Broken bones, broken hearts
Stripped down and torn apart
A little bit of rust - I'm still runnin'
Countin' miles, countin' tears
Twisted roads, shiftin' gears
Year after year - it's all or nothin'
But I'm not home, I'm not lost
Still holdin' on to what I got
Ain't much left
No there's so much that's been stolen
I guess I've lost everything I've had
But I'm not dead, at least not yet
Still alone, still alive, Still UNBROKEN
- Lynyrd Skynyrd
Dean Winchester was tired of hospitals. He was convinced he pulled more than his fair share of both time spent in hospital beds and at bedside vigils for the people he loved. Bobby's latest stay had given Dean enough exposure to piss poor coffee, retina burning fluorescent lighting and the medicinally, nauseating smell reserved only for hospitals to last him a lifetime. It was yet another reminder that life could change in a blink of an eye.
"We're here for Caleb Reaves."
Sam's voice brought Dean's focus to the current visit. It was good to have his brother by his side. Dean knew now he didn't want to face the uncertain future alone. Zachariah's five year fast forward, however propagandized, was a jolting wake-up call.
The woman behind the round mahogany topped station looked up from her computer to smile at his brother. "Is that with two E's or an E and an A?"
"You've got to be kidding me." Dean's worry for his best friend combined with the long drive to Texas from Nebraska had worn away at any decorum. Ethan had been abrupt on his explanation; Caleb was injured but in stable condition. His and Elijah's phones both went straight to voicemail every time Dean had tried to call them.
Sam shot him a warning glance before smiling at the receptionist. "E and an A."
"Like leaves on a tree," Dean added. "But with an R."
"Here he is." The woman frowned curtly at Dean, swiveling her chair to face Sam. "I'm sorry, but this patient has a privacy order in place."
Dean slapped the power of attorney papers Mac had faxed them on the counter. They had been reminded by Bobby's latest nightmare. If you weren't family in the eyes of the law; you weren't getting shit for information out of the hospital staff. Mackland pulled the necessary strings to keep them privy to Bobby's treatment, and had taken the necessary steps to ensure they would be granted access to Caleb. "We're his family. Tell us the room number."
Sam pried the documentation from beneath Dean's hand and slid it towards the receptionist. "I think you'll see everything is in order."
The woman lifted a pair of reading glasses from a colorfully beaded chain around her neck and gave the papers a once over. "It would appear so." She gave Dean another distrusting glower over the gold rims, before returning her gaze to the computer screen. "He's in Room 714."
"Thanks." Dean snatched the papers from her hand, and started for the elevator. Sam matched his stride, coming along side him with an audible sigh.
"Dean, take it easy. If Caleb's condition had changed Ethan or Eli would have called us."
"Ethan was holding back." Dean trusted the vice detective, but knew him well enough to recognize the evasive talk. Ethan's story of Caleb being conscious didn't add up. Caleb would have called Dean and Sam if he could, hospital policy be damned. They were not out of contact for more than a day at a time. Michael's and Lucifer's plans, Zachariah's lesson all adding up to give them the foresight that sticking together was in their best interest. It hadn't escaped Dean that in the future, Caleb hadn't been there. 2014 Dean was not wearing a hunter's ring. There were only a couple of reasons Dean could imagine he would turn his back on The Brotherhood. Losing The Knight was one of them. They reached the elevator, and Dean quickly punched the up arrow. "There was something Ethan didn't want to tell me."
Sam shifted beside him. "We'll know soon enough."
"You getting any vibes?"
Sam shook his head. "I haven't tapped into my psychic abilities since the whole Lilith thing. Maybe it's lack of practice."
Dean didn't buy that. Sam had tried to sense Caleb after Ethan's call. His brother had described it as running into a mental brick wall. He took comfort in the fact Sam promised it was nothing like the gaping black hole he and Caleb had experienced last year when Dean died.
"I'd feel better if Mac was here." Dean knew The Scholar was on his way. The delays in Atlanta flights due to the storms from the most recent hurricane were not under the doctor's control. Mac was working around the clock, putting out fires, trying to maintain some kind of cohesiveness in the ranks as signs of the apocalypse raged on around them. Getting a hold of Mac was almost impossible. Dean had talked to Missouri and Griffin Porter before he got an actual one-on-one with Mackland to tell him Caleb had been hurt. The Scholar booked his flight while they were still on the phone, but had called back explaining the delay, sounding frustrated and more than a little guilty that he wouldn't be there when Dean and Sam arrived.
"Are Silas and entourage coming with him?"
"Mac grumbled something about it." The Brotherhood was in an even more precarious position now, being the guard for humanity, while the juggernaut angels and demons battled on with little regard for the innocent's welfare. Since Lucifer's rising, security had been stepped up. Bobby's incident had only proven how vulnerable they all were; even seasoned veteran hunters were at risk. The apocalypse was throwing punches they weren't prepared for, like with the four horsemen. The territory behind the curtain was no longer familiar, ever changing. Mackland never went anywhere alone now. They could not risk the last remaining member of the current Triad. The Scholar joked it was like being the president with his own Secret Service outfit, but Dean recognized the strain it was taking.
"At least he's been in contact with the hospital. It should make things easier for us," Sam said.
"That was when they first admitted Caleb last night. If he knows anything new, he isn't sharing."
"Mac trusts you to handle what may come up, Dean."
"I know that, Sam. It doesn't mean I have to like it." Finally the elevator dinged, the doors opened to allow the small horde to exit. Dean stepped into the empty car.
"Mac must feel like he's drowning." Sam punched the number Seven.
Dean cut his gaze to his brother. They were all in over their heads, the latest run of bad luck par the course. "You know Mac. He's going to rally." The Scholar stayed at Bobby's the first week the mechanic was home from the hospital fussing over the injured hunter. When Bobby refused Mac's offer to stay with him in New York, Mac hired people to outfit Bobby's place, supervising the project to stay on. Bobby called him a busybody Nancy pants for his effort, told him he had more important business to tend to, but Mac was unwavering. Mac had a firm grasp on his priorities, even in the apocalypse. Dean was struggling to find the strength to do the same.
"I don't see how things could get much worse."
"Don't tempt fate, Sammy." Dean wanted to talk with Caleb, see his friend was in one piece. He quickly stepped from the elevator when it opened on their floor following the signage to the hallway marked for rooms 700 to 715.
Sam kept up with him. "Did Ethan tell you why Caleb went to Texas from California, instead of flying back with Joshua?"
"Something about the Lamborghini." Caleb had gone to California with Joshua to meet up with Victor, Mac's predecessor. The former Scholar had seemingly had a change of heart since the apocalypse had begun. He arranged to come to the states to talk with them about his Triad and Ben Mosley. They all hoped it would provide a lead on an alternative to their scrambling defensive measures.
"He probably wanted to trade rides back with Ethan," Sam said.
Dean glanced at his brother. Caleb was driving Ethan's Pathfinder on their last meet up at Bobby's, having given up 'Heidi' before the apocalypse started per the conditions of Dean's and Ethan's spring fantasy baseball league agreement. Dean had gotten the pitcher and first baseman he wanted out of the deal, Ethan got free liberties with Caleb's half-a-million dollar ride for two months. "Shit."
"It's not your fault." Sam's response was automatic, but sincere. "Don't go there."
Dean kept walking, slowing only when he saw the two Matthews brothers up ahead. Elijah was leaning against the wall by the last door at the end of the hallway. He quickly straightened when he saw them coming. Ethan was sitting on the ledge of the one lone window. He stood to greet them. "You're here," he said. "Finally."
"Why aren't you in with Caleb?" Dean had given Ethan a direct order not to let Caleb out of his sight.
"His doctor is in with him."
"He really doesn't want to see us."
The brothers answered simultaneously and Dean didn't miss the glower Ethan shot Elijah. The vice detective sighed. "Things are a little more complicated than I explained."
Dean didn't care how complicated they were. He intended to see Caleb, hoping the visual would alleviate the gnawing in his gut.
Ethan caught his arm as he reached for the door handle. "Wait, man. There's something you need to know."
Dean hesitated. "The something you didn't want to tell me on the phone?"
Ethan ran a hand through his dark hair. "I hoped by the time you got here it would be a moot point, needless worry."
"What are you talking about?" Sam stepped forward to stand at Dean's side.
"Caleb doesn't remember who he is," Elijah said.
