An Angel's Mark

Unlike Dean, Lisa's family was quite large. Dean of course had Bobby and Castiel left; but the Braeden bunch numbered in the double digits. In addition to the normal parents and siblings there were spouses and in-laws and nieces and nephews and on and on. When it was only a few at a time Dean could handle them, he could put on his well-worn façade and smile sincerely. But all at once, with little kids running to and fro, it was harder, but not impossible.

He had prepared for the family gathering in advance. Lisa's entire family, at least all of them that were local, were coming to her house for a barbecue. Ben of course was excited and blathered about the event to everyone that would listen, and some who wouldn't. It was Ben's enthusiasm that kept Dean's tongue in check, and kept him from begging out of the reunion. For this reason, he stoically removed all his weapons and knives from the family rooms and cleaned the stray salt that remained from his precautions after joining Ben and Lisa. He of course left some things in place, such as the demons trap painted onto the bottom of the hallway doormat. Although regardless of how much he pleaded, Lisa removed all the iron and silver cutlery from the kitchen drawers, with the response that…

"If one of my family members was a demon don't you think I would have noticed?! Either way, if my granny's a demon then we are damn well keeping her that way. That old kook's been in my family for seventy-five years and you're not gonna gank her!"

He was almost surprised she didn't say 'ya idjit' and put on an old baseball cap and a flannel shirt.

Back in the present, Dean was not at all comfortable. Give him a ghost anyday. A demon, sure. An angel, probably, depends which one. But set him down in the middle of suburbia with a spatula and the order to make small talk and not burn the burgers and he was way out of his depth. Add to that the intense heat and he was cooking inside his biker boots and long-sleeve shirt. He wished desperately that he was young enough to get away with a turn going down the slip n' slide but he doubted it would make a good impression with Lisa's family. And he'd promised Sam that he would try.

The only upside to his position was that as the grill master no one wanted to be near the flaming heat of the appliance, nor the leaping flames that signified Dean's cooking style. So the small talk was generously short. Generally just questions along the lines of…

"What is it you do? Construction?" Lisa's brother in-law.

"So Dean, Lisa tells me you're from Kansas." Lisa's uncle.

"Ben said you have a really fast car, can you show us?!" Lisa's ten year-old nephews.

Etc.

So when Lisa came over to grab her burger, cooked to perfection by the way, and suggested Dean lose his outer layer he agreed. He didn't usually appreciate showing any skin to anyone he didn't know, a token from Alistair. He still woke up in cold sweats from memories of years gone by lying naked on the rack before that god-awful demon. Still remembers the searing pain of a knife, or the heart stopping impact of a bullet, and worse still the shame and helplessness of knowing he couldn't take it any longer, of knowing Sammy is in an even worse position. But the heat won out against the power of those memories.

He didn't think twice once he had made the decision, and thrown the crumpled button-up in a corner of the yard. Lisa of course noticed, but knew better than to stay progress by pointing it out. She knew that her family would notice as well but hoped they had the good grace not to mention it. What Dean hadn't foreseen was that when he removed his shirt, the sleeve of his V-neck hitched up and the handprint left by Castiel, on his left bicep, was clearly visible. It seemed that the longer he went without seeing the black-haired righteous angel the more fiercely the burnt scar stood out against the muscled flesh of his arm.

Praying to whatever God was listening to deafen the collective queries by her family, Lisa walked over to one of the many tables they had laid out in her yard. Most of her closest family was seated there, including her parents, her grandparents on her mother's side, both brothers, her sister, and her two closest aunts and uncles. It made for one long table of judgment. She knew already that they approved of Dean; they saw the way he was with Ben. The air about Dean was filled with love whenever Ben was near. But she could tell by the looks on their faces that they had noticed the abnormal scar on her boyfriend's extremity. She could also tell that they had no idea what to make of it, although neither did she really. Dean had only told her that his closest friend had raised him up and that sort of power had left its mark.

"Lisa, what exactly is that on Dean's arm?" Her mother asked pleasantly.

