When Sam was five years old, his parents took him shopping and he got lost. At least that is what his mother told him.
He just remembered seeing a big man in a leather jacket and heavy boots parting the crowd as he hurried somewhere unknown, and he’d thought it’s Dean! He made a run for it, slinking between long legs, ignoring the calls that followed him. It was him, he was sure of it.
When he finally made it to the outskirts of the masses he had lost sight of the man, but he remained convinced it was Dean he had seen until later that day when they were going home.
His father had frowned in disapproval when he had found Sam, huddled in a corner, clutching his knees in frustration.
“Where did you take off to?” his father demanded.
“I saw Dean”, Sam explained with a wobble in his voice.
His father didn’t seem to understand the significance of this as he mumbled something about seeing him in class tomorrow.
“But it was Dean”, he tried again, as if the intonation of his words would make his father understand.
But as Dad just continued on with how worried his mother and he had been, Sam experienced a sinking feeling in his gut. This wasn’t about not understanding; his father simply didn’t know.
Sam knew Dean was coming for him. He knew it in the same sense he knew the sky was blue and that you shouldn’t eat the sand in the sandbox, no matter how much it looked like cake.
As he watched his father call his mother to let her know he had found Sam, he decided not to mention Dean again.
Later on, when they were in the parking lot, packing up their bags, Sam noticed the leather clad man again. When he twisted his head to take a closer look, tongue already forming words to call out to him, the man finally turned around and Sam saw that it wasn’t Dean. Wrong eyes, wrong cheek bones, wrong everything. He swallowed his disappointment and spent the ride home listening to his parents chatter away in the front seat.
When Sam was ten, he heard a ghost story about a little girl who died in the school basement. It was close to Halloween and everybody were dressed up in silly costumes. Their teacher pronounced classes could wait and instead they pulled up their chairs in a big circle, lit candles and ate their Halloween snacks while their teacher told them about little Grace.
“Little Grace lived far from school”, their teacher intoned. “One day when her parents forgot to pick her up she decided to camp out at school. She hid in the basement to avoid detection from Fred the Janitor’s sweep of the grounds, but as she closed the door it locked behind her and she got stuck.”
Sam thought she had been silly not to just pick the lock. He had spent hours practicing on his padlocks at home, using nothing but paperclips and bent-out-of-shape key rings. After all, Dean needed him to know how to pick locks. He wasn’t entirely clear on why that was yet.
“When morning came Grace had frozen to death, her small frame too small to sustain enough body heat throughout the night”, his teacher went on in a capturing voice.
Maybe he just forgot his keys a lot, but something about that didn’t seem right. He had spent hours imagining a life where Dean was a burglar and Sam his trustworthy sidekick. Together they would go on adventures, steal from the rich and give to the poor, save the goodies and catch the baddies.
“Now whenever someone goes down there, they will feel a chill so cold and penetrating it will rattle their bones”, their teacher finished up.
She smiled at the group of kids sitting, listening, some entranced in the story, others skeptical. Sam noticed her gaze linger on him and he hurried to widen his eyes and look appropriately shaken. She frowned slightly. Maybe he overdid it. The story was stupid anyway.
To prove it he decided to investigate. He waited until everyone went home, called his parents and told them he going home with Barry Cook, which was true enough, on most days.
He broke into the basement, lit it up and had a look around. No cold air that couldn’t be attributed to anything but stone walls and bad insulation; no marks or signs of a girl ever having died there. He even tried calling out, insulting and coaxing, but the room remained uninhabited by ghosts.
So much for that, he thought and left. It would have been cool, though, he admitted to himself, and continued his fantasy of Dean and him. This time they were hunting ghosts and vanquishing evil spirits who lingered where they shouldn’t have.
That night he dreamt of Dean. He was standing in front of Sam, a huge figure stretching out in front of him, protecting him. In Dean’s hands were weapons and his voice was gravelly when he warned the evil on the other side to stay away.
It was enough for Sam to take up the occult as a slightly obsessive interest and for many weeks there on after he could be found with his nose buried in books too heavy for someone his age. He didn’t mind. He wanted to stand next to Dean when they fought, he wanted to say, “I’ve got your back”.
