Title: Truth or Consequences
Word count: ~61,000
Pairings: Sam/Dean, other het and femslash side pairings
Warnings: incest (of the Sam/Dean variety), angst, humor, multiple OCs, kidfic
Rating: R for language, gore, and upsetting themes
Summary: Two decades of Important Parenting Moments, ghosts, demons, birthday parties, real apartments, Truth or Consequences (which is a city, not a game – you’re thinking of Truth or Dare), and goddamn vampires (of the unsparkly variety).
Story notes: If you HAVE NOT read The Family Business: I tried to make this story make sense anyway, but I didn’t go crazy re-explaining everything, so it will help if you read that story first – it’s not long!
If you HAVE read The Family Business: Funny story. TFB ends on Isabel’s first birthday. This story starts on Isabel’s first birthday… two months after the end of TFB. Oops? *uncertain grin* I had a timeline fail. Let’s just all pretend that TFB ends when Isabel is ten months old, ‘kay? And we’ll all be much happier. *facepalm*
Either way: This takes off as an AU from late-season-2, early-season-3 canon, minus Dean’s deal.
THANK YOU Captain T for posting your own birthday story 10 freaking months late, alasse for an awesome beta job and kind encouragement, davincisgirl for your lovely art, and most of all, laulan, for making this story thousands of words longer (D:) and a million times better (:D).
PART ONE – IZZIE AND THE DEAD
October 2nd, 2007
Dean had always thought, when he’d thought about it at all, that it would be hell to try and change the habits of a lifetime. He’d never really wanted to leave the hunting life or settle down, so it hadn’t bothered him, thinking about how set in his ways he’d become, how bound to the rituals of hotel beds and roadside diners and imaginary names that he claimed with a smile and never really expected anyone to believe.
He’d tried to explain this to Sam, about a month after Catalina had died and they’d suddenly had to put on a good front of respectability for the custody hearings, and make themselves look like fit parents. He didn’t really expect Sam to understand – Sam who had left, Sam who was different, who’d always wanted this kind of settled life – but Sam had just nodded and said, “Changing is easy when you’ve got something worth changing for.” And they’d both turned to look at Isabel in her crib, and—
Well. It had gotten pretty chick-flick there, for a minute.
So now, he and Sam were living in an honest-to-God apartment that they actually paid rent for, for the first time since Sam was in high school, and they both were trying to juggle real jobs and visits from the Social Service lady and fake identities and hunting. And Isabel, of course.
“Crap!” Sam said, looking up at Dean from his pile of paperwork. “Dean, it’s her birthday.”
“Huh?” Dean mumbled, trying to maneuver little Isabel’s arm into her pajamas.
“Her birthday, Dean,” Sam said impatiently. “Holy crap, we forgot her birthday. We are the worst parents in the history of the world.” He buried his head in his hands, and Dean snorted.
“She’s one, dude. She’s not going to remember. Are you, princess?” he asked, shaking his head from side to side – wide-eyed, she copied him, shaking her little head, and Dean grinned. “See?” He looked over at Sam, who rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, but we’ll remember, Dean. Anyway, it’s the—” he waved his hands inarticulately, “—it’s the symbolism of it, Dean. This is what matters—this little stuff like remembering birthdays. This is the stuff Dad n—” He broke off, watching Dean warily, but Dean just shrugged, because honestly? Dad had forgotten their birthdays, a lot of the time.
“Catalina wouldn’t have forgotten,” Sam said quietly, and Dean took it like the sucker-punch it was.
“Okay,” he said, just as quietly. “Next year, we’ll—we’ll have a cake. And invite people… Mark and Bobby and Ellen. Jo, if she’s around. And presents.”
Sam nodded, satisfied, and went back to his books – Dean got drawn into an impromptu staring contest with Isabel, who always won because Dean couldn’t help smiling when he looked at her.
She was the most beautiful thing Dean had ever seen, still and always—her little tuft of black hair grown out into a soft cap over her head, and her huge green eyes following Dean when he got up to close the blinds. She was wearing the little pajamas with ducks on them that Sam swore up and down were on sale.
Dean’d seen the receipt. He knew.
“I’m gonna lock up, if you want to put Isabel to bed,” Dean called in Sam’s direction, headed for the front door without waiting to hear back from Sam. As he turned the locks, he noticed something on the floor, something that looked like it had been slipped under the door.
If it’s those bastards from the electric company, I’m gonna smoke ‘em like the dried-out old corpses they are. You miss one bill… Dean thought, but when he picked up the envelope and opened it, there was nothing inside but a savings bond.
Dean carried it over to where Sam was walking out of Isabel’s room, and handed it to him.
“What’s up with this?”
Sam took it and scanned it carefully. “Um, it’s a savings bond for Isabel – $500, pretty sweet.”
“For Isabel?” Dean asked, and Sam nodded.
“Lots of kids get savings bonds for their birthday – by the time the bonds mature, the kid will be old enough to need them to pay for college or a car or whatever. Mom got one for each of us, when we were born.”
Dean didn’t ask what had happened to them – bullets and rock salt weren’t expensive, but they did eventually add up. Dad would have told himself that making the world safer was for Dean and Sam, too – an investment in their future.
Sam breathed in sharply, and Dean felt it in his bones – ever since Catalina died, they’d been working on the connection between them, building on it, not wanting to let a weapon in their arsenal rust if they could help it. Dean and Sam both knew that better communication wouldn’t have saved Catalina. But it might save Isabel, someday.
“What is it?”
Looking weirded out, Sam stared at the bond. “Dean… these bonds always say on them the name of the person who bought them – this one says ‘Catalina Morales.’”
Dean shrugged, shaking his head at Sam. “So she bought it when Isabel was born and set it up so Mark would send it on her birthday. That’s the kind of thing she would do.”
