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What We Carry Inside

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"Sammy? Are you in there?"

Yes, yes, he's there, but Lucifer is in control.

"Oh, he's in here all right," Lucifer says. "And he's gonna feel the snap of your bones."

Sam tries to scream.

"Every single one."

But Sam has no mouth.

"We're gonna take our time."

Not Dean, not Dean, not Dean.

"Sam, it's okay. It's okay. I'm here. I'm here. I'm not gonna leave you," Dean says, half-blind as he tries to grab at Sam's jacket.

Sam has no eyes with which to cry.

His big brother repeats, "I'm not gonna leave you."

The midday sun reflects off the window of the Impala. For a moment Sam sees the tiny green army man in the ashtray. He remembers jamming it in there as a child. He remembers a thousand moments shared with his brother, growing up and living in this car.

This isn't about stopping the Apocalypse, saving the world. It's about saving Dean, saving his world.

The Devil will not murder Dean next to the Impala. He will not use Sam's body like this. Nothing can make Sam's own two hands kill his brother.

Lucifer feels himself losing control. The raised fist trembles, loosens, and falls.

Sam staggers back.

"It's okay, Dean. It's gonna be okay. I've got him."

Despite all he wants to do and say, he follows the plan. Michael tries to interfere but he fails, just like his brother. Sam and Adam and the archangels fall, and the ground closes up over them but they do not stop falling.

It's okay, though, because it's for Dean.

*

Sam opens his eyes. He's in the panic room. There's a pillow under his head, an IV in his arm, and he is starving.

Is this Hell or did someone rescue him? Would Lucifer be so subtle right off the bat? This feels real, but he'll know for sure once he sees Dean. He removes the IV and tries to stand; his legs shake and he wonders how long he's been out. How is he back? His brother? God? Demons? Dean wouldn't be dumb enough to try to sell his soul again, would he?

Hunter instinct takes over and he is stealthy as he climbs the wooden stairs to the main floor. He hears voices in the library as he rounds the corner, Bobby's and a woman's.

They're seated across from each other at the desk. Bobby looks pretty much the same. The woman, probably a hunter, has her back turned. Her unusually short hair is a dark blonde.

"Bobby..." Sam's voice is hoarse, unused for who knows how long. "Where's Dean?"

Bobby looks up at him in surprise; the woman turns around. She seems familiar, but Sam ignores her even when she says, "Sam?"

"Where's Dean? Is he alive?" 

"I'm right here," the woman says, confused. She's tall for a woman, at least 5'8", when she stands.

"No, where's my brother?"

"Sam, are you okay?" the woman asks.

"No!" he answers without meaning to. "Who the hell are you?"

"It's me, it's Dean. I know I don't look it, but I'm the same person." She and Bobby trade nervous looks.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Sam demands, "Is this some kind of joke?" He stops before asking, "Is this the Cage?"

"Look me in the eye, Sam. Do I look like I'm lying?"

"This isn't-" He stops short once he really looks at her. Eyes, facial structure... okay, she could pass for an identical twin sister if that were a possibility. But more importantly, looking her in the eye as she told him to, he can almost see his brother.

"It is him, Sam," Bobby says. Suddenly Sam remembers the sensation of snapping his neck, of Lucifer killing him. He sets that aside. Somehow Bobby being alive is less noteworthy than the idea of Dean having changed.

"...Dean." It's not the reunion Sam would have ever imagined, but somehow, as absurd as it is, he believes them. There's some tendril of a connection with this person that he can't deny. So the questions can wait a few seconds.

She smiles, and it is one of Dean's smiles.

"It's good to see you, Sammy."

He doesn't know what to say or do. She's making no move to hug him and he can't make himself initiate the gesture. His last memory of Dean is bruised and bloody and broken. He just wanted to find his brother and hold him for a couple seconds to make sure he was alive and breathing, and try to apologize for not being able to stop sooner. Now there's nothing to replace that horrible image in his head.

All Sam can think of is falling into the Cage thinking he'd never see his brother again. Even without knowing how or why or when this transformation happened, he is standing next to Dean, looking straight at Dean, and that fear is still there.

Chapter Text

Naturally, Sam starts pressing Dean for answers as soon as he has a chance.

"What the hell happened to you?"

"Heavy-duty witchcraft," Dean replies.

"That's it? Witches?" Sam stares at him.

There's a familiar sigh before Dean elaborates:

"Look, there was a coven of witches a while back who really didn't like hunters trying to stop them from fucking with people's lives. I don't know what their problem was with me, but they came up with one hell of a distraction." He gestures to his body in general. Sam tries not to stare at Dean's chest.

"Where are they now, just in the wind?"

"Nah, they all got iced. We never found their spellbook or even a hex bag, so we don't know exactly what they did."

"And you've been like this for how long?"

"Couple months."

Sam almost offers condolences. He doesn't even want to imagine what it's like to be in a body so completely different from his own.

"I'll look into ways to reverse the spell," he says instead.

"Bobby and I've already read everything we could find."

"Well who knows, I might find something you missed."

"Fine. Knock yourself out."

*

Instead of researching spell reversals, Sam finds himself with Dean headed to Oregon for a job, just like they used to. He tells himself that working a job with his brother like this will do more to shake off that awful feeling that Dean is gone than just telling himself over and over that the woman is Dean.

There's an awkward silence between them as they drive, unaffected by the music playing on the radio. Sam has been trying not to dwell on it but finally he can't contain his thoughts:

"This is really fucking weird, Dean."

"What is?"

"Uh, you ?" Sam gestures.

"Oh."

"'Oh'?"

"I've had a while to get used to it, Sam."

"And what, you're- you're just okay with this?"

"It's not as bad as you're thinking."

"How? You're a guy trapped in a woman's body. Doesn't it feel wrong?"

Dean takes longer to respond than Sam expected, but finally she does.

"I'm not a guy trapped in a woman's body. At least I don't feel like one."

"What do you mean?"

There's another long pause, during which Dean opens her mouth to say something but then changes her mind, twice.

"I figure the spell messed with my head a little," she tells Sam. "I'd piss on those witches' graves if I still had a dick, but I don't feel wrong like this."

"You're just... a girl right now," Sam verifies. He's not sure he understands why a witch would flip a person's brain around like that, but there's no reason for Dean to lie about how he or she feels.

"Yes."

"I should be calling you a 'she.'"

"Yes."

"You're not planning on staying this way, are you?"

"Of course not. I'm just not gonna mope about it until we figure out how to change me back."

The silence has changed from awkward to contemplative. Not long passes before Sam asks a question he doesn't think through.

"Are you a lesbian now?"

"Really taught you your priorities," Dean scoffs. "You find out your brother is actually your sister and that's where your mind goes."

"No, I was just... never mind."

"I'm kidding." She clears her throat. "I'm still me, I still like the same things, mostly. But that doesn't make me a lesbian."

She glances over to see Sam's perturbed and astounded expression.

"Sam, you, uh... you knew that, right?" She's stifling nervous, uncomfortable laughter.

He suspected, and he knew Dean had turned tricks for men once or twice in years past, but they never fucking talked about it. At no point in their lives have he and his brother discussed liking anything but women.

"Just never thought you'd own up to swinging both ways."

"Yeah..." Dean looks almost as uncomfortable as Sam is. "Any more personal questions? Gonna ask my bra size next?"

With her eyes on the road, it's at least possible she doesn't notice Sam looking. She has one of her old jackets on, so there's nothing much to see, but Dean just had to go there, didn't he? She, Sam corrects himself.

He turns away to look out the window. The conversation can't end on such an awkward note, but he's unsure of what to think of any of this, let alone what to say.

She talks like Dean, reminds him of Dean, but for some stupid reason her appearance is throwing Sam off. She's too different from the person that Sam is used to relying on. It feels like Dean died while Sam was gone and Sam happened to run into someone who acts like his brother.

He's ashamed to think it, but he isn't sure he trusts the person next to him as much as he's supposed to. He can count on her, but other than brief moments he can't quite convince himself that this is the brother he would follow unconditionally.

"I'll piss on their graves for you," he mutters loud enough for Dean to hear.

That gets a chuckle out of her.

*

In the few days Sam's been back, he's recognized about half of Dean's wardrobe as belonging to his brother. Some garments, like pants and shoes, are new and were definitely made for women. If they were any less tough and functional-looking, Sam might try to tease his... sister about it, but altogether she still looks like Dean Winchester, just shaped a little differently.

He is, therefore, surprised to see what Dean now wears when posing as FBI. She has on a blouse, a matching skirt and suit jacket, pumps, and even makeup when she's done. Even with her short hair, she seems incredibly feminine to Sam.

"Wow," he says. He doesn't mean for her to hear it.

"What?"

"You look nice."

Dean has almost no expression on her face for a second or two. She clears her throat and grabs an ID.

"Uh, thanks."

Sam glances at her shoes and stands right next to her. He's still a good six inches taller than the woman who's looking at him as if she's not sure what his intentions are.

"Aw, you're almost back to your usual height," he remarks. Teasing Dean about his inferior stature lost its novelty by the time Sam left for Stanford, but he'll take what he can get. Anything that makes them closer to 'normal' is a relief, no matter how trivial.

Dean relaxes and then bats her mascara-lengthened eyelashes at him.

"Wait 'til I put on six-inch heels, Sammy."

"Do you have-"

"Oh my god, Sam, no."

"...What's it even like walking around in those?"

"It's a skill." Dean gestures to the plain heels she's wearing. "I can run in these now. If I'm wearing pants."

Sam briefly pictures her training by running around Bobby's junkyard in stilettos.

"Why the skirt?" Even at the beginning of a case, when playing FBI or journalist, a hunter should be ready for action.

"Skirts are really comfortable. You have no idea. If I'm ever a guy again, I am getting a kilt."

"We're not Scottish," he points out as they head out the door.

The reply is lost as a sense of confusion almost overwhelms Sam. All he was doing was bantering with his brother, except it's his sister, not his brother, and he has a strange feeling that they were just flirting. Maybe it's just the fact that he's sort of accidentally checking her out as they walk to the car. She's no supermodel, but-

Sam stops himself right there and tries to focus on something else. His mind is drawn to something Dean just said, a single, short, scary word. Like there could be another possible ending to this freaky chapter in their lives.

"If" haunts him all the way to Penny Dessertine's house.

*

Sam is puzzling over what the three missing girls might have in common when Dean comes in. He tenses, briefly, sensing that the person who just came in is not his brother. He turns and relaxes when he sees that his... sister is bearing the same type of crap food Dean always went for.

"Hey," he greets.

"What do you got?" she replies, setting down the drinks and paper bag. Business as usual. Sam does his best to snap into a similar attitude.

"Well, looks like those other two missing girls both baked cookies for the lord."

"What is that, code?" Dean asks as she removes her heels. Sam thinks of Jess, after coming home from a party or date. First thing she did.

"No," he replies. "Church choir, bake sales, promise-ring clubs—the works. They were good girls. But Penny wasn't even a Christian, so-"

Dean interrupts:

"I have another theory." She takes out a book that barely fits in her inner pocket. "Penny's diary."

"Did you steal that from her room?" What a bitchy thing to do, Sam thinks.

"I love that you even asked me that," Dean says, shaking her head.

"And why wouldn't I?"

"No reason. So, girl-nappings. What if it's not about religion? What if it's about purity ?"

"You mean you think they're all-"

"Virgins, Sam." Dean raises her eyebrows. "Virgins."

Sam considers the idea, mentally checking for facts that either support or refute.

"Penny was twenty-two," he points out.

"Yeah, with a pink room," Dean scoffs as she sits down.

"So?"

"And stuffed teddy bears."

"Fine," he concedes. "But you really think-"

Dean holds up a finger and reads from the diary:

"'I've decided... I'm going to give Stan my most precious gift.'"

Well then, Sam thinks. He scrabbles for a response, uncomfortable with the sudden idea of Dean having a 'precious gift.'

"That, uh... woulda sounded really creepy coming out of your mouth if you were still a guy."

"I nailed it."

"Uh, anyways, let's say you're right. Fine. Who would want virgins?"

"You got me. I preferred ladies with experience. ...Still would."

A thought occurs to Sam at that point.

"Do you?" he asks.

"Do I what?"

"Have experience. Since you changed." Sam explains, "If this thing is after virgins, maybe you're at risk, maybe we should take care of that- I mean, n-not- not 'we-should-take-care-of-that' as if I would- I mean not like we would! I mean you, you should... maybe... not... hunt something we know nothing about other than that you fit the demo... If you do." Face hot, Sam grabs his soda and takes a sip. Maybe they can pretend none of that came out of his mouth.

"Wow, Sam." Dean is staring at him, not scandalized or awkward, just incredulous.

What has it been, three days? Three days of Dean being a girl and he's already slipping up and treating her like someone who can't take care of themselves, as if she's not Dean.

"Sorry," Sam says. "Forget I said anything."

"You know... you just got back from Hell. If either of us fits the demo, it's you. ...Especially if that's how you always talk to girls."

"Okay, I get it. Virgins or not, we're gonna hunt this thing." He bites his tongue to keep from asking if that means Dean has actually slept with a guy. It brings to mind a sudden image of somebody putting their hands on her, being rough with her in ways they shouldn't. Maybe hurting her.

He turns his attention back to what's in front of him on the table. He's being unreasonably protective of someone who can definitely handle themselves in just about any situation. Maybe he's more sexist than he thought he was.

*

In a dilapidated, abandoned house in Rhode Island, Dean is puking up her guts. With the bathroom door slightly ajar, Sam listens in case she calls for him. He already got breakfast but maybe he should run out and grab something else for her, like ginger ale.

"Food poisoning?" It won't be the first time. He knows she wasn't drinking last night.

"Probably."

Great. They've been eating the same things since they got here. Sam's probably next.

A minute or so later, Dean gets up and flushes the toilet. She runs water for a minute and brushes her teeth before opening the door and joining her brother.

As much as they live in each other's pockets, Sam hasn't seen this much of his sister before. Usually she gets dressed or undressed in the bathroom as soon as she gets up or right before going to sleep, like she's hiding her body from him. Now she doesn't seem to care. She has on one of her dark t-shirts from before she was a girl; it's somewhat loose but doesn't leave any questions about what else she's wearing.

Dean doesn't say anything aside from a grunt of thanks before digging in. Sam keeps his mouth shut about whether eating donuts is a good idea after throwing up and instead wonders to himself when Dean decided to start wearing panties. Did she get turned into a girl and just, bam, she liked women's underwear? Was it gradual? Did she feel awkward or embarrassed at first? Hell, what was it like getting a bra after being a guy for thirty-two years?

And why isn't she wearing one now? Sam laments in his head before reminding himself that it's not her fault that his eyes and mind went where they did.

It's weird living so close to a woman that he's not in a relationship with. He's started analyzing his every interaction with her, the physical distance between them, his opinions of her appearance, the way she looks at him if he's walking around half-naked after a shower, where his eyes go if her back is turned. He constantly asks himself if this is normal for a brother and sister or if it means there's something going on they need to talk about, or if it's just going to be normal for them because hell, they've never been normal.

Sam's only comfort is his suspicion that, positions reversed, Dean would be making way more innuendos than he is if not actually making passes. Sam's only made one dirty comment and his sister laughed so it was okay, but he felt strange the rest of the night so he decided to keep them to himself from then on.

It's because it feels like Dean is gone, Sam thinks. God knows this isn't the first time Sam has tried to use female companionship as an escape when he doesn't have his brother. Except this time, the one he's attached himself to, the one he can't stop looking at, is his brother, or supposed to be.

There's no getting around it, is there? He is physically attracted to his sibling. It's not purely physical; there's almost always an emotional aspect to these things for Sam and this time could not be more emotional. There's a deep connection, the one he's had with Dean for years, but he's having such a hard time seeing past Dean's new gender that it's manifesting itself in one of the most taboo ways possible.

There's something else very wrong here besides incest, Sam thinks, something he can't quite put into words but it's just under the surface of his thoughts. All he knows is that he really wants to sleep with Dean; he wants that even seeing her pale from vomiting and stuffing her face with cheap donuts. He's no longer positive what parts of his brain view Dean as the sibling he grew up with and which parts are refusing to accept it. He isn't sure whether he's perverted or if this would happen to any guy who woke up and suddenly had an attractive sister and he prays it's the latter. But none of that really matters.

He has to ignore it; that's the only option. Ignore the fact that he wants to look at her and touch her, and soon enough they'll change Dean back and he won't feel that way anymore. And maybe much later when they've had a lot to drink, Sam will confess that he maybe-kinda-sorta wanted to bang girl-Dean and they can laugh and make references to Luke and Leia.

With that revelation and decision under his belt, Sam wonders how long he can keep it a secret.

Chapter Text

A few weeks pass. Sam manages to push away conscious thoughts about his desires most of the time, but they're always swimming right beneath the surface. He considers trying to get laid, but there's too much else going on, with Greek spider monsters and possessed mannequins and all.

*

It's a dark and stormy night.

All of a sudden, the angel Balthazar is in Bobby's living room, saying cryptic things about Raphael and putting together some sort of spell in his ostentatiously suave way. Sam and Dean are given a key and literally shoved through the window into the tempest before getting any answers.

Except they're not outside, nor in the rain. They're on a giant pad or mattress or something and there are people and cameras all around them.

"Cut!" a rotund, balding man shouts. People are clapping as Sam and Dean scramble to their feet. There are so many lights everywhere.

Someone pats Dean on the shoulder, saying, "Real good solid fall. Way to go."

"Jared, Mackenzie! Outstanding! That was just great," the director shouts.

Some skinny twenty-something is behind them—in front of them in relation to one of the cameras—talking about "Supernatural" and clapping down the top of a black and white slate board.

The Winchester siblings peer into the room they just came from. It looks like Bobby's living room, except there are a ton of random people in it.

Sam automatically scans the crowd 'outside' for either something familiar or someone about to attack them.

"So... no angels?" he asks Dean, seeing nothing.

"No angels, I think."

"...Should we be killing anybody?"

Looking around, Dean does her own search for any helpful or relevant features of their environment.

"I don't think so."

"Running?" Sam suggests next.

"Where?"

Noticing something off, Sam picks up a shard of broken 'glass.' It's not glass and it's not sharp; it's some sort of gel. He holds it up to Dean, demonstrating its wobbliness before dropping it.

Theories, theories, come up with something, quickly.

Within a few seconds he does manage to think of something, two possibly relevant things in fact.

A loud announcement—"Moving on!"—sets the people around them into a new sort of flurry, closing up shop. The lights change. Sam starts to hold up a finger, about to present his first idea to Dean, when the voice continues: "That's a wrap on Jared and 'Kenzie!"

"...Who the hell are-"

Sam is again interrupted, this time by a woman approaching saying, "Jared!" It's easy to tell without even looking, after years of using fake names, when a name that's not his is being directed at him.

"Three minutes, okay? Great." She takes him by the wrist and starts to whisk him away somewhere. Dean starts to follow only to be taken captive by someone else.

Sam finds himself in a quiet corner. The dark blonde is facing a camera saying something, but he's looking at Bobby's panic room, or at least about two-thirds of it.

There's a chair here, it says Jared Padalecki. He's supposed to sit in the chair, Sam can tell that much. Even after sitting he looks over his shoulder at the set.

The woman said something to him; he's supposed to respond.

"What?" he's forced to ask.

"You beat the devil, lost your soul, and got it back again only to find that there's been a pretty big change in your 'brother's' life. So tell us, what's next for Sam Winchester?"

How does she know all this? How is he supposed to know what's going to happen to himself? Why is his life being talked about like this? Why is he Jared Padalecki? He doesn't like that thing near his head. Wait, that's the boom, a microphone. Not a threat.

"Look, I really don't-"

"Oh, and if you could include the question in your answer," the perky journalist adds. "Thanks."

*

A minute or two later, Sam finishes giving an incredibly vague but apparently satisfying bullshit answer. He's sweating and ready to literally make a run for it by the time it's over. He gets out of the chair as fast as he can, but Trish isn't done with him. Immediately behind the camera, she gets out another question:

"Off the record, of course, could you tell me anything about Jensen's sudden departure?"

"J- Jensen?" Sam's never heard the name before. Who or what is that, an actor? An actress? Departure from what?

"There are persistent rumors that he stormed off set due to a conflict during filming. Can you give any details about that? Completely off the record, of course."

Yeah, right, Sam thinks. Totally off the record. It didn't matter what he said in front of the camera. This woman is going to run to the tabloid offices the second he says something good. She's basically a hunter, except she just shares the information for money.

"He, uh... he... he made a career move." In that moment he manages to piece together the facts he has and deduce who Jensen was. He adds as smoothly as he can, "Which created an opportunity to introduce a new face."

"Are you willing to confirm or deny gossip concerning your off-screen relationship with Mackenzie?"

"I'm sorry?"

Trish Evian pauses before quite professionally asking a rather unprofessional question.

"It's a common conception that you have an... unusually intimate relationship with your new co-star. If I could just know your thoughts on the matter...?"

If the actor feels anything like Sam does, it's probably true. It happens all the time in Hollywood, right? Sam decides to throw the woman a bone and escape before she processes what he's implying. Fuck it all. He just wants out.

"I won't confirm that." He looks her dead in the eye. "I also won't deny it."

*

Once he extricates himself, Sam finds his sister wandering around, looking unusually insecure. It doesn't help matters when they find their way out of the building only to see about a dozen Impalas in a wide range of conditions.

It makes Sam angry to think that their car could be just one of many copies, that the specific thing that saved Dean's life and in fact saved the whole world could be replicated, interchangeable. But he sets that aside in favor of comforting his sister who is having a much stronger physical reaction. She actually tries the "there's dust in my eye" excuse which Sam plays along with. It's deeply uncomfortable to see her crying for the first time since coming back from the Cage.

*

After their experience with Misha, it's a relief to find a possible hideout in the form of a trailer with Dean's name on it. Sort of.

"Hey." Sam points. "M. Ackles."

"That's fake me, right? ...This must be fake mine." There's a strange hollowness in Dean's manner even when she's saying perfectly ordinary Dean things.

They get inside and shut the door behind them. It's sparsely decorated and there's an empty three-hundred gallon aquarium, as if she's inherited the trailer from someone with different tastes and hasn't gotten around to making it her own.

Sam spots an open laptop on a table and makes a beeline for it.

"Alright, let's find out who Mackenzie Ackles is."

Dean is pacing, hugging herself, not responding as Sam does some strategic googling. The herd of Impalas outside must have been more upsetting than he thought.

"Alright, here goes... um, it says you're from Texas. You're the sister of the guy who was playing Dean, Jensen Ackles. He left the show suddenly during season six—that's now—and they cast her to fill in. Her IMDB page is just three episodes of Supernatural that aired in the past month."

Sam wonders what time period season six covers. How much of it is him being soulless? Maybe he could read a couple episode synopses behind Dean's back if they don't get home soon.

"So I'm the new girl."

"If it makes you feel better, critics think you're doing a great job at being Dean." Sam doesn't add that the critics also note 'much better chemistry' between Jared and Mackenzie than Jared and Jensen.

*

"You know whereabouts you want me to drop you off? ...Mackenzie?" The driver, apparently also their bodyguard which as hunters Sam and Dean would have found laughable under other circumstances, is taking them away from the hell known as the set of Supernatural. Because of course it couldn't possibly be as simple as "get the ingredients from Bobby's not-house and reverse the spell." Their day trip to an alternate universe is going to be an overnight stay.

"Uh, I'll just tag along with, uh-"

"Jared," Sam supplies quietly.

"Jared here," Dean finishes.

"You're not even trying to be subtle anymore, are you?" the large man asks, shaking his head.

Sam remembers the interviewer's question. If their bodyguard think it's true, it probably is. This really doesn't look good if they're for some reason trying to hide the fact that Jared is sleeping with Mackenzie. Maybe it's just that they play siblings on TV. Or they aren't together at all and they just don't want to feed rumors.

"Look, uh, Clint-"

"Clif."

"Yeah, of course, Clif, obviously. We're just gonna go back to my place and..."

"Work on our acting," Dean chimes in.

Clif raises his eyebrows.

"If you say so."

"For our characters. For the show," she adds.

"Huh. No one told me we were moving to HBO," Clif remarks.

Dean doesn't seem to realize what he means; Sam almost cracks a smile.

*

Sam and Dean find their way into the Padalecki mansion, gawking at the polished woodwork and ornate... everything.

"Nice modest digs, Jay-Z," Dean comments. She's going through the motions of being herself, but she's still off and empty, and Sam isn't sure why.

"I must be the star of this thing," Sam says, in awe of this house he apparently owns.

"Check it out." Dean nods at... something. It's large enough to hold a person.

"What am I, Dracula?"

"George Hamilton Dracula," Dean says, lifting the top of the tanning bed. Upon noticing a liquor cabinet, she brightens. "Now we're talking." She starts to pour herself a drink but pauses to look out the window.

"Dude, you have a camel in your backyard!"

Sam joins his sister at the window to look at the hoofed mammal outside.

"That's not a camel, Dean."

"Then what is it?"

"I don't know, a llama?"

"You are one weird guy."

Sam turns back to look at the room again and notices the two sets of Andy Warhol-style prints on the walls.

"Dean..."

"What?"

"Wh- ...Why do I have pictures of Ruby in my house?"

Dean is equally confused until she looks behind them at the mantelpiece. She points to a framed photo.

"Looks like... you are married. To fake Ruby."

Sam picks it up, stunned. It definitely looks like him and Ruby—well, the actress who must have played her.

"...What an asshole."

"Who's an asshole?"

"Him, Jared, fake me. He's cheating on his wife. Ninety percent positive." He puts the picture back.

"How do you know? Who's he cheating with?"

"You and I," Sam says, gesturing between them, "are sleeping together."

"What?!"

"I mean the actors! Not actually me and you!"

"How do you know we're sleeping together?!"

"The interviewer tried to ask me 'off the record' about some rumors. The guy who drove us here, he was referencing it. Hell, you've seen how people have been looking at us all day. Everyone thinks I'm having an affair!"

"And you think you are?"

Sam tries to find a good reason that isn't related to his own feelings.

"Clif sure seemed to know what he was talking about, and he knows Jared and Mackenzie better than we do."

Dean shakes her head. Suddenly she freezes.

"...Is your wife here?" she asks in a whisper.

Sam feels himself die a little inside, wondering if they've been overheard.

"It's pretty quiet. Maybe she's out."

"Do you have your cell? I mean, Jared's. Check his messages, find out what he's been saying."

Sam pats down his pockets until he finds a phone. The monogrammed case—JTP—gives it away pretty well. He's already thinking of what the lock code might be, but then he turns on the screen.

"How does he have a fingerprint scanner on his iPhone?"

"He's Jared Padalecki, and you are Pada-lucky." Dean grins; Sam experiences physical pain as he goes through the actor's messages.

He checks the conversation under the name 'Kenzie' but it doesn't make much sense. The messages seem to be from an upset wife. She's living with her mother until Jared can prove he's not having an affair. He tells Dean as much.

"And you just went home with me," he sighs, despairing.

"Putting his wife under the maybe-girlfriend's name seems like proof enough to me."

Dean's probably right, but Sam still checks other conversations. The name on the most recent one is 'Gen.'

"Well, he's sexting some- whoa." He blinks at the screen.

"What?"

There's no face in the photo so Sam just hands the phone to his sister, now averting his eyes entirely.

"If- if you could just identify those for me."

Dean studies the image for a couple seconds.

"You can't tell that that's me?"

"I haven't seen your tits." Sam is careful to only sound defensive.

"Yet." She gives him a suggestive little nod and smirk.

Sam keeps his mouth shut. It's an innocent joke as long as he doesn't protest. Dean is simply referring to the fact that two people sharing a motel room 24/7 will inevitably get an eyeful of each other. Case in point about one second later when Dean abruptly stops scrolling through the conversation and shoves the phone back into his possession.

"I did not need a close-up of that."

"...Let's salt and burn this phone before we leave," Sam says, cringing when he checks the screen. It's not like Dean's never walked in on him at a bad time, but no one should have to see that much detail unless they're about to blow him.

"No argument here," Dean answers as she heads back to the liquor cabinet.

*

They raid the fridge once they've taken care of the various spell ingredients they need. There's a lot of organic food, and some raw steak which according to the sticker cost almost fifty dollars per pound.

"We're eating this," Dean says, holding the neat white paper package in her hands as if it were one of the holy relics Jared Padalecki just paid thousands of dollars for. Sam takes it away before she drools on it.

"How're you feeling?" he asks as he finds something more practical for them to eat.

"What do you mean?"

"You've been under the weather for weeks. Just wondering how you're holding up."

"I'm good right now, but we're not in our real bodies so it doesn't mean anything."

"What do you mean, we aren't in our real bodies?"

"We're, uh, in the actors' bodies. Not ours."

"How do you know?"

Dean frowns, shrugging.

"I just do."

They fall silent for a while and eat without conversation. Afterwards, they sit at the island in the kitchen, each sipping a beer.

"Hey, Sam? ...How were you so sure Jared and Mackenzie were banging each other?"

This is bad.

"Like I said, the bodyguard seems to think they're together."

"What else?"

Wishful thinking, Sam realizes. He wanted to believe that he was, in some convoluted way, with Dean. He told the reporter what he did because he needed to confess the truth to someone, however indirectly. The denial is getting to him. Now cornered, he makes a quick choice to play it cool.

"Actors are always sleeping together. And even if he is an asshole for cheating on his wife, I can't exactly say I blame him."

"What do you mean, you can't blame him?"

His mouth is going dry, but he shrugs matter-of-factly at her.

"You make a hot chick, Dean." He's trying to keep up a casual attitude and he can't tell if she's buying it. He makes light eye contact. "I'm just saying... I get why he'd want to sleep with you. Her. Why he'd want to sleep with her."

Dean only looks concerned, and Sam isn't sure for whom.

"That was creepy of me to say, I know," he adds. "I'm- I'm not trying to get with you or anything."

She takes a long pull from her beer and sets the bottle down with a deep sense of gravity.

"Y'know, little brother, if you did have the audacity to make a pass at your own sister, in some millionaire's house in an alternate universe," she says, watching intently for his reaction, "I'd have to consider it just on principle."

Sam's been over this with himself a hundred times. If his sister is really Dean Winchester, she's easy. She loves good sex and she'd probably give him a chance if she knew how badly he wanted it. And now she's what, daring him to try?

A hundred times, he's told himself no. He can't let her know how much he wants to, because it will end with them in bed together eventually. They can't cross that line, because if sleeping together doesn't fuck up everything the next morning, it will once Dean is a guy again.

He laughs off Dean's ludicrous statement; she smiles with him. It was just one of those meaningless jokes they've been making their whole lives.

*

With a lot of commotion, a minor face-off with Raphael in a new vessel (Sam decides he'll no longer consider gender static), a bit of being pissed at Balthazar for using them as a diversion, and substantial disappointment at Castiel's refusal to give them more information, the Winchesters are back in the real Sioux Falls.

"Real, moldy, termite-eaten home sweet home," Dean says. Her voice breaks on the last syllable; she clears her throat and turns away from Sam.

"Dean?"

Head bowed, her arms are wrapped around herself.

"What is it?" Sam approaches her.

Dean takes a deep breath and manages to face her brother again. Close as they are, she has to tilt her head up slightly to look him in the eye.

"This is out of left field, but, um... two weeks ago, I found out I was pregnant."

Sam's mouth twitches in an incredulous smile.

"What?"

"You heard me."

"H-how? Who's the dad? When did it- it..."—he gestures with his hands—"happen?" Sam is stumbling over what feels like every other word, unable to process this reality. "Why are you telling me now?"

"Because I was pregnant when Balthazar threw us into that place, and then I wasn't."

"Like a- a- a miscarriage?"

"No. I don't know how I could tell, maybe hormones, but I was pregnant one second, and the next, I wasn't."

"That's how you knew those weren't our bodies."

Dean nods and wipes her cheek before continuing.

"I was just hoping. In that universe, I guess me the character is pregnant but me the actress isn't. Maybe me the character isn't either. Anyway, I didn't know whether I'd still have it when we got back."

There's no choice but to ask:

"What's the verdict?"

"I am going to have a baby, Sam," Dean informs her brother.

"...Son of a bitch."

Chapter Text

Sam just gawks at his pregnant sister. Not that she looks pregnant, but just the knowledge that she has an embryo or fetus inside her is ground-shaking. An entire future person.

"Does anyone else know?"

"Who the hell would I tell before you?" she smiles. "Of course not."

They hear Bobby's truck outside, returning from his beer run.

"You gonna tell Bobby?"

"Not yet. ...You think he'll believe us about the other universe?"

"Maybe until the part about 'executive producer Bob Singer,'" Sam scoffs.

Dean is giggling—Sam can't think of a better word—when Bobby comes in.

"What the-?!" He looks between the broken window, Dean laughing, and Sam still a little stunned from the news that he's going to be an uncle.

*

Dean does most of the storytelling as they explain to Bobby exactly what happened; Sam does his best not to stare directly at her as he entirely rethinks the past month since he woke up. When did she get pregnant? More than two weeks ago. He didn't notice her getting laid since he got his soul back and he doesn't know off the top of his head how early women can find out they're pregnant. Research would be a good idea.

The more Sam thinks about it, the stupider he feels for not suspecting. Nausea and vomiting, being tired, those are early symptoms, aren't they? He never noticed Dean getting a period, either. If he's even thought about it he assumed she was just being discreet. She's had almost nothing to drink lately, claiming it's because she's a lightweight now. He can easily imagine her faking the odd beer to avoid suspicion—or, he admits, just drinking it anyway because she's Dean Winchester.

*

Late that night they finally convene in their shared bedroom. Two beds on either side of the room make it hard to talk quietly, so they sit on Sam's mattress in the soft lamplight.

"You've got questions," Dean says.

"You're damn right I've got questions!" Sam exclaims in a whisper. He looks at her stomach again. It doesn't look any different than it did a month ago when he woke up. "I mean, how are you pregnant?"

"Well, I heard that when a mommy and daddy-"

"Dean."

"The guy had cheap condoms and strong swimmers, what else do you want?"

"But who was he?"

"Just a one-night stand, before you got your soul back. In Beatrice, Nebraska if you really care. His name was, uh, Eric... something. Doesn't matter, I don't plan on looking him up."

"What are you gonna do?" Sam asks next.

Dean shrugs, half a smile on her face like he's asking a dumb question.

"I'm gonna have it."

"...You're going to have it," he verifies, sobered.

"Don't sound so excited, Sam. Might hurt yourself."

"You're talking about being a parent, Dean."

"I'm not. I'm talking about carrying it, having it, giving it up afterwards."

Uncertain of Dean's opinion on the matter in general and especially in this situation, Sam is prepared to avoid a punch in the face for his reply:

"Abortion isn't murder, you know."

Dean just looks at him.

"Good to know you're pro-choice. I'm choosing to have this baby, Sam. I just don't want him or her growing up in the Life."

Sam nods. He can get behind that, at least in theory. In practice...

"Sam, what's your problem with this?

"I don't have one. Why would I? It's just not what I would've expected."

"You thought I'd reach for a coat hanger, huh?"

Sam isn't sure if "thought" is the right verb.

"You're not even in your own body. I know you said you're comfortable, but to be transformed into the opposite sex and then spend nine months growing something inside you is just... that's crazy. Think of everything that happens to us in nine months, look at what's going on now with dragons and who knows what else. And the dad, Eric, he's just... just some guy! You don't know if you want to have his kid."

"You think I haven't thought of all that already?"

Sam has to admit that Dean's had two weeks to think about it as opposed to his two hours. Plus, she's not biased in the 'get Dean back to being a guy again' area.

"Sorry. This is just... pretty big, y'know?"

"It is," she agrees. "Trust me, I get everything you're saying. Honestly, I think it sounds crazy too. All I can say is I want to have my kid, even if somebody else raises it."

It's still a monumental idea, Dean dedicating herself to growing a baby inside her for months. It seems insane, but Sam doesn't need to look far for proof that it can happen.

"When Deanna got pregnant," Sam says to his sister, "They didn't know what they'd do."

"...What?"

"Just something Samuel said."

"What? When?"

"A year ago."

"Sam-"

"It's nothing new, don't worry. What I mean is that Samuel and Deanna"—Sam and Dean grimace a little at each other—"were hunters. They moved around a lot, like us, but they must have felt the same way you do. They had Mom somehow."

"So you're saying..."

Sam finds himself telling an oddly unpleasant truth as he puts a hand on her shoulder:

"I'm saying, I think you can do this."

*

Sam lies awake in bed. He stares into the darkness and attempts to sort out his thoughts.

Dean is pregnant and he feels... fear.

There's no need to sort out thoughts at all. Sam cuts himself to the quick: he doesn't want to know for a fact that he's not going to have his brother back for nine months or however long she has left. This innocent, ambiguous embryo tying Dean to her current form is an object of resentment.

He just wants his damn brother back; he wants to be with the Dean whom he has over two and a half decades of memories with, who helped save the world, who wasn't giving him incestuous urges. He hadn't realized how pure and simple their bond was until it was mangled by this development.

He has to try harder. Just accept that this is Dean now and get used to it. There are plenty of everyday moments where he believes that he's talking to his brother and they're increasing in frequency, but there are other things—little interactions or lack thereof that aren't normal, differences in how they play their parts when getting information for a hunt—that make her someone else. And then there's the fact that he's a little more than interested in having sex with her, which is another can of worms.

*

Khan worm.

That's what Dean is calling this thing they're hunting, the thing that indirectly killed their grandfather. The thing that directly killed their grandfather is Sam.

Bobby and Rufus leave to get a cranial saw from the car. The second they're out of sight, Sam turns to his sister.

"Is-"

"The baby's fine, Sam. The worm thing was just in my head." Dean shudders and checks her ears for black goo again.

Relieved on one point of concern, Sam is left to dwell on another. It's just as well; he has to keep an eye on Samuel's body in case anything crawls out.

Sam circles the table where the dead man is laid out, hands still tied behind his back. Dean has her arms crossed a little ways away—every day, Sam tries to notice a difference in her figure, but her clothes keep her form hidden and today is no different.

According to Castiel, when Sam was soulless he tried to murder Bobby in order to prevent himself from getting his soul back. Apparently patricide, or simply murder of a father-like figure, pollutes a vessel, makes it unsuitable for a soul when accompanied by the right ritual.

Even though the man he was named for betrayed them, Sam feels he's committed a mortal sin. He wouldn't blame his spirit for wanting to escape a meatsuit that killed its own kin. Self-defense may be a valid excuse, but he still shot his mother's father.

