Talk is Cheap

By: Ridley

Gordon Walker’s heart beat hard against his chest. Sunset was upon him, and he was still helplessly bound to the chair where the Winchesters had left him tied like a defenseless sitting duck. He had worked on the bindings for hours with no success, wearing through layers of his own skin with no slack in the ropes for a reward. Dean was thorough-that was for damn sure.

The pain in his kidneys and the sickening rumble in his stomach had been his major concerns-until he heard the growling engine of a vehicle pull up out front. It had the meanness of the Impala’s engine, but sounded more powerful-maybe even diesel fed. A fleeting moment of terror descended like retractable fangs stabbing into his heart as the idea of being a tasty vampire snack taunted him-even worse-becoming what he hunted. What he hated.

A door opened and closed. Footsteps drew near. Heavy, careful, boot-laden steps. A man-a big man. Gordon struggled, cursed Dean Winchester to hell…the person or thing stopped behind him. He could hear him breathing.

“Damn, dude. Where’s Zander and Willow when you need them?”

That self-assured, cocky voice was unmistakable. Gordon let out the breath he was holding, closed his eyes. “Thank God.”

A long, dark shadow fell across him and Walker craned his neck to look up. “What does a creature of the night like you know about God ?”

“Fucking Reaves.” Gordon laughed. “Maybe I should be thanking the other guy.”

The psychic snorted, did a quick scan of his surroundings. “Wow, looks like somebody had one hell of a party." Caleb Reaves kicked at the broken furniture and glass. He bent down, picked up the blood-covered knife from the floor near Walker, and whistled. “And I wasn’t invited? Too bad. Looks like my kind of scene.”

“Man, am I glad to see your ugly mug. Cut me loose.”

“Damn, Gordo,” Caleb knelt in front of the bound hunter, gave him an appraising look and then shook his head. “The party goers use you as the pinata?”

“Fuck you, man.” Gordon glared at the other hunter. He hadn't seen the guy in a couple of years, but it could have been just yesterday. Now he knew exactly who Dean Winchester reminded him of. Right down to the cocky-smirk and beat-up leather jacket.

Reaves grinned, dimple flashing as he held the knife up, took a deep breath. “Let me guess? You been playing Gordy, the S&M vamp slayer again?” The psychic clucked his tongue in mocking disappointment. “Thought Pastor Jim warned you about that? No wonder you've never made first-string.”

“I've been doing my job, that’s all.” Gordon snapped. The man was questioning him, instead of offering assistance. “Now help a brother out, why don’t you.”

The psychic shrugged, held up the knife again, turning it carefully over in his hands before bringing it down towards the bound slayer. He hesitated. “You know…” Caleb looked around the farmhouse, “I’m getting a whole hell of a lot of interesting vibes from this place.”

Walker blew out a frustrated sigh. He was exhausted, stiff in places he didn‘t even know existed, and dying to take a good, long piss. “Damn it, Reaves. Get your psychic high after you get me the hell up from here.”

The dark-haired hunter rocked back on his heels, looking at him. “Lot of strong emotion. Fear. Anger.” Caleb sucked in a breath, closed his eyes. His head tilted slightly, and he frowned. “Pain, too. Lots and lots of pain.” A lot of it was his own from opening his over-taxed senses, but Walker didn't know that.

“That’s probably me you’re reading, you ass,” the hunter snarled.

Reaves opened his eyes, stared at Gordon. “Nope.” Something flashed in the green-gold depths and before Gordon realized it, his own knife was thrust snugly under his chin. “But I can remedy that.”

“Shit!” The hunter felt the tip of the cold steel blade press against his carotid artery.

“You have been a very bad boy, Flash.”

Gordon closed his eyes, licked his lips and tried to convince himself he didn’t recognize the tone in the other hunter‘s voice. But he could almost imagine the shit-eating, cocky grin plastered on the man’s face. He had witnessed it on occasion-usually before Caleb cleaned his clock playing poker or before he killed something. There was no deck of cards between them now. Still-he hoped fate might cut him a break. “No, Caleb. You‘ve got it all wrong.”

