A/N: My first fanfic A huge, heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to my beta and mentor MuffyMorrigan, without whose guidance and unwavering support and encouragement I would never have found the courage to write let alone post anything.

The title of this story comes from Lindsey Haun's wonderful song 'Broken'. I own neither the song nor Supernatural.

The story takes place shortly after the final scene of 'Skin'.

Hitting Walls and Getting Scars

Chapter One

When they got back to the motel, Sam called first shower, wanting to wash away the blood and sweat from his fight with the shapeshifter. Coming out of the bathroom, he found Dean sitting on his bed, their first aid kit open beside him.

'Shirt off,' Dean said.

'Come again?' Sam looked at him.

'You heard me. I saw the way you moved when you got out of the Impala just now. You've got a couple of bruised ribs, perhaps even broken. And I'm not risking you puncturing a lung. Shirt off!'

Knowing an impenetrable wall when he faced one, Sam huffed with annoyance (which received only an unsympathetic 'Suck it up, little brother' from Dean), then slowly pulled off his shirt, trying to hide the instinctive wince when he raised his arms. He waited for the reaction he knew would come; he'd already seen the darkening bruises in the bathroom mirror.

Only all he got was silence.

Surprised, he looked over his shoulder at Dean, who just stood there looking at him with a frozen look on his face. 'Dude. You're staring. It's just busted ribs. Nothing you haven't seen before,' Sam said.

Slowly, Dean reached out a hand, gently touching Sam's side. 'When did you get this?' he said.

Sam, puzzled, looked down at where Dean's hand lay.

And felt the blood drain from his face.

Oh God, I'd forgotten all about that scar. Please, Dean, I can't go there, not today, not after seeing Rebecca again. Not after realising that I can never go back. That I never fit in. That among them, I'm as much a freak as that shapeshifter, changing myself to hide the dark truth beneath.

'Sam?' He felt Dean's hand on his shoulder and realised that he'd been staring into space for a couple of minutes.

'Dean… Some other time, OK?'

'No, Sam. It looks terrible. I'm wrapping your ribs, then you're talking. That is one nasty scar – that's got to be what, 8 inches? And what kind of incompetent fool sewed it up? It looks more like me doing cross stitching than the work of a nurse!'

Realising that Dean was going into full protective-big-brother mode, wanting to find someone to blame (Hell, preferably HURT) for the nasty, jagged scar that he had just discovered on his little brother, Sam tried to placate him.

'I did,' he said softly, hoping the confession would be enough to make Dean let it go.

'What? What did you say?' Dean's voice rose a note.

OK, that went well. Any other bright ideas now you're at it, Sam thought.

'I said I did it,' Sam said, a pleading look in his eyes. Please, Dean, just let it go.

'You did it?'


'You sewed that up? On your own?'


'Where? When? WHY?'


Dean held up a hand, picking up the painkillers from the first aid kit and pressing two into Sam's hand, then handing him a bottle of water.

'Take these.' Then he started to wrap up Sam's ribs.

'Dean…' Sam looked at Dean, his fatigue evident in his eyes.

'OK. But tomorrow, you're talking!'

Sam sighed, realising there was no way Dean was going to let this go.

How come when something's happened to him, he's perfectly happy to stow it away and lock it up forever, while if he discovers the tiniest scratch on me, he's going all mother-hen on me?

Dean finished wrapping up Sam's ribs, then he pointed towards Sam's bed. 'Get some rest. I'm gonna hit the shower – hope you've left me some hot water, princess,' the soft tone in his voice belying the seemingly harsh words.

Sam laid down, and even before Dean had the shower running, he was fast asleep, the painkillers having finished what his exhaustion started.

He didn't even feel Dean pulling the comforter up over his shoulder, nor did he see the look of concern that crossed Dean's face as he did so. And he didn't see the look of anger that replaced it; anger at the thought of someone or something hurting his little brother when he wasn't around to prevent it or retaliate.


Maybe you know Zach as well as he knows you.

You lie to your friends because if they knew the real you, they'd be freaked!

I just don't tell them everything.

Yeah, that's called lying, Sam.

You're my brother, and I'd die for you. But there are some things that I need to keep to myself.

You killed her! You killed Jessica!

