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What Is Lacking Cannot Be Counted

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Jimmy runs his thumb along the unblemished skin on his right wrist as he watches the scenery pass by outside the passenger window. It’s all blue skies and multi-colored leaves, a mark of the passage of time that Jimmy finds disconcerting. In the two months he’s been gone, the seasons have changed.

 

He still doesn’t remember much about his time as a vessel, which isn’t any different than the last time Castiel took over. It feels as though there’s something he should remember, something he should know. There’s something he needs to tell Dean, but he can’t put the pieces together; the last two months are a mass of jumbled images, interspersed with long periods of nothing.

 

And no matter what Jimmy does, he can’t fill in those blanks.

 

“You okay?” Dean asks.

 

Jimmy bites back the sharp retort that springs immediately to his lips. He’s angry right now, but not at Dean, who convinced Castiel to release Jimmy, maybe for good.

 

But he’s furious at losing two years of his life to Castiel, and at losing the last two months. Jimmy hates the stigmata, and he hates that he doesn’t have them anymore. He hates that he can no longer heal anyone, and that he’s not a good enough hunter to make up for it.

 

Jimmy hates everything right now—but he loves Dean, and he refuses to take his anger out on Dean.

 

He rubs his thumb across the place where the scar should have been. “I’m okay,” he finally says.

 

Dean reaches out and covers Jimmy’s wrist with a large, callused hand. “You sure about that?”

 

“Getting there,” Jimmy promises. “I’m just kind of pissed off at Castiel right now.”

 

“You and me both,” Dean agrees. “I’m sorry we can’t stay in Pontiac longer, Jimmy.”

 

“We’ve got a job.” Jimmy leans back against the passenger door. “I just want to get back to my life, such as it is.”

 

Dean frowns. “If you want to stay in Pontiac, you can. I’ll swing back through and pick you up when I’ve finished this job.”

 

Jimmy shakes his head. “No, I don’t want to push Amelia. She’s still not happy with me.”

 

Dean sighs. “It’s going to get better.”

 

“You can’t promise that,” Jimmy replies. “And in my experience, things generally get worse, not better.”

 

Dean doesn’t say anything, and Jimmy realizes how that probably sounds to Dean, who is part of the “worse.” Jimmy probably sounds like an asshole.

 

“I’m sorry,” he eventually says.

 

Dean shakes his head. “I can’t argue with you.”

 

“You and Claire are the best things about my life,” Jimmy insists with quiet conviction. “I’m not sorry about being with you, or about being a hunter.” He thinks, but doesn’t add, that Dean might be sorry to have him along, now that he can’t heal anybody.

 

Dean nods. “Sure you are, but I don’t blame you.”

 

“Dean—”

 

“We’ve got a good thing going,” Dean says quietly. “And you’re back. We’ll figure out the rest as we go along.”

 

Dean leaves his hand where it is, though, clasped around Jimmy’s wrist, as though he’s reassuring himself that Jimmy is sitting next to him.

 

Jimmy goes back to staring out the window at the passing cornfields, the tall stalks a pale gold, ready for the harvest, the blue sky above, and the motley, half-bare trees.

 

~~~~~

 

Dean pulls up in front of Amelia’s house late the next afternoon. They’ve driven almost straight through from Nevada, stopping on a side road in Oklahoma catch a few hours of sleep in the Impala. They eat in the car, too, hitting drive-ins and the occasional rest area to stretch their legs.

 

Amelia’s yard is covered in leaves, and Jimmy would probably have offered to help her out if they’d had the time. There have been at least two couples killed near Lansing, Michigan, however, and Jimmy knows that they probably shouldn’t even be stopping to take Claire out to dinner.

 

But Jimmy needs to see his daughter.

 

“I can go do something else for a while,” Dean offers when he parks in the driveway. “Drop you and Claire off at the restaurant and come back later.”

 

Jimmy shakes his head. “Claire specifically said she wanted to see you. You should come with us.”

 

Dean hesitates but says, “Yeah, okay.”

 

Amelia steps out onto the porch as Jimmy approaches, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. It’s unseasonably warm for an October day, but Amelia still looks chilled, her lips a thin line. “You need to have her back by 9. It’s a school night,” Amelia insists.

 

“Of course,” Jimmy agrees immediately. “We’re just going out to dinner.”

 

Amelia’s expression is suspicious. “And if Castiel returns?”

 

“Dean made him promise not to,” Jimmy admits. “And Dean’s going to be with us.”

 

Amelia nods. “Good.”

 

Jimmy feels that one word like a blow, hating the idea that Amelia won’t trust him with their daughter.

 

But maybe he can’t be trusted, not when his body can be co-opted at any moment.

 

Claire comes flying out the door, flinging her arms around Jimmy’s neck. Jimmy holds her tightly, more grateful than he can say for her obvious affection. “Hey,” he murmurs into her hair.

 

“Daddy,” she says, pulling back just a bit. “Are you okay?”

 

“More than okay right now,” he assures her. “Are you hungry?”

 

“Starving,” she replies. “I just got home from soccer practice.”

 

“You’ll have to tell me all about it.” Jimmy looks at Amelia. “Thank you.”

 

“Just have her back by 9,” Amelia replies, going into the house.

 

Claire tucks her arm through Jimmy’s. “She’s just a little freaked out,” Claire says softly. “She doesn’t understand.”

 

“Doesn’t understand what?” Jimmy asks as Claire climbs into the backseat of the Impala.

 

“She doesn’t get what it means to say yes,” Claire replies simply. “Hey, Dean.”

 

“Hey, kiddo.” Dean throws a grin over his shoulder. “You sure you don’t mind me joining you?”

 

“Definitely not,” Claire responds. “I would much rather have dinner with you guys than with Mom and Brad.”

 

Jimmy frowns, throwing an uncertain look at Dean. He has no idea who Brad is, but it’s clear from Claire’s tone that she doesn’t much like him. Dean hitches a shoulder and mouths, “Amelia’s new boyfriend.”

 

Jimmy hates that he hasn’t been around for those changes when he’s missed so many other things. “What’s wrong with Brad?” he asks, twisting in his seat to look at Claire.

 

She rolls her eyes. “He’s just dumb. We’re going to Olive Garden, right?”

 

“When do we not?” Dean asks.

 

Jimmy smiles. The Olive Garden has been Claire’s favorite restaurant since she was old enough to express a preference. He’s grateful that much hasn’t changed.

 

It’s Wednesday night, so they get a table immediately, and they make serious inroads on the breadsticks and salad. Well, Dean doesn’t touch the salad, but he munches through the breadsticks pretty quickly.

 

Claire is clearly hungry, because she eats her way through a plate of ravioli with a single-minded determination. In between bites, she talks non-stop, filling Jimmy in on everything he’s missed in the last two months, including the most recent activities with her fall soccer club. “You’ll come to a game, won’t you, Daddy?” she asks.

 

Jimmy glances at Dean helplessly.

 

“You give us your schedule, and I’ll make sure we’re there for at least one game,” Dean promises.

 

“Awesome!” Claire replies, passing Jimmy a magnet that has the list of games on it. “You’ll both be there?”

 

Jimmy hides a smile behind his hand, knowing that Claire has manipulated the whole conversation to get exactly what she wants. Judging by Dean’s headshake, he’s well aware of that.

 

“We will,” Jimmy promises. “The very next game we can.”

 

“You have another job?” Claire asks.

 

Jimmy glances over at Dean, who shrugs, clearly leaving the decision to tell Claire up to him. “Yeah. We do.”

 

“What is it?” Claire asks eagerly.

 

Jimmy narrows his eyes, knowing that expression. Claire is far too interested in hunting for Jimmy’s peace of mind. “Forget it. You’re going to college.”

 

Claire flips her hair over her shoulder. “Of course I’m going to college. But nobody can tell me what to do after that. So, what’s the job?”

 

“If your mom finds out we’re talking about this,” Jimmy begins.

 

“She won’t find out from me,” Claire assures him cheerfully. “Come on, Dad.”

 

Jimmy smiles. Claire sounds like every other teenage girl on the planet just then. “There are couples being killed,” he finally says. “And their kids are missing.”

 

“Then you definitely have to go,” Claire replies, chasing the last bit of tomato sauce on her plate with a piece of bread. She looks at Dean. “You’ll look after him?”

 

“You know I will,” Dean promises.

 

Jimmy snorts. “I can look after myself.”

 

“Jury’s still out on that, Daddy,” Claire replies sweetly.

 

Jimmy mimes being struck in the heart. “Ouch. Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is to have a thankless child,” he quotes.

 

Claire grins. “I’m not a thankless child.”

 

“Maybe not,” Jimmy agrees. “But you’re certainly a smartass.”

 

Claire giggles. “Yeah, so?”

 

“You have to love a smartass,” Dean inserts.

 

Jimmy smiles. “Yeah, I do.”

 

