And… we're done.
The phone ringing on the dresser could just be heard over the roar of the vacuum cleaner, and Jo reached for it without thinking.
"Hello?" she answered, turning off the sweeper at the same time.
There was a moment of silence, then, "Jo?"
"Bobby?" Jo asked delightedly. "How are you?"
"Fine," he said slowly, and she realized it was confusion she heard in his voice. "Are the boys with you?" he went on.
"Did they not tell you?" That seemed odd. "They've been here almost a week. Have you been helping them figure out how to reverse the curse?"
Another silence. "Yeah. Workin' on it." He hesitated again. "Did they bring the girls with them?"
Jo frowned. "What girls?"
"The girls. The girls who were guys before they got cursed?" Bobby's tone was equal parts what is wrong with you? and what the hell is going on here?
"There were other guys who became girls?" Jo was sure she should be following this conversation, but she really wasn't.
There was a significant pause.
"Our boys became girls," Bobby stated, understanding dawning.
"Yes," Jo said. "Were there…?" She broke off. "Ohhhhh," she breathed. Crap. "They told you someone else had been cursed."
"Yep," came dryly over the phone. "They told me they didn't have cell service, so we've been communicating over email. But my internet's down today, so I thought I'd see if I could get through."
"They're going to kill me." And she'd deserve it for answering one of their phones.
"Well, we can't have that," Bobby laughed at her. "There's no need to tell 'em we talked. The Dairy Queen in town has free wireless. I can use that 'til I figure out what's going on with mine."
Jo knew she shouldn't deceive Dean and Sam. But that wasn't going to stop her from doing it given the circumstances. "Thank you," she said earnestly.
"I'm going to expect payment, though," Bobby told her.
"Would pictures be sufficient?" she asked solicitously.
"That would be acceptable on my end," Bobby agreed.
"Excellent." That settled, Jo asked, "Any news?"
Bobby huffed out an exasperated breath. "Not really. Often these sorts of curses are cyclical – lunar, diurnal. I just haven't been able to find anything similar enough to give us a pattern."
Hormonal? Jo wondered uncertainly, but didn't say anything. That seemed so obvious. But what did she know? Jo shrugged to herself. "Well, if it's cyclical, does that mean it will just… stop at some point? Whether you find the pattern or not, doesn't that mean at some point they'll turn back to themselves."
Bobby snorted. "You'd think. But we don't know how long at this point. And if there is a way to break it…." He trailed off.
"Right," Jo said. "That would obviously be better," she acknowledged.
Neither of them said anything for a second. "Well," Jo finally sighed. "I should probably hang up before they realize I've outed them."
Bobby laughed. "Yeah. Keep me posted, though."
"I will," Jo agreed. "I'll try to send you the first installment of our payment plan soon," she offered.
"I'll look forward to getting it."
"Of course." Dean didn't shout it. He barely even said it out loud.
The lamp flipping on had already wakened Sam, and he rolled toward his brother, blinking unhappily in the glare. "Dean, wh- ?" He muttered.
'Nothing, Sam," Dean said softly. "Go back to sleep."
Sam sat up. "Are you bleeding?"
Dean didn't respond. Just looked at him.
"Oh, man," Sam breathed.
"Yeah," Dean said. But he didn't move, just crouched there looking overwhelmed and uncertain. And disconcertingly like he might cry.
Not sure himself, Sam still swung his legs off the bed. "You… you want me to see if Jo has, you know, anything…?" He trailed off, watching Dean carefully.
His brother nodded. "Yeah. Yeah. That would…" Dean started to get up, frowning down at his pajamas and sheets before raising his eyes to Sam.
"You... Why don't you get cleaned up?" Sam suggested, trying for matter-of-fact and not freaked-the-hell-out. "I- I'll meet you in the bathroom." And with that he fled.
He checked their bathroom first and finding nothing, sprinted toward the stairs, suddenly afraid that maybe Jo was past that point in her life, wondering semi-hysterically when menopause set in and if they were well and truly screwed in terms of finding something that would….
He turned on the light in the upstairs bathroom and started rummaging through the cabinets. He'd just found what he was looking for when Jo walked in.
