"Seriously?" Dean asks, his eyes wide. "Because of me?"

"Mostly," Ben replies honestly. "Partly for J, partly for my parents. But mostly you - us." He grins. "So, we'll have to go house-hunting; I need a place where I get to be in charge of the thermostat."

Dean's quiet, but Ben can see, reading the intimate language of dropped eyelashes, taut shoulders, and set mouth, that his mind is racing. Dean's brightly mocking face when he looks back up is, Ben knows very well, nothing but a sham. "I always did want a sugar daddy, but -"

"Quiet, you," Ben says while he pulls Dean close by a belt-loop, refusing to lend any validity to Dean's misgivings by taking this seriously. "You're not freeloading. We both have jobs, but only one of us gets paid. So that one should be paying for a house." He raises a finger to smooth away the worried wrinkle developing between Dean's mismatched eyebrows. "I'm not moving without you," he says, kissing the hinge of Dean's jaw, working his way to the corner of Dean's mouth. "Who else am I going to blackmail into doing all of the heavy lifting?" Dean smiles at that, and their mouths are now perfectly lined up; who is Ben to ignore a sign like that?


"When are you gonna get going?" Dean asks while they run their MIT route, sneakers pounding steadily on the blacktop.

"I was thinking of switching ER shifts with someone so I could have a few days off. Maybe Rahul - I think he was looking to swap anyway."

"Do you know what you want?" Dean's still a little shy, but he thinks he's covering well by looking at the students swarming the lawns, geeks who took a different turn in life than he did.

Ben's not going to let him get away with that. "Well, we should talk about what we want in our house."

Dean slants a sideways glance at him. "You better take the EMF meter when you go. Last thing I want is to carry you over the threshold and have you get attacked by a poltergeist or something."

Ben's jaw drops in outrage, Dean's wicked grin flashes across his face fast as lightning, and then they're off, chasing each other at full speed, Dean choking with laughter and Ben breathlessly swearing vengeance.


Ben keeps getting distracted from his list. He needs to write down everything they both want in a house before Dean takes off for his next hunt, but it's virtually impossible to concentrate.

Before Dean poked his broken nose into his life and made himself at home, Ben never had this problem, but now, somehow, the stupidest little things distract him. Like the way Dean's shower-damp hair curls at the tips, or how drops of water from the freshly washed snap peas cling to Dean's lips as he crunches gracelessly, or even Dean's feet, up on the bed and nudging Ben's right hip companionably. Dean's feet are long and freckled, and the pinky toes are set at a slightly different angle, turned out just a little, like they're about to take off for adventures of their own.

Ben shakes his head at what he's sunk to. Happy, relaxed, affectionate Dean is clearly too heady an influence to be around very long, but Ben can't help wishing he'll stick around forever.


"So, why don't you tell me what you're looking for?" the real estate agent chirps in Ben's ear. He forces himself to sit up and hunt for the list he'd made and Dean had doodled all over.

All of the numbers are now wearing funny faces. "First, we need something that's close to public transportation. I'm not sure yet which hospital I'll be working at."

"Can do!" she bubbles. "Philly has excellent buses!"

Her over-caffeinated enthusiasm reminds him how long he's been on call, and he wishes he could just go home and get some sleep. "Great," he mumbles, swallowing a yawn. He looks back down at the list and snorts. The numeral 2 is now wearing a Groucho Marx glasses-eyebrows-and-nose combo. "We'd like at least two bedrooms. Two baths would be great, but not required."

"I can look those up for you," she assures him unnecessarily. "When do you think you'll be able to come on down?"

Lady, this isn't The Price Is Right, he can just imagine Dean saying. "I could get there Thursday morning, if that works for you?"

"Of course, Mr. Mahar! I'm looking forward to meeting you! At our office, at ten?"

He agrees and gets off the phone. Time to catch up on his sleep; he's got fifteen minutes on the lumpy couch in the break room before afternoon rounds officially begin.


Coral Rodgers looks a little disconcerted when she sees one earbud of the Walkman's headphones staying in his ear, but she smiles gamely and doesn't let it throw her off her sales patter.

