First of all, I'd like to dispel any notion I own anything in this story.
Secondly, I'd like to thank Ridley C. James. Not only did she inspire this fic, but she allowed me the use of her characters and the Brotherhood storyline. There may be some inconsistencies of timeline, but I've tried to keep to her back stories as much as possible.
Let's just say I'm in awe of her skill.
Long dark lashes rested on cherubic cheeks. His lips were slightly pursed as if dolling out kisses; little boy promises of forgiveness and absolution.
Caleb didn't feel he deserved them.
Caleb Reaves was fourteen, on vacation and more than a little pissed off.
He had planned on spending the idle weeks of October break with Jonathon Winchester, hunter extraordinaire and, privately, one of Caleb's heroes, learning all he could absorb from the man.
In fact, he distinctly remembered his father smoothing the road to Pastor Jim's with that particular dangled carrot.
Caleb shot another glare at his Dad. Mackland Ames merely turned the page of the paper he was reading.
"Finish your breakfast, son."
At his side Dean Winchester, oldest son of said hero, did nothing, head bowed over his own bowl. The little snot was watching beneath his deceptively long lashes, however; Caleb could see the glint of green through the dark forest that rimmed the kid's eyes.
The wheels were most definitely turning.
Like ever, the five year old was quiet and still when his father and brother weren't in the room with him. It was almost as if he was trying to blend into the scenery, encouraging the impulse to ignore. It was something he was surprisingly good at. Until he moved, called attention to himself, people tended to forget the child.
Caleb wished someone had forgotten him that morning.
John was getting two year old Sammy ready for a doctor's appointment, and if the screaming was anything to judge by, Sam wasn't impressed with the idea. A particularly loud cry made Dean glance up guiltily, eyes going to the doorway, small body tensed for movement before remembering the current adult sitting with him. Dean's eyes travelled to Mackland, caught the man's own gaze as he observed calmly and promptly dropped his eyes, focusing on his cereal again.
Caleb shook his head in disgust. The kid was jumpier than a cat on hot metal. And weird.
It had been a combination of Dean's weirdness and Jim seeing the potential in John that had led the Winchesters to the Ames's door. Jim had asked for a favour, and the doctor in Mackland hadn't been able to refuse.
John Winchester was an imposing sight.
He was tall, burly, dark. He looked dangerous. He seemed to promise that fact.
John filled the room, not small by any standards, with his undeniable presence. His mouth was set in a firm, grim line, his black eyes glittered, taking in his surroundings swiftly with a professional's interest, his face seemed aged prematurely by grief and anger and something else Caleb hadn't been unable to identify.
Caleb, present for the introductions at his father's insistence, was awed. The thirteen year old was not one to give himself over to being in awe of anybody, especially not one of his father's clients - especially not one carrying a sleeping child. But something about the way the man moved, the way he held himself as he was in complete control of his situation called to the young boy, himself struggling his way back to humanity. Caleb Reaves longed to be in control of his destiny the way this stranger appeared to be of his.
"John, welcome," Caleb's father, adoptive as of several months now, greeted warmly, stepping back and holding out a hand politely.
Winchester stared at the hand as if he might bite it off for a moment, before remembering his own manners and shaking it roughly.
"Mackland," he grunted. "Thanks for agreeing to this."
Caleb watched as his Dad retrieved his hand with a smile, tucking it behind his back to wriggle feeling back into his fingers.
"Please, call me Mac."
John bowed his head in consent. He reached down and pulled another child out from behind him.
"This is Dean."
The child didn't protest the roughness of his father's grip, didn't acknowledge the man at all. He didn't raise his eyes from his shoes, wasn't curious who his Dad had brought him to, who the teenager was or where they were.
Mac's smile didn't falter. Caleb was surprised.
'What did you expect, son? I'm a consummate professional, after all.'
Caleb wasn't surprised, however, to hear the voice in his head. They had, after all, spent several months practising.
'Is this how it's going to be for the rest of the afternoon?' he asked, unable to keep the sigh out of his unspoken words.
