To come to know your enemy, first you must become his friend, and once you become his friend, all his defences come down.
Then you can choose the most fitting method for
his demise.-Tokugawa leyasu
“It's everything I imagined it would be.” Reaves shook his head. “Sort of Road Rules meets Beverly Hillbillies." He shot the oldest Winchester a smirk. "Tell me Granny is not in there cooking up some possum fat back or something, Deuce?”
Dean grabbed their bags from the trunk of the car. “You're welcome to sleep in the Impala again.”
“And miss my chance to stay in tin-can paradise? Never.”
Sam studied the dingy white RV with the bright red awning. “Are you sure this is the only thing she had available?”
“Yes, Sam. I'm sure.” Dean motioned to the other trailers surrounding them. “This is one of her most popular sites. We were lucky that the family staying here got sun poisoning at time trials yesterday.”
“Yeah. We should have picked up some lottery tickets back at the Grab'it and Go with the streak we're having.” Reaves gestured to a large plastic oval with colorful fish painted on it. “Check it out. This place even has a pool.”
Dean elbowed him as he passed. “We've stayed in worse.”
Sam sighed. “We've lived in worse. Still doesn't mean I have to like it.”
Caleb looked at the dilapidated front deck with the numerous clanging wind chimes. “This is why I have the Hilton Rewards card. You know that, right?”
Dean frowned at the psychic. “Stop your bitching. I didn't see you swinging us a place with your charm and American Express card back at the Bear Cub.”
“Obviously we're too far out of civilization for the Ames name to be of any use.” Reaves climbed the rickety wooden steps with care. “And the clerk was missing a fucking X chromosome along with some of his teeth, so my amazing looks weren't a damn bit of good either.”
“Yeah because nothing says loving like the 'I've been hit by a truck' look you're sporting.”
“Right back at you, Deuce.”
Sam rolled his stiff shoulders and picked up one of the duffels. “If you two are done marking your territories…could we just go inside and get some sleep?”
Caleb’s mouth twitched. “We disrupting your aura of peace,Swami Sammy?”
“Something like that.” Sam brushed past Reaves and pushed the door open.
If he thought the place looked shady on the outside, getting a good view of the interior had him considering Caleb's suggestion they check out the idea of house squatting.
Reaves stunned voice beside him broke the spell long enough for Sam to blink. The bright colors had temporarily mesmerized him. “Yeah.”
Dean dropped the rest of their bags on the bright purple carpet. “Either some really obsessed country music fan decorated this place or our last tenant was a serial killer with a thing for buxom blonds.”
Pictures of Dolly Parton graced almost every wall surface. Butterfly curtains as well as matching bed spreads and throw pillows in the shape of the winged insects graced all the furniture.
“Excuse me?” Dean looked at his brother.
“It's a theme park here. Huge. Like Disneyworld but without the mouse.”
Caleb whistled and studied an up close body shot of the star. “But with two very special Space Mountains.” He grinned. “I always liked fun rides.”
“I guess this is what Maggie meant when she said it was well endowed with amenities.”
Sam didn't find the humor in the situation. The place creeped him out. Dolly and the brightly colored butterflies were conjuring up his phobia of clowns. “I don't know if I can sleep in here with all these eyes.”
Dean and Caleb looked at the other hunter. “Eyes?” Dean grinned. “What eyes?”
Sam groaned, dropped his bags and headed for the small room he assumed was the bathroom. “I call first shower.”
Both men ignored him, still taking in the ample cleavage. He easily heard his brother's voice through the thin metal door. “You think they're real?” Sam sighed. It was going to be a very long night.
At least the shower worked and Sam was grateful the bathroom was adorned with bears, instead of Dolly. Apparently, someone realized having the smiling star for an audience might not be welcomed although his brother and Caleb would have probably enjoyed it. He came out to find Dean rummaging through their bags and Caleb stretched out on the bottom bunk bed with Sam's laptop resting on his legs.
“You find anything out about that company?”
“Oh yeah.” Caleb nodded. “It's all starting to make sense.”
Sam moved past his brother to claim a seat on the edge of the bed. “What?”
“Hancock Paper and Printing just happens to own their own logging company. Seems they don't mind doing the dirty work of getting raw materials themselves instead of contracting out to larger, more well-known sources.”
The youngest Winchester frowned thoughtfully. “But aren't we in a middle of a national park? It should be protected.”
“Should being the key phrase, Sammy. Seems some kind of legislation passed allowing so much of the forest to be clear cut.” Dean offered as he continued to tear through their things. “Maggie wasn't too happy about it. She said a lot of the tree huggers are miffed.”
“They should be, Dean. Removal of trees can alter species and cause nutrient depletion. It can also cause habitat loss, increase water temperatures, and cause soil erosion.”
“Whatever, Mother Earth.”
Sam looked at Caleb as if he should say something. Reaves shrugged. “I'm with you and Al Gore, kid, but not all logging companies are the devil. Tri-Corp worked with some who did a lot to help the environment. You can't stop progress.”
