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Fic: Like a River

Title: Like a River
Author: ME!
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Genre: Gen (as usual)
Rating: PG-13
Warnings/Spoilers: Abusive!John (not too severe though), spoilers for 1x10 "Asylum" - Not a happy fic.
A/N: I've been fascinated for a while about how Dean will sometimes hit Sam, but Sam never hits Dean. So, this is me exploring that a little.

Summary: After the events of Asylum, Sam tries to mend the broken pieces of a simple rule.

Hours later and Sam could still feel the kickback on the shotgun, the way it had traveled up his arm, lodged in his shoulder. The way Dean had fallen. He could still feel the click of the empty handgun. How Dean had looked at him then. It wasn't Sam though, that wasn't really him. Dean had to know that. Sam would never...Sam had never...

It was a rule. Sam's rule. The only rule Sam ever imposed on himself.

Winchester Rule #1: We do what we do and we shut-up about it.
Sam Rule #1: Never hit Dean in anger.

It hadn't always been that way of course. When they were little they'd get into physical fights all the time. Battles over the remote that would lead to wrestling matches and their Dad either pulling them apart or egging them on, depending on his mood. There was training too, of course, but that wasn't hitting in anger so it didn't count. Training was calculating moves and feinting well. Training was the Winchester version of a friendly chess game.

And at first Sam didn't think anything of it. Kids accept their world as normal, long before they know what normal is. He didn't question the fact that every so often...rare, but still there...there would be a loud crack of knuckles hitting a jaw and then silence, and Dad would leave for the bar or a drive, and Dean would clean the guns, make Sam dinner, or just turn on the TV, and that was that.

Sam would try to tie it to alcohol, to hunts gone wrong, to anything other than the fact that sometimes their Dad just didn't have any place to put his anger anymore other than to take it out on Dean's face. Always just one punch, but one was enough.

Afterward John would lean over their bed and put a hand on Dean's shoulder. When they were younger, he would say "I'm sorry, Dean," and Dean would say "It's ok, Dad." As they got older, it was a hand on the shoulder and no words, or a look from the doorway, and Dean would say "Lay off, I'm fine."

He wasn't though. Maybe there wasn't anything special about the day that Sam realized that it wasn't normal. Maybe it was just that for the first time in his life, he REALLY looked. But he suddenly realized that it wasn't ok, that Dean wasn't fine.

By that time, he was just starting High School, and Dean was just finishing, and sometimes he would wander away from the mythology section of the library and research other things...like what exactly getting hit did to a kid.

And the more Sam read, the more he recognized the broken pieces of his brother. He recognized the patterns. Dean had always made sure that their Dad never hit Sam. He always knew when to cut into a conversation and either diffuse things or make himself the target instead. But Sam knew full well that abuse runs in patterns, that eventually it just flows down like a river. It's what all the books said, and if their Dad had taught them anything, it was to research their enemy well.

So Sam wasn't really surprised the first time Dean hit him. He knew the news about the Stanford acceptance wouldn't go down well, and he had wanted to tell Dean first - to prepare him for what was to come, because Sam wasn't sure how their father would react, but he knew it wouldn't be good.

Dean had hit him, just before Sam could say "you could come with me," but that was kind of an answer in itself. Then Dean had run.

Sam had followed Dean to the water. He tried to ignore the redness of Dean's eyes, and the way he stared at his knuckles. Sam wanted to tell Dean that it wasn't his fault, that it was only because of their father, that he had been conditioned his whole life to act this way...to take abuse and take abuse until he didn't know what to do with it anymore...but Sam knew that saying anything of the sort would only lead to another fist to his jaw, and would leave Dean feeling twice as horrible.

Instead Sam said, "You can hit me all you want, Dean. I'm not leaving because of you. I just want to see what I'm capable of. I want to try to be normal for once. I just don't want to be a freak anymore."

"Ok, Sammy," Dean had said, though Sam knew that it wasn't ok. Then Dean looked at him with open worry and said, "Dad's going to be pissed." And Sam wondered if Dean was worried about Sam, or worried about being the one left behind, and it broke his heart a little to admit that it was probably the first option.

Because Sam knew that he COULD hit Dean back, he could hit Dean again and again, and Dean would take it, just like he always did. Sam didn't want to think about what that said about his brother. And he swore that, for as long as he lived, he would never hit Dean in anger.

Sam flexed his trigger finger in the darkness of the Impala and looked over at his brother's chest, where the shirt was torn, and the salt was probably still embedded in his skin.

He didn't hate Dean for being the perfect son, for being Daddy's little soldier. He hated the fact that their Dad didn't deserve it.

"Dean..." he started, wanting to say he was sorry, wanting to say that it hadn't really been him.

