“Okay, this time I’m up for good, and I’m researching, no interrupting me unless you’re bringing me food,” Sam says from the bathroom door, pointing at Dean like he means business this time.
“Hey, I wasn’t the one who started it buddy. I was lying here minding my own business,” Dean says, gesturing at the length of his body under the blankets.
“Yeah but you lying there is enough,” Sam says before he realizes what he’s admitting to.
“I’m just that irresistible huh?” Dean teases.
“Cut it out, I’m trying to get some work done on this before we go meet the girls at the park. It’ll probably be our only chance.”
Dean finally gets vertical, and throws his pillow at Sam on his way to the bathroom. He sings loudly in the shower but isn’t too annoying much past that level. Nothing Sam can’t deal with. Not when he’s onto figuring out what these sigils mean.
“Get this,” Sam says in that infectious enthusiastic voice he knows makes him sound like a five year old, but he needs Dean’s attention to help figure this out. “These are something called Black Pullet Seals, not really hoodoo like we thought.”
“Huh, well what are they then?” Dean asks, looking down at the notebook that is now covered in Sam’s neat writing, all around the symbols they’d drawn out earlier.
“It’s based on a French grimoire from the 18th century. But it’s really Egyptian in origin.”
“So something besides witchcraft then?” Dean asks.
“Yeah, I guess. Not sure yet. But is seems like it’s just protection stuff as far as I can tell. Serious level protection though.”
“So we still gotta ask Ann about it then?” Dean asks, sounding as reluctant as Sam’s feeling.
“Unfortunately, we do. Just to make sure she knows about it at least,” Sam answers, packing up his notebook in his backpack and heading out the motel door.
Dean follows behind him and checks that the door is locked. “She seems like the kinda parent that would be aware enough to notice those things carved into the side of the damn picnic basket.”
“Well we won’t know until we ask her. You ready for more Frisbee?” Sam asks, starting down the long interior hotel hallway.
“Sure. As long as I get some more of those street vendor hot dogs, I’m all yours, Mr. California,” Dean answers.
“Why’re you calling me that?” Sam asks, wondering where in the world this is all of a sudden coming from.
“Well isn’t that where people play Frisbee? You musta learned it there, ‘cause I sure never taught you,” Dean answers as he catches up to Sam and passes him, reaching the stairway door first.
Sam swipes the card key to open it and Dean pushes through. “Frisbee is played all over the world, Dean. Yes I happened to learn it while I was at school, so what?”
“That’s where I learned it. When I came to check up on you,” Dean says over his shoulder as he walks through the crowded parking lot to the Impala. Their footsteps echo in the underground garage, out of sync as Sam hurries to catch up.
“When did you do that?” Sam asks, trailing along behind him, feeling like a lost five year old all of a sudden, none of this makes sense.
“Came out with Dad a couple times, we were just makin’ sure you were settled in okay, checkin’ that you were takin’ precautions like we hoped you would. Couple of blondes showed me a few tricks with the disc out on that big lawn by your first dorm. Think you were in History class at the time.”
“I can’t believe you never told me,” Sam says, stunned with this brand-new information.
“You never asked, Sammy,” Dean says with a shrug, stopping at the Impala on the driver’s side of course.
“I just assumed,” Sam says, knowing that sounds weak, as he stands across the car from his brother.
“Assumed what? That I just forgot all about you while you were gone? Man you got no friggin’ clue sometimes,” Dean says, looking Sam in the eye like he’s never going to stop.
Sam holds Dean’s gaze, returning the feeling. “No, I knew you didn’t forget me. I mean I hoped you didn’t. I just…uh, didn’t think you were over being mad at me for leaving.”
“Well I wasn’t, not then. But me and Dad, we had to make sure you were alright,” Dean says, finally looking down to unlock the driver’s side door.
“I’m sorry it was like that. I wish sometimes I’d never left in the first place,” Sam says, watching Dean stalk around the car towards him.
Dean doesn’t say anything until he’s unlocked Sam’s door. “Not me. You needed to get out. I didn’t get it at first. I mean I really didn’t, took it all personal, that you’d left me. But yeah, Sammy, you needed to be out of the life. I hoped it’d be for good.”
“Didn’t work out quite that way did it?” Sam asks, even though he knows the answer.
“Nope,” Dean answers, saying a lot with that one word. “I’m gonna go check us out,” he says, handing his duffel to Sam and striding off towards the office end of the parking garage. His boots make a solid lonely echo as he disappears quickly from view.
Sam is left standing with their bags, staring at Dean’s retreat, wishing that he could have said something to that. Something about how he’s glad it didn’t work out that way, because it means they’ve been together all this time. But there’s no point, Dean will never see it that way. He’s never forgiven himself for what he still calls dragging Sam back into the life. Sam thinks about how long it’s been since he’s even daydreamed about having another life beside the one he leads with his brother. All that hoping for a normal life is so far back in his past. This is his normal, packing up the Impala as they move on to the next job.
They’re quiet in the car, all the way into the city, over the bridge, and on the walk down the busy sidewalks, pushing through the crowds, but still staying in physical contact, shoulders occasionally bumping. But Sam’s mind is not quiet, it’s racing with all the possibilities Dean’s confession brings up, all the things that could have happened if Dean had just let himself be seen all those years ago on campus. Sam remembers how torn his heart was then, how he’d tried his best to ignore the loneliness and let other people fill the space that Dean had left behind. But it had never quite worked. Even with Jess, she just didn’t fit into that Dean-shaped hole in his heart. All those what-ifs get blown out of his mind when he looks over at Dean at his side, striding down the New York City sidewalk like he owns the place. Dean notices his attention and grins up at him.
