Title: Life After Life
Fandom/Genre: Supernatural, Het (non explicit), Futurefic, Character Study
Characters: Dean Winchester, others (5.22 spoilers) highlight: Lisa Braeden, Ben Braeden, mentions of Sam Winchester
Word Count: 1,094
Warnings: none to speak of aside from major spoilers for 5.22
Spoilers: Up through 5.22
Disclaimer: Written for fun, not profit; anything you recognize belongs to Kripke, Warner Bros., et al.
A/N 1: This is the second in a series of seven fics my post-5.22 ‘verse. Can be read as a stand-alone.
A/N 2: Many thanks to Carlos and calamitycrow for the beta!
Summary: Dean used to compare his life to action movies—Star Wars, Bonnie and Clyde, that sort of thing. Now he realizes he's got more in common with Rose Dawson from Titanic than he’d like to acknowledge. Set post 5.22, a character study in which Dean compares his life to the movies.
Also available on: AO3
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Life after Life
Dean Winchester has spent his life comparing himself to characters in movies and TV shows. For a kid growing up with few constants in his life beyond the rumble of the Impala’s wheels over the expansion joints of old highways and the static-y buzz of hotel television sets, it’s no wonder he—he and Sam found comfort and escape in “T.J. Hooker” and “Thundercats” and “The A Team.” As he got older, grew into being the grownup he’d been since he was four years old, the kinds of films and characters he identified with mutated, shifted. He no longer thought about being cool like Luke Skywalker or Optimus Prime, but daydreamed about going out in a blaze of glory like the titular characters in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or maybe Bonnie and Clyde—or when he was hanging around with Sam and his emo, artistic friends—like True Romance or Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
Sometimes he imagines he and Sam are gonna save the world like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day, only without the highly improbable computer viruses and from ghosts or werewolves instead of aliens, but that’s the idea. Big damn heroes and all that shit.
Dean still identifies with film and characters in his new life, his civilian life. Only they’re not the sort he would expect.
When Ben is in eighth grade, his English teacher, who Dean ultimately decides is a woefully misguided excuse for a human being who finds things like love and death and soul-crushing loss are romantic, assigns Titanic to her class to watch and analyze as a “modern classic.” Dean’s all geared up to heckle it with Ben and joke about having to analyze a total chick flick, but then they’re halfway through and Dean feels the dread rising inside him, ready to close like a fist around his heart, three-quarters of the way and the bile’s rising in his throat, right before the end and he’s crying like a baby, listening to Rose telling Jack she’ll never let go, and that’s when he realizes, he’s Rose. Goddamnit, how the hell did that happen? It’s a rhetorical question, of course, he knows perfectly well he got here because his brother died to save the world and made him promise to live a full and happy life. But while Rose gets her happy heaven filled with everyone who went down with the ship, Dean knows without a doubt the person he most wants to see again won’t be waiting for him in some grand ballroom in heaven. So instead, he curses Ben’s teacher and decides James Cameron has undoubtedly earned himself a choice spot in hell and grudgingly gives Titanic his respect.
He makes the mistake of watching AI with Lisa. It’s on Cinemax, and it’s their anniversary, and Dean is trying to be cultured and he thinks why the hell not? After all, it’s Spielberg, how bad can it be?
Dean has got to learn to stop tempting fate. Because how bad, is really a loaded question… one whose answer includes Lisa mumbling on about ‘triggers’ and cursing the lack of adequate warnings on films, and Dean sitting on their couch shaking, thinking about eternity and wondering if fifty years from now sitting at the bottom of the ocean begging the blue fairy to let him see Sam again will seem like a good idea. He’s not sure if Lisa always knew so much psychology, or if it’s something she picked up only after he moved in, he doesn’t really want to know. He also wishes he didn’t know so much about eternity and Heaven and Hell, because maybe then he wouldn’t feel so empty and lost… But then again, he’s pretty sure wishing is the path to insanity. Just look where it got Haley Joel. Or that wishing well? Getting through the day-to-day is okay, good even, most of the time. It’s just thinking about forever… and damn Steven Spielberg’s immortal robots for taking him to that place. It takes Lisa three more hours to talk him back to himself. Shitty way to spend their anniversary. They never watch the movie again, and it’s a long time before he’ll watch anything Spielberg’s involved in. (Which sucks because he really does love Indiana Jones!)
For some reason, he never saw Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End when it was new. Later he’ll realize that probably had a lot to do with the ticking clock of the deal hanging over his head. When the movie was new he was getting ready to die. When Ben sits down to watch it with his friends, Dean thinks it could be a fun bonding experience. It’s Bruckheimer; that means lots of mindless explosions and overpriced special effects. Dean really should have known better. He promises he’ll learn this lesson sometime… maybe by the time he’s eighty. Afterwards he wishes he’d never watched the damn thing. Realizing you have a lot in common with Rose in Titanic is bad enough. Sitting on the couch biting his tongue over stupid characters who stupidly try to keep promises to their fathers and save each other and bring each other back from the dead and make deals with gods and monsters… it’s too much like his old life, and damned if he isn’t a little (okay a lot) jealous of Elizabeth at the end getting her one day of happiness each decade.
And that’s when he realizes this has got to stop. He’s not miserable. Really. He doesn’t spend his days moping and dwelling and visiting his personal ghosts. It’s just… some part of him keeps looking to the old comforts, the identity and escape a good movie provides, and he’s always caught off guard, off balance when he reaches for it and instead of comfort he cuts himself on the jagged edges of his past.
In the movies sometimes characters find life after death. But almost none of them have to worry about life after life still stuck on earth doing more of the same old thing. Okay, so maybe there’s Highlander and a couple immortals named MacLeod and they’re badass and cool and all that stuff, but by now Dean’s figured out that any comfort that identification might bring will be overshadowed by the ghosts the movies dredge up. Maybe he’ll be ready in another five years, maybe ten. But for now he’ll wait. Maybe stick to sitcoms, and try not to think about how much better Rose Dawson was at this living-for-someone-else gig.