Chapter 6: All Grown Up
Beta: That Girl SixAuthor's Note: You will see mention of Ridley's story Growing Pains and my story Interwoven. Thank you to my beta who suggested the idea of this story because she wanted a past story with Joshua's ring.
Joshua resented the Winchester children. If Caleb hadn't insisted on coming along and then bringing the two heathens with him, he would have found the Black Dog, killed it, and returned a hero.
However, that plan quickly vanished when it became darker and Sam needed to find the proper foliage for his private moment. He had long since agreed that children should be seen but never heard. The adage held particularly true in the case of the Winchesters.
In order to protect them, he turned to the craft with much hesitation as he heard the internal snickering of his father, the distrust of his peers, Ian and Fisher. He used his blood to bind the circle, which Dean flaunted by getting injured in his foolish haste. He knew the injury, no matter that they were back safely at the cabin, would have ramifications for him. So when John Winchester berated Caleb, Joshua stomached his fear for the man and defended Reaves. He was marked for less than mediocrity in The Brotherhood, since Jim would never forgive him his trespass.
Therefore, he was unable to hide the surprise on his face when Jim handed him the ring.
"I remember when you were a teen and I gave you The Secret Grimoire of Turiel . Do you remember that?"
"Yes." He still owned the book. It was on a shelf in his apartment with the rest of his materials.
"I always hoped you would use your gifts, and trust your true self. Perhaps using them to protect others is the first step." Jim held out the silver band on the palm of his hand. "As is coming to the defense of comrades to right a wrong."
He stared at the ring. This was the moment, yet he wasn't quite sure he wanted the responsibility of the life in The Brotherhood, not now. His mother said the decision was up to him when the time came she would support whatever his heart told him to do. His grandfather flashed in his mind. He had been only five years old when Maxim had died, but his grandfather had left an imprint on him. Joshua put the ring on his finger.
Jim smiled and squeezed his shoulder. "Your father will be proud."
Joshua nodded, but knew the moment to make his father proud had long passed; he suspected Jim wasn't naïve enough to think otherwise himself. The thought was nice, though. So instead he enjoyed the feeling of belonging. He talked animatedly with Boone, then figured he would impress the Winchester boys. Perhaps with a ring on his finger, they would respect him. It couldn't be that difficult to get respect from such small hunter-wannabes, even two as annoying as the Knight's.
He entered the room with a cocky swagger. "All you need is a couple of ferrets and a sword, and you'll have a good gig going on. I can't wait to tell Ian and Fisher." Joshua had overheard the conversation; Sam was telling Dean about Caleb's new-found ability to influence animals.
Caleb shared a look with Dean. Joshua wondered if Caleb was planting thoughts into Dean's mind. "And here he is now, the newly pinned sorority girl. Go ahead and show it to them so they can get some sleep."
"Show us what?" Sam sat up, peering intently at Joshua. "Did Daddy hit you? Have you got a black eye?"
Joshua ignored the glee in Sam's voice. "For your information, young Winchester, you are looking at the newest member of the Brotherhood." He lifted his hand, flashing his silver ring.
"Jim let you in the club? For getting us lost?" Dean said with an insulted snort.
"No," Joshua snapped at the boy for forgetting what he had done in the clearing. "For protecting you."
"You remember, Deuce." Caleb nodded with a grin. "When he wiggled his nose and recited that spell."
"Incantation," he corrected. He did not belong to a coven. He had tried to explain the differences, but no one wanted to understand or took interest. "I don't do spells."
Caleb leveled a stare at him. "And here I thought that's why Jim finally gave you your ring. Because you were being true to your gifts…not trying to pretend to be something you aren't. Plus you tried to cover my ass. Thanks, by the way."
Joshua took in a deep breath. Jim had said the same thing to him, meaning his mind was being infiltrated. "Does privacy mean nothing to you, heathen?"
Caleb shrugged, glanced around the room. "I could ask you the same thing, bad manners. No one invited you in."
He did not need an invitation to enter a room in Jim's cabin. He assumed the ring meant he was welcomed. "I have as much right to be here as you do."
Caleb raised a brow. "Right back at you, Josh."
Joshua did not bother to clarify the distasteful shortening of his given name. He would not win in a contest with Jim's best boy. He was not fool enough to think a ring would mean he was forgiven. "Whatever."
"Do you have a broom?" Sam asked, breaking the tenseness. "Or a cat? Because most witches do."
Caleb laughed. "He must, Sammy, because apparently it's gotten his tongue."
Joshua struggled to find a response to correct Sam. "I'm not a witch. I just…it's only…I know witch-like things." He sighed. "Why am I even explaining myself to you? You're five."
"Wait much longer and everything he says will be over your head, Sawyer."
Joshua tired of the verbal sparring. Reaves could be mentally taxing. Add in his sidekicks and he was exhausted. "The only reason I came in was to tell you John and Boone want to talk to you about the Dog's lair. We'll be leaving as soon as it's dark."
The Black Dog was tracked easily by the four men. There was no further discussion of rings or congratulations. When he was safely rid of all Winchesters and Reaves, Joshua was happy to be heading home after a quick visit to his mother first.
