Title: Nothing and Everything
Summary: AU: Sequel to 'Lost and Found'. No one ever said adding ordinary to a hunter's life was easy. Dean and Sam struggle to find balance in the sort of lives they never thought they'd have.
Disclaimer: Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is meant with this work of fan fiction.
Notes: Running slightly ahead of schedule on this... While it's not necessary to have read 'Lost and Found' before beginning this piece, it'd probably be less confusing to read it first.
The spray of water from the shower head was a soothing warmth against muscles that ached from the abuse Dean had given them the past couple days. He'd would be pleased if he wasn't thrown against another wall within the next few months. He didn't so much mind the flying through the air part, it was the sudden stop that he hated. He'd also be pleased if he didn't have to dig up three graves in a row by himself any time soon. In hindsight, perhaps it had been a mistake to take two jobs back to back without any downtime in-between. Ohio was apparently a magnet for weird these days.
Still, he'd wanted to get a final few jobs in.
Placing his palms against the shower wall, he bent, stretching those muscles and allowing the water to directly hit his lower back. He let loose a long groan. He was of the firm, unbending opinion that getting older sucked. Ten years ago, he would've been out right now celebrating a good hunt, having a few beers and shots, and chatting up the nearest willing pretty woman. Heck, even about five years back he'd been doing that. Now however, all he wanted to do was stand in a hot shower until his back stopped hurting, call Jo, watch some tv with Sam, and go to bed for a few hours before heading home.
Priorities change, he thought. Boy, did they ever.
There was only one month left until the baby was born and his life really did change forever. One month and he was going to be a father, with all of the things that went with that state. Jo's pregnancy had been one thing, but this? This was a whole other level of reality to his reality. Diapers and midnight feedings and crying at all hours….
Dean was scared to death and what with the constant tasteless jokes that had been pouring from his lips the past month, he was surprised Sam hadn't even called him out on it. He was just putting up with it, letting Dean keep talking even when he should be shutting up, and watching him with an understanding gaze. Sam knew how he was and he knew Sam knew.
He'd made jokes on the job and jokes back at base. He'd played with that breast pump Jo had bought on Ellen's advice until Ellen, Sam, and Gwen had all snapped at him. He'd made puns about bits of research, composed a couple really horrible limericks about breast feeding, spent an entire afternoon with Jo seeing just how much liquid each age group of diaper could really hold before it burst, then fed the diapers into the diaper genie simply because it was a cool product.
He'd done all of that and more because…he was just that terrified.
What if something went wrong for Jo and the baby during the birth? What if something went wrong when they got home? Those two questions swirled in his mind almost daily now and he'd quit reading the baby books. His imagination was active enough without those books telling him what could happen. He had more than enough ideas on his own and those were just the normal everyday questions. He had a ton of others too, such as what if an army of demons stormed the hospital while he and Jo were in the delivery room? Or an army of other creatures? How could he fight them off and make sure Jo and the baby were safe?
Dean stood up straight again and twisted a little.
With these jobs done, he could concentrate on preparing for the birth. First on his list was the crib, then double check that they had everything they'd need, from bottles to diapers. It had been a strange experience scanning items into a gift registry for the baby shower, but Ellen had insisted. The number of items she claimed they needed was daunting. Ellen had had a list of her own, going down it and herding Dean and Jo from rack to rack, insisting they pick out a theme. Themes? Did it really matter if they had Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, the train one or some of the other ones? He'd be fine with solid colors. Well, anything except the funny greens and yellows that were considered gender neutral. A couple times he'd almost been tempted to just tell them he knew they were having a boy, but since Jo seemed pleased she was managing to keep it a secret like he'd wanted, he didn't tell them. Let Jo think everyone had managed to keep their lips zipped.
Technically, no one had actually told him, but what else was he to think when Jo brought home little garments that had trains and tools on them? Or when he saw the bibs at Ellen's house that said 'Mommy's boy'? Not to mention the book Jo kept trying to hide from him on caring for a baby boy. He hadn't realized there were books specifically for that. Then, there'd been the casual question from Dr. Ames about circumcision.
He could put two and two together to come up with four.
The circumcision question had brought even more fears to the surface. What if the doctor's hand slipped while doing the procedure? His son would be maimed.
