By: Ridley James
"One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
One need not to be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place. –Emily Dickinson
"What was that?" Sam's startled voice had Dean clicking off his flashlight, casting their sheet fort in complete darkness save for the eerie glow of plastic vampire teeth.
"Shhh." Dean held his breath, carefully placing his foot on top of Atticus Finch's tail to stop its rhythmic tapping on the floor. The boys had promised Pastor Jim they would go to sleep if he let them have one more cupcake. Dean waited to make sure the pastor wasn't checking in to see if they kept up their end of the bargain.
"Dean?" Sam's hand found its way to his, fingers moist and sticky from caramel apple and marshmallow. No wonder Atticus kept licking them. The dog's panting was loud between them, but outmatched by the worsening weather outside. Earlier, the day had been perfect for the church Harvest Festival hosted at the farm, but by the end of the last hayride the sky was a wash of gray, bulging with fat, dark clouds.
"It's okay, Sammy." Dean let out the breath he was holding, realizing the pastor had not ventured from the sanctuary of the kitchen. He released Atticus's tail, the soft thump-thumping picking up once more. "It's just the wind banging branches on the glass."
"Are you sure it's not Bunnicula?"
"I told Pastor Jim that story was too scary for a four-year-old." Dean turned the flashlight back on, shining it on his brother. There would be nightmares tonight, juice-drained vegetables and white fluffy bunnies baring fangs.
"I'm not scared," Sam lisped, nearly losing his vampire teeth in haste to deny his fear. He used one grubby hand to shove them back in his mouth. "I'm just making sure."
"Fine, Mr. Cautious." Dean sighed, throwing back the edge of their makeshift tent. He aimed the flashlight at their bedroom window. The beam illuminated the ghostly limbs of the big oak outside. Shadows bobbed against the frosty pain like gnarled witch hands, their wild dance frenzied as the wind howled louder. Dean swallowed the lump in his throat. "See, Sammy-just the tree."
Another loud bump echoed, followed by a ripple of thunder. Lightning flashed in the black sky. Both boys jumped. Atticus growled low in his throat, his tail going still as the hair along his spine spiked.
"That didn't sound like a branch, Dean." Sam discarded his plastic tub of candy, toppling the bowl of popcorn between them in his haste to scramble behind Dean. "It sounded like a killer bunny!"
"There are no such things as killer bunnies." Dean cast another anxious glance to the window as Atticus stood, his head brushing the top of the drooping tent. The Retriever ignored the scattered kernels he loved on the floor, his gaze focused beyond the window. His lips peeled back, white canines flashing as bright as Sam's plastic vampire teeth. Bunnies were the last thing Dean was worried about. He let his fingers curl around the fur at the back of Atticus's neck, keeping the dog close to them. "The shutter's loose, that's all," he whispered.
A loud bang from behind them had both boys screaming, clinging to one another. A figure cast in black outlined by the hallway light loomed in the entranceway. Dean's heart raced. He inched in front of Sam, placing his brother between him and the bed.
"Boys?" Light flooded the room, bringing safety with it. Pastor Jim stepped in, the smell of coffee and warm spices accompanying the preacher. "Why on earth aren't you two in bed?"
"Pastor Jim!" Sam scurried out from behind Dean and from beneath their tent. Atticus followed. "We thought you were Bunnicula!"
"And I thought you were sleeping." Jim swung the four year old up into his arms, tapping his finger against the protruding plastic mouthpiece Sam was somehow still sporting. "I suppose we were all being foolish."
"Sorry, Sir." Dean crawled out of the fort, quickly pulling one corner of the sheet loose from the desk chair where he'd tied it. The other end was tucked under the mattress of their bed. He tugged it free before giving the preacher a sheepish grin. Pastor Jim didn't look angry, but he rushed to explain. "We were camping out and lost track of time. It was my idea."
"Camping?" Jim studied the pillows and blanket mounds on the floor, candy and popcorn littered about. "You boys don't keep a very clean campsite. Lucky for you there are no bears roaming about in the house. If so, I'm afraid you might have visitors tonight."
"Vampire rabbits?" Sam squeezed the pastor's neck. "Maybe we should sleep with you, Pastor Jim."
"I see your big brother was right about my choice in stories." Jim patted Dean's head as he passed. "Perhaps I should listen to him next time."
"It's not as bad as when Bobby let us watch The Wizard of Oz last Thanksgiving." Dean grabbed their bedding as Atticus helped to clean up the spilled popcorn, the noise at the window momentarily forgotten. He was glad Pastor Jim wasn't upset that they hadn't kept their end of the bargain. "Sam had nightmares about flying monkeys for a month."
