Toy Soldiers

By Ridley C. James, January 2007

Beta: Tidia

Rating: T-language and situations

Disclaimer: Nope. The boys are not mine.

Words: 7.818


“The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat, The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet, The brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground, Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round, The bivouac of the dead.” -Theodore O’Hara

“I’ll call your five and raise you ten more.” Oliver Havers, aka Moose, tossed several chips into the pot and grinned his wide, toothy smile at the other players around the table. “I have a gut feeling about this.”

“That’s probably that green chili burrito you had for lunch, Moose.” Fin Davis smirked at the other boy, glancing back to his cards. “Besides, how do we know you have the money to back up your big mouth? Last time I checked you were still in the hole from last week’s game.”

“Shut up, Huck.” The football player used his teammate’s nickname. “I don’t see you giving Skid Row any grief about his bet.” Moose gestured to the poker player opposite of him. “He’s in for a whole lot more than me.”

All eyes went to the quiet, dark haired teen at the end of the table, who was studying his own hand with slight interest. The kid lifted his amber gaze to the blond and shrugged. “It helps to have a trust fund, Moose.”

“And it doesn’t hurt that he never loses.” Lee Connelly, the fourth player at the table, sighed and stretched his lanky frame. He shook his head at Fin and folded his cards. “I’m out.”

“What? You’re abandoning a brother, Lee?” Fin shook his head in disgust. “Leaving me alone with the two white boys?”

“I’ll watch your ass at the game on Saturday, but I’m not risking my paycheck, man. I have a date with Sharon.”

“It’s a sad state when a man of your athletic stature has to pay to get laid, Connelly.” The dark haired kid gave him a dimpled grin and flashed his hand. It wasn’t a typical night that found him in the company of his college peers, but even he had to admit it wasn’t as bad as he had imagined. “I sure hope these other boys have my luck with the ladies seeing as how I’m taking all their money.”

“Shit!” Fin cursed, eyeing the four queens and the deuce, which had been designated ‘wild’.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

“I never joke about cards.”

The dark-skinned youth hauled off and punched Havers in the shoulder. “You just had to ask your freshman roommate to join in our weekly game, Moose?”

“Hey! It was your idea.” The other boy groused, rubbing his massive bicep with a look of bruised feelings.

Fin sighed. “Yeah. Well, that’s when I thought he was some pansy-assed, rich white boy who thought Bridge was a type of poker.”

Moose flashed the man in question a quick grin. “How was I to know he was a dog in sheep’s clothing?”

“That’s wolf, Einstein,” Lee told him with a roll of his eyes. “Damn you better be glad you’re quicker on the field than you are in the classroom.”

Moose took the good-natured ribbing with another grin. “With my looks and skills, who needs smarts?” He glanced to his roommate. “Besides, Skid Row is going to get me a sweet job after school, so I’m set.”

“A job?” Fin shot the dark haired teen a skeptical look. He had been the one to tag the new kid with the name ’Skid Row’ after finding how untypical the multi-millionaire heir was. Fin found him almost a kindred spirit to his friends back in the old neighborhood. “You really think Moose is the Fortune 500 type? Damn, you’d be better off bringing my black ass into your daddy’s fancy company. At least I have the minority card.”

“Grand father’s company.” The kid corrected, picking up his beer and killing what was left in the amber bottle. “My dad’s a doctor and no matter how many times the coach red-shirts the big guy, I really don‘t think Moose is going to make it into med school.”

“Right.” Fin rolled his eyes, with a half-grin of his own. “I forgot.”

A knock at the door interrupted any reply and Moose nearly sent the card table crashing to the floor as he leapt to his feet. “Thank God! The pizza’s here. I‘m starving.”

Oliver ignored the chorus of insults tossed at his back as he maneuvered through the dormitory suite to get to the entrance. “It’s about time,” he huffed as he threw back the door, prepared to argue the thirty minute time frame that would allow him and his college pals a free meal. “And don’t even try that bad weather spiel on…” He stopped in mid sentence, finding no pizza boy, but instead a shivering kid standing in the hallway. The boy couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve, definitely not old enough to drive.

He was drenched from the storm which had been raging outside for the last hour. The boy looked half frozen even though the rain had yet to turn to snow. His light hair was plastered to his head, his face held an array of nicks and cuts, all offset by an impressive black and purple bruise that framed one of his mossy green eyes. “Don’t tell me Domino’s is using child labor now?” Moose smiled, glancing down the hall behind the kid. “Is this some kind of sympathy tactic to keep customers from demanding their due or did those jerks in E7 send you up here?”

The kid frowned, shifting from foot to foot. He looked up at the giant that had opened the door, and did his best to look unimpressed by the bulk or stature. He only had one thing on his mind, and he’d made it too far to let some Hulk Hogan wannabe stand in his way. “Is Caleb here?” he asked, trying to keep the chattering out of his voice.

