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Hole in the World

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Being alone never felt right. Sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right. - Charles Bukowski

Nobody notices when Sam doesn’t go home for the holidays freshman year. All he has to do is tell his roommate he’s leaving the next day, then hide out from departing acquaintances all day on the Friday after classes end. While he’s holed up, he turns his roommate’s TV on for background noise, logs on to the system to check for grades. Nothing yet. Not even Statistics. Which was a Scantron test. Come on, Dr. Lewin.

He’s rearranged his AOL homepage so that a section called “News of the Weird” always catches his eye first. Today it’s the triumphant return of Bat Boy from his moon cave, a blurry picture of a white furry creature scaling the Matterhorn, and three consecutive babies in Fruitland, Idaho born with tails.

Interesting.

Also not his life now. He doesn't click the link. Then doesn't click a little while longer.

...The link goes to one of Dad’s old reliables, the National Enquirer. Time stamped yesterday. Three babies, three farm worker mothers, all born in the same regional medical center. No local newspaper has done Sam the favor of getting online yet, but the Seattle Times has a small item about farm workers protesting new pesticides in Idaho’s Treasure Valley and, oh, that probably explains it then.

Sam doesn’t think anymore about it. Then he doesn’t think anymore about it some more.

Sam knows John Winchester. Knows a little thing like harmful chemicals won’t stop him from looking into potential demonic activity. He tries, and fails, to imagine his father and brother solicitously interviewing three terrified new mothers. Sam has always been the only one of the three of them with passable Spanish.

Was the only one of the three of them. That’s not his life anymore.

Fruitland proper apparently has no motels of its own, but judging by nearby addresses in the Yellow Pages - not that Sam is - the Buried Treasure Inn is the nearest place on the Idaho side of the river that wouldn’t ask two drifters a whole bunch of nosy questions.

He immediately imagines Dean’s attempt at a joke. “The buried treasure is pubic lice.”

Or would Dean joke if there was no Sam to hear him? If a tree falls in a forest…

He could call the number on the screen right in front of him. A little social engineering and he’d have the desk clerk putting him through to their room, or passing a message on to Dean and only to Dean.

But what would he say that he hasn’t already said?

He pulls up MapQuest and finds out that Dean is - get this - 666 miles away. If he boosted a car - he sees a likely looking Mazda 323 hatchback right outside his window - he could be with his brother by high noon tomorrow.

And then what?

“Hi. You didn’t leave your favorite flannel in Casper. I stole it before I told you I was leaving. At least nine times a day I turn my head to tell you something you would think is interesting. And I never stopped taking the pickles off of my sandwiches and and leaving them on the edge of my plate for you.”

Pfft. Might as well knock on the door and say something as outlandish as “Merry Christmas.” Or “I hope to God you don’t have to think about me as much as I think about you.”

In the end, Sam picks up the phone but doesn’t dial it.

()()()()()

It’s snowing in Fruitland, Idaho. How do you say snow in Spanish? Not that Dean’s going to get close enough to speak to Señora Ruiz again after Dad made such a colossal botch of it. Sammy would have gotten her to talk, with his fluent Spanish and his stupid floppy hair. Hell, they probably would have handed him the damn baby. All Dean and Dad got was the man of the house chasing them off the rickety porch brandishing a shotgun and yelling something that Dean’s pretty sure translated to “ball sucker.”

Another woman living in the Ruiz trailer was pregnant. Was she a sister? Niece? Dean missed it, even if they tried to tell him. She looked nervous, stealing little glances of the baby and - Dean supposed - the tail under it’s diaper. Unless the doctors had... removed it?

Sam would be all over this shit.

It’s fifty degrees and partly cloudy in Palo Alto. Not that Dean’s checking. He and Dad head back to their motel - the unfortunately named Buried Treasure Inn. When they’d first pulled up yesterday Dean had joked, “The buried treasure is that used condom under the mattress.” But his Dad hadn’t appeared to hear him. Much less laughed. Sam would have at least pretended.

Sam. Dean knows he’s about seven hundred miles and twelve hours away from Palo Alto in the way that he always knows his approximate spatial relation to Sam. Unless Sam went home with some other Stanford kid for Christmas. Dean’s banged enough college chicks to know that classes are usually out by now. Sam never made friends all that quick, but then again he’s also never been allowed to hole up for four months at a time with so many other geeks either. Maybe Dean doesn’t know Sam at all anymore. Maybe he never knew Sam and just thought he did.

Besides, this is not Sam’s life now. His brother had been crystal clear on that point.

Dean could go there. To Palo Alto. Leave Dad to handle this mess. The locals are saying it’s pesticides anyway. There were no signs of sulphur in the medical center or any of the homes.

But what would he say?

“Hi Sammy. How about you come on home now? I mean, do you really want to live in sunny California with a bunch of hot chicks and 24/7 access to a library when you could be getting chased in the snow in Bumfuck, Idaho because you were trying to get a look inside a baby’s diaper?”

Or how about something as crazy as, “You were right. I was wrong. I think of things I want to say to you twenty times a day. Hell, sometimes I say them anyway. I just hope you don’t have to miss me as much as I miss you. Because I don’t know how you could stand it.”

In the end, Dean gets in the car but doesn’t start it.