Chapter Notes:

I apologize for any blatant errors. I wrote this pretty much in one go, so my eyes are now officially glazed over. And since I don't have a beta, obviously all errors are mine.


When Dean finally emerged an hour and a half later, it was to find that everyone, Lindsey, his father, the prospective adoptive parents, were all still waiting for him wearing expectant expressions on their faces. He'd left the baby, Mary, in the crib so that he could walk around a bit, mull things over in his head without her being there to cloud his judgment. At seeing him emerge empty-handed, Lindsey's expression fell in defeat. The Yuppies were looking bright-eyed and hopeful. John Winchester, however, was unreadable.

"I uh," Dean said, not sure who he was saying it to. "I need to take a walk or something. Clear my head."

"So you haven't decided – " Lindsey began.

"No," Dean assured her sharply. "I haven't."

She heaved a sigh of relief, but everyone else in the room involved in the situation became visibly agitated.

"Son," John began, falling into step behind him. "You need to sit down and buck up, kiddo. The sooner we do this... Well, it's just best for everyone that we don't drag this out."

Dean could see the Yuppies over his father's shoulder, both looking so hopeful, nodding their agreement, certain that John would influence Dean to make the right decision.

"Not now, Dad," Dean said tiredly, turning away.

"Dean!" John called sharply, and it wasn't the voice of a father calling to a son. That was Sergeant Winchester speaking. Sergeant Winchester issuing an order.

Dean froze, his guts cold like ice while his hands burned with feverish heat.

"Can we not do this here?" Dean asked, practically begged, his eyes imploring. He couldn't have an audience for this. It would break him, make him more vulnerable in front of the angry bear than he already felt. And he certainly didn't want to be tag-teamed by the hopeful Baby-Snatchers who were looking at John like he was their last hope of salvation.

John shook his head and took a deep breath. Dean was sure he was suppressing a growl. Instead, he grabbed his son by the elbow and led him away from the waiting room, down a corridor, and pushed him forcefully into a nearby stairwell.

"We gotta do this now, Dean," John insisted. "I know you wanna just bury your head in the sand and pretend that we got all the time in the world, but we don't."

"Dad..."

"Now that nice young couple out there can give that baby a real good home," he went on. "They got good jobs and a nice house. Steady income, stable environment... All things that a child needs growing up."

And as if that was their cue to enter the scene, the Yuppies came through the door to join the Winchesters in the stairwell.

"Do you freakin' mind?" Dean snapped.

"Zip it, Dean!" John ordered. "I want them here."

"Yeah, well I don't!" Dean retorted. He wasn't one to talk back to his father, but at times like this he somehow found the strength to at least hold his own. It was rare, almost unheard of, but it did happen.

"Look, Dean is it?" Mrs. Yuppie said tentatively, carefully, choosing her words with delicacy. "I know this has all got to be overwhelming for you. I mean, you just found out that you're a father, and here we are barging in trying to make claims on what's yours..."

"That about sums it up," Dean said challengingly, meeting her eyes with a blank, level gaze.

"But we're not the bad guys here," she insisted, offering a weak smile. "We just want to give that baby girl a proper home. We've been trying for years to have a baby and now we feel like this is God giving us our chance."

Her eyes were so hopeful, and her husband took her hand and gave it a squeeze. Dean felt his blood growing colder. Was she fucking trying to convince him of something, slapping him in the face with that 'proper home' bullshit?

"Yeah?" Dean dared, heat rising in his face. "You ever stop to think that maybe God was trying to tell you something there? Like maybe parenthood's not for you?"

"Dean!" John admonished.

"No, it's all right," Mr. Yuppie assured them, laying out a hand to hold John back from taking any further menacing steps towards his son. "I'm glad you brought it up, Dean, because it's a valid point. Parenthood's not for everyone."

Dean wished there was a mute button so that he could prevent himself hearing what the man was going to say – he didn't need to hear it, but he had a feeling it was going to be profound.

