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The Father, the Son, and the Zombie Spirit

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If there was one thing Mary had learned growing up, it was to always trust your gut feeling. Like that time when her mom and dad had left her at the house so they could hunt a poltergeist the next county over and her dad had told her to not worry; she’d felt it then, the gnawing dread in her stomach. And sure enough, he’d come home with fifty-eight stitches in his chest and a wet-eyed mother.

Or the time when she’d made that deal. She had woken up with a pit of anxiety anchored somewhere behind her breastbone, and later that night, she’d kissed something precious away to a demon wearing her father’s face even though she’d known not to.

So now, sitting in this garishly decorated waiting room with her three-month old squirming in her lap, she knew that things weren’t going to go as planned. When the nurse called her name, she had to swallow twice before she felt steady enough to stand and not drop Sam. She kept him close to her chest, even after she’d sat down in the plastic chair in exam room three, rocking him slightly.

The nurse followed up with some routine questions, noting Sam’s weight and temperature. “Booster shots and the determination test only,” she said soothingly. “Nothing to worry about. Is he your first?”

“My second,” Mary said, a little hoarsely. The nurse looked a little taken-aback, as if she’d been sure that all Mary was suffering from was first-time jitters, and then she smiled in a way Mary found only slightly reassuring.

“The doctor will just be a minute,” the nurse said smoothly. She closed the door behind her, and Mary automatically made soothing noises as Sam began to fuss, trying not to think about what could go wrong. It was a perfectly normal morning--she was taking her son to get a check-up and then she’d pick up Dean from their neighbors’ and spend the rest of the day in mom-mode. Just what she’d always wanted out of life when she was little, watching her dad clean his rifle and lecturing her about proper shooting technique.

“Mrs. Winchester,” greeted the doctor, sweeping through the door without so much as a perfunctory knock. “How are you doing today?”

“Fine, thanks,” Mary responded, taking a deep breath to soothe the drilling of her heart.

The doctor pawed through the drawers, pulling out a wrapped instrument, his fingers dancing over the serum bottles lined up neatly on the desk. He asked all the regular questions--eating habits, sleeping, such and such, and then he deftly filled a syringe, set it on the table, and set to rubbing an alcohol pad on Sammy’s chubby arm.

Sammy squirmed away, not liking the cold, and Mary shushed him softly, stroking his baby-soft hair. “Normally a nurse would do this,” the doctor said, using one hand to steady Sam’s arm before he stuck the needle in. Sam’s cry was immediate and high-pitched, and Mary rocked him steadily as the doctor prepared the second round of immunizations.

It took Sam a good several minutes to calm down after the last shot was administered, and once his cries tapered off into little whimpers, the doctor continued his train of thought as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “But considering the recent climate concerning fertiles, it’s best to oversee the determination blood work myself.”

Mary felt something settle in her throat, and if she hadn’t had Sam in her arms, she would’ve fingered the little leaf tattoo on her right wrist. He’s a boy, she reminded himself. One in a thousand chance that he has it. The thought did nothing to calm her nerves.

Sam’s cries escalated again as the doctor used the receptacle to collect some blood, and Mary was sure that come the following morning, her baby’s arm would be bruised from the pressure the doctor was using to keep it still.

“All done,” he said, standing up and bagging the sample. “You should have the results in a couple of days.”

He swept out as quickly as he’d come in, and Mary came to the decision that this doctor was a self-righteous prick.

“Nothing to worry about,” the doctor said, not even looking at her as he stepped into the hallway, and he was gone before she could manage a fuck you as a response.

**

Mary tried her best to forget about the phone call over the following days, and for the most part, it worked. She had a four year old that demanded all the attention she wasn’t giving her baby, and in between, she had to find the time to cook, clean, and do the laundry.

Fulfilling my ass, she thought to herself after her sixth load of wash that day, because no matter how exasperated she might become with the life she’d always thought she’d wanted, she would never voice such frustrations aloud. With what she’d witnessed in her lifetime, a jinx wasn’t anything out of the realm of possibility.

So when the phone finally did ring, Mary was preoccupied with cleaning the flour from the walls after Dean’s wayward attempt to help her make a pie crust. “Hello?” she grunted, cradling the headset between her head and shoulder as she stretched as far as the cord would allow to wipe a little more of the counter with her rag.

“Mrs. Winchester?” asked the person on the other line, cool as ice, and Mary immediately straightened up and grabbed the receiver fully with her hand. She recognized the doctor’s voice, and there was something hidden in it that she didn’t care for.

“Speaking,” she responded, careful not to let her voice betray anything.

“This is Doctor Persimmons,” he said. “We have the results of Sam’s determination test.” He paused delicately, as if that would make her feel better, but she’d always followed the adage of no news is good news, and this was definitely not no news.

“And?” she asked, a tad forcefully.

“It came back positive,” the doctor replied, too levelly. “We need to schedule a time for you to come in and get him tattooed. As well as to complete the requisite paperwork.”

If Mary had not been made of stronger stuff, she might have sagged to the floor. “No,” she said, and to her credit, she sounded a lot calmer than she felt. “We have someone in the family who tattoos fertiles. An old friend. It’s religious, you see.” That, of course, was an absolute lie, but Mary had always done that well: the lying.

“The paperwork, then,” the doctor persisted. “Our front desk will have all the required forms signed and stamped. All you have to do is fill out the necessary information and send them into the bureau. Soon as possible, Mrs. Winchester.”

“I’ll get right on it,” she said. “Anything else, doctor?”

“That is all,” he closed. “Have a good day.”

Yeah. Like that was going to happen.

**

When she had been younger, Mary’s father had introduced her to his counterfeit guy, an old, balding man whose only skill was forging government papers. She called on him then, pulling out all the stops. In less than a week, the documentation provided to her by Dick Doctor had been destroyed and Samuel J. Winchester was officially one-hundred percent archaic male. No mutated internal organs. No tattoo. Nothing out of the ordinary.

And no one would know but her.

**

April, 2013

Considering their past history, Sam figures that he was stupid for ever thinking things wouldn’t come to this. Avert one apocalypse and watch as another starts. It’s like everything he’s ever worked for has never had the chance to not go straight down the crapper, and that really, really sucks.

He shifts a little, angling the rifle to get a clearer shot and carefully squeezes the trigger, wincing a little as the bullet sings through the air and hits its target, brain matter exploding much like an overripe cantaloupe.

Fucking zombies.

And this isn’t like your run-of-the-mill supernatural zombie that Dean and he are used to: one at a time, nail ‘em to their coffin, done, done, and done. Nope. The Leviathans had decided once again to mess with human biology, but this time, their little experiment had had more disastrous results than a regionalized Turducken sandwich. They were right as rain watching the human race degenerate into a bad George Romero film: easier food for the taking, not as many adversaries. They paraded around in it, pretended to be among the immune: concerned citizens looking for an answer, a cure. By Sam’s last estimate, half of the survivors were Leviathans now, and they were almost impossible to separate out of the crowd.

He doesn’t know why both he and Dean managed to escape the plague that was released into the water supply. He figures it had something to do with angel mojo or demon influence or some shit, because as far as he can tell, immunity hadn’t been genetic. Or maybe somewhere God is playing some kind of sick joke.

In any case, these new zombies are hungry, rotting, and smart. They know how to hide, how to run, how to set rudimentary traps. Most of the people who’d survived the initial outbreak had fallen as prey instead. The other half were those paranoid enough to know how to fight. Those who had prepared themselves for something like this.

Food is scarce and basic essentials are even scarcer. The infection worked quickly enough that the raiding hadn’t been wholly severe, but even so, most supermarkets were exposed. The places where the food hadn’t gone bad, the zombies had taken over, so heading out for supplies was very much like a covert mission.

Sometimes Dean speaks a little bit about when Zachariah showed him the alternate future, the one where Sam said yes and Lucifer won. He doesn’t like to mention it much, because it never fails to make guilt churn in Sam’s stomach, but the thought is mostly the same. Sam’s fairly positive that this is pretty much the same thing, only with a different outcome. Instead of Croatoan, they have zombies; instead of the Devil, there are Leviathans. Same game, different field. Except Sam is still Lucifer’s bitch, no matter what.

“Over to the right, Sam,” Lucifer says, bored. “Two o’clock. It’s like you’re not even trying.”

Sam doesn’t even dignify that with an answer--just takes aim again and fires. He feels like he’s in an old World War I movie, killing enemies from the clock tower. It’s easier to think of this than to think of how he’s going to get back to base. Somewhere across the way, Dean is holed up, equally high and equally eager to kill zombie ass, and Sam concentrates on that, on the steady cadence of Dean’s returning fire, to get him through.

It’s maybe an hour from dusk before Sam gets the signal over his handheld radio. “Fall back,” orders the general, stern. Sam’s glad--it’s a lot harder to fight these motherfuckers in the dark. He switches the button to the other feed, the one that only he and Dean use, and he doesn’t even have to say anything before Dean pipes up.

“Meet you at the alley, Sam?” Dean asks, all business. He sounds bone-weary, and Sam physically sags at it.

“Got it,” Sam responds, letting some of his exhaustion seep through. Dean’s the only one he can show it to, and it’s hard to keep up the facade around the others in the bunker.

Sam quickly scales the steps, keeping the wall at his back, even though there’s no way a zombie could’ve gotten behind him without him noticing. The rifle is pinned behind him on a harness, but he has his handgun out, silencer firmly screwed in place; he doesn’t need to attract more zombies than what have already amassed.

There are only a couple milling around, feeding on a flock of fallen birds, and Sam takes them out with three quick shots. He’s cognizant of his ammo, knows that if there are more, he’s going to have to risk shouldering the rifle while on the move, so he steps lightly, taking care not to engage those that won’t notice him.

The air is stale and oppressive once he gets out of the door, almost heavier on the ground level than it was in the air. The stench is more noticeable here, and if Sam didn’t have to keep both hands free, he’d have pulled his shirt over his nose to stifle it.

He keeps to the shadows, wary of hiding stragglers, and darts his way to the rendezvous point. Dean isn’t there yet, and Lucifer shrugs his shoulders. “Probably dead by now,” he says nonchalantly. “Zombie food.”

Sam ignores him again, even as his heart rate ratchets up another couple of levels. He’s counting seconds, listening for the pound of feet on the ground that don’t belong to the wandering zombie hoard, and has to stop himself from sighing audibly in relief when Dean rounds the corner.

It’s on the tip of his tongue to reprimand Dean for taking his damn time--probably shooting more zombies than fully necessary, but any noise probably isn’t a good idea at this juncture. It’s a treacherous fifteen minute zig-zag back to the entrance of their bunker, and Sam and Dean have to keep an eye out to make sure they’re not accidentally leading any of them straight to it.

They’re lucky today: only two pockets of zombies block their way, and they’re easily dispatched. Still, they stall five hundred yards from the innocuous hatch that leads to their safe house to make sure nothing followed them, and even though the street’s empty, Sam still feels the hair prick up along his neck. He concentrates on Dean, warm and silent beside him and traces the thin scar on his hand until Dean gives a sharp nod and they steal to the door and pop it open.

This used to be a bomb shelter, constructed under a largish office building by a paranoid businessman who’s long since disappeared. Sam doesn’t know who officially found it, but he’s thankful for the discovery. There’s an enclosed metal chute that’s a straight shot, angled to get them down in the bunker, which is big enough to have been broken off into living sections, including an infirmary and a pantry, along with a meeting room. The furniture has been cobbled together by raids over the past months, and it’s hardly the worst place Sam’s stayed.

“Hope the others made it back,” Dean says, a little bitterly. “Wouldn’t want Herr Fuhrer blaming us. Again.”

“He’ll find something else to yell at us about,” Sam responds absently, brushing his fingers through his hair. They keep catching in the dirt that’s matted there, and Sam thinks longingly of a hot shower. The only thing they have down here is a communal bathroom that doesn’t actually run water--they have to haul buckets down every morning, and it’s not worth the waste of energy to warm them up to wash. Don’t even get Sam started on the toilet situation.

“Then why are we even going to the meeting?” Dean asks, scuffing his foot. He’s keeping his voice low enough so that it doesn’t echo on the metal, but that doesn’t mean the general doesn’t hear through the vents. Sam finds he doesn’t much mind.

“So we don’t get put on lean rations again,” Sam says. “I’m not putting up with you complaining about being hungry for the millionth time. I’d rather cut my ears off.”

“I’m sick of this bullshit,” Dean complains. “We do all the work, and he gets to lead us around.”

“You’re the one who thought it was the best idea to stay here,” Sam reminds him. “I was all for leaving.”

“Yeah, let’s trust the crazy guy,” Dean says. “That’s a great idea. Just head out into the motherfucking zombie apocalypse alone with no protection.”

“Fuck off,” Sam says, pushing Dean half-heartedly. “Let’s just get this over with.”

Predictably, he and Dean are the last ones to arrive. The general usually keeps them out latest to make sure they clear the way for the looters. Their bunker is located in a formerly populated suburb of Houston, which means that there are enough grocery stores and residences so that it will take a while for pickings to become too scarce. Unfortunately, they also have to deal with the leftovers of that populace, which are none too personable. Plus, the heat is awful--if they didn’t have the generator and a rudimentary air-con system, Sam thinks they’d bake alive down here.

“Took you long enough,” the general says curtly, and Sam has to step on Dean’s foot to stop him from making a snide comment. It looks like everyone’s accounted for, which is a sight better than some days, and Sam sinks heavily into one of the unoccupied metal chairs. Dean just leans up against the wall behind him and glowers.

The general goes over the day’s haul--more canned food, some boxed pastries that may or may not be questionable--and then he hands it over to the nurse, a pinched-face young woman who Sam doesn’t care for. She simpers, putting it on thick, and then addresses the crowd.

“Fertile One has been impregnated,” she intones, and Sam just barely keeps himself from wincing. In the far right of the room, a blonde girl, hardly out of her teens, is looking at the floor and wringing her hands. “She will be under the control of Timothy, her latest partner, until two months after the birth of the child. I implore you to allow her to care for herself during the remainder of her pregnancy without interference.”

Sarah, the middle-aged woman sitting besides Sam scoffs audibly but doesn’t say anything. She’s glaring at the fertile as if it’s her fault that they’re stuck in this makeshift bomb shelter, and Sam had to quash the urge to chew her out for it.

The general takes the stage again, but Sam has stopped listening. He’s watching the fertile out of the corner of his eye, sees how she shies from Timothy’s touch, how he leers at her. Once things were established down here and the general took control thanks to popular support, the two fertiles had been sequestered into the smallest living space, passed around like prostitutes month by month. The general surmised that it was the best way to ensure the continuation of the human race. Sam thinks it's sick.

The general dismisses the group, and true to form, he holds Sam and Dean back and scolds them for not being as thorough as he’d wanted them to be. Dean keeps clenching and unclenching his fists, and Sam can tell by the tick in his jaw that he desperately wants to punch the general in the face. If it wouldn’t mean complete anarchy, Sam would jump forward and hold him down for Dean to get his blows in.

“Scott was almost overtaken by your sloppiness,” the general says firmly. “You need to shore it up. Improve your aim and combat instincts.”

That’s too much for Dean, who usually can’t take these lectures without some sort of retaliation. It always results in something unpleasant down the road, but Sam can’t fault him for it. “Why aren’t you out there helpin’ us, then? Great war hero and all.”

The general’s eyes narrow dangerously. “I don’t like your tone, Winchester,” he snaps. “I am in charge of this operation. You need to learn to bite your tongue.”

“I’ll do that when you stop being an asshole,” Dean challenges.

“Dean, stop,” Sam says, putting a placating arm on his shoulder. He can’t help but shoot a glare at the general though, not with the way he’s stroking the butt of his gun.

“You’ll find that it’s within your best interests not to finish this conversation,” the general snarls. “Unless you’d like to be part of a one-man mission outside tonight.”

“That would be murder,” Sam spits.

“You’ll find I very much don’t care,” the general says, turning on his heel. “Evening, gentlemen.”

Dean opens his mouth again, probably in preparation to throw some sort of epithet the general’s direction, but Sam steps violently on Dean’s foot. It doesn’t do much, considering Dean’s wearing his steel-toes today, but it does distract him enough so that while he’s busy scowling at Sam, the general turns the corner and effectively walks out of earshot.

“Don’t be a dumbass,” Sam chides. “Now he’s gonna fuck with us for the next month.”

“It was worth it,” Dean declares, and he and Sam start off towards the direction of their partitioned room.

“Not if one of us dies,” Sam says. Beside him, Lucifer is listing all the ways that they could get dismembered by the zombies that are hulking just outside, and it’s very distracting.

“We’re not going to die,” Dean says dismissively. “God, I’m starving. We still have some canned shit left?”

“Some peaches maybe,” sighs Sam, conceding the point. Nothing’s going to get through to Dean, not like this.

“Damn,” Dean grumbles. “This means we’re gonna have to hit up the mess hall tomorrow.”

“Not my fault you pissed off the cook. Can’t you keep anyone happy in here?”

“You seem pretty happy to me, princess,” Dean says. “And it’s not my fault that the zombie apocalypse turned everyone into a raging asshole. And there aren’t even any hot girls to fuck around here. I mean, c’mon.”