The blade bit into his skin, and a hot breath brushed against his ear. “Would it be too cliché if I said the truth shall set you free?” A slight laugh sent another puff of air across his skin, goose flesh rising along his arms. “Because I work really hard to be original.”

“Reaves.” The vampire hunter practically groaned.

“I mean it, Gordo. Come clean, and I‘ll let you go.” Caleb tightened his hold on the blade.

“I had a run in with some vamps. Damn bloodsuckers had their fun and left me here to rot.”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re not being completely honest with me? Could it be because you’re a shitty liar, or the fact that I can read your pathetic mind?”

Gordon‘s face twisted in anger. “Maybe it’s because you’re holding a fucking blade on me.”

“Turn about is fair play, brother.”

“What the hell you talking about?”

“I’m talking about that stunt you pulled last night. You drew first blood.”

The knife slid dangerously across skin. Gordon bit down on his hiss of pain as a warm trickle of sanguineous fluid zigzagged down his throat. “Goddamnit, Caleb! Let me go.” He bucked wildly against his restraints as Reaves brought the knife across his skin again.

Caleb closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. The smell of Gordon’s fear mixed badly with the scent that he picked up on first. Sam’s blood. A murderous rage flared, steeling his calm resolve. “Like you let Sam go?”

Reaves had seen it all before hand. But touching Gordon had brought the vision back in perfect clarity.

“That’s what this is about?” Gordon snarled. “Look at me! Winchester already kicked my ass. You want a piece, too? Put that pig-sticker away, get me up from here and take your best shot, man.”

The psychic laughed. “Oh, Gordo, I’m not as honorable as Dean. Don‘t have a know-it-all, goody-two-shoes angel buzzing around my head all the time. ” Caleb grinned. “I could finish you without hesitation-let the rats feast on your carcass. But right now I’m leaning towards leaving you trussed up like a calf, poking a few holes in you, and tossing you into shark-infested waters.” Reaves leaned in closer. “The vamps are just outside of town. I know a couple of them. Lenore’s a friend of mine. I bet I could strike a real sweet deal with her. She’s a pacifist and all, but only where humans are concerned.”

“The Brotherhood… there are rules,” Gordon bit out, as Caleb cut him again.

Reaves reached down and grabbed Gordon by the shirt, easily jerking him up and righting the chair in one fluid motion. He braced himself on the other man‘s knees, held his gaze. “You wouldn’t be the first hunter I’ve dealt with. Someone else thought he could do what you tried. He‘s been fertilizing the mountainside behind Jim‘s farm for years.”

“Murphy let you get by with murder?” Doubt flickered in Gordon’s eyes.

“Teacher‘s pet,” Caleb smirked, lifted his right hand, silver ring flashing in the moonlight. “Top of the class.”

“Smug bastard,” Gordon shook his head. “You got some nerve…”

His words were cut off as Reaves once again forced steel into skin. “It’s you that has nerve, Flash. I told you a long time ago what would happen if you fucked with the Winchesters.”

The vampire hunter snorted. “I vaguely recall the part about my intestines and balls being used as a tug of war toy for that group of werewolf pups we were tracking.”

Caleb chuckled. “Damn. We did have some good times.” He pulled the knife down, deftly slicing through the ropes. He roughly thumped the other man across the chest, stepped back. “And in honor of that, I’m going to cut you some slack.”

Gordon took a quick inhale, brought his hands to his throat as the bindings fell away. “Holy shit, you fucked up asshole. You could have killed me.”

“Now you know how Sam felt.”

“Sam?” The vampire hunter stood on shaky, weak legs. He gestured sharply to his pulverized face. “Did you see what his brother did to me?”

Caleb shrugged, crossed his arms over his broad chest. “You got off lucky.” The psychic leaned back against the table. “I’ve seen him dish out worse to schoolyard bullies who picked on the kid.”

“Kid my ass.” Gordon rubbed his aching ribs and shoulder. “Self-righteous sonuvabitch passed ’kid’ about ten inches ago.”

Reaves watched him. “He could be eight feet tall, and about to hit middle age, but he‘d still be a kid to me.” His face darkened, his eyes met Gordon’s. “John Winchester’s kid.”

