Title: Rewards
By: nancy
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: NC-17
Series: 1) Rituals, 2) Rites
Warnings: INCEST, angst, violence, series spoilers, language, Future!fic, MPREG
Summary: Sam gets a job with the local police and Dean has a baby. Life as usual for the Winchesters.

Dean stared at his stomach like the alien thing it had become. It was still flat, but Amanda said he probably wouldn’t show for another couple of months. Squinting at it suspiciously, he poked himself and said, “Hey. You in there.”

He didn’t feel any kind of internal response and made a face at it before stepping into the shower. They’d spent the night at Amanda’s, the first portion just talking about possibilities and stages and pretty much everything except the fact that none of them knew how the hell to handle something like this. Amanda had delivered several babies in her tenure as small-town doctor, but of course they’d all been women and only one had been a c-section.

Lifting his face to the hot water, Dean let himself drift and not think about anything. Even now at eight o’clock the next morning, Sam and Amanda were talking. Dean had woken up alone, but heard the rumble of his brother’s voice in the other room and relaxed. He didn’t feel any urges to throw up and wondered tiredly if it was a bizarre motion sickness.

Looking down at his stomach again, Dean said, “You better not be dissin’ my car, there, Junior.”

“Dean?” Sam asked, poking his head into the bathroom.

Dean snorted. “Nope. It’s a ghost taking a shower.”

“Would the ghost like breakfast, or is he just going to throw it back up?” Sam retorted.

Grinning, Dean thought about it and answered, “I think breakfast would be good.”

“Got it.”

Dean didn’t linger too long, not wanting to use up all of Amanda’s hot water on her. He dried off and got dressed, feeling better for the shower. When he got to the kitchen, he was surprised to find just Sam and asked, “Where’s Amanda?”

“She went to work,” Sam explained. “Said to help ourselves to whatever. She also thought it might be a good idea for us to look into sticking around.”

Dean nodded as he sat down. “Makes sense, but we’re not exactly employable.”

“You wouldn’t be working anyhow,” Sam said pointedly.

Grimacing when Sam looked at him, Dean told him, “I’m knocked up, not helpless.”

Sam scraped eggs onto a plate and brought it over to put in front of Dean. “We don’t know how the pregnancy’s going to affect you, Dean. If you really want to do this, then you aren’t working.”

Dean folded his arms over his chest and glared at his brother, demanding, “Since when are you the boss of me?”

Sam sighed, sitting in the chair next to him as he said, “I’m not, Dean, but come on. Can you just for once in your life let me help you?”

Dean softened at that and briefly cupped Sam’s face. “You’ve helped me plenty already, Sam.”

That caused Sam to brighten and he exclaimed, looking very pleased with himself, “That’s right! You totally owe me for saving your crossroads screwed ass! I’m calling in my payment, and it means you are not working.”

Dean groaned and started eating, thinking, Well I handed that to him on a silver platter.

Still, if it made Sam as happy as it obviously did, then Dean wouldn’t work. He pointed out, “Doesn’t change the fact that the first person to run a background check on you is going to trip all kinds of flags.”

“So I’ll work somewhere they don’t do checks,” Sam answered, shrugging.

Which meant manual labor. Dean had no problems with manual labor, it was a good, honest day’s work and he’d done it often enough on his own; he just had a problem with Sam doing it. Not only would it be a waste of his brother’s brains, but there wouldn’t be enough money to support two of them anyhow, soon to be three. Well, soon-ish. No, he needed an office job of some kind.

Shaking his head, he said at last, “We’ll figure something else out. Wouldn’t want your nails to get wrecked now, would we, Princess?”

Sam rolled his eyes at Dean and headed back to the stove.

Dean was about to ask why when he realized that he’d finished his plate. Surprised, Dean grinned happily and said, “Bring on the seconds.”

*  *  *  *

They were in the car for about five minutes when the nausea struck, hard and fast. Dean swerved to the side of the road, ignoring the honking horns, and barely made it out of the car and onto the sidewalk before heaving. Sam was with him seconds later, one hand rubbing slowly up and down his back, voice soothing him through the violent upheavals. Dean groaned at the continued spasming of his stomach, even when there was nothing left to come up.

He leaned on Sam without caring how pathetic it looked and gasped, “Fuck, that’s nasty! Remind me never to eat again.”

Sam’s hand continued to stroke up and down his back as he replied, “Dean, you were fine earlier. Um, I think maybe it’s motion sickness.”

Pushing away from Sam, he glared at his brother and exclaimed, “I am not motion sick from riding in my own damn car!”

“Everything all right here?”

They both looked to find a uniformed cop standing a short distance away. Thinking fast, Dean offered a wan smile and said, “Sorry about the mess, Officer. I guess I’m not over the stomach bug like I thought I was.”

Sam helped Dean to his feet and added, “He’s been sick for the last few days, but insisted he was fine and ate a regular breakfast this morning. Hey, do you know Amanda Lee? We’re friends of hers, staying with her right now, actually.”

Surprise lit the man’s face and he said, “Yeah, I know Amanda. She’s on the city plan, so she takes care of a lot of our families.”

Good guess, Sammy! Dean silently crowed while maintaining as pitiful an expression as possible.

“You guys mind if I check this out?” the cop asked.

Sam shrugged. “Be our guest. I’m just going to get him to lie down in the car.”

“Sam!” Dean hissed. “I am not going to…”

“Do you want to try driving back?” Sam interrupted.

Beaten and he knew it, there was no way he could drive back, Dean glared at him and shook Sam off as he went to lie down in the back seat. He heard Sam and the cop talking for a several minutes outside and had to give Sam credit for having balls of steel. The conversational tones were pleasant and polite without the least sign of nervousness. Dean was sure he couldn’t have pulled off the same, but then, they each had their acting niches.

Finally, Sam climbed in the driver’s side and said in a bemused tone, “He says there’s an opening in the department for a dispatcher.”

Dean sat upright and leaned on the front seat. “You aren’t seriously considering it?”

Sam half-twisted to face him and replied, “Well, assuming we can figure out how to put a stop on the background checks, why not? It’s a small town with no federal contacts, so we don’t have to worry about the FBI dropping by. And I bet they have domestic partnership clauses in their insurance.”

“Oh great. So not only would you work for the cops, but you’d be out,” Dean snapped. “What could possibly go wrong with that?”

Sam shrugged and said, “Still, it’s something to think about. We’ll ask Amanda how things are around here, police-wise.”

Dean lay back down and stared at the ceiling, rapidly revising his ‘balls of steel’ thought from before into, My brother’s a freakin’ moron.

*  *  *  *

Adding insult to injury, about ten minutes after Dean was on solid ground again and back in the house, he was starving with no sign that he’d ever been sick. Sam wisely kept his mouth shut about the whole situation. Twenty-five minutes later, Dean chowed down on pizza, corn chips, and soda while Sam talked to Amanda on the phone in the other room.

Guns lay in various pieces on the table next to the pizza, the soothing smell of gun oil filling his nose. By the time half of the pizza was gone and he’d demolished two sodas, three of their guns were spotlessly cleaned and back together.

Sam wandered in around then and asked, “Feeling better?”

Dean grunted and gave him a baleful eye.

“Right,” Sam muttered, sitting in the chair opposite. “Look, Amanda said there’s an anti-vomiting drug she can put you on, but the best thing is for you just not to be in a car for a few weeks. Let things work out naturally, you know?”

Dean glared at him and said, “How does that work? We’re going to have to get our own place soon and I’m damn sure not walking.”

“So for that day, you’ll take the medication,” Sam said calmly.

Dean observed, “You are so not getting lucky for a long damn time.”

Sam flushed and told him, “I’m going to research about the background check thing. See what I can find.”

Waving him off, Dean picked up another slice of pizza in one hand and the remote in the other. Television was craptastic during the day, but Amanda had some killer pay stations to choose from. He finally settled on Big Love because seriously; one dude and three chicks? Even with a gazillion kids running, that was hot.

He fell asleep sometimes later, waking only briefly when Sam shifted him so he was stretched out instead of sitting up. He vaguely felt the blanket draped over him and the pillow under his head, but stayed mostly asleep. When he woke for real, the sun showed late in the sky and the house had an empty feel to it.

Rubbing his eyes, Dean called out, “Sam?”

He stood when there was no response and wandered into the kitchen to get something to drink. A note on the fridge read, ‘Went to pick up some ingredients on a possible ward. Be back soon, Sam.’ Surprised that his brother had found a possibility so fast, Dean took out the container of orange juice and wound up drinking down the whole thing. Wincing, he tossed it and started making a list of things they had to replace for Amanda.

It was only about four in the afternoon, so he opened up the laptop and started to email Bobby when he realized there was no way he could make this kind of announcement over email. Not with Ellen or Missouri, either. And then he started thinking about whether they should make any kind of announcement at all. What if something happened and the baby didn’t make it? Or what if this strained the realm of acceptance even for their admittedly open-minded, extended family? It was one thing to be in a relationship with his brother, but having his baby?

And even if everything went perfectly, there was the distinct possibility that something would be wrong with the baby. Incest was illegal for a reason, after all, and deformed babies were at the top of the list. Amanda had already said that she’d be keeping a very close eye on the baby’s development, but that didn’t mean nothing would happen. It just meant they would know about it if it did.

He and Sam had hashed this out the night before, though not to any real conclusion. Dean’s thoughts kept coming back to the same thing…Could they handle a child who was disabled? That they would be settling down was a forgone conclusion, but adding to that a child who needed some kind of special care? Dean had no idea if he could handle something like that and yet, he also knew that he couldn’t give up his own flesh and blood.

“Dean? Are you okay?”

Jumping at Amanda’s soft question, Dean looked over at her and realized that he must’ve looked like he’d gone into a trance. He half-smiled and said, “Just having a minor freak-out. New Moms are allowed them, I hear.”

She smiled and walked over, saying, “Definitely. Especially in your case. I picked up a bunch of books on c-sections to read over and I’m going to be standing in on a lot of them between now and your due date. By the time you’re ready to deliver, I’ll be the local expert, I promise.”

“Amanda, I don’t want you rearranging your practice just for me!” he protested.

Amanda rubbed his shoulder and said, “I want to, Dean. You saved my life and this is my chance to repay the favor.”

Dean opened his mouth to point out they hadn’t done much for her when she put a finger across his lips and stated, “This is something I want to do, okay?”

To that, all Dean could do was nod and tell her sheepishly, “I drank all your orange juice.”

Laughing a little, Amanda said, “Good! Drink up all that ascorbic acid! Hey, where’s Sam? Should we start dinner without him?”

“Depends on what’s for dinner,” Dean answered, grinning. “And he went out to pick up some things on a ward.”

Amanda shook her head and commented, “It still astounds me that things like witchcraft and spells work. I’m flabbergasted, truly.”

Dean nodded agreement and said, “It’s a strange world out there.”

Dinner turned out to be really awesome Chinese and Dean ordered plenty for Sam, knowing that it took a lot to fill him up. His brother arrived shortly after the food did and he promptly sat down beside Dean and stole his sparerib.

Dean elbowed him and protested, “Dude! Eating for two! Give it back!”

Sam grinned and continued eating before saying, “I think I’ve got the whole name thing worked out.”

Eyebrows raised, Dean asked cautiously, “Yeah?”

“Yep,” Sam confirmed, not elaborating. “Eat the brown rice.”

