Sam Winchester stared out the window, ignoring the burn as he drained the rest of the whiskey. He’d had a long week – hell a long semester – but the school year was over and Sam had turned in the last of his student’s grades the day before. He had nothing to worry about until the end of summer when he’d find out the schedule they wanted him to teach. If he decided to stick around for the fall semester, that was.
Sam sighed deeply, taking one last look out the back door window across his yard before he turned away. It was avoidance at its best but he was well versed in how to keep his mind off things he didn’t want to think about.
Four years he’d been teaching anthropology at the local college, one year figuring himself out before that, making the papers stick and finding a way to live without Dean at his side. There were days he couldn’t breathe without feeling the phantom ache of his brother’s presence and there were days that he cursed him with every breath because he wasn’t there. He had no idea how Dean had managed the hole in his life when Sam was at Stanford. He understood why Dean hadn’t come for him though, understood why his brother had given him the space he needed back then. He also understood why Dean had come back when their father had gone missing because after five years of being without Dean, Sam would take any excuse he could find to go to his brother.
“What are we doing, Dean?” he asked the empty room.
After Sam got his memories back – everything from Hell and that last soulless year – it took six months to come to terms with what had happened to him. Well, not come to terms exactly but he’d finally gotten back on his feet and wasn’t as dependent on his brother as he had been. Not that he’d been very independent before then but Sam had a bruised enough ego that he didn’t need to be reminded of that. Dean had given him those six months, made sure Sam was ready to be on his own, and then he’d taken off. Whereabouts still unknown.
Dean had tried to explain it to Sam at the time, telling Sam it was their only chance at having a normal life. Sam had tried to argue, but he was reeling from his brother’s words and anger had always been his first defense. After everything they’d been through together he didn’t understand how Dean would walk away then, not when everything finally looked clear. He’d held Dean back too long though and Sam was still haunted by the family Dean had left behind to help his soulless brother. He hadn’t heard from Castiel since that day either, nor seen hide nor hair of any angel or demon since that day.
Sam hadn’t heard from Dean at in those five long years. Except …
Sam looked at the envelope on the table, the letter he’d looked at every day since the morning he moved in. Sam had set himself up nicely, bought the house, and woke up the next morning with mail in the box. There was no stamp so Dean had been by, checking up on him.
At least he knew his brother had been alive then. Nothing else had come and Sam still hadn’t opened the damn letter. There was a simple reason for that. On the front was Sam’s name in his brother’s big bold lettering. On the backside was a simple message. Do not open.
Five years though and Sam knew what the letter was. That letter was his way out, a way back to Dean and whatever history lay between them. The letter was Dean’s way of making sure Sam could find him even if he didn’t want to give Sam an easy road home.
The itch at the back of Sam’s mind was always there, the need to open the letter. To see what Dean had taken the time to write for him. The letter didn’t feel fatalistic like the one Dean had written when he thought he was on his way to becoming Michael’s meat-suit.
It felt like a ticket home and Sam was ready.
It took a trip to the deli, a few hours of laundry, and another beer before Sam found himself sitting at the table. The letter said “do not open” but Sam knew he was going to. The time was right and he was ready to find his brother. He didn’t know what would happen then. Even when he’d been looking at the college and the house he’d purposely avoided admitting to himself that the place would be big enough for the two of them. There was an unused garage to the side where the Impala would fit perfectly.
There were three bedrooms, one that had been turned into an office and the other that hadn’t really been touched because he avoided the room completely. He was too busy ignoring that the room was Dean’s to do anything to it. Without Dean there, the house was little more than another roof over his head. If felt less like home than the motels he’d grown up in but he wasn’t ready to give up that illusion just yet.
Sam took the last pull from his bottle and stared out the window as his fingers traced the edges of the envelope. If he waited any longer the sun would start to fall behind the trees in the back yard and he’d put off opening the letter for another day.
He dropped the bottle to the table and grabbed the envelope with both hands. He let his fingers run over the seal then slid his finger up under the fold to get started. He ripped the envelope open and pulled the letter out. There was a single sheet of paper and he knew Dean’s writing even at a glance. Sam closed his eyes for a moment, then resigned himself to reading.