By Tidia, December 2008
Beta: That Girl Six
Disclaimer: Ridley is all about The
Brotherhood and Kripke is all about Supernatural. I do not profit from
Caleb was in the
kitchen reading the day-old newspaper Bobby had brought with him from
South Dakota. Dean was refilling the coffeemaker, padding around in his
jeans, t-shirt, and a pair of socks. Home was where you could take your
boots off, after all. Caleb was grateful for the normalcy — and for
Dean curtailing the drinking for caffeine.
"Damn, you've gone domestic."
"Feet off the chair. You and Sammy are trashing my house. The only
person I'm going to invite back is Mac." Sam was with Mac in the
Hunter's Tomb. Caleb assumed it was another Scholar to Scholar-elect
discussion, but it also could have been another research session into
angels and the apocalypse. Caleb, on the other hand, wanted to enjoy
the holidays and just be happy Dean was among the living once again.
They needed a break from the war of good versus evil, from graying
"That's only because Dad made sure the kitchen was stocked." Caleb
Dean frowned but was interrupted by Jocelyn as she came into the
kitchen. "Bingo night is better than this. At least the bourbon is
flowing." She swept in, in all her bright pink velour pant suit and
gold patterned shirt glory, batting some fisted green herbs against her
leg. The frost had already hit the remnants of Pastor Jim's garden.
Caleb didn't know where the elderly woman had found them.
"You'd rather be playing Bingo?" Dean asked, pulling out a chair for
She sniffed the bundle of green before setting it on the table. "I'd
rather we got this show on the road. You would think those two would be
too old for game-playing." Dean had invited Jocelyn to the farm, and
she had said that she could not refuse an invitation from The
Guardian-elect since this would more than likely be the last Guardian
she would know.
Caleb snorted. The game was to get his father and Esme back together.
Mac was here regardless, but Esme had required more work. They took
away her options, especially with Jocelyn at the farm. Joshua was
assigned to bring his mother, but he had said that she was thinking
about spending it with some members of the coven.
Caleb liked Jocelyn's lack of reserve and wondered if that came with
age since Esme was her opposite, unless she took after her father.
"Were you one of those girls?" He raised his eyebrows.
She gave a dry laugh. "Knights don't like those types of girls. They
like them a little more forthright."
He had to agree. There was nothing more attractive than a woman who
knew what she wanted for one night without a commitment. There weren't
enough of them.
"This Knight isn't that choosy," Dean replied.
Jocelyn reached out and patted Caleb's hand. "I think I'm too old to be
— what do they call them — a cougar?"
Caleb raised her hand to his lips. "I think I'm too old for you to
teach me any new tricks, but I'll try if you will."
Jocelyn pulled her hand away with a laugh. "All these compliments so
close to lunch time. You're lucky that I defrosted a pork roast. Now,
find something else to do while I get lunch ready."
Dean, still in stockinged feet, headed out the door to the porch. Caleb
followed even though he was uninvited. It was Dean who had plotted
Christmas at the farm for Mac and Esme. Caleb and Sam believed Dean
wanted to be too busy to think about Hell. Caleb and Sam respected it,
knowing they could never fully understand what he went through. Words
could only invoke images. He could tell them about the Alps in
Switzerland and even compare them to something else, but he could never
invoke the majesty unless he took them there. None of them were going
Dean was looking out into the distance, his gaze shifting over the
farm, the driveway, narrowing his eyes to see farther. Caleb did the
same but was unable to find what Dean was seeking.
"What are you looking for out here?"
"Ruby, Castiel, Uriel . . ." Dean sighed and placed his hand on the
railing, stretching. "I know it's impossible for a demon to enter the
farm, but this being Jim's house, I am sure he left an opening for the
possibility of angels."
"You're worried about Sam and Ruby.” Caleb rubbed the back of his neck.
“I don't know how I didn't see it. I gave him a little space, sure, but
I didn’t think I had given him that much space. He told me he was fine.
I thought we were on the same page." They had been together for four
months, and they needed breaks away. He had figured Sam was doing the
same things he was doing to cope: going for a drink, taking a walk, or
finding some comfort in a woman. Caleb had never suspected Ruby or that
she had been tutoring him.
"I'm not blaming you. Sam can be a sneaky bastard, and he's convinced
she's on our side, even after an angel tells him he's going down a dark
path." Dean fisted his hand and lightly punched the porch column. "How
can forcing exorcisms with the Hand of Ipecac be good?"
Dean had told Caleb about the angels and how they wanted Sam to stop
using his abilities. Caleb didn't want to have any more secrets. Sam
finally told all of his, but it was a little too late as Dean had been
led to the secrets through the angels.
