“To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.”-Benradette Devlin
“The Yellow-eyed bastard is dead.”
Sam cut his eyes to his brother, slightly amused but not surprised the older Winchester had grabbed the phone as soon as they were on the road.
“Where are you?” Dean continued speaking into his cell as he steered them back to civilization.
Sam could barely make out Caleb Reaves's deep voice, but easily imagined the incredulous look plastered on his face.
"What? Missouri's place. Where you at?"
Dean glanced towards Sam, grinned. "Leaving Wyoming."
"Meet at Jim's?"
Dean nodded, settling himself deeper into the seat. "Oh yeah, cause there's some whiskey we should open."
Sam didn’t catch Caleb’s closing, but his brother was still grinning ear to ear when he cut the connection. “I don’t think you’ll be wearing that same expression when he finds out what you did, Bro.”
Dean frowned at him. "My only plan for tonight is to get drunk, Sammy."
Dean reached out and turned the stereo on. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The Impala purred like a cat curled on a its master’s lap as it ate up the last bit of gravel in the long and twisting driveway leading to Pastor Jim’s farm. Dean killed the engine with a contented sigh and glanced over at his brother. “Home sweet home.”
“Can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.” Sam looked out the passenger window to the explosion of spring that always took over the old place in May, and smiled. He turned his gaze to Dean. “I just wish Dad and Jim were here to celebrate with us.”
“They’re here, Sammy.” Even with the dark cloud of the deal Dean made hanging over him, a sense of peace enveloped him as soon as he caught sight of the tin roof twinkling in the last light. Only one thing could explain it. “They’re always here.”
Sam nodded, reached for the door handle, anxious for the fresh air and chance to stretch his aching body. His brother’s hand on his arm stopped him. “Hold up.”
The younger Winchester gave his brother a puzzled look. “Dean?”
“Look, Sammy…about Caleb.”
Sam let go of the door, recognizing the seriousness in the other man’s green eyes. “What?”
The older hunter glanced towards the house. “I don’t want him to know about the deal. Not tonight…not anytime soon.”
Sam frowned. “What? You’re going to lie to him?”
“It’s not lying.” Dean tilted his head. “I’m just leaving some things out.”
“Won’t he be a little surprised to see me…I mean…”
Dean cut him off with a shake of his head. “I didn’t tell him that you…I didn’t even tell him you were missing.”
Now Sam was confused. That didn’t make sense. “What? You didn’t call him after I was taken.”
“When you went missing he was dealing with the whole Moose thing…and then he went to check on Bird.” Dean raked a hand through his hair. “Bobby wanted to call him after it happened. I guess he thought I was going to do something crazy.”
Sam raised a brow. “That goes without saying at this point.”
“Sam…” Dean wasn’t about to rehash their previous conversation.
“Go on.” The younger Winchester waved a hand for him to continue with his explanation.
Dean exhaled heavily. “Anyway, I told Bobby if he did, I’d hit the road. Disappear for good.”
God. How many times had their father threatened Jim Murphy with that unthinkable prospect? “Dean, you should have let Bobby call him. He could have…”
“What?” Dean snapped. “He could have made it better? Fixed things? I don’t think so.”
“He would have been with you.” Sam could only imagine what his brother had gone through. “You didn’t have to be alone.”
“No.” Dean glanced towards the black Chevy truck parked beside of them. “It was better he didn’t know.”
“Okay.” Sam didn’t understand, but he imagined his brother was protecting Caleb and shielding himself from the reality of the situation. At the moment, Sam was too exhausted and road weary to battle a brick wall to get to the absolute truth of the matter. “But he needs to know about the deal, Dean. He can help.”
Dean turned pleading eyes to his brother. “Please, Sam. Just do this my way. I can’t handle him knowing right now.”
Sam held his brother’s gaze for a long moment. “Fine. But have you considered that Bobby knows?” The younger Winchester jutted his chin towards the truck on the other side of Caleb’s. “And he and Ellen beat us here.” Sam and Dean had made a stop at a roadside gas station to take care of Dean’s head wound.
“I talked to Bobby. He promised he wouldn’t tell Caleb.”
Sam’s mouth twitched. “What’d you threaten him with this time?”
“I know things.” Dean smirked. “Things I could let slip to The Scholar.”
Sam nodded. “We’ll do it your way, but I think Caleb would understand more than you think. He’s going to be pissed when he finds out you kept this from him, man. It’ll hurt him.”
Dean swallowed thickly. The truth would hurt worse. “You remember that whole spiel you gave me after we dealt with Bloody Mary? About being brothers but still needing to keep some things to yourself?”
He remembered why he kept things from Dean then and Sam also thought about his recent dream visit to his childhood nursery with the yellow-eyed bastard. He hadn’t told his brother the disturbing revelation about the demon’s blood. “Yeah, I remember.”
“This is something I need to keep to myself.”
“I get it.”
“Good.” Dean forced a smile. “And when I do tell Damien, we’ll make sure he’s drunk so we can take him.”