The vampire hunter shook his head. “Standing in a dead man’s shadow, Reaves? That’s really sad, man.”

Caleb glanced down at the floor, then back up to Walker. “You never did know when to shut up, Gordo.”

The vampire hunter didn‘t have time to block or evade. Caleb moved so fast, swiping his fist out with a hard-right cross. Gordon hit the floor, skidded on his ass several feet, before coming to rest against the wall, in a stunned heap.

Reaves stepped forward, knelt in front of him. “John Winchester was the greatest hunter I ever knew. He made your pathetic attempts at it look like a paint-by-numbers Picasso.”

Gordon raised his head, his hand cradling his aching jaw. “His sons are all that’s left of him. And I promised him I’d watch out for them. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Through the ringing in his ears, the vampire hunter heard the question, recognized it as the reprieve it was-grasped at it like a life line. He nodded slowly.

Black spots danced in his field of vision, but he didn’t miss the look in Reaves’ golden gaze, as he roughly patted him on the cheek. “Good little slayer.”

“You’re crazy, man,” he hissed, spitting a mouthful of blood onto the wood floor. “Fucked up.”

“As long as we’re clear on that.” Caleb stood up-reached his hand out to the man. “Make sure you share it with your faction.”

“Faction?” Gordon took the offered help, but quickly stumbled out of striking range when he was on his feet.

“Don’t play stupid.” Caleb cracked his knuckles. “I know there’s dissention in the ranks since Jim died, since the Knight died. Two of this generation’s Triad gone…creates a whole ‘nother type of lust, huh? Power.”

Gordon grinned. “A new Guardian of the rings will have to be chosen, Reaves, whether you like it or not. And the Triad will have to be complete. New era. New leadership.”

“Your kind of leadership?” Reaves raised a brow. “You think you’re going to be a part of things?”

“A lot of people agree with my way of thinking, Caleb. They’re true hunters in every sense of the word-not bleeding hearts like Murphy.”

The psychic took a menacing step forward and Walker held up his hands-retreating. “You’re a hunter too Reaves. You had no problem with me until John passed his almighty judgment.”

“I’ve gotten smarter in my old age.”

“Softer, maybe.” Gordon sighed. “You and Dean and I could…”

“Leave Dean out of this.” Caleb’s face hardened. “Don’t even think it.”

“All I was going to say was that he’s a real hunter, like us. He has potential. We could help usher the next era of the Brotherhood in.”

“Dean is nothing like you-but you’re right. He does have potential.”

“He’ll have to choose his side eventually-so will you. When the new Guardian is chosen.”

Reaves’ lip quirked. “Jim chose the Guardian years ago, Walker. The choice is already made, ” Caleb replied. “And John chose the Knight before he…left. But until Mackland is gone, there will be no new Scholar. So for now nothing will change. It‘s not our time. Yet.”

Gordon shook his head in disbelief. “Holy fuck! You think you’re going to be the Knight, don’t you?” The vampire hunter stared at the psychic in shock. “Winchester chose you. Didn’t he? He gave you his ring.”

Reaves shrugged. “There wasn’t any other choice really. He groomed me for this position. I earned it.”

“You’re not even fully human!” Gordon spat, disgust rolling from his tongue. “You’ve been tolerated because of your father’s position in the Triad. But you can‘t be a Knight? It would be a disgrace.”

“What? You never heard of a black knight?" Reaves smirked. “You of all people shouldn’t try to keep a brother down, man. What happened to all that equal rights shit? You don’t think demon-kind has a dream, too?”

Gordon continued to look at him in shock, his sharp mind putting the pieces together quickly. “Shit.” He rubbed a hand across his bruised mouth. “That would make that punk Sam the Scholar? Right? He‘s some kind of freaky genius-I‘ve heard. And psychic-like Ames.” The man’s face hardened. “That would mean…”

“Bingo.” Reaves grinned, cockily, obviously enjoying the other man’s sudden realization of his folly. “You just royally pissed off the next Guardian. He may have you beheaded as his first act of office.”

