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[personal profile] unadrift
Post "Swan Song", with spoilers up to then.
Rated PG-13, 8800 words, Dean/Lisa and Dean/Castiel pre-slash, Lisa's point of view.
Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] icelily01 for the beta!

Dean has been staying with Lisa and Ben for two months, and he still insists on sleeping on the couch.

It's pretty obviously not an attempt at gentlemanly behavior. They've had sex. Hot and fulfilling, sometimes strangely, intensely, sad sex. She wouldn't have thought it to be possible, that sex could actually push a person, Dean no less, this close to-- well, crying.

It seems huge and relevant, even more so because Dean hasn't once fallen asleep next to her.

They don’t talk about it.

From the beginning, they talked about everything and nothing – her 'everything' and his 'nothing', mostly. About Ben and his grades, his reading preferences (fiction bores him, but facts are exciting), his open passion for baseball and his secret one for water colors. They talked about her life during the recent years, her one attempt at a relationship and the way it went south. Strangely, he didn't seem to mind the ex-talk.

After a while – after weeks, really – Dean started to contribute little things, a stupid comment a customer had made that day, a dirty out-of-nowhere joke Darius had fired off that had Dean dropping a spanner in surprise, which then turned over a toolbox, which in turn spilt its contents all over the shop floor. Apparently, the boss wasn't too happy with the commotion, but Dean was a capable enough mechanic to get back in Jenna's good graces pretty fast.

Sometimes Dean slips and says things like, "Sam used to--" or, "Bobby always says--" or, "Cas would have a field day with--" He never finishes those sentences.

Every night, after Dean has stuck his head inside Ben's door and said goodnight (as per request), and she's given her son his kiss goodnight (non-negotiable), Dean and Lisa sit down in the living room, side by side on the couch. Dean has a beer and lets her steal half of it. She lays her head on his shoulder and permits herself one question.

It's a ritual they started on the first night.


"Are you okay?"

"I'm good," Dean said, when he was clearly anything but.

That was the extent of their conversation on the first night. That, and sorting out the sleeping arrangements.


It's the nightmares. That's what's keeping him downstairs on the couch. At least, that's what she wants the reason to be.

The dreams still haven't subsided. Every third or fourth night she wakes to a sound that she can sometimes identify as Dean calling out in his sleep. The rest of the time she just assumes that it's his voice that woke her. She doesn’t check up on him anymore.

In the first week Lisa went downstairs a few times, to comfort him if possible. He was thrashing on the couch, frowning deeply, breathing heavily, still asleep. It hurt, seeing him like this. It made her feel powerless against whatever it was they were fighting. Whatever he was fighting.

She only tried waking him from a nightmare once. Dean apologized afterwards, ashamed and horrified and obviously scared, for almost punching her lights out. He kept on apologizing for days, until she exploded and told him if he said sorry one more time, he was the one who'd get hit. That at least made him grin.

So far, Ben is unaware of the nighttime routine Dean has going, and they both intend to keep it that way. It's an unspoken agreement, since they've never really talked about Dean's dreams.

She knows it's selfish and cruel, but she can't help but hope that Dean dreams about the past rather than a possible future. Whatever it is that scares the hell out of Dean-- She doesn’t want to see it.


"Those bad things that were about to happen, are they still--?"

"No," Dean said. The answer came out sharp and definitive. "You and Ben-- You're safe. You got nothing to worry about."

Lisa slid an arm around his chest, felt him tense under her touch and didn't say, "I worry about you."

He dropped a kiss on the top of her head and finished the beer. "You got that blanket and pillow still lying around somewhere?" he asked, which was his circumspect way of saying, "I'm exhausted, get out of my hair".

She kissed him on the cheek. His palm brushed her face for a moment before she disentangled herself from him.

"Bedclothes are behind the couch," she said and turned to leave him alone.

"Thanks," he said, almost as an afterthought.

She turned in the doorway and smiled, putting as much warmth into it she could. "Sleep well, Dean."

The smile that he attempted in return said that he wouldn't, but that he appreciated the sentiment.


Lisa would like to say that it didn't take Dean long to spread all his belongings throughout her house. She would like to, but it would be a lie.

Dean arrived with nothing but a car, a few mix tapes that can only be played in said car (because whoever the hell still owns a cassette player these days, she certainly isn't one of them), and a duffle bag full of clothes. He has stocked up on shirts and socks and underwear since, but that's about it.

She's not stupid. She knows what this is about. Dean's instincts tell him that he's still on the run, has to travel light. He hasn't gotten used to the idea of a place called home and things to call his own. She knows it's going to take time.

As far as she understands – and that isn't very far, she has to admit – Dean has been doing this his entire life. This weird and crazy supernatural stuff. The living-out-of-a-suitcase thing. Sometimes she wishes she knew more about what he's been doing, thinks that maybe she'd understand him better.

Then she remembers the reflection of not-Ben's monster face in the living room mirror and is reminded why, most of the time, she doesn't really want to know.


"What was it? The bad thing that was about to happen?"

Dean was quiet for a long moment. "No," he finally said, shaking his head. "I'm not gonna tell you."

At first Lisa was taken aback by the flat refusal, then it dawned on her why he didn’t want to share. "It's that bad?"

He shot her a look. "You couldn't tell from the visit I paid you? I'm not usually that--" He waved a hand.

"Emo?" she suggested.

Dean bumped her knee with his. "Not funny. I was gonna say 'serious'."

