AN: This is set after the apocalypse during Dean's time with Lisa and Ben. I do not own Supernatural or any of its characters. I also don't have a beta so any and all mistakes are mine. Thanks for reading, all reviews are appreciated.
Normal, in Dean's opinion, was way harder than it looked. Because normal included observing normal, creating normal, and the hardest of all maintaining normal. He'd been with Ben and Lisa over 6 months now after…well just after; long enough to drag himself out of his metaphorical pit of hell and fully into the charade of being a suburbanite.
Dean now did laundry at regular intervals. He cooked and consumed actually healthy food using all the food groups rather than frozen, sugar, or dried/fried. He worked a respectable job and regularly attended neighborhood barbecues, sometimes even hosting them. He did homework with Ben after school, which wasn't too much of a stretch because he had always done it when ….well before. Even so, it had been a while since Dean and long division had to be working partners. He slept in the same bed, under the same roof, with the same women. Every night, which was a stretch because monogamy had been a secret dream Dean had never let himself even realize he'd had…until it had become a promise.
And he didn't drive the Impala once.
Nor did he clean any weapons, or target practice, or kill anything.
He didn't hunt…
Sometimes, Dean concluded, normal was boring, even if you were into that kind of thing. Oh he loved Lisa and he loved Ben; that was no question. But had it not been for the promise he probably wouldn't still be here. Fire and death had effectively wiped out the capacity for sustained normal for Dean over 25 years ago, and now he was left to trudge along and mimic as best he could. With a sickening start he realized that he was his own version of the shape shifter. Suburbia Dean had his face and his body but it wasn't him. He was an imposter.
But he made a promise to…a pretty big promise and Dean Winchester was nothing if not a man of his word. Sometimes the strength of his conviction was all he had to offer, besides his blood, sweat, and tears. So he stayed, and he loved, and he ate prime rib and watermelon. He took Ben to baseball practice and even felt an inkling of that's my boy when Ben hit a homer.
Then he'd remember there had been another boy once and his heart would start to constrict painfully in his chest until he practiced his breathing, discreetly of course. Lisa called it Yoga breathing, Dean called it stupid nonsense. But at this point he was willing to use whatever worked as long as it made that fucking elephant on his chest get up and fucking walk away already.
The one place he found that Dean could safely stretch the boundaries of normal was in exercise. He refused to lose his endurance. He was too much John Winchester's son for that. You never knew when the only things resting between you and death would be your own legs and fists and your iron clad will to use them. So he ran.
He ran until he and the elephant on his chest made peace and then he turned around and ran back. Any given day regardless of the weather Dean ran at least 12-15miles.
And he loved it.
The pounding of his feet onto the unforgiving blacktop, well that was kind of like his life wasn't it? He could fight and fight and fight and still most things were unforgiving. Most things kicked you in the ass and while you lay there stunned and bleeding just trying to figure out if you wanted to struggle upright, most things kicked you in the ass again. All his life Dean had learned to take the hurt, pain, guilt and shove it inside; lock it away. He learned to function in the immediate now, to drift along with whatever current life directed him with, the only constant landmarks being good soldier before good son, take care of your brother, save people, hunt the dark and impossible. Do all this while still being a Winchester and life was good.
But Dean had lost his way over 6 months ago, losing himself amidst crumbling tombstones, scattering pieces in the grass and dirt as he watched his own blood soak into the ground that had swallowed the last reasons for Dean to keep being a Winchester. If not for the promise he wouldn't have made it out of that cemetery. Even so he broke every fingernail on his hands, before Cass came and healed him trying to dig admittance into the pit for himself too.
But Cass came and he healed him; and with the renewal of at least body if most definitely not spirit, Dean stuttered forward to make good on his promise. For the third time in his life he left Lawrence in the rearview mirror, drowning in destruction and despair only he knew existed, and he looked for Lisa.
Since that day Dean had used the promise he has made like duct tape, with its strength he held the tattered remains of himself together, hiding from normal, trying to fake normal, secretly hoping to maybe be normal. Normal guys didn't lose their …well their family down giant holes in the earth to the devil and real fiery pits of hell. Nope, normal guys did things like go for morning jogs before going to work in a normal job.
Which is what Dean was doing right now.
Lisa was still in bed, their bed he reminded himself, nestled under the covers. He'd checked on Ben before leaving the house and he was sprawled typically on his stomach. Growing adolescent legs stuck out from the twisted covers, his soft snores reassuring Dean that he was in fact still breathing.
Dean bent down in the cool morning air, feeling the crisp breeze hug him like an old friend. He did a few stretches and then took off down the street. He always ran like hell itself was chasing him, feet pounding, legs working, and heart pumping faster and faster. He kept his eyes forward rather than on the neat rows of houses on either side of him. Shining examples of civilized clusters of normalcy, neatly trimmed yards, beautifully weeded flower beds, two car garages, and 1.2 kids probably just now getting up to eat breakfast and enjoy Saturday morning cartoons. He always could appreciate the lure of a well crafted cartoon.
