A/N: Okay, I hadn't planned on doing this, but so many people asked if I would. I'm such a sucker. I hope it's what you wanted.
Warning: Language...uhhhh, this is John we're talking about here. He's not an alter boy. bg.
The damn phone was ringing. AGAIN.
Caleb groaned in his now semi-asleep state, irritated he couldn't even dream about having uninterrupted relations with the hot redhead from the bar. He patted the hard ground around him, coming into contact with the side of the tent. He let his fingers slide down the nylon material to finally find the offensive object he was searching for.
"Yeah?" He growled, blinking in the darkness to orient himself to the unfamiliar surroundings.
"Caleb?" The hard voice of John Winchester boomed across the line and the psychic flinched, casting a quick glance to his sleeping charges. He damn well expected them to jump to their feet and stand at attention. The older man's voice seemed to be amplified through a bullhorn, echoing in the darkness around them.
Reaves shook his head when neither boy even stirred. They were either more out of it than he thought, or playing opossum so he'd have to face the firing squad solo. The hunter was betting on the latter. Freakin' brats.
"John," the psychic greeted, coolly after Winchester once again barked his name. Caleb managed to get to his knees, and used his free hand to unzip the tent as quietly as he could manage. He slipped out into the cool night air, wincing as his bare feet connected with the rough ground, understanding why cowboys slept with their damn boots on.
"Where the hell are you, Reaves?"
The young hunter snorted, making his way to one of the buckets that he and the boys had used as chairs earlier in the night. "Funny, but I was about to ask you the same thing. It's like you read my mind." He picked up a stick and poked at the still glowing embers of their campfire. "Want to try and see if you can read what I'm thinking now?"
He heard his friend sigh heavily on the other end, imagined him raking fingers through his hair as he tried to get control of his temper. "God damn it, Caleb."
"Fine," Caleb replied around another jaw-popping yawn. "I'm at the lovely five star resort you and the boys have been staying at. In fact, I'm on the veranda now, enjoying my scenic view of the river as we speak. The way the structure blends with the natural landscape is quite breathtaking-almost like sleeping outside under the stars."
"Are the boys with you?"
"Yep," Caleb threw some more kindling on the fire, bringing it back to life. "They're tucked away safely in their estate rooms after consuming the lavish meal the wait staff prepared for them."
"Cut the bullshit, Caleb!"
Reaves let his planned dig slide back down his throat, into the vast storage of gripes he had to pick with John and sent a side-long glance back to the tent. He heard a slight rustling of blankets, but nothing more.
"Are they okay?"
The genuine concern he was picking up on pushed away some of his anger. "Well, let's see. Sam has one hell of a black eye and some bruised ribs. The people at DCS thought he had that pitiful, kicked puppy look going on- wanted to take his picture for the new Abuse Hot Line poster. But we declined. Dean's teeth should tighten back up on their own, but he's not going to be able to do any print ad work anytime soon, unless it's for that new place Abercrombie & Somebody's Bitch." Even the sincere worry couldn't erase all the pent up frustration.
"Did you take care of it?"
"Of what, exactly? The police? DCS? Their bleeding wounds and missing limbs?"
"Caleb…Mac said you were going to handle it?"
So that was it. Mackland had tracked down the wayward hunter. "It's handled."
"And they're all right?"
"Do you want the truth?" Caleb snapped, suddenly more pissed than he had been only seconds before. He was tired and riding somewhat of an adrenaline hangover. Not the kind he was use to with hunting either, no…this was worse. It was the kind of lingering effect from an intense fear that should no longer rationally be present, the emotional equivalent to the dry heaves. Plus, if he was going to be hung over it should have been a because of his friends Jose and Jim Bean, like any normal, red-blooded single twenty-three-year-old male. "Because I'm pretty sick of glazing it over for you, Johnny boy."
"What the hell does that mean?"
Reaves stood up, paced towards the river's edge despite the twigs and sharp rocks biting into his feet. "It means you left your kids in a roach-infested, two-bit shack in the middle of bum-fuck Arkansas, with the cast of Deliverance as their friendly raping, pillaging, and cross-burning neighbors."
"Put Dean on the phone."
