A Call to Arms
Author: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Author's Note: Please don't be fooled by this chapter's title. It is NOT referring to a reconciliation between Sam and Jess. I'm crossing my fingers that you enjoy this tale's ending…
Chapter 19: We Never Broke Up
Caught off guard by their sudden appearance, Dean took a step back, joked, "Thought you were going to call me when you were close," trying to mask his despair, hoping they didn't have a clue where he had been heading, how low he was about to sink.
But Cas' eyes narrowed and Dean knew, knew that he wasn't fooling Cas. He barely ever could. So he turned away, kicked at the files on the floor that his rage had put there and sneered, "Was going to see if there was anything I should take before they marked it 'this property is condemned' but there's not much worth salvaging." In the office or in his life.
Suddenly Cas knew that he had given Dean too much time alone, that his friend had gone all morose, had heaped everything, all the things that had gone wrong on his own head. That Dean's words, they weren't about the office alone. Stepping forward, he snagged Dean's arm and spun his friend around to look at him. His breath caught at what he saw in Dean's eyes before Dean dropped them to the floor.
Though he and Sam had decided that Sam would tell Dean the good news about the agency license, Cas almost blurted it out, ached to do something, anything to wipe away the hurt in his friend's eyes. He was still forming words when a male voice spoke from behind him, caused Dean's eyes to snap up and look over his shoulder at their visitor.
"Hello, I don't mean to intrude…." Harry Mason's father greeted, halting half way in the doorway when he sensed the heightened emotions in the room.
Turning around, Sam stepped menacingly toward the unknown man. Didn't know who he was but Sam had read the dread in Dean's face before his brother schooled his features. Whoever this guy was, Dean didn't want to talk to him. And Sam was going to see to it that he went packing. "Sorry, this isn't a good time…" he began, eyes brimming with a warning in case the man couldn't take the hint.
"No, it's alright," Dean allowed, breaking Cas' hold and stepping around his friend and Sam to extend his hand to his client, though he didn't know if the man would even do him that courtesy, wondered what he would do in his place.
But Mr. Mason shook Dean's hand without hesitation. "I wanted to talk to you…" the man said quietly, tagged on a little scatterbrained, "…oh and pay you." And he pulled a check out of his pocket, held it out to Dean, who made no move to take it.
Stepping forward, Cas liberated their client of his check, gave Mason an assessing look. Determined that Mason didn't mean any malice toward Dean, he turned around, snagged Sam's arm and tugged him along with him to the other end of the office.
Left standing alone with Mason, Dean diffidently began with, "You didn't have to do that…" Pay him, come there to do it in person. Somehow Mason understood his meaning.
"Yes, I did. You did what I asked you to do," Mason countered, settled a sad but grateful look upon Dean.
Dean cleared his throat but his sympathy, his regret were still evident in his voice when he spoke, "I…I wish I could have done more." Silently he quantified, 'Saved someone, one last time.'
Some of the sorrow lifted in Mason's expression as he tenderly contradicted, "You did. You put the people in jail who killed my son." Then his emotions swung the other way. His eyes welled and his jaw clenched a few times before he had himself back under control, could manage words again. "I know you warned me that…." He swallowed, exhaled, fortified himself for what came next. "That no matter what you found out, it wouldn't bring Harry back. But you found out the truth, restored my faith in my relationship with my son, gave him back his honor. And that's…" he smiled a watery smile, "that's a whole lot in my book." Then, without warning, he stepped forward, hugged Dean, hard.
Too stunned to react, Dean didn't have time to return the comforting gesture before he was released. Found himself watching Mason's departure, managed a "You're welcome, sir," before his final client was gone. Out of his life as quickly as he had entered it.
Sensing movement, Dean looked to his right to find that Cas was suddenly there, like the man had been biding his time to claim that spot. "You Ok?" his friend asked and Dean could tell by the set of Cas' jaw that Cas probably wouldn't accept anything less than the truth.
"Guy just hugged me for proving his son was murdered," Dean hoarsely stated, his confusion and raw emotions painfully exposed.
With sympathy shining in his eyes, Cas quietly clarified, "You gave him the truth. And justice for his son, Dean."
A sad mocking smile turned up Dean's lips as he faced Cas. "Guess he thought it was better that his son didn't choose to leave him, instead was taken away from him." And there was a message in there, one that life had been trying to teach Dean his whole life and he was only now getting. That people left other people for a reason. Everyone knew that, everyone but him.
