I know I wasn't the only one who was disappointed with how incomplete Sam's story has been told on this season of "Supernatural." How did he get out of the warehouse? How did he get the dog? Why did he really stop hunting? I was hoping that with a new showrunner he'd be fleshed out more, but it's just more of the same. So I just answered all of those questions myself. Please let me know what you think!
Violence could be beautiful, a kinetic art. He was a creator of destructive masterpieces and painted in devastation and splatters of black blood. He'd lost his weapons along with the sight in his left eye, but his hands were lethal enough, snapping ribs and gouging eyes. He'd shut himself down to everything—anger and vengeance—but that stopped now that he was stripped of everything and everyone he'd ever loved. With a smile worthy of a grim reaper, he threaded an arm around the struggling demon's neck, snapping it with a hitch of his shoulder. Swiping the creatures falling blade from the air, he sliced its throat cleanly. With a duck of his head, Sam drank the blood, relishing as it slid down like velvet and burned cold like revenge.
With little more than a thought, the doors rattled on their hinges, slamming open and letting the monsters in. If Dean didn't survive, no one else would either.
Two brothers sparred in an open field on a misty afternoon.
"Come on, Sammy," Dean growled, releasing Sam from a triangle choke-hold only when his face had turned a beet-esque hue of red. "There's no way you should suck this much even after a vacation at Club Amelia."
Sam staggered to his feet, panting badly and sweating far more than he should in the brisk fall air. He gritted his teeth and assuming his fighting stance, muscles coiled as he allowed Dean to attack. The older Winchester did, barely giving him a second to prepare. If all of those sadistic bastards in Purgatory had taught him anything, it was how to kill as efficiently as possible, how to seize and exploit every weakness, how to funnel all of that anger at being locked in immortal combat with the very things you killed into inescapable power. Violence was the only language they spoke in Purgatory , and Dean was fluent. He lashed out with both fists, launching a haymaker to Sam's face with his right hand and an uppercut with his left. Sam blocked them both, the second with a grunt of frustration. But Dean already mounted a second offensive, twisting down to sweep Sam's legs out from under him. He thwacked the unprotected sweet spot of Sam's shin bones and he toppled over like a demolished building, landing in a long-limbed sprawl on the rocky earth below.
Dean felt Purgatory taking over, a primal rage pumping inside of him like a kettle drum, moving faster and faster, and pulling him deeper and deeper until he could smell the fetid rank of warm entrails and see the flashes of leathery wings and fangs out of the corners of his eye. He swooped down, straddling Sam and flinging punch after punch at his brother's stunned face. The felled hunter had no other defense but to shield himself, forearms and the side of his head taking the brunt of the vicious assault. But that didn't stop Dean from using his legs, driving both of his knees until the tender spots between the pelvis and the ribs, crushing the air of his diaphragm and compressing organs—a trick he learned from a nasty ghoul two months in.
Sam yelped, blanching, weakening and panicking. His arms lowered a mere inch, and smashed into Sam's face as Dean hit them again, and separating the barrier. The opening was just what Dean needed, and his next punch cracked him in the face so hard that the force of it buzzed up his arm, brightening in the elbow. Sam's head whipped to the side, shoulders following suit, and he flopped to the ground. Winded and a little alarmed, Dean climbed to his feet, shaking out his hot, throbbing hands and bouncing on the balls of his feet. "All of those date nights and trips to Pottery Barn have made you softer than a Canadian prizefighter."
Sam didn't respond. Dean whirled around, cursing when he saw that his brother still twisted on his side, still and limp, except for his left leg that was quivering a little, outflung arms flanking either side of his head. Sam was out cold. Tamping down a rare flare of guilt, he hovered over his brother in the dirt, wincing at the blood dribbling from his nose and bright crimson mark on his right cheekbone that was visibly swelling. Before he could shove Sam on his side, his brother awoke with shredding cough and rolled over on his own, hands curved protectively over his ribs. Dean slapped his shoulder roughly as Sam rode out the disorientation and pain. "Sorry 'bout that Sammy."
Sam scrambled onto his hands and knees. A spasm visibly rippled up the muscles of his back and abdomen until he retched stringy vomit into the detritus once, twice. When he finished, he wiped the bile and blood from his nose and mouth and shuffled away from his brother.
Dean frowned. "Come on, we were just gettin' started. Don't puss out now."