Dean had never lived in the same place before for this long; his childhood home in Lawrence didn't count. He had routine now, and part of that routine was to run through the neighborhood, past the park, by the high school, usually finishing up across town by the little coffee shop that made its own doughnuts. Most mornings he would stop for a cup of strong black coffee and a couple fresh glazed pastries. Say hi to Millie, the sweet elderly women who owned the business with her husband Joe, harmlessly flirt with the college girl who did the cash register, maybe drink his coffee with Aaron or Phil some of the guys from the neighborhood. Then he'd turn around; laughingly refuse the offers for a ride, and run back home the same way. Feet pounding furiously on the pavement, eyes focused stare flinty, his body responding to his commands to go faster just the way it was trained to.
Except this day was proving to be different.
Dean felt funny deep inside his chest where his hunter's instincts lay dormant. If his family were here he'd laugh and say his spidey sense was tingling but as it was he just continued to run, the coffee shop in his sights as he neared his destination. He paused like he always did, outside the big window with his hands piled carelessly on top of his head, willing his muscles to cool down. The crisp breeze rolled past his sweaty shoulders and Dean shivered slightly in the early morning air. The feeling of not right still plagued him although he just couldn't seem to put his finger on why.
Must be the date, they were coming up on November and during any period in the Winchester's lives that time was decidedly marked with private pain and emotional misgivings. Course time was he'd have pushed through the memories with alcohol or maybe a silly movie trying to distract everyone else. Now he was going to drink coffee.
The damn promise he reminded himself.
Dean caught Millie's wave through the window as she gave him a wink before turning around to take the pan with the new dough to the oven. The smell of strong rich coffee scented the air mingled with sweet sugary glaze. It was one of Dean's favorite combinations right up there with gun oil and smoke, and a woman's shampoo and the scent of her skin. The human sense of smell was such a wonderful thing and Dean took an extra moment to be thankful for his as she pushed in the door and inhaled again.
The little bell above the door chimed his arrival and Angie the college girl looked up from her Elle Magazine to meet his gaze. Smiling she popped her bubblegum as she slid off the stool to take his order.
"Hey Dean, how was your run." Her blue eyes looked at him appreciatively even as her nose wrinkled some from the smell of his sweat.
"Just fine sweetheart, just fine. How about a large coffee, black, and two of Millie's wonderful pastry filled bites of ecstasy she calls doughnuts."
"I heard that you big flirt," came Millie's laughing voice as she appeared from back by the oven. "Aren't you the lucky one my Joe isn't here to see you buttering me up that way. Keep your silver tongued self in check and save it for that pretty lady I've seen you bring by here once or twice."
Chuckling Dean nodded his head in acquiescence. Lisa loved the latte's here, but Ben… well he was all about the hot chocolate.
"Thanks Angie," Dean said letting his words roll off like warm honey. Angie smiled and blushed a little as she handed him his coffee.
"Fool boy," muttered Millie as she set his doughnuts on the counter, her pursed lips not even trying to hide the smile in her eyes. "You boys know what you're doing even as you're doing it."
"Uhh huh," replied Dean mouth full of sugary sweetness, "it's more fun that way."
"Ohh go on with you," tisked Millie making a shooing motion with her hand even as she gave Dean an indulging smile. "There's work to be done."
Dean took his breakfast and coffee to a table in the back. The small shop's walls were painted a sunny yellow and were adorned with tons of pictures, candid shots of the community caught in inconsequential moments, frozen for all time. The table Dean always sat at was under a picture of Dean, Ben, and Lisa. Dean had his arm wrapped around Lisa and she was leaned in to his hold as they both laughed at Ben. Ben was across from them, both hands wrapped around his full mug of hot chocolate, with the whipped cream perched on his nose. The camera had caught all three of them in joined in laughter, united by Ben's silliness spurred on by the freedom of childhood.
Childhood as it should be he told himself, but in his heart of hearts he remembered another childhood hallmarked by fire and guns, stitches and whisky, forged signatures and fake credit cards.
To hide the sudden lump in his throat Dean took a sip of coffee, wincing slightly from the temperature as it went down. He took another bite of pastry; somehow it didn't taste as sweet now.
As he was finishing up and preparing to leave, Dean heard the chime of the bell of the entry way peel it's delicate announcement. Automatically he looked up. He did not like what he saw.
The kid, cause he looked too young to be an adult, must have been about 18 or 19. He looked strung out, like he was on something and quickly approaching needing his next fix. Large dark eyes were shifty in his sweaty face, and his greasy brown hair hung limply on his pale forehead and neck. He kept shifting his weight back in fourth from one dirty torn sneaker to another and Dean was tempted to ask him if he needed to use the bathroom. He heard Angie's quite voice inquire if he needed anything.
