Well my voice is all but back. Still hoarse and croaky but bearing in mind I couldn't talk at all from Friday to Tuesday that's a vast improvement. Going to head back to work on Friday only because it's actually easier to go in than to think of coverwork for Year 12. Anyway, I have made myself useful and rattled off a quick piece. Apologies for any horrendous typos/mistakes - had a splitting sinus headache since yesterday evening so my editing/checking skills have probably gone to hell.
Title: Whispered Promise of Perfection
Characters: Dean, OFC, Sam
Warnings: Some bits of harsh language
Spoilers: 2:20 – What Is And What Should Never Be
Summary: Dean cannot get his mother’s words out of his head. But however much they haunt him he could never have allowed himself to live in a world where so many lives had been lost because of his choice.
Author’s Note: This suddenly struck me after watching the UK showing of ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’. I’d been writing some other fic beforehand and something about Mary’s words seemed to strike a chord. It also segued quite nicely into some stuff about why Dean is so loyal to John and his 'cause'.
“No more pain or fear. Just love, comfort and safety.”
That’s what she’d promised, the fake mom in his head, the one the Djinn had forced his mind to make up.
And yes, it turned out that it had been all in his head after all not a real wish come to life. He guessed that was why it hadn’t been perfect. He didn’t believe in perfect. Yes, his mom was alive, so was Jess and Sam was happily normal but there were other things, things which weren’t so good. Dad wasn’t there and even though he had gone peacefully it only went so far to erase the hurt of not having him around. Then there was the way they looked at him, sometimes his mom but especially Sam. It was like they were disappointed in him, like he was the family pain in the ass that’d never turned out quite how they’d all hoped. If someone was trying to psychoanalyse him they’d probably say that this showed he had deep rooted self worth issues but he’d just tell them to shut the fuck up and get a proper job.
He and Sam not getting on? Well he couldn’t pretend that hadn’t cut. In this life, his real life, they’d grown up practically attached and he couldn’t really imagine it being any other way. Even when they’d clashed as Sam had gone to Stanford and Dean had been out of his life for two years, Sam had never looked at him with as much derision as the fake Sam had. He’d never turned down the offer of mending those broken bridges, always wanting it as much as Dean did. It freaked Dean out to wonder if the only reason they were close at all was because of circumstance, not because of some deep seated brotherly bond that he thought unbreakable.
There had been Carmen of course and she obviously hadn’t been all bad although he was still at a loss as to where in the heck she’d come from. He was pretty certain that he’d never even met her in real life. He supposed she wasn’t too different from Izzy though so that kind of made sense. Not that he’d be explaining that to her anytime soon – for some reason even hallucinatory vision cheating on her made him feel like a bit of a jerk.
So in the best, perfect world his mind could devise for him his dad was gone, his brother thought he was a dick who would steal from his own family and his mom hadn’t quite gotten the son she’d always hoped for. Everyone he’d ever saved including the woman he loved was dead he had been forced to make a choice between their lives and his happiness. His mind was clearly a real fucked up, twisted and mean son of a bitch with an attitude problem who didn’t like him very much.
He laughed to himself, finding that inexplicably funny. From the driver’s seat Izzy looked across and frowned, clearly wondering if he was losing it.
“Better keep your eyes on the road,” he ordered quietly.
It was testament to how worried she was about him that she just nodded and did as he said, not pulling him up on his habit of telling people rather than asking them to do something like she usually would.
His reflection in the rear view mirror probably explained the reason for that though; he looked like hell. His complexion was grey and drained, his eyes sunken and bruised looking. To be honest he’d seen a fair few corpses that looked healthier than he did right now and the pale moonlight was only adding to the effect. Fortunately it did look worse than it was. He’d lost a lot of blood sure and he was tired bordering on exhaustion but that was all. Could have been worse. Still, when they’d driven the girl to the hospital Sam had immediately insisted he’d take her in and that Izzy should drive Dean back to the motel. Dean had protested but had quickly backed down on their threat to have him admitted to the hospital himself if he so much as stepped within a hundred yards of it.
He just needed that rest his fake mom had promised him and he’d rather do that in a motel room where he wasn’t constantly being fused over, prodded and poked. He hated hospitals.
Parking up, he and Izzy walked in silence back to the room, his hands shoved firmly in his pockets to prevent them from moving. He wanted to reach out and hold her, to at least feel the cool grip of her fingers against his, but at the same time he wanted to be alone, needed to think this through for himself.
