This is a powerful piece of fic and I love it. Please read it, even if you don’t want to read my commentary, please read the fic.
Title: Parts of Speech
Author: mona1347 (with generous help, as always, from poisontaster. The "adverb" section, in particular, would not exist without her talking to me late one night, literally in the dark, with me under the covers and Dean!muse crying in my lap.)
Rating: A for Angst. No sex (sorry), some language. Dean gen-fic basically (WTF is up with all the GEN I'm writing lately? Returning to my roots? Nostalgia?)
Warnings/Spoilers: None. Pre-series.
A/N: Uh, so upon completing her outstanding beta for this piece, poisontaster had this to say: "I don't even have the words to describe what a h0r you are, but I take deep satisfaction in that I won't be the only one broken by this. There will be tears before dawn, mark my words."
So, um, take that as a warning or something.
Summary: When Sammy left, Dean had to learn all the ways to speak again.
[Okay, this is my second fic commentary, so here goes. :D]
I will wander out
Test my tether to
See if I'm still free
Steady as it comes
I've said it all
So maybe we're a bliss
Of another kind
Lately I'm into circuitry
What it means to be
Made of you but not enough for you
~ 'Bliss,' Tori Amos
When Sammy left, Dean had to learn all the ways to speak again. [And here we go, start off with something so short and yet it cuts you so you bleed.]
[I really like how Mona started each one of these sections. I will talk about the overall fic at the end, but I must say this division is awesome.]
Dean liked "and". It was a good, solid word. Sam and Dean. Some amalgam, like they had their own secret name that meant the two of them together...Samandean. Then other words came.
I can stay "or" I can be happy.
I love you, Dean, "but" I want to have a life.
Dean has loved exactly three people in his entire life.
One is dead, one left him and the last could barely stand to look at him because he was just a "Dean" now; the broken and chipped half of a formerly matched set. [The comparison to a ‘set’ of something like dishware is gorgeous. The lead-in from the samandean into a missing half of a set just sets up a great metaphor for what I can actually envision the Winchesters being after Sam left.] Dean could no longer do what he was born and bred to do; take care of Sammy. Not if Sam walked away. Not if Sam refused him, called him "Daddy's little fucking lieutenant" and blew away to a foreign land called "college" and "normal".
Dean was comfortable with verbs. He remembered his 4th grade teacher calling them "doing words" and he'd thought, "Yeah. I like that." He generally didn't have the same use for words that Sam did, for talking and whining and reasoning and arguing, but those "doing words" he liked a lot. [This reference is a great throw back and a great way to get us in touch with our inner child. Having Dean relate ‘doing words’ to being a kid just reminds me of when I was a kid and learned about ‘action words.’ The nostalgic reference just solidifies the heartbreak by having us relate to Dean more.]
Punch. Kick. Spin. Hit. Throw. Run. Fuck. Shoot. Stab. Kill. Hurt. Leave. [The gradual turn from fighting to hurting is great because it’s the reoccurring theme and you might be able to parallel the reoccurrences of hurt and leaving with Dean’s thoughts that (I assume) keep constantly coming back to hurting and Sam.]
Well. Maybe not all of them.
Three days after Sam left, Dean went to New York City for two weeks. Dad, scowling and shut tight, sent him on a job in Connecticut, exactly in the opposite direction from Sam. As far across the continent as he could get. The old man was more perceptive than he liked to let on and he must have known the temptation would be too great to go to Palo Alto, drag Sam back or beg for peace or any number of things Dean might do if he'd gone anywhere farther west than the Rocky Mountains. [This makes me wonder if John understands Dean more than we think. Like does he actually understand his boys as much as we do?]
Those old New England biddies who'd been burned at the stake for being run of the mill village weirdos were pissy bitches, that's for sure. He had two new scars (careless mistakes) because of them and had to make an unscheduled stop late one night at James’ old farmhouse to re-up on ammo. James didn't ask any questions, didn't ask about Sam and didn't ask Dean to stay. Dean figured that his father called ahead and told him. James was always a classy bastard like that. [I love the idea of random OCs like Joshua and Caleb that are out there who are just as great and just as valid. I like that Mona approaches the aspect of adding in an OC as opposed to just regurgitating a character we’ve heard of before.]
