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Hunter's Lullaby

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Prologue

Once upon a time, there was an angel who did very bad things while thinking he was making the right choices. He wasn’t perfect, but neither were the humans who had fought on his side since his arrival on Earth. Time passed, and the angel thought he was dying. The regrets he felt were heavy on his shoulders. He thought about what he could have done to stop the beginning of the Apocalypse and change the fate that had been bestowed upon some of his closest friends.

At this point, the angel didn’t care about the universal rules governing all beings and things. He searched the past for a time that would suit his purpose. Traveling back was more complex than the human mind could ever understand. Some points and events were impossible to reach or change. However, there were some soft spots in the substance of time itself, and you could find them if you knew what you were looking for.

The angel used all of his powers to travel back, as Atropos and other angels were already tailing him. His working window was extremely shallow as he landed in a small house in Harmony, Indiana.

He saw the man he had been so close to lying on the floor, letting out one last breath before he died under the Hellhound’s claws and teeth. Dean’s brother, Sam, half crazy with anger and grief, let Lilith unleash her wrath on him. To no avail: the demon was about to escape, and the angel knew it. The amount of energy he had to use to kill her almost ended him too, but it was enough, and he could almost hear Lucifer howling his fury from the Cage down below.

Sam was crying over Dean’s body, indifferent to the appearance of a stranger right in front of him, or the death of a powerful demon under his hand.

The angel felt his pain and knelt next to him.

“Don’t touch him!” Sam yelled, pressing his brother’s broken body closer to his own.

“I can get him back, but we need to hurry before he’s hung on the rack. It will be much more difficult to raise him if he falls to Alastair’s bloody hands.”

“Wh-what are you?”

“It doesn't matter. I need your powers to get Dean back. Give me your hand, Sam.”

The angel’s voice was soft and low. He saw something flickering in the young man’s eyes as he held out a shaking hand, tears still running down his cheeks. “Please,” Sam whispered.

The angel took his hand and put the other one on Dean’s forehead. He could feel all the power flowing through Sam’s blood, all the potential hiding behind it as he borrowed it to use for his own purpose. He heard Sam’s scream as he felt himself sliding down into the pit, the light of Dean’s soul fading ahead of him. There were screams and blood and clawing hands and the angel fell for a long time. He felt his friend’s desperation and fear and drained himself to go faster. By Hell’s measurement of time, their fall lasted a week, but it could be only a few minutes on earth.

They were almost to the bottom of the pit when the angel snatched up Dean Winchester’s soul. He heard the demons scream in fury, as Alastair was slowly rising to take his prize. But it was too late. Using Sam’s soul as a guiding light, the angel soared higher and higher.I If the fall had lasted a week, the elevation was almost instantaneous.

When the angel returned to his flesh, he found himself still on his knees, holding both brothers’ hands. He felt hollow and empty but also lighter as Sam came back to himself, nose bleeding and hair drenched in sweat. Dean grunted, then started to cough. The angel wasn’t sure Sam Winchester even noticed when he left, so focused was he on holding Dean in his arms and assuring him that everything would be alright, his voice small and childlike.To make sure nobody would ever try to come back to this point in time, the angel released all his powers, securing the soft spot until it was impenetrable.

He felt like he was dying, but Castiel had seen death too often to think anything of it.

::: ::: ::: :::

Chapter 1

Crow’s Corner, Indiana, November 5

“Dean, stop, that’s her car.”

“Isn’t there a cemetery up the road?”

“Hum… Yeah.”

“Of course there is. Great… that’s just… What’s she doing in a cemetery anyway?”

“Don’t know. Come on.”

Sam and Dean Winchester stepped out of their car and into the stormy night. The road was
pitch black and empty, surrounded by woods. A cold wind was howling, shaking the leaves in a strange melody. There were no stars and the moon was hidden.

Sam felt a rush of adrenaline running through him when Dean opened the Impala’s trunk. They were closing in on Meredith Landon. She was dangerous: in a situation where she would fear for her life, there wasn’t any way to know how she would react when confronted.

“So. Witches. What do we need, apart from our guns?” Dean asked while going through their weapons.

“Nothing. You still got the blowtorch on you?”

“Yep.”

Dean handled Sam his gun and a flashlight before taking one each for himself. He turned his head and coughed quietly in his shoulder, not for the first time since he’d woken up that morning.

“Are you coming down with something?”

“No, Dr. House. Come on, let’s move.”

Dean closed the trunk and led the way on the sloping road. The cemetery was just up the hill.

“We’ve got to take her out somehow. This has to end,” he said over his shoulder.

“Yeah, she’s already killed six people. It’s not gonna be easy though.”

“I hate witches.”

“I know you do.”

“I mean… look at the mess she’s made. And she’s only seventeen freaking years old.” Dean slowed his pace, looked up and held an open hand palm up in front of him. “It’s raining.”

Sam felt a cold, big drop land on the top of his head. “Yeah.”

“This hunt just keeps getting better and better,” Dean mumbled, walking faster.
“You’re grumpy today.”

“And you’re a pain in my ass.”

“Want me to put something else there?”

The joke was out before Sam realized what he was saying. They were still struggling a bit in this new aspect of their relationship, especially Dean who had some issues to work on his own - his unshakable guilt, for instance. After three months, Sam himself felt mostly at peace with was he was feeling for his brother. It wasn’t anything new, after all. He had felt this way for Dean ever since he’d hit puberty. He’d just buried it as deeply as he could for as long as he could.

“Dean, I…”

I’m sorry I made a dirty joke about you taking it up in the ass? Anything he would say would be worse than the joke itself.

Without slowing, or even turning to face him, Dean swung his hips and growled, “You want a piece of this fine ass, you’ll ’have to earn it.”

Sam froze on the spot and felt a violent blush warming up his face. “Shut up,” he squeaked.

They were almost at the top of the hill and the rain was falling harder. Even with two flashlights on, it was hard to see more than two feet ahead. When the first lightning strike flashed in the sky, Dean cursed very creatively, the exasperation on his face illuminated for a brief second.

“Dean, watch out!”

The cemetery was just in front of them, behind a shallow row of thin trees on their side of the road. Sam grabbed Dean’s arm and yanked him behind some cold and wet bushes, crouching. Dean copied him without a word.

“What is it?” he whispered.

“I saw her,” Sam explained while checking his gun.

Dean peeked over the bushes and saw a very pretty, innocent-looking girl kneeling in front of a grave. Candles were lit all around her in spite of the rain and wind. Quickly ducking back, he said,

“Fuck. We’re after Sabrina the teenage witch. She looks ready to go to the freaking prom, Sam!”

Right then, the wind faded for a few seconds and Sam could hear a loud and melodious Latin chant through the rain.

“What the hell is she doing?”

Dean’s jaw was clenched when he answered, his head cocked to the side to hear more clearly.

“She’s raising a spirit from the dead.”

“Damn it. Let’s go, we can’t wait any longer.”

 

The hunt was over, but neither of them felt like celebrating. The witch wouldn’t be killing any more innocent people. She was dead. When they finally got back to their motel room, Sam and Dean were soaking wet. The rain was still falling.

Sam quickly scanned the room, checking the salt lines and the protection symbols on the walls while stripping himself of his clothes. He took a look at his brother, who was trying to get away with taking some Tylenol without Sam noticing it. Dean made a face and began to undress slowly.

Dean was shivering, jaw was clenched to stop his teeth from chattering, face pale except for two red spots on his cheeks and the dark circles under his eyes. He looked utterly miserable.

“You can have the first shower,” suggested Sam.

“You should take it. It’ll do your knee good.”

Sam sighed. “My knee is fine, Dean. Just a little sore. Come on, you look like shit.”

“Well that’s nice to hear. I don’t…” Dean stopped talking and took a shuddering breath. Then he sneezed three times in the crook of his elbow.

“Bless you.”

“Oh, shut up,” snapped Dean. But he walked to the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

He was coming down with a cold, that’s what it was, Sam thought, remembering one of the students they had questioned three days ago. The poor guy had been sniffling and coughing the whole time and Dean had been closer to him while Sam had carefully kept his distance.

Sam went through his and Dean’s duffels, picking out warm nightclothes and adding a pair of wool socks on Dean’s pile. He was cold and wet and felt a bit miserable himself.

Freezing in his spot, Sam took a look at the closed bathroom door, hesitating, as he had so often for the last three months. When Dean had been saved from Hell, the six weeks following had been full of tension and desperation. After that, taking their relationship to the next level had been a rough and uneasy road. They were still learning and testing their limits. Still, they had been together long enough. Surely, Dean wouldn’t mind sharing a shower with his brother.

He walked to the door and turned the knob. It was unlocked. Hum. Interesting. Sam took off his boxers and drew back the shower’s curtain, startling Dean who was leaning against the tiled wall, eyes closed, letting the water fall on his chest and legs.

“Sam, what the hell?”

“Didn’t feel like waiting,” Sam answered, feeling a lot more nervous than he was letting on.

To his relief, Dean grunted but stayed still. Sam stepped towards him and kissed his forehead. Even then, Dean didn’t try to push him away.

“I think you have a fever.”

“I’ll live.”

“You really don’t look well.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Sam. It’s only a cold. I’m not dying. “

His lips were red and shiny. Sam couldn’t help but kiss them. The kiss was nice and tender but brief, as Dean couldn’t breathe through his nose. When they parted, Sam bent his head and saw his brother’s cock half-erect, pointing towards him like an invitation. He pressed his groin against Dean’s, feeling his own dick hardening. Dean moaned and put his arms around Sam’s waist, then lowered his hands to grip his ass.

“Feels good,” murmured Sam, tilting his head to suck lightly on a sensitive spot under Dean’s ear.

“Hell yeah,” answered Dean, pushing his hips towards Sam, his breathing already quickening.

They moved like that for a minute or two, then Dean suddenly stopped.

“Sam, I’m gonna…”

“What, already?”

“No, I…”

Dean suddenly pushed Sam away and sneezed again. Blushing furiously, he mumbled an apology. Sam laughed softly.

“All right, let’s take this to the bed.”

A few minutes later, they were both lying under the covers, still naked and a little wet, kissing slowly. Every now and then, they would have to stop for Dean to cough but he was soft, warm and more pliant than he ever was in Sam’s arms, slowly giving up control. It was a euphoric sensation that got Sam so excited he thought he might be able to come just from that. That was the thing, with Dean. He had so much trouble letting himself go. He tried. Sam noticed it and was grateful, but it was a slow learning process. Sam knew where all of this came from. Dean’s opinion of himself was anything but positive and he was still giving himself a hard time about the whole incest thing, like he had forced Sam into it, like he was abusing him. It didn’t matter that Sam told him again and again that he wanted it, had wanted it for years. It didn’t matter that it was Sam who made the first move. Dean was John’s son, after all, and all those year of defining himself as Sam’s big brother and his father’s hunting partner had taken their toll on him. Behind the mental walls he had built for himself, Dean was insecure and constantly scared of losing Sam, of losing himself in his brother. Giving up control was also letting Sam peek behind those walls and Dean was fighting it. Still, Sam had promised himself he would let his brother know what a good man he was, how much he loved him and needed him. He could be patient. He had the rest of his life to work on it.

 

Tonight, though, Dean was tired and sick and all Sam wanted was to take care of him, in any possible way. When his brother looked at him, green eyes big and dark, Sam thought he could actually see Dean’s soul.

“Want you inside me, Sam,” he said, voice raw and deep.

“You sure?” Sam asked, trying to hide the tremors in his voice.

Dean had only bottomed once since they were together. Sam wasn’t complaining. He was content with whatever they had, but this was another sign of Dean trying so hard to let himself go, and Sam knew how much of a big deal it was for him.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

Sam got up almost franticly to fetch the lubricant in the bathroom. When he came back, Dean was lying on his belly, knees bent, his head resting on his hands on the pillow. He looked so vulnerable that Sam couldn’t repress a long moan and was suddenly and almost painfully filled with love, desire and possessiveness. He kneeled between Dean’s legs and started to rub soothing circles on his back while slowly opening him with his fingers. Dean was usually quiet during sex, except for the times he was in the mood for some dirty talk – and God, could Dean have a dirty mouth when he felt like it - and he mostly panted and grunted almost silently when they were making love. This night, though, he was moaning constantly, sometimes letting out soft sobs, and it drove Sam half crazy with need. He was working Dean’s prostate with three fingers in when his brother suddenly sighed loudly.

“Come on, Sammy. I’m ready. Get to it. “

“M’gonna make it good for you, Dean, I promise,” Sam answered, slicking himself up.

Dean laughed softly. “I know you will.”

He tilted his ass up and then Sam was slowly pushing inside him, lost in the pleasure of Dean’s muscles so hot and tight around his cock.

When he was entirely inside, Sam stopped moving and bent himself over Dean’s body, hot and shivering, kissing his neck and whispering obscenities in his ear. After a few seconds, Dean pushed his ass against his crotch. “Move, Sammy.”

“Okay.” Sam set up a slow pace, still sucking on Dean’s neck and tasting the soft skin. His brother was not only moaning and panting but he was actually talking. More, need more, Sammy. Feels so good. Harder. Harder, please.

It was the begging that actually did it for Sam. He felt his balls drawing up against his body, full of this tingling sensation. He rose on his knees and reach under Dean’s stomach to get a hold of his cock. Dean actually screamed when Sam started jerking him off. He didn’t usually leak a lot, but now there was a little stream of precome gliding over Sam’s fingers.

“M’close, Dean.”

“Me too. Need to come, Sam…”

Dean was panting harshly, his skin covered in sweat. Sam jerked him faster. It only took four more strokes before his brother gasped. “Gonna come, Sam, fuck, gonna come right n…”

And then he froze and arched his back before letting out a loud sob. Dean’s sperm covered Sam’s hand as he gently stroked his brother through his orgasm and his inner walls clenched around Sam’s cock. Sam buried himself deeply inside Dean before coming, crying his brother’s name. Trembling, he slowly pulled out and collapsed besides Dean on the mattress, catching his breath.

“Holy shit that was good,” grunted Dean after a few minutes of silence.

Sam laughed. “Yeah, it was.”

“And now I’m all sticky and gross.”

“Want me to get a wet towel?”

“Wow, Sam, you a psychic or something?”

“You’re hilarious.”

By the time Sam was done washing Dean, his brother was already half asleep. His skin seemed cooler than before. The shower and Tylenol had probably helped, Sam thought, feeling some weight lift off his shoulders.

“Love you,” he whispered, settling himself beside his brother.

“Mmm…”

“Dean?”

“Wha’?”

“About this hunt…You… you wanna talk about it?”

Dean opened his eyes and frowned in annoyance. “No, Sam, I don’t wanna talk about it. I killed a seventeen-year-old girl. What’s to talk about? “

“You did what you had to do. You saved my life. “

“I know.”

“Dean…”

“Good night, Sammy.”

Dean turned his head and kept silent. He began snoring soon after. Sam lay still, thinking about the burning corpse of Meredith Landon in the cemetery. That hunt had been a bad one; the kind that felt like the brothers were only there to contain the damages.

They had been dragged to this little quiet town after Sam had read an article about a series of strange suicides amongst the local high school’s students and staff over the past six months. It had pointed toward witchcraft, and the Winchester brothers had been shocked to discover that the witch responsible was a sweet-looking teenage girl, first of her class, captain of the handball team and editor of the school journal. Not that all witches were old and ugly, but it took time and experience to learn how to work such powerful curses. Meredith had been responsible for the deaths of five people, including the English teacher who had given her detention for using her cell phone in class and the shy boy who had beaten her in a chess tournament.

She hadn’t had time to complete her ritual when they’d finally reached her that night. She had been out of her mind, totally demented. Dean had been pointing his gun at her while Sam had tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t listen, and soon after she had pulled a little wax doll out of her pocket. When she had crushed the doll’s leg between her fingers, Sam had felt an excruciating pain in his left knee and had dropped to the ground. Dean had taken his shot then and Meredith had fallen backward with this incredulous expression on her face. She’d been dead before she hit the ground. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it had been raining so hard that it had taken several tries to set her body on fire. They had had to use two bottles of lighter fluid to get the fire going.

So, all in all, it had been one of these hunts that left a bitter taste on the back of Sam’s mouth, and he couldn’t wait to be on the road again.

He was still seeing Meredith’s big blue eyes when he fell asleep.

::: :::

Sam was having a very unpleasant dream. It was the same nightmare that plagued him every night after the events in Harmony, six months ago. He wasn’t having it so often now, maybe once a week or so, but the way it drew him back to the state of desperation he was then would got to him every time.

In his dream, he was facing Lilith as she wore Ruby’s skin and she would try and fail to destroy him. But then the strange man in a trench coat (if he was a man, which Sam highly doubted) wouldn’t come. Lilith would escape just as Sam was coming at her, and he would be left with his brother’s broken body, Dean’s dead eyes painfully vacant, crying his despair and calling for the stranger to come and get his brother out of Hell. Then he would wake up, breathless, and know that he wouldn’t be getting any more sleep that night, unable to take his eyes away from Dean.

That night, however, he was just getting to the worst part of the dream when he woke up, startled by a strange noise that turned out to be his brother coughing harshly. He sat up on the bed and turned on the light, already knowing before he was fully awake that Dean wasn’t lying next to him anymore.

He saw his brother wrapped in the old comforter they sometimes used when they had to sleep in the Impala. He was sitting on a wooden chair on the other side of the room, his legs bent underneath him, trying to blow his nose with shaking hands. When Sam got to him and crouched in front of the chair, he saw that all of Dean’s body was shaking and that he was drenched in sweat. His eyes were glassy and unfocused.

“Hey Dean, what are you doing here?” Sam asked quietly.

Dean looked startled to see him there, and he blinked a few times before letting his handful of tissues drop on the floor.

“Sam?”

“Yep.”

“Couldn’t breathe. Needed to sit. “

Dean’s teeth started chattering, and Sam brushed his palm across his brother’s forehead. The skin there was dry and burning.

“Your fever is up. Wait here. “

Like Dean was in any state to go anywhere. A moment later, Sam was back with the tympanic thermometer they had stolen on their last trip to the E.R. months ago. Dean looked at him like he was crazy and moaned in discomfort when Sam put the thermometer in his ear.

“Shit, Dean. 104. Come on, you’re taking a shower. “

“But I just took one”,” Dean protested in a very un-Deanlike voice.

Without waiting, Sam dragged a very unsteady Dean towards the bathroom, gave him some more Tylenol and started the shower while his brother swayed listlessly while sitting on the toilet lid. There was no way Dean could stand on his own under the spray so Sam helped him into the shower stall and stood there with him. Confused and disoriented, Dean leaned against him, resting his head on Sam’s shoulder. The water was tepid – Sam had once read that cold water could shock a fevered body and therefore raise his temperature instead of lowering it. Still, Dean shivered violently and mumbled something about rain and snow and busted heaters.

“Come on, Dean. It’s only for a few minutes. “

“You’re here,” Dean said, soft and unsteady.

“Yes.”

Sam cursed himself. He should’ve seen it coming. Dean’s illnesses tended to follow the same pattern, including a fever peak in the middle of the night. Fevers affected Dean badly. John had once told Sam that Dean had even had seizures once when he was two years old and his fever had gotten too high. In this state, Dean would get confused very often and his carefully built walls would suddenly disappear.

Sam hated it. Because then Dean’s mind would revert to some of the most difficult moments in his life, as if all the pain and fear contained and not dealt with needed to find a way to get out of his system.

“Killed a girl,” Dean said, pressing closer to Sam.

“You had to.”

“She’s dead.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s alright, Dean. Come on, stay under the spray.”

“You’re here, right?”

God. Sam was tired. So tired. And his knee hurt like hell.

“‘Course I’m here. Where else would I be? “

“Why? Why would you want to - ”

Dean was interrupted by a coughing fit so harsh he almost puked. Sam held him still and rubbed his back. “See? Stop talking, man. You’ll hurt your throat. “

It seemed to work. Dean sniffled and wrapped his arms around Sam’s waist, quiet and still.

When Sam himself started to shiver, he shut down the water. He took Dean to bed, dressed him in comfortable clothes and put some pillows and a folded sheet under his back so that he could breathe better. Dean’s eyes seemed more focused, and Sam was relieved to find that his fever had lowered to 102.9.

“Now try to get some sleep,” he said, while Dean looked at him with sleepy eyes.

“Thanks,” Dean answered back.

He yawned and closed his eyes. He was snoring shortly thereafter.

Sam rubbed some soothing ointment on his damaged knee and took a chair to sit next to the bed. He watched Dean sleep, an open book on his thighs, and let the hours go by.

It was almost five in the morning when he decided to make a trip to the 24/7 store he had noticed down the street when they found the motel. He made a list of cold medicine and food he would buy to get Dean through his cold (Sam liked to make lists, it made him feel in control). His brother was fast asleep, and he thought for a minute about sneaking out of the room without telling him, but he didn’t want Dean to panic if he was to wake up and find that Sam was gone. Instead, he shook his shoulder lightly. Dean immediately opened his eyes with a grunt.

“Hey, Dean… You with me? “

“Yeah.”

Dean rubbed his eyes and cleared his throat while Sam explained to him where he was going.

“Coffee,” he moaned while stretching on the bed.

“Dean, I’m not sure it’s…”

“You come back with tea and I’ll end you.”

Then, Dean grabbed a tissue from the bedside table to contain a coughing spell. He looked inside it afterward and made a face. “Hey, Sammy, take a look at this. It’s exactly like the ectoplasm we found in this haunted house back in…”

“Shut up. You’re disgusting. “

But Sam was smiling as he walked through the door. If Dean could make some dubious joke about his bodily fluids that meant he was getting better.

The sun was rising as Sam made his way to the store. The sky was this rare shade of pink with spots of orange. It was beautiful. The air smelled like rain and an unseen bird was singing. Sam found himself humming as he got out of the Impala, a coffee tray in one hand, a grocery bag in the other. He put the bag down to fetch his motel key in his pocket, still humming, and then...he saw.

The door wasn’t entirely closed. He was sure it had been when he had left - forgetting to lock a door behind them wasn’t a thing hunters could get away with. Drawing his gun from the back of his jeans, Sam slowly pushed the door open.

Then he dropped the coffee tray and screamed his brother’s name.

Because Dean wasn’t alone in their room anymore. He was lying on his back on the bed, trapped under a woman who was sitting on his legs, her long red hair falling to her face. Dean’s stomach was uncovered and it was bleeding from a cut just under his navel. There were some strange symbols drawn on his belly with the crimson fluid, and the woman was pointing the long painted nail of her index finger just above the cut.

Dean didn’t seem to be really conscious. His face, white as a sheet, was scrunched in a painful expression and his eyes were rolling inside their sockets.

“Get away from him!” Sam cried, pointing his gun more firmly.

He knew the woman, had met her two days ago when he interrogated her, still not sure who the witch was. Her name was Hannah McPherson. She was Meredith Landon’s aunt. God, he was such an idiot. He should have known a witch as young and powerful as Meredith was would have had a mentor.

“Calm down, Sam. See, if I push my finger just on the right spot, I’ll kill your brother. Lower the gun. “

Hannah’s voice was shaking with anger and excitement.

“What did you do to him?”

“I told you to lower your gun.”

“And I asked you a question,” Sam snarled.

“Wanna know what I did?” Hannah was smiling now, the same demented smile Sam had seen on her niece’s face the night before. “I punished him! You killed my niece. This is payback. “

“She was a murderer.”
“She was going to be a great witch! And now she’s dead, thanks to you. “

Dean moaned. Hannah McPherson shushed him and tightened her long legs around his thighs.

“I discovered some dirty secrets while reading your brother, Sam. I could still feel your semen in him. You guys are twisted, you know that? Now, drop the gun. “

Sam was thinking frantically. He knew he could probably take the witch down before she could do more harm, but he wasn’t a hundred percent sure and, anyway, firing a gun in the morning on a quiet street was never a good plan. He remembered his knife tucked in the inside pocket of his vest and made a decision. He had a hidden advantage: people tended to believe he couldn’t be fast because he was so tall and broad. They were wrong.

Lowering himself to put the gun on the floor, Sam made a run for it and practically flew over the bed, taking Hannah with him. They stumbled on the floor and Hannah immediately reached for Sam’s face, yelling and trying to claw at it, but Sam was stronger. He held her by the arms and shook her.

“What did you do to him?” he asked again.

Hannah just smiled, showing her teeth, and started an indistinct Latin spell under her breath. Dean immediately began to shake on the bed, his mouth open on a silent scream.

Sam knew he didn’t have any choice left. He took his knife and slashed the witch’s throat.

She choked and let out a wet scream, trying to contain the blood’s flow by pressing on the cut, but Sam was an effective killer when he had to be and seconds later, life left Hannah’s dark eyes and her body collapsed on the floor already wet with her blood.

Sam instantly forgot about her and sat on the bed, gripping Dean by the shoulders and letting his head rest on his thighs. He shook him forcefully, feeling his own body hot and quivering with fear.

“Dean. Hey, Dean, come on, man, talk to me. “

“Sam?”

Dean’s voice was a bit slurred, but he immediately opened his eyes and tried to fight Sam before realizing that he wasn’t trapped by the witch anymore. “Sam,” he repeated, already more alert.

“You alright, Dean?”

“No, I’m not alright. The bitch jumped me. I don’t know what… I couldn’t move I… Where is she? “

“She’s… she’s dead, Dean.”

Dean looked down his body and frowned. His breathing quickened.

“What did she do to me?”

“I… I don’t know. She…”

“The symbols, Sam. They burn. Please wash them off… I can’t… “

Sam ran to the bathroom and came back with a wet towel. Before he started to clean Dean’s stomach, he took a picture of the symbols with his cell phone. Dean was watching him, raised on his elbows. He lay still while Sam washed the blood away. Underneath, the skin seemed normal.

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah. Why the fuck did you take a picture? “

“Because we don’t know what she did to you.”

Sam was looking at the cut under Dean’s navel. Blood was still oozing from it, but it seemed quite clean. He went through their first aid kit and found antibiotic ointment and clean gauze. The wound would need stiches, but it would have to wait. They had to get out of this town as quickly as possible.

It seemed as though Dean was ready to fall asleep again while Sam took care of his wound.

“Dean, no falling asleep now. We need to move”,” Sam said.

“M’alright, Sam. You know… even if she put a curse on me, she’s dead now so it should…”

Dean was interrupted by a coughing fit. Sam helped him to a sitting position to protect his injury.

“You know what I think of this theory of yours. That was Dad’s too. Some curses last way longer than the one who made them. Come on, Dean. Can you stay still? I’ll help you get dressed.”

“Of course, I can.”

Dean seemed offended, but he was swaying on the bed and his eyes were getting this glassy stare again. He tilted his head to the side and looked down at Hannah McPherson’s body, frowning.

“Hey, isn’t that the nice lady from the bookstore?”

“Yeah, that’s Meredith’s aunt. God, Dean, I’m sorry, I should’ve known. I shouldn’t have left you alone.”

Sam couldn’t take his eyes away from the bloodstains on the floor. He knew he was slowly but surely losing his composure. There were so many things he had to do and he didn’t even know if Dean was going to be alright.

He felt his brother’s hand around his wrist. “Sam,” Dean said, voice calm and steady. “You did good. I’m gonna be fine. Now, just do what you gotta do one thing at a time. “

 

Sam let out a shuddering breath and brushed his hair away from his forehead. Dean knew him so well, it was almost frightening sometimes. And there he was, waiting for Sam to take the lead, trying to hide his pain and giving him a reassuring smile.

“Yeah”,” Sam said. “Everything’s gonna be alright. “

Then he got to work.

Chapter Text

It took less than twenty minutes to vacate the room. Sam couldn’t leave Hannah McPherson’s body lying there, so he wrapped her in one of the motel’s comforters and put her in the Impala’s trunk. He kept a sharp look out for eyewitnesses, but it was still early, and the only spectator was a stray cat hunting a dead leaf on the other side of the street.

He then took care of his brother. Dean, who had seemed awake and alert minutes before, was drifting in and out of sleep, and Sam couldn’t figure out if it was his cold or the curse that was affecting him so severely. Probably a combination of both. Still, he couldn’t stand on his own, his eyes were rolling and he was gripping his stomach and moaning when he wasn’t coughing harshly. Sam had to practically carry him to the car and lay him on the back seat. Back in the motel room, Sam packed everything they had before carefully removing the bed sheets with Dean’s blood on them. He put them in a plastic bag and took them with him, closing the motel door after hanging the Do Not Disturb sign on the knob. If they were lucky, it would give them time to get clear of town before someone discovered the mess.

There goes our deposit, said Dean’s voice in his head, and Sam was shaken by a hysterical laugh he could only stop by biting his lips hard enough to draw blood.

He dropped the bags in the trunk next to the body, then got Dean more comfortable, putting a motel pillow under his head and covering him with the old blanket they kept in the trunk. Dean’s skin didn’t feel too hot, but he was shaking and mumbling incoherent things about some tingling in his belly and being punished by Sam.

Half-crazy with worry, Sam started the car and got on the road. Only when he saw a roadside sign announcing “You are now leaving Crow’s Corner” did he started to feel more at ease. He talked to Dean almost constantly to try and keep him awake. After a couple miles, Dean seemed to be less confused and told Sam to leave him the fuck alone because he was tired. He still looked and sounded like he was close to unconsciousness, but it was better.

Sam drove for an hour before stopping the car at a small gas station somewhere near Columbus, careful to park the Impala around back to avoid attracting attention.

He got the first aid kit from the trunk, some bottled water, and climbed awkwardly into the backseat, hitting his head on the roof and cursing.

“Dean?”

“‘me alone, m’sleeping,” moaned his brother, covering his face with the blanket.

“I have to take care of your wound now. I’m gonna give you some codeine to ease the pain.”

Dean grunted and whined but eventually, Sam got him to swallow the pills and even drink half of a bottle of water. He was more awake then, but still in a very unpleasant mood.

“OW! Be careful, damn it! “

Sam was half-scrunched on himself, trying to work the sewing needle on Dean’s quivering stomach. He took a deep breath and raised his head towards Dean, who was now giving him the glare he usually reserved for the most nasty vengeful spirits.

“I’m sorry, but we’re in the car and my movements are restricted. Just try to stay still. I only have four stitches to do. “

“I hate witches.”

“I know you do,” Sam said while tying the knot in the first stich.

“What did you do with the body?”

“It’s in the trunk.”

“Great,” answered Dean in the most sarcastic tone he could muster. “Jesus, Sam! It freaking hurts!”

“Stop whining. The codeine will kick in soon.”

“You know you’re supposed to give it time to work before you start the stitching.”

As relieved as he was to see Dean acting like his good old self, Sam hoped the medication would knock him out very soon, because he had the sudden urge to do it himself the Winchester way.

“Not an option, Dean. We’re running, if you haven’t notice, and there’s a body in the trunk, and I want to cross the state border before someone starts looking for us.”

“Got it. Sam. Hold on. Gonna sneeze.”

Sam barely had time to get the needle all the way through the reddened skin before his brother snapped forward and sneezed painfully. He groaned.

“This is like the suckiest situation ever.”

“‘M with you there.”

Sam got back to work and Dean kept still. By the time the wound was cleaned and covered with fresh gauze, he had already started to drift off. Good.

Sam climbed back into the driver seat and maneuvered the Impala back onto the road.

::: :::

Three hours and a state border later, Sam found an abandoned field on a lonely road. He burned Hannah McPherson’s body there, careful to put some distance between them and the road and to find a spot far away from the trees to avoid setting the woods on fire.

When he was sure the body would burn down to the bones, he made his way back to the car. Dean had slept the whole way there and showed no sign of waking up anytime soon, but he looked somewhat peaceful in his sleep and Sam wasn’t too worried. For now. He took another look at his brother’s stomach. The cut had stopped bleeding and there were no signs that the symbols drawn earlier had ever been there.

::: :::

Sam drove until late that afternoon. He finally decided to stop because he was afraid of falling asleep at the wheel. By then, they were near the Iowa border. It would have to be good enough. Dean was still drifting in and out, but his fever was almost gone and he had complained more than a few times that he was hungry, which was definitely a sign of him getting better.

Finally, Sam thought, helping his swaying brother into the motel room. He would have time to decipher the symbols and get his head together.

Hanging onto Sam’s shoulder, Dean coughed so hard his face turned a pale shade of green and he puked all over Sam’s shoes.

Okay. Maybe the deciphering would have to wait a little longer. Dean was right: this was the suckiest situation ever.

::: :::

Greenvalley, outside of Bloomington, Minnesota, November 10

The room was dark and cold. Wind was howling against the windows. Biting the nail of his thumb, Sam stared one more time at the symbols carefully drawn on a piece of paper. He could make out some of them: they were a derivative form of the Futhark Runic alphabet, but they were mixed with other symbols and so intricately interwoven that it would take Sam weeks to sort them out.

Sam didn’t like mysteries. He wasn’t a man who could get satisfied unless he had all the answers he could get. He needed to know. He couldn’t get Hannah McPherson’s wicked smile and the look of complete evil in her eyes as she was straddling Dean out of his head.

Less than six months ago, Sam had seen his brother die. He would never, ever forget it.

Sam sighed and looked at his watch. Dean had been gone for twenty minutes now. Plenty of time to get food and be back by now. Sam can’t help the worry gnawing at his gut.

“Sam,” Dean had said earlier. “You can’t keep me prisoner in this room forever. I’m fine. My cold is better, the stiches are holding up. If I don’t get out like, right now…I’m gonna go mad. And I’m not asking for your permission, by the way. “

Dean was right, he was better, but for forty-eight hours following Hannah McPherson’s attack, he had been weak and had spent most of his time sleeping and nursing a low-grade fever. Sam had asked questions, about what he remembered of his encounter with the witch, but Dean didn’t seem to recall anything at all from the moment he woke up with the witch straddling him until Sam was shaking him. “I don’t know, man… She must’ve done something to knock me out but… it’s all blurry and… I really don’t remember. “

Besides, the cut was healing well and there had been no reappearance of the symbols on his stomach. Maybe Dean had been right. Maybe he’d just had trouble shaking off his cold. On the third day following the curse, he had woken up feeling better. His eyes had been clear, he’d had no trouble breathing and the fever had finally broken.

Sam thought about all of that and wondered if he was missing something. He looked at his watch again and got back to his deciphering, still biting his nails.

When Dean stormed inside the room, wind blowing through his short hair, a brown paper bag in one hand, a bunch of newspapers stuck under his arm, he looked fine. And healthy. He closed the door behind him with his foot and dropped his things on the table, all over Sam’s notes.

“Geez, Dean, be careful.”

“I’ll teach you to waste your time on this. I thought I made it clear. I’m fine. Never been better. The witch is dead, ding dong, yadadadada.”

Sam hesitated, but he didn’t want to start arguing again. He got his notes together and put them aside. He could let Dean have his way, for now.

Instead, he pointed at the papers. “What’s that about?”

Dean sat and started pulling food out of the bag. “Think I found us a hunt. Look at this one, page three. Seems like our kind of gig.”

Sam opened the Palmer Daily and read the title out loud while Dean stuffed his mouth full of fries. “Four bodies missing from the county’s morgue.”

Dean smiled his most charming smile and swallowed loudly. “Zombies, Sam. Maybe ghouls, but probably zombies. And it’s like… only a two days drive. What do you say? “

Sam never could resist Dean’s childish enthusiasm. He shook his head and smiled back.

“Okay.”

“Great!” Dean answered, rubbing his hands together.

Sam could maybe put the deciphering aside for a while. That didn’t meant he would stop watching Dean carefully.

::: :::

Palmer, Illinois, November 16

The exploding head reminded Sam of a bursting watermelon. He thought about the similarities with a strange detachment as blood, bones and pieces of brains fell all around him like some dreadful confetti. The room smelled of formalin and gunpowder. Sam heard Dean yell somewhere over him:“That’ll teach you to snack on my brother, you bitch!”

Sam lay still on the morgue’s floor, blinking in surprise under the bright neon light. He was okay. Thank God Dean had gotten here just in time. The ghoul had just started to munch on Sam’s left arm. The wound looked messy but wasn’t bleeding too much. The pain was tolerable.

“You okay?” Dean asked, kneeling next to him, eyes wide in concern.

Sam turned his head and saw the dead ghoul who had taken the body of the last cadaver it had eaten: an eighty year old, five foot tall woman wearing imprinted printed flower dress. Who was now headless.

He burst into a hysterical laugh while Dean looked at his injury. His brother cocked his head and frowned. “Did you hurt your head there, Sammy?”

“No. ‘M fine” said Sam, whipping tears from his eyes.

He took Dean’s hand and got up, still a bit dizzy from his fall. And then he thought about the last insult his brother had leveled at the monster and bent himself in half, laughing so hard his stomach started to hurt.

Dean was rapidly wiping any surface that could’ve had traces of their fingerprints and getting their stuff together, all the while watching Sam as though still unsure of his mental state.

“Gosh, Sam, if I’d known killing ghouls would make you this happy, we would’ve done it ages ago. Yuck. You have ghoul bits all over you. “

For some reason, this thought seemed incredibly funny to Sam and he burst into another fit of laughter. Dean took him by the elbow. “Come on, chuckles. We’ve got to get the hell out of here before someone comes. And your wound needs to be cleaned.”

Sam took a handkerchief from one of his pockets and wrapped it around his arm. Less than two minutes later, they were walking back to the car in the dark of the night, passing through quiet streets. Dean seemed somewhat sad, and after a while, he sighed loudly.

“What’s wrong?” Sam asked, still smiling.

“Y’know, I really thought it was zombies.”

“Aaww, we’ll find you zombies, Dean, I promise.”

Sam put his arm around Dean’s shoulder, hanging on even as his brother fought him fiercely.

“Great. You got ghoul goo all over my jacket, asshat. You strip off your shirt before you even think about getting in the car, understand?”

“Yes sir.”

“And stop smiling like the fucking Cheshire Cat.”

Later that night, after they both took a shower, they were relaxing on the bed, Dean absorbed in some stupid monster truck show while Sam filled in their journal with details about their latest hunt. It had been a good one. That was the thing about ghouls - they were filthy, unpleasant creatures, but they would satisfy themselves with eating cadavers, unless they were attacked or starving. Of course, the families of said eaten cadavers would have a different opinion on the subject, but no one got hurt, and that was the important thing.

Sam was down to his second beer and feeling slightly euphoric. He then realized it was the first time he’d felt really relaxed since the witch’s attack. He put the journal beside the bed and got closer to Dean, leaning on him and kissing his neck while his brother absent-mindedly stroked his back and hips.

They were both only wearing boxers. Sam rearranged himself on the bed, straddling Dean’s thighs. His brother wasn’t paying attention to the TV anymore. Eyes half closed, he pressed both of his hands to Sam’s ass as he tilted his hips up, and Sam could feel both of their cocks hardening while they rubbed together. He bent his head and pressed a slow kiss to Dean’s soft lips, humming happily.

“What do you wanna do?” Dean asked in a low, broken voice.

“Well, I was thinking about sucking you,” Sam smiled wickedly.

“You know me, I’m a sucker for-”

“Oh, shut up.”

Dean laughed and pulled Sam’s boxers down his hips, grunting and pressing his nails into Sam’s hard muscles. Sam kissed his way down Dean’s neck, then suddenly closed his mouth on one of his nipples, sucking hard. Dean’s nipples were particularly sensitive. He had been embarrassed about it at first, but Sam had made sure to let him know how hot he thought it was, and slowly but surely, Dean was learning to appreciate it without any second thoughts.

Dean let out a load moan when Sam pulled at his nipple with his lips before twisting the other one between his fingers. It usually drove him crazy and Sam was taken aback when he heard his brother curse while pushing him away.

“Fuck, Sam. Stop. It hurts. “

“What?”

Still wincing, Dean brushed one of his fingers against his nipple. “I… I don’t know. They’re like sensitive… Not in a fun way. “

He blushed when Sam turned on the bedside lamp to take a better look. “That’s… they look darker.”

“Yeah, you’re right”,” Dean said in an uncomfortable voice.

Sam delicately pressed his fingers around the nipples. Dean hissed.

“Does that hurt too?”

“Hun-hun.”

“They feel kind of swollen.”

And that was all Dean could take, really. He pushed Sam’s hand away and sighed. “Okay, it’s not that I don’t enjoy talking about my nipples but I really don’t. Can we get to the fun stuff, now?”

Dean’s cock was poking out of the waistband of his black boxer briefs and Sam felt a new rush of need going straight to his groin. He licked his lips and kissed Dean again, forgetting about the nipple thing.

He would only remember it two weeks later, while hearing Dean throw up in the bathroom, on a cold morning. And then, it would already be too late.

Chapter Text

Durham, North Carolina, December 5

Sam Winchester had never been scared of Dean, not really, except maybe once back when he was thirteen years old and hunting an evil spirit with him. Sam had jumped in front of Dean to protect him from the charging ghost. Dean had been on the top of the stairs and Sam had feared he would lose his balance and fall backward. The ghost had disappeared seconds later, a sign that their father had successfully burned the bones, and that’s when Dean had taken Sam by the collar of his shirt, eyes dark and fierce, literally shaking with anger. Sam didn’t even remember what he had yelled, but he remembered being scared that Dean would lose control and hurt him. Really hurt him. It had been one of his first hunts and his father had taken him aside later that day, explaining that Dean hadn’t really been angry. He’d been scared for Sam. He hadn’t yet learned, at that point, that even if it was okay for Dean to jump in front of monsters to take the blow instead of Sam, it wasn’t okay at all for Sam to do the same. Go figure.

So… This thing, this crawling fear that was pooling in Sam’s guts, cutting his breath short and had him biting his nails until there was nothing left to bite… This was new.

There was no good way to say what he was going to say. When he had figured it out himself, he had been close to having a panic attack. He hadn’t slept at all last night while Dean was snoring softly next to him.

For the sixth time in less than an hour, Sam looked under the bed to reassure himself that the drugstore bag he’d hidden there hadn’t suddenly disappeared. Then, he went back to pacing in the narrow room where they were staying on the fourth floor of a very, very shady motel. It was so small Sam could only walk four steps in each direction with what Dean called his freakishly long legs.

He looked at the sheet he was holding and felt like he was going to throw up, or choke, or both... Maybe he could get some fresh air by the window and…

The door opened suddenly, startling him, and Dean came in, his suit vest hanging off one of his shoulders, his tie unknotted.

“Hey” he said, letting himself fall on the bed without even getting his shoes off.

“So?”

“So?”

Dean sighed and put his hands under his head. “There definitely isn’t a poltergeist in the school’s chemistry lab. Only a bunch of bored students playing a prank. “

Dean grinned.

“Dean?”

“What?”

His brother was the image of innocence.

“What did you do to them?”

“I didn’t do anything. Agent Van Zant, on the other hand, made sure these douchebags knew what a bad idea it was to waste his time.

“Of course, he did,” Sam sighed.

Now was not the time to get in an argument with Dean, however, and Sam felt fear creeping back on him like a dark shadow.

“I didn’t get anything to eat,” Dean went on, toeing off his shoes. “Are you hungry?”

Sam looked at his watch, surprised to realize it was already seven in the evening. He shook his head and sat on the bed. He had never been less hungry in all his life.

“Hey, Sammy, you alright?”

Dean sat behind him, slowly massaging his shoulders.

“M’fine. But…we need to talk, Dean. “

Dean’s hands left Sam’s shoulders as soon as he heard the words. He sighed loudly and sat next to him, almost pouting. “Talk about like… our feelings and stuff?”

“Yeah… well no, not really. Dean I… there’s something going on with you.”

“Like what?” asked Dean, already looking suspicious.

“You’ve been throwing up every morning for the last five days.”

“So what? I probably ate something bad. “

“It’s only in the morning, right? You’re fine the rest of the day.”

“Huh. Yeah…Sam, what the hell are you getting at? “

“You sleep more. You’re napping in the afternoons. “

Dean blushed. “What if I sleep a bit more? You’re always all over me, saying that I should get more rest, that I work myself too hard…and when I actually listen to you, you think there’s something wrong with me? “

“And then there’s this pain you feel around your nipples, you’re pale and you’ve lost your appetite.”

Dean put his head in his hands. “I can’t believe we’re talking about my nipples again.”

“You know, Dean, I did what you asked and let the whole Hannah McPherson mess go. But your symptoms were worrying me, man, so I decided to try deciphering the symbols again and… and I think I…”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at,” grunted Dean, getting up and starting to walk back and forth in the room. “But you better get to it soon because I so don’t have the patience right now.”

Sam stood up and stopped Dean’s spacing, brandishing a sheet of paper in front of him. “At first I didn’t really understand what they could mean but…see this first sign in the shape of an egg? It’s a very old pagan fertility symbol, and next to it is one that kind of looks like a stylish “Y”, you see? I think it means brother, although its origins are not as well-known as…”

“Okay, geek boy, get to the point.”

Sam took a deep breath and went on. “I had more trouble with the last symbol before I realized it’s actually three symbols juxtaposed. They’re runes, Dean, and once I succeeded in sorting them out, I got symbols from the Futhark alphabet. “

“I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”

Sam waved the sheet closer to Dean’s face, as if that would make him understand better. “Three Futhark runes. The first one – the sharp-edged kind of “B,” that’s Bjork. It was used to prevent miscarriage and to tie an unborn child to its mother. The second one-”

“The little lightning strike?”

“Yes. This is Sowilo. It represents the spark of life and is also used to increase the power of the symbols surrounding it. And then the last one, the diamond-shaped sign, is Ingwas and it is more often used in black magic to…to reduce one’s masculinity. So… what’s left are these curved lines and they’re working as a knot, tying all the symbols together.

Dean looked at Sam, then snatched the paper from his hand and studied it with an expression of deep concentration. Sam was now sweating profusely. He sat on the bed, afraid his legs wouldn’t hold his weight if he tried to stand. And he wasn’t even to the hardest part of the conversation yet.

“Dean, when I came in the room that day… Hannah said some things about you and me. She said she could still feel my semen in you.”

Dean didn’t react, but his ears turned a dark shade of red.

“Are you sure you don’t remember anything?”

Dean lowered the sheet and looked at Sam. “I… like I told you, she must’ve knocked me out somehow but…it felt like she was digging into my brain and… she may have said something about turning us against each other. “

“So, you lied to me. You do remember.”

Dean took a step closer to Sam and started yelling, “Yeah, I lied! Do you think I’m proud of myself? Being jumped like that by a freaking witch just because I was a bit under the weather? Couldn’t do anything but lie there. And of course she said some crap, she was all kinds of crazy. What does it matter?”

“What does it matter? For Christ’s sake, Dean! You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, you were almost delirious with fever. And now…”

“Now what?”

Sam took a shuddering breath. “Now… I think that, one way or another… I think you may be pregnant, Dean. “

Dean froze and looked at Sam, mouth slack, eyes wide. “As in knocked up, Sammy?”

Sam silently nodded, feeling all of the blood drain from his face.

“You think a witch, who was mad because we killed her niece, decided the best way to punish us was to get me pregnant?” demanded Dean with a disbelieving tone that reminded Sam of when they were younger and Sam had just asked an especially dumb question.

“Well, I don’t know why she did it but…”

Then Dean started laughing, which wasn’t really a good sign because his eyes… his eyes weren’t laughing. At all. “That’s good. Even for you, Sam, that’s… great. Remember that time when you smoked pot and were sure that a freaking fern had put a curse on you? Well, this doesn’t even compare to the stupidity of… I’m a man, Sam! I don’t have the equipment and… God, I don’t even know why we’re having this conversation.”

“Calm down, please. Just do something for me, okay? Maybe I’m wrong - I’m probably wrong - and when it’s done you’ll have enough blackmail material for like… a lifetime. Okay?”

Sam was using the puppy dog eyes. He knew he was, but he also knew that this particular look got to Dean every single time. After all, he had been perfecting it since he’d been a spoiled little brat of three or four.

Dean froze on the spot and frowned, putting his hands on his hips. He was looking at Sam with suspicion but at least he seemed less agitated. “What would I need to do to get this crazy idea out of you head?”

Sam bent down and pulled the paper bag out from under the bed. He stood up and handed it to Dean who peeked inside it.

“Are those what I think they are?”

“Pregnancy tests,” Sam said, feeling himself blush. “I didn’t know which one was best so I picked three of them and I…”

“Okay.”

“What?”

“I’ll do it, but only… only to get you to shut up. And… God, Sam, if you ever say anything about this to anybody, I’ll kill you. Are we clear? “

“Yes”,” Sam whispered.

Dean pulled out one of the tests, holding it gingerly between his thumb and forefinger, and threw the bag on the bed with much more strength then necessary. Then he turned back to Sam, face red and eyes dark. “How does this shit works?”

“With urine. There’s a stick and-”

“I gotta pee on a stick?”

“Basically… yeah.”

“Great. And then what? “

Sam got closer to Dean so that he could read the instructions on the side of the box. “Well… this one is electronic. There will be a “plus” sign in the result window if it’s positive or a “minus” sign if it’s negative. And look, this one even has a sound signal that tells you when the waiting time is up.”

“Oh, a sound signal, really? That’s fantastic,” Dean mocked. He walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Sam immediately followed him and tried the knob. It was locked.

“Dean, let me in.”

“Hell no!”

Feeling useless and slightly nauseous, Sam turned his back to the door and leaned against it. He didn’t understand any better than Dean what Hannah’s point would be in punishing him by getting him pregnant. By his own brother. It was wicked and perverse, but why do this when she could’ve done something much more effective, like killing him. Or…

God, every time he closed his eyes he was picturing that Alien scene where the creature clawed its way out of John Hurt’s body. And then he would see Dean instead, and then…

Stop thinking Sam. Really not a good idea right now.

The door of the bathroom suddenly opened, causing Sam to stumble to the side. Through the slit, Sam saw Dean’s blank face and one of his hands open, palm up.

“Sam. Give me the other two,” he said, way too calmly.

His hand was shaking.

“Dean, what did-?”

“Give them to me and shut up, damn it!”

Sam did as he was told, trying to catch his breath. The door closed once more and all Sam could do was to slowly slide down with his back against it until he was sitting on the floor, knees bent close to his body, arms wrapped around them. The sound of his beating heart was deafening. He felt like time had suddenly stopped and that he would be trapped in this agonizing moment forever.

And then he heard the first blow. And another one, and another one, and the sound of glass shattering and a string of curses and more hits and blows.

Before he realized what he was doing, Sam was up against the door, pounding on it and yelling Dean’s name. When he got no answer other than another loud bang he backed up a few steps and smashed open the door.

There wasn’t much left of the bathroom. The mirror was broken, the towels were ripped to shreds, their rack torn off the wall. Even the shower curtain had been ripped from the rod and thrown on the floor.

Dean was standing in the middle of it, panting loudly, his hands opening and closing against his body. He was drenched in sweat, his face pale and his eyes big and dark, looking afraid and lost and much younger than he was.

On the counter next to the sink, the three pregnancy tests were sitting in a neat line, all of them showing a “plus” sign.

“What the hell did she do to me?” demanded Dean, giving Sam an imploring look.

“Dean I-”

“What did she put in me, Sam?”

“I… I don’t know, Dean. Maybe… maybe it’s just a baby.”

“Just a baby, huh? Just a baby. I’m a man, Sam, I can’t get pregnant! Why the fuck would she do that! Tell me! “

“Dean, calm down.”

“You gotta do something… You gotta get this… thing… out of me… Even… even if it is a baby how’s it supposed to… to grow inside or to get out of me…? I’m missing some essentials parts, ya know? Oh God. God. I’m actually talking about being pregnant. Fuck fuck fuck FUCK!”

Dean burst into a hysterical laugh and tripped over the mess on the floor. He fell hard on his ass and put his head in his hands. His whole body was shaking.

Sam knelt in front of him, shaking almost as badly as his brother. He put his hands on Dean’s knees and tried to pull himself together. He wasn’t the pregnant one after all. He owed it to his brother to be the voice of reason.

“Dean. I… I don’t think it’s a monster or anything. That’s not what the runes suggest. Look… I have no idea why Hannah would’ve done such a thing but we’ll figure it out, okay? “

Dean raised his head and looked around himself, blinking. Long, dark lashes against white skin. Sam felt a sudden rush of love for him and cupped his face delicately between his hands, overwhelmed by the need to protect him, to make everything that was wrong in his life go away.

“How, Sammy?” Dean sounded so vulnerable.

“I’ll find something, someone to help us… I…”

“If you’re thinking about Bobby, forget it.”

Dean was starting to pant again. Sam could feel his skin getting hotter under his fingers.

“I won’t tell Bobby. Trust me, Dean. I’ll find something. “

Sam pressed a kiss to Dean’s forehead. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

Dean stood up slowly, still shaking, and looked around himself. “Kind of lost control for a bit there,” he said.

“You think? I’d say our deposit is a lost cause. “

Sam’s feeble attempt to lighten the mood failed miserably. Dean walked away and sat on the bed, putting his shoes on.

“Dean? What are you doing? “

“Need to… Need to go for a ride. “

“Wait. Please don’t do this.”

Dean didn’t answer. He took his leather jacket, put it on, and snatched the Impala’s keys from his pocket. Sam followed him nervously. “Dean, don’t. I…”

His brother must have heard the fear in his voice because he turned back to look at him and tried to smile, but it was more like a grimace.

“I’m not running away, Sammy. I just need to be alone for a bit, okay? I’ll have my phone with me. Sorry I… I need to do this. “

This was Dean pleading, overwhelmed with fear and confusion. All Sam could do was nod as he watched his brother walk out the door.

He shut it very quietly behind him.

::: :::

Interstate Highway, South Carolina, December 6

Dean was sitting in the passenger seat, looking out the window, fingers fidgeting on his thighs. He had been awfully quiet since leaving Durham earlier that morning, handing Sam the Impala’s keys without a word. He still looked sick from throwing up as soon as he had woken up. Sam had run into the bathroom to help him, only to be greeted with a choked “Leave me alone.”

Dean was shutting him out. It was self-defense, Sam knew, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

They were heading toward Georgia to meet a Hoodoo priestess. It was the best idea Sam could come up with since Dean didn’t even want to hear about asking Bobby or even Ellen for help. “What would you tell ‘em, huh, Sam? That I might be carrying your child?”

“They wouldn’t have to know about the incest part,” Sam had said. If a witch could get him pregnant, maybe she didn’t need another person for the equation.

Dean had looked Sam in the eyes, nostrils flaring, and had growled: “There will be no mention aloud of my possible condition to anybody we know, we clear?”

Sam had nodded and gotten back to their father’s journal. Dean had been gone for almost three hours the night before, and Sam had been surprise to find that he wasn’t a bit drunk when he came back. Dean hadn’t said anything, walking in the room and going through one of their bags to fetch a flask of Holy water and a package of rock salt. Then, under Sam’s stupefied glaze, he had put some salt in the water and had drunk from the flask.

“Dean. It’s not… You don’t have anything demonic in you. You can’t. We made sure it couldn’t happen when we got our tattoos.”

“Could be something else,” Dean had countered. Then he had walked to the destroyed bathroom and had taken a long shower while Sam searched for anyone of anything that might help.

Maria Baker was a hoodoo priestess who was designated in John’s notes as a white witch. I completely trust her, John had written, underlining his words, which carried a lot of weight since John rarely trusted anyone. Apparently, he had worked with her a couple of years after Mary’s death on a case involving a coven of witches back in New Orleans. Sam figured she was their best shot, since she was some kind of a witch herself, and, mostly, because he couldn’t come up with a better idea. Dean had reluctantly given his approval if only because they both knew they didn’t have any choice. They needed help and they needed it quickly.

Maria Baker’s phone number was still working and she agreed to see them as soon as Sam introduced himself as John Winchester’s son.

They would be there tomorrow if they kept on driving through the night, taking turns driving while the other one slept.

“Sam, stop the car.”

“What?” Sam asked, shaken from his own thoughts.

“Stop the fucking car.”

Dean looked sick. He was already covering his mouth with one hand when Sam quickly pulled over to the side of the road, and barely had time to open his door before he was bending over and retching violently. Sam waited as long as he could, but he couldn’t help pressing his hand on Dean’s back. He felt the skin hot under his shirt, the light shivers that were running through his brother’s body. His own stomach clenched with fear and he had to close his eyes, feeling light-headed and dizzy.

