The Spear of Destiny: Rise of the Dragons Series

By: Ridley C. James

Beta: Tidia


"Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as the star. Human beings, vegetables, cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper."


Sam Winchester was having the oddest dream. He was on stage in front of a grand piano, his fingers poised above the keys. Sweat trickled from the base of his neck, sliding beneath the collar of his tuxedo. He could sense, if not see, the thousands of eyes glued on him from the audience, their hungry anticipation palpable. Sam's heart thundered in his chest as he realized where he was; what was expected of him. The sheet music might have well have been written in Acadian. Sam stood a better chance of deciphering some of the notes if they had been in coded in an archaic ancient language. As it was, he was clueless.

The bizarre thing about the dream was of all the terrible, frightening things Sam had experienced in his twenty six years, playing a piano solo for a sold out auditorium didn't even register on the spectrum. It was laughable. The situation should not have been included in his vast repertoire of nightmares that could have been. Perhaps that's what made it so scary. Sam was completely unprepared, out of his element.

He was startled when his fingers plundered the keys of their own volition, the piano belching out a painful screech of mismatched notes. Sam watched in horror, bound to the dream and the bench as his hands moved over the ivory in a falsely competent manner. His ministrations elicited a harmony only the tone deaf could tolerate. The audience's whispers swelled to a loud murmur, the grumblings peaking in a crescendo of disappointment and dissatisfaction.

Sam motions became more frantic, a manic Schubert impersonator without one ounce of talent or ability to match his elaborate grandiose charade. His fingers cramped from the strain, the pain flaring along his arms, radiating through his chest and back. He desperately willed the appropriate chords to become clear in his mind, for the concert to end as the burning in his right hand became unbearable.

To Sam's surprise a melody started to take form from the madness. The mismatched notes mashed together, climaxing in a tune that was so familiar it soothed Sam's anguish. He latched onto the chords, allowing them to lull him into a state of calm. He stared at the piano in wonderment, amazed at his sudden finesse only to find his fingers deathly still on the ivy. His right hand was fisted tightly against the black and white keys where his silver hunter's ring glowed unusually bright under the spotlight. To his puzzlement the music continued to play.

Sam looked up, blinking wildly as the audience faded against the dark blue walls of his bedroom. His heart thundered in time with the familiar song that still echoed around him. It took only a second for Sam to recognize Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama coming from the cell phone on his nightstand. He rolled over, reaching for it without thinking. He thumbed the talk button that would connect him with his brother.

"Dean?" He rested against the cool pillows, willing his heart to stay in his chest. He could still feel beads of sweat trickling down his neck, sliding between his bare back and smooth sheets.

"Sammy? Are you alright?"

Dean's voice was sleep coarse and held a hint of the fear Sam was valiantly trying to shake. A blurred view of the alarm clock told Sam it was just after five. No light seeped through the shades of his window yet, though the constant hum of the city beyond was starting its daily upsurge that would soon become a concert of background noises only Manhattan could pull off. He pushed himself up in the bed, fully alert now. "I'm fine."

"Why are you breathing hard?"

Sam held his breath for a beat, unwilling to alert Dean to his distress. After all, going back to school had been Sam's grand idea. The fact it was not working out as he planned was not only baffling, but embarrassing. "The phone startled 's wrong?"

"You tell me."

"Nothing's wrong." Sam held the phone closer, hoping his brother didn't pick up on the forced calm."I was sleeping." Sleeping was something he did very little of as of late, especially in light of his first semester at NYU winding down.

"The Triad bat signal says different. Where the hell is Damien?"

The unexpected reply had Sam looking down at his right hand. The cramping which he thought was brought on by his fierce piano playing now produced a completely different kind of panic and fear. Merlin's internal alarm system was still a novelty for the fledgling Triad. "Shit."


Sam tossed his covers aside, his own worry fueled by the concern in Dean's tone. He crushed the phone to his ear as he grabbed the gun tucked beneath his pillow. "Give me a minute."

"Is he home? Can you sense him?"

Dean continued to pepper him with questions as Sam carefully made his way out his door and into the darkened hallway that would lead him to Caleb's room. He blocked out his brother's voice, stretching out with his abilities. It was like attempting a sprint without warming up. Sam had worked hard at not using his abilities, and now cursed them when they were slow to respond to his desires. He sensed no one else in the townhouse but he and Caleb. The psychic link to Caleb was strong, pulsing with an energy Sam couldn't quite read. He cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder so he could try his roommate's doorknob. It would only be locked if Caleb had brought home company the night before, which was entirely possible considering Sam had crashed early after an afternoon of cramming for finals had left him taxed and susceptible to the 'piano' dream.

