Story Notes:

Yes, I know! I know! This has been done before, probably to death... Which is why the title of this story is so funny, because it isn't inventive at all on my part.

This story is a treat entirely to myself, because the show is getting so bleak and angsty, tearing our beloved Winchesters apart this season with the apocalypse stuff, and I wanted to do something nice for myself. So now we have this.

Kripke and company will never give this to me -- and as they say, if you want something done, you've got to do it yourself.

(I'm really trying not to give the big shocking reveal away before you've read the first chapter). It's not shocking actually. lol.

For those saps out there like me who want some Winchester family fluff, like hot cocoa or chocolate cookie dough ice cream for the soul, this is for you. :)


There were few things in life as satisfying as a well-brewed cup of coffee, served up in the right atmosphere, with the right friends as company to wile away a few hours, especially after the mid-term rush was over. It was like sinking into a warm bath after shoveling a driveway full of snow, or falling into bed after a trans-Atlantic flight of sixteen hours. And Carl's Cafe was what Nick Melloni considered to be his own private comfort spot – the bath and the bed in one – with its comfy sofas and its penchant for playing Tom Waits. It was a campus cafe, though not smack dab in the middle – slightly out of the way, a little less well known. Haven to bookworms and beatniks, it was both comfy and moody, with low-hanging lights that gave off minimum wattage, and dark walls adorned with original pieces painted by local artists from the art college. It was everything an Arts major like Nick could look for in a cafe. Carl's was home sweet home. Which was why the cramped quarters due to too many customers crowded around the too few tables and pulsatingly long line-up was really, really pissing him off.

Sure, it was Halloween, and Carl's frosted cookies were both cheap and delicious, as well as being practically world famous. He got that. All the kids from campus came to Carl's for the holidays, even the ones that weren't bank holidays. Valentines Day brought heart-shaped cookies, while St. Patrick's Day yielded Shamrocks. Christmas was special, with wreaths, candy canes, and Christmas trees to make up the cafe's cookie arsenal. And Halloween? Well Carl just went all out.

But that still didn't explain why that guy had brought his screaming kid in. University cafes were for university students – not useless breeders and their squalling toddlers. And right now, the kid's face was positively red as she screamed her face off, for which her dad offered no apologies whatsoever. Nick wanted to go over and punch him, or at the very least, ask him to leave or make his brat shut the hell up. She was ruining his comfort moment, spoiling his Zen.

And he wasn't the only one.

"Okay seriously?" Mandy said, rolling her eyes in the direction of the still heaving line-up. "That guy should take his kid and leave. It's really disrupting everyone else."

"Seriously," Nick agreed, rolling his eyes for added emphasis. "Some people are trying to relax."

They certainly looked relaxed, sprawled as they were atop the leather cushions of two parallel sofas that flanked the coffee table that held their now empty coffee cups. The group of undergrads had met up for their usual Monday afternoon coffee date, and were now comfortably settled into the couches like permanent fixtures. Being a rather large group, they needed both sofas to accommodate everyone. Much to the guys' chagrin, they'd more than once been jokingly compared to the cast of friends at Central Perk.

"It's bad enough that it's packed in here – I mean, don't these people know already that this is our spot?" Mandy complained, half-jokingly, half-serious. "But I don't do screaming kids. And it's not fair to inflict your screaming kids on the rest of the world. Am I right?"

But of course, it was Jess who had to play the bleeding heart card.

"Knock it off, guys," she said with good humour. "He's probably just buying a cookie for his daughter. And he has as much right to be here as the rest of us."

"Yeah, well her cookies don't trump my bleeding ears, man," Nick whined.

Truth was, Nick was a little stressed about the paper he'd just handed in. He'd asked for an extension and even with the extra two days of working on it, he still wasn't satisfied with the end result. It felt rushed and entirely uninspired. Apparently his thoughts on the Hegelian dialectic weren't even interesting enough to him to make a decent paper, which didn't bode well for his upcoming grade. And that left his gut roiling, on top of the tension headache he could feel forming behind his eyes. The screaming kid and the overall noise in the crowded cafe – his cafe – were just making him feel worse by the minute.

