The first time Sam was left alone at the motel while Dad and Dean went on a hunt, he had cried for an hour before falling asleep. He had woken up the next morning to find Dean grinning at him, poking him.
That had been when he was ten. Now he was twelve, too old to make a fuss, but according to Dad, not old enough to come along.
“Dean, c’mon, you can convince him,” Sam wheedled. “You went on a hunt when you were younger than me.” He desperately tried to look brave, not terrified like he actually was inside.
“That was an emergency, kiddo.” Dean was acting superior and annoying, ruffling Sam’s hair condescendingly. “My first real hunt was when I was older than you.”
Sam scowled. “Well, so what? I can help, Dean, I can carry stuff for you guys.”
Dean’s smile faded slightly. “Hey, Sammy. Look, it’s dangerous stuff. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
Sam huffed, crossing his arms. “I’d be careful,” he tried.
“No dice, Sam my man.” Dean smiled, not making fun of Sam. “You can go to the movies tonight, okay? My treat.” He pressed a couple bucks into Sam’s hand and patted his knee. “We’ll be back before you know it.”
There were a lot of words on the tip of Sam’s tongue—I don’t want to be alone, when you’re gone I feel like dying—but he held those back and gave Dean a small smile. “Be safe, okay?”
“We always are, bitch.” Dean puffed out his chest.
“Whatever, jerk,” Sam responded as he was supposed to, but he still clung to Dean tightly as their Dad called for Dean. “Come back.”
“You know I will.” Dean squeezed Sam briefly before he pulled back. “Don’t forget to check the salt lines.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Yes, dad.”
Dean poked him and ducked when Sam tried to punch him in return.
“See ya tomorrow, Sammy!”
“Bye,” Sam whispered. He followed belatedly, watching as Dad and Dean loaded up the Impala. Dad lifted a hand and Sam returned the gesture, suddenly missing the days when he would greet his father with a hug.
Sam would never tell anyone, but after three years of being left behind, he still couldn’t stop himself from crying when they left.
Unlike when his father was around to watch him, Sam did his duties as he should have. He checked the warding, called in sick to school, did the laundry, did his homework, and made himself dinner.
He did not go to the movies like Dean had suggested—he was saving up money for Dean’s birthday present, and he now had the perfect amount to get Dean a new cassette.
Sam fell asleep praying that Dean would be there, waking him up in the morning.
Instead, he woke up to a silent house and a knotted stomach. Sam mechanically did his chores, hovering by the motel phone and watching the local news for anything unusual.
By nighttime, Sam was ready to panic. He gathered up his own gun—given to him on his twelfth birthday—and put on his biggest jacket, hiding the gun in the pocket. His flashlight and pocket knife was in the other.
Sam slipped out of the motel room, meandering over to the cars. There was an old van, and very carefully he pulled out the coat hanger and began the process of jimmying the door open.
The creak it made when it opened was excessively loud, and Sam winced, glancing around guiltily.
Sam scooted into the car, whispering a prayer under his breath as he checked the various crevices for keys.
They dropped into his lap when he pulled down the shade guard thingie—Dean would know what it was called—and Sam shoved them into the ignition. Sam was too short, so he stuffed the nasty old blanket that was in the backseat underneath himself so he could see over the dash.
“Here goes nothing,” he muttered to himself. The van lurched forward under his uncertain tutelage. Sam had memorized the route to the graveyard outside of the town; he could do this.
Sam barely made it, slamming the van into a tree in an attempt to park when he reached the graveyard, but hey, the police hadn’t pulled him over. That was a win. Sam crept out of the van, pulling out his gun and flashlight.
“Dean? Dad?” His beam glanced off of the Impala, and Sam trotted over to see if they were inside. It was empty and still, and Sam shivered.
“Dean?” he called louder.
The graveyard was silent. Sam ignored how the flashlight beam was shaking and moved forward cautiously. Dad had mentioned that it was a variant of zombies. Sam hoped that the hunt was already done, as much as he had begged to come along.
Blood glistened on a granite headstone and Sam swallowed. “Dean?” he whispered.
Something rustled nearby, and Sam whirled, gun in front of him.
“Dean?” His voice was practically trembling now, as well as everything else.
The man who came out of the small mausoleum was not Sam’s father or his brother.
“Mmm, more meat.” It wasn’t the zombies of traditional movies, more like a body that should long have been dead, somehow sentient. Sam wished suddenly that Dean had let him actually read the research.
“I’ll shoot you,” Sam threatened. He was proud that his voice didn’t shake this time. “Where’s my family?”
