Despite her best attempts at enforcing a 'no pictures until after I've slept' policy in her delivery room, Becky looked up just in time to give Barnes an exhausted, woozy smile. The camera flashed, and in her mother's arms, little Ashley Joanna Beth Winchester Braeden-Rosen-Shurley gurgled, whined, and wriggled around. She'd been born barely six hours into Valentine's Day, and although Damien continued to insist that Vendetta Valentine Braeden-Rosen-Shurley would've been the most badass name that a baby Jesus hunter could have, he agreed with Becky's assessment that she was the best of all possible babies.
"All possible girl babies," Lisa qualified, giving Damien an arched eyebrow as she stroked a piece of hair behind Becky's ear. "Ben has the title for boy babies." With a smile toward her son, she added, "And now he's going to be the best of all possible older brothers."
Ben waited a while before coming over to peer at the baby. Really, he didn't see what the big deal was. Even factoring in all the things Dad, Uncle Sam, Uncle Barnes, Uncle Damien, and Weird Uncle Cas got up to, how hard could it be to look after some tiny red-faced thing that screamed a lot? It couldn't have been any more difficult than explaining the fact that only one of his "uncles" was actually related to him, but all of them had to pretend to be, just in case someone at school had to ask why Mom or Becky wasn't there to pick him up.
Dean, Sam, and Castiel showed up around noon, and no doubt due to Sam's influence, had had the foresight to clean off the remnants of their last hunt. It was a very strange sight, Becky thought, watching Dean Winchester hold a baby and joke that, since Castiel was only temporarily inhabiting some guy's body, they could go and have one of their own. Well, strange and beautiful, really. That was the only way to explain her loud, "Awwwww" and the grin that refused to leave her face.
Castiel arched an eyebrow at Dean and began explaining how, actually, no, it wouldn't be quite that simple. "The creation of a nephil is very tricky business, and I believe that the only known examples of them happened in a case like Belial's — angels inhabiting male vessels and defiling themselves with human women. To do it... well, first, we would need more space than the Impala. Probably more space than even Bobby's house has. Anna fell pregnant while taking a vessel once, and Uriel and I had an immense amount of difficulty finding somewhere the humans wouldn't notice anything."
Dean's brow furrowed as though Cas was asking him to understand calculus in Ancient Greek. "Wait... who the Hell knocked Anna up?"
"Anchises of Dardania," Castiel explained with a shrug. "The Romans were right about their founder-hero Aeneas having divine parentage; they simply misunderstood the nature of it." Noticing the room full of bemused expressions — aside from Barnes, who'd majored in global mythologies — Castiel added, "...It is another term for Troy. ...Aeneas was a lieutenant under Hector, who escaped the Grecian destruction of his homeland and went on to settle Alba Longa, and his descendants, Romulus and Remus, would later establish the—"
Dean silenced his angel with a deep kiss, and Sam wandered out into the hallway without excusing himself. ...Which, really, was just as well for Gabriel, who pounced the taller Winchester as he rounded a corner. Sam had harbored notions of going down to the cafeteria, but getting an armful of archangel seemed like a better plan.
"So, I've been thinking, babe," Gabriel said with a wicked grin. "How about me and you go have a little quality time—"
"That sounds like an excellent—"
Sam looked like a lost kitten. Gabriel waggled his eyebrows. And in a motel room about five miles away from the hospital, Bela waited, wearing fishnet stockings with a garter belt, and a pretty brunette with glasses and a streak of pink tucked behind her ear.
Zachariah didn't really like peeking into the goings on down on Earth — he'd deemed humanity 'beneath him' following Azazel's siring of Belial and subsequent rebellion, after he'd been promoted from the Grigori to middle management — but, well... sometimes, you just had to make exceptions. Sometimes, Dean Winchester was being an impossible pain in the ass and refusing to accept his destiny. Sometimes, humanity on the whole decided that it'd been a while since they'd had a nice war and Zachariah needed to tune in just to have a chuckle about how many of them died over trifling issues that, really, they never resolved anyway. (It was cosmic irony — his favorite kind.) And sometimes, an over-excitable young woman was giving birth to your Father's latest direct offspring with everything, for once, appearing to go exactly to plan.
Granted, Zachariah had done absolutely nothing to ensure that things had gone exactly to plan, but even so, as he dismissed the vision of Rebecca Rosen's hospital room, he leaned back, put his feet up on his desk, and smiled. It didn't last long, as the process made his face ache, but the occasion was a special one, he thought, so it only made sense to acknowledge that somewhat. And, whatever Earth had going on, he had time off from putting up with Castiel, Gabriel, and Cupid. That made the pain worthwhile.
Barachiel had not discovered the joys of anger management, but his Christmas present from Suriel had been a set of action figures shaped like Sam, Dean, Cas, Gabriel, Becky, Lisa, Crowley, and Bela, and playing with them had turned out to be more than enough outlet for him. As much as he'd wanted to go and visit Becky in the hospital, Suriel had stopped him on his way down, pointing out that if he went intangibly, then he wouldn't be able to give anybody hugs, but that if he went down in his favorite form, he'd need to wear pants or else some people would probably complain.