The Djinn must have been blocking his memories of her or something, knowing that it’d only cause problems if he realised that she wasn’t there. It was only when he’d started to find out about the deaths that he could and should have prevented that her name suddenly sprung back into his mind and he’d frantically searched the newspaper articles, hoping his guess was wrong. His stomach had clenched painfully when he’d found the headline he’d dreaded.
Local Girl Murdered, Police Search For Father
Local shop owner, Isabel Headley, 24, was found dead in an alley just yards from her home yesterday evening by police officers searching for the young woman who had been missing for several days. She apparently died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Miss Headley’s colleague, Rhema Williams, had become concerned when the woman failed to return after going to meet her father. He has not been seen since Miss Headley’s disappearance and the police are keen to question him in regards to...
Dean had rushed to the bathroom and thrown up. By the time he’d recovered, hauling himself up and leaning against the sink to steady his weak knees, he couldn’t remember why he’d felt ill in the first place. He’d stared at his reflection for a long moment, looking for answers but finding nothing. As he’d returned to the lounge he saw the computer that he vaguely remembered he’d been checking out was sitting on a harmless page of betting results and he’d begun to wonder if he’d just drunk too much or something.
After that though he’d constantly felt like he was missing something even if he had no clue what it was. It was like something really important had happened just out of sight and he couldn’t quite get a handle on it. It was only when everything had started to come together in the warehouse that he’d begun to remember her again. It had been one of the things that had steadied his hand when he’d plunged the knife into his own gut. She was worth risking his life to get back to. So was Sam. As pleasant as the fantasy had been he couldn’t leave her and his real brother behind. It was his job to be there for them. He wanted to see them again.
Inside the motel room now he sat heavily on the end of the bed whilst she crossed over to the mini kitchen area, back to him as she worked at something. He may have questioned her but he was too tired, his eyes lazily focussing on her movements as though they’d hypnotised him. He only snapped out of it when she returned a few moments later, holding out a glass of water.
He took it and caught a waft of a fragrant, flowery aroma. He sniffed more experimentally, wrinkling his nose, looking at it like it was poison.
“Just something to help you get better quicker.”
He sighed, “You know I hate this crap.”
“Whatever,” she said firmly, clearly not in the mood for his stubbornness, ”You know it works so just drink it, okay? You’re dehydrated and you’ve lost a lot of blood. You need to rest. You wanna get well enough to get the hell out of here at daylight, right?”
She knew him too well. His silence was an affirmation.
“Then drink it.”
He did as he was told, wincing at the foul taste but swallowing it all down in a few large gulps. He was sure the look on his face was the same one Sam used to get when he was sick as a kid and Dean had forced him to swallow some medicine or another, promising him candy if he did it like a good boy.
“Good,” she said firmly, taking the glass from him. She placed it carefully out of their way before she knelt down and started unlacing his boots.
He grinned, tired but unable to resist the comment, “You know, I really wish I was capable of it right now but I don’t think I-“
“Shut up,” she interrupted with the merest hint of a smile too, yanking off and tossing away one boot before going to work on the other, “You need to get into bed and you need to sleep. Now strip.”
“Oh baby,” he said with an amused look and a shake of his head, “You know I love it when you order me around.”
“I said ‘strip’”, she insisted, not rising to his teasing.
He chuckled slightly.
She helped him get down to his boxers and then under the covers rather than on them. He was too exhausted to protest about the fact that he didn’t really need looking after. The cotton sheets were cool and soft against his skin as she smoothed them around him. Remarkably so actually, too inviting to be normal. That made him suspicious.
“Did you drug me?” he asked, his words sleepy and voice dull.
“Just a little,” she admitted softly, fingers trailing gently through his hair in a way no one had done since he was really small, “Nothing serious. Just something to help you sleep better. I think you need it.”
He found himself too tired to really get annoyed about it.
She leant across to kiss his forehead but his fumbling lips determinedly sought out hers instead. He didn’t have either the energy or the coordination to kiss her properly and so he just pressed his lips gently to hers until he couldn’t hold his head up any longer and slumped back to the pillow.
“Go to sleep,” she whispered, her breath caressing his dry lips, hand on his cheek.
The last thing he remembered was the smell of her skin and the soft brush of her fingers at his temples.
When he actually slept it was peaceful and dreamless, the herbs doing their job. His brain kept fighting its way out though, demanding that he deal with it, determined to wake him up and make him face what had happened. It was in those moments between asleep and awake that everything was the most confusing and the most frightening, raw emotions coming to the surface before he had a chance to hold them in check.
His fake mom’s words kept floating back into his conscious, tantalising whispers on a breeze of warmth and promise.
