TITLE: And All Was Silence
AUTHOR: Eleri McCleod
EMAIL: elerimc (at) gmail . com
CATEGORY: drama, angst
SERIES/SEQUEL INFO: Brotherhood AU; tag to Ridley C. James' "The Beginning of the End"
CONTENT LEVEL: T, 13+, FR13, take your pick
CONTENT WARNINGS: none
SUMMARY: Brotherhood AU. Delayed by an unexpected illness, Mackland Ames follows John and the boys to Pastor Jim's farm where a surprising connection will spark a lifelong friendship as well as hope for the future of the Brotherhood.
DISCLAIMER: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke, Kripke Enterprises and Warner Brothers. The Brotherhood AU was created by Ridley C. James and Tidia. Their characters are used with permission. I'm just borrowing them for a little while and will return them unharmed. No copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVE: FF . net, Supernaturalville, LJ, any others please ask
AUTHORS' NOTES: I've written this assuming key plot points of the Brotherhood AU is known to the reader. It would be impossible to include every detail, however there shouldn't be too much trouble following the story as a stand alone. If you're confused, there is a great synopsis at http : // hunterstomb . popullus . net / AboutBrotherhood . html (remove spaces). Huge thanks go to Ridley C. James for allowing me play in this AU and for the wonderfully encouraging comments. I'm glad I could write up to your expectations. Thanks also goes to Lynette for her patience and awesome beta skills. She never said a word about the SG-1 fic I'm supposed to be working on. (vbg) As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
The boy hadn't moved in almost two hours.
Every time Jim Murphy walked past the screened back door, Dean was still sitting at the end of the dock, feet dangling off of the end, back bowed and head slumped down. He'd hoped the boy would have started to display at least the smallest signs of actually being a little boy, but since the Winchester's arrival a few days ago he had deteriorated even more.
It was breaking Jim's heart.
He leaned one shoulder against the door jamb, eyes never leaving the small figure sitting over the water. He'd prayed for comfort for Dean, as well as for his father. He'd prayed for the right words to say and that the Dean John spoke about as a grieving father would emerge from his hiding place. So far his prayers had gone unanswered, yet he didn't give up hope. God had a way to heal the boy, Jim had faith in that truth. But it was extremely hard to hold onto his normal patience waiting for this particular miracle.
His body stiffened instinctively at the words before relaxing less than a second later. His home was as secure as a hunter and a pastor could make it and there were few who would have simply walked right in without knocking. "Mackland. How is Caleb feeling?" He didn't turn his head to greet the newly appointed Scholar, still locked in his thoughts of the little boy outside.
"Well enough to start complaining again. He's taking the bags upstairs. Thankfully, his bout with the flu didn't seem to affect John and his boys." Making little sound, Dr. Mackland Ames crossed the room to stand at the other side of the doorway. "I'm not sure I did any good, by the way. Winchester is a very angry man with little trust to spare outside of those boys of his."
Jim chose not to comment on the disgruntled tone and instead focused on the issue at hand. Mackland was a good man and he had recently developed an overprotective streak ever since taking in the young, and very hurting, Caleb Reaves less than a year ago. The Scholar had his doubts about having the skills and caring necessary to help the thirteen year old, but Jim didn't. Meeting the other man's gaze, he tried once again to put words to the instinct which had sent the doctor north to Ohio. "John is angry, I agree. But he's going to do this whether we help him or not. I'd rather he not get himself, and his boys, killed because we couldn't figure out how to break through to him. And as much as he needs us, I believe we need him."
"That's going to be even harder than you thought. He's a stubborn bastard, Jim."
"But he's here, isn't he?"
Mackland only nodded in response. "How are the boys? Has Dean improved any? I didn't get much of a chance to see him once Caleb got sick. Then they left to come down here."
The sigh that escaped was as heavy as Jim's heart and as full of sorrow. "Little Sam is fine, a joy actually. But Dean has retreated even farther into himself. He's stopped talking completely and barely responds when John talks to him. Sam seems to be the only thing he reacts to anymore. He won't say it, but John's getting scared." Jim watched as the boy continued to stare down at the water, not fidgeting or shifting at all. The soft sounds of nature beyond the screen filled the pause in the conversation until he met the Scholar's gaze. "I'm glad you're here. Dean needs more help than I can give him and John refuses to take him to a civilian counselor."
