Conversation 3: Switzerland Sucks
By: Ridley C. James
The vision was extremely vivid, holding all Caleb’s senses hostage for the brief moment he was caught in its grasp. He was used to watching, numbed to viewing atrocities from the monster’s point of view. He had conditioned himself not to fight the helpless feeling years ago, to ignore the guilty ache of being a forced participant and use the connection to the perpetrator to his advantage.
Sam Winchester’s face, the fear and disbelief in the kid’s eyes as he looked up at whatever was attacking him fired Caleb's protective synapses so detachment was impossible.
Caleb felt the weight of the weapon in his hand, in the monster’s hand. Sam was helpless as the first blow struck him, the hatchet buried into his chest. The kid screamed, blood splattering the walls behind him. Caleb felt Sam’s rib cage crack as the thing he was connecting with jerked the blade free only to bring it down on Sam’s shoulder, nearly severing his right arm.
This was the part where Caleb usually took stock of the surroundings, tried to deduce a location. He would ignore the victim’s cries for help, choosing to study them for some type of identification instead. His feelings for Sam made it impossible, but the connection to the assailant was even more troubling. It was more familiar. Pushing the shock of seeing Sam brutalized away, Caleb understood instantly why the vision was different. He was connected to Dean. Deuce was the killer.
The incredible realization broke the spell; leaving Caleb curled on the plush carpet of his hotel room, gasping for breath. He barely made it to the bathroom before offering up his sixty dollar steak dinner as a sacrifice. Finding his phone became a priority. Hearing Bobby’s gruff hello after getting Sam and Dean’s voicemail was like music.
The mechanic deciphered Caleb’s babbling easily enough, barely mumbling ‘I’m on it’ before hanging up on him. Caleb called him back once he was on the road to get a location, and a brief explanation as to what the hell was going on. He arrived minutes after Singer, stepping into the motel hallway just after the siren drew its last breath.
“'bout time you showed up, Junior.” Bobby propped his hands on his hip, giving a shake of his head. “Damn visions cut it too close if you ask me.”
Caleb wouldn’t disagree. The place looked like a war zone. He stepped over the dead body, his gaze going to Sam, who seemed shell-shocked. At least his chest was intact, no limbs missing. Deuce on the other hand was bleeding.
“You two all right?”
Sam tried to get to his feet. Caleb reached out to help him. The kid wavered once he was standing and Caleb gripped his shoulders. “Sammy? You with me?”
The kid blinked, looking completely out of it. Caleb brought one hand to his neck, opening his mind to make sure Sam was coherent. There was faint resistance and then Sam met his gaze. ‘I’m okay.’
‘Good.’ The silent communication reassured Caleb. He made certain Sam was steady before turning to his best friend. “Deuce?”
“What are you doing here, man?”
Caleb frowned, thinking it should be obvious. He laid a finger on his temple. “Vision. You still have a killer swing.”
Dean’s green gaze filled with something akin to guilt, maybe it was shame. “Great.”
Caleb gestured to his shoulder. “You’re bleeding.”
“Bobby stabbed me.”
Caleb turned towards the mechanic who shrugged. He pulled the offending knife from the dead guy’s back, wiping it on his jeans. “I needed the blood of a stricken sailor-kid fit the bill.”
“That explains everything.”
“The authorities won’t be so easily appeased,” Bobby said. He looked at Sam. “You up to helping me get rid of the fake Fed, Stretch?”
“I’ll leave the other wonder twin with you.”
“I got it covered.” Caleb met Dean’s gaze, felt the feelings rolling off his friend, and wondered if he had spoken too soon. A band aid wouldn’t begin to cover it.
Where Sam had been subdued, Dean was hard to pin down, attempting to pick up the destroyed room in lieu of talking. "We need to get that door back on the hinges."
Caleb recognized the tactic, but finally cornered him in the bathroom with the first aid kit.
Dean pulled away and Caleb took a tighter hold of the younger hunter’s arm. “You know the drill. Suck it up, kiddo.”