“You really like it here, don’t you?” Sam asks in what he hopes is a just asking because I’m noticing tone.
“Yeah, I do. There’s a lot of…I don’t know, good energy,” Dean answers, looking at Sam briefly a few times like he’s not sure he should have said that.
“That’s pretty woo-woo for you,” Sam teases.
“Yeah I know, but it’s true. There’s a lot going on, and it’s exciting,” Dean says.
“You think you’d ever want to try living here?” Sam asks.
Dean shrugs after he thinks about it for a moment. “I never thought about it. I guess I would, sure.”
“Huh,” Sam says, aware that huh is a stupid thing to say, but out of words because he’d never thought Dean would want to try living in such a big city.
“Why? Do you wanna?” Dean asks.
“Yeah, I’ve always wanted to end up in a big city. Small towns are just too small. I stick out too much.”
“Sasquatch, you stick out everywhere,” Dean teases. “But I get what you mean, we’re a little too remarkable to just fade into some small town. Even when we were livin’ in the bunker, I thought we’d bring the cops down on us any second because we were so different than everyone around there.”
“I miss it,” Sam says in a quiet voice that he knows Dean will still hear.
“What? The bunker?” Dean asks. Sam answers him with a silent nod. Both of them remembering the awful end of the angel war, at least the part they were involved with. It had taken out the bunker, and everything it had meant to them.
Dean finally says, “Well at least we had it for a while right? Someplace to call home.”
Sam stops in his tracks, causing the people behind him to have to shuffle quickly to avoid him. He pulls Dean over to the edge of the sidewalk behind one of the parking meters. “We have always had that Dean. Always.”
Dean looks up at him and seems confused for a moment, then Sam reaches out and touches him on his chest briefly, where the protection tattoo is hidden under his red plaid shirt. Comprehension dawns over his face, causing a beautiful smile to appear. “Yeah, I know Sammy. I know. But I always wanted to give you something more.”
Sam pulls him into a hug, surprising both of them. He feels like he’s going to cry, or laugh, or both. Instead he says, “You already have, Dean. Everyday.”
In answer, Dean hugs him back with a sudden fierceness that makes Sam gasp. He’s not sure why they’re both doing the caring and sharing thing so much. Maybe it’s just them getting older, or maybe it’s talking about the what-if’s of the future and both of them realizing that it’s going to be them, together until it’s all over. “We better, uh, get going, don’t wanna to miss the girls at the park,” Dean says, with a slightly scratchy voice that’s not covering up all the emotion he’s obviously feeling too.
“Can we talk about this later tonight?” Sam asks, striding to catch up with his brother who’s taken a few quick steps away.
“Yeah, of course, but you gotta buy me dinner first,” Dean answers with a sly smile.
Sam grins at his brother’s reaction. “Cool, thanks. I’ll ask Ann for a recommendation.”
They make it to Columbus Circle and buy hot dogs from the same vendor again. This time Dean loads up two of them with twice as much sauerkraut. “I am not touching those, don’t you get that nasty stuff on my dogs,” Sam says, making a face to express his disgust at all the excess condiments.
“My dogs? What? Now you’re having two of them? What happened to ‘oh I’ll just have one’?”
“Yeah, they’re, uh better than I remember them being,” Sam admits with a shrug.
“See, maybe city livin’ wouldn’t be so bad,” Dean says, with his mouth full of half-chewed hot dog.
Sam winces when he sees a wad of mustard and sauerkraut fall out of Dean’s mouth and bounce off his chest onto the sidewalk. “Dean, we wouldn’t be eating hot dogs every day.”
“Sure, sure. But the point is, that we could have one of these babies every day for lunch, if we wanted to,” Dean says, smacking his lips in satisfaction after finishing his first dog.
Sam can only sigh in response, thinking to himself ‘I would have to watch what you eat even closer than I do already.’ But he doesn’t say anything out loud, because his mouth is full of hot dog.
They are done with the hotdogs by the time they reach the edge of the same enormous lawn they were at yesterday when they met the girls. “You know there’s a place here called Strawberry Fields right?” Dean asks.
“Yeah, it’s like a Lennon tribute thing,” Sam answers.
“I wanna go there, once we’re done with checkin’ on Sarie.”
“Okay, we’ll go find it,” Sam answers, happy that Dean’s asking for something for once, instead of quizzing him on what he wants to do.
Their quiet walk on the lawn is interrupted by a far-off scream, “Sam! Dean! You’re here!” It’s Sarie of course, jumping up and down and waving her arms wildly next to her sister’s stroller. They can see Ann wave at them and try to calm her down. Both of them chuckle and elbow each other as they quickly walk over.
“Hello, ladies, how are we all doing today?” Dean asks.
“I am not a lady, and Macky isn’t either,” Sarie says indignantly, hands on her hips. “My mommy is though.”
“Oh well then, how are all of you fine people doing today, how’s that?” Dean tries again.
“We’re great. And you came and I’m so happy. Macky and me have been waiting allll morning until now,” Sarie answers, giving Dean a big hug around the legs and beaming up at him.
“Macky wanted to see us too huh?” Sam asks.
“Yeah, she’s real excited about you, she says you’re helpers that we need,” Sarie says, looking at both of their faces with her wide blue eyes.
“Honey, we talked about this. Be clear about what who says what. Macky doesn’t say anything by herself yet,” Ann says.
Sarie holds her sister’s hand and looks up at her mom with an exasperated face. “I keep telling you mommy, she talks to me all the time. She talks even more than I do.”
“Sarie, I don’t want you confusing everyone with this,” Ann insists more firmly.
“She’s not Ann, we get it, don’t worry,” Sam says, trying to reassure the worried mother. “We’re, uh, a little familiar with this sort of thing ourselves.”
