A/N: First, thanks to everyone who continued to read and sent reviews. The insights and comments are always helpful and most often very, very kind. To those who missed Sam in this story I can promise you my next multi-chapter story is also set in the past and is very Sam/Dean centric as is Tidia's upcoming story set in the present called Bridge to a New Day. I think you will be pleased.
Blurred wasn't actually meant to be related to the things going on now as I finished writing it before the last two episodes aired, but I was surprised at the end by the parallels, especially to the last episode. I thought the quote fitting also.
"Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life-and it was you. It is not too late to find that person again."-Robert Brault
Dean blinked, trying to bring his blurry vision into focus. He wasn't sure where he was, the room's unfamiliarity starting a slow building panic. Dean moved his head, catching sight of a dark haired blob resting on the bed to his right. "Sammy?"
Even as he said his brother's name he knew it wasn't right. The syllables always present in his mind sounded unfamiliar when spoken. How long had it been since he'd said his brother's name out loud. Fear gripped his heart and he tried to push himself up, searching for his father. Dean blinked again, the fuzzy image taking the shape of his best friend.
Caleb was sitting by the bed, his upper body draped uncomfortably over the side, arms and head resting on the mattress near Dean's arm. "Damien?"
At the sound of his name, Caleb stirred, slowly righting himself to look blearily at Dean. "Deuce, you're awake."
Caleb rubbed a hand over his eyes. "He was here just a minute ago. At least, I think he was."
Dean smirked. "Dude, are you drunk?" He looked towards the window, noticing it was still dark outside, but the howling storm was no longer lashing against the cabin. He guessed he had only been sleeping a few of hours.
"No." Caleb sat up straighter with a groan and a rattling cough. "Although Bobby's flu remedy had more whiskey than any other medicinal ingredients."
"You took one of Bobby's cure-alls?" Dean frowned. "I guess that explains why you still look like shit."
"Right back at you." Caleb touched the bandage on his head and Dean batted Damien's hand away.
"You managed to keep your head, but the bruising is still fugly. Some wing man you'll make. Neither of us will be scoring on New Year's Eve."
Dean rolled his eyes. His whole body felt like one big bruise. By the way Caleb was moving his friend was beginning to feel the effects of their car crash as well. "I say we stay at some swanky hotel, watch a game, order room service and send Dad and Bobby out on the town."
"Anywhere but here sounds good."
Dean shifted, raising himself higher in the bed. The pills in his system were still holding off the worst of the pain from his leg. Even the throbbing in his skull was at a tolerable level. "Elkins keeping his distance?"
"Yeah. Maybe he and Johnny are catching up on old times."
"Dad's on your side. You know that, right?"
Caleb looked at him for a moment, before turning his attention to the silver ring on his right hand, moving the band around with his thumb. "I don't know about you, but sometimes I get really sick of their always being a side to be on-always having an enemy to face."
"I know what you mean." Dean had tried to play the middle ground for far too long with Sammy and Dad. Trying to be Swizerland sucked. "But sometimes knowing where you stand, and who you stand with is the only thing that's real-the only thing that's right."
Caleb clasped his hands together, leaning his elbows on the bed. "What if you make the wrong choice? What if you mistake the enemy for something else?"
Dean licked his lips, not quite sure of the motivation behind the turn in conversation. "That's simple. You make sure that you don't."
Caleb raised a brow. "That's very black and white of you, Grasshopper."
Dean raised his middle finger. "You'd rather I say something very Jim-like and tell you the murmurings of a man's heart will never lead him astray."
"No." Caleb shook his head. "Bobby's already waxed poetic. I don't need you going down the Hallmark path. I prefer somebody on our team keep their balls about them."
"Okay." Dean reached out and gripped Damien's wrist. "Then stop your brooding, Reaves. Nobody who matters thinks you're the enemy. A whiny ass, bellyaching, drama queen, yes, but a bad guy?" Dean released his friend with a wink. "No way."
"That's what I love about you, Deuce. You always know how to cheer a guy up while simultaneously slaying his ego."
"I wouldn't want you to get a big head." Dean grinned to soften the sting. "You're nearly impossible to live with now."
