Tony was the first to open his eyes and realize that they were short one person. "Kate?" he perhaps didn't mean to even say the whispered word aloud. She wasn't even there. She was gone. Gibbs met Tony's eyes, apologetically.
"Tony," Sam's tone caught his attention immediately and he looked at the younger Winchester as he motioned with his head toward McGee.
"Oh god..." Tony's heart sank before he took to close the distance to get to his probie. Tim was trembling, ghostly pale and had tears streaking both cheeks, steadily streaming from red-rimmed eyes. But those eyes seemed unfocused, as if he wasn't really aware of where he was in that moment. And once Tony reached him he laid a hand on Tim's shoulder and it seemed to pull him into reality.
Almost immediately, McGee lurched forward, dropped to his knees and retched into the grass in front of him. Though dark and pretty impossible to tell once it hit the grass, Tony was fairly certain that the content was pure coffee. He knelt down beside the agent and placed a cautious hand on his back, unmoving, simply as a reminder that he wasn't alone.
As Tim continued to heave, Tony glanced up as Gibbs directed the others to go back into the house; Ziva still in the street securing the unconscious girl that had been a vessel to Hel. The lead agent then looked toward Tony and Tim and came over to them, squatting down beside Tony. His senior agent seemed to be at just as much of a loss as to what to do, as he felt.
Beneath his hand, Tony could feel when McGee's heaving came to an end and was simply replaced with shaky breathing. "Tim, you okay?" he asked in a quiet, steady voice.
"I...I'd forgotten..." he replied in barely a whisper without looking up from the ground. Tony furrowed a brow and waited for him to continue. "...how terrifying..." he didn't need to finish it.
"Was a long time ago..." Tony said softly, moving his hand up to Tim's shoulder and giving it a light squeeze. Gibbs squinted in Tony's direction, realizing Tim must've confided in him earlier.
Tim sat back on his haunches and looked out into the air somewhere in front of him before swiping at his wet cheeks. "Whatever that was," he said, "Made it feel like it was just yesterday." His voice cracked with that last word.
"I'm sorry, Tim," Tony said. "Are you okay? You in pain or anything?" his brow furrowed with concern. Tim shook his head, mutely, still not meeting anyone's eyes.
"You wanna go inside?" Gibbs' voice startled him slightly, as if he'd just now realized he was there.
"I...think I just...wanna sit here for a little bit," he replied quietly.
"You want us to leave you alone?" Tony asked. McGee closed his eyes, causing fresh tears to fall, and shook his head again. Tony and Gibbs shared a quick glance before Gibbs decidedly moved to Tim's other side, and both men sat down more comfortably on either side of their troubled friend.
Gibbs wanted to know what had happened to Tim, mostly because he didn't want to do anything to make him uncomfortable, or put him in a situation that would cause that discomfort. But he also didn't want to force him to talk about it all over again. "Tim, feel free to say no to this, but would you be okay with Tony givin' me a sit-rep?"
McGee looked down at his lap for a moment in apprehensive thought. Then came to a decision. "Okay..." he swallowed.
Gibbs met Tony's eyes, slightly surprised at the look on the agent's face; one of hesitancy to open his mouth. But Tony gave a slight nod, took a deep breath and let it out before speaking. "He was ten," he began. That fact made Gibbs' eye twitch with something akin to anger and horror. "Camp counselor...every night for a week. The guy died in a drunken boat accident, or he might've kept going. Tim never told anyone, Boss. Not anyone."
"Didn't want it to shape who I am, boss," Tim said in barely a whisper.
Gibbs noticed Tony's hand still on McGee's shoulder, and decidedly put his own on the other one. "It didn't, Tim," he told him.
Tim looked over at him then, eyes shining in the streetlight. "Thanks, boss." Gibbs gave him a small smile and a slight nod.
Headlights suddenly became visible as a car turned up the street...
11 00 11 00 11
After sending the Metro PD officers off with Brianna, having explained that she was a conspirator in the murder-suicides and was clearly mentally deranged and in need of psychiatric evaluation, Gibbs and Ziva headed back inside the house.
Tony had brought Tim inside once the squad car had arrived, and since they were no where to be seen on the first floor, Gibbs surmised he'd taken him upstairs. As he entered the kitchen, Dean, Sam and Bobby greeted him with nods and Dean handed him a beer, which he gratefully accepted.
