Author's Note: I love season eight! True, I wish that Dean and Sam would go back to having their wonderful brotherly moments, but it's clear that their year apart did numbers on both of them—Dean especially. His flashbacks are heartbreakingly sad as well as disturbing because it's almost as if his humanity is gone. That interrogation scene in episode two inspired this piece. It's just my take on something that I could see happening in the show. This piece kind of ran away from me and went in a totally different direction than I had intended, but I still like it. I hope you all do too! Please enjoy!

"Memories are bullets. Some whiz by and only spook you. Others tear you open and leave you in pieces."

Richard Kadrey

Purgatory had taught him many things.

It had made him a better hunter—a more efficient killer. He could decapitate a vampire in under a minute, he could shoot a vengeful spirit with perfect aim and he most certainly could out run anything that dared to flee from him. He was a better hunter than even his dad had been for even the mighty John Winchester couldn't have done half of the things that Dean was now capable of doing.

Purgatory had been pure—it had made things easy. You killed or you were killed. There was no middle ground, no shades of grey. You fought to insure that at the end of the day, you were the one left standing. The land had been full of monsters—there had been no fear about hurting anyone, no debate about whether this was the "right" choice or not—and Dean had been the only one who could wipe them out.

Yes, Purgatory had taught him so much and had shaped him into the perfect hunter that his father had tried to mold him into. In fact, if he thought about it enough, he was back there in that forest with a spear in his hand, chasing after some creature that didn't deserve to go on breathing. He could hear the crunch of dead leaves under his booths, feel the wind whipping past him—

"Dean?" Sam eyed him curiously and Dean instantly locked onto his little brother's gaze. He must've been staring off into space again. He tended to do that a lot now, mostly after he woke up in the morning and he would briefly reacquaint himself with his surroundings. In his dreams, he was back in Purgatory, fighting the good fight only to wake up to a world where he wasn't sure how to function anymore and with a brother who wanted to give up the family business. "You okay?"

"Fine." His response was curt and judging from the hurt that flared up in Sam's eyes, it must've stung. Still, Dean couldn't bring himself to care too much over damaging Sam's feelings. His brother had given up hunting and abandoned a prophet to play house with some girl. He couldn't let that go—not now, at least. The pain was still fresh from Sam's admissions of wanting something more than this their life. What was more important than hunting? Dean couldn't understand it. "Got something?"

"No, not yet." Sam replied. He punched a few more things into the computer screen and Dean sighed. He hated waiting and he hated being still for too long. He almost felt like a caged animal, being forced to pace in a confined space until he went stir crazy. "You want me to get some food?" Sam was glancing at him again, concern evident in his eyes.

"I want you to find us a hunt or Kevin, Sam," Dean growled. "Think you can do that? Or are you too out of practice?" The remark was extremely bitter and judging from Sam's reaction, must've cut like a knife. Instantly, his brother's gaze fell and pain filled his expression. He tensed up and opened his mouth, only for nothing to come out. Suddenly, Sam rose from the chair and grabbed his jacket.

"I'm going out."

With that, Sam slammed the door.

He had always known Sam was different—powers and demon blood aside.

His little brother loved to read—not just books that they needed for hunting purposes—but everything and anything. There had been phases where Sam went though three Agatha Christie novels a day. Sam had always seemed happiest buried in a book, lost in imaginary worlds.

Looking back on it now, Dean realized Sam had been escaping their life.

And when books hadn't cut it anymore, Sam had thought there was no other option but to run.

When he was 19, Dean had caught Sam attempting to run away. He had come home early from the bar that night and had been in a pretty good mood because he had won about three hundred in cash from a poker game. It was when he reached the parking lot and saw Sam with his duffel heading towards the nearest bus station that the smile faded from his lips.

He had stopped Sam, of course. He had yelled himself hoarse that night, demanding to know why the hell Sam had thought it would've been okay for him to take off in the middle of the night. For his part, Sam had appeared to be apologetic, claiming that he hadn't really thought things out, but Dean knew that was a lie. If anything, Sam always over thought things. Finally, Dean had asked the one question that had been plaguing his mind.

"Why Sam?"

He hadn't been prepared for the answer.

"I don't want to be a hunter, Dean." His little brother had told him, tears glistening in his puppy-dog eyes.

That admission hurt more than the worst injury he had ever received on a hunt.

Despite Dean's scolding, Sam managed to escape once more.

Finding him at Flagstaff, two weeks after he had gone on the run, Dean had never felt so relieved. His little brother had been in one piece and all the anger that he had pent up, dissipated when his gangly, 16 year old brother had hugged him. It was funny how Sam could do that—how he could make Dean's emotions swing to such extremes as if they were on a pendulum.

"Sorry, Dean."

