Edge of Winter

By: Ridley C. James

Beta: Tidia

A/N: Hey guys. It's so good to be back. I've had a while to work on this story while Tidia was posting, and it is slowly leading us up to The Brotherhood version of what will happen with Dean's deal. If Tidia and I could write as fast as we could plot, then we'd be finished and half way into season four. This particular story has been interesting to write, because in many ways it is Sam and Caleb's story, but Dean is at the heart of it. I promise he shows up in every chapter. Please, take into consideration that point of view plays an important role in what is being said, and how it is interpreted. Not everything in here is what 'I' might believe about a situation, but how the characters see each other in the moment. Sometimes things have to come to a head, before one can begin to heal. Sam and Caleb have a lot of healing to do. Theirs is a tale of forgiveness.


"He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven."

-George Herber

Caleb felt the surge of liquid fire pulsing through his veins. The demon possession had been painful in the beginning, but now the burn was welcomed. He braced himself for the battle, knowing the latest demon would fight him for control. He smiled as he emerged the victor without much effort. The process was getting easier, seemed to come naturally now. A little voice whispered that perhaps Caleb should be frightened, but a more insistent call drowned out the concern, reminding him that Dean's time was ticking away.

The changes were instantaneous. Caleb could make out each individual brush stroke in the painting across from him, the lapping of the water against the boat became deafening. He felt the heavy Florida air sweep against his skin, clinging to each pore. The smell of salt and brine came to life on his tongue, mixing poorly with the traces of the vegetable soup from lunch. The most noticeable and thrilling change, however, was his psychic ability.

The force at which Caleb could invade another's mental space magnified to scary levels while his own blocks were like reinforced steel. He'd learned early on that with different demons came different talents. Telekinesis was his favorite, and he wondered at his father's restraint in using that particular gift.

"How long, Caleb?"

Jessup's soft voice brought him from his musings. He rolled his shoulders, let out a deep exhale, finding his center. "I want to try for forty."

"Thirty was difficult."

By difficult Caleb assumed his former teacher was referring to the massive migraine which had him puking his guts up into the early morning hours. He regarded the older man, watching him shift his iron sword from one hand to the other. Upon Caleb's request, The Dragon's Talon lay on a chair within Jessup's reach along with a bottle of holy water. A thick circle of salt separated them. They had stopped using the devil's trap; Caleb couldn't try out his new found aptitude with such restraints. "It could have been your alligator stew."

Jessup inclined his head, his grey ponytail draping over one shoulder. "It's good to see your ill humor remains."

"That sounds like your stoic way of calling me a smart ass, Jessup."

"Interpretation reveals much about a man."

Caleb took another breath as he felt the demon try to gain the upper hand. This one was more willful than the last, or Caleb was more worn than he thought. "The longer I stay here, the wordier you get. What happened to all those wise, simple, three word locutions?"

"I am adapting."

Caleb snorted. "Meaning I talk too damn much."

"If talking makes this easier, then we shall talk."

In the beginning using Noah Seaver's amulet to possess demons had been hard, both physically and mentally. But as the months passed, he grew more adept. "It lets you know I'm still in charge."

"There is that."

"So we'll go for forty," Caleb reassured himself. It was the second possession for the day; the first one had been unremarkable - like a good stretch before a long run. "I still think I need to work up to an hour, and…well you know. Tick tock."

"Perhaps if you discussed the plan with another? Dean for instance?"

Caleb shook his head. He knew exactly how his best friend would feel about his current project. "Deuce's got his plate full at the moment."

"There is Sam."

Caleb rubbed his neck, the first tendrils of tension reaching up from his shoulders promising a spectacular headache. "He won't understand."

"That seems unlikely. Dean is his brother."

Caleb stopped his pacing, glared at Jessup. "And I'm not? Is that it?" Caleb was sick of having that biological evidence thrown in his face. Didn't actions count for something? Loyalty?

Jessup's response was to raise his sword, square off his stance. Caleb ran a hand over his mouth. "Shit. Forget I said that." Maybe Jessup had a point about interpretation. Caleb's emotions were a reflection of his own insecurities, and when he was challenged he would lash out. The demon was digging. Caleb learned the hard way that head games were a favorite offensive tactic. Demons took something that had insidious plausibility, and then twisted their victim with it. Blatant lies were easy to detect and therefore ineffective. Half truths were an effective tool. He took another breath, reasserting his dominance. "I'm sorry…it's a sore subject."

Jessup relaxed his grip. "Another reason to talk with Sam."

"Sam isn't always easy to talk to. Kind of like John."

"They hurt Dean."

Caleb focused on Jessup, surprised at the other man's words. "What'd you say?"

Jessup frowned, repeating himself. "You're a team."