‘No more pain or fear. Just love, comfort and safety.’
But he had those things here too, didn’t he? He didn’t need some fucked up Stepford dream world for that.
He had his brother and he had his girl. And no there was no mom, no lawn, no white picket fence, no family silver and no photos of dad’s softball team. But people were alive and that was good. Two lives gone but many others saved. It was a fair deal in the grand scheme of things, surely?
Her fingers were a comfort when he first half awoke, confused and uncertain. For a moment he couldn’t remember escaping the warehouse at all, convinced that he must still be there, and his whole body stiffened in anticipation of the pain that he was sure was about to come when the Djinn fed on him once more. His breath hitched as he felt the press of skin on his, a presence looming over him, its shadow swallowing him up. He willed his body to fight but it wouldn’t respond. He was going to die here.
Then he slowly realised that the fingers on his flesh were small, gentle and soothing. It seemed to trigger a dozen memories at once – how his fake family had tried to get him to stay, how he’d plunged the knife into his own gut, how he’d opened his eyes to see Sam and Izzy there, their faces awash with relief to see him alive.
He felt her hands properly now, soft on his cheek and shoulder, doing a much better job of calming him than her soothing words did. Slowly he began to breathe again, the tension leaving his body as he remembered his escape and where he really was. Her fingers were tender as they smoothed over the small cut in his neck where the he’d been hooked up, ready to be fed on. They left an oddly cool sensation in their wake and when he managed to find a vaguely coherent voice and ask her about it she said that she was just putting some stuff on, making sure he didn’t get an infection or anything. He watched with half open eyes as her fingers lightly rubbed some sort of cream on his wrists, the skin there still red raw where he’d been tied and hanging by them. He might have warned her that that better not be damn moisturiser but his mouth wouldn’t co-operate. He just watched her take care of him until his eyes grew too heavy to keep them open any longer.
The next time he awoke it was with a start. He didn’t think he’d been dreaming but something sent him straight into fight mode.
His voice was ragged and hoarse as he sat up sharply, flailing in the sheets as though he was trying to escape from something although he didn’t know what. Then she was there, one hand resting over his thudding heart, the other gripping his shoulder, bringing him back to this reality as she reminded him that it was okay.
A few deep breaths later and he slumped back onto the mattress again, panic subsiding.
“Where is he?” he mumbled as she pressed the covers round him once more.
“Sam? He’s still at the hospital,” she explained softly, “He said he’d stay until the girl’s family arrive. He’ll be back before morning.”
Dean shook his head. That wasn’t right. They should be working, they should be hunting.
“What about the Djinn? What if it takes someone else? We should be out there, stopping it.”
His mind was willing but his body was unable to cooperate with that idea, eyes dropping heavily closed and words losing coordination.
“It’s dead, Dean,” she soothed, her voice not entirely masking her concern, “You remember, right? You killed it.”
“I did? I-“ he paused a second, not sure whether his sudden memory of doing just that was entirely real. Nothing seemed right at the moment. He could barely tell if he was awake or dreaming half the time.
“What if it comes back?”
“Coming back from the dead wasn’t one of their tricks,” she pointed out.
“There could be two...brothers...Brothers work together...”
She smiled just a little, hearing the slurring in his voice as his mouth kept moving but his brain was going back to sleep.
“It’s okay, I’ll be here and Sam will be back soon. Just close your eyes.”
Oddly enough although she wasn’t exactly on the surface the best person to act as bodyguard, her conviction made him feel totally safe.
“Angels watching over me,” he muttered with a slight smile, more of his mother’s words coming to his mind once more.
“Yeah,” Izzy said with a slight laugh, “Think I might have made that mixture a little too strong. But you are sweet when you’re drugged up, I’ll give you that.”
The next sound he vaguely heard was the door opening and the deeper timber of Sam’s voice in contrast to Izzy’s light tones. He managed to hold his eyes open for just a few moments, long enough to see her and Sam talking and to note that it was still dark.
Minutes later he felt a cool draft and then the bed shift before a body pressed against his. On auto pilot he reached for her, arms around her as he drew her close, taking comfort in the warm press of another body.
“It isn’t fair,” he whispered long moments later, thoughts still playing on his hazy mind.
“All those people died because I got my wish.”
He understood that that probably didn’t make much sense to her but the connection between his brain and his mouth seemed to be a bit screwed and he couldn’t quite find the words to explain himself.
“Well I suppose someone’s gotta be selfless right?” she pointed out softly, kind of understanding what he was saying, “This would be a pretty crappy world if everyone just looked out for themselves all the time.”