As for the exorcisms, Caleb had tried to dissuade Sam, too; at first he
wanted to do so with his fists after discovering he had been duped by
the youngest Winchester. Sam had persisted in his stubbornness, and
Caleb suggested he bring the matter up with The Scholar. Caleb was
proud of his nonviolent suggestion. The power Sam was using was
different from Caleb's, more like the amulet, which they had agreed was
Then there was the fact Ruby had tried to kill Joshua, and Caleb
couldn't really be forgiving. Sam had found a heap of trouble, but it
wasn't trouble to Sam. But at the same time, after a lifetime of the
authority figures in Sam’s life telling him that he shouldn’t be afraid
of his abilities, Caleb couldn’t exactly blame him for finally hearing
them. "He's trying to help."
"I know, and he promised he'd stop, but then he did it anyway." Dean
leaned against the railing. He wasn't focused on Caleb but looking up
instead. "And then he tells me Ruby saved him. If that's true then I
owe her, like I owe you. . ."
Caleb gripped Dean's shoulder firmly, mostly in anger at his friend's
belief that watching over Sam — over either of them — needed repayment.
"You don't owe me, and you don't owe her either. So you don't kill her,
but that doesn't mean you have to invite her for dinner."
Dean looked around the front porch. His face was easy to read: this was
a sanctuary for all of them. No demon could ever be allowed, no matter
what the connection. "That's not going to happen." Dean shrugged his
shoulder, and Caleb let his arm drop. "I told Sam that he needs to tell
Josh that she's still around."
Caleb grimaced. Ruby was on the coven's hit list, even more so after
Joshua's near death experience. A simple apology wouldn't be
sufficient. "That's severe punishment coming from you. You picking up
smiting from your angel friends?" Caleb was surprised Dean had placed
his brother in the situation. In the past Dean would not allow his
brother to be sullied.
Dean shook his head. "More like ‘you do the crime, you do the time’. I
hope he has the good sense to wait until after we get Esme and Mac back
"Christmas miracles happen all the time, right? Maybe he's hoping for a
distraction. Castiel could show up and wish you a merry Christmas."
Caleb hadn't met him, and he was slightly jealous that Sam was
interacting with the angels. More importantly, he wanted to say thank
you for raising Dean from Hell. Caleb was also trying not to jump to
assumptions. If the angels wanted Sam to stop, then what did that say
about him? He had been using his abilities for twenty years, which
could be the real reason why the angels hadn't appeared to him. He was
too far gone.
Dean diverted his attention to what Caleb now could see was a spider
web taking up residency near the door. "After our last meeting, I think
he's just not that into me." Dean grinned.
Caleb didn't – they had been lucky they hadn't been killed in the
crossfire of a murky situation.
"Plus we need a week to celebrate the big guy's birthday."
They hadn't taken any breaks since Dean got back. There had been too
much work and not enough hunters, and Tri Corp had asked for his
expertise on a project. It was good to dabble with the company he had
created once again. This was the first time at the ranch since Dean's
return, and they all seemed to be making the most of the camaraderie.
"Are we going to church services?" Caleb asked in confusion, wondering
about Dean's sudden conversion to Christianity.
Dean patted Caleb's stomach. "Your birthday, you idiot. Every year you
make this big deal about being screwed over since it is so close to
Christmas, then you hate celebrating it on New Year’s. . ."
Caleb shrugged. He had another plan in the works, which was why he
hadn't started his annual complaint about his birthday. "I thought we
could celebrate together for your big 3-0 at the Mansion." Promises
needed to be kept, especially this one which had almost been impossible.
Dean's mouth dropped open. "Seriously? The Playboy Mansion?" Dean's
grin grew wide. "I hear Hef's got twins now, twins, man. . ." Sam came
out to join them, the door clattering behind him. "Damien is getting us
into the Mansion to party with the Bunnies."
"They're not going to be filming the Girls
Next Door, are they?"
Caleb shook his head. He had been witness to Sam's addiction to the E!
Channel. He tapped Sam on his head. "You finally left The Tomb? That
shining orb is the sun..."
Sam swatted the hand away. "Mac said I should find you and see what you
two were up to. We got worried when we smelled something good coming
from the kitchen."
Jocelyn hadn't been there long, but it was nice to have someone caring
about their wellbeing, providing the woman's touch they all lacked.
"What are you two doing in there?" Caleb hooked his foot on the bottom
of the railing.
Sam stretched, touching the top of the porch. "Angel research."
Caleb rolled his eyes. Once Dean had told him about the angels, he
opened the drawer in the bedroom bureau and pulled out the Bible. Jim
had placed one in every room. "What's there to know? Angels are good,
demons are bad."
