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Brotherly Manlove by Winchesters (23) - Manlove by the Family Winchester
Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.
sargraf
spn_manlove
sargraf
Brotherly Manlove by Winchesters (23)
I don't even know how to begin to tell y'all how sorry I am that this is so late. I tried very hard to get it finished by Thanksgiving Day like I promised, but it just... didn't turn out to be possible. I wanted ELaC up by tonight, as well, but that didn't happen, either. I'm just so very sorry about it.

Brotherly Manlove by Winchesters

Catalogue Guide

1x01, 1x02, 1x03, 1x04, 1x05, 1x06, 1x07, 1x08, 1x09, 1x10, 1x11
1x12, 1x13, 1x14, 1x15, 1x16, 1x17, 1x18, 1x19, 1x20, 1x21, 1x22


Enormous thanks to dotfic and innie_darling for taking time to beta-read this. You guys saved this from the trash can and me from complete despair. *hugs*

All caps are by marishna… unless they look horrible. Those are mine. [1]





In My Time Of Dying

It starts with violence. It ends with stillness.

And what happens in between doesn't shatter the earth. Rather, it lifts the earth up too close and hostile under their feet, and what keeps them above the suffocating weight isn't so much the strength of their love. That's the platter. No, what keeps them breathing in deep and clean with heads held high is the offering on that platter. Two simple concepts, unconditionally reciprocated.

"I hear you" and "I'm here."

~ ~ ~

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged.
Missing me one place search another
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

-Walt Whitman


~ ~ ~


{ sam }

I.
He alone of the two remembers it all, every minute of the capture, of the torture, and of the shot. He alone wakes up on the other side of the crash with echoes still ringing in his head and the dead-set focus of last season's final moments still nestled tight in his chest. He warns the demon off with that clear-eyed fury still beating strong and steady in his chest. No one else he loves will die. Not today. Not by a demon. He draws that line in the sand with his thumb on the hammer and tells the demon with his eyes to take that message back to hell with him.



Mark it now. I will end you and yours, if you touch me or mine.
"Me," I might perhaps forgive, but never "mine."




But this comes undone when he grows aware of the silence behind him. Desperation is a ready companion for fury; they feed each other aggressively. His brother has been silent since the cabin. Perhaps he'd spoken in the car, a breath or two here and there, but probably not. Nothing in the moments before the crash, and nothing now. If his brother can hear him, if he'd heard the "promise" he made before this crash, there's no sign.



II.
Some unknown number of hours later, he walks into his brother's hospital room. And there he stops for a moment, staring. What he is seeing is more than the impact of the crash, although that shock is first and fierce.



But underneath that is a brother bleeding from the mouth, a brother tortured for whom he'd shot their father in the leg. And underneath that is still another form of damage. A ragged sort of wound only visible in backhands of women and tremors in the voice. Damage for and from their father. First one, then the next, then the next, with no pause for healing in between.



So now he stares down at this brother in pieces from the assault, and hears the doctor say, "If." If what? If which? There are too many, and nothing tangible to grasp hold of as a sign that his brother is still fighting. The faintest brush of awareness is there, "out of eyeshot" as he might put it, but indecipherable without faith and purpose to guide it. Unsure of what he senses, he lets go of it to focus on what he can, and like a mirage, it dissipates without a trace. Thus he doesn't see his brother as we do, or hear the fire in his voice, the passion to live.





Hope falters. All it has to build on are hollow words and his brother's stillness under scars. And the memory of a moment [2] very similar to this, from what must feel like a lifetime ago.

"I drew the short straw. That's it. End of story."





Some minutes later, he talks with his father. And once again, though deliberately this time, he is left on the outside trying to see through an opaque glass. With no conviction in his father's voice, no sense of purpose in his father's ideas beyond some plan about the Demon, he is feeling a touch of déjà vu beyond the unconscious echo of his brothers' words (which readies him for what comes later but is brushed aside at the moment).



Déjà vu for the absence in Home, for the silence in Faith, perhaps for the events of or words exchanged during Something Wicked, Dead Man's Blood and Salvation, as well. And most vividly of all, for the last scene of Devil's Trap. For the image of their father, to all outward appearances, writing his brother off as a casualty of their war. Their father offers no substance to disprove the sentiment he's expressed in that moment before the crash. "I don't know if we're going to find anyone," is too close to acceptance of failure. He is witnessing another Home, another Faith, another Devil's Trap.



That builds up his protective fury to a crescendo, but it arrives riding a wave of despair. He is without recourse, yet staring at a world that seems unanimously nonchalant about the probability of his brother's death, what is he left to feel? I'm here. Be it alone or with help, I'll find a way.



III.
When he arrives at the junkyard with Bobby, they walk forward after a moment of staring to examine the Impala up close, and as he steps close to it, he reaches out a hand to trail along the crushed passenger side of it. (It's hard to tell with these screencaps. I recommend viewing it in motion on the TV screen.)







He touches the gaping wound on his brother's car in the same manner with which he has, at times, touched or come close to touching his brother. A quiet, unobtrusive sort of touch, mindful of the Impala's pain. Like an arm along the back of the seat or a careful lean into his brother's space. His touch ends as Bobby makes the remark, "This just ain't worth a tow," and he looks at Bobby then with an almost disbelieving air and puff of breath. No one seems willing to fight.

But for the fact that this is a friend who has proven himself both helpful and perceptive before, I believe he would have responded more fiercely. As it is, he takes a deep breath and lays it bare, quiet and firm:



"Listen to me, Bobby. If there's only one working part, that's enough. We're not just going to give up on..." Then he trails off, as if aware of how strongly his deeper feelings are projecting themselves onto his brother's car. Bobby gets it. Well, many would. But Bobby also respects it, and shows his respect (of Dean as well as of Sam) with active follow-through. That's pretty rare. I think Sam earned a friend today, with this moment.



But back to the car: I think he understands this girl. Just fanwank on my part, of course. All of this is. Yet I like to think he understands her and has an affection for her not merely because she is "Dean's car." She's a kindred spirit, in a way, and right now, the only other thing in their world which would still give his brother all the fighting chance she could muster up for him. He respects her for what she offers his brother, and he's earned her respect for the same. He's leaned his weight against her, and with her support, leaned closer and warmer towards his brother over the course of a year. They're on opposite sides of him, but rather than create a distance between them, that has taught them to intertwine their fingers around him.

(Not that she's KITT or Christine or anything alive and sentient. But allow me my fantasy, willya?)

For the space of this moment, she is Dean to him. Like reaching for a limb instead of the heart, he trails his hand along her bruised side as he might yearn to touch his brother's wounds, to feel and to soothe. To make it known: You're still here. I'll keep you here, come hell or high water.



IV.
Thanks to Bobby's honesty (or unwillingness to play the middle man), he returns to the hospital full of outrage. So focused is his fury that he is incapable of hearing his brother's loud and heated call, even unconsciously. Had his focus been on Brother instead of Father, he might have sensed something before the glass shattered. Here, there is still no evidence to suggest that his brother is fighting. And now their father has fabricated evidence to hide his apparent disinclination to help. He has only fury or despair to fall back on, and fury, at least, is action.



Brother is drowning. Father is plotting a war. And instead of building a raft or a makeshift rope together, Father sends him for supplies. War supplies, in disguise. "I'm doing this for Dean" offers nothing but pretty words from his POV. Broken trust cannot be repaired without substance. Small wonder he says, "Go to hell." A sentiment he will later regret, but one that had built to a breaking point. He draws another line in the sand. He's building walls around his brother.



Then comes a turning point.

The sudden shattered glass announces it, and it might be that their father thinks he is responsible for it, that it is a spurt of psychic energy from this psychic son, or it might be that their father is thinking along the same lines as he is. This comes from outside him, from something other. After Nightmare [3], he's more certain of that than he might have been before.