"Where's Sam?" he asked, hoping to distract himself from his growing anxiety and oncoming headache.

"He should be on his way by now," Jess replied, flipping a golden strand of hair off her shoulder as she leaned back against the couch. "He was finishing up at the library."

"Cool," Nick said. "Then we can start making plans for our big Halloween bash tonight."

Jessica shook her head and smiled ruefully.

"You know I'm going to have to drag Sam along kicking and screaming," she reminded him. "Maybe we should just keep it low-key. Have some people over to our place for some wine and cheese or something."

"Screw the wine and cheese," Nick scoffed. "We need beer – and lots of it. Gotta celebrate Sam's awesome LSAT scores!" God that paper was probably going to be a C. And then it would drag his whole GPA down. Definitely needed copious amounts of beer, applied liberally, for a number of hours.

"I'm just saying," Jess said innocently, hands half raised in surrender. "You know how Sam is..."

"Oh yeah?" a voice called from behind. "And how, exactly, is Sam?"

Nick watched as Jess turned at the sound of her boyfriend's voice, her whole face lighting up as she craned her neck back and around to look up, up, up at the looming 6'4 figure above her.

"Hey there hot stuff," she teased, snaking an arm around his waist to pull him closer to the couch so that his thighs banged harmlessly against it. "Why don't you go grab yourself a coffee and then join us? And grab a refill for me while you're at it?"

She smiled winsomely, noting that the line-up was long enough that Sam would be there for some time.

"It's a good thing you're cute and I like you," Sam replied, taking her cup and giving her a soft kiss on top of her golden head. "Otherwise you'd be lost without your coffee, suffering the ravages of a killer caffeine-withdrawal headache."

"Just 'like' me?" she queried playfully.

"More like worships," Mandy teased.

"Pussy-whipped," Nick added.

"Yeah, yeah," Sam muttered, walking away and brandishing a finger in their general direction.

"Grab me one while you're at it!" Nick hollered, but was met only with more waving of the finger and Sam's retreating back as he made his way to the back of the line-up. Nick grinned and resumed his languishing, sprawled position on the couch.

"I should have gotten more than one cookie," he added thoughtfully, and was about to explain how one cookie was never enough, and that his cheapskate tendencies to skimp on the sweets always left him hungry and dissatisfied, when an outburst from the line-up suddenly drew his attention.

"What the hell are you doing here, Dean?" Sam's voice rang out over the crowd, which had suddenly fallen very quiet.

"Heya Sammy," a shorter man with sandy-blonde hair replied, stepping toward the milk and cream station to set his tray of food down, the screaming child seated at his hip and pawing at his face. "Long time no see, little brother."

888

Sam had never seen it this busy at Carl's. Sure, it tended to get crowded around the holidays, or at mid-terms, but this was just a seething mass of humanity in all its consumer glory. It made him feel mildly claustrophobic. Of course, it wasn't helped by the fact that the line-up didn't appear to be moving at all, due mostly to the fact that some guy at the counter was trying to juggle a coffee, a plate of cookies, a screaming toddler, and his wallet all at the same time.

Sam felt sorry for the guy. He couldn't see him up close, but from his place at the back of the line Sam would guess him to be about Dean's height. He had light, spiky hair like Dean, too, and a brown leather jacket that looked suspiciously like... But that couldn't be, because Dean was off hunting God knows where with Dad, and Dean definitely wouldn't have some screaming toddler hanging off his side like some jungle monkey. Still, it did make Sam think of his brother, and that sent a stab to his heart at the thought of the last time they'd even spoken to each other. It had been over two years.

"Mary Winchester, so help me God," the young man at the counter's voice carried over the crowd, yanking Sam away from his thoughts with the force of a Mack truck going at warp speed. "You'll get your cookies in a second, but only if you stop with that screamin'."

