Title: Priorities

By: Ridley

Beta: Tidia

Rating: T-for Language

Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me, but the idea which is obviously not original.

Show Timeline: Preseries-Young Winchester

BAU Timeline: After Strappy Shoes, Before Heroes

A/N: First this is a fluff piece without a lot of plot. Just a kind of Dean whammy. I have Sam in the hospital in my other fic, so I thought I'd put his brother there, too. See-I don't play favorites.

This is also a flashback that will be mentioned in Who Your Friends Are as well as a teaser for Tidia's new fic Rites of Passage.

Additional Note Thanks so much everyone for all the reviews. They inspire me and I learn things from almost all of them. I've had to make some modifications, no longer accepting anonymous reviews. I hope this doesn't discourage some of the devoted readers like Rhesa, Fleur, Maria, and Emily who often review anonymously. You girls are great as well as many, many others who don't have accounts at FF. But I have grown very weary of unsigned reviews that are full of mean barbs, unhelpful criticisms, and overgeneralized false accusations. I hope this doesn't stop anyone from contacting me or leaving a review that they don't mind giving me a chance to reply to. Now, whew, on with the story. Enjoy!


"Yeah?" Caleb Reaves grabbed the phone on the second ring, casting a quick, sleep-blurred, glance to the other side of the bed as the figure under the blankets stirred. He hoped the woman didn't wake because for the life of him he couldn't quite recall her name.

Mandy…Sandy…Bambi or something.


The choked voice immediately erased any concerns of insulting his latest 'date' and Reaves shoved the blankets aside and sat up. "Sammy?"

"I need you to come. Please."

The twelve-year-old sounded on the verge of panic. Fear spiked through Caleb's heart. "Sam? What's wrong?"

"He's such a stupid idiot, that's what's wrong. I told him not to do it, but he thinks he knows everything."

Caleb glanced towards the alarm clock by the bed. It was one-thirty in the morning. "Who, Sammy? Your Dad?" Sam and John's relationship had become somewhat strained as Sam ventured into the edges of adolescence. The youngest Winchester wasn't above voicing his distaste for his father's behavior. Maneuvering through the Winchester household these days was a bit like taking a blind-folded trip through a minefield.

Reaves turned on the lamp, not caring if Candy awoke. He blinked in the sudden brightness, scanning the scattered clothing on the floor, looking for his jeans. "Sam? You still there?"

"Dean. I'm talking about my stupid big brother."

Caleb cradled the phone precariously between his ear and shoulder, struggling to get into his jeans while searching for his shirt and socks. "Deuce?" He growled in frustration as another sweep of the room only turned up one damn sock. "What the hell has he done now?" Caleb hoped the kid hadn't been hit by the flying shrapnel.

"He was hustling at a bar…a very bad bar."

"Hustling? Pool?" Caleb demanded, already running worst case scenarios through his head. What the hell was Dean doing at a bar alone? He was sixteen for fuck's sake.

"What else? Dad told him to stay away from this stupid place, but you know how he is."

Caleb did know Dean. Disobeying John wasn't something he did on a frequent basis. He wasn't as explosive as his younger brother. Only one thing made sense. "You two out of money?"

There was a long pause, which gave Reaves enoughh time to slip his shirt on and return the phone to his ear. "Talk to me, Runt."

"Yeah. Dad's been gone longer than we thought. Caleb…I think Dean's hurt bad. He barely got out of bed today, and he's really been out of it the last few hours."

In Winchester speak awhile could mean anything from a few days to a week and bad could mean a massive head wound or disembowelment. Caleb sat down roughly on the bed to pull on his shoes. Screw the fucking socks. "Where the hell are you, Sam?" If Dean were willing to leave Sam alone to go hustling, then they must have been completely out of supplies and food. Fucking John.

"Greenville, Maryland."

Caleb shoved his barefoot into the neck of his biker boot. "No, Sam. I know where you guys are staying. I mean where are you right now?" Caleb had talked to Dean a few days before, but the teen hadn't said anything about John being overdue or needing money. Although neither surprised him. Dean had inherited his father's idiotic pride and need to appear completely in control of every situation.

"I'm outside the motel. Dean told me not to call anybody. Dad will kill him if he finds out about the bar…and the fight. But he's having trouble breathing…and there's blood on the towels in the bathroom."

