Rating: T for language
Disclaimer: Alas, I'm not expecting the boys for my birthday, so nothing Supernatural belongs to me. This takes place in the Brotherhood AU, and is an attempt to keep cannon and fannon on the same page so to speak.
A/N: Tag on for Nightshifter. I loved this episode so much. I honestly think it is the best stand alone we have had. But Tidia and Mog and I were talking in between commercial breaks and we had this conversation about what would The Brotherhood think. And alas, I had to write it. Tidia helped so much with the dialogue so a big shout out to her. And a thanks for the Beta, even in the late hours of a weekend. I hope you enjoy it. Also, I researched Minnesota, and I mean no offense to anyone living in Baudette. I used your beautiful town with the up most respect. Last but not least, this title, Jim's postmortem wisdom, and a line that Caleb says, was inspired by a wonderful song from the band Mercy Me.
Summary: Tag for Nightshifter. In life there are times when we all feel alone and outnumbered, it is in these moments that we must hold fast to the idea that someone out there is watching over us.
"Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything." -Warren G. Harding
Caleb Reaves nearly choked on the beer he was nursing when he glanced up at the flat screen television prominently displayed above the bar. There in all his glory was Dean Winchester.
The young hunter was caught by the many news cameras. A very disturbing and uncharacteristic deer in the headlight look illuminated by the flashing lights of numerous police cars and an ambulance. "Damn Deuce, what the fuck?" The psychic knew it wasn't possible, but he picked up a sudden, intense feeling of complete panic and helplessness from the younger man.
He'd sensed danger before, had visions when Dean was in trouble, but never such a strong emotional response from so far away. Maybe it was a Knight thing. "Turn that up!" He ordered the old man behind the bar. The silver-haired attendant rolled his eyes and tossed the remote to Caleb. It was early in the day and happy hour hadn't started yet, but from the way the bartender was stocking bottles, you'd think he was preparing for Mardi Gras.
"Probably some kids cranked up on that happy juice they like these days," he grumped. "In my time, we stuck to liquor. Didn't see us out holding up banks."
Reaves let the sound of the reporter's voice drown out the old man's lament. He watched as Dean led an old man out the door and then returned into the surrounded bank.
"What the hell is going on?" Caleb demanded to no one in particular and jumped when his phone rang in reply.
"Yeah?" He growled.
"You watching this?"
Caleb sighed. Leave it to Joshua Sawyer to be in the know. The man was probably watching it on his fucking Blackberry. "Like a train wreck."
"What are they thinking?" Joshua asked, the question expressing his complete amazement and much to Caleb's irritation, a hint of amusement.
"Can you do something about this?"
"Contrary to popular belief I do not work with felons...I can not put a spin on this."
Reaves glanced back to the television where the pretty reporter was trying to appear serious and morose as she described the hostage situation again and the fact that shots had been fired by S.W.A.T.
"One man's down inside the bank," Sawyer parroted the woman's words and Caleb swallowed thickly.
He read Josh's thoughts loud and clear. "Trust me. It's not Sam." For one, if it were Sam, Caleb had a feeling he would know. Their psychic connection had strengthened over the last few months. And more importantly, Dean was still in control. If Sam had been taken out then Dean wouldn't give a damn. "They're screwed." He breathed, raking a hand through his hair.
"I think you should call Mac."
"Like hell! I'm not calling anyone…" Caleb's phone beeped, alerting him that another call was coming in. "Damn it! Hold on!"
He rolled his eyes when he saw the number. "Dad, hey, bad connection I can't hear you!"
"Don't try that, Caleb. We are in the 21st century. Cell phones no longer have shoddy reception."
Great. "So, why are you calling?"
"Dean and Sam Winchester are involved in a bank robbery."
The psychic winced. "Right."
"What are they thinking?"
Again with that question. "Look, Dad, I'm on it. I'm headed that way. Let me call you when I get to the truck."
He didn't give his father a chance to answer as he clicked back over to Sawyer. "Hey, you still there?"
"Oh, yes. It isn't every day one gets to watch the future Guardian and Scholar on a special news report. I do believe for centuries previous ones have tried to fly under the radar. There is that secrecy clause. I do believe my grandfather never even garnered a speeding ticket in his time as Knight and..."