"Honey? Is everything…?" Her eyebrows went up into her hairline when she recognized the package he was clutching.
"Um," Sam bit his lip. Nodded when she took a surprised breath of realization. "Yeah," he said. "Dean got his period."
She put her hand over her mouth, and Sam felt a twinge of protective annoyance when he saw she was trying not to laugh. He frowned at her, but she was already shaking her head.
"I'm sorry, Sam. I'm sorry. It's not funny. I know that. It's just…." She was still shaking her head, but getting herself under control.
And Sam had to acknowledge that maniacal laughter might not actually be an unreasonable response to the situation.
"Our lives are so weird," he said heavily.
"So. I understand our little girl has become a woman," Luke said into the silence after the boys had left for school. He grinned, enjoying the moment to tease.
Sam made a disapproving noise in his throat, scowling at Luke. Luke winked at him and reached out to flick the end of Sam's braid. Sam tossed his head irritably, swishing his hair out of the man's touch.
Dean tensed, but he didn't raise his head from paper he was reading. Luke thought that his hilarity wasn't going to be acknowledged at all. Except that a tear dripped off the end of Dean's nose.
"Luke," Jo scolded, shaking her head at him.
Dean got up and left the room.
Luke sighed. "Well, shoot," he muttered and pushed back his chair to follow.
It took awhile, but eventually Luke found the kid hunched in the backseat of the Impala, arms crossed over his chest, knees tucked up tightly. His bare feet were braced on the leather seats pushing him firmly into the corner against the door. He glared at Luke when he opened the opposite door.
"Hey, kiddo." Luke bent over to speak into the car. "I'm sorry."
Dean wasn't looking at him again. But he shrugged. "Doesn't matter."
"Yeah it does," Luke disagreed. He slid onto the seat, but left the door open next to him. "I was trying to be funny, and… well, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"My feelings aren't hurt," Dean muttered. "I'm embarrassed and pissed and every freaking emotion I have leaks out of my eyes." At this more tears welled up and spilled down his cheeks. "God damn it," he ground out, wiping angrily at his face. "How do they even function like this?" he demanded fiercely of Luke, like he should have an answer.
Luke didn't. "It's not the same for every woman," he said. "Some get more emotional with their periods than others. Jo…"
"Are you saying I'm being overly-emotional?" Dean asked.
Luke cleared his throat.
"Because I think I'm being pretty rational given the circumstances," Dean wobbled unsteadily. "I mean. Not every guy could be turned into a girl and handle it this well." His voice hitched. "Cuz this is really weird and …"
To Luke's horror, Dean started to cry in earnest, hiccupping sobs and mucus-flying kind of crying. Frozen for a moment, eventually Luke eased over warily to put an arm around shuddering shoulders, ready to withdraw at the slightest indication that the contact was unwelcome. When Dean didn't growl at him or try to gut him, Luke started to pat on the kid awkwardly, unable to understand more than one in five of the words that escaped during the meltdown.
"And what if we're stuck like this," Dean wailed
Grasping desperately at something that finally made sense, Luke soothed, "You're not going to be stuck like this, baby, you'll…"
"Stop calling me that!" Dean snarled. "I'm not your freaking daughter!" He shoved abruptly out of Luke's one-armed embrace to scramble over into the front seat.
Luke took a deep breath. "You're not going to be stuck like this, Dean," he tried again, speaking as evenly as he could.
"How do you know? We haven't found anything! Bobby hasn't found anything! We could be girls forever. How the hell are we supposed to hunt like this? I can't…"
"Aren't there women hunters?" Luke asked. "What about that daughter of your dad's friend? Doesn't she…?"
"Yeah, sure," Dean admitted impatiently, waving a dismissive hand. "But…"
"Dean." Luke decided he was done with this. "You're not going to be a little girl forever." He said it as if that settled the matter, and raised a peremptory hand when Dean opened his mouth to go on. Dean shut it. Sniffed, but didn't go on, turning to gaze out the front windshield.
Luke took a second to look at Dean with genuine concern. "Are you OK?" he asked. "You got it in under control?"
