Beta: Household Six
Disclaimer: I surely do not own Supernatural, and Ridley C. James created the Brotherhood universe
This is the follow up of To
The Victor Go The Spoils.
Caleb tried to move out of the devil's trap, but movement brought a stinging pain. He stayed still, rolled his neck, first one way and then another. He saw clearly, the colors of the room vivid, his senses all working. He was alive for the first time in his life. He took in a deep breath that when released, the exhale vibrated. He chuckled. "This feels good."
"Mmm?" He looked at Jessup, who was casually holding an iron sword. At the older man's feet there was a thick line of salt.
"You remember why you're doing this? There's a life at stake — the life of Dean Winchester."
"Deusssssss." Caleb narrowed his eyes, made fists, held his body taut, exerting control while stimulating his flight or fight response. "It's. . .me. I got it. How long?"
"Five minutes. You only gained full control just now."
"Okay, I wanta go for the record and stay for ten more." He placed his hand on the glowing amulet which hung from a chain around his neck.
Jessup nodded. The blade hadn't moved, still in its defensive position. "Do you wish to continue the conversation?"
"Did anyone ever tell you that you are difficult to talk to?" Caleb asked, twitching his nose as he felt the demon try to exert itself.
"You do that." Caleb felt a stab of anger directed at Jessup's secretiveness. He squelched it, reasserting himself. "You then say, like, three words and the situation makes sense."
One of Jessup's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"
"Yep, but it makes you cool for an old guy." Caleb laughed. Dean compared Jessup to a Mr. Spock who happened to look like Sam Elliot, which added to his coolness level. He continued to chortle, but it was sounding slightly hysterical. He sustained a long rumbling exhale from his diaphragm. "And insults don't affect you."
Reaves stepped to the right and then to the left, keeping a manic tempo of back and forth.
"I thought it was a compliment?"
Caleb focused on Jessup once more. "Yeah, it was. You're right."
According to Caleb's calculation it would take a minute to rid himself of the demon. The thought appeared just before his body physically reacted. The fine black mist exited his mouth with a roar, dissipating up, hitting the ceiling until it redirected itself through the open window.
Jessup relaxed the sword and placed it on its wall mounting next to the others. He crossed the devil's trap to where Caleb was on his knees in the center of the wood floor. Jessup hooked an arm underneath him, assisting him past the boundaries of the devil's trap to the nearby chair.
Caleb relaxed his head back, looking up at the ceiling. He was doing his best to tolerate the situation for Dean's sake. At least the houseboat stayed moored at the dock in a serene lake. It was nothing like being near the agitated ocean. The houseboat was always restful. After this, though, he planned a trip to the middle of the United States to the most landlocked country he could find.
Jessup's place was sparse. The old man lived plainly with his shelves of books on different subjects and a freezer in the back filled with alligator meat. There were no personal pictures.
Jessup had been Jim's friend, although no one really knew how that had come to be. Jim had told them stories, but Jessup himself had never elaborated. It was only as a favor to the pastor that the man accepted a few pupils for swordsman training. As far as Caleb knew, the most recent pupils had been him and Dean. After meeting Jessup, he kept in touch with the eccentric older man. Both Dean and Caleb had enjoyed the training. Sam had refused; John lasted a week before dismissing the sword training. Considering how seriously John took weapons training, that was saying a lot.
It was probably the questions about dinner that led to almost finding the meaning of life which John had found annoying. It could have also been the fact Jessup remained calm while the other party grew red faced. Johnny hadn't exactly been known for his Zen-like personality.
Calmness permeated Jessup's entirety. He had long gray hair kept back in a ponytail. He looked ageless.
Caleb bent his knees, bringing his bare feet onto the chair. Jessup's requirement was all shoes were left at the door; he wanted the negative energy from outside left there. But Caleb was dragging in all sorts of evil with him and the amulet. He researched the amulet, finding all the references to it and things similar to it. It took a few months, but his search led to a large warning label: use at the risk of your soul. It would take time to master, if ever. There was also the possibility that it could master him. When they started he warned Jessup, giving strict instructions to use one of the deadly blades against him if need be. Jessup had accepted the directions and could be trusted to follow through with them. "This is slow going. I don't know how much time I'm going to need. Probably at least an hour. What do you think?"
"Time is relative," Jessup answered as he mopped the floor, removing the devil's trap.