"Caleb?" He called.

"Just kick the damn thing in, Sam!"

Sam rolled his eyes at his brother's impatience and no hold's bar approach to all situations, pushing the door open a small slit when he got no answer from the psychic. Caleb's shades were up, the soft glow from the city casting the room in a maze of varying degrees of dark shapes. There was enough light that Sam could tell the bed was empty, blankets and pillows in disarray.


This time Sam's inquiry was answered with an audible groan from the other side of the bed. He could barely make out the outline of Caleb's outstretched hand as it flailed for purchase against the chair in front of the drawing desk.

"Dean, I need to call you back." Sam didn't wait for the protest he knew was coming. He clicked the phone off, placing it on Caleb's dresser as he made his way around to the downed hunter. "Caleb? Are you okay?"

Caleb had made it to his knees with the help of the chair, one hand pressed against the floor, the other cupping the right side of his head. "What the hell…" he hissed as Sam took a knee in front of him.

"That was going to be my next question." Sam eased Caleb's hand away. There was a large gash above his temple. It was bleeding freely, the brighter light from the window just above them revealing the right side of Caleb's face as a glistening mess. His t-shirt was splattered with blood and Sam followed the trail down to the floor where a startling size puddle shimmered below the edge of the drawing desk. "What happened? Did you have a vision?"

"Not likely," Caleb muttered, trying unsuccessfully to get to his feet. Sam kept him still with a hand on his shoulder. "I think I started for the bathroom."

"Take it easy." Sam held firm until the older hunter acquiesced, going from his knees to sitting flat on the floor. Sam guided him so his back was against the bed, then pointed a finger at him. "Stay put until I get the first aid kit."

Caleb didn't look up or answer, his hand going back to his head. Sam ran to the adjoining bathroom, grabbing the fully stocked kit from beneath the vanity. His cell was ringing again when he returned, but he ignored it in lieu of returning to Caleb.

"Deuce…" Caleb blinked up at him with glazed eyes. For an instant Sam was afraid his friend was completely out of it, mistaking him for his brother, but then Caleb gestured towards the dresser where Sam's phone gyrated over the surface. "He's calling you."

"For the second time." Sam breathed out a sigh of relief, reaching over Caleb's head to the desk. He turned on the lamp. "Triad alarm is in prime working order. The Guardian woke me up."

"Damn." Caleb blinked at the intrusive light, rubbing his thumb over his hunter's ring. "I can't get used to that."

"Join the club." Sam's cell had not finished ringing when Caleb's picked up from somewhere in his bed with an ACDC classic.

Caleb turned his head with a groan to search out the new tune. "Dean's freaked."

"He can wait." Sam gently forced his friend's head back around, folding a mound of bandages, which he used to press against the jagged wound. The gash looked worse in the light, bruising already forming from the edges. Caleb's cheek was red and puffy where he'd struck the floor. He'd be lucky if he didn't have a black eye to add to the mix. "Bleeding injury takes precedence over placating The Guardian. You can call him on the way to the ER."

"No ER, Runt." Caleb took over holding the bandage. "You can handle doctor duty here just fine."

"You haven't seen yourself, man." Sam jutted his chin to the sharp corner of the desk. Caleb must have stumbled getting out of bed, striking the surface before landing on the floor. An irrational worst case scenario rolled through Sam's thoughts like summer thunder at the farm. Despite logically knowing he could not have prevented Caleb's injury, Sam couldn't help feeling as if he'd been lax in his duty, had let something get past him. It reminded him of a wraith hunt from more than a decade past when just such an error on his part had nearly caused Caleb's death and he tried to shake off the foreboding the unpleasant memory brought. "Your desk and gravity did a number on you. Did you black out completely? Does anything else hurt besides your head?"

"Does my pride count? If I blacked out, it was only for a second." Caleb groaned swatting at Sam's probing hands. "The Knight of The Brotherhood is not taken down by furniture. It had to be a troll, maybe a gnome. They're notorious for prankster shit like this."

"Sorry to knock holes the size of the one currently in your forehead in that theory, but nothing's getting past the wards Joshua put on this place. The Knight of The Brotherhood is going to need stitches." Sam wasn't buying the idea that Caleb had been out for only a moment either. The pool of blood on the floor provided evidence to the contrary.

Caleb rolled his eyes. "Good thing Mac taught us all how to do those tight and neat. I don't need any more scars to drive the women crazy. It's a full time job fighting them off as is."

Sam frowned at the older hunter's stubbornness, camouflaged in Caleb's typical cockiness. None of them liked hospitals but head wounds were not something to mess with, especially when they rendered one unconscious. Even John Winchester capitulated when it came to concussions. Caleb might have other unseen injuries. Sam would be in remiss of his obligation as The Scholar if he didn't remain the voice of reason, and if that long ago wraith hunt had taught him anything, it was that doing the harder thing from the get go was always the easiest course in the end. "You could have a concussion, man."