“Get off me,” Dean groaned.

He wiped his mouth and lay back on the seat, eyes closed. Without a word, Sam fetched a water bottle from the backseat and pressed it into his brother’s hand.

“Dean, you…”

“Really don’t feel like talking right now, Sammy,” Dean interrupted, sipping cautiously at the water.

“Just listen to me for a minute-”

“Don’t feel like listening to you either. Can we just go now?”

Sam sighed and started the car. Dean’s walls were higher than ever, but was that really surprising? Anyway, would anything Sam said really make a difference? They weren’t sure what was really going on, and wouldn’t be until they meet Maria Baker, assuming she would be able to figure it out.

The only thing Sam could do for Dean was to give him some space. For now.

::: :::

Maria Baker lived in a small, neat house surrounded by an impressive flower garden near the Columbus area. Dean parked the Impala on the side of the street and peeked at the house, a dubious look on his face. The sun was shining on his pale face through the windshield, lighting up his eyes.

“Dean? What is it?”

“I don’t… You sure this is the place?

“Yes, why?

“Looks kind of ordinary.”

“What were you expecting? Headless chickens hanging everywhere?”

“Shut up.”

Dean turned toward Sam, looking a bit confused and a lot scared. The ride to Georgia had taken them less than two days and Dean had insisted on driving his fair share, even if he was clearly exhausted and had needed to stop to throw up on three different occasions. He’d stayed silent and cold the entire way, except for the last two hours or so. Then he had seemed less withdrawn and had talked easily with Sam, as long as they kept the discussion on light subjects.

“So, we gonna do this or what?” he asked, clapping his hands together and trying for an uncertain smile.

“I guess we are.”

Sam was already holding the door handle when he heard his brother clearing his throat, a sure sign he had something important to say.

Sure enough, he asked in a soft voice, “Sammy?”

“Yeah?”

“I just wanna say ‘m sorry, for behaving like a jerk for the past couples of days.”

Sam slowly shook his head.

“It’s alright, Dean. I don’t how I’d deal with this if our places were reversed. I think you’re handling it pretty well.”

“I did feel differently. After the curse I mean.” Dean was fidgeting at the wheel, biting his lower lip. “Should’ve told you, y’know? But it wasn’t a bad feeling. Just…”

“It’s okay.”

Dean looked up the house and took a deep breath. “Let’s go.”

Maria Baker was a tall, slim woman in her early fifties. She had very dark skin and bright green eyes, a tad lighter than Dean’s bottle-green ones. She was wearing jeans and a white blouse, and the only visible sign that she practiced witchcraft or hoodoo was a round pendant filled with a dark liquid that smelled of cinnamon and anise hanging from a chain around her neck.

She smiled and led them into her kitchen where a kettle of tea was waiting for them. They sat at the table while Maria offered her condolences about John’s death.

“He had a hard time on the other side,” she said, still smiling, “but now he’s at peace.”

Dean, who was looking uneasy, started fidgeting in his chair and whispered a low, “thanks”.

“So. Why do you boys need my help?”

Sam cleared his throat.

“Before I start, Mrs. Baker-”

“Maria.”

“… Maria. This situation we’re dealing with… It’s a very delicate matter and…”

“It has to stay between us?” Maria suggested.

“Yeah,” Dean insisted.

“You boys are lovers,” the woman whispered, looking intently at the both of them.

Sam felt his heart hammering in his chest and had to grip the table with both hands to ground himself. To his surprise, he saw Dean raising his chin, a fierce look on his face.

“What if we are?”

“Take it easy. I’m not judging you here. You come asking for my help, I’m not forcing you into anything.”

“Sorry,” Sam said quickly while Dean seemed suddenly absorbed by his cup of tea. “We’ve been under a lot of stress lately and it’s a bit of a sore subject. Dean didn’t mean to be rude.”

“That’s ok, really. So…this problem you’ve come to ask me about, it’s a curse, am I right?”

“How do you know?”

“Dean’s the one who’s been cursed. I can feel it all around him, like an aura.”

Sam nodded. Dean blushed and kept his eyes on his tea. When Sam realized his brother wasn’t going to say anything else, he pulled the paper showing the deciphered symbols from his pocket and told Maria everything that had happened. She listened very carefully, eyebrows furrowed in concentration, and waited attentively for Sam to finish.

“So you did have sexual intercourse?” was the first thing she asked afterward.

“Oh, for the love of…” Dean mumbled into his cup.

“Yes, we did.”

“And Dean was the one…”

“I was bottoming!” Dean growled, a disgusted look on his face, like he had just lost what was left of his pride.

Sam choked on his tea. Maria actually seemed to repress a smile and she cleared her throat before saying. “That’s all I needed to know. Come with me.”

Maria led them to a large room at the back of her house which, she told them, was her working space. The walls were covered with bookshelves and on the floor were a variety of sigils and symbols, some of them completely unknown to Sam. There was a table against the wall, covered with pots and bags and candles. The cinnamon-anise smell was stronger there and the air seemed thicker. In the middle of the room was a long table that had more sigils and symbols carved on it.

Sam and Dean stood still near the door while Maria lit the candles. Then, she began mixing some ingredients in a wooden bowl carved with incantations written in Latin.

“Dean, can you lie on the table?” she asked without stopping.

Dean did as he was told and laid flat on his back, rearranging himself, appearing uncertain and uncomfortable. Sam took a few steps closer and watched Maria working the mixture into an ochre-colored paste. She mumbled what sounded like a hoodoo spell and turned towards them. “There is nothing dangerous about this,” she said as Sam and Dean both stared at the bowl’s contents. “It’s just a mixture of herbs and flowers, cemetery dust and holy water. It’s gonna work as a conductor.”

“Holy water?” Sam asked. “I thought you were more into Hoodoo stuff.”

“A good witch will learn to work her magic using anything she can, regardless of the religious or pagan origins. Dean, can you lift up your shirt please?”

Dean blushed but did as he was told. Sam got closer and watched as Maria Baker delicately spread the paste on his brother’s stomach. She started a Hoodoo spell, a chant, really, that came out low and strangely melodious. Dean was breathing quicker now; the candles’ shallow flames were flickering, as if shaken by the wind. Maria’s hands rested on Dean’s belly, her eyes were closed and her chant grew louder until some of the candles guttered and went out. Sam felt a warm wind rushing through his body and made eye contact with Dean who looked deeply disturbed.

Slowly, under Maria’s hands, the symbols that had been drawn in blood by Hannah McPherson reappeared, carving themselves into the conductor paste on Dean’s stomach.

Once she stopped chanting, Maria took a deep breath.

“Dean, you alright?” Sam whispered.

Dean rose on his elbows and made a face. “I… yeah… I am.”

“She’s dead,” Maria told them, eyes still closed. “The witch who did this to you, Dean. She’s dead. She was powerful but very unstable.”

“No shit,” Dean mumbled.

“Shut up, Dean,” Sam warned.

Maria opened his eyes and looked at the both of them, calm and composed. “The curse has been on you for too long, Dean. We can’t do anything about it now.”

Dean swallowed loudly. “What’s in me?” he asked.

“Sam, for an amateur, you did a very good job at deciphering the symbols. However, your interpretation isn’t correct. You have to consider what the witch’s intentions were.

“What do you mean?”

“Did you ask yourself why Hannah McPherson decided the best way to punish Dean for killing her niece was to get him pregnant?”

“Yeah, doesn’t make any sense,” Dean agreed.

“There are a lot of different ways to decipher symbols used for a spell or a curse. It always depends on the intention the spell caster put behind them. Symbols and runes are harmless in themselves, unless there’s a strong will containing them and giving them power. Hannah wasn’t planning to get you pregnant, Dean. She wanted Sam to poison you.”

“What?”

“She did say that she would turn you against each other, didn’t she?”

“Yes”,” Sam whispered, still trying to get his head around the idea of poisoning Dean.

“And she had some material to work with as some of Sam’s semen was still inside you, Dean. Let’s take those symbols one by one. The meaning of the first two remains the same. Fertility – but also the sexual act itself - and brother – this sign’s origin is Maori by the way. But then we get to the Futhark alphabet… Now those can be tricky. Bjork has been drawn in a hurry and I think it wasn’t meant to be Bjork at all, but Thurisaz, another rune quite similar but meaning instead destruction and pain.”

“Oh God,” Sam said in horror.

“Hey, it’s okay, Sam. It didn’t work. Let me finish, please. As for Ingwas, it is used to diminish one’s masculinity, but in white magic, it means transformation and evolution. Now, the last rune does indeed increase the power of the spell, and also means the spark of life, that can be seen as a woman’s womb or a man’s semen. See what I’m getting at? The curse can have two different meanings, the one you came up with, but also - lethal poison provided by a brother. Hannah wanted Sam’s… bodily fluids, so to speak, to become toxic for you, his loved one. You would have slowly but surely killed your brother, Sam, and even if you figured it out, this would’ve affected your relationship negatively.”

“But it didn’t work,” Dean said quickly, pale and shaking.

“Sam, you interrupted her, am I right?”

“Yeah.”

“She didn’t get the chance to ingrain the curse with her intention before she died. Dean’s body, missing a clear direction, interpreted the symbols in its own way. I don’t know if the fact that you’re a vessel played some part in…”

“I’m a what?”

“A vessel. It means your body is genetically capable of hosting supernatural beings.”

“Oh God. What’s in me? Can’t we get rid of it? What’s going to happen if…”

“Calm down. That isn’t what I meant. Dean. What’s inside you is your brother’s child and nothing else. I can feel it, the energy of the curse pulsing through your body, adapting, changing. The child is healthy and very strong. I… I don’t know how far the changes will go, how it will change you or if your body will be able to handle the stress, but rest assured that what’s inside you is completely human.”

“So this… this pregnancy thing… It’s like… It’s for real?” Dean asked, his face going from a crimson shade to a greenish one almost instantly.

“Yes, it is. It’s not the first time I’ve encountered this kind of situation, although it is rare. “

“Dean is pregnant with my baby?” Sam squeaked, feeling the room fading around him.

“Yes.”

“A baby?” Sam repeated, because he hadn’t really believed it, even after all the signs and the research and the pregnancy tests. He couldn’t make himself get it.

“Fuck,” Dean summarized.

Yeah, Sam thought. Fuck.

Chapter Text

After Mary’s death, Dean had stopped talking for three months. Sam hadn’t really known about it until quite recently, when he had gathered the courage to ask Bobby if John had ever talked about it. Turned out he had.

“I remember the first time I met you guys… Dean must’ve been six or seven and the mouth he had on him, even then. John and I were talking about it one night and your father told me about the months following your mamma’s death. He never did, except nights like that when he was good and drunk. Told me Dean wouldn’t cry, wouldn’t say anything and got all agitated every time he couldn’t see you. Spent hours looking out the window, like he was waiting for your mom to come back. John said he could’ve handled it better than he did at a time but… y’ know… Things weren’t easy for him. Anyway, one day, John is driving on this street and there’s a house on fire. John doesn’t even wanna look, starts driving faster. Then Dean begins to scream at him to stop the car, calls him mamma and cries. John is kinda stunned and he keeps driving until he finds a quiet spot, just in time because Dean is trying to unlock his door and he would’ve managed it eventually – back then, there were no such thing as child safety locks. Anyway… That’s when Dean started to talk again. John said he was like a wild animal that day. He had to hold him tight to stop him hurting himself. Dean cried for all he was worth, while you were screaming your lungs off in your baby seat. He didn’t understand that your momma was gone for good. He kept asking for her until he fell asleep from exhaustion. When he woke up, he asked John some questions… about life and death and y’know, like he was really beginning to understand these things… I remember John saying to me: When he fell asleep in my arms, he was a kid, but when he woke up… it was gone. Dean was already a hunter in training. Kinda sad, don’t ya think?”

Sam had nodded. Dean never talked about his early years, not if he could avoid it. Sam could understand why.

When Dean had come back from Hell, he hadn’t said a word for ten days. Sam remembered. He was the one who’d taken care of him. After the stranger’s disappearance, he had taken Dean in his arms and had led him to the Impala. Dean’s clothes had been torn to shreds and sticky with blood, but his skin had been intact underneath. Bobby had stayed behind to clean the mess, and for that Sam was grateful. He had driven until he had found a decent motel. Dean had been shaking, curled into a ball in the passenger seat, but his eyes had been open, and he had seemed aware of what was going on. Sam remembered crying the whole time, part relief, part shock at what had just happened.

At the motel, Sam had cleaned Dean and changed his clothes. His brother had been pliant and obedient. He had slept for hours while Sam was seated in a chair next to him, never turning his eyes away. When Dean had woken up, he had looked kind of shocked but already more like himself. Sam had quietly explained to him what had happened and he had seemed to understand. But he had stayed silent.

Sam remembered driving a lot during these ten days, like the distance between them and Harmony could never be enough. Dean had slept a lot and rarely wanted to drive, content to let Sam make the decisions. He had barely eaten. When Sam had talked to Bobby about his concerns, their friend had reassured him. “He just came back from the dead, boy. Saved by someone – or something - that popped out of nowhere. Give him some time. And space.”

So Sam did. He had been talking so much to fill the silence that his voice became hoarse and raw. Then, one morning, he had found Dean coming back from a coffee run. “Hey Sammy,” he had said in an unsteady voice. Things had slowly gotten back to normal after that. About a month later, they had just finished an easy job and were drinking a beer sitting under the sun on the Impala’s roof by the side of the road. Dean had cleared his throat and said, “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“For not pushing things, not asking questions about what happened in Hell.”

“Well… I was waiting for you.”

“It felt like a week. Hell, I mean.”

“You were only gone for like… two or three minutes.”

“I know.”

Dean had seemed fascinated with the label on his bottle. “Time is different down there. I was falling for a whole Goddamn week like freaking Alice in Wonderland, and it was… bad. The things that I heard, and saw and felt. But I knew it was nothing compared to what was awaiting me if I ever reached the bottom. This guy who saved me… whatever he is. It wasn’t bad. When he grabbed me I felt… Shit. I don’t know, but I was so relieved. Heard his voice in my head saying: your ordeal is over. That’s… that’s what I remember.”

“When you came back,” Sam had asked almost shyly. “You didn’t talk because you wouldn’t or… couldn’t?”

“I don’t know… Just… It seemed easier to deal with what had happened that way. I didn’t wanna talk, but I’m not sure I could’ve if I’d tried.”

::: :::

After they had left Maria Baker’s house, Dean was silent in the car. Sam asked him a couple of question to which he didn’t answer. He let it go because he was trying to wrap his head around everything the hoodoo Priestess had said to them.

Sam drove for about an hour before he realized he couldn’t do it anymore and quickly found a motel. Dean followed him to the registration desk but it was clear that he was going to let Sam rent the room. They drove to the end of the lot and took their bags out of the trunk. Inside the room, they worked in silent efficiency to protect it properly. After it was done, Sam was surprised to find that his hands were shaking badly, and when he faced himself in the bathroom’s mirror after splashing some water on his face, he saw a pale, terrified man with his hair drenched in sweat and eyes so big he kind of looked like a manga character.

His brother was pregnant.

Feeling a new film of sweat dripping down his spine, Sam tried to calm himself before facing Dean. Closing his eyes, he made a list in his head. That was an old trick he had used since his teenage years, feeling so much anger towards John sometimes it had actually been hard to breathe.

So… elements of the periodic table. That was a good one. Number one: H. Hydrogen; two: He. Helium; three: Li. Lithium; Four… Four…

My brother is pregnant.

The hell with the periodic table. Sam went back to the room.

Dean was sitting on the bed, head bent down, his hands splayed on his thighs like he was carefully studying them.

“Dean, we need to talk about this, man.”

Dean raised his head and looked at him. Shrugged. Didn’t say anything. And Sam finally got it. “No. Fuck Dean, don’t do this please. I know you must be in shock but…”

Dean smiled sarcastically and lay down on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Sam sat next to him, frowning when his saw his brother’s body stiffening, like he was scared Sam would try to touch him.

“We’ve got decisions to make”.

Nothing.

“Dean, fuck. Stop it.”

Dean sighed and turned his head toward Sam. He opened his mouth and closed it. His lower lip was shaking slightly. He raised his hands to his face and pressed them hard on his eyes. He looked so lost right then that Sam couldn’t help but touch him – a simple brush of fingers against his arm. Dean jumped like he had been stung and got out of bed, making a run for the bathroom.

He threw up for a long time. Sam stood behind the door and tried to think. Of something to say, something to do, but all he could do was listening to his own heartbeat like it was the only thing keeping him from losing his mind.

::: :::

It went on like that. For the next week, Dean didn’t say a word, and Sam felt like he was slowly but surely going mad.

They stayed in their room for two days. Dean didn’t go out, didn’t do anything except sleep and watch TV, taking long showers and relying on Sam to get food and take care of… everything, really. Except for him, that is. That first night, when they went to bed, Dean lay on his side of the mattress, brushing Sam’s arm away when Sam tried to get closer to him. He had the same reaction every time Sam got too close.

He just needed space, Sam told himself. He needed time to process what was happening to them. Sam could be patient. Besides, what else could he do?

The third morning, he sat next to Dean while they watched one of these stupid shows Dean liked so much, about car wrecking and junk yard treasures. He took the remote and turned off the TV. His brother didn’t seemed annoyed as he turned toward him with this look on his face, like he was numb and somewhat bored.

“Dean. I don’t know what to do but I think maybe we should move. I’m feeling a bit…claustrophobic, here. What do you say?”

Dean stood up and packed his bags. When they headed to the car, he slid into the passenger seat and closed his eyes as soon as Sam started the engine.

They moved through the state for the next five days, stopping for the night and taking off again the next morning. Dean didn’t drive once. He spent hours looking through the window when he wasn’t sleeping, or at least looked like he was. Once or twice a day, he would tap on Sam’s shoulder, a signal that he was feeling sick. Sam always kept bottled water in the back seat. Each time, he remained in his seat while Dean threw up to the side of the road, aching to help him out but knowing his brother wouldn’t allow it.

Sam would get the food and register them at each motel. One night, he realized they were low on cash. He went to a bar and made some money playing pool – he wasn’t as good as Dean, and kind of rusty, but what else could he do? That night, he drank. Sam wasn’t a heavy drinker and, despite his weight, it didn’t take too much for him to get drunk. He made his way back to the motel room, swaying on his feet and feeling sorry for himself. Dean was sitting on the bed, looking at the blank TV screen.

“Can’t go on like this, man”, Sam slurred, trying to take off his shoes without falling on his ass. “M’gonna go mad, I swear.”

Dean didn’t even acknowledge his presence. Sam grunted and sat on a chair next to the bed, shaking his head to clear it a bit.

“You’re pregnant, Dean!” He shouted. “For Christ’s sake, we gotta do something… We can’t… We can’t just go on like this. The problem isn’t going to disappear by itself.”

Dean got up and locked himself in the bathroom. A minute later, Sam could hear the water running. He wanted to wait for Dean to get out, didn’t know if he felt like apologizing or yelling some more, but he fell asleep on his chair and woke up the next morning hung over and aching.

They reached the town of Malden, Missouri, around seven in the evening on December fifteenth under pouring rain and a cold, violent wind. They ate what Sam had gotten for them and Dean went to sleep shortly thereafter.

Sam stayed awake and, for the first time, researched pregnancy on the internet. He read until his head felt full to bursting, absorbing information, feeling nervous and uneasy.

He didn’t know what was going through his brother’s mind and that was the worst part. There were some clues, however, that showed Dean was actually acknowledging his situation. He hadn’t had any alcohol since the pregnancy tests had come out postitve. He would drink the coffee Sam got for him in the morning but that was all he would allowed himself – which almost amounted to a dry spell, considering the number of cups he used to empty throughout the day.

Of course, none of those signs were a strong indication of what Dean intended to do. With the child.
No, not the child. The embryo. Sam refused to think of it as anything else – at least he tried not to. Thinking that a human being was actually growing in Dean’s belly was way too overwhelming and Sam wasn’t the one who would ultimately make the decision.

He had a hard time falling asleep that night, so close to his brother’s body but feeling painfully far away. He dreamed of big, green eyes looking at him, everything soft and warm around him.

When he woke up, he was alone in the room. Dean came back ten minutes later. Sam was pacing, trying his brother’s phone number again and again, scared that Dean was gone for good, even if he had left all of his stuff behind.

“Dean, what the hell!” he shouted, feeling both relief and anger flow through him.

Dean was carrying a coffee tray and a bag of food. A newspaper was tucked under his arm. He smiled lightly at Sam and showed him the food with an expression that said. “Calm down, I just went to get these.”

He looked more alive than he had for the past week and Sam forced himself to remain calm, feeling like he was walking on eggshells and scared that anything he said would push Dean back into his previous melancholy state of mind.

Dean sat at the table and unwrapped his breakfast. After a few seconds of hesitation, Sam said “Thanks,” and joined him.

They ate, and when their fingers brushed inadvertently over the pack of napkins, Dean didn’t look shocked, or nervous. He smiled again and opened the paper, turning it toward Sam and pointing to an article. IS CEDAR MANSION HAUNTED? The headline said. Then, right underneath: Our interview with the owner, Bethany Harvey.

Sam didn’t read any further. He let the paper fall from his hands, feeling cold and angry again.

“A hunt?”

Dean nodded, sipping his coffee.

“You found us a hunt?” Sam repeated.

Dean rolled his eyes as if Sam was being especially slow. Or stupid.

“I can’t fucking believe this,” Sam muttered, rising from his chair and turning his back on Dean. “I can’t believe this. It’s been a week… A WEEK, Dean! “

He faced his brother who was looking at him with red spots on his cheeks. “You’re cursed. You’ve been knocked up by a witch! With MY child, and then you… you just shut me out and I’m not allowed to even touch you and I try to… Shit. I try to think of a solution while you just sit around watching TV all day and then… You find us a fucking hunt!”

Somewhere in the middle of Sam’s speech, Dean stood up and stepped closer to him. He held a hand out, as if he was telling Sam to calm down, and that was all Sam could take. He smacked Dean’s hand away, shaking with anger.

“No no no, you don’t get to do that. What’s wrong with you? Do you even realize the mess we’re in? Because if you wanna get rid of it, we’ll have to find a doctor soon, you know? Someone who can cut you open and take it out without asking too many ques-”

The punch was hard and sudden, enough for Sam to lose his vision for a couple of seconds and back off a few steps. Even through the shock, his instincts kicked in and he flinched enough that the blow glanced off his left cheek. He rubbed at it with his hand and got his focus back on Dean, who was shivering, hands clenched close to his body, pupils blown.

“Dean, I…”

Dean’s face went as white as a sheet and his forehead wet with sweat. He covered his mouth with his hand and made a run for the bathroom. This time, Sam didn’t let him lock himself in, blocking the door open just in time. As Dean was retching violently, kneeling in front of the toilet, Sam sat close to him and rested a soothing hand on his back. He could feel the tremors running through his body as well as the change in Dean’s normal body mass. With a start, he realized Dean must’ve lost at least five pounds since the morning sickness began.

Long after there wasn’t any food left in his stomach, Dean was still gagging and coughing. When he was done, he managed to flush and collapsed on his ass, holding on to the toilet.

Sam gave him a glass of water and cleaned his face with a wet cloth, glad to see some color returning to his face. Then he sat in front of him in the narrow space of the bathroom.

“Dean, we can’t go on like this.”

“I know,” Dean rasped.

He coughed and tried to clear his throat. Took another long gulp of water.

“M’sorry,” he added, looking at his feet.

“For punching me or shutting me out?”

Dean shrugged and brushed a hand through his hair. “Both, I guess.”

“Hey, listen. I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have said what I did. Not this way, at least.”

“What the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“I…” Sam rearranged himself so he could put his hand on Dean’s thigh. “Well, Maria was very clear. It’s too late to undo the curse using a magical remedy. But maybe we can actually find a doctor who could get the…who could terminate the pregnancy.”

“You mean like an abortion?” Dean asked in a thin, fearful voice.

“Yeah, I guess.”

Dean shook his head, smiling sadly. “I… I don’t think I can do that, Sam.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know what I mean!” Dean snapped back. “It… it feels wrong, is all.”

“You wanna have the baby, Dean?”

“No. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s not like I’m all happy and excited to be a freaking pregnant man. It was never my dream to have my brother’s kid. Just… it’s human, you know and it’s in me and… fuck.”

Sam’s brain was running so fast he felt dizzy. He wrapped his hands around Dean’s shoulders and waited for him to look back. Dean’s cheeks were red. He was chewing on his lower lip.

“Okay. That’s okay. We can wait until we actually find a doctor before we make a decision, wait to see what the curse has done to your body so far.”

“And you don’t have a problem with this?”

“I didn’t even think about it. I’m worried and scared as Hell and I… Actually, I only started doing some research yesterday night.”

“Research about what? Male pregnancy?”

“No. Just pregnancy, you know…”

Dean sighed loudly and finished his water. He put his hand onto Sam’s and it felt so, so good Sam could’ve cried. “Where the hell are we gonna find a doctor that knows what’s going on out there?”

Sam chose his words carefully before he actually spoke. “I’m gonna find one. Listen. Nobody has to know what this is really about. Bobby-”

“Sam,” Dean warned.

“Wait, listen. I’ll ask Bobby if he can help me, but I won’t tell him why. He’ll do it. Maybe he’ll grumble a little-”

“A little?”

“Ok, a lot, but he’ll still do it.”

Dean slowly rose to his feet and yawned. “I uh… I need to sleep a bit,” he explained, looking down at Sam while scratching the back of his head.

“Yeah… Yeah, sure… Do you need any-”

“Sam, stop it.”

“Yep.”

Dean was fast asleep less than ten minutes later. Okay, Sam thought, pacing nervously around the room. Okay. Get a hold of yourself, Sam Winchester.

I don’t think I can do that.

Baby. As in: his and Dean’s child.

Sam felt dizzy. He locked himself in the bathroom and splashed water on his face. Then, when the walls were done spinning, he sat on the closed toilet lid and retrieved his cell from his pocket. It rang only twice before Bobby answered. “What is it?”

“Hey, Bobby, it’s Sam.”

“Sam? Is everything all right? What kind of a mess have you boys got yourselves into this time?”
You wouldn’t believe me if I’d told you.

“Nothing. Everything’s fine, Bobby. How are you?”

“You callin’ to ask how I’m doin’?” Bobby grunted, already suspicious.

“Well… yeah and… I’ve got something to ask you.”

“Shoot.”

“I’m looking for a doctor.”

“A doc - What’s goin’ on, Sam?”

Sam closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Listen, Bobby. Dean and I are fine. No new demon deal, no freaky psychic powers, nothing. You gotta trust me on this.”

“Does Dean know you’re callin’?”

“Yeah. He does.”

There was a pause, then Sam heard Bobby sigh at the end of the line. “I don’t like it.”

“Oh.”

“What kind of doctor do you need? The kind who knows sometimes the wounds he’s tending to weren’t made by a bear?”

“Yeah. But that’s not all. I don’t want a hunter with some basic first aid skills or a retired nurse who helps when she can. I need… I’m looking for a good doctor, Bobby.”

“Well I guess we can rule out Dr Roberts then.”

“Who?”

“He used to put your father back in one piece years ago but he just lost his medical license and-”

“Ok, no. No Dr Roberts.”

“Sam, you realize that I’m kinda worried right now.”

“Yeah, I do.”

How was it that each time Sam talked to or saw Bobby, he always felt like the scrawny kid he used to be?

“There’s a coupl’a names that come to mind. Let me make some calls.”

“Okay. Thanks, Bobby.”

“Hey, Sam?”

“What?”

“You boys didn’t get yourselves cursed by any chance, did you? Because if that’s what it is, I doubt a conventional doctor will hack it.”

“We didn’t… Why would you ask that?”

“That job in Indiana. You thought it was a witch.”

“Right… No. We… no curse. As a matter of fact, the doctor isn’t even for Dean or me it’s-”

“Don’t treat me like an old fool.”

“Bobby, I can’t…”

Sam was now covered in sweat. The dizzy spell came back with a vengeance and he closed his eyes.

“Ok, boy”,” Bobby said, sounding a lot calmer. “Don’t fret. I’m on this.”

::: :::

“Dean. Wake up.”

Dean made a soft snorting sound and smacked his lips together. Sam smiled. It was almost noon and his brother was still sleeping. He hadn’t had anything for breakfast and Sam felt like going out. He couldn’t stand by the table any longer, looking at his phone and waiting for Bobby’s call like he was in some sort of hypnotic trance. He had to do something. Anything.

And there was Dean, sleeping on his side, face half-covered with the comforter, looking all snuggly and comfortable. Ever since he had allowed Sam to touch him, there had been this tingling sensation in his fingers, like they were actually aching for the feel of Dean’s skin.

Sam pressed himself closer to his brother, playing the big spoon, and gently kissed his neck.

“M sleeping, Sammy”,” Dean murmured, but at the same time he tilted his hips, and Sam’s cock jerked in interest as he felt the crack of Dean’s ass under his briefs.

Sam slid his arm around Dean’s waist and started to rub his brother’s cock through the thin cotton. Dean’s breath picked up and he slowly rocked himself back and forth under Sam’s ministrations. “Sa-am” he whispered in an unsteady voice, and Sam pulled and tugged at his cock, sucking on a patch of skin below his ear until Dean suddenly turned toward him and pressed his lips against Sam’s, insistent tongue forcing them open. He swallowed Sam’s moans as his hands pulled his boxers down and gripped his ass firmly.

“Dean… I’m not… Not gonna last long, man.”

Dean smiled cockily, eyes still glassy from sleep. “Eager much, Sam?”

“It’s been a week, you know?”

“I know.”

Dean pushed Sam onto his back and helped him out of his boxers and shirt before removing his own. His cock was already damp with pre-come and looking slippery, shiny red at the tip. Sam brushed his fingers over the head, causing Dean to shiver violently as another drop of clear liquid spurted from the slit.

“You… you never leak like that,” he said in awe as Dean, blushing slightly, straddled Sam’s hips and bent down to kiss him. Before their mouths actually met, he tilted his head and whispered in Sam’s ear. “Been like that for the last two weeks. I suppose it has something to do with the curse.”

“Fuck, that’s hot,” Sam answered, gripping Dean’s ass with one hand while the other one found its way between his butt cheeks, feeling his tight, warm hole.

Dean’s head fell forward, his forehead resting on Sam’s shoulder and he gasped, rocking a bit against Sam’s fingers. Dean loved it, having his hole played with without any actual penetration. Just soft little strokes and touches could bring him close to the edge faster than anything else.

He stared sucking on Sam’s nipple, slipping his hand between their bodies and wrapping it around both of their cocks. “Yeah… yeah, Dean, like that…” Sam panted, feeling his balls drawing closer to his dick, the warmth of Dean’s body all around him.

“Almost there, aren’t you, Sammy?” Dean asked, voice husky and low.

“Y-yeah.”

“Good.”

Dean picked up the pace, releasing the tight wet nub of Sam’s nipple to play with the other. He was panting heavily. His pre-come was enough to make his hand slide easily on their cocks. Sam closed his eyes and let his orgasm build in his belly, sending a tickling sensation to his balls and cock, fingers tugging almost frantically at Dean’s hole, feeling the muscle’s contractions in rhythm with Dean’s pants and low moans.

“Don’t stop, please don’t stop I’m gonna-”

And that was it. Sam’s body stiffened as his dick gave one last jerk before he started to come, his sperm pooling on his belly and dripping on Dean’s hand. He cried his brother’s name, pressing him as close as he could while he rode the last pleasurable spasms of his orgasm. He felt Dean’s hand tighten suddenly around his spent cock, felt Dean’s swelling a bit before his brother was coming too, whispering a string of curses and shaking against him, his come mixing with Sam’s, breath short and damp on his skin.

Dean finally collapsed next to Sam and reached over to grab a couple of tissues from the night stand, clumsily cleaning his own stomach, then Sam’s,.

Sam rose on one of his elbows and smiled lazily at him. “That was good.”

“Yeah, it was”,” Dean answered, serious and grave.

“You ok?”

Dean shrugged. “You called Bobby?”

“Yes.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing, except that I needed a doctor.”

“How’d he react?”

“All suspicious and stuff, but he’ll call me back.”

Dean nodded and announced he was going to take a shower. Sam let him go despite the terrified look on his face. Dean had always dealt with his feelings on his own, and Sam knew when to push and when to let go.

Bobby called back later in the afternoon, as Sam and Dean were eating a late lunch in a little shack close to the motel. When Sam’s phone rang, Dean almost dropped the glass of water he was sipping and quietly told Sam that he was going to pay the bill, like he couldn’t even bare staying close enough to hear the conversation.

The older hunter still sounded unhappy, but he had a name for Sam – of course he had. Rania Suleiman. Sam held on to the phone and let himself relax a bit, for the first time in two weeks.

Chapter Text

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, December 12

Rania Suleiman had been attacked by a Djinn when she had been seventeen and saved by a hunter just before the creature had finished draining her of her blood. After that, she’d spent three months locked down in a psychiatric ward, calling for her brother and parents to come and get her – they had died in a raid back in Lebanon when she had been five years old.

She had eventually come to terms with what was real and what had just been the product of a vivid hallucination triggered by the Djinn’s powers. Once released, she had gotten in touch with the hunter that had saved her, and had refused to leave him alone until he had agreed to tell her everything that he knew about supernatural creatures. Some rumors made them lovers, but nothing was ever confirmed, as the hunter had died two years after, ripped open by a werewolf. After that, Rania had stayed close to the hunters’ world and had resolved to study medicine, wanting to help hunters, who were more often than not living outside the law and who therefore tended to avoid hospitals. She had a practice in a clinic as her day job and another practice back at home. Bobby was a hundred percent sure she was legit and competent. She had even come up with a special healing ointment for supernatural burns that took a long, grueling time to cure. She was still in her early thirties, but her reputation amongst hunters kept growing slowly. Hunters weren’t known for giving their trust easily, after all.

She lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Sam had called her and had asked for an appointment. She had a soft, melodic voice with a tad of an Arabic accent. Sam had felt her smile as she had said: “People don’t usually take an appointment in this particular line of work. More often than not, I find them passed out on my doorstep.”

Sam liked her immediately. Right after that, he and Dean took off and drove their way up to New Hampshire in four days. The ride was better than the one to Georgia but still, Sam felt how anxious and tense Dean was. They didn’t talk about the pregnancy. Dean let Sam touch him the way he used to before it had happened, except for one thing: every time Sam’s hands came close to the lower part of his belly, he would stiffen and move, or try to distract his attention. He didn’t touch it himself, if he could avoid it.

However, Dean did agree to try some of the tips Sam had read on the internet to slow down morning sickness (which was a misnomer, as the nausea and vomiting could happen anytime in the course of a day, sometimes triggered by a smell only. If Dean’s nauseas had been only happening in the morning the first few weeks, now, it wasn’t a rule anymore, and being in the car made it worst). As Dean was throwing up at least once a day, sometimes up to four times, Sam was worried he’d lose more weight. Some tips suggested taking six small meals instead of three bigger ones, to cut on the fat and salt, but Dean’s appetite hadn’t returned and Sam was too happy to see him eat to keep lecturing him about healthy food. He’d concentrate on the old cracker tip instead.

That’s how they ended up driving into Portsmouth on a cold, late afternoon, where everything was covered in fresh snow, Sam at the wheel because Dean had to stop to munch on some crackers. They did improve his nausea, even if they didn’t work all the time and it had to be a specific brand of crackers, the Jungle Feast Party Pack, because of course, that was the only kind Dean would eat.

“A crocodile,” he crowed, waving the small biscuit it in front of Sam’s eyes.

“Dean, stop it.”

“Want one?”

“No.”

“Maybe I could interest you in an elephant?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Dean, just knock it off, ok? ‘M trying to drive”,” Sam snapped.

“You scared my elephant.”

Sam tried to ignore him as he drove slowly on Main Street. The road was wet and slippery; they were both tired and tensed. Dean was being a jerk on purpose (the animal jokes had stop being funny half an hour ago, if they ever were) because he had to take out his anxiety on someone, or something, and Sam had always been his favorite scapegoat. He could understand that, given their current situation. Still, Sam himself was probably almost as worried and nervous as Dean and he felt that his annoyance was slowly giving way to anger. He took a couple of deep breathes, and for a while, the inside of the Impala was quiet. Until he felt a small pressure on his right shoulder and saw that Dean was holding a giraffe-shaped cracker there.

“Kind of looks like you, don’t you think?”

Sam didn’t answer.

“Yeah, totally” Dean added after a few seconds. “I don’t eat the giraffes, though, ‘cause they taste like stuck-up little bitches.”

Sam took the box of crackers and threw it in the back of the Impala. Its contents rattled out loudly all over the floor.

“Sam, what the hell?”

“Well, that’s what stuck-up little bitches do,” he snarled.

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too, Dean.”

“You’re cleaning this up.”

“Yeah. Whatever.”

They had passed downtown Portsmouth by now, and were driving through a much more residential part of the city. Sam’s hands were clenched on the wheel, and he could feel his brother’s glare burning through him. After a few minutes of tense silence, he sighed. “Listen Dean: let’s not fight just before our appointment, ok? I’m sorry if I snapped but-”

“I was fucking asking for it, I know.”

“I’m scared too.”

“Oh, God, please skip the touchy-feely part.”

“Ok.”

That’s all Sam could get out of Dean before they reached the road leading to Rania Suleiman’s house at the end of a private drive surrounded by woods. The house itself was a modest one. There was a small car parked in the alley and covered with snow. Sam stopped the Impala next to it and cut the engine. Snow was starting to fall again in big lazy flakes. Christmas, Sam thought. It would be Christmas pretty soon. Remembering the last one he’d spent with Dean, he shivered violently and turned toward his brother.

Dean was looking straight in front of him, his lips reduced to a thin white line, his hands clenched in fists on his thighs.

“You ready to go in?”

“No.”

“Dean…”

“Sam. What if I don’t trust her?”

“Then we won’t tell her anything.”

“And we’ll be fucked. I mean, what choice do we really have here, huh?”

Sam brushed a hand through his hair. “We’ll find another way.”

“Whatever does that mean.”

“It means we’ll find another way!” Sam replied.

Dean smiled stiffly and opened his door. Sam followed.

They barely had time to knock before the door was opening, showing a pretty woman with round curves and long curly brown hair She couldn’t be more than thirty-two – maybe thirty-three - had bright dark eyes and an open smile on her face. She was short, had to raise her chin to look at Sam and Dean in the eyes.

“Sam Smith?”

“Yeah, and this’s my brother Dean.”

They shook hands. Rania took a long, serious look at them. Sam had the feeling that she was trying to gauge them, which he didn’t blame her for because he was doing the exact same thing.

“Follow me” she said, leading them towards the kitchen and living room. “By the way, this place is equipped with salt lines, devil’s traps and protection symbols, even if you don’t see them. So if there is something wrong with you, I’ll know.”

She turned once more and smiled at them. “You wouldn’t believe how widespread the Smith name is amongst hunters. Maybe it’s a genetics thing.”

Dean didn’t react at all, but Sam mumbled an apology. “I… we… weren’t sure if-”

“Oh, don’t worry. I understand,” she replied quickly.

They were now facing a thick wooden door. Rania unlocked it with the key she was wearing around her neck, revealing a very large room without any windows. There were medical supplies tucked neatly against the walls, an exam table, a hospital bed close to it, and a big wooden desk surrounded by filing cabinets. The room was strongly lit by halogen lights.

“Wow,” Sam murmured, looking around.

Next to him, Dean kept his eyes on the floor, hands tucked in his pockets. “Let’s talk,” Rania Suleiman said, settling into the chair behind her desk.

Sam and Dean took the chairs in front of it. Sam already had his notebook in his hands, with a list of questions waiting to be answered. Dean was fidgeting, unable to remain still and looking everywhere except toward Rania’s direction.

“We kind of… we’re in a delicate situation here”,” Sam started.

“Well, that I could tell. Listen, guys. Just go for it. Nothing’s gonna leave this room. I’m a doctor, I’m tied to professional discretion.”

“In your illegal supernatural clinic?” Dean snarled, ignoring Sam’s warning glare.

“Yes.”

“It’s a curse”,” Sam suddenly said, trying to lighten up the atmosphere.

“Okay. What kind of curse?” Rania was all professional and composed, as if she’d just asked him if he’d been coughing for a long time.

“A witch knocked me up,” Dean announced, looking at Rania with a defiant expression on his face.

“You sure about that?” was Rania’s answer, but she did look a bit surprised.

Sam quickly explained what had happened more than a month’s ago and their recent trip to Lousiana. He did kept a few details for himself. He and Dean had agreed not to talk about their relationship. After all, If Dean could’ve got cursed into pregnancy, why not into being the only parent of the child?

When Sam was done, Rania leaned back on her chair and started fidgeting with her pen, serious and thoughtful. “You guys should know I’ve never dealt with supernatural male pregnancy before.”

“No shit,” Dean snapped.

“Dean…” Sam warned. But Rania cut him off.

“What do you want me to do?”

Dean blushed while Sam was opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of the water. They weren’t even sure of what they were asking.

“Since the curse can’t be broken in a magical way, it would be great if you could give my brother a checkup, to see what it has done to him so far.”

“Right.”

Rania took some more notes. “So, morning sickness, you say?”

“Yeah. Twice, on an average day” Sam answered.

“Weight lost?”

“At least five pounds.”

“Anything else?”

“He’s tired and he doesn’t eat much. Oh, and his nipples are kind of darker and are very sensitive.”

“M’right here” Dean mumbled.

Rania looked at him. “Have you experienced anything else out of the ordinary, Mr. Smith?”

“Dean.”

“Ok. Dean.”

“No. That sums it up.”

“Are you feeling more sensitive than usual? Sudden sadness or euphoria?”

“What does it have to do with this… pregnancy thing?”

“Hormones.”

“Oh. I don’t know.”

“Yes, I think he’s more sensitive than usual” Sam said.

“What do you know? F’course I’m kinda disturbed. A witch got me pregnant!”

Dean was glaring at Sam, ready to snap, but then Rania fetched a small cardboard circle covered in small writing and different colors. “You were cursed early morning the sixth of November, yeah?”

“That’s right.”

“If we consider that as the conception day, you’re more or less into your sixth week of pregnancy and the due date for the baby is July 28.

“But I don’t… I’m not even…”

Dean was clearly disturbed by the conversation, constantly brushing his hand in his hair or drumming with his fingers on his thighs. Rania Suleiman was all business and professional, as if a waiting room full of hunters was waiting for her on the other side of the door.

“Dean doesn’t know what to do. You have to understand how difficult this situation is for him,” Sam insisted, feeling suddenly protective of his brother.

Rania seemed to get the message because when she talked again, her voice was softer. “Yes. I understand. I think we should start with an ultrasound, to see how your body is reacting so far, Dean.”

“Yeah. Ok.”

Dean was told to change into a hospital gown behind the curtain Rania had drawn around the exam table area. While he did that, Rania opened a closet and took a cart equipped what looked like a fairly new ultrasound system. She must’ve seen the look on Sam’s face because she stopped on her feet and explained. “Last year, a couple of hunters knock on my door, asking me if I could help with an exorcism. The poor woman had been jumped by a demon a week earlier and she was heavily pregnant. They wanted me to watch her and the baby’s health while they did the ritual. Afterward, I figured it would’ve been easier if I had had one of these.”

She pushed the cart next to the drawn curtain and plugged the machine into the wall.

“Did they make it?”

“Yes. I heard that the woman was hospitalized in psychiatry for a couple of months, but she eventually recovered.”

“This isn’t a cheap machine”.

Rania smiled sarcastically, suddenly reminding him of Dean. “No. It isn’t.”

“I’m ready,” Dean announced.

“Maybe you should wait outside the room,” Rania told Sam, drawing off the curtain.

“No. Sam can stay”,” Dean answered quickly.

He looked lost dressing in the thin white and blue blouse, his naked legs hanging down the table. God, Dean hated to be exposed like that. A blush was creeping from his throat to the tip of his ears. He did as Rania told him and lay on his back. She covered him with a sheet from the waist down and pulled the gown up to expose his stomach. Dean shivered and closed his eyes. Sam was aching to touch him, just for a little reassurance, but he didn’t know how the doctor would interpret his move.

At first, all Rania did was to press her fingers softly at the skin below Dean’s navel. Then she frowned and pushed more firmly. “What…?” she mumbled.

“What? What is it?”

Dean was raised on his elbows, pale and looking close to go on full-panic mode.

“The muscles of your stomach. They’re not supposed to be like that. It’s like they shifted. Did you feel anything different in this area since the curse?

“Yes.”

“What?” Sam gasped.

“Calm down, dude, ‘t was only for the last week or so. It’s like they’re weaker, y’know? Like, when I bend down or move my torso, I don’t feel them bunching the way they were. They feel… I dunno… softer, I guess?

Rania pushed a little more and suddenly raised her head, looking slightly shocked. “Ok. You have a uterus.”

“Shit.” Dean covered his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Dean, if there’s a baby in there he needs a nest,” Sam said gently.

“Shit”,” Dean repeated.

“You ok?”

“No, I’m not ok! Dean snapped, glaring at Sam. “I’m fucking pregnant!”

Rania wasn’t paying attention to them but setting up the ultra sound screen.

“This is a conductor gel,” she announced, pouring some liquid on Dean’s belly.

“Damn it!” Dean hissed. “That’s cold.”

“Sorry. You can look at the screen if you want.”

Rania had set the machine so Dean could see while lying down. She picked the wand and pressed it firmly on Dean’s skin before she began moving it in small circles. Sam was watching the screen, trying to understand the black and white patterns he was seeing, but really couldn’t identify anything.

Rania stopped suddenly and enlarge the image.

“Yes. This… This is your uterus, Dean,” she whispered in awe.

There was nothing on the screen except a little black circle surrounded by greyness. Rania was moving the wand again, talking as she did so. “It looks like it’s tied to the ligaments of your abdominal cavities. It… There’s no uterine canal, no Fallopian tubes or ovaries, but definitely a uterus. I’m gonna try to locate the embryo now.”

Dean’s eyes went wide when Rania got back to the uterus itself and enlarged the picture, trying a few different angles until there was a small kidney-like white form visible inside the black one. Sam felt his heart hammering in his chest, thinking about the images he had seen on the internet.

“Here it is”,” Rania announced.

“It looks like a bean,” Dean said in a shallow voice.

“It looks exactly like it’s supposed to look, for a six-week-old embryo. I’ll take the measurements.”

With a couple of clicks of the mouse, Rania was able to get a better view. Some lines and numbers appeared on the screen but neither Sam nor Dean were paying much attention to them. Sam had trouble breathing and felt that if he didn’t sit soon, he would drop on the floor. Dean looked like he was going to be sick, his features pale and tensed, his hands gripped on the exam table.

“It… did it just moved?” he whispered.

“Yes, it did. Now I’m gonna try to hear the cardiac activity, but it’s still early in the pregnancy so, if I don’t find it, don’t worry.”

“But how can it…? How big is it?”

“What, the embryo? Close to one centimeter, which is perfectly normal to this stage.”

Rania worked on the computer some more and pushed the wand into Dean’s skin. Then she froze the screen and a static noise filled the room. “Ok. Let’s see if we have something.”

It took a few seconds, then a small, weak noise was audible over the static one. A very fast: thump-thump, thump-thump.

“That’s his heart, Dean”, Rania whispered, still looking stunned and amazed.

“How do you know that’s not my heartbeat?” Dean asked in a shaking voice.

“It would be much stronger, and this heart is beating at… Rania did a couple of clicks. “156 beats per minute.”

“Oh, God. That’s its heartbeat.”

Dean rose again on his elbows. “Sam, that’s its freaking heartbeat.”

“I know, Dean.”

Sam held on to the table and let himself slide on the floor.

::: :::

“You’re not eating.”

“You neither.”

They were sitting on the bed with their back against the bedpost, Chinese takeout between them. Dean was playing with his chopsticks while Sam looked out the window. The sun was setting. It was still snowing outside.

“So”, Dean said, munching on a stick.

“Yeah.”

“I… I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything, for now.”

Dean seemed annoyed by Sam’s answer. “Hey, you’re supposed to get me to talk. That’s how things work around here, remember?”

“Yeah, well. I’m not the one with the bun in the oven.”

“Shut up.” Dean laughed nervously, lowering his eyes and looking at his stomach. Sam could saw one of his hands fidgeting on his thighs, like he actually wanted to touch his belly but couldn’t get himself to do it.

“Dean. Listen… Whatever you decide, I’ll be right there with you.”

Dean looked at him, slowly dragging his hand on his face, which was a bad sign, Sam realized a tad too late.

Their Chinese dinner was thrown on the floor. Dean stood up and pointed a shaking finger at Sam, face beet-red and short of breath.

“Seriously, Sam? You’re gonna leave it all to me? Hiding behind your fucking emo shit like you really care, like this isn’t a way out for you? There, Dean. Choose. Because you care so fucking much, right Sam?”

“Woah, Dean. That’s not what I meant-”

“Shut your freaking pie hole!”

Sam was paralyzed on his spot, so wrapped up in his own feelings and worries he couldn’t quite understood what got Dean so worked up. His brother was visibly trying to calm down but couldn’t control his anger anymore. He turned to the nearest wall and punched it. Hard.

“Dean, stop it.”

“I really wish that had been your face instead,” Dean whispered, looking right into Sam’s eyes.

Then he turned on his heels and locked himself in the bathroom.

“Fuck,” Sam muttered, rising up slowly.

Unable to think clearly, he started cleaning Dean’s mess.

It looks like Dean’s body is adapting quite easily to the transformations. I can’t guarantee that everything will happen this smoothly until your due date, Dean. Neither for you nor the baby, but the curse seems efficient enough. There is no birth canal, no external sign that it could lead to an opening so if we go through this we’ll have to plan a C-section. If you decide to terminate the pregnancy, you’ll still have to go under surgery. Now, I’ll need at least two persons to do that. They’re liable, but still, I can manage for them to never see your face, Dean. It’s really up to you what you prefer. I’ll go with what you choose.

This had been Rania Suleiman’s final speech before they’d left. Dean had been through more tests and exams after the ultrasound. She had taken a blood sample and would have the preliminary results the day after tomorrow. They would meet her again, then, and would discuss further what Dean intended to do.

Rania was a bit worried about an abortion procedure. “It’s a curse” she had explained. “It’s meant to reach his purpose. I don’t know what will happen if we try to break it in a surgical way.”

God, this woman had some nerves. She did seemed impressed during the ultrasound, but she’d kept her professional attitude through the whole appointment. There was something distant about her. Sam didn’t even know if she did it consciously. It didn’t change the fact that she seemed perfectly able to get them through this.

Sam dumped the food and containers in the trashcan, then walked to the bathroom door, listening. He couldn’t hear anything. “Dean?” he asked.

No answer. Sam knocked.

“Leave me alone,” Dean snarled in a somewhat thick and unsteady voice.

“Come on, Dean. We have to talk. I’m sorry if I’ve said something wrong.”

The door opened slowly. Dean seemed calmer, even though still pissed.

“Whatever I say, huh?”

“Dean-”

“So, if I say: I wanna keep the baby and raise him, you’ll say: alright, let’s do this.”

Dean was searching Sam’s eyes, and suddenly, Sam got it. He felt a rush of fear flowing through his veins had to steady himself against the bathroom’s door frame.

“Yes,” he answered, and knew right at this instant that he meant it, remembering the small bean that had a beating heart. Right there, in his brother’s belly. The thought was overwhelming.

Dean snorted incredulously but still, there was a little spark in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. “And if I say: the hell with that, I want to get rid of it, you’ll say: no problems.”

Sam opened his mouth to agree but nothing came. The fear that had been so thrilling and positive a minute before became somewhat heavier, darker. He swallowed loudly. “I… if that’s what you think is best for you. I’m worried about the risks, though.”

Dean’s eyes widened. “You don’t want me to get rid of the baby” he whispered.

“No! No, that’s not… Fuck, Dean. That’s just… It’s not a pleasant thought.”

“You do realize that this is an all new level of fucked up, right? This is way beyond the I-fuck-my-brother situation we’ve got going here.”

“I know.”

Dean scratched his head and made this uncertain smile he always did when he was fighting off overwhelming emotions. “Well, that’s it, then. Like I told you before, I can’t just get rid of it. We didn’t know if it was possible to go through the pregnancy but Dr. Suleiman seems to think so and… yeah. Hum. I…”

“Ok.”

“It’s not like I’ve always wanted to have kids or anything.”

“No?”

Dean shrugged. “I knew I was gonna spend my life hunting. The thought never even crossed my mind. Did you?”

Sam took a moment to think. He did remember, lying in bed with Jess, eating raspberries and cookies in the middle of the night. “Well. We talked a bit about it, with Jess. But we were young, you know. It was just like this American dream: finish school, get married, buy a house, a dog. Have a couple of kids.”

“There is a difference between refusing to get an abortion and wanting to settle in a small town and raise a kid, though.”

Still scratching nervously the back of his head, Dean walked past Sam to the frost-covered window, pressing his forehead against it. Sam didn’t know what to do with himself, wondering if Dean would allow any kind of physical touch right then. He finally settled for the bed, where he sat quietly.

“Do you… do you wanna give it up for adoption, then?” he asked softly.

Dean snorted. “Not an option. Dad raised us, Sam. You really think I could give up a kid without worrying to death about him every single minute of each day? Hell, you were an adult when you went to Stanford and …”

Dean waved his hand dismissively and turned so that he could face Sam. “Still. I’ma sound like big girl but all we do is dealing with death, day after day and this… baby. He didn’t ask for anything and I can’t take his life away just because I feel like it. I’m not pro-life or anything, Sam. I’m not. T’s just me. Our situation, I mean.”

“So, we keeping it?

“I guess we do”,” Dean whispered. “You know this ain’t stopping after he’s born, right? Do you realize how everything will change?”

“I don’t think I do. To be frank, I still have a hard time believing I’ve really heard its heartbeat. I feel like I want it… the baby, I mean. I feel like I want him to live but I can’t quite picture myself with him in my arms or… I don’t know, teach him to ride a bike.”

“Yeah. No. I’m not there either but I guess we’ll figure it out. And maybe, maybe you’ll start to feel like this ain’t for you because shit, it’s easier for me. I do feel different. It’s in me, not in you, and even if you say right now that you’ll go with it it’s possible that you decide to change your mind later and-”

“Dean. What the hell are you talkin’ about?”

“If you want an out, you got one. I mean… I can’t force you into this and I can’t choose and-”

“Shut up. For fuck’s sake, Dean, just shut up!” Sam growled, joining his brother in front of the window. He tried to look at him in the eyes but Dean stubbornly kept his head bent down. His body was so tensed his muscles were shaking a bit. “God, I hate when you do that. Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to convince you. That what we have is what I want. I fucking love you Dean. You’re it for me. I don’t need anything else. Never wanna feel again like I did when you sold your soul for me. Woke up scared shitless each and every single day thinking that I had lost another one without finding a solution. So what, you’ve been cursed into having a baby. We’ll deal with this. He’s gonna be born and we’ll love him and we’ll find ways to cope. I ain’t going anywhere.”

Dean bit on his lower lip. Hard. “I think I hated it, at first,” he admitted quietly. “The first few days, after we’d seen Maria. I hated the baby for well, being there. For what it was doing to me and… ‘M sorry, Sam. How fucked up is that, huh? How can I think about being its dad if the first thing I did after it was conceived was to hate him.”

Dean’s eyes were full of unshed tears. Sam gripped his arm and didn’t let go, even if Dean tried to shake him off. “That doesn’t mean anything, Dean, giving the circumstances. Not all pregnancies are planned, you know? You really think all mothers to be feel an unconditional love for their kid the moment they know it’s there?”

“I don’t-”

“You gotta give it time. Let’s allow ourselves the time, for once.”

And suddenly Dean was cupping Sam’s face in his hands, kissing him sloppily. Sam went with it, drowning in the urgent desire that was building up fast and hard in him. He drove Dean back to the bed in an awkward dance and pushed him onto it, landing over him. Touching him, claiming him.