“Caleb?” Moose straightened up, his smile growing. “Who’s asking, Little Dude?”

The boy exhaled loudly, obviously not in the mood for the twenty questions. “None of your fucking business, Herman Munster.”

“Don’t tell me.” Moose rolled his eyes. “You’re a relative.”

“Good guess. Now is he here or not?”

Moose stepped back and waved the kid in. “He’s here. Come in but leave the bad attitude outside if you don‘t mind.”

The boy tossed a glare in his direction, which spoke volumes about what Moose could do with his suggestion and stepped in. Oliver had no doubt the kid was related to Reaves now. He noticed the slight limp and frowned. The boy looked like he’d gone up against Auburn’s defensive line. Sort of like Caleb Reaves had the first time he met him, nearly five months before. “In here.” Moose laid a hand on the blond’s shoulder to point him in the right direction, but the boy jerked away.

“I got it,” the kid growled. Oliver moved around him with a shake of his head to push through the swinging doors that separated the living room from the small kitchen area.

“Yo, Reaves, you’ve got company.”

Caleb was leaned over another hand of cards, having been kind enough to let Fin try and win some of his money back, when Moose’s booming voice had him glancing up. He didn’t know who he expected, but the face that greeted him sent a spike of fear and dread knifing through his gut, the proverbial house of cards crumbling around him. “Deuce? What the hell…” He dropped his sweet hand, the game forgotten. Standing quickly, he made it to the kid in two steps.

“Hey,” the boy replied, his eyes filling the instant they met Reaves’s dark gaze. “I was in the neighborhood.”

“What are you doing here?” Caleb knelt in front of him, his hands gripping Dean’s shoulders, as his eyes raked over the kid‘s face. “Are you hurt?”

Dean shook his head, biting his lip to keep his feelings under control. He was vaguely aware of the other people in the room, the curious eyes on them, and the instinct to stay quiet in front of strangers overrode any desire to seek comfort for himself. “I’m okay,” he managed, but Caleb didn‘t look at all convinced.

“God, you’re like ice.” Caleb grabbed a tattered blanket from the back of the futon and tossed it across Dean’s shoulders. A thousand thoughts ran through Reaves mind. None of them good. “Is Sammy okay?” The question had Dean choking back a sob that threatened to shatter what little bit of composure he had left, but he quickly nodded.

“Caleb?” Moose’s voice was full of concern and he glanced up at the other teen. “Do you need me to call somebody? Does he need a doctor?”

“No.” Both Caleb and Dean answered at the same time. Fin and Lee exchanged knowing looks, both standing up from the table.

“It’s okay.” Caleb glanced from Dean to the other guys in the room. “This is Dean…my nephew,” he explained. “I got it covered.”

There was another knock on the door, heralding the real pizza deliveryman, and it gave Reaves the chance to move them out of the spotlight. “I’ll take care of the kid.” Caleb stood, turning Dean towards a door off to the right. “You boys eat.” He waved them off. “We’ll be fine.”

Caleb opened the door to his bedroom, ushering Dean in, glancing back over his shoulder when he heard Lee mention something about even rich families being fucked up. He sighed, his hopes of completely keeping his personal life private and to himself forgotten. “I’m sorry,” Dean said as soon as they were alone, as if he could read the other boy’s thoughts. “I didn’t know where else to go.”

“Deuce.” Caleb gently pushed him down on the bed and squatted in front of him once again. “What the hell are you doing here? How in God’s name did you get here?”

“I took a bus.”

“A bus?” Caleb shook his head. “By yourself?”

“I’m not a baby.”

Reaves ran a hand through his hair. “You’re eleven. How did you even buy a ticket?”

“I paid a guy to do it for me.”

“Damnit, Dean.” A hundred worse case scenarios ran through the nineteen-year-old’s mind and he sighed. “Do you know what could happen to you? Riding a fucking Greyhound alone?” Caleb didn’t even want to know how the kid made it to the school. The bus station was almost thirty minutes away by car.

Dean snorted. “No worse than what happened to me already.”

Caleb frowned at that, reaching out to tilt the boy‘s head so he could get a better look at his face. “What did happen to you, Kiddo? You look like you went a few rounds with Tyson.”

When Dean didn’t answer but merely shivered, Reaves pulled at the boy’s jacket. “Come on. Let’s loose the hypothermic wardrobe? Huh?”

It took a while, but they slowly got Dean divested of the wet clothes and into an old ball shirt and ancient sweats of Caleb’s. Reaves wrapped the blanket back around him. “You still cold?”

The blond shook his head and Reaves sighed. “Enough with the mime-act. Talk to me.”

He had noticed the bruises on the boy’s back and side and it was enough to have him questioning his brash decision not to do a hospital run. He needed to know what was going on. “What the hell happened?”

Dean looked up at him and when he did Reaves wasn’t sure he recognized the emotion in the familiar green eyes. “I don’t want to do it anymore, Caleb.” His lower lip trembled and his green eyes filled again. “I don’t want to be a hunter.”