She stole the beer bottle from him and took a swig. "I thought that was just you being overprotective."

"I wish," he said and looked down at his hands.

She studied his profile. "You really are serious."

He swallowed. "Whatever. It's ancient history. Done and over with."

"Okay," Lisa said slowly.

"Yes. We're a-okay," Dean confirmed a little too brightly and put his arm around her shoulder.


Dean is good with Ben. They get along great, just like Lisa remembers, even on the long run. It doesn't surprise her. They're scarily alike. It was more obvious when Dean first met Ben, back when Dean was still mostly an overgrown kid himself.

Now Dean is up early every morning and makes sure everyone is on time and fully equipped to face the day. He makes breakfast for the three of them and prepares Ben's lunch. His coffee is to die for, and he's gotten kind of anal about having a fully-stocked fridge.

He still cracks jokes, still says the first thing that pops into his mind, even if it gets him in trouble.

He’s Dean, but a little more grown up, a little more sad, a little more quiet.

Ben was completely sold on him, hook, line and sinker, the first time Dean went out and came back with a pile of books. Volcanoes, the weather, and the solar system instantly became Ben's new favorite topics of conversation. For all his talk about chicks and ACDC and how school is totally lame, Ben does love his books. Dean figured that out about him pretty fast.

It's those times that Dean looks happy, when it's just him and Ben at the kitchen table, surrounded by books and paper, Ben asking a million questions, and Dean answering as best as he can, smiling fondly down at Ben and sometimes ruffling his hair.


"Where's your brother?"

She felt Dean tense. The beer bottle in his hand tilted dangerously to the side. He swallowed. He cleared his throat. He swallowed again. "He, uh. He didn't make it."

Lisa sat back, shocked, staring sideways at Dean's carefully blank face.

Dean had already finished off the beer when she decided to risk asking, "Did he stop it? Whatever was about to happen?"

"Yeah," Dean said and raised the empty bottle as if to make a toast. "Sammy saved the world."

She didn't know if it was a figure of speech, or if things had actually been that kind of serious. After all that had happened it wasn't hard to imagine either option.

She kissed him then, for the first time in two years, and he kissed her back, and it was as good as she remembered, except that his mouth tasted faintly of despair.


It was a sunny Saturday morning when Dean announced that he was going to give his Impala a proper clean-up in the driveway, since she was going to be the main reference in his job interview on Monday and all.

By mid-morning his favorite music was blaring from the car's stereo, Lisa was busy hanging up the freshly washed curtains in the kitchen, and Ben was curiously watching Dean work, listening to his explanations and helping out where he could. It was as close to domestic bliss as it got.

Then Dean found the envelope under the passenger seat.

"Dean?" she heard Ben ask through the open window. "What is it? Are you alright?"

Ben sounded close to freaking out. She went to check up on them and gently pushed Ben out of the way when she reached the car door. Dean was sitting behind the steering wheel, clutching an envelope in his hand.

"Dean?" she asked.

He looked up at her, then back down at the brown paper in his hands. She watched him stare at his own name for a long moment, spelt out in neat handwriting. Then, in a sudden movement, he ripped the envelope open. There was no letter inside. Instead, Dean shook a tangle of leather string and metal onto his palm. It turned out to be the amulet he'd been wearing years back when they first met.

"Sam," he murmured and closed his fingers tightly around it.

Lisa put a hand on his shoulder. "Dean?"

He started, as if he'd forgotten she was there. "It's okay," he said hoarsely. He looked up at her. There was a small smile curving his lips. "Just something I thought I'd lost."

He slipped the leather string over his head.

He hasn't taken it off since.

Sometimes it catches in his t-shirt when he undresses. When that happens, Lisa closes her fingers around the amulet so it doesn't come off. And when his head reappears, hair mussed, he kisses her, and his hand moves to cover hers.


"Do you miss it?"

"What, saving the world?" he asked dryly.

"Dean," she said. "You know what I mean."

He hesitated. Lisa was glad he didn't flat out lie to her. "I-- Sometimes," he said. "But-- I think it's more-- People. I miss people. Bobby and Cas and-- Sam. The hunting, not so much. Hell, it was a bitch most of the time. Between Sammy and me, we could out-scar a prison wing."

She'd seen him naked, had counted the scars and mapped them with her fingers and lips. "Come on," she said teasingly. "You’re not that bad for a battered old soldier."

She expected him to grin in return. Dean liked being teased, even if he would listen to as many as ten soft rock albums before admitting it. But his voice was tight when he said, "Not anymore. Not since--" He cut himself off.

She pushed upright and stared down at him. "What? Don’t tell me you had cosmetic surgery or something like that."

He stared at her. Then he laughed. He laughed so hard he almost cried.

"Something like that," he finally agreed, gasping for air.

"Right," she said. Letting Dean dodge her questions was starting to become less about providing support and more about her being too much of a coward to insist on answers. She had tried that a few times, and it hadn't ended well. She had found a halfway acceptable solution. She asked more questions, until she found the right one, the one he wouldn't sidestep or laugh off.

"And what's with the--" Lisa gestured to his shoulder. "How did that happen? Whose hand is it? Some monster or whatever it was you used to be fighting?"

Dean took a deep breath.

Apparently that hadn’t been the right topic to touch. She should have guessed, since she wasn't allowed to touch the real thing either. He had recoiled and almost fallen off the bed when she had kissed the handprint with intent the first time.

