Fandom/Genre: Supernatural, Futurefic, angst
Characters: Dean Winchester, others (5.22 spoilers) highlight: Lisa Braeden, Ben Braeden, mentions of Sam Winchester, OMC
Word Count: 3,728
Warnings: Het (implied), Slash (implied), major spoilers for 5.22, and lots of speculation
Spoilers: Up through 5.22
Disclaimer: Written for fun, not profit; anything you recognize belongs to Kripke, Warner Bros., et al.
A/N 1: This is the fifth in a series of seven fics my post-5.22 ‘verse. Can be read as a stand-alone.
A/N 2: Many thanks to Carlos, calamitycrow, and sleepwalker1015 for the beta and feedback!
Summary: Sam’s Birthday, May 2, is a date that’s always held a lot of power—perhaps too much power—over Dean. After all, it’s the date Sam was Born, the date Sam came back to life, and the date Dean died... But now, maybe there’s something to give that date new meaning, to allow Dean to reclaim it for his new life.
Also available on: AO3
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If there was one universally useful thing Dean had learned in his long and complicated existence, it was how to tell when something was wrong with moody teenagers and young adults. It was an instinct that had served him particularly well in his first life and had proved surprisingly (to Dean anyway) helpful in parenting Ben. So when the twenty-three-year old came home one weekend oddly tightlipped and distant, yet seemingly in a good mood and wanting to do too many activities with his parents, Dean was confident something was up. And judging by the conspicuous lack of a boyfriend—fiancé—he corrected, he had an inkling about what might be the matter.
So on Ben’s second full day home, Dean did the only logical thing to do. He talked to Lisa.
“Something’s going on with Ben,” Lisa said looking up from the yoga journal she was reading as Dean walked into the kitchen.
Okay, so maybe he wasn’t the only one who noticed. “I know; that’s what I was coming to talk to you about. This is the first time he’s showed up without Toby in tow since they met,” Dean replied with a weary sigh as he crossed to the counter where Lisa was perched on a stool. It was so natural being with Lisa, it was difficult, sometimes, to remember that he hadn’t always had this. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and pressed a kiss to the side of her neck, breathing in the clean scent of her hair. She smelled like lilacs and cotton. He looked at the vase of purple blooms on the nearby table. Ah, so she’d been picking lilacs... It was tempting just to get lost in her company, especially when she leaned back into Dean’s chest.
“You need to talk to Ben.” The spell was broken. Lisa sat up straight and twisted on her stool to meet Dean’s eye.
“I was planning to,” Dean started, fidgeting slightly with his hands. He liked Toby. He really did. The kid was tall and sincere and intelligent. Had a great smile and could be incredibly endearing. He was from a well-off family, but he had a lot of issues with his parents, and didn’t really seem to fit in with the rest of his family. He and Ben had taken to each other like two sides of the same coin, peanut butter and jelly, and all that. And yes, Dean was perfectly aware (more like painfully, acutely) that there were some striking similarities between his son’s significant other and a certain floppy-haired person from his own past, and he wasn’t very keen on analyzing whatever that might say about him or Ben or the similarities between them (or how it boded for Ben’s relationship). Suffice it to say he liked Toby a lot, but if that little punk hurt Ben or broke his heart, Dean wouldn’t hesitate to kick Toby’s ass to the curb. But wait a minute, back up, Lisa said he needed to talk to Ben? Usually Dean and Lisa talked it out, devised a strategy and worked together when something was going on with Ben. For Lisa to say...
“You know what’s going on,” Dean answered after a long pause. He tried to keep the hurt out of his voice, that Ben would talk to Lisa about this and not him... it was a knee-jerk jealousy thing and it was stupid. It just cropped up from time-to-time when he was reminded of those almost-eleven years where he wasn’t a part of Ben’s life, beyond crashing that one birthday party.
“I didn’t talk to Ben about it,” Lisa replied with an eye roll and a half smile, “so you can lose the kicked-puppy expression right now.”
Okay, I deserved that, he realized, wiping a hand wearily through his hair. He turned so his hip and side were leaning against the counter, so he could better see Lisa. “Okay, so you talked to Toby, does he know what’s going on?” Dean crossed his arms over his chest.
“Not really,” Lisa said with a shake of her head. “But he called here worried about Ben, and I pieced it together.”
“And I,” Dean pointed at himself, “need to talk to Ben?”
Lisa nodded. “Yeah, you do.”
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Dean asked, hesitantly. He was used to himself being cagey at times, and Ben had certainly had his moments (like now and especially as an adolescent), but Lisa was usually pretty straightforward. She didn’t like to put up with a lot of bullshit.
Lisa pressed her lips together, dropping her clasped hands in her lap. “This is one of those times where you need to trust me, and you and Ben need to sort this out between the two of you. If I tell you anything...” She stood, her movements fluid, graceful. “Just go work your magic.” She tugged him close by the button placket of his open shirt and pulled him down for a kiss.
