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They haven’t spoken in two months.

 

Dean sends money and a letter every few weeks to Ben. He checks Bobby’s for anything in return, but so far, nothing. He’s too prideful to apologize, so he just hopes that the letters and money (more than he usually sends, he’s been foregoing motels and sleep in the back seat of the car) will help smooth things over.

 

It started when they were both warming up for sex. They hadn’t seen each other in two weeks and Ben was finally in bed after trying to stay up with Dean watching monster trucks. Lisa was in his lap, pulling off her shirt and was holding onto her tight. She kissed him and muttered, I was thinking. And ran her fingers down his ribs, over a yellowing bruise. Maybe a little brother or sister for Ben.

 

Come on, he chuckled, looking up. Isn’t it bad enough we all ready got one?

 

She jerked back and froze. Bad enough?

 

It only escalated from there. She told him that she never forced him to stay around and he struggled with his own words that kept coming out in stupid ways like, I didn’t mean that. I love him. And she’d respond,But you just don’t want another one.

 

No!

 

Why not?

 

Isn’t Ben enough?

 

What he wanted to say was he couldn’t stand the thought of leaving more than one kid with a dead-beat dad. Someone who could die just as easily today as he could next week. Instead he said, We didn’t even plan for him. He was a mistake.

 

That earned him a slap to the face and she told him to fuck off and he left, gathering his clothes from the floor, his duffel which hadn’t even been unpacked yet from the closet. He didn’t even look back as he stormed out of the new house. He thanked God that Ben was asleep. He spun out the tires as he zipped away. Drove forty miles before stopping for a beer and a blow job from the waitress in the alley.

 

Then Dad went missing. No calls, no texts or messages. Nothing. And Dean went to Sam at school. He didn’t have anyone else and they needed to find Dad. It was just like old times, working with Sammy. They made a great team. But Dean let Sam go, just like he was willing to let Lisa go, and be happy. But the fire happened and Sam lost everything. His clothes, his pictures of Mom and Dad, Jess. The way Sam looked for days after, even now, made Dean twist and ache and he needed to see Lisa, to see his son.

 

He slows the car down and parks on the street.

 

“What are we doing?” Sam sighs, staring out the window.

 

“Gonna see if we can stay for a few days.”

 

“I thought she wasn’t talking to you.”

 

Dean grimaces. “How would you know?”

 

“Because you picked up two waitress since we left California.” He tugs at his own hair. “You don’t do that when things are okay.”

 

He sighs and takes the key out of the ignition. “Just…don’t go anywhere or do anything.”

 

“Whatever.” Sam sinks into his seat and watches some kids down the street ride their bikes. The sun is setting and the neighborhood is painted in a hue of bright orange and pink. She’s lived in this place for about a year now. Making good money with the yoga and cake decorating. Of course her mother helped with the down payment, but Lisa’s doing good. She doesn’t need Dean, doesn’t really need the measly twenty to fifty bucks he sends her every week.

 

He holds his breath as he makes his way up the sidewalk. The grass needs cut, the weeds need to be cut back. Shutter on the bay window at the living room needs a paint job. Leaves scatter the front lawn and he can only imagine how bad the back looks. At the porch he keeps his head lowered as he knocks, four times. Generally he doesn’t knock. There’s a key on the ring with the car keys that he’s jingling in his pocket. But he knows better.

 

Some time passes, and he suspects that she already knows that he’s here, probably heard the car approaching from down the block, and is trying to decide if she’s going to let him in. The door finally opens and he straightens up, tries to smile. “Hey,” he says.

 

“Hey.” She folds her arms over her chest. Her hair is pulled back and she’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt, one of his and he tries not to smirk at that.

 

He clears his throat. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Oh?” She raises an eyebrow.

 

“Yes. I, uh. I shouldn’t have said what I did. I love Ben and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.” He shuffles his feet and looks down. He’s never been good at this. Apologizing, admitting defeat. “I’m a dick.”

 

She kind of laughs and nods. “Yeah you are.”

 

“I got Oreos in the car.”

 

“You think you can buy me off with oreos?”

 

He grins. “It usually works.”

 

“Yeah well, it’s going to take a little more than that.” She licks her lips and leans on the doorway. “Grass needs mowed.” She glances past him to the car and her expression changes. “Is that Sam?”