"You know what, never mind," she said.

Dean grabbed her wrist before she could get up from the couch.

"I could tell you about the tattoo," he said, sounding uncertain. "If you want to."

It was an offer, something he wasn't quite willing to give but offered up anyway.

Lisa took it.

She could have happily lived on without ever learning about demonic puffs of smoke and their habit of body-snatching, but she didn't regret agreeing to listen. Dean was sugar coating it, no doubt. The actual thing had to be worse by magnitudes.

So Dean wasn't chatty about his past. She was starting to understand his reasons.

"Why?" she asked when he fell silent. "Why did you keep doing it? Life on the road, the danger, the scars. Why not choose a different life?"

And now, now of all times, Dean smiled. As much as he always claimed to be a simple man with simple needs, he wasn't ever going to be predictable.

"Saving people," he said. "Hunting things. It's the family business." The smile faded. "At some point it stopped being a choice. Looks like it never really was one, but I didn’t know that back then.
We didn’t know. Sammy was the one who learned the hard way."

Sam wasn’t the only one, Lisa was willing to bet.

"I'm sorry," she said. Sorry that Dean was the only one of his family left. That he had to live through things so horrible he couldn't even put them into words. That he hadn't had a full night's sleep in at least two months. That she couldn't help him get through this. That she wasn't going to be able to take this forever.

"It's okay," he said. "I'm just glad you're here now."

He buried his face in her neck. She held him tight, because it was the only thing she could do.


Dean sets down his coffee and folds the paper in that untidy way of his that drives Lisa mad sometimes. He's reading an article in the local news section. She doesn't think anything of it at first, but then he gets back from work in the afternoon, fishes the paper out of the bin, and makes a beeline for the computer. He goes online and spends some more time reading.

She finds him on the couch a while later, a few printed-out sheets of paper in one hand while the other is fiddling with his car keys.

"Dean," she says. "Can you pick up Ben? I still have to write a few bills." She makes a face. "And pay a few more. I need a more exciting hobby."

His head whips around. "Yeah," he says distractedly. "Yeah. I'll pick him up." He checks his watch. "I gotta make a call. Is there time?"

"You have to be there at six-thirty," she tells him, frowning.

Dean doesn’t notice. "Okay. I can swing that," he says and is up and out the door, presumably in search of his cell phone, before she can say anything else.

Lisa picks up the newspaper he’s left lying on the coffee table. The article that he’s been reading at breakfast is on top. It’s about a series of disappearances that happened one town over. They have only one thing in common: they all took place during a full moon.

She doesn’t finish the article and throws the newspaper back into the bin.

Dean comes to find her at her desk later, the tail end of his phone conversation floating in from the corridor.

"--Yeah, will do. Good luck. And Bobby? Take care." He appears in the doorway, pushing the cell in his jeans pocket. "I'm picking up Ben," he says. "You want us to bring takeout?"

"Oh, yes," she sighs and stretches her back. "I'd kill for a pizza."

"You got it." Dean leans down and kisses her on the cheek before he leaves.

Over the next couple of days Lisa catches him at irregular intervals with his car keys in hand, staring into nothing with a worried frown. Then the call from Bobby comes, and Dean seems to be able to breathe again.


"Who's Cas?"

Dean put his feet up on the coffee table. "Cas is awesome," he said, as if that was all she needed to know.

"And you know her from--" Lisa said, waiting for him to fill in the blanks.

"Him," Dean corrected. "It's short for Castiel. He's a-- colleague."

That sounded ominous, considering that Dean, by his own admission, hadn’t worked a proper job in his life before he came to stay with her. "Colleague?" she repeated.

"He was, you know." Dean gestured vaguely. "Fighting on our side. Most of the time. He came through when it really counted. He’s pretty badass."

She frowned. "That doesn’t sound all that awe-inspiring."

Dean took great care in peeling the label off of his beer bottle. "Maybe not," he said quietly. "But it is."


Dean walks into the kitchen, looking at ease. Lisa notices this first, because she hasn’t seen Dean truly at ease in-- well, a long time. Then she notices the guy who’s trailing after him. He’s wearing a suit and a trench coat. She had wanted Dean to make some friends, but this wasn’t quite what she would have expected a future drinking buddy of Dean’s to look like.

"Oh," she says und puts down the orange juice she’s been pouring herself. "I didn’t hear the doorbell."

Dean shoots the trench coat guy a look that is just this side of accusing. "Yeah, uh, Lisa, this is Castiel."

"Oh," she says again and then, unnecessarily, "You’re Cas."

"It’s good to meet you, Lisa," Castiel says politely. His voice is unexpectedly low. For some reason, it makes her want to take a step back. She doesn’t, and offers her hand instead. Castiel takes it, with the careful determination of someone who’s only had one dance lesson and is trying to remember the steps to the waltz.

Lisa lets go of his hand, and then they’re standing there, in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by a vaguely uncomfortable silence.

"This is a very nice house," Castiel says.

Dean doesn’t say it out loud, but the look he sends Castiel communicates, "Dude, really?" very clearly.

"Thank you," she says and smiles.

Castiel doesn’t smile back. Not with his face, anyway. The rest of him kind of does. It’s weird.

"Do you mind if we--" Dean says and gestures at the kitchen table.

"Not at all," she says. "I was going to check up on Ben anyway. Nice meeting you, Castiel."

"And you, Lisa," he replies.