“What do you mean exactly?” Ann asks, sounding a little alarmed.
“Well, psychic stuff. I used to, well, I used to have a touch of it. Not anymore, back when I was younger. And we get it, it can be a little confusing,” Sam answers, still trying to sound reassuring.
“Did you know this somehow, before Sarie said anything?” Ann asks, looking serious and like she’s ready to bolt with her girls at any moment.
Dean puts up his hands in a disarming gesture. “We saw the sigils, on the basket and the stroller. And we noticed how unusual the girls were together. That’s all, we swear.”
“So Mackenzie says you’re helpers, huh? Well, what exactly are you going to help us with?” Ann asks, crossing her arms in front of her chest and widening her stance a little.
Sam sees Ann’s defenses going up, and tries to make himself look as non-threatening as possible. “We have no idea. We just wanted to…well, uh we wanted to make sure that you knew what was up, with the girls and the sigils. We’ve seen stuff go wrong for folks before. And we really liked y’all, wanted to make sure you were all okay.”
“The sigils I know about. My housekeeper put them on there for us. She said they were just for protection. They are, right?” Ann asks.
Dean nods. “Yeah. Really strong protection, nothin’ is messin’ with any of you if you’ve got that kind of mojo workin’ for you. Has your housekeeper made any other sigils for you?”
“No, not that I know of, just these. She’s put them all over the place. She even,” Ann stops talking while she pulls up Sarie’s hair and turns out the back of her collar, showing them the embroidered sigil. “She sewed these in all the clothes the girls wear outside of the house.”
Dean and Sam whistle in appreciation. “Wow, she’s really lookin’ out for you. That’s good. Ann, can I go ahead and ask Sarie something?” Dean asks.
“Sure,” Ann answers, looking relieved at their responses so far. She turns to look at her girls. “Sarie, you can trust them, just like Macky said, they’re helpers, go ahead and tell them.”
“Sarie, have you seen any other markings like these, anywhere near your house, or other places you guys go?” Dean asks.
Sarie tilts her head to one side like she is listening to someone far away. “I never saw any. But Macky says to tell you there’s a new one by the tire on our van. It’s only been there a few days. She can see it when she’s in her stroller next to the van.”
Dean pats her gently on the shoulder. “Okay, that’s good, that’s real good. We’ll check it out later when we’re leaving the park. Anything else you can think of? Anything that sticks out as strange that you’ve noticed?”
Sarie tilts her head again, red curls falling over her face briefly. “There’s a noise lately, at night when everyone else is sleeping. Sounds like scratching by the window in our room. I’ve heard it a few times, and Macky has too. We never told you Mommy, I’m sorry.”
Ann’s eyes get big in fear, but she tries to control her expression to not scare the girls. “It’s okay honey, we’ll, uh, we’ll have Sam and Dean come over for dinner and they’ll make sure everything is safe, how’s that sound?” Ann looks over at Sam and Dean quickly and is reassured to see their quick nods.
“Yay! But I wanna play Frisbee now, you promised mommy,” Sarie says in a near-whine.
“Yes, let’s do this!” Sam yells, happy that they’ve gotten through the first conversation they’d been dreading, he heads out onto the vast expanse of green grass with Sarie, shading his eyes to look back at Dean talking with Ann and holding Macky on his hip. Just like the last time he’d seen his brother with a baby (even though it’d turned out to be a shape shifter, and he hadn’t had a soul at the time) he considers how good Dean looks with a kid. No matter what age, how they usually just click with him. Dean’s always had a way with kids, an unconscious, unclaimed talent. Probably because he had to figure out how to deal with me since he was always so much more than just my brother. Sam concentrates on throwing the Frisbee with Sarie, because going down that line of thinking is always fraught with more than a little confusion.
Eventually Dean jogs over to join them, and Sam chooses not to say anything, although he could needle him about his biological clock going off or some shit. But it’s suddenly too heavy to think about that. Because neither of them is ever going to have a kid, that’s just how it has ended up. Maybe it’s better we don’t pass on the family curse anyways, Sam thinks to himself for the approximately the millionth time.
Dean notices of course that Sam is deep in thought, especially for someone playing Frisbee with a cool kid like Sarie. He’d thought Sam was really into doing this again today, was looking forward to it even. But there’s Sam with that deep curvy wrinkle between his eyebrows that, in Dean’s experience, means Sam is getting stuck in the details or on something heavy and unsolvable. “Hey Sammy, think fast!” Dean yells, whipping the Frisbee at Sam’s midsection as hard as he can.
Sam snaps out of his daze just in time to handle the disc easily. “Not so hard Dean!” Sam yells back at him, shaking out the hand that took the most impact. He then softly tosses it over to Sarie. She’s running full out for it, overshooting by a mile and doubling back in a decreasing circle, running four times as much as she actually needs to. Soon she gives up on trying to actually catch the Frisbee and is just dashing between the two men, hip checking them at the knees. Both of them start laughing because they have no idea what game they’re playing now, but keep tossing the Frisbee back and forth, taking a few steps towards each other until they’re close enough to see each other clearly.
Dean can see now that Sam’s snapped out of whatever funk he was in, that he’s having fun, and that’s a relief. Because it’s one thing to be upset or worried, but on a day like this, out in the sun, at this beautiful park, with this great kid, and with all the stuff they’ve been talking about since they got into the city, Dean’s pretty damn happy. He lets it show on his face, just how happy and content he is, and sees Sam’s surprise and quickly returned smile. Yeah, Sam gets it. This is a good day.