Caleb exhaled loudly into the phone, cutting off the other hunter. "Listen to me. I'm going to need your help." He tossed a twenty on the bar top and grabbed his jacket and keys.
"You mean Dean and Sam are going to need my help?" Joshua was still sounding way too smug for his liking.
"Yes." Caleb could practically imagine the other hunter rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "Same difference."
"No. It's not. You still owe me for my Christmas miracle. But now the Guardian and Scholar will be indebted-especially if I have to explain to my boss why Chevrolet Sucks is now on the top of the charts of a different kind."
Caleb pushed outside into the cold Missouri night. "Don't make me remind you of the little botched information fiasco, or better yet, don't make me remind Mackland."
There was a pause and then Joshua was sighing. "Fine. Whatever you need. But I'm telling you now, I'd have better luck at making Lindsay Lohan appear virginal than I would at having those two look innocent."
"That isn't the kind of help I'm talking about." Caleb felt the familiar, haunting presence of his mentor as he climbed into John's truck. "I'll call you back with the details. Stay tuned and let me know if there are any changes in the situation."
"Do you really believe that they can get themselves out of this?"
The big Chevy roared to life and not for the first time Caleb wished he were riding co-pilot on this mission instead of manning the helm. He missed John and sometimes wondered if he were the right man to follow in his steps. "If they don't, we'll find a way to fix it."
"Oh yes, I have just the thing. You can tattoo the architectural plans to whichever federal prison they are sentenced to on your body and then commit a crime so that…"
"Smart ass." Caleb cut the connection, not in the mood to listen to any of Joshua's bad attempts at levity.
He glanced up at the rearview mirror, the flash of gold catching his eye. Jim Murphy's cross pendant dangled from it's tarnished chain, and Caleb took a deep, calming breath as the echo of Jim's voice sounded from the past. I promise you there is hope. "Hold fast, boys. Help is on the way."
His cell rang again, and he prayed it wasn't yet another member of The Brotherhood asking him what the hell Dean and Sam Winchester were thinking.
"I thought you were going to call me right back?"
"Damn, Mac. Aren't you the one lobbying against cell phone distraction while driving?"
His father didn't bite. "I've spoken with Missouri."
"Really. How's she doing?"
"Damn it, Caleb," Mac snapped, not amused in the least at his son's glibness. "She says this is just the beginning."
"Come on, Dad. Missouri can be a little overdramatic."
"They need to go under, Caleb. We need to keep them safe."
That's what Reaves had been saying for years. Funny how no one listened to him before it was too late. "That's not going to fly and you know it. You forgetting who their father is?"
"I'm aware of their lineage and their genetic disposition to act like mules, but I'm still the goddamn Scholar and the only remaining member of the Triad. They will listen to me or I will…"
"What, Dad? Lecture them into submission? Turn them over your knee? The only thing you're going to do is drive them further away."
"You should have seen this coming."
What? "You're acting like this is my fault."
"I'm not convinced it isn't."
"What the hell does that mean?" Caleb demanded, not liking the turn in this conversation. He had a feeling it was the first one of many between the Knight and the Scholar, not father and son. It was something he hadn't banked on.
"It means you were suppose to be keeping an eye on them. "
"I have been keeping an eye on them, Mac," Caleb growled. "It's not as easy as it appears. They don't want us involved in this whole personal vendetta they have going on with the Demon."
"I understand that. I know all about how 'easy' the Winchesters are and I understand they have our best interests at heart, but this is no longer just about them, about their family. John cut himself off from us and look where that got him."
Reaves sighed, unwilling to imagine the same fate for Dean and Sam. "I talked to them yesterday. I was going to meet up with them in the next day or two. They were on the trail of some freaky theft, suicide happenings that Bobby turned them onto by the way. He thought the people might be possessed. So maybe this is all his fault."
"Now you sound like John. Bobby isn't to blame here."
"Thanks, Dad." Reaves rolled his eyes. He hated to break it to his father but Caleb wasn't the one sounding a whole hell of lot like the former Knight.
"Don't get smart with me. Dean cannot continue to get himself into these situations. It is your job to see to that. Being the future Guardian will give him enough enemies as it is. We do not need to hand people further ammunition to use against him."