"It isn’t so simple," Sam huffed, crossing his arms. "They're soldiers,
Caleb didn't like the condescending tone. "And they take their orders
from God — don't you think He's got the bigger picture in mind?"
Sam grinned. "Pastor Jim would be so proud of you. He thought you never
paid attention to his sermons, or what did you call it — 'being held
hostage to the pulpit'?"
"Yeah, well, some you remember; not the fire and brimstone sermons, but
the other ones." Caleb leaned against the railing.
"The ones about forgiveness." Sam glanced to where his brother had
taken a seat on the porch swing.
"But some things are unforgivable." Dean's head fell back causing
movement in the swing.
Dean had called Caleb early one morning and asked not to be interrupted
as he shared what had been weighing his soul. "You were in Hell, and
that right there is an excuse. If you didn't feel something, then I'd
be worried." Caleb narrowed the gap between them, taking a few steps
forward. "It's okay to feel guilty, Deuce."
He looked at Sam who nodded for him to continue. "Jim would be proud of
you. He was in a war, after all. He knew what it was like to kill, what
it's like to lose yourself for a while." Caleb recalled his dark
moments, his obsession over getting his mother's paintings back. "He
went through it all and was a better man for it."
Dean grieved for the suffering he had caused. A lesser man, a prideful
man would have accepted what he'd done. Dean was humbled and broken. He
didn't answer, only pushed the swing so all that could be heard was the
squeaking of the chains with the movement.
Caleb looked at Sam; they were both at a loss of what to say to help.
Although it seemed surreal to pause for Christmas with angels,
Revelation, and Lucifer, it also seemed to be the best time to fix
things that were broken. Caleb glanced through the window to the
decorated tree in the living room. "So I guess that means no angel on
"A star. Stars are good," Dean replied, stopping the swing with a firm
foot on the ground.
Sam put a hand out to his brother to have him stand up. Dean accepted
and came to his feet. They were being drawn inside by the aroma of a
home cooked meal. Caleb stopped them from entering as he saw a car
coming up the drive in the distance. It was a dark, unfamiliar sedan.
They went down the porch steps, meeting the car before allowing the
visitor any further.
"I wonder if the Mercedes is in the shop?" Dean commented when there
was recognition that it was Joshua Sawyer.
Joshua parked the car, went to the trunk, and pulled out two shopping
bags. He would probably upstage them all with his thoughtfulness. Caleb
narrowed his eyes on the bags; tonight he would do a little
reconnaissance. However, there was a more pressing matter. "Where's
"She'll be here for dinner." Joshua rested the bags on the porch. "We
needed to come separately. I have to leave tomorrow morning."
"How did you get her to agree to come here?" Sam asked.
Joshua looked down, not meeting Caleb's eyes. "I said I was going to
make an announcement."
Even though Joshua was being shifty, Caleb decided not to try to read
his mind. He would wait for the surprise, but he made a joking guess.
"You're coming out of the closet?"
Joshua ignored him. "Have you spoken to Mackland?"
"I gave him all my best pointers."
Since Dean's return Caleb had tried to spend more time in New York. He
felt responsible for the break up after Mackland had admitted he had
nipped the bud on the start of their previous relationship because of
him. Mac hadn’t needed much encouragement to go through the usual
rotation of flowers, chocolates, and gifts to woo Esme back. Joshua had
helped, feeding inside information and also talking to Mac during his
"This is going to fail." Joshua placed a hand over his eyes and shook
"Maybe I should talk to him," Dean volunteered. "I could order them as
Caleb snorted. Dean pulled out the Guardian card on the least likely
matters. However, he didn't expect to be insulted by Joshua.
"Please, between the two of you I don't know who is the least qualified
for relationship advice."
"Hey, better watch out, Mama's Boy; Bobby says he's going to throw his
hat in the ring with Esme. Mackland isn't the only horse in this race."
"What about Ellen? Or Pam? And that time at Hedonism?" Sam asked his
brother. They spent more time with the junkyard owner than Caleb. There
previously had been Fiona, but other than her Bobby didn't tell them
many conquest stories.
"Bobby is a player?"
"Hate the game, not the player, boys," Bobby said from outside the
railing of the porch near the back of the swing. Dean had set up a
trailer near the barn since the house was already filled with guests.
Bobby was staying there, which was more comfortable than the couch.
"You stay away from my mother," Joshua threatened, blocking the
entrance to the porch steps.
"You once said that I was good on paper."
"I compared you to a man with no home and two children." Without taking
his eyes off the salvage man, Joshua said over his shoulder to Dean,
Dean shrugged. "None taken."
