Name Three Kids That You Even Know
Sam paused at the door to look at Allie. “Keep a close eye on your uncle Dean,” he said. “There’s an extra bonus for babysitting him without incident.”
“Dude,” Dean said. “I told you. I can handle this. You’re not hiring some twelve year old or whatever. I know what I’m doing.”
Sam felt justified in his skepticism, and continued to stare at his brother hard enough to try and let him feel it. “It’s not the girls I’m worried about,” he said. “It’s you.”
“Whatever,” Dean said, adding an eyeroll and letting his head tip back against the wall. “You guys haven’t been out since Leigh was born. Just fu -“ He caught himself and covered with a cough. “Just go do something before you bore me to death. Please. Stay out all weekend.”
“It’s kind of a two person job, and Dani could probably use the exposure,” Sam said.
“Hey,” Dean said. “Dani at seven months pregnant isn’t like Sarah. She seriously wants an evening alone. I know it’s impossible for you to grasp, but every now and then my cherished presence gets old.”
“Anybody who can take out a nest of vampires can handle three little girls,” Dean said.
Sam laughed outright. “Oh, man. Taking the heads off vamps is easier. Call us if you need anything.” Sam clapped him on the shoulder, then laughed again when Dean shrugged him off.
Allie reclined against her uncle on the couch as they watched Nickelodeon. “Dad said I’m in charge,” she said.
Being a newly minted five year old had given the eldest Winchester girl an exaggerated sense of responsibility. Dean tried not to think about the kind of responsibility he’d had at five, or how much he’d enjoyed it.
“Good,” Dean said. “Because without you, I’d be totally lost.”
She twisted her head to look up at him. “Silly,” she said.
Mary was on the floor, carefully organizing a group of objects that included soft blocks, little stuffed animals, a chunky plastic car, and several sports-themed squishy balls. Her concentration looked absolute, and Dean decided there would be yet another type-A geek in the family to contend with later on.
“Can we stay up late?” Allie said.
“I thought you were in charge,” Dean said.
She snickered - actually snickered, the little wiseass - and reached up behind to gently pat him on one cheek. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
He poked her in the ribs, but decided against a full-on tickling as two-month-old Leigh was snoozing on his right. He could have put her in her crib, but that was upstairs and he would have had to wait until she was awake to look at her.
“I stay we stay up late,” Allie said. “You, and me.”
“And what?” he said. “Rob banks?”
She made a tsk sound far too reminiscent of her father. “Banks aren’t open.”
“Hunt for the Abominable Snowman?”
“There is no a-bom-able snowman,” she said. “Bumbles bounce.”
“Eat air sandwiches and float away?” he said.
“We’re all out of them,” she said.
This belonged just to them. Dean made up ridiculous lists and Allie shot him down.
“I guess we’ll have to settle for popcorn and a movie, then,” Dean said. “You’re so boring.”
“I know you are, but what am I?” Allie resorted to a tried and true standard.
“My favorite five year old?”
She thought about that for a moment, wiggling her feet. “How many do you know?”
“That’s beside the point,” Dean said.
Leigh wiggled, cracked her eyes open, and lifted her head. When Dean ran a hand over her head, smoothing her hair, she dropped it down again but stretched and kicked.
“The bottomless pit is awake,” Dean said, and Allie glanced over. “You hold her down, and I’ll get a bottle.”
Allie slid to the floor and laid there like a ragdoll.
Dean rose and nudged her with a foot. “Mary quite-uncontrary,” he said to the two year old. “Wanna snack?”
Mary looked up from arranging the toys by size. Her bottom lip protruded a little before cornflower-colored eyes began to fill with tears.
“Uh-oh,” Allie said from the floor. “She’s in her mood today.”
“Geez,” Dean said. “Hey, Mary. Apple? Banana? It’s a happy question.”
Mary fell over forward, pressed her forehead to the carpet, and began to wail.
Dean sighed. “Okay,” he said to Allie, “You watch Leigh so she doesn’t roll off the couch, and I’ll be right back.” He gently scooped Mary off the floor two-handed and patted her back as he headed through the dining room to the kitchen. “I know, I know, life is so hard. I hate apples too, so let’s try graham crackers.”
The wailing stopped, but in its place came a discontented humming while she rested her head against his shoulder. He balanced her while he warmed a bottle on the stove in a pan of water.
“Leigh’s trying to roll off the couch!” Allie shouted from the living room.
“Don’t let her,” Dean said. “Prop her up.”
A frustrated-sounding yowl drowned Allie out.
“Prop her in the corner of the - “ he sighed again. “Never mind. Hang on.” He tapped the side of the pan to check the water temp. Mary struggled to get free, so he put her down, and she sat down on the kitchen floor and burst into tears again. Dean poked around in the pantry for graham crackers.
Allie came into the kitchen.”You can use the microwave for the bottle, you know!”
“That’s not how we did it in my day,” Dean said. “Sister! Couch! Rolling!”