Sam's heart stopped. He was certain it stopped beating altogether, for a full two minutes. Probably hadn't stopped at all, in reality, but it sure as hell felt like it had exploded in his chest and left a hollow cavity in its wake.

"Dean?" he croaked, loud enough only for his own ears. And then he saw the young man turn around, lips he'd know anywhere pursed tight as he shoved his wallet into his back jeans pocket and then held a tray with cookies and coffee teetering precariously on one outstretched hand, green eyes framed by long sooty lashes cast down as he attempted to weave his way past the crowded line-up with the small child now happily compliant with the cookies so close within her reach.

"Dean?" Sam called again, this time loud enough to draw his brother's attention. Dean froze, his head snapping to the side in search of the voice, his eyes zig-zagging through the crowd until they finally fell upon the sight of his (big)little brother across the crowded floor.

Sam watched as the worry lines on his brother's handsome face evaporated, a megawatt smile stealing its way across his delicate features as his eyes softened with genuine pleasure and what looked like relief. They stared at each other a moment, each drinking in the sight of the other, Sam with his mouth hanging open like a fish out of water, Dean with his eyes crinkling at the corners as his smile grew wistful.

Dean was standing in a coffee shop with a kid on his hip, calling her Mary Winchester. What. The. FUCK!? Sam couldn't make heads or tails of it. Mary Winchester. Mary Winchester. It didn't make any kind of sense. The child was cute – though adorable, stunning, gorgeous were probably better suited to describe the utter perfection of the sweet, cherub-faced little girl who was even now nuzzling her face against his big brother's neck, one hand sneaking forward to attempt to grab at one of the cookies on the plate. She had blonde hair that was pulled into two soft pigtails, hanging straight past her ears and falling down to her chin. Sam had never seen his mom, but he could guess that this kid probably looked just like her. Or else, maybe she just looked like Dean.

It was nine kinds of crazy, and yet here Dean was, standing here, in Sam's favourite coffee shop in Palo Alto, with some strange kid and offering no explanations. And suddenly Sam wanted to scream.

"What the hell are you doing here, Dean?" he demanded.

"Heya Sammy," Dean said. "Long time no see, little brother."

And apparently, that was all he was going to say. The crowd had gone awkwardly silent at Sam's shouted demand, but slowly the chatter recommenced, allowing them at least some semblance of privacy as Sam stalked several steps towards his brother, his chin jutting dangerously forward, his nostrils flared.

"What. The Hell. Are you doing here?" he pressed.

Sam watched as Dean's smile wavered, the light in his eyes diminishing at his brother's anger. Obviously he had imagined a warmer reception than this, if he'd bothered to imagine it at all.

"I uh," Dean coughed and then attempted a smile. "I came to see my little brother." He raised his eyebrows hopefully, as if in a question. Was this enough? the look said.

Sam tilted his head significantly in the toddler's direction, his own eyebrows raising high into his hairline and disappearing somewhere in the shaggy mop.

"Right," Dean said, taking a fortifying breath and attempting another weak smile – the Dean Winchester smile that looked remarkably like a question. "Uh, this is, uh... This is Mary. My daughter. Your niece." He coughed again. "So that means you're an uncle..."

Sam just stared at him blankly.

"Congratulations, it's a girl!" Dean cried in mock celebration, his nostrils flaring now with that smile that was still a question.

And if Dean weren't holding a two year-old, Sam would have punched him.

888

Dean had a daughter. Dean had a fucking daughter. A fucking two year-old daughter. And no one had thought to tell him, to call him, to give him a heads-up and say, 'Hey, Sam! You'll never guess what's happened!' A million and one different thoughts rushed through Sam's head, pounding through his ears and pulsing through his body with urgent need, screaming whatthehellwhatthehellwhathtehell.

