The Legacy: The Ties That Bind

By Ridley C. James

Beta: Tidia

Disclaimer: Nothing Supernatural belongs to me.

Words: 3.800


"By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong." -Charles Wadworth

Dean turned at the sound of the screen door, watched as Caleb struggled to make his way out onto the porch with his plate and drink in one hand. His right arm was in a soft cast secured by a sling so not to jostle his injured shoulder. Dean resisted his first instinct to come to his best friend’s aid.

“You could offer some help here, Deuce.”

“That would entail me getting up.” Dean kicked back in the porch swing, managing a smile as Caleb made it to one of the rockers without dropping his food. “I’m not buying into the poor pitiful me racket you got going on.”

“What?” Caleb put on his most innocent face, made more believable by the bruises and white bandage across his forehead. “I’m not faking the broken arm or the superficial damage, Dude. I could have been killed.”

“True.” Dean kept his poker face in place, unwilling to acknowledge the botched hunt had shaken him. Caleb had been working with two inexperienced hunters, and Dean felt responsible for not being there to watch his back. Between working at his garage in town, managing the boys, and keeping up with Brotherhood business, Dean couldn’t exactly take on minor, spur of the moment hunts. He could divide his attention, but not even The Guardian could physically be in more than one place. “And you’re enjoying taking advantage of it.”

“Are you accusing me of working the injured angle?”

Caleb had taken advantage of JT’s party, playing on the women’s sympathies. Dean gestured to the ridiculous slice of birthday cake, banked with three scoops of chocolate ice cream. “Did Juliet dish that out or was it that woman Carolyn invited?” Dean snapped his fingers. “What was her name? Lidia?”

“Lidia." Caleb rolled his eyes, nearly spilling his drink as he leaned forward to place it on a planter. "Despite being hot and having legs up to her neck, that chick scares me. Way too intense and no taste in men. Maybe it’s a European thing, but she seems to go for the geeky, ugly type.”

Dean laughed. “Meaning she’s into Sammy?”

“Looks like.” Caleb balanced the Batman plate on his knees and dug into the cake with his uninjured hand. “Her loss. Juliet fixed my plate for me. I got the second piece of cake after the birthday boy.” He gave Dean a lascivious smirk. “Your woman offered to feed me.”

“Don’t get too excited.” Dean snorted. “I’ve seen her get up around the clock to nurse orphaned baby pigs. She’s notorious for taking pity on the most disgusting creatures.”

“She did hook up with you.” Caleb took a drink of green punch made in honor of JT's current favorite color. “After you told her Sam and I were gay and in a relationship, I might add. Her options were limited.”

Dean grinned at the memory. “If I remember correctly, she thought I was very open-minded and supportive of my best friend dating my little brother.”

Caleb licked black icing from the back of his spoon. “You were smart to knock her up before she could learn the truth about you.”

“Lucky for you, too, or there would be no cake today.” JT had been a surprise, one that forced Dean to prioritize.

“I can’t believe JT is five.” Caleb shook his head.

“At this rate, his godfather won’t be around to see him turn six.” Dean was only half joking.

“Stop with the girly pouting, Deana. I’m good. Everyone lived to fight another day.”

Dean leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. The two hunters in question would not be getting rings anytime soon. “I told you to take Sam or Ethan with you when training rookies.” He appreciated Caleb’s dedication, but he also didn’t want his friend to end up another statistic in Riley’s chart on the Knight's fatality rate.

“You suggested it.”

“What you call a suggestion, The Guardian calls an order.” They had officially been the Triad for almost a decade and Caleb still had a problem with following the chain of command when it inconvenienced him.

Caleb ignored the reprimand. “It blows my mind that the rug rat will be in kindergarten this fall and Ace will be a senior.”

Dean grunted at Damien’s cunning redirect. “Tell me about it.” He rubbed the back of his neck, not sure if being a father or The Guardian was more stressful. Juliet often joked that Caleb and Sam were Dean’s oldest children. He was beginning to think she was right.

“He’ll be going to college soon.”

Dean shook his head. Sam had driven that fact home by bringing over the Stanford catalogs that morning. “The first time I saw Ben was at his eighth birthday party and now he’s almost ready to strike out on his own.”

“That’s a good thing,” Caleb mumbled around a mouthful of cake. “Right?”

“I guess.” It was one more situation Dean couldn’t control.

“You don’t sound so sure.”

“This next year will fly by.” It wasn’t like with JT and James where Dean had been witness to first steps, first words. His youngest sons were still babies in his eyes, easy to shelter and protect. Dean hadn’t found out the truth about Ben until his son was already a young man. Missing out on all those years in between was his biggest regret. He couldn’t blame Lisa. She was doing what she thought was right for their son, and it was damn hard to be pissed at a dead woman. “Sometimes when I think back to that whole changeling gig I wish I had pushed Lisa a little harder, demanded to see the results of that alleged blood test.”

