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the island of conclusions

Fic: Unafraid (spoilers for 5.02)

the island of conclusions

bright star

Fic: Unafraid (spoilers for 5.02)

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bright star
Title: Unafraid
Rating: PG
Warnings: Spoilers for everything through 5.02 (nothing beyond that, though)
Word Count: ~1,200
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit.
Summary: Dean looks back on the year gone by.

A/N: I had so many things I had to get done this week that I wrote this instead. It may be more meta than fic. I apologize for adding to the coda-glut, especially since I think this is probably a minority opinion.
A/N: Unbeta'd. And there's not much grammar inside Dean's head.
A/N: There was a lot going on in the episode. This is just me trying to figure out one part of it.

Unafraid

Dean swung himself into the Impala, put the key into the ignition, and automatically looked to his right.



The empty space shocked right through him, stole his air.

He had to wrestle in a few ragged breaths, holding onto the steering wheel white-knuckled, before he could force himself to turn the key.

He knew he should get as far away from River Pass as possible, but he only managed to get down out of the mountains to somewhere just east of Pueblo before he had to stop. He felt weird—hollow and shaky, like he’d been stuck in bed for a long time, or had just finished an epic bout of sobbing. Which was strange, because he’d been upright and dry-eyed the whole time.

He checked himself into a non-descript motel, shucked his clothes, and got in the shower. Figured the spray would dissolve whatever was holding him together, and he’d cry for real, or throw up, or maybe do some yelling.

But he didn’t. When he got out of the shower, he just felt clean.

He dug around for some almost-fresh clothes, and tried to ignore how naked he felt even after he was dressed.

Still kind of hollow too. So light he might float away. He ordered a pizza, ate most of it, and after that he felt better anchored.

He sat on the bed staring at the blank screen of the TV. Couldn’t bear to turn it on, couldn’t face any new reports of apocalyptic disaster.

Even in the silence, though, even clean and full, he still felt weird. After a while, he realized what it was.

He wasn’t afraid.

Well, okay, he wasn’t saying he was completely without fear. He was still scared shitless of the apocalypse, and rightfully so, judging by the wholesale destruction of the past few days. And he was still pretty fucking disturbed that some archangel had decided that he was the perfect meatsuit to slip into like—well, the less said about that the better.

He just wasn’t scared about Sam.

His heart rate sped up a bit once he’d flushed that fact into the open. But now that it was out there, he couldn’t let it go. Dean stood and emptied the weapons onto the motel table, checking through them so as to have something to do with his hands while he dismantled the sources of that strange release like an unfamiliar gun.

It wasn’t like him to pick apart a feeling so meticulously, he knew--but, hey, who was acting like themselves these days?

He’d been afraid for Sam all his conscious life. Since the night Dad had thrust a surprisingly heavy bundle of limbs into his arms, worrying about whether his brother was alright had been the background noise of every other mental state he’d ever experienced. It still was. Even now, after everything, some small corner of his consciousness was worrying over Sam’s well-being like a dog with its favorite chew toy.

And yeah, he’d admit it now, there’d been a couple of times over the past year when he’d been afraid of Sam, his brother spiraling out into such a demon-blood-fueled rage that there hardly seemed to be anything of Sam left in him.

But the thing that was gone—this fear he was only able to understand now that had lifted—was something else.

He thought that maybe what he’d been spooked by wasn’t Sam, but something unfamiliar in himself. That all last year he’d been on the brink of knowing that the ties that bound him to his brother were loosening, that he was looking over the rim into a future where he didn’t always put Sam first, where he might make choices in which keeping Sam safe wasn’t the first priority.

And that had terrified him, he realized. Freaked him out so much that every time he’d come close to acknowledging it he’d plunged deep into some different state of mind to block it out. Into fury--at Sam usually, for becoming a person whom Dean couldn’t automatically put first. Into booze, or apathy, or exhaustion.

Because opening himself to the possibility that he could live without Sam had felt like falling over a precipice, limbs flailing in empty air. Had felt like hurling himself unarmed into a dark room filled with monsters. Had felt like dying.

Because to leave Sam would be to kill off the Dean he’d known all his life, had gotten used to, for better or worse, a person who had everything bound up in his brother.

And because leaving Sam would mean walking away from his father too, betraying him in death as he never had in life, breaking the first and deepest promises he’d made: to keep Sam safe from the world, and later, to keep the world safe from Sam.

And because, after all, the last time the option of living without Sam had presented itself, he’d literally chosen death.

Of course, he’d gotten along without Sam before. But when Sam went Stanford, Dean had known that Sam needed to leave, and he’d tried to accept that, even if he hadn’t always done it with the best of grace. There had been no part of Dean that had wanted him to go.

This time, there was. And it was that part of him—the part that wished the brother he’d died for would just step away—that made Dean feel like a monster, made the fury and thirst swell up within him.

So he’d pulled back from the brink every time. Dean remembered the thunk of his packed bag on the floor when they’d gotten the call about the Rugaru, remembered the muffled thud of his duffle on the motel chair when he realized he couldn’t leave Sam to fight Lilith alone, remembered lying in puddle of broken glass trying on Dad’s line for size.

And so he’d spent last year in a low-grade panic—not just about accepting the guilt for what he’d done in Hell, not just about the implications of being sprung by angel, and not just about Sam’s duplicity and his addiction. He’d been waiting, tense and poised, to shatter, for the cracking, obliterative noise of the other shoe dropping. The sound of one of them leaving.

