Chapter 16

Dean… hey…

Come on, Dean. Need you to open your eyes for me.

He couldn't make out the words. Was hearing them far away, from the depths of unconsciousness. Was he drowning? He didn't remember any water. No. The pain, though, the pain was still there. It'd been there for a long time, hadn't it?

It was burning him, splitting him in two, a fierce fire in the depths of his belly, and he would have screamed but couldn't. Because there was liquid lead flowing through his veins, so heavy, he was all but made of lead.

Dean, come on. You can do it.

Do what? Was somebody speaking to him? Why wouldn't the pain go away? It should be… should be gone by now because...?

Correction. He wasn't heavy. How could he be when he felt so empty? Something was wrong. Something was missing. He…

Sumiko. Sumiko, god, what had happened to her. She was…

It was a litany. The baby. His baby. Sam's. He…

Dean, open your eyes. Now.

A sting, sharp pain on his fingernail. Dean felt his body jerking under it. Jerking. Moving. He could, maybe. Had to come back, had to find Sue, had to, had to.

Open your eyes. He could. Do it. Thought it, but nothing happened, and he was drifting away again. Maybe he could find Sumiko that way.

Dean, please. Dean, come on, enough. S'not funny anymore.

A firm press on his hand. Sam. Couldn't go away. Sam would know. Would know what had happened to him, to their daughter.

Sammy was crying. Sammy needed him. He was a tiny baby and he needed Dean to take care of him.

Dean.

Sam, you're upsetting her.

Except that it wasn't Sammy who was crying. It couldn't be, because Sam was an adult. Sam…

A flash, like lightning in his head. The pain and the urge and the overwhelming feeling of giving up control of his body because it knew what to do. And the warmth of the baby's body heat against him. Sue, crying, wiggling on his stomach. Alive and well and so tiny, so fragile but so strong at the same time.

His daughter was crying. He had to look after her. He… told his eyes to open. Had to actually concentrate on the movement to get it done.

Light. Hurt. No. Go back to sleep ,Dean.

Dean? Hey, did he…?

Yeah. Come on, Dean.

Yeah, he told himself. Come on, Dean. Sam is worried. You have to make sure the baby's alright, make sure that Sam knows you're fine. Just a bit tired, is all.

He tried again to open his eyes, blinked once more against the light. Felt a tear of irritation sliding down his cheek.

"Dean?"

Sam's voice, Sam's face, a bit blurry, hovering in his sight.

"Take it easy, Dean," another voice said.

And yeah. That was Rania, but he couldn't quite make out her face. And Sam was speaking. Slow down, dude, he wanted to say, but couldn't.

"…okay, you're okay. It's the curse, Dean. It got a bit wild after Sumiko was born."

The curse. Wild. Sumiko. Yeah, right. He could still hear her wailing and knew, just knew that she had to be in Sam's arms. If he could only turn his head, a bit, but he was so, so tired.

"Hey Dean. No going back to sleep now," said Rania's authoritative voice.

He felt a sharp pain on his sternum.

Alright, alright.

He could lower his eyes. Could look. And there she was, wrapped up in a blanket, her hat almost low enough to cover her eyes. That was what was bothering her, he thought with irritation because he couldn't form the words. Sam, her hat is bothering her.

What came out of his mouth was a small croak. Damn it.

"Don't try to talk, you're okay. You need to rest, Dean. Sue is alright. I got her," his drama queen of a brother babbled with big shiny eyes.

Jesus Christ, Samantha, cut the crap. This ain't a lifetime movie. I'm fine, really. Can't you just lift up the poor girl's hat?

Some other things happened. Rania did… stuff to him. But then he was drifting off again.

::: :::

At the beginning, he was so messed up that he couldn't quite figure out the passage of time, had the impression that days went by between each waking. It was terrifying. There was always somebody with him. Sam or Rania. There were so many things he wanted to ask, to say, but he was barely able to nod when asked a question. Does it hurt? No. Are you thirsty? Fuck yeah. Tiny nods. One time, there was this itch on his chin and he couldn't, for the life of him, manage to scratch it. His hand was heavy and numb. All he could do was move his fingers.

Sometimes Sam would have the baby in his arms, or would talk about her. She drank her milk. She's sleeping. Look Dean, look. I have her with me.

I'm not stupid, he thought, but all he could do was freaking nod.

Then, time shifted and he realized that it wasn't days that were going by but hours. Got some awareness of his body again, better control over his thoughts and his ability to sleep or to stay awake at will.

He was weak, that much he knew. Seriously weak. Made him think of how he'd felt when he'd been snatched from the bottom of the Pit. Which wasn't a pleasant thought, so he put it away. The aching throb deep down in his stomach was subsiding and then it was just the feeling of being sore. Good. Had Sam said something about the curse? He had something stuck in his arm. Sometimes he would feel a cool, liquid sensation around it and knew he had an IV of some sort.

Thinking was tiring though, and he had to sleep when he did it for too long, or when he managed to gather the energy necessary to suck a couple of mouthfuls of water from a straw.

He wasn't that scared anymore, but still worried. Wanted to sit and walk and talk, take Sumiko in his arms and feel normal again. He felt like he had let her down, somehow, and this feeling wouldn't leave him, even when he was asleep.

::: :::

It was almost dark in the room, except for a dim light somewhere over his head. It was different. He felt different. More aware. He tried to move his hand and could lift it up. It was shaking a bit and the muscles strained with the effort, but still. Definitely an improvement.

He cleared his throat. God, it tasted like morning breath. The thought of water had his mouth… well. Watering.

"Somebody're?" he asked, words slurred and low but still, words.

He heard some movement from deeper in the room and saw a shape moving in the darkness. Sam. As his brother came into view, Dean saw that his features were tense with exhaustion. He had a light stubble-shadow over his chin, and was walking a bit bent over, the way he always did when he'd got stuck sleeping in a very uncomfortable position.

"Hey, Dean. How're you feeling?"

"… The hell happened?"

"You thirsty?"

"Yeah."

Sam took a glass of water from the nightstand. Dean raised his hand to take it.

"No way, dude. You have, like, the strength of a weakened kitten."

Nice, Dean thought, but he let Sam have his way. There was this particular look in his brother's eyes that was screaming mother-hen mode. Dean figured he could let him have his way, for the moment.

The water was warm but still good. He let go of the straw when he was done, irritated to find that the simple act of drinking exhausted him.

"So, how're you feeling?"

"Where's Sue?"

"She's right here, Dean. She's sleeping in the incubator."

"I don't… can't… what's the date?"

"Friday the seventh. It's almost five AM. You've been kinda out of it for a little bit over twenty-four hours. It was the curse, Dean. Apparently, it wanted to set you back to normal after it had reached its goal, but it worked way too fast for your body to follow. You spiked a fever, pretty high and you… you've had seizures because of that."

