Disclaimer: Not mine or Sam wouldn't have gone.

Beta: The incredibly awesome sandymg who did this unwarned at 2 in the morning

A/N: I desperately needed a resolution I could live with until September. I offer it to anyone else who needs catharsis. And I wrote Lisa like I did because Dean needed me to.

Peace in Your Freedom

It has been over for twenty-four hours.

Sam has been in Hell for twenty-four hours.

Except it has been longer for Sam …

No. Can't think about that.

For the last six of those hours Dean's been sitting in Lisa's house. Not thinking as hard as he possibly can.

Lisa just opened the door and took him in, no questions. Ben was surprised to see Dean having coffee at the kitchen table in the morning, and Dean did his best to return the spontaneous smile that crossed Ben's face.

From the way Ben's smile wavered, Dean hadn't done a terribly convincing job.

Lisa had been willing to skip teaching and stay with him, but he didn't want anyone else around him yet.

What do I do now, Sam?

It has been two weeks since the Apocalypse ended.

Sam has been in Hell for two weeks.

The first week Dean sat for hours replaying every damn decision he'd ever made that ended up with him sitting here.

He could see where he could have done things differently, made another choice. Problem was, it wasn't just his own choices that led to this end. Sam had made choices, too. Hell, Dean could argue that what his dad had done had affected the outcome more than just Dean … Go back to your mom, a little voice whispered. She set it in motion. Except. That led back to Dean showing up in 1973 and pretty much introducing his mother to the yellow-eyed demon.

'Course it was the angels who'd sent him there.

So as far as Dean could tell, it boiled down to Dean bringing Sam back after Cold Oak. If he hadn't done that … well, he still wouldn't have his brother. But Sam wouldn't be in Hell.

Or Dean could have said yes to Michael. But Dean couldn't really beat himself up for that choice when it had been what Sam wanted as well. Woulda wanted even knowing what was gonna be the outcome.

So, yeah, Cold Oak was where Dean screwed up. Shoulda just blown his brains out then.

He couldn't do it now … because he'd promised not to.

So having made clear in his own mind how he'd gotten to this point, it was time to suck it up and keep going.

The second week he made a conscious effort to cut back on the number of drinks he had each day, and to make small talk with Ben about school and sports.

Lisa let him know she was there when he wanted someone, but she was pretty much a saint for not pushing.

He tried to apologize one evening, for just showing up, for just sitting around, for not talking.

"It's okay, Dean. You do what you need to right now. If you need to talk, I'll listen. If you need to work it out in your own head … your own heart," she put a hand gently on his chest, "do it that way."

What dumb luck had let him meet this woman twelve years ago? That was a decision, too, a thought whispered. A choice he made and she made, for a couple nights of crazy good sex. No way to have predicted how that would play out.

Dean hasn't hunted anything since May 13.

Sam has been gone for nine weeks.

Dean debates whether it's worth the effort to set himself up with a respectable fake identity. Sam would have snorted at that. Sam's voice pointing out the irony in this makes him stop. Just stop. He can't. He pushes the idea to one side.

But a few days later, when he catches himself scanning the help wanted ads, he realizes he will need a legitimate Social Security number to get a real job. One of those things he's never considered before, that the path to the white picket fence starts with a goddamned tax number.

He calls Bobby to see if he would help with that problem. Of course, Bobby asks how he's doing.

"I'm alive, Bobby. It's …it's what Sam wanted for me."

"I know that. But what about you? What do you want, boy?"

"I don't know. Maybe I will sometime … I'm trying, I am. And Lisa's good, and Ben, too … I just need time …"

Bobby says to give him three weeks and Dean will have a shiny new name. So Dean figures he'd better explain to Lisa why he wouldn't be 'Dean Winchester' anymore.

"So here's the thing, if I'm gonna get a job …"

She listens without interrupting, sitting across from him, her intense eyes fastened on his face, her expression serious. As he talks it occurs to Dean that maybe Lisa won't want someone who's been on the FBI's wanted list hanging around her son. Hell, maybe she just doesn't want a petty criminal living with her. He shouldn't have said anything. Just knowing that he is going to commit identity theft makes her an accessory. He really hasn't thought this out.

"I know you didn't have any idea about the kinds of stuff I've had to do, and I'm sorry." Dean swipes his hand across his chin. "If you want me to leave, I will, I understand, no hard feelings."

"Dean, stop. You've told me a lot of things I had no idea about. It's a lot to process. But," she holds up a hand to keep him silent, "here's the thing. I didn't know a lot about your history, the crazy and pretty messed-up life you had. And I don't believe in romantic eyes-meet-across-the-room-fall-in-love crap." Her lips twitched. "Lust-at-first-sight is another story." Serious again.