When Sam was fourteen, his parents sat him down on the couch in the living room. They had prepared him a cup of hot cocoa, something reserved for birthdays only. They sat on either side of him, and Mom put her hand on his knee, his father’s arm wrapped around his back. The entire thing gave him the heebie-jeebies.
“Sam, son”, his father began and then seemed to have used up his reserve of words.
“Sam, honey”, his mother took over. “I know you’ve been curious about your family history-“.
His parents proceeded telling him about his adoption. He had been a child of neglect, taken in by the authorities. His biological father was wanted for several gruesome crimes, and his parents were currently in a protection program to make sure Sam was never found.
Sam felt as if a great injustice had been done to him. He couldn’t say exactly what it was, but he felt anger welling up in his chest none the less.
“What was his name?” Sam ground out between clenched teeth. “My biological father, what was his name?”
His mother looked worried and his father glared at the floor. “Winchester. His name was John Winchester.”
It might have been irrational but he couldn’t stand their touch anymore. He didn’t stop loving them; they were his parents, but their closeness was grating. They had lied to him. If they had told him earlier then maybe his feeling of isolation could have been explained so much sooner.
He spent the next couple of days in his room brooding. He wondered if he was different now. He wondered who his real father was, this John Winchester, and how come he had let Sam get in harm’s way. He wondered if his biological father didn’t love him. He wondered if he had other family, and if so, why they didn’t take care of him.
When his wall refused to give him the answers he was looking for, he went to the public library. Dad even drove him, though the silence in the car was stifling.
“I’ll pick you up in time for dinner, all right?” Dad said when he dropped him off on his way to the clinic.
Sam nodded and went inside. He logged in on one of the computers for public use and started with a search of his own name. Sam Wesson. There wasn’t a single relevant hit beyond his school page that said he was a student of class B. He realized he must have been named Sam Winchester before his parents adopted him. Like a cosmic joke, the name even sounded similar.
Eyebrows drawn together he typed in his father’s name and felt the bottom of his stomach drop out when he saw the article about a fire. A family who lived in Lawrence, Kansas had suffered a house fire and Mary Winchester, wife and mother of two, had passed away.
Mother of two.
When Sam was sixteen, his coach said it was okay to lose as long as he learnt from his mistakes.
“The most important thing for you is to make sure you don’t get hurt. It’s a dangerous sport-“
Sam toned him out. He had heard this speech several times already and was getting sick of it. He knew he was younger than the other members of the club, he knew it was his coach’s head on the line if someone figured out he was legally two years too young to practice MMA.
He didn’t care.
He had realized when he watched a fight take place in a back alley on his way home from a study session, when his hands trembled and he started sweating. He had known then that this is what he had to know. This was why Dean hadn’t come yet. He had always known Dean lived a dangerous life. Who else had to know about ghosts and lock-picking and disguises and forgery?
In his mind’s eye he had seen Dean punching the creepy looking dude, helping the kid to his feet. Sam had ended up taking a beating that day. On his forehead, just below the hair line, a small scar still marred his skin. He was more proud of the ones on his knuckles, though. The ones he had gotten when he distracted the guys enough for the kid to get out of there.
“Or course, sir, I’ll be more careful”, said Sam when the coach’s words started tapering off.
The coach gave him a tight smile and gestured for him to enter the ring again.
When Sam was 19, he got into Stanford to study law. His father was disappointed he had given up on medicine but his mother hugged him tight and whispered she was so proud of him and that his father would come around.
He got settled in his dorm and got a room-mate who spent more time in other people’s bed than his own. It suited Sam perfectly who wasn’t there to make friends.
He spent his times studying, quite pleased with his surroundings. So what if he sometimes noticed classmates avoiding him, or heard whispers that were less than friendly when he turned down their invitations. He was at peace, studying, waiting. This wasn’t really his life, so of course it wasn’t going to be perfect. Not yet.
And then he met Jessica.
Jess, smart and funny, who saw him sitting alone at a café close to Stanford’s campus, studying the same thing as her. Jess who took mercy on his stuttering when she asked if she could look at his notes.
She found his quirk for the occult endearing and not freakish, she joined him on his morning runs and came with him on his camping trips. When she asked if he believed in soul-mates and he said yes, of course, mine’s Dean, she was confused but didn’t leave. She might have watched him a bit more closely around his guy friends, but when nothing came of it she relaxed.
When Sam was 20, he had sex for the first time. It was sweaty and intimate and funny and perfect.