Ziva simply slipped into the doorway to go to the basement. Her intention was to steal a drink of Gibbs' bourbon and drink it in the peaceful silence that wouldn't come had she been in the crowded kitchen. But the creak in one of the stairs caused Abby to stir from her sleep and open her eyes once the Israeli reached the bottom.
"Ziva?" she said sleepily before sitting up a bit and rubbing an eye. "What time is it?"
"It is late, still," she supplied as she decidedly avoided going for the liquor and made her way to the adjacent hammock. "I did not mean to wake you."
"Why are you down here? Is everything okay?"
"It is over," she told her calmly. "Hel has been returned. Castiel hasn't yet come back."
"How long was I asleep?" Abby was fully awake now. "And why do you look so troubled, Zi? You never look troubled...well, hardly ever, anyway... Is something wrong? Did someone get hurt?" she became nervous.
"No, Abby. Not really," she sank down into the hammock.
"What does that mean? 'Not really'..."
"Something happened to Timmy?" her brows rose and her eyes shone with fear.
"He is alright, Abby," Ziva place a hand on her arm. "He was not harmed. But he seemed very disturbed by something, and I am afraid that I do not have all the information as to why."
"As am I," she replied with a half smile. "All I know is that he used some sort of incantation to trap Hel. Once Castiel took her away, McGee seemed...very upset by something. Tony helped him back inside and I suppose they are upstairs now."
"I should go see if he's okay," Abby said as she hurriedly got out of the hammock.
"Abby..." Ziva warned, but Abby was on a mission as she hurried up the stairs. Ziva took off after her with a sigh.
Abby's first stop was the kitchen, "Where is he?" she asked Gibbs. "Where's McGee?"
"Abs," Gibbs stepped forward after setting his beer down on the table, and put his hands on her shoulders to calm her from her obvious state of panic. "McGee's gonna be fine. You need to let him be, for now."
"Castiel is gone! Every time he's gone, something bad happens and someone suffers or dies or...or something!"
"He's not gonna die and he's not in any physical pain," Gibbs assured her. "Last thing he needs right now is a crowd of people, and he sure as hell doesn't want you to be worrying about him. Tony's takin' care of him; let it be. Let him come to you if he wants to, but pressuring him right now is only gonna make it worse."
"Pressuring?" she defended. "Gibbs, I just wanted to make sure he was okay; give him a hug and see if he needed anything..."
"Like I said, Tony's got it under control for now."
"I find it hard to believe he's given Tim a hug," she challenged. Gibbs cocked his head and raised his brows. Abby straightened. "Oh my god... Gibbs, what's wrong with Timmy that Tony would've had to give him a hug?" she seemed horrified.
"Geez, Abs," Tony's voice sounded as he entered the kitchen, and they all looked to him. "You act like I never give out hugs unless it's life and death! I hug you all the time!" he gave a part-offended, part-amused look.
"You hug me all the time, Tony," Abby retorted as she shrugged out of Gibbs' grasp and approached him. "And that's usually just returning mine. What's going on? What's wrong with Tim, and why did you leave him all alone?"
"Relax, Abby," Tony told her, placing his hands on her shoulders just as Gibbs had done previously. "McGee took a quick shower and cleaned himself up. Ducky woke up and came to ask what had happened, and he gave the probie a mild sedative to help him catch some sleep. I stayed up there til I knew he was out and Duck is keepin' an eye on him for a while so I could come down here and make sure everything else was okay," he finished and glanced over at Gibbs, who gave him a slight nod.
"So...I still don't understand..." she shook her head. "Ziva said he seemed upset. Why was he upset?" Gibbs glanced over at Ziva who was standing out of everyone else's sight in the basement doorway. She shot him an apologetic look.
"That's personal," Tony's voice drew Gibbs' attention back to him. "It was necessary for the trap to work, I can say that much. But the rest... Abby, you can't ask him about it. If he wants to talk, he will. But you need to promise me that you won't get on his case about it if he doesn't. I mean it," he added when Abby gave him a pout. "I trusted you enough to give you what information I just did. But I swear if you pry into this at all... This is Tim's privacy, Abby. And if I find out you tried to get him to talk, I'll never trust your word again."
Abby's face flashed for a moment with something akin to hurt or fear, before it relaxed and only her eyes showed evidence of understanding his seriousness.
Gibbs swelled with a bit of pride at Tony's protectiveness over Tim's situation. They both knew, far too well, that Abby would've pressed the issue, forcing him to tell her, even if she wouldn't have meant for it to cause the agent pain. She really just had no idea, and it wasn't their place to hint at the reasons she shouldn't pry.