He is barely given a chance to reflect on it, however, when the wave of pure despair comes sweeping over him with an emergency down the hall.

What he sees is this:







It's the realization of his most immediate and overwhelming fear. His brother accepting the echo of his words by everyone around them: "That's it. End of story." So fury drains out of him, and he's no longer kept afloat by it. Words become too real. The earth lifting up as they fall. "Sometimes I feel like I'm barely holding it together, man." [4]



Yet he's caught here before hitting rock bottom. Perhaps he needs to be in his brother's room, near his brother's body, for it to catch, or maybe he just needs to be soft instead of hard, and open to the touch. Or perhaps it's as Obi-Wan might say: "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them. Stretch out with your feelings."



Whatever the case, in this moment of utter despair, there comes an echo of his brother's voice. An echo not feather-soft and melancholy, but fierce and desperate. The words are "get back," but what he hears is more than that. It's his unvanquished brother fighting an unseen war. It's his drowning brother shooting an arm up to reach for his.

His brother saying, with vehemence, I'm here. Hear me.



The shock of the near-loss hits him dead center, leaves him drained, but underneath that is a kernel of hope where none had been before. The words the doctor had spoken feel far less hollow now. "He's fighting very hard." Nearly dead, his brother, but not compliant. Not like Faith at all. Still defiantly spitting in death's eye, as in that last second of foolish courage in Devil's Trap, before the Demon began its torture. That tenacity had frightened him at the time, for his brother's sake, but he clings to it now with a renewed strength.



The second touch he senses is less distinct but enough to be felt. An unseen but solid mass, its presence radiating unshaken resolve.



It matches the passing by of danger, just as the vehemence before had been reflected against the threat. Enough to sense something beyond a mere presence. Enough for him to sense that his brother is not only afraid, nor only calm, but consciously fluctuating with the tide. Enough for him to feel that his brother is reacting to the same scenery as he is. Which means his brother is here. Alive. Aware. In step with him.



So long he'd held on, palm sweaty from the strain of doing all the lifting as his brother drowned, that to feel his brother's hand at last return his grip, bolsters him with all the courage and purpose he needs. No longer desperate fury or paralyzing despair. There is something to do now. A gap to bridge. An answer to make. I hear you.



V.
The Mystical Talking Board is a rather gentle tease, on some level, of a brother who'd once prompted him to use a different clichéd prop [5] to showcase his psychic skills.



I may be the psychic, but you're the spirit. You reach out to me, and I'll catch you. But I'm gonna make you speak intelligibly this time.



It's still a leap of faith, and for all he knows, this may be a farce and his brother may be unable to reach him through it. But he remembers something about the spoon incident that, for all its stubborn disbelief, showed him something about his brother. It's the same thing his brother has shown him with every increasingly painful vision, and with every twist of the road towards the Demon that his brother has chosen to walk with him. He's willing to reach out and touch this otherness, with no judgment or disgust.



Your power is other, but you're my brother. I won't step back when other knocks you on your feet, and I won't leave you vulnerable to those who would hurt the other. I'll accept the otherness about you, because you are known, and good, and blood.

He sits down on the floor of his brother's hospital room, propelled by hope and grounded by trust.



"Dean, are you here?"



There may be no answer. But if his brother can answer, he will. This is absolute.



For all that assurance, when it comes, the answer still takes his breath away. For this, at last, is tangible. Visible. Touchable. Living under his hands. Like his brother sidling up to him against the car, brushing their shoulders together. Yeah, I'm here, college boy.



"It good to hear from you, man. It hasn't been the same without you, Dean."



Why had he called him? To be certain of his brother's presence and to let his brother know that he wouldn't give up on him? Perhaps he didn't expect to achieve anything beyond that. But what happens as his brother begins to spell out R-E-A-P-E-R is that his sense of purpose, bolstered by the scene before and yet facing a dead end beyond this contact, is given a target.



(So attuned they now are to each other, he can finish his brother's thought before he has a chance to finish spelling it out. This isn't new, exactly, as they've thought and spoken in unison several times in the past regarding this case or that. But could this have happened before? He sees and knows nothing of the reaper, of a hunt at all. Sees nothing of his brother but disjointed letters and a vague sense of here. That attunement may be instinctive, but it's also been finely tuned over the past year. Beautiful to see.)



His world is caught up in a whirlwind. Now fury, now despair. Then assurance and elation. Now despair again, flickering on. "You can't kill death." But in his mind, he whispers, "Watch me."



This is, at last, an irrefutable reason to despair. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and Death has his brother suspended in its hands. But he has done this once before. He can find another way. And after thinking his brother lost, only to find him still kicking for all he's worth, he cannot and will not accept his brother's death by default.


VI.
He goes to their father, almost instinctively (a curious instinct; he seems to view him automatically as a source of information more so than as a source of help). But once again, their father fails him, leaving him to feel that despite all of the reasons given their family to despair and to hope—to strive together—he is and has been in this alone for his brother. If that angers him (and it does, as we later see), he holds it in check when he returns to his brother's side. Comfort and encouragement for his brother, speaking as though this was any other case, with his brother bouncing ideas back off of him confidently and cheerfully.



And he touches his brother here, physically, in a manner markedly different from how he dropped the bag of supplies down near or on his father's legs earlier in the hour. His touch is still gentle, still mindful of the pain, but familiar, too. Easier and more confident than his caress of the car.



His brother is reaching back now, being heard and hearing. There's a warmth answering his, a grip that's firm from both sides. Though the deck is stacked against them, the mutual here changes the entire nature of his manner; it relaxes him despite the pressing danger. Hey, man. We can do this just fine, okay? Talk to me if anything changes. We'll fight it off together.





VII.
When we see him again, he's standing beside his brother's bed. He's calling for him.

"Dean, are you here?"



It might be a production error, a result of the different camera angle, or it might be deliberate. But notice the position of the planchette at the end of their "conversation" (slightly overlapping the top edge) and compare it to where the planchette is located in this scene (a good inch, at least, beneath the dark border on the face of the board). Did he try to contact his brother again, when he failed to find anything in the book? And this time, his brother did not/could not answer him.



"I couldn't find anything in the book. I don't know how to help you, but I'll keep trying, alright? As long as you keep fighting."

So what he's saying here is not merely built on the general despair of the moment, or any guilt over their two/four-year separation. It's prompted by a real and immediate fear. Is Death's hold too absolute now, or did his brother stop fighting, as he had once before? Either answer is means his brother's death is inevitable. And now powerless to act, he can only plead to an empty room. It comes full circle, his despair, and once more, his only answer is his brother's stillness under scars.



"I mean, come on, you can't—you can't leave me here with Dad. We'd kill each other, you know that. Dean, you've got to hold on."



On the surface, this is a routine speech. We've heard it and its like a million times before on television and film. But there's also a certain truth to this concept: The words are tired, but it means something that he said it. Like his brother's own promise to him at the end of Nightmare, after witnessing the unpredictable destruction by and terror of the Demon's chosen children. "As long as I'm around, nothing bad is gonna happen to you."



"You can't go, man, not now. We were just starting to be brothers again."

These aren't mere sounds in the air. They're the sounds of a vow being made. There was a miscommunication between Scarecrow and Shadow [6] that he's rectifying now. There is a choice he'd been unable to make back then, which only the events of Salvation and Devil's Trap could pave the way for. This is something he'd never promised. He couldn't promise it before, because this vow means "forever," and he couldn't bear forever. Now, want and need are both too dense to separate, and what comes of that mix is the ability to make this vow. It's his final promise of the hour, and the only one he has left to offer, but it's not merely desperate. It's honest. Something to abide by, finally uttered in this first moment of true stillness he's had since it all became clear in the final nightmarish moments of Devil's Trap.

What Sam is vowing comes down to this: I'm here.



