On The Wings of a Phoenix
Rating: T for language and intense situations
A/N: This story is a continuation of In The Company of Dragons. One will need to read that first to get the most out of this one. It would also be a good idea to read The Line, one of the first stories of The Brotherhood AU, although it isn't necessary. Growing Pains would also probably establish some characterizations, as well.
The Phoenix - The Story
It is said that as early as 500 B.C., people believed in the phoenix, a legendary bird that would live for 500 years. Near the end of its life, the phoenix would build a funeral pyre for itself. As it began to die, it would lay down on the wood; the wood would burst into flames consuming the phoenix after the bird died. The phoenix would emerge anew from the ashes of the funeral pyre stronger and more beautiful than before living on for another 500 years. Thus, the phoenix, the ancient mythical creature that is consumed by flames, only to be reborn anew, is another symbol of transformation and a representation of the grief response. The transformation phase is similar to that of the mythical creature the phoenix, which after burning on a pyre, rises gloriously and triumphantly from the ashes to live again.
"The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise."
-Miquel de Cervantes Saavedra
Rain, icy cold despite the summer night, fell in sheets from the sky. It pelted his face, breeching his clothes to bite at his skin.
Smothering darkness closed in around him, making it hard for his lungs to expand as he ran.
Branches, like gnarled claws, tore at his clothes, slashed his face, and pulled his hair as he made it to a grouping of trees. He knew the shelter was his only hope of losing the predator closing in, but the panic welling in his chest told him it was a useless battle.
The soft earth made traction hard to find, his feet slipping in the wet leaves. It took away from his usual speed. A root reaching up from the ground grabbed at the toe of his sneaker, effectively breaking his stride and sending him to his knees with a bone-jarring impact. Then the beast was upon him-covering the child he was dreaming about. The boy was scared, already hurt. Caleb wasn't sure how he knew, but a pain in his wrist and knee told him the injuries weren't too severe. Yet.
He wasn't given time to dwell on it before he felt strong hands on the boy's arms jerking him up right, the fingers bruising the child's flesh. The man or monster was speaking, but the words were mumbled and his face was still blurred, whether by the rain obscuring the kid's vision or by Caleb's own subconscious the psychic wasn't sure.
The unknown increased the fear, giving the faceless being more power. Even though this child seemed to fight harder, Caleb couldn't help but to gasp with each blow dealt, and he jerked when he heard the boy cry out. At first the child's words were as elusive as the attacker's but suddenly the psychic's muffled hearing cleared and the cries became sharp and painful.
The sound of his own name being called out sent a wave of shock through his body, like a volt of electricity surging through his brain. He struggled along with the boy as a cold crushing grip closed around the child's throat, trying to permanently silence him. In one final burst of strength the kid struck out again, tearing at his attacker's face. The monster faltered and the boy found enough air to scream again. "Caleb!"
The psychic jerked to awareness with a gasp, every muscle in his beaten body protesting the sudden, violent movement. He blinked, trying to recapture his stolen breath, momentarily not understanding where he was or what had just happened. Darkness vanished, but the gray light of the cloud-covered day seemed just as heavy as the pitch black permeating his vision. No rain or forest assaulted him. On the contrary, the four walls of his room at the farm offered shelter, squeezing out the lingering tendrils of terror.
Clarity began to slowly push out the familiar disorientation and the psychic took a shallow breath, trying to reign in his racing heart which was threatening to beat its way free from his chest. The exertion did little for his aching ribs, but he mentally shoved the pain away as he physically tossed blankets aside. Shakily making it to his feet, Caleb crossed the room to the boys' adjoining door.
"Deuce?" Caleb called out as he entered. No one answered and the double bed was made, making it seem far too neat and empty. It was absent of its usual residents. No clothes or toys were strewn about and nary was a dog lounging around. Dean hadn't been far from his side since Sam had been taken, and despite the fact that it was unsettling to see the kid so clingy, Caleb had grown use to it. Perhaps, he had even drawn comfort from it. Losing the youngest of the Winchester's had hit him even harder than he imagined it would. Watching Dean go through it was a thousand times worse.
