Kalliel (kalliel) wrote,
Kalliel
kalliel

[Fic] Headliners - outsider POV, Jo, Dean, mentions of Sam, post-6x15 "The French Mistake" AT

Title: Headliners [AO3 Link]
Genre: fabulism, outsider POV, alternate timeline
Characters: Jo, OC, Dean, mentions of Sam and several other guests
Rating: R
Word Count: ~9900
Warnings: Libel and slander. Dead bodies. Alcoholism.
Summary: "The French Mistake" goes awry, the Titanic doesn't sink, and Eve never dies. Jo and what's left of her family pick up the pieces.

This was written for kogsy21 at spn_summergen 2013. I've also written a director's commentary as a companion to this piece. Though this has nothing at all to do with S8, it is in many ways my response to it, two seasons removed. It was originally posted here.





RITUALISTIC PRACTICES AT HOME TURNED DEAN WINCHESTER TO SATAN AT AN EARLY AGE, Rev. Don Dawson confirms. Proposes funds be allocated from the Department of Defense for county-wide religious cleansing. -- NEWS@11: String of racial hate crimes last August points to Dean Winchester. -- Dean Winchester's Home Invasion: The Girlfriend's Not Talking, But the Neighbor Saw it All -- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW--


--


"You don't know what you're saying." Jo's talking to the TV again, if talking's quite the word. It's a fist-shaking, spoon-jabbing sort of speech, and it flecks skim milk across the counter, which makes rainbows when it lands, distorting the TV screen with a light speckle. "You're supposed to fact check. SO DO YOUR FUCKING JOB--"

"Jo," says Kelly. He wipes the counter before returning to the dishes, letting the water run thick and frothy from the faucet the way she always told him not to. At least it drowns out the news. "C'mon; chill out."

Jo rips herself from the telecast. "Mom, I'm Mom," she says. "We've been over this."

"Jesus christ, Mom, it's not going to make a difference. 'Real Mom' wouldn't know a pig tit from her own ass; they'd never leave me with her. It'd be criminal."

Jo gives him a long, hard stare. She hasn't put her hair up yet, and it's a frazzled mess dented by wherever she pitched her tent last night--proverbial tent, of course, it'd be stupid to go out in weather like this, but it's like she's squatting in her own home, the way she hasn't left the living room. Not that she has much of a choice; but there are papers everywhere. Her eyes are bloodshot--overtime with her backlit screens. She could be on drugs, for all they knew. She could be planning a different use for all those guns. She has a living room full of pictures and copies and diagrams of Dean Winchester's everything, and Lord knows that's not too popular right now. And some of them are framed; in some of them, they're smiling. They're all smiling. Some of them aren't mugshots.

Kelly lets the water run.

They're criminal.

"Oh fuck you!" Jo screams, ghost-screams--plangent--at their little television set. Kelly's glad it's not at throwing distance, because it's definitely a throwing size, and Jo's chin is quivering with the bare, livewire frustration of having lost everything. If he undressed her he'd see all her wiring, a CNS of red, blue, green, loose frayed copper bulging from her spine, and--oh fuck.

"Mom," he says, because now is not the time for fighting banter, and it's definitely too damn early for a wet dream, "We should turn that off for a little, huh?"

Jo shakes her head, draws in a sharp breath, and holds it inside herself. "We might miss something."

Kelly frowns. It's not like Dean Winchester's getting any deader. Still, his stomach twists; from fear, hunger, sympathetic grief, he's not sure. "Any more cereal?" he asks.


"He's not what you think."

A knock at the door. Probably the news again. Jo's always come out to meet them before, her door closed to the secretarial travesty in her living room, guns blazing. She'd rather lock herself out of an escape route than give them her home. But today she doesn't move.

Kelly looks to the TV. It's just a reiteration of the same reels they've been playing all month; there's nothing new. He knows Jo's seen it all already, but there's a fury in her wrists that travels up her arms, pulls her jaw back and shoves it tight against her throat, like there are strong hands holding her back.

He thinks about touching her shoulder, and doesn't.

"I'll deal with them," he says, and does.

When Kelly comes back inside, Jo asks, "Is Rick--is your daddy ready?" She doesn't lift her gaze from the pale milk in her bowl. The TV's off now.

"He was readier a week ago."


"I'm sorry."

Kelly shrugs. "He was your husband."

Jo looks at Kelly like he's an alien, like that man was your fucking father, how can you? how could you? before she loses herself again in her own private assortment of grief and guilt. Because fuck, of course it's supposed to matter. That's his father rotting in the back room, his daddy. There has to be something wrong with him. (Of course there's something wrong with him.)


"I don't know," says Kelly, because he doesn't. He doesn't know anything. "There's enough gasoline in him to keep the smell down. All you need to do is light the match."

"I thought if we waited, I could--" But it really doesn't matter what Jo thought, because she couldn't. Kelly takes Jo's bowl and lets the milk slide down the drain, like water choked with white ash.

Jo heads to the back, draws the matches from her jacket--long, the bonfire kind--like a knife.

She's had them ready this entire time.


--


"DEAN WINCHESTER'S THE KIND OF MAN YOU GO TO WAR FOR," says Kelly Gallegos, 15. It is the same answer from which his stepmother, Joanna Harvelle, 27, has failed to deviate in previous interviews. Kelly Gallegos has untrim hair and a boy band face; he has never been to war. What holds him on his doorstep is obligation, not conviction. His is an unusual position, given Winchester's suspected involvement in over 200 cases of arson, desecration, and assault, and 47 counts of homicide; but Harvelle was the one to identify his body last month. In times of crisis, familial loyalties are difficult to quell.

The whereabouts of Winchester's brother, Sam, 28, remain unknown. Gallegos's father, Enrique, 37, an electrical technician for Sucrocorp, a budding monolith in the American food industry, was reported missing by his employers last week, and his location remains unknown. The bodies of Ellen Harvelle and Robert Singer of Sioux Falls, South Dakota were recovered behind a diner in Grants Pass, Oregon early this month; they were the mother and purported stepfather of Joanna Harvelle, and the Winchesters' next of kin. They were honored in a closed ceremony one day before Enrique Gallegos's disappearance.