Caleb’s frown deepened as did his worry. Dean had wanted to hunt as long as he had known him, always begging his father to be allowed to help on the less dangerous gigs. When the kid turned ten and was finally allowed to tag along on a couple of simple hauntings; you would have thought he won the lottery. “Dean, tell me what happened.”

Because something obviously had. No way would Dean not want to hunt, nor would he have up and taken off in the middle of the night to come to Alabama alone. Caleb didn’t even want to think about what John was doing at that very moment. “Spill it, Deuce, or I’m going to call your old man.”

“No!” Dean grabbed his arm, even though Caleb had made no move towards the phone by the bed. “Please. Just let me stay here.”


“I don’t want to go back to that house. Dad will make me.”

Caleb exhaled loudly, joining the boy on the bed. “Dean, you’re not making any sense.”

“It was a poltergeist,” he confessed and Reaves picked up on the wrongly placed guilt. “I was supposed to help Dad trap it in one area of the house, but it got past the rock salt and I couldn’t get away from it, and…” There was an uncharacteristic tremble in the kid’s voice and the fear rolling off of him was singeing every nerve in Caleb’s body. The psychic shook his head, holding up a hand for Dean to stop.

“It’s okay. I get the picture.” And he did. Vivid images were flashing through his mind unbidden. The connection to Dean was strong and he could feel every bump and bruise as if they were his own.

Dean wasn’t assuaged, more tears fell and the kid kept rambling. “It just kept coming after me and it hurt, and… Sammy was there and he was crying. I kept trying to yell for Dad but he never came and…”

“Hey,” Caleb reached out, cupping the back of the kid’s neck when Dean started gasping for breath. “Take it easy. It’s okay. You’re safe now. Sammy’s okay.”

Dean wrapped a hand in the older boy‘s shirt, shaking his head back and forth. “But…he said I had to go back and finish it tomorrow. Like… a ….stupidhorse.”

Reaves frowned when Dean actually buried his head against his chest, folding into him like he had only a few times before when he was either terrified or sick. “A horse?” Caleb asked, running a hand over the boy’s hair, trying to get him to calm down. Then it came to him. The old adage about the only way to get over the fear of being thrown was to climb right back into the saddle. That sounded just like John. Damn it. “You’re dad didn’t finish it?”

He felt Dean shake his head. “I guess it knocked me out and when I came to we were back at Pastor Jim’s.”

“Damn, Dean. You took a bus from Kentucky?”

Again the boy nodded, and Caleb felt the small tremors still running through his slight frame. “I knew Sammy would be safe with Pastor Jim…and I didn’t have enough money for two tickets.”

“Dean, man, Johnny is going to freak.” And the kid thought the poltergeist was bad. “We need to call him and let him know where you are.” John Winchester didn’t like anyone disobeying the chain of command, especially his sons.

Dean pulled away, a look of panic replacing the one of fear. “No.” He blinked, pulling out all the stops. “Please, Caleb. Don’t make me go back. Please.”

And in the end they both knew it would be impossible for the older boy to ignore the tone or the imploring gaze was made even more potent by the black eye and other injuries. “Fine,” he growled, pointing a finger at the kid. “But first thing in the morning…” After all, the most important thing was that the boy was safe.

Dean nodded. “I understand.”

Caleb glanced at the clock that showed it was nearly midnight. He pulled back the comforter with a huff. “Now go to sleep. It’s way past your bedtime.”

“Bedtime?” Dean frowned, a hint of his usual cockiness shining through. “They don’t have bedtimes in college.”

Caleb laughed. “Yeah, but the last time I checked you were in the sixth grade.”

“But I haven’t even had dinner yet.”

Reaves raised a brow and the kid shrugged. “And I smell pizza.”

“You are so pushing your luck, Brat.”

Despite Caleb’s warning, Dean’s luck held up, garnering him the last three slices of the pie and a good chunk of Fin and Lee’s money after he surprised them with his poker playing expertise. Caleb had to buy him out of the game before the others would leave, and even then Fin had accused Reaves of setting him up with the mini-shark, demanding a rematch at a later date.

The eleven-year-old had rubbed it in, telling them not to feel too bad. He then, in typical Dean fashion, pointed out most college athletes had significantly low IQ’s, and he was pretty sure his baby brother could have held his own with the geniuses at the table.

His ballsy act had Moose eating out of the palm of his hand and offering to show him around campus the next day while Caleb was at class. And despite that little voice that said John was going to kill him, Reaves caved yet again.

It wasn’t like he could actually blow off his schedule, and what difference did it make if Dean was sequestered in a dorm room or out in the fresh air. Still, it was nearly three in the morning before he’d convinced himself he was doing the only thing he could and close to four when he finally fought his way to sleep on the rough carpeted floor, having sacrificed his bed to his uninvited house guest. So, when the phone rang at eight o’clock in the fucking morning he wasn’t in the best of moods.