"Can you hear me?"

But it will be as if he'd never spoken any of this aloud.

There is no witness. He alone will remember it.


~ ~ ~



{ dean }

I.
He opens his eyes to a silent world following the havoc of the crash. Confused yet relatively calm and self-assured, as if picking himself up from a stumble during the rescue of his father in Devil's Trap. His first thought is for his brother, as if their father's presence in their midst is something that has been dream so much longer than fact that it must struggle past shock to make itself tangible. He's momentarily taken aback when he realizes something might not be quite right, a slight shift of the earth beneath his feet, before falling into characteristic directness and purpose when he suspects what it is. No little thing like being barefoot and spectral is going to keep him from finding his target. Not now with his family missing. Not later when he's under attack.





He returns to the room that is holding his body, and for all it knocks him back quite a few steps, he retains his underlying sense of purpose. Unnerved and wary, but watchful and waiting. For his body to suck it up and snap out of it? For something to come collecting? It's a study in contrast: himself bound and unbound, helpless and deadly, victim and hunter, at odds with the more familiar measures of spirit and skin.



Then his brother walks in the room, and whatever else he was waiting for, this was at the heart of it all. The expression on his face is like coming home. It's the face of a soldier, in the early morning light, having kept vigil and searched tirelessly all through the night, seeing his comrade emerge at last through the smoke off the field of battle. Bruised, perhaps, and stumbling, but alive. There's no thought at that moment. Personal injuries are as nothing. There is only joy, pure and simple, unlike anything we've ever seen him feel before.



Once this happens, once he learns that his father is also out of the woods, he settles himself down solidly, straddling the line between the iron resolve of Salvation and the passion of Devil's Trap. Father is back in the fold. Brother is safe. Danger has passed. The situation isn't good, per se, but it's far better than his worst fear. There's no way he's dying here. Yeah, okay, he's a little banged up at the moment, but that's a temporary setback nowhere equal to either of his family members being in trouble. He refuses to consider being left behind, symbolically or otherwise.



The forceful matter-of-factness with the suggestion of a hoodoo priest's mojo is like his attitude throughout the planning and action of Salvation. Clear and determined. Offering the only solid strength he can offer at moments like these, and if his brother could hear him now, he might have perhaps taken some comfort from it. Forcefulness can grate on a person's nerves, but you find yourself needing it when there's nothing else to grasp hold of. He can see that on his brother's face, and that plus the doctor's diplomatic assist of his brother's despair shuts down any twinge of doubt he may have been entertaining for himself. It's just a flesh wound. Slap me awake or dump some water on me. Do something, already, so we can get going.

It's an old promise—"Nobody's dying tonight."—and one he intends to keep.



Underneath this fierceness and the anger later expressed towards his father must be some kernel of the fear the Demon played on. [7] He needs his brother to show some initiative, some motivation to reach out to him and bring him back.

Each brother finds himself staring at the stillness of defeat in the other, realizing only later that the fight to continue on is a mutual battle.


II.
We see him watching as his father lies to his brother, and although it's not a brotherly manlove moment, per se, it speaks of a dynamic that is fundamental down the line in S2. His demeanor here picks up exactly where he last saw his unpossessed father in Salvation. "You sure know something." Cold and clear and questioning. Protective of his brother.



It's one of the moments that illustrates that he would protect his brother even from their father, if he had to. He protected his brother's powers from detection and exposure to the point of keeping even their father in the dark for much of the first season, when he could have very easily (and naturally, as a matter of great fear and concern) mentioned them during the phone call of Home. He didn't. He safeguarded his brother in every possible way from every other living, dead or undead creature that did or could threaten him. It's moments like those, and this one now, that speak to where his instinct is and to which "side" he naturally gravitates.


III.
Here, he gets sidetracked by the presence of an unknown supernatural being killing presumably innocent people. Why he's so intensely caught up in this random hunt is not entirely clear. It's partly his nature, of course. Having their father back and in characteristically tight-lipped control may not soothe his feelings, but it feeds his hunting gland… as such.





It's also a return of that forcefulness. A "hear me, we've got things to do, people to save" call for someone, anyone, to show some motivation to reach back to him. He counts on his brother's powers to allow for communication; one gets the sense that he spent quite a while fruitlessly trying to grab their father's attention. The more his people count him out, the more intensely he tries to make himself heard, so it's not surprising that he'd attach himself to this random hunt. Look here, he's saying. I'm not dying. I'm not dead. I'm off my ass and hunting. I'm still of use here.



When his brother and father begin to argue over him, his reaction is not just the weariness of Dead Man's Blood surfacing again, although that's surely part of it.



The fighting itself is old, and tired, but the content of this fight pulls him all the way back from this almost-welcome random hunt to where the Demon had left him. Far too close, far too harsh, when his body is, in fact, dying alone in its room. When his father mentions that he's doing this for him, and when his brother rants about him dying, we see a strange faltering hope and surprise on his face, briefly, like a new suit he's unfamiliar with.



Anger is a far more comfortable, far more routine release.

And not to go into the physics of the thing (because I don't have a clue what I'm talking about): symbolically, it's somehow poetic that whatever joy and hope he felt couldn't reach them but the destructive effect they had on him could.



If they could see him, I think they would have seen something very familiar. And it's a beautiful sort of irony that they can't hear him, per se, and he believes he is pleading in vain. Yet for all that they aren't seeing this in front of their eyes, both his brother and his father are thinking of what he has done for them in that regard, on top of all the other emotions they're feeling. Father is gearing himself up to say goodbye, in all likelihood, and Brother is gearing himself up to never say goodbye.


IV.
(Pointless Nitpick: I don't know why the reaper would be over his physical body, when it supposedly collects souls. Wouldn't it be after Dean's spirit form? It's a neat "on the fritz" effect, but it doesn't make sense that he wouldn't feel or see some indication that a reaper has come collecting before the electric shocks from the defibrillation.)



Seeing himself targeted (and very shortly happening across what he believes to be a fellow victim) is unnerving, once again, but it also gathers two points of focus into one and gives him at last what feels like truly solid ground to stand on. The random hunt being revealed as connected to his dying body takes the whole issue of his possible death out of the bottomless haze and into the clear. There's at last something to do, something to actively hunt, and being able to grab hold of this unknown spirit gives him all the drive he needs under a controlled rein.



And seeing his brother there, visibly despairing and afraid, brings him that last step full around from hunted to hunter.



It's similar to their first scene and its Salvation-like resolve, similar to his insistence that he's fine, but he's steadier here. Calm and cool, almost like a page out of Skin, Nightmare or Provenance. And why not, certain complications notwithstanding? There's 1) something to fight, 2) a brother to reassure, 3) a victim to save. A day in the life.



Things are brightening up, in a Winchester sort of way. If he can touch it, he can kill it. If he can kill it, he won't die. If he won't die, well, he'll wake up. And that will put everything back in place.


V.
What happens in between then and now is that he realizes this spirit is a reaper and is doing things as a matter of due course. It brings mercy as well as judgment. So his demeanor now is as calm but not quite as cool as before. He's not defeated, but he is disciplined. Not that he is ready to die, for this situation (both specifically and generally) is drastically unlike Faith; that is not where his passivity comes from. But he is resigned to what the identity of this spirit means. He's accepting that it is his personal fight, that it will come down to his will and purpose. Everyone else is powerless. If he himself cannot fight it off (or unless Dad as the wildcard has another idea), it's over. He's "screwed." So he stands by his bedside and apparently waits for it to come.

But in walks his brother with a Mystical Talking Board and a boatload of determined hope.



His reaction to the board is funny yet sweet.



I can imagine this sort of scene many times in their childhood, the elder brother having to play with kiddie toys to entertain his little brother.



He participates, of course.


