Prompt/Prompter: Prompt from Roselani24 / noelani618 "…Instead of letting her words in 6.06 "You Can't Handle the Truth" be final, Lisa decides to take action…" The Prompt is longer, but I don't want to spoil the story.
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. Written for fun, not profit.
A/N: Very AU "what if"/"what could have been" story past early season 6. The title is based on the Metallica song "Hero of the Day"—I thought it fitting. If you're not a Lisa fan, or at least Lisa neutral, back away now. The story is mostly told in retrospect, but I think you'll catch on. Even though this can stand alone as a vague snapshot into this AU thread, I want this to have three parts, so look for updates.
"Hero of the Day"
The spark caught, the flame flickering until its tail straightening when her hand cupped it against the draft off the AC. When the glow off the candle's wick steadied, heating the white wax beneath, she eased its tiny saucer back onto the windowsill until it was flush against the slender salt line.
It wasn't night—the late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the kitchen's open window—and the bulb above worked perfectly fine, but the candle was both a habit and a necessity, seeded years back on a Christmas Eve for her son's comfort. Now, though, it burned every time she needed it to guide the way back home, even in mid-July.
Satisfied, Lisa mentally ticked the deed off her list and turned her attention to the refrigerator, pulling free a six pack to soak in the ice bucket and then heaving out the plastic-wrapped pasta salad, free hand searching for the steak sauce behind the Tupperware. The sound of a purring engine out front came as no surprise. There was a time when she would have said that anyone who claimed to be able to ID a car by the sound alone was full of it, but Lisa now understood what they meant—that sound from the driveway wasn't the one she'd been waiting for, so she assumed it must be her son's 'secret project', an old Chevy he'd been restoring for months.
As soon as she heard the front door click open, she shook her head. "Benjamin Isaac Braeden, do you know what time it is?" she called, not bothering to lift her head out of the refrigerator. "And you better not be alone," she added, for good measure.
It wouldn't do to let her fifteen-year-old think it was fine to drive around without his license, even if the destination was just a few miles away.
"Hey, Mom!" he shouted back.
She could almost hear the smile on his face and rolled her eyes, biting down her own grin. Nothing quite left her son that pleased like a day working on his car. Personally, she didn't understand the fascination of digging for old parts—not that she'd bring that up around her bunch.
She straightened with perfect timing, snagging her teenager before he could pass down the hallway between the living room and the first floor bathroom and wrapping her arm around his chest to pull him close enough to kiss on the cheek—when her son had gotten too tall for her to kiss the top of his dark hair, she wasn't sure.
"Mom," he groaned, but then chuckled. "Sorry I didn't check in with you last night—"
"Or this morning," she interrupted.
"Or this morning," he agreed, smirking. "We wanted to get an early start on the body work, so I could show her off tonight. I parked her beside the house—but don't look yet, okay?" His brow furrowed, trying to convey seriousness and failing. "Need any help with supper?"
"After you clean up."
She watched him walk off, shaking her head as she spotted the grease stains across his jeans. He'd need new ones before school started back anyhow, especially since those were hanging well above his ankles now. Her boy had shot up over the past few months, hitting his first major growth spurt—a promise that he was about to make her the shortest person in the house. Lisa chewed her bottom lip, trying not to think too hard about how much he'd grown over the past few years, and not just physically.
Her kid wasn't a kid anymore.
"Your boy's in love," a gravelly voice noted. "I know it's a secret affair and all, but word is she's a '69 Chevelle, and they're goin' steady. Don't much know what the kids'll look like. 'Specially with those racing stripes of hers."
Lisa arched a brow, turning to see Bobby Singer standing in her doorway, a crooked grin on his haggard face.
"Stripes? Heaven help me." She waved an arm back toward the kitchen when she spotted the covered dish in the man's arms. "Ben's not getting in the way over at your place is he? I'm sorry he's been practically living there this summer."