Reaves stood, picking up his keys and wallet from the nightstand. He cast a quick glance over his shoulder, where Randi hadn't moved. "Sam, I'm on my way, kiddo. Just sit tight."

"He waited until I fell asleep to go…I didn't know or I would have gone with him."

"I don't think the fake ID would have worked for you, Runt." Reaves sighed, slipping out the door, understanding the kid's self-recrimination. They were all hard-wired for it. He pulled it closed behind him. "I know you think you've left Captain Crunch and Saturday morning cartoons behind you, but you're not even shaving yet. All we need is for you to get busted in a bar. Children's Services would be all over it."

"But what if something bad happens to him…He wouldn't let me patch him up."

Fear had replaced the boy's frustration and anger. He sounded more like the kid Reaves knew and less like the moody bundle of hormones Sam had become over the last few months. "Sammy, your brother is just being his usual pain in the ass, stubborn self. If he's being pissy, he can't be hurt too bad." When the kid didn't reply, Reaves clenched his fists. "Besides, I'm not far from you."

"Okay. But hurry."

As Caleb started his Jeep he silently sent thanks to that little guilt-inflected voice in his head that convinced him to take a detour to Washington for a quick overdue visit with his grandfather, Cullen Ames. He had gone to bid a job for TriCorp in West Virginia. Reaves wasn't far from D.C., which meant he could be to Greeneville in under an hour. "I'll break every speed limit."

"Don't tell him I called you."

"I'm a psychic. I'll tell him I had a vision."


Caleb often cursed his abilities, but no more so than when they didn't seem to work in a way that would prevent those he cared about from being hurt. He ran thoughts of Dean in his mind, eating up the forty-five minutes it took him to reach the run-down motel. It didn't get him there any faster.

He wanted to kick down the door. But more than likely it would result in scaring Sam or receiving a face full of buckshot. Caleb settled for pounding on the cheep wood door. The motel was a wreck.

It was just the kind John liked. Out of the way. On the wrong side of the tracks. Cheap. Perfect for a hunter. No place for a child. No where in the vicinity of where Caleb's 'nephews' should have been staying. He sent a special curse out for his mentor.

Caleb pounded again when his panic started to override his common sense. He was afraid he might pull his gun and blow the lock away. "Sammy? Damn it!"

"Caleb?" The voice on the other side of the door sounded younger and smaller than usual.

"Open up, Runt."

"What's the password?"

"Come on, Sammy. You've got to be kidding me here."

"If you were a demon, Dean would kill me."

Reaves rolled his eyes at the irrefutable yet faulty logic. "If I were a demon I'd probably finish you off before your big brother had the chance, Einstein."


"Fine." The hunter raked a hand through his hair, trying to recall the list Dean had told to him the last time they spoke. He had been in the middle of something for TriCorp and he was only catching bits and pieces of the conversation. Funny how you let those little moments slip by, convincing yourself there would be time for them later on.

"Ninja Turtles."

The disgusted grunt reeked of fresh testosterone. "I'm almost thirteen!"

Okay. Sam wanted to do grown-up. Caleb could do grown-up. "Breasts." He refrained himself from some of the more colorful terminology. This was still 'Sammy' after all.

The sigh came through loud and clear through the door. "No."

Maybe Dean had picked it? "Jimmy Page?"

"Didn't Dean give you the list?" Sam sounded disappointed.

Of course Dean had, damn it. But Reaves couldn't do everything. He was having a hard enough time juggling a fledgling new business, jobs for Jim and Bobby, and the extra training John seemed hell-bent to heap on him. Keeping up with everything was getting harder.

Mackland always said time-management was one of his weaknesses. Maybe he could cheat, just this once. After all what good were his abilities if they didn't help someone-namely him.

He reached out and brushed against Sam's mind. The overwhelming fear rushed through him, emotionally choking him-like being unexpectedly knocked down and sucked under by a wave in the ocean. Caleb fucking hated the ocean.

"Hogwarts," he said quickly, needing to get to Dean. He wasn't sure what the hell a Hogwarts was, but it was on the genius's mind.

The lock clicked, doorknob turned, and soon a frowning Sam was glaring at him. "You cheated didn't you." It was more accusation than interrogative.

Caleb offered a half-hearted grin as he stepped across the un-breached salt line. He reached out and mercilessly mussed the boy's hair. "Prove it."

Sam ducked away but not before Caleb caught the relieved look that crossed his young face. Reaves skirted around him, headed towards the bed closest to the door. He could already sense Dean's misery. Even in sleep, the kid was hurting.