She leaves them alone.

"So," she hears Dean say, almost accusingly. "Two months, Cas?"

And then she’s too far away to make out the answer.

She isn't planning on eavesdropping. Later, when she comes downstairs again, she’s just passing the kitchen door on her way to the living room. It's pure coincidence, and really their own fault for not closing the door. She sees Castiel sitting at the kitchen table, his back unnaturally straight. She can't see Dean, but she can hear him.

"--if you say 'more of the same', I swear I'll kick your ass," Dean is saying. "That doesn't fly with me. This is not the same. This is a shitload of different."

"For you, Dean. Not for the rest of the world," Castiel says. "And isn’t this better?"

It takes Dean a moment to answer. "Yes," he says. "It's better."

Lisa can hear the 'but' hovering at the end of that statement.

Promptly, Castiel inquires, "But?"

Dean sighs. "It's not-- This isn't-- I just miss Sam, I guess."

"This isn't you," Castiel says, matter-of-factly. "That’s what you were going to say."

"I made a promise," Dean says warningly.

"You think your brother would want you to be unhappy?" Castiel's voice is impartial, clinical.

Lisa doesn’t completely understand what they’re talking about, but she understands enough to have to fight the sudden urge to storm into the kitchen and tell Castiel to get the hell out of her house.

"Cas," Dean says. "I’m not unhappy."

Take that, you asshole, she thinks.

There is a pause, then Castiel says, "Okay."

There is an even longer pause during which Castiel keeps staring at a fixed point, which she assumes must be Dean’s face.

She hears Dean let out a frustrated sound. "I hate it when you do that. Man, I really do," he says. "Look. It’s just-- I don't think I know how to be happy. This is the closest to happy I’ve come in a long time. This is it. If I can’t make this work, then what’s left?"

Dean’s words hit her like a sucker punch, even if they’re handing over a soothing icepack at the same time.

Dean is damaged goods. Lisa knew that going in. She could have taken him in like a friend would take care of another friend, let him deal with things and send him on his way. But that wasn't what she wanted. That isn't what she wants. She knows it's strange to feel this kind of connection to a guy she has literally only known for a few weeks. She's aware that she can't possibly know him as well as she thinks. It was damn crazy to invite him in when he showed up in front of her door again, to invite him not only into her house but into her life. They had one amazing weekend a decade ago and a couple of horrible days together a while back, and that is the whole extent of their history. Only it doesn't feel that way. She wants him here, and Ben likes him, and she can't imagine turning him away again.

Lisa considers it close to a miracle that Dean came to her, to them, and even more so that he decided to stay. He doesn’t trust easily. She figured that out on their very first night together. But he’s chosen to trust her enough to try and build a life with her and Ben, even if he’s not comfortable in it yet.

"I am familiar with the feeling," Castiel says.

There is a moment of silence. Half their conversation seems to consist of silences, and they don’t even seem awkward.

Dean snorts. "I take it that rebuilding the hierarchy of Heaven with the boss out of town and a bunch of douchebag angels as your only resources isn't running smoothly?" he says. "Why am I not surprised?"

Wait, she thinks, but of course they don’t give her brain time to catch up.

"There are differences of opinion on the smallest of issues. Everyone has their own ideas on how things should best be handled," Castiel says. "It's-- highly frustrating. I was hoping you could give me some advice."

"What?" Dean asks, surprised. "Me? Because I'm big on corporate structures, or because I have such intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Heaven?"

"You have intimate knowledge of angels."

Dean laughs. "Dude," he says. "That sounded way dirtier than you probably intended."

"What makes you certain of that?" Castiel says.

Dean stops laughing. "Are you sure you're a full-blown angel again?" he asks suspiciously. "Because your crazy-ass sense of humor is still kinda there."

"Things are different now," Castiel says. "I'm different."

"Good different or bad different?"

"I-- don't know."

"Let me know when you figure it out."

"I will."

There is another long moment of silence.

"So what are the kids in Heaven up to? The Zach sympathizers giving you a hard time?"

"No," Castiel says. "They have been dealt with."

"Kicked their asses, huh?" Dean says approvingly. "Go you."

"Go me," Castiel echoes without enthusiasm.

It’s a while before Dean picks up the conversation again. "Care to tell me who rained on your parade, then?"

Castiel shifts his eyes away from Dean and finds Lisa in the corridor. He tilts his head a little.

The kitchen door closes on her. All on its own.

Lisa staggers backwards until her calves hit the couch. She has to sit down for a moment. Or maybe a while. A long while.

If the two people in her kitchen aren't both clinically insane, if she hasn't lost her mind, if her hearing isn't severely impaired-- Then she has an angel sitting at her kitchen table.

Demons, she could stomach, sort of. Creepy creatures craving bodily fluids, sure. Been there, done that.

But an honest-to-God (really, God?) angel. Who probably helped defeating whatever it was Sam defeated. Who is on friendly terms with Dean. Who drops in, just like that, to ask Dean for advice. Who doesn't mind being called by a stupid nickname.

It's a bit much to handle all at once, and that's the understatement of the century. She's still sitting there when Dean emerges from the kitchen, smiling to himself. Castiel is nowhere to be seen.

He pauses in the doorway, looking down at her.

"Dean?" she asks. "An angel?"

He rubs his neck uncomfortably. "Of the freakin’ Lord," he says.

She’s feeling a little dizzy.