"This is a lot for me to wrap my mind around. And I have to admit there's a little voice in my head screaming, 'What the heck are you doing?' It sounds a lot like my mother's voice, actually." They exchange snarky smiles. "Three years ago you showed up and saved my son's life. My life. A whole lot of peoples' lives, actually."

Dean interrupts. "That's my … was my job. I don't want to be here because of you being grateful …"

"Let me finish. I get that you would have done it no matter whose kids were involved. It just happened to include Ben. But with that whole horrible thing, I saw … I saw a glimpse of what kind of man you are. Wasn't a whole lot different than the boy I had the wildest night of my life with. Which wasn't just great sex. It's you." Lisa moves to sit next to him on the couch. "Dean Winchester doesn't do things half-way. That is why you are amazing. And scary. And I'm watching you …" Lisa bites her lip, "I'm watching you hurt. And you don't do that half-way either. And the whole checkered past bit that should be bothering me is really irrelevant. I'm pretty sure I don't have to ask you to keep Ben out of it … for now, anyway."

Dean nods.

"So here's the thing. I don't know how long it's going to take you to … not … stop hurting. But to see around it, to see what you want to go on to … You said, a few months ago, that when you saw yourself happy it was with Ben and me. So if the Dean Winchester who throws all of himself into what he's doing can put even part of himself into a family, well, I think it could be pretty incredible. And I would be pretty damn … honored … if you tried with us. I'm willing to wait till you're ready, if you think some point in the future you might be."

Dean could hardly breathe. "I don't deserve you."

"Oh, you're right about that. But I don't deserve you either. So we're even." She leans forward and kisses him gently, then again with more intensity. God, he can't help the need that fires up in him.

They make love for the first time since he'd come back. It's the first night he doesn't think of Sam with his last waking thought.

Three-and-a-half months since Stull Cemetery.

Howard Dean Winters has a brand-spanking-new ID.

"Figured it'd be easiest to keep 'Dean' in there for ya, and 'Winters,' well …"

"This is great, Bobby. Don't even have to change all my monogrammed towels, now."

"Don't go getting all smart-ass with me, boy!"

"Nah, I really appreciate it, musta been a bit of work to get."

"Pulled some strings. Said it was for the fella who saved the world."

"That wasn't me, Bobby."

Bobby's voice turns as cautious as someone stepping barefoot on broken glass. "We can't do anything more for your brother, Dean. But we can sure as hell take care of you like he'd want."

"One thousand one-hundred and ninety-one days, Bobby."

"What?"

"I figured it out. One month up here was like a year down there, so every twenty-four hours Sam's gone through another twelve-and-almost-a-quarter days of Hell."

"You figured that out, Dean?"

"I wasn't sure about how they handle some months having thirty days and some thirty-one. And I didn't know what to do about February, and Leap Year. So I worked it from three-hundred-sixty-five days equaling ten years."

"Dean--"

"Sammy's stronger than I am, he'll last a lot longer than I did before he … breaks … Dad lasted a hundred years, Sam's at least as stubborn as him. So he's not … doing it to other souls yet. They're doing it … to him …"

"Dean, I don't know what …"

" 'S okay, Bobby, thanks for the fresh name. Now I gotta go find a job. Lisa's good, she's better'n I deserve, and it's time I start pulling my own weight with the expenses."

Two nights later Dean is watching an old Star Trek episode on the SyFy channel, on his third glass of whiskey. He still has trouble sleeping … hasn't found the balance to drink enough to fall asleep without dreaming. Lisa hasn't said a word about his alcohol consumption. Dean thinks maybe she trusts him to eventually figure out that drinking doesn't make the pain go away. Dean's mind wanders away from the TV episode. Sam would go all disapproving on Dean's ass when he thought Dean was drinking too much. At least before Dean went to Hell.

Sam's bitchface is suddenly clear in his mind, and god, what he'd give to see that one more time …

He doubles over. "I'm trying, Sammy, I'm trying." Dean shoves his fist in his mouth to stifle the sudden sobs tearing through him. Now that he's started, he can't stop. Never in his life has Dean been so helpless to control himself, gasping to take in air, snot streaming from his nose, clutching his stomach as it tries to heave itself out of his throat. He can't do this.

Sam, Sammy

He tastes blood where he's bitten his lip trying to silence his keening.

If Sam were just dead, Dean could live. But knowing that Sam is in Hell … forever … How could Dean have let that happen?

An arm is around his shoulders, a tissue dabs at his nose. Lisa doesn't say anything, just holds him as he disintegrates.

There is probably some factoid about how much fluid a body expels while crying. Sam would know it. Dean must have exceeded it by two thousand percent. He feels empty.