Not liking the personal implications Dean seemed to be taking from that revelation, Sam stepped forward, needed Dean to know that he hadn't gone anywhere, that he wasn't going to go anywhere, not this time. That he was going to make up for the mistakes of his past, starting right then.
Shaking off his outward despondency, Dean faced his audience and pulled on a smile. "So you two are finally back from your bender. Any new tattoos to boast?"
"Yeah, but none you'll see," Cas parried with an evil grin.
"Thank God," Dean drawled, rolling his eyes, didn't miss Cas' nudge to Sam with his elbow.
Raising his eyebrows in inquiry, Dean faced his brother and waited for whatever announcement Cas was prompting Sam to make.
Sam shifted nervously on his feet even as he reached into his coat pocket. "So the other day…Dad called…Cas," Sam began, quickly implicating Cas into his lie. "And …he wanted to make sure you got this," he finished, holding out a folded piece of paper to his brother.
At his brother's words, Dean's eyes flew up from the paper to Sam. But Dean remained speechless, immobile. 'It can't be…' he cautioned himself. He really couldn't deal with another disappointment.
Afraid that Dean's inaction meant rejection, Sam quickly unfolded the paper, held it up for Dean's inspection. "Dad signed the renewal. Your detective license isn't in jeopardy anymore."
Dean finally blinked. Then slowly he reached out, took the legal document from Sam's hand, saw his father's unmistakable Yoda-like scrawl at the bottom. He ran his fingers over the ink as if he needed to feel it to know it was real.
Sharing a worried look with Cas, Sam bit his lip, didn't know if he had helped his brother or hurt him. Not until Dean looked up at him with awe.
"How?" Dean stammered, was still trying to come to terms with the pardon he was getting.
"Like I said, Dad called…." Sam began but Dean stopped him, but not unkindly.
"I know my dad better than anyone. You don't have to lie to protect me, Sam," Dean announced, but there was affection in his gaze as it rested on his baby brother. He knew what it cost Sam to put their father on a pedestal, to give John credit, especially when it wasn't his to take.
Sam blushed because it was all for Dean, to protect Dean, to make sure his big brother's vulnerable heart didn't sustain another crack. But putting a lie on top of a lie, he couldn't do that, Dean wouldn't want him to do that. So he hoarsely told Dean the part of the truth that was worth telling. "He signed it because he loves you, Dean." Then his lips twisted into a sardonic half smile. "Well, in his own twisted, Marine, neglecting, obsessive way."
A protest seemed to build in Dean before he ended up giving a bittersweet nod. His smirk was almost painful and his words were a little more thready, more serious than he intended them to be, "But Dad, he's still alive? You didn't bury him in some farm's back-forty?"
"Yeah, sure," Sam vaguely replied, eye skittering away from his brother's inspection.
At his little brother's less than reassuring response, Dean drawled in warning, "Sam…." Because he had years of experience watching how his father and little brother interacted: badly. And that was before Sam left for college and John told his son that he wouldn't have a home to come back to. Now with that between them, them facing off without a referee, without him standing between them…
Instantly Dean started assessing Sam for injuries. "What did he say to you?" he growled, his protective instincts for his brother blinding him from focusing on anything else. "Sam, you know he…"
"I didn't even hit him," Sam cut across his brother's words, slowly raised his eyes to meet Dean's worried gaze. He gave a small heartbreaking smile to Dean, for his big brother who always sought to protect him, even when Dean was the one who needed safeguarded.
Wanting to take a sledge hammer to the tension in the room, that John friggin' Winchester put between his sons even when he wasn't there, Cas muttered with put upon indignation, "Yeah, because I stopped you from hitting him."
Sam opened his mouth in outraged astonishment as he turned on Cas. "Don't act all pacifistic! You were gonna rip his head off and I stopped you."
Cas calmly refuted, "Was not. I keep control of my emotions, learned that…"
"From what? Quantico?" Sam sharply asked.
Cas smirked at the very idea before he denial with playful ridicule, "Nnnnnooo." Then he jerked his head toward Dean. "I learned that from hanging around Dean. You know how many people I would have to hit otherwise. He sets people off like other people blink. This one time…." he began, laughing as a gleam came into his eyes at the memory and watching Sam salivate to get some dirt on his brother.
"Guys, can we just focus for a moment," Dean growled, didn't know when he had become a nanny for two kids.
Though Cas fell silent, he mouthed to Sam, "I'll tell you later," with a wink. Then, like he was the most angelic student in Mr Winchester's class, he gave Dean his rapt attention. Only to have Sam elbow him.
