Summary:Life's almost good now that Sam's back on the road with him, but then the tumors are back too, and Dean thinks he might be dying again. Sequel to "One Night," and set during the episodes "Scarecrow" and "Faith."
Note: It is recommended that you read One Night first, but not necessary. If you haven't read it or need a bullet-point refresher, One Night is about Dean visiting Sam in Stanford the night before he was scheduled for surgery on his lungs to remove a tumor, to say his goodbyes just in case he doesn't wake up. He doesn't mention that he's sick at all, but they talk, he leaves, and a week later, Sam finds out. Sam wants to quit school to look after him so Dean ducks out, and pushes him away so that he stays in college. It's the last time they see each other before Dean visits him again in the series pilot.
" " "
" " "
Set During the Events of "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things"
" " "
He sat on the hood of his car, wondering how the words would come out of him.
In a fair world, the two of them wouldn't be hurting at the same damn time.
But if one was to argue that, then in the first place, they wouldn't have lost their mother the way they did, or their father the way they did, or anyone else losing anyone else anywhere else in the world.
He had once stopped asking why. Why was something he didn't used to bother with. Things just were, and he just had to move on. But his legs got cut off from under him, and Sam wasn't in any position to carry his weight this time, and there was just no way forward for either of them anymore.
When their mother died, he had carried his baby brother out their burning home, and had carried him out a lot of places since. Dragged, when Sam got way bigger, but figuratively speaking, yeah. Dean was proud of himself as an older brother, he damned was. He knew what he'd done for Sam, it was a huge part of who he was. Sometimes, it was all that he was.
He'd borne Sam's weight over Jessica's death. He'd borne Sam's grievances over his emerging Shining. Sam in turn had carried him over his illnesses, had carried him over his guilt over living when someone else had to die for him.
This round, though... this damned, stupid round...
How many people have to die for me to live, Dean wondered, because the first time had been brutal and that was just a stranger, but this second time...
Dad, he thought up to his old man, You selfish bastard. What the hell did you do? What right did you think you have? What damn right did you think you have?
It was their first shared loss since their mother died. Sam, feeling guilty over his anger at his now-dead father, and feeling a deep and profound fear of his destiny. And here too was Dean, guilty over... over living, because he knew, knew in his damn bones that his father had died for him to live. And then it was compounded by that other thing. The un-mentionable thing. The thing dad said he might have to do, to Sam. That un-mentionable thing.
Too much. Too damn much...
I can't carry you this time, bro, Dean thought, I'm tired. I'm tired.
And Sam couldn't carry him either, despite what he liked to think.
"You won't let me help you!" Sam had told him.
"I can take care of myself, thanks."
"No, you can't!" Sam had argued, "And you know what? You're the only one who thinks you should have to."
But it hadn't been that. He's let Sam help him before, right? Standing at his doors and trying to pretend he needed nothing. He's sought him out all the time, before. Sure, there was nothing vaguely normal about how he asked for help, but still. Sam got it somehow, and Sam did what he had to. But this time... it was the blind leading the blind here, two cripples crawling, two logs cut at the base, slamming against each other.
You can't help me, Sam.
I got nothing left inside, Dean thought, Nothing left.
And what's dead should stay dead...
"I'm sorry," he began, because that was always a decent way to start.
"For what?" Sam asked, quietly, as if afraid that if he said or did anything too quick, or too imposing, that Dean would run off. The truth was that he wanted to, wanted to shut all of this out, shut his damn mouth. But he was out for the count, just... out. Nothing left fighting, nothing left resisting, and if he didn't open his mouth, he had the weird feeling that he was just gonna run out. He had nothing in him, nothing but the words and the despair and the inky-black thoughts. These led nowhere, just to death. But words, out there... damned words, words out there was like he was still just a little bit alive, with something hanging in the air.
"The way I've been acting," he said, slowly, cautiously too, "And for dad. I mean... he was your dad too, and it's my fault he's gone."
"What are you talking about?" Sam breathed, and Dean wanted to deck him.
