Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
Written for sevenfists' Evil Sam!/Badass Sam! Ficathon with the prompt: Badass Sam is bringing back a lot of money with no explanation. Dean follows him one night and learns that he's kicking ass in an underground fight club. A misunderstanding leads to Sam and Dean facing each other in the ring. Shirtless and sweaty and bloody.
Author's Notes: All characters are the property of Eric Kripke and Warner Bros. No actual Supernatural characters were harmed in the production of this work. Warning: extremely low level of sexual content. May contain nuts.
It was January in North Carolina, and a bad one at that. Most of the motels had closed for the winter, there was two inches of snow on the Impala's hood most mornings; and it was the worst run of luck they'd had for months.
"I don't believe it." Dean said "It's like we're cursed." He floored the gas and the Impala's engine growled in response, racing along the poorly-maintained blacktop. Mountains spiked the sky to the left of the road. To the right a thin lazy wind rocked snow-covered kudzu vines.
"Or it's just bad luck." Sam pointed out.
"It's never happened before." Dean said darkly. "Even the hunts which aren't hunts are usually something. Remember Hell House?"
"I remember-hey, watch out for that possum."
Dean swerved. "Too late. I mean, what's it been? Three weeks without a decent hunt? "
"Four." Sam said.
"Yeah." Dean ticked them off on his fingers. "There was that spontaneous human combustion over in Lebanon."
"I don't think a forty-a-day habit counts as 'spontaneous.'"
"And there was that uisge beatha near Bristol.' said Dean. "We would've had that one." He drummed his fingers on the Impala's narrow steering wheel. "Bastard."
"We can still get it.' Sam said." We'll just go back in, what was it, forty years' time and wait for it to show. I marked it in Dad's journal. Just in case."
"You think we'll still be around in forty years?"
Sam's stomach growled. "Not at this rate. Dean, I'm running on fumes here."
"I know. I know, dammit." Dean said. He tapped the near-empty fuel gauge, brightened as it rose again, and shrugged as they started up a hill and the gauge sank back down to a nine o' clock position. A flick of his hand on the gear stick slipped the car into neutral as it accelerated down a long tunnel of trees. The shadows of the trees flicked under the Impala's chassis like cell bars. Frost showered onto the Impala's hood.
"So…..no fuel, no food..."
"Worse. No ammunition." Dean said.
"Fuck." Sam said with feeling.
Dean sighed. "Yeah. We better hope the next monster's something we can take down easy with salt and fire. Salt's cheap, and silver bullets are so out."
Sam slumped down in his seat. "We could sell some guns." He turned the heater up, trying to persuade the old car to fill the small space with warmth rather than straight sub-zero air. The lever came off in his hand.
Dean gave him a dirty look. "Are you kidding? We need the guns."
"All the guns?" Sam jammed the lever back on again
"All the guns." Dean said firmly. "We're only half an hour from Asheville. I'll get some money. Should tide us over."
Sam shrugged and closed his eyes. It had been a long month. The Impala had been grounded in Manassas for half of January with a spun rod bearing in her engine, courtesy of a squad of resurrected Confederate soldiers. The car had cost over two hundred bucks to fix. Dean had busted a couple of wristbones in the same fight, and Sam had insisted on proper treatment. The doctor had cost nearly as much as the car.
Sam sighed and tilted his head back, watching the patterns of light and shadow flash past his closed eyelids as the Impala raced under more trees. He hoped they'd left their bad luck back west.
He was wrong.
The first pool hall the found was closed, The second was empty. The third was full of students. The college kids lost fifty bucks to Dean, wised up and refused to bet any more. Dean filled the Impala's tank, and they left town. No money. No food. No luck.
"It's your fault." Dean told Sam he eased the car out into traffic. "You should eat less."
Sam instantly looked guilty. "No, it's your fault. If you hadn't bought the Glock in Flat Rock, we'd still have three hundred bucks."
"We needed it."
"Dude, we have guns. Just look in the trunk."
"They're getting old. And it came with ammo." Dean scowled. "I'm sure we had one card left."
"We maxed it." Sam said glumly.
"I meant the other one. The AmEx."
"The zombie crocodile ate it. In New Orleans."
"Hell, yeah. What a bitch. Three hours up to our knees in swamp water and croc guts." He brightened. "At least we found my amulet."