Dean gritted his teeth but sat still on the edge of the tub. “Why don’t you pull out a Brill-o pad and some ammonia, Damien?”
“Considering that blade came from Bobby’s place it might not be a bad idea.” Caleb continued tending the wound. “Why don’t you skip the typical subterfuge and tell me what’s really bothering you, Deuce.”
“I already gave you the run down. Didn’t you get an up close and personal view of the final inning?” Dean winced as Caleb pushed the edges of the wound together, placing the first butterfly over the narrow gash. “I nearly killed Sam.”
Caleb sighed, gently finishing the dressing. “This siren was different than the others we dealt with, but I remember how powerful they were, what that bitch did to you down in Boca Raton. Pastor Jim considered them worthy adversaries.”
Dean licked his lips. “I fell for this one just as easy.”
Caleb tossed the supplies in the kit. “At least you didn’t end up in bed with the guy, dude.” When Dean didn’t look at him, Caleb knew the joke had fallen flat. Humor wasn’t going to get them far in this situation.
“He seduced me just the same, minus the rack and nice ass.”
Caleb knelt in front of Dean, handing him the clean shirt he’d grabbed from the kid’s duffel. “He poisoned you, man.” Dean had explained how he shared the flask with his buddy Nick-the way the bastard had turned Dean’s feelings for Sam against him.
Dean took the tee. “He had me on the line a long time before he set the hook. I was primed and ready when he went for the score.”
Caleb felt a stab of guilt. If he’d been there, things would not have gotten so far. “Dude, that’s what they do. They’re psychic. They project whatever you need the most. Look what that thing got those other men to do.”
“Exactly.” Dean lowered his voice. “How pathetic does that make me?”
“Hey.” Caleb shook Dean’s leg, waiting for the younger hunter to look at him. “Cut that shit out. You are not pathetic.”
“Have you been listening to me, Damien? I fell for the whole bit, the Impala, the music… He had me at 327 four-barrel. It was embarrassing.”
“Sam’s the most important person in your life. From what you said, the siren got off on getting its victim to destroy what they loved most. The sonofabitch was manipulating a weakness. That’s all.”
Dean looked at him. “Am I weak?”
“What?” Caleb let his hand slide from Dean’s knee. “No. That’s not what I meant.”
“Do you think I hold back now…since I came back from Hell?”
Caleb got the distinct impression gears had shifted without his knowledge and they were suddenly speeding down a hill into unknown territory. “Hold back how?”
“With Lilith and Alistair?”
“Are you kidding me? Lilith and Alistair aren’t light weights. Even your angel buddies are having a hard time with them. It would be foolish to rush in, to think we were evenly matched.”
Dean nodded. “Batman can kick Superman’s ass, but he has to have precise timing, the perfect tools and a fucking stupendous plan.”
Caleb gave a half grin. “That’s what Johnny always said.” He pushed himself up from the floor, taking the spot on the tub’s rim by Dean. “Dude, where’s all this coming from?”
Dean’s eyes were bright, but determined. “What if it’s not all about being prepared, picking the battle? What if I’m a coward?”
“Deuce you are so far from being a coward…it’s ridiculous. You’re the strongest person I know.”
Dean’s brow furrowed and Caleb didn’t miss the doubt in the green gaze. “You’re biased.”
“Biased or not, I wouldn’t lie to you.”
“Sammy’s lying to me.”
“Sam’s trying to figure it all out,” Caleb said. Sam had talked to him some about the issues of his abilities, how Dean felt about his new advancement. Caleb would be the first to admit it stung that Sam went to Ruby for help, but he wasn’t convinced it was the slippery slope Dean believed. “He doesn’t want to make things harder for you. He’s just dealing with what he’s had dumped on his plate.”
“We used to work through things together.”
“What exactly happened when you two went at it?” Caleb knew the siren had turned the boys on one another, but he didn’t consider what it had used to set them off.
Dean laughed. “Let’s just say Nick gave us a chance to discuss our issues, air some dirty laundry.”
