The Long Road Home

((Omw what am I even doing? Entering a contest while running a contest of my own… But inspiration struck. And it wouldn’t let me go until I had it all out, buried myself underneath all the feels.))

((Hello all! For those that know me and those that don’t, this is @nightmares06 with my entry for the contest going on at @asksamstuff! If you don’t know the blog, I highly recommend checking out! There is wonderful content over there, all quality-done supernatural comics that are so inspirational to check out! So inspirational that I’ve written this contest entry based on one of them! Posted to the BA blog since the majority of my readers are found here.))

Story also found: Archive of our Own || Fanfiction || Deviantart

Inspired by: Part 1 || Part 2

Most of the words spoken in this are directly from the comic strip, I make no claim on the idea or the dialogue, merely the writing.

Ask: Would your life had been different if you’d been an only child?

John stands in front of the graves; he feels a tear threaten to fall and etch its path down his stubble-covered cheek. The love of his life and his first-born son lie beneath the cold, hard ground. No comfort waits for them. No warmth and no love, ever again.

Dead. All dead.

Mary, gone before he could reach her. Dean, killed by part of the house falling on him as he took Sam to safety.

A squirming in his arms pulls him back from his pit of despair. Sammy, the youngest and worse-for-wear Winchester, is hungry. After surviving a house fire and the death of half his family, he calls out, not knowing his mother will never answer his call again. No more Dean, bright-eyed and curious, will peek up at his baby brother when it’s time to put him in his high chair and feed him.

Just John.

Their lives have been stolen and John has no idea what the future holds for himself and his infant son.


Years pass.

Kick. Kick.

“Dad… um…”

The kicks die off.

The kid’s voice is petulant, but not whining. He’s grown up fast in this life, forced to mature beyond his years by circumstances beyond their control.

“Am I gonna get to go back to Uncle Bobby’s…? I liked my room…”

The words trail off into silence. Though by themselves, the words should sound hopeful, there is no hope in them. They fall flat on the air, and another part of John dies. The kid knows the answer before he asks. He just needs to hear the answer from John.

“I’m sorry, Sam, but no. Bobby and I… we had a fight…”

Even to John, his reasoning sounds flimsy as he tells his son why he can’t give him a semi-stable place to live. He sounds uncaring; it is as though his emotions are lost in translation from his heart to his mind. They’re there, but never there. The kid picks right up on it, unfairly empathic as kids can be.

There it is again. He’s thinking of Sam as ‘the kid.’ There is a barrier keeping John from forming that emotional attachment with Sam that he had with Dean those all-too-short years growing up.

He will never toss another softball to his son, and so Sam suffers because of it.

John sighs. His explanations and excuses and demands die off. For a moment, his guard falls and he’s just a father sitting with his son.

The pictures he pulls out of his wallet are old and worn, the corners crinkled and faded from age. Sam’s hands are reverent as he takes them from John, his hazel eyes wide.

“This is what your mother and brother looked like.”

A woman with the most beautiful smile John had ever laid eyes on stares out of one, and the other…

Sam recognizes the kids; one is himself, after all. The other, the older kid, had a smile in his warm green eyes, freckles dotting his fair cheeks and his arms wrapped around his baby brother with pride in his smile even at four years old.


Sam brushes a finger across Dean’s face, feeling a brief spark in his chest when he does. “Dean and mom… they look happy…” He almost misses what John is saying, so intent on that picture he is.

Perhaps it would be better if he had missed what John was saying.

John feels a part of him twist. He knows he is abusing the love Sam feels for their missing family. But he needs his only child to protect himself, to stop arguing, to follow orders. How can John protect Sam if Sam won’t protect himself?

“I know it’s a lot. I do. But that monster… whatever it was, it took them away. Now we gotta protect ourselves, and honor them.”

There. The words are out. Sam frowns at the pictures, his small hands tightening on the paper. Even at such a young age, John suspects Sam knows when he’s being manipulated.

They argue about the guns, as expected. It ends the way John knows it will, but this time something in him can’t leave it that way between them. Sam is all he has. He can deny it all he wants to himself, but his family is down to one small child.

John takes an item out of his bag. He’s carried it around for years, unable to completely part with it. A memory that Sam deserves to have.

“I want you to have this.”

John holds out the stuffed dinosaur. Its head is heavier than its neck can hold up, bobbing down at Sam as the boy looks up with wide eyes. He holds out his hands, already enamored with the green and purple polka-dotted critter.

“It was given to me from our old home,” John explains, ruffling his only child’s hair with more tenderness than he’s ever shown him. “Your mother gave it to Dean. He was saving it, wanting to give it to you when you were old enough. He never got the chance to, but… I can do it for him.”

