Conversations: The Luck of the Draw
By: Ridley C. James
Author's note: This little conversation is a tag on for the last episode: C.A.I.A.D. Although I grew tired of hearing ‘douche bag’ repeated over and over, I was struck by the trio of magicians and the parallels in their friendship to the ones I see in The Brotherhood AU. Hence, the birth of this little snippet. Besides, it was easier to focus on what Dean was doing, insteas of where Sam and Ruby had gone. I hope you enjoy my Muse’s playing. Very minor spoilers.
"A good friend remembers what we were and sees what we can be."-Anonymous
Dean watched Sam exit the tavern, feeling as if he had said the wrong things to Jay, and let his kid brother down. Jay’s bitter words stayed with Dean, propelling him to the bar for a much needed drink. The man had killed his best friend, and no matter the reasoning the outcome sucked on a level Dean could only slightly fathom.
Dean tapped on the bar. “Shot of tequila.”
“Sure thing," said the brunette bartender as she set a glass in front of him, filled it.
Dean cleared his throat. “Leave the bottle.”
He motioned to a booth in the back. “I’ll be taking my poison over there. You care to bring over a burger and fries to finish me off?” Dean had lost his appetite, but didn’t want to ruin his pity party by getting too drunk too fast.
The brunette gave him a flirtatious smile that any other time Dean might have returned. “I think I can do that.”
“Thanks.” Dean started to turn but hesitated. “One more thing?”
The woman’s smile was back in full force. “Yes?”
Dean pointed to the playing cards on the bar top beside him. “Can I have those?”
“Why?” She gave him a curious look, but the playfulness stayed in her voice. “Are you a magician?”
“Far from it.”
She put her hand atop the cards. “A friend of Jay’s then? A fan?”
“Something like that.” Dean wasn’t sure if he admired or was sickened by the older man.
Her face altered instantly to one of sympathy and she slid the deck towards him. “I hated to hear about Charlie. They were really close.”
“Yeah.” Dean hugged the bottle with one arm, picked up the shot glass and the cards. “It definitely sucks.” He slid into the booth, glancing out the window to the darkened streets. Sam's walk would last a while, giving Dean plenty of time to wallow in Jay’s misfortune.
He toasted his reflection in the black glass, tossing back his first shot. Any hunt survived was a successful one. Dean closed his eyes, letting the slow burn take the edge off. He set the glass down, refilled it before putting the bottle aside. Dean flexed his fingers, popped his knuckles before picking up Jay’s deck. He shuffled the cards, spreading them before him on the scarred table. Dean drew one and flipped it over. The two of spades stared back at him.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” What were the chances? Dean ran a hand over his mouth, glanced up at the ceiling. “No need for the anvil, Big Guy. The irony isn’t wasted on me.”
Caleb sprung to his mind unbidden even before the case started going south. Seeing the three old men relate to each other with ease, was like catching an unwanted glimpse of himself, Sammy and Damien. Especially after the bastards set him up with The Chief. Then there was Jay’s speech.
Jay and Charlie had been best friends since they were children. Charlie had saved his life, kept him out of trouble and taught him the trade. Jay considered him a brother, and along with Vernon, they had been a family. The supernatural had destroyed that. Charlie’s attempt to do right by his friends turned to a disastrous end. Jay was all alone with his righteous choice-a choice that had saved Dean’s and Sam’s lives. Dean wanted to be more grateful, but he couldn’t quite get past the other emotions. Regret, sorrow and more than a hint of anger that Jay made it look so easy to take his own brother’s life-an idea that haunted Dean.
Dean felt his eyes sting as he stared at the deuce card. He cleared his throat, reprimanding himself for feeling a pain that wasn’t his. Damien was fine. Sam had only left him for a walk, not walked out for good. Dean’s family was safe and intact.
Dean tossed the spade back on the table when his cell rang with The Star Wars Theme. He reached in his pocket, wondering if Caleb was picking up on his morose thoughts. Dean cleared his throat. “Are you playing super psychic again, Obi Wan?”
Dean sat up straighter. “Josh?”
“Yes, Dean. How are you?”
Joshua sounded nice, too nice in fact. “What the hell are you doing using Caleb’s phone? What’s wrong?”
“Caleb is otherwise indisposed at the moment and was afraid you would be alarmed when he missed your planned check- in.”
Dean glanced at the clock on the wall, surprised he'd forgotten Damien was supposed to call at midnight.
“Where the hell is he?” The hairs along Dean’s neck were standing at attention. “Did you two finish the job in Telford?”
“The entity wreaking havoc on the Monroe family has been handled. You can read all about it in my memo about reimbursement for…”
“Josh, stop stalling. Where’s Caleb?”
“He’s in the treatment bay. They don’t allow cell phones.”
