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"I keep my marbles in a lead friggin' box" - Dean Winchester


A small boy crouches on the floor.  His blonde hair and freckles sparkle in the afternoon sunshine, as do the marbles he's surrounded by.  His green eyes squint in concentration as he rolls them in his hands, and shoots them across the floor. He's playing with all of them, but seems especially attracted to four in particular:

 -  An alley, streaked with many colours

 -  A perfectly smooth, pale blue orb

 -  One that looks like a droplet of blood, frozen in time 

 -  A perfect Cat's Eye aggie


Dean Winchester is all grown up.  He doesn't play with marbles any more.  But he still thinks about them.  He confessed to Bobby that nowadays he keeps all his marbles in a "lead friggin' box."  Of course, when he says marbles he means all his feelings about everything - his life, his time in Hell, and the price he's paid to be a Winchester, a Hunter and a saviour of the world.  

It all started as a small box, for a very little boy.  It was just big enough to contain Dean's grief over his mother's death, and the knowledge his childhood, and his innocence were over.  He had a little brother Sammy, to protect, and Big Daddy Winchester to please.  There was no time for tears, or tantrums, or thinking about how he, DEAN, felt about something.  So whenever he was sad, or hurt, confused or bewildered, he would he take that swirl of emotion, pretend it was a brightly coloured marble and carefully tuck it away in the small box, with the nice, sturdy lock.

Sometimes he would lift the lid, and look at his ever-expanding collection.  But examining those feelings takes time.  It's painful.  It can leave you gasping for air, in need of forests of Kleenex and legions of hugs.  It must be exceptionally hard to do while trying to hold a family together, raise a brother, fight monsters, and grow up. 

As Dean got older, he would occasionally sit down with a piece of pie, take out a little pencil, and do some scribbling on a napkin.  He'd run some numbers, and calculate just how much larger he needed to make the box.  There were getting to be so many marbles to put inside it.  

There was the way his Dad looked at him differently, after he let the Shtriga almost kill Sam, and then escape. There were the denied dreams of a different life.  Once, he wanted to be a firefighter, but resigned himself to the fact the Family Business came first.  There was the anguish of watching Sam leave for Stanford. And the despair when he woke to discover his Dad had left him too.              


The box started to bulge at the sides. But Dean's always been clever and good with his hands.  He saw the problem, and devised a solution.  Build a bigger box!  Make it like an old steamer trunk. Add drawers, and shelves and secret compartments.  Dean was proud of himself.  He was positive he'd created enough storage to last his lifetime.

But Dean never imagined that, in his lifetime, he would see his father sell his soul to save his eldest son.  Or that Sam would be killed.  Or that Dean would sell his own soul to bring Sam back to life.  Or that he'd go to Hell, be tortured and then become the torturer.  Or that an Angel of the Lord, named Castiel, would raise him from Perdition because God had work for him.  Or that, between them, Sam and Dean would inadvertently trigger the Apocalypse, and be identified as the vessels for the Archangel Michael, and the Devil Lucifer.

Although he'd never admit it, Dean has a vivid imagination, especially when it pertains to Busty Asian Beauties!  However, even in his wildest nightmares he couldn't predict that the brotherly bond he and Sam share would avert the Apocalypse, but cost   Sam so much.  Or that affection, good intentions and pride would lead his angelic best friend to make all the same mistakes as the Winchesters.  

Dean couldn't know that having a chance at normal with Lisa and Ben would make everything in his Hunter Life seem so much more abnormal.  Or that he was fated to lose the twin sanctuaries of hope he'd found in their home, and at Bobby's book-cluttered farmhouse. And he never let himself think he would see Sam's wall come crashing down, and Castiel's empty trench coat come floating up.  


All the while, the marbles kept getting thrown in the box.  Sure, over the past few years, Dean's noticed all the strain on the hinges, how they're threatening to blow apart any second.  And he's well aware that keeping the lock secure requires all of his bodyweight, plus lots of alcohol.  But still, Dean keeps telling himself "the box is big enough."   