"Holy shit…"

Dean dragged a hand over his face. He was sweating a bit.

"Yeah. It was impressive. Rania took care of you so she'll probably be able to explain it better but… Three hours after Sue was born, there was no trace you'd ever had a va-… a birth canal."

Dean squirmed on the bed, trying to feel what had changed. He'd never really thought too much about the last modification the curse had caused. Each time he had, he'd come close to panicking. The belly, he could have accepted, eventually, but the birth canal had been something else entirely. Dean had felt… well. He would never tell this to anyone, of course, could barely admit it to himself. But he had felt… violated. The worst part was when he'd been taking a shower and had to wash himself down there (yeah, he couldn't get himself to be more specific in vocabulary and thought, down there was the best he could do). Whenever the washcloth had come close to his new opening, he'd got all weak at the knees and done a quick, almost frenetic job of cleaning himself. He had never tried to touch it or look at it.

…And yeah, he could tell that it was gone. The subtle slip-slide he used to feel whenever he moved his legs or hips was gone. It was still sore, but…

"And the same goes for the uterus. Rania did an ultrasound yesterday morning and it was gone. Not a trace that it'd ever been there. Your stomach is… it pretty much looks like before the pregnancy, and well…" Sam blushed a little. "You were leaking colostrum almost constantly during the delivery, but now the milk ducts are gone as well."

"That's all good," Dean whispered, trying to fight the exhaustion that was already washing over him. "So why do I feel like shit?"

Sam gave a nervous laugh. "Your metabolism couldn't cope, man. It happened way too fast. Hence the fever. You've been over 104.6 for like… two hours and… Fuck, it was pretty bad, Dean. Scary as hell, to tell the truth. You were sweating so bad the sheets were soaked and you were dehydrating by the minute and your heart was beating too fast and… Rania pumped you full of drugs but even then. We were planning to get you to a hospital, but then the fever started to lower a bit."

"Oh."

What could he say? Sorry? Sam was visibly upset but he couldn't gather the strength to do anything about it.

"Anyway, you're doing better now," Sam said, shrugging. "Rania said it would take some time for your body to get over this but she isn't worried too much."

"Sue…"

"She's okay, man. Really. First time she took her bottle, she drank it like a pro. She sleeps and drinks and well… poops. She's great. You wanna see her?" Sam asked as an afterthought.

Yes, yes please. Thanks for not making me say it.

As Sam got Sumiko, Dean raised the head of the bed and tried to settle himself, but it was hard to move, to think about moving. He was scared, suddenly, that Sam would ask him if he wanted to hold her, because he knew he couldn't.

But Sam didn't. He lowered the side rail of the bed and sat next to Dean with their daughter in the crook of his arm. She didn't have her hat on and her soft hair was almost white in the lamplight. The swelling of her face had already started to recede and Dean could see how delicate and fine her features were. She was sleeping soundly, pouting with her heart-shaped lips. When Dean put his hand on her belly, she made a noise that was a cross between a hiccup and a sigh. He felt something twisting inside him and was once again pretty close to tears. Damn it. He was turning into a sap. Still, just looking at his daughter made it hard to breathe. She was his. He had actually carried a human being inside of him. How could the thought not be overwhelming?

"She looks just like you, ya know?" Sam whispered.

"Bullshit."

"Dean, seriously. She's one day old and I can tell. Rania too."

"Her eyes are shaped more like yours," Dean stated, which was true, and, judging by the smile it conjured on Sam's face, he wasn't the only one who was getting over-emotional about the fact that Sumiko could take after him.

"Rania wanted me to get her next time you woke up. I should go. You look spent."

Sam was already getting up, but Dean left his hand on Sumiko. He needed this. "Wait… just five more minutes, okay?"

"Okay. Yeah."

Sam sighed and settled more comfortably. He already looked like he was used to having the baby in his arms, and Dean felt a prick of jealousy, thinking he couldn't even do that.

He closed his eyes and let the soft rise and fall of Sumiko's belly under his hand calm him down.

::: :::

July 8

He had to hold onto Sam's arm to keep his balance. His legs were shaking badly when they reached the Impala, sweat dripping down his forehead. He felt sick and weak and out of place, as if he was walking in a space between dream and reality.

"Gonna sit in the back with Sue," he told Sam, trying to keep his irritation at bay.

He couldn't take it anymore, the way his brother looked at him as if he was a fragile, precious thing, ready to break. He knew he looked bad, had seen his reflection in the bathroom mirror earlier. His skin was a pasty white, his eyes sunken with dark circles around them. His stubble needed to be taken care of, but just the thought of shaving was exhausting.

Sam had helped him dress in sweats that were hanging low on his narrow hips, with a pregnancy tee bagging sadly over his flat, but still soft, stomach. He couldn't quite identify himself with the man who was looking back at him, had wanted to shout at him to man up and to stand straight. It didn't matter that Rania had said all he needed was rest to build back his strength. She had given him a prescription for some multivitamin high-protein shakes, patted him on the shoulder. "I know you don't want to, but you gotta give yourself some time, Dean."

Yeah right. Time. Dean's patience had been put to the test for nine months and he couldn't deal with this anymore, wanted so badly to feel like himself again it actually hurt.

He sat on the seat with Sam's help and waited while his brother went back to the house to get Sumiko. It was still early in the morning but already hot and sunny outside. The light made his eyes water, and he swore at his body, at the way it kept betraying him.

He saw Sam on the porch, rocking the baby seat by the handle as he spoke with Rania. Dean could tell by the expression on his brother's face that they were talking about him.

Of course they were talking about him. Poor weakened, fragile Dean who needed to be taken care of, who couldn't even hold his newborn daughter in his arms.

He clenched his jaw and let resentment wash over him, feeling an acidic taste rising in his throat. He was being unfair to Sam, that much he knew, but he couldn't help it.

The door of the Impala opened suddenly and Sam snapped the car seat into its base, facing the back. He played with it a bit to be sure it was secure, then look up at Dean, long bangs falling into his eyes, a little smile on his lips.

"Ready to go home?"

"Yeah."

"Okay." Sam bent down to rearrange the blanket over Sumiko. "We're going home, sweetie," he whispered tenderly, then he was out and settling himself in the driver's seat.

The familiar rumble of the car didn't do a thing to put Dean in a better mood. He kept looking at his daughter, her face so small surrounded by the blanket and her pale blue hat nestled on her head. She sucked softly at her pacifier, eyes moving under her closed eyelids. Dean couldn't turn his eyes away from her, wondering if he would ever be able to be close to her without feeling so overwhelmed.

Who are you? he thought, taking one of Sumiko's hands into his (shaking, still shaking, damn it). The truth was that he didn't know who she was: his daughter, yes, Sam's. John and Mary Winchester's granddaughter. A girl, healthy, who might or might not have some demon blood in her. Still, she was a mystery to him, a human being whole and now completely separated from him.