He drove south, figuring that in a state this small, he'd run into I-95 again eventually. He drove through several frighteningly picturesque towns, one after another quaintly beautiful screen of lies to cover up the darkness.
Normal wasn't real, why the fuck did Sam want something so not-real?
A little over an hour later, Dean merged onto the interstate and followed it back west through the metropolitan sprawl that ceased to be New England and started to be New York well before the state line. He shut off his cell phone, locked it in the glove box and parked his car somewhere in New Rochelle. He grabbed his duffel and got on a commuter train into the city because fucked if he was going to mess with his baby's brakes that way and put her in danger of all those lunatic cabbies. [I love this idea, of Dean locking up everything, locking up his practical self and going to get lost. I love that the Impala will sit and wait for him. I love that he has to separate himself from his life to grieve or get better. I love that he knows himself enough to understand his need to get away and that he knows the only way to feel better is to stop and do it. By locking up his cell phone Dean is cutting himself off from his dad, thus making sure he doesn’t get sent on any jobs. By leaving he can lick his wounds like a scared animal. By leaving he can grieve.]
Dean arrived at Grand Central and got straight on the subway. Rode it up the first line to arrive and back down again, shoulder pressed hard against the dirty-metal smell of the vibrating wall.
He did that for almost three days; bought hot dogs, chips and soda from vendors, nudged back against the press of bodies during rush hour, felt anonymous skin and sweat against his own, touching people who'd never remember his face if they'd ever really seen it at all. Dean rode the trains as long and as far as he could. He slept under a bench at night, his face rubbing against the nylon of his bag, head cradled against the wood and metal hardness of his weaponry. [The fact that Dean can’t even function enough to stay somewhere comfortable proves how broken he is.]
Dean stayed in the dark, lived underground. [Is this a metaphor for how Dean has learned to hide his emotions in the dark? Could be.]
He stopped mainlining coffee. Stopped drinking it entirely, just cold-turkey, and leaned there each day, slumped in the dirty plastic-covered seat against the rumbling curve of the train car, and throbbed with the pain in his head, drowsed with sluggish nothingness coursing through his veins.
When yet another still-drunk party girl almost threw up in his lap early in the morning of the third day, Dean realized that stopping "doing words" just meant he had the time to think. Things kept happening, all around you, even if you were doing nothing at all. He thought, deep down, maybe that's why he came here. [I love how NOW is where we understand what Dean is doing, why he is doing this. He’s not just grieving, he’s not living, or as close to.]
There were verbs even underneath New York City. [Hmmm this makes me think, because I’m not sure I would have picked NYC to get rid of verbs. The city that never sleeps, never stops ‘doing,’ seems like an odd choice, but I don’t think it hinders anything really. But you can also look at it another way. You can look at it like Dean lives in all those little nowhere towns and sees all those little places, Dean lives in the places in between, so on one hand it would make sense for him to get lost among people. He has to leave what he's used to to stop living.]
Dean didn't see the famous skyline until midmorning on that third day. Usually he hated super-cities like this, hated how crowded and noisy they were. But this time, he found the constant activity comforting. White noise for his brain. [Going back to the thing where Dean is trying not to think, trying not to live.] He lost himself in the anonymity and grime.
He didn't need to lie in a place like this because no one ever asked him any questions. No one made mindless small talk or "made'ja feel welcome." [The fact that this is in speech terms works out so well, simply for the fact that you can hear the mocking tone in it, as well as the fact that it goes with the overall theme. Nice.] No one remembered his face and no one ever asked his name. A million bodies moving through space and time, a million lives that had nothing to do with him at all.
Dean couldn't be all alone with himself. Couldn't deal just then with living as someone else in a small town. The crushing weight of "missing Sam" – the "verb-ness" of it -- meant he couldn’t be anything but Not Fine and he needed to be invisible for that. [OH DEAN.]
Dean liked to sit somewhere -- there were a million somewheres in New York; benches, stoops, barstools, fire escapes, big rocks in a park, overturned milk crates and gutters -- and watch all the people around him. Outside of him. Near to him.