To be fair, it's not like he's had a lot of time to design, let alone build a new one.  He hasn't even had time to sort through the contents of the box, and see if there were any he wants to get rid of.  He tried a few times, especially before his trip to the Pit, and after his return from Hell.  But he was told he wasn't strong enough to do the purging.   

So he just kept shoving the marbles inside the box, promising to get rid of a few "someday."  But he always carries around three of his childhood favourites. In fact, now they even have nicknames.

The streaked alley is The Guilty Guy. "I let down the people I love.  That's what I do."

The pale blue one is The Loser.  "It doesn't take a genius to figure it out..."  "If there is a God out there, why would He give a crap about me?"  "I've been trying to save this planet, so maybe you should find somebody better to tip off."


And of course, the beautiful blood-red aggie is called The Killer.  "But what I'm good at is slicing throats. I ain't a father. I'm a killer. And there's no changing that. I know that now."


Everyday, those marbles rattle and clang in Dean's pocket.  Now and then Bobby can hear the noise they're making, but Dean just talks louder and the sound disappears.  In the past, Sam has been almost deafened when the marbles smash into each other. He's offered to help.  But right now, he can't because he's hearing strange voices himself.

The problem with the marbles is that their constant clacking sometimes clouds Dean's view of himself, and his judgement.  They act kind of like Horcruxes.  He starts believing those three stones are the only ones in the collection that matter.  

"People. They are who they are. No matter how hard you try, you are what you are. And you will kill again. Trust me, I'm an expert. Maybe in a year, maybe 10, but eventually the other shoe will drop. It always does."

Sometimes Dean wishes a Monster would just hurry up and kill him already, and then he'd never have to worry about the damn marble collection again!  Maybe sometimes, he even tries to put himself in harm's way, just to make that happen sooner.

The tragedy for Dean is that he rarely looks at the brilliant, gleaming Cat's Eye aggie.  Perhaps it's because this marble makes him think of bright and shiny things - courage, compassion, loyalty, laughter and love.

The Cat's Eye is the prize of the collection, the gem of the bunch.  But Dean doesn't think he deserves it anymore.  Sometimes, he'll misplace it or try to lose it. Luckily, Sam is usually really good at keeping track of it.

Sam jokingly calls it The Eye of the Tiger.  He knows Dean has always admired tigers, especially painted on velvet or the side of a van!  The Cat's Eye has always been Sam's favourite.  In fact, he's using it right now.  When he rubs the scar on his hand to bring himself back to reality and away from his visions of Hell, he's thinking of Dean and the Cat's Eye.  

If only his brother could do the same.  The time has come for Dean to accept that "lead friggin' boxes" don't hold marbles very well. And that he really needs to take out that Cat's Eye, give it a polish and carry it with pride. 


# Lindab30 2011-10-12 21:42
That was absolutely awesome! Thank you!
Ginny Anderson
# Ginny Anderson 2011-10-12 21:52
Wow! You have such a way with words - that was truly awesome! Thank you!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-10-12 21:53
Beautiful. Dean carries the world and then some on his shoulders and it is oh so heavy. He needs to let some of those marbles go or he will collapse.

What a beautiful analogy and imagery you've given here. Makes me hurt for our Dean that much more. May he get as many hugs and Sammy smiles as he needs.
# MisterGlass 2011-10-12 22:15
Great analogy! Thanks for this view of Dean's troubled psyche.
# rmoats8621 2011-10-12 23:21
Wonderful piece! Thanks for sharing it. :lol:
# MetamorphicRocks 2011-10-12 23:29
Excellent essay. I could almost hear the voice-over (provided by Chuck, of course) saying these words in an episode of season 7, right before we are shown a pivotal moment in Dean's life. Your piece was so strong that it conjured all that up for me.
# trackerem 2011-10-12 23:43
wow, wow, & wow!! beautiful, it's dean, the dean we know & love & have synpathy for. keep sharing!!
# raelee 2011-10-13 01:31
Beautiful, I'm all teary!
# airbat 2011-10-13 06:15
I'm blown away!
Very impressive analogy. You surely have a way with words. Looking forward to read more in the future
# Annebeth 2011-10-13 06:43
OMG, this was amazing! Thanks you so much.
All the people that are angry at Dean (I was too, at first) should definitely read this. Who can stay angry at him after you read this.

