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arms of dazzling gold

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In the middle of May, when Lisa has finally gotten the carpets cleaned and the living room straightened out, two Winchesters stumble onto her doorstep, one hand slamming on the doorbell. She pauses automatically outside Ben's door, but when she hears him grumble under his breath and roll over, she continues, peering out of the peephole.

When she opens the door, all she can see is blood, a worn smile, and black eyes.

Sometimes Lisa wonders what would happen if she had stayed in bed.

Other days she hated that that thought would even enter her head.

In the kitchen, they don't say anything and she doesn't ask anything. The first-aid kit that has long gone unused is suddenly almost empty, covering skin like tattoos. Eventually, Sam leans in to help, his hands shaky but determined, and Lisa steps away to let him take over. Dean laughs, weak, almost reedy, but it grows louder and louder until Lisa's sure that he'll wake up Ben - to her surprise, Sam joins in, his hands over his face to muffle the sounds. Lisa can only stand there, stiff, arms frozen by her sides, but when Sam looks up at her, he's grinning so widely it looks painful. Dean reaches out to take her hand; his palm is rough but warm, and she finds herself sitting on the floor in front of them, wrapping her arms around Dean's calves. Dean's other hand finds its way into her hair.

"Hi," he says, voice raspy, and Lisa smiles into his leg.


The boys are a mess.

She doesn't truly realize it at first because they sleep the first twenty hours in her house and she doesn't feel comfortable examining them so thoroughly when they aren't aware of it. She supposes it's a good thing because it gives her enough time to explain what's going on to Ben.

(In very, very broad terms.)

Ben takes it rather well; he sits in the living room, almost literally sitting on his hands while he wants for Dean to wake up. He doesn't seem to want to listen when Lisa tells him that Dean's going to be a little different, Ben, and Dean might be the same person you remember, Ben, and Dean might seem pretty down, Ben.

"It's Dean," is all he says, that boyish smile on his face that she remembers seeing even when he was a baby, her little boy.

Sam stumbles down first, halting in his steps when he sees Ben turn expectant eyes his way.

"Still asleep," Sam offers, giving a little smile. "Uh, Lisa, could I talk to you real quick?"

Real quick.

Real. Quick.

God, she hopes he's lying.

Lisa can almost hear Ben yelling inwardly, but when she turns to look at him, his gaze is fixed on the TV. Good kid.

"So," Sam begins, accepting the glass of orange juice with a grateful nod. "I really appreciate you letting us stay. I mean - I can't see many people letting us in like that."

"Of course," Lisa says. "I'm - I'm just -" grateful. "He came by, you know. A month ago or so."

Sam swallows. "I know. Thank you for that, too. You were - you don't understand how much that means to me. To us. But I think we're going to head out when Dean wakes up."

Lisa blinks. "Come again?"

"We're going to head out," Sam repeats. "Things are a little more complicated than we thought."

"How so?"

Sam bites his lip. Suddenly he looks ten years younger. "Dean's - well. His hip's pretty messed up. We didn't really notice last night -" he pauses, thinks. "The other day. Adrenaline, I guess."

Lisa's already on her feet, but Sam holds a hand out. "I don't think he wants you to see. He doesn't, uh. Deal well with that."

"Hmm," Lisa says. "That's too bad, because I don't deal well with someone being in pain while in my house."

"Wait," Sam holds out his hand, wanting to grab her forearm, but he recoils, his throat working. "It's bad, okay? Like, surgery bad. We're not putting you out like that."

"You mean, Dean thinks he would put me out and you're going along with it."

Sam shifts his weight. "That's not it."

"Right," Lisa says, her expression softening. "You're telling me that you're okay with living in your car after his surgery? Sleeping on uncomfortable motel beds with flat pillows? When you could be staying here, getting home-cooked meals and -" me?

Sam's face twists. "It's complicated," he repeats.

"Sure," Lisa says. "Sure. Okay, you stay right here, I'll be back."

"You can't -" Sam begins, but Lisa pushes past him.

"Come hang out with Ben," she calls. "That okay, Ben?"

"Yeah," Ben nods at her stern look. "I've got some good DVDs," he ventures, a little hesitant. "Want to see?"