Caleb shook his head. Jessup always had simple answers. "That's what I mean—three words."
"Drink your tea."
"Another three words." A cup was on the shelf next to the chair. It was tepid, smelling horrible. Another of Jessup's quirks was Chinese teas formulated to improve the circulatory system, the mind, or the immune system. All were an acquired taste, one Caleb didn't share.
"Caleb, I promised to help you."
"I appreciate it." Reaves took a sip with a wince at the sour taste.
"You appreciate that I am on the fringes of The Brotherhood universe," Jessup responded, continuing to mop. Jessup wasn't a member of The Brotherhood. He didn't have to provide any assistance to Caleb. He did it out of respect of their relationship as teacher and student. "My loyalty is to you. This is, however, against my better judgment."
"I'm sorry for placing you in this situation."
"If this feels like the right direction to you, we will pursue it."
Caleb searched for the hidden meaning in the words. "You're saying I should keep my options open." Then he thought of another connotation. "Or that ten minutes may be enough."
"A clear mind tempers the heart, brings purpose to each action. . ."
"Strengthens the will," Caleb completed Jessup's favorite saying. It wasn't about destiny or fate with Jessup. It was about committing to a choice. Funny, Jim believed in choices, too.
Jessup never smiled. The corners of the mouth would hint upwards, which they had done when Caleb completed the mantra. It was the closest to a "well done" that his students could hope for. "Your cell phone rang."
"Damn it." No one knew where he had gone to see Jessup. He pushed himself up and went to the kitchen. He opened the phone to see the name on the caller ID before he brought the phone back to the main room again. Caleb waved the phone in the air. "Mac."
"They aren't necessary."
Caleb gave the unflappable man a skeptical look. "Oh, yes, they are — along with a TV, DVR, and MP3."
"You realize I have no idea what you're talking about." Jessup squeezed the mop.
"You just avoid people."
"But somehow they always find me." Jessup left the room, bucket and mop in tow.
Caleb had been out of touch for four days, attempting to possess demons. His hope was that if he could possess one, he would be able to help Dean out of his predicament. He could possess the demon that came for Dean. Four days had given him a good start. He had seven more months to get it right. For Dean, he would get it right.
Seeing the amulet his own great-grandfather had used, Caleb knew it was a sign, an opportunity to right a wrong, so he stole it from the farm. He knew he would be forgiven once his plan came to fruition. He could use the amulet, which had called up the Yellow-Eyed Demon, to save Dean by controlling demons, working up the ladder - lesser ones to the one who would set Dean free. He came to Jessup, showed him how to draw a devil's trap, and through trial and error had made progress.
Caleb pressed the send button and called Mac. His father answered immediately. "Hey, Dad, sorry I missed your call."
"Where are you, son?"
"Doing some research in Florida." Caleb didn't explain further. Things had been tense with his father. Mac had known about Dean's deal and failed to disclose it to him. Not telling Mac what he was doing was fair play. Maybe it was petty, but he knew what he was doing was dangerous for himself, both spiritually and physically. For Dean's life, it was worth the risk. He didn't want Mac telling him different.
"Good. You're close by."
"Close by to what?"
"Casadega, Florida. There's a witch named Agatha Hennings. You need to bring her to Washington D.C. for a meeting with myself and others. It's very important she safely makes it to her destination. I will tell her to expect you tomorrow at lunchtime and text you her address. "
Caleb rolled his eyes. He had more important matters. "Bodyguard, Dad? You've got to be kidding me?"
"We're in a war, son. We have to make sure Griffin doesn't get to her. If we gain Agatha's allegiance, we will have most of the covens behind us."
"Witches? Why not have Josh and his mom take care of it?"
"Esme passed along the information, but her family are considered outsiders, frowned upon by the covens. This needs to come from us."
"So Aggie is just going to come quietly with me and make everything better? Can't I just stick her on a plane?"
"She's afraid of flying." Mac cleared his throat. "She requested you because of your position in The Brotherhood — a position which sometimes requires you to be an escort."
"She's a snob." Caleb wondered if John had ever done escort duty. On the other hand, John had not been a typical Knight so it was difficult to use him as a reference point, especially where playing Kevin Costner was involved. At yet another reminder that his job didn't come with a guidebook of any kind anymore, he sighed, "When's the meeting?"
