Three months later
Serra tapped on the window of the Big House and waited as patiently as she could for her sister to come to the door. It was still dark, showing the early hour of the morning, and as Grace stumbled towards the door, she flicked on the back porch's light, forcing Serra and her children to squint.
"Why didn't you just send Sammy with them when the sun came up?" Grace asked grumpily.
Serendipity made a face at her sister as she handed the baby over. "Uh," she began, "because you're half angel and you have never complained about it before?"
Grace rolled her eyes as she took her niece, Charlotte. The nine-month-old grinned at her aunt and babbled as she grasped Grace's hair. Levi, Serra's three-and-a-half year old, pushed passed Grace and headed straight for the steps, not hesitating on finding his way back to a bed.
Serra ignored Grace's glance and continued as she backed her way down the back steps, "Okay, Sammy will be here around five to pick them up. I'm on a twenty-four, so, good luck."
"Thanks," Grace growled.
"I'm leaving, Gracie!" Dean shouted up the steps towards Grace as he grabbed his keys off the hook near the front door. "Be home about four!"
His wife's footsteps creaked from the hundred-year-old farm house's second floor as she moved out of their youngest daughter's room and into the hall. "Is it already nine?" she answered, sounding tired.
Glancing at his watch, Dean nodded, "Yeah, I mean, eight-fifty-five," he continued. "I'm picking up coffee since ours didn't start this morning."
Grace padded down the steps, clutching two infant girls as they both gripped Grace's long, blonde hair. "Wait," she breathed. "Just wait a sec. I have to redo my hair. Take someone."
"Come 'ere, Pot Roast," he grinned at one of the girls. "Come see me. Gimme some love."
"That's Charlie," Grace answered, setting their daughter on the floor as Dean took their niece from her arms. She flipped her hair over her head, bending at the waist and wrapped her hair into a bun at the top of her head.
Without missing a beat, Dean spoke. "How much longer do you think we'll have six kids?" he asked, tilting his head at Charlotte as she grinned and drooled down her front. "Do you think it'll be a lifetime thing? Can we apply for some kind of government check?"
Grace chuckled and shook her head. "I don't know," she answered, red in the face as she wrapped the hair tie around her hair. "Serra's on a twenty-four and Sam had to get to class early today, I guess." There was pounding and the sound of running feet above them, followed by a high pitched shriek and a crash. "Hey!" Grace shouted towards the steps where the older kids were playing. "Knock it off!"
"You okay?" Dean asked, putting Charlie on the floor next to Faith, staring at Grace.
Nodding, Grace tucked the renegade curls behind her ears. "Yeah," she answered. "I'm just tired. They've been amped all morning and Sabina really hasn't been any help." Nodding towards the sliding glass door, she continued, "She's been in the barn since yesterday. Haven't seen her, even for dinner."
Dean narrowed his eyes. "That's weird, right?" he asked.
"Yeah, I mean," Grace glanced towards Charlie as she tried to crawl towards her legs. "She's been different since we got back."
Dean didn't have to ask to know Grace was referring to their trip to Holden, Maine, where Sabina's family and friends had been killed by the coven of witches. He nodded slowly and took a breath. "She's been alright at the shop," he replied. With a flick of blue eyes and Grace's expression, Dean knew that he was being a typical unobservant man. "Well, then she's a damn good actress."
"So was I," Grace answered, bending to pick up Charlie, who had managed to crawl her way towards her. There was another crash from upstairs and Grace sighed. "You'd better go before you witness the murder of a child."
Dean chuckled, but he was still watching Grace out of the corner of his eyes. She was usually so put together, so tolerant of the kids, but today (and lately in general), things were different. Choosing not to voice his concerns, he leaned forward to kiss Grace good-bye and as he got closer, he could feel the warmth of her cheeks radiate out towards him.
"You feel warm, babe," he whispered. "You sure you're okay?"
Grace nodded and attempted a smile. "Yeah," she repeated. "I'm fine."
"Hey boss man," Tony greeted as Dean walked in the doors of his auto body shop. "Pontiac Grand Am in today. She's up on the lift waiting for inspection."
Dean nodded as he unloaded his pockets into the drawer behind the counter, but his mind was still at home, focused on Grace. "Yeah," he replied vaguely. "Get Stu on it for now. I'll sign her off later."
Heading for his office, Dean closed the door behind him and rubbed his face with both his hands. As he leaned forward in his desk chair, he heard the whoosh of wings, but didn't bother to open his eyes.
"Hey, Cas," Dean greeted, familiar with the sound of the angel appearing as if from nowhere.
"Hello, Dean," Castiel replied, nodding once in reply. "You're exhausted."
Shaking his head, Dean disagreed. "No, man," he sighed. "I've got four kids and a body shop. This is just how I am now. Grace. Grace is exhausted."
"Grace is a nephilim. She doesn't experience exhaustion the same way humans do."
Dean rolled his eyes, getting up from his chair. "That's what I'm saying. Since Holden…she's different. I can't put my finger on it, but I know she is."
"Using her abilities in the way she did is taxing on her grace, so I can understand that she would feel defeated after that show of power, but she should be recovered by now."
"I know, man," Dean spread his hands. "She's not. Serra said something the other day that stopped me dead."
Castiel blinked once, waiting for Dean to continue.
"She said, 'Jeeze, it's like you've got four kids or something'," Dean stared at Cas, waiting for a reaction, but Castiel remained stoic, obviously not understanding the sarcasm in his sister-in-law's voice. "She's showing that she's tired. She doesn't ever show she's tired."
Castiel stood quietly for a moment or two as he pondered what Dean had said. Finally, he tilted his head with child-like curiosity and asked, "Why do you think that is?"
Dean clicked his tongue in annoyance. "I was hoping you would be able to tell me," he commented, sitting back in his chair. "She keeps saying she's fine, so for now, I'll let it go, but pay attention, will you? Something's up."
"Yes," Cas agreed. "I will watch her more closely."
"So what's the word, Cas?" Dean continued, bringing out two stacks of manila folders filled with invoices. "How are you? Haven't seen you around the last few days."
"I am well, thank you," Castiel answered. "I have been trying to get a lead on someone who may know about the coven of witches in Holden, but no one seems to know who or what they are. I'm beginning to wonder if they're witches at all."
"What else could they have been?"
Castiel shrugged his shoulders in a very human-like gesture. "Nothing else makes sense yet, and I am quickly running out of ideas."
Dean shook his head slowly, "You and me both, buddy. I've got a bad feeling about this whole thing."