“Shit!” The slayer raked his hands over his short hair. “That’s fucking crazy.” He looked at Reaves. “A Knight that’s a demon. A Scholar that’s…”

“Shut up!” Caleb snapped before Walker could finish his thought. “You don’t know shit about anything.”

“Oh, I know about the prophecy-that it coincides with the 'parable of weeds'. I also know there will be hell to pay over this.”

Reaves clenched his fists, took a menacing step towards Gordon. “Hell’s not taking anything else from us.” Caleb got in the man‘s face. “But if anyone else wants to try-let them come.”

“You’re making a mistake, Reaves.”

“Won’t be the first.” The psychic quirked a brow, handed Gordon his knife back. “Definitely not the last.”

Walker took the blade, glanced up suspiciously at Reaves. “You’re letting me go?”

“Can’t kill the messenger now, can I?”

Reaves grinned. “And I don’t want to ruin all of Deuce’s handiwork. You’re going to hurt like a bitch for a good, long time.”

“Fuck you,” Gordon mumbled, under his breath.

Caleb snorted, and started for the door, but stopped suddenly, and faced the vampire slayer once more. “And Gordon?”


“Stay the fuck away from my boys. I won’t hold back next time.”


Caleb caught up with the Winchesters one town over. His head hurt from tracking them. Mac had warned him against using his abilities, considering the problems he had been encountering. The blinding pain in the center of his skull was a blatant reminder the doctor was always right. Damn him.

The bar was conveniently close to the run down motel and the recently resurrected Impala was easy to spot. Reaves sighed as he pulled John's truck beside the dark beauty and cut the rumbling engine. God, he missed him. He leaned his head against the steering wheel for a moment, opening his mind momentarily, leeching traces of what was left of his mentor's essence-steeling himself.

Straightening, he briefly touched the cross hanging from the rearview mirror. It was one of two things he'd taken from Jim Murphy's body before he and Joshua had burned it. He'd never seen the man without-the crucifix-and his ring. The latter he had taken for someone else.

The cross would stay with him. In John's truck-which had also now become his. After all, the stubborn sonofabitch had insisted he leave the hospital to go get the damn thing. It had seemed odd then. His son was in a coma, and he was worried about the truck-his precious collection of weapons. But Caleb had gone-not willing to begrudge him the little peace of mind he could actually offer. Now-it all made sense. Damn him.

Reaves pushed the door open, stepped out into the cold night air. He tugged at his leather jacket, slid his fingers through his long dark hair, took one last calming breath and headed into the Wooden Nickel.

Sam was sitting at a table in the corner and he quickly made his way through the typical crowd to reach the young hunter. A few interested smiles along the way and a couple of double takes from two particularly fine female patrons gave him the idea that he might not have to pay for a room of his own and it lightened his mood slightly. The pained look on the youngest Winchester's face deflated it quickly.

"Hey, runt. Fancy meeting you here."

"Caleb?" Sam frowned, his expression going to one of confusion. "I thought you were in Manhattan, man?"

"Finished up early. Thought I'd check out those cattle mutilations with you guys." Caleb had talked to Sam a few times on the phone over the past week since they'd gone their separate ways from Bobby's. The kid had told him about the case. "You know I can't resist a good satanic ritual."

A waitress came over before Sam could reply and Caleb grinned at her. "Tequilla."

"Shot?" She smiled back, tossed her copper-red hair over her shoulder.

"Hell no, darlin'." Reaves shook his head. "Bottle."

"You celebrating?" The look she offered him said she might be willing to join him.

"No. Self-medicating." Caleb gestured to his head. "Don't worry though-I have a prescription."

She giggled. Reaves heard Sam mutter something under his breath. "What did you say, Sammy?" He turned and looked at the kid. "You're paying!" He clapped the younger hunter on the shoulder. "Sweet."

"I'll put it on his tab, then." The girl winked at Caleb and started back for the bar.

"You're as bad as he is." Sam jutted his chin towards the pool table, where Dean stood talking to two leather-clad women.

"Nah," Reaves leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest. "I don't get into the whole biker-babe thing. Those Harley chicks can be hard on a man."

