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A Bird in Hand

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In hindsight, he probably should have seen something like this coming. Except for the part where there was no possible way anyone, anywhere could have foreseen something like this. And Sam's read the literature. Hell, he's read every single book in the Men of Letters' possession, including all the lore on angels, and not one of them mentions anything about this.

So he thinks he can probably be forgiven for the whole freaking-out thing. Because it did kind of come out of left field.

And okay, looking back, he should have known. He should have figured this out just like he figured out Cas would be moving into Dean's room almost as soon as they got him back. And just like he figured out that entering their shared room was probably something he never, ever wanted to do without advanced notice--ideally a lot of advanced notice. And maybe, when Cas starting coming home with extra pillows and bits of silk and swaths of ribbon, maybe he should have put two and two together. But he didn't.

The problem is that it didn't seem that odd. No more so than Dean replacing all the pots and pans with ceramic cookware and enamel coated cast iron. Or that time Dean came home with area rugs. Or even that time Dean started talking about re-covering some of the chairs. Cas was just domestic. He was nesting. It was perfectly ordinary.

Except for the part where Cas is actually nesting because he is, apparently, with egg.

"I'm sorry, can you explain that again?" Sam asks, and he's not really freaking-out, except for the part where his eyes have gotten really big and he's kind of backing away because Jesus-fucking-Christ, eggs?!

"Stop being such a damned girl, Sam. It's pretty fucking simple. I knocked Cas up and now he's got an egg or two developing off in null space and when they're ready he'll bring them home and we'll wait for them to hatch."

The fact that Dean can say this with a straight face somewhat floors Sam. The fact that Dean isn't freaking out is just plain impressive.

"Okay." Sam pauses, runs a hand through his hair. He glances briefly to Cas, who seems unmoved by the entire announcement. "What..." and Sam doesn't want to ask this, he really, really doesn't. "What are they going to hatch into?"

He regrets it almost immediately, because he really, really doesn't want to know the answer. Mostly he just wants to get back to cataloguing the Men of Letters' index of spells. Spells never hurt anyone. They're certainly less scary than angel eggs.

"Nephilim," Castiel says, finally deciding to get involved in the conversation. He sounds entirely too pragmatic about the whole thing, like the offspring of a human male and an angel trapped inside a male vessel is both perfectly ordinary and something everyone should know about.

Sam blanches. He has, of course, read the bible.

"Of course, much that is written is completely inaccurate. They will appear mostly human, though certainly they will possess abilities beyond what ordinary humans are capable of. I assure you, Sam, Dean and I would not have taken this path had I been concerned by the outcome."

Which is pretty much, Sam thinks, Cas' way of saying this was planned.

Jesus fucking Christ.

~*~

Sam's not sure what he was expecting. Labour maybe? Some big ceremony? Something to indicate today was the day? He doesn't get any of that, of course. Dean just comes out of his bedroom, barefoot and still in his pajamas. He pads past Sam on his way into the kitchen, following the trail of coffee like he does every morning. The only indication that Sam has that this day is any different from the 324 days they've been living together--all three of them--is that Cas isn't trailing on Dean's heel.

"Where's Cas?" Sam asks, following Dean into the kitchen. He leans a hip on the counter; watches as Dean pours himself a cup and then starts in on scrambled eggs.

"Angel nursery," Dean answers without missing a beat. He cracks an egg into the pan; adds a dash of salt.

Sam's knees buckle.

Because even though they had the talk--which will still never not be the weirdest day of his life--he hasn't actually had a chance to come to terms with what it was going to mean. The egg-thing he thinks he can handle, but sooner or later those eggs are going to hatch and they're going to have tiny little super humans running around the batcave.

And there is no way Sam ever wants to think that sentence again. Jesus Christ--he seems to be saying that a lot these days.

"Right, so..." There are at least a dozen things he could ask. He could ask how long the eggs will be eggs, what they'll look like, what exactly their care and keeping entails, but by the time he processes that last question he's picturing Cas sitting on a nest of pillows and ribbon and silk and... honestly, just no.

He's not sure if it's a good or bad thing that Cas chooses that exact moment to materialize in the kitchen. He has something tucked under each arm, about the size of a football except made of iridescent stone that shimmers in shades of green and grey and blue, the occasional vein of orange flickering across the surface.

And oh, right, the eggs.

"There was a surprising amount of paperwork," Cas says, tossing--tossing--one of the eggs in Dean's direction. Dean drops the wooden spoon he was using to stir the eggs in order to catch it.