"Let me just make sure I have all of the keys and lockbox codes, Mr. Mahar. Or is it Ben? Can I call you Ben?"

"Of course."

"Let's go find you a home!" she says, virtually sparkling with enthusiasm, and he smiles and hopes this wasn't all a grave miscalculation.

The first two places are nothing special; one sets the EMF meter humming a little louder than it should, and the other is just cookie-cutter and nothing to get excited about.

"Lucky number three," Coral says as they round the corner, but Ben had heard her say "lucky number one" and "lucky number two" earlier, so he's wary of her chipper fa├žade.

The third house on the street is a rowhouse, settled snugly between its slightly larger neighbors. There's ivy growing over the brick, a good sign according to the checklist Dean had run through with him. Inside, it's all wood and light, polished floors and gleaming windows and odd corners tucked away. Walking through, he can see where all of their stuff would go, how they could live in this space.

"You've got a lovely walk-in closet here, with matching his-and-hers wardrobes," Coral says, "and an extra cedar closet over here."

The EMF meter stays silent while Coral keeps up with her pitch, talking about original flooring and new windows with double-paned glass, about the stability of the neighborhood. Ben takes another look at the sheet in his hand. They can afford this. All he needs is for Dean to say yes. He excuses himself and goes out to the tiny patio in the back and dials Dean's cell. "Agent Mercury," he hears Dean say; the hunt must have gone well if he's picking up.

"Hey, Freddie," Ben says, smiling like an idiot into his phone. "I think I found it. Can you meet me in Philadelphia in the next few days?"

"Yes, sir," Dean says. "I should be available for debriefing tomorrow at oh-eight-hundred."

"You wish." It's more fun than it should be, taunting Dean this way, challenging him to keep that professional exterior.

"It will be an honor and a privilege," Dean says, like he's being awarded a medal, in a dangerous voice like honey. God only knows what the person he's with must think.

"I'm at the downtown Comfort Inn, not the one near the airport," he tells Dean just as Coral wanders back to the patio, looking curious about his phone call. He hangs up and turns to her with a smile. "I'd like to come back tomorrow, see the place one more time, if that's okay with you?"


He kills time by wandering around the neighborhood. Philadelphia is walkable, and clearly a place where people love to eat. He passes an old-fashioned candy shop that sells homemade caramels and fudge and thinks about Dean's nose pressed against the glass.

A few blocks over, Reading Terminal Market is bursting with food from all over the world. The delicacy of choice, judging by the natives around him, is soft pretzels from the counter run by three young Amish women; his eyes nearly roll back in his head when he bites into the buttery dough. Forget the little house on the quiet street - this is the only place Dean will want to call home.


Dean's been fortified with a couple cups of coffee, but he's still clearly cranky about a nine a.m. appointment after driving all night. Ben slips his hand into the back pocket of Dean's fitted, faded jeans, and Dean smiles around the rim of his paper cup. "Yeah, yeah," Dean says, and leans forward to kiss him but detours to hide a yawn in Ben's neck. "This better be the awesomest house ever."

"Well, it's me and the EMF meter against you, so, technically, you don't even get a vote."

"Hey!" Dean looks affronted until he comes up with a counter-argument. "My baby - my real baby - and I count as two votes. There better be room for her."

"Good morning!" Coral calls, looking surprised by Dean's presence. "It'll be the two of you looking at the property this morning?"

"Yup," Dean says.

"Wonderful, wonderful," she trills, and Dean eyes her warily. Ben steps back, lets Dean follow Coral in. This should be fun.

Coral starts with the basement this time, evidently pegging Dean as the handyman of the relationship; she points out the workbench, the water heater, and the circuit breaker. Dean nods authoritatively and hmmms impressively, shrugging at Ben as soon as her back is turned. She keeps chattering, giving details about the years the roof was redone, when all of the windows were replaced, and Dean grins and bears it; when Coral pokes her head into a closet, Ben grabs Dean for a quick kiss.

"And here," Coral says, smiling like she's got something mind-blowing to impart, "we have the bathroom. The floor is a few years old, but still in great shape. The sink and the toilet - both made by American Dream - were installed new one month ago." Ben is trying to figure out what earth-shattering secret was apparently coded in those simple sentences when Dean nudges him. Coral's looking at the two of them expectantly.