Abby's jaw cocked to the side a bit as she pursed her lips and looked at him for a long moment. "Okay..." she finally agreed, in barely a whisper.
"Thank you, Abby," Tony said, then moved to give her a hug. After a long moment, she resignedly returned the hug. "See?" he smiled. "I totally initiate hugs sometimes."
Abby pulled away and gave him a playful punch in the shoulder, "Stop tryin' to take over my jobs!"
"Oh, don't worry, Abs," Gibbs told her. "You'll be back on hug-duty tomorrow once Tony sees his car." Tony looked over at him with a furrowed brow and Gibbs couldn't help the smirk.
"My car..." Tony seemed to come to a realization. "Oh god...my car! Boss, how bad is it? It's bad, isn't it... You've seen it?"
"Do yourself a favor and wait til tomorrow to worry about it," Gibbs said. "It's not the end of the world."
"Yeah, man," Sam added, "You're alive. That's what matters."
"That's what people say to people who lose their home in a fire or when their car is t..." Tony twitched, "Totaled..."
"Hey," Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder. "Told ya not to worry about right now. And unless you know a car-angel, there's nothin' we can do about it tonight."
"The Impala was t-boned by a semi a while back," Bobby spoke up. "It was nothin' but a pile of scrap. But Sam insisted we keep it an' let Dean work on it once he got out of the hospital. Dean fixed her right up."
"Really?" Tony's voice was like that of a child. "You fixed it all yourself?"
Dean grinned, "Took a while, but yeah. Purrs like a kitten."
"You shoulda seen how elated he was to get it back on the road once he was done," Sam smiled and shook his head at the memory.
"Not it, Sammy. Her."
"Yeah, whatever. I'm just sayin'; it's the longest relationship Dean's ever had with any girl," he smirked.
"Hey," Dean defended. "Same rules apply; treat her right and take her out for a good time now and then, and she'll always stick around."
"Unless a demon-god throws a car in the middle of your path as you're flying down the road," Tony said, grimly. A grimace crossed his features, "Man...I just found her, too... My first 66 Mustang was blown up and I'd been lookin' and lookin'. Finally, I found one, and... How bad is it, boss?" he turned to look at Gibbs.
Gibbs shook his head, "You're not gonna let it go til you see it, are ya?" he resigned.
"I won't be able to sleep."
Gibbs looked to the other men in the kitchen, "Is it safe enough to go out there?"
"Anyone have any visions of anymore guests from Valhalla?" Dean raised a brow in a half-joking manner.
"McGee didn't mention anything," Tony said quietly.
"And Hel didn't have an agenda to bring anyone else here," Sam added. "We might be okay."
"Yeah, well, call me crazy," Bobby said as he stood, "But I don't think we should take any chances. If you're goin' out to the garage, we're goin' with ya."
As the garage door opened enough for Tony to see the car, his hands planted on the top of his head in dismay. "Oh god..." The entire front end of the car pressed in like an accordion, halfway up the hood. The windshield barely had any glass left of it.
He felt Gibbs pat him on the shoulder before Tony dropped his arms back to his sides to walk in and check out the rest of the car. The inside looked pretty well intact.
"Maybe I can just stick in a new windshield," Tony said. "Sit in the driver seat and pretend everything's okay."
"I can hook a hitch to the front and pull you along," Gibbs smirked.
Tony let out a sound that might have been a laugh or a sob and buried his palms against his eyes. "I just have no luck when it comes to cars," he said, pathetically. Dropping his hands, he leaned into the driver side window. "Granted, most of the time it's not my fault..."
"This wasn't either," Gibbs reminded him.
"Maybe I should just start takin' the bus."
"You will do no such thing, Tony," Ziva piped in. "Put the car in the shop, and one of us will be your ride to work until it is fixed."
"Or we can fix it," Dean suggested.
"What?" Tony looked over at him.
"Well...I mean, I'm pretty sure we could. We might be here for a little while longer. In town, I mean. Sam and I, and Bobby, could help ya get started."
"I...don't know a whole lot about cars," Tony admitted. "Enough to fix a little problem here and there...but this? I wouldn't even have time, with work and all."
"Could do it over time, DiNozzo," Gibbs suggested. "I could help ya after they have to leave."
"And until then, we can give you rides," Ziva gave him a reassuring smile.
Tony looked from Ziva, to Dean, then to Gibbs, "Really? You think we can...fix it? Together?"
