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Authors’ note: My entry for the Wincest Reverse Bang on LJ for KulwShadow’s fantastic art prompt: Two Hunters and Angel Baby- Dean and Sam find a baby wearing Castiel's clothing. "Cas?" questions Dean. Please be sure to stop by and give her some love.  I’d also like to thank jdl71 for her beta and her feedback. All remaining mistakes are my own.

I don’t own these character; I just like to play with them every now and then.

 Set during 8x23 (opening dialogue and action taken from that episode). Title from Pulp.

 

 

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

 

“How do I stop?” Sam pleads; he squeezes his hand as blood drips onto the floor. The orange glow in his veins pulses, glowing brighter with every beat.

“Just let it go,” Dean begs.

“I can't. It's in me, Dean. You don't know what this feels like.”

Dean wraps a bandanna around Sam’s palm. “Hey, listen, we will figure it out. Okay? Just like we always do. Come on.”

Dean grabs Sam, pulling him in for tight hug. Sam clings desperately to him.

“Come on. Let it go, okay? Let it go, brother.” Dean whispers. He pulls back, but only enough to allow him room to rest his forehead against Sam’s own.

 

Sam’s breath hitches in his throat, a small wounded sound that makes Dean’s heart ache. Without thought, he presses his lips to Sam’s. All Dean wants is to erase the hurt. Still, a little voice screams at him; asks what the fuck he thinks he’s doing. It’s silenced when Sam doesn’t hesitate to press back. The kiss is brief and chaste, and still one of the most meaningful kisses Dean has ever received.

 

Dean doesn’t have time to dwell on it. In his periphery, he can see the glow in Sam’s arms begin to fade. Dean loosens his hold on Sam enough for Sam to back away and look down at his arms. They both watch in amazement and confusion as the glow disappears all together.

 

The look at each other, each silently questioning the other, Is this really happening?

 

Finally, slowly, Sam smiles. “Hey,” he says, as if seeing Dean for the first time.

Something Dean imagines might be a seed of hope, burns in his gut. He squeezes Sam’s forearms, fighting the urge to kiss him one more time. Sam chuckles and Dean grins. “Let’s get out of here.”

