Jim was sitting with his back to the door when Caleb entered, a cold wind sending several leaves scattering across the floor from outside. He closed the door quickly to keep the heat in and his new best friend Atticus out. Three long strides brought him to the kitchen area where the pastor was studying a topographical map spread out on the table.
Reaves clasped a hand on the man's shoulder as he leaned over him to point at a spot to the east of their location. "The big bad Black Dog lives here."
Jim looked up at him over the rim of his glasses, perched precariously on his nose. "Not for long, my boy. Not for long."
Caleb grinned, giving the older man's arm a squeeze before moving around to take a seat in one of the other chairs. "You know if you had told me that all I had to do was royally screw up to get a ring, I could have obliged a long time ago."
"What would have been the fun in that?"
The dark haired teen shook his head, never really knowing if the pastor was joking or not. He glanced towards the main area of the cabin and could see and hear Joshua and Boone clearly. The blond was gesturing with his hands as he spoke, and it only took a moment for Reaves to pick up on why the other boy was imitating a newly engaged girl. "I see the same principle applied to Sawyer." There was a ring on Joshua's right hand. Damn it.
"It seemed the appropriate time. Yes."
The psychic frowned. "Who did the honors for him?"
Jim raised a curious brow. "I did, as with most new hunters."
Caleb held his twinkling blue gaze. "But not with me?"
"It seemed right that John be the one."
"What exactly does that mean, Jim?"
"What do you think it means, my boy?"
Reaves rubbed at his neck, starting to feel the adrenaline hangover more prevalently. "I don't know."
"Hmmm," Jim glanced to the map. "And here I thought you were a psychic."
"But Jim…I'm…" Reaves hesitated, and the pastor looked back up at him.
"You're a what?"
The boy shrugged, his warm eyes not quite meeting Murphy's this time. "You know."
The older man reached out and covered Caleb's hand with his own. "What I know is that you have grown into a fine young man." He waited for Reaves to finally look at him before continuing. "I know that I trust you with my life, but more importantly with the lives of the other hunters in the Brotherhood."
"How can you say that? I almost got Dean and Sammy killed. I risked their lives, and they're just kids."
"It is in the darkest moments that a man's true character shines through, Caleb." Jim shook his head, patted the boy's hand before removing his touch. "I have no doubt that your intentions were pure, even if your actions were rather foolhardy."
"My intentions weren't exactly like the fresh fallen snow." Caleb swallowed thickly. "At least not before Dean got hurt. I wanted to prove myself to you and John. I didn't want Josh to come off smelling like a rose."
"Sometimes we must lose our way to get on the right path. Now you realize what is truly important-what is at stake."
"But at what cost?"
Jim smiled sadly. "Growing up is rarely painless, I'm afraid. One is bound to acquire a fair amount of bumps and bruises along the way."
"But I wasn't the one that got hurt."
"It is a sad fact we learn more from watching those we care about suffer from our mistakes."
"It's not worth it." Caleb shook his head. "Dean…"
"Dean will be fine," Jim interrupted him, with a confident look that provided no argument.
"He is a Winchester, after all."
Caleb smiled slightly. The man had a point there. "Yeah. I'm willing to bet that old Black has one hell of a belly ache."
"No doubt." Murphy went back to his perusal of the map.
"Hmmm?" Jim continued to outline the trap they would set for the Black.
"Couldn't you have waited just one more day to give Sawyer his ring?"
The pastor raised his gaze and gave the kid a 'you're pushing your luck' kind of glare.
Reaves's half-grin spread. He raised his hands in a surrender gesture. "Just kidding." Caleb stood up and slid his chair back under the table. "After all I still beat him by five years."
Jim shook his head as he watched the psychic walk away. "Boys," he sighed, and returned to his work.
Joshua glanced Caleb's way as he entered the room. The blond was still talking animatedly, making it impossible for the other young hunter to miss the silver band on his finger. Reaves shoved his own hands in his coat pockets and rolled his eyes.
Boone gave him a pained grimace in return. "Glad to see you're still in one piece, kid."
Caleb shrugged. "Yeah, Johnny just took a couple of swings. He didn't want to piss Mac off."