Please don't let me screw this up. Please.

He didn't realize he was falling asleep until he suddenly woke up with Sam shaking his shoulder. They were home. Sue was squirming and groaning in her seat. Her pacifier had fallen into the crook of her legs, leaving a red mark over her mouth.

"Yeah, I know, baby," Sam cooed, unlocking the seat. "I'll get her inside and then I'll help you out," he told Dean.

And Dean could only nod, because he knew he couldn't walk into the house by himself. Couldn't even hear his daughter complaining when she was right under his nose.

Sam couldn't shut himself up as they were entering the house, talking about organization and cleaning and maternity milk and sleep cycles. All Dean could think about was lying down and sleeping. He refused Sam's offer of settling on the living room couch. Why would he stay downstairs to watch Sam do everything he couldn't?

::: :::

Dean slept almost constantly for the next twenty-four hours. Sam actually had to wake him up to get him to drink and eat. Sometimes he heard Sumiko's soft cries in the lighter stages of his sleep. As night fell, he realized that Sam had settled downstairs with the baby to sleep, probably to let Dean rest. It still pissed him off.

He woke up in the middle of the night and heard noises downstairs - Sam's soft whispers, Sumiko's wails, things being handled in the kitchen. It was probably time for his daughter's bottle. He stayed in the dark, listening, body aching from staying too long in the same position. Didn't trust himself to go downstairs by himself, even if he wanted to. Badly. He missed the baby. It was strange and depressive enough to feel so empty, like she'd actually been ripped away from him. He ached to hold her in his arms.

He didn't call Sam, didn't want to bother him, finding very bad and stupid reasons not to ask for his help. He waited instead, and the house went silent again. He got up only after that, holding on to the furniture and walls to drag himself to the bathroom. He didn't look in the mirror. He felt shallow and dirty, having only been sponge bathed since the birth (and yes, it was as humiliating as it sounded).

He pissed and didn't flush, sure that it would drag Sam upstairs, arms in the air and yelling that it wasn't safe, that Dean could have fallen and broken his neck, or something stupid like that. He was short of breath when he got back to bed, not sure that he could've managed another minute on his feet.

"Damn it," he growled, dragging the cover over himself, sure he would break down and burst into tears from frustration right then and there.

But sleep took him fast. Again.

::: :::

It was almost eleven in the morning when he woke up. Sam was bent over him, features tense and blue circles under his eyes, looking concerned and tired.

"Hey, sleepy head. Feel like coming downstairs to eat this time?"

Dean nodded clumsily, trying to chase away the persistent feeling of exhaustion. He sat up by himself, brushing Sam's helping hand away a bit more roughly than he'd intended. He saw the hurt in Sam's eyes and felt a pinch of guilt.

"M'not totally helpless, ya know," he grumbled.

"I know."

Sam's tone was apologetic. Great. More pity.

After a trip to the bathroom, Sam took him in the kitchen where he had heated some soup and prepared a whole table of fruit and vegetables and cheese. Dean wanted to thank him for his efforts, he really did, but the words got stuck in his throat, so he just sat down near the baby swing where Sumiko was settled. He bent over her and kissed her head, taking his time to breathe the sweet smell that was so undeniably her. Her eyes were open wide and she made small huffing sounds, shaking her hands clumsily.

"I know you're hungry, baby girl. It's still half an hour until your bottle," Sam stated, serving Dean his soup.

"She doing okay?" Dean asked, looking at his soup without appetite.

"Yeah. She's drinking one and a half ounces now. And you should hear her burp! It's, like, impossible that such a big noise can come out of such a tiny person." Sam smiled a bit nervously and ate a spoonful of soup. "How are you doing?"

Dean shrugged and grabbed a carrot stick. It tasted like paper.

"Dean, I don't… I don't know what to do."

"With what?"

"You… you don't look fine. Not at all."

Not now, Sam, please don't do this now I can't take this kind of crap, Dean thought, but then Sue began to cry and Sam forgot that he had even tried to start a conversation. No matter what he did, the baby wouldn't stop, and she only got louder and louder, her face scrunched up and her mouth wide open. Sam left his seat to take her in his arms, cradling her while heating her bottle in a pot of hot water. All Dean could do was watch, fidgety and nervous and frustrated. Sam sat back with the baby and brushed the tip of the nipple against her lips until she felt it and eagerly closed her mouth around it. Sam actually looked almost at ease with the whole thing and Sue was only three days old.

It was like Dean was intruding. Sam and Sumiko were bonding while he slept.

Pushing his untouched bowl away, Dean opened his protein shake and downed it in one long gulp, knowing Sam wouldn't leave him be if he didn't eat anything.

"M'gonna take a shower," he announced, getting up slowly, holding onto the chair to steady himself.

Sam sighed. "Could you at least wait fifteen minutes 'til I'm done with her bottle? I'll be able to help you then."

"I don't need your help."

"You can barely stand up, Dean! I don't wanna have to take you back to Rania because you hit your head falling down. If you're too stubborn to-"

"Oh, Jesus! I'm so sorry to mess with your schedule, Sam," Dean said sarcastically. "After all, I've only just given birth to your daughter. Didn't mean to bother you now that I've fulfilled my purpose."

Oh God. That was probably one of the meanest, stupidest things Dean had ever said. He knew it even as he was saying it, and by the way Sam's eyes became suddenly wide and liquid, Dean could tell the barb had hit its mark. All Dean could do was gather his strength to get back to bed. He lay on his stomach and let his heartbeat slow down, thought he would never go back to sleep, that he had stored enough sleep for a week or so, but exhaustion took him once again, and his last conscious thought was that he'd been a jerk.

Which was, as far as he was concerned, something that happened way too often.

::: :::

He was in a hotel room with Sammy. Alone. Dad had said he would only be gone for half an hour because they needed food.

Dean was six and was watching over Sammy. His brother had been asleep and John had told him that he would probably nap the whole time. Dean was six. His dad knew he could count on him. He kept calling him the bestest assistant in the world.

But Sammy did wake up only a short time after Dad was gone, and he was grumpy – was always grumpy when he woke up from a nap. He sat on the bed and called for Dad, and then started to cry, big tears rolling down his cheeks and snot coming out of his nose. He held out his hands to Dean and grabbed him by the neck, crying louder, harder, calling Daddy, and Dean couldn't get him to calm down. He tried to give him his milk bottle, even found a pack of cookies in his bag, but Sammy threw them on the floor and lay on his belly, face in the pillow, crying, sobbing like Dad had disappeared forever. Dean lay next to him and tried to shush him, close to tears. He knew he was in trouble. Dad had told him often enough that a crying baby drew attention to them and that they didn't want that. Drawing attention was dangerous because Dad had important work to do and maybe the Bad Guys would find them if Sammy cried for too long.