If Sam was honest with himself, this scenario wasn't completely beyond the realm of possibility. Sure, it was hard picturing Dean as a dad, if only because Dean was such a freakin' drifter, such a con artist charlatan trouble-maker that it was almost impossible to picture him being responsible for another person's life – especially a little tiny innocent person who would depend on him for everything. On the other hand, biologically it made sense. Dean had more sex than probably anyone Sam had ever met, had probably had more partners than a five-dollar hooker. Okay, so maybe that was stretching it a bit much. But his brother was a man-slut, and it wasn't totally inconceivable that he could have spawned a child here or there along the American landscape. Hell, Sam had always suspected that somewhere out there was a green-eyed, blonde-haired mini-Dean wondering where his or her daddy was. Maybe more than one. But this?

The sight of his big, devil-may-care brother, the skirt-chasing, consummate ladies man who ran away screaming from responsibility like it was a plague rat, his Dean clutching a grabby, needy, yet visibly happy two year-old baby girl to his side as she nuzzled into him and babbled at him in her own broken version of English, seeing the natural way their bodies seemed to fit together, as if they'd spent their whole lives together, as if she depended on him and he was there for her... It was breathtaking and mind-boggling at the same time.

And Sam found he couldn't speak. Between wanting to choke his brother, bombard him with the oodles of questions he had, and wanting to steal himself away with the positively adorable little girl whose mossy green eyes were boring into his and melting him even as she hid shyly behind her own impossibly long lashes, just like her daddy's – between all of that, Sam found himself simply frozen in place and at a complete loss for what to do or say.

It was Jessica who rescued him.

"Babe?" she asked, having snuck up behind him at some point and placed her soft hand reassuringly on the small of his back. "Sam, you okay?"

Jessica's presence effectively drew him out of his stupor. He could think again, if only in a strictly functional, we've-got-witnesses-so-let's-get-the-pleasantries-over-with kind of way.

"Yeah," he heard himself say in a husky voice that couldn't possibly be his. He cleared his throat and sniffed. "Yeah. I'm fine."

He turned and smiled at her, drawing her close with one of his massive paws and pulling her to his side, an arm wrapped protectively around her (though protecting her from what, he wasn't sure).

"Jess, this is my brother Dean," he said, indicating Dean and Mary. "Dean, this is Jess."

Dean wiped his left hand on his jeans and extended it toward Jess in greeting, his right hand currently being occupied by the little girl in his arms.

"Hey," Dean said, his megawatt smile returning.

Jess paused and looked up at Sam, her brow furrowed in confusion.

"Dean?" she asked and Sam nodded in reply. "Wow." She seemed to be at a loss for words too, and looked even more confused when she took in the sight of Mary in Dean's arms. Sam had definitely not mentioned anything about having a niece.

"Ummm...." Jess began. "So you're here to see Sam?"

"Yeah," Dean said, sounding both conversational and relieved. "Just thought I'd stop by at last to see how my little brother's doin' in good old Cali-forn-eye-A."

Jess eyed both brothers suspiciously, sensing the tension in the air.

"Sam says it's been a while," she said meaningfully.

"Two years," Sam said, equally meaningfully, glancing at Mary as his jaw twitched. He so wanted to punch his brother right now for not telling him about this.

Dean laughed awkwardly.

"Yeah, well, what're ya gonna do, right? Been busy." It was his turn to look at Mary meaningfully.

"I wanna tootie daddy!" the child suddenly garbled, her pink cheeks dimpling as she attempted a winning smile to coax her very distracted father to give her one of the very coveted cookies.

It was then that Jess noticed that Dean's tray was sitting untouched, his coffee undrunk and the cookies uneaten, on the milk and cream counter.

"Here, why don't you come sit with us?" she suggested, noticing how other patrons had to step around them to get to their tables.

"Yeah," Sam said absently, wishing he could just pull his brother outside and scream at him 'whatthehellwhatthehellwhatthehell?' but knowing that would be impossible with his friends watching and with Jess standing right there trying so hard to be polite.