"You're kidding?" Dean shared a glance with Sam, his gaze going back to the Matthews brothers. It had to be a joke, a bad one with ill timing. They were in the process of trying to locate the Colt, not to mention track down leads on the elusive Triad power. Toss in a lost anti-christ and now this. "Caleb has amnesia?"
"He didn't know who I was when he came to in the ambulance," Ethan explained. "He freaked out. I thought he was just confused. I mean, shit, he'd just been hit by a speeding car. That's cause for some disorientation, you know?"
"What happened to not a serious injury, E?" Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. He knew something was amiss.
"I wasn't lying when I told you that. The witnesses said Caleb appeared to see the car at the last minute, did a roll over the hood, but hit the ground hard."
"Have you talked to him since?" Sam asked.
"Yes." Elijah nodded. "Not long after I arrived they moved him out of the ED and into his own room. He was more alert, but had no clue as to where he was or who we were. We tried to explain, but only seemed to make him more agitated. The doctor suggested we leave."
"He didn't even know his name," Ethan shook his head. "He had this completely blank look when the doctor asked him. He looked scared, and as you know Reaves doesn't exactly do afraid. It was creepy."
Dean's heart started to pound. Someone losing their memory was a tired plot used by bored writers in countless old television dramas. It wasn't something that happened to his best friend. "What the hell was he doing in the line of fire in the first place, Ethan? Are random hit and runs common place at your precinct?"
"Caleb was returning my truck and was in the wrong place at the wrong time." Ethan folded his arms over his chest. "As random as it sounds, it was a lowlife rookie drug dealer I'd rooted out a month or so back. He saw Caleb get out of my ride, noted the similar hair coloring, height and build."
"The guy thought he was taking you out," Sam said.
Ethan nodded. "Some uniforms collared the creep at a Zippee Mart not four blocks from the station. He sang like a bird." He looked at Dean. "I'm sorry, man. I never thought…"
Dean raised a hand to end the apology. "What has the doctor told you?"
"Not much," Eli said. "After they got him stitched up and stabilized they started running tests."
"He was in and out of Radiology all night," Ethan added. "We've not had much time with him."
"They haven't shared much of anything with us either." Ethan pointed to the badge clipped on his belt loop. "Even Texas's finest is running into the brick wall that is HIPPA."
Dean held up Mac's fax. "We'll fix that." He opened the door, not bothering to knock before stepping into the sterile room. "Caleb?"
Caleb was sitting up in bed, sporting typical hospital garb, a day's growth of beard and a large bandage over the ride side of his forehead. The red and purples of impressive bruising bled down across his eyebrow and over his cheek bone. His right eye was nearly swollen shut. He was hooked to an IV and the gambit of monitoring machinery.
"Who are you?" It was Caleb's doctor who asked the question, the tall, bald man stepped forward to intercept Dean. By the puzzled look on Caleb's face he was wondering the same thing. "I requested the other gentlemen wait outside."
"I'm family." Dean handed the doctor the documentation as he stepped around the man to get a better look at Caleb. "I'm not waiting outside."
"I'm sorry." The doctor read over the documents, his posture changing. He looked at Sam, who had entered with Dean. "When I spoke with Dr. Ames about the test results this morning he said his nephews would be arriving soon. I explained your visit and your uncle's delay to Caleb." The doctor gestured to his patient. "He's been expecting you. I'm his attending, Dr. Stanton"
"I'm Sam Winchester." Sam extended his hand to the doctor. "This is my brother, Dean."
Dean stopped at the bottom of the bed to address Caleb. He forced a smile. "Dude, you look like shit."
"Really?" Caleb brought his hand up to his face. "I wouldn't know."
"Trust me when I say you've had better days." Dean gripped the rails. He was waiting for Caleb to give him a cocky grin, asserting the impossibility of him looking bad. "Do you know who I am, man?"
Caleb frowned, wincing as his forehead wrinkled in concentration. "No idea."
"It's alright, Caleb," the doctor said. "I told you not to expect an instantaneous flood of recognition. It rarely works that way."
"Does that mean we just can't bonk him on the head again?" Dean gave one more try at their usual game. Caleb didn't respond in kind, instead looking to the doctor as if there had been some sort of mix-up.
"Are you sure these men know me?"
"I know you better than anyone, Damien." The comfort Dean had taken from seeing his friend alive and in fairly decent shape was starting to disintegrate, leaving room for the seeds of panic to take firm root. He'd experienced the same thing when Bobby regained consciousness, but remained in the wheel chair as each day passed.
"The cop told me my name was Caleb. Caleb Reaves."
"It is," Sam stepped forward. "But Dean's called you Damien since I can remember. You call him Deuce. You stuck me with the name Runt. Nicknames are common place in our family. I thought everyone had one until I started school."
Caleb touched the bandage on his head, his frown deepening. "How about we stick with my name seeing as how I'm struggling."
"Okay, Caleb." Sam flashed his brother a look that said he was as disturbed as Dean by the uncharacteristic behavior.
"We're cousins?" Caleb looked at each Winchester skeptically.
"More like brothers," Dean said. Family went far beyond blood. As of late, Dean was even more certain of that.
Caleb looked him up and down, giving a slow careful shake of his head. "I don't see how that's possible."
"I know it's hard to believe. I definitely got all the looks in the family."
Caleb's gaze lingered on Sam. "I'm not talking about physical resemblance."
Sam attempted to explain. "Well we grew up together and …"
"No." Caleb cut him off. "I don't know you. You're not familiar to me." He became more animated, lifting his left hand to gesture to Sam and Dean. "Nothing about you or the guy in the leather jacket is clicking. At all!" His voice rose. "None of this makes any sense to me."
"Caleb." The doctor moved forward. "We talked about this. In your case the retrograde amnesia seems to run the expanse of your entire past. Just as you don't recall your own identity, those closest to you will also appear to be complete strangers."
"Then how the hell do I know who to believe?" Caleb asked.
"He has a point," Dean said. He turned to the doctor, not understanding how thirty years of memories could just disappear. How his friend could take a blow to the head and wake up without a personality. "What have you told him?"
"I've shared the basic facts with Caleb from the medical records Dr. Ames provided us. His name, date of birth and such." The doctor folded his arms over his chest. "In amnesia cases it's often best to answer direct questions the patient asks. Flooding them with information can have a negative effect. Officer Matthews found that out when he tried to explain to Caleb how he ended up here in the hospital."
"The cop said I got ran down by some coked out drug dealer in front of a Dallas police station, but I'm not a police officer. Apparently I'm a hot shot architect from New York and was only at the station to pick up my Lamborghini, which I lost to a buddy in a fantasy league baseball game." He gave Dean an incredulous glare. "Does that sound like a plausible story to you?"
"Actually it was more of a trade," Dean said. If Caleb thought that was a far reach, he was in for a rude awakening. "For a really great pitcher and first baseman."
"What is wrong with you?" Caleb slammed his fist against the mattress. "This is not some kind of joke! I don't know who I am, or how I got here, or why I was involved in a crime. I sure the hell don't know you or your brother."
"Caleb, you need to calm down." Dr. Stanton pushed a button on one of the monitors now beeping as Caleb's heart rate and blood pressure rose. "Getting worked up is not going to make your condition any better."
"Dude, take it easy." Dean reached out to touch Caleb's arm, but his friend jerked away.
"Dean, just give him some space," Sam said. He pulled his brother back a few steps. "He doesn't know who we are."
"I get that, Sam."
"How do I know any of this is real?" Caleb continued. "You say we're like brothers, that you know me better than anyone, but how do I know we've even met before? You might be some freak off the street."
Dean sidestepped Sam, returning to Caleb's bedside. "You have a tattoo of a red dragon on the right side of your chest. It's holding a sword in one claw and a silver chain and cross in the other. There's an inscription on the sword that says Semper Fi." Dean leaned on the railing, his gaze unwavering. "I can start naming interesting scars in some delicate locations if that will help you feel any better."
Caleb lifted the front of his gown and peeked down at his chest. He dropped the gown, letting his head fall back against the pillow. He brought his right hand to his face. "Shit."
"You're also wearing the same silver ring as us," Sam added. He wiggled his fingers, flashing his hunter's band.
"The cop pointed that out." Caleb lowered his hand, staring at his ring finger. "Are we in some kind of fraternity?"
Dean gave him a half grin. "Something like that."
"This is too fucking weird."
"Tell me about it," Dean laughed because at least the crude language, if not the tone, sounded like Caleb. He looked at the doctor. "What now? What's the next step? How do you fix this?"