All this is broken by a baby’s sharp, panicked cry. Both of the brothers whip their heads around towards Ann and Macky, and are in motion before Macky can take a breath to cry a second time. Ann is down, lying sprawled awkwardly half off and half on the red plaid blanket. Macky is sitting up next to her, waving her chubby hands in the air to try to make them hurry faster. Dean scoops Sarie up and they run to catch up with Sam who’s already kneeling next to Ann, beginning CPR. “Dean! She’s not breathing!” Sam yells over his shoulder.
Dean transfers Sarie to the other arm and pulls out his cell phone, dialing 9-1-1 for only the second time in his life. When the operator answers he’s lost on how to describe where they are. “I’m not from here, but it’s the giant lawn in Central Park, we’re at the corner of the lawn closest to Columbus Circle. No, she’s not breathing. My brother’s doing CPR, hold on. Sam?”
“Uh, she feels hot Dean, really hot. And there was no pulse. Doing compressions again,” Sam answers, counting out loud the compressions and the breaths.
Dean continues his call with the 9-1-1 operator. “No, no pulse. And she’s very hot. He’s still doing CPR,” Dean says. Sarie launches herself out of Dean’s hold and lands next to Macky, scooping her up in her arms. Once her sister’s settled, she steps back and leans against Dean’s legs out of Sam’s way. “You need help Sam?” Dean asks.
Sam breathes for Ann again, then answers as he does compressions, “Help me keep count,” Sam says. “I’m scared I’m gonna lose track.”
“Yes operator, still doing CPR, no response yet,” Dean answers the operator again. Just as the words leave his mouth, they’re all shocked by the deep breath Ann takes on her own, and then a mighty cough. “She’s back, uh, she’s breathing and coughing on her own.”
“Pulse is getting steadier, but still erratic,” Sam reports. Dean relays this onto the operator and keeps one hand firmly on the top of Sarie’s head. “She’s gonna be okay Sarie, don’t worry, Sam’s got this.”
“I know, Macky said Mommy ate the bad thing, but she needs to go to the big doctor.”
“What bad thing Sarie?” Dean asks, bending down to get Sarie’s attention away from what’s going on with her mom.
Both Macky and Sarie point at the red picnic basket that’s been opened up, a plastic container is open with a silver spoon sticking out. Dean shuffles over holding Sarie close to peek at the food. “Sam, this is what did it, according to the girls. Don’t touch it, just in case,” Dean says, as Sam reaches across Ann’s body to pull the basket closer.
“It’s smoking Dean, look,” Sam points as a thin steady stream of grey green smoke lifts out of the basket and disperses into the air around them. Dean reaches down to cover the girl’s faces. “Don’t breathe girls, just in case.” Sarie’s eyes are huge with fear as she watches the smoke encircle Sam’s head. “Sam, don’t breathe, it’s all around you,” Dean says, backing away quickly with the girls.
Sam nods and holds his breath, and zips up the picnic basket, he quickly stands and walks it over to nearby trees, depositing it among the roots. He’s back at Ann’s side in a moment, waving the girl’s sweaters to clear the air.
“Did that look like any smoke you’ve ever seen?” Sam asks, kneeling back down on the blanket next to Ann and checking her pulse again.
“No, reminded me of some that’s come from spells and stuff though,” Dean answers, patting his hands gently on Sarie’s shoulders.
“That’s what I was thinking. Sarie, do you or Macky know any more about this?” Sam asks.
Sarie nods, breaking out of her worried focus on her mother. “Babesne will know.”
“Mommy calls her our housekeeper. But Macky and me know she’s our Protector. That’s what she told us her name means.”
“Okay, we’re gonna have to get ahold of this Babesne somehow. But first we get your mom better, okay?” Sam says, trying to look as calm and competent as he can.
Macky starts pointing towards one of the larger park roads, “Macky says they’re coming now.”
“Sam, what’re we gonna tell them? We can’t let anyone near that food, just in case it’s cursed and not just leftovers gone wrong,” Dean asks, gesturing at the basket.
“It’s got to be cursed, with that smoke and everything. And yeah, we’ll leave that out. She’s breathing okay now, and her pulse is steady. I’m just worried about how hot she is. They’ll have to take her to the hospital,” Sam says, smoothing Ann’s hair after feeling her forehead again.
“The big doctor, like Macky said,” Sarie agrees, nodding so vigorously her red curls bounce against Dean’s hand. She shifts Macky in her arms, but still holds onto her sister tightly.
“Yeah, Sarie, the big doctor, she was right,” Dean says, holding her close against his legs. The paramedics park and hurry over with a stretcher and their equipment bags.
“Sir, we’re going to have to bring her into the hospital, this fever is getting into the serious range,” says one of the paramedics after they’ve got Ann strapped onto the stretcher.
“I figured. I’ll go with her. Dean, you’ll be okay with the girls right? I don’t think we should let Ann go on her own. Don’t forget to get the basket.”
“Yeah Sam, no problem. We’ll be good. Just text me when you know what’s up and what hospital you’re at, we’ll catch up to you,” Dean says, grabbing Sam’s hand for a quick reassuring squeeze. “You did good Sammy.” Sam doesn’t say anything but smiles with a grateful look, then follows the paramedics, talking to them about what happened.
Left on his own with the girls to take care of, Dean quickly thinks about transportation, there have to be baby car seats in Ann’s car right? “Sarie, can you show me where your mom parked today?”
“Parked?” Sarie asks, eyes still riveted on her mother strapped to the stretcher getting further and further away.
“Yeah, so we can drive to the hospital and check on her,” Dean says, rubbing her shoulders to break her out of the sad trance she’s falling into.
“We didn’t drive, we walked, like always,” Sarie says, finally looking up at Dean.
“Okay, then where is your van, the one you said Macky saw the sign on?” Dean asks.