"Dean doesn't seem to mind." The younger Winchester picked up his beer, swished it around a few times before taking a long drink.

"Yeah, well, Deuce doesn't have as many miles on him as I do. He'll learn."

Sam raised a brow, a hint of dimple showing. "Did you just admit that you were getting old, Reaves?"

When Caleb's rebuke didn't come as fast as it should have, Winchester gave him a more appraising look. The psychic's complexion shown pale, even beneath the gruff five o'clock shadow, and there were signs of sleeplessness in the form of dark smudges beneath his light-green eyes. "Not old-just seasoned."

Sam's frown deepened and he continued to stare at the other man.

Reaves suddenly winced. He brought his hand up to his temple, as a feeling akin to a sledgehammer slammed into his head. "Goddamnit, Sam," Caleb hissed. "Stop."

Sam paled, instinctively reached out to touch the other man, but Reaves drew away, still holding his head. "Don't," the psychic bit out, between panting breaths.

"Hey? Are you okay?" The pretty waitress was back, her pixie features displaying her concern. She sat the bottle of Tequilla down and two shot glasses.

"I'm good." Caleb forced his hand back down to the table. He inclined his head to the bottle, gave the waitress his most charming smile. "Now that my pain meds have arrived that is."

The woman looked at Sam and then back to Caleb. "Are you sure? Is there anything else I can get you?"

"A sponge bath might be in order," Reaves shrugged. "Maybe when your shift ends?"

She handed the bill to Sam, and winked at Caleb. "Maybe."

Winchester tossed the tab on the table, his eyes still focused intently on Reaves. "What's wrong with you?"

Caleb grabbed the bottle of booze, filled both shot glasses before regarding Sam with a familiar glower. "Nothing's wrong with me." He downed the first, not even acknowledging the slow burn in his chest, before killing the second. "I'm fine."

"Then why didn't I sense you when you came in." Sam realized that the annoying, little tingling sensation he had when Caleb was at the hospital wasn't there at the back of his mind. "And I didn't even push and you..."

Caleb sighed, held up his hand in mock surrender. "Chill with the inquisition, General Winchester." He filled the glasses again. "I'm just experiencing some technical difficulties-that's all."

"Since when?" Sam raised a brow, and the older psychic groaned.

"You and your questions. Jim promised us it was just a fucking stage." He took the next drink slower, already feeling the effects of the first two. At least now he could blink without seeing stars. "Damn him."


The psychic sighed. "Since Johnny." Since the whole world came tumbling down. Caleb slammed the next drink back, dropping the glass to the table with a satisfied smirk when he was finished. "Seems I'm off-line for the moment."

"Did you talk to Mac?"

"Yeah," Caleb rubbed at his neck. "He gave some really interesting speech about the stages of grief and how the repressing of ones emotions can wreak havoc on a person's central nervous system." Reaves looked at the kid, chuckling humorlessly. "Doctor Ames says I just need time to deal with your dad's death. He said that since my abilities first came on-line after I lost my grandma, that it would make sense that another trauma of said nature might switch them off, or at least fuck with them." The psychic forced another smile. "Trauma-big light bulb moment. Who knew?"

"I'm sorry." Sam sighed, looking out to where Dean was back to playing pool. "It's fucked with all of us."

"Yeah," Caleb raked his fingers through his hair, followed Sam's gaze. "How's the tough guy doing?"

"He's different." The younger hunter turned back to Reaves, swallowing thickly. "I've never seen him like this."

"You tried to get a read on him?" The dark-haired demon hunter asked, casually. "Because I would-but I'm afraid I might fry a circuit."

Sam shook his head. "Not really. As you know, I'm not exactly stealthy about it."

"Yeah-elephant in a china shop kind of stealthy." Caleb grinned. "You'll get better, kid. To quote Mac 'just give it some time' "

The younger psychic nodded. "Besides, I don't need special abilities to know what my brother is feeling. He's hurt. More hurt than I've ever known him to be."

Reaves bit his lip to keep from saying what he was thinking. He'd seen Dean this fucked up. Once-about four years ago. For months after Sam left for Stanford, the younger hunter was a ghost of his former self-a zombie-like imitation. But at least then, John had been there. Pastor Jim, too.