"I love my wife," Mr. Yuppie said, his voice thickening with pride. "I love her with everything in me, and I know that she was born to be a mother – that she'd be the best mother any child could ever ask for. And I know that she would love that baby girl in there so much, it'd be honouring Ellie's memory."

Dean's chest was far too tight, his throat constricting like someone, maybe the slithering tendrils of fate, had wrapped its icy fingers around his neck and begun to squeeze.

"I know you don't wanna do this, kiddo," John said, his voice sounding softer now, but far away, like Dean was listening to him through a big empty tunnel. "But you have to do what's best for the baby. Life on the road is no place for a child. The Andersons can give her a good home, a good life. She'll never want for anything."

Like I did? Dean thought, but didn't say.

"It could be an open adoption," Mrs. Yuppie (or rather, Anderson), added, her eyes bright with unshed tears. "We could arrange for visitations."

The words 'adoption' and 'visitation' suddenly hit him like a sledgehammer to the gut. The abstract concept of someone else raising his child had been just that – abstract. But words like 'adoption' and 'visitation' spoke of permanence, separation in reality. Not theoretical lives of candy canes and gumdrops and sunshine and daisies, but real life my-kid's-being-raised-by-someone-else reality. Adoption.

"I can't!" Dean choked, gulping for air. "I can't do this."

"It's okay," Mrs. Yuppie cooed. "We'll take care of everything."

"Dean, you can't be what she needs," John said, laying a hand on his son's shoulder. "Do the right thing and let these people be for her what you can't."

Dean thought maybe he couldn't breathe. This was all happening too fast. They were talking as if the decision had already been made, though in John's mind it probably already had. If he had to he'd give the order, and his good little soldier, he was sure, would obey. It was the way the Winchester family worked. It was how they kept the peace, how they survived through grueling hunts, long hours on the road, nights spent in cramped quarters with no privacy. Dean fell in line so the Winchesters could survive. There was no question in John's mind that, eventually, Dean would fall in line now.

"But what about...?" Dean could barely form the words, his chest was so tight. "What about keeping her safe?"

"We'll keep her safe," Mr. Yuppie assured him, but Dean knew his father understood what that question really meant.

"Dad, what about the family business?" Dean pressed. "How do I know that she'll be safe living the apple pie life with these Baby-Snatcher vulture people, huh?"

"You know our business is no place for a baby, Dean," John warned.

"But it was okay for Sam?" Dean challenged. "He was just a baby."

"That was different," John insisted. "I had you to help me."

"And I don't have you to help me?"

John seemed to freeze, his words caught in his throat. Then he heaved a sigh.

"Dean, please, be reasonable," he said at last. "You can't seriously think we'd be okay on the road with a baby. Two grown men with a little girl? In our line of work?"

"Worked for Dansen, Gutenburg, and Selleck," Dean quipped, the first hint of his trademark grin making an appearance on his pale but handsome face.

"Dean..."

"Look," Dean said, all joking aside now. "I don't know if I'd be a good Dad or not, but I've never been one to turn my back on my family. You think now's a good time for me to start?"

"Goddamnit Dean!" John snapped, his voice raising. "This isn't about turning your back on your family!"

"Yeah? Then what is it?"

The Yuppies took a collective step back.

"Maybe we'll just step out into the hallway," Mrs. Yuppie said quietly. They turned and snuck back into the hallway, unnoticed by either Winchester.

"I can't watch my son go the same fucking route I did, okay?" John shouted. "I can't watch you make the same goddamned mistakes I did!"

Dean was stunned into silence.

"You think this is the life I wanted for you, or for my grandkids?" John went on. "A single Dad, like me, dragging his kids through all that fucking darkness, and danger, on this hell crusade?"

"Dad..."

"I can't watch another generation of Winchester go down this road, Dean!" John shouted. "It was bad enough livin' it the first time – but to watch you go down that same road, makin' the same mistakes I did? It'll kill me!"