The police certainly suspect foul play.



--


It's not him. She's said as much, a thousand times, before they'd even cleared the doors a second time.

"You know, this building honestly wasn't that much easier to get into the legal way." Kelly grunts as he heaves a what, a refrigerated drawer? open. Dean Winchester's inside--or not Dean Winchester, as it were.

Jo doesn't laugh, doesn't even respond. The way she looks at him(it?), you wouldn't believe her litany for a damn second. "It's not him," she says again, regardless, and closes her hand around its wrist.

It's not like it's his first time in a room with a dead body, but Kelly turns his attention to his shoes. In the periphery of his vision, Kelly sees Jo lean to stroke the body's hairline. When he looks up, she's fingering the creases around his eyes.

The sockets are empty now, eyes long ago dispatched to some lab or some needy trauma victim (and there were plenty of those these days). Judging by the tight sutures zippering his chest cavity, there are plenty of other organs being fostered elsewhere, too. There's not a hunter alive who'd ever be a donor, it'd be a dumbass mistake, but Kelly knows that's not the reason Jo's so certain about this. She's never been the type to disregard the possibility of dumbass mistakes. One sloppy fake ID, an overlooked sticker, and the rest is history.


"It's not him," Jo repeats. "But what the fuck is it?"

She turns its stiff wrists. Clean. Ears, clean. Teeth, fangless. Dick, intact. No sensitivity to silver.


"He doesn't have that tattoo," says Kelly. But his attempt to guide Jo into an exposition doesn't take off.

Her hand cups his chest where his heart would have been. "Stranger things have happened," she murmurs.

The guy's been declared dead half a dozen times according to the news, so Kelly's going to take Jo's word on that one. But he knows Dean only by reputation, hearsay, a few rogue pictures. He's grayer, deader, and emptier now, probably, but if he's not a shifter, then that's him. He's sorry to say it, but--

"Feel his hands," says Jo.

"Hell no."

A sigh of exasperation. "Then look at his fingernails."

There's mud under them, and something green, but hell, that's true of Jo, too. If Kelly hadn't just bathed--because that's what you do before a morgue break-in, right? you shower, god there is something wrong with him--it'd also be true of him. "They pulled him out of a forest. He's muddy."

"They're perfect."

They're muddy. But Kelly looks at his own nails--some bruised, others jagged--and at Jo's--cuticles torn--and sees her point. A hunter, this guy was not.

"They took everything." Jo's voice is tight, withered; she's having trouble shaking the likeness. "Lungs, kidneys, liver…"

Kelly wonders how the lucky recipients would feel if they knew they had Dean Winchester's liver in their gut. Would they go homicidal on principle? He shudders; anonymity was a bitch. "Well, the news said they pulled him out of a forest, so even with the delay, maybe--"

"Dean was--" She stops. "Dean is--" She's flipping through what is apparently a deceptively clean autopsy. "Open his mouth."


"You're the one touching him all over the place. You open this mouth!"

Jo sets the file down, but doesn't pause for a reprimand. She has a jaw in one hand and is peeling back gray, molting lips with the other before she speaks again. Do you understand what's happening, she asks, like he's a child having death explained to him. She's never treated him that way before (one of her winning qualities, as far as Dad's girlfriends were concerned), but that's definitely what it feels like now.

No, Kelly admits. No he doesn't.

Jo snorts. "Hell no." She's looking deep into the body's mouth, to molars and bicuspids. They're pretty as hell, which was, well. It was unlikely, since the whole reason he and Jo had come down here was to make the identification the M.E. couldn't--Dean Winchester had no dental records, had never had any dental records. The only time his parents had ever thought about dental coverage, he hadn't even been born yet. The feds would have figured it out eventually, but Jo called their trip an expedient, a political move.

"This isn't any kind of monster we've heard of, but it sure as hell ain't Dean." Jo releases the jaw, but it lolls open again, won't stay shut the way it did before. Jo's fingers follow his cheekbones up his face, and she runs her hand through his hair again. But whatever he is, or isn't, Jo looks like she's about to cry. "We need to find Sam."

"Uh, why not Dean?"

"If he's out there, this is gonna drive him so far underground even we won't be able to track him. Dean Winchester six feet under? Today made a lot of people real happy."

Jo is not one of them. "Jo," says Kelly. She needs to take her hands from his shoulder before he can roll the body back inside its cubby.

"Made 'em feel safe."

Jo's done a lot of things to make people feel safe, but telling the feds this was Dean Winchester sure as hell wasn't one of them. It's not it's not it's not it's not, she'd chanted all the way home, until they'd started prepping for their second, unsupervised visitation. Whatever Dean Winchester is to her, he's the point where Jo stops trying to save the world and starts protecting her family. He's the point where right and wrong get cloudy.

Because Dean Winchester is wanted for 47 counts of homicide, 24 in the last year alone. They weren't all monsters.


"Dean is-- Dean was--" Jo begins again. "He's...sick. No way his stuff would go to anybody else."

"Sick" is not a very interesting story. What it comes down to is, Dean is a hunter. Dean is a hunter and that means his chances to die bloody jump to 57%. The chance his liver would give out first, a slim 40. And from what Kelly's heard about Dean, he's not that other three percent.

"Okay," says Kelly. "So we go find Sam. Where do we start--the forest?"

"We're going home. You've got three days of school before spring break, and I need to talk to R--to your dad. If Sam's in that forest, then he can wait another week while we do recon. If he can't," she says, "He's already dead."


--


A MAN WAS RECOVERED FROM THE BLACK HILLS at 9pm last night. In the late stages of hypothermia, the victim died of rewarming shock before wilderness first responders could move him to the appropriate facilities. The identification on his person presumed an alias, as the DMV shows no record of him; the body is under investigation by the federal authorities, who suspect it belongs to an interstate serial offender who disappeared in early 2008.

According to Fiona Alvarez, an EMT with the Black Hills Forest Service, the victim was moderately lucid just before he died. He said, "Danneel."



--


"Fucken' local stuff," Kelly says, tapping his pen against the newspaper in his hands. He's got his feet kicked up against the coffee table and his back flat against the ground. "They call this journalism?"

