Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to the CW, Eric Kripke, and probably a whole bunch of other people, but they're not mine. I'm just playing with them.
A/N: This is AU - my take on what might have happened in the first season if one or two things were changed. Please note, this is NOT a happy fic nor will it have a happy ending. I'll post an additional warning at the bottom, but don't want to give anything away.
Dean sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face, barely seeing the sign welcoming them to Palo Alto. It'd been a long time since he was here, and even longer for the person behind the wheel. He risked a glance at his father, trying to gauge his mood, but John's face might as well have been chiseled from stone. Not that that surprised Dean; the closer they got to Sam, the stiffer John got. Anyone else would have interpreted John's posture and expression as indifference, but Dean could see the nervousness his father was trying to cover up. Given that the last time John and Sam were knowingly in the same room was the night Sam left, he was understandably nervous about what reception he'd get from his youngest. Leaning his head against the window, he watched the houses pass by and thought of the last time he saw his little brother.
Dean carefully parked the Impala a few blocks away from Sam's apartment, not wanting to let his brother know he was here. Fortunately for him, Halloween on a college campus meant lots of people – most of them drunk – were out and about, which allowed him to blend in and get to Sam's street undetected. He watched as Sam and a hot blond in a nurses' costume ran into a zombie and headed somewhere together. Sam looked good, he admitted grudgingly, his time at Stanford erasing the careworn, hopeless look he'd carried around since he was 8. Slipping away as silently as before, Dean settled into the backseat of the car. He needed it to be darker before he risked breaking in to Sam's place. John had been missing for a couple of days, and Dean wanted Sam's help on this; true, he could just walk up and ring the bell, but there was always the risk Sam would refuse to answer the door. He was less likely to kick his brother out if he was already inside; besides, Dean wanted to see if Stanford had dulled Sam's instincts any.
He never made it. A call from John had him burning rubber to Jericho, where he helped spring his dad from police custody. They dealt with Constance Welch, and hightailed it out of town. About two hours down the highway John pulled over and gave Dean a choice – he could hunt on his own, free to go where ever and see whomever he wanted, or he could stick with his dad. For the first time Dean could remember, John had been completely upfront about what he would be getting into. The demon – the bastard who'd killed Mary all those years ago – had finally shown his face, and John was determined to get him this time, but in order to preserve the element of surprise, he'd have to become a ghost, working completely under the radar. That meant dumping their old phones, cutting ties with all their friends and contacts, and definitely no trips to Stanford to check up on Sam.
It had been a hard choice, and Dean wondered a time or ten if he'd made the right one. His big brother radar had been screaming at him from the minute he said yes to his dad and had only gotten worse in the intervening months. But, he'd stuck with John and the hunt and finally had the pleasure of looking that yellow-eyed bastard in the face and ending him. After discovering Samuel Colt's legendary gun in a vamp nest in Colorado, they'd cornered the Yellow-Eyed Demon in Salvation.
"So, you finally got me," Yellow Eyes sneered from the center of a devil's trap. "Was it worth it, Johnny-boy? Worth wasting your boys' lives hunting me down? Worth disowning your youngest? Poor little Sammy. But that's ok; from what I hear, he's not missing much these days."
He let out one more laugh as John raised the Colt, "Go ahead, let's finish this. Oh, and don't worry about Sammy; I've got a reception all planned. My kids are going to have lots of fun with him."
The sharp crack of the Colt silenced the taunts but neither Winchester could shake the feeling that feeling that something was horribly wrong with Sam. They hit the road as soon as the deceased demon host had been taken care of and drove practically non-stop to California.
Dean was pulled out of his thoughts as the car began to slow. He could see Sam's apartment building, but something was off about it. One whole side looked new and as the car pulled alongside the building, Dean could see that the whole thing looked new – the architecture was slightly more modern, the paint was a few shades darker and the cars parked in front of it were different then the ones he'd seen last Halloween.
He hauled himself out of the car slowly, frown lines wrinkling his forehead. Something wasn't right; he couldn't put his finger on it, but years of hunting had honed his instincts and he trusted them.