Dean made a face, but Amanda nodded and held out the container to him. Grumbling to himself, Dean took it and grabbed a fork. “So what else? And where’d you go, anyhow? All the way to Missouri’s?”

That launched Sam into a conversation about an occult bookstore the next town over. It was run by an old man who was a decent psychic, but a better businessman and teacher. Sam said how they’d talked for a few hours about wards, charms, and spells. Dean worked his way through the Moo Shoo Pork while his brother waxed poetic about books and wards and disciplines, ignoring most of everything he said. Amanda seemed fascinated and gave Sam most of his audience, even asking questions.

Dean headed for bed around ten, an unthinkably early hour for him, but unable to deny that his lids were drooping. Since Sam and Amanda were geeking out together, he just grinned and kissed the top of Sam’s head on his way to the bathroom to get ready for the night. He climbed into bed not too long after and dozed until Sam wandered in a couple of hours later.

Sam spooned up behind him and nuzzled at the back of Dean’s neck as he asked, “How’re you feeling?”

Mmm…good,” Dean answered, mostly asleep as he pulled Sam’s arm around his waist. “Night, Sammy.”

Sam chuckled and murmured, “Night, Dean.”

*  *  *  *

Sam again woke before Dean the next morning and took a few minutes just to feel his brother’s warm, heavy weight on him. They were in the same position as when they’d gone to sleep and he hummed softly in contentment. He was a little worried that Dean was sleeping so much, but Amanda had already told him to expect it. Normal mothers-to-be slept a lot more than usual, so they could reasonably figure on Dean going overboard in that aspect. His body was going through so many changes that it boggled the mind.

Kissing Dean’s shoulder, Sam carefully climbed out of bed and got ready for the day. It was about seven-thirty when he was done and he found Amanda in the kitchen reading one of the textbooks on c-sections. He swallowed nervously at the reminder that Dean would have to be cut open to deliver the baby and asked, “How’s that going?”

She smiled at him and promised, “It’ll be fine in eight months, Sam. Like I told Dean, I plan to stand in on a lot of c-sections between now and then.”

Relieved, Sam sat with her and asked, “So they just let you do that?”

“Well, not normally, but I know the head of Maternity at the hospital,” she answered. “We’ve been friends for a long time and she’s been after me to get a specialty for a few years. Said I’m wasted on GP.”

“You are pretty overqualified,” Sam ventured.

Chuckling, Amanda explained, “I was actually in a biochemistry program immediately after graduation at the CDC. I was there for a year before I realized that my talents lay with people more than test tubes and slides.”

Sam said emphatically, “I’m glad you’re good with test tubes and slides, especially considering what happened back in River Grove.”

“Well yes. That did come in handy,” she allowed, half-smiling.

Sam poured himself milk from the carton on the table and asked, “What do you think about Dean working?”

Amanda sat back as she thought about it and then said slowly, “I suppose as long as he doesn’t overdo, it should be fine. I would wait until his stomach settles down, of course, but I can’t see why he shouldn’t be able to do whatever he likes without straining himself.”

Not the answer he’d been hoping for but he didn’t like manipulating Dean if there was no basis in fact for him to need to do it.

“I would caution him about standing for any kind of sustained period or doing any lifting, however. We don’t want him to accidentally rupture anything and I don’t know just how tethered to his uterine wall the fetus is. It seems like a normal pregnancy at this stage, aside from Dean being a man, but I’d err on the side of caution.”

Sam nodded and thought about what Dean could do that wouldn’t require some kind of manual labor. He honestly couldn’t picture Dean in any kind of office setting, given his problems with authority. Data entry, maybe, but he also couldn’t see his brother sitting and typing in numbers all day.

Setting that aside for the time being, Sam stood and went to make some oatmeal for himself. He would have to go shopping for food later, since they wouldn’t be eating takeout every night. Dean wasn’t exactly a bull in a china shop when it came to cooking, but his idea of three square meals consisted of meat, bread, and cheese in some combination.

“What’s on for you today? More of the ward studying?” Amanda asked.

Sam sat back down with his bowl and nodded. “I really think I’m onto something. It’s a simple enough spell. It protects our family name and all our kin from prosecution and persecution in all their many, varied forms. Neither law enforcement, nor a hunter on a holy mission, will be able to find us. And if someone files a background check, they’ll find what they expect to find from a clean-cut, well dressed young man; a college education and no trouble whatsoever. And the requests will never actually be filed, they’ll just think that they’ve done it.”

Amanda whistled in admiration. “Now that, is handy.”

Sam grinned as he agreed, “It will be, yeah.”

“How long should it take?”

“Well, I’ll get the ingredients today and, if there’s time, do the spell, too. If not, then tomorrow.”

“And what about the position Jake told you about?”

“Ah. So he did talk to you again after we left,” Sam guessed.

Amanda smiled and told him, “Sidewinder’s still a pretty small town, just not as small as River Grove.”

Nodding, Sam said, “I’ll give them a call tomorrow about it as a general inquiry. I’ll hold off on the interview until next week so we can make sure the ward is in good working order.”

“How will you do that?” she asked, curious.

“Apply for a job and hope we don’t have to run like hell.”

Eyebrows lifting, she observed, “That’s not very scientific.”

Sam snorted and replied, “That’s because it’s not science.”

“What’s not science?” Dean asked, yawning as he entered the room.

Sam smiled at the sight of his brother with hair sticking up and rubbing his eyes. He reiterated, “Testing the spell. I told her I would have to apply for a job and hope we don’t have to run for it.”

Dean sat in the chair next to Sam as he told Amanda, “Sam’s one of the best with that stuff. The only one who doubts him, is him.”

Sam flushed at the unexpected compliment.

“See? Look at that. Total nerd to get flustered at a compliment,” Dean teased. “You’d never know he was a Winchester, sometimes.”

Amanda laughed softly and said, “And on that note, I should get to work. Have a good day boys. Oh, and Dean? Don’t drive.”

He grumbled, “Oh sure. Kick me while I’m down.”

She chuckled again and left the kitchen, book tucked under her arm.

Sam looked at Dean and asked, “How’re you feeling?”

“Starving,” Dean answered, grimacing. “No sign of nausea.”

“I’ll make you some pancakes, how’s that?” Sam suggested.

Perking up, Dean said, “That rocks, actually.”

Sam stood and squeezed Dean’s shoulders before heading for the cabinets to see what he could find. Amanda had all the ingredients, so that was a plus, and in no time at all, he’d cooked up enough pancakes for them both while Dean pulled out plates, silverware, butter and syrup.

Grinning at Sam, Dean observed, “I love being in a woman’s kitchen. Chick’s always have everything totally stocked.”

“I’ll be sure and tell Amanda you approve,” Sam replied dryly.

Dean set-to with enthusiasm and Sam watched him fondly for a few seconds before tucking into his own breakfast. They polished it off pretty quick and cleaned up in synch, as always. Once the little things were done, Sam said, “I’m going to read up on this spell.”

Nodding, Dean told him, “I think I’ll knit some socks.”

Sam snorted. “Have fun. Try not to interrupt me.”

Dean gave him a mournful look and observed, “The magic is gone already.”

“Dean, the magic will never be gone, but we need to make money, so I need to study,” Sam replied, grinning.

Dean flashed him a grin and asked, “Well what are you waiting for? I’m gonna go watch tv. See ya.”

Shaking his head, Sam went to the Impala and pulled out the bag with his new book. He settled down in the kitchen, putting a classical music station on low as he cracked open the large, leather tome. It took a few minutes to get in the groove, but he managed and then suddenly his notebook was filled with notes and Dean loomed over him, poking him in the shoulder. Giving his brother an annoyed look, he asked, “What? I’m studying.”

“And suddenly, you’re fifteen all over again,” Dean retorted. “You need to eat, Einstein. Or, I do anyhow and there’s nothing in the fridge. I can’t drive to the store, remember?”

Sam closed the book and looked at the clock, surprised to see it was almost two. Giving Dean an exasperated look, he asked, “Why didn’t to interrupt sooner?”

“You said not to!” Dean protested.

Sighing, Sam got to his feet and put his hands on Dean’s shoulders. “If you need something, interrupt me.”

Dean glanced away as he muttered, “The spell’s important.”

“You’re more important,” Sam instantly contradicted. He kissed Dean lightly and then told him, “Make a list of things you want me to pick up. I’ll give Harry Truman’s card a spin today.”

Snickering, Dean admitted, “That’s almost as good as your John F. Kennedy.”

“Well, you had to have the F in it for it to count,” Sam replied, grinning.

Dean made a list in short order and handed it to Sam, looking almost hesitant as he did.

Curious, Sam scanned it and blinked a few times in surprise. “You really want pickled eggs and herring?”

Folding his arms over his chest, Dean answered defensively, “They’re salty! I want salty.”

Sam held up his hands and said, “Then I’ll pick them up.”

He definitely wasn’t going to voice the thought that there were a lot better things for salt cravings than pickled eggs and herring. He squeezed Dean’s shoulder on the way by and was all the way to the door when Dean choked out his name. Turning, he found his brother gasping with laughter and leaning on the table. Smelling a rat, he demanded, “What are you laughing at?”

“Dude! You totally fell for it!” Dean exclaimed, still laughing. “Pickled eggs? Herring? Man, that shit’s nasty!”

Sam glared at his brother before stalking out of the house, followed by Dean’s howls of laughter.

*  *  *  *

As more of a statement than anything else, Sam set the jar of pickled eggs and the package of herring in front of Dean while he continued to unpack the groceries. Dean, typically, snickered with laughter while stealing the bag of chips right from Sam’s hands and opened it up to start munching on. Sam shook his head and put away the food before informing his brother, “Just for that little stunt, you’re making lunch.”

Dean grinned as he stood and answered easily, “Sure thing, Sammy.”

Sam grit his teeth but didn’t bother to correct his brother; it was just an exercise in futility. Lunch was grilled cheese and tomato, with Sam getting distracted by Dean’s dexterity with the knife. Dean smirked at him, but didn’t comment when Sam flushed and looked away.

“So how’s the ward thing looking, anyhow?” Dean asked, partway through the meal.

Sam washed down his food with the soda and answered, “I’m going to head out this afternoon to pick up supplies. We should be able to do this tomorrow.”


“Well you have to be there for it to work,” Sam explained.

Dean nodded. “What’s it involve?”

“It’s a spell.”

“Well, yeah, I figured that much, but what kind?”

Sam half-smiled at his brother’s wary expression. “Don’t worry. It’s not some great power or anything, just misdirection.”

Dean’s eyebrows went up. “Misdirection?”

“Calls on some old Celtic powers from a book I found at Jake’s. It’s the only real solution I’ve been able to find,” Sam told him. “Let’s just give this a try and see what happens.”

“And what happens if we have to run when I can’t even go a half-hour in a car without puking?” Dean countered.

“We get you a barf bag?”

“Very funny.”

Sam reached out and took his hand, squeezing as he promised, “It’s going to work.”

Dean heaved a sigh and told him, “It better. I like it here.”

He paused, surprised by those words. From his brother’s expression, they took him by surprise, too. Pulling his hand free, Dean shrugged it off and got up to leave the table. He didn’t get very far before Sam surrounded him from behind, hugging him and slowly rubbing his belly.

“I like it here, too,” Sam murmured against his ear.