Several loud knocks sounded, followed by Sam's voice. "Hey Dean, Mick and I are gonna go grab some beers. Want us to wait for you?"
Mick Richardson was a contact of Jo and Gwen's. Since Sophie his hunting partner, and another contact of Jo and Gwen's, was in Sioux Falls for Jo's baby shower, Mick had invited Sam and Dean to help him clean out a particularly nasty vampire nest. Sam and Mick had hit it off within minutes of meeting and while Dean did like Mick, he wasn't sure he was up for socializing. It had been a tough week.
Then again, maybe it'd be good for him.
He closed his eyes, thinking about it. Have some beers with them or call Jo? He'd done the social thing the other night before Sophie left, assessing both Mick and Sophie and deciding whether or not he'd wanted to take the job. Mick reminded him a little of himself and Sophie had that firecracker vibe about her. He'd almost been able to hear Ellen's voice saying 'that girl's a pistol'. Dean rolled his head on his neck, opening his eyes. "Nope. Go on without me."
"You sure? We don't mind waiting."
Dean laughed a little to himself. "Yeah, I'm sure." Not long ago, he'd been the one trying to cajole Sam into going out to celebrate and now the roles were reversed.
"Okay. Back in a few hours. We'll be at Beck's down the street if you change your mind."
"Take your time."
He stood in the shower awhile longer, then got out, drying off and pulling on sweats and a t-shirt. Lying on the bed, he called Jo. She answered on the fourth ring.
"Hey, I was just thinking about you," she told him. "How'd it go?"
"Another job well done. Nest is cleared and Sam and Mick are out celebrating."
"Where are you?" In the background, he heard feminine voices laughing.
"In the room. Were are you?"
"We're having a late dinner of Mexican food, or rather I'm eating and everyone else is having margaritas. Gwen and Sophie are sloshed and mom is egging them on. I'll be surprised if none of them have hangovers tomorrow."
"I won't keep you then."
"Hey, why aren't you out with Mick and Sam?"
"Didn't feel like it. Wanted to call you and watch some tv." He eyed the remote, but didn't reach for it.
"Get your hiney out there and have some guy time. Unwind. Drink a few beers. Exchange wild stories with Mick. Believe me, he has several that are too wild to not be true. Ask him about the zombie and the chocolate store."
"The…. You know that sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke?"
She laughed. "Sure does. Dean, I gotta go. Sophie just climbed up on the table."
"Party animals. Love you, Jo."
"Love you, too. Sophie!" The call cut off and he wondered for a moment just what sort of trouble the they could think of to get into when Jo was both pregnant and not drinking. Somehow, he didn't think he wanted to know.
With a sigh, he exchanged his sweats for jeans and finished getting dressed. Maybe he'd have a couple beers after all. Could be fun.
As Jo's due date drew near, Sam watched Dean become anxious and saw the worry growing inside him. The speed at which his smart mouth began to run was a good indication of how scared Dean really was. His jokes got more and more tasteless and sophomoric and he'd moved on to antics as well. Sam didn't think he'd forget any of those in the near future. The breast pump ones had been particularly…stupid and annoying. He'd been surprised at first that Jo hadn't snapped at Dean like the rest of them, but then he'd seen her expression clearly. She was barely holding it together, too, doing as many stupid antics as Dean, though hers were quieter and not quite as public.
He did what he could to alleviate those fears, but there really wasn't much to do. They could only be negated by experience.
Dean knew how to take care of a baby. He did. Sam had every confidence that within a couple days all of Dean's memories of taking care of Sam when he'd been a baby would rush forward. He'd remember what to do and how to do it. Until then, Dean was going to be tied in knots.
As for Jo…. She'd spent more time reading the baby books and going online to the parenting sites than she had working on the cursed object file, which was normal and natural in his opinion. She'd mentioned several times that she'd never been one for babysitting or anything like it. He'd seen the curl of a worried frown and noticed how she'd stand in the doorway of the baby's room and just stare into the room.
He knew she'd talked to Gwen and Ellen both about her fears. Gwen had told him everything as they'd lain in bed together. How Jo was scared she couldn't handle the pressure, that she was afraid she'd drop the baby or hurt it somehow, and how she thought she was going to be a bad mom. He and Gwen had thoroughly discussed the topic to death.