“You are pathetic,” Sam says, an old argument. “The world ends and all Dean Winchester can think about is his dick.”

“Just ‘cause you’re a girl doesn’t mean I am, Samantha,” Dean shoots back. He sweeps the sheet that serves as the door to their room to the side and immediately takes the three steps necessary for him to be able to slump down on the bed.

“Dude, gross,” Sam complains. “You’ve got mud and zombie shit all over you and you’re gonna lie there without cleaning up?”

“It’s seen worse,” Dean says. “Damn, I’m tired.”

“At least take your fucking boots off,” Sam says.

“Whine, whine,” Dean mocks. “Like I’d sleep in my shoes anyway. Dumbass.”

“Fuck off,” Sam says, pulling his shirt over his head. He really needs to wash up, but there’s no way he has the energy to schlep over to the bathroom.

He yanks on a t-shirt, ratty but clean, and shucks his pants so he’s just in his boxers. He and Dean, by the sheer luck that they happen to be the only people in this godforsaken bunker to know each other when they came in, were delegated a second hand queen instead of the standard-issue twin. Sam had been equally glad and annoyed by this: on one hand, he would actually fit on the bed; on the other, he was condemned to sharing with Dean for who knows how long, and not only was Dean a cover hog, he kicked too.

“Scoot over,” Sam says nudging at Dean, who just groans and rolls a couple of times until he's on the other edge of the bed, still on top of their one sheet. Sam yanks until it comes free and slides under it, extinguishing the lamp. Lucifer settles down next to the bed, still talking as Sam punches his pillow into place, and with the litany that follows and the concussive sound of Dean’s snores, Sam doesn’t manage to get any sleep until close to three in the morning.

**

When they gather in the meeting room that morning after a quick breakfast of powdered eggs and dry cereal, Sam can tell by the glint in the general’s eyes that he and Dean are not going to care for this morning’s assignments. Sure enough, Sam is put on lab duty, something he hates because the only scientist that the bunker has is some botanist, and he’s a class-A dick. Dean gets the worse end of the stick though: looting instead of defense, and he complains immediately, earning several sneers from the surrounding group.

“Mr. Winchester, if you don’t stop making a fuss, I will make sure you won’t have a defense unit covering your disobedient ass,” the general says crisply. He dismisses the meeting and disappears to wherever it is he goes when everyone else is risking their ass for his vision.

“This fucking sucks,” Dean snarls, kicking at the floor.

“Just don’t get bitten,” Sam says tiredly. “If you keep your nose down...”

“Whatever, Sam,” Dean says. “I fucking hate it here.”

“Go,” Sam urges. “You’re gonna be late and then Stevenson will miss on purpose and you’ll become someone’s meal.”

“Don’t tempt me,” Dean grumbles. “And don’t you get distracted down in that lab. I don’t trust Doctor Van-Dickhead. Or your fucked up head, for that manner.”

“I’ll survive,” Sam says, grasping Dean’s shoulder. “Be careful.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean dismisses, waving a hand. “See you later tonight.” Sam ignores the worry in his gut, makes a concentrated effort to not listen to Lucifer laugh and give a play-by-play of every worst-case scenario there is, and heads to his station.

**

It turns out that Dean must’ve pissed off the general more than they’d thought, because they spend the next couple of weeks separated. It grates on Sam’s nerves, being shut up in the lab, taking samples, when he knows Dean’s out there and might not return. It’s nearly impossible to loot properly while keeping a shotgun from swinging around, so Dean’s armed with only a handgun and a handful of people who are crap shots at best.

Sam hates it.

And it’s obvious that Dr. Van-Wursterburg is a complete fucking hack, and that makes it doubly annoying that Sam’s wasting his time doing jack-all. It’s boring and creepy, surrounded by zombies shut into makeshift cages, staring lifelessly out at him while he works as some sort of errand boy. Every time he’s allowed to leave, it takes ten minutes to shake the slimy feeling of it from his shoulders.

It’s late, near quitting time, when the siren sounds, echoing eerily throughout the room. The zombies despise it, voicing their displeasure with unearthly howls, and Sam’s out the door before Van-Dickhead can say anything. He has a bad feeling in his stomach; always does when the alarm goes off and Dean’s not with him.

The entrance-tunnel is a cacophony of arguing and the general’s standing there, his gun out and trained on Dean, who’s slumped against the wall with his arm bleeding profusely.
“Who the hell brought him back in here?” the general thunders.

“He came himself!” Thompson defends. “He wouldn’t drop his gun, and none of us wanted to shoot ‘im and risk it.”

“Well, shoot him now,” the general orders. “There are more than enough of us.”

Sam pulls his Glock from where he had it tucked against the small of his back and levels it. “I wouldn’t,” he snarls, and even though there’s plenty of noise, he’s still heard. The general tenses and turns slowly, the picture of calm.

“Put the gun down, Winchester,” he says. “Your brother’s been infected.”

“Doesn’t mean shit,” Sam says. “He wasn’t contaminated when the virus first came out. Doesn’t mean he’ll turn now.”

“I’m not taking that chance,” says the general slowly. “Put your weapon down.”

“Fuck off, asshole,” Dean adds from the wall. “Gonna take more’n that to kill me.”

“Put him in isolation,” Sam says. “There are plenty of rooms upstairs that can be locked from the outside. You can spare someone to be a guard. We know that it takes forty-eight hours for full on-set. Either he’s fine, and we don’t lose another person, or he’s not, and we have someone else to experiment on in the lab.”

“Oh, fuck no,” Dean groans. “You’re not turning me into some psycho science experiment, Sam.”

“Dean, shut up,” Sam snarls.

Sam can practically see the cogs in the general’s head work as he considers the offer. No matter how much he hates Dean, there’s no way he can deny that Dean’s a good shot, an asset to the team. And if he kills him now, it’s not going to go well for morale, not with what Sam’s put on the table.

“Very well,” the general concedes. “It’s a workable plan. But only if you stay in the room with your brother as a second line of defense.”

“Deal,” Sam says.

“Sam, you dumbass,” Dean argues. “Just stay down here. I’ll be fine.”

Sam doesn’t even give that a response. “We’ll take the third floor conference room,” he says. “No windows--it’s easier to defend.”

“Take him now,” the general commands. “The longer he stays down here, the more we risk contamination.”

“Come on, Dean,” Sam says, motioning.

“Sam, no fucking way--”

“It’s now or the shot to the head, Winchester,” the general says.

“I’ll follow you down,” says Sam to Dean. “You know I will.”

“Fuck you, Sam,” Dean snarls, but he gets up off the wall, barely stumbling, and pushes through the throng of people that had gathered at the commotion, everyone eager to stay away from him.

Thompson follows them, and the general, two guns pointed at their backs as they make their way to the staircase. It takes a minute or two to unlatch the heavy deadbolt, and once they’re going up the steps, Sam is sure to keep his gun out and trained in front of him. There’s no assurance that zombies haven’t managed to make it into the office building.

They don’t meet anything--a hint of luck in a day that’s obviously fucking sucked in every other aspect-- and then the general’s ushering them into the conference room. The sweat is already beading on Sam’s forehead, but all the general says is, “We’ll send rations up in an hour,” and then the door’s being sealed behind them.

Dean immediately smacks Sam upside the head with his good arm, scowling. “Why the fuck did you do that, shithead?”

“Like I was going to let them kill you?” Sam snaps. “You were the one stupid enough to get bitten!”

“Not my fault fucking Thompson and Miller don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. I was lucky to even get out of there.”

“Well now you might die anyway, so great, Dean. Just fantastic.”

“Not like it’ll stick,” Dean says. “You shouldn’t have offered to come in with me.”

Sam sighs, a deep sound. “I wasn’t going to leave you in here alone. And don’t give me that shit--you would’ve done the exact same thing.”

“Doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Dean grumbles. “And now we have two days to just sit in this hell-hole and wait till I turn into a fuckin’ monster. You better shoot me in the head, Sam. Nice clean shot.”

“No one’s shooting anyone because you’re going to be fine, dumb shit,” Sam argues angrily. “Just shut up.”

“If you say so, Sammy,” says Dean.

**

Dean slips into a fever not long after that, which is really indicative of nothing. There’s definitely a contaminant in the zombie’s saliva--the one useful thing that Van-Wurstenburg discovered in the lab--so Dean’s probably just succumbing to an infection. Still, it doesn’t do anything for Sam’s nerves, and although the general had delivered some rations, nothing was helpful for cooling Dean off in a room where the air conditioner barely worked.

Dean’s sucked into a sweat-soaked fever-dream, and Sam can’t do anything but fret. He wishes he’d had the forethought to bargain for something more than the bare minimum of isolation, but at that moment he’d only been concerned with keeping Dean from getting an extra hole in his skull. Sam strips off his over shirt to use as some sort of rag, wetting it with one of the bottles of water they’d been provided, but it doesn’t stay cool, and Sam feels like he’s only wiping Dean’s sweat around. Plus, he feels monumentally stupid: if Dean was awake he’d be mocking Sam for his shitty bedside manner.
Not like Lucifer isn’t doing that already.

“You’re being fucking stupid,” he sing-songs. “Dean’s gonna turn into a zombie and there’s nothing you can do. Maybe if I wasn’t all up in your melon? Maybe then you could help. Ah, if wishes were bullets, right, Sam?”

“Shut up,” Sam mutters, but it’s no use. Lucifer always loves his litanies, following through on every sick thread of thought that Sam is trying to ignore. The over-bright artificial yellow of the lights is giving Sam a migraine, but Lucifer still lingers, pacing around Dean and even toeing him once in a while.

“He’s gettin’ gray there, Sam,” Lucifer comments. “Better load that gun of yours.”

It does nothing for Sam’s sense of self-preservation nor the pit of worry festering in his stomach. The hours slip by slowly, and Dean only wakes up intermittently to complain. Sam has to force him to drink, but it’s obvious he’s not very lucid, even when he is conscious.

Past midnight, Dean seizes; stiff, eyes rolling, and Sam barely has the forethought to shove his hand into Dean’s mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue. Dean’s teeth sink down deep enough that when Sam pulls his hand back, it’s bleeding profusely, but Dean stills.

“Guess we don’t even have to worry about what happens to you once Dean zombifies,” Lucifer says dryly. “Looks like you’re on the same path, slick.” He’s flickering though, very faintly, due to the pain. Sam digs his fingers into the wound, ignoring how they slip through the slick of the blood-saliva that has coated his palm, and Lucifer shimmers a little more, gets a little quieter.
But he doesn’t disappear entirely. Sam’s luck isn’t that good. Obviously.

After that, Sam tries to talk himself into thinking that things will still be okay, that they’ve gotten over the worst of it. Dean’s shivering now, but over the next couple of hours, he doesn’t seize again. Sam gives himself every variation of a pep-talk that he can think of, but he’s not convincing himself. His head is muzzy from lack of sleep and his headache is worse now, but he doesn’t do anything but pace the room.

The second day of isolation passes much the same as the first. Dean lies like a lump and Sam watches over him like some sort of crazed stalker, listening to a figment of his imagination wax poetic about maggots and split skulls. Dean’s sweating through his clothes, but there’s nothing Sam can do about it. The general hasn’t been back since that first round of rations, and he has no way of communicating with whoever is stationed at the door short of wasting one of his rounds on the wall, and he’s not that desperate.

“You’ve gotta be okay, Dean,” he croaks as the afternoon gives way into evening. “Don’t do this.” He’s feeling shitty now too; maybe from worry, maybe from the throbbing mess that’s his bitten hand. His throat is raw, his head buzzing. He keeps piling the food in opposite corners because the sight of it makes him feel ill.

Sam dozes off somewhere near nine that night and when he startles awake a couple hours later, it’s because he was dreaming of hellfire. He’s sure that Dean’s dead, has died while he was sleep (stupid, so stupid, Sam), but he’s still breathing steadily. A little less pale, maybe. Sam can’t allow himself to hope, but something eases in his stomach.

**

Sam’s staring blankly at the wall when Dean stirs, and for a moment, Sam rests his hand on the butt of his gun, but then Dean speaks sluggishly.

“Goddamn, it feels like something died in my mouth.”

“Dean?” Sam asks tentatively.

“Who the fuck else, princess?” Dean grumps, struggling into a seated position. Sam has to rush over to support him, and Dean promptly shoos him off once he’s propped against the wall.

“You ever do that again, I will fucking kill you myself,” Sam threatens. “I thought you were dead meat.”

“Yeah, yeah, Sam. Thanks for believin’ in me. Got any water? I’m dyin’ here.”

Sam extricates a bottle and unscrews it for Dean, handing it over. Once Dean’s drained the entire thing, Sam lets himself breathe. “I’m serious, Dean,” he says, settling down close. Dean’s still clammy, but it’s a comfort to be this close. Sam tilts his head, snuffling into Dean’s neck, and Dean lets him.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry,” Dean says. “I’ll try not to do it again.”

“I’m holding you to that,” Sam says faintly

**

It’s another three days before they’re let out. The general seems particularly upset, but he allows Dean to have the week off to recover in an actual bed, which is a charitable move that Sam wasn’t expecting. Sam is shipped back off to the lab, because apparently Doctor Van-Dickhead isn’t as much of a douche as Sam thought and had expressly requested him.

“You know how to sample,” he says in lieu of explanation when Sam shows up the next day, and that’s the only words they share all day. It’s a welcome reprieve to be in the lab without having to think of Dean on the outside, and time passes a little quicker. He catalogues and gets the doctor supplies when he needs them, and even though Lucifer’s complaining about how useless the whole thing is, it’s a better day than most.

It takes a while for Dean to regain his strength, but by his third straight night of having nothing to do while Sam works but sleep and mill around the compound, he’s going crazy. Sam schleps back to their room, two meals balanced in hand, to find Dean doing push-ups on the floor.
“Freak,” Sam says, setting down their dinner.

“Whatever,” Dean huffs. “Wasn’t it you that used to get on my case about this shit?”

“Not if it means you do it all day long, man,” Sam comments, kicking his shoes off.

“You try to keep entertained in this shithole,” Dean complains. “If the general doesn’t give me something to do, I’m gonna go crazy.” He strips off his t-shirt, sweaty more so from the heat, Sam bets, than the actual exercise, and throws himself across the bed. “There’s only so much sleepin’ a guy can do.”

“So read a book,” Sam suggests, snagging a bite of jerky.

Dean practically leers at him from his place on the bed. “Was thinking of something else, actually.”

Sam wrinkles his nose automatically while Lucifer makes a lewd comment behind him. “You always think about sex.”

“A guy has needs,” Dean whines. “C’mon, Sammy.”

Something flares low and pleasant in Sam’s stomach and he savors it for a second. “Go talk to Maria. Or maybe Nora.”

“I’d cut my dick off first,” Dean says shuddering. “You know you’re my only girl, Sam.”

“The only one you can stand in here, more like,” Sam says, but he can’t say he’s not on board with the plan. It’s been a long time since they’ve fooled around--they’re usually beaten down, exhausted when they’re done dealing with the day. Sam gets no sleep and Dean has no hope, and things are so different from when they started this, before everything. But Sam has a second wind from Dean’s lucky escape, and Dean’s in a better mood than he’s been all month, and yeah, right now Sam can’t think of anything better.

“Don’t be a pussy,” Dean says. “You know you wanna.”

“With skills like yours, I’m surprised you’re not still a virgin,” Sam remarks, but he sits on the bed, a tad closer than he might normally, and Dean’s grin is answer enough.

“Looks like they work on you, princess,” he crows.

“They won’t if you keep callin’ me princess,” Sam says, but he twists just enough, leans down and kisses Dean. It’s been months, but kissing Dean is as familiar as always, igniting a slow burn in Sam’s chest. They’re not careful, not gentle; Dean’s mouth is demanding even though Sam’s the one who kissed him, and he uses his leg to knock Sam’s balance out and roll him over. Sam lets him, surges up as Dean settles around him so they’re still kissing. Dean’s weight is a comfort, making it just a little hard to breathe.

The pressure of Dean’s mouth is heady, and Sam hooks his leg around Dean’s ankle so they’re even closer together. Dean makes a little approving noise, his chapped lips catching in just the right way, and Sam grabs Dean’s lower lip in a teasing nip that makes Dean growl.

They’re like that for a while, making out, and it’s so good. Lucifer doesn’t exist here; the only thing Sam can think about is Dean and how they feel together. He’s half-hard in his pants, lazily grinding against Dean as they continue to kiss. He likes the stutter-skip of arousal every time he rubs against Dean the right way, and Dean does too, if his erection is any indication.

There’s no rush, not tonight. This is a luxury they don’t often get to indulge in. Sam thinks they’re just going to get each other off like this, like teenagers, but Dean pulls away, his mouth swollen, his pupils blown wide.

“Let me?” he asks, and damn if that doesn’t sound like a plea. Sam bucks beneath him, just a little roll of his hips, and before he can think about it, he nods. Dean grins, a little lopsided, and starts working Sam’s shirt over his head. Once that’s out of the way, Dean goes for the button on Sam’s jeans but gets distracted, sucking a love bite into Sam’s collarbone. He knows that Sam loves that, the asshole, and Sam makes this little whine that makes Dean grin into his skin.