Bobby snorted. "Hell no—the customers like dealin' with that kid a lot more than they like hearing an old codger like me bark. Leaves me to time to do research when he's workin' the yard." He reached back, scratching his neck, and hiding the expression on his face. Lisa could read it well enough, what he hadn't said—Bobby liked having the company around.
"Those the steaks?" Lisa asked.
"Been marinatin' all day."
Bobby slid them onto the table, then moved to survey the other dishes. Some days Lisa found the image of the retired hunter in her house surreal, like it was an outtake from a dream. Then she'd remember that this really was her life. She really was living ten minutes away from Singer's Salvage. She really was in South Dakota. She really did have her family back.
"Need me to fire up the grill?" Bobby asked.
"If you would," Lisa answered, shooting him a smile. "Hopefully, unlike my son, everyone else will be on time," she said, giving him a pointed glance.
Which he ignored. "Tina still comin' up for this shindig?"
Lisa shook her head, her eyes going straight to a picture on the refrigerator of her sister's family. "Gracie has a dance recital tomorrow, but Tina promised we'd see both of them at Ben's birthday. I don't mind—I like having my guys to myself."
Bobby ducked his head, but she saw the pink at the old man's cheeks and grinned back at him as he dodged out, muttering about charcoal.
The landline phone rang before Lisa could finish dragging out the rest of the side dishes, and she sighed, moving into the study to give the ID a glance and answer with a cold voice, "Director Graham speaking…" She ran her finger down a list of contacts, grimacing at the snarky reply on the other end of the line. There was a reason she didn't like to be in charge of the phones, and his name was Garth, a fellow hunter she'd hardly ever met before but managed to cause her plenty of grief nevertheless. And, who, it appeared, could never pass himself off as an agent without demanding the locals call his 'supervisor.' Maybe she could talk Bobby into taking the job back... "Yes, Agent Marrows is one of my men…With all due respect, Detective, we're the FBI, and you have three missing…"
Again, as her voice trailed on, she wondered how she'd ever reached the point where impersonating a federal agent was a weekly occurrence. When her life had turned in this new direction, she wasn't sure, but here she was, a part of a hunting family; surviving, helping, and living as if it had always been this way.
"Me and Ben can't be in this with you. I'm sorry."
Even as the words had left her mouth, she'd felt sick to her stomach. That kick to the gut, that guilt, was the only thing that managed to temper the hot flash of anger she'd been holding down. She hung up the phone before the next words slipped out, that acknowledgement: "I love you too much watch you fall apart again, Dean." That confession would have been too much, and she had no clue why she'd been so close to saying it.
Just like she'd said the rest, the other things she didn't want Dean to hear. It had spilled out all too easily, every thought that had been passing through her mind at the time, all of it fueled by rage.
And it wasn't directed at Dean. Not entirely. But, when he came to her house that night, shoved Ben away—physically shoved her son away from him—all that resentment toward the universe in general, for putting this weight on him, on them, for trying to take the good thing they had going away…It all came crashing down.
Why was it, in moments like this, that she always heard her mother's 'I told you so' voice nagging in her ear? Lisa, what did you think you were getting into when you let that man back into your life?
Sure, there was a time when her mom would probably have been right to question her taste. Lisa would admit she'd been a bit rambunctious, easy to fall in love, easy to fall between the sheets—but Ben being born had changed all of that, had caused her to be more careful. Then, learning that monsters existed…Lisa barely recognized the woman she'd become recently, but she couldn't say that she hated the change—not until now, at least.
She'd known from day one that Dean was dangerous. He'd never purposely hurt them, she was certain, but she knew what his job had been. Knew he had enemies. Knew there would always be a threat to her family. But, the payoff had been worth it. Getting Dean past his drinking, his nightmares, his past, was worth it.
"For Ben," she whispered, only the empty house around her there to listen.
Ben had been her reasoning at the time—her son needed someone like Dean in his life. But, that was just an excuse, because Lisa knew the truth was, she'd wanted Dean there, despite all the baggage. Love didn't give a crap about rational decisions, unfortunately.