"You did the right thing, you know," Dean says, sensing his inner turmoil.

"You mean you think I did, if it's in him and I'm me." Sam sums it up: "This thing's playing three-card monte with us."

"Well, I'm just gonna assume you're you."

"You want to take this off, then?" Sam turns part-way around to gesture with his bound wrists.

She hesitates, then replies somewhat apologetically.

"Not till we get that sucker out of his walnut."

There's a brief reflective silence. There's too much deceit and death in the family.

"I don't know," he says to his sister. "I mean, I barely remember him, and what I do remember... it's not good." Sam thinks of the scant few memories that have come to light in the past two months. "And what he did to us. But..."

"There's a 'but'?" Dean asks, incredulous.

"I mean, I just can't help but think... what would Mom say?"

That makes Dean pause. It's a tough question and Sam isn't sure if he expects an answer at all.

"...You know what I would say, if this happened to my kid, and Dad, and me?" She takes another moment to put her thoughts in order. "I'd say, 'Your family doesn't end with blood, and blood doesn't make you family. You gotta earn it.' And I think Mom would say the same."

For the first time in a while, Sam feels like he's talking to his big brother, who's telling him and making him feel that everything is going to be okay. If they weren't next to a corpse and Sam's hands were free, he might actually hug her for that.

"Wherever she is, Sam, she'd rather be there than have us fed to ghouls." Dean almost smiles a little as she gestures to herself. "This thing inside me isn't even a real baby yet and I think I'd go to Hell to keep it safe."

Overhead lights come on. Rufus and Bobby come into the room with a bag.

"Alright, let's play operation." The former of the two starts pulling out tools. Sam and Dean watch.

Bobby studies them for a moment.

"You two want to take a breather?"

"We're good," Dean says.

"We're about to crack open your grandpa's grapefruit. Take a breather."

They take his advice and exit the room. They pause, looking through the window in the door at the two older hunters for a couple seconds.

No, Sam thinks, they probably shouldn't see that. He, at least, doesn't want to. Shooting Samuel was more than enough for the night. He and Dean go around the corner in the hallway.

"Y'know... if you have your kid and somebody adopts her, I hope she doesn't go looking for us when she grows up. She might not like what she finds."

"Unfortunately, Sam, he's my kid and I'm the best hunter ever. The kid's gonna track us down in about..." Dean says, pouting in thought for a moment, "A week."

Sam can't think of a time when Dean acting conceited didn't make him smile or want to.

"He'll only be half-best hunter ever," he points out.

"Sam, how many movies have you seen where the guy's kid is just as good or better than him? Luke Skywalker?"

"He doesn't count because Vader didn't-"

The Winchesters hear the sounds of a fight in the other room. They run back to see none other than Samuel's reanimated corpse standing on the other side of the door.

*

It's a slow walk from Rufus's grave to the car, leaving Bobby alone to mourn. They lean against the Impala and watch him from afar, hands in their pockets.

"Do you get why I want to have this baby, Sam?"

"Is it to make up for me shooting Samuel?" he scoffs.

"Kinda. But if our family is going to go on after us, I don't want it to be like this. I want my kid to grow up thinking that a bad day at work is just some spilled coffee. Not this..." Dean manages to gesture to the entire cemetery without using her hands. "This bullshit."

Sam nods.

"That's what you'd want if you had a kid, right?" she asks.

"I wouldn't want my kid to grow up in the Life. But I'd want them to have a choice and I'd do everything I could to make sure they had the life they wanted."

"How would you show them the Life without them getting trapped in it?"

"I have no idea," Sam admits. "By your logic, I wouldn't be able to stop him from finding out the truth."

"And you'd be so damn proud of him." Dean looks up at him with a soft expression. Neither of them are going to smile today.

*

"So, somehow the Titanic not sinking also meant you never got turned into a girl," Sam says, keeping his voice low. Bobby is in the living room asleep on the couch; the Winchesters are in the kitchen a few minutes after waking up from their experience with Fate. Because Balthazar couldn't stop at just an alternate universe; he had to create an alternate timeline, too.

Leaning against the counter, he shuts his eyes, remembering his brother from ten, fifteen minutes ago. Dean like he always knew him, Dean okay, Dean alive. Shit, now he's crying.

"...Uh, Sammy?" She's looking at him with a slightly tilted head, like she doesn't quite recognize him.

"Look... the last time I saw you, I- you were bleeding and broken in that field. Lucifer murdered y- almost murdered you, with my hands, and I had to just leave you there." The words come out thick and he's ashamed to shed tears over this but all the festered pain is tumbling out now. "That's the image that's been in my head every goddamn day."

"Sammy, I'm right here." Dean stands toe to toe with him, tucks his hair back, touches his face. She wipes a tear from each cheek with her thumbs, making this the most intimate contact they've had since her transformation. "I'm alive, I'm fine. You stopped him."

"I know, I just needed to see the old you."

"Why?"

"I couldn't stand having that as the last memory of your face. I needed to replace it with something, and until now, there was nothing, Dean."

She's considering his words, then nodding a little.

"I see."

Not out of desire, but out of a need for comfort, Sam finds himself wanting to kiss her. Their faces aren't even close enough to give him a good excuse; he's just expecting it to happen for some reason. He averts his eyes, hoping she'll let go with no clue what he's thinking.

No such luck. He can feel her studying his expression. God, please don't let today be the day she realizes.

Despite best efforts, his gaze is drawn to her lips. Is it his imagination or are he and Dean ever so slowly gravitating towards each other? He can't imagine what she's thinking but making eye contact now would be a mistake. It will confirm the suspicions she must now have.

"Sammy."

He doesn't dare look up. Maybe he can't. It's been a while since he kissed someone but he has no trouble recognizing a good angle. This isn't an accident. He can't let himself let go of the edge of the counter; it's difficult with sweating palms. Dean needs to be able to back out when she decides that this is too fucked up. If she does.

At this point she must know how desperate he is. Does she feel the same way or will she just go along with it because she loves to martyr herself, or because she's curious and infamously willing to try anything once?

There's just terror and anticipation tangled up inside Sam and getting worse with every frantic heartbeat. How can this moment end in anything that doesn't forever change how they see each other? It's probably too late, but there's a running list of things that could have turned into something more that didn't, and just maybe if they don't cross this line now then he can put it in the 'pretend it was nothing' column. He's downright tired of doing it now but what other choice does he have? Give in?

He tries to say her name. No sound comes out but she can read his lips. If they get any nearer, his need to be close, draw strength from her, and show her how much he cares will overpower every other instinct, thought, and reflex he's ever had. There's no sign that Dean might not let him do this. If she was anyone else they might be half-way to the bedroom by now.

Who is she, though? She's supposed to be Dean, his brother. She's supposed to be his family and his world. She's died for him and he for her. If he were to ask she'd tell him that they've never had a word for what they feel for each other. They don't need one.

No, Sam's mind is screaming. This isn't Dean. This is somebody else. Dean is gone and he'll be back someday.

Suddenly logic is failing Sam. He needs to remind himself that this is Dean, his brother, for whom he feels something deeper than love, who feels the same in return, whom he can't touch like this. And right now the best method for expressing to himself that this is the person he needs more than life is to kiss them. But hasn't he wanted to kiss her because she isn't Dean, because Dean isn't with him? How giving into a sick physical desire translates to making himself believe that Dean isn't dead escapes Sam completely. It makes sense in his head but all he really knows is that he mysteriously justified doing it.

Kissing Dean.

They're nearly synchronized as they close the final inches between them.

Just...

Sam's eyes shut.

This...

Even knowing that this could ruin things for a long, long time, it feels right.

Once.

Sam brushes his parted lips against hers.

He pauses. In the face of possible consummation, all the heat and passion simmering inside him for weeks has almost vanished. He's not scared of freeing himself from inhibitions; he no longer feels like an animal desperate to mate. He feels like a human who loves this person in front of him. He can put his hands on her and it's just for the sake of warm innocent touch before he shows her what he isn't quite sure how to say in any other language.

He doesn't know how he knows but Dean definitely smiles when he presses her close to him. He gloats—all that stuff about 'no chick flick moments' for years and deep down Dean is a hopeless romantic when it comes to their first-

The creak of an old sofa comes from the other room and the Winchesters freeze in place, eyes now opened wide.

Dean lets go, shrugs off her brother's hands, and backs away, leaving Sam hyper-aware of the absence of her warmth. They exchange nervous looks and each wipe their mouth out of paranoia. They look around hoping to find an excuse to be in the kitchen in case Bobby wakes up and walks in. Dean heads to the fridge and opens it; Sam checks the sink for dirty dishes. Housework, that's innocuous even if none of them like doing it.

It echoes in his mind for hours afterwards—his brother's imagined voice saying, "So... that just happened."

Chapter Text

In the morning, Sam wakes up to Dean standing by his bed, batting at his foot to rouse him.

"What?" he asks, blinking and yawning.

"A hamburger with lots of pickles. Take me to get one." She drops a pair of jeans and a shirt in his lap.

"You want me to drive you somewhere just to get a hamburger?"

"Yes."

Sam closes his eyes again. He's half-asleep and not in a state to censor himself for political incorrectness.

"Being a woman has really gotten to you. Can't even drive your own car."

"Okay, you know what, just- just-" Dean sputters a little and sums it up with, "Fuck you. They didn't give me enough pickles last time."

"And you think they'll listen to me because I sound more like somebody who'll kick their asses if they don't?"

"Yes."

"Okay," he sighs. Dean hasn't been as freaky about food cravings as he'd been afraid of, so if she needs him to get her something at half past six in the morning, he'll do it. He should probably also apologize for that joke, he reflects.

He's sitting up with his feet on the floor, Dean already gone from the room, when he remembers what happened the previous afternoon.

Jesus fucking Christ, I tried to kiss Dean.

*

A few minutes later, Sam and Dean are headed to the nearest burger joint.

He wants to ask "What happened yesterday?" but whenever he glances over at her he loses his resolve.

One of them needs to say something. It's why they're alone right now, isn't it? Dean isn't going to, even if she knows full well that it must be done.

"Yesterday." That's all Sam can manage. He turns to give his sister a pleading look.

"There's nothing to talk about, Sam," she says.

"Then why are you making me buy you a pickle burger?"

"...Because I want one," is the slow, uncertain reply as if she's doubting Sam's mental capacity.

Sam tries to back himself up a step. He assumed Dean had an ulterior motive for this—because he thinks he's dealing with a female? Maybe a pickle burger is just a pickle burger.

"There's nothing to talk about," Dean repeats, but then qualifies, "Unless..."

They make eye contact. Dean gives the slightest nod of her head towards the backseat.

Sam turns back to the road—Dean will never forgive him let alone sleep with him if he crashes the car—and says the first complete sentence he manages to string together.

"That can't be a good idea."

"Alright, perfect. It won't happen again because it never happened. End of story."

It's not that cut-and-dry for Sam, and none of his questions are answered, but it's a way out and he has to take it. Fortunately he soon spots the local McDonald's.

"This good enough for you?"

"Yup." Dean then instructs him on what to say and he cringes but does as she says.

Five minutes later, they're in the far corner of the parking lot and his sister is happily munching on a burger with literally more pickles on it than ground beef. The mayonnaise-slathered pickle chips are sliding out between her fingers and falling on the paper wrapper in her lap. It is truly disgusting to watch, no matter how blissed out she is. No female should eat the way Dean Winchester eats. And yet...

"What's with the heart-eyes?" Dean asks, or at least that would be the translation of the sounds she makes around her food.

"What are you talking about?" Sam immediately finds something else to look at. The odometer which is currently at 68,324. Every few years they hit 99,999, drive one more mile, and then the car is brand-new at 00000 miles. The Winchesters have a wager on what state they'll be in when they hit one million miles.

Swallowing her current mouthful, Dean manages to pause gorging herself long enough to have a clear response.

"You're looking at me like you're-" Dean bites her lip, rethinking whatever she was about to say. "Never mind." She sets down the burger and pops a few loose pickles in her mouth, licking her fingers and then chewing slowly.

In love with her. That must be what she's thinking. It's what Sam is afraid of.

"If you're uncomfortable because you aren't sure how I feel-"

"No. I'm not uncomfortable. We don't need to talk about anything," she snaps, "Because I know you and you're not an asshole. You won't touch me without my consent, and that is all I care about. How I feel doesn't even matter because even if you knew for a fact I had the hots for you, you wouldn't lay a finger on me unless I said I wanted you to."

"Of course I wouldn't, but-"

"It doesn't make a difference. If you really wanna go there with me, you'll ask, and I'll give you an answer when you do."

"Okay."

It's not okay. Sam still doesn't know what it all means. She's not disgusted at the thought? She doesn't care? Would she care if she knew there have been days where he couldn't look at her without thinking of what he wanted to do to her in bed? He finds himself oddly uncomfortable with Dean's trust in him. What if he did know for a fact that she wanted him as badly as he wanted her, would he end up pressuring her?

There's something disconcerting about Dean having put thought into the idea of anybody forcing themselves on her, especially Sam. He's dying to ask if something happened, but he can't. Dean is back to her burger already, her expression a loud and clear "Drop it, Sam."

*

Life somehow goes on just like before, as if Sam hadn't all but told Dean his feelings outright. They find a potential haunting on the other side of the state and check it out. The almost-kiss is essentially forgotten, by unspoken unanimous decision.

Sam has a lot more trouble forgetting the dream he has a few nights after the aborted tryst.

There's a bed in Bobby's kitchen. Dean is lying on it, looking up at Sam.

"I can see paradise by the dashboard light," Sam says to her.

"We'll stay forever this way," Dean replies, and Sam knows it's true because the brotherhood of the ceiling fans made a law about it and it just went into effect. He lies down beside her.

"Speak the words I want to hear to make Genevieve run."

"I wanted you not to fuck me, but you've gone this far so just finish the damn job. It doesn't matter what you do." 

"Might as well jump," Sam reasons.

"I'm still free," Dean says. She holds out her hand. "Take a chance on me."

But she's not free. There's a price sticker on the very hand she's offering him. There are numbers followed by the euro symbol, but Sam cannot comprehend them. They're in Antarctic and he doesn't know that language.

"Everybody's got their dues in life to pay," she presses, realizing that Sam knows she wasn't being honest.

"Will you still love me tomorrow?" he asks. It all depends on that.

Dean grins.

"I'll give you an answer in the morning."

At that, Sam tugs her closer and they're just about to melt into the soft kiss they were meant to share in that very kitchen.

He woke up from it as if from a nightmare, though nothing about the dream was actually bad. There was the usual superlatively absurd dream-logic, plus the fact that the dialogue comprised song lyrics, but nothing frightening. Regardless, it sticks with him for days.

*

They're packing up, ready to check out of the motel and move on before the authorities notice the desecrated grave in the local cemetery.

"Sammy?"

"What?" He looks up from his duffel bag. Dean was in the bathroom last he knew; now she's standing in the doorway looking concerned.

"Is Bobby going to notice?"

"Notice what?"

She raises her arms briefly to indicate her entire body. Her old plaid shirt, loose on her frame, is starting to drape over her middle.

"I'm getting bigger. My guy clothes aren't going to hide this forever."

"You don't look pregnant, Dean. You just look-" Sam debates with himself and decides Dean will just have to take the hit. "A little fat."

"So you think he won't notice?" She doesn't seem fazed by the idea of her being fat. Not an average girl, Sam reminds himself.

"He won't think you're pregnant, Dean. Even if he did, you need to tell him sooner or later. I mean, what are you afraid of?"

"Nothing, I don't know."

"You still haven't told anybody else yet, have you?"

"No, but I bet you next time Cas sees me he's going to use some weird x-ray vision and announce it to the whole room," Dean scoffs, heading back into the bathroom.

*

They're back in Sioux Falls within two days, and not long after that Jody Mills shows up out of nowhere. Dean gets into her car and Sam and Bobby watch them drive off with no idea what their destination might be.

Hours later, Dean comes back with two large shopping bags which she takes up to their room. Sam follows her.

"It's like they think no pregnant woman has ever wanted flannel," she grumbles as she pulls out her purchases. There's a mix of plaid, denim, a skirt, and a couple of tops that look so feminine Sam doesn't want to touch them.

"Is that what took you so long?"

"Uh, no. I was at the doctor's, too. They did a test that took a while."

"What for?"

"Just screening for genetic stuff."

"Did they get results?"

"No. They'll let me know in a week or two."

"Did you find out anything else?"

"I got to hear its heartbeat."

"That's great!"

"And..." Dean hesitates for a while before taking a stiff paper out of her inner coat pocket. It's folded in half; she flattens it before she hands it to Sam. He can tell it's a photo before he actually sees what it's an image of.

He can't say he finds an ultrasound photo cute. He's not fond of the delay in getting his brother back and the fetus is too misproportioned at this point to evoke an "aww" response in him. But he doesn't really want to stop looking at this picture of his nephew or niece, knowing how much it means to Dean. It's... compelling , this thing growing inside Dean.

"Remind me how far along you are?"

"Thirteen weeks."

"Do you have a due date?"

"August twenty-first." Dean opens a dresser drawer and waits for Sam to return the picture to her.

"Do they know if it's a boy or a girl?"

"Not yet."

Finally he proffers the photo and she takes it back.

"What do you want it to be?"

"I don't care if it's a boy, a girl, or a panda. I just want it to get to stay with whatever it's happy being."

Sam gives a nod of acknowledgment. His sister gently pushes the drawer shut, as if the image now inside it were actually her child.

*

Usually when Dean prays to Cas, they get Cas. This time they got Rachel the cold and unsympathetic secretary, and then Castiel.

"What do you need?" their angelic friend asks, standing in the dimly-lit Campbell compound library.

"We need you to send us back in time."

"...Why?"

"This," Dean says, handing Cas the book Bobby found, "says that the ashes of a phoenix can burn the Mother." She waits for him to glance at the page. "And this," she continues, giving him Samuel Colt's journal, "says there's fresh phoenix ash in Sunrise, Wyoming, on the fifth of March, 1861."

"And you want to go back in time to collect its ashes so you can kill Eve?"

"Yes. Me and Sam." Dean is more excited about the prospect of being in their own version of Star Trek IV than Sam has seen his sister in a while.

"No," Cas answers.

"What?"

"Time travel, especially to the more distant past, can be dangerous, Dean. I'll send Sam, but I won't endanger you and your child."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Bobby asks.

Dean sighs and looks at Sam: "Told ya."

"Dean is pregnant." Cas seems confused by Bobby's ignorance, then it dawns on him. "Was that supposed to be a secret?"

"No, I just hadn't told him yet," Dean replies, carefully enunciating each miffed word. Suddenly something changes about her stance, as if she's very conscious of her swollen abdomen. Anybody who really looked could guess at her condition; if Sam is honest with himself he doesn't know how Bobby didn't realize it sooner. Now they're all thinking about it.

"Dean is pregnant?" Bobby repeats. He looks directly at Sam across the table.

"What? What are you looking at me for?!" Sam tries to hide his alarm and embarrassment. Is it that damn obvious? Did Bobby somehow find out about what almost happened? What other assumptions has he made? It's one thing if he suspects, but he's practically accusing Sam in front of Dean and Cas.

"Nothing! I'm- I'm not lookin' at you," he replies, face as red as Sam's. He turns his attention to Dean. "How long have you been pregnant?"

"About three months. Let's just forget about me having a bun in the oven. Right now we gotta sort out who's going to 1861. 'Cause Sam's not going alone."

"I'll go if Dean can't," the older hunter volunteers. They all look at Cas for his input.

"It will be much safer for you than for Dean," he says.

Dean looks rightfully pissed but does not object as they map out the other details of her plan.

***

Sighing, Dean casts a longing look at the whiskey bottle on Bobby's desk for the umpteenth time. Less than six months before she can have booze again. Not drinking is literally the hardest thing about pregnancy so far, she thinks. Everything else that sucks would suck less if she could just get drunk.

There's just over three hours before Sam and Bobby have to get back. Dean wishes she had Colt's diary so she could check to see if the entry changes, like the photograph in Back to the Future Part III. Unfortunately, Sam took it with him. Maybe if he finds the original one in 1861 he can mark it. If Dean had the chance she'd probably draw a dick on one of the pages. She smirks, imagining Sam's reaction if she pulled it off.

A loud thud comes from the kitchen, the sound of a body collapsing. Dean goes to check it out to find Cas sort of crumpled up on the floor next to the refrigerator.

"Cas? What's going on?"

The angel holds up a hand to shush her. He turns away and starts painting a sigil on the door of the fridge in blood—his blood, Dean realizes. He's wounded, bad.

Finally he's done. Cas pulls himself up and turns to face her.

"Cas?" she tries again. "Are we running? Fighting?"

"We're..." he begins as he approaches her, and then he passes out, collapsing into Dean's arms.

"Son of a bitch," she gasps as she struggles to keep her balance. Holding an adult male is a lot harder than it used to be, but she successfully drags him over to the couch by the window and lays him down. Dean stares at her unconscious friend with his gaping, bleeding wound. "...This ain't good."

*

An hour and a half later, Castiel sits up.

"Cas?" Dean sits on the couch next to him. "Talk to me. What happened?"

"I was, um... I was betrayed," he answers. He still seems a little out of it. "Rachel, uh, Raphael... He corrupted her. She turned on me."

"Sorry to hear that." Dean is not in the least bit sorry but if Rachel was Cas's lieutenant he must have trusted her.

"She's dead. I was... wounded. Needed safety. ...Thank you." He tries to stand but Dean pulls him back down.

"Hey, hey, hey, not so fast, Cas." She waits for him to focus on her again. "What was with the finger painting? Warding symbol?"

Cas nods.

"Against angels."

"How is it?" she asks next, nodding at the large bloodstain on his shirt.

"I'll heal."

"Good." Dean stands, now thinking of the contents of the fridge. She could go for some kind of vegetable or fruit right now, having cooked and eaten a simple cheeseburger while Cas was out. "'Cause we've only got an hour and a half before you pick up Sam and Bobby."

"I can't."

Dean stops and turns on her heels.

"What did you say?"

"I can't. This fight... drained me," Cas explains.

"Okay, then find another angel to bring them back."

"I can't."

"Then how do we recharge you? A spell?" Dean is about five seconds away from flipping out. Sam. They can't leave Sam and Bobby a hundred and fifty years in the past. "There's gotta be something, Cas."

"There is one thing that might work, but..." Cas pauses and Dean takes a step closer, tilting her head so one ear is closer, waiting. He finishes, "It's extremely dangerous."

"Okay. So..." She gestures. "Lay it on me."

"Your soul."

"What about it?"

"I need you to let me touch it."

Dean makes a face.

"That sounds dirty and creepy."

"The human soul—it's pure energy," the angel explains. "If I can siphon some of that off, I- I might be able to bring Sam and Bobby back."

"What's the dangerous part?"

"Doing this is like... putting your hand in a nuclear reactor. I have to do it very gingerly."

"And if you mess up?"

"You'll explode."

Dean lets out a breath.

"Well, I'm gonna explode if we don't get Sam back, so let's do this."

"Are you sure, Dean? Even if I don't kill you, there's a chance your child might not survive your ordeal."

Dean turns and walks away to think. Risking her own life for Sam is one thing. Risking her unborn child is another. The drive to protect it is as strong as the drive to save Sam and Bobby.

"This is the only way to get them back?"

"Yes."

"...If it doesn't make it, will it feel anything? Is it going to know?"

"Its brain structures aren't sufficiently developed and it has no soul to persist after death."

"Wait, when does it get a soul?"

"At birth, from Clotho."

Taking a deep breath, Dean puts the trivia aside and makes her decision.

"Well, we can't leave 'em stranded there. You gotta do it."

*

"I bet now you wish you'd sent me back in time, baby and all," Dean comments as she sits down, her friend standing before her with his sleeve rolled up.

"Are you ready?"

She puts her belt between her teeth, bites down, and nods to Cas.

For Dean, the excruciating pain of having her soul touched is fine. Any pain is fine if it's for Sam. It's the fear for her child's safety that brings her to tears. She doesn't know, she will never know, if she would definitively trade her unborn child for Sam. The adrenaline rush that comes when she so much as thinks of either of them being in danger is the same. Her brother, her future child. They're far from interchangeable but at this point, in this situation, she doesn't know which one she needs to protect more.

Cas withdraws his arm from her torso after an agonizing fifteen seconds.

"It's done. I should be able to bring them back when it's time." The clock says about an hour left. "Are you alright, Dean?"

"Think so, yeah." Now she needs a drink more than ever. "What about the kid, is there a way you can check on it?"

Cas places his hand over Dean's womb.

"It doesn't seem affected by what I did." To Dean's surprise, Cas doesn't back off but continues to touch her. He frowns. "...Did you know it's going to be phenylketonuric?"

"Yeah, doc told me. He said it should develop normally if it doesn't eat a certain type of protein."

"And it has a gene for cystic fibrosis."

"But it won't actually have the disease, right?"

"No, but it received the gene from its father and you also carry it."

Dean hadn't known that detail, but she dismisses it. The conversation is getting uncomfortable.

"Well, sure dodged a bullet. The important thing is it won't have it. It's going to be fine and live a long, safe life somewhere far away from demons and monsters." She stands up and finally starts edging towards the kitchen again.

Cas follows her and leans against the doorframe as she rummages through the fridge, in the uncomfortable position of wanting to eat produce. She ends up taking out a green pepper, deli roast beef, pickle spears, mayonnaise, and wheat bread and then assembles the sandwich quickly. Once finished, Dean doesn't bother plating it, just takes a huge bite standing at the counter.

She is only inches from where Sam was standing when they almost kissed a few weeks ago. Don't think about it, Dean tells herself. There's a reason they've avoided being in here alone since then. Sam's upstairs brain and downstairs brain aren't playing well together and neither are Dean's. She's not so much physically attracted to her little brother, but she has her reasons for saying yes if he ever gets up the nerve again. He's right, it can't be a good idea, but she hopes he does make another move.

Dean knows her little brother better than anyone, but she doesn't know how long he'll resist temptation if he learns that she plans to succumb to it.

There's no sound besides the humming refrigerator and her chewing for a minute or two. Then Cas reminds her of his presence.

"Do you want to know the gender?"

"The doctor said it was a girl, but I think he might be jumping the gun," Dean answers before taking another bite, feeling satisfied when she sees Castiel smile.

"Have you told Sam the truth?" the angel asks a moment later.

Told him the truth about what? Dean wonders as she swallows. There's a hell of a lot she hasn't told Sam, but finally one thing comes to mind that her friend is probably referencing.

"If you're talking about what I told you... no. He has no idea."

"When are you going to tell him?"

"When I think it won't devastate him. The kid's got enough on his plate already."

"It's cruel to let him go on believing-"

"I don't have any good options here, Cas. Sam will be upset no matter when he finds out and right now there's no good reason to burst his bubble. We should at least take down Eve before I drop the bomb on him."

"That could be soon if what we're doing today works."

"Then maybe I'll tell him sooner rather than later."

Chapter Text

Dean could have been exploded.

Sam's heart beats a little faster just at the thought of it. His sister had to let Cas touch her soul to get him and Bobby back. That risk was too high a price to pay for the convenience of not having to find a phoenix in 2011.

After being awake for a solid thirty-six hours, he's more than ready to get some shut-eye, but the events of those hours are just too insane for him to relax. Time travel, meeting Samuel Colt, the risk Dean took, even just getting the bottle of ash in the mail. Time travel. Again.

It's been at least an hour of him tossing and turning when Dean enters the room, clearly ready for bed. She pauses to turn on the lamp by the door, and Sam opens his eyes.

"Sorry," Dean mutters.

"I was still up."

She shuts the door, hand lingering on the knob for a moment, then pads over to his bed and seats herself next to him. Sam sits up and waits for her to say something.

"Next time there's a trip to the Wild West, I'm going with. Pregnant or not," is what eventually comes out. She sounds jealous; Sam sees through it and replies to what she really means.

"You got it."

She gets up to go to her side of the room, but Sam notices tears on her face.

"Wait." He gets out of bed and takes her hand before thinking better of it.

"What?" Dean pulls free and Sam realizes how odd it would have been for him to do that to his brother.

"Is there something else you wanted to say?"

"No. I'm just... hormonal," she mumbles, getting defensive as she wipes her cheeks with her free hand. "From being pregnant, not from being a girl."

"You don't need an excuse, Dean. You risked your life to get us back. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to-"

"I risked him." Dean gestures to her womb. "My life? Whatever, I do what I want. But this... thing inside me, he's just so important. I've been doing a lot of risky stuff with him, I know, and trading a never-even-born kid for you and Bobby seems like a no-brainer, but I-" She looks up helplessly at Sam.

He hugs her, partly to give himself a moment to think, resting his chin on top of her head. He's on Dean's side here; she shouldn't have put herself and her baby at risk like that, even if it meant that he and Bobby might have been stuck a hundred fifty years in the past. They could have found another way back, and even if they didn't Sam would have stayed if Dean asked. But that's all stuff she knows.

"It's okay, Dean. Besides..." He holds her at arm's length. "If he's anything like us, he would've said to go ahead with it."

Dean smiles a little and nods once.

"If he's got a drop of Winchester blood," she agrees.

"You kept calling him a 'he.' Did Cas tell you?" Sam wonders aloud.

"Nah, just decided to start switching between him and her for the kid. Don't like calling her an 'it' but I don't want to know what she is yet. And even if I did know, nothing's certain." She gestures to herself, then suddenly she grins. "Hey, Sammy, she started kicking last night."

"Really? That's... that's awesome." Sam can't help but be happy for and with her. It's amazing, really, the more he thinks about his niece or nephew growing, Dean supporting all that inside herself. He spent most of his life viewing his big brother as a sort of superhero, and through this series of strange events, Dean is again giving him that feeling of awe, the feeling that she can do literally anything.

He's surprised when she takes his hand and positions it very precisely over her womb.

"She's kicking right now. Can you feel it?"

Sam shakes his head. He just feels warm flannel.

Dean's response is to push her shirt up out of the way and and press his fingertips, the most sensitive part of his hand, directly against her skin.

For a moment Sam is too shocked to try to feel anything. There is nothing at all erotic about this but it's a level of physical closeness that he was never going to be ready for.

She's just looking at him expectantly.

"Still don't feel anything," he confesses at the volume of a whisper.

"Maybe when it's stronger." She lets Sam take his hand back, its purpose on her body moot.

The two stand in silence looking at each other for a few seconds, tranquil for the moment. Sam can, occasionally, simply appreciate his sister's happiness without the confusion he's now used to. It's nothing like the spark in Dean's eyes when they've just killed a monster and saved lives; it's not like she's found a higher calling. Parenthood isn't her purpose in life. But sometimes there's a smile on her face that Sam hasn't seen in a long, long time, that he wishes he could see every day.

The moment of peace is gone. Once more, Sam is drawn into the whirlpool of feelings he never wanted, and they're not simply physical anymore. They've changed as he's seen her more and more as the brother he grew up with, but completely in the wrong direction: the more he recognizes Dean, the deeper he falls.

"You're beautiful," he tells her.

"What?" she asks with a nervous chuckle.

"Sorry. I just mean-" Sam fumbles for a second and gives up. He shrugs a little. "Well, you are."

Dean stares back as if he's speaking to her in a foreign language. Sam's face and ears are hot. There was no good reason for him to say that. There's no good reason for them to be standing so close together.

"Sam..." Dean shuts her eyes briefly. "You're not-" Shaking her head, she abandons the question.

"I'm not what?"

"It was a question. Never mind. I don't want to know the answer."

"Just tell me the question."

"If you don't know what it is already, the answer's no. It's fine."

Sam sighs, despairing.

"What's wrong with us, Dean?" he asks. "I mean... I tell myself sometimes that I have one excuse or another, but I don't. Neither of us do, we're siblings. We shouldn't be even discussing this."

"Oh, Sam, keep talking. I'm so turned on right now," Dean replies with mock seriousness.

"I just want you to tell me something like- like... if I try to lay a finger on you, you'll kick my ass so hard my s-" Sam pauses, unsure where his words are coming from. He blinks as images and sounds begin to flash through his mind.

A couple days into the new situation with Dean, Sam made his move.

"So, you a virgin again?" he asked her, his gaze doing most of the talking.

Dean rolled her eyes. He went to brush her cheek, but his hand never made it. She had his wrist in an iron grip.

"If you lay a finger on me, I'll kick your ass so hard your soul will feel it," she told him.

Shaking his head, Sam focuses on his sister standing in front of him. His head is throbbing.

"Did I?" he asks.

"Did you what?" She grips him by the upper arms to keep him steady on his feet as he backs up to sit on his bed. She joins him. "Sam, what's going on?"

"Nothing." The pain is fading and he knows Dean will flip out if she finds out he had another flashback. "Never mind."

"...Okay."

"Actually, I have a question."

Dean waits.

"After you got turned into a girl, before I got my soul back, did I make you... uncomfortable?"

"What do you mean?"

"Was I creepy towards you?"

"Once. But I said no and you backed off. End of story." Dean stands to indicate the conversation is over.

Sam accepts that information as the truth, but the idea that his soulless body wanted Dean and tried to get with her makes him a little angry. He loves her. That other Sam just wanted sex from her, and if it weren't for Dean saying no he would have gotten it: cheap, meaningless sex with the person who deserves it least.

"Thank you," he says.

"For what?"

"Saying no to me. Not letting anything happen between us."

She takes a deep breath and lets it out. Without turning around, she finally replies:

"I'm always watching out for you, little brother." 

*

What a fucking rollercoaster. From finding Eve to Dean nearly being turned into a monster, Sam is left wondering for the umpteenth time how they always get out in one piece.

The plot only thickens: they've just found the bodies of little Ryan and Joe in a closet in their uncle's home. With sulfur nearby.

"So what do you think?" he asks Dean, Bobby, and Cas.

"I think that demons don't give a crap about monster tweens unless they're told to," Dean answers.

"So you think she was telling the truth?"

"The truth about what?" Cas asks.

"She said that Crowley's still kicking."

"But I burned his bones, how c-...? Was she certain?"

"Sounded pretty sure," Dean answers. "According to her, Crowley's still waterboarding her kids somewhere."

"I don't understand."

"Well he is a crafty son of a bitch."

"I'm an angel. I'll look into it immediately." Castiel disappears.

Sam and Bobby exchange looks; Sam jerks his head in the direction of the living room. His sister isn't going to like what they're thinking, what both of them have been thinking for some time now.

"Cas!" Dean yells into the air. "Let us know what you find out!" She follows her brother and Bobby, recognizing that they have something to say. "What? ...What?"

"How did Crowley get away?" Bobby asks. "I mean it's not like Cas to make mistakes like that. Unless-"

"Unless what?"

"Unless he meant to."

Sam nods. It's everything he doesn't want to say to Dean.

"Bobby, this is Cas we're talking about." She looks at Sam. "Do you believe this? ...Sam?"

Cas is their friend; he's done everything they've asked him to which is saying a lot. He's especially Dean's friend, and she's going to be mad about this.

"Look, it's probably nothing, it's just..." Bobby is looking at him, understanding the struggle. He won't blame him if he's not ready to take a stand against Dean like this. Sam shakes his head. "You know what? You're right. It's - it's probably nothing."

He can feel his sister glaring daggers at Bobby. It's not going to be a fun ride back to South Dakota.

*

Sam decides that he's not going to get a better chance to corner Dean about it than being trapped in a car with Bobby.

"Dean..." he says in the deceptively neutral silence, "A shot of phoenix ash whiskey isn't worse than the other shit your body's been through in the past few months, but I think you should put your feet up until you have your baby."

She works her jaw, grinding her teeth a little in frustration. No matter how concerned she is for her baby's safety, not hunting isn't an option for Dean. She probably hoped to be killing vamps up until her water breaks. Probably has something to do with wanting to look invincible all the time, Sam reflects. Maybe that's his fault, for seeing her that way.

"He's right, Dean," Bobby adds. "You're pregnant, so take it easy. No one's gonna think any less of you for it."

Sam nods; that's exactly what they need to tell Dean.

"We care about both of you," he tells her.

He waits for her reply. For once, she's considering it instead of giving a flat-out no.

She turns to him, keeping one eye on the road.

"I'm going to decide when I get benched. If you want to do more of the heavy lifting, fine, but I can still do the job. Most of it, anyway."

*

"I'm kind of surprised, Sam, to be honest," Dean says suddenly. They've been back at Bobby's house for about five minutes and she's already stuffing her face with crackers. Bobby is puttering around in the basement.

"What about?" He considers stealing a cracker, knowing Dean will polish off the whole package.

"You telling me to take it easy."

"Why wouldn't I? You're pregnant."

"You did not like me being pregnant. You would've been glad if I told you I was getting an abortion. Or if I had a miscarriage." Dean says as she chews, conversational tone contrasting with gut-wrenching allegation.

"No! How could you think something like that?"

"Subconsciously."

"That's not how I felt at all," he continues to protest. He never, ever had that thought, yet he feels a need to deny it as his conscience nags him that it isn't so false as he would like.

As if to indicate her peace with it, Dean's hand actually pauses on the way to her mouth and she proffers the food to Sam. He accepts the cracker of forgiveness.

"Talk to me," Dean requests. "What do you feel now? About her."

In his entire life, Sam has never taken so long to chew and swallow a single mouthful. He finally answers:

"He's—or, she is—our blood. It's too late for Mom and Dad, our grandparents, our cousins... Adam... It's not too late for her. If you carry her, bring her into the world, I owe it to you, her, and all of them to do everything I can to protect her."

Dean nods with a classic tiny pout of agreement.

"What about me?" she asks, setting down the empty box. "How're you holding up with me being a girl?"

"I'm... fine? It's been months." It's close enough to the real thing most of the time.

"What about..." Instead of finishing the question, she moves a few feet so she can lean with her back to the kitchen counter, fingers curling around the edge on either side of her. Exactly where Sam was when they almost kissed.

His face is burning hot. He glances at the stairs down to the basement. Bobby could show up at any time. Maybe that's a good thing.

"I thought we weren't going to talk about it."

"That doesn't mean we're not gonna do it."

Sam waits, because that doesn't make a lot of sense to him.

"Sam, it doesn't have to be any big deal. The more we talk about it, the more awkward it'll be later. It's a lot easier to just..." Dean makes some suggestive gestures with her hands. "Enjoy ourselves when we feel like it, pretend we're normal when we don't."

"Then what, we change you back and just laugh about it later?"

"If you've got a boner and I'd like some action, why not get it on? You can't even get me pregnant."

