Title: On The Ruins of Happily Ever After
Summary: Crowley visits Lisa with an offer she can't refuse.
Rating: K+
Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: It bothered me how agreeable Lisa was with Dean when she was initially introduced as a fiercely protective mother.


Then:

It was prudent to keep an eye on Dean Winchester, Crowley reflected, doing just that. Dean had a way of just mucking things up if left to his own devices. It wasn't that he had Sam's brains, because he didn't, but rather that hunter's intuition. In his line of work, intuition trumped brains. A brain could be fooled, but a gut instinct that told the individual something was wrong couldn't.

Dean had that well-honed intuition - probably to compensate for the brains, Crowley thought to himself. He didn't consider Dean the brightest of the primary colors.

While watching Dean, he saw something he thought he could work with and manipulate just in case things went the way he wanted them to.

The woman.

Crowley set about finding out all he could about one Lisa Braeden. He thought she would become rather useful to him in the near future.


Being a single mother was hard and while Lisa had made a good life for herself and Ben, something was missing. When she was a little girl, she'd wanted a husband and the sort of steady relationship she'd seen with her parents. As she'd grown however, the lines had become blurred and her rebellious phase had ended in the most precious thing to her in the world: her son, Ben.

The dreams of a loving husband had returned as the lonely years passed, with the added need of a good father-figure for Ben in any man she might date. She couldn't choose some loser. Ben needed someone responsible that he could look up to.

Maybe her standards were too high, because none of the men she'd dated seemed quite right.

And then Dean Winchester had come back in to her life and saved Ben's life. He'd become that ideal she used when looking at men around her and none of them measured up. She couldn't picture Alan the insurance agent battling a supernatural creature to save her son's life or Rick the grocery store manager doing anything except running away to save his own ass.

She sighed and made another slow tour of the room, drinking the last of her terrible cocktail and wondering how long she needed to stay before she could leave. Why had she let herself get roped into coming to this stupid party anyway? She knew approximately three people, all of whom were trying to set her up with any eligible male in a ten mile radius.

As she passed the balcony, she took a glance at the room and slipped outside when no one was looking. Lisa went to the edge and looked down, wishing she was back home with Ben watching tv or something.

"I have a proposition for you, Lisa Braeden."

She turned. The man before her had that smooth air of a salesman and was dressed in what she thought was an expensive suit. "Who're you?" She set her empty punch glass down, regretting coming to this party already. Was he going to hit on her like the other men had all been doing? She was tired of that, of the whole singles with children scene. Lisa had begun to feel like she was destined to die alone.

"Crowley."

"What sort of proposition did you have in mind?"

He joined her, placing his hands on the railing and peering over it a moment. "Are you tired of this endless searching for that perfect man?"

Lisa let loose a tiny inward sigh. He was going to tell her she could stop looking because he was it, right?

"None of these poor saps compare to Dean, do they? They all lack…something." He made a gesture in the air with one hand.

"How do you know about Dean?" Alarm flitted through her and she backed away. Since moving from that gated community and away from those friends she'd had there, she'd kept the memory of Dean to herself. How did this man know?

"That doesn't matter. What does is that I'd like to help you get him and keep him. Wouldn't you like to be the one to have him as yours? That'd be a happy end, wouldn't it? Think about that. You and Dean together. You'd make a beautiful couple. Your obvious assets and his…charming qualities."

She shouldn't stop and listen. She should turn and run as fast as she could away from him, but that question…. Would she like to have Dean as hers? Lisa had to answer yes. She wanted Dean. She wanted the man who'd saved her son and shown that he gave a damn about him and she wanted an end to her searching for a man like him. What if she could have the man himself? Was that even possible? Lisa stopped, shivering a little as a cool breeze swept the balcony.

"No need to be alarmed. I'm on your side here. I want you to have that happy life," he assured her in a strangely compelling voice. "Believe me, there's nothing I want more than for Dean to have that family he's been pining for. I think you and your boy would be perfect. You're a good woman, Lisa, I can see that. You'd be good for Dean."

"What do I have to do for that happy life?" She crossed her arms, suspicious of him and his motives. "Sell my soul?"

He stared at her a beat, gaze hard before he smiled at her. "No need for something that dramatic - unless you insist, of course." He shook his head. "No, all you need to do is simply take the poor man in, which is what you want to do anyway."

