Scrapbook (a family album)
Page 5 - Going to the Chapel of Love
Supernatural, all audiences, future-fic.
Characters: Dean, Sam, Sarah, John, Daniel Blake
Set in eighth-horizon's Salvation universe, by permission (possibly by coercion).
The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the WB. This is a fan authored work and no profit is being made. Please do not link to this story without appropriate warnings. Please do not archive this story without my permission.
Going to the Chapel of Love
John Winchester met Daniel Blake exactly one time in either of their lives. He saw him twice but only met and spoke to him once.
That first time had been when Sam and Sarah got married. He knew Sarah slightly better than her father, but only because by that point, Sarah was as much a fixture on Sam as his youngest son's smile
A smile he'd seen a lot more often, come to think of it.
He hadn't intended to go to the wedding. Easy enough to claim he was busy; was caught up in an investigation of vanishing corpses. That much was true but he'd already about come to the conclusion that the body-snatching wasn't the work of either a necromancer or a wannabe zombie master. It looked to be more and more like the work of modern day grave robbers, smuggling dead bodies out of the country for some less than well funded medical school outside the US borders.
But still, he wasn't sure.
He'd gotten the written invitation. Downside to a permanent address.
He'd gotten a phone call from Sam -- with its usual stilted appeal. Sam still hated asking John for anything. John still hated that no was the answer more often than yes.
He'd gotten another call from Sarah. Unexpected. Odd assurances. "It's not going to be a big wedding. Immediate family. A few friends. You don't have to do anything but be here," she said, and there was not an ounce of begging in her voice. "It would be nice to see you in some context other than one involving ghosts, vampires, or evil spirits."
The one from Dean had been the hardest. "I swear to God, Dad, if you don't show up for this thing, I'm never talking to you again. It's got to be worth something for you to see Sam happy. And he is. You should see that. He should know you want to see that."
The threat had been idle, John was pretty sure, but the reasoning was pretty sound. It almost worked.
He doubted he'd ever tell Sam or Dean or Sarah the real reason he showed up for the wedding.
"Mr. Winchester? This is Daniel Blake. I'm Sarah Blake's father -- the young woman who is determined to marry your youngest son, Samuel."
"I know who Sarah is. And it's Sam."
"So he's made clear. On several occasions. I'm sure, if he actually plans on pursuing his law career, that will change soon enough."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that. He's pretty stubborn," John said with a certain amount of pride he'd never admit to Sam. "What can I do for you, Danny?"
"It's Daniel. Or Mr. Blake since I sincerely doubt we'll ever need to get beyond the formalities of introduction. I'm assuming you are aware that the wedding is scheduled for the 16th. It's going to be quite a small affair, only the most essential of personnel. I'd rather have been able to invite some colleagues and business associates as well as the usual friends, but it's not quite the kind of marriage I had envisioned for my only child. Her mother would be appalled."
"Excuse me?" John said. "Sam's a good a man. Better than I'll ever be," he said before even checking himself.
"Yes, well, hardly the height of recommendation, John. I'd expected better for my daughter than the son of an itinerant adventure seeker. Now, regarding the wedding--"
"You don't need to worry about me embarrassing you. I'm not coming."
"You aren't? Oh, well in that case, you've made this call much easier than I expected. Sarah and Samuel and your other son seemed to be quite sure you would show up. I was hoping to forestall any such awkwardness. Well, that's good, then. I don't need to take up any more of your time. Good day to you."
And he'd hung up.
John had stared at the phone for a long time, astonishment and rage taking up equal parts of his attention, until the disconnect tone had caused him to thumb his cell off.
He made the drive in three days and managed to find himself a decent suit, better than a Brooks Brothers off the rack by hitting a Goodwill outside of Cincinnati where the cast offs were from a class of people of better economic status.
