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31 December 2009 @ 12:56 am
SPN Gen Fiction: "To The Battlefield In Borrowed Armor" (PG-13)  
Title: To The Battlefied In Borrowed Armor
Author: HalfshellVenus
Characters: Dean, John (Gen)
Rating: PG-13
Summary (Pre-Series): The first time Dean went on a solo hunt was eight months after Sam left for Stanford.
Author's Notes: For my switch_25 table ("Strength") and writers_choice ("Independence").

x-x-x-x-x

The first time Dad sent Dean on a solo hunt was eight months after Sam left for Stanford.

"It's time you learned how to handle this on your own, start to finish." They were in West Virginia then, about to take on a Litikwat demon when reports of a vengeful spirit in Columbus came through. "The drive isn't too far, and we've done enough salt-and-burn operations that this should be second-nature. You take the car, I'll stay here and work this other case."

Dean drove to Ohio in a daze. He'd never really been alone before—even when Dad had been gone for days or weeks on a hunt, Dean had always looked after Sam. Now with Sam at college, the atmosphere in the car, on the job, and in motels was a little weird compared to before, but at least Dad was there.

Dean wondered whether this trip was really for his benefit, or whether his father had just gotten sick of constantly having him around. He disagreed, regardless—family should always be there, and having someone to watch your back just made sense if you wanted everyone to survive.

In Columbus, Dean headed straight for Union Cemetery to look for Jack McCabe's grave. He located it by four-thirty, left to get an early dinner from a McDonald's drive-through, and came back after dark with a shovel. By ten o'clock there was nothing left of McCabe but ashes, and Dean was back on the road. He arrived in Moundsville well before one a.m. and went straight to the motel room his father had secured when they first came to West Virginia. The sound of familiar snoring greeted Dean as he opened the door, and his flashlight found Dad's journal on the table and the room's two beds, one occupied and one empty. Dean's relief was overwhelming, and all of the nervousness he'd held in emptied out in a rush that left him exhausted. He stumbled into bed and fell asleep within minutes.

His next solo job came up a month later, with a banshee in St. David's. Dad dropped him off on the way to a demon possession in Las Vegas. Dean didn't like being left behind, and not having the car made it worse—he'd spent too much of his childhood waiting for his father to come back, worried that his Dad had gotten sick of all the responsibility or finally met an enemy he couldn't defeat.

Dean found the banshee on the first day, and destroyed it. Then he was stuck hanging around town until Dad finished his job. Eating out alone was just too weird—Dean got most of his meals at grocery stores and fast-food places, and even then being by himself made him feel so exposed. He hated that it even mattered—seriously, what the hell? It had ever bothered him before…

Still, he holed up in his motel room and watched TV to make the time go faster while he wondered whether Sam was getting along without them and why Dad was taking so damn long. At night, he left the TV going in the background just to cover up the silence so he could sleep.

It was four days before Dad finally came through town. Dean rushed to the door as soon as he heard the car in the parking lot, like he was ten all over again and he and Sam had been left alone for the weekend. But Dad only nodded at him as he came in to use the bathroom before Dean checked out. That keyed-up feeling in Dean's chest collapsed into something else.

He was an afterthought, an obligation, already forgotten.

They rode south the rest of the day in near-silence. Dean could have talked a blue streak with all the emotions churning inside him, but he knew Dad hated nervous chatter. He forced himself to keep quiet instead.

In California, Dad had Dean research ghosts in Bakersfield while he went on to another job in San Francisco. They hadn't seen Sam since he headed off to Stanford—hadn't gone anywhere near him—and of all the times to leave Dean behind…

Part of Dean said it was deliberate, that his father didn't want him risking the temptation of seeing Sam again. Another part said Dad was being a controlling asshole, that he wanted to make sure Sam stayed lonely and that there'd be no chance for Sam's negative influence to rub off on Dean.