"Physically, Caleb is fine. Except for some contusions to his side, shoulder and hip, the mild concussion is the worst of his injuries. The brain scans are completely clear. There's no reason for him to stay. In fact, Dr. Ames and I believe the best course of action would be to get him in a familiar setting, in a normal routine as soon as possible. That should increase his likelihood of remembering. He should be ready for discharge by this afternoon."
"You expect me to leave with these people?" Caleb stiffened. "You haven't even asked them for ID!"
"Dude, I'm your best friend."
"Dean…" Sam started.
"If you don't feel comfortable leaving with these gentlemen we can move you to the psychiatric word until your father can get here," Dr. Stanton cut in.
Caleb and Dean spoke up in unison.
"That's not a good idea," Sam said. "Caleb will be fine with us."
Dean nodded, pinning Caleb with a hard look. Damien was still in there somewhere. If his ingrained fear could make it to the surface, so could something just as innate. "Search your feelings, Luke. You know it's true. You can trust us."
In the end, he didn't believe it was trust that convinced him to get into the black Chevrolet. The overwhelming fear of being sent to the psych ward for further testing and evaluation far outweighed the anxiety of leaving with complete strangers.
It surprised him when his body relaxed into the passenger seat of the restored classic. Tension melted from his body as they made it to the Interstate, a Lynyrd Skynyrd hit flowing from the speakers. The sudden lightness left him weary, and he felt sleep tugging at him for the first time since awaking in the hospital the night before. He credited it to the two pain pills he took to alleviate the relentless pounding in his head and his hurting ribs, preferring not to analyze the unexpected sense of safety.
"Dude, it's a long drive. Why don't you catch some Z's?"
He looked at the guy driving the car, the one in the beat up leather jacket who thought he was funny. "Where are we going?"
That didn't sound right. "I thought I lived in New York."
"You do, but Kentucky is your home."
"That makes perfect sense," he said softly. When you had nothing to compare it to, anything could be right. Turning away, he rested his head against the passenger window. It was starting to rain, the early afternoon gray and miserable. A perfect reflection of how he was feeling.
The last twenty four hours had been like waking up in a Stephen King novel. He wasn't privy to the beginning of the book, had no clue as to the plot. His life had become a cliffhanger. He closed his eyes, praying for an ending.
The slowing of the car, crunch of gravel under the tires, the sudden quiet as the engine and music stopped yanked him from the temporary refuge of sleep. He awoke with a start, afraid when he didn't know where he was, even worse, who he was.
"Hey." A hand rested on his chest. He blinked, trying to focus his bleary gaze as his mind scrambled for a name to put with the concerned face, the worried green eyes. It was one of the guys from the hospital. "You alright?"
He took a moment to think about the question. The throbbing in his head was dull, the pain present but at a distance. He licked his lips. He was thirsty. "Where are we?"
"We're just outside Memphis."
He turned, having forgotten there was another person in the car. It was the tall kid with the long hair. Things started to click. They were all going to Kentucky together. He rubbed a hand over his mouth. "Why did we stop?"
"We've been on the road for hours," leather jacket answered. "We need to eat, stretch our legs."
He stared out the window. It was dark. The rain had stopped. There was a diner directly in front of them, although it looked more like a metal trailer someone had unhitched from their truck and abandoned along the road to rust. Burt's Barbecue was painted on the side in bold red letters, along with a mural of blues guitarists and singers. He knew all their faces, recalled their names without trying. Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Albert Collins and a slew of others, but he had no clue who was in the car with him.
"We've been here before. You like this place, Dami…Caleb."
Caleb. That name was important, a point of reference. He looked to the guy behind the steering wheel. "Tell me your name again."
"I'm Dean." The driver was suddenly pale as he pointed to the other guy in the back. "That's Sam. Remember?"
"It's okay," Sam said. "Doctor Stanton said you might need reminding. " He smiled, reassuringly. "You're Caleb, by the way."
Caleb nodded, recalling Dr. Stanton and his speech about being patient. He looked at the diner again, his stomach growling as the strong smell of flavorful smoke permeated the car. "Are you sure I like this place?"
"Trust me." Dean said. "You love this place."
Caleb sighed. Who was he to disagree?
Dean tried to hide his panic as he exited the car, pocketing the Impala's keys. He watched Caleb get out and waited for Sam to exit from the back. He flashed his brother a wild look, jutting his chin toward Caleb who was giving the diner another scrutinizing once over. Dean kept his voice light and casual. "Dude, weren't you supposed to check in with Mac?"
"Right." Sam gave him the 'calm down' frown as he dug his phone from his jacket. "He's probably at the farm by now. I'll give him a quick update and join you inside."
"Make sure you don't leave anything out." Dean rounded the car to collect Caleb. "We'll grab a table." Mac could fix this. Dean held onto that belief as he steered Caleb toward the door.
Burt's was busy, but not slammed by the typical dinner crowd. The last time Dean and Caleb stopped they had waited for a table, drinking a couple of beers over the hood of the Impala as they bantered about whom out did who on the latest hunt. That was before Dean's deal, before the beginning of the apocalypse, back when the worst fate Dean could imagine was failing his father and losing his brother.
"Hey guys." A dark skinned boy in his teens gestured from behind the counter. "Grab the booth on the end. Yvette will be right out."
Dean gave Caleb a slight nudge, watching his friend eye the surrounding patrons, a few of which were staring. Their usual vibe was enough to garner stares, especially in the smaller towns. Caleb's bruised face and bandages only added to the curiosity.
Dean stepped around Caleb to take the side of the booth with the view of the door. Caleb eased himself into the other seat, looking extremely uncomfortable. Yvette was at their table before Dean could remove his jacket.
"Well, well. It's been a long dry spell since you boys landed in here to light up my day."
"Still ever bit the tall drink of water, I see." Dean smiled, as Yvette fanned herself dramatically.
"You know my man is out working the pit in the back." She winked. "We don't want any trouble in here."
"I promise to control myself," Dean said. Yvette and her husband Franklin owned Burt's Barbecue. They named the place after the family dog and had been the proud proprietors for twenty years going strong. Hunters had been welcome patrons since Bobby and Jim helped Franklin out of a dicey jam with a coven before Jim was The Guardian.
"It's not you I'm worried about." She pointed her pencil at Caleb. "Although I got to say, handsome is off his handsome game today. What happened, honey? Did a jealous husband finally get a hold of you? I hope he didn't cut out your golden tongue."
"You know Caleb's luck with women." Dean was quick to intercede on his friend's behalf. "It was bound to fail him sooner or later. He's still licking his wounds."
Yvette gave a loud harrumph. "I know both you tomcats are lucky to still be prowling with your family jewels intact." She pulled a pad of paper from her generous cleavage. "You want me to pull you a couple from the tap to ease the pain? Frankie brewed up an interesting batch."
Dean glanced at Caleb, his friend's face reflecting his confusion. Maybe the attempt at familiar was too much too soon. "How about we skip interesting, and go with a round of three coffees."
"Sounds good to me." She placed a couple of laminated menus on their table. "Blueberry is our house special today."
"Thanks." Dean waited until they were alone, sliding one of the menus Caleb's way. "Sounds like you're in luck. Frankie's blueberry barbecue sauce is classic."
"We're regulars here?" Caleb rubbed at his temples.
"Best ribs in the south." Dean flashed the front of the menu which proudly displayed a photograph of three over-sized pigs standing by a trough full of what could have passed for sudsy beer. "Frankie raises his own stock, brings them up on the finest corn and mead, marinades them from the inside out."
Caleb watched him for a moment before picking up the menu. "Can I ask you something?"
Dean arched a brow. "You'll eat anything on there, but stay away from Burt's Banging Beans because we have to ride the rest of the night with you."
"No. It's not about what food I like."
"Okay." Dean put down the menu. Dr. Stanton had said they could answer Caleb's questions, just not to elaborate. "Shoot."
"This is a TAG Heuer." Caleb pointed to the watch Cullen had given him for graduation. "I'm not sure how I know that, but I do." He pulled at the faded black shirt he was wearing. "I'm wearing Sam Walton Walmart rags with John Varvatos boots. My jacket has a hole in it."
Dean stared at the spot in the old gray Carhartt coat that used to belong to Bobby. Caleb had insisted on getting the blood stains out after being shot with a poisonous arrow while wearing it. "You know, I'm a little hurt you remember a couple of girly designers and a dead multi-billionaire mogul's names, but can't remember your own best friend's."
