Dean Winchester turned up the volume as Black Sabbath's 'Glory Ride' came on the radio. He had the windows rolled down so he could enjoy the warm California breeze and the hot California girls.
No wonder you wanted to come here, Sammy; Dean thought with a slight smile, it's sun, surf and babes all the time.
Dean tried to imagine his brother on a surfboard and laughed at the mental image of Sam in Hawaiian-style swim shorts, trying to stay balanced on choppy Pacific water and looking like a complete dork in the process.
Dean's good mood faltered somewhat. He wasn't in California for a holiday. He was on a mission. He needed his brother's help.
John Winchester had gone missing three weeks earlier with no rhyme or reason, without saying anything to his oldest son. At first Dean hadn't been worried- his father went on solo hunts all the time and sometimes they took longer than expected- but when John hadn't returned any of his son's phone calls and the days began to pile up, Dean just knew something was wrong.
Dean wasn't sure what had happened to his father but he was certain that Sam would want to know that John was MIA. Sam had a right to know. Dean just hoped he could convince his brother to help him find their Dad- Dean knew he couldn't do it on his own. He wanted his brother by his side.
A myriad of emotions bubbled up inside of Dean- worry and fear about his father and nervousness about seeing his brother for the first time in four years- but he turned up the radio's volume to eardrum-rupturing levels and kept an eye on the street signs that would show him the way to Stanford.
Dean had stayed away from Sam for almost four years now- it hurt like hell to do so- because he respected his brother's privacy. Although Dean did not agree with Sam leaving for college, he knew anything he said would fall on deaf ears. Sam had made his decision and Dean would just have to live with that. It wasn't as though Sam would be gone forever exactly; his younger brother wanted to see them again and Dean could wait, however impatiently. Now though, Dean was going to see Sam whether his little brother liked it or not. Their father hadn't been seen in nearly three weeks- by anyone in the hunting community- and that set Dean's stomach curdling. Sam would just have to suck it up and act like a decent person because Dean wasn't above reminding his sibling who was boss if Sam was to conveniently forget that all-important detail.
John had also stayed away from Sam for almost four years but for reasons entirely different from his eldest son's. The ex-Marine was known for holding grudges- he'd been seeking the same mysterious, murderous entity for almost twenty-three years now- and no one was exempt from his black list, not even his sons. Even if a hunt took John and Dean close to Palo Alto or even California in general, John would try and pawn it off on another hunter or, failing that, immerse himself in the case so deeply that Dean wasn't sure his father was ever going to come up for air. The night Sam had told John about college, Dean had been almost positive his father was going to resort to less-than diplomatic measures to keep Sam from leaving. The argument that had ensued blew every previous one out of the water, made them seem like mere tiffs compared to the Atom bomb that Sam had dropped on them. Dean felt bad that Sam had left on such shitty terms with their father. John was only worried about Sam; he just didn't quite know how to show it in a non-overbearing, non-militaristic way. But John Winchester never forgave and he didn't forget and for almost four years acted like Sam didn't even exist.
Well, things are about to change; Dean told himself. He'd talk to his brother and together he and Sam would find their Dad, and oh boy, wouldn't John be surprised to see his youngest son!
"They can tear each other's heads off once I know Dad's okay," Dean murmured as he drove into the Stanford campus, searching for a visitor's parking lot.
The buildings all looked the same!
Everywhere Dean looked there was another lecture hall with peach-coloured stucco walls and a red clay roof.
How does anyone find their way around this maze? Dean wondered as he sought out the Registration office.
After about twenty minutes of fruitless searching and feeling like a moron, Dean gave in and asked for directions.
The Registration office was air conditioned and almost chilly compared to the warmth outside. Dean didn't even wait to get in line, he just flashed a fake FBI badge and all the co-eds moved out of the way, some more nervously than others.
"How may I help you?" the elderly woman at the desk asked, peering over her glasses at Dean. She had fluffy white hair and was wearing a dark blue blazer over a white blouse.
