Staring at the ceiling of our bedroom, listening to my wife breathe in the darkness, I ran over my list of things I needed to do tomorrow at the body shop that we owned. Escrow closed months ago, but I still felt like I was fucking drowning. I had no idea how to run a business. I don't know what I was thinking.
I ran through the other problems that were still unresolved at the shop: There was a Chevy Malibu on the lift in my bay, waiting for a new exhaust system that was on backorder. There were three motors that were sitting in the paint stall, waiting to be dropped into the Mustang, Galaxy, and Nova, but the engine hoist was in desperate need of repair, so I had a guy coming in tomorrow that would hopefully fix it so we could get the turn over that we needed to stay afloat. Doug, my old boss, had retired and sold the shop to us, but he was a nice guy, coming in occasionally to help me steer my decisions about the shop in the right direction. Grace had been nothing but patient, even though I had single-handedly drained our entire savings account and we were now living paycheck to paycheck with three other mouths to feed.
Rubbing my face, I could feel my stress start to spin out of control and I sat up in bed, looking for a shirt to pull on and do a few laps through the house. I got up and walked through the hall silently, hearing the rhythmic breathing of my three kids. I hesitated at Everett's room, listening to him murmur quietly in his sleep as he dreamed. He thrashed momentarily, fighting with the light blanket that covered him, but settled back into quiet quickly.
Everett was the other major stress in my life, currently. The twins, Glory and Everett, were now almost a year old and though Glory was thriving, Rhett suffered on a pretty regular basis because of my goddamned genetic code. I had unwillingly passed on the Mark of Cain to my son and he suffered because of it. Cas told us months ago that the only way to save Rhett from a lifetime of suffering and eventual self-destruction was to introduce Grace's genetic duplicate: a fourth child. According to Cas, we would be able to save our son by having another daughter who would be able to take on the Mark the same as Grace could take it from me. The only problem was that we had been trying for months, but I still hadn't knocked her up.
I didn't understand what the problem was. Grace had gotten pregnant twice already, (our oldest daughter would be three in November) while on the fucking pill, but here we were, trying to have a fourth kid for the last four months or so, but we had done nothing but get a lot of good sex in. There was still no bun in the oven.
Walking slowly towards Lib's room, I listened to her breathe quietly. Our eldest had some uncanny abilities of her own. She worked in reverse of my wife's abilities: Lib was able to project images and scenes into your brain when she touched you. She used it as a communication tool and didn't feel the need to speak often. I smiled at the soft whistle I heard each time she exhaled and slowly, I backed out of her room and headed towards Glory.
It was a mystery to me why Glory didn't seem to inherit the abilities that Grace possessed when clearly; Everett had inherited mine. It would have been so simple if Glory had been the piece that Everett needed in order to lead his life, but I should know from previous experience: nothing in a Winchester's life was simple. Glory was rolling to her belly as I stood in the doorway, watching silently. She noticed my presence, even though she wasn't completely awake, and sat up in her crib, holding up her arms, begging to be picked up. Giving in, as I did constantly to my middle child, I walked over to her and picked her up, holding her against my chest as she almost immediately fell back to sleep. It was comforting, holding Glory, knowing that she was the lowest maintenance kid I had, and all she really ever wanted from me was a hug. She was normal and that was rare.
Hearing a creak in the hall, I turned to see Grace standing in Glory's doorway, her arms crossed over her chest and smiling at me. Smiling back gently, I faced her crib again and carefully laid Glory back into her bed, covering her with her favorite blanket. She didn't move once I put her down and I padded silently across the room back to Grace.
"Hiya, gorgeous," I whispered, approaching her in the hall. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head, her blonde hair falling into her face. Tucking it behind her ear, Grace answered, "Nothing. I was coming to check that you were alright."
I broke eye contact, knowing that Grace was reading my mind whether I wanted her to or not. I was embarrassed. What kind of father was I? I had basically bankrupted us, trying to float a business that I knew nothing about. My only strengths were hunting and cars.
"I think you're good at more than that," Grace said quietly, reaching out for me hand. She led me back to our bedroom and she sat at the foot of the bed, still holding my hand.
"We should sell, Grace," I said quietly, looking away. "We're not going to make it." She sighed then, staring up into my face with a look I barely recognized. She looked exhausted. I knew her energy was sapped from appeasing Everett all day, every day. She did everything she could to take the Mark from both our son and me, but I knew she wouldn't be able to keep it up for much longer. Leaning her head into my stomach, she sighed again as I pulled her hair into a ponytail with my hands. "You know it's true."