"Well, I'm sure as hell not doin' it myself," Gibbs smirked.
"Once I get home," Bobby said, "I'll look around an' see if I've got any spare parts that'll come in handy. I'm bettin' the boys wouldn't mind comin' back out this way to deliver 'em."
"Yeah," Dean nodded with a silly smile on his face, "What's a little 21 hour drive between friends?"
11 00 11 00 11
Later that night, Tony entered the guest room, quietly, allowing Ducky to go back to his room. He changed into some sweats and decidedly pulled a throw blanket from the edge of the bed and sank down into the chair beside the window.
"What're you doing?" Tim's sleepy voice sounded, and Tony looked over and met his eyes.
"I was uh...gonna go to sleep, McGee. What's it look like?"
"Why are you going to sleep in the chair?"
"Well..." how could he put it non-offensively? I didn't wanna sneak into bed while you were sleeping, McGoo. Ya know, bring up a really bad memory that more recently surfaced in a pretty bad way?
"I get it, Tony. I do. But I'm fine, really. Unless...you're uncomfortable sharing the bed now?"
"No!" Tony defended. "I just...didn't wanna wake you up, man. You were sleeping."
"Well, now I'm awake. So just...get in bed and shut up so I can go back to sleep."
Tony narrowed his eyes, "Bossy," he said as he stood and mock-stomped over to the other side of the bed and climbed in. "G'night, McBossypants."
"Night, Tony," he let out a small laugh, despite the annoying nickname as he subconsciously turned to face the middle of the bed before closing his eyes.
"Yeah?" he opened his eyes to see Tony was lying on his back, but his head was turned slightly in his direction.
"...For what?" he furrowed his brow.
"For uh...what you did out there tonight. Had to be tough."
"Well I didn't really have much of a choice..."
"Yeah, you did, but I get what you're sayin'. Thanks anyway, just the same." There was a short silence. "And thanks for trusting me... I don't know why you do; I give you a hard time pretty much consistently."
"Gibbs gives you a hard time," Tim said. "You trust him. And I trust you. You have my six where it counts, Tony. Even when you don't have to..."
"'Course I do. And I always will. You know that, right?"
"Yeah...I guess I do," he replied, thoughtfully. "I'll always have yours, too, ya know."
"Yeah, I know, Probie," he gave a light grin before looking back up at the ceiling. Before he knew it, he'd drifted off to sleep...
It seemed like mere moments before he was pulled from a deep sleep. But as Tony glanced at the clock, he realized it had been a couple of hours. He closed his eyes again, wondering what had woken him in the first place. Then he felt the bed shaking and heard the struggled breath of the agent on the other side of it. He sat straight up and clicked on the side table lamp before turning to look at Tim.
McGee was in the throes of a nightmare; that much was clear to Tony. He was twisting in the trap that the sheets had become around him; fists clenched on his pillow and his face contorted with fear.
Tony wasn't sure what to do, really. Waking him could result in a black eye for Tony. But leaving him to the horrors that were playing behind those closed lids seemed far worse.
Tony pulled out from what was left of the sheets over him and pushed himself up to sit on his knees before reaching out to grab Tim's shoulder. "McGee," he gently shook him. "Tim, wake up. It's just a-"
Tim's eyes flew open, then; wild and unfocused. The figure that loomed over him was blurry and unfamiliar and he struggled against the confines of the sheets around him until he was upright with his back flush up against the headboard in a defensive stance.
"It's okay, Tim," Tony said, calmly. "It's just me. You were dreaming. You're okay, I promise."
McGee blinked rapidly until Tony came into focus. "Tony?"
"Yeah, McGee," he relaxed a portion and leaned on the headboard, allowing the adrenaline to wear back down. "You okay?"
Tim dropped his gaze to the area of mattress between them and curled into himself as the memory of the vivid dream flooded back into his mind. "He hurt me..." he whispered. And Tony could hear the tears catch his throat. In fact, he could hear the ten year old child, and it nearly broke his heart.
Tony inched a little closer, allowing his legs to push out from underneath him so he could sit on the mattress with his side still pressed to the headboard. He longed to reach out and comfort his colleague, but didn't want to cause him discomfort in the process. "I'm sorry, Tim," he said, softly. And to his surprise, Tim turned his curled form to face Tony and burrowed himself into Tony's chest as silent tears made themselves known by the shaking in his shoulders.
