Genre: angst, horror
Characters: Lisa, Sam, Ben, Dean Smith, Dean, Castiel
Pairing: Lisa/Dean Smith (ish), Dean/Lisa, sort of Dean/Castiel
Word Count: ~2900
Summary: Post-6x21 "Let it Bleed" AU: Castiel wipes someone else's memory. Sam, Ben, and Lisa celebrate Christmas with the consequences.
Notes: Written for thegeminisage's prompt for amnesiac!Dean on hoodie_time's winter-themed comment!fic meme. [Original post]
She knows it from his bedside manner. That wrong serenity.
"I told you I did."
"I just--wanted to make sure. I was just making sure." She peers out the window again. She peers out the Saran wrap fitted over the window fitted over the ice. "You told him the right directions?"
"I thought you the first time was you making sure." Ben gives her a sullen look. It's not really disappointment; just resignation. It's a look that makes her think she's doing the wrong thing. When you're thirteen you shouldn't have to resign to anything.
Lisa bites her lip. "This is just how it's gonna be, okay? I'll take you to Rocky's tomorrow; you can get anything you want. It can just be the two of us."
Fast clip--if the words never stop she doesn't have to watch her son's expression hit rock bottom.
"I--" says Ben.
"I see him," says Ben.
Lisa looks out the window again, sees their small tree in its pot, the pipe-cleaner candy canes Ben made when he was four. The man at her kitchen table. He's giving her this bemused look, like she's the one acting strange. He's got blue pinstripes and red suspenders, almost Christmas-coordinated but not quite, in the same way he is almost-but-not-quite everything else.
"How can you tell?" she asks.
"Car," says Ben.
And then there's a black monster tinging in her driveway, its roof half crushed in and its paint ripped from one side. And then there's a man at her door. And then Ben's rolled his eyes and obeyed the doorbell she didn't even hear, and the man's said, "Hey, Lis--Lisa."
She catches up. Nods.
"Hey, Sam," chirps Ben. He sounds bright and trained and half his age.
Sam's looking around Ben, though. To the kitchen table.
Lisa shakes her head. "Hey--could you. Could you help me get something outside?"
Sam's gaze breaks off. Three seconds of transition, like he's trying to navigate the dimensions that separate Lisa's kitchen table and anything the rest of them know. "S-sure, sorry. No problem. I can just go get it, if you want, so you don't have to--"
"We need to go outside right now."
She knows it from his hands. They're soft, un-urgent. He says he's sorry, for the wrong thing. He says that he's the guy who hit her. In the car accident. At first she thinks she's missed a nurse at the door, someone--someone the lie is for. Because it's not for her, and it hasn't been in a long, long time. She knows what was inside her.
But there's no one. She looks down at his pink-knuckled hands, with their even cuticles and clean, square nails. And she thinks, this is a trap.
"Who are you?" she asks.
"I'm the guy who hit you," he repeats. Slowly, for her benefit. "My name's Dean Smith, and I'm sorry."
"Spend the holidays with the people you love. That's what you're supposed to do." It's probably just the lighting, fluorescent porch bulb weak and sickly-green, but she can feel the color drain from her arms. She hugs them to her body, and the embrace feels about as empty as the rest of her. Her breath spirals out like smoke, groping and twisted amidst the first trickle of the night's snowflakes.
Sam doesn't respond.
Lisa closes her eyes and breathes out. Sucks in, like she's getting the much-needed light she quit over a decade ago. She quit. She promises she will not cry. Because it's Hallmark simple: You spend the holidays with the people you love. All the same, she doesn't know Sam, and--
"I hate the holidays," says Sam. His face is completely blank. Devoid. Devoid of. (Devoid of what? But that's exactly it.)
He gets a faraway look in his eyes like the body next to her is just a place holder, and it hurts. Because she knows that in an hour, hour and a half--it depends how long it takes her to walk back through that door, stop wanting to throw herself under a sleigh, be the person all the people she loves need her to be--she's going to ask Ben to set the table. He'll set it for four. One will be for Sam, one for Ben, and one for her.
"That's what you're supposed to do," Lisa repeats. "Spend them with the people you love."
"Are you ready to go inside?" Sam asks.
"With the people who love you."
"You, uh. You look really cold."
"There's a big fucking difference."
"Your fingertips are blue."
It's a mistake. She knows it when he says it would be his pleasure, and did she prefer red or white wine?
Just yesterday, or so it seems, Dean Winchester showed up at her door. It was not his pleasure. It was thank god thank god fuck fuck fuck. Lisa's never understood that level of lost desperation until this moment.
"Five-thirty," she says, like she's throwing her arms around any part of him that seems familiar. "You don't have to bring anything."
You can't bring anything, Dean Smith.
"I feel like the awkward guest at someone else's party," says the man at her kitchen table.