"That's it?" That couldn't be all he wanted. "I take Dean in and we have that happy life?"

"Well…." He raised his brows. "There could be a few things you'll have to do to keep him, but isn't that the truth with any relationship?"

"Like what?"

"Keep an eye on him, keep those from his old life away so he can heal. Dean is desperate for healing."

He made it sound simple. "And what are you? An interested bystander? Friend of Dean's?"

"I'm someone who thinks Dean deserves to be able to leave hunting and have a family. Lisa, I want Dean to do that. You'll be happy, yes?"

She started to reply and blinked, taking a second to think about it. Dean had said that when he saw himself happy it was with her and Ben. Why couldn't he have the life he wanted and why couldn't that life be with her? Maybe if she was understanding and supportive enough they could work….

"Do this for me, Lisa, and I'll make sure you have that happiness you crave. Take Dean in, care for him, help him transition into the civilian life and be protective of his right to do that. He'll need you to take care of him and help him make a clean break. It'll be hard for him, but with your help, he can do it. He can actively retire."

"Is that all? I help Dean retire and you'll make sure we're happy? How are you going to do that?"

His gaze slid down her and back up. "Well, if you don't want him I'm sure there's another woman who'll have him -"

"Wait!" She grabbed his arm as he turned away. His manner made it seem like the opportunity was slipping away. She felt a bewildering sliver of pure greed lance through her. "I want him."

"You do want him?"

"Yes."

He stepped close. "Then does it matter how I'll aid your happiness? You do me that favor and I'll do one for you. If Dean can live a civilian life, Lisa, why shouldn't it be with you? Do you agree to help me?"

Lisa glanced back into the room. Was there any need to pretend she wasn't going to say yes? "Yes, I'll help you."

He loosed her hand from his arm and clasped it in his. His skin was cold and felt weirdly reptilian. Crowley raised her hand to his lips and Lisa fought the urge to tug it back from him. "Excellent." He pressed a kiss to the back, a charming, old-world gesture. "I can see you'll be very good for Dean." His other hand held up a card. "My number. Call me only if you absolutely need to." Crowley released her and sauntered from view.

She looked at the card. It had a number, no name on it. Lisa drove home in a state of weird numbness.

Dean arrived the next day.


He didn't make an actual bargain with her. No soul deal for Lisa Braeden, merely a gentleman's 'scratching backs' deal. She'd been ripe for one, tired of her life and that endless looking for the perfect mate.

Crowley had no interest in her soul. There were bigger fish to go after. He was ready for the real big-time and with Dean out of the way for awhile, he could put his players in place.

It was easy to predict that the lovely Lisa would comply, thinking he was helping her. Well, he was in a way. Dean was heading her way. She wanted Dean and she'd have him…until Crowley needed him.

And he would need Dean eventually.

Of course, he wasn't averse to a little mental manipulation on Lisa. She'd opened herself nicely and he planned to take advantage of that as much as possible.


Now:

A cold lump of dread settled in Lisa's stomach as she looked at Sam, waiting for him to tell Dean that she'd told him to leave months ago. He didn't and she wondered why. Was he going to wait until he and Dean were alone?

She knew right then that Dean was going to eventually leave. Happiness was supposed to be forever, not a single, short year. Crowley had promised happiness. She could still fix this, right? Her mind raced, trying to figure out some way to head Dean off from the break-up she could see coming in his eyes as they sat on Bobby Singer's stairs.

Lisa had known Dean had issues and let him stay anyway. Only an idiot couldn't have seen what bad shape he'd been in. She told him she'd expected that. She'd wanted a father figure for Ben and he was it, stressing how good he was with Ben. She gave him that 'best year of her life' speech, a tiny part of her wincing all the while at how it came out. Manipulative. Calculating. Which it shamefully was.

She hoped he'd weigh it all and maybe she'd come out on top as first in his life instead of Sam. Not likely, but she could hope.

To her surprise, it seemed to work and Dean stayed.

'Seemed' was the operative word. There was a distance to Dean after that. He started to slip away from her. It was all falling apart.

Maybe if she catered to his paranoia, let him have his way? It wasn't in her really to be so agreeable. Still, she'd do it if it kept him with her.