Castiel takes to stopping by irregularly. It's obvious that no one has ever taken him aside to explain the concept of a doorbell to him. Let alone privacy. Or personal space. He's well within Dean's personal space all the time.

Dean and Castiel never leave the house during those visits. She finds that strange. Dean likes to go for a ride in his Impala from time to time, just by himself. Mostly after he and Lisa had a fight, which has been happening from time to time, mostly when Dean dodges an important question a little too insistently. He stays out for hours, but he comes back quiet and calm, and this is why she hardly ever calls him on his disappearing acts.

Dean could easily choose to take Castiel for a little trip, to stop by a bar or a burger joint or something. If angels were allowed to do that kind of thing. Maybe they’re not, and that's why Dean and Castiel usually sit down at the kitchen table and don’t talk, with bits and pieces of conversation interrupting their silence. There’s a sense of-- something between them. Camaraderie, she thinks. Like they don’t need to talk to understand what the other is saying.

Sometimes she envies them. Sometimes she hates Castiel for making it look easy.

After Castiel's visits, Dean always seems-- lighter. Good-natured. At ease. And that would be one more reason to hate the angel, except that it's just too good to see Dean smile again like he really means it.


"Did you ever want kids?"

Dean stared intently at the art print of Van Gogh's sunflowers on the wall over the fireplace. "It never really came up until-- you know. When I met Ben."

Lisa couldn't help but smile. "You were terrified at the idea."

He tore his eyes away from the picture to look at her. "Yeah, at first," he admitted with a quick grin of his own. "And then it freaked me out how much I wanted him to be mine."

She remembered the expression on his face back then, regret and longing in equal measures, combining to a sadness that was almost unbearable to look at.

And then Dean added, "Even if it wasn’t for the right reasons."

"What?" Her fingers stilled where they had been stroking his arm lightly. "What do you mean?"

Dean rubbed his face with the hand that wasn't currently trapped under her shoulder. "It was the idea of-- of leaving something of myself behind when I was-- gone. It was-- I thought I didn’t have long, back then."

She sat up, elbowing him in the side as she did. "What? Why?"

Dean didn’t even complain. "I-- I can’t explain that to you," he said. "I just can’t."


"No. It’s in the past. It’s no longer who I am. This is my life now. I’m here."

Lisa didn’t point out that his past was what had made him who he was, today, here.

Dean already knew that.


One day Lisa comes home late from a yoga lesson to find Dean, Castiel, and Ben gathered around the kitchen table playing Monopoly.

"That’s one thousand and two hundred dollars," Ben is saying smugly, holding out his hand.

"Your business strategy seems highly effective," Castiel says seriously and hands over the cash.

Dean looks like he’s trying hard not to burst out laughing.

"Hey, Lisa," he greets and goes on cheerfully, "Your kid is a regular Donald Trump." To Ben, he says, "Keep up the good work. One more stop at a fancy hotel and he’s totally bankrupt."

Castiel looks bemused. "This isn’t real money, Dean."

"But you’ll go bankrupt anyway," Ben gloats and gives her a lazy wave. "Hi, mom."

Lisa ruffles Ben’s hair in passing. She should go over and kiss Dean hello. She really should. She doesn’t. He probably doesn’t realize what he just said. It’s such a small thing, maybe too small to even be hung up on. But-- Isn’t it time for Ben to start being his kid, too? If he’s planning on staying, if they’re going to be family to each other?

She busies herself putting together a salad for dinner while Ben, the real-estate mogul, is cleaning out first Castiel’s, then Dean’s fake accounts of fake money. When Ben has finished his victory dance, she tells him to set the table.

Castiel stays for dinner because Dean asks him to. He doesn’t eat.

During dinner Ben keeps asking Castiel questions and gets mostly monosyllabic answers. Dean tells him that Castiel is just a boring tax accountant and therefore a pitiful source for exciting stories. Lisa frowns at the outright lie. She can’t exactly tell her son the truth either, but she doesn’t have to like it.

Afterwards, when Ben has been sent off to bed, they clean up. She deals with the leftovers, Dean loads the dishwasher, and Castiel is leaning against the counter next to him, palms resting on the countertop.

"Been thinking about selling the Impala," Dean says, out of the blue.

She freezes in surprise, container of leftovers in one hand and the other on the door of the fridge. This is the first time she hears about that.

Castiel asks, "Really?" in a level voice.

Dean sighs. Plates clink together as he puts another one in the dishwasher. "No, not really," he admits.

Sometimes, when they're a party of three, it’s like she’s not even there. She opens the fridge and puts the leftovers on the shelf beside the tomatoes, just to be contrary. According to Dean, leftovers belong on the shelf above that, and he’s going to complain about it later. She closes the fridge and turns to watch them.

"I should get back," Castiel says, but he doesn’t move.

Dean straightens to look at Castiel for a long moment, measuring. "That bad, huh?" he asks.

"I’m no longer convinced that it’s possible to do," Castiel says, looking more lost than an angel of the Lord has any right to, in her opinion. "The way matters progress, I will not like the result of my work."

"Cas--" Dean starts and reaches out for him. He's not fast enough.

Lisa blinks, her brain protesting that what she has just seen can’t actually have been happening.

Dean is glaring at empty space.

"Does he ever use the door?" she asks.

"Not if he can help it," Dean says without a trace of humor. He lifts the door to the dishwasher with his foot, using enough force so that it falls shut. "Come on." He takes her hand and leads her to the couch.