"Yeah." Caleb rubbed at his temples, hoping to assuage the building pressure. They were a team. He and Sam had made a pact to work together to save Dean no matter what it took. "We're all in this together."

"Yet, you're the one here, while Sam is spending time with his brother."

"Goddamnit. Are you trying to piss me off Jessup?"

The swordsman's brow puckered in confusion. "I merely suggested Sam and Dean spend some time here. You could help one another."

Caleb needed to get a grip. He clenched his fists. Obviously, the demon was twisting what Jessup was saying. "That's not a good idea." He didn't want Dean or Sam to see him. He had a hard enough time with his reflection in the mirror. "It's better this way."

"Better for Sammy. He has to have things his way."

"It's not working!" Caleb cupped his hands over his ears, resumed his pacing. The need to reclaim his concentration was imperative. He focused on the floor as the pressure in his skull increased. The demon was distorting what Jessup was saying somehow between the mental processes of receiving and deciphering. The damn thing had gotten past his blocks, worming its way into his thoughts like a computer virus. "I know what you're up to."


The demon must have taken Caleb's declaration as a challenge, because the intensity of the attack was increased. Mental pictures flashed before the psychic's eyes. At first he worried he was experiencing the beginnings of a vision, but then the frames flowed together. Caleb realized he wasn't being shown a future event; instead he was forced to view a moment from his past. A moment the demon chose for nefarious reasons.


Manhattan, NY

July 2002

"Frank Lloyd Wright believed no building should be on a hill. The building should be of the hill, belonging to it." Caleb Reaves resisted the urge to tug at his uncomfortable tie. He made eye contact with the businessmen and women around the table. "Both hill and house should live together - each happier for the other."

He easily read the smirk in his construction foreman's eyes as Oliver 'Moose' Havers fidgeted in the chair closest to him, even more uncomfortable in a suit than Caleb. This project would propel them up the ranks of the architectural elite, and more than that Caleb wanted to design the building, having worked on the perspective sketches for weeks.

Caleb gestured to the large glass window with a view of the city. "Wright's philosophy is one we embrace here at Tri-Corp. We don't want to merely build you a community center; we want a chance to sculpt the heart of your neighborhood." It was lame, a bit over the top, but golden. Moose coughed, Caleb catching the mumbled 'bullshit' under his breath. He ignored his friend and continued, "Given the chance Tri-Corp will present Chelsea with a piece of art that her citizens won't merely look at or walk around, but with a thing of beauty that they can live, work and play in-everyone happier and enriched by its founding."

Caleb could sense the shift in attention. The stirring words were working their magic. Even Howard Silverman, by far the hardest sale, was sitting a little taller in his chair, no longer staring at his watch. Evelyn Mercer touched a delicate hand to her perfectly coifed silver hair before bringing it to rest lightly against her chest. Caleb would get her vote, holding her icy blue gaze a little longer than necessary. He flashed a smile before launching into the next bit of rhetoric which was sure to clench the deal. The buzz of the intercom stopped him mid-speak.

"Mr. Reaves, there's someone here to see you."

Caleb stood straighter, clenched his fists. He was beginning to understand Moose's joke about their secretarial services being as bad as the ones spoofed on the Murphy Brown sitcom. The new temp was nice to look at, but totally inept when it came to following instructions. "Claire, we're in the middle of a meeting. Could you schedule them an appointment at a later date."

There was a long pause in which he frowned at Moose. Claire's shrill voice filled the room once more.

"Your nephew says it's a family emergency."

Caleb's chest tightened as he reached his thoughts past the door into the next room. The familiar link with his mentor's oldest son zinged to life, flooding him with an onslaught of worry and fear. "Damn." He glanced at Moose. "It's Dean."

"Little Dude?" Oliver raised a brow. "You want me to go out and see what's up?"

Caleb shook his head at the antiquated nickname. "No. I'll take care of it." He glanced at the intercom. "Claire, I'll be right out."

"Mr. Reaves, we scheduled this meeting upon your request and I must say against my better judgment," Howard said. "Your firm is reputable, your portfolio is impressive, but you have not designed a structure of this magnitude. I hope you realize exactly what is at stake here and how valuable our time is."

"I do." Caleb resisted the urge to tell Silverman what he could do with his better judgment, clasping Moose on the shoulder. "That's why I wouldn't dream of asking you or your constituents to wait for my return. Oliver will be glad to finish telling you about the project design we have in mind and showing you my preliminary sketches. Won't you, Oliver?"

"I will?"

Caleb tightened his grip on the other man's shoulder. "Of course."

Moose's face reddened, his gaze narrowing. "But Boss…I'm not really a talker…"

Caleb forced a grin. "Just continue from where I left off." He leaned closer to the foreman, lowered his voice. "Pretend you're at a bar Moose. Bullshit comes naturally to you when you're around loose women."