Despite his body’s protests, he scrambled to grab the offending device before it could wake Dean, or worse, Moose, who had another line in his room. “What?” He growled, collapsing back to the floor and pulling the quilt over his head.

“Caleb?” His father’s sharp voice did nothing to calm his aching head and he blew out a frustrated breath.

“Caleb has left the building and will not return until a fucking decent hour of the day.”

“Watch the language,” Mac snapped back, and Reaves sighed.

“Dad, why are you calling in the middle of the night?”

“It’s morning.”

“For you maybe.”

“The last time I checked we both resided in the same time zone, young man.”

“Yeah, well college time and old person time are notoriously askew.”

“I see you have been taking advantage of the new thesaurus I sent you.”

“Did you really call to talk about my vernacular, Mac?”

“No.” He heard his father take a deep breath as if bracing himself. “I wish that were the case, but I’m afraid I have some bad news, Son.”

“What?” Caleb rolled over on his back, pushing his thoughts aside, just in case his father could pick up on his surge of emotion.

“Do you have any important classes today?” His father’s typical attempt at redirection had him rolling his eyes.

“Yeah. I have a test, and a paper to turn in. Why?”

“I was hoping you could fly out to Kentucky.”

“Dad…”Caleb started, but his father cut him off.

“It’s Dean. He’s gone missing.”

“Dad…” The younger man tried again, but his father continued on.

“We don’t know exactly what happened. I should be able to get a reading on something of his when I get there. I’m at the airport as we speak. My flight leaves in about ten minutes.”

“Shit.” Caleb rubbed at his eyes, knowing his father had rearranged his entire busy schedule to go to Kentucky to help find his best friend’s missing son, who wasn’t actually missing. “Dad…listen to me…”

“I know how you feel, Son. I know what Dean means to you…”

“Then I guess you will understand what I’m about to tell you.”

That seemed to get Mac’s attention and he finally grew quiet. “What are you about to tell me, Caleb?”

He had that same tone as the time when Caleb had tried to explain how the goat had actually gotten into his high school principal’s office. “Dean’s here with me, Dad.”

“What!” There it was. “How can that be?”

Caleb winced, amazed Dean didn’t stir when his father’s voice boomed through the line. “He showed up at my dorm room last night.”

“Dean is with you?”

“Yeah.” Hadn’t he just said that?

“My God, Caleb! Do you know what we’ve been going through? John is a mess. He’s at his wit’s end. Jim’s contacted almost every hunter in the tri-state area, afraid of a repeat from last year’s little coup with Griffin. And Sammy…he’s inconsolable.”

“What the hell did you expect me to do?”

“I expected you to call his father, Caleb! For Christ’s sake, I don’t know what you’re thinking half the time.”

“Well let me enlighten you, Mac. I was thinking the kid was hurt and scared out of his mind. Forgive me if I didn’t follow proper Brotherhood protocol or do what the great Mackland Ames son should have.”

He could hear the disappointment in his father’s momentary silence. “We’ll be lucky if John doesn’t kill you both. Perhaps you should spend the summer abroad.”

“Dad, I’m not going anywhere. This sounds like it’s Johnny’s fault to begin with.”


“Don’t Caleb me. Did they tell you about the poltergeist? That Dean got pummeled by the bitch? And that John tried to turn it into some kind of teachable moment. Fuck that. I was almost fifteen before I faced down a poltergeist. He’s not going back there.”

“What?” Mac snapped. “What do you mean he’s not going back? John’s his father…”

“I meant to the poltergeist gig, Mac. I’ll finish the thing.”

The doctor sighed heavily, and Caleb could envision him running his fingers across his eyebrow, a tell-tale sign he was at his breaking point. “Jim explained the situation. The house was the first place they checked, incase Dean had gone back there on his own.”

“Trust me. That never entered his mind.”

“Son, you need to bring him back to Kentucky. Now.” Mac seemed to think of something for the first time. “How exactly…how did he get there in the first place?”


“For the love of…Is he okay?”

“Yeah. He sat with some nice grandma from Florida the whole way.”

“John will love that. Perhaps Dean should take your place abroad.”

“I’m not bringing him back until John cools off, Dad.”

“Are you really prepared to raise a child, Son? You’re just a boy yourself and we both know why I never let you have a pet.”

“You choose now to grow a sense of humor, Mac?”

His father sighed. “I’ll see if I can buy you some time, seeing as how you do have important classes today.”

“And tomorrow,” Caleb added. Actually his Friday load was light, but that would give him the weekend for a long road trip to Kentucky and back. Plus, John might have actually gone from volatile to only slightly irate by then. “We can head up that way this weekend.”

“Fine,” Mac relented. “But I can’t guarantee you that John won’t head your way as soon as he finds out.”

“Talk to him, Dad. Better yet, have Jim order him to stay there.”