~~~~~

 

Jimmy wakes reluctantly the next morning when Dean shakes him. “We gotta go. We’ve got a baby-snatcher to hunt.”

 

He rubs his eyes and glances at the clock. It’s 8 am, and they’ve had just over five hours of sleep, but it’s more than they get a lot of nights. “Yeah, okay,” he says. “Thanks for stopping in Pontiac.”

 

Dean shrugs. “We weren’t going to make it here early enough to do any good, and it was good to see Claire. Come on. Suit up.”

 

Jimmy is buttoning the cuffs of his dress shirt when he stops. “Dean, I think we’re going to need to stock up on gauze again.”

 

Dean grabs Jimmy’s wrist and looks at the reddened area that hadn’t been there the day before. “Is this how it started the last time?”

 

He nods. “Yeah, it won’t be long now.”

 

“How long do you think?”

 

“Maybe a day, maybe two,” Jimmy replies. “They don’t hurt yet.”

 

Dean sighs. “Damn.”

 

He pulls back, stung. “I’ll be able to heal people again, Dean.”

 

“Yeah, and you’ll be in pain all the time, and shaky after you do heal someone,” Dean replies. “Look, I won’t deny that it’s a mixed blessing, but the emphasis is on mixed.”

 

Jimmy can’t argue with him, so he says nothing, staring at the garish red and orange bedspread.

 

“Hey, we’ll deal with it,” Dean insists, patting him on the shoulder. “Just like we dealt with it before. You want the blue tie?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Jimmy replies.

 

There’s been another murder during the night, and Jimmy winces at the sight of yellow tape and flashing lights when they arrive on the scene. “We’re too late,” he mutters.

 

“We’d have been too late last night, too,” Dean replies softly. “Come on, let’s go talk to the cops.”

 

Dean flashes his badge at one of the uniformed officers with the assurance born of practice, and Jimmy follows at his heels. “I’m Agent Plant, and this is Agent Tyler. We’re here investigating this as a possible serial killer.”

 

The officer’s eyebrows go up. “They’re really pulling out all the stops on this, huh? This makes three FBI agents.”

 

If Jimmy hadn’t known Dean so well, he would have missed the surprise Dean immediately masks. “Great,” Dean manages. “You want to point us in his direction? I didn’t think he’d be here already.”

 

Jimmy has already spotted a vaguely familiar form coming out of the house. “Dean. Look.”

 

Dean’s eyes go wide as he spots Sam coming out of the house, and Jimmy grabs his arm, squeezing tightly. “It’s been a long time since we worked a case with him,” Jimmy says pleasantly.

 

“Yeah,” Dean says roughly. “We should go get caught up. Excuse us.”

 

When Sam catches sight of them, he doesn’t even bat an eyelash. “Dean. Cas.”

 

“It’s Jimmy,” Dean says, his voice hoarse. “And we can’t do this here. We need to go back to our motel room. I got some tests I want to run.”

 

“It’s me, Dean,” Sam replies with a smile. “But you’re right, we can’t do this here. Where are you staying? I’ll meet you there.”

 

“The Lansing Arms,” Dean says. “We’ll follow you over.”

 

Sam smirks, and Dean and Jimmy head back to the Impala. Jimmy hopes Sam got the information they need from the scene, because it’s pretty clear that Dean’s mind isn’t on the case right now, and probably won’t be until they confirm Sam’s identity and get some answers.

 

Dean stops cold as he climbs into the driver’s seat. “What the hell is Sam driving?”

 

Jimmy spots Sam’s car, a newer model Charger, and he grins. “Apparently, he’s not a fan of the classics.”

 

“Sometimes, I don’t know who the hell raised that kid.”

 

Jimmy glances over at him. “I thought you did.”

 

“Mostly,” Dean agrees. “He’s probably rebelling.”

 

“Don’t most kids?”

 

Dean shrugs. “Looks like you might get lucky with Claire.”

 

“I have a feeling she’s saving it up,” Jimmy replies dryly. “My guess is she’ll insist on hunting after she gets out of college.”

 

Dean shakes his head. “Maybe she’ll lose interest by then.”

 

“Maybe.” Jimmy looks out the window. “You okay?”

 

Dean sighs. “He’s been back for a while.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“He’s hunting,” Dean replies. “We met up with him on the job, and he wasn’t surprised to see us. I don’t know how long he’s been back, but it’s long enough to have Sam back in the game.”

 

Jimmy hasn’t thought about it like that, but now that Dean has pointed it out, he realizes that Sam must have been back for quite a while. “Yeah,” he finally says. “I guess that’s something you’ll have to ask him.”

 

“Oh, I will,” Dean promises darkly. “I definitely will.”

