped but steeled himself to tell John off.

"That's really funny, Sammy," John chuckled, "Did Dean put you up to it?"

Sam felt anger swell up in his chest and he worked to push it back down.

"No one put me up to it. I want to go," Sam said in a calm voice.

"Go where? College? Why? You've graduated high school, isn't that enough for you?" John asked incredulously.

"I want to go to Stanford," Sam insisted and waited for his father to explode.

John's expression darkened, "Well you can forget about it Sammy, because you're not. Dean and I need you here."

"No you don't! I hardly helped at all on this last hunt and-" Sam began but John slammed a hand down on the table to silence him.

"You're not going! This is not up for a discussion!" John snarled, "Go to your room. We're leaving tomorrow."

"You can't stop me!" Sam shouted back at his father. He had really hoped that this wouldn't turn into one of their arguments.

"Sam Winchester, I am your father and you will obey me," John shouted back at his son, just as loudly.

Neither had noticed that Dean had ventured from his room at the sound of raised voices- thinking his brother and Dad were having yet another shouting match- and stood listening mutely on the staircase.

He hated it when Sam and John fought, he was always torn between the two and that just wasn't fair. Dean wished that his younger brother would learn to keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself, it really was for his own good.

Sam stared in disbelief at John, "What are you going to do? Lock me in the motel room? Handcuff me to the bed?"

John's face turned bright red and he reached down and grabbed the letter. Baring his teeth in a devilish grin he tore the letter in two and continued shredding it until it resembled confetti and scattered the pieces onto the floor at his son's feet.

Sam was so mad he was trembling, his hands clenched into fists. He didn't need that letter, not really; he assured himself. He could still go to Stanford.

"Go. Upstairs. Now," John ordered through clenched teeth.

Sam turned on his heel and brushed past Dean on his way upstairs. Dean was stunned. He had no idea what they had been arguing about but he had never seen his father act like he had been only moments before.

John dropped into his chair and ran a hand through his black hair. Dean decided to go check on Sam. Their father could take care of himself.

Dean didn't bother knocking as he stepped into his brother's room to find Sam stuffing everything he owned into his duffle bag.

"What are you doing?" Dean asked, still standing in the doorway.

Without looking at his brother, Sam answered, "I'm going to Stanford."

"What? You can't go to Stanford!" Dean exclaimed. He had heard Sam talk about going to college since the kid was in the seventh grade but he'd always assumed it was a phase his brother was going through and would pass.

Sam paused with a crumpled t-shirt in his hands, "Please Dean, not you too."

"But, what are you going to do at Stanford? You've never even been away from Dad and me for more than three days," Dean asked.

"I'm going to get an education. I'm not going to be a hunter for the rest of my life," Sam muttered.

"Sam, c'mon man, we can work something out, I'll talk to Dad and maybe…" Dean started but stopped when his brother shook his head.

"It's too late Dean, I've already made the decision," Sam said softly.

Dean bit his lip. He didn't want Sam to go all the way to California. He wanted his baby brother to stay with him.

Sam looked up at his brother, "Dean, you can come too. Come to Stanford with me, please. We can both get away from Dad."

Dean hated that hopeful look in his brother's eyes. He loved Sam and yearned to say yes and high tail it out to Cali with him but he also loved and respected his father.

"Sam, please, you're making a mistake," Dean tried again but Sam just zipped up his duffle and slung it over his shoulder.

"Dean," Sam whispered his brother's name.

Dean hung his head, "I can't Sammy."

He felt Sam brush past him as he went into the hall and made his way down the stairs.

Sam saw that his Dad was still in the kitchen. Now John was staring despondently at the shotgun on the table.

Don't look at him, Sam thought, don't engage him.

John's head snapped up anyway at the sound of his son's footsteps.

"Where do you think you're going?" John asked and Sam forced himself not to cringe.

Sam put his hand on the doorknob, "I already told you: I'm going to Stanford."

John sucked in a deep breath. It was taking all his willpower not to physically restrain his son.

"You walk out that door, don't you ever come back," John said very softly.

Sam closed his eyes for a moment and wished that Dean was coming with him.

He turned the door handle and stepped outside. The cool air washed over him and Sam forced himself not to look back as he began walking down the street.

Sam thought he'd feel a sense of freedom but instead he was terribly sad. A part of him wanted to run back inside and tell his brother he'd made a mistake, tell his Dad that he'd hunt anything John wanted him to.

I can't go back, Sam thought, I can't ever go back.

His grip on the duffle tightened, knuckles white and Sam began to sing under his breath.

"I'd be safe and warm if I was in LA. California dreamin' on such a winter's day, on such a winter's day. California dreamin', California dreamin'."