"Sounds great, thanks," Dean replied. He looked anxious, but the pawing, grabbing, reaching hands of his daughter seemed to remind him of more pressing concerns.

"Here, let me take this," Sam offered, grabbing the coffee in one hand and the plate of cookies in the other and abandoning the tray altogether.

"Thanks, Sammy." The grateful look that Dean cast his way was almost enough to shatter Sam's anger. Almost.

"It's Sam."

To say that Sam's friends were surprised when Dean and Mary joined them at the couches would be a gross understatement. Nick's eyes opened wide with shock, his left eyebrow twitching in what was unmistakably irritation. Not surprisingly, the girls took in the sight of Dean, lady-killer-Dean with his movie star smile and the adorable cherub-faced toddler in his arms, and positively fell over themselves with maternal oohing and aahing and Sam could practically hear their biological clocks ticking and could almost smell pheromones in the air. He had no doubt that Dean used his daughter to pick up chicks. He'd consider it a perk of the job.

"Hey guys," Sam said to the assembled group without preamble. "This is my brother Dean and his daughter Mary. Everyone – Dean." He swept his arm around the group in a vague gesture of 'here they are' and then promptly took a seat on the couch with Jessica.

"Hey," Dean said, nodding and smiling. He sat down in one of the comfy lounge chairs that someone had recently vacated and placed Mary on his lap, where she happily gnawed on the cookie her father had just handed her.

"Mmmm... tooties," she said, opening her mouth wide to take a bite with tiny teeth. Her blissed-out smile was so like Dean's when sinking his teeth into a juicy cheeseburger or a good slice of apple pie that Sam had to stifle a laugh.

There were polite questions, of course, about what Dean did and what brought him to Palo Alto, how old was Mary, and how was he finding California so far? Dean answered with his usual fake openness, pretending to be an open book, pretending to be Joe Normal for the sake of his little brother. Dean was a mechanic, he said. Just taking a small break to visit his little brother ('Right, Sammy?'). But when they asked about Mary, Dean's face positively lit up. For her part, Mary had buried her face in her father's neck, pretending to be shy, Dean assured them.

"Mary's quite the tripple threat," Dean explained. "She loves to sing and dance. And she's one hell of an actress. Aren'cha, Mare?"

She buried her face deeper into her father's neck and promptly slapped him on the head as if to say, 'Don't be so silly, Daddy!'

"Yeah?" Jess asked, leaning forward. "You like to sing, Mary? I love to sing."

Mary paused in her burrowing and turned slightly, her green eyes meeting large pale blue ones.

"Sam and me sing all the time," Jess assured her, nodding emphatically.

"Do you wanna sing for your uncle Sammy?" Dean asked tentatively, his face so close to Mary's his nose was just skimming her cheek as she peered cautiously at the assembled grown-ups who all seemed eager to hear her sing.

Sam couldn't help leaning forward eagerly. He really did want to see his little niece perform, if only because Dean seemed so keen on getting her to do it. It must be damned adorable if Dean was putting her on display like this.

"Come on, why doncha show your uncle Sammy how you can sing and dance, huh?" Dean coaxed. "I'll sing with you."

Apparently, 'I'll sing with you' actually meant 'I'll sing for you.' Dean began singing shamelessly, to which Mary almost immediately sprang into action, standing up on his lap and swaying/bouncing from side to side, mumbling tunelessly along with her daddy.

"Just a small town girl," Dean sang. "Livin' in a lonely world. She took a midnight train goin' anywhere."

'Journey?' Sam mouthed, eyebrows arched. Dean simply grinned and continued with his own rocker-style version of the soft rock classic.

"Just a city boy, livin' in South Detroit. He took a midnight train goin' anywhere."

Mary obviously didn't know the words, but would join in at certain points to garble along with her daddy, pausing in her dancing or jerking with a longer-held note to accentuate it. But when they got to the final chorus she seemed to break out on her own.

"Don't stop believing!" Dean sang, louder now.