“In the garage, under our building, where Sergio parks,” Sarie answers, starting to sound a little frustrated with how many questions Dean is asking.
Dean hears her building frustration and tries to ask as non-patronizingly as possible, “Can you show me the building then, ‘cause I have no idea where y’all live?”
“Yep!” Sarie says, and points at one of the looming buildings facing the park. “That’s it over there.”
It looks vaguely familiar to Dean, maybe it was even in a movie at some point? “Wow, well, that’s close then. Let’s pack up everything and head over.”
The fancy uniform-wearing doorman stops Dean as they pass under the front awning. “Sir, may I inquire as to why you have Mrs. Merrell’s girls?”
“Hi Artie, this is Dean. He’s my uncle,” Sarie pipes up, holding Dean’s hand, and looking like it’s just another day.
Dean’s impressed with Sarie’s quick thinking and embellishes a little to make it more believable. “Yeah, uh, my step-sister, Ann was just taken to the hospital. From the park, over there. We were just coming back here to drop off all the stuff and then head over.”
“Oh! Well, I’m so sorry to hear that. Just let me know when you need the car ready sir,” Artie says, quickly saluting from the crisp brim of his doorman’s hat.
“Will do, thanks,” Dean says, sketching out a little salute, because he isn’t sure how to end their conversation. Sarie tugs him over towards the elevators. She pushes the ‘up’ button, and the door opens behind them. Thankfully it is empty, Dean doesn’t want to have to explain his presence to anyone else in this swanky building.
Sarie pushes the last button on the list, the 20th floor button, and reaches for her sister’s hand. “We’re almost home, Macky.”
Of course, the top floor, because this Ann woman is apparently made of money or something. A Central Park West penthouse had to be worth several million. Dean keeps his impressed whistle to himself. The elevator rises slowly, then a chime dings pleasantly, doors opening onto a short wood-paneled hallway and an ornately carved front door. “I don’t have the keys, and Sam’s got your mom’s purse.”
“Don’t worry, Babesne will let us in,” Sarie says, standing on tip-toes to push the large brass doorbell.
Dean can hear a deep chiming behind the door, and then quick footsteps. The door opens and a compact, middle-aged woman stands in front of them. Sarie gives her a quick hug and then pushes Macky’s stroller further into the house. The woman’s dark eyes examine him briefly, head to toe, and she brushes her long, black hair back from her face. “So, you are finally here Dean Winchester. I thank you for bringing the girls.”
“Uh hi. You’re Babesne right? That’s what Sarie said,” Dean extends his hand to shake and Babesne eyes it a little warily. She finally takes it and shakes it gently exactly three times.
“Sarie was right, that is my name. And she told me yours, as you are no doubt wondering how I knew,” Babesne says, stepping back to let Dean into the hall.
“Ann is on her way to the hospital. I’m betting you know somehow what happened to her, right?” Dean asks, closing the door behind him.
“I only know that it is likely to be something she ate,” Babesne says, gesturing for Dean to follow her.
Dean follows her down the beautifully decorated hallway into a large kitchen. “Yeah, the container it was in was smoking by the time we got to her.”
“We? You mean your brother, Sam?” Babesne asks, indicating that Dean take a seat at the marble counter.
“Yeah, he’s gone to the hospital with Ann, just in case,” Dean says, easing himself down onto a leather upholstered and wicker bar stool.
“In case of what?” Babesne stops fiddling with the greens in the sink she was washing, looking over at him.
Dean meets her glance and explains, “Whatever else is coming for her. That’s what we do.”
“You’re not just a helper are you?” Babesne asks, wiping her hands off on a deep green linen towel.
“I don’t know what to call myself anymore, but yeah, we help people. With weird stuff like this. So, uh Sarie said you’re their protector? What’s that mean?” Dean asks, poking at the fruit basket in front of him to see if it is real or decorative.
Babesne fills a large teapot with water and sets it on a gleaming stove to heat. “I was assigned to them, by my mother. There’s a long connection between our families, all the way back to before her mother’s, mother’s mother was born. We are here for their girls until they become women.”
“What’s the deal with all the sigils on all their stuff?” Dean asks, wishing he had something to take notes with, then remembering his phone. He pulls it out and starts up the note app he downloaded and has never used.
“They’re part of the protections that I wield. A visible sign you might say,” Babesne answers, pulling out two large, green ceramic mugs from a cabinet and setting them on the counter near Dean.
“But they don’t work for Ann?” Dean asks, wondering if she’s making tea, and if he’ll have to drink it. Sometimes the tea people make for them is really nasty tasting.
“No, unfortunately not. She is out of my power to protect. She was my mother’s charge,” Babesne says, measuring out several spoons filled with dried flowers and herbs into each cup.
“So, it’s an age-limited kinda thing then?”
“Yes, not a specific age, but the protection is needed from birth until they are paired with a mate,” Babesne says pouring the steaming water into each mug.
“What do they need protecting against exactly?” Dean asks, watching as Babesne’s lively face changes into a wall of non-expressiveness. His moment of opportunity is interrupted by his phone informing him of an incoming text from Sam.
“My brother says they’re over at Mt. Sinai hospital, Ann’s doing a lot better,” Dean says.
“So when you say your brother, you also mean your partner, correct?” Babesne asks, looking at him closely across the creamy grey marble countertop between them.
“Yeah, uh we’ve always worked together,” Dean answers, trying to meet her eye in the hopes that she won’t follow that one up at all.
“I meant life partner,” Babesne clarifies with a slightly raised eyebrow.
“Uh. That too, it’s a long story,” Dean says, furious at himself for blushing for being honest, because it’s nobody’s damn business what they are to each other.