"Wow," he tries, and Dean smiles as charmingly as he can.

Fortunately, Coral still believes in sincerity. "I know, right? I once saw a demonstration where this exact model flushed eighteen golf balls in a single flush!"

"I've never shit golf balls before, but I'll practice every night," Dean murmurs so low that Ben can just barely hear him over the flow of the water gushing out from the faucet.

"Great water pressure, see?" Coral says, looking over her shoulder at them.

"Absolutely," Ben says, getting himself under control.

Coral shakes their hands when they step back out into the sunlight. "It was a pleasure," she says, smiling hopefully at them.

"For us, too," Dean says. He waits until she's halfway down the block before turning to Ben and whining, "Why don't you ever take me anywhere nice? You know, like a toilet demo?"

Ben laughs until his stomach hurts, and Dean slings his arm around his shoulders. "I like it," Dean says, looking sideways at him. "We can stick the weapons -"

"- in the walk-in closet," Ben finishes with him.

Dean looks impressed. "Yeah, and the basement - well, not the laundry area - we could build it up, fortify it."

"New fixtures, new roof, good floors; all we need is an inspection and a loan."

"So let's go for it," Dean says, and Ben kisses him long and hard right there on the front stoop.


"You're making that up just so you won't have to help me pack," Ben accuses, not even sure how serious he's being.

Dean's smile only gets wider. "Scout's honor."

"Do I look like I was born yesterday?"

"No, crankypants, you don't. I can't help it if this old lady swears she's got ghosts jitterbugging in her attic all night long."

"Didn't you all work something out? Some kind of spheres of influence thing? Can't the Carolinas-to-Florida guy - Abel - handle this?"

"But it's in Virginia, and that's my area," Dean says slowly, like he's not sure how this has gotten so close to an actual argument.

"But he'd cover for you if you asked," Ben points out, wondering why he's not just keeping his mouth shut. It's not like there's a lot to pack up in any case; the kitchen stuff is all that he has to worry about breaking.

"Don't want to ask," Dean says, swallowing hard, and that's when Ben gets it, that Dean's afraid of the day when he will have to ask, that Dean carries with him the knowledge that he's been both skilled and lucky, and that any one of his hunts could end in tragedy.

He can't believe what an idiot he is. "You don't have to," he says, stricken. "I'm sorry." He reaches out a hand, tentatively, toward Dean.

Dean uses it to haul him close. "Me too. But I'll make it up to you."


When Ben gets home from his last day at the clinic, still holding the gift certificates Patsy and Noreen gave him, he opens the apartment door to find a beautiful girl on his bed.

"J!" he blurts, completely taken aback. "When did you get home?"

"Freckleface called, said you guys were moving, and that if I didn't show up soon, he'd forget what I looked like and never let me into your new place. So?"

First things first. He crosses the room and sweeps her up in a bear hug. God, he missed her.


"J's almost as anal as Sam," Dean observes when he staggers into their house with another box of books, this one marked 4th Semester, Med, M-X. "And you've got way too many books." He wipes an arm across his face. "I'm sweating like a pig."

Ben stops unpacking, pulls a bottle of water from the backpack tossed on the mantelpiece, and hands it over.

Dean downs half of it in a single gulp, then leers at him. "I think I've seen pornos that start this way."

"With pig-sweat? Nice."

"Jackass."

"The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go out and buy a bed," Ben points out, but he can't resist a small delay - just kissing Dean sweetly and smacking him on the ass to send him on his way.


"Bobby gave me this guy's number," Dean says as he leads them on a winding path, over and across several one-way streets near their house. There are some rowhouses here, but just as many free-standing houses, and it's at the biggest and shabbiest one that Dean knocks.

A short man with a broad, wrinkled face answers the door, looking mildly peeved to see them. "Now what can I say to make you two go away?" he muses. His shirtsleeves are rolled up, and Ben can see scars from old burns scattered across his hands and forearms. "Well? Only way I'm letting you in is if you're hiding Girl Scout cookies or bourbon behind your backs."

Dean grins. "You must be Elijah Drew. Bobby Singer told me about you."