You tied all the season together very well. I think tomorrow's episode will tie into this very much. The god Osiris (I believe) will dangle Deans red (monster/killer ) marble in front of him, and the streaked one, I think
# Sylvie 2011-10-13 07:52
That was beautiful. Dean needs to take those marbles out and give them a well deserved rest.
Veronica Bianchi
# Veronica Bianchi 2011-10-13 10:15
excellent and very exciting!! I congratulate you!
# Sablegreen 2011-10-13 12:03
Very thoughful and well written. Good job!
# Brynhild 2011-10-13 12:52
You made me cry! :cry: So beautiful thoughts, so beautifully expressed!
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2011-10-13 14:26
:lol: :-) :roll:

THANK YOU EVERYBODY!! for the incredibly kind comments. I'm quite touched. I have a jar of marbles sitting on my kitchen shelf. I looked at them in the sunshine the other day, and this is the result. Strange how the brain works.

As for being Shakespeare... I love the Bard, and just about everything he wrote.

"Oh, if I could but claim to be said scribe,
Transported to this place and time"

Or, as the man himself put it:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Thanks again everyone. Have a great day!

Pragmatic Dreamer
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2011-10-13 15:15
This is really lovely, Pragmatic Dreamer, thanks so much. The weight of (a) what he knows and (b) life itself has been crushing Dean for the most of 30 years now.

Dude really needs about 2 weeks of non-stop crying therapy following by some serious hug therapy. Hopefully tomorrow night with be the first of many positive realisations for Dean.
Birgit Säberg
# Birgit Säberg 2011-10-13 15:17
Fantastic! Beautiful! I'll never look at marbles the same way again... :D
# Bevie 2011-10-13 15:48
That was so very beautiful! Amazingly awesome!

I had to shed some tears for our Dean while reading that. Just wonderful essay!

Thanks so much. :-)
Clarice 0909
# Clarice 0909 2011-10-13 16:52
Amazing, absolutely amazing...

Congrats on a great piece of writing worth reading more than once, and to be kept in a place to be read over and over again...

Take care,

Clarice ; }
# Any 2011-10-13 17:54
Thank you for this!!! Really thank you, i love Dean so much!!!
# BagginsDVM 2011-10-14 00:14
Wow! Ditto for everything that's already been said here! This brought me to tears, & I have a feeling that the next episode will as well.
Thanks for this beautiful piece!
# Nano 2011-10-14 01:23
All I can say is WOW!! That was awesome!! :)
# KazKriz 2011-10-14 19:05
that was awesome... I mean it. So want to cry right now. You totally get what Dean feels... you're so talented!!!!! THANKS!!!
# Freebird 2011-10-16 16:58
Love your story! Thanks for sharing.
Christine Apple
# Christine Apple 2011-10-21 18:00
Been out of the loop for a while, and trying to catch up. But just had to say, this is lovely, just lovely... where are my tissues? Thank you, from the bottom of my Deangirl heart.
# Gaelicspirit 2011-11-01 13:24
Beautiful and true. This is Dean as I see him. Thank you for steering me over here.
# digyd 2012-03-10 16:22
Wow, PD. Even though I know you don't need me to comment on this a million years after you originally wrote it, I am going to tell you anyway that was the most engaging, eloquent, sympathetic and succinct piece I have ever read on one SPN character. I have always had faith in Dean's ability to talk himself and others off the ledge. Even though it is taking longer than folk would want, I know he will eventually make peace with himself.