"Dad, come on," Dean soothed. "It's okay. It's gonna be okay."

"You don't get it, Dean," John argued, shaking his head in despair.

"No, Dad, I do," Dean replied. Then he huffed a laugh. "I really, really do."

Dean watched as his father quirked a questioning eyebrow.

"When we were growin' up," Dean explained, "I always knew that, no matter how bad it was, or how hard it got, you had your reasons. I didn't always know what those reasons were, but I always knew you had 'em, and that they were good ones. But mostly I remembered Mom, and it all made sense, you know? I remembered Mom..."

John sniffed.

"She was really somethin'," John said wistfully.

"Yeah, she was," Dean agreed. "And evil came and took her, Dad. Came right into our house. Now we don't know why it did, but it came after our family. It came after Sam probably, I mean it happened right over his freakin' crib... but Mom stopped it..." He paused and made sure his father was listening. "And it could come after Mary, too."

John's head shot up, his dark eyes boring into the too green, red-rimmed eyes of his son.

"Mary?" He coughed and cleared his throat. "You named her Mary?"

Dean nodded.

"Ah, well, fuck!" John growled, plunking himself down on the bottom step so that he was hunched in a seated position. Dean scrunched down next to him and sat with him a long moment in companionable silence.

"Will you at least come see her?" Dean asked quietly. "See her and then maybe come help me... you know... decide?"

John took a deep, shuddering breath.

"Yeah," he said, sighing heavily. "Yeah."

He owed him at least that much.

888

John Winchester had to try very hard to stifle a laugh. This was it. He was done for. He knew it the moment he peered over the rim of the crib and saw the tiny little angelic face – a face that looked so much like Dean when he was a baby that it actually took his breath away. Instantly he was carried back to that day at the hospital, looking down at Mary with her golden locks frizzing about in a tangled mess, her cheeks flushed from exertion, her eyes slightly dulled with pain and exhaustion, but a contented smile playing at her lips at the tiny, squiggling little person in her arms. Dean had been a force of nature from the moment he was born, with the healthiest set of lungs and pipes any parent had ever seen. From day one he'd been all or nothing, doing nothing by halves: when that baby boy smiled it was always megawatt, blinding, radiating with immeasurable light; when he cried it was an ear-splitting bellow that could make ears bleed; when he laughed it was with his whole body, an infectious sound that made everyone around him laugh.

And now John felt like he'd been transported back in time, seeing that little face, remembering all the hopes and dreams he'd had for his boy, and feeling keenly that they were so close to seeing those hopes dashed again, with a new life that was essentially a clean slate. With this baby they had a chance to do it right, and maybe they were on the brink of royally screwing everything up.

But instead of voicing his concerns, he simply allowed himself to smile.

"She's beautiful," he whispered, his eyes shining with fat sloppy tears just waiting to make their escape and prove to his son what a weepy old wuss his dad really was.

"Well yeah," Dean scoffed, as if that much was obvious. "Dude, have you seen me?"

John watched as his son leaned over the crib and gingerly lifted the delicate bundle up in his arms, an instant smile melting across his features as her weight settled into his arms. He turned to look at his old man with the goofiest grin of contentment, his arms stretching out slightly to offer the precious package.

"You wanna hold her?" Dean asked.

"Ah, no," John heard himself saying. "I, uh... I can't, son."

This was all too fucking real, and he still had a point to make, no matter how much his son didn't want to hear it. He had to get through to Dean, make him see what was clearly right in front of his face, make him understand that there was a bigger picture here than just the sweet lulling lullaby of this nursery and that baby.

But Dean just shrugged and turned his gaze back to the baby in his arms, easing himself into a nearby chair and sinking into it with a contented sigh.

"You know the nurse said that in a couple of months she'll probably, like, double in size?" Dean said absently. "That's freakin' nuts, man."

"Dean..."