"Can't believe we're having this conversation right here," Sam sighs.

"We could take it to the bedroom."

"Dean, we don't know what's going to happen if we cross this kind of line. We don't need to risk... complicating things."

"Do you even listen to yourself?" Dean shudders at having been thrust into a soap opera. "It doesn't have to be, it's just sex."

"No, whatever the fuck soulless-me wanted with you was just sex. Honestly, what I wanted three months ago was just sex. Now, I want you, all of you, like this. I'm in love with you, but you're not a real person, at least you won't be after we change you back. I don't think I'm in love with my brother. If I am, I want to wait until you're completely you again to find out."

"Let me get this straight... you think of me as some person who's not really your brother Dean, and you're in love with me."

"Yes." His shoulders slouch in defeat even as he feels a weight lifted.

"...I told you this would get awkward the more we talked about it."

"I'm sorry."

"Sam, no. I... I got something to tell you."

His eyes snap up from the floor. There's a fearsome gravity to those words from Dean.

"You have to stop thinking of me as a different person, because I am as much your brother Dean as I was two years ago. At least, on the inside."

"What about the gender thing?"

"I lied, alright? The witches didn't change a thing in my head."

"Wh- what are you saying, that you've always wanted to be a girl?" Sam corrects himself: "Always been a girl?"

"I don't know. My whole life, it was like... y'know when you were little, you hated getting hand-me-downs because they didn't fit right?"

Sam nods.

"Then you started turning into—" Dean gestures at him, "—this, and you got your own sneakers."

Again he nods, remembering being in awe of how comfortable a pair of shoes could actually be.

"It was a little like that when the witches got me. My old body didn't fit right, this one does. I'm still pissed at them for doing it without my consent, but the joke's on them. I don't know why, but I'm happier this way. I don't want to change back, ever."

There's absolutely nothing Sam can say. It's the exact opposite of what he wants to hear, but he has no right to protest. If Dean had come out as transgender before, Sam would have supported whatever choices she made about her body. He would have been all for her being in the body she was most comfortable in. It's her sudden transformation between him falling into the Cage and waking up that's making it impossible to think and feel everything he's supposed to think and feel.

"Why didn't you tell me before? Any of this?"

"When? Even if I'd had words for it, which I didn't, I wouldn't have risked saying anything to Dad, and by the time I got you from Stanford we had bigger fish than some vague feeling that I wasn't in the right body."

"You lied to me, though. When I first woke up with my soul."

"If I'd told you the truth right away, you would've freaked. When I found out I was pregnant, I decided to wait until that was over."

"And let me think for nine months that I was going to see the old you again?"

"What's so special about the old me anyway?"

"Maybe that I spent my whole life with him? Maybe that I'm still having a little trouble letting go of how I left him?"

"I thought you were over it."

He shakes his head. Not completely. Maybe he never will be.

"...Should I come over there again?" Dean asks.

Sam scoffs.

"Not unless you want Bobby to walk in on us."

"What would I be walking into?" the man's voice asks as he walks up the stairs.

The Winchesters look at each other.

"That... depends," Dean says eventually.

"On?"

"What else you've heard."

Bobby sighs with the exasperation of a man whose sons have just broken a neighbor's window.

"Look, I don't know what it is, but you'll tell me if I gotta know it."

"...Exactly," Sam says.

"Bobby, this one time, what you don't know won't hurt you," Dean assures him.

"Right," he mutters before moving off.

"G'night, Bobby!"

They wait until he's out of earshot before relaxing.

"Son of a bitch, that was close," Dean mutters.

"Let's be clear, Dean. This is you. You're going to be in this body for the rest of your life if you have your way."

"...Yeah."

"You're going to have your baby and put it up for adoption so it stays out of the Life."

"That's the plan."

"You and I will keep fighting the good fight together."

"Absolutely."

"And..." Sam can't believe he's directing this sentence at Dean: "You want to sleep with me."

"I'm interested if you are."

Of course he still is, but the new information that Dean is always going to be like this, regardless of what she hid before, might change something. If anything, though, it tempts him more to give in. No time limit, no conflict later about either being in love with his brother or worse, not being in love with his brother afterwards.

"I just need a little while to think about this. ...Unless you have something else you'd like to tell me." He lets some sarcasm show through.

"Nah, that was the big one. Cas even nagged me about it."

"When did you tell him?"

"Early on. He offered to try to reverse the spell. I told him no and told him why."

"How did he take it?"

"Angels get it better than humans do, I'll tell you that much."

Sam smiles a little. Whatever else Cas does or is, he can accept Dean even if her own brother is still wrapping his head around it.

He stands next to Dean and kisses the top of her head.

"Good night... sis."

"Good night, little brother," Dean says, tilting her head to look up at him.

*

Normal people can be transgender, Sam thinks. People who have never faced a literal demon, or a creature that feeds on their hearts or blood, or anything else that goes bump in the night, people who were born in average families and grew up in average houses. They can be born with the wrong body and realize it and do something about it. More people believe that to be possible than believe in the monsters that Sam and Dean hunt.

Open, tolerant, politically correct most of the time, that's him, isn't it? He can handle pronoun changes. There was no reason for Dean to be scared that he'd be weird about finding out the truth.

Forget it, Sam tells himself. He's just parroting all the words about acceptance he's picked up over the years. He can recite tautology all he wants but when it comes to Dean, the rules don't work. Dean Winchester, Sam's brother, was a rule, a law in fact. Until now, Sam was adhering to a law that simply was not in effect. He was wrong. The law of Dean Winchester, Sam's brother, must be fundamentally rewritten.

The concept of changing Sam'n'Dean, however, is alien. They've always been two brothers against the world, and the universe has always balanced as long as they were together.

The Winchester brothers aren't together anymore. Sam and Dean are, but not as brothers. Sam's world is off-balance, and he can no longer wait for Dean to show up and right it. He must relearn everything he thought he knew, because he has all the Dean he's going to get.

There's a stab of guilt as he reflects that he views her as less-than the old Dean. Is that because she's his sister instead of his brother? How hard is it for Sam, really, to accept a female as the big brother figure he's so used to depending on?

Once again, Sam has no name for it, only a deep sense that there's something even bigger going on than the problems he's conscious of.

*

The painful revelation that Castiel has betrayed them and been working with Crowley all this time is in fact bigger and darker than anything they had been conscious of, but it doesn't satisfy the dread-itch in Sam's mind. Not even the idea that Cas might have brought him back soulless on purpose.

*

With heavy hearts, Sam, Dean, and Bobby paint sigils around the house to ward off angels. All angels. Dean stays up after Sam and Bobby go to bed.

Something wakes up Sam in the middle of the night. Whether it's the moonlight, a sound, or something else, he can't tell, but he sees that Dean's bed is still empty and goes downstairs to check on her.

She's just standing in the living room, looking out the window, a hand resting on her belly.

"Dean?" Sam whispers.

She doesn't turn but it's clear she heard him. He approaches and stands by her side.

"Cas was just here," Dean says.

"What? What about the warding?"

"Guess we messed up." After taking a deep breath, she tells him: "I begged him to stop, Sam. He's not going to."

Looking at her face, Sam sees tears.

"Just being hormonal again," Dean mutters when she realizes he's staring. "If we have to fight Cas, we will. We'll take him down just like anything else we've had to deal with."

"He's still our friend."

"I don't want to fucking think about this, Sam." She turns to face him. "Give me something else to think about. Anything."

"Don't..." He looks away from the obvious challenge, but the air is so thick with emotion he knows there's only one possible ending to this.

"Why not?"

"Because I didn't want our first time to be like this," Sam finds himself replying against all reason.

"Sam, nothing in our lives has ever been the way we wanted it to be. If the answer will ever be yes-"

"It will be. It is."

"Then... come on."

He cups her cheek with his hand. He tries to regulate his breathing while his mind fights with itself.

He shouldn't, he thinks.

(She's asking.)

It's the wrong thing, no matter if it's for the right reason.

(She wants him to.)

Committing incest is not and never has been an option, damn it.

(What brother? What sister?)

Just don't.

(But as long as they're honestly in it together it doesn't matter what other roadblocks there may be.)

They can't survive this.

(His big brother is gone already.)

Dean.

(Dean.)

Dean's memory doesn't deserve this.

(Dean is right here.)

Dean.

(Dean.)

She's waiting for him with all the patience he never thought Dean had. All of the love she never wants to show or talk about is there. The need to escape the pain of the world around them is there, too.

He wants to and he has wanted to for ages, so he finally lets himself do it. He presses his mouth to hers ever so softly, cradles her face with both his hands as their eyes close.

A kiss hasn't felt like such a monumental action since high school. He's afraid to end it for fear it won't happen again, afraid to let go of Dean for fear he'll never touch her again. Having crossed this line, he wouldn't be surprised to find the world in a whole new palette of colors whenever he looks next. It's Dean, the one person he should never think about this way, let alone touch.

In reality, when they break apart, it's only been a few seconds. The room is still dark, the moon is still shining through the window, and Dean is still there, her skin warm under his fingers.

"Let's take this upstairs, Sam."

Chapter Text

Upon waking up, the first things Sam notices are that the sunlight is at the wrong angle and there's somebody in bed with him. He's on the other side of the room, he realizes. This is Dean's bed, and Dean is in it too.

Right. They moved over here to sleep, away from the cold sweaty sheets. Their clothes are on the floor, everything but their socks. Their tryst wasn't the sort where little details like that mattered.

Dean is still fast asleep in his arms, both of them in exactly the same position they fell asleep in. Not surprising considering the cramped quarters.

Sam can hardly believe it: they gave in. It's exhilarating and frightening and joyous all at once to think about it.

He moves his head on the pillow closer to Dean's and basks in the intimacy of feeling her breathe as he replays the previous night's events in his mind.

*

"Let's take this upstairs, Sam," she tells him, standing in the dark room.

If his own heart wasn't pounding so loudly, Sam imagines he would hear Dean's.

Technically, he could still back out. But Dean's right. If the answer was ever going to be yes, he might as well say it now. Yes, he will accept Dean's invitation to cross lines and show her how she makes him feel. Yes, he will dull her pain, and his.

In an effort to salvage the softer emotions he wanted to share with her, Sam sweeps Dean off her feet, holding her like a groom carrying his bride. She makes an indignant squeak that Sam forces himself not to laugh at. He's irrationally happy to be holding her, feeling her weight and warmth and softness.

"You're fucking kidding me," Dean says when she's regained some composure, biting her lip to keep the smile off her face.

"Should I put you down?" Sam asks it out of politeness, fully aware that she would already be out of his arms and on her feet if she wasn't okay with it. She shakes her head in response.

"No way you're getting out of carrying me up the stairs now, slave."

As quietly as he can, Sam brings his sister up to their bedroom. Practicality forces him to set her down once they're inside. They never lock their door at Bobby's, but the only thing worse than the man knowing they were up to something is him seeing evidence for himself.

He turns the lock for the first time in longer than he can remember. The sound of it sliding into place seems far too loud. Staring at it, he takes a deep breath. This is insane. He can't sleep with Dean . Part of him feels sick when he thinks of how this is the person who practically raised him, who was not only a brother but sometimes a parent. They're both disgusting for pursuing this.

"Sammy."

He turns his head. Dean's top two buttons are undone, her fingers resting on the third, but she looks concerned.

"What's up?" she asks him.

Only when Sam remembers what he felt for his brother can he almost forgive himself and Dean. There was never a way to say what they meant to each other but they didn't need to because they both knew the unspoken law of them . Now they do need to say it, or Sam does at least. He's not going to have his brother back because his 'brother' never existed in the first place, and the current Dean, the one standing next to him, is the real one and she's the one he owes everything to. She did all of the things Sam attributes to his brother; she felt and continues to feel all of those things.

So he needs to say it to her until he himself believes it. As counter-intuitive and uncomfortable as it is to acknowledge, the emotions inherent with this type of intimacy are the closest he's going to get to what he felt for his brother. This is somehow the right thing.

"Nothing," he tells her. Then he nods at her shirt. "You should keep going." She smiles and does so. He waits until she's gotten two more buttons before starting to shed his own clothes.

The second they're naked—Dean undresses faster than any woman Sam's ever been with—he backs her up against the wall for their second kiss, which quickly turns into their third, their fourth, their fifth... He tries to keep it gentle at first, but she's so eager, he soon gives into the hunger he's felt for months, tasting her mouth and feeling her skin. Her hands are exploring his body and it's more than he could have dared to hope for, that she wants him.

Heavy sighs and soft moans punctuate every touch until they break apart. Sam pauses and simply looks at her to take in all of the skin in front of him, the shapes he loves and the imperfections he instinctively also loves because they're part of her. A couple stretch marks on her growing middle, "looking fat" because she's pregnant, awkward hairs in one or two places—he doesn't love looking at her despite those things, but including and almost because of those things. It all translates to Dean, who takes up more of Sam's heart than anyone or anything else ever could.

He looks into her eyes as his hands travel down, past her hips, to tug her away from the wall.

"Let me pick you up."

"Why?" his sister asks, mildly intrigued.

"Because."

Eyes narrowing, Dean wraps her arms around his neck.

"What is this-" she begins before jumping, awkwardly. With some difficulty, Sam grasps the backs of her thighs as she wraps her legs around him. "You being romantic?"

"What do you think?" He lets the wall support a little of her weight as he adjusts his grip. Part of him feels very stupid doing this, but he is after all very stupidly in love with her. There's an appeal to being in such a position of control, but really he just wants her closer.

"All that's going through my head is my baby doesn't need you dropping him before he's even born."

"I won't drop you." Sam studies her face illuminated by the warm lamplight. "I promise."

Dean's looking at him, eyes filled with something between anxiety and awe, as her arms relax their coil around him. She trusts him enough to simply rest her hands on his shoulders as she admits:

"I... kind of don't know how we're supposed to do this."

"We shouldn't be doing this at all."

"Well we are, so... seriously, how?"

It's a good question, one that Sam hasn't let himself ask before. Does he want to have sex with somebody he loves and wants passionately, or does he want to try to describe how he knows he should feel to the person he thought of as his brother? Both is the answer, but he can't have both at the same time.

He presses his forehead to Dean's and shuts his eyes. Her scent, her warmth, her body—he has been allowed them tonight. Her mind and soul, of course, he's always had and always will.

"Talk to me, Dean. What are you feeling?"

"Like I don't want to talk about friggin' feelings."

Sam scoffs and admonishes her with a peck on the lips. Dean is still Dean, after all. That settles it.

"Then tell me what I should do to you right now."

"What's on the menu?"

"Everything. You name it." He kisses her again, deeper than before in every way.

Sam opens his eyes when she doesn't answer, after several seconds of waiting.

"What?" he asks.

"Never been this turned on by my little brother before. It's sorta... weird."

No kidding, Sam thinks. Dean's lucky she's only having this crisis now, apparently.

"What exactly are you thinking about?" he presses.

"I'm not gonna insult you. I know you don't need directions," Dean tells him.

He wants to protest, "I don't want to mess this up," but the part of him that does see this as Dean wants to live up to her expectations, to take care of her as if he knows what the hell he's doing. And he decides after a moment that he does.

With a slight tilt of his head, Sam signals for her to hang on to him again. He carries her to his bed and sets her down carefully, then joins her. On a single bed, they don't have many options, but Sam ends up sitting against the wall, Dean between his spread legs, her back to his chest.

"Can't believe you're the big spoon," she mutters, twisting to look up at him.

Smirking a little, Sam leans his head down to kiss her as he places his hands on her waist and savors the feel of her flesh. His hands slide up and around to her chest and he breaks the kiss after a couple seconds, partly out of the sheer awe that he's being given this. His fear that it would be an awkward, disappointing affair is disappearing quickly.

Dean's mouth opens to speak, but the words melt away when Sam squeezes her tits. He rolls her nipples under his thumbs and her breath comes out in a soft gasp.

"What was that, Dean?" he teases her.

"...You can keep going."

His right hand sneaks down, past where her child is growing, until he feels a hint of stubble.

"This what you want?" He pauses all stimulation to give her a moment to think.

"Yes," she whispers, spreading her thighs and hooking her ankles around Sam's. Trusting him.

With light touches, Sam explores the soft, delicate, relatively dry skin of her outer lips. She must have shaved completely bare not long ago, maybe in anticipation of this.

"Just my fingers?" He licks her cheek to remove any doubt Dean might have about her alternative. She actually makes a small sound in response, but recovers quickly.

"It's time they proved they're good for more than typing and turning pages."

Her sigh and the way she practically melts against his body are extremely gratifying as Sam's fingers meet the warm, slick folds within. She's hot for him, no doubt about that anymore. He takes longer than he wants to find her clit, but once he does, there's no need to ask about it. Dean moans and she clutches his thighs tighter, fingernails digging into skin as her body gives a single writhe.

"You like this, huh?" he remarks, pressing a kiss to the side of her head. It's strange doing that to someone with such short hair, Sam reflects. Especially Dean, but that goes without saying.

There's a slightly higher, sharper gasp when he adds a little more pressure.

"Sammy... Don't stop."

Sammy. No one calls him that in bed. No one is allowed to, period, other than Dean, and even that's been awkward since her transformation. It doesn't really upset him, he decides. It's simply a reminder of who he's with; it's right that she call him Sammy while he tries to show her how much he loves her in the strongest way he knows how to.

Quiet but beyond-blissful minutes pass. He doesn't know or care how many. Tonight he cares about Dean, about her pleasure, about her lips pressed against his, about the moans from her mouth and the deliciously wet sounds from where his fingers are working.

He's desperately turned on, his cock twitching and throbbing between them, but he's determined to take care of Dean first, learning what she likes best. No two people he's ever been with have been the same in what makes them quiver beneath his hands or mouth—to the right, to the left, harder, faster, softer, slower, simple back-and-forth, little circles, the rules changing completely if he moves his finger an eighth of an inch. Dean, without a doubt, is the most important person Sam has ever had the ultimate satisfaction of touching. He craves knowledge of everything about pleasuring her. If he could spend ten solid hours with her to get the answers, he would.

"Sam." Dean's voice has never been higher, her breath never more frantic. It's a shout at the volume of a whisper. Her legs try to close but she's locked herself into staying open to him.

"Close?"

"Yes-!" She's barely gotten the word out when orgasm overtakes her. Coming hard, she gasps while her body writhes, inadvertently grinding against Sam's cock. His head leans against hers, eyes shut, as he focuses on staying with her. Dean is letting him take care of her for once and he needs to make sure it's as close to perfect as possible, as long as possible. At the first sign of her muscles relaxing, he begins to suck her neck gently, the sudden sensation drawing out another moan and another roll of her hips.

Finally, Dean is left completely relaxed and limp. Sam lets her innermost parts be just as she lifts her hand to nudge him away. He smooths his hand up and down her inner thigh as her breathing returns to normal.

God damn, that was a beautiful thing to witness, he thinks to himself.

His second thought is him wondering whether she can sense how badly he wants to fuck her this very second. He needs it; he's panting, desperate.

Apparently she does, as just a moment later she pulls away and turns around to face Sam, knees dimpling the mattress.

"Allow me," she says. Before he knows what she's doing, she has his right hand pinned and her free hand is jerking him off expertly. Every stroke takes him nearer to the edge, sends pleasure throughout his body.

"Dean," he warns her, already far too close. Not that he really minds. The friction as she came, the anticipation, the thrill of being with Dean for the first time... and the affectionate look on her face right now. Sam has seen it before, in those rare unguarded moments between them where nothing mattered except that they were both alive and together. That's what he was looking for, he realizes. The walls between them have been torn down for at least one night and he feels like he's been reunited with Dean instead being left with of a version of Dean.

Heartwarming revelations aside, the waves of physical ecstasy are cresting. Sam shuts his eyes and tries not to groan too loudly as stripes of come coat his sister's fist. Dean gives him a couple more strokes and releases his cock just before it becomes too sensitive to touch.

That expression of love is still there when he looks again, a hint of the pure bond that Sam will only ever have with Dean. This is forever, he thinks, not completely certain what he's referring to.

"Um... wow," he says, for lack of a better way to articulate himself.

"You weren't so bad yourself, Sammy." Dean finds a tissue and wipes her hand clean.

They stare at each other for a few seconds before he cups the back of her head with one hand and pulls it forward to feel her lips and tongue against his once more, to share the exhilaration of how wrong this was coupled with how good it felt. And, more importantly, let her know that he loves her, more than anything. She tells him the same.

He's more than happy to let Dean rest against him after that too fades, arms wrapped around each other, heads resting on each other's shoulders. Sam strokes her back, both of them soaking in the calm heat of afterglow.

He feels no more guilt than he does when he hands a motel clerk a fake credit card, or collects a stack of twenties from someone foolish enough to think he was a drunken amateur pool player. And even that is inconsequential compared to what they shared.

Once they've had their fill of cuddling, they're overcome with sleepiness. Dean nods at her untouched bed on the other side of the room and raises an eyebrow. Sam nods, and with some fumbling and at least one minor act of sibling violence, they settle into the tiny bed, Sam closer to the wall and Dean once again the little spoon. She wraps Sam's arm around her shoulders and soon they fall asleep.

*

Now, the morning after.

Was it good? Sam asks himself, taking in the familiar, comforting scent of Dean's hair. Considering how bad it might have been—it was their first time together, on a single bed next to a wall, plus Dean had big-sister rights to merciless teasing if she were so inclined—it was fucking fantastic. They didn't have to go all the way to have good sex, as much as he'd like to, and they didn't need mind-blowing orgasms for it to be worth it.

The truth is, however, that no amount of good or even perfect sex will be worth it if this messes things up between him and Dean. Sam isn't even sure what he's afraid of, but it doesn't matter. This might not have been a mistake in the short-term, but only time can tell whether sleeping with his sister was the wrong choice.

His eyes squeeze shut, trying to escape: he slept with Dean. He slept with his sibling. How could he compare that to anything else he's done? The two of them are officially, objectively disgusting. It's almost a universal norm: you cannot sleep with your brother or sister. They just did, and fuck if Sam wouldn't do it again. He loves her and she loves him. He didn't think he was in love with his brother, but maybe he was. He tries not to think about that, the fact the only changes it took were Dean's body and his perception of Dean's gender for him to awaken those feelings. It raises questions he can't face yet.

By the change in Dean's breathing, Sam can tell the moment she wakes up. He watches the back of her head, waiting.

"Sammy?" she whispers, as if she doesn't want to wake him if he's still asleep.

"Hey," he replies.

There is a long moment of silence, except for the creaking of the pipes that heat their room, and Bobby's footsteps below them.

Sam can't glean his sister's feelings yet. He needs to know them before choosing to express his own. So he waits.

Breathing deeply, Dean rubs her hands over her face, muffling words otherwise spoken at a normal volume:

"...I touched my little brother."

His mouth is dry. Is she disgusted with herself? Him? Both of them? He doesn't know how to respond. He touched her; they both liked it. They should be able to communicate about that. But this is Dean. She probably wants to keep things light.

"Y- you're still gonna call me that?" he stammers out eventually.

He can sense her smiling.

"Nothin' I hadn't seen before, Sammy." She shrugs off his arm and sits up with her feet on the floor, the covers falling away from her. She continues in a sobered tone, "But you're right. You're an adult. Nobody forced you."

The morning sunlight streams through the window, highlighting her body. Sam props himself up on one elbow and looks at her. He's ashamed for ever having thought of her in terms of tits, ass, pussy, just physical things he wanted to touch. It's Dean. Dean is so much more than that, even when Sam is struggling to see the person he grew up with.

Nobody forced him, he thinks to himself. Well of course not. It was just him and Dean; Dean asked and he hesitated but after she pressed he said yes, and he's glad she did. Sam could have said no if he really didn't want to. ...He's pretty sure, anyway.

"So what now?" he asks, matching her tone. Like him, she's very conscious that what they did is generally considered wrong and gross, but he doesn't detect any serious regret.

Dean hears him but doesn't answer. She stands, still facing away from him as she starts to retrieve her clothes from the floor. It's not wrong to also enjoy looking at her ass.

Suddenly there's a muffled crash in the room under them and a shout of"Balls!" As serious as they were seconds earlier, the Winchesters can't help but exchange looks and giggle together at it.

"We get out there," Dean answers once they have straight faces again, "and we stop Cas from doing whatever the fuck he thinks he's doing. That's what's now."

Sam nods in agreement before getting up to collect whatever he was wearing last night. He doesn't say anything else until Dean is about to unlock the door so she can go shower.

"Hang on." He takes her wrist and she willingly moves closer to him. Hoping to spare the both of them from morning breath, he presses a quick kiss to the corner of her mouth.

She looks into his eyes with almost nauseating mock adoration.

"You're such a sap."

"You like it," he fires back.

*

Only a few short hours later, Dean receives a phone call from Ben. The worst phone call she could get, made even worse when she hears Crowley's voice on the other end.

Dean and Lisa were over even before the transformation, and considering what Sam and Dean have just done together, there wasn't much thought of them ever getting back together, if Lisa was even still interested. That doesn't change the fact that Lisa and her son mean a lot to Dean, and that she will do whatever it takes to save them no matter what her condition. Sam is as desperate to help Dean rescue them as Dean is to do it. They're too focused on that to feel awkward around each other.

*

The only qualms Sam has are with Dean's decision to wipe herself from Lisa and Ben's memories entirely. But she will not be budged, and she promises to break his nose if he mentions them to her again.

There is silence in the car for a few minutes after that declaration, as Dean presses a hand to her womb and tears roll down her cheeks.

*

It's around sunset when they return to Sioux Falls. There's little to do but wait for Bobby to come back from following up the H.P. Lovecraft leads so the three of them can figure out what their next step is. Castiel and Crowley are still going after Purgatory and Sam and Dean still have no idea how to stop them. Balthazar hasn't shown his face since taking them to where Lisa and Ben were being held.

They're halfway to the front porch when Dean stops.

"Sam," she says. She gestures to a grassy spot at the edge of the junkyard as if there's something over there to see. He follows her until they're both standing there on the patch of almost-green.

"What?"

Dean looks into his eyes, hers brimming with tears.

Then, without the slightest warning, she punches Sam in the face.

"What the hell, Dean?!" he shouts, stumbling back a step. He's positive he's said nothing about Lisa and Ben.

She goes in for another hit and he catches her by the wrist, only for her to break free and shove him back with all her might.

He hits the rusty chain-link fence and waits for an explanation from Dean.

"Are you gonna fight back or not?" is all she says.

"I don't fight pregnant women."

"We're not going inside until you do." Dean marches up to him and continues her attack, her pain and rage only getting stronger as Sam blocks her blows.

Next thing he knows, she's hit him with an uppercut to the solar plexus. He sinks to the ground, accidentally biting his tongue as he tries to stifle his cry of pain.

"Do you seriously think," he gasps through the pain, "you can make me hurt you? Risk hurting your baby?" As he spits blood from his mouth, Sam has a revelation more painful than what Dean is doing to him.

He pulls himself up, fingers of one hand clenching the metal fence, and takes a deep breath.

"You want to have a miscarriage."

"I can't have this baby. I shouldn't," Dean explains at last. "Even if I can make it another five months and give him to somebody safe, the Life will catch up with him. Look at what happened to Adam. Our blood is cursed, and he'll be cursed too."

"And your solution to this is get me to hurt you?"

"What am I supposed to do, convince a doctor that I want an abortion? I lie, Sammy, a lot, but I couldn't sell that to anybody."

Sam closes the distance between them with one stride and wraps his arms around Dean. He thinks about what's growing inside Dean, the potential nephew or niece just a few inches away from him. If Dean didn't want to have a baby, he would stand by whatever decision she made. He would help in whatever way she needed.

But she does want to have this baby. She does want to leave the future Winchester with a safe family and believe that they're going to grow up innocent.

Dean hugs back for a few seconds, then backs away and holds Sam at arm's length, gripping his upper arm. She's not tall enough to comfortably reach his shoulder the way she could before.

"I can't do this without you, Sammy," she tells him.

"I'm behind you, whatever you decide."

She shakes her head, sniffling.

"I'm saying, you've gotta be next to me. You need to want me to have this baby as much as I do."

"...I do," Sam answers. He's surprised at his swift answer, but it's true and he's not going to worry about what he's supposed to think and feel. "I want you to do this. For our blood."

"For our blood," Dean echoes. She moves closer to her brother again and they kiss, as if making a deal with the devil.

Chapter Text

Sam sometimes wonders if Dean ever gets tired of mullet rock but plays it anyway because she knows he's even more sick of it.

They and Bobby are cruising down the highway, the latter having gotten a phone call from Dr. Eleanor Visyak. All she said was that she wanted to meet at a certain location, but none of them are too optimistic about what she might have to tell them.

Dean turns the radio down slightly when the intro to Unforgiven starts to play.

"Sam, gimme your hand."

He offers his left hand and she places it on her belly like she hadn't been trying to end her pregnancy last night.

"Tell me you can feel that."

He shakes his head.

"I looked it up, Dean. It'll probably be another month," he tells her.

She sighs and shoves his hand away affectionately.

"Why are you so desperate for me to feel it kicking, anyway?" he asks.

Dean glances in the rear-view mirror at Bobby. Sam turns his head to catch a glimpse of a grave look from the old hunter.

"I'm not desperate, Sammy, I'm just excited. It's your nephew. Or niece," Dean answers before he has a chance to question either of them. She turns the music back up in time to belt out an incongruous, "New blood joins this earth / And quickly he's subdued..."

*

The three of them walk down the city alley, looking for Eleanor.

"Where is she?" Dean asks.

Bobby shrugs.

"She said to meet her here. I'll try her again." Bobby takes out his phone and dials. They hear a phone ringing from around a corner and head towards the sound. Eleanor is crumpled on the ground next to a dumpster, clearly hurt.

"El!" Bobby crouches in front of her.

"Hey," she says with a weak smile. "I guess I could've used your help after all."

"Just be still."

"What happened?" Sam asks.

"They took me. I got away." She opens her coat to reveal her blood-soaked blouse.

"Oh, Ellie, what have they done to you?" Bobby laments.

She chuckles.

"Everything. The demon I could've handled, but when the angel stepped in..." She trails off; Bobby turns and shares hard looks with the Winchesters before she continues. "I told him, Bobby. They have enough to crack Purgatory wide open."

"Tell me," Bobby pleads. "I need to know."

"They need virgin blood. That's a milk-run for them. And they need the blood of a Purgatory native, and, well, they've got plenty of that now."

"Have they opened it yet?" Dean asks.

The dying woman shakes her head.

"Tomorrow. The moon—an eclipse. ...I'm sorry, Bobby."

"No, it's okay. It's okay."

"I'm sorry, really."

"Tell us where they are."

She wants to speak, that much is clear, but the words don't come.

As numb as Sam and Dean are to death, it doesn't get any easier watching a friend pass. Bobby gently closes Eleanor's eyes after the final breath leaves her body.

"I'm sorry this had to happen," Castiel says, appearing behind Dean. He hesitates before offering, "Crowley got carried away."

"Yeah, I bet it was all Crowley, you son of a bitch!" Bobby shouts, ready to lunge at Cas. Sam and Dean put themselves between him and the angel.

"You don't even see it, do you?" Dean asks. "How totally off the rails you are!"

"Enough! " Cas says. "I don't care what you think. I've tried to make you understand. You won't listen. So let me make this simple. Please, go home and let me stop Raphael. I won't ask again."

"Well, good, 'cause I think you already know the answer."

The angel shakes his head.

"I wish it hadn't come to this."

Sam knows instinctively that something very bad is about to happen, but he's not sure what. Is Cas about to do something to Dean, to her baby? He tenses, ready to jump in the way if necessary.

"Well rest assured," Cas continues, "when this is all over, I will save Sam, but only if you stand down."

"Save Sam from what?" Dean demands, voice going almost as deep as before her transformation.

Then he knows exactly what's about to happen, and he's afraid, but he's willing to face it. Even if he weren't, there's no time to run between Cas disappearing and then reappearing next to him to touch his head.

He could swear he feels something crumbling inside his head as he collapses to the ground.

*

After absorbing a blue-white energy from his soulless self and having his memories restored, Sam needs to take a few minutes alone in the forest of his unconscious mind.

He remembers who he is, from his youngest years to when Cas broke the wall, and what he did without his soul. The sheer magnitude and number of cruel, heartless, despicable actions he took is staggering.

As is the lie Dean has been living ever since he awoke.

He dreads facing her again; he's not sure how he'll look her in the eye with the new knowledge, but he must do it. He needs to see her, the real her, and say something.

Without his soul, Sam was almost perplexed by the fact that his sister just stopped talking for days. The only time Dean was known to have stopped or nearly stopped talking was when their mom died—unspoken but common knowledge for those who have read their father's journal as many times as they have. He had no idea his actions would be so traumatic to Dean. He assumed she would be upset for a few hours, try to punch him probably, then get over it. It didn't seem like such a big deal to him; it was simply the most logical course of action to him.

Standing over "his" corpse in the dream-woods, Sam glances at his gun.

If someone else did what he did to Dean, he'd break a few of their bones, then hold them down to let her do the stabbing. Help her burn the remains and leave the ashes in sewage. All he can do is put a few more rounds into the body and try to tell himself that it wasn't him, just like Dean undoubtedly will.

But he's not Dean; he can't lie to himself and believe it. He knows exactly how much of the deed was his. He knows why he did it. He knows he could try to defend himself and that he shouldn't. He knows exactly how little forgiveness he deserves.

*

Sam takes a deep breath and opens the dream-door to Bobby's house. It's dark inside, with old white sheets draped over everything, lit only by dozens of tall, thin candles dotting nearly every surface. Gun raised, he creeps around corners until he gets to the kitchen. A man is sitting at a table in the center of the room, head bowed. There's a knife by his right hand.

"Hey," Sam says.

There's no response.

"Hey!" he repeats, more forcefully.

"Oh." It's as if the man hadn't realized he wasn't alone. "Hi, Sam."

"So. Which one are you?"

"Don't you know?" He stands, revealing a scarred and disfigured visage—Sam's own face. The scent of burnt flesh and blood hit just as the imagery sinks in. "I'm the one that remembers Hell."

Yes, he should have known.

"I wish you hadn't come, Sam," the broken man rasps.

"I had to. I'm here, right? Out there in the real world, I'm at Bobby's, aren't I?"

"How do you know?"

"This whole time, I've smelt nothing but Old Spice and whiskey. Figured if I could get back here, back to my body, I could... I don't know, I could snap out of it somehow."

"But first you have to go through me."

"Why?" Sam asks.

"Humpty Dumpty has to put himself back together again, before he can wake up. And I'm the last piece."

"Which means," Sam says, lowering his gun at last, "I have to know what you know. What happened in the Cage."

"Trust me." The other Sam cringes as if being assaulted from within. "You don't wanna know it."

The soulless Sam had said, "You think I'm bad? Wait 'til you meet the other one."  Sam is, oddly enough, inclined to believe him. As much as guilt hurts, the Devil had enough time to find out what torments might hurt him more.

"You're right," he says. "But I still have to."

"Sam, you can't imagine. Stay here, go back, find that bartender, go find Jess, find your brother, but don't do this. I know you. You're not strong enough."

What's terrifying is that this is coming from a man who literally used to be him.

"We'll just have to see."

The Sam-who-remembers-Hell sighs, shaking his head.

"Why is this so important to you?" he asks.

"You know me. You know why. I'm not leaving Dean alone out there." He can't leave her alone, either, not without telling her that he's- no, that would be a lie. There's nothing to tell her. There's literally nothing to say. He could beg her to tell him it's not true, but that's exactly what she's been doing for months.

As upsetting as the revelation is, as horrible as it must have been for Dean all these months, as huge as this is, there's nothing Sam can do or say. No matter how much guilt he may feel, even if she would accept an apology, it won't help his conscience to say he's sorry. If it would help her, sure, he'd say "sorry" a hundred times. But he isn't, not in the way that matters.

The other man walks slowly towards him. He picks up the knife and Sam defensively points his gun.

"I'm not gonna fight you." The one-who-remembers-Hell proffers the knife, holding it by the blade. "But this is your last chance."

Sam is scared; he won't deny that. Whatever happened in Hell broke this part of his psyche, made him indifferent to everything that used to matter. It's true; he can't imagine what horrors would bring him to this point, where he would urge himself to hide and abandon Dean. He's truly afraid to accept the memories.

But he made this choice ignorantly before. He chose Hell over killing his brother. He will choose it again over leaving his sister.

He takes the knife.

"Good luck," the other man says. "You're gonna need it."

Sam stabs his other self in the stomach, an instantly fatal wound in the world of dreams. Again, an essence, almost like bright, white demon smoke, issues forth from the dead body and enters him.

*

The next thing Sam knows, he's somewhere else, there's drool on his face, and his muscles are sore. He wonders if he was convulsing or seizing while he was out. Raising his head and looking around, he finds himself in the panic room, just as he suspected. Dean is nowhere to be seen, nor is anyone else. Next to his pillow, however, is a note with a gun on top of it. An address. That must be where she is.

Agony explodes inside his skull and his eyes smart as images and feelings and sounds hit him. Fire, blood, screams, torn flesh. Laughter. Hell.

It passes within a few seconds. Sam breathes deeply and gets to his feet. It's true; he couldn't have imagined what happened to him in the Cage. But he can do this, accept these memories. He has to; it's the punishment he chose as the man who set Lucifer free.

He needs to help Dean right now, that's what he'll focus on. And once that's done, he'll come to terms with what was done to him in Hell. And what he did on Earth.

Chapter Text

"Okay, run the facts by me again," Dean says. With no other cars in sight and the sun at their back, she's doing about ninety on this stretch of the highway.

"Beatrice, Nebraska," Sam replies. "Population 12,000. Seven people have died of 'unknown causes' and forty more are in the hospital, at least when this blog was updated. First glance, you'd think it was something for the real CDC. This guy says it's actually some sort of curse or witchcraft that makes the victim sexually aroused, except sex doesn't help. Nothing does. They just sort of fade away and die after two or three days."

Dean is intrigued, unsure whether to laugh or cringe.

"You mean they die of horniness?"

"Not from being horny, it's more like a symptom. Anyway, the guy doesn't know how it's spreading so he's urging all his local readers not to sleep around."

A remark springs to mind: "Then what're we doing there? Sounds like he has it all in hand." It's a nice subtle one. But these days she doesn't even laugh at her own jokes. Sam's soul is still in the Cage and their one hope of rescuing it—Crowley—has literally gone down in flames. They are back at square one—hell, they're beyond square one. At least before, Robo-Sam acted like he wanted his soul back. Now he just wants to do a run-of-the-mill job and act like nothing's wrong. Dean isn't even sure why she agreed to it.