“Like that, Sammy?” he asks, as if he doesn’t know.

“God, shut up,” Sam gasps, because the last thing they need is for someone to investigate the noise. He squirms his hand between them and starts pushing Dean’s sweatpants down. He’s not wearing underwear, the gross fucker, but that hardly matters now. Dean keeps kissing along the line of Sam’s chest, sloppy, wet, open-mouthed, punctuated with sharp nips. When he bites down on Sam’s nipple, Sam gives a half-choked yell and arches up.

“Jesus, Dean, come on,” Sam hisses, but Dean just bites down again. Figures the asshole wouldn’t have forgotten this particular button of Sam’s. However, Dean’s distracted, and that gives Sam the leverage he needs to twist his lower body and jack-knife until Dean’s half under him, looking up with a slightly bemused expression.

“Someone’s impatient,” Dean quips, but Sam’s not having that, not now. Dean might know just how to drive Sam crazy, but Sam knows Dean’s tells too, knows how the spot behind Dean’s ear is crazy sensitive, knows that Dean will shiver and toss his head to the side if Sam skitters his fingers down Dean’s ribs. He uses that knowledge to his advantage now, because turn-about is fair play.

Dean shudders when Sam sucks a hickey into his neck, tangling his hands in Sam’s hair and pulling just hard enough for a bite of pain. He’s gasping loudly in Sam’s ear, and Sam loves this. Loves making Dean fall apart, loves falling apart under Dean like this. Dean is the only person he’s trusted in such a long time, and this is a culmination of that. In some sort of hugely fucked up way, it’s like going home.

Dean may delight in teasing Sam, but he’s not patient enough to be on the receiving end. He pulls at Sam’s head until they’re kissing again, a hard clash of teeth, desperate. “C’mon, fuckin’ now, Sam,” Dean growls, and Sam fights it for a second, knows Dean likes the struggle. He fucks his tongue into Dean’s mouth, gripping Dean’s biceps hard enough to bruise, but in the end, this is Dean’s game.

Sam rolls over onto his back this time without being forced there by Dean, and Dean is immediately on top of him. It’s a struggle, but Sam kicks his pants off and then his underwear, so that he’s fully naked, slick with sweat. Dean sits up on his haunches and holds two of his fingers to Sam’s mouth.

“Suck, bitch,” he commands, smirking slightly.

“You are such a pig,” Sam complains, but he lets Dean push them past his lips with only a slight bite, sucking in a way that Dean can’t take as anything but lewd. Dean’s eyes glaze over as he looks at Sam, and Sam concentrates on the salty staleness of Dean’s skin until Dean pulls his fingers out again, maneuvering so he’s in the right position to open Sam up. Sam tenses, because it’s been a while and it’s gonna hurt, gonna burn. He wants it like that, wants to feel it, but the intrusion is never really welcome, and Dean’s fingers aren’t nearly slick enough. He pushes them in without preamble, without warning. Dean won’t coddle him, not with this and Sam likes that.

Sam’s clenched his eyes shut as Dean works him open, so the first touch of Dean’s tongue to his hole makes him gasp loudly. Dean has only done this once or twice, thinks it’s too fuckin’ gay, even for them, and it feels good. Sam can’t keep quiet, not while Dean’s eating him out, and he groans low and long and bucks up into Dean’s mouth. His cock is straining against his stomach, spurting precome, and it’s all Sam can do to not start jacking it, but he knows Dean will pitch a fit if he does, so he manages to restrain himself.

When Dean pulls away, seconds or minutes later, Sam’s not sure, he wrinkles his nose. “You better fucking appreciate that,” he warns, and Sam nods weakly. He widens his legs, and Dean settles between them, adjusting so he’s in the right position, and then, again without warning, he guides his cock into Sam. It slides in easy at first, but the burn shoots deep when he’s fully seated. Sam wills himself to relax, takes a slow breath, and Dean gives him a second to adjust before he’s moving.

They don’t do languid, tender sex. That’s not them, and this isn’t about being in love or needing that affirmation. Sam wants the connection of it, wants the knowledge that he’s Dean’s and Dean’s his, and even though it hurts, he gets off on it hard. Dean’s pounding into him, his hands sliding where they’ve anchored on Sam’s chest, and Sam wraps his legs around Dean’s waist, egging him on with little ngh noises that aren’t entirely voluntary.

Time is liquid like this, and Sam doesn’t know how long it is since they started. Dean’s arching above him, breathing hard, and Sam knows he’s close. “Dean, c’mon, please,” he whines, and it takes Dean a second, but then he’s on the same page, palming Sam’s dick and then taking it fully in his hand, jacking it awkwardly. It’s enough though, puts Sam over the edge, and he throws his head back and lets the orgasm rip through his body. Vaguely, he can hear Dean crying out above him, and then he’s panting, back on earth, and Dean’s collapsed on top of him, the heavy fucker.

“Get off,” Sam pants, pushing at Dean’s shoulder, and he pulls out and rolls over so they’re lying side by side. Sam can feel Dean’s come inside of him, wet and fuckin’ gross, and he says, “You’re gettin’ the fuckin’ washcloth, man.”

“Whatever,” Dean says, sex-sated.

“I mean it. This is disgusting. I’m not falling asleep with jizz all over me.”

“Suck it up, princess,” grumbles Dean, but he eventually gets up and finds a bottle of water and a rag and thwaps it on Sam’s chest. Dean Winchester is many things, but after sex, he’s always Sam’s little bitch.

**

Once the general decides that Dean’s well enough for active duty again, Sam puts in the request to be paired with him on the outside again. The general can hardly deny that they work well together, and Sam’s sick of the lab work. Everyone’s trying to think of the best way to hit up the local hospital for some stronger drugs, but it’s heavily fortified by zombies and in part of the grid that the Leviathans haven’t bothered keeping powered up, so they spend the good portion of a week scouting the place out and looking for entry points. Not that it does them any good, because the general just picks apart every plan they come up with, but at least they’re doing something.

Something’s disquieting though, and Sam can’t quite put a finger on it. Things are the same all around: people in the compound are still dicks, it’s still hot, the food still sucks, and Lucifer’s still trying to make Sam have a mental breakdown, but at the same time, something’s different. Sam tries to voice it to Dean, but he can’t quite put it into words, and Dean’s no help.

They slide into a routine, ammo and running and shooting, and the hospital plan is abandoned for a couple weeks as they replenish their food inventory. Every store that’s close to home base has pretty much been ransacked over their tenure, and now they have to spread out, breaking into houses that look promising to raid the abandoned pantries. It’s slow work, and dangerous, because zombies tend to hide out in closed houses for some reason. It’s a lot of effort for not much payout, and more often than not, they’re out past dark, hearts in their throats as they struggle to keep on the lookout for danger.

Sam’s been in a constant state of exhaustion ever since he left Stanford, but it’s always been worse with Lucifer. When they hit the beginning of November, Sam just thinks it’s another phase of sleep deprivation. He has dark circles that make him look like he has black eyes, and Dean’s started trying to force him to sleep, but it’s just par for the course, really.

When they finally get around to the hospital situation again, the general has drafted up a plan that Sam’s not entirely sure will work without severe casualties. It basically equates to going in blind with a lot of ammunition, and Dean complains bitterly that they wasted their time staking the place out if this is what came from it. He has a picture of a map of the interior of the hospital, though, so it’s not entirely a crap-shoot, and they spend a lot of time memorizing it so as not to be caught off guard by a dead end.

It’s early when they get there: five of them split up between the two entrances to the hospital. Sam and Dean are in charge of finding the primary pharmacy, the one right in the center of the building, where there’s sure to be no light. Sam turns the flashlight over and over in his hands as he and Dean peek around the doors to see if the coast is clear. There haven’t been many zombies milling around in the courtyard, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not lurking in the hospital.

The air is heavy with decay, and Sam has to think hard to stop himself from gagging. Dean motions silently with his right hand, a let’s go gesture, and they slip inside. Sam’s flashlight bounces off the wall erratically as he tries to catch every corner to make sure there are no nasty surprises in store for them. He and Dean have their backs to each other, and they move slowly, following the plan that they’d made the night before, hunched over the grainy cell phone picture of the map.

“There,” Sam whispers, and that’s all the warning they get before they’re being charged. Dean gets off a few quick rounds and the zombies go down heavily. There aren’t many, but they’re grotesque in the low light, ripped hospital gowns and grey, vacant faces. Sam’s stomach rolls as he catches one in the head with a bullet and gets spattered with a bit of wet brain matter.

They’re on edge after that, quick to reload, communicating with silent signals, and it takes them two hours to get to the pharmacy because they keep having to dispatch the zombies that seem to shuffle out from every room. Sam thinks that it’s entirely too easy to get overwhelmed in here, but at that point, there’s no use in abandoning ship. Dean slips among the shelves, picking up prescription antibiotics and heavy-duty morphine, anything that they think they might need in the future, shoving them into his pack while Sam keeps lookout. It’s a quick job, and Dean sneaks back to Sam, his bag bulging.

“We’re probably gonna have to come back,” Dean says lowly. “Can’t get everything on one go.” He hands one of the backpacks to Sam, and then swears quietly when he gets a look at what’s been accumulating since they got to their destination. The staircase is swarming now, maybe thirty zombies who’ve shuffled out from their hiding places to see what was going on, and there’s no way they’re going to get back the way they came without a firebomb or something.

Sam jerks his head sharply to the right, which is a much clearer path. They hadn’t planned on going this way, but he knows how to get out, where the auxiliary staircase is. Still, they have to take it running, shooting as they go, because there are enough zombies that stealth won’t do them any favors. They slam through two heavy double doors, and Dean takes the lead, twisting them through the maze of the corridor.

They find the door to the stairwell without much issue, but Sam can hear the zombies, their heavy footfalls getting louder. It’s so dark that Sam’s afraid he’s going to fall and break his neck, and after a second, he registers the smell, the heavy odor of the recently dead, shit and blood and piss, and he can’t help it. It’s something he’s been used to since he was a teenager, hunting with dad, but it’s overwhelming here. He turns and vomits in the corner, his stomach cramping with it, and Dean hisses out an invective.

Sam hasn’t puked on a job since he was fifteen and they found that girl eviscerated in her bathroom, but he can’t stop, gagging on the slimy bile as it comes up, splattering on his shoes. It’s practically impossible to vomit quietly, and even through all of that, he can hear the thunder of approaching monsters. He’s giving their position away.

When he can finally catch his breath, Dean pulls on his arm. “Go, go, go!” he says, and they take the stairs two at a time, tripping over bodies. This was the site of a recent feeding frenzy, and once or twice, Sam literally has to swallow back vomit as his feet fall through someone’s soft, rotting corpse.

Sam feels off-kilter, off-balance, as he charges down the steps, and more than once, he slips in a pool of congealed blood. “Zombies must’ve been keeping their food supply here,” Dean yells over his shoulder, not bothering to be quiet as the steel above them thuds with their pursuers.

“Just run,” Sam gasps, and they burst out onto the ground floor blindly, the beam from Sam’s flashlight skittering wildly over the walls. The situation could be worse, Sam thinks as they run down the hall, Dean shooting as he goes, clearing the way for them. Looks like most of the zombies have congregated into the other part of the hospital, but they’re still being motherfucking chased, so Sam’s not counting that as a win just yet.

They end up getting out through a back-access door by the rear of the hospital, which wasn’t exactly in the plan. Dean seizes a piece of wood that’s lying on the ground and barricades the zombies in as best he can by threading it through the handle. They’re maybe fifteen feet away when they hear the thud of the zombies hitting the wall, but that branch won’t hold forever. They run faster.

The streets are clogged with the undead, and he and Dean have to keep darting into alleyways to escape. There’s no way they can kill them all, but thankfully the zombies aren’t so good at changing positions so the zigzag pattern Dean is leading them in works in that regard.

Still, it takes a lot of running before they can stop to catch their breath and be sure that they aren’t about to be ambushed. Sam bends over double, clutching at his knees. His stomach’s still roiling unpleasantly, and he concentrates on counting his exhales instead of thinking about how he feels like vomiting.

“What the hell was that back there?” Dean pants. “You haven’t lost your cool on a hunt since we were kids.”

“Dunno,” Sam says weakly. “Maybe I’m comin’ down with something.”

“You haven’t been sick in years,” Dean says dubiously. “C’mon, we gotta get back. I don’t like the thought of staying out here any longer.”

It takes them another hour to get back to the hatch, and the general meets them halfway through the corridor, looking grim. “Where have you been?” he demands. “The others got back forty-five minutes ago.”

“Had a bit of a situation,” Dean says peevishly. “We got the goods though, since I’m sure that’s all you care about.”

“We lost a man today,” the general snaps. “I would show some respect. Go to the pantry and let Collins catalogue what you managed to get. Hopefully it’s not entirely useless.”

Sam gapes at his back as he walks away, his shoes clicking smartly. Once he’s out of earshot, Sam says, “Jesus, he acts as if he’s the one out there every day. What a dick.”

“I hate this place,” Dean grumbles. “I wish we had a better option.”

“Or any option,” Sam mutters, slinging his bag higher on his shoulder. “Let’s get to Collins before the general accuses us of hoarding merchandise.”

**

“Christ,” Dean says, looming behind Sam. “You’re gonna haveta go to the nurse, Sam. This whole I’m-not-sick schtick isn’t cuttin’ it anymore.”

Sam groans and fights back another dry heave. He’s spent the past hour with his head in a bucket, and Dean’s nagging is driving him bonkers. “She’s gonna fuckin’ put me in quarantine, man. I hate that shit.”

“Better than you dying from the flu like some olden-days bastard,” Dean comments. “I’m tellin’ the general that you’re too sick to go out with me today, so you’d better go see her. Or else he’ll make you, and that would suck.”

“Fuck you,” Sam moans, spitting some bile into the make-shift toilet. “You’re supposed to be on my side.”

“Just go get some medicine. All this vomit is disgusting,” Dean says.

Sam eventually makes his way to the little room where Nurse Julia is stationed, dragging his feet as he goes. She’s pretty much the general’s lap dog, and a fucking bitch, so when she gives him this look when he knocks on the open door, he very nearly punches her in the face, chivalry be damned.

“What can I do for you, Winchester?” she drawls, turning back to what looks like a journal.

“Been feelin’ like crap for a couple weeks,” Sam sighs. “Figured it’s about time I saw you so you can tell me what’s wrong.” Not that you’re a real doctor, he thinks.

She stares at him for a second, raising an eyebrow. “You’ve felt ill for a couple of weeks and you’re only now coming to tell me? You could’ve infected the entire community in that time!”

“Yeah, well, I’m here now,” Sam says, plopping into one of the metal chairs she has. “So, I don’t know, figure out what I have and put me in quarantine so I can get better.”

“You are so irresponsible,” she snaps, pulling on a medical mask. “What are your symptoms?”

“Nausea,” Sam says.

She waits a beat, and then makes an exasperated sound. “That’s it? That’s all you have to go on?”

“Uh, yeah,” Sam says. “Vomiting. That’s pretty much all I got.”

“How very useful,” she says bitchily. “Night sweats? Aches? Anything?”

“Maybe I’ve been a little more tired than usual, but I think that’s probably because of the zombies,” Sam says sarcastically.

“Okay then,” she drones, and leads Sam through the normal procedural shit: blood pressure, stethoscope, temperature.

“Everything checks out,” she says. “I mean, it’s possible you have ulcers or something, but I don’t have that kind of equipment here. The only other thing I can do is an ultrasound of your stomach to see if I can detect anything, but they’re not really used for this kind of thing.”

“Whatever,” Sam says.

“Then quarantine,” she snaps. “I can’t have you getting everyone else sick. You’ll go back to your room and lay low.” She starts prepping the ultrasound machine, directing Sam to the dirty cot she has set up in the corner. Sam pulls his shirt over his head, and his skin immediately pebbles--it feels like all of the air conditioning in the compound has been relegated to this room. Gingerly, he sits on the cot, thinking that it’s more likely he get sick from the poor conditions of this infirmary than it is that he’ll spread whatever he has around.

Julia proves she has no bedside manner as she smoothes the gel over Sam’s abdomen without a word, roughly pressing into his skin. Her brow wrinkles in confusion and Sam catches her dart a glance to his forearm before she shrugs slightly and powers on the machine. It sputters a little, screen flashing, and then she presses him back into the cot and begins swiping with the little wand. Sam wonders how she’s even able to read the results, what with the machine’s constant flickering and all.

He watches her face, eager for a sign, an oh-is-that-all that never comes. Instead, she purses her lips, looking stern and...angry, maybe? Sam doesn’t quite understand, and he’s about to ask when she looks at the ultrasound feed, makes a little sound, and drops the wand on the floor.

“What--” Sam starts, but she interrupts him before he gets any further.

“How did you get rid of the tattoo? Who did it?”

Sam looks down at his chest where the anti-possession sigil still gleams against his skin, unbroken and as black as it’s always been. “I haven’t?” he says perplexedly, gesturing.

“Not that tattoo,” she snaps, grabbing his right hand. “This one.”

She points to the underside of his wrist, jabbing him with her fingernail, and he forcibly pulls his hand from her grasp. “I’ve never had a tattoo there,” he grinds out. “What’s going on?”