Tony swallowed against a lump in his throat, touched by the level of trust this man had for him, and horrified by the childlike state he'd been reduced to in that moment. He couldn't help but to put his arms around Tim to settle on his back. And he couldn't know whether this comforted his colleague or himself more... "You're gonna be okay..."
Tim allowed himself a short session of tears, but found it wasn't necessary for long. In the arms of his best friend, he felt comforted in a way he'd never allowed himself in all his life; not for this reason, anyway. He'd never gone to anyone for comfort; never had someone hold him and tell him it was going to be alright. Only himself. But now...now he had that. And even if this was the only time, it would still be enough...
11 00 11 00 11
One week later...
Castiel had returned the night after he'd returned Hel to the proper world. Bobby had gone back home the day afterward, once they were sure the mess between dimensions had come to an end.
Abby, Ducky and Ziva had returned to their homes almost immediately, feeling secure enough since the Winchesters had thoroughly checked out each one, top to bottom. Tim stayed a day longer than them; mostly because Tony and Gibbs had insisted. And since Tony was at the house so often outside of work, working on the car, it seemed only logical that he crashed there; no pun intended. Especially since it seemed a bit ridiculous to make Gibbs drive all the way to Tony's apartment every morning and evening just to play taxi, when most of Tony's clothes had ended up at Gibbs' house over the past weeks anyway.
Dean and Sam had decidedly stayed in town...ya know, just in case. They'd gotten a motel room at a different place, seeing as the one they'd left a bit bloody might not be as willing to give them one again.
They showed up at Gibbs' house every evening; Gibbs suspected Abby was tipping them off when they left NCIS. It was practically perfect timing that they pulled up, usually bringing dinner by and then getting straight to work on the car. While Gibbs normally would've given her hell, he hadn't. And that was mostly because he didn't really mind, which was surprising, even to him.
The Winchesters really had no plans to do otherwise. Sam had spent the days looking for any strange signs in town or nearby. He'd limited the search to that area with no intentions to go elsewhere. It was strange, really. It was subconscious in a way.
It was a week-long vacation that was well-deserved. And they were glad that things had been fairly slow over at NCIS as well. It gave them daylight hours to work on the car. And while they could have gone over to the house to work on it before they got there, they hadn't. That wasn't really the point, anyway...
"Hey," Dean's voice caused Sam to look up from his laptop at his older brother who was sitting with his foot up on the end of the bed, lacing his boot. "It's almost six. Abby said they're on their way outta the building and she's comin' over the house. She said she's pickin' up dinner on the way, so not to bother this time. You ready to go?" his brows rose hopefully as he set his foot back on the floor.
Sam's mouth curled up on one side as he closed his laptop, "Yeah, sure."
Dean smiled as he stood and grabbed his jacket and keys. "That countershaft part we need that Bobby found should be here today," he said as he reached the door.
"He ship it to Gibbs' place?"
"Yeah. If it's here, we can start building the trans," he grinned. "And McGee said he found a fender for the right side online."
"Tim's gonna start helping out?"
"Well, he's finding stuff online, Sam. That's helpin', ain't it?" he said as he slid into the Impala and slipped the key into the ignition.
"I can't believe we've gotten as far as we have, already," Sam said as he closed his door after getting into the passenger side.
"We did the easy part," Dean said as they pulled away from the motel. "Peeling off the crap parts and piecing on the frame; that's the easy part. Putting together the stuff that has to actually work in the end, takes a little longer."
Sam's cell rang in that moment and he fished it out of his pocket. "Hey, Bobby," he greeted after checking the I.D. Dean glanced at Sam in intervals. "Really? Montana?" Sam looked out his window and Dean looked back out at the road, impatiently waiting for him to get off the phone. "You're sure?" Sam scratched his forehead. "Okay. Yeah, I'll let him know. Bye, Bobby." He ended the call and stuck the phone back into his pocket before looking over at his brother.
"What is it?" Dean asked.
Sam looked down at the seat between them with regret on his face before meeting his brother's eyes again. "Bobby says there's a lot of demonic activity going on in a town called Medicine Lake in Montana."
"Can't he send someone else there? Someone closer, I mean?"
"That's the thing," he said. "He lost contact with them two days ago. He's afraid they might be in trouble, or worse."
"Dude, it'll take like a day and a half to get there from here. And that's if we drive straight through. There's no one else? Nothing?" he was practically whining.