Garnering Cas' long-suffering gaze, Sam gave Cas the bug eyed look but when that only caused Cas to tilt his head in confusion, Sam verbalized, "Give him the other thing."
Almost nervously, Cas protested, "Maybe you should be the one…"
Sam gave Cas a tender, encouraging smile. The idiot had done all this for Dean and now he was too shy to own up to it. "No, you should," he earnestly replied, jerking his head toward Dean.
Pulling the form from his pocket, the one assigning Dean sole proprietorship of the detective agency, Cas hesitated. Suddenly he worried that Dean would misinterpret it, would think it signified his father's wish to cut all ties with him, another version of 'if you're going than stay gone' like John had told Sam. And he couldn't let Dean think that, not for a moment, had to take the blame on his own shoulders, "This was my idea, not your father's," he preceded before he held out the document to Dean, hoped Dean was ready for it.
Surprised and a bit confused by Cas' possessive, if truthful claim on his inspiration to transfer the agency to Dean, Sam's breath held as Dean's eyes scanned over the document. Didn't have to look to Cas to know the other man was just as tense as he was, feared that, though their intentions had been good, it might turn out all wrong.
Dean's eyes widened as the intent of the document sank in and his eyes snapped up to Cas. "Why? How did you…And Dad's not dead, right? Not in a coma?"
"Alive and well," Cas reassured, though a little grim, like a part of him besmirched the man that right.
Sam gently supplied, pride in his tone for his brother, "Dad knows you've helped more people than he ever could." 'Would,' he qualified to himself. The next second he was saddened but not surprised when Dean's eyes held denial, that his brother couldn't take the praise and accept it as truth.
"That's not true. And it's his agency…" Dean disputed, knew the hours his father had put into the business, the blood, sweat, tears it had taken before the agency got the reputation it now had.
Quietly, reverently, Cas announced, "And now it's yours." He knew it was worth all the bother when he saw the little boy wonder that seeped over Dean's features as his friend's eyes dropped again to the paper in his hands, like he couldn't believe it was real, hadn't turned to ash the moment he touched it. "Only catch is…. it comes with two staff members," Cas warned, loved that Dean's head snapped up almost supernaturally fast. With Dean's rapt attention on him, he nodded toward Sam, in case Dean didn't know who his two lucky, crazy staff members would be.
Eyes widening in shock at Cas' inference, Dean turned to Sam. "Sam, you don't…."
"…have to," Sam finished Dean's statement with a wide smile. "I know. But I want to."
Dean stepped closer to Sam, resisted the urge to lay hands on his brother, make him see reason. "Your law school, Jessica, your life is in California."
But Sam shook his head, refuted, his eyes holding his brother's. "No, it's not. It's right where I left it….four years ago."
Dean knew what Sam was doing, why he was doing it and he didn't need that type of sacrifice from his brother. More than anything he wanted for himself, he wanted Sam to be happy. "I don't need this from you, Sammy. We can stay in touch, do better with talking things through."
"Yeah, we will," Sam vowed. "Because I'm bunking with you for a while, until I can find my own place. And if you'll have me, I'll be at the agency, play copy boy, geekboy, main researcher, whatever you need."
It was Dean's fondest dream but one he couldn't have, shouldn't have. Not if it meant Sam gave up his own dreams. "You're on your way to being a lawyer, Sam. Of having…."
"…everything I want?" Sam repeated Jessica's words with a shadow of a smile, knew that he had lied to the people closest to him and to himself. Knew that he had lied way too long when Dean gave a forlorn nod. "Nope. Sorry, Dean, you're stuck with me. Like Don Henley of the Eagles said, 'For the record, we never broke up; we just took a fourteen-year vacation.'"
Dean couldn't hold back his smile. "It was Glenn Fry that said that," he corrected but he was already pulling Sam into a hug. And Sam readily went, had been wanting this moment since he had come back to Kansas, heck, since he had hit the door for Stanford.
"Well then I hate vacations," Dean muttered.
"Yeah, me too," Sam agreed wholeheartedly, his words muffled because he had buried himself in his brother's shoulder, was clinging so tightly to Dean he was waiting for his brother's moan of pain. When Dean pulled back, he had to let him go.
Releasing Sam, Dean turned his attention to Cas and his eyes clouded over with emotion. "I'm going to come off sounding like your family but…My father got me in this life when I was so young that I can't walk away, don't know how to do anything else but Cas, you shouldn't waste your talents here. The sky's the limit with your skills and background and with your family's connections…" Dean swallowed hard, knew he had to release Cas, that his friend was too honorable, too loyal to walk away from him on his own. "You've gone to the mat for me every single time. You've sacrificed enough for me, Cas," his raw emotions laid bare as he willingly let his best friend go, the man who had stood by him when no one else would, when his family had abandoned him, when he had felt like giving up, giving in.