"Lay off, Sammy, I'm fine," Dean said, cutting him off.

Winchester Rule#2: Don't vomit inside the car.
 

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Comments

( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
mizzykitty
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:27 am (UTC)
Oh no. That's so sad! Poor Dean and Sam. :( *hugs them*

Does Sam never hit Dean? The only thing I can remember is that recent siren episode where they slugged it out for realz. Its an interesting take on the Stanford fight.

For some reason I can't really see John just striking out at his kids in anger. I could see him being overly harsh with his criticism and punishments (when he perceives they've done something wrong), to the point of abuse, but not flat out beating on them for no reason other than that he's pissed.

He didn't hate Dean for being the perfect son, for being Daddy's little soldier. He hated the fact that their Dad didn't deserve it.

AWWW! :( Poor boys.
hells_half_acre
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
I don't actually think John hit the kids...I was just exploring a thought. That being said, I find it really odd that Dean will full out punch Sam when he is angry enough - given Dean's quasi-parent role in Sam's life especially. So, I figure that sort of behaviour has to some from somewhere.

And yeah, Sam has only ever hit/shot/attacked Dean when he is under some sort of "spell"...so, the Ghost-dude in Asylum or the Siren spell in Sex and Violence. He's never hit Dean just because he is angry, nor has he ever hit Dean BACK when Dean has hit him...and the one time Dean TOLD him to hit him, he refused.
(no subject) - mizzykitty - Apr. 7th, 2009 03:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 7th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mizzykitty - Apr. 9th, 2009 06:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 10th, 2009 02:17 am (UTC) - Expand
mara_snh
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
Awww, lovely. I' a huge fan of reality-based fiction. The insight about domestic violence that you brought to this story was perfect. And how perceptive of you to notice that Sam has never lifteed a hand against Dean, at least not when he could help it. Fascinating. I just loved this. Thank you!
hells_half_acre
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
Thanks! I love reality-based fiction too, and I'm glad you felt this rang true. Domestic violence is a pretty nasty thing, so I was a little concerned with "going there"...but yeah, I wanted to explore a possible explanation for the boys behaviour.
arabella_w
Apr. 7th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
this broke my heart in so many pieces!
Oh, poor Dean. I don't think John would hit him, but I think you're right: his behavior has to come from somewhere. And the thing that causes pain, the most, is the fact that Dean really would take EVERYTHING just to make things better for Sam and his Dad.

I loved this sweety, specially 'cause it made me cry.
hells_half_acre
Apr. 7th, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
Sorry for making you cry, but I'm glad you liked it!

I don't think John would hit Dean either. More likely his behaviour comes from repressing too much of his own emotions, but this was an interesting exercise to explore an alternative explanation.
(no subject) - arabella_w - Apr. 7th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC) - Expand
varkelton
Apr. 7th, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)
I can totally see this as being canon. It fits with Dean's low self-esteem, and you present it as subtle enough that Dean can blow it off as unimportant. Thanks for sharing this.
hells_half_acre
Apr. 7th, 2009 05:26 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you felt it could fit in with canon. :-)
parisindy
Apr. 7th, 2009 07:06 am (UTC)
ohh well done
hells_half_acre
Apr. 7th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
winyumi
Apr. 7th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)
I really liked this. Their voices rang true, and it worked for me as a very credible explanation for why Sam never hits Dean, and especially why he never hits him BACK. And also for why when Dean hits Sam, they both kind of accept it as an extreme but not completely shocking turn of events.
hells_half_acre
Apr. 7th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks! These are the kinds of details that I obsess over as a fan, and I'm glad you like the possible explanation I came up with.
crazytook
Apr. 10th, 2009 10:10 am (UTC)
"He didn't hate Dean for being the perfect son, for being Daddy's little soldier. He hated the fact that their Dad didn't deserve it."
That line was so perfect. Awesome succinct way to sum up how Sam thinks about what he said in Asylum.

I don't think John Winchester was abusive, but if he was, this is what it would look like. This was wonderfully written, awesome attention to detail and patterns (like having Dean repeat "lay off' to Sam.) That ending made me so almost cry, and I loved the little bitty bit of comic relief at the very end with the vomit thing. Dark humor.

Kudos!
crazytook
hells_half_acre
Apr. 10th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you liked it. I really like that line too - I wanted to acknowledge that Sam's emotions were real, but not necessarily exactly how he had expressed them.