All these people who weren't Sam. Sam who belonged to him. Sam who was inside him, of him, for him.
Far from him.
[This is beautiful. Poetic and poignant and the simplicity and raw emotion in it is amazing. The lead up of all the parts of Dean that Sam is and then the cut and sting of how Sam wants away. This simple little part breaks me so much.]
thing [I love that this is split up into three parts. Nouns are everything and when you’re growing up you learn that a noun is a ‘person, place, or thing.’ By splitting this noun section up into three parts, it really proves that this is about speech and not just the parts of words. This fic could have been titled ‘Parts of a sentence’ or something, but by dividing it up and making us think about the whole ‘person, place, or thing’ thing, we hear it in our heads, thus making it audibly spoken. If it were just one section, we wouldn’t make that connection, and the fic could be seen as a 'parts of literature' type deal.]
Dean never had a lot of things. Not since all his clothes and toys and books and games and Theodore the Stuffed Bear burned up with his mother. Two nights later, Dean was wrapped around Baby Sammy in his crib. It was too small for both of them but Dean made it work by holding very still and curling carefully tight around Sam’s small squirmy body. He listened to his father not-sleeping -- sometimes muttering, sometimes making sounds Dean would think were crying noises except that his Daddy was a big grownup and Daddy’s don’t cry. [Okay, stop and think about this for a second. Dean, the macho guy that he is, was raised to ‘not cry’ and now look at what he’s doing, he’s getting lost in NYC because he is so filled with the need to emote or cry that he can’t do anything but break. This seemingly small reference, to make us understand Dean’s need for Sam (even as a small child) also enforces why Dean is in NYC in the first place.]
Dean counted each wispy hair on the back of Sammy’s mostly-bald head and thought, Please God. It’s okay if you keep Theodore and my checkers and my t-ball set and my football and all that stuff but please let me keep Sammy and Daddy and bring Mommy back. You can keep all that stuff if I can have Sammy and Daddy and Mommy, okay? Thank you. Love, Dean Winchester.” [This breaks my heart in a sad and yet good way. Reference of Dean as a little boy only makes everything so much harder to bear. Poor Dean.]
That was before he learned that you can never get people back, you could only try to keep hold of them to begin with. That all he could do was hold on to Sam and Dad with all he had. That was before he realized that God had nothing to do with what happened to his Mother and all his unimportant things. That God probably had very little to do with much of what happened in the world if the evidence of what he’d seen by the time he started Kindergarten meant anything at all. [In this paragraph you can see how bitter Dean feels about his childhood and about God. You can see how he became who he is. You can feel his hurt and anger, even though it’s just a reference to how Dean has felt and not how he is feeling at this exact point in time.]
Dean owned what he could fit in his car and had a more compact version of those things – the ones that he considered essentials -- that fit into a long duffel bag. It was a long bag mostly because of the shotgun. He took this bag with him whenever he left his car for a period longer than a few hours. [A soldier, plain and simple.]
If he ever lost any of it, which sometimes happened, he didn't feel anything but irritation at the trouble it would be to acquire a replacement. [This makes me wonder, is this because Dean actually believes and knows that possessions aren’t everything or is this because he was raised and told that nothing matters as much as the job. Or is it some sort of ingrained force of habit to where he’s learned just to never possess anything – and he’s become resentful of the thought of owning anything. (I could totally go down a road involving Dean’s psyche and how he’s resentful of others and Sam and all kinds of meta crap, but I won’t because it’s slightly off topic.]
Dean had been a lot of places and he had a story for each one.
Here was where he ate that undercooked barbeque that gave him food poisoning. Where fifteen year old Sam laid cool towels on his head and emptied and cleaned the motel garbage can over and over so Dean wouldn’t have to lurch to the bathroom each time he threw up. [This is nice because it’s one of the rare times in fic where you
Dean was so sick he couldn’t even move or think and Sam read him things out of his boring old books, stolen from a hundred different small town libraries. Stuff about the Crusades and slash and burn agriculture that let Dean drift in and out of sleep, listening to the soft rise and fall Sam’s voice, let him lean into the long-fingered touch ghosting through his hair without shame.