Dean grumbled, “That’s because you’re a big girl,” but couldn’t help grinning as he stroked a quick hand over Sam’s before tugging free.

*  *  *  *

Dean watched as Sam put together the rite that was supposed to keep them all safe from then on and wasn’t in the least impressed. Basic herbs to burn, standard designs drawn in graveyard charcoal on the floor, and a few words in Latin were big mojo? Not in Dean’s book.

Shaking his head as Sam finished drawing the last sigil, Dean commented, “I think the old fart’s yankin’ your chain, Sammy. This is tourist crap.”

Sam made a face at him and said firmly, “It’ll work.”


“I don’t know, Dean, that’s why it’s called magic, remember?”

“Don’t get pissy with me, Samantha, I was just asking a question.”

Taking a deep breath, Sam released it explosively and said, “Sorry. Look, I know it doesn’t look like much, but the very simplicity keeps it flexible and open, which we want. It will cover both of us and um, any more kids we might have.”

Dean’s gaze narrowed at him and he growled, “Unless you’re talking surrogate, this is the only kid ‘we’re’ having.”

“Right, but just in case,” Sam agreed, adding hastily, “it protects our family name and all of those in our line from prosecution, and persecution, in all their many, varied forms.”

Intrigued by the possibilities, Dean wondered what would happen if he…

“We are not testing it by robbing a bank or jewelry store to see if the cops come after us,” Sam warned sternly.

Dean assumed an innocent expression. “I wasn’t thinking that at all.”

Sam continued to look suspicious, but went back to the final prep. When it was done, he stood and stepped into the pentacle. “Well?”

Dean heaved a sigh and stepped into the pentacle as well. “Fine. Give it your best shot, Merlin.”

Sam held his hand and recited the spell from memory. It was short and to the point, Dean’s mind automatically translating the Latin as Sam said, “Protection from harm, from here into infinity; protection from persecution, from here into infinity; protection from prosecution from here into infinity; this line of Winchester and all its heirs shall be.”

Unbelievably, a shiver of something…power...did actually go through Dean immediately after the incantation and he saw a brief glow along the edges of the drawings. More than a little surprised that anything had happened, he looked at Sam and asked, “Now what?”

“Now we test it,” Sam answered, stepping out of the circle. “I’ll go down and confirm the interview on Monday, get an interview this week.”

Dean hesitated and then asked, “Shouldn’t we wait? Just in case we need to make a getaway. I can’t travel like this.”

Sam cupped his face and promised, “It’ll be fine. I know this will work.”

Dean’s stomach twisted and he felt the need to vomit close in. Staying very still and breathing shallowly helped, as did Sam’s hand on his stomach, and finally it passed. “Okay. I’m good now.”

“C’mon, let’s sit down,” Sam urged, sliding his arm around Dean’s waist.

Allowing his brother to guide him to the sofa, Dean sat and sighed deeply as he relaxed against Sam. Lacing their fingers together, he said, “This could backfire big time, Sam.”

Sam nodded and replied, “Which is why I’m testing it and not you. Worse comes to worst, they toss me in jail for a few years on obstruction. You’d get life or worse, Dean, and we both know it.”

Dean pressed, “And if you get tossed in jail? What about the kid?”

What about me? is what he really wanted to ask, but couldn’t.

Sam kissed the side of his neck and said, “If I get arrested, you will stay as far away from me as possible and raise this baby on your own. You’ll love him or her with everything you have, and you’ll give him or her the childhood we never got. And then I’ll find you both when I get out. Promise me that you’ll do that, Dean.”

Torn, Dean didn’t say anything for a long time. On the one hand, he knew he could pull off a jailbreak and get Sam out wherever they put him. On the other, if he failed and got caught, their son or daughter would be raised by someone else. He finally said, “Don’t get caught, Sam, and we don’t have to worry about it.”

Sam made an exasperated noise. “Dean, promise me.”

“Fine! I promise,” Dean growled. He squeezed Sam’s hand and continued, “This better work, though. I will kick your ass if you get thrown in jail.”

Wry, Sam replied, “You probably won’t be the only one.”

It was too horrible a thought to even consider, so Dean changed the subject and said, “Amanda wants to do an ultrasound this week to see how things are going inside.”

Sam nodded and agreed, “That’s a good idea.”

They spent the rest of the day watching television and not talking much. There was too much that could go wrong that neither wanted to bring up. Dean sure as hell didn’t want to, at least. He fell asleep somewhere in the middle of the early news and woke up to the wonderful smell of Mexican food. Mouth watering, he stood and stretched before ambling into the kitchen, his nose leading the way. “God, that smells great!”

Sam grinned at him from the table where he was dishing out rice from a container. There were already burritos laid out on the plates. “Amanda brought dinner.”

“Where is she?” Dean asked, looking around the otherwise empty kitchen.

Motioning for him to sit, Sam replied, “She had enough time to drop the food before running to the hospital to observe a birth. Last minute labor.”

Yay,” Dean muttered, sitting.

The food hit the spot, waking him up and cheering him up in the way that only spicy food could. Dinner passed in a comfortable silence and Junior also seemed in favor of the spicy food, not making Dean the least bit queasy. When he finally pushed away his plate, he’d put away four beef enchiladas, a heaping amount of rice, a ton of tortilla chips, and washed it down with milk. He sighed and said morosely, “What I wouldn’t give for a beer, right now.”

Sam gave him a sympathetic look. “Sorry. But hey. At least I’m staying alcohol free with you.”

Dean snorted and replied, “Like that’s a big hardship for you. Now, if you were going to give up being such a girl for the next eight months, that would probably be a real struggle.”

Grinning, Sam picked up the plates and suggested, “I could always start wearing pastels and coordinating my outfits.”

Dean gaped at him in horror. “Don’t even joke about that!”

“Then stop complaining about me being a girl,” Sam replied, still grinning.

Watching Sam clean up around the kitchen, it was annoying to realize that he was tired again. Looking down at his stomach, Dean muttered, “You’re worse than a bad battery in the Impala.”

Sam walked over to him and started massaging his shoulders, provoking a groan of pleasure. “Tired?”

“I shouldn’t be,” Dean retorted. “Took my nap and everything.”

Kissing the top of Dean’s head, Sam pointed out, “Your body’s changing all the time, Dean. That takes a lot out of you.”

Dean grumbled under his breath, but didn’t really argue.

“C’mon. Let’s go to bed early.”

Dean nodded and kept hold of Sam’s hand as they walked to the bedroom. He got changed into sweats and under the blankets while Sam took a shower, watching television and drowsing as he waited. Sam got into bed about a half-hour later and Dean curled up against him right away, putting an arm over his chest.

Sam’s hand rubbed up and down his back in a slow, soothing motion. “It’s going to be okay, Dean. I’m going to get this job and pass the security check. Then we’re going to get our own place and you’re going to have this baby and we’ll be a family.”

“I miss Dad,” Dean blurted out, the words surprising even him. When Sam stiffened beneath him, and not in a good way, he added hurriedly, “I mean, I do miss him, a lot, but I have you, so it’s not so bad. But, if I lose you too, Sam, I don’t know…I don’t think I can raise this kid on my own. Can’t we just not test it until after he’s born? Let’s go to Bobby’s and have him there.”

Sam sighed and answered, “You know we can’t, Dean. You wouldn’t make it two miles before throwing up. Bobby’s way too far away to even consider a trip there, with how you react to driving even if he had the facilities to handle this kind of birth, which he doesn’t.”

Pressing his face to Sam’s chest, Dean nodded silently, knowing that his brother was right, even though he wanted to try it anyhow.

“We’ll be okay.”

Dean tried not to think about just how uncertain Sam sounded.

*  *  *  *

Sam’s stomach didn’t just flutter with nervous butterflies; it twisted and squirmed as though trying to get away from him altogether. He walked calmly into the police department’s floor of the small, town hall building, smiled at the man sitting behind the front desk, and signed in as he said, “I’m here to talk to HR about the dispatcher position?”

“Oh right, you’re the fella staying with Doc Lee,” the man replied, smiling back. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, had dark hair and eyes, and wore a welcoming expression. “Hang on. I’ll give Sally a buzz for you.”

Sam said, “Thanks,” and moved to sit in one of the plastic chairs by the wall. He looked around the open floor plan, seeing the four desks with their uniformed deputies behind them, chatting and laughing together. He also took in the ancient file cabinets that lined the walls and the brand new computers on each desk. There were two office doors set in opposite walls, one of which read ‘Sheriff Geoffrey Ralphs’ and the other ‘Dispatcher.’

His palms were damp with nerves and his grip on the leather briefcase handle a little too tight. Walking into the Lion’s Den had him torn with the urge to run away and throw up. Sam wiped his palms one at a time on his pants, glad they didn’t leave a stain behind.


Sam’s gaze jerked to the man behind the desk and then he forced a sheepish grin, nodding. He stood and walked over to the desk, saying, Been a while since I’ve been on an interview.”

Nodding, the guy held out his hand and said, “Neil Darrow. I’ve been here a couple of years now, moved into town ‘cause this is where my wife grew up.”

Sam took his hand and replied, “Sam Winchester. My partner and I are friends of Amanda, well obviously we are if we’re staying at her house. Anyhow, she’s been raving about this town for forever so we finally decided to check it out. Didn’t expect to get an interview our first week here, that’s for sure.”

Neil prompted, “Your partner?”

“Dean,” Sam confirmed. “We’ve been together, well, forever it seems.”

Neil’s phone rang before he could respond and he picked it up with, “Sidewinder Sheriff’s Department, can I help you? Oh hey, Sally. Yeah, we were just talking a bit. Bright kid. I think he’s perfect. I’ll send him down.”

Sam waited expectantly as Neil hung up, curious as to why an HR manager would ask the input of the receptionist.

Grinning, Neil told him, “I sure know what it means to feel like you’ve been together forever. Me and Lilly met senior year in high school when she was in LA visiting her aunt. Crazy, right? Who leaves town for their senior year in high school to start somewhere new? But that’s my Lilly. So now go back out in the hall and turn left. Sally’s the last door on the left before you turn the corner.”

Sam nodded and said, “It was good to meet you, Neil.”

“You too, Sam.”

Leaving the department, Sam turned left and walked to the door as instructed, knocking first. A woman called out, “Come on in!” so he turned the knob and entered. The office was tiny with just enough room for the desk, several file cabinets, and a chair on either side of the desk. There was a small window set high in the wall, but no other natural light, just the florescent one overhead.

Sitting behind the desk was a ginger-haired woman in her fifties with just a little too much weight and a broad smile as she stood and thrust a hand in his direction. “Mr. Winchester? I’m Sally Burnell.”

Sam shook her hand and replied, “It’s good to meet you, ma’am.”

“Oh, please don’t ma’am me, or I’ll really start feeling old,” she replied, chuckling. “It’s Sally. And may I call you Sam?”

Nodding, Sam agreed, “Of course.”

“Good! And now that we have the formalities out of the way, I must say just how impressed I am by your resume, Sam!”

Sam frowned and prompted, “Are you sure you read mine? I’ve never worked in Law Enforcement before. Actually, I haven’t had many jobs at all and none of them were in an office setting. Well, other than the library and I’m not sure that counts.”