 

~~~~~

 

Sam is sitting on the hood of the Charger when they pull up in front of the motel, and Jimmy lets Dean lead the way to their room.

 

“I’ll do whatever you want,” Sam says amiably. “Holy water, salt, silver—you name it.”

 

“And I’ll think up a couple of other tests, too,” Dean says grimly, ushering Sam inside.

 

Jimmy watches as Dean puts Sam through his paces, and he doesn’t know what to say when Sam passes with flying colors. Jimmy just feels numb.

 

Now that Sam is back, Dean won’t need Jimmy around anymore.

 

When the silver knife has no effect, Dean seems to let down his guard. He grabs Sam in a bear hug, but Jimmy can see Sam’s expression over Dean’s shoulder, and Sam seems—well, unmoved. It freaks Jimmy out.

 

“How long have you been back?” Dean demands when he releases Sam.

 

“A little over a year,” Sam admits.

 

Dean stares at him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“I heard you had another partner,” Sam says carelessly, his eyes flicking to Jimmy. “When I heard the news, I thought for sure it was Cas. I didn’t expect Jimmy.”

 

“Nobody expects Jimmy,” Dean replies. “Seriously, Sam. Have you been hunting by yourself this whole time?”

 

Sam begins to answer, but his eyes flick back to Jimmy and then the floor. “Are you hurt?” he asks.

 

Jimmy glances down to see the blood dripping from his hands onto the floor. “No,” Jimmy insists. “I’m fine. I’ll just go clean this up.”

 

“Do you need any help?” Dean offers.

 

Jimmy shakes his head. “I’ve got it, thanks.”

 

He grabs the first aid kit and locks himself in the bathroom, although he knows that the lock won’t keep Dean out if Dean really wants to get inside.

 

Of course, Jimmy knows Dean won’t try. He’ll be too busy with Sam.

 

Jimmy strips down to his boxers, seeing that the wounds on his side and ankles are back as well. It’s the same pattern as last time—reddened spots on his wrists, and probably his side and ankles that marked the places that the stigmata eventually appeared. Shortly thereafter, the wounds had started bleeding in a great flood, before slowing to a seepage.

 

He binds his wounds with practiced movements. Dean had been doing this for Jimmy before Castiel had repossessed his vessel, but Jimmy still remembers how it’s done. He shoves his shirt and socks into the trash, because there’s enough blood Jimmy knows it’ll never come out.

 

Jimmy’s had plenty of experience getting blood out of things.

 

When he emerges from the bathroom in his undershirt and boxers, Dean and Sam are still facing off.

 

“Sorry,” Jimmy apologizes. “I just need to get some clothes.”

 

Sam glances at the gauze around Jimmy’s wrists. “Stigmata?”

 

“Yeah,” Jimmy confirms. “Suit or jeans, Dean?”

 

“Jeans,” Dean replies. “You feeling okay?”

 

“Great,” Jimmy lies. On a scale of one to ten, his pain is at a six right now, but he’s not going to say as much. “We okay?”

 

“We’re waiting on some intel from Samuel,” Dean replies.

 

Jimmy has no idea who “Samuel” is, but he can’t ask, not in front of Sam. “Okay. Where do I need to be?”

 

“Just stay here,” Dean advises. “I’ll call you.”

 

Jimmy doesn’t much like the idea, but he can’t find it in himself to argue. “Yeah, sure.”

 

Once Dean and Sam are gone, Jimmy sprawls out on one of the beds and bangs his head gently against the headboard. As far as Jimmy’s concerned, he’s absolutely fucked. Sam is back, and it’s only a matter of time until Dean figures out that Jimmy is more of a liability than an asset.

 

Hell, Jimmy has always known that he was Dean’s second—or third—choice, just like Dean was Jimmy’s. And maybe that’s just the problem, because Dean might have chosen Jimmy over Castiel, but that doesn’t mean he’ll choose Jimmy over Sam.

 

If Dean tells him to get lost, Jimmy figures he’ll catch a bus back to Pontiac and find work. He’s not sure what he’s qualified to do, not with the stigmata, but maybe he’ll find something.

 

And maybe he’s delusional, Jimmy thinks. Over the last year or so, Jimmy has come to realize that he’s a hunter, first and foremost. Maybe he could leave all that behind, but he’s pretty sure that as soon as he sees the first strange headline, he’s going to head right for the trouble.

 

Jimmy has the hunting bug now, and even if Dean cuts Jimmy loose, that’s not going to change.

 

He ends up falling asleep, curled up around a pillow since Dean isn’t there, and wakes when someone shakes him roughly.

 

Jimmy starts, blinking slowly, seeing Dean’s face above him. “Huh? What is it?”

 

“We need your help,” Dean says. “Get some pants on.”

 

Jimmy is used to doing as Dean asks, and he’s rolling out of bed and reaching for his jeans before he’s even fully awake. “What’s up?” he asks as he pulls his Army surplus jacket on.

 

“You’ll see,” Dean replies.

 

Jimmy follows Dean outside, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Sam is standing next to the Charger, and when Dean gestures, Jimmy peers through the window to the backseat to see a baby in a carrier.

 

“What the hell?” Jimmy asks.

 

“We weren’t in time to save the mom, but we rescued the baby,” Dean explains. “We just don’t know what to do with him.”

 

Jimmy raises his eyebrows. “And you think I do?”

 

“Dude, you’re the parent,” Dean shoots back.

 

Jimmy grins then, enjoying the panic he sees on Dean and Sam’s faces. It’s not often that he’s in a position to play expert. “Did you guys grab any supplies?”

 

“Supplies?” Dean asks blankly.

 

Jimmy opens the door to give the infant a closer look. The baby—a boy, judging by the clothes—grins at him. Jimmy smiles back. “Diapers, formula, bottles, clothes—”

 

Clothes?” Sam asks incredulously.

 

“Babies are messy,” Jimmy replies. “We did more laundry in the first year of Claire’s life than at any other time. He’s going to need clothes.”

 

“So, we’ll get clothes,” Dean replies, sending a look at Sam that Jimmy can’t interpret.

 

“We’ll need most of it tonight,” Jimmy says.

 

Dean shrugs. “Well, the kid is in his car seat. We can leave now.”

 

Sam raises his hands. “Hey, count me out.”

 

Dean’s expression is unreadable, his voice chilly. “Did we ask you to come?”

 

Sam smiles, apparently not bothered by Dean’s tone. “I guess you didn’t. I’m going to check in with Samuel and the others.”

 

“Yeah, you do that,” Dean replies. “We’ll be back in a while. Jimmy, grab the kid. We’ll take my car.”

 

Jimmy straightens. “Dean, your car doesn’t have seatbelts.”

 

“And that matters?” Dean asks.

 

“You can’t strap a baby seat into a car without seatbelts,” Jimmy points out.

 

“Here.” Sam tosses Dean his keys. “Take my car.”

 

Dean grimaces, as though he’s physically in pain. “Yeah, okay.”

 

“Who’s Samuel?” Jimmy asks as soon as they’re on their way to the nearest Wal-Mart.

 

“Our grandfather,” Dean replies. “He apparently got resurrected about the time Sam got pulled out of hell. Sam has been hunting with him and a few other relatives from my mom’s side.”

 

Jimmy frowns. “That doesn’t sound good.”

 

“I don’t think it is,” Dean replies.

 

“Why didn’t Sam contact you?”

 

“Who the hell knows?” Dean grumbles. “He couldn’t give a reason, other than he thought I was happy hunting by myself.”

 

Jimmy frowns. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

 

“You’re telling me,” Dean says grimly. “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with him right now, but I’m going to find out.”

 

“Of course, Dean,” Jimmy murmurs.

 

Dean shoots him a dirty look. “Don’t you start. And do me a favor? Call Bobby and find out what he knows about this mess.”

 

“You think he knew about Sam being back?” Jimmy asks.

 

Dean shrugs, but Jimmy can see the muscle in his jaw begin to tick. “I hope not, but I need to know.”

 

Jimmy nods and finds Bobby’s number in his phone. They’ve come a long way since that first awkward meeting, and when Bobby answers the phone, he says, “It’s Jimmy.”

 

“What’s that idjit into now?” Bobby asks wearily.

 

“Sam’s back,” Jimmy replies.

 

There’s a long pause. “Come again?”

 

“Sam is alive,” Jimmy enunciates clearly. “We ran into him when we were researching the case. As near as we can tell, it really is Sam, and he’s been back for more than a year.”

 

“That son of a bitch,” Bobby says, and Jimmy knows that Bobby hadn’t been aware of Sam’s return from the dead. “He’s been back a year? Without saying anything?”

 

“That seems to be accurate,” Jimmy agrees. “We’ll call you with more info when we’ve got it.”

 

“How are you doing, son?” Bobby asks before Jimmy can end the call.

 

Jimmy takes a deep breath. “I’m all right, but the stigmata are back.”

 

“You expected that,” Bobby replies. “Work the case, and keep me updated. And tell that damn fool Sam to call me.”

 

“I will,” Jimmy promises. “Thanks, Bobby.”

 

“He didn’t know,” Dean says as soon as Jimmy tucks his phone away.

 

Jimmy passes along Bobby’s message. “Should I have told him about Samuel?”

 

“Nothing he can do about it,” Dean replies, “and I’d like to see Samuel for myself before drawing any conclusions.”

 

There’s a squeal from the backseat, and Jimmy turns to grin at the baby. “Did you get a name for him?”

 

Dean winces. “No clue. You got any ideas?”

 

“I don’t know. Amelia and I had a hard enough time picking out a girl’s name. We never could agree on a boy’s.”

 

Dean smiles. “We could call him Bobby.”

 

“Sounds good to me,” Jimmy says.

 

It’s been a long time since Jimmy had to shop for an infant, and things have changed a great deal since then. Any suggestion that Dean carry the baby is met with barely concealed terror, so when little Bobby starts fussing, Jimmy gets him out of his car seat and bounces him a bit. “Hey, now,” he croons. “Hey, now.”

 

“What kind of formula do we need?” Dean asks, staring at the myriad choices before them.

 

Jimmy feels an incipient panic. “I don’t know. If he has allergies…” He racks his brain. “Get the soy-based one. I think it will be easier for him to digest if he does have any allergies. At least, I hope so.”

 

Dean’s hand hovers between two nearly identical containers before he grabs one with a shrug and throws it into the cart. “What else?”

 

“Diapers,” Jimmy replies. “Bottles and some more clothes.”

 

It’s beyond strange to be in Wal-Mart with Dean, filling a cart with baby items, bouncing little Bobby any time he gets fussy. It’s strange to have a baby in his arms again, Jimmy thinks. He and Amelia had talked about having another child, but it had never seemed like the right time, and they had been happy with just Claire.

 

“What are we going to do with this little guy?” Jimmy asks softly as Dean throws a box of diapers into the cart.

 

Dean sighs. “I don’t know. Maybe once we find out who or what killed his parents, we’ll know if he’s going to be safe if we turn him over to the authorities.”

 

“Did you get any more information out of Sam?” Jimmy asks.

 

Dean shakes his head. “No. He doesn’t seem to give a damn.”

 

The baby starts to cry, and Jimmy adjusts his grip. “Okay, Bobby. Just hang tight until we get back to the motel. Just a little longer now.”

 

The wailing grows louder, and Jimmy winces. “This kid has a pair of lungs on him.”

 

“What’s wrong with him?” Dean demands.

 

Jimmy rolls his eyes. “He’s a baby, Dean. He’s probably hungry, wet, or he wants his mom.”

 

“Well, if we can get checked out, we can take care of the first two,” Dean says.

 

“You pay, and I’ll go outside with him,” Jimmy suggests, seeing the sideways looks from the other patrons. Two men with a wailing baby is apparently an unusual sight, and they’re drawing attention. Jimmy’s pretty sure they don’t need that right now.

 

Dean hesitates. “Yeah, but be careful. Are you armed?”

 

“Yeah. See you in a few.”

 

The night air is a little cool, and Jimmy walks back and forth in front of the store trying to calm the baby. Bobby refuses to be comforted, however, and Jimmy recalls all too clearly the many hours he’d spent walking with Claire, trying to get her to sleep.

 

“Sounds like someone’s upset.” The speaker is an older African-American woman with short graying hair, and she smiles warmly at the baby.

 

“I think he’s just tired,” Jimmy replies. “He’ll be fine once we get him home.”

 

She smiles at the baby. “Do you want me to hold him?”

 

“No, that’s okay.” Jimmy backs up a step. “I’ve got him.”

 

She steps closer. “Are you sure? I’ve had a lot of experience calming babies.”

 

Jimmy is a little disconcerted by her insistence. “No, really. I’ve got him.”

 

“Jimmy? Everything okay?” Dean approaches, laden with bags.

 

Jimmy nods. “I’m great. You ready?”

 

Because he’s looking at Dean, Jimmy doesn’t see the woman make a grab for the baby, but Dean does, and he shouts a warning. Jimmy twists away, and little Bobby wails even louder. Dean drops the bags and inserts himself between Jimmy and the woman. She’s not dissuaded, however, and she feints left and then tries to dart around Dean to get to Jimmy.

 

Jimmy holds the baby tightly with one hand and strikes out at her with the other, grabbing one of her arms roughly. Her skin comes off with a terrible, wet sound, and Jimmy cries out. “What the—”

 

“Shapeshifter!” Dean growls, pulling out a knife. “Back off!”

 

Other customers are coming out of the store, staring at them, and Jimmy retreats rapidly. “Dean,” Jimmy begins, grabbing a couple of the bags Dean had dropped.

 

Dean keeps his knife out and grabs another couple of bags. “Move,” he orders grimly.

 

The shapeshifter doesn’t seem inclined to follow now that they know what she is, and are ready to kill her.

 

Jimmy doesn’t take the time to put Bobby in his car seat. He just tosses the bags in the backseat and slides in behind them. Dean tosses his bags into the passenger seat and pulls out with a squeal of tires.

 

“Are you sure it was a shapeshifter?” Jimmy asks.

 

Dean shakes his head. “Not a hundred percent, but I’ve seen them slough their skins before, and it was the same kind of deal. I wish I’d gotten a chance to see her on video. That’s the easiest way to tell.”

 

“Why the hell would a shapeshifter want a baby?” Jimmy asks.

 

“Hell if I know.”

 