“You weren’t exactly in the best place to be making demands, Deuce. There was the deal, and then Lucifer. You saved Ben’s life. If you remember anything about that time that should be what you focus on.”

“I could have gone back after the war.” He looked at Caleb. “I knew that kid was mine, whether I was too afraid to admit it or not.”

“You believed what you needed to believe. You did the best thing for Ben at the time.”

“Maybe.” Dean wanted to believe his subconscious and his heart had been in the right place.

“If you’d gone back you might have missed out on Juliet, and in turn, JT and James. Ben would have missed out on them, too. Jim always said things happen for a reason, man. We're all living proof of that. ”

Dean knew Caleb was right, but it still didn’t make the facts any less painful. “There hasn't been enough time.”

“Dude, he’s just going to college, not to war. He’ll still be your son. Nothing’s going to change that.”

“Thanks.” Dean rubbed a hand down his mouth. “I think you gave me the same little speech when Sammy ran off to Stanford, Damien.”

“Sorry.” Caleb shrugged. “I know it didn’t make you feel any better back then either.” He gave Dean a grin. “We can always go to my place in New York, stay drunk and play video games for a week.”

Dean shook his head, refusing to be drawn from his sudden melancholy. “I can’t protect him if he’s a thousand miles away.” Dean was all too aware of the fragility of life, especially when it came to the people he loved. The protectiveness he had always felt for his family magnified when he became a father.

Caleb stopped eating and arched a brow. “That sounds like Johnny talking.”

“Yeah. Well maybe Dad was right.” Dean stood, leaning against the porch railing. He was getting a whole new prerogative on the situation his father had faced, a new appreciation for what Jim Murphy had endured from the sidelines. “This letting go thing sucks.”

“If it’s protection you’re really worried about, you know I can arrange to have hunters shadow him. He’s The Guardian’s son. It’s warranted.” Caleb placed his cake aside. “But if it’s something more...”

Dean sighed. “Something’s on his mind and for the first time since he came here, he hasn’t come to talk to me.” Ben was an easy kid, even as a teenager having lost the only parent he’d ever known, he’d flowed with the situation, adapted smoothly. Dean worried that maybe things might have gone too smoothly over the years. He was afraid what his son held back beneath the even demeanor, and worried he had let it slide out of guilt over not being there when Ben was growing up.

“What do you want me to do?”

“See if he’ll talk to you.” Dean met Caleb’s gaze with a slight smile. “See if you can manage it without further injury.”

Caleb picked up his plate, handing it to Dean with a wink. “Piece of cake, Deuce.”

“I’m glad to see your sense of humor was the one thing that went unscathed.”

“Don’t get too cocky.” Caleb stopped at the door, shooting Dean a grin. “My charm is still intact too, not to mention my six pack abs. Juliet promised to play doctor with me after the party. I think she’s reconsidering running away with me since James has ventured into the terrible twos.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Make sure she checks on that concussion again. I think you’re still delusional.”

Caleb snorted. “Whatever it takes to make you feel better, Deuce.”


Caleb wrapped his knuckles on the door before sticking his head inside. “Can I come in?”

“You bet.” Ben looked up from his computer, flashing a familiar grin. Caleb had never met Ben’s mom, Lisa. From the pictures he’d seen, the kid was a fifty-fifty mix of her and Dean with Lisa’s dark hair, but Dean’s green eyes and freckles. His laid back demeanor was his father’s. Dean hadn’t called Ben his mini-me all those years ago for nothing. “I think your previous tenant’s rights are still active.”

Caleb nodded to the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign on the door. “I wasn’t sure who that was directed to.”

“Mostly little brothers,” Ben said. He rolled his chair away from the desk. “And their annoying friend who never seems to leave.”

Caleb assumed Ben was speaking about Max, who would have lived at the Winchester farm if Joshua and Carolyn had permitted it. “Does it work?”

“I’ll let you know when they all learn to read.”

“Nothing I tried kept your dad and Sammy out of here.” Caleb entered the room, which hadn’t changed a great deal since it once belonged to him. The walls had been painted a deep ocean blue and were decorated with typical posters for Ben’s age. One was of the Indiana Hoosier’s basketball team, and a vintage AC/DC that had Deuce written all over it. He was surprised Amelia’s painting remained. One of Caleb’s model bridges still had a place on top of the bookshelf in the corner, a sentry of tiny dragon statues with one lonely troll guarding it. “I even tried locking it for a while, but Dean could break into Fort Knox by the time he was JT’s age.”