She chuckled again, a warm, relaxing sound, and told him, “Honesty, I like that! What I was impressed by were your grades at Stanford and your computer skills. We need that here, desperately. The problem with small town life is the young folks leave and take all their technology with them. It’s not the same when you try and teach us, it’s not second-nature like with your generation. Now, you’re not going to up and leave us when you get bored, are you?”

Clearing his throat, charmed by her in spite of himself, Sam shook his head and explained, “My partner, Dean, and I are more than ready to settle down. We want to start a family and are looking into private adoptions. Amanda kept insisting that we should come here to live so we’re here to check things out. I really didn’t expect to get a job interview so soon.”

Sally nodded. “That’s what Amanda tells me. And having a glowing recommendation from the town doctor doesn’t hurt you any, either, let me just say.”

Sam hadn’t realized that Amanda had put herself so much on the line with that and made a note to both scold and thank her. If things went bad, then she would have to run with them. If it went well, though, it would partly be due to her recommendation, Sam knew.

“In any case, I’m more than pleased by what I see here and Sheriff Darrow seemed to like you very much. If you like the salary and benefits, I’m ready to sign you on right now,” Sally finished.

Sam’s jaw dropped. “Wait, I thought the Sheriff’s name was Geoffrey Ralphs? It was on the office door.”

Chuckling again, Sally said, “Neil took office about six months ago when Geoff retired and just never got around to changing the door. He was on the desk because he wanted to meet you without any pressure. He’s a sneaky one, our Sheriff, but a good man.”

Sam mentally shook off the surprise and asked, “Um, well, what about the package? We need domestic partnership for our health insurance.”

Sally waved that off. “Not a problem. Jackie and her partner Evelyn broke us in years ago. They’ve got a little boy name of Jacob who is the most adorable thing you’d ever want to see. He’s five now, but you should’ve been here when I was on the phone with the insurance company every day about her benefits when they were trying to get pregnant with him. Full medical coverage for both of you and you’ll get paternity leave once you get the child or baby adopted. Plus there’s the Family Medical Leave Act to take advantage of. Do you have an estimate for when you might be getting him?”

“Oh, not until after the new year,” Sam assured her. “We need to buy a house and get settled first. Can’t keep sleeping in Amanda’s guest room.”

Smiling, Sally agreed, “I know how that goes, though from the other side of it. My occasionally jobless brother shows up now and again. At least you’re polite enough to not outstay your welcome. Now, about salary.”

Sam tensed a bit, knowing that everything so far had been too good to be true.

“You’re untried even with your skills, so I’m afraid I’ll have to start you on the low end of the spectrum. I hope fifty-five a year won’t be too much of a problem? There will be a performance evaluation in three and six months, with performance raises possible at those times at the Sheriff’s discretion.”

Sam gaped at her. “Fifty-five thousand?”

She grinned and replied, “I’ll take that as a yes, you’ll take the job.”

Sam instantly nodded and held out a hand, “Sally, I don’t know how to thank you for this! It’s, well, it’s perfect. When do I start?”

Laughing a bit, she took his hand and suggested, “How’s today sound? I’ve got a ton of paperwork to have you fill out and then we can cram in the orientation.”

“That sounds great!” Sam enthused. “I’ll just call Dean and let him know. Oh, wait, what about the background check? Don’t you need to wait for that?”

Sally shook her head and told him, “As soon as you confirmed the interview on Monday, I put it in the works. You cleared without any problems, as I knew you would with Amanda’s recommendation.”

Sam felt weak with both relief and reaction. If he hadn’t already done the wards over the weekend, they would’ve been screwed. Letting out a shaky breath, he smiled again and said, “Great. That’s, it’s perfect. I’m just going to call Dean.”

“Take your time, Sam.”

He left the office thinking, Call Dean and then throw up in the men’s room if I can find it.

*  *  *  *

Dean looked up as Sam finally walked into the kitchen shortly after seven. He looked both excited and exhausted, not that Dean blamed him. The letdown alone from knowing the background check went through without any problems would have wiped him out, never mind spending a full day at work. Grinning, Dean greeted, “All hail the conquering hero.”

Sam snorted, but replied, “Thanks. God that smells good. You’re making pancakes?”

Nodding, Dean said, “Comfort food for you. Plus, I really just wanted some. Just about to put on the bacon, so take a load off. You want a beer?”

Loosening his tie, Sam sat at the table and shook his head. “No, beer and pancakes don’t really go together for me.”

“Bite your tongue!” Dean gasped in mock-horror. “Beer goes with everything.”

Sam laughed and asked, “So what did you do all day?”

Dean rolled his eyes as he dropped bacon into the frying pan. “Oh you know. Caught up on my soaps. Watched a little Judge Judy. What do you think I did? I got ready to leave in case we had to hightail it out of here. And then I re-unpacked. And then I cleaned the weapons.”

“Busy day then,” Sam teased.

“Keep it up and this bacon is all mine,” Dean warned.

Sam stood and walked up behind him, sliding his arms around Dean’s waist as he nuzzled the back of Dean’s neck and teased, “You poor, mistreated man you.”

Dean’s lips twitched into a grin and he agreed, “Damn skippy. So tell me the important details. Any hot chicks in the office?”

Sam shook with silent laughter as his hand rubbed Dean’s belly and answered, “Yes, but she’s a lesbian so you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Wow. So this is like queer paradise,” Dean observed. He leaned back against Sam while skillfully flipping over the bacon.

Snorting, Sam commented, “I doubt they’re un-pc enough to say so, unlike some people in this kitchen. And here I thought I was rubbing off on you.”

Dean laughed outright at that and chortled, “Oh you do. Frequently.”

Sam made an annoyed sound before slapping him on the butt and walking to the fridge. “You’re impossible.”

Still snickering, Dean slid the cooked meat onto the plate to wipe off some of the grease with a paper towel and then set it on the table with the plate of fluffy pancakes. There weren’t many meals he could do well, but pancakes were definitely on the list.

Dean sat as Sam was pouring a glass of milk and made a face at him when his brother set it down right in front of him. “I had my calcium for the day, thanks.”

“Then consider this for the baby,” Sam retorted, putting the milk back. He sat next to Dean with a glass of water and continued, “Full medical benefits, domestic partnership, paternity leave when we “adopt” the baby, and fifty-five thousand dollars in salary a year.”

Dean forgave the smug tone in favor of thinking about what they could do with that kind of money. Sam had added it up once, what they ‘made’ in a year between scamming credit cards, the occasional gift from a grateful victim, and hustling pool. After necessities like food and gas, it had come to an even sixteen thousand a year; not counting the necessities, it had been twenty-one thousand. He finally managed, “Damn, Sammy. Who did you do to get that kind of money?”

Grinning, Sam told him, “Apparently there’s a severe lack of “young folks” with technological skills. My role as Dispatcher’s going to have additional duties like spreadsheet reports and proposals to the town council, that kind of stuff.”

“And here I thought being a nerd would never pay off,” Dean teased.

Sam snickered and lifted his glass of water towards Dean as he said, “Here’s to a new life.”

Dean clinked his glass of milk to it and agreed emphatically, “A better one.”

Amanda came in just as Sam’s lips touched his and Dean mentally grumbled at the interruption.

“Is this a celebratory feast?” she questioned merrily.

Sam stood and walked over to her, giving her a hug and then stepping back to scold, “You could have gotten into serious trouble if the ward hadn’t worked, vouching for me like that!”

She shrugged and rubbed his shoulder before saying, “I had faith in you. Oh, and Sally thinks that you are just too yummy for words, by the way.”

Dean’s eyebrows shot up at the way Sam blushed and he echoed, “Sally?”

“She does human resources for the town,” Amanda explained. She grabbed a plate and sat opposite them before continuing, “She told me that if Sam wasn’t already taken, she would’ve loved to set him up with her granddaughter.”

It was Sam’s eyebrows that went up at that. “She has a granddaughter our age?”

Nodding, Amanda helped herself to the pancakes while Dean relaxed at the mention of a granddaughter. Anyone old enough to have one that old, well, no threat there.

“Relatively close. Sally was quite the racy woman in her time. Had a daughter out of wedlock when she was just nineteen and refused to name the father,” Amanda told them. “Her daughter did the same thing, well, got pregnant anyhow, at seventeen but she married her boyfriend of the time. They’re divorced now, but the granddaughter, Sarah, has broken the cycle. Claims that she’s never getting married. Sally thinks you could cure that.”

Sam chuckled and reached out to ruffle Dean’s hair as he said, “If I weren’t already taken.”

Dean swatted his hand. “Watch the hair.”

Conversation turned to general matters and dinner was over before Dean knew it. Sam and Amanda cleared the plates and he yawned, unexpectedly tired even though he really hadn’t done much.

Sam’s hands rested on his shoulders to massage them as he said, “Early night tonight for us, I think. I need to be at work by seven, so I’ll be up at five. And you need your rest.”

Dean snorted at the overprotective tone, but didn’t contradict him. The big meal and emotional fallout of the day were combining into an irresistible weight dragging at his eyelids. Standing, he said, “Night, Amanda. Thanks for everything.”

“It was my pleasure. Night, guys,” she replied, pulling out a giant book from her book bag.

Sam put an arm around Dean’s waist and they walked to the bedroom down the hall. Leaning on him, Dean asked, “So you think this could work? Really?”

Closing the door behind them, Sam answered, “I do, really. Dean, with this kind of money, we can buy a house and really give this baby a home. Stability. Somewhere he or she can always come back to.”

Dean sat on the bed and questioned, “What about hunting? We can’t just stop hunting. People still need our help.”

“The world will go on without us, Dean,” Sam replied firmly. “We’ve got someone else to think about now.”

Even though Dean nodded, he couldn’t help wondering, What if I need to hunt?

Because what was he…who was he…if he didn’t hunt?

*  *  *  *

Life fell into a routine. Sam was up and gone by six thirty every morning, which vaguely woke Dean for a few minutes to kiss and say goodbye. Dean woke up around eight for real, got something to eat, and went through the want ads for both work and possible houses to buy. They’d discovered that the ward also worked on their credit when Dean had signed up online for a card, just on a lark; Dean’s credit was 720 while Sam’s was 760, which he made sure to bitch about since they both had suckass credit in reality.

He found a couple of work possibilities that only involved mailings and online data entry, which Sam grudgingly agreed he could do without worrying about the baby. Once a week he made Sam drive him down the block to see if the motion sickness remained and, like clockwork, once a week he ended up puking on someone’s lawn. Twice he didn’t even make it down the driveway.

Dean’s stomach rounded out and got bigger as the weeks wore on. He submitted to Amanda’s pokes and proddings with as much grace as he could under the circumstances. The best part of his day was at night when he and Sam lay in bed together. Sam would alternately rub his belly and read to the baby. Dean had Sam to himself for about an hour every night before bed which was the best part of it all.

Sam started spending time at the occult bookstore on the weekends despite everything they had to do to get ready for the baby. Dean maintained that the old man gave him the creeps, but since he was keeping Sam’s brain occupied, also allowed as how it was probably necessary. The only glitch in the otherwise perfectly serene existence was that it was just that…perfectly serene.

Three months into the pregnancy and Dean was ready to chew his own arm off with boredom. He could only enter in so many reports in a day or watch television for so long without going completely stir crazy. So he took to walking around the block after lunch just to get some sunlight and feel the wind on his face. He detailed the car every weekend, pining for the feel of vibrations under his butt and the scenery flying by.