There was where Sam broke his arm. Where he was so brave and small and kept his tears from falling so that they shimmered on his eyelashes, glimmered in a film that magnified and reflected the strange green-brown color of his eyes. [This just brings to mind parent!Dean and how he’s the one who fixed the non-threatening ouchies and who soothed Sam when he had to. This sentence just brings to mind parent!Dean simply for the fact that Dean is remembering Sam as a little boy, remembering him as his baby.] They hadn’t been there long enough for Sammy to make any friends (Dean had stopped bothering unless said "friends" would potentially suck his cock) so Dean signed Sam’s cast over and over, a little more every day in differently colored pens and markers and crayons, until it looked like overlapping layers of graffiti. Until the white plaster was covered in spidery sixteen year old boy handwriting; Dean’s name and Sam’s name and all the aliases they’d had that Dean could remember. Band logos and dirty limericks and filthy words strung together in sentences that made no sense and “Samuel Winchester wears girl’s underwear” in the spot just under Sam's elbow where no matter how he twisted, no matter how much gangly length he'd stretched into in the past months, Sammy couldn’t see it. [And this last bit just brings me to think of sibling!Dean and how Dean would make Sam feel better without acting so much like a parent and more of a brother/friend.]
There were so many goddamn people in New York and none of them were the right one. [Ouch.]
People and music and voices and things that made no sense, that wound in and around each other until it all became white noise. Sliced-up glimpses of a dozen lives' dramas unfolding on every block. Banging pipes and hissing steam and squawking car horns. Burbling languages he didn't understand and shoving bodies, swirling with fabric against his thieving fingertips. [And now we get into how harsh the world is and how rough everything is. How Dean is interpreting the world around him more negatively due to his mood, or the fact that he’s just a giant ball of woobie. You could also look at this as the most obvious person that should be mentioned here doesn't even really get a sentence. There's no need to define 'person' because it's already throughout the fic.]
You. I. Him. Me.
[God. This is pain. The simple little words here drive home the theme and cut down to the bone. Maintaining the theme while ripping us with emotion. Beautifully heartbreaking and so full of Dean’s love.]
Dean missed Sam like the ocean would miss the heavens if it turned its face away, if the sky and sea no longer reflected off one another, bouncing blue and grey and pink and orange light-waves back and forth until no one could know where the colors came from to start with. [The cheesy descriptions here aren’t so much cheesy as desperately painful. You can understand the depths of Dean’s pain because, who else can you imagine Dean saying this about.]
Dean reeked of tequila. The motel room floor smelled like a hundred thousand shoes. It smelled like dirt and come and piss. These ugly awful choked sounds forced themselves between his lips; Dean couldn't even understand how it could really be him making those noises. [The fact that Dean is making sounds just breaks you. In everything we’ve seen Dean doesn’t cry/sob, he doesn’t make noise unless he’s in extreme physical pain. The fact that he’s making noise and sad is just a testament to how broken he is.]
He was scared. He was so fucking scared. He's alone. He'd never been alone. [Mona is brilliants; Dean’s abandonment issues are the reason he’s so shattered. Sam leaving him was something that he probably never really had to think about, and now that Sam’s gone, Dean’s just broken and shattered.]
Sam won't talk to him.
God, he wanted to call Sam, just hear his voice. Sam never said not to call him, right? He didn't say anything at all. Maybe he was waiting for Dean to make the first move. Maybe if Dean just called him…
Sam didn't pick up. Dean breathed into the voice mail for a full minute before throwing the white plastic motel room phone against the wall. He thought that probably hung it up. [Interesting that Dean is showing his anger here, that he’s not acting hurt. Is it perhaps because it is instinctive to Dean to not act ‘hurt/sad/depressed/broken/angsty’ around Sam?]
Dean didn't like to modify his verbs. He does what he does and shuts up about it. If he had to explain it, describe it, qualify and quantify it, he's not doing it right.
Modifying a verb is like modifying a gun. It can make it better, deadlier. [Hmm interesting because deadlier is an adverb of the word dead, so I guess the reference is valid, although it makes you wonder about the word in the first place. How can you be more dead? This is brilliant, that Mona gave Dean an adverb to use, but a false one at that. It really backs up his argument of not liking adverbs for their pointlessness. Good word choice and a greatly intricate addition to the fic.] Or it can make it useless for what it was designed to do. You could quite easily fuck it all up, make it backfire in your face.
