Kalliel (kalliel) wrote,
Kalliel
kalliel

[commentary] Headliners, written for spn_summergen

In "Headliners," a recently widowed Jo and her would-be stepson deal with the fallout of Castiel's second Apocalypse, in the wake of the Winchesters' sudden absence. It's set after 6x15 "The French Mistake," which according to the fic's summary went "awry"--that is, Sam and Dean get stuck in Vancouver, and for reasons unexplained, J2 end up lost in a forest in the SPN world.

If "The French Mistake" goes awry, it means Balthazar/Castiel's ploy to reap all of the souls on the Titanic stays in place (6x17). Ellen and Jo live; Ellen and Bobby are married.

It means the Winchesters aren't around to go back in time and get phoenix ash (6x18). It means no one rescues Grants Pass from the Jefferson Starships; it means they're never named Jefferson Starships; and it means Eve doesn't die that night (6x19).

This means the world is in deep shit.

This fic was based, however loosely, on the prompts:

1. Dean gives advice to the young son of another hunter.
2. Dean is unexpectedly sidelined by the mundane.
3. A case viewed exclusively through phone calls with Garth. Which becomes "Dean's life in tabloids."
4. Sam and Dean are in the woods, separated and injured; they have to stay alive and find each other, because no one else is coming to find them. Which ends up being J2 in the woods and separated.

How did this all come about, you ask?

So I started off with the fact that the Harvelles are alive in this timeline. What have they been up to?

* Ellen and Bobby are up to dying, apparently. Whoops. In my mind, they die in Grants Pass, trying to deal with the things that aren't called Jefferson Starships.

* Jo ends up marrying Rick, who I stole from Jo's Blog, courtesy of the SuperWiki. A Gabriella Gallegos I knew in childhood has a cousin named Ricky, so in my world Rick became Enrique Gallegos, and from there he became an engineer, and from there and engineer for SucroCorps, for dramatic irony's sake.

* I explain Rick's mysterious disappearance from Jo's early life (see Jo's Blog) with paternity leave; Kelly, the "young son of another hunter" from my prompts, is born. (Kelly's mom is very proud of her (distant) Irish-Scottish heritage, hence his name. She has/had a drug problem, which led to her and Rick's split. But she's sober for the end of the world.)

* I really wanted to explore what I guess you'd call the non-traditional family, which is one of my personal interests, as well as one I find interesting in the context of SPN. So we have Jo, her older husband Rick, and his fifteen-year old son, Kelly. This gave me leave to explore the way Jo here balances real-life stresses with the more abstract stresses of the hunting life/the Apocalypse. There is rent to pay; there are adoption papers that the sudden destruction of Jo's family didn't quite leave her time for; there is the lingering idea that she might lose her only remaining family to the legal system, after having lost everyone else as supernatural collateral.

As far as Jo's rent goes, I'm not comfortable with the implicit assumption that the Apocalypse is the only reason a family wouldn't pay rent, so there's a brief nod in there to the patchiness of the Harvelle-Gallegos finances pre-supernatural clusterfuck, for my sake. And since 'lesson' Kelly ultimately gleans from Dean is about the balance between the real/superreal, the death of family and the destruction of the world, I wanted to echoes that in various avenues of life before leading up to that in full.

* I didn't originally plan for Kelly as a person, and certainly not for Kelly as the POV character, but I'm glad he volunteered. I didn't want him to be a cute kid, and I didn't want him to have a strong inclination towards Dean, as children/youthful goofballs in SPN so often do. I wanted to Dean to be a stranger to him, someone he knows (or doesn't know) only by proxy, and I wanted the "lesson" Dean imparts to gave a little more ambiguity to it than something Dean would outright say, or even believe/practice himself. So what came out of that was skeptical Kelly, who's a hunter but not a hotshot, a badass who takes showers before his morgue visits, who deals with grief differently than his step-mother does, who isn't quite sure what to think of her.

* Jo, Kelly, and Rick live in Arizona somewhere, because 1) it makes California close enough for the hunt Ellen mentions Jo's on in 6x17, and 2) that's where Kat and Gavin live in my other summergen, Leave this Place. That's not a reason, per se, I'm just saying. XP

* The Black Hills, where J2 end up, is an arbitrary location in Wyoming. And also South Dakota, but the part I meant is in Wyoming. AKA "close enough to drive to from Arizona, without being a crazy person."

