4.17 It's a Terrible Life tag
"We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It's just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn't have expected." – Ben Okri
Touched by an Angel…or How Providence Showed Dean the Way
The apartment was classic, the job prestigious, the lifestyle successful. It was everything one could want from normal and yet, oddly, it wasn't enough.
It didn't fulfill him.
Success, fortune, and opportunity laid out on a silver platter and still….
Something was missing, a piece of the puzzle. A reason for existing beyond closed deals and bottom lines, expense accounts and corporate bonuses.
Some might call it destiny or fate…but it was more like purpose. More like knowing what he did made a difference, changed the world in some way, big or small.
A part of his soul needing something to show he'd been here; walked his own path, conquered each new challenge. Something to prove he mattered.
It started out as small revelations that grew into major concerns. A need to find answers, solve the mystery, right a wrong…save a life.
This stranger from the elevator worming his way into his consciousness, fitting beside him like he belonged there; slipping into place like it was destined they'd work together, side by side. As if they always had.
'Dreams' he said…visions. He'd think the guy was crazy if not for the feeling deep in his gut, that somehow they were meant for this…that he did know him. The memories somehow lost or twisted beyond recognition, floating just out of reach, turning to smoke as he tried to grab hold, leaving only the feeling…that they belonged together. Not in the health club hook-up kind of way, but in that brotherly bond way. Like the perfect alignment of time and space and family…who they were, what that meant.
Teaming up with this stranger was exciting and he felt more alive than he ever had. The hunt for this ghost fueling some repressed need for adventure, an urge to break free of all restraint and step into the vast unknown, to face a challenge and conquer it. To live without a safety net, to boldly venture beyond normal and see how far off the beaten path each step might lead.
Once they embarked on their journey, their bond grew. It was almost like they were destined to do this, meant to work as one, comrades in war…brothers in arms.
Destiny demanding it.
Instinct kicked in, a base survival mechanism, and they each found they had the necessary moves when it counted, turned the right corners at precisely the opportune moment, followed the crumbs laid out before them as research showed them the way. The hunt perfectly executed just as the Ghostfacer's website instructed.
It all played out so fortuitously.
It was like they were born to do this…and do it well….
Like it was in their blood.
All too soon it was over. The ghost vanquished and justice enacted for the victims. Their newfound partnership and the excitement of the hunt over…much, much too soon.
Sam's discontent with his small cubicle life bordered on desperate as his desire for more grew. He wanted Dean to join him on the open road, to embrace the heroes' journey and all that it imposed, from stolen credit cards and greasy diner food to crap motel rooms and the promise of all the exhilaration he knew they both craved. He asked the Director of Sales and Marketing to chuck his carefully designed future, trade it away for the struggles of the nomadic hunting life; give up the concrete rewards of financial success for the uncertainty of fighting evil where their only reward was the satisfaction in saving lives and doing good for the world.
Dean Smith refused. He may have enjoyed the hunt, the challenge, and the thrill, but he wasn't caught up enough in the fantasy to throw away his future, to cast aside all he had worked towards and watch it swirl down the drain. He had a practical side, he didn't know this Sam, and Sam didn't know him.
He dismissed him, sent him back to the fifth floor and his mediocre life stuck in a too small cubicle.
In his lofty twenty-second floor office, Dean focused on his work and his life…his choices.
He tried to get back to the daily grind, the certainty of spreadsheets and budgets, of marketing plans and global expansion. It was safe in the comfortable and proven, in normal.
It was his life, all he knew…and he was miserable.
A nagging doubt pestered him even as he tried to push it away. Somehow, after what they'd been through, after what they'd accomplished as a ghost-hunting team, all his hard work and success seemed insignificant…the fast-track he was on trivial amid the grand scope now revealed. His life as it had always existed was shallow and simple…meaningless.
He longed for more and after careful consideration, he was determined to find it. He knew he had other work to do…important work.
So when the angel touched him, his memories flooding back in a wave of pain and pride, hurt and hope, bitter anger and sheer exhaustion, he shuddered through his awakening, the world instantly darkening as reality took hold.
His real life…his true destiny beckoning. What it was and what it could be.