Bobby put his finger on Joshua's chest. "Maybe your mother doesn’t want
money, homes all over the world, being with a doctor. . ." Bobby pulled
his finger back. "Damn, maybe I should take up with Mac. Better yet,
maybe he'll adopt more kids." Bobby smiled at Caleb. "How would you
like an older brother, or are you afraid of the competition?"
The Winchester brothers laughed. "He does have quite the list of
ladies, Damien," Dean added.
"Pff, dream on, Singer." It was preposterous to think that Bobby was
getting more action than him.
"Fine, I'll go talk to Josie." Bobby walked past them into the house.
"'Josie'?" Joshua raised his brows. "Is he talking about my
No one answered him, which was just as well because, knowing Josh, he
would give a speech about respecting his grandmother because she was a
senior citizen. He tried to think of what she had been like, what the
other Triad had been like before things had gone horribly wrong for
them. The journals only painted part of a picture.
"Why don't you guys hook up Jocelyn and Cullen?" Sam suggested,
interrupting Caleb's musings.
Caleb looked at Joshua. They had come to terms about their parents, but
grandparents were sacred. They couldn't share them.
Dean patted his brother's stomach. "Sammy here is quite the romantic
lately. He'll have to tell you all about it."
Sam stepped back. Caleb caught his eyes. He wanted to let Sam know that
he knew he was responsible for telling Joshua the truth.
Joshua didn't sense the awkwardness. It was better that he was
ignorant, and Caleb wished it would be for a while. "Speaking of
romance, Drew sends his regards and suggested this as a Christmas
gift." He went into the inside pocket of his wool jacket and passed an
envelope to Caleb.
Caleb opened the envelope to see plane tickets to Honolulu. "I am not
going to Hawaii with Drew." Caleb stuffed the tickets back in and
passed it to Joshua. He had finally given in and had lunch with Josh's
admin; it had been the most uncomfortable experience he had ever had,
which was saying a lot since he dealt with the supernatural on a
regular basis. "He put his hand on my thigh and was reaching towards No
Man's Land. He may look meek, but the guy's got a grip."
Both Sam and Dean were doubled over. He had told them about his meeting
with Drew only after Joshua had called them to report on him. He had
had to correct Drew's account, which painted him in a totally different
light. Drew had a vivid imagination.
"Hawaii is for Mackland and my mother," Joshua stated, pulling out the
tickets once more and showing the itinerary to Caleb.
Caleb quickly scanned the ten day vacation set for January. "Double
beds?" He didn't want to know about Mac and Esme's love life. He liked
to remain in the dark, as did Josh.
"Of course." Joshua tucked the envelope back into his jacket. "I'll
"I just spent a few hours with Mac in The Tomb, and you might have
built this up a little too much," Sam interrupted. "Mac is really
Dean elbowed his brother. "Wow, Samantha, you are quite the Debbie
Joshua shook his head and began to raise his voice in annoyance. "They
are nonrefundable tickets, and you said that he was willing to do
anything to make this work. . ."
"He has! You said that your mother was still interested, but this
hard-to-get routine is not cool. . ." This had been going on for six
months, and for four of those Caleb hadn't been putting much attention
to his father and Esme because he had been lost in his own despair. But
now he was doing everything possible to help the situation.
Joshua stepped back. "'Hard-to-get’? What does that mean?" Caleb
winced. He realized the other hunter had been dealing with this for a
lot longer because he had been convalescing from his injuries. He had
been the go-between for Esme and Mac to keep communicating. He also had
seen his mother unhappy with Harland and did not want a repeat
performance. "She deserves the best, and if your father. . ."
Jocelyn knocked on the door before she came out to join them. "How
about we let nature take its course, boys?" She reached out and grabbed
Joshua's hand and Caleb's and squeezed. "I am proud of you boys. You
did what you needed to do: get them in a room together. When that
happens there will either be sparks or we will have a very
uncomfortable holiday, and Dean will be serving copious amounts of
"Grandmother," Joshua said, coming forward and giving Jocelyn a hug
then a kiss on each cheek. She dropped Caleb's hand.
Jocelyn held Joshua out to appraise him. "How's Carolyn?"
"She sends her best."
"Lunch is ready, and you need fattening up. If you ask me, the rest of
you look like you need a good home cooked meal."
"Can you stay here forever?" The words slipped out of Caleb's mouth. It
made him miss his own grandmother.
"I've already done this before, waiting for Maxim to come home, hearing
the stories of the latest hunt." She placed her hands over her heart.
"I can't live forever, and one day you'll see the future and think it
was all worth it. All the pain, fear, loss . . ." She placed her hand
first against Sam's cheek, then Caleb’s, then Dean’s. "You'll
Joshua offered his arm to his grandmother and escorted her inside with
Sam following behind.
Caleb placed his hand on Dean's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Deuce.