"How's he doing?"

"He didn't even move when you knocked," Sam told Reaves.

They shared a knowing look. If nothing else that statement revealed a lot about the oldest Winchester's condition. Dean was always hyper vigilant when he and his brother were alone. He would never leave Sam unprotected..

Caleb let his gaze go to Dean. The kid was shivering even under the pile of blankets.

Memories of another time flashed through his mind and he licked his dry lips. "When did this happen, Sammy?"

The youngest Winchester sat on the bed near his brother, let his hand rest on the older boy's chest. "Last night." He glanced at Reaves. "I tried to get him to go to the hospital...or at least call Mac. But he said he would be fine after some rest."

"Obviously not." Caleb pulled back the duvet, and cringed. The kid was a fucking mess.

An assorted array of cuts and knicks maligned Dean's young face, including a nasty gash on his forehead that could have been caused by a beer bottle. Dean's lower lip was cracked and swollen, the faint impression of knuckle-sized bruises decorating his cheek.

Caleb hesitated in touching him, afraid of the images that would come-not only Dean's but his own long buried.

"He can't keep any food or water down." Sam's frightened gaze had locked once more on his brother's shivering form. "And he couldn't catch his breath earlier."

Caleb frowned, steeled himself, reached out and held his fingers against Dean's throat.

The pictures came in fragmented frames-like spliced film on a third-rate projector. The bar was dark. There were three of them, another holding Dean from behind for a total of four soon to be fucked-up sonsofbitches. Caleb bit his lip, forcing himself back to the current moment.

Dean's skin was cool and clammy. Not a good sign by any means, but at least his pulse seemed normal-maybe a little quick. "When was he last awake?" Caleb asked, resting the back of his hand against the side of Dean's damaged face. The kid turned towards the touch, barely muttering something undecipherable.

The twelve-year-old glanced towards the glowing red numbers on the nightstand. "About nine tonight. I tried to get him to drink something."

Reaves nodded. There was no time to waste. There could be hidden injuries much worse than the visible ones. He let his mind travel back to when he was Dean's age. Jim had insisted that John take Caleb to the hospital, no matter how Reaves had assured his mentor he was fine. Of course it had all been a front. Caleb had been slightly terrified. He had been banged around before, but never like that. The phantom ache of his own injuries intensified his need to get Dean to the hospital. He wondered if John had felt half as desperate and helpless. Jim had been the calm one; the man always had his priorities straight. Getting medical attention was more important that pacifying a scared fifteen-year-old. Caleb could appreciate it now, back then was another story.

"Should I have called you sooner? Did I mess up?"

Caleb was once again pulled from the past and he met Sam's watery dark eyes. "No." He would not let the twelve-year-old feel guilty. "You did good. You listened to your brother and then when you needed to, you did what you had to do. That's how it works, kiddo." In the end that's what John had done. Caleb had been pissed and relieved, caught between that age when you wanted so damn badly to look like an adult, but needing just as much to feel the safety and reassurance of a child.

Reaves dreaded it, but he too was going to have to do what needed to be done. "Right now, I need you to get the keys to the Impala and go start her up for me."

"Where are we going?" Sam asked shakily.

"To the hospital."

"But, Dad's not here...And there's no insurance or money."

Caleb squeezed his shoulder. "I got the money covered, and I'm holding the Uncle Caleb card. It'll be okay, Runt."

Sam bit his bottom lip. "Dean's going to be pissed."

Yeah. But he'd be alive. Caleb offered the boy a grin. "If we stick together and we can take him."

When Sam still looked unsure, Reaves turned solemn. "I'll take the blame, Sam. I gave you an order. You followed it. If nothing else, your big brother understands hunter protocol." The kid hesitated and Reaves knew he didn't want to leave Dean's side. "Sam, I need you to get some blankets. You're going to sit in the back with Dean and keep him warm. We're dealing with a pretty nasty case of shock here." And God only knew what else.

That seemed to snap the pre-teen out of his trance and he quickly stood. "He'll be okay. Right, Caleb?"

"Of course he will." Caleb forced another smile. "This is your stupid big brother we're talking about."

Sam's lower lip trembled and he looked entirely too much like the five-year-old that could bring the hardest-assed hunters to their knees. That list unfortunately included Caleb. "He's a big jerk, but I love him. I don't want him to die."