"Munchkins, too," Sam avowed with a large yawn. "Uncle Bobby said they were trolls."
"Your Uncle Robert has rather a vivid imagination, Samuel."
Sam rubbed his eyes, laying his head on the pastor's shoulder. "And colorful language too, Mac says."
"Indeed." Jim dropped a quick kiss on the boy's hair, placing him on the bed once Dean had spread the sheet over the mattress. "Rest assured; I have it on good authority that trolls do not sing, dance, nor enter into lollipop affiliations. The ones I have dealt with have been a rather taciturn bunch."
"Have you seen a vampire bunny, Pastor Jim?" Sam yawned again, flopping onto the pillows his brother had just arranged on the bed.
"No such thing, Sam." Dean picked up Woobee from the floor, prying the remains of a half-eaten Tootsie Roll from his brown belly before turning him over to his brother. Sam wrapped an arm around the bear, hugging it tight to his chest. Dean looked up at the preacher. "Right?"
"Of course, my boy." The pastor took a seat on the corner of the bed. He rubbed his chin, thoughtfully.
"Were you going somewhere, Jim?" Dean looked at the preacher, gesturing to his barn coat and stable boots.
"Just out to the barn for a look around." Jim's gaze travelled across their room to the adjoining door that led to Caleb's room. "Like you and Samuel, I'm finding it a bit hard to fall asleep tonight."
"Is something wrong?" Dean's heart picked up as he studied Jim's face. The pastor looked upset, but it was concern, not anger that had his silver brows dipping towards one another.
"No, of course not." Jim patted the bed for Dean to climb in. "I just need to check in on the mules Brother Benjamin lent us for the hay rides."
"Have you talked to Dad?" Dean picked up his discarded flashlight, crawling into the bed. He had heard the phone ringing earlier, his thoughts now leaping to worse case scenarios.
"Your father and Robert aren't scheduled to check in until tomorrow." Jim's glance went to the window where the branches had picked up their tempo against the pane. Dean knew from watching adults that they could tell the truth without actually telling the whole story. He had a feeling the pastor was leaving things out for his benefit.
"Sammy and I helped you bed down the animals earlier." Dean could hear the beginning patter of rain on the metal roof, the roar of the wind still steady. He thought about Fat Chance and One in a Million in the stalls out in the barn, Saul and Paul, the visiting mules in the adjoining holds.
"And a fine job you boys did." Jim seemed to sense his intense scrutiny. He smiled at Dean. "I just want to make sure all my special visitors are bedded down for the night. That includes you and Samuel who should have been asleep hours ago. It's well after midnight."
Dean rolled his eyes, giving up on getting anything out of the preacher. "You should have thought of that before you made the chocolate cupcakes."
"It seems my judgment could have been impaired by all the festivities." Jim reached out and untied the string around Dean's neck, freeing him of the black Dracula cape he'd worn throughout the day. The pastor let him wear the costume Caleb had bought him, but suggested he call it a magician's cape if any ladies from the church inquired about his outfit. Jim folded the black drape and placed it near Sam's plastic teeth. "Next time I shall be more vigilant."
"We won't tell if you won't." Dean lay down beside his brother, tucking the flashlight under his pillow.
Pastor Jim ran a hand over his hair, letting his palm rest atop Dean's head. "That's very good of you, my boy. I wouldn't want your father to find me lacking."
"Dad trusts you." Dean flashed a look to his brother. Sam's eyes were already closed, his mouth slightly agape. The vampire teeth were hanging loosely from his lips where they wobbled with each soft breath. Dean could just make out the faintest traces of red clown paint around his nose. "Sammy and I love staying here."
"It does seem your brother particularly enjoyed himself this weekend." Jim reached out and removed Sam's fangs, placing them on the nightstand by the bed. "Bobbing for apples and having his face painted seemed to take the sting out of your father forbidding the traditional costumes and trick or treating."
"I think the wagon load of candy helped, too." Dean appreciated the fact the pastor had intervened on their part, conveniently sending their father and Bobby on a hunt the weekend of the church's annual harvest festival. It was not lost on him that their Dad would also be gone for a few more days, straight through November 2. Dean and Sam would spend the rest of Dean's fall break at the farm helping Pastor Jim eat all the pumpkin pies he was baking with the remains of the Jack-o-lantern carving contest. It would be a safe respite far away from a different kind of storm that rocked their father each year on the anniversary of their mother's death.
"I do believe his loot will last him for a few weeks." Jim looked up as another loud rumble of thunder shook the house. Limbs rattled against the window. Sam rolled to his side, not waking, but bringing one hand to Dean's chest, his small fingers curling around the folds of his brother's shirt.