“The yummy ones,” the zombie said stupidly. “More yummy ones.” It took a slow step forward and Sam backed up.
“Where are they?” he cried out. “Tell me or I’ll shoot you!”
“I eat all.” The zombie lurched forward. “You next.”
Sam pressed against the trigger, almost as shocked as the zombie when it dropped to the ground dead. Re-dead. Whatever. Carefully he edged around the corpse, heading for where the zombie came from. Maybe Dad and Dean had gotten locked inside the mausoleum.
The fetid smell of dead bodies hit Sam’s face as he opened the door. He stepped back, gagging.
Slowly, he pointed his flashlight into the room, shirt held over his mouth.
There were so many bodies. Five, maybe six carcasses were on top of each other in the corner, stripped of most of their flesh except for bloody remains and bones.
Sam swallowed back bile and then failed, vomiting. As he bent over, heaving, his eye caught a glint of gold.
Stretching out his hand, Sam caught up the necklace with an whimper that echoed in the small room.
“Dean?” he whispered. The amulet lay damning in his palm, bloody and small.
They were dead. Sam had lost . . . Sam had lost everything. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Sam was supposed to wake up in the morning, Dean bending over him about to pour ice water on his head.
Vaguely, Sam realized that he had fallen to the ground, and that there were dark spots on his vision. Maybe this was a nightmare.
Sam scrambled away and ran.
He ran into the only home he had left, the Impala’s warm leather smell embracing him and taking away the smell of death and destruction. It was just a nightmare.
Sam woke up as the sun hit the windshield.
In his palm was an indentation left from the amulet.
Mechanically, Sam collected lighter fluid, salt, and matches. Going back into the mausoleum during daylight was somehow ten times worse, and Sam was barely able to make himself set fire to the bodies and the zombie.
A hunter’s funeral. He had been to his first when he was nine.
Sam carefully settled himself in the driver’s seat. Dean had left the keys in the ignition, which was a bad habit Dad was constantly nagging him about. It started with a low growl, as unhappy as Sam was that her real driver was dead. Sam laughed suddenly, a high-pitched laugh that quickly dissolved into terrible sobs. What was he supposed to do? He was twelve years old, an orphan. He couldn’t drive without being pulled over, he couldn’t stay in the town or someone would recognize him from school . . .
His sobs finally slowed, leaving him feeling hollow and empty. Maybe he could drive the Impala over the cliff. Finish off the Winchester line.
Dean would have hated him for that.
A plan began to take shape in Sam’s mind, and Sam steeled himself, returning to the mausoleum. He fished out some of the smaller bones, enough to pass as a skeleton of a kid, collecting them in a bundle and escaping as fast as he could.
Getting the Impala out was easier than driving the van—Dean had taught him a year ago, how to drive her.
Now, the con. Sam gathered all of the bone remains and set them in the kitchen, carefully toppling over a heavy cabinet on top of them. After packing everything they owned into the Impala, Sam left their rental house and went across the street.
“May I help you?”
She would probably cry for him, Sam thought numbly. “May I borrow some salt? I live right across the street.”
Sam darted back, setting the salt aside and splashing gasoline across the inside. His first arson. Dean would be proud.
Sam left his past in ashes. Just like he had with Mom.
Driving on backroads, Sam managed to make it to the next city over, pulling over and locking all of the doors before crawling into the backseat and waiting for night.
Sam was still nowhere close to knowing what to do. Out of all of Dad’s friends, Sam liked Bobby, but he had heard Dad talking about how Bobby had threatened to shoot him. Bobby probably wouldn’t even want to see Sam—he had always liked Dean best anyway.
Overwhelmed, Sam curled up into Dean’s jacket and bit his fist in attempt to stave off even more tears.
The sun finally set, and Sam sat up, scrubbing at his face fruitlessly. He couldn’t be a baby about this.
The first order of business would be hiding the Impala. There was a safe house two states over. If Sam could get her there, then he could keep the Impala safe and hide out there for a while.
Mind made up, Sam stacked some of his textbooks on the seat and sat down. Dean’s jacket would help him look a little bigger than he was. Hopefully.
It took Sam fourteen hours to make it to the safe house. By the time he was there, he was shaking from exhaustion and only barely managed to park the car before crawling into he house and slumping into the nearest dusty bed, Dean’s jacket tightly around his shoulders.
Everything was locked down tight. Sam even managed to find a protection spell that kept anyone except for himself from approaching the Impala.
So now he just had to join the real world again.
Sam put everything he owned into his backpack, and left.