I love!!!!!! Sam and Dean Winchester!!!! So much!!!!! And the continuing refrain of everyone being fine, everyone being good. Which has been so much a part of the Winchester lexicon for years and years except now it’s become an extended conversation between Dean and Castiel and Castiel’s just like, “This is simultaneously the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, but this isn’t my sandbox, per se, so I will respect this. And also this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Sam, chasing cases to avoid the still silence of the bunker (which transmogrifies, always into things that are neither still nor silent—a different and more insidious kind of ghost). Of not only being harmed by death but also his sense of culpability, in ways that go far beyond their usual intractable sense of responsibility, of duty to care. Because Sam literally crossed universes for these people. He cured an Archangel. He killed a few. He promised them that one day, they could go home—and until then he set them up with lives; he convinced them this was better. Beseeched them to stay. (And what will he tell Charlie now, when next they meet? Charlie, whom he wanted to keep in the life, because it’s the life, wanted to keep away from her hermitage on a mountaintop.)
And he used them. To tell it like that discloses their own agency, which Sam would never want to do; but at the same time, he knows that’s what he’s done. In the fight against Michael, that Kansas City blitz. In bringing Dean home, and Michael with him, and refusing to let him leave. The bunker is meant to be warded against all comers, but Sam brought Michael to them, and that’s the long and short of it. Sam knows this, because why did he bring Dean to the bunker after that hunt, and not a hospital? They don’t go to the hospital often, but in those circumstances, they do. They always did. Except Sam knew. He knew that this was it, wasn’t it. This was going to be Michael’s shot.
Coming to the bunker was like throwing his body over a bomb, keeping the rest of the world out of the way, at least as well as he could. He’d forgotten to consider that in the bunker, the shrapnel could hit anyone else—except maybe Cas, and except maybe Jack. Whether it had always been a home, it at least had always been that. From the day Abaddon stalked its halls, the bunker has always kept its violence in. But it cannot be a safehouse and a prison both. Sam knew that, but forgotten. Or perhaps he hadn’t forgotten so much, but hoped.
It’s what he’d asked Dean to be, too, after all.
And OHHHH MY GOD, when he tells Dean what the bunker feels like, and what he’s dealing with, and says that he needs space and time. He probably does, and the reality of that is something that both of them have always had trouble respecting, but at the same time, you know space and time is not really what Sam wanted Dean to give him, in that moment. He wanted Dean to say, hey, fuck the bunker. Fuck making cases excuses. Let’s just drive. Bounce from motel to motel. We never got those cervezas on the beach; we’ve never been to Dollywood. Let’s go. Just ‘cause we’re not staying put doesn’t mean we’re running. We know where the roads lead. We know how to come back.
And instead Dean’s just like “okay, cool” and leaves. WANDERS OFF into the catacombs somewhere, which he's done so often this year, and which but for several crucial fleeting moments is exactly where it’s felt to Sam like Dean’s been this entire time. If Sam is being honest, his absence has only been a matter of degrees—being possessed by Michael, or dealing with having been possessed by Michael; making solo day-long “supply runs” up to the cabin, shutting himself in his room. Making efforts to support Sam and failing or not making any effort at all. Fabricating prison boxes. Living at half attention because that other half of him is attending to Michael’s screaming and pounding, like an infant squalling. It’s not Dean’s fault but it is Dean’s fault but it’s really, really not. Or it wouldn’t be, if Dean could just say—if he could signal to Sam that he knew what he was doing, or what he was failing, or what he was trying to work through, salvage in himself. If he could put Sam and himself on the same page so Sam could just know. Know that Dean wasn’t going to change his mind and put himself at the bottom of the ocean. Know that Sam wasn’t going to wake up, one day, to Michael. (But that’s what happened, wasn’t it. Just in Rowena’s body.) And if Sam really thinks about it, that’s not something Dean could have even given him. It’s not something the universe could have given him. So maybe there are no keys. But that doesn’t help Sam either.
And then Deaaaaaaan, who’s so checked out Castiel has no idea how to even begin to deal with him. Not that Castiel has ever considered himself particularly knowledgeable about how to deal with Dean when he’s checked in—checked, far, far too…in, if that’s a colloquialism in any region of human. But at least he’d been able to see Dean and triangulate—to think, this is being human. I don’t understand it but I understand what it is.
When Dean gives him nothing, Castiel has no bearings. So Castiel gives Dean Jack, who may or may not be giving Cas nothing—it’s difficult to say.
And I looooove Castiel’s consistent assumption that Dean is somehow best equipped to deal with Jack, for whatever shifting reason, continuing from his impressions before the winter hiatus about Dean somehow taking Jack’s death harder than Sam, because Dean was expressing his grief in a way Cas understood and Sam was not. Sam’s grief was illegible to him. Now in 14x15 Cas understands that Sam is clearly upset, doesn’t have any idea what to do with Dean, and also not this soul-diminished Jack. But in his mind he pairs Dean up with Jack anyway because they’re kind of doing the same thing now and maybe it’s an angel thing but Castiel falls victim to his pre-established pattens of thought. (Not that humans aren’t famous for this, but angels do it in a very particular, tessellating kind of way.)