"You might want to ration the candy." Dean found himself yawning, rubbing his eyes that seemed much heavier now than they had moments before. It made him wonder if the stories about the Sandman were true. "I'm just saying."
"Big brother advice I will gladly accept this time." Jim pulled Miss Emma's quilt from the bottom of the bed, spreading it over both boys before standing. Dean watched him retrieve Sam's pumpkin bucket laden with candy, and the plastic bag his brother had gotten from the church ladies Dean knew held a trove of chocolate.
Atticus, having cleaned the floor of all discarded scraps, jumped on the bottom of the bed to claim the pastor's vacated spot. The big dog turned three tight circles, digging at the covers for a moment before curling into a ball. He gave a heaving sigh, tucked his tail around him, resting his head on his paws. The pastor patted the dog's head. "Watch over them, Mr. Finch."
Jim left the room, darkness rushing in to take his place. Dean heard the soft click of their door and Jim's footfalls as they echoed on the stairs. The soft thumps soon gave way to Sam's quiet breathing beside him. His eyes fluttered, the gentle folds of sleep taking hold. Dean tottered on the brink, about to surrender to the quiet when a loud squeak snatched him from the edge, breaking the Sandman's spell. The out of place rattle dropped him into alertness as sure as he'd fallen from a cliff to land on the bed.
Dean waited with pounding heart and rapid breath to see if his imagination was playing tricks. He prayed for the noises of the storm to reveal, as the culprit, but the distinct sound of their window sliding open was unmistakable. He shoved his hand under his pillow, clutching the flashlight, wishing for once Pastor Jim had John Winchester's rules. Dean had no gun, no knife. The soft muted glow of the flashlight revealed Atticus Finch sitting up, his eyes fixed on something or someone beyond as his tail whished over the blankets. There was no growling this time, no raised fur, but Dean had to summon his courage to turn around and shine the light to the adjacent wall.
A shadow that could not be explained by the oak's branches crouched outside. The window was half open, a gloved hand clutching the wooden frame at the bottom. Dean wanted to call out to Pastor Jim. Fear stole his voice. Only the gentle calling of his name fought back the panic.
It took a moment to realize the word was in his head. A familiar presence brushed across his thoughts like a summer breeze. Dean released the breath he was holding, willing his heart to slow down.
"Damien?" He struggled from beneath the covers, careful not to wake his brother. His limbs were shaky from residual fright as he stumbled out of bed.
The window slid the rest of the way up, and Caleb climbed through. Wind blew in some leaves that skittered across the floor before the teen could shut it. Sam stirred, mumbling something that sounded like bunny before settling once more. Atticus jumped down from the bed, paws clicking on hardwood as he waited by Dean's side. The dog stretched lazily, his upper body arching as if boys appeared through the window on a daily basis.
"What are you doing here?" Dean panned the flashlight up to his best friend's face. Caleb brought his hands up to shield his eyes, but not before Dean caught the smears of red on his face. "Caleb?"
"Dude, loose the spotlight," Caleb hissed. He took the light from Dean, clicking it off.
"You're bleeding." Dean stepped forward, no longer caring why Caleb was sneaking into their bedroom on Halloween night when he was supposed to be in New York. He grabbed a handful of shirt. His fingers met something sticky and wet. The distinct sensation sent a wave of fear through him once more. "Are you hurt?"
"Keep it down," Caleb's hand found Dean's shoulder, spinning him around and nudging him to move. "My room," he whispered.
Dean let himself be maneuvered across the floor and into Caleb's room. The teen closed the door behind them only to have Atticus whine and paw at the floor. Caleb reopened the door with a muttered word that would have earned him Bible verses to recite from Pastor Jim.
"Damien? What's going on?" Dean turned, bumping into Atticus in the darkness.
Caleb sighed, his grip tightening on Dean's shoulder. "Don't freak out. I'm fine."
Dean found his friend's reassurances lacking as Caleb turned on the lamp by his desk. The other boy was covered in blood, head to toe. It was matted in his hair, smeared over his neck and splattered across his t-shirt and jeans. Some of it looked dried, but there were still spots shiny and wet.
"Damien?" Dean reached for his friend with a shaky hand. His chest tightened, a coiled snake around his heart, making it hard to breathe. He'd never seen so much blood on anyone standing up. "Am I still asleep?" A nightmare was the only explanation.
"I should be so lucky." Caleb caught his hand, kneeling so they were at eye level. He waited until Dean was looking at him and not the gory mess on his chest. "It's chocolate syrup and strawberry Jell-o."