Barachiel didn't understand pants. They were so confining. And uncomfortable. But playing Tea Party with Becky, Bela, and Crowley made a good distraction from the fact that he couldn't go and squeal over the new baby. Bela-action figure had on a slinky black dress that Crowley-action figure really liked, but wasn't going to touch because Suriel hadpromised that Barachiel could have an action figure of Bobby for his feast day on the twenty-seventh, and Crowley-action figure might have been a demon, but he wasn't going to cheat on his precious Bobbykins with one of the Crossroads Demons in his employ.
"You know, there's just one thing about this whole debacle that I can't quite figure out." Barachiel looked up into Israfel's calm eyes and gave his brother his best look wide-eyed, who, me? couldn't be surprise. Israfel chuckled, and it sounded like a wind-chime on a warm summer day. "Gabriel might be reckless, brother, but he wouldn't plan his own kidnapping — especially not in order to make Dean Winchester and Castiel to sleep together."
He arched an eyebrow at his little brother and, suddenly, a guilty blush and a terrified frown replaced Barachiel's innocent expression. "Please, please, please don't tell on me Izzy?" he begged.
Israfel shrugged. "Why would I tattle on you — and to whom? You did a good thing, insofar as I'm concerned."
"I don't know... Gabey would get kind of upset if he knew that I planned getting him kidnapped. And you know what he's like when he's upset — think about the Library of Alexandria and—"
"Wait, you set that up from the beginning?" Barachiel nodded; Israfel pursed his lips. "Huh. I thought that you'd just gotten very lucky in how you played your cards."
"Oh, no, I mean... Dean and Castiel sort of needed to work out some underlying trust issues, and then I thought that Gabriel needed to learn a lesson because he kept denying how in love Finn and Rachel are—"
"Who are Finn and Rachel?"
Barachiel waved his hand dismissively. "It's a long story, Izzy — and anyway, I'm just happy that things worked out for everyone just like I wanted them to."
"Intriguing." Israfel ran his hand back through his hair, which still needed a cutting, and gave Barachiel an affectionate smile. "So. What are you going to do with yourself now that your schemes have played themselves out?"
Barachiel grinned, and wiggled his nose. With a ting noise, a sprig of mistletoe appeared above their heads. As he stood, he cooed, "Weeeeell... I was kind of hoping to get a 'job well done' kiss from someone?" For added effect, he fluttered his eyelashes.
Israfel glanced up at the plant and sighed. "It's February, Barachiel. Humans generally limit their use of mistletoe to December."
Barachiel pouted, and drawled, "Soooooo?"
Well, Israfel had heard worse excuses for logic, and kissing him made Barachiel ooze happiness, so, really... was there any harm in it? The angel of music certainly didn't think so.
Around three that afternoon, a phone call from Bobby sent Dean and Castiel down the hospital stairs, heading for the Impala. Apparently, a nest of vampires had gone mad two states over, and since Bobby and Crowley were "hung up" — Dean didn't even want to consider what the Hell they meant by that — they couldn't go to handle it. Castiel didn't seem to mind. Judging by the glint in his eyes, Dean would've even guessed that his angel was excited about beheading some blood-sucking freaks.
"You know I was just kidding up there, right?" Dean said as he started the car. Castiel gave him a bemused tilt of his head. "...About the... nephil. Or the baby crap, or whatever." Neither spoke as Dean pulled his baby out of her parking space, then the lot, then onto the road. "...I mean. It's not a commitment thing or whatever, I just. ...We don't have to go rush out and knock you up or anything."
Finally picking up on Dean's intention, Castiel nodded. "I know that you wouldn't force something like this on us before we're ready for it, should that ever come. I was merely pointing out the complicated logistics that such a thing would require considering."
They rolled up to a red light, and with a chuckle, Dean reached over to muss up Castiel's hair. "You want anything from the drive-through before we hit the road?"
Castiel shook his head and retrieved a cassette from the glove-box. "I would like to listen to this, however." An inscrutable smile crossed his lips as the Zeppelin mix tape started blasting "Houses of the Holy." Dean smirked; he'd taught his angel well.
On the day of Ashley Joanna Beth Winchester Braeden-Rosen-Shurley's birth, the Host of Heaven all celebrated in their own particular ways — and, indeed, the only place that wasn't full up of joyful sounds was the center of The Garden. Sitting by Himself, He tended to a clutch of His favorite azaleas, changing the colors on their petals until, finally, He settled for an unnaturally deep blue. For all He knew that He ought to have ventured out and seen His children on their day of festivities — or at least tried to go and see Becky and their baby — doing so just didn't seem like a good idea. He sighed, running His fingers up a seedling's stalk, causing it to grow and flower into full bloom. Technically, He supposed that they were Chuck's fingers, but, either way, He was still by Himself.