Raised voices from somewhere in the front of the cabin interrupted Caleb's retort. Dad's shouting was easily recognizable. "What now…" Dean tried to make it out of the bed, but Caleb laid a restraining head on his chest.
"Stay put. I'll check it out."
"No way." Dean shook his head and regretted it as the room spun. "Help me up." He fought through the dizziness, giving a pathetic last effort to evade Caleb's hand. "I'll come with you."
"No." Caleb didn't budge. The shouting continued. Damien took his gun from his side holster and handed it to Dean. "Take this."
"It wasn't a suggestion."
"Now you sound just like Dad."
Caleb stood. "Now you're just being mean." He pointed a finger at Dean to emphasize his order and slipped out the bedroom door, quietly pulling it closed behind him.
"Sonofabitch." Dean collapsed against the pillow, gripping the gun in his right hand. He had no problem recognizing his current enemy. It was gravity, but Dean was never one to say die.
Caleb wasn't sure what he was expecting, but finding Johnny held at gunpoint by Elkins was not even in the ballpark. He met Bobby coming from the kitchen. Singer didn't seem as shocked.
"Ah hell." The mechanic put down his plate of scrambled eggs and cup of coffee. "What have you done now, John?"
"What the hell is going on?" Caleb asked.
"None of your business," John yelled. "Go back and stay with Dean."
"First you bring the enemy to my home and now you try and steal from me." Daniel held his shotgun higher, gesturing from John to a wall safe. The colorization of the wall suggested a painting had been removed. Caleb glanced to John's feet finding a black velvet rendition of da Vinci's The Last Supper. "I trusted you."
The old man's hands shook and Caleb took another step into the room, fearing Daniel might accidentally pull the trigger. "Bobby?"
Singer held up a hand for him to stop. "Stay out of this, Kid."
"I'm only looking for what's rightfully mine," John's voice thundered and he took a menacing step towards his predecessor. "I did the research, put in the hours of legwork only to have you steal it out from under me. You made me believe all these years that it was all a wild goose chase and you've had it all this time. In my book that makes you the enemy."
"You don't know what you're talking about!" Daniel said.
"I read your journal!"
Daniel lowered his gun, seeming to deflate before Caleb's eyes. "Ramblings of a delusional old man." Elkins glanced in his direction. "Just ask Pastor Jim or Doctor Ames. My theories have no foundation in reality. Isn't that right, boy?"
"Leave him out of this," John said. "This is between us."
"Believe what you like." Elkins shook his head. "There is no Holy Grail at the end of your quest, Johnathan. You are not right about this."
"You expect me to swallow more of your lies?"
"You've already proven to be selective in your truths. Why change now?" Daniel walked past John to the safe. He rolled the dial, opening the small steel compartment. "Look for yourself, and then be gone with the lot of you."
"John," Caleb said. "Dean can't travel yet."
"Yes, I can." Caleb turned to find the younger Winchester behind him. Deuce was leaned against the wall, looking three shades paler than he had moments before, but he had a white knuckled grip on Caleb's gun.
"I'm good to go. What's going on?"
Caleb reached out and took Dean's arm to keep him steady on his right leg. "Johnny is working through some issues."
Caleb turned to watch his mentor go to the safe. With barely a glance inside, John turned on Elkins. "You're too dodgy of an old bastard to put it somewhere that logical."
"And you're too stubborn of a young bastard to listen to sense." Daniel pointed a knobby finger at John. "Be careful of your pride. What you seek will only get you killed faster."
"You know my son is hurt." John gestured to them. "You're really going to kick us out?"
"Made your bed, haven't you."
"Fine." John clenched his fists. "I won't beg."
"So this won't be like Echnon's Blade, which you never returned by the way."
"Bobby, get our things."
Caleb stepped forward. "But Johnny, Dean shouldn't…"
"Not now, Caleb." John gave Elkins one last seething glare before starting for the door. "We're leaving."
"It's okay, Damien." Dean's soft voice brought Caleb's gaze back to his best friend. "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. You didn't want to be here in the first place."
"I also don't want to carry your half-frozen bleeding ass off this mountain." He ran a hand through his hair. "Shit. With the extra snow it'll take all night to walk to the road."