“Dean, these bonds also have the date of purchase on them,” Sam said, looking a little pale. “And this one is dated October 2007, Dean. This month… this year.”
That got Dean’s attention.
“Gimme that,” he said, grabbing the bond out of Sam’s hand, but Sam was right – there was Catalina’s name and Isabel’s Social Security number, and that month’s date.
“Shit,” he whispered, and Sam gently took the bond out of his hands and set it down on the kitchen table very carefully, like he thought it might explode.
“When we—when we went back to Lawrence, Mom was there,” Dean started desperately, but Sam rolled his eyes.
“Haunting the house where she died, not walking to the bank and then delivering birthday presents!”
“Shit,” Dean repeated, meaning it. “This is—this is all weird enough, Sam – living in one place, raising a kid, pretending to be gay-married and shit. Having Isabel’s dead mom dropping off presents is—”
“On a scale of the weirdest stuff that has ever happened to us, this doesn’t even register,” Sam said, rolling his eyes again. “Get over it, Dean. Isn’t about time some good supernatural thing happened to us?”
“I just—” Dean leaned against the doorframe, looking into Isabel’s room, watching her little tummy go up and down with every breath. “What if Catalina… is here?” he asked, so quiet that Sam had to lean in to hear him. “What if she’s watching us fuck up and forget her daughter’s birthday and swear in front of the Social Services lady and—”
“—then she knows we’re doing our best, Dean,” Sam said firmly.
Dean thought about that. “Guess so.”
“It’s not like she didn’t know what she was getting into, leaving Isabel to you,” Sam reminded him.
“To us,” Dean corrected.
“Yeah. She knew you were a hard-drinking, crotch-scratching, shower-hating—”
“Fuck you, bitch!” Dean half-yelled, outraged.
Sam smirked, waving a finger in front of his lips. “Don’t wake the baby, Dean.”
“Fuck you,” Dean muttered more quietly as Sam escaped to the bedroom, laughing.
Walking into the nursery and standing over Isabel’s crib, Dean said softly, “If you are there, Catalina… Well, Sam’s right – we’re doing our best. Guess that’s all we can do. And next year we’ll have a birthday party. So I hope you’re not sorry you gave her to us. I’m not,” Dean added, sweeping Isabel’s little tuft of hair off of her forehead, her tiny closed eyes only as big as his thumbnails. “I couldn’t ever be.”
Dean was silent for a minute, but Catalina’s sharp, laughing voice didn’t come from above to tell him what a shitty father he was, so he brushed a kiss over Isabel’s head and followed Sam into the bedroom.
October 2nd, 2008
Dean and Sam kept their promise, which meant that a year later their little apartment was taken over by psychics, hunters, and lawyers. Dean was okay with pretty much everything but the lawyers.
The doorbell rang again as Dean was combing Isabel’s hair, and Dean just yelled, “Sam, can you get that?” as Jo twirled a lock of her own hair around her finger and asked, “Isn’t it a little weird that you and Sam sleep in the same bedroom—” she leaned around the doorframe to peek into said bedroom, “—wow, and the same bed?”
Dean gritted his teeth, hands staying gentle on Isabel’s head, and said, “Considering Sam and I are supposed to be two totally unrelated guys gay-married to each other, the Social Services lady would think it was weird if we didn’t have the same room. It’s not like Sam and I aren’t used to bunking together.”
Dean felt a little guilty about using Megan the Social Services lady as an excuse, because she was actually this tiny, awesome, brutally tired woman from Louisiana who was sort of friends with them now and liked to sit at the kitchen table with Dean and bitch about how you can’t get decent Southern food in L.A. At the beginning, she was pretty suspicious, but by now, Dean was pretty sure he could tell her that he and Sam were starting a fetish dungeon in the basement and converting to Jedi-ism or whatever and she wouldn’t bat an eye. It was just more comfortable, is all – and with Isabel having her own room, there wasn’t space in the apartment for them to have separate rooms anyway. Besides, they were used to it.
“Yeah, I could see that,” Jo said, nodding. “Doesn’t your hair look nice, pretty girl?” she cooed at Isabel. “Isn’t my niece the prettiest girl in the world?”
“She’s not your niece,” Dean almost muttered, but it was thanks to Ellen’s loaned name that Dean “Harvelle” had been able to adopt Isabel in the first place, so he kept his mouth shut.
“Dean, everybody’s here,” Sam called. Dean dropped the thought and looked at Isabel, sitting quiet and wide-eyed, and said, “You ready for your party, baby girl?”
Isabel scrunched up her face. “Presents an’ cake?”
“She knows what’s important,” Jo said approvingly.
“Presents and cake and Dad and all your friends wearing funny hats,” Dean promised, because Sam had kind of gone all out to make up for last year, and there were hats and kazoos and special pink napkins and the whole nine yards.
“Anna hat for Izzie?” she asked, tilting her head – Dean nodded. Isabel had started calling herself that, and gradually he and Sam were following her lead, with silent apologies to Catalina.
“Anna hat for Daddy?” she said, with a surprisingly crafty smile for a two-year-old. Dean winced at Jo’s giggling behind him, and said, “You bet, baby. And a silly hat for Daddy.”
Dean carried Isabel out to the kitchen, where everybody cheered – Ellen and Jo had come together, Bobby had brought some kind of psychic lady friend named Pamela, Missouri had come alone, and Mark had brought his wife Sherri and their kids, Dan and Alice.
There was store-bought cake, and a funny hat that Dean wore with mostly good grace, and kid-appropriate presents from Pamela, Ellen, Jo, Missouri and the Jezewskis, and some maybe-not-kid-appropriate presents from Bobby.
(“She’s probably a little young for the shotgun, Bobby,” Sam said, trying for his usual pissiness, but in too good a mood to make it stick.)