Elijah's dark eyes widen. "You're Dean Winchester?"

"Yeah," Dean says, extending his hand for a shake. "Why?"

"Boy, the way Bobby carries on about you, I thought you'd be twice your age and twice your size. Come on in."

A long, vehement streak of curse words spews forth from somewhere inside. Elijah and Dean both look obscurely pleased. "That must be Hank," Dean says, and Elijah rolls his eyes melodramatically; Ben wonders if all hunters are drama queens because they're just bursting with knowledge they can never share, or if he's only happened to meet the histrionic ones - and the Winchesters could all give anyone a run for their money. "We won't bother you now, but we wanted to know if you could build us some iron bars for our windows. Ben and I just got a house."

"Little trinity?" Elijah asks thoughtfully, lips still twitching due to the continuing, crescendoing cussing.

"Yes," Ben says, when Dean looks puzzled by the term. "It's a trinity house."

"Yeah, I could do it. Could put iron down everywhere, not just the windows. Can't be too careful." Elijah eyes Dean once more. "You're the Winchester who's good with cars, right?"

"My dad -"

"You're the one Bobby could stand to have working next to him, right?" Elijah interrupts.

Dean snorts, but his face is as lit up as a kid's. "Yeah."

"You get our motorcycles purring again, we'll call it even."

"Only if you let me take care of the muscle spasms in your left hand," Ben says.

Elijah's eyes narrow, but he unclenches the fist he's made and quits trying to hide his hand. "You're good, kid."

"Yeah," Dean says, "he's the best."


Ben stumbles into the kitchen early in the morning and is taken aback by the sight that greets him. He's unable to comprehend how Dean is actually doing something, given the energy they've expended over the past ten days trying to make the house feel like theirs before his residency at Friends' Alliance begins and before Dean has to take off for another hunt.

He can see Dean chewing something with his chin resting on his arm, so that the top of his head moves instead of his jaw; his amulet is resting face-down in front of him, and there's paint dotting his hair.

Ben's too tired to raise his arm, so he points with his chin. "What've you got there, Grover?" he asks, yawning halfway through.

Dean blinks sleepily up at him. "Grover? Oh, yeah." He scratches his belly and then seems to remember the question. "I was just finishin' up these things." The last peapod is standing upright between Dean's finger and thumb. "Here," Dean says, getting up and extending it toward him; "it's yours."

"Bed?" Ben mumbles between bites.

"Mmmm," Dean agrees, but they just stand there, swaying tiredly on aching feet, holding each other up.


"There has got to be a limit to your geekiness, man," Dean says, looking wide-eyed at him.

"Oh, but there isn't," Ben says, grinning madly; all this and he still gets to go home - to their home - with the person he loves most in the world.

Dean just looks at him for a long moment, ignoring all the giggling children darting between and around them, and then says, "You want to go again, don't you?" He shakes his head in amusement. "C'mon then, let's go."

"No, that's okay; I think Security was ready to throw us out when we went into the heart the first time," Ben says, feeling flushed not only from the tight spaces he'd negotiated much more successfully as a pint-sized wonder than a full-fledged doctor, but also from the memory of Dean's sweet, insistent warmth just behind him, heating the arteries and veins and capillaries. He should not be having sex fantasies involving the heart model at the Franklin Institute. But Dean's right in front of him, unfairly and unfadingly gorgeous, and Ben gives in to the naughty tingle running up and down his spine. "Let's go to the, um, papermaking exhibit," he says, trying to remember the signs they'd seen.

"Really?" Dean wrinkles his nose. "We were just blood cells, and now you want to recycle paper? Booooring."

"Boring enough to be deserted?" Ben murmurs suggestively, leaning close.

Dean's face lights up. "After you, doc."


Friends' Alliance Hospital is a lot like the house - lots of unexpected turns and weird little hidey-holes everywhere - and the other residents seem familiar, like new faces on the personalities he met in med school. By the end of the first day, Ben already knows who's going to be eating lunch together, and who's going to couple off.

It's a nice group, all highly motivated, some a little louder than others. Monterey, for instance - he'd bet she could make herself heard and seen wherever she went. She stands and stretches, drawing the gazes of about half the courtyard crowd. "Anyone want to quiz me on the proper procedure for an appendectomy?"