Dean heaved a huge sigh. Appeared to think about it. "Yeah," he mumbled.
"Good," Luke said. He scooted back toward the door. "I'm going to go drink my coffee."
"Luke?" Small voice. Luke glanced over the seatback to meet Dean's eyes. "'m sorry," the kid said softly, lip caught between teeth, expression contrite.
Luke closed his eyes in resignation. Girls. "It's OK," he said, just managing to avoid adding sweetheart. "Let's go finish breakfast."
"Are you feeling OK, honey?"
Dean was sitting at the kitchen table, hunched over slightly, arms crossed over his midriff flipping through a magazine. He shrugged without looking at her, face creased unhappily.
"Does your stomach hurt?"
He nodded this time in addition to lifting one shoulder.
"Feels kind of tight and uncomfortable along here?" She indicated her lower abdomen.
He looked at her now, expression glum, a yes in the crinkle above his nose and around his eyes.
"I think you've got cramps."
Dean sagged in defeat, and he looked like he might be blinking back tears again.
Oh, sweetie, she thought, but didn't say. Instead she crossed to the cabinets and pulled out a bottle of Advil. She shook two tablets into her hand and gave them to him with a glass of water. He swallowed them down and went back to his reading, rubbing a thumb surreptitiously under an eye.
Jo paused beside him and then ran a gentle hand over his head. When he didn't duck out from under her touch, she kept up the motion, threading soothing fingers through the silkiness of his hair.
"Would a heating pad help, do you think, sweetheart?"
He didn't respond beyond a hesitant motion in his shoulders. She noticed the twitch of his head, though, looking back toward the family room, checking for the boys.
"It's just you and me, baby," she said softly. "They don't have to know."
Now Dean turned in his chair and finally looked up at her.
She smiled. "Come on. We'll get you set up on the couch. See if we can find you a movie." The smile deepened into a grin she couldn't help as she brushed her knuckles over his cheek. "Maybe on Lifetime," she teased.
Dean rolled his eyes, then surprised her with a lopsided grin. "Mother May I Sleep with Danger?" he suggested.
Jo laughed. "You should be so lucky," she said.
The rest of the week passed uneventfully, Dean unable to do anything but accept what was happening to him and learn to go with the flow. As it were.
The morning after his period ended, Dean woke up and squirmed slightly at the constriction of something around his waist. Blearily, he tried to alleviate the discomfort, by stretching his legs out as far as they would go. He grimaced when he realized he'd caught his feet in the tucked-in blanket at the end of his bed. With a muttered grunt he shifted up towards the head of the bed. And bonked the top of his head on the headboard.
"Shit," he yelped. Deeply. He blinked.
"Dude. Shut up." Sam's muffled complaint was said from under the covers, just the top of a tousled – large – head peeking out. His unhappy grumble was a low rumble.
"Sam!" Dean barked, staring first at Sam and then down the length of bed. Wiggled toes that much farther away than they'd been the night before. "Look!" He tossed the covers away – long hairy legs, broad hands, and a flat chest. "Look!" he demanded again.
Sleepily and resentfully, Sam poked his head out from the blanket. "What?"
Befuddled by sleep, Sam frowned at Dean for a long second. He opened his mouth to complain again and then shut it as his eyes widened comically. "Hey!" he said. "HEY!" He glanced down at himself. "Hey, we're us!" he caroled.
"I know!" Dean shouted giddily.
They both fell out of bed.
Dean jumped to his feet and stood, almost twitching with excitement, staring at his brother.
"What should we do?" Sam was practically vibrating with the same jittery energy Dean felt skipping through his own body.
Dean grinned. "Let's go beat up on the boys." His eyes travelled down Sam, an eyebrow lifting at the shredded boxers his brother had been sleeping in. And was suddenly aware that his own sleep wear was way too tight. "But let's change first."
It never made Jo happy to be awakened by the slamming of a door against the wall of the boys' bedroom. This morning was no exception.
She groaned in frustration, biting out, "I am so gonna…"
But she was interrupted by an eruption of bangs and yells from down the hall.