Dean cleared his throat. "Who said anything about walking?"
When Caleb looked at him Dean held up a set of keys, keeping them hidden between them. "I don't think Elkins will mind if we borrow his car."
Caleb took the keys with a slow grin. He kept his voice to a whisper. "Living up here, he has to have something all terrain."
Dean grinned. "You up for a joy ride?"
Caleb clasped his fingers around the keys. "The way I see it, that's the least the old bastard owes me."
"Was it completely necessary to steal Daniel's vehicle?" Pastor Jim stood in the center of the living room, hands propped on his hips as he looked from Bobby to Dad.
Dean watched the two men from the couch where he had been resting since their arrival earlier in the afternoon. Dad was in the corner chair, and briefly met Jim's gaze before returning to cleaning his gun.
Bobby, along with Harper Lee, staked out the fireplace upon their return. He answered Jim, "As necessary as keeping all our fingers and toes. You want your boys missing limbs when we brought them back?"
Jim met Dean's gaze and the pastor winked at him. "I believe the injuries from the car wreck, Dean's gunshot wound and Caleb's bronchitis were quite enough, thank you."
"I don't have bronchitis." Caleb's scratchy voice was muffled by the cocoon of blankets he was buried beneath somewhere on the recliner. "It's a cold, or at least it was before Johnny made me go hunting in the Colorado Mountains during a blizzard." The last part was grumbled, but said loudly enough that everyone including Pastor Jim heard it. "On my birthday."
Dean rolled his eyes at the psychic's tattling, looking to Pastor Jim once more. "If this is how whiny a cold makes Damien, I think you should say a special prayer he doesn't get pneumonia. He'll become a complete ten-year-old girl."
Jim stepped over Scout to take a seat on the edge of the couch. The big black Lab shifted, rolling on her back, four paws thrust towards the ceiling but didn't wake. "I pray for you boys every day." The pastor's warm smile faded as he reached out a hand to brush his fingers over the bandage on Dean's head. "Perhaps I should be more specific in my requests."
"You might want to throw in an extra Hail Mary for me." Dean glanced up at the pastor, hoping to erase the man's worry. "I was the one who lifted the keys to Elkins's vehicle."
Damien's head emerged from beneath a quilt. "Only after the bastard left us no choice." He coughed. "And just so you know, Pastor Jim, Johnny drove."
"Anything else you want to rat me out for, Junior?" Dad put down his gun, picking up the Irish coffee Jim had brought him. "Or you want to hold out on the rest until your dad gets here so Mackland will have more ammunition for the speech Bobby and I will have to endure."
"There's no Bobby in this, Knight Winchester. Superior rank says you're flying solo for the good doctor's ass-chewing."
"I'm sure you all acted with honorable intentions," Pastor Jim said. "Daniel isn't sociable or hospitable at the best of times."
Dean agreed with Jim, "He's definitely missing some cards from his deck."
Jim pulled one of Miss Emma's afghans from the back of the couch and spread it over Dean. "Funny, but when Daniel called, he said the exact same thing about your father."
"I can see the similarities," Caleb said."Johnny did torture me, minus the exorcism."
"Shut up, Junior."
Dean laughed when his father launched a throw pillow at Caleb. It was good to see Dad coming out of his funk. He looked up at the pastor. "I get your point, Jim. It's all a matter of perspective."
"Always keep that in mind." Jim patted Dean's shoulder. "Now we can focus on more important things like what shall we have for New Year's dinner? I was thinking black-eyed peas for some much needed luck."
Caleb groaned. "Couldn't we just have pizza?"
"What happened to 'water-just water'?" Dean tried to mimic his friend's pitying tone.
Caleb threw the pillow at him, but Pastor Jim caught it, fluffing it up before place it behind Dean. The clergyman tossed a frown in Damien's direction. "You will be having soup, young man. I'm not listening to one of your father's sermons, either."
Bobby snorted. "Maybe his partner in crime, the ladies man, won't end up wearing it this time."
Caleb sniffed. "Did I mention Bobby forced me to drink one of his homeopathic ninety-proof remedies, Pastor Jim?"