"See, you've already diagnosed me, Doc."



"It's a bump on the head." Caleb winced when Sam pressed harder on the wound. "Nothing serious."

"I'm guessing Merlin's alert system doesn't do 'nothing serious'. The Guardian doesn't get an all points bulletin when I cut myself shaving." There was still so much about The Triad Sam didn't know. He tried not to think too long on the aspects that could arise to surprise them. Sam didn't like unknown variables.

"It was a false alarm." Caleb's obstinate look turned pleading, a tactic made more effective by the fact Sam could feel the echo of pain rolling off the other hunter. Once his abilities were wide open, it was difficult to rein them back in. "You know our flight leaves at ten this morning. If we miss it, we'll have to drive or wait for standby."

"Meaning you're afraid the hospital will keep you." Without Dean's fear of flying to hold them hostage to four wheels and the interstate, Sam and Caleb had racked up major points by flying from New York to Louisville any chance they got. Sam was not ashamed to admit he loved the expedient travel, the indulgence of first class ride Caleb always insisted upon. But Sam had found another benefit, something even better than the promise of a quick delivery and absence of endless winding interstate. Sam had discovered there was a rush of normalcy to be found in the airport. Passing through security like cattle through a shoot was oddly reassuring. It offered anonymity. Sam was just another citizen, an average Joe as he waited out the time at the gate with all the other faceless travelers. Maybe it was the novelty of it all, or the fact that unlike travelling by car, flying was one aspect of everyday life that Sam could not connect to his childhood. It was a part of the new Sam- New York living, college attending, Scholar of The Brotherhood, Sam.

"Meaning Doctor Mackland Ames has everyone there bullied," Caleb was on the verge of petulant, demanding Sam's attention. "I know Dad has scribbled secret notes on my chart. I could go in there with a hangnail and they would keep me out of fear and awe alone."

Sam sighed, lifting the bandages to stare more closely at the wound now that the bleeding had slowed. Head wounds in general bled profusely, making even a small injury more ominous. Maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked, and Caleb made a valid point concerning their flight. Sam couldn't spare more than the few days they had planned at the farm; if he were completely honest with himself he shouldn't be going at all. "I'll do the stitches, but you're calling Dean afterward. If he doesn't buy your sob story, then I'm following his orders, and so are you, missed flight or not."

"Sounds fair." Caleb shrugged.

The gesture was one of forced nonchalance, but Caleb couldn't disguise the look of victory flashing in his gold eyes. Sam knew how that phone call would go. Caleb would glaze over the truth, soothing and disarming The Guardian's protective hackles with a well-placed but totally inappropriate bit of humor, a promise of a good story The Knight had been holding back for their upcoming meeting. It would undoubtedly involve a Riley exploit that would in all possibility be only half true. Caleb had made a game of inventing ridiculous scenarios for the young hunter that in no way could be completely accurate. The Knight knew his way around Dean's prickly side better than anyone, and it was testament to Sam's desire to head to the farm that he allowed Caleb the opportunity to dodge the hospital trip Sam's gut told him was called for. He hoped in this case that the path of least resistance, the easier out, for once might be advantageous.

"Of course you realize this means I get dibs on the window seat, no matter what." Sam took the antibiotic cream and suture kit from the box. He tossed the soiled bandages in the trashcan by Caleb's bed and exchanged them for clean ones. "You spring for lunch, drinks, and the rental car."

"I paid for the tickets."

Caleb's rebuttal was half-hearted and they both knew it was only to save face. Sam waved the needle in front of Caleb. "Then let's call the rest payment for services rendered."

Caleb frowned at him. "Let's call it what it is, Doctor Hyde-blackmail."

Whatever guilt Sam felt had dissipated by the time they reached the farm. Caleb had rebounded quickly, recovering well enough to score their flight attendant's phone number, as well as charming the young woman at the rental car counter in Louisville into letting them have a standard for the price of a sub compact. Sam never failed to wonder at Caleb's eccentricity to be frugal over the oddest things, when he'd seen the man drop thousands on ridiculous things like baseball cards for Dean, an Elvis Presley relic for Bobby. The Knight was obviously alright. So much so that Sam wasn't worried by the fact Caleb slept the entire drive to Pastor Jim's, made longer by late afternoon traffic out of the city, not even waking when Sam stopped to pick up the pizzas from their old haunt Hal's and beer they promised to bring. He was however slightly concerned when Caleb was unfazed by the crunch of gravel under their tires and Boo's barking as Sam killed the engine.