A barber in New Paltz had trimmed up his hair and beard, and really, finding cheap Waterford Crystal wasn't that hard if you knew what junk stores and pawn shops carried the best stuff, and while it wasn't exactly essential, a well made silver cross was the same no matter what you paid for it. He hadn't made it in time to make whatever rehearsal dinner there was and he was fine with that. Trying to figure out what fork to use was a waste of his time and energy.
The invitation had the address of the small church being used and John got there while the photographer was still setting up on the lawn.
There were a half dozen people outside the church, all of them dressed well but not as ostentatiously as he feared. There were no tuxes, only sober dark suits. He only recognized two people, and was suddenly glad he came regardless of the reason.
Missouri hadn't changed much, even all dressed up in brilliant jewel tones and a fancy scarf draped over her bosom. But she was holding fast to Dean's arm, making him laugh. Dean looked good, hair trimmed, the suit he wore, with a boutonnière and a simple black tie against a white shirt brought up memories John wasn't prepared for. He didn't really look any different and John tried to remember when he'd last seen his eldest son. Maybe a month, because Dean had shown up on his doorstep and they'd talked about John's latest case and Dean's class load. It hadn't been awkward and but it hadn't been easy either.
Dean had offered to help him on the investigation of bodies -- it was his field of study now, after all, but John hadn't really wanted his help although maybe, maybe, he would have liked the company. There was little enough to occupy John's attention -- a situation that was good and bad. Good that there at least seemed to be less evil crawling around the shadows and corners, bad because John didn't quite know what to do with himself.
He still didn't.
It took him a moment of staring at Dean and Missouri for him to realize Dean was staring back at him, expression caught halfway between whatever he'd been saying to Missouri and the beginning of a smile. The corners of his eyes crinkled, and his chin came up, a look John knew so very well, when there was so much that Dean wanted to get out, to say, only to choke it back behind whatever notion of restraint he'd developed far too young in order to protect himself.
Dean squeezed Missouri's arm then, started to pull away and John took a half step toward them.
"John Winchester, I assume," someone said just to his left and John was startled -- hadn't noticed anyone getting that close.
John had a good memory for faces, for voices, for details. Daniel Blake was probably a good foot shorter than him and even so, he stood just far enough back so that he didn't actually have to look up to meet John's eyes.
His suit wasn't from Brooks Brothers either, and John was pretty sure that his whole suit was silk and not just the trim. He was clean shaven and clear eyed, but he couldn't be much older than John so it as a sure bet that artfully crafted temple-grey was coming out of box and not good genes. "I'm so glad you could make it," Blake said and John stared at him, missing the hand extended to him at first.
The man smiled and that sharp eyed glint in his eye turned more amused.
"Son of a bitch," John said, and finally offered his hand. Blake's grip was firm and dry and brief.
"Yes, well, my mother had that tendency but all in all she was a delightful woman, if a bit formidable. My daughter takes after her I fear."
"I'd noticed that," John said and he couldn't even be pissed off. He'd been played and played well. He'd have to look at that, to examine how someone knew him not at all had managed to find the right combination of pricking his pride and agreeable disinterest to get him to come cross county to witness something he wasn't sure he wanted to see.
He probably needed to look at that as well.
"Dad." Dean was there suddenly and Blake stepped back inclined his head and walked back toward the church.
"Hey, kiddo," John said. If he was going to be pissed off about this he'd do it later. He was here and not even at the deepest darkest points of his life could he deny how good it felt to see the mix of joy and gratitude in his oldest son's eyes. Dean was always so self- contained, cool and detached -- maybe even more so than John had ever managed, but all that studied remoteness faded in the face of family. The barriers were thinner, the mask transparent and he felt the burn in his own eyes at Dean's open and unfettered grin and the shimmery brightness in the green eyes.
Dean was rock solid in his arms, fit as he'd ever been, fitter than John was at the moment. Recovered and moving on -- all visible wounds healed from the showdown with the thing that had ripped a hole in John's life and left him with only two small boys to fill the gaping chasm where his Mary had been. The not so visible one might never heal, but hey were hidden now.