~~~~~

 

Sam has some news for them when they get back to the motel. It turns out that one of the fathers hadn’t been home, and is still alive. “I think we should talk to him.”

 

“Great,” Dean replies. “Who’s going to stay with Bobby?”

 

“You’re calling him Bobby?” Sam asks incredulously.

 

Dean shrugs. “Why not?”

 

Sam glances at Jimmy. “Let the guy with the parenting experience stay with the kid.”

 

On the one hand, Jimmy figures he’s the least inept of all of them when it comes to caring for an infant; on the other, he can hear the dismissal in Sam’s voice, as he apparently thinks that’s all Jimmy is good for.

 

Dean meets Jimmy’s eyes and shrugs apologetically.

 

Jimmy knows what that means. “Yeah, I’ll stay.”

 

“Keep a weapon close,” Dean orders. “And keep an eye out. That shapeshifter found us at the store; there might be more of them.”

 

“I’ve got it, Dean,” Jimmy assures him. “Don’t worry about me.”

 

Dean’s expression clearly says that he’ll worry if he damn well pleases, but he doesn’t say anything more. Jimmy is grateful for that. If Dean keeps acting like a mother hen, Sam is going to think Jimmy even more inept.

 

Jimmy doesn’t miss changing diapers, that’s for sure, but he has plenty of experience. He gets little Bobby cleaned up and hums under his breath, soothing the baby to sleep.

 

“There you go, little man,” Jimmy murmurs. “You’re fine. Go to sleep now.”

 

Jimmy whiles away the time by calling Claire. “What are you doing?” she asks cheerfully.

 

“Babysitting,” Jimmy replies. “We’ve found ourselves with a baby on our hands.”

 

“A baby?” she asks. “Is that normal?”

 

“Nothing about this job is normal,” Jimmy replies. “Do you remember Sam?”

 

“Dean’s brother?” Claire asks.

 

“Yeah. He’s back.” Jimmy knows he probably shouldn’t be confiding in his daughter. She’s his kid, not his friend, but there’s no one else he can tell.

 

“How come?”

 

“No one seems to know.”

 

Claire is quiet for a long time. “Does that mean you’re coming back here?”

 

“Dean wants me to stay, at least right now,” Jimmy says.

 

“That’s good.”

 

Jimmy raises his eyebrows. “What? Are you saying you don’t want your old man around?”

 

“Dean really loves you,” Claire replies. “And I know you love him.”

 

Jimmy smiles. Claire has always been perceptive, and Dean told him that he and Claire had forged a bond in the two months Castiel had been in charge. He suspects Dean had told Claire what Dean hasn’t been able to tell Jimmy.

 

“Sam is his brother,” Jimmy replies. “But I think we’ll stick together, at least as long as we’ve got the baby with us.”

 

“Call me,” Claire orders. “I want to know how the thing with the baby turns out.”

 

“You know your mother would kill me if she finds out I’m talking about cases,” Jimmy says.

 

Claire laughs. “You aren’t talking about a case. You’re talking about babysitting. Those are two totally different things.”

 

“Usually,” Jimmy replies dryly. “I’ll call you tomorrow night.”

 

“Love you, Daddy.”

 

“Love you, too.” Jimmy ends the call with the warm sense of pleasure he always feels after a conversation with his daughter.

 

Jimmy makes sure he has a couple of weapons close to hand, including a silver blade and a gun loaded with silver bullets, and he drops off into a light doze. He wakes up when the baby starts crying, the kinds of cries that Jimmy had hated hearing from Claire, the ones that meant she was in pain or sick.

 

He rubs his eyes and rolls out of bed, leaving his weapons behind to check on the baby, who’s red faced and squalling. “Okay, okay, what’s wrong, kiddo?” Jimmy mutters.

 

There’s a squelching sort of sound, and the baby’s face alters, for lack of a better word, and Jimmy jumps back just in time to avoid getting hit with gore.

 

“What the fuck?” Jimmy mutters and approaches the crib again. He blinks in surprise, looking from the African-American infant to the box of diapers, which has a picture of a remarkably similar child.

 

The answer comes to Jimmy all at once, and he reaches down to pick up the baby. “Let’s get you cleaned up,” he murmurs. “You just give me a minute to call Dean.”

 

Jimmy reaches for the phone at the same time it rings. He’s grateful to see Dean’s number appear on the screen. “Dean. Hey.”

 

“We talked to the father, who isn’t the father. It seems that a shapeshifter is going around, pretending to be someone else and getting women pregnant.”

 

“Yeah, I got that,” Jimmy replies. “It seems shapeshifter babies can change form, too.”

 

“Seriously?” Dean asks. “Okay, we’re heading back your direction. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

 

That means Dean is going to lean on the accelerator, or he’s going to encourage Sam to do the same.

 

“See you soon,” Jimmy promises.

 

The baby seems to have calmed some now, and Jimmy gets him cleaned up and dressed again. Since Dean’s still not back, he soothes little Bobby as best he can and puts him back down.

 

Jimmy lets out a breath as it appears he’s been successful, and jumps when he hears a knock on the door. It’s loud and insistent, and it immediately alerts Jimmy to trouble.

 

“Yes?” Jimmy calls as the baby begins to cry again.

 

“It’s the manager. Is everything all right?”

 

“We’re fine,” Jimmy replies. “We’re good!”

 

“We’ve had some complaints!”

 

“I’m sorry. I just need to get him calmed down.”

 

“You need to open the door!”

 

“It’s not a good time,” Jimmy calls.

 

He’s not too surprised when the door bursts open, although the fact that the man is wearing a deputy’s uniform is a bit of a shock. “Give me the child.”

 

Jimmy leaves little Bobby on the bed because he doesn’t think he can fight off the shapeshifter and hold the kid, not without the baby getting hurt. “You’re not getting him.”

 

“He belongs with his father,” the shapeshifter insists.

 

Jimmy reaches behind him, feeling for a weapon. “The father is dead.”

 

The shapeshifter grins. “I’m sorry, I meant our father.”

 

That doesn’t sound good. “You’re still not getting the kid.”

 

The shapeshifter dives for him. Jimmy ducks the first punch, but he’s not so lucky with the second, which clips him over the left ear and makes his head ring. The blow rattles Jimmy enough that he can’t block or dodge the next few—one to his stomach, another to his ribs, another to his face.

 

And then he’s on the floor, with the shapeshifter straddling him, his hands on Jimmy’s throat, choking him.

 

He can’t breathe, and he figures that this is it. He’s going to die; he’s never going to see Claire or Dean again.

 

And that pisses Jimmy off enough that he reaches up and pushes his thumbs into the shapeshifter’s eyes. The shapeshifter roars in pain and pulls back enough to let Jimmy draw in a breath. And then the shapeshifter is pulled off, and Jimmy hears a shot.