Ben stood, raking some clothes off his mattress onto his floor where he kicked them under the bed. “I’m sure you had your hands full.”

“You know how it is.” Caleb took a seat, again amazed at genetics. To not have lived with his father very long, Ben not only had Dean’s mannerisms, but his slob like habitation instincts. “Can’t live with them, not exactly sure what you did before they came along.”

Ben reclaimed his seat at his desk. “It was definitely quieter in Indiana. Even with the kids in the neighborhood, I had a lot of alone time.”

Caleb picked up a framed picture of Dean and the three boys from Ben’s nightstand. It had been taken at the beach the previous summer. Looking at it one would never guess at the history behind the happy family. “Sometimes a guy needs some space of his own.”

Ben shrugged, pulling at the relic Foo Fighters tee he was wearing. “If things get too crazy I head to the barn and take Icarus out for a ride.”

Caleb gave Ben credit. The kid came into an instant family, one with a two-year-old baby brother, a father he’d met only once and his father’s girlfriend who was at the time pregnant with baby number two. “I used to escape out there too, but I headed down to The Pit with my boom box instead of going near the horses.”

Ben quirked a brow. “Boom box?” His voice took on the teasing quality he shared with Dean. “Did you practice your break dancing why you were down there? I would have paid to see that.”

Caleb snorted. “You should really aspire to get past that crippling sense of humor you inherited from your old man.”

“I’m not sure that’s genetic.” Ben batted his eyes innocently. “Mac says Dad got that from you.”

“Yeah, well, that was a vicious accusation started by your grandfather John because he didn’t want anyone to know he’d spawned such a smartass like Deuce. If the truth be known, I think your grandmother Mary passed it down.”

“I wish I’d been able to meet them. I feel like I’ve missed out on so much.”

Caleb smiled. “Johnny would have been crazy about you.”

“I never had grandparents. You know it was always just my mom and me.”

“It was the same with my grandmother after my parents died.” Caleb glanced up at the painting that used to hang in his grandmother’s room. “When she passed I thought I was alone for the long haul, but turned out I ended up with more family than I knew what to do with.”

“Life’s strange.” Ben smiled. “I asked my mom for a baby brother once and when she bought me a hamster I figured I was a sure bet for an only child.”

“And after living with JT and James you understand the wisdom in your mother’s choice.”

“Family can be complicated.” Ben picked up a crayon drawn picture Caleb guessed was JT’s handiwork and flashed it in The Knight’s direction. It was a crude rendition of a family, complete with M&M shaped people, house, dogs, stick horses and a smiling sun. The pride in Ben’s eyes was unmistakable. “But they are definitely worth it.”

“They are.” Caleb raised a brow. “That doesn’t explain why you’re hiding out up here, ditching your little brother’s monumental fifth birthday party,”

“I’m not ditching.” Ben gestured to the computer. “I just had some things for school I needed to get done. It’s taking a little more time than I thought.”

“I thought school was out for the summer?” Caleb said.

“It is, but Uncle Sam said it’s never too early to start on the college application thing, get a jump on the other seniors.”

Caleb snorted. “I think Sammy started his freshman year.”

“He told me about Stanford.” Ben pointed to a stack of catalogs. “He brought me some information. They have a great medical program.”

“Anything else leaping out at you?” Caleb wasn’t sure Dean could handle losing another person to the academic juggernaut of the West. California was a long way from Kentucky.

Ben picked up a colorful brochure. “Baylor, where Elijah teaches, is definitely in my top five.”

Caleb nodded. Texas was closer, both Ethan and Eli Matthews lived there with their families. It would make for a smoother transition and Dean could rest easy if the kid was being watched over by their friends.

“The research they’re doing is cutting edge, but Juliet went to the University of Colorado. She still has contacts there. Then there’s Cornell, and of course Johns Hopkins.”

Caleb thought New York sounded even better than Texas. Sam had finished his degree up at NYU, staying at Caleb’s place in Greenwich and making the commute back to the farm on long weekends and holidays. “Dad went to Cornell and Johns Hopkins.”

Ben’s eyes lit up. “I know. He’s told me all about it.”

“I’m sure he did. He’s been waiting for a doctor in the family ever since I crushed his hopes by becoming an architect.” Caleb ran his thumb over his silver ring out of habit. “You know Mac used to think your dad would have made a great doctor.”

“Dad said he never really considered it, but I want to be a doctor more than anything. After my mom…I just…”

Ben hesitated and Caleb felt the stab of emotion from the teen. He cleared his throat. “You just want to spare anyone else that kind of pain.” Caleb might not have had the aptitude for medicine, but he understood all about losing a mother. Ben shared that common denominator with him and Dean. Caleb wasn’t sure which was worse, losing a loved one in one sheer moment of terror or watching them fade away, slipping slowly from your life without a hell’s chance of stopping them from being taken. “You want to save people.”