Sam had been there at Bobby's to hear Ellen tell Jo that every parent was scared the first time and Ellen herself had been just as terrified as Jo was. Ellen had related a few funny stories then, attempting to ease the tension in Jo.
She'd talked about waking up, hearing Jo cry and trying to get to her, crying herself when she couldn't get the bedroom door open. Turned out, she'd gone to the wrong door and walked into the closet. She'd been so sleep deprived she hadn't realized that was the problem. Bill had let her out and guided her back to bed, choosing to take care of Jo himself that night even though he'd gotten in late from a hunt and was sleep deprived himself. She'd told another story about Jo throwing up on the same shirt every time she put it on her and Ellen finally realizing the tag in back scratched Jo's neck. Once she'd removed the tag, Jo stopped throwing up on it. 'You were opinionated even then,' she'd said.
Jo simply had no idea how well suited to being a mother she really was. She shouldn't worry about being a mom. As much as she took care of other people, she'd be perfect as a mom. Sam thought she'd end up being quite a bit like Ellen eventually. She had enough Ellen in her to begin with.
They were going to be okay on that front, but there was no way they'd believe him if Sam told them that. Dean and Jo were going to be good parents, it was only trying to work in hunting that would make things weird.
But they were good at weird. That was the thing. He thought if anyone could make it work well, it was Dean and Jo.
He looked across the table at Dean and Mick, each trying to one-up the other in bizarre happenings and comical stories. It was good that Dean had decided to join them. He'd been reticent to celebrate of late, more interested in talking to Jo and resting than drinking and socializing. While there was good in that - Sam usually called Gwen and didn't mind resting himself -, they both needed to get out of the room on occasion. Not that Sam wanted to do this all the time. He didn't, yet he'd become used to deconstructing cases with others. Gwen really liked to do that and celebrate a good hunt and he thought dispatching a nest of vampires that had terrorized five states was something to celebrate.
"You are so not serious," Dean laughed, tapping his beer bottle on the table.
"I'm totally serious, man." Mick shook his head, sitting back in his chair. "I've never seen Jo so pissed. I mean this dude wouldn't quit. Hands all over her, making obscene suggestions, a few that were even making me a bit uncomfortable. She hauls off and hits the guy. Bam! Right in the face." He gestured with his hands. "Little Jo decking this big obnoxious dude."
"That's my girl," Dean murmured with a glint of approval in his eyes.
"He's so surprised kitten has claws that he steps back, trips, and knocks himself out against a table as he falls. Quiet in the entire room and Jo says, 'That's for grabbing my ass. Any of the rest of you jerk-offs want to mess with me?' Applause from all the women in the bar. I'd thought I was going to have to intervene, but Gwen kept shaking her head not to."
"How'd you meet them," Dean asked. "Jo and Gwen, I mean."
"Sophie caught a line on a ghost and we got there only to find Jo and Gwen wrapping it up. We recognized a hunter's touch, introduced ourselves, realized we had friends in common among the four of us. Sophie and I usually work alone, but we don't mind sharing information." He leaned forward, arms crossing on the table, a curious expression in his blue eyes. "Speaking of sharing information…. I hear there's a website being built, like an encyclopedia of weird only geared to hunters, with a message board for posting cases. Not just a website, but a resource with things that are hard to find. There any truth to it?"
"Where'd you hear about that?" Sam exchanged a glance with Dean. Ellen, and sometimes all of them, had been working pretty non-stop for months now on getting the information from the Campbell archives into something usable, but Sam hadn't thought anyone but their small circle knew about it. Ellen was almost ready to go live with the initial database and had come up with the message board idea herself, the idea being that she could post descriptions of some of the cold cases and interested hunters could contact her for full information and discuss things among themselves.
"Where haven't I heard it? Rumor started a couple months back. Sophie heard it from a guy named Shawn." Mick studied Sam, then Dean, and grinned. "It's true, isn't it? I thought it was a rumor. I remember a few years back, someone started one and didn't get far. I think it's a great idea. Organized hunting. We need all of the attack methods we can get. It'd be nice to have one place to go to for answers instead of floundering about in musty books."