Dean let himself get lost in it for a moment, taking strength from Lisa’s confidence.
She pulled back and smiled up at him, her eyes a little wistful. She turned to collect her journal and glanced back over her shoulder at Dean, smiling. “Now go talk.”
He watched, speechless, as she strode from the kitchen in the direction of the bedroom.
Okay... he could do this. He was good at this. Only, he had a knot of dread forming in his stomach thanks to Lisa’s insistence and general vagueness about what was going on. Steeling himself, he started to head to the backyard where he’d last seen Ben (voluntarily mowing the lawn), but paused, turned back to the refrigerator, and retrieved two beers and the bottle opener, before heading again to the back door.
Ben was still mowing, with a little too much focus, muscling the push mower into an impossibly tight path that skirted the borders of the grass, teetering dangerously close to the flower beds that ringed the inside of the fence.
“You know, we have a weed-whacker for that,” Dean said, raising his voice a little, as he set the two bottles down on the deck railing alongside the bench that ran along the back of the deck.
Ben jumped, obviously startled, the mower actually bobbling a bit on the ground. He stilled, seemingly breathing deep to steady himself. “I don’t think T—Mom, would be too pleased with the unnecessary energy consumption,” Ben said at last, resting his forearms on the push mower’s handle, still looking straight ahead, away from Dean.
No, Toby would have a problem with it. Lisa would be amused. Sure, she wasn’t too happy about the energy the power tool used, but she’d figured out long ago that weed-whackers were near-magical in their ability to help Dean exorcise his metaphorical demons while producing constructive results. This was definitely something to do with Toby. Instead, Dean said, “Maybe, but nobody’s gonna be happy if you kill the rose bushes or trample the flower beds. Why don’t you give the weed-whacker a try?”
“Nah, it’s okay,” Ben said, shaking his head in a move that was strikingly similar to Lisa’s. He straightened up and began wrestling the mower again.
Shit, Dean thought. Okay, time to try a different tack. “Well, how about taking a break then? I’ve got cold beers.” He smiled, albeit a little weakly, and held up the two bottles, letting them clink together slightly, the sound echoing slightly in the muggy afternoon air. It was hot for March. Damn global warming! Although sometimes Dean wondered if the strange temperature effects that had been cropping up over the last 10-15 years were left over from... He clamped down on the thought, not letting his mind go there.
Ben, however, didn’t know about Dean’s treacherous, wayward thoughts. He turned at last when he heard the clink of the glass bottles, the promise of cool refreshment apparently overcoming his hesitation. “Okay,” he said with a sigh, wiping one forearm across his forehead and leaving a trail of smeared sweat and grass dust in its wake. He crossed the yard slowly, deliberately, and walked up the steps with such reservation if Dean didn’t know better he would have thought Ben was walking to his execution.
Dean held out one of the bottles, waiting until he was sure Ben had grabbed it—he didn’t want to have cleaning up broken glass as an excuse to let Ben avoid talking—and picked up the bottle opener, popping the caps off first Ben’s beer and then his own. “Come on, sit with me,” he said, dropping down with a grunt onto the bench and taking a long pull from the bottle. His left knee creaked a little as he sat, making Dean grimace. Damn this getting old bullshit! Under normal circumstances, that would have earned him a reaction from Ben, either a ribbing about how old and creaky he was getting or an expression of concern and sympathy, depending on Ben’s mood.
But Ben wasn’t paying any attention. He had sat down, but he was staring far too intently at his beer bottle, not drinking, but picking absent-mindedly at the label.
Okay, really not doing this the easy way then. Dean took another long swig, focusing on the slide of smooth bitterness down his throat, taking in the smell of cut grass, and the titter and twitter of squirrels and birds hanging around the yard before he spoke. “Alright Ben, what’s going on?”
Ben looked up, startled, nervous. His hands almost fumbled the bottle, which was sweating in the heat, and he scrambled to take a sip before the head formed by the sudden agitation covered him. As it was, a small stream of foamy beer escaped the bottle and slid down his forearm before he could stop it. Ben’s lips pulled off the bottle and he licked ineffectually at his dirty, grassy arm to try to stop the flow. It reminded Dean so much of himself when he was younger that he couldn’t suppress the chuckle that erupted from his chest.
Ben looked over at him, expression a little sheepish.
“Sorry,” Dean apologized with a smile, then schooled his features into the ‘I’m waiting patiently,’ look he’d perfected over the years.
“Nothing’s wrong, Dad,” Ben answered, his voice flat. He took a short sip and dropped his hands to his lap, his legs swinging over the side of the bench like he used to when he was a little kid. He was looking at his hands, at the ring that Toby had given him last Thanksgiving when they’d gotten engaged. They’d both gotten simple silver bands that were supposed to be paired up with gold wedding bands when they actually tied the knot. Ben was still wearing his...