"Joking is what we do, Damien." Dean wasn't trying to make things more difficult for Caleb. He was interacting with his best friend the only way he knew how. They had their occasional chick flick moments when necessary, but when push came to shove Dean counted on the banter and below the belt insults to get them through. "I learned inappropriate humor from you, Dude."
"Call me Caleb."
"Okay, Caleb." Dean folded his arms on the table, resigning himself to the fact that this man wasn't privy to their shared past, or his favorite coping mechanism. "In all fairness, you didn't ask me one question. Those were all statements you were spouting. What do you want me to say?"
Caleb's distress was visible. He leaned across the table, closer to Dean. "I want some answers, to get some kind of picture of the man I'm supposed to be."
"That's easier said than done."
"You said you know me better than anybody." Caleb reached out and gripped Dean's wrist. "Try."
Dean was surprised by the move. Caleb refused his and Sam's help at the hospital, had practically hugged the passenger door the entire trip. It gave him hope that deep down Damien was reaching out. "What could a short summary hurt?"
Caleb let him go, quickly drawing his hand back to his side of the table. "Tell me."
Dean searched for a place to start. "You like expensive beer, really cheap women. You eat caviar on potato chips, put ketchup on two hundred dollar filet. You like to stay at the swanky places, but would rather eat at local dives. Your family has major money, but it's never been a big issue. You made your own way."
He rubbed a hand over his mouth. "Despite hating school, and flunking math, you made your first million before you turned twenty-seven. You love architecture, but walked away from it without batting an eye when you thought it was the right thing to do. You hate to lose anything, but you'd give a guy the shirt off your back. You play a mean game of pool, suck at poker unless you're cheating and you cheat like crazy. You're the guy I want watching my back in a bar fight. You're willing to lone out one of kind cars when your best friend asks, but you'll make me hike half a mile because you refuse to pay for fucking parking. I hate to break it to you, but you're more sentimental than materialistic. You're basically a walking, talking contradiction, Dude."
"Am I gay?"
"What? No!" Dean shook his head. "How the hell did you get gay out of that?" He was beginning to see Dr. Stanton's reasoning against any attempts at elaboration.
"I'm not married. No kids."
"That we know of." Dean ran a hand through his hair. He looked out the window willing Sam to hurry the hell up. "Let's just say monogamy isn't your strong suit and leave it at that."
"I'm some kind of rich playboy?"
"We've been to Heff's mansion once, but that was more about celebrating a milestone than a lifestyle."
Caleb brought a hand to his face, closing his eyes with a grimace. "None of that sounds right."
"Hey." Dean sighed, reading the lines of pain in Caleb's pinched expression. He could only imagine the frustration his friend was feeling. "Let's cut the question and answer session until we get some food in you. You'll feel better."
Caleb opened his eyes, meeting Dean's gaze. "Why do my father and I have different last names?"
Dean shifted in his seat, feeling the weight of the position Caleb was placing him in. So much for a simple paragraph. "You're adopted. You wanted to keep your last name. It's no big deal."
"What about my mother?"
Dean's heart rate kicked up a notch. Dr. Stanton also cautioned them against lying. "What about her?"
"The infamous Dr. Mackland Ames isn't married?"
"Not yet." Dean hoped the best recourse was to re-direct the line of questioning. "Although you're pretty close to scoring a very hot step mom. Esme is great. You're not too happy about her baggage, but trust me when I say Joshua has come a long way."
"And my real family? My biological parents?"
"You know…" Dean picked up the menu. "I think I'm going to go with the Kansas City sauce, or maybe some Maple and Jalepeno. Frankie's blueberry barbecue isn't exactly calling my name today."
"Was it a car wreck? Plane crash?" Caleb was undaunted. "Are they still alive?"
Dean looked at his friend. "Dude…"
"Did they just not want me?"
"They were murdered," Dean answered. Caleb sat back in the booth, his face draining of what color he'd gained. The bruises stood out in stark contrast, leaving Dean feeling guilty and more than a little helpless. He lowered his voice. "It happened a really long time ago; had nothing to do with you. Just a run of bad luck." He leaned across the table this time. "Mac is your real family. Sam and I are your real family. Got it?"
Caleb didn't get a chance to say anything as Yvette returned with their coffee and three glasses of water. Dean relaxed in the booth.
"Here you go, boys." She placed the drinks in front of them, along with a pile of flavored creamers. "You decided what you'll be having?"
"Give us a minute, Yvette," Dean said. "We're still waiting on Sam."
"Sure thing, Hot Stuff." Yvette made her way to the next table, patting Caleb's shoulder as she brushed by.
Caleb stood suddenly, bracing himself against the back of the booth as he wavered. Dean got to his feet, holding up a hand, afraid his friend was going to bolt. "Whoa, Dude. Where do you think you're going?"
"To the bathroom," Caleb said. Little beads of sweat dotted his brow and topped his lip. Dean realized his friend's hands were shaking. "Where is it?"
He tried to remember if the closet like space had a window big enough for Caleb to fit through if he made a break for it. Dean understood going with his friend like some prison guard wasn't an option, even if it was his first instinct. "You coming back?"
Caleb grimaced, a hand going to his stomach. "I don't have anywhere else to go."
It wasn't exactly a comforting answer, but Dean folded himself back into the booth. "Around the bar near the kitchen." He picked up the menu. "I'll order for you."
"Why not?" Caleb let go of the table, taking a steadying breath. "You seem to have all the answers."
Dean watched him go, feeling a wash of relief when the door at the front opened and Sam entered. "About damn time," he said as his brother joined him.
"Where's Caleb?" Sam took the seat Damien vacated.
Dean glanced toward the bar. "He went to throw up."
"Is he alright?"
"For a guy who just found out he was orphaned when his parents were murdered, I'd say he's holding it together pretty good."
"What?" Sam put his elbows on the table. "That's what you chose to start with?"
"I didn't start anything," Dean defended. "Damien's fucked up wardrobe is to blame."
Sam slid out of his jacket, putting it beside him. "What happened to having a normal dinner in a familiar setting?"
"Nothing is normal with us, Sam." Dean pulled one of the coffees to his side of the Formica. "I thought you finally grew up and abandoned that crusade?"
"You know what I mean." Sam slid a cup his way. "We agreed to avoid any tough subjects until we had Mac for backup."
"He asked me straight out, man." Dean took a drink of his coffee. "It wasn't like I gave him the ins and outs of the whole ordeal." Dean could do without sharing that story. He was counting on the farm bringing Damien back to his old self again before anything supernatural came into play. "Speaking of Mac - what did he have to say?"
"A lot of the same stuff we heard from Dr. Stanton. That we have to be patient and give it time."
"Did you ask him about using your abilities?" The thought crossed Dean's mind at the hospital as they waited for Caleb to be discharged. If Sam could connect with Caleb, then maybe he could unlock the memories his friend was blocking.
"He didn't think it was a good idea." Sam studied the pile of creamers before picking up two of the blue ones. "Mac believes the reason I'm getting the whole psychic block is because when Caleb was injured his abilities shut down, like a defense mechanism."
"Psychic auto pilot?"
"I guess." Sam dumped the vanilla creamer into his cup. "If Caleb doesn't know he's psychic, he can't consciously keep his blocks up. It would be completely overwhelming."
"We sure as hell don't want him to have a vision when he's like this."
"No, we don't." Sam took a drink.
Dean hesitated as Yvette came along side their table once more. He quickly gave her his and Caleb's order, waiting for Sam to place his before asking the most important question. "Does Mac have a plan as to how he's going to fix this?"
"He's at the farm doing research, but Dean, I don't think this is something Mac can snap his fingers and cure."
"Why not? Did he say that?"
"He's worried we're missing a piece of the puzzle."
"What do you mean?"
"He thinks Caleb's amnesia may be some kind of fugue state."
Dean could imagine Mac's psycho babble and wanted his brother to give him the shortened version. "How's that different from the explanation Dr. Stanton gave us?"
"Mac thinks it could be psychological in nature; that maybe Caleb's blocking out something traumatic."
"Take your pick." Sam snorted. "It's the end of the world."
"The apocalypse isn't about to shake Damien. He's as bad as Cas, believing God's going to lead in the cavalry in the last minute stretch." Hope wasn't something his friend gave up easily.
"Bobby being hurt shook him."
"I know Damien's taking it hard." They all were. Family was the weak spot in Caleb's faith. He'd be hard pressed to admit it, but Bobby was one of Caleb's idolized Musketeers. It was hard to watch one of your boyhood heroes fall in battle, even harder to see him benched in the middle of the game. "Caleb found Pastor Jim's body, suffered through Dad's death. Bobby's still with us. He may not be kicking, but he sure as hell is alive."