Sam smiles as he holds the dinosaur tight. “Dean… thanks…”

Sam is like that hours later, sitting on the bed. John is gone. He has a hunt in town, and Sam will stay at the motel until then.

John doesn’t know, and will never know, but something in the dinosaur has awoken a part of Sam once dead. He stares into its plastic eyes, seeing his reflection sent back at him with a dark tint.

“I wish you were here,” Sam whispers, and this time he isn’t speaking to the dinosaur. He angles it so its face bobs once, and for a moment the eyes glint green back at him. “I feel… something hurts– like a punch!– whenever dad says your name.” Sam blinks back tears. “Like you should be here. I don’t know you, but… I feel like I’d be a finished puzzle!”

Laying down on his side, Sam touches his nose to the dinosaur’s, unable to look away from those eyes. He imagines Dean is staring back at him. “It’s okay,” he reassures his absent older brother. “Pastor Jim says you’re in heaven and angels are watching out for you. Thanks for the doll. I’ll see you and mom someday soon!”

He snuggles close to the stuffed dinosaur, and a little bit of the hole in his chest feels like it’s been filled. His sleep that night is a little better than normal, and an invisible hand brushes his long bangs from his face while he sleeps.

Sam grows up.

He lives, he thrives. He even finds a life for himself, outside of hunting.

John was right. Sam had sensed the manipulation throughout his life and grown to resent it. The youngest Winchester would not be pushed around, his backbone growing in as strong as steel. His emotions for his mother and brother were not meant to be played with, and Sam knew this. Instead of bending and taking John’s orders, he’d left and taken everything with him.

There are a few more scars without Dean around to haul his ass out of trouble on those first hunts with John. He can no longer see out of his right eye, the thick scar tissue a blemish on his face. It no longer hurts, but the skin can grow tight when the air grows cold, making it uncomfortably itchy.

Jess never cares. She comforts him, and helps fill in a bit more of that void in his chest. Like a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit, her love and the stuffed dinosaur can’t quite block out all of the pain, but the warmth and love offered helps him begin to heal injuries he never even knew were there.

Throughout it all, the stuffed dinosaur from Dean watches from its special corner of the room, the light gleaming green when it catches in the eyes. Sam finds himself smiling at it, the one happy reminder of the older brother he’d lost.

And then, once more it comes.

The fire of Sam’s childhood strikes again, this time consuming the rest of his life. His newfound freedom, his love, his last gift from an older brother he never knew…

Again, Sam finds himself adrift. He’s lost Jess and now all attachments to Dean are broken. The photos are nothing more than dust in the wind and all that’s left of the dinosaur is a single half-melted eye, the plastic seeped into the burn floorboards like a tear, melding into the crack until it becomes just another part of the wreckage of Sam’s life.

In the end, it’s a good life.

Though Sam can count on one hand the number of times he’s felt true happiness since the second fire, he’s made a difference. Saved the world a few times.

Yet, there’s always been something missing. A hole in his chest. One that not even a friend like Castiel, Angel of the Lord can fill. The type of hole that feels suspiciously shaped like a certain floppy-headed dinosaur.

In the end, it’s not a demon. Sam’s survived Lucifer himself, gone against angels and hordes of monsters to fight for freedom and always come out on top.

A simple vampire gets the best of him one night, while Castiel is helping Bobby with research. Tears his throat right out.

Sam can feel it feasting on the hot lifeblood that pours out of him as it all fades to black.

Warmth on his cheeks.

A breeze wafts through the air.

Sam blinks a few times, the warm blue sky almost blinding in its brilliance as he wakes.

Warmth, light, life.

Sam jumps to his feet as the realization begins to sink in. There were more than a few times during the apocalypse where he’d asked Castiel how it would all end. Where they would go when their time was up.

The explanations were often confusing and disjointed, owing to the lack of familiarity Castiel had with humans, a familiarity Sam had worked to instill in the angel as he became a part of their team–

Sam. Bobby. Castiel.

Team free will, a snarky voice in Sam’s head dubbed them proudly.

–but from those explanations Sam had begun to build up his impression of what heaven and hell would be like.

And this was no hell.

There was no Lucifer waiting to greet him as he stood with his feet planted in the soft, moist soil. Earthworms burrowed away from his laceless boots, restored to their original color and lacking any sign of mud- or blood-splatter on the soles. No Crowley to mock his death, calling him a moose without a squirrel, a jeer that had put more pain in Sam’s heart than it should.

The confusion sets in quickly as Sam takes in his surroundings. From Sam’s understanding of heaven, if that was indeed where he was, he should be reliving parts of his life. His ‘greatest hits.’ His own very personalized heaven, built up from the memories of his life.