 

Jimmy just breathes for a moment, and then Dean’s hands are patting him down, checking for injuries. “You okay?” Dean demands.

 

Jimmy nods. “Yeah. The baby?”

 

“Fine,” Dean says. “We have to get out of here.”

 

Sam tucks his weapon in his waistband. “They’re obviously going to keep coming after the kid.”

 

“We can’t drop him with an orphanage,” Dean says. “They’d lose their shit the first time he turns Asian.”

 

“Samuel,” Sam says. “He’ll know what to do.”

 

Dean frowns. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

 

“You got a better one?” Sam demands.

 

Dean rubs his eyes. “What about Bobby?”

 

“Samuel is closer,” Sam objects. “And what’s Bobby going to do?”

 

Dean looks at Jimmy, who shrugs. He can see Dean’s point; Dean trusts Bobby, but he doesn’t really know or trust Samuel. On the other hand, Samuel is closer.

 

“Okay, we’ll see what Samuel has to say,” Dean says heavily.

 

“He’s great, all of them are. You’ll see,” Sam promises.

 

Since there’s something about Sam that sets Jimmy’s teeth on edge, he’s not real hopeful about liking the Campbells. “We’ll follow you,” Dean says. “Jimmy?”

 

“We’ll need to pack the baby’s things,” Jimmy replies.

 

~~~~~

 

They’re on the road a short time later with the baby in the backseat of Sam’s car, since he has seatbelts. Jimmy can tell that Sam doesn’t want anything to do with the kid, and he’s a little disconcerted by Sam’s total disinterest, even distaste. He gets not liking kids, but this is something else altogether.

 

“Look, when we get there, stick close to me, okay?” Dean says, breaking into Jimmy’s thoughts.

 

“Are you worried?” Jimmy asks.

 

Dean shakes his head. “I don’t know what I am right now. Are you really okay?”

 

Jimmy touches the rapidly swelling area under his left eye. “I’ll be fine. It’s just bruises.”

 

“Your throat?”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

Dean raises a hand in supplication. “Sorry. I was just checking.”

 

Jimmy knows he shouldn’t have snapped, but he doesn’t have it in him to apologize right now. He’s still angry, and he doesn’t trust himself to say anything.

 

He leans his forehead against the cool glass of the window, looking out at the darkness beyond, the silence hanging between them uncomfortable and tense.

 

The compound doesn’t look all that promising; it looks more like a fortress, and maybe it’s just because it’s after dark, but when they go inside, it’s dim, dank, and gray. Jimmy hasn’t seen a lot of hunter’s lairs, but he can’t help but compare the Campbell compound to Bobby’s house, which is shabby, but welcoming.

 

Jimmy carries the baby inside, but he wishes he could keep a hand on his weapon, even if that wouldn’t go over too well with their hosts.

 

“Hey, Sam.” The large, imposing bald man stepped forward, looking at first Sam, then Dean. “And Dean. It’s good to see you again.”

 

“Yeah, same here,” Dean replies, his shoulders stiff with tension. “And this is Jimmy.”

 

Jimmy feels all eyes on him, and there isn’t one person present who appears welcoming.

 

Samuel looks at the baby. “And this must be the shapeshifter.”

 

“Isn’t he just the cutest little monster?” A woman approaches Jimmy with a smile, reaching out to touch the baby’s hand.

 

Jimmy takes a step back.

 

“Jimmy, Dean, this is Gwen,” Sam says. “And we’ve also got Christian, Mark, and Johnny. It’s okay, Jimmy. Give the baby to Samuel.”

 

Jimmy looks at Dean for direction. “What are you going to do with the kid?” Dean asks.

 

“Raise it,” Samuel replies with a smile. “Relax, Dean, we aren’t going to hurt him. We’re family. We wouldn’t lie to you.”

 

“That remains to be seen,” Dean says with a dark look at Sam.

 

Samuel holds out his hands. “Let me see this guy.”

 

Jimmy thinks these people are creepy as hell, but Samuel appears to be genuinely interested in holding Bobby, so he passes the baby over. Samuel smiles and bounces the infant with practiced movements. “I haven’t held a baby in ages,” he says, looking at Dean. “Not since your mom, and she was tiny, and bald as a cue ball.”

 

Dean is silent, his hands shoved in his pockets, clearly still wary.

 

“We’re just asking you to give us a chance,” Samuel says, his eyes still on Dean.

 

“Hey, we don’t need you,” Christian says belligerently. “You can take your boyfriend and go home. We’ll look after the kid.”

 

Dean bristles. “Don’t even go there.”

 

“We’ve heard some stories,” Mark says, swaggering over to Jimmy. “Your friend here is supposed to be a miracle worker.”

 

Jimmy stiffens. They can’t afford to have that information floating around.

 

“Yeah, we’ve heard he does more than bleed.” Christian’s smile holds an edge of cruelty. “And that he’s not much of a hunter otherwise.”

 

Jimmy can see that Dean is about to lose it, and he puts a hand on Dean’s arm, trying to calm him. He knows it’s a mistake as soon as he sees the speculation on the Campbells’ faces. Jimmy has just confirmed some of their suspicions, and he can see the contempt in their eyes.

 

They already think he’s weak; this just makes him look weaker.

 

“That’s enough,” Samuel says, a quiet command in his voice. “I’m sure Dean has his reasons for having Jimmy as a partner.”

 

Dean doesn’t say anything, but he gives Sam a narrow-eyed glare, and Sam says, “Lay off, guys. Dean’s my brother.”

 

Jimmy notices that Sam doesn’t say anything about him, but they barely know each other, so maybe that’s understandable.

 

Dogs bark outside, and Samuel frowns. “Check the perimeter,” he barks, handing the baby to Jimmy. “There’s a panic room. You’ll be safe in there. Sam, show him and Dean where to go, then get your ass back up here.”

 

The panic room is as substantial as Bobby’s, but Jimmy doesn’t feel safe there. He feels more like battle lines have been drawn, and it’s him against the Campbells. He supposes he should feel lucky that Dean doesn’t seem to be throwing Jimmy to the wolves, but he doesn’t.

 

And there’s that same anger again, Jimmy thinks. He and Dean had a good thing going before Sam showed up, before the Campbells had appeared. He hates that their relationship is in jeopardy, or that they’re looking down their noses at Dean because he’s partnered up with someone like Jimmy.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jimmy says quietly, keeping his ears open for sounds from outside.

 

Dean has his gun trained on the door. “Sorry for what?”

 

“For outing you in front of them,” Jimmy replies. “I didn’t mean to.”

 

“It’s not your fault they’re assholes,” Dean snaps. “Dammit, Jimmy. They don’t have a fucking clue who I am, or who you are. Sam should know better, but he’s apparently drunk the Kool-Aid.”

 

The baby whimpers in Jimmy’s arms. “Maybe they’re right about me. I’m not much of a hunter.”

 

“Shut up,” Dean says fiercely. “You’re my fucking partner, and that’s the end of it.”

 

Jimmy closes his eyes briefly. There isn’t much he can count on in this life—he can’t even count on the fact that he’ll continue to be in control of his body—but he can trust Dean. “Okay.”

 

There’s a banging on the door, and then it’s pulled off its hinges. Dean empties his clip into the shapeshifter’s chest, but it doesn’t even pause. It knocks Dean out of the way, and Dean hits the wall with a thud.

 

Dean doesn’t get up, and the shapeshifter turns his attention to Jimmy. Jimmy puts his back to the wall, the baby wailing in his arms.

 

“Give me the child. He should be raised with his own kind.”

 

Jimmy can’t really argue with that, but he’s not prepared to hand the baby over without some kind of a fight. Jimmy glances down at his innocent face, and he knows that in twenty years, assuming that he and Dean are still around, they might be hunting him.

 

“Over my dead body,” Jimmy replies calmly.

 

The shapeshifter smiles. “That can be arranged.”

 

With the baby in his arms, Jimmy can’t do much to defend himself, and the shapeshifter’s hand closes around Jimmy’s throat. For the second time that day, Jimmy finds himself unable to breathe, and he loses consciousness just as the baby is pulled from his arms.

 

~~~~~

 

“Jimmy. Come on, Jimmy.”

 

Jimmy opens his eyes slowly. “Dean?” he croaks.

 

“Yeah, buddy,” Dean says. “You ready to get out of here?”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“Better than you,” Dean replies. “Can you stand?”

 

“There’s no fucking way I’m showing them any weakness,” Jimmy growls.

 

Dean grins. “Atta boy.”