“Sam?” Dean stopped his brother from leaving the car once again.
“You’ve gotten pretty good at the shielding thing, right?”
Sam’s brow furrowed, but then understanding sank in. “He won’t read me, Dean. Bobby’s another story. With him, I pick up things I don‘t want to know without even trying.”
Dean had thought of that. “Bobby and I have a plan.”
The brothers were exiting the car when the welcome screech of the screen door heralded a barking Scout and Harper Lee. Caleb trailed casually behind them, a wide grin on his face.
As the dogs clamored around the younger Winchester, Reaves made a b-line for Dean. He reached a hand out and clasped the younger man’s arm in their usual greeting, then surprised Dean by jerking him forward into a rough hug. “Hot damn, Deuce!” Caleb fiercely pounded the younger man’s back, squeezed him hard. “I’m so fucking proud of you, Kiddo.”
Dean was startled and slightly overcome by the unexpected gesture. Reaves pulled back before Dean could reply, kept a firm grip on his shoulders, and met Dean’s bewildered gaze. “I never doubted you’d do it, Dean. Never.”
Caleb released him, turning his attention to the younger Winchester. “I’m proud of both of you.” He stepped towards Sam then reached out and pulled him into a quick embrace also. “You’ve come a long way, young Skywalker.”
Sam groaned at the running joke. He pulled back, punched Reaves in the arm. “The Force was on our side.”
“Damn straight,” Caleb agreed, relinquishing the contact. His face took on a serious expression. “I’m just glad you both made it out of the battle in one piece.”
The boys shared a look before Dean finally spoke up. “Why? What have you heard?”
Caleb looked at him. “Bobby filled in some of the details you conveniently left out.”
Sam shot his brother a side-long glance, wondering if Dean realized his voice held a trace of fear. But if Caleb noticed it, he didn’t let on.
“The whole disappearing act?” Reaves looked at Sam. “Which is getting really old, by the way. But this recent ‘hide-n-seek Sammy’ explains the weird nightmares I had.”
“Nightmares?” Sam was the one with the hint of panic in his voice now.
“Scared the shit out of me, I gotta’ tell you.” Reaves shook his head, passing on the rest of the explanation. “Not important now.” He turned his gaze to Dean. “But I’m still pissed you didn’t answer your phone. I called you more than a dozen times, Dude. What the hell happened to our rule?”
“I was kind of busy…and Bobby and I decided you had other things on your plate. Knightly things.”
Caleb snorted. “Funny that Bobby is singing a different tune. One in which you chose to keep me in the dark.”
Fucking Bobby. Dean shrugged. “You were dealing with Moose…and then Bird.”
“How is Bird?” Sam interrupted, saving his brother.
Caleb’s eyes clouded over. “A little shaken up.” He twisted the silver ring on his finger. “Her shop mysteriously burned to the ground.”
“Shit.” Dean rubbed a hand over his mouth. “Is she alright?”
“Yeah. Luckily she wasn’t there. No one was.”
“Looks like.” Caleb nodded his head towards the house. “Missouri was attacked yesterday.”
“What?” Dean frowned. “You didn’t tell me that on the phone.”
Reaves arched a brow. “Pot calling the kettle black, Deuce.”
“Is she okay?” Sam asked.
“You know Missouri. She’s got her ire up. So be on your best behavior.”
“She’s here?” Dean swallowed the lump in his throat. The woman could read him like a book.
Caleb nodded. “Mac thought it would be safer for her…and Ellen.” He exhaled heavily. “But notice he’s tucked away in Europe, where he doesn’t have to deal with all the estrogen.”
“You okay with Ellen being here?” Sam knew Caleb didn’t hold the Road House matron in the highest regards.
Caleb glanced towards the skyline, then nodded. “Pastor Jim would have asked her to come. She’s pretty much alone and you know he had a thing for the whole sanctuary bit.”
“Because you would have kicked her to the curb?” Sam snorted. Despite Reaves’s bad ass persona, the man had a sensitivity he worked incredibly hard to hide.
Reaves grinned. “Hey, I would have put her up in a nice hotel. That’s what the Hilton Rewards card is for.” Reaves’s smile faded as he noticed Dean‘s change in demeanor. “You alright there, Champ? You’re looking a little like you ate something Scout dragged out of the back forty.”
The Black Lab barked at the sound of her name, startling Sam from his inspection of his brother. Dean looked pale.
Dean waved away the concern. “I’m just a little queasy.” It was an understatement. The idea of Missouri picking his brain had Dean ready to vomit the late lunch from two states back. He could just imagine the woman berating him for losing his soul over the fucking dinner table.
“Head wounds will do that.” Caleb sighed, exasperatedly. He clasped the younger man on the back of the neck, steered him towards the house. “Can’t leave you alone for more than a few days without you going to hell, Deuce.”
Dean flashed his brother a guilt-filled look over his shoulder. “You know me, man.”