"He said he was giving them a few more days in case they're just somewhere without communication. But then he'll be heading out there himself, and he'll get there in 9 hours from his place. So...we can stay here till tomorrow morning. That'll give us enough time to drive there and be able to stop some for sleep." His attempt at making it seem as though they had more time and didn't have to leave right then and there, didn't really seem to help, if the expression on Dean's face indicated anything. "Dean, we have to go. You know that."
The older Winchester sighed. "Yeah," he said quietly. Then he suddenly realized what Sam must've felt like when he'd had to leave his friends at Stanford. Though that was probably a fraction of the kind of connection they'd felt with this team.
Dean had never had this kind of connection with anyone other than his parents and Sam. This would be easier for Sam, surely, as he'd done it before. But for Dean, he could already tell it would be hard. He didn't want to leave yet. Sam could see it.
"We can come back and visit," Sam suggested.
"Yeah, sure. Like we do with your buddies from school, right?" Dean didn't look away from the road. Sam pursed his lips and looked back out his window. There was no use arguing or trying to convince him that this wouldn't be so bad. Because, in reality, Sam didn't really want to leave yet either...
11 00 11 00 11
Five friends sat at Gibbs' table eating the food Abby had been so gracious to bring. She and Sam had a salad; Tony, Gibbs and Dean each had a steak. And they all had baked potatoes. It didn't take the agents long to realize that the Winchesters were mainly pushing their meal around on their plates silently. But Tony was the one to say something first.
"Something wrong?" he asked, and both of them looked up at him. "Just uh...seems you're both a lot quieter than normal."
"Nothin's wrong," Dean smirked. "Just thinkin', I guess."
"Penny for your thoughts?" Abby smiled.
"Not sure they're worth that much, Abby," he said with a small laugh.
She pursed her lips and turned her head to look at Sam who sat on the other side of her. "What's up, Sam? What's on your mind?"
Sam shared a quick glance with his brother before meeting Abby's eyes. "Got a call from Bobby today," he said as he looked back down at his plate. Then he looked over at Gibbs and Tony. "We've got a case in Montana. We have to leave tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow?" Abby's face morphed into unhappy surprise.
"That's kinda...sudden, huh?" Tony said in a tone that Gibbs recognized as disappointment.
"What's goin' on in Montana?" Gibbs asked.
"Demonic activity," Sam replied. "Bobby said there were a couple hunters checking it out a few days back. A string of murders in Medicine Lake and sulfur found at each scene."
"But he lost contact with them two days ago," Dean continued. "So Bobby's gonna meet us out there and we'll figure out what happened to them, if we can. Hopefully take care of the problem, too."
"Pretty long drive," Gibbs said.
"I don't mind drivin'," Dean supplied.
"That and he hates flying," Sam said with a smirk. "Last time we were on a plane didn't really help the issue either, though."
"You're afraid of flying?" Abby cocked her head.
"I'm afraid of crashing!" he defended.
"With everything you've seen in your lifetime, it's just a little hard to understand," Tony said.
"That's what I said," Sam told Tony.
"It's not an irrational fear," Dean pointed out.
"You can't join the mile-high club if you never fly, Dean," Tony smirked. Then he felt a smack to the back of his head and straightened. "Sorry, boss."
"I didn't say I wouldn't ever fly. I'd just like to...avoid it whenever possible. And right now, it's possible." He cut into his steak and shoved a large piece into his mouth to avoid having to talk for a minute. Gibbs couldn't help a smirk and he looked over at Tony who was now twisting his fork around in his baked potato.
"Did you get a package today?" Sam asked.
"Yeah," Gibbs replied. "It's in the garage. From Bobby."
"Dean says it's the last piece we need for the transmission. Guess we can see how much we can get it put together before the end of the night."
Gibbs nodded. Tony cleared his throat, "So, you think you'll be back in town at all in the future?"
"It's a possibility," Dean said after swallowing his mouthful of steak. "We go where we're needed. 'Course, D.C seems to be pretty quiet lately," he smirked.
"We'll be sure to call you if that changes," Abby told him. "Oh! I should...call McGee and Ziva and Ducky and let them know you're heading out tomorrow. They'll wanna come say goodbye. Would you come back here before you go?"
"You can crash here tonight, if you want," Gibbs offered. "Might make it a little easier."
"Yeah?" Dean asked. "Okay...thanks."
"I'll go pick up our stuff and bring it back here after we eat," Sam said.
Feeling a bit better, Sam and Dean resumed eating their meals at a more normal pace.