Me? I know I'm a freak. That sooner or later, everybody's gonna leave me.

You left… Dad ditched me too… Left me here with your sorry ass.

You know, truth is, even at Stanford, deep down I never really fit in.

Well, that's because you're a freak.

That's because you're a freak.

That's because you're a freak.

The words echoed in Sam's mind when he woke up with a gasp. Quickly checking the bed beside him, he breathed a sigh of relief that for once, his nightmare hadn't woken up Dean. But then, this time the nightmare hadn't been the usual one. This time, he hadn't woken up screaming Jessica's name. This time, the nightmare had been about him. The freak. The one who doesn't fit in anywhere. Who carries a secret so dark that even the one closest to him is bound to leave if he ever reveals it. The one who's been lying to everybody for the last four years – strike that, he'd been lying all his life. He'd never fit in anywhere, was always trying to be what others wanted him to be, what circumstances required he become, never showing what he felt himself to be. With his family, he'd been trying to become the hunter that his Dad wanted; at school he'd been trying to hide the truth about what he and his family did. Because telling the truth in either place was bound to leave him alone, friendless and without family.

He tried to force the thoughts from his mind, but the old fear and pain resurfaced, leaving him feeling slightly panicked. It took a few hours until he'd finally calmed down enough to go back to sleep.

The next morning, Sam woke up to the smell of coffee. Surprised, he opened his eyes to find Dean sitting at the table, two paper cups of coffee and a plate of donuts on the table before him.

'Morning, Sunshine. Ready to grace us with your presence?' Dean said.

Sam groaned. The coffee on the table obviously wasn't Dean's first cup of the day.

'Ha ha. Since when do you get up this early anyway?'

'Dude – it's almost 11. You've slept for 12 hours. But I guess you need your beauty sleep. Me, on the other hand…'

'Bite me,' Sam groaned.

'Nah, not that hungry. Seriously – how are you feeling?'

Sam rose stiffly from the bed. 'I'll live. Nothing I haven't tried before.'

'Good. Because you're talking now.'

Sam sighed. 'Figured you'd say that. Can I at least have my coffee first?'

Dean, recognising Sam's stalling manoeuvre for what it was, pushed the coffee towards him along with the bottle of painkillers and a glass of water.

'Sure. But then I want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,' he said with a smile, but the smile quickly faded when he saw Sam flinch slightly at his words.

Sam quickly recovered, flashing him a small smile. 'Sure you can handle it, Dean?'

'Funny, Sam. Very funny. Now spill.'

Sam looked at him, then looked down at his hands slowly turning the paper cup before him.

'Well, it was not long after I left for Stanford…'



Palo Alto

Sam was sitting at his desk, looking out the window. He'd been sitting there, unmoving, for half an hour, when he finally made a decision and picked up his phone. He dialled a well-known number and waited nervously for it to be picked up.

'Yes?' a male voice said.

'Pastor Jim? It's Sam – Sam Winchester.'

'Why, hello, Samuel! It's good to hear from you. How are you doing? I hear you're at Stanford now – congratulations on the full ride!' Pastor Jim said, the use of his full name bringing a smile to Sam's face. It reminded him of countless days spent in Blue Earth, Minnesota, throughout their childhood and teenage years. Pastor Jim was the one person on the planet who had never used the abbreviated form 'Sammy' that Sam had grown to hate once he'd passed the age of twelve.

'Thank you, Pastor Jim. And I'm doing fine, thank you. Just settling in, figuring out how everything works, you know. But, well… you've probably heard how Dad reacted when I told him… I was wondering… do you know how they are? What they're doing?' Sam tried to keep the tension out of his voice while getting out the questions.

'Yes, I heard. But I actually heard that they're heading towards California, towards Palo Alto, so perhaps Dean has managed to talk some sense into your father,' Jim replied.

'They are? Do you know when they might be arriving here?' The hope mixed with anxiety was palpable in his voice this time.

'Well, I heard that they expected to arrive today or tomorrow, actually.'

'Today?' Sam said, his mind reeling. He quickly ended the call, then resumed his staring out the window with unseeing eyes, hope fighting with reason and even fear in his mind.