Possession, Sam thought when Dean stripped of his t-shirt, and he kissed and sucked on Dean’s tattoo while pressing his hips against him, feeling the warmth of his body. He’s mine. The baby’s mine.

Sam fucked Dean long and hard, pretending not to see the few tears that finally slipped on his burning cheeks. Dean moaned and sobbed and held on to him like they were making love for the first time, or the last. Maybe both. He brushed Sam’s hand away when it ventured on the tenderer patch of skin under his navel, but Sam didn’t care. As he was pounding into Dean, his brother’s cock trapped between them, he could feel his belly, pressed skin to skin with it.

And that was enough.

Chapter Text

Portsmouth, Christmas Day

It wasn’t unusual for them, spending Christmas in a motel room like it was any other ordinary day. They’d spent the previous night watching stupid Christmas movies and had gone to bed early. Dean always went to bed early these days.

Of course, this year, everything was different.

Sam had soon to learn that deciding to keep the baby, for Dean, was very far from accepting what was happening to him. When they had met Rania for the second time, Sam had thought Dean would have been more talkative, more at ease. He had thought wrong. As Rania had given them tips and information, Dean had stayed silent, answering only when he had to and letting Sam do most of the talking.

The blood test had been normal, as far as it could be for a man spontaneously producing pregnancy hormones. Dean did have a small iron deficiency, which was very common for pregnant women. The vitamins Rania had prescribed would take care of it.

She had talked about the importance of a good diet and had given them some information on about ways to ease the morning sickness and early pregnancy symptoms. She had seemed a bit worried about Dean’s recent weight lost, even if it wasn’t uncommon for women in their first trimester. “I don’t know how much of that weight loss is caused by the nausea and sickness, how much from stress and how much from the transformation your body is going through.”

Because of this, and in a more general way, because Dean’s pregnancy was anything but normal, Rania wanted to see them once a week. She’d given them four different phone numbers to easily reach her and had insisted they call for anything unusual, as insignificant as it may seem.

At the end of the appointment, Sam had held out his hand and said, “I’m Sam Winchester.” It didn’t seem right for him to keep going with a false name when the young doctor was obviously doing everything she could to help them. Rania had smiled and shaken his hand as if this little gesture was very important for her.

When they had gotten back to the motel, Dean had pressed Sam against the wall and had fucked him harder than usual (which Sam didn’t mind, he did like his sex a bit rough sometimes) without saying a word. Afterward, he had apologized. “Don’t ask what I was trying to prove.” And Sam had thought that they both knew perfectly well what Dean was trying to prove and that it wouldn’t be the only time he would feel the need to do something like that.

They woke up late on Christmas day. Dean was silent and thoughtful and Sam took the opportunity to go through the pamphlets Rania had given them. Around eleven in the morning, Dean, who was sitting on the bed, eating a bag of Reese’s Pieces, suddenly made a face and threw the candies in the trashcan next to the bed.

“You gonna be sick?”

“No.”

“Want something else? I bought baby carrots.”

“Oh, that’s so nice of you, Sam,” Dean replied sarcastically. Then he seemed to rethink about it and went to fetch the carrots from their mini-fridge. “I’ll have to start eventually,” he said, munching on one.

“What a sacrifice.”

Dean shrugged. “Hey, I’m trying. And I know you must be physically aching to lecture me about what I should and shouldn’t eat.”

“Maybe,” Sam smiled.

“Come on, Sammy, get your coat,” Dean demanded, throwing a carrot in the air and catching it between his teeth.

“Why? Where we goin’?”

“To get some air. Maybe walk a bit.”

“You wanna take a walk?” Sam asked incredulously. “Should I be worried?”

“Shut up.”

It was nice, actually, walking shoulder to shoulder with the snow falling gently around them. Dean’s cheeks and nose were red. Snowflakes covered his hair and stuck to his eyelashes. His mouth was pink and wet. Sam felt a rush of love for him, weakening his legs and making his heartbeat accelerate in his chest. It happened sometimes and it felt so intense Sam actually had a hard time breathing. He tried to picture a baby, alive and warm in Dean’s arms, but the image remained unfocussed and fuzzy.

They would get there. Eventually.

Down the street was a small coffee shop, open despite the holiday. Sam offered Dean a coffee but his brother asked for cocoa instead.

“Really?”

Sam couldn’t even remember the last time he had seen Dean drinking cocoa. His brother rolled his eyes. “Yes, Sam, a freaking hot chocolate. I’ve already had one coffee this morning.”

“You know, according to what I’ve read you can drink up to two cups of coffee a day.”

“I can’t really enjoy it, knowing it’s not really good for the… well, the baby. And besides, I always feel a bit sick afterward, so.”

Sam bought two cocoas and they kept on down the sidewalk in comfortable silence until Dean cleared his throat.

“Sammy?”

“Yeah?”

“I can’t hunt anymore, ya know.”

“…Yeah.”

“You look kind of shocked.”

“Well, I thought it would take you a bit more time before you brought it up. Thought maybe… you would want to go on hunting for the first months.”

“I do. Want to keep hunting, I mean. I just can’t. There’s no sense going through what’s happening to me if I don’t keep the baby safe.”

Dean wasn’t looking at Sam, and it seemed as though just getting the words out was painful for him.

“You’re right.”

“And huh… If Rania wants to see me once a week, we can’t go far. We’ve got to settle down, for a year. At least.”

“Yes.”

“So.”

“What?”

“You ready to do that?”

Sam took the time to think about his answer. Unlike Dean, he had led a sedentary life for some years, studying. He remembered his first few months in California, feeling this itch to move, like it was unnatural for him to have an apartment, to own stuff. As time went by, it had been easier and Sam had learned to appreciate it.

“Yes. ‘M ready.”

“Good, because I ain’t,” Dean laughed nervously. “I’m freaking terrified… Like, I’m having nightmares about it. Last time I actually had a home was when mom was alive. Fuck. I don’t know how to do this.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

Dean pressed his hand lightly on Sam’s ass. It was brief as Dean wasn’t comfortable with intimate touches in public, but it was there, and Sam smiled.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, January 10

It was a very modest two-story wooden house with a mansard roof and a turret on the left side. There was a full porch on the ground floor.

It was their house for the next year. Sam stood still in the cold January wind and took a deep breath. He still couldn’t believe their luck, as if tables had suddenly turned and fate had decided to give them a breather.

“Come on, Sam. You gonna help me out or do you need some alone time with it?”

Sam turned toward Dean, who was getting their stuff out of the trunk. He looked tired and spent, but he was smiling, and Sam couldn’t help but smile in return.

There wasn’t much to take inside anyway and they were done less than ten minutes later. The house was a rental and already furnished. All Sam and Dean had had to buy were sheets for the bed, towels and household products. Before they had arrived that morning, they had stopped at the grocery store - and it had been a lot of fun, shopping for food. More than that - it had felt like a luxury, choosing everything they wanted to eat, actually planning some of their meals, picking a fair trade coffee. Dean’s eyes had been bright like those of a child on Christmas Eve and, somewhere deep inside him, Sam had felt some of his old resentment toward their Dad waking up. Something as casual as grocery shopping shouldn’t make them so excited. It was kind of pathetic.

As soon as they were done, Dean started a fire in the small chimney in the living room while Sam emptied the grocery bags in the kitchen. The inside of the house was clean and neat. It belonged to a single woman in her forties. Jenna Stevens taught literature at the Portsmouth University and, at the last minute, she had been offered a year of teaching in a prestigious school oversea, in Milan, after one of her colleagues had turned down the offer. She had been in a rush to rent the house, which had been in her family for three generations, as she didn’t want to leave it unoccupied for a whole year. Sam had stumbled upon her ad in a local newspaper on January 3. They had met the same day and had signed the lease the day after. Everything had been going so smoothly Sam hadn’t actually believed it was really going to work out until a day ago, when he had come back to fetch the keys as Jenna Stevens was leaving for the airport.

Everything had been circumstantial timing, really. The woman had been looking for a tenant for a week before Sam had called her. Her house was isolated, at the end of a long deserted road surrounded by woods. The closest neighbor was two kilometers away. Not an easy sell, and considering the time of the year, she’d had no offers until Sam had contacted her. He had done the talking while Dean had checked the house (with his EMF meter and some Holy water hidden in the inside pocket of his jacket), had been all charming and innocent-looking, lying through his teeth. He’d even managed to lower the rent by twenty dollars a month after flashing three months’ worth of rent in cash.

Money really did rule the world.

“Hey Sam?” Dean shouted from the living room, stopping Sam’s reminiscing.

“Yeah?”

“Bring me some apple juice, will ya?”

“Give me two minutes!”

Sam started the coffee maker and poured a big glass of juice for his brother. Dean didn’t drink caffeine anymore, and since coffee was usually his principal hydrating source (well that, and beer, but he didn’t drink alcohol anymore either) he had to latch on to something else (God forbid Dean consider water a possibility). He would have a glass of milk every day, on Sam’s insistence, but the rest of the time, apple juice seemed to be his new oral obsession.

It was all those little things. They were still fairly early in Dean’s pregnancy as he was just going through his ninth week, but he had changed. Nothing dramatic, like crying his eyes out while watching a chick flick or waking up in the middle of the night to ask for ice cream covered in barbecue sauce. Still, there was something… softer about Dean. The way he would sometimes look at Sam, or watch the road while driving, as if he was somewhere else entirely, somewhere pleasant. He wasn’t talking as much as he used to, but he wasn’t brooding either. He seemed more thoughtful, less Dean-like. He still made stupid jokes, sang annoyingly off key just to mess with Sam, and talked to his freaking car like it was a person. He was still playful and slightly dominant in bed.

It was like, sometimes, Sam had a glimpse of another Dean. Still Dean, yet different. Not in an unpleasant way. It would always make Sam itch with this new urge to protect him, to take care of him. Most of the time, Dean would brush him off, call him a girl and drape himself in his manly pride, but sometimes he would let Sam have his way. About a week ago, he had been sick all evening, throwing up at least four times in the course of one hour, swearing to God and all the saints that he would never, ever eat Italian food again. The last time had been just gastric fluids and dry-heaving. He had let Sam wash his face and take him to bed, shaken and unsteady. He had initiated the cuddling and had seemed to need Sam’s soft caresses and soothing words.

Thinking about this, Sam added a fruit salad cup to the tray he was taking to the living room. Dean was now about eight pounds lighter than before the curse, even now that he was eating a little more. Rania was concerned. Sam was too. Fruits seemed to be easier on Dean’s stomach and he never complained when Sam offered him some. Unlike vegetables, fruits had always been part – if not a large one - of Dean’s diet.

The living room was dark with its heavy velvet curtains and its wooden walls. Dean was sprawled on a large couch in front of the fire place, looking intently at the flames dancing in front of him. Papers were spread on the coffee table. Sam put the tray near them and dropped on the leather couch next to Dean.

“Thanks,” Dean said, eying the apple juice. “Feels strange, don’t it? Being here.”

“Yeah. It does. Is everything in order?”

“Guess so.” Dean emptied his glass in one long gulp and rummaged through the papers.

“Here’s your fake I.D, fake diploma, fake references and… yeah. Fake letter of recommendation.”

Sam took a quick look at the papers. He was Sam Berry, a qualified librarian with a degree in English literature.

“You know it’s just a job in a bookstore, right?”

“Mmm.”

“So I’ve spent the last three years working in Dublin?”

“Yes.”

“For a college that doesn’t even exist.”

“Yep.”

“Dean…”

“I was bored.”

“I can see that. What am I gonna say if they ask me how life was back there?”

“I don’t know. Say it was good, that the beer was awesome.”

“Shut up.”

Dean smiled and opened his fruit cup. “I’m thinking… Maybe you came back because of a bad break-up with a sweet, red-headed Irish girl, and I was there to pick up the pieces because I’m a great big brother. Dean Berry. Sounds awful, by the way.”

“Hey, you said I could pick this time.”

“Didn’t know you would go on extreme geek mode.”

“It’s in homage. John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire characters are the Berry family.”

“Like I said.”

Sam took one last look at the papers. He had an interview scheduled two days from now for a job in a bookstore located in downtown Portsmouth. The store was affiliated with Franklin Pierce Portsmouth campus and had a good reputation. Sam had no doubt he could get the job, unless he went on rambling about his years living in Dublin. The paycheck wouldn’t be enough to pay for their expanses, but he and Dean had worked hard gathering cash the previous week. And Dean was looking for a job, too. He’d chosen his words carefully before bringing up the subject with Sam. “Look, I know I can’t do anything too physical but don’t ask me to stay home for the next seven months or so because I’ll go crazy. Pregnant women keep working when they can. I’m no different. And I figure there’ll be a time where my… condition will restrict me to this house anyway. It’ll only be for the next four months or so.”

And Sam, who hadn’t even dreamed of asking Dean to stay home – he wasn’t suicidal - had been especially impressed by the way Dean had thought of and considered his life for the next year or so.

“There’s one last credit card to collect in our deposit box upstate New York, then we’ll settle for real.”

They’d taken some risks, actually withdrawing money on their fake credit card. It was something they’d always avoided. Banks and ATM weren’t safe. They wouldn’t even have thought about it before, but now, Sam and Dean Winchester, former FBI wanted, had died in an explosion almost a year ago and they had carefully remained off radar ever since.

They both knew that since they’d signed the lease and started looking for jobs, they would have to earn money legitimately. Hampton Falls was a small town about twenty miles east of Portsmouth. Even if Sam and Dean didn’t intend to draw attention to themselves, they needed to stay clean.

“Wanna fuck on the piano?” Dean asked playfully, eying the grand piano protected with a dust cover in the back of the room.

Of course, Dean would ask. To tell the truth, Sam was fairly surprised his brother hadn’t touched the piano yet, if only because Jenna Stevens had specifically told them not to touch or play with it.

“I would love to fuck you anywhere but on the piano, Dean. You’re such a romantic.”

“Nobody ever complained before.”

“Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

It took almost all day to lay the semi-permanent salt lines and drawing the protection symbols and devil’s traps throughout the house. They had to place them so they would remain as concealed as possible, and so they could remove them once the owner got her house back. Sam had also come up with the idea of laying a wide protection circle around the house, a mix of salt, crushed cat’s-eye shell, iron filings and goofer dust. The problem was the snow. He and Dean had dug a canal deep enough to see the frosted ground below and had carefully drawn the line before covering it again. Of course, salt would melt and goofer dust would mix with the soil, but it wouldn’t weaken the protection. Sam would redo the circle once spring came anyway.

They ate sandwiches for their supper that night, sitting across the table from each other and feeling a bit awkward. Dean kept yawning and rubbing at his eyes, stretching his back and groaning. It was almost scary, Sam thought, how his energy and strength had weakened so drastically since the beginning of the pregnancy. Maybe the curse had something to do with it, but Sam had bought a couple of books about pregnancy and Dean’s symptoms seemed pretty normal. If he kept following the pattern most expectant mothers went through, things should start to improve by the beginning of the second trimester, at the same time as the nausea started to fade.

When Sam suggested a bath, however, Dean looked offended and disgusted, although he did let Sam wash the dishes and clean the kitchen. Sam didn’t mind. House cleaning had always had a soothing effect on him. When he did it while at Stanford, he had always found himself more relaxed afterward. Jess used to joke about that, when she came home to find him washing the floor or vacuuming. “Getting ready for your sociology exam there, Sam?”

It was nice, Sam realized. He had thoroughly enjoyed their first day at the house. He could get used to it. Since they’d stop hunting back in December, everyday life had seemed strange and off-key, as wandering from one motel room to the other had lost its purpose.

This. This was different.

He could get used to it.

He walked into the living room, intending to tell Dean about it, but found him sleeping on the couch in front of a crackling fire. He was snoring softly, one arm curled over his belly – which he only ever did when he was asleep. Sam felt a lump growing in his throat and smiled, thinking about how Dean would call him on “being all emo on that moving-into-a-house shit.”

Yes. He kind of was.

::: :::

Portsmouth, January 12

Rania was pleased to see Dean’s weight unchanged for the first time since she’d begun seeing him. As always, Dean grunted without meeting her eyes as he stepped off the scales. She and Sam were getting more at ease with each other, but Dean still couldn’t seem to relax in her presence. Sam couldn’t really blame him. Dean’s medical appointments put him in a position of vulnerability and uncertainty where he couldn’t hide or pretend. There, in Rania Suleiman’s office, Dean was a 29-year-old pregnant man before anything else.

“How’s the nausea and sickness?” she asked, getting the ultrasound machine ready.

“A little better, I think. As long as I stay away from Italian food.”

“Yeah, that sucked big time,” Sam added, fidgeting nervously beside the exam table.

Dean seemed kind of distracted too. This would be the second time they got to see the baby and, to tell the truth, they were both kind of excited, even if they wouldn’t admit it to each other. The embryo would’ve changed a lot during these last three weeks, Sam had read. In fact, it had officially reached the fetus status at the end of its eighth week.

Rania poured some conductive gel on Dean’s still flat stomach. He hissed but lay very still, his eyes glued on the computer screen.

“Okay… let’s take a look,” She whispered, slowly drawing the wand over Dean’s pale, freckled skin. “Yeah. Here we are. Let me adjust the screen.”

There was no little white spot in a bigger black one this time. Sam felt his throat clamping up on a breath and looked at Dean who was gaping at the screen, mouth wide open.

The fetus was still kidney-shaped, and pretty much still looked like a bean, but the head was perfectly visible, almost human-like. The facial features were starting to take shape. Rania clicked on the screen and took some measurements. “There. The proportions are good. See this grayer area? That’s your baby’s brain, Dean. It’s still too early to look at it more closely.”

Dean grunted something unintelligible. His hands were gripping the table compulsively and he sounded short of breath. Then, Rania moved the wand and there was the small body curled on itself. “See the arms? They grow quickly during the beginning of the third month, as do the legs. There’s the hands. Wait… Okay. Feet are there too. Let me take some more measurements.”

This time, it was Sam who grunted something. He felt light-headed and wondered if he would get through the ultrasound without having to sit down, this time.

“Four-point-six centimeters from the head to the spinal tail. That’s good. Perfectly normal. And there’s the umbilical cord. Placenta is on the left side of the uterus, which is good too, but since there’s no canal, it wouldn’t be a problem if it was praevia or somewhere else.”

“What’s praevia?” Dean asked worriedly.

“That’s when the placenta is obstructing the uterus’s cervix preventing a natural birth. There could be other complications, but since yours is well situated, there’s no need to worry about that.”

“Good,” Dean whispered in a thin voice. “Hey, wasn’t that…”

“Yeah, one of his arms is moving, though it’s still an involuntary reflex at this point.”

“Looks like it’s waving at us,” Sam said, his voice strangely high-pitched as he watched the little thing that was his child’s arm slowly expanding.

“Yeah, it kind of does,” Rania smiled. “Let’s check the heart.”

Rania pushed the wand harder against Dean’s stomach and moved it a little until she apparently found what she was looking for. Then, she focused the image again until the baby’s heart was isolated and perfectly visible, recognizable in shape. And it was moving. They could see the fetus’s heart moving. Rania clicked one more time and a static noise filled the room, quickly fading behind a loud and fast heartbeat.

“Holy shit,” Dean blurted, taking Sam’s hand in his and pressing it tight.

Stunned by this very unusual display of affection, probably triggered by the intensity of the moment, Sam didn’t dare to move or look at their doctor, although she seemed completely oblivious to them as she calculated the heart rate. “160 beats per minute. Perfect.”

::: :::

“Don’t feel so good.”

“You gonna be sick?”

“Maybe.”

“Want me to stop the car?”

“I don’t know.”

Dean hadn’t said a word since they had left Portsmouth. Sam himself was having a hard time concentrating on the road, his mind wandering again and again to the perfectly formed heart, beating so loud. His child’s heart.

There was a gas station nearby and Sam decided to stop there. He parked the car and cut the engine.

“Are you okay?”

Dean was pale and sweating. Then, he was taking his jacket off, panting. “Fuck, it’s hot in here. Open your window, Sam”,” he threw his vest on the back seat and fumbled with his own handle to do the same.

“Hey… What’s goin’ on? Do we need to go back? Are you hurt?”

“Goddamn it, will you shut up for just one minute? I don’t need a doctor, I-”

Dean turned his head toward the window and took a big gulp of cold air. When he turned back toward Sam, his eyes showed a strange mix of awe and fear.

“This is real, right? I mean, I’m not having some twisted mental breakdown?”

“What? The pregnancy?”

“Yes, the freaking pregnancy!”

“It seems very real.”

Dean laughed nervously, pressing his palms on his eyes. “Fuck. I knew… I mean, I know. I don’t… After the first ultrasound I thought I had come to term with it. The reality of it. Shit. Am I making any sense at all?”

“Yeah, you are”,” Sam said gently.

“But this… each time is like a slap in the face, ya know? I… there’s a baby in me. Sam. A baby,” Dean repeated as if Sam needed convincing.

Maybe he did.

“Sometimes I look at my stomach all flat and normal and I tell myself that it can’t be. Even with the sickness and the fucking tiredness and everything that feels so different. I wake up every morning and I think: It was a dream. The strangest, most vivid dream I’ve ever had. But it’s not a dream, it’s real.”

“Yes. You know you’re not alone, right? I’m just as screwed up about this as you are. I mean, I’m not the pregnant one and it’s hard for me to think of you that way. I guess we’re both gonna freak out ‘till the end.”

“No, you don’t understand, Sam. I’m gonna have a baby. I can’t… I can’t have a baby. I can’t be a father. I can’t do that.”

“Dean-”

“How am I supposed to know how? He’s in there and so small and fragile and he’s alive and I’m gonna fuck this up, Sam. How the hell can you trust me with this?”

 

Dean’s breath was coming faster and faster. His hands were shaking. He was on the verge of a panic attack, Sam realized. He touched Dean’s arm in what he hoped was a soothing gesture, but his brother didn’t even seem to feel it.

“Trust you with carrying the baby? Fathering him? Fuck, Dean. How can I not trust you with this?”

“I’mma screw this up. I know. I don’t wanna, but I will.”

“Dean, calm down. You won’t.”

“No, you don’t get it, Sam. It’s not a little white spot on a screen. He’s a baby and he’s alive and his heartbeat was freaking loud.”

“It was, wasn’t it?”

“He moved his arm.”

“Yeah.”

Dean’s lower lip was quivering. He was on the verge of tears again. Sam tightened his grip on his brother’s arm and tried for a reassuring smile, but Dean was too far gone to calm down that easily. His chest was expanding wider with each breath and his cheeks were flushed red. Once again, he turned toward the open window and exposed his face to the cold wind.

“Can’t… can’t breathe,” he rasped, fumbling with the door’s handle.

“Hey, Dean, whoa. Calm down.”

Dean looked at Sam with wide eyes, panting loudly. “Gotta… gotta get out of here, I…”

Sam took him by the shoulders. “It’s a panic attack, is all. You gotta slow down your breathing. Dean. Dean, listen to me. You’re okay. Calm down.”

“Can’t,” Dean wheezed, gripping Sam’s jacket with shaking hands. His eyes rolled in their sockets as he took another impossibly big breath. He was gonna faint any second now.

“Dean, stop it!” Sam said, trying for his best John Winchester impression.

Dean froze for a second. Sam saw that as an improvement and kept going. “You’re gonna calm down right now. Get a hold of yourself or you’re gonna faint.”

“Sam,” Dean rasped, then broke into a coughing fit.

“It’s okay. M’here”,” Sam said, more gently, as Dean started shaking in his arms. He let go of one of his brother’s shoulders and started rubbing soothing circles on his back. “Relax, Dean. Focus on my voice. Can you do that?”

Dean nodded, hissing between coughs. His head lolled on the side and Sam rearranged himself so that it was resting on his chest. He kept coaching Dean’s breathing with a gentle but firm voice and eventually, he felt his brother starting to relax. They stood there hanging on each other awkwardly and freezing their asses off, until Dean cleared his throat.

“You know when I told you that if you ever changed your mind about this, you’d have an out?” he mumbled into Sam’s jacket.

“Yeah?”

“I changed my mind. You ever try to run off on us and I’ll kill you.”

Shaken by a nervous laugh, Sam kissed the top of Dean’s head and let him go. They rolled up their windows and Sam started the car, turning the heat to maximum.

“Well,” Dean said, scratching the back of his head. “That was embarrassing.”

“For you, obviously”,” Sam joked.

Dean punched him on the shoulder. “Shut up. Fuck, my chest hurts.”

“A panic attack will do that to you.”

Sam put the car in reverse and got back on the road. Dean fell asleep curled up against the seat as soon as they reached the highway. It wasn’t until then that Sam realized what Dean had said earlier. You ever try to run off on us.

Them. As in: Dean and the baby. A warming sensation flowed through Sam’s chest, overwhelming him. He felt terrified and thrilled and alive. And it was good.

Chapter Text

Hampton Falls, January 24

Sam’s job at the bookstore was going smoothly. He was working forty hours a week and had every other weekend off. The store was called Green’s Books, after the owner. Leonard Green. The tall and reserved middle aged man, had (luckily) been more impressed by Sam’s knowledge of literature and old books than his experience in Dublin. Sam had always felt at ease in a library or a bookstore and this time wasn’t any different. The other employees were nice enough and not too curious about Sam’s past. He preferred to stay by himself when he could; he was polite but distant, very protective of his private life and intended to keep it that way. Sam was well aware of his and Dean’s situation. He couldn’t take the risk to get closer to people for now.

Finding a job had been more complicated for his brother, whose frustration had been growing more and more with each day he had to stay back home “like I’m your fucking housewife or something”. He couldn’t work as a mechanic, get hired on a work site or any other kind of physical job because it wouldn’t be safe for the baby. He had insisted it was the only thing that he knew how to do. “You could totally do my bookstore job,” Sam had pointed to him one night. “Stop saying I’m the smart one as if you were an idiot. We both know it ain’t true.”

Still, working, for Dean, meant something physical, something that would make him sweat and ache after a long day. He had been at a loss for what to do with himself otherwise. In the end, Sam had been the one who had found him a job at the Portsmouth Community Center. It was easy enough, and if the money was almost negligible, it allowed Dean to get out a little bit and to feel like he was actually doing something useful. So, every weekday he would deliver dinner to elder people who lived alone. They were part of the Community Center Program for the Elderly, whose goal was to maintain their autonomy at home for as long as possible. The work was taking three hours of Dean’s time, at the most, but at least he could drive a bit. And if he had been anything but enthusiastic about this job when he had first started it, he had learned to enjoy it. He would tell Sam about every little thing his clients would do or tell him and seemed to appreciate their company, which, to be fair, Sam had been surprised about. Dean could be socially skilled when he wanted to, but it had to have an ultimate goal, like getting someone to talk about a thing he’d seen, or hooking up with a girl (well, not for the last eight months or so). He tended to be impatient, even a bit patronizing, with normal people who didn’t know what was really going on out there.

It made Sam wonder, sometimes, what kind of a man Dean would’ve been had their mother lived, and what kind of a man he himself would’ve become.

He thought about that while waiting for his brother to pick him up, freezing his ass off in front of the bookstore at five in the afternoon. He had a bag tucked under his arm and smiled to himself, thinking about Dean’s reaction when he would see what was inside.

It had happened two days ago. Sam had been half sleeping on his cereal bowl, waiting for the coffee to be ready, when he had heard a loud thump coming from their room upstairs. He had found Dean in his boxer briefs, standing on a pile of clothes, short of breath and with his face beet red.

“Dean?”

“Don’t. Say. Anything.”

“I didn’t-”

“My freaking jeans don’t fit me anymore!” Dean had snapped. “Can’t button them. How is that even possible if I didn’t gained one single pound since I’ve been cursed?”

It was true, but if Dean hadn’t gained weight, he had stopped losing it. He did looked thinner, but for the last week or so, Sam had noticed a very small expansion of his belly below his navel. And Dean’s hips seemed slightly larger than before.

Standing there in front of his brother and thinking about the best way to tell him that without having him throwing a fit, Sam had jumped in surprise when Dean had pointed an accusing finger at him, shouting: “Stop looking at it!”

“Wh-What?”

“My belly. Stop it.”

“Dean, you… You must’ve known that this was coming, right? I mean, the baby is growing and…”

“I am not gonna wear stupid sweatpants for the next seven months, you hear me?”

“Yeah.”

Sam had fetched a pair of his own jeans in his drawer and had handled it to Dean like a peace offering. “Maybe you can try…?”

Without a word, Dean had snatched the pants and had put them on. He had a hard time getting the zipper up, and the button had looked on the verge of popping out from the pressure. The jeans were too long and pooling around Dean’s feet. “I look stupid.”

“No you don’t.”

“Fucking yes, I do. Anyway, they’re not gonna fit me anymore in a week if I keep going like this.”

He would, but Sam loved life too much to point that out.

Dean had sighed loudly and had sat on the bed, looking down at himself. “I hate this.”

“It’s ok, Dean. Come on. We’ll find a way.”

“Oh please, stop pitying me.”

“Ok.”

“Ok?”

“Well, what do you want me to say? Your belly is gonna get bigger because you’re pregnant. Nothing we can do about it.”

“I know. But shit, just as the freaking morning sickness starts to back off, now there’s this.”

“It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Besides, you look sexy in sweat pants.”

“I always look sexy,” Dean had pointed out, looking more resigned than angry.

He had kept wearing Sam’s jeans that day, and the next. But Sam had a plan.

The Impala finally came to view and Sam got in, greeted by a nod from his brother who was humming a song with the radio.

“How was your day, honey?”

“Shut up,” Dean replied, half amused, half annoyed.

Sam sniffed the air in the car. “Let me guess… Meat loaf?”

“Yeah. It was meatloaf day. Apple crumbles for dessert.”

“Was it any good?”

Dean blushed and shrugged. “Not bad. What? Mrs Gilesby doesn’t like dessert.”

“Aww, Dean.”

“She kept saying that a fine young man like me needed to eat.”

“Do I need to be jealous?”

“Of a ninety-year-old lady with a cane? You don’t stand a chance.”

They kept talking until they reached the house and Sam offered to cook while Dean took a shower. He didn’t protest. He hated cooking and was happy to leave it to Sam. When they’d been growing up, their cooking skills had been limited to boiling water and heating canned food, but Sam had managed to learn a bit more back when he was studying at Stanford. He never cooked complicated meals, but made sure that Dean had everything he and the baby needed. Before he started cutting the vegetable, he pulled out the raspberry pie he had bought earlier from the bag and hid it in the oven.

Dean had forgotten about his birthday. It was a thing he had done since he was a teenager. Sam often wondered if it was because they had never really celebrated birthdays when they were young and that Dean preferred to forget he had one rather than realize nobody had remembered.

Dean’s last birthday had been worse than his last Christmas before going to Hell. Sam had wanted to celebrate it, but he couldn’t get himself to do it, his emotions so raw it had been difficult just to go through the day. He remember lying down his bed that night, trying to find the good thing to say, but his words had been trapped in his throat, and suddenly Dean’s low voice had came from the other bed. “It’s ok, Sammy. Try to relax and go to sleep.”

Sam blinked furiously to chase tears away and started chopping the peppers. It was behind them. Everything was alright now. Dean wasn’t going anywhere.

They sat at the kitchen counter to eat. Dean was looking a lot more comfortable since he’d changed into sweatpants and was swallowing his beef and rice with appetite. He always kept his vegetables for last, like a small kid trying to postpone the inevitable, but he did eat them, and that alone was a small victory. Since the morning sickness had started to fade, his old hunger was coming back, with a vengeance actually. He could drink a whole liter of apple juice when he woke up in the morning. That was kind of scary actually.

Sam was cleaning the plates when he saw Dean looking for some dessert in the cupboard. He stopped him.

“Why?”

“I bought a special dessert today.”

Dean rolled his eyes but sat back while Sam took the pie out and put it in front of him. A small candle was sticking into the middle. Dean frowned. “What is…? Oh fuck. We’re January twenty-four, aren’t we?”

“Yep. Happy birthday, Dean.”

Dean blushed and fidgeted on his chair while Sam was lightening up the candle. “Oh, come on, dude, you don’t have to.”

“I’m not gonna sing. But still, you have to make your birthday wish. Blow.”

Still looking uncomfortable, Dean blew rapidly the small flame.

“What did you wish for?”

“Can’t tell.”

“It’s raspberry.”

“Yeah. Looks awesome.”

They took the pie back in the living room and settled in front of the fire place. It was a bit sad, seeing Dean nervous and blushing about something like his anniversary, as if he couldn’t stand the attention.

“Hey, can I have a blowjob as my birthday present?” he asked, going for cocky and mischievous instead of uneasy.

Sam had to laugh. “Yeah. You can.”

“Great.” Dean smiled, his mouth red from the pie filling.

“But I have another present.”

Sam took the bag on the floor next to the couch and handled it to Dean who gave it a suspicious look. “What is it?”

“A surprise. Not as great as a blowjob but still.

Dean looked into the bag cautiously and frowned, pulling out two pairs of brand new jeans, the kind he used to buy all the time. “Jeans?”

“Yeah but...”

Dean unfolded the first pair and saw the maternity panel that had replaced the upper part of the pants: instead of a zipper and buttons, there was a soft and extensible dark blue cotton piece with a large rubber band sewed inside the rim. It was adjustable.

“What is this?”

“A maternity panel. It expands as your stomach grow.”

“Sam?”

“Yeah?”

“You bought me girl pants?”

“No, you idiot. I bought you men’s jeans and got them modified by a needlewoman in this little shop down the street where I work.”

Dean rose slowly from the couch, still looking a bit uncertain. “Wha’d you tell her?”

“Oh, some crap about my wife being more comfortable in men’s jeans and me wanting to surprise her.”

“Okay. Guess I’ll try them on.”

Dean changed into the jeans in front of Sam, then looked down himself thoughtfully. “It… They’re kind of baggy around the waist,” he said, pulling at the extendible fabric patch.

“Well, they have to fit ‘till the end. Besides, if you wear a long enough shirt, nobody will notice.”

“Er. Yeah. Thanks.”

Dean was blushing again, looking awkward and unsure in his brand new jeans. This was another step toward the acceptance of the changes he was going through. He was scared, Sam could feel it and again, he was overwhelmed with the urge to protect and reassure him.

“What do you say about having your other present now?” he asked.

“I’m ready,” Dean smiled back, apparently relieved to get back to something more familiar than his growing belly.

 

They started kissing lazily right there on the couch, Dean straddling Sam’s thighs and pressing his ass on his crotch until Sam couldn’t take it anymore, his length painfully hard in his jeans.

“Dean, lie down.”

Dean stood up and got rid of his pants and underwear, his naked body catching the moving lights of the flames, orangey and dark shadows dancing on his pale skin. He was already breathing hard, his cock pink and leaking copiously against his belly. Sam licked his lips and pressed his palm against his crouch.

“Come on, Dean,” he whispered, undressing himself.

“Yeah.” Dean lay down on couch and stroked himself a couple of times, hissing between his teeth. Sam settled himself between Dean’s parted legs, touching himself to relieve some pressure. He took his brother in his hands, teasing and playing, rolling his balls in his palm, and Dean groaned, taking Sam by the shoulders and pulling until they could kiss again, rougher and harder than before.

Sam was so lost in the divine sensation of his Dean’s warm and responding body that he forgot about his painful nipples and took one between his fingers, twisting it softly. “Damn it!” Dean gasped, his whole body shuddering.

“Oh, shit, Dean, m’sorry.” Sam pulled back, searching his brother’s face to see what kind of damage he’d just done.

Dean seemed puzzled. He frowned. “No. Wait,” he said brushing his fingers against the dark nub. He closed his eyes and arched his back, moaning.

“They don’t hurt anymore?”

“No. Fuck, Sam. It feels… It’s intense.” Dean seemed like he was unable to stop himself from pulling and tugging at his nipples. Sam felt a fresh stream of precome sliding on Dean’s length to his hip where it was pressed.

“God, Dean. Let me. Bet I could make you come just from playing with them.”

Dean seemed very turned on by the idea, biting his lips and pulling harder at his nipple. Sam pulled his hand away and got to work, pressing his mouth against one and playing with the other, feeling powerful and a bit crazy with need and desire. Dean was writhing and tensing under him, his hands clenched on the couch’s cushions, pleading - freaking pleading - Sam to pull, to suck harder. His hips were jerking up in small, convulsive movements. He was covered with sweat and short of breath.

“Sammy, M’close. Come on, man. M’freaking close”,” he panted.

Sam let go of the hot nipple he was sucking on and kissed Dean again, draping himself over him as close as possible, both of his hands trapped between them, working the swollen nubs of Dean’s chest. He felt Dean’s orgasm building, the way his voice raised and stopped forming words replaced by soft and impatient: “Oh. Oh. Oh.” Then, as Sam twisted his fingers forcefully, Dean stopped breathing, his face twisted in a painful expression, mouth opened slack and eyes rolling on the back of his head. “Sam, fucking hell!” he cried, before shuddering violently against him, the smell of his semen filling Sam’s nostril and the feel of it spilling on his skin making him groan.

Dean’s orgasm was long and powerful. He seemed totally unaware of his surroundings, riding the wave, shaking, face flushed and eyes closed shut. Sam rose on his knees and gripped himself, needing just a few hard tugs before he was coming all over his hand and Dean’s quivering stomach. He kind of lost it for a few seconds, dizzy, his whole body tingling with pleasure.

“Dude, can’t breathe.” Dean’s voice was coming like a distorted echo. Sam opened one eyes lazily, realizing he was crushing his brother’s body. He rose on his elbows, trying to get his breath under control. His long bangs were tickling Dean’s face who shivered again. He looked lazy and content, eyelids heavy, a small smile on his face.

“That was one of the hottest things I’ve ever saw,” Sam admitted, planting a soft kiss on Dean’s cheek.

Dean blushed over his already red face. “Well…” he said, shrugging.

“Happy birthday Dean. Love you, man.”

“Didn’t get my present,” Dean mumbled, trying to muffle a yawn.

“We have ‘til midnight.”

“That we do.”

::: :::

Hampton Falls, February 1

It had been a long day and Sam barely managed to stay awake as they were heading home. He had been working until nine pm, sorting through a new book order that had arrived earlier that day, and his eyes hurt from reading the small characters on the internet bill.

He was aware, however, of the way Dean kept shifting in his seat, like he couldn’t find a position comfortable enough. He was wearing the modified jeans Sam had bought him, so it couldn’t be because he felt too restricted. “You alright?” he finally asked between yawns.

Dean nodded, apparently focused on the road that was dark and slippery after a new snow fall. Sam made a mental note to check in the new book he had just bought about pregnancy. He had gathered quite a collection since the beginning of the pregnancy and often felt like he wouldn’t be satisfied until he knew everything there was to know about the subject by heart. Dean tended to mock him each time Sam brought home a new book, but there had been a few occasions where Sam had came back from work finding that the neat pile had been moved. Dean wouldn’t talk about it, of course, but he sometimes came up with information he had to have read, like yesterday morning, where he had picked a pear in the fruit bowl and had said: “He’s already this size, you know.” Then, he had made a face and put the pear back, picking an apple instead, as if the thought of eating something the size of the fetus had made him very uncomfortable.

“Sam, we’re here.”

Shaking himself out of sleep, Sam blinked and saw the house buried under a cover of fresh snow. He would have to clear the alley with a shovel before calling it a night and, as unpleasant as the thought appeared to him, he didn’t complain. He had insisted that Dean avoid the most physical tasks around the house and the conversation had almost turned into a fight, with Dean shouting at him that he was pregnant, not dying. So, no need to bring that up again.

It took him almost an hour, and by the time he finally made it inside, the thought of a fluffy pillow and crisp sheets had dissolved into an unreachable dream. Dean was waiting for him in the kitchen, folding socks and shirts. There was a cup of cocoa still steaming on the table.

“You didn’t have to wait for me.”

“What am I? A five-year-old? It’s not even ten thirty.”

Dean, however, couldn’t even convince himself that he wasn’t tired, and he picked up the folded clothes before announcing that he would wait for Sam in their room.

As he turned to exit the kitchen, he winced and had a strange tilt of his hips. Sam noticed that he seemed to walk more bow-legged than usual, and slower. He decided to let it go and finished his cocoa.

As it turned out, Dean wasn’t asleep when Sam joined him, and after ten minutes, Sam never felt so awake. Dean kept moving and shifting, turning on his side, then flat on his back, rearranging the sheets and the pillows. After receiving an accidental but painful blow in the ribs, Sam couldn’t help himself anymore. “Jesus, Dean, you trying to kill me?”

“Sorry, princess. Was just trying to get comfortable,” Dean replied, huffing in annoyance.

But he lay still afterwards, and Sam fell asleep rapidly.

He dreamed. Of something moving in his arms. He never dreamed of the actual baby, but all of his dreams were related to him, one way or another. This time, he could feel the soft brush of tiny fingers against his skin, he could smell something warm and sugary.

“Sam.”

…And it was good. It felt good. Sam wanted to open his eyes, but his dream wouldn’t let him. He kept holding onto the small body, careful not to let it go.

“SAM!”

Sam sat on the bed and blinked in the darkness, confused. “Dean?”

“Fuck, Sam. It hurts.”

The words slowly registered in Sam’s sleepy mind. It hurts. Dean was hurt. The baby.

Turning his head, he saw Dean sitting on the side of the bed, bent over himself. Finally coming to his senses, he jumped out of bed to kneel in front of his brother, turning on the nightstand lamp at the same time.

“Dean, what’s wrong?”

Dean didn’t look at him but moaned in pain. A trickle of sweat glided on the tip of his nose and fell on his sweatpants. “Dean, is it the baby?”

“Don’t know. It’s like… something is trying to tear me apart from the inside. Shit.”

Dean was shaken by a violent shiver. Sam forced him to raise his chin and was scared by the look of agony that was tightening his feature. “God, Dean. When did it start?”

“About half an hour ago. Sorry I didn’t-”

Dean couldn’t finish as another spasm of pain made him fold on himself again. He blindingly grabbed Sam’s hand and pressed it hard. Sam tried to remain calm. “Hey, it’s okay. I’m gonna call Rania. Hold on.”

He ran to the other side of the room and took his phone in his jean’s pocket. He cursed and swore as he was searching for one of Rania’s phone numbers in his speed dial list.

It was close to one in the morning but Rania still picked up on the first ring. “Sam, what’s going on?”

Sam babbled some nonsense, watching Dean who seemed on the verge of falling face-first off the bed. Rania seemed to understand quickly enough. “Can you move him? Sam?”

“Yeah, I think I can. What’s going on? Is he…” Sam walked a few steps from the bed and added in a very low voice. “Is he losing the baby?”

“I don’t know, Sam, but you have to get him here as soon as possible. Can you do that?”

“Yes, but-”

“Ok. I’m gonna wait for you. And drive safe. We don’t want you to get arrested, you understand me?”

“Yes.”

“Call me back if anything else happens. Try to keep your brother calm.”

“Yes.”

Sam hung up and got his attention back to Dean who was looking back at him, his eyes wide in fear and confusion.

“We’re going to Rania’s. Everything will be fine.”

“Stop it,” Dean rasped. “Nothing is fine. Am I miscarrying, Sam?”

“Don’t talk like that. Come on, let me help you.”

Sam put a clean pair of socks on Dean’s feet and helped him to put an old long sleeve shirt on his t-shirt. “Think you can walk?”

“I’ll try,” Dean whispered, clenching his jaw.

He couldn’t unfold himself completely and had to lean heavily on Sam, but he managed to walk. The pain seemed to coming and going like a wave. Sam could feel Dean’s body tensing, then relaxing before starting all over again. He thought about contractions, about the similarities between the patterns, then shook his head violently. He would not go there, not until they knew what was really happening.

They were half down the stairs when Dean stopped, gripping at Sam’s arm to steady himself. “Wait. Wait… I have to… have to take a break, I can’t…” he panted, wiping sweat from his face.

“Dean, I know it hurts but we have to get going. I can carry you, if it-”

“Why?” Dean snapped, releasing Sam’s arm and leaning heavily on the wall. “Why are you in such an hurry to have Rania telling me that I’ve lost him, huh?”

“Dean, we don’t know that.”

“S’my fault. My hips felt kind of sore for the last few days, mostly when I was sitting for too long. It wasn’t bad, but fuck, I didn’t tell you because I was scared you would put that on the time I spend sitting in the car and I didn’t wanna stop working.”

Dean winced as another fresh layer of sweat covered his face. Then he laughed - the kind of laugh that makes you cringe. “Isn’t it one of the stupidest, most selfish reasons you’ve ever heard? I didn’t tell because I wanted to drive my fucking car? What kind of a jerk does that makes me, Sam?”

Then, Dean bent down and threw up between his feet. If Sam hadn’t caught him, he would’ve fall forward down the stairs. “Okay, enough. We gotta get going, Dean. Blaming yourself is not gonna solve anything right now.”

“Sam, I can’t-”

“It’s okay, I got you.”

Without waiting any longer, Sam practically carried Dean down the stairs and then in the car, after a quick stop to put their boots and jackets on. Dean had to lie in the backseat, the sitting position being too painful. He didn’t say a word as Sam was covering him with the Impala’s blanket, curling on himself to try and ease the pain.

Sam drove fast, kept looking at the Dean in the rearview and asking him how he was feeling – to which Dean inevitably groaned in answer, but Sam could go with that.

Rania was waiting for them on the porch of his house. She came to the car as soon as Sam had cut the engine and helped him getting Dean out of the back seat. “Come on, Dean. Just a few steps and then you’ll be able to rest,” she said in a steady and reassuring voice, but Sam could tell she was worried by Dean’s appearance. His brother wouldn’t meet his eyes, or Rania’s, and he was shaking so badly in their arms that Sam was close to carrying him when they finally reached the front door. There was a wheelchair waiting for Dean. He didn’t protest when Rania asked him to sit and rolled him through the house to the clinic. Everything there was set and ready. There was even table covered with what looked like surgical instruments. Sam felt his blood leaving his head, hit once again by the gravity of the situation. Rania pressed his arm softly. “Hey, try to relax. I prefer being ready for everything than wasting time looking for what I need.”

“Gonna be sick again,” Dean grunted, and Sam barely had the time to grab a trashcan by the exam table before his brother started retching and dry-heaving.

That was the pain, Sam thought. Dean had always had a very high tolerance to it – John had made sure of that - and had become a master at hiding it as long as he could. One of the sign Sam had learned to decipher through the years to evaluate Dean’s level of pain was the sickness. Some people – including Dean - reacted to excruciating pain that way. It took a lot for Dean to reach that point, like having his arm crushed between a wall and a drawer by a poltergeist.

Nothing good could come out of this. How could he let himself think that bad luck would finally release its grip on them, especially after last year? Did he never learn? Sam himself felt sick, as he helped Dean to settle on the exam table. His brother’s face was the color of ashes and he couldn’t hold the moan escaping his throat as he moved.

Rania was already setting the ultrasound machine. “When did it start?”

“Tonight,” Sam said. “But he told me he had felt kind of sore for the last few days.”

“Sore? Where? Dean?”

“My hips and my huh… my pelvis.”

“But not deep inside your belly?”

Dean hissed and closed his eyes for a moment. “Not really. Kind of all around it.”

“And now?”

“Same thing, but like… a hundred time worse. Feels like invisible hands are pulling at me, trying to split me in two.”

“Okay, let’s take a look,” Rania said, pressing the sound on Dean’s belly.

Sam bit his lips. Dean pressed his palms on his eyes, as a small kid would do to protect himself from a scary sight. Rania was working quickly and silently. Then: “There he is,” she announced, and Sam saw the fetus on the screen, already looking more human than three weeks before.

“Is he…?”

“Look, he’s moving his legs” Rania said and couldn’t hide the smile that lit up her face. “He seems fine. But I’ll listen to the heart just to make sure.”

Sam saw a chair next to the table and let himself drop on it, grateful for Rania’s foresight. The young woman found the heart and isolated it like last time. Even before the strong heartbeat had filled the room, Sam could see it pumping.

“He’s ok. Everything looks normal.” Rania sighed, blowing on a dark curl that was falling in front of her eyes.

“Thank God,” Sam whispered, realizing how scared he had been of losing the baby. He looked at Dean and saw that his brother hadn’t moved and was still covering his face. He shook his arm lightly. “Dean? The baby’s fine. Can’t you hear his heartbeat?”

“What?” Dean asked in a sleepy, distant voice.

“The baby is alright. Look.”

Dean slowly lowered his hands and peek at the screen, seemingly unable to believe either Sam, or the baby’s heartbeat. “He’s not…?”

“He’s perfectly fine,” Rania added.

Dean let out a dry sob and squeezed his eyes shut, visibly trying to get himself under control.

“Ok, enough,” Rania said sternly, fetching a syringe on the table nearby. It was filled with a clear liquid.

“Wait, what is it?” Dean asked.

“Morphine.”

“Isn’t it bad for the baby?”

“No. Morphine is considered a safe painkiller during pregnancy. Besides, the stress pain is causing to your body right now can be much more damaging.”

Rania’s tone was implacable. Dean let her do the injection and laid very quietly as she was going on with the ultrasound, looking for signs of internal bleeding or anything, really, that could explain the pain. Everything seemed normal, and she proceeded with the physical exam. Dean’s pressure was low, his heartbeat was a bit too fast, but it could be explain by the pain. Rania then started to press lightly on Dean’s belly until she reached the hips. Dean’s reaction was immediate: he tried to jerk away, cursing. “Fucking hell, stop it.”

“I’m sorry”,” Rania said, pulling Dean’s layers back on his stomach. “I’m done, anyway.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Sam asked.

“I’m not sure, but my best guess is that it has something to do with the curse.”

“Like what?”

Rania frowned. “Well, it’s not an infection or a miscarriage. It’s really located around the hips and pelvis. Some women, at this stage of their pregnancy, experience some light pain in these areas because their ligaments are stretching and the pelvis itself is extending, getting ready to make way to a much bigger uterus and preparing for the birth. As far as I know, Dean has been going through the same symptoms at the same stages since the beginning of his pregnancy, only more intensely. If his body is changing to accommodate the presence of the baby, it has much more work to do than a woman’s one. Men are not physically designed to bear a child, you know.”

“So what now?”

“I’d like to keep him here for a few hours, to see if the morphine’s working. Do you know how to administrate shots?”

“I might need a little refreshing but it’s not a problem.”

“Then maybe you can take Dean home later this morning.”

“But… is he going to be like that for long?”

“M’here, y’know,” Dean mumbled, voice slurred and eyes glassy from the morphine.

“It’s a first trimester problem and doesn’t last more than a few weeks for pregnant women. It comes and goes, varies in intensity. I don’t think it will last long for Dean, not at this level. I’m… fairly confident it won’t.”

Fairly confident still wasn’t enough for Sam. Dean couldn’t possibly be in so much pain for more than a few days, but what could she do; what could any of them do?

“Dean. We’re gonna move you to the bed, what do you say?”

“Ok, yeah.”

Dean started to rise slowly on his elbows. He was still shaking slightly but his face had gained some color. “You sure the baby’s fine?” he asked, lowering his eyes.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

Dean seemed to relax, and could even walk by himself to the bed. Rania gave him and Sam some privacy, turning off all the lights and leaving only the one over the bed. Sam pulled out Dean’s boots, but when he tried to help him with his coat, Dean shook him off. “M’alright, Sam.”

“No, you’re not. Let me help.” Sam tried to grip his sleeve again. This time, Dean pushed at him with a groan of pain.

“I said m’fine, damn it!”

Sam crouched in front of him, gathering all the patience he had left. “Listen, Dean. I know you were scared of losing the baby. I was too, but-”

“Sam please shut up. I’m so freaking tired.”

Sam was too shaken himself to deal with Dean’s issues for the moment, so he stood back and watched him pulling off his vest and his sweater, then getting under the blankets, carefully lying on his side.

“Feeling a bit better?”

Dean nodded without opening his eyes.

“Want me to turn off the light?”

“Whatever.”

“Ok, then.”

Sam sat back on his chair and watched Dean sleep, wondering what was going through his head and what state he’d be in when he would wake up.

A few minutes later, Rania came back with a steaming cup of tea and handled it to him without a word. She checked on Dean, then pulled another chair and sat next to Sam.

“He’s gonna be fine,” she said.

“Yeah. That was kinda scary, you know? I really thought everything was over,” Sam admitted, feeling relieved to talk about it with someone.

“I was worried it would turn out to be a miscarriage. But in the same time, if the curse has been powerful enough to make the pregnancy work for Dean’s body so far, I don’t see why it would turn against itself now. A curse is meant to be fulfilled.”

“Didn’t think about it that way.”

“To tell the truth, I’m pretty confident Dean’s gonna be able to carry the baby to term.”

“It… doesn’t seem real. I mean: I know it is, I’ve seen the fetus and the way Dean’s body is changing and all but still. Can’t picture the baby. M’trying, though.”

“Well, it’s the same thing for most parents-to-be, or uncle-to-be in your case. Add to that the negligible fact that your brother is the one pregnant… It’s pretty understandable.”

Sam felt lighter, hearing those words from Rania. He hadn’t even realized that guilt was a weight he’d been carrying for a few weeks now, as if he didn’t deserve to be the father of the baby because he felt he didn’t love him enough. So small a human being – the size of a pear. He blinked away the tears that were pooling in his eyes.

“Thanks. For everything you’re doing for us. I mean… we’re strangers to you and-”

“Oh please, shut up,” Rania replied. “I don’t do too well with this sort of conversation.”

“Well, at least you and Dean have something in common,” Sam smiled.

“I’m a doctor, Sam. That’s what I’m supposed to do. It doesn’t change a thing if my patient has been possessed by a nasty spirit or crushed by a car.”

Sam nodded and drank the rest of his tea. “Dean. He’s gonna feel responsible for what’s happening, even though it’s not his fault.”

“It isn’t.”

“You don’t know him. He can be a stubborn bastard sometimes.”

“Well there’s another thing your brother and I have in common, then.”

Sam laughed silently and looked back at Dean’s body curled on the bed, wondering where his almighty big brother had gone.

Chapter Text

Hampton Falls, January 27

Sam put the mac’n cheese in a bowl and took a look at it, wondering if it had really been that shade of orange when he’d been little. He had a lot of childhood memories about mac’n cheese, or involving it, since it had been Dean’s cooking specialty when he had had to watch over Sam. And that had happened quite a few times.

So: comfort food. As a desperate measure. Maybe Dean would eat this time.

Things had gone downhill ever since Sam had brought his brother home, and he was now on the verge of snapping.

Sam could be patient. Hell, he would have already killed Dean at least half a dozen times since they’d gotten back on the road together if he hadn’t honed his patience to an art form. So, yeah. Patience. But even Sam Winchester had his limit, and he was getting close to it.

He could understand that Dean had some issues to work out. The events of the other night had scared them both. Sam wasn’t the one carrying their baby and he knew that he couldn’t possibly understand what Dean was going through. Still, his brother had apparently decided to shut Sam out, and now he was playing not only with his health but with the baby’s as well.

He had curled up in bed as soon as they had came back and hadn’t gotten out since except to go to the bathroom. Sam had been relegated to the guest bedroom since Dean couldn’t stand his brother touching him when he was in pain. Morphine did help, but Dean had refused to get the shots every six hours as Rania had prescribed, waiting until the pain was unbearable before asking Sam to do it. Sam had insisted a couple of times, but Dean had made it clear that he wasn’t going to listen to him.

Dean wasn’t talking or doing anything other than sleeping and lying still, looking uncomfortable and brooding, and that was when he wasn’t twisting and writhing in pain. If Sam tried to start a conversation, he would be told to leave it alone, that Dean needed to sleep and that he could rest better when Sam wasn’t there.

The worst part of it all was probably that he hadn’t eaten anything more than a couple of cups of jello and some apple juice. He said that the morphine was making him sick, but it wasn’t only that, Sam was sure of it.

Sighing, Sam put the bowl on the tray, adding a glass of milk and an apple. It was almost noon and raining heavily outside, melting the snow and giving a dull, grey look to the landscape. It was kind of depressing.