Sam rubbed at his eyes. "And I can't reach him. He won't talk to me."

Reaves glanced over to the pool table again, just as Dean looked their way. A hint of surprise showed on his bruised face. It was quickly covered with a cocky-ass grin as Dean flashed a wad of cash he'd just claimed as spoils and pointed at Reaves in a challenging manner. "Maybe he'll talk to you."

Caleb whipped his gaze back to Sam. "What? Me? Why? Did you not just hear me tell you my current diagnosis? I'm to touchy-feely and heart to heart as Bobby is to social graces and elegance."

"Exactly," Sam encouraged. "You two can go out and kill something, get shit-faced together while telling old hunting stories and maybe he'll open up." Sam didn't want to tell Caleb that the same scenario had apparently worked for Gordon Walker, and he was freakin' stranger.

Reaves snorted. "What?"

"Dean's looking for something I apparently can't give him." Sam's mind went to the vampire hunter again. "He needs somebody Dad-like. Somebody like you."


"Please, man."

Caleb took a breath, let it out slowly. "Couldn't we just tie him down and beat it out of him?"

"Beat what out of who?" Dean asked, sidling up to the table, grabbing Caleb's bottle of Tequila and one of the shot glasses. "You tell him about Walker, Sammy?"

"Walker?" Caleb asked, raising a brow in the older Winchester's direction. "That who gave you the new look, Rocky?"

"You going to go kick his ass if I said he did?" Dean grinned, killed his first shot.

Reaves rolled his eyes. "Right. Tell me about him though and I might track him down- compliment him on the fine work."

Sam started to open his mouth, but his brother beat him to it. "Some vamp hunter- said he knew Dad." Dean shrugged as if it had been no big deal. "He was whacked."

"That stands to reason." Caleb nodded, thoughtfully. "Johnny attracted whacked."

Dean laughed, took another drink. "Yeah. He worked with you, didn't he?"

"Only when he needed the best," Reaves smirked, grabbed the bottle from Dean, poured them both another. He gave Sam a thoughtful look. "Your kid brother is buying."

The youngest Winchester gave him a quick, thankful smile and stood. "Just don't wake me up when you drag his sorry ass in." Sam pulled a couple of twenties out of his pocket and tossed them on the table. He met Dean's questioning gaze, and forced a yawn. "I'm beat."

"Wuss." Dean tossed back the drink, claimed the vacant seat.

Sam turned to Caleb. "Will I see you in the morning?"

"What? You think because I let you buy me a drink, that I'm going to stay the night?"

The younger psychic sighed. "Whatever, man."

"Don't worry, kid. I won't leave without a proper goodbye."

Sam merely rolled his eyes and walked away. Caleb glanced at Dean. "He's still so easy."

"Yep. And tormenting him never gets old."

"Always was a better road game than 'I Spy'."

Dean met the older hunter's amused gaze, but quickly looked away. He grabbed the Tequilla and refilled their glasses. Looking at Reaves, hearing him talk about old times, pulled at his all-too-recent, barely-healed wounds. "So, you heard of this Walker guy?"

Caleb took the drink, shrugged. "Gordon Walker?"

Dean nodded.

"Yeah. I worked with him a time or two."

Surprise registered on Dean's battered face. "You never mentioned him?"

"Didn't I?" Reaves shrugged. "I guess it never came up."

"That's convenient."

The psychic raised a brow. "You got something on your mind, Deuce?"

"I just think it's funny that all these 'hunters' are coming out of the woodwork. Why in the hell haven't me and Sam ever heard about them? How did we miss out on being in the loop all these years?"

Caleb shook his head. "There's always been other people in the Brotherhood, man. You know that." They were just shielded from them.

"Are you telling me that Gordon Walker is in the Brotherhood?" Winchester looked doubtful. "He wasn't wearing a ring."

"Yeah, well, not everyone gets a place at the Roundtable, Deuce. Especially slighty psychotic someones."

Dean frowned. "He doesn't have a ring?"