"How does he even know all of this?" she asks. "Does he work at the hospital or something?"

"Doesn't say."

"Well anyway, I say we visit the blog guy first, then the vics."

***

Sam can hear Dean pleading with Castiel as he creeps into the lab. He takes a deep breath and descends the metal steps as quietly as possible. Not even Dean or Bobby can be allowed to hear him approach, because if worst comes to worst, he's the only one who can do what has to be done.

"Listen to me," she's saying. "Listen, I know there's a lot of bad water under the bridge, but we were family once. I'd have died for you—I almost did a few times. So if that means anything to you..."

Castiel stands there, impassive.

"Please. I've lost Lisa, I've lost Ben... and now I've lost Sam," Dean continues. She has her arm wrapped around her middle, like she's injured, or perhaps trying to cradle her unborn child. (Don't think about that now, Sam tells himself.) "Don't make me lose you too. You don't need this kind of juice anymore, Cas. Get rid of it before it kills us all!"

"You're just saying that because I won. Because you're afraid," the super powered angel replies, apparently still oblivious to the human behind him. Sam picks up the blade from the floor, asking himself how he's supposed to do this to Cas.

The answer is forthcoming when Castiel continues, taking a threatening step towards Dean:

"You're not my family, Dean. I have no family."

Sam can kill anyone and anything if it's about to hurt Dean. He stabs Cas in the back with every iota of strength he can muster, grunting with the force he puts into it.

And nothing happens.

Their once-friend simply pulls the knife out of his torso. Sam stumbles back, fearing for his own life almost as much as for Dean's.

"I'm glad you made it, Sam," he says, setting down the knife before turning to face him. "But the angel blade won't work, because I'm not an angel anymore."

What? Sam looks at his sister; Castiel turns back to Dean to explain:

"I'm your new God. A better one. So you will bow down and profess your love unto me, your Lord. ...Or I shall destroy you."

He stares at them all for a few seconds, waiting to see if they'll take the command literally, before Bobby speaks up.

"Well, all right then." He gets down on his knees. "Is this good, or you want the whole 'forehead to the carpet' thing?" He looks at the Winchesters. "...Guys?"

Sam and Dean each start to lower themselves. Sam isn't sure how he'll do it without completely losing his balance, but he doesn't have to.

"Stop," Castiel says. "What's the point if you don't mean it? You fear me. Not love, not respect, just fear."

"Cas..." Sam tries to say, hoping that somehow he can make a connection that Dean couldn't.

"Sam, you have nothing to say to me; you stabbed me in the back. ...Get up."

"Cas, come on, this isn't you," Dean tells him.

"The Castiel you knew is gone."

"So what, then? Kill us?"

"What a brave little ant you are. You know you're powerless, you wouldn't dare move against me again. That would be pointless. So I have no need to kill you. Not now. Besides... once you were my favorite pets, before you turned and bit me."

"Who are you?" Dean demands. Sam is barely registering the words flying around the room; he's fighting off a fresh wave of brutal memories. Dreadful, nightmarish things happening to his body...

"I'm God. And if you stay in your place, you may live in my kingdom. If you rise up, I will strike you down." Without skipping a beat, he changes the subject. "Not doing so well, are you Sam?"

"I'm fine..." Sam clears his throat and makes some eye contact with Dean. She's gone months acting like nothing happened; he can pretend too for at least a little while. He repeats for her benefit, "...I'm...fine."

She can see through it easily and accosts Cas despite everything he's just said.

"You said you would fix him—you promised!"

"If you stood down, which you hardly did. Be thankful for my mercy. I could have cast you back into the pit."

Sam is truly terrified of two things now, and Castiel knows both of them.

"Cas, come on, this is nuts! You can turn this around, please!"

"I hope for your sake this is the last you see me."

Castiel disappears.

At a loss, Bobby, Dean, and Sam look at each other. Then Sam feels something trickling from his nose—blood.

"Sam, you okay?"

He looks at Dean, wants to answer, but he has to shy away from the memories that come to mind when he sees her face.

Instead, the Cage. His eyes are full of flames.

He's not sure how it happens but his legs stop supporting him and he has to break his fall with his hands. His ears are full of his own screams though he doesn't think he's making sound.

Dean's voice is unintelligible but she's rushing to his side. His nose is full of smoke.

A large shard of glass cuts into his palm. His mouth is full of blood and broken teeth.

All he knows is that he can't tell what's going on around him. His skin is full of white-hot hooks and knives.

He might as well be in the Cage.

***

By the time they arrive in Beatrice, their blogger has, despite celibacy, "caught" the curse, along with over a hundred others. Though hospitalized, he's still lucid and eagerly tells them everything he knows once they admit to being "people who take care of this kind of thing."

But they leave the hospital with almost bupkis on the curse itself, despite Sam visiting every conscious male patient and Dean the females. It's spread through indirect physical contact; some items apparently can become cursed. They have no link between the two items they identified, a sweater and a simple necklace, aside from both being articles of clothing, and there's no way to know what other items might have been involved.

They do have a halfway decent lead, at least: the first two patients to die were in a relationship. Sam and Dean split up to visit the respective homes of the late Jordan Addison and Casey Pieroway.

***

Sam doesn't open his eyes at first. His head hurts and yet again he is in the panic room—he can tell from the lumpy mattress he's lying on.

The new memories spill into his conscious thoughts. Lots of bad memories. The Cage. Terrible, terrible things happened there, and he understands why his mind told him he's not strong enough. It would be easy to let the memories consume him, to wallow in them.

But there's more. Knowledge that he did horrible things on earth in the meantime, to innocent victims, to people he knew, to Bobby, to Dean.

Dean.

As disturbing as it is to admit, it isn't morally the worst thing he did, Sam reflects. That's how he feels, at least. However, it is the first thing he has to face and the only thing he will be facing—externally—every day for a long time.

He didn't do it to hurt her. He did it to save her and others—ironic, when it was the only time in Sam's existence that Dean's death would not have left him devastated.

That's no excuse. That doesn't really make it better.

It's as easy as two plus two. He shouldn't have done it. Dean said no; he should have respected that. There was no excuse, there is none, and there never will be.

"No excuse," Sam whispers aloud, trying to drive the point home for himself.

He is not allowed to think about the reason he did it or any other reasons he might come up with because there's too much danger that he'll start to justify it. He's already trying to, isn't he? Why else would it be such a struggle to accept the black-and-white morality of it? It isn't complicated, but part of him keeps insisting that it is.

He opens his eyes and sits up, rubbing away the pale crust around his eyes. Sam is sick to death of waking up in this iron room, even if the door is open this time. He's not sure how long he's been out but there's no IV in his arm so it couldn't have been more than a day or two. There's a nice clean bandage on his left hand, covering the stitched-up gash on his palm.

He wants to shower and heads upstairs to do so, but settles for a simple change of clothes when he hears a door open and close, sensing that it's Dean. It's not until he's approaching the kitchen that he realizes he doesn't know what the hell to say to her. She's going to keep pretending it didn't happen up until he looks her in the eye and tells her he remembers doing it.

She's leaning against the counter, sweaty and grimy and beautiful, sipping juice like she wishes it were beer.

"Hey Dean," Sam says.

***

Jordan Addison's studio apartment is an utter mess.

"Does this girl even own a closet?" Dean mutters to herself as she hunts for something relevant amongst strewn clothes, stacks of books, and towers of unwashed dishes. The EMF meter has its limitations; unlike with ghosts and demons, it won't go off unless it's very, very close to a cursed object, so the search is essentially going manually.

"Son of a-!" She slips on a small stack of magazines on the floor, dropping the EMF, and grabs a nearby shelf to steady herself. Her hand knocks over one of the several knickknacks lined up on it as she finds her balance.

God, this thing's ugly, she thinks as she rights the small ivory statuette. It's recognizable as a person, but the head is ridiculously small, the arms are stubby, and the rest of it would be obscene if it wasn't art. The thing's got a rack to rival Maxi Mounds, a pregnant-looking belly, and plenty of space between her massive thighs to show off exaggerated labia.

Dean's phone rings just as she gets the EMF meter back in her hand. It's Sam.

"Hey," she greets.

"Hey," Sam's voice says. "Casey was a witch. There's enough shit in his cabinets to teleport someone halfway across the country with the right spell."

"So you think he started this?"

"Let's just say... some sixteen year olds chug bottles of Viagra, and some witches change the words to a pagan spell to spice up their love life."

"You're kidding."

"I think he mistranslated a spell from this book he had, and then made a few of his own additions," he tells her.

"God, people are idiots," Dean sighs.

"I've gotta re-translate this whole page to figure out what he missed and how to stop this thing. Could use your help. ...You find anything at Jordan's apartment?"

"Nope. I'm going to call Bobby on my way to you, let him know we might need a spell for erections lasting longer than four hours."

***

Dean turns to face her brother. Her blue overshirt is open and loose, drawing attention to where her black T-shirt is stretched taut around her middle.

Sam can't let himself think about her being pregnant. What matters right now is just her and him. And the questions now in his head about her and what they've been doing.

"Wow, you're walking and talking," Dean greets him.

The look of pleasant surprise on her face gives him the strength to pretend things are normal.

"Yeah. I, uh, put on my own socks, the whole nine." He edges closer and settles on the end of the table a little stiffly.

"Well, that's uh..." Dean seems to be trying harder to act like her old self, who wasn't hormonal and didn't cry at the drop of a hat. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. My head hurts a little, but... basically," Sam lies, nodding. The memories of Hell are there and he has to pretend they aren't. And he doesn't know what the hell to say to Dean about what he did. She's obviously wondering if he remembers but afraid to ask, and he's afraid to answer.

"Seriously?"

"Look, Dean, I'm as surprised as you are but, yeah, I swear."

"Good! No reason putting a gift horse under a microscope, right?"

"Yeah."

How and why the fuck did she sleep with him, and touch and kiss him, after what he did? It doesn't make any goddamn sense.

" ...So what happened with Cas?" Sam asks instead of following the path his mind is setting. He suddenly can't remember much anymore aside from the failure to kill him with an angel blade.

"Why don't you come help me with the car, I'll fill you in?" Dean says, gesturing for Sam to follow her.

"Okay." Maybe while they're out there, he can ask some discreet questions, get some other answers. He pushes himself to his feet and heads for the door, but something stops him. A sound, something metallic, maybe chains clinking together, and another sound like laughter. He looks back into the living room; there's nothing there that should have made any sound.

Just as the faintest trace of a melody can bring lyrics to mind long before any conscious recognition, two insidious words enter Sam's head.

No. He was rescued. Dean went and got his soul rescued less than a week after he did the nigh-unthinkable.

***

When Dean joins her brother at the house of the recently deceased witch, he greets her with:

"It's supposed to be a fertility ritual."

"What, the thing that's killing people? Yeah, that's gonna make tons of babies!"

"When you mess with a spell like he did, it's not hard to fuck it up. This one is..." Sam searches for a word: "Bugged."

"What do you mean?"

"This spell, it's supposed to enchant just one specific object, and every person or animal who touches it gets cursed with an insane sex drive. They need to have sex at least three times before it'll subside, and even then they won't be back to normal until someone ends the spell. They'd start feeling weak and sick if they didn't do it within a day, but it wouldn't have killed them."

"Does it say how to end it?"

"We can't be a hundred percent since he changed it, but the original spell ends when somebody puts, uh, 'sexual fluids-'"

"Eww."

"-on the original cursed object and says this over it while burning it." Sam gestures to a boldly-lettered sentence in the book in front of him.

"Somebody as in anybody, or...?"

"Someone who was cursed but took care of it. ...Thing is, doing that only un-enchanted the cursed object. Anybody who'd touched it and hadn't 'mated' three times would still have to take care of that."

Dean thinks for a little while.

"So even if we manage to find somebody to do it, the people in the hospital are still up the creek unless they managed to get laid three times by the time they got to the hospital."

"Right."

Dean shakes her head.

"It's not good enough, Sam. We have to save all of them, not just stop it from spreading. I mean, how is it spreading, if there's only supposed to be one cursed object? How are there two that the guy never even touched?"

"The spell, done right, is supposed to affect animals, too. It hasn't been, as far as we know, because Casey changed it. Instead it's been sticking to animal products. That sweater was wool, the necklace had a leather cord. This idiot cast the spell on himself thinking he couldn't transmit it, but instead it's going from person to object to person to object."

"Great," she sighs. No wonder it's been spreading exponentially. Touching clothes, sharing food...

"Did Bobby have anything?" Sam asks.

"Not off the top of his head, but he's looking."

"Casey had a lot of spellbooks." Sam picks up two large tomes and hands them to Dean. "One of them might have what we need."

Dean takes a seat at the kitchen island and opens up the first volume.

***

Although Sam doesn't get a chance to ask the most pressing question he has, he gets lucky in that his sister doesn't make any advances for a few days. Dean is largely occupied with fixing the Impala—which is slow going with a pregnant mechanic—and the ongoing slaughter of those whom Castiel, AKA New God, deems to be hypocrites or anti-human in some way.

After the attempt to bind Death and compel Him to kill Cas, things are different. Dean learns about the hallucinations Sam has been having and she's a little pissed.

But seeing and hearing things that aren't there doesn't seem all that important compared to concerns about primordial creations being loosed into the world, and the fact that he sexually assaulted his own sister and then obliviously fell in love with her and slept with her.

"Dean, look, we can debate this once we deal with Cas," he says to her on the evening of the arranged lunar eclipse.

"Yeah, you know how I'm gonna deal?" she retorts. "I'm gonna stuff my piehole and I'm gonna fuck the hell out of my brother, and act like the world's about to explode, because it is."

Sam can't completely hide the feelings that evokes, the confused, negative ones. It can't be right for them to do this after what he did.

"Okay, I'm gonna have beautiful, emotional, tearful sex with my brother. Better?"

He's close, very close, to confessing the truth, but his sister has turned back to her laptop and she sees something notable.

"Hey." Sam goes to her side as she mutters, "You gotta be kidding me. 'Massacre at the campaign office of an incumbent senator by a trench-coated man.' There's security footage."

They watch the silent, monochrome video for a few seconds. Castiel looks up and grins maniacally at the camera.

"Well, I think reaching Cas is, uh, out of the cards," Dean states.

***

At least an hour passes before Dean notices something changing in her body. A sudden restlessness and a not-totally-unfamiliar sensation between her legs.

Ah, fuck.

This always happens to her! Whatever freaky-ass thing is going on in a given week always happens to her and never to Sam. She counts on her fingers the things she touched between the car and this moment. Doorknob, books, barstool, counter... none of those have fur or leather. Something earlier, then. At the other place?

Ivory. She fucking forgot to check it.

"Sam, I think I... might have found a cursed object."

He frowns and looks around.

"Where?"

"At Jordan's apartment."

"And you're saying this now because..." Sam tilts his head. "You're cursed?"

"That's, uh..."—her voice is going embarrassingly high—"the best explanation for how uncomfortable I am right now, yeah."

"...Dean, this is perfect." There's a sudden gleam in Sam's eyes.

In that moment, Dean understands some of the fear that women grow up with, the underlying assumption they are taught to work under, the messages constantly sent to girls that she was oblivious to for the first thirty-one and a half years of her life, things of which she only learned since her transformation. For the first time in her life, she is alone and vulnerable with someone who has both intent and the strength to carry it out. And she knows it.

But she'll pretend, because it's what she's good at.

"That better be sarcasm," she says.

"No, Dean. If you know what you touched, we can do the ritual."

"What, you fuck me? Absolutely not. You're my brother!" Her much bigger brother who has years of experience moving around and fighting in his body as opposed to her few months. If she can't change his mind, she doesn't have a chance.

"It doesn't matter if we're related, and you don't have to want it. You just need to let me do it."

Dean stares at him, the feeling of nausea rising to her throat. Would Sam really go this far?

"Did you plan this? Is this the vamp thing all over again except it's about you getting laid?"

"Of course not. I don't need to fuck you if you're not interested. But we're trying to break the curse, and this is the best way available."

She can't tell if he's lying, but it's irrelevant.

"No, it's not. Even if it works, which we don't know that it will, almost everyone else who's cursed is still going to die. And if we do have to do this, I am not having sex with you. Someone else, maybe."

"Where are you going to find a guy who understand what the hell we're doing-"

"There other other hunters with dicks out there."

"-and will get here in time to actually get the job done before the day's up? The clock's ticking, Dean."

She shakes her head.

"We'll find another way. We muddle through this like I hadn't been infected at all. We save all of them."

"What is your issue with having sex with me?" Sam asks, as if he really doesn't get it.

"Incest, for one!" she exclaims. "And- and-" Dean tries to think of something more practical than social mores since those don't work on Sam, nor her if she's being honest. "This body hasn't been, y'know... broken in. What if we need virgin blood later?"

"We'll just have to muddle through like you hadn't been turned into a girl," Sam deadpans.

Dean folds her arms, tucks in her chin for a moment before speaking again in a softer tone.

"You don't have your soul, Sam," she says, not sure if she's pleading or giving an explanation.

"So?"

Her issue is that she's never really had a problem with the idea of being with her little brother. If he ever gave indication that he wanted her, they might have gone there. Of course, Dean didn't have a body Sam is normally attracted to. But Sam isn't her brother right now and just because his body wants hers and she's wondered more times than she wants to admit how it would feel to touch his, doesn't mean it's okay. She can't stop him from fucking random strangers, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.

If they're running out of time and still have nothing, she'll find someone else, she decides. But only because Dean Winchester's death cannot be one that could have been avoided if only she'd gotten laid.

"Curse or not, us having sex is not happening as long as you're not really you. End of story."

"Dean, it's just for the spell. It wouldn't count."

But it would. Dean has had a lot of sex that "didn't count" or didn't mean much. But that could never happen with Sam. She could never touch her brother or let him touch her without it meaning something, because it would mean something to him.

"I said no, Sam. It won't save them, and I'm not about to waste an hour letting you fuck me when we could spend it looking for something worth trying."

She can see the wheels turning in Sam's head, like he's weighing the risks and difficulties in his head, what he has to gain, what setbacks will occur if he fails. Like this is just some hypothetical logic problem instead of about lives and committing incest.

Abruptly, his expression changes to something even more unreadable than usual.

"Never mind, then. We should still go back there and get whatever thing you touched before someone else gets their hands on it."

"I'll get it alone," Dean says, standing. "I might've touched something in the car." She leaves the room at a brisk walk, skin crawling under Sam's stare.

***

Even after Dean's declaration of futility, Sam stands in the middle of the scrapyard and prays aloud.

They have a way to fix things, get everything from Purgatory back to where it belongs, and all they need is Castiel's cooperation for a few hours. Death is making a whole damn lunar eclipse happen for them. He has to try.

But nothing happens. Maybe his sister is right, the world is going to end and they might as well eat, drink, and be merry.

Sam wonders what she's up to, as he goes back inside, and his question is quickly answered. Once the door latches shut she jumps him, pressing him against the wall and kissing him.

He shuts his eyes and simply lets her for a few seconds. What did he ever do to deserve her love and affection after what happened? How can Dean do this so easily? Is she just doing this to forget what he did? Was it really just about him having a soul? How does she accept his touch without flinching? Should he stop her?

He doesn't deserve this, that much he knows, and even if he went against his conscience and tried to have sex with her, he isn't sure he could do it. So he puts his hand on her cheek and gives a slight nudge.

"What, not in the mood?" Dean asks, still much closer to him than any sister should be to her brother.

He's overly conscious of her belly pressing against him, of the child between them that isn't just her baby. What is he supposed to think about that? He can barely acknowledge it, can hardly think the words. It's so disgusting he doesn't want to believe it. But it's the only logical conclusion to make.

"Dean, we can't waste time. We have to be ready if-"

"Sam?" a gravelly but weakened voice says next to them.

The Winchesters pull away from each other and turn to see Castiel sagging against the wall about four feet away from them. Speak of the devil.

"C-cas," Sam stammers in reply.

"I heard your call." He scrabbles for a hold on the woodwork to keep himself on his feet. "I need help."

***

Retrieving the figurine and returning to the house happens is over too quickly for Dean. Being sexually aroused near Sam isn't that a big deal. Being sexually aroused near Sam when he doesn't have a soul and he wants to fuck her is freaking her out.

"That's a Venus figurine," Sam says when he spies the ivory carving.

"Yes! Or... what- what is a Venus figurine?" Dean asks as she sets it down in the kitchen sink—no chance of Sam accidentally bumping it, and if they do end up having a reason to burn it, a sink is a good place. He's already put some 'kindling' in there—some blank scrap paper and a random worn-out towel from who knows where.

Sam gets up and stands next to Dean to peer at the statue, hands in his pockets. She moves about an inch to the side, but otherwise holds her ground. She said no, and he said never mind, so he won't. Even without a soul, Sam's not evil. Just amoral.

"I mean, this is probably just a replica," he says, "but Venus figurines are tiny prehistoric statuettes of huge women. Their features are exaggerated to emphasize fertility and abundance. They might represent goddesses or-"

"Nerd," Dean says, having lost interest. She glances in the general direction of the bathroom, wondering if getting off would give her some relief or only exacerbate the situation.

And that is when Sam strikes. The last thought Dean has before he coldcocks her is that he's smart to be wearing latex gloves.

Chapter Text

Dean wakes up with her hands tied behind her back and almost every scrap of clothing gone from her body. The legs of her jeans are knotted around her ankles, hobbling her if she tries to run. As it is, she's lying on the kitchen island counter, laid out like a sacrificial virgin.

She is one, she realizes.

"Sam?" she calls instinctively, forgetting briefly that he's the one person who isn't going to help her.

He appears, stripped down to his jeans. For a moment Dean is relieved to see him, her all-she-ever-needs mate-for-life partner. She shakes the thought from her head. The curse is messing with her. She wants to get far, far away from him right now. He's unbuckling his belt.

"What the fuck are you doing, Sam? I said no!" she yells, trying to wriggle off the counter.

"This is the best way, Dean." He stops what he's doing and pins her down with his hands. Even at that moment, she knows she'll never forget the feel of those gloves on her skin. "If you want to look for a way to save the others afterwards, I'm all for it. Let's just get this out of the way first."

"Rape? Raping me is the best way? You realize that's what you're doing, right? I. Said. No."

"You won't tell anyone," he informs her. "Because you won't want anybody to know it happened."

He's right, Dean thinks. She blinks away tears, knowing there's no way out of this, that fighting is pointless, but not wanting to give up. What if she starts to enjoy it?

"Why the hell are you doing this, Sam?"

"To break the curse." The gloves snap off.

"This is going too far. It's wrong, Sam. You don't have sex with somebody who doesn't want it to stop a curse from spreading—you don't ever do that! Everyone else who's already cursed will still die if we don't find something. We don't know for sure if this will even work! You could at least fucking wait until tomorrow!"

"We're only losing an hour or two of research time. We're either going to find a counterspell or we're not. If we wait until tomorrow, whoever gets infected between now and then is going to die if we don't find anything, and that will be on us. If we find something an hour later than we would've, it probably won't make a difference."

Although Sam has a logical point, Dean knows they will find a cure; she knows it like she knows she will get his soul back. So the answer is still no.

"Don't you fucking dare," she growls as Sam surveys her body, and slips a hand between her legs.

It's the curse, she tells herself, as the waves of relief spread with every touch of his fingers.

"You aren't wet enough yet."

"Fuck you."

"What, do you want this to hurt?"

"You're asking what I want?" Dean asks, tears suddenly spilling out. "I wanted you not to fuck me, but you've gone this far, so just finish the damn job! It doesn't matter what you do."

"I'm not trying to hurt you, Dean," Sam says, the words so hollow Dean feels sick. He doesn't know what hurting means. He doesn't remember.

She fucking hates him touching her; what she wants is for him to stop. She doesn't want her body to feel good about this. Of course she wants it to hurt when the other option is experiencing something she doesn't want to feel with Sam as long as he's like this.

Suddenly he pulls away and scoops up her entire body from the counter. He brings her to the next room and puts her on the couch on her back, her head resting on the arm of the couch. Dean briefly considers rolling off and trying to run, but it's hopeless. Sam grabs her denim-bound ankles and manages to slip under them so his body is trapped within her legs.

If Dean felt vulnerable before, there is no word to describe her now. She can't escape Sam, can't escape him pushing her thigh to the side with one hand and guiding his cock inside her with the other. All she can do is shut her eyes, wait, and wish this didn't feel so good.

If she doesn't want this, she doesn't want this, and it's bad of Sam to do it, but does that apply that to her? She would want this if he was himself. He isn't. It's nearly a stranger who's grabbed her hips and isn't letting go, for minutes and minutes until he readjusts his grip and his thrusts gain force.

It's almost one-third of the way over, Dean thinks. Sam shoves deep inside her one last time, giving a soft groan. She tries not to picture what he may look like as he climaxes.

It's not fair, Dean thinks as he pulls out with a slick, wet sound. She fucking hates this and Sam will hate this too when he gets his soul back. If he ever wanted this with her, he wouldn't have wanted it like this.

She briefly considers praying to Cas for help, but she can't stand for him to see this, and he's busy fighting a war anyway. Besides, the act of opening her mouth to speak seems beyond her. None of the defiant, snarky remarks that come to mind are remotely close to being voiced.

She inhales sharply when Sam starts to run his hands over her skin. He's just exploring her body, squeezing, groping, lowering his head to her neck to take in her scent.

It hurts to think of how she might love this in another case—being dominated, Sam tasting her skin—but now it's an abomination. She wonders if he's trying to make this better for her or if he's doing it for himself. Either way, he probably thinks he's being nice, she decides. He doesn't understand why Dean is saying no. He doesn't understand that sex with him cannot be cheapened like sex with everyone else is. The real Sam is different; he has one-night stands but only with girls that matter. It's not so much that sex in this body, with anyone, is special to Dean. But sex with Dean would be very, very special to Sam and she knows better than to take that away from her little brother. His soulless self does not. He's taking that away from himself.

Maybe if she had said all of that to Sam before he started he would have backed off. Probably not, what with his not wanting his soul back anyway. There's no point now. Another tear rolls down her cheek; she tries to squeeze her eyes shut tighter.

Just like she hoped he wouldn't, Sam starts to finger her again. It finally hits Dean that he's probably trying to get it up again faster. This hell will be over sooner if she doesn't fight his touches, as counterintuitive as it is to her. Let him do what he wants. He doesn't really give a shit how she feels.

"I'm going to make you come, Dean," he says. "Me fucking you might not count for the spell if you don't. Try to relax."

She does try, only because she needs this to end as soon as possible.

Suddenly there's a wave of genuine physical pleasure that Dean can't call anything else, and she whimpers.

How? How could she do that?

She can't help her body reacting to what Sam does, she can't help the fact that being tied up is a turn-on for her, she can't help flat-out wanting this with the real Sam, but really? What the hell is wrong with her that she can't keep herself quiet while being violated, that she can't deny Sam that satisfaction—if he's even capable of that emotion—when he's raping her?

When she can't take it anymore and opens her eyes, vision blurred with tears, she sees Sam's face. He's getting plenty of satisfaction, that much Dean can tell, and worse, it seems to be more than physical. There's no love or affection, but she can't shake the feeling that this does somehow mean something to him that his dozens of hookups in the past year and a half didn't. He's not even fucking her and he likes what he's doing to her.

All too soon, his cock hardens again. Sam starts to rub the head against her clit, which to Dean's surprise sends her into a fit of writhing. It feels so good, like the curse is making her especially crave the touch of the opposite sex. She can't stop herself from moaning as her orgasm takes hold, her sense of self-loathing also hitting a new high. He works her through it for a few seconds and stops abruptly. Before Dean can wonder why, he pushes inside her for the second time and starts fucking her hard while her hips are still cooperating against her will.

This time, there are a few muttered curses. Dean can't make herself look away. He was being so clinical about it before, it was as if it really was just for the curse. If he did the wrong thing for almost the right reason, she thought she could forgive him someday, even without his soul. But no, now he's taking for himself and Dean can't abide that. Her brother's body shouldn't take from her body like this, but she can't stop it and she doesn't know how to escape it.

It's over sooner than the first time, to Dean's relief. Sam makes a profane exclamation of pleasure as he finishes, then pulls out and simply lies on Dean for a few seconds.

Suddenly he wraps his arms around Dean's body and pulls her upright, maneuvering the both of them until he's sitting upright with Dean straddling his lap. His legs are still within the enclosure of Dean's legs and tied jeans.

Her arms pulse and tingle as the feeling comes back into them. Her wrists are still bound; Sam checks the knots before pulling Dean closer to him.

"We could have this all the time, y'know," he says to her. "I could get you dripping wet and desperate, no curse or anything, Make you come so hard and for so long, you scream. Every night, Dean."

She shakes her head and closes her eyes. Not with him.

"Fine. You still need to come two more times before this is over." Sam ducks his head down and passes his tongue over her nipple. Then he does it again and again.

Maybe in a normal situation she would get pleasure out of what he's doing, but now it's only adding to what the magic is already doing, giving her the agonizing need for full-out sex.

If she had any inclination to use words, she would be begging. It's on the tip of her tongue: please.

She doesn't. Instead she accepts his ministrations because there's no other choice. This monster who isn't Sam at all has her. She can't fight him and never could.

Sam pulls away and shifts both his body and Dean's until she feels his cock trapped between them. All he does is rub off against her, and Dean finds herself gasping and trying to spread her legs wider. It hurts, but she can't stop herself. The pleasure of climax isn't dulling the need to be touched and penetrated.

"Okay," Sam says. "Let's do this."

"Let's," Dean scoffs in her head. It's all him and the curse. At least, he's the one who made the decision to do it. There is one way she could take control and that's by joining in on it, by telling him to take off the bindings, and riding his cock. But she can't do that to Sam. She has to stick to her guns.

He pushes inside her once again, eliciting a sigh of relief. His thumb rubs against her clit as he fucks her, the other hand pulling her close, crushing their chests together.

It's been a long time since Dean had so many conflicting sensations—the tight pain in her head from crying herself dry, the pleasure coursing through her with every movement, the ache of her muscles from having her legs splayed for so long, the slipping and sliding of their bodies where the slick from her neverending arousal is soaking them both. Her little brother's scent, his pleasured groans, Dean's fear at what's going to happen in the next hours, days, months, and lastly the reminder that ultimately Dean means nothing, to anyone. It's not news to her, but it hurts a little when Sam's body is doing it.

"C'mon, Dean, you can give in. I know what you want to do right now. It's just the spell. We'll pretend none of this happened." Sam holds perfectly still, grasping her thighs with bruising force. He whispers into her ear: "Fuck yourself on my cock."

Never, Dean thinks. He doesn't understand and she sure as hell isn't going to try to explain it now.

Sam sighs.

"Suit yourself." He proceeds to suit himself, moving Dean's hips up and down for her. He informs her, "Y'know, if you were cooperating, this would be the best sex I've had since coming back. ...Shit." His every motion and sound becomes sharp and fierce. "You don't know how good you feel, Dean, fuck."

She can guess, at least. Between his tongue on her skin again and his fingers on her clit, he seems to be trying to convey some of it.

He doesn't care. He really doesn't care that he's destroying something that Dean doesn't even know what it is but whatever the hell it was it's gone now.

She's close to the edge again already. She wonders if Sam is doing this on purpose, trying to set up some crazy porn scene where they come at the same time.

Fucking sicko, she thinks.

For the third time, she's over the edge, whimpering and moaning. Like a whore, she thinks. She has no control over her body and it does what Sam asked, fucking herself on his cock. He lets go of her completely, leaving her at the mercy of her own orgasm.

He's right. They'll pretend none of this happened. That's exactly what she wants anyway. That's the only thing he's doing that she does want.

She doesn't mean to look, but as she stops moving she sees her brother's face contorting in pleasure. One loud expletive and suddenly he's both driving himself deep and shoving her hips down into his lap, physically hurting her for once. With each jerk of his body as he comes inside her, he groans, the seconds feeling like minutes to Dean before it's over.

Sam holds her body in his arms, doing nothing, saying nothing, not even pulling out. He's just... cuddling. Dean is at a loss to explain it.

And what the hell is she supposed to do when she finally escapes him? Curling up into the fetal position for an hour appeals, but it's not an option. People still need help, still need her and Sam. Working together.

Very carefully, Sam gets up and lays Dean down on the floor, and only then pulls out.

"Don't get up yet," he instructs, disentangling himself from Dean's legs and jeans.

Dean listens to his footsteps go away and then return. He's holding a small empty glass.

He kneels next to her and presses the cold rim between her legs. He guides her into a more upright position, and Dean chooses to genuinely cooperate for the first time, bearing down to squeeze out as much of her brother's come as she can.

It's a disgusting task even if it is only for ten seconds, made worse in a way by how utterly clinical Sam has become. He's not betraying any guilt of course but he's not acting smug or satisfied. It's as if he really did it just for the curse.

Why did he enjoy it so much, then? "Best sex I've had."

"You have to do the end spell," he informs her as he unties her wrists and ankles, then helps her to her feet. Dean almost falls when he lets go so he walks her to the kitchen sink, where they stand together like they did before.

"Put it on the statue, burn it, and say this," Sam instructs, setting the glass down and sliding a piece of paper in front of her.

Dean takes a deep, shaking breath and picks up the glass. Although she hasn't read Revelation in a couple years, Babylon the Great comes to mind, of all things. After a moment, she decides to just use her fingers to spread Sam's come over the statuette. She wonders if she throws up on the statue, will it ruin the spell?

Sam hands her a lighter; she fumbles with it half a dozen times before getting it to work. The "tinder" catches fire and soon the flames reach the top of the ivory figure.

Now she must speak.

Her mouth opens but she can't force the words out. Her vocal cords are working, but it's just too much to say anything.

"Dean."

The only thing worse than Sam doing what he did would be Sam doing what he did and Dean not using it for good when she has a chance. She doesn't have to say anything once this is over. Not until she's ready.

So she forces out the unfamiliar words in stunted syllables as a sick, dentist-y, burning teeth smell fills the air. A sourceless breeze sweeps through the room and Dean can tell the curse is completely gone from her body.

"How do you feel? Is the curse broken?"

She looks at him.

Sammy. It's been 27 years (and 4 weeks) since Dad put her crying baby brother into her arms. She tried to take care of him.

And this is where they are now. Standing naked in some witch's kitchen, covered in sweat and drying streams of all the wetness from her cunt, Dean's new body that she liked so much better than the old one now violated, Sam's innocent oblivious soul being tortured in hell while his body commits atrocities up here.

She does have to say one thing to him, she realizes. One sentence, and then she really can let herself hide in silence. Because there's one thing Dean can fall back on to save herself from falling to pieces. One part of her identity that she hasn't had to question. She limps over to the counter where a tome still lies open.

She puts a quivering hand on the page and gulps twice. When she speaks, even she can tell her voice is like a faint echo of itself:

"We still have to save them."

Chapter Text

It's been six hours since she put her clothes back on and pulled up a chair. They have nothing more on how to save the others than they did before Sam turned on her.

"We should get back to the motel before anybody shows up here," he says. He scoops up the volumes they've been flipping through and heads out to the car. He's completely ignored the fact that Dean's not speaking, probably assuming that it's just her being pissed.

She follows at a distance, uncertain if she'll be able to get into the car with him. It's not so much that she's scared of him as it is she doesn't want to think about what he did. A few hours away from him, some liquor, and she'll be all set.

Somehow, she slides in behind the wheel and starts the car. Driving makes her feel better, especially when it's green lights all the way through the center of Beatrice.

"Aren't you going to stop at a pharmacy or something?" Sam asks.

She glances at him. What is he talking about?

"You had unprotected sex while under the effects of a fertility spell. You do the math."

A mangled, deadly version of a centuries-old fertility ritual, Dean thinks. For all they know it comes with free birth control. Still, the idea of getting pregnant from what happened is revolting. Dean makes up her mind to go grab a morning-after pill as soon they take care of the dozens of sick people that still need help. She and Sam already lost a good hour and a half on them; she can't waste a minute more.

***

It's odd how even when there's so much at stake, and so much that needs to happen at a precise minute in time, they can still be left with nothing to do for minutes on end.

Dean and Bobby are in another room in the creepy laboratory building; Sam is alone with Castiel.

"Sam," the angel says from the floor, "I am sorry for what I did to you and Dean. I'm sorry I broke the wall in your mind."

"It's fine," Sam replies. "I'm doing fine."

"No, you're not. I would fix it if I could, but-"

"Don't worry about it, Cas."

He has an idea then, one that he knows is manipulative. He has to, though. It seems like as good a moment to ask as any. He crouches next to the angel.

"There is something you can do for me, though."

"What is it?"

"Cas, um... the father of Dean's baby... do you know who it is?"

Castiel seems uncomfortable, in a non-physical way.

"Yes, I know who the father is," he states.

At that, Sam loses his nerve and breaks eye contact. How is he supposed to ask this question when the thought makes him sick, for more than one reason?

"You're positive?"

"Yes."

"Okay, then. Is it-" Sam almost gets the question out, but he's not ready. He shakes his head a little and takes a deep breath. "Tell me who it is. Please."

"Dean made me promise not to tell you even if you seemed to know the answer already. Is that enough?"

Sam almost smiles. Dean knows his tricks. But really? Of all times for Cas to be a loyal friend?

"Can you tell me if I say it?"

Cas nods.

It's just one syllable, with the easiest consonant of them all, and a little inflection on the vowel. It's not difficult.

"Me?"

The angel nods again.

"I thought Dean would have told you by now."

"She thinks I don't remember not having a soul. But I do."

"Then you know that you and Dean agreed to commit incest in order to break a fatal curse."

The conversation wasn't supposed to turn into this. But Sam can't talk about it with anyone who dares think it was consensual.

"I forced it on her," Sam says.

Castiel's eyes narrow.

"You committed rape?"

"Yes." There. He's been accused and he's pled guilty.

Cas takes a moment to digest the information.

"But it was to break a curse?" he verifies. "You didn't rape her just because you wanted sex or to assert dominance?"

Sam shakes his head. Cas isn't the right person to talk to about this. He's a "the end justifies the means" type of person—that's why they're in this whole mess with opening Purgatory. And possibly why Dean didn't tell him the truth.

"That doesn't make it better. She said no."

"I suppose not," the angel concedes. "I'm sorry, to both of you. I didn't know."

Just then, Dean and Bobby come back into the room; Sam clears his throat and nods to Cas to indicate that the subject is dismissed.