. ." Caleb searched for the words he'd lost when they had been
interrupted. He wanted to tell Dean how proud he was of the man Dean
had become, but Dean would not accept those words. Not now.
Dean sighed, stepping into the house. Caleb gave one more glance to the
front porch and beyond, then followed his friend.
Dean kept himself busy after lunch. There was maintenance to be done on
the cars and on the house itself. He put Sam and Caleb to work on the
house while Bobby helped him with the cars. Everyone was getting an oil
Mac was dealing with Brotherhood business and had asked Sam to help
him. Sam was happy to stop the manual labor and scooted back inside the
house. Joshua excused himself to spend time with his grandmother.
Dean's only concern was keeping himself busy.
If he was busy then he didn't think. Thinking was bad. It led to him
recalling the relished, blessed relief of feeling his body whole before
he had to take on another torturous role. His original torture had been
designed to break him; he wondered what his father's Hell had been. Had
he broken? He had been there six months, sixty years according to the
time spent below. Yet when given the opportunity he had saved his sons.
He hadn't sacrificed his humanity, and according to Ruby that took
He felt more than human. He felt as if all his nerve endings were
exposed to all the bad in the world. He had created hurt and had to
stop the hurt. This was what he wanted his brother to understand so he
wouldn't do harm to anyone, and then have to spend his whole life
trying to redeem himself. Dean realized he had been hard on Sam,
putting pressure on him to tell Joshua the truth. He didn't want his
brother even flirting with the understanding Dean now had, with the
feeling of never being able to get himself back.
The sound of what was probably a compact car coming down the drive
broke into his thoughts. “Showtime!” he yelled.
He wiped his hands on his pants as he slid out from under Caleb's
Lamborghini, which didn't need any work; he’d just wanted to admire it.
Caleb scurried down the ladder where he had been cleaning the gutters.
The blue car slowed, and Dean wondered if Esme was having doubts. By
coming she was saying that she was willing to give the relationship
with Mac another try. They were all getting another chance. When Esme
had dumped Mac, she had also said goodbye to The Brotherhood.
Dean could understand her blaming The Triad-led group. Hunting had
taken a lot from her. He had seen the hostility in Sam, too, which was
the reason why he wanted him to wear a ring, accept his position. It
would also keep him somewhat safe.
The blue Volvo stopped, and Esme stepped out with her trademark scarf
tied around her neck. Dean walked over from his direction as Caleb was
meeting him at the car, too.
"Hello, Dean; hello, Caleb. Merry Christmas." Esme came to them, giving
them each a hug. She clicked a button on her key fob to open the trunk.
It was filled.
"It looks like you could use some help." There were a few bags from a
place called Belle Kuisine, and from the smell Dean's stomach knew it
would be good.
She pulled out the white bags. "I thought we could have some
traditional Virginia foods for Christmas Eve. I hope I'm not
overstepping any plans you've made."
Dean took the food from her hands, leaving Caleb with a bag of presents
and an overnight bag to carry in. "No, no, we were thinking sandwiches
or hoping your mom would cook for us again."
"She's been spoiling you?" Esme looked at the house.
"We're enjoying her attentions," Caleb answered. "Josh is spending time
with her now."
"Thank you for inviting us." She grabbed her purse and a flowered tote
bag. "Is everyone here?"
Dean glanced at Caleb. Esme wanted to know if Mac had arrived, which
also meant she was nervous.
"Everyone important," Bobby interrupted, coming from the rear of the
house to join them. He gave Esme a strong hug to make her laugh.
Dean had to step between Caleb and Bobby as the junkyard owner rolled
his eyes and pursed his lips behind the lady's back.
Caleb gave Bobby a nod. "We're lucky to have Bobby here. He got lots of
invites—Ellen, Pam, Missouri. . . anyone else?"
"You're quite popular, Robert. I think women know a fine gentleman when
they see one."
Bobby offered Esme the crook of his elbow, which she accepted. "I keep
telling these boys the same thing. They're never going to attract a
fine woman like yourself with their manners."
Dean heard Caleb's throaty growl. He pulled on his friend's shirt,
giving Esme and Bobby some distance. "I am so covering his toilet with
Saran Wrap tonight and putting coal in his stocking," Caleb said as
Dean released him with a chuckle.
"You're going to get into a prank war with Bobby?" It was never a good
idea to mess with the older hunter. It was a fact that he knew more
than they did when it came to hunting and hunters. He hoped Caleb would
rethink the idea, especially under his roof where he could be caught in
For propriety’s sake Esme, and Jocelyn were sharing a room as much as
he wanted to place Mac and Esme in the same room. They extricated Bobby
from the house before they removed themselves. About five minutes later
Sam came out, catching them staring at the house as Caleb was trying to
get a read on what was happening inside.