 

~~~~

They stumble of out of the church into the warm night. Dean helps Sam to car. Sam moves slowly, resting most of his weight on him. Sam’s breathing is shallow; every step elicits a restrained grunt from him. The first and second trials had already worn Sam down to nothing. Dean prays he stopped the final trial in time. He prays it hasn’t caused irrevocable harm.

 

The fifteen feet from the church doors to the Impala feel like miles. By the time Dean props Sam up against the Impala, he is sweating nearly as much as Sam is.

 

Sam shivers. “Cold,” he mutters, despite the weather.

“Soon, Sam,” Dean promises. He casts his eyes skyward. Cas, he thinks, where the hell are you? We could really use your help right now. There’s nothing. Cas doesn’t suddenly materialize before them. Dean’s cell phone doesn’t ring.

Sam reaches out and grabs Dean’s sleeve, fisting it tightly. “What is that?”

 

As Dean looks on, a falling star begins its descent. It’s bright, brighter than any star Dean has ever seen.

The winds gusts suddenly. Dean feels a pulse, a sting of something he can’t describe, go straight through him. Sam groans, slipping down the side of the car onto the ground.

 

“Sam!” Dean drops down beside him and pulls him into his arms, shielding Sam’s body with his own.

“Do you feel that?” Sam whimpers. “What is that?” Sam asks again, shrinking further into Dean’s hold. “Feels.”

 

Sam doesn’t have an opportunity to say more. Darkness turns suddenly to day, a light so painfully bright Dean instinctively screws his eyes shut, ordering Sam to do the same. He feels its heat on him, like being baked in the sun and he wonders if this is where it all ends. It’s not a frightening thought. Death has dogged them for years. He finds comfort in knowing he and Sam will go together and hopes the angels weren’t lying about their shared heaven.

 

The heat subsides and soon the light and wind do as well. Dean waits. His heart pounds in his chest. His hands ache with the effort of clutching onto Sam. Once he deems it safe, Dean slowly opens his eyes.

He glances around quickly, but finds nothing amiss. It’s as if nothing ever happened.

 

“You okay, Sammy?”

 Sam lifts his head from Dean’s shoulder. He looks up into Dean’s face. His eyes dart from Dean to their surroundings and back, confusion clouding his face. He scrunches his forehead, bites his bottom lip, and looks down at his bandaged hand then back at his brother.

 “Dean. I. I feel...good.” He looks and sounds completely perplexed. “What was that?”

Dean stands, offering Sam his hand as he does so. “I don’t have any idea.”

 Dean helps Sam up, suddenly understanding exactly why Sam is so confused. The familiar “pop” in his knees, the constant ache in his right shoulder-they’re gone. He runs his hand over Sam’s shoulder, down his arm, taking Sam’s bandaged hand into his own.

 “Does it hurt?” Dean asks. Sam shakes his head. “Can I?” he asks, pulling the tucked end of the bandana.

Sam nods. Dean unwraps the bandana slowly and reveals raw, pink skin. They both gasp.

“What does it mean?” Sam asks worriedly.

 Dean stares at his brother’s healed palm. He can’t begin to guess at what is happening. Whatever it is, he knows there will be a price. They have to get out of here; get back to the bunker as soon as possible. Go to ground until they can figure out what the hell is going on.

 

He means to say all of this to Sam, but loud wailing interrupts Dean’s response. Dean turns towards the sound, Sam moving in tandem with him like a shadow.

 

A path burns through the reeds that line the small lake beside the church. The sight reminds Dean of Superman’s descent to Earth, of how his parents followed the path created by his ship. Dean shakes his head; he really needs to get his shit together.  

 

The path is a short one; it only takes a minute for them to come to its end where they find a pile of very familiar clothing- a scorched tan trench coat and what looks like a black suit jacket and pants- lying in the middle of blackened ground. There, on top of the pile lies the source of the wailing: a baby, its face puce from crying, its arms and legs kicking furiously as it continues to scream.

 

Dean crouches down, looks at the baby then back to Sam who shrugs and says, “Don’t look at me, man.”

Dean scowls, because, really, that’s of no fucking help. He pokes at the clothes, but it’s just for something to do. He’s almost certain they belong to Castiel. Still reeling from Sam’s revelation in the church, the realization he nearly lost his brother and now with whatever the threat of what just happened is, he’s nowhere near ready to cope with the possible death of his friend. And of course, there is the squirming, shrieking baby. Oh, shit! He jumps back just in time to avoid being pissed on.

Sam laughs and it’s been so long since Dean has heard Sam’s laughter that he can’t even be bothered to be mad about it. The infant’s cries ratchet up another notch. It makes Dean’s ears ache.

 

“Dude.” Sam says helpfully then points at the baby, as he jerks his chin in its direction.

 