They'd gone local when the national news had started rehashing the same fragments; it was practically plagiarism, honestly. The TV was worse--everything was a dramatic tagline, reserved for the News at 11. NPR ran a story so grossly exaggerated--or so Grossly factual, Kelly thinks, because he likes and trusts Terry, and some shit you just can't make up--it made Jo sick. And this is the woman who built her husband's pyre in the back room of their own home, because they couldn't risk going outside. The damp mold smell from what it took to put the fire out almost overpowers the rest of the ordeal, but not quite.

Kelly thought the NPR story was pretty good.

There's a lot of material Jo won't let him touch; phone taps and hunter's logs, mostly. They haven't cracked the e-mail account yet; it's Sam's, mostly, and Jo can crack neither the password nor the security question. If it had been Dean's, she insists, it would have been easy; because Dean is predictable. But Kelly doesn't need to see the good stuff to know that Dean's anything but. Maybe there are things about him that will never change, but that definitely hasn't locked the floodgates on the things that have.


"When's the last time you even saw this guy?"

"You know 'this guy,'" says Jo, even though she knows he doesn't. Jo might know Dean like blood, but she and Rick only made it a year before, well. Before Jo kept a dead body in their back room in order to give herself time to fill out paperwork. There are adoption papers she and Rick never got around to, and rumor has it Kelly's got a mom out there who's cleaned up her act and wouldn't mind having him back. Which, fuck adults, honestly, because everyone's handling of the custody thing was adolescent. Jo still doesn't have those papers. What they do have is the Encyclopedia Britannica on Dean Winchester.

"Rick told you he's a good man," Jo refines, when Kelly doesn't reply.

"That's not what he said." That's not even what Jo said. Jo Harvelle would go to war for Dean Winchester; she's said as much, a thousand times, she knew it'd bring reporters flocking to their door even if ID'ing the body didn't, and she said it anyway. She said it again and again and again. But what Jo's never said is, Dean Winchester's a good man. She's never said, Dean didn't kill those people. That wasn't Dean's knife. He'd never leave a town like that. Dean is not the kind of man who' keep that secret, make such a deal, refuse that chance, incur that fallout, et cetera. She'd simply stated, rinse and repeat, that those were not his hands. Those clean neat strong fingernails were not his hands. Those pretty teeth.

It's enough to make him sure that Dean Winchester's a lot of things, so many even Jo can't know them all, and many of them are not that good. They are not good at all.

Kelly thumbs a photo of Jo and her family, and Dean, and Sam, and a man in a trenchcoat, staring grimly into the empty flash of an old camera. There's another of a woman, and Dean, and a child. Everyone is smiling.

He feels sick.

Whoever Dean is, he's got a crude mouth and a wicked sense of humor, he's "pretty cool," he's a hero, he's a liar, he's not thorough, he's too thorough, he will never forgive you, you will never forgive him, he loves his brother very much, and he's thought about killing him more than once. These moments do not overlap with his sense of humor, his cheeky grin. He's the man the angels call when they need a knife on Hell. He's the man the angels call when they need a man to end the world. He's the man the angels call when they need a bus ride home. He's the man Jo calls when she gets engaged.

He's the man who missed the wedding.

He's the man who, thanks to the calculated focus of the national media, is coaxing the United States out of mass hysteria. Six dead in a warehouse in Ohio and an entire town gone in Oregon--and who knows if there's been a quarantine, the CDC's not talking--but thank God, thank God Almighty, that Dean Winchester is dead.

And Jo Harvelle's going to war for him.

As for Kelly Gallegos--Kelly thinks that NPR spot was pretty good.


--


You should see someone, says Jo, but he's handling it, says the voice on the other end of the line. He's already handling it. That's why I think you should see someone, says Jo. I know a guy who knows a guy, he's not above-board, he's nowhere near the board, he can help you, Dean. He's the guy who tried to save my father, Dean, so know that you're the only one I'm doing a favor for with this. I don't like him, you're not gonna like him--Rick likes him, but that's complicated. His name's Dr. Roberts. He can help you, Dean.

Well, how bad is it? she asks. And by his response they're not talking about Dean anymore, with a hushed insistence that anyone alive today would laugh at, it's so common to be talking about Dean Winchester, until Jo says, That's not why I'm giving you this number, Dean. Dean, please. Dean--



Kelly tries to love Dean. Sometimes, he thinks, maybe he's just too young. He digs deeper. Further back. He'll dig until he finds something worth Jo's loyalty.


// I'm not gonna whine about my b--------- problems to some b--------- reality show. I'm gonna do my f-------- job.

// Dean Winchester, GHOSTFACERS 0x00 Pilot //



--


Dean's friends, if he has any, are remarkably close-lipped about his better qualities. Garth's assessment of Dean is glowing, and there are several, older correspondences between this or that hunter, this or that family of bewildered, but otherwise preoccupied acquaintances (would-be victims, Kelly graciously assumes), that stand by his faculties, his sound judgments. But the Winchesters spiraled out of the public--or mildly public--sphere around the same time the rumors about them turned metaphysical, then violent, then dangerous; and that's an inverse relationship that doesn't tend to be forgiving. A features journalist based in Missouri, Cassie Robinson, wrote a scathing op-ed about the media's publicity mongering, but otherwise kept her tone academic. Lisa Braeden refused to comment. It was the sort of refusal that keeps the media 200 yards from her home in any direction.

Everyone else is dead or missing.

"What about angels?" Kelly asks.

Jo shakes her head. "They can't be trusted."

"What about demons?"

And Jo says, "They can't be found."

They find their best lead by tossing Grandpa Bobby's house--a pint of lamb's blood, the bone of a lesser saint, and the better portion of a box of dead sea salt are missing. So is the western wall of the study. There's no sulfur--but there's a hint of myrrh, maybe. Frankincense and myrrh.

(The angels can't be trusted.)

Dean Winchester's death, or not death, is probably not a celestial cog, but it's certainly a tipping point. It's a matter of weeks before Jo's family is dead, before 0.34% of the national population is dead (their bellies cracked open like watermelons); and if that's not high enough to raise concern, consider the fact that it's dropped unemployment significantly. The only reason the end of the world isn't trending on Twitter is because Dean Winchester is. Or at least, that's what Comedy Central's saying these days. It's frustrating.