She should know, since she never asked him why he had not received a ring when he turned twenty-one. He appreciated the lack of questions and pressure. He had expected a ring earlier, but that had coincided with Caleb hunting for the first time away from John Winchester. The opportunity evaporated with each strike against the younger teen.
He liked to think Jim never told his mother what happened that particular weekend. He was never going to bring it up again so it would remain a mystery. His mother must have noticed the change in him, his disinterest in the Brotherhood and the craft for a year while he immersed himself into his college life. College was a good excuse for the lack of availability to hunt.
Joshua was also trying to get over the disappointment he felt in his father. Harland knew about what Ian had done to Caleb. Joshua saw the fake grim expression, recognized it from growing up, watching how society expected a reaction to bad news. However, if the bad news didn't involve Harland directly, he was not going to empathize. It was after Ian told the story with Fisher's interjections while Joshua remained silent his stomach twisting that Harland gave a nod, fake expression etched on his face, then added a pious "you did what you needed to do."
"Yes, Sir," Ian had replied. "I was planning on telling Griffin, go to Atlanta to pay him a visit."
"That'd be a good idea," Harland nodded. "I have to take Joshua back to school."
His father had said it as if Joshua was being inconvenient, just like him not getting a ring was thwarting his plans for his son. He wasn't the son Harland wanted, he never would never be. Joshua wished Jim could understand he was disappointed Jim had pushed him. The pastor could not replace his father; Joshua would not stand against Harland. It had been an impossible situation.
This time he was seeking pride from his mother, then he would call his father. Harland would probably already be alerted by then. He'd be able to keep the conversation short, which was the Sawyer men's way.
Joshua knew it was late or early depending on one's point of view as he pulled up in front of his grandparents' old two level colonial that he'd grown up in after his parents' divorce. He would be waking his mother, but it was too late now. He was still working off the adrenaline rush of the hunt. Jim had suggested he stay, but out of the hunters in the cabin, he was the only one with full time employment. If he was lucky he'd be able to take a nap before heading off to work.
He called on his cell phone first. His mother answered on the second ring. Joshua wondered if that was from her constant worry for him or because of how she grew up worrying in general. "Yes?" She sounded alert.
"Mother, I am downstairs. Can you come to the door?"
He could see through the glass in the door that she still held the cordless phone in her hand as she came down the main stairs. She wore a blue robe over her nightdress with matching blue satin slippers. She gave him a quick once over even as he offered her a smile through the window to ease her.
"What a pleasant surprise." She hugged him tightly, then ushered him inside in the light of the foyer. She scrunched her nose on closer inspection. He really did need a shower after spending time in the woods and in a rustic cabin. "You were on a hunt. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, but I thought I should stop by." He dropped his gaze to his hand.
She glanced down and lifted his hand, placing it on her cheek, then closed her eyes.
He didn't move. "Mother?"
"You're a part of The Brotherhood." She moved his hand down but still kept it in her grasp.
"I am." Joshua thought of his grandfather, the picture of them fishing together on the mantle. His grandfather had been The Knight. He would never hold that position, but didn't want it or crave the responsibility, especially after seeing what inheriting the position from Winchester would entail.
"And you're happy?"
He couldn't decipher the look on her face, questioning if it was sadness or disappointment. "Yes." At least now he would not be an embarrassment for his parents. He was living up to his mother's legacy. Joshua wanted to make her happy since she had always put him first.
"Does your father know?" She released his hand, taking a seat on the staircase, looking up at him.
Joshua rubbed his chin. "I wanted to tell you first." His mother was more important. She was the one who in his presence never said an unkind word about his father. His father could never be so gracious.
She clasped his hands in front of her. "He's proud of you. He'll probably want to pass out cigars like when you were born."
Joshua felt the weight of being his father's only son. "I have to get home." This job was important as his first out of college. He was lucky to find a PR firm in D.C.; it made a great stepping stone.
"Joshua, is this what you want?" She stood up. "Because I will always be proud of you no matter what you do with your life."
She would not be proud if she knew what had happened to Caleb, what he had witnessed, and what some people would believe he had been a party to all those years ago. He felt he owed it to her to be a better person; part of that involved being in The Brotherhood, which involved his father. It was a vicious circle. "It's a part of our family."
His mother tilted her neck. "You look like your father, but I think you have a lot of your grandfather in you. Speaking of your grandparents, you need to call your grandmother."
His grandmother had just moved to Arizona to an assisted living residence. "She will want me to visit her just to show her the ring."
"Any excuse to see her favorite grandchild," his mother laughed.
Joshua shook his head. "I'm her only grandchild."
"And she spoils you."
He did not deny it. He realized his grandmother spoiled him, but so did his mother. "You should go back to bed. I'll come by next Sunday."
"Brunch?" his mother suggested, then glanced at his hand. "Unless you get called away by The Brotherhood."
Joshua tightened his hand into a fist. He understood why a ring was chosen as the symbol of a hunter of The Brotherhood, why his mother gave him an out if need be. A break would be like a divorce with all its hardships, worse as he became more vested over time to do what was expected of him.
He kissed his mother on the cheek. "Goodnight, Mother. Thank you for