"I'm not sure if anything but time will be able to help him."
Since he couldn't disagree with the assessment, the Guardian simply nodded and turned back to the dock and its young charge. "Mackland. Look."
The other man whipped around, body tensing, before Jim's hand gripped his arm. "He's terrified of the water. What is he doing?"
"No, wait. Just watch."
"What is he doing?" Mackland asked again, his attempts to break the pastor's surprisingly strong hold halting.
A smile lifted Jim's lips for the first time in what felt like weeks, hope lightening his weary heart. "Answering prayer."
Standing at the very edge of the dock, Caleb Reaves swallowed back the steady flow of saliva filling his mouth. It felt like he was going to puke only without the painful clenching of his stomach. For a moment he wished he would just go ahead and get it over with. He'd feel better after it was done. Then the last few days of puking up a lung in an Ohio hotel and almost landing himself in the hospital flashed past his memory. On second thought, he'd had enough of vomiting for the rest of his life.
And you're being a little wuss, he told himself, staring down the length of wooden planks to the boy huddled at its end. Either get down there or go back up to the house. Make a decision already.
Before his feet could take the coward's way out, he found himself ten feet down the dock and then twenty. If he didn't look at the water itself, it wasn't so bad, but as he sat next to Dean, there was no way to avoid the rippling expanse. The only acknowledgement of his arrival was a tensing of the boy's shoulders and back, felt more than seen. The five year old's feet swung over the water rhythmically, his hands clasped in his lap hard enough to bleed to white along his knuckles. Caleb briefly wondered what crazy impulse had led him to sit out there - over the water, of all places - with a boy he'd met only once.
"Hi, Dean. I'm Caleb, remember?" The boy didn't look up or stop the incessant swinging of his feet. "A few days ago we read 'The Three Musketeers' together?" Still nothing. He looked down at his hands instead of Dean. What was he doing? Mac was the doctor, the one with all the words. Caleb didn't know anything about kids. A quick glance out over the water sent a shiver down his spine. But he did know about hurting. "Mac told me about your mom. I'm sorry." The boy stiffened even more, body shaking enough to rock the floating dock gently. "I lost my mom, too. And my dad. It really sucks."
That finally tugged Dean's eyes in his direction, but that was it. Dean had been virtually silent up in Ohio, barely speaking and quietly laughing only once in the time he and Mac had been in their motel room. Mac hadn't been kidding when he said Dean didn't talk much anymore. Apparently he wasn't talking at all now. Caleb stared down at the blond hair, slightly ragged over the kid's collar, and felt something harden in his stomach, pushing aside the nausea. Yeah, he did know about hurting and this boy was drowning in it. "Mac's not my dad, you know, not my real dad. He just took me in. He's pretty cool, for an old guy. I guess he's going to help your dad with some stuff, he and Pastor Jim."
He frowned as Dean's eyes swiveled away to stare blankly back out over the water. "You know, I didn't feel much like talking either after my parents died." His throat closed off, stopping anything more from escaping. Forcing himself to stay focused on the boy's white-knuckled grip instead of following his eyes to the pond, Caleb swallowed hard. "So it's okay with me if you don't want say anything. It's okay if you just want to listen. I can talk enough for the both of us. Adults think they know everything, you ever notice that? They always want you to talk about things." Leaning his head just a tiny bit closer to the boy, he whispered out of the corner of his mouth, "Between you and me, I think they're full of crap."
Bright green eyes flew up to meet his, so wide Caleb could see large amounts of white around the color and he laughed. "Come on. I know you've heard 'crap' before. I met your dad, remember?" The joke fell flat as Dean turned away again, his face losing the small bits of animation shock had lent it.
"So you like the water, huh? Me, I hate it." There was no need to tell the other boy where his aversion came from. Sure, there were happy memories of being on the boat with his parents buried somewhere underneath the pain, but it was too hard to see them most of the time. Phantom words teased into his mind, words from long ago, from a time before a beloved voice was turned into a nightmare. He looked down, eyes catching the glint of sunlight off the water. Following the same unknown instinct that had led him out of the house and down to the dock, Caleb's mouth was open before he really had a chance to think about what he was doing.