“Mac’s psychotherapy shit gives people an outlet to do that, dude. Sessions don’t usually end with ax murders.”
“I said some things.” Dean stared at his hands, his red swollen knuckles. “I called him on the Ruby shit. Accused him of sneaking around behind my back, working with that demon bitch.”
“And what did Sam have to say?” Caleb wondered if that was the question he should have started with. The way Dean averted his gaze gave him his answer. “Deuce?”
The pain swirling in Dean’s green eyes brought a lump to Caleb’s throat. “I don’t even know him anymore.”
“I know you two have hit a bumpy strip, like Stanford, but he’s still your brother, Deuce.”
“What if you’re wrong?” Dean licked his lips. “Sometimes, some of the shit he does…the secrets, the way he acts like he knows everything, like this is all some kind of personal vendetta for him-I can’t help but to think how he’s like Dad.”
Caleb was the one who glanced away, the familiar mixture of feelings that always accompanied his mentor’s name washing over him. John was dogged and convinced he knew what was best for those around him.
“What if Sammy’s gone?”
The soft question brought his gaze back to Dean, but the slamming of a door spared him a lame reply. Caleb felt guilty for the relief the sound of Sam and Bobby’s voice brought. He bumped Dean’s good shoulder. “I’ve got some Vicodin out in my bag. It’ll help with the pain.” He knew all too well that no drug was going to ease his best friend’s suffering, but he had to do something.
“I’m supposed to meet up with an old cult contact of mine, but I can call Ethan…”
“No.” Dean shook his head. “Go, man. I’ll be okay.”
“Then how about you and Sammy meet up with me for the gig?” Caleb couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was building, a storm in the distance. “This staying separate plan of yours sucks.”
Caleb’s worry increased when Dean didn’t disagree. “You saying you need help, Damien?”
“I’m saying I don’t want to end up collateral damage of fratricide, being the sole remaining third of The Triad would suck.”
“No one wants to be left alone.” Dean raised a brow and his mouth barely twitched. “But I wouldn’t mind some privacy while I take a shower.”
Caleb stood, offering Deuce a hand up. “I’ll leave the pills with Sammy and I’ll give you a call when I get the details.”
Dean grasped his forearm, making it to his feet. “Thanks, Damien.”
“Deuce…” Caleb tightened his grip. “Sammy’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to work out. I promise.”
The look Dean gave him didn’t inspire confidence, but he found the strength to let the kid go, taking comfort in the fact he would be able to keep a close eye on both Winchesters in the coming weeks. Sam met him as he came out of the bathroom.
“Dean all right?”
Caleb smirked. “He probably won’t even have a scar.”
“Kid disappointed?” Bobby said. “I know he’s working hard to restore bragging rights since coming back a clean slate.”
Caleb read the underlying concern. He met the mechanic’s gaze. “I think he’ll get over it. He just needs some time.”
“Probably should stay busy.” Bobby scratched his beard. “Don’t you have a hunt coming up?”
Caleb smiled. “Already got it covered.” He motioned to Sam. “Walk me out, Runt?”
Sam glanced to the closed bathroom door where the sounds of the shower could be heard. “Sure. Looks like Dean got first dibs on the hot water.”
“Hunter’s Handbook says the guy who bleeds the most gets the first shower. You know the rule, Sammy.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
The kid followed him out, but was quiet until they reached the parking lot where he stopped short of Caleb’s car. “He told you, didn’t he?”
Caleb turned to look at him, recognizing the defensive posture. “Told me what?”
“About the things I said.” Sam slid his hand through his hair. “He’s not holding me back. I don’t think he’s weak or stupid.”
Suddenly the conversation he’d had with Dean was becoming clear. Caleb rubbed his neck. “That’s good to know because nothing’s further from the truth.”
“I knew you wouldn’t understand.”
Sam didn’t give him time to respond before he was tightening his own noose. “It wasn’t like I meant it. I was under the siren’s spell. Just like Dean. He said things too. Did he tell you that or did he conveniently leave out those parts?”