"Caleb." Sam unbuckled his seatbelt, reaching over to shake the older hunter's arm. "We're here."

Caleb awoke with a start, his hands flailing for leverage as if he'd found himself falling yet again. Sam kept a hold of his arm, squeezing slightly. "Hey."

Caleb turned towards him, his eyes not quite focused. There was a moment before The Knight's guards erected completely that Sam sensed something alien to Caleb's make-up, an impression of unfamiliarity so strong Sam couldn't help but flashback to his earlier dream of the impromptu piano recital. "Sammy."

"Yeah. We're here." Sam let his fingers slide from Caleb's arm when the older hunter blinked, looking more with it. Enough so he managed an easy, albeit tired smile.

"About damn time." Caleb straightened in the seat, unfastening his seatbelt. He glanced in the backseat where the pizzas and beer were waiting. "I'm starving."

Sam glanced to the farm house. Lights glowed from the kitchen windows and he felt a pang of longing that had nothing to do with the grumble in his stomach. It had been nearly a month since they had been home, and only then for a weekend hunt that left Caleb injured by a nymph and Sam reeling from the revelation his brother had met someone, someone who proved more than a one night stand. Thanksgiving had brought Dean to New York, but Sam had been so behind on school he hadn't had the chance to spend much time with his brother. Hopefully, this break during dead week would allow them time to catch up, and after finals, Christmas wouldn't be far away. They were planning on spending it at the farm, like the old days.

"He's alone, if that's what you're worried about." Caleb's comment had Sam glancing his way, surprised The Knight had his door already open. Boo had also grown impatient. His upper body was inside the car, bulky paws resting across Caleb's legs. "We won't be walking in on any make-up hanky-panky."

"That's good to know." Sam would be remiss if he didn't admit he was conflicted by Juliet's decision to return to the farm and Dean just three weeks after she fled in the wake of an unexpected revelation about the things that go bump in the night. Sam had somewhat encouraged her return, even given her tips on what Dean liked, what would win him over. Now he wondered if that had been for the best. "I doubt if Dean's ready for us to cross paths with her again."

"Dean's not the only one." Caleb flashed him a knowing look that had Sam grabbing the keys out of the ignition with an annoyed huff.

"Should you really be trying to use your abilities after such a blow to the head?" Sam had a right to be protective of his brother. Years of being the one sheltered and watched after had earned him the license to reciprocate the favor. It wasn't that he didn't want Dean to be happy, to have a normal life. After all, Sam had been the one to encourage Dean to find Lisa, to start again, if the worst indeed happened with Lucifer.

"Why do you and Deuce always assume I have to rely on being psychic to know what goes on in Winchester land?" Caleb maneuvered Boo out of the car, unfolding himself in a manner that wasn't completely on par with his usual litheness. Sam blamed his stumbling gate on the long drive, unwilling to entertain the possibility he'd made a horrendous mistake.

"Maybe it's because we know a leopard doesn't change his spots." Sam made his way out of the car, grabbing his heavy jacket from the seat but not feeling the need to put it on. The early December air had a bite to it, but Kentucky seemed almost balmy in comparison to Manhattan where it had already snowed several times, blanketing the city in a white drape that seemed to rev-up anticipation of the fast approaching holiday.

"There's nothing wrong with positive changes." Caleb shot Sam a glance over his shoulder before opening the back passenger's door to claim the pizzas and beer. "You might want to embrace it yourself, maybe ask out that hot brunette from your study group."

"Is there even a need for me to call Pot and Kettle on that one?" Sam took his bag from the back, taking Caleb's duffel as well. He moved around the car, his gaze leveled on the older hunter. Sam was having a hard enough time dealing with normal people on a peer level. There was no way he was going to attempt any kind of leap to intimacy.

Caleb was notorious for wanting his family to remain static, for their lives to run the course of the familiar. Sam could not remember a time when The Knight had not been hyper vigilant in protecting the integrity of their close knit group. Sam, who had at one time wanted nothing more than to escape those binding family ties now, clung to the idea of maintaining them, relishing in the safety they provided. "Where was this sense of flexibility when Bobby started dating Ellen, or when Mac married Esme?"

"I don't think Juliet is an amateur wannabe hunter nor does she have a Joshua Sawyer in her closet." Caleb started for the farmhouse. "Besides, it's not like I'm suggesting Deuce elope with the woman."

"I wouldn't be surprised if you hadn't already thought about the place for the bachelor party or your best man's speech." Sam knew for a fact Caleb had been almost as pleased by Juliet's return as Dean. It hadn't been a surprise Caleb wanted his friend to be happy, but Sam wondered if Caleb would feel the same when he realized that Dean having a girlfriend meant Dean would have less time for his best buddy, and would have to abandon his post as wingman.