“But not this particular company?”
Reaves met Sam's gaze. “Smaller operations have to cut corners to compete, underbid the competition. It's dirty, but a lot of rich men have made their first million doing much worse.”
“Try remembering that when everyone finds out that money can’t be eaten.” Sam raked his hands through his still damp hair. “So two people with ties to this company have died in bizarre ways. In ways that suggest that elementals are possibly to blame, especially now there is the connection to the land being damaged. Have you ever heard of anything like this happening before?”
Caleb hit a few more keys on the computer, going back to some of Sam’s original notes. “Not exactly. But we've pretty much ruled out a haunting, considering the locations don't fit, and the ways of death are different, too. No burial grounds nearby, and the whole curse thing didn't pan out.” Reaves moved his gaze to Dean. “Deuce, while you're ransacking our stuff see if you can throw John's journal this way. If I remember right, he ran into a situation like this a few years back when we were working those jobs in Colorado.”
“What are you looking for?” Sam asked as his brother tossed Caleb the leather book, and went back to his search.
“Found them.” Dean help up a medicine bottle, giving it a little rattle.
“Hot pink wall paper giving you a headache?” Caleb caught the book, and began flipping through the pages.
“No.” Dean moved to the sink, filling a glass of water. “These are yours.”
Reaves glanced up, raising a brow. “You're joking. Right?”
“Mac said you needed to finish them all.”
The psychic frowned. “Yeah, well, Mac's not here.”
“But I am.”
Caleb shook his head. “And you're a doctor now?”
“No. But I don't have to be a MD to see you're not exactly on the road to good health.”
Reaves sighed. “Look, Deuce, cut the mother-hen routine. It's getting old.”
“So is your 'I'm one hundred percent' act, Champ. Face it. You're not up to covering anyone's back.”
Sam felt the spike of tension radiate in the cramped space. Reaves handed him the laptop, dropping the journal on the bed as he stood up. “You think you can bench me?”
Dean didn't back down. “I'm just calling it like I see it.”
“Only one man I know that could pull that and last time I checked Johnny was long gone.”
Sam tried to focus on the garish grape-colored carpet covering the floor of the RV. He preferred not to get drawn into the rare confrontation between the two older hunters, but Caleb's words had him glancing at his brother. He watched Dean tense. A few months ago those were fighting words.. Instead he roughly tossed the bottle of pills at Caleb.
“Take the damn medicine and go to bed, Damien.”
Reaves caught the pills, shoved them in his pocket and started for the door of the RV. “Fuck you, Deuce.” It was time to put some space between them before he did something he would regret.
“Where the hell do you think you're going?” Dean demanded, stopping short of reaching out and grabbing the other man. “We're in the middle of a job.”
“Don't worry.” Caleb stopped at the door and smirked. “I'll make sure not to drink or hustle, or pick up any women while I'm out.”
“Stubborn sonofabitch!” Dean yelled at the closed door once Reaves had gone. He turned a fierce gaze on his brother. “What?”
Sam raised a hand in surrender. “Nothing.”
“Don't give me that,” Dean snarled. “I know you're over there analyzing every little detail. I can see the hamster wheels turning in that cage of yours.”
“I was just going to say that maybe you should remember how you like it when I tell you what to do.”
“You know…” Sam motioned between them. “I suggest something completely reasonable to keep you safe or to help you out and you inevitably take it as a personal assault against your manhood. An attack on the ability to take care of yourself and me and then you end up getting all defensive. Then you're pissed as hell at me for just trying to do what was best for you out of concern.” Winchester shrugged. “You usually end up in trouble afterwards, like tied up about to be scarecrow food or being used as a punching bag for a psychotic hunter.”
Dean exhaled heavily, looking longingly at the door. “You think I should go after him?”
Sam turned his attention to the laptop. “Whatever you think, man.” They were big boys. They could figure it out themselves. And besides, he knew for a fact all the weapons were still packed.
“This new Zen attitude of yours is really beginning to be a bitch, Yogi Sam.”
Sam continued to type. “Mac said I needed to think positively.”
Dean grabbed his jacket and Caleb's from the chair and started for the door. “Yeah, well, Mackland's not here.”
He didn't give his brother a chance to reply as he stepped outside into the cool spring air, surprised when he caught sight of Caleb leaned against the passenger door of the Impala, speaking into his cell phone.
The older hunter glanced up at his approach but his face gave away nothing about who he was talking to, or how he felt about Dean following him.
“Look, we'll call you back if it pans out.” With that Reaves shut his phone and raked his gaze over Winchester. “Sawyer said we should look for a special bush.”
Dean's brow shot up and he shoved the other man's jacket towards him. “That sounds kinky.”
The psychic rolled his eyes, but slid into his leather coat. “It's some kind of flowering plant that air elementals are drawn to. He says it would be in the highest spot of the area.”
“So, we need to plan a picnic into the forest tomorrow.”