"What about the rest of your family?"

Dean opened his mouth to answer, then reconsidered. "What are we talking here, blood relation or--" He paused, searching for the right words. "You know, the other kind. The people that stick with you even when the shit hits the fan."

Lisa had never thought about defining it like that. Maybe it depended on the kind of shit that hit the fan, and the frequency of that happening to you. "Is there a difference between the two?" she asked.

He didn't even have to consider the question. "No," he said. "Family is family."

And Dean told her about John and Mary, about Bobby and Castiel and Adam and Jo and Ellen. He told her more about Sam, the kid he had raised, the little brother he had been supposed to protect.

It was never the whole story. There was always something missing. Still, it felt like she was getting to know Dean's family, like she was being introduced, and the idea wasn't completely out there, was it?


Castiel appears in the living room, just like that. One moment he isn’t there, and the next he is. Lisa has squeaked, dropped the magazine she’s been reading, jumped up and grabbed something to defend herself with before she even recognizes the angel.

"Dean’s not home yet," is all she can think of to say, heart pounding. She lowers the fire poker and lets herself sink down on the couch.

"I will wait for him to return," Castiel says and just keeps standing there in that same spot where he appeared, silent.

"So," she says awkwardly after a while, fingering the glossy pages of the magazine. "You’re an angel."

"Yes," Castiel says.

"An angel angel," she emphasizes. "With wings and a halo and a cloud to sit on and everything?" She adds as an afterthought, "Dean didn't tell me much."

Castiel is silent for a moment, then he says, "Do not associate anything you believe to know about angels with the real thing. Angels are warriors of God. They are concerned with the bigger picture and have little regard for human life. They are without compassion. The majority of angels are, as Dean would say, dicks with wings."

That sure sounds like something Dean would say. To an angel. Of the Lord. Oh god, she has to sit down. This is a problem, since she's already sitting.

"Holy shit," she says. And then, "Sorry."

"It's fine," Castiel says. "I've heard worse."

"From Dean, I bet."

"Yes. Mostly from Dean." Castiel sounds faintly amused.

Something occurs to her. "You said ‘they’. When you were talking about angels, you said ‘they’. I thought you were one of them."

"I did?" Castiel asks. His expression is a mixture of surprise and disturbance. He tilts his head in that way that makes him look like a curious bird. "For months I was cut off from the host of heaven. An outcast, if you will. I have only been back for a short time, and the transition hasn’t been easy." He sounds uncertain, like he’s trying to convince himself.

"Okay," she says. "Okay--" She interrupts herself. "Look, could you please sit down? You’re making me nervous."

Castiel does as asked. He looks even more uncomfortable while sitting, with his back straight on a couch that doesn’t encourage such ergonomically sensible behavior.

"Aren't you glad to be back?" she asks. "You don't seem glad."

Castiel shoots her a sharp look that almost makes her lean away. "It hasn't been easy," he repeats.

"You're not welcome there anymore," she guesses.

Castiel shakes his head. "My brothers and sisters welcomed me back in heaven and into their ranks. I was forgiven by God Himself."

Lisa tilts her head in surprise and realizes too late that it's an exact imitation of Castiel's gesture. "You don’t look happy about it." Which, of course, is only a valid point if Castiel is capable of looking anything other than pensive and withdrawn. Most of the time it doesn't seem like he is. But she has caught him giving Dean almost-smiles on occasion that made the skin around his eyes crinkle.

"Pursuing happiness is not part of my duties," Castiel says flatly.

Now, that just seems wrong somehow. "God doesn’t want His angels to be happy?" she asks for clarification.

"The lines are clearly defined. Human beings exist to strive for contentment and happiness. Angels have always been servants of God, created to obey His will."

"But you disobeyed orders at some point, right?" she says. Dean hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with information, but she can put two and two together.

"No." Castiel’s voice is sharp. He immediately amends, "Yes. I disobeyed. But I did not disobey Him. The angels of higher authority, the ones who were giving the orders, they were misguided in their interpretation of our Father's will."

"You mean God isn’t around to keep an eye on things?" And, wow, she's talking about God like he's just another person, like he's just Castiel's boss. She will have to take up praying again.

"He is not," Castiel says. His voice carries an air of finality. She's sure that there is one hell of a lot more to that story, but Castiel's tone clearly declares the subject to be closed.

"Okay," she says slowly, remembering Dean and Castiel's conversation in the kitchen a few weeks ago. "And you're reorganizing heaven in the absence of-- God." Again. Like he's just Castiel's boss. But Dean was talking about corporate structures back then, so the analogy has to be fitting.

"It was necessary to implement changes," Castiel says.

"And you're asking Dean for advice on the matters of heaven."

"Yes," Castiel answers, like it's the most obvious course of action in the world. "His advice is helpful."

She must have looked as incredulous as she feels, because Castiel continues, "Dean understands--" He searches for the right word and comes up with, "Necessity. From the day I-- From the first time we met, he knew which rules were safe, necessary even, to break, and which rules needed to be adhered to. He chooses the right path on instinct alone. It's his nature. He is the righteous man."

There is obvious admiration in the angel's voice and words, for Dean, a human. It's the opposite to the way things should be, and thinking about the reasons and implications makes her head spin. "The rightous man?" she asks. "What does that mean? Is it some kind of title?"

"I--" Castiel says and hesitates. "No. I was speaking in general terms." He looks strangely pained as soon as the words are out.