His height was average and his frame was to skinny to boast anything resembling musculature. Even so, just as Dean was finishing calculating the odds being in his favor if he needed to put him down, the kid pulled a gun.
Shit Dean thought, even as normal Winchesters have ass backwards craptastic luck.
"Everybody get up here where I can see you and…ahh… get down. Yeah…..get down, nobody move. Except you, you bitch. You open up the till and give me the money." As he spoke spittle sprayed in a fine stream from his mouth and he punctuated each sentence with a wild gesture of his gun. Dean observed him even as he was moving forward, he was desperate, strung out, but he held the piece like an excited 12 year old at a county fair trying to shoot the rotating ducks. His overall lack of technique didn't help though when he had the gun pointed at Millie and Angie.
"Hey, you asshole, don't go playing no hero. Get over here with everyone else." The kid noticed Dean, threatened him, then dismissed him as he resumed focusing all his energy on getting the money out of the register. Angie with big hulking tears rolling down her cheeks continued to hand money into the kids' clammy outstretched palm. Millie hovered next to her, clutching her rosary, lips moving in soundless prayers.
"Bitch, nobody asked you to talk."
The kid swung the 9 mil towards Millie, the metal on the barrel reflected the early morning sun as it shone through the window, playing light and shadow across his face. Dean saw the look in his eyes even as his finger tightened fractionally on the trigger.
Oh no, thought Dean, these kinds of things weren't supposed to happen to normal people; Millie should have been safe making her doughnuts and Angie should have been able to peruse her magazine while saving money for tuition all without fear of robbery and death.
In the few seconds it took for Dean to process his thoughts, his body was already reacting instinctively, muscle memory and hours training marked by his bone and blood took over as he vaulted over the last table and threw a vicious right hook against the kids cheek. As the kid's head snapped back, the bone crunching under the give of Dean's knuckles, Dean grabbed the wrist of the hand holding the gun and twisted. One staggering twist later and Dean was now holding the gun. He stuck it in the back of his pants before kicking out behind the kid's knee causing him to hit the floor, following up with an uppercut under the chin. It was less than 10 seconds later and it was all over.
Dean stood legs braced, hands curled into fists, and the gun tucked familiarly against the skin at the small of his back. The fallen junkie now lay disarmed and unconscious. With the adrenaline still cursing through his system, Dean glanced at the women. Both were staring in shock and disbelief, their tears forgotten, as they looked at Dean as if they had never seen him before. He took a step forward; his movement broke the hold over the coffee shop occupants.
Angie collapsed in tears, her face shuddering noisily behind her slim hands. Millie rung her hands nervously, fingers moving up and down the slim string of beads, chewing her bottom lip in distress. She looked at Dean her eyes silently asking him what now, what do we do next?
Dean disappeared in the back for a moment returning with some of the duct tape Joe used to store and box the nonperishable supplies. Quickly and efficiently he flipped the kid on his stomach and bound his ankles and wrists, he then turned him on his side in case the junkie vomited in reaction to being an addict without a fix. Next he removed the gun, checked the clip, slid it back into place, and proceeded to wipe his prints ending by holding the gun by the corner of his napkin Bending slightly he placed the gun in the unconscious man's hand momentarily then set it on the counter.
"Better call the police Millie. You need to make a report and this guy here needs to go to jail." His vice came out rougher then he'd intended and he self-consciously cleared his throat.
"You saved us," came Angie's tremulous voice. Her blue eyes looked at Dean with utter hero worship even as her salty tears dried her mascara into flaky clumps.
"Are you in some kind of trouble Dean," asked Millie. Her eyes had been on him the entire time he'd cleaned the gun, indecision warring in her eyes.
"Nope," answered Dean casually even as his heart hammered in his chest. Just don't like a lot of attention. You go ahead and call the police now, this tape should hold tight until they get here.
"Oh what's it matter Miss Millie," questioned Angie. "He saved us, if he doesn't want to talk to the police he shouldn't have to." Angie gave a wet indignit sniff as she smiled at Dean once more.
"Suppose not," said Millie and her gaze softened as if she had reached some internal conclusion. "You were quite the hero my boy, you may not want recognition but you have earned free coffee for life."
Dean swallowed as his gaze skittered to the door. They both knew it was questions he'd rather avoid then recognition but he gratefully took the out offered by Millie and hung onto it like it was the only lifeline in a rapidly sinking ship.
"Is it free doughnuts too or just the coffee?"
"Oh, go on get," said Millie, "while the goings good." She picked up the phone to dial the police just as Dean went out the door once again making the bell chime.
He took off once again running rapidly down the street, legs pumping faster, heart and lugs rushing to keep up with the steady demand of his pace. His just wanted to get back to Lisa and Ben, back to his twisted warped version of normal. Except that the further he ran, the more he realized that he had missed the feeling of helping and saving people, and it felt good.
Maybe he, Dean Winchester wasn't normal in the normal sense, but saving people…that was Dean being as close to normal as he could get.