"Dean! Dean! Stop! STOP!" The shrieks were rising in pitch and intensity. "No! Sam! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, DON'T…" There was more muffled thumping and what Jo realized was laughter, as she jolted up in bed. She sank back down when she realized that the shouts weren't actually indications her children were being murdered in their beds.
Just barely she heard the sound of Dean's adult, male voice drifting from the boys' room. "Payback's a bitch. Bitches." More screaming and giggling echoed through the house.
Jo maneuvered herself upright as Luke joined her, draping an arm over her shoulders and settling against the headboard.
"Ah, the sweet sound of children's voices in the morning," he sighed.
"Yeah. Turns out it was cyclical and the guys just turned back to themselves." Dean shook his head ruefully at Sam sitting across the table from him. Sam grinned and ducked his head to take a pull on the straw of his milkshake.
"Cyclical how? There wasn't a new moon last night."
Dean scratched uncomfortably at the back of his head. "No. It wasn't lunar, it…" He trailed off. He so didn't want to say it. Even if Bobby wouldn't understand the implications.
"Well, how?" Bobby demanded impatiently.
Dean didn't answer.
"Dean," Bobby barked.
"It was…" Dean cleared his throat. "Hormonal, I guess, you'd say." He squinted at Sam, whose shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter. Dean flipped him off, and Sam snorted chocolate shake out of his nose.
"Hormonal?" Bobby asked impatiently. "What do you mean?"
Are you kidding me? "Hormonal, dude," Dean snapped back. "What do you think I mean?"
There was a moment of silence.
"You mean menstrual?" Bobby's voice sounded oddly strangled.
"Yeah, man. That." Dean could feel the blush on his cheeks and his eyes darted over to Sam who was busy pulling the computer out of its bag and had missed Dean's embarrassed reaction.
There was a succession of weird noises on the other end of the phone, and Dean scowled in confusion.
"Bobby, what the hell?"
A couple of gurgling gasps sputtered over the line. "Yeah. OK. Got it." Bobby exhaled gustily and managed, "You boys OK?"
"Yeah, why wouldn't we be?" Dean asked rhetorically. "We got something that looks like a gig up in Maine we're headed to. Just wanted to check in now that we've, uh, got cell service again."
"Good. I appreciate it." There was something amused in Bobby's tone that Dean didn't quite like. "Hey, I found something I thought you boys might want to see while I was researching your gender-swapping curse. I'll email it to you after we hang up."
Dean shrugged, noting that Sam had gotten the laptop set up. We got wireless? He mouthed to his brother. At Sam's nod, Dean told Bobby, "We're online, so send it on."
"Will do," Bobby said. "I'll talk to you boys soon."
"'K. See ya, man."
Dean hung up and slid his phone back into his pocket. "Bobby's sending us somethin'," he said to Sam before tucking into his hamburger.
Sam acknowledged him with an absent grunt.
Neither of them said anything as Sam did some research, and Dean finished up his lunch.
"Here it is," Sam said, clicking. He paled.
"Oh, no," Sam breathed.
"Dude. What?" Dean reached for the computer and Sam surrendered it without a fight. He was watching Dean with wide, tragic eyes.
It was a picture. Full screen. And in color.
Two young girls were sitting on the front porch rail of the Sweeds' house. The older girl was leaning against one support pole while the younger one was slouched against the other. The girls had their jean-clad legs stretched along the rail in front of them, sneakered feet crossed at the ankles. Neither child was looking at the camera. Long brown braids fell over the shoulders of the little girl on left side of the frame, and she was watching the teenager opposite her with a wide, adoring smile. The girl on the right had lighter brown hair that had blown over her face, and the photographer had captured her in the act of pushing it behind her ears, grinning back at the other girl, crinkles around her eyes and bright freckles over the bridge of her nose.
Along the bottom the caption read, "Sammy (11) and Dee (15) Winchester watch the boys play football."
Dean brought his gaze up to Sam's stricken face.
"Bobby says, 'There's more where that came from,'" Sam whispered.
Dean closed his eyes. "We are so screwed."