"I have no delusions of grandeur about being Deuce's best man." Caleb punched Sam's shoulder. "But I claim first dibs on godfather to his first born. I mean I've at least earned that position with years of playing second fiddle to you. After all, you'll be related by blood. I need the credibility to hold my own in the running for favorite uncle."

Sam stopped at the stairs of the screened porch giving Caleb a look he hoped conveyed his incredulity. "In case you haven't noticed, thanks in great part to your influence, Dean isn't exactly big on monogamy, nor is holy matrimony even a blip on his radar."

"That's the beauty of procreation, Runt." Caleb wasn't rebuffed. In fact, he grinned. "A guy doesn't have to get married to get the deed done. Deuce Junior is still a very real possibility, especially since Juliet came back."

Sam was still having a hard time with the idea of his brother dating one woman, let alone fathoming Dean becoming a parent with said woman. He waged Caleb's new found obsession with the next generation stemmed from a need to see the future seeded. "Is this about that time-travelling, body snatching kid, James?"

"No." Caleb's reply was quick and definitive. "I haven't even given that kid another thought."

"Right." Sam shook his head at the blatant lie. Caleb had done nothing but think about possible scenarios since James took leave. Sam, on the other hand, was too consumed with trying to cope with his present to fathom a glance into the very far future. "Could we just change the subject, please?"

He was spared Caleb's whim by Dean opening the kitchen door. "What the hell are you two ninnies doing out here? I heard you pull in ten minutes ago."

"Look, Sammy, Deuce missed us." Caleb stepped onto the porch, holding his arms out in mock anticipation of a hug. "He really, really missed us."

"Shut up, fugly." Dean pushed the screen door open wider, allowing Dill to scramble out. The pup danced around Boo, before launching herself at The Knight's boots. Dean moved towards Caleb's open arms, but only to snatch the pizza and beer from his friend. "I'm starving."

"If Pastor Jim was still around, he would have had a home cooked meal waiting on us," Sam joined his Triad on the porch where Dean gave him a quick once over. It might have looked hapless, but Sam recognized the patented head to toe scan. It left him feeling much like a child being regarded by his mother after a week at camp. He continued his teasing to quell the stir of homesickness that reared its ugly head. "He would have made something special like fried chicken or meatloaf."

"And dessert." Caleb joined in as he moved past Dean into the house. Boo and Dill followed, slipping past their owner on the slight chance they might be forced to stay behind on the porch. Harper Lee left his post by the fireplace, wagging his way to the door to greet them. "Jim would have made a great dessert."

"I have some Little Debbie's." Dean waved his brother in. "But neither of you are getting any now."

"That's okay." Sam moved ahead of his brother into the kitchen. Jim's hospitality had become a bone of contention for Dean. Hunters like Ethan and Eli loved to mention how Jim always had food waiting for them, a glass of sweet tea at the least. Even some of the old timers like Silas Fox had gotten in on the joke, taking to giving the current Guardian a hard time. None more so than Bobby Singer, who went so far as to present Dean with a housewarming present-a doctored door mat that read Unwelcome. "Caleb and I will just share the pie I brought you from Sweet Melissa's."

"Sweet Melissa's?" Dean's brow arched. "As in the bakery where Esme got the pies she had at Thanksgiving?"

"I picked it up yesterday." Sam placed his bag on the table by the pizza, giving a quick ear rub to Harper Lee. Dean loved two things about New York, the bars and the bakeries. Caleb had introduced his best friend to several of each over the span of years, but Sam had done his own recon work since moving to Manhattan. Sweet Melissa's in his opinion was far superior to Little Pie Company and Magnolia's. The idea to bring Dean his favorite dessert had struck him as he was leaving his last class yesterday, proof his brother had been on his mind more than he wanted to admit. "I even checked my bag at the airport just so I could bring it."

"He means I paid to check his bag. So, the pie is from me too."

"No, it's not. You wanted to eat it for breakfast."

"Just a piece."

"What are you two not telling me?" Dean folded his arms over his chest, although his eyes strayed to the bag and the promise of phenomenal pie. "What's wrong, besides Damien's messed up face?"

"Nothing's wrong." Sam could buy his brother a pie without recrimination. He bet Dean hadn't been suspicious of Juliet, gave her the third degree when she showed up with a treat from The Dinner Bell.

"And my face is fine," Caleb interrupted, self consciously touching his bruised cheek. "It's my head that's messed up."