Sam breathes out through his mouth, but his shoulders eventually slump in resignation. "Okay," he says, giving Lisa one last look. "Sounds good."


The light is still off in the guest room. She hears only tiny hitches of breath, a pure indication of being in pain. She keeps the light off, shutting the door behind her. Dean doesn't say anything; he remains still under the blankets, turned on his side away from her. She takes his lead and carefully climbs in the bed with him, sitting cross-legged. All she wants to do is touch him, reassure herself that he's here, that he's okay.

He's here, but he's not okay.

"Sorry," Dean finally mutters, still not moving. "We'll be getting out of here in a bit."

"That's what Sam said. Can't say I agree with him."

Dean's head lifts off the pillow. "What?"

Finally, she lets herself touch him, a gentle brush on his shoulder with her fingertips. "You're not leaving."

His laugh is self-deprecating, the only one she's ever known from him. "Really."

"Mm hmm." She lets her fingers slide up his neck and into his hair, scratching his scalp. He stiffens under her touch but doesn't stop her. "Let me take a look at your hip."

"That's okay."

She keeps her hands away. "Just a peek. Please."


She blows out a breath. "Look, I'm trying my best not to ask what happened. You can tell me whenever you're ready. I don't mind, sweetheart. We don't have to talk about it. But you will let me take a look at you."

Dean turns his head so he can look at her; he's frowning. "It's fucked," he says bluntly, as if that's going to scare her off.

"That's fine. Come on, lemme see."

Dean waits a moment as if he's giving her time to change her mind before he moves his arm, giving her access.

Dean's right: fucked is a pretty damn good way of putting it. She can almost picture splintered bone underneath the blackened skin, snaking its way all the way down his leg. Intaking a breath, she ignores Dean's silent I told you so and just looks.

"How did you do this?"

"It's complicated."

"Yeah? Make it simple."

"I fell."

"You fell."

Dean's lips turn crooked. "It was a bad fall."

Lisa almost touches his hip; she can feel the heat radiating off the skin. "I'll say."

Dean looks away. "Look. I don't really want to deal with this right now, okay? It's - it's all sorts of fucked up."

Lisa rests her hand on his stomach, feeling his uneasy breathing. "Okay," she says. "So when we tell the doctor that you fell from the ladder while you were cleaning the gutter, will that be a good enough cover story?"

Dean turns surprised eyes on her. Grateful eyes. "Can't we make it more badass?" he says finally, but he takes her hand and presses his lips against her knuckles.


The next few months are painful, needless to say.

Dean sleeps, then he sleeps some more. When he's awake he's quiet, breathing quickly, the pain almost too much. Sometimes Lisa sneaks into his room and lays beside him, breathing, her hand on his abdomen as she coaxes him through the pain. Sam sleeps on the couch; he always seems to sense those nights because he's never there even before she tiptoes inside. The curtains are opened slightly, just enough moonlight let in that she can see his crooked smile from the bed. He'll crinkle his nose when she starts the low breathing but he's quick to obey, his breath the most beautiful and comforting thing she's ever heard.

One night after Sam and Ben have headed off to bed, Lisa takes Dean's hand and leads him into her room, shutting the door behind her with a soft click. His eyes are questioning but he stays quiet. She smiles, bunching his shirt in her fists, leaning up to kiss him slowly. It takes a moment for him to respond but he kisses back with urgency, one arm sliding around her waist and pulling her closer while the other hand rests on the back of her head. She feels treasured, cradled; her spine tingles, skin feels flushed, and for a moment she forgets that he's broken. He's gentle but sturdy, fingers splayed against the small of her back.

It's everything and nothing like what she remembers.

"Stay," she breathes into his neck, and he tightens his grip around her; now she knows that she's the only thing keeping him upright. When she tugs on the hem of his shirt, he limps toward the bed, the ever familiar grimace on his face, looking up at her through hooded eyes. She climbs on his good side, careful not to jostle the bed, and starts to lift his shirt over his head. He chuckles, deep and low, the sound leaving Lisa breathless; he pulls at the buttons of her blouse and she pops each one slowly, her eyes never leaving his, a smirk dancing on her lips.

His swallow is audible; his eyes are a little wide, lips bitten, anxious, but she doesn't stop. Slowly, she climbs on his other side and traces the scar on his hip, causing a hitch in his breathing.