Allie disappeared. The yowling in the other room got louder.
“This is not a big deal,” Dean said, then said it twice more to make it all the more true. Several thing fell off the shelf he was rifling through. When he bent to pick them up, then straightened, he came forward too far and whacked his head on a shelf. Cursing, he looked up to find graham crackers right in front of his face. “See? This is not a big deal.” He opened the box and set it on the counter, rubbing his head, then knelt down and offered Mary a cracker. She reached for the proffered snack, then shook her head and withdrew the hand, crying harder. Working on suspicion, Dean picked her up and pulled the back of her pants and diaper out far enough to look...and smell.
“Aw, man,” he said, making a face. “I’d cry too.” He set her back down and checked the bottle; it was just warm enough. Switching the burner off, he put the bottle and crackers under one arm, scooped Mary up, and went back into the living room. “In fact, I think I will.”
Leigh had rolled onto her back and all four limbs were flailing. Her tiny face was red with outrage as she cried. Allie was playing goalie and hemming her in, looking unconcerned.
First things first. It was harder to be hungry than to be sitting in...well, he didn’t want to think about that right then. He apologized to Mary and set her down near her epic project. She pressed her forehead to the carpet again and wailed.
“Thanks, kid,” Dean said to Allie, then sat next to Leigh and tucked her in against him while he sprinkled milk on himself. Not quite lukewarm but at least it was something. Leigh didn’t seem to mind, since she set about drinking as if she’d been crawling through the desert for days.
Allie went over to the extra changing table by the stairs unseen, laid out a fresh diaper, and popped open the container of wipes.
Mary sat up and held her arms out to Dean, face streaked with tears. “Uh-Dee,” she said. Uncle Dean.
Okay. That was just sad. And unbearable.
“Hey, Al,” he said. “C’mere. Can you feed Leigh for a minute?”
“I do all the time,” Allie said, running over and plopping herself down next to him. She grabbed on of the throw pillows to prop an arm on and wrapped both little arms around her sister while Dean balanced the bottle so that Leigh was able to almost-sort-of hold it in place for herself. Mostly.
“You’re the best sidekick ever,” Dean said.
“You’re a best sidekick,” Allie said. “I’m in charge.”
No point arguing that.
Dean picked Mary up and kissed her, apologizing again for making her wait, then headed for the changing table. When he stripped her diaper off, he said, “Oh, whew. You’re opening a hole in the ozone layer, kid.”
Mary sucked her fingers and angled her head to stare at the T.V., eyes drying. Once changed, she followed Dean while he double wrapped the offending article in plastic grocery bags and set it on the back porch before washing his hands, because no way was that staying in the house. She giggled while he used a warm washcloth to wipe tears and snot off her face. Then she accepted a tippy-cup of juice and a cracker and sat at the kid-sized table just inside the doorway between living and dining rooms.
Dean sat down on the couch again and held his hands out for the baby. “My turn.”
“Okay,” Allie said. “But I’ll be right here if you need me.”
“Thanks.” He took Leigh back and checked the amount of milk in the bottle, realized he’d better burp her before she exploded, and put her over his shoulder. Then he realized he’d forgotten the shoulder-cloth-thing. If she spit up, he’d just have to deal. Allie slid off the couch and stared at him, twirling her hair with one forefinger. “What, babe.”
“When you have your own little girl,” she said, “...will you still come over?”
Her tone was a little higher pitched than normal, and the hair-twirling gave her away. It was something she only did when she was anxious.
Dean swallowed hard, because somehow these kids had a way of making him so damn mushy and it was just ridiculous sometimes, and when had that happened? And, hey, what kind of question was that for her to ask anyway?
Behind them, Mary slammed her juice cup down on the table and made an ‘ahh’ sound of satisfaction.
“Yeah,” he said. “Of course. Even if I had a million little girls, there’s only one Allie, one Mary, and one Leigh.”
As if on cue, Leigh burped. He quit thumping her on the back and repositioned her with the bottle again. “You won’t be able to get rid of me. Ever. Okay?”
“Okay.” The hair-twirling stopped for the moment. “I’m going to make popcorn.”
“Three and a half minutes,” she said.
“No fire department,” Dean said.
“Boring.” She ran for the kitchen.
Dean looked at the ceiling for a moment and blinked hard. Then he propped one ankle over the opposite knee so he could lay the baby across his lap and look her over. He stripped her socks off and looked at her toes, wondering what his own little girl would be like, who she would look most like, how her laugh would sound. It was deeply ironic that he’d rarely been so frightened in his life, after the things he’d faced. He feared that something would go wrong, that he wouldn’t be the father he meant to be, that he had so much to lose now that he had everything.
He gently traced the soft spots on Leigh’s skull and looked over at Mary. He could hear the popping of popcorn from the kitchen, and Allie singing some current top 40 hit as she waited. “Hey,” he said to Mary. “Better?”