"I am giving them time alone, and so far it looks good. They were
talking about food. Mac loves caviar, and Esme brought some."
"Best way to a man's heart, especially on a potato chip," Caleb
commented. "Dad's blocking me out, and I don't want to try anything
"Guess I'll help you with those gutters." Sam grimaced.
"Sure, after I did most of the work," Caleb said.
Dean shook his head at his brother and friend, then gestured to the
barn. "I'm going to clean up my stuff."
This had been the difficult part about spending the holiday together:
there was no time for him to be on his own. They were all keeping an
eye out for him with Mac going through a post-traumatic syndrome
checklist and suggesting Prozac. Spending time with the cars and in the
barn had given him some privacy.
Dean looked up from kneeling by the toolbox to see Castiel walking
forward in the same unstained trench coat. The animals inside quieted,
their attention riveted on the angel. Dean laughed at their
surroundings. "Isn't this a bit cheesy? Christmas Eve, in a barn."
Castiel gave him the confused, innocent stare, but Dean wasn't going to
explain further about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in a barn. "Okay,
whatever. Where's Uriel?" Dean wanted to make sure the other angel
wasn't present near his friends and family.
Dean nodded, completed picking up the tools and closed the box. Castiel
was still standing, staring. This had been their first meeting after
the showdown. He now had had time to think and wanted some answers. "Is
what Anna told me about angels true?"
"I don't know what she told you," Castiel stated, coming closer, not
recognizing the need for personal space.
"Only four angels have ever seen God," Dean explained further. He
wanted to believe in angels, angels who could fight demons and win. But
if angels didn't want to be angels, wasn't the battle already lost?
"I can only tell you that Anna decided to fall. She didn't have faith."
Castiel bent down and picked up some random hay that was on the floor
of the barn.
"Can't blame her after that stunt you pulled." The threats towards him,
the threats towards Anna hadn't seemed like the god Jim had told them
"Unfortunate circumstances were created." Castiel rubbed the hay
between his fingers. "I cannot explain, Dean. I ask that you have faith
He liked Castiel, probably residue because Castiel had pulled him from
Hell. He figured he owed him. "It's not you I'm worried about. It's who
gives you your marching orders, Cas."
"God is not a tyrant." Castiel let the hay trickle from his fingers,
and it seemed to float in the air before landing. "I trust in my
father. James Murphy did, too."
Dean knew Jim, too, and his Jim would be having a hard time explaining
these angels and their God. "I don't know how much faith he'd have if
he knew his peeps were threatening to throw me back to Hell."
"You have free will. There is a job you are being asked to perform —"
"The threats are to make sure I do it." Dean sighed. That sounded like
part-Jim and part-his father. He understood loud and clear. He had done
the same with Griffin, given him no choice but to do the right thing
and help The Brotherhood.
"You need to heal your relationship with God."
He didn't have a relationship with God; he was only sure just recently
that there was one. Dean heard a scuffling of shoes by the barn door
and turned to see Caleb entering. He smiled and turned back to see that
Castiel had disappeared. "You just missed him."
Caleb's eyes searched the barn as he walked quickly to where Dean was
standing. "He left because I came in?" He looked at the spot in front
Dean shrugged. He was accustomed to Castiel's appearing and
disappearing acts, prepared for them enough to save up his questions.
"Guess so. Don't take it personally."
"Deuce, these are the same guys who told your brother not to use his
powers. You ever figure I'm on their shit list, too?" Caleb threw the
bucket he had been using. It tumbled with a clanging sound as it hit
the ground multiple times.
"It's not like that."
"Don't go there with me. Especially you. You don't want your brother
using his abilities because you're afraid of him going darkside. You
never have. What does that say about me?"
"It says nothing about you, Damien. Sam is being tutored by a demon,
and he was infected from the time he was six months old — directly
infected, according to him, by the Yellow Eyed Demon. It's just
different with you."
Caleb stared at Dean for a moment; obviously it wasn’t enough of an
answer. He couldn't explain how at first he didn’t want Sam's innocence
taken away by using his abilities and that he was more worried now
because Sam was attracted to using the power. There was no fear in Sam
about being vigilant for his soul.
Dean looked up, wishing Castiel would come down now. "Next time Cas
pays me a visit, I'll make sure to ask about you."
"That'll make me look desperate," Caleb said as he went to retrieve the
empty bucket. "Forget it. Don't say anything. I don't want him to send
Uriel. Sam has a few choice words about him."
Dean laughed at Caleb's attempt to diffuse a situation which was
weighing heavily on him. He would still ask Castiel, add it to his list
of questions, and he hoped he would get an answer.