"Hadn't earned one the last time I heard." Caleb tossed back another drink, successfully dulling the last of his headache. "And I don't see him getting one anytime in the future." Kind of killed that dream when he sliced open the Guardian-elect's little brother.

"Right." Winchester toyed with his glass. "With Jim gone and all."

Right. Caleb cleared his throat. "That reminds me." He patted his jean pockets, then dug into his jacket. "I have something for you."

Dean glanced up, watched with all the interest of a kid at Christmas as Reaves searched his person. "Is it bigger than a bread box?"

"Shut up," Reaves growled, finally latching onto what he was looking for. He pulled out the black-velvet bag and tossed it on the table, in front of Dean.

"What is it?"

Caleb sighed, gestured towards the pouch. "One way to find out."

Dean rolled his eyes, made a show of slowly opening the dark folds and peeking inside with feigned distrust. He smiled at Caleb's sigh of impatience and then turned the bag on end, emptying its contents into his hand. His breath caught in his throat, as the cool metal touched his skin. The ring was similar to the one he already wore, but where his was smooth, an etching adorned the silver-like alloy. It was a symbol he knew well. He clenched his fingers into a fist to keep his hand from shaking. "Pastor Jim's ring?" He raised his gaze to Caleb's. "How?"

"I took it before we burned his body." The psychic swallowed thickly. "He wanted you to have it."

"I don't understand." Flashes of Jim raced through Dean's mind-scattered images from throughout his childhood, as well as the last memory he had of him. A summer day at the pond, when the man had sent him home to his family.

"Someday you will." Reaves quickly changed the subject. "So...Sam says we need to talk."

"Talk?" Dean frowned at the shift in conversation. "About what?"

"Oh...I don't know. Weather? Politics? The fact your bastard of a father up and died on us?"

Winchester growled deep in his throat. "You're kidding me, right? That's what was up with his little hasty retreat out of here?" Damn. He thought he had made himself clear on that subject.

Caleb shrugged his shoulders, refilled their glasses. "What can I say? Kid's worried about you. It's in his DNA."

"So he asked you to have a talk with me?" Dean shook his head in disbelief, tossed back the drink with a wince.

Reaves held up his hand, pointed to a barely visible scar that lined his palm. "Hey, we are blood brothers."

The younger hunter rolled his eyes. "Does he not remember what you told me about the 'Birds and the Bees' when I was ten?"

Reaves snorted. "I almost forgot about that." He laughed again. "Damn. John made me run ten miles with a loaded backpack for that little speech."

"It wasn't punishment enough. I was scarred for life."

"Hey-I made it up to you with that little field trip when you were fifteen. Remember?" Caleb pointed a finger at him. "How many kids your age got lucky enough to learn from an all-star. I liken it to being in little league and going to spring training with the Sox."

Dean groaned. "Give me a break."

"Only if you give me one," Caleb said, seriously. "Spill your guts about this whole situation, so I don't have to face the Sammy stare tomorrow."

The younger hunter shook his head, rubbed at his eyes. "You do realize that we don't talk, Reaves. We play pool, or argue, play poker, or argue, pick up women, or argue! The deepest thing you and I have discussed is the timeless beauty of the semi-automatic." It wasn't true, but Dean would be damned if he waxed poetic about his pain-with Caleb of all people. The other hunter had issues of his own to deal with where his father was concerned. He wasn't the only one struggling. Sam was in so much trouble.

"We talk." Caleb held his hand to his chest in mock hurt. "Remember that time when freaky Conner decided to claim Sammy as his heir? I was there for you. Or how about that time you went all do-gooder with that heroine addict? Who set you straight about that? Then there was that Thanksgiving a few years back. We discussed some deep shit, Deuce."

Dean groaned. "We had barely survived a car wreck. We were freezing to death in the middle of nowhere-you with the mother of all concussions and I was hemorrhaging to death. We both thought we were going to die."

"And your point?"

"My point is...hell, I don't know what my point is."

"Exactly." Caleb poured them both another round, although it was becoming painfully obvious that they both had probably had enough. "You don't know shit anymore."

"What?" Dean took the drink, but held off on knocking it back.

"You've lost your point of reference.Your foundation has sustained major damage-your structure's been compromised."