Sam rolled his eyes.
Dean flicked a Metallica tape in the cassette player and drove on, searching the roadside for the neon tracks of pool halls or bars. Like so many of their recent hunts, there was nothing to be found. Dean turned the Impala around, and they drove back to the motel along the snowy, empty roads.
They had long ago discovered that the main problem with credit card fraud (save for the legal penalties, which Sam could quote in excruciating detail) was that they had to stick around long enough for the cards to actually find them. Dean had mailed three applications from the motel address three days ago, lying to the grandmotherly motel clerk about an accident and money coming through soon from nonexistent folks. It had worked for a while, but she was starting to become suspicious. They pulled into the parking lot to a hostile reception, an unclean room, and a sense that they were an inch away from finding all their belongings hauled out on the porch. It took a crumpled twenty from the back of the Impala's glove compartment and liberal use of Sam's best puppy dog eyes to wangle an extra two days.
On the morning of the first day, Dean woke to a cold room and a note scrawled on free motel notepaper, in Sam's neat italics. It read Gone Into Town. Dean screwed the paper up and went back to bed because it was too cold to do anything else.
There was nothing unusual about Sam's departure; they both liked to take off alone occasionally. It was Dean's habit to find the nearest bar, drink something that started with a 'Bud' and ended with a 'Weis' and an 'Er' and sweet-talk the prettiest girl he could find. Sam usually spent his time in bookstores, internet cafes, and coffee shops (because the words Sammy and geek went together like engines and motor oil.)
This time was different.
This time, Sam came back with a busted lip, at four in the morning, and answered all Dean's questions (two, he was tired) with "I'm going to bed."
He was perfectly normal in the morning. So normal, in fact, that Dean wondered whether he had dreamt everything. He found himself muttering exorcism rituals under cover of the clock radio's alarm, lacing Sam's coffee with holy water, squinting at his lip to figure out what kind of blow had caused the cut, checking his neck for hickeys.
Sam turned the alarm off. He drank the coffee. The cut on his lip could have been caused by shaving or fighting or any one of half a hundred other things. His neck was hickey-free, although Dean knew that that did not necessarily exclude hickeys in other areas. He was trying to think of plausible ways to get Sam to take his clothes off to check for bruises when Sam suggested a late breakfast at the diner in town.
"You paying?" Dean asked him. It was a moot point; he knew Sam had no money, and the mail had still not come. "Hell, I guess we can make a run for it. Find a seat near the door. Park the Impala right next to the exit sign."
"I mean it.' Sam said. He pulled a few bills from the inside of his coat and dropped them onto the bedside table under Dean's astonished eyes.
Dean rubbed the notes between finger and thumb, half-expecting the ink to wipe away under his hands. They were used, but looked genuine enough. "Where'd you get this?"
"I have savings." Sam said. He would have gotten away with it if he hadn't added "From Stanford."
Dean's eyes narrowed. As far as he knew college scholarships covered bed and board only. Students weren't known for their affluence; borrowing money from Sammy was like asking a corpse for health tips.
But still. Money. Food.
The diner, half a mile along the frozen highway, was warm and welcoming. It had red-cushioned seats and red-and-white checked tiles on the floor, jukeboxes on the tables, and a neon-lit sign advertising The Best Pancakes In The State. They weren't, but they were damn close. Dean had three helpings, just to make sure.
Out of respect for the food, and the fact that Sam had paid for the food, he waited until they got back to the motel to ask him about the cash.
"About that money."
'I told you. Savings."
"I had a job, Dean." There was an undercurrent there Dean couldn't figure.
"What kind of job?"
"I worked in a bar."
Dean almost fell for it. Almost, but not quite. Sam never could fake a convincing story, and he couldn't pull a pint to save his life. Maybe he really was donating savings to fund their fucked-up lifestyle, but if so, why hadn't he said something earlier? They'd been broke before. "Mmmm."
"What does that mean?"
"It means no comment, Sammy." Dean said, and left it
The mystery of Sam's sudden wealth bugged him the whole day. Sam had lied about his money, which meant that legitimate sources were out, which in turn left few options. He could play pool and poker well, but not well enough. He was too proud to beg, too honest to grift, and too far from Stanford to borrow money from anybody Dean knew. That left bank robbing, Dean could imagine Sam robbing a bank, but he couldn't imagine him robbing banks without Dean's help.