“Well that’s kind of funny,” she says, but she’s anything but amused, “seeing as it’s been the law for decades that any fertile is required to have a tattoo on their right wrist indicating them as such.”

The idea is so ludicrous that Sam can’t help but bark out a laugh. “I am not a fertile, Julia,” he says stiffly.

“Considering that you’re pregnant, I think that’s a little hard to believe,” she scoffs. “What, you thought only the other fertiles should be taxed with procreation? Not you, because you’re special.”

Her proclamation is like a blow to Sam’s gut, and he staggers a little, glad he isn’t standing. “I can’t be pregnant,” he says.

“There is a fetus in your body,” she says, jabbing a finger at the ultrasound. “One with a beating heart.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sam says, struggling to his feet. She immediately stands up, barring the door with her body as if that will stop Sam from leaving.

“Jerry,” she calls. “Jerry, I need help!”

“What are you doing?” Sam snarls, striding forward to push past her. Jerry has already come down the hall, along with three of the others who stayed behind, and Sam’s not too keen on these odds.

“Sam here’s been lying,” Julia says. “He’s a fertile. Didn’t want to share. I think we should lock him up and wait for the general.”

“Lock me up?” Sam says, outraged. “Are you crazy? I didn’t even know!”

“Speaking of which,” Julia says, “who’s the father? Last I remember, you and your brother didn’t like to mingle. And you aren’t very far along.”

Fuck.

“I’m not pregnant,” roars Sam.

“So he’s either not your brother, or you’re more fucked-up than I realized,” she says, eyes wide. “Jerry, put him in the cell. Don’t you think that’s the best thing to do?”

“Yes’m,” Jerry says in his low drawl, eyeing Sam up and down. Two months ago, one of the fertiles had been placed in Jerry’s care, gotten pregnant, and lost the baby. Sam can tell that’s what he’s thinking about. Sam slinks his hand back to go for the gun he has tucked in the seat of his pants, but Tom holds up a semi-automatic.

“No trouble now, Sam,” he warns. “Let’s go.”

There’s really no alternative, so Sam pushes by Julia, hard enough to send her bumping into the wall, and lets himself be led to their makeshift holding cell.

**

Sam sits against the far wall of the room, watching the sentinel warily. There’s only one, and judging by the way he’s shifting in his seat, he’s going to take a piss break sooner rather than later. Sam needs to be alone in order to enact the first bit of his escape plan.

Sure enough, Tom squares him with a sharp gaze, standing up. “Don’t try nothin’,” he warns, and he’s barely out the door before Sam’s pulling the walkie talkie from his back pocket. Idiots didn’t think to check him for anything after they took his gun.

He flips it to the right channel, praying that no one is listening in aside from Dean, and says, “Joliet, this is Elwood. Time to hit the road.” As far as codes go, it’s painfully see-through, but it’s enough to signal Dean that things have gone sour. The connection crackles for a second, and then Dean responds.

“Location?” He sounds tense, and Sam can hear the rat-a-tat of gun fire.

“Block A.”

“Roger.” Sam immediately turns the walkie talkie off and chucks it into the bucket that’s serving as a makeshift toilet. Thirty seconds later, Tom strolls back into the room, eyes Sam suspiciously, and then sits down again. Sam takes a shaky breath and starts to consider his options.

There aren’t many of them, to be honest.

He gives Julia’s pet theory a perfunctory run-over and then immediately chucks the idea out as insane. He would know if there was a parasite in his body; there’s no way he wouldn’t. It’s a lot easier to think that Julia, who’s only a trained RN and therefore nowhere near being a doctor, is fully mistaken. He probably just has a tumor or something freaky caused by angel mojo and messing with too much supernatural shit.

Unfortunately, the rationalization does nothing to help the situation or the nervous energy thrumming through his body.

The outside door slams open, and Sam looks up eagerly only to see the general standing stiffly outside of his cell. Tom is relieved, and Sam doesn’t miss the gleeful look of pity shot in his direction. Everyone in the compound knows that the general wants to continue his bloodline more than anything, and by the way he’s holding himself, Sam knows that he’s heard what Julia had to say and isn’t pleased.

“So, Mr. Winchester,” the general says, lowly, dangerously. “Rumor has it you’ve not been very truthful with us.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Sam says eloquently.

The general takes a moment to respond, unlocking the padlock that bars the door to Sam’s room and steps inside, his gun held tautly at his side. “You’re lucky I don’t kill you now,” he says, but Sam can’t find that thought threatening.

“You wouldn’t,” Sam says, smiling darkly. “You think I’m a fertile. You need me around.”

“From what I’m told, there’s no doubt about it,” the general says smoothly. “And you are still expendable. Perhaps we’ll just perform an abortion and keep you drugged. Sam Winchester: the compound slut.”

“Fine. Attempt an abortion with the shitty med supplies you have and Julia knowing jack-shit about anything. I’m sure that’ll work. I’ll die, you’ll be down a fertile, and my brother will fucking tear you apart.”

“You have high confidence in Dean.”

“You have no idea,” Sam comments.

“I am going to wipe that smirk right off your face,” the general warns, rubbing his finger along the butt of his gun. “Take what’s rightfully mine.”

Sam holds his arms apart, pulling all the stops to piss the general off as much as possible. Angry people make mistakes. “Sure, go ahead. Prove that you’re a rapist as well as a shit leader.”

“I don’t see you in charge here,” the general says.

“Yeah, well, people are stupid.”

“Well, that is a challenge, isn’t it, Winchester? I think I can beat the smart mouth out of you though. You’re not entirely thinking this through.”

“I’m taller than you, stronger than you, and not afraid to die,” Sam says. “So I think it’s you who’s working at a disadvantage here.”

“Enough talk,” the general says, and for a moment, Sam thinks he’s about to be clocked across the head with the general’s pistol. But, in a stroke of luck that Sam rarely has the pleasure of experiencing, the general’s radio squawks to life.

“General, this is lookout tower one, over.”

The general scowls, but he pulls out his walkie-talkie and depresses the button. “Go ahead.”

“We’ve lost contact with the red group. Need you up here, over.”

“I’m coming,” the general responds, and then he points a finger at Sam. “But I’ll be back, son. Give you a little time to think about what kind of trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.” He leaves the cell and unfortunately locks it behind him, pulling Tom in as guard again. Sam sincerely hopes that Dean’s behind the current trouble, but he has no way of knowing for sure.

But Dean’s always been the constant Sam can count on most, and sure enough, an hour later he storms through the door, catching Tom by surprise. The fight is quick and brutal, but Dean’s been trained in hand-to-hand combat since he was six, and Tom has definitely not been, so it’s over in less than a minute.

“What the fuck have you done now?” Dean asks, pulling out a battered set of lock picks from the side of the duffel he’s slung on the floor, but he sounds amused and not angry.

“No time,” Sam says. “Hurry up.”

“Keep your panties on, princess,” Dean mutters, and the padlock clicks open with minimal effort.

“How are we getting out?” Sam questions, holding his hand out for a gun, which Dean immediately provides.

“Started a small fire in the entrance way,” Dean says. “Nothing major, but we should be able to go up the stairs into the main building.”

“Provided there are no zombies,” Sam comments, but it’s a good a plan as ever.

“Escapin’ isn’t the problem here,” Dean points out. “It’s where we’re going next that we should worry about.”

“Anything’s better than this shithole. Let’s go.” Sam lets Dean take the front, flanking him from the back, but they encounter no resistance. It’s early enough in the day that most everyone will have been busy in other areas of the compound when the fire alarm was sounded, so they don’t have to gun anyone down to make it to the access stairway.

They dart through the lobby, eerie with fallen zombie corpses from before, and leave through a side door. The streets aren’t thick with the undead--too close to the compound for them to have repopulated the area--but there are enough that Sam and Dean have to spend some ammo wasting them. The gunshots are loud in the stale air, and Sam hopes that they aren’t able to be heard underground. He and Dean immediately take a winding route eastward, away from the thick of the city and into the suburbs. They keep having to duck into alleyways to reload, but it’s easy enough to cover the ground now that they don’t have to worry about protecting someone other than themselves.

They’re not as far from the compound as they would like when the fall of dusk necessitates that they find somewhere to bunk for the evening. The electricity is out in this section of town, which hopefully points to not being ambushed by a Leviathan during the night, but there are still plenty of zombies wandering around. It takes thirty minutes for Sam and Dean to feel secure enough about jumping the fence surrounding the yard of a derelict house, and by that time, the sun’s nearly sank underneath the horizon.

Dean keeps careful watch as Sam picks the lock to get them inside. It’s a good sign--zombies don’t deal with locks--but he and Dean scour the house before they feel safe enough to bunk down in the basement. It’s dank and smells of mold, but it’s the best they’re going to find under the circumstances. Sam unearths a flashlight from the duffel and stands it up so they have a little ambient light. Hopefully the zombies aren’t smart enough to notice it through the small windows.

Dean lets the subject of their escape go until they’ve scrounged up some canned food from upstairs and eaten, but he keeps looking at Sam expectantly. When he doesn’t answer--doesn’t know how to put it into words, if he’s being entirely honest--Dean clears his throat and asks, “So you wanna tell me what happened back there?”

“Not really,” Sam admits.

“But you’re gonna, right? Don’t be an asshole.”

“Julia got it into her mind,” Sam starts, then stalls. “I don’t know. She’s crazy. And people think that she’s a medical expert, but she’s really just a nurse. She knows jack shit.”

“She knows more’n you,” Dean points out. “So what, do you have the plague? Are you gonna die in a week with blood pouring out of your eye sockets?”

“Pfft,” Sam scoffs, scuffing his shoe on the ground.

“Should I be worried here?” Dean asks when Sam doesn’t elaborate.

“I’m not sick,” Sam says. “Or at least, she didn’t think I was.”

“So what’s with the projectile vomiting, Reagan?” Dean asks.

“It’s so stupid,” Sam says. “She thinks I’m a fertile.”

That surprises a laugh from Dean. “Seriously, man? Seriously? That’s what this is about?”

“It’s not funny,” Sam snaps. “She had them lock me up for, I don’t know, lying about it. And you know how the general is with the fertiles. If we had stayed there, I’d’ve been passed around like a whore.”

“Yeah, I can see the general getting a butt-buddy for a baby,” Dean says. “But Sam, you never had a tattoo. I’d remember.”

“I told her that,” Sam says hotly. “She didn’t listen.”

“Well what made her think that you’re a baby-makin’ machine?” Dean asks curiously.

“She used that stupid ultrasound she has,” Sam says. He almost doesn’t want to mention it, but he desperately wants Dean’s input. Wants Dean to tell him that he’s being a moron. “She thought I was pregnant.”

Dean is silent for several moments, and Sam’s stomach twists unpleasantly. He swallows several times against the bile and just waits.

“Pregnant,” Dean says, and it’s not a question.

“I told you,” Sam bites out. “Stupid. I’m not pregnant. It’s impossible. I’d know.”

“What? You have some sort of freaky sixth sense about pregnancy now?” Dean scoffs, and he sounds less than calm.

“I think I’d know if something was growing in my body!” Sam defends. “Jesus, Dean.”

“Well--wha--” Dean says, flabbergasted. “What did she see then, Sam? A tumor?”

For a second, Sam’s relieved--didn’t Zachariah try to give Dean stomach cancer once? They could have done the same thing to him without him realizing. But then he remembers the rest of her revelation, and the hope dies as quickly as it was born. “She said it had a heartbeat. I don’t know. I didn’t see.”

“A heartbeat,” Dean says, still in the same flat voice.

“It doesn’t matter,” Sam says. “I’m not pregnant. I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.”

“What if you are?” Dean asks. “I mean, Mom and Dad had connections. It’s possible.”

“You are being idiotic,” Sam says. “I would know. I’m done talking about this, Dean. I swear to God. We’re not discussing the possibility of me having an incest baby growing inside me.”

“Jesus,” Dean says, a punched sound. “Fine.”

They don’t say anything else for the rest of the night.

**

Sam wakes up nauseous and has to creep upstairs to puke, which is just the perfect cap on the day prior. He had hoped that he’d been quiet enough to not rouse Dean, but it turns out that the apocalypse has turned Dean into more of a light sleeper than he was before. He’s sitting up when Sam finally gets back downstairs, but doesn’t say anything more than, “You okay?”

“Peachy,” Sam responds, and that pretty much sets the tone for the next couple of weeks.

They keep moving, squatting in different houses every night. Both of them want to stay near the city--it might have more undead milling around, but there are more places to forage for supplies. They come to an agreement that they need to find a safe house, somewhere secure with electricity, no matter the Leviathan threat. Sam keeps getting sick, and they keep not talking about it, but the longer things go on, the more Sam begins to feel like he’s drowning.

It takes them a couple of weeks to find something that’s suitable, considering their paranoia and the fucking zombies milling around. The first indication Dean gets is the license plate of a truck sitting in a driveway.

“It’s an army officer’s,” Dean says, indicating the letters on the plate. “It’s his rank. We should check this place out.”

Sam eyes the house dubiously, but it seems secure. The windows aren’t broken, the door is still closed, and the flag hanging from a post attached to the garage is only slightly tattered. “Well, let’s hurry up before more of them come.” He gestures to the bodies rotting in the street, all dispatched with careful aim moments before.

Dean lets Sam pick the locks because Sam’s always been better at the detail-work than Dean, but once they’re inside, Dean takes the lead, leaving Sam to lock up behind them. The lights are off and the house is quiet, but they take their same quick run through to make sure no zombies are lurking in the dark corners. There’s not--looks like luck is on their side, for once, but there’s no telling how long that will hold up.

Once they determine that the coast is clear for the time being, Sam hands Dean a flashlight from their bag so they can do a more thorough look. The house is mid-sized, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but they’re more interested with the necessities. Most everything in the fridge has rotted, as well as the pantry, but he and Dean find a gun safe in the living room, along with several hunting knives and a machete.

“I love paranoid ex-military,” Dean says reverently. It’ll take a little bit to figure out the combination to get into the safe, but if the condition of the knives is anything to go by, it’ll be worth the time. Still, besides the weaponry, there isn’t much that makes Sam think that this house is necessarily the best place to stay. Until they hit the basement.

There are rows of metal shelves against the back wall of the laundry room, holding everything from canned goods to handisnacks to mac n’ cheese. It’s like the people who lived here were expecting to be in the middle of an apocalypse at any time. Which, ironic, considering what was going on outside at that very moment and the fact that the house’s inhabitants were nowhere to be seen.

The basement was cushy--a couch and a chair, a small TV, one small window that could easily be boarded up. The air-con was still kicking in, and all the locks on the doors and windows still worked. There was even a stockpile of wood in the backyard, not that Sam could think of a reason why Texans would need it.

“I think we’ve found home base,” Dean declares grimly, wiping his hands on his pants, and Sam could think of no reason to disagree without sounding contrary.

**

They decide to hole up mainly in the basement, and after Dean neatly hammers a board into place over the window and shuts the door to the upstairs, wedging two blankets underneath just in case, they chance turning on the lights. Everything still works, and Sam shivers just a little bit at the thought that the world has ended, but Leviathans have made it so everything operates the way it should. Dean turns on the television, putting it on mute, but it’s nothing but static.

After a while, they rummage around upstairs and manage to find several blankets and an air mattress. It’s almost like living in the lap of luxury, and they settle down as the sun sets, enjoying a dinner of cold Spaghetti-O’s and too-warm snack pudding, watching a movie in the DVD player. It’s like everything’s normal, even though it isn’t.

“So what’s the game plan?” Sam asks, disinterestedly watching Batman angst about some thing or another. Dean’s raided the liquor cabinet, and is already halfway through a bottle, warm and liquor-pliant. Sam thinks of partaking, but it turns his stomach. One of them should be sober, just in case.

“What it’s always been,” Dean says, too serious for someone well on their way to a splitting hangover. “Find Roman. Kill him. Then gank all of the Leviathan motherfuckers we can.”

“We don’t know how to kill Roman,” Sam points out. “We don’t even know where he is. Not like people are printing newspapers nowadays.”

“We’ll find him,” Dean says decisively. “Or I’ll find him.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sam asks, narrowing his eyes.

“Means that maybe you won’t be in the hunting spirit by the time he shows his ugly face,” Dean says, a little bit of whisky sloshing over the rim of the bottle as he gesticulates.

“I’m not fucking pregnant,” Sam says narrowly, cutting right to the chase.

“Because you know so much more than a girl with a medical background,” Dean points out. Jesus, he must be drunker than Sam thought. All those months going without must’ve wreaked havoc on his tolerance.

“Two months ago, she was a bitch hack,” Sam grits out. “Why the sudden change of heart?”

“‘Cause I can’t remember the last time you were sick,” Dean says, lolling his head back so he can look at Sam without much effort. “An’ because you’re still puking your guts out and it’s been weeks.”

“Fuck you, Dean,” Sam says, clenching his fists.

“‘S’not like I want this either,” Dean says, taking another healthy pull. “I mean, I didn’t think things could get more fucked up. And then they did. ‘Cause that’s just our fucking luck.”

“I’m not talking about this,” Sam says starkly.

