"Reaching Out" by Ridley C. James
(Missing Scene for Long Distance Call)
“Love from one being to another can only be that two solitudes come nearer, recognize and protect and comfort each other.” -Han Suvin
Dean stepped out of the motel room and slammed the door. “Hello,” he grumbled to the universe. Their dead father could be reaching out from the great cosmic beyond and Sam’s big comeback is ‘Hello’. Wasn’t Sammy the sensitive one? Wasn’t he the king of touchy-feely girly conversations? What the hell?
Dean ran a hand through his hair and let his feet have free reign. Of course this was Dad they were talking about. Even if Sam and their father had formed a half-hearted reconciliation before his death, Dean supposed he should be grateful Sam’s greeting wasn’t more along the lines of ‘screw you’. He wasn’t all together sure their father wasn’t deserving of it. But it was hard to be angry at the man, especially when Dean missed him so damn much when he needed him so badly. The sound of his father’s voice only unearthed the dull ache Dean had managed to bury under the weight of his deal.
Dean’s short journey across the parking lot found him at the doors to the motel’s front office. His thoughts were still racing and he decided the complimentary coffee was probably a better idea than the six pack calling his name.
The clerk barely glanced up as the hunter made his way toward a small table bearing the ancient coffee maker, powder creamer, and a rainbow variety of sweeteners. Despite the pungent aroma that told him the brew had most likely been sitting there half the day, Dean chanced taking his black. He wasn’t like Sam who often had more milk, whipped foam, and flavoring than the hard stuff, nor did his tastes run the gambit of Caleb’s, who took four packs of sugar to every eight ounces.
Dean filled his cup, swearing as some sloshed over the rim biting his fingers. At least it was hot. He fingered a packet of sugar, smiling to himself as he thought about Damien’s prejudice against anything not plucked from a sugarcane field. A sudden burst of nostalgia had him stuffing the wrapper in his pocket, his fingers brushing against his cell phone. The echo of his father’s voice tugged at his heart.
Dean wrapped his fingers around the instrument of his current torture as he made his way to the small alcove away from the clerk’s desk. He took a seat on the couch that had seen better days, ignoring the same musty smell that permeated his and Sam’s current living quarters.
The coffee table was covered with a light coat of dust and decorated with a faded flower spray which had a creepy resemblance to a funeral arrangement. Dean shuddered at his own morbidity, shifting his focus to the display of colorful brochures featuring a wealth of ‘fun and entertaining’ sites to check out and things to do.
It was the bright and shiny tri-fold proclaiming the world’s most breathtaking natural bridge that cinched the deal. His finger hovered over the number two button on his phone for only a second before he hit the speed dial that would connect him to Caleb.
Dean took a drink of his coffee, waited for the ringing as he silently recanted the familiar mantra of ‘pick-up’.
Dean rested his head against the wall. “Where you at?”
“Hoodoo country, should I even ask?”
“You can ask, but I can’t tell. What’s going on? Where you at?”
“What’s in Ohio besides the ghosts of the Wright Brothers?”
Dean snorted. “Other ghosts.”
“You guys working a regular gig?”
Dean didn’t miss the surprise in his best friend’s voice. He knew Sam and Caleb were keeping in constant contact about the leads they were checking out to break Dean’s deal. “Dude, can I ask you a question?”
Dean closed his eyes, took a breath. “If you could talk to Dad…I mean say you could just call him up right now, what would you say to him?”
“That’s one hell of an odd question. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Just answer the damn question.”
He could imagine the look on Caleb’s face, an odd mixture of worry and concentration, knowing the man was trying to read him. Dean sighed. “Come on, Dude. When we were in Wyoming, when you…you know, you said you saw Dad -- that you talked to him.”
“I did. But that wasn’t exactly a conversation of my choosing. Although I did ask about that promotion he never gave me.”
Dean smiled. “Still parleying for favor. Sounds just like you.” He raised his head, took another drink of the strong brew. “But let’s pretend you could reach out and touch the Corporal. What would you talk about?”
“Well…I guess I’d ask him who he thought would win in a battle between George S. Patton and Ulysses S. Grant.”
“Come again.” Dean sat up straighter. It wasn’t ‘hello’, but still... “What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“Believe it or not, Johnny and I did have some damn good conversations when he wasn’t yelling at me or ranting about something I’d screwed up that is.”
“And you talked about dead generals?” It made an odd sort of sense.
“Not always generals. Sometimes it was brilliant strategists, past presidents. Hell once we even debated on who’d make the better hunter, Chuck Norris or Sylvester Stallone.”
“No. I’m serious, Dude. Johnny would out of the blue say, ‘Junior, Sun-Tsu or Alexander the Great? Come on, Kid, General Lee or Washington?’ ”
Dean grinned at Caleb's immitation of John , picturing his father. “Let me guess. He’d pick the opposite of whomever you chose.”
“Don’t you know it. Then he’d come off with this extensive rebuttal illustrating why his choice was by far the better one.”
“And you’d end up feeling like an idiot.” Dean waited, unsure when Caleb didn’t reply. “Damien?”
“Honestly? I’d end up feeling safe.”
Dean swallowed thickly. “Safe?”
“It took me a while to figure it out, but it came to me one day when we were on this crazy hunt for a banshee. I was still green, only about fifteen and the way the thing screamed…well, it scared the piss out of me. While we were laying in wait for it your old man throws out one of his fantasy gauntlets and before I know it I’m defending Geronimo’s honor while Johnny rattles on about The Duke.”
“John Wayne was fearless.”
