Ordeals ‘Verse: 3. Not the Only Man She Sees

Sam and Dean. PG-13. ~10,000 words. Mpreg (sorta). Pre-slash (definitely). Co-authored with Ponderosa.
“Gay voice.” His hand, wrapped up cold and clammy around Sam’s, clenched. “You shithead, I don’t have a gay voice.”

“Holy crap!” Sam shot bolt upright, grabbing for the rumpled newspaper jerked out of his loose grasp. The warm breezed bumped it over the wild grass like a grey tumbleweed until it disappeared over the cliff’s edge.

“Sleepin’ on the job there, van Winkle.”

Scrubbing a hand over his face, Sam muttered, “Jerk.”

The whole world glittered brighter than a spill of shattered glass, the far-off horizon a slashed line between faded blue and deep forest mountains. It stung his eyes but felt intensely good on his skin. He stretched back out in the patch of sunlight they’d claimed as their own and poked his tongue at the gummy taste napping left in his mouth.

“Did you take my Pepsi?”

“‘Course I did.” Dean dropped a half-empty litre onto Sam’s chest. “Picking up your slack is thirsty work.”

Sam sighed and rinsed away the staleness with flat soda. “Did you find anything?”

“In the riveting Pickerington Gazette that you were drooling all over? Nope.”

“Funny.” Stretching long and hard, Sam let out another gusty breath at the satisfying pop of his spine. “One guy is awful, two’s tragedy, three’s a pattern.”

“Not arguing with you. But I still didn’t find anything.” Dean shuffled the journal and random scraps of paper full of his neat block lettering aside to wiggle down next to Sam. “Last I heard, massive internal haemorrhaging didn’t get passed around like a schoolyard flu.”

Absently, Sam scratched at his belly. Sunlight glinted silvery-white on the band circling his finger.

“I ate your chips, too.”

“Man, you are a jerk.”

*
They meandered into Linton late that afternoon, the rhythm of winding mountain roads a nice change after three states worth of nothing bigger than an anthill. The sun set fiery red in the rearview mirror as Dean chatted up the matronly woman behind the cramped little office’s desk.”What?” Sam said to the puzzled crease in Dean’s forehead when he came back with a tiny key hooked on a giant evergreen keyring.”Nothing. She was just.” Twisting in the seat, Dean backed up and eased the car down the lot to Room 12. “She was really friendly.”

“Really friendly-creepy, or really friendly-friendly?”

The car creaked loudly as Dean pushed open the door and shot a disgruntled look over his shoulder. “I can’t believe that made sense. And no, neither.”

“So maybe she’s just nice.” Shouldering the laptop, Sam held a hand out for one of the duffles Dean dug out of the trunk. “Some people are, you know. No ulterior motives or anything.”

“Some people are born only children, too.”

“Don’t I wish.”

Dean nudged the door open with his foot and strode inside. Sam followed up with a slightly less dignified hop-shuffle, since Dean helpfully dropped his shit right in the middle of the doorway. As usual, Dean’s oblivious shield rendered him completely impervious to the laser-point glare Sam aimed at his broad back as he poked around the room.

The whole place smelled like it had taken a bath in bleach. Sam didn’t want to know what the hell’d been so bad that the creaky-looking maid they’d passed on their way in had decided tie-dye carpet was preferable.

With his head stuck under the bathroom sink–Jesus Christ, why–Dean asked, “So who’s first?”

Pausing with the laptop halfway open, Sam took a deep breath. He had one nerve left and Dean was riverdancing all over it.

“Sam?”

“Wouldja just gimme a minute!”

Dean’s head poked through the doorway. “What crawled up your ass?”

Your face, Sam almost snapped, but that was a) childish, b) stupid and c) too much like something that would come flying out of Dean’s mouth for his comfort.

“I mean, one minute you’re cracking jokes–at my expense, as usual–and now you’re hormonal.” Dean twitched the shower curtain back in place, apparently satisfied that there wasn’t any green slime dripping out of the tap or whatever the hell he was looking for. “You sure you still got a dick in your pants, little miss mood swings?”

Deliberate and slow, Sam booted the computer. He stared fixedly at the screen with Dean’s glower burning a hole in the back of his neck. Minutes ticked by. Dean kept staring, persistent and annoying as a Jack fuckin’ Russel.

Sam’s nostrils flared on a frustrated breath. “All three vics were from this area,” he said. “There’s a widow on Jefferson, so I guess we’ll start with her before we start branching out to the neighbouring towns.”

There was a long pause before Dean said, “Okay,” and Sam turned to see him holding a fan of IDs between his fingers. “Who d’you wanna be today?”

*
She took one look at Dean’s smile and slammed the door in his face.Dean said, “Huh.”"I don’t think she likes reporters.”

“Either that or she’s got some grief counsellor in there stripped down to his jockeys.” Dean stopped short in the middle of the steps, throwing an irritated glance over his shoulder when Sam couldn’t keep from ploughing right into him. “We shoulda broke out the priest collars again.”

Sam gave him a shove to get him moving again. “Like anybody’s going to believe that ever again.”

“Hey, I got religion. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.”

Absently, Sam muttered, “You’ve never been high in your life,” distracted by the woman next door fairly obviously lingering by her car. He elbowed Dean in the side and nodded in her direction.

As soon as they were close enough, she said, “You won’t have any luck with Maggie. Whatever it is you’re selling, she won’t want it.”

Sam eased ahead of Dean before he could say anything. “Mr. Parks has been a generous donor to our cause for several years. Maybe you’ve heard of us? Collaborators for a Green Future?” He gave her barely enough time to blink, then barrelled on, “We haven’t heard from him in quite a few months, do we have the correct address?”

Her gaze drifted to Dean. She gave him a quick once-over before skipping back to Sam. “Doug passed away last month. Poor woman hasn’t been taking it well. I’m sorry,” she said, zeroing back in on Dean, “did I introduce myself? Lisa Fairweather.”

“Dean,” Dean said, and after a moment’s pause, tacked on, “Bernardini. You sound like you knew Mr. Cooper well.”

Barely resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Sam wandered back to the car, slumping lazily against it. The subdivision was quiet, quaint instead of trendy. Most likely crawling with kids on the weekend. It’s the sort of place people say would be good for raising a family. Dean was probably ready to crawl out of his skin.

Lisa’s laugh rung out clear as a bell. Without even looking, he knew that by now, Dean would be leaning on the ruler-straight picket fence and she’d be edging closer, trying to get another whiff of that warm scent that always seems to hover around him. Sort of like the metallic smell of a gun just fired and well-worn leather. Unless he’s drenched himself in the biting chemical stink of drugstore aftershave, anyway.

Dean sauntered over about ten minutes after that, one hand in his pocket and the other fiddling with his phone.

“Get her number?”

“Nope, even better,” he said, which wasn’t at all what Sam expected to hear, let alone feel a smug twinge in his gut over it. “Seems like the mister and missus were having some marital troubles. Doug checked out about a week after they checked in to this retreat thing up in Hadenbrook.”

“You think she poisoned him? Tox reports were clean.”

The look on Dean’s face said pretty clearly that he hadn’t thought of that. “Maybe,” he hedges, “but didn’t that chick you talked to Wednesday, the friend of a friend of a friend of the first vic, say him and his wife just got back from renewing their bonds of love or some shit?”