“Treatment…you’re at a fucking hospital?”
“And?” Dean demanded. He lowered his voice when several patrons glanced his way. “Why the hell are you in the ER? What happened?”
“The hunt did not go exactly as planned.”
“Thanks for that newsflash, Mr. Obvious. Let me talk to Caleb.”
“I just told you that Caleb was being seen to. I can assure you his injuries seemed minor.”
“Forgive me if I’m a little wary of your diagnosis seeing as how your degree isn’t in medicine, but in bull shitting.” Dean ran a hand through his hair, tempted to go in search of Sam so they could get on the road to Telford, Alabama. “Damien hates hospitals. He doesn’t go there by choice.”
“As you so eloquently pointed out- I’m not a doctor. My adamant refusal to perform a bastardized surgery left him no choice.”
“Surgery? He needed surgery?”
“The attending physician says that depends on the location of the projectiles.”
“Put Caleb on the phone.” Dean was done chatting. “NOW.”
Dean focused for the first time on the background noises, a voice on the loud speaker, the screech of a door. He propped his elbow on the table, resting his head on his hand. Joshua was speaking again.
“I’m fine by the way. My stitches are barely noticeable under the swath of black and blue skin.”
Dean ignored the other hunter’s prattle, focusing on the new female voice he could hear clearly.
“Sir, you’re not supposed to be back here. There are no cell phones allowed on this ward.”
Josh’s tone was his professional PR voice, all maple syrup and honey. “I’m sorry, but Mr. Reaves has an urgent call that requires his immediate attention. It’s his wife-she’s quite frantic.”
There was a pause and the woman’s voice seemed farther away. “All right. I guess I can give you five minutes, but then we need to move Mr. Reaves to radiology.”
Dean wasn’t surprised the nurse caved. Josh wasn’t successful in his career by chance. He supposed there were advantages to having Harland as a father. His thoughts of the Sawyers ended when Caleb’s voice came on the line.
“Deana? That you, darling?”
Dean recognized the forced casual tone, but the vice around his heart eased at the sound of Caleb’s voice. “What the fuck, Damien?”
“It’s good to hear your sweet voice, too, honey bunny.”
“What’s going on there?” Dean wasn’t buying into the poor attempt at their typical redirect. He wasn’t in the mood for jokes. “Why the hell are you going under the knife?”
Caleb didn’t answer him, but confronted Josh instead. “You told him I was having surgery? What the fuck, Johs? I should have never let you call him.”
“You’ll remember that next time. I prefer not to be the messenger.”
Dean picked up the shot he’d poured and tossed it back, relishing in the tequila’s bite. “Caleb!”
“Stop yelling. I’m not having surgery.”
“But Josh said…”
He heard Caleb sigh heavily on the line, and wondered if it was weariness or pain he detected. “You know how squeamish the mama’s boy can be. He wussed out on the whole homeopath doctor routine. Apparently he doesn’t have an appropriate tea for extractions.”
“Forgive me for having the audacity to suggest a specialist.”
Dean pulled the bottle of Jose closer to him as he impatiently waited out the conversation on the other end.
“Don’t you have insurance papers to fill out?”
“Of course. Tell your better half I’ll handle everything on this end despite my belief this is not Advisor protocol.”
“Caleb.” Dean tried to regain his friend’s attention. “Were you shot?”
“Hell, yeah. With a Surebonder 5950 nail gun.”
“Nope. This gig was like Lethal Weapon 2 meets Poltergeist. The big showdown took place in the Monroe’s screened in porch, which is under renovations at the moment. I took a couple 18 gauge brad nails to the arm and shoulder.”
“Shit.” Caleb sounded almost amused but Dean recalled the scene from Lethal Weapon when Murtaugh took out the bad guy with the carpenter’s tool. He refilled his shot glass.
“I know. It was my left arm, too. This could so fuck with my bowling game.”
“Where the hell was Josh?”
“He was dealing with the possessed band saw. It was the luck of the draw, man.”
“Don’t say that.” Dean downed his third drink.
“I take it things in Magic Town aren’t going well?”
“No.” He poured another. “Not really.”
“Sammy not scoring enough autographs? Did he meet Jeb Dexter?”
Dean snorted. “You remember him being into this stuff?” He wasn’t sure why he was so surprised. Caleb could be as nostalgic as Pastor Jim.
“How could I forget? For one whole summer his favorite phrase was ‘pick a card, any card’. I think his magic wand is still at the farm.”
“I think this job might have killed some of Sammy’s childhood enthusiasm.” Dean sure hadn’t helped to bolster any optimism his brother had.
“Something go wrong with the hunt?”
“No. It’s handled. Just a whacked out magician trying to put a whole new spin on best friends forever.
Caleb didn’t sound convinced and Dean wondered if his friend was able to read him. “He took a walk.”
