A/N: Well, this is it… the end of my little experiment to see if I could write a non-squicky mpreg fic. Though it turned into a hell of a lot more than that, and that is all because of you guys. Seriously, I went into posting this fic with so much dread, and y'all have made it awesome! Thank you! And all you artists who did artwork to this fic… I'm going to have to have a litter of babies just to give each of you my firstborn ;)

Also, a fairly major update for you ffnet peeps… I have decided to post new fics only on my LJ. This is for a couple of reasons: Reason 1) ffnet's new policy of taking down fics they deem 'inappropriate' – I would not have expected this new crack-down to affect me on ffnet, just because I've never posted smut on here (as per their guidelines), but I've already had one fic removed because they didn't like the title, so if my long-standing adherence to their rules isn't good enough for them, then I'll go someplace where I can post what I want (smut included). Reason 2) my techie friend who does my posting for me has been complaining increasingly about ffnet's updates that make the site progressively harder to handle. Since she posts for me because I'm a techno-idiot and gets nothing out of it herself, I don't want to ask of her anything that will cause undo aggravation, and lately that's all that ffnet seems to give her. I'll leave up the fics I have here now for you guys who have bookmarks, but if the ffnet stormtroopers decide to take something down, I'm not going to take any measures to put it back up. No rewrites to please the overlords, etc. It's a shame that a site that has served so many fandoms for so long has come to this, but oh well.

So for you ffnet readers, you can continue to keep up with new stories from me at .com

Thanks for all your support, and now on with The Shattered One!

Once Castiel had recovered his strength, he transported everyone – Dean, Sam, Daniel, and the Impala (because she counted as a 'someone') – back to Bobby Singer's. If he'd had his way, Dean would have had Castiel wait longer to do any 'heavy lifting', but Castiel didn't take well to being grounded. As if to prove just how fit he was to fly, despite Dean's over-protectiveness, Castiel whisked off to Belgium to fetch the Harvelles, Gerald, and Officer Winters, returning everyone safely and looking none the worse for wear.

That was a week ago. Since Detroit, things had been quiet. To a group of hunters accustomed to the anarchy of the Apocalypse, the lull was downright spooky. Dean couldn't stop thinking of it as the calm before the storm. From the way Sam's eyes darted any time a phone rang, Dean knew his younger brother felt the same way.

But a week went by and there was nothing of biblical proportions to report. Not to say that there was nothingto report. Dean could hardly turn around without seeing something about Detroit. The news coverage out of Michigan showed people royally up in arms, blaming the decimation of Detroit on everything from military weapons' testing to pointing fingers at other countries and crying terrorist attack. That's when Dean quit watching television. He just couldn't handle more 'end of the world as we know it' talk.

It took a few days, but the Winchesters finally began to stand down from a state of high-alert. Then they were really at a loss for what to do with themselves. By some unspoken agreement, Dean and Sam decided that they needed to catch their breaths instead of throwing themselves into the next disaster the way they usually did. It felt like the right thing to do, but that didn't mean Dean knew what to do with his free hours.

Because it was something he was good at, something that had absolutely nothing to do with saving the planet, Dean started to work on some of the cars Bobby had backed up. It was relaxing, and it gave him something to do with his hands. It also kept him from thinking 'what now?'… because he really did not know.

Dean was working under the hood of a '68 Charger that could be a sweet ride with a little TLC, looked up, and realized the sun was starting to go down. Another day without a disaster yanking him around. It wasn't the life he knew, but after the last few years, he thought he could get used to it.

When Dean went back in the house, he found Sam at Bobby's desk, several of the elder hunter's leather-bound books open as Sam perused each one in turn, a pad and pen at hand as he jotted down notes. He looked like a college student cramming for a final exam in the campus library… he'd probably looked just like that once, at Stanford several lifetimes ago.

"Hey," Dean nodded toward the books, "what's all that?"

Sam leaned back from the books but did not put down his pen. "A hunter Bobby knows called in with a case he's having trouble figuring out. I thought I'd pitch in and help him do the research."

"Oh yeah? Anything we should handle?" Dean asked. So much for getting used to taking a break from hunting for a while.

"Bobby said this guy can handle things by himself – prefers to, actually – he just isn't the best at digging through the literature."

"A man of action, not a bookworm, I get that," Dean nodded. And he let it go. Maybe he was sorta-kinda ready to step back from hunting, at least temporarily, after all.

So instead of throwing his duffle bag in the trunk of the Impala and speeding off to the next hunt, Dean went to the chair across the desk from Sam, turned it around, and straddled it. He rested his arms on the back as Sam returned to his work.

