Kalliel (kalliel) wrote,

[Art/Words/Music] My Body is a Cage - a study in Dean Winchester

Title: My Body is a Cage
Genre: gen, character study, horror, angst, hurt/comfort
Character: Dean (peripheral Sam, Alistair)
Rating: R
Word Count: ~2500
Notes: This is sort of a multi-media piece--kalliel and vie_dangerouse wrote it, Kalliel did the graphics, and Kalliel, Vie_Dangerouse, and maypoles selected the musical accompaniment. ♥ to everyone who helped out with this; we finally have a final product!

This character study covers Dean's development in seasons, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

My Body is a Cage

art | words | music

†   This is a Dean Winchester character study, spanning seasons 4-7. It is not a fic, nor art, nor a fanmix, though it incorporates elements of all of these. It was written by kalliel & vie_dangerouse, and Photoshopped by kalliel. Musical selections courtesy of kalliel, vie_dangerouse, & maypoles. ♥

Music is available in a .zip file at SendSpace.

Sometimes you can see yourself. You’ll glance to your sideview mirror and it won’t give you the road. Instead it's your face, your jaw, your lips (and how long have they been that exhausted shade of blue?).

You’ve forgotten—this is not your car. The mirrors are fucked and the seat, your back—the seat that must be why. You push back, straighten up. You ache.

Bands of light from the oncoming traffic, the neon and the marquees overhead, whisk over the windshield. You catch yourself in flashes of arterial red and drugstore yellow.

It’s not that you don’t recognize yourself; you do. You do, and that's just it. When you close your eyes and the rumbling starts, all the faces screaming up at you are yours. Your face. Your jaw. Your teeth raked against your tongue, cheeks twisted just enough to sell the smile. It matches your lips; Hell rumbles and it’s like a drumroll welcoming you home. Hello, nightmare, I know you well. (Or so you say.)

Then Sam says, Dean. Are you going to turn the ignition off?

You do. You lurch out of the car and into the stillness. Your shape passes through the mirror on the way.

I. There should be a word for death. A word for the moment your chest comes undone and your heart keeps beating long past your last shot at viability; a word for the moment you end.

There should be a word for the interim, and for the match you light when 'slowly rotting' stops meaning what you thought it did. Dirt crawls down your neck and sweat, won by the seduction, follows. Your head pounds with your heart, your heart that missed the memo again, a-fucking-gain. Fire takes your match to its stub and tries to take your fingers with it. (Your fingers win.) They still peel raw as you dig upwards. You swallow earth, and it almost wipes you clean of the taste of blood. Hot, swollen roots press their fingers into your neck. You claw back. More earth falls. You are buried as you unbury, which is a feat of gravity. You lived while you were dead, which is a feat of God, or Hell--this time there are too many words. They're all the same to you.

There's a fill-up joint miles down the road. At first you think you've really died this time, the road goes on so long. Then you realize it's not the road; it's you. You're not the way you remember. Your legs bow wider than usual and you tie your shirt around your waist just to feel the pressure. Tourniquet-tight; otherwise your spine's gonna bend back, fall to pieces and scatter in the dust like you're playing vertebral yahtzee. Like you don't know what it's like to stand this tall.

You figure, if God wanted you on your knees when you hit His pearly gates, damn straight you needed Alistair first. Damn straight you needed--newspaper, limp and and shuddering and bleeding ink all over your hands--Pontiac-fucking-Illinois first.

You're used to back doors. If God wants you on your knees, he's gonna have to keep trying.

There's a word for Sam, the first time he sees you: Killing intent. And the second time--regret. (At first you assume it's just relief still mixed up with the knife he's got in his hand, wires crossing, some kind of mistake. But by November you've started to doubt.)

There's a word for what you think about all this shit. Yes, even that. There're a lot of words for that, but you play favorites. Tried and true.

"Shitty," you say, when Sam asks you how the coffee is. This shit is shitty. You do your best to smile, because you know Sam is not asking out of concern for your beverage. But your lies have the endurance of marathon runners, and your smile is fucking fabulous--not to be a dick about or nothing, it just is. Sam believes you. His smile is also fabulous. In October you bare your teeth at a pretzel the size of your head and your smile is so fucking fabulous for an afternoon you believe it too.