I'm also glad you appreciated the bit of dark humour. ;)
donutsweeper
Apr. 10th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
oooh, very compelling look at the brothers Winchester and why they are the way they are!
hells_half_acre
Apr. 10th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
jenny64
Nov. 6th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
Perfect fic and seems even more true after watching the end of 6.06. Once again Sam didn't even attempt to stop Dean hitting him.
hells_half_acre
Nov. 6th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you. As you can tell, that particular dynamic between the Winchesters has always fascinated me - the fact that Sam has never hit Dean unless he was "on something."
meret
Jan. 10th, 2011 11:08 pm (UTC)
Excellent story! You did a great job of showing their emotional states.
hells_half_acre
Jan. 10th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
mesmerized_mia
Apr. 4th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
ah, I think you kind of broke me t_t
hells_half_acre
Apr. 4th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
Sorry! I'm glad you liked it though! Thanks for reading :)
(no subject) - mesmerized_mia - Apr. 4th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hells_half_acre - Apr. 5th, 2011 12:08 am (UTC) - Expand
autumnverse
Apr. 16th, 2011 09:31 pm (UTC)
He didn't hate Dean for being the perfect son, for being Daddy's little soldier. He hated the fact that their Dad didn't deserve it.

This is such a powerful story, heartbreaking and beautifully written. Thanks so much for sharing ♥
hells_half_acre
Apr. 16th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much :)
layne67
Apr. 18th, 2011 07:32 am (UTC)
Followed a link at spnstoryfinders, and oh, this is so very heartbreaking *clutches heart*
hells_half_acre
Apr. 18th, 2011 07:55 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you like it...and I'm glad someone else liked it well enough to link it :)
marlowe78
Jun. 14th, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
Hey there *waves*

I found this and now I'm wondering why I never did before :-D But me likes it, likes the possibility you played around with.

I agree, I don't think John really abused his kids physically. I'm absolutely sure IF he did, it was never Sam. He was just too independent for being battered around in the first few seasons, too uncomplicated. Dean, though, fits the pattern of kids not treated right, down to the punches he throws around.

I still think, though, for Dean it's more of a breaking, an overflow of stuffed-down bad things that need a valve, need to get out. I got a dog who's like that. Sometimes, when it gets all too much stress inside, he snaps and bites. Quite painfully, I have to say, and it's NEVER meant personally. He just can't deal.

Then, recent seasons suggest that there is also a LOT of anger at Sam inside, some things he never dealt with that just burst open and need to get out, and yeah, that's not a really nice trait in him and probably very worrisome if he ever was to marry. Maybe it's good he didn't stick wih Lisa...

But I love how you pointed out that Sam COULD hit back, could dish out at LEAST as much, if not more. So I like this possibility that he has got some reason to never do that, something that makes him not the battered brother (as I have come across in fiction in this fandom, which left me a bit stunned) but someone who CHOOSES not to hit back.

Geeee, I'm rambling all over ya. So sorry... *goes and shuts up*
hells_half_acre
Jun. 14th, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
I think that for all Sam's anger, he also has amazing control. I think there are very few moments where he loses that tight control over how angry he is...the prime example of which is Sam Interrupted. So, yeah, Sam is no wilting flower (or whatever the saying is). When Dean hits him, he recognizes that Dean is spinning out of control emotionally (I mean, really, why else would Dean hit his beloved brother?)

I think it still stands that Sam's never hit Dean while not on drugs or under some other influence - though, correct me if I'm wrong. I'm not saying that Sam doesn't vent his anger in unhealthy ways, he just doesn't vent it at Dean.

Personally, I also have a pretty short violent fuse...and I'm either in tight control of it, or I'm hitting people and things that I shouldn't. And it's not because I was abused as a kid, it's just who I am...so, yeah, I don't actually think that John HIT his kids. But, I think he did raise them in an environment where emotions were suppressed rather than addressed in a healthy manner.

Anyway, I'm glad you liked the story!! It was a fun 'what if' scenario to explore. :)

saltandburnboys
Jun. 17th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
OMG that was amazing- the repeat of 'lay off- I'm fine' and Sam just gets it-like Dean just expects everyone to act this way to him- awesome-well done! x
hells_half_acre
Jun. 17th, 2011 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!

Poor Dean and his massive self-esteem issues...especially back in S1/S2.
michiru7422
Jul. 14th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
I just found this story yesterday, and I just had to comment to say how much this story breaks my heart. I really, really like it, in the sense that it's so REAL, but it breaks my heart. Especially here:

So Sam wasn't really surprised the first time Dean hit him.

You do a good job of capturing not only how hurt Dean is in the story but Sam too (e.g., how he deals with what he's seen by researching and being THERE for his brother no matter what).

I'd kind of like to see the opposite end of this now, like how you work in how Dean was protecting Sam. I'd like to see how Dean reacted to Sammy seeing what happened. Please?
hells_half_acre
Jul. 14th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, I'm glad you like it!