“I’ll try, Son.”

Caleb cut the connection and pushed himself up from the floor with a groan. Seeing as how he was up he might as well try to catch his first class.

Dean was still sleeping when he made it out of the shower. The kid was sprawled out across the twin bed like any normal little boy that didn’t have a care in the world. Maybe Reaves couldn’t save him from the consequences of their real life but perhaps he could give him a two day reprieve.

He leaned over the boy, pushing the hair back away from the kid’s bruised face. “Deuce?”

“Yeah?” the kid mumbled, blearily looking up at him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.” Caleb rested his hand on his head again, making sure he was awake. “I’m going to class. Listen to Moose today. Got it?” Moose, despite his size and reputation on the ball field, was basically an overgrown kid, a gentle giant, and he didn’t have a problem with trusting him with Dean, at least as much as he trusted anyone. “You okay with me leaving?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Apparently better than you.”

Caleb sighed. “Yeah.”

The kid yawned, pulling the covers back up to his chin. “I’ll be fine.”

“Play your cards right and I’ll treat for dinner tonight.”

A faint grin tugged at the corner of Dean’s mouth. “As long as you’re not cooking it.”

“Actually I know this girl…”

“Stop.” Dean held up his hand. “I’m too old for fairytales, man.”

Caleb laughed. “Just tell Moose to have you back here by five.”

It was actually closer to a quarter after five when the two arrived back to the dorm room. Caleb was beginning to doubt his judgment and would have been angry if Dean hadn’t seemed so damn pleased with himself.

“Should I be worried that you’re looking way too much like the cat that swallowed the canary, Deuce?”

The eleven-year-old shot Moose a look. “Should I tell him about my winning touch down first or the tattoo?”

“Tattoo?” Caleb flipped off the T.V. he had pretended to be watching and gave his roommate a hard glance. “Oliver?”

The big defensive lineman gave him a grin, and shook his head of shaggy blond hair. “Don’t worry I wouldn’t let Little Dude do anything stupid. He wanted the heart with MOM written on it and I talked him into something a little more original.”

“Oh good. I knew I could trust you.”

Dean marched over to the worn couch and rolled up the sleeve to the new Auburn shirt in his size Caleb had asked Moose to buy him and pointed to his newly inked bicep. “What do you think?”

A playing card covered the better part of the kid’s upper shoulder. It was the two of Spades. The Deuce card. “I think it better wash off.”

Dean laughed. “It’s henna. Moose’s old lady, Maeve, did it.”

“Whoa…whoa… there now. Old lady implies that I only have one. Maeve is a girl and a friend, of which I have many.”

“She was hot and she smelled like strawberries. I liked her.”

Caleb snorted. “Hot?” Maybe Moose hadn’t been the wisest choice for babysitter.

Dean bobbed his eyebrow at Reaves. “She said I looked like you.”

“Really now.” Caleb grinned, recalling the curvaceous blond that worked at the InkSpot tattoo and piercing parlor.

Moose nodded. “Kid told her not to hold that against him, though. He’d eventually grow out of the awkward stage.”

Reaves rolled his eyes as the football player burst out laughing. “He kills me,” Moose guffawed, slapping his muscular, jean-clad thigh. “The things that come out of his mouth.”

“Yeah, he’s a real funny kid.” Caleb shook his head at the smirking eleven-year-old.

“Coach even let him out on the field with us at practice.”

“I filled the water bottles,” Dean explained. “And met the cheerleaders.”

“The whole black eye thing pulls the sympathy let me tell you,” Moose interjected. “We even got free pie at the cafeteria.”

“Free pie?” Caleb nodded. “Wow. You‘re really in there, Deuce.”

“College food is a lot better than regular school food. Sammy would have loved it.”

The kid’s expression changed slightly at the mention of his brother’s name and he swallowed thickly. “Maybe he can come next time.”

“If he’s anything like you, Little Dude, then mi casa, su casa,” Moose assured him.

Dean nodded, but the haunted look was still on his face and Caleb leaned forward giving him a little shove towards the bathroom. “Speaking of Mexican…why don’t you go get washed up, Kid, and we’ll head out to dinner. Some of us didn’t have free pie. I’m starving.”

Once the kid disappeared into Caleb’s room, the psychic turned to Oliver. “Thanks for keeping an eye on him, man. I appreciate it.”

“Don’t sweat it, Skid. It was nice to actually know you have a real family. I was beginning to believe Fin’s theory about you being in the whole witness relocation program.”

Caleb ducked his head. He’d worked hard not to involve himself in the college life. His grandfather offered to pay for a suite of his own, but as an underclassman Reaves wanted to draw as little attention to himself as possible. Ending up with Moose for a roommate had been a fluke. “Fin doesn’t have a clue.”

“Seriously though, Dean can stay here anytime.”


“But about the bruises…I don’t mean to pry, but did your brother do that to him?”