Sam frowned, thinking. The last time he could remember someone saying something remotely like that to him was ten minutes before Dean jammed a fake wedding band on his finger. “That’s a pretty long shot. We don’t even know if the Tams went to a retreat or not, let alone the one here.”

“Your face is a long shot. C’mon. We got some time to kill before tonight.”

*
The sign out front said Bar and Billiards, which turned out to be exactly what Dean was looking for. Sam could’ve gone for a shower, a steak and the flat pillow with his name on it back at the motel instead, but Dean had that look. Not the holy-shit-we’re-broke one. The other one.

That didn’t do a very good job of explaining why Dean walked away earlier without Lisa’s number. He wouldn’t have even had to work for it, and honestly, it’s not the chase that Dean’s playing for.

They crossed the threshold shoulder to shoulder. As the smoky gloom swallowed them up, Dean broke away to angle for the bar while Sam set up shop in a dingy little corner with a clear view of the battered pool tables in the back.

The various not-really-legal ways they made their money didn’t bother Sam as much these days. He tried not to think of it as backsliding into a life of careless crime, but that’s what it felt like. They’d pulled off some seriously spectacular scams back before Dean grew a little more cautious (a story told in detail by the scar on Dean’s middle from a broken bottle in the south of Texas) and himself a little more law-abiding.

He’s never going to tell Dean about the time, before Jess, that he got too desperate for money and what a relief it was to stuff a sweat-damp crumple of bills into his pocket. It had less to do with being able to feed himself again than it should’ve.

Dean lingered by the bar, chatting up a thirty-something with too much makeup and a nice smile. He had one beer cracked open, Sam’s warming by his elbow.

Yeah. That look.

Tugging out the laptop, Sam got to fact-checking. There wasn’t much he hoped to dig up online, but since he had the time, he might as well.

Every now and then, he glanced up, checking on Dean’s progress out of some morbid sense of curiosity. The bet he had running against himself said it was fifty-fifty that he’d be out late waiting for Dean’s newest fan to vacate the room. Not really the usual odds.

Eyes on Dean’s hand drifting down the girl’s smooth, tanned arm, Sam took a sip from the beer he’d managed to wrangle out of the roving server. Maybe Dean just wasn’t as interested as he looked.

Once when Sam looked up, they were gone. A tiny smile quirked Sam’s lips, equal parts affection and exasperation. That was more like his brother. But at least now he wouldn’t have to hide out here much longer.

The sharp crack of cue against ball drew his attention to the back. And there, completely alone and scowling bloody murder for it, was Dean.

Sam should’ve left it well enough alone. Dean would get over it. He’d snap and snarl for about ten, fifteen minutes, then some other barfly would catch his eye and that’d be that.

The cue Sam picked up was nicked in the middle. Probably warped, too, though he didn’t bother to test it out. He just elbowed his way in and made the shot to the corner pocket Dean was about to take.

The deepest crease on Dean’s forehead eased. Taking quick stock of the slim pickings, he said, “You see someone worth the trouble?”

“Nope,” Sam said, lining up the next shot. The prick of Dean’s smug smile at his back made him reconsider, go for the five to the side instead. “You got shot down twice today, you should quit while you’re ahead.”

Which wasn’t true at all, and wasn’t what Dean meant, either. And on top of that, Sam wasn’t in the mood to hustle. Surprisingly, and seemingly all of a sudden, all he wanted was a good game of pool with his brother.

“I got you to thank for that.”

“What?”

Dean waggled his left hand in Sam’s face. “You know the last time I got laid? I wasn’t wearing this freakin’ ring.”

Sam blinked. Really, that was pretty much all he could do, so he did it again. It’d been a good month, month and a half since they finished that job for Bobby. There’s no way Dean would voluntarily go that long without sex.

Dean moved off, bitching quietly under his breath. In a daze, Sam missed his next shot and shuffled out of Dean’s way, dropping onto one of the stools lined up against the wall.

For the life of him, he couldn’t figure out a single reason why Dean just didn’t take the ring off.

*

The light that Dean held on the lock Sam was currently trying to pick wobbled. He hissed out a breath between the slim bits of metal clenched between his teeth and Dean muttered, “Sorry,” re-aiming the flashlight.

Maybe it was about the engravings. The symbols Sam had carved into the silver were about protection, strengthened by commitment (more like dedication or loyalty, to his way of thinking), so it could be that Dean wasn’t willing to risk weakening that link by taking the ring off every time he had an itch that needed scratching. Magic and hoodoo and spiritual stuff tended to split hairs like that. For Christ’s sake, fairy curses had more legal loopholes than family law.

Besides, Dean was given to exaggeration. There had been that accountant in Danbury just last week. She’d floated off with that ‘just had Dean Winchester’ glow.

A soft click accompanied one little twitch of Sam’s fingers and the lock gave. Dean patted him on the back, handing over the flashlight and digging out his own as he slipped inside.

“You got any idea where we’re supposed to look?”

Sam glanced to the left, then the right. “The fire plan wasn’t too specific. In a place like this, records are probably kept close to the main offices. Try there first.” He angled his light back to the left. “That way.”

They moved through the empty corridors quickly and quietly. Sneaking around places after-hours used to creep Sam out when he was a kid. Now he tended to get jumpy in broad daylight in the middle of a teeming crowd. That said something fairly profound about his current lifestyle.

Past the public washrooms and down another gently curving hall, the way forked. Sam took left again while Dean went right. He hadn’t gone further than poking his head into the first office when Dean whistled sharply.

“Got it,” Dean confirmed once Sam rejoined him. “Not much in there, either, shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to find ‘em if our boys are here.”

Just inside, Dean stopped short again. “You feel that?”

“What?”

“Draft?”

Sam stilled. Listened. The EMF tucked in his pocket out of habit was silent. “Air conditioner?”

“Too quiet.”

“I got nothing.”

“Huh.”

“You look for Cooper, I’ll take Tam.”

Under less than five, they had the files. There was even a tiny home office copier neatly tucked into one corner. Dean hummed absently while he took advantage of it and Sam went searching for the second victim, Harvey Detillieux.

“Last week of April,” Sam said, tapping the page. “Detillieux died in the first week of May. We’re looking at a timeframe of about six to eight days.”

“I know this place doesn’t aim for repeat business, but Jesus.” Done with the other two files, Dean tucked them back in place and took the one Sam held out. “We’re still missing why.”

Staring into the middle distance, Sam chewed the corner of his lip. “I don’t think we’ll get anything out of Cooper’s widow. That guy,” he said, gesturing at the copies Dean was making, “and his wife drove in from Okangee. Maybe about an hour’s, two hour’s drive south of here. We could try talking to her.”

“See if she’s up for a little counselling.”

Mostly for show, Sam drew off and nailed Dean in the shoulder. It didn’t jar his grin one bit.

*

While Dean screwed around in the bathroom, making enough of a racket to wake the dead, Sam stretched out gratefully on the bed nearest the door. Over the noise of a tap cranked up to a firehose blast, Sam called out, “Could be a First Wives Club thing.”

“That the one with Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn?” Dean asked, muffled around the toothbrush crammed into his mouth.