They're here? They're actually here? Could it be… but no, Dad would never – when has he ever gone back on his word? But Jim said… Perhaps Dean? But there's no way he'd come see me without Dad's permission. No. It's probably a hunt. I just hope Dad's not planning to hunt ME down to bring me back. So not going to happen. And after all, Dad, you did give me permission to leave, so I'm not actually AWOL, am I? 'If you go, you stay gone', you said. And I will. I'm not part of your little Winchester army anymore. I'm through with all that. I just wish it didn't mean leaving Dean…

At the thought of Dean, he felt tears threatening to spill from his eyes, but he gritted his teeth and forced them back where they belonged. Unspilled. Unseen.

Forcing thoughts of regret from his mind, he instead started researching strange occurrences in the area, and sure enough, he soon found an article describing the puzzling death of a 40-year-old male in his newly-purchased mansion about 20 miles from Palo Alto. Knew it. It was too good to be true. He ignored the sudden burning in his eyes and started reading the article. The 'puzzling' part of the man's demise didn't concern establishing the cause of death – the multiple external and internal injuries that the man had suffered offered plenty potential explanations for that. Furthermore, the way that he got these injuries also seemed quite obvious; the damage to his body being consistent with a fall from a substantial height, and forensic evidence from the scene proved that he had, in fact fallen from ceiling height in the exact spot where he was found.

Only problem was, that 'spot' was in the exact middle of the hall of the mansion in question; a hall that had no windows or other openings in the ceiling, and where the staircases ran along the walls at least 100 feet from where the body was found. In other words, unless the man had been flying, there was no way he could have ended up in that exact spot with these injuries.

Only he had.

'The investigation is ongoing,' the article succinctly ended.

I bet it is, Sam thought. He brought up a map of the area, pinpointed the location of the mansion as well as the nearest town, then leaned back in his chair to stare out at the now-darkening evening sky.

Should I do this? What if they're really just here for the hunt? What if he just repeats what he said that day? God, it hurt – hurts – so bad. Does he even know how much those words hurt me? How can he NOT know? Why does he not realise that I've always done the best I could, that I'm just not Dean? That I want something else from my life? That maybe what he wants with his life isn't what I want with mine? Why can't he see how he hurts me when he belittles the things that I value the most? The words that John spoke that day started repeating themselves in his mind. 'If you walk out that door, you don't come back. Ever. You don't come crawling back here when that thing blows up in your face. And it will. You don't belong there. Nothing good will come of it!'

But we've said harsh words to each other before. Maybe… maybe if I try to find them, now that they're here – to show that… maybe we might at least get back on speaking terms. Or maybe I could talk to Dean. He'd understand. No, perhaps not understand, but he would accept that I've made my choice. I have to let him know that – Hell, that I miss him. I miss them. They are my only family. Although… he made a small huffing sound. Dad probably sees us as an army unit. Correction: HIS army unit.

He tried to harden himself on that thought, but he was suddenly overwhelmed by the endless pit of loneliness that he had felt steadily growing inside since the day that he walked out the door and headed for the bus station. His misery made him hide his face in his hands for a few moments, the longing tearing at him. I can't do this without them. I thought I could, but I can't. They're all I have, I need them. I just can't do this alone. I need to make this right somehow, I need to patch things up with them.

With that thought, he rose and went out of his room to knock on the door of his friend Zach's dorm room. When Zach opened, Sam quickly asked, before he could change his mind: 'Hey, Zach, I was wondering… Well, the other night you said that if I ever needed to use a car, I might… Well, thing is, I need to go somewhere tonight, and it's sort of urgent, so I was wondering…'

'If you could borrow the car? Sure, mate, hang on for a sec, I'll just get the keys. Just remember, no dents and no girls in the backseat, ok?' Zach grinned at him, then tossed the keys to him. Sam flashed him a grateful smile, nodded his thanks and then started down the hall towards the parking lot.

I'm going to see them soon… I hope they'll be happy to see me. I don't know what I'd do, if they… No, of course they'll want to see me. At least I know that Dean will. Dad is an entirely different story. But Dean will. He's always had my back, no matter what.

Holding on to the comfort that the thought of Dean's support had always brought him, he climbed into the car and set off for the small town closest to the haunted mansion, the most likely place to find the two eldest Winchesters.

To Be Continued