Beta'd by the lovely, liptonrm - thanks, babe!
PG, Gen, Angst, Friendship, Dean & Gabriel, set during the 'missing year' between seasons five and six. 2,713 words.
Title: At The End Of A Brick Street
Author: The Artful Dodger / dodger_sister
Category: Angst, Friendship, Gen
Characters/Pairing: Dean & Gabriel
Spoilers: Idk, mildly for “Hammer of the Gods” and “Swan Song”.
Summary: Dean can’t decide if the angel sitting next to him is really there or just the ghost of a life Dean no longer has.
Word Count: 2,713 words
Date Written: 01/29/2011
Disclaimer: “Supernatural” is Eric Kripke’s and The CW Network’s. This story is mine. There is no money exchanging hands. Cool?
Feedback: Bring it. dodger_sister / TheArtofDodger@comcast.net
Beta’d: By the lovely liptonrm, who took some time out from studying for the Bar Exam to do me this solid.
Author's Notes: I don’t know where this came from, honestly. I was writing menel a SPN-as-Seinfeld AU but it wasn’t working out. I fell asleep thinking about how she really likes the relationship between Dean and Gabriel and woke up with this in my head. I managed to work in a reference to the first fandom we were ever in together, Lord of the Rings. And a shout-out to Ben Affleck, because she likes to mock my undying love for The Affleck! This is a little angsty for a birthday fic, but I was just having one of those weeks.
Dedication: menel, for your birthday - I am forever grateful that we both found our way to the Supernatural fandom and back to each other after all these years. And because I know it was Dean and Gabriel that got you writing in this fandom, I offer you this fic. /double fist bump/
Downtown, at the end of a brick street, sat an old two-screen movie house. The lobby was decorated with red velvet drapes and movie posters from the 1940s with tacky gold frames.
On Fridays, they ran action movies about to be released on DVD. On Sundays they ran children and family movies, ranging from ‘Bambi’ to the newest adaptation of ‘Nancy Drew’. And on Tuesdays they ran what were dubbed as classics, though as far as Dean could tell this was simply code for owner’s choice, and ranged from Clark Gable films to ‘Harry Potter’.
In the lobby was an old counter where they sold a small bag of popcorn for $1 and a small soda for $1.50. They also offered a wide range of candy and, if you were so brave, they had rotating hot dogs heating in the glass case.
Dean stumbled on the theater by accident one day, a few weeks after he had moved in with Lisa and Ben.
A few weeks after his world had ended, even if the rest of the world hadn’t.
Honestly, he was lost and just trying to turn the car around on the narrow street, when he spotted it. But it was Tuesday afternoon and Dean had nothing better to do and the marquee read ‘Con Air’, so Dean went inside.
He bought a popcorn and a soda and sat in the air conditioning for two hours. Nicolas Cage saved people and Dean was never opposed to watching Nick Cage save people. And in the end, he didn’t think about Sam, except that once, when he turned to say something and realized no one was sitting next to him.
Dean bought groceries on the way home.
He asked Lisa about the theater and got a rundown of the various owners and the renovations that had been done a few years back and how they always had a walk-through haunted house there each Halloween.
Dean went back the following Tuesday. They were showing some Cary Grant movie and Dean found that the man was funny and quick-witted and the only thing he missed was the sound of Sam’s laughter next to him.
The third week the elderly man behind the counter smiled at him, handed Dean his usual popcorn and soda combo and said, “I voted for Die Hard over Lethal Weapon, because Bruce Willis is the shit. But sadly, I was out-voted this week. Enjoy your movie.”
Dean agreed with the man, because Bruce Willis was the shit, and then went inside.
Halfway through the movie, while Danny Glover and Mel Gibson scrambled to their feet in front of an exploding house, someone sat down in the seat next to Dean. It was odd, since Dean was the only other person in the whole theater that day, but Dean kept looking straight ahead at the movie screen.
He tried to ignore the tingling sensation running up and down his spine, because he wasn’t a hunter anymore. But the scent of the man was too familiar and though his stomach was twisting and clenching, eventually Dean looked over.
The man continued looking at the movie screen, the twitch of one lone eyebrow the only indication that he knew Dean was watching him.
Dean didn’t say anything, because what do you say to someone who is clearly a delusion of your broken mind? Gabriel didn’t say anything either and that was okay with Dean, to be honest.
When the end credits started rolling, Gabriel got up and walked away without a word.
Without ever even looking at Dean.
The next week Dean was actually shaking when he entered the old movie house. The elderly man behind the counter took one look at him and asked, “Are you alright, son? You look like Death warmed over.”
Dean barked out a harsh laugh at that, because he wondered when everyone else would realize he was just an empty dead shell walking around.
“Think I got sun stroke yesterday,” he said after noticing the man’s concerned face.
“Well, have some water then,” the man told him and gave Dean a free bottle of water.
Dean mumbled a ‘thank you’ and went into the theater, took his usual seat.
Ten minutes into the movie Gabriel came and sat next to him.
Dean let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.
They watched the movie in silence.