"Lees -" he starts to croak, but she pays him no mind, pressing her lips against the jagged marks, and he doesn't say another word the rest of the night.

Needless to say, the guest room becomes Sam's room after that.


Sam picks up a job at the restaurant down the block. Dean protests when he finds out that it's a bartending gig, and Sam's smile is tight when he tells Dean it's a good job, good hours, he can stay at home during the day while Lisa is at work. Lisa looks back and forth between them, lost, but like a lot of things that go unspoken between them, she doesn't question it. She gets Sam's reasoning, she does; she wants to bring up the possibility of him going back to school, doing something he loves. He deserves it, but at the same time, she doesn't want him to leave.

Lisa loves them both, and she can be damn selfish.

Dean slowly gets better, but eventually he plateaus. He's stone-faced when the doctor admits that things won't improve much more, that he'll have difficulty walking and the pain will linger for the rest of his life.

"Surgery won't help?" Lisa asks even though she doesn't want to; he's been through three already and if those haven't done the trick, a fourth one probably won't, either. Dean works his jaw but shrugs, nonchalant.

"Thanks, doc," he says, struggling to his feet. Lisa knows better than to help him now, so she keeps her distance; close enough that if he loses his footing she can step in, but far enough that he won't feel like she's hovering.

Dean doesn't bother getting in the car at first, instead sticking a cigarette in his mouth in the parking lot and lighting up. He blows out a breath of smoke and cricks his neck, closing his eyes. When he finishes that one he lights up another one, the last in the pack, and he crumbles it in his hand and tosses it in the backseat.

"I figured," he says finally, crunching the cigarette butt under his foot, grimacing when he shifts his weight to his bad leg. "Shit."

"Dumbass," Lisa counters, but she smiles and ducks in under his arm, lending her support. His fingers curl around her shoulder.

"Still willing to put up with me now?"

She threads her fingers through his. "More than ever."


Lisa still thinks it's silly that her family sends out Easter dinner invitation cards. (Most years there are even photos - hell, never mind, every year there are are photos, most likely of the new niece or nephew added to Lisa's Christmas present list.)

"From Grandma," Ben says with a roll of his eyes, tossing the card on the table. "I have no idea what it could be."

Lisa hides a snort and tears it open, Sam trying not to look too interested from his spot by the counter, a mug of coffee in his hands. He looks a little sweaty; he's probably just gotten back from a run.

"Easter dinner invitation," Lisa explains, holding out the card. "Looks like it's at my mother's house this year."

"Yeah?" Sam says, taking it from her and smiling as he looks at the photo. (One year old Patrick this time, sitting on the beach with his bucket and pail, huge hat protecting his head.) "Saturday - they like to send out invitations last minute, huh?"

"They're more of an afterthought, really," Lisa says, opening the fridge and searching for her organic milk. "We know about every holiday plan about three months before they happen."

"Huh. That's kind of - nice."

Lisa stares at a pack of mozzarella cheese, her stomach sinking. "It is," she says. Suddenly she regrets every exasperated feeling she's gotten when she receives one of those cards. There's a brief pause where she keeps her head in the fridge, biting her bottom lip, before Sam continues.

"Jess used to get those. I mean - not cards like that. The ones with pictures, though."

Lisa pulls out some ground turkey and throws it in the sink to thaw. "Christmas cards?"

"Yeah," Sam shrugs. He shoves his hands in his pocket, his mug now abandoned on the counter. "Anyway, uh. Are you going?"

"Are we going," Lisa corrects, her gaze automatically sliding to the living room. "I suppose it depends?"

Sam's eyes follow her own, and he nods in understanding.

Dean's asleep on the couch; Ben has settled into the armchair, notebook on his lap. He furrows his brow, reading his math book. His fingers automatically curl around the top of Dean's cane, as if he has to know where it is at all times. Lightning bolts streak up the side, yellow against black. Ben took great care in painting it; at first, he wanted to paint flames, angry swipes of red and orange, but Lisa quickly steered him away from that idea while Sam looked sick behind her. Ben never questioned; he only nodded and focused on the screaming bolts instead.