"The place is structurally unsound, the floors are rotting, the ceiling is falling in, and if the walls in that place could talk, Johnny…well let's just say the Jonesboro police could wrap up a few of their unsolved violent crimes. I'm guessing the rats are big enough to carry Sammy off in the middle of the night…and…" Caleb wiped a hand over his face. "Just…Jesus Christ, John! What the hell were you thinking? Couldn't you have left them with Jim for the summer, like you use to…or Mac…"
"Put Dean on the phone!"
John was yelling now and Caleb was being dismissed, and damn if that didn't piss him off even more. "No fucking way!"
"I said put DEAN on the phone! THAT's an order!"
"You're kidding right?" Reaves laughed then, raked a hand through his hair. He cast his eyes heavenward, as if to ask if whoever was up there was getting a big kick in the pants out of the situation. "Did you forget I don't work for you, Winchester? And I sure the hell didn't get drafted to serve under you. So cut the fucking drill sergeant spiel." There was no way he was going to wake Dean up so the man could take his frustration out on a willing whipping boy.
"I have seniority over you in a hunt and you damn well know that! Check the fucking rule book."
"Rule book?" Caleb snapped. "If anyone needs to check a book out, it's you! Try Dr. Spock, I hear he has some good ones on parenting. And in case you missed this memo…I'm not on a hunt-neither is Dean or Sam."
"Are you trying to fucking tell me how to raise my boys, Reaves?"
"No. Beating my head against a wall is not my idea of fun, Winchester." And Caleb was afraid if he got started he'd never stop. It wasn't any of his business. He didn't really give a shit. And then… there was the whole thing about John being like a fucking brother to him…even if he was a fucking idiot.
"I do the best that I can!"
At that moment, the younger hunter wanted nothing more than to reach across the invisible phone lines and strangle the stupid son of a bitch. But it wouldn't have done anyone one bit of good. It wouldn't have spared Sam, Dean or John one bit of suffering. It wouldn't have even made the psychic feel any better. "You do what you think you have to, man." He sighed wearily, rubbed at his aching neck, knew there was no point in having this conversation. "There's a fucking difference. You're just too blind to see." Blinded by hate. Blinded by pain.
He sighed again, looked up at the night sky and watched Orion winking down at him. Maybe they were all a little nearsighted. Reaves clenched his right hand into a fist, felt the cool metal of the silver ring around his finger. "Look, Johnny. The boys are good. It's all good." He flashed a look back towards the tent, slowly made his way towards the fire once more. "I'm taking them with me-getting the hell out of this one-horse town. We'll meet up with you when you're finished. You just tell me where. I'll be there."
John sighed heavily on the other end, Caleb imagined he was rubbing a hand over his bearded face, trying to reign in the temper he had let go. He was tempted to get a reading on him, but held back, unwilling to break a trust he wasn't quite sure the other man deserved. "You sure they're okay?"
"They're Winchesters, aren't they?" They had to be okay. There was no other option, no luxury to be otherwise, not okay.
"Are you okay?"
The question caught him off guard, had him scratching his head. "Me? Hell, you know me." Caleb rolled his eyes at his own inept ability to comeback with a quick retort. At John's ability to still sucker punch him after all the years they'd known each other.
"Yeah. About the living arrangements…"
"Don't worry, man. Deuce and I are going to burn that bitch to the ground before we get on the road. What's a little arson, when we've already covered assault, battery and trespassing?"
"I'm kidding." Reaves laughed, feeling somewhat of a balance return. "I wouldn't deny the next lucky tenant of that piece of Heaven."
"You're a smart ass son of a bitch, you know that?"
"Yeah, yeah, you're welcome. Don't get all mushy on me."
Silence greeted him on the other end, and Reaves cut the connection, sliding the phone into his jeans pocket. "Shit," He mumbled to himself, scrubbing his hands over his face, wishing he'd thought to bring something stronger than the six pack of beer he had tied off in the river. Why did everything and everyone in his life have to be so damn complicated?
The young hunter was considering traipsing back to the water's edge to retrieve a bottle, when he heard the flap of the tent lift. He glanced up, surprised to find a bleary-eyed Sam crawling out towards him.