You're gonna make me fucking say this...
"I know you've been thinking about it," Dean said, voice calmer than his wildly beating heart, tired but helplessly chugging, "So have I. Doesn't take a genius to figure it out. Back at the hospital, I had a full recovery, and it was a miracle. Then five minutes later, dad's dead, and the Colt's gone."
"Dean..." Sam hesitated.
"You can't tell me there's not a connection there," Dean went on, refusing to be stopped now, "I don't know how the demon was involved. I don't know how the whole thing went down, exactly. But Dad's dead because of me. That much I do know."
The obligatory: "We don't know that, not for sure."
Don't insult me...
"Sam," Dean implored him, "You and dad... you're the most important people in my life. And now... I never should have come back, Sam. It wasn't natural, and now look what's come of it. I was dead."
I still am.
I'm supposed to have been dead a long time ago.
If I had died then, none of this would be happening.
I should have died.
I wish I was dead.
" " "
"I should have stayed dead," Dean told his brother, voice breaking. Sam sat beside him, breathless and disbelieving, and damned afraid.
"You wanted to know how I was feeling," Dean declared, "Well that's it."
Dean's crying, and now Sam wants to too. That was how it went, right? If your protector thinks you're fucked, if the one guy who can save you from the world thinks you're fucked, well you're royally fucked. It was like kids watching their parents cry, uncomprehending, but afraid, just because.
Dean faces his brother, and Sam could have sworn it was one of the damned boldest things Dean had ever done in his life, showing Sam his tears, apologizing to Sam for having been the cause of their father's death.
"So tell me," Dean asked, "What could you possibly say to make that all right?"
Sam racked his brain, desperately.
Dean meant it as rhetorical, yeah, sure, but his Stanford brain should come up with something, anything, because it was a damned important question, right? Because basically, Dean was apologizing for being the consolation prize out of the Dad-or-Dean trade. Dean was saying he wasn't worth the lives of the people who had died for him to live.
Dean deserved to think otherwise. But Sam, still plagued by guilt, couldn't find it in his heart to say out loud, I'm sorry dad's gone, but I'm happy you're here, if it came down between you or him. It was god's plain truth. If the world was fair, none of them would have had to choose, and Sam was damned glad he didn't have to. But he was happy that Dean was beside him, and he could feel no shame in that. Still, there were no words for it. The indirect devaluation of their father would only hurt the both of them more, at this point.
"It's not your fault," Sam said, quietly, falling on technicalities, "Dad didn't give you any choice."
Dean gave him an unconvinced snort.
Yeah, because that makes everything all right.
Sam felt bolder, feeling Dean's despairing disappointment.
"Back at the hospital," Sam said, "I didn't think you could hear me, but I begged you to hold on."
"You would," Dean grumbled.
"You're right," Sam continued, "Because it wasn't the first time. I begged you to hold on, and you did. Back when you were sick, a few years ago... I asked you to wake up, and you did. A few months ago, just before Nebraska, your heart stopped, and I called you, and you came back. I asked you to give everything I could find a fair shot, and you did that too."
"Sam, what are you--"
"It's not supposed to make things any easier," Sam said quickly, "And it can't make things better. But what I'm saying is that... is that... if this thing with dad is what we think it is... if you're alive because he's dead... he didn't do it just to save you.
"He also did it to save me."
Dean stared at him, still looking haunted.
September 21, 2008
" " "
" " "
" " "
I. The Ending
Oh you would not believe how hard I found it to end this. There was just no way to end it, haha. I felt like I had to make it 'feel' like One Night, so I ended it with a scene from the series. In One Night, I used a scene from the Pilot to make my fic fit in with the series. I felt I had to do the same with Once More. The question was, since I've already liberally used scenes from the series throughout the fic, which one to use for the epilogue?
The ending scene of Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things came to mind because I noticed that One Night, Once More and the series itself had Dean and Sam alternately looking out for each other. The beginning of Season Two had a very palpable sense of despair because it just felt like no one was in control of the situation: they lost their father, they failed their mission, Sam was coming into a very dark path, Dean might have to kill his own brother... the hopeless, drowning feeling just contrasted with the taking-turns-looking-out-for-each-other thing from the rest of the series. The question here became who will guard the guardians?