His son's eyes shot up to meet his, recognizing the tone that clearly said 'we need to talk' when words did not.

"Kiddo..."

"I can't do it, Dad."

John shook his head.

"Dean," he said, more sternly now, though trying to be more tender, trying to convey sympathy and understanding even as he was about to disembowel his eldest. "Dean, you have to listen to me. I know you never asked for this, but now that it's here you're gonna have to step up to the plate and be a man. Be a father."

"Well yeah," Dean said, half smiling but looking slightly incredulous at the same time. "It's what you always taught me, right?"

"I know," John admitted, sighing wearily. "But Dean... There are times when you gotta make the difficult choice and be a different kind of man. The man who can let the ones he loves go so they can have something better... so they can have what's best for them."

"Like you did with Sam?" Dean said testily, and that was probably the first time the kid had ever said a damned word about what went down with Sam when he left for Stanford.

"Cos I seem to recall you sayin' something about not giving a damn about what he wanted, and then disowning him for takin' off to have a better life."

"We're not talking about Sam," John warned, not willing to be sidetracked. "We're talking about that baby and what's best for her."

"Being with us is what's best for her," Dean said stubbornly.

"Is it?" John demanded. "Dean, she'll grow up just like you did, missing out on all the tings you missed out on. She'll have the same fear watching her daddy come home all beat to hell that you had. Remember how much fun that was?"

John thought he saw his son shrink a little.

"She'll never have regular friends, she'll be constantly at risk of being the next victim of the things that we hunt... And every time you walk out that door to take on the next evil sonofabitch, you could be leaving her an orphan."

"But..."

"I know you, Dean," John said. "I know you'll do what's right, and that you'd do everything in your power to protect her. That's just who you are. But she could grow up to have everything you ever wanted her to have. These people – the Andersons? They're good people. She'd have every opportunity to make something of herself. She'd grow up never knowing what it's like to be afraid, to be hungry, to be lonely... You could do right by her by giving her that chance. This isn't about what you want. It's about what she needs."

John thought maybe his heart was breaking, because he could see his son's resolve wavering, could see the words sinking in and ringing true, could almost imagine the images that were swirling around in the boy's head – pictures of a little girl in pigtails swinging on a swingset in her back yard, playing with a golden retriever, blowing out birthday candles amid a crowd of other smiling children at a birthday party. Dean's green eyes were glassy with unshed tears as another life for his daughter painted its picture on his memory.

"You have to let her go, Dean," John whispered, driving in that final nail. He knew his son well enough to know that he would do the right thing. It would kill him, but he'd do the right thing.

Dean bit his lip, his eyes downcast as he looked at the sleeping baby in his arms – his baby – and his head seemed to twitch ever so slightly. Then he nodded. John knew then that he'd have to find a bar quickly when this was over, so that he could wash his sin away in as much whiskey as his liver would soak up. Maybe more.

"Come on, kiddo," John said, finally reaching out to take the baby from his son's now pliant arms. It might be his last chance to hold her, after all. "Let's put her down and go have a talk with the Andersons. Maybe call the social worker...? Get everything sorted out?"

Another weak nod, and a sniff. John's hands trembled as he ambled over to the crib and gently laid the sleeping bundle back into its bed. He would go to Hell for this. But it needed to be done. That baby needed a life free from the horrors of hunting.

Dean sat in the chair in silence for a full two minutes before stirring, but when he did his movements were slow, sluggish, as if his limbs weighed too much to lift them without a struggle.

"Son...?"

"Just gimmie a minute," Dean said quietly, turning his back on his father to attempt to compose himself.

"Sure, kiddo," John replied, taking a step back.

He watched as Dean slowly approached the crib, maybe taking one last look, solidifying his resolve to do something that was tearing him up inside to do. It was why he hadn't wanted Dean to have any contact with the baby until they knew the paternity results. He knew he'd get attached. For all his swagger and bluster about being completely out of touch with his feelings, Dean was at heart a family man. His own flesh and blood would call to him, tug at his heartstrings like celestial fingers plucking at a harp. And seeing him now, his shoulders slumped and now shaking with what was unmistakably a silent sob, John knew that his son hadn't merely become attached to Mary – he had somehow conjoined with her.