But there are no words. It's not long before you're standing on a dock. With Sam. The water, reeking and summer-tepid, makes dull contact with the wood beneath you both. The ground rolls with the tide. There's a donk as water slaps the dock that sounds so hollow you feel it like a punch to your stomach. Then you say it's time for another spicy Italian sub. 'Cause you're not gonna get burned this time, damn it. You're never getting burned again.

That's probably as close as you'll ever come. There is no word for the death you know, and you know it. No adjective you can shove in front of every breath you take today, will take tomorrow. (If you last that long. And it's with sick perpetuity that you realize you probably will. Every day you pick your fights and whatever hits the ground screaming, it's never you. You go back to the motel and scrape crusty blood from the knife with your fingernails. It leaves a stain to match the rust rings at the bottom of the sink. Only the laziest fucks wait that long to clean their weapons, but you let your pride--as with so much else--slip. After all, what has it ever gotten you?)

There are no words for what you are anymore, so you claim one. You take it by the shoulder, and wrench, and pull.


The Arcade Fire
"My Body is a Cage"

I'm standing on the stage
of fear and self-doubt
it's a hollow play
but they'll clap anyway
Tom Waits
"Dirt in the Ground"

'cause hell is boiling over
and heaven is full
we're chained to the world
and we all gotta pull
and we're all gonna be
just dirt in the ground

II. You bite your tongue, swallow blood instead of spitting it out, and realize: what this really is is just taking pleasure in other people's pain.

This is a simple realization, yet somehow not one that's occurred to you before now. You shut the water off, and step out of the shower thinking about tucking hair behind a woman's ear, brushing her skin with your lips before you pull your finger back and let the trigger do its thing.

Or maybe she isn't really a woman. This is something, just one of a myriad, that you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. So that you can get up in the morning and eat your goddamn cornflakes, which are maybe not really cornflakes. Swirling in milk, soggy, anything can look like cerebral matter. You're never hungry anyway.

This is taking pleasure in the pain of others: this is drinking in their opaline eyes, unlacing their ribs like corsets.

You've always been like this. It was a gene passed down from your father or maybe your mother, and you can't help it. Written in the stars, in a galaxy where all the constellations have the names of numbers one through twenty-three.

It's not like you've never fucked a girl while there's still blood under your fingernails. It's not like you've never come dry after shooting a bullet between something's eyes. Do you like torture? a voice will always whisper in your ear, Because I think you could've killed that thing a little quicker, don't you?

And you pant, and swallow instead of spitting-- yes, yes, the answer is always yes.

This must be why BDSM is a thing.

Black Cake Betty
"The Spine Song"

they stole your shoes and then brought you to
the caverns of their teeth
you pleaded
oh kind sir
please let me say goodbye
your soul ripped from your stomach
you gave an awful cry
a cry
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
"Beat the Devil's Tattoo"

there is no peace here war is never cheap dear
love will never meet it it just gets sold for parts
you cannot fight it all the world denies it
open up your eyelids and let your demons run
Bachman Turner Overdrive
"Let It Ride"

you can't see the mornin', but I can see the light
while you've been out runnin' I've been waitin' half the night
baby you want the forgivin' kind and that's just not my style
Johnny Cash
"God's Gonna Cut You Down"

you can run on for a long time
run on for a long time, run on for a long time
sooner or later God'll cut you down

III. You're at the point where you could pet a kitten with one hand and blow its brains out with the other. Hey, the thing was black, and everyone knows that black cats are bad mojo. You don't need any more of that.

Someone's phone number in your own handwriting, scrawled belligerently across a napkin. You have no memory of putting pen to paper. You peer at it hazily, try to puzzle it out. Your dad once had seven separate cell phones, and you could rattle off the digits for each of them by rote, as if you were some long-lost von Trapp child, stepping forward and showing off.

"You put that in your phone yet?" Sam asks you, and you startle. You're not the deer here, you're the headlights, and you weren't expecting to hit anything solid, either.

Oh. Yeah. It's your brother's new phone number. You jam it into your phone, pressing the buttons harder than you need to. Your phone is an extension of yourself, and hell knows (literally), you always have needed things pounded into your skull before you accept them.