Two paths before him, asking him to consider what he ultimately wanted and needed.
He remembered, remembered it all. The good and the bad…the horrific alongside the mundane, bursts of intense pride and satisfaction in a job well done countered by the crushing guilt and disappointments inevitable, captured in every lost innocent's face as more tragedies unfolded.
It was all there, on hold and waiting for him.
Another chance to do good, to make a difference…to possibly save the world. To change things...if only he were strong enough.
And that was the question. Could he do this? After all he'd been through, after Hell and his descent, after all the torture brought to bear against him and upon others by his own hand. After breaking and losing that last piece of himself down in the pit, he was left to wonder if he could ever reclaim it, if he would ever again be whole.
If he could ever again be Dean Winchester.
The pressures and responsibility were heavy, unbearable even, but somehow they were tempered by the hope of redemption. The potential there if it all came together, if every piece of the puzzle somehow found its way back within the frame.
So appealing, so desired, urging him onward, back toward the path of his youth. Promising new possibilities…if only he had the courage to take that first step.
It was a chance to right a wrong, take back control…tip the scales.
The risks and rewards diametrically opposed, yet both possible if he faltered in his quest. A precarious balancing act as he teetered on the high-wire, suspended between heaven and hell.
Somewhere Sam was waiting, a job still needing to be done. Somehow he knew what was expected, not from Dad or the angels or even his destiny, written on some ancient scroll and fated like some cosmic doom….
Somehow he knew it was he that expected it. That he and his brother each knew and expected it of themselves…and each other.
It was their course, their choice.
They were hunters…it was who they were, what they did. Even given the chance for normal, it was what they would always come back to, like a beacon shining in the dark.
He sucked in a deep breath, a lungful of air moving in and then out, a steady response as he stared into the face of destiny. His gut trembled in both anticipation and dread, fully aware of the danger that lay in wait.
With deliberation he loosened his silk tie, slowly pulling it from beneath his collar and placing it upon his desk. He then slipped off his suit jacket, folding it in half and tossing it over the back of his office chair with his right hand as his left released the top two buttons of his dress shirt. He took another long drag of air, filling his lungs with freedom as his chest expanded and then contracted.
His eyes defiantly focused on the angel while Zachariah silently observed him as he unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and methodically rolled up his sleeves. The angel had a decidedly pleased smirk on his lips, an annoying look of smug satisfaction that normally would have pissed him off, but today he simply glared in response, unwilling to give the angel any further pleasure. Dean stared at his wrists as they were revealed, his old watch and bracelet missing, a shiny, gold Rolex on his left wrist signally the status he'd achieved as Dean Smith.
The silver ring on his right hand also gone, the manicured nails neatly clipped and buffed, no dirt beneath them, smooth hands unaccustomed to the manual labor of digging graves. He reached instinctively for the familiar weight of his amulet, always a steady presence against his chest but like the rest of his few possessions, it too was missing. He suddenly felt naked and exposed, the glimmer in the angel's eyes doing nothing to dispel the feeling.
"You better have my stuff in a safe place," he informed the angel with a threatening growl. He smiled then, the slightest upturn of his lips enough to make his dimples stand out in a cocky smirk as he nodded toward the expensive watch on his wrist. "I'm keeping the swank."
Zachariah returned the smile. "By all means." He stepped to the side as Dean brushed past him, offering the hunter his reassurance, "All your possessions are in that classic car of yours."
Dean patted his side as he turned back, a look of exasperation filling out his face as he exclaimed, "Good, 'cause I feel naked without my gun." He hesitated, his brows arched in a question as his mouth formed an 'O'. He stumbled over his words for a second, vocally fumbling as his face shifted through a half-dozen expressions before he finally uttered, "And…where exactly would my car be?"
Zachariah again smiled, warm and sincere and victorious. "At the curb…out front."
"Right." Dean's reply came with a quick nod of his head as he turned and slipped through the doorway. It was only a few yards to the elevator but he took the additional steps, rounding the corner to find the stairs, unwilling to wait a second longer to be out of this building and beyond this life. Somehow the stairs held more promise in light of Sam's recent elevator experience, not that he was superstitious; after all, the ghost was dead, they saw to that. It was more he felt the need to move, to purposely leave this place and this lesson under his own power and as quickly as possible. Once he made up his mind, he was unwilling to stand to the side waiting for anything.