Caleb shook his head, fighting his first instinct to tell the other man to piss off. It wasn’t any of his damn business. If there had been anything but sincere concern in the big man’s blue eyes, he might have. “No, Deuce got in a fight at school. He was afraid his dad would freak, so he ran.” The lies slipped easily from his tongue, reminding him of why he worked so hard to keep his personal life just that-personal.

“Kid’s got some guts.”

“You don’t know the half of it, man.” He looked back over his shoulder towards his room. “You don’t know the half of it.”

“So Dad’s not going to kill me?” Dean kept shifting in his seat, alternating his time between messing with the radio and looking out the window. The fidgeting had increased the closer they got to Jim’s.

Caleb sighed. “All Mac could promise was that he would try to help us make a clean getaway if worse came to worse. He knows plastic surgeons. They could give us a whole new look.”

Dean glanced at him, worry still looming in his green eyes. Even humor wasn’t pulling him out of his funk. “I’m sorry I got you in trouble.”

Caleb shot him a look. “No you’re not. You could have just as easily have hitched a ride to Bobby’s-spared me a front seat at this little love fest at the farm.”

A hint of a smile played at the kid’s mouth. “The last time I was there I had to get a Tetanus shot. You really wouldn’t want your favorite nephew to suffer through that again would you?”

“Who says you’re my favorite? Sammy’s looking better and better.”

Dean looked back out the window, and Caleb exhaled loudly. “Deuce, stop worrying. It’ll be over soon enough.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No, the fact that I’m going in there with you and that I have your back is suppose to do that.”

“Are you packing?”

Reaves grinned. “Of course.”

“Okay. That helps, but I still don’t want to hunt.”

They had avoided the topic of conversation, at least Dean had and Caleb hadn’t tried hard to initiate any heavier discussion than whether they would eat pizza or hot dogs for dinner. “Look, Deuce…”

“You said you had my back? Right?”

“You know I do.”

“It’s just that the last time I messed up…”

Reaves frowned, catching bits and pieces of the memory Dean was replaying in his mind. “Dean…that witch would have gotten to Sammy if you’d been there or not.”

“Dad still hasn’t forgiven me.”

The psychic gripped the steering wheel not understanding the way John’s mind worked. The kid would do anything to not disappoint his father and the older man wasn’t above using emotional blackmail to keep Dean in line. “Look, Deuce. You don’t want to hunt anymore? I can live with that.” He shot the kid a look as they pulled onto the road that would lead them to Jim’s farm. “Now whether your dad let’s you live with it…that’s a whole different story.”

“Dean!” Sam was the first to greet them, closely followed by Atticus Finch. He launched himself at his big brother wrapping his arms around the older boy. “I’m glad you’re back.”

“Me too.” Dean hugged his brother, and then held him at arm’s length. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” Sam gave him the double-eyed wink he thought was as subtle as the real thing, and lowered his voice. “But I cried a lot, so no one would know you told me where you were going.”

“I figured the runt was in on it.” Caleb shook his head. “Your big brother is leading you down the path to the dark side, young Skywalker.”

“Does it lead to your house?” Sam smiled sweetly. “’Cause I want to stay with you next time.”

“I don’t know if Auburn can handle both Winchesters.”

The happy homecoming was cut short as John suddenly exited the house, the banging of the screen door punctuating his mood.

Caleb felt Dean tense beside of him and he had the sudden urge to step in front of the kid, or maybe pile him and Sam in the Jeep and get the hell out of Dodge. But to his surprise, the eleven-year-old moved around him and started forward towards his father.

John grabbed the boy as soon as he got in range, nearly jerking him off his feet as he pulled Dean towards him. “John,” Mac tried, coming out of the farmhouse on Winchester’s heels. The other hunter glared at him. “Stay the hell out of this, Mackland!”

Caleb made a move forward, his hand on Sam’s shoulder, but his father motioned for him to stay where he was. “Dad?”

“And you!” John pointed a finger at him. “You’re next.”

“Dad…he didn’t do anything,” Dean tried, but John tightened his grip on the boy.

“Do you know what I went through when I couldn’t find you?” John gave him a hard shake. “Do have any idea what that was like for me?” He glanced up at Caleb. “Do either of you?”

“I’m sorry,” Dean choked but John was hearing none of it.

“You took a bus, Dean! A bus to another state. Anything could have happened to you. I could have lost you!”

“I’m sorry…” Dean tried again, his voice breaking and Caleb felt Sam lean into his leg. He wanted to move, to do something, but felt paralyzed by the situation. His father was giving John space, but he could tell by the tension in his stance that he wouldn’t let the situation go too far. But then John was yelling again, and Dean’s thoughts echoed in his mind. ‘It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.’ The kid was silently repeating the mantra over and over again, trying to comfort himself and the idea of it had the psychic seething.