"We need the right blood," the dying angel says. "There's a small jar. End of the hall, supply closet."

"Got it," Sam says, rising to his feet.

***

It happened early Monday afternoon. On Wednesday evening, Dean can't take it anymore. She throws everything into her duffel bag and puts it in the car before Sam even realizes what she's doing.

Of the 273 people known to be infected, forty-nine are dead. Twenty-four people in the hospital on Monday had an abrupt and sudden recovery. Although no one had developed symptoms since Monday, there were still 199 people dying. Most were semi-comatose and none had more than twelve, eighteen hours left.

They made no progress in finding a cure or counterspell. Not even Bobby had anything for them when Sam made a quick call to check in.

Physically, Dean already feels alright. She's a little hungry and thirsty, having had nothing to sustain her since before it happened, but the idea of food passing through her lips seems pointless. As does the idea of words. She can talk, but she won't.

Sam keeps looking at her like he's expecting a punch in the jaw or some other retaliation. Dean wishes it were so simple.

Almost two hundred and fifty people, dead. Yes, what they did saved a couple dozen, and stopped it from spreading, but it's not enough. Dean isn't enough. She helped save the world once but a now couple hundred are slipping through her fingers. Did what Sam do break something inside her? Did what he do change things for the worse? Or would they have failed no matter what happened?

***

It can't be true. He can't still be in the Cage. He can't still be trapped with Lucifer.

But there he is, Satan himself, a hand wrapped around Sam's throat and squeezing. And that was something Lucifer loved to do.

"You’re not real," he gasps out.

"Right. You think this fruit-bat fever dream is reality?" Lucifer refuses to let go. "You come back, I'm sorry, with no soul, like some peppy American Psycho, till Saint Dean—who's suddenly a hot chick and into you—glues you back together again by buying you some magic amnesia?" Finally he backs off, still remaining very much in control of the situation. He sums it up with: "You’re real. I’m very real. Everything between is what we call set dressing."

"No." Deny, deny, deny. This can't be real. He can't be in Hell.

"You’re still in my cell. You’re my bunkmate, buddy. You’re my little bitch, in every sense of the term. Sam. Sam."

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. There is no Lucifer here, just his brain trying to cope with almost two centuries' worth of Hell.

"Sam!" Dean touches his chest. Bobby is standing behind her. "You hearin' me?"

He starts at the abrupt switch in company. At least it seems he was right; the Devil is not here.

"Whoa," she says, trying to calm him. "Look at me. Hey."

He does look at her. Dean. Maybe not his brother, but Dean is standing there and she's worried about him. Bobby is here too but all that really matters is Dean.

"Let's go home, Sam, alright? It's over."

"Over?" he repeats dumbly.

"Cas threw himself into Purgatory," Bobby explains. "Didn't want to risk anything hanging on inside 'im."

Sam nods to acknowledge the news. As much as he hates to think of Cas being gone, it was the right choice. Who the hell knows what would have happened if those "Leviathans" were set loose on Earth?

***

The ultimate insult to injury comes when Dean can't open her mouth when they show up at Bobby's door and within ten minutes Sam is straight-up telling him what happened. He paints some picture of two reluctant siblings who chose to make themselves uncomfortable for the greater good, and Bobby is a little grossed out and very dubious, so he turns to Dean.

He'll take her word over Sam's. He'll say whatever Dean needs to hear to pretend everything is fine. She doesn't have to talk about it yet; all she has to do is shake her head no.

She realizes, though, if Bobby believed that Sam raped her—which is what happened, Dean reminds herself—he might seriously hurt Sam just out of principle. Her big sister instincts kick in at the last second, and instead of protesting she nods, looking appropriately embarrassed for someone who was infected with a sex curse and then let their own brother fuck them.

Though hesitant, Bobby buys it, and Dean can see her one chance of telling anyone the truth, ever, crumble to dust.

But also in that moment, she finds a new steel within herself. She'll get through this as long as she keeps telling herself the truth: it wasn't really Sam. Once Sammy has his soul back, the person who did it won't exist and the whole thing can just go away. It has to.

***

"I’m just saying, Sam, you’re out of control," Dean says as they walk towards the front doors of the clinic.

"I’m dealing with it the best I can," Sam answers. He's not sure why Dean is suddenly making all kinds of unsupportive comments, like she's trying to reinforce the idea that he can't function.

"Dealing?" She laughs. "Sorry, that’s just funny, I mean how can you deal? You think this is the local Planned Parenthood, right?"

She opens the front door and holds it for Sam. He passes over the threshold.

"Sorry. Wrong," Dean says as Sam's surroundings blink into something entirely different. He finds himself inside a large, empty warehouse, with rusted pipes along the walls.

"Where the hell are we?" Sam wonders aloud.

"Oh, you think I’m Dean! Right..." She smiles and then morphs into Lucifer. "You poor clueless son of a bitch."

Horror chills his body. He turns and starts to walk away, fast.

"Stay the hell away from me." 

"Your world is whatever I want it to be, understand?"

"Just leave me alone!" Sam pulls out his gun and fires in the general direction of his hallucination.

Then he's alone for a few seconds, until he hears a voice behind him.

"Now we’re getting there."

Sam whirls around, still aiming his gun.

"Pinocchio’s seeing his strings," Lucifer continues.

"Shut up."

"It’s the big crescendo."

"I said shut up!" He pulls the trigger again, only for the Devil to vanish and again reappear behind him.

"Want to point that gun at someone useful? Try your face."

You can't kill a hallucination, Sam thinks. You can't fight it, you can't do anything to it. It's in your head and you can't fight your own brain.

"Want to know the truth?" Satan asks, stepping closer. "Want to skip to the last page of the book? You know where to aim... cowboy." He holds a finger against the underside of his jaw and mimics the sound of a trigger.

Sam looks down at his gun, wondering if it's a valid option. The only way to fight his brain. It's not about that he's in the Cage—he doesn't think he is—but it's the not being able to live in this he-doesn't-know-what's-real world, where hallucinations and reality have equal footing. He can't stand the idea of turning into some drooling mess that Dean has to watch over and worry about for the rest of their lives, and he can't see any other future if this is how things are. That fake Dean seemed completely authentic; there was no physical reason to suspect that it wasn't really his sister.

Lucifer says nothing more; he just stands there, waiting for Sam to make a choice.

"Sam?" The door opens. Dean comes in, looking anxious. "Sam!"

Lucifer moves to stand next to Sam, except suddenly he's not Lucifer anymore.

"Oh look. Another me," Dean's voice says.

"Sam, what are you doing?" the new Dean asks as she approaches.

Sam doesn't believe it. He raises his gun at his pregnant sister and clicks off the safety.

"Whoa, whoa!" she yells, holding up her hands.

"I thought I was with you, Dean!"

"Okay... Well, here I am," she tries.

"No. No, I don’t, I..." He glances at Lucifer, who's studying him intently. "I can’t know that for sure. You understand me?"

"Okay, now we’re gonna have to start small."

Start small. Okay. How did he get here? He thought he was with Dean.

"I don’t remember driving here," he says, suddenly on the verge of tears. He must have driven here but he doesn't remember ever being in the driver's seat or touching the steering wheel. What if he didn't even take the Impala?

"Well that’s because I drove. You thought." Lucifer directs his next comment to Dean: "Sam is very suggestible."

Stop it! Sam thinks. He shoots at Lucifer yet again.

"Whoa, whoa! Sam! This discussion does not require a weapons discharge!"

If this is really Dean, Sam thinks, then this is his sister and she's pregnant with a baby she cares about very much. He needs to hold it together for Dean.

He lowers the gun slowly.

"Look at me," she says as she approaches.

God, how can he? There's undeniable, impossible-to-miss physical proof that he forced himself on her.

"Come on," Dean says. "You don’t know what’s real? Look man, I’ve been to Hell." Her expression hardens for a moment as she reminds Sam of a painful truth: "Okay, I know a thing or two about torture. Enough to know that it feels different. Than the pain of this- this regular, stupid, crappy... this."

Sam shakes his head. Not in his experience. The hallucinations and the reality are the same fucking thing. Even this could still be in his head. He might not even be in a warehouse.

"No, no. How can you know that for sure?" he asks.

"Let me see your hand." When Sam lifts up his right hand, Dean shakes her head slightly. "No, no. The- the gimp hand! Let me see it."

"Smell you, Florence Nightingale," Satan remarks from the side. Sam turns to look. It looks and sounds so real.

"Hey," Dean says, grabbing his left hand and holding it up. She locks eyes with him. "This is real. Not a year ago, not in Hell, now. I was with you when you cut it, I sewed it up! ...Look!"

She squeezes the wound; it stings. Sam sucks in air through his teeth and tries to push her away, but Dean catches the barrel of the gun, stopping his hand.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam sees the image of Lucifer flicker.

"We’ve done a lot more with pain," the hallucination reminds Sam.

"This is different, right? Than the crap that’s tearing at your walnut? I’m different, right?"

Releasing the gun, Sam extricates both his hands. Dean is right; something is different.

"Yeah, I think so."

"You sure about that, bunk buddy?" Lucifer asks.

"Sam," Dean says softly. "Sam."

Sam ignores Dean for the moment, just stares straight at the lie that's still talking to him. He pushes his right thumb against his wound until it bleeds through the bandage. The image of Lucifer flickers again.

"Doesn’t mean anything," it insists.

"Hey. I am your flesh-and-blood family, okay? I’m the only one who can legitimately kick your ass in real time," Dean tells him. "You got away. We got you out, Sammy."

"Sammy," the hallucination says urgently as Sam continues to shove his thumb into the bleeding mess. "Sammy, I’m the only one who can-" Lucifer flickers and disappears before he can finish the sentence.

"Believe in that!" Dean presses. "Believe me, okay? You gotta believe me. You gotta make it stone number one and build on it. You understand?"

He nods a little.

"Yeah, yeah, agree."

Dean looks relieved. She puts the gun away, ensuring the safety is back on, and then touches Sam's cheek.

"You are going to be okay," she says.

Maybe, Sam thinks. Now that he feels somewhat grounded, there's some reality that needs to be taken care of. Now may be the only time he's guaranteed of getting straight answers, because of what Dean just said. She won't try to deny things, won't claim she doesn't know what he's talking about.

"Dean, there's something I have to tell you," he manages.

"What is it?"

"I know."

Dean blinks a couple times.

"Know what?"

Everything. The date, the time, the address, how she begged, how she cried, how she gave up, the clothes each of them wore, the color of the sofa, the faint but permeating scent of air freshener throughout the house, a crack in a cabinet door, a stain on the wall, all the things he felt and all the things he didn't feel.

"About your baby."

Dean backs off, working her jaw a little. Sam feels like he's dying with every instant that passes without a reaction from her.

At last, she sighs as if simply exasperated.

"Who told you? Was it Bobby this time?"

Scrambling to save the illusion. If it's what his sister needs, Sam can someday pretend with her that she either consented or that it simply didn't happen. But not yet. He needs to look her in the eye with both of them acknowledging that it did happen and that Dean's baby could not have been fathered by any other man.

"Nobody told me," he answers.

Dean seems to shrink before his eyes.

"I remember it, Dean."

Her lips part, like she wants to say something but the words won't come. Instead, she turns away, shuddering.

Chapter Text

As much as he wants to take Dean into his arms, Sam holds back. The truth is out in the open.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you before," he says after a few moments. "I just... didn't know what to say to you. I still don't. Would 'sorry' even mean anything?"

She turns back around to face him, chin up and shoulders back.

"You don't need to be sorry. Say whatever you would say if you were possessed or- or under mind control, or whatever. It wasn't you, Sam. I know you. You're not even capable of what he did."

Of course he isn't capable of those actions when the other person is telling him no. Sam is pretty sure, at least. But Dean doesn't realize what he's capable of thinking and feeling.

"If nothing else, Dean, I watched you being raped, and it..." Sam trails off and exhales. "I'd never seen you like that. You didn't talk for days, you couldn't even say anything when I lied to Bobby."

Some of her bravado fades.

"It wouldn't have made any goddamn difference."

"You still should have told him."

"Why, so Bobby would shoot you? I'm not even sure where he would've aimed."

"What, and he wouldn't have been right to?" Tears form in Sam's eyes. He is at a loss. Even his soulless self violating Dean can't change her instinct to protect him. What the hell is he supposed to do with that? No one should be that protective of anybody.

Dean is an idiot and martyrs herself, and Sam can't stop loving and needing her, neither she him, so much that it hurts.

"I'm sorry." He shouldn't be accosting her, telling her what she should have done when she was traumatized. His pain cannot get tangled up with hers. "I can't imagine what it's been like for you."

"I'm fine, I've been fine. So we're going to bury this," she states matter-of-factly. "My baby is your niece. It doesn't matter who the dad is, or if I wanted it when it happened. She's family, I want her to have a life, and I still need you next to me."

"I'm there," Sam promises automatically. "But you need to explain one thing to me."

"What is it?"

"Us sleeping together. I know we didn't go all the way, but..."

"We both wanted to. That's all that matters."

"That doesn't make sense after what I- after what happened."

"It doesn't have to. The past is in the past. You have a soul, I want this with you now."

"So it won't, I don't know-"

"What, give me flashbacks? No. Like I said, I'm fine, Sam. I mean... you're right, it messed me up. It was a shitty day. But I'm over it. You're not him."

It's the same damn thing as it's been for the past week with his hallucinations, Sam realizes as they leave the warehouse. He thought he was managing it and he told Dean he was. She thinks she's managing this. Maybe she is, but not even Dean Winchester can just "get over" what she herself admits was horrific. Not in the two weeks between the rape and him waking up with his soul, not in the four months of pretending, 24/7, everything was fine since then. The other shoe will drop, and Sam's going to have to be ready for whatever Dean needs from him when that happens, whether it's his attention or his absence.

*

With Cas gone, Sam only knows of one other person who knows even part of the truth about Dean's baby.

He finds Bobby outside working on an old Ford. Dean has gone off to her "20 week ultrasound" which apparently is a big deal. Sam managed to excuse himself from accompanying her.

"You alright, kid?" Bobby gestures to a wrench, which Sam hands to him.

Sam watches him work for a few seconds before answering.

"There's something you should know. Something I lied about when I didn't have my soul."

The old hunter pauses.

"This have something to do with Dean and you breaking that curse?"

Sam nods; Bobby sets down his tools with a sigh.

"So. What really happened?"

"I think you already guessed. She never agreed to it. I hurt Dean. Do you really want to know more?"

"You gotta tell somebody."

How is Sam supposed to confess to someone when he's not even sure what he's sorry for? He's not sorry she's alive; he's not sorry they halted the curse when they did. By extension, then, does he actually regret the steps he took to make that happen? Knocking her out, tying her up, ignoring her pleas, bringing her to tears? Would he choose for all of those things to happen again if the alternative was Dean's death?

"I can't..." There's too much. He doesn't know yet what he needs to hide and what he needs to say aloud. His voice grows thick with the tears glazing his eyes. "With or without a soul, I never would have touched her. I only did it to break the curse. But doing it at all makes me a monster. And how I did it... Anybody else, I'd kill them."

The old hunter looks at him seriously. Bobby doesn't know how deep it goes, and Sam can't imagine telling him the whole truth, but he understands enough. He can accept that it was Sam, to a degree, who committed the crime against Dean.

"Monsters don't feel bad, that's what makes 'em monsters," he informs Sam.

It's a comforting idea, one that Sam needed to hear. But he wonders how not-bad he can feel before he is a monster.

"So, you knew?" Sam asks after clearing his throat.

"Dean was hiding somethin' that week you were out cold. Hoped I was wrong, but after what you'd tried with me, wasn't that much of a leap."

Sam cringes, remembering how close he was to murdering Bobby. Symbolic patricide to keep his soul out.

"I'm so sorry, Bobby."

"Don't worry about it, kid."

There, Sam thinks. He apologized to someone he wronged; they knew he was truly sorry; he was lucky enough to be forgiven in this case; and he feels a little better. If only what happened with Dean could be so simple.

"I need you to do me a favor," he says.

"What is it?"

"Make sure Dean is okay. She told me she was over it, but... I don't know whether to believe her." Sam scoffs: "She hasn't been able to drink in almost five months and I don't know how else she'd deal with this."

"I'll talk to her."

"Thanks, Bobby."

Sam turns back towards the house, but stops dead in his tracks. Lucifer is standing right in front of him.

"Why even bother, Sam? You know you broke her and it's just a matter of time before you see the cracks. She'll be okay again around the time you stop seeing me, which will be, hmm... never."

He squeezes his hand until the hallucination flickers and vanishes.

*

Now Sam knows what he must do. Bobby offered a fraction of absolution. It was as much as he dared hope for.

Of course only Dean, the victim, can pronounce Sam forgiven, but she never will. Even if he wanted to hear it, she can't give a meaningful "it's okay" as long as she believes he wouldn't condone it. She thinks it wasn't him. She clings to that.

He can't be the one to destroy that illusion. He can't take away whatever sense of security Dean may be getting from the idea. He can't make Dean hate him, because she will hate him for that.

He can play the part Dean needs. He can pretend his only problem is guilt over the physical actions and Dean's psychological injury. Dean will continue to insist his innocence until he "believes" it himself; Sam can fake that journey, for her.

*

"Really, Dean?"

"What?" she asks, stretching.

Sam gestures to her nude body. Dean slept naked last night and this morning she's practically parading around the room to tempt him. Well into the second trimester, Dean's hormones are apparently out of control and her horniness is almost reaching an irresistible level for him. He's not sure yet whether that's a good thing. He glances at the door. Locked.

"Come on," she says. "We've only, y'know, been together that one time and you didn't even fuck me. We have needs."

Needs, yes, and wants, and emotions. Is it selfish that Sam has become so touchy about the subject of sex between them when Dean's the one who got hurt in the first place, and she seemingly has no problems with it?

It's not what she thinks it is, but either way he feels like he's withholding something she deserves. If Dean truly wants this, then he should at least consider it. He still wants to show her that he loves her as much as he loved the old Dean. Her body is still beautiful and perfect and desirable; her very spirit is still the complement to his. The problem isn't really that he remembers raping her. In fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. It's just...

It. He dreads physical contact with that one part of Dean's body. He hid it well during that first week, but since that night in the warehouse, his aversion has gotten stronger. Acknowledging, to Dean, that he knew who the father really was only made it worse.

Dean's baby has lost some of the personhood she has been pushing since the beginning. It's a genderless fetus again, like a parasite, growing inside his sister. After dozens of snide comments from Lucifer about it, there's little left but resentment. It's far more than the hallucinations, though. The foreboding feeling he's had since long before they even crossed the line between siblings and lovers is there still, and the crux of it is now what is in his sister's womb.

There are grating words trying to pierce his thoughts, words like unhealthy, weak, sick, and freak. Words he isn't ready to think about yet.

Regardless of his misgivings, his body is interested in Dean's invitation.  Sam wonders if this is what it was like for her to be cursed, for her to feel lust against her will, for her to have the choice to fulfill those urges with someone she might have wanted under other circumstances.

She had that choice taken away. By him.

He remembers a disgusting thing he said while he was raping her: "If you were cooperating, this would be the best sex I've had since coming back." He wasn't lying. It would be difficult to top how he physically felt that day. The emotional aspect now available to him will more than make up for it. Just not until he can stop thinking about what's inside Dean.

It's almost funny how the thought repulses him yet the concept won't leave his head, how the knowledge runs laps in his mind but his brain doesn't allow the words to pass through his consciousness: Dean is pregnant with...

"Sammy." Dean's voice cuts through his thoughts as she approaches him. "Don't think about what happened. I want this now ."

Maybe later, he won't fear the idea of having enjoyed hurting her more than doing what she consents to in the present, but right now it's unacceptable. For the time being he'll have to let her think he's afraid of hurting her or giving her flashbacks.

"Part of me does, too-" Sam rolls his eyes at her smirk and glance downward as he stands. "Shut up, not just the part you're interested in. I still want this, with you, but not right now. I'm sorry."

"You don't need-"

"Yeah, I do," he says, moving close enough to kiss her lips.

"We could just make out," she suggests when he pulls away.

He can't help but smile.

"Nice try, Dean. Haven't used that one since college." With a step to the right, he unlocks the door to indicate that he won't be seduced, yet. It's too sharp a contrast for him. Wanting to feel the body of the person he loves, to pleasure and cherish it, and then revulsion to the part of her that carries proof of his actions, a reminder of what he did and what it means.

Near-hate for the literal embodiment of the worst of him cannot be mixed with his ineffable need for Dean.

*

Another two near-celibate weeks pass before the next bombshell.

The moon is bright; there are raindrops on the windows of the Impala from a passing shower. Sam's hallucinations haven't bothered him much in the past twelve hours. He feels pretty good, even considering he's been living a lie constantly and the truth is slowly killing him.

"Sammy, I've got a confession to make."

Sam turns his head and waits. He has no idea what Dean is going to tell him.

"I tracked down that kitsune. I mean, Amy."

His breath catches. No.

"I didn't kill her," Dean says. "I was going to, but when it came time, I hesitated. She got away."

The full implications are sinking in and Sam has to contain his fury.

"Why'd you hesitate?" he asks, carefully modulating his voice.

"I kind of get it. You're right, I'd do the same," Dean shrugs. "She never wanted to go that far, but she had to, for her kid. If I wasn't almost a mom myself I wouldn't've gotten it. ...I'm actually kind of surprised you did." She sounds impressed, but she might be accusing him of something.

Of course she would be surprised. But Sam doesn't understand it from a parent's point of view. He only got it after Amy explained why she had to go against what she believed in to save her son and he realized that he had already done the same, in a way.

It's falling into place now. What he did to Dean was wrong, by any sane standards. Satan himself has taunted him for it. ("I don't get inside anybody without a yes. What does that make you, Sammy?") Hell, if Sam had had a soul it would have been physically impossible with her pleading against it. He simply couldn't go against Dean's wishes.

So, he can't justify it. Despite that, he doesn't regret it happening the way it did. He was right at the time, because they never did find a way to save the others. They would have waited eighteen, twenty hours. It was spreading exponentially; dozens more would have gotten infected in that time. Most would have died.

Sure, if he'd had a soul, Dean probably would have said yes. He's guessed at the reasons behind her refusal. But it's not about what his sister would have said yes to. It's what Sam would do even after she said no. God help him, deep down he knows he'd do worse if Dean's life depended on it. Worse than what he already believes is a crime worthy of a death sentence. He wouldn't feel good about it; he would dread the consequences, but he'd still do it.

Sam doesn't know what to call that other than evil, and Dean's growing body does nothing but remind him of that.

He went too far. So did Amy. Neither of them want to do it again. Sam won't have to. As for Amy... he left her with a warning. Dean probably did too.

He chooses to address the issue at hand:

"You lied to me when you said you were going to trust me. You were going to lie about killing my friend."

"It's not wrong to kill a monster. It would've been the right thing for me to do. She did kill people, Sam. I just... it wasn't wrong to let her go, either, I don't know!"

"Alright, fine," Sam answers after some thought. "So how am I supposed to believe you the next time you tell me you're trusting my judgment?"

"Sam, this is one time."

"No, actually, it's not. You lie to me every day for months at a time," Sam snaps. "You decide to 'protect' me from things because you don't trust me to be able to handle it."

"Well, can you?"

"...What are you talking about?"

"You find out that some other not-really-you-you did something to me. You realize whose baby it is. And suddenly you can't look at me or even really touch me. Does that sounds like 'handling it' to you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Dean sighs and pulls the car over to the side of the road. She turns it off; Sam tentatively reaches to switch on the interior light.

They blink at each other, adjusting to the sudden brightness.

"Sammy, your niece is the same as she was when you said you wanted her."

He doesn't answer. She's right.

"Thing is, I made you promise that so if you found out who the dad was before I gave birth, you'd stick it out with me."

"What are you trying to tell me?"

"I shouldn't have done that. If who the dad is matters to you, it matters. So... clean slate. We can forget what we said."

Suddenly released from his vow, Sam gasps softly, as if someone's been cutting off air and only just now allowed him to breathe.

"Sammy, look me in the eye. Tell me, honestly, that you still want her."

As she asked, Sam meets her gaze and holds it. His mind is racing, oscillating between what he believes is the truth and what he is certain Dean needs from him, terrified that he'll be lying no matter what he says.

Chapter Text

Sam's lips part before he knows what he's going to say. He can't abandon her when she keeps saying she needs him by her side, but it makes him a hypocrite to withhold the truth to 'protect' Dean. His answer tumbles out before he knows it:

"No."

It's as if Dean hadn't even considered that he may say no. She recoils, speechless.

"I do want the same thing as you, Dean. For our family to get out of the Life. Just not like this. I can't tell you what to do, but you want my opinion, right? ...You don't give birth to an inbred baby just to-" Sam is cut off when Dean clocks him. It's not that bad; he takes the pain without more than a grunt as he checks for blood. Message received: don't use that word.

"She is not inbred, and there is nothing wrong with her!" Dean shouts at him.

"...Alright then, it's your turn. Look me in the eye and tell me that she's like any other kid, that there's nothing different about her."

"Everybody's different, Sam."

"You know what I mean."

"There's nothing that couldn't happen to any other kid."

"...You gonna share with the rest of the class?"

It's like Dean put up a wall between herself  and Sam. It's a stiff silence before she turns the key in the ignition to start the car. She puts the radio on, loudly, to stop further attempts at conversation.

Sam wishes he could take back what he said, but he meant every word. Dean can never know the other reasons behind it, but it doesn't matter. Even if he didn't hate the sight of Dean's body reminding him of his darkest side, even if he had no idea that it hadn't been consensual, he wouldn't want her to give birth to his child. He wouldn't even want to wait for them to perform tests. He would never choose for the child of a brother and sister to be born.

But it's not his choice.

Suddenly there's a voice speaking over the music:

"Dean said she can't do this without you," Lucifer reminds Sam. "If you tell her to end it, she'll let you do whatever has to be done. She probably won't even cry as much as she did when you got her pregnant."

Nausea rises in his throat, but Sam's not sure if it's because of what the hallucination said or because he almost wishes it were true.

*

A day later, Dean throws a creased pamphlet down on the table next to Sam with some muttering about a doctor giving it to her, then leaves the room before he can say anything.

Phenylketonuria . He takes a few seconds to sound it out in his head.

Without treatment, a person with "PKU" will suffer brain damage, ultimately leading to severe intellectual disability, mood disorders, seizures, and even physical conditions like microcephaly and hypopigmentation. For starters.

Avoiding that fate sounds simple enough. The body of a phenylketonuric can't metabolize a certain amino acid. If kept on a strict diet to avoid foods with high amounts of phenylalanine, it won't build up and won't cause damage. The individual can live a symptom-free life.

However, the restrictions of the diet are staggering. Sam isn't anywhere near as hedonistic an eater as Dean is, but he can't imagine not eating meat, fish, legumes, nuts, or dairy. That's practically everything. Even he doesn't like eating salad all the time. Aspartame is to be avoided as well, the artificial sweetener found in all sorts of processed foods, from soda to medication.

All Sam can think, as he continues to read the pamphlet, is that she's probably going to feel like a freak. Only one out of fifteen thousand people have PKU. Thousands of other men could have gotten Dean pregnant and this particular condition wouldn't have occurred.

It's caused by a recessive gene, which is enough for Sam to guess how it happened. Either Mom or Dad must have carried it and happened to give it to both of their children. When Sam chose to break the curse, knowing full well that he was impregnating her in the process, one in fifteen thousand became one in four.

"And that's why you don't fuck your own sister. You thought you were a freak, but your little, um..." Lucifer tilts his head and smirks. "Rape baby, she has it even worse."

Dread fills him, dread for the painful childhood and adolescence Sam is imagining for her. He wouldn't love an otherwise wanted child any less for having special needs, no matter what kind, but he won't actually be in her shoes. His feelings won't protect her.

"She'll be adopted, because her real parents didn't love her. She won't get to eat normal food unless she wants to be retarded. She might be fucked up in other ways that you don't know about yet, since we can't be sure how long Dean was drinking for two. And kids can be so mean, you know?"

When he's done reading the pamphlet, Sam goes upstairs to look for Dean. She's not in their bedroom and he finds himself drawn to the bureau where he knows the two ultrasound photos are. He hasn't even looked since the day she came back with the first one.

The second one is on top. From almost a month ago now, it shows Dean's daughter (she hasn't called it a he in a long time) at twenty weeks.

It looks more human-shaped than before. In profile, its face is far more defined.

This came from him. Dean has done all the work, given up her body for this (why, though?), but it needed him to start.

Maybe, if he stares at it long enough, he'll start to feel an attachment to her. Maybe he'll be able to think of her as his niece instead of just experiencing anguish and guilt.

The urge to tear the photo into pieces is sudden and strong, but he doesn't do it.

"You should've punched Dean in the stomach when you had the chance," Satan whispers in his ear. "No freaky baby, and you wouldn't have to face who you really are inside. That part of you that's so grateful you had the strength to do what had to be done."

Sam drops the photo on the floor in his haste to make the voice stop. After the hallucination is gone, he takes a breath and picks up the paper again, rotating it to the correct orientation for viewing.

There is a sliver of familial instinct, what he dares to call paternal instinct, that's growing to be a stake through his heart. She's going to be different and there is nothing he can do about it.

Maybe she'll like being different. Maybe she'll thrive on things like uniqueness and standing out. But chances are slim. The world is cruel to anyone who doesn't fit the mold. There's no way that PKU is the only thing that came of her being inbred—and yes, he's going to use that word for his own child, because she is.

He feels a chill as he realizes he just thought of it—of her— as his.

Mine.

He puts away the pamphlet and photo and slams the drawer shut. There's the goddamn connection he was looking for, the connection that Dean is hoping will change things. Makes sense that it would take the realization that she's going to be different. How could he expect to father a normal child?

*

Food. Dean has always loved food, and now that she's pregnant and she can't drink, she's eating for more like five.

"You're bleeding us dry," Sam says, signing the receipt.

"Yeah, that Mr. Reynaldo Alvarez is gonna have a hell of a bill this month," Dean replies as they leave the diner.

"If we're going to stick around Sioux Falls until you have your baby, we need to have some honest income. Or at least sustainable dishonest income."

"You're not going to get a job, are you?"

"Do you like being a freeloader at Bobby's?"

"What I don't like is staying in one place. And... getting some normal job? That's not us, Sam. I'd rather get back on the road, whether we're hunting or not, and hustle pool."

"You can't pretend to be drunk."

"No, but I am a pregnant woman. Nobody will see me coming."

"Dean, everybody can see you coming." Sam side-steps an indignant kick. "We can't just go road-tripping, whether we're hunting or not, when something could happen any time."

"You mean to my baby? What happened to you not wanting her?" Dean asks, leaning against the car. Sam stands on the other side next to his door, as he has for many of their tougher conversations. He rests his forearms on top of the roof, folding his hands together.

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Then how did you mean it, Sam?"

"I meant... I wish she hadn't happened. But she did and you chose to carry her. You love her, so I have to take care of her. I owe it to you and to her."

Dean huffs.

"You didn't do it, Sam. You don't owe either of us."

"I'm still the father," he answers, letting the sentence hang for a few seconds. It gives him a sort of sick thrill to say it aloud. "Maybe I don't want her, but I have to take responsibility for my blood the only way I can."

"You're her uncle. You don't need to think of her as more for her to be blood."

"I can't pretend I don't remember how she happened."

Dean stares into the distance for a moment. She doesn't see that her brother is trembling.

"Do you hate her because you think you're not allowed to love her?" she asks.

"What?"

"'Cause you are. Allowed to, I mean. I'm the only person who can tell you whether it's okay to be happy or excited about this baby and I'm telling you yes. And yeah, it's fucked up because of how I got pregnant, but she's your niece. It's okay."

"How am I supposed to be happy when I'm scared she's going to feel like a freak her whole life?"

"You lived."

Sam just looks at her with a dubious expression.

"Okay, you never died of feeling like a freak."

"Some people do. I'm not saying it'll be that bad for her, but it could be, and we already know she's going to be... unusual. I don't hate her, but don't ask me to be happy about the last thing I want for any kid." With that, Sam opens the door and gets into the car.

Long seconds pass before Dean joins him.

"Give me your knife."

"Why?"

"Just gimme."

Sam hands his pocketknife to her. She takes it and carefully makes a cut on her palm. After a moment she returns the blade, then smears her blood on the back of Sam's hand.

"When we patch each other up after a bad hunt, we get a lot of each other's blood on our hands. And we've gotta wash it off afterwards."

Sam nods, understanding. Dean's blood is not filth, because it's Dean's. There's a faint sense of betrayal when washing it away.

"You can't imagine what it's like to carry your blood inside me, Sam," she explains, resting his palm on her belly. "It would take a lot for me to give that up."

Now would be a perfect time to feel the baby kick, but no dice. It hasn't developed a sense of melodrama.

Maybe he can make himself forget why he hates to see Dean's pregnant body. Not all the time, but once in a while. It should go both ways, shouldn't it? Dean loves and wants her daughter because she's half Sam. Sam should care about her because she's half Dean.

He could, he thinks. He could stop thinking of all the bad things she is and think about the good things. Half Dean. That's a very good thing.

Slowly, he moves closer to his sister. She turns her head and allows him the shy kiss he presses to her mouth.

"I love you," he says.

"I know." She pulls him closer, her unmaimed hand tangling in his hair while the bloody one clasps with his. They kiss until they have to stop for breath.

"I'm gonna need another cold shower," Dean says.

"How about a motel room?"

She brightens.

"Backseat works, too."

Sam shakes his head.

"We're not sixteen. We're getting a fucking room."

*

As discreet as he and Dean have been, Sam can't shake the feeling that Bobby is aware of what they did and he will know if they do it again. He's definitely going to know if he finds out they spent the night at a motel.

Whatever, Sam decides. There was no way they could keep it a secret from him forever. This might be easier.

Those and other troubling thoughts fade once the door is locked behind them.

Sam looks at the large bed in the center of the room. It's always been "two queens," never "king." He almost can't believe they're doing this.

Dean is already stripping down; Sam follows. He forces himself to look at all of her for a few seconds, to accept that her being pregnant doesn't mean he can't enjoy the here and now. Maybe it should, under the circumstances, but Dean is insistent and Sam is only human.

As they kiss and touch each other's skin, he allows her to walk him over to the bed. Let her be in control, no matter how contrary it is to his usual instincts.

He sits on the edge; Dean in his lap. Her stomach presses against his but he finds it easier to ignore when he can touch the parts of her that he's actually attracted to.

"Do you want to ride me?" he whispers in her ear.

"How about you lie down so I can show you what I want?"

Sam does so, shuffling back to lie in the center of the bed. Dean wastes no time in lowering her head to his cock, licking up and down the shaft before wrapping her lips around him.

"Dean..." Tentative at first, he rests his hands on her head, not to control her but to feel more of her. What he really wants is her in his arms as he thrusts into her, but that won't be for a while, not until he's positive that she'll be able to enjoy it as much as he will.

It's unfair—in his favor but unfair nonetheless—that he should be experiencing this when Dean doesn't know the truth. Her consent is not informed, and that makes this wrong. He's letting it happen because he's a coward when it comes to this. She might still want to be around him and even be with him like this if she knew the truth, but the alternative reaction frightens Sam too much. He'd rather die than live life being hated by Dean. And he'd rather be guilty about making love with her than risk that fate.

After not-nearly-enough minutes of bliss, Dean pulls away.

"Answer's yes, by the way."

She turns around and moves backwards until she can take his cock in hand and position it underneath her, sink down on it.

"Dean," he sighs again as her body envelops his cock. "Dean."

The only answer is a soft moan as she begins to move. It's so good but Sam wishes he could touch more of her, that all of her was in his arms and he could just silently love her and every inch of her. Dean deserves more than just physical pleasure; she deserves to feel the utter adoration Sam has for her, but instead she's far away. All he can do is rest his hands on her thighs.

He lets himself thrust up into her with abandon, secure in the knowledge that she can stop and get away from him at any moment. As she shows no signs of hesitation, he reaches around to the front of her to find her clit. She helps him place his fingers just so, until she's whimpering every time he plunges into her.

His language becomes coarser as he approaches climax, and he gives in to his more possessive urges at the end, grabbing Dean's hips so she can't move while he gives a few final, frantic thrusts before coming inside her.

Dean lets him pull out when his cock becomes too sensitive.

"C'mere, c'mere," he murmurs as he urges her to lie down on his chest. She obeys and seems glad to let him fondle her breast with one hand and rub her clit with the other. Within a minute she's crying out in pleasure, back arching, hands squeezing his flesh.

As they each come down from their highs, Dean moves to lie next to Sam, happily allowing him to put an arm around her.

She is amazing—awe-inspiring, in fact—he thinks as he drifts off to sleep. She's doing so much to support a growing human inside her. Devoting herself to that task even when nobody else thinks she should, and she can still do everything else. And still be beautiful and desirable. She's powerful. She's more , she's greater .

Dean is heroic, and her daughter will never know.

This isn't quite right, Sam realizes. It shouldn't be a revelation for him. Somehow, he forgot that Dean always used to be his hero. As if he forgot who she is.

*

It's an unusually hot day, even for May. The windows of the car of the car are open, though, and the breeze is nice, if loud.

It's not so loud that Sam doesn't notice a sharp gasp, though. It makes him more concerned than he should be.

He rolls up his window.

"Dean?"

"Where do you think the nearest hospital or clinic is?" she asks, voice unusually high.

"I don't know," he answers, finding the roadmap and opening it up. "We haven't passed anything but roadkill and a couple gas stations for the last fifty miles. The next place on the map isn't for... another forty. Dean, what the hell is going on?"

"My water broke."

"What? You can't give birth now! You're not even six months!"

"Well thanks, Mr. Obvious!"

Dean pulls the car over to the side of the road, coming to a gentle stop before putting it in park and turning off the car. Her voice is terrifyingly calm.

"Sam, she was kicking a lot a couple minutes ago, and now she's not. She's not kicking at all . What does that make you think of?"

He swallows hard.

"Could be suffocation."

"I don't know if she's suffocating because I'm in labor, or I'm in labor because she's suffocating, or what, but we have to do something."

"What do we do?"

"You do everything I tell you to do. Don't ask questions, don't argue, just do what I say no matter what."

"Okay."

"No matter what, Sammy. ...Okay, I'm gonna get in the back seat. You- I don't know, clean your hands, put on some gloves, find the sharpest knife you've got."

Sam does what he can to obey. Without thinking much about it, he removes his belt. Dean will probably need to bite down on something, no matter what's about to happen.