His only response was to toss back a middle finger as he staggered to the car.
The explosion was calamitous in force, but oddly not in sound. It rattled Sam's teeth in his skull, lifting him clear off his feet in a funnel of fire and unbearable heat. He smelled melting plastic and burning hair. He was falling into the red haze, into hell or into flame, Sam didn't care as long as it finally ended. He landed with a crunch and a twinkle. The hellacious glow of the fire above broke, shattered, refracted. The tenacious base instinct to survive, the kind hard-wired into Winchester DNA, kickstarted when he realized he'd landed on the Impala.
The Sam Dean had left could endure Lucifer's constant torture, work a case, take a beating and still keep up with his bawdy humor and banter in the car. This Sam winced and hissed after catching one errant punch and retreated to his bed at eight o'clock, pulling the covers over his head when Dean refused to turn off the light.
Sleep hadn't come easily before, and it was an all out battle for it now, so he grabbed Sam's laptop, hoping discover was what was new in porn while his brother slept like the dead.
He woke a hunter, grappling for the weapon that was always within reach, adrenaline overloading his system. He turned at the innocuous noise, flipping his knife over his hand, prepared to let it fly, but halted when he saw the light on in the bathroom and an anxious bobbing knee of his little brother. Gripping the hilt tightly, Dean ventured into the bathroom, and blinked at the sight there: the contents of Sam's dob kit all over the floor, Sam was all red eyes, ashen face and damp hair as he sat Sam on the commode. Ever since he was a baby, Sam ran hotter than most people and idled at sweaty, but the room was chilly, and Sam was wearing nothing but a now soaked undershirt and black basketball shorts.
When Dean crossed the threshold, Sam's face flickered with glassy-eyed shame and gazed anywhere but Dean's. "C-can you hand me that bottle, please...the one on the floor?" His voice was a brittle facsimile of Sam's normal baritone.
Knife forgotten, Dean obliged, standing by the door as Sam hastily shoveled two white prescription pills into his mouth. Dean filled the plastic cup with water and handed it to him without a word, watching as he forced down a few sips. Sam braced himself against the counter and stood, leaning on it so hard, it shifted from its shoddy wall attachment.
"What the hell's wrong with you? I didn't even get you that good." He groused, grasping at the only thing that would keep him from mentioning Purgatory or their year apart. The bloated, indigo contusion on his cheekbone and nose said otherwise. When Sam groaned, bending at the waist a bit and pressing his hand to his middle, Dean took Sam's arm in an attempt to help him to the last few steps to the bed, "I bet even our 'Revenge Of The Nerds' prophet wouldn't have crumpled like a house of cards…"
In a flash of the very violence Dean had been trying to coax out of him for weeks, Sam shoved him hard. He landed bodily against the table, its sharp edge digging his hip and didn't even mind the pain, if it meant he had finally resurrected those well-honed hunting skills. "Shut up for one damn minute!" Sam raked a shaking hand through his hair, and Dean caught a glimpse of the bruises limning his arms. "Look, I'm sorry. I'm so freakin' sorry about all of it, but I can't do this right now."
"What? Sammy, why?"
"Because I'm in so much pain I can't see straight, and the pills take forever to work. That's why."
"This is more than just from sparring."
"Now you notice," he griped.
"Dick happened. After you were killed…or blasted into Purgatory, I had to blow up the factory, and I guess I didn't do it right." Sam whispered. "You know those action movies where the good guy walks away and the building explodes behind him and he never flinches?" Dean nodded. "It so wasn't like that," he deadpanned. "I got caught in the blast…it lifted me clear off my feet. I landed on the Impala…tore some things up inside."
He gulped. "Be more specific."
Sam arduously sat on the bed, closing his eyes to ride out a tenacious wave of pain. "I don't know the specifics. I remember the fire was white, like a nuclear blast. I remember driving the car…and after that is just static, man, I don't know. I woke up in a hospital three states and two weeks later."
Dean got up and turned on the light, grimacing at his brother's haggard face, the redness round his eyes and the whiteness of his skin. "Sam, what aren't you telling me?"