 

When they get to the main room, they find Mark dead and the others bruised and battered. Jimmy tunes out the conversation; he’s too tired and in too much pain to focus, and Dean will fill him in later if there’s anything Jimmy needs to know.

 

“Hey,” Dean says quietly. “We’re heading out.”

 

Sam walks out with them. “Dean—”

 

“I want to work with you,” Dean says quietly. “But I won’t work with them. Right now, we need to lick our wounds and heal up. Call me if you get a case, or you can meet us at Bobby’s.”

 

Sam nods. “Maybe I will.”

 

“Come on, Jimmy. Let’s get a move on,” Dean says, climbing behind the wheel.

 

“So, Bobby’s,” Jimmy says as they pull out, not really caring.

 

Dean shrugs. “I need a couple of days to think, and you need to recover.”

 

“I’m fine,” Jimmy protests, but there isn’t much force behind it.

 

Dean smiles, but there isn’t much humor in his expression. “Yeah, well, I’m not sure I am, and I want to talk to Bobby face to face.”

 

Jimmy closes his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Not your fault,” Dean replies grimly. “Look, get some sleep. I’ll let you take over in a while.”

 

Six hours later, they switch off, but Dean stays awake, staring out the window, a desolate expression on his face. “You want to talk about it?” Jimmy finally asks.

 

“Probably about as much as you do,” Dean replies. “How much pain are you in?”

 

Ever since Dean found out that the wounds hurt, he checks in on Jimmy’s pain levels on a fairly regular basis. Jimmy has learned not to prevaricate. “About a six.”

 

Dean glances over at him. “This is why you’re better than the rest of them, you know. Anybody else who had to live with this crap, they probably would have eaten a bullet by now.”

 

Jimmy’s hands tighten around the steering wheel. There are still days when he thinks about eating a bullet; there are days when he thinks he’s a coward for not doing it.

 

“Yeah, well.”

 

“I hate that it’s back,” Dean says quietly. “I know you can’t help healing people who need it, but it’s probably going to kill you one of these days if you push it too hard.”

 

“It might,” Jimmy acknowledges.

 

Dean smiles faintly. “Now you sound like a Winchester.”

 

Jimmy figures he can take that as a compliment.

 

~~~~~

 

Jimmy has spent enough time at Bobby’s place to feel almost at home; it’s a decent base, although Bobby’s about as angry as Jimmy has ever seen him.

 

“What is that damn fool brother of yours thinking?” he demands, more than once.

 

Dean just shakes his head. “There’s something wrong with him,” he insists. “But I don’t know what it is.”

 

Sam calls a few days into their stay to let Dean know he has a case, but that he’s got it covered.

 

When Dean hangs up, he glances over at Jimmy. “Seems Cas showed up,” Dean says quietly. “He’s definitely got a new vessel.”

 

Jimmy breathes a sigh of relief. It’s not like that’s a surprise, but it’s nice to have confirmation. “Did Sam need help?”

 

“He said he and Cas took care of it,” Dean replies. “It was some weapon from heaven, probably like the one Cas got us to retrieve for him. He said Cas seemed kind of pissed at me.”

 

Jimmy raises his eyebrows. “So?”

 

Dean smiles. “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I said.”

 

“We going to meet up with him for the next hunt?”

 

Dean shakes his head. “He’ll call again when he feels like it.” He sits down heavily. “I don’t know, Jimmy. Sam has always been the kind of kid that would run off on his own, but I thought we were past this.”

 

Jimmy wishes he could offer some form of comfort, but there’s nothing he can say. “I’m sorry, Dean.”

 

“Not your fault.” Dean forces a smile. “Besides, we’ve got a new job.”

 

“What’s that?” Jimmy asks.

 

Dean grins. “Bobby needs his soul back, so we’re going international.”

 

~~~~~

 

Jimmy has never been out of the country, and normally it would take time to get a passport, but Bobby’s on a tear to get one over on Crowley and get his soul back, and Dean is really, really good at creating fake documents. They’re on a red-eye to Edinburgh that night, and Jimmy is a little surprised to realize just how freaked out Dean is by flying. Jimmy suggests that Dean have a drink—or a few drinks—to get him through the flight. Dean insists on staying sharp, though, and in between puking, he clutches at the arms of his seat.

 

Jimmy wants to reach out, but he’s not sure how Dean will take the gesture, so he keeps his hands to himself and makes sure Dean has water or ginger ale to drink.

 

Finally, though, the interminable flight is over, and they’re heading for the grave where Crowley’s bones are buried.

 

The thing is, other than the fact that they’re digging someone up and threatening to burn the bones, it could almost be a vacation. Dean threatens Crowley over the phone, flicks his lighter a few times, and then they hand the bones over to Crowley once he’s given Bobby his soul back. And that’s that.

 

“When do we fly back?” Jimmy asks.

 

“Couple of days,” Dean replies. “I figured we could see a bit of the countryside, drink a few beers, maybe visit a distillery.”

 

Jimmy nods; he’s noticed that Dean’s been drinking more since Sam showed up. Still, he can’t exactly blame Dean, because he’s been drinking a little more these days, too.

 

And he can’t remember the last time he had a vacation. They don’t get breaks in this line of work.

 

“That sounds good,” he says.

 

They stay at a little bed and breakfast that first night, in a village near the gravesite, and Dean fucks Jimmy slow and easy. He’s so careful, so gentle, and Jimmy groans into his pillow, feeling Dean’s hand on his dick as they both come with muffled cries.

 

Afterward, Dean spoons Jimmy on the narrow bed, and Jimmy feels Dean’s lips brush the back of his neck.

 

Jimmy closes his eyes and thinks that if he can just hold on to this, all the shit he’s been through might be worth it. As much as he misses Amelia and Claire and his life with them, he still loves Dean, and he loves this life, too.

 

Sometimes, Jimmy thinks his life started the day Dean asked him to go on the road with him. The person he is now, and the person he was before he’d said yes—it’s like night and day. Jimmy can’t imagine being that guy again. He can’t imagine going back to that ordinary life.

 

When they fly back, they’re both a little more relaxed after a couple of days with no mention of Sam, or hunting, or the strange way monsters are acting. It’s easy for Jimmy to be with Dean, their conversations rambling between stories of their childhoods, or past relationships, or old hunts.

 

Maybe he and Dean don’t have much in common, Jimmy thinks, but they share the important things—they would do anything for family, and they need to be needed.

 

As soon as they land, Dean checks his messages and finds one from Sam.

 

“We’ve got another hunt, if you’re up for it,” Dean says. “Seven girls have gone missing in as many days.”

 

Jimmy winces, not really liking the idea of working with Sam again. “Sam isn’t going to want me around.”

 

“Sam doesn’t have a choice,” Dean shoots back. “We’re a package deal.”

 

When Jimmy opens his mouth to argue, Dean cuts him off. “I blackmailed Cas into getting a new vessel to get you back,” he says. “So don’t be an idiot.”

 

Jimmy smiles. “Now you sound like Bobby.”

 

“There are worse people to sound like,” Dean says. “So, you up for it?”

 

Jimmy shrugs. “He’s your brother, and he needs our help, so yeah.”

 

They drive straight through to Limestone, Illinois, where all the disappearances have occurred and meet up with Sam at a motel.

 

“I got two rooms,” Sam says casually. “I figured you’d prefer it.”

 

“Thanks,” Dean says, taking the second key from Sam. “We do. So, what have we got?”

 

Sam fills them in, and Jimmy flips through the missing persons fliers that the parents had posted around town. The girls in the photos aren’t that much older than Claire, and he feels a sudden urge to call her, to warn her yet again not to take candy from strangers or go home with people she doesn’t know.

 

Dean looks over his shoulder and murmurs. “Damn. They’re so fucking young.”

 

Jimmy glances up in time to see a strange expression cross Sam’s face. “You’re getting old, Dean,” he jokes.

 

Dean shakes his head. “They’re not that much older than Claire.”

 

“Claire?” Sam asks, frowning.

 

Jimmy’s a little surprised that Sam doesn’t remember, but maybe Sam has seen too much, and has saved too many people, to recall the name of every kid he helped rescue. “My daughter,” Jimmy reminds him.

 

“Oh, right.” And there’s nothing in Sam’s voice, no emotion at all. Jimmy knows that he doesn’t know Sam, but this guy doesn’t match the little Jimmy does know about him. “Well, I thought Dean and I would start by interviewing the family of the latest victim. Jimmy, maybe you could question the others?”

 

Jimmy glances at Dean to gauge his reaction. Dean doesn’t look too happy, and his jaw is tense, but then he throws Jimmy an apologetic look, and Jimmy knows he’s lost this battle.

