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Aptly Damned

October 24th, 2007 (04:57 pm)

 

Title: Aptly Damned

Summary: Sometimes we live for no one but ourselves.

Rating:  PG-13 (gen, Dean, some Sam)  spoilers up through BDABR

A/N: Okay, so this is another tag of sorts to BDABR only completely different. I'm not totally sure where this came from or why I wrote it, but I did. So I'll post. It's VERY Dean-centric. Sam's mentioned, and he's kind of part of it, but these are musings on Dean and Dean alone. I hope I did him justice. His character has been complicated this season, IMO, and apparently I felt like I needed to explore it. I really hope I don't offend anyone because incurring the wrath of angry people is not my idea of a good time. I'm going to stop talking now because I make less sense the more I do. Thanks especially to 

geminigrl11 who really helped me focus the piece and built me up enough to post :)

 

Disclaimer: I don't own them.

-o-

"So don’t you dare blame me for

Prying open the door

That’s unleashed the bitterness

That’s here in the midst of this

Sometimes we live for no one but ourselves"

-from "Forgiven" by Relient K

-o-

Dean’s childhood was a confusing string of memories—some soft and warm from before his mother died, others hard and terrifying while living in the wake of her death. A film seemed to cover all of them, tarnishing them, dimming both the good and the bad. All he had was snippets, brief moments of time glistening like flecks of gold, embedded into the recesses of his mind, too small to chisel out for meaning.

There was his mother with him in the park. Her belly was full with Sam, and she was sitting on a bench. Dean danced around her, catching insects and bringing her handfuls of clover and dandelions. In his mind, Dean could still hear her laughter, pealing through the years.

Then he could see his dad hunched over a coffee table, notes splayed around him. Sam was asleep on the floor, face nestled into a flimsy motel pillow, his small features still dirty with dinner and his diaper full. Dean remembered walking up to his father, putting a hand on his knee, and looking up into his father’s scruffy face, wondering who he was.

And he could see Sam, face set and determined, telling Dean about what he wanted, about the future, about the possibilities. There was pain and fear there, and some undying hope that Dean wished he could blot out from his brother’s face.

But the one memory that wasn't dim, the one that wasn't tarnished or faded, the nugget that he could carve out of his mind and hold on to, was the smell of flame and smoke; so visceral, so real, and the heat that outmatched any summer day he’d ever known. The crackle had been deafening, harsh and callous, and he'd been scared—scared in a way he'd never been before. He remembered the look on his daddy’s face, a look he never could describe but knew so well, even today. And the only words he could remember: Take your brother outside as fast you can. Now, Dean, go!

John only had to tell Dean once. He told him again, many times over the years, but he'd only had to do it once. Because Dean remembered the weight of his baby brother in his arms and the way he counted the steps on his way outside, not looking back until he was out in the cold November air, looking up and feeling lost.

It meant so many things. From making sure Sam was fed to making sure nothing evil ever touched him. It was the story of Dean’s life. It was who he was. It gave him purpose, so he clung to it with everything he had left. Watch out for Sammy.

He clung to it because he needed purpose. He'd watched everything else he ever had and ever knew go up in flames. He'd watched his father disappear into a man he hardly knew. All he had left, the only thing, was taking care of Sam.

The years that followed came with skinned knees and broken hearts, and Dean took care of them all. Took care of everything until Sam left, and Dean had been alone.

It was a freedom, both for Sam and himself, even if it scared Dean. Even if it left him feeling void of personality, of who he was. It was a chance to define himself again, and Dean didn’t know what to do. He didn't want it, he never had, and it left him feeling vulnerable and weak and incomplete.

It was four years later when he came back for Sam, four years later when Sam’s defenses came tumbling down, and he needed Dean again.

Sam didn’t have to ask. Dad didn’t have to tell him. It was what he'd been missing, what he'd been waiting for. Watch out for Sammy.

Through spirits and demons, strife and destiny, Dean watched out for Sam.

Then John died, and the burden of protection became a scary thing, because it came with a truth far more sinister than Dean was ready to accept. Watch out for Sammy because Sam may be evil.

Dean believed more of it than he let on. He knew his brother’s heart, knew his brother’s goodness, but he also knew an evil that had taken everything from him. An evil that had felled his mother, his father, and Dean wasn’t sure Sam could resist that. But it didn’t change how he acted, what he felt. His vigilance increased, consuming him until there was nothing else left. No questions of what was next. No question of what was lost. No questions at all.

Dean watched out for Sam until Sam died.

That failure, deeper and more painful than anything, was more than he could accept. It wasn’t the loss of Sam, although that was bad enough, but the complete loss of himself, the loss of his purpose, and Dean knew he only had one card left to play.

He played it at the crossroads, in the dead of night, with a possessed woman and a demon he hated and needed in equal turns.