Sam raised a brow, giving Dean a slight smirk. "There is you being The Michael Sword."
"Stop calling it that." Sam and Caleb had taken to saying it with theatrical voices. "It sounds like bad porn."
"Caleb's freaking out about it."
"He sure isn't any happier about you being The Devil's Dagger."
Sam rolled his eyes. "It wasn't funny when Caleb said it. It's not funny now."
"It's a little funny." Dean's mouth twitched. He was glad he felt comfortable enough to make fun of Sam again; they were on the road back to being brothers. "Damien hit the nail on the head when he said you're sensitive about the whole issue of blade length."
Sam snapped his fingers. "Back to the matter at hand, Dean."
He sighed. "What about this latest conversation with Victor? We don't know what went down in California." They had plans to meet up with Caleb after his and Joshua's shakedown of the former Scholar to compare notes, but Ethan's call heralded a change in plans.
Sam shook his head. "Mac talked to Joshua. It sounds like Victor gave them some leads, revealed some stuff about Julian's Triad, but nothing that should have pushed Caleb over the edge."
"So what does Mac propose we do?"
"Same thing as Dr. Stanton. Bring him home to the farm to let him soak in the familiar."
Dean nodded his head. Caleb was approaching them, looking worse than he had when he went into the bathroom. "Because that's worked well so far."
Mac had left the lights on for them; his SUV and Silas's Tundra were in the drive. Dean wouldn't be surprised if The Scholar was still up waiting for their arrival despite the late hour, or early one depending on how you looked at it. Caleb startled awake when Dean killed the car, just as he had every time they stopped. Dean reached out and gripped his friend's arm, stopping his floundering. He found some reassurance when Caleb didn't automatically pull away. "Hey. You awake?"
"Yeah." Caleb cleared his throat, sitting up straighter. He'd been quiet since the revelation at Burt's, asking no more questions, choosing to doze during the rest of the trip. Dean was grateful, despite the lack of their typical conversation. The memory loss was bad enough, but it was as if the Caleb he knew had been erased. "Where are we?"
It was always his first question. Dean supposed when a guy had no clue of who he was, a concrete location was comforting. "We're in New Haven, Kentucky."
"Home." Sam stirred in the backseat, stifling a yawn as he stretched. Caleb wasn't the only one who had chosen sleep over good road trip etiquette. "This is the farm."
"We live here?"
"Not exactly," Dean said. "It's where we always come back to."
Caleb squinted in the darkness. "Okay."
Dean imagined the old two story farmhouse with the wrap around porch might not look like much through a stranger's eyes, especially if the stranger realized he was a multi-millionaire. "Withhold judgment until you see the inside."
"Shit!" Caleb jumped when something thumped against the passenger window.
Dean caught a flash of glowing eyes and a large pink tongue before he heard the clicking of nails against glass. "Goddamn it, Boo! Get off the car!"
Caleb flinched at Dean's shout. "What…"
"It's okay," Sam said. "That's just our dog. He demands we exit the vehicles immediately."
Caleb didn't appear pleased with the prospect. "We have a dog?"
Dean caught Sam's smirk. "Dean has a dog. Boo Radley. You and I rescued him from a steel trap a couple of years ago and gave him to Dean as a gift."
"Some gift. The overgrown beast is going to need another rescue if he scratches my paint." Dean opened the Impala's door, finding Boo now on his side ready to pounce. "Don't even think about it. Sit!"
The dog whined, but took a seat on the ground trembling with restraint. Dean shook his head, pointing toward the barn, not pleased with the greeting. "Go."
Boo took the cue and retreated just as the front porch lights flooded the yard, heralding the squeak of the screen door.
"Looks like Mac's up." Sam got out of the back, pulling his duffel with him. "Boo's not the only one who's impatient."
Dean popped the trunk to grab his and Caleb's things. He was looking forward to some food, and a nice long nap. "If we're lucky he got a jumpstart on breakfast."
The brother's exchanged a look when Caleb remained sitting in the car. Dean bent down to speak to his friend. "You getting out?"
Caleb shook his head. "None of this is familiar."
Dean raked a hand through his hair. He was hoping for that spontaneous recognition thing, but was beginning to think Dr. Stanton was right. "Dude, by now that shouldn't be a big shock to you."
Caleb took his eyes from the farm, meeting his gaze. "What if I don't recognize him?"
Caleb nodded. Dean offered him a small grin. "You know who Tom Selleck is?"
Caleb frowned, a hand reaching up to touch the bandage above his eye. "My father looks like Magnum P.I.?"
"I've always thought so-minus the Hawaiin prints." Dean wasn't getting his hopes up for a happy reunion considering Caleb's failure to recall him and Sam, but didn't want to discourage his friend further. "You won't know until you come in, man."
Dean expected Mac to greet them, not Silas Fox with two unfamiliar men flanking him. One glance at their right hands showed the silver bands they bore. Members of The Brotherhood or not, Dean found it unsettling having strangers at the farm. The men averted their gaze when Dean sent a scathing glare their way. Silas gave them a nod, and they took a few discreet steps back to offer privacy. Dean felt Caleb tense beside him.
"Silas? What's going on?"
"Dean. Sam." Silas stepped forward. "New protocol."
Dean frowned. "Here? The farm is safe."
"I know there are issues," Silas's blue eyes went to Caleb, "but after what happened with Bobby and now Caleb, I can't be remiss in my duty. Mackland is expecting you."
"What's he talking about," Caleb asked. "What's going on? Who's Bobby?"
"It's okay." Dean held up a hand. He hadn't considered Caleb's attack to be Brotherhood related. It wouldn't be the first time the other side used civilians. Now there were too many sides to account for. "This is your Dad's security detail."
"My father needs bodyguards?"
"Price of fame, Man. Did I mention your Dad is a famous doctor and he helps the FBI, too?" Dean gave Caleb a reassuring smile. "Be glad you're not related to Paris Hilton."
"Dean?" Silas stepped closer.
"Right." Dean grumbled. He understood the need to step things up, but was pissed at the timing. Caleb was going to think they were all insane. "We're wearing our rings. All of us." Dean lifted his hand, Sam doing the same.
"My ring?" Caleb looked down at his band.
Dean slapped his best friend's shoulder. "Let's go inside."
Mac was waiting on them, medical bag at his side. He stayed where he was by the table, looking a little like Boo after Dean gave him the sit command. Dean was grateful for The Scholar's self-control. All an on edge Caleb needed was for an overly effusive Mac to pounce on him. "Son? It's good to see you."
Dean watched Caleb study his father. He raised a brow when Caleb glanced his way. "Anything?"
"You were right." Caleb swallowed the disappointment clearly there in his unguarded gaze. "He looks a little like Magnum."
Mac looked over himself. "I take it that means you don't recognize me?"
"No." Caleb rubbed his head. "Not at all."
"That's okay." Mac approached them, leaving his doctor's bag on the table. "I thought Dr. Stanton explained it was unlikely you would have a sudden surge of clarity. People are rarely triggers in amnesia cases such as yours."
"Hearing it and living it are two totally different things, Mac." Dean tossed his duffel on the floor. Caleb wasn't the only one disappointed. Dean wanted his best friend back, not the freaky mandroid wearing Caleb's face. "You can't blame a guy for getting his hopes up."
Sam picked up his and Dean's bags to take up the stairs, but left Caleb's stuff where it was.
"Of course not." Mac reached out squeezing Dean's shoulder. Dean picked up on the worry in the doctor's gray gaze, irritated that it was directed his way. Dean was exhausted and starving, but he wasn't the one with the blank slate for a brain.
Mac gave Caleb a reassuring smile, but refrained from touching his son. "Even I was thinking we might be the exception and I am usually completely logical." Mac propped his hands on his hips. "It must be very disorienting for you."
"None of it seems real," Caleb said. "More like it's happening to someone else."
"I wish it were, but we'll figure it out." Mackland extended his hand. "I'm Mackland Ames, your father."
Caleb folded his arms over his chest. "My adopted father."
Mac nodded, dropping his hand to his side. "That's correct."
"Dr. Stanton said you were a renowned neurosurgeon? Dean says you're famous."
Mackland nodded, but didn't embellish any further.
"When do you think my memory will come back?"
Mac frowned. "Son, it's been less than forty-eight hours since your injury and…"
"Call me Caleb."