A server approached, setting fresh rounds in front of them.
Shawn. Sam recognized the name. He was one of the hunters that occasionally showed up at Bobby's house looking for help. Sam cleared his throat. "Yeah, it's true. Jo's mom is on it, but it's still in the growing stages and slow-going."
"It'll probably be that way for awhile," Dean added, reaching for the third bottle the server set on the table. "Thank you, sweetheart." He grinned at her.
The young woman blushed and returned to the counter at the back of the room.
Mick swirled the dregs of his beer in his mug. "Will it be editable? I mean, if someone discovers something or has knowledge not there, could a hunter edit it or at least add a new entry to the entry?"
Sam shrugged. "I'd have to talk to Ellen about it, but I don't see why not. The plan is for it to be an expanding database, with new information constantly added. The only trick would be getting the older, experienced hunters to pass on their knowledge. Some of them know things it'd take any of us years to figure out by ourselves. Old habits of working alone and only alone die hard. It'll be difficult to bring some of them around to new ideas and new methods. Even some of us younger hunters have trouble with new methods."
Paper journals giving way to computer documents, Twitter, texts, and email obliterating letters and phone calls. Yeah, old hunters hated new methods, and those methods got more and more technical as time passed. Gwen and Dean preferred the laptop, while Sam wasn't above venturing into other electronics and Jo never gave her opinion one way or the other. Sam had no idea where she stood on electronics.
As Bobby said, hunters couldn't stay static and survive very long anymore. They needed to mix it up to stay ahead of the big bads of the world. Of course, he meant physical hunting methods not technology.
"True. It's a different world now. The monsters are adapting to work with the times, we should to."
"That's a good point, Mick." Dean slapped him on the shoulder, then jerked his chin towards the pool tables on the right of the room. "What's say we play a couple?"
Sam watched them play and by the time Dean was ready to go, he'd had his fill of socializing. They said goodbye to Mick, wished him well on whatever hunt he was heading off to next, and returned to the room.
Gwen Campbell woke with a scream, her hands going to her chest. Panic made her pant, nightmare images lingering in her mind, images she couldn't forget. She looked about the darkened room, gaze searching the shadows, making sure she was alone. Slowly, she relaxed, one hand sweeping along the mattress beside her where Sam usually lay. The sheets were cool and there was no indentation from his body.
He and Dean weren't at the base. They were out working a last couple jobs together before the baby came. While Jo still had a good month before her due date of late October, Dean was afraid she was going to go into labor early. Jo's very pregnant belly supported that fear. She looked like she was carrying twins instead of a single baby. Ellen claimed it was just how her family carried babies - all straight out front.
Since leaving Battle Creek, Gwen's dreams had been terrible things, beginning as short dreams easily forgotten and escalating into long nightmares she couldn't forget.
In some, she was Aaron Carys, looking out of his eyes, while his wife Mia ripped into his chest and stomach. She felt the terror of being unable to move, helpless under the evil intent. In others, the worst ones and the ones she had the most often, she was Mia and halfway through killing Aaron, he morphed into Sam, who cried out 'why' before dying. Gwen would wake from those crying and shaking, firmly believing she had Sam's blood on her until he'd turn the light on and she'd see that she didn't. She hadn't told Sam about those dreams, about the absolute certainty she felt that some morning she was going to wake to his mutilated corpse beside her.
Tonight's dream had been a doozey. She'd been Aaron and had felt every slice of Mia's knife, each drop of excruciating pain.
Aaron and Mia Carys. Her birth parents. One very good and the other a very twisted sort of evil come together to create her. Sometimes she almost wished she hadn't burned the information Castiel and Abigael had prepared for her. She suspected it contained answers to all the still bugged her about her past. While she knew about her mother, she still knew virtually nothing about her father.
Who was he? Where had he come from? What had his family been like? Castiel had said he was a good man and came from good men, but what else had they been?
The dreams had to be just her subconscious trying to work through it all, Gwen knew that, but why did they have to be so vivid?
Tossing the covers off, she sat on the edge of the bed, gripping that edge for a moment before running her hand through her hair and glancing at the clock. It was just after four, the same time she'd been waking from her nightmares every time she'd had one. Did that mean something? She turned on the light, dispelling the sense of unease that remained beneath that circle of visually warm brightness.