Dean scrunches his face at the strong smell of urine. “Don’t know why this is my job,” Dean mumbles, but picks up the wet infant anyway, holding it by the armpits and keeping it at arm’s length. The baby quiets down almost immediately. He shoves his fist into his mouth, his cornflower blue eyes settling on Dean. They are eerily familiar. Dean glances down at the smoldering clothes and back to the baby, a ridiculous thought forming in his mind.

 

“Cas?”

The baby gurgles and squeals happily. Dean turns back to Sam, his arms held out stiffly in front of him.

“Do you think?”

Sam backs away, hands up as if in surrender. “No, it couldn’t be.”

“Well, I mean, look at him,” Dean argues.

 

Sam does, moving in closer to inspect the baby, but not offering to take him and jesus, Dean would like him to, his arms are beginning to ache.

 

The baby, Cas, his mind supplies helpfully, squeals at Sam. Sam takes a large step back, as if the kid were about to explode. It dawns on Dean then that yes, the kid actually might be gearing up for an explosion of a kind. He hands the baby to Sam, who begrudgingly accepts it, holding it by the armpits while keeping it at arm’s length, just as his brother had done. Dean digs through the pile of clothes, grabbing the dress shirt, which is the driest and least burnt item of clothing. Dean gestures for Sam to bring him the baby. Sam lays the baby down and Dean creates a makeshift diaper out of the shirt. Dean grins up, proud in his accomplishment-because seriously, a shirt for a diaper? That’s genius!-at Sam who rolls his eyes.

 

“What are we going to do with it?” Sam asks apprehensively. He looks only slightly less exhausted than he did in the church.

 

Dean has no idea how to respond. What are they supposed to do? Even if this baby is, somehow, Castiel, they are in no position to take care of a baby. They’re hunters. Hunters hunted by Heaven and Hell. There’s no room in their lives for a kid. They’ve barely managed to keep each other alive, for god’s sake. Dean curses whatever has dropped this problem in their lap. They don’t have time to deal with whatever this is. They need to get to the bunker. Sam needs to rest, heal.

 

The flutter of wings snaps Dean out of his swirling thoughts. He bounds up in surprise, automatically reaching for his knife. Again, he curses whatever beset them with this distraction and chides himself for not being better armed. Sam is beside him, his own knife in hand. He isn’t in any shape to fight, but is ready to do so anyway. Pride wells up in Dean; they really are The Motherfucking Winchesters.

The woman that suddenly appears before them looks more like someone’s quirky college professor than an angel. She has mousy, brown shoulder length hair and is wearing a cool grey blazer and a navy sweater with rolled up jeans. She looks slightly ridiculous.

 

“Who are you?” Dean growls.

She looks down at the baby then up at them. She smiles. “I’m not here to harm you or your brother, Dean Winchester.”

Sam harrumphs. She fixes her gaze on Sam. She scrutinizes him and says, “You made a valiant effort, Samuel. Castiel,” she pauses, as if considering carefully what she means to say. “Would be glad to know you chose to live. He truly was not aware completing the trials would cost you your life.”

She directs her attention back at Dean. “I am called Hannah.” White wings glow softly behind her for a few seconds then disappear.

“Another damn angel,” Dean mutters, stowing the knife away. He knows full well that, if she was so inclined, she could have killed them a 100 times over already. It’s not as if they’re in any condition to fight her off and she doesn’t come off as an aggressive dickhead anyway. Sam relaxes slightly, but doesn’t put his weapon away.

Hannah stares at the baby, who stares right back.

“I had forgotten,” she says, her voice full of wonder, “how small, how fragile humans are in the early stages of their development. It is difficult to accept this is truly Castiel.”

Dean shoots Sam an “I told you so” glance and Sam shakes his head in disbelief.

“Speaking of which,” Dean presses. “Maybe you could explain what’s going on here.” Dean has no idea what Hannah knows about Castiel’s attempt to seal Heaven, though, obviously, if she’s here, the attempt failed. He wants to ask about what Naomi had revealed and about Metatron, but doesn’t want to show his hand.

“Castiel and I served together for many centuries. I felt I knew and understood him. I considered him an exemplary soldier, a true servant of God. Yet, these past years, Castiel has proven to be unpredictable. He has failed us, many times, and been forgiven. Unfortunately, this injudicious attempt to seal Heaven, his collusion to cast us out, as unwitting as it was, with Metatron was something that could not go unpunished.”

“What do you mean? Cast you out? Who? The angels?” Sam asks.

Hannah nods.

“No,” Dean shakes his head vehemently, “That wasn’t the plan.”

“It would have been the ultimate outcome had he successfully executed Metatron’s plan.”

“Cas couldn’t have known anything about that.” Sam insists.

“He was warned. I believe you,” she says addressing Dean, “were present when Naomi tried to warn him.”

Sam looks to Dean who nods.

“She also helped you save your brother’s life, did she not?”

