Sam swung open the door to their latest motel room, watching as Dean predictably went through his routine of making the place a safe haven for them. Somewhere to rest and regroup no matter what they might face in the next few days.

His precautions dealt with, Dean stripped off his boots and climbed onto the bed, sitting in the middle with his knees pulled against his chest and his head down so his face was hidden from view.

Sam couldn't help but frown. Dean had been doing this more and more lately. Sam remembered him doing it when they were younger, remembered being frightened because his older brother was blocking him out, something he never did. Sam ached to touch Dean, to pull him into his arms or even just stroke his back soothingly but that wasn't allowed. The only time he had tried Dean had just got up and left. He'd been gone for two days and when he came back he'd acted as though nothing was wrong.

Dean had started doing it again when they had finally managed to find their father and Sam wished he could shake off the lingering sense of unease that that thought brought with it. He knew Dean had protected him from their father a lot when they were younger. Shielded him from the violent outbursts, the drunkenness, the caustic criticism. Sometimes he had fleeting memories that he couldn't quite grasp, that reminded him that Dean had protected him from something much worse.

He swallowed back the feeling of revulsion as he remembered waking up in the days after they found their father, to find him standing in front of Dean who was wearing only a pair of low slung jeans. He had had his hand on Dean's face and Dean had been looking at the floor, holding almost impossibly still. The words he'd heard would never leave his mind. "You're a good boy aren't you, Dean?" His father had asked. "Yes, sir." Dean sounded years younger as he whispered the response. "Go on then." Their father had instructed. "Not here." Dean's voice was pleading. "Don't want your precious Sammy to see?" Their father had mocked. Dean just shook his head and their father had laughed leading Dean, still half naked, out of the motel room. Recalling the shadows in his brother's eyes later that day Sam wished he hadn't pretended to be asleep.

Their father was gone now. Dean had been absolutely shattered by his death, abuser or not he was the only father Dean had ever known and he had always clung to the belief that he was loved in his father's own way. Had always tried to convince Sam of it. So there was no-one to be angry with, no one to blame for the way Dean retreated in on himself.

"Hey." Sam looked up at the sound of Dean's voice and realised his brother had moved. He looked tired but there was no evidence of tears, this time at least.

"Hey." Sam made himself smile and move away from the laptop to kiss Dean softly. "You want to get something to eat and then call it a night? We've been driving all day."

"Sure." Dean nodded agreeably and Sam took his hand to pull him into a standing position, pulling him straight into his embrace. "Ok, Sammy?" Dean sounded concerned and pushed Sam back by his shoulders so he could look at him properly.

"Yeah." Sam grinned. "Just tired, y'know?"

"Yeah, I know." Dean let Sam kiss him again before manoeuvring himself out of his embrace to grab his jacket.

Sam watched Dean as they ate, knowing he was annoying him and still getting that younger brother thrill from irritating his older sibling. Dean seemed to be happy enough, flirting with the waitress, and earning them a free basket of fries for his trouble, and talking when he had something to say. He wasn't particularly talkative, but then Dean never was big on words.

Their relationship had a taken a turn pretty much as soon as Sam had joined Dean on the road to search for their dad, probably only a couple of months after Jess's death. It was Sam who had pushed for it, kept pushing even when Dean had said no repeatedly. Yeah, Sam had pushed for it and, as always, Dean had given him what he wanted in the end. And Dean suffered for it.

"Look." Sam showed Dean a copy of the newspaper that had been sitting at their table when they arrived. "Another one."

"This is just ridiculous." Dean glared at him. "We're not investigating it. Men DO NOT get pregnant. It's not our kind of problem, these people need psychological help. The tabloids are always filled with this crap."

"It's not a tabloid, Dean." Sam told him carefully. Dean had been refusing to even consider investigating the spate of male pregnancies that had been reported all over the country. "It's the New York Post."

"What?" Dean snatched the paper away from him and read the article before throwing it back at Sam with a disgusted sneer.

"Now can we investigate it?"

"Sure, Sam, where would you like to start?" Dean snarked. "The first guy was in Oklahoma. Second in Oregon, then Wisconsin. They're appearing all over the place with no rhyme or reason."

"We can look for a pattern." Sam pleaded.

"Don't give me that crap, Sam, I know you've already been looking for one." Dean glared at him, almost smiling when Sam looked guilty. "In the past 6 months more than 200 guys have gotten "pregnant" all over the US, Canada and Europe and God only knows where else that's just not admitting it. I don't know, could just be some freaky medical thing."

"All of a sudden?" Sam asked. "When is it ever a freaky medical thing?" He smiled, reminding Dean of one of his own favourite comments.

"There's nothing we can do, Sammy." Dean sighed. "Until one of these kids is born so we can see what we're dealing with."

"You think they might be demons or something?" Sam asked hesitantly.

"I don't know what the hell to think, Sam." Dean shook his head tiredly.

"I still think we should look into it." Sam pushed, as usual.

"You would." Dean glared at him before standing up and throwing some cash down on the table. "Stubborn ass." Sam grinned before following him.

"You love my ass." He crowed once they were in the parking lot, Dean storming ahead to the motel. Dean shook his head but smiled nonetheless. Sam closed the motel

door behind them.

"One of the first guys was in South Carolina right? It won't take us long to get there." Sam pleaded.

"You don't think he's got enough on his plate without us harassing him?" Dean sat down on the bed and Sam moved to sit next to him quickly, to stop him moving to the middle of the bed and blocking himself off.

"Not as much as he's going to have on his plate if he gives birth to a demon." Sam sighed. "Can you imagine it? There's been over 200 reported cases so far. Like you said, we don't know how many others aren't admitting it. If they were all demons? Even all half breeds….Jesus, Dean, they'd have a natural human form so we wouldn't be able to exorcise them. We'd have to kill them. Human children. Could you do that?"

"And what are we supposed to do if we think they're demons now, Sam? Perform backstreet abortions?" Dean shuddered.

"We'd have the chance to think of something. Please?" Sam begged. "Like you said, it might just be some freaky medical thing."

Dean shook his head with a bitter smile. "It's never a medical thing."