“The Machiavellian Prince” by Tidia

He who has not laid his foundations may be able with great ability to lay them afterwards, but they will be laid with trouble to the architect and danger to the building. ~Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Chapter 1.

Caleb entered the living room to find Dean sitting on the floor looking at a cut on his arm and John behind the dusty couch, his rifle relaxed as the spirit they had been fighting disappeared.

"You okay?" Reaves offered a hand to Dean in order to pull him up to a seated position. The room looked a mess. The spirit having thrown what seemed to be every available object at the two hunters, trying to save itself.

The other hunter accepted the hand. "Just a little cut." He nodded, showing Caleb the shallow cut down his left arm, which had ripped the long sleeve of his shirt. "I can clean it in the car."

"Deuce,” Caleb teased, “next time run for cover faster."

John walked around the room, and then out back, making sure the area was secure.

Dean dusted off his jeans. "Next time why don’t you salt and burn faster, Damien."

"Youngest hunter is always bait, written in the manual."

Dean gave a twisted grin, recalling how many times they used the so-called hunter's manual to foil his little brother. "Sammy's not here. I know there's not a manual, dude."

Their discussion was interrupted by a barked order. "Pack it up, boys."

The Impala was parked just outside the dilapidated Safner residence. Caleb got into the front passenger’s seat. "Why don’t you stay with Mac for a few days? I’m heading out of town for two days tomorrow morning to check on a job . . ."

"We should get back on the road. . ." John stated as he started the engine.

Dean was already in the backseat with his ripped shirt off. He had cleaned the cut with alcohol and was spreading a layer of antibiotic ointment over it. "We can do some research at Mac's, get ready for the next job…Caleb and I were looking at some sightings in Texas."

"So you two were thinking of joining up to do a job together?" The question was directed to Caleb. Dean was busy rifling through the first aid kit for a bandage, but answered as he ripped open the package for a gauze pad

"We've talked."

Reaves shrugged his shoulders. John had been asking Caleb to throw some jobs Dean's way. And the twosome made a great team. The Texas job was more involved than the usual weekend salt and burn.

"Fine, we'll impose on Mackland." John relented, giving a nod to his protégé.

"It's only imposing when Mac has to find another place to live." Caleb snorted. His father had moved four times in recent years.

"That was not my fault," John replied indignantly.

"That's right," Caleb grinned, "Bobby makes a good scapegoat." It seemed the older hunter always blamed Singer. It was probably one of the reasons why their relationship had hit a rocky road recently.

John was quick to retort. "And Joshua?"

Caleb rubbed the stubble on his chin. Whenever he hunted with Sawyer things usually didn’t go as planned. "You have a point."

Dean snorted from the backseat. "I've got to find me a scapegoat."

In two hours they were comfortably ensconced in Mackland Ames's apartment. The two floor set up was spacious, but felt warm because of the dark woods.

When Dean’s bedside clock showed two in the morning he knew he should be tired, but instead he felt restless. He kicked the covers off his bed, and padded into Mac's library.

He looked at the spines of the hardcover books. A lot of them were about psychic ability, medicine, and neurosurgery, but there were some classics. Dean pulled Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince off the shelf. He was flipping through the pages when Ames entered.

"Hey, Mac, up late?" Evidently all the late night activity had affected Ames's sleep patterns.

"Heavy reading." Mackland gestured to the book, going to his desk for some papers.

"I'm not stupid, no matter what you think," Dean muttered.

The doctor heard the comment and turned around to face the younger hunter. "I don’t think that Dean. I hope I have never given you that impression." He studied the young man before him.

Dean shook his head and smiled sheepishly. "Ahh, yeah, I know. . ." The young hunter lifted the book. "Just needed something to put me to sleep."

Mac was not about to let the comment slide. The young man had been through a lot; Sam's absence and John's driven behavior had to be overwhelming to Dean. "Are you sure you're okay? Something you want to talk about?"

Dean shook his head again and backed away. "No, sorry." He grinned. "Ahh, goodnight."

Dean rested against the wall of the hallway. He felt uneasy. He hadn't meant to say anything; the comment had just verbalized itself. He tried to shake it off as he went to bed.