(Just what is Jensen Ackles doing? Dude. We're already looking there, for pete's sake…)





Logically, what other option does he have to actively communicate? But also, how can he refuse? His brother doesn't need to look at him with puppy-dog eyes; his brother simply is puppy dog-eyes. There's not much a self-respecting elder brother can do about a situation like that, except to go along with it, however he feels about slumber parties or psychic hearing aids.





He humors his brother, not expecting it to work but still giving it an earnest effort…





…and when it does work, there's an expression on his face that reminds me of Faith. Not so much that it is an echo of his brother's expression as he was healed. It reminds me of their conversation before, about faith and believing in what's real. He's actively answering his brother's faith here, becoming the solid thing beneath his brother's leap, but he's the one who finds himself unexpectedly afloat with the rush of faith rewarded.



My brother leaps up from the earth. I reach out my hand to catch him. And it is only when we touch that I realize: I am in the air, as well. I am the thing he believes in. The 'good' unseen.

In the wake of this moment, he decides to spell out the situation he faces.



And I stop here, wanting to ask him "Why?" Why tell his brother about the reaper? Theoretically, he can only increase (significantly) the fear and/or depression evident in his brother from the last scene they shared. He isn't utterly fearless here, not entirely certain of victory as his words to his fellow "victim" are meant to portray. But he does this in part as an instinctive reassurance.



I have this thing after me, this "reaper," but don't worry.

H-U-N-T, not D-I-E.



His brother could take that to mean "being hunted" but it's indicative of their mentality and relationship how that is not the interpretation he readily assigns. I love the confidence in this interpretation, especially following the "get away" moment of insight. He isn't going anywhere.



Also? This man hunts. Period. He may perhaps—on rare occasion and under extenuating circumstances—give up (see: Faith). But he is never hunted. If anything hunted him, he'd kick its ass to hell. Questions? See: wendigo, Bloody Mary, shapeshifter, the late Dr. Ellicott, et al.



But he also shares this information because of his honesty. It's easy to call him a liar, easy to call him macho and stoic. But he's more than that. He is a curious mix of heart-on-his-sleeve and stoic tough guy, always has been. Nine time out of ten, he'll readily share what is going on, or what happened in the past. He just won't share how that makes him feel. "I remember the fire" [8] instead of "I would wake up screaming for years," or some such to go with it. He's naturally honest and open, but has become guarded from the experiences of his life.



So he tells his brother the facts of the matter, because that's simply what he does.



He tells him everything, all the way to the bald truth of "Yes (it's after me)."



Then he pulls away. Instinctive bluntness. Fact is common ground. Emotion is not.



And on some level, he's able to relax this instinct around his brother in a way that he isn't likely to around others. In response to his brother's own honesty, and also as a response to the presence and attention by him. Who else is listening? No one. Who else has shown a willingness to stop and pay heed to him? To come back to him? No one. His brother has earned the trust of a man naturally given to honesty but who had gradually barricaded himself since childhood. It's the little moments like these that add up. He will share sad or soft stories with others, but this man is different. This man listens for him, not for himself. I don't think he trusted that to begin with, in the early days of the first season, but we see him responding to it, in different ways in different scenarios, in a fluid yet increasingly solid manner.





We don't catch a glimpse of him when his brother leaves. I presume he stays there, where we'll see him next. Waiting for his brother. Knowing he'll bring back help, if there is any. Knowing he'll be back, regardless. And perhaps also keeping watch over his own helpless body.


VI.
His brother returns all but empty-handed, as their father has once again ostensibly failed them both. He watches his brother sit next to his recumbent body and dig tirelessly through their father's journal for something to stop their descent. And if you could have captured that look in his eyes and presented it in a frame to his brother, it might have kept him warm throughout the weeks that will follow this hour. It's a cliché, but it's true. All the love in the world is in those eyes. If only his brother could see it, to remember this moment by.



Thank you for being with me, Sam. Here at what might be the end of me. [9]



His brother tries so hard to reach him with his heartfelt speech later on, but he doesn't realize what he's doing here. Just being there, for a brother who has no one else save one… and that one gone and apparently uncaring, who would miss his son's death, if death were to come calling now. This is every need of his condensed and answered unconditionally. He recognizes it, even if his brother doesn't. There is love in that gaze, and underneath it is another shared thread: faith rewarded. It's the polar opposite of how their father has made him feel this day.


VII.
What happens in between that scene and their true reunion at the end is mostly territory that he covers for and by himself. He faces against Death, the fight he knew he would be forced to fight for himself, before he even knew her face. It's a personal fight and a personal journey, and so I won't cover all it means to him on that level.



But there's a lovely cutaway. The younger brother is pouring his heart out to what is essentially an empty room. We cut away and see the elder one staring out of a window in the reaper's room. He cannot hear his brother's words, and even if he could, he wouldn't be able to recall them later. On the surface, the impact is that he is missing these important words, but he doesn't need the sense of sound to hear his brother's need. It's profoundly basic between them at this point, and even given the chance that his own immediate danger had clouded his memory of past events, his brother's face in the hallway and in his hospital room would still be pressing to the forefront of his mind's eye.



"Thanks for not giving up on me" is a mutual offering, and he's making his own promise to be here, in unknown response to his brother's.



"They don't need you," the Demon had said. "Not like you need them."

Perhaps on some psychological level, that's true. But this hour has been a study of the reverse.



Not that he needed this show of love to bolster his loyalty or protectiveness, but it speaks to the impact of how attuned he's become to his brother over the year (from big moments in episodes like Wendigo, Bloody Mary, Home and Nightmare, to smaller moments in episodes like Phantom Traveler, Skin, Bugs and Provenance [10]), as well as his sense of "Dad can handle anything," that his point of focus with the reaper is his brother's safety.



When he speaks of his family, he references the "war," speaks in terms of a general duty ("My family's in danger. See, we're kind of in the middle of this 'war'… and they need me."), but when he singles someone out, it is his brother. The need to stay becomes intimate. "My brother, he could die without me." Family needs its Soldier, but Brother needs his Friend. Now more than ever.


We ultimately don't know what he decided. Even the written script doesn't reveal it to us.



I believe, given the options as presented by the reaper and his expression as he turned around, he had chosen to go with her. When the issue was honor vs. loyalty, there was no question he'd stay, but with the issue turned around to the hunt, I believe he would never be able to inflict that choice on his family. As much as any aversion he might personally feel, the thought of existing as the sort of thing they hunt and potentially becoming a mindlessly violent spirit that his brother and/or father would have to salt and burn takes it to the level of what might be called "duty," which in turn prompts his loyalty. Like taking a bullet for one of them or accepting the role of being the one with blood on his hands. She's smart, that reaper. Intuitive and smart. She speaks his language fluently.

Whether the loyalty to stay or the loyalty to go proved stronger, we'll probably never know. I wonder if he will.


~ ~ ~



{ end }




When Dean gasps awake from inside his body, he's once again coming fresh off the final few events of Devil's Trap. Lingering suspicion about their father, the lingering sense of "not right" emphasized by the pit in his stomach. There's the lack of desperation from the first half of Devil's Trap, from the knowledge that they are all together and that the immediate danger has passed, but the doubt remains.



The emotion here seems a direct follow-up of that wordless shake of his head at Sam in that pivotal scene of Devil's Trap. It's in their exchange of glances as Sam is sent out by their father. Sam: subdued by their father's gentleness but uneasy retreating his front line back behind his fallen brother's forces. Dean: waking up straight from Devil's Trap as he is, quietly guarded but certain of his ground and steady on it. Something's not quite right, and he may have taken a hit, but his eyes are wide open.



As for Sam, he is operating with his memory intact but we see him fluidly adjusting himself to his brother's pace. It's an understated mirror of his decision to trust Dean in Devil's Trap, a marked contrast to his instinct (or deliberate choice) to disbelieve the unseen reaper in Faith.