Cas wasn't sure if he wanted to slug Dean…or hug the jerk. "Wow, you're the boss for all of two minutes and you already think you can order me around." Turning around, he pointed to John's desk. "I got dibs on your old man's desk."
"Cas," Dean implored, didn't want this brushed under the carpet, for Cas to not take things seriously, take his future, his own happiness seriously.
Dean's imploring call of his name had Cas sighing and turning around to face his friend. "Fine. You need me to spell it out. I thought the FBI was where I belonged. It sure was where my family thought I belonged and I believed that lie. Until some stubborn private detective dared to challenge my loyalties, made me decide for myself what was right and what was wrong."
"Cas I…" Dean began to apologize, knew that he was the one to derail Cas' future.
But Cas held up his hand, stopped his friend's misguided apology. "What you taught me, what you believe, the way you live your life, trying with your last breath to save everyone, it's a hard act to follow."
"Cas, I'm ….I'm screwed up….lost most of the time," Dean stammered, couldn't stand to hear compliments when he knew he deserved condemnations.
Cas unleashed a toothy smile and conceded, "Yeah, maybe. But that doesn't change anything. I've trusted you for four years. Now you have to trust me. I think I deserve that much from you."
"You do. I do.." Dean readily agreed. He would follow Cas into a burning building.
"Well, then trust me when I say, I'm right where I should be, want to be," Cas declared, watched the awe, relief, gratitude and friendship flicker in Dean's eyes. "Besides, you need me," he shrugged as if that solved it all. "Especially with the kamikaze plans you're always come up with."
Appreciating Cas' flawless switch to lightheartedness, Dean played along. "Now that I'm boss, we have to get one thing straight: My plans are awesome."
"Even when they aren't," Cas mumbled, shooting a wink to Sam before he smirked at Dean. "But don't worry, I'll run in and save you like I always do."
Dean smiled. "I know you will," he earnestly acknowledged before he engulfed Cas in a bear hug. "Don't ever change Cas," he huskily bade. Didn't want Cas to change to please his family and especially not for him. He had done that himself, traveled that path, he didn't wish it on his best friend.
"Ah, ok," Cas stammered with confusion, having no desire to change, not when who he was, the latest choices he had made had brought him so much happiness. Oh, and grey hairs, wrinkles, heart palpitations…
Releasing Cas, Dean hopped up to take a seat on John's desktop. "But this desk…is mine," he claimed. "That's yours," he stated, pointing to his old desk that was a teeny bit worse for the wear. "It's got a great view. Well, it will once we get windows again."
"A great view. Yeah, right? For snipers and gang members to take a potshot at me," Cas snarked back.. "No, I say our new associate has that desk," he suggested, jerking his head toward Sam, whose expression was a mix of happiness for being accepted into the fold so quickly and an objection to being assigned the proven kill zone in the office.
"Fine, we can always do rock-paper-scissor for it," Sam suggested, trying to be the bigger man.
Cas was contemplating that notion when Dean mumbled under his breath, "Sam cheats."
"How do you cheat at rock-paper-scissor?" Cas dubiously asked.
"Ask him?" Dean exclaimed, pointing a finger a Sam, who didn't even have the good grace to not give a smug smile.
"Dean, I can't help you always pick paper," Sam laughingly defended.
Catching Cas' smirk, Dean irately demanded, "What?"
"He's right," Cas admitted, a sparkle in his eyes as they landed on Dean. "It's always paper with you."
"So this is how it's gonna be, you two ganging up on me?" Dean challenged, focus switching from Cas to Sam and back again.
Meeting each other's gaze, Sam and Cas purposely declared together, "Yes."
"Great," Dean muttered. "Maybe your grandfather can find me a new job, Cas. Or I think I have a chance working with NCIS.
"Dean, Gabriel told me they didn't let you go after they questioned you, they escorted you bodily from the building," Cas countered, had just laughed when his cousin had imparted that tidbit to him.
Dean couldn't help but smirk. Actually, he was proud of that fact.
"So there's also the matter of the shotgun seat in the Impala…" Cas began as he faced Sam, let the kid know that he was going to have to fight tooth and nail to get a claim on the spots in Dean's life that had been his alone for so long.
"I'll race you around the block for it," Sam offered almost innocently.
"Yeah, right. I have cracked ribs and bruises and…." Cas stopped his litany when he saw Sam's devious smile.