 

He can’t shake the feeling that Sam wants to get rid of him for whatever reason, and while Dean had made it pretty clear to the Campbell clan that they’re a package deal, this is Sam, no matter how changed he might be. Jimmy has always known he wouldn’t be able to compete with Sam for Dean’s affections.

 

“That’s fine,” Jimmy finally says. “I guess I’ll put on a suit.”

 

Dean and Sam start with the first victim; Jimmy heads for the house of the next most recent. Her parents, a Mr. and Mrs. Graham, are pale, their eyes shadowed, and they greet Jimmy with relief mixed with desperation. It’s fairly obvious that they’re grasping at straws, willing to accept whatever help is offered in the hope of finding their daughter alive.

 

Karen’s room is a shrine to vampires. Jimmy recognizes some of the names from conversations he’d had with Claire, although she’s more inured to the charm of the supernatural than this girl. Claire has been the vessel of an angel; vampires can’t really compete.

 

Although Jimmy wonders what will happen when the next fad is angels, or fallen angels; he doesn’t think Claire will be completely safe from that.

 

Karen has put a password on her computer, but when Jimmy asks, Mrs. Graham says, “I think it’s Edward. At least it was the last time she told me. I insisted that I have all her passwords just in case.”

 

Mrs. Graham swallows a sob at that, and Jimmy tries to keep his distance, but all he can think about is Claire, and losing her, and what that would do to him.

 

“I have a daughter just a little younger than Karen,” he admits. “I can only imagine what you’re going through.”

 

She manages a watery smile. “Thank you. The police think she ran off. We tried to tell them that she isn’t that kind of girl, but—”

 

“They think you don’t know your daughter,” Jimmy murmurs.

 

“Exactly,” she says. “Whatever happened to her, she didn’t run away.”

 

“I believe you,” Jimmy promises. “Was there a place she liked to go?”

 

“The Black Rose,” Mrs. Graham replies, wiping her eyes. “She went there as often as she could.”

 

Jimmy nods. “Thank you. You’ve been very helpful. I’m just going to see what I can find on her computer, and I promise you, I’ll contact you as soon as I know something.”

 

Jimmy is no stranger to teenage girls, and so he checks Karen’s browser history, her favorites, and a few other places. By the time he’s done, he has a pretty clear picture of Karen, and her secret desires.

 

She wants a boy who will love her completely, who is mysterious and older. Jimmy doesn’t understand it, but maybe he’s just too old to get it. He feels old now, terribly old, like the world is passing him by, and his only real knowledge comes from hunting monsters, which most people don’t believe in. Most of the time, Jimmy feels as though he occupies some kind of netherworld, with Claire his only point of contact to his former life, and Dean his only contact with his new one. Jimmy figures that if he loses either one of them, he’s going to be seriously fucked.

 

Operating under some instinct that Jimmy can’t quantify, he calls Dean before heading for the next victim’s house. “Where are you?”

 

“At a place called the Black Rose,” Dean replies. “It’s pretty fucking lame.”

 

Jimmy smiles. “So I’ve heard. That was the last place Karen was seen, too, and she was pretty taken with it.”

 

“And vampires?”

 

“And vampires,” Jimmy confirms. “Do you want me to meet you there?”

 

“Yeah, I would,” Dean says. “I’ll see you soon.”

 

Jimmy would have normally changed out of his suit, but he doesn’t think he has the time. It’s not that he thinks Sam is incapable of watching Dean’s back, but Jimmy knows he’ll be able to heal Dean if something does go wrong.

 

At least, he thinks he’ll be able to.

 

Jimmy hasn’t healed anyone since Castiel repossessed him, so maybe he’s lost that gift. But there’s at least a chance.

 

The Black Rose is about what Jimmy pictured. It’s full of teenagers dressed in black with multiple piercings and tattoos. Jimmy sticks out like a sore thumb, and he’s sure Dean and Sam do, too. That should make them easier to find, but he can’t spot them.

 

Jimmy makes a slow circuit, and when he can’t locate Dean, he tries calling. The phone rings, but there’s no answer, and so he walks up to the bar. He gets the bartender’s attention by the simple expedient of holding up a $20 bill. Jimmy passes him the money as he asks, “Have you seen a couple of guys around 30? Not dressed in black, and one of them is huge.”

 

The bartender nods. “Yeah, they stuck out almost as much as you do, dude.”

 

Jimmy smiles. “I suppose. Did you see them?”

 

“They went out the back a little bit ago,” the bartender replies. “I haven’t seen them since.”

 

“Thanks,” Jimmy replies, and takes off.

 

He emerges out of the club into an alley and looks both ways. At first, he doesn’t see anything of note, but then he hears a scuffling sound. It might be rats, but then Jimmy thinks he hears Dean’s voice, and he starts jogging.

 

Jimmy skids to a stop when he sees Sam standing there, his arms hanging at his sides. Dean is being held up against a dumpster by a large man. In the next moment, Jimmy realizes that the man is actually a vampire, and Sam is still just standing there. Jimmy doesn’t even think about it. He starts running, pulling the hunting knife from the scabbard in the small of his back.

 

Jimmy drives the knife into the side of the vampire’s neck and wrenches it around. It’s not enough to kill him, but it’s enough for him to let Dean go. Dean drops to the ground, unconscious, and the vampire laughs through bloody teeth.

 

“I’ll be seeing you soon,” the vampire says and runs off, Jimmy’s knife still sticking out of his neck.

 

Jimmy drops to his knees next to Dean, feeling for a pulse. It’s there, but it’s weak and thready, and Dean’s mouth is stained with blood. Jimmy wraps a hand around the back of Dean’s neck. “Come on,” he mutters. “Come on.”

 

There’s nothing. Normally, Jimmy’s healing ability would have kicked in by now. “No,” he mutters. “Don’t do this. Don’t do this.”

 

Jimmy still has no idea who or what gave him the stigmata and the ability to heal; he just knows it wasn’t Castiel, and he suspects these so-called gifts are from an otherwise absent God. It’s not that Jimmy doesn’t believe in God these days; it’s that he mostly hates God for being a fucking absentee father, for not doing anything to keep his angels in line.

 

For making it possible for Castiel to take Jimmy as a vessel; for twisting up Jimmy’s love and devotion so he said yes without knowing what he was getting himself into.

 

But that anger, ever-present since the first time Castiel vacated the premises, rises up with renewed ferocity at the thought of losing Dean.

 

“No!” Jimmy shouts, not really sure who he’s shouting at. “I’m not losing him, too! You’re going to fucking let me do this! If you don’t, I’ll make sure no one ever gets to use my gifts. I’ll eat my gun.”

 

“Jimmy,” Sam says from behind him. “It’s going to be okay.”

 

“Back the fuck off,” Jimmy warns him. “I can do this.”

 

“Samuel knows of a cure,” Sam tells him, putting a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder and pulling at him.

 

Jimmy calmly draws his gun and points it at Sam. “I said back the fuck off and let me handle this.”

 

Sam raises his hands. “But—”

 

“You let this happen!” Jimmy shouts. “Back off, or I will shoot you.”

 

Sam backs off, apparently sensing how serious Jimmy is in that moment. Jimmy puts one hand on Dean’s neck, but Dean doesn’t show any sign of stirring. “You will let me have this,” Jimmy mutters to an absent God. “I’ve given up everything. I’ve lost almost everything. I am not losing Dean. So, you will fucking let me have him.”

 

For a long moment, there’s still nothing, and then Jimmy feels the familiar energy rush through him. He can distantly sense Sam approach him from behind, apparently intent on pulling Jimmy away. “No, Jimmy, you can’t,” Sam begins, and Jimmy feels a touch on his shoulder.

 

No one has ever touched him while he’s healing someone, but Jimmy isn’t all that surprised when Sam is knocked back on his ass.

 

He knows this is going to be a tough one. The vampire’s blood has already had time to work its way through Dean’s system, changing him, and Jimmy remembers how difficult it had been to heal Dean’s busted knee and counteract the werewolf poison.

 

When Jimmy’s done, when he knows Dean is safe, he slumps across Dean’s body, feeling the last of the life leaving his body.

