Dean squatted down on the carpet, old leather boots creaking slightly, and glared. "Those are part a part of history. Those are a symbol of your much-loved freedom to move. Those are a part of one of you little mud monkeys' very few, very awesome moments of genius. Those are not chew toys."

Sam blinked wide hazel-brown eyes, gave him a big happy-baby smile with all two and a half teeth on show, and shoved the car keys back in his mouth.

"They're dirty," Dean tried. "All full of pocket germs and ignition grease."

Sam gnawed away happily, soothing his sore gums on the cold hard metal.

"Come on, dude. I can conjure up anything and everything in the universe for you to rub your molars on," Dean reminded him. "D'you want a giraffe with a rubber neck? One of those rawhide things they give bitey dogs?"

Sam cooed wetly at him around the keys. Dean sighed and shifted to sit next to Sam rather than across from him and leaned his back against the side of one musty old motel bed.

"At least you got good taste, kid," he allowed, and patted a hand gently on Sam's wispy mop of baby-soft brown hair.

Sam squealed at his touch and giggled delightedly, all inexplicable joy and chubby-cheeked dimples. Dean couldn't help smiling back.


He hadn't meant to stay with Sam. Yeah, sure, he'd stay, in an invisible, intangible, purely metaphysical sense- tuned in to baby Sammy's emotions and surroundings and only appearing when something was wrong. Except just a few hours after Dean knelt beside Sam in the back of John's car and briefly touched the boy's forehead to give him restful sleep before zapping away, he was called back into a dark motel room.

Absence of light doesn't mean much when you don't naturally rely on light waves to "see" anything. Dean peered around the room, muscles tense, trying to locate the source of the danger. It smelled of smoke, probably from John's clothes. And whiskey- probably from John, who lay snoring through the sleep of the seriously drunk on the queen bed. There was no cradle or cot, so where was Sam?

A distressed whimper made itself heard over the chainsaw rumbling of John's snores. Dean picked his way quickly towards the sound and knelt down on the carpet next to a navy blue duffle bag that had been set against the wall. Bright, wet hazel eyes peered out at him from the open zip.

Dean reached in and smoothed down Sam's little wisps of dark hair. John had probably figured the soft confines a duffle bag on the floor was safer than letting Sam sleep on a bed where he might fall off or get squashed, but the kid clearly wasn't happy about it. The bag smelled like tennis shoes and didn't offer any protection from the hard floor, and the room was too cold to have left Sam in a thin jersey onesie with no socks and just a small cotton crib blanket. Dean sighed and reached in to lift the boy up to his warm chest.

"First things first," he muttered, and zapped a pair of socks onto Sam's cold little feet. Then he thought up a green and white fleece blanket with little owls printed on it to wrap Sam up in, and a warmed bottle to hold to Sam's mouth, and lowered himself down carefully into the chair across from John's bed. The baby in his arms sucked at the bottle in sleepy contentment, and Dean settled in to wait. He'd lay Sam back in the duffle bag as soon as John started to stir. Maybe he could even slip the blanket in there, too; John wasn't really in a state to notice randomly appearing baby bedding.


Sam was an easy baby, for the most part. Not as easy as John thought, because whenever Sam fussed Dean was there to give him a quick little bounce or back rub while the older Winchester wasn't watching, but easy enough. He liked cuddles and apple sauce and to turn the pages while he was read to, and he didn't like building blocks because they clattered when the towers collapsed and it startled him if a piece hit him as it fell. He slept deeply through the night so long as Dean kept a wing over him and tended to wake only once or twice for the warm bottle Dean always had ready but John always forgot to prepare. John was a heavy sleeper, anyway, so he rarely woke to Sam's cries- but Dean didn't mind. The lack of an unknowing audience just made it easier for him to hold Sammy to his chest and sing him back to sleep.

And Sam didn't mind baths when Dean was the one giving them- which was usually the case; John seemed to think a baby boy allowed free reign of a cheap hotel room stayed clean on his own, and only needed a quick sponge bath every few days or so. Sam didn't mind sponge baths themselves, but John didn't use bath toys, and he wasn't careful about washing Sam's hair like Dean was. Dean liked Sam's hair. John used the same cheap shampoo he used for himself but it dried out the soft strands and stung Sam's eyes because he always refused to close them, so Dean used a concoction made by one of his 'nest-mates'- an angel he'd matured with who eventually became a guard rather than a guardian, but kept a strange affinity for bees and birds and plants.

"It makes him smell like a girl," Dean complained for what felt like the hundredth time. "Can't you put it together without all the flowery shit?"

Castiel merely gazed down at Sam with something a little softer than his usual impassive expression. "The fragrances you are noticing are produced by the best combination of herbs and plants I could devise that would clean his hair and scalp but not make him ill should he consume it or hurt his eyes should it get in them. Those were the criteria you gave me. If I take away the ingredients that give it fragrance I would be taking away the ingredients that make his hair soft and strong."

Dean grumbled but didn't say anything more; it was an old argument, after all, and if he was totally honest (which he only was with Sam), he didn't mind the smell so much. It made the kid smell like a wild garden after a light summer rain. The thin wet tendrils of Sam's hair curled around his fingers as he gently rubbed Castiel's oils into Sam's scalp, then loosened as he covered the boy's wide open eyes with one hand and poured a coffee mug of warm water over to rinse with the other.

"There we are," he said, setting the cup aside and grabbing Sam under the arms to heft him up to eye level. "One baby, without dirt or gross carpet gunk. Cas, throw us a towel."

Castiel took the soft blue towel Dean had snapped up earlier and wrapped it carefully around the squirming little body. Sam gurgled and bubbled. He liked Castiel well enough, but he'd learned that baths always meant cuddles afterwards when Dean swaddled him up in a towel and a blanket and wrapped the boy in his arms until his hair was all dry. Sam liked cuddles and warmth, and Dean tended to run warm. He didn't know if it was just one of those things, or if his angelic grace was burning tangibly under the thin skin of the homemade vessel Gabriel had cooked up for him one weekend, but perpetually warm hands meant Sammy never shied away from his touch so Dean didn't bother thinking about it too hard.

"Do you need anything before I return?" Castiel asked, rubbing the towel through one last pass over Sam's head before folding it carefully and setting it on the counter.

"Nah," Dean said, winding Sam's blanket around him in a practiced one-handed move and settling the contented baby in the crook of his arm. "You gotta go so soon though? Winchester set Sammy in the playpen with his toys and a bowl of cheerios before he left so I figure he'll be gone all afternoon. We got time to let the kid air-dry and watch TV for a while before he gets back."