* Out of everything in this fic, the scene where Jensen purportedly says "Danneel" was the hardest to write. I don't care if it's fictionalized; I really didn't want to kill off someone who exists in real life and really doesn't deserve to die so unpleasantly. I danced around this FOREVER. D:

* Jo twirling her knife outside of her/Rick's bedroom door is a coping mechanism; she's thinking about Rick, and also about her mother, her father. When Kelly mistakes her movement and thinks haphazardly that she's about to gouge her eye out with the knife, it just signals that he doesn't know her very well, family or not.

* "Jo, who's outrun Hellhounds" is an obvious reference to 5x10, since she has to not die somehow; I like that there's no further elaboration on that point beyond this sentence. Jo's obsession with Dean's hands (or Jensen's hands, I guess) is an oblique reference to 5x10 as well. Whenever there are "Dean's hands" picspams I'm just like, oh PLEASE, those are way too nice to be a hunter's hands. But in 5x10 they were appropriately dirty and bruised and wonderful, so I have some kind of Jo/Dean's hands fetish now.

* The Tweet, #DeanWinchesterIsSaved, is a callback to 4x09, when Anna said the angels were all aroused about Dean, too, when he was gripped tight and raised from perdition.

* The line where Kelly decides that it doesn't matter whether angels are dancing, or not dancing, on the head of a pin, is an oblique reference to 4x16 "On the Head of a Pin." Though this fic is in many ways about what happens if the Winchesters aren't around, it's also about the tenuous hold celestial responsibility has on the actual outcomes of things. As Kelly says, Dean's 'death' probably isn't a celestial cog. Cosmic responsibility isn't always the end-all; Dean's distress (to put it mildly) over discovering he's jumpstarted the Apocalypse, re: 4x16, isn't necessarily justified; and as important as Dean might be (either personally, to Jo, or impersonally, to the world's well-being), it really doesn't matter whether he's around or not. The world keeps turning.

* In the spycam/flashback scene between Dean and Jo, Dean alludes to 6x08 "All Dogs Go to Heaven," though his allusion is tinged with ongoing shame re: the end of 6x06 "You Can't Handle the Truth" and his faltering relationship with soulless!Sam, which he never divulges in full to Jo. There's a distance between them that Jo pushes at when she mentions looking for a grave to mourn, post-5x22; she's annoyed, and rightly so, that she wasn't in on his disappearance. I figured that if the Harvelles never got told that 1) Dean went to hell in 3x16, and 2) Dean came back from Hell in 4x01, and 3) they don't even see each other again until 5x02, no one would have told her about Dean and Lisa, either, and overall their 6x17 alter!verse communication would be similarly lacking.

* "Wrong place, wrong time" is a shared reference to Dean and Jo's conversation at the end of 2x02, though, which is meant to signal that in spite of their communication fail, there's still a lot of understanding between them.

* This scene between Dean and Jo was one of the last scenes I wrote, and wasn't originally planned for. But the fic needed it, I think; it was also the easiest to write.

* Jo's line where she says "I'm gonna be the only one who only ever drinks without you" is a big moment for me, though it's not necessarily a big moment in the fic. Kelly doesn't give a shit. XP I just wanted Jo to be the one who works against Bobby's/Castiel's enabling wrt Dean's alcohol abuse. She acknowledges what even she knows is a growing issue (from S5 through S7), but isn't judgmental about it, or even necessarily proactive about it. But she wants Dean to be okay.

* The doctor Jo says she knows, and refers Dean to, is Dr. Roberts from 6x11, who puts Dean into a medically-induced death-like state in order to deal with Death re: Sam. I figured if he patched up John many a time, there's no reason he didn't try to save Will Harvelle, too. Having failed, of course, he's probably not Jo's favorite person, regardless of whether that was his fault or not. The idea here is that Jo wants Dean to seek psychological counseling from Dr. Roberts, which she figures Dean might be more receptive to because Roberts is "on the level"--here meaning not at all on the level. This was probably a horrible idea on Jo's part--actually, it's DEFINITELY a horrible idea, because dude, Dr. Roberts--and it's probably better that Dean didn't go for that, but the main insinuation here is that rather than take Jo's advice to get himself help, he bends it into helping Sam instead.

* I realized after posting that Garth is purported to offer a glowing recommendation of Dean in this fic, but Garth isn't introduced until 7x07, which hasn't happened yet. I'm gonna go on record here and retcon this with the reasoning that if Bobby is married to Ellen, he has better thing to do than serve as the Winchesters' eternal source of sage advice and assistance, and so sics Garth on them much earlier in the game.