"Don't blame him there. Your daddy can be a mean sonofabitch when he wants to be. Never underestimate anyone with access to a scalpel and hard drugs-not to mention the whole 'looks could kill' thing." Boone rubbed a big meaty hand over his thick red beard. "There was this one time up in Philly…"
"Did Dean just call for me?" The psychic asked suddenly, cocking his head to one side as if he were straining to hear. He really wasn't in the mood for one of Cazlin's good ol' day stories.
Boone listened for a moment then shook his head. "I didn't hear anything."
Caleb tapped his head. "Must be the psychic hot-line. I better go check on him just in case."
"You do that, kid."
Joshua snorted. "Maybe he should consider child care instead of Legos as his college major."
Reaves pretended he didn't hear the dig, continuing on towards the bedroom. But he grinned when he heard Boone tell the other hunter to grow the hell up.
The door to the room squeaked when he pushed it open, but neither small body moved on the bunk bed the brothers shared. Reaves almost turned around, deciding he could set them straight on the whole misunderstanding later, but a blurred image of large, blood-covered fangs and a flash of black flooded through his mind at the same time as a soft whimper met his ears. Dean was dreaming.
He quietly made his way to the boys, still picking up on images of the nightmare. His palms began to sweat. He had to push the intense feeling of fear away as he kept himself planted in reality. The ten-year-old was moving restlessly now, and Caleb had barely ghosted his fingers over Dean's hair, when the kid awoke with a start. "No. Sammy!" He gasped, trying to sit up.
"Hey." Reaves put a hand on the younger boy's chest, holding him still so he wouldn't pull any stitches. He carefully sat down on the bed "Deuce, take it easy. Sammy's fine."
"Caleb?" Dean licked his lips, blinking owlishly as his little brother stirred next to him, but didn't awake. The ten-year-old glanced towards the younger boy and relaxed back on the mattress in relief. He looked up at the psychic. "What…where are we?"
The eighteen-year-old frowned. "The hunting cabin. Remember?"
Finally, the boy nodded. "Yeah."
"You okay?" There was still a haunted look on the kid's face, as if he still wasn't quite awake.
"Isn't here. You were dreaming," Caleb assured. "No way that thing will come around here. And Boone and your Dad will go finish it tonight."
Reaves went to remove his touch, not liking the open connection it still allowed. The little boy's fear was still strong, and foreign.
Caleb wasn't afraid of much. Things that made up nightmares and horror movies had been a part of his life for almost as long as he could remember. The psychic took a deep breath, as Dean actually reestablished the link by grabbing his hand before he could move it completely away. "Don't go."
Reaves swallowed thickly. He whispered that same thing to Dean as the kid had gone still in his arms in those hours before John had shown up. The boy's fever had gotten high, his breathing shallow and labored. Sam had nearly been hysterical. Caleb had been terrified. Because there was one monster he couldn't quite come to terms with. Death. The beast he couldn't slay. Something he couldn't keep the people he cared about safe from. "I'm not going anywhere, kiddo."
Usually he would have given the boy hell over the whole trembling lip, death grip, and touchy-feely shit, but he couldn't bring himself to even fake it. After all, Caleb might not have feared for his own life, but he was constantly haunted by the fragility of those few people he gave a damn about. People could disappear in a blink of an eye.
"You still pissed at us?" Dean asked, softly, his voice still weak and scratchy.
The psychic sighed. "Dude, I'm not mad." Caleb's parents had been taken in an instant, gone in a blurry flash of blood and gore. He could still see it if he tried hard enough. Then there was his grandmother. He hadn't been much older than Dean.
The ten-year-old looked up at him through unguarded green eyes. "You look mad."
He sounded so worried, and un-Dean like that Caleb forced a half-grin. "It's called brooding, Deuce. And women eat it up. Trust me. I'll teach you how to pull it off so that you have them dropping at your feet."
Reaves used his free hand to ruffle the boy's hair. "You won't always be ten." Just like luck wouldn't always be on their side. Like John wouldn't always be around to come to the rescue.
Words like always, forever and safe couldn't be trusted. They had a habit of disappearing too, crumbling beneath your feet. They were made to only hold together happily-ever-after stories like the fairy tales Jim Murphy weaved for them.
"But I'll always be a pain in your ass."