He pushed open the door to the stairwell and the familiar rush of adrenaline surged; the need to find his brother, embark on a hunt and kill something evil fueling the fire that sparked in his gut. He had an overpowering desire to be free of convention, to be back with his baby on the open road heading towards something. To be back in his element…back where he belonged.
He met up with his brother in the stairwell, one bounding down the stairs two at a time as the other raced up…coming together, united in purpose, even as they approached from opposite ends. The thunderous pounding of their footsteps that echoed through the stairwell grinding to a halt as their eyes met and the familiar words exploded out of their mouths,
It was as if the months of separation and the ensuing distance between them were past and they were starting fresh. As if they'd finally navigated all the pitfalls and obstructions and found their way back to them, who they were, what they were supposed to be doing.
Dean knew all their issues weren't going to disappear overnight, just like his trauma from Hell wasn't suddenly resolved, tied up in a neat package and sealed with a pretty bow. It was never that easy for the Winchesters. No amount of angel fairy dust could wipe clean a slate filled with mistakes and regrets, further complicated by more misunderstandings converging to widen the gulf between them. But in this moment in time, none of that mattered.
They'd been lost, adrift in another reality, and now they were back, side by side, brother to brother. Together as they were always meant to be. Zachariah might be another clueless angel in an endless parade of dicks, but he'd been right about that. Even in the dark, robbed of their memories, they found their way back to each other and did their job.
Dean offered his brother a welcoming smile, the quirk of his left brow reinforcing the greeting. It felt good to be back on track, on task for what lie ahead.
All he need do was gaze into his brother's eyes to know Sam felt it too. His brother, the one who always fought the life, who lamented the loss of normal, had been the first to acknowledge their destiny. When plopped into this freakish reality Sam was the one pushing, prying…wanting. Somehow that brought a wave of pride to his big brother, to know Sam was on board with the true meaning of the family business…saving people, hunting things….
Dean had to admit, twisted as it might be, he loved it. Certainly more than wearing a monkey suit and being trapped in a high-rise office for twelve hours a day. That wasn't his life. Never was, never would be.
He looked at his brother with curious eyes, registering for the first time what Sam was wearing, that pale yellow shirt with the embroidered company logo screaming out 'nerd'. He quickly latched onto the thought and moved into brother mode.
"Dude, you are so rocking the geek squad."
His tone fully conveyed his amusement as his lips curved up in a cocky smirk. His eyes were again filled with passion, alive and enjoying the moment, the chance to play big brother and tease the hell out of his bro.
On cue, Sam huffed out his annoyance, "It's a uniform. I didn't pick it..." His eyes glimmered behind the defensive comeback as he joyfully joined in with the good-natured ribbing, "'Course, can't say the same for those suspenders you've been sporting." He chuckled then, that high-pitched laugh piercing as his grin spread across his face when he couldn't resist adding, "So very GQ."
"Yeah, whatever," Dean responded, not really having a defense for dressing so preppy, aside from the fact that it wasn't him. The choice in attire should have immediately clued him in that this wasn't his life. He felt compromised, almost dirty, like he'd sold out and God forbid become a male model. A chill shuddered down his spine at the thought.
Satisfied in their reunion and content to simply be beside each other, back in the rhythm of how they used to be; the brothers simultaneously turned and started walking down the stairs, shoulder to shoulder as they took each step in sync.
"So, what the hell happened here?" Sam questioned, not privy to the angel among them, only knowing he awoke from a dream that actually wasn't, that was some strange, surreal existence that made him out to be someone else entirely. Oddly, it was nothing to be overly alarmed about, just another weird circumstance in their messed-up lives that he hoped his brother might shine some light on.
"Angels," Dean responded, as if that in itself would be answer enough.
"Not again," Sam grunted with disgust. His eyes flashed with irritation as his mouth twisted into a pout punctuating his classic bitchface. "Cas?"
"Nope, brand new one…Zachariah," Dean enunciated with a flourish.