When Dad got back, he didn't mention Sam or Palo Alto or any of the things Dean desperately wanted to know about, and by then Dean knew better than to ask.

The next time Dean worked a job on his own, he grabbed dinner at a bar and met a black-haired woman with a persuasive smile. He took her back to his motel room and let her ride the emptiness out of him. Lying there afterward, surrounded by the scent of her hair and the sound of her breathing, Dean could almost believe he was there by choice.

He found someone different the next night, and the one after that. No promises or expectations, just a little fun to pass the time. It helped fill up the edges of all that space, all that waiting. Sometimes—as the months went on and Dad sent him away on his own again—Dean thought it was the only thing that could.

"I've got a job for you," Dad would say, and Dean choked his protests down. He always did what his father asked, but he didn't like it. Maybe he never would.

He couldn't argue with the results. He was a better hunter now, and damn good at doing the legwork on his own.

But it still seemed like Dad was preparing him for something, and whatever it was couldn't possibly be good.

Dean hoped to God the day would never come when he'd find out exactly what.


-------- fin --------

 
 
brigid_tanner: Dean-breakingbrigid_tanner on December 31st, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC)
Ouch. I was all warm and fuzzy from the last drabble, and now I just want to curl up in a ball and cry for Dean. I love the explanation for why Dean sleeps around so much. It makes so much sense. He's just not used to being on his own. Still wish just once he'd argued with his dad and told him family should be together. But that wouldn't be Dean. Beautifully written.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Deanhalfshellvenus on December 31st, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
He's just not used to being on his own. Still wish just once he'd argued with his dad and told him family should be together. But that wouldn't be Dean.

It really wouldn't. He rarely questions John's decisions, even when he disagrees with him, because he is the good soldier and the good son, and he lives for that approval. After losing everything at age 4, you cling to what's left, no matter the cost.

And the fact that being on his own IS hard for him is one of the reasons he needs to learn to do it. :(
cindy: spn - dean looks away (by oxoniensis)tsuki_no_bara on December 31st, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
oh, dean. this is so sad and so him, how he hates being alone and can't ever really get used to it, and how nervous and insecure he is about being left behind. i like that he starts picking up women for the company, because he's just that lonely.

(seems kind of like john's teaching him to be more self-sufficient and a better hunter, so they can split up more and cover more ground, and also - possibly unintentionally and very ironically - so that dean's better prepared to survive without him. and i think dean's just not wired to be happy alone.)

Edited at 2009-12-31 04:09 pm (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on December 31st, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
how he hates being alone and can't ever really get used to it, and how nervous and insecure he is about being left behind.
When you look at early S1, that "fear of abandonment" is still written all over Dean, but you can understand why his past would have made him that way. Distraction is the only thing that helps, since he can't change the situation (or won't, given that it's what John wants).

seems kind of like john's teaching him to be more self-sufficient and a better hunter, so they can split up more and cover more ground, and also - possibly unintentionally and very ironically - so that dean's better prepared to survive without him.
As a parent, John really should teach Dean to be more independent. Pushing him out of the nest is the only way that will happen, given who Dean is. And it's also the only way to make sure Dean can survive if something happens to John.

But also, when you look at S1, John disappeared-- with "why" never explained-- and wouldn't answer Dean's phone messages, but still wound up in Lawrence right alongside the boys, silently shadowing them. You have to think he went into hiding in part to make Dean desperate enough to go after Sam, and give Sam reason enough to come back. It's incredibly manipulative, but John's got some larger plan there that canon never made good on. Unless it was bringing about the family reconciliation by Dean's hand because John had burned the bridges too thoroughly to think he could succeed at it himself.
krisreinkekrisreinke on January 1st, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
Dean is an angel.
Dean is an angel. Sam is a demon. (Well, fallen angel) And I don't mean either of those in a moral way - because from what I can see neither does Kripke. (Someday, someone is going to notice that Supernatural is the most transgressive and intellectually challenging piece of TV in... pretty much ever.) Dean exists for the approval of an all-knowing ( but...ooops... absent) Father. Sam has 'rebelled' time and again - seeing his own path no matter if it succeeds or ( ooops again) fails.