Dean sighed. He thought this Caleb would be warmer to his father, adopted or not. "He's big on the specific name thing."
"That would make sense." Mac didn't look offended. "Repetition is affirming when ones thoughts are scattered. Anything definite is comforting."
"Shouldn't you at least have a guess to a time frame?" Caleb lifted one shoulder, then winced and brought it down.
"How about you let Mac have a look at you, Caleb," Sam suggested when he came back down. He pulled out one of the chairs from the table. "We've been on the road for awhile. He could change your bandage?"
Caleb lifted a hand to his head. "It's fine."
"Come on, man." Dean gave his friend a little nudge. "Mac's penlight is probably burning a hole in his pocket. He's not satisfied when one of us is hurt until he's had a go at us himself."
"You boys don't understand reading someone else's test results and patient notes isn't gratifying work." Mac stepped back, opening up the way for Caleb to come forward. "I promise it will be a quick exam, Caleb."
"All right." Caleb took a seat, his gaze staying on Dean.
"How about some coffee?" Sam suggested.
"Coffee and breakfast." Dean might as well answer his grumbling stomach as the promise of a few hours of sleep seemed far off."I could go for some eggs."
"It's a good thing I had Silas stop at the market." Mac gathered the supplies he would need. He turned to Caleb. "The owner of this fine establishment believes a case of beer, a bag of M & M's, a jar of olives , and dog kibble are adequate rations."
"Forgive me if I don't keep the place stocked like Pastor Jim." Dean was new to the house ownership deal and didn't have the luxury of staying on home base like the former Guardian. Jim had served his many years in the trenches; Dean was still putting his time in. He dug through the cabinet for a skillet. "Merlin is a hard act to follow."
"Jim's kitchen always smelled like coffee and cinnamon." Sam brought two steaming cups over, sitting one on the table near Caleb. "He made the best chocolate chip pancakes ever."
"Did I know him?" Caleb asked.
"Yes. You loved him very much." Mac carefully removed Caleb's bandage. "We all did."
"What happened to him?" Caleb winced as Mac prodded his sutures.
"We lost him a few years back." Mac took out his penlight shining it in each of Caleb's eyes.
"Who's up for an omelet?" Dean dropped the pan onto the stove. He moved to the refrigerator for the butter, hoping to derail any more discussion of Pastor Jim's demise. Caleb finding Jim's body was one of those specifics Dean hoped to let his friend spontaneously recover.
"Do I like omelets?" Caleb crossed his arms into a defensive position.
Mackland seemed to be taking the turn of events in stride. "You like eggs, Caleb, anything that is fried, or bad for you, much to my chagrin."
Caleb flexed his arms, wincing slightly. "Are you sure? I seem in good shape."
"You work out a lot," Sam interjected. "It's one of your things."
"What Sam means is you're vain as hell and since you are getting older. . ." Dean whisked the eggs, and opened the refrigerator again for some green peppers and cheese.
"You adopted me when I was older-right?" Caleb pulled away from Mac's ministrations. "I was like a teenager. And people usually want babies."
"Dude, Mac does not change diapers." Dean supposed Caleb's curiosity was normal, but the quick turn in questioning had his head spinning. It was disturbing he couldn't predict where his friend's mind might go next. "Not even when Sammy was little."
"He didn't pay any attention to me until I started to talk in complete sentences," Sam said, attempting to keep things light.
"That's not true," Mac chided.
"So you didn't want kids?"
"I never thought about having a child." Mac did an excellent job of reframing. "I had my career, but then circumstances changed and you came into my life."
"How was that? I don't get it. You weren't looking to have a kid, but you adopted me? That doesn't make sense. A lot of this doesn't make sense."
"You were in some trouble, and you came to my attention through Pastor Jim." Mac gave up on the exam, pulling another chair over. He took a seat in front of Caleb. "I thought I could help, and we forged a relationship. I haven't regretted that decision for a moment."
"Trouble? What kind of trouble?"
Dean slipped the first omelet out of the skillet, choosing not to acknowledge the look Mac sent his way. The Scholar was getting a taste of what he and Sam had dealt with for the last twelve hours. Sticking to the facts wasn't so easy. Explaining to Caleb why The Brotherhood took an interest in him wasn't an option.
"The foster family you were staying with met with a misfortune."
"Let me guess-they died?"
Dean slid a plate in front of Caleb. "Eat up before it gets cold."
"Are you kidding me?" Caleb ignored the food, his gaze going from Mac to Sam. "I'm right?"
"It's a long story," Sam tried.
"One that doesn't matter at the…" Mac started.
"It matters to me!" Caleb shoved the plate away. He stood, his angry, accusing gaze going to Dean. "What the hell happened to them? Another run of bad luck?"
"Something like that."
"This is unbelievable."
Mac stood, placing a hand on Caleb's shoulder. "Son…"
Caleb shrugged away. "Don't call me that."
"I'm sorry." Mac lifted his hands in a sign of surrender. "Why don't we just sit back down and start over. We'll have a family breakfast. It will do us all some good."
"I'm not hungry. I've lost my appetite."
"Give us a chance to explain, man." Dean didn't know anything they could say that would make Caleb feel better. He thought about their recent gig with the kid Jessie; the parallels hitting too close to home.
"I think I've heard just about enough."
"How about I show you upstairs to your room?" Sam stood, gesturing to Caleb's bag. "You can get settled in."
Dean watched them go, waiting for the creak of the stairs before setting his gaze on The Scholar. "Mac?"
Mac reclaimed his seat, resting his head against his fists. "That did not go as I had planned."
"What the hell are we going to do?"
"I don't know." Mac looked up. "But I think some rest is called for. You look awful."
"Thanks, Doc." Dean took Caleb's vacated chair, pulling the discarded omelet close to him. "I've missed some beauty sleep."
"You need to take care of yourself."
"More worried about Damien at the moment." Dean picked up the fork. "What if he doesn't ever remember?"
Mac looked up. "He will remember."
He stabbed at a green pepper. Dean was beginning to wonder if the alternative would be so bad. His and Sam's conversation about their father and his brutal honesty was all too fresh in Dean's mind. "Is that your professional opinion, Dr. Ames?"
"No." Mac drew out the word. "I'm speaking as Caleb's father."
Dean took a bite of the egg, chewing slowly. "Maybe it would be better if he didn't remember, especially since Team Michael and Team Lucifer has made the safest place anywhere away from us."
Mac sat up taller. "You can't possibly believe that?"
Dean picked at another piece of omelet, his focus on swirling the stringy cheese around the prongs of his fork instead of Mac's disbelieving stare. "Haven't you ever thought how nice it would be to forget it all? To have a reset to before the supernatural fucked you over?"
"I imagine we've all prayed for that bliss a time or two, Dean."
"Then who are we to enlighten Damien? It could be like he never had to learn the truth about what his family was or what he is." Dean looked up. Maybe this was Fate intervening, cutting Caleb a break. "He could start new, dump all the baggage from the last thirty years. Get a real life, one where he's not considered a freak and involved in a fucking war."
"All that 'baggage' shaped the person I know as my son; dealing with the truth forged the man you call a brother. Are you really willing to discount his struggle, give up on him so easily?"
"Why torture him with the past? Why hurt him all over again with the precious truth?" Dean dropped the fork. It clanked against Miss Emma's china. "It's not looking good for us, Mac. If the world's going in the crapper anyway, why not let at least one of us go out peacefully."
"My best friend John Winchester would say because no man gets left behind." Mac reached out and gripped Dean's arm. "What would your best friend tell you, Son?"
Dean swallowed thickly at hearing his father's hallowed code, Caleb's turn of the phrase silently playing in his head. They were different words but the same sentiment. He met Mac's gaze, finding comfort in the fierce resolve. "Caleb Reaves would say all for one and one for all."
Mac nodded. "I believe you have your answer then."
"It was stupid of me to think it would all come flooding back."
Sam stopped at the door letting Caleb enter first. "Anyone in your position would hope for the same thing."
Caleb tossed his bag on the bed. "Just when I think it has gotten as bad as it's going to get, something worse happens."
Sam could empathize. "I'm sorry."
Caleb looked around. "So this is it?"
Sam crossed the threshold, taking the question as an invitation. The farm had a tendency not to change, frozen in a much simpler time. "We don't stay here much anymore, but when we were kids, this place was really special." He pointed to the adjoining door on the far wall. "My and Dean's old room. You used to try and lock us out."
Caleb studied their surroundings, his eyes going to the model bridge. "Did I do that?"