“We?” Reaves crossed his arms over his chest. “Does that mean I get to go to Grandma's house, too, Red?”
“Look, man. I'm just trying to …it's just…you're still hurt. I'm watching out for you. That's all.” There had been so many ’what ifs’ lately. Dean wasn’t going to take any chances he didn’t have to.
“I get that, kid, and I appreciate it. Really.” Reaves snorted. He was trying to see Dean's point of view. They had been through a couple of close calls over the last few weeks-his run in with the hunters, subsequent coma, Sam's disappearance and possession. Still, he couldn't let things continue. “But damn it, Deuce. I keep expecting you to mash up my fucking food for me so I don't choke to death on it. I'm not a hundred percent, but I'm not an idiot either. Just ease up.”
“I didn't say you were.” Dean inclined his head. “Although I got to say…”
“I'm not stepping down from being The Knight!” Caleb growled in frustration. The kid was driving him crazy. He had been badgering him about declining the position since returning his ring. It was ironic. It was that very act that sealed Reaves decision. His job as The Knight was what he was truly meant to do.
“I made a promise to your dad, to Jim. I wouldn't take it back, even if I could.” They had been dancing around the issue of Reaves being the next Knight and of Sam being the Scholar. If Dean couldn't accept their positions how the hell was he going to handle his proposed role.
“You were a kid.”
“I wasn't a kid, Dean. Hell, I stopped being a kid when my parents died. The Brotherhood saved me.”
“This isn't exactly a fairytale, Dartanyan.” Dean understood all too well how Caleb felt about the other hunters-how he had idolized them when he was younger. How he strove to emulate them even now. Dean felt the same way. But now the cost was too high.
“Yeah. Well, it's all I have.”
“You had Tri-Corp.”
So they were back to that conversation. “Dean…”
“I find it hard to believe that Jim wanted this for you.” The younger hunter glanced back to the RV, lowering his voice. “That he wanted it for Sam.” Dean wasn't sure which one of his brother's 'destinies' had him more worried.
“Jim knew he had to prepare the next generation. He only did what he thought was right.” Caleb sighed. “It's not a curse, Deuce. It's a legacy.”
“When it puts you on a hit list, I consider it a bad thing.”
“The nature of our work puts us on lots of shit lists in case you've forgotten, Dillinger.”
“I haven't forgotten.” Dean held the other man's gaze. “I remember everything. Maybe it's our work that is the problem.”
Reaves rolled his eyes at the implication. There had been some bad things he wished they both could forget, but he wasn't buying Dean's new job philosophy. At least the kid had given up the idea of quitting hunting all together. Now he just wanted to shirk the whole Brotherhood tie. But they were born to be hunters-destined to guide the next generation of The Brotherhood. According to Jim, it was their birthright. “Yeah, your memory is like a steel trap. Like Dumbo.” Caleb tried for a smile. “Even have the whole scared of mice thing going on for you, too.”
Dean scowled. “I'm not afraid of mice.”
“That's good, because field mice are notorious in this area and as you so kindly pointed out., I'm not up to watching your back. It's likely a few will get past me.”
“I didn't mean it that way. I trust you to watch my six. More importantly, I trust you to watch Sammy's. There's no way in hell I'd go for this whole Scholar thing if you weren't playing Lancelot.”
"Because that is the way it is supposed to be. I watch over you and Sam. You watch out for Sam." He wanted Dean to realize that there was no reversing the hierarchy.
Dean held Caleb’s gaze, knowing what the other man was saying. He also knew where his father had fallen in Caleb’s little pecking order of protection. John watched out for Reaves, but now that spot was empty. But mentioning it would have been a moot point, and painful for both of them. " So, who's Sam supposed to watch over?"
Reaves snorted. "No one. He's supposed to annoy us, like what he's doing with this Zen shit."
Dean laughed. "So are you still pissed at me?"
“That depends…” Reaves jutted his chin towards the road they had come in on. “You willing to bend the whole no alcohol rule Mackland has guru Sammy enforcing and go grab us some beer at that hole in the wall we passed coming in.”
“I know it's shitty, but if I don't get something to take the edge off besides these freakin' pills I might smother Sam in his sleep.”
“If he downloads anymore chanting music I might beat you to it.”
“Buy me a beer and we'll forget the whole thing where you tried to order me around .”
“Mackland told me I could order you around. He called it The Scholar Mandate.”
Caleb pushed off the car. “The Scholar Mandate works on me about as well as The Hunter's Handbook used to work on you.”
Dean shrugged. “Yeah well, good thing we still have Sammy to use them on.”
Reaves grinned. “What will we do when the little tyke grows up?”
“Never happen. Sam is like Peter Pan.”
Caleb laughed, opening the passenger's side door of the Impala. “You realize that makes you Tinker Bell. Right?”
rolled his eyes, pulling the car keys from his pocket. He'd call his
brother from the store and see if he wanted anything. “Shut up.”
Onto Part 3
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