"But I'm usually soused," Olive hissed.

"Fake it."

Caleb didn't have time to feel bad for abandoning his foreman, or the project. The emotions coming from Dean were his only concern. Upon reaching the other room, his worst fears were confirmed.

The twenty-three year old immediately stopped his pacing in front of Claire's temporary work station, meeting Caleb's gaze. Dean was pale; dark smudges beneath his eyes. The bruises on his face stood out in vivid comparison.

Caleb quickly crossed the distance between them. "Dean?"

"Sammy's gone, Damien. He's gone."

It took a moment for Caleb to quell the panic, to search for and find the psychic thread that stood out as Sam Winchester. Finding it whole and intact, convincing himself that Sam was still very much alive, Caleb gripped his friend's shoulder, guiding him to Moose's office for more privacy.

"What are you talking about, Deuce?"

Dean threw up his hands, defeat in his dull green eyes. "He left, took off in the middle of the night."

Caleb frowned. "He ran away?" The psychic couldn't help to think of another time when Dean had shown up unexpected, terrified because his then twelve-year-old little brother had pulled a vanishing act. "Dude, he's nineteen."

Dean ran a hand through his hair. "No, man. He left…for college."

Suddenly the pieces clicked together. "He accepted the Stanford scholarship." It was always a possibility looming in the distance. It was a shooting star for Sam, one to deliver him away, but a hell bent asteroid for Dean, capable of blowing his world apart.

Dean nodded. "He said he was heading to California."

"But the last I heard he hadn't made up his mind…and school doesn't start for another couple of months." Caleb had counted on the extra time as had Dean. "What the hell happened?"

"Dad happened."

Caleb's stomach knotted. "Did John do that to your face?"

"What?" Dean's brows knitted together, eliciting a wince of pain as the movement tugged against the butterfly sutures marring his forehead.

It was the one thing Caleb could imagine pushing Sam over the edge. They shared that particular limitation. It wasn't like John had ever stepped over the invisible line, but it was always a fear in the back of Caleb's mind. "Was he drunk?"

"Hell no." Dean shook his head, gestured to his face. "This happened on a hunt…fucking pissed off spirit."

Caleb leaned against his desk, relieved his mentor hadn't lost all sense. "That what set Sammy off?"

"It started it." Dean sighed. "You know how he is. He blamed Dad, Dad blamed him."

"Another fun round of let's beat the dead horse." Caleb knew all too well. Fun times had fled the Winchester world since Sam graduated high school, and a well meaning guidance counselor had offered Sam the golden key to his jail cell. John, being the consummate warden, had snatched it to play keep away.

"I've never seen them go at it like that, Caleb." Dean licked his lips. "I…I thought they were going to start swinging."

"You said it yourself Deuce. They're both stubborn jackasses. Give it some time."

"No. This was different. Dad…he kicked Sammy out, told him if he went to fucking Stanford to never look back."

That sounded about right. Caleb pushed away from the desk, moving closer to Dean. "Sam's not going to disappear. So he goes to college? It'll give the two bulls some space. Let Johnny cool off. Give Sammy some freedom, something else to focus on. He'll come around. They both will. Hell, the cease fire might be exactly what you need, Dude. No more masquerading as a pull toy in their tug of war."

Dean met his gaze. "You really believe that?"

Caleb had to for Dean's sake. "I do."

"Is that a psychic vibe or just you blowing sunshine up my ass so you can get back to your important meeting?"

Caleb grinned. "Would I snow you, Deuce?"

"If you thought it was for my best interest, you might."

"I'm hurt." Caleb laid a hand over his chest, slid it to his stomach. "I'm also a hungry."

Dean smiled and even though it didn't quite reach his eyes, Caleb felt he'd won something more important than a lucrative deal. "Your emotional range is amazing."

"Hey, I can be sensitive." Caleb reached out and patted his uninjured cheek. "Just to prove it, I'll buy you the best steak in town; let you drown your sorrows in half a dozen beers or so. Even find you a cute redhead so you can cry on her shoulder."

"What about your meeting?" Dean jutted his chin towards the main office. "Your girl Friday said it was a major ass kissing session."

"Since when have you known me to kiss ass?" Caleb threw an arm around his shoulder. "Now Moose is a great ass kisser. Besides, I've got more important things to do."

Important things were a hearty steak dinner and a trip to a local sports pub which ended in an extended stay at Dean's favorite New York bar, Hogs and Heifers. "Easy, big guy." Caleb struggled with pushing the door to his apartment open while maintaining a grip on his best friend.

Caleb had the grace of hindsight to realize those last two shots of tequila for the road had not been the smartest move. In his defense, Caleb found it hard to deny Dean much on a good day, let alone a request on one of the worst nights of the younger man's life.