Hummm.

Makes you question what God really WANTS from his children. (And what they should expect from him.)

Like I say. If certain religuous folks were watching this- they'd bring pitchforks.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 1st, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Dean is an angel.
You're right, the parallels are all there.

I'm kind of sorry, actually, because I liked the show better when it wasn't strictly Christian allegory and was instead more about family with multicultural horrors from legends across the the globe.

But you describe the meta very well!
ShiSaiyanshisaiyan on February 8th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Dean is an angel.
I so very much have to agree with you on that. The show was a lot more fun before the Angels came along...
mdlawmdlaw on December 31st, 2009 05:35 pm (UTC)
This really speaks to the hollowness that Dean feels. m :I
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on December 31st, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
He so clearly hates being alone, but given his background I can understand it. Unfortunately, as hard as it is for him, it's a necessary part of becoming an adult-- even if he still avoids it as much as he can.
gunznammo2gunznammo2 on December 31st, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Poor Dean. This is just another aspect of his family being torn apart. He had to find a way to deal with that. He did the best he could until he could get his family united again. It's why I fell in love with this character - his love for his family and his need to keep his family intact.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 1st, 2010 03:30 am (UTC)
It's why I fell in love with this character - his love for his family and his need to keep his family intact.
Me too. As a Hunter, he's 100% awesomeness. As a person, he's kind of a pig at times (especially where women are concerned), but his love for his family (and the deeper layers under that bravado surface) make all the difference in the world.
realpestilencerealpestilence on January 1st, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)
Dean is a mix of "knows better" and "knows better and doesn't care" and "really *doesn't* know better", in how he is around other people, especially women. Anyone with the ability to love that deeply is worth the time you might need to put in to train him a bit...and considering how socially isolated he's been, more so than Sam or John, imo, it's not surprising he's off-kilter, you know? He's had more of a pseudo-military upbringing, with just enough memories of home/safety/mommy/loss to drive him; but without the stability to know how to form new bonds. Toss in the nomad lifestyle and...yeah, screwed up.

The differences between Sam and Dean, and *why* they're there fascinate me. The fact that Sam doesn't remember Mary, so he doesn't have that loss/drive like his dad and brother do, actually works in his favor. He learned enough about hunting to be capable and dangerous, when he *wants* to be, but not enough of the lifestyle to be as obsessed about it all...until he loses Dean. Dean is Sam's Mary, and isn't *that* enlightening about the dynamics in this broken family? (and when I say that, I'm not even shipping them, necessarily; just referring to the depths of devotion there)

I don't even know what I'm trying to say, lol. I just got up and saw this wonderful ficlet by you on my page and thought...don't normally get into gen but it's venus, soooo...:D

Lovely, as always.

Edited at 2010-01-01 01:10 pm (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 1st, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Dean is a mix of "knows better" and "knows better and doesn't care" and "really *doesn't* know better", in how he is around other people, especially women.
:D It's so true! There are times when he's truly clueless, but more often he simply chooses to ignore the path of "wisdom," let us say. ;)

And I agree with you entirely about the differences between Sam and Dean. I've always thought that Dean's losing Mary (and the shocking change in the family's before and after lifestyle) caused unbelievable damage to him that he in many ways worked to spare Sam from. Sam, of course, had it both easier (never knowing what he'd lost) and harder (being less 'prone to please' than Dean, and therefore more often a recipient of John's disapproval-- the outsider in his own family).

I've said for years that Dean was more of a mother to Sam (especially with regard to support and unconditional love) than a father, but that people take that the wrong way and start ranting about apron-wearing Dean baking cookies. *eye roll* But spiritually, Dean knew what it was to have a mother and to lose one, and I think much of the void he tried to fill for Sam was the absence of Mary. The fact that Sam was confident enough to rebel, to believe he could make his own destiny, and to have a loving relationship outside his family, says that what Dean did mattered. It's just too bad he couldn't rescue himself.