He found Dean in his usual position, curled on his left side. He eyes were closed but he wasn’t sleeping. Sam could tell by the deep pain furrows on his forehead. The curtains had remained closed for the last two days and the room smelled of sweat and sickness.

“Lunch time,” Sam announced, putting the tray on the nightstand.

He took the edge of the comforter and pulled it down to Dean’s waist, rewarded by an annoyed groan.

“Dean, I know you’re not asleep.”

“M’not hungry.”

“You gotta eat.”

“No.”

Sam huffed and bent down, taking Dean’s wrist and trying to pull him into a sitting position.

“What the hell is your problem?” Dean snapped, tugging his arm away.

He rose on his elbows and glared at Sam. His stubble was darker, contrasting with the pallor of his skin. His hair was plastered on his head and his lips were dry and chapped.

“I’m not kidding, Dean. You need a shower, you need to eat.”

“I need you to leave me the fuck alone.”

“Well too bad. You’re gonna eat or I’m taking you back to Rania’s.”

Dean grinned at him. “Oh yeah? Make me, tough guy.”

Sam clenched his fist and tried to get his anger under control. He did succeed in not punching Dean in the face, which was a small miracle in itself.

“You know what? Fuck you, Dean. I’m trying to be understanding, I’m doing my freaking best, but you won’t let me in and I don’t know what to do anymore! You’re being a selfish bastard and that’s unfair to me. You think you were the only one to be scared that night? You think I don’t have the right to be worried because I’m not the one pregnant? Hell, for three months, I’ve put up with the moods and the silence and I have taken care of everything, you know that, right? Because I love you and I don’t wanna lose you. I don’t fucking want you to suffer. But you’re not alone in this. It’s my baby too, it’s as much mine as it is yours and I’m not gonna let you fuck things up because you’re scared.”

Afraid he was going to say something he’d regret afterward, Sam turned on his heels and stormed downstairs, barely pausing to put on a coat and his shoes. He felt like running, like climbing in the car and driving all day to get away from Dean’s pain, physical and psychological, from the curse, and even from the baby.

Biting his lips until he drew blood, he stopped right on the porch, looking at the pouring rain dripping in steady rivulets from the Impala’s sleek frame, breathing the heavy, humid air all around him.

“Damn it!” he shouted, and punched the wall beside him before dropping heavily on the top of the wooden, creaking stairs. He closed his eyes and waited for his heart to stop hammering in his chest, for his thoughts to cease flickering like crimson lightning flashing in in his head. Time passed.

 

He was cold. Small drops of rain were falling on his face, carried by the wind, and he couldn’t get himself together, couldn’t decide if he was still angry or regretting what he had said to Dean.

That’s when he heard the door opening slowly. He turned and saw Dean carefully walking toward him, a comforter around his shoulders. Sam’s first reflex was to get up and help him, but his brother raised his hand and tried for a smile. “M’okay, Sam.”

Sam turned back and waited as Dean sat slowly next to him. He continued to stare at the wasted landscape and kept his mouth shut.

“I ate,” Dean finally said, voice hoarse and unsure.

“Good.”

“I huh…M’sorry. I’ve been acting like a jerk.”

“Yeah, you have.”

From the corner of his eyes, Sam could see Dean struggling to get the words out.

“You’re not gonna help me here.”

“Nope.”

Sam repressed a smile.

“I’m like… ready to spill my guts out, here, man.”

“Well, I’m listening.”

“Ok.” Dean cleared his throat. “When it started to hurt, to really hurt, you know what was the most horrible part?”

“No, I don’t,” Sam said softly, turning toward Dean and taking his hand. Dean shrugged, smiled self-deprecatingly and rolled his eyes, but he didn’t pull away.

“I wasn’t surprised. Like… Since the beginning of this crazy thing, I’ve been waiting for something like that to happen, y’know? Like I couldn’t get myself to believe I could do this, that the baby could actually be born. After everything that has happened to us, I never thought this could end well. I can’t even close my eyes and picture the baby and… There I was, certain that the Hellhounds were back and ripping me apart all over again and I was just waiting for Rania to tell me it was over.”

Dean made a face and bent his head, sighing. Sam squeezed his hand tighter, waiting.

“M’such an idiot. God, I was so sure that even… Even with the ultrasound and both of you telling me the baby was alright, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. And then I told myself: hey, you got off easy this time but don’t worry, Dean. A lot of shit can still happen in seven months. It isn’t fair. For the baby. He didn’t ask for this and I can’t even… I’m not… fuck.”

“Hey, take it easy.”

Dean smiled again, but he was on the verge of tears and had to swallow a couple of time before he could go on. “He deserves to be hoped for, y’know? That’s the least I can do. You and me… We’re like a couple of fish out of water, trying to deal and cope but it’s just a habit. Dad raised us to be able to adapt to all kind of situations. But that’s not what this is about.” Dean waved his free hand towards his belly and closed his eyes, looking tired and spent.

“You’re doing the best you can.”

“That’s not enough,” Dean whispered.

“Yeah, well, maybe we both need to look at this differently. I buy books about pregnancy and babies, I look up info on the internet, but that’s just me, coping. That’s my thing. The truth is, Dean - I can’t picture the baby either, can’t imagine raising a child. What we’ve been doing since the beginning is acting like freaking fugitives. It’s… okay, I know you still have issues about that but we’re together and I wouldn’t want my life to be different. In any way. And, having a kid, it’s supposed to be this great adventure and stuff. We should look at it a bit more that way.”

“What do you wanna do? Call a press conference? Tell the world that I’m the first pregnant man?”

“No. What I’m saying is let’s do it all the way. Let’s find the baby a name, and buy stuff, and talk about what’s gonna happen when he’s born and who’s gonna teach him to catch and ride a bike and… y’know? Act like every other, anxious parent-to-be.”

Dean smiled more widely this time. He looked at Sam in disbelief. “You can barely sit on a bike without toppling over onto your ass.”

“I figured you’d take care of the bike thing.”

“I think I can work with that,” Dean said, and they both knew he wasn’t only referring to the bike riding but to everything Sam had just said.

“Ok.”

“Ok. Now that we’ve shared this wonderful Hallmark moment, can you help me inside? Because my hips hurt like hell and I’m gonna pee myself.”

Sam shook his head, laughing. “And also, shower. You stink, dude.”

“Shut up.”

::: :::

Portsmouth, February 7

Dean parked the car between two minivans and looked grimly at the store front, shiny pink and blue letters dancing on a white background scattered with laughing ducklings, baby rattles, stars and rainbows.

 

“God, we really doing this?” He asked, shaking his head in disbelief. “This is like… the mother of all baby stores.”

“Yeah well, this’s where we’ll get the best prices. We’re not exactly rolling in money. Come on, how bad can it be?”

“We’re just taking a look, right?”

Dean carefully closed his jacket and got out of the Impala, raising his chin and straightening his back, looking as manly and butch as he could manage. Sam repressed a smile and followed him.
He could see, by Dean’s way of walking, that the pain was gone for now. His brother had gone back to work five days ago and hadn’t needed morphine since the night following their fight. They had seen Rania two days ago and she had been quite satisfied with Dean’s physical condition. She had measured his hips and had found that they were wider by two and a half centimeters.

“Only two centimeters?” Dean had groaned. “It hurt like a bitch.”

“Two centimeters and a half and that is, by the way, very impressive. We’re talking about bones, here, Dean. And your uterus has begun to expand toward your upper body. I think you’re gonna carry the baby very frontal, like women with slim hips. Kind of like a football instead of half a basketball.”

“Does that change anything?”

“Well, you’ll be predisposed to back pain in the last trimester and you’ll have to adapt the way you walk because your center of balance will shift down and forward, but there’s nothing to be concerned about.”

Dean had seemed unsure, raising his head to look at his uncovered belly and blushing. The small baby bump that was blossoming under his navel was discreet but undeniably there, looking firm and smooth at the same time. This physical evidence of his state seemed to make him very uncomfortable with his own body. He wouldn’t touch it – let alone let Sam do it - unless he was sure no one was looking, and even then, he would barely brush his fingers against it and pull them away as if it burned.

That was to be expected, Sam thought. He personally liked the bump, probably more than he should, but it still puzzled him every single time he looked at Dean. This was really happening.

“Should we take a cart?” Sam asked as they walked into the store.

Dean was looking all around him, the exact same way he would when searching a room for potential danger, which wasn’t totally unreasonable giving what Sam himself saw and heard. Dozens of people, most of them carrying kids of various ages, were walking around the warehouse-like store. There were babies crying and kids screaming, children running everywhere, trying to avoid baby strollers, carts and pregnant women of various stages. Some kind of instrumental lullaby could be heard faintly from the speakers and tired-looking employees, dressed in ugly-looking blue and pink uniforms, tried to keep everything in order.

“Dean? Are we taking a cart or not?”

 

Dean seemed to shake himself awake and looked at Sam in horror. “Are you mad?” He rasped. “We’re only supposed to take a look. Besides, with a cart, we won’t be able to leave quickly if…”

“If what? If there’s a sudden kid invasion?”

Dean glared at him. “No cart.”

Sam was a methodical guy. He started in the back of the store, at the beginning of the pregnancy and birth aisles, Dean walking a few steps behind him like a reluctant child.

There were fewer kids in this area, and a greater number of pregnant women. Dean was blushing, looking at them with a mix of terror and surprise. As Sam was looking at a shelf full of books he hadn’t stumbled upon yet, a heavily pregnant woman crossed their paths. She looked exhausted, her face puffy and red, short of breath, and on the verge of exploding. Her large flower-pattern maternity shirt could barely contain the swell of her belly. Dean went from red to white in record time and grabbed Sam’s sleeve. “It’s not… Am I going to look like that?” he asked, voice gone suddenly hoarse.

“Dean, you’ve only gained four pounds so far. Besides, every woman gains weight differently during pregnancy. There’s a lot of factors to consider. I’ve read that-”

“Ok, I think I got it. Come on, let’s move.”

It was now Dean who led the way out of the maternity section, dragging Sam behind him. They passed a whole rack of cream and lotion. “There’s this oil that’s known to reduce the risk of stretch marks on-”

“Sam, I’m not gonna pamper my belly like some girl. Come on.”

They stopped once again near the newborn section and Dean froze in front of a rack full of newborn pajamas, grabbing the first one off the rack, It was tender green, covered with small navy blue stars. “There’s no way a baby can be small enough to fit into this… A kitten, maybe.”

“I don’t think they would sell these if they didn’t fit.”

“You were never that small,” Dean pointed out.

“Yeah, I was. You were four, Dean. Everything looked bigger back then. So, we taking this?”

“What?”

“The pajamas?”

Dean looked at it and shrugged as if it was nothing, but he kept it. “Well, we gotta start somewhere.”

He turned without looking and bumped into a woman walking behind him. “Oh, gosh, sorry,” he said, looking at the baby sling strapped across her waist.

 

The woman smiled and slowly rocked back and forth, one arm wrapped around the curve of the small body hidden by the quilted material. She was in her late twenties and was small and delicate with a long, dark braid of hair resting on her shoulder.

“It’s alright,” she said. “He didn’t even flinch.”

“Yeah well, didn’t look where I was going,” Dean added, scratching the back of his head.

“I know the feeling. This store kinda freaks you out when you come for the first time.”

“Is it that obvious?” Sam asked, smiling back.

“Yeah. You two look like deer caught in the headlights. I’m Emma, by the way.”

She held out her free hand, which Sam and Dean shook.

“I’m Sam. This is Dean.”

“Nice to meet you guys. So… Is it your first one?”

Sam felt his throat closing and took a quick look at Dean. His brother seemed on the verge of throwing up, or passing out, or both. The woman must’ve felt the sudden awkwardness because she added quickly, “God, I’m sorry. I just figured… My brother and his boyfriend adopted last year and err…”

“No, it’s alright,” Sam interrupted. “You’re right. Sorry. We’re not used to… Anyway. Yes, this’ll be our first.”

Emma smiled brightly as Sam ignored Dean’s stunned gaze.

“Is it adoption or do you have a surrogate mother?”

“Surrogate mother,” Sam instantly replied, thinking fast.

“Great. Just like Justin. My brother, I mean. Congratulations. When is the baby due?”

“End of July.”

“So you don’t know yet if it’s gonna be a boy or a girl.”

“No,” Dean said, visibly trying to get back in the conversation.

“That’s kind of exciting, right? We didn’t want to know when I was pregnant with my daughter. Wanted to keep it as a surprise, but for this little one,” she paused to take a look at her baby. “I couldn’t do it. I had to know. Good thing I did, since I was convinced I was having another girl.”

“So it’s a boy, then?” Dean asked, taking a hesitant step forward to have a better look.

“Yes. This is Hunter.”
“Oh. Hunter. That’s nice.”

Emma drew back the blanket covering her baby so they could take a look. The baby boy was sleeping soundly, his little face half buried in his mother’s chest. A blue cotton hat covered his head and his small hands were curled into loose fists. By the way he fit against Emma’s chest, he couldn’t have been more than ten to twelve pounds.

“Look at him,” Emma said, fond and proud. “Sleeping his way through his first six weeks.”

“He’s six weeks old?” Dean asked, raising his eyebrows. “He… he looks so small.”

“Well, he’s almost twelve pounds now, which is five more than when he was born.”

“Holy shit,” Dean let out, then blushed and clapped his hand over his mouth. “Sorry.”

Emma burst out laughing, startling Hunter who opened two big, navy blue eyes. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t understand what we’re saying yet.”

Sam stood back, observing the way Dean was obviously drawn toward the baby, shifting on his feet. The young woman probably noticed it too, because she was taking Hunter out of the baby carrier. “You wanna hold him?”

“Wha’?” Dean asked almost dreamily.

“You wanna hold him for a little bit? Trust me, it’s a lot less scary when you realize they’re not gonna break in your arms.”

“I… I can’t, I’m not…”

But Emma was already holding the little bundle that was her son toward Dean, and he didn’t really have any other choice than to brace himself as the baby was softly put into the crook of his arm. Sam could see the way Dean’s whole body stiffened as he used his other hand to steady his hold. His eyes were wide with surprise.

“There. See, you just have to make sure you hold his head. He seems comfortable enough.”

“It’s like he doesn’t weight anything,” Dean whispered. “He’s… God this is the first time I’ve held a baby since S - …since my brother was born.”

Sam bit his lips, caught in the moment. Dean smiled in a way he’d never seen before. “He’s looking straight at me. Does he actually see me?”

“Yes. Not as clearly as he will in a couple of months, but he can definitely see you.”

Hunter made a squeaking noise and yawned, his little mouth expanding in an uneven circle. Dean let out a very soft laugh and carefully handled him back to Emma.

“He’s great,” he said. “Thanks.”

They parted a short time after that. Emma left them the address of a web site especially designed for gay couples adopting and parenting a newborn, then went to find her husband and daughter who were lost somewhere in the toy department. Dean looked back at Sam and snarled. “Surrogate mother?”

“Well, I had to say something,” Sam protested, but his heart wasn’t really into it. He felt light-headed and a bit drunk, still stunned by the way his whole world had just been turned upside-down again.

Because now, he could see it. He could imagine what was really going to happen to them in a few months. He just had to close his eyes to see his brother with their baby in his arms. Emma had given that to him.

It was scary as hell, realizing that he would actually be responsible for a child’s life, for his well-being and his safety and, in the meantime, for Dean’s as well.

He wondered if that’s what his brother had felt all this time since the age of four.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, February 15

The nightmares had started the same day they had made their first trip to the baby store. Sam was used to bad dreams. They’d been haunting his nights since the age of nine, when he had discovered that monsters were real. As the years went by, waking up suddenly in the middle of the night, short of breath, a silent scream swelling in his throat, had become a habit that Sam was used to living with.

This new nightmare was always the same - Sam would stand in a nursery in the middle of the night, watching his baby sleep. Azazel would appear suddenly, smiling wickedly and bending over the crib, and then Sam couldn’t move, or scream, he had to stay there and watch the demon feeding demon blood to his baby.

It was almost surprising that this particular dream hadn’t come before. Sam had been kind of waiting for it since the beginning of Dean’s pregnancy. It didn’t mean it was any less scary.

He had succeeded in burying any thoughts about the demon blood so far, but that wasn’t possible anymore, and he didn’t know how to bring it up to Dean. The Cold Oak events were still a delicate subject between the two brothers. Dean refused to talk about Sam’s death that night, and if Sam insisted, the pain he could see in his brother’s eyes was so raw he couldn’t bring himself to go on.

Still, Sam remembered perfectly the night he had broken down and had told Dean about what Azazel had done to him the night their mother died. They’d been together for a few days and things were intense between them. Sam’s guilt weighed on him so strongly he felt as though he couldn’t pull enough air into his lungs. When he had finally let go, face buried in the pillow after Dean had jerked him off fast and hard, he had burst into tears, shaken by hoarse and ugly sobs, as he told Dean that something inside him wasn’t human.

His brother had soothed him until he was calm again, had told him that it didn’t matter, that it didn’t define who Sam was, that Dean was proud of him and that it didn’t change anything between them. Dean had talked a lot that night and had let Sam spill all of his fears and worries, patient and understanding in a way he rarely was. He had made sure Sam believed him before closing the subject, Dean-style: “Now I’m even happier I was the one who shot this motherfucker in the head. I only wish I could have made it last longer, ya know, really stretched it out and made that son-of-a-bitch suffer.”

To tell the truth, Sam wasn’t completely done dealing with his demon-blood issue. It was something he had trouble talking about. It always filled him with a mix of shame and anger. He had fought as long as he could to keep it at bay since he knew about Dean’s condition, but the dreams wouldn’t let him get away from it any longer.

When he woke up that night, clutching at the blankets and trying to catch his breath, nostrils filled with the sulfur smell of his dream, the first thing he did was to turn his head toward Dean, only to discover that his brother wasn’t in bed. Sam was out of the room before he even realized he was moving, calling his brother’s name, heart hammering painfully in his chest. He needed to see Dean, to see him now, to make sure that he was alright.

Sam stumbled down the stairs, yelling. “Dean!”

“Sham?”

Dean came out of the bright kitchen, a cereal bowl in his hand. He swallowed his enormous bite and raised an eyebrow. “Wha’?”

“What are you doing downstairs in the middle of the night?”

“I was hungry, doofus. Wanna share?”

Dean turned slowly on his heels and made his way back to the kitchen, sat down at the table and opened the peanut butter jar and a box of his jungle crackers.

“You do that a lot?” Sam asked carefully, sitting on the chair in front of him. He took the milk bottle and drank what was left of it.

“What do you care? Crackers?”

Sam took the box and peeked inside. “Hey! There are only giraffes left.”

“Told you. They taste funny.”

Dean drank the milk from the bottom of his cereal bowl before dipping his index in the peanut butter jar.

“Wow. You look… hungry.”

His brother managed to groan around a mouthful and got up to fetch the apple juice in the fridge. He drank half of the liter before wiping his mouth. “So. Guess you had another nightmare, huh?” He asked, leaning on the counter.

“Err… Yes. You’ve noticed?”

“You thrashing and screaming every night for the last week? Kind of.”

“I scream?”

“Sometimes. Or you talk, at least.”

“Geez, sorry. I didn’t-”

“Yeah well, sometimes I manage to get you back to sleep before you really wake up. So, let me guess: Azazel, feeding his blood to the baby?”

“I… yeah.”

“You know it’s just a dream, right? That the bastard is dead and gone.”

Sam shrugged and munched on a giraffe, taking a tiny bite with his front teeth.

“It’s over, Sam,” Dean insisted gently. “We’re safe. No demon is coming after us.”

“It’s not over, Dean. As much as we both want to believe it. Don’t tell me the thought hasn’t even crossed your mind.”

Dean sat back and looked thoughtfully at Sam for a few seconds before clearing his throat. “Yes. Of course I’ve thought about it.”

“And? It doesn’t scare you?”

“First of all, we don’t know if the demon blood will pass from you to the next generation. And even if it does… Why would I be scared? You didn’t turn out so bad.”

“Yeah right,” Sam snarled. “I was supposed to lead Azazel’s freaking army.”

“But you didn’t.”

Sam scrunched up his nose in an unconvinced expression and sighed. Dean bent over the table to be closer to him. His eyes were shining intently. “No, listen to me, Sam. Azazel, Lilith, Ruby… They’re dead. Your powers are gone.”

“Dormant.”

“Fuck Ruby and her twisted mind. You’re not like them. Never were. Never will be. What Dad said… He didn’t know everything back then and still, fuck him too. I was the one to raise you. I took care of you. Nobody knows you as well as I do. And what I’m saying is - I don’t fucking care if there’s demon blood in you. We can’t do anything about it. Maybe the baby will inherit it, maybe not. People don’t have to be fed wicked blood to turn bad, or crazy or mad. It’s the way they are, or they choose to be.”

Dean cleared his throat again and started fidgeting on his chair, looking as uncomfortable as he always did when Sam and him were talking.

“Well it’s your kid too,” Sam finally said, a smile curving his lips. He did feel a bit better.

“He’s gonna be a handsome son-of-a-gun,” Dean replied, smiling too. Then he yawned. “I’m spent. You did say you would clean up the kitchen, right?”

He was out of the room in an instant. Sam rolled his eyes and dipped his finger in the peanut butter jar.

::: :::

Two nights later, it was Dean’s turn to wake up screaming, startling Sam who was just drifting up to sleep. “Shit,” Dean panted, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“Was it a nightmare?” Sam asked, rubbing circles on his back.

“Yeah.”

“You wanna tell me about it?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s stupid.”

“Come on, Dean.”

“Swear you won’t laugh?”

“I swear.”

“We were in this like… surgery room and ya know, there were doctors and bright lights and you were there with me and they took the baby out but…”

“But what?”

“God. Okay. But it wasn’t a baby, it was a puppy, a beagle, I think and-”

“Urfm.”

“Was that a laugh?”

“No. I… I coughed. So, you gave birth to a beagle.”

“Yeah and like… Everyone in there was like: great! It’s a puppy! And you were totally out of your mind and you were holding it in your hand and wrapping him in a freaking blanket and then you were hugging me, like with tears of joy in your eyes and I tried to tell you that I just gave birth to a freaking dog and you wouldn’t listen.”

“You know, I’ve read that having strange dreams during pregnancy is-”

But Sam couldn’t get through his sentence. The laugh he was trying so hard to contain suddenly burst out of his throat and he couldn’t stop, even when Dean tackled him to the bed and punched him in the ribs. “You asshole, you promised!”

 

But then, a few minutes later, they were kissing fiercely, and Sam figured out quite easily how he could make it up to Dean.

Chapter Text

Hampton Falls, March 1

“Alright. There we go”,” Dean grunted, getting out of the Impala’s back seat. He dropped the screwdriver in the toolbox and patted the car’s roof. “Sorry, baby.”

“Done?”

“Yeah. I feel like I tortured her. On purpose.”

Sam rolled his eyes and bent down to look at the small anchor bolt that Dean had just fixed.

“Looks ok.”

“So there’s supposed to be a special hook on the baby seat?”

“Yeah, but you gotta use the seatbelt too.”

“What time is it?”

“Almost nine thirty.”

“Gotta go the bathroom, then we’re gone.”

Dean was nervous. Sam could tell by the way he was looking at anything but him. He hadn’t got much sleep last night and had been impatient for the last couple of days, thinking about their appointment to come. Rania had told them last time that it would be possible to look at the baby’s gender on the next ultrasound, and Dean had been thinking about it all week.

Sam felt excited too, but not to the point of losing sleep over it. He wondered what Dean was so worked up about. It would either be a boy or a girl. The end. Sam tended to think that it would be a boy, maybe because he’d been raised in a man’s world and it only seemed like the way things should be.

Which was kind of stupid, when he thought about it. It could be a girl. Sam just couldn’t picture himself raising a daughter – could barely picture himself with a baby in his arms.

“Come on,” Dean said, walking past him in the muddy mess that was their driveway since the weather had begun to warm up.

He dropped on the driver seat and waited for Sam to get inside, drumming nervously on the wheels.

“Sure you don’t want me to drive?”

“Why?”

“You look kind of… don’t know. On edge?”

“Shut up. M’fine.”

As Dean was driving silently, the Impala’s radio off, Sam’s gaze was dragged once more to the light swelling of his belly that seemed to become more visible each day. When he was sitting in the car, his jacket open, the seatbelt would plaster his shirt against his stomach and define his baby bump even more. When Sam had started imagining what Dean’s belly would like during his pregnancy, he’d thought that his brother would simply seem to gain some weight and that his shape would evoke an older, or less physically trained man with a taste for beer and junk food – say Bobby, for example. But that wasn’t what was happening. Dean’s baby bump was strictly restricted to his hips area, below his navel, and it looked firmer than a man’s beer belly, rounder. Dean had never been one to have a lot of body hair but there wasn’t a single one on his pale, creamy skin, and Sam couldn’t remember if it had always been that way.

There was another difference in Dean’s silhouette that prevented his state from resembling a simple weight gain. The lines of Dean’s form were softer, not as sharp as they had been, and the way his hips had enlarged only accentuated this impression. Sam had been surprise at how much he liked the changes. He never thought he would be disgusted by it, but that he actually found his brother even more attractive than before was unexpected. Still, as Dean would barely let Sam touch him, he couldn’t really enjoy this turn of events.

Dean had been very uneasy with his body changes so far, but as the last week went by, his awkwardness had became much more marked. He wouldn’t walk through the house if he didn’t have sweatpants and a t-shirt on, and he slept in those too. If he had never been a cuddler, now he was literally running away from Sam’s intimate touches, would always lock the bathroom door and, most of the time, managed to go to bed way earlier or later than Sam. He never left the house without his vest carefully closed, and even then, he seemed less and less inclined to do it if it wasn’t to go to work or to pick Sam up at the bookstore. Even when they were making love, Dean, who’d never been one to hide himself or his body, preferred the darkness of their room, under the covers.

This uneasiness would probably follow him through all the pregnancy, Sam figured. It wasn’t a question of accepting the baby or not, more what it did to his body. Sam did fear that it would become a real problem for the months to come. Dean had so little confidence in himself. Sam had been working on this issue since the beginning of their relationship but now, everything he had done was disappearing as a consequence of the curse.

“I swear to God, if you had laser eyes, there would be holes in my shirt, Sam”, Dean said suddenly.

“Sorry.”

“Yeah.”

“So… Are we really sure we want to know?”

“What? The baby’s gender?”

“Yeah. We could keep it as a surprise.”

Dean laughed in disbelieve. “Isn’t this whole male pregnancy thing surprising enough for you?”

“I’ll take that as a no.”

“You bet. Besides, I’m the one with the bun in the oven. I get to decide.”

“Ok.”

Besides, Sam really did want to know.

::: :::

“So, have you felt any pain this week? Dean?”

Dean, whose gaze was fixed on the ultrasound screen, blinked dreamily. “What?”

“No, he hasn’t,” Sam answered.

“Ooo-kay. Well, I’d better start the exam because neither of you are gonna pay attention to what I’m saying, right?”

Dean raised an eyebrow without answering. He was playing nervously with the rim of his t-shirt, raised over his chest. Sam took the opportunity to observe his belly without being noticed, losing himself in admiring the soft curves encircling their baby.

“Here we go,” Rania said, pressing the conductor gel over Dean’s stomach. He hissed but never turned his eyes away from the screen. “There’s the baby,” she announced when the now familiar form finally appeared. It wasn’t kidney-shaped anymore, even if the head remained oversized. The fetus looked like he was happily floating in the water, moving his legs and arms slowly. Rania succeeded in freezing the screen as she caught a close image of a hand. “Look, the fingers are already perfectly formed. There are five. If had one of the advanced 3-D machines, we could see his fingerprints.

“Fuck me,” Dean commented in awe.

Rania went on with the exam, taking the measurements and checking everything that had to be checked up to the volume of amniotic fluid. Then she looked back at Dean, smiling in a way Sam had never seen her before, a playful quirk at the corner of her lips, and for a second, Sam could perfectly picture the little girl she had once been back in Lebanon.

“So we’re done”,” Rania said, winking – seriously, winking - at Sam while pulling the wand away from Dean’s belly.

“What? Wait, aren’t you suppose to check for the… you know…” Dean’s eyes were wide and he had raised on his elbows, searching for Sam’s help.

“Check for what?” Rania asked, the perfect picture of the innocence.

“Are you messing with me, lady?” he asked suspiciously.

“Maybe.”

“Look at that: she actually knows how to joke!” Dean groaned, rolling his eyes.

“Oh, that’s so nice of you, Dean,” Rania deadpanned, getting the wand back in its place.

“I was beginning to think you were some kind of android.”

“You really want me to turn it off?”

“Dean, shut up,” Sam warned.

“Yeah, ok.”

Rania was back to work, trying to get a good view of the baby’s lower body. “He’s crossing his legs. Maybe he doesn’t want you to know,” she said before adding. “Let’s try to get him to move a bit.” She pressed the wand harder, pushing softly until the legs parted.

She took a screen cap and looked at the enlarged image. Sam couldn’t recognize anything except for grey and white lines on a black background.

“What is it?” Dean asked in a high-pitched voice.

“That’s his pelvic area.”

“I don’t…”

“At sixteen weeks, the male genitals are already formed and perfectly visible. And as you can see, there’s nothing there.”

“Oh God, he doesn’t have his genitals,” Dean mumbled, face whitening. “What does that mean? Does he has some sort of syndrome or-”

“Dean, shut up, you idiot. We can’t see them because there’s no need for them,” Sam replied.

“Why wouldn’t the poor boy need his penis, Sam?” Dean asked sharply.

Rania let out a silent laugh that she quickly hid behind her hand.

“Because it’s not a boy, it’s a girl.”

“Oh. Oh. Ok. Wait… Like, a girl? A baby girl?”

“No, a freaking puppy girl,” Sam replied, taken aback by how shocked Dean looked.

“Shut up.”

“Congratulations, Dean,” Rania said.

“Are you sure?”

“About the congratulations or the sex?”

“Ah. Ah.”

“Yes, I’m sure. You want me to show you the vulva in details?”

“God, no. Are we done?”

::: :::

“This is all your fault.”

“What?”

“You know… It’s the father’s semen that defines the baby’s gender.”

“You do realize that this makes you the mother.”

“Shut up.”

“No. Why don’t you shut up, Dean. You’ve been rambling on since we left Portsmouth and I’m starting to get a little tired of your freak-out attitude.”

Sam dropped the wooden spoon next to the boiling pot of soup. He hadn’t meant to snap like that, but Dean had been asking for it. Sighing, he leaned against the counter and brushed his long bangs away from his face.

“Seriously, dude. There was like a fifty percent chance. You want me to believe that you didn’t even consider the possibility?”

Dean shrugged and popped a grape into his mouth. He was sitting on the counter, looking like someone had just shot his puppy. “I… no… I was so sure. And I kept calling him… huh… her, I mean. I kept calling her he and him and you did the same so I just figured-”

“Figured what? That because we both said he the baby would turn into a boy like… freaking magic?”

“Well, I am cursed.

“Dean, this doesn’t make any sense.”

“I know that.”

“Why do you have to act like it’s bad news?” Sam insisted before spilling out what was really bothering him. “Does that mean that you don’t want her? Because she’s a girl?”

Dean dropped his bunch of grapes on the counter and paled. “No,” he whispers anxiously. “God, Sam. I didn’t meant to sound like that I… it doesn’t change anything to what I feel… for hi - for her.”

“Good.” Sam felt himself relax a bit. He picked a carrot and started to peel it. “Still. I don’t get it.”

“I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s just that girls… They’re different. From boys, I mean.”

“Oh really? You mean that they don’t have a p-”

“For heaven’s sake, Sam, don’t rub it in.”

Dean looked kind of lost, even a bit sad, and Sam felt guilty for mocking him. “Hey, I’m sorry. Was just trying to lighten things up a bit.”

“Well, I know I’m being an idiot but it’s like… it changes everything. I don’t know shit about baby girls.”

“You don’t know shit about babies.”

“I kinda helped raise you, Sam.”

“I know. But it’s not like you’ve been around newborns all your life, Dean. Neither have I, by the way. It’s a baby. She’s gonna cry and wet her diapers and sleep and grow teeth and throw temper tantrums just like a boy.”

“Yeah, but Sam: you do realize that the world is full of Dean Winchesters looking for a quick release and… You know what? I’m not even gonna go there. But in my experience, girls are more often than not the first victims of the supernatural. They get sacrificed ‘cause they’re virgins and they make easy prey and they… Well, you know the world we live in, man.”

“I do, but it doesn’t change anything. We’ll be worried about her because she’s our child and that’s just what parents do.”

“I know.” Dean lowered his head. He was looking at his belly. Sam could tell.

“And if the world was full of Dean Winchester, it would be a better place.”

“Come on, don’t be a sap.” Dean blushed, then raised his head and pointed a menacing finger at Sam. “She’s not gonna wear freaking pink dresses and ribbons.”

“Ok.”

“She’ll know the difference between an alternator and a battery before she’s five years old.”

“Of course she will.”

“We’ll have to come up with a name.”

“Among other things.”

“And you’re not gonna geek her up just because she’s a girl.”

“Oh, really?”

“M’hungry. Isn’t the soup ready yet?”

Crisis averted, Sam thought.

::: :::

It was two days later that Sam found Dean in the bathroom getting ready to bed. Dean had always taken almost obsessive care of his teeth. He would brush and floss for several minutes and then use one of these strong mouth rinses that burn if kept in the mouth for too long. John had raised them to take care of themselves: why go to a dentist if you could avoid it. “Your body is your most reliable ally but it can become your enemy if you neglect it,” he had repeated again and again over the years. And Dean would drink all of his words like they were the absolute truth. Dean had once suffered a toothache so bad that John had had to leave him behind on a hunt. Of course, it wasn’t his fault: at fifteen, he already did brush his teeth every day, but John hadn’t told him that. He had voluntarily let Dean think that he was unreliable. The obsessive teeth care had begun soon after that.

So, there he was, going with the gargling like his life depended on it, wearing a pair of soft old cotton pants and a Metallica tee that had always been kind of stretch but was now definitely molding his small belly – Dean wouldn’t have worn it if the laundry hadn’t been long overdue. Sam looked at him in the large mirror and something must’ve been visible in his eyes because Dean winced and spit. “Stop staring, Sam.”

“What if I want to stare?”

“Get over it.”

Dean turned to leave the bathroom but Sam stood right in his path. “Come on,” Sam said playfully. “M’kind of horny.”

“Well, the bed is just a few feet away.”

“I don’t wanna make love to you in the dark, under the covers. Wanna see you.”

“Sam,” Dean warned, lowering his eyes.

Sam slid his hands on the curve on Dean’s hips and bent his head to kiss his neck, knowing how sensitive Dean’s skin was there. His brother sighed and took him by the waist. “Sammy, come on. Bedroom,” he whined.

“No. I got a better idea.”

Sam dragged Dean in front of the mirror and backed a few steps until his back was pressed against the wall, holding Dean firmly in front of him. When he looked at their reflection, Dean was blushing and staring at the floor.

“Come on, want you to look at us,” Sam said softly, and began pressing long, wet kisses up Dean’s neck. One of his hands slid inside Dean’s sleeping pants, and he started to stroke his already half-hard length in a steady rhythm that had Dean leaning heavily against him, pressing his ass into Sam’s crouch. His eyes were still closed, but Sam gave him a break, stroking him and using his other hand to lower his pants to pool around his feet. Dean kicked them away, and mumbled something about Sam being way overdressed, straightening up so that Sam could take off his briefs and his t-shirt. Sam felt a slight resistance when he tugged on Dean’s shirt, but his brother got distracted by Sam’s shaft pressing between his butt cheeks, and a moment later they were both finally naked.

Dean was more than compliant now, moving against Sam and turning his head back from time to time to grab a sloppy kiss. When Sam pinched one of his nipples, he moaned openly and cursed, streaks of precome gliding from his pulsing cock and sticking on Sam’s fingers.

“Dean, look at us,” Sam repeated, watching the reflection of his brother, who had started to tense and shake under his ministrations. There was a red flush expanding on his chest and neck, coloring his cheeks and his ears. The muscles of his thighs were strained and defined, then there was the soft curve of his baby bump, which Sam’s hand was brushing against on every stroke, only the purple and glistening tip of his cock visible.

Dean didn’t listen. He had raised an arm to curl his hand around Sam’s neck and his head had fall back onto his shoulder, eyes screwed shut. He was perfect. Sam moaned, feeling himself getting harder than he thought possible without coming.

“You don’t know,” he panted in Dean’s ear. “What you do to me, fuck, Dean. Love the way your body is changing, wanna touch you all the time.”

“M’close, Sam - ”

“Want you to look at us before. Don’t care what you think you have to be ashamed of, but you’re wrong. Please, Dean.”

Sam slightly released his pressure on Dean’s length, provoking an unsatisfied huff, but Dean did open his eyes, and took a quick look at the mirror before shutting them again. He had started to sweat and pant, so close to the edge he looked almost in pain. “No. Look,” Sam insisted, raising his voice and making it as overbearing as possible.

Years of training did what sweet words couldn’t. Dean’s eyes snapped open as Sam put his other hand on his belly. He watched, lost in pleasure and uncertainty, until his back suddenly arched and he whispered Sam’s name in a choked voice before finally reaching completion. He was shaken by a series of violent shivers and slumped back against Sam’s body. Sam couldn’t have said whether it was that sight that got him over the edge, or the way Dean’s ass cheeks were clamping around him.

They kind of fell down to the floor in a slow, sloppy glide, a mess of sweat and semen, arms and legs tangled together.

“God damn,” Dean groaned lazily, patting Sam’s shoulder.

“Yeah.”

“Did you just try to sex-therapy me?”

Sam had to laugh at that. “Maybe. Did it work?”

“Sam it’s not… I’m not… It isn’t about the baby, you know. I’m not ashamed of him. Of her, I mean.”

“I know that.”

“It’s not like I’m going through something that’s normal for a man. It’s hard to explain.”

“You don’t have to be awkward with me, y’a know. I was serious, Dean. About what you do to me. And being able to see your baby bump, to touch it. That makes it real for me.”

“Just don’t feel like myself anymore. My body… Inside my head… Everything is like, more intense and I try to work with that, Sam. I really do.” Dean paused and raised his head, smiling mischievously. “I think I may need more sex therapy.”

“Yeah?”

Dean cocked an eyebrow. “What? You’re not up to it, big boy?”

That night, Dean allowed Sam’s hand to rest on his belly for a couple of minutes before shaking him off, pretending he couldn’t breathe with Sam’s body so close to his. It was a start, and also a wonderful feeling, sensing Dean’s stretched skin and the small but firm bump underneath.

Sam would take what he could.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, March 18

It was eleven at night and Sam was in the kitchen, folding socks and waiting for the coffee machine to be done. There were dirty dishes on every surface, the trash had to be taken out and a bunch of bills were scattered on the table, waiting to be sorted out and paid.

Sometimes, domestic life sucked, Sam thought, stifling a yawn. Socks. Right. How come they had to have that many, anyway? It seemed like their possessions had started to multiply themselves since they had moved in. Then, the baby would be born and they would have to pack everything and…

And what, now he came to think of it? Sam slowly got up to pour himself a cup of coffee, adding too much sugar to his steaming cup. He rubbed his eyes and sat back, picking up two greyish socks. Folded them. Looked for another pair in the cloth basket.

And what? Now, there was a subject he and Dean hadn’t talked about, or even alluded to since Dean had been cursed. Because life would go on after their daughter’s birth. Sam wasn’t stupid. He knew that they wouldn’t pack the baby on the back seat and get on the road again, that Dean knew that as well. They didn’t need words to express the evidence: that there was no way their kid would go through what they had been through growing up. The real question was: what would they do, where would they settle? How far from the hunters’ world would they decide to stay? Settling down for good.

Thinking about it, Sam knew he could get used to it – not in the same way he’d had run from his fucked-up family and had tried to be everything they weren’t when he went to Stanford. Sam had changed too much since then not to think of the Sam back then as a child throwing a temper tantrum. He wasn’t that kid anymore.

Still, the idea of settling down and lead a normal life – as normal as it would get in their situation - was something he could work with, even enjoy. It wasn’t hard to guess that Dean would do everything to keep their daughter safe – not safe in the John Winchester way - and that he would go with the flow and try to give her a good life. But his brother was still struggling with some serious father issues and trying to find a meaning to his own life. Sam didn’t know if Dean could really live without hunting. Dean wouldn’t admit it – not even to himself, but they would have to work on that. As for their daughter…

A sudden thought occurred to Sam and he let go of the socks hanging in his hands. How had he not thought about it before? Everything had been so overwhelming since Dean had been cursed. There was so much to be dealt with that this particular issue had remained hidden in some dark, far corner of his mind. Still, the question was of a frightening simplicity. What would they tell her? Because yeah, explaining to a kid that she was the product of incestuous love and a curse gone wrong was out of the question.

How would they deal with that?

A muffled spell of coughing got Sam’s attention back to the present and he listened to it, worried. It didn’t last long. All he could hope was that Dean wouldn’t wake up. That would suck big time.

This had started more than a week ago, when Sam had caught the cold that was jumping from one employee to the other back at the bookstore. He didn’t get too sick: some congestion and a bit of fever the first day, but he had quickly shaken it off. He had been worried that Dean would catch it, having read that pregnant women’s immune systems were weaker. Dean had laughed at him, at the way Sam would wash his hands every five minute and refuse to kiss him, or get too close to him. Still, four days later, Dean had woken up, feverish and grumpy, with Sam’s bug.

Things had gone downhill from there. The innocent cold had morphed into something else: Dean’s fever wouldn’t go down, he was couching almost constantly, had started to throw up again and had been hit with a painful headache that wouldn’t go away. This morning, Sam had dragged him to Rania’s and she had diagnosed a sinus and ear infection, plus bronchitis. She had taken a blood sample and prescribed two different antibiotics and a Ventolin inhaler, forbidding Dean to do anything else but resting for the week to come. Dean hadn’t even tried to protest. He was so sick he didn’t care anymore.

They had got back at the beginning of the afternoon, but Dean had managed to fall asleep only a couple of hours ago. He had trouble breathing, his fever was giving him the shivers and the salbutamol inhaler, though it did improve his breathing, had the side effect of giving him palpitations and causing nervousness. That was a bad cocktail. Dean had been miserable and Sam had thought he would never be able to rest. He had forced him to take a warm bath – m’not a freaking girl, Dean had grumbled before sinking slowly in the water, sighing in satisfaction. Then, Sam had given him a long back massage before getting him in a semi-sitting position in the bed. He had stayed with him until Dean had fallen asleep from exhaustion and sickness. That had been two hours ago.

Sam wanted to clean the house a bit while he had the time, but even with his blood full of caffeine, he had trouble staying awake.

The annoying ring of Dean’s cell startled him, and he realized he was actually dozing on an unfolded pair of socks. Getting up in a jolt, he ran for the phone before the noise could wake Dean up and stumbled over the coffee table in the living room where he found it. He fell clumsily on the couch as he answered, short of breath.

“Sam?”

“B-Bobby?”

“Isn’t it Dean’s number?”

“Yeah… Yeah, totally. But he can’t come to the phone right now.”

“Rrriiight. So, are you boys busy?”

Sam blanked out. God, he was tired. “Hum. Err. Kinda.”

“Well, there’s a freaking were family eating people down in Washington, DC. I could use a hand.”

Oh. Oh. Shit.

“We… we can’t.”

“Why?”

“We’re already on a hunt. Shifter. Bad one.”

There. Done, Sam thought.

“Oh, you mean like the last time I called Dean a month ago and you couldn’t help with a multiple possession case because you were tracking a black dog in New Orleans?”

Dean. Of course, he wouldn’t have told Sam the Bobby had called. I will kick his ass, Sam thought. I’ll nurse him back to health and then I’m gonna kick his ass. At least mentally. Or save if for after the baby is born. Yeah. Not really satisfying.

“Yeah, well, sorry Bobby. Bad timing I guess.”

Bobby groaned. Which was never, ever a good sign.

“So, do you think you can find someone? Rufus, maybe?”

“Of course, no problem.”

Great. “Well… guess we’ll talk to you later-”

“I’m so not done with you, boy,” Bobby snapped.

“What?”

“Stop treating me like an old fool. That’s insulting.”

“Okay.”

There. Again. Sam was back to being a snot-nosed kid.

“There was no black dog in New Orleans. And I know that because Jo was up there the same week getting rid of a poltergeist.”

“Bobby, I can explain.”

“Is that so? Listen to me boy: I’m not your goddamn mother. You guys gotta do what you guys gotta do but still. Kinda feel like an idjit right now. First, you call me because you need a doctor and then Dean lied to me about a hunt. What am I supposed to think?”

What was Bobby supposed to think?

Of course. Blame it on Sam’s tiredness and on the way he had just heard Dean coughing a lung a few minutes back. “Dean is sick. He can’t hunt right now.”

“Sick how? Supernatural sick? Is that why you guys needed a doctor?”

Sam could almost feel his brain boiling. “Yeah. No. I mean, at first we thought it could be some kind of curse and we had to make sure, y’a know?”

“Hun-hun.”

“But then Rania didn’t find anything supernatural and she sent Dean to a specialist.”

“Is it cancer?” Bobby asked, sounding totally devastated.

“No! No it’s not. It’s…”

Sam’s brain had a way of making links between all the things that he had learned through the years without any conscious effort. Even then, it came to him almost instantly, something that would explain the need to settle down for a few months and Dean’s incapacity to hunt without making things too serious.

“Post-viral fatigue syndrome. It’s PVFS, Bobby.”

::: :::

“It’s what?”

“Post-viral fatigue syndrome, Dean.”

“It sounds made-up. Did you make that up?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“PVSF is very real. Now, Dean, deep breath.”

Dean was sitting on their bed, shirtless, his eyes still blurry from sleep. It was nine o’clock the next morning, and Rania had come to check on his patient like she’d said she would. Both of the brothers had forgotten. Dean had woken up around three, just as Sam had been finally drifting off to sleep, breathing with difficulty and spiking a fever. It had taken two hours to give him his meds, another Ventolin dose, another cooling bath, and all of Sam’s patience before Dean had finally settled down again. They had both been woken up by the doorbell ringing.

Dean tried to breathe without coughing but soon the harsh rattling noise was back and he had to hold onto Sam as Rania kept listening to his lungs, her stethoscope pressed on Dean’s back.

Dean didn’t seem much better than the day before, but at least the fever had backed down to a low grade.

“I’m telling you now because if someone start to ask questions about us, Rania has to know.”

“I wouldn’t say anything,” Rania said, wrapping Dean’s arm in the blood pressure cuff.

“Remember. Dean is my patient.”

“But still, I did lie on your behalf, Rania.”

“I’ll live,” Rania said, starting to pump the cuff.

“What does that mean anyway?” Dean asked, wincing as the cuff was getting tighter on his arm.

“It happens sometimes after a viral infection… Like the common cold. The body isn’t able to really shake it off and there are still blood anomalies, even after the patient has succeeded in fighting the virus.”

“Ok, so: I caught cold. Got better, then this shit happens.”

“Yeah. It can take months before one gets back his health. The main symptom is a disabling fatigue. There’s pain and dizziness and nausea and sometimes anemia as well. You couldn’t hunt if you were in that state.

“Actually,” Rania added, ripping the cuff off Dean’s arm, “Some people experience the symptoms for years.”

“Well, Bobby doesn’t have to know that. It explains why we’ve stop hunting and settled somewhere to be close to the doctor that is treating you. I told him I still hunt from time to time when it’s close enough.”

“Did he buy it?”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Dean, open your mouth and say: aaah.

“Ahhh.”

“Good.”

“And what if he wants to come and visit, to see how I’m doing? Is a baby bump another symptom of my imaginary disease?”

“I told him I would keep him informed, and that you preferred not to see anyone because you’re a proud stubborn bastard who doesn’t like to show its weakness.”

“Makes sense,” Rania said, putting her instruments back in her bag.

Dean raised an eyebrow at her and slumped back on the pillows, sighing. “Yeah, I guess it does. Hey Sam?”

“Mmm?”

“Why did you choose that PVSF thing?”

“Well, it had to be something that would last for some months, and I didn’t wanna upset the poor guy. You should’ve heard his voice when he asked if you had cancer.”

“Oh. This is getting better and better.”

“Dean. We had to come up with something. This is what crossed my mind. When I was in pre-law we studied the case of an employee that had been fired because of PVFS and I guess it made some kind of impression on me.”

“Yeah well.”

Dean grabbed a tissue on the nightstand to contain another coughing spell. Then, he looked at Rania expectantly. “So?”

“So… Your breathing is a bit better. We’ll have to wait a couple of days before the antibiotics really start to kick in. You have to take it easy, Dean.”

“Can’t do shit anyway.”

“I’m being serious, here. Listen. I don’t think you should go back to work.”

“You already told me that.”

Sam understood what Rania meant and bit his lips.

“No, Dean. I mean: even when you get better. I think you should quit.”

Dean’s jaw clenched. He crossed his arms on his chest. “Why?”

“Because you’re working with elderly people who are vulnerable to infections and your immune system doesn’t work as well as it did before the pregnancy. Dean, it’s not like I can get you admitted in a hospital easily. One blood sample could raise a lot of questions.”

“Yeah. I see what you mean.”

Dean was too sick to protest more vigorously, but Sam had no doubt it would come.

“Okay, I gotta get going. If you’re getting any worse-”

“We’ll call you,” Dean mumbled.

Sam took Rania back downstairs, apologizing for the mess. She shook him off. “Take care of your brother, Sam.”

“I will.”

Later, when Dean had gone another round of meds and vapor shower, succeeding in keeping half a toast and a glass of orange juice, they were both back in bed. Sam had even managed to clean up a bit and change the bed’s sheets. Dean was still feverish and grumpy. He was wheezing, his head propped on Sam’s shoulder, trying to counter the shivers that were wracking his body.

“This so sucks.”

“Yeah, it does.” Sam kept his voice calm, hoping that Dean would fall asleep soon.

“No, I mean everything.”

“I hear you.”

"Do you? Because there, great, I’m house-ridden because of this imaginary disease, but what’s gonna happen after?”

“When the baby’s born?”

“Yeah. I doubt that Bobby will believe that PVFS can spontaneously generate a new-born. We won’t be able to hide forever.”

“Well there are a couple of solutions, I guess. We can tell that we’ve found her during a hunt, that she’s an orphan, or maybe she could be the consequences of one of your one-night stands, and her mother doesn’t want to raise her.

“Yeah. It’s kind of cruel, though, you know, lying to her this way. She’ll miss an imaginary mother, or parents.”

“Do we have any other options? For her or the people who know us?”

“Guess not.”

Sam rubbed Dean’s back until his brother fell asleep, snoring loudly through his stuffed nose.

Then, Sam went on thinking that, whatever they would choose to tell people, his daughter wouldn’t know he was his father. The pain he felt, crushing his heart, was surprisingly sharp.

Chapter Text

Hampton Falls, April 2

“Cassandra?”

“Ohio, a poltergeist, ten years ago. She had curly blond hair.”

“Alexis?”

“Nashville. 2001. Actually, we spent two nights together.”

“Leah?”

“There were two Leahs. One was the daughter of the owner of the motel we were staying at somewhere near Atlanta. I was nineteen. And then the other one, more recently… Ohio. Again. Now, that Leah was really smart – and kinky. “

“For Heaven’s sake, Dean! It’s hopeless.”

“Hey. I’m not gonna name my daughter after a girl I’ve slept with. That would be wrong, man.”

“You slept with half of the names in this book!”

“Come on. You’re just jealous. Oh. Grapes. Are there any left back home?”

“No, because you ate them all before I could even take a look at them.”

“That’s why we need more.”

Sam put the book back in his jeans pocket and followed Dean, who was happily shopping in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket. He took the biggest grape packet he could find and dropped it in the shopping cart. Then, smiling like a kid in a toy store, he walked toward a display of strawberry punnets and took three of them.

“Craving strawberries, Dean?”

Dean blushed and shrugged. “I hate this… craving stuff. I’m just hungry.”

“I can see that.”

“Seriously, dude. When am I supposed to wake you up in the middle of the night and ask for ice cream covered in barbecue sauce?”

“It’s kind of a myth, man.”

“What about Mercedes?”

“What about it?”

“Mercedes Winchester.”

“What? We’re not gonna give our daughter a car’s name.”

“Killjoy.”

But Dean was still smiling. Since he had to quit work, he was ridiculously happy to get out of the house whenever he could. Sam, who had no doubt that he would snap eventually, was more than eager to provide any kind of distraction. He had been lucky so far: Dean’s health had improved slowly after his bronchitis, keeping him from really feeling the boredom of spending all of his days alone in the house. But for a week or so, Dean had been back to his old self. He was twenty weeks into the pregnancy and his belly was now showing a lot more, a round bump sticking out in front of him, that was slowly expanding up to his navel. He had taken on wearing Sam’s shirts over his now tight tee-shirts and was even more self-conscious when going out. He would always wear a closed jacket and try to hold himself slightly bent forward. Whatever Sam tried to say to to convince him didn’t quite cut it.

“Dean, you really think people are looking at you and wondering if you’re pregnant?”

“Well I don’t know. They’re not gonna come and ask.”

“You look like you’re enjoying junk food a bit too much, is all.”

“No. That’s the point, Sammy. My belly is all round and…there, you know.”

“No I don’t.”

“Shut up. It’s just… It doesn’t look like the belly of someone who eats a bit too much. Or drink, whatever.”

“Still. You can’t possibly believe that the first thing to cross someone’s mind when looking at you is that your little round belly means that you’re expecting. It’s not like it’s possible anyway.”

But Dean wouldn’t listen, and Sam could start to see the day when his brother would refuse to leave home.

In the meantime, he did enjoy going out even if it meant that he was on display. Back at home, he would distract himself in doing small work in and outside the house. There was still a bit of snow and the soil was wet and messy, but Dean had found a path in the woods behind the house that was leading to a small lake and he had taken on clearing it for their private use. He took things easy, Sam had no doubt about it, and being able to do some kind of physical work was good for Dean.

“Oh, and we need crackers,” Dean pointed out, still flying on the high of grocery shopping.

“Really? Dean, just seeing the box makes me sick.”

“So? You’re not the one eating them.”

“Obviously.”

“Our fridge is full of your lucerne and salad shit. Do you see me complaining?”

“Actually, yes. All the time.”

“Well that’s because it stinks.”

“Does not!”

“Hey. My sense of smell is all fucked up because of the hormones. Not my fault.”

When they were done with the grocery shopping, it was almost noon. As they walked into the parking lot, Sam exposed his face to the warmth of the sun, sighing softly. It was good, feeling the spring slowly replacing a long and strange winter. They were not used to live through one, as they always had had a tendency to drive south when they could as November drew on.

Sam hadn’t realized that Dean had frozen on the spot as he was opening the trunk and putting the grocery bags in it. Only when he turned back did he see the strange look on Dean’s face and the hand he was pressing against his stomach.

“Dean, what is it? Does it hurt?”

Dean blinked, then looked at him dreamily. “I think she just moved.”

“What? Can I?”

Sam held out his hand but Dean pushed it away. “Sam. People could see.”

“People” meaning probably the woman that was walking pass them, dragging a reluctant and crying kid along. She didn’t even spare them a look.

“Come on, Dean.”

“It’s over anyway. Let’s go.”

Dean took the wheel and started the car, still looking impressed and uneasy.

“What did it felt like?”

“I don’t… Wait. Remember Captain Nemo?”

“Captain Nemo my goldfish?”

“Yeah.”

“Of course. That was the only pet dad ever allowed me to have.”

Dean smiled to himself. “How long did you actually kept him? Two weeks, a bit less? Remember when he died? You cried for like… three hours straight.”

“I was seven. And it wasn’t my fault. It was too cold in the Impala. The poor thing froze to death.”

Dean let out a laugh as if it was an especially good memory. “Anyway. There was this one time he jumped off his bowl in the motel room and I had to fetch him on the floor, closed my hands on him and he was like… moving and jumping, trying to escape.”

“I don’t see the point.”

“That’s what it felt like. When the baby moved. Kinda.”

“Oh.”