Dean was beyond wasted. The amount of alcohol consumed was definitely in the range of the kid's twenty-first birthday blow out in the small little border town, but Dean's attitude was reminiscent of his first hard kill. That had been Dean's baptism of sorts and Caleb couldn't help but to see this as yet another bloody anointment. "I got you, Deuce."

"Where's Kelly?" Dean slurred, nearly tripping over his own feet as Caleb let him go long enough to toss his keys and jacket on the counter.

The psychic caught the younger hunter's arm as he started for the living room. "Kelly didn't want you throwing up on her couch and neither do I. Let's hit the sack."

"I wanted to sleep with Kelly, Damien not you."

Caleb snorted at the boy-like petulance and steered Dean to the first bedroom in the hallway. "That's good, because I'm not that easy. Now Kelly's friend April was more my type. But I landed a babysitting gig." He forewent the light, finding his way easy enough in the bare room. "So you and I both get our own beds tonight."

"My…bed," Dean muttered as Caleb deposited him onto the mattress. "In my room."

"You bet." Caleb kneeled down to relieve Dean of his shoes, knowing the younger hunter would never be able to manage them. "We still need to hang those Metallica posters, throw some dirty socks and porn around. Toss a Red Sox pennant or two up on the wall." Caleb glanced at him as he managed to liberate the second boot. "But for tonight, it's home sweet home."

Dean blinked. "You got a Sammy stashed in here?"

Caleb continued at his task. The one thing that defined home for Dean was the one thing Caleb couldn't give him. "Sorry. I'm clean out of those."

When Caleb looked up to meet Dean's gaze, he saw pain through the alcohol glaze. Heartache was one bitch of a buzz kill. Caleb took a seat on the bed, shoulder to shoulder with Dean. A night of watching the kid unravel had left him less optimistic than he'd been at the office earlier. "You doing okay, Slugger?"

Dean stared straight ahead. "It's like they hate each other."

Caleb waited for Dean to look at him. "They don't hate each other. They've just come to a crossroads and neither one is willing to follow the road the other wants to take." The sad part was Dean couldn't go both distances. He'd have to pick a path and stick with it.

Dean licked his lips. "How could Dad tell him not to come back? It's Sammy."

"Dude, you know Johnny when he gets his pride hurt, when he thinks his soldiers aren't falling in line."

"Sam's not a soldier. He's his son."

Caleb had that same thought more times than he could count over the years. But try telling it to John. "Same difference."

"My whole life has been spent protecting, Sammy. I don't know what to do if he's not here. I don't know how not to be his big brother."

Dean wasn't losing Sam, he was losing his identity. "You'll always be his big brother. He's gone off to college, not to war."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Same difference."

"I went to college, genius." Caleb bumped his shoulder. "And I'm still here."

"He's not you. Sam doesn't want to hunt. He hates it. And Dad's not Mac. He doesn't see the importance for 'normal' even as subterfuge. You know that."

Caleb nodded. "I know that. But I also know Sam."

"You didn't hear them-see the look in Sammy's eyes-the way he fired off at Dad. He's finished."

Caleb stood, giving Dean another little shove; he fell back on the mattress. It was time to sleep it off. "Things will look better in the morning, Deuce." He tried for a grin as he lifted the younger man's legs up onto the bed. "Well, after you've done your fair share of sacrificing to the porcelain tank in the bathroom that is."

Dean rested against the pillows, but continued to stare at Caleb. "What if he doesn't come back? Who's going to watch out for him?"

Caleb swallowed thickly, avoiding the bright green eyes as he retrieved a blanket from the closet. Returning, he unfolded the quilt, draped it over Dean before sitting down on the edge of the bed once more. "He's coming back."

"How do you know?"

"Because he's your brother, and he knows you need him to. That's what families do."

"I'm not sure if I have a family anymore."

"That's Jose Cuervo talking, and he's not a friend of yours." Caleb ran a quick hand over Dean's hair as the kid started to fade. As long as he was alive, Dean would always have a family. "Get some sleep, Kiddo."

He waited until Dean's breath evened out, until the pinched lines disappeared from around the younger man's eyes and his forehead smoothed before he stood. Caleb pulled his cell phone from his pocket, ignoring the five missed calls from Moose, three others from John. Caleb didn't give a shit about the deal at the moment, didn't trust himself to talk to his mentor. Instead he hit the number three on his speed dial, sighed as the familiar voicemail kicked in.

It was expected. Dean had tried to call his brother at least four times that Caleb had witnessed during dinner, and then later at the bar. He looked down at one of the streetlights below as he waited for the beep.

"Hey, Sammy, it's Caleb. Look Runt, I heard what happened between you and your old man. I'm sorry." Caleb ran a hand through his hair, forced a light sounding laugh. "Can't say I didn't see that one coming. But if you need something, anything…I mean it Samantha, don't be a stubborn ass. You know my number."

