To The Victor Go The Spoils

By: Ridley C. James

Beta: Tidia

Disclaimer: Nothing Supernatural belongs to me.

Timeline: Pre Season Three; Follows directly after the story Temporary Remedy. I suggest reading that one as well as the Prologue to this Paper Tiger.


Chapter 1/11

October 8, 1849
Daniel is worried. The case against Cole is mounting despite his attempts to calm the current of distrust spreading through our ranks. There are those demanding vengeance for the incident at the church. The Guardian has been distracted. I fear it will lead us even further into the growing darkness.

Excerpt From Samuel Colt’s Journal

The crack of the bullet as it left the gun rooted Dean Winchester in place. The echo reverberated against the looming mountains, returning like a boomerang flung with deadly force. Dean remembered the moment with perfect accuracy. Somewhere in the back of his mind, through the thick sludge of sleep, he registered he was dreaming; but it didn’t stop the sensations from flowing as if time had fallen away and Dean was cast ten years into the past, searching for the damn elf.

The experience was similar to how Sam and Caleb explained their visions; like watching a movie you were part of, but being unable to affect any change. Dean saw himself turn to Sam, his voice catching in his throat as he tried to prevent what had already occurred.

Sounds were distorted and sluggish as if an old vinyl LP was on the wrong speed. The visual slowed and he watched the deadly projectile slicing towards its unknowing target in millimeter increments of movement. The air appeared dense like water and Dean could see the wake of the bullet like a missile fired from a submarine.

The psychic turned at the last minute, as if his senses had suddenly picked up on the impending threat. The bullet struck Caleb, momentarily stunning him.

Surprise. Shock. Both raced across Caleb’s features and the hunter fell to the ground unmoving.

Breath-stealing seconds went by and Dean could do nothing but watch his friend struggle weakly, watch him bleed out on the forest floor. No one came to help him. No amount of force Dean exerted changed the frame. He couldn’t move. Caleb was dying and Dean could do nothing but watch. Helpless.

In the real incident John and Bobby had saved Caleb.

In the twisted dream, Dean tried to put himself between Caleb and the slow moving bullet. He would sacrifice himself to save another. But, he couldn't. He had given his life for Sam.

Guilt consumed him. Dean had already watched Sam die. He had only one life, and he would give it up before the year was over if need be. Instead, in the nightmare he watched the image blur morphing between Caleb's death to Sam’s recent demise.

He always knew his life would be forfeit for someone in his family. He regretted he had only had one life, only one deal to make to save one person. He fought to free himself from the crushing weight of the nightmare. Dean pleaded to wake up as Caleb stopped moving, all signs of life fleeing him.


Sam Winchester maneuvered his way through the hallway of Caleb Reaves’s New York town house and nearly stumbled over his brother’s duffel. Dean had staked out the main living area on the second floor as his despite the two bedrooms in close proximity. He feigned thoughtfulness by offering up ‘his’ room to Sam. The oversized flat screen TV and ‘kick-ass’ stereo system had nothing to do with it.

Sam didn’t understand Caleb’s thinking. The man had received the Greenwich Village brownstone from his grandfather upon his graduation from Auburn. Yet, it still looked as if someone was moving in. The area fit Caleb, but the actual living space didn’t. There was little about the place that cried ‘home’, except for the fore hints of Caleb’s personality. A framed black and white picture of a familiar-looking bridge was on one wall, and the mantel over the large fire-place held a few photographs. It had surprised Sam. One of the photos had been of Dean and himself taken at his high-school graduation.

Sam had only been there a few times, but Dean boasted he had his own key. He had no doubt his brother had a hand in the purchasing of all the ‘toys’, including the state of the art video gaming system and large leather recliners planted in front of the flat screen. Then there was the giant futon. The one his brother was currently sleeping on. Sam grinned wickedly at the thought of his brother and Caleb shopping at Ikea. He stepped around Dean’s shoes and shook his head. The place was like a really expensive college dorm room.