He rests a hand on the bed-tray above his brother's body, and it reminds me of his touch of the Impala. Respecting his brother's frame of mind, wanting to reach out but catching himself just on the outside of his brother's comfort zone. It's a step back from his familiarity on this very same bed some unknown number of minutes or hours earlier, but it's intuitive and careful. Dean is waking up a day or two (a full episode) behind him, and he adjusts himself to that, to reacting to Dean as if they are all just waking up from Devil's Trap.



They'll remain like that for a good portion of the following episodes. Naturally out of step, with Sam alternately slowing himself down and trying to encourage Dean to move faster and Dean still reeling from the double blow of waking up from the emotional and physical onslaught of Devil's Trap only to find their father dead minutes later. That plus everything else he'll be feeling and everything else he'll know. That will be too much to absorb by itself, let alone try to catch up to his brother's pace. It's a touch of grace that Sam remembers his portion of these hours, the emotions he felt and the silent and spoken promises he made.

It was really a love story being told from two disconnected views, only once overlapping, with only Dean able to witness Sam's response to him, and yet only Sam being the one to remember any of it. Sam's bedside plea, Dean's look of love… those things will never be recorded in their hearts. That's almost Shakespearean. But the love story isn't lost completely. It's underneath everything they do and say, holding them together despite the knocks and bruises. If this season is to be one of conflict and darkness, then this was a perfect capture of their bond to set the stage.



The episode ends on the image of the younger holding the elder up as their father is pronounced dead.



They're caught in a fall after all danger had seemed to pass, as their father dies and the earth rushes up to meet them hard. Had either of them released his end of the tie, they might have both been swallowed up. One will fasten his grip for all he's worth, tight on that slippery wrist with a desperate grip that can lose as many to the abyss as it saves. And as for the other, in the days to follow, he'll loosen up but not let go. For in his mind he may see the years spread out as an abyss to drown in or an impenetrable wall to shatter his bones against, but duty and love will keep him afloat. And his brother will turn him around with something gained in these hours that he cannot remember.

You're silent, but I hear you. You're drowning, but I'm here.

So he'll feel the sweat on that hand sustaining him, and begin to close his own hand around it. In time, he'll allow himself a glance away from the darkness. Then, even though it will take much longer to turn himself around, he will remember the concept behind something he himself once said.

"There's another way to go."

This time, it's up.


But that's for another chapter, another time.

Still a long way up, and perhaps not even halfway there as of now.




FOOTNOTES:
1. She's wonderful. I tried to use my non-HDTV-quality DVD for caps, and, well… you can see how they turned out, with the Sam/Impala caps and a couple of the Dean caps. I learned my lesson. HDTV-only from now on!
2. Faith.
3. Some indication that he either borrowed, learned or somehow 'caught' the power of telekinesis from Max, in Nightmare.
4. Salvation.
5. A spoon in Nightmare.
6. A fanwank of mine, addressed in this Shadow/Something Wicked ramble. Essentially: in that big Shadow talk, Sam assumed that Dean would have trouble letting him go, because he came back in Scarecrow, and Dean assumed that Sam would stay indefinitely... because he came back in Scarecrow.
7. "You fight and you fight for this family, but the truth is: they don't need you. Not like you need them. Sam? He's clearly John's favorite. Even when they fight, that's more concern than he's ever shown you."
8. Home.
9. Paraphrasing what Frodo says to Sam near the end of LOTR: ROTK. "I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam."
10. The campfire heart-to-heart in Wendigo; several key scenes in Bloody Mary, Home and Nightmare; the opening and closing scenes of Phantom Traveler; the pre-sewer pep talk in Skin; the conversations about John in Bugs; and the conversation about Jessica in Provenance. To name a few.



Everybody Loves A Clown is next. I'm going to try my darndest to have it up next week before the new episode airs. Sometimes things are meant to happen, and sometimes they're not. I seem to live in this perpetual state of "not," but I'm working on it.

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40 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
hatoyona From: hatoyona Date: December 1st, 2006 06:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh gosh. You write so beautifully and so fluently and it's so insightful. I think I say this everytime (all two times), but it always strikes me. This was a great episode in many ways but you made it beautiful.
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 12:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much. The episode itself is so beautiful. I just tried to do it justice. (And that was pretty intimidating...!)
exsequar From: exsequar Date: December 1st, 2006 06:28 am (UTC) (Link)
You have FOOTNOTES! That is just made of awesome. And an epigraph! Hee!

All that aside, this is incredible. Your extremely eloquent and insightful analysis of this love story (truly, it is) will make sure I never watch this episode the same way again. I was particularly touched by the flicker of hope and disbelief on Dean's face as John and Sam are arguing about him - he's realizing that maybe he IS just as important to them. I had almost forgotten the demon's taunt, actually, which is stupid of me because of course that's going to sit in Dean's mind and wear at him. Although, I'm not sure how he could possibly take it seriously now, what with John giving up his SOUL for him. Anyway. The sheer bone-deep connection that Dean and Sam share in this episode, despite the disconnect, is an absolute revelation to witness. I love the direction your analysis has taken - full relationship, instead of just touches. Cause god knows sometimes these boys say more with a glance than most people do with a bearhug.

Wow. Thank you so, so much for this. I can't wait for more.
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't know whether or not to add footnotes, but I thought it would be better to have them than to potentially confuse people with obscure references.

Thank you so much. It is a love story, truly. (Sera Gamble put it perfectly, even if she says she was only teasing Kripke about it. ;)) And Dean, dude. It breaks my heart about him. All of those years, he apparently never received anything from John to indicate that he loved him as much as he loved Sam, and then to get this sort of answer with John's blood on Dean's hands, in his POV. That's gotta be extremely difficult to live with.

I'm not sure if I'm going to continue with this sort of analysis for the rest of S2. People indicated in that poll a while back that they wanted me to analyze anything physical that seemed significant, not just the touches, but at the same time, this is supposedly a catalogue of how they touch…? I'm not sure how to proceed.
nasus221 From: nasus221 Date: December 1st, 2006 06:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh fuck, I've missed these. You meta like no other, sweetie, because you take it so much deeper than anyone else. Everyone else may offer me new insights and have me flailing along with them, but you actually make me love this show even more.
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much for saying that. That's one of the joys of being active in fandom, growing to love the show more through fannish pursuits. I'm so honored that you feel that way about my work.
From: sophisticas Date: December 1st, 2006 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I HATE YOU. (NoIdontIloveyou) But only because I'm immensely jealous of your talent for these things. You write in such a fluid, expressive way, detailing your sentiments in such a way that I can't hold in my squee when I see a brand new chapter up. (And some how, each and every time, you manage to point out something that I have missed or not noticed in an episode, that is a talent in itself!)

*bows down to your meta!greatness*

Roll on ELaC :)
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
:O(

No, I'm kidding, too. :) Thank you so much, honey. *HUG* But you're totally embarrassing me…! I'm not that talented at all. You should see my scribbled notes on this episode. They were a horrible mess.

ElaC is in the works!
galathea_snb From: galathea_snb Date: December 1st, 2006 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I never commented before, but I was really waiting anxiously for your continuation of the manlove series and once again you blew me aways with your insight in what drives the brotherly dynamics as well as your incredibly poetic writing style.

"It's easy to call him a liar, easy to call him macho and stoic. But he's more than that. He is a curious mix of heart-on-his-sleeve and stoic tough guy, always has been. Nine time out of ten, he'll readily share what is going on, or what happened in the past. He just won't share how that makes him feel. "I remember the fire" [8] instead of "I would wake up screaming for years," or some such to go with it. He's naturally honest and open, but has become guarded from the experiences of his life."

I completely agree with this assessment, it's often overlooked that with all his aversion against touchy-feely moments Dean IS willing to share easily for the sake of whomever he is talking to, he is simply very guarded when it comes to his own emotions and that's a huge difference. Nicely put!