"That goes without saying, Dude." Dean kept his eyes on Sam, but soon the discerning look shifted to something warmer, a decent imitation of his usual grin. He reached out and attempted to ruffle Sam's hair. "I guess little Sammy misses his big brother more than he wants to admit. I told you it would happen. Living with Damien in the city that doesn't sleep isn't all it's cracked up to be?"

"This is the last time I do something nice for you." Sam evaded his brother's touch, tossing his jacket on the chair. It irritated him that Dean could read his motives so well.

"And living with me is awesome." Caleb sat at the table and opened the pizza box on top. "You just wish you could be living the bachelor high life with us instead of carrying on this charade of building a respectable life for yourself."

"Respectable? Damn, you must have hit your head hard. If Pastor Jim was still around, I'd be living the life in Vegas right now." Dean took the seat by Caleb taking three slices for himself. He shoved a stack of pink forms out of his way. "Not stuck here doing crazy paperwork."

"Paperwork?" Caleb took one of the slips, studying it with a frown. ""The Brotherhood has invoices?"

"Invoices. Reciepts. Accounts payable." Dean bit into his pizza, chewing for a moment before taking a drink of his beer. "We even have an accountant on staff. Who the hell knew?"

"Mac, obviously. Isn't this more like a Scholarly job?" Caleb glanced up at Sam who took the remnants of the first pizza and made it to the seat on Dean's other side.

"Oh no." Sam saw the set-up a mile away. He was not going to be conned by the two bullies into taking on anymore responsibility, being on constant call for research advice was enough of a headache with his workload. "Dean's the one with the silver up his sleeve. Besides, Mac outlined the Scholar's role for me. Not once did he mention any kind of bookkeeping."

"Well, Johnny sure as hell didn't do any paper pushing." Caleb tossed the slip back on the pile. "Sorry, Deuce."

"I wasn't asking for any help, Damien." Dean dusted his hands together, having finished off his first slice while Sam and Caleb were denying accountability. "I have a whole Geek squad at my service, with Carolyn at the helm. I've just gone too long without a run in the field. Got any good Riley stories?"

Sam groaned. "Can we not make it through one meal without talking about hunting?"

"What would you rather we talk about, little brother?" Dean brought the second pizza box in front of him, slapping Caleb's hand when the older hunter tried to take the first few fresh slices. "The cute brunette in your nerd's anonymous group?"

"You told him about Heather?" Sam glared at Caleb. He was beginning to realize living with his brother's best friend was similar to being at boarding school, The Knight filling the role as house mom.

Caleb shrugged, unapologetic. "I tell him everything, Roomie."

"Heather?" Dean bobbed his eyebrows. "Do share, Sammy."

"There's nothing to tell, Dean." Sam had made the mistake of offering up the townhouse as a location for one study session. Caleb had returned early from a hunt and Sam had never heard the end of it, apparently neither had Dean. That would not be happening again. "Why don't you tell us about Juliet? Should we expect a house call from the farm's new veterinarian this weekend? I'm sure Icarus could use a good once over."

"I told her you two were coming home and she suddenly had the urge to spend the weekend in the woods, tagging some roaming wolves with radio collars."

Caleb snorted. "Sam obviously made a bad first impression on the good doctor."

"Me?" Sam groaned. "I wasn't the one threatening to bleed to death and succumb to a fatal poisoning. There was also the blatant flirting which was made even more ludicrous by your visage."

"That is exactly what I'm talking about." Caleb pointed a piece of crust at him. "You gave her the whole nymph spiel and copped to the snake venom. Not even my extreme good looks, half naked body and awesome charm stood a chance against you dropping the whole sordid truth at her feet in your completely pretentious scholarly rhetoric."

"Something obviously brought her back." Sam had defended himself all he was going to concerning the incident with Juliet. He had only been telling the truth. It wasn't like he was trying to run her off on purpose, well, not exactly.

"That something would be my extreme good looks, naked body and incredible sexual prowess." Dean asserted with a wide grin. "With some more time I'm sure I can convince her that I'm worth the baggage I bring with me-namely you two goons."

"You make us sound like a couple of spoiled kids from your disastrous first marriage." Sam frowned at his brother, once again unsure he liked the changes that were taking place. "We were here first."

"That's not a bad analogy." If Dean noticed Sam was no longer joking he didn't let on. Instead he focused on Caleb. "So, Damien, was you drunk when you fell out of bed, or is it time you finally broke down and got some glasses, vanity be damned?"

Caleb reached up and touched the bandage on his forehead with a wince. "I was not drunk and I don't need glasses. It was a gnome I tell you-a wily bastard of a gnome."

Dean laughed. "Then I guess I'll have to have a little chat with our Advisor about his shoddy spell-work."