Besides, One Night ended with the brothers looking for their father. It felt interesting to me to end Once More with them having just lost him, in a kind of parallelism.
I also like the way Once More ended ominously, haha, since, as we all know, Sam saying 'He saved you to save me' may or may not be wrong given that John had told Dean he may have to kill his own brother.
II. A Trilogy?
I'm playing with this thought. Readers of my works from other fandoms know that so far, a hundred percent of my sequel-ed fics have turned into trilogies, just because I felt three is a more round number. One of my unfinished stories, One Week, is pegged to become part three of the One series. The thought struck me that the theme was the same: One Night and Once More both dealt with the time between Dean and Sam when they thought he was dying (in One Night from a lung disease, in Once More from heart failure), so it fits in that mold perfectly, because One Week is the last week before Dean's crossroads deal comes through.
Besides, haha, I was looking at my list of works and it just annoyed me that there was a One Night and a Once More and a completely unrelated One Week, haha, so it will likely become the third and last part of the series. I also made an opening that I'm not sure everyone may have picked up: The goodbye letter Dean had written for his dad is still not found, haha!
Anyway, I really hope Once More felt like an honest-to-goodness sequel to One Night. I'd hate to have made it 'feel' different, so I added some touches, to make them feel connected. Again, I'm not sure if everyone caught it, but there were lines that were repeated, especially references to dancing and tango, scenes of standing in doorways, references to the missing letter, Sam's phone call to their father... there are a lot of parallelisms and these are just the things that immediately come to mind.
III. Tying In With The Series
Aside from wanting desperately for Once More to fit in with One Night, it was vital that it fit in well with the series, since I plugged it some scene-fillers here. I know everyone's seen the series and so the narrative-version of them might have made many of you impatient, but I watched the scenes over and I am telling you, writing a narrated version of these actor's performances just gave me a renewed appreciation for their work. It is so damn nuanced, I couldn't believe it until I was writing it down.
One of my favorite scenes in Once More is that scene between Sam and Dean at the hospital with the daytime TV thing? The way they avoided each other's eyes, or when I wrote that they glanced at each other as if testing the waters was not originally me at all, watch it again, I just felt that I was just jotting down something that the actors were actually, actually doing. The boys are good-looking, haha, so it's easy to overlook the skill, but that scene was just orchestrated down to the damn hair, haha.
I also tried to use what is emerging as canon language, to make Once More fit in with the series. I'm sure I've used the patented "What?" of the brothers, which they usually use when the word comes out before the understanding belatedly follows, haha. I've also used the pain-in-the-ass-brother thing, which makes appearances in Scarecrow, Bloodlust and unforgettably in All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1. There must be a couple other things though :)
IV. The Characters
A. The Brothers
The references I made to their relationship here are quite many, but the notable one, to me, is in Chapter 1 when they are still a little bit awkward and Dean thinks: 'Their time together before Stanford had been deep and ingrained, like blood in their veins. That blood was running on thinners right now, sure, but it was still there and all damn over.' This is also like the part in the same chapter where Sam felt he had to touch his brother, he just didn't know where. It's pretty metaphoric of their certainty of their need to be together but not quite sure how to execute it, haha. The ending of One Night was still awkward for the brothers, bridging into the beginning of Once More.
I also kept referring to their relationship as a kind-of dance, which is pulled from One Night. If you remember, in One Night, Dean comes to the realization that he doesn't have to fix them because they're not broken and they never will be; what they need is time to figure that out. How they danced around each other and then just fell in to the routines of looking after each other is still well-used in Once More.
Everyone whose ever read anything I ever wrote for this fandom already knows I love Dean but I love writing Sam more. Once More is no exception. My favorite nuances are:
(1) This fic has postulated that his belief is in Dean and no longer in their father; that his belief that their father can make things better is only because Dean thinks so.