The week Sam spent in Vegas with his brother and Caleb was more of a party atmosphere than he experienced his entire time at Stanford. It was an experience of a lifetime. From hotel hopping at the best hotels- Bellagio, The Wynn, and Venetian to the nights they ‘slummed’ at The Hard Rock. Then there were the various casinos and bars, Sam was still recovering. He was surprised Dean wasn’t comatose.

They arrived at Caleb’s yesterday morning and Sam had crashed. His brother and Reaves tried to drag him to a bar called Hogs and Heifers but Sam refused. He awoke sometime in the middle of the night to their return and the sounds of an epic video gaming battle.

Dean moaned in his sleep and Sam shook his head. Caleb managed to get an early copy of Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire for his Wii system. It had been war between the hunters, both determined to master the game and outdo each other. They didn’t seem to care if they were driving Sam insane in the process.

His brother stirred restlessly, a deep frown wrinkling his brow. Sam studied him thoughtfully. Dean was the life of the party in Vegas, even more so than usual. He wondered if it was just the beginning. If somehow his brother was going to try and fit every bit of enjoyment he could into what he thought might be his last year. He also wondered how long his brother could hide his fate from Caleb.

If the psychic noticed anything amiss in their week together he didn’t let on. Caleb assumed they were celebrating the downfall of their greatest enemy. If Reaves knew his best friend’s true intentions, then like Sam it would have been difficult to enjoy the vacation of a lifetime.

Dean’s sharp intake of breath drew Sam from his dark thoughts. His brother was struggling against the Red Sox blanket covering him. “No…no,” Dean muttered.

Having experienced his fair share of nightmares, the younger Winchester moved closer to Dean. It was rare for his brother to be plagued by bad dreams. Sam often thought it was because Dean held them at bay by sheer force of stubborn will. He let his hand hover above his brother’s head, tempted to test his psychic ability to view Dean's dream.

His own nightmares seemed to have disappeared with the yellow-eyed demon, but his psychic abilities were still there to some extent he had yet to fully test.

“Sammy…No.” Dean thrashed again. “Caleb.”

The uncharacteristic tone to his brother’s voice ended Sam’s hesitancy. It was not a time to experiment. “Dean?” He laid a hand on the older hunter’s shoulder. “Wake up.”


The sound of his brother’s voice called to Dean. He latched onto it like lifesaving driftwood brushing against him in open water to escape the torturous dream.

“Sammy?” Dean blinked blearily, fighting his way to consciousness. His brother looming above him in his personal space was an odd comfort. Since the incident with Jake, Dean couldn’t find it within himself to be annoyed by much the younger hunter did. He didn’t even flinch when Sam’s voice took on a soft consoling tone.

“Yeah. It’s me.” Sam took a seat on the edge of the futon. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Dean glanced around the room, instead of meeting his brother’s gaze. The lingering feeling of grief from his nightmare was still shadowing him, making it hard not to think of the way Sam’s face, then Caleb's, looked in death. His hand unconsciously went to his chest where the crushing phantom ache lingered. “Where’s Damien?”

Sam snorted. “Caleb was gone at daybreak, bro. He said something about a run and Tai Chi in the park.”

Dean groaned. “Just more evidence he’s not actually human.” He pushed away the images of Caleb’s lifeless body and rose up on his elbows. “We didn’t finish the game until after three.”

Sam grinned at him. “Just more evidence you two aren’t actually grown-ups.”

Dean smirked. “I’d figured you would have jumped at the chance to go with him-get your Yogi on.”

Sam sighed. “Someone has to work in this unit.”

Dean’s brow creased when he noticed the journal in his brother’s hand. “What are you working on?”

“Nothing big.” Sam shrugged. “Only the two-hundred or so demons we let escape from the bowels of hell. I’ve been talking to Bobby. He's still at Pastor Jim's place. He figured he should check out Jim's books for any information.”

“Right.” Dean yawned. “Those guys.”

“Those guys.” Sam nodded. “It’s not like you and your roomie ‘Damien’ are going to hop to it anytime soon.”

“We’re on vacation.”

“It’s Monday. Vacation is over.”