“Yeah. And lucky for you I do. I had Missouri make Jim’s famous fried chicken for a celebration dinner.” He held the door open for Dean and then Sam. “Don’t worry, Runt. She’s making Mac-n-Cheese, too.” Caleb followed them in, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “And for dessert-a bottle of that special whiskey Jim kept hidden in the Pit.”
The dinner was filled with talk of the graveyard battle and what the coming days would bring. Dean was relieved to find Missouri’s injuries had included a slight concussion.
He hated like hell she had been hurt, but the head wound offered him a reprieve from her snooping. Her abilities were off-line, as Caleb put it. Missouri was quick to put all three boys straight. She didn’t need her gift to know what was going through their small minds.
“I know what you’re thinking, Dean Winchester.” Missouri spoke up, as she pointed to the half-touched plate of food in front of the older Winchester sibling.
“You do?” Dean raised his gaze from his thoughtful inspection of his potatoes.
“I do.” Missouri nodded. “You think I’ll be letting you have some of my peach cobbler whether you eat your dinner or not.” She shook her head. “I’ve never been impressed with the ‘hero from battle’ routine so you best get to eating if you know what’s good for you.”
Dean grinned. “Caleb slipped his broccoli to Harper.”
“Did not!” Caleb spoke up, indignantly, but the guilty look on his face was a dead giveaway. He kicked Dean under the table. “Rat.”
“Taking advantage of me, are you, boy?” Missouri clicked her tongue. “That will cost you dish duty tonight.”
“No buts.” Bobby echoed, around a mouthful of chicken. “Missouri cooked, you boys can clean.”
Reaves glanced towards the mechanic. He had been unnaturally quiet through out their meal. “How’s that fair when you ate more than the three of us combined?”
“Who in the hell ever told you life was fair, Junior?”
“Watch you language, Bobby.” Missouri reprimanded, earning a grin from Sam and Dean. “There are ladies present at the table.”
“Hell, Missouri, you and Ellen ain’t exactly the prim and proper type.”
Mosley rolled her eyes in exasperation and offered Ellen an apologetic look. “Ellen, you’ll have to excuse these Neanderthals. They never had the proper supervision of the feminine persuasion. Jim, rest his soul, tried his best. But he only had so much to work with.”
Ellen forced a smile. It was hard to hide how uncomfortable she felt. “That’s okay, Missouri. Bobby’s right. I’m not exactly the delicate type. Too many years of serving hunters hard liquor, I guess.”
Missouri covered the other woman’s hand with her own. “Nonsense. Underneath, we all like to be treated like ladies.” She glanced around the table. “Just like men all want to be treated like little boys.”
Ellen nodded. “I‘ll agree with that.”
“How about we continue this discussion over a cup of hot tea? I bet we agree on a host of things. We can take it upstairs. Caleb fixed up the guest room for you. I even had him put in some fresh roses from the garden.”
Reaves glanced towards Dean and rolled his eyes. Missouri had put the flowers in John’s old room and made Caleb sweep and dust under threat of calling his father.
Missouri cleared her throat loudly and Caleb turned to find her glaring at him. He put his glass down and nodded to Ellen. “Yeah. If you need anything else, just let me know.”
“Thanks.” Ellen stood up from the table. “Turning in sounds good.”
Missouri cleared her throat again, and the men at the table clamored to stand. “Sam can bring the tea up.” Mosley turned to the youngest Winchester, handing him her apron. “Be careful with Miss Emma’s china, Baby.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Sam nodded and Missouri led the way towards the stairs.
“Ellen?” Caleb stepped forward, all eyes turned to him.
The former bar owner stopped and looked at Reaves. “Yes?”
Caleb inclined his head, shrugged one shoulder. “I’m sorry about the other hunters and Ash…The Roadhouse, too. If I’d known…I mean…I would have tried to stop it.”
Ellen nodded. “The Knight can’t fix everything, Caleb.” She smiled again, and this time it looked more genuine. “You’re enough like John to know that.”
“Come on, Ellen.” Missouri patted the other woman’s arm. “Let’s leave these boys to their war stories.”
“Speaking of turning in, I think I’ll head on up, too.” Bobby announced, pulling the napkin he had tucked in his shirt off and tossing it on the table. “I’m wiped.”
“You’re not going to join us for Jim’s secret stash?” Caleb asked, surprised. Singer rarely turned down free booze, especially the good stuff. “And you haven’t even had dessert. Are you sick?”
“No. I’m not sick.” Singer quickly stepped towards the living room. “I’m just not up for it tonight. You boys celebrate. I’d just get all maudlin-start talking about the good old days and shit.”
“Yeah, because you’re so sensitive.” Caleb frowned when Bobby moved further away from them.
“I’ll have you know I can get quite emotional in the right setting.”
“Yeah. Do you really want him watering-up Jim’s prize whiskey, Damien?” Dean faked a shutter. “An emo Bobby is not something I want to see so soon after witnessing the gates of hell being opened.”
Caleb shrugged. “Suit yourself, Fred Sanford.”
Bobby snorted at the familiar nickname. “Make sure you boys don’t get too drunk and drown in the pond.”