“When will we talk about it?” Dean asks. “When you start getting fat? When you’re pushing a baby out of your ass?”

Sam barely resists the urge to clock his brother and instead stands up and stalks over to the door that leads to the laundry room. “You’re a fucking asshole, Dean,” he snarls, and it takes all of his self control to not slam the door.

**

Sam stays there for a while, listening for the TV to go off, for Dean to settle down in a drunken stupor. Dean got the better end of the deal, because there’s nothing to do in this part of the basement but eat, and Sam’s not hungry. His hands keep fluttering absentmindedly to his stomach, and that, if anything, makes him even angrier.

Lucifer is sitting next to him, hissing things in his ear, but he’s oddly transparent tonight. Doesn’t make him less loud, though, and Sam attributes it to the fact that he’s feeling off-center.

“Maybe they’re right, Sammy,” Lucifer coos. “Maybe you are having a bundle of incestuous joy. Maybe he’ll come out with three arms and no eyes. Or maybe he’ll be my son. Tainted. Demonic.”

Sam tries to plug up his ears, but it doesn’t work. Lucifer slip-slides around in his head no matter what he does, and he’s feeling sicker by the second. He just wants to lie down, but there’s nothing in this room to provide comfort, just a concrete floor and boxes of food.

His hand lands on his stomach again without him realizing it, and then he punches himself there, right in the gut. It’s a welcome pain, and he idly thinks that maybe, if there was something in there, that he killed it. For a second, he imagines it, liquefying inside of him, decaying, and then he has to banish the thought as bile rises in his throat.

He is not considering that option.

**

He and Dean settle into an uneasy routine of looting, prowling, and not talking about It. They fortify the house as best they can with the materials they scavenge and continue to thin the zombie herd in the neighboring areas for further protection. Sam’s as happy as he can be like this, doing the same mindless thing day after day, but Dean is ready for greener pastures.

“We need to look for the Leviathans,” he says starkly one day. “We haven’t seen anything resembling human life besides those soul-sucking zombies out there, and we’re just wasting time.”

Sam wants to argue--something about the whole ordeal unsettles him--but he doesn’t have a ready excuse. “We’ll need more Borax,” replies Sam. “And some sort of hose or something we can take with us.”

“So we find a Home Depot,” Dean says casually.

“That sounds fun,” Sam says. “Like when those guys in Zombieland go into the grocery store for twinkies.”

“Dude, we go into grocery stores every day,” Dean scoffs. “And that was a shitty movie. Who wastes their time going to a goddamn amusement park in the middle of a fucking apocalypse?”

“Well, we’re going to need to find one nearby,” Sam says.

Dean takes that idea and runs with it. The next day they manage to get into a Walmart, but Sam has no idea how they’re going to get out of it.

“This was such a shitty idea,” he mutters to Dean. Zombies have broken through the glass and are milling about aimlessly; Sam’s pretty sure they’re about to be eaten.

“No it isn’t,” Dean hisses. “Shut up.”

It takes them twelve bullets just to find the cleaning aisle, and fifteen more to get to the outdoor supplies where they plan on finding some sort of pesticide sprayer to take care of the issue of actually hitting the Leviathans with the Borax. Sam and Dean split up to look through everything on the shelves; the zombies know that something edible’s in here by now and Sam and Dean need to book it if they want to live.

Sam’s distracted for just a second, either by the sight of something that might work for what they’re looking for or because Lucifer is humming some annoying tune, and the next thing he knows, a zombie has him on the ground and is snapping at his jugular. He manages a quick, mangled cry and begins to try and push the zombie off without being bitten. His hands stick to the tacky, bloodied skin of his walking-dead assailant; the thing’s breath is fetid, and goddammit is it strong. And then its head is exploding with a sickly pop, spraying Sam with gray brain matter and blackened goo.

“I fucking hate you,” he spits, trying to wipe his face off on his shirt, which has ridden up thanks to his wrestling match. When he looks up, Dean is staring at him kind of funny, calculating almost.

“That’s the thanks I get for saving your life?” Dean asks incredulously, but he’s hoisting two bulky objects in the air. “Stop whining and let’s get the fuck out of here.”

Sam doesn’t need to be told twice, and he hightails it out after Dean. It still takes them two hours to get back to the house, and by that time, Sam is about ready to commit fratricide. After they lock the place down to make sure there have been no intruders in their absence, Sam stalks into the bathroom and takes a shower. The water barely trickles down and is cold as ice, so it takes him nearly twenty minutes just to get everything off of him. Dean is so fucking dead for this.

When he emerges from the bathroom, Dean is standing outside, tossing a flashlight back and forth between his hands. “I didn’t need a guard dog,” Sam says tersely. “It’s just a bathroom.”

“Wanted to catch you before you went and got dressed,” Dean says.

“I am not in the fucking mood, Dean,” Sam snaps.

“Not like that, you horndog,” Dean scoffs and then puts a hand on Sam’s stomach, making Sam step backwards and knock into the wall.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Sam demands.

“Just wanted to know why you’re sporting a beer belly nowadays,” Dean says nonchalantly. “Considering, you know, that you’re hardly eating and we spend all day running around.”

“I’m not fucking fat,” defends Sam.

“Something’s different,” Dean says. “I mean, look Sam. Something’s in there. I can feel it.”

Sam swats Dean’s hand away harder than he means to, stepping back in the process. “Fuck off,” he warns lowly.

“No,” Dean says. “You’ve gotta admit it to yourself. This denial shit isn’t working anymore. You’re going to get yourself killed.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Sam says, something twisting deep in his stomach.

“You know what I mean,” Dean says. “Get your head on straight.” He looks at Sam’s belly again, as if he’s scared and then stalks away, stomping down the stairs.

Instead of following him, Sam wanders into the master bedroom. He’s wet and cold, but he doesn’t bother doing anything more than yanking the comforter off to wrap around his shoulders. He lets himself stare blankly for a long time, not thinking, but Lucifer isn’t that easily ignored.

“You know, you should listen to him,” Lucifer says sagely, leaning against the wall and eating an apple. “It’s what I’ve been telling you for weeks now. You got a bouncing baby in that meatsuit of yours. Gotta start taking care of yourself, Sammy. The kid’s already been dealt a short stick, genetics-wise. I mean, the spawn of two brothers? And tainted by demon blood? Have to say, I’m pretty interested to see how this turns out.”

“Shut up,” Sam snarls. He grabs an empty glass that’s sitting on the bedside table, a vestige from the old occupants of the house, and chucks it at the wall. It makes a satisfying crash, but Lucifer shimmers and appears ten feet to the right, clucking his tongue and shaking his head.

“It’ll take more than that to get rid of me, Sam,” he says. “It’s like you don’t know me at all anymore.”

Sam closes his eyes and cradles his head in his hands, careful to cover his ears. It’s harder to hear Lucifer like this today, easier to block everything out and just think. He counts breaths, heartbeats, until he feels himself calm down a little. When he’s gotten his equilibrium back, he lets one hand fall gently to his midsection. It feels alien under his fingers, a ball of hardness that’s never been there before. Julia’s words keep echoing through his head, and he grits his teeth.

“So what do you think, Sam-o?” Lucifer asks. “Boy or girl? We gotta figure out how to wallpaper the nursery. That is, until a zombie eats the poor defenseless thing. You never were very good at protecting your own.”

**

The television’s on when Sam finally makes his way downstairs, but it’s nothing but static. Dean’s eyes are closed, but Sam can tell he’s not sleeping. Still, neither of them says anything as Sam bars the basement door shut. It’s obvious that Dean’s waiting for him to make the first move, and Sam almost wishes he wasn’t.

Sam takes his time putting on some clothes. He’s been upstairs so long that his hair’s completely dried, but he still feels more centered after he’s buttoned his shirt up. Taking one fortifying breath he crosses the room, slipping down onto the couch. Dean cracks his eyes and looks at him, his face eerily gray with the light from the TV.

“We gotta go back to the compound,” Sam says in a rush. “We need to get Julia and bring her back here.”

Dean’s eyebrows crinkle in confusion, and he responds, “I don’t get where you’re going here, Sam.”

“I need to kill it,” Sam explains. “Abort it, whatever. And she’s the only one who knows how.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Dean asks, and he sounds flatly angry.

“We can’t bring a kid into this, Dean,” Sam says. “It’s suicide. Not to mention what it’ll be like once it gets here. It’s probably already screwed up by the demon blood in me."

“Didn’t realize you were such a fucking expert on this kind of thing,” Dean snaps. “What, you want me to get her? Have her shove coat hangers up you until you hemorrhage and bleed out?”

“Better than the alternative,” Sam points out.

“No it’s not, Sam! What the fuck kind of kool-aid have you been drinking?”

“You can’t be serious, Dean,” Sam says desperately. “We’re in the middle of the end-times. There are things out there that want to eat us. We can’t bring a baby into this. If it’s even a viable fetus.”

“It’s a Winchester,” Dean says baldly. “It’s a fighter, and there’s nothing wrong with it. We are not killing it. We don’t kill family. Jesus, Sam!”

“I don’t even know how it’s still alive,” Sam explodes. “It shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t be able to even still have it in me.”

“Well tough shit, Sammy. It doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. And if you think for one second I’m gonna help you kill it, you got another thing coming.”

“C’mon, Dean,” Sam pleads. “This is ridiculous.”

“You don’t want to kill it, Sam,” Dean says. “Not until you know what it is. I know you.”

“It’s a baby whose father is his uncle too. It’s here because we’re fucked up and fucked around because we were too paranoid to get close to anyone else,” Sam snarls.

“I’ve fucking died for you, Sam,” Dean shoots back. “I’ve killed things for you and bled for you, and you’re the only person I give a shit about anymore. Don’t act like you don’t know that.”

“What, you’re afraid of the truth? Afraid to admit you’ve knocked up your fucktoy?” Sam feels vaguely hysterical, using his words as weapons. Without realizing it, he’s squeezed himself to the edge of the couch, so when Dean makes a noiseless angry sound and twists, he has nowhere to go. Dean’s pinning him to the cushions before he can even figure out what’s happened, and he doesn’t have enough leverage to get himself free, not with Dean a dead weight on top of him, holding Sam’s shoulders down.

“You think if you say enough shit, I’ll just run away?” Dean rumbles, sounding pissed off. “I’m not the one who runs, Sam. I don’t fucking run. Not like you.” The kiss is unexpected, brutal, and it tears a broken noise from somewhere deep in Sam’s chest. Dean’s teeth draw blood, and Sam can taste it on his tongue when Dean pulls back. His face is twisted in a snarl, and he follows up with, “Think what you want about me, Sam. You always fucking have. But I’m not letting you mutilate yourself because you think you know best. Because, you know what? That’s how half of the shit we got into started. With you doing something that you thought was right.”

Dean shifts off of him, and the sudden lightness on Sam’s chest isn’t a relief. Dean doesn’t stalk off, doesn’t slam any doors, and Sam almost thinks that would make things better. Instead, he takes off his jacket, steps around to the air mattress, and sags on top of it. Once he’s situated, he turns so his back is facing Sam, and it’s clear that they’ve reached the end of the conversation.

**

Sam doesn’t talk for two days. It’s not the sullen middle-school I’m-mad-at-you-so-I’m-not-saying-anything, even though Sam sometimes feels petty anger at Dean. He just needs time to gather his fucking mess of a head into something resembling order. Further still, he stuffs cotton in his ears to muffle Lucifer’s droning; it’s not perfect, but it’s better.

He makes himself stand in front of the mirror in the master bedroom without his shirt, prodding at his stomach. He can calculate the thing’s conception, can extrapolate when it should be born, but accepting it is another story. His stomach looks alien, doesn’t look like him. It’s lost that definition, and there’s six more months of this. He doesn’t know how people do this.

Very carefully, he doesn’t think about what will happen when the thing gets out of him, when he lets Dean cut him open to pull it free. There’s an end goal of staying alive over the next half-year, staying himself. Dealing with his mentality, with his hell, with Dean and the zombies and Leviathans and the apocalypse, and none of that has anything to do with a baby. He’s not going to nest or get attached. This thing is part him and part Dean, or maybe not even that, maybe part angel part demon, and he’ll carry it into the world because that’s the only option he has available right now.

Once he has that settled, once he has the date set in his head to look forward to, the twisted knot that’s formed in his stomach is easier to deal with. He brings it up over a dinner of cold canned pasta, no preamble, waiting until Dean has shoved a forkful of the stuff into his mouth so Sam can start uninterrupted.

“I’m not a damsel in distress,” Sam declares. “Just because I have this thing in me doesn’t mean you can shut me up in this basement. I’m still a part of this fight. I’m not a fucking liability.”

Dean chews, swallows, doesn’t allow his face to shift from the careful indifference it’s been showing all night. “And when you get too big to run?” he asks shrewdly, but it’s not meant to be contradictory.

“Either I fight or I die trying,” Sam says grimly. “I might not be able to move fast enough, but I can still shoot.”

“You’ll get yourself killed,” Dean points out.

“I’d rather die out there with you than be stuck in here doing nothing but incubating this thing in my stomach,” Sam says, and Dean inclines his head, acknowledging the point.

“I’m not letting you die, Sam,” Dean says, but before Sam can return with a nasty rebuke, he continues, “but I won’t stop you from leaving. Because God knows you’ll just do it anyways.”

“Glad that’s cleared up,” Sam says stiffly.

“And I’m glad you finally got your head out of your ass and saw reason,” Dean retorts. “Also, Sam? You’re like the least maternal fertile I’ve met.”

“Suck my dick,” Sam says, stabbing at his food with his fork.

“Gladly,” Dean leers, and that’s the end of that.

**

It turns out that when there’s just the two of them with no car and a horde of zombies, Leviathan hunting is slow work. They canvas out a radius of five miles in every direction and begin in a slow sweep, but they cover so little ground when they’re just looking that it’s almost laughable. Plus, every week or so, they have to stop to forage to keep their supplies up. It’s almost a futile endeavor, but it gives Sam something to focus on besides the parasite nestled up in between his vital organs, so he doesn’t complain.

One night finds them holed up in the attic of an abandoned church, the trapdoor covered with the detritus of old nativity scenes and Easter decorations to keep the zombies at bay. Sam is seated at the window, a rifle pointed down, but he hasn’t made a shot, not in a while. They’ve been stuck up here for hours, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to escape any time soon, not with the milling undead gathering below, and Sam doesn’t want to draw any more attention to himself. His stomach rumbles, demanding lunch, and he puts a hand on it to quell the noise, scowling when he realizes how he looks, with the palm of his hand resting on the swell of his belly.

He distracts himself by talking, maudlin in a way that surprises him. “Do you think the world still would’ve ended if you’d left me dead?” he asks Dean. “Or if mom had survived? Or if I’d killed the demon when it was in Dad the first time around?” They’re Lucifer’s questions, asked earlier in the day, but they’ve resounded with him for some reason.

Dean cracks an eye lazily, and Sam thinks back to a time when Dean would have been instantly up in arms over such speculation. “Don’t be a dumbass,” he says lazily. “Of course it would’ve. Differently, maybe. But everything would still have gone to shit.”

Sam supposes that’s true, but it doesn’t ease the burden of guilt from his shoulders. He wants to say something melodramatic about what might have happened had he never been born, but he’s not drunk enough for such shit. Instead, he asks, “Who do you think fucked the other one up more then. Me or you?”

This Dean does consider, cocking his head to one side in a way that reminds Sam of Castiel. For a second, Sam thinks Dean’s going to answer, but he segues with, “Do you remember that summer in Arkansas? When dad was hunting that underground coven and we were stuck in that shitty apartment where the AC didn’t work and the only channel on the TV was the local news?”

Sam thinks on it for a moment, mulling it over in his head. Things from his childhood have all muddled together into one giant mess, but he can recall snatches of their time there. The yellowing wallpaper, the howl of the downstairs neighbor’s dog.

“Yeah,” Sam answers. “Musta been, what, fifteen?”

“Mmm,” Dean agrees. “You spent that entire summer picking fights. With me, with dad, didn’t matter. Anything would set you off. You were too hot, growing too fast, hated me, hated him, hated the life.”

“Sounds like me,” Sam agrees. He’s so far gone from that Sam, the one who thought he could be normal, that he doesn’t feel anything but nostalgia thinking about it.

“And you had a crush on this girl down the street who worked at the library,” Dean continues. “Bookish, smart, geeky like you. Didn’t matter that she wasn’t pretty because she talked to you about things that didn’t have to do with hunting. She cared about Sam the person, not Sam the hunter. You remember sayin’ that to me?”

“No,” Sam admits.

“Anyways, one night you brought her home, thought I wasn’t there. And you sat on the couch, with the fuckin’ news on in the background, just talkin’ even though she was giving you the go-ahead. I was in the bedroom, kept lookin’ up and tryin’ to give you a signal but you wouldn’t stop looking at her. And then she just went for it, and you guys made out on the couch until it got dark and she had to go home. And you had a stiffie even though you and her were pretending you didn’t, and you walked her home like that, your dick hard in your jeans.”

“Where are you going with this?” Sam asks. “Besides, you know, proving that you were a peeping tom. And a pervert.”

“I hated her,” Dean says. “That night. I hated her. You cared more about her than you did about me or dad, and you’d known her for a month. She meant more to you than we did.”