He smiles and shakes his head no, because the sweep of her eyes seems to linger on him. All he wants is to take a walk while the weather's still good, find a bench, and eat the lunch Dean packed last night.


He can't imagine working this hard for something you don't really want; Juliana had confided that she was only in the program because of the belief her family and hometown had in her, to be their first college graduate and first homegrown doctor. He's tired every time he walks home, night or day, but he's exhilarated, too, at the idea that he's making progress toward his goal.

Dean teases him for the bags under his eyes, but makes sure he does everything he can so that Ben gets at least five hours of sleep a night. One night, Dean's arm wrapped securely around him, Dean's amulet a cool and heavy weight against the back of his neck, he twists and peeks at Dean, snoring softly behind him, and wonders what it might take to set up some kind of clinic for hunters, to do what he can for those who ask for nothing.


"Sam wants us to come out there for Thanksgiving or Christmas," Dean says as they sit out on the patio.

Ben's contentedly sniffing the air, scented by the spiced meat on the grill. Dean is awesome at birthday presents - a relaxed evening at home is all that he wanted.

"I wish," Ben groans; "I would pay to see your dad terrorizing civilians." Dean grins appreciatively and flips the meat. "But I'm on call." Dean's grin is fading. "You should go, though, get to see them."

Dean's looking doubtful, so Ben presses. "It's fine, I'll just be here all by myself, eating a turkey TV dinner, and crying into my pillow -"

"They give you pillows at the hospital?" Dean asks, smirking and cocking an eyebrow; he's clearly very pleased with himself.

Ben laughs. "Only if we've been extra-good. No, seriously, go; you should have some fun."

"Hey!" Dean says after a couple of minutes of attending to the meat on the grill. "On my way back from Chicago, I can pick up Mark and his wife, bring them back?"

"That would be awesome," Ben says, and Dean, the big dork, pats himself on the back.


The house feels empty without Dean, and Ben just barely keeps himself from wondering if his lonely words are reverberating by applying a little common sense; the house is too small for echoes. He checks the Chicago weather every day that Dean's gone, listens to Dean's voicemails whenever he's on break.

Working over the holidays has caused more than a few grumbles, but it's turned out to be a bonding experience for the residents. Ben invites all of them over late one night, when everyone's still a little wiped from the shifts they've been pulling, and it's nice to see people in their little house. He can't wait until they actually get to use the second bedroom as a guest room, maybe start to repay all of the favors that years of being a broke student forced him to take.

Dean pulls in a day earlier than expected, his hair dusted with the first snow. "Man, I missed you," Dean says, standing in the doorway and letting all the cold air in, and Ben drops the blanket and welcomes him home.


"Sounds like Sammy's been making up for lost time in the dating arena," Dean says as he putters around the kitchen, making a staggering number of his special grilled cheeses. "Dad said he's wanted to shoot about half of them on sight."

Ben shakes his head, still bemused by the idea of John and Sam cohabiting without Dean to mediate, but maybe they've all grown up a little now. "All girls?" he asks before he thinks about it, then stiffens with surprise in his seat.

"Yeah," Dean says, glancing his way after flipping the second sandwich in the pan.

There's nothing, no jealousy, no vindication, nothing flooding his system; he just takes it as fact and moves on. He smiles at Dean, gesturing for him to continue. Dean slides the first two sandwiches in front of Ben and picks up where he left off.

"So one of them called Dad 'John' without being invited to. The next one went on for a few hours about how immoral war was - all war, even after she found out Dad was a vet. And the third was a vegetarian."

Ben can't help it; he laughs. It's too easy to imagine John Winchester's face as the horrors keep progressing. "But he likes this one, right?"

"Yeah, Noelle," Dean says. "She was there over Thanksgiving. At least she tried to help in the kitchen."

"And Sammy's happy?"

"As happy as he lets himself be," Dean says soberly, turning his back to start slicing another tomato. "He talks himself out of a lot."

"Good thing we know better, huh?"

Dean's eyes crinkle. "Better believe it."