“We’ll keep it to a three shot minimum.”
Singer looked at Sam. “Make sure you watch them after you serve the ladies their tea.”
Sam sighed. “What else is new.”
“What is up with him?” Caleb asked Dean once Bobby trotted away.
“What’s up with who?”
Reaves’s glanced to Sam, who quickly busied himself gathering the things he would need for making tea. Caleb frowned and turned to Dean. “Harper Lee,” Reaves replied with a huff. “Who do you think, Deuce?”
The Beagle in question stuck his head out from under the table, but didn’t seem too set on coming out while there was still a chance of more offerings coming his way.
“You mean Bobby?” Dean asked casually as he tossed a few pieces of chicken to the dog.
“Yes Bobby!” Caleb sat back down in his chair. “I swear he’s been avoiding me. He went straight to the barn when he got here. Then he sequestered himself in The Hunter’s Tomb. It’s like he’s scared to be around me.”
Dean shrugged. “Maybe he just needs alone time.”
Caleb snorted. “Yeah. Because he’s so damn sensitive all of a sudden.”
“Maybe he’s in love.” Sam spoke up and both Reaves and his brother looked at him.
“Huh?” They asked in tandem.
The youngest Winchester pulled the tea kettle from the stove. “Maybe he’s got a thing for Ellen and he doesn’t want you to know about it.”
Caleb shot Dean an incredulous look. “Is he being serious? Bobby and Ellen? What about Fiona?”
“Fiona? The trucker?” Dean shook his head, catching onto his little brother‘s brilliant redirection. “I told you that was going nowhere.”
Reaves turned to his best friend. “You’re the one who bet me they’d shack up before Christmas.”
“I was just humoring your romantic nature, Damien. You’ve become such a sucker for that true love shit in your old age. Fiona is a free spirit. The open road beckons to her. She’s not interested in anything more than a quick shower at the local truck stop and an even quicker…”
Caleb quickly held up his hand. “Spare me your perverse philosophy, Dr. Ruth. Especially if it involves Bobby.”
Sam added sugar and cream to the silver serving tray. He grinned to himself. The love connection had struck him as a perfect, albeit unlikely, way to explain Singer being uncomfortable around Caleb. It was also beginning to be fun. “Hey? Maybe Bobby will marry Ellen.”
“What?” Caleb sat up straighter in his chair. “No way. Don’t even say that.”
Dean laughed. Caleb freaked over any kind of changes-especially if it involved their odd family structure. “Yeah, imagine what she could do to the old Singer place. Lace curtains, some of those doily things…”
“Bite your tongue, Deuce.”
“What? The Musketeers not allowed to get married? We just suppose to woo bar-wenches our whole life?”
Caleb pushed his plate away, his appetite suddenly gone. “I’m going out to The Pit to get the whiskey.” He looked at both boys. “When I come back I want my old loyal members of The Brotherhood back-the ones who don’t serve tea and talk about lace doilies.” He shook his head at Dean. “First time I catch Ellen looking at a Bride’s Magazine, her ass is so going to the nearest Hilton.”
Dean watched him go, and then sent a sly grin to his brother. “Good save, Sammy. Damien’s too easy.
Sam picked up the tea set and glanced at Dean. “He‘s protective of his family, Bro.” He gave a little shake of his head. “Especially you.”
Dean sighed, irritated that Sam felt the need to reiterate the obvious. “You don’t think I know that?” He shoved his own plate away. “It’s exactly why I’m not telling him.” He pointed at his brother. “And neither are you. You promised me.”
“Secrets aren’t good, Dean. Even when they’re kept for all the right reasons.”
Sam was giving him the patented little brother look. Despite the annoyance it brought, Dean was so damn glad to be seeing it, he couldn‘t work up to being even half-heartedly pissed off. He smiled, slightly. “You really are a pain in my ass you know that?”
“That’s what I’m here for-to keep you from being your worst enemy.”
“Yeah.” Dean swallowed hard. “I’m really glad you’re here for that.” He grinned. “Despite the fact seeing you with the whole serving tray and apron is freaking me out a little.”
“Shut up.” Sam growled, moving towards the stairway. “And don’t drink all the whiskey before I get back.”
Once Dean was alone his gaze fell to Harper Lee. “What would Jim think of me, boy?”
The Beagle let out a loud whine and Dean laid a hand on his head; let it run down his satin ears. “That’s what I thought.”
Sam found himself drawn into a very uncomfortable conversation with the two women guests, who discovered several of Jim Murphy’s scrap books to entertain themselves. They seemed to be enjoying the rare glimpse into the hunters’ lives-especially the embarrassing moments. Like the picture of a naked three-year old Sam streaking towards the pond, sail boat and WooBee bear in tow. Then there were Caleb’s prom pictures complete with the pastel Miami Vice tux and a few snapshots from Dean’s eighth grade dance. Sam would have to be sure and rub those in to the older boys when he joined them. For the time being though, he felt lucky to escape with a little of his dignity in tact.