“That’s bullshit,” Sam says.

“Felt like it at the time,” Dean responds. “And god, when you got home, I wanted to fucking knock you down. Wanted to show you that I was still there, that you couldn’t fuckin’ get rid of me. I wanted to mark you and fuck you up until you thought about me as much as I thought about you.”

“Jesus,” Sam says, but it’s not a surprise.

“So it doesn’t really matter who fucked who up,” Dean finishes. “‘Cause it fuckin’ happened, and there’s nothing to do about it now.”

“That first time you kissed me,” Sam says. “When you were dead-drunk. That wasn’t the first time you thought about me like that, was it?” It’s not really a question--Sam knows the answer.

“Nah,” Dean says. “First time I let myself take it without worrying about fucking you up.”

“Thought you said it didn’t matter,” Sam counters.

“Doesn’t now,” Dean explains. “It did then. I didn’t want to cross that line.”

Sam’s quiet for a minute and then asks, “What changed?”

Dean scoffs a little, shrugging one shoulder. “Who the fuck knows? I woke up one morning and thought, hey, what’s the point? And I’m not sorry.”

Sam thinks about it, remembers the first time he let Dean fuck him, the first time he fucked Dean. He looks down at his rounded stomach, and says, “Good.” And he means it too.

**

It’s stupid, but that conversation sticks with Sam for a while. He and Dean have picked up on some activity that points towards Leviathans on the west end of their perimeter, so it starts to feel like they have actual progress, but Sam is beginning not to care. He’s achy, off-balance, moody, and it fucks with his headspace more than he’d like to admit. Dean starts treading lightly around him, defensive, and it just makes Sam angrier, more likely to fly off the handle. Lucifer doesn’t help in that regard, saying all the wrong things until Sam starts throwing things.

And he’s horny. That fucking sucks too. Dean’s reverted into big brother mode after that kiss that one night, and he deflects every time Sam acts otherwise. It’s driving Sam up the wall.

It was always going to come to a head, and it’s fitting that the night Sam breaks, it’s storming outside. Dean is carefully stitching Sam’s leg up because Sam hadn’t been quick enough getting through their daily hoard, and a zombie had taken him down directly onto a fallen chain-link fence. It fucking hurt, and Dean is pissed, pulling the needle harder than he should.

“You’re going to fucking maim me,” Sam bites out.

“Fucking whatever, Sam,” Dean snarls.

“If you have something to say, say it,” Sam goads.

Dean sets his jaw, pulling the needle through the gash again, and obviously doesn’t have the willpower to hold it in because he says, “You’re going to get yourself fucking killed, Sam. Because you’re too goddamn stubborn. You’re not in fighting shape anymore.”

“I’m not your kept woman,” Sam snaps. “You can’t tell me what to do.”

“So I’m supposed to let you do what you want and fuck the consequences? Just stand there and watch you trip because your center of balance is fucked to hell and let you get eaten? We were taught better than this, Sam. You know you’re at a disadvantage.”

“We’ve already had this goddamn conversation, Dean!” Sam yells. “I’m not a fucking invalid. If you go out, I go out too”

“Then I’m not!” Dean shouts back. “I’m not going out if it means you’re going to be a jackass about it. I’ll stay in here and you’ll stay in here and maybe we’ll survive for a little longer.”

“And what about when this thing comes?” Sam asks, gesturing wildly to his distended stomach. “We just going to sit and squat and wait for the Leviathans or the fucking zombies to find us and finish us off? Great goddamn plan, Dean. Or maybe we’ll just abandon it to fend for itself. Leave it here once I’m healed enough to protect myself and let it get eaten? That’s probably a better idea.”

Sam’s too involved with his own fury to notice it when Dean stands up, but he does feel the punch connect with his jaw, sending him sprawling backwards. “What is wrong with you?” Dean barks. “That’s your kid, Sam. You might not want it, but it’s your responsibility. How can you hate it that much?”

“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Sam says viciously. “I let my older brother fuck me to get my rocks off and I ended up with this thing. It’s nothing but a goddamn burden.”

Dean reels back as though Sam had physically struck him. “Glad to know I mean so much to you, Sam.”

“I hate you,” Sam says bitterly, the words ash on his tongue. He’s too mad to care, just wants to say what will hurt the most. “Sometimes I think I’d be better off without you.” It’s a lie, the worst kind, and Sam wants to take it back the second he’s said it.

“Fine,” Dean says. “Fine. If you feel like that. Just. Fucking fine, Sam.” He whirls on his heel and is across the room and up the stairs before Sam can really register what’s happened. The door slams behind him, and Sam just stares at it dumbly for a second before scowling.

“Fuck you, Dean,” he says and then spends the next five hours staring at the blank television screen.

**

 

Sam assumes that Dean’s lurking around somewhere upstairs, cooling off, but when he goes up to use the bathroom in the early morning, he can’t hear anything. He tries to tell himself that Dean’s sleeping, but when he finds all the rooms empty, he has to concede that Dean’s stormed off.

All the anger Sam’s been holding onto vanishes into panic, choking him. He grabs a gun and rips the front door open, convinced that he’s about to see Dean eviscerated on the front porch, but there’s nothing there. The road is eerily empty, and Sam takes that as a bad omen. Even though it’s still dark, the sun still hours from rising, Sam takes just enough time to grab an oversized jacket and fill his pockets with ammo before he runs outside. Lucifer calls out a mocking warning, but Sam just ignores him. It’s easier to pretend that he knows what he’s doing.

Sam knows he’s being reckless, and there’s a million places Dean could be. Squatting in a neighboring house or foraging in a grocery store or dead on the side of the road, so he just takes the same path they’ve followed for the past week looking for a trace of the Leviathans.
It’s fruitless. By noon Sam’s almost died three separate times, is running low on bullets and there’s no sign that Dean even came this way. He’s shaking with desperation, but the zombies are thickening, and he’s not suicidal enough to think he can get any further. It takes twice as long to backtrack to the house, what with his lack of a serviceable long-range weapon, and by the time he gets back to it, he’s dizzy with overexertion. Dean’s still not returned. Sam takes the time to get two more guns, more shells, and spends ten minutes of dry-heaving into the toilet before he heads out again.

**

Dean doesn’t come back for five days, and by then Sam’s run himself into the ground looking for him. Lucifer’s been enjoying himself taunting Sam, and the pictures he paints make Sam continually sick to his stomach. He’s beginning to completely lose hope that Dean’s even alive, and then on the sixth morning alone, he wakes from a fitful sleep, and Dean’s there, looking at him. He’s gruff, scruffy, and Sam grabs at him without even fully realizing what’s happened, desperate to make sure Dean’s not a ghost. He’s solid beneath Sam’s palm, thank God, but he flinches away almost as soon as Sam makes contact.

“Where have you been?” Sam asks. He can’t manage anger, just solid relief.

“Out,” Dean says shortly.

“I’ve been going crazy trying to find you,” Sam says, struggling to sit up.

“Really?” Dean asks. “I’m surprised. Thought you were better off without me. You shoulda been happy.”

“Don’t,” Sam says desperately.

“You’re the one who said it, Sam,” Dean points out.

“I didn’t mean...” Sam starts but the words stick in his throat.

“Sounded like it to me,” says Dean bitterly. “Don’t hold back, Sammy. Tell me what you really think about me.”

“Stop,” Sam pleads. He reaches for Dean, but Dean jerks back violently.

“I’ll do it for you then,” Dean says. “You’re a fuck-up, Dean. An idiot. Not good enough for the perfect Sam.”

“That’s not fucking fair,” Sam protests. “I’d never say that.”

“You screwed me up, Dean. What, you thought I actually gave a shit? We’re only fucking because you’re the last possible option.”

Emotion is twisting in Sam’s throat, and he thinks he’s going to vomit on the sour taste of it. The words coming out of Dean’s mouth are perfectly crafted barbs, and they’re hitting home. Before he knows it, he’s pushing Dean back violently, a cry wrenched from his chest. From the look on Dean’s face, Sam just barely escapes retaliation as he pulls himself back up into a sitting position.

“You know I don’t think that,” Sam says. “You know what you are to me. Don’t turn this into a pity party.”

“Like the one you’ve been having since you found out?” Dean asks gesturing to Sam’s stomach.

“That’s different,” Sam protests. “I’m allowed to be upset about finding out that I have something growing in me.”

“Tell me straight,” Dean demands. “Do you blame me for it?”

The suggestion is so ludicrous that Sam can’t help but stare at Dean dumbly for a second. The thought had never really crossed his mind. Blame demons, angels, their crazy, fucked up lives? Sure. But never Dean.

“I mean, I’m the one who started the whole goddamn more-than-brothers thing,” Dean says.

“I never said no,” Sam says stupidly.

“Did you even want to do it in the first place?” Dean prods.

“Yes,” responds Sam without thinking. Dean looks shocked at that response, like it wasn’t something that he was expecting. “I always did.”

“Why?” Dean asks.

“You’re mine,” Sam says. He doesn’t have a better answer than that. “You’ve always been mine.”
Dean doesn’t respond, and they sit in silence for several minutes. Sam can’t think of anything to say. He’s used up all of his energy saying even this much.

Sam’s dozing off when Dean pipes up. “You gotta stop with the risks, Sam. I’m not gonna watch you die. I’ve filled my quota on that shit.”

Sam mulls it over in his head and then says, “I’m not sitting here and doing nothing while you’re out there.”

“I’ll stay in here,” Dean says quietly. “We don’t have to find the Leviathans. I mean, seriously, what are we even gonna do if we get rid of them? The world’s fucked anyways.”

“I’m going with you when you forage,” Sam says.

“Deal,” Dean agrees. “At least until you start waddling even more than you are now.”
“Fuck off,” Sam says, and then he yawns hugely.

“Lie down, you big lummox,” Dean says. “You’re gonna fall over. And shove over. I’m not sleeping on that shitty couch.”

There’s a perfectly serviceable air mattress on the other side of the room, a spoil of past rummaging, but Sam doesn’t point it out. He wants that contact, at least tonight.

He’s about to pass out again, his back pressed against Dean’s, when Dean says, “You gotta accept this baby, Sam. It’s not going away.”

Sam doesn’t have an answer for that, and Dean’s snoring before he can say anything in response.

**

It turns out that life is fucking boring when the only thing to do is watch movies and eat. Dean keeps up with his promise of not leaving, but it’s pretty clear that he’s going crazy. He keeps cleaning the guns, even though they’re not hurting for supplies. Conversely, Sam yearns for the internet, but he’s leery of signing on in case something is monitoring the connections.

“Is this what we’re going to do for the rest of our lives?” Sam asks. He’s tried not to be contrary over the past couple of weeks, but he’s stagnating here. Getting bigger and bigger and going stir-crazy.

“If it means that you won’t get eaten, then yes,” Dean grumbles.

“Honestly, I think I’d rather die than live like this,” Sam complains.

“It’s not like we have much else to do,” Dean points out. “I’d let you go target shoot from the attic, but I don’t exactly want a horde of zombies banging the door down.”

“You could cut this thing out of me early,” Sam suggests, and Dean gives him an evil eye.

“Yeah, no,” Dean says. “Amateur surgery isn’t really my thing anymore.”

Dean turns his attention back to whatever he’s put on the TV--some lame sitcom. They’ve watched three entire seasons, and Sam’s about ready to put his foot through the set.

Sam squirms in his seat and looks over at Dean. Things have been less strained between them, and he wants. There’s no way he can actively seduce his brother without feeling like an idiot, but he’s tempted to do it anyway. He shifts again, trying to ignore the pool of arousal in his gut.

Fucking hormones. Fucking parasite.

Dean slants him a sideways look. “You’re twitchy today.”

“I’m bored,” Sam corrects.

“Find a book then, geek-boy,” Dean suggests. “You’re distracting me.”

“This shit is awful,” Sam says. “Don’t even try to pretend you like it. You just don’t have anything else to do.”

Dean shrugs half-heartedly, the light from the television playing across his face. “You have another idea, princess?”

Sam’s throat is suddenly dry, though from nerves or heat, he can’t determine. “Maybe?” he offers, and Jesus, he sounds like a fifteen-year old virgin.

That gets Dean’s full attention, and he turns fully. “Gonna share with the class?” he asks.
Sam doesn’t have an answer to that, isn’t even going to try and put it into words. Instead he leans over and presses a kiss to Dean’s mouth. It’s oddly intimate, and Sam’s rounded belly presses between them, an unwelcome separation.

Dean’s surprised, jerks back seconds after Sam makes contact. “What the hell was that?” he splutters, and Sam immediately turns bright red.

“It’s not like we haven’t done it before,” Sam says weakly.

“Not like that,” Dean says. “And anyways, I thought you were done with this kinda thing.” Sam feels that hit right in his chest, and he curls in on himself slightly from the rejection, hugging the edge of the couch.

“I never said that,” he says stiffly.

“What, all the insults about our incest baby were just jokes?” Dean scoffs.

“You can’t deny that this is fucked up,” Sam offers, and Dean laughs humorlessly.

“Yeah, Sam, I know. So that’s why I figured we were just not gonna do it anymore.”

“When’s that ever stopped us?” Sam asks. “I don’t regret starting this, Dean.”

“Maybe I do,” Dean snaps. “You ever think that?”

“But you don’t,” Sam points out. “And if we’re both on-board the incest train, we might as well not get off. You’re the only thing I have left, Dean. And I don’t care enough to be upset about that.”

Dean doesn’t respond, but when Sam kisses him again, he doesn’t pull away. He’s responsive, curling his hands around Sam’s biceps, not flinching as Sam frames his face with his hands. Dean tastes like stale coffee and the crappy canned pasta they had for dinner, and Sam should find it gross. He should, but he doesn’t, and he shivers as he pushes to make the kiss deeper, licking his way into Dean’s mouth.

Dean is pressing back now, pushing Sam further against the arm of the couch. Sam can tell he’s trying to be careful, to not put too much pressure against Sam’s stomach, but Sam wants this. He needs the weight of it, needs Dean to pin him down. Letting one of his legs slip to the floor, he pulls Dean closer. It’s awkward though, the couch much too small, and Dean breaks away with a curse as he almost topples off.

“You know, there’s a perfectly good air mattress like ten feet away,” Dean says, slightly breathless, and Sam nods in agreement. It kind of breaks the moment when Dean has to pull Sam up to compensate for Sam’s lack of leverage, but Dean finds the whole situation funny enough to laugh and kiss Sam firmly.

“Fuck off,” Sam mumbles, but it’s easier to press close like this, easier to make-up for his oddly shaped body. Dean’s mouth is curved against Sam’s, a rare smile that makes Sam’s stomach churn pleasantly. They stand there for a while, lazily kissing, Dean’s hands tangled in Sam’s hair. It feels almost indulgent to be able to take their time like this, to be able to ignore everything else that’s going on and just feel. Sam lets Dean take the lead, doesn’t want the responsibility, and Dean just keeps kissing him, slow passes of his tongue that Sam responds eagerly to.

Dean’s gentler than he usually is, eventually guiding Sam towards the bed and pushing him down onto it, never breaking apart for long. A part of Sam wants to demand something faster, rougher, but he doesn’t quite make the effort. The way Dean is holding him is making something ache deep within his chest, and he isn’t ready to let it go, not yet. When Dean nudges him back so he’s lying down, spread out on the mattress, and starts kissing his jaw, Sam wants to say something. The words stick in his throat.

Dean takes his time, mapping Sam’s skin with his mouth. Sam keeps thinking that it should be weird--this feels more meaningful than anything he’s shared with Dean--but it doesn’t. It’s making him shudder, and the realization that he likes it, likes them like this, is staggering.

When Dean uncovers Sam’s stomach, he backs away a little, just looking at it. Ever since the parasite had physically made his presence known, Sam had been careful to keep his belly hidden under clothing, so Dean’s staring makes him twist away.

“Don’t,” Dean says gently. He puts his hands on the swell, cocking his head, and Sam hates it and loves it and the conflict is making him stupid with it. Dean drops a kiss on the roundest part, and Sam can’t help but arch into it. The parasite shifts inside of him, almost as if it can sense Dean’s presence, and from the jerk of Dean’s hands, Dean notices.

“Jesus,” Dean breathes, and he spreads his fingers out wider, trying to catch more.

“Don’t,” Sam says uncomfortably.

“My kid too, Sammy,” Dean rebukes gently, but he sounds epically weirded out. Sam doesn’t have a response for that, just turns his head so he’s staring at the wall. Dean gets the hint and moves his fingers to Sam’s side instead of resting them on his belly, and continues his exploration. He sucks a hickey into the curve of Sam’s hip, unbuttoning Sam’s jeans and slowly working them down.

Sam’s hard, his cock straining against his boxers, the head poking wetly out of the flap, but Dean ignores it. He throws Sam’s jeans somewhere off into the corner and turns his attention back to the jut of Sam’s pelvic bone, teeth nipping at the skin pulled tight there. Sam’s making these little whimper-moans under his breath, can’t help it, and he keeps pulling at Dean’s head.