“John, just listen to him for a goddamn minute…” Caleb tried, and he heard his father’s sigh of frustration as John roughly shoved Dean towards the house “Go to your room, Dean! I’ll be in there as soon as I send your roommate here back to school.”

Reaves shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“You!” The oldest Winchester moved towards Reaves. “Will do what I fucking tell you to do and if you don‘t…”

“Dad…it’s not his fault.” Dean reached up and grabbed his father’s arm to stop his advancement towards Caleb and Sam.

John reacted without thought. He jerked his arm away, his hand catching the kid hard across the mouth. Dean went sprawling on the ground, and Sam started crying.

Caleb wasn’t sure who was more shocked at the turn of events. Dean, Mackland or him. They all were staring at John like his head had started to spin and he was spewing pea soup.

“Johnathan!” Pastor Jim’s deep voice echoed from the doorway where he had been standing quiet sentry, and it seemed to break the paralyzing spell.

Dean brought his hand up to his mouth, where a few drops of blood had blossomed on his bottom lip. He blinked up at his father as if he didn’t quite understand how he had ended up on the ground. “You son of a bitch…“ Caleb swore, starting for John.

“Caleb!” Mackland growled, stopping his son‘s foolhardy move with a fiery glare. “Stay. Where. You. Are.”

“You better listen to your daddy, boy.” John pointed a finger at the younger hunter.

“And you,” Mac addressed his friend, “get a hold of yourself.”

“Don’t tell me what to do, Mac. I’m sick of your condescending tone and parent lectures. I should just take the boys and get the hell out of here-never look back.”

“You will do no such thing.” Pastor Jim had stopped beside Dean, who was currently being checked out by his sobbing little brother.

“Shh, it’s okay, Sammy,” Dean said softly to his brother.

Winchester opened his mouth to say something, but the look the pastor shot him had him redirecting his attention to Dean. “Go. To. Your. Room.” The irate hunter bit out each word.

Dean pushed himself up from the ground, taking off in a run towards the house not wanting anyone else to get hurt on his account. He followed the order.

Jim scooped Sam up with a disappointed shake of his head and they followed Dean into the farmhouse.

“He was scared of the damn poltergeist.” Caleb spoke up, not minding the glare his own father was sending him. “He didn’t want to go back to do the job-a job no eleven year-old should have been doing in the first place. You shouldn’t have told him he had to.”

John whirled on the kid. “You think because I gave you that ring that you can talk to me like that?” He thrust his finger in the younger hunter’s chest. “Because ever since then you seem to have this idea that we’re somehow on equal footing.”

“What?” Caleb shook his head. “This has nothing to do with hunting.”

“Then why are you running your mouth to me?” John demanded, coolly.

“John,” Mac warned, but Winchester continued on.

“Because the last time I checked, I was The Knight, and you were my understudy. That’s it, kid-nothing more.”

Caleb clenched his fists, refusing to rise to the obvious bait being flung in his direction like a worm on a hook. “You think you’re hurting my feelings, old man? Think again.”

“What? Did you think you could protect Dean from me? That he needed protecting from his own father?”

“Dean came to my place. I did what I thought you would want me to do-what you‘ve trained me to do.”

“The hell you did, Caleb!” John snapped, shoving the boy. “You did what you wanted to do!”

“Fine!” Reaves raged back. “ I did what needed to be done. And if you really want to know the truth, I didn’t give a damn what you thought.” It wasn’t true, but damn if the man couldn’t push his buttons.

John nodded. “Then you’ll understand that I’m going to do what I need to do.” He pushed Caleb again. “And I don’t give a damn what you think about it.”

“What?” Caleb growled. “You’re going to punish him for your fuck up-for your lousy decision-making skills?”

“No!” John met the kid’s amber gaze. “I’m going to punish him for yours.”

That stopped Caleb’s quick reply and Mackland had to keep himself from hauling off and knocking some sense in to John Winchester as he watched the hurt race through his son’s eyes. It was lucky for all of them the Knight sheathed his sword and retreated back into the house.

“Son,” Mac started, once they were alone, but Caleb just shook his head.

“Don’t, Dad.”

“He’s upset, and lashing out in typical John Winchester fashion.” He couldn’t believe he was making excuses for the man.

“I made things worse for Dean.”

“This is not your fault.” Mac glanced towards the farmhouse, wondering for the millionth time if he had done the right thing in intrusting the care and instruction of his son to John Winchester and his military style training. “It’s merely a tactic…”

“To make me feel guilty?” Caleb cut him off, “To put me in my place? Keep me in line?” The boy looked at him. “I know how the whole Marine logic works, Dad. And believe me, it works.”

“He would have punished Dean either way, Son. Whether you like it or not the boy did not use the best judgment?”

“And John did?” Caleb stared at him. “So, you’re okay with this?”

Mac exhaled, wearily. “John and I have different philosophies on parenting…and hunting.”

“Meaning you draw the line at beating the crap out of kids-even if they might deserve it.”