(2) The 'enviable control' thing from my favorite scene in this entire fic, the Darkness-conversation in Chapter 2, when Dean confesses to Sam that he only ahs a week left to live? I loved writing that, how Sam can easily shift from despair to action. I was inspired to write that from watching Jared Padalecki in the episode Salvation, and he loses it a little until he remembers their father, sniffs and clears his throat and then just goes back to business, almost cold turkey.
(3) I also liked the idea that Dean lets him drive whenever he's upset, especially with respect to John, haha. He let Sam drive after the phone call in Scarecrow when he was so pissed; and Dean let Sam drive in Dead Man's Blood when he was also pissed at their dad, so I figured, hey, there's a pattern here. It felt like Dean trying to distract a kid, haha.
(4) Sam as really bull-headed and stubborn!
(5) My favorite thing about Sam in Once More is how he appropriated control from his older brother, and then gives it back when things are back to normal. I loved writing the scene in Chapter 3 when he tells Dean 'We're going to the doctor' in a smaller voice, knowing that it would be one of his last commands since the older brother was back.
Okay, Dean as he is depicted in my stories is usually the safe-version. In Once More, I tackled the standard issue that he hates being left behind, and his fear of being vulnerable. I think I used a few lesser-aspects of the standard characterization though:
(1) For instance, I actually let him cry for himself here, but of course with a Dean-spin. It's not 'cos he thinks he's broken, he's just pissed about being cheated.
(2) Like I said, my favorite scene in this story is when he confesses to Sam in the dark. Dean being open about his problems is by canon usually a rare thing, so to keep him in character, I kept him in the dark, haha, still hiding in some sense.
(3) When he calls Sam selfish in Scarecrow, I thought it might be what Ellicott would have dug up if the roles have been reversed in Asylum. The observations of the shapeshifter in Skin is a bit akin to that anyway. I really feel that Dean might have meant it, but also that he didn't mind. When he calls up Sam in the Scarecrow part of Once More, he thinks that some selfish guys deserve to get the things that they want and Sam was simply one of them. The unanswerable thing for me though, haha, was when he said 'Hell I wish--' in that same phone call. What would he have said?
(4) Once More also made reference to Dean and how Sam thinks he constantly refuses help. I actually disagree, which is written in the fic too. I think that when Dean's needy, Sam gets it somehow (even if he never asks for it) and works it through, in their own crazy way. Dean just wasn't asking for Sam's help in the episodes after their father died was because he didn't think Sam could do anything about it.
(5) Lastly, Once More depicts Dean as very self-aware and proud of his big brother role. I think, save for All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2 when he justifiably has a profound feeling of failure, Dean knows that he does a great job looking after Sam and that his big-brother-as-savior-mode is a huge part of who he is.
V. Massive Thanks and Replies
Massive thanks go out to all who read and put me and Once More on alerts, C2s and favorites lists. Sasquatch-level thanks go to those who reviewed. I don't get a lot, and I'm starting to be resigned that I won't be, haha, but you keep me going, and I hope you know that.
Particularly, shout out to: tacpebs, Master Li, iluvsprntrl,youcanmakethisup, apieceofcake, happycabbage75, VR Jennings, AllieMcD, adder574, zuimar, riguitv, allison lightning, Thru Terry's Eyes, Ster1, Emrys 1, and ellen42.
To Kristy and Maz101, who have commented on the faitfulness to the spirit of the episodes and the added depth, thank you for noting it, as I really, really tried my best, as you may be able to tell from the Afterword above.
To lizard971, who commented on the dynamics of how I write Sam and Dean, lots of thanks on noting that; they are so damned hard to write, haha, so all I can do is just do my best and hope it comes across all right.
To Kelcor, I will always look forward to and appreciate your enthusiastic exclamation points.
To Mandy, I love your enthusiasm and can attest that you are easily one of my most empowering fuels.
To Phoebe, you are ever supportive and as perceptive as always, haha, and I have a weird feeling that we think alike; the parts you notice are usually my favorite ones.
