Inspired by a plot bunny chased my way by Soncnica. Tag to 6.02.

Ruminations and Dirty Dishes

by Fraidy Cat

Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters owned and operated by CW television, Eric Kripke, et al


Lisa smiled at Ben over a sinkful of dirty dishes. She almost wished she was going with him. "Wear your helmet," she said.

Her son scowled. "Ah, Mom..." he started.

She arched an eyebrow. "You know the rules, Young Man. Safety first."

To her surprise, a tinge of red stained Ben's cheeks as he blushed. "That's what Dean said, when into his tools."

Lisa paused, a glass in her hand. Exactly which "tools" did Ben find? She hid her face by bending to place the glass in the dishwasher. "Well, he's right," she said, and quickly changed the subject. "With all the unpacking, I haven't had time to do the dishes." She straightened, and winked at her son. "Pizza on paper plates for dinner?"

A smile wreathed Ben's face. "Cool!" he replied enthusiastically. "I'll be back early."

Lisa thought she was safe - later, she would wonder why eleven years of motherhood hadn't taught her she was never safe. She smiled again, nodded and reached for a pot. "Pepperoni or cheese?"

Ben already had his hand on the doorknob. He twisted, and looked back over a shrugging shoulder. "Will Dean be home? Get half pepperoni, maybe." He pulled the door open and looked toward the garage, where his bicycle (and his helmet) awaited him. "Bye, Mom!"

Lisa let the pan clatter into place. "Bye," she shouted after her rapidly disappearing boy. "Be careful!" There was no reply from Ben. Lisa watched out the window long enough to see his helmeted head turn right out of the driveway. Then she sighed, wiped her hands on a dish towel, and walked slowly to the kitchen table.

She sank into a chair and wondered again exactly why Dean had yelled at Ben. The boy had truly been shaken, and a little frightened; Dean didn't ordinarily yell, at either of them. It must have been a serious safety infraction - and she knew what was in the trunk of the Impala. Ben was a curious boy — it was actually surprising that it had taken him this long to find Dean's weapons.

She'd be a lot more freaked out about the possibilities if Ben's grandfather wasn't a hunter. The regular kind of hunter. The first few years of Ben's life, they had lived with her parents, and Ben still saw them regularly. He'd been around firearms all of his life, and he knew the rules. She frowned. Of course, one of those rules was that he should never touch a gun without adult supervision. She was glad Dean had frightened the boy; hopefully, he was scared straight.

She sighed again, and let her mind wander to Sam. Dean's supposed-to-be-dead brother. Tall. Dark. Silent — Dean called it "brooding" — and alone. The two of them had grown up in such odd circumstances, and were unusually close because of it. At least, they used to be. But now, Dean seemed content to let Sam hunt and live with virtual strangers, or on his own. He almost hadn't gone when Sam called him for help, and that shocked and surprised her. The Dean she knew — the Dean she loved — would never leave his brother twisting in the wind.

He was torn, that was the problem. He had been with her and Ben for a solid year, and they had become as much of a family as he had ever had. She believed that he loved them; both of them. He was what she had always wanted — a man Ben could look up to. A man who went to work every day, did what he had to to support his family, and then knew how to have fun on the weekends. Yet all year long, there had been moments. She had seen, when he thought she wasn't looking. He could look so sad when he was tousling Ben's hair. At those moments, she knew that he was remembering Sam. Sammy.

The few times Dean had spoken of him, he called him "Sammy". When Ben had crashed his bike six months ago, and needed stitches in his knee, Dean had held his hand in the emergency room, and distracted the boy with a story about Sammy breaking his arm, when he was about the same age. Ben had laughed at all the right places, and emerged the proud new owner of three neat stitches. Dean had been quiet the rest of the day, and she suspected that he was thinking about his brother.

She didn't know all they had been through in their lives. If she did, she's probably grab Ben and run as fast as she could in the opposite direction. She was a smart woman, though, and she knew a few things. She knew that Ben was more important than anything else. He should be safe, and loved, and not a substitute for someone else. She knew that she herself was not exactly traditional. She had been a single parent long enough to become thoroughly enmeshed in independence; she didn't need the constant presence of a man. Sometimes, in fact, she could use a break. She knew that Dean had somehow been hurt, and that Sam had somehow been involved in the pain — even though she couldn't believe Sam had hurt Dean intentionally. You weren't loved so hard by someone, for so long, without loving them back. She knew that despite the pain, Dean needed Sam; wanted Sammy; should be with his brother.

Why did he have to choose? She'd never asked him to choose. She tilted her head. To be fair, she thought, she'd never really told him that he could have both, either. It could be like he was...a long-haul trucker, or an airline pilot, or in the military. Actually, he kind of was in the military; an unrecognized militia battling largely unseen foes, to keep America safe — and coming home to his loving family between deployments. She smiled a little even as she felt the pressure of tears at the back of her eyes.

They could do it; they could. She was a good parent to Ben before Dean, and she could be a good parent — by herself — during Dean's absences. In fact, it would be good for Ben to see what love could do; what love could give, and what love could sacrifice. She loved Dean. It broke her heart to see the haunted look she sometimes saw in those incredible, liquid, green eyes. She wanted him to be happy — truly happy, like he was when she first met him. When he was hunting with Sammy. He could find his Sammy again, if he looked hard enough. Lisa saw the way Sam looked at his brother. Sammy was in there, and he craved Dean as much as Dean needed him. The two of them were a team, and they belonged together.

She would not stand in the way of that. Dean could be part of a team, and also part of a trio. He could find love no matter which way he turned. Lisa would find a way to give him that. He had saved Ben's life a few years ago, and she could never repay such a debt. Nor could she stomach the idea that there was some other Lisa somewhere, waiting for someone to save her Ben. Dean was a hero. He might not see it, but Lisa knew it was true. She saw it. Ben saw it. Sam saw it.

She loved Dean, and she'd give him a hero's welcome — every time he came home.