Summary: AU tag to 8.01 – What he didn't know and what he didn't see was who stood in the shadows and watched him leave; who had somehow ended up in Purgatory...and then had somehow hitched a ride out.

Disclaimer: Not mine

Warnings: Mild language and spoilers for 8.01

A/N: I haven't watched 8.01 in its entirety yet. But I've heard about it. I've seen clips here and there. And maybe it's just me, but Sam didn't seem surprised to see Dean. So, here's my AU spin.

Since you've gone, I've been lost without a trace. I dream at night; I can only see your face. ~ The Police

"I think maybe you should leave," she had said hours earlier in the midst of their argument.

The kind of truthful suggestion people make when they're frustrated to the point of being done.

And he had known by the expression that had crossed her face immediately following those words that she had regretted saying them; had wanted to call them back.

But it had been too late.

They were out there.

Those words both of them had been thinking but neither had actually said.

Not until now.

I think maybe you should leave.

Sam had clenched his jaw – refusing to allow those words to pierce his armor of numbness that he had hidden inside since Dean had vanished – and had simply nodded, both in acknowledgement and agreement.

Because it had been a good suggestion; was one that should had been made weeks ago.

After all, it wasn't like she had said anything he hadn't already told himself.

He had known all along they wouldn't last; that this wasn't forever.

Because experience had taught that nothing was forever – not family, not love...and certainly not the normal he had always craved.

I think maybe you should leave.

The more Sam thought about it, the more he thought maybe she was right.

Because wherever he stayed, bad shit usually followed.

The kind of bad shit that either left people scarred or dead.

And he didn't wish that for her.

He didn't wish that for anyone.

Enough people had suffered because of him.

So...he would leave while he still could; while she was still alive and well.

In fact, if he had known then what he knew now, he would've done the same for Jess; would've packed in the moonlit darkness of their bedroom and left; would've pretended – like he was doing now – that he didn't know she was awake with her eyes shut listening to him.

I think maybe you should leave.

Sam nodded again as he zipped his duffel, rubbed his dog's head, and then crossed to the door; pausing before entering the hallway and leaving the house he had called home for longer than he should have.

I think maybe you should leave.

It was a good idea.

One he wouldn't regret.

And one she would be thankful for later.

Because it was all somehow starting again.

He could feel it.

Although there was no reason to believe his recent dreams were anything more than nightmares brought on by a shitty life, Sam knew they were more than that.

Pain was remembrance.

The body didn't forget.

Flashes of light and stabbing pain across his forehead and behind his eyes as the scene played out to no one but him had always meant one thing – visions.

And while it seemed impossible, Sam knew.

He knew.

Though he didn't know why or how, especially since his visions had always been tied to Azazel...and Azazel was dead.

But Sam knew what he had felt and what he had seen.

And it had been a vision; one night after another.

...which was why he had to leave.

And which was why he was heading to a certain cabin in a certain state to see if a certain "dream" was true.

Had Dean really returned?

Was his brother really back from wherever he had been this entire year?

Lost...but now found?

Sam swallowed at the possibility; his heart hammering in his chest as he tossed his bag across the Impala's bench seat and ducked behind the steering wheel.

Because out of everything he knew, he didn't know that.

Didn't know if Dean was back; didn't know where Dean had been; didn't know if he was dreaming of what he wished...or if he was seeing what was to come.

Sam swallowed again; feeling shaky from the flood of emotions that suddenly overwhelmed him; the emotions he had held at bay for the past 12 months as he had refused to care about anything.

Because anything he cared about, he lost.

And losing Dean – again – had been the breaking point.

It was just easier to give up and shut down.

But now...if his dream was true...if Dean was somehow back...?

Sam exhaled slowly and deliberately; trying to pull himself together as he glanced one last time at the house and then cranked the Impala; heading toward the cabin and knowing he would find his brother there.

Because although he couldn't explain it, Sam knew he had seen a vision of it.

He knew it.

But what he didn't know – and what he didn't see – was who stood in the shadows and watched him leave; who had somehow ended up in Purgatory...and then had somehow hitched a ride out.

The figure smiled as his yellow eyes glowed in the darkness; watching his favorite special child disappear down the road and feeling the same smug excitement he had felt all those years ago when the journey had first begun.

And now it was starting again.

Only more twisted...and more fun.

The yellow-eyed figure chuckled with anticipation. "See ya soon, Sammy," he promised quietly and then felt his smile widen.

Because this was gonna be one hell of a ride.

And the kid didn't even know it yet.