"Dean doesn't know he's the future Guardian, Mac! You won't explain it to him, or allow me to talk to either of them about what they're in for. Maybe that's part of the problem." He hated the fucking secrets.
"I understand that things are not clear for them, but do you really believe that now is the time to give them even more to worry about? They are still dealing with their father's death and now this revelation about Sam."
"So you're lying to them for their own good?"
"I am not saying that, Caleb."
"Then what are you saying, Dad?"
"I'm saying that you need to track them down and control this situation before it gets any worse."
"Damn. Is that an order?"
"Fine!" Caleb conceded. "Anything else oh Scholarly one?"
"Tell them to meet us in Minnesota-a town called Baudette on the Canadian border."
"Us?" His father was going into the field?
"I'll be waiting for you at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport."
This time Mackland Ames didn't give him a chance to reply before he abruptly cut the connection. Caleb tossed his phone on the seat and sighed. "Damn, this just keeps getting better."
The Wood Shed was a quaint little backwoods bar on the outskirts of Baudette, Minnesota. It hugged the water line of the Rainy River, and the Lake of the Woods was a fitting backdrop. Despite the beautiful wintry scenery, Dean Winchester was not impressed.
"This place is fucking cold," the young hunter groused as he brooded over his beer. "Who the hell wants to live here with the moose and Willie the Walleye for the only entertainment?"
"Not many people," his younger brother replied with a glare in his direction. "I'm guessing that's why Caleb suggested it."
"Yeah." Dean leaned back in the booth, watching the few patrons of the establishment mull around. They looked like hunters, of the animal prey variety, and a few favored the militia type the FBI prick Hendrickson had accused John Winchester of being. To say the least, they didn't give off a warm, fuzzy feeling but they didn't seem to take notice of much and that suited Dean just fine.
Sam picked at the plate of cheese fries he had ordered and then glanced up at his brother. "Did he say anything about the whole bank job?"
Dean grabbed one of the deep-fried potatoes and shrugged. "Do you want the condensed, clean version or the Rated R blasting that I was treated to?" He smirked at his brother. "I wouldn't want to offend your sensitive nature."
Sam slid the food closer to him, out of his brother's reach. "It wasn't like we meant for it to happen. If Ronald hadn't…"
"Don't speak ill of the dead, Sammy."
It was said lightly, but the youngest Winchester didn't miss the slight clenching of his brother's jaw. He recalled the way Dean had looked after the former bank guard had been gunned down, and he dropped the subject. "So, does Caleb have a plan for how we're going to handle this?"
"Why don't you ask him?" Dean jutted his chin to the door, where Reaves had just entered.
The man dusted snow from his leather jacket, shaking his head to remove the white stuff from his dark hair. He nodded to the waitress who met his eyes across the bar, and pointed to the booth where Dean and Sam were sitting. "Two of whatever's on tap," he called out, like he was a regular, which Dean knew he wasn't. Caleb had never been to Baudette.
"Well if it isn't the infamous Frank and Jessie?" Caleb slid into the booth beside of Dean, giving him a slow grin. "Or is that Bonnie and Clyde?"
"If I were going to have a Bonnie, she'd be a whole hell of a lot better looking than Sam."
"But could she have saved your ass like I did."
Caleb shed his coat, flashing the youngest brother a look. "Sounds like something I'd like to hear more about."
"Drop it," Dean quickly ordered Sam. "Or I tell him about your worshipping of the porcelain god last month."
Sam quickly closed his mouth. "Buzz kill," Caleb said, shoving Dean over some.
"What's with all the space?" The younger hunter complained, but slid closer to Sam.
The waitress chose that moment to bring over the beers and sat one in front of Reaves. "Can I get you anything else, handsome."
Caleb grinned. "Just keep those coming, sweetheart."
Sam eyed the two mugs. "You need to get drunk to tell us whatever it is you brought us here to say?"
Reaves picked up one of the glasses. "Nope. That one's not for me."
Sam started to ask what he meant, but his brother's muffled curse had him following Dean's line of sight to the door. The younger Winchester set his beer down, not quite sure his eyes weren't deceiving him.
Dr. Mackland Ames strolled through the door, removing his jacket and giving the place a disdainful once over before crossing the floor to join them. Despite the uncharacteristic wardrobe of faded jeans and a dark sweater, Mac looked out of his element.