*koff* I could really go on in all different directions when it comes to the Winchesters and their psyches, which is what drew me into the show in the first place. I'm so sorry that the show has moved on into (for me) less interesting territory), because the original focus on the family dynamic was rich and fascinating enough to turn over and discuss forever.

And thanks for reading, though it was indeed Gen!
realpestilencerealpestilence on January 2nd, 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
Dean very much *is* the wife/mother of the family. Which probably contributes to his problems with women, now I think of it, added to his pretty-boy looks as a kid...let's disregard the boy they picked as young!Dean and picture young!Jensen in the kind of situations he'd have been dragged into via John and uh-huh, defensive, who?

But Dean's the one who supports John damn near unconditionally all his life, because that's his "job". Once he got old enough, he took care of Sam physically; and, in his own rough way, emotionally, as much as he could. Nags him to eat and sleep (and get laid, 'cause that's healthy, too). He tries so hard.

I like Sam and John, but there's something about Dean that makes my heart cry, you know? I can see that poor little lost boy peering out from behind his eyes, all too often. D:
blackcat333_99blackcat333_99 on January 1st, 2010 01:54 am (UTC)
Man you just reminded me of how much John frustrates me as a father. On the one hand he is making Dean learn to ACT more independently, but he's doing it in such a way that it actually fosters a kind of codependency in Dean. Failing to teach him how to be *content* on his own.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 1st, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
Man you just reminded me of how much John frustrates me as a father.
Frustrating but fascinating-- he's like a scab you can't leave alone, because he has brave and awesome qualities and he loves his boys, but not quite enough to put their best interests first. And god, how aggravating that is!

On the one hand he is making Dean learn to ACT more independently, but he's doing it in such a way that it actually fosters a kind of codependency in Dean. Failing to teach him how to be *content* on his own.
Of the many mistakes John made as a parent, I think his "conditional love" was one that was both extremely damaging (especially to Dean) but also the most invisible to John himself. I can so easily see him thinking, given that Dean's 22 and still clinging so tightly, that he's going to have to push him out of the nest a little because Dean won't fly on his own.

But John just can't see that Dean's afraid of being alone for a reason or that pushing him away might make him all the more anxious.

Remember that phone call in "Home," where Dean's scared and crying and John doesn't pick up and is actually in Lawrence along with them, hiding from them both? That moment really drove a lot of this story. Even then, Dean could easily tell Sam he'd hunted on his own while that phone call showed how lost and scared he was without his father. And meanwhile, John turned a deaf ear to Dean's panic for reasons of his own...
blackcat333_99blackcat333_99 on January 1st, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
He is interesting, although I'll admit that I find Sammy's grayness to be more fascinating because I can see WHY he's made the choices he makes, I understand why there's some two steps forward, one step back stuff going on with him. But John... I think his biggest flaw was a lack of awareness of the importance of communication. And I know this is a very real human flaw, and even understandable to a certain extent when taking their family history into consideration... but I guess it's one of those personal buttons of mine that never forgets he had other choices that he could have made, done things differently with his boys without sacrificing his agenda -- their safety AND revenge on Mary's killer -- in the process. Their lives would still have been rather similar to what they ultimately experienced, but had he simply communicated more with his sons even while holding to the same path... how different things most likely would now be for both Sam and Dean. And since I love the boys most of all... well.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy reading about John, not at all. The cause and effect he has on his boys, their ways of reacting to him and to his memory, and how they've grown past their early day perceptions to the thought of him... it is damn fascinating.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 1st, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
although I'll admit that I find Sammy's grayness to be more fascinating because I can see WHY he's made the choices he makes, I understand why there's some two steps forward, one step back stuff going on with him.
Yes-- it pains me that Sam's choices are often for the right reasons, but leading in the wrong direction. And I hate to see where this show has already taken him, with the events of last season.

that never forgets he had other choices that he could have made, done things differently with his boys without sacrificing his agenda -- their safety AND revenge on Mary's killer -- in the process.
Exactly-- it isn't just what you do, it's HOW you do it. My own father shares some of John's weaknesses, and so those "deciding based on what YOU want without regard to how it affects your children" is a sore subject with me. Except that John added the component of treating his boys like soldiers instead of beloved children, and god what a difference that makes.