“I don’t need to hear it Dean, I do not judge, it is a more common thing among those of us touched by the arcane. Something about no one else ever being able to understand the world behind the world we see unless they’ve experienced it themselves,” Babesne says, voice serious and understanding. She stirs a spoonful of honey into one of the mugs and slides it over to Dean.
Dean looks down into the swirling murk in the cup and then up at this intense woman who’s more right about them than she really knows. “That’s a good way of putting it. I’d rather not tell Ann if you don’t mind.”
“She already heard it from Sarie yesterday, the little one was running around singing a song about the best boyfriends,” Babesne says, the last part a little sing-songyish to imitate Sarie.
“But Sam told Ann were brothers,” Dean says, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Ann is much more worried about her girls at the moment, I don’t think she will be upset about it,” Babesne says, sipping at her tea.
“I just don’t like Sam having to hear anything bad about it, he beats himself up enough as it is,” Dean says, raising his tea up to sample it. His face is slightly screwed up in anticipation of bitter, but turns to pleased once he tastes the heady yet soothing blend.
“Don’t you mean you, Dean?” Babesne asks, coming around the counter to sit beside him on another stool.
“Same goes for me, sure,” Dean admits, turning his stool to face her.
“When one is part of a couple of your stature and importance in the arcane world, you get a pass from behavior and rules of the mundane world. As far as I am concerned, your romantic entanglement only strengthens your powers to affect change for the good. Love like yours brings the white to us,” Babesne says, taking a long sip from her mug, eyes never leaving Dean’s face.
Dean wants to ask about how she knows that they’re an important couple whatever that means, but skips it to ask about what he needs to know to help Ann and the girls. “The white?”
“That is what my tradition calls the good or beneficial side of magical dealings. And that is what we need to be attracting to counteract the evil that comes for the girls.”
“You were going to tell me more about this evil, what exactly is it?” Dean asks.
“As you well know, there is no ‘exactly’ in these matters. But, many generations ago, a curse was laid upon their family, specifically the women of their family. The story has been twisted over the years I am sure, but it had to do with a spurned unrequited love of a powerful practitioner. He took it out on the object of his affection by laying a curse that has been passed down all these years. My ancestress was involved and swore her family would protect the girls of this line as long as the curse persisted.”
Before Dean can formulate an answer or even a question, his phone buzzes again.
“Sam says that Ann’s getting sprung soon. Can we send the car over to pick them up?” Dean asks.
Babesne nods and produces her own phone out of her apron pocket, she sends a text to someone. “Yes, done. But you are assuming that you’re staying, interesting.”
“Why wouldn’t we be? Seems like you might need some extra help given what just happened to Ann.”
“What is it you think you can do, Dean?” Babesne asks, eyes intense.
“Interrupt the flow of the black, attract the white. How am I doing so far?” Dean asks, grinning at himself.
Babesne cracks her first smile, and then laughs hoarsely, as if she hasn’t used that function in a long time. “Dean you are much more than you appear.”
“So I’ve been told, many times. And not just by Sam for the record,” Dean says, pointing at her to emphasize he means it.
“I am not surprised. But this curse is unbreakable as far as I know.”
“Is it at all related to demons?” Dean asks.
“Yes, but how would you know that?”
“We’ve had way too much up close and personal experience with them, believe me. My brother just recently researched a whole lot about this kind of thing, he might be able to come up with something,” Dean says, rubbing at his forearm where the Mark of Cain used to be, the skin finally his own after all that time. Thanks to Sam and his research.
“I doubt it, but I will assist him in any way possible,” Babesne says.
“Wouldn’t mind putting yourself out of a job huh?” Dean asks.
“No, I would not. I hesitate to have children of my own, knowing that they will just have to serve as I have and my ancestresses before me.”
“You have a partner yourself then?” Dean asks.
“Yes, he works as the driver for the Merrells, you will meet him soon,” Babesne says, her eyes drift towards a door at the end of the long kitchen.
Before he can ask what’s behind door number one that she’s staring at, Dean’s phone chimes again, vibrating on the counter between them.
“You texting with Sam?” Sarie asks from behind his chair.
“Uh, yeah, he’s bringing your mom back right now,” Dean says, sheepishly covering up the screen.
“Can I send him a message for my mom?” Sarie asks.
“Sure, you know how to?” Dean asks.
“Duh,” Sarie answers, rolling her eyes and holding out her hand for the phone.
“So, Sarie, how should we welcome your mom home?” Dean asks, slipping the phone into his front jeans pocket.
“Make a big sign and have her favorite food. That’s what daddy did when she came home from the ‘opital with Macky,” Sarie answers.
“Why don’t you show Dean where your paper and markers are and I’ll go make some snacks she’ll like?” Babesne asks.
“C’mon Dean, I’ll race you,” Sarie yells, racing down the long paneled hallway to a room near the end. Dean steps into what has to be the kid’s playroom, it’s outfitted with every toy imaginable and a kid-sized table with a roll of butcher paper mounted on one end. Sarie pulls out a long piece of paper that hangs off the end of the table and sits in a small chair. “I won! Here, sit here with me.” She drags out a teeny chair that’s next to her and points at it.
Dean hesitates, not wanting to break the furniture, but then seeing that it looks to be very sturdily made, he sits down carefully. Sarie’s already drawing, the usual kid type doodles, but then some things that look like the sigils Babesne uses. As he watches her, she draws what looks like a large black chicken. “Is that a chicken Sarie?”
“Yeah, she’s the Black Pullet, see here’s her golden eggs she lays,” Sarie says, pointing at the yellow ovals she’s drawn below the gawky chicken figure.
“Where’d you learn to draw this chicken?” Dean asks.
“Babesne, she says it’s our legshe, it’s always been ours.”