Lisa's family has been politely asking (although Lisa leans more toward badgering really) about when they're going to meet Dean. She understands their curiosity; the Winchesters have lived with her for five months now and they've yet to meet any member of her family. Not even her sister, who seems determined to slip that question into every conversation they have. They seem especially curious as to why Dean's brother lives with them, but the thought of any other arrangement has never even crossed Lisa's mind. She's fumbled her way through, because trying to explain that they stumbled onto her doorstep after saving the world and she took them in without question may make her family a bit uncomfortable.

She laughs to herself. A bit.

Lisa explained that they served together, but once Dean suffered his injury he was, of course, unable to continue. She doesn't specify the nature of their service, but because Lisa has a cousin who served in the Marine Corps, they accepted her explanation without question. She's felt nervous about Dean meeting Luke, mainly because he's been severely debilitated with PTSD and she doesn't want to bring up any memories, especially when he's been doing so well lately. Him and Sam, both.

She also knows that Dean's ashamed at the injury, that he's a liability, that people will look at him with pity and not be able to see around the leg. The first time she brought up the possibility of Dean meeting her sister, he had paled, looking sick, before he fumbled for a pain pill and popped it in his mouth, chasing it down with three cigarettes. She shut her mouth immediately and hasn't asked since.

"I can ask him."

"It's okay," Lisa says. She wrinkles her nose playfully at him. "I think you need to take a shower, first."

Sam scratches the back of his neck, looking sheepish. "Yeah, all right. Good luck, huh?"

Lisa nods and waves him upstairs, taking a breath before heading into the living room.

"Hey, kiddo," she says softly, poking at Ben's book. "How about you go somewhere more quiet and get your work done?"

Ben's eyes flicker over to the couch and he nods. She kisses his forehead, wondering how much longer he'll let her get away with that, and he goes on his way.

Dean stirs, and when she kisses the tip of his nose he opens his eyes, blinking a few times. He looks tired but not overly so, and he gives her a sleepy smile.



"What's up?" He sits up slowly, making a face, and Lisa hands him a pill without comment.

"Got something in the mail today."

"Yeah? What is it?"

Lisa doesn't answer, only holding out the card. He takes it with a raised eyebrow, giving it a glance. His mouth tightens slowly, but he's not reaching for a cigarette so Lisa counts that as a win.

So far, anyway.

"Easter, huh?"

"Yup," Lisa says. "Easter eggs, candy, bunnies. You know the deal."

Dean aims the raised eyebrow at her this time, and Lisa curses under her breath. Somehow she can't see the John Winchester she's heard about hiding Easter eggs around the motel.


Lisa feels a little hopeful. "Hmm," she echoes.

"I guess this is a big," Dean waves his hand around. "Family thing?"

"Yeah, you could say that."

Dean nods and looks back at the invitation.

"I can protect you, though."



Lisa feels Dean's muscles relax as the pill starts to do its job.

"Saturday, huh?"


Dean's quiet for a moment longer before he nods. "Okay."

Lisa's not sure she heard him right. "Okay?"


"You'll go."

"I'll go." Dean hesitates. "Sam, too, right?"

"Of course."

Dean huffs a laugh. "He always liked that shit, so I'll bet he wants to go."

"Sam isn't you. We don't have to go." She hoists herself up and wraps her arm around his waist. He leans heavily against her; she can already tell that he's about to drift off again.

"We're going."

Lisa kisses his temple; her fingers trace the scars on his hip. Dean fidgets and makes a noise of protest, but she swallows it down as she turns her attention to his mouth, his lips soft underneath hers.

"We can go whenever you're ready. It's not a big deal -"

"We're going," Dean mumbles. "Shit, it's been five months. I can handle a fucking dinner." He closes his eyes, and Lisa carefully reaches out and grabs her phone from the side table.

See you Saturday.

really?? holy SHIT. i'll tell mom. can't wait to see you and your man. well, your MEN :)

Lisa chuckles and sets her phone's alarm for an hour from now, letting her head rest on Dean's and closing her eyes.


"This is stupid."

Dean squints at his egg. "Shut up. Is not."

"What are you even drawing?"

Dean spins it around. "You can't tell?"

Ben takes his own turn at squinting. "Uh, a goat?"

Dean frowns. "Goat? Nah, it's a dog. See?"

Ben snorts and sits back in his chair. "Sure."