Panic grew as the psychic remembered in clarity the events from three days before, the feelings of loss mixing with the remnants of fear from the vision. His mind scrambled for plausible reasons for the child in his dream to have called out his name even as he turned and started downstairs in search of Dean. Reaves told himself that the sudden intense worry was due in part because Dean had been so upset the night before. Any other considerations were unthinkable.
But a part of him, the loud annoying part that had a crappy way of always being right chided him in a voice sounding a whole hell of a lot like his fathers. It whispered his abilities were trying to tell him something, and that he should pay very close attention-that maybe they had been trying to tell him something all along.
The psychic pushed the absurd thoughts aside and made his way down stairs, reaching out with his mind but finding only fuzzy traces of his friends. That was the last damn time he took the prescription drugs his father had ordered. Between the freaky-ass dreams and the screwed psychic abilities he was sticking to Jim's herbal tea remedies.
"About time you got up." John Winchester's deep voice greeted him as he entered the kitchen, and he hesitated in the doorway everything still feeling a bit surreal. Maybe it had all been a very bad dream. "You okay?"
He blinked, looking at the older hunter, who put down the file he was reading to give Caleb a more thorough once over. "I'm good." Reaves finally replied. He made his way towards the coffee pot, hoping the caffeine would take the edge off of the hint of the headache he could already feel building. The drugs were causing hangover symptoms without the preceding fun parts. "Where is everybody?"
John raked a hand through his hair, rubbing at his bleary eyes. "Mackland left early this morning. He went over to Crossville to talk to the police about the latest missing child. The parents were going to bring in a toy. He was hoping he might get a reading."
Caleb took a drink of the bitter liquid. "All he'll lead them to is a dead body." Of that, he was certain. He might not have remembered the last waking vision he had been privy to, considering he was being pummeled by Conner's goons; but he was sure it had not bided well for whomever he had connected with.
Winchester watched the young psychic as he made his way back to the table, wincing as he eased himself into the chair across from him. "I told him you thought the boy was already dead."
Caleb nodded. "Our bad guy doesn't take time to play-finishes them quick." Reaves shrugged. "At least the ones I've been witness to."
John frowned. "You still not getting a feeling for what it is?"
Caleb pinched the bridge of his nose, remembering the lack of his usual impression of the killer. "I'm still not connecting to the bad guy," he confessed, wincing when he felt John's fingers wrap around his wrist.
"What the hell is this?"
Reaves opened his eyes, glancing down to Winchester's hand, which still held his. Encircling his own wrist were nasty-looking, finger-shaped bruises. The tissue was swollen and hot, and throbbed from where John was prodding it. "I don't know…" Caleb frowned, remembering his latest nightmare. The boy's wrist had been injured.
"Did you have another vision?" Winchester demanded and Reaves shuttered his own reaction before glancing up at him.
"Yeah." He pulled his hand away and John let him. "Same kind of thing."
"You're still connecting with the victim?" Winchester held his gaze and he realized the other man was putting the pieces together. "Have you told Mackland about this?"
"No." Caleb snapped. "I don't even know what this is. It's never happened before."
"Sounds like a damn good reason to talk to him."
"He'll just want to do something to stop it."
John sighed. "Maybe that would be for the best." He didn't know how much more loss his family could take.
"What?" Caleb gave him an incredulous look. "We don't have anything to go on as it is. This is our only good lead."
"I hate to break it to you, Kiddo, but the only lead you've come up with hasn't panned out worth a damn."
Caleb assumed John was speaking of the cross emblem. "I might get more." He had begun to notice a pattern. The nightmares came before the boys actually disappeared, and the waking visions seemed to strike when the actual attack took place. "We still have time for this last one."