After the party, when everyone was trailing out the door to their beds, saying their goodbyes to Isabel, Pamela bent down to the floor, just next to the door and stood up, holding out an envelope in her hand.
“I found this by the door, like someone slid it underneath,” she said, offering it to Dean and Sam – Dean was holding Isabel, so Sam was the one who closed his eyes for a second and then took the envelope and opened it, glancing at the contents.
“Savings bond?” Dean asked quietly, waving at Jo and Ellen as they left.
“$500, dated this month?”
“Anything different from last year?” Dean asked, and Sam laughed a little, holding it out.
“See for yourself,” he said, and when Dean looked down, he saw that the name of the recipient was different – where last year’s had said “Isabel Maria Morales,” this year’s read “Izzie.”
Dean chuckled. “I guess that’s permission. Whaddya know?” He left Sam to finish their goodbyes and put Isab—Izzie down for the night.
When he came back out into the kitchen, everybody was gone except for Sam and Missouri – Missouri was saying, “It’d be my pleasure, Sam.”
Sam turned to Dean and said, “Missouri’s going to do a blessing for Izzie, Dean – do we have any of those white candles left from that—”
“Yeah, I’ll get ‘em,” Dean said, hunting through the kitchen drawers and cabinets while Missouri pulled out some herbs and oils and stuff and got set up. When he handed her the candles, she went into Izzie’s room, promising to be out in just a minute – meanwhile, Dean and Sam took one look at the mountain of used birthday napkins, hats, party favors, and birthday candles, and winced.
“This was good, though,” Dean said, grabbing a trash bag from the pantry. “We should do it again next year.”
“Yeah, we should,” Sam agreed.
“But with less girly shit,” Dean added, picking up a pink, sparkly hat like it was covered with ichor – Sam squawked hilariously and said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Dean, but Izzie is a girl, okay, we’re supposed to have fancy pink stuff—”
“That’s very sexist of you, Sam,” Dean said with a straight face. “I’da thought you’d know that, college-educated man like yourself. Shame on you.”
Sam’s face was turning a pretty funny shade of pink itself when Missouri leaned out of the door of the nursery, and said, “I think y’all might want to come and see this.”
Sam and Dean both raced for Izzie’s crib, but Missouri just rolled her eyes at them and said quietly, “You fools are gonna wake the baby if you keep runnin’ around like the place is on fire like that. It’s not a demon attack. It’s just an interestin’ thing.”
Just inside the doorway, Missouri held up a pinch of some herb—“Valerian,” she told Sam, who nodded—and threw it on the flame of the candle on the side table.
There was no slow fading-in, no period of adjustment—they were just suddenly there – two pillars of flame circling around Izzie’s crib. Dean lunged forward and Sam went for his gun, but Missouri said, “Oh, hush, boys. I told you, you’ll wake her.”
As Dean and Sam watched, the fire receded from the two figures, leaving two ghostly images – women, Dean could see now – still circling around and around the crib, occasionally lunging at Izzie’s sleeping form only to be thrown back, as if they had hit an invisible wall.
Both women looked like Catalina, in different ways, and when Missouri said, “I s’pose you can enlighten me as to who these women are?” Dean knew immediately who they must be. The spirit of Catalina’s mother looked just as bitter and mean as Catalina said she’d been in life, and Sol… Dean couldn’t look at her too long. Her eyes were black holes, glinting with mad intelligence and a terrible pain. Sam… Dean thought, but the thought went nowhere.
“That’s Izzie’s mother’s mother,” Dean told Missouri, as Sam nodded. “She—she died like our mom did. On the ceiling of the nursery, in a fire. Sol—that’s the other woman, Catalina’s sister—she was one of the, uh… special kids. Like Sam. Only homicidal and crazy. She—killed Catalina.”
“What’s keeping them back?” Sam whispered to Missouri.
“I’ll let you see for yourselves.”
Missouri threw another pinch of valerian on the candle and whispered low.
As the three of them watched, four figures shimmered into existence around Izzie’s crib, one on each side, facing outward, hands linked, making a square. Facing Dean and Sam was a tall, caramel-skinned woman, with her hair hanging around her face, and Dean knew her even before she lifted her head and smiled at him.
“Catalina,” he whispered, throat tight.
On either side of Catalina stood two blonde women in white dresses. Dean recognized his mother on the right, and had to blink a few times to clear his eyes. On the left – it had been so long since Dean had seen her, was it really—?
“Jess,” Sam breathed, taking a step toward her.
Dean’s eyes had already moved on to the stockier figure in a flannel shirt, standing on the far side of the crib, facing away from them.
“Sam,” Dean said under his breath, trying to drag his brother’s attention away from Jess. “Sam. Sam!”
Dean could hear Sam’s breath catch, and they stood for a long minute, just looking their fill. They stayed there, watching, until the candle burned down and the candle flame flared out, as Sol and her mother flung themselves again and again at Izzie’s crib, and were again and again pushed back by the four spirits who kept silent watch all night.
When the candle burned out, all six spirits seemed to vanish, but Dean knew that they were still there.
“That was, uh…” Sam said, which pretty much summed up Dean’s whole feeling about it, too.
“I don’t know if it’s every night,” Missouri told them, shepherding them out of the nursery and closing the door behind them. “Might just be on her birthday. So don’t go crazy just yet. But I’ll tell you both for nothing, I ain’t never seen a thing like that in all my years, and there’s been a fair amount more of ‘em than I care to admit. You two—” She stopped and huffed out a breath. “I don’t know what to tell you, besides to be careful with her and be good – the second I know you ain’t gonna do, and the first I know you always will.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sam said obediently. They both wished her a good night before seeing her to the door.
When the door shut, Dean could feel Sam’s agitation buzzing through their connection like a bee in a jar, but all he said was, “You good?”