* The man from North County (that is, San Diego's North County) is no one in particular; he's just a remnant of my lingering impression that at some point in their lives, the Winchesters fucked San Diego over big time. I wrote a Big Bang in 2011 where that's exactly that they do. Whoops? The man's line that Dean Winchester "rose from hell and brought the devil with him" is there to soften the radical slander of many of the other newsbytes, since, well. It's not exactly UNtrue, now is it. XP

* By contrast, the commentaries by Maurie and Kristine (who are also no one in particular) play up newsbyte bullshit by spinning it in completely ludicrous directions, and taking pieces of what I like to consider a very truthful, tender moment between Jo and Dean and turning it into scandalous, contextless depravity. (APPARENTLY THEY COME DOG-SHAPED NOW.)

* Terry Gross, who does the radio program Fresh Air on NPR, gets a mention; I don't excerpt any of her Dean Winchester radio program, but like Kelly says, it was probably pretty good.

* Kelly mentions Texas Monthly, which is known to my mind for having THE MOST RIDICULOUS longform journalism of all time. Not in the Maurie and Kristine sense of ridiculous, but in the sense that every crazy, quintessentially-American-crazy thing you can think of? Yeah, that happened. It happened in Texas. I love TM, what can I say. XP

* In this fic's 'how did everyone else grow up?' vein, both Cassie and Lisa are here. Cassie's moved up in the journalism world, and is a staunch supporter of objective journalism. Lisa bitchslaps the media the suburban mom way and files for a cease-and-desist/restraining order/whatever, because fuck that shit. XP

* In keeping with America's tradition of making obvious money-grab movies that capitalize on and sensationalize personal stories ("BASED ON A TRUE STORY, HOWEVER LIGHTLY! TOTALLY RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES, GUYS!"), of course they'd make a movie. XP Triha Krishnan and Amitabh Bachchan are actual Kollywood/Bollywood actors**. (And DiCaprio is an actual Hollywood actor, lol.) DiCaprio was actually scheduled to be in a joint Hollywood-Bollywood film, though that project ultimately fell through (Here is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie). To anyone who thinks late-season SPN is the worst possible thing, please allow this hypothetical film to demonstrate that it could definitely be worse. XD References to Dr. Sexy are obvious, I hope. Krishnan's adviser being played by Bon Jovi is a reference to Cry Wolf, starring Jared Padalecki, and also Bon Jovi, as the random/creepy teacher.

Jared being a good choice for the role of Sam should go without saying, but Ebert's description of JP as refreshingly "protective" of Sam's character is a reference to one of JP's own interviews. So take solace--if this movie gets everything else wrong, it probably gets Sam right.

Dean's image takes a beating in this fic, so (with Jared's help), DiCaprio manages to pull of an "unexpectedly redemptive" portrayal of Dean. Maybe he'll actually get that Oscar this time???? (He doesn't.)

** Thanks indiachick for the correction!!

* Jo is initially hesitant about dream walking in Sam's head because of what little she knows about Dean and Sam and the Great Wall of Sam, so recently installed. When Kelly and Jo start discussing dream root, the audience loses their voyeuristic position, and it's never revealed what, if anything, they learn about Sam/Jared, or if they dream walk at all. But they probably do. I imagine they have a pretty good idea of what happened to Sam and Dean after that.

When I have a prompt like "Dean imparts advice to someone," my main concern is that I will make it too didactic, or otherwise trite. That the advice, which has to be big enough to support an entire story, will end up being too big to be believable. Especially coming from someone like Dean, whose track record with advice is a collection of both extremes, and is always, always, very much colored according to Dean!world, which is… not necessarily congruous with the rest of the world. XD

What I ended up with is very simple: DO YOUR FUCKING JOB.

Which of course is not simple at all.

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.


Because Dean doesn't always follow his own advice; rather this own advice is extremely responsive to… slippage. Which really, is as it should be, even if it's messy, sometimes infuriating, or perplexing, or really not super flattering. But more than that, the best advice is mutable. The best advice, you receive from someone, and then go on to make your own:

"In the words of Dean Winchester," she [Jo] says, "Just do your fucking job."

Kelly nods. […] 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.


Whooo, okay, that's long. But a pleasure to write, and really cathartic, as far as completing the writing process goes. I'm going to be completely honest here and say that I really hope someone reads this, even if it's mostly for me.

I'd also love to read some insight into your own fic processes, flist! Be it for summergen or otherwise, if you write any writer's commentary, link me to it!!! I wanna talk writing. Actually, I want to talk writing all the time, so please consider this a blanket invitation to talk writing with me ANY time.

And actually, I would totally not mind writing one of these for someone else's fic, though obviously it'd be more analytic/interpolative than actual-this-is-authorial-intent-speaking fact. Let me know and I'll see what I can see. :P
Tags: fandom: spn, writing
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