Sam basked in the glow of family at the dinner table laden with a
carved Virginia ham and a smoked turkey breast with assorted
vegetables. Esme and Mac were seated next to each other, and it looked
like a promising future. Joshua and Caleb were being excruciatingly
polite in the presence of their parents. Sam wondered if it was them
trying to redeem their previous actions.
His brother was seated next to him, a warm body, like he had had last
Christmas. For a moment, Sam could believe nothing had changed and Dean
hadn't spent four months in Hell.
Dean hit his glass with his fork, making a tinkling noise to draw
attention to himself. "Josh has an announcement."
Joshua glared at Dean; Caleb poked him. "A big announcement. You better
stand up." Caleb pulled Sawyer's chair, forcing him to move.
The blond hunter cleared his throat.
"Damn, Slick, you look like you're going to be sick," Bobby said,
narrowing his eyes. "Is this good news?"
Sam covered his smile with his glass as Caleb came to Joshua's defense.
"Shut up, Bobby," Caleb replied. "You're worrying the girls."
"Sorry, Josie, Esme," Bobby said with a bow of his head, and then
winked at Caleb. "And Esme, ‘Slick’ is a nickname. Josh likes it."
"No, he doesn't. Right, Josh?" Caleb glanced at Joshua, who had told
them many times his name wasn't supposed to be shortened either. Sam
never used a nickname when it came to Joshua. He never thought the
older hunter was as bad as Dean thought him to be, and it was weird now
to have placed himself in the position where he had undermined Joshua.
He didn't want to think about having to tell Joshua about Ruby. He
fidgeted in his chair, glad his brother didn't notice and was watching
the Joshua/Caleb/Bobby dynamics.
Joshua ignored Caleb. He was still standing, picked up his glass and
took a drink, then said, "Carolyn and I are engaged." He sat down
quickly while everyone was still reacting.
Sam was stunned even though he, along with Dean and Caleb, had already
guessed the news. A pang of jealousy swept over Sam. He would have been
the first from this ragtag group to have become engaged, married even,
to Jessica. It was lost to him, especially since he had started using
his abilities. Ruby was a demon. There would be no long term
relationship with her.
Jocelyn started clapping. "Oh! Great-grandchildren!"
Joshua stood and went over to his grandmother, bending down to give her
a kiss. "Not yet. We haven't set a date. Maybe a year or two."
"Congratulations." Sam put out his hand, thinking that he would be
following good news with bad news, but perhaps it would soften the blow
"Congrats, man. As Guardian-elect am I supposed to do anything else,
Mac?" Dean also put out his hand to Joshua. Dean didn't wait for Mac's
answer. "Do I congratulate the bride-to-be?"
"No. Her family doesn't know yet." Joshua shook his head. "I'll be
heading to Florida tomorrow morning. I got a room in town so I wouldn't
Caleb clapped him on the back. "And so you wouldn't have to bunk with
Bobby in the trailer."
"That, too," Joshua acknowledged. Sam had noticed Esme had not
responded to the news. Joshua moved back to his mother's side. "Mother?"
Esme kissed Joshua on each cheek, the scarf around her neck brushing
Joshua's chin. "Carolyn is a lovely girl. I am proud she will be
joining this family."
Mac offered his congratulations, too, and the dinner continued again
with more of a happy buzz. The women were making wedding plans; Caleb
and Dean were vying for the best man position while Mac was stepping in
for Harland with fatherly advice. Sam's gut twisted at what he had
missed with Jessica. He concentrated on his meal, realizing he would
have to tell Joshua before he left. Dean would not let him leave it for
another day, regardless of the holidays. With their lives, they didn't
know when they would see Joshua again. This wouldn't wait for months.
He didn't appreciate Dean putting him in this position. Ruby had proven
herself, had been there for them, and overcome her own loss. He wasn't
flaunting his relationship with her. However, Dean said secrets had a
way of coming out—as history had proven — and Sam needed to take
He was upset that his brother didn't believe he took responsibility. He
had taken responsibility to save people instead of killing them with
his style of exorcism. He thought he had proven that to Dean, but his
brother, The Guardian, asked for more.
After the languishing dinner, Esme and Jocelyn retired to the parlor to
talk. The men weaved their way to the porch, tempted by Mac's
After a few puffs amongst the camaraderie, Caleb broke the silence.
"Dad, are you and Esme back on?"
Mac didn't answer immediately, instead watching the smoke coil upwards
to the solitary light. "We are planning on spending more time together."
Caleb smiled, then elbowed Joshua. "Give him our gift."
"I made all the arrangements." Joshua fished out the tickets from his
pocket and handed them to Mac.
"You two need to learn to share," Dean commented with a puff. "Like
Sammy and me."