“Yeah,” Sam muttered, looking about as rattled as Dean was.
That night, lying in their queen bed with the door open so they could hear Izzie if she cried or woke up in the middle of the night, Dean let his arm stretch out across the invisible line dividing the bed in half. Sam’s hand casually wrapped around his wrist, and then finally, Dean could sleep.
April 13th, 2009
Dean had never been that scared in his life. Not when he was in the hospital in a coma, not when he thought he was going to die during that whole faith healer thing – not even when he found the letter from Stanford in Sam’s duffle.
“Her fever’s broken,” the doctor said, her eyes sympathetic. Dean just nodded numbly, letting Sam grab his hand and not caring how gay it was.
“She’s going to be okay – you can take her home tomorrow, if she continues to improve, okay?”
“Thank you,” Sam said, his voice cracking. “Just… thank you.”
When the doctor was gone, Izzie turned to look up at Dean and mumbled, “You look funny, Daddy. Are you sick, too?”
“No, baby,” Dean said, stroking a hand over her stringy, dirty hair. “No, baby, Daddy’s just happy you’re gonna be okay. The doctor lady made you all better, and you get to go home tomorrow, okay?”
“I miss my Lully,” she informed them solemnly.
Sam and Dean exchanged a look – she’d been a trooper about staying in the hospital, taking all the medicine and having all the tests, and if all it took to make her happy was that damn stuffed horse, either one of them would crawl there and back on hands and knees to bring it to her.
“I’ll go get Lully, okay, Izzie?” Sam said softly, still holding onto Dean with his right hand and onto Izzie with his left. “I bet she misses you, too. I’ll go get Lully right now, and she’ll be here when you wake up tomorrow, okay?”
“You and Daddy go together, Dad,” she insisted, and Dean instinctively fought the idea of leaving Izzie alone, even for an hour, but through the bond he could feel Sam’s exhaustion, his longing for clean clothes and a shower and to smell non-hospital air, and Dean suddenly realized how damn good all those things sounded to him, too.
“We’ll be back before you know it, pretty girl,” Dean promised. “I can stay if you think you might get scared all alone—”
“I’m not scared,” Izzie told them, looking offended.
“Of course not, sweetheart,” Sam said smoothly. “We’ll be back in an hour. With Lully, I promise. And your favorite shoes, for when we leave tomorrow.”
“M’kay,” Izzie mumbled sleepily, her big eyes looking up at the two of them with perfect trust. It knocked Dean on his ass, that this little person still thought that he would never fail her, couldn’t even if he tried – still thought he couldn’t fuck up, or tell a lie, or leave the stove on, or forget to pick her up from daycare. The time when he’d been a superhero to Sam was so long ago that he’d forgotten how fucking terrifying it was.
He promised one more time to be back soon, and followed Sam out of the small hospital room.
Back at the apartment, Dean stumbled out of the shower in a towel and caught sight of Sam sitting stone-still at the kitchen table, looking down at something in his hands. Curious, Dean walked over and saw that his shoulders were shaking, and silent tears were running down his face.
“That’s the most scared I’ve ever been, Dean,” Sam said, sounding lost, his voice choked and his eyes still fixed on the thing in his hands. “I thought—I thought—Dean,” he gasped, folding in half on the chair, and Dean ran to kneel in front of him on the kitchen floor, gathering Sam in close, pulling Sam’s shaggy head onto his shoulder. He could feel Sam trying to block him out, trying to keep him from feeling what Sam was feeling, and muttered, “Come on, you stupid bastard, let me in, you goddamn idiot, would you just—”
And Dean was swamped, twisted around and trying desperately to tread water in the wave of relief and terror and powerlessness and love that crashed over him. Sam tried to pull away, but Dean just held him close, whispering stupid things that he’d never remember or repeat, holding on with everything he had.
“I—I have Lully,” Sam said finally, choking out a laugh and pulling back to show Dean the little stuffed palomino horse, Izzie’s birthday present from Jo. He set it on the kitchen table and looked back at Dean.
“I didn’t mean to—to freak out,” he started, and all Dean could say was, “Don’t you even say that to me, you fucking idiot – you think I wasn’t just as—”
And then he was cut off by Sam—Sam kissing him, because it couldn’t be anything else, but—
Suddenly, Dean’s face was cold where Sam’s lips and Sam’s fingers had burned him, and Sam was leaning away, staring at the ground.
“I’m so sorry, Dean, I shouldn’t have done that,” Sam muttered, and shame and more fear washed between them. Dean thought, Why?
Because it was nothing he hadn’t hated himself for thinking of before Sam left for college, nothing he hadn’t burned away with anger after Sam left, nothing that he hadn’t fought against from the minute Sam said he would stay. It was nothing any bigger or stranger than living in the same apartment and raising the same kid and sleeping in the same bed and reading Sam’s stupid mind—they were already closer than brothers should be, maybe closer than anyone should be, so what’s—
“What’s wrong?” Dean whispered into Sam’s ear, hiding his face in Sam’s tangled hair. “’Cause if you’re waiting for me to be the better man here, it’s gonna be a long wait. I can’t do it, Sam. So if somebody’s doing the pushing away, it’s gonna have to be you.”
“Bad news, Dean,” Sam said, low, his voice shaking and his hands taking up as much of the skin of Dean’s bare back as they could. “I’m not that good, either.”
Dean breathed a half-laugh into the patch of skin under Sam’s ear, and Sam shuddered, his fingertips digging into Dean’s back.
“Sammy,” Dean gasped on his way to Sam’s mouth – Sam growled, “Don’t you fucking dare call me ‘Sammy’ when—”
But Dean’d found a new way to shut him up, which was all to the good.