Dean puzzles for a moment on what she means by legshe. “Oh, your legacy, okay. Well it’s super cool, I’m gonna point it out to Sam when he gets here with your mom. He loves chickens,” Dean says.
“He does? Me too! They’re so silly, how they walk around with their heads going,” Sarie says as she does her best seated chicken imitation, head bobbing in and out.
Dean laughs, “Yeah, he does a great chicken dance, you should totally ask him. So what are we writing on this big sign?” Dean’s phone chimes again, interrupting Sarie’s answer.
“Hey we better finish fast, Sam says they’re here already,” Dean says, finishing up the Welcome Home Mommy message. “Do you want to hang this up somewhere?”
Babesne appears with a roll of tape. “Let’s go put up the sign Sarie, quick now, they’re coming.”
“Did they tell you from downstairs?” Dean asks, standing up from the little table.
“No, I can just feel her, part of being a Protector,” Babesne says over her shoulder as she walks down the long hall back towards the front door.
The homemade sign looks very out of place in the grand entry hall across from the front door, but it makes Ann smile when she sees it. Dean can see how tired she is, supported in his brother’s arms, so he takes care of the kids a little bit longer while Babesne and Sam get her settled in her bedroom.
Sam comes back in, and hugs him from behind. “All okay for now,” he whispers in Dean’s ear.
“I’ll make us some dinner, Mr. Merrell is out of town this week, so it’s just us chickens,” Babesne says walking past them towards the kitchen.
“Tell me more about the chickens, the Black Pullet especially,” Dean asks as they follow her into the kitchen.
“Black Pullet? That’s a really famous grimoire,” Sam says, following behind them.
“Not just a grimoire, it’s also what’s called a Seal. One that this family has controlled for a very long time,” Babesne says, bending down to open one of the lower kitchen cabinets.
“So you’re a Protector then?” Sam asks with his usual friendly curiosity that he hopes will work to disarm her enough to open up to him.
Babesne puts down the glass baking dish she’s holding and looks up at Sam, examining him closely. “Yes, I am, Sam. How in the world did you know that?”
Sam sees that she’s going to clam up if he doesn’t explain himself. “Your name, Sarie told us what it meant. So I looked it up while I was waiting in the hospital, and I put it together with the sigils.”
“Thank god for smart phones eh, Sam?” Dean jokes, leaning over to elbow Sam in the ribs.
“So is being a Protector a choice, or are you born into it?” Sam asks with persistence, ignoring Dean’s smart phone comment.
Babesne’s eyes flash at the questions Sam is firing at her. “Both, we are assigned at birth, but there is always choice involved. No one is compelled to perform this job. The magic wouldn’t work if it was that way.”
“Can we help you fix dinner or anything?” Sam offers.
“No, you two will just be in the way, take a beer out of the refrigerator and go sit in the family room, over through there,” Babesne indicates with a toss of her head, the arched doorway into a step-down room. One wall is covered with floor to ceiling bookcases, another with floor to ceiling windows looking out on the park, down far below. There are overstuffed leather couches arranged in several groupings. Sam chooses one looking out the windows, and Dean joins him. Dean opens both of the beers with his ring and hands one over. They clink the bottles together and drink silently.
“Can you believe this place Sammy?”
“I don’t think I’ve been anywhere this fancy in my life, it’s kind of amazing,” Sam answers, sounding a little stunned. “Ann seemed so down-to-earth when we met her at the park yesterday, but when they heard her name in the hospital, she got instant upgrades to her service and they were treating her like a queen.”
“Guess they’ve got some money then, huh? Wonder if it has to do with the Black Pullet? Sarie was saying Babesne told her it was her family’s legacy, and she was drawing it laying gold eggs,” Dean says.
“Like the goose that laid the golden egg, except it’s a chicken instead? I guess that could make you pretty damn rich after a few dozen eggs,” Sam muses, taking a long sip of beer.
“You think it’s an honest-to-god chicken though? Like in this ritzy place they’re gonna keep a live chicken even if it is what’s keepin’ ‘em in the penthouse?” Dean laughs at the idea.
“Who knows what the hell rich people do, right? Especially ones with family curses,” Sam answers with a shrug and upends his bottle, finishing off the beer.
“So you had your drink, spill what was the big deal in the hospital?” Dean asks, finishing his own beer, setting it on the glass topped coffee table in front of the couch next to Sam’s. He knows it’s going to be about Ann finding out about them, and he doesn’t want Sam to get himself all twisted up about it.
Sam leans forward and puts his head in his hands. “Ugh, don’t remind me.”
Dean’s hand goes to Sam’s lower back and rubs what he knows are comforting circles until Sam speaks again. “Ann came to pretty quickly after they gave her some medication. And one of the first things she said after asking if the girls were okay, and thanking us, she said she knows we’re not just brothers. She was cool about it really. But it was embarrassing, like it always is, you know.”
“I had the same with Babesne. They really don’t care apparently, so let’s just move on like they are,” Dean says, hoping he sounds encouraging and final about the subject. Dwelling on something that they can’t change is never a good use of their resources during a case.
“You ever wish we weren’t?” Sam asks, sinking back into the cushy couch and resting his head on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean puts his arm around Sam and holds him close, wondering how to answer this question that’s been asked and answered so many times. “No, Sammy. Sure it’d be easier in some ways if we weren’t brothers. But it all means more somehow. I can never explain it right. But no, out of all the things I’d consider changing about our lives, you bein’ my brother is never on that list.” Dean can feel Sam’s response before he hears it, Sam’s body releases some held tension, fear at what Dean would answer maybe? Like that’s ever gonna change. “You ever wish we weren’t?” Dean asks, because he has to, not because he really wants to risk hearing what Sam might say this time.