She's lying on the back seat, bare below the waist, feet flat in front of her. She's checking her phone.

"No service," she says, and tosses it on the floor. "You're on your own. You're gonna be fine, Sammy. You've got this."

Does he? What he sees terrifies him.

"God, I think I see the cord."

"That's not supposed to happen. Cut her out of me, now."

"Dean, I don't know how, or where-" Maybe in movies when somebody has no clue how to deliver a baby, everything turns out fine and all they have to do is fucking catch it, but Dean isn't nine or even eight months pregnant, and god knows what complications are going to arise from performing an emergency C-section.

"You will do as I say, Sam. If her cord is pinched, she can't breathe, so you cut me open, you get her out, you stitch me back together and drive us to the nearest doctor. Now ."

Chapter Text

Hesitation could be life or death. When it comes to suffocation, seconds matter, but cutting too deep or in the wrong place could kill the baby before Sam even touches her. Dean herself could die from blood loss or infection.

He's spurred on by the knowledge that if he doesn't do everything exactly as his sister says, and her daughter doesn't make it, it will be his fault.

"Where do I cut?"

"Just do a line, down the middle. I think." She traces a vertical line over the curve of her belly.

"You think," Sam repeats to himself, almost whimpering. Neither of them know what they're doing. He finally remembers that usually it's a horizontal cut, down low, but he won't question Dean now. Do what she says, no matter what. He gives her his belt. "Here."

"I have to tell you what to do."

"Well bite down when you can!" he shouts, fear and frustration coming out as anger.

"Just make shallow cuts," Dean instructs, lifting her shirt out of the way and clutching it tightly

Now he only nods, pulling the rubber gloves on. Drops of sweat are already rolling down his neck. Dean and her baby are depending on him and he can't imagine how he can save both of them, whether he obeys or not.

He makes the first cut, ignoring Dean's muffled cries as her skin splits apart because he has to. She needs him to do this. He has a responsibility to his sister, and he has a responsibility to the child he helped create. Her life didn't even begin but he still has to save it if he can. Dean needs him to; she's counting on him.

The scent and sight of her blood—her consecrated blood—make him feel sick. He has to make another cut, and then another, and it's just hell. Blood everywhere, muscles tearing, Dean is crying out in pain and forcing herself to remain still as she's cut open with nothing to dull the pain—not even fucking whiskey. She's putting her life and her daughter's into Sam's ignorant hands and all he's done so far is hurt her.

He has to stick his fingers into the nauseating, gory mess to spread her flesh wider, give himself room to keep going. It will never end, there will just be more and more of Dean's body to mutilate, and for what? To rescue a fetus that may already be dead?

Suddenly there's a gush of clear fluid from the slit. He's made it.

The pained whimpering through the leather clenched in Dean's teeth is easy to translate: "Get her out!"

He sets down the bloody knife, wiping his brow against his sleeve before laying his hands on his sister's butchered body again. Still fighting nausea, he reaches in with one gloved hand—it's very warm inside the womb, and even more amniotic fluid spills out—and gently pulls out what he finds. The prolapsed umbilical cord disappears from view as he carefully frees the fetus from the now gaping wound on Dean's belly.

The hairless creature fits entirely within his two hands, almost in one hand. She's so small!

Sam's entire world shrinks to her size, along with all of his hope and optimism. They didn't have much of a chance to begin with, not with her being over three months premature.

The first thing that makes his heart sink is the color of her skin, underneath all the bright red blood. Bluish-purple, the way lips turn blue after swimming in cold water for too long.

"No, no, no," he whispers to it.

There's no wriggling, no kicking legs, no waving arms. He wipes the fluids from her mouth with his little finger, the only digit that will fit in the orifice.

"This can't happen. You can't just-"

There's no squalling, no sharp crying. There's only a limp, unmoving thing in his hands.

"You can't be dead."

Sam can stitch up deep gashes, set a broken limb, suck poison from a wound, remove a bullet, and a dozen other things, but he can't help an unborn baby. Not even Dean's. Maybe doctors could, but he can't.

He thinks of one thing that might save her, but she's simply too little. She's smaller than a child's doll, and if her lungs are even developed enough to accept air, she's simply too fragile for Sam to risk hurting her with some kind of infant CPR. And what if it somehow did work and she did stir to life? Would she even live long enough for him to give Dean a couple stitches and drive to some place that can save her?

"This isn't supposed to happen. Just come back, please!" He cannot accept this. He cannot bear the failure that surrounds him, but there is no way for her to live, for her ever to have been fully alive in the first place. Maybe some angel or God Himself could help, but this very moment there must be a thousand other fathers, better fathers who are better men, praying to a higher power to save their daughters from certain death, and their prayers will go unanswered. Why would or should anyone hearing him bring to life a literally misbegotten child?

"Come on-" Sam realizes she has no name and that makes it all the worse. He can't beg her to do anything without a name. His mind runs into a wall; no endearment or moniker is acceptable.

He glances at Dean, who's nearly unconscious from losing so much blood. Her life can still be saved but Sam is frozen in place. He can't do anything until- god, the baby still has no name. There's no word that defines her, or is it that she needs a word or name to be the definition of? What is she, who is she?

"Mine," Sam whispers. That's it, that is who she is, whatever else she becomes or never becomes. He's known it and said it and even felt it before now, but never so deeply and irrevocably in his heart. "You're mine, and you have to live."

His voice shakes, and he's babbling, but he keeps telling her:

"You're mine. You are mine." As a tear rolls down his cheek he gets an irrational idea that she only died because she had no name. If he gives her one she won't be dead. But he can't just give her any old name, so this will have to do and if there is power in names then there is power in what Sam feels. "You're mine. It's wrong of me, I know, but I don't care. You're mine and that makes you a Winchester. We don't always do things right, but we don't give up. We don't quit, and you've been so strong. You're supposed to live."

She was never supposed to happen, Sam remembers, but he doesn't care. He won't try to take back his thoughts and words from before, but neither will he take back these feelings now. She is his, for better or for worse. She's his shame, a manifestation of a horrific secret. But she's also something good, something important and precious. Something Dean, something as important and precious as Dean. Something he cannot lose.

"Please. You're my..." he tries, as if saying certain words will change the fact that her little heart—can't be much bigger than a quarter—stopped beating before he even touched her and it will never beat again. As if speaking the truth for once will bring her back. And what is the truth? "You were going to be- you are my daughter. Even if I can never be your father."

The only thing she does is grow cold in his hands.

Twice resented by Sam for no faults of her own. A dozen times forced to endure things that never should have happened to Dean's body, from monster possession to soul-touching. She was cursed from her very conception. She has a right to quit, almost. And it's what Sam wanted, isn't it? He didn't want there to be a baby born of any union between him and his sister; now there won't be. She never even drew breath. The end.

But holding a lifeless daughter in his hands, it only hurts. After all, she was his.

*

In the dark motel room, Sam wakes up with a gasp, heart pounding in his chest.

"Sammy?" His sister is stirring awake, naked in his arms.

God, no, Sam prays in his head. That can't happen.

"Um... just a bad dream. 'M'fine." Sam feels his way down Dean's side to her stomach, fingertips brushing over where he sliced her open in the dream. No scar, no nothing. Just smooth skin, interrupted only by her navel. He shuts his eyes and simply breathes for a few seconds. He never thought he'd be so scared of losing her, even before he knew the truth.

The nudge against his palm at that moment is an unexpected sensation.

"...Did she just kick?" he asks.

"You felt that?" The question is posed softly but the utter jubilance in Dean is plain as day.

"Yes. Wow..." All the fear is gone, replaced with surprise and relief.

"It's awesome, right?"

"Yeah... yeah, it is."

Not the way she means, he thinks. He is in awe that there is a tiny human developing inside Dean; he is not filled with overwhelming happiness.

On the rare occasions in the past when he imagined having a family, having kids, he assumed feeling the movement of his baby for the first time would be a moment of absolute joy, of the greatest satisfaction and love. He'd also assumed that the baby would be the product of a consensual union with its mother. The emotions are absent, as they should be since the latter is false. Dean may have given him permission to be excited and happy about her baby, but as an uncle and nothing more.

He doesn't think he feels love for her; he doesn't want to. He still wishes she had never been conceived. But she was and there's no turning back now. He can't imagine anyone less than a father could feel the utter devastation he just experienced in his dream. Only a father could wake up with the panic he just did, with the need for reassurance that his child is still alive.

And, thank god, she proved that she was.

"Good timing," is the first thing he ever says to his daughter.

"What?" Dean asks.

"Nothing." Sam kisses her shoulder. "Go back to sleep."

He smiles into the pillow as the baby kicks again. She's still alive. She's giving him a chance to make things right before they give her to normal parents who will give her a good life.

Despite that, the word from the dream comes back. A feeling neither bad nor good takes over when the nerve endings in Sam's palm are greeted with those kicks from the tiny thing inside Dean.

Mine.

*

In the morning, Sam wakes up before Dean, his hand still splayed over her body. He waits a good five minutes for the baby to kick again but apparently she is also asleep.

"Well aren't you chipper today. Made some revelation last night about your rape baby, huh?" Lucifer says once Sam gets out of bed.

Yes, he did. She's still what she is.

"...You even have a name for her." The hallucination sounds judgmental.

Yes, he does, even if he has to keep it secret.

From now on, he must embrace her existence because the other option has become inconceivable. He never wanted her, but now, after everything, he can't bear the thought of her not living.

"You love your daughter, you love your daughter," the archangel taunts in a sing-song voice.

No, he can't allow himself to do that. Not with the way she was conceived.

It hurts to recognize the parallel, but he's come full circle. There was an animalistic, evolutionary instinct he felt back when he didn't have his soul. He coldly analyzed it all the while, finding it fascinating at the time how his body wanted Dean's more than other bodies. Dean was his—his partner, his mate, whom he had to sexually possess and pleasure because the selfish gene favors males who bring their females to climax.

And now, the resulting offspring is his and she must be protected. She must live. Even if he has moments of resentment in the future, and he doesn't doubt he will, he will do his best to keep her safe and alive. Some of that, perhaps nearly all of it, is again prehistoric instinct.

"At this rate, you won't want to give her up when she's born."

The imaginary archangel is already being incessant today. Sam squeezes his hand but even on a conscious level the thought is nagging at him.

He understands his own father better now. John Winchester felt the best way to protect his sons was to teach them how to defend themselves from what went bump in the night. After all, as far as he knew his wife was ignorant of the supernatural, and she died.

If they're careful, Dean's baby can be left with nice normal parents and probably never have to worry about being killed by monsters. Thing is, Sam and Dean's entire lives are based on the fact that not everybody can defend themselves from monsters and demons and ghosts.

He's not sure if protecting his daughter means leaving her vulnerable in the unlikely case of her encountering something, or teaching her how to defend herself and ultimately forcing her to live the life he tried so hard to escape.

It's ridiculous and against what he and Dean believe in, but it's easier than it should be to imagine: Dean keeps her daughter. They don't tell her who her father is. It'll be tough but they stick to the special diet and she grows up as healthy as she can. They teach her how to stay safe from monsters, how to defend herself. Never will they tell her that she has to be a hunter. Somehow she gets out and goes to college.

Impossible. It can't happen. Sam shouldn't even allow himself to think about it, nor the name that has been hers since he woke up this morning. It's perfect for her, until he thinks about how utterly fucked up it would be if he named Dean's daughter. She of course belongs to Dean far more than she belongs to Sam. Dean made the choice to keep her; Dean has done all the work. All Sam did was rape and impregnate Dean, resent the baby, and even now refuse to fully recant those negative thoughts. He can't help it, though.

Mine.

*

It's crazy to be working a job with Dean, a solid twenty-seven weeks pregnant, but here they are. The stars aligned and somehow it was a sensible thing to do.

"Bobby just called me," Sam says, speaking into the phone as he drives. "He says it's the Egyptian god Osiris. He, uh, weighs the guilt in people's hearts, and ices 'em if he finds more than a feather's worth."

"Well that explains it."

"I'm heading to Neal's Tavern now, try to figure out if he chooses his victims there and how."

"I could do that," Dean volunteers.

"I think pregnant women in bars is generally frowned upon. It might be harder to get people to talk to you."

"No, it'll just keep guys from hitting on me."

"Just stay with Warren," he tells her. "Keep him inside that salt circle."

"Okay, whatever," Dean sighs. "Let me know what you find."

*

"Sorry," Sam mutters as a bar patron bumps into him. Not that it was actually his fault, but he'll dismiss the event.

As he approaches the bar, making final decisions about his cover story, he spots the bartender, and she is pretty damn hot. An unattached Dean would have been physically unable to not flirt with her. Himself, well, soul or not he would have had zero issues with it. As it is, feigning interest is not Sam's first choice but it may be the most efficient thing to do.

She notices as he sits down and immediately turns his attention to him.

"Hey," she greets with a smile that's a little more than friendly.

"Hey." Charm it is.

"What can I getcha?"

"Whatever your favorite beer is."

She has a pint in front of him in the blink of an eye.

"So, do you work the night shift?" he asks before taking a sip.

"Why? Plan on making this a thing?"

"I wish," he answers after a slight pause. He goes for 'wants to flirt but has to be professional.' "Actually, I've got a few questions. I'm with the FBI, believe it or not." He pulls out his ID, aware that she might think he's just saying that.

"...I can believe it," she nods. "You look like you've seen some shit. Sorry, but I was off all week. But Frank'll be back tomorrow."

"Right... Thank you." Sam maintains some lingering eye contact, hiding his disappointment.

"You're welcome. I'm Leah, by the way."

"Sam."

"Let me know if you have any more questions," she says before stepping away to attend to another patron.

For the sake of authenticity, Sam watches her as he sips his beer. Yeah, she's hot, but she's not Dean. Dean is now the only person he will ever truly want, even if right now he's glad to take a few extra minutes away from her. Even though he can sometimes forget about the baby and everything it stands for, once in a while the guilt crashes down on him.

Guilt.

He feels guilty. He's atoned for many of his sins with his centuries of Hell, but there can be no forgiveness for an ongoing vice. It might not be guilt over a death, but it is guilt over a life. He could be perfect bait for Osiris. He could go on trial, and have at least a little time after it's over to find a way to kill the god. Between him and Dean, they can figure it out.

So he's a guilty man in Neal's Tavern. He's starting from the same place at least two of the other vics did. How does a being that goes after guilty people find his targets? Can he read minds, sense emotions? Something they touch? There might just be small tells that give it away. The bartender knew, in seconds, that he's been through a lot.

Hell, maybe it is the bartender. Gods disguise themselves as anyone from Gandhi to Paris Hilton in his experience. Except Leah wasn't the bartender these past few nights, so Sam isn't going to find much if that's the case. He supposes if he gets abducted and sentenced to death he'll know it wasn't Frank.

It might be something as simple as eavesdropping, Sam decides, so it's time to play the part of a sad drunk who spills their life story to the first person who'll listen.

"Actually, Leah, tell you what, I'll have a whiskey double."

"And just like that, you're off work?" she asks as she pours.

"Am now."

She studies him for a few seconds.

"Gotta ask, if an agent is having a bad day, is it classified?"

He swallows the whiskey and places the glass down carefully.

"Maybe if it's the professional kind of bad day."

"And the kind you're having is...?"

"Personal," he admits.

She waits. Sam's hesitation is real, as he's not sure how much he can say, how to get the ideas across without actually saying what happened. If he didn't think he needed to stay alert, he would've had her fill the glass at least one more time.

"Have you ever been forgiven for something when you knew you didn't deserve it? Because the person who's telling you it's okay doesn't know the whole truth?"

"And you can't tell them the whole truth because...?"

Sam really isn't drunk enough for this—he's not drunk at all yet—but it's for the damn case.

"Because I'll lose them, forever. Neither of us want that, but I don't see another way it could end."

"Well, Sam," Leah says, "seems like you've carried this burden around for a while by yourself. What makes you think they can't handle the truth as well as you can? They would want to forgive you, wouldn't they?"

"Hmm." She has a point. And Sam hates to be 'protected' from the truth himself. But it's not protecting Dean's feelings; it's protecting her sense of safety. How can she feel safe if she knows the truth? "You're good at this."

"I'm a captive shrink with unlimited alcohol," Leah informs him.

*

Sam sticks around long enough to finish his original beverage. Seeing nothing of interest, he exits the bar and takes a moment to collect himself. Dean will be expecting him to call, and he probably should let her know that he's trying to lure Osiris out into the open, but that might lead to her asking what he's so guilty about that he thinks he'll spring the trap. He'd rather wait until after it works, then come up with a good reason.

Just to be safe, he should call her to-

Something grabs him from behind, and everything goes black.

Chapter Text

When Sam regains consciousness, he's chained to a chair, inside the same barn he was investigating maybe a couple hours earlier. It's a hell of a lot different—torches, hieroglyphics on stone statues, and a throne. Upon which sits a man in black robes holding a scepter.

"Osiris."

"Oh good, you know who I am. Do I need to explain why you're here, then, Mr. Winchester?"

"You're going to put me on trial and find me guilty, like all the others," Sam replies. "Then you're going to kill me."

"No, Sam, it is not I who finds you guilty. It is you." He points at Sam. "I only weigh the guilt already inside your heart. ...Dean! Why don't you join us?"

A door slides open, revealing Dean.

"Sam doesn't need to go on trial. Do me instead."

"Looks to me somebody already has," Osiris deadpans, gesturing to her body. "Come, take a seat. You are our first witness."

"What?"

"This is a trial. We must have witnesses," the god explains in a condescending tone.

"If this is a trial, my brother has the right to an attorney."

"And who would that attorney be?"

"Me," Dean answers.

After a moment of pondering, the deity nods.

"I will allow it."

"Dean, you're not a lawyer," Sam whispers as she seats herself next to him.

"You can help. You were going to be a lawyer, weren't you?" she whispers back.

"Alright, then, let's get started." Osiris taps the floor with the scepter three times. "Believe it or not, there are only three witnesses to call. And all three of them... are in this room."

"Objection!" Dean says.

"Grounds?"

"That doesn't make any sense."

"Really, Dean?" Sam sighs.

"Objection denied," Osiris says smoothly. "The prosecution calls Dean Winchester to the stand."

Dean finds herself sitting in a chair next to the throne.

"State your name for the court."

"...Dean Winchester. Like you just said."

"What is your relationship to Sam Winchester?"

"He's my brother."

With a wagging finger, the god admonishes:

"Remember, Dean, we need the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

She blushes, fidgeting until she gives up and lets out a deep breath.

"Whole truth, okay. He's my brother, but we're together, too. As in, uh, romantically. And, technically speaking, he's the father of my baby."

Lowering his eyes in shame, Sam can only imagine how red his own face is.

"Hey, no judgment from me." Osiris holds up his free hand. "My sister's my wife. We even have a son."

"This is super awkward," Dean says in a low voice, to no one in particular.

"How did you get pregnant, Dean?"

She sits up straighter and answers calmly and confidently; Sam wishes he could crawl into a hole.

"There was a sex curse. Dozens of people infected. I caught it and the only way we had to stop the curse was for Sam and me to have sex."

Sam doesn't know how she can say that so easily, how she can summarize a horrible afternoon in a couple sentences and then proceed to answer the deity's further questions...

"Did it really have to be Sam, or could another person have broken the curse?"

"It had to be done within 24 hours of being cursed, correct?"

"How long had it been since you were 'infected' when Sam initiated intercourse?"

"What happened after you retrieved the statuette?"

"Did you experience physical pain or discomfort at any point?"

It goes on, Dean summarizing the events truthfully but painting a much nicer picture than what really happened. It's sickening to hear her excusing those actions, let alone knowing it was him. Finally Osiris asks her the simplest question:

"So, would you say your brother raped you?"

"No."

"No? You have made it clear that it was not consensual."

"No, it wasn't, but it wasn't my brother, either! There's no fucking way he could do that. It all happened, it was Sam's body, but it was not my brother."

The god raises a hand to silence her.

"I believe you. Now, Dean, do you feel any psychological effects from your traumatic experience?"

"No."

"None whatsoever?"

"I don't have nightmares or flashbacks or anything. It sucked at first, but I'm good now."

"How exactly did it 'suck at first'?"

Dean hesitates and finally mumbles an answer:

"It was tough turning my back to him, that's all."

"Why?"

"I was scared, alright?! I was scared to be in a room with him, but after a couple weeks, I- I got used to it. I got over it. Sam, the guy sitting over there, is my brother, and he would never, ever pull something like that!"

"Got used to it"? Sam repeats in his head. Forget about the things Dean doesn't know that Sam would do. He feels like his soul is being branded: "Got used to it." If he truly is his own judge, the verdict is already decided, but Sam will sit through this.

"Hmm..." the god ponders. "Moving on. Why didn't you tell Sam you were pregnant with his child?"

"It didn't matter if he knew. I figured it was for the best he didn't until after I gave birth."

"Did you think he would resent the child?"

Sam flinches.

"I knew he wouldn't like to think about it if he knew the details."

"So, when he learned the truth, what did you do?"

"I told him that she's still his niece, that I wanted him to care about her."

"But not as a father."

"No. The father of my baby, the guy who did it, doesn't exist. It might be Sam's blood, but as far as I'm concerned he's just her uncle."

"Would you be upset if he referred to your baby as his child?"

"He doesn't do that."

"That's not the question."

"I guess, yeah. He didn't do it. Even when he didn't have a soul he wasn't expecting me to get pregnant."

False, Sam thinks. It was no afterthought; he knew what the repercussions would be from the start. He just wasn't expecting her to keep it. And even more false, the idea that he can just ignore that he is in fact the baby's father.

"But that's not what he thinks," Dean insists.

"Very well. Last few questions. You weren't born with this body, were you?"

"No."

"You were transformed by witchcraft?"

"Yes."

"Which changed only your body. Not your mind, not your perception of your gender."

"Yes."

"Can you elaborate?"

"Um... I guess I've always been a girl, I just never knew how to tell anybody."

"Do you want Sam to see you as the same person he did before your transformation? As a big sister who has gone to Hell for him, his leader, his hero?"

"If that's how he saw me before."

"Do you believe he does?"

Sam's breath catches. He's not entirely sure of the answer himself.

"...Yes," Dean says.

"No further questions. Dean, as you cannot cross-examine yourself, I welcome you to testify freely."

"Alright. If this is about you feeling guilty," Dean says, addressing her brother, "then there is one thing you need to know about what happened: I wanted it. I just didn't want it like that."

Sam listens. Dean never said it outright, but he knew there was more to what was going on between them.

"I'd thought about you like that before, for years. I knew it was wrong, and you were straight anyway, so I just ignored it. Then I got changed, but I wasn't going to let that happen between us if you didn't have a soul, when you weren't you. That kind of stuff matters to you, so I was just trying to respect that."

Sam nods and forces a half-smile. As if that makes any of it better.

"Do I get to say 'I rest my case' now?" Dean asks. She glances at Osiris, who with a wave of his hand returns her to her seat next to Sam.

"Later," Sam whispers to her.

"The prosecution now calls... Dean Winchester to the stand," the god proclaims.

Sam and Dean look at each other in confusion, then at the witness stand.

There sits the Dean Winchester that Sam grew up with, the big brother, the idol, the anchor. The old Dean.

"You see," Osiris says to the Dean next to Sam, "I didn't ask whether he views you as the same person. I only asked if you believe he does."

Dean looks at her brother with an expression of uncertainty that Sam fears will quickly become one of contempt.

"State your name for the court."

"Dean Winchester."

His voice... there's an ache in Sam's chest.

"Explain what you are, Dean."

"I'm not real, for starters. More like an idealized... mythological concept, formed from Sam's thoughts and memories. The original Dean, Sammy's perfect big brother who can do anything, can win anything, always knows what to do. I practically raised the kid. But now I'm dead."

Sam's sister turns to him, expecting some sort of denial, but Sam lowers his eyes. He won't lie about this, even when he can sense the hurt he's caused.

"How did you die?" Osiris asks.

"Well, I disappeared when I got hit with the spell that transformed me into her." The male Dean gestures. "But for Sam, I died after Lucifer beat me up in that boneyard."

"What is your gender, Dean?"

"Male."

"Okay," the real Dean mutters, standing and walking away to the far end of the barn.

"Dean..." Sam tries.

Her back is turned.

"We will proceed whether or not you continue to represent your client," Osiris informs her. There's no response.

Sam looks to his brother.

"Ooh... you're gonna need some couple's counseling," Dean says, cringing.

"You're not real," Sam insists. "You never were. That's the real Dean, over there."

"The defendant will be silent," Osiris says before addressing the male Dean. "You are the Dean that Sam really wants deep down, yes? Aren't you the one he's waiting for?"

"...Yes," he answers.

"You're a separate person from that Dean. Sam misses you, and he would trade her for you if he could."

"This isn't fair," Dean tries.

"Agree or disagree, Dean."

"You're putting words in my mouth."

"Are you the same person, in Sam's heart, as that Dean over there?"

"No."

"Does Sam miss you?"

"Yes."

"Are you preferable to the real Dean Winchester for Sam?"

Dean's mouth remains shut.

"There is no Fifth Amendment here, Dean. You must answer, and you must answer truthfully. The penalty for disobedience is death."

"What are you gonna do to me? I'm not even real."

"Allow me to rephrase. Sam will watch you die, painfully."

Just answer, Sam thinks.

"Okay, yes! I am his perfect Dean. So he's having a little trouble getting on board with her after rolling with me for twenty-something years, so what? It's been six months!"

"That is for Sam to decide. So! How do you feel about Sam having feelings for the new Dean?"

"Well if I'm hot, I'm hot, right? I won't blame him for having a few dirty thoughts."

"Yes, but falling in love? Actually sleeping with her?"

"It's... a little weird. I mean, we've always been like an old married couple. Makes sense that if I grew some parts Sam was into, we'd end up... y'know."

"It's just a tad necrophilic, though, isn't it? Sam isn't in love with you. He's in love with a woman who's exactly like you."

Yet again, Sam's face is burning hot with shame.

"Look, I don't exist. I never did. If he's in love with the real version of me, then that's how it is."

"Sam may know that you're not real. But does he feel that you are? Does he not feel that the woman over there is a substitute?"

Only Sam ought to know the answers to those questions, but posing them to the imaginary and omniscient Dean means the answers—and the guilt—will come forth.

"Look, all that matters is that he knows she's the real one. Can't you put him on probation for now?"

"You are not the one asking questions here." Osiris pauses then calls out to the real Dean. "Would you care to cross-examine Mr. Winchester, Ms. Winchester?"

Sam hadn't expected to face this part of his subconscious. He had stopped thinking about it and almost forgotten that he divided them in his mind. He was used to the new Dean, loved and wanted her, but he still thought of her as a different Dean. A different person. Therein lies the problem.

"Don't bother," Sam says. He'd stand if he weren't still chained up. "Don't bother with the cross-examination, don't bother with the third witness, whoever it is. It won't change anything."

"Are you sure?" the god asks.

"Yes."

"Very well." He summons Dean back to her seat, then once again taps the floor with his scepter three times before standing. "The court's reached a verdict. I find you, Sam Winchester, guilty in your heart... and sentence you to die. I'd suggest you get your affairs in order quickly."

"What the hell, Sam?!" Dean asks as the Egyptian decor vanishes and they are left standing in the barn. "I could've blown the case out of the water if I'd talked to him!"

"It wasn't going to make a difference. Let's just get back and figure out the next step."

"The next step is you not dying."

As they get into the car, Sam tries to speak.

"Dean, the thing about new you versus old you-"

"Heard every word. Osiris took your memories and made it up to mess with us. I know that you know it's me."

"There's a difference between knowing you're my sister, and feeling that you're... what you always were to me."

"Sammy, what have I said about chick-flick moments?"

He shuts up, knowing it's only a matter of time before the issue blows up in their faces.

She's enough. This Dean is enough, and Sam is perfectly happy to live out his days with her. It's been less than half a dozen times, but he loves waking up to her and will gladly do it every day. He'll do anything for her because he knows she's Dean, but he only feels it for fleeting moments. It's not what he really wants, and he knows that for a simple reason:

He loves her, and he tells her so. As if that's the strongest emotion he has for her.

It was never like that with the old Dean. Whatever "Sam'n'Dean" had is more than love or family and they never used to cheapen that by saying they love each other. Sam has loved many people, but his brother surpassed that.

Never would Sam choose to change Dean back, not when he knows that she wants to exist in this body. But if he didn't know that, if he thought Dean was equally happy in either one, he'd take his big brother back in a heartbeat.

That truth shames him, burns him from the inside out. And to add to the pain, Dean knows all of these things just as well as Sam does. She'll only pretend for so long that she doesn't.

*

Hours later, Bobby calls with a way to put Osiris down for at least a little while—two centuries. Dean goes out to find a ram's horn.

"You know how to deal with ghosts and anything else he might sic after you. I'll be back soon."

Sam's sister leaves.

He half-heartedly makes a salt circle.

"Dean?"

Sam's brother emerges.

"I'm not a ghost." He steps right over the salt line. "...Just do it, Sammy."

After a second, Sam wraps his arms around the corporeal figment. He doesn't care that it's supposed to kill him or that this is the opposite of what he's supposed to be doing; he's unable to resist.

"I'm sorry, Dean. I'm sorry I can't stop thinking you're the real one."

"You know you only have to apologize to her for that, right?" he asks as he pulls away.

"But you're here to kill me, aren't you?"

Dean's eyes fill with tears but he speaks with intense conviction.

"The real me is out there trying to save your ass, but if you think for one second I'm not doing my damnest to save you, too... you couldn't be more wrong. He's making me do this, Sammy. I don't want to hurt you, ever."

"I know."

"Sam, maybe if I convince you not to feel guilty, I won't have to kill you. If you don't feel guilty, you won't be."

Sam scoffs.

"What, about you versus the real you? That's a drop in the bucket. I can change the way I think. Someday, she'll mean to me everything you mean. It's what I can't tell her."

"That you think you're bad, maybe even evil, because of how much you'd hurt her, and others, to save her life?"

"There's nothing else you can call that."

"Sammy... what makes you think she wouldn't go just as far?" Dean asks.

That's the easiest question anyone has asked all night.

"Because you've always been good. I haven't."

Dean gives a wry smile.

"Maybe I am," he says, "Maybe your big brother was always capital-G Good. But he was also a guy."

"The real you might make impulsive mistakes, but I've had two months to think about this. I'd do it again, to either of you. I'd do worse. That's who I am."

"You know we'd both do anything for you. We went to hell. She killed herself to talk to Death to get your soul back. But it doesn't stop at dying."

"You wouldn't hurt me and go against my wishes like I did to her."

"She might hurt someone else, though. That would be going against your wishes."

"She hasn't, though. I did and I would again."

"Sam, please, just let it go. You've gotta know somewhere in there that the real me isn't any better. You don't need to feel guilty!"

He shakes his head.

"It's not going to work." He pauses, then chooses to make a confession: "Osiris was wrong about one thing. I was wrong too, for a long time. I was- I am in love with you. Not like incest, but not... really as a brother, either."

"There isn't a word for us." Dean steps close enough to take Sam's face in his hands and kiss his forehead.

When the moment is over, they back off a little, clearing their throats and looking away from each other.

"...It's kind of refreshing, having a conversation with you where you're capable of discussing emotions," Sam remarks.

"Only because I'll talk about my feelings all night if it means you don't die." Dean's face becomes grave as he starts going around the room, locking windows.

"What are you doing?"

"Locking her out, killing some more time. Before I have to try kill you."

"Should I write a note?"

"What do you mean, a note?"

"Like a goodbye note for Dean if she doesn't take care of Osiris before it's too late."

"She's going to save you," he says as he jams a chair under the doorknob.

"I want to write something down. Just in case."

Dean sighs.

"Alright. It gives you a few seconds. What could you tell her that she doesn't already know?"

"You tell me. You're made from what's inside my head."

"The name."

"No. I raped Dean. I don't get to suggest baby names," Sam protests.

"You want to write a note that means something, that tells her everything she needs to know, that's it."

Sam finds a scrap of paper and writes down the name. If Dean doesn't save him, she'll find this. She'll know the truth and also that he wanted to be beside her for this after all.

He clutches the note in his fist.

"Are you ready, Sammy?" Dean asks.

"As I'll ever be," he says, voice thick. "How, um...?"

"The same way I died."

Dean shoves him into the wall with preternatural force. It's clear that he's fighting against it as he approaches Sam, but he can't soften the blows that begin to rain down upon him.

"Sammy, please," he says. "Fight back, or run. Try to slow me down. I'm supposed to break every bone in your body for fuck's sake!"

"No." He's already bruised and bleeding. It's all somehow a little cathartic. "If she can't stop it, I want it to be over before she gets back."

"She needs time!" Dean's voice is pained and frantic, and when Sam manages to crack his eyes open, there are tears on his face. "Just hold on. She needs you."

"Why?" he asks. "Even if I learn to see her as you, I'll never be the brother she wants me to be, that she needs me to be. I wasn't even that for you. And if she knew the truth she'd know I was a monster!"

"No, she wouldn't." His voice is strained from the physical effort he's putting into beating Sam to a pulp. "I've always believed in you. Whatever she says, she believes in you, too."

"But she's real."

"I'm the Dean who's never wrong and never lies. You won't lose her," he promises.

It's utterly surreal as Dean takes Sam by the front of his jacket and pulls back his fist once again. It's the near-mortal blow that Lucifer never managed to land.

No one is able to stop it this time.

Chapter Text

"Sam?"

Dean calls her brother's name before she even reaches the door to their motel room. He hasn't picked up the phone any of the half-dozen times she's called him since taking out Osiris. Even after unlocking the door, she finds herself unable to open it.

"Sammy!"

She bangs on the unbudging door. What's behind it and why would Sam blockade the door? Was he trying to hide from whatever went after him? Why isn't he opening it now?

"Sam!"

She can't be too late. That can't happen.

Forced to dismiss the idea of body slamming the door—fucking pregnancy—Dean takes a step back, eyes darting around for inspiration. She'll have to get help. Or an axe. Maybe she could get in through the window. No, they're on the second floor and she has an extra passenger.

It's weak and strained, not much louder than a sigh, but Dean can always hear her little brother:

"Dean?"

"Sam? Sam, are you okay?"

She hears someone or something moving on the other side of the door, but it's not footsteps.

"Sammy?"

The sounds stop, then there's a thud as whatever was behind the door is knocked over. Dean waits a second before turning the knob and slowly pushing into the room.

Bruised, broken, and bloody, but breathing, Sam is there on the floor. Alive. Sammy's alive.

He looks relieved to see her, though Dean can't help but wonder whether she's the person he really wanted to walk through the door. Does he miss his brother that much?

Clearing her throat, she puts her game face on:

"Real chivalrous, Sammy, making a pregnant woman wait outside the door."

*

It takes all of a minute for Dean to realize that Sam needs a real doctor. She can't be sure he doesn't have serious internal injuries from whatever did this—she knows exactly 'who' but she'd rather not think about it, so she won't. So how the hell does she get Sam to a hospital? Calling 911 will get some EMTs to carry him out, but then the police will show up to investigate the motel room, and that's a whole lot of trouble Dean doesn't have time for.

The car it is. It will be easier to make up a cover story if she drives him to the ER anyway. She can say he got mugged or something.

It is a Herculean task to get Sam on his feet, but once he's up he uses the wall to support himself and they inch their way down the hall. He's admirably quiet even though Dean knows every shallow breath he draws is causing him pain, let alone each step. She'd carry her brother if she weren't carrying her daughter already.

How could this happen? How could Sam feel so guilty about any of the things they talked about at the trial that he'd be put to death? How bad can it really be? Dean could understand guilt over, say, freeing Satan that one time, but Osiris didn't even mention that. He just asked what felt like hundreds of questions about That Day. That shitty day.

There's an elevator they could use, but someone will definitely see them and ask questions. With little more than a glance, the Winchesters agree to use the stairs. Sam clings to the handrail as if he's afraid to accept Dean's help. Maybe that's the smart thing to do, but it feels like a rejection.

Not long after the wall in Sam's mind was broken, Dean recognized that she had one of her own, though for her it's more like a lid. The events of that day, the emotions, the questions she doesn't want to ask, the guilt of accepting Sam's affection for her own secret reasons—those have been simmering for months. Having to recount what happened, talk about how she felt, was rattling the lid, scratching the wall. And what's going to happen if the Pandora's box in her head is opened? What's going to happen to her, and to Sam, if she's faced with what that did to her?

Doesn't matter. The lid will stay on. She needs to focus on Sam. He needs to get patched up, and as soon as the doctor says he's good, she'll tell him off for being an idiot, for feeling guilty about nothing.

Luckily, no one spots them as they exit the building. Just another ten yards and they'll be at the car.

But it's your fault, Dean. You got up and turned your back on Sammy when that other Dean was up there. You made him think it was a big deal. That might have been what condemned him. He was beaten half to death because you were weak.

So it's not like she deserves to be seen as the big brother Sam wants. If, deep down, he still thinks that she's somebody else, that's okay. He definitely loves her, even if it's more like she's some girlfriend that's replacing the "real" Dean. She's never felt more loved during sex than when she's with Sam.

It's fine, Dean thinks, and Sam shouldn't feel bad. He's not the first person to be let down by her. She was never enough for Dad; she could never truly be a good son because she was never a son at all. He didn't know that of course, but point is, this is nothing new. Sam knows the truth and it's not like he isn't accepting her for who she is as a person. He still calls himself her brother, still thinks of her as his sibling. She has to and she will accept that as her lot, even if he never quite looks up to her the way he looked up to his big brother. She couldn't expect to have it all—a body she's actually comfortable with and the same relationship with Sam. He knows who she is. He'll do anything for her because he knows she's the closest thing possible to the big brother he lost. Sam can be trusted with her life and her daughter's, a hundred percent. There is no doubt about that.

Sam loves her more than anything. She could ask him that right now, as she helps him into the car, and he'd say yes and mean it, completely. How can she ask for more?

It's no big deal if Sam can't see that she's the same person. Dean reaffirms that in her head: it's fine.

*

As Sam is extracted from the car by paramedics, a piece of folded paper falls from his pocket, as if it had been carelessly stuffed in there. Dean picks it up and tucks it away out of habit. She doesn't like random pieces of paper floating around her car.

*

Hours later, the blood is cleaned from Sam's face and there's a nice long list of his injuries—broken nose, several broken ribs, concussion, split lip which needed a couple stitches, bruising on pretty much every inch of his body, dislocated joints that have already been popped back in, and some signs of internal bleeding. The jury's still out on whether he's going to need surgery for that. The good news is that he's stable.