"What?" Dean looked at his fingers which were now slicked with what he thought was Caleb's blood and back to his friend. Atticus was happily licking Caleb's jeans like he had Sam's hands earlier. Dean could find no visible wound on the older boy. No slashes, bites or claw marks. He met Caleb's gaze, trying to understand why he looked like an actor from a Freddie Krueger movie. It might have been Halloween, but Caleb didn't like to dress up. He wanted to toss the tube of fake blood from the costume he'd bought Dean and Sam. Dean figured his friend didn't need to pretend when he saw the real stuff on a regular basis. "You're wearing syrup?"
"Maybe some Tabasco and other stuff that makes this shit look real, but none of it's my blood." Caleb pushed Atticus's head away, standing. He moved towards his bed. "I'm decked out for an ice cream parlor, not a funeral scene."
"Why?" Dean followed him. "Mac couldn't afford a better costume?"
"Were you playing some kind of trick?" Maybe the people in Mac's fancy neighborhood skimped on the treats, though Dean doubted it.
"More like someone played a trick on me." Caleb didn't look at Dean, instead bending down to grab his duffel which was tucked between his nightstand and bed. "What's up with you being awake way past lights out?"
"What's up with you sneaking in our window?" Dean who was now assured his best friend wasn't in any imminent mortal danger moved onto other questions. Atticus jumped up on the bed and Dean leaned in beside the dog, angling to see Caleb's face. "Why aren't you in New York? I thought you were grounded because of getting detention last week."
"Long story." Caleb picked up the quilt his grandmother had made him draped over his headboard, rolling it into a ball before stuffing it into his bag. "One I don't have time to share with you."
"Why not?" Dean ran his fingers over Atticus's head. "You tell me everything."
"None of your business, Nosy Much." Caleb pulled an old metal box from between his mattress. He tossed it into the duffel, followed by his sketchbook and favorite pencil set. "And just so you know, I don't tell you everything. Now go back to bed."
"I'm not sleepy." Dean followed Caleb to his desk, watching as the older boy grabbed the few framed pictures that lined the top shelf. There was one of The Triad, another of Dean, Caleb and Sam taken at Christmas. Dean felt a weight settle in the pit of his stomach as Caleb dropped the photos in his bag. "Why are you taking your things? Where are you going?"
"What part of get lost did you not understand?" Caleb moved to his dresser, jerking open the top drawer. He stuffed a few t-shirts and shorts in the bag. A pair of jeans and some socks went in next.
"Are you leaving?" The heaviness in Dean's stomach unfurled to full on dread.
"What was your first clue?" Caleb crossed to the bed once more, stopping in front of his nightstand.
"But why?" When Caleb turned Dean's eyes were immediately drawn to the book in his hand. It was the leather bound copy of The Three Musketeers. The novel had rested on Caleb's nightstand for as long as Dean had been coming to the farm. It was a sign of home, just like Sam's castle and dragons on their dresser, and Dean's baseball trophy on the book shelf. "Why are you leaving?"
"I have to." Caleb pulled something from the book before adding it to the duffel. He cinched the sack, dropping it on the floor and crossed to Dean. "I don't have a choice, but I had to stop here first."
"You always have a choice. Pastor Jim says so." Dean's eyes began to sting. His throat felt like he'd swallowed one of the apples he and Sam had bobbed. Caleb's face blurred in and out of focus, but he refused to act like a baby in front of the older boy. "Did I do something?"
"Deuce." Caleb took a knee in front of him. "You didn't do anything, alright? This was all me. I screwed up big time and I have to get the out of here before everyone gets dragged into this mess. I don't want anyone else to get hurt, especially you and Sammy."
"Did you break curfew?" Dean rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Get kicked out of school again?"
Caleb sighed. "Again, I should be so lucky."
"Pastor Jim was worried." Dean thought about the ringing phone earlier in the evening, the way the pastor had stared at Caleb's door. "I think Mac called him."
"I'm sure he did. I snuck out of the condo, ignored his grounding order to go to a party, but that's only half of it." Caleb dropped his chin to his chest. Dean could see patches of syrup clumped in his hair. Caleb smelled like chocolate. "It's why I need to hurry before Jim comes back from the barn."
"You were outside by the window?"
"Yeah. I didn't want to scare you and Sammy, but I needed my things." Caleb looked over his shoulder, then back to Dean. "And to see you."
"All of this because you wanted to go to Hannah's stupid party." Dean knew about the invitation to the girl's Halloween bash. Caleb had talked about it last weekend when he stayed with them while their dad was on a hunt. He ran his tongue over his top teeth, feeling the missing space where his tooth used to be.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Caleb confessed.
Dean frowned. "How did making out with a girl end up with you becoming a giant sundae?"