Dean raised a brow at the John Winchester-like declarative. “You’re just still pissed we made you go on that awesome IMAX ride into insane clownville at Circus Circus.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Shut up.” He gave his brother a challenging glance, playing along with the familiar banter. “At least I didn’t lose my lunch after riding the Stratosphere’s rollercoaster.”

“It was fucking food poisoning,” Dean growled indignantly. “A fact you and Damien chose to ignore while you were laughing your asses off. I could have died.”

“Funny how that food poisoning didn’t stop you from raiding the all night buffet at the casino.”

“I had to regain my strength.” Dean yawned and stretched. “I couldn’t let down all those lovely ladies waiting on me at Pure.”

The youngest Winchester stood quickly before his brother could launch into yet another speech about the hoards of starlets he enchanted in Vegas. Apparently Dean didn’t go for the whole ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’. “You have any idea where Caleb keeps his books on demonology?”

Dean frowned. “Did you try the bathroom? You know what interesting reading those ancient texts make.”

“Funny.” Sam shook his head and glanced around the room. “He said they were here…somewhere.”

“Try his room.”

“I did.”

“Try my room.”

“I did.” Sam glanced at his brother. “I found your Playboys by the way.”

Dean grinned unabashedly. “I have some classic issues stashed here. Don’t worry; they’re going to you in my will.”

The careless words clawed at Sam’s reserves and he moved a few steps away, distancing himself. He didn’t need any reminder of Dean’s impending doom. He sighed heavily, and ignored his brother. “Maybe it’s upstairs.”

He took the wrought-iron spiral stair case two steps at a time, bringing himself to the entranceway at the top. Sam turned the knob and put his shoulder into it when the door didn’t budge. It opened with a pop and the harsh grinding of wood against wood.

The hunter was instantly overcome with the consuming smell of paint and chemicals; but the backlash of emotion was what staggered him. Even after almost a year of learning how to harness his abilities, Sam still couldn’t quite grasp the psychic sensations he could pick up from those he was close to. Caleb’s presence was stronger in this room than in any other. It made him curious.

Sam took a quick breath and entered the space. The wash of morning light flooded the area from numerous windows and a large skylight. It wasn’t an attic as Sam had assumed, but a studio.

Numerous canvases were scattered around the room. They were stacked five and six deep lining the walls. Vibrant seascapes, rocky coasts with tiny ocean-side villages, schooners and lighthouses were cast in soothing tones. The images drew you in and Sam imagined hearing the call of seagulls and pounding of surf.


Dean’s voice behind him pulled Sam's eyes from the paintings. He gestured to the work. “These are incredible.”

Dean nodded. “His mom painted them.”

“They should be hanging in a gallery or a museum.”

“They’re his mom's,” Dean reiterated.

Sam sighed at his brother's disapproving look. There was no use discussing the subject of lost parents with Dean. He moved around the room, his eyes landing on another canvas on the easel in front of the windows. “They’re not all his mom’s.”

The painting was half-covered by an oil cloth, which Sam carefully removed to reveal another ocean scene, but nothing like the work of the late Amelia Reaves. Where she had used light to present the raw beauty and her obvious love of the sea, her son used darkness to show its fierceness and cruelty.

Undeniable talent still lay amidst the broad strokes and intense use of color that sucked the person into the powerful undertow. But the feeling the piece produced was completely different. The sea was captured as if it was locked in battle with Mother Nature. A storm splashed across the canvas in dark blues and steel gray, angry looking and unforgiving. It matched the backdrop of the tempestuous sky above. No ships or picturesque towns were depicted, but there was a focused subject. Something stirred beneath the water, trying to break free from the watery assault. A great winged beast crested the waves, its scaly scarlet head barely breaching its dark prison. A red dragon.

“Caleb did this.” Sam traced his fingers over the slashing signature at the bottom. “T. Seaver.”

“We shouldn’t be in here.”

Dean’s voice was closer, his brother was behind him. When Sam turned, Dean was staring at the painting. He ignored Dean’s comment. “Jess dragged me to a showing of an up and coming artist in Los Angeles. I didn’t know it was him at the time…” Sam hesitated. “We didn’t get in. It was invitation only but Caleb…” The youngest Winchester looked back to the painting, blocking out the thoughts of Jessica and the memories from the one and only time Caleb had visited him at Stanford. “It was before the whole New Mexico hunt.”