"No," she said, not looking up at me. "We're not going to sell. We'll figure this out." Grace pulled away from me and I let her hair fall around her shoulders as she did.
"No." Her voice rang with a finality that made me smile. She was just as stubborn as she had always been and I was grateful for it. "You know how it works. You watched Doug and you're intelligent. All you have to do is flip about four cars a month and we're in the black again." She smiled ironically. "And we should probably think about not using the shop for our own vehicles for a bit, just to get the profit margin up, don't you think?"
I chuckled as I hugged her head. "Probably a good idea, but you get to share that news with your sister." Grace's sister, Serra, had a Jeep Wagoneer that had a few problems over the last couple of months. I had used parts from the shop to try and fix it without charging anyone, but carburetors were expensive and now I was out three hundred bucks. It happened that way a lot: the Impala needs a fuel pump? Grab one from the back. Chevelle needs a timing belt? Take it. The Winchester family had probably used about two grand worth of parts in the last year or so and now that Grace had said it out loud, I agreed with her.
She smiled up at me, hearing my thought process. That was one of my favorite parts about my wife: I never really had to say what I was feeling because I was never very good at it anyway. She could reach through telepathically and hear it for herself.
Reaching down, I grabbed the edges of the tank top she wore and pulled it off, over her head. Her long, blonde hair cascaded down her back and I smiled as she lay down, beckoning me with a single finger. I followed her down; holding myself over her as we kissed deeply and she wrapped her arms around my shoulders, pulling herself closer. Standing once more, I tugged off my tee shirt and joined her on the bed.
I hesitated, staring at her face in the darkness. "Why can't we get pregnant?"
"Alright, fine. Why can't I knock you up?"
Grace smiled and shrugged. "We're trying too hard. It's become a job. You're stressed out. I'm stressed out and exhausted. Sex was never like that with us." She traced her finger along my collarbone, sending electricity through my shoulder. "It's never been something that we had to do. It's always been something we loved to do."
"Alright, fine," she mimicked. "Love, present tense. We love to have sex, but we haven't lately. We're so worried about Everett, we've forgotten how to have fun with it." She jabbed me in the chest with her finger as she continued, "And you're so freaking worried about the shop, your heart's not in it."
"We have a mortgage and kids to feed, Grace."
"Yeah, and we both know what it's like to be poor. It's not that big of a deal." She tilted her head and smiled at me. "The twins will be off formula soon and that will cut out about three hundred and fifty bucks a month. I don't go anywhere, ever, so gassing up The Tank isn't necessary. So far, it's been a warm winter, so the house is cozy and it'll be a lean Christmas. You haven't knocked me up yet, so you don't have to worry about feeding a fourth. No biggie."
Staring at my beautiful, shirtless wife, I lifted my eyebrows and grinned. "You've got such a way with words," I said, kissing her neck. "You always know what to say to turn a guy on."
Grace laughed, slapping my shoulder. "Come on," she giggled. "It's all true." She pulled away from me to stare me in the face, her blue eyes showing how tired she really was. "You could always tell me that I need to go back to work." She smiled weakly. "Save me from the parasite."
Breaking eye contact with Grace, I sat on the edge of the bed and closed my eyes. "This is all a nightmare," I muttered, rubbing my face.
Shaking my head, I had too many thoughts to get out at the same time. Everett. The shop that we bought and know nothing about. Money. The fact that you're so tired that you're barely conscious. I grit my teeth and glanced at her, too embarrassed about my guilt to admit anything out loud. Reaching out to take my hand from my face, Grace leaned forward and put her head on my shoulder. She took a deep breath and sighed gently into my ear.
"You regret us?"
"Of course I don't."
Tilting her head, she pursed her lips. "You regret the kids?"
I turned to stare at her, furrowing my eyebrows. Don't even say something like that.
She shrugged gently. "There's times I wish it was still just us, Dean. There's nothing wrong with that." Grace pressed her lips together and stared at me, "We never sat down and had a conversation about when to start having kids. Lib just happened and then, boom, there was Glory and Everett." She paused and glanced out the window, staring into the darkness of our property. "And now we have to have a fourth to save the third. I know it's selfish to say and you're probably going to be angry with me for admitting it, but I'm exhausted. I love the kids, more than life itself, but…" She faded away and took a deep breath. "There are days that I miss the simple stuff…you know, when worrying about a stalker took up most of our afternoons."
Closing my eyes, I tried to take what Grace was saying with a grain of salt. She was right: she was tired and on edge, she had given up everything that she had been before we were us, including her career and her independence…and she hadn't complained once. "I'm sorry, Gracie. I'm sorry for all of it."