Caleb looked up at the night sky, searching for Orion despite the unlikelihood of catching a glimpse of the hunter constellation. "And Sam… Dean's worried. I know Johnny's being an ass, but that's Johnny. Give your big brother a call." Caleb hesitated. "Please."



November 2007

"He never called." Caleb blinked, the images from his past blanking out in a screen of snow like a television station going off air.

"Who never called?" Jessup asked.

He looked up at his former teacher, realizing that what had seemed such a long time in his mind had most likely been mere seconds for Jessup. Time was relative, especially in psychic realms.

"Sammy." Caleb brought a hand to his head as a sharp spike of energy bolted through his senses. He rubbed his temples, trying to erase the images from before, get a handle on the anger the memory had conjured.

"Are you alright?"

Caleb ignored the question, pinched the bridge of his nose as a more familiar sensation brushed against his mind. He fought back a wave of panic. "Sam."

An unexpected knock at the door had Jessup glancing to the stern, just as a familiar voice echoed through the cabin.

"Caleb? Are you there? It's Sam."

Jessup gripped the hilt of his sword as Caleb's eyes went inky black. He grinned, his voice foreign. "Speak of the devil."


Sam didn't want to believe Caleb had returned to Florida after the incident with Agatha Hennings. He continued to doubt his gut instinct the entire drive, even when the older psychic didn't answer his phone, or return Sam's three urgent voicemails. Throughout the tiresome trip, Sam held onto the belief that he and Caleb had an understanding-no more lone wolf stunts. His faith was bolstered when he reached Jessup's place and found no psychic trace of Caleb, not even a faint twinge alerting him there was another psychic was present. His resolve held firm until he found his father's truck, the big black Chevy parked off the dirt road near the rickety docks.

"Stubborn sonofabitch." Sam got out of the Impala, slamming the driver's door. A fleeting panic had him searching his feelings, afraid he might find some inkling the worst had happened, Caleb was gone. A loss of that magnitude would be easy to recognize, even with fledgling abilities like his. Sam had felt it once when he'd found his father lying in the hospital. It was akin to a gaping chest wound. There was nothing of that sort, only a persistent gnawing fear for his brother and a blank space when he thought of Caleb.

From the sandy bank of the secluded lake he eyed the houseboat bobbing in the water. It was as unsightly as he recalled from his one visit as a kid - two story, rust-red in color, and not looking seaworthy. Sam was amazed it didn't take on water moored in its lonely slip.

He proceeded with caution, inching his way across two wooden, water-stained planks to board the back of the boat. Dean had sworn Jessup kept an alligator for a pet, like Caleb's hero Sonny Crockett. As unlikely as it was, Sam didn't want to surprise any sleeping reptile.

Upon returning from training with Jessup, Dean had filled his little brother's head with outlandish tales. He made his time spent learning the art of swordsmanship sound like a Chuck Norris movie, and Jessup's legend grew to epic proportions, like Master Splinter from the Ninja Turtles, if only Jimmy Buffet played the part.

Needless to say Sam was not anticipating his turn to fulfill his own internship with the master. He refused the rare opportunity. By age sixteen he already lost his starry-eyed ideas of hunting. He wanted normal. Normal was not an extended summer camp with a samurai in Margaritaville.

Once on the houseboat, satisfied Sonny's buddy 'Elvis' wasn't aboard, Sam tried again to reach Caleb telepathically. The only change was the blank spot now seemed more like a wall of white noise. Caleb was indeed on the premises, but somehow shielded. The sight of the familiar battered work boots abandoned by the door left no room for doubt. Sam cursed under his breath again and knocked. "Caleb. Are you there? It's Sam."

Water and wind provided the only reply until a muffled shout and a loud thump echoed from inside. Sam's connection to Caleb zinged back on line. He gasped as his mind reeled under the surge of emotion, then Caleb's distress flooded through the link. His friend's pain erased any thoughts of his own discomfort, obliterating all concerns for an invitation or the niceties of removing his shoes. Sam laid the door open with a well placed kick and entered the cabin with gun drawn.


The older hunter was on his knees, head bowed in the center of the room. Jessup was standing above him, plastic bottle in one hand, sword in the other.

"Stay back, Sam," Jessup said, calmly.

"What the hell's going on?" Sam lowered his weapon, but moved closer to Caleb, who had yet to react to his entrance. "Caleb?"

Caleb jerked, his head snapping back as a black mist erupted from his mouth, colliding with the low ceiling before dissipating like a plume of smoke.

"Shit," Sam said. He watched as Caleb slumped boneless towards the floor, catching himself with his hands at the last minute. Sam could hear the older psychic's ragged pants, could see the sweat soaking his hair and shirt collar. "What the fuck are you thinking?"