"Howd on dodo feewee!" Mary sang proudly, her eyes lit up with pride and excitement. And when Dean sang the line, "Streetlight people" Mary sang along with something that sounded vaguely like "Seevie beebee."

Everyone clapped at the song's conclusion, including Dean, but his cheeks were red with mirth, his eyes swimming with unshed tears as he fought desperately to suppress his laughter. He'd been about to lose it at "feewee" but completely fell to pieces at the incomprehensible "seevie beebee." Sam got the feeling that Dean did this often to entertain himself, and that it never stopped being funny.

Sam was grinning so broadly his cheeks actually hurt. Mary was too cute for words, and Dean could almost be said to be gushing. It was obvious that he was proud of her, that he was proud to show her off to Sam and his friends. Much as the kid had probably been a mistake (because she sure as hell couldn't have been planned), Sam could tell that, where Mary was concerned, she was something his brother felt he'd done right. And he was proud to let his brother know it, too.

Why didn't you tell me, Dean? It made Sam ache to think of how much time he'd missed with her, how many adorable moments like this one he could have shared in. Why hadn't Dean even called him to let him know he'd become a dad? And how long had Dean known he was a dad?

Speaking of which...

"So yeah, uh, we should probably go," Sam suggested, standing up to stretch his legs. Dean and Jess were both quick to follow suit.

"Yeah, I'm sure you've got lots of catching up to do," Mandy said warmly. Sam didn't miss the strange look that Jessica shot at her, either.

"Well, it's been real," Dean said, giving a half-hearted wave before scooping Mary up off his lap and into his arms once again.

Once they'd made it outside, Jess turned to Sam and gave his hand a tight, reassuring squeeze.

"I'm gonna take off," she said. "I'll make us something to eat and maybe you guys can come back to our place for supper?"

"Thanks Jess," Sam whispered in reply. He gave her a quick peck on the cheek, thinking how much he loved her for knowing exactly what he needed and when he needed it.

Dean watched her go, his eyes set in a fierce look of approval.

"Nice, Sammy," he said, letting out a quiet appreciative whoop at Jess's retreating backside. "She's so outta your league."

But Sam had no interest in being put off. He rounded on his brother with a fierce scowl.

"Okay, what the HELL, Dean? What are you doing here? Why aren't you with Dad? And what's with having a kid and not even telling me Dean? When did this happen?"

Dean opened his mouth and licked his lips lazily, smirking with that mischievous twinkle to his eye.

"You want me to answer 'em in that order or what?" Quirking that stupid grin.

"How long have you known about Mary?" Sam demanded. He needed to know that one first.

"Pretty much since she was born," Dean admitted with a shrug.

"And her mother?"

He signed and ran a hand over his face.

"Dead, Sammy. She died right after Mary was born."

Sam could feel his heart racing. Was it the thing that took Mom? He asked as much, feeling like his chest might explode.

"No, no. It was natural. Complications of the pregnancy and delivery, I guess. She tried to do the whole 'natural' thing with a midwife at home." And he shook his head at this, a mixture of pity and regret on his face.

"Oh God, that's horrible," Sam admitted. He found he couldn't yell while talking about poor Mary's dead mother.

"So you've had her since she was born, then?"

"Yup."

"And that was how long ago?"

"A little over two years."

Sam pursed his lips in thought, coming to a decision.

"Put her down."

"What? Why?" Dean looked at Sam skeptically. "You wanna hold her?"

"No, I wanna punch you, you jerk!" Sam shouted. "How could you not tell me something like this?! What the hell, Dean? I'm supposed to be your brother – you're supposed to tell me when something as monumentally HUGE as the birth of your child happens!"

At Sam's outburst and raised voice, and particularly at his threat to punch her daddy, Mary began to cry. Mewling at first quickly gave way to wailing.

"Shh-sh-sh, baby, it's okay," Dean soothed, cradling her head in his hand against his shoulder. "Uncle Sammy's just upset. He didn't mean to yell."