“He’s not going to hurt Dean.”

Caleb gave him an incredulous look and he frowned. “You know what I mean.”

“I know a lot of things, Dad. But apparently, Johnny thinks I still have a whole hell of a lot of things to learn.”

Mackland squeezed his son’s shoulder, wishing he could offer some other comfort. “For what it is worth, I‘m proud of you for taking care of Dean.”

“I told him I had his back.”

“And so you do.”

“Yeah, some help I was.”

“You’re here.” Mac glanced towards the house again, thinking about his inability to help John at times. “Sometimes that’s all you can offer.”

Caleb quietly pushed the door open that separated his room from Dean and Sam’s and slipped inside. “Deuce? You awake?” He asked, quietly and waited for the kid on the bed to acknowledge him.

He knew Dean wasn’t asleep, but wasn’t sure whether the eleven-year-old would talk to him or not. John had long since gone downstairs and then out to the barn, where Mackland said he had been sequestering himself under the reuse of working on the Impala.

“Where’s Sammy?”

“Your dad wouldn’t let him come up here. In fact he’s said you’re to have no contact until he says so.”

“Is he okay, though? Sammy?”

“Yeah. He’s out cold in front of the fireplace with Atticus.”

“Will you put him in your room?”

“Sure.” Caleb made his way over to the bed, taking a seat on the corner. “You hungry?”

“Dad said no supper.”

“Then how about dessert?” Caleb held out the crumpled bag of peanut M & M’s he’d smuggled from the kitchen. “I didn’t hear him mention that.”

Dean took the offering with a slight grin. “Thanks.” He glanced up at the older boy. “Should I pull the file out first?”

“No file.” Caleb shrugged. “But I’ll slip the key under the door before I leave tomorrow.”

“You’re leaving already?”

“I have to get back.”

Dean popped a few of the candies in his mouth, not meeting the other hunter’s gaze. “Dad said I have to go back to the house tomorrow.”

“Yeah. But if someone were to go on over there tonight and finish that bitch off, then that would be a mute point.”

“No.” Dean looked up at him. “You can’t hunt alone. And the next time would just be worse. He might make Sammy do it.” The boy was resigned to his fate.

Reaves frowned. “Did John say that?” Surely the man wouldn’t go that far. Dean already felt responsible for his brother more than any kid should.

The eleven-year-old shrugged, and Caleb read his thoughts loud and clear. ‘He didn’t have to.’

“Maybe I could just stick around then. My classes can wait.”

“You can’t beat up every school yard bully, you know.”

Reaves shook his head, as those familiar words came back to bite him in the ass. It hadn’t been too long ago he’d told Dean the same thing about Sam. “I can try.”

Dean snorted at that, his mouth twitching in a hint of a smile. “Yeah, well, Dad’s not exactly feeling the love for you, Damien. He might decide that a backside full of rock salt would be an appropriate cure for insubordination.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not exactly a member of the John Winchester Fan Club at the moment either.”

“He’s trying to keep us safe.” Dean glanced at him again. “It’s his job.”

Reaves swallowed thickly as he saw the first of many little future fissures appear in Dean’s spirit. Later Reaves would look back on that moment as one of the defining ones in the soldier Dean was to become. John was determined to break the kid, good intentions be damned, and the psychic was afraid there wouldn’t be one thing any of them could do about it.

Caleb reached out and squeezed the kid’s wrist. “Just so you know that it’s my job to watch your back.” No matter what John said. Caleb wasn’t sure if it was a Knight thing or the fact that he’d always felt a kinship with the kid before him, even when he didn’t want to. But the desire to protect him at all costs was there and undeniable.

Reaves smiled when Dean rolled his eyes and pulled away with a familiar cocky grin. “So where were you when the belt came out?”

Caleb kept his grin in place, despite the knife-like sensation twisting in his gut. “Mac says a man has to choose his battles, Deuce. I wouldn’t be much help if I was buried in the back forty. Besides, you fucked up by taking that bus by yourself.”

Dean sighed. “I know.”

“And you won’t do anything that stupid again, right?”

The kid grinned. “I can’t promise that.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because, Damien. It’s my job to keep you on your toes.”

“You’re far too good at that already.”

“Caleb, thanks for everything.” Dean put his lips together in a grim line. “Tell Moose thanks, too. I liked him.” And there was finality because Dean knew he would never see Reaves’s college friends ever again.

“Call me. I’ll be waiting to hear from you-Pastor Jim will let you. Okay?”

That call never came. Caleb called Pastor Jim the next day. The Winchesters had left returning to the road after Dean had finished off the poltergeist.

“How was he?”

Caleb could hear the pastor sigh on the other end, imagined him running a hand through his disheveled silver locks. “Caleb, my boy, he’s John’s son. What else can I tell you?”

“What does that mean?”

“Dean followed his father’s orders.”

Just like a good little soldier.



Uploaded by Majs