A part of her wished Sam was there to hold her and help soothe the hurt of those terrible images. The rest of her was glad he wasn't present as he'd press her for details. Any day now, he was going to ask her to elaborate and push until she gave in and did so. Maybe she should tell him. Maybe it'd ease the dread she felt upon waking if she knew he was aware of the reason for it.
Getting up, Gwen opened the door and stepped into the living room. She stopped in the bathroom, then went into the kitchen, snapping on lights as she went. Having the lower level bright helped. Once there, she made herself a cup of herbal peppermint tea, just like her mother had once done. Patricia Campbell had been a big believer in the restorative properties of a cup of tea, especially peppermint tea for insomnia and particularly vile nightmares. Patricia had always drunk it when she couldn't sleep and had given it to her children as well.
Gwen remembered her mother coming to her door and beckoning Gwen to follow her. She'd always seemed to know when Gwen couldn't sleep, smiling softly as she'd prepared tea for both of them, asking what was on her mind that might have prompted it. They'd had several good discussions in the middle of the night, just the two of them.
When the tea had steeped, Gwen removed the bag and picked up the cup, sniffing the steam and relaxing a fraction. The scent was soothing, evoking good memories of being held in her mother's arms. She sighed and went into the living room, setting the mug on the coffee table and picking up the journal she'd recently started. While she could have done this online or on the computer, there was something soothing about using a paper and pen for this.
There was no time like the present to record one more nightmare, the same thing she'd done every time. Sam encouraged her in it, telling her that after awhile of writing down the dreams and various details about the previous day, she might begin to see a pattern emerging.
She wrote, recording what she'd eaten earlier and the things that had happened. It wasn't much, just more of the same they'd been having. Breakfast with Ellen after a run while Jo still slept, lunch at Bobby's while trying to convince Ellen the computer wasn't possessed, going through a box back here at base with Jo, uncovering reference books to add to the shelves upstairs and lugging the boxes upstairs so Jo could take care of the organizing part. After that had been a late light dinner and some mindless tv while Jo moved restlessly about the house, unable to sit still and claiming she just felt strange.
Jo was restless a lot these days, forgetful and unable to concentrate. She'd had a burst of energy the past month, painting and doing other things, like stand on tall ladders, that made Dean look like he was having heart attack when he discovered her. She'd spend hours arranging and rearranging the baby's room, folding little shirts and onesies into neat stacks.
The stairs creaked and Gwen glanced to her left as Jo appeared, moving slowly and rubbing her side with one hand. "Can't sleep either?"
Jo sighed. "Junior's either practicing acrobatics or karate. Always with the four a.m. practice." She sat on the couch beside Gwen, a drawn out act where she carefully placed a hand on the arm and one on the back before easing onto the cushions. She was slow moving now every day, a thing that frustrated her visibly. "I am so sick of being pregnant. I can't sleep at night, can't lie down without feeling that something is poking me funny inside somewhere, can't spend half an hour without having to pee, can't walk without tripping, and I think I've been grazing for two months."
She studied Jo's stomach. "Are you sure you're not further along than you and Dr. Ames think?"
"Believe me, I've done the calculations until I'm sick of them and still come up with one month to go. If I could make it sooner, I would…you know, as long as he'd be okay." She put her feet up on the table. "Why are you up? Another nightmare?"
Although Jo said it casually, Gwen could hear the concern in her voice. "Yeah. I keep thinking there has to be a point where they'll stop, but they keep getting worse, more intense." She slid her fingers along the chain about her neck, taking the three rings on it into her hand and holding them like they were a protective talisman. They were in a way. The fierce protection of Sam's love for her.
Who ever would have guessed way back when they'd first met that things would turn out this way? That she wasn't a Campbell by birth, but rather an orphan they'd raised as theirs? She wished Neal and Patricia had lived long enough to meet him. She thought they would have liked him. Maybe he would have reminded them of Aaron, like he had Mia, and maybe they would have answered the questions now rising in her mind.
Who was Aaron Carys? Why couldn't she shake the feeling that Mia had only been the beginning of something worse to come, a second shoe yet to drop?
Maybe she was wrong. She hoped she was wrong.