All of it was new, actually – to Dean, at least. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, for one thing. Sam wasn’t a girl, wouldn’t want to be treated like one, and he’d seen Dean with enough girls that he’d know the difference, so Dean just knelt there with his hands at his sides like a dumbass, licking his way into Sam’s mouth and fighting to take charge of the kiss.
“Do you always have to be the driver?” Sam rumbled, pulling back to rest his head on Dean’s shoulder again, breathing quick and hot against Dean’s neck.
“Yeah, yeah,” Dean muttered.
“Izzie’s waiting for us,” Sam said, straightening up and running a hand through his hair.
“Shit,” Dean said, jogging into the bedroom and pulling on some clothes. He could hear Sam follow him into the room and pause behind him – Dean just kept buttoning his shirt. Sam would say what he had to say.
“I may be pretty messed up about this tomorrow morning,” Sam said. “Just, you know. There may be a freak-out.”
“Fair enough,” Dean replied, shrugging, then turned around and headed for the door of the apartment. The two of them got all the way into the Impala before Dean said, “Goddamnit, Sam.”
“What?” Sam said, looking worried. “Are you—? Did I—?”
“You forgot the goddamn horse!”
Sam’s mouth gaped open, and then he glared at Dean. “I forgot the horse?”
“Just go back in and get it, would you? It’s the whole reason we came out here!”
“I’ll go,” Sam said irritably, taking off his seatbelt and swinging the car door open, “but for the record, we were supposed to get the horse together—”
“I woulda totally had the horse if you hadn’t started macking on me,” Dean protested, then winced.
Half-in, half-out of the car door, Sam stared helplessly at Dean for a long minute, then for a minute more.
“You… complete… jerk,” he sputtered, halfway between laughter and rage.
“Bitch,” Dean said companionably. They went in to get the stuffed horse together.
October 2nd, 2009
Dean could hear Sam reading a bedtime story to Izzie in her room – it sounded like “Fritz and the Beautiful Horses,” which was a Christmas present from Jo, who was apparently working out all of her childhood horse issues on Izzie, Dean thought, rolling his eyes. He squeezed some soap onto a paper towel and started to clean up the cake crumbs and bits of purple frosting from the kitchen table.
“Nice party,” Bobby said, tying up a trash bag full of paper plates and napkins – everyone else had gone home, but Bobby’d stayed around to help with the clean-up, which Dean knew meant he had something he wanted to say.
“It was,” Dean agreed, waiting for Bobby to get where he was going. It didn’t take long.
“You boys thinking about picking up hunting again?”
“We are hunting,” Dean replied automatically. “L.A. is a big city, it’s full of ghosts and—”
“—And the last time I heard a report of supernatural mayhem from around here was months ago,” Bobby said, snorting. “You boys do a good job, don’t get me wrong, and I’m sure this place has never been so clean. That’s what I mean – you’ve scrubbed this town until it damn near shines. You two thinking about heading farther afield?”
“We don’t want to leave Izzie,” Dean protested half-heartedly, but he knew it was an excuse – every man or woman at tonight’s party would be happy to babysit Izzie for them for a few days, or longer, if Dean could stand to be without her; Bobby knew it, too.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’ve had some thoughts about it,” Dean finally admitted. “Sam and me both.”
“I know you want to be with your little girl,” Bobby said, nodding, “and you know I admire that. But honestly, we could use your help, Dean. There’s some nasty stuff out there, and Jo’s getting better, but she ain’t up to your level yet, and Ellen and I do what we can, but we ain’t as young as we used to be. I don’t want to tell you what to do, and Lord knows if I had a baby girl like yours, I wouldn’t want to leave for long, either, but—there’s a need. I’m just glad to hear you’re thinking of it.”
Dean stuck the leftover cake in a plastic container and fit the lid on in silence.
“Leave that for a minute,” Bobby said, pulling out a chair at the kitchen table and jerking his head toward it.
Obediently, Dean sat in the chair, and Bobby pulled up another chair and leaned in, talking quietly.
“I got a call from Missouri, a few days ago. Telling me why she wasn’t coming this year.”
Confused, Dean leaned an elbow on the table and asked, “Yeah, what was that about? She wouldn’t answer the phone when Sam and I called.”
Bobby looked uncomfortable, but he sighed, and said seriously. “She said she can’t get right with it—with you and Sam. Said it wasn’t right for either of you, and wasn’t right for Izzie, so she won’t be coming around anymore. I could tell she figured I’d say the same, but I’ve known you both since you were knee-high, and…” He trailed off awkwardly and shrugged, looking away from Dean. “You and Sam,” Bobby said, like it was final, like there was nothing else to say.
Dean was just about choking on his heart as he said, “Me and Sam what? I don’t know what she’s talking about—what you’re talking about—“
“Don’t be a fool, son,” Bobby growled. “I never said a word to your Dad, because I think it mighta killed him, but I saw this comin’ a long way off, and Missouri is a damn sight more psychic than anybody I’ve ever met. If she says she knows something, she knows it.”
Wrecked, Dean stared at Bobby without saying a word, something heavy pressing on his chest, stealing his breath. All he could think was that he was glad this connection between him and Sam only ran one way, or Sam would be running out here like a bat outta hell, and Dean just did not think he could fucking handle that, not on top of all the rest of it.
“I’m sorry, son,” Bobby said, looking away awkwardly, “but I don’t think you’re fooling Ellen and Jo real well, either – the two of you still sleeping in the same bed even now that all that custody stuff’s taken care of, and Sam not having a lady friend all this time…”
“Jesus,” Dean gritted out, his throat scraped raw.
“Maybe it’s a good thing,” Bobby said like he had to force himself to get the words out. “Maybe it’s a good thing, because Lord knows nobody but Sam would put up with your sorry ass, so—” Bobby shrugged, and Dean drew a slow breath in and then let it out, putting his head in order.
“Thanks, Bobby,” he said, still feeling raw, but breathing again.