"Yeah." Sam smiled. "Do you know what bridge it is?"
"The Tower Bridge in London." Caleb didn't hesitate. He moved to the desk where the replica stood. "I'd know it anywhere, which is so wrong considering I didn't even know my own father."
"Bridges are one of your things." Sam propped his hip on the edge of the desk. "I helped you put this one together when I was about seven. You contracted me to be your architect to keep me out of trouble."
"Did that happen a lot?"
"Me getting into trouble?" Sam smiled. "That was more Dean's thing."
"No. Me and you building bridges."
A lump sprang to Sam's throat. "We've done our share." He and Caleb had recently crossed a large expanse over Ruby and the demon blood. Sam had broken a trust, one Caleb could have held against him, but didn't. They had talked after Bobby pulled through surgery. Caleb insisted he felt the same as Bobby. He wasn't cutting Sam loose.
"So me and Dean are best friends?" Caleb traced the trusses of the bridge.
"Since I can remember." It was one of the staples in Sam's life. "You watch out for Dean. You always have."
Caleb frowned. "Dean seems capable."
"He's not as tough as he thinks." Sam didn't mean that as a blow to his brother's strength, only that sometime Dean felt he should carry the weight of the world. Sam blamed their father, but reserved part of the responsibility for himself. "We have to remind him that we all take care of each other."
"I would have thought you and me were more alike."
"Why would you say that?" Dean often said Sam and Caleb shared the same brooding nature, the tendency to dramatize a situation. Sam wondered if Caleb was picking up on something else.
"I don't know."
"We have some things in common." Their psychic abilities and demon connection being the big ones Sam couldn't elaborate about. "Like bowling."
"Totally our thing." After Dean's death they had sought refuge in the unfamiliar, one thing that had no relation to the person they were both mourning. Sam thought of their most recent trip while he was staying in Oklahoma. Caleb showed up at the bar and surprised him. He let Sam direct the conversation. They hadn't talked about Sam's split with Dean, but after Caleb had gone Sam returned to his room to find his brother's brass compass lying on his bed. The three of them had a habit of re-gifting it whenever one of them was a little lost, needing a nudge in the right direction. Caleb was reminding Sam that there was always a way home.
"I don't get it." Caleb frowned. "Dean seems…loud and somewhat irritating."
Sam laughed, the image of the proverbial pot and kettle coming to mind. "Dean didn't really talk much until he met you. Just so you know, Dad blamed you for a lot of those 'irritating' traits. You and Dean have more of the same interests." Sam clicked them off. "Pool, poker, loose women." He left out the part about watching their mothers murdered.
"So, when I'm normal I act like Dean?"
"Or he can act like you." Sam hadn't really thought about it, taking the similarities for granted, appreciating the differences for what they were. "Neither one of you are really normal."
"It's not so bad." Sam smiled. "I'm Dean's brother, but I can't always be all Dean needs me to be. Sometimes I fall short. You fill in the gaps."
"I complete him?" It was a snarky Caleb thing to say. Sam half expected to see the smartass grin, but was met with a completely serious face. Caleb was trying to get a grasp of their relationship, unaware he was walking the 'chick flick' tightrope he was so apt to steer clear of.
"I think it's more about you completing us." Sam's sojourn alone had taught him a few things. Like maybe Caleb wasn't only his brother's ally. "Sometimes Dean can't always be what I need him to be. He falls short. You always manage to pick up the slack. Like Dean said at the hospital. We're family."
Caleb slid a hand through his hair. "I wish I could remember."
"Mac says it will take time. He's a good dad, an even better doctor. He'll figure it out."
Caleb picked up one of the framed pictures on the desk. It was the former Triad. "Who are these men with him?"
"That's Pastor Jim and my father, John Winchester." Sam pointed to his dad. "You two were really close. He was your mentor."
Caleb studied the photograph. "Your dad was an architect?"
"No." Sam was not about to open another can of worms. "My dad was a hunter."
"I like to hunt?"
"You love it." It was something Sam could attest to with complete honesty, sans the specifics of the prey. "You're a natural at it."
"I'm not sure how to take that." Caleb put the photo down. "I don't exactly see myself as the camo-wearing, gun toting, type." Caleb twisted the silver ring on his finger. "I guess I'll just have to trust you."
Sam felt the tug of guilt. "I hope you do."
"Who's this with us?" Caleb lifted another frame. It was a shot of him, Dean and Sam with Bobby, taken not long before Sam went to Stanford. Caleb and Dean were smiling; Dean had made rabbit ears behind Sam's head.
"That's Bobby." Sam hesitated. "He's like an honorary uncle."
"He most definitely looks like the camo-wearing, gun toting type."
Caleb looked up, a cross between fear and dread in his gold eyes. "Is he dead?"
"No." Sam took the picture, his gaze going to Bobby's gruff face. Sam could detect the grin and pride in the mechanic's eyes, despite the familiar scowl. Dean's words from earlier echoed through his thoughts. "He's still with us."
"What about your dad?"
Sam returned the photograph. "Dad's been dead a few years now."
"Another unfortunate demise?"
"Complications from a car wreck."
"So am I."
Caleb pinched the bridge of his nose. "We seem to have lost a lot of people?"
"More than our fair share."
He brought his fingers to his head, massaging his temples. "I'm beginning to think there could be a really good reason I don't want to remember."
"I know it sounds bad, but we have good memories, too." Sam had taken a lot of them for granted, wanting something different, something more. Only now that Caleb had been robbed of them, did Sam start to understand how they made him the man he was. Flawed, but strong and willing to fight to redeem himself.
"Look, Sam. I appreciate the tour and recap, but I'm really tired…"
"Of course." Sam gestured toward the door. "I'll leave you alone so you can get some rest."
"You might want to read this." Sam picked up the familiar leather bound copy of Alexander Dumas's classic. The story was such a part of their lives. "It's your favorite."
Caleb took the book, running his finger over the deuce of spades card poking up from the pages. "The Three Musketeers is another one of my things?"
"More than that." Sam clasped him on the shoulder. "It's your biggest thing."
Dean woke with a crick in his neck. Either the recliner was getting old and worn out, or Dean was. From the aches and pains, popping and cracking as he stood, Dean guessed it was the latter. Michael might reconsider his meat suit if he took better stock.
The fading red glow filtering through the bay window curtains told Dean the afternoon was nearly gone. Someone had built a fire in the fireplace and tossed one of Miss Emma's quilts over him. Dean pegged Mac as the guilty culprit, but couldn't deny his gratitude for the extra warmth. The old house seemed to easily absorb the early chill of fall, like cold settling into arthritic bones. Harper was still snoring on the hearth. Boo had disappeared.
Dean stretched his sore complaining muscles. The ballgame was over, the guys from ESPN recapping the latest college football upheaval. He slept longer than he meant to. A jaw-popping yawn left him wishing he could have squeezed in another couple of hours before dinner. Dean turned off the television, counting on a trip to the bathroom, some cold water splashed on his face to ready him for round two.
After freshening up, Dean made his way to The Tomb. It was the last place he'd seen Mac and Sam. Scholar and successor were tucked away with their research. The two armed guards at the library door told him they were more than likely still at it.
"Where's Silas?" Dean asked Muscles Number One.
"Mr. Fox went into town to pick up a delivery," the hunter answered. "The Scholar and your brother are in conference."
"Yeah." Dean ran a hand over his mouth. "I bet."
That left Damien to account for. Dean didn't look forward to another encounter with Blank Boy, hoping in spite of his logical streak that maybe the day's rest had improved things. He made his way back into the living room, taking the stairs two at a time.
He quietly crossed the floor of his and Sam's room, noting the adjoining door was ajar. Dean pushed it open. Caleb's bed was empty. His best friend's duffle was on the floor, the contents of his bag strewn about. It was the sight of the metal box and the journal lying open that drew him to the bed. He studied the old cookie tin. The Roger Clemens card and the piece of foil edged construction paper with a hand-sketched wolf started Dean's heart thumping. "Shit."
He backtracked, checking the bathroom, then Pastor Jim's room and study. They hadn't counted on Caleb doing some investigating of his own. Dean hadn't thought to keep his friend's duffel. He jogged down the stairs, racing back into the library where his haste had the guards stiffening their relaxed posture.
"Is something wrong, Mr. Winchester?"
"Have you seen Caleb?" He doubted Mac and Sam would have invited Caleb into The Tomb, the contents way too complicated to explain. Damien would not have gone with Silas.