What if the Bad Guys found Dean and Sammy while Dad was still out, what if they took them away? Dean wrapped his arm around Sammy and begged him. "Please stop. Please, Sammy. I'm here, okay? Dad's gonna be here real soon. Promise. Please…"

"…Sammy," Dean rasped, finding himself sitting in his bed, darkness surrounding him. He shook his head vigorously, trying to pull himself together. Looking at the nightstand, he was half surprised to see that it was already eight o'clock in the evening. The sense of urgency he had felt in the dream wouldn't go way. Because…

Because Sammy was still crying. No. Not Sammy. Sue. She had the desperate cries of a tired and angry baby, voice croaky and raw.

Dean stood up and followed the noise downstairs. It was coming from the living room. Stepping into the corridor, he had to walk around different obstacles to reach his goal: a basket full of dirty laundry, an opened pack of baby wipes and a plastic bag that was letting out a very recognizable smell, dirty diaper.

The living room was a mess, but Dean barely took the time to notice it. Sam was pacing, holding a squirming, howling baby in his arms. Dean couldn't decide which one of the two was more miserable, because Sam was crying too, full-on wracking sobs and giant tears on his cheeks. Dean realized how tired and spent he looked, how the last three days must had been hard on him.

"Dean?" Sam hiccupped, looking at him. "Shit, Dean, didn't mean to wake you up."

"S'okay, Sammy, I've slept enough. What's going on?"

"I… fuck… I don't know. She won't stop and… and I changed her diaper and fed her and washed her and she won't stop and… the pacifier doesn't work and I don't know what's wrong and…"

Sam sniffed. He looked like a child lost in a giant's body. Dean came closer and held out his arms. "Want me to try?"

"You sure you're-"

"I wouldn't offer if I wasn't sure I could handle it."

Sam settled Sue in Dean's arms. Her small body was hot through the soft fabric of her pajamas, her face red and congested. There she was. He was holding her. He'd carried her for nine months, but now he was finally holding her. She was even lighter than he'd thought, could fit with her head in the crook of his elbow while her feet barely reached his wrist. "Hey, come on, what's wrong, sweetheart? You're upset, aren't you?"

He started cradling her softly in his arms, rubbing her back with his fingers. She was still crying, so alive pressed against him, waiting to be taken care of, waiting for her father to make everything good and well in the world. Dean started walking around the house. He felt better – not at his best, far from it, but not as helpless as the day before. Sumiko's cries were starting to diminish. She shook her head and opened her dark blue eyes, her lower lip wobbling. Dean couldn't help but smile. "You look so miserable, baby. Bet you don't even know what you're fussing about anymore, huh? You're tired, that's what it is."

He snatched her pacifier from the kitchen table and offered it to her. It took a bit of persuasion, but she finally closed her mouth around it and started sucking in earnest, hiccupping through her nose. "There you go," Dean whispered, going back to the living room where Sam was sitting on the couch, looking stunned and dazed, tears drying on his cheeks. He raised his head and looked at Dean through his bangs.

"She's stopped."

"Yeah. Guess she was just a bit worked up, or whatever."

"Good." Sam put his face into his hands and sighed loudly. "You hold her for like… five minutes and she calms down. I feel so… clumsy with her. Most of the time, I don't even know what I'm doing. How am I supposed to know how to do this?"

"Hey, calm down. She probably just stopped because we switched. She was tired, is all, and you were too. You're the one who read me all that shit about the baby reacting to our state of mind. And for the record, you kind of rock with her."

Sam smiled. "Think so?"

"Totally. Plus, you've been dealing with her and me being a jerk for the last three days, so…"

"Dean, I'm sorry about earlier. I should have-"

"What? Left Sumiko there in the kitchen 'cause I couldn't wait? Come on, Sammy. It's me that needs to apologize."

Dean settled in the corner of the couch before his arms could start shaking again. Sumiko was almost asleep. He laid her on his chest, her head resting in the crook of his neck, and began rubbing her back softly in a steady rhythm. "Why don't you nap for a couple of hours? I'll take care of her."

Sam frowned, still unsure.

"I'll call you if I need help, okay?"

"Okay." Sam nodded and yawned. Getting up seemed like a difficult task for him, and he walked to the stairs with slow steps, rubbing at his eyes like a kid.

Which left Dean alone in the living room with his daughter. He took the Impala's old blanket which was resting on the back of the couch and covered the both of them, then wrapped both of his arms around the baby, feeling her small chest rising and her heart beating against his. It felt like home.

"Love you," he murmured, kissing Sumiko's soft hair.

When Sam woke up two hours later, he found them both asleep on the couch, a gentle smile still quirking Dean's lips.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, July 12

Sumiko was on their bed, squirming and blinking, mouth open like it was every time she needed to suck on something. Dean cleaned her butt, making her grunt when the cold wipe came in contact with her skin.

"Hey, you're the one who did that stinky mess, don't try to blame me," he said, stuffing the wipe into the dirty diaper and closing it with the still-sticky fasteners. Then he slid the clean diaper under her and tied it, carefully avoiding her small blackish belly button, which would fall off in the next few days. God, he was getting pretty damn good at this whole diaper-changing thing. He'd always been a fast learner. "There. All set, Sumi," he added – and, because he was sure Sam was downstairs and wouldn't hear him, he blew a raspberry on her quivering belly, startling her. Her thin leg stretched comically as her eyes opened wide. Dean let out a quiet laugh.

"Sorry. Couldn't help myself."

He snapped her jumpsuit buttons, then did the same with the pajamas. It was Sam's favorite set: yellow and soft, with a goofy-looking sun embroidered on the chest. And yeah, Dean could admit it, his daughter was kind of cute in it.

"Ready to go to bed?" he asked softly, pulling Sumiko into his arms.

Her eyes were already closing. Dean snatched her pacifier from her crib. She grabbed it almost instantly with her small pink mouth. "Okay, now, baby. What d'you wanna hear? I'm guessing some Lynyrd Skynyrd. Yeah? Am I right or what?"

Dean was cradling Sumiko, shifting from one foot to the other to keep some kind of soft rhythm while humming Free Bird, as gently as he could. Then he put her in her crib, rocking it when she began to squirm again. He tucked her in her blanket and kissed her forehead.

"There. You sleep now, sweetheart."

He turned on the baby monitor and left the room.

He took a quick shower. Sumiko wouldn't sleep for long and he wanted to spend a little time with Sam. He was feeling better, not a hundred percent, of course, but his strength was coming back. He had lost a lot of muscle mass during the pregnancy – that wouldn't be fixed by the completion of the curse. As soon as he felt well enough, he planned to start exercising. He didn't know where the rest of his life would go, if he and Sam would give up the hunt for good, but keeping physically fit had been a constant for Dean, just like everything his father had taught him.