It had never been a good fit, never seamless or comfortable, but God in heaven how they'd tried, Dean especially. All his life, changing and adapting to be what John needed, what Sammy needed and glad to do it. Or so John had always thought. Maybe he'd just never tried hard enough to see beyond that mask.
Only now, in 20/20 hindsight, could he really see that there should have been another way. His sons were never meant to be nor ever could be a replacement for their mother. Sam had realized it first, without ever knowing what it was that was such a bad fit, struggling and stretching to find a place, some place, something that wasn't leftover bits of love and fear. And Dean trying desperately to hold that cobbled patch together. IT had almost gotten them all killed -- maybe worse had hey failed and John was sure now that it had less to do with him than it did with his boys.
They'd all been torn apart -- even Sam, too young to even know his life had been ripped in half.
Where John had ailed with himself and his boys, they'd managed to succeed together. It put him outside, he knew, and maybe it was just punishment. He'd screwed up his own life in ways that were even now still demanding resolution. That he'd screwed up theirs as well was a bitter side effect that he could take responsibility for but still be unable to find proper restitution for.
Although seeing the gin on Dean's face, maybe this was a start and Daniel Blake was a craftier bastard than John gave him credit for.
"Sam's gonna be…"
"Shocked or pissed off?" John asked, quirking the corner of his mouth up.
Dean laughed and it occurred to john that he'd heard that more often over the last couple of years. It was infectious and reassuring to hear it now. "Surprised but glad," Dean said clapping his shoulder. "Sarah, too. We didn't think--"
"Sometimes your father is a stubborn ass," Missouri said, having waited long enough. She had a white rosebud in her hand and leaned in, gripping John's lapel and deftly pinning it in place. "But he's a good man for all that. It's good to see you, John."
She actually looked like she'd rather give him a tongue lashing, and maybe he should let her. He hadn't spoken to her but maybe three tines in the past two years. She had a little more gray in her hair, but then again so did he. He leaned forward to kiss her cheek. "Good to see you too."
Music started to drift out from the small chapel and Dean tugged on his arm. "Come on. Sam needs to know you’re here."
"He's got other things to worry about--" Missouri gave him a not so gentle shove.
"He's nervous enough without any surprises. I'll wait for you at the door," she said as Dean pulled him along the sidewalk to a side door.
It was no more than another small narthex, restrooms and cloak room to one side. John hesitated, seeing the minister talking to Sam, before smiling and patting his shoulder. He looked good, hair neat if still too damn long, wearing a suit that looked like he'd had it tailored --which he had probably done for once. Shoes shined and shoulders back. And still, all John could see when he looked at him was the boy, the child he'd been, chubby cheeked and laughing -- sometimes the only laughter John heard for months was Sam's. Dean too serious as a child and Sam for awhile, nothing but his baby boy. Mary's last gift to him. He'd forgotten too easily when Sam was older.
Sam turned to watch the minister walk away and stopped.
John had never been able to read his younger son as well as he could Dean. And maybe that was part of the problem all along - that he'd kept Sam apart -- the baby, the one who needed to be protected. The unknowing and unwilling center of all the tragedy in their lives. He could honestly say he'd never once blamed Sam, never laid Mary's death or the subsequent years of grief and anger and loss and struggling to push forward at Sam's feet.
Sam had been about nine or ten when John realized he never had to. Sam had, despite their best efforts managed to find his way to guilt and remorse and a level of responsibility that was very different from what Dean had taken on. Not so much responsibility for family in terms of food or clothing, or the fact that Sam had been outgrowing his clothes almost as quickly as Dean could replace them.
Sam had taken on everything else: grief and loss and anger, and the horrible unanswered question of why them? Why their family? And it was no wonder John hadn't seen it -- too much a reflection of himself to be seen clearly.