Sam nuzzles his face into Dean’s chest for a few moments before answering. “Just when I have to keep track of who I’ve told which lie to. You’re right it’d just be a convenience thing. Really not a big deal anymore, it’s been so long now, I can’t imagine it any other way. This time I just didn’t want it to mess up the chance to spend a little time with these kids.”
Taking the chance to pet Sam’s hair, because it always calms them both down, Dean chews on that for a moment. “This is what I was talkin’ about wishin’ I could give you.”
“What a palace like this? Not what I want, Dean,” Sam says, squeezing Dean around his waist a little harder.
“No, not the place, although I sure as hell wouldn’t turn it down if someone gave it to us. I mean the family part. I wish you’d had a chance to have a kid at some point,”
Dean says, running his hand up and down the span of Sam’s wide, strong back.
“I’m glad I didn’t ever have a kid. I really am. I mean, I get what you’re saying. But passing on anything that I might still be carrying from the demon stuff is too big of a risk. Borrowing other people’s kids for a while though, that’s pretty awesome as far as I can tell,” Sam says, body going tense in Dean’s arms as he waits to hear Dean’s reaction.
Dean doesn’t respond to the demon residue issue, because that’s one Sam’s never letting go of no matter what anyone tells him, but the rest he can handle. “Or like what I had with Lisa and Ben?”
“I didn’t want to bring them up, but yeah, that seemed kinda ideal in a weird way, he was sorta your kid and yet not,” Sam says.
“Still, if I could give you somethin’ like this I would. Just so you could see what it’s like to be in charge of a kiddo for a while. Teach them all the stuff you think is important. Be a role model, all that.”
“You just want me to see what I’ve been missing all these years huh?” Sam asks.
“No, I just think you’d make someone a really excellent father. Because you are an amazing person,” Dean says, embarrassed as soon as the words leave his mouth. But all of it’s true, and he reminds himself, they just promised they’d say this stuff to each other.
Sam doesn’t answer him with words then, just leans up and says everything without them, with a kiss that is instantly hot and laden with every emotion they rarely show each other. They’re only stopped by an ‘ahem’ at the doorway.
“We’ll be eating in about five minutes. Would you like to bring the girls to the table?” Babesne asks with a smirk on her face.
Sam pops up from his wrapped-around Dean position on the couch, and rubs his hands on his pants, blushing a deep pink. “After washing their hands, of course, we’ll meet you there.” Babesne just nods and winks at Dean before she leaves the room.
“See Sammy, you’ve already got a handle on how to run things,” Dean teases as he stands up and stretches next to Sam.
Sam pulls him in for a quick hug, repeating what he’d said on the street earlier that day. “We’ve always had a home, you made that happen for me, every day.”
“I’m not even gonna bother calling you a big girl, because you’d probably just start crying or somethin’,” Dean teases.
“Just help me find where the heck the real girls are in this giant place,” Sam says, snapping Dean on the back of the neck as he passes him into the hallway.
“Hey! Just for that I’m not helpin’ you, you’re on your own buddy,” Dean says, detouring into the kitchen with the empty beer bottles.
“Where do the empties go?” Dean asks Babesne. “Oh my god that smells amazing!”
Babesne smiles as sets the casserole dish down on the kitchen island counter. “My mother’s recipe. It is Txangurro, a Basque crab casserole. I assumed you weren’t allergic to shellfish.”
“No problem with that, we can pretty much anything,” Dean says. Then he hears the thundering of little feet followed by familiar big ones. Sarie is racing towards him with Sam close behind holding Macky on his hip. Dean smiles to see how his giant brother is acting like the kid he still is with these girls.
“Not bad Sam, just in time. Sarie, would you please show the gentlemen to the table?” Babesne asks.
“C’mon you guys, in here,” Sarie says, leading them into a cozy room off the kitchen that is obviously just for informal dining. “We get to eat in here since Daddy’s not home.”
“Where do you usually eat?” Sam asks.
“In the big room, but I don’t like it. I get in trouble too much in there,” Sarie says, pouting while she climbs up into her seat.
“Too many rules I bet,” Sam says, as he straps Macky into her high chair and pulls her up to the table.
Sarie’s eyes light up when she sees that Sam understands her problem. “Yeah, that’s it, too many rules, and I just wanna eat and talk and it’s too hard to do all of it once.”
“Well, you’re gonna want to eat this crab stuff Babesne made, it looks wonderful,” Dean says.
“Thank you Dean. Usually I make this in the shells of the crab, but not when I’m serving it to the girls. Too sharp,” Babesne says as she serves up some of the casserole onto Sarie’s plate. “Let it cool off first Sarie, very hot.”
After a pleasant dinner filled with silliness and laughter from both the girls and the brothers, Babesne refuses any help with the dishes but allows that the boys could certainly help with the bedtime routine. But only after she gives the girls their bath. She points them in the direction of the guest room as she bustles the girls further down the hallway. They enter the room and both stop near the doorway, looking around with wide eyes at the enormous bedroom.
“This is a guest room?” Dean asks. He flops down onto the bed and watches as Sam crosses to the large window. Sam sits down on the window seat and looks out at the city lights going on at dusk.
“It’s so beautiful from up here,” Sam answers, eye never leaving the beautiful view beyond the window.
“What is?” Dean asks.
“The city, the park down there, everything,” Sam says, sounding a little entranced.
Dean gets up and comes to stand behind him, wrapping his arms around Sam’s shoulders. “It doesn’t even come close to comparing.”
Before Sam can respond, they hear Babesne holler for them from the girl’s room that it’s time. They reluctantly leave the privacy of this space and head off to see what’s involved in getting the girls to bed.