"Like Sam and you and the remote control at my place?" Bobby
interjected, "Because as I recall, it was my own live Winchester
Sam noticed Caleb and Joshua's relationship had sort of morphed into a
more brotherly one. It wasn't like they were like him and Dean, but it
was similar: knowing which buttons to press, the teasing, and the
"Have you ever been to Hawaii, Mac?" Sam asked to keep the conversation
in its light vein. He didn't want to talk about The Brotherhood, or
angels for that matter. He didn't trust the angels, couldn't believe
they didn't see he was doing good.
"About twenty years ago at a conference. I really didn't get a chance
to explore." Mac folded up the itinerary once more. "Thank you, boys.
Esme and I appreciate the gift."
Sam didn't know if anyone else had noticed Mac had spoken of them as a
couple. Finally, things were returning to somewhat normal for Mac, at
least. Sam's normal with his brother ended when Dean went to Hell. They
were now trying to carve out a new normal existence with Dean's
connection to angels and Sam's connection to demons.
"You didn't notice the double beds yet." Dean chuckled, spraying the
smoke in a stop-start cloud.
With the cigars finished and the cold night air descending on them,
they decided to retire. Sam stayed out on the porch, waiting for Joshua
as he said his goodbyes to his mother and grandmother.
"Joshua, can I talk to you for a minute?" Sam asked as Joshua exited
the house. Joshua gave him a nod, so escorted the older hunter to his
rental car. "You and Carolyn, that's really great. She was really there
for you after what happened."
"Yes, she was." The lights on the rental flashed as Joshua unlocked the
doors. "I'll pass on your well wishes." Joshua rested against the
passenger side and looked at Sam. "Was that all?"
Sam's courage was fleeing. Joshua had been out of commission for months
because of Ruby; his idea of putting a spin on the convalescence now
seemed really weak. "Yes — no — I wanted to talk about Ruby."
"I’d rather not." Joshua moved away from the door.
Sam stopped him from rounding the trunk. "Ruby and Rose were together.
They loved each other. So when Rose was killed, Ruby lashed out." Love
was a base emotion, easy to understand and relate to for anyone.
"At me." Joshua's hand went to his chest, bringing to mind him lying on
the Wilmington ranch floor having difficulty breathing.
"Right, and it was a mistake." He had wanted to lash out when Jess had
been killed instead of biding his time for the Yellow Eyed Demon.
Joshua's eyes narrowed, and he backed up a step. "I don't know about
that. She's a demon, and they are cold and calculating. They enjoy
"Ruby's different. She wants to help." She had proven that to Sam over
the last few months. "She's been helping me. She saved me and Dean."
She had helped make their plan work when it came to Anna.
"She's back?" Joshua's eyes opened wide with incredulity.
"And you have allied yourself with her." Joshua closed his eyes.
"She's been helping me," Sam repeated softly, not wanting to say more
about their connection.
Joshua brushed passed him, making his way to the driver's side rear
door before edging back around with heat in his voice. "Somehow if it
was Dean or Caleb who had been injured, I don't believe you would have
reacquainted yourself with Ruby."
It was the truth. In all likelihood he would have killed her after she
had saved him, sent her back to Hell without a second thought. "I'm
Joshua raked a hand through his hair and avoided making eye contact
with Sam. "I will tell the coven, and they
will find her." He then glared at Sam, who flinched in reaction
to the disappointment he saw directed at him.
"However," Joshua started, "because of your position, and in respect of
your brother's position in The Brotherhood, I will not tell the coven
Ruby is connected to you."
Dean had said they couldn't fully trust Joshua on some matters because
of his loyalty to the coven. Sam swallowed. He realized he had grown to
genuinely respect Joshua, and any similar feelings from the blond
hunter were now destroyed. "Thanks. I'm sorry." Joshua didn't reply. He
got in the car, slamming the door, and didn't even look to see if Sam
was still near the car as he roared out.
"Merry Christmas," he whispered. He felt alone. Sam looked back at the
house. He would not receive any sympathy inside, not with Esme and
Jocelyn present. Dean and Caleb would remain silent about the matter,
uncomfortable with pitting a member of The Brotherhood against a demon
who happened to save the life of the future Scholar.
So Sam waited until the house was still and he heard his brother creep
outside to the pond. It was a ritual while they were at the farm,
though Sam found it strange how Dean was transfixed with going to the
place of his demise.
With Dean in the back, Sam went out the front door, clad in boots and
fleece jacket to keep out the chilling frost. He moved quietly along
the edge of the property until he reached the line where the road was
"Ruby?" he called out to the Christmas Eve night sky. "Ruby?"
The End and Merry Christmas!
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