Link to the story on AO3: Dan Westchester, Hello Kitty Enthusiast
Firstly, if you are not familiar with fanfic (which I hope is not many of you, because it is a true pleasure to indulge in) many fics have individual titles but are part of a series that also has a title. I’ve used the series title for this one, Dan Westchester, Hello Kitty Enthusiast, because it makes me laugh, and because I honestly think it’s a better title than part one of the fic, which I am reviewing here, which is actually called The Unwavering Heart of a Winchester. (Part two is just a small vignette that follows up on the main story months later.)
Also, yes, this is Supernatural fanfiction. Yes, it is Dean/Castiel. Me of a year ago would not have believed you on either count. But in October of last year it made all the pop culture news sites that the show, in it’s third to last episode, actually had Castiel (an angel of the Lord) confess his love to one of the series leads, Dean Winchester. This of course set the internet on fire. Would the CW actually let these two be gay together? (Sadly, no.) But for two weeks things were cheerful! And I got curious. For some reason, for years, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about this series and refused to watch it. (Also, it’s so long! It’s fifteen full seasons! I’m on season thirteen currently and I have been watching since late October.) But I gave in. And started reading the fics. I actually started in on the fanfics three full seasons before Castiel even made his appearance (in episode one of season four). I was just too excited to read about the pansexual wavelength of celestial intent falling in love with the bisexual monster hunter. (Misha Collins, who plays Castiel, has been playing his character for years as if he were in love with Dean.)
Anyway, so I’ve read a metric shit ton of fanfics by now, and this is one of my favorites that I’ve read since October in this fandom. (violue also wrote another of my favorites, The Way to a Man’s Heart is Through Chlamydia, which is another AU (alternate universe) about how they get together because one of them gives the other chlamydia after a one night stand, and it’s actually just really sweet and funny and fluffy.) So when one of the Read Harder challenges this year was to “Read a Fanfic” I literally laughed out loud. I wrote on my little Read Harder checklist, “LOL which one”. But after I read this one, I knew I had a winner. (And a Self Care square.)
As mentioned previously, this is an AU in which there is no supernatural, and nobody has powers, and everybody is human and not a demon/angel/prophet/whatever. I’m just going to quote the blurb on the fic to sum up the premise:
There’s no point in mincing words. Sam is dead, and without him Dean is a drunken shell of who he used to be. When he finally pulls himself out of a growing pile of whiskey bottles, Dean finds it hard to go back to his life. With one flippant comment from a friend, Dean thinks he might finally have a way to make peace with the loss; Sam was an organ donor, and Dean’s going to find the recipients, talk to them, and see how their lives are better because of his little brother. For the first six stops on his road trip, things go mostly according to plan, and then he meets the man who has Sam’s heart. Dean had hoped he might find peace on this trip . . . he never expected to find love.
A large portion of this fic is just Dean coming to terms with the loss of his younger brother, who he also basically raised. I think there’s a special, terrible kind of grief that comes with losing someone so central to your life, and here Sam is Dean’s best friend, his brother, and in many ways, a child to him. Dean completely falls apart. It’s one of the rawest depictions of grief I’ve read anywhere, not just in fanfic. But there’s such a humanity to this fic, because the author gives Dean companions in his grief, and people who love him trying to take care of him, even when he doesn’t want the help. He takes solace in his brother’s girlfriend, Ruby, who was in the car accident with Sam when he was killed. She doesn’t fall apart the way Dean does, but they become closer because of their shared grief, and form this funny, weird friendship even though they weren’t very close when Sam was alive. A present she gives Dean as a joke becomes the inspiration for the title, as she gives him a Hello Kitty sweatshirt, and he wears it constantly, in public. The other part of the title comes once Dean starts his road trip to find the people whose lives Sam’s organs saved/helped. He goes by the alias Dan Westchester, because he’s clever like that.
Cas doesn’t even come in to the story until like a third of the way through, and it doesn’t even matter because Dean’s journey is so emotionally satisfying. The premise could have been icky and super cheesy, falling in love with the guy who got your brother’s heart, but the author handles it beautifully. It was also important to me that Dean’s relationship with Cas not “fix him”. Dean moves through his grief regardless of meeting Castiel, and there’s this wonderful satisfaction of seeing Dean heal and come to terms with Sam’s death, even as he remains sad that it happened. violue also uses the secondary characters so incredibly well, and once again shows their talent for dialogue and humor amidst other complicated emotions. So many clever, small little details really fill in the world these characters live in.
Highly recommend this fic, and honestly, you could read it never having seen an episode of the show. It’s just a good, sweet story.
The fic that I almost chose instead was one of the first I read, because it’s a classic, and that’s A Room of One’s Own by NorthernSparrow (who is an ornithologist in real life, and it shows, and they also wrote this epic fic set in Alaska on a research site called Under the Midnight Sun), but ultimately I chose this one because of its accessibility. A Room of One’s Own is now one of my all-time favorite fics, but it does take place within the canon of the show, so familiarity with Supernatural is more necessary to really get all the nuances.
The art I’ve posted here is from the great Winchester-Reload, and has no relation to any of the fics. I just couldn’t find any cover art or fan art of this particular fic, which is a real shame, so I chose a couple of my favorites.
Read Hard Challenge 2021: Read a fanfic.
CBR BINGO: Self Care