Title – Distant Dark Places
Summary – Dean knew as soon as he saw Sammy again that he would lose Lisa and Ben. It was only a matter of time before hunting came between them.
"I find the map and draw a straight line
Over rivers, farms, and state lines
The distance from 'A' to where you'd be
It's only finger-lengths that I see
I touch the place where I'd find your face
My fingers in creases of distant dark places"
- Set Fire to the Third Bar
Snow Patrol (featuring Martha Wainwright)
"Distant Dark Places"
The domestic life had come easier than Dean would have anticipated. What even scared him more was the fact that being a father figure to Ben had felt right in more ways than one. The kid was so much like him that Dean was convinced that the paternity test Lisa had done when he was a baby was wrong. Even with some stupid test, Dean believed fully in his heart that Ben was his.
Maybe that was the reason the domestic life was so easy. He had a son and a girl who he would be much obliged to marry. In fact, he had gone to the local jewelry store to look at engagement rings. It had been a year of heartache and pain but also of renewal, love, and oddly enough happiness. Being with Ben and Lisa had dulled the dreadful pain of losing his brother. Caring and making sure that Ben and Lisa were safe gave him a purpose in life. It made him feel whole when he thought he'd never feel whole again.
He remembered the first time Sam died. He was in so much pain that he didn't think he was going to live. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to close his eyes, because all he could see was Sam falling to the ground and a smoking gun behind him. When his eyes were open, he couldn't help but look at the body of his cold, dead little brother. It was like a car crash; he just couldn't tear his eyes away from the tragedy no matter how hard he tried to. His mind raced and he knew what he had to do. Make a deal. A life for a life, just like his father had done for him a year previous.
When Lucifer took over Sam's body, Dean was certain he would die a second time. He would never say it out loud or admit it, but he knew. Dean could remember standing in that shitty apartment in Detroit, tears burning his eyes, wondering what he had done. He couldn't remember how long he stood there just looking around at the two dead demons on the ground. All he knew was that there was a gaping, painful emptiness filling his every fiber. The only words that rang through his mind were Sammy, what do I do?
The second time that Sam died, Dean had just felt empty. He watched as Sam grabbed Michael and dragged him down into the pit. Honestly, Dean would have been lying if he didn't already suspect this was how things were going to go down. Part of him thought that by some miracle, it would work out in their favor. Somehow, someway, Sam would have been saved. Just for once. But it never did and never would work out in their favor. The Winchesters never caught a break, never had, never would.
Dean hated Sam a little bit after the whole swan dive incident. Hated him for making him promise not to try to rescue his brother or to allow him to die. In that moment, Dean wanted to die more than anything else. Without being able to save Sam or put himself out of his misery, Dean decided he was done with hunting. He didn't want anything to do with the fight any longer. In fact, he didn't even want the Impala any longer. It brought back too many painful memories but he knew he could never get rid of it. So, instead, he stowed it away out of sight, out of mind.
All Dean could do, bloody and broken, was to kneel on the ground where Sam and Adam had fallen into the cage. He was numb, unable to move for the longest time. In that moment, he knew he'd break his promise to Sammy. He had nothing to live for anymore. A spark of hope filled him when he saw Cass, felt his physical pain disappear with just one touch. Then, with another feather light touch, Bobby was alive. Dean thought maybe, just maybe, he could keep his promise to Sam.
That hope was quickly replaced by anger. Anger that Sam wasn't back. Anger that Cass was going to sheriff heaven. Anger that it seemed like everyone else could come back to life and live but Sam.
Without hunting, Dean thought maybe he could have a wife and kids. It was what Sam always wanted growing up – a normal life. He just got in the Impala and drove. When he crossed stateliness into Indiana, Dean felt like he could breathe again.
He wasn't stupid though. He kept a cache of guns hidden, holy water accessible, devil's traps beneath rugs and furniture. He would be damned if he let anything happen to Ben or Lisa. He would surely break his promise to Sam then.
When he saw Sam again, he thought he was dreaming. Surely, it was some twisted nightmare and that wasn't really Sammy. As joy overflowed his every being at the life of his brother, sadness also consumed him because he knew in that instant that it was only a matter of time before Lisa and Ben slipped through his fingers. There was no hunting and a normal life. The two were oil and water. The truth of the matter was, he'd pick Sammy. He would always pick Sammy. No contest.