In the back of her mind, Lisa knew she was behaving irrationally and had been for a very long time. Approximately a year, to be precise…. It didn't seem to matter. As long as Dean stayed with her and was hers. Trying to keep him with her was like a compulsion inside her. She couldn't stop it. The words just came from her mouth and it was almost like she wasn't directing her actions.

Crowley had said if she kept Dean safe from hunting…. But Dean was a hunter. It was what he was best at. Maybe that Crowley person didn't understand that. What harm could there be to Dean returning to it somewhat? As long as he came back to her, they could be happy, right? There could be that happiness still. So she told him to do it; told Dean to be what he was and that action, out of all she'd done in the past year, felt like the right one.

The knot of dread inside her tightened and grew day by day.

Sam and hunting would always win. She knew that. She knew she wasn't Dean's love.

Lisa laid in bed, her stomach churning. Her happy life with Dean was going down the tubes and there didn't appear to be anything she could do to stop it. She couldn't salvage it or turn it around. He was torn and no matter how much she wanted things to be the way they'd been, it wasn't going to happen. Dean didn't love her, he loved Sam and the realization that he'd do anything for Sam and not for her about gutted her. No matter what she said or did, Dean was going to leave. Where was that happiness Crowley had promised?

Dean became a stranger. Waking her up in the middle of the night, shoving Ben.

It confused her because that wasn't the man she thought he was. Not to mention shoving Ben both devastated and frightened Ben. He wouldn't talk about what had happened and even refused to mention Dean at all.

This wasn't the happiness she'd thought she'd have.

Was that violence always there in Dean? To do what he did, she thought the answer was probably 'yes' to an extent. Some of her desire for Dean disappeared behind her fear and the more she thought about it, the more she wondered if she was to blame for Dean shoving Ben. Lisa hated that feeling, her thoughts going in circles until she latched on to one: everything had been good until Sam had ignored her assurances that Dean was happy and showed up anyway.

It was Sam who'd done this, who'd destroyed their happiness, ultimately his fault. If he hadn't come back…..

The sense of fogginess in her mind increased and Lisa focused on Sam and Dean's relationship, mulling it over. She thought about it until she felt cross-eyed, bitterness over all her ruined efforts at happiness twisting what she'd once thought admirable.

What sort of person would die to save his brother's life? She'd hardly die for her sister.

Ahh, a sliver of her replied back, but you would die to protect your son and Dean basically raised Sam. He'd behaved like a loving parent.

People died all the time. It was normal, happened to everyone, and everyone had to face it. It was unhealthy to actually die for someone so they wouldn't have to. Dean and Sam's relationship was sick and twisted.

The thoughts seemed to come out of nowhere, vehement and judgmental. And then she said those things she'd never meant Dean to hear, thoughts and feelings ripped from her against her will. She couldn't hold it back, verbal puke that spilled forth, hurting him deeply when the last thing she wanted was to hurt Dean.

It was done. They were over. It took awhile to process that. She and Dean were done.

Lisa found that card Crowley had given her, dialed the number and waited for him to pick up. He didn't and she left a message. She needed to talk to him immediately.

She was pacing her living room when she realized he was standing there in the doorway. She hugged herself and stepped back until her back hit the wall. "How did you get in here?"

He held up his phone. "You called?"

Her heart thudded hard in her chest. He'd broken in, come in without an invitation.

"Cat got your tongue?" He slipped his phone back into his pocket.

"What are you," she managed to ask through lips that felt numb from sudden fear.

"Me? Oh, I'm a demon."

Fear made her feel sick. No, no, no! She turned her glance towards the devil's trap Dean had insisted on painting under the rug at the front door. He'd said it was protection against demons. "How -"

"I didn't bother with the door. What do you want?" He made a gesture with one hand. "Spit it out."

She licked her lips, not sure she even wanted to say anything now. "You said I'd have happiness with Dean. You said if I did what you asked you'd make sure of it."

He nodded. "And you did have happiness with him. You specifically, and I never said how long it would last. Fine print, Lisa. You didn't keep your end of the deal so I had no reason to keep mine. Besides, happiness is a fleeting condition."

None of what had happened had been under her control. There'd been nothing she could do to stop any of it. Sam showing up again when she'd told him to stay away per Crowley's instructions. The creature that had come to the house. Dean's paranoia. The harsh words she'd spoken. "I did everything you asked me to!"