Jess was everything he could have hoped for. She brought him into her group of friends and they became the adorable couple on campus. Soon most forgot that Sam had used to be the odd-ball who didn’t speak to anyone.
She took him to meet her parents on Christmas break and he found out he was really good at charming people into liking him. Something about his kind eyes and easy smiles. Jess told him it was what had drawn her to him in the first place. Sam wondered what kind of eyes Dean had.
When Sam was 21, he moved in with his girlfriend. He didn’t know if it was going to last but he decided not to think about it. They shopped for a sofa together and picked out cushions for it. It was dreadfully boring and Sam thought that this is what it was like to be normal.
She freaked out when she found his gun collection. Sam himself had not been sure about that one, but he had seen a symbol on a magazine for guns that matched one in his books of the supernatural when he had passed it on the way home one evening. When he went to check it out, held the gun in his hands, felt the weight, both of the weapon and the responsibility that came with wielding one, he knew it was right. This gun was meant for him.
She made him keep them in a locked box in the apartment’s storage unit. He never told her about his weekly visits to the practicing range.
She started hinting at marriage. They had been together almost two years. Sam knew it didn’t matter. He would never marry her.
He had never found someone who understood him as well as she did but even at this age he was still waiting for Dean to come. So far Dean had not even once made a real appearance in his life. Sam was starting to realize that just because your soul-mate was out there did not mean you were going to meet them in a realistic amount of time, but that didn’t matter. There would only ever be Dean.
When Sam was 22, his girlfriend burned to death on his ceiling. Her blood dropped on his face and trickled along his cheek. At first he didn’t understand what he was looking at. It didn’t register.
When her body caught fire and smoke filled the air reality kicked in and he ran from the room, coughing until it felt like his lungs were bleeding. He didn’t want to leave her body but there was no way he was getting her down, even if she wasn’t the source of the fire. Instead he managed to grab just a few of his most important possessions.
The fire department showed up, his neighbors gathered and when they sent him to the hospital to get his lungs checked out, his parents called. It was a mess.
He managed to convince them they shouldn’t come, yes, he was fine, he was sleeping at Brady’s place until things smoothed over. Brady picked him up, and while his couch smelled like a failed science experiment, Sam was glad he had friends like Brady.
A couple of days later, the FBI showed up. At least, that is was Ryan told him when he popped in at the library where Sam was frenetically trying to catch up on his missed lectures.
“They’re investigating the fire. I bet they’re gonna come talk to you next if they haven’t already”, Ryan said. He look nervous and excited but a sympathetic grimace was plastered over his face.
Sam didn’t want to talk to the FBI about what had happened. He didn’t want to talk to anybody about it. How could he explain that his girlfriend had been pinned to the ceiling with a gut wound by supernatural forces and then been burned to death by a fire that originated out of seemingly nowhere?
He thanked Ryan for telling him and went back to his studies. It was as clear as dismissals went.
By the time lunch time rolled around he had managed to forget it entirely when a suit showed up with a not so subtle cough. He barely glanced up to tell them to scram, he was busy, when he finally locked eyes with the man.
Green. He had green eyes.
He wasn’t wearing a leather jacket. The heavy combat boots were also missing. It didn’t matter. Sam recognized him all the same.
“Dean”, he choked out and the man’s eyes went from weary to suspicious in a microsecond.
“I’m Agent Turner of the FBI. I was hoping you could answer some questions about the fire that happened last week.”
He wasn’t asking, that much was clear. Sam was having trouble breathing, so he wasn’t really paying attention. He managed a nod.
“Would you mind coming with me?”
His body language spoke of confidence, but he was also wired, clearly expecting Sam to do something. Sam wasn’t sure what. Jump him?
FBI. Dean was FBI. Sam stood up, packed up his bags and went with Agent Turner. Dean. Some of the weird skills were starting to make sense, but as Sam watched Dean gesture to the exit he realized that some were not. Had he gotten the occult part wrong? Then what about the thing that killed Jess? Was X-files real?
Dean opened the door for him and Sam sort of got stuck staring at the hand holding the handle. There were scars, small white lines, crisscrossing his knuckles. A casual viewer would never have noticed, but Sam saw them all the same. He had all but known they would be there. He also took note of the dirty nails and the scrapes that were barely visible under the cuff of the jacket.