Ben looked at the computer screen. “Like what you, Dad and Uncle Sam do with The Brotherhood.”

“You don’t have to be a hunter to make the world a better place, Kiddo.”

“That’s what Dad says.”

“Is that what’s bothering you? You think you have to choose one or the other?”

Ben sat up straighter, a stubborn set to his jaw. “Who says something’s bothering me?”

“Kid, I’ve spent the better part of my life studying Winchesters and I’m a psychic.”

Ben sighed. “Really, it’s not the hunter thing. I mean Dad has made it clear I can do both or not be involved in hunting at all.” He gestured to Caleb’s injured arm, battered face. “It’s not like the cause doesn’t need medical professionals.”

Caleb redirected the jab. “Then what’s eating at you?”

Ben gestured to the screen. “Like I said, I was all set to work on applications, psyched you know, and now I can’t even make it past the first section.”

Caleb frowned, leaning forward to glance at the screen. Things might have changed in the years since he’d gone to school. “Tough essays?”

“I’m talking about the first line.”

Caleb squinted, leaning back so the words became clearer. He refused to take his father’s advice and admit his eyes weren’t exactly what they used to be. “I hate to break this to you, Ace, but if you can’t get past the ‘Name’ part then I think med school may be out of the question.”

Ben groaned, letting his head bang on the desk. “It’s stupid, I know.”

“Why don’t you tell me what’s holding you up?”

“Dad.” Ben turned so he could look at Caleb, but left his head remaining on his folded arms. “Dad’s holding me up.”

“Dude, Deuce may be freaking out a little about you flying the coop, but he wants you to go to school.”

Ben lifted his head. “Dad’s freaking out about me leaving home?”

Caleb silently berated himself for not using his abilities and simply reading the kid. “That’s not what you’re talking about?”

The teen shook his head. “I don’t know whether to use my mother’s name or Winchester. Dad’s never talked about it, not even when I got my driver’s license.”

“Did you ask him about it?”

“No. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do back then.” Ben sighed. “Dad and Juliet were so good to me, letting me come to live here without any kind of drama. They made me feel like this was my home.”

“This is your home,” Caleb said. “It always will be.”

“I get that now, but back then I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I didn’t want to make any waves or to you know…”

Caleb did know. “Mess it up?”

“Yeah.” Ben fiddled with the leather bracelet on his wrist. “I didn’t want to make Dad feel guilty or push him into doing something he really didn’t want to do.”

Caleb knew for a fact how his best friend would have responded to his oldest son’s concerns, but Caleb also remembered the first year he came to live with Mac. “When Mac adopted me, he never once asked me to take his name. When I went in to talk to the judge and she asked me about what I wanted on the papers, I told her to leave it Reaves because I didn’t think Mac was ready to tell the world I was his. Hell, at that time I don’t think I thought I deserved to be an Ames.”

“Mac never brought it up?”

Caleb smiled. “I don’t think he wanted to make any waves or push me into doing something I really didn’t want to do.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “That your completely subtle way of telling me I need to talk to Dad?”

Caleb reached out and slapped the teen’s leg. “I haven’t spent most of my life studying Winchesters for nothing.”

“But do you think Dad would want me to change my name to Winchester?”

“I don’t think your Dad needs for you to have his last name to prove you’re his son.”

Ben wasn’t going to give up. “Do you think Mac would have been happy if you took his name?”

“Okay, Kid.” Caleb leaned forward. “Just between you and me, thirty years later when I finally made it legal and changed my name to Ames, Mac cried like a little girl.”

Ben frowned. “But you still go by Reaves.”

“I told Mac what I did. He’s the only one that really mattered in the first place.”

“You didn’t even tell Dad?”

“Nope.” Caleb smiled. “Only Mac. And now you.”

Ben gave him Dean’s trademark shit-eating grin. “Cool.”

Caleb gestured to the computer. “So, what are you going to do?”

Ben reached up and turned the screen off. “I think I’m going to talk to dad after JT’s party.”

“Smart kid.” Caleb stood, hesitating by the door. “But that stuff with your dad freaking out about you leaving… just remember you didn’t hear that from me.”

“Got it.” Ben knelt down beside his bed and pulled a wrapped present from underneath.

Caleb grinned. “Johnny’s going to love the camera.”

Ben snorted. “Dad’s right about you having the occasional good idea.”

“Are you kidding?” Caleb tossed his good arm over Ben’s shoulders and guided him towards the stairs . “I’m a genius when it comes to presents. For instance Father’s Day is coming up and I know how you could score some major points with your old man.”



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