"No, listen to me carefully, senator. You're willing to spend twenty percent of the annual national budget on the Department of Defense, but you spend less than half of that on the physical and mental well-being of American veterans."
"He’s at it again," Dean mumbled to their eight-month-old daughter balanced on his thigh.
Castiel stood and paced the hospital waiting room. "To be perfectly blunt, senator, that's not good enough. I've seen the VA's health care budget in detail," he argued, his voice growing strained with the urge to lose his temper. "Who gave you those numbers? You're telling me a boldfaced lie, senator. Of the forty-eight billion allotted to the VA health care budget, only two billion has been given to veterans seeking post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury treatment."
"Papa's getting riled up," he whispered to baby Lia, who giggled from behind her hot pink binky and flapped her arms excitedly. "I know, right? Papa taking charge is pretty fun."
He heard Dean, apparently, spinning on his feet and smirking around the iPhone glued to his ear. "Yes," he said after a lengthy pause. "Yes, senator. I suggest you go over the budgets again with your committee if you don't want further negative international attention focused on the increasing suicide rates among American veterans. Thank you. Goodbye." Finally, Castiel ended the call, shaking his head at his phone and muttering, "What a dick."
"Hey," cautioned Dean, "little lady's gonna start talking in a few months."
"And who taught me to call people dicks?" Castiel retorted with an arched brow as he simultaneously scrolled through his email.
A nurse with a sleek bob and bright turquoise earrings appeared in the waiting room. "Mr. Winchester?" She glanced at Castiel. "And Mr. Winchester. Come with me, please. Amina and her family are ready for visitors now."
"Great, thanks." With a smile - something Dean seemed to do a lot more in the last five years of family life - he balanced Lia on his hip, an arm looped around her waist, and followed the nurse. As they wound through hospital corridors, he snatched the ever-present iPhone out of Castiel's hands and stuffed it in his back pocket. "Family time," he said. "Your foundation can wait a few hours. You don't want to miss these things."
Offended blue eyes softened after a flare of defiance and he nodded. "You're right. I'm sorry."
"It's cool, Cas," he replied with a dismissive hand.
As a human man for a little more than five years since the war between God and the Virgin Mary, Castiel threw himself into his work with the single-minded devotion inherent to being an angel. Long hours, government gala dinners, charity functions, endless lobbying, and contributing to the media saved thousands of veteran soldiers from slipping through the cracks. Dean supported him and even donned uncomfortable tuxedos for some events, knowing it was the universe's way of showing him what it was like to love someone so obsessed with their work.
For the most part, Dean scaled back his hunter duties to that of an adviser, researcher, and director so he could be home with the baby. Fighting in the Virgin Mary's war made him lose his taste for life on the road, though he sometimes still took trips when younger hunters needed his expertise. Being forty going on forty-one, and Castiel nearly forty-four, made them a little old for weekly battles with monsters. Besides, they couldn't be so reckless now that they had a baby of their own, adopted from a teenage girl the very day she was born. Lia Mary Winchester gave her daddies a reason to keep going, to keep loving each other, and to keep loving their family.
The nurse led Dean and Castiel to a hospital room and stood aside. "Here you go," she said with a smile, "and congratulations."
"Thank you," replied Castiel, smiling back.
Dean clutched his little girl as he ventured into his room and poked his head around the bed curtain. There lay Amina cradling a brand new baby in her arms with Sam sitting beside her on the edge of the bed. He held their older child, 21-month-old Bobby, with an arm tightly gripped around his middle.
"Hey!" Sam greeted exuberantly through a bright smile.
Wasting no time, Castiel moved along the other side of the bed and kissed his sister's cheek. Cast out of Heaven for her loyalty to him, Amina embraced humanity much faster than he did. She was the missing piece to their family and Sam liked to say he got his own guardian angel after all.
"I've got another boy, Dean," said Sam, his eyes fighting back emotion.
"You're gonna have a football team in a few years at this rate," Dean teased as he hugged his brother around the shoulders, careful not to crush Lia between them.
"They said he's a little small for being full term," Amina explained, "but he'll be okay. He has Sam's nose, I think."
"Sammy was small too. Now look at him." Smirking, Dean leaned over for a good look at the tiny pink thing swaddled in a hospital blanket. "Lia, say hi to your cousin. Can you wave?" He waved at the newborn for her and she mimicked him in a matter of moments. "Good job! Hi, baby cousin..."