Muscles Number Two answered. "I heard the stairs creak not long after Mr. Fox left. I assumed he was coming to find you."
"Shit." Dean ran a hand down his face. He hadn't heard Caleb come through the living room, which meant his friend had taken the kitchen stairs, leaving the house undetected. "How long has Silas been gone?"
"Maybe thirty minutes."
Damien wouldn't have had time to get far. "Good."
"Should I alert Dr. Ames?"
"No." Dean backed out of the room. The Tomb was reinforced with solid steel. If the hidden door was secure, no sounds from the house even registered. "Not yet." If what he thought had happened was true, Caleb didn't need an audience.
The barn was the first place Dean checked, knowing Caleb to escape there when he needed refuge. The stalls, hayloft and the cellar below were empty. Twenty acres of woods left endless possibilities, but a sudden gut clenching hunch had Dean knowing exactly where he'd find his friend.
Caleb was sitting in Pastor Jim's old aluminum fishing boat. It was still dry docked in the field adjacent to the pond where Sam and Caleb had used it to cover Dean's fresh grave. Dean had meant to get around to repainting it, restoring it to the water. He also had plans to fill in the hole where he'd dug himself out, burn the simple wooden cross Bobby had carved for him, but everything remained unchanged, the concentric circle of charred earth as eerie as the day Castiel pulled him from Hell.
Damien did not note Dean's approach, his head rested in his hands. Boo was sitting in the boat with him, tale thumping against metal as Dean came along side them. "Permission to come aboard, Captain?"
Caleb lifted his gaze. "What the hell are you?"
Dean took that as a yes, stepping into the old vessel, taking a seat on the bench across from Caleb. "I'm a man, flesh and blood."
"Not according to this." Caleb held up the letter. "This says you're dead."
"You had orders to burn that, Dude." Caleb had never mentioned the posthumous note Dean had asked Mac to deliver after his demise. Dean was always grateful his final chick flick moments had been forgotten, or at least untouched upon.
"I get the picture. I don't listen real well."
Dean frowned. "You still don't remember?"
"Who I am? Who you are?" Caleb ran a hand over his mouth. "Not a chance."
"A guy can hope." Dean thought the unpleasant jolt might have had some kind of positive side effect.
"I had a nightmare about you, though."
"No unicorns blowing sunshine out their asses?" Dean knew sleep was often their enemy, the one place their mental defenses were easily breeched.
"No, you met with a misfortune." Caleb threw Mac's words back at him, adding an echo of Dean's for good measure. "One long and torturous run of bad luck."
Dean wasn't comforted by his friend's unexpected calm. Caleb's eyes were red rimmed and glassy. Dean was afraid he might be in shock. "It was just a dream, man."
"One hell of a dream." Caleb's voice shook. "I watched something tear you apart, felt it tear you apart. I couldn't see what it was or hear it. But I heard your screams." He looked down at the boat. "I saw your torn up body in this boat when Sam and I pulled it in from the water. You were a god-awful mess."
Dean studied the rust colored stains coloring the floor of the boat. He could trace the splatter pattern along the sides.
"It's so strange," Caleb continued. "Because I can't remember who you are, but when I woke up I recalled with excruciating clarity how horrible it was that you had died. It felt like I was burying a part of myself when I helped Sam put you in that box. " He blinked, a line of tears streaking his face. "How the hell is that possible?"
"I don't know." Dean scrambled to fix it, to take away the haunted look. "This amnesia stuff is crazy shit and…"
"I'm talking about you! How are you here?" Caleb gestured to the ashy ground around them, the askew cross. "This is the place from my dream. It was real. You died."
Dean couldn't deny it, not when they were sitting on the evidence.
"Am I dead, too? Is this Hell?"
"No." Dean shook his head. "Believe me, this is not Hell." It was pretty damn close, but Dean wasn't about to talk semantics.
"Then what? I'm a druggie. I'm tripping on something and I've fried a circuit."
"Dude, you just say no. Pharmaceuticals aren't involved here."
"Then I'm bat shit crazy. My best friend was murdered, and I lost it-had one of those psychotic breaks. You're all in my head. I'm having hallucinations and delusions. It explains why I panicked when Stanton mentioned the psych unit." Caleb licked his lips. "Maybe I'm schizophrenic. It would explain the nonsense stuff I wrote in that fucking journal. I thought I had powers. That I was some kind of demon."
"You read that?" Dean had feared as much. Caleb was thorough. His journal included not just facts, minute details, but his thoughts, intricate drawings as well.
"After the dream, I couldn't go back to sleep. I searched the room…started looking through my things."
"I promise you, you're not crazy." Dean met Caleb's gaze. "And you're not a demon." He rubbed his neck. He should have known better than to leave the bag with Caleb. "I know how this looks, but you have to understand there's a very good explanation for it all."
"Right. It's just one big misunderstanding."
Dean figured things couldn't get much worse. "You know who Merlin is, right?"
"Merlin? The magician?" Caleb rubbed a hand under his uninjured eye.
Dean nodded. "The guy from Camelot and The Knights of The Round Table."
"What about him?"
"This is really all his fault."
Dean left Caleb sitting in the kitchen with a hot mug, more whiskey than coffee. He moved past the guards, making his way to The Tomb. Sam and Mac were engrossed in conversation, but looked up when he entered. Sam quickly made it to his feet.
"I told him." Dean paced in front of the table, not quite believing what he had just done. Once he had started it all came spilling out, like sand from a broken hourglass. "I didn't have a choice."
"Told him what?" Mac placed his glasses on the table, pushing his chair back so he could stand.
"About Merlin and The Brotherhood, about the curtain and about all the bad shit that lurks behind it."
"Again, you picked that to start with?" Sam propped his hands on his hips. "Don't tell me it came up in conversation?"
"It didn't." Dean turned to Mac. "Caleb had a nightmare, or maybe it was some kind of flashback. He saw me die, what the hellhounds did to me." He met Sam's gaze. "He remembered you two pulling the boat from the pond and burying my body."
Sam grimaced. "You couldn't have told him it was just a bad dream?"
"I tried that, Helpful Much. It rang a little hollow considering he was sitting on my grave at ground zero when I found him." Dean turned to Mac. "He couldn't sleep after the dream, decided to do a little investigating of his own. He read his journal and my letter you gave him after I died. He thought he was going crazy. I didn't think to search his things…"
"It's not your fault." Mac ran a finger over his brow. "We shouldn't have left him alone."
"How did he take it?" Sam asked.
"Better than you'd think." Dean put Pastor Jim's spin on things. The legend and the mysticism of The Triad was a nicer story without discussing the purpose behind The Brotherhood. "He didn't throw up."
"Is he alright?" Mac moved around the table.
Dean nodded. "I gave him Dad's cure all Irish coffee."
"You said he remembered burying you," Sam started. "Does he know who you are?"
"I wish." That was the part that got Dean the most. He couldn't provide any more comfort than a stranger. Damien was still lost. "He still doesn't have a clue about who he is, or who I am. If anything, he's more mixed up."
"Did you explain about his parents and Noah Seaver?" Mac seemed to be holding his breath.
Dean gave a quick shake of his head. He had avoided that part, thankful Caleb didn't ask specific questions. "No. I skipped old Yellow Eyes and the psychic shit. I figured finding out the monster in your closet was real is bad enough without hearing you were related to him."
"Good." Mac looked relieved. He laid a hand on Dean's shoulder. "You did the right thing, Son."
"Really?" Dean wasn't so sure. Caleb was always the one person who completely understood the life he lived. The look of bewilderment and disbelief in Damien's eyes was hard to take. "I'd forgotten how insane it all sounds having not said it out loud in a while."
"He was going to have to know sooner or later. We don't want him to think we can't be trusted."
"We're not being honest with him, Mac," Sam said. "Dean's just touched the surface."
"You want to go spill the rest?" Dean gestured toward the door. "Have at it, Bro." He wasn't about to heap more on Caleb's plate.
"I think we should handle things as they progress. The nightmare or flashback could actually be a good sign."
"You think it means his memory is coming back?" Sam asked.
"Memory recovery can begin with random events, ones with strong emotional ties."
"Great." Dean decided it wasn't wise to make the same mistake twice. "We better get back in there."
He felt the emptiness as soon as he crossed into the kitchen. The coffee cup was on the table; the chair where Caleb had been sitting was pushed in. For a moment he was convinced Caleb was in the bathroom, simply upstairs. Then Dean saw the silver ring.