Caleb lifted his head, turning to look at Sam. Noah Seaver's gold amulet flashed from around his neck. "I was thinking…who the fuck invited you to the party."

Sam ignored the growl, put his gun away. "I thought we'd agreed this wasn't the way."

Caleb rolled his eyes. "I was on my deathbed, under a spell…and I didn't agree to anything."

Sam moved to the other psychic's side. He gave Jessup a heated glare before pointing to Caleb's face. "You're bleeding."

The older hunter wiped under his nose with the back of his hand. "It happens."

"All in the line of duty?" Sam demanded.

"Something like that." Caleb struggled to get to his feet. "Can't all be good times, Runt."

Sam observed the pale face beneath the slight beard, dark smudged eyes framed by pinched lines. "You look sick, man."

Caleb swallowed. "Funny you should say that…"

Sam watched the other psychic turn and bolt for the door, crossing the deck in two long strides to lean over the side of the boat. The sounds of retching drifted into the room and Sam turned to Jessup. "More side effects?"

The teacher nodded. "Possession's not pleasant."

Sam glanced to the water bottle in Jessup's hand, the sword and then let his gaze go to a chair which held The Dragon's Talon, a Knight's blade capable of killing anything supernatural or not. Anger coursed through him at the implication. "Less pleasant for some than others."

"Bearing witness is its own suffering." Jessup inclined his head. "Hence why I was chosen."

"Instead of me or Dean, you mean," Sam said. He picked up the Dragon's Talon, gripped the black stone handle in his hand. Caleb had gone to Jessup because he knew the man operated outside the confines of The Brotherhood and was more trustworthy than any of his cult contacts. "You were chosen because we would have known better-would have stopped him. You have no idea what he's dealing with."

"Each man chooses his own path, Sam."

"Not this time." Sam slipped the strap from the Talon's leather sheath over his shoulder, letting it hang loosely at his side. "I'm not losing one more person to that particular journey." He nodded to Jessup, conjured his best John Winchester tone. "We'll be leaving now."

"I hope so."

Sam didn't sense any malice in the words, only a sincere understanding. "He won't be coming back for anymore of this." He gestured to the salt lines, wanting to make himself clear. It was more dark warning than observation, but if Jessup took it as such it didn't register on his serene features.

"Time shall tell."

Sam found Caleb still hunched over the side, his head resting on the railing. "You done?"

"Sure thing." Caleb slowly righted himself, one hand guarding his stomach the other sliding slowly across his mouth. "Let's hope the fish and gators like Jessup's leftovers."

"Good." Sam slid the Talon off his shoulder, shoved it towards Caleb. "Because we're leaving."

Caleb took the blade, cocked a brow. "Is that so, Corporal Winchester?"

"Don't even start with the bullshit about Dad. This is me talking, and we're leaving." Sam hitched his fingers in the belt loops of his jeans, standing his ground.

"You're in charge now?" Caleb stood straighter. "Having delusions of grandeur, young Jedi?"

Sam bit his lip. "I'm not in the mood for your sarcasm, Caleb." They didn't have time for it.

"And I'm not in the mood for your drill sergeant routine, Sam. The last time I checked I ranked a whole hell of lot higher than you in this army, having never gone AWOL and all."

"What?" Sam was surprised at the veer in the conversation. "You're bringing up Stanford?"

"It was bound to come up sooner or later, considering your propensity to emote on a frequent basis."

Sam took a step forward. "Are you still possessed?"

"No." Caleb shook his head. "This is all me. That demon you barged in on would have skipped the pleasant conversation, added you to the alligator's surprise buffet. You're lucky I was able to regain control. What the hell were you doing walking into an unknown situation like that?"

"I was trying to save your ass."

"My ass is just fine." Caleb moved to walk past him, but Sam caught his arm.

"That's bullshit and you know it."

Caleb pulled away from him. "You come all this way because you're worried about me? That sounds nothing like you."

"I came because of Dean."

Sam watched Caleb's jaw clench. "Is he with you? If you ran your mouth to him Runt, so help me God…"

"I didn't tell him about the amulet or the possessions. I thought it was a moot point."

Caleb ran a hand through his hair. "Then where the hell is he?"

"That's a good question. I was hoping you could tell me."

"Why would I know where he is? He's your brother."

"What?" Sam stared at the other hunter. "Did that demon do something to you? Is this another side effect? I just told you Dean was missing."

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did."

"Wait." Caleb held up a hand. "Back up. He's missing?"

"Missing," Sam said. "I haven't seen him or talked to him in over twenty-eight hours." Sam watched the other hunter loose what little color he had.

"That's not good."

"Tell me about." Sam was relieved someone could take on some of the burden. He'd called Bobby after arriving in Florida but hadn't gone into great detail.