“Uh, yeah. I think.” Sam tucked his arms behind his head. Come to think of it, the water stain on the ceiling sort of looked like Midler’s character from that Halloween movie. Great. He couldn’t remember the name. That was going to drive him nuts until he gave in and IMDB’d it.

“And?”

“I’m just saying we can assume all three vics were having marriage troubles.”

Dean spit loudly. “So we could have three black widows on our hands. Might not be our kinda gig at all.”

“On the surface, sure.” More rattling noises, then the sound of Dean taking a piss. With the door wide open. “It’s the cause of death that’s not right. There’s no scientific explanation for it.”

“Which means it’s our problem.” After patting his face dry, Dean tossed the towel carelessly over his shoulder. Sam winced. Probably right into the open toilet. “You done with those fries?”

Sam glanced at the grease congealing in a corner of the Styrofoam container. “Yeah, sure. Knock yourself out.”

He tossed it carefully towards Dean, who got two fingers into the container before crinkling up his nose and carrying it all the way into the bathroom to dump in the trash.

That was a little weird, but Sam drifted off after that, waking up briefly to turn over when Dean clicked off the television. Vaguely, he remembered being prodded in the back and told to get up and strip, ’cause it’s not Dean’s fault if he’s cranky in the morning, and then it was morning, dawn ushered in by the sound of Dean hacking up a lung.

“What?” Clumsy with sleep, Sam wrestled the blankets snaked around his bare legs. “Dean?’

“S’okay,” Dean said, leaning against the doorjamb. He rubbed a hand over his chest, wincing a little. Behind him, the bathroom glowed bright and fake. “Just barfing up my fuckin’ spleen.”

“What?” Sam repeated. “Well, it’s not the food. I feel fine. You’re not getting sick on me, are you?” He quit fiddling with his rucked-up tee to actually look at Dean.

Dean, who was standing there, green around the gills and a little wobbly, in nothing more than a pair of threadbare boxers that stretched a little too tightly around his middle.

“Dude, is that a beer belly?”

This time, it was Dean who blankly said, “What?”

“You!” Sam shot to his feet, cool air prickling along his skin. The air conditioner felt like it was cranked to ten. “Holy shit, Dean, are all those burgers finally catching up to you?”

And then Dean fainted.

*

“I did not,” Dean grumbled.

“Fine. Okay? Fine. You blacked out. Just go pee on the stick.”

“Jesus Christ, Sam, I’m not pregnant! Unlike you, I still got a set.”

Sam knuckled pre-emptively at the twitch under his eye he could feel coming on. It wasn’t like he could actually blame Dean. Once he’d swallowed his heart back down his throat, made sure that Dean was okay–mostly okay–and lugged his brother’s dead weight over to one of the beds, he got to thinking.

Frantically. Maybe a touch crazily.

Sam waggled the pregnancy test. “So prove it.”

“That hasn’t worked since you were seven. Give me that.”

Trying not to stare at Dean’s tiny, soft-looking tummy was next to impossible. Trying to be covert about it was impossible. At the slight tightening of Dean’s mouth, Sam’s cheeks heated.

“This thing detects hormones. Even if your whacked-out research is right, it’s not gonna work. All I’ve got are symptoms.”

Defensively, because okay, maybe he hadn’t thought about that when he was busy freaking out in the drugstore. “Curses can directly alter reality.”

“Yeah, and I’m still packin’, Sammy, so I’m telling you, no uterus, no hormones, no test.” And with that, Dean flung the box into the heaped mess of sheets on Sam’s bed. “We gotta figure out why.”

“Why,” Sam repeated slowly.

“Jesus Christ, Sam, sit down. Quit havin’ a daddy crisis.” Absently, Dean scratched at the round bump of his belly. Sam hit the bed like a sack of potatoes. “It could be some sort of supernatural tumour. Or cyst.”

Somewhere, way in the back of Sam’s brain where his sick sense of irrational humour lived, he heard Arnold Schwarzenegger say, It’s not a toomah.

“That exactly mimics early pregnancy and ends with liquefied internal organs, great.”

Dean grimaced.

And there was that one with Danny DeVito where Schwarzenegger was pregnant, too.

“We need to get into that retreat,” Sam said. Dean started to butt in with, “No way,” but Sam flapped his hands, said, “Wait, wait, wait, no, seriously,” because god damn it, now he had an idea and he was going to run with it. “It’s the one connection between all three vics. It must’ve nailed you last night when we were there. We need to find out what the hell’s going on in that place.”

Hair-thin cracks just beginning to show at the edges of Dean’s calm façade, he said, “How?”

*

“I feel stupid.”

“Good, because you certainly look the part.”

“You know, Sammy, I was going to ask you if you thought my ass looked fat, but now I think I might encounter some sarcasm instead of the tender reassurances I need during this delicate time.”

Sam was concerned about the situation, sure–maybe worried sick if he let himself think about the deadline they were working with–but this was hilarious. Heart-wrenchingly hilarious. “You thought right,” he said, and watched as Dean tried to fix the wig. It wasn’t working. “Where did you find that thing? You should release it back into the wild.”

“Dollar store on the corner, and shut up, asshole, you’re not the one swelling up like a balloon. Better I look like an ugly woman than a pregnant man.” Dean stared down at his belly. It’d only been a day and a half since he was hit by that curse and already he looked three months in. The wig slipped into his eyes. He pushed it back into place and swore a blue streak.

“You’d better work on being a little more ladylike then,” Sam said, clucking his tongue. “Proper ladies don’t use such foul language.”

“Proper ladies also don’t have a dick swinging between their legs.” Dean attempted to grab himself to make the point. He flinched when his arm grazed his stomach. He tossed Sam the bird instead, and then threw both his hands up a moment later. “Fuck, this thing better wear off soon. How am I supposed to fight anything like this?”

“You might not have to. I think even a high order demon is going to take one look at you in that wig and voluntarily go back to hell.”

“You know what? You can go to hell.”

“You’ll miss me when you start to have cravings.”

“I’m having a craving right now. It involves my fist and your face.”

“I figured out our cover story while you were, ah, shopping,” Sam offered.

“You’re a self-important jerk who knocked me up against my wishes by switching my birth control with placebos?”

Sam’s eyebrows went straight up. “I was going to say lack of communication because of respective self-effacing and domineering issues, but. Yours is actually pretty good.”

“In that crazy Stepford way.”

“You stole it from television, didn’t you. And for the love of god, you need bobby pins. Did you buy any?”

“Bobby what?”

“Bobby pins,” Sam said, rooting through the plastic goodwill bags Dean had brought back with him. “Those little brown things girls use in their hair?”

“I want a new plan.”

Sam grinned. He really shouldn’t be enjoying himself this much, but to be honest, he’d thought seeing Dean stuck in a dress had been a once in a lifetime event. Time limit. Remember the time limit. “You’re stuck now. I already registered.”

Frustrated beyond belief, Dean tore the wig off and flicked it at Sam. Underneath it, his hair had gone soft and fuzzy. “This isn’t going to work.”

“What the hell is this?” Sam asked, pulling a floral shower curtain out of one of the bags. “Oh my god, is this a dress? Seriously?”

“I hate you.”