John gave him a puzzled look, but didn't ask any further questions. Caleb recognized the haggard gaze and almost felt bad for snapping at him. The last few days without Sam had been hell on everyone, especially John. "I'm not hiding this from Mackland, Kid. He's your father," he finally growled and Reaves sighed.
"Fine. We'll fill him in when he gets back." He raised a brow at the older hunter. "Satisfied?"
"For now." John started to pick up his paper again, but Caleb's words stopped him.
Winchester's hooded gaze gave away nothing and Reaves felt that nagging sense of fear start clawing at his insides again, like nails on a chalkboard. "Is he out in the barn?"
"No. He went into town with Jim and Joshua."
"What?" Caleb's brow shot up. "Do you think that's a good idea?"
John's frown deepened. "He asked to go. Which is more he's said to me in the last two days combined."
"So you let him go out of guilt?" Reaves shook his head.
John's dulled gaze suddenly came to life and he leaned closer to Caleb. "Do we really need to have this conversation again? You know the one?"
Reaves rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah, the one where you remind me to keep my nose where it belongs."
"Exactly." John smirked. "See I told your daddy that you do listen to me from time to time."
"How about we have a different one? The one where I remind you that I've been the one dealing with your son." Caleb pointed to his face that still held faint reminders of his tussle with the twelve-year-old as well as the beating he'd suffered at the hands of Conner's men. "I've been running interference for you, taken my share of shots for the trouble, too, man. You don't get to shut me down in the third quarter."
"Look, I appreciate that you've been there for Dean, Caleb, but I know what's best for him."
"Have you even talked to him?" Caleb snorted. Because from where he had been sitting, John didn't know half of what was going through his son's head. "Have you even mentioned Sammy's name since he left?" Reaves knew the answer to the question. Since Conner had taken the boy, John had spent his days absorbed in the hunt, his nights soaking in the atmosphere of the local bar.
"He hasn't wanted to talk about it!" John snapped.
"That's exactly my point."
"What? Are you turning into Mackland now?" John growled. "You want me to have a heart to heart? Put all my feelings on the table, tell him how I feel like another piece of my soul has been snatched away and I'm just not sure if I have enough left over to get up in the morning, let alone give anything to him?"
Caleb looked away, knowing he couldn't hide his disappointment. "Damn it, John. He deserves more than leftovers." A whole hell of a lot more.
"And that's exactly my point, Kid. It's all I've got at the moment."
Reaves shook his head, looking at his mentor again. The sad part was, it would have been enough for Dean. He needed his father more than ever now. "So what? You just let him handle it on his own? I'm not exactly the touchy-feely type myself, but he's twelve."
"Last I checked he wasn't on his own. He was with Jim and Sawyer."
Caleb growled in frustration. He loved the guy, but sometimes he imagined shoving his fist into John Winchester's face would have been so gratifying. "Jim will be busy doing church errands and Josh can be distracted by a strong breeze."
"So what, Caleb? They're in New Haven, not the bustling streets of New York. The kid wanted to get out of the house."
Bobby chose that moment to come in through the back door, Atticus and Scout trailing behind him. If he had heard their shouting match from the porch he didn't let on. "Mackland called," he told them, making his way to the coffee pot. "They found the boy's body. He thought we might want to check out the surrounding area. You know, do the whole Riggs and Murtough routine."
"Did he say if there were any hints of our usual suspects?"
Bobby filled his cup and joined them at the table with a slow shake of his head. He glanced at Caleb. "Not really. Preliminary says the boy was beaten and strangled. There were some other things he wasn't privy to, but nothing supernatural. He hoped me and John, being upstanding detectives, might get the scoop."
"That doesn't make sense. Why would I be connecting with something that has nothing to do with the supernatural?"
"That's a good question." John took another drink of his coffee, glancing down at Caleb's bruised arm and then back up at the psychic. "One you need to talk to Mac about."
"Fine, I'll go get dressed."
"Don't even think about." John stood, staring down at him. "You're not going to the scene."
"Yes. I am. I might pick up on something."