“I think it might’ve happened before but I wasn’t sure. It felt like bubbles popping.”

“Wow, Dean, you’re a poet.”

“Shut up. I thought I just had gas.”

“That’s more like you.”

“Ah. Ah.”

“Will you let me? Next time she moves, will you let me feel it?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you big girl.”

::: :::

Hampton Falls, April 7

Sam had a long and tough day. A university teacher had called to order a huge book list, most of them not even printed anymore, and it had been up to Sam to contact the publishers and book distributors to try and find them all. When he was finally ready to get back home, a little after five, a traffic accident got him stuck on the road for almost an hour.

All he wanted to do when he was finally back home was to eat a quick supper and jump in the shower.

Then he saw a bunch of jeans and tees drying on the old washing line on the back of the house and knew something was up. Dean hated to do the laundry, and would leave this chore to Sam most of the time. That he made the effort to actually hang the clothes outside was what worried Sam the most.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen it coming. As the last week had gone by, Dean had been more and more impatient and fidgety, snapping at Sam whenever he had the excuse.

Sam braced himself, putting up a big fake smile as he was entering the house that smelled like disinfectant and cleanness. Dean had apparently decided to morph himself into the perfect housekeeper.

“Hey Dean!” Sam called, pulling off his shoes.

 

No answer. Sam grabbed an apple and climbed upstairs when he realized his brother was nowhere to be seen. He found him in their bedroom, lying on his side on top of the comforter, eyes open and gazing at the wall.

“You alright?”

“No.”

“Is it the-”

“The baby’s fine.”

“Okay, then.” Sam sat on the bed next to Dean and waited.

“What?” Dean asked in a growl a whole minute later.

“What’s going on?”

“M’bored,” Dean answered sincerely, much to Sam’s surprise.

“Oh.”

“Yeah: oh. How was your day?”

“It was okay, I guess.”

“Good.”

Dean sat up and sighed loudly, brushing a hand through his messed air. “I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m kind of going crazy here, Sammy.”

“Well I’m sure we can work it out.”

“Yeah,” Dean smiled grimly. “I don’t understand. The books say that I’m supposed to be like full of energy and fucking shining during the second trimester. I feel like shit. M’tired all the time, I have trouble digesting and… god, I’m turning into a girl.”

“No you ain’t.”

“I vacuumed the house this morning and I had to take a freaking nap afterward. At ten in the morning, Sam!”

“You needed it.”

“I can’t… I won’t make it to the end.”

“Maybe you need something to pass the time, like… a hobby of something?”

“A hobby? Are you kidding me? Want to buy me a goddamn puzzle, Sam? Or maybe I could paint. Landscape and shit.”

“Dean. There’s other stuff than-”

But Dean wasn’t listening anymore. He was looking down at his belly and blushing. “Plus, I think something’s wrong with my navel.”

“What?”

“It’s like… starting to pop out, I guess?”

“Can I see?”

Dean rolled his eyes but lifted up his shirt – Sam’s shirt, to be precise - showing the expense of his belly, creamy and tensed skin with some freckles scattered across it. Concentrate, Sam. The navel. It was different. The small dip had almost disappeared and the upper part was clearly starting to peek out. Sam found it adorable. He couldn’t help but put his hand over it, feeling the warmth of his brother’s stomach. Dean shivered but stood very still.

“She’s moving,” he whispered.

Sam had tried to feel the baby move all week but failed at it: his daughter either wasn’t moving anymore or so gently he couldn’t feel it.

“I don’t-”

“Shsh! Wait for it… Wait for it… There.”

And this time, Sam did felt it: a soft quiver just under his palm, below Dean’s navel. It happened three times in a row, then it was over. The sensation was wonderful, made Sam realize once more that a small human being was there, inside of Dean’s stomach, growing quietly as if all of this was a normal situation.

“Wow,” was all Sam could say. Nothing could really express what he was feeling. Dean looked at him, forgetting for a second his cocky composed self and smiling almost shyly.

“Never felt her this strong.”

“Yeah, it…”

Sam kept his hand there and imagined himself cradling his daughter in his arms, feeling her weight and warmth.

“Dude, personal space,” Dean finally growled, pulling the shirt down.

“Sorry.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“My navel?”

“Oh! Yes. Well it’s supposed to be like that, according to the photos I’ve seen. The uterus is expanding, pushing upward and tensing the skin.”

“I… it looks strange.”

They were both lost in their thoughts for a minute, then Sam softly punched Dean’s arm.

“Still bored?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Maybe we could have sex? To… you know… pass the time.”

Dean pretended to really think about it before getting up quickly, already stripping out of his clothes. “I’m topping.”

“Deal.”

::: :::

The day after, Sam was working until three o’clock on the afternoon. Dean had insisted on keeping the car, pretending he had some stuff to do but refusing to tell Sam about it. When Sam got out of the bookstore, he found his brother singing along with an AC/DC song, beating the rhythm with his hands on the wheel. He seemed in a very good mood. The first thing Sam saw was a TV on the backseat, surrounded by paper bags.

“Wow. It’s not new, is it?”

“Nope.”

“Where did you found it?”

“Pawnshop. I know I can watch stuff on the computer but it’s not the same thing and ya’ know… A house without a TV is just wrong. Besides, I need it to save the world from a zombie invasion.

“What?”

“Bought a PSP, some games. Found myself hobbies, as you suggested it.”

Dean was smiling widely, obviously proud of himself.

“Wow. I’m impressed.”

“There’s some more stuff in the trunk. I found this awesome flea market a couple of streets down the bookstore.”

“You shopped?”

“Well,” Dean shrugged. “It was either that or cleaning the weapons for the third time this week. Now, I’m hungry. Let’s go somewhere manly where they serve fried stuff. It’s been three weeks since I ate my last burger.”

Sam agreed, too relieved to bitch about junk food (as a matter of fact, he did like a big juicy burger from time to time, not that he would ever tell Dean). He had been prepared for some more bitching and short temper and staring outside broodingly but apparently, Dean had decided to take the matter in his own hands. He was really working hard to make this strange period of their lives as easy as he could. Overall, Sam had expected a lot more anger and denial toward what was happening to him. Maybe the hormones were really making a difference. Or maybe he had once more underestimated his brother.

They spent a good time that night, but Dean quickly became tired, even if he wouldn’t admit it, and they were back home before seven. Sam helped empty the car and discovered that Dean had bought a great number of sci-fi paper back, most of them from the golden age of the genre (Sam did had memories of Dean reading Vonnegut or Asimov, thinking about it) along with a whole bunch of used DVDs and even a couple of crossword puzzles albums.

“Really?” Sam asked, shaking them in front of Dean.

“Well, you do like doing them.”

“Oh, is it a gift?”

“Shut up.”

The next thing Sam got out of the bags was a 1000 pieces puzzle featuring Metallica during a concert. Dean was grinning as he looked at it. “Couldn’t resist. Probably won’t make it, but it’s a freaking Metallica puzzle, Sam.”

The last thing left was a brand new and heavy book untitled Basic Woodwork. Sam couldn’t make out why Dean would buy such a thing, and when he looked at his brother, who had just finished drinking down the whole bottle of milk, he seemed uneasy.

“What’s that for?”

“I went in the shed the other day and found a whole bunch of woodworking tools. Some of them needed a little cleaning, but they are good tools. There’s even a circular saw. “

“And you wanna try to build something?”

Dean actually blushed, taking too much time to wipe his mouth against his sleeve.

“Maybe. I mean, I’ve been working on this building site back when I was eighteen and we spent all summer in Idaho, remember? And one of the guys had kinda took me under his wing. He was a carpenter, showed me a lot of stuff. It was cool. I liked it.”

“Oh.”

“And I err… I wasn’t bad at it. And when I saw the woodwork tools in the shed and seeing as I’m bored out of my mind, I thought I could try to make something. For her, ya know.”

“Oh. That’s a great idea. What are you thinking about?”

“Hum… Maybe a crib?”

Even Dean’s ears were of a crimson shade by then. He carefully avoided looking Sam in the eyes.

“Wow.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Sam, don’t look so shocked. I do know a bit of stuff apart from hunting and fixing my car.”

Yeah, Sam though, but you’re so careful at hiding it, like it’s a sign of weakness or something.

“Can I help?”

“No. Do your crosswords.”

::: :::

Portsmouth, April 15

Rania was rather pleased with Dean’s health on their next appointment. Dean was up to his twenty-fourth week and kept following the normal course of a pregnancy, from the measurement of the uterus to the symptoms he was experiencing. All in all, he had only gained eight pounds since the beginning. Sam wasn’t surprised to see the numbers on the scale: apart from his growing belly, Dean’s only visible sign that he was actually gaining weight was a rounder face. His brother did eat for two, sometimes three, but his metabolism seemed as efficient as before. He was also eating better and Sam doubted that gobbling up grapes and jungle crackers like his life depended on it would make him fat.

Still, Dean had been looking uneasy when Rania announced his current weight, and Sam had no doubt it would be an issue for him in the months to come.

At the end of the physical exam, she asked Dean to remove his t-shirt completely so she could have a look at his chest. Dean blushed but did as he was told and let the woman carefully pressed the skin all around his nipples. Except for their darker color and the fact that the aureole had became a bit larger, there wasn’t any real change in Dean’s physiology there. The muscles seemed to have softened a bit, but that was all.

“Yeah, okay. I think I can feel milk ducts there.”

“What?” Dean asked in a high-pitched voice.

“Milk ducts.”

“No.”
“Dean-” Sam said softly.

“Oh, don’t Dean me. There’s no milk ducts in my chest. It’s… they’re not bigger, how can that be?”

Dean had risen on his elbows and was looking at Rania as if she was personally responsible for it.

“It’s not the size that matters, Dean. You can have barely any breast at all and still be perfectly able to produce milk and breastfeed your baby.”

Dean turned pale and sat up, quickly pulling his t-shirt back on his stomach. “Oh, you did not just say that to me.”

“Well, it’s a curse. If everything else is adapting in your body, it’s only normal that-”

“Holy hell, I got boobs,” Dean whined, putting his face in his hands.

“No you don’t.”

“Oh, shut up, Sam! Easy to say when you’re not the one growing woman’s parts.”

“Hey, calm down,” Rania said in a soothing voice. “That doesn’t mean you have to actually breastfeed the baby. Besides, I don’t know if the curse will remain functional after the birth.”

“Yeah, totally,” Dean agreed, looking at the doctor through his fingers. “Everything’s gonna go back to normal once she’s born, right?”

“I’m inclined to think so. Anyway, if you don’t actually breastfeed, the milk production will stop by itself.”

“It’d better.”

“But in the meantime, if you find that your nipples are sometimes leaking a thick, orangey liquid, don’t worry about it. It’s colostrum.”

Dean jumped off the exam table. “That’s great. That’s just…” He waved his hand dismissively and left the exam area while Sam and Rania exchanged a powerless look before following him.

The appointment wasn’t over. Rania had told them she wanted to talk about the C-section. They sat to her desk. Dean seemed distracted and worried, kept glancing quick looks at his chest.

“So, let’s see what I’ve planned so far”,” Rania stated, opening Dean’s file. “I’ve already performed minor surgery here when I couldn’t avoid it, but all of them only needed a local anesthesia, which I can do. I’ve spent one year as a surgeon intern, if you’re wondering about my experience, and a C-section is a very basic surgery to perform so that doesn’t worry me. The thing is, I’m not an anesthesiologist and what Dean needs is an epidural. This anesthesia numbs the lower part of the body so that the patient doesn’t feel anything but actually remains awake during the whole procedure.”

Sam and Dean nodded in unison, quietly.

“Two years ago I’ve come upon a case where an anesthesia was needed and the patient really couldn’t get through the official channel, per se. We did it back at my clinic where a more sterile environment could be created. There’s these two nurses that have worked with me a couple of times – one of whom is a hunter’s niece. I trust them. Now for the anesthesiologist, I’ve used this guy who’s a Chinese immigrant and although he has graduated back in China, he doesn’t have the right to work here yet. He does it for the money. I think I might ask you to help me pay him.”

“Is he good?” Sam asked.

“Yes. He is. And he doesn’t ask questions, which is even better. It should be safe enough with the nurses. Of course, nothing will ever be safer than an official C-section performed in a proper hospital.”

“But the baby will be alright?” Dean asked nervously.

“Yes, if everything goes as planned. Complications are always possible, Dean. You should know about it, but I already have a lot of material that I can set back at the clinic. There’s an incubator there, by the way.”

“Oh, alright,” Dean whispered.

“Are you sure about these three people?” Sam couldn’t help but think that a little crowd would be supervising Dean’s C-section. “Can we do without one of the nurse, at least?”

“Sam, if it’s safer for the baby there’s no point in discussing it,” Dean snapped, the coldness of his voice taking everyone by surprise.

“Okay,” Sam coaxed.

“And don’t forget that I can arrange things so that no one will see Dean’s face, or yours, Sam. I’m not sure I could fool them by pretending you’re a woman but still…”

“It will have to do. Whatever’s better for the baby,” Dean agreed.

“Well that’s settled, then. Now I have to plan a date. We can’t risk having you going into labor naturally, Dean, so I’m thinking about settling things two weeks before your due date. It’s safe for the baby and better than having to gather everyone at the last minute. And of course, we’ll do it at night.”

“You’ve thought about it a lot,” Sam said, unable to hide his ever growing admiration for the woman.

“Well, we can’t allow ourselves to leave things up to chance, for Dean’s health and the baby as well.”

“But…” Dean cleared his throat and glanced quickly at Sam. “What if she does have problems, after being born?”

“She’s healthy so far. However, sometimes, there are problems after the birth,” Rania explained gently. “There’s no way to tell. If something is wrong, I’ll have her transfer to a neonatal unit at Portsmouth General. I’ve been thinking about it and I can arrange a false transfer if I play it smoothly enough, and have you registered as her father.”

“Okay. That’s good”,” Dean sighed and seemed to relax a bit in his chair.

What if there’s something wrong with you, Sam thought but didn’t ask.

On the way back, both brothers were lost in their own thoughts. Dean kept brushing his hand against his swollen stomach and Sam wondered where the hell they would find five thousand dollars which, according to Rania, was the price the anesthesiologist would ask.

::: :::

Sam was surrounded by heat that was prickling his skin in the most enjoyable way. There was nothing else except the velvety sensation of pleasure washing over him in waves. He moaned, abandoning himself completely to his dream, then heard someone else answering him, some kind of guttural grunt.

Dean.

Sam opened his eyes, confused, and saw the darkness of their room softly lightened by moonlight. He was still hot. Sweat was pooling on his face and chest, and there was a weight resting on his hips.

 

“Dean?”

His brother was straddling him, completely naked, teasing Sam’s cock with light strokes. He looked as serious and thoughtful as when he was cleaning the guns.

Sam blinked a couple of times and glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand. It was almost midnight. He had gone to bed a couple of hours earlier while Dean was reading on the couch. His brother had been in a strange mood since they had been back from Rania’s: he had spent almost all his time in the shed (the place was now forbidden to Sam) and hadn’t eaten more than a few mouthful of his supper.

“Dean,” Sam repeated, giving an involuntary jerk of his hips.

Dean stayed silent and went on with the soft strokes. Sam was pretty sure he had been wearing boxers briefs when he had fallen asleep, and he was so worked up Dean must have been playing this little game for some time.

As his eyes were getting used to the darkness, he saw that Dean wasn’t really sitting on his hips: more like trapping them between his thighs. His ass was raised a bit and his free hand was behind his back. Dean was opening himself for Sam in rhythm with the strokes of his length. He was sweating too, and wincing from time to time as he kept moving his ass up and down, faster. There was a faint smell of lube mixed with precome in the room that went instantly to Sam’s shaft. He raised his hands and caressed Dean’s chest and hips, pressing him to go even faster, to jerk him off harder.

 

Dean still didn’t say a word when he suddenly stopped and rose to his knees, holding Sam’s cock with his hand and looking behind himself to line it up with his hole. He sat on it in a slow, easy motion, panting and frowning, until his ass was pressed up against Sam’s crotch.

“Holy fuck, Dean,” Sam groaned, trying to get his arousal under control, feeling his brother’s warmth all around him.

 

Dean shivered and gave a few tentative tilts of his hips. He then pressed both of his hands on Sam’s chest and started to move slowly, raising his hips and sitting back, almost bottoming out each and every time. All Sam could do was holding on for the ride, one hand stroking Dean’s thigh, the other clenched on the sheets.

Dean stayed solely focused on his movements, and the sight of him at that moment was something Sam promised himself to never forget. He was frowning lightly, his hair and face damp with sweat, blotches on his cheeks. He was biting his lower lips in a constant pressure, like he was determined not to let out a single sound. There was this strange androgynous aspect to his body: his square jaw and shoulders, the straining muscles of his powerful thighs, mixing with the femininity of his long, curved lashes, his plain pink lips and the soft curve of his swollen belly. His cock was pressed against his lower stomach, dark and leaking, the tip shining in the moonlight.

It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes before Dean picked up his pace, bouncing almost gracefully on Sam’s hips, and Sam knew he wouldn’t last much longer. The sensations were so intense that he couldn’t help the constant whispered curses that were slipping out of his mouth, and when his orgasm migrated from his belly to his balls, all he could do was to swear a bit louder before he let go, emptying himself inside Dean and shuddering helplessly. He could see through the haze of his pleasure that Dean had started to strip his cock in a frenetic motion as soon as Sam had come. He slowly opened his mouth, the crease between is eyes deepening, then suddenly, his head tilt backward and he froze, back arched, as his length jerked in his hand one last time before he began to come.

Dean shivered again, twice, and Sam was waiting for the next breath, for the way his whole body would jerk and shudder, but he seemed to be caught on the edge of his orgasm, and Sam, acting on instinct, pinched strongly the skin of his thigh. “Breathe, Dean.”

Finally, his brother let out an agonizing moan and collapsed on Sam, sobbing and panting. Sam brushed his fingers against his back, feeling the pressure of Dean’s baby bump against his own, flat belly, and thought that he could spend part of the eternity in this position and be content.

Then he realized that Dean’s sobs weren’t stopping and couldn’t possibly be the consequence of a really good and intense orgasm only.

Dean was crying. Not the few, carefully contained tears Sam had seen before. He was sobbing harshly, almost painfully, his face buried in the crook of Sam’s neck, his tears wetting his skin, and his whole body was tensed as if he needed all of it to be able to get his sorrow out.

This was the first time Sam saw his brother cry like that. He had been kind of waiting for it, after reading so many things about hormones fluctuating and mood swings during pregnancy. Still, he was shocked. To Sam, having his solid rock of a brother melting so suddenly in his arms, giving way to the flow of his emotions, was scary as hell, like his whole world was shattering in front of his eyes.

Nevertheless, he pressed Dean’s body against his and held him tight. “Hey Dean, what’s wrong? Come on, man. You gotta talk to me.”

Dean hiccupped and took a shuddering breath. “M’fucking scared” he rasped.

“About the C-section? Is that it? Don’t worry about that. I would be too, getting opened up and-”

“I’m not scared for me!” Dean snapped before breaking out into another guttural sob.

“Well, what is it then?”

“Freaking hormones. I’m…Damn it... If anything goes wrong… What if…? M’scared for her, Sam,” Dean moaned, and Sam felt his protective instinct crushing his heart, running through his veins like it had gained a life of his own.

“Hey, it’s gonna be ok. I won’t let anything bad happen to her. Or you. Never.”

Chapter Text

Hampton Falls, May 5

When Sam came back from work, he found a message on the kitchen table that read, ‘I’m down at the lake.’

It had been a hot day. At five o’clock, the sun was still beating down from a pale blue sky. Sam changed into a t-shirt and followed the path Dean had cleared. The trees were blossoming and it smelled like soil and chlorophyll. Sam felt good. The last two weeks had gone smoothly. Dean had spent lots of time working in the shed and seemed to be really enjoying himself. Their evenings were spent playing on the PSP or reading and watching old movies. They had never led a life so peaceful and, even if it seemed surreal sometimes, Sam intended to make the most of it.

If he could only find five thousand dollars, everything would be perfect. He and Dean had talked about it and had already mailed another false credit card application. They were waiting for it to arrive in a mail box two states over, but there was no way they could withdraw more than a thousand dollars without arousing suspicion. Sam would probably end up in some bar far enough from Portsmouth playing pool and poker; but neither he nor Dean were particularly fond of the idea of Dean not being there to watch Sam’s back. Sam wasn’t bad at hustling pool, but he worked better with his brother there.

The lake was small, surrounded by old trees and tall grass. Dean had found an old dock that had been buried under bushes and had cleared it. The place was isolated, but the brothers had discovered what could’ve been the foundation of a cabin south of the lake, a sign that it had not always been that way.

Dean was sitting on the dock, his legs stretched out in front of him, wearing only his maternity jeans and a t-shirt – something he rarely did when he was going outside of the house, just in case somebody saw him.

“Hey, Sammy!” he greeted.

He had a bowl in his hands and was licking a spoon. Ice cream. Lately he never passed a day without at least a bowlful. Thankfully, none of them were covered in barbecue sauce. It wasn’t a craving, Dean insisted. He had always loved ice cream, and Sam knew better than to argue with him.

“Hey. You okay?”

“You gotta come and see this.”

Sam slowly sat down next to Dean, facing the lake. He winced as he unfolded his long legs and heard his joints crack. Dean smiled playfully at him and lay back a bit, carefully balancing the empty bowl on his belly.

“What are you-”

“Shh! Look.”

 

Though Dean held as still as he could, Sam saw the bowl shaking lightly. It stopped, then shook again. And again, and again.

“She’s hiccupping,” Dean explained, still smiling.

“Wow.”

“I know, right? It happened once this morning and now, it’s been going on for like… ten minutes.”

“Can I touch?”

“Go on,” Dean sighed, taking the bowl off his stomach and rolling his eyes.

Sam pressed the palm of his hand against Dean’s stomach and felt the small tremors that were going through it. He smiled in awe, looking at his brother who was now blushing. He was about to pull his hand away when he felt it, a soft blow.

“Oh!” He said, and his first reflex was to remove his hand as though he’d been burned. “She kicked.”

“Yeah. It’s not like Captain Nemo anymore, is it?”

“No. Wow.”

Sam kissed Dean on the lips; they were warm and soft. When he pulled back, his brother’s eyes were carefully avoiding his.

“What’s wrong?”

“I wanna get on the road.”

“What?”

“Not like… permanently. I was thinking maybe a couple of days, Head up to Boston or down to New York, ya know? Like a hunting gig, without the monsters.”

“Ooo-kay. But I thought you were fine, working on the crib and all, that you weren’t bored.”

“M’not. It’s just… I feel a bit fidgety. And this is probably the last month I’ll be able to show myself in public and my belly is not big enough to really bother me and it’s spring and… yeah. I’d like that.”

Sam frowned. He felt secure here, with Dean, knowing that Rania was half an hour away if anything happened. He knew is brother was still far from his due date and that his health had been good since he’d shaken off his bronchitis, but still, Sam couldn’t help but worry.

It must have shown on his face because Dean coaxed. “Come on, Sammy. I’ll be fun. You have three days off next week.”

“I’m not sure.”

“Hey, it’s not like you can forbid me to go. I don’t need you to drive around.”

It was a low blow, but Sam let it go when he saw the silent plea in Dean’s eyes.

“Ok, but we plan this, and we find a decent motel, and we go to Boston. Don’t wanna be too far away from Rania.”

Dean pouted a bit. “Where’s your adventurous spirit, grandma?”

“Left it somewhere in Lousiana when I realized my brother was pregnant.”

“Shut up.”

But Dean was smiling.

::: :::

Sam waited until Dean was in the shower later that evening to call Rania. She answered quickly, as always.

“Sam, is everything alright?”

“Yeah. Yeah, Dean is fine. Great.”

“Ok, what can I do for you then?”

Sam explained Dean’s idea and heard Rania sigh. “I don’t see any problem as long as you guys take rest stops every two hours or so and Dean takes things easy, but I already told him all of that when he called me this morning.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. You should try talking to each other sometimes.”

“Right. Sorry to have bothered you.”

“No biggie,” Rania answered, a mischievous smile in her voice.

Sam hung up, feeling a bit like a jerk for not trusting Dean on this. At the same time, he was kind of proud to know his brother had had the same concerns and that he had actually taken the time to call his doctor before talking to Sam.

::: :::

Outside of Portland, May 1

It was a good day to be on the road. Clouds were hiding the sun, a warm wind was blowing and the temperature wasn’t too hot. Dean had decided to take the wheel first and they had sat in comfortable silence for the first hour or so. Dean had left his jacket and shirt open in the car and, once again, Sam could admire the protruding swell of his belly, tightening his t-shirt, barely constricted by his seatbelt. Dean was now halfway through his twenty-sixth week and had gained ten pounds, practically all restricted to his stomach area. His navel had popped out completely and the little bump it made was perfectly visible under the thin fabric of his shirt.

Dean was the first to break the silence as they drove along the highway. He turned off the radio and cleared his throat. “Sam, I’ve been thinking.”

“About what?”

“The baby’s name.”

“Come up with something?”

“No.”

“Wow. Good thinking, Dean.”

“Will you let me finish?” Dean growled, looking nervous and impatient.

“Yeah, go on.”

“Listen, Sam. I know you must have been thinking about it too but I… I don’t wanna name her Mary.”

Dean cleared his throat again, carefully keeping his eyes on the road. Sam realized this must be an issue for him, something he had been thinking a lot about. Of course, Sam had thought about it too, but more from Dean’s perspective, and had told himself that, if it was important to Dean to name their daughter after their mom, he would go along with it.

Now, of course, Dean was feeling guilty, like he was betraying their mother’s memory somehow.

“It’s ok,” Sam said.

“It’s just… I love her, you know that, but… With everything we carry with us… our past. I kinda want the baby to have a fresh start, you know? An all-new, fresh-and-crispy name”.

“Yeah, I get it.”

“And you didn’t want to call her Mary?”

“No, Dean. I get it. Really. Look, I love Mom too – probably not in the same way you do, because you got to spend four years with her, you remember what life was like before she died. Still, she’s my mom and I love her, but I like the idea of a name that won’t always bring us back to our past.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then.” Dean smiled and relaxed a bit.

Sam settled back and sighed, ready to let himself drift off to sleep. The Impala had always had that effect on him. The engine’s noise had been his personal lullaby for as long as he could remember. Just as he was feeling his eyelids getting heavier, Dean groaned. Then he started fidgeting in his seat, wincing slightly from time to time, and after ten minutes, he looked downright uncomfortable, jaw clenched and a pained expression on his face. Sam let it go until he couldn’t do it anymore.

“What’s wrong?

“Nothing.”

“Come on, Dean, if you’re in pain you-”

“M’not in pain. I just wish we’d find a rest stop or a gas joint somewhere.”

“Why? Do you need to stretch your legs?”

“No! I need to take a piss, that’s all,” Dean said with a mix of shame and exasperation in his voice. “Your daughter is like… dancing on my bladder right now.”

“Well, just pull over. It won’t be the first time you’ve peed beside a tree or on some bushes, dude.”

“I can’t,” Dean snarled very slowly.

“Why?”

Dean hit the wheel a couple of times with his hands, a dark blush creeping up his cheeks.

“Because I can’t do it standing up anymore, ok? There, are you happy now? For fuck’s sake, why do you have to know everything?”

“You can’t…?”

“Oh, don’t look so shocked! There’s this pressure when I try it and I’m having a hard time seeing my own freaking dick!”

“Hey. Calm down. We… Do you want me to drive?”

“No. M’trying not to move too much.”

They didn’t speak again until they finally hit a rest stop more than ten minutes later. As Sam waited for his brother to get back to the car, heavy rain drops started to fall and he felt the mood of the day changing, getting gloomier along with the weather. He wasn’t surprised when Dean opened the passenger door and demanded that he move.

“Dean, I wasn’t trying to upset you.”

Dean looked at him and tried for half a smile. “Not your fault, Sam. I’m ok
. I just wanna sleep a bit.”

And that he did, snoring loudly, saliva trickling down the corner of his mouth. As a matter of fact, Dean slept through the whole trip to Boston, until around three in the afternoon. He was woken up by horns honking as Sam tried to make his way through traffic downtown. Dean was grumpy and short-tempered. The first thing he did, after wiping the saliva off his chin, was to snap at Sam for letting him sleep too long (“You think I wanted to go on a road trip to freaking sleep in the car?”). He only calmed down when he saw the sign for a restaurant where he claimed he’d once had the best chicken wings of his life.

Sam was more than happy to stop. The place was crowded with people chatting loudly and watching a baseball game on the giant TV screens hanging from the walls. It smelled like beer and popcorn and deep-fry. The brothers took a table in a corner where they could watch the exits. Dean’s mood improved almost as soon as they were served the famous, extra-spicy wings. He ate as if he’d been fasting for the last week or so, licking his fingers and drinking big gulps of his double-chocolate milkshake. Sam slowly munched on the few wings he had managed to save from his brother’s appetite, watching the game and drinking the beer Dean had insisted he should order. “Hey, you’d drink one if I was. Stop treating me like I can’t control myself and have a beer.”

Sam had obeyed, and he was now feeling loose and relaxed. It didn’t even annoy him when Dean began to blow bubbles with his straw at the bottom of his glass. Sam just used an old distraction technique.

“So, Dean. We got what… two more months to go, right?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Because if you decide not to show yourself in public when June comes, we have some stuff to do beforehand.”

“You’re talking like I actually have a choice,” Dean replied, frowning.

“Well, as I’ve said before, I don’t think people will look at you and think about pregnancy.”

“You don’t think? That’s not good enough for me Sam. I can’t draw attention to myself. Could be dangerous.”

“I know that, but-”

“I won’t have this conversation with you again. What were you saying about stuff needing to be done?”

“All we have is one set of newborn pajamas. We need so many things and I don’t wanna shop for them all by myself. We should make a list, for starters, and get ourselves ready.”

Dean winced. “I hate that depot store.”

“Maybe we could only buy the biggest stuff there, like the stroller and the baby carrier and the diapers. There’s a couple of smaller stores near my workplace where we could find baby clothes and-”

 

Sam was interrupted by a shout coming from the table just behind them where four middle-aged men were sitting. Judging by the number of empty bottles surrounding them, they were all more than a little drunk. The shout seemed to have come from the bald one, who must have weighted a good 275 pound. The guy facing him, a red-headed man almost as big, swore loudly and yelled back that the other wouldn’t dare to repeat what he’d just said.

Sam was watching them with irritation when the bald guy got up and pushed the table toward the red-headed one. Some people were already getting away and one waiter was calling for help. The red-head pushed the table back much more forcefully and it hit Baldy right in his large stomach. He tumbled backward, and Sam knew the man was going to fall on him if he kept going. He did, dropping on his back between the table’s corner and Sam’s thighs while his legs kicked empty air. Sam made a surprised “oof” and then helped the guy up.

“Get the fuck away from me,” Baldy groaned, pushing Sam on the chest.

It would have taken Sam about thirty seconds to put the guy in his place, but two waiters built like bouncers were already there, taking matters into their own hands and helping the whole table of drunks out of the restaurant. The manager came to apologize and offered to comp their dinner and whatever they wanted to drink. Sam smiled and sat back, turning toward Dean and waiting for a smartass comment about how he had managed to get his food for free.

He was surprised, then alarmed, to see Dean pale and sweating, pupils dilated in his green wide-open eyes.

“Dean, is the baby-”

“She’s fine. She’s fine, Sam. I just… let’s get out of here.”

“What? Why?”

But Dean was already up and moving. Sam threw a couple of bills for tip on the table and followed him outside. “Dean, wait? What’s going on?”

Sam almost had to run to keep Dean’s pace. His brother only stopped when he reached the Impala.

“Come on, Sammy, let’s go,” he said, unlocking the passenger seat and getting in.

Huffing in frustration, Sam got behind the wheel and closed his door impatiently. “Dean, what the hell?”

“I wanna go. Let’s go.”

“What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

“I’m not hurt, Sam!” Dean shouted, face tensed with anger. “I just wanna go. Will you start the freaking car?”

Sam groaned but did as he was told. He drove for a couple of minutes before saying: “I saw a decent-looking motel just outside of town.”

“No. No motel. Let’s head back home.”

“To Hampton Falls?” Sam asked in disbelief.

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m asking you.”

Sam glared at Dean and knew he wouldn’t get anything more out of his brother than he had already said. So he drove, getting out of the city and back on the highway as Dean looked out the window, one arm curled over his stomach, his lips reduced to a thin white line. As the minutes ticked by, Sam’s incomprehension slowly shifted to anger until he was having trouble breathing and staying focused on the road. When he saw a gas station up ahead, he left the highway and parked the car in a quiet parking spot near the cover of some trees.

“Ok,” he said, trying to sound as calm as possible. “We’re not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell happened back there.”

“Sam, let it go.”

“No. I won’t. I swear to God, Dean, sometimes you…”

“What?”

“I need some air.”

Sam got out of the car and walked back and forth in the parking lot until he trusted himself to be calm. He still couldn’t get back in the car, so he let himself drop down on an old wooden bench. Rain was still falling in small chilly drops carried by the wind. Some time must have passed because when Dean finally joined him, Sam’s face was wet and he had started shivering.

“Sam, come back to the car.”

“No.”

“It’s raining, damn it.”

“You tell me why we’re going home.”

Dean groaned in frustration and crossed his arms over his chest. “Because I don’t feel safe,” he finally said.

“What?”

“I don’t feel safe. I need… we need to get back, Sam.” Dean paused and sat next to Sam, looking tired and spent. And worried.

“Is it because of what happened in the restaurant?”

“Yeah.”

“Because of some drunken idiot who fell on me? I could’ve taken him if I’d needed to, you know that.”

“Yeah,” Dean whispered. “I know.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I saw these douchebags starting to fight and I knew they were close to us and it could get worse and then when the guy fell on you I… you know what I thought?”

“No.”

“I was freaking scared, Sam. For the baby. It didn’t even cross my mind that you could get hurt. All I could think was that I could catch a blow to the stomach, that I needed to protect myself. I couldn’t have your back.”

Sam shook his head and tried to make some sense of what his brother had just said. “What’s wrong with that? Of course you had to protect yourself and the baby. I’m a big boy, Dean. I can take care of myself.”

“Hate that,” Dean mumbled.

“I don’t understand. I’m trying, Dean, I swear. Why does everything have to be so difficult with you?”

“Because I’m fucked up. Because back there in the restaurant, I felt exposed and defenseless and scared and out of place. What’s left of me, Sam? Of the man I used to be, huh? I mean, have you looked at me? I’m grotesque. I’m a freak. “

“Yeah, well, welcome to the club.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“I know,” Sam snapped. “Still, what do you want me to say, Dean? You didn’t do anything wrong and, shit, you have to cut yourself some slack. It’s my turn to watch out for you. Why can’t you just accept that?”

“I don’t know,” Dean sighed, shaken by a violent shiver. “I… I just want us to get back home. I don’t feel good… or safe. Here.”

“Okay, let’s get back home. But Dean, you have to accept to give up some control here. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Yeah, well. It feels wrong.”

Dean slowly stood up and started to make his way back to the car, his arms wrapped around his waist. He looked thin and shallow from Sam’s perspective. A painful rush of love tightened Sam’s chest and throat. This was a defeat for Dean, failing to prove to himself that he was still the same and that nothing had really changed.

Of course, everything had changed, and for the first time in a couple of months, Sam considered their future with uncertainty. Could they really raise a child and lead a different life from all they had ever known? Would they make the same mistakes as their father?

On the way back, both of them were silent, but this time, it seemed heavy and sad.

::: :::

Portsmouth, May 15

The small store was quiet at this hour of the afternoon. A ringing bell announced their arrival and Sam saw Dean tense next to him, but he only had to nudge him for Dean to put on a wide, fake smile.

The saleswoman approached them with a smile as wide and fake, but her eyes were shining with greed. “Hello there. What can I do for you?”

“We know what we need. We’re good, but thanks,” Sam said.

“Well, I’ll be right over there if you need me,” she answered, pointing to the counter.

Her smile didn’t fade a bit, neither did Dean’s.

“Creepy lady,” he grunted when the saleswoman was back behind the counter.

“Dean, focus. There. The newborn stuff is at the back, let’s go.”

Sam pulled out a small notebook and a pen from his pocket as they make their way to the back. “Okay. First things first. We’ll need five newborn jumpsuits, buttons in the front. You get them, I’ll check.”

“Why do I have to be the one to choose them?”

“Because if I do, you’ll question every single one of my choices. There’s no way we’re reenacting yesterday’s mess.”

“Geez, what pulled your panties into a twist?” Dean grumbled, but he stepped forward to look at the jumpsuits.

Yesterday had been a nightmare even if both brothers had entered the giant baby store with the best intentions. Dean had suggested that they get everything done as soon as possible and, as the last few days had been hard on both of them, Sam was more than happy to comply. After they had come back from Boston, Dean had been quiet and withdrawn. He wasn’t exactly broody or short-tempered, just well hidden behind his defensive walls.

Of course, shopping hadn’t done them any good and they had soon started to get on each other’s nerves, lost in the vast aisles of the baby depot, trying to figure out what was essential and what wasn’t, facing so many choices every purchase had been a debate. Dean had been impatient and snappy. Sam could relate. When they had faced the baby wipes wall – yeah, a whole goddamn wall of them, he had exploded. “What the hell is wrong with the world, Sam? I mean, really. Aloe, rippled, hypo-allergenic, extra-large, extra-thick and… Fuck. What does it matter if there are teddy bears or butterfly patterns? They’re gonna end up covered in shit anyway!”

Dean’s tirade had gotten them offended looks from the other customers. In Dean’s defense, they had just spent fifteen minutes trying to figure out which pacifier they needed: silicone or rubber, orthodontic or not, for breast-fed babies, for premature ones. Some of them even came with some kind of vibration feature. And before the pacifiers, there had been the diapers and bottles.

They had finally managed to make it to the stroller aisles, choosing one of the hybrid things that served as a baby carrier and a car seat and could be clipped on the stroller. Then everything had gone to Hell. Dean had refused each and every single model Sam had suggested for ridiculous reasons (too pink; kitten patterns, really?) Sam had lost what was left of his patience when the most affordable and nicest model had provoked an eyeroll from Dean. “It’s too girly. Jesus Sam, all you’re missing is a pair of boobs!”

“At least I can still pee while standing up!” Sam had shouted back angrily.

Now there, there was attention they did not need. And although Dean had had it coming, Sam had whispered an apology and they had taken the stroller, leaving the aisle with two full shopping carts as quickly as possible under the judgmental eyes of a dozen costumers.

“There, done,” Dean announced, coming back from the aisle as Sam was still cringing from the memory. “Five bodysuits, buttons in the front.”

Sam looked carefully at them; there were two white, two light blue and…

“Dean. Did you actually pick out something pink?”

“Shut up. It was to stop you whining”,” Dean replied, color blooming on his cheeks.

“Yeah right. Now, we need four sets of newborn pajamas.”

“Ok. I’m still saying that they’re way too small.”

But Dean remained pliant and cooperative until the end and when they finally departed the store (leaving an ecstatic saleswoman behind) they had found everything from the list and were even shorter on money than yesterday. Their budget was looking worse and worse. Rania had called them two days ago to say that the Chinese anesthesiologist had agreed to do the job for three thousand six hundred dollars, instead of the five thousand originally planned – still, Sam would have to find the money eventually. They did have more than four thousand dollars stashed aside but they wouldn’t make it through the birth if Sam took the money from there.

Dean was less than enthusiastic about the idea of Sam going into shady bars to hustle pool all by himself, but he’d have to come to terms with it eventually.

It was hot and almost noon; the sun was shining hard. As they made their way back to the Impala, Dean, panting and sweating, finally gave up and unbuttoned his jacket. The street was busy. Nobody really paid attention to them and Dean was looking more comfortable. They were talking about the baby’s name – which they weren’t any closer to deciding - when a young boy, who couldn’t have been more than five, jumped in front of them, pointing a small finger toward Dean’s belly.

“You look funny,” he said sincerely.

Sam froze and took a quick look at his brother, whose mouth was gaping open like he wanted to say something but couldn’t figure out what.

“Did you eat a basketball?” the kid asked, and in his defense, he did seem worried.

“Yeah, totally,” Dean replied. “I was stuck on this desert island and there was nothing left to eat except my basketball and I was so hungry.”

“Dean-”

“What… What did it taste like?” The boy was starting to look a bit nervous.

“Barbecue flavor chips.”

“Really?”

“Killian! Come back here right this instant!”

The mother was a few feet behind them. The small boy ran to her, speaking excitedly. “Mom! This nice man was starving and he ate a ball! For real!”

“Let’s get out of here,” Dean whispered, walking quicker and closing his jacket once again. As they left, Sam could hear the mother severely scolding her son about not laughing at the poor fat man or making up crazy stories.

“That’s it,” Dean declared once he was settled behind the wheel. “See? That’s exactly what I was talking about. I can’t do this anymore, Sam. Now that we have everything we need, I’m done.”

“It’s a five year old kid, Dean. And you were the one playing Tom Hanks and Wilson.”

“What do I have to say to convince you, Sam? I don’t feel comfortable in front of people anymore. Is that so hard to understand?”

No, it wasn’t, hearing the pleading tone in Dean’s voice. Sam proposed a nice meal at a grill that was famous for its ribs the next day, as Dean’s last public appearance until the birth of their daughter. Dean agreed.

::: :::

They ate and enjoyed themselves that night, but as the evening went by, the restaurant got really crowded and Dean began to get nervous. Sam suggested they leave before desert, and Dean agreed immediately. They stopped by a supermarket to buy some Ben and Jerry ice cream and, once home, settled on old metal chairs on the porch of their house. The weather was nice and warm, the sky was clear and Dean was more than happy to let his jacket and Sam’s shirt go, showing the distended dark fabric of one of his old tees that was barely covering the maternity panel of his jeans.

“She’s kicking like crazy,” Dean said, dropping his gaze to his stomach.

“Can I?”

“Go on… Try… Wait…”

Dean put his ice cream bowl on the floor and took Sam’s hand, placing it a bit to the left of his navel and holding it there. Sam smiled, feeling the little blows against his palm, some sharper than others.

“Guess she likes ice cream. She moves a lot when I eat it.”

“It’s because you just ate supper and you’re digesting. She must feel and hear all sorts of stuff. Besides, you always eat ice cream so I guess that the probabilities are that-”

“Ok, ok, killjoy,” Dean sighed, pulling both of their hands off his belly. He looked at the thin fabric of his shirt in concern. “Guess I’ll need new ones,” he said, trying to pull on it. “These won’t fit me soon and they’re all misshapen.”

“I’m on it.”

“You better be. God, how much larger will I get? There’s still two months to go.”

“You haven’t gained a lot of weight so far. Your belly is small, compared to some mothers.”

“Anyway. Sam. I did the laundry this morning-”

“I know. Do you feel alright?”

“Shut up. So, as I was gonna say, I found this in the pocket of your jeans.” Dean took a piece of paper out of his jacket which was resting at his feet and handled it to Sam.

It was a list of girl names – one of many Sam had done while passing time at work when the store was quiet.

“Yeah, that was just for fun.”

“Those names are weird. Lux? Really?”

“Well I’m sort of running out of ideas and that was just to pass the time. I searched the internet and looked at some old books and those names… They’re supposed to have magical powers so…”

Sam shrugged. He hadn’t given it any deeper thought. He sometimes just liked an intellectual challenge.

“I know. I’ve look some of them up on the net. But… is the lore real or is it all bullshit?”

“I don’t really know. Some cultures seem to believe so. I’d say there’s a fifty/fifty chance.”

“Yeah well,” Dean looked at the list and scratched the back of his head. “I kinda like this one.”

Sam read the name. “Sumiko?”

“Huh-huh. It’s Japanese, right? You have to pronounce it Sue-mee-ko.”

“Err. Yeah.”

“And it means: clear, pure and thoughtful child.”

“You did some research.”

“Not on all of them… Just the names that weren’t too bad and besides, it’s kinda cool, giving her a name that could actually protect her. Because that’s what this one does, supposedly.”

“Yeah, according to the myth, if you give this name to a child, or if you inscribe it somewhere, nothing bad or evil can come close or touch it. It’s from an old Japanese legend about this poor needlewoman whose parents had promised their first grandchild to a witch. When the needlewoman gets pregnant, she seeks the help of another witch who gives her a magical piece of fabric on which the woman has to embroider the name Sumiko once for each pregnancy month. And when her baby daughter is born she covers her with the magical fabric which disappears on her skin, like a fusion or something. So when the bad witch comes to claim her due, she barely has time to touch the child before she bursts into flames and dies.”

“Oh. Nice story. So… about that name?”

“You’re serious, you really like it?”

Dean shrugged as if it was nothing, but Sam could see the uncertainty on his face. “We could call her Sue as a nickname. To make the name more… American, I guess?”

“Yeah… Sue Winchester. I kinda like it.”

“Really? ‘Cause we don’t have to.”

“No. I’m being serious, Dean. Sue. Sumiko Winchester. It sounds good.”

Dean’s smile was tentative. “So what? It’s settled, then?”

“I guess it is.”

To be honest, Sam wasn’t sure if he really did like the name, but the subject seemed important to Dean and after all, Dean was the one carrying the child. Sam figured that letting him choose the name was the least he could do. He was still trying to get used to it in his own head when Dean groaned and suddenly bent down, hands clutching at his stomach.

“Dean?”

“Holy shit… Fuck. Fuck, Sam. It hurts,” Dean moaned, short of breath.

“Is it a contraction?”

“How am I supposed to know?” Dean snapped in a raspy voice. “It… it kinda feels like last time.”

“Yeah, ok, I’m calling Rania.”

The next minutes went by in a blur. Then, once again, Sam was driving a bit too fast, looking into the rearview mirror way too often, as Dean lay back on the seat, in pain and scared. Sam was just as scared.

Chapter Text

Portsmouth, May 17

Dean fell asleep around midnight, curled on his left side on Rania’s hospital bed. The morphine injection had partially relieved him of the pain, but his face remained tense, even in sleep, and he moaned from time to time.

Sam sat on a chair next to the bed and watched him in concern. The baby had seemed perfectly fine on the ultrasound – she had been sucking her thumb and moving her legs almost lazily. Dean’s physical exam showed nothing wrong. Rania thought they were facing the same problem as before. There were still ligament and bone movements during the last trimester of a normal pregnancy, allowing the pelvis to get ready for the birth. All they could hope was that it wouldn’t last any longer than the first time.

“Hey Sam?” Rania whispered, entering the room. “I made some coffee. You wanna come and share a cup with me?”

Sam looked at Dean once again, hesitating.

“Come on. He’s gonna sleep for at least a couple of hours.”

“Yeah, okay.”

They sat in the living room and drank silently for a couple of minutes. Rania looked tired; she had spent part of the day taking care of a hunter who had been badly injured during a hunt and was still concerned about his health. “Vengeful spirit, particularly nasty,” she had said.

“I’m not worrying too much about your brother,” Rania said. “I’m worried about the way he hurts, but not about the pregnancy.”

“Yeah… Well, I don’t like seeing him like that.”

“Pretty understandable. He’s lucky to have you.”

Sam waved his hand dismissively. “He’s always been there for me, you know.”

“Sam…” Rania bit her lower lip and started to curl a strand of hair around her finger. “You know, since I discovered what kind of world we live in, I’ve come to realize what the word “evil” really means.”

“Yeah, I hear you.”

“I’ve seen things like… a little boy who had been possessed and whose body had practically been ripped to shreds. That’s evil to me, that’s wrong. Not… not two brothers loving each other a little more than they should.”

Sam’s hands started shaking around his steaming cup. He felt his throat closing on itself and swallowed loudly. “Rania. You… Listen, I… Fuck. He sold his soul for me. He’s… Dean is the only person who has always been there and I know it’s fucked up but it works for us. It-”

“Hey, calm down. You don’t have to justify yourself. I’m not judging here.”

“And we thought we hid it so well.”

“I’m your doctor. I’m seeing Dean under special circumstances, where he’s vulnerable and feeling like everything is out of his control. It’s hard to hide one’s feelings in that kind of situation. The way he’s always seeking your eyes, the concern you show on your face. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman but yeah, I figured it out pretty quickly.”

“Bobby doesn’t know. Nobody does.”

“And I have no intention of spreading the news. As a matter of fact, I never would’ve brought it up if I didn’t have some… medical concerns.”

“About what?”

“Are you the father of Dean’s child?”

Sam blushed and bent his head. “Yes. Yes, I am.”

“That’s what I thought. Sometimes, when siblings or even barely related people conceive a child together, there’s a chance that-”

“Oh my God. Consanguinity,” Sam whispered, feeling suddenly light-headed. “It hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

“Relax, Sam. Inbreeding is really not like what we see in movies. To have a degenerate generation, the inbreeding must have been going on for many years in an isolated region. In your case, it just means that Dean and you share a lot of the same genes, so if there’s a genetic disease running in your family, the baby’s chances of developing it are slightly higher.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t think there’s any particular diseases running in our family but there could be. Our mother’s family are all dead and we don’t know a lot about our father’s.”

“That’s why I wanna run some blood tests with the both of you.”

“Yeah. Okay… but maybe we could start with me. If you don’t find anything, you won’t have to test Dean’s blood, right?”

“Right.”

“I don’t want to give him anything else to worry about if we don’t have to. He tends to hold himself responsible for everything in our lives, even when he doesn’t have any control over it.”

“Yeah, I get it. Deal. I’ll test you first, but only if you promise me something.”

“What?”

“I don’t want you to worry about it either. You have enough stuff on your shoulders right now. All we’re talking about is probabilities and statistics for now.”

“Okay, I’ll try.”

Rania smiled warmly and patted Sam on the knee. “I’m sure your daughter will be perfectly fine.”

Sam couldn’t tell if it was only because he was tired, but hearing Rania acknowledging him as their baby’s father brought him ridiculously close to tears.

::: :::

The pain lasted longer this time – five days, to be precise - but it went smoother. Dean obediently received his morphine shots, and after three days, the pain had subsided enough that he could switch from injections to pills, and Sam could go back to work. Sam had waited for him to get a little better to tell him Rania knew about them, and Dean had reacted better than he would’ve thought. “What can we do about it, huh? Hey, by the way, this doesn’t give you the right to get all touchy-feely with me when she’s around.”

On the fifth day, when Sam got home from work, he found Dean showered and waiting for him in the living room, still pale but looking relieved and steady. He must have lost a couple of pounds during the last few days but, all in all, he looked better.

“So, how do you feel?”

“Better. Still sore, but I haven’t had any morphine since this morning. I think the worst is over.”

That night, Bobby called. Dean couldn’t bring himself to talk to him and Sam did his best to keep his story straight and spare their friend as much as he could. He could tell Bobby was still suspicious but he had apparently decided to cut them some slack.

They went to bed early. Sam helped Dean up the stairs on slightly shaking legs and had very inappropriate thoughts while keeping his hand on Dean’s ass. Their sexual activities had become less frequent as Dean’s pregnancy had progressed, and Sam had to admit to himself that he missed it. The second trimester horniness that some books and internet sites talked about didn’t affect Dean, apparently. Or maybe his embarrassment about his body balanced the hormone’s effects. Either way, Sam found himself jerking off in the shower more and more often.

And he knew that tonight Dean was in no state to do any kind of physical activity, but as he watched him lying down on the bed, one hand over his belly to keep a better balance, he felt a rush of desire flowing through his veins and thought that maybe…

Sam slowly lay down next to Dean, brushing his fingers against Dean’s thigh and kissing the patch of skin below his ear.

“Sam…”

“Look, I know you’re still hurting but I was thinking you could let me do all the work. I could start by blowing you and-”

“Sam, please stop. I can’t.”

“Okay, alright, m’sorry,” Sam answered, careful to keep his tone as neutral as possible. He didn’t want to sound like he was blaming Dean.

“Oh, geez, don’t be like that. Now I feel like some blushing virgin.”

Sam rose on his elbow, smiling. “Don’t worry. I will never, ever, mistake you for a blushing virgin.”

“Shut up. It’s not that I don’t wanna. It’s just… It feels strange… down there.”

“What kind of strange?”

“Strange,” Dean repeated, rolling his eyes and blushing a little. “Like… the skin is kind of numb and I don’t know… it tickles, inside.”

“Where exactly?” Sam asked, a sudden thought blossoming in his head.

“Oh, for the love of…” Dean raised his arms in annoyance. “My perineum. Just below my balls. There, you happy?”

“Can I take a look?”

“What? No!”

“Dean. It’s not like I’ve never see what you’ve got down there.”

“It’s not the same thing. I don’t want you looking at me like some kind of perverted gynecologist.”

But Sam had already turned on the light and was sitting near Dean’s hips, tugging on the waistband of his briefs.

“Sam.”

“Dean. Humor me. I just want to make sure everything is alright.”

“Everything is alright, Sam. M’still sore, that’s all.” Dean groaned, but at the same time, he lifted his hips, allowing Sam to settle between his legs. “But please, go on, have an eyeful,” he added sarcastically. “This is so humiliating.”

“Raise your knees.”

“Sure thing, doc”,” Dean went on, but did as he was told, covering his face with his arm.

That’s when Sam stopped breathing. Because, as he had vaguely guessed, there was a major change in Dean’s physiology down there. The perinea skin was swollen and red and, right in the middle, there was a thin opening about two centimeters long.

Of course, Sam thought, biting his bottom lip hard. The curse had been incredibly effective so far. Why would it have made all those changes to allow Dean’s body to create and carry a baby if said baby wouldn’t be able to be born naturally?

“Dean, don’t panic, okay?”

“Why? Why shouldn’t I panic?” Dean asked, eyes wide, rising on his elbows.

“There’s… it’s like…I…it’s an opening of-”

“No.”

Dean fought to sit up, pushing Sam with his legs and trying to pull up his boxer briefs all at the same time. When he finally succeeded, he stood up, short of breath and looking shocked. “No,” he repeated, like he wanted to convince himself somehow.

“Dean, it’s not really like a v-”

“Don’t say it! Sam don’t you fucking dare.”

“Look, it’s like everything shifted a bit and-”

“Shut up!” Dean shouted, gasping for air. “I don’t wanna have that conversation. Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit!”

“We need to call Rania.”

“I don’t want this! You hear me?”

“Dean, calm down, you’re gonna hyperventilate.”

Dean gulped another enormous breath before sitting down. He bent forward a little, then froze and cursed. “And now I can’t even put my head between my legs anymore. Fuck.”

::: :::

Sam was pacing nervously in front of the curtain Rania had drawn around the exam table. He reminded himself of an anxious father-to-be, and had to bite the meat of his thumb to repress an inappropriate laugh.

“Shit!”

“Does it hurt?”

“No. Cold.”

“Ok, Dean. Deep breath.”

There was a pause, then a grunt, then Rania was talking again. “Yeah, okay. I’m almost done. You’re doing good. Feel that?”

“Yeah.”

“And that?”

“Definitely. Ok, that hurt.”

“I’m done. Wait, I’ll get you a towel.”

A few minutes later, Rania stepped out from behind the curtain and went to wash her hands in the small bathroom nearby. Then it was Dean’s turn to appear, his tee half pulled down, swaying slightly as he passed in front of Sam, pointing a finger at him: “You, not a word.”

“I didn’t-”

Then Sam caught sight of the gynecological stirrups added to the exam table and he did shut up. They joined Rania at her desk where she was writing quickly in Dean’s file.

“So,” she said after a while. “We know what the pain was about this time. It’s a birth canal and it seems perfectly functional.”

“Oh my God,” Dean whispered.

“What does that mean? Will he be able to give birth naturally?”

“Yes, I believe so. I was able to touch the cervix.”

“Holy shit,” Dean rasped.

“So what now? Shouldn’t you continue to plan on a C-section? Isn’t it safer?”

“I feel sick,” Dean announced in a choked voice.

“Of course it’s not safer. Sam, I’m not gonna risk a surgery in less than ideal conditions, exposing Dean and your baby to infection if it’s not necessary.”