"In three days at the Ritz Carlton. Caleb, be careful. Griffin does not want this meeting to take place. He has already established contact with Agatha and possibly made some sort of arrangement with her. According to Esme, she's very powerful. Don't underestimate her."
"I'll be careful, like I always am." Caleb looked down at the burn marks on the palms of his hands. "I'll see you then, Dad. Take care."
He rubbed a hand down his face as he entered the kitchen to find Jessup with a cup of tea. The older man pulled another tea cup from its rack, filling it with the golden brew from the cast-iron pot.
"If you didn't know me, could you tell I was up to something?"
"I am not a mirror."
There was a mirror above the stove. Jessup mentioned something about feng shui. Caleb was surprised at his haggard appearance. "I look rough. But is it a good rough or a bad rough?"
"Rough is apt." Jessup finished his tea, rinsing the cup in the sink.
It was not an answer; the underlying meaning was he looked like shit. He raked a hand through his hair. His father would notice a problem. Dean didn't have time for Mac to notice a problem.
"Drink some more tea."
"Will it help?" He peered inside the cup, decided he was still thirsty.
He finished in one gulp. Caleb looked at the remnants of the tea. He was so tired. He glanced over the rim of his cup at Spock to find the man quietly watching him back, his expression the same unreadable calm as always. Caleb smirked. The tea was probably a sleep aid. "I'm going to bed."
Caleb sipped the coffee in his travel mug. Jessup had sent him off with some tea. As soon as he found a Dunkin Donuts, he exchanged it for a regular coffee. The caffeine rush didn't help to quell his thoughts. Time away from helping Dean was lost.
Mackland was trying to keep them all safe, but a year would go by too soon.
The drive to Casadega was boring highway. He found the former campgrounds easy enough. There were signs in front of some of the small homes advertising psychic services. Caleb snorted. He passed by the dirt road leading to Agatha's home, backed up the truck, and pulled into the drive. They would be taking the truck. Caleb felt comfortable in the vehicle; a rental was not an option.
It was a plain blue house, one level ranch style. Caleb guessed two bedrooms, one bath, enough for one person. He parked in the driveway, looked around from his perch inside the truck before alighting the vehicle. Mac had arranged for him to use the side door near the driveway. The backyard was fenced in with vines covering the metal stretching to the overhang over the door.
He rang the doorbell, waiting to hear footsteps. Caleb attempted a reading but could sense he was being blocked. It made him feel slightly uneasy. By design, his experience with witches was limited to mostly Joshua. Sawyer was guarded but could never block Caleb out.
A tall woman opened the door wearing a tank top, a loose fitting jacket and wide leg pants, all in gray. Her hair was obviously colored a rich sable color and styled off her face. She studied him. "Caleb Reaves?"
"My father said you would be expecting me, Ms. Hennings." He extended his hand in a formal greeting. He had to admit, he had expected a weathered elderly woman wearing a black ensemble with a cat in tow. Her face had limited lines — either plastic surgery was involved or she was brewing herself up some incredible face cream.
She opened the door, gestured for him to follow her.
He looked around, slightly surprised. Although Casadega itself seemed like a forgotten town, the interior of the house was well maintained. There was a balance between modern aesthetics and antique furnishings. There was a direct contrast of light and dark. "I'd like to look around before we go, make sure we're not leaving any clues."
She nodded. "I'll just go freshen up. My bags are by the door." She left him in the hallway while she entered her bedroom, leaving the door open. She had jewelry on the bureau from which she placed black pearls on her earlobes, then took a longer strand around her neck with a smile.
Caleb went through the rooms, finding nothing of interest. He wondered where she did her witchcraft, not noticing any large cauldron. He opened the pantry door in the kitchen, found herbs amongst the condiments. He didn't look too closely, too afraid to find frog eyes and cow hearts.
Agatha was waiting by her bags. He was lucky there were only a small travel bag and a train case, but he still was not used to playing the bellboy. She exited first, stopping at the truck. She didn't reach up to open the door. He tucked the bags under one arm, opening the door for her while tucking the bags in the back. Caleb walked over to the driver's side of the truck. This was going to be a long trip with Cruella DeVille.
She gave what Caleb recognized as the Manhattan Once Over to the truck, making a determination of Caleb's social standing. She paused on the cross hanging from the rearview mirror then flicked her eyes away.
Caleb sent a silent plea to Pastor Jim to give him patience. He remained quiet until they reached Route 95. "So, Agatha, you're having a pow wow?"
