Summary: Season 8 – Dean swallowed, having spent his entire year in Purgatory thinking about – worrying about – his little brother; having had so many things he wanted to say and ask when he finally saw Sam again. But it was clear from Sam's vacant expression that Sam had absolutely no idea who he was.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Extremely vague spoilers for season eight and usual language.
A/N: A quick one-shot born of the E/O Challenge word-of-the-week (surge). Plus, season eight seems to be my new favorite thing with which to play. So many ways to twist it...
I'll know my name as it's called again. ~ Mumford & Sons
It was strange to look into the eyes of his brother and see no recognition reflected as Sam gazed back at him.
None at all.
In fact, it was clear from Sam's vacant expression that Sam had absolutely no idea who he was.
And the realization physically hurt.
Dean swallowed, having spent his entire year in Purgatory thinking about – worrying about – his little brother; having had so many things he wanted to say and ask when he finally saw Sam again...but now stood here speechless, not sure how to react.
Because while Dean had expected that he would have to track Sam down once he was topside again, he had never expected this.
Out of all the possibilities of how he would find Sam, of how his brother had spent his year without him on earth, this had never made Dean's list.
The possibility of Sam not knowing him, not remembering him had never crossed Dean's mind...though he guessed it probably should have.
After all, bad shit always happened when they were apart; when Dean was gone and Sam – though a smart kid and a kickass hunter – automatically became an easy target for the supernatural.
And in this situation, Crowley was suspect #1.
Dean glared at the thought of the demon having done something to his brother in the lab after he and Cas had been zapped down under, even as his mind suggested that maybe this wasn't supernatural.
Maybe Sam didn't remember him because the kid had suffered some kind of brain injury in the past year.
Maybe a hunt had gone bad, and this was the result.
Or maybe this was some kind of delayed complication from Cas forcibly taking Sam's memories of Hell.
Or maybe this was the result of a crumbled wall that still existed in Sam's head; its ruins piled in a messy heap; often forgotten but still there – and still causing unexpected problems...like this.
First it was the seizures and slight memory loss...but now it was complete amnesia?
It was possible.
Anything was possible, especially in their lives.
Dean sighed; feeling almost dizzy from how quickly his mind spun with possibilities for why the hell his little brother was staring at him like the kid had never seen him before in his life, like Dean was a stranger.
Sam blinked expectantly at the man who had stopped him on the sidewalk; who had grabbed his arm as he had walked by; who had looked overwhelmingly relieved as he had stared straight at him and had called someone's name that Sam hadn't recognized and couldn't even remember now.
Maybe a name that had started with an "s"?
It was hard to say.
Sam couldn't remember.
Which happened a lot...
Sam sighed and blinked again.
Dean blinked back.
Sam shifted where he stood, vaguely uncomfortable with how intensely the man was staring at him – like he knew him – and with how tightly the man was still gripping his arm.
"Is there something I can help you with?" Sam asked politely and then smiled at Dean, even though Dean was a stranger...because that's the kind of kid Sam was.
Dean swallowed, feeling something in his chest twist at the empty expression on Sam's face. "I, um..." He paused when his voice unexpectedly cracked. "I was looking for my brother."
Sam frowned at the news. "Oh," he responded...but said nothing more.
And Dean vaguely wondered if he had survived Purgatory only to have a nervous breakdown right there on the sidewalk.
Because all he had wanted for the past year was to be with his brother again.
But now that Dean had found him, Sam didn't even know who he was.
And it fucking hurt.
Someone's car alarm momentarily blared across the street.
Sam glanced in that direction and then back at Dean. "Well..." he began, easing his arm out of Dean's grasp. "I hope you find him."
Dean nodded, feeling as though he would choke over the emotion lodged in his throat. "Yeah," he replied and laughed a breathless, humorless laugh – desperately wanting to cry instead. "Me, too," he agreed, wondering how the hell he was going to keep Sam from walking away.