If Dean knew about Caleb’s brief foray into the art world, he didn’t let on. “I think it was his only showing,” Sam continued.

Dean was still staring intently at the canvas. Sam recognized the pained expression of misplaced guilt and empathetic suffering, usually focused on him. But there was an unfamiliar emotion lurking in the green gaze -fear. “Dean?”

Dean picked up the sheet and tossed it over the canvas once more. “We’re leaving, Sam. Now.”

Sam followed Dean down the spiral staircase and into the kitchen. “Dude, why are you pissed?”

“I’m not pissed.” Dean opened the refrigerator and studied its bare shelves. “Reaves needs to learn to shop.”

“He said he’d bring back breakfast and coffee.”

Dean closed the door and leaned against it with an audible sigh. “That would be fine if my brother ‘Mr. Studious’ hadn’t woken me up before he got back.”

“You were having a nightmare.” Sam took a seat in one of the bar stools at the island. “What was it about?”

Dean shrugged. “Candy canes and lollipops.”

Sam winced at having one of his usual lines tossed back at him. He wasn’t deterred. “You should tell him about the deal, Dean. Get it out in the open.”

“You should mind your own business, Sam.”

“This is my business. This is all happening because of me.”

Dean shook his head. “Not everything is about you.”

"Right. Whatever." Sam decided not to disagree. It would just be a circular argument leading nowhere. “But, I need Caleb's help working this demon problem. Caleb knows more people than we do. He has a connection we don’t.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Dean snapped.

The younger hunter frowned. His brother was still sensitive to any inference of yellow eyed demon connection. “I meant the cult angle, Dean. And we're going to have to work together. Are you going to be able to do that with this secret hanging over you?"

“I got it covered.” Dean made to move past Sam, but the younger man stood up and caught his brother’s arm.

“I’m going to tell him if you don’t.”

Sam braced himself for the explosion. Instead, Dean surprised him by meeting his determined gaze with understanding. “I get that you want to help me, Sammy. But there’s no getting out of this deal. Not any way that I’m willing to live with.” He pulled away from his brother. “There’s nothing Caleb can do. But I will tell him.” His face hardened. “On my own terms.”

Sam frowned. “When?”

Dean was saved from replying by the ringing of Sam’s cell phone. “You better get that.” Dean took the reprieve, making a quick getaway towards the bathroom. “It could be important business,” he called over his shoulder.

Sam let him go and reached into his pocket to grab the cell. Bobby was probably wondering why he hadn’t called back about the book. Sam would keep hounding Dean. The John Winchester stubbornness had its pay-offs.


“How are the wayward travelers?”

Sam smiled. “Hey, Mac. We’re good.”

“So you managed to keep the two trouble-makers out of jail and other undesirable locales.”

Sam laughed, reclaiming his seat at the bar. “Well I kept them out of jail.”

Ames chuckled. “At least that’s something.” There was a slight pause. “Samuel, I don’t mean to be the voice of doom; but I think it’s time you boys head to New York. I need to talk to all of you.”

“We’re already here, Mac. We got back yesterday. We’re at Caleb's.”

“That’s good. How about you three come over to my place for lunch.”

“Okay.” Sam hesitated. There was a unknown quality to the doctor’s voice. “Is something wrong, Mac?”

“We’ll talk about everything when you boys get here. And tell the two rock stars I promise not to have duck or veal.”

Sam wanted to persist but knew Mackland could be as tight-lipped as his own father when he wanted to be. “Burgers or pizza would be a good bet.”

Ames laughed, but it sounded forced. “I’ll see you soon, Sam.”

Sam ended the connection and ran a hand through his hair. The uneasy feeling remained but he didn’t have time to dwell on it as a door slammed on the first level below. Caleb bounded up the stairs, lifting two white paper bags to Sam in greeting. “Breakfast as promised.”

“Great.” Sam slid the phone back into his pocket. “Dean will be happy now.”

Caleb looked towards the futon. “What? You raised the dead?”