Lisa's hands are throbbing, fingers like sausages threatening to burst their casings. It's hot in here. "Not a chance," she manages. "We love the company, De--Mr. Smith. Don't we, Ben."
Ben bobs up and down a little on his fork, which is pointed up from his plate like a scarecrow dressed in peas. He has his GameBoy under the table. He won't look at anyone, not even Lisa.
The man at her kitchen table apologies; he didn't mean it like that. It's just that he's not used to--all of this. He's kind of a go-it-alone kind of guy. Holidays aren't good for your waistline. (He's the only one who laughs.)
"Do you, uh--do you do these kind of get-togethers usually?" He's trying so hard. He doesn't know what's wrong. And Lisa knows this was a mistake, because no matter who it's for, or who she misses, she can't actually do this. She can't.
"We had one last year," says Lisa.
"But I wasn't in town," says Sam.
"That's too bad," says the man at her kitchen table. "Hey, have we worked together? You look, I don't know. Familiar."
"No." Sam spears peas onto his fork, tine by tine.
After the entire table has watched Sam stab at all of his peas: "I don't have to be 'Mr. Smith', you know. You can call me Dean."
Lisa shakes her head. "I can't."
She knows it's only a matter of time. She can't fight parallelism. One year ago, in December, Dean Winchester unlocks their front door. Grocery run; normal stuff. Eggs, canned peas, a loaf of bread. Beer. But it's Christmas, so there's egg nog, too. It's Christmas, so she kisses him; his lips are cold-chapped and the snowmelt on his jacket is bleeding into her sweater, but they hold the pose and her tongue licks back against the roof of his mouth. He doesn't really taste like Christmas, but they're just getting started.
"Brush your teeth," she says. And, "Forewarning, Ben made lasagna."
He opens his mouth to reply, but instead Lisa gets Dean Smith at a completely different door, one minute ago. Blue pinstripes and red suspenders, like the day they--met, she guesses. If that's what you call that.
"You have a lovely home," he says.
"It's a good house." She smiles weakly, steps aside to let him past the foyer. Her lips are trembling, and she's not sure if it's thwarted muscle memory, or terror.
He hands her a bottle with a bow on it. "Sparkling apple cider," he says. Because he doesn't really drink. And he hopes the kid will like it. Ben. He hopes Ben will like it. Hi Ben.
Ben stutters something about the bathroom, and takes the stairs two at at time. Lisa wants to follow him; she does. She'd clear the stairwell in four bounds, collapse into her too-large bed, and lock the door. Never come out. But she knows she will never turn her back on Dean. Not even like this.
"Did he think we wouldn't notice the difference?"
Sam snorts at her. Obviously he's had a lot of time to sort this all out in his head, because he should be a mess on the floor about this, but he's not. He doesn't respond for some time, like he's left the room to get another drink and forgotten to take his body with him. Lisa waits.
"Nah, I think he sorta figured this stuff out eventually. He'd have known this was what we'd get." Sam smacks his lips and swallows hard. He's drinking Mr. Smith's sparkling apple cider. "He just didn't care."
"What do you mean?"
"He was only thinking about what Dean wanted."
"Well, he must have made a mistake."
Sam looks up from his drink, regards her from under a furrowed brow. "What makes you say that?"
Lisa could really use that smoke again. She can't answer that. "Why aren't you?" she asks instead. "Did something--did something happen to you?"
"Yes," Sam says, without hesitation this time. "Yes, it did."
Lisa's instantly sorry. She's just having a hard time feeling like she's the only one who knows what's missing. Though that can't be true, it can't, because this is Sam, and Dean (used to) know Sam, even if she never did, and this--isn't anything like she remembers. Nobody is anything like she remembers. Not Sam, not Dean Smith, and not Dean. And if she's not careful she's going to hurt Ben, too.
"How could he have wanted this? Tell me, Sam, how could have possibly--"
She's not stupid. She's been there. She knows how it feels to wish you were invisible. Untouchable. That you could take back anything you'd ever done, or said, and fucking save people from it. She spent Ben's entire first year wishing she didn't feel like an understudy for her own damn life. She watched Dean's first year here, with them--with her. Watched him fight the exact same thing. But fight, that's the thing, and Dean Winchester is always supposed to win.
"He wouldn't have wanted to hurt me. Even if he thought he was okay with-- He wouldn't have checked out like that. Not on me. Not on y--Sam? Sam."
He's not looking at her.
"You should probably take that down." His gaze is fixed on a photograph in the hallway. It's from last year, Christmas. They'd all gone to this stupid community caroling thing and sipped cheap cocoa out of Styrofoam cups. They'd all sort of hated it, but it was funny afterwards. It's one of her favorite pictures.
"It could get, you know, awkward. More awkward. If he saw that."
Lisa nods. She wants to say, Well, he's already seen us. How much more can he need? But she takes it down. It leaves a hollow space that she doesn't think she'll try to fill this time.
