“The Machiavellian Prince” by Tidia

Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, for everyone can see and few can feel. Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 2.

The two hunters guarded their charge, shifting uncomfortably when Dean moaned in his sedated state.

Caleb cleared his throat wanting to correct Dean's earlier misconception. "I know Deuce's not in his bluebird of happiness mode, but I don’t want him dead." Reaves stood up, checking on the youngest hunter again. They could not lose him, not like this. "He's your son. I'm not a wannabe Winchester either." He was glad Mac had raised him. He would always be in John's debt for being a mentor, and accepting a demon-tainted boy with no questions asked. There would always be that affection and loyalty.

John didn’t spare the psychic a glance, instead focusing on the IV and its steady drip. "I know, kid."

There was an unsettled silence between them. John checked his son's temperature.

"Temperature's not going down." He brushed his son's hair, removing his hand when Dean seemed to shirk the touch.

"Mac will know what to do." Caleb put his faith in his father; hoping modern medicine would have the answer.

An hour passed before Mackland returned. He entered in a rush, carrying a filled plastic bag. He went directly to his patient, checking his vitals.

"I looked at his blood work. Minor infection with some elevated white cell count, but nothing that would explain this." He explained as he took Dean's pulse.

"No! Enough!!" Dean squirmed away, then settled again in a fitful state.

Mac kept his hand on boy's forehead. "We should have had another two hours on this sedative. It's what it used in surgeries." The doctor shook his head; he was going to call an ambulance. Just as he was going to make the announcement, he noticed the white bandage was seeping blood.

He pulled the bandage away, seeing the wound raw and just as oozing as it was before he had cleaned it. Ames touched the injury, sharply exhaling as he made skin to skin contact at the point of impact. What had done this to Dean had left a residue. Mackland's psychic abilities made a connection, and a vivid picture painted itself in his mind.

"Dad?" Caleb questioned, noticing his father's frown.

"Damn. Caleb, get me some holy water." Ames gestured to his son, who ran from the room to comply with the request.

"Mac? What's going on?" John neared his son's bedside, having given space to Mac for him to work.

The psychic returned with the squeeze bottle of holy water. Ames prepared another vial of the Midazolam and injected it into the line before taking a deep breath and dousing the wound with the holy water.

There was an immediate reaction when the blessed water hit the wound. Smoke fumed up, eating the discharge. Dean's eyes flew open and he strained against the restraints. He looked wildly about, fixating on the older hunters.

"I hate you! I hate what you did to me. . .what I became!" He moaned in pain, incoherent sounds, sounding animal-like.

Finally, the sedative and what Mac assumed was the pain from the injury caused Dean to slump into unconsciousness. Ames peeled back the young hunter's eyelids and checked for a reaction.

"Thanks for the show, Mackland, you want to clue us in as to what's going on?" John's arms were crossed, a sign he had lost his patience.

"You need to go back. This isn’t-" Mac covered the wound with a bandage again. They were hunters. He was the Scholar and had assumed it was a medical problem not a supernatural one. "What did this was cursed."

"Did you see what it looked like?" Caleb asked to get a picture in his mind. He could tell his father was blaming himself. Reaves was also sharing the blame.

"It’s a small trinket box, gold, sharp edges. A gaudy red stone on the top." Mac swapped out the IV bag. "Go back to the house, and I'll call Jim."

Without a word, John left the room to gather his things. .

Caleb stayed behind to have a moment with his father. "You going to be okay with rabid Dean?"

Mac narrowed his eyes at his son's off color humor.

"Right. . ." Reaves grinned, but he wanted to say more.

Ames saw the doubt in his son. "Caleb? We'll get him through this."

Caleb wanted to tell Mac that he was glad Ames was his father, he was proud to be adopted by the doctor. They had been together twenty years, and there didn’t seem to be sufficient words. "Thanks, Dad."

Mackland understood, and was touched. He placed a hand on his son's shoulder.

"Move it Caleb!" John Winchester called out.

"The dulcet tones of John Winchester beckon." Caleb gave his father a nod.

"Hurry. And be careful." Ames walked his son to the bedroom door. He grabbed the portable phone from its cradle and called Pastor Jim to explain the situation. He hadn’t wanted to worry Caleb or especially John, but they were losing Dean. He took a seat in Dean's room, watching his patient, and hoping the pastor would answer the phone.

Jim was an expert on cursed antiquities. He answered on the third ring. "It's Mac. Dean needs help."

It was a short conversation. The pauses between the two members of the Triad spoke volumes.

"I'll be on the next flight out."

"I'll tell them, and have a driver waiting at the airport for you." Mac concluded the conversation with his friend.

In the car, John had yet to apply the brakes, trying to eat up the miles as quickly as possible. There was a stressed silence between the two men caused by their concern for Dean.

"Next time I'm going to be bait." Caleb announced to John.

"What?" Winchester replied.

"Deuce is always the bait." Caleb thought of the last few hunts they had done together. Dean acquiesced to his father, not willing to argue with the man or cause trouble between Reaves and John. Life had taught Dean to give in, to be the peacemaker. "Maybe it's better to change up."

"You're keeping count?" John said matter-of-factly.

"No." Caleb hadn’t kept count until now, until it was a problem. He glared at the senior hunter. "Why the hell are you so freakin' calm, Johnny?"

John spared a sidelong glance. "‘cause I need to be. We're on a hunt, have to stay focused."

"Focused. Riigghhht." Reaves looked out to the passing scenery. Just this morning he had been in Pennsylvania on a job site, and in a whirlwind he returned home to find Dean crazed out of his mind and they were off to a hunt, again. "And what Dean said doesn’t bother you?"

John did not reply.

"That's what I thought." The psychic dropped his head back against the head rest. He heard his cellphone and patted his pocket, trying to remember where he had placed the ringing object. Finally, he found the phone. "Dad, we're hurrying." They had only been on the road for half an hour.

"You need to get something personal from the spirit." Mackland stated.

Reaves rubbed his forehead. Only with Dean could a simple cut become so complicated. "You want us to panty raid the house too?"

"Caleb. . ." Ames warned.

He knew everyone's patience was becoming thin. "Fine, fine, something personal - got it."

"Dean?" John said when the psychic had closed his phone.

"Fine. Mac just needs something else to help him from the house." Caleb sighed.

Another hour passed and they were at the house. It looked the same as when they had left it. They had stirred up a decade's worth of old dust when they had last been there. Time had not been kind to the Safner sisters' home.

The sisters had an Arsenic and Old Lace theme, killing men that found their way to the ladies’ doorstep. Vivien died ten years before her sister, Luanne. Luanne was the spirit who put up a fight.

John moved items on the floor with his boot, shining a flashlight as he went.

Caleb took the other side of the room. "Are we burning the place, Johnny?"

"Later." The older hunter bent down. "I think I found it." He removed the dust, and lifted it up for Caleb's examination.

It was a square, gold trinket box about two inches in size. "Is there any cursed object that isn’t damn fugly?" It was ornate, and its edges were sharp. "Got to be it."

"Get something personal and let's get out of here." John took back the box, slipping it in his barn jacket pocket.

Caleb went into the bedroom on the first floor, rifling through one of the drawers. He pulled out a handkerchief embossed with the letter 'L'. "A snot rag, great, well, it's personal."

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