He waited until Sam was in the shower to rifle through his wallet. It held a single twenty-dollar bill, and a credit card in the name of Dave Mustaine that they had maxed out two weeks ago. But Dean knew where Sam stashed his secrets, and a quick examination of the space between the mattress and the bed yielded one Glock, two porn magazines stuffed underneath the mattress (little brother, so not smart) and four hundred and seventy dollars in used notes, rolled neatly in a paper bag.
There was still no mail the next day. Sam, went into town again, and Dean followed him. He discovered that Sam spent most of his free time in the town bookstore, leafing through books he could never have afforded to buy. He went to the Laundromat, and to the library, and hung around outside a coffee shop like he was sifting nutrients from the air. Dean thought he'd been quite sneaky until Sam turned round and said "Dean, are you following me?"'
"No." Dean said automatically.
"You are. You so are."
"I, uh...you forgot some laundry."
Sam waited. "Where is it?"
"The laundry." Sam said impatiently.
"Oh. Uh. I.. guess I forgot it."
Sam gave Dean a look that said I so know what you're up to and don't think I don't, but he followed Dean back to the motel anyway. Dean fished some socks from under the backseat that that were only one step away from qualifying as huntable in their own right, and Sam refused to go anywhere near them. Dean ended up washing them, himself, in the sink. The motel clerk had been pacified by the application of large amounts of Sam's cash, but there was still no laundry service, and barely any heating.
Sam didn't go out that night. They stayed up watching movie reruns together; static coursing across the screen with every gust of wind on the motel's creaky aerial. The clock struck eleven, then twelve, then one. Dean yawned. Sam perched on the end of his bed, watching a crappy made-for-TV movie about giant spiders.
"Dude, you need sleep."
Sam didn't turn away from the TV. "Yeah, later. I'm watching this film."
That is not a film, Dean though, that is a fucking excuse for programming, but what he said was "Jess bothering you?"
"No." Sam said, flat and quiet. He turned back to the TV.
Nice one. Dean thought to himself, and faked sleep.
It was nearly half past one when Sam turned the TV off. Dean had his eyes closed, but he could practically feel Sam's gaze rake over him. He kept his breathing nice and regular, and the hot silence of Sam standing-and-looking-around turned to the tiny rustling noises that Sam's coat made when he pulled it on. Dean faced the magnolia wall and did not move. When he heard the motel door slam shut he pulled his own jeans on, stuffed his feet in his battered boots, and followed Sam out. Just in time, as it turned out, because Sam was already getting into a cab as he ducked behind the Impala's bonnet.
Dean smirked. Yellow cars were the best colour to follow. Black cars, on the other hand, at night...
He had been following Sam for about five miles by the time the cab pulled up in the parking lot of an ugly concrete building. A red neon sign out front read DK's, but gave no clue as to business or interior. Sam paid the driver, and walked right in.
Dean waited with the Impala's engine running. After half an hour, Sam still hadn't come out, so he parked the Impala, pocketed the keys and walked round to the front, his boots crunching in snow.
The bouncer was crammed into the doorway. He was hunched inside a down jacket that made him look even larger than he was and his breath frosted in the air. His head, bald or shaved, reflected the red neon of the sign.
Dean stuffed his hands deeply into the pockets of his leather jacket. "I want in."
The man glanced at Dean briefly. "No."
"I said no. You deaf, frat boy? We're tired of getting police reports filed by Raleigh boys with busted knuckles." He pronounced Raleigh with a soft southern drawl. Raaaw-ley. No."
"My brother is in there." Dean told him.
"Lots of people in there."
Dean shrugged and wandered off around the corner to check out the rest of the building. It was a featureless cube, and it wasn't large. There were no windows. The side of the cube nearest the parking lot was festooned with barbed wire and security lights that flashed on when Dean approached. There were no fire escapes, staff entrances or conveniently placed manholes.
Dean sighed. Sometimes his job was such a bitch. He slouched back.
"Dude, I really need in."
"You again? Piss off."
Dean shivered. The winter air was icy on his collarbone. Somewhere in the black woods behind him, a crow cawed in amusement. "Make me."
"Read my lips. I am not moving. From. This door."