During the next two days Dean and his father researched their next hunts, seeing each other in passing in the evenings and in the mornings. Mac would be home earlier than usual and decided to provide dinner, which he would pick up on his way home. Caleb would also be returning from his business trip.

Dean slipped on his jacket, a chill having penetrated his very being. He called out to his father, who sat at the kitchen table reading the New York Times. They had just eaten lunch, and Dean felt restless. "I'm going out, going to check out that music store." Reaves had told him about a shop with a great collection of classic rock.

"Be back in an hour." John replied without looking up.

Dean waved in his father's direction, keys in hand. "Okay."

Caleb was tired. He had planned to be back in New York City much earlier, but instead found himself getting to his father's place at six o'clock at night. He didn’t know where the time had gone between the hunt with the Winchesters and then needing to supervise a construction site. He was spent, and hoped to be lucky enough to get a day of downtime before going off to Texas with Dean.

"'Bout time," Caleb heard John yell from the hallway.

"Hi, honey, how was your day?" Reaves replied, confused by the brusque welcome. He headed to the refrigerator, took out the orange juice container and gulped straight from the bottle.

John met the young hunter in the kitchen and stared at Caleb in disbelief. His son had been gone for five hours. He was going to kill him. "Thought you were Dean. . ."

The psychic was too tired to worry. He knew John kept Dean on a short leash, and sometimes Dean needed some lag. "I'm sure Deuce's out finding trouble."

Again John's eyes glanced at the door. "Thanks for the reminder."

Caleb shrugged his shoulders. "Juice?"

The older hunter's answer was cut short, as his son slammed the entrance to the apartment. He entered the kitchen in a huff. In a few steps John was in Dean's face.

"Where were you-you're late."

Dean rolled his eyes and walked past his father, his shoulder rubbing against John's shoulder. "I know."

"Lose the attitude," John growled as his son turned his back.

Dean whipped back around. "You've got the attitude, old man, always ordering me around."

Caleb was shocked, but quickly recovered, putting down the orange juice. He stepped in between the father and son. "Whoa there, Deuce, buddy, what's gotten into you?" He grabbed Dean, pulling him away from John.

Dean struggled against the grip, turning his anger on Caleb. "You call your friend the fuckin' lowest card in the deck." He lessened his attack for a moment. "More like I'm the village idiot."

John took a few seconds to speak. His son's demeanor was off. This seemed more than just youthful attitude. "Dean, I want to know what's going on." John stepped closer to his son, who narrowed his eyes.

Caleb also took notice. Had something happened over the last few days? He then noticed the heat emanating through Dean's clothes. "You're hot."

"Didn’t know you swung that way, Reaves." Dean broke the grip and backed up to the door. "I'm outta here."

Both Caleb and John followed the younger hunter out. Reaves saw his father exit the elevator, three pizza boxes in hand.

"Mac stop him!"

Mackland Ames instantly reacted, dropping the pizzas, and placing his arms out to stop Dean.

But, the young hunter was determined, and backfisted the older man. Mac deflected the blow, returning with an upper cut. In retaliation, Dean brought his head back and forward, striking the doctor in the forehead. The blow caused Ames to stagger back, giving Dean space to get by him to the stairwell.

Caleb, with his running start, tackled Dean as he reached the door. The younger hunter was not pulling any punches, immediately boxing Reaves's ears. The psychic’s position on top of Dean enabled him to go for a choke hold. Dean placed his hand up, breaking the hold and pinning Caleb's leg, trying to flip him over. From above, there was a shadow, and then John's fist connected with his son's chin. Dean's head snapped back, and then relaxed into unconsciousness.

Breathing hard, Caleb stood up, shaking his head.

John kneeled next to his son. "What the hell is going on?"

Mac looked at Caleb, making sure he was fine before focusing on Dean. "Are you sure it's Dean?" He had never known the young hunter to lift a hand against those close to him.

"Yeah, it's Dean," Caleb replied, bending down and touching Dean's foot. This wasn’t a skin walker, their minds were wired differently. They usually sought to blend with their surroundings. This was the real Dean, but something was wrong.

"Let's bring him inside." Mac took the boy's feet and his father took his shoulders.