With an Oscar-worthy show of self-control, Sam swallowed the peals and peals of laughter threatening to break free. The stretchy, polyester monstrosity in his hands was worse than the frothy wedding dress from beyond the grave. It’d probably belonged to somebody’s Aunt Maude.

“You’re not really going to wear this, are you?”

Dean snatched at the explosion of mutant posies. “You got a better idea? You said it yourself, we need to get on the inside. Now suck it up and pretend you married me for more than my chicken pot pie.”

“You know, this time you’ll need to shave your legs if you’re gonna wear a dress.”

*

“Remember,” Sam whispered as they waited in the lobby for Dr. Fink the following day, “use your gay voice.”

“Right,” Dean replied, nodding quickly. Luckily, the platoon of bobby pins Sam had enlisted kept the wig in place. “Gay voice.” His hand, wrapped up cold and clammy around Sam’s, clenched. “You shithead, I don’t have a gay voice.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Bernardini?” said the petite brunette heading their way.

Sam lurched to his feet, accidentally dragging Dean unceremoniously to his. “Sorry,” he apologised, not sure if it was to Dean or to the woman who had arched a brow in his direction. “Nerves, I suppose.”

Dean snorted. Loudly. Unable to go the usual route with an elbow jab to the kidney, Sam squeezed his fingers. Hard. And felt Dean’s ring grind against his knuckle. His stomach flip-flopped.

The woman, whose cloud-shaped nametag read Allison, said, “It’s alright, Mr. Bernardini. We get that a lot. If you’ll follow me?”

“Sure,” Sam said. “Sure, lead the way.”

Dean tried to do his thing and stride on ahead, but Sam yanked at his hand until he fell back into step. The look he earned for his trouble was murderous. Nobody should have any trouble at all buying into their cover story, since Sam was pretty sure he looked like a giant over-controlling jerk and Dean looked like a radical militant feminist from a trailer park somewhere in North Carolina with fuzzy hair, a slipcover for a dress and over-sized tennis shoes.

At least he’d shaved. Under that perpetual five o’clock shadow, Dean’s face was baby smooth. Sam still hadn’t quite gotten over the fact that Dean had dimpled knees, though.

Allison led them to a nice, cosy room with muted lighting and a tiny, tinkling waterfall. The chairs that she directed them to sit in, grouped around a low coffee table, were deep and plush. Before Dean could object, Sam shuffled him over to the loveseat and sat.

“Okay,” Allison said. “I’ll get you some coffee, and some water for you, Mrs. Bernardini, since you’re expecting. Dr. Fink should be along shortly.”

“Thank you,” Dean said, high and breathy.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Sam hissed, “What the hell is that?”

“Gay voice,” Dean breathed, the slight growl at the end ruining his pitch. “Shut it.”

That wasn’t exactly what Sam had in mind. It sounded more like Dean was- Well, maybe not quite what Dean sounded like when he did, but that’s definitely what it suggested.

Thankfully, before Sam had a chance to completely mortify himself, the door swept open and a tall, striking woman strode in. Dean actually sat up straighter, radiating interest. Sam squeezed his hand again, smiled, and stood up to extend his hand. “Dr. Fink?”

“Yes, yes, hello Sam, pleasure to meet you.” In a brief, tightly-contained whirlwind, Dr. Fink bustled about the room, collecting drinks and mints, brochures and a notepad, pens and pencils, and hustled a dazed Allison straight out the door. “And Dena,” she said, beaming brightly. “You must be overjoyed at the impending addition to your family. Motherhood is beautiful, you look wonderful.”

Sam choked on his coffee, spitting half the mouthful he’d just taken back into the cup. “Hot,” he managed, weakly.

“Men,” Dean said, in that same breathless, muted voice.

Fink smiled indulgently. “Now, now, it’s just that sort of thinking that sets us back in our relationships. Even if sometimes it happens to be true.”

Sam hid behind his coffee, taking another harder look at Dr. Sylvia Fink. She was handsome, not pretty, middle-aged and probably tough as nails. She didn’t have that crazed, man-hating serial killer look about her, but then, they never did. She was obviously a good liar. Dean looked ridiculous, but she seemed so genuine Sam almost wanted to believe her.

“Alright. Since we’ve only got this weekend,” Fink said, her tone quite clearly indicating she thought they had some issues that would take at least half a lifetime to work through, “let’s get to it. In this first session, we’re going to talk about the language of love. Emotional fulfilment, after all, is key.”

Dean moaned, “Oh god- good,” barely catching himself in time.

“Okay, Dena, we’ll start with you. What would you say is the best way to express your love for Sam?”

“Shouldn’t we be, I don’t know, easing into this?” Sam interrupted. “I mean, it’s not really fair to just-”

“Blowjobs,” Dean said.

Fink was taken aback for all of five seconds, and then she laughed, richly full-bodied. Sam was fairly certain it’d take him at least ten years to fully recover, and even then, it’d be touch and go.

“I can see where the passion comes from in this relationship,” Fink said. “You’re jumping a bit ahead of us, though, Dena. Think emotionally. Something for him, just because.”

The tiny crease that signified Dean was deep in thought appeared between his brows. Abruptly, Sam shook his hand from Dean’s grip and reached for the water.

“A home-cooked meal,” Dean eventually said, apparently tuned into the 1950′s Happy Homemaker’s channel. “Maybe a foot rub?”

“Good, good,” Fink enthused. Sam almost expected her to produce a cookie out of thin air and feed it to Dean with a validating pat on the head. “And you, Sam?”

“I’d, uh. I’d just tell her.”

“There. And do you two know what we can infer from that?”

Sam honestly hoped that was a rhetorical question.

“It means,” Fink said, “that what you really, really want, Sam, is for Dena to use words more often to show how she loves you, and Dena, you want Sam to express his love by giving. Either physical things or just himself, both have the same significance to you.

“How we express ourselves is what we understand most,” Fink barrelled on, oblivious to the dazed look in Dean’s eyes or the seizure Sam could feel sneaking up on him. “I’d hazard to say that you’re the verbal one,” she said, focused first on Sam, then turning to Dean, “and you’re the physical one. Even putting aside your apparent penchant for oral pleasure.”

“You’re saying I should give less head?” Dean cut in.

Sam barely held himself back from squeaking out that Dean didn’t give him any head and he was just fine with that, thank you ever so much.

“Well, no, I wouldn’t say that. And neither would you, right, Sam?”

“Er, no?”

“Exactly!” Fink clapped her hands loudly together. “You can’t separate sex and emotion. You shouldn’t even try. If you love her, fuck her, and that’s that. But do you see what Dena is trying to say to you?”

All Sam really wanted to know was why the hell Finkenstein was picking on him. “No?”

“She wants you to give. Right now, she’s probably thinking a bit more cunnillingus in the relationship, but I suspect that’s because pregnancy sometimes increases the female sex drive.”

Sam let out a quick laugh. “No, that’s pretty much par of the course.”

“Lucky you,” Fink said, her gaze turning slightly speculative.

Meaningfully, Dean squeezed Sam’s fingers. “Right. Okay, give more. Got it.”

“Dena?” Fink prompted.

Dean made a soft mmm noise.