"Can you tell me where Samuel Winchester lives? Is he on-campus or off?"
The woman looked incredulous for a moment before Dean showed her his badge.
Typing swiftly into the computer, the elderly lady pursed her lips.
"I don't have any record of anyone by that name in the files," she told Dean; "He was sent an acceptance letter but never attended any classes."
Dean's brow furrowed and his heart skipped a beat, "Are you sure? Maybe there's been a mistake."
The woman shook her head, "I'm sorry, sir. Perhaps you have the wrong university."
Dean bit his lip. He couldn't have come to the wrong school. Sam had told them he was going to Stanford.
"Sir, are you alright? You're a little pale," the older woman asked in alarm at the rapid change in Dean's complexion.
"Oh, yeah, just not used to this heat, you know?" Dean muttered.
If Sam never came here then where did he go?
"Is there anything else I can help you with?" The woman wondered, ignoring the line of students now gathered behind Dean.
"Uh, no," the young hunter shook his head, "Thanks for your time."
Dean walked down the hallway toward the elevators numbly.
Sam has to be here, Dean told himself, I just know it. There's been some mistake.
Stepping out of the climate-controlled building and into the California heat, Dean squinted his eyes and peered around. If anyone knew where his brother could be, the student body would.
Dean stalked down the asphalt-paved walkway and stopped at the first building he saw that had kids pouring out of it. He leaned against the wall, beside the door and flipped through his wallet, finding what he needed within seconds.
"Excuse me," Dean approached a trio of young women who looked to be around Sam's age- maybe they even had classes with him- and put on his most defenseless expression, "I'm looking for my brother, have you seen him around here?"
Dean held up a faded, folded photograph of his brother. The picture had been taken in Sam's freshman year at a high school he couldn't remember the name of. His brother sat against the generic blue background, smiling shyly, his bangs almost obscuring his green eyes, wearing Dean's hand-me-downs because money had been tight that year.
Two of the girls shook their heads and moved on but the third smiled gently at Dean and carefully took the picture from him.
"It's kind of old but it's the most recent one I have," Dean explained, "He's kind of hard to miss though, what with that mop on his head and being as tall as a redwood."
The young woman chuckled softly at Dean's words. She had wavy blonde hair and blue eyes.
"What's his name?" she asked and handed the photo back to Dean.
"Sam," Dean told her, "Sam Winchester."
The girl's expression turned sympathetic, "I'm sorry, I haven't seen anyone who looks like him around campus."
Dean's heart fell into his stomach, "Are you sure?"
The young woman nodded, "I'm sorry."
Dean shrugged, "Nothing you can do."
The girl reached out and placed her hand on Dean's arm, "I hope you find him."
The young hunter smiled sadly.
"Come on, Jess!" the girl turned at the sound of her name and with one glance back at Dean, ran to catch up with her friends.
Dean walked slowly back to where he had parked the car, ignoring the warm breeze and bright sunlight. The day had suddenly turned dark on him.
He leaned against the driver's side door of the Impala and heaved a sorrowful sigh. Dean passed a hand over his eyes and squinted.
Dean lifted the photograph of a fourteen-year old Sam close to his face, "Where the hell are you, Sammy?"
Dean didn't think his brother had gone to a different university as the lady from the Registration office had suggested. Sam would have told them. Besides, Dean had seen the Stanford acceptance letter- it offered a full ride- and knew his brother wouldn't pass that up for anything.
Carefully folding the picture back up and returning it to his wallet, Dean unlocked the door to his baby and slid into the driver's seat.
Turning the key in the ignition, Dean listened to the low familiar rumble of the Impala's engine before grabbing his cell phone from his pocket.
Dean scrolled down the contact list before hitting his father's number and waited for the voice mail to come on.
"This John Winchester; if this is an emergency, call my son Dean. If this is Dean, leave a message."