It was on a Monday afternoon that Dean’s cell rang with Bobby’s ID on it. Surprised, but pleased, he answered, “Hey there, Bobby! What’s up?”

“I was just going to ask you that,” Bobby countered gruffly. “Ain’t heard from you boys in months now, but neither has anyone else. You two layin’ low for some reason?”

Thinking fast, Dean answered, “Had a run-in with the FBI last month so yeah, we’re laying low for a while now they know we’re not dead.”

“Is that so?”

“Yep. Barely got out of that one. Hey, how’s Ellen doing? We haven’t talked to her in a while,” Dean asked, changing the subject.

The doorbell rang, surprising him, and he stood while Bobby replied, “She’s doing fine. Talked to her just the other day, matter of fact.”

Dean opened the door, wishing not for the first time that Amanda had a peephole, and dropped his phone in shock. Bobby and Ellen stood on the front doorstep.

“She says hello,” Bobby finished dryly.

Regaining the use of his voice, Dean finally asked, “What are you doing here?”

Arms folding across her chest, Ellen snapped, “You think you can just drop off the face of the planet and we won’t come looking? Where is your head at, boy?”

Bobby pointedly added, “Are you going to invite us in or should we just talk on the steps?”

Dean stepped back. “Sorry, come on in. Living room’s just over there.”

Dean picked up his cell phone as they walked to the living room and wondered if he had time to call Sam. Deciding he didn’t want to tick them off further, he followed right behind and then sat on the recliner where the laptop he worked on was. Setting it aside, he asked, “Hey, you two want a beer or something to eat?”

“We want answers,” Ellen snapped. “Where have you been all this time, here? And why? What’s going on?”

Bobby shook his head and said, “I’ve got a better question. Why do you look like you put on twenty pounds?”

Stung, Dean exclaimed, “It’s only nine pounds! Jeeze. I’m not fat or anything.”

“Why’d you put it on at all?” Bobby pressed. “You sick, Dean?”

Seriously tempted to pass it all off as some kind of glandular problem, at least until Sam got home, Dean opened his mouth to tell the truth when the front door opened and Amanda called out, “Dean? I’m home. Whose car is that in the driveway?”

Dean stood as Amanda walked into the living room, Bobby and Ellen standing from the sofa. He walked over to her quickly and introduced, “Dr. Amanda Lee, this is Ellen Harvelle and Bobby Singer.”

Delight crossed her face and she shook both their hands exclaimed, “Dean’s told me all about you! It’s so great to finally meet you. I didn’t know you were coming. Dean, you should’ve said something!”

Dean winced at her poke in the chest. From the way Ellen and Bobby were glaring at him, they were taking Amanda’s presence completely the wrong way. He finally said, “I would’ve told you, but I didn’t know. It’s really a surprise visit.”

Maybe catching his tone, Amanda’s smile faltered and she suggested, “I’ll just let you all catch up, then.”

As soon as she was gone, Ellen hissed, “Dean, how could you?! After everything Sam did for you, you’re shackin’ up with a woman?”

Dean sighed. “No, Ellen, I’m not. Look. You should both sit down for this one because it’s a long damn story.”

They each gave him suspicious looks, but sat back down. Dean did the same and then told them the whole story from start to finish. It took over an hour and left them looking stunned by the end of it. He offered a weak grin and said, “Congratulations, you’re going to be grandparents!”

Dead silence.

“Tough room,” he muttered.

Bobby finally seemed to shake himself out of it. “Dean, that’s…you know…damn boy, you done made Ellen speechless!”

Ellen smacked Bobby on the shoulder and ordered, “Oh, shut up. Dean, are you really okay?”

“So far so good,” Dean confirmed. “That’s why we’re living here ‘til the baby’s born. Live-in doctor and all that.”

Bobby stood and announced, “I’m going to get that drink. Ellen?”

“Yeah, thanks, Bobby.” Ellen offered Dean a half-smile as she continued, “You sure know how to get yourself into trouble, Dean. I always figured you would knock some poor girl up one day, the way you cut through them all, not the other way around.”

Dean snorted. “Gee. Thanks.”

She grinned at that and walked over to the chair, holding out her arms. Dean stood and let her hug him, standing awkwardly in her arms until she pulled back to give him a fond smile. “I am so excited about this! This is really great news, Dean. I’m very, very happy for you.”

“What she said,” Bobby echoed, entering the room again.

Relieved, Dean smiled at them both. He hadn’t realized until right then just how much he’d wanted their approval on this. “Thanks.”

Ellen took the beer from Bobby and sat back down on the sofa beside him. “So what’s the plan?”

Dean shrugged. “Work, save money, buy a house, have the kid, live our lives. Same as everyone else, I guess.”

“You don’t sound all that happy about it,” Bobby observed.

Sometimes Dean hated that his family was so sharp. He shrugged again and answered, “Not really how I pictured my life going, but it could be a lot worse.”

Ellen and Bobby exchanged a look, but didn’t comment for once. Ellen finally asked, “When’s Sam get home?”

Looking at his watch, Dean answered, “Another hour or so, why?”

“We’ll take you out for a celebratory steak dinner, is why,” she said, beaming again.

Dean sighed morosely. “I can’t. I can’t drive anymore. I get motion sick.”

Bobby burst out laughing.

Ellen jabbed him with her elbow hard enough to get a gasp and then soothed, “Then we’ll get take out and Bobby can bring it back here. We are definitely celebrating this child tonight. All of us.”

A smile tugged at Dean’s mouth as he thought fondly, That’s my family. Nothing throws them for long.

*  *  *  *

Sam was startled to find an unfamiliar car in the driveway when he got home and parked at the curb since there was no more room for the Impala. He strode to the front door and then stopped short as he recognized the car as one of Bobby’s eternal clunkers. Since Dean hadn’t called, he could safely assume that Bobby knew and hadn’t reacted badly. He went inside and dropped his bag on the floor, heading to the kitchen where he heard not just Bobby’s voice, but Ellen’s.

Entering the kitchen, he found everyone seated around the table, laughing around a massive amount of food. He took a moment to just watch, drinking in the sight of the warm, family presence that he’d always wanted.

Ellen spotted him first and demanded, “Get over here, Sam! Join the fun!”

Sam grinned and walked over to the table. She stood to give him a hug and the whacked him upside the back of the head hard enough to sting. Wincing, he automatically apologized, “Sorry, Ellen, we should’ve told you earlier.”

“Damn right, you should’ve,” she confirmed. “But now we know. Ash sends his regards, by the way.”

Sitting in the open chair beside Dean, Sam put a hand on his brother’s and replied, “That’s how you found us, huh?”

Ellen agreed, “Not much he can’t find.”

“So what’s this?” he asked, looking over the feast.

Bobby told him, “In celebration of your kid in five months. And the next time you cut us out of the information loop like that, I will tan your hide.”

Sam snorted. “Just mine, huh?”

Dean grinned and pointed out, “He can’t beat me, I’m carrying the baby. I’ll trade if you want.”

Since Sam would love to take on that burden to keep Dean safe, all he did was put a hand on the back of his brother’s neck and changed the subject with, “How long are you in town for?”

Ellen replied, “We’ll get rooms for tonight, but head back tomorrow.”

“So soon?” Dean asked.

Sam frowned a bit at the slightly plaintive tone.

Nodding, Ellen told them, “We only came to make sure you were both all right. Time to get back to work now that we know you are. But we’ll be back for the birth. I’m guessing it’ll be a c-section?”

Amanda nodded and said, “I’m assisting at maternity until Dean delivers. Finding a place for him to do so will be a challenge, but we’ll handle that the closer we get to the date.”

Bobby asked, “You got a date in mind?”

“February,” she replied. “Don’t have anything more specific yet. I’ll be monitoring him closely as we come up on the end of his term.”

Dean waved a hand at everyone and announced, “Don’t mind me, just talk amongst yourselves.”

Sam rubbed between his shoulder blades, which he knew Dean loved, and teased, “We will, don’t worry.”

Talk turned to more general things then, everyone clearly noticing Dean’s annoyance. Ellen’s battle with the insurance company had finally come to an end and work on the new structure had begun in earnest, not just the plans for it. They were going to break ground in the following week. Sam talked about his new job as well as going into the spell that allowed them to be themselves without worry. Dean was quiet for the most part, but he didn’t seem upset, just contemplative so Sam didn’t worry about it.

Dinner ended and then dessert and it was time to go. Hugs were exchanged and goodbyes issued as they walked Ellen and Bobby to the car. Amanda moved her car so they could get out and then Ellen tugged Sam aside as Bobby and Dean talked about the Impala and some possible engine upgrades.

“Dean’s not happy,” she said quietly, but bluntly.

Sam sighed. “I know that. He’s bored and going stir crazy.”

But she shook her head and said, “No, Sam, he’s not happy about this life. About what happens after the baby comes. Don’t forget how your Daddy brought him up and how long he lived like a soldier fightin’ a war. I think a lot of his self-worth is tied up in that. You’re going to have to find a way to do things so he doesn’t think that he’s got nothing of himself to offer you in a couple years, or he’ll be gone.”

Frowning, Sam said, “Dean would never leave us, Ellen.”

“He will,” she insisted. “If you don’t find a way to channel his need to hunt, to be part of something bigger, then he’ll find it on his own. I know because that’s how my husband was. Now, it’s not something you need to worry about right away, but you better be thinkin’ on it or it’ll up and blindside you one day down the road.”

“Ellen? You ready?” Bobby called.

Ellen gave him a quick hug and walked over to the passenger’s side of Bobby’s car.

Sam followed more slowly, mind whirling with everything she’d said.

“What did Ellen want?”

Putting an arm over Dean’s shoulder, Sam answered, “Just giving me some wifely advice.”

Dean laughed and bumped their hips together. “See? I totally knew everyone would take you as the wife in this scenario.”

Sam grinned and guided his brother back inside, Ellen’s warning pushed to the back of his mind to deal with later.

*  *  *  *

Even though the first ultrasound had gone perfectly fine, Dean couldn’t help being nervous when the second appointment came due. The office was empty since it was Sunday, and he held Sam’s hand the whole walk to the exam room. He was supposedly right on track for weight and all his blood tests kept coming back normal, but he also kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sam helped him onto the exam table and Amanda turned on the machine. He pulled up his shirt and waited as she fiddled with the various knobs and dials.

“All right boys, let’s see what’s going on inside,” Amanda announced.

Dean flinched at the cold gel she squirted onto his rounded belly. When she ran the doohickey over him, he jumped a bit. At her questioning look, he said, “Sorry.”

Amanda smiled kindly and assured him, “Don’t be. Now then, everything looks good. I see the heart, arms and legs, feet and hands, toes and fingers.”

Dean’s mouth dropped. “You can really see all that?”

Winking, she shook her head and answered, “No, not really. But your baby looks perfect, Dean. Now. Do you want to know the sex?”

Dean looked up at Sam, who offered a grin and a shrug as he said, “It’s up to you. I’d love to know, you know that, but if you’re set against it, we don’t have to.”

After a brief hesitation, Dean finally asked, “What’s the sex?”

“You and Sam are having a boy,” Amanda told them.

Stunned, Dean looked down at his stomach and echoed, “A boy?”

Sam grinned hugely and then kissed him soundly. With an arm across Dean’s shoulder, he exclaimed, “A boy, Dean. We’re having a son!”