When the end credits started, Dean turned to the man/angel/delusion and said, “I know you’re not really here.”
“Is anyone really here, Dean?” the delusion-Gabriel asked and then walked away.
Dean went to pick Ben up from soccer practice.
The week after that, the movie house ran the original ‘Sabrina’.
Dean ate half of his popcorn and then held out the bag for Gabriel.
He didn’t look to see if Gabriel ate it though, because that might answer the question Dean wasn’t ready to have answered.
“Katharine or Audrey Hepburn?” Gabriel asked halfway through.
“Audrey,” Dean told him. “She’s a classy lady and totally fierce.”
“Katharine is classier,” Gabriel replied.
“Bullshit,” Dean said.
When the end credits rolled Dean looked over to see Gabriel watching him intently.
“You look like shit, Winchester,” he said and then walked away.
Dean went and got his hair cut.
The following week the movie house showed ‘Apocalypse Now’. Dean tried to ignore the irony.
Instead he bought Gabriel a box of candy and, when his mind would start to wander back to his own apocalypse, Dean would ground himself with the soft chewing sound of Gabriel next to him, smacking away at Milk Duds.
“Ben made goalie,” Dean told him as the credits lit up. “Apparently it’s a great honor.”
Gabriel threw his empty candy box in to Dean’s empty popcorn bag. “The idea of you as a dad is both endearing and hysterical,” Gabriel replied before walking away.
“Sam always said it was the worst position on the team, “ Dean told no one, because there was no one to tell.
After that, it was practically a ritual. Tuesday mornings he would run the errands Lisa left scribbled out for him on the pink notepad stuck to the refrigerator. Some days they were ridiculous things, like buying more stamps at the post office even though Dean knew they weren’t anywhere near out of the ones he had bought last time. He wasn’t sure if it was reassuring or condescending that Lisa was thinking up things for him to do just to keep him busy.
In the afternoons he’d drive downtown, park in his usual spot and head inside.
Gabriel never joined him until the opening previews were done.
Dean always had assorted candy waiting for the one friend his broken mind was conjuring up for him. Dean wondered what it said about him that he was hallucinating Gabriel, of all people.
They’d sit in the dark, side by side, arms resting on the armrest, not quite touching. They would eat and occasionally talk, though never in a whisper. Gabriel apparently didn’t know how to whisper and Dean figured if the other four people in the theater minded, they would cuss him out.
“Dark Crystal or Labyrinth?” Gabriel asked him.
“Bowie?” Gabriel replied and gestured at the Goblin King on the screen.
“Bowie’s a bad-ass, glitter eyeliner included.”
“Bowie or Jennifer Connelly?”
Dean threw popcorn at Gabriel’s head.
“Ado Annie or Laurey?” Gabriel asked, as Curly danced and sang his way across the screen.
“That’s not fair,” Dean grumbled. “Ado Annie is a fine flirtatious woman. But Laurey is played by Shirley Jones.”
Gabriel smirked at him.
“You’re going to say Aunt Eller, aren’t you?” Dean asked.
Gabriel just shoved a handful of Sour Patch Kids into his mouth.
Their arms were on the armrest and Dean froze for a second when he felt them brush against each other.
Later he convinced himself it hadn’t happened, because delusions don’t give off body heat and they certainly aren’t soft and warm and alive.
He bought Lisa flowers on the way home.
Dean had a job interview.
He sat in the cool theater and listened to Gabriel smacking away on Gummi Worms and wondered if this was the last time they would do this.
“Gondor or Rohan?” Gabriel asked as the elves marched in to Helm’s Deep.
Dean shifted in his seat. “Gondor,” he said and tried not to worry if Gabriel would sit here alone and ask inane questions at himself, if Dean couldn’t do this anymore.
Gabriel looked thoughtful, then tilted his head at Dean and Dean was struck dumb at how eerily similar to another angel Gabriel looked right then.
“Because they stand against the darkness everyday,” Gabriel said and it wasn’t a question.
Dean nodded at him anyway.
Gabriel shrugged. “Yeah, but Riders of Rohan have horses. Horses, Dean.”
When Dean got the job he simply told his new boss - an older balding man behind a metal desk - that he had to have Tuesday afternoons off, no exceptions.
“I have grief counseling.”
“Grief counseling?” the man asked and scrunched up his face like he was reconsidering the job offer.
“I watched my little brother die in front of me earlier this year.” Dean was amazed at how his voice didn’t crack once during that sentence.
The man gaped at him for a moment and then signed Dean’s request form for Tuesday afternoons.
In the dim light of the opening of ‘Return of the King’, Dean caught sight of Gabriel’s wide shining smile.
The angel sat down and held out his hand for the candy and Dean put his arm up on the armrest and waited for Gabriel to do the same.
The theater shut down for a week at Halloween, so the local high school drama club could use it to run their haunted house.
Dean rented ‘Goonies’ because it seemed like Gabriel’s kind of movie and sat in Lisa’s living room and waited. He knew Gabriel wouldn’t show, but his heart beat faster every time he heard the wind pick up.