"Are you using engineering metaphors on me, man?"

Caleb took a deep breath. He tried to clear some of the cotton away. "Maybe." Sam was in so much trouble.

Dean laughed. "Dad would so make fun of you right now."

"Me? He'd call us both pussies, and make us drop and give him fifty."

Dean felt his eyes sting. He bit his lip and lifted the glass in a toast. "To good old Dad."

Caleb watched him toss back the drink, sobering as the wave of emotions rolling off Dean slammed into him. The pain was intense, shocking his dulled synaptic bridges, sparking them on and off with knife-like sensations. He welcomed the torture. It seemed deserving, as he realized in that moment he couldn't do anything to help.

It was a sad fact that he would take a bullet for the kid without thinking, cut his own fucking heart out before he'd let someone else hurt him, but he couldn't turn back time. He couldn't bring John back. And he wasn't even able to cut through his own macho bullshit to offer words of comfort. How fucked up was that? No wonder his abilities were screwed.

"Hey?" The sound of Dean's voice had him blinking, and shaking his head.

"You all right, Damien?"

The kid's face came into focus again and Caleb forced a grin. "Peachy."

Dean seemed to have sobered up now, too, and he frowned. "Was it a vision?"

The concern was like a cold bucket of water. Reaves shook his head again. "No. I just have a headache."

"You're not going to puke on me, are you?"

"No," Reaves snapped.

To his relief, Winchester smirked. "I always could drink your ass under the table."

"That's because you inherited your old man's iron stomach."

The kid grinned. "He could put us both to shame."

"And often did."

"Yeah." Dean licked his lips, looked down at Jim's ring he still had grasped in his palm. "I can't believe he's gone. Jim, too."

"Nobody's ever really gone, Deuce."

Hazel eyes met his and Reaves went on. "I mean we'd be out of a job if they were. Right? Part of this world we live in is just smoke and mirrors." He held Dean's gaze a long moment, wishing like hell he could offer something more tangible. "Sometimes we have to believe that for all the bad shit, there's something better just beyond our grasp-just out of sight."

"Like Heaven?"

Caleb sighed. "Maybe."

" think Dad is okay?"

That was the million dollar question wasn't it. "I hope so, kid."

Dean nodded slowly, forced himself to let the next words pass his lips. "Sammy's going to be okay?"

Caleb's brow furrowed, and he winced as he instinctively tried to grasp at what the kid was 'really' asking. But only murky, swirls of feelings assaulted him, and his mind was unable to process them into a cohesive thought. So, he took up the gauntlet that had been left to him. He lied. "Of course he will." Caleb watched some of the hard-edged worry soften, jade melting into moss. "I promise." After all, it was the Knight's job to protect the Guardian.

Finally, Dean smirked. "That little oath officially made it a Hallmark moment. Are you satisfied now? Or did my baby brother insist there be shedding of tears?"

Reaves laughed, scratched at his head. "I really don't think this is what Sam had in mind?" And his abilities were still screwed.

"If Sam had his way we'd be laying on a couch somewhere, letting some shrink flash us ink blots."

"True." Caleb looked around. "I prefer a more tactile type of therapy. Like a relaxing sponge bath, with more intimate types of flashing going on. How about you?"

"Excuse me?"

Reaves gestured towards the bar. "Nurse goodbody over there offered to play doctor with me for the evening." He waggled his brow. "How much you want to bet she has a co-worker who'd give you a pity date?"

"Pity date?" Dean snorted. "I'm willing to bet she takes dibs on examining me, and sticks her friend with the old guy with the prostate problems."

"You wish, Deuce."

Dean watched as Caleb waved the woman over. The phantom burning in his chest eased off just a little as Reaves shot a cocky-ass grin in his direction as the red-head sauntered their way, a blond friend in tow. "Now this is more like it, Damien." Maybe he'd have to thank Sam, after all. "Beats the hell out of talking."

"Talk is cheap," Caleb nodded, drank the last shot of the night. He sighed. "This is definitely what we do best." Both hunters mutually decided-Sam would live to see another day.

Onto Part 2

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