He could still hear their faint laughter and soft voices as he made his way down the hall. It was odd to have women at the farm and he couldn’t help but to think of how the pastor would have doted on them.
Jim’s bedroom door was slightly ajar and he slipped inside before he could stop himself. A tell-tale thump, thump, thump greeted him, and Sam smiled to himself as he maneuvered in the darkened space until he reached the nightstand. Turning on the light, he was not surprised to see Scout curled up in the center of her master’s bed, long tail beating rhythmically against the mattress.
“Hey, girl.” Sam sat down, and the Black Lab stretched lazily until her chin rested on one jean-clad knee. “You better make sure Missouri doesn’t find you in here.”
Scout’s cloudy dark eyes met his and she yawned dismissively. Her once shiny black snout was almost completely gray now, and Sam knew soon he would have to let go of just one more thing he loved. “I miss him too, girl.” The boy ran his hands over the dog’s head, smiled when she sighed contentedly. “We sure had our good times, here. Huh?”
Bobby’s quiet voice had the young hunter looking towards the door. “Yeah?”
“You okay?” Singer had noticed the light in the pastor’s room. “I thought you were going to celebrate with Caleb and Dean?” He wasn’t sure it was a good idea for the boy to be alone now.
Sam stood, much to Scout’s displeasure. “I am.” He gestured to the room around them. “Just wanted to talk to Jim, you know?”
Bobby nodded. He did know. There were many nights after Murphy’s death when he sat in this very room, staring at the four walls, hoping for some kind of sign from The Guardian-from his friend. “I miss him.”
“I wish he were here. Especially now.” Sam ran his hand over the dust-covered Bible by the bed. A small smile touched his lips. Nothing in the room had changed. “He could always explain things to me in a way that made me feel like it was all going to be okay-like even something as small as falling off my bicycle was somehow part of God’s great plan.”
“The man liked to spin a yarn.” Bobby crossed his arms over his chest. “His sermons could light a fire even under your Daddy’s feet. One time he made old Boone cry, and I got to tell you that wasn’t easy.”
“Remember when he used to make Dean and Caleb recite Bible verses at the table when they screwed up.” Sam's smile spread. "I always loved that."
Singer scratched at his beard. “Funny how you never had to do any of those performances, Stretch.”
Sam’s dimples flashed. “I was the good one.”
Bobby laughed. “Only because Jim was half-blind when it came to you, and all those other times those bad boys were blocking you from view.”
“Yeah. They were always good at that.” Sam frowned. He looked up at Bobby a sudden seriousness reflected in his dark eyes. “But what if I didn’t deserve it, Bobby? What if I'm not worthy of their protection...their loyalty? What if I’m not that good at all?”
Singer moved farther into the room, closer to Sam. “Why would you say that?”
“When I died…I mean…I don’t remember it.”
“That’s probably for the best, Son. Trust me.” It had been painful to watch, to see it reflected in brutal clarity in Dean Winchester’s eyes-to hear it in the boy’s gut-wrenching sobs.
“No. I’m not talking about the dying part. I’m talking about when I was dead.” Sam looked up at the wooden crucifix hanging above Jim’s bed. His voice dropped. “There wasn’t a bright light, or pearly gates, Bobby. No angels singing.” His tormented gaze found Singer’s eyes again. “No one I loved came to greet me. Not Jim and Atticus Finch…Or Jess. Not even my Mom.” Sam swallowed thickly. “Just…nothingness.”
Bobby looked down at the floor, his breath stolen by the weight suddenly being thrust upon his shoulders. He had a new respect for Mackland. Dean or Caleb he could deal with most times-give’em a good shake, a cuff to the head and a hearty cussing and they were usually good to go. But Sammy. That took a gentle hand…a sharp intellect. Mackland was good at it. Jim was the master. He couldn’t fill their shoes. But he would damn well have to try.
“Listen here, Sam. I’ve seen a lot of shit in my time. Most of it bad. But I’ve witnessed miracles, too. Like your Daddy showing up in the nick of time last night. I have no doubt that you were being watched out for wherever you were. And I know it was someplace safe. Why old Jim probably had you tucked away in Ms. Emma’s kitchen eating apple pie and sipping sweet tea.”
Sam smiled, swallowed back the bitter-sweet memories of Jim. “He thought apple pie and tea was a cure for anything.”
Singer nodded. “I’m sure he knew that stubborn brother of yours was going to do something.” Bobby almost said ‘something fucking stupid’ but that wouldn’t have been very ‘Jim’ like.
“The old preacher was just waiting around for it, making sure you didn’t get too comfortable. I imagine if you had gotten a good taste of the sweet afterlife, you might have been highly pissed at Dean for throwing you back in this pigsty of a world we’ve got going on at the moment. You just don't remember it. That's all. There‘s nothing more to it.”
Sam swallowed thickly again. “I guess so.”
Bobby pulled off his cap with a huff, and raked a hand through his hair. “All I’m saying is, I trusted Jim with everything…including my soul. And if he says the Big Guy has a plan and we’re all part of it… Well I’m damn well going to believe it.”