Involuntarily, her mouth quirks up on one side. "You're not a very good liar, are you?"

Castiel squares his shoulders even more. "Angels don't lie."

"And that's probably why you suck at it. No practice." She draws up one knee and wraps her arms around it, resting her chin on top.

Castiel looks at her for a long time. "You and Dean are very much alike," he says. "I can see why he likes you."

Lisa doesn't say, "You, too," because that would be another lie. Castiel is distant and too serious and otherworldly, and she doesn't recognize at all what it is that Dean sees in him.

"Dean says you're pretty badass," she says, mostly just to fill the silence.

"I try to take it as a compliment whenever he does, which is not as rarely as one would think," Castiel says dryly.

"You should." She grins and asks casually, "So, how did you meet Dean?"

The question catches him off-guard, as intended. He shifts on the couch. "It's not my place to tell Dean's story," he finally says.

"Hm," she says, considering. "Tell me your side, then."

Castiel looks confused. "My side?"

"There are two sides to every story. Tell me the part of it that is yours to tell. The part that ends with you being an outcast fighting alongside Dean and his brother."

The art print hanging over the fireplace, the one that Dean fixates whenever he needs something other than her face to look at, suddenly seems to be fascinating to Castiel, too. When he speaks, it's to say, "Dean was made my responsibility. He was-- He is important. I was supposed to guide him through a difficult task. I was ordered to observe him and see to it that he made the right decisions."

"But you said--"

"Yes," Castiel says, meeting her eyes. "At some point along the way our roles were reversed. I was-- little more than a tool when I met Dean. A hammer, I believe he called me." He pauses, gathering himself. "I had doubts, but no means to deal with them. I learned. Now I have Free Will."

Lisa can hear the capital letters he puts on that, like it’s sacred, a thing to be revered. "Is that why you were kicked out?"

"I disobeyed orders," Castiel says. "It's the worst thing an angel can do."

She connects the dots. "You disobeyed for Dean."

"I have faith in Dean." It's not actually an answer to the question, but kind of freakishly important nonetheless.

"That-- That's huge," she says faintly.

"Yes," Castiel says.

"And now you're back."

Castiel's eyes dart away from her and find the sunflowers again. "Yes."

"But you don't feel at home there anymore."

After watching Castiel move slowly and deliberately for weeks, it's almost funny to see his head whip around to her fast. "Yes," he says. He sounds utterly surprised, as if he hadn't been able to put a name to the feeling before.

She remembers him saying, Things are different now. I'm different, weeks ago and cocks her head at him. "Maybe you need to implement some more changes," she suggests.

Castiel stares at her with wide eyes and doesn't say anything at all.

If she'll ever get a chance to catch the angel off-guard again, she figures it's this one. "That handprint on Dean's shoulder--" she starts.

Unfortunately Castiel seems all too aware of what she's doing. He visibly snaps out of it and finishes, "--is Dean's story to tell."

"Oh," she says, a little disappointed. "Okay."

Silence descends. It's anything but comfortable. At least Castiel isn't looking at her, but scanning the room for other things to fixate on than the damn sunflower print.

"Perhaps I should come back later," Castiel finally says and moves to get up.

"Wait." Lisa stops him with a hand on his arm which she snatches back immediately. "What--" She feels a little sheepish asking this, but-- "What's He like? God, I mean?"

Castiel hesitates. "I don't know," he answers, a note of longing in his voice. "I have never been graced with His presence."

"What?" That is not what she expected. "But you-- You're an angel!"

Castiel just looks at her, as if to ask, "So?"

She blinks. "Then how do you know He exists?"

His face softens into the hint of a smile. "I have faith," he says. It doesn't sound any different from the way he spoke almost the same sentence a few minutes ago when he was talking about Dean, and that is just--- whoa.

This time her eyes are closed when she hears the low rustling sound that accompanies Castiel's appearances and disappearances. That's a good thing; she's not too keen on having her brain broken.

In the darkness behind her eyelids she wonders why Castiel chose to tell her anything at all. To help her understand the importance of the role Dean played? To emphasize that Dean had some hard times? To remind her what a great guy Dean is?

Whatever Castiel's intent was, she understands. She probably understands more than Castiel wanted to reveal.

She hears the Impala pull up in the driveway and wonders if maybe that was why Castiel had felt the sudden urge to take off.


"The handprint-- It's Castiel's, isn’t it?"

Much to her surprise, Dean didn't hesitate or try to change the subject. "Yeah," he said simply, quietly.


"Don't," he cut her off. His hand tightened around her shoulder to a point that was just shy of painful. "Look, I've avoided a shitload of questions, I know, but this--" He shook his head. "Anything. Anything but this."

Lisa looked at him, at his clenched jaw and guarded eyes, and found that she didn't want to ask after all.

Not Dean, at least.


Castiel rings her doorbell for the first and the last time on a Sunday night.

He looks strange, blinking in the porch light, and it takes Lisa a moment to figure out why. He's not wearing the trench coat, or the tie, or the suit, or the sensible shoes. He's in jeans, a shirt and a dark jacket, all slightly scruffy and mismatched. There are dark rings under his eyes.

Dean comes up beside her and stops short. "Cas," he says softly. "What happened?"

"I made my choice," Castiel says to Dean, but he's looking at her, taking in her confused expression. "I am fallen," he explains. "I have become human."