Fuck!

John took his leave. His chest was heaving with laboured breaths, and he felt strangely light-headed, like he might drop like a stone and faceplant on the linoleum floor at any second. Huh. He wondered idly when he'd become such a damned lightweight. Winchesters don't faint.

"Mr. Winchester?"

Oh fucking fuck off! John thought, but turned at the sound of Mrs. Anderson's voice. She and her husband were waiting, hand in hand, their faces pale and terrified looking.

"What's the verdict?" Mr. Anderson asked, and John couldn't help but think that Dean's Baby-Snatcher nickname was fitting. They were like freakin' vultures, swooping in with the scent of fresh blood.

Not quite able yet to form words (feeling somewhat on the emotional side himself), John merely nodded a yes, to the immediate relief of the young couple. They sighed together and clasped all four hands almost in prayer, their faces beaming.

"I should give Mom a call," Mrs. Anderson said, her voice light on the exhale.

Dean had yet to emerge from the nursery, so that left John alone with the husband. Great.

"You did the right thing," the man said solemnly. "I'm sure it must be hard for him, but this really is in everyone's best interest."

John didn't reply. He didn't give half a shit what was best for the Andersons. He only cared about Dean and that baby girl. They were the only ones that mattered in this.

"That baby is really something," the man went on. "Seems like she has everyone getting attached from the moment they lay eyes on her, huh?" He laughed awkwardly, a nervous laugh that John found irritating. "I mean, your son's only just seen her for the first time a couple of hours ago, and already I'd say he's in love."

"You fixin' to change my mind?" John growled. He was in no mood to make small talk with the bastard who was going to provide the 'better life' for his granddaughter.

"NO!" Anderson replied, his voice high and desperate. "I'm only saying that he got attached pretty quickly. Letting his emotions rule, you know? It's lucky he had you here to steer him straight, or else he might have made a decision that he'd regret later."

That's what John was worried about, only it wasn't in the way Anderson had meant it. Now he was worried he'd manipulated his son into giving the child up (which, to be honest, he had). It was definitely true that Dean would not have agreed to give the child away if John hadn't been here. It made him feel a little sick. But it had to be done. It was for the best.

"Anyway, I just wanted to thank you," Anderson continued. "That baby means the world to us."

John snorted a laugh.

"Who's accusing who of getting attached too quickly?" John asked archly, suddenly wanting to deck this prick for pretending that his feelings somehow ran deeper than his son's. "Or wait – was it God sending you after the scent of that baby, huh? God led you here?"

At that the man promptly fell silent.

Mrs. Anderson returned soon after, her cheeks flushed with excitement. "Mom's on her way," she said. "She should be here in a few minutes."

John wanted to say something about how presumptuous it was to invite the grandmother-to-be along to see the baby when nothing had been agreed to yet – Dean hadn't even yet shown himself and said with his own lips that the baby was now theirs – nothing had been signed. But Dean's arrival on the scene instantly silenced him.

The boy looked like hell. His eyes were red and slightly puffy, his face pale. It was obvious he'd been crying, though he was trying to appear cool and collected.

"Hey," he said to his Dad, giving him a single nod to indicate that he was okay. John nodded in return.

"So..." Dean drawled.

"Look, I just want to thank you," Mrs. Anderson suddenly blurted out. "You're a brave young man – and you're doing the right thing."

John didn't think it was possible, but Dean actually smirked. Smirked.

"You think so?" Dean asked. "Well let's get one thing straight, sister. Just 'cos Social Services called you on board to claim the next available baby doesn't mean I chose you. So before you go counting those chickens, let's sit down and have a nice little chat so that I can decide if you're the kind of people I want raising my daughter."

