Title: Once More Unto the Breach
Summary: AU - Dean and Lisa say goodbye.
Rating: K+
Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: I'm pretty sure this isn't quite how it's going to happen, but I thought I should get this out of my system before the season starts. I've avoided as many spoilers as possible. Not a fan of Lisa (likely rather obvious by now) or the whole Lisa-Ben storyline, but my reasons are an entire long note I'm sure no one cares to read as it's all been said, and probably better, by other people.

Job 17:11 (NIV) - My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart.

Dean wasn't happy. Lisa could see it. Truth be told, she wasn't either. He was hardly the man she remembered, broken from grief and while she hadn't minded helping him through that, he wasn't coming out of it the way she'd hoped. He mourned like a part of him had been ripped away and could never be replaced. A year had passed and he was just as broken as he'd been. He'd never admit it, not to her, but it was the truth.

She sighed as she watched him in the backyard with Ben. He was happiest with Ben, playing that father role, and she loved that. She loved that he adored Ben and Ben adored him. As for the rest of their life? He went through the motions, making an effort that wasn't enough to be working.

Lisa hated to admit that. She hated to because he was still the best man to come into her life in a very long time. A little sad really, that a man shattered and in such emotional turmoil was the best she'd found. Didn't speak well for the other men she knew. She'd wanted so badly to be the one to make Dean whole again and it wasn't going to be her. Regrettably.

She hadn't anticipated what taking him into their lives meant in the end. She'd known what he did for a living and still hadn't taken the whole of him into account. Mostly, she hadn't anticipated the unfixable emptiness in Dean. The life she'd thought they could have was a naïve daydream. It was funny in a way, because Lisa had been around the block a few times. She knew life wasn't neat and tidy, that it was messy and hard and never what a person expected.

She'd been naïve about Dean and a life with him. No amount of burying her head in the sand and pretending everything was fine was going to help. Things weren't ever going to be the way she longed them to be.

His nightmares left her trembling and shaking.

The things he finally told her of his past left her wondering when something was going to come after him and either use them against him or just kill them to get at him. There was a decision to be made now, one she hated to make and had to for the safety of her child, because when it came right down to it, Ben was the most important thing in her life. As a good mother, she had to take steps to protect him.

He couldn't do it.

Dean sat on the edge of the bed, his empty bag at the end. He'd tried. Lord knew he'd tried! He'd made a promise to Sam and tried to keep it, but that apple pie life felt…wrong. He felt just enough on the periphery of every day activities to be out of place. There was nothing about him that was the norm. Maybe it wasn't obvious to others, but he felt it keenly.

Lisa said he was being ridiculous, that he fit in well. She said he was more hands-on with Ben than his classmate's fathers, that he was the standard the rest should strive for. She said it amazed her how he'd jumped right in to parenting. He was good at it. He was the father Ben wanted….

He wasn't Ben's father, not biologically. She'd shown him the results of that test when he'd asked for the proof, not protested when he'd insisted on a new test. Ben really wasn't his and it had been a let-down all over again. The similarities between them were due to a combination of Lisa's own tastes in entertainment and a heavy dose of tv. Still, he liked being in that role of father. It filled something of the hole left by the loss of Sam.

Lisa said a lot of things to make him feel better. They were all a bunch of bullshit.

She knew very well they weren't working as a couple. His nightmares terrified her, the things he knew freaked her out, though she made a good show of nonchalance, and good sex wasn't the basis for a lasting relationship. He knew that. While their tastes in music and tv were similar, they had little else in common.

Maybe there was a version of this life that was for him, but he wasn't cut out for this one. He wasn't only bored, he felt useless. Lisa didn't need him. She'd made a life for herself and Ben long before he'd stepped back into her life. She'd had it down to an art form, the whole single mom thing. She didn't need him. A truth he'd found was that he needed to be needed and there wasn't anyone in the world anymore that needed him. Even Ben didn't really need him.