"I really do tell you too much." Caleb's mouth twitched and he reached out and ruffled Dean's hair. "Turns out you were right. Hannah Astor did not want to make out with me."
Dean ran a hand over his hair to smooth it down, grimacing when he felt syrup. "Then why did she invite you to her house?"
Caleb shrugged. "Entertainment."
"I don't get it." Some things in the teenage world were still a mystery. From what Caleb said the making out part of the party was the entertainment, though it sounded gross to Dean-the fake blood seemed better.
"They went Carrie on my ass, Dude." Caleb rocked back on his heels, fiddling with the silver bracelet on his wrist. Dean had given him the sun stone after Caleb's first hunt, and it brought an unexplainable rush of warmth to Dean every time he saw the older boy with it on; but tonight the sight summoned an icy chill of trepidation.
"Carrie? Like the movie?" Dean didn't need to be a grown up to recognize the emotion rolling in his friend's eyes, the pain covering his face like a gruesome mask. He'd seen Caleb angry, but this was different, worse.
"Deuce, I might have let you watch The Godfather, but I know for a fact I have never pulled out a Stephen King classic. You have enough nightmares as is."
"Bobby has cable," Dean explained. "He's not exactly Mr. Sensitivity about what programming we watch when he's doing research."
"That sounds about right." Caleb rubbed his eyes. "Look, just forget what I said. Okay? It's not important. You don't need to worry about it."
"Carrie's the one with the pig's blood, right? Some jerk kids toss it on her at a dance and then she…" Dean stopped, remembering the scene where Carrie sought revenge on her classmates. "Is that what your friends did?"
"Those kids are not my friends."
"But did you…" Dean recalled images from the horror movie, what Carrie had done to those kids who humiliated her.
"It doesn't matter what I did to them." Caleb reached out and gripped his shoulders. "What matters is what you've done for me."
Dean shook his head. "I don't understand."
Caleb took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I know we have strict rules about the whole girly chick flick scene, but just this once I'm going to make an exception. I need for you to know how things really are between you and me."
"Whatever you did, The Triad can fix it, Damien." Dean's dread moved to full on desperation. He recognized the goodbye that was coming as Caleb placed a playing card in his hand. It was the one that always held place in The Three Musketeers-the deuce of spades. "They can fix anything."
"They can't fix me, Deuce." Caleb closed Dean's fingers over the card, leaving his hand covering Dean's for a moment.
Dean felt his lip tremble. Tears blurred his vision. "There's nothing wrong with you."
"Yes, there is." Caleb moved his hand to the side of Dean's face. "I'm messed up. More than I even knew. But not you, kiddo. You're good, Deuce-the best. You and Sammy gave me a second chance at a family. I'll never forget that."
"You can't just leave us." Dean reached out to grip a handful of the teen's ruined shirt. "You promised me that would never happen. You made a deal if I started talking again, that we'd be friends forever-family. Family doesn't run out on each other."
"I promised I would protect you, and even though you can't see it right now that's exactly what I'm doing." Caleb gently pried Dean's fingers away, making it to his feet. "I love you, kiddo, but I have to go."
"But who's going to protect you?"
"I can take care of myself. Trust me." Caleb turned his back to Dean, picking up his duffel. He moved to Atticus, giving the dog a good rubbing. "Watch over them, Boy."
"But, Jim's The Guardian." Dean followed after Caleb as he crossed the floor, turning off the lamp and calling Atticus out before quietly crossing the threshold into their bedroom.
"That's exactly why I can't go to him." Caleb stopped at their bed. He laid his hand on Sam's hair, whispering something Dean couldn't hear. Sam curled deeper in the blankets, a soft sigh escaping his lips as he snuggled Woobee tighter. "Keep your eye on the runt, Deuce. He's going to need Captain Onehelluva Big Brother."
"Wait!" Dean called out as Caleb reached for the window. His best friend stopped, but didn't turn around.
"Deuce, man…please don't make this any harder."
"I want you to have this." Dean moved to his pillow, reaching underneath. He pulled out the present the tooth fairy had left him, a prize worth much more than the five dollars Clay had gotten. Caleb turned to look at him, and Dean thrust into his hand.
"This is yours, Deuce." Caleb tried to give it back. "The Tooth Fairy risked life, limb and the wrath of John Winchester to get this for you."
Dean refused. "It's yours now-to remember me."
The sound of footsteps on the stairs stopped Caleb from arguing. "Shit. Pastor Jim."
"He'll hear if you open the window now," Dean pointed out.
"You think?" Caleb pointed to Dean, lowering his voice to a harsh whisper. "Get back in bed. Not a word about me being here. Understand?"