Back in the apartment, Caleb pulled back the bed sheets and the two hunters gently set Dean down. Mackland took the young hunter's pulse.

"It's fast," he announced. "Caleb, get my bag."

A moment later Reaves returned from the bathroom with his father's medical kit. Ames had his hand on Dean's forehead. Caleb found the ear thermometer and handed it to his father.

The reading beeped 103.3.

Dean moaned, blinked then opened his eyes. His eyes widened when he saw the men around his bed. He scurried backwards against the headboard. "Stop it! Stop trying to hurt me!"

"We're not hurting you. . ." Mac explained. He lifted his hands to show he was giving Dean room. "We're trying to figure out what's the matter."

Forcefully, the young hunter shook his head. "Nothing…the truth…I'm not weak." He pulled his legs up.

John grabbed his feet, pulling them back down to restrain his son. "Dean, stop it, stay still."

"You don’t even know me." Dean kicked his feet, fighting his father's grip. "I'm your son! I look like her, but you think I'm nothing. Well, you're nothing to me. . ."

Dean tried to squirm away using his arms to give him leverage.

"Hold him down!" John ordered Caleb.

Reaves began to shake his head, but then looked at his father who nodded. Caleb grabbed both of Dean’s wrists, pinning them down.

Dean continued to fight, narrowing his eyes at the psychic. "You want to kill me. Want to be John Winchester's son and take my place…have at it. It's your dream after all."

"Did anything happen on the hunt?" Mac asked trying to make some sort of assessment.

"You think I'm the weakest link," Dean growled at his father, lifting his head. "Sam's better. Sam's your favorite. You made him leave. Hateful."

"He got a cut on his arm." Caleb answered, struggling to hold his friend.

Ames carefully slit the fabric of the sleeve to reveal the bandaged wound. It was seeping red.

Dean tried to twist his torso. "Stay away!" he cried out. "Tangled up right and wrong and you can't tell me. You're damned too."

"Deuce, come on. . ." Caleb pleaded for the insanity to stop.

"Don’t look at me! I'm damaged goods!" Dean screamed at them. Reaves tried to comply and look away, glancing imploringly at his father.

And then the struggles lessened and Dean went slack. Mackland held a syringe in his hand. The doctor stepped back, exhausted and ran a hand through his hair.

"Dad?" Caleb saw his father was shaken.

"What'd you give him?" John sat on the bed, a hand resting against his son's leg.

"Sedative..should keep him out for awhile." Ames put the syringe down. With Dean unconscious he pulled away the white bandage to reveal the festering wound.

"That should have scabbed over by now," John said, getting closer to get a better look at the cut.

It had been a neat slice, but during the last three days it had morphed. A white, oozing crust had formed, peppered with fresh blood that was flecked with purple. The blood had spread out of the confines of the original thin cut.

Mac swabbed the infection, taking it as a sample before cleaning and bandaging the cut. He took a blood sample, placing the vial near the swab. Satisfied, he started an IV drip in the unmarred arm to keep Dean hydrated then prepared another syringe, injecting the antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory into the line. "I'm going over to the lab. There's another vial of Midazolam if you need it."

"Mac?" John stared at his old friend wanting answers.

"I don't know John. I need to rule out a few things." He placed a hand on John's shoulder. "I promise I will be back soon. I won't let anything happen to Dean." Mackland gave a nod of reassurance.

There was silence between Caleb and John as they watched Dean's chest rise and fall. The older hunter broke the reverie.

"Tie him down."

"John. . ." Reaves shook his head, remembering what it felt like to be tied down. He still had flashbacks about it, and never wanted to be in that situation again. He didn't want to put Dean in that situation either.

"Damnit, Caleb, do as I say!" John ordered. He found Dean's duffle bag and rifled through finding some duct tape. He cut off a piece and threw the roll to Caleb. John secured the right forearm, avoiding the IV, rounding the tape around then securing it to bed's metal frame. John glanced up and saw Caleb had not followed his instructions. "It's to protect him - so he doesn’t hurt himself."

Caleb swallowed and gave a nod. He ripped off a piece of the tape and secured the left wrist.

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