“I should go.” Bobby pulled his cap down a little further on his forehead, and got up to fetch his jacket from the hall closet. At the front door, Dean went for a handshake, but Bobby just muttered “Idjit,” and pulled him into a hug. Pulling back, he told Dean with serious eyes, “Someday, you two are gonna need to think on what you’re going to tell your girl.”
Dean scrubbed a hand over his face. “I know,” he said. “Thanks, Bobby. We’ll be in touch.”
Dean went back into the kitchen, finished the clean-up, then went into the bedroom to wait for Sam. He didn’t have to wait long.
“Found this under the door,” Sam said as he closed the bedroom door behind himself.
Dean didn’t even look up – he knew what it would be.
“Same date and everything?” he asked dully.
“Yeah—Dean, are you okay?” Sam crouched on the floor, resting his hand on the bed next to Dean’s hip.
Dean would never admit it to Sam, not in a thousand years. He didn’t even know the words. But here, close enough to feel Sam’s breath on his cheek, Sam’s worry and love like warm water down his spine, Sam’s knee pressing into his shin—Dean’d never been this happy, never had so much he wanted all at once. He was willing to fight with his hands and teeth to keep it, but it wasn’t everything he ever wanted unless it was Sam’s everything, too… and it wasn’t everything he’d ever wanted without the little girl sleeping down the hall whose small hands grabbed his own like it was life or death, whether they were crossing the street or dancing to classic rock late at night, Dean just home from work and still smeared with auto grease.
“I gotta know,” he scraped out, and barely recognized his own voice, “I gotta know if this… thing… is for keeps. Or if you still want normal and all that stuff. Because that’s not… I can’t do that for you. But this—what we’ve got. I think it’s pretty good. But you’ve gotta—you’ve gotta think so, too. Or it’s nothing.”
Sam shook his head, almost laughing. He pushed Dean flat on the bed and crawled over him, pushing down sweet and heavy.
“I want to tell you what a dumbfuck you are for even needing to ask,” he murmured, “or make some crack about your self-esteem issues, but honestly, Dean—you’re right. I do want normal—but not—” he said, grabbing Dean’s wrists and wrestling him down when his heart seized and his whole body wanted to be anywhere but there—“but Winchester normal, okay? This normal, where I fuck my brother and burn bones and have birthday parties for our daughter where people think that medieval weaponry is an appropriate gift, okay? This. This right fucking here. You and me and Izzie, Dean. So yeah,” Sam finished, kissing Dean slow and nasty before dropping a softer kiss on Dean’s cheek. “Yeah, this is for fucking keeps, okay?”
“Okay,” Dean said shakily.
He let himself have sixty seconds to be there with Sam’s honesty and Sam’s kisses and Sam’s big hand on his cheek before he broke away and sat up, pushing at Sam until they were eye to eye.
“Then it can’t be Winchester normal,” Dean said, something getting tighter around his chest. “Because we can’t be Winchesters—brothers—and, and this.” Dean waved a hand at the two of them sprawled over each other in the bed. “Izzie—Izzie, she can’t—so we’ve got to—pretend. And do it a whole hell of a lot better than we do on hunts. Day in, day out. Bobby already knows, but he’ll lie for us.”
“Bobby knows?” Sam looked pale, and white fear crackled from him into Dean.
“That’s tomorrow’s freak-out,” Dean said grimly.
“Will we—will we ever tell her?”
Sam didn’t let Dean be the older brother much anymore, but Dean remembered this look from when Sam was thirteen and just wanted Dean to tell him how to make it okay that Tessie O’Connell had laughed at him for only owning one pair of shoes.
“Fuck if I know,” Dean muttered quietly into Sam’s forehead, pulling him close with a hand in his shaggy, ridiculous emo hair. “I’ll tell you when we get there. Wherever there is.”
September 21st, 2010
It had killed them both, even more than Dean thought it would—they’d been brothers forever, and the other thing was new – even saying, “We’re married” wasn’t enough, didn’t say enough about how twisted around and into each other they were, and for how long.
They’d decided which piece of their hearts to keep secret, and they’d gotten Bobby and Ellen and Jo to swear to keep it secret with them, and they’d trained themselves out of talking about anything that happened when they were kids – planned out a story of how they met—stupid Hollywood romance bullshit, Dean thought, but Sam had come up with it and Sam liked it and Dean hadn’t had any better ideas—but they hadn’t thought of this, hadn’t planned for this.
“Dan and Alice have a grandma and a grandpa,” Izzie said, galloping Lully across the floor in bigger and bigger circles, stretching out her little arms as far as they would go. She looked up at Dean and Sam, eyes bright and curious. “Dan and Alice have two grandpas and grandmas,” she told them, as if it was some kind of mystery that she wanted to investigate.
“Uh… most people do,” said Sam, kind of nonplussed, and neither of them saw it coming, so it felt like a sharp blow right in the center of Dean’s chest when Izzie tilted her head and asked, “Do I have grandpas and grandmas?”
“Yes,” Sam said definitively, quicker on the draw than Dean. “Um… just one of each, though.”
Dean stared at Sam, because how the fuck do we explain that, genius?
Sam blanched, and stumbling, said, “Yeah, Daddy and I um, we—my, uh, mom died when I was just a baby, so I didn’t really know her.”
“So my grandma is Daddy’s mommy,” Izzie concluded, looking up at Dean curiously. She turned back to Sam, and quietly said, “My mommy is dead, too, Dad.” She patted him on the arm comfortingly. “Can I see them?” she asked, and again, Dean looked helplessly at Sam, because they hadn’t worked this out – on all their legal papers, it said Bobby was Sam’s dad and Dean was Ellen’s son, but a lie that complicated wouldn’t have stood up for long, so they’d never even thought about trying to tell Izzie that.