He washed his belly, couldn't help but rub it longer than necessary. There was no sign he'd ever had a baby there, even if the muscle was still loose and the skin tender, his stomach was flat. The queasy feeling of emptiness would go away, eventually. He supposed that every woman who'd just given birth felt it too.

He joined Sam downstairs. The sun was setting, giving an orangey shade to everything. He found his brother in the living room, sitting on the floor and folding tiny baby items that they'd just washed. It was funny, seeing this giant of a man so concentrated on his task, pajamas laid out on the coffee table as he tried to join the two sleeves with his enormous paws, tongue peeking out of his lips and eyebrows frowned in concentration.

Dean made sure that the baby monitor receptor on the table was turned on, then he sat down next to Sam, sighing.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"Having trouble with this?"

"Wanna do it?" Sam replied.

"Hey, we had a deal, poopy diaper in exchange for folding the laundry."

"She sleeping?"

"Don't know. She's quiet, though."

Sam smiled and took a break, leaning against the back of the couch and brushing his hair away from his face. He still had dark circles under his eyes. Dean supposed they both would until Sumiko was sleeping through the nights.

"We should hurry," Dean said.

"Hurry?"

"Before she wakes up again."

Then, Dean kissed Sam on the mouth, a long, deep kiss that had Sam moaning in seconds. He smiled. "Wanna fuck you, Sam."

"Sure you feel good enough for…"

"Hell yes. Wanna bend you over the armrest and get inside you, what do you say?"

Sam's only answer was to get up and start undressing. When he dropped his briefs, Dean saw that his cock was already half-hard and twitching between his legs. Dean licked his lips and undressed as well, giving himself a couple of strokes without taking his eyes away from Sam's inviting body. God, he was beautiful, the kind of beauty that was rough and raw, because Sam, Sam wasn't conscious of it, wasn't conscious of the way he could make Dean crazy with a look or a simple movement of his hips, his powerful legs. But the truly amazing thing was how Sam combined all that strength with an underlying and everpresent tenderness.

They kissed and groped each other on the couch. It was the first time since Dean's birth canal had appeared, and he was hungry, starving for Sam – all of him, father of his child, brother, lover.

He was so hard and eager, couldn't stop running his hands over Sam's body, biting it, scratching it. Sam was looking at him with intense dark eyes, like Dean was his whole world, and Dean couldn't get enough of it. Had always been addicted to the man he saw reflected in Sam's eyes.

"Get over the armrest," he murmured in Sam's ear, kissing and sucking on the lobe.

"Lube under the couch," Sam said, settling himself.

"What?"

"Figured…" Sam panted. "If it was going to happen it wouldn't be in our room where Sue's sleeping."

"Love the way you think, Sam," Dean laughed, fetching the half-empty tube from under the couch.

He began to coax Sam's tight muscles open, working slowly so as not to hurt him. It had been a long time, and Dean wanted to make it good for him.

But Sam had other plans; Dean could tell by the way he was wriggling his hips, impaling himself back on the fingers pressing inside him.

"Come on, Dean, get to it," he groaned, and there was so much need deep and raw in his voice that Dean had to squeeze the base of his own dick, scared he would come right then, if the tickling in his balls was any indication.

He worked faster, adding a third, then a fourth finger and scissoring them in Sam's ass until he couldn't take it anymore. He was leaking, heart hammering in his chest and dick jerking against his belly. Without further warning, he kneeled on the couch and lined himself up, taking a firm hold on one of Sam's hips. He penetrated him in one long, steady push, smiling at Sam's soft needy moans.

"Need me to wait?" he asked, shaking with want. He leaned forward and pressed his chest up all along the straining line of Sam's back.

"I'll kill you if you do," Sam growled over his shoulder.

"Pushy."

"You like it."

Dean smirked, shifted his hips a little, and feigned indifference. "Meh."

"Dean," Sam pleaded, voice rising towards a whine that Dean was so going to tease him for later.

Dean leaned in, and pressed his mouth hot and worshipful to the back of Sam's neck. "Alright, babe."

Dean wouldn't last long. That much he knew. He began pushing forward into Sam, barely restraining himself, bending over his brother to kiss and suck at the sensitive skin on his neck, whispering obscenities into his ear. God that felt good. He had missed this so much. Low, guttural grunts were ripping out of his throat and the pleasure was building fast in his belly, swelling and surging into his dick and balls. "M'close, Sammy," he panted, wrapping his hand around Sam's length.

"Yeah come on, make me come," Sam whispered, moving his hips to jerk himself into Dean's hand.

Dean stroked faster, pushed harder into Sam. His vision was beginning to white out. He wouldn't be able to hold out. Wouldn't. Had to come. Had to…

Sam let out a long, broken sob as his dick swelled suddenly in Dean's hand, and then he was coming, shaking and thrashing on the couch, grunting Dean's name.

Dean let go, surprised to hear himself shout, but the intensity of his orgasm completely took over and he let himself ride it, pulsing into Sam, his sweat mixing with his brother's. He collapsed forward onto Sam, who was already lax and pliant on the couch, and tried to catch his breath.

"Jesus fuck, I missed that," Dean said, breathing hard through his nose.

"Me too," Sam mumbled lazily. "Really, really missed it."

They settled more comfortably on the couch, Sam being the impossibly big little spoon, his back nestled against Dean's chest. They were sticky and messy and the room smelled of sex. Dean smiled and let himself drift off, thinking that he was feeling like himself again, thinking about how it was good to be in control, to take care of Sam. Any way possible. Sam and their daughter.

Soon enough, a static noise came out of the baby monitor, followed by a series of muffled high-pitched whimpers. Dean sat and shook his head vigorously, ready to go upstairs, but Sam was already putting his jeans and boxers on. "I'll take care of her. You've been up all day and-"

"Sam. I'm fine."

"I know. Just… let me do it. I'll bring her back downstairs. Oh, and get dressed, you don't wanna scar her for life"," Sam added, smiling before walking away.

Less than a minute later, Dean heard some fussing and a crackling noise through the monitor, then Sam's voice. "Okay, okay, it's alright, daddy's here. What's the matter, Sue? Woke up all alone, is that it? Yeah, okay, come on. Come with me, baby. Don't worry. I'mma take care of you. Always."

Yeah. Sam would be there for Sue. Always. And for him too.

Dean closed his eyes and smiled.

Epilogue

Having a newborn is like living in another dimension parallel to the "real world," Sam had read in a pregnancy book. You don't eat, live and sleep when everybody else does anymore; you do it when you can, because the only schedule that can be followed is the baby's.

It was true, as far as Sam was concerned. Obviously. But still, he didn't think they were dealing with it the same way other parents did. Not that they were any better, no way, but they had always lived in another parallel dimension, compared to normal people. They were used to a lack of sleep, eating when they could, adapting to new situations. That's what their life had always been about.