“M’gonna be sick,” Dean said, getting up and trying to run to the trashcan next to the exam table. He fell on his knees and started to retch violently, holding himself on one arm as his other was bearing the weight of his belly. Sam knelt beside him and helped him into a steadier position.

“Fuck,” Dean groaned between dry-heaving. “Fuck, Sammy.”

 

“Take it easy.”

Dean’s body was hot and he was shivering. Rania settled next to him and put a wet towel on his neck, patting him softly in the back. “Come on, Dean. It’s okay, just your nerves acting out. Deep breaths.”

Dean vomited one last painful time, a long trickle of bile that had him moaning in discomfort. Sam helped him sit down and wiped his face with the washcloth as Rania put a glass of water into his shaking hands.

“This is a freaking nightmare.”

“Dean, the idea didn’t even cross your mind?” Rania asked gently.

“Yeah, it did, for about one second back when you told me I had a uterus. And then I buried it very, very deep inside and promised myself to never think about it ever again.”

Dean wiped his mouth with his hand, then frowned. “You thought that it could happen.”

“Yeah. I did. I mean, the curse is very powerful.”

“Thanks for sharing, by the way.”

“Dean, calm down,” Sam warned.

“Oh yeah, easy for you to say when you’re not gonna be the one pushing a baby through your all new va-… Ok. Not going there.”

Dean was still sweating profusely. He sighed from the bottom of his lungs, then frowned. “Huh. Feels strange.”

“What?” It was Rania’s turn to frown.

“My belly… It’s like… hardening.”

“Does it hurt?”

“No it’s just like the muscles are tensing a bit?”

Rania put her hand against Dean’s stomach, and Sam couldn’t help but to do the same, surprised to find the muscles pretty strained, more than when he himself would do push-ups or sit-ups. It was different.

“It’s a Braxton-Hicks contraction,” Rania announced.

“Those false ones?” Dean asked and surprised Sam again with all the information he had gathered by himself.

“Yes. They’re going to happen from time to time until the birth. It’s like the uterus is practicing for the real deal.”

“How am I gonna tell the difference?”

“Trust me, you’ll know. The real ones will be much more powerful, and they’ll hurt.”

“Personal space, guys,” Dean said, looking down at his belly where Rania and Sam’s hands were still lying.

Sam shook himself out of contemplation and stood up, helping Dean at the same time but keeping him close. He still seemed unsteady on his legs.

“I can’t do that,” Dean announced simply. “M’sorry, Rania but I can’t. Can’t freaking push a baby out of me.”

“You can and you will, Dean.”

“Sam, you gotta tell her.”

Sam shrugged. He was starting to get used to the idea and an endless list of questions was popping up in his mind. Besides, it’s wasn’t exactly like Dean had any real choice here. “Dean, women have been doing it for thousands of years.”

“Exactly. Do I look like a woman to you? Wait, you know what? Don’t answer that.”

::: :::

Dean sulked for two days, refusing all of Sam’s attempts to talk about the actual birth and locking himself in the shed for hours at a time. After that, things slowly went back to normal, but Sam often noticed a fearful and distant look on Dean’s face when he didn’t think Sam was watching. Sam didn’t blame him. He tried to imagine what he himself would feel like if he was in Dean’s situation, but just couldn’t.

Sam was now gathering all the info he could get his hands on about labor and delivery, the signs they should watch for and the progression of it. Now that a C-section wasn’t scheduled anymore, there was no way to predict when Dean would actually go into labor and so they would have to deal with the element of surprise. Rania could give Dean some Pitocin to trigger the cramps, but she didn’t like the idea. The curse has been following its own course and obviously knew what to do and she didn’t want to mess with it. She stated that she would use the synthetic hormone only if Dean passed his due date or if his own health, or the baby’s, were at risk.

She would deliver the baby alone. There was no need to involve other people for a natural birth and besides, it would be complicated as she couldn’t tell when Dean would go into labor. For the same reason, they wouldn’t use the clinic for the delivery. Rania said she could do it home. She had already planned to get equipment and supplies from the clinic and to enlist Sam as her assistant if she needed an extra hand. They planned a meeting later, at the beginning of June, for Rania to go over every medical procedure she would perform during the labor and delivery and what she would ask of Sam if she needed too. Dean had not been happy with the fact that Rania didn’t want him to be there, but she had refused to change her mind. “You do not need any more reasons to worry than you already have. I want Sam to be ready for everything. You’ll be in labor, Dean. You’ll have yourself and the baby to take care of.”

So there, they were settled. And as the last week of May flew by, Sam found himself more and more excited at the idea of actually seeing his daughter, holding her into her arms. And despite all the worry and uncertainty, he felt happier than he had in the last four years.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, June 2

 

When Sam woke up that morning, it was almost ten and the sun was shining brightly through the curtains. He wasn’t surprised to find himself alone. Dean was now almost thirty weeks pregnant and the last trimester’s symptoms and side effects were starting to manifest. He had trouble finding a comfortable position while sleeping, and as the baby took more space, his stomach was compressed and he often suffered from gastric reflux when lying down. His bladder was compressed as well and he had to go to the bathroom at least two or three times a night. He would wake up already tired, Sam could tell, even if Dean didn’t complain as often as Sam would have expected. His weight gain had reached fifteen pounds on Rania’s scales during their last appointment and his gait was beginning to show the strain his body was exposed to. He was slower and less graceful, his back was slightly bent backward, and his feet were more apart than usual, which was probably the most obvious change given Dean’s usual bow-legged stance. Sam had found himself shocked by these changes even more than the actual expansion of Dean’s belly. He didn’t know why and, of course, would never tell Dean, but seeing his brother losing the feline grace he had always possessed – and of which Sam had always been a bit jealous - was unsettling.

Sam walked downstairs and started the coffee maker before making his way to the living room where he could hear the TV. He found Dean watching Young Frankenstein, his back propped up against the couch’s arm in a half-sitting position. A bowl full of strawberries was balanced on his belly.

“It’s a baby, you know, not a shelf,” Sam greeted, snatching a strawberry from the bowl and settling himself on the floor near the couch.

“Can be both,” Dean answered without taking his eyes away from the screen. He was already dressed, Sam noticed, wearing his now tight and worn maternity jeans and one of the new tees Sam had bought him in the sporting goods section of a store – the fabric was light and stretchy. Sam was kind of proud of his purchase.

Dean had sawdust in his hair and on the bottom hem of his pants.

“You worked on the crib this morning?”

“Yep.”

“Did you get any sleep at all?”

“Course I did. Shut up. This is the best part.”

They watched the end of the movie together, Sam sipping at his coffee and Dean going through another bowl of strawberries before drinking a whole liter of apple juice. When the movie was over, they sat side by side on the couch in a comfortable silence. God, it was a luxury to be lazy; to be allowed to be, at least, Sam thought, stretching his legs and arms.

“Yeah, I know, you’re awake,” Dean announced, looking down at his belly where the perfect semi-sphere was suddenly disrupted by a series of waves before a big bump showed on the left upper side. Dean hissed but smiled as the bump slowly disappeared and his belly returned to its usual shape.

“Holy fuck, Dean, are you ok? What was that?”

“Nothing. I mean, she was moving, obviously.”

“Is that normal? Did it hurt?”

“Well it did feel uncomfortable when she pushed on my bladder but dude, calm down. She’s getting big and she’s like… pretty acrobatic. Nothing wrong there.”

“That was-”

“Your face is like… white as a freaking sheet. Sensitive much?” Dean asked, smiling maliciously.

“Hey, maybe she turned.”

“Maybe,” Dean said, brushing his fingers quickly over the small bump of his navel.

Their daughter had still been facing left with her head up and legs toward the birth canal when Rania had checked during their last appointment. It was still early but she would eventually turn to prepare for the birth, legs upward and head down.

“You know,” Dean said, looking serious all of sudden. “If she was born now, she’d have a good chance of surviving, given the appropriate care.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And that could happen, I mean, a lot of things could happen or, ya know… not go as planned.”

“Ye-ah.” Sam wasn’t sure he liked the way the conversation was going, given Dean’s avoidance of his eyes. “What… are you worried?”

“Well, for her, yes, of course I’m worried. I’ve thought about all of this, and I know Rania is already getting the birth certificate ready, just in case.”

“Dean, what is it?”

“Your name should be listed on it. As the father. I mean, obviously you are but officially, I want your name to be on the papers, not mine.”

“Why?”

“Sam. It’s a freaking magical pregnancy and I’m a man and we don’t know. What if? What if she needs intensive care and I’m not… Well, not ok and… You’ll have to go to the hospital with her.”

“No.”

“Sam….”

Your name is gonna be on the birth certificate and anyway, we won’t need it because she won’t be born prematurely and you’ll be all right.”

“Come on, man, m’trying to have a serious conversation here. It’s not like we know for sure that everything’s gonna be ok,” Dean tried again, but Sam was shaking his head furiously, refusing to go there.

The last months had been so intense, so strange, like they had been dropped in an alternate universe. Sam felt too close to his own feelings to think about what would happen if-
No.

“We do as we said, Dean. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

Dean sighed but didn’t insist. Instead, he slowly rose on his feet, swaying a bit as he had trouble keeping his balance, and winked at Sam.

“Got something to show you.”

“What?”

“In the shed.”

“You finished it?”

“Gave it the second coat of varnish this morning. You can’t touch it yet; it won’t be dry.”

Sam followed Dean to the shed, more than curious to finally see what his brother was capable of. He saw him hesitating a bit near the door. “Okay so, I want the truth. No wow, nice try, or it’s very original. If it’s ugly, you say it’s ugly, we clear?”

The crib wasn’t ugly – of course it wasn’t, but Sam was still surprised to see how beautiful it was. The wood was light colored and the lines were simple but somehow very graceful. The feet rested on two rocking boards that curved softly inwards. The most impressive part, however, was the protection symbols delicately carved into the wood all around their daughter’s name, which was carved in tall letters into the crib’s headboard.

“Dean, it’s beautiful,” Sam said in amazement.

“The flip side of the base plank there, where we’ll put the mattress, is salt-coated. And there’s iron filings too. The varnish is like child-proof and non-toxic or something.”

“I had no idea you were this talented.”

“Come on, shut up,” Dean said, uneasy.

“I’m being serious here, man.”

“So, I guess you like it?”

“Yeah. I do. Can’t believe you did that. It’s like professional work.”
Sam wrapped his arm around Dean’s thickened waist and pressed a kiss on the side of his head, laughing when Dean fought to free himself, accusing him of being a giant sap. Still, Sam could tell he was pleased and proud of Sam’s reaction to the crib, under his macho and underestimated act.

::: :::

Portsmouth, June 10

The meeting started with Rania bearing good news for Sam. She had received the final analysis of his blood sample and could confirm that he hadn’t inherited any genetic diseases. Sam barely had time to feel relief before Rania took him in the exam room and started talking about the birth.

She took her time, showing Sam everything she would use during the baby’s delivery, from the nasal suction bulb designed to clear the baby’s airways to the fetal heart monitor and the surgical pliers to cut the umbilical cord. Sam felt uneasy and a bit light-headed when he saw the forceps shining coldly under the exam room’s florescent light, but he managed to keep himself together. They finished with the baby incubator which had already been moved from the clinic. Then, they kept talking as Sam wrote everything Rania said in a notebook, while they sat next to each other on the hospital bed.

“What we’re doing tonight, you know it’s just precautions, right Sam? Hopefully, everything will go smoothly enough and all you’ll have to do is take care of Dean. I just like being prepared, you know?”

“Yeah. But still. I like being prepared too. I wanna be able to help if you need me.”

“How does Dean feel about all of this?”

“I don’t know. Every time I try to talk about it he cuts me off. I did see him reading some stuff, though, but… it’s hard, for him. Picturing himself doing this and dealing with the most recent changes to his body.”

“I get that.”

“He won’t let me anywhere close to him, not since...” Sam blushed and shook his head. “Huh. You did not need to know that.”

“Sam, I do know that children aren’t born in a cabbage patch.” Rania laughed and patted Sam on the thigh. “Still, our next appointment is three days from now and I’ll have to talk to Dean about the labor and delivery. He needs to know which signs are an indication of the beginning of labor and what he’ll need to do during the birth. I wanna teach him some breathing exercises to help him through the contractions.”

“I don’t think dealing with the pain will be a problem. We’ve had our fair share of injuries over the years and our Dad emphasized developing a high pain tolerance.”

Smiling as if she had a secret, Rania twisted a strand of hair around her finger. “You men are all the same. Listen, I don’t have any doubt that Dean is tough and well-trained to deal with pain but a delivery hurts, Sam. Not only does it hurt, but it’s really intense, physically speaking. It can last for hours, and that’s enough to break anyone, no matter how well-trained he is. So you’ll need all the tips and advice I’m gonna give to you, trust me.”

“I didn’t mean that women are any less-”

“I know. Relax. Feeling a bit nervous yourself?”

“Freaking terrified,” Sam answered sincerely. “What if… what if something happens and we can’t get here in time?”

“That’s why I want you to know everything there is to know. As a precaution. You know, the average duration for a first natural birth is about sixteen hours. It’s nothing like the stuff you see on TV, where the mother-to-be is alright one minute and screaming her head off the next. It could be different with Dean, but I don’t think it will be.”

“Wow. Sixteen hours.”

“Yep. So, no real worries there but I’ve managed my schedule to be sure I won’t be too far away or unable to leave work. I gave my hospital duties to a colleague and I’m on vacation from July third ‘til the second week of August. Anyway, if Dean should have premature contractions I have some I.V. meds here that can stop them, but I don’t think that’ll happen since the curse has been so efficient from the beginning. And, starting from the beginning of the thirty-seventh week of pregnancy, I’ll be available night and day.”

“Why is that? I mean, what is it about the thirty-seventh week?”

“Officially, the baby is considered as having reached its maturity at that point. Women that go into labor after the thirty-seventh week are not given drugs to stop it. We just let nature follow its course.”

“But it’s… the thirty-seventh week is like… four weeks from now or so?”

“Yes, given the official due date, it puts you guys at the beginning of the second week in July.”

Too close, Sam thought. He wasn’t ready; they weren’t ready. They would never really be, even if the pregnancy lasted for two years, he realized. Rania was looking at him with a playful spark in her dark, beautiful eyes. “Everything is going to be fine, Sam.”

::: :::

It was the middle of the afternoon when Sam finally got back from Rania’s. The weather outside was hot, the air charged with humidity. Sam had stopped on the way to buy one of those giant Slurpees Dean had always been found of, even if he knew his brother would probably be asleep. The heat was hard on him. There was no air conditioning in the house and, even if the tall trees surrounding it kept the worst of the heat outside, Dean would still start to sweat mid-morning. He was prone to getting short of breath as well because of the pressure the uterus was putting on his lungs, and his ankles would start to swell whenever the temperature got higher than seventy degrees. He had no energy to get through a day without taking a nap or two - falling asleep on the couch most of the time, because Dean Winchester did not take naps. It was a matter of perspective. And vocabulary.

Sam entered the house quietly and froze. He could hear a woman screaming at the top of her lungs. Dean, he thought, putting the Slurpee on the floor and taking his knife out of his pocket.
The guns. They were all locked up in the basement except for the one they kept in the kitchen. Shit. The knife would have to do, Sam resolved, cringing as he heard the screams getting louder, more desperate.

“Dean!” he called, feeling a cold fear crawling under his skin. He was in the living room without remembering having walked there, ready to slaughter anything or anyone that was in their home, menacing his brother and their child.

Sam froze for a second time, then sighed in relief, realizing what he should have the minute he entered the house if he hadn’t be so stressed by his meeting with Rania.

Dean was sitting on the couch, a bowl of popcorn balanced on top of his belly, watching something on the internet. That’s where the screams were coming from. Closing his knife and putting it back in his pocket, he circled the couch to sit next to his brother, surprised when Dean didn’t acknowledge his presence in any way and that the popcorn bowl was still full, as though not a kernel had been eaten. As a matter of fact, Dean had the strangest look on his face; a mixture of atonement and incredulity.

The screams reached another agonizing level and Sam finally turned his attention to the video Dean was watching. It wasn’t a horror movie, as he’d first thought. It was a BBC documentary featuring a woman in labor. The poor mother-to-be was sweating and panting on a hospital bed, surrounded by nurses, a doctor and her husband, who looked half amazed, half terrorized. The woman’s screams were muffled as a deep and clinical narrator’s voice took over. “At this stage, the contractions are longer and stronger. Diana is exhausted. She’s been in -”

“Dean, I really don’t think you should watch this,” Sam warned, unable to keep his eyes away from the screen.

“She’s been in labor for twenty hours, Sam, and she still isn’t fully dilated,” Dean said, in a somewhat dreamy voice.

“Dean-”

“She refused to have an epidural sooner and then she asked for it a couple of minutes ago, but they can’t. She’s too close to ten centimeters. The poor woman is like… out of her mind.”

“Got you a Slurpee. Sour cherry.”

“Not thirsty. Not hungry either. Want some popcorn?”

Dean handed the bowl to Sam and frowned in concentration as the doctor examined the woman. He then announced that the dilation was complete and that Diana was ready to push.

“Finally,” Dean said, clasping his hands together. “Thought the poor girl would never get there.”

“I really don’t think you should be-”

“Sam,” Dean snapped impatiently, “I’m the pregnant one, not you. I’ll have to deliver your daughter, so stop trying to spare me or to decide what I should or shouldn’t know.”

 

There it was, the irritation and reproach behind Dean’s words. He obviously still didn’t understand why Rania had insisted on meeting Sam alone. He felt rejected. Of course Dean would. So Sam stuffed his mouth full of popcorn and watched as the narrator explained how the expulsion phase worked.

The mother’s screams shifted after that, becoming lower, almost like growls, as she pushed through the contractions, face a deep shade of crimson, all her muscle shaking. That’s when the camera shifted and they got a closed-up view of the baby’s head slowly coming out from the woman’s distended vagina.

“Holy fuck,” Dean whispered, eyes going wide. “No way. There’s no way a baby can through there. It’s too small.”

“The body is made for this,” Sam answered in a thin, unconvinced voice because shit, Dean was right. The woman was most probably going to be torn apart.

“Why don’t those assholes help her instead of telling her to push like a retarded choir?”

“What do you want them to do?”

“I don’t know, fuck. It’s the twentieth century and we can travel to the moon but a poor woman has to give birth like that? Holy Christ, look! The head is stuck! She’s gonna burst, Sam. She’s-”

“It’s out, Dean”,” Sam said in sync with the narrator.

“Oh god, does the baby have a deformity or something? Why is he grey? He’s dead, right? Why does the damn doctor keep saying everything looks fine?”

“He’s not breathing yet, that’s why he looks bluish.”

Then the woman gave another push and the shoulders were free. At the same time an impressive quantity of pinkish liquid was released and splashed onto the bed sheets.

“Sam, you were right. It was a bad, bad idea to watch this,” Dean said, shutting his eyes.

“Oh my God, Dean. Look. The baby’s out. You gotta look.”

A small bundle covered in fluids and blood was wriggling and wailing between the doctor’s hands as the mother and father held each other, smiling. The husband started to cry and kissed his wife’s forehead with adoration. It was this perfect Hallmark moment, and Sam was totally caught up in it.

“He’s alright,” Dean whispered as if he was trying to convince himself. “He’s not blue anymore.”

“Wanna turn it off now?”

“Huh. Yeah.”

Dean wriggled his hips until he was close enough to the edge of the couch to stretch out his hand and close the computer’s screen. He turned and looked at Sam, letting out a loud breath.

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“Your body will know what to do, Dean.”

“Yeah right. But what if it’s not enough? What if the curse has it all wrong and the baby gets stuck in the birth canal or something?”

“If Rania is confident enough to go with a natural birth, she won’t get stuck.”

Dean bit his lips, looking uncertain and still scared by what he’d just seen.

“Don’t wanna screw this up, Sam.”

“You won’t.”

“How can you be sure? What if I hurt her or…?

“You won’t, Dean. That’s how babies are supposed to be born.”

“From women, not cursed men.”

“I’m not worried. You’ve been taking care of me all my life and you’ve changed and accepted so many things since the beginning of the pregnancy. I trust you. You gotta trust yourself.

“Yeah but – Ah! Holy…”

Dean looked at his belly, wincing in pain as the form of his bump suddenly changed, all of it shifting left, rippling, irregular waves distorting the skin. “I think she’s turning,” he groaned, holding his breath.

Sam couldn’t help but put both of his hands on Dean’s belly, feeling the baby’s movements as she kept twisting and shifting. He could actually feel what had to be a foot pushing against his hand. Dean’s whole belly shifted as their daughter finally settled, giving the semi-sphere shape a slightly different look then before as it stuck out a bit more in the middle and was less round near the hips.

“Dean, are you ok?”

“Yeah,” Dean said, taking a deep breath. “It kind of hurt, though. She definitely turned.”

"You think?” Sam asked, laughing nervously. “That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, and felt.”

Dean gave him a thoughtful look and put his own hands over Sam’s in a rare acceptance of their physical bond together with the baby. “Well, at least one of us is ready for the birth,” he said with affection. And it was as if the baby had choosen this particular moment to turn, like she’d want to reassure Dean somehow.

It seemed to work.

Chapter Text

Hampton Falls, June 20

“Come on, hold my hand.”

“Stop talking to me like I’m retarded.”

“Sorry.”

Dean stepped slowly into the water, jaw clenched and lips reduced to a thin white line. He was shaken by an involuntary shiver as the cold water reached his knees. He tightened his grip on Sam’s hand and stopped, taking a deep breath. His cheeks were red and his too-long hair was drenched in sweat. So was the white tee which was clinging to his body. It was two in the afternoon and the temperature had reached ninety degrees.

“Wanna move forward a bit?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

It had taken Sam some time to figure it out and he knew he was still walking on eggshells. The weather had been particularly hot for the past week and Dean had been miserable, unable to stay under the sun, fighting the swelling of his ankles as the weight he had gained really started to bother him. All in all, he had only put on twenty-two pounds, which was fairly reasonable, but he had to deal with water retention as well. Since the baby had turned, Dean’s uterus had gotten a couple of centimeters lower, releasing the pressure on his stomach and lungs but putting his center of balance further in front of him. He now had the typical walk of an heavily pregnant woman, his back arched and his feet spread wide, one of his hands often resting on the back of his hip to help him keep him balanced. Sam thought it was cute – not that he would ever tell Dean.

Dean had been complaining about the weather (with reason - Sam had been too), drinking a lot, eating less, and having trouble sleeping. He and Sam had tried different things to relieve him and what seemed to work best was having him sit outside away from the sun with his feet in a bucket of cold water.

Then Sam had thought about the lake. The first thing Dean had said was that they didn’t know if the water was clear enough for them to bathe in it. Besides, maybe the bottom of the lake was full of old rusty junk and dead trees and stuff. Sam had bought a home test to analyze the water, which was clean enough, and had circled the lake, wearing old boots to protect his feet. He had been pleasantly surprised to find that the lake’s bottom was, for most of it, covered in sand and water-washed stones. In the deepest part, the water only reached his shoulders and Sam had really enjoyed swimming in the cold, clear water, thinking of all the good it would do Dean.

Still, Dean had refused to go with him, pretending back aches and tiredness and that he’d never liked to swim anyway. But Sam had seen the uneasiness in his eyes and had realized that Dean was scared. Scared because he was becoming slower and clumsier. He felt like his body was betraying him – that much he had told Sam after he had almost fallen down the stairs one evening.

Dean was now in the water up to his hips and was slowly beginning to relax, eyes bright under the sun, his freckles standing out on his reddened skin. Today had been particularly hard on him and Sam had pleaded the lake’s cause until Dean had finally given in, looking embarrassed and irritated and so, so tired Sam had almost regretted his insistence.

He didn’t anymore, feeling Dean’s fingers releasing a bit of pressure against his and looking at his hesitant smile as he finally found some relief from the hot weather.

“Okay, this is awesome.”

“Told you so.”

“Yeah, well, you don’t have to carry a baby while enjoying your swim so shut up.”

Dean let go of Sam’s hand and pushed himself forward, trying for a couple of swim moves, then ducked his head under the water, still moving forward. Sam walked next to him, ready to be there if needed. When Dean awkwardly resurfaced, steadying himself on his feet, he was still smiling, water drops shining on his face.

“Can’t get to the bottom,” he said, spitting some water in Sam’s face. “My belly… it’s like a natural swimming ring.”

Without waiting for Sam’s answer, Dean kicked off to float on his back, slowly moving his feet to remain in a perfectly horizontal position, his baby bump exposed to the sun. Sam couldn’t repress a laugh at that somewhat absurd image.

“Shut up,” Dean said indifferently. “M’not getting out of here till she’s born.”

They stayed at the lake for the better part of the afternoon, walking slowly back to the house afterward. The wind had started to blow, bringing promises of rain and colder weather. Dean started shivering in his wet boxers and t-shirt once they were inside. “Thought I would never feel cold again,” he said, angling his head to be able to look at his feet. “Hey, my ankles actually look like ankles.”

“You should go put on some dry clothes.”

Dean rolled his eyes but disappeared from the kitchen. When he wasn’t back fifteen minutes later, Sam walked upstairs. He wasn’t surprised to find his brother sleeping on top of the comforter, only wearing a pair of thin cotton pants. Sam bit his lips, trying to ignore the desire flowing through him. Again. He and Dean hadn’t done anything even close to sex since Dean’s birth canal had appeared, and Sam hadn’t pushed things. Still, sometimes his need was so overwhelming he had to physically restrain himself from touching Dean.

His brother woke up around seven that evening, looking rested for the first time in a week. He was obviously in a good mood and Sam was confident enough to propose a car ride to an ice cream parlor as soon as the sun set, which Dean accepted as long as he was the one to drive.

Sam didn’t say a word as he watched Dean contorting himself to settle behind the wheel. The Impala was an old car, not really built to accommodate different shapes of drivers. Even with the front seat pushed back as far as it would go, Dean couldn’t possibly be comfortable. Not that he would ever admit it.

The ice-cream parlor had a drive-through service. Dean got this monstrous banana split with extra of everything that was available. Sam, more classic in his tastes, went with a simple strawberry ice cream cone. They drove to a quiet spot in the parking lot under the cover of trees. The rain hadn’t started yet, but thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance.

“I hope this turns out to be the storm of the century. I wish it’d rain until the end of July,” Dean declared around a mouthful.

“Yeah, that’s what we need – a freaking flood.”

Dean shrugged and continued with his food orgasm, accompanied by indecent moans and grunts until nothing was left in his plastic cup. Then he squirmed on his seat and huffed. “Really, Sue? Hiccupping, again? Come on, give your dad a break,” he said, patting his belly.

“You talk to her like that often?”

“Well, I’m stuck home all day long. And it’s stupid, I know”,” Dean added, blushing a bit.

“Not it’s not. It’s cute, actually.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake, Sam,” Dean said, visibly irritated.

A young family, making the way to their car, passed nearby. The father was carrying a toddler sound asleep on his shoulder and the mother had a young baby in a carrier strapped across her chest. The baby was wriggling and crying loudly under the mom’s soft whispers. Sam watched them as they walked by the Impala and tried to imagine what his and Dean’s life would be like six months from now. He turned his head toward his brother and saw that he was probably doing the same thing, expression serious and thoughtful.

And then Sam’s eyes were drawn to Dean’s grey t-shirt and he saw two darker circles, each about the size of a quarter, blooming on his chest.

“Huh. Dean.”

“Wha?” Dean asked distractedly. Then he frowned and looked down at his chest. “Hey, why am I…? Oh. God. I’m freaking leaking, Sam!” he added, sounding completely mortified.

“It’s probably the baby crying. I’ve read that it can trigger the milk ejection reflex.”

“Fuck. Let’s get out of here.” Dean pulled his shirt over his tee to hide the milk spots as best as he could, then turned the key in the ignition.

They drove for all of five minutes before he hissed suddenly.

“What? Dean, what?”

“Nothing, m’fine. It’s just another false contraction.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Aw, hell, I feel all sticky and wet.”

“Want me to drive?”

“We’re almost there. I’m fine.”

But Dean didn’t seem fine. He had experienced Braxton-Hicks contractions almost every day for the last two weeks and was starting to get used to them. Rania had given them some tips to ease them. The easiest one was to remain well hydrated – Dean had no trouble following that advice. If he was to have more than one contraction in a short period of time, he had to lie down on his left side until it stopped. So far he’d only had to do that once. Still, he had never had this painful look on his face and this, added to what had just happened at the ice-cream parlor, got Sam worried. At thirty-five weeks, the baby would probably be fine, but still considered a preemie. She would need hospitalization, even if only for a few days.

Sam’s brain was still working frantically when they got home. The thunder was growling and rumbling but there were no signs it would rain any time soon. As Dean slowly got out of the car, he stopped and held onto the Impala’s roof.

“Holy…” he mumbled, putting a hand under his belly.

“Dean? Are you okay?” Sam ran around the car to join him and took his arm. Dean didn’t push him away.

“Yeah, I’m… it… it doesn’t hurt, Sam. It’s just like… contracting harder, I guess? Okay. There. It’s over.”

“Come on. You gotta lie down,” Sam ordered, dragging him toward the house.

Dean shook him off. “Calm down. It wasn’t a real one.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, I’m not sure!” Dean snapped nervously. “How can I be? Never been pregnant before, ya know?”

Dean was close to freaking out and Sam took it upon himself to remain as calm as possible. Inside the house, his brother took his time removing his t-shirt as Sam got him a new one. Then he obediently lay down on his left side on the living-room couch. Sam forbade himself from hovering and sat on a chair nearby, a book opened on his thighs – like he was actually going to be able to read.

“Okay there’s another one,” Dean announced a few minutes later.

“What?” Sam literally jumped off his chair, startling Dean, who gasped.

“What the hell is your problem, dude? You really want me to go into labor tonight?”

“I’m sorry, really, Dean, I am. How bad is it?”

“It’s not bad. There’s just some pressure. And she ain’t moving that much. She usually does around this time of the day.”

“Gonna call Rania.”

Dean rose on his elbow, frowning. “Really? Don’t you wanna wait? It’s only three freaking false contractions.”

“You’re not even sure!”

“Damn it, Sam, don’t yell at me!” Dean yelled back.

“I’m calling Rania,” Sam said, pulling his phone from his pocket and ignoring Dean’s angry glare.

As usual, Rania answered on the first ring. She listened to Sam’s incoherent babbling for less than twenty seconds before she asked to talk to Dean. Huffing in frustration, Sam handed the phone to his brother, who snatched it with way more strength than necessary. The conversation wasn’t long, and all Sam could hear was Dean’s hun-hun, yes, no and okay. He hung up and sat down slowly.

“What? What did she said?”

“She said it may be the beginning of labor.”

“Oh God. She’s gonna be fine, you know. Sue. It’s… At thirty-five weeks the fetus is-”

“Sam. I know that. Rania said that if this was really it, she’d try to stop the contractions with some drug, just to give the baby a little more time. She wants us to bring everything we’ll need like it’s the real deal. And she’s waiting for us.”

“Damn it, I didn’t even pack the bags, yet. Okay… Okay, you stay there and, try to relax or whatever, I’ll make a quick trip upstairs and I’ll be back in five minutes, I swear.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Sam, calm down, dude. You’re all red and sweaty. Do you want me to give you a hand or-”

“No! I mean…. No, thanks. Stay on your left side and watch the time if there’s another one, okay.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

Dean was so calm it was almost frustrating. Sam ran upstairs and packed everything he could think of in one of their old duffles until there wasn’t any space left. He flew down the stairs and saw that Dean was sitting on the bench near the door, trying to tie up his shoes.

“What are you doing here? I asked you to-”

“Are we going or not? Come on, help me out. Can’t bend down enough to do this.”

Sam did as he was told, forgetting that he was holding the duffle around his shoulder. Following the movement, it swung down hard, barely missing Dean’s head.

“Fuck, Sam, what the hell?”

“Oh. Sorry. Are you okay?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Let’s get outta here.”

Sam wanted to hold his arm, for which he received a deadly glare. It lasted for all of half a second, before Dean froze on the last step of the porch and hissed.

“Another one? Dean?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s been like… eight minutes. Come on, we gotta go.”

Sam was already dumping the bag in the backseat when he realized that Dean hadn’t moved from his spot. He ran back to him. “What’s going on? Dean?”

“Kinda hard to walk when your belly is all hard and constricted. Give me a minute, Sam, and for God’s sake, calm down. You’re making me dizzy.”

“Does it hurt, this time?”

“I told you, I don’t know! Would you give me some space and shut up for a second?”

Dean was pale and tense.

Sam knew – he knew - that he was slowly but surely becoming hysterical. Even as he tried to get a hold of himself, searching his head for lists and information and statistics that all gave Sumiko a pretty good chance of being born totally healthy, it was like the words and numbers didn’t mean anything anymore. As he settled himself behind the driver’s seat, keeping quiet to give Dean a breather, his hands were shaking badly and he had sweat dripping in his eyes. The Impala’s tires screamed as they bit the pavement and he pressed on the accelerator while Dean held onto the dashboard.

“Sam, slow down.”

“What?”

“Slow down, you’re gonna crash us. M’serious.”

Dean was. Deadly serious, as far as Sam could tell. He slowed down and apologized.

“They’re probably not even real contractions, Sam.”

“Yeah, you’re right, totally. I bet you that we’ll be back home in a couple of hours, huh?”

Too much enthusiasm, Sam thought. He tried for a reassuring smile and felt like a grinning maniac.

“But ifit is the beginning of labor,” Dean went on, “There’s something I want you to know.”

“Dean, don’t do that.” Sam gave him a long, steady look, hoping that Dean would see the plea in his eyes.

“Look at the road, Sam.”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“So, as I was saying-”

“Everything’s gonna be fine. There’s nothing to say. You’re gonna be fine, the baby’s gonna be fine. Thirty-five weeks is not even-”

“Will you stop interrupting me, you ass!” Dean snapped. “Fuck, I wanna tell you something and you’re gonna listen to me, alright?”

Sam nodded and braced himself.

“I’m glad,” Dean said, tensed and uneasy. “About what’s happened.”

“Huh?”

“The curse. I know it’s been hell and that I haven’t been easy to deal with and I’m still freaked out about what my body has become, but still. I’m glad my body decided to interpret the curse this way.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t regret it. Guess that’s what I’m trying to say. Whatever happens, I don’t regret it. It’s fucked up and… we barely know what we’re doing… I mean, what are we gonna do after she’s born and how are we gonna explain her presence to the people we know? We’ve barely talked about it, havn’t make any decisions, and it’s freaking scary. M’not even sure I’m gonna be good enough of a dad for her.

“Dean-”

“Still. I’m glad. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else right now. That’s it, m’done. You can go on with your freakout.”

Sam had at least a dozen things he wanted to say to Dean, but didn’t get the chance because his brother tensed once more.

“Another one?”

“Yep.”

“Do you need-”

“Keep your hands on the wheel for Christ’s sake!”

::: :::

Dean fell asleep around ten, the baby monitor still strapped around his belly. He’d had his last contraction as Rania was settling him on the examination table for a gynecological exam, more than an hour ago. Sam had decided to stay with him, even if the view of Dean’s legs spread, his feet trapped in the stirrups, was a bit disturbing. He kept his eyes on Dean’s face and held his hand. To his surprise, Dean had pressed it back in return.

The cervix had remained completely closed and there were no signs that it was actually working to start expanding. After that, Rania had installed the baby monitor, a small round sensor that could measure the baby’s heartbeat as well as the mother’s, and the strength of the contractions. There hadn’t been a single one, and the heartbeat had remained steady.

“It was just Braxton-Hicks contractions?” Dean had asked.

“Probably, yeah, but there’s no way to tell. I wanna keep you here a couple of hours just to make sure.”

As relief had swamped Sam, Dean had blushed, looking awkward. “I knew it wasn’t the real deal. I’m sorry we bothered you for this, Rania.”

“Shut up, don’t be stupid,” Rania had said severely. “This isn’t a game, Dean. You better call every time something like this happens. You’re a pregnant man and I’ll be alone to deliver the baby. We can’t take risks, so stop saying dumb things, please.”

She had looked almost angry and Dean, visibly impressed, had nodded obediently. Rania was still a mystery to Sam, but he had no doubt she was the best thing that had happened to them after the curse.

Now, he and Rania sat at her desk and drank a beer in a comfortable silence while Dean snored loudly. The rain had started to fall half an hour back and the thunder was deafening as lighting strikes flashed into the room almost constantly. Even from inside, Sam could tell that the temperature outside had cooled down.

“So, I’m pretty satisfied with your brother’s physical exam,” Rania stated as she went through her notes. “I didn’t tell him because he hates when I talk about the V word but the birth canal has gained another couple of centimeters. It’s pretty close to what you would find on a woman.”

“Oh. Good.”

“Yes. You did the right thing, bringing him here, Sam. I want Dean to tell me everything that’s going on, okay?”

“I’ll make sure of it.”

“And maybe you could try to be a little less stressed with all of this.”

Sam lowered his eyes, feeling shame warming his face. “I did get a bit hysterical.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Rania smiled. “You were nervous, which is completely normal, but it affects your brother, that, I can tell. Earlier, each time you asked a question or raised your voice, I could see Dean’s heartbeat accelerating. You guys are so close. He’s very sensitive to your state of mind. And I know, Sam, that he won’t say it or express his own fear because he just can’t. He relies on you to keep him together.”

Sam couldn’t repress a laugh. He swallowed a gulp of beer and brushed his hair out of his face, feeling nervous and fidgety. “So strange, hearing you saying that. It’s always been the other way around, ya know? I’m the little brother. Our father brainwashed Dean at a very young age with all his ‘watch out for your brother, Dean’ crap until Dean started acting like he himself wasn’t worth someone looking out for.”

Rania looked at him from under a long curly strand of hair. She seemed younger, sweeter like that. “Well I guess it’s your job to prove him wrong. But I’m not really good as a relationship counselor so…” She waved her hand dismissively and drank from her beer bottle.

“I don’t know about that, but you’re doing one hell of a job as a supernatural obstetrician.”

“It’s always easier to understand what women – and in this case, your brother - are going through when you’ve been through it yourself. When my daughter was born, I-”

Rania froze in shock, mouth wide open, as the color drained from her face. Sam saw tears pooling in her eyes as they reflected pain and sorrow.

“I didn’t know you had a daughter,” Sam said, because he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“I don’t,” Rania said abruptly. “Not in this life anyway. It just slipped. I’m sorry, Sam.”

She kept looking at him, nonetheless, like she was waiting for Sam to ask for an explanation. Maybe she did want to talk about it.

“Is it about the Djinn?” he questioned tentatively.

“Yeah, what else?”

“Dean was attacked by a Djinn a couple of years ago. It took him some time to get better and come to terms with what he’d seen.

“Took me a year. Sometimes I think I’ll never make my peace with it.”

“I found him less than two days after he had disappeared. Somehow he had realized, in the Djinn’s wish world, what was happening to him and he made the decision to come back. Maybe that’s why he had less difficulty letting it go.”

“I was almost dead when Carter saved me. I’d been captive for five days, but in the Djinn’s world, it seemed like many years had gone by. I had wished my family was still alive and they were. I mean… We’d all immigrated here together and I was so goddamn happy. The confusion I felt at the beginning disappeared, and it was like my real life had been nothing but a strange nightmare. I studied to become a lawyer, met a man… everything. I mean, I remember the smell of his after-shave, the way he would smile at me. I remember the trouble we had conceiving our first child, Samar, our daughter. And then we had a son. Salim. It was my life, you know? I was sleeping and cooking and working and raising my kids and… I was so, so angry when I finally had to accept that it had all been a dream. Took me a long time.”

“It must have been hard.”

“It still is,” Rania rasped, wiping the tears pooling in her eyes. “I can’t have them back because they never existed, but all of that – a career and a family, a loving husband… all of that, I’m not interested in it anymore, because I already had it.”

That explained so much, so many aspects of Rania’s cold approach and character, and her apparently lonely, well-ordered life. Sam was still trying to find the right thing to say when the young woman stood up, taking the two empty bottles with her.

“I have some paperwork to do. Call me if anything happens.”

::: :::

It was almost midnight when Sam and Dean finally got back on the road, under a still raging thunderstorm. Rania had prescribed Dean a lot of rest and to avoid any tiring or physically demanding activities. She had also advised him to avoid salty food and beverages, because he was still plagued to a high degree by water retention. She also told him to sleep whenever he could. “That goes for you too, Sam. A newborn does not have the same sleep patterns as you and I so you’ll need all your energy to take care of your daughter.”

Dean was quiet. Despite the rain, he had opened his window and was looking at the night, one hand resting on his belly. Sam was quiet too, thinking about Rania’s imaginary life and the strangeness of the reality they were living in. After a while, Dean cleared his throat and turned toward him. “So.”

“So what?”

“I don’t know, Sammy, you look tense.”

“Listen, Dean. This… tonight, this was like a rehearsal of the real thing.”

“Huh. Yeah, I guess.”

“Let’s say… I’m not so proud of my performance.”

“Oh, come on, Sam. Why do you have to think everything through?”

“I was supposed to be the calm and reasonable one, to reassure and support you and…”

Dean mumbled that he wasn’t a freaking girl. Sam ignored him.

“And I had all this planned in my head, you know? But the first thing I did was freak out and worry you, then I pissed you off, then I drove too fast and then I was a bundle of nerves, hovering around Rania and asking way too many questions. I opened the duffle I packed before we left, and guess what?”

“What?”

“I didn’t put any diapers in the bag, but I did pack all the freaking jumpsuits and the five baby hats. And I didn’t bring anything for you, not even a change of clothes. But - and I don’t know how it got there, I swear - there were four pairs of socks – my socks, by the way.”

Sam wasn’t even finished with his sentence before Dean was laughing out loud, head tilted backwards. He actually had to blink tears of hilarity from the corners of his eyes.

“Yeah, that’s stupid,” he agreed finally, still snorting. “But hey, Sam, it’s kind of reassuring, in a way.”

“Reassuring? That I apparently became an idiot the second I thought you were in labor?”

Dean turned to look at him, an affectionate, soft smile tugging at his lips, and that was an expression Sam rarely saw on his face. “No, you dork. Since the beginning of all this, you’ve been like in full-geek mode 24/7, reciting those goddamn books you must know by heart by now. Seeing you like this tonight, not acting like a walking encyclopedia but as a normal human being, it kind of made me realize that I’m not the only one totally messed up by this.”

“You’re not. I mean, yeah, okay, maybe you’re a little messed up - anybody in your position would be. But you are ready, Dean. I could see it in your eyes, on your face. You’re ready for this to happen and I’m not.”

“Well. I suppose, being pregnant and all, that it’s easier for me. It’s with me all the time, you know? I can barely think of anything else. The hormones are making me ready.”

“Anyway. I need to be prepared. I need to feel ready.”

Dean snorted. “Try carrying a twenty-pound bowling ball around for a whole day. Bet you’ll feel ready after that.”

Sam smiled, then started to make new lists in his head.

::: :::

The next two weeks went by quietly, almost peacefully. Sam had reduced his working hours at the bookstore to spend more time at home. As the due date got closer, he didn’t like to leave Dean alone for long periods of time. If anything happened, it wasn’t like his brother could ask for anybody’s help. The people Sam worked with all thought his mysterious, never-seen brother suffered from an even more mysterious illness, as Sam had needed to take time off quite regularly ever since he’d been hired. It wasn’t as if he’d said anything to mislead them, but this vagueness worked perfectly for him.

Dean couldn’t do much, and even his macho pride slowly disappeared because he just couldn’t keep it up anymore. He was exhausted and clumsy, needed Sam’s help more and more often. The very act of getting up was becoming a challenge, as he had to work with the weight of his belly and do strange gymnastics to keep his balance. He walked very slowly, held onto the banister to go up and down the stairs, and was constantly short of breath. Although their swimming sessions were good for him, he had to give them up because the lake was too far and the path leading to it uneven and slippery at some points.

The only position he was comfortable enough to sleep in was on his left side with a pillow stuck between his legs. Even then, he wasn’t able to sleep more than three or four hours at a time, and more often than not, Sam would find him asleep on the couch in the morning, half sitting up, covered with the Impala’s old blanket.

All of those things should have made him grumpy and short-tempered, but Dean seemed to accept it with philosophy. Even if he did try again and again to tie his shoes by himself when he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it. Why he continued to pretend, Sam didn’t know. And if a backrub felt great and eased Dean’s pain, he didn’t deny himself the pleasure just because it belonged in the touchy-feely category of Things Dean Winchester Doesn’t Do.

He was different. He would rub his belly more often, even in Sam’s presence, like he didn’t even notice he was doing it. And he seemed more withdrawn, focused on something Sam couldn’t be part of. Sam had read in some books that it happened sometimes during the last trimester: the mother-to-be would feel the need to focus all of her energy on herself and her unborn child. It was part hormonal, part psychological, sometimes so strong that the father would feel excluded, even jealous. Sam wasn’t. He was fascinated by the changes Dean was going through. One evening, Sam had found his brother in the guest room on the first floor where all of Sumiko’s clothes and stuff had been put away. Dean had been sitting on the bed, looking at the pajamas one by one before folding them back, eyes far away and dreamy.

The first couple of days in July were particularly hot and hard on Dean. He was throwing up at least twice a day, could barely keep any solid food down and had to rely on Jell-O and orange popsicles. The fourth of July brought a soft, warm rain. It was still hot but manageable. Sam and Dean spent the day destroying zombies on the PSP and watching a Buffy marathon. That evening, they heard the fireworks far away in the cloudy sky and celebrated by sitting on the porch in the still hot, humid night, eating ice cream and fresh watermelon. It had been a good day. Sam would always remember it.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, July 5

Sam woke up early to the sound of the rain falling against the roof and on the trees. They had left the window open when they had gone to bed last night and a cool wind was blowing through the light curtains.

Unsurprisingly, Dean wasn’t in bed with him. Sam found him sitting on the porch wrapped in the Impala’s blanket. He was watching the falling rain peacefully, enjoying the fresh air. His eyes were clear in the morning light, despite the dark circles underneath them.

“Hey,” Sam greeted, sitting next to him.

“Hey.”

“Did you get any sleep?”

“Yeah, a couple of hours,” Dean said, voice a bit gruff.

“How’s your back?”

“Not bad.”

Sam bent down and pressed a kiss on the top of Dean’s head. “M’gonna make some breakfast. What do you feel like?”

“Fruit. And maybe a coffee?”

“A coffee?”

“Well,” Dean said defensively, “you told me one cup was okay and I don’t know, I feel like it.”

“No, it’s okay. It’s totally okay. Just surprised me, that’s all.”

“Help me up?” Dean asked, presenting his hand to Sam.

“Yeah.”

Dean didn’t even pretend anymore that he didn’t need Sam’s help. He let his brother pull him up, groaning as he tried to balance the weight of his belly by arching his back. “God, can’t wait for her to get out,” he sighed.

“Just a couple more weeks.”

“Yeah well, feels like a freaking eternity to me.”

While Sam was cutting oranges and pears, Dean made one of his numerous trips to the bathroom. When he came back, he was frowning and looking uneasy.

“Don’t freak out, okay?”

Sam dropped his knife. “Dean, if you don’t want me to freak out, don’t start your sentence with ‘don’t freak out’.”

“Think I lost this thing that’s supposed to block the uterus’s entrance.”

“What, the mucus plug?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I see?”

“No! I flushed it down the toilet. Dude, it’s just some slimy red thing. It’s disgusting.”

Sam tried very hard to remain calm. “You know what Rania said about that? It’s a sign that the labor is coming but can sometimes happen a week – even two - before it actually starts.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“But still, I’ll call her.”

“I was sure you would say that.”

Sam was already in the living room, looking for his cell. Rania confirmed what he had just said, but asked him to watch Dean closely. There was no need for them to come for an exam.

Sam hung up and called the bookstore where he was supposed to work from nine to five, and took the day off. Dean watched him from the living room, a cup of coffee in his hands, looking slightly irritated.

“I can watch over myself, you know.”

“I know.”

But Dean didn’t protest more than that and Sam thought he could see a flash of relief in his tired eyes. After breakfast, which he barely touched, Dean went to take a shower and Sam took the opportunity to go through the duffle he had refilled when they had gotten back from Rania’s two weeks ago. That time, he had made a list, and he had placed the packed bag strategically in the closet near the entry. He checked everything once more, then went to their room to look at the crib.

The baby would sleep in their room. There hadn’t even been a discussion about it. The small mattress was in place, covered with a thick light green baby blanket. Sam picked up the small stuffed elephant that was sitting in a corner of the crib and smiled. He had chosen it himself – even Dean had admitted that it was (kind of) cute.

Sam went downstairs to start a thorough house cleaning. If Dean was to go into labor today, or tomorrow, Sam wanted the house to be clean when they got back home. He was sorting the clean dishes in the cupboards when he heard a noise upstairs and went to check on his brother.

Dean was sitting on the edge of the bed, hair still wet from the shower, his maternity jeans on. He was in the middle of putting on a t-shirt with slow, tired motions. His belly was tense, looking more imposing without any clothes to cover it. Even though Dean’s appetite had been less than great for the last couple of weeks, he had still gained three more pounds, practically all in his belly.

Before Dean had the chance to pass the tee over his head, Sam saw a couple of thick yellowish drops sliding from his nipples. He decided, cleverly, to keep his mouth shut.

When Dean had finally succeeded in dressing himself, he stood still, eyes glassy, and yawned.

“Hey, why don’t you lie down and try to sleep a bit.”

“Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea how much effort it took just to get dressed?”

Sam sat behind him on the bed and started massaging his shoulders. Dean moaned in contentment. “I’ll help you undress. Come one, Dean, you look exhausted.”

To Sam’s surprise, Dean nodded and arranged himself on the bed, lifting his hips to let his brother pull down his jeans. He twisted to the side as Sam pulled the comforter over the both of them. They settled side by side, spooning, with Sam being the big spoon as Dean couldn’t do it anymore even if he’d wanted to.

“So, comfortable?”

“Not bad,” Dean mumbled, and yawned again.

Sam put his hand over the swell of his belly – which Dean allowed more and more often as his due date got closer. He rubbed it a bit, sliding his hand down until it was below his brother’s hips, and was surprised to feel Dean’s length curled upward against his stomach, hard and barely constricted in his boxers. Dean hissed. “Sam, don’t. Please.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. There’s this pressure that won’t go away.”

“Did you try to… you know, jerk off?”

“Kinda hard to find a comfortable position to do it,” Dean said awkwardly. “And huh… it hurts.”

“Want me to do it?”

“Sam, we’ve talked about this. I don’t want you anywhere near my… thing. Don’t like it.”

“I get it, Dean,” Sam said softly. “But I don’t need to go anywhere near your v… your thing. We don’t even have to move. Let me use the lube and I’ll just lower the waistband of your boxers in the front, and then jerk you off, what do you say?”

Sam wasn’t even thinking about sex while making his proposal. Dean did seem pretty uncomfortable, and an orgasm would probably put him to sleep for at least a couple of hours. When Dean didn’t answer, Sam took the lubricant from the nightstand drawer and resumed his position, lowering the sheets to expose Dean’s crotch.

“Let me do this, okay?” he asked again, pulling the boxers down under Dean’s swollen, engorged balls. Dean shivered and groaned in discomfort when Sam’s hand brushed against the tip of his shaft, almost purple and covered with precome.

“Go slow, okay?”

“Yeah.”

Sam slicked his hand and warmed up the gel before closing it gently over Dean’s cock.

“Fuck, it hurts,” Dean moaned, but lay very still. “Sam, I need…”

“S’okay. I got you.”

Sam started a very slow motion, careful not to put any pressure near the head. After a moment, he felt Dean’s tension ebbing away and risked a soft brush of his thumb over the tip of his cock. Dean cried and buried his face into the pillow, his entire body shaking with need. Sam accelerated the motion, kissing his brother’s neck and mumbling nonsense in his ear as his other hand rubbed his back.

“M’close, please, Sam,” Dean sobbed into the pillow, starting to move his hips in sync with Sam’s hand.

“Yeah, that’s it, Dean. Getting there. Gonna feel so good after that,” Sam hushed, adding a twisting motion each time he reached the head.

Dean’s back arched suddenly, and then he was coming, panting and groaning as Sam coaxed him through his orgasm without letting go. He only stopped when he felt his brother’s length softening, although the shivers that were coursing through his body took a long time to subside.

“There,” Sam said, valiantly ignoring his own aching need. “Better?”

“Ngff,” Dean answered as he slowly got his breath under control.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

Sam got up to fetch a warm washcloth from the bathroom. When he came back, Dean hadn’t moved a bit and his eyelids were already getting heavier. He let Sam wash him, blinking lazily, then pulled his boxers back up.

“M’leaking again,” he said almost indifferently, and Sam saw new wet spots growing on the t-shirt he was still wearing.

“Want me to get you another tee?”

“No. M’too tired to move.”

Sam settled a pillow between Dean’s legs and pulled the blankets over him as his brother let sleep take a hold of him.

“You know I love you, right?” Sam whispered, looking at Dean’s relaxed face.

“You adore me,” Dean corrected in a slurry voice, and Sam smiled.

Dean slept for three hours straight.

Chapter Text

Hampton Falls, July 5

Sam was folding the laundry, humming to himself, when he heard Dean’s heavy footsteps behind him. It was almost eleven in the morning, the rain wasn’t showing any sign of stopping, and the house was clean, smelling of disinfectant and ozone.

“Wow,” Dean said in a gruff voice.

His eyes were slightly swollen and his hair was mussed into a funny tuft. He had put on his jeans and a clean t-shirt.

“What?”

“It’s like… clean.”

“Well, I didn’t know what to do with myself. All that’s left is the vacuuming. Didn’t wanna wake you up. So, sleep well?”

Dean nodded, stretching. “Actually, yes. Had this crazy dream.” He went to the fridge and took the milk, didn’t even bother getting a glass, and sat at the counter, eyes still a little unfocussed from sleep.

“What dream?”

“Mom was there. For the birth.”

“Oh.”

Dean raised an eyebrow and drank from the milk carton. “It’s okay, Sam. M’not gonna burst into tears. She was there next to me, ya know, and I was feeling so ashamed, because of… well, everything, but she kept smiling. T’was kind of nice.”

“Yeah. I bet it was,” Sam whispered, putting the folded clothes in a neat pile.

“So, when I woke up, I went to the bathroom, and huh… lost another bit of that mucus thing,” Dean added as if it was nothing.

“Really?”

“Yup.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

They looked at each other. Sam could see Dean’s effort to stay stoic and composed, but there was this glint of uncertainty in his eyes.

“Hungry?”

“Always.”

“I’ll make us some grilled cheese sandwiches.”

Dean frowned. “Deal, but I want white bread, not the stuff with the thousand cereals in it. Hate it when my bread is crunchy.”

“It’s supposed to help with the-”

“Sam. Don’t even think about going there.”

They ate in the living room, watching a Chuck Norris movie. Dean kept squirming and fidgeting on the couch, and although he did show some appetite, he only ate half of his sandwich. Sam kept watching him as discreetly as possible, and when Dean’s features tensed, he waited patiently without saying anything.

Dean straightened a bit on the couch, put a hand on the small of his back.

“Huh,” he said.

“You okay?”

“Guess so.”

Then his eyes widened in surprise. “Sam? Remember Rania telling me that I would know the difference between a false and a real contraction?”

“Yeah.”

“So, this is a real one.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I… Okay, it’s gone now.”

Sam looked at his watch. It was 11:41.

“I’m just gonna go fetch my notebook,” he said, careful to sound normal and relaxed. “So we can write down the frequency like Rania told us.”

“You do realize that you’re talking to me like I’m five years old, right?” Dean asked, trying for a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Sorry.”

When Sam got back to the living room, Dean hadn’t moved from his spot, and was staring into space.

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“You okay there?”

“I’m over thirty-seven weeks, Sam.”

“You’re thirty-seven weeks and three days.”

“So, if it really is the labor starting, Rania won’t try to stop it.”

“No. Want to call her yourself?”

“Let’s wait,” Dean said, then added quickly when he saw Sam frowning, “Just… Let’s wait for the next one, okay? Just to be sure.”