"That's not going to happen." Caleb would do whatever it took to make sure of that. He loved the jerk too.

Sam grabbed blankets from the other bed before collecting the Impala's keys and scurrying out the door. Reaves transformed to the dreaded lead hunter in charge. "Come on, Deuce. Time to rise and shine." He roughly patted Dean's uninjured cheek.

Dean groaned and tried to curl into a protective ball.

Caleb clasped his shoulders and held him still. "Dean!" He snapped in a damn fine John Winchester imitation. "Wake up!"

A cross between a whimper and a moan slipped through the kid's bruised lips and Caleb fought hard to hold in his rage. Whoever had done this was going to pay. Caleb understood all too well why John had wanted to tear Ian, Fisher, and Joshua apart. "That's it, kid. Daylight's a burning."

"Caleb?" The kid blinked, one eye barely slitting to reveal a bloodshot mess. The other, although working properly, held confusion and more pain than Caleb wanted to witness. "What...are you doing here?"

"You were expecting that hot chick from biology class to come kiss your booboos." Caleb forced a cocky smirk. He had listened to some of the conversation from a few days before. "I hate to break it to you, but if Liz is as tasty as you said, she's not going to go for the 'pummeled by a cement truck' look, Dude."

Dean closed his eyes, grimaced. "You always say chicks dig scars."

"Scars yes, fresh ground hamburger meat kind of disfigurement, not so much."

"I'm okay." Dean said weakly, opening his eyes again, appearing a little more with it. "Looks worse than it is."

"Sure it does." Caleb shook his head. When Reaves had taken a beating from his fellow hunters, even the tiniest of movements had hurt-breathing had been torture. He was pretty sure it was the same for Dean. "But I'll feel a little bit better when someone who has been to medical school backs you up on that, Doogie."

"No." Dean frowned. "No doctors."

"Yes." That was the 'I'm all grown-up' sixteen-year-old speaking, but Caleb wasn't in the mood to argue. They were too damn much alike in some aspects. "Doctors, nurses, noisy tube-like cylinders to test that mush-filled head of yours. You're getting treated to the whole gambit, Deuce."

The teen's frown turned to a twisted glare of defiance. "I'm okay. I told Sammy not to call you."

"I'm psychic. Sam didn't have to call me." Not really a lie...which is something they vowed never to do. But more like half truths with some subterfuge thrown in for good measure. "Although he should have."

Dean's brother radar kicked in despite being somewhat dulled by injury and he glanced around the room in a slight panic. "Where's Sam?"

The kid tried to push himself to sitting, but instead let out a gasp of pain. Caleb swore. "Take it easy. Sam's fine. He's outside getting the car set up."

Dean didn't reply. He wrapped himself tighter into a ball, holding his abdomen. Reaves glanced at the phone wondering if an ambulance was necessary. "Deuce?" He laid his hand on the boy's hair. "Just breathe, okay."

"Hurts." Dean's answer was muffled by the pillow.

The word sent a shot of blazing fury through Caleb's chest, down to his gut where it ignited white hot in the pit of his stomach. The kid rarely admitted to any kind of physical pain, another John Winchesterism they all seemed to inherit.

Reaves ran his hand over the teen's short blond locks again, hoping to provide comfort. "What hurts, kiddo?" He'd need to pass along the information to the doctors, and know if it was okay to move him.

"My side." Dean gasped, his breath coming in hard pants. "Chest, back..." He choked on a laugh that held no trace of humor. Maybe it was a restrained sob. "Easier... to tell you... what doesn't." The boy swallowed painfully. "Can't…breathe."

"Sure you can." Caleb exhaled heavily, his hand stilling on Dean's head. "Short breaths, Deuce. You know the drill. Busted ribs don't like drama."

"You're... all love, Damien." Dean griped, but he was looking at Caleb and his breathing started to even out.

Caleb looked down when Dean's fingers twisted in the folds of his shirt. There was the little boy who needed an anchor, rearing its head. The ache to know someone was there to make things right, and provide protection from the pain even through the overriding voice to suck it up and take it like a man.

The psychic clenched his jaw as his mind once again conjured images of himself at the same age, clutching to John Winchester as Bobby drove like a madman to get them to the clinic.

Reaves shoved the memories away, swallowed down the bile at the back of his throat. "Let's see what you got yourself into."