“Uh, sure,” Sam said, digging in his back pocket and pulling out his wallet. He rifled through it and pulled out a creased, old photo – Dean recognized it right away, a picture of the two of them as kids, sitting on the hood of the Impala with Dad standing off to the side, smiling. Dean lost his own copy years ago when he had to leave San Antonio in a hurry. Sam was holding it out to Izzie, who was checking it over solemnly, and Dean had to close his eyes when he saw that Sam was carefully keeping his finger over Dean’s face in the picture.
“So that’s my dad, your grandpa,” Sam explained. “He died a couple of years ago.”
“You don’t have a dad, Daddy?” Izzie peered up at Dean, her green eyes wide in her small, familiar face, and for no other human being in the world would Dean swallow and nod and say, choking, “That’s right, baby. Daddy doesn’t have a dad.”
It was for her, and Dean couldn’t regret it, but that night, Dean bought a big bottle of whiskey for the first time in a long time, and tried to drink the taste of betrayal away.
“I thought you’d want Mom,” Dean told Sam, slurring just a little. “Why didn’t you take Mom and give me Dad?”
“I didn’t exactly think it all through beforehand, Dean!” Sam hissed, rolling his eyes. “I was kind of panicking there, man. I said whatever came into my head.”
“Now everything she knows about Dad is gonna come through you,” Dean thought aloud, and Sam’s mouth tightened into a thin line.
“Oh, I’m sorry – was Izzie supposed to be raised in the great tradition of Winchester hagiography, where Dad is some kind of tragic hero, and you’re his loyal lieutenant and I’m the traitor son who abandoned him? Because—”
“No,” Dean rasped suddenly, knocking over the bottle of Jack with a sweep of his hand. “I’m not his fucking lieutenant—now I’m not his anything.”
Dean stared at the puddle of liquid gathering on the table – it was better than watching the pity on Sam’s face.
For eighteen years, he’d been a brother and a son. Then Sam left, and he was just half of that. When Sam came back, he was both again, and even when Dad died, Dean was still his son, still happy in Dad’s shadow, where he belonged, still the guy other hunters called “John Winchester’s boy.” For pretty much all his life, Dean was Sam’s brother, or John’s son, or both. After the last 365 days, he was neither.
“I’m sorry,” Sam said softly, dropping a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “You—you remember Mom better than I do. So you can tell Izzie about her. And I’ll—I can’t really talk about Dad anyway, because—most of it would be about all of us, all three of us together, like—and that… never happened.”
“It happened,” Dean said firmly, grabbing Sam’s shirt in his fist and tugging gently. “You might wanna forget that time I convinced you that you’d gotten tattooed by Tom Jessup in your sleep, but I’ll remember, and if you think I’m letting you forget—”
Sam’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, you mean like how you want to forget that morning when Pastor Jim caught you in the confessional with the parish secretary’s daughter and her best friend?”
“Bitch, I’m proud of that,” Dean said, frowning. “Well. Not the part where we got caught,” he admitted.
“I heard the whole speech that Pastor Jim gave Dad,” Sam gloated. “Through a crack in the door.”
“Fuck, please don’t recite it,” Dean moaned, “I’m too drunk to hear that shit again.”
But when Sam put on his best ‘disappointed’ bitchface and started, “John Winchester, I do not say this lightly, but that damn boy of yours, John, is—” secretly, Dean was glad.
All couples, Dean eventually learned from playdates and daycare pick-ups and hanging out in the park watching Izzie on the jungle gym, had things that they could only do behind closed doors – usually sex – when their kid was asleep or with a babysitter. When Izzie was curled up around her stuffed horse, Dean and Sam would close the door and remind themselves of all the things that they could never tell anyone else – all the stories that only Dean and Sam and the dead remembered.
March 26th, 2010
It was not a good day to be Dean Winchester, Dean thought, staring glumly up into the guts of a beat-up 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee that probably wasn’t worth in scrap what he was being paid to fix it. That morning, Izzie had decided that hide-and-seek was the awesomest game to play right when Dean needed to leave in time to drop her off at the daycare before work. Then, when he’d finally found her, hiding under the bed, she’d had to change her clothes because of all the dust. Dean still might have made it to work on time, except that half the streets between the daycare and the body shop were closed off for some kind of protest against seaweed, or against cutting down seaweed, or eating seaweed, or something – whatever, he’d kind of had his mind on other things.
And then he’d gotten to work late, and gotten stuck with this POS, and just about survived until lunch, when he’d opened up his brown paper bag, stared down at a veggie sub with a little baggie of carrot sticks on the side, and realized that he and Sam had switched lunches that morning.
It’s the hippies, Dean thought darkly. Sam used to eat normal food. Dad was right about those damn hippies, man. They ruin everything. They ruin traffic. They ruin lunch.
Dean gave that speech about once a day – he and Sam had been living in Berkeley for six months, and he still couldn’t understand why a man couldn’t get a decent burger in this place without someone trying to poison him with tofu. He had tried to explain to Sam his theory about how Whole Foods was not-so-secretly a plot created by one of the lesser archdemons of Hell, but Sam…
Dean sighed, and admitted to himself that Sam really liked it here, and had a great job here, and Izzie’s daycare was awesome and staffed by sarcastic twenty-somethings in purple fishnets – not all girls – and Dean really liked the guys at the garage, and okay, basically the only thing wrong with the place was the hippies, and maybe Dean should just shut up and like it.
On the other hand, Dean thought, as his stomach rumbled with resentment, veggie sandwiches.
Dean heard a car pull up outside and tried to do the math in his head – if Miles, Kyle, and Enrico were the only other guys to come in today, besides him and the boss, there was a chance he could dump this lemon on somebody else, if he moved quick. He slid out from under the car and stood up, trying to wipe off as much of the grease on his hands as he could. Dean took a look out the window – blue sedan, beater—then stopped, because hey, that was Sam’s blue beater.