She hears Dean's sharp intake of breath. "What the fuck, Cas," he says. "You-- Why'd you do that? You were only just--" He sounds strained and angry and frustrated all at once.

"Dean," Lisa says sternly, and then she turns to Castiel, "It's alright. You better come in. You look exhausted."

Dean stares at her like she's grown a second head. She almost snaps at him that, what, he thought she was deaf and blind and a bitch on top of that, but she holds back. Dean comes back to himself when Castiel shuffles forward, his foot catches under the doormat and he stumbles. Dean is reaching out to steady him at the same time that Castiel blindly grabs for something to hold onto. Castiel's hand finds Dean's upper arm, the exact spot where the handprint is hidden under the shirt. Neither of them seems to think anything of it. Lisa is sure it's not a coincidence.

Dean half carries Castiel into the living room and dumps him on the couch unceremoniously.

"This seems familiar," Castiel says, brows furrowed. He starts pulling at his jacket, and Lisa moves to help him out of it.

"Yeah, well, you ain't getting the honeymoon suite this time," Dean says.

"That's a shame," Castiel answers. It's hard to tell if he's joking.

Noticing her expression, Dean smiles sheepishly at her and says, "Inside joke. We once had to stash our Cas here in a honeymoon suite so he could recover from-- injuries."

Once again, that's not even half of the story, but she can't find it in her to be annoyed, or even curious, anymore. She lays the jacket out over the back of the armchair, moves around to sink down into it, and watches them.

Dean plants his ass on the coffee table, directly opposite Castiel. "Cas," he says. "Not that I'm not glad that you're here-- But who's handling--"

"There are others better suited for the task," Castiel interrupts him. "You yourself advised me to find like-minded allies and join forces with them."

"But they--"

"I have come to trust them," Castiel interrupts sternly. "Not all angels are complete dicks."

She can't help but snicker at that.

"Okay," Dean says and shoots her a look.

Castiel leans back against the couch. His eyes are already drifting shut.

"Must have been hard work, ripping out your grace and all that," Dean says, his voice dripping with biting sarcasm.

Castiel cracks one eye open. "I did not make the decision lightly, Dean."

Dean exhales his frustration in one breath. "I know."

"It sounds painful," Lisa says into the silence that follows. "Ripping out your--"

"Grace," Dean supplies. "It's what makes an angel an angel. Their angel mojo."

"This is not exactly how it happened," Castiel says quietly. Both his eyes are open and focused on Lisa now. "It was different. Painful, yes. But I wanted-- I didn't want to--"

"It's okay," Dean says, and maybe he really understands what Castiel is trying to say.

She swallows. "I'm sorry."

Castiel shakes his head. "Don't be," he says. He doesn't add, I'm here, am I not?

Dean pats Castiel's knee wordlessly in reassurance, and Castiel declares, "I'm very tired. I think I need to sleep."

"You think?" Lisa asks with a raised eyebrow.

"Angels don't sleep," Dean explains and gets the cushion out of his hiding place.

She supposes that angels don't sleep in the same way that they don't lie, or use a doorbell, or want.

The ex-angel gets the couch that night, with Dean keeping an eye on him from the arm chair.

Watching them in the living room, Dean listening to Castiel's snores, Lisa knows that Dean will be leaving. If not right away, then in a week, or a month, or as soon as he's figured it out for himself.

She goes upstairs and watches Ben sleep.


"Do you even want to be here?"

"Honestly?" Dean said. "I don't know." He exhaled in a rush and offered, "There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

She thought that, maybe, it would be enough.


Ben stomps up the stairs and into his room, furious and trying to hold back the tears.

Dean is standing outside the front door, duffle bag slung over his shoulder, looking just as miserable.

"I'm sorry," he says and finally meets her eyes. "I'm really sorry. I thought-- I wanted--"

"I know," she says. And no, she's not going to cry. Not yet. She can't even hate him, not when he's so obviously, truthfully regretful. "Boy, have you got issues," she says with a shaky almost-laugh.

"Yeah," he says. "Can't be helped." He shuffles his feet. Then he moves forward, hesitantly, as if he isn't sure he's allowed. She hugs him back. He's holding on tight and whispers into her ear, fiercely and honestly, "I just want you and Ben to be happy. You're both amazing. You deserve to be happy."

"You deserve that, too," she whispers back and feels him squeeze her a little tighter before letting go.

Dean steps back and throws a look at Castiel over his shoulder, reminding her that the not-really-an-angel-anymore is hovering close by.

"Castiel," she says. "Keep him out of trouble."

"I will try," Castiel says, but he sounds doubtful.

She holds out her hand for him to shake. "And thank you for helping save the world."

"I didn't really--"

"Yes, you did," Dean cuts him off. "Say 'You're welcome', Cas."

"You’re welcome," Castiel says and takes her hand. "And thank you, Lisa." He throws Dean a meaningful look, which she wouldn't have needed to understand, and which Dean is thankfully oblivious to.

Dean meets her eyes and tries to smile. "Bye, Lisa."

"Good luck," she says.

"And to you," Castiel answers kindly.

Dean throws an arm across Castiel's shoulder as they walk to the car. He's steering him to the passenger side and telling him that no, he can't take the wheel, because he hasn't even got a freaking driver's license. Castiel's answer is cut off as the car doors close and the engine starts.

Lisa is pretty sure that Ben is watching them drive off from his bedroom window, but she's not going to call him on it.

She's going to miss Dean, too.

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