“Alright. I’m going to leave you two alone for about twenty minutes for you to practice. I know, I know, not the best of locales, and it will feel stilted for the first little while, but practice does make perfect.” Again, she sent Sam a considering glance. “I’ll be back to check on your progress.”

“Progress?” Sam parroted, but Fink was already out the door, nothing but flustered air currents left in her wake.

“Wow,” Dean said, thankfully back to normal. “I bet she’s wondering what kind of miracle you’re hiding in your shorts.”

“Are you horny? Like, right now? Because Jesus Christ, Dean, what the hell were you thinking?”

Baffled, Dean said, “What?”

Blowjobs?

“Heh. Well.” Dean stood up, stretched. It was probably just Sam’s eyes playing tricks on him, but the round bump seemed slightly bigger than it was an hour ago. “I’m just sayin’, if I were somebody’s wife, I’d know the value of a good blow. You don’t know how lucky you are, Mr. Bernardini.”

“Yeah, except I’m not actually getting any, Mr. Bernardini.”

Dean shrugged. “Too bad you spit in your coffee. That smelled good. Go dump the pot out the window.”

“Come again?”

“We ran out of coffee while we were feeding our souls on each other’s love. I’m gonna go be a good wife and find you some more.”

“Oh,” Sam said. “So, what, I’m supposed to just sit here while you pretend you’re 007?”

Already halfway out the door, checking to see if the coast was clear, Dean said, “Think about all those blowjobs you won’t be getting.”

*

Sometime around midnight, thankfully divested of wig and mumu, Dean said, “So, how about that foot rub?”

Sam jerked his head up so fast a soggy string of lettuce from his sandwich ended up dangling halfway back to the crumpled wrapped. “Say what?”

“Show me how much you love me, Sammy.” Dean pointedly wiggled his toes.

“Yeah, right.” Disgruntled, Sam turned back to the article about incubi he’d found online. It wasn’t really likely they’d stumbled across a gender-confused spirit attempting to impregnate men, but you really never did know. “I’ll get right on that.”

Dean huffed and thumped back against the pile of pillows he commandeered. Morosely, he poked at the growing bulge of his middle. “This sucks.”

“Mm,” Sam agreed.

“I bet you I’m retaining water like a son of a bitch.”

“Mm,” Sam said again.

“Are you listening to me?”

Dutifully, Sam intoned, “Retaining water. Son of a bitch.”

“Hey. Hey.”

“Jesus, what!”

“Go get me some motherfuckin’ cake.”

*

The next morning found Dean wide awake at quarter past five, busily rooting around in Sam’s duffle. It took Sam a couple minutes to figure out exactly what was wrong with the sleep-blurry picture he was staring at.

“Is there any particular reason you’re naked?” Sam asked.

Dean mumbled something under his breath.

“Huh?”

“I said, my fucking boxers don’t fit anymore, I’m looking for- Aha!” Triumphant, Dean yanked out an old green tee and hauled it on. It hung just long enough to preserve Dean’s modesty, if he had any. “There, see?”

Unfortunately, Sam did see. That was exactly the problem. He dropped flat on his back and closed his eyes, hoping sleep would rise up to save him from himself. Instead, he got Dean humming happily as he puttered with cheap instant coffee.

“You are not,” Sam said.

Gleefully, too fast for Sam to dive under the relative safety of his pillow, Dean belted out, obnoxiously off-key, “And I’m free! Free-ballin’!”

“God,” Sam moaned. “I hate you.”

“Do not.” Smugly, Dean plunked a full mug of caffeine gold on the night table, then plopped down on the other bed, legs akimbo and surrounded by haphazard case notes. “I even left you some hot water.”

In the interest of his sanity, Sam bolted.

*

“Good morning,” Allison greeted. “This morning is the social hour. Everyone is in the Valley Room for coffee and croissants. Straight down that hall, Mr. and Mrs. Bernardini.

“Great,” Dean muttered, normal-voiced. “This is going to be about as fun as wrestling alligators.”

“You could always hit on a married woman. Tempt her with adultery and a lesbian fling all at once.”

The considering gleam in Dean’s eyes might’ve terrified a lesser man. As it was, Sam was only slightly concerned. When it came down to it, today’s dress was only a meagre half-step up from the mumu. “Not bad, Sammy. Not bad.”

At the double doors, they both drew steadying breaths, then dived in. The Valley Room was as tastefully decorated as the rest of the retreat, stylish and still cosy. A little less than a dozen couples mingled contentedly near a table set to one side, the scent of warm, fresh bread luring Dean straight to it.

Sam picked up one of the small ceramic plates and started loading it up with fruit. “Here,” he said, handing it off to Dean. “Eat that before you fill up on bread.”

“Seriously?”

“Sam, Dena,” Fink said, swooshing through a startled couple to descend upon them. “I’d like you to meet Dr. Elms, one of my peers here at Unite. He specialises in hypnotherapy.”

Sam focused on the stout man blinking owlishly up at them, seemingly surprised to see himself whisked along so quickly. He recovered well enough, patting Fink on the arm in a grandfatherly way even though he was probably only five years her senior.

“Sylvia does like to flatter,” he said. “Especially when she’d like my help.”

“Help with what?” Sam ventured.

“I sensed a certain amount of reluctance on your part yesterday, Sam,” Find said. “Sometimes, hypnosis can help us to relax the unconscious barriers we maintain and allow deeper communication. I think it’ll be an amazing asset in our next session.”

Once again putting on that annoyingly breathless voice, Dean asked, “What is the next session?”

“Passion,” Fink replied. “The physical attraction we feel that sometimes gets pushed aside by daily life.”

“Did you- Did you just call me a prude?”

“Well,” Elms floundered, but Fink, as usual, took it all in stride.

“Not prudish, Sam,” she said. “Reserved. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but sometimes, it can be a hindrance. Dena may find it stifling.”

“More spice would be nice,” Dean put in, not putting an ounce of effort into hiding his shit-eating grin.

Doubtfully, Sam said, “Yeah. I’ll, uh. Think about it.”

Clearly disappointed in his less than stellar response, Fink shook his hand, patted Dean consolingly on the shoulder, and moved on to torture the next poor bastard in line. Elms looked lost for a moment before he shrugged and helped himself to a slice of watermelon.

“Go mingle,” Dean commanded, turning the full wattage of his smile on Elms.

Aimlessly, Sam wandered to the beverage table. He never did get to finish his coffee yesterday, and it did smell good, way better than the roadside glop he usually got, so he busied himself with fixing a cup. For a couple minutes, he debated making one for Dean, too, but Dean seemed to have Elms’ undivided attention.

“She tried to sic Dr. Creepy on you too, huh,” said the woman pouring boiling water into a mug.

“Who, Elms?”

“Yeah.” The woman, blonde and slim, average in a pretty way, held out her hand. “Arlene Pasternak. That’d be my beau over there currently caught in Dr. Fink’s clutches.”

Sam’s hand practically engulfed her smaller one. “Sam Bernardini. I think mine’s actually evaded Dr. Creepy.”

“Over there?” Arlene said, following Sam’s gaze. “Oh.” Quickly, she glanced back and forth between them. “She’s expecting?”

“Seems like,” Sam said, stuffing one hand in his jeans pocket.

“How is it?” Arlene asked, stepping closer to ostensibly reach for the sugar bowl behind him.