By habit, he'd found himself beginning to put together files when he came across weird stories in the paper or on the internet. In those moments, he had a sense of purpose he lacked in the day to day. When he'd helped strangers in the past…. That was when he was needed. When he'd saved a family from something terrible, that was when he was needed. When he'd done the job he'd been trained to do….

It was only a matter of time until one of those terrible things decided to come after him. Eventually one would, and Lisa and Ben would pay the price for his past. It wasn't fair to them to stay. He was putting them in danger.

Lisa came to the doorway and leaned against it. Her gaze fell on his bag. "You're leaving." Her tone wasn't accusatory or even surprised.

He looked at her, hoping she'd understand. Leaving was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do, but he'd leave if it would keep them safe. If it would keep Ben safe. "I am. I've been talking to Ben about it, trying to make him understand that I'm not leaving because of him. It's what he thought at first. I explained my past a little better to him, though I know you didn't want me to. I do get the reason you objected, but he needed to know in order to understand, Leese. He had to understand why. I promised I'd keep in touch with him for as long as I'm able."

"Will you? Because he's attached to you, Dean. He thinks of you as his dad now."

"I know that and I'll do everything I can to keep that promise to him."

She sighed and came forward, hands cupping his face. "I guess you do know. I'm so sorry he wasn't yours."

"Me too. He's a good kid, but you and I both know I can't stay just for him and it would be for him because you and I?" He took her hands in his, holding them. "We aren't working. You know that."

Lisa tugged her hands free. "I hate that I can't make it all right for you; that this isn't the life you need or the one that needs you. I hate that it's the wrong time, the wrong place, and just wrong period. I wanted to make you all better and fix you -" She broke off with a sob, shaking fingers wiping tears from her face.

"You can't fix me. You can't make me better."

"I know."

"Fact is, you can't fix something you're afraid of and I know very well you're afraid of my past and afraid of what could come gunning for me out of revenge, not caring that I'm done with the life. You're pretty good at not showing it. There are things out there, they do exist, they do know my name and…." He licked his lips. "That's just who I am. It's a hard thing for civilians to get. I guess you can leave the life, but it never leaves you."

"I understand the life -"

"No you don't and I don't expect you to. One experience doesn't show you all of it. It gives you a taste and you either embrace the truth of it or pretend it's not really there." He stood and began to fill the bag. "I can't pretend with you anymore. I can't be who I'm not and while I hate breaking that promise I made to Sam, I need to be the man I really am, for better or worse."

"I can't live that life, Dean. I can't spend my days and nights wondering if you're going to come home."

"I'm not asking you to live the life. Wouldn't be fair to you or to Ben."

"So what are you going to do? Go back to living out of your car?"

The Impala. Getting back into her was going to be the second hardest thing he'd had to do because everything she'd meant was gone, as broken and shattered as he himself was. Maybe that could change. Maybe she could have a new meaning for him, be a part of rebuilding a life instead of a reminder of life lost. "I guess."

It didn't take long to finish packing. He was leaving with little more than what he'd brought with him.

"I'll call every Sunday by seven," he told Ben. "If I don't call, you call me. Got it?" He planned to call without fail, for he knew very well what it felt like when a father broke a promise. If he could avoid breaking his promise to Ben, he would.

Dean kissed Lisa goodbye, gave Ben a hug that he hoped conveyed how much he loved him, then walked out of their lives.

It was time to rebuild himself from the shattered pieces that remained.

He slung his bags into the trunk and closed it, then walked to the driver's door. Dean ran a hand along the hood. "Hey, baby," he whispered. "Let's get back to work. Just you and me. Together again."

Once in the driver's seat with the door closed, Dean put his hands on the wheel. He gripped it tight. There were a lot of memories in this car. Good ones, bad ones. He started her up, listened to the engine a moment, and felt like he'd come home. It'd been empty awhile, seen plenty of tragedy, but it was still home.

"Ready or not, here we go," he said and pulled out onto the road.

He wasn't sure where he was going to go and maybe that was okay. He was back. Back once more unto the breach, fighting the evil sons of bitches running free.

Maybe he couldn't have that life he'd wanted, but he could damn well make the world safer for those who did.