Caleb didn't wait for the kid to consent, before gently prying Dean's arm away from his midsection. He lifted the faded t-shirt from his body. More bruises and swollen skin greeted him. Reaves winced right along with Dean when he laid sensitive fingers against the rigid, hot skin along the right side of the teen's ribs. It looked bad. Really bad.

"Caleb?" Sam spoke up from the doorway. "Are we going?"

The kid's patience had obviously worn thin waiting in the car. He took a hesitant step into the room, but Caleb stopped him with a look. "We're coming." Reaves tried to recall Mackland's impromptu first aid lectures about internal bleeding, bruised kidneys, and perferated ograns. All the information seemed to jumble together in the psychic's head mixing badly with both his and Dean's turbulent emotions.

"I'm sorry."

The soft voice and cold, clammy hand wrapped around his wrist snapped Caleb to the present. "For what?" He found his own voice cracking under the strain as he regained his mental footing and looked down at Dean.

"I didn't pay attention...broke the first rule…got cocky. I was winning...didn't notice they had buddies. I messed up."

Caleb had apologized to John also all those years ago-tried to tell him that a particularly nasty poltergeist had gotten the drop on him. Told John it was his fault-just as Dean was willing to accept the blame that wasn't his. "That's okay, kid. We're going to get you fixed up." Reaves bent lower, slid an arm underneath Dean's shoulders, another beneath his knees. It was an awkward way to move someone, and Dean would be mortified later, but he couldn't risk a fireman's carry. "Your pals in the bar won't notice me either."

If Dean picked up on the veiled threat to those who had worked him over he didn't comment, or he was in too much pain from the jostling to respond. Caleb wasn't sure which. It didn't matter. Reaves would get Dean taken care of, and then he would take care of the men who had hurt him.


Dean was taken to an examination room immediately. Reaves refused to be bullied into waiting in the ER and he glared at the intern who tried to pry Sam's hand from his brother's. "How long has he been like this?" A young resident came to tend to Dean. From the harried expression to the sleep-deprived eyes, he was a walking poster child for residency hell 101.

"It happened late yesterday." Caleb realized that yesterday was technically only a few hours ago, but the physician seemed to understand his timeline.

"And you're just now bringing him in?"

Caleb bit back on the colorful reply, instead focusing on what he knew. "He's been having chest, back and abdominal pain. His breathing's been labored, too."

The doctor continued to frown but refocused on Dean, who was concentrating on the fluorescent lights above. He roughly took hold of Dean's chin and pulled his pen light. "What's his name?"

"I'm not unconscious." Dean ground out, wincing as his injured eye was pried open and assaulted with what felt like a solar flare.

The physician prodded the swollen laceration skirting the sixteen-year-old's hair line and snorted. "From the size of this lump that's dumb luck, kid."

"Dean." Sam answered, as his brother was being assaulted by the pen light again. "His name is Dean and he's sixteen. He's allergic to penicillin."

They had been through the routine before. Sam glanced to Caleb, who nodded. "Some kids were picking on me and Dean stopped them."

"Sammy…" Dean started only to be cut off by a yelp of pain as the physician turned his none too gentle hands to the teen's abdomen. The physician seemed unfazed as he continued his rough examination, pressing on bruised flesh, causing Dean to arch off the examination table.

Caleb's iron grip closed around the doctor's wrist and he wedged his six foot two frame between the resident and Dean. "He's not some fucking cadaver from anatomy lab. Take it easy or find us someone who didn't barely pass medical school."

"Is there a problem?" An older man in a white coat approached the trio, his bushy silver brows rose slightly as he gave the resident a critical appraisal. "Daniels?"

Daniels jerked his arm free of Reaves's and shook his head. "No problem, Dr. Jones."

"Why is a child back here?" The man gestured to Sam and then shot Caleb a hard look. "And who are you?"

"I'm not leaving my brother." Sam gave the new doctor the briefest of glares, showing his distaste for the man's terminology. "Not with this jerk."

"Daniels, why don't you help Mercer with the cardiac arrest in five, I'll take care of this."

The resident gave Caleb a withered look as he removed his plastic gloves and tossed them in the trashcan. "Be my guest."

"Tell me he's not one of your best and brightest." Reaves looked at Dr. Jones. "That wouldn't speak very highly of your hospital."