"This man listens for him, not for himself."

That made me cry, honestly. It's so true and we see this displayed throughout S2 in the most beautiful manner. Sam taking over the supporting role for his older brother is a pure joy to watch this season, he might not always know how exactley to handle this in the best manner but he tries anyways.

I can't wait for your next installment. Your work here is awe-inspiring. Thank you!!
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 02:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, thank you so much for your lovely comment! (I'm sorry my reply is so late! RL has been pretty busy.) I really appreciate the feedback, and I'm sorry this chapter was so late in coming.

Dean really is an instinctively honest guy. I think the "no chick flick moment" thing has become far too exaggerated in fanon.

And Sam is just a remarkable brother this season. He does stumble, but he earnestly tries, particularly in ELaC and CSPWDT. *sigh*

Thank you, again! I'll try to have ELaC up ASAP.
llywela13 From: llywela13 Date: December 1st, 2006 10:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Like my good friend galathea_snb above, I haven't commented on your Manlove entries before, but wanted to take this opportunity to say a big thanks for all the time and dedication that goes into the composition of them. Your work is beautiful, and well worth waiting for.

Thank you! :)
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much for reading and for your feedback. I'm so glad that you've enjoyed this series. :) I'm only sorry that y'all have had to wait as long as you have. It's not fair, and I'm trying not to fall down on my responsibilities like that.
missyjack From: missyjack Date: December 1st, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
God what a deeply imrpessive piece of work that combines insightful meta and lyrcical, almost poetical writing. It made me view the epsiode in a new light, and also moved me deeply.

thank you.
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much! I'm so honored that you feel that way. It's a beautiful episode, isn't it?

(p.s. As one meta writer to another: did the split POVs work for this meta? I was concerned about it, but it seemed like the only way to approach this episode.)
missyjack From: missyjack Date: December 6th, 2006 01:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I really liked the split POV. It worked particularly well for this episode because the boys really did have separate narratives. I think it could also work for some other episodes to give you an opportunity to comapre and contrast their differing experiences and responses.

Let me say again how much I was impressed with and inspired by this meta - and more than a little jealous of your talent ;) It's work liek this that makes me love this fandom.

(Deleted comment)
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 5th, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
That really is a heartbreaking moment, and so beautifully acted. I love how JA played that as a defeat yet also as a choice.
too_rational From: too_rational Date: December 1st, 2006 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sweet Lord of the Rings!

*wide-eyed*

You're crazy, you know that? Completely crazy. Have you seen the size of this freakin' bear of this thing?! It's-- it's huge! This must've taken you days to compile!

You have footnotes, for cryin' out loud!

*in awe*

Wow. Just... wow.

O.O

(I'd say something smart and... but... *flails* Wow!)
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
So, this is totally late (x2). I got cut off last time, and then RL... I'm so sorry! *hugs*

I am crazy. Off my rocker. When I get home from work every day, I have to stop and think about my options: 1) writing manlove or 2) sleeping/eating/living. And I choose 1). (...Until this week, that is, when my body basically told me "I'm shutting down. Deal with it.") That's just plain ol' crazy. And, um, yeah… I'm ashamed to admit it, but it did take me days to write IMToD. A full week, in fact. *hangs head*
dotfic From: dotfic Date: December 1st, 2006 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a gorgeous piece of work. :)

The fellow soldier emerging from the smoke is still my favorite part in this whole post, but I really liked your take on the ouiji board scene and what's going on between them there.

he'll readily share what is going on, or what happened in the past. He just won't share how that makes him feel. "I remember the fire" [8] instead of "I would wake up screaming for years,"

I hadn't thought of it like that. Such a good insight into Dean.

Respecting his brother's frame of mind, wanting to reach out but catching himself just on the outside of his brother's comfort zone.

Really like this idea, that Sam would sense this isn't a good moment to actually touch Dean, but he'll make a symbolic gesture that's like a touch. Or maybe he's subconsciously wanting to remind himself of his touch on the Impala, to highlight that now Dean's not broken anymore.

Footnote 9: yay! omg, I've thought of that moment in relation to Sam and Dean a few times. That's how they would be if the apocalypse was at hand. Not that I want an apocalypse on the show, but say they were surrounded and the lava rising...yeah. (Or maybe a moment like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, a movie which makes me think of SPN).
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much. You helped write it, you know, and I can't thank you enough for that. *HUG*

I think Dean's honesty really gets overlooked in fandom under the shadow of "no chick flick moments" (even perhaps in the show), and of course this secret doesn't help the illusion. I hope they touch on how out-of-character it is for him to have kept this fact from Sam, despite the extenuating circumstances. I guess we'll see tonight...

(Or maybe a moment like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, a movie which makes me think of SPN).

Oh, yeah. And this is totally off topic, but I'd love to see them as partners in a Western. It seems like a genre made for the JP/JA duo. *wishful thoughts*
astri13 From: astri13 Date: December 1st, 2006 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, just wow. That was poetic in its beauty.

Pointless Nitpick: I don't know why the reaper would be over his physical body, when it supposedly collects souls. Wouldn't it be after Dean's spirit form?

I wondered about that. Maybe by "killing" his physical body she would force his spirit in it and to her anyway? And then because he proved difficult - as only Dean Winchester can :) - she took the time to try and convince him. Methinks she wouldn`t do that for every soul that doesn`t want to die.

(Just what is Jensen Ackles doing? Dude. We're already looking there, for pete's sake…

I have no idea what you`re talking about of course. ;-)

He's naturally honest and open, but has become guarded from the experiences of his life.

So very true.

Bravo. Magnificiently done.
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 02:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much, Astri! I'm so glad you liked it. (And I'm sorry this reply is so late!!)

Maybe by "killing" his physical body she would force his spirit in it and to her anyway?

That's an interesting point. She is pretty smart. Maybe she tried to leave him no alternative. Hmm...

I have no idea what you`re talking about of course. ;-)

Hee. :O)
ant3ka From: ant3ka Date: December 1st, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
When this episode first aired, I didn't like it. It was hard and it hurt and everyone was just so broken. But you've made some excellent points and tied a lot of things together that I never thought about. I loved your use of "I hear you" and "I'm here" as the common thread of the episode.

You've made me want to watch the episode again, which is something I didn't think I'd ever want to do. :)

It's a really well thought out meta, and I'm sorry I can't give any more specific feedback beyond that, you've sort of frozen my brain with your insight. :) But it's definitely going into my memories. :)
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
This reply is terribly late; I'm so sorry about that.

What you say reminds me of how I first felt about the episode. I didn't think it measured up to the depth of ELaC. Everything was beautifully big and grand, but there didn't seem to be many layers to it. All dessert, no meat, you know? So I worried about how I'd write it. But there were all of these connections and threads through it that I hadn't paid attention to before, and so I came out loving and appreciating it more than I thought I would.

Thank you so much, Anteka! *hugs* :)
__3amconfession From: __3amconfession Date: December 1st, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have never seen someone write a meta on the dynamics of Sam and Dean so beautifully. It didn't even feel like reading something that would have to explain the boys - it felt like something ripping my heart out because it's so well put together and so eloquent and it just hurts, because you know it's true.

I haven't read it all, but what I have read of it is already starting to kill me all over again. I think, in my opinion, that this has a much deeper and profound impact than the actual premiere did.

There are no words, or not enough, to tell you how great this is. Just... bravo.
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much for your kind feedback. I'm so glad that you liked it and that it felt true. That's very rewarding to hear about a meta. I really appreciate you saying that. (Although I'm just echoing the source material. The episode itself is where all the beauty is. :))

(p.s. Icon love!)
astiraa From: astiraa Date: December 1st, 2006 04:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
First off. YAY!!! Not only is it manlove, but its a freaking huge ass, wonderfully written, absolutely gorgeous, marathon manlove post (with gratuitous Ackles-in-Scrubs picspam *swoon*). :)

In case you haven't heard this enough, you rock SO hard for this. For the whole manlove project. When fandom gets me down and I catch myself thinking "maybe I should just take a break from the show" I read your posts and it reminds me just how much I freaking LOVE these boys. *squishes* Thank you.