Sam wanted to protest – of course he wanted to, but something in Dean’s eyes stopped him. Dean was scared – that much Sam could tell, scared and somehow… surprised by this turn of events.

“Okay,” he said.

Dean nodded and remained seated a bit awkwardly. “So.”

“Yeah… So. What… what did it feel like?”

“The contraction? Well, it began in my back, for starters, and there was this burning sensation on top of the muscle tightening thing.”

“Okay. Huh… do you wanna take a shower?”

“Yeah, good idea.”

“Want me to go with you?” Sam asked, helping Dean up.

“I’m fine, Sam.”

“Right. But you gotta tell me if you have another contraction.”

“Yeah.”

Dean obviously needed some space. While he showered, all Sam could do was to pace in their bedroom, waiting. Dean left the bathroom door open, and Sam literally jumped in the corridor when he heard his brother call his name.

“What? Another one?”

“Yeah,” Dean hissed over the water noise.

It was 11:56.

“I’m calling Rania,” Sam shouted back.

“Alright.”

Rania was prompt to answer her phone, as always. “I had a feeling you would call, Sam. How is he?”

“Fine, I guess. He lost more of the mucus plug and had two contractions, fifteen minutes apart. He says he can tell that they’re the real ones, this time.”

“Okay. Now, listen to me, Sam; there’s no need to hurry. All the preparations have been made and we’re ready for this. What I want Dean to do is to lie on his left side and try to relax. Call me back in an hour.”

“Hum. Yeah.”

“His waters haven’t broken yet, have they?”

“Not yet.”

“Good. And Sam? Everything’s gonna be alright.”

The next hour was one of the strangest in Sam’s life. He and Dean stayed in the living room literally waiting for the contractions to come and go, which they did, every fifteen minutes or so. They didn’t talk much. Dean looked tense and nervous. Sam didn’t want to put any kind of pressure on him, and left him to deal with whatever was going through his head. The contractions didn’t seem really painful, which Sam knew was normal this early in the labor. If Dean hadn’t told him, Sam probably wouldn’t have guessed they were happening.

They waited a little over an hour – five contractions later - to call Rania back, and she asked them to come in. Not a surprise, but it still struck Sam like a slap in the face. This was real. All of it. Dean would actually give birth to their daughter soon. They would have a daughter.

“Oh. My. God,” he said as they walked to the Impala, his duffel on his shoulder.

“What?”

“This is really happening, Dean. Do you… do you realize?”

“Not really,” Dean replied, holding onto the car’s roof while opening the passenger door. “I… fuck. I don’t know.”

“You don’t know what?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ooo-kay. Let’s go.”

Dean had another contraction as they were hitting the road. This time, he let out a surprised groan and put his hand over his belly, bending forward slightly. “That… wow. That’s kind of painful,” he whispered.

“Want me to stop the car?”

Dean waited for the contraction to pass before answering. “That was a stupid question.”

“Yes, it was,” Sam let out a nervous laugh, relieved to see that Dean looked more at ease. “Fourteen minutes. They’re steady.”

“They’re supposed to be, geek boy.”

“Hey, I’m just trying to make conversation here.”

“I know. Hey Sam?”

“Mmm?”

“It’s doable, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… The curse’ll work, won’t it? She’s not gonna be like… stuck inside?”

Dean’s eyes were big in his suddenly pale face.

“She’s gonna be fine, Dean. Everything’ll work out just fine.”

“You don’t know that.”

“…No. I don’t. But I trust Rania. She wouldn’t have risked a natural birth if she hadn’t been sure.”

“Okay.”

Dean remained silent for the rest of the trip, only groaning his way through another contraction as Sam parked the car in front of Rania’s house.

She greeted them on the porch, a professional smile on her face, calm and composed. The first thing she did was drag Dean to the exam room and ask him to prepare for a gynecological exam. This time, Sam stayed with his brother to help him undress. Dean was uneasy and awkward without his boxers, and Sam had to help him to climb on the bed.

“Hey, Dean, stop this.”

“What?” he asked, dragging a sheet over his thighs.

“Before all of this is over, you’re gonna actually push the baby out with your feet in the stirrups.”

“Wow. Thanks for reminding me, Sam.”

Sam took his brother’s face between his hands, forcing Dean to look at him. His cheeks were deep red.

“Don’t think about this, is what I mean. I know you’re not comfortable with your body and all but hell, we’ve spent our entire lives together, we’ve stitched up each other. There’s not a part of you that I don’t know. You’ve got to let this go for the time being. I don’t care what you look like, Rania doesn’t either. Okay?”

“Easier said than – ow, fuck.”

“Dean?”

Dean gripped Sam’s thigh and squeezed it, hard.

“Another one? It’s… still fifteen minutes. Maybe you should start with the breathing exercises?”

“Shut up,” Dean snarled, but then he took a deep breath and released it slowly, just like Rania had taught him. His fingernails dug into the meat of Sam’s leg. Sam valiantly endured the pain without moving.

“Was it really bad?” he asked when Dean released his death grip.

“I don’t know, wanna try it?” Dean snapped, but then his face softened. “Naw. It wasn’t that bad.”

But it did seem kind of bad and Sam wondered how Dean was going to deal with the pain during the hours to come. His brother was tough – of course he was, and he had shown his capacity to endure a lot of things through the years. But this was different. Dean was different. Their situation had put him in a vulnerable position and Rania had been clear with Sam - giving birth wasn’t a walk in the park.

Dean couldn’t be numbed from the waist down by an epidural because it had to be done by an anesthesiologist. Rania had discussed the possibility of giving him a painkiller, a solution women sometimes preferred to the epidural technique, but she also admitted there were downsides to that option. Opiates could cross the placenta’s protective barrier and there could be some respiratory problems for the baby right after the birth. It wasn’t a real problem when the infant was born in a hospital, where it could receive oxygen and medication especially made to counter those side-effects, but Rania, even if she could get her hands on those drugs, wasn’t enthusiastic about using them. The hesitation from her made Dean say he wouldn’t risk his daughter’s life over his own inability to deal with pain. And that had been that.

The exam was quick and Sam couldn’t help but twitch at the way Rania could so easily slip her finger inside his brother. Dean breathed through it. His legs were shaking slightly when the young woman finally withdrew her fingers and pulled off her glove.

“One centimeter, Dean,” she said, sounding satisfied.

“One? Only one? But we’ve got like… to get to ten.”

“Yeah.”

She helped him out of the stirrups and covered him with the sheet. “It’s a long process, but the first three or four centimeters are the slowest. It accelerates after that.”

Sam helped Dean sit up, rubbing a hand on the small of his brother’s back. Dean didn’t push him away.

“Maybe you could put on something more comfortable than your jeans,” Rania suggested. And after that, we’ll talk.”

Once Dean had changed into sweatpants, Rania took them out of the exam room to the end of the corridor and opened the door to a small bedroom in which a king-size bed took up the majority of space.

“So, it’s gonna take a while to get through the first stage, and I figured we could save the hospital bed in the exam room for the pushing phase. This is my guest bedroom. You’ll be more comfortable here if you feel like lying down, Dean.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“Also, there are some clean towels in the bathroom. Since your waters haven’t broken yet a warm bath should be safe and will help you through the contractions, so feel free to use it if you want. You do remember what we’ve talked about, right? Walking helps get the cervix dilatation going but if you wanna rest, that’s alright too. You’ll need all your strength later. There are ice chips in the freezer, but since we’re at the very beginning, I can allow you to drink some water or clear juice. Sam, I want you to continue recording the contractions. If you could calculate each one’s duration, that would be great.”

“Okay,” Sam said, feeling a bit uneasy. “Huh… Are you going somewhere?”

Rania smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll be in my greenhouse. Got some work to do down there. I’ll have my cell, if you guys need anything, but I figured I would examine Dean again in a couple of hours.”

She was leaving them some space, Sam realized, deeply touched by Rania’s tactfulness. He offered a choked-up “thanks,” feeling a bit stupid over being so emotional already, and wondered if he would get through his daughter’s birth without shedding tears.

Probably not.

He and Dean watched through the guestroom window as Rania made her way to the small greenhouse at the back of the courtyard, apparently indifferent to the rain. Then they looked at each other, unsure of what to do.

“A warm bath could be a good idea,” Sam suggested.

“No way, dude. I hate baths. Besides, the pain is pretty manageable so far.”

“Then maybe you could rest?”

“Don’t feel like it.”

“Walk?”

“Could. Although I feel stupid doing it around the house.”

“Jesus, Dean-”

“Alright, alright. Let’s walk.”

They did. Dean was nervous and fidgety. Sam managed to take his mind off what was happening by talking about inconsequential things like food and music. They went through two more contractions that way. When they came, Dean would stop and hold onto a wall or a piece of furniture. Each one lasted for about thirty seconds, still fifteen minutes apart. It was two thirty in the afternoon when Dean sighed and stopped to sit in the kitchen. “Okay, this is already getting old.”

“Thirsty?”

“Hell, yeah. Is there apple juice in there?”

There was. Rania had asked Sam about Dean’s preferences on that day the two of them had met. Once again, Sam was touched by Rania’s thoughtfulness, and reminded himself to find a way to thank her afterward, for everything she had done.

“Now what?” Dean asked. “I was, like, prepared for something more intense than this. Never thought labor would be boring.”

“Wanna watch some TV?”

“Think we can?”

“Why not?”

It was a bit surreal, settling down on Rania’s couch to watch a marathon of one of those reality cooking shows that Dean was so found of. Each time a contraction came, Dean would sit straight, head bent down, and breathe through it like Rania had taught him. He managed it pretty well. They were both surprised to realize it was almost four thirty when Rania came back into the house and told Dean she had to check him again. “Actually, I should’ve come earlier. Lost track of time.”

“Yeah, us too,” Dean told her, rising slowly to his feet with Sam’s help.

“How do you feel?”

“Not bad.”

“The contractions are ten to twelve minutes apart, and they’re lasting about forty seconds or so,” Sam informed her.

“Good. I’ll go wash up a bit and then we’ll take a look at you, Dean.”

“Oh, joy,” Dean said, rolling his eyes.

 

The exam seemed a lot more uncomfortable this time, but Dean held his own, teeth clenched as he breathed forcefully through his nose.

“That’s good… two and a half centimeters.”

“What?” Dean rose on his elbows. “Are you kidding me?”

Rania smiled, pulling off her glove. “Told you the first centimeters would go slowly, but the cervix has softened a bit, so that’s good news.”

She then settled the fetal heart and contraction sensor onto Dean’s belly, wanting to monitor him for half an hour or so. Sam was immediately fascinated by the way the contractions drew a peak pattern on the paper sliding out of the machine. “There,” he said as the carbon line started to lower. “It’s almost done.”

“You do realize that I’m actually feeling it,” Dean grunted through clenched teeth.

“Yeah, sorry.”

Dean was eager to start walking again, if that could accelerate things. When Rania was satisfied with the monitoring, he stood up and clapped her hands. “Alright. Let’s get this show on the road.” To tell the truth, Sam was kind of impressed by the way he was doing so far. He had expected more angst, but Dean looked at ease with the labor. He made his way around the house, walking slowly but steadily, Sam trailing behind him. Rania had retreated to the exam room, filing papers at her desk and trying to eat a salad as discreetly as possible because Dean had to fast until the baby was born.

It was almost six o’clock when they stepped outside onto the porch. The rain had finally stopped and the sky was a wild mix of orange and shades of purple. The air was fresh, heavy with ozone. Dean walked to the banister and leaned on his crossed arms. He wasn’t wearing any shoes, only old wool socks. The light wind was blowing through his hair and the colors of the sky were making his eyes look brighter. He was beautiful like that, Sam thought, very strangely beautiful, a mix of butch masculinity and uncertain femininity. He couldn’t help but press himself behind his brother, wrapping his arms around Dean’s heavy belly. “Love you,” he whispered into his ear. “You’ll never know how much I do.”

“Love you too, Sam,” Dean answered quietly. And Sam smiled like a fool, because he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times his brother had actually let those words slip. Of course, Dean had to add something. “Is this where we share our feelings and cry in each other’s arms while thinking about our baby girl?”

“Could be,” Sam said playfully.

“Yeah, in your dreams, Samantha. Okay, there’s another one.”

Sam stayed where he was as Dean bent over slightly. He felt the stomach muscles contracting, hard. The skin was hot underneath Dean’s tee, his thigh muscles bunching and shaking slightly. “That’s it, breathe through it,” he said, kissing his brother’s neck where the strands of hair were damp and curled.

“Are they still ten minutes apart?”

Sam looked at his watch. “Yeah.”

“Damn it.”

“Are they getting stronger?”

“Maybe.” Dean freed himself from Sam’s arms and turned toward him. “I don’t know. Not really.”

“We’ll get there eventually.”

“Still wanna do that girly talk?” Dean asked, scratching the back of his head.

“M’always ready for a girly talk.”

“Okay. So. I know we haven’t really talked about it but I figured there was no need to since we’re probably already on the same page.”

“What?”

“Don’t want our girl anywhere near the hunting’s world. And if that means we have to give it up, so be it.” Dean said coldly, a determined look on his face.

“Yeah, think we’re on the same page here.”

“Want her safe, ya know.”

“Of course.”

“And, huh…” Dean lowered his eyes and shifted on his feet. “I kinda wish she could know that I’m her dad, but that’d be unfair to you. I mean, you’re as much her father as I am. So I think we should go with the whole ‘found her during a hunt’ thing, because we’ll eventually have to explain her presence.”

“Dean, you sure about that? Because you carried her for nine months, you went through all this and… I mean, I don’t care if I’m not her father, officially. I’ll be like… the cool uncle.”

Dean smiled uncertainly. “M’not sure about anything. Man, m’not even sure all of this is not like a crazy-long hallucination.”

“Trust me, this is all very real.” Sam smiled back.

“She can never know about us,” Dean added, suddenly serious again.

“I know,” Sam whispered. “Geez, I just wish…”

What was there left to say?

“Me too,” Dean said, pressing Sam’s hand into his own, then shaking him off. “Okay, touchy-feely talk is over.”

He gently pushed Sam away to get to the door, but froze after a couple of steps, putting his hand on his belly and frowning.

“Dean, what?”

“Don’t know. Just felt strange, like something snapped inside or… shit.”

Dean lowered his head and Sam did the same. He saw dark spots growing quickly on the front of Dean’s pants and on the inside of his thighs. It reached the bottom of his legs and wet his socks, then formed a growing puddle between his feet.

“Sam, I think I peed myself,” Dean said, completely mortified.

“Don’t be stupid. Your water just broke.”

“Really? I thought it would feel… hell, I don’t know what I thought. Holy shit, it’s still leaking. There’s a lot,” he added, laughing nervously.

“Yeah, there is. Come on, let’s go inside and tell Rania.”

“I’m all wet,” Dean stated, still looking startled. He obediently let Sam drag him inside, but they didn’t get far before another contraction hit. This time Dean bent over himself moaning, and Sam had to hold him up.

“You okay?”

“Hun-hun,” he rasped between short breaths. “That one really hurt. And – ah - fuck, there’s still water dripping. M’gonna make… a mess on the floor.”

“Who cares? Come on, breathe, Dean.”

“Yeah.”

The exam showed that the amniotic fluid was clear, which was good, according to Rania. She took another measurement of the cervix’s dilatation and found that Dean was about four centimeters. “The membranes’ rupture often accelerates things,” she added when Dean huffed, taking his feet out of the stirrups. “And you’ll feel the contractions a bit more, since the amniotic fluid is like a shock absorber.”

“Got it. Kind of guessed when the last one hit.”

“Now, would you like to take a shower? A bath is out of the question since the uterus’s entrance isn’t protected anymore, but a shower’s okay.”

Dean squirmed awkwardly into a sitting position and looked at his discarded wet pants and underwear, wrinkling his nose. “Yeah. Good idea.”

“I want Sam to go with you. Just to be safe.”

Rania’s shower stall was big enough to fit the both of them, and Sam started the water while Dean waited for another contraction to pass, holding on to the sink. Sam helped him into the shower where he immediately leaned against the tiled wall, exposing his chest and stomach to the water drops. He closed his eyes and hummed contentedly. “That’s actually awesome.”

“Want me to wash you?”

“Nice try, you pervert. Gimme the washcloth.”

Sam smiled. Dean didn’t seem in a hurry to get out, and that was alright with Sam. He leaned next to his brother and watched the way the water drops struck his swollen stomach and slid down the pale skin. He actually saw the next contraction starting before Dean even felt it. The round shape of his belly seemed to shrink on itself a bit, and there was something like a rush of blood coloring the skin pink in blotchy spots. Dean let out a surprised gasp and tried holding onto the tiles, but they were slippery-wet, and he had to buckle his knees to stay on his feet. Sam gently took his brother’s hands and settled them around his neck, then wrapped his arms around Dean’s waist. His brother was breathing noisily through his nose, eyes squeezed shut.

“Come on Dean, let it go. Lean on me.”

That was all it took. Dean’s head fell forward to rest on Sam’s chest, and he tightened his grip around Sam’s neck. “Fucking hurts,” he whispered.

“I know. I got you.”

The contraction passed but Dean didn’t move. Neither did Sam. “M’ a wuss,” Dean said, lips still pressed wetly to Sam’s chest.

“Don’t be stupid. Just let it go for the time being and then when it’s all over, we’ll never talk about it again. We’ll make a pact, with spit and all if you want.”

“Don’t be a smartass,” Dean said, lifting his head.

“Okay.”

“M’kind of tired. Wanna get out.”

There was a recognizable veil in Dean’s eyes. He did look tired. Sam shut the water off and suggested that he lie down for a bit, which he accepted immediately. He also let Sam dry him off and dress him in a clean pair of boxers and a tee, as if Sam’s half-humorous offer had really had an effect on him. Rania had no objections to Dean resting in the guest bedroom and even permitted a glass of water even though it seemed like things were finally beginning to speed up.

The guest room was almost dark with only a dim, bluish light passing through the curtains. Dean lay on his left side and frowned when Sam settled behind him, drawing the comforter over the both of them.

“You don’t have to, ya know.”

“I want to. Besides, I still have to time the contractions. Got my little notebook right here.”

“Course you do.”

Dean took Sam’s hand and wrapped it around his waist, cuddling closer to him. “No talking about this later, right?”

“Talk about what?”

“That’s the spirit.”

And they lay there. When Dean had his next contraction, he let Sam massage his back and talk him through it. He didn’t say a word and Sam could feel his tension giving way where he rested against him, waves of heat coming off of him. It was a surprise when Sam heard his breathing slowing down and deepening. Dean was on the verge of sleep. Some women did sleep between the contractions when the labor was long, Sam knew, but he’d thought Dean would be too tense to succumb to sleep. Apparently he’d been wrong. He reminded himself of all the restless nights Dean had gone through for the last month or so, of the constant worries causing that particular frown between his eyebrows.

The peaceful rest would come to an end all too soon.

Sam was careful not to move in the slightest, and when the next contraction hit, Dean didn’t wake completely. He moaned and tensed against Sam, mumbling something and shifting in on himself a little, but it only took Sam’s quiet and comforting whisper to help him drift back into a deeper sleep. If Dean could sleep for an hour or two before the delivery actually started, it would do him good.

Sam didn’t sleep, but he stopped timing the contractions so that he could just lie still. He lost track of the time after a while, as the pattern kept repeating itself. With each contraction, Dean would half wake, groaning almost silently, sometimes saying Sam’s name, but Sam held onto him, kept rubbing his back and soothing him back to sleep with quiet words and touches. Dean’s sleep wasn’t deep, but it was better than nothing.

Sam couldn’t quite remember when he felt the contraction pattern shift, but they progressively became stronger, he could tell by the way Dean’s belly was hardening under his hand and by the grunts and moans that weren’t all that quiet anymore. The time between the contractions also seemed to have shortened – not much, but still, and as the room became darker and darker, Sam realized that at least a couple of hours had passed since they had laid down. He moved slowly to withdraw his hand from under the cover and looked at his watch. It was almost eight thirty.

There was no way ten minutes had passed since the last contraction when the next one came. This time, Dean gasped and jolted in pain, turning onto his back, eyes open wide in the dark. Sam felt a warm liquid wetting the sheets near their joined hips and guessed that more amniotic fluid must have leaked. He sat up and bent over Dean, who was fighting with the sheets he was tangled in, trying to sit.

“Dean, you okay? Come on, breathe with me.”

“Need to sit. Hurts,” Dean croaked, pushing Sam away and succeeding in sitting up, legs falling off the side of the bed. He took short intakes of breath curled in on himself, his arms wrapped around his belly. Sam got off the bed and knelt next to him.

“Dean, you need to breathe more-”

“Shut up. Please. Just for a minute,” Dean said, between clenched teeth. He slowly relaxed, shoulders still bent and head tipped forward, then his body was wracked by a violent shiver. Sam risked a brush of his fingers against Dean’s neck.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah. Yeah, just… It was a bad one.”

Dean wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and tried for a smile. “Did I sleep long?”

“Almost two hours.”

“Good. I’m… can you get me something to drink?”

“Course. Wanna lie back down?”

“No, my back’s killing me.”

Sam heard his joints pop as he unfolded himself, all of his body sore and damp with the sweat he and Dean had shared. He turned on the light, surprising Dean, and saw with alarm the way his brother looked, hair wet and plastered to his head, cheeks burning red and a grimace of pain quirking his mouth.

“I’ll be right back.”

“It’s okay, Sam,” Dean said in a pain-filled voice. “Just need to get myself together.”

Sam met Rania in the kitchen as she was coming out of the exam room.

“So? Did you boys get any sleep?”

“Dean did,” Sam said, opening the cupboards nervously to find a glass. “He’s thirsty,” he added.

“Yeah, okay, let me get the ice chips for you.”

“Oh. Right. Ice chips.”

“Sam, calm down. I’ll get them for you.”

“It’s just. He seems to be in a lot of pain.”

“That’s because the dilatation is progressing. Let’s get this to your brother and then I’ll check him, okay?” Rania said, calm and composed, holding a cup full of ice chips.

“Huh. Yeah.”

“Okay.”

Rania’s eyes were searching him, and there was some kind of warning in them. Sam took a deep breath and followed her.

He totally lost his cool when he saw Dean kneeling in front of the bed, his head laid on his arms where they were crossed on the mattress.

“Dean?”

“‘Nother one. Don’t touch me,” Dean gasped without moving.

“It’s only been five minutes since the last one,” Sam said, unable to keep the panic out of his voice.

This time, Rania’s silent warning was anything but subtle. She knelt down next to Dean. “Come on, Dean, don’t hold your breath. You gotta ride it, just like a wave.” She didn’t touch him, and her voice was authoritarian and soft at the same time. Dean moaned but seemed to relax a bit. When he finally raised his head, Sam realized he was still standing awkwardly near the door and that he wasn’t breathing either.

“Pain is getting worse? Rania asked.

“Yeah. Sorry. This… I feel better in this position.”

“No need to apologize. Here are your ice chips.”

Dean took the cup into his shaking hands and filled his mouth, crunching the cubes between his teeth. “Sam?” he asked after he was done.

“Yeah, Dean. M’here.” Sam took two giants steps to the bed and sat down.

“‘M okay, you know. Just…” Dean waved his hand dismissively.

Of course, Dean would still try to comfort Sam while he was in labor.

“I need to check you, Dean. Think you can walk to the exam room?”

“F’course I can,” Dean said, trying for a cocky smile.

He couldn’t really, as it turned out. His legs were shaky and unstable. He cursed and let Sam and Rania support him as they made their way – very slowly - to the exam room. They had just crossed the threshold when Dean stopped. “Fuck. Wait. There’s a - Jesus Christ - Sam, you gotta hold me, man.”

This time, Dean didn’t even try to keep quiet. He groaned, deep in his throat, and held onto Sam for dear life as Rania prepared the bed. There was a wet, steady noise that had to be the amniotic fluid dripping onto the floor and when Sam looked on the inside of Dean’s thighs, he saw that the liquid had a light pink shade to it. He didn’t remember reading anything about that. As a matter of fact, he didn’t remember anything at all about his numerous researches on pregnancy and was overwhelmed with a sense of panic that had him shaking almost as badly as Dean.

 

“It’s okay, Sam,” Rania said as if she was reading his mind. “When the cervix dilates there is some bleeding. The water is dragging it out, that’s all.”

“Okay,” Sam said, feeling like he could breathe again. “You’re okay, Dean.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Dean mumbled into Sam’s chest. He stepped back and looked down at his legs. “Aww, hell. M’sorry.”

“Come on, Dean. It’s not like you have any control over it,” Rania snapped. She took him by the arm and dragged him to the bed. “We’ll do the exam now while you’re between contractions. Sam, help your brother onto the bed.”

The exam was even quicker than the others. “A nice seven centimeters, how about that, Dean?” she asked, rapidly covering his legs.

“Really? Three more to go?”

“Yes. And I’d prefer if you stay here because things can go very quickly from now on and I want to be ready. I need to touch your belly now, if you don’t mind.”

Dean made a dismissive movement with his hand and exposed his stomach with the other. “Okay,” Rania said pressing softly on the skin. “She’s still in position.”

There was this very subtle edge to her voice, and when she turned back, Sam caught a worried expression on her face that he didn’t like. At all.

“I’m gonna get you dry underwear,” he told Dean, following Rania as she went into the bathroom to wash her hands.

“What is it?” he asked in a low, urgent, voice.

“What? Nothing. Like I said, everything is all right.” But Rania didn’t quite looked at him.

“Is something wrong with the baby? Is that it?”

“Sam,” Rania cut him off in an impatient voice. “There is nothing wrong with Dean, nor the baby. I’d just hoped that she would have settled a bit further down. She’s still high in Dean’s belly, but that’s not abnormal or even a reason to worry. It just means that the pushing phase will probably last longer.”

“When the dilatation is complete?”

“Yeah. It will be harder on him. Now, this is the time when he needs you the most, so get back in there and try to hold yourself together, okay?” Rania patted Sam on the arm with a softer smile. “Come on. I’m very satisfied with how everything is going so far. Trust me, Sam.”

Sam nodded, still feeling uneasy but determined not to show it. He took the duffle and went back to the exam room. Dean was sitting on the edge of the bed, moaning through another contraction. Sam quickly went to sit next to him and rubbed his back in an almost frantic motion.

“It’s almost…” Dean panted. “Almost over.”

Sam helped him into his fresh – and last - pair of boxers. The lights over the bed were white and intense. He fiddled with the switch to dull them, then settled next to Dean.

“Okay, how do you wanna do this?”

“Wha?”

“Sit, or lie down or even walk in this room. Which position is more comfortable for you?”

“When I was kneeling in front of the bed in the guestroom. Which I can’t do with this freaking hospital bed because it won’t lower down enough.”

“Okay, let’s try this, then,” Sam said, starting to fiddle with the electric bed switches until he found the one that controlled the head, which he raised to a seventy degree angle.

Dean rapidly got what Sam was doing and, with a last dubious look, he knelt on the bed and leaned his arms on the mattress. Sam put a couple of pillows between the mattress and his belly, so that his upper body was resting on them and his belly had some space.

“How does that feel?”

Dean glared at him. “I’ll tell you when the next contraction comes. I don’t even wanna think about how stupid I must look right now so this goes into the never-talking-about-this-again category.”

“Deal.”

“Now, cover me with something. I’m freaking freezing.”

Turned out that the position worked and Dean refused to move after the next contraction. Sam sat on the bed next to him and helped him however he could. Rania hovered nearby but keeping quiet, and Sam was kind of proud of himself because he felt like he had regained his self-control.

It only lasted half an hour before Dean’s contractions began to hit harder. He muffled the pained noises that escaped him against his arms, but sweat had started to drip down his neck and forehead. He was swearing between small intakes of breath now, grunting, trying to keep control over each contraction, but steadily losing it. They were coming close together, about four to five minutes apart, but they lasted much longer – some of them close to a minute. Still, Dean was talking between them, crunching ice chips and alternatively asking Sam to remove the blanket or to add another one. It was 10:15 when Dean lost it during a contraction.

“Come on, Dean, breathe,” Sam coached.

Dean cried out, turning his head toward him. “You fucking breathe! Fuck… can’t…” Then a tear escaped his eyes and he buried his face in the pillow. “Son of a bitch. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

“It’s okay, Dean, almost over.”

“Shut up, for God’s sake, Sam. Shut up!” he yelled, gripping the pillows.

“Okay. I’m sorry. Just-”

“Can’t do this. You gotta… I don’t know… I don’t…”

The contraction was ebbing, but Dean kept cursing and moaning, shivering violently, and Sam felt his heart clenching at the sight. He had always hated to see Dean suffering, but this time was worse. Couldn’t do anything, couldn’t give him pain killers that he would down with a glass of whiskey, couldn’t sew him up or wrench his dislocated shoulder back into its socket or take him, bloody and half-conscious, to the nearest emergency room. And he heard himself saying that he was sorry. For everything and anything he could think of. Rania suddenly appeared next to him with a wet cloth and softly wiped Dean’s neck and face. He actually leaned into it, sighing reflexively.

“You’re doing good, Dean. I know it’s hard, but try to relax for the next one.” She turned to Sam and asked him gently if he needed to take five minutes.

He’d almost said yes when he suddenly felt a wave of jealousy and possessiveness taking over him. He was the one Dean needed. Dean and the baby were his, and as much as it was unfair to Rania, who was really doing a terrific job, Sam wanted be the one wiping Dean’s forehead with a cold washcloth.

“I’m good,” he said, sitting on the bed next to Dean.

His brother raised his head a bit, looking confused and young and scared. “Sammy?”

“I’m right here, Dean.”

“I’m being an ass. Sorry.”

“No you’re not. Don’t talk. Save your strength.”

Rania left the washcloth on Dean’s neck and stood back a bit. “If you feel some pressure down your birth canal, or the urge to push, you gotta tell me, okay?”

“Yeah.” Dean closed his eyes and braced himself.

The contractions kept coming. Sometimes Dean just moaned, sometimes he couldn’t seem to stand Sam’s touch, sometimes he snapped at him or cursed very creatively, but Sam never left his spot. Then the insults and the shouts stopped as the contractions drew closer and closer until there was barely a couple of minutes between them. Dean didn’t seem aware of what was going on anymore. He kept wailing like a wounded animal, saying Sam’s name and sometimes sobbing in pain. It was one of the hardest things Sam had ever done. He had been prepared to see his brother in pain, but somehow, the obscure part of his mind that was associated with everything big-brother related had kept thinking that Dean would go through this with his bad-ass attitude ‘til the end.

“Sam, shit, can’t do this anymore.” Dean’s voice was raw and broken.

“You’re doing it,” Sam replied in his ear, caressing his hair.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Help me, need to move.”

Dean was trying to lie on his side. Sam helped him with careful movements, couldn’t help but see that his underwear and the inside of his thighs were sticky with fluid mixed with blood. He lowered the head of the bed a bit while another contraction wracked Dean’s body and he drew his knees up to his belly, letting out a long whimpering noise. He caught Sam’s hand and squeezed compulsively. “Something’s wrong,” he rasped.

“What? Dean, what’s wrong?”

“It’s burning… down there. Sam it… shit, it’s like. Fucking hell! Another one already, it’s…”

His eyes widened suddenly, two spots of green in his pasty face. “I think I need to push.”

It was almost eleven at night, July 5.

Chapter Text

Portsmouth, July 5, 11:00 pm

“Come on, come on, come on,” Dean whispered, eyes clenched shut as Rania examined him.

“You’re done,” Rania said, withdrawing her fingers.

“Wha’?”

“Ten centimeters, the cervix is fully dilated.”

“Wha’?” Dean asked again between pants.

“You’re gonna start pushing,” Rania smiled. “Okay now, when the next contraction hits, I don’t want you to push just yet. Got some stuff to prepare before we start. Think you can hold off?”

Dean nodded, looking at Sam with a mix of fear and excitement on his face. “We’re there.”

“Yes, we are.”

Sam smiled and placed a sheet over Dean’s hips and legs, as his feet would remain in the stirrups.

“There’s another… God, need to push, Sam.”

“Hold it. Come on, squeeze my hand. Break the bones if you need to.”

Dean grabbed Sam’s hand and held onto it as Rania prepared the medical cart near the foot of the bed. She settled on a small stool right between the stirrups. She had put a green blouse over her clothes and tied her hair in a tight bun. She uncovered Dean’s legs and asked him to move his butt lower down the bed.

“Sam, get me some hospital socks from the drawer. He’s freezing,”

“Can’t hold it anymore,” Dean panted, visibly struggling.

“You won’t have to.”

The hospitals socks were long shapeless cotton things. Sam put them on Dean’s feet and settled back near the head of the bed. Dean looked very vulnerable like this, exposed to crude light with his legs spread and the socks pulled up to his knees. He was clinging to the bed’s side rails and breathing heavily through his nose.

“Dean, what I want you to do, when the next contraction hits, is to take a deep breath and push with all you’ve got. You have to concentrate your efforts on the lower part of your belly.”

“Now,” Dean moaned. “Now, it’s now, I can’t…”

“Then do it.”

Dean’s head rose from the pillow and all of his body stiffened as he started pushing silently, coached by Rania’s even voice. “One two – let’s try to get to ten - three four… Good. Go on… that’s it… eight nine ten. Great. You’re doing good, Dean. Wanna give it another shot?”

Dean nodded and pushed again, completely oblivious to the world around him, face red and scrunched up. Sam rested one hand gently on his brother’s shoulder and held his breath in synch with him, overwhelmed by how Dean’s body seemed to have taken control over him.

“Okay, Dean, breathe out,” Rania said.

Dean went completely lax on the bed, trying to catch his breath. He didn’t even open his eyes when he asked, “That okay?”

“Yes. Perfect. How are you holding up?”

“I’ll live,” he whispered.

“You’re doing so good, Dean,” Sam said in awe, and was rewarded by a tired smile.

“That’s because m’awesome.”

“Damn straight.”

“Get me some more ice chips, will you?”

“Coming up.”

Sam all but ran to the kitchen. When he came back, Dean had started to push again. Sam froze despite himself just behind Rania, looking at the way Dean’s crotch had changed and how the small slit he had discovered weeks before wasn’t that small anymore.

It just looked wrong.

“Sam!” Dean yelled, short of breath. “Stop lurking, you little shit.”

Last time Dean had called Sam that, he’d been twelve, and Sam had cried in frustration, saying that he would tell Dad. To that, Dean had replied that only little shits like him would do such a thing, and Sam had punched him in the stomach.

Strange how this random memory came to mind now. He shook it off, and held the cup out to Dean with an apologetic look on his face.

Dean crunched on an ice chip furiously. “Think it’s fun being exposed like that with my legs spread open for everyone to see? Think I’m enjoying this?”

“No.”

“Right.”

“Want me to cover your legs a bit?”

“No! I want you to stay here near the most normal part of my body,” Dean snapped, then paled. He didn’t even tell Rania before he started to push again, silent and focused. Sam counted to ten for him quietly, stroking his arm.

“I’m sorry,” Dean rasped when he was done. “M’sorry. Just…”

“It’s okay, I understand.”

“Is this going somewhere?” Dean asked Rania.

“It’s just the beginning, Dean. Your daughter’s head is still high in the birth canal. Yours is a bit longer that what we usually find in women. It’s a physiological thing.”

“How great is that?” Dean said sarcastically, then gulped some more ice chips.

He looked better since he had started to push, Sam realized, perhaps because he felt like he was taking an active part of the process. It wasn’t just suffering through pain anymore, but actually helping his daughter to be born. Dean was a man of action before anything else.

He did push, for all he was worth – and then some, if you asked Sam. For an hour, he pushed in silence, following Rania’s instructions, keeping focused and determined, not complaining once. He was sweating profusely, his muscles shook from the constant straining, and his teeth chattered helplessly between contractions, but as the hour went by, Sam could see exhaustion taking its toll on him, the way his face grimaced in pain a little more each time, the way his breathing was getting harsh and laborious. It was a few minutes past midnight when he let out a pained sob at the end of long push and asked if the head was any closer to coming out.

“She’s progressing slowly,” Rania said.

“Is she stuck?”

“No. She’s not. But there’s still some work to do before the breach.”

“I… I don’t think I can keep going much longer,” Dean mumbled with shame.

“I know you’re getting tired, Dean. I was thinking maybe we could try a different position?”

“Anything that could help, really.”

He let Sam wash his face with a cold towel while Rania gathered a pile of clean towels and a couple of pillows.

“Gotta push again.”

“Hold it. Sam, help me out.”

“Holy freaking shit,” Dean snarled between clenched teeth as Rania and Sam settled him on his left side. Two big tears of pain slid from his eyes as he tried to control the urge to push. Rania lift his right leg, bending it and putting it on the pile of towels and pillows. She pushed it close to Dean’s body, then asked him to bend his left leg a bit. She took her cart around the end of the bed and pulled down the side rails, then sat on it so she could have a clear view of what she was doing.

“This is a position currently used in some European countries. It’s supposed to be easier to push this way.”

“You doing okay there Dean?” Sam asked, rearranging his brother’s twisted tee.

“Considering that my ass is right in the face of a woman, yes,” he whispered, closing his eyes in embarrassment.

“Hey, you’ve got a great ass,” Rania replied, surprising Sam who laughed out loud. “Do you have any idea how many asses, as you so delicately put it, a doctor sees in a week?”

“No.”

“A lot. I don’t care about your ass, Dean. Now, you gonna push this baby out or what?”

“Yeah,” Dean rasped before taking a shuddering breath. Sam had a hand on his back to stabilize him and Dean was furiously gripping Sam’s other wrist with both of his hands. Then, on the second push of the next contraction, Dean suddenly stopped and gulped a mouthful of oxygen.

“Burns. Something is… Son of a bitch, it’s…” he mumbled, eyes rolling in their sockets.

“It’s because she’s engaged, Dean,” Rania said, working between his legs. “A few more pushes and we’ll be there. I can touch her head with my fingers.”

“Really? You can…? Wow. God,” Sam babbled, as Dean tightened his grip around his arm.

“It hurts, fuck, she’s too big, I can’t…” he moaned, burying his face in the pillow and shaking violently.

“Don’t resist your body, Dean. It knows what to do. Give me another push.”

This time Dean was anything but silent as a low scream escaped his lips and continued with the push, his fingernails digging into Sam’s skin. When it was over, he sobbed and cursed, still shaking, blotches on his cheeks.

“You’re doing good, Dean. We’re almost there.”

“I’m so freaking proud of you,” Sam told him, wiping his face once more. “Just a little while longer and-”

“Shut up!”Dean replied, seemingly coming back to himself. “It’s your fault I’m having a giant baby!”

“I’m sorry,” Sam said sincerely.

Dean’s face tensed and reddened once more. He tried to resist the push but couldn’t and he clenched his teeth, bracing himself, grunting as he gave in to his body’s urge.

“Yes, Dean, the head is crowning. Keep going, keep going…”

“I can’t!” he cried in frustration, shaking and sweating. He searched Sam’s eyes, a pleading expression on his face. “Can’t fucking… ah… do it, Sam. Told you I would… shit… screw it up.”

“You’re doing it, Dean. Come on, m’here, I’m right here.”

“She’s pushing herself out,” he whimpered, body going tense.

He let out a feral groan, face scrunched up and crimson. The push seemed to go on forever until Dean finally exhaled, saying Sam’s name, new tears dripping down his cheeks and off his chin.

“The head is out, Dean. That was the hardest part.”

“The… Dean, the head is…” Sam rasped, short of breath, peeking between Dean’s legs where Rania was using the aspiration bulb on… something small and bloody. He couldn’t quite figure it out, and the doctor’s hands were blocking his view.

“Need to push again, need to push again,” Dean mumbled, overwhelmed with pain and exhaustion. “Get her out, please, get her out. Too much, can’t…GET HER OUTTA ME!”

“It’s okay, Dean, almost done. Keep still and listen to me. Dean? Dean, deep breath, we’re almost done. Listen to me.”

“I’m listening!” he snapped furiously.

“Okay,” Rania said, steady and unshakable. “I need shorter pushes. And when I tell you to stop, you need to stop.”

Dean couldn’t do anything but nod while panting heavily through the pain. Still holding him, Sam cocked his head so he could see what Rania was about to do.

“Okay, push now. There we go, Dean. A little bit more… okay, stop.”

And suddenly, one tiny elbow glided out of the distended birth canal. “I want a soft push now Dean,” she told him while using her fingers to free the second elbow. Dean must have yelled, but Sam heard it like a distant echo. He was looking in fascination at the scrunched-up greyish face of his baby. Maybe he was crying. A bit.

“God… God, Dean, she’s almost out. She’s almost out, she’s…” he said in a gutted voice.

“I’m not freaking deaf!” Dean cried. “Need to push, let me push.”

“Go on, only a short one this time,” Rania coached.

Sam saw his daughter’s body sliding easily out. Almost immediately, her arms slipped free of Dean’s body, like a jack-in-the-box popping out. Rania held the baby securely around the waist.

“Okay, stop, Dean. Just breathe. Like that. You’re almost done,” she said as she gently tugged on the tiny waist until the legs glided from the birth canal without any resistance.

And Sumiko was born. Sam felt like the whole world had just come to a halt, and that even if he kept breathing in, he would never be able to fill the expanse growing in his chest.

Rania raised the small bloody bundle for them to see. Sumiko seemed so small, so defenseless curled up with her umbilical cord wrapped around her legs as the doctor used the suction bulb to clear her airways one more time. Dean had half turned onto his back and was trying to raise himself on his elbows, looking wild and way beyond exhaustion.

“Is she okay? Why isn’t she crying?”

“Give her some time,” Rania said, and just as she got the bulb out of Sumiko’s mouth, she began to squirm. Her tiny arms suddenly opened wide and her mouth formed a gigantic pout, like she had been surprised by her own movements. Then, a fragile little wail was ripped from her throat and she began to cry.

“God,” Sam repeated, wiping the tears from his face.

He turned toward Dean, smiling wildly. His brother was catching his breath, eyes wide in surprise as he looked at their baby, shaking his head as if he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.

Rania put Sumiko, still crying and squirming, onto Dean’s uncovered belly. “There, she said, placing one of Dean’s hands over the baby’s back. “Let her warm up with your body heat.”

Dean didn’t say a word, just bit his lip hard and swallowed audibly, lifting his other hand over Sumiko without touching her.

“She’s perfect. She’s perfect, Dean,” Sam said, bending over the both of them and kissing Dean’s hair. “Look at what you’ve done. Love you. So much. Would you look at her, she’s got hair.”

There was a short wet mop covering Sumiko’s perfect head, and even then, as mixed as it was with blood and mucus, Sam could tell that it would be blond. He gently touched his daughter’s back, letting his enormous-looking finger slide over the delicate bones of her spine. Her skin had already lost its bluish shade for a pinker one.

“She’s… she’s very small,” Dean whispered.

“She looks perfectly healthy,” Rania said, joining them with a towel and starting to rub the baby’s skin, which Sam guessed was as much to clean her up as to activate the circulation. She then covered the baby with Dean’s tangled sheet, leaving only her face out to pump some more fluid from her nose and mouth. Her soft cries shifted to more vigorous ones and Dean smiled softly, brushing his fingers over her head. “That’s it, baby, don’t let anyone push you around,” he said, then bit his lips again, trying hard to hold back his tears.

Once Rania left her alone, she calmed down gradually, her pouted lower lip still trembling. Her face was swollen from the birth and it was hard to tell what she would really look like in a few hours. As a matter of fact, with that grimace on her face and the furrowed lines on her forehead, she looked like a tiny crone. Even so, she was the most beautiful pouting elderly-looking baby Sam had ever seen.

He kissed Dean again.

“You did this. Do you realize that, Dean?”

“She’s pretty, isn’t she?”

“She’s beautiful.”

Dean still had this startled look on his face. He never turned his eyes away from Sumiko, even when Rania asked Sam if he would like to cut the umbilical cord, which he did with shaking hands, afraid of hurting her but knowing he wouldn’t. The tissues were kind of hard and resistant, surprising Sam, who had to put some serious effort into it. And then it was done. Dean didn’t even seem aware of what was going on.

“You need to deliver the placenta now,” Rania told him and helped him raise his legs again.

Dean secured his hold on the baby and prepared to push, but Rania told him to stay very still, instead. She gently tugged on the cord until the afterbirth was out, quickly examining it and then wrapping it in a towel for disposal. Then, she began to work between Dean’s legs.

“How do you feel?” Sam asked Dean, getting closer to have a better look at Sumiko.

“M’alright. Shit. I was as hysterical as that woman on the video,” he added, laughing nervously.

“No you weren’t. You were great, Dean. Can’t believe she’s here.”

“She felt way bigger when she was coming out.”

Sumiko began to squirm again, letting out a small snuffling noise. Dean smiled, his eyes crinkling.

“She looks so badass, like she’s mad or something.”

“She does look kind of grumpy.” Sam let his finger run over on Sue’s blotched cheeks and she opened her small red mouth with a pop.

Dean pressed an unsteady hand on Sumiko’s head. “Her… her ears kind of stick out, don’t they?

“They’re cute. I mean… They seem big because she’s practically bald. Besides, they look exactly like yours.”

“Think so?” Dean asked hopefully, as if the fact that his daughter looked like him was surprising somehow.

“Need to borrow the little one for her exam,” Rania said, covering Dean’s leg and waist with a couple of flannel sheets.

“Huh. Yeah,” Dean said almost reluctantly.

“You did very good, Dean,” Rania said, patting his shoulder and smiling.

She took Sumiko to the exam table.

“Are you okay?” Sam asked Dean, hesitating between staying with Dean or following Rania and his daughter.

“Yeah. Go.” Dean sent him off with a quick flick of his hand.

On the exam table, Rania was still washing Sumiko with a towel, rubbing vigorously at her skin. Her hair was almost dry, and yes, it was blonde and soft – not very thick - but it was standing straight up in a funny way. She had long dark lashes and fine pale eyebrows, and, yes, her ears looked kind of big for her small head, with the rounded top sticking out. The rest of her body seemed perfect, delicate and tiny and pink.

“I didn’t even notice the time,” Sam said, playing with his daughter’s tiny fingers.

“It was forty minutes past midnight. More or less.”

“Okay, good.”

“Yeah, you’re tired, I know, darling,” Rania cooed, wrapping Sumiko in another towel and taking her to the back of the room to a set of baby scales Sam hadn’t even noticed before. “Let’s see,” she said, arranging the baby on the padded metal tray. “Five pounds ten ounces. You’re a lightweight, aren’t you, Sumiko? Sam, get her back to the exam table, I’ll do her Apgar.”

Sam never felt so big in his life, taking his daughter into his arms with slow, unsteady movements. Hold her head, hold her head, gotta hold her head, he thought nervously, tucking her into the crook of his arm where she settled immediately, seemed to relish the warmth. God, she was small. How was Sam supposed to be able to hold and take care of someone so small and fragile?

“Hey, gorgeous,” he murmured, walking slowly to the exam table. “Let me see your eyes. I bet they’re as pretty as the rest of you." He turned to Rania, frowning in concern. “Is five pounds enough?”

“The baby uses the last month of the pregnancy to gain weight. Considering that she was born three weeks before her due date, it’s pretty acceptable. What’s important is that she looks healthy and that her lungs are perfectly functional. Don’t let her size worry you.”

“Too late,” Sam laughed nervously.

Rania frowned, looking over Sam’s shoulder, and took Sumiko from him, whispering. “Think Dean needs you more than she does right now.”

Sam turned to see that Dean had turned his back to them. His shoulders were shaking convulsively, as if he was crying.

He was crying, Sam realized in shock. Sam was next to his brother in an instant, and yeah, Dean was sobbing, as silently as he could, muffling the long, harsh sobs into his hands.

“Hey hey hey, Dean, are you alright?” he asked carefully, lowering the side rail and sitting next to him.

“Yeah, just can’t freaking help it”,” Dean hiccupped, voice raw and low.

Sam pulled his brother’s hand away from his face. He immediately looked away. His eyes were red and swollen, there were tiny red spots all over his cheeks, probably caused by the rupture of tiny blood vessels while he was pushing. His lips were chapped and dry, and he kept weeping, tears dropping from his eyes in an almost constant flow.

“It’s okay, just let it out,” Sam said, pressing Dean’s upper body against his. “It’s been one hell of a day, man, you’re exhausted.”

“She’s okay, isn’t she?” Dean asked in the crook of Sam’s neck.

“She’s totally fine. More than fine, got all of her fingers and toes and she weights five pound ten ounces and she’s all pink and tiny and adorable.”

“Well I feel gross and I’m all wet and it hurts freaking everywhere and I’m so goddamn tired I couldn’t even keep my head up to see what you guys were doing.”

“Sorry. Want me to help you out? Wash up a bit… And I’ll get you some water, how about that?”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m your wife of something,” Dean sobbed in frustration, but he was already calming down. Sam wiped his face with the corner of the sheet and helped him turn to face the other side, where Rania was handling the baby. He raised the bed a bit more and put another pillow under Dean’s head.

“There, you can see what’s going on like that.”

For the next ten minutes or so, Sam left his daughter to Rania’s care, although all his instincts were dragging him back to her. Dean deserved his attention. Sam changed his damp t-shirt, washed his chest and face, couldn’t help but see the way the skin of his stomach was hanging loose over his soft, deflated belly. He added another couple of flannel sheets over him, as Dean looked like he couldn’t stop shivering. Neither of them spoke, and Dean let Sam handle everything, face turned away to watch Rania working. When he looked more comfortable, Sam dimmed the light a bit and made him drink a glass of water. Dean’s face was still puffy and red, but the creases of pain and tiredness on his forehead and between his eyes had softened.

“I’m done, Sam, if you wanna dress her,” Rania called.

“I don’t-”

“Go, Sam. I’m fine, I swear,” Dean said, voice a bit slurry.

He did look, if not fine, way better than a few minutes before. Sam took his duffle with him and joined Rania at the exam table. He chose a jumpsuit and the star-printed green pajamas that Dean had picked up during their first trip to the baby store. He smiled, thinking about what Dean had said back then – that no baby would be small enough to fit into the tiny outfit. Shewould fit. As a matter of fact, now, the pajamas looked way too big for her.

“Diaper, Sam.”

“Oh. Yes. Sorry.”

Sam handed the diaper to Rania and waited. She smiled, almost playfully. “Come on, you can do it.”

“Huh. Right.”

He settled in front of Sumiko and raised her tiny butt, gliding the diaper underneath it. “Like that?”

“Perfect.”

Rania showed him how to fold the front of the diaper so that it wouldn’t rub against the baby’s belly button. “Now, you can fasten it.”

Of course, Sam had trouble getting the diaper fastened, but he finally managed to stick the taped ends in place. He looked critically at his work while Sue wailed and tucked her tiny legs against herself. Yeah. If he held her up right now, he bet the diaper would fall off.

“Jumpsuit now,” Rania told him, still grinning.

Sam went to work. When he was done snapping the last ridiculously small button, sweat was dripping into his eyes and his daughter was getting seriously pissed. He fidgeted nervously with the pajamas, trying to undo the snaps with his slippery (and, did he mention gigantic?) fingers. Rania took pity on him at that point.

“Okay, let me show you,” she said, putting Sumiko into the unbuttoned pajamas and sliding her hands quickly into the sleeves. “See, don’t be scared, you won’t hurt her. There go the legs. There.”

It took Rania less than twenty seconds to dress Sumiko, which left Sam half envious, half impressed. The pajamas were too big, and Rania had to roll up the sleeves. The baby’s feet hardly reached into the legs, as her knees kept bending back to her belly.

“Did you bring a cotton hat? Better to keep her warm for the first few days.”

Sam did. He was even more careful when he put it on Sumiko’s head, and had to fold the rim so it wouldn’t slip over her closed eyes. He laughed at the way it made her eyebrows frown deeper. Rania took a small cotton sheet and showed him how to wrap a newborn with it, trapping the arms and legs close to the body so she would get the comforting feeling of being back in the womb. Sumiko calmed down almost instantly when Rania was done, her tiny face peeking out of the blanket, nose all scrunched up.

“She’s so pretty,” Sam whispered in awe. “She’s like… perfect, isn’t she?” he asked Rania when she handled him the small bundle that was his daughter.

“Yes, she is. Why don’t you take her to Dean?”

Dean was nervous and uneasy when Sam, shining with pride, approached him with the baby. “Wanna hold her?”

“Not sure I can. My arms are all shaky and I-”

“Wait, I got an idea.”

He snatched a pillow from under Dean’s head and laid it on his stomach, then put Sumiko into the small nest he had just made, so that she was resting on the pillow with her head supported by Dean’s bent arm. Sam dragged a chair as close as he could and rested his upper body against the mattress so that Sumiko was tucked between the two of them.

Dean was visibly trying to fight back another emotional rush and Sam gave him some time, observing his daughter silently and waiting for Dean to be ready to talk.

“It’s strange,” he finally said. “To feel that she’s not inside me anymore.”

“It must. I can only imagine.”

Dean shrugged and drew his finger softly down the fine line of Sumiko’s nose. It was the hesitant and uneasy gesture of a man who had lived his life in a man’s world, where the only tenderness touches allowed were rough pats on the back. The only gentleness that Dean had ever known had ended when he was four years old, and the only person he could ever provide it for had been his little brother. Dean had a long way to go before he’d be able to open up completely - not that he wouldn’t be tender or loving to his daughter, but before he would feel he had the right to do so.

As Dean withdrew his finger, Sumiko blinked a couple of times then opened her eyes, two dark blue marbles, fierce and shining with life.

“Hey, Sue,” Sam whispered. “You have beautiful eyes.”

“She looks even grumpier like that.”

“That she does. She’s had a rough night, you know?”

“Yeah. I totally get that, Sue. You can look as grumpy as you want,” Dean said, smiling when the baby made a small, huffing noise.

“Dean.”

“What?”

“There are so many things I want to tell you, but you won’t let me, so… let’s say I just did.”

“Okay. Okay, works for me.”

Rania was back with them, looking tired but relieved. She told Dean that she had to “see how the curse was going” and peeked under the sheets. Neither Sam nor Dean paid it much attention. Dean was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. He kept yawning helplessly, stroking Sumiko’s back with his fingers. When Rania was done and had rearranged the blankets, she prepared to leave the room, saying they needed intimacy, and that she needed a drink.

“Thank you so much,” Sam said fervently. “For everything.”

“Just doing my job,” she answered from the hallway.

Sam turned toward Dean, who was still contemplating their daughter.

“So? It wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“It was torture, you dick. Can’t believe we both did this to Mom.”

“I bet she didn’t regret it.”

“You were freaking eight pounds eleven ounces when you were born, Sam. That’s like… almost two Sumikos.”

“Ouch. And of course, you didn’t hurt her at all when you were born.”

“‘Course not. Besides, I was a preemie.”

“What? You never told me that.”

Dean shrugged. “Didn’t think it was important. I was five weeks early, weighed a glorious four-two.”

“Holy shit, Dean, you were tinier than her.”

“Yeah.”

“Hard to believe.”

“Yeah.” Dean yawned again. “Dude, I feel like roadkill.”

“You do look like shit.”

“Geez, thanks. Exactly what I needed to hear.”

“You can barely stay awake. Let it go. I’ll watch over her.”

Dean kept looking at Sumiko, but the tension left in his body eased off, like all he’d needed was Sam’s permission. Five minutes later, he was sleeping as deeply as his daughter.

Sam leaned further on the mattress, keeping a physical contact with Sumiko, feeling the incredible weight of the responsibility for her life landing heavily on his shoulders. It was as exhilarating as it was scary. He wondered if that was how Dean had felt all his life since their dad had put Sam in his arms, suddenly understanding so many things about his brother it was dizzying.

My daughter, he thought. Mine, she’s mine. Not gonna let anything bad happen to you, Sumiko. Never.

How could he?

He started to doze off, letting exhaustion take a hold of him. He didn’t really fall asleep, he was still aware of his environment and of the tiny noises Sumiko was making in her sleep.

He heard Dean’s whimpers and blinked, trying to figure out how long he’d been dozing. He took a look at Dean and met red-rimmed eyes, wide open and fearful. There was an unfocused quality to them, as if Dean wasn’t really there.