"You brought your Dad?" Dean demanded under his breath, and Caleb sighed.
"No. I didn't bring my Dad." He gestured with his hand towards the solemn man stalking towards them. "Worse. I brought the Scholar. And it wasn't my idea," he added for good measure.
"Great." Dean forced a grin on his face when the doctor approached. "Hey, Mac. Fancy meeting you here."
"Boys." Mac slid in next to Caleb, eyeing the beer in front of him. "This mine?"
"On me," Caleb replied, not meeting his father's eyes and Dean and Sam exchanged a look. Apparently something was up.
"Mac," Sam spoke up. "What the hell are you doing here? Isn't this dangerous?"
"Dangerous?" The tone was unfamiliar, clipped and holding none of its usual warmth and fondness. "Are you kidding me, Samuel?"
Dean took another drink of his beer, not wanting to imagine how he might be dressed down, considering Sam was Mac's favorite. "No," the youngest Winchester replied, shooting a questioning look to Caleb, who merely shrugged and stole some more of Sam's fries.
"Welcome to my world, Runt."
"Caleb." Mac said, softly. "Remember our agreement."
"I'm being quiet." He stuffed the food in his mouth and leaned back in the seat.
"Look," Dean leaned forward. "We get that you're upset and that this looks bad but…"
"Looks bad? Upset?" Mackland growled, dangerously. "Do you realize that you two are now wanted for murder?"
"I was kind of already wanted for murder…" Dean pointed out and Caleb gave him a look.
"I'm not talking about that fiasco with the previous shape shifter. I'm talking about the string of bodies that was left in that bank in Minneapolis."
"We didn't kill anybody, Mac."
"I know that, Sam." Ames sighed, suddenly looking much older than his fifty-odd years. "But the police believe you did."
"We get that we're in trouble," Dean tried again. "But that's a risk of the job."
"The job…you have no idea what your job is, young man." Caleb glanced at his father, expecting the man to come clean, but Mac waved his hand in the air, seemingly flustered. "I mean, I know you think you are forfeit as long as you stop whatever evil it is you're after. But that's not the case. There are people who care about you." He glanced to Sam. "Both of you."
"We can handle this," Dean said with a frown. "It is possible to outsmart the cops on a long term basis, Mac. Hide in plain sight."
"Yeah." Caleb picked up some more fries. "Just look at how the A-team did it all those years."
"Am I really going to have to ask you to go to the car?"
"What?" Caleb asked, innocently.
"Snarky, unsolicited commentary is the same as offering your opinion, Son."
The psychic raised his hands in surrender, saying nothing more. Dean looked from father to son and then back to Ames. "What's going on, Mac?"
"I've arranged for you two to go across the border to Canada. I have contacts there. The Brotherhood has members who work that area. You'll be safe until I can do something about this whole mess."
Dean shook his head. "No way."
"I'm with Dean on this one, Mac, "Sam agreed. "We can't just disappear. There's a war coming."
"Damn it!" Mac slammed his fist down on the table, eliciting a few looks in their direction. "This is not up for discussion. I can't lose…we can't lose anyone else. If Jim were here…"
"But he's not." Dean held the older man's gaze. "He's dead because of us. This is our fight. We can't let you get involved. If Dad were here…"
"But he's not," Mac countered softly. He looked from Dean to Sam and smiled sadly, looking more like the empathetic man they had grown up with. "I wish the old bastard was here. I miss him. I know he was your father and you both loved him, but he was like a brother to me. You can understand that." He glanced from each Winchester then to his own son. "All of you can understand that." The doctor ran a hand through his dark hair. "You're all that's left of him. Of Jim. I promised them both that I would take care of you. All of you. The Brotherhood can not fall apart. The fate of many depends upon that."
"Mac, we're not running." Sam stared at the older hunter. "You told me once that eventually I'd have to make a choice, choose a path, and I have. Just like you did all those years ago. I can't go back, anymore than you can."
"I'm not asking you to, Samuel. Just that you let us help you along the journey."
"Helping us is fine," Dean spoke up. "But it's got to be on our terms."