"Ms. Hennings, please." Agatha's hands were folded in her lap, distinguishing them as the one part of her body which gave away her age. The blue veins were lifted, her joints enlarged due to arthritis. "Your father arranged a meeting with each of the covens sending a representative."
Caleb noticed it was a closed answer, but eighteen hours of driving in silence was unnerving when there was an occupant in the car. "How many covens are there?"
"A dozen. But I represent the most powerful coven. What we decide, so do the others."
"As long as you're keeping an open mind." Caleb shook his head.
Agatha sat rigidly in the passenger side seat. "It will be difficult to surpass the other offer, but there may be other enticements."
"We're talking about Griffin Porter's offer, right? The man who's trying to stop you from going to the meeting?"
"That has nothing to do with me and more to do with Mackland Ames." She looked at Caleb, giving him a small smile. "Griffin Porter is quite a man. We understand each other." She gave him a slight nod, like she was paying him a compliment. "I hear the same thing about your father, though he's tenderhearted."
There was an underlying insinuation, a salacious one. He wanted Agatha to understand his father was off limits. "My father's with Esme Madrigal."
"Jocelyn's daughter. A non-entity really. Her mother had talent. I hope she's staying in her little shop as I requested. She has no business being at the meeting. "
His feelings about his father's relationship with the woman aside, Caleb wanted to instigate a cat fight, betting on Esme. She was younger, but Agatha seemed the type to win at all costs. "You know Esme's mother, so you've been a witch for a long, long time."
Agatha's eyes blazed at the suggestion of her age. "We witches outlast hunters."
"Must have a better health insurance plan." Caleb focused on the road, thinking of ways he could conveniently lose Agatha, avoiding escorting her any further. However, Mac would be upset.
They were closing in on lunchtime. Had she been nicer, he would have picked a better restaurant. McDonald's seemed fitting. She wrinkled her nose as they stopped under what Caleb suddenly thought were positively awe-inspiring golden arches.
"I think it's better to move around. Old bones do get stiff," Caleb commented. Agatha didn't answer. He expected her to climb down from the truck, but instead he had to go over to her side and open the door.
Agatha was exerting control. Of course she was.
They ate quietly, or rather, Caleb ate while Agatha picked contemptuously at a salad with no dressing. They returned to the truck wordlessly. He wanted to get a few more hours before stopping again for the night and finishing the trip up tomorrow.
Once settled in, she vigorously cleaned her hands with antibacterial lotion, offering none to Caleb. Then she pulled out a glass jar, scooping out some of the orange cream and rubbing it on her hands. Caleb gagged on the smell, opening the window to allow some fresh air into the air conditioned cab.
They made it to North Carolina just shy of eight hours. Caleb found a Hilton Garden Inn off the highway and deemed it a fair place to stay for the night. If it had been just him, he would have stayed in Charlotte, but he wanted to exert some control, too.
Again, Agatha waited in the truck. Caleb opened the door and offered his hand. She gripped it, not a grip of fear that she was going to fall but one of biting maliciousness. He felt the creaminess of her hand still lingering from her application hours ago and wiped his hand on his jeans as soon as it was free. Agatha walked ahead, leaving Caleb to grab her bags. She was waiting for him at the front desk.
"I need two rooms, adjoining, one for myself and the other for my grandmother." Caleb smiled as Agatha's nostrils flared.
Caleb took some basic measures to secure the room before allowing Agatha to enter. He opened the in-room door to his room. He opened his duffle, pulling out a two inch crystal pin. "I'd like you to have this."
"This?" She held it between two fingers.
"It's not a fashion statement. It has a tracking device in case something happens and we get separated. "
"It makes your job easier." She still held it away from her.
"Yes," Caleb sighed. She didn't want his job to be easier. "Please, put it on."
Agatha fastened it to the lapel of her jacket with disdain, flattening the lapel repeatedly.
Caleb's phone buzzed against his hip. He glanced down to the clipped phone, seeing the name flash on the screen. He slid it out of the case. "I need to take this call."
She gestured for him to leave. "Proceed. And I'll have steamed vegetables and baked chicken."
"I'll be right on it,"
Caleb answered, clutching the phone to keep from saying something he
knew his father would regret him saying. He had to go one more day
without killing Agatha Hennings and a lifetime to hope he would never
see her again.