The angels can't be trusted, the demons can't be found, and according to the notes Grandpa Bobby left--the notes he would have died protecting if he hadn't died well in advance of any of it mattering--the Winchesters, their psychic footprints, elemental signatures, karmic trails, are gone from this world, in every sense of the word; not in Hell below us, and above us only sky. Sky and civil war.

"I don't think we have any matches," says Jo, who hasn't moved from the couch in days. It's bullshit; of course they have matches. They don't have a linen closet full of salt and propane and silver without making sure they have matches. Lighters. Welding torches. "We'll have to, he doesn't smell much, does he? With the weather, and the AC…"

"We can't wait anymore. There's no telling how long we can--" Keep the house, Kelly is about to say. Because whatever's fallen out of practice in the wake of the end of days, bureaucracy hasn't. They've already missed a billing cycle, it's hardly their first, it's not their first strike, or their third--try seventh. Try eighteenth. And if word gets out that they've been keeping a dead guy in the back room for a week, there's going to be a lot more than rent and utilities joining the throng of reporters at their door.

"He was your father," says Jo, not for the first time. Because the ill-fated adventures of Bill and John is a family story that's been passed on more times than it hasn't, Kelly knows what this means to Jo. He knows what he must seem like to Jo.

"I don't know," says Kelly, because he doesn't. "Do you want me to weep? Because I can't. I can't cry about this. I can't make myself cry about this. He's gone and it sucks." And if I could find my way to feeling that, I would, he wants to add. But I can't. I can't and I don't know why, I couldn't tell you why.

"I'm going to make cereal," Jo says, and turns the TV to C-SPAN.


--


jo won't stop talking about dean winchester, the news is getting to her.not htat i blame her but idk its starting to get weird especially after the news about gramma ellen and grandpa bobby. case and point we almost couldn't have the funeral remember. dad i think you shold come home we should of sorted this out first. so if you come home that'd be great becasue I think

if she lets go of dean then she has to think about about her mom and her dadand she needs you

k.



--


Jo's sitting cross-legged in the hallway, back against the linen closet. She's twirling a knife across her knuckles. It's Bill Harvelle's knife, he knows; it comes with the family stories. Without warning, she catches the knife blade in her palm and brings it to her eye. Kelly jumps, but she's only wiping away unshed tears.


Jesus christ.

"I can't go in there," she says. It is a statement of fact, and nothing more.


"We have to clean up someday," says Kelly. Leave it to this family to be remarkably forthright about the literal skeletons in the closet, and nil on everything else. There's an entire hallway between them, and only one of the round, milky ceiling lamps has a good bulb, but it'd be even more awkward to step forward now, so Kelly holds his ground.

"I know you don't want to call me Mom," she says, knife dancing.

"There are worse things." It's not like Jo's ever really known what to do with him; he's of an age where he could be anything to her--brother, co-worker, and, apparently, child so she's always defaulted into treating him like Kelly. There's nothing maternal about her, which is fine, honestly, but they're down a lot of family members this month, and the vacancies are starting to show.

"Look, I know I'm not my dad, and I'm pretty much a dumbass fifteen-year old--"

"Everyone's gone," says Jo. "What we can do now--all we can do now--is do our fucking job."

"And not whine about our problems to some bullshit reality show," Kelly responds, but Jo doesn't follow him.

You do your fucking job, says Dean Winchester, at the back of Kelly's mind. You nut up and you do your fucking job. In this respect, Dean Winchester is above average. Above average, as Kelly has explained many times to his father, is a B-.

A B- means you sometimes followed the rules, and others, you blew them off entirely. You missed assignments. You were occasionally off topic. Your evidence was insufficient to prove your point. You missed points for significant figures, for platitudes, for a failure to adequately demonstrate the proof.


"What was so great about him?" Kelly asks, meaning Dean.

But Jo replies, "Spousal privilege."

It's pathetic, their conversation. It's like they're searching for words in a pile of rubble and throwing up whatever they can get their hands on first. But at least, Kelly figures, it's not the same ten taglines over and over again. They're practically dancing on his father's grave, here; if Kelly's thinking about Dean Winchester, the magnetic pull of media is starting to win him over.

"Spousal privilege," Jo repeats. Kelly must be frowning.

She continues, "Some things are just for me and him. And he's a pile of-- He's-- This is the only thing that we are ever going to have together. I want to keep it just--ours. I'm sorry." If a week ago Kelly could see Jo's spine, the nerves that kept her body moving, what he sees now is the bloodstream that keeps her heart busy. It reaches into her cheeks, flushed, and kicks her lungs and her heart into overdrive, like she's running faster than she ever has before.

And this is Jo, who's outrun hellhounds.

What Kelly sees when he looks at Jo doesn't have a name; but it's the exact opposite of a world where everyone knows your name, and not a damn one of them has any idea who you are.

"He was going to be okay, you know," says Jo. It's too quiet at first, with eighteen feet of insurmountable distance between them, and she has to repeat it. She will talk about Dean Winchester all day, even if Rick is only hers. "They were going to be okay. Don't know how long it would've lasted. But he was getting better. He and Sam, they were going to be okay."

Dean Winchester was going to be okay the way their family was okay two months ago. He was going to be okay the way the world was okay the day the Apocalypse didn't happen in Detroit that one year. Kelly's seen enough hospital records and grocery receipts and gas station footage and tabloid news and Texas Monthly features to know that Dean was just as fucked as the rest of this mess. The world is a pin and sometimes it tips; it doesn't matter how many angels are dancing, or not dancing, on its head. It doesn't care whether Dean is in it, or gone. It doesn't matter whether Dean Winchester is okay or not.

The parade continues.

And if it doesn't, it's not like anyone would know the difference.


--


#DeanWinchesterIsSaved
#DeadWinchester
#imabelieber


--


"You didn't have to come." She hadn't thought he would; a hushed, distracted voice mail isn't much of a promise. But she knows it's not about the wedding.