Sam returned the nod, his forehead wrinkling with concern at the stranger's obvious distress over his missing brother. "Maybe I can help you," he offered...because that was the kind of kid Sam was, too. "What's his name?"
Dean stared at Sam, willing his voice saying the kid's name to somehow break through to his brother standing across from him...even though it hadn't seemed to have much effect when he had called it earlier upon first seeing Sam on the sidewalk.
"Sir?" Sam prompted, still staring at Dean.
Dean slightly winced at the formal greeting; at the kind of thing Sam would say to someone he didn't know; at the reminder that right now, he was a stranger to his own brother.
Dean cleared his throat. "Sam," he finally responded. "My brother's name is Sam," he restated, his eyes searching for any spark of recognition in Sam's face.
There was none.
But Sam tilted his head like he sometimes did when something was familiar to him but he couldn't quite figure it out. "Sam," he repeated, as if he was rolling the name around in his mind to see if it fit in a particular slot.
Dean nodded. "Sam."
There was silence; the car alarm having been shut off minutes ago, leaving only general street noise to fill the gap.
Sam stared at Dean, faint remembrance flickering in his eyes.
Dean dared to smile, feeling a brief surge of hope. "Sometimes I call him Sammy – "
" – because you're the only one who gets to call him that," Sam finished and then nodded as if he knew that was right.
Dean swallowed, afraid to breathe for fear he would somehow disturb this fragile moment; that he would somehow blow out the tiny spark of remembrance he saw flash in Sam's eyes.
Sam blinked against the tears that suddenly welled, confused and overwhelmed by the flood of memories that rushed forward. "Dean?"
Dean nodded, his smile widening at the sound of his name inside his brother's voice. "Yeah, Sammy..." he replied, instinctively reaching out to the kid standing across from him.
Sam reached back without hesitation; the polite distance he had kept instantly vanishing as he realized who was standing mere inches from him. "Dean..."
"It's okay," Dean soothed, recognizing a freaked out little brother when he saw one. "You're okay."
At least Dean hoped he would be.
It was hard to say right now...especially since Dean had no idea what had happened to his brother over the past year.
And Sam seemed just as clueless.
Sam shook his head as memories continued to overwhelm him; images exploding in rapid bursts of colorful blurs.
"How..." Sam paused, unsure of what he wanted to ask. "I mean...what..." He shook his head again. "I don't understand," he finally settled on, because that certainly summed it up. "What happened?"
Dean shook his head as well. "I don't know," he admitted. "But we're sure as hell gonna find out..." he promised – his tone sharp with pissed determination – and squeezed Sam's shoulder in silent comfort.
Sam nodded, marginally calming under his brother's touch.
Dean smiled encouragingly. "It's okay," he assured, even as his own body felt shaky from the mixture of relief and anger that coursed through him.
Sam swallowed, looking doubtful and yet completely trusting of whatever Dean said.
Dean glanced around the sidewalk as others passed by them, suddenly eager to get back to the relative safety of the Impala and back on the road to start hunting down answers.
Because somebody was going to answer for this shit...
"Let's go..." Dean told his brother, patting Sam's arm affectionately before turning the kid and steering him down the sidewalk.
"Where are we going?" Sam asked, glancing at Dean as they walked.
"Back to the Impala," Dean answered, heading toward where he had parked the Chevy earlier; still amazed she had been waiting for him back at Rufus's cabin when he had returned topside...and still confused as to how she had gotten there from the lab.
"And then?" Sam prompted, still sounding disoriented and unsure; his expression matching his tone as he stared at Dean for reassurance.
Dean replied without hesitation, confident of their next move. "And then we find Crowley."
Because something had clearly happened to Sam during the year Dean had been gone.
And Dean intended to find out not only what had happened but also whose ass he needed to kick because of it.
He could hardly wait.
Dean twitched a smile at the thought as he and Sam continued walking; not sure which part of himself was more excited about the prospect of violence – the part of him that had been in Purgatory for a year...or the part of him that had been a protective big brother for close to 30.