"Can you talk about it?" The very gentleness of Lisa's voice sets him off again. She keeps holding onto him, as his body rocks involuntarily to the strangled noises he is making.

When the gasps trail off again, she rests her head against his shoulder. "Whatever happened to you, it can't be undone. But if you can talk about it, maybe I can share it with you just a little? Let me help."

" 'S my brother."

"Sam?"

"He's in Hell, 'n I let him go." How could he still have tears left in him? This is the stupidest fucking breakdown he's ever had.

"Tell me what happened."

Pre-dawn light trickles through the curtains as Dean finishes his broken explanation for everything that had happened to the Winchester family that led to where he is … where Sam is now. When his rambling get too disjointed, Lisa asks a quiet question or two to get it straight, and each time Dean falls apart she holds him and rubs his back and hands him tissues until he can continue.

His sinuses feel like they are going to explode, his eyes burn, and his nose feels raw. His chest just fuckin' aches. For the first time since she's come in the room Dean turns to look at Lisa and is stunned by the wetness dripping down her cheeks.

"Lisa?"

She shakes her head. "I'm okay. I wish I could fix it ..." She stops talking and simply squeezes him harder than he thinks she possibly can.

You go find Lisa. You pray to God she's dumb enough to take you in. You have barbecues, and go to football games. You go live some normal apple pie life Dean. Promise me!

Another shudder vibrates through Dean. He doesn't understand how he can still have anything left to cry.

"He … told me to come to you. Made me promise. Said he hoped you'd take me in … I'm sorry …"

Lisa is kneeling in front of him, one hand on each side of his ravaged face.

"Dean, you and Sam were each willing to sacrifice yourself for the other … that in itself, it's just …" Lisa pauses, gulps as tears stream down her face now.

"From everything you've told me, Sam knew what he was choosing. And it sucks, oh, god, does it suck, to be the one left behind. To have to keep going. So now you have to choose how you will honor him, and what he did. No one could blame you if you just give up. Except yourself. From everything you've told me tonight, Winchesters are the stubbornest men on the planet. And you are never going to stop grieving for your brother, and you will never be able to forget what he is suffering. And you will never forgive yourself if you let his sacrifice be wasted. At least, that's how I see it."

Dean pulls her to his chest, and yet more tears fall into Lisa's hair.

It has been four months since Lucifer beat Dean to a pulp.

It has been four months – forty years – that Sam has been in Hell.

From tomorrow on, Sam will have the lead in number of days in Hell. Over Dean, anyway. Sam still has to catch up to their father. It will never stop hurting to know Sam is suffering, will always be suffering. It is beyond Dean's control. But every day, as he has since that first day, Dean tells his brother that he will live today for both of them, like Sammy wanted. He believes with all his being that Sam knows Dean thinks of him every day. And Dean knows what that means to someone in Hell.

If being happy is the only thing left he can do for Sam, then he will be.

Lisa is turning tonight's supper into a little celebration. Dean has finished his first week as a mechanic at Erlach's Garage. Erlach specializes in working on classic cars, and Dean pretty much nailed the job as soon as he explained how he'd rebuilt and maintained the Impala.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

While he isn't exactly happy, he's starting to see how to accept contentment. Enjoying the here-and-now. Mundane stuff. Lisa laughs at some of the little things that Dean finds satisfaction in doing. Like cutting the grass.

Over the weekend he and Ben are going to do some 'adventuring' in the forest area around Indian Lake. Lisa is okay with, in fact, approves of, Dean teaching Ben basic survival skills. Dean knows a lot of things that can be useful even in non-hunting life.

It surprises Dean just how easy it has been to slip into a half-parent-half-buddy role with Ben. Ben reminds him of Sam as a twelve-year-old in a general way, and yet Ben really isn't like Sam at that age at all. Lots of questions, yeah. But not moody. Boy can't make decent bitchface. Snarky, on the other hand? Ben really reminds him of himself as a kid sometimes.

Lisa has done a helluva job. And there is no way Dean is going to screw that up.

He can do this, find some peace in this life. For Sam … and for himself.

"So Mr. Garber asked if anyone knew why Latin was such an important language even though no one speaks it anymore. I wanted to tell her it's because you use Latin to exorcize demons …"

Dean chokes on the whiskey he just started to swallow. Lisa glares back and forth between Ben and Dean. Okay, maybe he'd taught Ben a few more things than Lisa realized …

Brown eyes settle unwaveringly on Dean.

"Dean …"

The light level in the room drops a barely perceptible amount, but it registers with Dean and he looks around.

Over his shoulder he sees the problem out the dining room window. Can use it as a diversion.

"One of the streetlights blew out. Probably should call the city to report it in the morning."

FIN