"Yeah I did," Dean insists. "Missed the wedding, didn't I? And Rick, he's--?" He looks around their house like he's casing it; force of habit. Their photographs, in cheap black frames. If he notices he's in one, he doesn't let on. Maybe he's forgotten about it already; the night they didn't kill the Devil.


"Came 'round the roadhouse, back in the day. Missed you by a couple years, 'cause he was busy having a baby."


"But not yours."

"Not mine; but like I said, it was back in the day. It's past tense. I'd have been too young then, anyway. Wrong place--"

"--wrong time."

Dean's knuckles are in pieces. There's still blood on his shirt. "Shot some shapeshifters on the way here. Did you know they come dog-sized now?" he explains, when he catches her appraisal. As though she would have assumed differently. "With Sam." As though she would have assumed without.

She shrugs.


"I meant to send a wedding--gift…thing. But I." His breath hitches. He's lost. He follows her, almost mindlessly, toward the kitchen. "Should I take off my shoes?"

"I don't. And a text message would've done," says Jo.

It's not a laying into, not really. Who knows; maybe Dean needs it. Maybe he deserves it. But not from her. From Jo, it's a placeholder more than anything. She watches the cast of his shoulders, the weight of his steps, the pallor of his cheeks. The raw look to his eyes. He's a little shaky, spent by all the vanishing he'd done that year, probably. But there's something else.


"I wasn't supposed to, I told Bobby I wasn't, it was just gonna--" Dean wipes a hand down his face. Blinks. "It was a weird year."


"She been good to you?"

Dean looks at her like it's not even a question, like there are no words that could possibly form any other answer. Like if you cut yourself from everything and end up on someone's doorstep, and they can look you in the eye, that alone's more good than you ever could have hoped for. On Dean the look is more than a little helpless; it's tender to the touch, more like an infection than a balm.

Jo loses herself for a moment. "Left some people in the dark, you know. People who cared about you."

There's a flicker of something in Dean that isn't pain, and isn't sad. It reminds Jo of wood at her back and glass under her shoulders. Rope around her chest. Then it's gone, edging away into the back recesses of Dean, and he is raw and sloppy and open again.

"Found me anyway. Found Lisa. Invited us to a wedding, even; Lisa almost went, you know." Dean says nothing about his own almosts. There's love there when he speaks about Lisa, and immeasurable gratitude. But they're good things wrapped up wrong, somehow. Twisted and turning blue.

Jo wonders what happened to Lisa.

"She was supposed to stay clear of all of this."

Which for Jo, illuminates nothing. But if she were dead, if she were really gone, there'd be more dead than shapeshifting hounds.

"I misbehaved," Jo admits. " I went looking for a grave to mourn--didn't think I'd find you breathing. Notice I do that every couple years with you."

"Been shopping around. Hear real estate's a buyer's market these days."

"Take your time with that. That's a kind of settling down you can't come back from."

And then Dean is exhausted of levity. He's lost his stamina for macabre bullshit. "There's something wrong with Sam, Jo. He's--he's not--"

"Not how you remember him?" says Jo. "Sam's not how you remember him?"

And damn flickers, she wants to touch him, put her hand on his shoulder and tell him it's going to be okay; and it's in her eyes, the way it always is, and Dean sees, she knows he does; but she's on one side of the counter and he's on the other, so she just untwines her fingers from themselves and lays her hands flat on the counter between them, palms up. Wedding ring on one hand, anti-possession charm lashed around the wrist of the other, scars crawling up white arms--five years, most of it bloody, and all of it going bump in he night. But they beat the Devil, remember. They beat him (and this is what they get.) "What about you, Dean?"

Dean doesn't say he's had that thought, but she knows he has. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have come to her. He'd still be beating the shit out of Sam. He'd still be trying--one goal and one goal only--to set him right.

"It's not me, it's not just me," Dean insists. And there it goes; it slips under the surface and takes its small white flag with it. Hell with everything; I'm gonna be fine as long as I need to be. I don't have a choice. "I know Sam, Jo. And whatever other crap's flying around, that? That don't ever change. I know Sam. I will always know Sam, and--"

"And you didn't come to me because you thought I knew any goddamn thing about Sam," Jo counters. She knows what Ellen knows and Ellen knows what Bobby knows and Bobby only knows there's something Dean's not telling him. Not yet. "So why are you here, Dean?"

It almost doesn't matter.

Because there's not a whole lot Jo can do for Dean, any way, shape or form. She knows it. She's known it at least a year, maybe longer. And she hates it. Dean knows it too, she's sure. He just hasn't yet accepted it; it's a common hiccup for him. Jo will go to war for Dean Winchester, but sometimes it's not a war that needs to be waged.

"Thought about giving you a wedding toast or something, maybe," Dean offers. It's a rushed gesture, compelled by the realization that he's exhausted all his reasons to be there.

"We're dry," says Jo. "Unless you wanna toast with orange juice. But we might be outta that too."

He's more disappointed than he means to let on, but he grins his fake, shit-eating fucking grin. Jo hasn't seen it in a while, and she doesn't think Dean has, either. He's out of practice. "Bartending's practically in your blood, Harvelle. What about the family business?"

Family business burned down, remember, Jo doesn't say. Instead, she says, "Mom only ever drank with you. Some reason every time you passed through, felt like the last night on earth was ridin' your taillights."

Dean coughs, or laughs, or maybe speaks. "Some reason," he mumbles.


"This is my new family business, Dean: I'm gonna be the one who only ever drinks without you." Jo reaches for two glasses above the sink and pours them both water. "Because that? That I can do." Rick's with Kelly--the kid, the one she told him about; he's almost fifteen--she explains. They're on a Boy Scout trip tonight. There are plenty of leftovers in the fridge.

"I can't stay, Jo."

So take them with you, she says. Take them with you and share them with Sam and finish your water and wherever you go tonight, you shouldn't be alone. You're not allowed to be alone.


"Hypocrite," Dean says, and Jo nods. It happens.

"They're in some state park, learning how to sharpen knives and light matches with a hatchet. Maybe I'll catch up with them." It's fun, in a quaint sort of way.

Dean bites his tongue against some words, likely bitter, or hopeless, or nothing he wants to give Jo; drops his water down his throat like he hopes it'll burn going down; and rises.