Mac didn't answer. Instead, he spoke to Dean.
"It's nice to meet you, Dean."
The kid didn't move.
'Give it up, Mac,' Caleb advised. 'Kid's catatonic.'
'Hardly. Merely processing his grief.'
Winchester was sighing, letting go of Dean to run his free hand down his face. "I'm sorry," he mumbled, awkwardly. "He's been like this a while."
"How long?" Mac queried. "Jim didn't go into much detail."
"Nearly four months," John replied with a shrug, as if an introverted child was the most trifling of the worries he might have to deal with.
"Good Lord!" Mac exclaimed, before he could stop himself.
'Smooth. Very professional.' Caleb couldn't resist the dig. Sometimes Mac was a little too sure of himself.
"That's quite some time," Mac explained, off the look Winchester shot him. John rested worried eyes on the top of the blond head before searching for the doctor's again.
"Think you can fix him?"
Caleb glanced back at the kid. It had been nearly a year and although Dean was still unsure around people he didn't know, meaning anyone that wasn't his father and brother, he spoke. He interacted. More than that, though. Dean listened.
Caleb thought he was still more than a little weird; speaking rapidly and with confidence when John was present, returning to old habits when he wasn't.
The teenager, despite himself, had been part of the boy's recovery and he wondered that they were missing something. Not that he cared, of course. He was just being ... professional.
"This is my son, Caleb."
The teen smiled, unable to stop the emotion as the pride flowed through the doctor's voice. It was evident the man was still getting a kick out of telling people that. Caleb was still shocked he felt that way in the first place.
Winchester nodded in his direction, but his attention was focused upon Mac.
"Caleb's going to take care of Dean while we talk," Ames explained.
John eyed the teen again. "I thought you were going to talk to Dean."
"And I will," Mac soothed, gesturing for Caleb to take the little boy off into the corner of the room they had set aside. "First, I'd like to talk to you."
It had been a long, slow process, but eventually Mac had found Dean Winchester and brought him back. It had been a moment of great relief, although technically it had been little Sam to really start the ball rolling. Apparently the little brat knew who had really been feeding him. Dean seemed to live for the other boy.
Dean was weird all right. And now Caleb was stuck with him all day.
The teenager knew the boy had suffered a huge hurt, knew exactly how the kid felt, actually. But even so, his empathy didn't make him feel any less annoyed at him.
John had been supposed to take Caleb into the forest surrounding Jim's farm and let the kid show him how much he had learnt since they had last trained together. Caleb had been prepared to admit he would return with bruises to make the hardest of hearts melt, but that wouldn't matter. He would be doing. Learning. Actively being a part of the Brotherhood, something his father and the Pastor had belonged to for some time and that John had joined shortly before meeting Mac.
Caleb wanted to be a hunter more than anything. He wanted to fight the things that had taken his family, that had sent him to a padded room, that made him afraid. Instead he was stuck on babysitting duty, once Dean had pipped up about Sammy's appointment. And John had listened, accepting what the kid was telling him without batting an eye.
How the hell did the kid know that! If John forgot, it couldn't have been important. Caleb thought, glaring at Dean once more. Stupid brat.
Caleb looked up to find his father frowning at him over the top of the morning paper.
You'll get your chance to show off soon enough.
I don't see why someone else can't sit with him, Caleb sulked.
Mac sighed, causing Dean to glance up once more as if fearful he was causing the sound. Seeing the doctor and his son glaring at each other, Dean went back to pushing his soggy flakes around his bowl. He had decided that he, like Caleb, wasn't going to eat breakfast that morning.
Jim has things to do; today's the day he visits his parishioners. I'm going to be around, but I really can't have a small boy around, I'm going to be working.
Caleb grunted. Mac had admitted he would be before they had left for the farm.
Dean had said goodbye to his tiny family hours ago. Jim had left too and Mac had retreated into the Pastor's study to work. Dean was alone in the house with Caleb.
Dean wasn't entirely sure what to make of the older boy. On one hand his Dad liked him enough to trust him with Dean, which normally would have been enough, but on the other … he didn't seem to like Dean.
