Author: Regala Electra
Warnings: Violence, Language, Disturbing Imagery
Spoilers: S2 In My Time of Dying
Summary: It feels like normal. That’s how Dean knows everything’s gone to hell.
Author's Notes: Dean's nightmare: a normal life in the suburbs. Throw in a little Alice in Wonderland, The Princess Bride, Fantasia, Talking Heads, and Groundhog's Day and you've got yourself a nice slice of hell. Word count is a bit over 2,500.
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself - well...how did I get here?
It's an ordinary day.
The street is quiet in that early morning way, lazy as all get out. Sunlight streams through lacy curtains. He wakes under the warmth of good sheets and a goose-down comforter covering his legs. The comfortable curve of a woman beside him, her fingers curled into a gentle sleeper's fist over his chest.
It feels like normal.
That's how Dean knows everything's gone all to hell.
His wife smells like artificial flowers, but the perfume and the fancy soap and the delicate bottles of shampoo stored in their bathroom doesn't hide that tinge of sulfur, edging all around her flowery scents.
She puts on lip liner first and fills in the spaces with a muted lipstick the color of first blush. He stares at her reflection doing this and she never once glances at him, asking why he just keeps on looking.
His daughter makes him watch Ella Enchanted far too many times than any red-blooded man can take. She's an innocent though and she says, Please, Daddy and the No that wants to escape his lips dies in his mouth.
Dean learns to tie the red, red ribbon in her hair and it's amazing how it isn't all that different from tying up a bandage on a fresh wound.
He wears no wedding band and the only ring on his finger is from his real life (this place here isn't real, he has to keep on repeating that).
Silver and smooth and well-worn. He twists it round and round and thinks of ways to escape.
He drives to their local church (apparently he married a Catholic) and gets himself some holy water, though he figures it's useless. This isn't real, after all. But he also buys salt in bulk quantities at the local Costco and tests out his new family.
Says Christo as a greeting while he brings in the big containers of salt to the house (he has a friggin’ foyer here). Nothing happens. No flinching and no eyes shifting into familiar demon shades (neither black, red, or yellow).
His wife only meekly objects to spilling the salt around all the doors and windows, frowning when he soaks her with the water. She looks down and only says how she needs to change her blouse now.
It's father-daughter time again, which means watching TV, because some traditions never change, not even in cracked out realities. They sit in front of the expensive family center: plasma flat-screen TV, hooked up to a slim-line cable box, TIVO, and state-of-the-art DVD player. Everything’s so shiny it should still have stickers on the perfect facade.
This time he puts on The Princess Bride. He's seen it before, maybe, in another life, when cable TV was cutting edge in motel rooms, especially when they offered HBO.
Besides, it's not an awful movie. It's damn near perfect. He laughs with his daughter in all the right places.
Are you Inigo Montoya or Westley, Daddy? She asks the question in that serious child voice. Like she's a real girl. There’s no edge of sulfur to her smell, unlike her mother. His daughter smells like baby powder and Johnson and Johnson Shampoo.
Neither, he says, I'm Fezzik. Only shorter and a better wrestler.
She scrunches into his side like a familiar weight (like his child), offering him her too-large bowl of popcorn. Instead he picks her up and sets her on his lap, asking her what she’d like to see next.
He doesn't eat the food. Never drink or eat, he's pretty sure of that. They watch Alice in Wonderland now, just so he can be sure.
It's like Groundhog's Day without the laughs. Or the power of being able to map out the identical patterns of a repeating day so that he can do things right just for one damn day. It's not that because this isn't a lesson. This is torture.
He wakes up and another day has passed. Only everyone remembers him as being normal the day before. Normal. The word’s become an ice bucket of expectations over his head and he tries to keep his sanity by breaking down that word every chance he gets.
He'd smashed every mirror in the house last night and they're all in pristine condition now. It's difficult to look at a reflection when it looks exactly like you.
Can't even purchase a fucking gun and he doesn't have any in the house.