The older man took his own torture light out and started to examine Dean. "Residents behave better when they have slept and eaten. We've been rather busy and short-staffed." He moved his eyes to the wound on Dean's forehead, took in the butterfly bandages with an amused quirk of his brow. "But it seems you, young man, have had a hard time of it also."

"What makes you think that?" Dean licked his lips. "I was actually having a good time before Bones got a hold of me."

"Dean." Caleb breathed. "Cut it out."

"I take it he behaves better when he's not been beaten to hell?"

Reaves snorted. "No. He's pretty much the same smart ass you're seeing now."

"And what's this rather large tumor attached to your side?" Dr. Jones asked, momentarily cutting his eyes to Sam.

Dean closed his eyes when the doctor raised his shirt, but still managed a smirk. "That would be my little brother, Sammy."

"Sam." The twelve-year-old corrected, eliciting a wink and knowing grin from the doctor.

"No respect, huh?"

Sam sighed. "None what-so-ever. They still think I'm five."

"The plight of little brothers everywhere, I'm afraid." Jones glanced to Reaves. "Being the oldest has its perks as well as pitfalls."

"Yeah." Caleb placed a hand on Dean's shoulder as the physician nodded to the boy's injured side. He could still feel the minute shivers and wished, not for the first time, he could simply switch places with the teen.

Although much more gentle, Jones's examination had the sixteen-year-old clenching his jaw, his hand tightening in Sam's grip. Caleb cleared his throat as he watched one pain-induced tear slip from beneath Dean's long lashes. "How's he doing, Doc?" He asked hoping to quicken the process.

Jones removed his hands much to everyone's relief. "I want to get him down to radiology. I don't think those ribs are broken and there doesn't appear to be any severe bleeding going on inside; but I want to make sure." He looked at Caleb. "After all, letting your little brother bleed to death wouldn't speak very highly of my hospital. Now would it?"

Caleb didn't correct the doctor's assumption. "No. It wouldn't." He let the implication that it would go very badly for Dr. Jones as well remain unspoken.


"Yeah?" Caleb grabbed the phone before it could wake the sleeping occupants of the room, speaking softly for the same reason. Red-tinged morning light was barely starting to seep thorough the closed blinds of the hospital room. It had to be early.

John's voice came across the line, weary-filled and sharp as glass. "Caleb?"

Caleb pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache building. John picked a hell of a time to check in. "Hey, Johnny. How goes the hunt?"

"What the hell are you doing answering Dean's phone? What's wrong?"

Reaves bit back a jaw-popping yawn and attempted to separate Sam's head from his shoulder without waking the boy. Caleb eased himself off the cot, putting a pillow in his vacated spot. Sam twitched slightly but settled as the psychic stealthily moved away.

"Nothing's wrong. The boys are still asleep. I was closest to the phone." It was the truth. Sort of.

Reaves cast a quick glance to the cot Dean's nice nurse, Helen had brought in for Sam. The kid had fought sleep tooth and nail-wanting to be awake when his brother was brought down from radiology. The fact he'd finally given in was evident to the lack of sleep the twelve-year-old got the night before. "Some of us don't get up at the butt crack of dawn, jarhead."

"I just finished the gig I was working on" Caleb grimaced at their unbelievable bad luck, slid a hand over his face. "Why are you in Maryland? I thought you were going to work that white stag thing with Bobby?"

Caleb snorted. He had almost forgotten about that. "A mythical white stag? Come on, next you'll be telling me that animals talk too."

Winchester cleared his throat. Reaves crossed the room to stand by Dean's bedside as he listened to his mentor grumble obscenities. The kid was out of it when they brought him back to the room. He fought the pain medicine long enough to make sure Sam was settled and to ask Caleb not to tell John. Beg was more like it.

"Three motorists have been hurt because of that thing, Kid."

Winchester was lecturing and Caleb found himself nodding, despite the fact John couldn't see. "They should be paying attention to the road."

"Damn it, Junior."

"Why don't you give Bobby a hand? Aren't you pretty close?" Caleb watched the steady rise and fall of Dean's chest. There was no serious internal bleeding, no broken bones, but the doctor said he needed to stay at least overnight for observation. Then the bruises on his face would need time to heal or at least fade. They could hide the rest easy enough-blame it on sparring. "I might stick around here for awhile." There was no way Caleb was leaving.

"You're volunteering to babysit?" Reaves could hear the suspicion.

"It's not exactly babysitting anymore. It's kind of like hanging out. I could use the downtime."