“That bad, huh?”
“You know Sammy.”
“I know you, too.”
That was the whole point. The three of them knew each other so well. “How do you think this whole thing is going to end, Damien?”
There was no instant reply and Dean was certain Caleb was at least attempting to sense what he was feeling.
“You talking specifics like Lilith and the 66 seals or in more general terms?”
“I mean us, Dude. You, me and Sammy. We’re not going to live forever.”
“Yeah. The two of you taking your turn at dying kind of killed that dream for me.”
Dean had joked about the same thing with Sam. It wasn’t as funny as before. “I’m being serious.”
“Besides being the future Triad?”
“Forget The Brotherhood.” Dean toyed with his glass. At times his destiny as The Guardian seemed murky, despite his recent formal acceptance of the position.
“Brotherhood or not, I like to think we get the happy ending. You find a woman who can put up with you, raise a couple kids on the farm. Sammy makes partner in some boring ass law firm, hooks up with his smoking hot legal aid. I can hang out between hunts, charm your women, spoil the rug rats, and help train the next generation. It’ll be good, Deuce.”
“You and Sammy know something I don’t, Pollyanna?”
“Don’t tell me, Mr. Morbidity. You think it’s going to end bloody?”
“History is on my side. We’re hunters. The very nature of what we do lends us to a very ugly end.”
“So does the work of a soldier, police officer and your old dream of being a fireman.”
“It’s not the same thing. We’re dealing with the Apocalypse. No Triad has faced anything half this serious and survived to tell their grandchildren about it.”
“Dude, we’re not like any others before us. We get to write our own story. I prefer it not be some cheesy horror remake or similar to a page out of the Book of Revelations.”
“You can’t honestly believe we’ll all three make it through this?”
“I have to believe that. If not, then what’s the fucking point?”
Dean swallowed. To Caleb it was just that simple. In his best friend’s mind, angels were good, demons were bad and the guys in the white hats always won in the end. Hell, it’s what Dean wanted to believe for Sam. Dean might not have faith in a bright future for himself, but he’d always wanted better for Sammy. His whole life had been built around that hope but with all that was spinning out of control around them it was easy to lose sight of that plan. “I’m just tired of jobs that we finish, but don’t really win. It’s like two steps forward, three steps back. I don’t know if any of it is worth it in the end.”
“Deuce, you know I’d do anything for you, but I can’t give you faith, man. You have to find that all on your own.”
“You’ve given me more than enough, Damien.” It wasn’t a chance at immortality, but brotherhood also had a way of transcending time. Family was its own saving grace. Sam and Caleb gave Dean a reason to come back from the grave, to leave Hell behind him.
“Mr. Reaves, you’ll have to let your wife go. We need to take you down to radiology now.”
Dean closed his eyes. “Look, dude, listen to the nurse, don’t give the doctors a hard time and call me as soon as you and Josh are out of there.”
“You sure you’re okay?”
“Dude, you’re the one in the hospital about to go under the blade.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head, Deana. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m holding you to that, honey bunny.” Dean forced a light laugh. “Remember the Musketeer Oath is more binding than wedding vows.” Some more of his worry faded when Caleb chuckled.
“Go find little Sammy and give him a kiss for me. I’ll see you both when I get home.”
Dean snorted at the less than subtle hint. He cut the connection just as the bartender arrived with his burger and fries. The pretty brunette was careful to place the plate off to the side, not to disturb the arc of Charlie’s deck. She gestured to the two of spades laying face up. “That your lucky card?”
Dean picked up the deuce, studying it a moment before placing it in his jacket pocket. He scooped up the rest of the deck. “More like my ace in the hole.”
“We all need a few tricks up our sleeve.” She placed a bottle of ketchup in front of Dean with a wink. “Is there anything else I can get for you?”
“You can get rid of these.” Dean offered her the deck of cards.
“But I thought you wanted to hold on to them for Jay.”
Dean shook his head. “Jay won’t be needing them where he’s going.” Dean understood all too well a person didn’t have to stop breathing to visit Hell.
“Okay.” She slipped the cards into the front of her smock.
Dean gestured to the tequila. “You can take that, too.”
She grabbed the bottle along with the shot glass, setting them both on her empty tray. “Not up for poison tonight?”
Dean picked up a fry, glancing to the darkening window. His thoughts invariably turned to Sam. They wouldn’t have forever together, or another do-over. “No, nothing so fatal tonight.”
Dean watched the woman’s reflection in the black glass as she shifted the tray, brushed strands of dark hair behind her ear. “You up for some company? I get off in an hour.”
Dean turned to look at her, a half-smile tugging at his lips. There were better ways to kill some time. “Sounds like my lucky night.” Dean Winchester would only be young once.