It was nighttime that Jo had begun to dislike. As her belly grew even bigger and her balance shifted front and center, she'd started to have trouble sleeping. She'd wake up and go into the baby's room, rearranging tiny clothes of various sizes in the dresser drawers and restacking the stash of diapers she'd been buying, also in different sizes. When Dean was home, he'd follow along behind her by maybe half an hour and coax her back to bed for awhile.
She just couldn't rest, feeling like there was so much she had yet to do and no time to do it.
She'd clean the house, organize the shelves, and do it over and over, realizing in the back of her mind that she was probably in what was called the 'nesting phase', yet not wanting to call it that. As she'd stand and stare at the baby's room, a sense of anxiety that was nearly a panic would creep over her and she'd wish they could go backwards in time.
She wished she wasn't pregnant.
The fact was, she was still scared that she'd 'break it' as she'd once told Dean, ignoring Dean's own childish behaviors because she was doing some of them herself.
I'm not a mother, she thought. I don't do mom things.
Jo turned from the doorway and went to the table by the bookshelves at the top of the stairs, sitting where she couldn't see the open doorway. She pulled the file to her that she and Gwen had been working on. It was another cursed object from the larger file Bobby had given her and she thought they had the trail now, a chain of ownership that could lead to the object itself.
A cursed dress. Who ever would have thought? It was a pretty thing according to pictures, embroidered and beaded to such a degree that it was a work of art almost, a 1920's flapper dress with a history of owners dying bloody, bizarre deaths. The dress had passed from person to person, but it appeared that it had to be worn to kill. Mere ownership of it didn't cause the deaths. The person had to actually put it on. Jo wondered how it had come to be cursed. Perhaps the original owner had had a jealous rival, like a myth Jo had once read about where the rival cursed the fabric and caused the first death, not realizing that it'd continue to kill because the magic consumed the fabric itself? None of the clippings already there or Jo's research had turned up much in the way of useful facts.
A scream from downstairs startled her and she sat back, frowning, listening carefully. She wasn't worried that something had gotten in, as the house was as safe as their combined knowledge could make it. The scream hadn't sounded like a scream of trouble. She heard the bed in Sam and Gwen's room creak and then the door open.
Gwen must've had another nightmare.
Jo glanced at the clock on the wall, startled again when a baby foot kicked hard inside her. "Oh man," she moaned softly, rubbing at the spot. It was right after four in the morning, a sort of pattern in Gwen's nightmares, and she wondered if Gwen was ever going to tell Sam just how bad they'd gotten. She seemed reluctant to do that for some reason.
She turned her attention back to the file for awhile, but when the words swam in front of her eyes, she got up and went downstairs, joining Gwen on the couch and trying to get Gwen to talk about the nightmares. She failed in that regard.
"Ready for the party later?" It was a blatant attempt to change the topic and Jo let herself be distracted by it.
"No. Who knew my mother was desperate for grandkids?"
When Gwen had declined to throw Jo a shower on grounds that she didn't do parties like that and wouldn't know where to begin, Ellen had jumped in to do it herself. Jo had a good idea who all was invited aside from herself and Gwen: Melissa, Jodie, Sophie, maybe Abigael if anyone could call her down from heaven. Female hunters they knew. There might be a few other people, like old family friends Jo hadn't seen since she was a baby herself and friends of Ellen's who went gaga over babies, but mostly the list would include hunters. She just hoped her mom had left out the stupid baby shower games. No way Jo wanted to play any of the ones Dean had snickered about before he and Sam had left.
"She probably thought she'd never have any."
True. Jo nodded. "She's practically giddy about it." She glanced at the kitchen. "You want some breakfast? I'll make us something."
"I'm fine with a bowl of cereal."
"No, I mean really make something, like that egg casserole Dean likes. The one with sausage?" She had a sudden craving for eggs, cheese, and sausage all mixed together, which was strange because she hadn't particularly cared for the casserole when her mom had made it.
Gwen set her mug aside and got up. "I'll help."
They worked together and when Gwen finally left to go on a run, Jo made a quick call to Sam. Might as well get a promise from him to talk to Gwen about the nightmares before the day really began. Then, Jo could feel like she'd checked another thing off her list of things she needed to do before the baby was born.