11 00 11 00 11
It was five in the morning when Dean finally decided that lying awake in his hammock was no longer working for him. And since he'd heard movement upstairs, probably the kitchen as he'd heard the water come on briefly, he pushed up to make his way up there.
"Didn't mean to wake you," Gibbs said when Dean entered the kitchen.
"You didn't," he replied vaguely. "I keep forgetting you get up this early normally," he smirked. Gibbs cocked his head slightly as he poured himself a mug of coffee, then pulled another cup down and poured one for Dean. He brought both to the table and sat down. "Thanks," Dean said as he took the proffered cup Gibbs slid toward him. He decidedly sat down across from him.
"Planning to leave fairly early?" he asked. "I can only assume, since you're up right now."
"Nah, I got up probably an hour ago. Just couldn't get back to sleep. We'll be here 'til everyone else stops by, at least." He picked up his mug and took a long, appreciative drink, then grimaced slightly, "Jesus, that's strong... What is that, jet fuel?"
Gibbs grinned, "Somethin' like that."
"That'll get you goin'. Probably in more ways than one," he smirked and took another sip. Then his smile slowly faded as he focused on the table top.
"Somethin' about that hunt keepin' you up?" Gibbs asked with concern as he narrowed his eyes.
Dean looked up at him, "Nah, not really. Just the fact that we have to go, I suppose." He hadn't really meant to say that, and it didn't come out the way he'd wanted it to. "I mean, uh...we don't really wanna leave, ya know?" he gave a half-smile as he met Gibbs' eyes for a brief moment, then quickly looked down at his coffee as he brought it to his lips again.
"Guess you don't really get to stay anywhere for very long," Gibbs surmised.
"Not just that. Sam and I, we don't really...get to have friends outside of the business, ya know? It's kinda hard to leave when you do. And in our experience, people we do meet along the way seem to end up in harm's way, even after we're gone. People die..." he looked down again, realizing that this, perhaps, was his biggest fear about leaving. He remembered, all too well, what had happened once they left Hendrickson and the others that had helped them in that jailhouse. People get killed. People that help them... Having friends wasn't an option, because friends can get killed, and it's usually because of them.
"We're not really outside of the business anymore, are we?" Gibbs cocked his head. "And we're probably less likely to get killed than the two of you," he raised a brow, daring him to challenge the statement.
Dean couldn't hold back a smirk, "You have died a lot less than us, speaking for the group," he let out a small laugh. And once again, his smile slowly faded. His eyes wandered around the kitchen, looking through the doorway out into the living room, then over out the door to the deck. Finally they settled back toward the man before him. "As much as I hated bein' stuck in here most of the time, I'm gonna miss the hell outta this house, Gibbs," he half-smiled.
"Door's always open," he slightly cocked his head, "Even now."
"Well, you don't have all that angel-protection mojo anymore, so you might wanna rethink that," Dean warned, lightheartedly. He wouldn't bring up the fact that he and Sam had placed some various, inconspicuous protective charms around the house the night before.
"I think we're pretty well covered," Gibbs said. And Dean wasn't completely surprised that the man already knew what they'd done. "You know, if the two of you ever get into a tight spot and need our help, you can call. My phone's always on, except on my anniversaries... and then DiNozzo's phone is always on."
"One of the rules, right? Never be unreachable?"
"You'd make a good agent," he told him. "If you weren't dead...or on FBI's Most Wanted list," he gave a short-lived laugh.
"Yeah?" Dean smiled at that. "Well...if life had turned out a little differently, who knows. I woulda liked that," he took a drink from his mug. "But I dunno that I'd be a good agent; I'm more of a 'shoot first; ask questions later' kinda guy. Sam, though...he'd be a great agent. He's smart, knows his stuff; he's a good shot..."
"He learned from you," Gibbs reminded him. "Don't sell yourself short."
"He didn't learn 'smart' from me. But don't tell him I said that."
"He reads more, ya mean. You're smart, Dean. You know what you need to know to get the job done. Sam makes it easier and maybe a little less messy. You make a good team. It's the same thing that makes my team a good team. Hell, I think it's part of the reason we all worked so well together in this."
"Yeah, Cas was right; we have a lot in common," Dean's eyes focused somewhere between them in the air. "I'm gonna miss you guys," he said with a sad smile as he tried desperately to avoid turning this into a 'chick-flick' moment with the lump that was forming in his throat.
Gibbs considered him for a long, silent moment before replying. "You don't need an excuse to stop in some time, ya know?" Dean met his eyes again. "Like I said, door's always open. And the two of you are welcome here anytime."