That was more like it. Caleb feigned surprise. "You read minds now, Deuce? I was just thinking that." Thinking wasn't actually the word for it. Praying was closer. It had been so close this time. John was right. They could have lost both of them.
"Just yours, Damien." The smart-ass remark brought his gaze from Sam and back to his brother.
The psychic shook his head. "Yeah? You know what I'm thinking now?" God he hoped not. If Dean ever got an idea of how important he was, he'd torture Caleb mercilessly. Any authority he held over the boy would vanish.
A hint of the usual shit-eating grin appeared on the kid's face. "Something about Lassie and Rin Tin Tin."
Caleb groaned. "Oh really."
A muffled giggle erupted from beneath the quilt and Reaves reached over and grabbed one visible, sock-covered foot, tickling it mercilessly. "You were sworn to secrecy, Runt. I recall a pinky swear."
"I can't lie to Dean." Sam squealed, peeking up at Reaves and jerking his foot away. "He asked me what happened."
"And you couldn't have conveniently left that part out?"
"Why leave out the best part?" Joshua entered the room, with a cocky swagger. "All you need is a couple of ferrets and a sword, and you'll have a good gig going on. I can't wait to tell Ian and Fisher."
Caleb shared a look with Dean. "And here he is now, the newly pinned sorority girl."
Dean frowned, and Reaves glanced back over his shoulder. "Go ahead and show it to them so they can get some sleep."
"Show us what?" Sam sat up, peering intently at the blond through the darkness. "Did Daddy hit you? Have you got a black eye?"
Caleb snorted at the barely contained glee, but Joshua didn't seem too deterred. "For your information, young Winchester, you are looking at the newest member of the Brotherhood."
He lifted his hand, flashing his silver ring. "Jim let you in the club?" Dean's eyes widened in disbelief. "For getting us lost?"
"No," Joshua snapped. "For protecting you."
"You remember, Deuce." Caleb nodded, with a grin. "When he wiggled his nose and recited that spell."
"Incantation," Sawyer corrected, smartly. "I don't do spells."
Reaves looked at him. "And here I thought that's why Jim finally gave you your ring. Because you were being true to your gifts…not trying to pretend to be something you aren't." Caleb's grin widened as Joshua's face flushed. "Plus you tried to cover my ass. Thanks, by the way."
Joshua's frown grew. That was exactly what Jim had told him, which meant only one thing. Reaves was reading him. "Does privacy mean nothing to you, heathen?"
Caleb shrugged, glanced around the room. "I could ask you the same thing, bad manners? No one invited you in."
Sawyer shook his head. "I have as much right to be here as you do."
Reaves raised a brow. "Right back at you, Josh."
The blond rolled his eyes, not even bothering to clarify the distasteful shortening of his given name. "Whatever."
"Do you have a broom?" Sam asked, suddenly as if he had been pondering the question for a while. "Or a cat? Because most witches do."
Caleb couldn't hold his laughter, as Joshua's mouth actually dropped open and then closed, with a lack of response. It was bad enough to be out-mouthed by Dean…but Sam. "He must, Sammy, because apparently it's gotten his tongue."
"I'm not a witch," Joshua denied, obviously flustered. "I just…it's only…I know witch-like things." He sighed. "Why am I even explaining myself to you? You're five."
"Wait much longer and everything he says will be over your head, Sawyer."
Joshua sighed, quickly tiring of the verbal sparring. Reaves could be mentally taxing. Add in his sidekicks and he was exhausting. "The only reason I came in was to tell you John and Boone want to talk to you about the Dog's lair. We'll be leaving as soon as it's dark."
Caleb felt Dean's hand tighten around his once more, and he could sense Sam's eyes on him as well. Joshua was still an idiot, despite what he might have done for him and the boys. "I'll be out in a minute."
He waited for the blond hunter to leave before he turned back to the boys, with a wry grin. "Poor bastard, I was afraid he was going to get his pension before he got a ring."
"You said Dad and Boone were going after it." Dean ignored the humor diversion.
"They are." Reaves shrugged. "I'm just going for back-up."
"You think the Black is still out there? You think Joshua was right about there being more than one?"