And there was a fire in his too bright green eyes that promised he meant business. Dean wasn't going to roll over on this one. Oh no, he was going to make these yuppies sing for their supper. He was going to make them beg.

888

The muted pastel colours of pinks and blues and yellows and greens in the family room, with the large-eyed cartoon ducklings, bunnies, puppies and kittens scattered here and there along the walls, did little to ease the tension around the table of assembled people. The Andersons' mother-in-law, Alice, had arrived, and she was doing nothing to hide her excitement at the prospect of a much-coveted grandchild. Her enthusiasm was causing that muscle in Dean's jaw to twitch, and John knew that Dean had taken an irrational dislike to the woman the moment he laid eyes on her.

"My, you are a handsome young man, aren't you?" Alice said, beaming and breathless. "I bet she's going to grow up to be one pretty little girl, huh? Her mother must have been very beautiful...?"

Dean's expression was priceless: amused incredulity.

"Is she for real?" he asked.

"Mom, please!" Mrs. Anderson begged. "Not now."

"So what do you do for a living?" Dean asked. John almost laughed at the idea of his son caring about what anybody did for a living, considering the kid hadn't worked an honest day in his life – unless you counted the occasional job he'd taken at Singer's Salvage Yard. But he certainly had a right to ask.

"I'm the District Manager for Morgan Mutual Insurance," Tom Anderson replied. "And Angela here is a freelance artist."

"So you work at home?" Dean asked, his gaze shooting to the woman. He would like the idea of an at-home parent looking out for his kid.

"Yes," Angela said. "I have an office. It's right next to the nursery."

"You guys already have a nursery?"

Both Andersons nodded.

"We've been trying to have a baby for a few years now," Tom said somberly.

"Huh." Dean's reply was non-committal. "So how do you feel about spanking?"

Now this part could be amusing, John thought. Dean had never been one for soft parenting. He'd been spanked as a child – oh Lord had he been spanked as a child – and had never seemed to hold a grudge for it. If anything, he was usually first to admit that he'd earned his licks for being such an insufferable trouble-maker growing up. It was true that he'd been the obedient little soldier at home and on the hunt, but at school and anywhere else not tightly controlled and regulated by his father, Dean had been hell on two legs. He wondered what stance his son was going to pretend to take now, for the sake of this couple.

"We don't really believe in it," Angela said right away. "I've always believed that common sense works best."

Dean arched an eyebrow.

"Right, because all your non-existent kids were perfectly reasonable when you applied the common sense, huh?" He almost seemed amused.

"We've read up a lot on parenting," Tom explained, trying to save his wife further embarrassment. "Plus, we've been around to observe some of the dos and don'ts from family and friends with their kids."

The conversation, or rather, interrogation, went on from there. Dean asked them about everything: their cleaning habits, their religious beliefs, their political affiliations, their taste in rock music, their knowledge of proper car maintenance and repair.

"Well what if they break down on the side of the road?" he whispered harshly to his father after that question had earned him a slap to the back of the head.

"They'll call Triple A," John said dryly.

"What about fighting?" Dean asked suddenly.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Fighting," Dean said, shrugging. "You gonna teach her how to fight?"

All three non-Winchesters looked slightly aghast.

"No, of course not," Angela assured them.

Dean folded his arms across his chest and scowled. Then he shook his head.

"Dean..." John warned.

"That's no good," Dean said at last, still shaking his head. "I gotta know she's going to be able to look out for herself."

"We'll look out for her," Tom promised solemnly. "She'll go to the best schools, and we live in a really safe neighborhood. She won't have to 'fight to survive' while we're around."

Dean scoffed.

"And when she's on a date and some douche bag won't take no for an answer?" Dean asked. "You gonna be there to fight him off then?"

"Dean..." John warned, more loudly this time.

"Cos like Alice said, she's gonna be a real looker," Dean continued. "You gonna be able to teach her how to protect herself?"