A nightmare, was Sam’s first thought. He rubbed at his eyes and pressed Dean’s shoulder with one hand. He frowned. He could feel heat radiating from the skin underneath the cotton fabric. Something was wrong.

“Dean,” he whispered, startling him.

Dean grabbed Sam’s wrist, his eyes rolling in their sockets. His hand was dry and literally burning.

“Get her outta here,” he rasped.

“What? Dean, are you-”

Dean started squirming on the bed. He looked at their daughter and tried to take her into his arms but couldn’t do it, as weak as he was. He pushed her toward Sam instead. “The fire…” He whispered. “The fire, Sam, take her, take her please…”

“There’s no-”

“It’s here!” Dean yelled, and Sam grabbed Sumiko before Dean could push her further. “It’s here, GET HER OUT!”

Sam stood up and called Rania, taking a few steps away from the bed. Whatever Dean was seeing and feeling was terrorizing him. Dean looked all around, panting and fighting to sit up, and Sam felt helpless, cuddling the baby closer to himself.

Then, Dean’s entire body went as tense as a taut string. His mouth closed so suddenly Sam could actually hear his teeth clashing together. His fingers curled like claws and his back was curved like a bow, actually lifting off the mattress.

“Rania!” Sam shouted in panic.

The young woman entered the room just as Dean started shaking, his whole body going from small tremors to convulsions. Low, guttural groans were ripped from his throat and a mix of saliva and blood dripped from his mouth.

“What’s happening?” Sam asked as Rania gathered some supplies from the medical cart.

“He’s seizing,” she said, running to the bed.

In Sam’s arms, Sumiko let out a small whimper and began to cry.

“Sam, out,” Rania ordered.

“No.”

“Take Sumiko out and let me work!” she snapped at him.

And Sam did, even if all he wanted to do was stay and help. He had his daughter to look after. Couldn’t split himself in two.

He found himself alone in the dark living room, speaking softly to Sumiko to calm her down. He couldn’t hear anything from the exam room.

“It’s okay, you’re okay, baby.”

He rocked her in his arms, taking comfort in her warm body pressed against his chest, until she fell asleep again. “Yeah, that’s it. No need to worry. Dean’s gonna be just fine. Promise.”

Sumiko frowned, as if she couldn’t convince herself to believe him.

Chapter Text

Dean… hey…

Come on, Dean. Need you to open your eyes for me.

He couldn’t make out the words. Was hearing them far away, from the depths of unconsciousness. Was he drowning? He didn’t remember any water. No. The pain, though, the pain was still there. It’d been there for a long time, hadn’t it?

It was burning him, splitting him in two, a fierce fire in the depths of his belly, and he would have screamed but couldn’t. Because there was liquid lead flowing through his veins, so heavy, he was all but made of lead.

Dean, come on. You can do it.

Do what? Was somebody speaking to him? Why wouldn’t the pain go away? It should be… should be gone by now because...?

Correction. He wasn’t heavy. How could he be when he felt so empty? Something was wrong. Something was missing. He…

Sumiko. Sumiko, god, what had happened to her. She was…

It was a litany. The baby. His baby. Sam’s. He…

Dean, open your eyes. Now.

A sting, sharp pain on his fingernail. Dean felt his body jerking under it. Jerking. Moving. He could, maybe. Had to come back, had to find Sue, had to, had to.

Open your eyes. He could. Do it. Thought it, but nothing happened, and he was drifting away again. Maybe he could find Sumiko that way.

Dean, please. Dean, come on, enough. S’not funny anymore.

A firm press on his hand. Sam. Couldn’t go away. Sam would know. Would know what had happened to him, to their daughter.

Sammy was crying. Sammy needed him. He was a tiny baby and he needed Dean to take care of him.

Dean.

Sam, you’re upsetting her.

Except that it wasn’t Sammy who was crying. It couldn’t be, because Sam was an adult. Sam…

A flash, like lightning in his head. The pain and the urge and the overwhelming feeling of giving up control of his body because it knew what to do. And the warmth of the baby’s body heat against him. Sue, crying, wiggling on his stomach. Alive and well and so tiny, so fragile but so strong at the same time.

His daughter was crying. He had to look after her. He… told his eyes to open. Had to actually concentrate on the movement to get it done.

Light. Hurt. No. Go back to sleep ,Dean.

Dean? Hey, did he…?

Yeah. Come on, Dean.

Yeah, he told himself. Come on, Dean. Sam is worried. You have to make sure the baby’s alright, make sure that Sam knows you’re fine. Just a bit tired, is all.

He tried again to open his eyes, blinked once more against the light. Felt a tear of irritation sliding down his cheek.

“Dean?”

Sam’s voice, Sam’s face, a bit blurry, hovering in his sight.

“Take it easy, Dean,” another voice said.

And yeah. That was Rania, but he couldn’t quite make out her face. And Sam was speaking. Slow down, dude, he wanted to say, but couldn’t.

“…okay, you’re okay. It’s the curse, Dean. It got a bit wild after Sumiko was born.”

The curse. Wild. Sumiko. Yeah, right. He could still hear her wailing and knew, just knew that she had to be in Sam’s arms. If he could only turn his head, a bit, but he was so, so tired.

“Hey Dean. No going back to sleep now,” said Rania’s authoritative voice.

He felt a sharp pain on his sternum.

Alright, alright.

He could lower his eyes. Could look. And there she was, wrapped up in a blanket, her hat almost low enough to cover her eyes. That was what was bothering her, he thought with irritation because he couldn’t form the words. Sam, her hat is bothering her.

What came out of his mouth was a small croak. Damn it.

“Don’t try to talk, you’re okay. You need to rest, Dean. Sue is alright. I got her,” his drama queen of a brother babbled with big shiny eyes.

Jesus Christ, Samantha, cut the crap. This ain’t a lifetime movie. I’m fine, really. Can’t you just lift up the poor girl’s hat?

Some other things happened. Rania did… stuff to him. But then he was drifting off again.

::: :::

At the beginning, he was so messed up that he couldn’t quite figure out the passage of time, had the impression that days went by between each waking. It was terrifying. There was always somebody with him. Sam or Rania. There were so many things he wanted to ask, to say, but he was barely able to nod when asked a question. Does it hurt? No. Are you thirsty? Fuck yeah. Tiny nods. One time, there was this itch on his chin and he couldn’t, for the life of him, manage to scratch it. His hand was heavy and numb. All he could do was move his fingers.

Sometimes Sam would have the baby in his arms, or would talk about her. She drank her milk. She’s sleeping. Look Dean, look. I have her with me.

I’m not stupid, he thought, but all he could do was freaking nod.

Then, time shifted and he realized that it wasn’t days that were going by but hours. Got some awareness of his body again, better control over his thoughts and his ability to sleep or to stay awake at will.
He was weak, that much he knew. Seriously weak. Made him think of how he’d felt when he’d been snatched from the bottom of the Pit. Which wasn’t a pleasant thought, so he put it away. The aching throb deep down in his stomach was subsiding and then it was just the feeling of being sore. Good. Had Sam said something about the curse? He had something stuck in his arm. Sometimes he would feel a cool, liquid sensation around it and knew he had an IV of some sort.

Thinking was tiring though, and he had to sleep when he did it for too long, or when he managed to gather the energy necessary to suck a couple of mouthfuls of water from a straw.

He wasn’t that scared anymore, but still worried. Wanted to sit and walk and talk, take Sumiko in his arms and feel normal again. He felt like he had let her down, somehow, and this feeling wouldn’t leave him, even when he was asleep.

::: :::

It was almost dark in the room, except for a dim light somewhere over his head. It was different. He felt different. More aware. He tried to move his hand and could lift it up. It was shaking a bit and the muscles strained with the effort, but still. Definitely an improvement.

He cleared his throat. God, it tasted like morning breath. The thought of water had his mouth… well. Watering.

“Somebody’re?” he asked, words slurred and low but still, words.

He heard some movement from deeper in the room and saw a shape moving in the darkness. Sam. As his brother came into view, Dean saw that his features were tense with exhaustion. He had a light stubble-shadow over his chin, and was walking a bit bent over, the way he always did when he’d got stuck sleeping in a very uncomfortable position.

“Hey, Dean. How’re you feeling?”

“… The hell happened?”

“You thirsty?”

“Yeah.”

Sam took a glass of water from the nightstand. Dean raised his hand to take it.

“No way, dude. You have, like, the strength of a weakened kitten.”

Nice, Dean thought, but he let Sam have his way. There was this particular look in his brother’s eyes that was screaming mother-hen mode. Dean figured he could let him have his way, for the moment.

The water was warm but still good. He let go of the straw when he was done, irritated to find that the simple act of drinking exhausted him.

“So, how’re you feeling?”

“Where’s Sue?”

“She’s right here, Dean. She’s sleeping in the incubator.”

“I don’t… can’t… what’s the date?”

“Friday the seventh. It’s almost five AM. You’ve been kinda out of it for a little bit over twenty-four hours. It was the curse, Dean. Apparently, it wanted to set you back to normal after it had reached its goal, but it worked way too fast for your body to follow. You spiked a fever, pretty high and you… you’ve had seizures because of that.”

“Holy shit…”

Dean dragged a hand over his face. He was sweating a bit.

“Yeah. It was impressive. Rania took care of you so she’ll probably be able to explain it better but… Three hours after Sue was born, there was no trace you’d ever had a va-… a birth canal.”

Dean squirmed on the bed, trying to feel what had changed. He’d never really thought too much about the last modification the curse had caused. Each time he had, he’d come close to panicking. The belly, he could have accepted, eventually, but the birth canal had been something else entirely. Dean had felt… well. He would never tell this to anyone, of course, could barely admit it to himself. But he had felt… violated. The worst part was when he’d been taking a shower and had to wash himself down there (yeah, he couldn’t get himself to be more specific in vocabulary and thought, down there was the best he could do). Whenever the washcloth had come close to his new opening, he’d got all weak at the knees and done a quick, almost frenetic job of cleaning himself. He had never tried to touch it or look at it.

…And yeah, he could tell that it was gone. The subtle slip-slide he used to feel whenever he moved his legs or hips was gone. It was still sore, but…

“And the same goes for the uterus. Rania did an ultrasound yesterday morning and it was gone. Not a trace that it’d ever been there. Your stomach is… it pretty much looks like before the pregnancy, and well…” Sam blushed a little. “You were leaking colostrum almost constantly during the delivery, but now the milk ducts are gone as well.”

“That’s all good,” Dean whispered, trying to fight the exhaustion that was already washing over him. “So why do I feel like shit?”

Sam gave a nervous laugh. “Your metabolism couldn’t cope, man. It happened way too fast. Hence the fever. You’ve been over 104.6 for like… two hours and… Fuck, it was pretty bad, Dean. Scary as hell, to tell the truth. You were sweating so bad the sheets were soaked and you were dehydrating by the minute and your heart was beating too fast and… Rania pumped you full of drugs but even then. We were planning to get you to a hospital, but then the fever started to lower a bit.”

“Oh.”

What could he say? Sorry? Sam was visibly upset but he couldn’t gather the strength to do anything about it.

“Anyway, you’re doing better now,” Sam said, shrugging. “Rania said it would take some time for your body to get over this but she isn’t worried too much.”

“Sue…”

“She’s okay, man. Really. First time she took her bottle, she drank it like a pro. She sleeps and drinks and well… poops. She’s great. You wanna see her?” Sam asked as an afterthought.

Yes, yes please. Thanks for not making me say it.

As Sam got Sumiko, Dean raised the head of the bed and tried to settle himself, but it was hard to move, to think about moving. He was scared, suddenly, that Sam would ask him if he wanted to hold her, because he knew he couldn’t.

But Sam didn’t. He lowered the side rail of the bed and sat next to Dean with their daughter in the crook of his arm. She didn’t have her hat on and her soft hair was almost white in the lamplight. The swelling of her face had already started to recede and Dean could see how delicate and fine her features were. She was sleeping soundly, pouting with her heart-shaped lips. When Dean put his hand on her belly, she made a noise that was a cross between a hiccup and a sigh. He felt something twisting inside him and was once again pretty close to tears. Damn it. He was turning into a sap. Still, just looking at his daughter made it hard to breathe. She was his. He had actually carried a human being inside of him. How could the thought not be overwhelming?

“She looks just like you, ya know?” Sam whispered.

“Bullshit.”

“Dean, seriously. She’s one day old and I can tell. Rania too.”

“Her eyes are shaped more like yours,” Dean stated, which was true, and, judging by the smile it conjured on Sam’s face, he wasn’t the only one who was getting over-emotional about the fact that Sumiko could take after him.

“Rania wanted me to get her next time you woke up. I should go. You look spent.”

Sam was already getting up, but Dean left his hand on Sumiko. He needed this. “Wait… just five more minutes, okay?”

“Okay. Yeah.”

Sam sighed and settled more comfortably. He already looked like he was used to having the baby in his arms, and Dean felt a prick of jealousy, thinking he couldn’t even do that.

He closed his eyes and let the soft rise and fall of Sumiko’s belly under his hand calm him down.

::: :::

July 8

He had to hold onto Sam’s arm to keep his balance. His legs were shaking badly when they reached the Impala, sweat dripping down his forehead. He felt sick and weak and out of place, as if he was walking in a space between dream and reality.

“Gonna sit in the back with Sue,” he told Sam, trying to keep his irritation at bay.

He couldn’t take it anymore, the way his brother looked at him as if he was a fragile, precious thing, ready to break. He knew he looked bad, had seen his reflection in the bathroom mirror earlier. His skin was a pasty white, his eyes sunken with dark circles around them. His stubble needed to be taken care of, but just the thought of shaving was exhausting.

Sam had helped him dress in sweats that were hanging low on his narrow hips, with a pregnancy tee bagging sadly over his flat, but still soft, stomach. He couldn’t quite identify himself with the man who was looking back at him, had wanted to shout at him to man up and to stand straight. It didn’t matter that Rania had said all he needed was rest to build back his strength. She had given him a prescription for some multivitamin high-protein shakes, patted him on the shoulder. “I know you don’t want to, but you gotta give yourself some time, Dean.”

Yeah right. Time. Dean’s patience had been put to the test for nine months and he couldn’t deal with this anymore, wanted so badly to feel like himself again it actually hurt.

He sat on the seat with Sam’s help and waited while his brother went back to the house to get Sumiko. It was still early in the morning but already hot and sunny outside. The light made his eyes water, and he swore at his body, at the way it kept betraying him.

He saw Sam on the porch, rocking the baby seat by the handle as he spoke with Rania. Dean could tell by the expression on his brother’s face that they were talking about him.

Of course they were talking about him. Poor weakened, fragile Dean who needed to be taken care of, who couldn’t even hold his newborn daughter in his arms.

He clenched his jaw and let resentment wash over him, feeling an acidic taste rising in his throat. He was being unfair to Sam, that much he knew, but he couldn’t help it.

 

The door of the Impala opened suddenly and Sam snapped the car seat into its base, facing the back. He played with it a bit to be sure it was secure, then look up at Dean, long bangs falling into his eyes, a little smile on his lips.

“Ready to go home?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” Sam bent down to rearrange the blanket over Sumiko. “We’re going home, sweetie,” he whispered tenderly, then he was out and settling himself in the driver’s seat.

The familiar rumble of the car didn’t do a thing to put Dean in a better mood. He kept looking at his daughter, her face so small surrounded by the blanket and her pale blue hat nestled on her head. She sucked softly at her pacifier, eyes moving under her closed eyelids. Dean couldn’t turn his eyes away from her, wondering if he would ever be able to be close to her without feeling so overwhelmed.
Who are you? He thought, taking one of Sumiko’s hands into his (shaking, still shaking, damn it). The truth was that he didn’t know who she was: his daughter, yes, Sam’s. John and Mary Winchester’s granddaughter. A girl, healthy, who might or might not have some demon blood in her. Still, she was a mystery to him, a human being whole and now completely separated from him.

Please don’t let me screw this up. Please.

He didn’t realize he was falling asleep until he suddenly woke up with Sam shaking his shoulder. They were home. Sue was squirming and groaning in her seat. Her pacifier had fallen into the crook of her legs, leaving a red mark over her mouth.

“Yeah, I know, baby,” Sam cooed, unlocking the seat. “I’ll get her inside and then I’ll help you out,” he told Dean.

And Dean could only nod, because he knew he couldn’t walk into the house by himself. Couldn’t even hear his daughter complaining when she was right under his nose.

Sam couldn’t shut himself up as they were entering the house, talking about organization and cleaning and maternity milk and sleep cycles. All Dean could think about was lying down and sleeping. He refused Sam’s offer of settling on the living room couch. Why would he stay downstairs to watch Sam do everything he couldn’t?

::: :::

Dean slept almost constantly for the next twenty-four hours. Sam actually had to wake him up to get him to drink and eat. Sometimes he heard Sumiko’s soft cries in the lighter stages of his sleep. As night fell, he realized that Sam had settled downstairs with the baby to sleep, probably to let Dean rest. It still pissed him off.

He woke up in the middle of the night and heard noises downstairs - Sam’s soft whispers, Sumiko’s wails, things being handled in the kitchen. It was probably time for his daughter’s bottle. He stayed in the dark, listening, body aching from staying too long in the same position. Didn’t trust himself to go downstairs by himself, even if he wanted to. Badly. He missed the baby. It was strange and depressive enough to feel so empty, like she’d actually been ripped away from him. He ached to hold her in his arms.

He didn’t call Sam, didn’t want to bother him, finding very bad and stupid reasons not to ask for his help. He waited instead, and the house went silent again. He got up only after that, holding on to the furniture and walls to drag himself to the bathroom. He didn’t look in the mirror. He felt shallow and dirty, having only been sponge bathed since the birth (and yes, it was as humiliating as it sounded).

He pissed and didn’t flush, sure that it would drag Sam upstairs, arms in the air and yelling that it wasn’t safe, that Dean could have fallen and broken his neck, or something stupid like that. He was short of breath when he got back to bed, not sure that he could’ve managed another minute on his feet.

“Damn it,” he growled, dragging the cover over himself, sure he would break down and burst into tears from frustration right then and there.

But sleep took him fast. Again.

::: :::

It was almost eleven in the morning when he woke up. Sam was bent over him, features tense and blue circles under his eyes, looking concerned and tired.

“Hey, sleepy head. Feel like coming downstairs to eat this time?”

Dean nodded clumsily, trying to chase away the persistent feeling of exhaustion. He sat up by himself, brushing Sam’s helping hand away a bit more roughly than he’d intended. He saw the hurt in Sam’s eyes and felt a pinch of guilt.

“M’not totally helpless, ya know,” he grumbled.

“I know.”

Sam’s tone was apologetic. Great. More pity.

After a trip to the bathroom, Sam took him in the kitchen where he had heated some soup and prepared a whole table of fruit and vegetables and cheese. Dean wanted to thank him for his efforts, he really did, but the words got stuck in his throat, so he just sat down near the baby swing where Sumiko was settled. He bent over her and kissed her head, taking his time to breathe the sweet smell that was so undeniably her. Her eyes were open wide and she made small huffing sounds, shaking her hands clumsily.

“I know you’re hungry, baby girl. It’s still half an hour until your bottle,” Sam stated, serving Dean his soup.

“She doing okay?” Dean asked, looking at his soup without appetite.

“Yeah. She’s drinking one and a half ounces now. And you should hear her burp! It’s, like, impossible that such a big noise can come out of such a tiny person.” Sam smiled a bit nervously and ate a spoonful of soup. “How are you doing?”

Dean shrugged and grabbed a carrot stick. It tasted like paper.

“Dean, I don’t… I don’t know what to do.”

“With what?”

“You… you don’t look fine. Not at all.”

Not now, Sam, please don’t do this now I can’t take this kind of crap, Dean thought, but then Sue began to cry and Sam forgot that he had even tried to start a conversation. No matter what he did, the baby wouldn’t stop, and she only got louder and louder, her face scrunched up and her mouth wide open. Sam left his seat to take her in his arms, cradling her while heating her bottle in a pot of hot water. All Dean could do was watch, fidgety and nervous and frustrated. Sam sat back with the baby and brushed the tip of the nipple against her lips until she felt it and eagerly closed her mouth around it. Sam actually looked almost at ease with the whole thing and Sue was only three days old.

It was like Dean was intruding. Sam and Sumiko were bonding while he slept.

Pushing his untouched bowl away, Dean opened his protein shake and downed it in one long gulp, knowing Sam wouldn’t leave him be if he didn’t eat anything.

“M’gonna take a shower,” he announced, getting up slowly, holding onto the chair to steady himself.

Sam sighed. “Could you at least wait fifteen minutes ‘til I’m done with her bottle? I’ll be able to help you then.”

“I don’t need your help.”

“You can barely stand up, Dean! I don’t wanna have to take you back to Rania because you hit your head falling down. If you’re too stubborn to-”

“Oh, Jesus! I’m so sorry to mess with your schedule, Sam,” Dean said sarcastically. “After all, I’ve only just given birth to your daughter. Didn’t mean to bother you now that I’ve fulfilled my purpose.”

Oh God. That was probably one of the meanest, stupidest things Dean had ever said. He knew it even as he was saying it, and by the way Sam’s eyes became suddenly wide and liquid, Dean could tell the barb had hit its mark. All Dean could do was gather his strength to get back to bed. He lay on his stomach and let his heartbeat slow down, thought he would never go back to sleep, that he had stored enough sleep for a week or so, but exhaustion took him once again, and his last conscious thought was that he’d been a jerk.

Which was, as far as he was concerned, something that happened way too often.

::: :::

He was in a hotel room with Sammy. Alone. Dad had said he would only be gone for half an hour because they needed food.
Dean was six and was watching over Sammy. His brother had been asleep and John had told him that he would probably nap the whole time. Dean was six. His dad knew he could count on him. He kept calling him the bestest assistant in the world.
But Sammy did wake up only a short time after Dad was gone, and he was grumpy – was always grumpy when he woke up from a nap. He sat on the bed and called for Dad, and then started to cry, big tears rolling down his cheeks and snot coming out of his nose. He held out his hands to Dean and grabbed him by the neck, crying louder, harder, calling Daddy, and Dean couldn’t get him to calm down. He tried to give him his milk bottle, even found a pack of cookies in his bag, but Sammy threw them on the floor and lay on his belly, face in the pillow, crying, sobbing like Dad had disappeared forever. Dean lay next to him and tried to shush him, close to tears. He knew he was in trouble. Dad had told him often enough that a crying baby drew attention to them and that they didn’t want that. Drawing attention was dangerous because Dad had important work to do and maybe the Bad Guys would find them if Sammy cried for too long.
What if the Bad Guys found Dean and Sammy while Dad was still out, what if they took them away? Dean wrapped his arm around Sammy and begged him. “Please stop. Please, Sammy. I’m here, okay? Dad’s gonna be here real soon. Promise. Please…”

“…Sammy,” Dean rasped, finding himself sitting in his bed, darkness surrounding him. He shook his head vigorously, trying to pull himself together. Looking at the nightstand, he was half surprised to see that it was already eight o’clock in the evening. The sense of urgency he had felt in the dream wouldn’t go way. Because…

Because Sammy was still crying. No. Not Sammy. Sue. She had the desperate cries of a tired and angry baby, voice croaky and raw.

Dean stood up and followed the noise downstairs. It was coming from the living room. Stepping into the corridor, he had to walk around different obstacles to reach his goal: a basket full of dirty laundry, an opened pack of baby wipes and a plastic bag that was letting out a very recognizable smell, dirty diaper.

The living room was a mess, but Dean barely took the time to notice it. Sam was pacing, holding a squirming, howling baby in his arms. Dean couldn’t decide which one of the two was more miserable, because Sam was crying too, full-on wracking sobs and giant tears on his cheeks. Dean realized how tired and spent he looked, how the last three days must had been hard on him.

“Dean?” Sam hiccupped, looking at him. “Shit, Dean, didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“S’okay, Sammy, I’ve slept enough. What’s going on?”

“I… fuck… I don’t know. She won’t stop and… and I changed her diaper and fed her and washed her and she won’t stop and… the pacifier doesn’t work and I don’t know what’s wrong and…”

Sam sniffed. He looked like a child lost in a giant’s body. Dean came closer and held out his arms. “Want me to try?”

“You sure you’re-”

“I wouldn’t offer if I wasn’t sure I could handle it.”

Sam settled Sue in Dean’s arms. Her small body was hot through the soft fabric of her pajamas, her face red and congested. There she was. He was holding her. He’d carried her for nine months, but now he was finally holding her. She was even lighter than he’d thought, could fit with her head in the crook of his elbow while her feet barely reached his wrist. “Hey, come on, what’s wrong, sweetheart? You’re upset, aren’t you?”

He started cradling her softly in his arms, rubbing her back with his fingers. She was still crying, so alive pressed against him, waiting to be taken care of, waiting for her father to make everything good and well in the world. Dean started walking around the house. He felt better – not at his best, far from it, but not as helpless as the day before. Sumiko’s cries were starting to diminish. She shook her head and opened her dark blue eyes, her lower lip wobbling. Dean couldn’t help but smile. “You look so miserable, baby. Bet you don’t even know what you’re fussing about anymore, huh? You’re tired, that’s what it is.”

He snatched her pacifier from the kitchen table and offered it to her. It took a bit of persuasion, but she finally closed her mouth around it and started sucking in earnest, hiccupping through her nose. “There you go,” Dean whispered, going back to the living room where Sam was sitting on the couch, looking stunned and dazed, tears drying on his cheeks. He raised his head and looked at Dean through his bangs.

“She’s stopped.”

“Yeah. Guess she was just a bit worked up, or whatever.”

“Good.” Sam put his face into his hands and sighed loudly. “You hold her for like… five minutes and she calms down. I feel so… clumsy with her. Most of the time, I don’t even know what I’m doing. How am I supposed to know how to do this?”

“Hey, calm down. She probably just stopped because we switched. She was tired, is all, and you were too. You’re the one who read me all that shit about the baby reacting to our state of mind. And for the record, you kind of rock with her.”

Sam smiled. “Think so?”

“Totally. Plus, you’ve been dealing with her and me being a jerk for the last three days, so…”

“Dean, I’m sorry about earlier. I should have-”

“What? Left Sumiko there in the kitchen ‘cause I couldn’t wait? Come on, Sammy. It’s me that needs to apologize.”

Dean settled in the corner of the couch before his arms could start shaking again. Sumiko was almost asleep. He laid her on his chest, her head resting in the crook of his neck, and began rubbing her back softly in a steady rhythm. “Why don’t you nap for a couple of hours? I’ll take care of her.”

Sam frowned, still unsure.

“I’ll call you if I need help, okay?”

“Okay.” Sam nodded and yawned. Getting up seemed like a difficult task for him, and he walked to the stairs with slow steps, rubbing at his eyes like a kid.

Which left Dean alone in the living room with his daughter. He took the Impala’s old blanket which was resting on the back of the couch and covered the both of them, then wrapped both of his arms around the baby, feeling her small chest rising and her heart beating against his. It felt like home.

“Love you,” he murmured, kissing Sumiko’s soft hair.

When Sam woke up two hours later, he found them both asleep on the couch, a gentle smile still quirking Dean’s lips.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, July 12

Sumiko was on their bed, squirming and blinking, mouth open like it was every time she needed to suck on something. Dean cleaned her butt, making her grunt when the cold wipe came in contact with her skin.

“Hey, you’re the one who did that stinky mess, don’t try to blame me,” he said, stuffing the wipe into the dirty diaper and closing it with the still-sticky fasteners. Then he slid the clean diaper under her and tied it, carefully avoiding her small blackish belly button, which would fall off in the next few days. God, he was getting pretty damn good at this whole diaper-changing thing. He’d always been a fast learner. “There. All set, Sumi,” he added – and, because he was sure Sam was downstairs and wouldn’t hear him, he blew a raspberry on her quivering belly, startling her. Her thin leg stretched comically as her eyes opened wide. Dean let out a quiet laugh.

“Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.”

He snapped her jumpsuit buttons, then did the same with the pajamas. It was Sam’s favorite set: yellow and soft, with a goofy-looking sun embroidered on the chest. And yeah, Dean could admit it, his daughter was kind of cute in it.

“Ready to go to bed?” he asked softly, pulling Sumiko into his arms.

Her eyes were already closing. Dean snatched her pacifier from her crib. She grabbed it almost instantly with her small pink mouth. “Okay, now, baby. What d’you wanna hear? I’m guessing some Lynyrd Skynyrd. Yeah? Am I right or what?”

Dean was cradling Sumiko, shifting from one foot to the other to keep some kind of soft rhythm while humming Free Bird, as gently as he could. Then he put her in her crib, rocking it when she began to squirm again. He tucked her in her blanket and kissed her forehead.

“There. You sleep now, sweetheart.”

He turned on the baby monitor and left the room.

He took a quick shower. Sumiko wouldn’t sleep for long and he wanted to spend a little time with Sam. He was feeling better, not a hundred percent, of course, but his strength was coming back. He had lost a lot of muscle mass during the pregnancy – that wouldn’t be fixed by the completion of the curse. As soon as he felt well enough, he planned to start exercising. He didn’t know where the rest of his life would go, if he and Sam would give up the hunt for good, but keeping physically fit had been a constant for Dean, just like everything his father had taught him.

He washed his belly, couldn’t help but rub it longer than necessary. There was no sign he’d ever had a baby there, even if the muscle was still loose and the skin tender, his stomach was flat. The queasy feeling of emptiness would go away, eventually. He supposed that every woman who’d just given birth felt it too.

He joined Sam downstairs. The sun was setting, giving an orangey shade to everything. He found his brother in the living room, sitting on the floor and folding tiny baby items that they’d just washed. It was funny, seeing this giant of a man so concentrated on his task, pajamas laid out on the coffee table as he tried to join the two sleeves with his enormous paws, tongue peeking out of his lips and eyebrows frowned in concentration.

Dean made sure that the baby monitor receptor on the table was turned on, then he sat down next to Sam, sighing.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Having trouble with this?”

“Wanna do it?” Sam replied.

“Hey, we had a deal, poopy diaper in exchange for folding the laundry.”

“She sleeping?”

“Don’t know. She’s quiet, though.”

Sam smiled and took a break, leaning against the back of the couch and brushing his hair away from his face. He still had dark circles under his eyes. Dean supposed they both would until Sumiko was sleeping through the nights.

“We should hurry,” Dean said.

“Hurry?”

“Before she wakes up again.”

Then, Dean kissed Sam on the mouth, a long, deep kiss that had Sam moaning in seconds. He smiled. “Wanna fuck you, Sam.”

“Sure you feel good enough for…”

“Hell yes. Wanna bend you over the armrest and get inside you, what do you say?”

Sam’s only answer was to get up and start undressing. When he dropped his briefs, Dean saw that his cock was already half-hard and twitching between his legs. Dean licked his lips and undressed as well, giving himself a couple of strokes without taking his eyes away from Sam’s inviting body. God, he was beautiful, the kind of beauty that was rough and raw, because Sam, Sam wasn’t conscious of it, wasn’t conscious of the way he could make Dean crazy with a look or a simple movement of his hips, his powerful legs. But the truly amazing thing was how Sam combined all that strength with an underlying and everpresent tenderness.

They kissed and groped each other on the couch. It was the first time since Dean’s birth canal had appeared, and he was hungry, starving for Sam – all of him, father of his child, brother, lover.

He was so hard and eager, couldn’t stop running his hands over Sam’s body, biting it, scratching it. Sam was looking at him with intense dark eyes, like Dean was his whole world, and Dean couldn’t get enough of it. Had always been addicted to the man he saw reflected in Sam’s eyes.

“Get over the armrest,” he murmured in Sam’s ear, kissing and sucking on the lobe.

“Lube under the couch,” Sam said, settling himself.

“What?”

“Figured…” Sam panted. “If it was going to happen it wouldn’t be in our room where Sue’s sleeping.”

“Love the way you think, Sam,” Dean laughed, fetching the half-empty tube from under the couch.

He began to coax Sam’s tight muscles open, working slowly so as not to hurt him. It had been a long time, and Dean wanted to make it good for him.

But Sam had other plans; Dean could tell by the way he was wriggling his hips, impaling himself back on the fingers pressing inside him.

“Come on, Dean, get to it,” he groaned, and there was so much need deep and raw in his voice that Dean had to squeeze the base of his own dick, scared he would come right then, if the tickling in his balls was any indication.

He worked faster, adding a third, then a fourth finger and scissoring them in Sam’s ass until he couldn’t take it anymore. He was leaking, heart hammering in his chest and dick jerking against his belly. Without further warning, he kneeled on the couch and lined himself up, taking a firm hold on one of Sam’s hips. He penetrated him in one long, steady push, smiling at Sam’s soft needy moans.

“Need me to wait?” he asked, shaking with want. He leaned forward and pressed his chest up all along the straining line of Sam’s back.

“I’ll kill you if you do,” Sam growled over his shoulder.

“Pushy.”

“You like it.”

Dean smirked, shifted his hips a little, and feigned indifference. “Meh.”

“Dean,” Sam pleaded, voice rising towards a whine that Dean was so going to tease him for later.

Dean leaned in, and pressed his mouth hot and worshipful to the back of Sam’s neck. “Alright, babe.”

Dean wouldn’t last long. That much he knew. He began pushing forward into Sam, barely restraining himself, bending over his brother to kiss and suck at the sensitive skin on his neck, whispering obscenities into his ear. God that felt good. He had missed this so much. Low, guttural grunts were ripping out of his throat and the pleasure was building fast in his belly, swelling and surging into his dick and balls. “M’close, Sammy,” he panted, wrapping his hand around Sam’s length.

“Yeah come on, make me come,” Sam whispered, moving his hips to jerk himself into Dean’s hand.

Dean stroked faster, pushed harder into Sam. His vision was beginning to white out. He wouldn’t be able to hold out. Wouldn’t. Had to come. Had to…

Sam let out a long, broken sob as his dick swelled suddenly in Dean’s hand, and then he was coming, shaking and thrashing on the couch, grunting Dean’s name.

Dean let go, surprised to hear himself shout, but the intensity of his orgasm completely took over and he let himself ride it, pulsing into Sam, his sweat mixing with his brother’s. He collapsed forward onto Sam, who was already lax and pliant on the couch, and tried to catch his breath.

“Jesus fuck, I missed that,” Dean said, breathing hard through his nose.

“Me too,” Sam mumbled lazily. “Really, really missed it.”

They settled more comfortably on the couch, Sam being the impossibly big little spoon, his back nestled against Dean’s chest. They were sticky and messy and the room smelled of sex. Dean smiled and let himself drift off, thinking that he was feeling like himself again, thinking about how it was good to be in control, to take care of Sam. Any way possible. Sam and their daughter.

Soon enough, a static noise came out of the baby monitor, followed by a series of muffled high-pitched whimpers. Dean sat and shook his head vigorously, ready to go upstairs, but Sam was already putting his jeans and boxers on. “I’ll take care of her. You’ve been up all day and-”

“Sam. I’m fine.”

“I know. Just… let me do it. I’ll bring her back downstairs. Oh, and get dressed, you don’t wanna scar her for life”,” Sam added, smiling before walking away.

Less than a minute later, Dean heard some fussing and a crackling noise through the monitor, then Sam’s voice. “Okay, okay, it’s alright, daddy’s here. What’s the matter, Sue? Woke up all alone, is that it? Yeah, okay, come on. Come with me, baby. Don’t worry. I’mma take care of you. Always.”

Yeah. Sam would be there for Sue. Always. And for him too.

Dean closed his eyes and smiled.

::: :::

Epilogue

Having a newborn is like living in another dimension parallel to the “real world,” Sam had read in a pregnancy book. You don’t eat, live and sleep when everybody else does anymore; you do it when you can, because the only schedule that can be followed is the baby’s.

It was true, as far as Sam was concerned. Obviously. But still, he didn’t think they were dealing with it the same way other parents did. Not that they were any better, no way, but they had always lived in another parallel dimension, compared to normal people. They were used to a lack of sleep, eating when they could, adapting to new situations. That’s what their life had always been about.

Sam had lost his job after missing three days without calling when Sue had been born, but he didn’t mind. Dean didn’t either. They had enough money to get to mid-September since they hadn’t had to pay an anesthesiologist for the delivery. There would still be time then to start looking for another job. Dean kept saying that he would find something, but even if Sam didn’t say so, he meant to find work first. He didn’t think Dean would be able to spend so many hours away from Sue so soon after the birth. Not that he would ever admit it, but it seemed that the curse had triggered a profound bond between Sue and Dean.

They had time to plan ahead. The house was theirs until the end of December, which gave them time to think about what they would do with the rest of their lives. It seemed that both Dean and Sam had an unspoken agreement to take things easy until the end of the summer.

Sumiko was doing great. Rania had followed her and Dean carefully after the birth. Their daughter was now seven pounds five ounces. She had an expressive, almost funny little heart-shaped face, her hair kept growing, wispy and straight, on the top of her head, and her eyes, still a dark blue, looked so big with her delicate features. All of her emotions flashed right through them, like they did in Dean’s.

As a matter of fact, Sumiko took after Dean so much (although he insisted that she had Sam’s eyes and dimples) that they would have to take that into account when they decided which story they would eventually go with. It had been hard; they had actually fought about it more than once. But the facts were simple, they couldn’t say that Sue had been found during a hunt. She had to be Dean’s daughter. Nobody would believe that they were not related. Sam didn’t know why his brother was so reluctant to go with this idea until Dean had snapped back at him one night. “Because it’s fucking unfair to you, Sam! That’s why. Hell, I want her to know m’her dad, but if it means you have to give it up, I prefer to let her think that we found her and adopted her. That way, we’re equals.”

Emotionally, Sam kind of agreed with Dean. Thinking that Sumiko would never know he was her biological father lit a fire in his soul that wouldn’t stop burning, but they had to think about her first, what was best for her.

“Dean,” he had said with determination. “I grew up without any memories of a mother. Always missed her, even if I never really knew her. There was like this vacant space deep inside me that couldn’t be filled… That never will be, as a matter of fact. Sumiko will grow up thinking that her mother couldn’t take care of her, or whatever we tell her. She’s gonna miss somebody that doesn’t even exist… And you’re telling me you’re willing to make that a double, and give her not only one but both of her imaginary parents to miss? Is that fair to her?”

That’s what had done it, finally. Her name on her fake birth certificate was Sumiko Mary Winchester. Father: Dean Winchester, Mother: Sarah Smith. A common name, that Sam had chosen himself. He had felt dirty and wrong, building a lie for his newborn daughter, but he figured, better this sweet lie than the truth.

A week after Sumiko had been born, Dean had called Bobby, speaking to him for the first time since he’d gotten pregnant. It hadn’t been easy for him, but he did it, told Bobby he was feeling better and that they were thinking about getting back on the road. They just had “something to deal with first.” It was necessary, to get on with the rest of the story.

Sam had made the next call, another week later, ready to deal with Bobby’s questions and suspicions. The thing Dean had to “deal with” was a call Dean had received from an old flame telling him that he had a newborn daughter. They were with her at the moment. The mother didn’t want to raise the baby; she wanted to get on with her scholarship and get her university degree. They had done a DNA test and, sure enough, the baby was Dean’s. He had decided to raise her. They didn’t know what they would do from then on, but they had a baby with them.

Bobby had been very calm and hadn’t asked a lot of questions, which had been even scarier than the alternative. He had invited them to come and see him, to get their heads together because they would need to, obviously, but Sam and Dean hadn’t wanted to travel that far with a newborn so Sam had invited him over to their place instead. Bobby had said he would come around in a week or so.

Dean had been nervous and uncertain about it.

“We’ll have to do it sooner or later,” Sam had replied. “We’ve fooled Bobby long enough, Dean.”

That was really the only thing bothering them, because, to tell the truth, life was sweeter – which wasn’t difficult compared to the last three years. But, their existence had taken such a different turn, Sam sometimes had a hard believing all of it was true.

One night, Sam woke up to Sumiko’s cries. When they were sleeping, Dean heard her first most of the time and gave her a bottle without waking Sam up.

Perfectly awake, and a bit frustrated to find out that his brother hadn’t woken him up as he had insisted, Sam went downstairs to find Dean changing Sumiko’s diaper on the couch. Her empty bottle was sitting on the coffee table next to a coffee cup.

Dean whispered soothing words to Sumiko, who kept wailing, upset and tired, while he dressed her with sure but slow movements. His eyes were glassy from lack of sleep and he yawned so wide Sam could actually hear his jaw crack.

“Why didn’t you wake me up, Dean?”

“Was already awake. Made no sense to wake you up too.” Dean shrugged and finished wrapping Sumiko into her blanket. Sam took the baby and sat next to his brother, cradling Sumiko in his arms.

“Seriously Sam, how could he do it?” Dean suddenly asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Who?”

“Dad. You were a baby. I was freaking four years old. How could he ever think about hitting the road with us?”

“Huh. I don’t know.”

“He was out of his mind, that’s what he was,” Dean declared. “How could he deal with the both of us? I mean, we’re two grown adults, and we have our hands full with just one kid. “

“I don’t think he thought about that when he left. Mom had just died. He had seen something that changed the way he saw the world. He was grieving and scared.”

“Yeah,” Dean mumbled doubtfully.

“Man, what can I say? Are you seriously asking me to defend Dad? Anyway, I think the first year or so, he moved a lot less. Spent a lot of time at Caleb’s and Pastor Jim’s. Remember? Pastor Jim used to talk about it.”

“Got some memories of my own,” Dean agreed. Then his face hardened and he clenched his jaw. His eyes turned that particular shade of bright green that they did each time Dean was angry and trying to keep himself under control. “How could he do this? We took Sue to Rania’s two days ago and her routine was all fucked up. She was upset and tired and miserable. Dad did this to us, constantly. You know, it was hard enough for me to deal with mom’s death. Fuck. I still remember how I couldn’t understand it, even when I tried. That she was gone for good. But then Dad had to go and take me away from everything else, everything that was familiar and home to me. Everything that would’ve made it easier for me to get over Mom’s death. How could he do that? Because there were monsters crawling in the dark? Fuck him. Look at her, Sammy. You wanna raise her like a soldier, teach her to be scared of everything, not to trust anyone? You wanna know what I think? Dad was seriously fucked up in the head. Since Sue’s birth, I sometimes wish he’d come back from the dead just so I could kick his ass.”

Sam didn’t know if the exhaustion alone was responsible for this sudden outburst or if there was something more to it. Even though Dean had been getting back to his good old self since the delivery, there were some changes, not many, but still. Sam couldn’t really put his finger on it, but he couldn’t deny that Dean was different; a little bit quieter, a little bit less restless. They hadn’t been hunting for over ten months now. Dean had basically stayed home for half that time. To be honest, Sam had thought that the itch to get moving, if not on a hunt, at least into a more active life, would have manifested more quickly after Sumiko’s birth. On the contrary, Dean seemed to enjoy even more the domestic life they were living. He had started exercising every day and working on the exterior of the house, cutting the grass and the trees, cleaning. Sometimes he would look around and sigh in contentment, the clear sky lighting his eyes, face full of new freckles that the hours under the sun had given him.

Contrary to Sam, Dean hadn’t led a normal life since he’d been four and there was this deep ache in the pit of Sam’s stomach every time he caught Dean enjoying himself over the small things. He thought that Dean realized it too, but on a different level.

It was like suddenly, all of Dean’s fears and insecurities, anger and sorrow he had felt as a child and bottled up somewhere deep were coming back to him. Of course, he’d always felt he was responsible for Sam’s well-being, and had been much more like a father to him than just a brother, but he had been a kid back then too. Now, he was almost thirty, the father of a baby girl, and he had enough distance to identify himself with her.

If Sumiko’s arrival meant Dean could come to terms with some issues he was still struggling with, Sam meant to be there all the way. After he snapped, Sam didn’t press him with questions like a cheap psychiatrist. He let it go, and used other ways to let Dean know that he had heard him, kept talking and joking and even using small tender touches. His brother would never cease to amaze him. How was it that it literally hurt to feel for the people we love the most? The same thing applied to Sumiko. Sam’s heart felt bigger and heavier. In a good way.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, July 28

A soft rain had started to fall early in the morning and it continued on and off, under a clouded sky, as the temperature climbed to 75 f. By early afternoon, the house was cleaner that it had been since Sumiko’s birth and both brothers were sitting on the porch, waiting for Bobby to arrive. Sumiko was napping in her baby swing between their chairs. Sam was reading a book called How to Stimulate your Newborn Child, which Dean enjoyed making fun of. Not today, though. He was nervous about Bobby’s visit, had been tense and broody since they’d woken up that morning, his rare smiles reserved for Sumiko.

They both knew they would have to go through an interrogation sooner or later, and Sam had offered to handle it, to which his brother had snapped back. “Hey, m’not a wuss, I don’t need you to spare me.” Still, Sam knew how his brother really felt and if he had a chance to get through the difficult conversation alone with Bobby, he would do it.

“Did you know that by the time Sumiko reaches three years old, her brain will have made about a thousand trillion neuronal connections?”

“Yeah,” Dean answered distractedly.

“You knew that?”

“What?”

“You’re not listening to me.”

“Well, you’re not interesting.”

“Dean, try to re-”

“Shut up.” Dean stood up. “I hear a car. Do you hear a car?”

Sam listened carefully. “Yes.”

“Oh, shit, he’s here.”

Sure enough, Bobby’s old car appeared in the alley less than ten seconds later. Sam got up to join Dean on the bottom step of the porch’s stairs. He was the first to see that their old friend was not alone. Ellen was sitting in the passenger’s seat.

“Ellen’s with him, Dean.”

“Did he tell you she was coming along?”

“No!”

“Shit. Shit shit shit!”

“Dean, this doesn’t change anything.”

“We’ll see,” Dean grumbled, raising his hand to greet Bobby and Ellen.

“Oh my God,” Ellen said, half walking, half running to meet them. She passed Sam and Dean to bend over Sumiko. “I couldn’t believe it unless I saw it with my own eyes. Jesus, would you look at her! How old is she?”

“Three weeks, Dean said, blushing for some unknown reason.

Sam turned toward Bobby, who was walking at a slower pace, hands shoved into his pockets.

“Hey, Bobby.”

“Hey, boys. So… This is something I thought I’d never see.”

He smiled a little, and Sam felt like he could breathe easier. They shook hands, manly and rough, while Ellen lifted Sumiko out of her swing.

“It’s been so long since I’ve held someone so small in my arms. Hey, baby girl. You’re so pretty. Oh, and you’re opening your eyes just for me, right? You look like your daddy.”

She raised her head and look at Dean with that rough but beautiful smile of hers. “You’ve made the right choice, Dean,” she said, giving him a quick one-armed hug. Dean’s eyes widened in surprise and he clumsily patted her back.

“Huh, thanks.”

“What’s her name? Bobby said you hadn’t mentioned it.”

Dean cleared his throat. “Ah… Sue. Sumiko. It’s Japanese. Supposed to have magical powers, to protect her.”

“It’s a beautiful name.”

“It was Sam’s idea.”

“Of course it was. I kind of invited myself here, boys. Bobby’s not to blame. I stopped by his place a few days ago and he mentioned the baby. Decided to come along. Jo sends her regards by the way. She’s hunting a nasty spirit down in Tennessee with this Jamie of hers.” Ellen rolled her eyes.

“Jamie?” Sam asked, and saw that Bobby was repressing a smile.

“It’s a long story,” the old man said. “You boys gonna invite us inside or what?”

Dean, who’d been watching Ellen the whole time, seemed to come back to his senses. “F’course. Come on in.”

The first ten minutes were awkward. Sam made some coffee and they all settled in the living room. Ellen wouldn’t let go of Sumiko, holding her close and whispering to her. Dean was completely silent, sitting up straight next to Ellen and holding to his coffee cup like his life depended on it. As if he was sure that, one way or another, Ellen and Bobby would guess that he’d been pregnant with Sumiko.

Sam and Bobby were holding up the conversation almost all by themselves, small talk, news from recent hunts and even politics. Then, Ellen got up and held Sumiko out to Bobby, who looked at her as if she’d suddenly gone crazy.

“What?”

“Hold her.”

“I’m not…”

“Come on, Bobby,” Sam laughed as Ellen carefully placed Sumiko into his arms.

“Don’t forget to hold her head,” Dean said, then blushed again.

Bobby wasn’t that bad. He was a bit clumsy and unsure but he held his own. He had a soft smile for Sumiko and brushed his hand over the baby’s soft head.

“Ain’t she too small? She healthy?”

“Of course she’s healthy,” Ellen snapped. “Wow, Bobby Singer. You have absolutely no social skills.”

“She’s healthy,” Sam said. “She’s perfect.”

“She does look like Dean. Same goofy face.”

“Shut up,” Dean cut Bobby short and his face turned a worrying shade of crimson.

Things were more relaxed after that. Bobby asked for a beer and Sam was more than happy to comply. He offered one to Dean, but he refused distractedly, trying to fetch Sumiko’s pacifier which had slipped down between the couch cushions. Dean hadn’t gotten back to his old drinking habits since the birth. Sam could count on the fingers of one hand the number of beers he had drunk since.

In the kitchen, Bobby opened his beer and leaned against the counter, looking all around him. After a second of hesitation, Sam sat at the table and waited.

“You guys are doing good here,” Bobby finally said.

“Yeah. I guess we are.”

“Your brother. He’s still looking a bit out of shape.”

“Yeah, but he’s doing better. The doctor said the P.V.F.S. is really backing off.”

“Alright,” Bobby sighed, took the time to gulp another mouthful of beer. “So. Sam. Let me get this straight,” he started.

Okay. Here we go, Sam thought nervously. He kept looking straight at Bobby, despite the difficulty of it.

“This girl calls Dean’s cell to tell him that he has a daughter, and to come and get her.”

“Yeah.”

“And you guys went.”

“Yeah. I mean, we were already close to Maine.”

“Cape Elizabeth, right?”

“Right.”

“And Dean remembered that girl… Sarah.”

“Sarah Smith. Yeah, he remembered her.”

“And the baby was what… two weeks old? And she didn’t name her.”

Sam was ready. For everything. He had replayed this conversation in his head again and again. “Yeah, well… She knew she wasn’t going to keep her. She had found a couple who wanted to adopt her but they’d backed off just before the birth, for whatever reason. Sarah didn’t even have the baby with her. She was at her mom’s.

“Okay. Then, she couldn’t find another couple quick enough.”

“…And her mom was getting tired. Sarah found Dean’s number in her stuff and I guess she just took the chance. I don’t think she actually thought Dean would decide to raise the baby. But he did.”

“DNA test proved his paternity.”

“Well… it’s obvious she’s his daughter, right? I mean, did you look at her?”

“No, I know. The resemblance is there. Still… I thought DNA tests took a hell of a lot longer than that.”

Sam gulped. Yeah. Bobby was right. He thought fast. “Usually takes three to four weeks but Sarah knew someone working at the lab where the tests get done, and she got a free pass.”

Bobby slowly nodded, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “What are you boys gonna do now?”

“Well, the house is ours until January. After that, we don’t know.”

“Dean doesn’t want to hunt anymore, does he?”

“No. I mean, with a baby…”

“Figured. After the childhood you boys had. But what about you, Sam? If Dean settles down somewhere, doesn’t mean you gotta do it too. You could keep on hunting, with Ellen and Jo and their friends, or by yourself. Hell, you could go back to school.”

“No. I won’t leave Dean to raise Sue on his own. We’re together in this. And… geez, I don’t know, Bobby. Guess Dean doesn’t know either what he’s gonna do with the rest of his life. He’s just found out he has a daughter. That’s a lot to deal with.”

“He looks at ease with her already,” Bobby stated.

“He’s great.”

“You too.”

“Well… we’re fast learners.”

“Uh-huh,” Bobby said in a low voice.

He put his empty bottle on the counter and sat in front of Sam, looking at him so intently Sam’s eyes dropped. Damn Bobby and his piercing gaze.

“I’ma tell you something, Sam. Then, we can all go on with our lives like this conversation never happened. M’gonna leave Dean outta this, ‘cause he’s been avoiding me since I got here and I don’t want to make this awkward. I’ve known you for a long time. Feel kinda like a father to you boys since your Daddy died.”

“Yeah, Bobby, I know. And we… same goes for us.”

“Now… All a want is for you boys to be okay. You’re adults, you’re doing what you want with your lives. And I know, ya understand me? I know that everything you’ve told me since you asked me to find a doctor has been a lie.”

Sam blushed. Couldn’t help himself.

“I don’t know what happened to Dean. Or you, as a matter of fact, but you boys are different. It’s more obvious with Dean, but still. It’s not bad. He looks good, even if he’s thinner and quieter than before. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s been through something, something major. But I don’t need to know.”

“Bobby-”

“Oh, please, don’t Bobby me. I’ll go with your little story… That’s all I’m saying. Doesn’t change a thing between us. And I’ll be there for you whenever you need me.”

Sam swallowed loudly, ridiculously close to tears. He looked at his hands and took the time to get himself under control.

“Okay. Thanks, Bobby.”

Bobby fetched something from his pocket and threw it on the table. It was money. Old bills rolled and tied with a rubber band. It smelled strongly of coffee.

“Bobby, no.”

“Shut up, Sam. Got this a while back when Rufus and I were hunting a shifter. Had a taste for money and shiny things. He was using his abilities to rob people in their homes, disguised as their loved ones. Some stuff we could trace back to the owners, but money we couldn’t. So we split it. Don’t worry. I spent my fair share, but there’s eight thousand dollars left and I want you guys to have it.”

“We can’t-”

“Oh, but you will. It’s not like it’s my money anyway. Don’t need it. Dean’s got a baby to take care of now. He can’t spend his nights hustling pool in shady bars.”

Sam considered the money roll for another second, then took it and shoved it in his pocket. He didn’t doubt Bobby would force him to take it anyway and he had no desire to make him angry at the moment.

“You wait ‘til I’m outta here before telling your brother about this. The stubborn idjit would find a way to give it back.”

Sam let out a nervous laugh. “You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right.”

Laughter was coming from the living room. Sam got up to join them, taking a beer for Ellen.

“Are we good, Bobby?” he asked before leaving the kitchen.

“We’re good,” Bobby answered gruffly.

And Sam could tell he was sincere. He felt a weight lifting off his shoulders, not so much for the money as for the fact that Bobby respected them enough to leave them be, whatever he thought he knew about their situation. Of course, the money was much needed.

 

In the living room, Ellen was changing Sumiko’s diaper, kneeling in front of the couch while Dean watched, a wide smile on her face. Sumiko was squirming and grunting, her naked legs giving small jerks.

“You gotta lift her butt higher,” Dean pointed out.

“This isn’t the first diaper I’ve changed, Dean Winchester.”

“Looks like.”

“There,” Ellen said, closing the fasteners and buttoning Sue’s pajamas. “All done, sweetie. That wasn’t so bad.”

“She’s getting tired,” Dean said with a note of concern in his voice. He grabbed Sumiko’s blanket and wrapped her tightly into it, then settled back against the armrest, rocking the baby with a small, gentle motion.

Ellen took her beer from Sam without taking her eyes away from Dean. She looked serious and thoughtful suddenly.

“She’s lucky to have you, Dean. You’re gonna make a great dad.”

Dean shrugged, patting Sumiko’s butt with his fingers.

“He already is,” Sam added, sitting on the floor close to Dean.

“Shut up,” he told Sam, but Sam knew his brother. There was a silent I love you under the insult.

“Look at them, Sam. Ain’t they cute together?” Ellen teased.

“It’s her,” Dean stated, kissing his daughter’s head. “She’s amazing.”

She was, Sam thought. Dean was too. Sam looked at the both of them, feeling alive and loved and satisfied with his life, for the first time since…

Since ever. He didn’t remember a time where he’d been so close to happiness before. Dean’s foot brushed his, a quick movement that lasted less than two seconds, but still. It meant so much. Their eyes locked together. Sam smiled. Dean rolled his eyes. Whatever they could get, they would take it, even if it meant they had to spend the rest of their life hiding it.

And maybe their relationship was twisted, maybe it was wrong, but looking at his daughter with a rush of love flowing through his veins, Sam couldn’t really believe it.

Fin