"Punk," Dean mutters.

Lisa plucks it out of Dean's hand. "You can't draw a black dog on an egg for Easter."

"You want me to paint a rainbow like Sam?"

Sam looks up from his own egg. "It's not a rainbow. It's layers of color."

"Isn't that -"

"Never mind," Lisa interrupts. "Clear the table, will you? Omelets are ready."

Ham and cheese for Ben, spinach and mushrooms for Sam, bacon and onions for Dean.

"Thank you," Sam says, and Lisa smiles, ruffling his hair.

Dean only picks at his, his shoulders tense. Sam picks up on his mood and starts talking enough for the both of them, telling them about one Easter they had when Sam ate so much chocolate he puked on his father's pillow. Lisa picks up her own fork and starts eating from Dean's plate, tapping her fingers on his knee. He rolls his eyes at her but his expression looks a little less nervous.


It's only a three hour drive, but Lisa makes a few pit stops along the way, giving Dean some time to stretch out his leg. He gives a small, grateful smile, fumbling for his pack in his pocket and thumbing out a cigarette. Ben plays on his PSP while Sam watches, patiently waiting for Dean to limp back to the car and Lisa to start up the engine.

Lisa's parents live off a back road in the country; the closest house is a mile away. Lisa loved living there, loved having kids from school come over and play hide and seek and have bonfires with s'mores. Now, though, the sight is a little intimidating.

"Wow," Dean says as he takes in all the cars. "That's, uh. That's a lot of people."

"April's here, though," Ben crows, jumping out the car. "You'll like her, Dean. I swear. She's awesome. Aunt Kathy!"

Kathy must have been watching out the window because she's already on the front porch, her smile wide.

"Sup, kiddo?" she says, giving him a side hug. Ben snorts and gives her a quick hug back before he turns back around.

"Come on!"

"Maybe we should ease the fam in slowly, huh?" Lisa says. "Take Sam in with you first."

Ben motions inside. "Come on, Sam. Aunt Kathy makes really good crab cakes."

Sam winks at Dean and Lisa before he follows after Ben, giving Kathy a handshake and an introduction.

"Cutie," Kathy says, like Sam isn't approaching thirty and six foot five. "Nice to finally meet you."

"Same," Sam smiles, and he shrugs apologetically when Ben bellows for him from the foyer.

Kathy smiles and turns her attention to Dean and Lisa, her eyes twinkling.

"Hi," she holds out her hand, and Lisa fucking loves her sister. Kathy's careful, one step beyond the six inch comfort zone, her posture relaxed and non-threatening. Dean takes her hand. She doesn't even blink at the cane.

"Hey," Dean takes her hand, looking a little relaxed already.

"Very pleased to meet you," she says. "You're lovely, if you don't mind me saying. I see why Lisa's been keeping you all to herself." Her tone is teasing, not accusatory, and Lisa swears that Dean blushes a bit.

"Back off," Lisa warns playfully, and Kathy holds her hands up.

"Everyone's here already," she says. "Kids are all in the backyard. Heads up, though, they love new people and might attempt to maul you. The grown-ups aren't much better, but I've threatened that nobody gets even one damn bite of crab cake if they scare you away."


"Gotta hit 'em where it hurts," Kathy chirps before stepping out of the way, letting Dean and Lisa go in first. Dean slowly steps into the foyer, dragging his leg after him. The house is bustling with energy, laughter so loud that Lisa winces. Dean looks unfazed so far, and he takes a few more steps into the living room, his eyes roaming over the surroundings. Lisa sticks close by his side.

She's never been so grateful for her family; they don't rush him all at once. Rather, they approach him two at a time, spreading it out so they're not constantly bombarding him, and Lisa introduces everyone while pairing each name with an embarrassing fact so Dean can remember their names better.

"Rachel - she actually tripped going up the stairs for graduation and knocked over one of the teachers."

"Thanks," Rachel says.

"Mikayla - her first kiss was chewing gum at the time and she almost choked on it."

"Asshole," Mikayla says.

"Oh, that's Rob - he hit on his sister once at a costume party."

"Why did we invite you again?" Rob says.