Dean sits on the side of the bed next to her brother after the nurse leaves.

"How ya holding up?"

"They gave me the good painkillers," Sam confides in a whisper. "The best painkillers. You? You could actually be funny right now."

"What're you talkin' about? I'm always hilarious."

That elicits a grin.

"Tell me another one."

The last thing the kid needs is to open up his split lip or mess up his ribs by laughing, but Dean doesn't turn down invitations like this.

"Okay, uh..." She thinks of a good pathetic one to test how high her brother is: "How do you make holy water?"

"How?" He smiles and waits for the answer like a child expecting a magic trick.

"You boil the hell out of it."

Sam chortles as if Dean just told the funniest joke in the world. He's pretty far gone. She should probably take a video of this.

"Wait, I have one," he says suddenly. He seems to be concentrating very hard on being serious as he asks, "Why... did the cook burn the chicken... after salting it?"

"I don't know," Dean answers dutifully. "Why?"

"So it could get to the other side!"

Yup, she thinks as she nods, watching him giggle to himself. That's exactly where she knew that joke was headed. There's a reason she's the big sister who actually has a good sense of humor.

"Do you really want to hear more jokes?" she asks.

"Is that a rhetorical question? ...Was that a rhetorical question?" Sam looks away, eyebrows furrowing as he tries to work it out. After about twenty seconds he smiles and then looks up again. "Hey Dean, help me figure this out... 'is this... not a rhetorical question?'"

"Um... Yes? It is not a rhetorical question."

"Isn't this a rhetorical question?"

"No, it's not."

"But that was the same question, Dean!"

"And they have the same answer, they're not rhetorical because they were meant to be answered."

"They have different answers. You said yes to the first one and no to the second one."

Dean frowns, acknowledging that Sam has found a grammatical loophole, not that it's very interesting.

"English is weird, man," Sam observes. "You're lucky I'm a... cunning linguist."

"...Oh, you did not just say that."

"I did just say that."

She sighs in resignation.

"Dean, Dean, Dean..." Sam looks into her eyes as he touches her face. "You're a beautiful woman. You're the most beautiful woman I've known. And you're the strongest person I know."

"God, every t- why do I even talk to you when you're high?"

"But you are! You are so strong, 'cause you're growing a baby-" Sam gestures with both hands to where his uterus would be if he had one. "-inside you. I mean... who even does that?" Dazzled by the concept, he stares at Dean with wide eyes.

"A lot of people, Sammy."

"No, just listen." He takes her hand and holds it in both of his as if keeping it safe. Head wobbling a little, he meets her gaze. "Listen. To. Me. Every day, I look at you and I think to myself... Being a hunter is tough. Being a, uh... a female hunter, that's gotta be extra tough. You've been doing that plus carrying my daughter. That's all with giving up booze cold turkey. Nobody else could do that. Nobody. You are so, so strong. You're amazing . Amazing and hot."

Dean stiffens both in posture and in tone at Sam's choice of words.

"She's your niece."

"Daughter." Attempting to express affection, Sam reaches for Dean's belly. She catches his wrist, holding him still for a few seconds before allowing him to rest his hand on her body. Unfazed, he continues, speaking earnestly: "I'll call her whatever you want, but we both know she's my daughter. She'll never be anything less. It's no accident she's made it this far. I did a very bad thing, but I made that choice knowing you would conceive. Then you made a choice. This baby is ours."

So she was wrong about that, too. What else has Sam been hiding from her? Maybe there's nothing big that happened and there's just lots of little things that he's guilty about.

"That wasn't you."

"Maybe not, but I would have made the same choice."

Even in his drugged state, Sam seems to have realized he misspoke. Dean feels (unusually) sick to her stomach. He probably didn't mean to, but he made it sound like... And he seems so horrified at his own words.

"You mean you still would have gotten me pregnant?" she tries.

"Yeah, that, the- the pregnant thing," he's quick to answer. "That's why I think she's as much mine as if I'd had my soul that day."

"You don't get to make that call." She gets to her feet, gently pushing her brother's hands away. The kid doesn't mean to sound like an entitled asshole.

"Then I want you to make it," he requests. "Please. I know I shouldn't but I love her so much."

Facing away from Sam, Dean shuts her eyes. It's not up to him, and it's not up to her as much as he thinks.

"You should sleep, Sammy."

"You're not my doctor."

"I'm your big sister."

"...Okay, good night. To both of you."

"'Night, Sam." Dean turns back to him and presses a kiss to his forehead, betraying the fear she's felt since the moment she heard the verdict.

Guilty in his heart.

*

She has to go back to the motel room to start packing up—once Sam is good to go, they're getting the hell out of Dodge. When Dean gets behind the wheel, she's reminded of the scrap of paper she picked up. Maybe it was nothing, she thinks, checking her pocket. Yup, it's there.

She takes it out and flattens it to read the single word on it, in Sam's handwriting.

A name, a girl's name.

Who the hell is-

Oh.

Dean sits there for a few seconds, thoughts racing. Sam had that stuffed in his pocket. He had put it there—rather, failed to put it there—recently, very recently. Maybe he didn't think she would save him. That would hurt if she wasn't so stricken by the fact that the last message he had for her was a name.

She's told herself time and time again not to even think about naming her daughter. A few ideas have crept in regardless, not that any have fit.

But this one does. This one is fucking perfect. Whether it was a mere suggestion or a final request from her brother, it is the baby's name now. That's her daughter's name as surely as hers is Dean and her brother's is Sam.

His daughter, too. He's right. Dean won't admit it to him just yet but there's no way she can keep saying he's just an uncle when half the reason she kept the baby was that it was Sam's. She couldn't pass up a chance to do this for her brother, however fucked up it may be. This is his blood; his body chose to do the thing that caused this pregnancy. His soul wants to take responsibility for it.

This would be a lot easier if letting Sam accept responsibility didn't feel so much like accepting that Sam did what "he" did. Her little brother couldn't do that. He simply couldn't, and Dean doesn't know what the hell she'd do if he had—or if he even condoned those actions. All she knows is that she doesn't need the father of her baby; she needs her own brother. Sam can't be both.

*

As soon as Sam can limp around without help, which takes about thirty-six hours longer than Dean is comfortable with, he's out of the hospital and in the passenger seat. Back to Sioux Falls, back to sleeping in separate beds, back to really quiet sex. Well, whenever Sam is up to it. (Up to it—Dean smirks.)

And back to someone she can talk to about what went down at the trial and what it might mean, whether she should question the things she was so sure of.

She was irritated, to say the least, to learn that her brother told Bobby what really happened. It was Sam's truth to tell as much as hers, but the invitation to talk if she ever wanted somebody to listen was an affront and Dean ignored it.

Now? She's almost grateful. She never wants to talk about stuff, but sometimes she needs to. It's this or get drunk. The odd beer Dean slips in behind her brother's back every few weeks isn't going to cut it.

Talking it is.

Chapter Text

On the ride home, even with a painkiller-fogged mind, Sam recognizes a look on Dean's face that means he said something he shouldn't have. He doesn't remember much after getting knocked out, but he can guess that they gave him some drugs that left him just lucid enough to blab about the wrong thing.

Or maybe it's just the revelations that occurred at the trial. She learned the truth: he's failing her as a brother and as the person she spends almost every waking hour with.

Maybe this wouldn't be happening if Dean had transitioned the normal way, with hormones and surgery, changing over time and giving Sam a chance to get accustomed to the change in her appearance—instead of her collapsing in a motel room and her body morphing from male to female in all of thirty seconds.

No more excuses. It's been the better part of a year since it happened; now Sam even has the benefit of memories of watching her fumble around those first days and weeks. He's held on far too long to a brother that never really existed. While all of that person's actions and motives were genuine, he absolutely must banish any notion that that was the "real" Dean. He shouldn't even have mourned his brother, but he did, in secret. It's time to put that behind him, and to put behind him the nagging feeling that a sister is less than a brother. His hero and savior when everything else was lost used to be none other than Dean. That person is still here. That person is his sister.

*

Dean won't let Sam climb the stairs to their bedroom, so he's almost completely couch-ridden for a few days. He accepts it; his injuries were severe plus it means his pregnant sister won't be going up and down the stairs all day. She's not doing as well as before pretending that it's not taking a physical toll on her.

Once he's up to it, Sam gets dressed and goes outside to sit on the porch steps. Bending over to put shoes on felt like an unnecessary assault on his ribs, so he forgoes them. He breathes in the fresh air and watches a beetle crawl through the half-dead grass next to the steps; his socks catch on invisible splinters in the wood.

"Sam?!"

Dean's voice is coming from inside the house.

"Out here," he answers, not caring if she actually hears him. He sighs; it hasn't been two minutes.

Somehow she does, and the door behind him opens a moment later.

"You could've warned me before going off on your own," she grumbles, joining him.

"I'm just getting some air. On the porch. Don't be such a... mother hen."

"Right now it's mother hen or hormonal bitch. Take your pick."

Scoffing, Sam turns to look at her. He has to be careful not to grimace much—Dean would give him more painkillers if she knew how he was feeling but the pain means no hallucinations.

"I think we have to talk about some things, Dean."

"Nope. Being a mother hen does not mean I have to be in a chick-flick."

The expression on Sam's face is from pain in his ribs but he lets his sister think it's from her attempt at wordplay. She sighs and with an eye roll indicates for him to continue.

"Look, um... it's time to be straight with you."

"About?"

"Dean, I am... completely in love with you as a person. I wouldn't change a thing about you, even when you're acting like you're ten. More than anything, I hope to spend the rest of my life with you."

"Are you proposing?"

"Even though I know you're my sister and it seems like no matter how many times we fuck I'll never stop feeling dirty about it."

Dean nods in agreement.

"Thing is," Sam continues, "when I look at you, when I touch you, I don't always believe you're the person I grew up with. The person Lucifer almost killed in that field. I've been treating you like a woman who reminds me of my brother and happens to have all of his memories."

"So? If the past three, four weeks is what I get for the rest of our lives, buy me a fucking ring."

"Dean, I can't keep sleeping with you as long as I feel you're someone else."

"...Holy shit, you're dumping me."

"No, I'm not- ...Okay, maybe I am." Sam rubs his eyes. "Everything feels wrong. I don't know why I haven't gotten it into my skull after, what's it been, nine, ten months since you were changed? You deserve a brother who treats you like you're the individual that you've always been. I want to see you as my big sister who's given up more for me than I'll ever be able to thank you for. I'm never going to do that unless we try to go back to the way things were before, when it wasn't about apocalyptic shit, just... the family business. Saving people and hunting things with you."

Dean is blinking away tears.

"Hormones," she tells him, getting defensive.

"Don't worry about it. If you hadn't said something I would've figured it was dust in your eye."

"You suck."

"...You gonna be okay?"

She gives him a quintessential sarcastic-Dean look.

"I'm gonna cry into my pillow every night. I'll never be able to trust another man again."

Sam scoffs and gets to his feet, wincing. He won't put his sister through any more talking about feelings, so he holds out his hand to help her up.

She stands without his assistance.

"Hey," she says, "I get what you're saying about feeling dirty. Past few weeks, some mornings I didn't know how to look you in the eye. You're my little brother. I can't fuck you."

"I'm twenty-eight, Dean."

"I lost count when you hit double-digits. I was just hoping you were legal."

Sam chooses not to point out that they'll never be legal and instead watches her ascend the steps. He wonders if she'll ever accept help going up or down stairs, or just march through pregnancy as a completely independent woman.

She pauses before opening the door, mouth open to speak as she turns back to him, but no words coming.

He remains where stands, giving her space.

"Sammy," she starts at last, "if you- Well, if not-really-you knew all along I would get pregnant, what did he think I was gonna do?"

The sudden change in subject, especially to that one, is jarring. Taken off-guard, Sam has no time to contemplate his answer nor give any but the truth:

"It was your body, your problem. I assumed you'd abort."

"It never occurred to him that choosing between aborting my brother's child and nine months of carrying a kid I never asked for would be a tough decision?"

Sam shakes his head.

Breathing deeply, Dean seems to have found a sense of calm. She nods.

"Okay then. Good."

"'Good'?" Sam repeats.

"That's just more proof it wasn't you. You didn't do this. You're just her uncle."

"You just said she was my child."

"She's your blood. And mine. But you didn't put her here. I'm barely her real mom, Sam. Whoever adopts her, they'll be her real mom and dad—or dads, or moms, whatever. Her name won't even be Winchester. All she'll have is our blood, and all we'll have is memories and stretch marks. Why the hell would it matter what you are for the next three months?"

Sam wishes he could plead with her, ask her why not let him say it, if it doesn't matter? It does matter, even though he can't explain it. But considering what happened to Dean, she has every right and every reason to deny his wish. So he says nothing of that.

"You really are doing this as a... a gift to our family, aren't you? Like you said back when Samuel died."

"Yes. Yes I am."

With stiff legs, Sam joins her on the porch.

"Guess I've been pretty ungrateful considering I'm the only other Winchester we know of. I'm sorry. And thank you."

"You're fucking welcome."

*

Some instances of broken ribs are more or less better in six weeks. Others take six months to heal.

Sam's prognosis isn't quite that bleak—chances are he'll be good to hunt again even before Dean gives birth—but it's in the months range. It's like they're taking a long vacation. Sort of. Sam is mostly healing and reading up on lore so he doesn't go crazy while Dean endures her third trimester.

The third trimester, Sam observes, is the most unpleasant, made worse for Dean by the hot weather. And yet she refuses any and all offers of help with anything, from lifting heavy objects to preparing meals. Sam's attempts at cooking for her are met with begrudging thanks only after complaints about being coddled. He finally gives up and focuses on not giving Dean any reason to expend energy on him.

She's successful in making him feel guilty when she hints that her belly has gotten large enough that she can no longer reach to touch herself. Not guilty enough to succumb to her charms, but guilty enough to stupidly agree to her challenge not to jerk off until she can. Dean says it will make her feel better to know he's also suffering.

*

One of the phones on the wall rings, the one marked CDC. Dean picks up.

"You've reached the office of Peter Lovell at the Center for Disease Control, how may I help you?"

Dean listens to the caller's request, scowling at one point.

"Of course, just one moment please."

She puts them on hold and waits twenty seconds before handing the phone to Sam.

"This is Peter Lovell."

"I'm the chief of medicine at St. George's Medical Center in Burlington. I have a Ms. Janet Fond who claims to be from the CDC."

Sam is glad that there are some hunters out there who, unlike his sister, understand the concept of subtlety. He successfully convinces the doctor that both he and the person requesting access to confidential patient information are really CDC.

"Lot of CDCs today," Dean comments after the caller hangs up.

Another phone rings, an unmarked one. Sam tips his chair back to reach it.

"Hello?"

"Is this still Bobby Singer's number?"

"Yup. I'm Sam. What d'you need?"

"I've got this thing..."

Sam helps the hunter determine what he's up against and how to kill it.

"Thanks, Sam. Tell Bobby that Ira says hi."

"Will do. Good luck." Twisting around, Sam successfully tosses the phone back onto the hook.

"Nice," Dean nods, impressed.

"I can't believe we've been doing this for weeks and nobody's called about a demon. Other than that crossroads demon the other day."

"Well everybody knows how to exorcise 'em."

"Most hunters. Plus a lot of hunters call just to let Bobby know about it. Bupkis."

"Remember how there were like, no demons when we were growing up? Hell, Bobby said something about it a few years back, around the time all that crap with Yellow Eyes started, that there didn't used to be a lot of demon possessions."

"You think things are finally getting back to the way they were before?"

"Maybe. Still gonna get our fair share of crossroads demons and hellhounds, though."

"Everybody wants something, some of 'em are dumb enough to sell their soul," Sam sighs.

"Some things are worth it," Dean says quietly.

Sometimes, Sam wants to demand Dean tell him how she can stand by that decision after all the pain and despair it caused, but the truth is that he does get it. It's simple; it's that thing that's so much more than love that there are no words for it. It's that thing he's chasing after with his sister but has yet to find. It's preserved in him enough that he would sell his soul for this Dean, would do horrible things for and to her to save her life, but it's not enough. Things won't be right until he can't say "I love you," to his sister anymore because it would be too cheap.

Hiding his heavy thoughts, he offers a weak smile.

"Some things," he agrees.

Chapter Text

"God, I need a fucking drink!"

Sam looks up from his laptop. Dean looks miserable as she descends the stairs but there's a glint in her eye that makes him put the computer aside and follow her to the kitchen, which is where Dean knows the emergency liquor is kept. Both he and Bobby have avoided drinking in front of her, but they can't bring themselves to embrace teetotalism.

"Dean, you're not seriously-"

"We'd better have whiskey."

"You're pregnant," he protests.

Dean pauses, hand halfway to the cabinet door, and turns around.

"No fucking shit, Sam! I am pregnant, and it fucking sucks, and you aren't, so you don't know how much it sucks."

"You're right, I don't. What we both know is that you're not supposed to drink."

"Well too bad. I drank before I knew I was pregnant and I drank more before I knew I wanted to keep her. You don't wanna know how much. And she's fine."

"You don't know that."

"The doctor hasn't said anything."

"That doesn't make it okay to drink whiskey."

"It's none of your business, Sam. This is my baby. She's fine and she's going to be fine." Dean retrieves a glass and the whiskey. Without taking her eyes off Sam, she fills the glass and screw the cap back on.

"Dean, that's like three drinks."

She puts away the bottle and reaches for the glass. Getting angry, Sam pushes it away.

"However miserable you are, it doesn't make it alright to put your own child at risk. Sure, she's made it this far and nothing seems wrong. That doesn't give her immunity. Don't do this."

"It's a free country, Sam."

Her indifference is only provoking him. Though he doesn't recognize the unfamiliar protective rage growing within him, Sam acts on it.

"You're right, it is. And you're right, that baby is yours. But she's also mine, and I don't care what she survived before," Sam growls at her, "You will not do that to my daughter anymore."

She rolls her eyes.

"We've talked about this, Sam. She's not yours."

"She is. I was willing to let it go for your sake, but whatever I owe you, you can't have it if it puts my daughter at risk. I will protect my daughter from anything, even you, and if I have to hurt you by reminding you of what happened that day, reminding you it was my body, I will."

For the first time since getting his memories back, Sam's not concerned if his sister feels physically threatened as he backs her up against the wall. His daughter is being physically threatened and she can't defend herself. So he continues, staring Dean down.

"You took on the responsibility of growing and sustaining my daughter for nine months, willingly. You shouldn't have, but you did, and I am holding you to it now. Because like it or not, she's mine too. You love her because she's yours, I love her just as much. She is as precious to me as she is to you. She's my daughter and you are not allowed to put her in any more danger, no matter how small, than the hell she's already been through!"

Sam hears something and turns his head slightly. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Bobby and realizes he has been there for most of the outburst. Wary as the man looks, it's obvious that he's here to defend someone. Just whom is unclear until it sinks in that Sam is the bad guy here. He may be fighting for the right thing, but accosting his sister puts him in the wrong. The end won't justify his means.

He takes a clumsy step back, looking back and forth between Dean and Bobby.

"Dean, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"

"It's fine," she mutters, pushing past him and heading back upstairs. There are tears on her face. Sam senses she wants him to follow her so he does.

Dean heads into the bathroom, leaving the door open as if to invite him in.

"Lock the door," she orders when he crosses the threshold. She wipes her cheeks and sniffles.

"I'm sorry I pushed you," Sam offers as he obeys.

"Dude, you barely nudged me." She's stripping, evidently about to shower. Sam keeps his eyes on her face as she adds, "You were protecting her. I'm glad you did it."

"Dean, talk to me. What's bothering you?"

"Everything! It's way too hot, I'm hungry but everything smells weird and gives me heartburn, I have fucking zits, I have to pee twelve times a day minimum, I'm gassier than you after a burrito, my tits are still getting bigger—you almost smiled, you ass!—I'm so hormonal I cried yesterday because I miss Cas, you don't touch me anymore and I can't do it myself, I can't shave anything except my pits, my lungs are getting crushed, and I still have almost two fucking months of this only getting worse."

"Why have you been pretending everything's fine?"

"I don't know, you'll- you'll want to take care of me."

"...And?"

"That's not your job ."

"It is, Dean, when you have your hands full taking care of someone else. You're 33 weeks. She's developed enough to hear us, detect light, practice breathing, have her own immune system-"

"Somebody's doing too much research."

"-she's almost a full human being and you're supporting all that complexity in addition to yourself. You're supporting my daughter inside your body. No matter how much I'd like to, I can't take this burden from you, so let me make other things easier. Let me and Bobby help you where we can. Hell, I'll give you massages and rub your feet."

Dean steps into the shower and closes the curtain. She raises her voice slightly over the sound of the water.

"Wish you'd rub me somewhere else."

Arms crossed, Sam leans against the wall and poke his head around the curtain to respond.

"Look, if you really, really want me to-"

"Kidding. I know you're still clearing your head."

"-I'll ask Bobby for you."

"Sam, this kid makes me sick enough without you joking about that."

"Seriously, what's wrong with a dildo or something?"

"It's more satisfying knowing you're taking cold showers all the time when I'm only really horny half the time."

"Anyway," Sam continues, getting back on topic, "I can prepare meals for you a few times a week."

"But you'll give me rabbit food."

"I've cooked for you before. It won't just be rabbit food. It will be balanced. I have her interests in mind."

"I know you do."

"I'm sorry I can't change the way I feel about her."

"No, it's, uh... it's a good thing," Dean admits. "You stopped me from doing something stupid. Maybe I don't need the father of my baby, but Mia needs you."

Dean pauses to watch Sam's reaction. He straightens up.

"...What did you just call her?" he asks.

There's a flicker of a smile before Dean closes her eyes and tilts her head to rinse the suds from her hair.

"Mia."

It takes his breath away to hear it spoken aloud.

"So y- you did find that," he stutters when he can manage a response.

"Why'd you write it? Did you think I wasn't gonna save you?"

"I don't know."

"Being pregnant doesn't mean I can't kick ass."

"You prove that to me every day."

"Stop saying things like that." Dean flicks water at him. Sam takes it as a sign to give her more privacy and retreats.

Wiping the droplets from his face, he glances at himself in the mirror. He doesn't look like he got the shit beat out of him a month ago, but he's pretty sure his nose will never be quite the same as before. Not to mention his ribs are still on the mend.

But Mia. Why didn't Dean say anything? It's been weeks and she's said nothing about it.

Mia.

"I like the name," she says from behind the curtain, aware of where his mind is.

"You like the name Mia?" It makes Sam smile just saying it out loud. He's not sure if he has said it out loud before.

"Actually, I love it."

"So- so what are you saying?"

Dean turns off the water and pushes the curtain aside. Sam offers her a towel.

"That if you can forget for the next couple months about how I got pregnant, we can call her Mia. I want..." Dean seems embarrassed to end with, "our daughter to be named Mia."

Sam couldn't have stopped himself from kissing Dean if everyone alive or dead who ever knew them was watching. He hasn't felt this happy, he realizes, in years. It's a compromise, yes, not perfect, but Dean is offering it freely.

He lets go and backs away, shirt damp and face red, once he's pretty sure Dean gets the message.

"That was a totally normal way to kiss your sister," she remarks dryly.

"You don't know what this means to me."

"I know you're having a tough time with it. With her." She wraps the towel around herself and goes to pick up her clothes from the floor.

"I don't think I will anymore." Sam wonders to himself, as he scoops up the laundry for her, if this is what normal dads feel like, with no misgivings. Then he chuckles. "For a second there, I forgot we aren't keeping her."

Dean opens her mouth to complain about Sam's helpfulness, then stops herself. Taking a mental step back, she gives a little nod to herself and then replies to her brother.

"I do that all the time," she admits.

"It's a good thing we aren't. Raising a kid would be a hell of a lot scarier than hunting monsters."

And, Sam thinks to himself, it's better Mia doesn't know him, especially as her father. She'll learn the truth sooner or later. She'll discover how unwanted she was, and how she represents Sam's darkest side. She'll find out the terrible things he's thought of her. And that will cause her to doubt his love, just as he sometimes doubts it even now.

He can't even consider giving his daughter a parent whose love she will question.

But he doesn't have to worry about it. And now, the name is dancing in his head. Mia. Mine. It's perfect because although Mia is his and Mia is certainly Dean's, she doesn't really belong to the both of them. Sam can say "Dean's daughter" or "my daughter" easily enough, but not "our daughter." The only thing they've done together when it comes to Mia is to name her this very hour. Sam made his sister conceive; Dean chose to keep Mia and to love her; and Sam resented Mia, then acknowledged her, wanted her, and finally loved her. She's never been a bond but a point of strife. Not a symbol of wholesome love in Sam's eyes but a reminder of his own psychotic co-dependence and lies.

But he'll forget that, as Dean asks. Mia is just Mia as of today. Mia is Dean's; Mia is Sam's. Mia, Mia, Mia.

"You know you're spelling it wrong, don't you, bunk buddy?" Lucifer says from behind the siblings.

Sam almost gasps, startled. Holding Dean's clothes, he can't quickly press on his scarred palm, subjecting him to the hallucination's explanation:

"It's M-E-A, because she is tua culpa ."

Sam had hoped that maybe, somehow, the hallucinations were gone for good, but no. They're back.

That's fine. He dealt with them before, he can deal with them again.

"I'm sorry about the whiskey," Dean sighs as they arrive in their bedroom. She didn't notice Sam fidgeting with his hands. "I won't try to drink again."

"I shouldn't have yelled at you for it."

"It had to happen."

Sam realizes he's still holding laundry and drops it on Dean's bed. He puts his hands on her shoulders.

"I'm going to start telling you this every day. Thank you for doing this for our family. I love you more and more for it every day."

She scoffs.

"You've gone through so much, Dean, I can't be anything but grateful to you. She was unwanted once, but I realize now that regardless of my feelings, she's the greatest and most precious gift you can give. And I can't wait to meet her and hold her. She's going to grow up and be a whole 'nother person, Dean. And you alone were the one who sacrificed their body so it could happen."

Dean tries to be aloof as she replies:

"You are such a girl."

"Which one of us is crying?"

"Shut up."

Sam lets her go, his daughter's name in his head and his heart. Then a question comes to mind.

"Hey, Dean, what was the tipping point?"

"For what?"

"When you came down and said you needed a drink."

Dean pauses, a shirt in her hands.

"I couldn't find my extra-extra pillow," she mumbles.

Sam moves the two visible pillows on her bed aside, and tugs out a third from between the mattress and the headboard. He offers it to her.

"Ask for things, Dean. Start cutting yourself some slack."

Chapter Text

Even knowing that they're not going on a hunt any time soon, Sam ends up searching news websites for weird accidents, unusual deaths. Force of habit.

One news story catches his eye, from Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. The name is familiar, and when he reads on he realizes why.

He and Dean captured and interrogated a demon there, back when they were trying to get Dean out of the demon deal. The demon tried to use its meatsuit to get out of the situation but the guy—Jerry? Jeffrey?—gave them the go-ahead. They made that demon talk.

The demon had been murdering women and disemboweling them. It seems, from the article Sam is now reading, that the killings have started up again.

But that can't be right. That demon was a squealer, a stoolie. It should be locked down in the ninth circle.

Sam does some more searching and a little hacking before coming to the conclusion that he and Dean need to go back. Rather, he does. His sister shouldn't be traipsing around the country when they don't know what they're going to find. She should stay in Sioux Falls and relax.

*

"You're not going anywhere alone, Sammy," Dean protests when Sam explains why he's packing a duffel bag.

"You're not going to Idaho when you're due in what, four weeks? You miss enough doctor visits as it is."

"You've been to most of the last ones. You heard him say Mia and I're doing fine."

"That doesn't mean 'go off and hunt demons'!"

"I don't want to hunt demons, I just don't want you going off on your own when you've still got Satan in your head." Dean follows Sam as he goes down the hallway.

"It's not a problem. I'm good to hunt, Dean. I can take care of this myself. Hell, this might not even be related to us."

He doesn't know why he's so pissed as he goes down the stairs until he pauses to wait for Dean and it dawns on him.

"We could use a couple days apart anyway. I don't know why the fuck I agreed to your stupid challenge."

"That's why you're so pissy."

"Dean, I'm gonna leave in an hour, and you are not coming with me."

"How about I go with you and the challenge is off?"

"No."

Dean tries to give him sad puppy eyes.

"Can we maybe not talk about this when we're alone?" Sam requests, looking past her at the woodwork on the wall.

"You want an audience for this?"

"No, I mean- well, Bobby left a while ago and he's not gonna be back for another few hours, I don't think."

"Don't think you can resist temptation, huh?"

"Not when you're one foot away from me!"

Dean takes a couple waddling steps back.

"Thank you... Please, just stay here and let me take care of it."

"No."

"Dean."

"I'm coming with."

"For Mia's sake."

"Don't use her like that."

"I'm not using her. This is about her safety as much as yours."

Dean grumbles and finally relents.

"Fine. I'll stay." As a parting shot, she gets up in Sam's space. "Enjoy your time alone, not getting boners."

She takes too long to move away and Sam slowly raises his hand to stroke her cheek.

"Dean, for the love of God give me a reason not to fuck you right now."

"I want to suck your dick," she responds.

"You might not get a chance," he breathes as he leans in to seal his lips over hers. They're both shuddering in arousal. He frantically unbuckles his belt and opens his fly before Dean takes over to pull his hard cock out. She strokes him lightly and he gasps against her skin.

"Make some noise for me, Dean," he murmurs before reaching between her legs. He palms her through her dress and underwear, cock twitching at her moan in his ear.

"You gotta give me more." She doesn't need to plead further, as Sam is more than happy to slide under her clothes and provide direct friction. She grinds against him, both of them panting as they relieve their frustrations.

He tastes her lips, her tongue, her skin, while his free hand explores her body, having not touched her in weeks. She's of course larger in more than one respect, but otherwise unchanged. Her scent and sounds and responses to his fingering and groping are the same and he doesn't know how he gave it up. He's not sure how he's going to give it up ever again. He wants and loves every bit of Dean; the idea of pushing it away just seems so absurd when he's touching her and she's touching him.

"I mean it, Sammy. I want to suck you off, or let you fuck my face."

"Want me to come down your throat?"

"Yes," she squeaks as Sam changes the pattern of movement in his fingers.

"Is that the only place you want it?"

"My face."

"Shit, I need to see that. Anywhere else?"

"My tits."

"Would you rub it into your skin? Would you let me rub it all over you?"

"Yes," Dean whimpers, stroking Sam faster.

Sam sucks on her neck for a few seconds and pauses his fingering before asking:

"What do you think of sucking me off, then spreading your legs and letting me come all over your pussy? Promise I'll clean it up."

"With your mouth?"

"With my mouth."

"Son of a bitch," Dean moans, melting in his arms. Almost literally, Sam thinks as his fingers get another coating of hot slick.

"Upstairs," he urges.

"Hell no."

"What?"

"Dude, we just fucking went down the stairs. I am thirty-six fucking weeks. I won't even be turned on anymore by the time I get up them."

"I'll carry you."

"Just do me on the couch."

Sam glances through the doorway into the living room.

"Dean, we-"

"This is the kinkiest thing we're gonna get to do until after Mia's gone."

"Couch it is." Sam guides his sister into the living room, hand on her ass under her dress, Dean's tongue halfway down his throat. He's about to let go so she can sit, when he stops all movement and looks over her shoulder, toward the desk.

Dean also stops and looks at him in concern.

"Sammy, what is it?"

"You know how I said Bobby wasn't here?"

Dean sighs and rests her forehead against Sam's chest.

"If the next words that come out of your mouth are 'I was wrong,' you're never gonna get anyone pregnant again."

Sam takes a moment to both compose a sentence and brace himself for injury.

"Your brother made a mistake," he tells Dean.

"Son of a bitch..."

Hidden behind his sister's body, Sam attempts to stuff himself back into his pants and zip up his fly without drawing attention. Dean waits until he's done and then turns to face Bobby, sitting at his desk.

Every face in the room is red with embarrassment.

"So when did you get back?" Sam asks.

"Oh, half an hour ago."

"And, uh, you heard all of that?" Dean asks next.

"Yeah."

"Why didn't you knock over a fucking book or something?"

"Figured you'd go upstairs, never know I was here. If you wanted me to know, you woulda told me by now."

"...How long have you known?"

"Before Cas opened Purgatory."

"So, like, the whole time," Dean verifies.

"Should we leave? Forever?" Sam wonders.

"Guys, if I had a real problem with it, I woulda said something."

"Are you saying you're okay with this?"

Bobby sighs.

"I have some questions, but it ain't my business judging you. You're as welcome in this house as you've always been and always will be."

"What kind of questions?"

"Questions you shouldn't answer together. And never have to answer if you don't want to."

"No. Ask us both."

"Alright." The old hunter crosses his arms. "Now, Sam didn't have a soul when it happened, but we have to call a spade a spade: Sam raped Dean. In what universe does it make any sense to be sleeping together now?"

The Winchesters look at each other.

"We don't really have an answer to that," Dean admits.

"We're going to Idaho," Sam blurts out. "We exorcised a demon there a few years back, and the killings started up again so we have to go there, take care of unfinished business."

"Right," Dean says. "Sammy, let's go upstairs and pack. Like actually pack. To leave. Not 'pack.'"

Sam cringes as they shuffle out of the room.

*

The siblings say nothing to each other until a full minute after they've driven away. Sam breaks the silence.

"That was my fault."

"Yeah it was. But... he was gonna find out sooner or later."

"He heard everything we said, Dean."

"He didn't see anything, right?"

"That we know of."

"Speaking of what we said..."

"First motel we get to, Dean, we can take care of each other."

"Thank you," she sighs.

"It doesn't mean I'm ready to do it all the time again."

"Fine with me. Past few weeks, half the time I couldn't care less about sex."

"Never thought I'd hear you say that."

"Shut your damn mouth," Dean mutters, turning on the radio.

*

"Are you sure you're okay, Dean?" Sam asks, opening the door to their motel room. "And Mia? Mia's okay?"

"We're both fine. I just need to sleep. After I pee," she mumbles, heading to the bathroom. She doesn't bother closing the door fully and adds, "That is the second worst thing about being pregnant."

Sam paces. God, this was close. He and Dean were right to come. If they hadn't, pretty soon an innocent young man would have been dead and a murderer would be still be out there. But it was all a trap for them, specifically for Dean, the exorcist.

Dean washes her hands and exits the bathroom, making a beeline for the bed.

"So, Jeffrey was just pretending to be the victim. Way back in that farmhouse during the exorcism," Sam muses, arranging all four available pillows so she can sleep upright. "He was just... acting."

"He was a psychopath, Sam. That's what they do all the time, is act. Act like they're normal," she answers in an exhausted monotone, "act like they're not balls-to-the-wall crazy." She gives a nod of thanks before lying down and shutting her eyes. "Alright. Screw consciousness."

She's snoring away before Sam even finishes removing her shoes. He sits on the other side of the bed, ready to sleep himself, before being startled back to full consciousness.

"No, no, Sam. No nap for you, Sammy."

Sam presses on his palm, trying to make the hallucination disappear.

"Oh, come on, don't do that. Let's talk, Sam. I always enjoyed our special little chats. Don't you want to talk?"

He presses harder, with bruising force, but nothing is happening. He can still see and hear Lucifer.

"Yeah, look at that. Something's definitely different now, isn't it? You let me in. You wanted me, partner, to save Dean and little Mea. So you think you can use your little tricks to banish me again..." Lucifer snaps his fingers, making Sam flinch. "...like that? No. I do believe I've got you, bunk buddy." He wiggles his index finger near Sam's face as flames leap up around them. "Got my finger wiggling around in your brainpan."

Knowing it's not real doesn't stop Sam from cringing. It's the assault on his brain coming from inside, the inability to escape.

"Come on, Sammy! Come on! Say it with me now." Lucifer cups his hands around his mouth and shouts: "Good morning, Vietnam!"

The hallucination laughs maniacally, evilly. The monster is nothing Sam can see, hear, or feel externally. It's in his head. It is his head. There's no physical action or mental trick to make it go away. It all has to go through his brain, which is being overridden and overwhelmed by Lucifer and what Lucifer wants him to see and feel.

And that is what Hell on Earth really means.

Chapter Text

Sam is trying to hide.

He just needs to sleep, just needs to sleep! It needs to stop, just for a couple hours, one hour, half an hour.

"Hey. Sam. What's the longest a normal human being has ever gone without sleep? Eleven days," Lucifer chuckles. "Hey, you've always wanted to be normal, Sam!"

Sam sees the cars in the road, rushing past.

They might end this hell, either for a couple hours, or much longer.

"If you are, you'll be dead in a week!" the hallucination calls out from behind him.

He's okay with death. He's more than ready for it. He's too tired, too tormented, to think about anything but respite.

So he runs.

*

"Feel naked, don't you, without all your layers? Most of the time you're like a flannel onion."

Sam reclines on his bed in his white hospital-issued clothing, no choice but to listen to the monologue.

"I could rip those clothes off for you and we could have a little fun."

Lucifer continues his chatter as he sits on the desk in the corner, playing with a piece of string.

This isn't as bad, Sam admits. He still can't sleep, but it's just talking. Annoying, painfully annoying, and bringing up subjects he doesn't want to think about, but it's just talk.

"Things were better when you didn't have your soul, weren't they? You didn't have to feel things. You had a few memories of me but they didn't bother you. What you did to Dean didn't bother you. You wouldn't have felt one way or the other about Mea."

Tired and broken, Sam just endures. He feels bad about the woman who hit him. She was pretty shaken up by having a man run out in front of her car.

"I'm just sayin'. Back when you had no soul, you never had to sleep."

The door to Sam's room opens. To his relief, it's Dean.

"Hey, it's Dean. Is it just me or did she get bigger in the fourteen hours since you last saw her walking around? Looks like Mea's gonna pop out any second."

"How are you feeling?"

"Maybe you should cancel my UFC fight."

"Yeah. Keep that sense of humor, Sam. It'll get you through this."

With a sigh, Dean sits down on the end of Sam’s bed.

"Sam, I'm gonna find you help. Me and Bobby."

He exhales, looking away. Dean just won't quit.

"Now, that sounded a little cynical," Lucifer remarks.

"I don't think it's out there, Dean."

"We don't know that."

"We know better than most. It's all snake oil. Last faith healer we hooked up with had a reaper on a leash. Remember?"

Now Dean averts her eyes. That was, what, six years ago? Sam doesn't regret it any more than she regrets going to Hell. He'd do it again.