Lisa cinched her eyes shut, feeling the pinpricks building behind the lids. If she started crying, she knew she wouldn't stop until the tears drained her dry, and Heaven knew that she'd been putting off those midnight sobs, letting her anger build instead of her grief over the loss of the life they'd been building.
Grabbing her purse, she shot out of the house. Ben was at school for a few more hours, then practice, which was how long she was giving herself to put her emotions back in check. She set out in her car, planning to stop at the diner, drinking herself into a caffeine headache. Instead, she pulled over at the bar right outside of town.
It was a sad acknowledgement that there were other cars there as well, even in mid-afternoon. She didn't know a soul in the place, which was what she'd been aiming for, so she sat at the back corner booth instead of the counter, nursing a single beer until it was too warm for anything but pouring down the drain.
Every way she looked at it, she'd made the right choice. As a mom. As a woman. As a rational human being. Dean brought danger. Dean brought insecurity. Dean wasn't ever going to be satisfied with a normal life. Dean couldn't be what Sam needed and what she needed at the same time—and he'd always choose Sam first. Simple conclusion? Dean had to go.
"Simple." She shook her head. Then why did it feel like the decision had hollowed her out?
She jumped at the outburst, surprised to see there was a man sitting at the tiny two-person table across from her booth. He was currently dabbing tequila off his lap with a wad of napkins in hand and a scowl on his face. Out of habit, Lisa gave him a cautious look-over. He was a small guy about her age, short, with a scruffy beard and a messy head of brown hair. Behind his tipped-over glass, just out of range of the puddle of alcohol, sat a paperback book, opened against the tabletop with its broken spine pointed up.
With a flick of her wrist, she offered her own napkin.
He glanced up, as if surprised, his owl eyes blinking. "Oh, thanks!" Shooting her a quirky smile, he righted the glass. "God, what a mess," he muttered, "but then, I guess it was bound to happen, right?"
Lisa cocked her head, pulled from her thoughts again. "What?"
He huffed out a short laugh. "Reading and drinking at the same time—it's a no-no, obviously. If you get wrapped up in your own head, forgetting the world around you, you're bound to end up with a mess." The man paused, as if to insure she was listening, then pointed at his table. "Hey, would you mind watching my stuff while I go clean up?"
"Sure." Even though she couldn't see anything worth stealing.
He dashed towards the men's room, grumbling something under his breath. Lisa ignored him, back to staring at her beer. With a sigh, she pushed it away. Mr. Day Drinker was right about one thing—getting wrapped up in one's thoughts wasn't a good thing.
Out of the corner of her eye, she caught movement. Her brain lagged behind as she watched the backside of a man as he walked out the front door—it was the guy who'd spilled his drink. With another glance, she confirmed her suspicion; he'd stepped out without his book. She snatched it up, darting out the glass door behind him, but the sidewalk out front was already clear.
The waitress was there to greet her when she turned back toward the entrance. "Hey, you gonna pay for your drink?" the red-head snapped, glaring at Lisa until a bill was dropped into her hand. "And your buddy's tab?"
Lisa's gaze narrowed. Unbelievable—so much for being a good Samaritan, she thought, bitterly digging into the purse on her shoulder and handing over a couple more folded dollars. She didn't bother to step back into the bar when the waitress forced a wide grin and moved out of the way.
Alone, standing a sidewalk she didn't even recognize, Lisa closed her eyes again, took a deep breath, and tried put to bed the combating urges to throttle someone and cry on a stranger's shoulder. Instead, she let her head drop, just then realizing she still had the abandoned paperback tucked under her arm.
The words "ADVANCE PROOF" were printed in a strip across the top. She frowned as she took in the title, Supernatural: Swan Song by Carver Edlund. The author's name sounded familiar, but she couldn't put her finger on why. Then she saw the illustration itself.
Once, Lisa had believed in coincidences, so maybe, back then, she wouldn't have thought twice about the lone car painted across the book's cover, parked in an old graveyard. Of course, back then, she probably wouldn't have been able to recognize a rendering of a '67 Chevy Impala either.