A little underweight, maybe, but Winchester men were stubborn and he would certainly be fine. Amina went through hell with four miscarriages to have her two boys and Dean regarded her as a mother as great as his own.
"Have you decided on a name?" asked Castiel.
Exchanging looks, Amina and Sam slowly nodded as if they weren't sure. She stroked a thin wisp of brown hair on her new baby's head and said, "We think maybe Henry Dean."
"Wait, what?" Dean asked, uncertain if he heard that right.
Sam merely smiled. A new little life, Henry Dean Winchester, named after his great-grandfather and his uncle, was born in Lawrence, Kansas that morning.
Their little house even looked welcoming in the dark of night. That was a big selling point for Dean - a home without monsters or ghosts that let a lot of sunlight come in and had a great kitchen. He unlocked the door and flipped on the living room light as Castiel followed close behind carrying a sleeping Lia on his shoulder.
"Want me to put her down?" Dean asked quietly.
"I got it," murmured Castiel, rubbing her back and headed upstairs.
He smirked. "You just hate packing."
Across the hall from Lia's nursery, which Amina did in a butterfly theme for them, Dean resumed organizing the suitcases in the bedroom he shared with Castiel. Leaving for more than a day or two proved too hard for the one-time angel, so Dean suggested they travel as a family for the first time.
Another penguin suit. More speeches. Long lines of wounded veterans that needed Castiel's attention. They were headed to New York City the next day, despite Dean being petrified of flying, but keeping them together outweighed the phobia. Castiel traveled a lot but never for more than a day or two if he could help it. There were apparently a week's worth of meetings and events waiting for him in New York though. Dean's husband became a force of nature in the Democratic party in just a few years. He swelled with pride every day, of course, but he certainly never expected his life to divert down that road. Sometimes he chuckled to himself, wondering what the VA or the Department of Defense or an endless parade of congressional and senate committees would think if they knew Castiel Winchester had once been an angel of the Lord.
"She didn't even wake up when I changed her diaper," Castiel said as he came into the bedroom. He left his rectangular glasses on the dresser, a necessity that came with turning forty, and yanked his shirt over his head.
"She sleeps hard like you," commented Dean over a suitcase.
Naked arms snaked around Dean's abdomen from behind and Castiel nuzzled his neck. "I appreciate you flying with me," he murmured. "I had to tell you before I forgot. Going away for a week without you or Lia was too hard. So thank you."
"Well, we don't wanna be without you either," replied Dean, rubbing his forearm. "I ain't gonna lie though. Thinking about flying makes me sick. You might have to handle the baby for me 'til we're on the ground."
"Of course." Castiel peppered kisses along the back of his neck.
A low chuckle rose in Dean's chest. "Are you flirting with me?"
"Perhaps," he whispered.
Airports were the portal of Hell. Dean knew it. He was an expert on those things. The way Castiel strolled alongside him, chattering on his pet iPhone with one hand and pushing the baby stroller with the other made Dean feel even more out of place. Vampires, skinwalkers, werewolves, vengeful ghosts, demons - nothing got him so unglued as getting on the deathtrap of an airplane.
His own cell blared in his pocket, jarring his nerves even more. Getting to it in his back pocket required juggling luggage and bending like an acrobat but he grabbed it.
"Yeah?" he said tensely.
"Hey, Dean. It's Krissy Chambers," the feminine voice greeted.
"Oh wow, talk about a blast from the past. Last time I saw you, I guess you were - what - sixteen?"
"Seventeen. I'm twenty-three now," she replied, though her tone suggested no interest in socializing. "Listen, Dean, I've got something pretty big here and I think it's way above my pay grade. With Bobby long gone and everything--"
"--What's up?" This was Dean's job. He considered himself Bobby's heir and he'd gotten pretty good at filling his shoes for other hunters over the years, along with Garth's help.
"Well, we were on a demon case. Followed the omens to Oxford--"
Krissy paused. "England, Dean."
"I know where Oxford is, but I didn't realize American hunters followed jobs overseas. European hunters are...." He struggled to find a better term than territorial assholes, but if they walked like ducks and quacked like ducks, he wouldn't find a better description.