"I understand." Dean nodded, hopeful of the turn of events. He called Atticus up on the bed, watching as Caleb took his duffel and slipped back into his room with a quiet click of the door. Dean had just buried under the covers, curled around Sam and closed his eyes when Pastor Jim entered.
He heard the crunch of something beneath the pastor's feet, sensing Jim's presence as he leaned over him in the dark. The pastor rested a warm hand on his back. "Dean, my boy?" he whispered.
Dean rolled over, giving his best 'I've been sleeping' impression. "Wha...Pastor Jim? What's wrong?" He faked an exaggerated yawn.
"I thought I heard voices." The pastor moved, eliciting a few more crunches then the room glowed with the light from Sam's Scooby Doo nightlight. Dean had forgotten to turn it on after their camp out was busted.
"Sammy talks in his sleep." Dean blinked, squinting so he could see Jim's face in the faint light. The pastor had removed his barn coat, but still wore his wool hat and flannel shirt. He studied the floor a moment before lifting his gaze to Dean.
"Conversing with munchkins and vampire rabbits?"
"Something like that." Dean glanced at Sam who was snoring softly, not a care in the world. He thought of kicking his little brother to elicit some kind of response. He opted for a change in subject. "How are the horses?"
"A little spooked this evening, but that's understandable with such a strong storm." Jim nodded to the floor. "The wind is worse than I imagined."
Dean tried to act nonchalant as he took in the scattering of dried leaves across their floor. "I wanted our campsite to look real."
Jim took a seat on the edge of the mattress. "I seem to recall Atticus tidying up that campsite. The foliage was completely edible."
Dean looked up at the pastor. "I know we're not supposed to open the window, but I heard a noise outside." None of it was a lie, only a slightly skewed version of the truth.
Jim arched a brow, a frown marring his forehead as he leaned in closer to Dean. "What's this?"
Dean held still as Pastor Jim ran a finger over his cheek. The eight-year-old remembered Caleb had touched his face earlier. "Chocolate," he covered quickly. "We had cupcakes. Remember?"
Jim's frown deepened. "To eat, yes. Not to wear."
"That'll teach you to let us lick the bowl." Dean tried for a smile. "Atticus must have missed a spot."
"And do you have a quick explanation for this?" Pastor Jim tapped Dean's hand.
Dean looked down. He was still holding on to the deuce card Caleb had given him. "Uhh…"
Jim folded his arms over his chest. "Is there something you need to tell me, my boy?"
They both startled at the bang that echoed from the adjacent room. Footsteps pounded down the stairs. Dean looked at the pastor. The gig was up. Caleb had abandoned stealth, taking the other entrance out of his room.
Jim stood, rushing past Sam and Dean's door, out into the hallway. "Caleb!" he called. "Wait!"
Dean untangled himself from the covers, just as Sam grabbed his arm.
"Now you wake up?" Dean sighed, patting his little brother's head. "Go back to sleep, Sammy. Everything's alright." He didn't wait to see if Sam obeyed, instead chasing after Pastor Jim.
When he reached the landing Caleb was at the bottom of the stairs, back against the wall. Jim had stopped halfway down. He had his hands raised, like he was approaching one of the horses when they were spooked. "Please, Caleb. I just want to talk to you."
"You mean you want to stall me until Mac can get here." The teen shook his head, taking a step towards the kitchen and escape. "No way! I'm not going back to a hospital. I can't."
"Son, is that what you think?" Jim dropped his hands, his voice softening. "Your father and I would never let that happen."
"You might not be able to stop it after what I've done..."
"You've not done anything, my boy." Jim descended another few steps. "Your father called earlier this evening. He said he received word from Hannah Astor's father that there was an incident at a party his daughter was hosting-some sort of Halloween prank gone awry."
"It was a mean trick," Dean spoke up, bringing Jim's attention to him. "Damien thought Hannah liked him."
"Deuce," Caleb hissed. "Please go back to bed. Please."
"Tell him you can fix it, Pastor Jim." Dean moved down the stairs, stopping by the preacher. "Tell him he doesn't have to leave."
"There's nothing to fix." Jim put a hand on Dean's shoulder, turning his gaze back to the teen. "Mr. Astor explained to Mackland that the excitement triggered a terrible asthma attack for one of the boys in attendance, the son of Mackland's lawyer if I'm not mistaken."
"Asthma attack?" Caleb dropped his duffel. "You mean Phillip's not dead?"
"No." Jim moved the rest of the way down the stairs with Dean following. "The other partygoers called an ambulance to render aid, but he was already breathing on his own by the time help arrived. They took him to the hospital for observation, seeing as he had never had a respiratory issue previously."