“Pushy,” Dean mouths, but he doesn’t make Sam beg, instead pushing Sam’s underwear down, nuzzling at Sam’s dick as he does so. The head of Sam’s cock smears wetly against Dean’s mouth, and Sam groans loudly as Dean parts his lips and pushes the tip of his tongue into the slit.

“Fuck,” Sam hisses, a drawn out sound. Dean’s not really great at this--never had the practice--but it’s been so long. It’s wet suction, making Sam writhe, and he drops his head back against the mattress so he doesn’t have to watch. All he can hear is the panting of his breaths, hard and harsh in his ears, and all of this concentration is centered on his dick, on Dean sucking his cock. It feels more intense than he remembers, a coiling rush centered deep in his belly.

Dean pulls off without warning, sitting up on his haunches and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He’s grinning, feral and predatory.

“What the fuck?” Sam complains breathlessly.

“Some of us have needs too,” Dean comments, his voice pleasure-rough.

“What are you gonna do about it?” Sam challenges, watching as Dean struggles out of his clothes. He’s half-expecting Dean to try and wet his fingers, work Sam open, but Dean just makes his way back up Sam’s body, tracing the same trails he’d covered previously. When he kisses Sam fully, Sam can taste himself on Dean’s tongue, the bitter tang of precome. Sam’s so involved in the kiss that he doesn’t notice Dean maneuvering him, pushing at Sam’s leg, moving him onto his side, until they’ve settled into a position that lets Dean push his own hard cock against Sam’s.

Sam gasps into Dean’s mouth, and Dean doesn’t hesitate before he wraps his hand awkwardly around the both of them. Sam can’t help it, bucks into the touch, the rough slip-slide of his dick against Dean’s, the callused feel of Dean’s fingers catching against the sensitive skin there. Dean is panting into his mouth, and it’s more erotic than it has any right to be, and Sam tips over the edge much sooner than he expects. As Sam shudders against him, Dean groans lowly, capturing Sam’s mouth in a bruising kiss. Sam’s too overtaken by the aftershocks of his orgasm to notice when Dean comes, but when his senses filter back, he knows from the slackness of Dean’s grip, how the kiss has turned into nothing more than the touch of Dean’s mouth against his own.

Dean is the first to pull away, slumps against the mattress in a more comfortable position, still pressed tight against Sam. The only sound in the room is the perfect counterpoint of their breathing, and Sam shifts sleepily. His orgasm took more out of him than he thought, and even though he’s sticky and gross, he can’t manage the energy to get up and clean off. Instead, he lets himself fall asleep, taking comfort in the warm press of Dean’s body.

**

Dean’s already awake when Sam blinks his eyes open the next morning. He isn’t doing anything weird, isn’t outright staring at Sam, but Sam can still feel the tension in the air.
“What?” Sam asks, his voice deep and gravelly from sleep.

“Are we doing this then?” Dean responds, oddly emotionless.

“Doing what?” Sam says stupidly, knuckling at his eye.

Dean makes a little disbelieving noise in the back of his throat, but he still doesn’t look at Sam. It’s almost as if he’s embarrassed. “This. You. Me. Incest relationship.”

“So articulate,” Sam mutters. “Careful, Dean. This is turning into a chick flick moment."

“Shaddup,” Dean says, but he’s stiff, like he’s still waiting for Sam’s response.

“Yeah, Dean,” Sam replies, something catching in his throat. “I guess we are. Unless you want to stop.”

“Do you?” Dean challenges.

Sam swallows thickly. “No.”

After a pause, Dean clears his throat, and says, “Me neither. This is really fucked up, y’know?”

“Not a surprise there,” Sam placates. He feels like this revelation should feel more powerful than it does. Instead, it just seems inevitable. Like it’s always been there, waiting to be uncovered.

Dean’s quiet for a minute, and then continues. “You gotta promise me something.”

“What?” Sam asks warily.

“If that thing that you have,” Dean begins awkwardly, “in your stomach, if it’s a demon or some other creature, I’ll be right there with you smothering it. But if it’s a baby. If it’s a normal baby, you gotta promise not to hate it. ‘Cause it’s your kid, Sam. Don’t do that to it.”

“It’s not normal,” Sam says.

“But if it is,” replies Dean harshly.

“If it is,” Sam agrees, “then I’ll try to feel something for it.”

“You’d better,” Dean responds fiercely.

**

For two people who spend their days doing the same thing, it’s weird how different things are after that. Before they’d just been messing around when they’d been lonely or stressed or horny; it had been almost impersonal. But now, adding Sam’s parasite into the mix, and the fact that Dean was the only person Sam had seen for about five months, their relationship is...different. Dean is still Dean, still Sam’s fucking annoying older brother, but he can’t deny that there’s something more now.

It’s a mind-fuck to say the least.

Sam slowly eases up about letting Dean go out without him, even though he hates it, feels fucking useless when Dean leaves to forage. The parasite is making him a liability, fat and swollen and slow, and even Sam isn’t stubborn enough not to see that Dean is safer alone than he is trying to protect Sam from the elements. Still, whenever Dean ventures out, Sam stations himself in the attic and sharp-shoots as many of the fuckers as he can. It makes him feel better.

They’ve just managed to settle into a routine when things go and fuck up again. Sam supposes he should’ve expected it; they’ve never had smooth sailing. It’s early evening, the light dim in the sky, and Sam and Dean are once again stationed in the basement, Sam involved in a book Dean got from a supermarket three miles away, Lucifer providing lewd commentary on said book, and Dean avoiding Sam because, in his words, Sam is acting like a cranky bitch.

When something crashes upstairs, he and Dean immediately jump into action. They have a stockpile of weapons sitting on one of the old sewing tables, but Sam just pulls his Glock from where he’s stationed it in between the couch cushions and clicks the safety off. Dean goes for the more dramatic option, hefting the shotgun into one hand.

“No good for close range, idiot,” Sam hisses, but Dean just gives him a sharp look and holds one finger to his mouth. It’s gone eerily quiet upstairs, and Sam doesn’t know what to think. Zombies generally crash around, lacking in hand-eye coordination and the absence of noise makes him think that something else is up there. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Dean’s climbing the stairs first, but it’s more due to the fact that it took Sam a couple of tries to get himself up off the couch than anything else. Still, he scowls, creeping up behind Dean into the living room. There’s still enough ambient light to see the dark figure standing there, and Dean raises the shotgun, ready to blow a hole in its head when it talks.

“Wait, don’t shoot! Jesus,” the thing cries, only it’s not a thing. Sam knows that voice.

Dean lowers the shotgun slightly so it’s not aimed at the thing’s head and then says, “Chuck?”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re too trigger happy?” Chuck asks, stepping into the light. It’s been years since they’d last seen him, since before Sam went to hell, and he looks different. Gaunter, maybe, and pale, his face covered by a patchy beard.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Sam asks incredulously, stepping out from behind Dean. He only belatedly realizes that his stomach is a dead giveaway to the whole pregnant hunter thing.

“Dreamt about it,” Chuck says. “What else?”

“Jesus Christ,” Dean mutters, scrubbing his free hand over his face.

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Chuck mutters. “You think I like having a direct download of you two in my brain? My nightmares are giving me nightmares.”

“How did you even get here?” Sam asks, desperate to steer the conversation away from the whole incest baby discussion. “You live like a thousand miles away.”

“Drove,” Chuck supplies, shrugging.

“Through the zombies,” Dean says skeptically. “And you’re still alive?”

“Yeah,” Chuck says, “arch-angel’s still following me around. You wouldn’t believe how many things it had to smoke so I didn’t die getting here.”

“Well that’s convenient,” Dean admits.

“If you have your own angel bodyguard, why did you need to come find us?” Sam asks.

“It’s not like you have a working cell anymore,” Chuck points out. “And I kinda had something I wanted to warn you about. You know. Prophet thing.” He points to his head, and Sam groans.

“What now?” Dean asks angrily. “We’re never gonna catch a goddamn break.”

“Leviathans,” Chuck responds simply. “Congregating here. I don’t know what they want, but it’s not good.”

Fucking great.

**

Chuck tells them all he knows, which is pretty much jack shit, and after three hours of discussion that gets them absolutely nowhere, they decide that it’s probably best to try and lay low. They don’t have nearly enough Borax to deal with an infestation this size, and considering Dick Roman’s immune to the stuff anyways, they’re pretty much fucked in a fight.

It messes with their dynamic, Chuck being there. Sam’s not used to having to account for another person in their space, and even though Chuck obviously knows what’s going on between them, Sam’s not doing anything in front of his face.

Somehow it’s even more frustrating to be stuck inside with Chuck underfoot, and it makes Sam itch for something resembling an adventure. There’s only so many awkward poker games he can live through, and Chuck is twitchy, always looking at Sam’s distended stomach. He’s also managed to smuggle what looks like an entire liquor store worth of inventory in his car, and whenever he brings more of the stuff in, Dean won’t let Sam drink it. Sam gets his revenge with laxative powder he finds in the upstairs bedroom, but the overprotective routine for the parasite still smarts.

Sam’s on edge every time Chuck and Dean leave to scope out the neighborhood. Statistically, Dean should be safe, what with the angel protection detail, but something about it turns Sam’s stomach. He keeps an eye out from the window in the attic, scowling until they come back, armed to the teeth with everything he can drag upstairs.

Of course, one day, barely an hour after they’ve left, ten Leviathans show up on the block out of the blue, obvious by their lackadaisical movements and lack of weaponry. Sam ducks away from the window, his heart going triple-time. One or two he could take care of on his own, but if they find him, there’s no way this isn’t ending in a blood bath. Red, human blood, not the black kind the Leviathans are made of. Sam awkwardly fits himself into a position where he can spy on them without being seen, and it becomes clear that they’re searching each house, quickly, methodically. Sam spends three minutes desperately trying to think of a way to escape, to go out the back and run to another safe house, but there’s no way. He’s too fucking slow, and there are plenty of zombies, milling around and paying the Leviathans no mind. It’s pretty clear that Sam doesn’t have an escape there.

When they creep up the walk, Sam immediately makes himself still, the weed-sprayer full of Borax held tightly against his side. He has a machete in his other hand, ready to behead as many of the motherfuckers as he can before they eat him alive.

It’s quick. They must have super-sensory hearing, because they find him, snarling and open-mouthed as they descend upon him. Sam is quick with the chemicals, with his knife, but he’s only able to dispatch of two or three before they converge on him, all of them drawn by the commotion.

Sam doesn’t have time for a last thought before he blacks out.

**

When Sam wakes up, his head is throbbing, his stomach roiling, and Dick Roman is staring at him, predatory grin on his face. He pulls at his hands, but they’re bound to a chair with thick rope, no slack.

“I wouldn’t,” Dick says smoothly, crossing one leg over the other. He’s dressed in a crisp suit, looking everything like the mogul he’d been before the world ended. “You don’t want to bloody up those pretty hands of yours.”

“Fuck you,” Sam spits. It’s hard to think through his headache, to reason above cataloguing his various aches and pains, the wet slide of something on his neck.

“Touchy,” Dick coos. “And after I had my pets keep you alive. You’re not very appreciative, Sam Winchester.”

“I’ll live,” Sam says shortly.

Dick shrugs nonchalantly, examining his fingernails. “For now, I suppose. But once we get Dean here, I’m going to have fun letting my top soldiers eat you up.”

“Really intimidated here,” Sam says dryly. “What, you want me to start begging? Kill me then. And don’t bother with the monologue. I don’t care.”

“Not even a thought for your little genetic mishap there?” Dick asks, gesturing at Sam’s belly.

Sam’s heart jump-skips in his chest. It may be a parasite, but it’s his parasite, goddammit. Roman doesn’t get to eat it as an appetizer. Unfortunately, Sam doesn’t have a plan, so he continues with the whole impassive routine.

“Eat it first,” Sam says dully. “I don’t give a shit.”

“How uncharacteristically callous,” Dick comments. “I wonder if your brother feels the same way. I mean, it’s his progeny, isn’t it? According to the humans we eviscerated from that little hold-down earlier this month, it is.”

Sam doesn’t answer, just stares blankly ahead. Dick just shrugs again and continues, “Guess we’ll know soon enough. Dean is in for a nasty surprise once he returns to that hovel you’ve been squatting in.”

“What an ingenious plan,” Sam says. “I’m so impressed.”

Dick’s smile sours, but he doesn’t move from his chair, just fists his hands around the armrests. “You know, you Winchesters have been a pain in my ass since I was resurrected. I’m going to be happy to take you down a peg.”

“So we’re back to the whole you’re gonna kill me thing,” Sam says, rolling his eyes. “Not like that hasn’t happened before.”

“Maybe you don’t care, but I bet your brother will,” Dick says lightly. “Watching you and his spawn die at the same time? Might be a bit damaging to his will, don’t you think? Maybe he’ll make another deal.”

Something constricts tightly in Sam’s chest at the suggestion, but he forces his face to stay calm. “Dean’s a big boy,” Sam says. “It’s been a long time since then. He’ll survive.”

“Well, we’ll see within the hour, I suppose,” Dick responds, standing up and brushing imaginary dirt from his pants. “I’m excited. This is turning out to be a better afternoon than I anticipated.”

**

It actually takes more than two hours for the Leviathans to corral Dean and Chuck into their hideaway, and by then, Sam’s rubbed his wrists raw escaping from his restraints while Lucifer laughs from the corner. The Leviathans aren’t too concerned with keeping an eye on him, but he has no weapons, no Borax, and when they come to get him, it’s pitiful how short the fight lasts before they’re frog-marching him to another room. Dean’s already there, looking pale and determined, and Chuck mainly looks like he’s about to vomit.

“Sam, you okay?” Dean calls, sounding for all the world like he’s bored and disinterested.

“Never better,” Sam responds, and Dean relaxes just the tiniest bit at that, his shoulders slumping a fraction of an inch. Dick strides into the room, looking like the world’s biggest asshole, and the surrounding Leviathans stand at attention.

“Dean,” he says warmly. “How good to see you again.”

“I’m jumping with glee,” Dean says. “I’d ask what you want, but I think I already know. You’re really fuckin’ predictable, you know that?”

“That wounds me, Dean,” Dick says, clicking his tongue. He gestures with his right hand, and a beefy Leviathan advances on Sam, who immediately tries to wrench free from the two guards holding his arms. Their grips partially loosen and Sam manages one good uppercut before he’s held tightly again, a bruised cheekbone for the trouble.

“You’re right, Dean,” Dick says. “Why drag this out? You know my motives, I know your weakness, and I have better things to do with my time.” He snaps his fingers, and the meathead Leviathan throws his head up and unleashes his fangs, snapping wildly at nothing.

“You fuckin’ asshole, kill me first,” Dean swears, and Sam can hear the sounds of a struggle, but those teeth are perilously close to his throat and all Sam can think about is how he’s about to be bled like a pig. He manages a few swift kicks to the Leviathan’s lower body, but it hardly deters him.

And then someone’s voice rings out, loud and clear and laced with something powerful. It says something in a language Sam doesn’t recognize and then follows it up with, “Stop.”

The Leviathan’s teeth snap together so quickly that Sam is sure for an instant that his jugular’s just been severed. When he glances up, however, his would-be assailant is just standing there, looking wholly confused and fully human. He steps back, shuffling quicker with every step he takes, but before he can return to his post, he disintegrates into a pile of black dust. Sam’s immediately free as well, surrounded by a ring of ash, and when he looks at Dean, Dean’s just as flabbergasted as Sam feels.

“What are you doing here, old man?” Dick asks, but his tone’s gone oily, sibilant. He seems almost...scared.

Sam’s still trying to take measure of the situation when Chuck steps forward. He’s changed, radiating calm, his eyes hard, and Sam’s instantly intimidated by him, by the way he’s holding himself as he approaches Dick.

“I am the Creator,” Chuck says. “I tire of watching you destroy my world.”

“You are supposed to be dead,” Dick spits. “The angel that let me out thought he was you. Because you’d disappeared.”

“Just because I wasn’t around, doesn’t mean I wasn’t watching,” Chuck says calmly. “And really? An apocalypse? After I’d spent so much energy to divert the original one?”

“You’re weak,” Dick says, his mouth curling. “You can’t do anything to me. Not now.”

“What the fuck is going on?” Dean exclaims. No one pays any attention.

“That attitude and your dirty bloodlust is what put you in Purgatory in the first place,” Chuck says, still advancing. “I will not hesitate to do it again.”

“I will kill you,” Dick promises. “And I will take this earth and own it and bend your creatures to my will.”

“I will not tolerate such an abomination,” Chuck says, and he strikes suddenly, pulling his arm through the air as though he’s encountering a great resistance. Dick responds in turn, and the ensuing clash of light is bright enough that Sam has to shield his eyes from it. When it’s dimmed, Sam’s ears are ringing and Chuck is the only one in the center of the room, his head tilted as he examines the scorched floor.

“Will somebody please tell me what the fuck just happened?” Dean asks weakly. It’s a testament to how shocked he is that he isn’t immediately at Sam’s side taking inventory of any potential injury.

“I hated that thing,” Chuck says, rolling his shoulders. “I’m glad it finally gave me a reason to kill it for good.”

Sam finally unsticks his throat enough to speak. “Chuck...are you God?”

Chuck’s gaze is piercing, and Sam feels an odd calm settle over him. “I have been called that before,” he concedes.