Dean grumbles about having to dress up to impress people he doesn't even know, but once they're at the hospital, Dean's collecting groupies left and right as usual; beyond his looks, he's got charisma, a touch of vulnerability and a dash of cockiness, and it's a combination that is all too effective.

Ben's chatting with Dr. Rudan, the hospital's director, when she turns, distracted once again by the laughter that emanates from the little cluster of people Dean's in. "Who is that young man?" she asks.

"He's my - he's with me," Ben says. They watch him for a moment, animated as a cartoon, as he tells an evidently hilarious story.

"Your young man seems like a born entertainer," she says wryly. "I wonder if he'd be willing to take part in our New Year's festivities?"

"Oh, I couldn't volunteer him for anything -" He trails off, because he'd actually like to live to see the new year, and signing Dean up for some fancy dress event seems like a sure-fire way to guarantee that he won't.

"But it's for our pediatrics ward," Dr. Rudan says, laying a gentle hand on his arm.

All Ben can see is how good Dean was with Charlie and Luke, how every time Angie calls, the last few minutes of the call are devoted to her handing the phone over to the twins, and letting them breathe heavily at Dean, occasionally saying, "Hi, hi, hi" or "Deeeeeaaaaan." He remembers how Dean's face lights up every time he gets those calls, how he spins stories into the silence, until the boys are giggling and incoherently repeating their favorite parts to each other.

"Dean will like that. We'd both love to help out," Ben says, and Dr. Rudan flits off, satisfied. It isn't until his champagne flute is empty that Ben realizes just what he's done.


"Yeah, he just walked in," Dean's saying into the phone when Ben comes in with a chocolate cream pie from the little place a few blocks down. Ben looks up, trying to guess who Dean could be talking to. Dean's next words make it clear. "He wants to do all these kinky role-playing things now. Did I tell you he wants me to wear a dress?"

Ben gasps and leaps across the room, snatching the phone from Dean's hand. "J?" he asks while Dean snickers evilly in the background. "It's not like that." She's not saying anything, and it takes a minute for him to realize that's because she's laughing so hard she's reached pitches only dogs can hear. "You suck. Dean sucks. It's for charity, for the kids in the pediatrics ward."

"He thinks I'm too vanilla!" Dean bellows shamelessly, setting Jaya off again.

Ben sets the handset against his chest and points threateningly at Dean. "One more word out of you and I'll hold you down and shave your legs myself."

Dean says nothing, but starts humming "I Feel Pretty." Loudly. Though how he even knows -

"You taught him that song, didn't you?" Ben breathes into the phone. "I'll get you. Backstage at your debut at the Philly Opera House. Oh, I'll get you."

"Promises, promises, monkeyface," J sing-songs, then hangs up.

He watches Dean twirling around the room. "If you're going to waltz, do it right," he says irritably, catching Dean in his arms and taking him for a spin.


Dean is a bona fide hit, easily the kids' favorite part of the whole New Year's pageant; they like the silliness of a big, muscular man dressed as a woman, but even more, they respond to him, clambering all over him to claim his attention.

Ben knows how they feel; he's only seen snatches of the pageant, since he's got rounds to complete, but Dean just shines every time he catches a glimpse of him, enthralled with this other way of helping people.

"Thank you, Dr. Mahar," he hears, and swivels around. Dr. Rudan is watching approvingly. "Dean seems to be enjoying himself; please thank him for me as well."

Dean looks up a couple of minutes later and drops Ben a slow, seductive wink.


You almost done? Stupid heels are killing me Dean texts just as Ben's finishing up his rounds. He doesn't bother to respond, figuring it's quicker just to swing by and pick him up.

He gets to the vestibule, weaving through the crowd and searching for Dean. He almost misses him, given Monterey's wearing heels tonight, and that means all six-plus feet of her is between him and Dean. "I know Ben's gay," he hears her saying to Dean, "but you're not, right?" She's tracing Dean's forearm with a long black-and-pink fingernail. "What are you, Dean?" she asks, shifting even closer.

"I'm Ben's," Dean says simply, then pulls out his phone again. "Now where is that idiot?"

"Idiot here," Ben says, feeling almost giddy.