Dean rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t stop the grin on his own face as he retorted, “What do you mean, ‘we?’”

Amanda chuckled and said, “Here, I’ll print out the sonogram for you to show off to everyone at work.”

Sam hugged him sideways and put his hand on the clean portion of Dean’s stomach.

Dean leaned against him, resting his head on Sam’s chest. A soft, rapid beat filled the air and he knew that it was their son’s heartbeat. It was suddenly more real than it ever had been until that point.

They were having a boy. A son.

For the first time in his life, Dean felt unconditional love for someone other than Sam.

*  *  *  *

“Do you think it’s a bad thing I can’t breast feed?”

Sam paused with his fingers over the laptop keyboard, not sure that he’d heard the question right. Giving Dean a sidelong look, he found his brother looking down at his chest, and asked neutrally, “Excuse me?”

Looking back at him, Dean repeated, “Is it a bad thing I can’t breast feed? I mean, my chest hasn’t changed at all, so I doubt there’s any milk in there. And everyone always says that being breast fed is the best thing for a baby. Gives them more protection and nutrients and whatever.”

There couldn’t be a right answer to this question and Sam thought quickly before saying, “A lot of parents choose not to breast feed. It’s perfectly normal.”

“That’s not what I asked,” Dean said, scowling at him. “Would it be better if I could?”

Helpless, Sam answered, “I guess? But there’s nothing we can do about it. Either you have milk or you don’t, and you don’t.”

Dean’s eyebrows rose and he deadpanned, “So you’re saying I don’t got milk.”

Sam rolled his eyes, relieved it hadn’t devolved into some kind of useless, hormonal fight, of which there’d been too many lately. “Looks like.”

Dean looked back down at his chest and said, “I wonder why I don’t? Part of the whole pregnancy thing, isn’t it?”

“Some women don’t,” Sam told him with a shrug. “It’s rare, but happens. And women who don’t breast feed lose the ability to produce milk pretty quick.”

Shaking his head, Dean went back to watching television and Sam let out a sigh of relief.

*  *  *  *

Christmas came and things couldn’t have been more different than the year before. Instead of being in some crappy hotel with convenience store presents, they were in Amanda’s home with a tree, blinking colored lights, a lot of presents under said tree, and no contract hanging over Dean’s head to damn him to Hell.

Sam actually came home a few days before the holiday to find Dean dancing to Christmas carols. He had one hand under his fairly prominent belly and the other waving in the air as he sang along with Burl Ives. Sam hadn’t even known that Dean knew any Burl Ives songs. He leaned against the kitchen doorway, grinning as he watched his brother boogie carefully around the table.

When Dean turned and found him standing there, Sam started laughing and clapping, teasing, “That’s at least a seven.”

Dean made a face at him and retorted, “Better make that a ten or someone’s getting coal in his stocking.”

Laughing, Sam walked over to him and wrapped his arms around Dean’s waist, tugging him in for a long, slow kiss.

When he pulled back, Dean smiled up at him and greeted, “Hey there.”

“Hey yourself,” Sam replied, smiling back. “You about ready for the party?”

The office holiday party wasn’t something to which Dean had been looking forward to, Sam knew. His brother had made vocal protests about being too obvious in his pregnancy to be among observant people like cops. Sam had found a bulky sweater to cover the belted but necessarily unzipped pants and they’d found that Dean just looked bundled up and heavyset.

“Just need to grab the sweater,” Dean replied sourly. “I am going to sweat buckets at this thing.”

Sam grinned and countered, “Neil keeps it frigid, so I doubt that.”

Dean shuffled out of the kitchen with only a semblance of his usual grace. From the back, he’d thickened a little around the middle; it was from the side that the pregnancy was obvious. Sam had already started laying tracks at the office for the coming ‘adoption’ by telling everyone at certain intervals that they’d found a birth mother, mocking up a picture and history of the too-young girl, and hiring a lawyer for the adoption.

He’d made noises about February being way too soon, but how they’d bonded with the birth mother and were going ahead anyhow. Everyone at the office was supportive of the whole venture and Neil had even introduced them to Lilly’s cousin who was in real estate. He’d taken into account that “…most of our money’s going towards healthcare for the birth mother, so we’re on a shoestring budget and don’t have anything saved…” and only showed them houses that Sam would be able to afford on a single salary.

The good news was that towards the middle of the second trimester, Dean’s motion sickness had finally gone away. They now spent weekends looking at houses and taking short road trips to satisfy Dean’s need to move around.

Dean had shown up now and again at the office both to check up on Sam, he was sure, and to make friendly with the locals. Sally and Jackie instantly fell to his charms while he had the deputies and Neil laughing hard inside of five minutes. Sam usually just watched from his desk, shaking his head at his brother’s antics. No one mentioned the scars that were still visible on Dean’s cheek and, to Sam’s surprise, no one had asked him about it privately.

Walking back into the kitchen, Dean looked a little like the Staypuff Marshmallow Man; shapeless and bulky. Sam wisely kept the observation to himself as he suggested, “Shall we go?”

Dean nodded and headed for the fridge where he pulled out a big Tupperware container and gave it to Sam. At his curious look, Dean explained, “Swedish meatballs.”

Sam grinned. Dean had taken to watching cooking shows when not working and their food choices had expanded considerably.

“Oh shut up and let’s go,” Dean grumbled, stalking towards the door.

Dean drove and they were at Town Hall inside of twenty minutes even with the slushy precipitation. He’d put new tires on the car a few weeks ago at Sam’s insistence. The party was being held in the relatively large break room on the second floor and almost everyone was already there by the time they showed up.

“Sam! Dean!” Lilly exclaimed, rushing towards them.

Petite and dark-haired, Lilly was always all smiles and laughter whenever Sam saw her and tonight was no different. She gave them each a hug and then giggled as she told Dean, “I think someone’s sampling a little too much of their own cooking.”

Dean grinned and tugged on one of her braids as he replied, “I’ll work it off after the New Year, don’t worry about that.”

Sam snorted and headed for the long table where all the food rested, leaving Dean in Lilly’s very capable hands. Setting down the Tupperware container, Sam pried off the lid and turned to find Neil walking up to him. The other man wore a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes and Sam stiffened in anticipation of trouble.

“Sam, mind if we talk in my office?” Neil asked quietly.

Glancing at Dean, Sam found him now surrounded by all the women and then answered, “Sure,” before following him out. The wards definitely couldn’t have failed them, not so soon, so something else was up. Maybe those cut-backs were going through after all and since Sam was low man on the Totem pole, he was the first to go. It wouldn’t be ideal, but they would survive.

Neil gestured for him to sit once they were in his office, so he did. Clearing his throat, the other man said, “I know I didn’t have any right to do so, but after meeting Dean the first time I ah, I looked into you boys a bit more thoroughly. His scars put me in mind of yours, which I’ve seen in the locker room. I wouldn’t have violated your privacy like that if I hadn’t thought that maybe, well, I didn’t know what to think.”

Sam’s hands tightened on his thighs. He was so used to the scars now that he forgot they were there. He finally offered a neutral, “Oh?”

“It took a lot of digging to find out what happened. You boys definitely covered your tracks,” Neil told him slowly. “I finally found what I was looking for and wished to God that I hadn’t.”

Wishing fervently that he had a weapon and an escape plan, Sam just waited.

“It was the scars that clued me in to how to check in to you both. How many men have scars like that, right? The doctors who treated you both were real good at their jobs, but when I put a little unofficial pressure on the local police, I got hold of your files.”

Sam kept himself rigid even though inside he was sagging in relief. Neil had found out about the attack on Sam and Dean Daley, not about their true history as Winchesters.

“I just want to let you know that you are both safe here,” Neil said emphatically. “Detective Sanderson told me they never caught the bastards who cut you up, but no matter what you two need, you’ve got it. And don’t worry, I’m not going to ask how you both became Winchesters, that’s your business and a very, very necessary precaution in my opinion. Animals like that…it’s been my experience that they don’t stop until they get what they really want and since whatever they were doing got interrupted last time, well.”

Relaxing slowly, Sam apologized, “I wanted to tell you, Neil, but…”

Neil held up a hand. “Don’t even worry about it.”

“Thank you,” Sam said sincerely. “I appreciate your trust in me.”

Offering a brief smile, Neil said, “Honestly, Sam? I was going to ask you to join us as a Deputy, you’re working out so well. It’s like I can’t remember you and Dean ever not being here. And Lilly just adores you both, which tells me you’re exactly as good as you seem. She’s got a great sense of judgment. Just tell me one thing. The person who did up your identities…he’s on our side, right?”

There was both humor and admiration in Neil’s voice, so Sam grinned and said, “Definitely. You’d like him, actually.”

Which Neil did, since Sam had been the one to do the spell.

Nodding, Neil stood and said, “Okay! Let’s go back to the party.”

Sam stood as well and asked, “What about the file? And what did you tell Detective Sanderson?”

“You don’t have to worry, Sam,” Neil assured him. “The file’s destroyed and Detective Sanderson isn’t going to breathe a word to anyone about where you and Dean are. He’s still hunting for the bastards who attacked you, so he’ll never tell anyone where you are.”

Not that Detective Sanderson would ever find anyone. Sam felt bad that the man had become so invested in solving their case.

They returned to the party then, which was in full swing. Carols played loudly, drink flowed freely, and everyone was gorging themselves. Sam found Dean loading up a plate and put an arm over his brother’s shoulder.

Dean looked at him in surprise and asked, “What’s up, Sammy?”

Sam kissed his temple and let him go as he replied, “I’ll tell you later.”

Frowning a bit, Dean prompted, “We’re good?”

Sam glanced at Neil across the room, who smiled at him, and then answered, “We’re good, Dean.”

*  *  *  *

Dean knew that something had gone down between Sam and his boss, but didn’t pry. If Sam said they were okay, then they were. He enjoyed the rest of the party, but was glad when it was over. He admitted to himself that he might have overdone it just a little, with the cooking and dancing at home and then being on his feet for a couple of hours.

Sam obviously read it in his face, because he made their excuses while the night was still young and kept a supporting arm around Dean’s waist on the way out. It was cold and damp outside, not Dean’s favorite combination, but this was their new home so he was determined to get used to it. The drive home was quiet, Christmas carols playing softly on the radio, and they were back at Amanda’s in a half-hour. For once, Dean didn’t complain about Sam’s freakishly slow driving since he knew there had to be black ice all over the roads.

Christmas Eve was the next day and it seemed like Junior was more than anxious to get presents, spending most of the night kicking Dean. He did his best not to toss and turn, but it was difficult to get comfortable, as heavy and big as he was. He felt bad that Sam looked so exhausted when morning came, knowing that he was the reason.

“At least I don’t need my reflexes at the office,” Sam joked, kissing him on the mouth. “I’ll be fine. Just get some rest yourself.”

Dean sighed, but nodded. “I will. Be careful, Sammy.”

He slept in fits and starts, but at least he did sleep. He vaguely heard Amanda moving around the house about an hour after Sam left, but was so used to it that he didn’t fully wake. It was near ten before he finally woke up and got out of bed, but only because his bladder was making him dream that he had to take a piss really bad.

Dean shuffled into the kitchen and made pancakes. More for the syrup than the flapjacks, but he didn’t care. He drowned them in the thick, artificial kind of syrup that he forced Sam to buy at the grocery. If it was up to his brother, Sam would buy organic everything. It was hard on his back to keep upright even that long, so he leaned back in the chair and held the plate in his hand to eat.