Lovingly. Protectively. Responsibly.
Adverbs were in Dean's heart. He didn't let adverbs go very often. They lived inside him, mostly. [And I can imagine this. Dean understanding that he hates adverbs because he can’t escape them.]
Adjectives were the hardest.
He was just Dean now. Not Sam's brother Dean. Not The Protector Dean. Not even Dean, The Hunter.
Dean wondered if he’d gone colorblind. He saw things and knew they were a color, but he couldn't quite make it out or give a name to it. [This is good because Dean is talking about how there are no more adjectives to describe him, and now some of his other adjectives are lost with him.]
He got jerk chicken from the little storefront (the awning was painted in three fat stripes of what he thought was black, red and green but he couldn't be sure) next to the motel and he could taste all the colors of spice in it but he couldn't... he just didn't... [This makes me feel tired. It makes me want to just sort of give up. It’s depressing and hard to read (so kudos to Mona) but you can relate to how Dean is feeling and you can just feel what he feels, feel that emptiness.]
Dean felt hollowed out, a shell. He wondered if everything that modified him was erased along with the constant of Sam's scent in the air around him.
The old woman's skin was the thin yellow-brown of worn parchment.
She wore a blindingly lime green skirt suit with a matching veiled hat that extended far beyond the circle of space occupied by her shoulders and hips. Her arms and legs were tiny and thin, rickety like an old wooden chair. Dean couldn't imagine how someone could stand and walk and pick things up and put them back down with limbs that spindly.
He'd gotten into the same cab her as her, from opposite sides. He just stared at her for a minute, wondering what to do, but she didn't even look at Dean. Just told the driver where she was going and the driver just went. She didn't seem to see him at all and Dean wondered if she was blind. Then she started to speak and he knew she was definitely full-tilt, batshit crazy.
The whole time they jerked and swerved through mid-day traffic she talked to herself. The cabbie ignored her in that outstanding New Yorker way of dismissing all the wild shit that went on around them because if they stopped for every little piece of insanity that crossed their path, they'd never do anything else.
Her huge plastic glasses magnified her eyes, the effect merging with her spindly limbs into something insectoid and almost holy.
She just kept talking, saying crazy, disjointed stuff. "How the hell did I get to this place? Did you bring me here? I was visiting my son Charles in Brooklyn. Not Mark. Mark is disappeared now, chil' done run off with that whore of a girl he made babies with. I told him… Are we in midtown? I haven't been in midtown in years now and... Which hospital is that? Where are you taking me? They put a paper bracelet on my arm the last time and I couldn't get it off for weeks after. One day it finally just came right off and almost went down my tub-drain, that's what; I'm never going back there again and I see…" [Interjecting the fic with a random woman and her complete randomness fits so perfectly under the ‘interjection’ part.]
Dean shifted without really thinking about it. The leather of his jacket squeaked against the vinyl of the seat. The woman jumped and turned and actually saw him, looked him right in the face as if he'd just appeared. Jesus, she wasn't blind at all just…lost.
She said, staring straight into Dean's eyes, "Is there somebody here with me?"
He didn't want to scare her so he used his most soothing tone when he responded, "I'm just sitting in here next to you, ma'am."
"Who are you in here next to me, Pretty?"
Dean didn’t know the etiquette for this sort of situation and would probably ignore it if he did so he just stupidly replied, "I'm Dean."
She nodded like that was the right answer, put a withered brown hand over his and leaned into him -- he smelled old lady perfume and stale breath. "I'm just trying to find my way back to myself, Pretty. Just trying to find my way back. To myself, you understand?"
"Yes I do, ma’am,” Dean said, meeting her eyes seriously.