After a while, things settle down, Dean along with it. He's smiling, no sign of pain evident on his body, and he starts looking for the crab cakes. Before he can even ask, Kathy brings him a plate and leads him to the couch, Rachel leaping out of the way so he can sit down.

"Don't get up -"

"Don't be ridiculous," Rachel says. "You need to be sitting down when you eat those crab cakes. It's a life-altering experience. Do you want something to drink?"

"I can -"

"Water, great," Rachel interrupts, and she pats his head before heading off to the kitchen. Dean stares after her, then at the crab cakes, then back at her.

"Try some," Lisa urges, and he takes a stab at one with his fork. He chews thoughtfully for a moment before his eyes slide closed; his groan is almost inappropriate.

"Sh't," he mumbles. "This is amazing."

Kathy, who's been waiting patiently beyond him, claps to herself. "I'm glad you like it! Would you like some more?"

"I -"

"Great," Kathy says, and she follows after Rachel.

Dean turns to Lisa. "Does anybody bother to listen?"

"Nope," Lisa says, sitting next to him. "Nobody."

Dean looks down at the little crab cakes, and his lips form a tiny smile.


Eventually, some of the kids trickle in from the backyard, no doubt having just finished their Easter egg hunt. Lisa's little niece, Marissa, makes a beeline for their direction.

She plops down in front of Dean, her blonde hair held back with a red barrette. She points at the cane. "What's that for?"

"Marissa," Jacob says, a warning in his voice.

"It's fine," Dean says. Lisa supposes that It's pretty good that he's gone so long without anyone asking. "I fell on my hip."

Marissa worries at her lip. "Did it hurt?"

"A little."

"Mommy broke her leg once," Marissa says. "She had to go to bed for a while. Did you have to go to bed?"

Dean rolls one of Cody's cars into her foot. "For a while."

Marissa nods. "I like milk," she says. "Do you want milk?"

"It's fine -" Dean starts, but she's already hopped to her feet and disappeared into the kitchen. She brings back a Dora the Explorer glass filled to the brim, careful not to spill any as she sits cross-legged on the floor and holds it out.

"How about you head back to the backyard, baby," Rachel suggests, scooping Marissa back up right away and setting her on her feet. "Darren's looking for you."

"Okay!" Marissa chirps, leaning into place a kiss on Dean's cheek. "Feel better!"

Rachel takes Marissa's place as Dean takes a gulp of milk. "Sorry about that," she says. "She's a little nosy."

"She's a kid," Dean shrugs. He shifts and tries to hide a grimace, the bottle of painkillers ever present in his pocket.

"You should take one."


Rachel nods at his pocket. "A pill. You have no reason to be stubborn and save face, you know."

Dean pops the lid and slips one in his mouth, eyes scanning the room.

"Kim's bringing you some potato salad," Rachel says, leaning back on her hands. "Lisa said you liked it when she made it. It's Kim's recipe, you know."

Lisa giggles at the dumbfounded look on Dean's face, three dirty plates in front of him on the coffee table. She hasn't seen him eat this much since he arrived at her place. This time he doesn't bother to protest; he's already learned it's pointless.

Kim's dark hair is in a loose braid that's slung over one shoulder; she sits on her heels and holds out the plate. "Brought you some extra," she smiles. She looks over Dean's shoulder and notices Lisa watching. She raises an eyebrow, and Lisa hesitates, not wanting to leave him, but Dean gives her a little shrug so she climbs to her feet and peers out the window.

Sam's in the backyard, children climbing all over his back. One's trying to pull his shoe off and finally succeeds, slipping it on his own foot. Another's trying to fit a paper hat around his head, her basket full of eggs abandoned by her side. Lisa leans against the wall, smiling, and pretends to look at her phone.

"Your brother's sweet." Rachel says. She taps her feet together. "He lives with you and Lisa?"

"Yep," Dean says.

"Okay." It's clear Rachel wants to ask more and she's holding back to the best of her ability. Then: "How come?"

Lisa groans under her breath. She can almost hear Dean shrug.

"Was the right thing to do, I guess."

"Did he serve with you?"

Dean's quiet. "Yeah. We, uh. We served together. For a long time."

Rachel clucks her tongue. "Thank you."

Lisa turns around in time to see the surprised look on Dean's face. "For what?"

Rachel pats his bicep. "For everything. For protecting us. For giving your time - and your life - so that other people can be helped."