"Don't go disappearing again," Jo says. She sticks on her side of the counter. "You promise me that, Dean." At least promise her that, she thinks. Because there it is again, that feeling. The last night on Earth's coming, and coming fast.

"How much you think a promise like that is worth?"

"From a Winchester?" But he's gone before she can finish.


--


MAURIE: We have some shockingly intimate leaked footage tonight; it spilled over the Internet via Facebook and YouTube early this afternoon, and let me tell you, Kristine, the view count has skyrocketed since then. The video features the Joanna Harvelle who, sources confirm, identified Winchester's body at the beginning of last month. It appears to have been taken only months before, which leads us to believe that the elusive Harvelle may have been harboring the fugitive, and will face criminal charges of her own.

KRISTINE: And you know, Maurie, what I find most interesting about this piece of--insiders' footage--is that at first glance, it seems so mundane. You think, it's almost damningly humanizing! It's so hard to remember that these people, they're not the average Joes and Janes they might even think they are. They can't be--

MAURIE: We're gonna queue the clip back again, so stay tuned after a few flashy puns from our sponsors…



HOMEGROWN PSYCHOPATH: WEDDINGS, BOY SCOUTS, & KILLING INTENT



"SHOT SOME SHAPESHIFTERS ON THE WAY HERE. DID YOU KNOW THEY COME DOG-SIZE NOW?" Yes folks, you've heard it all now, exclusive leaked footage confirms Dean Winchester's murderous legacy--almost twenty minutes of gory details since pulled from the Web for content violations, so you can imagine how juicy it got…



"Left some people in the dark, you know. People who cared about you." --AND WATCH HOW HE BRUSHES THAT OFF, GEE GOLLY IT'S LIKE SHARAPOVICH VOLLEYING THAT ONE BACK IN HER OPPONENT'S FACE, LIKE IT'S NOTHING, YOU CAN SEE HARVELLE FREEZE UP FOR A MOMENT THERE, I KNOW WE'RE A SPORTS STATION BUT IT DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS.



Crop blights in northern Illinois… farmers, cut your losses and forget the crops, there's news you need to be watching, DEAN WINCHESTER is being linked to the sudden plague of blindness that hit the Alaskan fisheries in 2009…




Rev. Don Dawson explains second leaked video as "Dean Winchester's benedictions upon mass murder":

// I'm not gonna whine about my b--------- problems to some b--------- reality show. I'm gonna do my f-------- job.

// Dean Winchester, GHOSTFACERS 0x00 Pilot //



--


Kelly has all the clips saved on his laptop. Of course he does; he's the one who leaked the Ghostfacers pilot, though that backfired. Jo tore the house apart the day their home footage aired, found the bugs. Sat in front of the linen closet, next to the bedroom door. It was just the kitchen; and they weren't even transmitting anymore. Who owned the bug, who was--or wasn't--manning the feed, Jo doesn't care to know. Jo doesn't even care to know if Rick knew. Kelly does not, and has sworn so. But by now he's watched it more than a few times--with commentary, without, you name it. The footage, its existence and now-infamy, is tearing Jo apart the way few things do, though, so he tries not to let on.

Sometimes he slips.

"Was there…something wrong with Dean. Like, psychologically?"

Jo goes rigid, pacing like a tin soldier as she combs her fingers through her hair, obviously furious and more than a little nervous. (Aiding and abetting!) But the thing is, she never says no. She never says, "Kelly, that's ridiculous." So it had to be at least halfway true. It had to be true enough she couldn't lie her way to conciliation.

"And what about Sam? In that clip, Dean said--"

Jo slams her fist against the nearest piece of living room, cratering their paint and drywall. In all the time he's known her, Jo's never been a particularly violent person. She can get the job done, and she's fast, and even energetic, but there's never been that kind of wild violence to her--just precision.

"You don't talk that way about them," Jo says. Carefully, like the words are jittering on the top of a lid, blaze and boil held beneath it. "You don't believe that bullshit on the TV. And you don't stop until we have something about Sam. About anything. Do you understand me?"

Kelly doesn't want to yell. "Jo, Mom, whatever--you're being a fucking psychopath. Our living room makes the CIA look like a kindergarten classroom. We don't have any food. The world outside is fucking ending, and like the rest of the whole damn world, we're stuck on one dude and his brother, like they're some kind of bogus rallying point; and you keep talking about how wrong they are, when you're doing the same damn thing!"

"This is how the world gets saved," Jo hisses. "We figure this out."


"No, this is how your family gets saved," says Kelly. "It doesn't make a damn difference whether Dean Winchester is here to save us or not--he's wrapping paper, he's a Band-Aid, I don't know if you've noticed but right now he's only here on paper and bullshit spy videos and he's doing way fucking more than he ever did in person."


"Are you done?" asks Jo.

"You just want him back because you don't have anyone left but me. And all I get is you." Which is unkind; he likes Jo, or at some point liked Jo. But he's worn thin on Jo the way he's worn on Dean Winchester; everything's just flashbulbs and newsbreaks and it's all such cheap superficial crap he doesn't even know which way is right anymore. If there were a truth, a clue, to be found here, it's long since drowned.

"You're right, everyone's gone. And we're still working this case." Jo's all but vibrating with what she wants to say, indignant in that spoon-jabbing way of hers. "Because if they were alive, they'd be right here with us. What I want, is my mom. What I want, is my fucking husband. And you want your dad, whether you can feel that or not, you want your dad, and this is the only thing worth doing in their memories. This is the fucking job, Kelly--so just--fucking--"

"YOU'VE KEPT A DEAD BODY IN YOUR BACK ROOM FOR TWO WEEKS."

That stops Jo cold. Or Kelly thinks it does, until he follows Jo's attention to the TV.

Another body's been pulled from the Black Hills. It might be Sam Winchester.

"You're keeping your husband's dead body in the back room," Kelly repeats. But the idea fades into insignificance.

The news anchor's lips flap.


--


UNLIKE THE CRUSHING NEWS BLITZ that followed Dean Winchester's recovery, national news sources have been uncharacteristically mute about his younger brother, Sam, who was recovered by Wilderness First Responders early this morning. Verification of Sam Winchester's identity has not yet been confirmed by the authorities, but in the hearts and minds of the nation, the truth is clearer cut.