Dean watched Sam for a while, unable to stop himself from smirking. This was really Sam in his element, flexing his nerd muscles. Here, he was miles and miles away from the guy primed to be Lucifer's bodysuit.

"So where's Bobby?" Dean asked.

Without looking up from his work, Sam gestured vaguely toward a hallway. "He thought he might have some notebooks in a back closet that might help figure out this… whatever it is."

Since Detroit, the hunting world had seen a refreshing lack of biblical disasters, but the oldies-but-goodies were clearly still out there. Witches, vampires, shape-shifters, poltergeists… the simple stuff was alive and kicking (or not-alive but still definitely kicking). Bobby got a pretty regular stream of calls from hunters tapping into his knack for saving others' asses from a distance. It was weirdly reassuring to Dean to know that the world he'd been raised in, all that he knew, was still out there, even if the Apocalypse had misfired. He didn't know if he'd be able to handle a world that didn't need any hunters. Basically, a world that didn't need him.

"Where's Cas?"

Sam looked up at that and pointed in the direction of the kitchen with his pen. "I saw him head out back with Daniel a little while ago." Dean was about to get up and go find the angel and his son (because watching Sam read was about as thrilling as watching paint dry) when Sam spoke… and his measured words stilled Dean. "He's… been hanging around a lot lately."

The angel had.

It was awesome having Cas around all the time, but Dean had an uneasy feeling that it couldn't last. Much as the Apocalypse had sucked ass, it had also been holding their group together. Their common goal kept the angel earthbound, kept the flight-prone brother close, and made Dean happy as no one in their right mind should be at the end of the world.

Even during the worst moments, a small, dark part of Dean that lived in constant fear of abandonment had been relieved that there was something binding them to a shared cause… something that kept everyone from leaving him.

Now that reason to stick together was gone, and Dean felt down to his bones that the first one to break ranks and go their separate way would be the angel.

Castiel told Dean about Michael's late-night visit after Lucifer's defeat; he knew about Castiel and Daniel being invited into the Host. Dean kept waiting for Cas to announce that he was being ordered back to Heaven. He hadn't yet, but how long could that last? Heaven was hometo Castiel; he'd stayed away as long as he did because he'd been banished. Now he was welcome to go back.

And if he did leave, would he take Daniel with him? After all, Daniel was more angel than he was human. Between Heaven and Earth, if he belonged anywhere, it was probably in Heaven (no matter how much Dean hated the very thought).

If Cas decided to rejoin his brothers and sisters in Heaven, Daniel had to go with him. Daniel needed to be with his angel parent in order to survive. If Cas wanted to go, Dean would makethe angel take Daniel with him. Dean wasn't willing to risk Daniel's life to keep him, dangerously separated from the angels.

Which meant Dean would lose both of them, the angel and his son, and there wouldn't be a damn thing he could do about it.

Just thinking about it all had put Dean off his feed and given him more than one headache.

And that was so much of his trouble. The lull in the action had given Dean too much time to think. He'd take action and instinct over quiet and contemplation any day. Because lately, most of his contemplation was about Castiel leaving.

He would never admit to anyone just how much the idea really bothered him. Dean did his damnedest not to label whatever existed between him, Cas, and Daniel… but he knew for a fact he didn't want it broken up.

"He has to stick around for Daniel," Dean answered Sam cagily. As if Daniel was somehow bound to the earth, an anchor keeping Cas with the Winchesters. Dean wished that were the case.

Sam pursed his lips, like he saw right through that, but to Dean's relief Sam didn't pick at it. Instead, Sam's expression shifted, went all 'let's do some mental exercising', and he cocked his head. "You know, I've wondered… how would things have been different – or would they have been different at all – if Cas had used my soul instead of yours."

"For Daniel?"

Sam nodded.

Dean frowned. He could honestly say he'd never wondered about that. Not until Sam brought it up. Then he tried, and it just sat with him all wrong. Daniel was hisson. He'd rather not linger on a hypothetical alternate universe where Daniel wasn't.

"Probably wouldn't be named Daniel," Dean quipped dryly, "since Cas totally Brangelinaed my name and his to come up with Daniel."

Sam chuckled. "Yeah… he'd probably be baby Cam."

"Dude, lame."

"Good thing Cas used yours instead," Sam agreed. Then the teasing light in his eyes turned serious and he said gently, "It worked out for the best. I wouldn't have been nearly as good a dad as you."

Dean squirmed. "What are you talking about? You'd be a good dad."

"Yeah, at least I hope so. I'd try." Sam smiled far too sincerely. "But not as good as you."