"Yeah, Sam, I remember."

"I'm just saying-"

"What? That you don't want our help?"

"No, I'm just saying, don't do this to yourself. Focus on yourself and Mia."

"Sam, if I don't find something-"

"Then I'll die."

"Oh, you're upsetting me," the hallucination protests.

"Dean, we knew this was coming."

"No." She shakes her head.

"When you put my soul back-"

"No."

"-Cas warned you about all the crap it would-"

"Fuck Cas!" Dean says. "Quit being Dalai friggin' Yoda about this, okay? Get pissed! Fight!"

Sam just sighs:

"I'm too tired."

He's going to die. This is the price he pays for saving the world. It's one he's willing to pay, and Dean has to accept it too.

"This is what happens when you throw a soul into Lucifer's dog bowl. And you think there's just gonna be some cure out there?" He feels like crying as he looks at his sister, but he's too tired for that, too.

She nods to acknowledge his words, but her response is the same as before.

"I'm going to find something."

"You need to take care of yourself. Take care of the baby."

"No, Sam, you gotta hold on. You gotta fight." Dean shifts over and grabs his hand. She makes him feel Mia's movements. "Fight for her."

As drawn as Sam is to his daughter, he shakes his head.

"Dean, I signed up to spend the rest of eternity in the Cage with Lucifer. We couldn't have asked to see each other again for five minutes, let alone spend eight months together."

"Oh, you guys are having a moment," Lucifer says from the corner as Dean sniffles.

"I'm not asking. I'm telling you," she says eventually. "You're gonna get out of here."

*

Sam knows he's still in the psychiatric ward; he knows he's on his bed. There is nothing physically wrong.

But the things Lucifer is making him see and hear won't leave him alone, won't stop, won't go away, won't be silent, won't end. He can't run from them; even if he were allowed to leave the ward, these hallucinations will stay with them.

He writhes in agony. Sheer mental agony, no escape, no way to make it go away. He can't do anything about it! He can't even slow it down. It's in his head and it will be in his head even if he were to slash open his flesh, rip the hair from his scalp, claw his eyes out—it's impossible to get away! No physical movements will help but he can't lie still when he's subjected to these things. He grabs the sheets in his fists and squeezes; he turns over onto his stomach and buries his face in the mattress. It doesn't help; nothing helps. He feels one or two cool tears slip out, but sensations mean nothing. If he were stabbed or shot right now it would mean nothing, do nothing to take him away from the hallucinations and memories.

There's no physical reason he would be unable to walk or run, but Sam is immobilized all the same. If the building were on fire, he couldn't get up. He couldn't make himself get to his feet and move. Lucifer is just too much. Legs, feet, muscles, they can't listen to orders when everything else is just so big and loud in his mind. The stress and horror and disgust and fear crowd out everything.

If Sam thought screaming would help, his throat would already be raw. Instead he suffers in near-silence. That is to say, near-silence for anyone around him. There's no silence or peace for him.

God, he needs Dean, but he'd be so ashamed to be seen like this, to be heard whimpering, and she couldn't really help. Her presence will be soothing, her touch might help distract him a little, but she can't make it stop. No one can make it stop.

*

"Hey," Dean greets, sinking onto the bed. It's been maybe three days since the car accident; Sam's already struggling to keep track. More and more hours of his existence are being spent trapped, caged by his own mind. He's been lucky so far that Dean has only shown up during lucid moments.

Utterly miserable, he sidles up next to her and puts his arm around her waist. He breathes in her scent and wonders if this is the last time he'll have a coherent conversation with her.

"I went to the other end of the hospital so they could check on Mia," she says.

"It's M-E-A, Dean. Get it right!"

"Yeah? How is she?" Sam is grateful to hear anything about his daughter.

"...Good," Dean says, with just a little too much hesitation.

"Oh no, Sammy, something's wrong! Mea's going to die! Dean's going to die! They're both gonna die! They're gonna die and then you have to die alone in this room with me!"

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing. She still hasn't turned yet."

"Turned?"

"To get into position, idiot. Babies come out of the vagina head first, remember? They talked about this at the last appointment you were at. You should get some sleep, Sammy."

"I'm 37 weeks and she should have turned by now."

"What happens if she doesn't?"

"They'll both die. Miserably, horribly, bloodily."

"If she doesn't turn by the time I go into labor, they'll do a C-section. It's gonna be fine."

"Just like in your dream, Sammy. They'll both die."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Probably won't even come to that. Doc gave me some exercises to do to help her turn."

Sam chooses to trust his sister. He can see Mia kicking today, like some creepy alien parasite inside Dean. He touches the spot with his fingertips, feels his daughter's foot through fabric and skin.

"That's gotta hurt," he remarks.

"A little. It's your fault, she acts up when she hears you talk."

"...Sorry?" he tries.

"She really likes your voice," Dean explains.

For the first time in about a week, Sam smiles.

"I wish I could meet her."

"You're going to."

He shuts his eyes sadly.

"No I'm not."

"You got that right," the hallucination scoffs.

"Sam, listen to me. I'm gonna find a way to fix you, and in less than a month I am gonna have this baby. You're gonna see her and hold her."

"...I won't want to let go."

Dean is quiet, then her body starts to shake and Sam pulls back to look at her. Her face is crumpled in despair.

"Me neither," she says. She's nearly sobbing as she confesses, "I want to keep her so fucking bad and I don't know how I'm supposed to give her to somebody else even when I know she'll be safer with them. You have to be there, Sam, or I won't be able to do it."

"Don't try," he urges, "Keep her. Raise her. Do what you can to let her lead the life she wants, even if it's not the one you want for her."

"No, Sam. We can't do that. It's selfish."

"We shouldn't. But you can, Dean. Tell her every day that I loved her more than she can imagine."

"No. Quit talking bullshit. We're going to beat this thing in your head like we've beaten every other thing that's come our way, and then we're going to do the right thing by her."

Lucifer is making the person on the bed look very different from a human, let alone Dean, but Sam forces himself to kiss her on the cheek.

"Whatever happens, it's alright, Dean."

*

On his seventh day in the hospital, when he's been awake for twelve days, Sam finds himself unable to see, hear, or smell anything of the hospital room. He thinks he's lying down, but he's unsure.

Dean and Bobby are both looking for a cure; Sam has that knowledge. But everything he perceives is what Lucifer wants him to experience.

*

Chains plunging through his body, the floor falling away leaving his body to slowly slide down, leaving blood and gore on the metal links.

A maze made of spikes and barbs, the ground lined with nails, Sam forced to run through it blind and naked lest Lucifer catch him.

A room with nothing but images of Dean being tortured and killed, and Lucifer's voice reminding Sam that he will never, ever see Dean again.

Exsanguination while being crushed until his bones snap and his organs are pushed out of his orifices.

Lucifer plunges him into a vat of boiling blood, throws him against concrete until his bones are little more than the beads inside a stuffed animal.

Both archangels make Sam pay for throwing them into the Cage. Michael resents him; Michael is frustrated that he was unable to follow his Father's orders. But Lucifer rages.

*

Sam escaped the Cage. This isn't real; he can tell it's fake. Last he knew he was in a hospital; he's probably still there. But he's unable to access reality. The only things he can perceive are memories of Hell. He can't even be sure if he's technically conscious or unconscious. Is he screaming, contorting? Is Dean worrying? Or is this all just a dream, manifesting as nothing more than wavelengths and beeps on a monitor?

He can only hope that Dean will let him die sooner rather than later. He can only hope that wherever his soul ends up, Lucifer will not follow. He can only hope that this will somehow end.

*

There was sodom on a floor made of coldest ice.

There was white-hot metal gouging his insides.

There were furious screams and agonized screams.

There was suffocation.

There was tearing apart, limb from limb.

There was torture.

There is torment.

There is no "was."

There is only "is" and "will always be."

There is Lucifer's laughter.

* * * * * *

Not really in the cage, he thinks, but does it matter where i am? If it looks like the cage and sounds like the cage and smells and tastes and hurts like the cage, it must be the cage. doesn't feel real but can't find more real so this not real is real. reality is subjective so i am actually trapped in the cage again, tooth-ripping blood-filled bone-crumbling terrifying dean-empty gehenna, no one here but Lucifer and his toy, i am the toy, i am his plaything and his punching bag and his test subject. i am his only interest, me and my pain, and i have nothing, i don't even have me, i am an it,  everything it is belongs to Lucifer, Satan, Devil, Adversary, Defiler, Corruptor, it has always belonged to him, it was born to belong to him, it was born to be used and abused by him, there was never a whatever its name was before it never had a name or a body or a life or a sister it was only ever dust under Lucifer's heel

* * * * * *

Lake of fire

Ultimate revenge

Can't escape

I'm drowning in blood

Forever trapped

Eyes are gone

Ripping out my insides

* * * * * *

shards of bone

a pile of my flesh

tattered mind

always hurting

no end

* * * * * *

despair

eviscerated

violated

inferno

lacerated

* * * * * *

bLood

sUlfur

sCream

paIn

suFfer

firE

eteRnal

* * * * * *

can't

never

help me dean

powerless

LUCIFER

* * * * * *

Sam doesn't open his eyes; instead he tenses. It all feels real, but does that mean anything? Lucifer may have hit a new level of deception, where Sam can't even be sure that reality is reality. It feels like he's in a bed again and someone is sitting on the side. It sounds and smells like he's still in the hospital. Maybe a different room though.

"Sammy?"

Dean's voice.

Sam remembers then that there's another possibility. Dean might have found a cure.

So he opens his eyes to see her sitting right there.

"Dean." He smiles to see her.

"Hey. How's your head?"

"Better, I think..." He sits up, groggy. "I don't see Lucifer anywhere."

"Thank god," she murmurs, hugging him tightly.

When they end their embrace, Sam looks at Dean's body and realizes she's wearing a hospital gown. And she looks different. Smaller.

"Hang on, did you give birth? How long have I been out?" Suddenly he has energy to sprint down the hall to wherever his daughter is. He pushes his blankets out of the way. "I need to see her, I wanna hold her."

Dean doesn't move. She doesn't smile or even look at him.

"Did she turn in time? Did they have to do a C-section? ...Dean?"

There's still no response.

"W-was there a problem?" Sam's joy has sunk to terror. "Is our daughter alright?"

His sister flinches at the question. Even then, she won't meet his eyes.

God, he's woken up only to a relive a nightmare. But it surely can't be that bad. Maybe there was a tough delivery, maybe there were complications, maybe Mia's not in the best shape, but she'll be fine. She has to be. They're in a hospital swarming with doctors.

"Dean, whatever happened, it's okay. Just tell me."

Chapter Text

"Sammy... all that's ever mattered is that we have each other. We still got that."

Chapter Text

Sam can close his eyes in peace. He can touch and see and hear and it's all real. No one is in his head except himself. He can trust the world around him.

But he doesn't want to.

Any relief from being free of Lucifer is overshadowed by grief. How can Sam smile about that victory when his loss is so much greater? How is he supposed to be happy about anything?

Less than a day after he wakes up, both he and Dean are ready to leave the hospital. They stand outside the main doors of the hospital, feeling numb even in friendly morning sunlight.

Dean gives him the keys—she isn't supposed to drive for six weeks, not that she'll last that long—and heads for the car. They each slide into the front seat, opposite their usual sides, and shut the respective doors.

He's not like Dean, Sam thinks. She finds peace in driving, solace in speeding down the highway for a couple hours. He doesn't; just leaving point A is too passive. He needs a point B, except there isn't one. Everything just hurts and there's no way to save Mia or get her back (technically there might be, but both Winchesters know better than to go down that path again). They have to accept this reality and go back to the way things were before.

He doesn't want to. He can't stand the injustice of this loss. He can take whatever life throws at him; he can tolerate more than most. But not this. Mia went through so much, and Sam went through so much to gain the privilege of loving her and thinking of her as his daughter, but now she'll never have the life she was meant to have—she'll never have any life at all—and Sam will never hold her.

He chose not to ask to see her. He'd rather remember her as the little thing inside Dean who liked hearing his voice. He's not ready for details on what happened, either. It's enough to know that there were complications and they tried to get Mia out but it was too late.

Sam is too afraid that he'll find out it was because of him, that Mia would still be alive if Dean weren't so focused on saving her brother from the nightmare he was in. For the same reason, he stops asking about the Tibetan spell she used to clear up whatever was in his head, once he realizes she did the spell the same day she lost Mia.

"Where should we go?" he asks Dean in a monotone.

"Bobby still says he'll have us."

"Alright." Sam starts the car.

*

It's a long drive; they have to stop at a motel for the night. Sam doesn't think much about it when he gets a room with two beds.

They don't speak much. They don't have to or really want to. The one exception is when Sam steps into the bathroom for two minutes and comes out to find Dean wearing one of his shirts as a nightgown.

"Sick of frilly maternity clothes," she explains before getting into her bed.

Sam wonders if she's going to end up burning them.

*

Nothing awakens Sam at two in the morning, but he immediately has an overwhelming sense that he should check on Dean. He can see the shape of her body under the covers, and it's shaking.

"Dean?"

She stops and takes a couple breaths before answering.

"Sammy?"

In practically one motion, he gets out of his bed, crosses the space between them, and slips into Dean's, only laying a hand on her shoulder. Her grief and his together are palpable.

She sniffles and rolls over to face him. She feels for his face in the darkness and encounters a tear on his cheek, then moves closer until their heads rest on the same pillow.

"She was inside me for so long and now she's gone," Dean explains, words choppy and strained. "She should still be inside me, kicking me and growing and making my life suck."

Sam carefully slides his arms around Dean to give her a hug. She presses even closer and nestles her head under his chin.

Why does it have to hurt so much? She was never meant to be part of their lives. She was never meant to know them or what their life was. They were going to lose Mia anyway; they were never going to watch her grow up.

She'll never know pain or suffering, Sam tells himself. She'll never feel bad about being different. Nothing can hurt her.

But he wanted so many things for Mia. He wanted her to learn to read early, for her to be taught to love books and learning. He wanted her to hear "I love you" every single day. She was supposed to have childhood experiences—going to Disneyland, getting money from the Tooth Fairy, trick-or-treating, building snow forts. She was supposed to grow up knowing one house, one school, and one neighborhood. Mia was supposed to have friends, lots of friends, and have playdates and sleepovers. She could learn to drive when she turned sixteen and go to college once she graduated high school.

Most of all, she was supposed to have somebody devoted to teaching her that being unique doesn't make her a monster, that she doesn't need to feel bad about being different. Mia was supposed to have the person Sam needed and never had when he was growing up.

And he wanted to be that person. He wanted to be there for Mia.

Mine.

*

The Winchesters wake up in each other's arms, still facing each other, to the heartbreaking reality that the nightmare hasn't ended.

There is no Mia.

Sam shuts his eyes, trying not to start his day crying though he'll be shocked if he makes it through the morning without a breakdown.

"Sammy." Dean's lips meet his and the siblings try to soothe each other. At first their grief is magnified, but it eases and soon they're kissing to forget their pain. As long as they keep touching, they won't have to think about it.

"Distract me," she whispers before reaching down to run her fingertips up and down the length of Sam's morning wood.

"Dean..." He couldn't say no if he wanted to. He needs to be distracted as much as she does. So he kisses her again and allows her to push him onto his back. She slides her panties off and pulls his sweatpants down to his knees.

"Is it safe for you to do this?" he asks. "It's only been four days."

"You can't put it in me, is all," Dean answers as she lowers her hips to meet his, legs on either side of him. Sam takes her hands in his as she grinds against him slowly, rubbing her clit against the sensitive underside of his cock. She adds, "And probably don't touch the stitches."

"...You gonna take off the shirt?"

"You don't want to see me."

"Why not?"

Dean lifts the shirt to show her brother her hanging flesh covered in stretch marks, and the sutured incision under her bellybutton.

"I'd still hit that," Sam tells her. She shakes her head in incredulity but remains partly clothed.

"You're gross, Sam."

"You're riding your brother's dick," he points out, pulling off his t-shirt. Dean spreads her hands on his chest and grinds harder.

"Miss having it inside me," she admits.

"Someday," Sam promises, "I'm going to fuck you so hard you can't walk the next day."

"...That mean we're together again?"

Taking a deep breath, Sam sits up against the headboard, leaving Dean confused and frictionless. He gestures for her to come forward and reaches between her thighs with two fingers. He tries to mimic the rhythm and pressure of her body's previous movement as he answers.

"I'm not there yet, Dean. Things are better, but you still deserve to be treated like you're... well, you."

"I like what we have. If the price is you not always thinking of me as me, I'm fine with it."

"Are you worried I won't want this with you anymore?"

"No," Dean says, avoiding his eyes.

"I'll always want this with you," he promises. "But I'd rather lose a year of fucking my sister than spend a lifetime missing the person I can't see even though you're right next to me."

"...That was actually pretty sweet, Sammy."

"No matter what," he continues, "I love you more than I can tell you before you get sick of hearing it and walk away."

"Yeah you do." Dean pecks him on the lips to shut him up and then starts to stroke his cock. "Not that I don't... y'know."

"I know." They kiss again, and this time it's not trying to escape pain but to chase pleasure. They pant against each other's lips, muffle moans into sweating skin, and draw each other to gentle completion.

They hold each other in the afterglow, but it's only a matter of minutes before it occurs to both of them that they've never had sex without an "audience," and soon the melancholy is back.

And everything still hurts.

*

In the late afternoon, they get to Sioux Falls. There are still few words worth speaking. Sam parks the car and Bobby is there to give each of them a tight hug, tears in his eyes, just like in theirs.

A fifth of whiskey is waiting for them which garners from Dean something that resembles a distant cousin of a smile. Sam can't be sure how long it's really been since she had alcohol, but it's nice to see her toss back a shot and sigh as if she just came.

Drinking helps for a while, like sex did, but Sam just wants to be told that Mia is out there being raised by a loving family with normal, safe lives. He wants to believe that he and Dean won't be the last of their family.

Instead of finding comfort in the bottom of a glass, it just grates on him over and over that he spent more time thinking about holding her than he was ever going to get a chance to actually do it, but in the end neither he nor Dean even got to see a living child, let alone touch her.

*

It's said that there's a word for a man who's lost his spouse, a woman who's lost her spouse, and a child who's lost their parents, but no word for parents who have lost a child because there is no way to describe that pain.

Sam thinks it might be true. It hurts more than losing his father, though for the same reasons. He needed to apologize for the strife, explain that he understood, and say "I love you."

Maybe it doesn't count as losing a child because he never really met her, but it's a loss of something that he felt he won after a struggle. It was a challenge to come to love her, and once he did it was as strong a love as any father might have. Stronger, in Sam's opinion, except for his moments of resenting what she came from and what she reminds him of.

*

Deriding himself, Sam wonders what the hell he would have expected. Even if they had kept her, they never could have told her the truth. He will always be Dean's brother first. He never would have gotten to be "Dad." Mia would have grown up wondering who her father is, where he is, why doesn't she have a father, and Sam would have had to bite his tongue and leave the room when she asked. Because she would have asked, just like he used to ask about Mom.

Sooner or later, though, Mia would have found out, and she would have been angry at being lied to. How could she feel anything else? And once she understood what Sam had done, how would she feel? What would she think if she knew she was a rape baby? What would that do to her self-perception?

*

It's about three o'clock in the morning when Sam is awoken by the voices of Dean and Bobby. He can't make out words, but they're having an intense discussion about something. He starts to get up to investigate, but their voices lower in volume and he no longer hears them.

He'd fallen asleep with Dean in his arms; he falls asleep again wondering when she left the bed.

*

Blurry and numb, the days sag and blend together. Sam is surprised to check the calendar and learn it's been less than a week since he woke up to heartbreak.

It's as if his life over the past nine months has just been waking up to one shitstorm after another. First, he wakes up to find that he's been a soulless monster for 18 months, plus his brother has been replaced. Then he opened his eyes with memories of assaulting his sister. And lastly, coming to in that hospital room where Dean told him that Mia was gone.

If he goes into another coma, for any reason, Sam doesn't want to wake up.

*

Sam skips breakfast just like he has for the past five days, but forces himself to eat lunch. He hasn't had an appetite since... he doesn't remember. Before his hallucinations were out of control. That was over a month ago, wasn't it? No wonder his clothes are hanging loose on his body.

Bobby comes into the kitchen while Sam is staring out the window mindlessly, meal half-eaten.

"Did Dean tell you?" the man asks gravely.

"Tell me what?"

Bobby shakes his head.

"I gave her two days."

"Two days?"

Bobby hems and haws a bit before answering.

"You and Dean are like a son and daughter to me. If you ask me to keep a secret, I will. But there are some things that I can't hide from a man."

"Bobby, what the hell are you talking about?" Sam suddenly remembers being awoken. "Is this what you guys were talking about the other night?"

Bobby nods, but only tells him:

"Ask Dean."

Perplexed, Sam gets up and goes up the stairs three at a time.

"Dean?" he calls.

"Sam?" Her voice comes from their bedroom. Sam finds her lying on her bed, watching something on her laptop.

"Is there something you're not telling me?" he asks.

"...No."

"That's not what I got from Bobby."

"Well Bobby is the Sioux Falls town drunk."

"Dean, come on. With all the shit we've been through, do we really have to keep secrets from each other?"

She closes her laptop and sets it aside before getting to her feet, wincing.

"I don't know what either of you are talking about," Dean says. "I'm not keeping any secrets."

"I heard you and Bobby talking the other night. Whatever it is, I don't think I should get it from him."

"There's nothing I'm hiding," she insists. "You taking his word over mine?"

"Look me in the eye and swear that you're telling me the truth."

She takes him up on the challenge and stares at him as they stand toe to toe.

"I swear-" she begins before choking on a word. She breaks eye contact.

"Dean, tell me."

"I can't. I'm sorry."

"So you can tell Bobby but not me?"

"Sammy, please, just leave it."

It's difficult to say no when Dean is pleading with him, so Sam answers quietly.

"You don't have to tell me, but I'm going to find out the truth either way. If it was important enough for Bobby to go to me, I think I have to know." He turns around to go back downstairs.

"Wait."

Rotating once again, Sam stands there patiently as his sister ostensibly psyches herself up for whatever she's about to reveal.

"It's about Mia."

"...What about her?" Sam asks when there's no elaboration.

Dean's flat tone contrasts wildly with the answer:

"She's alive."

Chapter Text

Though Sam's sorrow should be lifted at the thought of his daughter being alive, it's still anchored inside him, now changed to dread. His body is shaking as the questions swarm his mind. How bad could the truth be that Dean would tell such a painful lie?

"If Mia's alive, where is she?"

"Safe," Dean answers.

"Safe where? Who is she with?"

"It doesn't matter. She's going to be taken care of. She's going to have everything we could want for her, and more."

"If she's in such a good place, why would you lie to me?" Tears heat Sam's eyes and he's ready to be sick. "You told me my daughter was dead , you let me grieve for almost a week! You owe me a fucking explanation!"

It all horrifically falls into place in Sam's head, right then. He knows what happened.

"There was no ritual, was there? At least not any kind of 'cleansing' spell. Did you do something to Mia to save me?"

"It wasn't like that. I was out of options, Sam. There was nothing that would help you. But then I got an offer."

***

"Well, what have we here?" an accented voice asks from behind Dean.

She stiffens.

Crowley.

"Hello, darling," he greets, pulling up a chair and seating himself next to her. She gives him a glance and turns her attention back to her comatose brother.

"Took you long enough. I summoned you two hours ago."

"I had more pressing and pleasurable matters to attend to than learn what a Winchester wanted from me."

"Sam's dying. Can you do something about it?"

"I'm assuming this isn't some run-of-the-mill incurable disease or malignant tumor. What's killing him?"

"...I'm not a hundred percent sure," Dean admits.

"May I?"

She shoots a glare of begrudging permission.

"Don't mess with him."

The King of Hell places a hand on Sam's forehead for a few seconds. He grimaces at whatever he feels before sitting back in his chair.

"A small part of Lucifer's essence, some of his grace to be precise, is still inside your brother, causing his memories of the Cage to fester," he explains. "Sam's soul is rotting in there. Dripping with pus."

"Can you fix him?"

"Absolutely. I can remove the grace and in a few days Sam will wake up and be the same dewy-eyed gentle giant he's always been."

"Alright, sounds good."

"There is now, of course, the small matter of payment to be discussed."

"What do you want, my soul? How long do I get?"

"You think you can buy my services with that white elephant? Let's go more old-fashioned. I want..." Crowley nods toward Dean's womb. "Your firstborn child."

***

Sam covers his face with his hands and paces. How is he going to listen to this?

***

"My fir- What? You expect me to trust you with my daughter? I don't even want to think about what you'd do to her."

"If you don't want me to molest her, all you have to do is say so."

"I'm not handing a baby to anyone who can even fucking joke about that."

"Well, then. I appreciate your interest, but I have other clients to attend to." The demon rises and turns to leave the room.

"Wait," Dean says as he crosses the threshold. "There's gotta be something else I can give you. Or something I can do."

"You don't have anything else I want."

"Why do you want my kid?"

"Aside from the obvious leverage it gives me, she would evoke considerable envy among my peers as the first offspring of one of the humans who averted the Judeo-Christian apocalypse."

"So she'd be what, a trophy child?"

"Precisely. I will provide nothing but the best for her."

"What about human parents and no demons within fifty miles of her, ever?"

Dean's sarcasm is deflected:

"Do you know the rate of abuse for adopted children?" Crowley scoffs. Dean is ready to knife him when he sits again but instead she listens: "You can't trust humans. Humans lie. They go back on their word the moment it suits them. Demons have to honor their word. I can guarantee you her safety, if you accept the offer."

"You'd just twist my words, find loopholes. You'd take her and do whatever the hell you feel like doing."

"Then close the loopholes," he says, pulling out a scroll. "Make any additions or changes to the contract you'd like, no obligation to finalize."

"I'll look at it. But that doesn't mean I'll do it."

The demon holds out the parchment, along with a red pen, though not so far that Dean can take them without extending her arm into his space. Just that smallest of power plays makes her skin crawl.

***

"It covered everything. She'd have more than we could ask for from human parents, more than we can trust human parents to provide. You'd be safe, she'd be safe and healthy and happy. It was a win-win, Sam. I had to take it."

He sinks down onto his bed, nausea rising in his throat. Mia. With the King of Hell.

***

Lying in the hospital bed, Dean feels more alone than she has in months. There's no baby inside her, just a line of surgical staples where they made the cut.

Trading a child for anything is wrong; handing anyone over to a demon is wrong. But while Dean is as ready as she'll ever be for life without her daughter, she'll never be ready for life without her brother. She didn't have a choice.

It's a life that never should have happened for a life that Dean needs more than her own. It's a part of Sam for Sam himself.

There's no use thinking about it anymore. What's important is seeing Sam, seeing that he's either awake or sleeping normally. Crowley should have removed the grace by now.

Speak of the Devil, she thinks when the King of Hell appears in the doorway. He's holding a tiny bundle and Dean realizes that must be her baby. Her baby that was inside her just a couple hours ago.

"What about my brother?" she asks.

Crowley cradles Mia in one arm and with the opposite hand pulls a little glass vial out of his pocket. There's a glowing blue-white essence in it.

"Lucifer's grace," the demon says, holding it up briefly. He speaks softly as not to disturb his new ward. "I've done my part. I have my payment."

"I want to see her."

Rolling his eyes, Crowley brings Mia over to Dean and lets her see the baby's sleeping face.

Dean can't help but tear up looking at her daughter. Every miserable moment of the past nine months, from the soulless monster who shoved himself inside her to the perpetual heartburn and constipation of the third trimester is forgiven. Even with an ugly wrinkled face and hair that's sticking up in weird ways, Mia looks, well, awesome.

Swallowing her pride, Dean glances up at the demon. She hates to admit it but this is the probably the nicest thing Crowley has ever done for her.

"Thank you," she says in a stiff tone.

"A pleasure doing business," Crowley says as a farewell. Then he's gone, and so is Mia.

***

"After the, uh, C-section, Crowley fixed you and took Mia. You woke up two days later," Dean finishes.

Rendered speechless, Sam is unable to lift his head. He does his best not to succumb to the sobs threatening to take over. He's terrified for Mia, shaking in fear for her safety. His daughter isn't simply with a demon. She belongs to Crowley.

He's more horrified and outraged at Dean than he knows how to express. Such a thing would have been inconceivable before today. There are bad people out there in the world, there are monsters both literal and figurative, and Dean is none of those things.

So how could she do something so evil ?

He takes a deep breath and tries to compose himself before addressing his sister. It only sort of works; his voice is still wounded and weak.

"She was an innocent unborn human being, and you used her as a bargaining chip."

"I had to."

"My daughter, Dean. You gave my daughter to Crowley ."

"She wasn't yours, Sam. The guy who got me pregnant doesn't exist."

"You don't have the right to call yourself her mom, Dean. You can't tell me I'm not her father, and you can't tell me I don't love her as much as our parents ever loved us. Mia is mine, and even if she didn't share a drop of blood with either of us you know that I'd rather die a hundred fucking times than let a demon take a baby."

"I couldn't let you die."

He pushes her up against the nearest wall, moving so suddenly that she gasps.

"Dean, you need to understand something: I would shoot anyone who handed Mia to a demon. Hell, if Bobby did this? Or- or Dad? They'd be dead on the floor already. I don't care why you did it. If you were anyone else, and I mean anyone , I would kill you."

Her eyes flicker over his face and she keeps a stiff upper lip.

"If you're about to hurt me, just do it."

It takes a second for Dean's meaning to sink in. Sam would be horrified that she even considers that a possibility, but he's too angry to address it. Instead he only shoves himself away, hardly able to see through the fresh wave of tears.

"Go to Hell, Dean," he tells her. With that, he leaves the room, slamming the door so hard he hears the wooden frame splinter.

*

Down the stairs, out the door, and into the August heat. Without breaking stride, Sam grabs a crowbar he spies leaning against the wall of the house. Shouting in agony, he hurls it into the windshield of an old Ford, thirty feet away.

Slowing and then stopping, he approaches the decades-old rust bucket and listens to the tinkling of shattered glass. It's oddly calming, grounding, to hear it, and it helps quiet his roiling thoughts and feelings while his body quakes with silent sobs.

Mia. She can't grow up with Crowley, she just can't. She has to be rescued, and Sam is the only person who can do it. His daughter is depending on him for her entire future.

He can't remember the last time he was so scared. He's been on missions of revenge before, where his fury and need for justice were many times stronger than fear, because the worst had already happened. He's been afraid for Dean before, but she's always been tough, strong, and in-control. Mia should still be in her mother's womb; she is helpless and vulnerable.

Sam breathes in and out, rubbing his eyes. Nothing he can do in this moment can change the fact that Mia is with Crowley. Breaking things, howling into the wind, prayer, drinking, none of those will help. Killing himself won't undo the deal, which is a shame because Sam would like to punish Dean that way, to force her to accept Mia as consolation.

Did his sister get to see Mia? Maybe even hold her? Did Dean perhaps physically hand their baby to the demon? How? How could she do that?

The broken blue-green glass is still creating the auditory equivalent of sparkling. Sam entertains the thought of grabbing a handful and squeezing until it cuts into his palm, until he's bleeding. Pain would be good right now. But he holds back and instead retreats to a shady spot next to Bobby's unused shed.

He can't be around Dean yet, not even long enough to pack his bags. He has to leave, and maybe, God willing, within a few weeks he'll have gotten Mia back and given her to human parents. Then he'll think about whether things can go back to the way they were.

He's trapped in an intense dilemma of literally wanting to kill the one person he needs more than anyone or anything else in the universe. It's a simple fact, like grass is green and the sky is blue, that he won't hurt his sister, but it's hard not to think about it when she's done something so despicable that he would murder anyone else who did it.

Not that he can really claim any moral high ground, Sam admits; he would rape his own sister if her life depended on it. Half-heartedly, he argues to himself that it's different because he would be hurting only Dean to save her, whereas Mia could be getting hurt and gaining nothing from it. However, Dean's deal, if it were honored the way any reasonable well-intentioned person would honor it, would be a win-win just like she said. If the King of Hell could be trusted, this would be okay.

What's nauseating is knowing that what Sam did and would do is nothing compared to what Crowley is capable of if he so chooses. A demon can't be trusted with a child for twenty-four hours, let alone eighteen years. The last time Sam encountered a demon with a newborn, it was Lilith's personal chef. The former King of the Crossroads can and will find a way out of keeping his word.

*

A couple hours pass and Sam finds a sort of artificial peace outside in the fresh air, but the moment he hears Dean calling his name, all the pain, rage, and tears are back. He braces himself as footsteps round the corner of the shed.

He looks up at her. He wonders how obvious it is that he's been crying most of the time he's been out there.

Dean hesitates, then joins him on the ground, seating herself to his left as always. She grimaces when she tries to mimic his knee-hugging position and instead lets her legs stretch out straight in front of her. She did have her body cut open a week ago, after all. The less twisting and folding her torso does the better.

"What?" Sam asks, realizing there is probably a reason for her presence. He can't help but notice that as agitated as he is by being near her, in a way he's soothed at the sight.

"Just making sure you're okay."

"'Okay'?" Sam scoffs. "I'm not okay. Nothing is okay. My daughter is out there and she's going to be raised by a demon unless I do something about it."

"Sammy, we can't-"

"There is no 'we' here, Dean. You made that deal."

"And part of it is me not letting you try to get her back. You can't go after her."

There's another pang of hurt in his heart and Sam turns fully to her, on his knees.

"How could you do it, Dean? How could you do that to her? To me?"

"I couldn't lose you, Sammy! What the hell would you have done if I was dying?!"

He inhales and exhales slowly. It's time for the words he's been rehearsing in his head.

"Y'know, I couldn't stop Lucifer from killing hundreds, thousands of people while he was possessing me," he reminds Dean. "I had the rings in my pocket, all I had to do was take control for a minute, but I wasn't strong enough. He raised my hand, snapped my fingers, and people died. He killed Cas. He killed Bobby. But then he tried to kill you and I did stop him."

The look on Dean's face tells Sam that she knows—rather, she thinks she knows—where he's going. Perfect.

"I was only strong enough to stop an archangel because you were my brother. I couldn't kill you. I couldn't let you die."

A few seconds pass before Sam continues.

"But if that happened today, Dean, if Lucifer had you up against your car and tried to kill you..."

He trails off and watches tears roll down Dean's cheeks. The worst pain he can inflict upon Dean would be with the words she's expecting to hear next. They're as good as spoken; the anticipation is hurting Dean just the way Sam wants it to. He waits. In his devastation and anger, watching the idea burn brings him a little comfort.

"Say it, Sam."

He replies slowly, dangling her over the edge of the precipice. He doesn't want to pull her back to safety so soon, but he has to.

"I would stop him again, Dean, because you're my sister."

Dean lets out a quiet sob of relief. The worst is over for her. Nothing Sam can say or do will hurt as much as what he could have said to her.

"I've never been more certain that you are my sister than I am today. What you've done is unforgivable, but it's also the last piece of the puzzle. Only you would do something like this to save me. I wish to God you hadn't, but... I understand."

"So you would."

"I'm not saying that. I don't know if I'd trade Mia for your life, Dean. I've been asking myself that for an hour. I'm going to be asking myself that for a long time. I'm going to tell you something I know I would do, though."

Dean waits, oblivious to the inner turmoil Sam has suffered over the past months, oblivious to the magnitude of what he's about to say.

He thought this day would never come. He dreaded it, feared it, but no longer. Now it is right and just for Dean to know. She deserves to know, as punishment and as small consolation.

"If you were somehow cursed and dying, and the only way to save you was to have sex, even if I'd never had an incestuous thought before in my life, I would fuck you. I know you'd let me as long as I was really me, but for the sake of argument, let's say you weren't okay with it and I was left with two options: use force or let you die. Now ask me what I would do."

Dean scoffs.

"I don't have to. You would have 'respected my wishes' and let me die."

She's surprised and rightly confused when Sam moves closer still and swings a leg over hers. (He grimaces a little as a small rock digs into his knee through his jeans.) He doesn't normally straddle his sister's lap.

"No," he says, almost snarling. "I wouldn't let you die. I'd tie you up. I would force my way inside you and hurt you, really hurt you if I had to. More than when I got you pregnant."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Dean responds, attempting nonchalance.

"I'm glad I didn't have my soul that day. I am grateful that I could ignore you saying no and just do what had to be done. 'Cause honestly, I couldn't keep it up if you kept begging me not to." Sam isn't smiling but there's still a bitter chuckle. "So what I really would do is go out and find somebody who could. Registered sex offender, frustrated teenage boy, anybody who could perform under the circumstances."

"No- No. That's bullshit, Sam. You're telling me you'd stand there holding a gun to a kid's head while they rape me. That'd be raping them , too!"

Hearing it spoken aloud, Sam sheds tears. He feels truly evil as he sees how disturbed he's made his sister.

And yet, he answers:

"I'd rather do that than lose you."

Dean looks him in the eye like she's psyching herself up to say something. Maybe she's about to disown him. Maybe she's going to say she's sorry. Maybe she's going to tell him to get away from her. Maybe-

"Okay, Sammy." She nods with a weak smile. "We're okay."

Sam wishes.

"No, we're not," he answers. "Not yet. I have to go."

"What? Why?"

"Because you gave my daughter to a demon a week ago. And I can't..." Sam lets his sister fill in the blank.

She nods, understanding.

"And," he adds, "if we can look each other in the eye and say we'd hurt other people to save each other's lives, we're not okay. We have to find a way to atone for what we are, for what we carry inside."

Rather than force a reply from his sister, Sam gets to his feet. Leaving Dean isn't just about what she did. He's going to get Mia back, and give her to a normal, safe family. She will not grow up with Crowley, and if Sam has to rescue a baby from the King of Hell on his own, he will.

The irony strikes him that he has to work behind Dean's back to reverse this crime, when at last it is his sister and his sister alone he wants by his side. This is truly Dean, in his mind, in his heart, and in his soul. He needs no one more than he needs the woman who will commit atrocities to save him.

One might argue that the perfect brother or sister is one that knows when to let go, when to respect their sibling's wishes, but Sam and Dean don't live that way. They are sick for each other. Sam understands now that Dean is like a drug that will eventually destroy everything else he holds dear. No matter his feelings now, he will return, because he and his sister are addicted to each other. His heroine is his heroin.

Acknowledging it doesn't fix it, though. They both have to fix themselves, change themselves enough so they don't cross the line between good and evil again.

He holds out his hand to help Dean up.

"We've got work to do."