Sam had lost his job after missing three days without calling when Sue had been born, but he didn't mind. Dean didn't either. They had enough money to get to mid-September since they hadn't had to pay an anesthesiologist for the delivery. There would still be time then to start looking for another job. Dean kept saying that he would find something, but even if Sam didn't say so, he meant to find work first. He didn't think Dean would be able to spend so many hours away from Sue so soon after the birth. Not that he would ever admit it, but it seemed that the curse had triggered a profound bond between Sue and Dean.

They had time to plan ahead. The house was theirs until the end of December, which gave them time to think about what they would do with the rest of their lives. It seemed that both Dean and Sam had an unspoken agreement to take things easy until the end of the summer.

Sumiko was doing great. Rania had followed her and Dean carefully after the birth. Their daughter was now seven pounds five ounces. She had an expressive, almost funny little heart-shaped face, her hair kept growing, wispy and straight, on the top of her head, and her eyes, still a dark blue, looked so big with her delicate features. All of her emotions flashed right through them, like they did in Dean's.

As a matter of fact, Sumiko took after Dean so much (although he insisted that she had Sam's eyes and dimples) that they would have to take that into account when they decided which story they would eventually go with. It had been hard; they had actually fought about it more than once. But the facts were simple, they couldn't say that Sue had been found during a hunt. She had to be Dean's daughter. Nobody would believe that they were not related. Sam didn't know why his brother was so reluctant to go with this idea until Dean had snapped back at him one night. "Because it's fucking unfair to you, Sam! That's why. Hell, I want her to know m'her dad, but if it means you have to give it up, I prefer to let her think that we found her and adopted her. That way, we're equals."

Emotionally, Sam kind of agreed with Dean. Thinking that Sumiko would never know he was her biological father lit a fire in his soul that wouldn't stop burning, but they had to think about her first, what was best for her.

"Dean," he had said with determination. "I grew up without any memories of a mother. Always missed her, even if I never really knew her. There was like this vacant space deep inside me that couldn't be filled… That never will be, as a matter of fact. Sumiko will grow up thinking that her mother couldn't take care of her, or whatever we tell her. She's gonna miss somebody that doesn't even exist… And you're telling me you're willing to make that a double, and give her not only one but both of her imaginary parents to miss? Is that fair to her?"

That's what had done it, finally. Her name on her fake birth certificate was Sumiko Mary Winchester. Father: Dean Winchester, Mother: Sarah Smith. A common name, that Sam had chosen himself. He had felt dirty and wrong, building a lie for his newborn daughter, but he figured, better this sweet lie than the truth.

A week after Sumiko had been born, Dean had called Bobby, speaking to him for the first time since he'd gotten pregnant. It hadn't been easy for him, but he did it, told Bobby he was feeling better and that they were thinking about getting back on the road. They just had "something to deal with first." It was necessary, to get on with the rest of the story.

Sam had made the next call, another week later, ready to deal with Bobby's questions and suspicions. The thing Dean had to "deal with" was a call Dean had received from an old flame telling him that he had a newborn daughter. They were with her at the moment. The mother didn't want to raise the baby; she wanted to get on with her scholarship and get her university degree. They had done a DNA test and, sure enough, the baby was Dean's. He had decided to raise her. They didn't know what they would do from then on, but they had a baby with them.

Bobby had been very calm and hadn't asked a lot of questions, which had been even scarier than the alternative. He had invited them to come and see him, to get their heads together because they would need to, obviously, but Sam and Dean hadn't wanted to travel that far with a newborn so Sam had invited him over to their place instead. Bobby had said he would come around in a week or so.

Dean had been nervous and uncertain about it.

"We'll have to do it sooner or later," Sam had replied. "We've fooled Bobby long enough, Dean."

That was really the only thing bothering them, because, to tell the truth, life was sweeter – which wasn't difficult compared to the last three years. But, their existence had taken such a different turn, Sam sometimes had a hard believing all of it was true.

One night, Sam woke up to Sumiko's cries. When they were sleeping, Dean heard her first most of the time and gave her a bottle without waking Sam up.

Perfectly awake, and a bit frustrated to find out that his brother hadn't woken him up as he had insisted, Sam went downstairs to find Dean changing Sumiko's diaper on the couch. Her empty bottle was sitting on the coffee table next to a coffee cup.

Dean whispered soothing words to Sumiko, who kept wailing, upset and tired, while he dressed her with sure but slow movements. His eyes were glassy from lack of sleep and he yawned so wide Sam could actually hear his jaw crack.

"Why didn't you wake me up, Dean?"

"Was already awake. Made no sense to wake you up too." Dean shrugged and finished wrapping Sumiko into her blanket. Sam took the baby and sat next to his brother, cradling Sumiko in his arms.

"Seriously Sam, how could he do it?" Dean suddenly asked, rubbing his eyes.

"Who?"

"Dad. You were a baby. I was freaking four years old. How could he ever think about hitting the road with us?"

"Huh. I don't know.

"He was out of his mind, that's what he was," Dean declared. "How could he deal with the both of us? I mean, we're two grown adults, and we have our hands full with just one kid. "

"I don't think he thought about that when he left. Mom had just died. He had seen something that changed the way he saw the world. He was grieving and scared."

"Yeah," Dean mumbled doubtfully.

"Man, what can I say? Are you seriously asking me to defend Dad? Anyway, I think the first year or so, he moved a lot less. Spent a lot of time at Caleb's and Pastor Jim's. Remember? Pastor Jim used to talk about it."

"Got some memories of my own," Dean agreed. Then his face hardened and he clenched his jaw. His eyes turned that particular shade of bright green that they did each time Dean was angry and trying to keep himself under control. "How could he do this? We took Sue to Rania's two days ago and her routine was all fucked up. She was upset and tired and miserable. Dad did this to us, constantly. You know, it was hard enough for me to deal with mom's death. Fuck. I still remember how I couldn't understand it, even when I tried. That she was gone for good. But then Dad had to go and take me away from everything else, everything that was familiar and home to me. Everything that would've made it easier for me to get over Mom's death. How could he do that? Because there were monsters crawling in the dark? Fuck him. Look at her, Sammy. You wanna raise her like a soldier, teach her to be scared of everything, not to trust anyone? You wanna know what I think? Dad was seriously fucked up in the head. Since Sue's birth, I sometimes wish he'd come back from the dead just so I could kick his ass."