But now he realized that during that time he’d forgotten, maybe they’d both forgotten, something else their father had taught them—something that had gotten them through every hunt they’d ever been on. Something that had let them plunge into that mob of possessed townspeople the last time they were in Colorado, and that had pushed him through that door in the convent only a few weeks ago. That the fear of what might happen is always worse that what actually happens—if only because being on the other side means you don’t have to be scared of what’s coming any more.

Dean started putting the weapons away, satisfied with their general readiness. They’d done it: he and Sam had faced each other across that picnic table and they’d pushed through to the other side of something. They’d hurt each other, sure, there at the end, but maybe they’d helped each other too. Done something together. The shoe had dropped, and they were both still alive—for the time being anyway. And that was saying a lot, for them.

He wasn’t dead, though he might not be the person he’d been before. And he wasn’t afraid.

  • (no subject) -
    • *smishes you for reading* thanks!

      I'm glad you liked those bits--I was really struggling, trying to describe the way it messes with you sense of self to step away--even temporarily from a relationship that has defined you--just how big that fear can be...
  • Great coda to the episode. Lot of meta in this, but it doesn't feel like meta, if you know what I mean. It just feels like being in Dean's head, being scared and hopeful for him.
    • Thank you! I was trying to get a sense of what it would feel like for Dean to figure things out, realize in retrospect what had been going on, so I'm glad it came across that way.

      And really glad it left you hopeful--I really wanted to convey that!
  • You've done something that seems to get more and more rare lately:

    [a] wrote a fic that isn't taking sides and making one brother right and one brother wrong
    [b] wrote a fic that enlightens without trying to fix

    I think I'm feeling just as unbalanced and nevertheless hopeful as you've painted Dean. Nicely done!


  • Rec'cing this because YES, EXACTLY.
  • Lovely! And I totally agree with harrigan

    Well done! :)
  • Even in the silence, though, even clean and full, he still felt weird. After a while, he realized what it was.

    He wasn’t afraid.


    THERE it is. Thank you! :D
  • wow...just wow. Fantastic piece of introspection for Dean and realisation about the boys relationship.

    Here from blacklid's rec. Will be reccing as well. Thank you! :-)
    • Thanks so much for the kind words--I'm really glad it worked for you! Thanks for reading, and thanks for the rec.
  • This was VERY well done. Dean and the Zen of brotherhood: this spoke well of both brothers, and captured - I think - what the writers intended us to understand from their mutual decision to part.

    Thank you.
    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I did want to get across a sense that they were both doing something new and brave--I'm glad you didn't think I was reading too much against the grain.
  • This. This is the most PERFECT capture of this moment, of Dean's thoughts, that I can possibly imagine. I wish you could write the tie-in novels, because your grasp of the boys' psychology, or at least Dean's at this moment, is so perfect.

    I love that you didn't gloss or "fix" anything, that Dean's NOT all wrapped in angst or regret. This is real, this is right, this is what they've got to do, and this just fits with what I think Dean's mindset is, right now.

    He can't save Sammy, any more. It's up to Sammy to save himself. It's gonna be all Dean can do to save the world, and he himself has no guarantee of survival. It's a warrior's mindset, and I am SO glad you wrote this. Saving to mems. Remarkable, wonderful effort! :-)
  • That the fear of what might happen is always worse that what actually happens—if only because being on the other side means you don’t have to be scared of what’s coming any more. God, yes!! Insightful and beautifully done. I love how unflinching this is, how you take Dean from an A to B in his thoughts and actions ( ending it on the weapons being ready, was just so right).

    It's bittersweet and it hurts to read a little, but there's hope too.
    • I'm so glad a little bit of hope came through--I guess I think it's hopeful to be in a place where you can actually think things through without flinching--and I hope it's not wishful thinking to believe that Dean has made it to that kind of place now...

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • Lovely. It hurts, but not all is hopeless. You believe the guys will find their way back to each other, stronger than before. At least, I believe they will. Thanks for a great read.
    • I believe that too--I guess I think being able to be more clear-sighted about things, about oneself and one's loved ones, does make you (and your relationships) stronger. It takes a lot of courage, but Sam and Dean are nothing if not brave. So yeah, there is some hope.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • Nice. Really nice. As much meta as fiction. Loved it.
  • Wow, thanks. This was exactly what I saw from Dean in that storyline.

    He thought that maybe what he’d been spooked by wasn’t Sam, but something unfamiliar in himself. That all last year he’d been on the brink of knowing that the ties that bound him to his brother were loosening, that he was looking over the rim into a future where he didn’t always put Sam first, where he might make choices in which keeping Sam safe wasn’t the first priority.

    And that had terrified him, he realized. Freaked him out so much that every time he’d come close to acknowledging it he’d plunged deep into some different state of mind to block it out. Into fury--at Sam usually, for becoming a person whom Dean couldn’t automatically put first. Into booze, or apathy, or exhaustion.

    Because opening himself to the possibility that he could live without Sam had felt like falling over a precipice, limbs flailing in empty air. Had felt like hurling himself unarmed into a dark room filled with monsters. Had felt like dying.



    all of this, exactly.
  • Wow! Absolutely amazing Dean insight.

    "That the fear of what might happen is always worse that what actually happens—if only because being on the other side means you don’t have to be scared of what’s coming any more."

    So perfect! Wish we could have gotten some of this in Show.
    • Thanks for the lovely feedback! I look back on these stories I wrote between 5.02 and 5.04, and I see I was expecting things that haven't really played out on TV...*sigh*...but I guess that's what fic is for, right?

      Thanks for reading!
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