"Don't be sorry," she said. "Be determined." I turned to face her and she smiled. "Tomorrow when you go into work, you need to get that Malibu taken care of, or get it off the lift. Then drop the motors in the other three and turn them over. Get them out so you can get others in. Get your turnover happening faster and we won't have to worry about money…it'll just start showing up." Putting a hand on my chest, she continued. "As for me and getting pregnant, we need to just keep fucking, but have fun with it. It's not something that we have to do. It's something we get to do." She grinned at me as she felt my chest and my arms, tracing her fingers over the muscles that were just under the surface. I closed my eyes as I could feel the tingle of electricity there and smiled gently, my lips parting ever so slightly.
Grace took that as an opportunity and kissed me, pushing me back down onto the bed. "Fuck me, Dean Winchester," she said quietly, grinning.
From my place on the bed, I stared back up at her. I pulled her towards my face, kissing her deeply and laughing as she tried to pull down my boxers. Finally, when both of us were nude, I caught her staring at the Mark and raised my eyebrows. "It's been awhile."
"I know," she replied, still touching my chest and kissing my jaw line. "I think it would be good for both of us."
"What about the aging thing?" I glanced at her to gauge her reaction. It had been months since she touched the Mark of Cain directly…the healing it performed on her body seemed to be almost too much of a good thing and we had discovered this year that Grace had basically stopped aging.
She shrugged. "I think we have bigger problems right now," she said, taking a breath as she pulled away from my face momentarily.
We stared at each other as she smiled slowly. I glanced down to my forearm as she moved closer to touching it. I knew as soon as she made contact with it, we would both feel better, and let's face it, I longed for her touch. She pressed her palm down and I gasped. It was like having cold water thrown on me, but in the most pleasurable way. Grace pushed herself down onto me and we automatically fell into a deep rhythm, kissing, breathing heavily and somewhere buried far into my subconscious, I knew this time, I would get her pregnant. It was the Mark. It was always the Mark.
We screwed for hours, falling asleep and then waking up again with grins plastered on our faces, just like old times. We talked, touched and generally fell back in love (as if I would ever not be in love with my wife) into the early hours of the morning.
The sun rose and peeked through the window, ice forming on the outside in fractal patterns across the glass and I awoke to Grace laying facedown next to me, her hair spread across her back and her tattoos showing just above the sheet that just barely covered her ass. Smiling, I took a deep breath, feeling the best I had felt in months: sleepless night or not. Grace's touch had rejuvenated me in a way I wasn't prepared for. It made perfect sense that her touching The Mark of Cain would put us right. We were a perfect example of yin and yang; she was a nephilim (half angel, half human) and could sate the Mark without me having to kill anyone. Grace absorbed the power of the Mark and it made her stronger in the process. We just hadn't figured out the extent of the agelessness that we both experienced.
She was right: we had bigger problems at the moment.
I could hear Liberty playing in her room, talking to herself and thumping around every once and awhile. Everett hadn't made a sound yet, which was incredibly rare. He was usually the first one up and the most demanding of Grace and I would get the girls up while she dealt with him. This time, I could hear Glory begin to whimper, knowing her big sister was awake and playing without her. Grace stirred next to me and turned towards me, smiling with her eyes still closed.
"Morning, gorgeous," I said, smiling at her.
"Morning, stranger," she whispered stretching. She listened momentarily and furrowed her eyebrows. "No Ev?"
I shook my head. "Not yet," I replied, pulling back the covers and digging in the clean laundry for a shirt.
She chuckled lightly and shook her head.
"I know, right?" I pulled on a Guns and Roses shirt and glanced down at it, confused. It was way too tight and pulled at my shoulders and my stomach.
Grace laughed as she looked up at me, gesturing to the other basket of clothes on the floor. "That one's mine," she said, shaking her head. "Yours has the skull with the top hat."
"And it fits," I replied, pulling the too-small shirt back over my head and tossing it to her. I watched as she pulled it over her head and smiled. I dug through the other basket, tossing baby clothes onto the bed as I searched, finally discovering my own Guns and Roses shirt and pulled it on.
Grace stood and looked around for her shorts that I had pulled off of her in our passion that night. As if on cue, Everett's voice came down the hall, wailing pathetically for his mother. I glanced at her and smiled sadly, saying, "Poor kid."
"Oh, he's fine."
I shook my head. "I watched him have a nightmare last night. He's getting worse."
"Well," Grace said, kissing me on the cheek, "keep doing what you did last night and eventually, we'll be fine."