"I want Gumpy!" she bawled. "I wa'my Gumpy!"

If looks could kill, Sam would be dead from the scowl that Dean was leveling at him now.

"Way to go, Einstein," he hissed. "You freakin' made her cry!"

Angry as he was, Sam caved instantly with guilt. He wished he could make Dean cry – the jerk certainly deserved to have every square inch of his ass kicked – but he'd certainly never meant to upset the baby.

"I'm sorry Mary," Sam offered placatingly. "I didn't mean to scare you."

"I wa'my Gumpy!" she cried again, her sobs growing louder. Sam noticed through the window of the cafe that heads were turning in their direction. He could see Nick's disgusted smirk at the resumption of the toddler's screaming.

"Gumpy? Is that a toy?" Sam asked quietly. "Should I run to the car and grab—?"

"She wants Dad," Dean said in exasperation, still making shushing sounds and gently rocking her as he stood.

"Dad?" Sam asked, completely lost and confused now. "Gumpy? Gumpy is Dad?"

"Yeah," Dean said, as if that made perfect sense. He was looking at his brother with that sharp-eyed, 'get-with-the-program-Sam' look that had so infuriated him growing up.

"So wait, Dad knows about this?"

Dean huffed a laugh.

"Of course he knows about this," he scoffed. "What, d'you think I just hid her in the closet, tucked her away in my freakin' drawer so Dad wouldn't find out about her? Dude, we sleep in the same room every night!"

"So Dad knew about this and I didn't." It felt like a question, but it wasn't. Or maybe it was. There was a question in there somewhere, though for the life of him Sam couldn't verbalize it.

"Kinda hard to keep it a secret from Dad, Sammy."

"We're supposed to be brothers, Dean!" Sam half-shouted, then immediately brought his voice down to a whisper. "I can't believe you would keep something like this from me!"

"Yeah, well, there never really seemed like a good time to tell you," Dean admitted with a shrug. "Can we go somewhere that's not the middle of the freakin' sidewalk or something?"

And with that, they headed towards the Impala. Mary had calmed down and was twining her fingers through the cord of Dean's amulet, her chubby digits tracing along the contours of the metal.

"Look, I'm sorry, all right?" Dean said once they'd reached the car. "I never meant for it to happen this way. It's just..." He paused and licked his lips again, a sure sign that he was feeling guilty. Any moment now he'd be averting his eyes and... Yep, there he goes – running his hand over his mouth and down his chin!

"I don't know, man. I didn't know how to tell you, okay?"

Sam huffed loudly.

"So you're still hunting?"

Dean looked puzzled.

"Of course."

"So what, Mary's going to be raised like we were? Backwoods cabins, sleazy motel rooms, an endless string of schools and no stability?"

Sam watched as his brother's eyes hardened, his lips pursing together in thought.

"See this? This is why I didn't tell you. I got enough crap offa Dad about how the responsible thing would be to just give her up – I really didn't want to hear it from you too. That and, you know, the whole thing where you stopped answering your phone and wouldn't call me back for a whole freakin' year!"

"I wan'my Gumpy," Mary said weakly, sniffling for added emphasis.

Sam heaved a sigh. "Where is Dad, anyway?"

"I don't know," Dean admitted ominously. "That's why I'm here."

"What?"

"Dad's missing, Sammy. He went on a hunting trip, and I haven't heard from him in a while. Something bad's happened. I can feel it."

"So what do you want me to do?" Sam scoffed, though his guts were already twisting with dread.

"I need you to help me find him."

888

End Notes:

Hope you enjoyed my first stab at Winchester fluff. I've always wanted to do a "Dean's a daddy!" story, but haven't had the guts. Now that Kripke's proven himself bound and determined to tear my guts out, I figured what the hey -- might as well go for it.

Unlike other stories I've read with baby Winchesters, I really want to explore John's involvement with the child rearing, so we'll be seeing lots of flashbacks. Those are coming up next chapter!