"For a time." He smiled. "You've served your purpose, Lisa Braeden, and now Dean's become useful to me again. Be very glad I didn't ask for your soul when we spoke that first time."

"My soul…." There was a sinking sensation in her stomach and she thought she might actually throw-up. What had she done? A wave of shame tumbled over her, growing stronger as he spoke.

"Yes, souls are the usual transaction. However, you got a freebie because I had no need of your soul, merely your cooperation - which you did eagerly when you thought we were working for the same goal: you and Dean happy together. I, however, simply needed Dean out of the way long enough to put my plans into action. My thanks. You were perfect, my dear, doing exactly what I wished when I wished it." His smile chilled her. "I wouldn't contact Dean again, not after that whole speech you gave him. I couldn't have described their relationship better myself. Burned that bridge completely, didn't you? It was a pleasure working with you, Lisa. Next time we deal I'll need the usual currency." He disappeared.

With the demon gone and whatever influence he'd had over her dissipated, everything for the past months slammed hard into Lisa and she cried out, sliding down the wall to sit, crying for what she'd done. Everything that had happened was clear in all it's cold finality.

She saw Dean barely coping while she willfully ignored his unhappiness. She saw herself behaving as less than herself, serving her own selfish wants and needs. Shame burned inside her, hotter and hotter. She hadn't helped Dean to heal, she'd helped him to exist on that same level he'd first shown up in, enabling him to live a pure fantasy until it had come crashing down under the weight of reality. He'd been broken and still was.

Crowley had promised happiness, but it had only been hers. She'd done what he'd asked and aided a monster in keeping Dean from his job, his life, his family. She'd betrayed him. It had been unknowingly, yet still a betrayal. Dean wouldn't understand it. Lisa wanted to call and explain, to tell him everything…. But that train had left the station a long time ago. Dean would hate her like she was hating herself.

More than that, however, she'd let a demon into her life and put herself and her son in danger. It hadn't taken Dean to do that. She'd found that danger all on her own.

Tears wet her cheeks.

"Mom?" Ben came down the stairs and over to her. "I heard voices. Are you okay?"

It hit Lisa then just how close she'd come to her actions hurting her precious son forever. There was still time to reverse the damage, wasn't there? There was still time to bring back that loving, smiling boy he'd been? How did she do that?

A plan quickly formed as she looked up at him. He'd been the happiest in that house Dean had first found them in. He'd had friends, a life, and it was still there. They hadn't been away from it long enough that he couldn't slide back into that life. Ben and herself both. They'd go home and they'd heal together, find who they were again. She'd devote herself to raising him again, doing the best she could for him. Her priority should be her son.

"We're moving back," she said. "You're going back to your old school. Tomorrow, we'll pack things back up and this weekend we'll find a house."

Wariness flickered in his eyes. "Are we moving again because Dean said to?" She heard scorn in his voice and hated that tone coming from him.

"No." She shook her head. "We're moving because it's best for both of us." Lisa glanced at the clock. "It's still early. Why don't you call your friends and tell them the news? We'll plan a big party when we're back, have them all over."

"Is Dean moving with us?"

Lisa wiped her cheeks, feeling stronger than she had in a very long time. "No. Dean won't be coming with us. He's moved out. He's back on the road with Sam again. From now on, it's just you and me, kiddo."

The wariness eased until she saw a bare shadow remaining.

It wasn't too late. She could reverse that damage done to Ben. It'd take time and a helluva lot of effort, but what was more important to her: happily ever after? Or a happy, stable child?

She didn't even have to think about it.

"You know I love you, Ben."

He shrugged in that unconcerned way teenagers had and looked at her like she was nuts. "Well, yeah…. Do you really mean it? A party with everyone?"

"I do."

He snatched the phone from the table beside her and hurried back up the stairs with it. She could hear him talking, that excitement in his voice bolstering her resolve.

Goodbye, Dean, she thought. I'm so sorry.

Lisa began to repack. A new place, a new life, and a final reinvention of self. Tomorrow, she'd start over on the ruins of happily ever after and maybe she'd forget Dean Winchester. She hoped that some day he'd find the happiness he wanted.