He'd thought it would make him happy. He'd thought it would make things better. He'd thought having Sam back would give him freedom. Freedom to live it up, to let himself die in peace. The string of girls and alcohol that followed were fast and furious and fun. Dean was alive. Dean was his own man.

Dean was free. Freer than when Sam left for Stanford, because this time he was fulfilling his purpose, becoming the epitome of sacrifice. Sam was alive, and Dean was free. Free from himself, free from Sam, free from his father’s legacy that he'd never asked for. Free because he'd lived up to and exceeded every duty ever placed upon him.

Free.

He told Sam it was his first selfish act, that he deserved it, but Dean had lied. It wasn’t his first selfish act. It was just another selfish act, one in a long line of protecting Sam to prove himself.

That was the point, in the end. Protecting Sam. Saving Sam. He could see that it hurt Sam, that it wore Sam’s soul thin, knowing Dean was going to die. But Sam would outlive him. That was all that mattered. Sam would live. Dean could gloss over the truth, placate Sam's emotions—do all the superficial things he'd always done, and in the end, he'd know he did what he was supposed to do.

It wasn't about making Sam a better person. It wasn't about holding Sam's hand. Sometimes that was a part of it, but it wasn't his priority. It was about keeping Sam safe, making him train even when he hated it. It was about making Sam put aside his dreams for the greater good of the family. It was about keeping Sam near him, with him, part of him, at almost any cost. This time he’d saved Sam in the most extreme way he could, he’d pulled Sam back, and Dean could only think how proud his father would be.

It didn’t matter what happened next, only what they had now, and now Sam was safe, alive, and Dean was free, strong.

In the end, it was an order Bobby had to give, not out of desperation like from his dad, but out of love, out of assumption. Look out for your brother, you idgit.

The same order he’d heard a thousand times, but this time it hit him. It wasn't a requirement; it wasn't a prerequisite to anything. It was a reminder, a nudge to keep his focus on what really mattered—not just Sam's life, but Sam himself.

Take your brother outside, as fast as you can. Now, Dean, go!

Watch out for Sammy.

Look out for your brother, you idgit.

Sam may have been safe, black eye and bullet wound in his shoulder aside, but Dean was pretty sure that wasn’t what really mattered. It was the reason Sam had left in the first place, the reason Sam had fought so hard against the life they had lived. Because what they offered him was protection, safety, not love, not acceptance, and that had never changed, not even at the crossroads.

Protection and love were not the same thing, and Dean wondered if that was more damning than any deal with the devil ever could be.

 

Comments

Posted by: Steffi (legoline)
Posted at: October 24th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
Supernatural - Dean Faith Wake Up

Okay, wow. What a great character study. Great job.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 27th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
I

I'm not sure why, but Dean perplexes me this season, so I've been trying to figure him out. I'm glad you liked it. Thanks!

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: October 24th, 2007 10:22 pm (UTC)
dean and sammy

brilliant!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 27th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
brothers 5

Thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Posted by: percysowner (percysowner)
Posted at: October 24th, 2007 11:54 pm (UTC)

Beautiful Dean POV. And you have hit upon a view of Dean that I have had for a while, but have not been able to articulate, specifically that protecting Sam and looking out for Sam and taking care of Sam does not necessarily equal LOVING Sam. Now don't get me wrong, I think Dean does love Sam, probably above anyone else in this world, and I believe that Sam loves Dean. But, I'm not sure that Dean's love for Sam is healthy for either of them at times. I know that canonically Dean raised Sam but when Sam grew up and wanted to be his own person, Dean threw in with John and went along with insisting that if Sam didn't live up to the family code, then Sam was no longer family.

I am actually someone who needs to be needed, and it took me a long time to realize that requiring someone to need you can actually be a HUGE burden on THEM. To always be the one to be taken care of is stifling. The problem with having a child raise another child is that kids don't know enough about boundaries to let go. It is natural for a child to grow up and grow away from his parents. Dean would have a very hard time dealing with that fact, because he wasn't an adult raising Sam, he was a child and all he could see was the rejection.

Dean's sacrifice was probably the cruelest thing he could have done to Sam. After a season if having Sam be terrified that he would turn into a monster and have to be killed to prevent that, Sam actually saves himself in AHBL1. He resists the demon and refuses to give into the dark temptations in Cold Oak. And Dean negates all of that. To me Dean's actions are truly tragic, in the Greek Tragedy sense. Dean's weaknesses damn both Dean and Sam. This next year will be a journey of trying to overcome this I hope. In any case this is a wonderful story.

Posted by: andromakhe001 (andromakhe001)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 03:47 am (UTC)

Dean threw in with John and went along with insisting that if Sam didn't live up to the family code, then Sam was no longer family.,/i>

No he didn't. Just because Dean didn't leave John doesn't mean Dean threw in with John on that issue. Dean got caught in the middle between the two of them and John said leave and don't come back and Sam left and didn't come back. I never saw ANY indication that Dean felt Sam was no longer part of the family because he didn't live by the family code. I saw that Dean felt he wasn't enough for Sam to even bend a little on his own side in order to keep Dean a part of his life away from the family. True or not, it is still very very different from taking John's side on that issue.