"I know," Sam brashly admitted.
Cas' smile grew slowly but the wattage was awe inspiring. If Sam was willing to do what he himself had done to prove his place at Dean's side, to take a pick and axe to Dean's wall until Dean let him in, do whatever he could, as long as it took, to earn Dean's trust, then he knew that everything was going to be alright.
"I'll take my chances with paper-rock-scissors… for the desk," Cas allowed, wasn't going to risk getting hoodwinked so easily for the shotgun seat.
"Well, since you boys are playing so nicely together, I'm going to go get a drink…" Dean stated, started to head for the door but he was instantly flanked by his brother and friend.
"Ah, no. You're taking medication…" Cas contested, casting Dean a reprimanding look.
"No. No, I'm not," Dean denied but Sam was suddenly dangling a prescription bottle in his face.
"Yeah, Dean. You are," Sam sternly pointed out, because Dean was going to take his pills like a good little boy or else he and Cas were going to give him a demonstration of just how well they could double team him.
Exasperated, Dean grabbed the bottle from Sam's hand, mostly to get it out of his face. "I don't take orders from you, Sam," Dean petulantly snapped.
Sam was about to give a stinging retort when Cas gave a negative shake of his head from Dean's other side. And Cas's lazy Cheshire cat smile boasted that he knew how to handle one stubborn, mule headed Dean Winchester.
"Sam, you're gonna love hearing about this case where we had to take this little plane ride…" Cas began, couldn't temper his smile when Dean glared at him. He down right gloated when Dean, with a defeated curse, promptly opened the persecution bottle and swallowed down a pill. "…. some other time.." Cas finished, let Dean know that he was ready and willing to play that blackmail card, just not yet.
Watching the unpredictable exchange between his brother and Cas, Sam almost spoke but didn't. He didn't have to know the details of their give-and-take to understand them. After all, he knew first hand that love, loyalty and brotherhood had a language all of its own.
Agitatedly stalking out of his agency door, Dean wondered if he knew what he was in for, running the business, being responsible for two people's lives on the job, trying to deal with Cas and Sam mothering tendencies. It was going to be….
'Great,' Dean concluded, hoped he hid his smile from his two already smug companions.
He put on a long suffering sigh as he stopped in front of the Impala, gave a hairy eyeball to Sam, who had used his long legs to slip past him and now had the passenger door of his car open like he was his personal doorman.
"I can start the plane story from the top…" a voice said behind him and he shot a glare over his shoulder at his smirking best friend. Knowing when he was beat, he sank into the passenger seat, found that he wasn't even to be allowed to close the door himself.
"Control freaks, both of them," he muttered under his breath. Then, reaching a hand out, he caressed his baby's dashboard, felt something in him shift, change, ease. And when his two traveling companions joined him in the car, he finally identified the feeling: contentment.
So maybe getting shot hadn't been the most auspicious starting point for a life changing event, but it was turning out to be one of the best things that had ever happened to him. Because through it all, yes, his father had proven his true colors…but so had Cas and Sam.
It was Cas who had been the first person he saw when he woke up in the hospital. It was his best friend who, though he objected to his plan, about carried his weak, wounded, nearly useless carcass to his house.
And it was Sam that came rushing home to him. To see him, to protect him, to save him.
Suddenly the words that his mother used to tell him as she tucked him into bed no longer seemed a lie. She had said that angels were watching over him. And maybe they were. Maybe they came in the guise of little brothers and best friends. Like his did.
"So about this case with the plane ride…" Sam began to prod, shooting a scheming smile his brother's way.
"Cas, shut up," Dean lobbed to the backseat even before Cas could draw breath.
But Cas was undiscouraged. "Fine. I have other stories." Reveling in the glare Dean sent to him in the rearview mirror, he posed to his newest family member, "Sam, did you know that your big bad brother's afraid of rats?"
"I'm not afraid of them! I just don't like them," Dean heatedly refuted, to which Cas immediately began to wage his counter attack of proof.
Shrewdly keeping out of the fray, Sam didn't interrupt the bickering but he couldn't hold back a smile. It was great to have a family again.
I want to send out much love to all my generous reviewers! Without your kindness and direction, this story would have remained yet another unfinished tale on my computer. And thanks to everyone who spent time with this story, for letting me entice you into reading another one of my 'out there' AU plotlines.
It's been an awesome ride! And who knows, the Winchester Investigations gang may make another appearance down the road. Goodness knows, they aren't going to stay out of trouble….
Have a wonderful day!