A/N/ -Okay, I just had to write this little snippet after watching Swan Song. If you haven't seen it yet, don't read this. I'm also choosing to ignore the last few seconds of the episode to see how life would have turned out for Dean after *SPOILER* Sam jumped in that hole and away from him forever. Blerg, I feel worse than I did after watching the last episode of Dexter from season four. Jeebus, it feels a wee bit (a lot!) like mourning. And that's just sad.

Be brave, self. Don't cry, you told yourself you weren't gonna cry!

;_ ;

Ben was happy.

He was.

It's just that when Dean showed up, sat at his kitchen table with that glass of scotch, he had a different picture of how things would turn out.

In some ways, life had managed to reflect his dream. Dean married his mom. There were barbeques in the summer, family portraits (he used to complain so much about wearing a suit) and Dean showing him the ropes of the Impala.

Last year his stepdad had even given him his first condom. It was just as awkward as he thought it would be, but embarrassment lost to pride and he still has that little tinfoil package in his wallet.

When he was young, Ben had fantasized about his real father showing up. The figure never had the same face twice (once he was Wolverine, because, well – that would have been fucking awesome), but there was always a reason why he had abandoned them. In his fantasies, his father was apologetic and loving and everything a boy could hope for.

But reality was better, because reality had given him Dean.

So, yes, Ben was very happy, and he believed his mom was, too.

Dean wasn't.

He doesn't know exactly when the flash of understanding happened. There's no one thing or incidence he can pinpoint as that moment. It's more like a series of moments, puzzle pieces he's collected over the years before finally realizing the picture they make when they all come together.

And it's a terrible image of loneliness and rage and sorrow and there's no room in that frame for Ben and his mother. Dean has worked very hard to not let them see this, but the cracks have grown bigger – not smaller – over the years.

Dean drinks a lot.

He's never gotten angry or elated or even sad when he opens that bottle, but Ben knows he drinks too much, anyways.

Because Jack's dad drinks, Ben saw it, but that man had stopped at two. Ben was just young enough to ask why he wasn't going to finish the jug, and Jack's father had given him this sad look.

Jack's parents talked to his mom after that happened, and he doesn't know what they said to her (though he can imagine) but she was so pissed and Ben wasn't allowed to see Jack for a while.

Things calmed down pretty quickly after that, but Ben knew from then on that his stepfather had a problem, even if it wasn't a problem for them.

There are a lot of other things, too. Dean's laugh is always a second too late, like he has to remind himself what to do. He never listens to music in the car, left the room when Ben pulled a prank once, and blanched when Ben told him about David going to Stanford. Little nuances.

And then there's the gun.

The gun Ben has seen, more than once, pulled out and placed against the temple.

Dean doesn't know he's seen, and he's pretty sure his mother would flip if she knew, but Ben has witnessed it enough times to realize that it probably happens frequently. Maybe every day.

Dean just sits on the edge of the bed, stares at the colt in his hands, and slowly brings it up to his head. His hands are steady – so steady every time – but after a few agonizing minutes he will inevitably sigh and carefully place it back in the lock box.

Ben saw it the first time during a barbeque when he was fourteen, and was so scared (god, what if he lost another father?), but he's kept it to himself. Though Dean doesn't know he's aware of what is going on, Ben feels like it's their secret. Somehow, in a sick, twisted way, it makes him feel closer to Dean.

And Ben needs to feel that closeness.

Because one day Dean will pull that trigger, Ben knows he will. Dean wants to. The naked longing on his face when he looks at that gun makes even Ben's chest ache. Ben doesn't know what's holding him back, but he likes to think that it's him and his mom.

He likes to think this, just like he used to fantasize about his biological father. He knows it's just that – fantasy. And, like before, reality will strike.

And just as suddenly as Dean entered their lives, he will be gone.

He'll finally be happy.