In fact it always seemed to me that SAM was the one who didn't want contact after that as much as John did because SAM threw Dean in with John. They made a point of showing all through Season 1 how much Sam was his father's son in temperament and both of them showed strong "If you aren't with me you are against me". Dean seemed to have good reason to think that if he called Sam first in the pilot, Sam would not have picked up the phone. That says to me he'd probably tried it and gotten just that non-answer before. And Sam very tacitly agreed with him. Dean's lines in Dead in the Water also pointed to Dean's not contacting Sam being a kind of favor to Sam, again something Sam seemed to tacitly agree.

Also prior to sometime in Season 1 Sam never even realized just how strongly Dean felt. Why? Because Dean did what a good parent should and never let Sam feel burdened by it. Which is why it was so shocking to Sam all through Season 1 and still into Season 2 to realize just how very much Dean's whole self-esteem was related to what he did for his family(because John had really never given Dean room to be anything else, something which Dean actually did for Sam). Sam never knew it because Dean never let him feel that way. That was a huge part of Sam's character arc, that realization. The fact that in large part he actually took what Dean did for him for granted and he'd never even realized it(which again is what a good parent does, you don't know what sacrifices your parents have made for you because they never let them seem like sacrifices) shows Dean never let Sam know how much he needed.

Posted by: andromakhe001 (andromakhe001)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)
Oops too long part 2, sorry!

It seemed to me that the show made a point of showing that Dean was the one who knew how to let go, even when it was the last thing he emotionally wanted to do. Whenever push came to shove Dean let go and he did so the right way. Dean could let Sam go to have a life of his own or do his own thing because it was the right thing to do. He never let his own pain at that stop him from doing it. The only time Dean couldn't do it was in Sam's death. John was the one put a price on it. "Okay you can go but don't come back." Dean never would have if it had been up to him that's quite clear. But he was just there, the invisible collateral damage between John and Sam because they were too busy tearing each other apart to even begin to see what it was doing to him while he tried desperately to keep the both of them from going past the point of no-return. So John said leave, Sam left and Dean was left with living with the consequences of their actions as much as they were.

So I can't say I agree with it at all. Dean didn't know what happened in Survivor Ville in All Hell Breaks Loose, all he knew was that Sam ended up dead. He couldn't know what happened with the demon or what else was going on.

Most importantly Dean did offer Sam love, something Sam has acknowledged, in the less sentimental way guys do. Dean was the one who gave him unconditional love, the one he knew that no matter what happened he'd be there for him if and when he wanted him to be. That would have even include when Sam thought he didn't want Dean around(see Salvation where Sam talks about how Dean was one person he's always known he could depend on). Dean was the one who talked affectionately of Sam's little foray into acting in high school(Our Town), which means Dean went to see that play and probably plenty of other things too. Sam has shown this time and time again in his almost unconscious actions in just believing Dean would be there whenever he needed him no matter what circumstances surrounded it.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 11:16 am (UTC)
Re: Oops too long part 2, sorry!

I'm still not so sure that Dean was supportive in letting Sam do his own thing. If he was truly supportive, he wouldn't have belittled Sam's college experience or told him that Sam was a bad son (in Scarecrow--yes, Dean apologized for that, but I do think that was a moment of revelation--clearly there is part of Dean who did think Sam was wrong for leaving). And in Shadow, Dean doesn't understand Sam's desire to go back. Would he let him? Probably, but I didn't get a strong feeling that Dean would be okay with it. In all of Bugs, Sam reflected on his own difficulties trying to break away and Dean's response isn't to validate Sam's emotions, but to show Sam that he was wrong all along, in a way almost trying to make Sam stay again.

And I don't think it's fair to blame Sam and John for Dean feeling in the middle. To think that Sam should have just swallowed his emotions and bucked up and followed orders to lessen the load on Dean is a bit unreasonable, I think, because for Sam, the struggle was for his selfhood. Was it rough for Dean? Yes. But the fact is that NONE of them should have been in that situation to begin with and if they'd all adopted a more healthy and normal concept of family and life then it wouldn't have been an issue at all. Sam and John would have fought, I'm sure, but not with the intensity because the stakes wouldn't have been the same.

Besides, if Sam had stayed, it would have been to his own detriment. It would have required so many sacrifices on his part that he would have been an entire different and less happy person. Everyone deserves the right to go off on their own, and to expect Sam to stay for any reason would be unreasonable. If Dean was truly the supporter of SAM and not FAMILY, he probably would have seen that and encouraged it. But Dean's focus was FAMILY, keeping them together no matter what--which is where a lot of my ramblig in the fic came from.