Sam never ran away after that. Whatever he had done on that trip to Flagstaff had somehow tided him over until Stanford. Dean had never asked and Sam had never told—both of them had seemed to agree that Flagstaff was a topic best left forgotten.

Still, Dean had wondered how Sam could've been happy away from his side.

That question haunted him in his dreams for months.

For four years, Dean hunted practically by himself.

Sam had lived at Stanford, pretending to be someone normal and trying so hard to live his apple-pie life. He loved Sam—there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for that kid—but his little brother had proven that he was making good on his promise to get out of this life.

Dean had been proud. Who wouldn't be when their kid—because Sam had always been his; Dean had raised him—had gotten a full ride to one of the best universities in the country?

Still, he had missed Sam. He had felt empty without his little brother there. If Dean were honest with himself, Dad going missing had only been an excuse to go and get Sam.

Truth was, he really had just missed his little brother.

It had hurt when he had found out that Sam hadn't tried to save him from Purgatory. It had burned even more when had found out that Sam had just quit the family business. Then again, looking back on it, he shouldn't have been surprised. Sam had always been running away, trying vainly to fight against his inevitable destiny.

Dean had never run. He had accepted it and embraced the life of the hunter—a life that Purgatory had made abundantly clear as the only option for him. Saving people, hunting things—it was what he was good at and what he knew he had to continue doing. Being in Purgatory had opened his eyes to all the good he was doing, to all the lives he was saving. Sam might've been able to walk away, but Dean never would.

What the hurt the most was that Sam was ready to give it all up and in a sense give Dean up.

"I didn't know you were still up."

Dean just stared at him as Sam shut the door behind him. Tossing his jacket on the bed, Sam's eyes darted away from his brother's gaze.

"Where were you?" Dean questioned.


Because Sam had always been running—running away from their life, away from their father, and now, away from him.


A pause passed.

"Dean?" Sam's tone was hopeful, though his voice was quiet. "I'm sorry."

"It's fine." Dean said gruffly, brushing him off.

"I mean it, Dean," Sam protested. "It's just . . . man, I had no one, okay? No one. No Bobby, no Dad, no Pastor Jim, no Castiel—everyone was dead or missing and I just couldn't . . ." Sam voice trailed off and Dean's expression softened a bit. "I couldn't lose anything else."

With that, Sam went into the bathroom and started the shower.

Dean understood that. The forgiving was the hard part.

Because if it had been Sam trapped in Purgatory, Dean would've moved Heaven and Hell to get him out again.

They spent the rest of the evening in an uneasy silence with Sam anxiously glancing Dean's way every five minutes, practically willing his brother to forgive him. It wasn't like Dean didn't want too, but sometimes, he felt like all he did was sacrifice things for Sam and never get anything in return. Sam had always been running away from him, never towards. Dean would've been lying if he didn't admit that it stung him.

"Anything?" Dean finally asked.


"Well, then, let's hit the sack." Sam nodded and closed the laptop and the two silently climbed into their respective beds before flicking off the lights.

And suddenly, Dean was back in Purgatory.

Kill everything.

Running so hard that your lungs are going to explode, but you still keep running because if you stop, you'll be dead. Creatures surround you, each one nasty in its own special away. All alone and surrounded, your chances of surviving are slim-to-none, but you keep fighting.

What else can you do?

Fighting evil, saving clueless people who will never know what you do—this is your job. This is what you have dedicated your life to. Purgatory just re-affirms this. Purgatory makes things simple and it make things easy. Kill or be killed—there's no middle ground.

Here, in this land, Dean thrives.

A vampire charges and Dean struggles as it grips him, shaking him. Its fangs drop out and it hisses as it leans to his neck.


He ignores it—he often hears voices on the wind. Besides, he has more important matters to deal with it. He shoves the vampire off.

Flashes of a dark motel room fill the forest. It's only for a few seconds, but it gives Dean pause. What's going on? He holds his dagger in his hand, reassured by its presence. The vampire pushes itself off the ground and begins to circle him, keeping its distance.

"Dean, wake up! Whatever you're seeing, it's not real!"

It's a lie, a trick. He's seen many stupid things die because of a little magic. He doesn't know how this vampire managed to conjure up anything, but it doesn't matter. Dean just has to keep his head in the here and now. He's growing tired of this game and he charges the vampire. It struggles against him, but Dean manages to thrust the blade into its chest. The vampire staggers back before falling to the ground. Dean smiles smugly and removes the blade about to go for the head when the vampire somehow manages to hit him against the head. Dazed, Dean stumbles back and watches as the world around him fades to black.

He feels himself fall.

He awoke with a pounding headache.