It's kind of weird to write a story like this one, since I don't believe that John ever actually physically abused his kids. It's sort of a weird AU 'verse for me. :P

I had never considered doing a companion piece from Dean's POV. I've got a lot of things on the go right now, but I'll certainly keep it in mind. I'm very flattered that you would like to see more.

Thank you very much for reading and commenting!
et_tu_lj
Aug. 22nd, 2011 05:51 am (UTC)
(I'm stalking all your fic now, can you tell?) ;)

Very well done. I'm not sure whether I think there was physical abuse there or not, but it's within the realm of possibility. And this is exactly what it would've looked like. Dean's patterns make sense explained that way, as do Sam's. Poor boys.

It's a hard topic, but you've handled it well. <3
hells_half_acre
Aug. 22nd, 2011 03:49 pm (UTC)
(I had a suspicion) ;)

The ironic this is that I don't actually believe there was ever any physical abuse. I think there was accidental emotional abuse though. I just wanted to explore the possibility, and, like you said, Dean's patterns do make sense in that context.

I'm glad you liked it and felt that I handled the topic well. :)
pag01
Jul. 16th, 2012 06:24 am (UTC)
well done!
hells_half_acre
Jul. 16th, 2012 06:29 am (UTC)
Thanks!
lindaleriel
Mar. 15th, 2013 07:46 am (UTC)
This was wonderfully horrible. I agree with everyone that I don't think John ever hit the boys as kids. Definitely physical and emotional neglect and some unintentional but still pretty bad emotional and mental abuse. (dragging kids into that world of monsters is mental abuse in itself to my mind) But I could totally see him throwing a single punch once they were late teens/adults though, especially Dean, he's always seen Dean more as a solider than a child, how much more so once he was actually an adult? Anyway, yeah, thinky thoughts. I loved this though.

Edited at 2013-03-15 07:46 am (UTC)
hells_half_acre
Mar. 15th, 2013 07:55 am (UTC)
Thanks! And yes, definitely neglect and emotional/mental abuse, but I don't actually think he hit them - this was just a little "what if" character exploration. I don't even think he would hit Dean as a teenager, because I think the whole "can't hit my kid" would be so drilled into his mind that it'd be against his instincts. I do think that the emotional/mental abuse (unintentional though it may have been) was stepped up a notch when they were teenagers though, which would have contributed even more to Sam wanting out/away and would probably be enough to cause Dean to be more likely to lash out violently himself... anyway, uh, yeah, thinky thoughts!
thehiddenfear
Jun. 11th, 2013 08:42 pm (UTC)
that was a very good little story. i like how you had sam think their father didnt deserve dean's loyalty, personally i cant stand their father he annoyed the hell out of me. i dont think he would be abusive per se, i reckon he just would have taken a swing at them when angry or drunk, and dean, trying to protect sam, probably took more despite it always being sam who john disagreed with.
but it does annoy me when dean hits sam, i would like him to hit back, or even just fight back (having him win without demon blood would be nice too), because there have been sometimes, especially in season seven and eight when dean thoroughly deserved a good smack but sam doesnt work like that (personally i think its because hes sweeter than dean and wont hit his brother, hell just sit there and brood in silence to make dean feel bad).
overall a very good little story!
hells_half_acre
Jun. 11th, 2013 09:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

As I said, I don't actually think John ever psychically abused the boys, but he did accidentally mess them up psychologically quite a bit.

I think Dean tends to lash out violently more because he's go-to method of dealing with emotions is to repress them - Sam tends to be more in tune and accepting of what he's feeling, whether or not they're actually healthy emotions.
shinybiancachu
Oct. 10th, 2015 03:24 pm (UTC)
Liked that Sam has rules.

Poor Dean. I don't see John as being abusive, but I think it's an interesting take on him.
hells_half_acre
Oct. 10th, 2015 05:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Same here about John - this was just a thought exercise, but while John failed at parenting in a lot of ways, I don't think he was every physically abusive.
(no subject) - shinybiancachu - Oct. 10th, 2015 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
borgmama1of5
Nov. 29th, 2015 03:21 pm (UTC)
Ah-ha, tracking down your early stuff from before I knew you!

And this is perfect. It wouldn't surprise me if John had occasionally hit Dean, and then been sorry about it later, and of course Dean would have accepted it as what he deserved.

Sam awareness and decision to treat Dean differently feel very Sam-ish.
hells_half_acre
Nov. 29th, 2015 04:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks! And yeah, this is pretty early writing from me. :)
borgmama1of5
Feb. 20th, 2017 08:32 pm (UTC)
Oh god.

This hurts.
hells_half_acre
Feb. 20th, 2017 08:53 pm (UTC)
Sorry! (not really sorry)

*HUGS*
( 54 comments — Leave a comment )

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