"There some kind of entrance fee or something?"
"No. If you want to get in, you have to go through me."
"Sure thing.' Dean said, and decked him.
The blow didn't knock the man down or even seriously injure him -Dean would have needed about fifteen minutes and an extremely long knife to do any significant damage- but it did confuse him long enough for Dean to dodge around him and wrench at the door handle. It opened. He dived in, and wedged a chair under the inside handle for good measure.
Inside was a bar.
The big, square building he had walked around outside was one big, square room inside with the bar itself at one side, and two large octagonal cages in the centre of the room. Six of their eight sides consisted of wire mesh. On the seventh side, where the cages joined together, a crude barrier had been erected between the two with a sheet of eight-mil ply. The eighth side held a gate. A blocky cube of ply, painted white, extended up to each gate in a short corridor. A partition in the back suggested a few small rooms behind the cages.
Both cages were empty.
There were a couple of hundred people crammed inside the room, clustering around the cages. They were heavily tattooed, had either a great deal of hair or none at all, and were exclusively male. The level of testosterone sloshing around the room was enough to make even Dean feel uncomfortable. And the décor..well, the less said about the décor the better. Dean had no problem with either stuffed animals or Confederate flags, in moderation. This was not it.
There was no sign of Sam.
The door behind him rattled and Dean pushed his way forwards through the crowd into the centre of the room. He snagged a half-empty bottle of beer from one of the unattended tables. Somebody fed a quarter into the jukebox and Metallica rocked into the first few bars of 'Enter Sandman.'
Dean grinned. His favourite music.
He wondered what the hell Sammy was doing. The bar was about as far from Sam's natural geek habitat as possible, and the cages were a puzzle. He had been half-expecting to find some secret Satanist demon-summoning ritual. That, or a room full of chicks and his little brother covered in baby oil and gyrating up and down a pole.
Dean grinned. He dug in his pocket for his camera phone, just in case, and nudged a table with his elbow as he did so. A tattered flyer fluttered to the floor. Dean bent down, fingers brushing the greasy lino, and snagged the flyer. He wiped his hands on his jeans and looked down at the paper.
You have to be joking..
Sam wasn't stripping. Sam wasn't knocking over the Vanderbilts' mansion on his rest days. Sam wasn't robbing banks.
The roar of the crowd gathered to a crescendo, drowning out the jukebox. The left cage-door opened and Sam walked into the pen. He was followed by a bearded trucker with more tattoos than skin. The trucker ripped his shirt off and threw it over the top of the cage. He flexed his muscles. The tattoos rippled. The crowd cheered.
Dean realised he had his mouth open. He took a swig of his borrowed beer and then just as quickly spat it out. The bottle reeked of cigarette ash.
Out of all the possibilities he had considered, cage fighting hadn't even made it onto the reserve list. Sam drank girly coffee. Sam used deodorant with names like 'White Linen'. Sam knew long words like 'antidisestablishmentarianism' and gave money to charity. Sam did not fight in cages.
Until, apparently, now.
Dean would have given his brother his unquestioned support if Sam had been robbing banks, stealing wallets or cheating men at pool or poker. He wasn't sure how he felt about cage fighting.
He put the bottle down and elbowed his way through the crowd, who were bunched up around the cage like rockers in a mosh. A plaid-shirted trucker bellowing Sam's name through a thick fug of cigarette smoke elbowed him in the ribs, and Dean had to fight the impulse to buy him a beer on his brother's behalf.
In the cage, Sam had found his feet and was duking it out like Rocky Balboa. Dean, who knew about such things, reckoned he was going pretty well. Still, there was blood caked under his nostril and running down one cheekbone. His shirt was ripped at one shoulder where the seam had come loose. The tattooed trucker was breathing heavily, and stumbling on one leg. A mixed string of blood and saliva drooled from the corner of his mouth.
Sam could win. Dean thought. He looked around, noticed the odds chalked up on a board by the wall, and his jaw dropped. No wonder Sam had been bringing back so much cash. A pained grunt from the cage instantly turned his attention back to the fight. Sam's tattooed opponent had him pinned by the hair, yanking Sam's head back and forcing him to the edge of the cage. Dean felt his own muscles tighten in response, but Sammy just snapped his elbow back and jabbed the guy in the solar plexus.