 

~~~~~

 

Jimmy doesn’t regain consciousness so much as slowly become aware of the sounds of an argument occurring close to him. His limbs feel leaden, and his head is buzzing, but he can make out the words even if he can’t respond.

 

“It wasn’t just me, dammit!” That’s Dean’s voice. “You knew what Jimmy was capable of. You knew he’d try to save me!”

 

“I just froze,” Sam protests. “I’m sorry. I tried to tell Jimmy that Samuel had a cure, but he pulled a gun on me.”

 

And I’d do it again, Jimmy thinks, but can’t say.

 

“He’s my fucking partner,” Dean shoots back. “And he can heal people. What did you think he was going to do?”

 

“I figured he’d listen to me,” Sam replies. “Look, Dean, I’m sorry. I froze, and I put you and Jimmy in jeopardy. There’s nothing I can say to make up for that.”

 

“No, there isn’t,” Dean replies bitterly. “Fuck, Sam. He should be in the hospital. I had to do CPR to get him breathing again. He lost a shitload of blood, but I can’t take him to get a transfusion because he’d end up in a psych ward.”

 

“He might not,” Sam protests.

 

“Yeah, well, I’m not willing to take that risk,” Dean says. “Because you know how much of a hassle it would be to break him out.”

 

“I’ll call Samuel and have him bring transfusion equipment,” Sam says. “I know he’s done it before.”

 

“And if I think he’s hurting Jimmy, I’m going to kill him,” Dean says. “I went two months without him, and I’m not doing that again. I fucking mean it, Sam.”

 

“I believe you,” Sam says in a placating tone. “I’ll call him now.”

 

“You do that.”

 

Jimmy wants to offer some kind of reassurance, but he still can’t move. He feels Dean’s hand close around his; it’s not often that Dean displays any kind of affection where anybody can see. Jimmy wants to squeeze back, but he can’t even move that much. Jimmy has no idea what that means. Maybe he’s going to be trapped inside his own body, which is a different kind of hell than having Castiel use him as a vessel.

 

“I don’t know if you can hear me or not, but I need you to come back,” Dean murmurs. “And if you can hear me, I expect you not to mention this conversation.” He laughs, and the sound is a little broken. “I’m going to kick your ass when you get back. I almost lost you, and I can’t handle that. I need somebody to watch my back, and that’s apparently you, since Sam can’t be trusted to do the job. Just—wake up, okay?”

 

Jimmy only wishes he could, but he’s unconscious again shortly thereafter.

 

~~~~~

 

He wakes again when he feels a prick and a burn in his right arm, and then—well, Jimmy can’t quite describe the feeling. His arms and legs develop pins and needles, and Jimmy opens his eyes with some effort.

 

“There he is.” Samuel smile down at him. “Just hold still, Jimmy. We’re going to get you into fighting shape soon enough.”

 

“Jimmy?” Dean is there immediately. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Like shit,” Jimmy whispers.

 

Dean grins, clearly relieved. “That’s good to hear, partner. You should be feeling a hell of a lot better soon.”

 

“Good to know,” Jimmy says. “I need to talk to you—privately.”

 

“Sam? Samuel? Give us a minute?” Dean asks.

 

“Sure,” Samuel replies. “Holler if you need us.”

 

Dean glances up, and Jimmy follows his gaze to see the bag of blood on a pole. “Will do,” Dean promises. Once they’re gone, he adds, “That’s the second bag. Samuel said you were in bad shape.”

 

“I think I was,” Jimmy admits. “Sam was just standing there, Dean. He didn’t help you, and he didn’t want me to help you.”

 

Dean sighs. “Yeah, I figured as much.”

 

“You okay?” Jimmy asks.

 

“You’re asking me that?” Dean demands. “You’re the one who nearly killed yourself saving my life.”

 

“You’re worth it,” Jimmy insists.

 

“Fuck,” Dean swears. “You can’t say things like that.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because it’s not true,” Dean replies impatiently. “And because you’ve got Claire waiting for you. How do you think she’d respond to news of your death?”

 

“Not well,” Jimmy admits. “But that doesn’t change anything.”

 

Dean runs a rough hand down Jimmy’s face. “We’re going after the nest as soon as you’re feeling a little better. Samuel’s calling in reinforcements.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Jimmy says. “I know you don’t like them much.”

 

“I’m not the first person to hate his relatives,” Dean replies. “As long as you’re alive, I don’t give a fuck.”

 

“I’ll give it my best shot,” Jimmy promises.

 

Dean smiles faintly. “Good enough for now. Go back to sleep, Jimmy. I’ll let you know if something goes down.”

 

And Jimmy does go to sleep, with Dean’s hand clasped firmly in his own.

 

~~~~~

 

Jimmy is never clear how much time he spends unconscious, but by the time Samuel has pumped several pints of blood into him, he’s feeling a lot better, and the rest of the Campbell clan have descended on them.

 

He later learns that Dean refuses to leave him behind, or leave Jimmy with anyone else, which explains why Dean stays back with Jimmy and Gwen without an argument when Samuel gives them their assignments. At least Gwen seems marginally more welcoming towards Jimmy than the rest of the Campbells.

 

Dean insists that Jimmy stay in the car, and Jimmy doesn’t argue. He tries to stay alert, and he keeps a long knife unsheathed in his lap just in case. Gwen puts herself between the car and the nest, and Dean pulls a machete.

 

The nest is extensive, and they certainly need all the help they can get to shut it down. Jimmy wishes he could be of assistance, but he knows he’d be more of a hindrance than a help. His hands are still shaking, and it’s going to be a few days before he’s ready for a real hunt.

 

Between them, Dean and Gwen kill four vamps, and when it looks like a fifth is getting away, Jimmy gets out of the car and chops its head off.

 

“Nice one,” Gwen says, and Jimmy believes she means it.

 

As long as Dean is still alive, Jimmy doesn’t give a rat’s ass of what Dean’s family thinks, but he suspects that Gwen’s on their side, and that Samuel might be as well. From what Jimmy had seen, Samuel is at least a little impressed at what Jimmy can do.

 

Jimmy sits in the truck while Dean and Sam exchange a few words. Even from a distance, it’s easy to see the strain in their relationship. After a few minutes, they nod at each other, and Sam turns on his heel and rejoins the other Campbells, who are apparently finishing the cleanup.

 

Samuel comes over to say goodbye, shaking both their hands and wishing them well. “Give me a call if you need me,” Samuel says.

 

Dean relaxes slightly. “Thanks for your help.”

 

Samuel gives Jimmy a long look that makes Jimmy feel like a bug under a microscope. “Take care of your partner, Jimmy.”

 

“I always do.”

 

Samuel nods, apparently satisfied, and Dean pulls out.

 

“What about Sam?” Jimmy asks a few miles down the road.

 

Dean shakes his head. “I told him to call if he needs us, but we don’t split up again, and we don’t trust him. That’s—that’s not Sam, Jimmy. My brother would never have stood there and let me get turned.”

 

“So, why did he do it?” Jimmy asks softly.

 

Dean sighs. “If I got turned, I could get into the nest.”

 

Jimmy frowns. “What if you’d killed somebody?”

 

“Yeah, well, I’m not sure Sam cares about that,” Dean mutters.

 

Jimmy lets the silence hang before asking, “What do you think is wrong with him?”

 

“Maybe it was going through hell,” Dean says. “Maybe whatever brought him back missed a piece.” He sighs. “I think I’m going to have to call Cas in on this one if we’re going to find out, though. Bobby hasn’t turned up anything, and Sam hasn’t really talked to him.”

 

Jimmy wonders if Sam wouldn’t be more willing to hook up with Dean again if it weren’t for Jimmy’s presence; he remembers the expression on Sam’s face when he tried to pull Jimmy away from Dean. He’d looked disappointed when he realized Jimmy was going to be able to heal Dean, as though Jimmy had just thwarted him.

 

That kind of single-minded, emotionless drives scares Jimmy just a little bit, but Sam and the Campbells underestimate Jimmy. He’s not weak, and he’d shoot any of them in a heartbeat if it meant saving Dean’s life.

 

“Where’s our next hunt?” Jimmy asks.

 

Dean shrugs. “You know, if we push it a little, we can make it to Claire’s next soccer game. How does that sound?”

 

Jimmy smiles, not one to pass up time with his kid. “That sounds good.”

 

Dean reaches out to pat Jimmy’s leg, and then leaves his hand there. “For right now, it’s just us, partner.”

 

Jimmy feels a pang. He loves Dean enough to wish the reunion with Sam had gone better, but he’s not sorry to have Dean to himself. “I’m sorry about Sam,” Jimmy finally offers, putting his hand over Dean’s.

 

“Don’t worry about it.” Dean manages a smile that reaches his eyes. “Where there’s life there’s hope, right?”

 

“That’s what they say,” Jimmy replies, and holds on to Dean’s hand like a lifeline.

 

Things could be worse, Jimmy thinks. He could have lost Dean in that alley.

 

Jimmy realizes he’s not quite as angry as he’s been recently. He’s still a little too tired for that, and a little too thankful to have Dean’s hand, warm and alive, under his own.

 

So, Jimmy sends up a silent, reluctant prayer of thanks, and just keeps hanging on to Dean.