"Thank God." Caleb leaned against the wall. Dean wasn't sure if his knees gave way, or Caleb just needed to sit down, but the older boy slid to the floor. Dean edged past Jim to sit cross-legged beside his best friend.
Jim took a seat on the bottom stairs near them. "When the excitement died down, you had disappeared. Your friend, Hannah told her father what had transpired. They were both quite concerned."
"I bet they were." Caleb ran a hand over his hair. "Astor does business with Cullen. He wouldn't want to lose one of his biggest investors."
"Your father was extremely worried. It seemed he had no idea you had plans for the evening, considering he had given you strict orders to stay at home. Mr. Astor's phone call was quite unexpected."
Caleb rolled his eyes. "Meaning, I interrupted his job for the FBI."
"Meaning," Pastor Jim paused. "He dropped everything to try and find you."
"I know I shouldn't have gone to the party." Caleb rested his chin on his hands. "That's ditto for the car I lifted to get here."
"He wanted to make out with Hannah." Dean found himself leaning closer to Caleb, the all too real threat he was going to lose someone else clinging to him like the fake blood covering his best friend.
Caleb flashed him a glare. "Don't help me."
"How did a night of prospective amore with a lovely girl lead to you committing grand theft auto and running away from New York?" Jim folded his hands, resting his elbows on his knees, mimicking Caleb. "I won't even comment on the fact I've seen zombies look better than you."
"That's what I said." Dean wasn't sure of all the words, but the pastor's sentiment seemed the same.
"Hannah planned a séance." Caleb rested his head against the wall. "Nothing blasé for the Upper East Side crowd. She had the whole works-Ouija board, a crystal ball, incense. Complete cheese. No way they were conjuring anything but some laughs, but I figured hey, scared girls in need of protection-how bad could it be?"
"Things did not go as you hoped."
"Things were going fine until Phillip Vanderbilt and his friends showed up." Caleb pulled his knees into his chest, wrapping his arms around them. "The jerk has had it out for me since I started school there. He was playing the medium in Hannah's little charade, pretending to channel some murdered bastard from the other side. He kept going on about how he was killed, about the night of his death."
Jim stayed silent. Dean looked up at the older boy, who was looking at Jim, but seemed to be seeing something beyond the pastor.
"When he said the name…who he was supposed to be, I almost didn't recognize it. I guess I had blocked it out." Caleb licked his lips. "The foster dad…the one I was living with when…" Caleb blinked. He glanced at Dean then Jim. "Well, you know."
"My boy…" Jim started.
Caleb shook his head. "I tried to leave- to get the hell out there. But then Vanderbilt's girlfriend starts shrieking, saying she's the guy's wife, and their murderer had escaped justice, their killer was present at the party. Everyone's all into it and shit, and Hannah's playing along like a good little hostess. She asks for a sign as to who it is. Next thing I know, the lights go out and when they come back on I'm wearing a bucket full of fake blood."
Dean felt the tremble run through Caleb. He scooted closer to the older boy, wishing he could take away the cause of his friend's misery.
"Everyone was staring at me. I couldn't think straight. I just wanted him to stop…I didn't think I could actually cause anything to happen," Caleb pleaded. "I attacked him with my abilities, like the whole Darth Vader thing. I choked him with just a thought."
"You reacted out of instinct to a terrible situation," Jim said.
"Yeah," Caleb rubbed a hand down his face, "and my first instinct was to kill him."
"My dad trained you, Damien," Dean interrupted. "You wouldn't do anything unless you had to." Like his dad, Caleb would only hurt those that deserved it. They were the good guys, and sometimes the good guys had to do what seemed like bad things.
Caleb patted Dean's head, but didn't agree or disagree with Dean. "Did you know I could do something like that? Did Dad?" Caleb asked the pastor.
Pastor Jim nodded to Dean. He may not have gotten a full gist of the conversation, but he understood he was being asked to leave. Dean crossed his arms, scooting closer to Caleb. He was staying.
Jim sighed. "We didn't know, Caleb. We only know you are a powerful psychic. Abilities manifest themselves in different ways, advancing often as one gets older."
"So I could get worse?"
"There is no better or worse, there is only you, Son." Jim got to his knees, then to standing. "And God led you to this family for a reason. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is going to change the fact we love you. We'll figure the rest out as it comes."
"But if I could do that to Phillip, then I could hurt someone else." Caleb glanced at Dean. "Maybe one of you."
"You would never hurt us, Damien." Dean tugged Caleb's sticky shirt. "You love us."
"Don't get carried away, Deuce." Caleb snorted. "One chick flick scene tonight is more than enough."