“Deuce said he accused you of seeing Ruby? Working on your abilities?”
“Exactly.” Sam nodded. “He didn’t give me a chance to explain.”
“Well?” Caleb folded his arms over his chest. “Are you working with her again?”
Sam looked at him. “She knows what she’s doing.” The puppy dog eyes came out in full force. “She’s got an advantage that we can use.”
“Damn it, Sam.” Caleb rubbed his eyes, the kid’s pleading look mixing badly with the remnants of his vision, the picture of Sam bloodied and broken. “She’s a demon. We’ve talked about this. She’s telling you what you want to hear, what you need to hear. If that sonofabitch siren had gotten to you first, he’d showed up as Ruby with a fucking halo.”
“I know she’s no angel, but she understands what I’m trying to do.”
“And that sweet little ass she body-snatched has nothing to do with it?”
“Now you sound like Dean. You think I’m only attracted to monsters, too?”
Caleb snorted. Meg, Madison, and Ruby were not a good track record. “You do like them with their issues.”
“This isn’t some joke to me,” Sam said. “Ruby takes me seriously. She doesn’t want to hold me back, not like…”
“Not like Dean?” Caleb took a step forward, all levity disappearing. “Is that what you think? That Dean is purposively trying to keep you from reaching your potential? Why would he do that? All he’s ever wanted to do is protect you.”
“He can’t protect me from myself.” The anger in Sam’s tone surprised Caleb, as did the feelings of disgust he picked up from the younger psychic. “He’s doing just what Dad told him to do, as always. He’s trying to keep me from becoming evil because that was Dad’s dying wish. God forbid Dean fail at a mission from John Winchester. He’d rather Dad be right, than see the other possibility-the one where I might actually know what’s best for me. He can’t see who I really am. He doesn’t even fucking know me.”
Caleb held back on pointing out that was one thing both brothers were in agreement on. Instead, he took a deep breath and tried to find that part of himself that could be objective-Switzerland Caleb. It was admittedly a small place, almost impossible to get to in the wake of Dean’s desolation and Sam’s accusations. It didn’t help that both Winchesters were physically hurt, their connection as a Triad making it nearly impossible for Caleb to ignore their pain. He concentrated on the one thing he could agree with. “Your old man fucked up-a lot. But he never thought you were evil, Sammy.”
“He was afraid. He didn’t want you or Mac to train me; he didn’t even want me to know about my abilities. Dad didn’t trust me. Just like Dean doesn’t trust me. He will always be a hunter first. It’s in his blood to doubt and fear what he can’t understand. You’ve said as much. ”
“No.” Caleb shook his head. “You’re twisting my words, putting Ruby’s spin on them. Can’t you see how she’s manipulating the situation?”
“Like I haven’t been manipulated before? My whole life has been one big manipulation. For the first time since Stanford I’m in charge of where I’m going, what I’m doing.” Some of Sam’s heat faded and he took a step closer to Caleb, his eyes pleading for an ally. “I’m taking something terrible and using it against the enemy. It’s the very same thing Pastor Jim did by choosing us for The Triad.”
“What?” Caleb stepped back as Sam’s words sunk in. “Are you insane?”
“Jim knew we were tainted and he gambled on using the enemy’s weapon against them. And it worked. We are the most powerful Scholar and Knight ever to be in a Triad.”
“Sammy, you need to let this go. Dean’s afraid something will happen to you.” Caleb was beginning to feel the same. Guilt tugged his gut. “Jim wasn’t being led by any demon faction. He had pure intentions-our best interests at heart. He was hiding us in plain sight. Protecting us.”
Sam sighed. “Maybe you just don’t want to realize how much we have in common with her.”
“We are nothing like her!” The words were bouncing off Sam like concrete. Caleb suddenly recalled the fact he had never won one argument with John Winchester. It didn’t bode well for getting through to his youngest son. Dean was right, sometimes the similarities were scary. Sam proved his point by stepping into Caleb’s personal space, taking a hold of his jacket.