And now, more gushing.

He touches the gaping wound on his brother's car in the same manner with which he has, at times, touched or come close to touching his brother. A quiet, unobtrusive sort of touch, mindful of the Impala's pain.

I can't believe I didn't catch this when I watched the eppy. It's so perfect! Everytime you point out these little characterizations and unconcious movements I wonder how much of it is actually scripted and how much comes from JA and JP having such a great atunement to the characters they portray. Because it is SO consistent from eppy to eppy. It leaves me awed everytime I see the small details that sneak in there. (walking in step, arm over the backseat, the herding, etc..)

The expression on his face is like coming home. It's the face of a soldier, in the early morning light, having kept vigil and searched tirelessly all through the night, seeing his comrade emerge at last through the smoke off the field of battle. Bruised, perhaps, and stumbling, but alive. There's no thought at that moment. Personal injuries are as nothing. There is only joy, pure and simple, unlike anything we've ever seen him feel before.

Holy crap this made me hurt. Your words are simply gorgeous, and the comparison is just perfect. It makes me ache to think that we've never seen this from Dean, and that Sam can't see it in that moment, to know that he is the source of his brother's joy and to understand the depth of emotion that connects the two of them. (I'm sure he's aware of it on some level, but the joy in Dean's expression should be shared and I wish I could snap a picture of it and show it to Sam.)

Geez, re-reading that I know why I let you do the meta. :) I have such a hard time expressing my thoughts and you seem to do it so effortlessly. So when I'm babbling incoherently I can just point to one of your posts and say "Here. Right here is exactly what I'm trying to say."

*basks in the manlove and the beautiful meta*
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 04:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been saying this to everyone, but I really am so sorry my reply is so late. And thank you so much for your lovely comment. I honestly don't know how to respond to it. I don't feel the meta is as good as all that (although the JA-in-scrubs is a definite plus! ;)). But I'm so glad you like it and most of all, that it cheers you up when you're otherwise feeling down about fandom. I know how that feels, and I always go to posts of joy (like lemmealone's magnum opus) to cheer myself up.

I wonder how much of it is actually scripted and how much comes from JA and JP having such a great atunement to the characters they portray. Because it is SO consistent from eppy to eppy.

It really is remarkably consistent, and even when there's a pause in the flow, there's a reason for it. Except for The Benders and now No Exit. *mutters*

It makes me ache to think that we've never seen this from Dean, and that Sam can't see it in that moment, to know that he is the source of his brother's joy and to understand the depth of emotion that connects the two of them.

I know… Like you said, I'm sure he knows it, just like Dean knows that Sam needs him, but it's an entirely different thing to see that need or that love express itself so nakedly. Dean was able to see it, but he won't remember it. And Sam wasn't able to see it, where he would have been able to remember it, if he had. That's beautiful and tragic.

Geez, re-reading that I know why I let you do the meta. :) I have such a hard time expressing my thoughts and you seem to do it so effortlessly.

That's exactly how I feel about you and fic. I have such a hard time writing it, and yours is so beautifully written and has such a poignant weight to it. It never feels like a fic so much as a page out of their lives. That's a pretty rare feeling. Usually, even reading beautiful fic, you're still aware that it's a fic. Yours is one of those rare talents that makes me forget it's not canon. :)
smilla02 From: smilla02 Date: December 1st, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow!
Lame I know, but I'm in awe, you always manage to outdo yourself, and I didn't think it was possible after your Devil's Trap's catalogue. You completely rock my world. All of it is sheer beauty, but two part especially stood out for me:

He couldn't promise it before, because this vow means "forever," and he couldn't bear forever. Now, want and need are both too dense to separate, and what comes of that mix is the ability to make this vow

Sam is all in this, his journey toward his brother; the re-discovery of Dean and perhaps a new awareness of Sam himself. I love it to bits because it shows that Sam, even being lacerated by his wants, can't deny his needs anymore, and he needs Dean on such a primal level, and it just blows my mind the way everything that happened in first season seems to have taken him straight "here".

and this:
Nine time out of ten, he'll readily share what is going on, or what happened in the past. He just won't share how that makes him feel.

It's such a perfect insight into Dean, because he does come out as more sharing than Sam, but just on this superficial level where things are objectified, distant from what he feels deep down, from how they hurt him.

But I like to think that Sam knows, that he's realized and "understood" Dean during the last year, recognized his loyalty for what it is.

This is brilliant!
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so sorry this is late! *hangs head*

Oh wow!
Lame I know, but I'm in awe, you always manage to outdo yourself, and I didn't think it was possible after your Devil's Trap's catalogue.


I mentioned this a little in my other comment, but it was enormously intimidating to write this meta. It's a beautiful hour of manlove, but it's almost entirely big and bold, rather than layered and gritty like ELaC. So I felt pressured to meta up to its standards (not possible) and also to find some layer to explore. Episodes like Salvation and CSPWDT are easier to meta because the characters go through some sort of evolution, but episodes like IMToD just… are. How do you meta beauty? It's impossible. I tried my best to do it justice. I suppose that's all we can do…?

it just blows my mind the way everything that happened in first season seems to have taken him straight "here".

It has been such a wonderful set-up for where they are currently, hasn't it? Everything adds up. That's a terrific feeling as a viewer, to know that things won't be forgotten.

But I like to think that Sam knows, that he's realized and "understood" Dean during the last year, recognized his loyalty for what it is.

I truly believe that, while he may very well have known certain things about Dean from their childhood years, he grew to understand Dean at last through this past year. That said, the lost years of childhood are overflowing with potential for the same sort of shared understanding. I sincerely hope we get flashbacks in the future, showing us something not quite so predictable as was the case with SW (bless its heart). I'd love to sneak at teen!Dean through Sam's eyes. What all did he understand? Did it prompt him to leave, or was it one of the hardest breaks? They've never really explored that aspect, Dean's part in Sam's choice.
wenchpixie From: wenchpixie Date: December 2nd, 2006 01:58 am (UTC) (Link)
missyjack sent me, and I'm really glad she did. Beautiful analysis.
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much! I'm glad she sent you, too. :)
andromakhe001 From: andromakhe001 Date: December 3rd, 2006 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Another brilliant amazing manlove meta. I want to comment but just can't get my thoughts all in order right now. Just two quick comments now. I always thought Dean started to fritz when he flatlined. I could be mis-remembering but doesn't he start to feel odd, then something starts happening outside, then he starts to really fritz? So I always assumed, he flatlines, it gets all the medical people up and running, by the time Sam gets there they are shocking him. The reaper may not have known when it first showed up that his spirit wasn't in his body or more likely, it was waiting for him to be drawn back towards his body now that it was going under, in order to take him. Maybe his first contact with a reaper made him harder to read or something. But that doesn't really matter(and clearly they don't really care). In any case, when it was realized his spirit wasn't going to come willingly, she decided to try and convince him.

RE: What Ackles is doing with his pajama bottoms? Haven't you ever noticed that when guys go to sit down, they tug at the top of their pant legs? I can't for be sure, not being a guy, but I'd imagine it's rather akin to something us girls can understand. Have you ever put on a pair of pantyhose or tights and either they didn't fit right or you were in a hurry and just didn't pull them up enough? You know how the crotch can slip too low and it's uncomfortable? It's the same idea.