Dean nods begrudgingly. He’ll give Naomi credit for that, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still hate her guts.

“That doesn’t explain why Cas is here or why he’s a baby.” Dean insists.

“This latest betrayal, it should have cost him his existence, yet, many of us could not find it within ourselves to allow him to be destroyed. This was a compromise.”

“Okay.” Dean ventures. “Great. That doesn’t explain why he’s here-here.” He says, emphatically gesturing towards the baby then their surroundings. “What does this have to do with us?”

Hannah tips her head slightly. Her gaze makes him feel like a humored child.

“Castiel valued you both very highly. In some ways, even more than he did his brethren.” She raises her hand, stopping Dean from interrupting. “This is a gift, not only to Castiel, but to you and Samuel as well.”

“A gift? We’re hunters!” Dean protests. “We can’t take care of a baby. We wouldn’t even know where to start and hey, maybe you haven’t noticed, but we’ve already dealing with way more than we can handle.”

Hannah smiles, kneels down and scoops Castiel carefully into her arms. Cas waves a tiny fist at her. She strokes his cheeks. “Strange.” She says to herself, then turns her attention back to Dean. “You are capable of raising a human child. You raised your brother.”

It’s not a question and not for the first, second or hundredth time Dean curses Heaven and every angel in it. “That’s not the same thing!”

“It is my understanding the basics of childrearing have not changed, since you were last tasked with caring for an infant. This will, no doubt, be easier, as you are no longer a child yourself. As for hunting, you do not need to fear any further interference from Heaven. We are committed to resetting the balance that existed before the archangels betrayed their true purpose. Abaddon will be destroyed; the prophet will be free to emerge from hiding. We will protect him, as should have been the case from the beginning. Your services in all things related to Heaven and Hell will, as they say, no longer be required.”

Sam snorts. “There are still monsters.”

“Yes. You will need to decide whether actively pursuing their destruction still holds value for you.”

“We can’t take care of a baby.” Sam implores. He’s leaning heavily on Dean now. His resurgence of energy diminished. “We can’t protect it.”

Hannah steps forward, closing the gap between them. “May I?” she asks, raising her hand, her index and middle fingers pressed together.

“Don’t touch him.” Dean barks. Sam flinches.

“He is more badly hurt than is visible to your eye. There is no earthly intervention that will heal him. Without my assistance, he will continue to decline. Castiel’s grace has helped, but it is...a band aid on a gaping wound.”

“His grace?” Sam steps closer to her.

“I feel it within you. Both of you. It burned as he fell. Make no mistake, this child is human. The essence of Castiel’s being, his character, survives inside him, but that is all. He will not remember his previous incarnation. This child is a clean slate. He will grow and live and die as all humans do.”

Hannah reaches toward Sam again. Sam glances at Dean, who shrugs a shoulder, but still nods in approval.

“What will happen if I don’t let you heal me?” Sam asks warily.

Hannah smiles sadly. “Your body will consume itself. It will be a painful and unfortunately, lengthy process with death as the inevitable outcome.”

Sam presses his lips tightly, looking to Dean as if he’s actually weighing death as an option. It was one thing to know Sam was willing to die in order to close the gates of Hell. It’s another to know he might still choose dying even if nothing world ending is at stake. Dean blanches at his hesitation, but doesn’t dare voice his opinion. He needs Sam to choose him, choose to stay, because if Sam can’t then Dean needs to be sure he can go as well.  

 

Hannah shakes her head. She sighs. “I am sorry.” She says kindly, but doesn’t elaborate.

 

The next few minutes feel like a twisted version of a Mexican standoff. No one, but the baby, moves or speaks. Sam seems lost and Dean can’t understand why it is so difficult for Sam to choose to live. His heartaches for all his brother has suffered and for all the ways Dean failed to protect him. Looking at them now, Dean can’t imagine why the angel is even considering making them responsible for another human being. Zacharia might have been a flaming dickwad, but he wasn’t wrong when he said that Sam and Dean were completely fucked up. He doesn’t know what a licensed psychologist would call what they are, but he’s self-aware enough to know that codependent would be the least of it.

 

“Okay,” Sam looks to Dean. He nods, letting out a long breath as if steeling himself, “Okay.”

Dean squeezes his eyes shut, as her healing light engulfs Sam. Dean feels tears trickling down his face and swiftly wipes them away.

 

Sam gasps, taking in an enormous breath, then coughs. The light fades; Dean opens his eyes to find her standing in front of him. She offers him the child, carefully transferring him into Dean’s arms.

 

“At the heart of you, both of you,” she says, cupping his jaw in her cool hand, “is so much good. There are no better guardians for a former angel.”

 