“When Dean was gone, when we were hunting, you can’t tell me that you didn’t feel different. That you didn’t feel right when we were using our abilities to their full potential.”
“We were grieving. Hurt. Angry. Royally pissed off.” Caleb lifted his hands in a helpless gesture. “Nothing about that time was normal.”
“Nothing about this time is normal. Dean is back, but Lilith is still out there. She’s plotting to bring about the end of the world. The whole world Caleb, not just the one all wrapped around Dean.”
Switzerland Caleb vanished under the poorly veiled insult. He pulled away from Sam’s loose grasp. “This is wrong, Sam. Dean is right about Ruby.”
"Just because my plans aren’t in line with Dean’s plans, with Uriel’s and Castiel’s agenda doesn’t make them wrong.”
“If they’re not wrong, then why hide them? Why keep them from him, from us?”
“For the same reason you hid the amulet from Dean.”
“Goddamnit, Sam!” Caleb wanted to shake him. “Don’t you see you just made my point for me? Using the amulet was wrong and I knew it. ”
“After Dean died, you told me you wished we hadn’t destroyed it. You said you had never felt more powerful than when you were using it.”
“I had just lost my best friend. I wanted a way to bring him back any way I could.”
“Maybe I’m doing this for Dean. I’m going after Lilith. She sent him to Hell. She’s the reason Alistair got his hands on Dean. Are you really willing to forget that?”
Caleb ran a hand over his mouth. “I will never forget that. All I’m saying is there’s probably a good fucking reason the angels don’t trust us.”
“You don’t trust me?”
“Of course I trust you.”
“Then try to understand what I’m doing. Sam tilted his head. ’Please.’
Caleb threw up his mental blocks, as effective as slamming a door and answered out loud. “I can understand a lot of things, but hurting Dean isn’t one of them.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “I didn’t mean to hurt Dean. It was the siren.”
“Notice that Dean didn’t hurt you.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? He knocked me through a door, took a hatchet to me.” Sam gestured to the bruises starting to show on his face. “You saw what he was planning to do. Bobby told me about the vision.”
“His words- his words didn't hurt you."
"That's lame, man, and as usual you are on his side, totally ignoring the fact he was going to kill his brother. At least I was strong enough not to do that . . ."
"You fought it, and Dean didn't because he is weak."
"I didn't say that."
"But Ruby will." Caleb was certain the bitch had her claws in Sam, could almost picture how she would paint this latest hunt, turn it against Dean. He pleaded his case to the Sam he knew, level-headed, logical, fair, Sammy. "You wanted to be a lawyer once. Think about what you're saying before you say it. You can strike something from the record, but the jury still hears it, carries it with them. You know, Deuce. Taking an ax to him wouldn’t have caused half as much damage as that emotional ringer you used."
But the Sam he was searching for evaded him. "Maybe I won't say anything at all."
Caleb straightened his shoulders. "Maybe that’s the right course of action.” He pointed a finger at the younger psychic. “After you say you‘re sorry."
Sam gave him an incredulous look. “I mean it.” Caleb tapped his ring, pointed to the silver band on Sam’s hand. He wasn’t above using a John Winchester move either. “That’s an order.”
Sam shook his head. “Whatever.”
"You're lucky, Runt, don't forget it."
"Lucky that my brother didn't kill me with an ax?"
“No.” Caleb opened the door to his car, grabbing Mac’s old medical bag. He took out the promised meds and tossed them to Sam. ”Lucky that he'll forgive you for just about anything if you really mean it."
Sam looked at the bottle, raising his gaze to meet Caleb’s once more. “If not for the siren, I would have never said those things to Dean.”
Sam’s declaration was as about as comforting to Caleb as Dean’s earlier attempt at a halfhearted grin had been, but Switzerland Caleb accepted it for a white flag. He opened his mind, relaxed his guard, and bridged the distance between them. ‘I know, Sammy. I know.’
Switzerland sucked but it was far better than a possible place in the
distance. A place where Caleb could be forced to make an impossible
Onto Conversations 4: Possibilities