A small clearing of a throat had him coming out of his daze and he kept moving.
“Tell me what you saw, Mr. Wesson”, Dean demanded.
They were seated in a coffee shop that was bustling with activity. No one was paying them any mind, something Dean had obviously known as he led them here.
Sam was staring again, he knew he was. He couldn’t help it, though. After waiting his whole life, it was like he could finally focus his eyes after seeing the world blurry.
Dean was handsome, he noticed, in a belated manner. But of course he was. His cheekbones prominent, lips full, a rich moss green color shining from his eyes. He had just the tiniest bit of stubble, nothing untoward that would compromise his professionalism.
Your mine, his mind told Dean, and Dean looked so surprised for a moment Sam was sure he had heard him.
“So you’re FBI, huh?” Sam eventually got around to, well, not answering.
“Yeah, the real deal. So what about the fire?” was the response Agent Turner should have gone with.
The one he got was a little different. A hesitance, a small lick around the lips, more like a nervous tick. Dean cleared his throat.
“You said Dean when you saw me. Have we- How’s that?”
The slip-up was obvious but Sam let it go.
“I think it was a demon”, Sam said instead.
He had realized it as he was going through his old notes from when he was eighteen and he had briefly entertained the idea that if ghosts existed, then maybe other evil beings did, too. Demons had been on the list, if in a completely different league. The smell of sulfur that had stuck to his skin for days now, the telekinetic powers of moving Jess in that way. He couldn’t think of anything else that fit.
Dean looked like someone had dropped a bucket a water over his head.
“Why do you say that?” he asked, clearly regaining his footing and trying to remain in character.
Sam had seen enough, though. FBI my ass, he thought somewhat triumphantly. It wasn’t that he had anything against the official law enforcement, he was studying law, after all. It just didn’t fit. He had thought so as soon as he had got over the shock of seeing Dean for the first time.
He looked down at his still slightly trembling hands as they gripped the coffee cup. Well, the worst of the shock, anyways.
“She was pinned to the ceiling, you see. There’s nothing natural about that”, Sam said and again waited for Dean to do something, say something, to reveal he knew what was going on.
Come on, he thought desperately. I’m right here, recognize me!
“You a hunter?” Dean asked, eventually.
It wasn’t what he had hoped for, but it was the most truth he had got out of him all day, or ever. He didn’t analyze that last part too thoroughly.
“No”, he said with a drawn-out voice. “But I know enough about the supernatural to know when it’s staring me in the face.”
When he had told the not FBI Agent and his soul-mate everything he had seen and been prompted to call if he could think of anything else with a card pushed into his hands, Sam wasn’t sure what he was going to do. It wasn’t the worst first meeting of all time, but it was a long shot from what he had been imagining throughout his childhood.
He looked down on the card. “Department of Investigation FBI, This certifies that the signature and photograph of Special Agent Fred Turner of Federal Bureau of Justice, United States Department of Investigation”. He was pretty sure Fred Turner was part of a Rock band from the 70’s. Well, at least that explained the weird tingling he got whenever Led Zeppelin started blasting from the radio.
The card in his hands almost crumbled from the pressure he put on the paper and his phone in his pocket was burning a hole in his pants. 22 years was a long time. He wondered if he would make it through the day.
He did. But only because Dean got back to him first. He was, as a matter of fact waiting for Sam when he showed up back at Brady’s place later that night. He hadn’t been able to study after Dean had left, so he had gone to the gym, and then to a take-out place he knew Brady liked.
He was now gripping the sticky burger bag like his life depended on it. Dean was leaning very close, one hand wrapped around his wrist and the other pressed to his mouth. Dean’s fingers were dry and roughened from hard work. Sam resisted the urge to taste it.
Dean looked at Sam, to see that he wasn’t going to start screaming or running off (as if!), and then whispered:
“Your friend is a demon. You need to get out of here. I’ll stay here to make sure he doesn’t follow but there’s not a lot I can do against something like this”, Dean explained. He pointed towards the stairs down to the parking lot. “Do you have a car?”
Sam wasn’t really listening because Dean was trying to convince him to leave. He shook his head.
“Dean, I’m not leaving you. I just found you”, he tried to say but Dean clearly wasn’t hearing him.