"Speaking of our Advisor, what's up with him?" Caleb took another bite of pizza, washing it down with a long gulp of his beer.

"You mean your big brother Josh hasn't been checking in regularly?" Dean cast a quick glance at Sam, before returning his focus to his best friend. "You know it wouldn't hurt younger brothers to do the dutiful daily phone call every now and then. Call him, Damien."

"I talked to Joshua yesterday." Sam was not going to take the bait Dean was so obviously dangling. He wasn't about to explain that talking to Dean every day did not make his transition to New York any easier, in fact it was a little like poking a wound he'd forgotten was there until the familiar pain flared, catching him off guard with its intensity. Instead, he'd branched out. Making friends at NYU had been harder than he thought, much harder even than his time at Stanford. It seemed he had even less in common with his peers these days than he did when he was eighteen. The familiar had been easier, so Joshua and Elijah had become somewhat constants in his new life. "He said something about Carolyn being under the weather."

"Then he's probably in need of a hunt as much as Deuce." Caleb put down his beer, pulling out his phone. He tapped the screen to open his text. "I did some research on that Big Foot gig we've been talking about for years. Now may be the perfect time for The Triad and their Advisor to check it out. I'll send him a message that The Guardian has requested his presence at the farm, immediately."

"Did you just not hear me say Carolyn is sick?" Sam sighed.

"What better reason to get out of the house?" Caleb continued to type. "The honeymoon is probably on hiatus until she's on the mend. Women have weird hang-ups about sex when they're sick."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Did you really just say that?"

"What?" Caleb finished his text, putting his phone away before reclaiming his pizza. "It's true. Am I right, Deuce?"

"Damien's right, Sammy. Chicks don't feel sexy when they're hacking up a lung, toss in a runny nose or any kind of bathroom issues and it's a definite deal breaker."

"I know you two might find this hard to believe, but maybe Joshua wants to be there to take care of Carolyn, to honor that whole 'in sickness and in health' part of his marriage vows. He's not going to rush off for some spur of the minute hunt that has been on the back burner for years." Sam was pretty confident he had nothing to worry about when it came to Dean settling down. The whole Brotherhood might have been only a slight stumbling block for Juliet, but surely his brother's Neanderthal views would be a deal breaker of a different kind for a woman like the good doctor.

"I have never been more embarrassed for you than in this moment, Samantha." Dean shook his head, sadly.

"Me? I'm not the screwed-up one." Sam's rebuttal was interrupted by the beeping of Caleb's phone.

The Knight held up the screen to Dean, his face alight with familiar gloating. "Good to know at least one of our brothers isn't a complete pansy ass. Josh will be here first thing in the morning, maybe sooner if he can get the flight."

Dean picked up the last piece of pizza, cutting his gaze to Sam. "You were saying?"

"Never mind." Sam sighed, grabbing his beer. "You two are hopeless."

"Yet we get laid on a regular basis." Caleb lifted his drink in the air. "Hopeless seems to work for us, Deuce."

Dean rapped his bottle against Caleb's. "Yes it does, Damien."

"So, we're really going to go after Big Foot?" Sam preferred to discuss the inevitable upcoming hunt over his brother and Caleb's gloating. He had to admit a prospective job sounded preferable to the load of books waiting to be cracked. Now that he was back at the farm, NYU seemed light years away. Finals could wait a few days. "Are we even sure Big Foot really exist?"

"How could you forget Bobby's Minnesota story?" Dean looked aghast. "If Dad hadn't been there Bobby would have ended up as Big Foot's Bride."

"Bobby is always drunk when he tells that story," Sam felt the need to point out. "It always comes out sounding like a twisted, hunter's version of Deliverance."

"And that's different than his other interesting stories how?" Caleb finished the last of his beer. "Bobby's love of booze has never made them any less accurate."

Dean bobbed his eyebrows. "Although the amount of drink does tend to color the size of the Big Foot's di…"

"Do we even know how to kill it?" Sam interrupted his brother's sordid line of thinking before their conversation turned X-rated. It never failed to amaze him that Dean and Caleb could revert to adolescent versions of themselves at the drop of a hat, especially after a few weeks of separation. "Or where the last plausible sighting might have occurred?"

"That definitely falls into The Scholar's territory, but I have a few leads." Caleb put his empty down and stood. Sam felt the wave of dread rush over him just as he saw The Knight falter. "Let me get my journal…"

Caleb's voice trailed off, one hand coming up to his forehead as the other gripped the table for support.

"Damien?" Dean slid his chair away from the table, but didn't stand right away. His gaze was locked on The Knight. "You alright, man?"

"Just stood up too fast," Caleb said with a slight shake of his head. He gave Dean a sheepish smile. "I guess the beer didn't agree with me."