Dean recovers before Sam does, and what comes out of his mouth is practically sacrilegious. “Where the fuck have you been?” he demands, bypassing skepticism and barreling straight into anger. Sam supposes he can sense the same thing as Dean, because he can’t muster up doubt while looking at Chuck. At God.

“I have always been here,” Chuck says calmly. (No, no matter what, Sam can’t call him God. Not yet. Not here).

“Not from what I’ve seen,” Dean snarls.

“Dean, stop,” Sam says weakly. He wonders if he’s about to see his brother smeared across the floor, much like Dick.

“Call it an experiment,” Chuck says. “I gave you free will, no destiny, for a reason. I did not want to intervene again. I promised Noah as such many years ago.”

“Great experiment there,” Dean snarls. “You really hit the nail on this one.”

“I will not apologize to you,” Chuck says, an undercurrent of anger in his voice. “You have shaped your life through your decisions. I do not hold a hand in the mundane trappings of human existence. I control you, but I do not dictate.”

“Why now?” Sam butts in. “The world’s gone to hell before. Why are you stepping in now?”

“I felt it was time,” Chuck says. “You will not see me again, Sam, Dean. I have rectified this evil. I will return to my post.”

“Don’t talk to us like you care,” Dean says. “Don’t.”

“You are my children, Dean,” Chuck says. “I care. I have fashioned you into vessels for my angels. I have saved you both from damnation. And I will allow you to live your lives now as you see fit.”

He flickers into being right next to Sam, presses a kiss to Sam’s forehead, and something snaps in Sam’s head. Lucifer, who had been surveying things with a black look on his face from the side of the room, vanishes. Sam knows that it’s for good this time.

Chuck’s gone, not another word, not a noise. Sam feels a sudden weight settle back down on his shoulders but it’s lighter somehow. Not as strangling. He feels his legs buckle, and he stumbles, getting his equilibrium back somehow. Dean is by his side in an instant, supporting his weight.

“Are you okay?” Dean asks urgently.

“I’m fine,” Sam reassures him. “Dean. I think. I think he fixed my head. I think he took Lucifer away.”

It takes some time for them to find their way out, hampered by the way Dean keeps his knife in combat position as they round every corner and still reeling with the full reappearance of Sam’s sanity. Sam braces himself for zombies when Dean kicks the final door open, but as his eyes adjust to the light, Sam immediately knows that the world is different.

He can hear cars, the low hum of city life, and the air doesn’t smell like death anymore, only smog. Dean’s grip is heavy on his shoulder, and Sam looks up to see a plane snake its way across the sky.

“The motherfucker changed it back,” Dean breathes.

“You’re going to get struck by lightning,” Sam admonishes, but he’s feeling shell-shocked as well.

“Jesus Christ,” Dean whispers, and then, “Just as we were getting used to post-apocalyptic survival. God fucking dammit.”

“Dean. Lightning,” Sam warns.

“C’mon, Sam,” Dean says, his mouth alight with a smile. “Let’s go find my baby.”

**

Sam half-expects the Impala to be gone once they locate the tiny, abandoned garage they’d left it in, but it’s perfectly intact. Dean spends five minutes stroking its exterior as Sam rolls his eyes, but even Sam can’t deny that sliding into the passenger seat is like coming home. It still smells the same, even after all this time, still smells like Sam and Dean and the hunt. It relaxes Sam, and he settles back in his seat feeling better than he has in a while.

They hit up a PO box, one that Dean swears he’d had fake credit cards forwarded to before the whole zombie apocalypse mess, and lo and behold, they’re there. They gorge themselves on honest-to-god cooked food and Dean rents them a room in a swanky hotel, high above their pay-grade, just because he catches an advert that promises high-pressure showers and plasma-screen televisions. Sam doesn’t care about that shit, but he groans when he collapses on the bed and immediately sinks into the softness of it. The persistent ache in his lower back is dissipating just from this alone.

After almost thirty-six hours of traveling, Sam’s exhausted, drifts off to the sound of Dean talking to someone on his prepaid phone and startles awake what feels like seconds later to Dean’s hand shaking him.

“Let’s get a move on, princess,” Dean prods. “We gotta be in Missouri by seven.”

“Time ‘s it?” Sam slurs, rubbing at his eyes. All he really wants to do is roll over and fall back asleep.

“Almost noon,” Dean supplies. “Dude, you’ve been asleep for fourteen hours. Snoring, too. I was ready to smother your ass.”

It’s weird to be driving again, no zombies to kill or Leviathans to look out for. The only nagging worry Sam has left to think about is the parasite that’s still growing in his stomach, but he can’t find the words to voice it aloud. Somehow it doesn’t seem as important or all-encompassing anymore. When they hit Missouri, Dean coasts into a motel parking lot, rents another room, and leaves Sam alone to “get some shit done.” Sam’s so tired that he doesn’t even question where his brother’s off to, just dozes in and out of consciousness until Dean jimmies the door open and steps inside.

“It’s so fuckin’ weird to not be in Texas anymore,” Dean says in lieu of a greeting. “It’s almost like I need to wear a jacket everywhere.”

“Pussy,” Sam says, pulling himself into a seated position. “Where have you been?”

“Getting these,” responds Dean, throwing a little envelope on the bed along with a fluttering piece of paper. Sam picks up the paper first, reading through it once perfunctorily and then once in detail. He can feel the blood draining from his face when he slips the envelope open and out slide two silver wedding bands.

“Dean,” Sam says, sounding strangled. “Why do you have a marriage certificate here with both of our names on it?”

“Gotta sell it,” Dean says, shrugging. “If people think you’re my fertile, they’ll be less suspicious. It’s easier this way when we get you in to see a doctor to make sure you just don’t have a really big tumor growing in you.”

“I’m not your anything,” Sam says hotly. “And I’m not going to a doctor.”

“You’re my brother,” Dean counters. “And fuck yes we’re going to see a doctor. You have something growing in your stomach and the last time anyone qualified looked at you was six months ago. This isn’t up for debate, Sam. I’m sorry that you’re chicken-shit, but you’re gonna go to the hospital if I have to drag you there myself.”

Dean is using his it’s-futile-to-argue-with-me-so-don’t-even-try voice, and Sam can’t even muster anything beyond resignation. “I don’t have a tattoo,” he says dully. “That’s gonna be a problem.”

“Got some guy in town who’ll do it, no questions asked. Fed him some shit about you wanting to symbolize the struggle of fertiles everywhere.”

“Fuck you, Dean,” Sam says tiredly.

“Can we not do this?” Dean asks, sounding equally exhausted. “We finally got the world back. There’s nothing hunting us or on our tails, and like it or not, that thing in your stomach is coming. And it’s probably a baby, and we have to deal with it, Sam. C’mon, dude, you’re supposed to be the rational one.”

“I can’t take care of a baby,” Sam says. “Especially not this one. We should give it up.”

“And wait ten years for some witch or demon or shapeshifter to find it and use it against us?” Dean asks. “No. That baby’s a Winchester. It’s ours.”

“This is going to end like everything else in our lives does,” Sam says. “In disaster.”

“Least we’re prepared,” replies Dean.

**

The dirty tattooist, the only one in town, inks Sam’s wrist in under half an hour. He and Dean lay low until it heals, until the little leaf looks like it’s always been there, and then Dean makes an appointment for Sam in the next big city and, true to his word, forces Sam to go when Sam tries to welch. It’s surreal to be sitting in a waiting room, surrounded by expectant mothers and one young-faced boy, pressed close to his brother, feeling ill. Time stretches on for an eternity, and by the time Sam’s name is called, his heart’s practically in his throat.

The nurse takes all of Sam’s vitals, starkly opposite in character to Julia, smiling and bubbly. She asks him when his last appointment was, and when he admits that he hasn’t seen a doctor yet, she hides her judgment. Sam still doesn’t like her on principle and tells Dean as much when she steps outside to get the doctor.

The doctor, a stern-faced man, is much more vocal in his disapproval, clucking when Sam tells him that he hasn’t been following a balanced diet, hasn’t been sleeping well. He stays in the room as the ultrasound technician preps Sam, and Sam makes himself look at the screen when they locate the parasite. It’s a baby-shaped alien blob, and no one exclaims in disgust or starts bustling around as though something’s wrong. That almost unnerves Sam more than if it had happened as such.

“Judging from your measurements and this scan,” the doctor says, “I’d put you around seven months. We can extrapolate a due date from there, but I’m a little concerned about your weight and blood pressure.”

“Lay it on me, doc,” Sam says. The doctor doesn’t seem to catch on to Sam’s disinterest, just plies him with information about bed rest and proper food that Sam promptly ignores. He and Dean bypass the front desk when they leave even though they’ve been given strict instructions to make another appointment two weeks in the future.

“I’m not staying here for two months,” Sam says baldly as they ride the elevator down.

**

In the end, they settle in South Dakota. It may hold bad memories, but it’s probably the only physical place where they’ve ever felt like home. It’s easy to find a place in Sioux Falls, settle into an apartment. Jodie helps Dean find a job in construction, tactfully doesn’t mention Sam’s situation.

None of this does anything to quell Sam’s trepidation. He almost wishes for the zombies back.
“What are we doing here, Dean?” Sam asks one night. He’s been bored out of his skull all day, reading while Dean pounded nails at some housing project across town.

“Fuck if I know, Sam,” Dean says. “Surviving? We both know what happened the last time I tried this.”

“So why the effort now?” Sam demands.

“‘Cause you’re gonna pop, and I’m not getting birthing fluids all over the Impala because you’re a stubborn pain in the ass.”

“We can’t live like this, Dean,” Sam says.

“You wanted to, once,” Dean says.

“That was a long time ago,” Sam points out.

“So what? You wanna start hunting? Do the same thing with this kid that Dad did with us? Is that the master plan here?”

“I don’t know,” admits Sam, looking down at his lap.

“Figure it out,” Dean retorts. It’s easier advice to give than to take.

**

Like before, they settle into a rhythm. There’s less ammunition now, more casseroles, more doctor’s appointments that Sam dreads going to. Jodie talks the local library into letting Sam volunteer at the help desk three times a week, and even though it drives Dean crazy, Sam relishes the ability to get out of the house and actually do something.

It’s three weeks before his projected due date when Sam wakes up to a radiating pain in the middle of the night. He doesn’t let Dean know until he’s practically paced a hole in the floor trying to alleviate it, and Dean is surprisingly calm as they drive to the hospital.

It’s a rush after that. The doctors had previously determined that Sam’s narrow hips would be a hindrance to natural birth and they prep him for a c-section pretty much the second after he’s examined. Dean looks funny in scrubs, like a caricature of himself, but Sam’s too loopy on whatever drugs they’ve given him to notice much. Time slips away, hazy under the harsh glow of the surgical lights, and then a piercing wail sounds in the air, making Dean visibly jump. Sam doesn’t much care about anything at the moment.

“It’s a girl,” pronounces the doctor, a surprise since neither of them had ever bothered to find out. Dean leaves Sam’s side and Sam lolls in nowhere-land for a while without the connection.

“She’s human,” Dean says, low enough that no one but Sam can hear. “Far as I can tell. Normal. We’ll need to get her home before I can do all the tests, but...Sam, there’s nothing wrong with her.”

“Whatever,” Sam says. A nurse comes over, shows Sam the parasite (his daughter) and Sam doesn’t remember much after that.

**

“She’s not gonna stab you, Sam,” Dean comments dryly, leaning back in his chair. It’s great that he finds this whole thing amusing, because Sam is, quite frankly, terrified.

“Take her back,” Sam demands. “I’m gonna drop it and it’s gonna die.”

“Dude, you’re sitting in a bed. Even you can’t fuck this one up. And it’s not an it. It’s your daughter. Dumbass.”

“It was growing inside me,” Sam argues.

“That’s what babies tend to do,” Dean remarks.

“This isn’t a baby,” Sam says. “It’s a spawn of Satan.”

“Passed the tests, Sam,” says Dean lightly. “Admit it. You’re just afraid that you’ll fall in love with her. Fuckin’ pussy.”

Sam swallows once, his saliva catching in his too-dry throat. She’s fussing a little in his arms, looking up at him with blank blue eyes, and he can’t identify how he feels about her. It’s unnerving. “She’s just gonna die,” Sam says. “Everyone close to us always dies, Dean. It’s like a law of the universe.”

Dean’s face goes fierce at that. “She’s not, ‘cause we’re gonna protect her. Nothing’s happening to her.”

“That’s what we tried to do with Jo, Bobby, Dad,” Sam points out. “It would be easier if we just gave her up now.”

“We’ve been over this, Sam. We let her go, she’ll probably get targeted anyway. She’s safest with us.”

Sam knows Dean has a point, but it’s hard to concede; he just doesn’t know how to do this. He stays quiet, the closest to an acquiescence that Dean is gonna get, and it’s ten minutes before Dean speaks again.

“What’re we gonna call her?” Dean asks.

“I don’t care, Dean,” Sam says tiredly.

“You’re shaping up to be a pretty crappy dad,” Dean comments, but it lacks censure. Sam doesn’t care enough to take offense.

“Don’t name her after someone who died,” Sam says. “I’ll feel like Harry fucking Potter.”

“I don’t even get that reference,” Dean says, “but point taken.”

“No stripper names either. Or naming her after one of your conquests.”

“Sounds like you do care after all,” Dean quips.

“Apparently it’s gonna be around for a while,” Sam responds. “I’m the one who has to live with your shitty judgment.”

“Reagan,” Dean says. “I like that name. Never knew a Reagan.”

“You’re gonna name our kid after the possessed girl from the Exorcist?” Sam asks flatly. “What is wrong with you?”

“Thought you didn’t care,” Dean remarks with a smile. “And she’s our kid now? Not it?”

“You’re feeding her the peas when she’s old enough,” Sam says. “I’m not going near that with a ten-foot pole. And Jesus, Dean, Reagan? You watch too much entertainment television. That’s like a celebrity baby name.”

“Fuck off,” Dean says, pushing at Sam’s shoulder. “You know you love it.”

**

Once Sam has healed, he refuses to be the one to stay home with the baby. She cries all the time and Sam’s no good with her, can never get her to settle down. She thinks Dean is the second coming, though, and it’s driving Sam crazy. Sam takes over Dean’s job in construction at first; it’s wildly boring, but it’s something to do, and leaves Dean with the kid. Dean is perfectly happy with it, content to sit on his ass at home and babysit.

It’s fucking weird.

Eventually, Sam is able to take over one of the full-time positions at the library even though he never went to school for it; there’s something to be said about charming all the old ladies who work there. Dean manages to convince Sam to allow him to work weekends, and they settle down like that. They don’t see each other much, which is fucking weird, but they’re surviving.

And then Reagan gets sick on Sam’s watch and Dean won’t answer his fucking cellphone.

Sam still doesn’t know what to do with her, even after three months. She’s warm, too warm, and she’s stopped crying, eerily quiet. Dean would know what to do, but he isn’t here, so Sam takes her to the ER.

He’s surprised to discover that he’s scared.

Dean has the car, and Sam only resists hotwiring one because they live here now. Instead, he gets the old lady downstairs to give him a ride, holding Reagan in a way that’s incredibly unsafe the entire way to the hospital because they only have one car-seat that Dean’s rigged to fit in the Impala. She gives him a kind, sympathetic look as she drops him off at the front door of the emergency room, and after he declines her offer of company, she tells him, “Don’t worry. Babies are resilient.”

It takes nearly two hours before they get in to see a doctor, and that’s only because Dean shows up halfway through and pulls his tough-guy act with the receptionist. They spend exactly fifteen minutes in the exam room where a tired-faced woman tells them that Reagan has what looks to be a viral infection.

“Baby tylenol will keep the fever down,” she says. “There’s not really anything else. Come back in if the fever gets worse or if she displays any other symptoms.”

“That’s it?” Dean demands.

She gives him a small smile as she stands up. “All first-time parents go through this,” she says. “Your baby will get sick from time to time. It’s normal, and most of the time, it’s harmless. She’ll be back to normal in a few days. You’ll see.”

Dean finds the whole thing amusing when Reagan is well again. “Looks like you do love her after all, you big worrywart,” he teases Sam, as if he hadn’t stormed into the ER looking lost and scared.

**

There are days when Sam wakes up and he’s back in zombie-land, still in that basement, swollen round and hating the thing inside of him, and then he remembers that, for once in his life, the fix has been easy. He and Dean have as normal a life as they can have being brothers who happen to have a kid together. It’s a mindfuck, but...in a good way. He doesn’t have to worry about making sure his gun’s always loaded, that he’s not about to get swept away by a ghost. Lucifer’s not talking anymore. It’s like someone went and turned his life over.

It’s not hard to start to like it.

And when he catches Dean’s eyes across the table, when Reagan looks up at him and he remembers that he has a connection with her, that she’s his, Sam begins to think that all the struggle’s been worth it. That it’s all been building to this point. That this is the life he was searching for when he was eighteen and scared out of his wits.

And even though it takes a while, eventually Sam knows that if this is it, if this is what Chuck’s gonna give him, he’s gonna take it.

And maybe, when Reagan’s old enough, a hunt on the side.

Hey, he is a Winchester, after all.

 

**

End