He wanted nothing more than to drive down to the end of the brick street and sit on the hood of the Impala with a box of Buncha Crunch in his hand and scream for someone to come.
Instead he waited an hour and then picked Ben up early from school and took him down to show off his Halloween costume to the high school kids just gathering outside the theater.
The kids smiled at Ben and some of the girls smiled at Dean and they took them through a dry run of the haunted house. Dean tried not to jump every time someone brushed up against him, because he knew none of them were actually Gabriel, even if he was pretending they were.
He made Ben promise not to tell his mom about them playing hookey from school and work.
“Bartleby or Loki?” Gabriel asked and gestured at the screen.
“This is a trick question,” Dean said, grinning. “Can I answer Azrael?”
“You can but the guy is a dick and in my family, that’s saying something.”
“Better choice, but it is true about his genitals. Poor bastard.”
Dean was still grinning wide when Gabriel added, “Like there is an acceptable answer to this dilemma besides Loki,” and then poked Dean in the side of his face.
Dean froze, whole body tense and shuddered from his toes on up.
“Please,” he whispered and didn’t even recognize his own voice. “Don’t.”
He felt it, the soft prodding touch of a finger against his cheek. Except he knew one of them was real and one of them wasn’t and now he was panicking about which was which.
Because Gabriel was dead and if he could feel him, then maybe Dean really had died in that field, after all.
Some days it made more sense than this.
Gabriel didn’t touch him again for many weeks.
“Lisa wants to go to Bobby’s for Thanksgiving. She says they should meet some of my family,” Dean told Gabriel one day, as Corey Feldman ran from a junkyard dog and a crazy old man with a shotgun.
“Is that what you want?” Gabriel asked him, without looking over.
“This is this life. That was that life,” Dean said.
“Is that fair to Bobby? Or Lisa?”
Gabriel turned to look at him then, their faces close enough together Dean could pretend that was actually Gabriel’s breath ghosting across his face.
“What do you want, Dean?” the angel asked and his voice was low and dark.
“I want Sam back,” Dean said and wondered if anyone was actually listening to him.
He got up and left then, even though the movie was only half over.
Two weeks before Christmas, everything changed.
They were sitting in the darkened theater, watching Jimmy Stewart run across the screen yelling about his joy of being alive. Dean was pointedly not grumbling about the stupidity of the great underlying moral of this movie, just as he was sure Gabriel was not grumbling about the stupidity of anyone believing that Clarence was actually an angel.
“I can’t come here anymore,” Gabriel said quietly.
“Just over the holidays?” Dean asked, though he knew the answer already.
“We can’t do this anymore,” Gabriel told him.
“I have to go live my life?” Dean asked, as if Gabriel were trying to teach him some great lesson instead of just cutting the last thread of anything that Dean was clinging too. If there was bitterness in his voice, Dean didn’t really care.
“And I have to go live mine.”
“You’re dead,” Dean said, but he was less sure now than he had been, maybe holding on to some sort of sick hope that they would all be back there someday, in that field. Even Gabriel.
“But you’re not. Dead.”
On screen, Clarence was getting his wings.
Dean nodded his head with a jerk and tried to stand, his head spinning as one world pulled away from him and another rushed at him too quickly.
A warm, firm hand wrapped around Dean’s wrist and he froze, his breath caught up in his chest somewhere.
“Dean,” and it was almost a plea.
He sank back into his chair.
“Dean, this is not the end.”
A finger tilted his chin up until he was meeting Gabriel’s eyes. The angel ran his palm along Dean’s cheek, brushed his thumb at the corner of Dean’s mouth.
“It was the end when Sam jumped,” Dean said, but he leaned in, pressed his forehead to Gabriel’s and sunk himself as far into the reality of that touch, of the breath warm on his face, as he could possibly manage.
“Be good, Dean,” Gabriel whispered and pressed soft lips to Dean’s forehead.
“Let me walk away first,” Dean choked, gripping Gabriel’s bicep, pulling him in until they were chest to chest.
Gabriel nodded and Dean stumbled out of his chair without looking behind him.
When he got back to work an hour early, eyes red and puffy, no one said a word.
The next Tuesday Ben was off for Christmas break. Dean took him to the Multi-Plex to see the new Narnia movie.
They got ridiculous amounts of junk food and afterward they played two games of air hockey in the little arcade area near the front entrance.
When someone hollered out, “Dean!” he froze up, gut clenching and tumbling, until their neighbor Bill waved them over.
Bill was there with his own boy and Dean tried to smile and will his stomach to unclench while he and Ben readily accepted the invitation to join Bill and his boy at the roller rink for a game of laser tag.
Ben grinned and bounced on his toes and Dean winked at him, because they both knew they were going to have a huge advantage over these guys at a game involving Dean and guns.
When Ben tugged Dean out of the theater, Dean ruffled his hair and laughed.
It was a good afternoon, all in all.
Even if Dean’s mind occasionally strayed to a two-screen movie house down at the end of a brick street.