The words were no more out of his mouth when Caleb's face paled. The hand he was using to steady himself went to his stomach just before he made a quick exit from the kitchen. Sam listened to The Knight's footsteps echo down the hallway and the bathroom door slam shut. He met Dean's gaze.

"I'm guessing the pizza didn't agree with him either."

"What the hell, Sam?"

"Don't give me that look." Sam raised his hands in mock surrender, recognizing the accusation brewing in his brother's stormy green eyes. Caleb might have thought he was Sam's temporary keeper, but Sam knew Dean expected the same from him when it came to his best friend. Sam found it ironic how the wraith hunt kept clawing its way to the forefront of his mind as he remembered the promise he'd made his brother back then. "I told you I would watch out for him. You are the one who caved to his whole 'I'm fine, Duece. I don't need a hospital' plea."

"Only because you backed up his story." Dean stood, hands on hips as he looked towards the entrance to the living room where Caleb had disappeared. "That is obviously not fine."

Sam gathered the empty pizza boxes, tossing his left over crusts to Boo and Dill who were drooling in anticipation from their spots under the table by a snoozing Harper Lee. Sam made sure to save one for the aging beagle, who in the past would have never napped through a meal. He was determined not to let guilt take it's ugly hold. He'd done nothing wrong this time, been completely honest. "I told you how many stitches I used on him and that he was coherent. That was not an enthusiastic and glowing endorsement of good health."

"You think he needs to go to the clinic?"

Sam could feel his brother's worry thrumming through. Their close call with Lucifer had left deep fissures in them all, a sense of doom that was hard to shake despite their success in winning the war. Dean was still expecting the worst and it amplified his already overdeveloped sense of responsibility to take care of and protect his family. "I think you stand as bout as much a chance of getting him to go to the clinic as we stand of finding Big Foot."

"You could show a little faith in The Guardian Mandate, Sammy." Dean folded his arms over his chest, his frown of concern deepening into one of irritation.

"Sorry if I'm a little cynical after watching The Knight get his way on one too many occasion." Sam dumped the boxes into the trash, along with the empty beer bottles. He didn't blame Dean for caving to Caleb, after all Sam understood all too well how hard it was to say no to his big brother. Dean held a power over him that didn't seem to lessen with age, or with the distance that New York provided. He imagined the situation was similar for Dean when it came to Caleb though no blood bound them. "It gives me a whole new appreciation for the times when Pastor Jim tried to play that same card with Dad."

"For the last freaking time, I'm not Pastor Jim and Damien sure as hell isn't John Winchester."

"All I'm saying is I don't envy you the task of doling out orders to Caleb."

Dean snorted. "Like you're such the good little soldier."

"Are you kidding me? You've been telling me what to do my whole life." Sam put the remaining beer in the refrigerator, surprised to find the ice box completely stocked. It was weird to think of his brother alone at the farm, cooking dinner after a day at the garage. The thoughts had a pang of longing echoing through his chest and he had to remind himself that it had been his choice to go back to school. He had definitely made the right decision for him and Dean, but that didn't make adjusting any easier. Sam took a few carrots from the vegetable bin, deciding a visit with Icarus would do him some good.

"I have had lots of practice." Dean glanced toward the living room again, resolve replacing any doubt. "Which is why it will be a piece of cake for me to tell the mule-headed ass hat barfing his guts out in the bathroom that he's making a run to the clinic before we hit the sack."

"Good luck with that. In case you've missed it, Caleb is not in the habit of being told what to do by anyone, not since Dad, and even then it was anything but easy." Sam moved to the table, leaving the carrots there in lieu of picking his and Caleb's bags up from the door. He'd put their things away and come back down, his obsessive streak stronger than his need to be out in the fresh air. "I'll be in my room unpacking. If we're heading out tomorrow I need to get in a marathon research session on this hunt after checking in on Icarus."

"Coward," Dean muttered, starting out of the kitchen.

Sam followed, looking forward to sleeping in his old room for a change. He was thinking fondly of his familiar, lumpy mattress and tattered feather pillow, even the prospect of having to share with Boo and Dill didn't sully his anticipation when he nearly ran into his brother, who had drawn up short after crossing into the living room.

"Sonofabitch!" Dean swore.

Sam managed to stop before colliding with Dean's back, his heart rate picking up with the spike in The Guardian's pulse. He tensed, dropped Caleb's duffel to free one hand in preparation for whatever startled his brother. "Dean?"

Dean stepped aside with a heavy exhalation, giving Sam room to enter and greet their unexpected and uninvited visitor. "What the hell happened to the freaking courtesy knock we talked about, Cas?"


Next Part. . .