"Okay, this is getting girly," Dean grumbled, hoping Sam didn't notice him blushing as he stood up from the chair. "I'm gonna go find Cas."

It didn't take long. Castiel was visible from the back porch, his back to the door as he faced the setting sun.

The sight of Cas in regular clothes still caught Dean off-guard sometimes. With Jimmy's clothes a lost cause after the battle with Lucifer, and the borrowed clothes from Dean fitting the slimmer man poorly, Dean had gone out and bought the angel new clothes. Knowing they would likely be the only clothes Castiel ever wore from then on out, he ended up putting way too much thought into what he picked. Dean had tried asking Castiel what he wanted to wear, now that he had the opportunity to choose, but the angel was indifferent. He said anything Dean chose would be fine. And he probably meant that literally. If Dean had come home with a pink tutu, Cas would probably have put it on and thanked Dean for it.

If Sam knew the truth of how Dean made his choice, Sam would have laughed his ass off and Dean would never live it down. Because Dean got clothes for Castiel not all that different from what Dean himself wore… so that when they were seen together, it wouldn't look like one of them didn't belong. He wanted the three of them to actually look like a family together.

Dean played it off as meaning nothing, but even he knew it actually kind of meant a lot.

Seeing Castiel without the suit and trench coat was strange, but the jeans, mottled green shirt, and dark leather jacket hadn't taken long to grow on Dean.

Dean couldn't see Daniel from where he was on the porch, but the fact that Castiel was swaying gently foot to foot meant the baby had to be with him.

Dean walked across the backyard to stand at Castiel's side. Daniel was curled against Castiel's chest, the very picture of a content baby. He was pressed to the angel's sternum, high enough that his head was tucked just underneath Castiel's chin. Cas swayed side to side with a rhythm so steady that it would make the sea jealous. With one hand he held the boy securely to him and with the other he curled his fingers around Daniel's head, his thumb brushing gently against Daniel's hair.

Dean remembered Cas right after Daniel had been born, how he'd held Daniel with all the cuddliness of a porcupine or an undetonated bomb. Castiel now was a far cry.

"Heya, Cas."

"Hello, Dean." The angel's rhythmic motions, his sway and his caress, did not falter at the distraction Dean presented.

Turning the tables on the angel, Dean simply stood for a moment and watched Castiel. He should be scared of how peaceful he felt watching Castiel and Daniel together.

Because he feared it couldn't last.

All Dean's life, anything that made him feel even close to happy was snatched away from him. With all the time he'd had to think lately, he realized that this could make him happy. If he let down his guard even just a little and let it. Conditioned anxiety set in the more Dean dwelled on the idea of having this: a family beyond his brother and a surrogate father.

It was meant for other people, not hunters… certainly not Dean Winchester.

But they'd saved the god damn world… they fucking deserved it. Not that deserving something made much difference in Dean's experience.

"What's up?" Dean asked, tacitly ignoring the curl of distress in his stomach.

"The sky."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Cas…"

"I wanted to show Daniel the sunset."

At that, Dean really looked at it himself. And sure, it was pretty. The clouds all soaked in different shades of orange, red, and lavender. But it made Dean nervous because it was the sky, the heavens… and Cas just might be pining.

"Daniel may be too young yet to appreciate its beauty, but I saw no harm in trying."

"Oh, yeah, hey, I agree, start him early. I tried to show him a kick-ass '68 Charger, but he was unimpressed. Well, he shit himself, but not in a 'man, that's the coolest thing ever!' sort of way."

Castiel huffed and the corners of his mouth twitched in a smile. Then he turned his eyes skyward again, expression rapt, wistful, and blissed out all at once.

Fuck it, Dean had to know.

"Hey, Cas…?"


"Are you going back to Heaven?"

Castiel stopped swaying. He lowered Daniel just a little, enough to turn his head and look at Dean with that trademark slightly-confused head-tilt. "I had intended to, since I'm no longer banished, and I havemissed it…" he glanced down at their son in his arms, "and I want Daniel to see Heaven when he's older."

Cas made it sound like he was talking about Disneyland… a vacation spot to take the kid. Someplace to visit, but not to stay. Or maybe Dean was just hearing it the way he wanted to. Because god damnit, he didn't want Castiel to go.

"Yeah, but… I mean… are you ever going to go back to Heaven for good?"

The confused look on Castiel's face was replaced with warmth and something else that Dean couldn't identify.

"Yes. When you're there."

It was probably the sappiest thing anyone had ever said to Dean.

And he was totally okay with that.