"Hey, runt, you should be asleep."
"I heard you yelling." Sam took perch on the bucket next to him. "Thought a bear was after you."
The dark haired hunter laughed. "I thought your brother was the only one with the Yogi hang up?"
"I'm not afraid of bears." Sam declared. "Was it Dad?"
"Yeah." Caleb nodded, roughly palming his eyes. "He's going to meet up with us later in the week."
"Him I'm afraid of." Sam said around a sleepy yawn. "Is he mad at us?"
"You know your dad." The psychic looked at him then, studying his young, pale features in the reflected orange glow of the flames.
"Yeah," the kid drew his knees up, stretched his t-shirt over them and rested his chin on his arms. He turned his face to Reaves. "Do you think he'll punish Dean?"
The hunter raised a brow, not missing the concern and slight fear in the little boy's voice, and he had to admit it echoed his own worry. John wasn't violent, not with the boys, but he was damn strict, and he'd seen Dean take his fair share of punishments-more than his share. "Nah. He might kick my ass though."
Sam grinned a little. "As long as it's not Dean."
Exactly. "Thanks." Caleb snorted. "I'm glad you've got your priorities straight. Not like I saved your scrawny ass or anything."
"You're bigger," the ten-year-old pointed out the obvious. "And way older."
"Way older?" Reaves frowned, bumped his shoulder against Sam's.
Sam nodded, his grin growing. "You're suppose to look out for Dean…for me. Like Dad and Bobby looks out for you."
And to the boy, it was just that simple. Maybe he had the right idea. Maybe everything wasn't so complicated. "Yeah. You're a pretty smart kid, Sammy."
The ten-year-old nodded. "I know," He easily agreed around another yawn.
Reaves chuckled. "How's your face, Einstein?" The hunter cleared his throat, motioned to where Sam's lip had bled more sometime through the night, leaving a small smear of red across his chin.
The boy shrugged, wiped his finger over his lip, staring at the crimson stain. "Did you know that not all animals have red blood?"
The dark haired hunter wrinkled his brow. "You don't say?"
Sam picked at the black bracelet around his small wrist. "Some insects have yellow blood, and green blood. And some even have blue blood, because they have copper in their system instead of iron, like us."
"Weird," Caleb nodded, not sure where that little lecture had come from. Sam could be odd at times.
"Cockroaches have clear blood," he looked at Reaves again. "But I don't know why."
The psychic got the impression they had veered off the true subject at hand, or maybe just doubled-back on it. "Maybe because they're alien life forms or some crap."
Sam lifted his head from his knees and looked at him as if he'd missed the point. His brown eyes were glistening now, and Caleb hoped like hell he didn't start leaking again. "I really hate cockroaches, Caleb." His voice broke a little, and he leaned closer to the other man. "And I don't like Arkansas very much either."
"Yeah," The hunter raked a hand through his hair. "Look, Sammy…about that..."
The little boy continued, his breath hitching. "I don't like Mr. Brewster, or police officers, and those people from kid services." The entire time he was talking, Sam kept looking at him with those damn unblinking eyes, and Caleb knew he'd let John off way too easy. But he wasn't quite sure what Sam wanted him to do.
"And…I don't like Dad much right now either." He finished and waited for the older man's reaction.
"Join the club, Sammy," Caleb finally replied, quietly, realizing that maybe the boy just wanted someone to commiserate with.
"He's a dickhead." Sam said, softly.
"Definitely," The older man agreed.
The little boy dropped his head back to his knees, turned his gaze back to the dying fire.
Sam looked at him. "Yeah?"
"You know what happens when you put someone's hand in warm water while their asleep?"
A faint grin tugged at the boy's face, as he shook his head. "Nope."
Reaves' own devilish grin flashed, and he nodded back towards the tent. "Want to find out?"
Sam nodded, enthusiastically. "I'll get the water."
The little boy jumped up, grabbing the pot from near the fire and started for the river's edge. Caleb watched him go, glancing up at the sky once more. This time he winked at Orion. "Deuce will understand, big guy. After all, great, beautiful, and terrible things happen…all in the name of love."