"Fuck," Dean swore, rubbing the back of his skull. "What the hell—?" Around him, the furniture is overturned and a lamp is shattered in pieces, right by where he had awoken. It's almost as if one hell of a fight has taken place and yet, Dean can't remember any of it. Dean rose from the floor and stepped towards the other side of the bed, only to stumble suddenly. He glanced down.

Sam's limp form was on the floor, arms spread out as if he had fallen. Instantly, Dean was at his side—all previous anger forgotten as the panic over took him.

"Sammy?" He surveyed the damage and spotted the wound—a stab wound matching his knife, but that couldn't be right, could it? Dean spied the dagger across from him, blood glistening on the silver and suddenly, Dean felt sick. Had he done this? Had he stabbed his own little brother with the knife he kept under his pillow? "Sam!" He finally found a pulse and relieved, Dean debated his options. Taking Sam to an E.R. would be a risky option—they were bound to call the cops in. Still, Dean wasn't sure how much blood Sam had lost and how deep the wound was.

He could always call—no, he couldn't.

Bobby was dead. He was the last person they could've turned to and now . . . now, it was just up to Dean to help keep Sam alive. There was no backup to call, no other person to consult—Dean truly was on his own.

Everyone was dead or missing and I just couldn't . . . I couldn't lose anything else.

"I get it, Sammy," He assured his little brother, affectionately carding a hand through his hair. "I get it now, okay." Sam didn't so much as stir. It reminded Dean too much of Cold Oak. He couldn't—wouldn't go through that again. Sam wasn't dying, not on Dean's watch. Yeah, he had been a crappy big brother recently, choosing to stay angry with Sam, rather than forgiving him, but he wasn't about to let Sam down now. "Shit." The volume of blood seeping the carpet wasn't reassuring and Dean decided that there was no other choice. He pulled out his cellphone and dialed.

"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"

Dean was used to bedside vigils.

He had been beside Sam on numerous occasions, though the experience never got easier with time. He was always worried, always anxious, and always wishing that he would just open his eyes already and be okay.

This time though . . . this time, Dean had hurt Sam. The doctor said that they had been lucky that the knife had missed his heart. They had gotten lucky this time—some minor surgery and a lot of blood transfusions—but the guilt remained. He had yelled at his little brother and for what? Doing what he had made Sam promise? If he remembered correctly, hadn't he taken a year off from hunting because of a promise he had made to Sam? And now that he was back, all Dean had managed to do was push away the one person whom he cared for more than anything else.

"I'm sorry," Dean mumbled. "Sammy, I didn't mean it, okay? What I said to you about not looking for me . . . I understand it now. Shit, Sammy, if I had been in your shoes, I don't know what I would've done." Sam didn't so much as stir and Dean sighed wearily. "Please, Sam, open your eyes. I promise, I'll let you do anything you want." He paused. "Well, not everything. You still can't drive and you can't—"

"D'n," Sam slurred. "Loud."

"Did I wake you up, Princess?" Dean teased, voice betraying how relieved he truly was. Sam grinned at him slightly. "Listen, Sam, I—"

"Wasn't you." Sam interjected.

"It was though," Dean insisted. "I thought I was in Purgatory and I didn't know—"

"Wasn't you." Sam stated once again, more firmly this time. His little brother held his gaze for the longest time, almost as if he was searching Dean for something. Suddenly, he smiled softly as his eyes began to droop.

Who knew absolution could be granted by such a simple look?

Sam was released from the hospital a week later.

While his little brother had assured him that he had forgiven Dean for hurting him—Dude, you weren't there, okay? I could see that. I shouldn't have tried to stop you—Dean still felt like he owed Sam big time.

One the fifth day of their impromptu vacation, Sam had had enough.

"Fine, you want to make it up to me?" He challenged.


"Tell me everything about Purgatory." That took Dean off-guard.


"You haven't been sleeping properly," Sam informed him. "And half of the time, I feel like you're back there even when you're sitting right here with me. Maybe if you talk about . . ?" Sam's voice trailed off, ever hopeful. Dean nodded his head and sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Okay." He muttered. "Purgatory is simple."

And with that, he confessed everything to the one person he knew would understand him. Yes, they had their rough patches and yes, sometimes it felt like Sam was running away from him, but in the end, he always came back.

Sam always came home to him—that's what mattered.

In that motel room, Dean's story spilled forth and Sam listened, not judging or commenting, just listening. And when his story was finally done—when all his secrets had come out for the world to see—Sam simply nodded his head and grinned reassuringly at him.

All was understood. All was forgiven.

That night, Dean dreamt not of Purgatory, but of he and Sam playing poker—with Dean winning of course.

Nothing was better than that.

Author's Note: This piece turned into a monster—it became way longer than I anticipated and a lot of what I had planned just flew out the window the moment I started writing. Still, I hoped you enjoy. Here's hoping that Dean starts acting like a big brother again soon! If you have a second, please review!