You finish typing in the numbers, and then toss your phone onto the bed, that split second of free fall as you lie back on the bed the highest high you'll be getting today, at least until you restock your liquor supply. Alcohol is a downer, though, right? You're not sure, but you think that once you've dug yourself out of your own grave with nothing but your fingernails, the classification of downers and uppers might just subvert itself, the same way your world did. Hell was like Antarctica except warmer. You were standing on the bottom of the world and not falling off.

Somebody told you once that you could see the world how you wanted it to be. You've been trying to shape your life to how you want it to be for a while now, but the problem is, if you don't like it, you can't just throw it back. You should know. You've tried.

Are we going to get a move on? Sam asks you, his voice flat and his words not fenced in by quotation marks, as if you're characters in a Cormac McCarthy novel about the monstrosity of mankind. Neil Armstrong took a step for mankind once, while the whole world (or at least the portions of it with cable, which, honestly, are the only portions that really count) watched. You've taken steps for mankind, too-- nobody ever specified which direction they had to be in.

You sit up and feel around for your phone on the scratchy bedspread. You finger it like a girl who's bad at faking orgasms. Sam's still looking at you, waiting for an answer. Your lips want to form the word 'yes,' but then you remember blood spatter patterns on dirty asphalt, the animalistic roar ripping from human throats, and you swallow it back like blood-tinged phlegm.

Sure, you say instead. The word comes out like old stitches, left in too long, and you're positive that the word 'yes' would slide out of you like semen. You're betting that Zachariah would be a swallower, not a spitter.

Sam looks at you funny, and asks you if you're okay.

[Yes], you want to say. [YES YES YES], [yes please], [yes, just like that], [yessssssssssssssssss]

You let your incisors violently kiss your tongue.


You tell him-- [no].


The Black Keys
"I'm Not the One"

I've been tried
and I've been tested
I was born tired
I never got rested

if you’d only, if you’d only say yes
whether you will's anybody’s guess
God only God knows I'm trying my best
but I’m just so tired of this loneliness
Linkin Park [Adele cover]
"Rolling in the Deep"

throw your soul through every open door
count your blessings to find what you're looking for
turn my sorrow into treasured gold
you'll pay me back in kind and reap just what you've sown
Pink Floyd
"Wish You Were Here"

did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
hot ashes for trees?
hot air for a cool breeze?
cold comfort for change?
and did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

we're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year
running over the same old ground
what have we found? The same old fears

(You can disappear it in a breath.)

Oxygen leaks down your throat in ribbons, like it's catching on serrated blades and not coming out on top. The expansion of your lungs is the air fighting back but, like you, it's never enough.

You breathe out.

When you wake up, sometimes you're with Sam. Sam at twenty-four, frumpy and listless and surrounded by the sick green of the Broward County Inn, and flamingoes, and Asia. Sometimes you're with Lisa. With her, you're never sure whether it's harder to smile, or to admit you're faking it. You hurt her either way; she doesn't mind, she keeps telling you she doesn't mind, that you are worth it, but you do. You mind a lot. And if anyone thinks you've never done a selfish thing, that's a fucking lie.

Then finally, and for the last time, you wake up to Sam. You wake up to something that really doesn't act or look at all like Sam. This one's not your favorite fantasy, but no matter who you share your 5am with, you're always alone; at the very least, it's easiest to come to terms with this in his robotic company. Somehow it's less of a disaster when there are two straw men in the room, or something.

Or something. Whatever. You've got a job to do today. You pass over the threshold of Bobby's panic room and try not to feel sick. It's not the first time you've made a deal with Death, and you're sure it's not gonna be the last. But it's probably gonna be the last that ends anywhere near pretty. You breathe: You hold your anxiety close to you. It's white hot and everywhere, a hand at your nape, a fist in your chest. (Pain can be pretty, too.)

Then you let Death do his thing. You watch your brother's body scream.

You know that of all the deals you've made, this is probably the dumbest. Death's not a demon, or an angel. He's not God--though he's probably worse. He'll be there when the world ends, and he's told you as much. You told him, Great, I'll see you there--I'll fucking race you, but deep down, you know better than that. Sometimes. You know that when it comes down to it, all you've got are dumbass tricks. You know where you learned them and you know how fast you're gonna fall apart when the consequences catch you in the backdraft.