Mac shook his head. "I suppose I could call in some favors I have in the FBI, find out who this agent is and why he is interested in you two, besides the obvious that is."
"Now you're talking." Dean grinned.
Mackland pointed a finger at the older Winchester. "As long as you lay low, stick to towns like this one where no one's going to notice you. You'll have to be even more careful than usual, and…" He glanced to his son. "You keep in contact with Caleb on a daily basis."
"We don't need a babysitter."
"That's good, because I'm not a fucking babysitter," Caleb protested Dean's choice of words.
"John would not listen to me," Ames interrupted, with an irritated frown. He looked from Dean to Caleb, who were now glaring at one another. " I tried to get him to talk to me about the Demon, let me be involved. I'm not saying it would have made much of a difference in his fate, but I have to live with that doubt for the rest of my life. Caleb glanced at him and Mac held his gaze. "Do you want that kind of guilt?" He looked at Dean. "Are you willing to risk your life, Sam's, because of stubborn pride and a misplaced sense of duty?"
"No, sir," the both answered, simultaneously, and Sam snorted. He hadn't seen Caleb or his brother so contrite in a long time, since the last time they had all hunted together with his father. Mac wasn't the only one who missed John Winchester.
"As for you," Mackland swung his gaze to the youngest. "You will take this time to train with your abilities. They can become a great asset if you are tenacious and persistent in your studies."
Dean smirked at his brother and Sam rolled his eyes. It was like they were little kids again.
"So, we have a deal?" Mac raised a brow.
And the other men nodded. Caleb held up his beer and grinned. "I love it when a plan comes together."
Dean shook his head and Mackland sighed. "You really are testing my patience, Son."
"Don't worry, Mac," Dean nudged Reaves. "I'll keep him occupied by whipping his ass in a game of pool. Move it, Damien, before your daddy grounds you."
Caleb rolled his eyes as his father stood to let them out of the wrap around booth. "Don't even think I'm taking it easy on you because of the whole felon thing."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Dean shot his younger a brother a look. "You should use this alone time to talk to Mac about that drinking problem. Get a hold of it, before it gets worse."
"Drinking?" Mac asked, sounding flustered all over again.
Caleb shot Sam a sympathetic look before following Dean. "Prepare to be lectured, kiddo."
The pool table in the very back was free and Dean headed that way after picking up two more beers from the bar. "So," Caleb took one of the beers and tossed the younger hunter a pool stick. "What?"
Dean raised a brow, and set his beer on an abandoned bar stool. "What, what?" He began to rack the balls.
Caleb took a long pull from his beer and then jutted his chin for Dean to take the break. "What's bothering you?"
Dean snorted. "Besides becoming the newest X-file for this gun-happy Mulder character, you mean?"
"Spill it, Dillinger. You don't have that big of problem with the whole wanted thing."
Dean stopped in the middle of lining up his shot, and glared at the psychic. "Stay out of my head, Damien."
"Hey. I'm not reading you, man. I know you. There's a difference."
"There was this guy." Dean shrugged his shoulders, his words involuntarily conjuring a flash of Ronald's body. "He was sort of working the job with me and Sam…and now he's dead."
"He was a hunter?" Caleb frowned, not able to prevent the sense of regret he was picking up on from the younger man . It was usually Sam's gig to take on the undeserved sense of guilt for things, but Dean had been more prone to it lately.
"No." Dean shook his head, not willing to explain the situation. "It's not important. He was nobody."
Obviously it was important. And not just 'anybody' got to Dean. Reaves watched his friend break, sinking two solids. "It's not your fault." Whatever it was, Caleb was sure of that.
Dean cast him a look. "You don't even know what happened?"
"This guy…" Caleb lined up his own shot. "He got involved in something he had no business being involved in, and he drew the short straw. Unless you're going to tell me you took him out yourself, then your argument has faulty logic."
"Faulty logic?" Dean smirked as Reaves sunk the striped he was after. "Who are you? Sam?"
Caleb met his gaze after missing the next shot, his mouth forming a grim line. "Did you kill him, Deuce?"
"Hell no. What kind of question is that?"
"A damn idiotic one." Reaves nodded. "You should definitely stop asking it." He was tired of his friend feeling responsible for everyone. It was going to get him killed.