"Or you could have another vision."
"Which would help."
"I don't think so."
"John's right, Kid. Your dad said for you to stay here. Doctor's orders."
"And since when do I need Mac's permission to leave the house. I'm twenty years old."
Bobby scoffed as if Caleb had just pronounced himself ten. "Don't make me take advantage of your delicate condition, smart ass."
Reaves glared at the mechanic. "Mac told you what would happen if you tried anymore of your demonic traps on me, Bobby."
"Oh, so you're fine with tattling to your daddy just not minding him when he's trying to do right by you? I think that's called being a hypocrite, Son."
"Bobby." John held up a hand, signaling the other man to shut up and let him handle things. He met Caleb's fiery gaze. "I want you to stay here and wait for Dean."
"Now who's being a hypocrite?" the psychic asked.
"Look, he'll expect you to be here."
"I guess guilt tactics are genetic." Caleb shook his head, leaning back in his chair. "Fine. Whatever."
John exhaled, loudly, feeling the effects of his latest hangover more profoundly. "We'll talk when I get back."
The younger hunter scoffed. "Can't wait."
Winchester sighed. "I mean I'll talk to Dean."
Caleb glanced up at him, doubt clearly written in his amber gaze. "And you'll talk to Mackland," John added, pointedly.
Bobby and John had only been gone close to an hour when Caleb's cell rang. He was in the process of dressing after a much needed shower and nearly missed the ringing. "Yeah?" he said, after slipping a t-shirt over his head.
"Is that really a greeting?"
Caleb rolled his eyes. He'd been hoping it would be John with some news from the site. News that would clear up all the little doubts nagging away at his Swiss-cheesed mind. "Sawyer? Where are you?"
"Well, there is a large plaque declaring it as the home of America's best apple pie, but it appears to be little more than a mobile home with a rather large cooking bay."
"You're at Mel's?" Caleb raked a hand through his damp hair. "Where's Deuce?"
"That is the million dollar question."
Caleb's mouth went dry, his heart rate kicking into overdrive. "What the hell does that mean?"
"That means that your resident sidekick, who said he would meet me at this questionable eating establishment, has stood me up."
"Goddamnit, Josh. You let him go off by himself?"
"You make it sound as if I set him off in Hell's Kitchen, instead of dropping him at the local library in this carbon-copied Mayberry."
"Yeah, well, Dean isn't exactly Opie Taylor." Caleb stood up from his bed. "What exactly did Dean say? And how late is he?"
"Pastor Jim had work at the church. He asked me to entertain the boy and Dean insisted on going to the library. I offered to go with him but he asked to be alone. Apparently, he wanted to commune with Sam via the child's beloved books. I was trying to be sensitive, but have gotten over that nonsense in the forty-five minutes I have been waiting on him."
"Right." Reaves rubbed a hand over his fresh-shaven face and then a thought occurred to him. "Josh, did you say Deuce wanted to go to the library?
"Yes. I didn't stutter."
"Damn it." Reaves hissed as he once again rushed into the boy's room and found it tidier than usual. Now he realized what was missing. The dragons.
Dean had freaked that first night when they returned to the farm house and he realized he hadn't packed the toy sentinels Sammy loved. He begged Pastor Jim to take him to Louisville, to track down where Conner was staying, but that wasn't to be. Charles had made himself clear about such visits, and established he would make first contact once Sam was settled. Apparently Sammy was still yet to get comfy with grandpa because they hadn't heard one damn thing from him.
"Caleb? What is it?" Joshua asked, and Reaves moved to the dresser in the corner where he quickly jerked one of the drawers open.
"Fuck!" he snapped, finding the empty metal box that usually held Dean's allowance stash as well as any money he could manage to cheat Caleb out of playing poker. They had been playing a lot of poker the last few days and Reaves hadn't had the heart to put much effort into holding his own. He had inadvertently opened the door for Dean to find a whole shitload of trouble. "He's gone."