Dean looked at him with grateful eyes, though still a bit saddened. "Thanks, Gibbs," he said in a soft voice. But in his heart he knew that the chances of them being able to come see them again were slim if any at all. Funny thing about experience; history tends to repeat itself. And if history ever taught the Winchesters anything over the years, it was that they would always lose their family in the end...
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Goodbyes are hard. No matter how they said it in the end, whether it be 'See you around' or 'Til next time'...it almost always meant the same thing when all was said and done. It came with the territory of being hunter. It was a life they'd chosen. A life destined to them. A life they'd accepted and a curse they'd always have to bear.
But as they said their goodbyes, shook hands, exchanged brief hugs, they knew that destiny was what had brought them all together in the first place. Perhaps destiny would bring them back together some day again. For now, though, saying goodbye was still hard. Like leaving home and family behind to go on and live life separately, as it had always been before.
Dean turned his head from the group to look over at Tony who was standing away from the rest of them. He was facing the open garage, seemingly looking thoughtfully at the partially rebuilt front end of the Mustang. Dean walked over to stand beside him. "Send me a picture when she's finished," he requested.
Tony nodded mutely, a small smile playing on his lips. "Sucks that you can't stay 'til she's done."
"You've got Gibbs to help with that," he told him. "She'll be done in no time."
Tony nodded again. "Look...I hate these kinds'a goodbyes," he gave a small laugh that Dean knew by now was a bluff to hide whatever it was he was really feeling underneath.
"Ya know, the 'probably won't see you again in this lifetime' kind," he met his eyes briefly.
Dean had to let out a laugh at that, "That kinda has a whole new meaning now, doesn't it?" His smile faded though at the sad one on Tony's face. "Hey, man. Chances are, you'll be bailin' us outta some federal prison at one point or another, right? It's a small world; we could bump into each other. Who knows?" he wasn't sure who he was trying to convince. "Or you could try to convince Vance to open up a special department for paranormal investigating," he smirked. "We could call it the X Files division."
That got a smile out of Tony, "Yeah, but which one of you would be Scully?"
"Well Sam, of course," he said without hesitation.
"And your ghost-busting will be limited to Navy and Marine personnel on the Eastern part of the U.S. Yeah, maybe when you're thinkin' about retiring," he said with a smile.
"I think about retiring at least once a week," he smirked.
"You about ready?" Sam asked as he came up behind them.
Dean turned his head, "Yeah," he said as he tossed him the keys. "You take first drive, Sammy. I didn't get much sleep. I'll meet you at the car in a minute."
With a brief furrowing of his brow in surprise of being handed the keys, he looked at Tony and gave a small nod before heading toward the car. The two of them had said their goodbyes earlier.
"So uh," Dean turned to face Tony and held out his hand, "I'll see you around."
"Yeah," Tony shook his hand, and in a last moment decision, Dean pulled him into a hug, patting his back.
"Thanks." It was for everything Tony had done for them; for Sam. They'd come to help Tony in the beginning, but Tony had returned that favor ten-fold.
Tony watched as the older Winchester headed toward the Impala, and he absentmindedly made his way back over to his team that stood in the lawn near the car. All but Gibbs, who stood on the porch.
Dean got in and closed the door, then glanced to the team leader who met his eyes in that moment. Gibbs nodded his unspoken goodbye, and Dean returned it, then held a hand out to wave to the team before Sam pulled onto the road and drove away from the place they'd called home...just for a little while.
"You okay?" Sam asked from the driver seat.
Dean glanced over at him intending to brush the question off. But then he realized something; Sam never really knew a home or a family. Not really. Not a real one. The whole college thing was the closest he'd come, so no wonder he'd been reluctant to leave it. And by the small signs of sadness Dean could detect on his younger brother's face, he knew he'd misjudged how hard this was on him, too.
He thought back on the previous weeks of their time there in D.C. Back to the long hours of thinking he might lose Sam. Had that happened, staying in that place that felt like a home wouldn't really have made anything okay.
The fact was that he had his brother. They had each other. They were their family and anywhere they ended up, be a house full of people that welcomed them and treated them like family, or a cheap, tacky motel room with double beds and a semi-functional coffee maker, as long as they had each other, it was home. That's what mattered in the end. And that's what kept them going, even when it hurt.
"Yeah, Sammy," he grinned. "I'm good." Sam glanced at him, and his face lit up a bit to see Dean in good spirits. That's when Dean knew everything really would be okay...
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