"Yeah, I know," Dean offered as he made a wild motion with his hands to indicate the poofiness of how the angels tended to suddenly appear. His voice was low and firm as he spat out his own annoyance, "Just had to pop in and teach me a lesson."
"A lesson?" Sam puzzled, "About what?"
Dean couldn't avoid the concern in Sam's eyes, drawn to them and locked in silent communication before he broke their hold, sharing his newfound insight in an abbreviated share and care, "Somethin' about this being in our blood. That we were meant to be hunters."
Relieved that it wasn't more ominous, Sam shrugged his broad shoulders and quirked his mouth in understanding. "Like sawdust."
"Y'know, circus people. They say they have sawdust in their veins," Sam casually explained, calm and accepting of the implication. "Can't leave the big top or the life."
"Circus people, huh?" Dean smirked, his dimples pits above his lips, nodding at the symmetry. "Guess you're Gargantuan then."
"Yeah, right," Sam scoffed, his playful annoyance fully registering as his mouth twisted and his eyes glimmered with a spark of that old brotherly banter. "So that makes you…what?" His grin broadened as he gleefully laughed. "Maybe you should wear those suspenders you like so much and be a clown…a little grease paint, some big floppy shoes…pants ten sizes too big."
Dean backhanded him across his chest. "Hilarious."
They had reached the bottom of the stairs and Sam pushed open the door leading into the lobby. They matched long strides as they barreled across the distance, halting their conversation in a stealthy act of caution as they came within close proximity to the security guard stationed at the front door. They moved past him with wary eyes, simultaneously pushing open the glass doors with more force than needed and reveling in the feel of the warm sun and the cool of the afternoon breeze on their faces as they exited the building.
"So, you wanna share the details on this Zachariah?" Sam asked as they passed the fountain displayed in the plaza at the front of the building.
Dean only paused for a second before embracing this second chance. "Yeah, sure..," he replied, his eyes actually twinkling with renewed sincerity as he flashed his dimples with his own request, "But first, let's get the hell out of Dodge."
Relief washed over Sam, an ease with how accommodating Dean appeared and how hopeful it made him, signally a new openness between them. "Okay, but I want to know everything…and I'm holding you to it," Sam threatened with a gentle smile.
"Dude, I said I would." Any residue of tension was chased off as Dean offered his brother another quirky grin before his focus shifted as he took in the sight before him. "There she is," he lovingly sighed. He quickened his pace and once he reached her he triumphantly placed his hands flat on her roof, his radiant smile showing a spark of the man he used to be.
Sam savored the moment, seeing Dean happy, feeling that closeness he'd been missing for so long. He longed for the old days, the certainty of knowing they could conquer anything as long as they were together. He stepped up to the passenger side, locking eyes with his brother over the roof of the Impala, his smile as broad as his brother's as he spoke, "Let's hit the road."
The doors of the Impala creaked their familiar greeting as they opened and then slammed closed, the boys slipping inside and sinking down into the cushioning sun-basked warmth of the leather. Dean grabbed the envelope left on the dash and quickly opened it, his bracelet and ring soon returned to their rightful places, while his fingers lingered on the amulet, rubbing absently over the old gold before he pulled the leather rope over his head and let the charm bounce against his chest. He held his black utility watch in his hand for a moment before he unclasped the Rolex still on his wrist and handed it to his brother.
"What's this?" Sam asked, stunned by the value of the item.
"Stow it in the glove box." Dean flashed his most radiant smirk, his emerald eyes gleaming with satisfaction. "Just a perk of the job," he joked as he placed his own watch on his wrist. He turned over the engine and Zeppelin blasted Ramble On through the speakers. Before he shifted into gear he turned for one last look at his brother. Sam returned the gaze, faces now solemn but eyes hopeful before both turned back to stare out the windshield, focused on the road before them.
They were finally home, back on course, side by side.
They'd do the job, whatever that entailed…
Whatever was expected…
It is what they were born to do.
It was in their blood.
"Sure I am this day we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond our endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us." - Winston Churchill
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Thanks for reading, any and all comments gratefully accepted in the review box. Take care, B.J.