Dean's breath had quickened and there was a hint of fear in his gaze again. Caleb shook his head. "Black Dogs don't usually hunt in packs, Deuce. He's getting them confused with Hell Hounds. This mutt is a loner and thanks to me, he's packing some silver. That'll slow him down."
"I don't want you and Daddy to go," Sam spoke up. "Who's going to watch out for us?"
"Pastor Jim will be here, Runt."
"You could stay," Dean said, tightly. "It doesn't take three hunters to take out one Dog. And Josh is the one with the ring now. He should go."
"I know where the lair is," Caleb pointed out. "You know Sawyer will never get them there."
"Because he can't find his own ass in the dark?" Sam queried, and Reaves laughed.
"You got that right, Sammy." He glanced back at Dean and bobbed his eyebrows. "Besides, Sawyer's not the only one to get a ring."
Caleb held his free hand up, flashing the silver proudly. "I'm an official hunter now."
"No way." Dean's eyes widened.
"Yep. You two are the first to know."
"But you're still a kid," Sam stated.
"Am not." Reaves looked insulted. "I'm eighteen."
"But I'm the one who got bitten." Dean frowned. " I should get a ring, too."
"It's not a purple heart, Deuce. Besides you have to at least be tall enough to ride all the roller coasters at Disney before you get one of these babies. It's a rule."
"Bite me," Dean mumbled, glancing away.
"Now-now. There's been enough of that for one night."
The older Winchester favored him with a patented glare and it was so much better than seeing the previous look of fear and worry. "I'm just glad you and Joshua got a prize."
Caleb's smile faded, his relief disappearing along with it. "That's not funny, Deuce."
Dean swallowed hard, glancing down at the blanket covering him. "Sorry." Sammy curled closer to the older boy, not really understanding why his big brother was upset, but sensing he was, just the same. "It's just…"
Reaves sighed. He and Dean had a lot more in common than he wanted to admit. "Look, Deuce, it's okay. There's nothing to worry about. Nothing's going to happen to anybody."
Caleb raked a hand over his face, still feeling the fear rolling off the oldest boy. An idea occurred to him then and he reached down to his pant leg, pulling the leather case he kept strapped around his ankle free. "It's not a ring, but it's kind of a rite of passage. Your Dad gave it to me when I killed my first werewolf." He tugged the large silver blade from its sheath, handing it hilt first to Dean.
"Cool," Dean breathed, taking the knife, and looking at it in awe.
"You can keep it under your pillow, just in case. It'll keep you and Sam safe."
"Thanks." Dean glanced up at him then. "But I still think I should have gotten a ring."
Caleb rolled his eyes. "I'll buy you a couple boxes of Cracker Jacks. Maybe you'll get lucky."
"I like Cracker Jacks, too." Sam said, pointedly, and the older boy shook his head.
"I'll remember that, Runt." Reaves stood and pulled the blankets up around them. "Now go to sleep."
The ten-year-old looked up at him. "You know that thing doesn't make you bullet proof, right?"
The psychic rolled his eyes. "Yeah, it came with a warning, John Junior."
"Did it come with a cape?" Sam asked.
"No, but maybe you should talk to Jim about that, Sammy." Reaves knew the talking was a delay tactic. The boys didn't want anyone hunting for the Black. But, duty was calling.
John popped his head in the door. "Goodnight boys." He grinned to his sons. He cocked his head to his side. "Caleb, you coming?"
"I'm there." And Reaves knew he was, there for the Winchesters and the other hunters in the Brotherhood.
Be careful," Sammy advised with a yawn.
"If there's trouble push Josh in the way. I bet he tastes like shit," Dean commented, relaxing back into his pillow.
Caleb laughed. Jim was of the opinion that Reaves attracted danger. He had a feeling the Winchester boys would put his growing up years to shame.
a/n: I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who has reviewed for this little back story(Ridley laughs at her own little joke). Really though, all your comments about Caleb and The Brotherhood really keep me motivated. I'm sorry I haven't got to reply to everyone individually. I was doing better on that...and then work caught up with me. Dragons should have another part posted soon, but I'm currently at a conference, and will hopefully squeeze in some writing between sessions on self harm and dream interpretation. bg.
Last but not least, a huge thank you to Tidia, who has been the best Beta ever. Even doing this on short notice and being on alert for Dragons. Thanks, girl.