AN: Hey everyone! I wanted to get this posted before tonight's episode. This was inspired by the small Lisa/Ben/Dean memory montage that Dean thought of in the Impala, and it takes place sometime after the episode. Though I'm not a fan of Lisa or Ben, I can appreciate the fact that Dean is struggling a bit with the situation. Therefore, this fic was born. Hope you enjoy!

Be warned…this is my first foray into Dean's mind…

"Something wrong?" Sam asks lowly, brow furrowed. Dean is quieter than usual, hands gripping the wheel of the Impala, eyes glazed and thoughtful.

At his brother's words, Dean blinks and clears his throat.

"No. No, I'm fine, Sammy."

Obviously, he isn't. But Sam doesn't push it. He realizes that maybe what his brother is struggling with is something he has to struggle with on his own. Sam isn't about to stick his nose in, only to send his brother off the edge.

And Dean is close.

When Dean closes his eyes, images flood his mind. Good, bad, painful, longing. Thoughts of the case are pushed aside by memories of Lisa and Ben, cookouts and talks. A year of reflections flash in front of his eyes. A year of emotions pulse acutely through his heart.

The vast configuration of good and bad, positive and negative, happy and regretful…It's eating him up. It's burning him inside, and no matter how hard he tries, Dean can't make it stop.

Sam provides a distraction from the feelings. Fixing Sam. Keeping Sam alive, together, functioning has become his purpose. Hell, it has always been his purpose. But now, it easily shoves aside the scrambled recollections of Lisa and Ben and his life for that agonizing year.

Their recent case, the horrible outcome of remembering, and the consequences it had for Sam had shocked Dean, stunned him. He knew he had to get them out of that town; he had to heave both of them out of the mire of memories, and get out.

So he took Sam away. He yanked him up, dragged him to the car, blasted some music and took Sam far, far away from anything and everything that could trigger anything…or worse, everything.

Dean took his brother away, put miles and miles between him and the things he might remember.

But gaps don't compare to grievances; space doesn't erase struggles; distance can't repair destruction.

Miles don't account for memories.

And it's the memories that are killing Sam. It's the memories that are killing Dean as well, just in a different way.

There aren't doubts, per say. But there are times when Dean doesn't know what the hell he wants. There aren't regrets exactly. But sometimes he thinks about the way things could have been, would have been…maybe the way they should have been.

It's not that he thinks he was wrong in choosing Sam over Lisa and Ben. In the end, it wasn't even a choice. But some moments, when it's quiet and calm and for once not a life-or-death situation, Dean finds himself wondering why he had to decide at all. Or if maybe somehow he could've had both.

And that scares him.

Meanwhile, he's trying to keep Sam from scratching the wall and falling apart and freaking dying on him.

It's too much. It's too damn much to handle, and when the memories are thrown into the mix, the weight of it all threatens to crush him.

Images of himself with Lisa and Ben play on a constant loop in his mind, and with each new memory comes new pain, new longing. He misses them. He'd never choose them over his Sammy, but he misses them. They were kind; they cared about him. Dean doesn't come by people like that very often. He has actual good memories of the year that Sam was gone; something he thought would never be possible. From the moment Sam took the swan dive into that chasm in the ground, Dean felt part of himself ripped away. The part that felt happiness. The part that loved people and things. The part that stored good memories.

But then Lisa and Ben managed to revive that part of him. Not all of it, but a fraction, and when all you feel is pain, a fraction is tremendous. He did love Lisa and Ben. And that tiny fraction of him still does. He loves them because they made him feel happy again, even just that little bit. They gave him a few good memories in a period of nothing but grief.

Then again…thinking of it now, Dean realizes how counterfeit that love is compared to real love, compared to the genuine, heartfelt, give-up-your-soul, family love he has for Sam. He loves what Lisa and Ben gave back to him, at least in part. He loves them out of gratitude, obligation even.

Sam could take everything from Dean, tear away everything he knows and loves and desires. Sam could ruin Dean's life ten times over, and Dean would still love him. Unequivocally.

With that, the memories recede a bit, and in their place comes the clear image of Sam, sitting next to him in the here and now. They're together. They have each other.

When it all comes down to it, they're fighting against the same thing. The very same internal battle is taking place within each boy's damaged soul. It's not demons or angels or monsters or men. It's the memories.

It's the vast configuration of good and bad, positive and negative, happy and regretful…And it's eating them up. It's burning them inside, and no matter how hard they try, neither Sam nor Dean can make it stop.

But maybe the answer isn't making it stop. Maybe the solution isn't not remembering.

Perhaps all Sam and Dean can do is weed through the vast configuration together.

Dean knows it isn't an easy task. It'll be painful and complicated. It'll reopen old wounds and maybe create new ones. But Dean also knows that for every painful memory, there's a good one just around the corner. For every moment of pining, there's a moment of gratitude and belonging that offsets it equally.

For every time when Dean is ready to give up, for every second he thinks he just can't do it anymore…Sam will be there, and the weight on his shoulders will lessen infinitely. Sam will support him when he thinks he can't go on.

And with his brother by his side, Dean knows he can do anything.

Memories be damned.