Sam had known pain, more than he'd known love or happiness or eagerness, but he'd awakened in a shroud of white, clicks and beeping, the pain was unspeakable. The haggard face that greeted him wasn't Dean's, but regarded him like a big brother, a protector. He spoke about "miracles" and "medical marvel" and internal bleeding. He set him up with a pain pump so when the pain echoed that of Lucifer's worst torture where he'd pluck out all of his organs one by one before stuffing them back in wrong, Sam could depress the button and disintegrate in realm of narcotic bliss. But there was no drug strong enough fabricate a calloused hand on his forehead and a rumbling voice in his ear, to fill the silence and offer distraction, to relieve the fact that the pain didn't make Sam want to give up and slip away, Dean not being there did.
He sighed and angled out of his hoodie. It slid down one bare shoulder, revealing the pink pucker of healed flash burns on his back, shoulder and arm. His chest bared the same scars and also a wide surgical incision that ran just below his breast bone all the way to his belly button. "I'm down a kidney, a spleen, an appendix and a lobe of my liver, although that's probably regenerated by now."
Something warm and bright flickered inside of him, and it made him feel less like the feral thing Purgatory had created and more like a big brother. He placed a hand softly on Sam's bare shoulder, right over the scars as he realized with a proverbial suckerpunch that his brother had been on a journey on his own in the past year and that, "You didn't quit hunting, did you?"
Sam barked a laugh, his bony shoulders bouncing dejectedly. "I learned pretty quickly that I probably shouldn't do it anymore. There's good and bad days. I still run most mornings. I did a half-marathon a few months back. I had a job as a researcher for an advertising agency. Sometimes I even forget, but then sometimes the pain's so bad and even the pills don't work and I just have to ride it out. The doctors…they were shocked I even woke up from the surgery."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you needed to be angry, and you wanted everything to be back like it was before you ah…GOD!" Sam clenched his teeth to truncate the scream that vibrated Dean's teeth.
He leaned over, hand twisting the knee of Dean's jeans as his body snapped taut from the pain. He buried a hand deep in Sam's sweaty hair, hating seeing his brother suffering. "Breathe through it, Sammy, just hang on and breathe."
But Sam didn't or couldn't hear him and his neck corded, lungs stuttering. "Damnit, Sammy!" He took Sam's hand, squeezing at the wrist as hard as he could. "Come on, kid, hang on. It'll pass in a minute if you just breathe."
And Dean got a glimpse of how he'd spent his past year, tight-faced and gnarled with pain, not even bothering to reach out for his brother, because he hadn't been there.
The storm passed as quickly as it came and Sam slumped over, landing messily on his brother. "I hate this."
"I don't like it all that much either." Dean teased. "The pills will start to work soon and you'll be able to rest."
The pain had left Sam rubber-legged and weak, so Dean gingerly tucked him into bed, listening to Sam's messy breathing. He climbed on the other side with him, letting the love for his brother override the nastiness he'd developed over the past year. He took Sam's hand and let him crush his fingers, so damned grateful he was there not, and so utterly heartbroken that he hadn't been before.
Sam's eyes closed and those grating breaths quieted and lengthened a bit, suggesting the pills were working, but Dean knew better, knew that his brother was meditating by his measured breaths and the tight clench of his hand. Sam was all hot skin and sweaty hair, so Dean pulled the comforter back, blotted his brow with the top sheet, raking that long hair of his back and wasn't too surprised to find that his mane hid some jagged row of staple scars.
"I looked for you." Sam confessed, still closed.
"Came up empty?"
"Thought you were dead…but there was no body and Crowley mentioned Purgatory while he was gloatin', so I looked as soon as I got out of the hospital. Found a spell to open a portal to Purgatory five months ago." Dean started, staring at his brother. "It wasn't a human p-portal. It was b-blacker than black magic. I couldn't guarantee that Dick Roman …or somethin' worse wouldn't come tumblin' out...didn't even know if you were there, so I sat on it."
"Like any hunter would…"
His eyes fluttered open to gaze up at him. "Yes, like a hunter. The brother in me did give a damn what I let out as long as you came with it. It's why I stopped. Hunting took e-everything I ever loved. Argh…shit…" Sam barked, scrabbling for Dean's hand again. "…I'm so sick of this."
He folded a hand over Dean's forehead. "You're burning up, Sam. I might be a little rusty, Sammy, but I can break into a pharmacy, get you the good stuff. Like old times, right? With your broken brain and my bad everything else."
"Not gonna work."
"Then what do you need?"
