A/N: No song this time. I wrote this in utter silence. Sorry for the stupidly long hiatus/delay/whatever. Also sorry this isn't longer for all the time it took to get it out.

Still, it's here, so there's that. Also, feel free in your comments to leave notes about how you want to see the story go. I won't find it rude. Actually, I find it very helpful, and you never know- I might just use your idea/s!

Spoilerish- this layer likely isn't going to take up many chapters. I'm working on how this fic will be different from S8, so I'm not lollygagging in terms of stretching out scenes I can cover fast. That being said, the following are little things this will change from S8. If you don't want to know, just drop below the pretty line and enjoy the chapter. =)

Differences: No heaven/hell tablets. Since the focus is on purgatory and getting out, there's no Naomi endeavor or tablets. (Though she will be used later) Amelia and Benny also will appear, though in a different way. Sam will have lovely adventures outside Purgatory, which I will try to write about but not spend a looot of time on, as the focus here really is Dean and Cas. Oh- and Inias won't die. That I know of? You can also expect appearances in the future from Gabriel and Bobby. I'm not sure about the other angels yet, but if you really want to see one, or some specific character in particular, say so in the comments! 3

Lisa and Ben were getting ready for dinner.

Dean was washing up in the bathroom, body naked after his shower and hands clawing at one another in the sink. It seemed like no matter how much he scrubbed the motor oil wouldn't come off all the way. After a time Lisa knocked, checking on him. Love and worry were in her voice, and Dean's reply came as soft as soothing as an angel's.



The memory faded. Dean was in nothing. Purgatory- a place of eternal nothing.
He couldn't see, but he could feel. Taste. Touch. Hear.

At some point memories began to bubble up around him. At first there had been one he knew was not his own. One of preachers and anger, shouting about demons and cutting out a tongue.

He didn't want to think about what it all meant, though in a way he knew. Reyka.

He stayed in place after her words informing him he had to find his own way out. He would do so for himself, only because it was the only way to help Cas. His nerves were still wound tight over Sam, and the angel's unexplained conversation with the other.

Dean tried to tell himself if Sam was in the place he would have heard him. Thus either Reyka was playing games, or Sam had figured out a way to make contact. Secretly, desperately, Dean hoped for the latter.

With that weak hope and drive to protect the one he sheepishly would admit to loving, Dean moved forward. He stumbled and staggered, off balance without sight. He fell often but always rose, no matter what. He stood again and again and kept going, even when the nothingness all around him seemed to numbly fade into one memory or another.

John came up a lot in angry tirades about Sam. Lisa and Ben were second most common, tearing the hunter apart with the bittersweet recollections of a better life. Despite everything, if he could go back to those days he would. Things were simpler then. Happier. He pined for those days with a reckless lust, even though every part of him but a small agonized sliver of his heart had laid the two to rest.

It was easier to tell himself stubbornly they were dead than it was to admit he simply couldn't touch them.

Like everything else in his life, to touch something was to drag it down and break it. Like Cas, which he'd plucked from the sky and torn apart piece by piece. Dean blamed himself for Castiel's damage. From the day they met Dean had begun to destroy the other- for better or worse he couldn't tell. He didn't want to think about it.

All he wanted to think about was walking forward, searching for the other.

When the silence became too unbearable Dean shouted, calling Castiel's name over and over. There was never a reply in the nothingness. Just black, silent loneliness.

Children were laughing and playing on a playground. He watched them as the car drove by, turning away from the park and back into the woods reserved for only the most reckless hikers. John lead the way up the mountain into the thick wilderness. They made camp at sundown and John taught Dean how to load and unload all different kinds of guns. Dean wasn't very good at it at first, but John told him practice made perfect.

Dean went through the drills all night, stopping only twice- once for dinner and once to finally pass out as the sun began to rise.

At a bar in some backwater town Dean was having his first drink as a legal adult. His ID was still fake for the most part- only having his real name and age now. But it worked well enougha nd he flashed it with a bit of extra pride to the bartender that slid him a beer.

At a table near the back a small group of men were gathered, talking about trivial things ranging from work to the sports games on tv. Dean listened in and drank alone. John was at home with Sam, researching the current hunting prey. It was Dean's birthday, so John let him leave briefly for a celebratory drink. For the short time he sat at the bar he sipped his beer and listened, fantasizing about the life the older men laughed about. He dreamt about his biggest concern simply being what football team went to the playoffs, or what dinner his wife made. He sank into that luxurious daydream for a while before sliding the empty glass away and returning to his real life.

John -Dean rarely referred to the other as Dad anymore in his mind- was dead. Sam was distant at best and Dean felt cold. It was the kind of chill that seeped into the bones and rattled him hard. He tried to warm himself with bodies and booze, lavishing bared skin and overflowing glasses and bottles. Alcohol worked for a few hours, sex worked for most of a night. He went between the two as needed. While waking sins were good, his dreams were better. Dark fantasies played out with women and alcohol dancing illogically, swarming him in waves. On some nights though, he was graced with torturous treats.

