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What You Have to Lose

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Sam lay on the porch roof, knees bent with his feet planted firmly on shingles to keep himself from slipping downward. His headphones rested over his ears, the cord snaking down his chest into the pocket of his hoodie where his cd player was tucked. He gazed up at the stars, music blaring in his ears, lifting his hand every so often to take a drag off the cigarette he held between his index and middle fingers.

He’d been out there for nearly an hour when a movement at his left side startled him out of his musing, making him jolt upright. Dean plopped down on the shingles next to him, leaning back to look up at the sky while Sam tugged his headphones down around his neck and reached into his pocket to hit the power button on the cd player.

“Dad catches you smoking you’ll never hear the end of it, y’know.” Dean’s tone was no more threatening than if he was telling Sam he was going out to the laundromat.

“Yeah, I know.” Sam took one last drag from the cigarette then lined up the butt between his thumb and middle finger before flicking it off the roof, the red ember trailing a long, high arc through the air then down to the ground.

“What’s up?” Dean turned to look at his brother, but Sam just shrugged and shifted to sit with his legs folded, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “C’mon Sammy, I know something’s wrong.”

Sam chuffed a laugh, gave a quick shake of his head and stared out across the street. The crappy rental house was in a halfway decent neighborhood for a change, and they’d been there three months now. It was a long stay, long enough that Sam had made friends, met a girl, even made out with her at the movies last weekend. But school was done now, his junior year complete. Any day now Dad would roll back in, and it’d be maybe a week until they were on the road again, leaving it all behind.

He’d met with a guidance counselor that afternoon, listened to the fifty-something lady go on and on about how with Sam’s grades he could do anything he wanted, any college would take him in a heartbeat, but he needed to start planning now. There were applications to submit and financial aid forms to fill out, and what did he want to do with his life anyway?

Sam had played along, just like Dad would have wanted him to - told her was thinking about being a lawyer, but he figured he wouldn’t ever be able to afford college so there wasn’t much point in planning anything. She’d gone on and on about his grades and scholarships again, and by the time the 30 minute meeting was over, Sam really thought - well, maybe….

But he’d gotten home from school, and there was Dean in the living room, sitting in front of the television packing salt rounds, and the reality of his life, of how stuck he was, smacked him in the face again.

“Just felt like being alone, I guess.” Sam muttered the words so Dean had to lean in to hear him.

“You upset we’re gonna be leaving soon?”

“I’m always pissed when we leave, that’s nothing new, Dean.”

“Well, then help me out here,” Dean said, leaning to the side to bump Sam’s shoulder with his own.

“You think Dad’s ever gonna stop?”

Dean took in a long breath and let it out with a sigh. Sam leaned back and dug into his jeans pocket to pull out his wrinkled cigarette pack, plucking one out and lighting it.

“I don’t know, Sammy.” Dean picked the smoke from between Sam’s fingers, sucked a long drag from it then handed it back. He tilted his head back and blew the smoke up into the night air. “Don’t know what he’d do if he wasn’t hunting, y’know?”

“I don’t want to keep doing this.” Sam brought the cigarette up to his mouth again, watched the ember glow bright in the dark as he dragged on it.

“This is our life, Sam. It’s what Dad raised us to do.”

“He didn’t give us a choice, Dean.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know he didn’t, kiddo.”

“I talked to a guidance counselor today.” Sam turned to glance at Dean, saw his eyes go wide as he inhaled as if to speak again. “She said I could get a scholarship. Wouldn’t cost Dad anything.”

“Sammy….”

“I gotta try Dean. Gotta try to get out.”

“You know Dad won’t be happy about it.”

“Yeah, I know.” Sam sucked the last drag off the cigarette, flicked the butt away. “Means I’d be on my own. Alone.”

“Think that’s what you want?”

“I don’t know. I just know I have to try.”

Dean let out a long sigh, then wrapped an arm around Sam’s shoulders, tugging him close to his side. “Alright, Sam. Okay.”

Sam let his head fall to his brother’s shoulder, both of them staring out across the neighborhood. They sat there, silent, letting the minutes pass and the lights of the small town slowly go out one by one wrapped up in the warmth of each other, savoring the moments they had left together.

Sam knew he didn’t want to stay in the hunting life. Knew he’d be fine leaving Dad behind. He craved normal and staying in one place, knew he’d be happy if he could, for once, do what everyone else does. All the moving and chasing monsters and danger, it wasn’t for him, wasn’t remotely what he wanted for himself. But right there in that moment, tucked under his brother’s arm - the safest place he’d ever known -  he really wasn’t sure if he could give it up.