Dean had found himself placed before the TV set with instructions not to bother Caleb while he read his magazine. Dean could tell it was the one his Dad had been reading the night before. It had the same picture of a car on it.
Dean sighed, bored. He glanced at Caleb again. The teen's green eyes, a different green from Dean's own, he knew, were narrowed in concentration and his foot tapped steadily against the floor.
How long did it take for a magazine to be read, anyway? Dean was learning his letters, was quite an adept reader himself and he wondered if he should offer his assistance. Daddy had mentioned Caleb was slow once, laughing at the look on his face and Dean had gotten the impression he wasn't talking about reading, but it was taking ages.
Dean reasoned the magazine might have very small print. Caleb was squinting after all. He looked like he had a headache.
Before he knew what he had done, surprised at his own daring for he didn't like talking to people, Dean got up and went to stand at Caleb's arm. He took a deep breath. Caleb had helped Mac bring him back from the dark place and Dean had learnt you should help those who help you.
"Mr Palin says you can use your finger to help you keep your place."
Caleb turned his head to scowl at him. "What?"
"I like Mr Palin. He's funny," Dean ventured quietly, feeling a little unsure of himself now.
"You're funny, kid," Caleb replied. "And not in the 'ha ha' way."
The five year old took heart in the fact Caleb was talking to him. He took another deep breath and tried again, pulling the sleeves of his jumper over his hands in a nervous habit. "Do you have a headache? You're face is all squished."
"My face is not squished!"
"Are the words very small?" Dean leaned in to take a better look.
Caleb shut the magazine swiftly, his face reddening. "What the hell do you want?"
Far from being phased by the swear word and the rough tone, Dean merely shrugged, locking eyes with the other boy. Caleb felt himself caught by the achingly beautiful orbs, before Dean ducked his head once more, moving away. Again, Caleb was struck by the thought that they were forgetting something.
He sat up straighter and beckoned the younger child back to him. Dean obeyed cautiously. He may have been willing to share advice with the teenager, but that didn't mean he trusted him.
Caleb glanced around towards the door of the room, listening for his Dad. Mac seemed immersed in whatever he was doing, for all was quiet. Caleb reached out tentatively with his mind, to brush it lightly against Deans.
Dean's eyes widened and he gave a funny little gasp. He obviously recognised the teen's touch, remembering it from when he was being helped. He hadn't liked it much then, either, although Caleb hadn't asked why.
"No!" Dean shouted, the thought echoed in his mind and Caleb winced as the thought resounded in his skull, crashing aimlessly along nerves.
Pulling his mind back where it belonged, Caleb, his mind so open at the time, felt another presence. He frowned, not recognising it. It wasn't one of the hunters currently staying at Casa de Pastor.
He pushed against it gently, and it opened, absorbing him instantly. Caleb was elated. He knew the owner of the mind hadn't a clue he was hitch-hiking. He was certainly thinking, however.
This won't take long. Grab and go. An image of Dean, obviously remembered from a day or so ago, playing in the light snow outside the kitchen door while the hunters looked on came to the man's mind and Caleb wrenched himself free, uncaring about subtlety.
"Dad!" he shouted, leaving the front room and flinging the study door open.
Mac lifted his head, a small sock clutched in his hand. He had a vague expression on his face, and with a visible effort, he pulled himself away from his work. Caleb grimaced. Mac often helped the police with locating mission people, something other's in his primary profession of neurosurgeon found distasteful.
"Caleb, I'm trying work ..." Mac trailed off as he took in the distraught face of his son, the panic rolling off him. "What is it?"
Caleb found it impossible to try and put into words what he had witnessed. "Dean! Men outside!"
Mac instantly imitated his son's actions, searching with his own mind. "Three of them, damn it! Caleb, where's Dean?"
"I left him in the front room," Caleb gasped. Mac pushed past him to get to the room, Caleb close on his heels, cursing his own stupidity.
"Stop that, he's fine," Mac soothed, unruffled, it seemed. He opened the door, searching for the child of his friend.