Sam didn't know if the exhaustion alone was responsible for this sudden outburst or if there was something more to it. Even though Dean had been getting back to his good old self since the delivery, there were some changes, not many, but still. Sam couldn't really put his finger on it, but he couldn't deny that Dean was different; a little bit quieter, a little bit less restless. They hadn't been hunting for over ten months now. Dean had basically stayed home for half that time. To be honest, Sam had thought that the itch to get moving, if not on a hunt, at least into a more active life, would have manifested more quickly after Sumiko's birth. On the contrary, Dean seemed to enjoy even more the domestic life they were living. He had started exercising every day and working on the exterior of the house, cutting the grass and the trees, cleaning. Sometimes he would look around and sigh in contentment, the clear sky lighting his eyes, face full of new freckles that the hours under the sun had given him.

Contrary to Sam, Dean hadn't led a normal life since he'd been four and there was this deep ache in the pit of Sam's stomach every time he caught Dean enjoying himself over the small things. He thought that Dean realized it too, but on a different level.

It was like suddenly, all of Dean's fears and insecurities, anger and sorrow he had felt as a child and bottled up somewhere deep were coming back to him. Of course, he'd always felt he was responsible for Sam's well-being, and had been much more like a father to him than just a brother, but he had been a kid back then too. Now, he was almost thirty, the father of a baby girl, and he had enough distance to identify himself with her.

If Sumiko's arrival meant Dean could come to terms with some issues he was still struggling with, Sam meant to be there all the way. After he snapped, Sam didn't press him with questions like a cheap psychiatrist. He let it go, and used other ways to let Dean know that he had heard him, kept talking and joking and even using small tender touches. His brother would never cease to amaze him. How was it that it literally hurt to feel for the people we love the most? The same thing applied to Sumiko. Sam's heart felt bigger and heavier. In a good way.

::: :::

Hampton Falls, July 28

A soft rain had started to fall early in the morning and it continued on and off, under a clouded sky, as the temperature climbed to 75 f. By early afternoon, the house was cleaner that it had been since Sumiko's birth and both brothers were sitting on the porch, waiting for Bobby to arrive. Sumiko was napping in her baby swing between their chairs. Sam was reading a book called How to Stimulate your Newborn Child, which Dean enjoyed making fun of. Not today, though. He was nervous about Bobby's visit, had been tense and broody since they'd woken up that morning, his rare smiles reserved for Sumiko.

They both knew they would have to go through an interrogation sooner or later, and Sam had offered to handle it, to which his brother had snapped back. "Hey, m'not a wuss, I don't need you to spare me." Still, Sam knew how his brother really felt and if he had a chance to get through the difficult conversation alone with Bobby, he would do it.

"Did you know that by the time Sumiko reaches three years old, her brain will have made about a thousand trillion neuronal connections?"

"Yeah," Dean answered distractedly.

"You knew that?"

"What?"

"You're not listening to me."

"Well, you're not interesting."

"Dean, try to re-"

"Shut up." Dean stood up. "I hear a car. Do you hear a car?"

Sam listened carefully. "Yes."

"Oh, shit, he's here."

Sure enough, Bobby's old car appeared in the alley less than ten seconds later. Sam got up to join Dean on the bottom step of the porch's stairs. He was the first to see that their old friend was not alone. Ellen was sitting in the passenger's seat.

"Ellen's with him, Dean."

"Did he tell you she was coming along?"

"No!"

"Shit. Shit shit shit!"

"Dean, this doesn't change anything."

"We'll see," Dean grumbled, raising his hand to greet Bobby and Ellen.

"Oh my God," Ellen said, half walking, half running to meet them. She passed Sam and Dean to bend over Sumiko. "I couldn't believe it unless I saw it with my own eyes. Jesus, would you look at her! How old is she?"

"Three weeks, Dean said, blushing for some unknown reason.

Sam turned toward Bobby, who was walking at a slower pace, hands shoved into his pockets.

"Hey, Bobby."

"Hey, boys. So… This is something I thought I'd never see."

He smiled a little, and Sam felt like he could breathe easier. They shook hands, manly and rough, while Ellen lifted Sumiko out of her swing.

"It's been so long since I've held someone so small in my arms. Hey, baby girl. You're so pretty. Oh, and you're opening your eyes just for me, right? You look like your daddy."

She raised her head and look at Dean with that rough but beautiful smile of hers. "You've made the right choice, Dean," she said, giving him a quick one-armed hug. Dean's eyes widened in surprise and he clumsily patted her back.

"Huh, thanks."

"What's her name? Bobby said you hadn't mentioned it."

Dean cleared his throat. "Ah… Sue. Sumiko. It's Japanese. Supposed to have magical powers, to protect her."

"It's a beautiful name."

"It was Sam's idea."

"Of course it was. I kind of invited myself here, boys. Bobby's not to blame. I stopped by his place a few days ago and he mentioned the baby. Decided to come along. Jo sends her regards by the way. She's hunting a nasty spirit down in Tennessee with this Jamie of hers." Ellen rolled her eyes.

"Jamie?" Sam asked, and saw that Bobby was repressing a smile.

"It's a long story," the old man said. "You boys gonna invite us inside or what?"

Dean, who'd been watching Ellen the whole time, seemed to come back to his senses. "F'course. Come on in."

The first ten minutes were awkward. Sam made some coffee and they all settled in the living room. Ellen wouldn't let go of Sumiko, holding her close and whispering to her. Dean was completely silent, sitting up straight next to Ellen and holding to his coffee cup like his life depended on it. As if he was sure that, one way or another, Ellen and Bobby would guess that he'd been pregnant with Sumiko.

Sam and Bobby were holding up the conversation almost all by themselves, small talk, news from recent hunts and even politics. Then, Ellen got up and held Sumiko out to Bobby, who looked at her as if she'd suddenly gone crazy.

"What?"

"Hold her."

"I'm not…"

"Come on, Bobby," Sam laughed as Ellen carefully placed Sumiko into his arms.

"Don't forget to hold her head," Dean said, then blushed again.

Bobby wasn't that bad. He was a bit clumsy and unsure but he held his own. He had a soft smile for Sumiko and brushed his hand over the baby's soft head.

"Ain't she too small? She healthy?"

"Of course she's healthy," Ellen snapped. "Wow, Bobby Singer. You have absolutely no social skills."

"She's healthy," Sam said. "She's perfect."

"She does look like Dean. Same goofy face."

"Shut up," Dean cut Bobby short and his face turned a worrying shade of crimson.

Things were more relaxed after that. Bobby asked for a beer and Sam was more than happy to comply. He offered one to Dean, but he refused distractedly, trying to fetch Sumiko's pacifier which had slipped down between the couch cushions. Dean hadn't gotten back to his old drinking habits since the birth. Sam could count on the fingers of one hand the number of beers he had drunk since.

In the kitchen, Bobby opened his beer and leaned against the counter, looking all around him. After a second of hesitation, Sam sat at the table and waited.

"You guys are doing good here," Bobby finally said.

"Yeah. I guess we are."

"Your brother. He's still looking a bit out of shape."