"Son of a... What the hell do you think you're doing?" He cradles the... egg--oh god--to his chest, rocking it like it's a small infant. His features have inexplicable lit up now that he's looking at it.

Cas is still holding his like a football. "Relax, they're surprisingly durable."

He wonders off then, heading towards the sleeping quarters where Sam is now convinced he has a nest set up. He doesn't want to know, so when Dean follows, now cooing at the damned thing, Sam crosses to the stove and switches it off, setting Dean's half-cooked eggs aside.

The irony of it does not escape him.

~*~

The problem is, it doesn't get any less weird.

He thought maybe after a few weeks he'd get used to the idea. That hasn't happened. He still starts every time he comes around a corner and finds Dean wandering around with a double-baby carrier, leg holes blocked up so that he can carry an egg on the front and an egg on the back. He talks to them, and sings to them, and takes them for rides in the damned car, music blaring because he'll be damned if he lets Cas teach them about good music.

Sam will never ever get over that one.

He is with them constantly, beaming like a proud papa-to-be--which Sam supposes he technically is--showing them off at every available opportunity.

It makes Sam rather glad it's just the three of them.

"Do you see how they change colour with mood?" he'll ask, showing Sam an egg that has turned bright orange. "That means she's happy."

Sam doesn't ask how Dean knows it's a she.

"Cas says when they're ready to hatch they're turn a bright indigo purple, and then we'll have about four hours before it happens."

Sometimes Sam thinks someone snuck in in the middle of the night and replaced his brother with a pod person. There is really no other explanation.

"Do you want to hold one?" Dean asks, and Jesus Christ--there's that word again--no he really fucking doesn't. Except Dean's looking at him all expectant, not quite as confident as Sam maybe thought he was, so of course Sam's not going to turn him down.

"That'd be awesome," he says, watching as Dean delicately extracts one of the eggs from the carrier and hands it over, gentle in a way Sam's not sure he's ever seen Dean. It kind of tugs at his heart a little. The sensation lasts just until he has an egg in his hands.

Because he hasn't touched them, not yet anyway, and they are nothing like what he was expecting. They're simultaneously soft as silk and hard as stone and so fucking warm it almost startles him into dropping it. He doesn't, managing to get it into the crook of his arm like he's seen Dean do at least a dozen times.

The whole experience is downright freaky. That and maybe a little endearing. Jesus, he's going to be an uncle. To super angel-human hybrids who can probably kill him with their mind. On the list of things Sam is not prepared for, that has officially taken first place.

Still, the egg's kind of... nice. It's still a brilliant orange, so Sam can't be doing too bad a job, can he?

~*~

The first--and only--time Sam sees the inside of Dean and Cas' room--since the eggs arrived anyway--is when Dean lets out a blood-curdling scream in the middle of the night.

Sam's up and running before he has time to process, weapon in hand because that kind of training never goes away. He kicks open the door--because hello, operating on instinct here--only to find Dean perched in the middle of the bed, eyes wide, complexion ashen, staring at... yep, that's a nest.

A very large nest that takes up the entirety of Dean and Cas' non-bed space. And like Sam suspected, it's made of pillows and silk and bits of ribbon. Actually, the whole thing is artfully constructed, kind of impressive if he's honest. It still takes him three or four takes before he figures out what's got Dean in such a panic.

The eggs are indigo blue.

Sam lowers his weapon. "Where's Cas?" he asks, because he's pretty sure Cas ought to be here for this.

Dean flails a little. It's not a pretty sight.

"He said he'd only be gone a couple days. He said he'd be back in time. He said I'd be fine. He said I could handle this." Dean glances away from the eggs, catches Sam's eye for the first time since Sam arrived. "He was wrong, Sam. I can't handle this. What the hell was I thinking? I'm not cut out to be a father. Oh, Jesus, I'm going to end up like the old man. I'm going to screw them up and then Cas is going to leave me and..."

"Breathe," Sam interjects. He sets his gun down atop Dean's dresser and crosses to the nest, tries to figure out exactly how they're going to pull this off. "Okay, you start praying, I'll get some towels and hot water."

He has no idea if eggs require towels and hot water, but his decisiveness seems to snap Dean out of whatever tailspin of a panic he was falling into. He nods, somewhat vigorously, and then starts praying. Anyone listening in would think Dean was the most devote Christian in the history of Christianity. Sam just shakes his head and goes in search of towels.

When he gets back, he finds Dean inside the nest, curled around the eggs and talking to them. Sam gets the impression this isn't the first time he's done this. Sam gets the impression this is something Dean does on a semi-regular basis. He's got them protectively nestled against his stomach and is stroking them, telling them their daddy--Jesus, Cas is the daddy--will be back before they know it and he's sorry they aren't both here to welcome them into the world and... honestly, the whole display is making Sam want to turn around and leave.