"Dad, its Dean… again. Listen, I don't know what you're doing or where you are but you have to call me back as soon as you get this. Sammy's gone. And I mean gone. I'm in Palo Alto now and nobody's seen him at the school for… oh God… he never even made it to any of his classes. I know you and Sam didn't part ways on the best of terms but you have to agree with me that this doesn't feel-"
Dean was cut off when the length of time to leave a message ran out and he swore out loud.
Dean grumbled and found the second most important person on his Who-To-Call-When-Sam's-In-Trouble list.
"Singer Salvage," Bobby's gruff tones greeted the young hunter and Dean almost smiled.
"Hey Bobby," Dean answered, trying not to sound of the verge of panic.
"You find your Daddy yet, boy?" Bobby demanded, "'Cause I call first dibbs when it comes to kickin' his ass back to Kansas when he finally decides to grace us with his presence."
Dean chuckled softly but shook his head, "No, Dad hasn't turned up… and now I have another problem… I drove to California to get Sammy, see if he could help me find Dad and… well… Sam's not here."
"Dean? Son? What are you talking about?" Bobby's voice became full of concern and Dean could almost imagine the grizzled hunter taking off his baseball cap to run his fingers through his thinning hair in agitation.
"S-Sam never m-made it to Stanford," Dean stuttered, bile rising in his throat at the thought that something had happened to his baby brother while he wasn't around to protect him.
"Dean," Bobby's voice turned stern, "Are you sure that Sam in trouble? Maybe he just went to a different school."
Dean shook his head, "Sammy wouldn't do that… he didn't do that. He'd have told me if he changed schools… he'd want me to know in case… something happened. He was going to Stanford! Not Harvard or Yale or some university on the moon!"
"Is this what your gut's telling you?" Bobby asked, "That something did get to Sam and it's not just that he transferred and forgot to let you and your Daddy know?"
Dean sucked in a breath, "Yeah Bobby, I know that something's wrong here… I can just feel it."
Bobby paused for a moment, thinking of how he was going to phrase his next question, "You haven't heard from Sam since he left for college, right? And that was, what, three and a half, four years ago?"
"God, why didn't I call him? Why did I tell myself to let the kid have some privacy? Fuck privacy! I'd have called Sam every day, every hour of every day if I knew he'd vanish like a fart in the wind!" Dean exclaimed angrily and slammed a fist down on the Impala's steering wheel.
"Sorry baby," Dean apologized to the car, "I'm not mad at you."
"Son," Bobby said softly, "I know you don't wanna hear this and Lord knows I don't wanna even think about it… but… with Sam being missing for so long… there's a good chance that he's dead."
Dean practically growled at the older hunter, "No he isn't Bobby! Don't say that! I'd know if Sam was dead! I'd know! He's not dead! He's alive somewhere!"
"What's your next step?" Bobby asked, thinly veiling the real statement underneath: I hope you're right.
"Research," Dean looked up through the Impala's windshield, "Hours and hours of research until I find Sammy and whatever or whoever took him."
"That's what I thought," Bobby said, "You come on up to my place and I'll lend you a hand. Maybe we'll even get a visit from your old man if we're lucky."
Dean wasn't even thinking about his AWOL father- all he cared about was his brother.
"Thanks Bobby," Dean whispered, "I'll see you in a couple of days."
"I'll get a head start on the research," the grizzled hunter informed Dean.
He heard Bobby sigh on the other end of the line, "looks like coffee's going to be my new best friend for a while."
Dean couldn't help but chuckle but his mood immediately dried up as soon as he closed his phone and slipped it back into his pocket.
Dean started the car and pulled out of the parking spot, his eyes glancing at the empty passenger seat where his brother should have been sitting.
The young hunter turned on the radio and patted the dashboard comfortingly when The Hollies' 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' began playing.
"I know girl," Dean murmured to the Impala, "I miss him too."
He blinked his eyes for a moment but then steeled himself, "Don't worry Sammy, I'm coming for ya. Wherever you are, I'll find you. I'm not giving up on you, baby brother."
1. Edited by BerserkerHellHound.
2. Please update! I'd love to hear from you!