"There was something broken in him," says one North County resident, who asked his identity to be withheld. His comments were later attributed to commentary about Dean Winchester, however.

Numerous news agencies are unsure of how to proceed with this new development; all recent sources have confirmed that Winchester carried out his heinous acts alone; there has even been speculation about whether he actually had a brother at all. Old reports have failed to align with more recent, and more thorough, reports as to Winchester's whereabouts and wrong-doings, and some fact-tampering is suspected.

"Bitter summbitch," closed our anonymous source. "Don't matter what they say, you better believe it. Dean Winchester rose from Hell and brought the Devil with him."


--


DEAN WINCHESTER REVEALED TO BE GRAND DRAGON OF LEAGUE OF KLAN NECROMANCERS AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY.



--


It's bad, Kelly knows it is. He feels sick to his stomach with words and videos and Podcast transcripts. He feels brain-dead. When he thinks of Jo, he feels dread. Not guilt, not sympathy. Just dread.

When he thinks about his dad, he knows he's supposed to feel sad. But that's mostly dread, too. Dread and the desire to vomit. To be lobotomized. To be shaken silly till there's nothing inside him but the famished emptiness he felt the night Jo brought his body home. But what he feels instead is a twist of light and sound and fairytale, and all it is is more ridiculous by the second.

His dad is rotting in the back room, and the world is collapsing from the bottom up, like a land mine was waiting to happen, and now it's taking all kinds of extras down with it.

Kelly is full of everything. Split his stomach open and inside it's a bunch of newspaper. Drain his brain, and it's stupid e-mails his Dad sent once upon a time, like, DVR this, or buy the dead sea salt, not the Norton's.

It's a grotesque mess and Kelly doesn't know what to do with any of it.

But his country does.

They make a movie:

Hollywood and Bollywood are teaming up to put together the Dean Winchester movie; it seems like a strange venture to be undertaking jointly, particularly as the United States is about three phone calls away from national quarantine, but globalization is the name of the game and Leonardo DiCaprio has his people in talks right now, sources confirm. The time is ripe; they wouldn't have had a story if Sam Winchester hadn't been found, and they won't have one if he dies. In the trailer, Sam Winchester, played by an actor Kelly has never heard of, wakes up from his coma and falls in love with a neurotherapist, Dr. Piccolo (Trisha Krishnan)--but, in an explosion of friendly fire that rivals J.J. Abrams's anything, it turns out that Dean Winchester (Leonardo DiCaprio) is still alive, and wants his brother back… Dead or alive. Bon Jovi plays the PhD/MD supervising Dr. Piccolo, but there's more to him than meets the eye…

Jo voiced her opinions on this the first time the trailer aired, and hasn't yet settled for attrition. Something about naked paper dolls that would have been poignant if it hadn't made Kelly so uncomfortable. They're not quite speaking to each other anymore. The weeks roll by, and the school closes down, so Kelly never goes. And the banks close down, so their house never forecloses. The reporters stopped lining up outside long ago, and have taken to making up their own news. They've branched out from politics and psychology and they've started to take the arts and humanities by storm. There's one contemporary, artistic interpretation of Dean Winchester's crimes reminiscent of some of Yoko Ono's best work; and then, of course, there's The Movie. The infrastructure of the country's entire way of life is being decimated daily, piece by piece, but there's still The Movie.

Kelly and Jo eat cereal.

And Jo sits, her back to the linen closet, her eyes cast away from the bedroom door and the burnt-out mess degrading in it.

"We could dreamwalk," suggests Kelly one day, when the Cheerios are only dust and they've started digging into the powered milk. He starts talking to her out of the blue, like nothing happened. Like it's all been ironed out. He takes his confusion, and buries it. Because Jo's right, which means Dean's right; if everything's gone to shit, he has one job, and he's gonna fucking do it. "We could dig around and see if we could find out what happened."

Jo steps into line by brusquely dispensing with the idea. "I said they were gonna be okay, not that they weren't damaged."


"What the fuck does that even mean?"

What Jo means is, they walk into Sam's head and they don't walk out. They leave a rubble of Sam behind them; Dean was pretty clear on that point. If there were a way to be clear on that point, that is, Dean would have been. But a lot of what the Winchesters are these days is couched in conditional phrases, and whatever mystery they were is quickly mixing with the storybook they've since become. The majority of what the Winchesters were, and what the weren't, and what they would've been or ever stood to be remembered as, is gone. It's been tagged over, repainted, and vandalized all over again. It's gone.

But some things stick. You don't mess with Sam (and strangely, the news has toed the line with that one, even if it's only because they'd be forced to admit their own extravagances with the truth about Dean Winchester), and you do your fucking job.

"And if it's not Sam?"

If it's not Sam, then they're gonna have a hell of a time getting their crazy show back home. But that's exactly what they're going to do.

They've seen enough bodies, and enough family, emptied of everything that made them loved, hated, trusted, mistrusted, lionized, demonized, humanized. They've seen enough empty husks and paper dolls and comedy sketches and religious lambasts and political scapegoats to be ready to fill in some of the blanks.

"What if they left?"

"What if they left, what?"

"What if they left on purpose?" What if Sam and Dean, terrifyingly immortal Sam and Dean, had finally found a way to end it all--to cease existing in a way that there was no coming back from?

Jo returns her knife to her belt. She stands. "They were going to be okay," she insists. But she doesn't hiss at him. She doesn't punch anything. Instead, she covers her bases: "If that's the case, then they don't want to be found."

And we won't find them;
we won't need to find them;
we won't force them to be found.

"So, I guess we're gonna need some dream root. We pack up here and then we're gone, okay?" she continues.

Kelly nods. "We pack up here and we're gone." He walks down the hallway for the first time since it burned. "I have a fake ID, by the way. I can be a legal adult; I don't need a guardian. You're off the hook. Not that there's much of a system left anyway."

"I already--I finally--signed them," says Jo, though it only matters if family court is more efficient than the criminal one. Aiding and abetting. "They're signed and sent. Sorry, kiddo; you're mine now."