And of course this:It's easy to call him a liar, easy to call him macho and stoic. But he's more than that. He is a curious mix of heart-on-his-sleeve and stoic tough guy, always has been. Nine time out of ten, he'll readily share what is going on, or what happened in the past. He just won't share how that makes him feel. "I remember the fire" [8] instead of "I would wake up screaming for years," or some such to go with it. He's naturally honest and open, but has become guarded from the experiences of his life.

I always say that about Dean but so few people ever want to believe me. :) Well, I don't say it nearly as well or as eloquently as you but it's how I see him. :)

Did you see Sera Gamble's comment in her interview with SequentialTart.com about how she needles Kripke by saying the show is the "epic love story of Sam and Dean". :) Which I totally agree with by the way, it's like she read my mind(or my posts, which I know she didn't but if she did she'd know we are of like minds about that particular topic:)). Even if she isn't quite so subtle in the writing as Raelle, just reading her interview I think she's got a good handle on the important stuff. She seems very cool.

Love those big eyes though. He's such a fair skinned boy when they are forcing him to tan. :)

sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 7th, 2006 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much! I'm just so sorry this reply is late. *hugs*

more likely, it was waiting for him to be drawn back towards his body now that it was going under, in order to take him.

That's a great idea. I'll take it! :)

Re: Ackles and his jammies. I'm sure you're right that he's adjusting his clothes the way people do. It's just, y'know, kinda eye-catching, given what he's wearing. ;)

Re: Dean being called a liar. Man, you and I and a few others keep fighting that battle, yeah? It's a too-easy label that isn't completely accurate, and I think that's why the in-show anvils of liar/honest in S1 annoyed me more than they amused me. But anyway. :)

Sera Gamble's line about the "epic love story" was very cool. Even if she was just joking, it's a cool theme to have in the back of her mind. Her interview shows that she gets the important stuff, just as Raelle Tucker's script shows that she gets it.

*sigh* Bambi eyes. He's a stunner, for sure.
aizjanika From: aizjanika Date: December 3rd, 2006 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, gosh! I loved this so much. I'm not even sure I really get all of it, but it's really beautiful and thoughtful. I love this episode more each time I see it. It's really the first SPN episode I've wanted to watch many, many times. :-)

I could comment on every one of your comments, but I think I'm going to limit myself to this one because this is something that I've been thinking about recently:

It's one of the moments that illustrates that he would protect his brother even from their father, if he had to. He protected his brother's powers from detection and exposure to the point of keeping even their father in the dark for much of the first season, when he could have very easily (and naturally, as a matter of great fear and concern) mentioned them during the phone call of Home. He didn't. He safeguarded his brother in every possible way from every other living, dead or undead creature that did or could threaten him. It's moments like those, and this one now, that speak to where his instinct is and to which "side" he naturally gravitates.

I'm not entirely sure how you feel about John, but I love John, for all his flaws, and I do think that he and Dean had a close relationship. I think that Dean may have confided in him some things that he wouldn't have told Sam as a child--speaking to John adult-to-adult, even when Dean was a child himself, and especially as he became a teen and began hunting with John more and more. As insecure as Dean was, I think there was also a lot of love there, too. I also think that more of Dean's insecurities came to the fore when John ditched him before season 1 even began.

BUT...what Dean said to the boy in Bugs has always struck me as indicative of the way he would have handled John. (I forget the exact quote and I should look it up, but it was about the truth never working with parents or something like that.)

Dean may not lie to the ones he loves about the big things (usually), but I believe he'd have used lies and minor deceit to get what he wanted from time to time or to either protect Sam or get Sam what he wanted, as long as Dean felt it was reasonable and safe. What I mean is that I think that Dean would have lied to John so that Sam could go to a party or be involved in some school thing that John didn't know about or care about. If Sam wanted to stay home and do homework instead of going off on some hunt, I think Dean might have tried to find a way for him to do so now and then. I could imagine Dean being a master of faking sick or convincing John that Sam was slightly ill and better be left at home. *g* Or something like that. *g*

If Sam did something he knew John would disapprove of, I think Dean would have lied to protect him. If they weren't sure if John would allow something, I think that Dean would have made the decision himself and made sure John didn't find out about it or control when and how John found out about it.

John said that Dean took care of Sammy and took care of John. I think Dean knew how to handle John. Dean is essentially a people-oriented empathetic type of person, and I think he would have used that with John to protect Sam.

I'm not sure, though, that Dean would have viewed it as taking sides exactly. If he felt John was right, he'd have supported him. If he felt he could handle the situation, whatever it was, he'd have made his own decision about it and either made sure John didn't know about it or taken the heat himself--handling John in his own way to minimize any need for damage control. John was the father, but Dean was essentially the mother (to Sam). *g* In a way, and I mean this in a non-sexual way, Dean was the "wife" to John, too. John treated him more as a partner at times, and looked to him for support and help as much as he spent time training Dean to be the support and help for both himself and Sam. Or...er...something like that. hehe
sargraf From: sargraf Date: December 8th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much! (And by now, I'm a broken record, but I'm really sorry that my reply is so late.)

About John: I don't love him. I went through a hate period, but right now, I'm neither passionately for or against. Given characterization issues (as opposed to mere lack of equal screen time), he's not as real a character to me as the brothers are, so I find it difficult to discuss him now without getting into how the writers, actor, etc., have built him.

That said, I get what you're saying. And I'm not trying to present Dean as the epitome of truth-telling, not at all. He clearly lies all the time, and he lies about facts such as what they do for a living. I think it's probable that he would lie to John for Sam's sake in one of the scenarios you mention, like an elder brother (or mother figure) might.

I just found it interesting that he did not tell John, Dean's ultimate mentor of all things supernatural (not to mention Demon-related), about Sam's supernatural powers. He never even called to say, "Hey, Dad, Sam's having visions and it freaks out both of us." He safeguarded Sam's tremendous secret from absolutely everyone else, up to and including John, and I assume it was because of his protectiveness. That's how it felt to me, but that's a subjective view.

(...I can see him keeping this current secret from Sam, if the nature of the secret makes it believable, but if it's one of the popular variations, I'm going to have a hard time believing that Dean would keep it from him. Plot contrivance might bolster characterization, or it might abuse it. We'll see.)
aizjanika From: aizjanika Date: December 8th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I meant to agree with you. *g* I think that Dean was protective of Sam--even with John. That was my convoluted point. hehe

He never even called to say, "Hey, Dad, Sam's having visions and it freaks out both of us." He safeguarded Sam's tremendous secret from absolutely everyone else, up to and including John, and I assume it was because of his protectiveness. That's how it felt to me, but that's a subjective view.

Yeah, but I tend to agree. It's interesting. I'm not sure if that was so much a conscious choice so much as maybe a subconscious choice. If John had been there and been available, he might have told him, but maybe not. He didn't tell him in Bloodlust either. OTOH, maybe it was more his inability to deal with it and find out what it might mean.
geeky_ginger From: geeky_ginger Date: January 2nd, 2007 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Good god....I am amazed at this...I mean it's beautifully analyzed and the attention to detail wows me....*applauds*...I can't wait to see what you think of ELAC!
star_dancer54 From: star_dancer54 Date: March 7th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Before I finish reading this (and yes, I know it's been up for a while but only now have I found this insanely awesome stuff), I wanted to say something on what you'd said here: Perhaps he needs to be in his brother's room, near his brother's body, for it to catch, or maybe he just needs to be soft instead of hard, and open to the touch.

It's interesting, because I'm training to become a massage therapist, and am in a deep tissue class right now. We're being taught that if we use our hands softy, i.e. without tension in them, that sort of thing, we feel more clearly the muscles and the possible problems underneath than if we just dug right on in with our fingers tense and stressed.

So yeah. I get that. :)
mimblexwimble From: mimblexwimble Date: April 4th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just wanted to say that these are simply beautiful picspam/metas. Their love is what the show is all about and it's lovely seeing it summarised here. I really wish you'd do some more. :)
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