Mary nodded, then threw her arms in the air. “So big!”
Dean raised his free arm. “Yeah. So big.”
The microwave went off, and Dean heard Allie shaking the bag. Then she came in and said, “We’re not allowed to eat in here.”
She said it every time, to everyone, reiterating The Rules like no one would remember them otherwise.
“Who’s in charge?” Dean said.
“I won’t tell if you won’t.”
Mary came over and hefted herself onto the couch. After a moment, Allie joined her, sandwiching her between herself and Dean. She handed him the bag wordlessly so he could open it, then took a handful and offered Mary a single piece. Mary shoved it into one cheek like a hamster and left it there.
“Your sisters don’t have real kneecaps,” Dean said to Allie.
Allie looked at Mary’s knees, then over at Leigh. “Are they messed up?”
“They won’t become real bone until they’re about three,” he said. “So, you already have yours.”
“How do you know all that?” Allie said.
“I know about bones.”
Allie nodded. Then, around a mouthful of popcorn, she said, “No other girls like us.”
“Not in the whole world,” Dean said, reaching out to cup the back of her head in affection. Then he dropped his hand and shoved her a little, tipping her over. When she was through giggling, he said, “I’d be lost without you.”
It was ten when Sam unlocked the front door and let Sarah in ahead of him. While he closed the door and kicked his shoes off, he didn’t see Sarah pause a few steps in and fold her arms. When he looked up, waiting for Dean to start berating them for being home already, he saw the set of her shoulders and walked up behind to follow her gaze.
Sprawled in the middle of the floor was Dean, sound asleep. Resting on the center of his chest was Leigh, wearing one sock; draped belly-down lengthwise across his stomach and dead to the world was Mary, juice cup inches from one slack hand. Curled against his side with her head on his shoulder was Allie, her hair in her face. A trail of popcorn led from the coffee table to the empty bag near Dean’s head.
“They killed him,” Sarah whispered. “They showed no mercy.”
“Where is the camera,” Sam whispered.
“You left it upstairs,” Sarah said. “Hurry.”
Sam took a handful of pictures, grinning ear to ear before Sarah gently lifted Mary off Dean’s middle and took her upstairs. Sam waited for her, still grinning, staring at the tableau and trying to figure out how it had been assembled. When Sarah returned, he gently picked Leigh up, murmuring when she started to wake.
With the added weight gone, Dean’s instincts kicked in, and he slapped a hand against his chest as he rolled away to a sitting position, pulling Allie with him and cradling her against his chest before he even opened his eyes. Allie stayed asleep.
“Hey,” Sam said, centering his attention.
Dean looked over his shoulder at them both. “I was awake,” he said.
“Sure,” Sarah said with a smile audible in her voice. “How’d it go?”
“Easiest thing in the world,” Dean said. “Cake walk.” He climbed to his feet with Allie draped in his arms.
“You want me to take her up?” Sarah said.
“No, no. Got it covered.” Dean headed for the stairs while Sam looked around for the missing sock.. They waited until he was out of sight before they looked at each other and broke into close-mouthed laughter. Sarah leaned over the back of the couch to hide her face from Sam, who was trying so hard to be quiet that he looked like he might cry. Leigh awoke the rest of the way and started rooting around, hoping to be fed. Sam handed her over to Sarah and nearly ran into the kitchen to avoid being caught laughing. Sarah followed and said, “So, so cute. Cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Sam braced his hands on the counter and whimpered.
“Don’t you mention this, ever,” Sarah said.
“You stop laughing, then,” Sam snorted.
She pressed her face into the back of his shirt. “Oh, my God, he’ll never recover.” She went back out as Dean came down the stairs, looking more awake than he had minutes earlier. “You really wore them out,” she said with a straight face.
“Yeah, well,” Dean said, picking up popcorn as he went. “Not much to it. You guys have fun?”
“Yeah,” Sarah said. “It was nice to get out. Thanks for - “
“Psh,” Dean scoffed, waving a hand at her. But he didn’t rebuff her when she came closer to kiss him.
“Thanks,” she said. “They adore you. How’s it feel to have a fanclub?”
He smiled a little and ran a hand over Leigh’s head.
“Hang around, have some coffee?” Sarah said.
“Nah,” Dean said. “Dani doesn’t sleep well in the house by herself, and she’s probably sacked out by now.” He checked his watch. “Quarter after ten. You lightweights.”
Sarah smirked. “That’s us.”
“Okay, well, you better feed her,” Dean said. “I’ll talk to you guys in the next couple of days.”
When he was gone, Sam reappeared and took Leigh, eyes damp. “You go change,” he said.
“I wish we had hidden cameras,” Sarah said.
“He’s gonna be kissing your ass for awhile,” Sam said. “For juggling three at once.”
“I hope so,” she said, headed for the stairs. “Damn, I love him.”
“Me too,” Sam sighed, leaning in to kiss the top of Leigh’s head. “Me too.”