Pairing: Dean Winchester/Lisa Braeden
Blurb: Dean Winchester and Lisa Braeden are two people you wouldn't normally put together. He's a life-long womanizing hunter with a bazillion issues and heaps of guilt. She's a former wild-child raising a kid of her own.
Dean and Lisa work for several reasons. Their relationship is not just one where Lisa offers all the comfort and Dean mopes around, waiting for Sam. If that had been the case, you can be sure she'd have kicked him out after a week. Dean is deeply conflicted; as it's said in "Swan Song", all he wants to do is save Sam, or die trying. And yet, he made a promise. He cares about Lisa, more than any other woman he's been with, and some part of him desperately wants a normal life. He's tired of hunting, but he doesn't think he can let go of the need to save Sam. As Cas summed Dean up so wonderfully in "Lazarus Rising"; he doesn't think he deserves to be saved.
And yet. Lisa does. She invites him into his home and is the first person since his mother died to tell him that it's gonna be okay. She saw his crap, his guilt, his conflict, and she let him know that he had a home. Nobody has ever offered him that like she did. He'd lost everything, and she took him in. But he was never a pity case; she wanted him around, even in "The Kids Are Alright". Somehow, all those years ago when they first met, they had such a connection that not only did they remember each other eight years later, but they obviously still felt something after all that time. In "Dream A Little Dream of Me" we see that even Dean's dreams contain her; a normal life with a normal family.
Two years after their reunion in Season 3(or forty-two years for Dean if you count Hell), Dean, about to give into Michael and save/end the world, shows up on Lisa's doorstep. Even after all that time, he remembers the Gumby Girl who offered him a normal life, even knowing who he was. He promises her that her and Ben will be safe in the coming storm. And then, Dean Winchester, pinnacle of badassery-to-the-core, talks about his feelings.
Dean: Look, I have no illusions, okay? I know the life that I live, I know how that’s gonna end for me. Whatever. I’m okay with that. But I wanted you to know...that when I do picture myself happy, it’s with you. And the kid.
Dean's had a handful of moments where he admits what he's feeling. They involve tears and usually only come out after much teeth-pulling or badgering. And yet, here, on his farewell tour, he tells Lisa exactly what she means to him. He has no obligation to her; their association could have ended in Season 3, and they both would have moved on. And yet, years later, not only is she still on his mind, but she's his apple-pie life; she's the home he's wanted since the day he watched his future turn to literal ash. And she not only accepts and reciprocates what he says, but she does the unimaginable to Dean; she offers it to him...because she cares about him. She doesn't care that he hunts monsters or what he's done in hell. For Dean, especially at this point, it's all he wants. You can see the struggle when he leaves. He craves that unconditional offer of love, and he knows that if he takes it, he won't leave it by choice.
But, Dean's self-sacrificial streak is trumped by Sam's self-sacrificial streak, and just five episodes later, he finds himself at her door again, all alone in the world. He has nothing else but her, and he made a promise. He's not allowed to save Sam, and he's not allowed to just lay down and die. So maybe, just maybe, he finally has a chance for his normal life.
At this point, Dean's broken and battered and a functioning alcoholic. His emotional growth is stunted and all he wants to do is save Sam. Lisa still takes him in. She tells him it's okay, and she does her absolute best to make it okay. We don't know what happened in that year, but the Dean we see in "Exile on Main St." is vastly better than the Dean we saw in "Swan Song". He's not fixed, but you could imagine, had the Djinns not come, that he might have had a good life, a life he never thought he deserved.
Of course, talking about Dean and Lisa's relationship would not be complete without Ben. The debate about whether or not he's Dean's son is still one that happens, but regardless of your stance on that, it's obvious that Dean loved him like a son, and he was determined to try and ensure that Ben had a good father figure. I dare say that Lisa loved him even more for trying to help through his own daddy issues. He tried to repay Lisa however he could, and in the process, he developed a family.
All good things must end, and, of course, not half-way into Season 6, their relationship fell apart. Dean was cursed, and Lisa told him the brutal truth about himself and Sam. He became a vampire, and tried to protect them from him, but he ended up tearing them further apart. He shut her out and decided that he couldn't talk to her anymore, and without communication, she couldn't put her and Ben at risk. I think that Dean was struggling to connect with them as a hunter; he'd done his best to turn off his hunter-mode during that year, and now that he's dealing with a soulless Sam and has to be in hunter-mode all the time, he's slipped back into an inability to communicate and all his bad angsty habits come rushing back. I think Lisa loved him, she always loved him, but she couldn't have him in her life without having him there where she could help him and keep him from hiding himself away. She couldn't risk his issues hurting them, and so she made the mature choice. They could have made it work, but, honestly, the writing for this portion of their relationship was contrastingly sloppy and not very well thought-out; the writers felt the need to get rid of the relationship as quickly as possible, and so a conflict arose that ended the relationship.