Perhaps being greeted by Jess, a slim arm around his waist and her soft hair under his chin.

This– he could see a cabin in the distance. The path he was standing on lead to it, birds chirping and insects buzzing. Despite the omnipresent sounds, a fly never buzzed into his hair and no mosquitoes tried to dive bomb him. Sam took a deep breath, and could smell the plants and flowers that grew around the small cabin.

Nothing he recognized, but it didn’t seem like a bad place to start. Sam starts to walk towards the cabin, figuring he can start there.

Sure is peaceful here.

Sam briefly wonders where Castiel was. If he knew what had happened. The nerdy little angel might be able to help him out, give him a ‘get out of jail free’ card and catch a lift back to earth. Bobby always needed a hand with thin–

His thoughts trailed off as a young voice interrupted his musings.

“Wow! You’re tall! ”

Sam turns, confusion crowding his eyes. He doesn’t recognize that voice at first. It’s young and hopeful, excited and elated. All emotions and sensations that Sam has lacked for most of his life. A burning ember kindles in his chest as he sees who’s talking.

Blond ripples of hair. Bright, eager green eyes. The kid takes a tentative step forward, his eyes wide and enamored with the man he’s looking at. Sam’s lips part in amazement.

Nothing deters the kid’s excited nature, not Sam’s hesitation or his size, his scruffy unshaven face or the long waves of dark hair.

“WOW. Can I sit on your shoulders to get some apples?”

Sam doesn’t know if he has a pulse here, in heaven, but if he did it must have missed a beat.

Squatting down on the ground, Sam lowers himself to the kid’s level, unable to leave him staring up at him with his neck tilted so far back. “You’re… Dean, aren’t you?” Sam asks in awe, understanding now why Castiel wasn’t around.

The angel wouldn’t want to get in the way of the brothers’ reunion, something sought after for as long as Sam can remember.

Sam’s a little more nervous now, swallowing before he gets out the rest. “Do you. Um. Do you … know who I am?” The sudden fear that hits him, that Dean doesn’t know who he is after all this time apart, scares him more than anything. Sam was just a baby the last time they were together. Now he’s big enough to lift Dean up with one arm, tall enough to tower over the kid who means more than anything else in the world to Sam.

Dean dives forward, hitting Sam’s arms in a hug with all the subtlety of a train wreck that weighs forty pounds. There is no denying the happy air about him.

“Of course I do! I’ve been waiting for you! You took super long!


It all spills out of Dean, and there’s no stopping the kid now. “You’re Sammy, and I’m your big brother! You’re just taller than I thought, musta ate all your vitamins!” He leans back in Sam’s arms, glistening green eyes matching the water Sam can suddenly feel in his own. “I heard it was really bad down there. But… It’s okay. I’m here.”

Sam clings to Dean, his eyes overflowing. All the hard years catch up to him, hitting him all at once. It’s like feeling the completion of a puzzle he’d worked on all his life come to fruition. The hole in his chest was gone, replaced by the slight weight in his arms and the little hands that brush over his hair to calm him down. Sam’s life is warmth and light, and after so long in the cold darkness, he doesn’t know how to react.

Dean pats Sam’s face, brushing away some of the tears. “I’ve waited so long to meet you, kiddo. Forty goddamn years!” For a moment, Sam can hear an echo in Dean’s voice. A deeper, sterner version telling him he’s left Dean waiting too long. Yet the look in Dean’s eyes is all forgiveness.

Sam’s voice is hoarse and stuttering. The words catch in his throat, coming out so gruff compared to Dean’s warm tenor. “Y-yeah. It’s okay now… We’re safe.”

As Sam finally unwinds himself from Dean’s arms and stands, he knows this might not last. Castiel might show up at their door in the morning, with a job that only Sam can do. But for now, this moment, he takes Dean’s hand in his, feels those little fingers curl around two of his and just barely make it. Sam has to keep his pace slow for Dean’s short legs to keep up, listening to the kid’s unbridled energy spill over, telling Sam all about his life, sharing what they missed out on. Sam even learns about how much Dean loved the cabin John took him to, just the two of them on Dean’s fourth birthday gone fishing for the weekend. It was the most fun he’d ever had! he insists to Sam, wistfully saying he wanted to do it with Sammy after he got big enough.

For the first time in a long time, Sam feels like things are going to be okay. The warmth in his chest builds up, and he lets the tears flow freely, no longer holding in his emotions now that Dean’s back in his life.

Castiel might check on them, he might not. But for now, Sam has a fish to catch his older brother.

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