Dreams where he was someone else, somewhere else. Sam was always there, with Jessica. They were happy and married, expecting a child. John and Mary were sometimes there, other times not mentioned. But when they were there they were together, married and alive. Dean was always something different every time the rare dreams arose. He was never anything particularly prestigious- Sam was always the doctor, the lawyer. Dean was a factory worker, or a ranch hand. Something rough and dirty, but rewarding. A job he would leave with buddies laughing, where he'd go home to Lisa and Ben and laugh at dinner. A life where he would fall asleep in front of the tv and not wake up in a cold sweat. A life he'd never have.

"I get it." Dean growled, panting. "You're a bitch."

He stayed down after the last fall, hands and knees pressing on a smooth ground he couldn't see. He spoke, but Reyka didn't' answer. Not that he expected her to.

Every time he stood back up a new memory or fantasy arrived. He would stand, young again, watching other children play. Begging Sam to join them while he stayed distant. John had stolen Dean's ability to join- all he had left was a loving desire for Sam to not suffer the same fate.

Dean would recoil from the memories, some real and some fake, and get back up. He would think of Sam, or Castiel, and keep going. But something new would always arrive. Sucker punches of Lisa and Ben struck him down, and painful sensations of loading guns over and over till his hands practically bled kept him down for a time.

In the end it was a final, precise strike that kept him on the floor.

Sam was beside him, staring at a mirror.

Dean's face was contorted in a nervous grimace. He looked ridiculous in a tuxedo.

He squirmed and scratched and honestly even whined. Sam laughed at that.

But when push came to shove and he stood by the altar it was worth it. Lisa came out slowly, wedding dress trailing in breathtaking white waves. Dean felt like crying, not that he'd ever admit it. To see her, stunning and smiling, and to know she chose him. She loved him. She valued him.. He couldn't breathe around it.

They shaved vows. Dean never meant any words more in his life than the ones he said to her with a gruff, half-choked through. He grit back the tears long enough to say I Do, and when Ben approached with the rings Dean smiled.

It was serene and heartbreaking.

He bore the cross in silence, knowing it was no more than a false memory. But in the moment it felt real, and that torture alone broke him into a thousand pieces.

He didn't get back up when it faded to nothing. He wasn't able to see the dress, to see Lisa, but he felt it all. He tasted the rosey air of the church like he'd been there. He heard the music, felt Lisa's hair as he pushed back the veil like it had just happened. And all the senses together created the vision in the back of his mind that was more violating and vicious than any real memory. No real vision would compare to what his mind created, and that was the most cunning edge of the torture.

He was breaking himself, over and over again until he collapsed in the darkness.

He knew what this was. The life he always wanted. The life he'd never had.

The longer he stayed on the ground, the more memories arose. Small, sweet, moments of marriage with Lisa. Little league games with Ben.

Dean grew old with Lisa in purgatory. He watched Ben mature, had the talk, worked hard to send him off to college. At some point logic broke and Dean's mind snapped. Sam and Jessica were there with their daughter, who teased Ben relentlessly.

None of them were hunters. None of them were bloody. They were loved and healthy and happy, and Dean reveled in it.

He laid down on the floor, blind but seeing things the world could never hope to recreate. His mind was too beautiful, too perfect. His dreams were too real, and too agonizing.

Dean didn't move as the memories of a life that could have been, but never would be, washed over him.

Thoughts of Castiel lay forgotten under the waves of regret. The waves of envy.

Dean wanted to run onto the playground. He wanted to understand how to laugh and run and play like the other kids. He wanted to go to school and not feel outcast. He wanted to bring home As and not have his father tell them they were meaningless.

Dean wanted a normal life.

Dean stopped getting back up.

Reyka grimaced.

Thank you all for returning to read this after the ridiculous delay! And thank you all new readers for picking this story up even though the author notes at the top are a roller coaster of chaos to deal with. I appreciate each and every comment I get, from the smallest to the largest, from the most heartwarming to the angriest. I love hearing you all tell me what you think of the characters, or cluing me in to your ideas for new scenes, or theories on what will happen next. Please don't ever stop. 3

Thank you: KansasAngel94, Casismyfavorite, TV Centric Universe, Gemini Peverell, stefanswifey01, Alyson1.0, Snape Heiress, end butterfly, Jilly-beanz90, halle mcready, qarius, YOU, joestre8, agrove, rEdRoSeSiNaUgUsT, mescaline, Emmaz1098, Fang, black cat, Iruchan, Siahposh, Fool for Dean, Slashfilled-mind, Canonbury, Raven Kayleon, Jo Singer, XxStacefacexX, . , TheFennecFox, Ero-Chibi-Chan, summertimeinla, Ceruleaneyes137, toolazytologin, Guest, TTCyclone, MiracleWhipped, Asita Shan, refugeofthemind, WhatTheFangirl, Aliniah, pinkskyline, SaintsGhost, Neko of death, diAbolicAl'feAtherheAd, kathka, K.S.T.M, Ashfire28, remanth, . .Yet, Doryan, Zetsume, JenniCDS, loyalsarahpanda, toastycakes, Stranger 1993, IdrilPuck, & CrystalCay