~~~

Dean pulls into the first decent looking convenience store he finds. Cas may be in an angel-induced sleep, but Dean is pretty sure that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop peeing. He runs in, grabbing a wire basket as he goes and starts stalking up and down the aisles. Not ten minutes later, he’s gathered a small pack of diapers, a six-pack of ready-made formula and a baby bottle. He also grabs a toddler size t-shirt that reads “I love NY”, never mind they’re nowhere near New York. They’ll need to stop at a real store soon. The last thing they need is to attract attention. Naked babies tend to do that.

 

From the checkout counter, Dean has a clear view of Sam and the Impala. Sam, cradling the baby-Cas, who they’d wiped clean with holy water and then wrapped in one of the blankets stashed in the truck, is pacing the length of the Impala’s front bumper. Sam bounces as he walks, gently rocking Cas as does so. It’s as comical as it is adorable. Dean isn’t sure what Sam thinks he’s accomplishing; Hannah said Cas would sleep soundly for a while. Dean is man enough to admit he’s glad for her intervention. He’s not sure where they’re going. Wherever that is, be it Sheriff Mills’ house or the bunker, he’s grateful to not have to deal with being trapped in the car with a screaming baby.

 

Dean watches Sam pace and scans his surroundings while the clerk rings up his purchases. He doesn’t think anything is coming for them, not right now anyway, but they need to remain vigilant. The bored teenager at the counter is almost done, when Dean remembers he and Sam will need food too. He grabs some drinks and snacks and adds them to the pile.

 

It’s enough to tide them over for now. There’s a serious conversation to be had about a lot of things, not the least of which is Hannah’s revelation. He’s still not sure what to make of that, the idea that Heaven is finally done jerking them around sounds too good to be true. Even if it is, there’s still Hell to consider. Dean doesn’t have any faith in Hannah’s contention that they will handle Abaddon. As it stands, Dean isn’t sure a half-cured Crowley will be strong enough to defeat her should she, no, when she makes a grab for the crown. As loathe as he is to admit it, he’d take Crowley over Abaddon any day. Devil you know and all that. Dean just hopes she won’t come after them, at least not anytime soon, he and Sam need time to recuperate and to figure out how to be rid of her for good. And then there’s Cas. He can’t even.

 

The teenaged clerk clears his throat in loud and obnoxious attempt to get Dean’s attention. It’s surprisingly difficult to let Sam out of his sight, to pull his gaze away. He startles at the realization that yes, he is, in fact, gazing...at his brother. Hey, man, the irritating voice in the back of his mind says, don’t forget the kissing. You did that too. Earlier today, remember? Fuck off, he tells it. Right. Nothing to see here. Brothers gaze at and kiss each other all the time. No biggie. Totally normal. Dean rolls his eyes at his own inner monologue, because, really, fuck his life.

 

“That’ll be $72.50.” The clerk says, snapping Dean out his stupor.