Sam hoped the spike in his emotions was undetectable and that the hard swallow the innocent words induced was only audible to his own ears. He smiled weakly. “Winchesters are talented that way.”

Caleb moved into the kitchen. “Everything okay?” He sat the bags on the counter. “Dean still pissy because I kicked his ass in Dragon Blade?”

“You know Dean.”

Reaves opened one of the bags and pulled out three Styrofoam cups. ”I know you, too.” He placed one in front of Sam. “Soy latte something or other,” Caleb announced, “compliments of the Starbucks around the corner.”

“Thanks.” Sam fiddled with the lid of the drink.

Reaves glanced up at him. “You and Dean have a fight?”

The younger hunter frowned and Caleb held up a hand in defense. “Hey, I’m not trying to read you, man. It’s just you have the ‘look’.”

“The look?” Sam frowned. “What look?”

“The kicked puppy look.”

Sam shrugged, taking a drink of coffee. “I was just trying to get Dean to see my side about something.” He met Caleb’s gaze. “And he was being his usual stubborn self.”

“Ah.” Reaves raised his drink in a mock toast. “Another Winchester talent.”

“You should talk to him.”

Caleb grinned. “About?”

“You know…things.”

“Things like… Politics? Global warming? The Sox’s chance of taking the pennant this year?” Caleb shook his head. “You’re going to have to be a little more specific, Runt.”

Sam was overcome with the urge to tell Caleb. Sam needed to tell him. He wanted someone to talk to about Dean's deal. The weight of bearing it alone over the last week was wearing on him.

Caleb would understand Sam's overwhelming sense of fear and desperate need to find the answers to save his brother. Sam also wanted to give his brother an outlet. Despite how close they were, perhaps because of it, Dean would never be completely honest with Sam about what was going on in his head. “It’s….I mean…”

Caleb paused mid-drink, tilted his head slightly. “Yeah?”

Sam sighed. He couldn’t betray his brother’s confidence, even for his own good. “It’s nothing, man. Forget it.”

“You sure?” Caleb put his drink down. “You haven’t been your usual annoying self these last few days.”

It surprised Sam. The older hunter had seemed blissfully unaware in Sin City. “I’m just worried about the demon stuff…you know.”

Caleb glanced down at the counter. “Yeah. I know.”

“Which reminds me, I couldn’t find that book we were talking about. . .”

“Did you try the downstairs bathroom?”

Dean chose that moment to enter the room, his hair still wet from the shower. “Told you.” He elbowed Sam as he claimed the bar stool beside his brother. “Damien’s as predictable as the day is long.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you two are like an old married couple.”

Caleb reached for the latte he had brought Sam. “I can always take back the caffeine.”

The younger Winchester snatched the cup and slid off the barstool. “Not with those reflexes.” He jutted his chin towards the stairs leading to the first floor office. “I’m going to get that book and email Bobby what he needs.”

“Hurry up. Your breakfast will get cold.”

Dean raised a brow at his friend. “How domestic of you, Dude.”

Caleb grinned evilly. “I bought Lulu’s experimental muffin for Sam.”

Dean snorted. The old lady who ran the bakery down the street liked to create odd-assed recipes for her signature pastries. She made amazing blueberry cake donuts, but Dean worried about the secret ingredients she kept in her back cupboards. “What was it today?”

Caleb waggled his brows and pushed a colorfully wrapped package to Sam’s spot. “Cotton Candy Apple. It has a clown’s head on it.”

Dean matched his best friend’s grin. “Sweet.”

Sam suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs again and both older hunters turned to him with innocent faces. “That was quick,” Caleb said.

“You take up speed reading, Sammy?” Dean asked.

Sam regarded them warily. “No. I forget to tell you that Mac called. He’s expecting us for lunch.”

Caleb and Dean exchanged a look. “Damn,” Reaves swore.

Dean pinned his brother with an accusing glare. “Who told The Scholar we were back in town in the first place, Buzz Kill?”

“He called me!” Sam defended.

“There’s a reason he called you, kid,” Caleb pointed out. “Same reason Jim would seek you out anytime he even smelled a hint of trouble.”