The cause and effect he has on his boys, their ways of reacting to him and to his memory
Someone else on my f-list once pointed out that John cast a very long shadow-- his influence was always there in the background (at least up through S4), affecting who the boys were and the decisions they made. And that's pretty damn impressive for a character whom we saw only sporadically for a single season!
Tiger Lily: Tigertigerlily0 on January 2nd, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
Aw, poor Dean. Your story really makes me feel for him.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 3rd, 2010 07:42 am (UTC)
The period where Sam was gone was hard enough to begin with, but when you think about Dean "learning to hunt solo" and how very unlikely it is that he'd have wanted that... it becomes harder still. :(
orehime: scissorsorehime on January 3rd, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
=(
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 3rd, 2010 07:44 am (UTC)
After Mary died, I don't think there's a single period in Dean's life that was ever easy. And damn if they weren't harder than they needed to be, all the way through. :(
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: Dean & Johnembroiderama on January 3rd, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
Ah, Dean. I think John was trying to show him how to stand on his own two feet, but he didn't exactly have the kindest way of going about it. Very poignant story!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 3rd, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
I think John's motives were in the right place, but not the execution. Dean really did need to learn independence (and self-sufficiency), but I think he was always going to need that extra reassurance (and would never tolerate being isolated) thanks to the way he grew up.
layne: dean waitinglayne67 on January 5th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
Lonely Dean always makes me feel so sad ... :/
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on January 5th, 2010 07:40 am (UTC)
Me too. It would have been hard enough for him, having Sam gone, but since we know that he also went on hunts by himself during that time... I have to think that 'getting there' probably wasn't easy. :(
marlowe78: Headdachemarlowe78 on March 8th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
Ouch.
Poor Dean, but very perceptive, to realize that all that might be a preparation for things to come. In a way, cutting Dean loose the hard, painful way because there might be no time when it would be necessary. And being cold would be totally in-character for John - making his son strong and at the same time trying to give himself the training to go his way alone when the time came.
But that DOES NOT make it the right way...

Poor boy.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Diner Deanhalfshellvenus on March 8th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Everything we saw in "Home" showed how lost Dean felt on his own without John, and it was heartbreaking to watch.

Part of the pain here is that we know Dean doesn't handle being alone well, and we know he clings to his father... but at the same time, his past (and the way John kept leaving them to go hunting, and his tendency toward very much conditional love) is what made him that way.

John is trying to help a problem that truly exists, but he doesn't see how much a part he had in creating it, and that his methods flay open all the broken parts of Dean that he usually keeps sewn up and hidden.
marlowe78marlowe78 on March 8th, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
John is a hands-on man. He sees a problem and he sees a solution. He'll take it and if there are consequences, he'll deal with them when the time comes.
He needs a strong, capable hunter as a partner, at the same time he needs his sons strong and capable. So, the solution is simple. And when he leaves Dean alone, he might have good intentions, needing a son who can hunt alone. Dean is there, he is smart and he is strong. He'll survive. The fact that Dean doesn't do alone very well might even be on John's mind, but he can't deal with it and anyway, it won't stop Dean being capable - and more importantly being alive. So, it's easy. He'll fix any problems Dean has later.

Except... there was never supposed to be a later for John.
So Bobby is pretty much right: John was a coward. Not afraid of evil, of messing himself and his boys up, but very much afraid if dealing with the fallout.