Lisa tried to make it work. She allowed him to go on hunts and come back when he could. Dean knew it was a feeble attempt. He'd find himself staring at maps in front of him, his eyes drawn to the spot where Battle Creek, Michigan was located. By the looks of the little piece of paper, he was only minutes away from Lisa and Ben. In reality, the distance was vast over hills and around valleys, through rivers and lakes, down thousands upon thousands of miles.
When Dean found out Sam didn't have a soul, all Dean could think about was getting him his soul back. When it was back intact, Dean knew he would never go back to Lisa. Things were back to the way they were before. Dean was a nomad, a hunter, a caregiver to his kid brother. Those were the things that defined his life. Part of him couldn't believe he ever thought otherwise.
Watching Lisa die after the demon attack, seeing Ben hating his guts, Dean wanted to run away and never look back. He knew he would have to take in Ben, raise him in a life of guns and holy water. That was the last thing he wanted for the kid. So, when Cass healed Lisa, Dean had never been so grateful in his life. Despite his sour feelings towards his old friend, he asked him for one last favor.
"Take their memories. Erase Dean Winchester."
"Are you sure?"
"I've never been more sure in my life." Dean felt a lump formulate in his throat. "If you ever cared about me, Cass, you will do this."
He did. He erased Dean and Sam Winchester from their memories. He erased the Changling situation, erased the past year and a half from their life. Instead, he replaced it with mostly foggy albeit happy memories. When he was done, Cass left with his head hung low and refused to look at his old friend.
For a few seconds, Dean thought he made a mistake. Standing up, his back cracking loudly, he stared down at Lisa. She was so beautiful, so funny, so innocent. He had no right to rip apart their family. He wasn't Ben's father. He wasn't father or husband material. He wasn't domestic or guy who could hold down a steady job. That whole last year had been an act. That wasn't who he was. He was a hunter.
He still looked at maps and stared hard at the location of Lisa and Ben. Sometimes, he'd touch the place of where they were, feeling a deep sorrow walling up in his chest. Dean marched through the desolate, distant, dark places of the great American frontier. That was no life for Lisa and Ben. They deserved better.
Months later, Dean found himself in Cicero, Indiana to take care of a spook. They stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank before heading to the nearest shitty motel to set up camp. The last thing he expected to see was Lisa. She was pumping her car with gas, a cell phone jammed between her shoulder and cheek. Dean couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't tear his eyes away from her.
Sam got out of the car and stood next to his brother. He asked what was up before trying to figure out what Dean was staring at. It wasn't long before he spotted Lisa.
"Talk to her," urged Sam.
"No," he rasped out. "It's not my life."
"It was your life. The last thing I want is for you to be hunting with me when you obviously want to be with her and Ben. Dean, listen to me."
Instead, Dean shoved the nozzle into the Impala and started to pump. He refused to look at her, tried to pretend she wasn't mere feet away from him. It was like looking at his map all over again, feeling so close yet so far away.
"We can settle down," Sam pushed. "You can be with Lisa and Ben. Maybe, maybe I'll find someone. We can start families. We can have a normal life."
"What about the Leviathans, Sam? Who's going to Borax their ugly mugs?"
"Other hunters. We don't have to be the heroes all the time, Dean. We killed Azazel, got rid of Lucifer, we've saved countless innocents. When it is our turn to be happy?"
Dean sighed, his jaw tightening.
"The Leviathans want our heads on their platter. They're not going to stop hunting us because we decide to play Susie Homemaker."
"They only want us because we're hunting them. We stop… they won't bother with us any longer. They'll go after the next hunters who go after them."
"No, Sam. Get in the car. We got a ghost to salt 'n burn."
"After we destroy the Leviathans then. Promise me, we'll live the apple pie life."
The nozzle clicked and Dean placed it back onto the pump. He stole another glance at Lisa who was leaning against her car with a smile on her lips. She was laughing at something the person over the phone told her.
"We got work to do, Sammy."
With that, Dean climbed into the Impala. That car was the only place he could ever call home. That car and his brother – that was his life. Nothing could change that. They would never be truly happy living a quiet life. Dean had tried. While, at the time, it seemed to be easy and natural, he realized now that it was all a façade. As soon as Sam slid into the car next to him, Dean put the gas station in his rearview mirror. Forever.
Author's Notes – This started out as a short story where Dean and Lisa got back together. As I was writing it though, I couldn't make their reunion believable. Therefore, here's a one-shot of how Dean let Lisa go. Please, leave a review and let me know what you think.