“If there’s evil…and we know there is…then there’s good, too.” Bobby sat the cap back on his head. “Nothing meant more to Jim than you three boys-not even being The Guardian. Although, he would have been hard pressed to admit that. If he ain’t holding some prize box seats for you, Caleb, and Dean, then I’m sure as hell shit out of luck.”
After a shuddering breath, Sam steadied himself and stepped forward. He squeezed the older man’s shoulder in heartfelt appreciation. “I’m sure The Big Guy has a spot for you Bobby.” He offered Singer a lop-sided smile. “Dad always said a good mechanic is hard to find.”
Singer snorted. “Right. That sounds like your daddy. As long as dogs and booze are allowed in the joint, I’m there with you all.” He met Sam’s gaze. “And as far as that whole harps, angels, and Saint Pete thing goes…Jim always said that Heaven was a place you called home.”
Bobby paused, licked his lips. “That Heaven was where the best part of you lived even when you were here on Earth. Maybe you don’t get there until all the pieces of your heart are ready to go.”
Sam’s eyes began to sting, his throat burned. “I’d never want to leave Dean.” His brother held a huge chunk of his heart. There was no denying.
Sam let his hand slide from Singer’s shoulder. “So, you think maybe Jim and Dad are waiting on us then?”
“Probably sitting down with your mama and Miss Emma to enjoy some pie and sweet tea as we speak.”
Sam grinned. “Thanks, Bobby.”
“You’re welcome.” Singer huffed, reached out and cuffed Sam on the side of the head for good measure. “Now what do you say you get over this love fest and sneak down and see if you can wrangle me any of Missouri’s peach cobbler before your brother and Caleb find it.”
Sam nodded, and sent another look towards Jim’s bed. “Sure thing, Bobby.”
Singer watched him go before pulling his phone from his pocket. He glanced at Scout who was watching him with a sad, solemn gaze and grunted. “Don’t give me that look, old girl. I promised Dean I wouldn’t tell, Caleb.” Bobby punched in Mackland Ames’s number. “I didn’t say one damn thing about not telling The Scholar.”
Caleb wasn’t surprised to find Dean sitting on the bank at the pond. It was a growing habit with the younger man and when Reaves had tried to reach out to him psychically, he had encountered the image of water yet again. Just like after the botched Knoxville job.
Reaves would have been lying if he said it didn’t bother him that he couldn’t get a glimpse of Dean’s thoughts. Something was off. Despite the lightheartedness of the first part of the evening, Caleb couldn’t push away the nagging suspicion that Dean was keeping something from him. And Sam. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but Sammy was different, too. He felt different.
“You trying to sneak up on me or what, Damien?”
Dean’s amused voice brought Caleb from his reverie; and he stepped closer to the water and into the streams of moonlight. “Just making sure I wasn’t interrupting some kind of spiritual moment with the mermaid you keep hidden out here.”
Dean snorted. If Caleb only knew. He rested his arms on his knees, turned to look at the older hunter. “You’re just jealous Jim introduced her to me instead of you.”
“Maybe.” Caleb took a seat on the sandy ground beside of Dean, stretched out his long legs. “But seeing how I feel about water, I think it would have been a short-lived relationship.”
Dean cocked a brow. “And that’s different from all your other relationships how?”
“Cute.” Caleb pulled three shot glasses from his jacket pocket. “But you’ve got no room to talk.”
“Hey. I blame you. You’ve set a standard that leaves no room for lace doilies and aprons.”
Reaves used his teeth to pull the cork from the whiskey bottle and grinned. “Are you complaining about the lifestyle, Deuce?”
Dean picked up one of the glasses and held it up for Caleb to fill. “Hell no.”
“Good. Because it’s only going to get better from here on out,” Reaves served Dean and then poured himself a shot. “The Brotherhood is going to kick some demon ass-especially with me, you, and Sammy at the helm.”
Dean tossed back the drink, winced at the raw burn that raced down his esophagus and ignited into a warm blaze in his chest. “No work talk, Damien.” He shook his head. His proposed role in the Triad was the last thing Dean wanted to consider now-especially with the new expiration date he’d been stamped with.
Caleb swallowed his own shot. “You can only avoid Mac for so long, Kid. He’s going to want to give you the official word soon, especially since old yellow eyes is dead.”
“Did you call him?”
“Yeah.” Caleb filled their glasses again. “He wants to tell you and Sam congratulations in person…but I got to say The Scholar wasn’t too happy about the whole two-hundred or so demons you boys let loose.”
Dean grinned, enjoying the feel of the whiskey this time. “You think it’s enough to get me fired from the whole Guardian gig?”
“Doubt it.” Reaves looked down at his hand, used his thumb to twist the silver ring around his finger. “He said there was some important Brotherhood stuff he needed us to take care of when he gets back.”
“What’s he doing in Europe anyway?”
Caleb shrugged. “Some crazy theory about Samuel Colt that Riley has been working on.”