Dean of course loves Sam and we HAVE seen Sam acknowledge that. My point is more that I think Dean is calling into question his motives for his own love. Motives are always messy, and we all have to reevaluate ours at some point.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 11:08 am (UTC)
earnest

It's interesting to speculate on life pre-Pilot, but in the end, a lot of it is pure speculation. We never SAW anything. We've heard snippets of conversations, but I think it's hard to know until the show tells us outright what really happened with Sam's departure to college. When it comes to emotions and family dynamics, I think it IS true that sometimes if you're not with someone, you're against them. When John drew his line in the sand and Sam was on the other side, Dean had to be implicitly on one side or the other. And to Sam, who probably was angry and hurt, to see his brother do nothing would be betrayal enough. Sam was struggling for selfhood, and that's not an easy struggle, so of course his emotions were running high.

Also there is a ton of perception issues. When Dean asks if Sam would have picked up, I got the impression that neither boy had tried for fear of what the other would do. No matter how in the middle Dean was, there are very few indications that Sam felt like Dean supported his choice to go to college. While Dean may not have been actively fighting him, there is clear resentment inside of Dean for the fact Sam got to go (Skin) and that Sam didn't want to stay around after the fact (Shadow). And that's not to say that Dean is wrong--it's just to say that both boys felt wronged for their own legitimate reasons and it's okay to hold both culpable for the gap in communication (especially if we're attributing the parental role to Dean--it's not the CHILD'S job to take the initiative, but the parents...).

I would never argue that Dean did a lot for Sam. However, I would argue that Dean was neither equipped or capable of being the perfect parent. He couldn't be. He was emotionally immature himself and had no real examples with which to base it. And if we're going to attribute everything good in Sam to Dean, the reverse should be true as well. The reason Dean is who he is is because of what Sam gave to him. Parent/child relationship are rarely one-sided.

S1 WAS a lot about Sam realizing a new side of his family. We saw him be able to shift out of his alienated view and join in the family quest. I don't think it's preposterous to suggest that Dean could also use some change in comes to understanding his family in relationship to himself. Why would he stay emotionally stagnant? Why would we assume he has no room to grow or to realize his own misconceptions?

My point with this fic was never to say that Dean didn't love Sam or that Dean didn't do a lot for Sam--but rather as a reflection of some changes I think we're seeing played out in Dean's character in resposne to the deal. He's trying to be happy, but isn't, even though he THINKS he should. He did his DUTY and it's leaving him feeling empty, and this fic was an exploration of why.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: October 27th, 2007 08:33 pm (UTC)
devastation

I think the difference between protecting Sam and loving Sam is HUGE. And it's not that Dean doesn't LOVE Sam, but I think so often the focus is on protection to the extent that it can overshadow Dean's love for his brother. While Dean may have gone to Sam's plays, clearly when push came to shove and Sam's desires conflicted with the family goal, Dean at the very least agreed with John by his silence. And it's not like Dean didn't ream Sam out for being selfish many times during S1 and S2--accusing Sam of not being the "good son," which to me implies that he thought Sam was wrong. He may respect his brother (like in Scarecrow) but he clearly resents him too.

Which is actually very normal. Love is so often mingled with darker feelings, I'm not sure why we'd expect Dean's feeling for Sam not to be conflicted and less than perfect. Dean's upbringing doesn't seem to have allowed him a real understanding of love--his sense of family is very limited. Sam leaving to him equals Sam not wanting to be his brother, which is so clealry not the case and not Sam's fault--it's Dean's lack of understanding of it.

Dean's actions could very well be Sam's downfall. Not that Sam doesn't make his own choices, but when he's being shown time and time again by his family that love = sacrifice, how can he not do the same?

Poor boys :( Thanks for the thoughtful review!

Posted by: egorstandish (ex_egorstan)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC)

Really enjoyed your story! Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Nora Norwich (norwich36)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 04:33 am (UTC)
Dean hot

That was a terrific character study. I especially liked this part, because it rang really true for me:

Dean was free. Freer than when Sam left for Stanford, because this time he was fulfilling his purpose, becoming the epitome of sacrifice. Sam was alive, and Dean was free. Free from himself, free from Sam, free from his father’s legacy that he'd never asked for. Free because he'd lived up to and exceeded every duty ever placed upon him.

Posted by: ErinRua (erinrua)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)
Dean

Very nice character study, the long view of Dean and Sam, and the ending just packs a punch. It'll be interesting to see how Dean's attitude towards Sam may evolve, now that S3 is underway.

Nicely done!
Cheers ~

Erin

Posted by: vesuvianite (vesuvianite)
Posted at: October 25th, 2007 01:36 pm (UTC)

You did a lovely job with this. It's a very effective (and affecting) piece.

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