“He knew Sammy wouldn’t lie.” Dean glanced at his brother. “The brat ratted us out all the time.”

Caleb nodded. “And made money off of it.” The older psychic shook his head in disappointment. “You can’t trust him with a secret.”

The Winchester brothers shared a quiet look before Sam cleared his throat. “I guess you both should have thought of that before the trip to Vegas, huh?”

Caleb frowned. “He has a point there, Deuce.” They both watched Sam disappear below once more. Reaves slid a coffee and donut to Dean. “Probably not our brightest move.”

“Yeah.” Dean unwrapped his breakfast. “But we have pictures to implicate him.”

Caleb took a bite of the blueberry cake and nodded. “Smart thinking.” He chewed for a moment. “One member of the Triad goes down, we all go together.”

Dean glanced up. “We’re not The Triad yet, Damien.” He tore a piece off of the donut and studied it. Dean would not see live to see that day come to fruition. Caleb already envisioned it. He was as giddy as a kid at Christmas. “You think that’s what this little lunch summons from The Scholar is? Mac going to make it official?”

Caleb shrugged. “Maybe. The Big Bad is dead. Honestly, he’s given you more time than I expected.”

Dean shook his head. “There’s never enough time.”

Reaves took a drink of his coffee and considered the younger man across from him. “With more time on your hands Deuce, you'd get bored.”

“No, I wouldn’t.” Dean met his gaze. “I’d do more of this.”

Caleb cocked a brow. “More of what?”

Dean gestured around the town house. “Go on more vacations. Hang out with you and Sammy without having to look over my shoulder. Hell, we could go to ball games, to the movies, and stay up playing stupid video games.” Dean took a quick breath; his face took on a wistful expression. “I wish we would have done this more often. We should have.”

Caleb’s frown grew. “Dude, we’re the people they make video games about. Why slay digital monsters when we can blast real ones. Our life is cooler than any damn movie.”

“Yeah.” Dean picked at his food. “Normal is overrated.”

Reaves nodded. “Damn straight.”

They ate in companionable silence. Dean appreciated the other hunter for being comfortable with the lack of noise. But maybe Sam was right. Too many things had been left unsaid. “Are you afraid of anything, Damien?”

Caleb glanced up in surprise at the odd change in conversation. “Come again?”

“I’m talking gut-wrenching, heart-stopping kind of piss your pants terror,” Dean pressed. “The stuff real nightmares are made of.”

Caleb grabbed Dean’s coffee and sniffed it suspiciously. “Maybe Lulu decided to play around with her special brew this morning too?”

Dean rolled his eyes and took the cup back away from him. “I’m serious, man.”

“Okay.” Reaves looked puzzled and amused. He put down the last piece of his donut and dusted his hands together. “You know me. I’m fearless.”

Dean snorted. “Right, Little Miss Muffet.”

Caleb pointed a finger at the younger hunter. “Hey, spiders are not a fear. They’re more like a big annoyance.”

The younger hunter’s mouth twitched. “An annoyance that makes you scream like a girl.”

“Do you really want to get into this little competition? You who made us drive to Vegas instead of flying first class in Cullen’s private jet.”

Dean shrugged. “The most important part of the journey is getting there, Dude.”

Caleb laughed. “Between your music, impromptu singing, and Sam’s pit stops, I could have lived without the momentous road trip.”

“What about water?”

Caleb’s smile disappeared and Dean almost felt bad. His friend looked a little like Dean had sucker punched him. “I hate the water. There’s a difference.” He met Dean’s questioning gaze. “Where the hell is all this coming from, Kid? All the late nights finally getting to you? Or did you and Sammy do some kind of Freaky Friday body switch?”

“Forget it.” Dean wadded up the remains of his breakfast and made to stand up. “I guess a normal conversation is too much to ask for.”

Caleb caught his arm and stopped him. “No. It’s just not really normal for you to want to have a conversation.” He gripped his friend’s forearm. “Sit your ass back down, Deana.”