Walking around after breakfast, restless, Dean went from room to room. He straightened pillows that didn’t need it, ran the mostly empty dishwasher, and swept the entire house. He finally called Ellen just for something to do.

“Well if it isn’t my favorite pregnant man,” Ellen greeted, laughter in her voice. “How are you?”

Dean rolled his eyes and answered, “Bored. And my back friggin’ hurts. And bored.”

Ellen snorted. “You could go take a walk or something.”

Sighing, Dean admitted, “I am. I’m also going from room to room to clean this place even though you could eat off the floors.”

“I meant take a walk outside. Cold enough for you to wear a jacket.”

“Icy, too.”

“Right. We don’t want you tripping because you can’t see your own feet.”


“Sorry, Dean. All joking aside, are you all right, really?”

Dean rubbed his lower back and told her, “Yeah. The kid just kicked me all night long and kept me up, but I’m fine.”

“Tell you what. I’ll head on out there early to keep you company,” she offered.

Shaking his head even though she couldn’t see it, Dean said, “I can’t let you do that, Ellen. It’s six weeks until D-Day. You shouldn’t leave the bar for that long.”

“Are you sure?”


“All right,” she gave in. “But you call whenever you want me there.”

Dean smiled fondly. “Yes, Mom.”

She chuckled and told him, “I really should get back to work.”

“Go. I’ll bother you later,” Dean immediately said.

“All right. Take care of that little one and yourself, Dean.”

“I will. Bye, Ellen.”

“Bye, Dean.”

Hanging up, Dean put the cordless phone down and groaned as he lowered himself onto the sofa. He might not be able to get back up again, but at least he had the remote.

*  *  *  *

Christmas Eve passed quietly, as did Christmas Day. Even though they exchanged presents and observed the day, neither of them wanted to go to church with Amanda; there’d been far too much of Heaven and Hell in their lives. So they stayed home and opened presents, most of which were fun and lame, but a couple made Sam’s throat tighten with unshed emotion.

The one that got to him the most was a simple gold pendant with both sets of their initials on one side, plus blank space for another set, and an empty space for a picture on the other. He looked over at Dean and cleared his throat before saying, “Thanks, Dean. It’s perfect.”

Instead of making fun of him, Dean just gave a small smile and told him, “I figure we could talk about names now and get the initials done once he was born.”

Sam nodded. “That’s a great idea. So what were you thinking? About names, I mean.”

Dean looked at his hands for a few silent minutes and Sam didn’t press him, already suspecting the answer. When he spoke, Dean’s voice was a little shaky as he said, “John. I want to name him after Dad.”

Putting an arm around his brother’s shoulders, Sam kissed the top of his head and echoed, “Me, too. I think that would be perfect.”

Dean leaned on him and Sam enjoyed the quiet time on the sofa together, relishing the connection and peace. So much of their life had been spent fighting that he cherished every bit of quiet they found. Even now in a ‘normal’ life like the kind he’d always wanted, there wasn’t nearly enough time for them just to be together.

Amanda came home around one and the rest of the day was spent watching football and eating. Sam half-expected Bobby or Ellen to show up unexpectedly, but they didn’t. He was grateful for it, since everyone would be underfoot as soon as the baby was born. He had no idea how they were going to get through the month after John arrived, it would be so crowded, but knew they would be glad of the help.

Later that night when they were lying in bed, Sam decided to give Dean his last present. He waited until his brother was comfortable and then started kissing him with long, slow kisses that went right to the heart of him, soothing that ragged place inside that only Dean could get to. He reached down to take Dean’s shaft in his hand and Dean’s legs spread in silent invitation. Sam lightly stroked him until his dick was hard and then broke off the kisses to ask, “You want me to suck you off?”

“Like I’d turn that down?” Dean scoffed, grinning.

Sam chuckled and kissed him again before moving down the bed and licking his way up the shaft before sucking on the head of it. Dean’s groan of pleasure egged him on and Sam went down slow and easy. He didn’t tease, even though he wanted to draw it out. He gently squeezed and rolled Dean’s balls while going up and down on the length of him, tasting a couple of spurts of pre-come.

Dean gasped out, “Sammy, oh God, Sammy, so good.”

Taking that as a sign, Sam went all the way down and squeezed on Dean’s balls at the same time. The combination had never failed to get him off and this was no exception. Dean cried out and came, spilling down Sam’s throat. Of course, Sam was ready to come himself just about then, so he jerked off hard and fast as he licked his brother clean. It only took a minute before he came, shuddering into his own hand and biting down on Dean’s thigh.

Ow! Jerk,” Dean exclaimed, tugging on his hair.

Sam was too blissed-out to care at the minor sparks of pain from the hair tug. He just grinned and scooted back up beside Dean, grabbing tissues to clean off his hand. Settling in against his brother, Sam slid an arm under Dean’s head and kissed his throat, murmuring, “Love you.”

Dean made a contented noise and yawned before answering back, “Love you too, Sammy.”

Smiling, Sam let himself drift to sleep.

*  *  *  *

A sharp pain woke Dean the day after Christmas. It radiated out from his stomach in a wave that felt worse than a stab wound. He grit his teeth and gripped the bed, breathing through the pain and trying not to panic. If it was the baby, he was old enough to survive a c-section. If it wasn’t, well, he’d lived through worse and there was a doctor in the house.

“Dean? What’s wrong?”

He hadn’t even heard Sam come back into the bedroom. Opening his eyes, Dean managed to get out, “I think I’m in labor.”

Sam gaped at him. “But you’re not due for another month!”

Dean glared and shouted, “Just get Amanda!”

The pain receded a few seconds after Sam ran out of the room. Dean groaned in relief and sagged back on the pillows, panting for air.

Amanda and Sam rushed into the room and she sat on the bed, smiling as she asked, “So you think you’re in labor, huh?”

Dean grimaced and answered, “I don’t have my appendix anymore, so yeah, I think John wants out.”

Amanda felt along his belly for a few long moments and then shook her head. “John hasn’t moved. False alarm.”

“Shouldn’t we check?” Sam asked anxiously. “Do an ultrasound or something?”

Amanda rested a hand on Dean’s stomach and asked, “How do you feel?”

Dean thought about it and answered, “Fine.”

She nodded and said, “If you get any more contractions, we’ll head to the clinic, but I think John’s just stretching his muscles. Go back to sleep.”

That was when he saw the clock read 5:15am. Dean winced and said, “Sorry.”

She chuckled and stood up with, “Not a problem.”

Sam took her place and Dean’s hand with a sigh of relief. “God, you scared me.”

“Don’t have much control over it,” Dean apologized.

Sam kissed him and said, “It’s fine, believe me, but I have to get ready for work.”

Waving him off, Dean ordered, “Go, I’m good.”

And he was. The rest of the week passed with intermittent contractions, but only one at time. Amanda had him and Sam come to the clinic that Sunday just to reassure them that everything was fine and, just like in all the others, John looked perfect.

“All the amnio tests come back normal, too,” she reminded. “No problems on either the disease or family front.”

‘Family front,’ was her polite phrasing for ‘incest.’ Dean was used to it, but saw the uncomfortable expression shift over Sam’s face. It was only there a split second, but he knew his brother too well not to see it. As much as he knew Sam loved him, it was in those moments that all the old insecurities reared up with a vengeance.

It wasn’t until a couple of nights later that Sam called him on his withdrawal, which was about a day longer than he usually lasted. Sam cornered him in the bedroom just as they were getting ready to turn in and demanded, “What’s wrong? You’ve been really quiet the last couple of days.”

Dean looked at Sam and said bluntly, “I know this whole thing is fucked up, Sam, but as much as I love you, I can’t wish that John hadn’t happened.”

Sam’s jaw actually dropped at that and then closed with a loud click. His eyes got that tight look they did when he was pissed and he demanded, “Where the fuck did that come from?”

“From the way you look whenever the words ‘incest’ or ‘family front’ come up,” Dean snapped. “You can’t pretend that this is how you pictured your life turning out, Sam. Not without lying to my face.  I know you still want a normal life and this ain’t it.”

Sam’s jaw flexed as he glared right back at Dean and then he just walked out of the bedroom without a word.

Dean stood there, stunned that it had taken so little to drive Sam away. He knew that Sam wasn’t thrilled with their lives, but to just leave like that sent shockwaves through Dean. He dropped onto the bed and winced at the sharp jab of John’s foot to his gut.

Sam returned a few minutes later, still looking pissed and tossed something at Dean, who caught it reflexively. It was a small ring box and Dean frowned at Sam. “What’s this?”

“Open it,” Sam ordered tensely.

Dean opened it and found a plain gold ring inside. It wasn’t shiny or new, but faded and scratched in a couple of places as if someone had worn it for many years.

“That’s Dad’s wedding band,” Sam informed him. “I love you, you stupid bastard, and have been trying to figure out a way to give you that without you freaking out on me. We might not be normal, but yes, you are how I pictured my life. I’ve never been able to see my life without you in it. So shut up and wear that, or so help me God, I will take out a full page ad in the Times that we’re brothers and I love you because you’re my soulmate, too.”

Dean couldn’t think of a single thing to say in response. Sam stood there, arms folded belligerently across his chest, angry and silent and coiled with tension. Dean belatedly took out the ring and put it on, hand shaking a little. With the weight he’d put on, the ring fit perfectly. He would have to resize it after John was born. He stared at it for a long moment and then grinned, good humor suddenly restored. He smirked up at Sam and said, “You just can’t help being a girl, can you?”

Sam rolled his eyes, but the comment seemed to diffuse the situation. He sat on the bed and wrapped his arms around Dean, holding tight as he ordered fondly, “Shut up.”

Dean hugged him back, relaxing into his brother’s arms.

*  *  *  *

After his back-assward proposal to Dean, Sam went out. The excuse was to buy groceries, but what he really needed was to drive somewhere secluded and shake for a while at what had been a very, very close call. Probably the closest they’d come since Dean’s trip to Hell for their separation. That Dean had truly thought Sam might not love him, that he might even leave him because of their blood relationship…

Sam scrubbed his fingers through his hair and let out a shuddery breath. He’d thought all of that taken care of with everything that had happened in the last year, but obviously he was wrong. Sam stared at his phone for a few seconds and then called Ellen.

“Sam? What’s wrong? Did Dean go into labor early?” she demanded.

He winced and apologized, “No, sorry. I was just…”

Of course, now that he had her on the phone, he didn’t know what to say.

“What’s going on, Sam? Spit it out.”

Sam hesitated and then blurted out, “You had a good marriage, right?”

Ellen didn’t say anything for a few long moments and then answered slowly, “Yeah, I think so anyhow. You got a question?”

Sam leaned back against the hood of the car and said, “I was… I thought I was showing Dean that I’m in this thing for good, that I love him, but he just about said he didn’t think I was. How can I convince him that I’m for real?”

“Oh Sam, that’s not something I can tell you how to do,” she replied, sighing. “It’s a private thing, different for everyone.”

Sighing, Sam told her, “That’s not very helpful.”

“I know, and I’m sorry. All you can do is what you’ve been doing. And don’t forget that Dean’s a mass of hormones right now. Not only that, but hormones that he’s not used to even having. You’re a constant for him, I do know that, so just be there for him.”