The most heartbreaking thing of all, though, comes at the end of the season. When Lisa and Ben are kidnapped to be used as leverage against Dean, he tears apart Heaven and Hell(and Hell's minions) to get them back. He's desperate to save them, because his worst nightmare is coming true. His perfect life was shattered, and now it's going up in smoke as the people he cared about the most and tried to protect are put in danger because of him. In the end, though, he can't save them all. Lisa is hurt, and Ben, the kid he spent all year trying to keep out of hunting, is exposed to all the nasty elements of the job. It seems like all is lost, but Dean has an apologetic angel on his shoulder, and he makes what is arguably one of the saddest and stupidest decisions he's ever made; he erases himself from their lives and their memories, taking himself out of the equation in an attempt to protect them and allow them to get back to their "normal lives". In fact, that's exactly what he says, clearly trying to hold back the emotion;
Dean: I just, uh, I lost control for a minute, and I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I'm real happy you two are both okay. And uh, I'm just - I'm glad your life can get back to normal now.
And then he walks away and tries to forget he ever cared about someone. He cuts himself off and begins to take on even more guilt. By the next season, he's back to being alone. At least this time he has Sam, but when he had the world, for just a moment in time, how do you think he felt after? The way Dean continued to spiral down throughout Season 7, I think, at least partially, had to do with erasing Lisa and Ben from his life and walking away from the good he could have had. Dean and Lisa loved each other, but their love turned out to be a tragedy.
Dean and Lisa are complicated, real characters and they cared about each other a lot, despite all the differences and obstacles. The fact that they do, the fact that she let him in and he trusted her, the fact that Dean created a family with her, these are the reasons I love them.
I have to offer a huge shout-out to the lovely people over at dean_lisa_love; I said I was writing a manifesto, and they spilled out of the woodwork, eager to tell me why they loved Dean and Lisa. Thanks, guys! :)
(If you're interested, you can read that post here)
Fic Rec #1: Leave All Your Love And Your Longing Behind
Rating/Warning(s): R | Canonical Major Character Death
Why This Must Be Read: It's a lovely story of how Lisa and Dean's relationship could have developed had Dean stayed in S3 when she offered. The build-up to their relationship is wonderful to read, and the crushing angst when the inevitable happens is spot-on.
Fic Rec #2 The Ghost in Bed With Them
Rating/Warning(s): R/NC-17 | Smut & Angst
Why This Must Be Read: A sad, beautiful, and wonderfully bittersweet look at how Dean copes and Lisa manages to help pull him back together.
Fic Rec #3: The Full Pause
Why This Must Be Read: Lisa teaches Dean to breathe through it all.
Fic Rec #4: isn’t that the point
Rating/Warning(s): NC-17 | Consensual D/s
Why This Must Be Read: It's easy to imagine Dean needing the edge in his "normal" life, and it's painfully(but wonderfully) delivered here. The whole fic has an edge to it, watching as Dean finally adjusts and learns to love just before it's all shattered to pieces once more.
Fic Rec #5: Hard Won Homecomings
Why This Must Be Read: A fic about Lisa more than anything else, how she doesn't need Dean to survive but how that doesn't change the wanting.
Fic Rec #6: Mariposa
Rating/Warning(s): NC-17 | Sex
Why This Must Be Read: There's something elegant about the slow and almost melancholy feel of this fic. It feels like it should be sadder, but it pulls them both together in a way that feels like stitching together a tapestry.
Fic Rec #7: till we ain't strangers anymore
Rating/Warning(s): Adult | Sex
Why This Must Be Read: Post 6x21; Dean comes back, and Lisa's not stupid. The way she knows him and slowly comes back to the memories is wonderful. It's the perfect fix-it.
Fic Rec #8: Ferris Wheel
Why This Must Be Read: This fic shows how Lisa manages to peel back the numb layer that Dean has developed, how she cares more than is strictly safe, and how she tries her best to hold him together during those rough months. One of the best Dean/Lisa fics out there.
Fic Rec #9: Lipstick and Bruises
Why This Must Be Read: Yet another excellent Dean/Lisa fic from breebree16(seriously, go read all her Dean/Lisa stuff, you won't regret it), this story is a snapshot of sorts, life as a hunter with a home. It's a simple look at what happened when Dean was on the road, a nice(if achey) look at what we never got to see.
Fic Rec #10: shed your skin and let's get started
Rating/Warning(s): Adult | Sex
Why This Must Be Read: missyjack has a fantastic understanding of the characters in Supernatural, and here she puts that understanding to beautiful-yet-sad use; Dean and Lisa have sex, and it's so much more than that. It's from Lisa's POV, but everything Dean does is so painfully Dean that it's easy to fall into the story.
Fic Rec #11: you and your eyes light the darkest room
Why This Must Be Read: A wonderful look at what could have been, if things had been different.
Fic Rec #12 Almost Honest
Why This Must Be Read: The road to opening up is a tough one, and Dean has no idea what he's doing, but it's worth it in the end.
Fic Rec #13: The Greatest Man I Never Knew
Rating/Warning(s): R | Future!Fic and Character Death
Why This Must Be Read: Dean/Lisa isn't a primary part of this story; in fact, it's more about Ben and how he made his way through life without remembering Dean, and how they carried on with a hole in their world. It always comes back to Dean, though, and how he loved too much to let go, how even to the very end, it was always Ben and Lisa. My all-time favorite post-S6 fic.