"Shit." Caleb sat in increments on one of the deck chairs. "Where was the last place you saw him?"

"At a dive in Georgia. We stopped for beers. He ended up doing some shots with a woman at the bar." Sam recalled every detail of the place- the shoddy walls, the scuffed up floor and the beautiful woman looking extremely out of her element. He should have been suspicious.

"Sounds typical."

"Yeah." He wished he had intruded, limited his brother's drinking instead of allowing him the time to relax.

Caleb looked up at him. "You sure he's not holed up somewhere with the chick?"

"He's not answering his phone-he didn't leave a note. . ."

"Goddamnit," Caleb stood, kicked the chair. "How the hell did this happen? Where the hell were you, Sam?"

"Me?" The insinuation was a match to gassed timber. "Where the hell were you, Caleb? You're the fucking Knight." All the bottled up anxiety and hours of driving non-stop were taking their toll, not to mention the anger at realizing Caleb had lied to him. "You dropped the ball."

"I was doing my job, trying to save his life."

"It's your job to watch out for him," Sam roared. He stepped toe to toe with Caleb, going so far as to poke his finger in the other hunter's chest. "But you were here trying to be the hero, getting your jollies fucking around with your precious family heirloom."

Caleb's punch surprised him, snapping his head back, nearly knocking him on his ass in the middle of the deck. It stung, reminiscent of Dean hitting him after Dad's death, after Sam had pushed just a little too hard.

"Fuck you, Sam."

Unlike the time with his brother, Sam had no inclinations to turn the other cheek. He shook off the shock, reclaimed his footing, letting the pain feed his adrenaline. He struck out with a right cross and followed it up with a sharp jab to the midsection that under normal circumstances Caleb would have probably blocked in his sleep. Sam only had a fleeting moment of guilt, knowing the other hunter wasn't in top form. John Winchester had preached manipulating any weakness in the enemy's armor. He could be his father's son when it suited his task. Right now said directive was to hurt Caleb. "No. Fuck you, Damien."

Caleb tackled him, sending them both crashing to the floor, scattering fishing tackle and sending deck chairs clanging about. He clipped Sam with a left hook to the jaw. "You sonofabitch."

Sam struggled to get out from under Caleb as the man sent two more quick strikes to his face. John Winchester would have applauded as Sam flipped his opponent, scrambling to his knees to face off again. He spat blood, pulled the back of his hand across his mouth as he stumbled to his feet. "Better than a demonic bastard."

Caleb made it to standing in time for Sam to see hurt race through his eyes, one of which was sporting a nasty cut and quickly swelling. What the hell were they doing? "Coming from Satan's champion, Saint Sam, that's almost funny…"

All remorse washed away as Caleb's words struck a deep chord. Sam lashed out with a kick which Caleb caught and used to take him down. Still, Sam managed to land an uppercut as Caleb tried to pin him. They were flopping around on the deck like two fish pulled from the lake when a bucket of ice cold water splashed over them.

For a moment Sam wondered at the probability of a freak squall summoned wave, but then Jessup's deep voice rang out.

"Enough of this."

Sam coughed, rolling away from Caleb, who was shaking like a wet dog. When he reached a safe distance he collapsed, looking up at Jessup's solemn face. "He started it."

"Did not," Caleb snapped.

Jessup didn't even feign interest. He tossed the bucket aside. "Off my boat."

"You're kicking us out?" Caleb was on his knees now, holding a hand to his side. "Just like that?"

"You have Sam." Jessup scooped Caleb's boots from the floor and dropped them in front of the hunter. "Sam has you."

"That's a comfort," Caleb said, using one of the overturned chairs to push to his feet. "Why not send me away with a knife in my back for my trouble?"

"And you call me the drama queen," Sam said, grunting as he made it completely upright.

"And now I'll add hypocrite and pompous ass to the list."

"Go to hell."

"Be careful what you wish for, Sammy. You're already sending one brother there."

Sam lunged for Caleb, but found himself brought up short by Jessup's iron grip. "I said enough."

Sam pulled away. "Fine. I'm leaving."

Jessup gestured to Caleb. "Take him, too."

The two men stared at each other. "I have to find Dean," Sam said finally. "Are you going to help me or not?"

"I'm going to help Dean."


Caleb roughly brushed past him, bending down to pick up The Dragon's Talon he'd dropped when their fight broke out. Sam took some sadistic satisfaction in the wince of pain he witnessed as Caleb stood straight once more. The older hunter glanced to Jessup. "Any departing words of wisdom, Master?"

Sam wasn't sure, but he thought Jessup's mouth might have twitched ever so slightly, one side tipping up marginally. "Try being friends."

Caleb snorted. "That's it?"

"A task harder than it sounds."