 

Dean looks back then back at her. She knows that they haven’t spoken in almost two years. “Yeah. Uh, there was a fire.”

 

“Is he okay?”

 

“No.”

 

She lets them in and she gives Sam a big hug and tells him to go make himself at home in the living room. “Where’s Ben?” Dean asks, glancing around the kitchen.

 

“In his room.”

 

“He in trouble?”

 

“No. I just told him he had to wait before seeing you. I wasn’t sure I was going to let you in.”

 

That hurts, but he knows he deserves it. “Can I see him?”

 

“Yeah. Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes.” She goes to the stove and checks on something in the oven. Dean takes double steps up the stairs and waltzes right to Ben’s room at the end of the hall.

 

He watches a minute. Ben sits in the middle of the room with his Hot Wheels track, sending cars down the loop and flying through the air over a stack of books and stuffed animals. He cheers with each crash and makes the sounds of an explosion. 

Dean grins wide and knocks on the door. Ben snaps his neck to attention and leaps to his feet. “Dad!” He scuttles across the room to attach himself to Dean’s legs. “I missed you,” he says into the material of Dean’s shirt.

 

Dean bends down to pick him up and hug him. “Me too.” He holds tight, trying again to forget what flames against your back feels like.

 

~

 

Sam is gracious for dinner and accepts Lisa’s tender touches as they talk and catch up. Dean knows they’ve had contact where he and Sam were on radio silence. Sam sent things for Ben, checked on Lisa via email. He sits with Ben after dinner and they play with some toy cars.

 

Dean puts Ben to bed and tells him a story about pumpkins that he recalls Mary telling him. Nothing too scary tonight. He gets a hug and a kiss before walking out of the room. 

 

Lisa stands in the hallway with some sheets in her arms. “He’s asleep,” she tells him before heading back downstairs. Dean knows that he shouldn’t have the gall, but he goes to Lisa’s bedroom.

 

It looks as it always does. Everything in neat order. Surprisingly he doesn’t find his spare clothes in a pile by the door, but then again she could have chucked it all or donated it to Goodwill after she kicked him out. He wouldn’t have blamed her. He never blames her for anything and is eternally thankful that she keeps letting him come back.

 

He takes off his boots and puts them by the closet, stuffs his socks inside the boots. Then hangs his flannel shirt on a hook by the connecting bathroom. He kept on his jeans and shirt, put took off the watch—Dad’s actually. Old and a gift from Mary twenty some-odd years ago. He sets it on the nightstand next to a photo of him and Ben, shortly after he was born. Ben was tiny and in Dean’s arms, his eyes wide open and his mouth gaping mid-yawn. Dean has the biggest grin on his face (and Dean grins now, looking at it) a similar expression that he’s seen in pictures of John as a younger father. An expression he hasn’t seen in years.

 

Lisa clears her throat and Dean freezes. She stands at the threshold.

 

“Sorry,” he says, standing. “I’ll go…sleep in the car or something.”

 

She rolls her eyes and comes in, closing the door behind her. “Don’t be stupid.” She walks into the bathroom and starts brushing her teeth. Dean sits back on the bed and waits for her to complete her nightly routine. She comes out still in his t-shirt, but no pants. 

 

“Come here please,” Dean says.

 

“I’m right here.” She pulls down the sheets.

 

He shifts a little and looks back. “Please?”

 

She doesn’t answer as she walks to the other side of the bed. He grabs a hold of her and brings her in tight, pressing his face against her stomach, his arms around her waist. She gasps and almost looses her balance. “Dean,” she starts.

 

“I’m sorry,” he mutters, breathing into the fabric of the shirt that smells like lavender. “I am so, sorry.”

 

She threads her fingers through his short, spiked hair, lets out a slow breath. “I know.”

 

“After what happened to Sammy…” his voice is unthreading, but he does his best to keep it together. “I had to see you. And the kid.” He presses his mouth to her stomach. 

 

“It’s okay,” she whispers, still stroking his hair, down to his neck and over his ears. It means that she forgives him and he thinks that she really shouldn’t because he is a dick, he is gonna keep hurting her and disappointing her and probably die within the next few years, but right now, he doesn’t want to protest it. Doesn’t want to point it out to her. He just wants to feel her warmth, her breathing. Her tender fingers sand for one night, sleep soundly.