Dean frowned. “Riley? As in Boone’s son, Riley?”
“One and only.” Caleb grinned at the thought of the way too enthusiastic nineteen-year-old. “He and Bradley have been playing around with the hunting stuff for a while.”
Dean looked at Reaves. “Who’s Bradley?”
“Remember Dad’s research assistant. Naomi?”
“Yeah.” Dean had met the women a couple of times when he’d stayed in the city. “But she doesn’t know about The Brotherhood does she?”
“No way.” Caleb shook his head. “But her son, Bradley just happens to go to college in Boston where Riley does.”
Dean shook his head, putting the pieces together. “I bet Mackland could have throttled Riley for spilling the beans.”
Caleb snorted. “He only has himself to blame. He introduced the two computer geeks.”
“And now he’s letting them help with Triad stuff?”
“I think let is a strong word.” Caleb poured them both another drink, finishing his off before continuing. “Riley has him over a barrel with this Samuel Colt secret hunter’s journal shit.”
“A journal?” Dean raised a brow. “Colt was a hunter?”
“Makes sense, doesn’t it.” Caleb grinned. “But you’re going to love this. Not only does Mac think he was a hunter, he thinks he was a fucking Scholar.”
“No fucking way.” Dean needed the next drink. He tossed it back. Things were getting stranger and stranger.
“Oh yeah. Mac is like a kid with a new toy. He went to London to check into the estate of the man who is supposedly donating the book to Tufts University. Riley’s some kind of TA to this Anthropology professor who specializes in the ‘Old West’ era. The kid got the proposed inventory list of items they’re going to receive. No one was too enthused about an old journal by Samuel Colt-except for Riley, who knew about Colt’s connection to the supernatural gun. He called Dad right off.”
Dean’s frown deepened. “I thought Boone didn’t want his family involved in hunting anymore?”
Caleb laughed. “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
Dean snorted. “But when he does find out, Mac could be in big trouble.”
“I think Dad could take him.” Caleb said thoughtfully. “I saw him hold his own with John once. It was pretty damn scary how well-matched they were.”
Dean glanced to the older hunter. “Did you tell Mac about Dad?”
Caleb nodded, shivering slightly as his next drink worked its magic. “Shook him up some.” He had easily heard the break in his father’s voice, and then Mac had made an excuse to get off the phone.
“Yeah.” Dean held out his empty glass again and Reaves obliged. “It was surreal, man.”
Caleb quickly refilled his own glass and lifted it in a toast. “To Johnny.”
“To Dad.” Dean mimicked his motion and they both drank, remaining silent for a moment afterwards.
Caleb’s soft voice shattered the companionable silence. “How was he, Deuce? Did he…look okay?”
Dean’s green eyes locked with Caleb’s glassy gold gaze. “Yeah, man. He was good. Same old Dad.”
Reaves glanced away, watching the water lapping against the bank. The crickets and frogs suddenly sounded deafening. “I hated the thought of him there…couldn’t get it out of my head.”
He moved his gaze to Dean and the younger hunter caught the flash of raw emotion. Caleb hadn’t said much before, opting to protect Dean from feeling any guiltier than he already did. “Yeah. I know.”
Caleb looked down, picked at a blade of glass. “I knew he was suffering…and there wasn’t one damn thing I could do to help him. I‘d rather it have been me.”
“Don’t say that, man.” Dean shook his head, a sudden fear twisting his gut. “Dad wouldn’t have wanted that.” Dean could never live with that.
Caleb glanced up. “I know you felt the same way, Deuce. You can’t tell me you didn’t.” Reaves bit his lip, shook his head slightly. “Even if I understood why John did it, was thankful to him more than I can say because you were alive, I was pretty damn pissed at him, too. You know? And I hated that it ate away at you like it did.”
“I was wrong.” Dean took the whiskey from his best friend, foregoing the use of a glass for a long swig straight from the bottle. “It was Dad’s choice. He did what he had to do.”
Caleb frowned, taking the bottle back. He took a another long drink himself. “Easy to say that now, kiddo.” He looked at Dean again. “Now that you know he’s okay. But when he was in that place…” Reaves exhaled heavily. “I just don’t want us to ever go through something like that again.”
Dean took the whiskey being held out to him and took another bitter drink. He cut his gaze to Reaves. “I’m sorry.”
Caleb stole the bottle again. “What for, man?” Reaves bumped his shoulder.“ I should be thanking you. That yellow-eyed bastard destroyed both our families.”
Dean swallowed thickly, shoving away the thoughts of actually telling Caleb what he had done. He wanted to. Wanted for Reaves to assure him that he and Sam would get him out of the deal. God. He wanted them to fix it. But he couldn’t be that selfish. Not now. Not yet. “I should have called about Sam.”
Reaves studied him for a moment before returning the whiskey. “Yeah. But I get why you didn’t. It’s okay.”
Winchester took a long drink. “You’re in a forgiving mood tonight.”
Caleb grinned, crookedly. “Good triumphed over evil. We’re all alive. That’s enough for me.”