"Dean, that's enough!" John admonished. "I think the Andersons have answered all your questions."

But Dean was still shaking his head.

"This isn't right," he mumbled, seemingly to himself. "This doesn't feel right, Dad. Maybe we should see about someone else?"

"Oh no, please!" Angela Anderson begged, her face paling. "Please, just give us a chance! Maybe you could come by our house and see the place? Get an idea of the kind of home we keep? Please, don't take this away from us!"

"If you need time, we can wait!" Tom added, grabbing his wife's hand again and squeezing as if that limb was the anchor holding him in place.

But Dean was still shaking his head, growing more agitated by the moment.

"Dad..." his eyes were pleading. "They can't even keep her safe from human monsters... What are they gonna do about the monster in the closet, or under the bed?"

"You don't have to worry, Dean," Angela promised. "She'll never have reason to be afraid as long as she's with us. She'll only know love and security and safety. I promise you!"

But they didn't know the things that John and Dean knew. They didn't know about the things in the dark. They didn't know about the kinds of vile creatures that preyed upon children. They didn't know about fire demons and mommies bleeding on the ceiling in a swirl of flame and ash.

It always came back to Mary – his Mary – and the night the truth about what's really out there stole all innocence from the Winchester clan. Dean couldn't walk away from his child for the same reason John couldn't walk away from his mission: evil was out there. So many times after Mary's death John had considered giving his boys up for adoption. It had been like a sweet, balmy kiss on his forehead, promising safety and relief and a better life for his boys than John could provide. Hunting was no life for children; it was true. And so many times John had thought his decision to keep his boys with him, to drag them along on his crusade, had been a selfish one. They could have had normal if he'd let them go. They could have grown up without knowing fear, without constantly looking over their shoulders for the next bad thing to come nipping at their heels. They could have lived better than what John gave them.

But they wouldn't have been safe. That better life was an illusion and John knew it. It was why he'd clung to his boys, his last ties to Mary, with everything he had.

And it was why Dean couldn't let go.

"She'd be missin' out on a whole heckuvalot, Dean," John said wearily. "You know we don't have the money to give her the things she deserves. No Playstations or video games or college."

"Sammy went to college," Dean replied, grinning. "He just had to work for it."

The Andersons were near panic now, the opportunity so recently laid out for them slipping away as Dean's eyes began to light up with the faintest spark of hope.

"I know this has got to be hard for you," Tom Anderson said, his voice sounding desperate now. The man's wife had begun to cry, and the mother-in-law was wringing her hands like an old washer woman straight out of a Dickens novel. "But we can make it worth your while... You could be compensated..."

Oh God it was the wrong thing to say.

"What?" Dean asked, his eyes sharper than ever now.

"You don't have to walk away empty handed," Tom went on, gulping for air now. "Please, I'm sure that an arrangement can be made."

And the bastard was pulling out his wallet.

"Compensated?" Dean asked.

"Yes, please!" Tom said. "For... all the trouble you've been through... to help pay for..." he gulped again, "travel expenses. Maybe to treat yourself and your father to... a nice vacation...? How does fifty-thousand sound?"

If Dean's mind hadn't been made up before, it certainly was now.

Even as the stone sank to his stomach, John felt the heavy weight pressing on his shoulders lifting. This whole discussion of adoption and future plans had been twisting his guts into knots, and the pain he knew would rest with his son for the rest of his life after giving up his own flesh and blood had weighed so heavily upon his conscience that John felt he might never be able to look at his own face in the mirror again. But that was all slipping away. He could see it in his son's eyes, in the set of his jaw, the bearing of his whole being.

Resolve.

Dean stood up, his confidence suddenly bolstered as his resolve solidified with finality. Oh yes, his mind was made up.

And just like that it became official. John Winchester was a Grandpa.

End Notes:

Coming soon: the joys of parenting! Dean gets a taste of what it's like to be a single dad, and John isn't going out of his way to make it easy.