Sam stared into the park, towards the small pond. It was soothing in a way, but not the best he could do and he knew it. Half-smiling, he said, “Thanks, Ellen.”

“Any time, Sam.”

He hung up and headed home where he knew looking at Dean would do more than soothe him.

*  *  *  *

When the contraction hit, Dean was standing on a chair trying to change a light bulb in the kitchen. He staggered, slipping off the chair and barely catching himself on the counter. The pain was more intense than anything he’d known before, including the false labor. Gritting his teeth, Dean held onto the counter and panted through the pain. Nothing had changed down below in the long months of his pregnancy, so he had no water to break, but Dean knew in his bones that this time was for real.

Dean held his stomach as he walked over to the phone and hit Sam’s speed dial number. As soon as he picked up, he gasped, “It’s time! Get home now!”

“I’m on my way!” Sam exclaimed. “Call Amanda.”

Ya think?” Dean snapped. He hung up and called Amanda’s cell next, but it went to voice mail. Frustrated, he waited until after the message played and said, “I’m in labor, Amanda. Sam’s on his way and then we’ll head to the clinic. I know you said it could take hours, but better safe than sorry, right? See you soon.”

He hung up again and walked out of the kitchen to the door where his sandals waited, the only things he could wear with his feet so swollen. Shoving them on, he didn’t even try to buckle the damn things. He pulled on his jacket and waddled outside, hand under his belly for support. His back was already killing him from the near miss in the kitchen and the general off-balance of his body in its current state.

Looking down, he rubbed the rounded side and commented, “No offense, Junior, but I can’t wait until you’re out here and not in there.”

The Impala pulled into the driveway and he started over, rolling his eyes when Sam jumped out of the car and ran over to him. Putting an arm around Dean’s waist, Sam exclaimed, “Are you all right? How far apart are the contractions? Are you doing your breathing? How do you feel? He’s a couple weeks early.”

Dean ignored all the questions on the way to the car, instead stopping once he was there and glaring up at his brother. “You, focus. All you have to do is drive and I swear to God, that if we get into an accident on the way to the clinic, I will kick your ass.”

Sam blinked at him for a few seconds and then ducked his head before grinning apologetically and saying, “Sorry, Dean. Didn’t mean to freak out. I’m good.”

“You sure? Because I could drive,” Dean offered sarcastically.

Sam shook his head and said earnestly, “I’ll drive, it’s the least I can do.”

Dean rolled his eyes and opened the door to get in, letting Sam help him and then buckle the seatbelt around his middle. He didn’t make a fuss, knowing that Sam was probably feeling the pinch of helplessness. It was something he was all too familiar with in the past and knew how it could make someone overprotective. Sam rushed around the car and climbed in the driver’s side, backing out a few seconds later.

They were on the road for five minutes before the next contraction hit, causing Dean to dig his nails into the vinyl seat and car door. Gritting his teeth, Dean snarled under his breath, “Mother fucking sonuvabitch bastard!”

“Breathe, Dean!” Sam ordered.

Dean glared at him and snapped, “Fuck off before I cut off your dick!”

Sam swallowed visibly and kept his eyes on the road.

Groaning, Dean tried to breathe through it like they’d practiced for the last couple of months. It helped a little, but not much. It finished a few minutes later and he let out a shaky breath, relieved it was temporarily over. It was a damn good thing he was having a c-section, because there was no way he’d make it through real labor. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that women definitely had a higher pain threshold.

“So ah, how long between contractions?” Sam asked hesitantly.

Dean took a couple of slow breaths before answering, “About ten minutes. Plenty of time.”

They were at the clinic a few minutes later and Dean let Sam help him out of the car. It was late afternoon so at least Amanda was mostly done for the day. They’d found a couple of local people knowledgeable about the hunting world and enlisted their help for this; an anesthetist and a nurse. He and Sam had met them the month before and checked them out thoroughly. Hopefully Amanda had called them both on getting Dean’s message and they wouldn’t be long in arriving.

“So what did Neil say?” Dean asked abruptly.

Sam held open the door and answered, “Just good luck and to call when the birth was over.”

Which was about what Dean had expected. Sam’s boss had been great to both of them, even if he had been a little too nosy for comfort.

There was a woman with a small boy in the waiting room who gave them funny looks, but Dean ignored them both and pushed open the door to the back area. Sam was right on his heels all the way to the first empty exam room they found. Stopping abruptly, Dean glared at him and ordered, “Back off, Samuel, or so help me…”

Sam’s hands went up in a surrender position and he waited until Dean was all the way in the room before following. He stayed by the door as Dean walked to the exam table and then said, “I’ll get Amanda.”

He was gone before Dean could say anything, which was just as well since a few seconds later another contraction hit. He held tight to edges of the table, hissing through his breathing technique and cursing Sam under his breath. Amanda and Sam walked in just as the pain began to fade and Dean relaxed a little. Glaring at Sam, he snapped, “You are dead meat, Samuel.”

Sam braved his anger anyhow, putting an arm around Dean’s waist and saying, “That’s ten minutes since the last contraction.”

Amanda smiled cheerfully at Dean and said, “Great! Let me just check you boys over and then we’ll head to the hospital. Becky and Todd are already on their way and getting the surgery suite prepped.”

Dean bit back another snarl, this one at her cheery manner, and shifted so he faced out, leaning on Sam and the exam table.

Amanda listened with her stethoscope first and then felt around his belly before nodding and telling them, “Everything’s fine. Sam, take him to the hospital and go directly to Room 215 on the first floor. If anyone asks who you’re there to see, say Dr. Max.”

“Is there a Dr. Max?” Sam questioned, humor underlying his tone.

She nodded and confirmed, “Plastic surgeon. With Dean’s scars, no one will question it.”

Sam walked him out of the office and, suddenly freaked by the fact that it was really happening, Dean let him. The ride to the hospital was silent, but Sam held his hand the whole trip. Dean would never say it, but the contact was both reassuring and comforting. The next contraction hit as Sam parked and Dean’s nails again dug into the vinyl of the car. Sam rubbed his back through the pain until it was over and then gave him a worried smile. Dean grimaced at him and opened the door to get out.

No one questioned them on the walk to room 215 and even better, the next contraction didn’t hit until just after Sam closed the door. Dean staggered to the bed and half-collapsed on it, panting through the pain. Sam was there holding him and wisely staying quiet until it was over. Once he helped Dean onto the bed, he said simply, “Seven minutes.”

Panic swamped Dean and he exclaimed in a low, urgent voice, “I can’t do this Sammy! This isn’t going to work!”

Sam cupped his face and told him firmly, “You can, Dean. I believe in you.”

“If something goes wrong,” Dean began.

“Nothing’s going wrong,” Sam cut him off sharply. “Amanda’s delivered ten pregnancies this month alone by c-section. She’s got it covered. And Becky and Todd both know what they’re doing, too. You’ll go to sleep and wake up with a son. You hear me, Dean? We’re going to have our family and be together until we’re old and gray.”

Dean half-smiled and teased wearily, “I can blame the hormones. What’s your excuse?”

Sam laughed, though the sound was shaky. “That’s better.”

Todd and Becky walked in with a gurney a few seconds later. Near Sam’s height but with a slenderer frame, Todd was a black man with laughing brown eyes and a tendency to talk slow. Becky was short with red hair and gray eyes; she gave off a motherly feel that put everyone at ease right away, even Dean. They were both already dressed in surgical gowns.

Sam immediately announced, “He’s down to seven minutes.”

Todd nodded and said, “Then we better get started.”

“Where’s Amanda?” Sam demanded.

Becky reassured him, “Getting ready. She’s got to clean up first.”

Sam let out a short, explosive sigh. “Sorry.”

Patting his shoulder, she said, “Don’t worry dear, happens all the time.”

They helped him onto the gurney and then wheeled him out, into the hall. Sam held his hand the short trip to the OR, getting them a couple of odd looks from people on the way. Another contraction hit just before they got there and Sam gasped when Dean clamped down on his hand. Dean was in so much pain by then that he didn’t even see the rest of the trip; he just felt them move him from the gurney to the operating table.

Sam kissed him as soon as the contraction stopped and ordered sternly, “Remember what I said.”

Dean nodded as Becky fitted the gas mask over his face and, at her command, started counting backwards from a hundred. Somewhere around eighty-three, the world faded to nothing.

*  *  *  *

“And he’s out,” Becky announced.

Sam had felt useless more than once in his eventful life, but this definitely took the cake. His brother and son were in other people’s hands and there was nothing he could do to help.

Amanda came in just then and asked, “Good to go?”

Becky and Todd both nodded as Sam said emphatically, “Definitely!”

Sam continued holding Dean’s hand as Amanda went to work. He watched for about five seconds before feeling ill and concentrating only on his brother’s face. Dean’s pulse felt normal and strong beneath his fingers, which reassured him. As did the way Amanda talked her way through the entire operation, letting Sam know exactly what she was doing.

And then he heard the first, tiny wail of his newborn son and looked over, unable not to. John looked bigger in Amanda’s hands than he expected and was covered in blood, but was the most beautiful baby he’d ever seen. A miracle of life in every sense of the phrase. His eyes tracked John when Todd took him from Amanda to clean him up off to the side of the room.

It was another ten minutes before Amanda said, “Okay, I’m done here so you can look if you want now, Sam.”

He did and a strange pang went through him at the relative flatness of Dean’s stomach. All things considered, it had been a great experience and one he’d like to repeat, despite the likelihood of it happening again being slim-to-none. He kissed Dean’s forehead and whispered, “You did great, baby, he’s gorgeous. Just like you.”

Todd walked over with John and smiled as he asked, “Would you like to hold your son?”

Sam nodded and gingerly took the bundled baby into his arms. John looked tiny up close and he asked anxiously, “Is this okay? Not too tight?”

Todd grinned and promised, “You’re doing fine, Sam.”

Feeling somewhat dazed, Sam followed as Todd and Becky wheeled Dean back down the hall to the room where he was shifted back to the bed. He sat in the chair next to the bed and stared down at the round, ruddy face of his son in awe, completely losing track of time.

*  *  *  *

Dean woke sore as hell and feeling gutted, empty in a way he’d never been before. His hand went to his now-flat stomach and he opened his eyes to find Sam staring at a blue blanket wrapped baby in his arms. Smiling at the sight, not quite as empty, Dean said, “Hey there, Samzilla. What’s that you got?”

Sam gave him the most brilliant smile that instantly made Dean go liquid with just about pure joy and pleasure. He stood only to sit on the edge of the bed and say, “Here. Your turn.”

The moment that Dean held John, the emptiness vanished altogether. It had been a long time since he’d held a baby, but the sense-memory returned right away, the crook of his elbow supporting the baby’s head. He saw Sam’s chin and nose in miniature and chuckled, wondering if John had inherited his height, too.

“What’s funny?” Sam asked.

Dean took his hand and said, “I’m just happy.”

“Me too, but um, shouldn’t you use both hands?” Sam suggested.

Dean snorted. “Oh yeah, breaking you in should be fun. C’mere and shut up.”

Sam managed, barely, to fit on the bed, supporting Dean and John both. Leaning his head back against Sam’s shoulder, Dean sent a silent prayer of thanks up to Freya and her meddling. Without it, his new family wouldn’t exist and that, he just couldn’t imagine.