"You know what a deuce is? Of course not. You can't play cards yet. Don't worry, I'll teach you when you get a little older. They call the twos in a deck of cards a deuce and it's the most popular wild card. That means it changes the others cards around it just by showing up. You get it?" He waited a beat to see if Dean would nod or shrug. When he didn't, Caleb went on anyway. "Well, I think I'm going to call you Deuce. You know why? Because one day you're going to decide it's time to talk again and when you do you're going to change everyone around you."
He couldn't look over to see the boy's reaction, couldn't take the chance he would find rejection there. But the continued silence actually encouraged Caleb to let out the words he'd held in for seven long years. "And I promise I won't tell anyone it just hurts too much for you to talk right now."
For the first time since he sat next to Dean, newly christened Deuce, the boy turned more than merely his head toward Caleb. The small shoulders trembled and he looked so absolutely miserable Caleb had to find a way to reassure the younger boy.
"It'll be our secret, Deuce."
The huge green eyes filled with tears that shimmered in the sunlight before falling in thick streams down his cheeks. And still the boy made no noise, just the silent spill of grief Caleb knew so well himself. Deuce turned to look back out over the pond, his weight shifting ever so slowly until his head barely rested along Caleb's arm. The teen instinctively froze at the contact and the pressure disappeared before it really registered in his brain. Crap. Why did he have to be so stupid?
Moving carefully but deliberately, he swung his left arm up and around Deuce's hunched shoulders, tugging him closer. Neither boy looked at the other, but Caleb felt the younger one relax breath by breath until his body was tucked all along his side, the feeling not familiar yet comfortable all the same. "I promise you, Deuce, one day it won't hurt so much. For either of us." The back of his throat started to burn and the lump in his stomach floated up into his chest making it to hard to breathe. His eyes burned, wetness he'd thought long banished springing to life to join Deuce's in making little dark splotches on his denim covered legs.
"I don't believe it," Mackland whispered, eyes stinging with the need to blink yet he couldn't take them off of his son and the little boy secured at his side. "He kept an eye on the two kids while John and I talked. He said it was a one time thing. I never even considered the idea Caleb could help with Dean."
Amazed despite his belief in miracles, Jim shook his head. When God answered prayer, sometimes He chose to answer them all at the same time. "Neither did I. But he's doing more than just helping Dean, Mackland."
"What does that mean?"
"Sometimes God's idea of healing and ours are quite different."
"I say amen to that." Mackland was silent, his analytical brain fully processing the comment. "There's something more to that statement."
Jim glanced down to the silver ring on his hand, twisting it around his finger a single time before returning his gaze to the boys huddled together at the end of the dock. "One day, those boys are going to save each other." Sharp eyes drilled into the side of his head with the suddenness of a bolt of lightning.
"Is that the pastor or the Guardian talking?"
"Maybe a little of both."
Mackland stepped away from the screen, scrubbing a hand over his face in an uncharacteristic display of nerves. "I don't know which one worries me more."
He nodded, unable to reply when deep inside he had the same concern. Rarely, just every now and again, he wished he had never been chosen to be the Guardian of the Brotherhood and could have continued in his much simpler roles as pastor and hunter. Watching Dean and Caleb sit silently on the dock, one tucked securely under the protective arm of the other, was one of those times. With a sigh, he turned away, drawing Mackland's reluctant figure with him. "Let's leave them to themselves for a while. We have business to discuss before John returns."
"I'm astonished he left the children here alone with you. He barely let them leave the room when I met him."
"John has been surprisingly willing to listen to me." When the Scholar's eyebrows rose in disbelief, he shrugged. "All right, I might have mentioned something about the protective fortifications of the farm."
Chuckling, the doctor shook one finger at his underhanded friend. "You're supposed to be the nice one, Jim. I'm proud of you. Those boys could use a rest, even if it's only for a little while. So this business of yours, Brotherhood I assume?"
"Triad." He had a feeling Mackland was going to lose his not inconsiderable temper as soon as Jim broached the idea. It was better to give him time to calm down before he saw John again. Letting Mackland exit the kitchen ahead of him, Jim paused near the large table and stole one final look back through the screen. "Take care of him, my boy. Because he'll take care of us all in the end."
And then he walked swiftly out of the room, leaving the boys to find their own way out of the silence.