He'd never planned to go back for the dog. A soul-deep unease at Dean's death had left him a restless, homeless insomniac, and an aimless morning drive had led him to the clinic. He'd known when he angled out of the car by the sharp throb in his deep in his belly that it was going to be a Bad Day, one where he was left gnarled by pain and crying out for a family that had all been slaughtered. By the time he'd been taken back to see the nameless dog, there was a hitch his step and Sam's left arm was out of commission. He grunted as he sat down outside of the felled mutt's cage, taking in the jagged rows of stitches, bandages and IVs. He was awake, panting shallowly, and Sam immediately knew why as he was doing the same. Relenting, Sam placed a big hand on the top of the dog's head, sweeping his thumb back and forth over the matted fur. They were two wayward souls, marred by loneliness and tragedy, and somehow, being together more than lessened his suffering, it all but cancelled it out. Sam smiled a bit as the prone pup tilted his head, tail wagging, to lick the palm of his hand.
A week later, Sam was still on the floor of the clinic by dog's cage. Only this time, he was sharing dinner with the vet who'd saved Riot's life, and wondering if maybe he should stay.
His face crumpled and he turned it into the pillow. "I need my dog. H-he helps. Dunno how."
For the first time in the weeks he'd been back, it was Dean who felt horribly and unspeakably guilty, because he'd blamed his brother for abandoning Kevin and for letting him rot in Purgatory and be hunted like some belly-to-the-ground monster. Sam had let him even though he'd escaped death again only to fight his way back in the world where he was the last Winchester standing—a prize both of them had been battling for years not to win. He had abandoned what sounded like a happy life to reunite with Dean and return to terror and combat and pain and he'd done it for his brother, three and a half organs short.
And now the guilt was so pervasive that it choked him like a noose. "We can go back to Texas and get your dog..."
"I can swipe someone else's."
Dean's desperation was rewarded with a congested laughter and even a snort as Sam's eyes flickered up, bloodshot in the milky twilight. "You would, wouldn't you?"
"There's a poodle down the street, she might lend you a paw."
Sam grinned lopsidedly, looking five years old again. "This isn't your fault, Dean."
"So you me kicking your ass didn't cause this?"
Sam was quiet, trying to spare his feelings. "There's one other thing you can do." He levered himself up with a pained squeak.
"Whoa, there, killer, where ya goin'?" But Sam wasn't or couldn't stand, he just scooted over, dropping his head on Dean's shoulder and dragging those long legs over. Dean sighed, wrapping his arm around Sam and dragging the blanket up with him when he shivered. "Don't tell me your girl did this for you?"
"She did somethin' else that worked pretty well."
"That disgusting, Sammy," Dean shot back before adding, "Good for you."
"It's okay, ya know, to talk about Purgatory. I'm probably the only one in the world who understands."
He huffed a sharp breath, and tried in vain not to pat Sam's back before surrendering and doing it anyway. "It changed me, Sam, it made me, I don't know, a killer…well, a much better one than I was before. I'm stuck on lethal mode and I can't stop myself. Today proved that. Every...sound, every smell, it's like I'm right back there."
Sam's body tensed, snapping rigid for a long moment before he relaxed, licking his lips. When he spoke again, his voice was gravelly, thin. "I can bring you back…I'll d-do it every time." Sam muttered softly. A beat later, he confessed, "I'm sorry I left you…"
Dean shook his head, holding Sam tighter. "I should've known this whole thing was just the universe bendin' us over again. I just needed a punching bag, and it shouldn't have been you. We just lost each other." Sam was growing heavier on his shoulder, body finally loosening as exhaustion or relief set in. His head bobbled a bit and Dean shimmied down further in the bed, adjusting the fever-warmed weight against him. He gazed out the dirty window as the sun ascended over the squat brick buildings and the distant overpass. The sun never rose in Purgatory…it never set either. It was always some morose combination or gloomy black or silvery gray. He was moved by the sight, the realization that he was free finally rooting itself in his mind. As he watched the sky explode in calming pinks and majestic golds, he resolved to let it all go: the anger and the feeling of betrayal, to severe those sinister ties with Benny, even if he had to liberating his head from his body, and to get Sam healthy again no matter what that meant. He was a big brother again, not a warrior, and it was time he started acting like it. "But we're back, Sammy. We're back," he whispered.