Instead he clears his throat. Dean stiffens, but doesn't leave the nest.

The hatching process--if that's what they're calling it--takes forever. Sam has no idea what to do, save sit on the edge of the bed and watch the nest with his towels and hot water--that he's replaced twice now. Dean's no longer in the nest. Now he's pacing, biting at his nails and alternating between doubting his paternal abilities and cursing at the ceiling as though that might get Cas down here faster. Sam finds the entire thing somewhat taxing.

He still jumps damned near a foot in the air when the first egg cracks. Dean immediately freezes, spinning to face the nest like it's a bomb waiting to go off. Sam can tell he's about halfway to bolting from the room, so he forces himself to stand, reaching over to lay a hand on Dean's shoulder. Dean practically jumps out of his skin.

"Relax," Sam says, because there's no way Cas would have left this close to due date if there was any chance they couldn't handle this without him--and if that turns out not to be true, Sam is going to personally kick Cas' ass, angel superpowers or no angel superpowers.

"Okay, yeah. I can do this. I can totally do this," Dean says. It still takes an extraordinarily long minute before he steps forward.

It gets him moving, though, one foot in front of the other until he's standing at the side of the nest, watching a crack form along the shell of the second egg. At some point they both started holding their breaths, so the sound of rustling wings, when Cas finally makes his entrance, echoes through the room. Dean sobs a little when he catches sight of him.

"Apologies. But there's still plenty of time," Cas says. He crosses to the bed, glances at the towels and probably now tepid water, and then up to meet Sam's gaze. He arches an eyebrow.

"I thought..." Sam tries, but clearly Cas has already moved on. He's climbing into the nest, beckoning until Dean does the same, and suddenly Sam feels like he's intruding. "I'll just..." he gestures to the towel and water, not waiting for a reply--and let's face it, he's not going to get one--before grabbing both and slipping from the room.

The whole event gets added to Sam's list of Things He Never Wants To Talk About Again. Ever.

He doesn't go back to sleep, because it's probably well into morning and it's not like he can sleep knowing what's going on in the other room. Instead he makes himself a coffee and takes it into the library to wait. And wait.

What seems an eternity later, Sam having long since given up trying to process what's happening--he's taken to staring at the table-top like it might give him an answer--Dean comes bounding into the room.

"Dude, you got to come see this," he says, not giving Sam a chance to reply before he's grabbing Sam by the arm and all but dragging him back to Dean and Cas' room.

Don't freak out, Sam tells himself, the words becoming a rolling mantra that last just until he gets inside the door and sees...

Jesus fucking Christ.

Because he has no idea what he was expecting, but it certainly isn't this. And okay, they don't quite look like human babies. They're not quite chubby enough and they're nowhere near as red and wrinkly as the newborns he's seen--which granted aren't many. And they're not crying, which is actually kind of weird when he thinks about it, but otherwise they look like two perfectly ordinary, perfectly healthy babies.

Sam has no idea what to say to that.

Cas, who's sitting in the nest with one in the crook of each arm, looks exhausted, but he looks proud as punch too--come to think of it, so does Dean. And happy, Sam thinks. They both look really happy, which is not something he really ever expected to see, even after they got past all their baggage and finally found a way to make this work. Cas and Dean have been Cas and Dean for a really fucking long time now. And now Sam guesses they're Cas and Dean and...

"What are their names?" he asks, which must have been the exact right thing to say because Dean claps him on the back like Sam just made his day.

"We're still working on the boy, but the girl we're calling Mary."

He knows immediately which one she is, even though they look almost identical--and there is no way a newborn should have such a knowing gaze, and yet there it is.

"She's beautiful," Sam says, and then, "they both are."

It should be a touching moment, a beautiful moment, because isn't that what life is? Isn't this what it's all about, that full circle bullshit that gets people out of bed in the morning? Of course Dean has to go and ruin it by snorting.

"Dude, they're my kids, of course they're fucking gorgeous," he says, clapping Sam on the shoulder again before climbing into the nest.

He settles at Cas' side, scooping Mary out from his arm to cradle her against his chest. There are probably logistics here Sam doesn't understand--do they need to eat? Will they have to change diapers? Or are they like angels in that respect? Sam could ask, but he's starting to feel a little like he's intruding again, so he offers the scene before him one last smile and then slips from the room.

Besides, he's pretty sure Dean and Cas can figure it out. They always do.