“Dea- Dena would say the morning sickness is a bitch.”

Smiling, Arlene plunked two sugar cubes into her cup. “I mean on your sex life, Sam. I’ve been worried about pregnancy ruining the attraction my husband and I share.”

“That’s very… honest of you.”

“I tend to be blunt. I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m here.” Skilfully, she manoeuvred herself between him and Dean, cutting off his line of sight. “So you still find her sexually arousing? I hear many couples find this the most trying time in their marriage.”

“I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m here,” Sam frowned. “But I don’t think swollen ankles and stretch marks are going to change how I feel.”

Disappointment flickered in her eyes, swiftly replaced by a look he’s seen one too many times before in Dean’s. Before she could offer up a quickie in the closet right there, Sam said, “My wife wants me. Nice talking to you.”

He didn’t miss her muttered, “I bet she does,” but he ignored it just the same.

“M’boy Sammy,” Dean said, pulling him away from the bunch once he was near enough. “Look at you.”

“Shut up, Dena. That woman doesn’t need any encouragement. Always the indefinite article, a baby, never your baby. Did you find out anything from Elms?”

“Yep. I am Jack’s complete embarrassment. We missed something.”

Not really surprised, Sam asked, “What?”

“A dead counsellor.”

“Same MO?”

“Guy was peeing blood for two days before he died.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah. Happened about nine months ago. Not sure why there weren’t more vics before Tam, unless we missed those, too.”

Sam thumbed at an itch on his chin. “Crap. So either it’s the counsellor knocking off the guys now, or whatever it was that got him went dormant for a while. Not usual, but it happens.”

“We got about twenty minutes before we’re herded off for more emotional baggage searching. See if you can track down Allison, she was Calvin Morrissey’s assistant when he bit it. And we need to figure out a way to get at his patient files, start digging there and see if anything pings.”

*

“Alright,” Fink began, “today’s focus is as equally important as yesterday’s. In this first session, like before, we’ll start small and work our way out from there. Sam, how about we start with you.”

“Sure,” Sam griped. “Why not.”

“I’d like you to tell Dena one thing, just one, about her that turns you on.”

Even Dean couldn’t keep his mouth from falling open at that. Small consolation, because Fink had him pinned with her beady little eyes, boring small holes into his skull hoping all his dirty secrets would fall right out into her lap.

“And try to steer clear of the usual vulgarities,” Fink advised. “We all know breasts are attractive.”

Not that Dean looked like he had any, mostly because he’d forgotten to buy a bra to stuff and Sam hadn’t thought of it until they were pulling up the drive yesterday. So Dean was small-chested. The billowing, shapeless lump of cloth he was wearing hid it well enough.

After a moment’s thought, Sam said, “The curve of her back.”

Fink looked astonished. Feeling justifiably self-satisfied, Sam patted Dean’s knee and smiled. It was probably the first time outside grade school Fink had ever been shocked speechless.

“His hands,” Dean breathed without prompting. “Big, big hands.”

“Wonderful,” Fink finally said. “Perhaps your refusal of Dr. Elms’ treatment isn’t such a loss after all, Sam. Now something that she does that you find arousing. And remember, tell her, not me. Turn, turn,” Fink gestured. “Look at her.”

“C’mon, Sammy,” Dean said, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Tell me what gets you hot.”

“Jesus Christ. Okay.” Sam rifled through his memory, searching through years and years of watching Dean to come up with something even vaguely plausible. ‘Sharpening knives’ probably wouldn’t fly. Besides, that was more comforting than anything, the familiar scrape of metal on whetstone a lullaby to ease him into the deepest sleep. Which spoke volumes about his own mental state, he was sure.

“She’s loyal,” Sam said. “Sometimes to a fault. But just to prove I’m not a total loss, she chews on her lips a lot. It’s distracting.” And annoying, because then all he does it bitch about chapped lips and whine at Sam for losing the lip balm.

A good chunk of the laughter dancing in Dean’s eyes faded. Maybe Sam went a little too far with that one, but it wasn’t very often he got to say thanks to Dean when one of them wasn’t woozy from blood loss. In their line of work, you had to take your opportunities when they smacked you upside the head.

“Good,” Fink encouraged. “Dena?”

“You sprawl,” Dean says, pointed and low. “Everywhere. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you do it on purpose.”

“Well, well.” Distracted, they both turn to Fink. “I’d say, boys and girls, we’re on to something.”

*

On day five of the curse, Sam jolted awake in a cold sweat. He lay there, frozen solid listening to the thud-thud-thud of his own heartbeat, trying to figure out what woke him.

“And fuck, Sam, god damn it, look at me!”

Groaning, Sam rolled over. “Wha- Holy shit.”

Awkwardly, Dean crossed his arms. “I thought you were the verbose one.”

“Holy shit, Dean. You’re huge.”

“Thanks, Sammy, that’s just what a guy likes to hear. When you’re talking about his cock not his fucking stomach.” Disgusted, Dean flicked something small and slim at Sam’s head.

On pure reflex, Sam caught it, gazing down at it in slowly-dawning realisation. “Oh my god. You’re pregnant.”

“I can’t even see my fucking feet.”

“Oh my god.”

“I know.”

“Oh my god.”

“Sam!”

“You peed on this, didn’t you?” Sam said. “You just… you just hit me in the head with a stick you peed on.”

“I love you too, bitch. Now get up and get me some breakfast. I’m starving and we’ve got a ghost to toast.”

*

Reluctantly, Sam left Dean behind in the motel room with a supply of double-chocolate freezer cakes for company and headed out solo to do some snooping. They were almost down to the wire. It didn’t seem to worry Dean, but Sam would’ve liked to have something a teensy bit more solid than a dead marriage shrink and a stack of stolen patient files.

Crammed into the microfiche corner of the library three towns over, Sam started with the usual suspects: the dead.

Two hours in, his phone rang. He jumped guiltily even though he was the only sap down there. “Yeah?”

“Daytime talk shows suck.”

“That’s pretty common knowledge.” The crinkle of plastic wrap echoed weirdly over the line. “Did you find something?”

A long, long pause.

“Dean?”

“I think I can feel it kicking.”

“What?” Incredulous, Sam ripped the phone away from his ear and stared at it. Which meant he couldn’t hear a word Dean said. “What’d you say?”

“I said, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna freak out. Tell me you got something.”

“Not a thing.” Sam switched the phone to his other ear so he could keep scanning. Dean’s breaths were quick and shallow in his ear. “Morrissey is mentioned in the local papers a half dozen times, in some of the bigger publications once or twice. Big family man, no gossip.”

“You think it’s him?”

Sam squinted one eye at the old screen. “Not really. He died the same way as the other three. I just can’t figure out why.”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay. Come back and get me. I gotta get outta this room. We’ll swing by Okangee and check out the Detillieux widow like we were gonna.”

“Be there in about an hour.”

*

Detillieux was a bust. It was edging eleven at night when they rolled back into Linton, as empty handed as when they’d left. Dean sat pale and drawn in the passenger seat as Sam idled at the stop sign leading down Main.

“Way’s clear,” Dean mumbled.

“We should track down Allison and question her.”

“What, now?”

Sam twisted in the seat, fingers rapidly bumping the steering wheel. “We’re running out of time. If she knows something, we need to know it, too. Now.”