Dean shook his head, taking down another ball without effort. "You think you're smart, don't you?"
"Smart enough not to have my face flashed all over the evening news. Next thing we know you'll be going commando, hanging out with Paris Hilton."
"Speaking of fantasy land." Dean grinned. "Mac really think we were going to vacation in fucking Canada?"
"Oh yeah." Caleb took his shot. "He was looking into some ice fishing gear, even had Josh searching for designer parkas."
Dean walked around the table, trying to find the best angle. "No way I'd wear anything Sawyer picked out."
"Speaking of Josh." Caleb waited for the younger man to take his shot, then pulled an envelope out of his jacket pocket. "You now officially owe him."
Dean hesitantly took the package and glanced inside. There were several ID's, credit cards, and a thick wad of cash. "What's this?"
"Those are clean identities. The cards are fresh, too-untraceable."
Winchester shook his head. "I'm not taking money from Sawyer."
Caleb elbowed him out of his way. "I'd have to turn Josh upside down and shake him to get a dime out of his tight ass. The money's from me. And you will damn well take it. You need to stay out of trouble for a while, and that means no hustling or illegal activity of any sort."
"So I can't prostitute Sammy out anymore?"
"Look, I appre…"
Reaves stopped him with a glare. "Now's not the time to be stubborn, Deuce. Remember what Dad said." He sighed, when Dean began to shake his head. "I understand you want to do this on your own. I really do, and I respect the hell out of you for it, but you need us, whether you want to see that or not. Let me help." Caleb glanced around them, making sure no one was nearby. "Please."
Dean exhaled loudly. "Ronald wanted to help, man, and he took a bullet in the back for that."
Caleb took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He rubbed a hand over his slightly bearded face, feeling wearier than he had in a long time. "That the amateur hunter's name?"
"Yeah." Dean swallowed thickly. "I can't…" He looked back to the pool table. "This isn't a game anymore."
"It's never been a game."
Dean met his gaze again. "You know what I mean. Too many people have died because of me." He was beginning to believe Sam was right about them being cursed.
"I thought we had agreed that dog didn't hunt."
The younger hunter frowned. "Now you're Bobby? You having identity issues, man? I'm going to have to check your eyes for a camera flare if you keep it up."
Reaves sunk the last two striped balls on the table. "Okay. You want it in my words." Caleb leaned against the table, crossed his arms over his chest. "It's not your fault. None of it. Not John's death, not this thing with Sam, and you are sure as hell are not to blame for some sniper taking out that poor bastard at the bank."
Dean started to speak but the psychic held up his hand. "And if something happens to Mac or Bobby or anyone else in The Brotherhood, then that responsibility doesn't fall on your shoulders either."
A slight hint of a grin twitched at the corner of Dean's mouth. "Nice try. But you sounded like Mackland."
Caleb groaned. "How about this then?" He stepped forward poking a finger in the younger man's chest. "I'm the fucking senior hunter. I'm the oldest and have worn the ring a whole hell of a lot longer than you. And if that's not enough, I can still kick your ass."
"You're pulling rank and using threats?" Dean snorted. "That sounds about right." Winchester folded the envelope and shoved it in his own jacket pocket. He glanced up at the other man. "Thanks for that."
Caleb clasped his shoulder giving it a hard squeeze. "Don't thank me. You can save all that for Josh."
"Oh hell no." Dean shoved the man's hand away and Reaves laughed.
"Don't worry about it, Deuce. Valentine's Day is coming up. Maybe he'll just want another bonus for Andrew. I hear he loves that bad boy stuff. You could autograph a mug shot or something; send him some pink furry handcuffs. Or better yet take him antiquing."
"Sammy has a big mouth." Dean growled before calling the eight ball in the left corner pocket. He sunk it, straightening up with a smirk. "And a complete intolerance for tequila."
Caleb's eyes twinkled, and he laughed despite the fact he had just lost the game. "Do tell." He racked the balls again. "And don't leave any embarrassing detail out."
It wasn't a perfect ending to the story, in fact, it was probably only the beginning to yet another grueling chapter in their less than fairytale worthy lives, but Caleb couldn't help but to think of Jim and hold fast to the man's words.
I promise you there is hope.
a/n: PS guys. On the Wings of a Phoenix is coming right up.