Sure enough, the door of the garage opened, and in walked Sam, looking sharp as a razor. He was in one of his work suits, charcoal grey and fitted in all the right places, with a crisp white shirt and an expensive-looking red silk tie. Dean swallowed hard and started to look away, then stopped himself. He forgot, sometimes, that he was allowed, now – allowed to look at Sam like that, allowed to picture himself pushing that jacket off of his shoulders, allowed to imagine some better uses for that tie…
“Dean?” Sam lifted an amused eyebrow, and Dean coughed, yanking his brain back on track.
“Hey, Sam – what’s going on?” he asked, aware that the other guys were watching them with interest. He glared, and they pretended to go back to work, but he wasn’t fooled.
Dean ignored them and cocked his head at Sam. “Is something wrong?”
“No.” Sam shrugged, and smiled with easy nonchalance. “I just wanted to see you. Really. I happened to be in the area, so… here I am.”
Dean gave Sam the fish-eye. “Did you grow a vagina between last night and now? Because I’ve told you before, man, no chick-flick moments, and that goes double for when I’m mmph—!”
And then Dean’s spine was flat up against the cab of that shitty Jeep, and Sam’s hands were spread along the curve of Dean’s skull, fingers splayed through his hair and thumbs stroking slowly along Dean’s jaw, and Sam was kissing him, boom, out of nowhere—at his place of work, Dean thought frantically, going shit, shit, in the back of his mind, remembering that the guys are watching. He tried to pull away, but Sam just leaned on him with his stupid Gigantor body, and Dean was going nowhere.
Sam was really going to town, taking Dean’s fucking mouth, and Dean said fuck it and gave as good as he got, licking into the hot corners of Sam’s mouth and tracing his thumb down the back of Sam’s neck just the way he liked it.
Eventually they had to breathe, and when Dean broke off the kiss, he heard catcalls and whistles – he looked over at the guys, who were all smirking like cats, and Enrico was giving them an enthusiastic thumbs up and shouting “Nice floor show, Harvelle!”
But nobody was glaring at Dean, or turning their back – no one was giving them actual shit over it, Dean realized, with a big rush of relief.
Sam, of course, could read his thoughts all over his face.
“So how do you feel about living in Hippieville now?” he murmured, grinning like a jerk – Dean muttered something uncomplimentary, but he had to admit… there might be something to this pansy-ass pinko bullshit after all.
“At my place of work, Sam,” Dean grumbled – Sam just grinned again, and said, “I think you got some grease on me.”
Dean checked and—yeah, there were grease smears on Sam’s neck and a little on his face. He winced and said, “Sorry,” starting to scrub it off with the sleeve of his coveralls, but Sam stopped him.
“Don’t,” he said, casual as a summer day. “I like it. I’m gonna go home now, and take off my nice suit, and wait for you. And I’m going to spend the whole time that I’m waiting thinking of you, and remembering the way you touched me.” And then he brought a finger up to the grease on his cheek and smeared it in just a little more.
Dean blinked a couple times. Damn, Sammy, he thought.
Of course, it was just a fantasy – they both knew that Sam was on his lunch hour and had to get back to work, and was going to wipe that grease off in the car, looking in the rear-view mirror, and that, even if Sam had somehow magically gotten off work, he was still gonna have to pick Izzie up from daycare instead of lounging around naked, dreaming about Dean’s sweet, sweet lovin’.
But it was – Dean swallowed, and took a deep breath – a really nice fantasy.
“You, uh, do that,” he mumbled, flushing.
“Bye, Dean.” Sam flashed him a totally illegal smile, then reached up and straightened his tie. “See you tonight.”
The minute Sam left, it was open season on Dean, who rolled his eyes and took all the whoops, and the admiring whistles, and the shit about being Sam’s wife, with pretty good grace.
Then the boss’s door opened, and everybody got quiet. Mr. Erikson stepped out of the office and walked right up to Dean – he wasn’t laughing, and he didn’t look like he was having fun.
“I want you to know I saw that little display, Harvelle,” he told Dean – then he shook his head and skewered Dean with a glance. Dean swallowed hard and looked at the floor – damnit, he liked this job, and he’d thought—
“Son, I have to tell you how disappointed I am. I did not think you were the kind of man who would take up with somebody who drives a 2000 Dodge Neon, for chrissakes. That is not good judgment, son.”
Dean froze. “Uhh…”
All his stupid brain could think to say was, “Well, he wasn’t driving the Neon when I met him, sir.”
Erikson gave him an even more disapproving look. “Then that’s worse! What kind of man lets his wife drive a piece-of-shit car like that, and keeps the ’67 Impala for himself? That’s the action of a selfish man, Harvelle.”
“Actually, sir,” offered Enrico, looking like he might just about bust a gut trying to keep in his laughter, “we’re pretty sure Dean is the wife.”
“Oh.” Erikson looked disconcerted for a minute, then tilted his head from side to side and decided, “Then I guess that’s all right.”
He went back to his office, and Dean was stuck with more of the guys’ ribbing and ended up spluttering, “It’s so he can pick the kid up from daycare, Jesus! It was cheap, okay? And it runs fine, it’s not unsafe, what, you think I let my own, uh—” Dean sorted through words in his head: boyfriend? No, not enough. Husband? Technically true, but then that was admitting he was the wife and hell, no. Partner? Kinda gay, but then, Dean admitted with a mental shrug, he and Sam were kinda gay. And partner was true; partner, Dean realized, had always been true. “—partner, my own partner drive around in an unsafe car?”
“It’s blue,” Miles said, wiping tears out of the corners of his eyes.
“Oh, fuck you all,” Dean grumped, and went to hide in a manly way underneath the damn Jeep.
(on to next part)