Sam had always been a little too smart for John to argue with effectively and a little too emotional for John to feel comfortable with. It was reflected in his face now -- a whole range of emotions flashing across Sam's face, in his eyes, in the sudden tension in his body and then release of that tension as his reaction settled. "Dad."
"Hey, Sammy. I hear you're getting married."
Except for this emotion -- this sudden breaking in Sam's expression and the flash of white teeth from a smile so broad and bright that John's face ached in response. He'd never been able to resist Sam's smile -- the joy in it so much like his mother's. A smile Sam had never seen save in photographs.
He would never get used to how tall Sam was, how he had to bend to hug John and how easily he did it. That wouldn't have been true not so very long ago, and there were bridges John knew they'd never be able to repair. But the Winchesters were a crafty lot. If they couldn't find an easy way to bridge a gap, they'd do it the hard way.
There was a lot John wanted to say, and Sam looked like he would burst from the words he was keeping back, but there was a tap on the door, an usher telling Sam it was time. "Dad…"
"Go get married. I'll be here…"
Sam shook his head. "No…stand with me."
It took John a moment to understand what he meant and denial was already on his lips when he felt Dean's hand on his arm.
"Please," Sam said, trying to make it sound more like a request and less like begging.
"I wasn't here for the --"
"We walk, we stand," Dean said and John found himself being propelled along between the two of them. "You answer one question. I've got the ring."
"It'll mess up --"
"Do not make me get my gun," Dean said with an amused cockiness that made Sam laugh.
"I'd rather you shoot me," John said but he didn't resist any further, only took a deep breath as they approached the side door to the chapel. He'd faced down demons, devil dog, vampires, ghost, psychopaths and werewolves. Why the sight of a flower bedecked church rail made him sweat, he had no idea.
It blurred mostly. Much like his own wedding, which had been far less elaborate for all that Sam's wedding was, as Sarah promised, on a small scale. But parts of it he remembered with crystal clarity even years later, and for that alone he owed Daniel Blake the best damn bottle of whiskey or wine he could find.
The Sarah he saw walking down the aisle on her father's arm was not the girl he remembered meeting months earlier. She was elegant and sophisticated and beautiful and John didn't need to look at Sammy to know his son was well and truly smitten or even to know that maybe, just maybe, they were all really going to get a chance to start over. If not him, then his sons. Mary would have liked that. And she would have liked Sarah.
When he'd first met his future daughter-in-law, she'd been in jeans with her hair in two pigtails, handling a short barreled shot gun like a pro, and trading snarks with Dean and whispered laughter with Sam. Her nails had been clipped short and she'd actually taken orders from John without any lip but with raised eyebrow. She'd stayed back when he told her to, but hadn't been uneasy covering them and playing lookout while they'd put to rest the five brothers a haunting a campground outside of Denver.
She'd been as dirty as them, giddy with adrenaline and unimpressed by other tales of ghosts and jobs. Over beers and burgers, he'd gotten the story of how'd they'd met and when, listening more than talking as much because the conversation, unlike others with his sons, had not been only about hunting, or the next job. Other bits had snuck in, blindsiding John with talk of school and the course of study that Dean was pursuing, the catch-up work Sam was having to do to make up for the years lost between his push for a future and being tripped up by their mutual past.
When they talked about jobs then, John had to pay attention to know that not all of them involved darkness or the supernatural.
The boys had gone to play a game of pool -- against each other -- and Sarah had picked up another round of beer. "So… Sam says there's not as much to hunt."
John had shrugged. "Seems quieter. Maybe before a storm."
"You really think that?" she'd asked him. She wasn't making conversation.
"I don't know. I don't subscribe to the newsletter."
She'd let that pass. "What's your gut tell you?" she asked.
"I'm not in the prophesy business, Sarah."
"No. That's apparently Sam's gig," she'd said. She didn't back down and she didn't back off.
He'd eyed her, wondered if she knew what she was in for. "It doesn’t stop just because you have plans."