They rode to her destination with her thin, cool hand resting over his. He stepped slowly with her, holding her bird-boned arm gently, up the three flights of stairs to her small apartment. He fixed the busted lock on her front door, the drawer that "stuck funny" in the kitchen and tightened the leaky faucet that kept her awake at night. He left her with a warm cup of tea in her shaky hands. She brushed a light, dry kiss over his cheek and said, "You’re a good boy, Pretty. Run on home now." [And now we can see that Dean is starting to be less broken. Not really fixed, but he’s just learning to move on and his grieving is coming to a close. He’s not so out of it that he can’t relate to the world around him. He’s letting himself re-learn who he is and who he’s supposed to be. (supposed to be, in the positive sense of the phrase – meaning he lost himself and now he's finding himself again – not the negative of he shouldn’t be a certain way.)]
"Yes, ma’am. I think I’ll do that."
He took another cab back to the motel to pick up his things. Rode the subway to Grand Central, took the Metro North back out to his car and then drove west with the windows rolled up to hold onto the scent of Sam, bled and sweated into the leather upholstery. [Heart breaking a little. But at least Dean is able to formulate and understand that he can still cling to Sam. He’s still heartbroken, but he can cope now.]
He drove 200 miles, breathing in the echoing scent of Sam, Sam, Sam until he felt him permeate deep into Dean’s every cell, into every microscopic corner of himself.
[This story is amazing. Amazing.
If you don’t find this story amazing you’re on crack. When I first read this my reaction was speechless awe and I couldn’t even find the words to vocalize my love.
Let me start with this:
The original concept for this fic is awesome. AWESOME. Splitting up the parts of speech into eight sections for a fic is a breathtakingly awesome concept. Now to take this theme of speech/words and add in ANOTHER theme, just wow. To take the parts of speech and relate them to characters and actually relate and intersect the two themes into a fic that makes the themes cross and tangle is what really really works. Dean losing Sam is just… that is a powerful fic alone. A fic based on speech… that is a pretty cool fic. Combine them and you have something pretty fucking amazing.
Going off of the theme of Dean losing Sam and being hurt, one of the things I really love, is that this fic addresses Dean. We’ve read post-post Stanford fics and Post-Stanford fics, but when I first read this fic, and even still today this is one of, if not the only fic that solely essentialy addresses Dean hurting for Sam. This is the only fic I can really think of/remember that is strictly about Dean and his reaction. We’ve seen things multiple times from Sam’s POV, and a few from John’s, or the whole family, or John and Dean combined, but this is just Dean. Dean and his love for Sam.
One thing that catches me up is how broken Dean is. We’ve read fics involving Dean trying to pick up the pieces of the Winchester family, Dean trying to get John to open up. We’ve seen Dean try to be strong. This is the only fic I’ve read in which Dean is so broken that he can’t function. Some people could argue that well, if it’s not a typical popular assumption in fandom, then it must not be right, but that’s not true. I can actually see Dean doing this, which is the hardest thing of all. I can see Dean, after Sam leaves, how shocking it is, how the one person Dean never expected to leave, leaves. Dean is shattered.
Dean is a treasured SPN character, and not that Sam isn’t great, but as a Dean girl this fic is a defining piece. Dean is beloved and to write him so perfectly, it just sucks the breath out of you. The characterization of Dean is perfect and how achingly beautifully poetic all eight pieces of this fic are, it just-I can’t even define it. The way the themes consistently cross and work off of each other, the emotion, just everything in this just sings.
This fic is not only a fic but it is something essential. Mona took speech, language, and transformed it into fic. She took the language that we use every day for our world, our world of fandom, and made it live and breathe. She could have taken the mechanics of words and slung them together in a fic, but no, this fic is beautiful and perfect, she didn’t just write this theme, she wrote this theme.
I mean I just don't even know how to communicate how amazing this fic is. We, the fangirls, spend every day of our lives communicating via the written language and to take that whole essence, that whole thing, and make it into a fic is like taking and writing about our cultural heritage.
It's like, we're a community that doesn't have much (if any) of a history. We have no city, no population, no tangible sorts of tradition, we don't have much tying us into this reality. We have three things, we have the love of fandom, how we communicate – our language, and each other.
Mona once told me that this fic was a love letter; her love letter to Dean and Dean and Sam’s relationship, NYC, and language.
This fic isn't just a love letter to language, or Sam and Dean, it's a love letter to fandom, it's a love letter to our community and to who we are.]