Dean complied but grumbled an obscenity under his breath. When he was younger he’d been able to talk to Caleb about things, but those times had dwindled away over the years. Dean, like his father, had closed himself off from the other hunters in their close-knit circle. “It’s not important.”

The look on Caleb’s face told Dean the older hunter didn't believe him. “Deuce, if you’re waiting for me to read you, we’re going to miss Mac’s meeting. I can’t get more than your presence and vague feelings from you since the whole incident in Tennessee.”

They had this discussion before. Caleb was frustrated he had lost the ability to read the younger man. Dean didn’t tell him about the writing inside his ring or the visit from the Lady in the pond. He wasn’t sure why; but he was positive the timing wasn’t a coincidence. “Can’t say I’m upset about that.”

“Enjoy the privacy, but if you want me to know something now, you’re going to have to spell it out.”

“What happened to the whole ‘old married couple’ bit?”

Caleb snorted. “I’ve yet to meet one damn woman I could figure out without using my abilities.”

“You calling me a bitch?”

“A whiny bitch.” Caleb grinned to take the sting out of the slam. “Now talk to me so we can get one more round of Dragon Blade in before meeting with Dad.”

Dean started to open his mouth when the familiar tune of ‘Freebird’ interrupted. It was Bobby’s ring and Dean sighed knowing the real world had definitely found them. “Sam jacked his jaw to everybody, huh?”

Caleb laughed. “Funny how he’s super hunter now, isn’t it? Following in big brother’s footsteps.”

“Everybody wants to be Dean,” the younger hunter said before answering the call. “Bobby.”

“Yeah.” Caleb rolled his eyes and removed the leftovers from the counter. “It’s amazing you don’t have your own action figure,” he muttered.

Dean flipped him off. “A trading card would be nice.” Bobby’s voice boomed through the phone and Dean cleared his throat, speaking into the cell this time. “Yeah I’m here.” He groaned at the beginning of a lecture. “I’m not fooling around, man.”

Caleb dumped their trash and turned to face Dean again. He pantomimed stabbing himself in the heart and Dean barely controlled his laughter. “Tell him his hero Elvis is alive, well and living the American dream in Vegas.”

Dean didn’t get a chance as Singer continued informing him of what had taken place while they were gone. “Why aren’t you telling this to Sammy? I thought you two were working on a great plan or something.”

As if mention of his name had summoned him, the youngest Winchester found his way back into the kitchen. “Who’s he talking to?” He asked Caleb.

“Bobby.” Reaves gestured to the muffin on the counter. “Don’t forget your breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.”

Dean completely tuned the mechanic out as he watched Sam unwrap the pastry. He had to give his brother credit. The kid totally schooled his features when he peeled away the paper to reveal the garish red and white clown face painted with icing. “Thanks, dick head,” Sam said, glaring at Caleb as he tore away Bozo’s face and crammed it in his mouth.

Caleb grinned. “You’re welcome, my little Pennywise.”

Dean’s focus was brought quickly brought back to Singer. "I'm sorry; can you repeat that, Bobby? Yeah, yeah, I'm paying attention." Dean pursed his lips and took a step back to try to gain some privacy.

Sam gave his brother a questioning look. Dean waved his hand.

"Damn." Dean rubbed his forehead. "Yeah, Bobby, I know I have to tell them." He glanced at Caleb.

Reaves mouthed the word 'What?', and then gestured for the phone. "You want me to talk to him?"

Dean shook his head. "I said I would tell them, Bobby. I know how you feel. " Dean looked down at this boots. "Thanks, you know, I'll call you back afterwards."

Dean closed his phone, and let his hand rest on it for a moment. He hated being placed in the position to give bad news, but Bobby didn't give him any choice. Singer was forcing his hand. Dean met Caleb’s questioning gaze. "I have something to tell you that you're not going to like."

"What did Singer get us into now? You should have told him we had lunch plans with Mac. . ." Caleb began until Dean interrupted.

"Seriously, Dude, you may want to sit down." Dean wiped a hand down his mouth. "Sam, you too."

The other hunters looked at each other and then did what Dean asked.

"Go on, Dean," Sam urged his brother.