If I got cross-eyed and missed anyone, please, PLEASE call me out on it, and I will thank you properly as you deserve :)
VI. Next Project/s
As was mentioned above, the already-posted One Week will likely be a part of the One Trilogy. Here's a little clip from Chapter 1, but if you want the entire chapter, it's already posted in .
Summary:"I'm sorry but you have to let me do this, Sam," Dean said.He found a desperate solution to his problem:Colt back in his hands,he wondered if it would be better to just shoot himself and be dead to life and what came after it, than to end up in hell.
" " "
" " "
New York, New York
7 Days Left
" " "
He sat on Dean's bed, head in his hands as he waited for his brother to come out of the bathroom.
The retching had stopped. He knew that by the open lights, Dean would have already guessed that he was awake too. He heard the tap run. That was Dean washing his face and his mouth. But more than anything, he guessed that was Dean buying time to think about what to say to him.
"You all right?" Sam asked with a wince, when Dean finally emerged from the bathroom.
"I think I overate."
Bit off more than you can chew, more like, Sam thought. He debated, for a long moment, whether or not he should just let Dean get away with that.
No time, he decided.
"I know you heard them," Sam said, softly, "The dogs."
Dean took a moment too, apparently also weighing in on whether or not he should just lie. He came to the same decision Sam had. He sank to sit next to Sam.
"Yeah..." he admitted, "But they're just trying to be assholes. We all know they ain't coming down 'til d-day. They're just trying to psych me out. They got me tonight, but I know better now."
"Water," Sam said, his own mouth dry, his mind wrangled-empty of things to say. He motioned numbly for the glass he had prepared for his brother.
"You look like you need it more than me," Dean teased, gently, though he took the glass, took a sip he did not need to appease his brother, having already had his fill in the bathroom.
"You should go back to sleep," Sam said, looking at Dean earnestly, "I got your back."
Dean opened his mouth, as if to say something. But he clamped it shut, after a long look at his brother's steely-determined face. Sam knew what he would have said. Dean would have said it was useless, Dean would have said there was nothing Sam could do to stop the hounds from coming. That Sam having Dean's back tonight meant absolutely nothing to a hungry hellhound. Dean would have been right. But he let his younger brother hold the carefully-constructed, by-now-fairly-ridiculous delusion.
"Thanks, bro," Dean said, his eyes clouded, as he reached over and closed the night lamp. He settled down to bed, on his belly, and face turned decidedly away from Sam. Sam stayed where he was, on Dean's bed by his arm, until he heard the ease return to his brother's sleepy breathing.
And then Sam sank cross-legged to the floor, back against his brother's bed, as if he was something disgusting and viscous pouring down to the ground.
And then he cried.
Soundless, anguished, carefully controlled crying, the way he's lately learned how. There were no hitched breaths, no embarrassing sniffing, no trembling shoulders. It was just a crippling, hopeless, flooded, pouring gaze contradicted by inhumanly even breaths. No one could have known, he'd have sworn, he was so damned sure, No one.
Dean's warm hand wordlessly and gracelessly dropped down on top of his head. Ruffled his hair for a second or two, and then stilled and stayed there.
No one could have known, apparently, except the one who knew him best, the one whom the show was for, rendering the entire exercise absolutely useless after all.
He clenched his eyes closed tight, and let his tears fall more violently. Allowed himself to breathe harshly. Dean's hand never wavered, just stayed where it was. All damn night, it was warm, and comforting, and just there. He fell asleep where he was.
" " "
The second fic I'm writing will be a suspense/adventure one. I already have a feeling it's gonna be long, winding and crazy, haha, but I'm gonna try because I personally find the urban legend its based on very intriguing. I've already written the prologue and part of Chapter 1. Preview will be posted soon enough but anyway, basic synopsis:
Summary:Sam and Dean clash with a Cold Case Detective over what to do about the vindictive ghost of a streetwalker, the disturbing clues left by the murdered man who witnessed her death, and the serial killer responsible still out on the loose in the streets of New York City.
Thanks for reading and 'til the next post!