His true name was Malkhut, and He was more than accustomed to isolation. Life as an aspect of the Divine entity collectively called God got to be a lonely one, especially when Your fellow aspects had no reliable schedule for when they would be available. Yesod had been bumming around India since the British Raj, Binah and Chokhmah still hadn't returned from a "short jaunt" they'd felt like taking to Tralfamadore, Gevurah had gone off and taken up a gig as the security chief at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, and as for the others... well, He didn't know about the others. He just knew that, even if He didn't think that going back down to Earth in Chuck's visage — let alone paying Becky a visit — was a good idea, He could always tend to His flowers.
"It's not wrong for You to miss her, Father." He didn't even need to turn His head around; He knew Joshua's voice better than any of His other children's, and He knew the way that Joshua's feet sounded on the cobblestones. "That's what you told me about Magdalene, if memory serves."
He sighed. "There's a huge difference between you and Magdalene and me and Becky, Yeshua. Like... Lucifer's pride meets Michael's ego huge."
Joshua chuckled, and came closer, but never presumed to come and view his Father's face. "So You've said."
"I just... I don't like going and hiding from everybody, but... I really like using Chuck as my avatar on Earth. He's different than the others... He doesn't make too much out of sharing a consciousness, or the fact that sometimes, we need to go and perform a miracle, or... anything, really." Screwing up His face, he picked up a nearby pebble and hurled it down the path. It bounced off the cobblestones and rolled into a patch of dirt. "And then there's Becky... She did anything we asked her to, she did more — she believed everything with only the rare question, and she..."
"And You love her." His eyes started watering as He turned His head and looked up to His begotten son; He nodded. "You didn't need to confirm it, Father. I've known since You returned."
"And you wouldn't hold it against me for going back." Joshua shook his head, and offered that, if it helped, going back would mean that He didn't leave another Virgin Mother to raise her child without any kind of instruction manual on handling a half-divine offspring; He sighed. "Only problem is... I don't even know where to start explaining everything to her."
Joshua smiled. "It's difficult, but the truth is usually the most constructive option."
He snuffled. The truth had always given Him difficulty.
Chuck Shurley came to his senses in the middle of the hospital cafeteria, at the far end of a long table, looking for all intents and purposes as though he'd fallen asleep next to a plate of suspicious looking macaroni. No one bothered asking who he was, and most of his fellow patrons tried to avoid his gaze as he staggered out into the corridor. He shared an elevator with a surgical intern, who gave him a look of commiseration aimed at Chuck's pallor and sensitivity to light — he didn't even remember how he'd gotten there, just that he needed to see Becky and tell her something important, and that his head throbbed like the worst hangover he'd ever had in his life.
He paused outside of Becky's room, just watching her and Lisa Braeden cuddling on the bed, and cooing over little Ashley. Now that he was here, this seemed like an increasingly worse idea, but he rapped on the doorframe anyway. When Becky gasped his name, he nodded and forced himself to meet her gaze; she looked like she'd just seen a ghost, and Lisa's expression said so this is the great Carver Edlund? Jesus, he's short.
"Yeah, I... Hi, Becky," he managed, with a smile that looked more like a grimace. "Lisa."
"Do you two want a minute alone?" Lisa asked, and moved to stand.
Chuck shook his head and muttered that really, it was fine, probably better if she and Ben stayed to hear this. He started into another train of thought, but Becky cut him off: "Where did you go, Chuck? We all thought you were dead!"
"No, no, I... it wasn't anything like that, I." He took a moment to consider this. The truth was the best option, and he knew that — he could hear Joshua's voice in the back of his skull, reminding him of this fact — but finding a starting point proved difficult, considering just how complicated the truth was. "It's a long story, and I promise, I'll tell you all of it... but there's something more important to talk about first. ...About Ashley."
"She's going to be okay, right?" Lisa said.
"Oh yeah, she's going to be fine, just... Sorry. I'll get telling you sort of... more directly now."
At the end of their conversation, after they'd heard about Ashley's destiny and Chuck's true nature, Becky and Lisa invited him to stay and help raise his daughter. His face broke out into the first genuine smile he'd worn in over a year. Barnes and Damien popped their heads in not ten seconds later, squealing with delight at everything they'd overheard, and Ben briefly glanced up from his PSP to agree that everything sounded "pretty awesome." Truly, it was the beginning of a beautiful (if highly unorthodox) little family.
There was a reverence to how Castiel admired Dean's endurance, and only the sounds of Robert Plant's voice and Jimmy Page's guitar kept it from being appropriately silent. They'd been driving for three hours and hadn't needed to pull over once. The open road stretched out ahead of them, and the Impala's engine purred so sweetly that even Castiel's delicate, angelic sensibilities could appreciate it. Smiling beatifically, the angel turned up "Travelling Riverside Blues" and handed Dean a Twizzler from the pack. When they came to the next stop sign, Dean waited a while longer than he needed to — Castiel arched an eyebrow when he stopped at all.
"Dean," he pointed out, "there's no one else on the road."
Dean nodded, and swallowed his current bite of licorice. "Yeah, I know." He leaned over toward his angel and whispered, "but I've got something for you."
The kiss, Castiel expected, but he made a warm noise of surprise as the candy's taste filled his mouth. Carcinogens, Castiel thought as Dean put his foot back on the accelerator, might not have been so terrible after all.