"Then it's settled." Jim rubbed his hands together. "You'll be staying with us for the evening. Mackland should be arriving soon."
Caleb stood, pulling Dean with him. "Do you think if I leave the bloodied clothes on, Dad might go easy with the punishment?"
"I think you should take a shower before he gets here." Jim raised his hand to Caleb's face, smearing some of the chocolate on his cheek. "Your father has had enough scares for one night. We'll explain things to him together."
"Together," Dean said, fighting back a huge yawn. Mac didn't have a temper like Dean's dad, but he didn't know what parents did when their children ran away and stole cars, let alone went Carrie on their so-called friend's asses.
"You, my boy, will be talking to no one but vampire bunnies and munchkins," Jim announced, gesturing to the stairs that led up to the bedrooms. "I'm sure Mackland will be glad to hear your take on things over pumpkin pancakes in the morning."
"I want to stay up with Caleb." What Dean didn't want to do was let his friend out of his sight. "He might need back-up."
"It's alright, Deuce. I think I'll be safe with Pastor Jim on my side." Caleb took his hand. "Let's get you back to bed."
"Dude, I promise I'll be here in the morning."
Dean looked from Jim to Caleb, finally giving a conceding nod. Grown-ups had all the power.
Atticus's tail thumped against the bed when they entered. Sam was curled around Woobee, hogging the majority of the mattress. His soft snores competed with the limbs outside their window as they scratched against the pane to the tempo of the howling wind. Caleb reached out and gently slid the four-year-old over; pulling back the covers so Dean could climb in beside his brother.
"You sure you're not going to run off the second Pastor Jim turns his back?" Sam rolled toward Dean, snuggling in close to his side.
"Deuce, now that I know that I'm not facing murder one, I'm going to suck it up and take my punishment like a man." Caleb tucked Emma's quilt over both boys. "Besides, it's not like I can run really run away from myself."
"Promise?" Dean pulled his arms free, folding them over the blanket.
"Scouts honor." Caleb lifted his hand, saluting Dean with three fingers.
"You're not a scout." Dean eyed the duffel Caleb had brought back up with him. "Leave your things with me, just in case."
"Way to show the trust, Kid."
"Just making sure."
Caleb took a seat on the edge of the bed. He opened his hand. "Speaking of prized possessions…This is yours, Deuce," Caleb's voice was husky. "What do you say we trade back? My card for your loot from the tooth fairy?"
Dean looked down at the deuce card he was still holding, then to the photograph in Caleb's hand. It was a black and white shot, his mother smiling up at the camera. Her hand rested on the large swell of her belly. Dean had never seen the picture before, but Caleb, A.K.A. the tooth fairy, had scrounged it up. "Can I keep them both until morning?"
Caleb nodded, sliding the picture he was holding over to Dean. "I think that can be arranged."
Dean took the picture, sliding it over the deuce card. "You never did tell me how you got it."
"The tooth fairy needs to keep some secrets." Caleb tucked the covers in around him. "Just don't ever let Johnny catch you with it."
"Why doesn't he want me to have pictures of her, or talk about her?" Dean rolled over on his side, facing Caleb. He hid the picture and the card under his pillow.
"Because some things are hard to remember. A guy has to stay on guard, protect himself." Caleb ran a hand over Dean's hair. "Memories can latch onto us, twisting into something horrible, hanging around inside our heads just waiting to jump out and scare us when we're least expecting it."
"Like ghosts?" Dean knew everything about spirits from helping his dad with research. The supernatural creatures refused to let go of this world, morphing into monsters no longer resembling any aspect of the humans they had once been.
"Scarier, like poltergeists." Caleb smiled, but he still looked sad.
Dean yawned, rubbing his eyes. "Does that mean we're haunted, Damien?"
Caleb's fake smile vanished. He took a moment to study the bracelet on his wrist, fiddling with the stone in the center before meeting Dean's gaze. "Maybe." He sighed. "Yes."
"That's what I thought." Dean was glad his friend hadn't lied to him, or tried to make the truth easier.
"Are you okay?"
Dean nodded. "I guess it's a good thing we're going to be hunters."
Caleb laughed, his grin real this time. "We are going to be the best hunters The Brotherhood has ever known, Deuce."
"Sammy, too." Dean turned over, his hand resting on Woobee's sticky belly. His little brother's soft breath brushed over his face. Sam smelled like chocolate.
"The runt, too," Caleb said.
Dean felt the older boy's hand come to rest on his head, the warmth of the touch chasing away the last vestiges of fear. He smiled, his eyes closing as the Sandman's magic took hold. "As long as there are no vampire bunnies or munchkins…"