"Yeah, but he's doing better. The doctor said the P.V.F.S. is really backing off."

"Alright," Bobby sighed, took the time to gulp another mouthful of beer. "So. Sam. Let me get this straight," he started.

Okay. Here we go, Sam thought nervously. He kept looking straight at Bobby, despite the difficulty of it.

"This girl calls Dean's cell to tell him that he has a daughter, and to come and get her."

"Yeah."

"And you guys went."

"Yeah. I mean, we were already close to Maine."

"Cape Elizabeth, right?"

"Right."

"And Dean remembered that girl… Sarah."

"Sarah Smith. Yeah, he remembered her."

"And the baby was what… two weeks old? And she didn't name her."

Sam was ready. For everything. He had replayed this conversation in his head again and again. "Yeah, well… She knew she wasn't going to keep her. She had found a couple who wanted to adopt her but they'd backed off just before the birth, for whatever reason. Sarah didn't even have the baby with her. She was at her mom's.

"Okay. Then, she couldn't find another couple quick enough."

"…And her mom was getting tired. Sarah found Dean's number in her stuff and I guess she just took the chance. I don't think she actually thought Dean would decide to raise the baby. But he did."

"DNA test proved his paternity."

"Well… it's obvious she's his daughter, right? I mean, did you look at her?"

"No, I know. The resemblance is there. Still… I thought DNA tests took a hell of a lot longer than that."

Sam gulped. Yeah. Bobby was right. He thought fast. "Usually takes three to four weeks but Sarah knew someone working at the lab where the tests get done, and she got a free pass."

Bobby slowly nodded, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "What are you boys gonna do now?"

"Well, the house is ours until January. After that, we don't know."

"Dean doesn't want to hunt anymore, does he?"

"No. I mean, with a baby…"

"Figured. After the childhood you boys had. But what about you, Sam? If Dean settles down somewhere, doesn't mean you gotta do it too. You could keep on hunting, with Ellen and Jo and their friends, or by yourself. Hell, you could go back to school."

"No. I won't leave Dean to raise Sue on his own. We're together in this. And… geez, I don't know, Bobby. Guess Dean doesn't know either what he's gonna do with the rest of his life. He's just found out he has a daughter. That's a lot to deal with."

"He looks at ease with her already," Bobby stated.

"He's great."

"You too."

"Well… we're fast learners."

"Uh-huh," Bobby said in a low voice.

He put his empty bottle on the counter and sat in front of Sam, looking at him so intently Sam's eyes dropped. Damn Bobby and his piercing gaze.

"I'ma tell you something, Sam. Then, we can all go on with our lives like this conversation never happened. M'gonna leave Dean outta this, 'cause he's been avoiding me since I got here and I don't want to make this awkward. I've known you for a long time. Feel kinda like a father to you boys since your Daddy died."

"Yeah, Bobby, I know. And we… same goes for us."

"Now… All a want is for you boys to be okay. You're adults, you're doing what you want with your lives. And I know, ya understand me? I know that everything you've told me since you asked me to find a doctor has been a lie."

Sam blushed. Couldn't help himself.

"I don't know what happened to Dean. Or you, as a matter of fact, but you boys are different. It's more obvious with Dean, but still. It's not bad. He looks good, even if he's thinner and quieter than before. Doesn't change the fact that he's been through something, something major. But I don't need to know."

"Bobby-"

"Oh, please, don't Bobby me. I'll go with your little story… That's all I'm saying. Doesn't change a thing between us. And I'll be there for you whenever you need me."

Sam swallowed loudly, ridiculously close to tears. He looked at his hands and took the time to get himself under control.

"Okay. Thanks, Bobby."

Bobby fetched something from his pocket and threw it on the table. It was money. Old bills rolled and tied with a rubber band. It smelled strongly of coffee.

"Bobby, no."

"Shut up, Sam. Got this a while back when Rufus and I were hunting a shifter. Had a taste for money and shiny things. He was using his abilities to rob people in their homes, disguised as their loved ones. Some stuff we could trace back to the owners, but money we couldn't. So we split it. Don't worry. I spent my fair share, but there's eight thousand dollars left and I want you guys to have it."

"We can't-"

"Oh, but you will. It's not like it's my money anyway. Don't need it. Dean's got a baby to take care of now. He can't spend his nights hustling pool in shady bars."

Sam considered the money roll for another second, then took it and shoved it in his pocket. He didn't doubt Bobby would force him to take it anyway and he had no desire to make him angry at the moment.

"You wait 'til I'm outta here before telling your brother about this. The stubborn idjit would find a way to give it back."

Sam let out a nervous laugh. "You're right."

"Of course I'm right."

Laughter was coming from the living room. Sam got up to join them, taking a beer for Ellen.

"Are we good, Bobby?" he asked before leaving the kitchen.

"We're good," Bobby answered gruffly.

And Sam could tell he was sincere. He felt a weight lifting off his shoulders, not so much for the money as for the fact that Bobby respected them enough to leave them be, whatever he thought he knew about their situation. Of course, the money was much needed.

In the living room, Ellen was changing Sumiko's diaper, kneeling in front of the couch while Dean watched, a wide smile on her face. Sumiko was squirming and grunting, her naked legs giving small jerks.

"You gotta lift her butt higher," Dean pointed out.

"This isn't the first diaper I've changed, Dean Winchester."

"Looks like."

"There," Ellen said, closing the fasteners and buttoning Sue's pajamas. "All done, sweetie. That wasn't so bad."

"She's getting tired," Dean said with a note of concern in his voice. He grabbed Sumiko's blanket and wrapped her tightly into it, then settled back against the armrest, rocking the baby with a small, gentle motion.

Ellen took her beer from Sam without taking her eyes away from Dean. She looked serious and thoughtful suddenly.

"She's lucky to have you, Dean. You're gonna make a great dad."

Dean shrugged, patting Sumiko's butt with his fingers.

"He already is," Sam added, sitting on the floor close to Dean.

"Shut up," he told Sam, but Sam knew his brother. There was a silent I love you under the insult.

"Look at them, Sam. Ain't they cute together?" Ellen teased.

"It's her," Dean stated, kissing his daughter's head. "She's amazing."

She was, Sam thought. Dean was too. Sam looked at the both of them, feeling alive and loved and satisfied with his life, for the first time since…

Since ever. He didn't remember a time where he'd been so close to happiness before. Dean's foot brushed his, a quick movement that lasted less than two seconds, but still. It meant so much. Their eyes locked together. Sam smiled. Dean rolled his eyes. Whatever they could get, they would take it, even if it meant they had to spend the rest of their life hiding it.

And maybe their relationship was twisted, maybe it was wrong, but looking at his daughter with a rush of love flowing through his veins, Sam couldn't really believe it.

Fin

Author's notes: Thanks for reading. I would love some feedback, guys. )