She was right of course. Dean wasn’t sure if he believed in any kind of afterlife, if at the end of all this his good deeds would be ultimately rewarded. But it didn’t really matter either way. His dad had brought them up well, brought them up to care about what happened to others whatever the rewards or consequences.
He remember his dad explaining things to him one night when, at age ten, he had questioned why they had to keep travelling and hunting and never having a real home. Why they couldn’t just accept that mom was gone. Casey Hawkins, a kid in his new school, his mom had died but his dad hadn’t made them move around the country looking for the guy who had killed her in an unsolved hit and run. Casey was living proof that you could still have a home without a mom and that life really could go on. Besides, getting revenge wouldn’t bring her back and Dean was beginning to wonder what the point was.
In a way he had expected his dad to be angry and it had taken days to get up the courage to talk to him about it in the first place. To his surprise Dad had been totally calm however, had nodded understandingly as though he had one day expected those questions to come. He had just sat him down and talked it through, the longest and most honest conversation they’d ever had. He’d explained that, yes, part of it was a desire for revenge. A burning need to kill the thing that had destroyed their family. But it wasn’t just that. He’d come to learn that they could help people. That they could save people. He asked Dean to imagine what might have happened had someone like them come and saved his mom that night, how different things might have been. But, Dean had pointed out grimly, no one had and he didn’t see why therefore he should care about other people. They should be concentrating on looking after Sammy, not the rest of the world. Dad had just smiled and pointed out that just because no one had come to help his mom, it didn’t mean you turned your back on everyone else. Then he’d handed Dean his journal, the first time he’d ever been allowed to look at it. He’d told Dean to look at his hunt logs, to count up the number of people saved in the last six years and then ask himself again if it was worth it.
Two hundred and twenty two.
That was the number of people John Winchester had directly saved in the six years following his wife’s death. That didn’t of course include all the future victims who might have died if the creature in question hadn’t been stopped.
It was kind of humbling to think about and Dean grew an even greater respect for his dad that day. He wasn’t always the best father in the world, admittedly hadn’t coped very well with Mary’s death, but in the end he was a bit of a hero and that made Dean proud no matter what his flaws.
Yes his dad had wanted revenge, had fed and lived off that for near twenty years but he wasn’t blind to the others he saved, to the good that he did in the meantime. It was an attitude that Dean shared entirely.
And he’d betrayed that, had betrayed his dad by almost allowing himself to live in a world where none of their good deeds had ever happened. Like it or not, it was a lie. John Winchester hadn’t been perfect but he had saved people and it was a slur on his memory to have even contemplated pretending that none of that had ever happened.
“Sorry, dad,” Dean whispered sincerely under his breath.
“Excuse me?” Izzy asked, not having heard him properly.
Dean shook his head. Some things you kept private, even from the people you cared about the most.
There was silence for a long moment, his brain seemingly dozing whilst words whispered their way into his mind, stopping him from entirely falling asleep once again.
‘No more pain or fear. Just love, comfort and safety.’
The more he heard them however the more he realised that they weren’t just some fantasy element of a wishful world.
He loved his brother. No one in the world knew him better. Sam’s presence was solidly by his side, telling him that whatever came at them next they would get through it.
And the woman in his arms, the one relaxing so close to his body as she fell asleep, she was a hope for a kinder future that he couldn’t stop clinging to even if he never dared mention it aloud.
Love and comfort and safety. They weren’t always obvious in his world but they were there.
“I love you,” he mumbled quietly, words tumbling unbidden from his mouth.
He felt her lips curve to a smile against his chest.
“You know you’ve never actually said that before”, she pointed out softly.
His sleepy brain couldn’t accept that although admittedly it did sound like him to feel something and never say it.
“Sure I have.”
“No, you haven’t,” she insisted.
“Well I should. I’m gonna say it more often.”
“No you won’t,” she said with a gentle smile, hand coolly splayed across his belly, “Doesn’t matter though. It’s okay.”
She pressed a soft kiss to his shoulder.
She was probably right but it didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try. It was the last promise he made to himself before his brain finally surrendered and he slept until morning.
‘No more pain or fear. Just love, comfort and safety.’
He couldn’t have that. Couldn’t have a life without pain and fear if he was going to help others. Couldn’t only have love, comfort and safety, not if he wanted people to live. But he did have them. He had his brother and he had his girl. It wasn’t everything but it was enough. It was something to build a future on, more solid that any whispered promise of perfection could be.