"What is it?" John's deep voice pulled him back, and Dean shot his dad a glance over the car.
"Not sure, but something's off."
"Need some help, buddy?"
Dean had been so intent on his observation of the apartment building that he hadn't even seen the guys wandering up the sidewalk. Now the three of them stood there, watching him and John a little warily. Out of the corner of his eye, Dean saw John take a slight step back, silently telling him to take point on this. He looked the small group over, quickly identifying the first guy who spoke – Joe college from head to toe, complete with letterman jacket – as the leader of the group. The other two looked like average college kids; one was slightly taller, with brown hair, and reminded Dean a lot of Shaggy. The other guy was the shortest member of the group but built like a linebacker, and, if the football he carried was any indication, probably played for the college team. They were watching him expectantly, reminding Dean that he had yet to offer an explanation for his and John's presence on campus.
I'm looking for my brother, Sam Winchester. Does he still live here? It should have been so easy; this wasn't a hunt; they weren't impersonating anyone, but years of living under the radar and hunting things that lived in shadows had filled them both with an permanent wariness which killed the question before it really had a chance to form. Instead of the question he was dying to ask, he hedged, "Buddy of mine lived here for a while; thought I'd stop by and see the place."
Joe College's face shifted from friendly to sad, "You knew Sam?"
It was so unexpected that Dean just stood there blinking at the kid, not really sure what to say until John quietly cleared his throat, casually reminding Dean why they were there.
"Um, yeah; you a friend of his?"
He shrugged, "We had a few classes together; were part of the same study group for a little while. He was a great guy; everyone liked him." He bit his lip and looked at the ground, hesitating a moment before adding, "If you're here for him, you're a day late."
"He's gone?" John asked, unable to completely hide his surprise.
Joe College whipped his head around, noticing John for the first time. He took a step back, making sure to keep plenty of room between him and the gruff hunter. If possible, his face got even sadder
"By now, yeah. It's not going to be the same around here without him and...Jess...but, hey, at least they're together now, right?"
Shaggy shook his head, "Can't believe his family didn't show, man. Luis said they has issues, but who doesn't come for something like this?"
Dean could feel his dad stiffen at the unintended barb and pushed his own emotions to the side so he could diffuse the situation before John decided to put his two cents in – which usually meant someone was going to end up in the emergency room.
"I'm sure his family would have been here if they could." Dean was very proud of how normal and unaffected his voice sounded, "Maybe they never heard about it."
"Not heard about it!" Football dude asked incredulously, "Sam's uncles have been calling them non-stop for months. It even made the papers. His family had to be living under a rock to not know what was going on."
"Uncles?" Dean asked, hesitantly. If Football dude meant who Dean thought he meant, than he and John might seriously want to consider hiding under that rock.
"Yeah, a preacher and some older dude, wears a hat all the time. There was a couple of other guys who popped up from time to time, but I don't think they were related."
Pastor Jim and Bobby. Yup, they were dead, and Caleb and Joshua would happily finish off whatever those two left behind. Dean stifled a wince at the thought of the reception that awaited them at the hands of their friends.
"Well," he pushed out, happy that it sounded halfway steady, "We'll just send them a card. Guess they're headed to Sam's new school in the fall?"
Joe College looked at him like he had three heads, "Sam's new school? What the hell are you talking about?"
"Law school? He had a big interview a few months back? It was supposed to be full-ride? There's no way Geek boy didn't get accepted, so now that he and Jess are
married, I just assumed they were headed to his new school."
All three guys looked sick, and Dean felt the bile rising in the back of his throat as his suppressed big brother radar flew into overdrive. He glanced at John and saw concern and anxiety on his face.
Shaggy finally broke the silence, "Dude, you didn't miss Sam's wedding; you missed his funeral."
A/N - So, who wants to kill me now? Sadly, Sam's situation will not change in the second half of the story (I did say it was a sad fic). I'll have the second half up as soon as possible, which will explain what happened to Sam.