That night, she refused to read past the first page, her concentration on Ben as he rattled on about his new school. She hadn't told him, not fully, about Dean yet. She hadn't been able to settle the unease in her stomach either. But, the next day, as soon as she dropped him off, she cracked the book open, and immediately knew what it was.
Dean hadn't went into detail about what had brought him to her door over a year ago, broken and in despair, but she knew the bare facts. She knew that the world had almost ended. And somewhere, in those half-whispered mentions, he'd said something about a prophet and books. She hadn't put together what he'd meant until now though.
Lisa settled down onto her bed, not taking her eyes off the page. It was disorienting, looking in on the Winchesters in this way. Mostly, though, it was frightening. This was real. This had happened, and to someone she loved.
It was past midnight when she found herself staring off into space. She crash-landed back into reality hard, tears brimming over her eyes and falling from her cheeks onto the closed book at her lap. She was aware, if only partly so, that her son had went to bed on time for once, after making the two of them PB&J sandwiches. He must have seen something in her expression that kept him quiet, patience. He'd ask later, she knew, but she'd never let him read this book.
It doesn't change anything. The thought was loud enough that it made her wince. It was true. Knowing a few more bits and pieces, reading about what happened to Dean and his brother, reading about the end of the world, didn't change anything. It didn't make her decision any less rational. It didn't fix her feelings about him.
"…I didn't expect Sam to come back. And I'm glad he's okay. I am. But the minute he walked through that door, I knew. It was over. You two have the most unhealthy, tangled-up, crazy thing I've ever seen. And as long as he's in your life, you're never gonna be happy…"
It didn't change what she'd said to him. Only one thing was really different now: she knew that she was wrong to say he'd never be happy with Sam around. No, these men, the ones she'd read about, they'd never be happy apart, not fully.
All those days spent trying to make Dean's smile less empty, or waiting for him to get better, to be okay…All those days were wasted ones, she realized. And, those were days she wouldn't have had with him in the first place if Sam hadn't told Dean to go seek her out, make a new life for himself. Sam had done that for Dean—she'd never known.
It was a stabbing pain, resting between her ribs and stomach. It was a need, a compulsion.
Maybe there could never be anything real between them. Maybe she could never have the Dean she wanted in her life. But, she couldn't see that conversation over the phone being the last one she ever had with him.
She picked her cell up off the bedside table and scrolled down the numbers, never reaching Dean's. She stopped at Bobby Singer, the old hunter who'd taken her and Ben for a few days. She knew what the man was to Dean. Without hesitation, she pressed the call button and waited.
"This better be good, kid," was the growled answer. A deserved one when she looked at the clock for the first time.
"This is Lisa Braeden." She waited, hearing the man move about, then his greeting sunk in. "Has Ben called you on my phone before?"
Bobby ignored the question, his voice laced with worry when it returned. "You and the boy alright?"
Lisa bit down a small smile, taking a breath. "We're okay," she said, softly, "but I needed to talk to you. About Dean and Sam. I need to know…" Her voice drifted off. She was suddenly unsure. "I shouldn't have called so late...I'll call back in the morning."
"Well, Hell, I'm awake now. Speak your piece before I change my mind.
Lisa let out a nervous breath, then sat up straight. "Bobby, I'm tired of being in the dark. I'm tired of drawing conclusions from half-truths. I'm tired of being angry at Dean when I'm not sure if I should be."
Bobby was silent a moment, and Lisa was unsure of how the man would react. Then she heard a deep sigh. "When's the last time you talked to him?"
Lisa frowned, not liking his somber tone. "Has something happened?"
"Not so much 'happened' as happening." Bobby paused again. "Did Dean tell you he thought something was off about Sam? Because it turns out, he was right."
Listening on, Lisa let out a shallow breath, feeling her heart drop as the old hunter began to explain what the brothers had been doing over the weeks since Dean had left his glimpse of normality behind. And, then, what he'd just found out himself, about Sam's soul. She interrupted him, too dazed to even notice he was mid-sentence. "I need to talk to Dean," she said softly.