“Kind of like your Dad. He had a way of making me feel that way too. The battle bullshit was just his jar head way of telling me everything was going to be okay.”
Dean listened to the deep exhale across the line. Caleb sounded tired.
“I could use some of that bravado right about now.”
“Yeah.” They all could. Dean rubbed his eyes. “I miss him too, man.”
“Deuce, you sure you’re okay? Do I need to come to Ohio?”
“No.” Dean shook his head even though he knew Caleb couldn’t see him. “You need to keep doing what you’re doing. Sammy’s expecting a good report when we hook up next week.”
“And I want to hear all about Ohio. Speaking of which, Ulysses S. Grant was born there.”
“You don’t say.” Dean leaned forward, perusing the brochures again to see if anything about the general caught his eye.
“Orville and Wilbur aren’t the only native sons.”
“Son of a bitch,” Dean said as a museum pamphlet captured his attention. He set his coffee down, picking up the flyer.
“Thomas Edison is from Ohio.”
“You suck at this game, Kiddo. I don’t really think a freaky inventor would be much of a match for Grant on the battlefield.”
“Shows what you know.” Dean quickly read over the information, his mind latched onto the legendary spirit phone. Coincidences were rare in their line of work. There was an address for the local attraction. He could at least take a drive and check it out. “You might be surprised at the reinforcements the old guy could call in.”
“Let me talk to Sam.”
Dean heard the unease loud and clear. Caleb thought he was over the edge. “Dude, I’m not crazy. I just got a lead on this case. You’ve been a big help.”
Dean stood, taking the brochure with him. He tightened his fingers on the phone. “More than you know,
“You sure you’re okay?”
“I’m sure, Damien. I’ll call you back later.”
Dean was not okay. They had finished off the beer, watched the game. A normal night, except nothing was normal anymore.
He glanced to his brother’s bed. Sam was asleep, the glow of the muted television casting a faint light on his bruised features. His mind unconsciously summoned the image of Sam’s lifeless face after Jake had stabbed him at Cold Oak. He couldn’t stop the shiver that raced through him; looking away he took another long pull from his third beer.
The hunt was over, mystery solved. Bad guy was dead. Innocents protected. The world safe for another day. But Dean was still going to Hell. That reality scared the shit out of him.
It hadn’t been easy to admit. Dean strived to emulate John Winchester whenever possible. However the incident with his father, the run-in with the traumatized dad bent on destroying the monster that had killed his little girl, rubbed at his usual defenses. He wanted…needed something.
Sam was always saying he should talk more about his feelings, and in the past Dean consistently refused, using humor and sarcasm to smooth over the cracks in his armor. Now jokes fell flat, wit worked as well as butterfly bandages on a chest wound. Dean didn’t know what he was doing wrong. He didn’t know how to ask for what he wanted.
Dean was certain of one thing. Vocalizing his fears to his brother had somehow seemed to give them a life of their own, some magical power over him. He didn’t know if it was because the deadline was drawing near or that every damn lead they tried failed to pan out. Dean felt desperate. Dean didn’t do desperate.
He took the last drink of his warm beer, fighting back the building panic. It was okay. Sam was just across the room. Dean took a deep breath, laid back on the bed.
After his mother died, Dean was afraid all the time. Every truth he’d known ripped away, all safeguards destroyed. John was the one who hushed his fears away, reassured him he was protected. Promised he’d be okay.
Dean wanted his Dad.
Dean needed his Dad to make things alright. He wanted the heroic rescue, whether it was crazy or not. Dean wanted to keep the blind faith in his father. Dad saved him from the yellow-eyed demon. He’d clawed his way out of the pit to keep his boys safe. The belief the man might be able to pull off another miracle helped hold the fear at bay.
The kind of fear that gnawed at Dean’s defenses more each day, made it hard to sleep at night. He couldn’t keep the thoughts of torture out of his mind, the idea of being in enemy territory with no back up. Helpless. Hurting. Alone. Rose had given him a taste of what it would be like. She took pleasure in promising Hell was a million times worse. He wanted to suck it up, accept his fate like a man, but found himself feeling far more like a frightened little boy.
Dean jumped when the phone rang. His gaze instantly zeroed in on the caller ID, heart in his throat fluttering with hope. He closed his eyes when the familiar number appeared, quick to answer before it woke Sam. “Damien.”
“Who do you think would win if Superman caught Batman screwing around with Lois Lane?”
Dean let his head fall back on the pillow with a choked laugh, his disappointment fleeing. “That’s one hell of an odd question.”
“I say Batman.”
Dean snorted, his heartbeat returning to normal. “You would. Rich pampered bachelor, all broody and shit. Ringing a bell here, Caped Crusader?”
“Like you don’t get a kick out of the fact Kent’s a Kansas boy.”
The shadows started to recede. “He does have that going for him.”
“If you don’t want to get into capes and utility belts, there’s always Hannibal versus Julius Caesar.”
Dean stretched, propping a hand behind his head. “It always comes back to swords and tunics with you, Dude.”
“It’s a Knight thing.”
The fear started to subside. “It’s a gay thing.”
Dean smiled to himself. “We both know Hannibal would have kicked his Roman ass.”
“No way. They still use Caesar's plans to take Gaul in training generals today”
“I didn’t see your man astride a monstrous pachyderm. Hannibal rode an elephant. How can Caesar trump that?”
“One word for you, Deuce…Cleopatra.”
got me there, Damien. Definitely the sweeter ride.” Dean laughed,
suddenly feeling a whole lot braver, a little bit safer because maybe
it wasn't his father on the phone, but his dad had still given him some
hope, reaching out in his own special way.