He married a townie apparently, one with a long history and ties to the community. Everybody knows their name (her maiden name and his name, Winchester, and it sounds like a too-friendly howdy neighbor! when they say it to him). It's just like Cheers, only drinking himself into a stupor wouldn’t fucking help. He longs for a beer but isn’t about to slip-slide further into this rabbit hole.
He takes to digging up the graves of his wife's ancestors. It must be one of those bastards, unless it's her. And she’s too boring to be evil.
Still, there's got to be an answer, so why not her? He's getting too accustomed to the indifferent glances she shoots him when he doesn't say I love you back to her. He knows she's picked up on the way he flinches when she calls him her sweetheart.
He might have to ask for a divorce but first he has to burn the bones of her dearly departed Auntie Mildred.
Dean learns how to make breakfast from scratch. He’s an expert at making waffles; big, fluffy ones are his daughter’s favorites. He makes fresh orange juice that no one drinks (apparently here, he is the only one who likes it but he will not take one damn sip). Learns how to make eggs in every way and finds that his Sunnyside Up eggs are the most requested.
No hunger pangs ever hit him and his stomach doesn’t rumble in reaction to the food spread over the countertops and table.
His wife drinks decaf instant coffee despite them having one of those fancy cappuccino/coffee/espresso makers. She takes it with skim milk only and has a bottle of pomegranate juice by her plate. She only has one or two sips of either drink in the mornings and dumps leftover cold coffee into the sink.
Maybe she’s doing the MILF routine and is trying to stay fit. He honestly doesn’t care. When she tries to kiss him goodbye before she leaves for work, he only lets her lips glance off his cheek.
He ignores the hurt look in her eyes.
Sam comes by one day and pumps five bullets into his chest before Dean realizes it’s neither rock salt nor gunpowder. They're something though. His blood stains the hardwood floors and Sam crouches down as he waits for Dean to die.
Sam can’t get past the salt lines but bullets do the trick. Stares at Dean and says nothing. Finishes off the clip in Dean's gut, making every shot count.
He dies and wakes up immediately after, in not-his-bed with his wife curled up against him. Hell, if they've been married for so long, isn't it time she stuck to her own side of the bed?
He wonders which evil bastard he has to thank for not having his father pop in for a visit. He could ask his daughter if she knows anything about her granddaddy or even her grandma, but he isn't going to jinx himself.
If there's a fleeting chance at his mom being around, well, he doesn't want that either. This is not his family. His parents are dead and his real brother is alive and somewhere, Sammy’s gotta be figuring out how to get him out of this place.
Of course he's seen The Princess Bride before and maybe he's seen it a lot, okay? What the fuck else would the cable channels play during the day? TV's the best distraction when there was nothing for two boys to do but wait for their father. For something to actually happen.
When he was younger, Sam had loved this movie because he's such a fucking girl. He believed in the ending.
Dean knows better. At least, he did at the time. Westley probably had himself a damn heart attack after saving his girl that because the dude did have his life sucked out him.
Okay, the fight scenes are sort of awesome. And after watching Westley scale those cliffs, well, maybe sometimes he'd scale a fence and think, Just preparing for the inevitable rock-climbing.
This is the rock climbing right here. The real Cliffs of Insanity.
He sings Once In a Lifetime in the shower and breaks his hand when he cracks the mirrored surface of the medicine cabinet.
There's an unopened first aid kit under the sink and he picks out shards of glass with a pair of brand new forceps. His hand will be good as new in eighteen hours time, give or take some minutes.
Sam (his Sam, not the imposter that comes by just to mess with his head and kill him over and over again) would love this perfect ordinary life.
The fucking suburbs. Full of green lawns all in perfect squares and neat little flower gardens in front of the houses. A 2003 too-shiny silver Impala waits in the driveway for him. He’s driven it a couple of times and it’s nothing like his real car, this model is made for pussies. It’s a double driveway in front of their house, so there’s also a pointless chick SUV in a midnight blue, a crap car that they apparently paid full sticker price for it. This Impala (that isn't his) smells like families and picnics and success and ordinary.
He'd blow his brains out but he's still waiting for that fucking gun.
He has a job, he thinks, but never shows up. No one calls in asking where in the hell he is, so he figures for now, the delusion is keeping him from office work. Small favors.