"I thought you were swamped with work?" The doubt was still there. "Isn't that the excuse you gave me when I wanted you to do a week of maneuvers?"

"Maneuvers? Jesus, Johnny, I don't remember signing up for the Reserves." Reaves rolled his eyes. John's maneuvers were a twisted version of supernatural boot camp. They would roam around the mountains in full combat gear complete with swords, salt, holy water, and paint guns.

It was not Caleb's idea of fun, but he hadn't been lying about being too busy. "I prefer my vacations include five-star accommodations and some scantily dressed females. Being forced to sleep in a mildewed tent with Bobby in his skivvies is not my idea of a good time. I needed some real downtime. You know me."

"Yeah. I know you." There was only a slight pause. "Which leads to the question what the hell are you and Dean up to?"

Caleb sighed. "I'm hurt, man." He watched Dean closely. The teen's jaw clenched under too pale skin, one hand fisted in the sheet. "You think I would corrupt your son?" Caleb wished Dean was up to some harmless fun.

"Hell yes. I remember the field trip to the Red Caboose." Reaves heard the heavy exhale, then. "You sure everything's okay?"

"Everything's fine. We're all okay." Caleb said more to Dean than John. He let his hand rest on the teen's hair, ran his thumb over Dean's forehead until the lines of distress faded.

Caleb refocused on John. "Or at least we will be when you stop yelling and let me get back to sleep." Winchester was close to taking the bait, was almost there-almost ready for the door to be sprung. "Everything, including your favorite grunt, will be even better if you cut me a break and give me an excuse to escape reality for a few days."

"You really want to hang out there? Let me take the job with Singer?"

"Yes." Caleb smelled victory.

"Sounds like you're slacking to me, Kid."

"No." Caleb's voice lost the humorous tone. "I'm just prioritizing." Something the man on the other end didn't seem to know about.

"All right." John laughed, oblivious to the younger hunter's change in tone. Reaves couldn't even muster the energy to remain pissed at him. "Tell the boys I'll check-in, in a few days."

"Right." Caleb removed his touch from Dean, satisfied the kid was once again in a more restful sleep, away from the pain. He raked the hand through his own dark hair. "About that, Johnny…I was thinking we might head out to D.C. Drop in on Cullen."

"You want to take the boys to your grandfather's? You sure that's a good idea?"

"Are you kidding? Cullen will love it." It was true. The old man had a soft-spot for wayward teens. And Dean could recuperate somewhere besides that hellhole John called adequate living quarters. Plus, Sam would get a kick out of all the tourist stops and museums. He deserved a break too. "We'll take the brainiac to the Smithsonian and check out the memorials."

"And Cullen Ames is going to be okay with you three apes crashing his place?"

"The man lives in a mansion, Johnny. We could show up and he'd not even know it. He has staff to handle anything we destroy. But trust me, he'll eat it up. The last time we were there he was trying to talk Sammy into studying corporate law and he thinks Dean has my head for business. You know he's hoping to mold one of us into the next CEO of Ames Enterprises."

"You have a head for business?"

Caleb scoffed at the sarcasm. "Damn straight. A head for business and a body for sin."

"Just make sure that sinful body doesn't take my boys anywhere they have no business being."

Reaves cast a glance at Dean's battered face again. Like hustling pool for money in some sleazy bar? "I wouldn't dream of it, Johnny. I've got my priorities straight. Remember?"

"Yeah. Your priorities just landed me another job."

Ditto. "We can call it even."

The silence of the ended call was the only reply and Caleb claimed a perch on the edge of Dean's bed with a heavy sigh. "Thanks to me your old man has an appointment with one of Santa's albino reindeer. You should be good as new before he blows back into town. One problem solved."

Reaves laid a hand on the boy's leg, reaching out telepathically to brush against the younger man's mind. He filtered through thoughts and feelings until he found the images he was looking for. "Now to take care of the rest."

After each face was memorized he opened his eyes. Caleb smiled wearily and continued his one-sided conversation. "What are me, you and the runt going to do, you ask? We're going to visit D.C. in style. Your old friends from the bar are going to foot the bill with all that hard-earned money they stole from you, Deuce."

Before Caleb made them pay for each bruise on Dean, before he inflicted a just amount of retribution for every ounce of pain the kid had suffered over the last couple of days, Reaves was going to take every bit of their money. After all, Caleb had his priorities straight.

Ridley-June 2007