Dean's eyes are huge and Lisa holds her breath. He looks absolutely terrified.

Rachel leans in and Lisa almost can't hear her. "Let Lisa take care of you, okay? You deserve it. My husband, well. He served too, and I know what it does to you. It can mess you up big time, and you clearly didn't have a hell of a party. And Lisa's one of the best people I know. That woman's heart, man. Let her take care of you."

Dean nods and clutches at his cane. He can't - or doesn't - want to answer, but Rachel's clearly not expecting one. She picks up Dean's empty plates and leaves him with Kim, who steps in, but Lisa's not listening anymore.

Rachel kisses Lisa's cheek. "You're lucky, Lisa," she says. "But so is he."


Even though everyone's been eating all day, they gather together for dinner about an hour later. Lisa had almost forgotten about how their dinners went. Sam's sandwiched between Michelle and Tracey, watching with huge eyes as they fill his plate with turkey and potatoes. Dean's on the very end so he can stretch out his leg, Lisa on his other side. He picks at his corn, his free hand clenched in a fist. Lisa pries the fingers apart and laces her own through them. His grip is tight but not painful, and Lisa rests their hands on her thigh.

"So," April says amidst the chatter. "This means we'll be seeing you around for Thanksgiving?"

"The holiday that's several months from now?" Lisa sighs.

April shrugs. "It's never too early." She shifts her gaze back to Dean. "You're coming, right?" Her smile turns coy. "And your brother as well? I'm hosting this year, and I make damn good pie."

Dean smirks. "What kind?"

Lisa rolls her eyes as April talks about her cherry pie, her apple pie, her pumpkin pie. Lisa knows first-hand how good they are, and she can't wait for Dean and Sam to find out, too.

"Yeah," Dean says. "Yeah, I guess I'll - we'll - be there."

"Good," April nods. "I'm saving them for the holiday, but Mel brought some chocolate cake. You want some?"

Lisa hides her grin when Dean nods, marveling at the fact that Dean can still eat, and Dean starts to get up.

"Don't you dare," April warns, pointing a finger at him. "I've got it."

"Seriously, I -"

"Sit. Down."

"Yes, ma'am," Dean manages, easing back into his chair.

"Five kids," Lisa says under her breath. "Most well-behaved kids you've ever seen."

Dean cranes his neck over to the kid's table. "Where are they?"

"Their dad's turn this year."


Turns out Dean must be fuller than he thought, because he can't finish off the slice. April waves a hand and fetches a container, filling it with the rest of the cake and giving it to Lisa to take home.

Dean nods in thanks, but he's starting to look a little worn around the edges; his teeth are clamped together. He fumbles for his cane and struggles to his feet. "I'll be back in a minute."

This time, Lisa's cousins are quick on the uptake and don't protest, pretending not to watch as Dean limps out of the room and flicks on the back porch light. Sam blatantly watches him go, looking like he wants nothing more than to follow, but Lisa shakes her head, giving Dean a few minutes to himself before she makes her own way outside.

The family starts up the chatter, laughing as they regale Sam with stories about their kids. He listens, sitting on the edge of his seat and laughing along with them, looking like he belongs here, like he's always been here. Lisa allows herself a smile before she scoots back her chair, Jenna moving so Lisa can step by.

It's quiet outside, the closed door blocking the snickering and shouting, and Dean's leaning against the deck rail, taking all the weight off his bad leg.

Lisa slides in next to him, taking a hit from his cigarette. "Sorry about that."

"Is apologizing a Braeden thing?" Dean's smile is lazy, a little doped up.

"It's got to be, for being so annoying," Lisa says, wrapping her arms around him and linking her hands together above his hip, careful to avoid the damage. "You took it like a champ."

At first, Lisa feels the tense muscles in his back, and she wonders how much pain he's been in. Eventually he relaxes, warm and heavy in her arms. "Wasn't so bad," he says finally.

"Sam took to it especially well."

"Yeah, well, he's had a lot more practice."

Lisa hums against his shoulder. "How's the leg?"

Dean presses an automatic hand to it. "It's okay."

"Hurts like hell, huh?"

Dean grins. "Don't worry. I had some milk."

Lisa throws her head back and laughs.