Dean looks at him appraisingly. "I thought you were working - I'm not going to have to carry you home, am I?"

"Nope," he says, leaning forward to claim a quick kiss. "Just can't wait to get you there."


"I have never wanted to get under a skirt more in my life," Ben breathes, looking at Dean, at what should be an absolutely ridiculous contrast between his thick, worked-hard muscle and his frilly Alice-in-Wonderland dress.

"You never . . .?" Dean asks, looking dazed. "Not even once?"

"Not until now," Ben affirms. "Can I?"

"You know you don't have to ask," Dean says, eyes still wide and locked on Ben's.

Their kiss starts hot and gets incendiary. Ben's fingers are tangling in Dean's hair, from the crown of his head to the soft locks at his nape, and Dean bears him down onto the bed. Ben drops one hand, slides it up Dean's bent leg, all the way up to his waist, until he can peel away Dean's boxer-briefs.

Dean is sucking tiny kisses into the skin along Ben's collarbone while he works Ben open with clever fingers that are warm and strong. Ben sighs and gives himself up to the sensations Dean draws out of him, moaning at every change of pace or position. Dean looks down at him, amulet swinging free of the dress's collar, one lock of hair falling across his brow, and kisses him, mouth and throat and the tip of his nose.


"I bet someone thinks he's awfully sneaky -" Dean's saying as he unlocks the door, but from the way his eyes bug out when he registers John and Sam in their living room, Ben figures he kept this surprise pretty well.

"Happy birthday, son," John says, getting up to clap Dean on the back and pull him into a hug.

"Dad! Sammy! What're you - I mean, how long can you stay?"

"Couple days," Sam says, smiling brightly at his brother. "Missing a couple of classes isn't going to cause irreparable damage."

"Good to see you too, Lionel Hutz," Dean snorts, as though his face is not broadcasting joy in every direction.

"I got you something," Sam says, shoving a large, wrapped package into Dean's midsection; Dean responds by tousling his hair hard enough that, technically, it counts as a noogie.

Dean pulls the wrapping off in a matter of moments, and he's left with a stack of vinyl records. "I figured, since I didn't have to live with you anymore, you should be free to blast whatever crap you want." He looks over at Ben with mock-pity. "Sorry, man."

Ben waves it off, already happily anticipating the wars - and the make-up sessions - that will be waged over the turntable.

"My gift might be more for Ben," John says, tugging at his beard to hide a smile behind his hand.

"Dad!" Dean opens his eyes wide, feigning scandalized shock. "Is it lingerie?"

John goes beet-red, whether from embarrassment or laughter, it's hard to say. "Just open it, wiseguy."

This package is the size of a sheet of copier paper, and slim. Dean tears away the newspaper wrapping while John says, "I stopped at the storage facility in Pittsburgh to pick it up." The newspapers flutter to the ground, revealing a framed photograph of a baby. "That's you on your first birthday," John says, gesturing at the picture. Baby Dean already has that roguish glint in his eye and two fingers in his mouth, and he's dressed in a white onesie with red piping and snaps. "Your mother dressed you in her favorite outfit; across your butt it said Disco Diapers." Dean gasps in horror, and John raises his hands and says, "I had nothing to do with it; I wasn't consulted."

John's voice gets a little softer. "She was so happy with this photo. You'd been sitting up on your own for about three months, and she decided we should get about a million pictures of your first birthday. All she had to do was sing a little and you'd start laughing. And your very favorite trick was to stick both your index fingers in your mouth and smile around them, all gums." He frowns, remembering. "You didn't get teeth until pretty late; Mary was worried about that." He looks up again, and grins. "But you always had those bowed legs." In the picture, Dean's little legs are mostly rolls of fat, but there is a definite bow to them. Ben laughs, and John joins in.

"Nice," Dean says, "real nice." But he can't help smiling a little. "Sam, kick him while he's sleeping. For me."

"We're sharing a bed?" John asks, sobering up pretty quickly.

"You're sharing a pullout couch," Dean says. "Just like the good old days." He's wearing an evil grin, and John just pats his face gently, conceding defeat.


"Love you."

"Love you too, monkeyface." Dean kisses him, and laughs into Ben's mouth.