Dean eyes his meager purchases and shoots the clerk a disdainful look. $72.50?  It’s a good thing Ricardo Moltanban doesn’t give a fuck. He hands his credit card to the clerk, who stares at it then at Dean.

 

“Ricardo?” The clerk asks haughtily.

 

Dean takes a deep breath and reminds himself they have much bigger problems than the little shit behind the counter.

~~~

“How are you feeling?” Dean asks Sam as he approaches the car.

“Incredible.” Sam follows Dean as he opens the driver’s side rear door and drops the bags onto the seat. “How about you?”

Dean pulls out the t-shirt and the diapers. He gestures for Sam to hand him the baby; Sam does. “I’m good.”

“Dean.”

“No, really.” Dean says, glancing back towards Sam, never stopping the diapering process. “I mean, I’m a little freaked out about this whole baby Cas thing and more than a little worried about Crowley and Abaddon, and well, you and I have a shit ton of stuff to hash out,  but physically? I feel better than I have in years.”

Sam nods, peers over Dean’s shoulder. “Dude, how do you even know how to do that?”

“It’s like riding a bike. “ Dean slips the shirt over Cas’ head then stuffs his arms into the sleeves. The baby, still deeply asleep, is more like a doll than a living thing. It creeps Dean out and he finds himself wishing the kid would cry just so Dean could be assured he’s okay.

Dean takes Cas carefully into his arms and is surprised to find Sam right behind him when he stands and turns.

“Dude.” Dean grouses.

Sam chuckles and quickly digs into Dean’s front pocket for the keys. Dean shrieks, “HEY!” as Sam says, “So, where to?”

They decide on Sheriff Mills’ house. Both are too tired to make the six hour drive to Lebanon and there are still a lot of supplies they need to obtain for the baby.

 

Dean lists against the passenger side door. His arms ache from cradling Cas. He thinks maybe the Moms he’s seen with their babies strapped across their chests in those papoose contraptions are onto something then immediately balks at having even considered such a thing. Seriously, what the fuck?

 

“How’s Cas doing?” Sam turns to look at him, as they roll to a stop behind a line of stopped cars.

“Still out like a light.”

Neither says anything for a long time. Dean closes his eyes, exhaustion finally catching up to him. The baby feels like a lead weight and he wishes he could just set him down already. He feels the Impala creep forward. Someone honks their horn and another person returns it. Dean casually wonders what the hell is up with the traffic. It’s Sioux Falls for god’s sake.

Sam clears his throat. Dean focuses his attention on Sam, who is gripping the steering tightly and staring straight ahead. This despite the fact they’re at a virtual standstill. “So. We’re really going to do this? Raise Cas?”

“Looks that way.” Dean sighs.

“Do you believe her?”

Dean considers his response carefully. He wants to believe, but feels it would be foolish and reckless to do so. They’re track record with Heaven isn’t a good one, even Castiel betrayed them.

“I don’t know.” Dean answers honestly.

“We going to hunt with a baby?”

Dean bites the inside of his cheek to keep blurting out a smart ass, was good enough for us, right? It’s a knee jerk response and one he doesn’t truly believe in. The way they grew up wasn’t nearly good enough. He doesn’t know what to say, so he chooses to remain silent. They’ll have to figure it out, along with everything else related to suddenly being the guardians of a fallen angel.

 

Sam squeezes Dean’s knee and leaves it there then refocuses his attention on the traffic. Not creepy, the voice is Dean’s head offers, not creepy at all.

 

~~~

Sheriff Mills yanks the door open while simultaneously informing someone on the phone about how little she cares whether Davidson has an issue with it, whatever “it” is. She grins, clearly surprised to see them. Her surprised expression quickly slips into one of confusion, when she notices the sleeping baby in Dean’s arms.

 

“I’m going to have to call you back,” she tells whomever is on the other end of line and unceremoniously hangs up on them. She hugs Sam fiercely, before giving Dean an awkward half hug.

“Something you two want to tell me?” She asks gesturing towards Cas.