For now, you breathe. You look at your brother's body, and you look at his soul. It doesn't look that bad. Not that you're an expert, but you and him, you've never carried anything that didn't look a little like shit. Hell, on days like these, even your air is rough around the edges. (Breathe, breathe, breathe).

You can work with that. You take one more breath, an awful light-headed slippery breath, and the world disappears for a moment. Then you exhale and you take the whole world back. Maybe you're selfish; maybe not. One thing for sure you know about you:

Either you are breaking, or you are nothing at all.

Greg Laswell
"Your Ghost"

let him shoot me down and let him call me off
take it from his whisper, you're not that tough

it's the blaze across your nightgown
it's the phone's ring
The Black Keys
"So He Won't Break"

gone like the wind
and the state it put him in

he's crazy from the pain
and can't get hurt again
and if he ever falls
I'd feel sorry for us all
Karine Polwart

who stole today? who stole tomorrow?
and left me with nothing
with nothing but doom and sorrow
but doom and sorrow

I know the name of the fire thief
Mumford & Sons
"Little Lion Man"

you're not as brave as you were at the start
rate yourself and rake yourself,
take all the courage you have left
wasted on fixing all the problems
that you made in your own head

but it was not your fault but mine
and it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
didn't I, my dear?
didn't I, my...

V. Your brother is playing Siamese braintwins with the devil, and all you want to do is sleep. You haven't done it properly in years.

You slept thirty-six hours, Frank informed you that one time, when you could've sworn all you did was take a longer-than-average blink.

If caring was a place, you burned it to the ground a long time ago. There were no survivors, and that's including you. Your brother might disagree, but you're not so sure about knowing him anymore. Even last year, when he was a princess with no pea rattling around inside him, just an empty suit of armor that killed on command, you thought you had him nailed.

Now, both of you hanging on the cross, you're wondering: who's Jesus, and who's the thief?

The longer you keep on moving, the harder it is to stop. This is true even if by now you're a howling mess on a Final Destination 6 trip to Hell. You think that there's a lot to be said about a man who once had more than one foot in his own grave, and then clawed his way back out. That man was you, once.

There was this one time that your brother was dying and you ran towards him in the rain. There was this one time that you were dying and your brother cradled you, his sweaty hands leaving fingerprints all over the thin skin of your face. There were some times that you both died and neither one of you cared. It was a cycle of repetition, and you got sick of it eventually.

However, if your life is a circle, you figure, pretty soon you'll have to be getting back to the top.

Band of Skulls
"I Know What I Am"

taco bell
I got the hit that you know damn well

cut, tease
better believe
I got the feeling that I'm underneath

I know what I am
they know what they are
so let me be
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
"Let it Ride"

I wanna see you tonight
where they moved the drive-in theater
where I left the car that I can't find but I still got the keys to

let it ride let it ride easy down the road
let it rock me in the arms of stranger's angels until it brings me home
Christine Collister [Tom Waits cover]
"Dirt in the Ground"

what does it matter, a dream of love
or a dream of lies?
we're all gonna be in the same place
when we die
Peter Gabriel [The Arcade Fire cover]
"My Body is a Cage"

my body is a cage
we take what we're given
just because you've forgotten
that don't mean you're forgiven


Tags: fic: spn

  • <3

    I dunno what it is about mid-February, but I've gotten like three comments on fics in the last 24 hours and that is super exciting. <333333333 I…

  • (no subject)

    Today Canadian radio was playing Five Finger Death Punch's cover of "Bad Company," and when I switched to Detroit radio, and they were playing Bad…

  • 15x10

    I forgot to mention the music! WHAT A TRIP. Especially the like, saxophone??? brother song arrangement??? That was wild! Episodes that at some point…

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  • <3

    I dunno what it is about mid-February, but I've gotten like three comments on fics in the last 24 hours and that is super exciting. <333333333 I…

  • (no subject)

    Today Canadian radio was playing Five Finger Death Punch's cover of "Bad Company," and when I switched to Detroit radio, and they were playing Bad…

  • 15x10

    I forgot to mention the music! WHAT A TRIP. Especially the like, saxophone??? brother song arrangement??? That was wild! Episodes that at some point…