There's an awkward settling of limbs--a handshake? a hug?--where Jo settles for resting her hand on Kelly's shoulder. Because that's her fucking job.

And this is his. He reaches out, turns the knob. Puckers against the smell of death.


--


"It's not racist to think George Lopez is the funniest fucken guy on television," says Rick. He's loosing his tie and putting on a tight black shirt, because his girlfriend's coming over. "I got Triple Play so I could watch Lopez whenever I wanted, so do me a favor and humor me." You don't see me deleting all this Aziz Ansari, do you, you don't see me blocking the CW, the hell are you watching on the CW? And don't say Smallville, ad nauseam.


"She asked me to marry her, mijo," says Rick. "Would you say yes?"

--


Kelly has two memories of his father the way Jo remembers Dean; and in one of them, he's dead. However Jo remembers Rick, it's private. Dean Winchester has no choice but to be public--a public beyond public. Sensationalized. Exhibitioned. Dean is a series of scenes, a handful of fables, and a violence of teeth, and fangs, and blood. He's a few good drinks, and a lot of bad ones. He's days, and calls, and episodic hearsay. He is to Jo, in the end, not much more than what the rest of the world knows.

"But I know what he's not," Jo says. Dean Winchester doesn't walk out in the middle of the end of the world. Because you do your fucking job.

Jo pushes the bedroom door open, and she and Kelly walk in together.

Kelly's dad is a long expanse of existence that ends one night, when Jo drags his body home. He's a voice Kelly will never forget, but speaks only in murmurs, and never words. He is, already, still frames from photographs more than he is a three dimensional presence in Kelly's world. Kelly doesn't have a big meaningful eulogy for his dad. His dad was Dad, and then he wasn't. There isn't any big story that sums up all that Rick was, there aren't any catchphrases. And Kelly's glad of that; he thinks of Dean Winchester and sees headlines, photos, ticker text. Theme music. He wonders if that's what Jo's been fighting all this time, and wonders if she won.

Kelly doesn't want want his dad to walk the earth as a Tweet, as someone's Oscar nomination, as a political cartoon.

He wants him to be Dad.

The bed's intact enough to still be called a bed. The sheet--or what's left of it--still has hospital corners.

Enrique Gallegos, the body, looks like gnarled marshmallow gunk, and crumbles like burnt sugar.

Kelly doesn't realize he's crying until he has to wrest his hand from Jo's to wipe away the snot.

Jo puts on dishwashers' gloves, yellow and up to her elbow, and disposes of her husband in a trash bag, piece by piece. The tacky, sticky sheets go with him. The smell of mold, and gas, and death is heavy everywhere. When she finishes the body, she packs his clothes. He doesn't have much; he was, after all, ready to go out like this.

When she peels the gloves from her arms, folds them into one another like a biohazard sandwich, she drops them into the trash bag and holds it out for Kelly. The bulk and weight of it makes her bicep quiver. "In the words of Dean Winchester," she says, "Just do your fucking job."

Kelly nods. It's his job, right now, to cry. His his job, right now, not to give a damn about anything that's not his father's ashes. That's not his father's wife. It's his job, right now, to give himself a B- in Cosmic Responsibility (with room for improvement). He doesn't know if that's how Dean Winchester meant it; if he meant it that way all of the time, or none of the time, or--most likely--only some of the time. And he doesn't give a damn.

Things get passed down. They twist. The real story is anyone's guess.

"And after that, we go save the world."


--


THE LATEST BUZZ IN HOLLYWOOD? Medical mysteries abound when Warner Brothers announced that the man all the kids are calling the Black Hills Coma Guy has replaced Carey Jergen in the role of the eponymous Winchester's disarming and ruggedly handsome brother, Sam. After waking from his coma and being cleared of any lingering counts of homicide, ties to the real Winchester family, or anything else that could conceivably be considered a threat to national security, the self-styled actor, Jared Padalecki, will be bringing Sam Winchester back to life on the silver screen next March.

"Jared, Leo, and I are working very hard to remain true to the thematic core of [the truth]," explains Trisha Krishnan ("Dr. Piccolo").

More from Trisha Krishnan on working with co-stars DiCaprio ("Dean"), Bon Jovi ("Dr. Sexy"), Padalecki ("Sam"), and Bachchan ("Henricksen") after the jump.



--


"I'll let her know you said that," says Rick, in his tight black shirt. He's beaming. But he's not so charmed he forgets about the Lopez slight.


"I'm gonna child-lock the Comcast so all you can watch is cheap hospital telenovelas, and then we'll see what you think about my television." And don't even think about suing my ass for child abuse, he adds, with a pointed eyebrow raising. All your blood mom watched was riverdancing. Where do you think you got your name?


--


Roger Ebert finds THE WINCHESTER FAMILY BUSINESS, which opened in theatres across the nation last Tuesday, "circuitous, often insipid, and full of manufactured drama that might have been solved if the characters--or the screenwriter--had a fraction of the backbones that the CGI team saw fit to populate the film with." He praised, however, the quality of the CGI'd viscera in both hospital and wilderness settings, commenting on the chiaroscuro of the final juxtaposition. "Krishnan plays her role with aplomb, as do her male counterparts, Padalecki ("hugely empathic, almost protective of the younger Winchester") and DiCaprio, whose Dean Winchester is "unexpectedly redemptive." DiCaprio, who has been nominated for an Academy Award for the role, credits his co-stars for the passion and complexity of his performance.

Cont. as "UNEXPECTEDLY REDEMPTIVE," Arts 13.





end.


+ The soundtrack for writing this fic was Club Vich Kudi Nachdi by Bharat Goel and Pankaj Khanna, which potentially explains a lot.

+ As mentioned previously, there's a director's commentary that goes into how this fic came to be and why, if you're at all curious!

Comments, constructive criticism, questions, &c. are revered. ♥

And there you have it--sumergen #2. <3 summergen fic #1 to be posted shortly! This fic is the most Dean you will ever get out of a story that only gives him like 7 speaking lines, and is narrated by someone who doesn't even know--or care to know--him. And then Dean H/C, of course. Because I'm typical like that.
Tags: fic: spn
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