"Hello?" Josh groaned. "Have you not been listening to me? I know he's gone. So what else are you going on about?"
"He's not just gone from the diner, Josh. He's gone from New Haven."
"What? But that's not possible. I only dropped him at the library a few hours ago."
"And I'm willing to bet that there's been a bus out of there since that time."
"A bus? This hick town has a bus station?"
"It's not too far from the library. Imagine that."
"But he's twelve. Surely he would not take that form of transportation alone. Nor, as a minor would he be allowed to purchase a ticket."
"Yeah. That shows how much you know about Dean. He's done it before." Caleb moved into his own room, gathering his shoes and his gun.
"Great. Just great." Reaves could almost imagine the color draining from the other hunter's face. "Should I call Pastor Jim? Or John?"
"Neither," Caleb snapped. "I'm coming to get you."
"Why does that not sound like the smarter plan? I truly think John should be informed."
John would go ballistic. The last time the kid had went off half-cocked and done something this stupid did not turn out well. Caleb had promised he had his back then, but had failed miserably at protecting him. It wasn't that the psychic honestly thought John would hurt Dean, but he'd witnessed a few punishments in his years with the Winchesters and he could honestly admit he would have rather taken the licks himself than watch Dean suffer through them. Besides he had promised Sam that Belac would be on the job. "Just don't do anything, Joshua. I'll fix this." And he would fix Dean, too. The little shit had played him like a violin.
"Who do you think John is going to be pissed at for letting his little boy out from under their watchful eye?" Caleb grabbed his coat, and started for the stairs. "Do you remember the new one he reamed me over the black dog?"
"Well, yes, but…"
"And he likes me, Josh. Hell, I'm practically like the little brother he never wanted. You on the other hand are more like a third cousin removed by marriage-a redheaded step-cousin at that."
He heard the other man sigh. "Fine. I see your point. Where should I meet you?"
"Just stay there. Eat some pie, and see if you can use some of your contacts to track down the hotel that Conner is staying at."
"I didn't think he wanted anyone privy to that information."
Caleb tightened his hold on the phone. "I know John knows."
"How can you be so sure? Is it a psychic thing."
More like a Knight thing. "The man would not let Sam go like that without knowing where he was." Caleb knew John Winchester too well.
"But he said…"
"I know what he said." Reaves sighed, knowing that John had lied to Dean that first night. Apparently Deuce knew his father pretty damn well, too. Caleb could have taken the information, but honestly he wasn't on top of his psychic game, and he wasn't sure if he could trust himself with the knowledge. If he had known that first night when Dean had woken up screaming with the first of many nightmares, he might have driven straight there and strangled Charles Conner.
But apparently Dean had found out. If he had to guess how, he'd bet John had written it in his journal. A journal he had seen the man carry out of the house with him. Joshua would have to pull it off. "Are you saying that you can't get intel, Josh?"
"It's Joshua, and I happen to deal in the intel business. I however feel that we will only be making matters worse by an impromptu visit. John obviously kept it to himself for a reason."
"Maybe you should have thought about that before you practically bought Dean a ticket there."
Caleb picked up his keys from the counter and after making sure both dogs were inside, locked the farmhouse behind him. He glanced towards the sky which was gray and angry looking, then to the pond. A foreboding feeling of dread seemed to blow in with the breeze off of the water. "Damn it, Deuce, you better be okay."
a/n: First of all I want to say a super thank you to all of those who have written about Dragons and inquired about this story. I only hope I can fulfill a tiny bit of your expectations. I am always flattered and slightly terrified by the confidence you have in my abilities. Next, I want to thank the best Beta in the world, Tidia. She always takes the time to run through story lines and plot spiders with me. All left over mistakes are mine alone. Last but not least, thanks to those who have pointed out some inconsistencies in Dragons, like Conner's name change. Bg. I promise to fix it, and I appreciate the heads up. Now, chapter two should be up soon, so please let me know what you think so far.-Ridley