Dean lets Sam tell it. He’s tired of thinking about it and is happy to hear his brother’s take on what’s happened. Sam omits a lot of what actually happened at the church, but covers the rest, sounding surprisingly hopeful for someone who was suicidal only hours earlier. Dean shoves that thought away hard, yet another thing, just like their kiss, to be addressed at some later date. Cas starts to wake half way into Sam’s retelling. Jody immediately takes the baby from Dean.

 

Sam concludes the story with, “and here we are” and Dean waits for the fall out, but Jody astounds Dean, yet again, with her practical and easy acceptance of what is truly unbelievable. She coos at Cas and the baby grins and drools at her. For a split second, Sam looks both guilty and supremely uncomfortable. It makes Dean wonder if Sam is thinking about Jody’s son.

 

After a diaper change and another bottle, they come up with a game plan for securing the things Jody insists they need. Because they don’t have a car seat, and Jody refuses to let the baby ride in anyone’s lap, Dean gets stuck babysitting while Jody and Sam run off to the nearest discount store. Dean settles Cas on a throw rug he lays down on the floor, building a fence for the makeshift pen area from sofa cushions then sets on checking Jody’s wards and adding those that will hide them from the angels. Fifteen minutes later, he finds himself back in the living room, wondering what the hell he’s supposed to do now.

~~~

Castiel has been crying for the past thirty-five minutes.

 

Nothing Dean has tried has placated him, not a clean diaper, or another bottle, or being held, or sung to, or rocked. Suddenly Dean feels four years old again, sitting in the back seat of the Impala with a shrieking, inconsolable Sam in his lap, his father imploring him to do something, anything to shut his brother up. He feels helpless and wonders again why Hannah would do this to them. What? Their lives aren’t stressful enough? He knows she must be aware of just how many times Sam and Dean have respectively lost their shit, of how many things they’ve slaughtered, of the frightening and insane lengths they gone to save each other. Of the fact you’re in love with your brother. She must know all of this; he can’t comprehend why she thinks they’re capable of doing more than raising an equally fucked up kid.

 

“Please, kid.” He implores, jostling Cas a little too hard. “SHHH. You’re making me crazy.” Crazier, that annoying little voice whispers.

 

Dean sets the kid back down onto the throw blanket and walks away. He stalks into the kitchen, pacing, pressing his palms to his ears. The same way he sometimes did back then when he was a kid himself, when he’d hide himself away just so he could stop pretending, even if was only for a few minutes, that he didn’t feel like he was being crushed under the weight of  everything that became his job when their mother died and their father checked out.

 

Dean thinks about Ben, the way his adoration filled Dean’s heart, the easy way Ben had burrowed into it. He remembers Ben’s expression the last time he saw him. One more loss on top of so many others. Ben wasn’t his son, but the loss of him still hollowed Dean out. What would it have felt like, if Ben had been his, the way Cas will be?

 

Suddenly, it’s very clear to him that he can’t do this. Dean yanks the back door open and steps out onto the porch. He takes a deep breath, willing himself to calm the fuck down. Cas’s shrieks stutter and lessen a decibel. Dean sincerely hopes he tires himself out and immediately feels like a grade-A asshole for hoping that the kid cries himself to sleep.

 

Dean glances up at the sky. Less than three hours ago, his brother was on the brink of death and Heaven was on its way to being permanently boarded up. Now, they’re supposed to do what?

 

“Hannah,” he mutters. “You have to find Cas real parents. I can’t do this. I just can’t. Fuck. I don’t want to, okay? I don’t want to!” He shouts into the night. The guilt he feels at voicing this thought out loud surprises him.  

 