“Got her address?”

“In the back.” Sam threw the car into gear and shot through the intersection, pulling a U-turn in the middle of the deserted street to head back towards Hadenbrook.

*

Allison was sleep-rumpled and bleary when she pulled open the front door. Sam pasted on a sheepish smile and hustled Dean inside, pausing for a second to figure out where the living room was before guiding Dean to the couch and helping him ease down into the cushions.

“I need to know about Calvin Morrissey,” Sam said. “And you’re going to tell me before anyone else dies.”

“What? Mr. Bernardini-”

“Sam.”

Allison shook her head. “I don’t really know what the heck you’re talking about, but Dr. Morrissey-”

“Died of massive internal haemorrhaging and that’s not normal, Allison. He didn’t have any symptoms at all. None. D’you know of anything that could kill a man that quickly with no prior indication?”

Tiredly, she scratched at the hair bundled on top of her head. Fighting to keep from giving in to the urge to shake what he wanted out of her, Sam grabbed her arm and whipped her around to face Dean. “Look. Look. That’s not my wife, that’s my brother. And he’s got whatever Morrissey had and it’s going to kill him if I don’t stop it.”

“I- I don’t know. Your what?” Allison jerked against Sam’s grip; he let her go. “I swear, I don’t know.”

With obvious effort, Dean heaved himself up off the couch. Sweat glistened at his temples. “She doesn’t know, Sam, let’s go.”

“No, no. Please,” he said to Allison. “Anything. Did you see- You did.”

“I didn’t,” she insisted, eyes glassy. “I didn’t.”

“You did,” Sam pushed. “You saw him gain the weight. Less than a week before he died, didn’t you. His patients, Allison, who were his patients? What’d they do? Did anyone do anything strange?”

“N-no. Not his. One of Dr. Finks, a young couple. I saw the wife with Dr. Morrissey a few times. I just thought he was helping.”

“We need a name.”

“Isabelle Watkins.”

*

“Dead,” Dean pronounced. He leaned heavily against the headboard, laptop perched precariously on his stomach. The remains of the chicken sandwich that Sam had picked up at the gas station on the highway sat on a wrapper beside him. It hadn’t helped Dean’s nausea much. “Complications in her pregnancy.”

“Okay. Okay.” Sam eased back in his chair, his galloping heartbeat settling down a little. This was more than a slight hunch. “When?”

“January. We need to know when she was at the retreat.”

“Like hell we do. Find out where she’s buried.”

“Sam-”

“Just. Find out, okay? It’s her.”

*

“Maybe it’s not her,” Dean puffed. His flashlight wobbled over Morrissey’s old desk. “She was cremated, Sam, you really think there’s something here she’s haunting?”

“You woke up with the curse the morning after we were here. I don’t know why the EMF didn’t go off.”

“Bad batteries maybe, whatever. Say it is her. What is she, lashing out at random men? Cursing them with fatal pregnancies because she blames them for hers? That’s not a vengeful spirit, Sam, that’s a nutcase.”

“Her address is in her file. We’ll ask the husband.”

*

Sam drove straight into dawn to reach Sibley, a medium-sized town just past the evergreen mountains. Dean dozed fitfully beside him, tiny pain noises echoing too loud in the overly-warm car.

Sometime after six, Dean asked to pull over. When he shuffled back to the car, Sam asked, “Well?”

“Well what?”

“Are you bleeding?”

Dean glanced away, then flopped back in the car. “How much longer?”

Angrily, Sam wrenched his own door shut and gunned it back onto the highway.

*

Isaiah Watkins kept a tidy front yard. The gun tucked in the back of Sam’s jeans dug uncomfortably against his spine. He didn’t want to draw down on the guy (if you make the threat, Dad’s voice echoed, be damn sure you can follow through), but he would. In an instant.

He pounded on the door, paused for all of five seconds and started up again. Beside him, leaning on the railing for support, vulnerable-looking in a pair of baggy sweats and Sam’s biggest tee, Dean grit his teeth and clutched at his belly.

Sam pounded harder.

“What, for the love of god, what!” somebody shouted through the doorway, right before whipping it open. He was middle-aged, average height, with coal black hair and a wiry, close-cropped beard.

“Isaiah Watkins?” Sam asked.

Warily, the guy said, “Yeah.”

“Great,” Dean interjected. “Can we come in a minute? ‘Course we can, c’mon, Sam,” and he hustled them both in, talking a mile a minute, his colour high. “I’m Dean, this is my brother, Sam, nice to meet you.” Smiling broadly, he slammed the door, flicked the bolt, and sagged back against it. “You’re gonna tell Sammy here why your wife died or he’s gonna pump a slug in your brainpan.”

Belatedly, Sam yanked the gun free and flicked the safety off, keeping it in a two-handed grip pointed at the floor. He’s always sort of hated it when Dean did shit like that.

Watkins went from pissed off to scared shitless to incredulous in three seconds flat. “That’s it? You’re not here to take my coin collection?”

“Christ on a cracker,” muttered Dean.

Sam said, “No,” wondering if he looked as wildly desperate as he felt. “Now tell me.”

Watkins held up his hands pleadingly. “Okay, okay. My wife died in childbirth.”

Sam brought the gun up. “You’re lying.”

“Okay!” Watkins said, his voice screeching up a notch. “It wasn’t mine, it wasn’t mine!”

Dean made the connection first. “You’re shootin’ blanks?”

“She wanted a baby so bad,” Watkins blubbered, staring at the gun, the white of his eyes showing shock-bright. “But she lied! She went behind my back, had an affair. With a marriage counsellor for the love of god.”

“Morrissey,” they both said.

Watkins’ hands lowered an inch. “And I found out. I couldn’t. I didn’t want someone else’s child. She was going to lie to me, tell me it was mine.”

Behind him, Dean let out a startled, half-muffled noise. Before Sam could ask if he was alright, he said, “What’d you do, shithead? What’d you do to her?”

“She died.” Tears spilled over the red rims of his eyes. “We tried to abort. Morrissey said it was too late, but I made him. Said I’d ruin his career with this. She died. I lost them both.”

*

“Asshole,” Dean raged, beating his fist on the dash. “Fuckin’ asshole.”

Sam glanced at the red light. Both ways were clear, and Dean cursed again as Sam darted through the intersection. “It’s the baby,” he said.

“The baby?” The overheated flush drained out of Dean’s cheeks. “Jesus Christ, in me?”

“Can’t be a curse,” Sam muttered, mostly to himself. He checked the street signs and took the next left, hard. “It doesn’t make any sense. She’s the adulterer, it’s got to be the baby. It didn’t have a chance to be born.”

“If it did, it would’ve been in special ed, Sam, because it’s got its anatomy all screwed to hell.”

Sam nodded in frantic agreement. They probably only had a couple hours to finish this before something inside Dean ruptured. Christ, he hoped he was right. He couldn’t sit by and watch Dean slowly bleed to death on the inside for a day.

“Where the fuck are we going?”

Sam said, “I’ve got a plan.”

*

“Here.” Sam dumped his armload of stuff and took Dean’s arm. “Sit. Put your back up against the headstone.”

Dean looked doubtful, but he waddled over, eased himself down with Sam’s help.