“No, you don’t get it. This thing could kill you-“
“Yeah, you’re gonna explain that one at some point, but for now, please just get outta here. I have a car, a black Impala-“
“Well, isn’t this sweet”, another voice said and both men turned to look at Brady who had, at some point, opened the door and was now standing there, listening to them quarrel.
Knowing demons existed and actually seeing his friend’s eyes turn black were apparently different things, Sam noted as he felt his heart beat three times its normal pace.
“Just listen to you two, talking as if you’ve known each-other for years. Then again, for you Sam, it’s practically the truth, isn’t it? Have you told him yet or are you waiting for him to realize on his own?” Brady’s speech pattern wasn’t the usual charming version Sam was used to, but gravelly and modulated.
Sam’s eyes darted to Dean’s for a panicked moment but Dean was busy staring daggers at the demon possessing his friend. His words didn’t seem to bother him at all. Maybe he didn’t believe them.
Dean made to approach the demon, his hands behind his back gesturing for Sam to get out of there. Sam saw again what he had seen many times in his dreams, his beautiful Dean standing between him and danger. He saw the broad shoulders, this time covered in what was obviously a well-worn leather jacket, gruff jeans and heavy boots. Sam felt his breathing calm and his heart speed up. This was it.
Brady flung Dean into the wall with nothing but an irritated flick of his fingers, but those few seconds of inattention was all Sam had ever needed. He pulled the gun, the first gun he’d ever bought and the one he had never managed to store away, even at Jess’ request. Its squiggly markings were barely visible in the dull light from the street lamps.
Brady laughed when he saw it and Dean moaned unintelligibly from the ground.
“It won’t work, wonder-boy. I took you for smarter than that-“, Brady drawled. He looked like he could continue on a rant.
Sam’s eyes cut to Dean’s a second, just to see if there was anything, anything at all, but he mostly looked tumbled and angry, maybe frightened. Sam looked back to Brady, undid the safety and pulled the trigger.
It was later, when Dean had brought back Sam to his place and Sam was sitting on his knees behind Dean, looking at the newly formed bruises. He thought new because Dean’s back was riddled in scars, burn marks, scratches and contusions. Dean had grumblingly accepted Sam’s help with cleaning the wounds up but Sam could see small shivers running up his back. It clearly wasn’t easy letting someone behind him, especially a stranger like Sam.
“I thought you were studying law or somethin’”, Dean grunted out when Sam pressed a washcloth against a sore spot.
“I got a traineeship at a local clinic back in high school when I was considering becoming a doctor”, Sam said. “I had a vision about you getting hurt so bad you couldn’t walk by yourself”, Sam didn’t say.
Eventually Sam ran out of injuries to clean and he reluctantly let his hands fall from Dean’s back. Once he got a shirt on and they were sitting face to face, each with a beer in hand, Dean made a vague out with it then motion with his free hand.
Sam bit his lip and thought of all the times the knowledge of Dean had changed his life. He wondered if he would have been different if he hadn’t learned ghosts were real, if he hadn’t decided to study law in order to help when Dean’s less than cordial lifestyle got him in trouble, if his fighting and gun shooting experience had been nothing but a young man’s fantasies.
He didn’t know how to get beneath the walls Dean had put up. He thought of all the ways he could explain. I’ve known you were coming since before I could talk. I know you better than you know yourself. My life is built around you even though we’ve never met. I’m going with you when you leave and you’ll never be alone again.
He knew he couldn’t say that, so he sat there, a slowly warming beer in hand, a heavy heart and a soul-deep knowledge that somehow, despite how it all seemed now, it would all work out okay.
“Dean …” he whispered, staring into Dean’s eyes, willing him to make the connection.
For a moment nothing happened, for a moment Sam was gathering his tattered feelings and resigning himself to letting Dean go. Then…
Sam could have wept. It was all there in his voice, the disbelief, the awe, the relief. Sam’s smile was tremulous but Dean seemed to have no trouble understanding his joy.
“Sam, I can’t believe-“, Dean said, inching closer, afraid to move too fast, to break this fragile moment.
“I know”, Sam whispered.
“I dreamt of you, I carried you out of the fire, I-“, Dean was babbling.
“Yeah, I know, me, too.”
As arms closed around him Sam felt like years of loneliness were swept from his heart. Everything would be different from now on.
He was finally home.