Cas’s mournful wailing ceases for a few wonderful, blissful seconds, then restarts though with much less force. Dean smacks his forehead into one of the wood columns supporting the porch. He hates himself, but can’t deny the truth. He can’t do this. He wonders if Sam feels the same way, if Sam had only acquiesced because he thought this is something Dean would want to do, for Castiel. Jesus, they really need to figure out how to talk to each other. Dean thinks of all the suffering they could have avoided if only they had any idea how to communicate. Cas’s wails whittle down to fitful whines. Dean takes a deep breath, opens his eyes and finds Hannah standing in the middle of the backyard.

 

Dean can’t decipher her expression, part concern, part pity, but devoid of any rancor or impatience. Inside, Cas’ whines devolve to barely audible gurgles.

 

“Hannah,” he breathes, relieved to see her, to know there is an end in sight to the conundrum in which they find themselves.

“You called for me.” She says, though it sounds more like a question.

Dean steps off the porch and into the yard. He stands in front of her, his hand shoved deeply into his pockets, feeling sheepish and slightly ashamed. He wonders how she will react to his declination of her gift. He opens his mouth to say something, but finds his thoughts too jumbled to explain himself properly.  

“Dean,” she smiles at him. It’s genuine, inviting and instantly calming. He wonders where she was when Uriel and the other angels were trying to kill him and his brother. Wonders what her role was then. Wonders whether, if she had been ordered to do so, she would have marched along all the other angels into the Apocalypse.

She rests her hand on his chest, her touch filling him with warmth and surety. “Allow yourself the possibility of a future free of sorrow and suffering.”

Dean presses into her hand. Her touch feels good, makes him feel solid, invincible. It makes everything clear.

“Cas deserves a better future than the one we can give him.” He mutters, trying not to lose his resolve.

Her smile dims a little; she removes her hand. “He chose you, you and Samuel,” she says, as if that explains everything, as if that negates all of the hardship involved in raising a child, as if it erases the ugly truth of who he and Sam really are.

Dean is disappointed, but can’t find it in himself to be angry with her. “I can’t do this.”

She looks up at the night sky then back to him. “Yes. You can.” She steps into his personal space, pausing for a moment, as if lost as to what do next, then very slowly envelops him a loose hug. It’s awkward, almost comical, but also overwhelmingly comforting. So he allows the hug, though he doesn’t return it, until she finally pulls away.

“I must return to my duties, but please, do call on me. I will watch over you and your family.”

In the blink of an eye, she’s gone and with her, any hope Dean had of reneging on his responsibility to Cas.

On cue, Cas’ cries resume. Dean sighs and goes back into the house.

 

 “Sorry, buddy.” Dean singsongs, as he rests Cas against his shoulder, patting his back gently, bouncing on his heels just a little. “This is just so fu-messed up. I don’t know why on god’s green earth you thought Sam and I would be able to take care of you.”

 Dean mumbles “Wheels on the Bus” until Cas settles down completely. Dean smirks. Yeah, he’s still got it. He pauses at the window looking out into Jody’s could be anywhere in America street and wonders.

“Maybe,” Dean ventures, rubbing Cas’ back absentmindedly.

 Cas burps loudly and Dean feels hot spittle splash his neck. Awesome.

~~~

Sam and Jody return with more crap than Dean thought was possible to purchase for one kid. He has no idea how they’re going to pack it all into the Impala. When the car seat comes out, it’s nearly too much. He almost changes his mind about the whole damn thing. Instead, Dean walks away from the window and pretends he never saw it.

~~~

In the morning, they come downstairs to find Jody sitting at the dining table surrounded by several stacks of papers. Dean spies a will, a corner of floor plan and several bank statements. He shoots a Sam a questioning look; Sam just shrugs. Dean glares back at him, sick to death of Sam and his shrugs.

Jody clears her throat and takes a sip, of what Dean prays is coffee, out of mug that reads, I like big busts and I cannot lie.

Dean chortles; she looks up and says, “What? I do. Now hand me that baby,” she orders, making grabby hands at Sam. “Grab some breakfast and some coffee then sit your butts down. I’ve got an idea about this baby situation of yours.”