“Pull your knees up.” Distractedly, Sam started rooting around for the three white candles he dug out of the trunk. “Shit, maybe you should take your pants off.”

Utterly calm, Dean said, “Sam, what the hell are you doing.”

“Shit, shit,” Sam hissed. “Okay.” He raked a hand through his hair. “We can’t burn her, there’s nothing left. We don’t have time to track down the foetus, find out how it was- was disposed of or if there’s anything left that it’s clinging to. Or if there’s anything of hers left. We don’t have time.”

“So what-”

“If it’s her, she probably wants her baby back. Right? And if it’s the baby, it probably wants its mother.”

Dean slumped back against Isabelle’s grave marker, face slack. “One huge problem there, Sammy.”

Sam glanced up from the small circle he was making in string at Dean’s feet. “What?”

I can’t give birth.”

“You can’t fucking get pregnant, either, or carry a child to term, but it sure as hell looks like you’re doing it!”

Dean scrubbed at his face and blew out a breath. “For fuck’s sake. Fine. Help me get these off.”

Kicking away the half-formed circle, Sam knelt between Dean’s legs. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he acknowledged that this was seriously fucked up. But that wasn’t nearly half as important as tucking Dean’s shirt up over his belly to bare it, or re-making the white circle between Dean’s knees.

“You think this is gonna work in broad daylight?” Dean asked, gaze sweeping the graveyard. “I mean, we got less chance of an audience showing up around midnight.”

“I’m not waiting until then just to save your questionable dignity.”

Dean grimaced. His hand crept protectively down between his legs. Ignoring the odd twitch in his gut, Sam lit the third candle in the circle, the one nestled right up close to Dean’s crotch.

“This is fucked,” Dean mumbled.

“Tell me about it. The last thing I needed to see today was you playing with your junk.”

“Ha. Oh, ha ha ha. Dude, that candle makes me nervous.”

“Yeah.” Flipping open Dad’s journal, Sam asked, “You ready?”

“As I’m ever gonna be. Hit it.”

His Latin started off halting and too careful. Every time he glanced up to check on Dean, he forgot his place, using up precious seconds to find it again. Once, he didn’t even notice he was repeating the same sentence until Dean growled, “Sam.”

Sam sucked in a deep breath before throwing himself head-first into the invocation. This time, it rolled of his tongue, smooth as silk. When he reached out to touch Dean’s bare knee, Dean didn’t so much as flinch.

The candles guttered in a rush of cool air. It didn’t matter how often Sam did things like this, they always struck him as anticlimactic. A few feet away, just behind the headstone, stood Isabelle, pale and unreal in a bloodstained hospital gown.

“Take your baby,” Sam said to her.

“He needs to learn.”

With a sharply hissed, “Sam,” Dean slapped a hand down on his. “Shit, Sam, she doesn’t-” he cut himself off with a ragged groan, his other hand flying to his stomach.

Like a jerky, stop-motion picture, Isabelle stepped closer. “He needs to learn,” she repeated.

“Learn what?” Sam shouted. “We brought you your baby, take it! He doesn’t deserve-”

Isabelle nodded, smiling. “You understand. I knew you would.”

“I don’t!”

Instantly, her smiled faded. The sun still shone brightly; in the distance, Sam could hear a car on the highway.

Slowly, blood began to run down the insides of Isabelle’s legs. Squeezing his eyes shut to keep from seeing it mirrored on Dean’s, Sam said, “You’re going to kill him.”

“He deserves it,” she screamed. “I deserved it! My husband loved me. Loved me! I betrayed him.” Slim, transparent fingers hovered over their clasped hands. It took all of Sam’s willpower not to jerk away from the sudden cold burn of the ring on his finger. “He betrayed you.”

Through harsh, laboured breaths, Dean groans, “Didn’t.”

To Dean, she said, “He loves you.”

With a wrenching gasp, Dean bowed forward. His grip on Sam’s hand turned crushing as he bit back the scream ripped halfway out of his throat.

“Of course I love him,” Sam railed at her. “He’s my brother!”

Isabelle jerked back, disjointed like a puppet with tangled strings. “Brother?” she echoed.

From between clenched teeth, Dean grit out, “Take it. Take it, take it, take it!”

“You’re lying!” Angrily, the ghost flickered like a light bulb about to blow, her dirty paper gown snapping in a non-existent wind. “You’re lying to save him and he doesn’t deserve it!”

“Sam, Sam, forget her.” Clumsily, Dean grabbed a handful of Sam’s hair and jerked. Tumbling forward, Sam caught himself with his free hand on the headstone, the other still firmly caught in Dean’s. “C’mere, gotta-”

Then his cracked lips hit Sam’s and he was twisting, pushing, opening up Sam’s mouth to slip inside. The first touch of his tongue to Sam’s was a hot, wet shock. Too stunned to do anything else, Sam let Dean kiss him, let it turn frantic and desperate, life and death.

When Dean broke away, the candles were snuffed, the graveyard quiet. No trace of Isabelle remained, not even the ghostly blood that had dripped to the grass between her feet.

“Chicks,” Dean moaned, “always gotta be dramatic,” and promptly passed out.

*

“I woulda just said it, but she wouldn’t've got it,” Dean said as he neatly rolled up their shirts and started stuffing them in their respective duffels. “She needed physical proof.”

“Unbelievable,” Sam said, shaking his head. He picked at the rim of the paper coffee cup in his hand. “She’d buy that, but she wouldn’t buy that we’re brothers.”

“Chicks,” Dean said again, with a shrug.

“And I knew it,” Sam grinned, triumphant. “I knew you couldn’t go that long without getting laid.”

“Yeah, well. A quick unsatisfying blow in a back alley doesn’t really count.” Dean flicked off the light and gave the room one last once over. “You ready?”

Sam took his own last glance around, ending with his gaze resting briefly on Dean’s once-again flat, well-toned stomach. The tee Dean was wearing was about a size too small, but Sam couldn’t really blame him. After that ordeal, Sam would be reassuring himself every chance he got to glance down, too.

“Yeah, let’s get outta here,” Sam said, and followed his brother back out into the bright, summer-warm light.

And when they were cruising along the highway, windows rolled down, radio cranked up with Dean shouting along to AC/DC, Sam didn’t even threaten to kill him.

Not until the chorus, anyway.

Flying on a free flight
Driving all night
With my machinery
‘Cause I, I got the power
Any hour
To show the man in me
I got reputations
Blown to pieces
With my artillery
Whoa ho.

End

2 Responses to “Ordeals ‘Verse: 3. Not the Only Man She Sees”

  1. Nora D Says:

    Aw man, the image with the wig and mumu made me laugh out loud, and I’m still in the office. This was hilarious- I’m always curious when I see “mpreg, sorta”. Great fic, loved the ghost, and the backstory, and Dena. ^___^ Gotta get back to work now!

  2. Von Says:

    ‘I love you too, bitch.’

    See? Dean learned something in therapy! Sam needs words! They’re just.. Dean-afied.. :D

    AWESOME series, I love it to bits. Hysterically funny, if a little frustratingly slow in the ‘being together’ progression.. thats not a bad thing, Im just craving it. :D

    Their rings are gorgeous…

Leave a Reply