“Come on, kiddo,” Dean said, unable to resist the term of affection even though Ben now equaled him in height, “you can’t lie to your old man, or well you can, but you don’t have to. I know something’s up. What happened? Did you and Toby fight? Did he break up with you?” Dean couldn’t help the protective surge of emotion that flooded his chest. He sat up, leaned forward, and set his beer down on the bench beside him. “I swear to god, I like that kid, but if he did anything—”
“No, Dad, relax, Toby didn’t do anything, and besides,” he glared at Dean, “I can take care of myself.” Ben sighed, setting down his bottle next to Dean’s and dropping his elbows to his knees. He ran his fingers through his hair, letting his forehead rest on the heels of his palms. “We’re fine, we didn’t break up or anything, actually, we kind of finally set a date,” Ben said with a note of disbelief, turning his face to look at Dean.
There were so many emotions warring in Ben’s eyes, Dean felt a little overwhelmed, but no closer to figuring out what was going on with his son.
“Or at least Toby found a perfect date, and the location we wanted is available...” Ben let his voice trail off. He was fiddling with his engagement ring, twisting it around and around on his finger.
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Dean admitted, trying to figure out what could be causing Ben so much distress or explain his mysterious behavior. Two possibilities came to mind, neither of them particularly good. He opted to address the one he could actually do something about first. “Are you getting cold feet? Or did... did you sleep with someone else?” It would fit. Ben had certainly been quite the ladies man (and man’s man and all-around sex fiend) when he was an adolescent and younger adult. Another quality he had in common with Dean. It meant Ben’s sudden and complete devotion and faithfulness to Toby when they met shortly after Ben’s twenty-first birthday had come as somewhat of a shock. It was an unpleasant thought, but Ben cheating would explain—
Only Ben had pulled his head out of his hands and was looking at Dean with the sort of scandalized disgust Ben normally reserved for ‘those heathens’ who dissed Metallica or Zeppelin or AC/DC. “Jesus, no Dad, no.” He shook his head and made a pained noise. “I could never do something like that to Toby. Just,” he shook his head more emphatically. “No.”
Okay, option B, then, Dean thought. Which was good, because he thought Ben and Toby were great together, but bad because it meant the problem was probably... “Are Toby’s parents giving you guys grief about the date? Or the location?” Dean pretty much thought Toby’s parents were pretty awful; Lisa had expressed far less charitable thoughts about them. Dean really hoped the Weisses weren’t causing problems, but he was running out of ideas.
“Nope, they’re okay with it too. See, Toby got tired of arguing with them about weekend weddings and time of day and what was appropriate and respectable and whether or not our friends could come, and he pitched doing a weekday wedding instead. He said it was a great way to save energy. His parents respect the whole environmentally friendly thing,” Ben said.
“Sounds promising,” Dean hedged, not sure where this was going.
“It’s great or at least, it should be. It turns out we could get everything we want on a Tuesday night in May, this May.” Ben said it portentously, like Dean was supposed to glean some significance from the statement.
He didn’t though. “Okay,” he tried.
Ben sighed, a mixture of exasperation and frustration, from the sound of it, but not frustration with Dean based on the way he was viciously tearing at the label on his beer bottle again. He downed the rest of the bottle in one gulp. When he spoke again, he was staring straight ahead, eyes haunted. “It’s the first Tuesday in May.” He looked at Dean again, “May 2nd.”
An involuntary shudder ran through Dean, chill racing up his spine, pain and regret and gratitude and pride swirling warm and violent in his belly. He gripped the bench so hard the wood creaked, and tried tor breathe as he scrabbled for his beer with the other hand, matching Ben’s actions and swallowing it in a long gulp. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to keep the flashes—Sam as a baby, Sam as an awkward teenager, Sam with Jessica, Sam drinking demon blood, Sam with that look of peace as he sacrificed himself to save the world—from overwhelming him. “Shit!” Dean stammered aloud, pinching his nose. Even after all these years the rush of emotion could still take him completely by surprise. “Now I know why Lisa said I needed to talk to you,” he admitted when he’d wrestled back enough control to breathe properly.
“Mom said what?” Ben asked, confused.
“Uh, Toby called and she talked to him, put two-and-two together. She didn’t tell me what, though, just that I should talk to you,” Dean admitted.
Ben scoffed, his body shaking in near-hysterical laughter. “See, this is why I’m a mess, why I’m here. I mean what am I supposed to say? Tell my fiancé the date sounds great, only could we please move it because that was my dead uncle’s birthday. My dead uncle who technically never existed on paper as related to anyone in my family—and oh yeah, he sacrificed himself to take the devil back to hell. I mean, how do I explain that?”