Dean nodded. “Says the romantic.” He lifted the bottle. “This is just one battle, Damien.”
“When did whiskey start making you go all macabre, Deuce?”
“I don’t know.” Dean rubbed his chin with the back of his hand. “Maybe I’m just getting cynical.”
Caleb took another drink, lowered his voice conspiratorially around the katydids and amphibians. “I have the cure for that, Champ.”
Dean rolled his eyes, snatched the booze again. “Yeah? Let’s hear it, tough guy.”
“Vacation? Whoa. Let’s not get crazy. That‘s a four-letter world in the hunting world.”
“Yep. But for you, I’ll make it happen.”
“And Mac’s going to be okay with that…considering the whole two-hundred demons running loose thing?”
“Hey, he’s all focused on Samuel Colt. Now is the time to escape.”
Dean couldn’t hold back his laugh at the way Reaves was slurring his words. The man was almost as much a light weight as Sammy when it came to booze. “Escape, huh?”
Caleb stole the whiskey again, hugging the bottle. “I have access to fast cash, fast planes, and even faster women.”
Dean pried the whiskey away from his best friend, determined to keep it this time. “And where were you thinking we’d go, Damien.”
“Well, I was thinking Disney World.”
“Disney World?” Dean choked, then coughed as he regained the ability to speak. “As in a giant mouse amusement park?”
“Hey, it’s where all the guys want to go when they win the Super Bowl.” Caleb lifted a fist in the air. “Dude, you just won the fucking Super Bowl of all fucking Super Bowls.”
Dean finally grinned. “How about we pass on the whole theme park idea and do some fishing?”
“Fishing?” Caleb frowned. “Like out in the water kind of fishing?”
Winchester nodded. “Unless you want to do the whole Eskimo thing?”
Dean arched a brow in surprise. “I was talking about deep sea fishing. Way out in the water.”
“And I said yes.” Caleb slapped his leg. “I’ll buy a boat tomorrow. Hell I’m fucking rich- I’ll buy a yacht.”
Dean laughed. “You hate boats. You hate the water. Hell, Damien, you don’t even like fish.”
“True.” Caleb nodded, and the smile faded from his face. “But this is about you. And I’d do anything for you, Deuce.”
Dean flinched at the familiar words. His little brother had said almost the exact same thing to him. Damn Sam for being right all the time.
“You okay, kid?” Caleb asked. “You look like you seen….well, you know.”
Winchester shook his head. “No…just surprised that you’re getting all serious and shit….next thing I know you’re going to be talking about the good old days and crying into Jim’s secret stash. You might even try to hug me again.”
Reaves rolled his eyes. “That would be the new and improved sensitive Bobby Singer.” Caleb glanced towards the farm. “Speaking of sissies, wonder where the runt is?”
“Can’t you do your Jedi mind thing and find him.”
Caleb frowned, turning back to face Dean. “It’s not working on him.” He shrugged. “I just get a weird vibe.”
Dean’s heart caught. “What do you mean?”
Reaves shrugged it off. “Nothing. I guess the student is catching up to the teacher.”
Caleb looked up at him. “So, we going on vacation or what?”
Dean looked towards the house, his thoughts on his brother. Maybe it would be a remedy for his worry-if only a temporary one. “Why the hell not?” He took another long drink of Jim’s whiskey and smiled at Reaves. “I just won the fucking Super Bowl after all.”
“Don’t tell me we are now going to start playing a game of football? Sam sauntered down to the lake where he could hear the loud conversation. “It always ends badly-usually involving a trip to the ER.”
“Didn’t hear you sneak up, Runt.” Caleb snorted. He patted the ground next to him for Sam to take a seat.
“He’s drunk,” Dean explained.
“Am not,” Reaves slurred.
“Are to.” Sam glanced at his brother who rolled his eyes.
“I think I would know if I was drunk.”
“You said we should go to Disney World. Probably time for you to go to bed, Damien.” Dean scrambled to get to his feet.
Sam grabbed his arm and forced him to sit again. “I didn’t get a chance to have some of Jim’s finest.”
“I’ll stay quiet.” Caleb lay back against the sand and looked up to the night sky.
Dean handed Sam the bottle. The youngest Winchester sloshed the remaining liquid. “Didn’t leave much.”
Dean pointed to Caleb, blaming his friend. “So we’re going on vacation. Caleb’s paying.”
Sam thought about spending some quiet time in the mountains or maybe at the beach, then thought about Dean and Caleb. “How about Vegas?”
Caleb sat up. “Did Sammy just suggest Sin City-the grown up amusement park?”
“He did.” Dean smiled. “Sam, I’m proud of you.”
Sam took a long drink, feeling the warmth of the liquor and camaraderie. “Yeah, well, I know you like it…” Sam wanted Dean to be happy. He took another drink and placed the bottle in the sand. He lay back, and Dean and Caleb followed suit.
“There’s Orion.” Dean pointed to the star-filled sky.
It was fitting the hunter constellation was watching over them.
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