"Damn," he grunted, shaking his head and rubbing at a temple. "They've a psychic with them. He's aware we've sensed their intent. We don't have much time."
"Dean?" Caleb called. "Come on, kid, we're the good guys, remember? Where are you?"
Mac scanned the room, unable to use his skill in location as the psychic was leaving his mind open, obviously hoping for more activity. Mac remembered he had always opted to hide behind the sofa as a boy himself and he tugged it away.
"Dean, I need you to come out," he pleaded, eyes going to the windows.
The boy, hugging his knees, shook his head.
Mac forced his voice to remain calm. "Why not?"
Dean again said nothing, but shot a glance at Caleb quickly.
"I'm sorry, I was only trying to help!" Caleb defended swiftly, as his Dad turned to him. "I didn't know he was going to pull this!"
"You tried to read him? Oh, Caleb," Mac sighed.
"Dad, I'm sorry!"
Mac ignored him and focused on the boy again. "Dean, I will speak to Caleb, but for now I need you to go on an adventure with him."
Dean tilted his head to one side, ever so slightly. He had developed quite a repertoire of expressions during the time he had been with Mac, before he found his voice and he was wont to use them when he didn't want to talk. The head tilt indicated curiosity.
"I want you to go with him into the woods and hide, just like you played with your Dad and Jim last night. Caleb will hide with you. I'll come find you later."
Dean frowned, obviously not liking this idea. With some effort, he voiced his concern. "We'll have to hide for a long time?"
Mac smiled softly. Damn, the kid was sharp.
"A while," he agreed. "But Caleb'll take you deep into the woods; show you places you haven't seen yet."
He glanced at the windows again, his heart speeding. He needed to get the boys out of the house, of that he was certain.
"There's only three of them," Caleb hissed as Dean crept out into the open once more. Mac hurried them into the kitchen, checking the doors and windows and acting like a hunter. Caleb grew worried. His Dad was more of a pacifist than a fighter, and it always surprised him when the man shifted into well worn instincts and sharply honed skill.
"Caleb, do as I say."
Mac grabbed Dean's coat; pulling his arms through the sleeves quickly, his eyes continuingly scanning the room. Caleb shrugged into his own jacket as Mac lifted Dean into his arms. The kid suddenly looked nervous.
"Go deep into the woods, don't try to contact me," Mac instructed. He placed Dean into the fourteen year olds arms. "I'll come for you when it's safe."
Dean held himself stiffly away from the teen, who didn't notice. He was completely focused on Mac.
"Dad," he began, but the doctor shook his head.
"It'll be alright, son. Go, quickly now."
Dean wriggled in Caleb's arms. "I don't wanna go," he said, although there was none of the whine so typical of his age present in his voice. "I want Daddy."
"Sorry, kid. You're stuck with me."
"Come on, quickly!" Mac cautiously opened to kitchen door, the one mainly used by Jim's regular guests. Most visitors came through the front door. "I think they're still down on the road."
Caleb crept out and Dean stilled instantly. He understood, in his child's way, how important this was.
Caleb turned back to his father, hovering nervously in the doorway. He raked a hand through his too long dark hair.
"Run!" Mac hissed, eyes scanning the area. "Stay safe, Caleb. Keep the both of you safe."
Caleb gulped back a frisson of fear, nodded once before turning and heading for the waiting line of trees that heralded the beginning of the woods.
He slipped momentarily on ice, hidden by the light snowfall they had had, and glanced down at the small burden he carried in his arms. Dean gazed back at him, before turning to watch the farm become smaller behind them.
Caleb picked up his pace, hunching over in an effort to protect Dean with his own body. God, he felt exposed out in the open land.
He felt Dean stiffen. "Caleb!"
The teen reached the trees, turning, panting, to look back at the farm. Dean twisted so he too could see. The boys watched as three men, merely dots on the horizon, spread out along the farm. Caleb clutched Dean tighter. He backed slowly into the dense woods, until he and the Winchester boy faded from sight.