"Then making plans won't make any difference will it?" she'd shot back at him. "I'm moving to Palo Alto, to be with Sam. You should know that, in case you come to visit."
"Sam know this?"
She'd smiled at him, impish and still unfazed by his gruff manner. He wasn't being rude, really, but…something in Sarah's manner made him wonder why she wasn't taking it that way. "He does. So, there will be a guest room. Or at least a guest sofa."
"Is that an invitation?"
"Family doesn't need invitation. Just letting you know."
"Family? I don't think we're family."
"We will be," she said and the impish grin was gone and John found himself facing someone who'd slipped from girl to woman in the bat of an eyelash. "Family is important. To me. To Sam, to Dean. They got that from someone. I thought it was you. So…if you're in Palo Alto."
"Hunting a few ghosts in a campground doesn't make you ready for this life," John said and poured her another beer.
"Hunting ghosts and demons doesn't prepare you for any other kind of life either," she said and toasted him with her beer. "But like most things it can be learned."
He'd sipped his beer instead of answering, then slid from the booth. "How are you at pool?"
She grinned, dimples and white teeth. "I'd like to get better."
John didn't fumble his response, and Dean didn't fumble with the ring, even if he did roll his eyes at the relatively chaste kiss Sam gave his new bride. "Come on, Sam, you can do better than that," he'd muttered.
John had coughed and Sarah had grinned. "Yeah, Sam…you can do better."
Sam had blushed a little but he'd taken the challenge or the bet.
Missouri Mosely's "Hallelujah," from the second row got the whole gathering laughing and John had hazarded a glance at Daniel Blake only to look away quickly.
He sat alone on the front pew, the absence of his wife as obvious to John as the lack of Mary at his side was to John.
Maybe he and Daniel Blake had more in common than not.
The reception was as informally formal as the wedding. Sam had graciously surrendered the first dance with Sarah to her father and Daniel Blake in turn had surrendered his daughter to John's arms.
"Thank you," she said against his cheek.
Looking at Sam's face, and Dean grinning like he and he alone had engineered this whole thing had prompted John to be demonstrative as he usually wasn't. He'd kissed Sarah's forehead. "You still got that sofa bed?"
She'd grinned up at him. "Anytime."
John had never really planned to return to New Paltz. His second visit there, though, hadn't required anyone to call him and ask him to come. Sam had called him, to let him know, because they'd be gone for a week or more.
John had called Dean. "You planning on going to New York?"
Dean had been surprised. "Yeah, I'm leaving in the morning."
"Why don't I drive up and meet you."
It had been a familiar drive, he and Dean trading off on the actual driving time so they wouldn't have to stop overnight. John was getting a little old for marathon drives and he was stiff and tired by the time they arrived, but it was worth it, if only to see his granddaughters.
Not that he needed to drive cross country to do that and he made a note to remember that fact.
Sarah had been reserved but still warm, grief and sorrow something that showed most clearly when it was just family. Sam hovered close and constant and John and Dean herded the girls, who were a little bewildered and uncertain as they usually weren't. Leigh of all of them seemed to want to cling to John -- mostly because at six, her memory of her Granpa Blake was hazy at best. She was reacting to the grief of her parents, more than anything.
The second time John Winchester saw Daniel Blake, he was laid out in elegant splendor in his coffin, the signs of age far more advanced than they'd been the first time they met. If anything Daniel Blake looked tired as well as dead.
John understood that. But with Leigh clinging to his neck he thought maybe he could stand to wait few years a longer.
He'd never bought Daniel that bottle of whisky, but in the house Sarah had grown up in, given his own room and not a sofa bed, he broke into Daniel's own private stock and toasted a man he wish he'd maybe known a little better.
When Sarah and Sam and Dean came into join him after the last mourners had left and the girls were all in bed, he asked, for the first time of his daughter. "Tell me about your Dad."
Sarah smiled and settled back into the curve of Sam's arms and sipped her whiskey like a lady. "He'd have kicked your ass at pool."
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