She watches his pink lips move words around, and recognizes nothing.
Ben's gone for the night. He can't deal with this anymore. She shouldn't have forced him. Sam's about to check out, too.
"I'm sorry," he says, because everyone is these days. "I just-- I can't--" Sam's been here four hours and this is the first time he seems like anyone Dean might know. There's something swirling inside him. Delayed hypersensitivity. Lisa's not sure how to handle that. He looks completely lost, like he's just stepped into something on a magnitude he didn't truly realize before.
He breaks her trance: "And I'm sorry about your bathroom."
"I, uh. Punched a wall. I'm sorry. I'll pay for it."
The house could catch fire and this wouldn't be any further from a Hallmark Christmas than it already is. "It's not a problem. Maybe we have termites. Now I can check."
You will never be alone. I promise.
She looks at Mr. Smith, and her heart breaks. "Would you like some more cider,"--a sharp breath--"Dean?"
You were never alone. Was that the problem?
"Can angels die?"
Sam hesitates. "Yes."
"If they die, does this--all go back?" When the clock strikes midnight, does the carriage turn back into a pumpkin?
"You can't kill an angel."
"I'm just thinking of options."
Sam laughs. "What have we done to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Now you know you're really one of us. You refuse to live with anything."
"You should go," Lisa says, and Sam does.
"I'm looking," he says, as the door closes on him. "I'll find--something. I promise."
Lisa's been looking all evening and what she's found is this:
She turns around and into Mr. Smith.
"Hey," he says. "I was just thinking that I should, uh-- Maybe get going, since..."
And it's weird, but getting ready to leave is the only time he's ever reminded her of Dean. It's slight, but it's there, and slight is where the world holds itself together. Maybe that's why she likes Dean so much; he always feels like he's about to go. They could be halfway through a meal, or a movie, and he'd feel like that. Maybe it's a little like the way she used to be, too. Maybe that's why they worked out so well, that first weekend a million years ago. Whatever it is, there's something about Dean that makes Lisa feel like she needs to grab hold of him, like his hands will turn to sand if she doesn't keep their shape and he'll turn around and disappear if he crosses the doorframe, he'll drive into the blackness and melt inside it like an element joining itself, he'll be air against her lips instead of body he'll be apologies instead of presence. He'll be
someone else entirely
Lisa says she's sorry it worked out this way; she didn't mean for it to be so awkward for him. Holidays are hard. He understands.
But this isn't fair to him. This isn't fair to anyone. "I just-- I didn't want you to be alone. I thought that--"
"Thank you," he says, and it almost ends her. Because this is not what Dean would have wanted. People giving everything for the memory of him is the exact opposite of anything he would have possibly wanted. But in the end, Dean can fuck what he would have wanted as far as Lisa's concerned, because he's not here. She's angry because if she's anything else, she's going to disappear too.
"Mr. Smith," she says. Stiff, formal; she hides behind rite and custom, as people do. "It's been a pleasure to have you. Please take care."
Outside again. The lighting's the same. Her arms look like the road, pale ash snow in goosebump peaks. "I just wanted to say," she says. Then stops.
The snow is bleeding into her sweater and her lips are trembling.
"You were supposed to know." Not about love--or how much she loved him. How much anyone loved him. Because love is one of those gross, unknowable things. You can be surrounded by people who love you and never know it, tonight proves that much. And maybe that's how it's supposed to be. Maybe that's faith. What holds people to the ground is much, much simpler.
In the end, it's a matter of sense; it's a matter of lips, and a matter of groceries. Of drinking swill out of Styrofoam cups and torturing your eardrums and finding new ways to eat peas and putting holes in other people's bathrooms. It's a matter of turning off the light and knowing there is a body beside you. Not drinking on Sundays, because one day a week is fifty-two a year which is better than nothing. And sometimes, it's a matter of choking down smoke and knowing that, in spite of all this, you probably can't be saved. It's a matter of knowing that this is what you signed up for. It's a matter of knowing that the hand holding yours when you wake up is the hand you were holding when you died. Or that it should have been.
There's a place where the gutter dips, that Lisa would have fixed if she didn't think Dean would, someday. It spills over. Lisa tightens her lips as the spill runs down from her hairline, her cheek, the corner of her mouth.
"I just wanted to say," Lisa begins again, when she's wiped the ice from her face. "We noticed."
Dean knows it from the moment Castiel touches his shoulder.
"This is a mistake, isn't it?"
"It's always a mistake."
"Should I be re-thinking this? I need an angel on my shoulder, Cas. C'mon, give me something."
Castiel moves away. "At this crossroads, what would entitle you to that?"
"You show me."
a/n 1: This is now posted non-anonymously because I feel better about being me now. LOL. Yeah, uh. Explanation for that weirdness. XP Moving right along!