"Yeah." Caleb shook his head. "Bound to be painful too, like most of your damn lessons."

Jessup nodded. "You're getting smarter."

Sam watched Caleb make his way off the boat before turning to frown at the teacher. Despite the fact he was still pissed off, his first inclination was to defend the ridiculous. They were friends. He loved Caleb, knew Caleb loved him. They were practically brothers. "We're family."

Jessup eyed him, a wealth of patience on his weathered face; his dark eyes alight with some secret knowledge. "Not the same."

It struck like a cartoon anvil, a truth Sam never quite understood until that very moment. Jessup was right. Caleb had been many things to him over the years. Hero. Protector. Teacher. But where those positions left room for affection they also required a certain distance-a distance that had become more wedge than buffer. They were not friends. "How do I change it?"

"Not I. We."

Sam sighed heavily, his impatience flaring. He suddenly understood why his father only lasted a week in Jessup's auspices. "Thanks. That makes perfect sense."

"You are welcome."

Sam took his time getting back to the Impala, taking a moment to collect himself at the water's edge. Dean would be so disappointed in them.

He found Caleb at the car, duffel resting at his feet as he slipped his boots on. Sam searched for a white flag statement, a task made even more difficult when Caleb looked up at him. The swollen eye and busted lip added to the older hunter's already unhealthy countenance. "How you and Dean lasted two months with that man, I'll never know. He makes no sense."

"He makes perfect sense. That's what irritates you." Caleb went back to lacing his boot. "Truth hurts, Runt."

Sam clenched his fists. So there would be no truce. "Like you would know the truth these days if it punched you in the face."

Caleb cinched the lace. "Still throwing stones from that glass castle, Prince Samuel?"

Sam grabbed the duffel, slung it over his shoulder. He thought of his own secret about the yellow-eyed demon's blood. Who was Caleb to call him a hypocrite? "Better than blowing smoke up my own ass, Belac." He tossed in Caleb's things before sliding into the driver's seat. "Where's Athewm to call bullshit when we need him?"

Caleb pulled his feet up into the Impala and slammed the passenger's door. "The sooner we find Dean, the better." He cut his gaze to Sam. "I'd hate to explain to him why his little brother's jaw is wired shut."

Sam put both his hands on the Impala's steering wheel, a sudden longing for Dean knotting his gut. It suddenly struck him that he had spent little or no time alone with Caleb-not since the New Mexico hunt. "Or how his best friend ended up in traction." It was going to be another bumpy ride.

Caleb exhaled heavily, leaning into the headrest. "I just hope Deuce is in one piece, man." He brought his hand up, gingerly touched his eye. "That he's not a fucking medical emergency."

Sam prayed for the same. "At least we still agree on one thing."

Caleb didn't lift his head, but turned it so he could see Sam. "We're going to find him and he'll be pissed he missed out on the fight of the century."

"Yeah." Sam snorted. "A battle so vicious an old man armed with a bucket of water brought it to a fizzling end."

"Hey, Jim once took Dad and John down with a garden hose." Caleb shrugged. "Besides, the way I see it a great warrior intervened just in the nick of time, saving your life with his selfless bravery."

"Or saved yours," Sam said.

"Please." Caleb turned his gaze to the window. "You hit like a girl, Samantha."

"A girl that bloodied your nose." Sam started the car and placed it in drive. "And blackened your eye."

Caleb cut his gaze to him once more as they pulled onto the dirt drive that would take them to the main road. "You think you're the first bitch to draw blood? Hell, I've had rougher foreplay than what you dished out back there."

"That's disgusting." Sam twisted his face in distaste, silently relishing in the resonation of a cease fire. "Sounds just like you."

"You might not know me as well as you think."

Sam looked to the road. "I could say the same," he said quietly.

Caleb shifted in his seat. "Maybe."

"We've got some time," Sam offered. "It's going to be a long drive to Bobby's." The mechanic was expecting them. Sam hoped he'd be waiting with some helpful intel. "Maybe we'll think differently by the end."

"Stranger things have happened," Caleb said

If the other psychic was curious about what Sam had told Singer he didn't let on. He hoped it was a sign that Caleb trusted him to keep his mouth shut about the amulet, and not just the fact that Caleb didn't give a shit one way or the other. "We do know all about strange." If they could encounter and destroy supernatural forces on a daily basis, how hard could it be to forge a friendship?

"Deuce is my first priority."

Sam turned at the soft declaration; his eyes searching the gold depths staring intently back at him. He didn't admonish the other psychic for reading him. Sam wasn't a complete hypocrite.

"Look at that. Two things we agree on."

It was a beginning and every great journey began with one small step.


A/N: Remember...patience. I promise it will all make sense in the end. If you think I'm being harsh to either character, please reread the notes at the beginning. I so can't wait to hear what you think!