"Yeah, I know," she said with a sigh as if she knew what he meant. "I followed a guy out there. An English hunter. Said he's a legacy Man of Letters in the UK, which I thought was weird because we all know the Men of Letters were begun by Americans. As it turns out, he was a liar. At least about that. He fed me stories about the Men of Letters that started sounding weirdly familiar and then it hit me. He's one of the Knights Templar, not a Man of Letters. The Knights are sworn to secrecy, so he was trying to let me know he was part of something huge without spelling it out and getting in trouble."
The story definitely caught Dean's attention. He assumed she followed that guy in some young love affair but he didn't say so. Instead, he wondered, "I thought the Knights Templar were dissolved in the - what - fourteenth century, and they went underground and reformed as the Freemasons later on."
That got Castiel's attention. He cast a sharp eye at Dean and quickly ended his own phone call. They stood in line at Starbucks, though Dean barely noticed. Castiel's need for sugary, creamy coffee matched his own need for pie.
"That's what they want you to think. Most of their descendants became Freemasons much later, but the direct descendants of the Templar higher-ups kept the order's secrets and traditions alive. Just because they're officially gone doesn't mean the secrets they protected disappeared too." Rustling on Krissy's end of the line sounded like she had records in front of her. "Everything checks out. William doesn't know it but I did his genealogy and he goes straight back to the last Templar leader. He's definitely one of them."
"Okay," replied Dean with knitted brows. "Sounds like you got a pretty good handle on it. What do you need me for?"
"I stole something from the Templar headquarters over there," she blurted. "I'm hiding out ... somewhere else now. The thing ... it's huge, Dean. I mean globally huge. They were going to destroy it and I don't understand why. I think their numbers are dwindling and they'd rather destroy these things than risk ... well ..." A short, fearful burst of laughter cut into her thought. "They'd rather destroy things than risk idiots like me stealing them."
"Krissy...." Pinching the bridge of his nose, Dean suddenly felt a headache brewing. "What did you take?"
"I can't talk about it on the phone. Where are you?"
"In the Kansas City airport headed to New York with my family," he said.
He rubbed his jaw, worried, and absently observed Castiel order their usual coffees. "Listen, Krissy, I'll be back in a week. You stay underground 'til then, okay?"
"Yeah," she said. "Yeah, I can do that."
"Call me every day. Stay armed. Don't let ... whatever you took ... out of your sight." A thought occurred to him. "You know what, I'm gonna send you to Sammy 'til I get back. Write this down."
Dean explained where to find the bunker, which was safer than having her show up at Sam's doorstep with a stolen object from the friggin Knights Templar. He couldn't send Sam a job with a brand new baby, a toddler, and a wife recovering from childbirth. If they could stash Krissy in the bunker until Dean could get to the bottom of it, that would be the safest idea, he reasoned.
"What do you know about the Knights Templar?" he asked Castiel in a low voice once he ended the call. "I saw your face."
"I know they're everywhere," Castiel replied equally as low. They sat down together at the gate and he plucked Lia out of her stroller to let her wriggle and play before the restrictive flight. "There are far more of them than most people might expect. Nobody knows it because secret orders are secret for rather important reasons. They had angelic protection in the beginning but they lost it when theft, greed, ambition, and corruption spread like diseases. Without our protection, the French king ... which one was it ... Philip, I think. Anyway, the King at the time ordered the arrests of Templar leaders. It was all very complicated and murky."
Nodding, Dean couldn't say he was surprised. "And now?"
"Templars want people to think they're gone but they're not. They're not Freemasons either but both orders find it beneficial to have such rumors in circulation. It cloaks both of them in further mystery," he explained as he held Lia, letting her stand and bounce on his lap.
Castiel's concern deepened the aging in his face. The salt and pepper hair around his temples and glasses balanced on his nose made him look like a scholar. In a suit, he looked like a politician. But at the end of the day, his millions of years of angelic history could not be untangled from that human life. Sometimes Dean still thought he saw his grace shining through his bright blue eyes. Once in a while, he truly missed being the only person in the universe allowed to see his raven wings and silver halo.
"What did Krissy do?" Castiel asked.
"She took something from Oxford. I don't know what. She's nervous about talking on the phone," replied Dean.
"Oxford?" Lia drooped in Castiel's hands as his eyes shot to Dean.
He sighed. "This is bad. She took something of the holy family."