"It looks like he was burned." Her father butted in roughly, backing Lisa's mother.

"Nah, that's a handprint, maybe some sort of screwed up tattoo removal gone wrong." Her brother suggested, around a mouthful of his hotdog.

"Maybe you should all quiet down and let Lisa explain. I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation. Isn't there dear?" Lisa's grandmother asked, always the wise one in the family despite her quirks.

At once her entire family turned to look at her. She began to flail to try to explain the odd mark. She knew that trying to spin it as some sort of unfortunate birthmark wouldn't work with this crowd. She could only hope they wouldn't let their curiosity overstay its welcome.

"Look, it's a long story and I don't know or understand most of it. I do know that it upsets Dean to talk about it so please just leave it alone. " She pleaded.

"But I do know it wasn't a tattoo Andy!" She sternly reprimanded her brother as he opened his still full mouth to make his opinion known again.

"Well I for one would like to know. I need to be sure that my daughter isn't sharing her house with some ex-criminal or gang member!" Her father declared indignantly.

Before she could protest her father had risen from the bench and was walking the dozen steps or so over to her boyfriend. The noise that had existed due to the party atmosphere evaporated almost completely as everyone took note of the stern walk and expression of Lewis Braeden. Dean of course went on the defensive and looked as though he would have been pointing a gun at Lisa's father if it weren't for the fact that he was Lisa's father. Without much more to be done he just stood there as calmly as possible and awaited whatever the older man had to say.

"So, a few of us have been wondering something Dean." Lewis began. In a reprimanding tone.

"Yes sir?" Dean asked tentatively.

"We noticed that, I guess you'd call it a burn, on your arm. And we couldn't help but see it looks an awful lot like a handprint. Care to tell us how you came to possess that exact scar?"

Immediately Dean's head was filled with memories. Hell. Heaven. Digging his way out of a dirt grave in a meadow of fallen trees. Watching his brother fall. Cas's fingers brushing his forehead. A pair of black wings. Pain. Loss. Anna's betrayal. Pamela's eyes. A long dark road. Michael. Lucifer. Everything.

In a flash, the last year came and went in his head. The warmth emanating from the scar on his arm the only constant, next to his angel. Every time he saw a beige trench coat he had to force himself not to pray, not to cry out in frustration and pain. And all this came bubbling to the surface and was forced back down as quickly as it had come. The spark in his eyes left and the façade came crumbling back into place. He knew he couldn't lie. Not about Cas. But he could still fudge the lines…

"A long time ago, at least it feels like forever, I was lost and I was in pain. A stranger grabbed me by the arm and hauled me from my perdition and brought me back. To life. Back to my family. He removed all my scars but left me this one." Dean stated. Before Lisa's father could interrupt he continued.

"I hide it because there is no conceivable way anyone else can understand. Not because I'm ashamed by it. That mark reminds me every day why I do what I do. Why loving Ben and Lisa is the most important thing in the world. It's the mark of an angel."

Lisa's father nodded; not quite sure of himself. He appeared befuddled but he accepted that he would get no more of an answer, although it cleared up nothing. He walked back to the table and Dean watched as the family returned to normal avenues of conversation. He watched and saw the difference. His family was him and Sam on the hood of the Impala, drinking beer and eating burgers. It was him and Castiel, scoping out a strip club, trying not to let the angel die a virgin. It was Bobby and the scrapyard. It was John and motel rooms. It was graveyards and shovels. It was fire and salt. It wasn't a family barbecue. And it wasn't a yard full of kids. But it could be. He was hopeful of that. If not for him, then for Sam. He could do it for Sammy.

Unbeknownst to Dean, Castiel stood silently by his side. His wings curled protectively around his hunter. A black feather just touching the unique mark on Dean's arm. A stark contrast, as stark as the friendship of an angel and a hunter.

A flutter of wings and he was gone, leaving Dean to his new life. But he would always come back. Heaven had said that he was lost when he first laid a hand on Dean in hell. But that wasn't the truth. He just found his humanity instead.