"I was trying to make you feel better, ingrate."
"I'll tell you what would make me feel better." Caleb's voice grew suspiciously weaker. "Birthday cake."
"Give me a break," Dean groaned.
"Actually, that sounds like a splendid idea," Jim said. "Dean's birthday is in a few weeks. Who knows where he may be when it rolls around."
"But my birthday was only a couple of days ago." Caleb sat up, tossing the blankets aside. "I was in the in the snowy woods on a hunt."
"This is New Year's Eve, my boy." Jim pushed to his feet. "I know for a fact you don't like to share your birthday with any other holiday. Besides, it's time to let go of the past and embrace the future. Auld Lang Syne and all."
Caleb slumped in the chair. "Forgetting old acquaintances sounds good."
"I'll drink to that." Dad stood. Dean caught the flash of dimples as his father shot a grin at Bobby. "Want to help The Knight scrounge up some of The Guardian's homebrew for the celebrations?"
"Why not?" Bobby rubbed his hands together. "Nothing better to warm old bones than Jim's finest." He bumped Caleb's feet when he walked by. "Besides, it won't hurt to have a good buzz going when The Scholar finally blows in here on his high and mighty horse."
"Save some for me and Deuce." Caleb kicked at the older hunter. "We should at least get to enjoy something on New Year's Eve seeing how the company sucks."
"Alcohol and antibiotics don't mix," Jim said. He fixed his gaze on Dean. "Ginger ale will have to do."
"I'm not even going to complain," Dean said. His father's return of a good mood was enough to lift his own spirits. "The dry socks and fried chicken will suit me just fine."
"Who said anything about fried chicken?" Jim asked, the twinkle having returned to his blue eyes.
"It is almost my birthday and we missed Christmas."
"Fair enough?" Caleb said as the others filed out of the room. "I get no sympathy at all and you get three magical wishes. What's next? A strip-o-gram and party hats?"
"Is that sour grapes I hear?" Dean shifted so he could see his best friend. "Not a good look for you, Damien. Besides, I was shot."
Caleb snorted. "It was barely a graze."
"I'm the youngest," Dean countered.
"Sam's the youngest."
"Yeah, well, Sammy's not here." Dean tried to bolster his smile as he saw the regret flash through Caleb's eyes. "Gives the middle child a taste of the high life."
"Sorry," Damien apologized. "I didn't mean to twist the knife."
"It's okay." There was a long moment of silence, the popping and crackling of the fire filling the void. Dean looked towards the flames. "Wonder what he's doing tonight."
Caleb snorted. "That depends on whether the library is open."
Dean laughed, despite the pang of longing. "I hope almost two years of college has taught him girls are much more interesting than your average book."
"I'm sure Sammy's learned a thing or two."
"He's always had his smarts going for him."
"He's always had more than that," Caleb said.
Dean cast a glance to his friend. "It didn't keep him from leaving. It doesn't look like it's going to bring him back."
Caleb sat up straighter. "Doesn't mean he doesn't miss it-that he doesn't miss you."
Dean shrugged, turning back to the fire. He tried not to think about what his brother's motives were for not calling or keeping in contact. "I don't even know who to be mad at any more. Him or Dad."
"Sometimes the enemy's face becomes blurred."
Dean glanced up, recognizing his father's words from before. "Yeah. I guess it does." Maybe Sam wasn't sure who the enemy was either. He winced as he shifted higher, the stitches in his leg pulling.
Caleb pointed to the television. "I know it's not a swanky hotel, but we can still watch the game."
Dean recalled their readjusted plans from earlier. He smiled at the other man's efforts. "Jim's food is better than any room service."
"Says the guy who gets to eat fried chicken and birthday cake."
"Let it go, Damien. You're just pissed no hot chick was around to blow on your candle."
Caleb crossed his arms over his chest. "Would it have killed you guys to say Happy Birthday?"
Dean smirked. "Happy Birthday, Caleb."
"Too late." Caleb held up his hand. "The moment's passed."
Time had a habit of doing that-flying by taking important moments with it. "Then how about Happy New Year?"
"That sounds good." Caleb pulled the blankets up around him once more. "Happy New Year, Deuce."