Dean sat, stunned. It was moments like this, rare though they were, where he felt incredibly guilty for being in Ben and Lisa’s lives. No matter how long he lived the normal, apple-pie life, there were always going to be some relics of his old life he couldn’t quite shake—like the palm-print scar on his shoulder or the pathological fear of rats (and most dogs) or the landmines littered around the calendar threatening to blow up in his face when he least expected them. “I died on May 2nd, too,” he observed aloud.
Dean immediately regretted that when Ben let out a choked sob, “Yeah, Dad, I know that, too. It’s not likely I’ll ever forget, it’s just one more—”
“No, Ben, stop,” Dean interrupted, reaching out and squeezing Ben’s shoulder, pulling him up and turning him so they were facing each other.
Ben’s eyes were damp and haunted and guilty.
Dean felt like shit and an idiot to boot. “I didn’t mean it that way. I...” he struggled to find the right words, the right way to say this. He had to make it right, take away that awful, kicked-puppy look, and make Ben happy, let him and Toby have a special day without worrying about Dean’s baggage ruining it all. “I think your Uncle Sam would... be honored if you shared your anniversary with his birthday, actually, I know he’d be.” It was true. It was one of those things Dean had figured out, thanks in part to the Sammy-voice that had taken up residence in his conscience, almost immediately after Sam died. Hell, Sam would get a kick out of this, and he’d probably laugh his ass off at Dean getting all maudlin over the situation. Brothers and their teasing. Dean shook his head, clearing his thoughts. “You know he’d be forty this year?” he realized aloud in disbelief.
Holy crap,” Ben agreed.
He and Dean looked at each other intently.
“I know, it’s unbelievable,” he sighed. “Y’know, when you met him, he’d just turned twenty-four, same age you’re gonna be in a few months?”
Ben’s forehead scrunched up. “How is that even possible?” he asked.
Dean chuckled, the pain finally leaching away, replaced by the actual joy he felt about Sam and his life most of the time. “Welcome to the club, kid, you’re going to be asking yourself that kind of question for the rest of your life.” Dean took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly. He made sure he’d caught and held Ben’s gaze before he continued. “I didn’t mean to make you feel crappy, well crappier, when I said I died on May 2nd. The point... well...” He shrugged. “We’ve had birth and death on that dated. Why not go all the way, throw in a wedding.” Dean smiled, a big genuine smile he felt down to his toes.
Ben, however, still looked nervous, uncertain. “Won’t that be hard for you? I mean, I want to enjoy my wedding, and I want everyone to enjoy it. I... It’s... it means a lot that you’d be okay with it, for me, but I don’t want you to be miserable, because then I won’t—”
“Ben, I meant what I said,” Dean said softly. “Does Sammy’s birthday still make me wanna climb into a bottle? Sometimes, yeah.” He shrugged. “But it’s not something I’m actually going to do, and it gets better every year. I think now would be a good time to reclaim the date. Make May 2nd about your and Toby’s wedding first. You know, shed the Winchester curse once and for all. Make the day a good day for the future of the Braedens.”
“You mean that.” It was a statement, awed, but certain.
“I do,” Dean agreed.
There was an awkward moment where they were both sort of frozen, Ben looking thrilled and overwhelmed with excitement, and Dean sitting there with his hand on Ben’s shoulder. Then they both moved, hugged, squeezing until it was difficult to breathe and then breaking away with reassuring slaps on the back.
“I guess I’d better go call Toby,” Ben said sheepishly.
Dean grinned. “Yeah, you should probably do that,” he agreed. He saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
Lisa was watching them from the sliding glass door in the den.
Dean shot her a reassuring smile and turned back to Ben. “You go do that, and I’m gonna go thank your mom for being so damn smart... and wise.” He squeezed Ben’s shoulder again and headed for the house. “Tell Toby I said ‘congratulations!’” he shouted over his shoulder at Ben, who was already dialing on his cell phone, before he slipped inside and slid the door shut behind him. He pulled Lisa into a crushing hug. “Thanks,” he whispered into her hair in a wobbly voice. Dean had tears in his eyes, but he didn’t care. “Thanks for being awesome and amazing and understanding me so well.”
Lisa laughed, relieved. “I trust your talk went well?”
“Yep,” Dean agreed. “Looks like our kid’s getting hitched in about seven weeks.”
They stayed like that, embracing, for minutes, until Ben came in and informed them Toby would be there in time for dinner. The backyard lay half mown, and there were two empty beer bottles sitting on the back deck making rings on the wood. Those were the sort of things normal people were supposed to care about, and care about them Dean did. But for now, he was willing to let them slide. As it turned out, his ability to figure out emo kids was as useful as ever, and somewhere out there, he knew there was another emo kid looking up at Dean, and smiling with pride and approval.