Dean swallowed, searching for the words. "That was Bobby." He repeated the obvious, feeling completely foolish. "He's been researching in The Hunter's Tomb to see if Jim had anything that would help with all the demons. . ."

"And he found something?" Caleb asked. "Dude, what is it? Why all the mystery?"

Dean closed his eyes. "He found something. . ."

"Why didn't he call me about it?" Sam interrupted. "I just talked to him, and he didn't mention anything."

Dean crossed his arms. Both hunters were making a difficult situation worse. "Sammy, he didn't want to tell you. He found Scout. Thought she was just sleeping, but she's gone."

"Scout?" Caleb choked out.

"No way. We just saw her. . . ." Sam had a faraway expression on his face.

"I'm sorry, man." He placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. Sam rested his forehead against his hand. Caleb's eyes had filled up. He wiped away the tears when he noticed Dean looking at him.

Dean felt the lump in his throat grow too. The dog was the last link to Jim Murphy. Harper Lee was still there, but the beagle hadn’t been around when they were kids-not like Scout. She was tied to everything that meant family. Dean sat down as Caleb got up and opened the kitchen cupboard. He pulled out a bottle of half filled Southern Comfort, and poured out three neat shot glasses. He placed the drink in front of each of them.

The hunters quickly downed the burning liquid. Dean coughed, then looked at his brother and best friend. Tears tracked their faces, and Dean felt the wetness on his own cheek. He started laughing.

Sam looked horrified at the reaction as did Caleb for a moment before he started to join in, then finally Sam.

"We didn't cry this much for Dad." Dean said between gasping chuckles, and it made them only laugh harder.

"Johnny said Old Yeller really got to him, so I think he'd understand." Caleb wiped down his face .

"Yeah, and Scout was a great dog. The best a boy could have. " Sam replied. “She was always up for anything.”

“The mutt sure kept Jim on his toes.”

“She wasn’t a mutt,” Sam defended, his mouth twitching at the familiar argument. “She was a Black Labrador-best hunting dog around.”

Caleb refilled their glasses and raised his in toast. “To Scout, a hunter’s best friend.”

Dean nodded. “I’m sure she’s lazing in the sun with Atticus and Jim as we speak.”

“We’ll see her again.” Caleb fingered the rim of his shot glass. “We’ll see all of them again.”

The brother’s exchanged a quick look and then glanced to Reaves. “What? I believe in an afterlife.” He brushed the revelation off with a familiar smirk. “And hey, if Johnny gets to go to the good place of eternal fishing trips, apple pie and sweet tea, I know we’re all set.”

Sam looked at his brother. A pained look that had nothing to do with their most recent loss crossed his features. “I still couldn’t find that book, man.”

Caleb groaned theatrically. “Damn, Sammy. Super psychic you’re not.” He looked at Dean again, his face sobering. “You okay, Deuce?”

Dean nodded. “I will be. Go find the kid his security blanket before he throws a tantrum.”

Sam waited until they were alone. “Tell him Dean. Just go down stairs and get it over with.”

Dean shook his head. “Not now. Not after this.”

“It’s not going to get any easier.”

“You’re right. So why rush?” Dean tossed back the shot of whiskey. “Nothing’s going to change.” He met Sam’s gaze. “I still have 357 days to deliver that piece of bad news.”


A/N: Okay. First, I have to tell you it was hard to let Scout go. Not only was she named after a character in Jim’s favorite book, she was named after one of the best dogs I ever had. My Scout was a goofy big black lab with a heart of gold. I didn’t have him as near as long as I let Sammy’s Scout live, but I will always remember him. I couldn’t even write the conversation with Bobby. That was Tidia. So a big thanks to her. But on a very ironic twist, I just found an 80 pound abandoned black Lab puppy on the rail road tracks a few weeks back. He has now taken up permanent residency at my house. I named him Sammy. He likes to destroy lawn chairs, steal from the neighbors, and carry around baby dolls that belong to the two-year-old princess that runs the place. Pretty much makes him a keeper in my book. So…just a hint, when things look the bleakest, there’s usually an unexpected surprise waiting around the corner.

Onto Chapter 2


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