They're still getting checks in the mail addressed to Dean Winchester every two weeks, because in this fucked up, barely linear nightmare-curse, the rule is this: make Dean go insane.
Four months pass. It's useless to mark it up in a calendar. Any scratches he’d make would disappear by the next morning.
His fake, possibly demonic, brother doesn’t come round much these days.
He considers fucking his wife just once. She steps into the bedroom just in a towel, her hair still damp and he thinks maybe but changes his mind when she breaks the salt line on the windowsill with her fingertip.
She wants to ask him why he always does this in the morning and all Dean wants to say is Because it disappears then and it’s something that I gotta do to get some control of this madness.
He misses fake Sam.
His daughter has his eyes, he finally notices, and she stares at him as though she knows more.
There are ways to break a curse and every way he tried hasn't worked yet. Time keeps on ticking. His wife locks herself in the bathroom and cries for hours.
It goes on for six more months but she climbs into bed with him every night. Kisses his head and wishes for him to have sweet dreams.
He waits until she's asleep and he goes on a long run until there's nothing left but exhaustion and a need to breathe. His lungs fill with too-clean air and he screams until his voice is gone. He blacks out eventually, waking up to that perfect warm sunny day at the edge of madness.
He doesn’t ever try killing his family because there are some lines that should never be crossed.
They haven’t fucked with his mind up enough to even get him to consider that a necessary sacrifice.
Say as you wish, the little girl (his little girl) says and Dean wishes.
She giggles and says, I love you too, Daddy.
It hurts more than he expects.
He wakes up and Sam, his Sam, real Sam is there. Sam teases him for falling into such a simple trap. Like it was all so obvious but Dean doesn’t care, because he’s out of that delusion and he back where he belongs.
It was nearly a goddamn year. Dean doesn't say that. He doesn't ask, How long was I out?
That isn’t needed when Sam picks up on that, realizes that Dean’s staring at him like it’s been way too long. Sam gently says, a new line of worry crinkling in his forehead, "It took me six hours to crack it, Dean. Six."
If it had been any longer, he might have missed something from that horribly normal life.
When he dreams now, he dreams of a little girl with green eyes. Alice, that's what they named her. Or Ella. Or Buttercup.
Sam tries to ask Dean about the delusions he was trapped in, what it all meant, like it'll reveal some deep, profound crap about Dean. His brother doesn’t accept the silence and starts spilling everything he learned while trying to wake Dean up.
He talks about how the spell is made to ignite a half lived-in state of dreaming, blurring the edges of reality. Like it's a hall of mirrors, something so obviously fake that Dean must've wandered, dream-like, in and out of doors, watching alligators and hippos perform ballets just for his amusement.
Something like that, Dean says, wondering how fucked up he is if his version of the bizarre is the mundane, everyday life of normal people.
It's a ghost story and a curse and a spell. An attempt to create a family out of something from the other side, the one so close to being real.
Just a thin pane of glass in between.
Cat green eyes (not really like his at all) with a mischievous slant, most obvious when amused. Dean should have recognized that.
Someone who wanted a father, Dean says.
Sam is reading something intently on the laptop, wanting to say something in response to Dean’s answer. He doesn't though and only mutters that he's glad Dean's okay.
Dean shrugs the mushy moment off and gets on with the business of waking up in the morning. No sunlight peeks through clean, white curtains and the sheet are scratchy enough that he had to sleep with his shirt on. Takes the knife out from under his pillow, sets it beside the gun on the bedside table and this is what real is. No such place as home, but this is his. His life.
Ruffles Sam’s hair just to piss him off before he stumbles over to his duffel bag and gets a fresh set of clothes. Sam’s irritated noise is worth all the tea in China. Worth a nightmare that spanned a year’s time.
There’s a mirror over the dresser in their room and Dean avoids it for a long while, remembering a girl that couldn’t have been his daughter. He read the poem Jabberwocky to her every night and it had made sense there.
When he looks in the mirror now, he tries to catch a glimpse of the looking glass girl but there's nothing there but his own reflection.