And Dean! I LOVE HIM. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH. I went to bed last night bursting with how much I love him and his absolute zero-ness right now. I am forever invested in the way Dean’s reaction to certain situations is explored vis a vis soullessness, from Famine’s assessment of Dean in 5x14 (in the context of souls being ripped from people’s bodies in order to feed the Horseman) to Dean’s own assessment of himself and what he saw in soulless Sam (which led to their discovery of Sam being soulless at all) in 6x06 to the parallels drawn between Dean in 11x05 and the way Len describes his initial experience of soullessness. There’s a line in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (of which “Dry Salvages” is one, re: my whale transformation fic of the same title) that goes “I had the experience but missed the meaning” and I think that goes so well for where Dean’s at right now.
Because like, have you ever loved a man more than Dean driving Jack all the way to see Donatello (and even Jack is like… lol what. okay…) and then just STANDING OUTSIDE. FOR PROBABLY OVER AN HOUR. AND NOT DOING ANYTHING AT ALL BUT STAND OUTSIDE, LEANED AGAINST THIS CAR, STARING AT A BUILDING. Because even though the scene only lasted a few minutes for us, I’m pretty sure in plot-time it took at least a couple hours. Sam and Castiel spent a full tow days in Happy Town, not counting drive time down to Arkansas, and Dean and Jack’s trip to Oklahoma seemed only slightly shorter.
And now I’m just thinking about like, the circumstances of this. Dean doesn’t want to do anything, but is tasked with somehow doing something for Jack. And his best idea is driving him down to Oklahoma to TALK TO DONATELLO for a couple hours. Which is actually not a bad plan but also…not a great one? XP But he knows Castiel and Sam are in Arkansas, and if they go to Oklahoma and it’s a bust, then at least they’re a lot closer to Arkansas if shit does down and he gets a call from Sam or Cas. (Of course, he doesn’t get that call, and he and Jack just go back to Kansas. But if he had.) He does care, obviously, and he is thinking about Sam, but not in a way that is entirely helpful. And not with the energy, urgency, or impetus that maybe Sam needs right now.
I dunno, man. I just burst with love for Dean and the fact that he just leaned there for a couple hours and that’s what he wanted to do/was capable of doing. I mean, I suppose it’s not unlike fishing.
Something I think that’s also ripe for exploration is like, how the way you think about your interiority is altered post-possession. Particularly in cases where the amorphousness of thought finds reason to wed itself to paradigms that are more material and structured—opening a memory like it’s the front door to a bar, for instance, and finding a way to quarantine an Archangel by throwing him in a storage closet.
Once you’ve internalized that as the layout of your mind, and continue using it to think about your head—and to actively use these structures as a way of keeping an angel in—is it difficult to let go of those structures? Is some part of you always and ever after going to think about your own mind in those terms? Maybe something that used to be amorphous and slippery and altogether too much to attempt to conceptualize starts feeling smaller. Reassuringly manageable, in a sense, but also emptier. Less given to imagining complexities and possibilities. Maybe it just feels like something has left, and something is over, and mostly what you feel is denouement. That sense of having come to an end—a recession of movement. Sometimes spaces just feel tired, like bars after closing time and empty storerooms. Quiet and still and done. It’d be hard not to feel that way—not to feel like the space—if that’s what your mind looks like now, when you think about it. It’s probably tempting, also, now that you know there’s a storeroom and you know how to lock it and you know where to find it (now that you see your mind as a building). It’s probably tempting to use it to store other things, other feelings you’d like to lock away. You don’t have to push things down when you can lock them away. (Especially since those feelings are, ultimately, unpushable, like water. They cannot be compressed. And once they fill the space, they will always drown you.)
In sort of the same vein—the post-possession vein—I’m also thinking about Dean’s phone call with Rowena post-Michael, which LOL. There’s zero chance that was a helpful phone call. I can imagine Rowena wanting to call Sam—inasmuch as she’d want to call anyone at all—on account of what they’d shared in Lucifer, and just the nature of their relationship all told. But Sam is clearly dealing with a lot of shit, and Dean is the resident expert on having Michael inside you, so he’s just like, yeah, call if you need to. But it’s not like Dean’s going to have a productive conversation about Michael, least of all with Rowena, and it’s not as though Rowena really wants anything from Dean. So they probably just sat on the phone together briefly, largely silent, both with the express intention of performing due diligence and ticking some boxes but without any genuine expectations of having like, a Moment. But at the same time, if there is something that Dean and Rowena share, sometimes all you want is nothing. All you need is someone equally who’s willing to be equally satisfied by that.
Also, my tag for Dean-related ramblings on this blog has essentially become the "beekeeper!Dean" tag, which spawned from me writing a weird number of Dean/bee fics (that is, more than zero) where Dean just fucks off and goes beekeeping/becomes bees/removes himself physically and/or emotionally from the situation and/or from himself and leaves Sam just going literally wtf Dean. RELEVANT TODAY.
And WWWD????? WORST POSSIBLE ADVICE. TO ANYONE. MUCH LESS JACK. SEE: THE ENTIRE REST OF THIS POST. BUT I ALSO DEFINITELY FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, SO...