The trucker fought for breath, growled, and dived towards Sam with open arms. Sam punched Sam punched, and the man's nose exploded in a spray of scarlet gore. He lurched and grabbed at Sam's stained shirt for balance. The cheap Wal-Mart cotton (veteran of God knew how many spin cycles in forgotten small-town Laundromats) tore. The trucker picked up the remnants and pitched them over the rim of the cage. Sam wiped blood from his face and came up fighting, and Dean's jaw dropped for the second time that day.
Dean knew Sam. He'd patched him up enough times after fights that had gone to shit to know what his little brother looked like with his shirt off. Funny that he'd failed to spot that Sam had turned into Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger under his shirt. It was a good job there were no women in the bar; Dean thought, because they would have melted into small puddles of goo at the sight of his little brother's half-naked sweaty body. It was also a good job that Sam hid that chest under several layers of natural geekiness and that stupid dog T-shirt, because no way was Dean having to fight his brother for the pussy.
Sam jabbed at the trucker, forcing him back against the mesh, and then he looked over his opponent's shoulder and saw Dean. His lips moved around two words.
Dean flashed Sam a wide grin and a thumbs-up. Two things happened. Firstly, Sam's opponent took advantage of his distraction, caught him on the cheekbone and spun him round a in a spray of blood, legs and hair. Secondly, a heavy hand descended on Dean's shoulder. It was the bouncer. He looked pissed, and he'd brought friends.
"You want in, college boy? You got your wish."
"Uh." Dean said, surrounded by nine hundred pounds of steroid-enhanced muscle. The jukebox switched to Van Halen singing 'Running with the Devil.' Behind Dean, Sam shouted something that both Dean and the bouncers missed.
The bouncer grinned evilly. "So then. Let's get you all cleaned up."
The cleaning up took the form of a trip into a tiny back room. There was a rickety wooden chair placed in the centre of the floor and, despite the mention of cleaning, no sink. No windows, either.
The bouncer gestured at the chair. "Sit."
"What's your name?"
Dean recalled the fake credit card applications. "It's Inez. Mike Inez."
"You don't look Mexican."
The man shrugged. 'Okay, Inez. Welcome to DK's. I guess you've already figured what this whole place is about. The first rule is-"
"Yeah, I got it.' Dean smirked. "Don't talk about Fight Club."
"Wrong. The first rule is-there are no rules."
"I bet it took you a long time to think up that one."
A smack to the back of the head knocked Dean's head onto his chest. "Shut up. Now. This is the real stuff. Extreme fighting." He leaned closer with a contemptuous smirk. "Ever fought before?"
"Kung fu, man. Learned it from the best." He mimed. "Wax on, wax off."
The bouncer looked sceptical. Dean didn't blame him. 'Anyway. You get in that cage, or we drag you. You fight. And you don't leave the cage until one of you goes down."
"I thought you said there were no rules."
"Shut your smart mouth. If you like your shirt, you might want to take it off. Plus any valuables. Suggestion only. Mikey over there will keep them for you." He gestured at a leather-clad nightmare, who gave a little wave. "You may even get them back."
Dean relinquished his shirt, coat and watch. He kept his amulet and his two tattered leather bracelets, listened to the noise of somebody being beaten up outside and hoped like hell it wasn't Sam.
The bouncer gestured to Dean's bare chest. "Where'd you get those?"
Dean looked down at himself. Winter -fair skin, freckles at the shoulders that he'd always hated, and scars. Scars from Wendigos and Black Dogs, witches and werewolves, two barrels full of rock salt and the Benders' red-hot poker. He glared. "I was in a car wreck."
The guy nodded, half-convinced. "Uh-huh. Right, sunshine. You're up."
The tiny room fed directly into the cage through an equally tiny and narrow corridor. From the position, Dean judged it was the right hand one, the opposite to Sammy's. Mikey threw open the door, the bouncer shoved him hard between the shoulder blades and Dean half staggered, half fell into the room. He clutched at wire mesh and surveyed his options as the door slammed shut behind him.
The cage was larger than he'd expected, about ten metres across, and slightly raised from the floor. Diamond-patterned light slanted through from a neon tube directly overhead. The vinyl mat was sticky underneath his boots.
There was the noise of metal sliding, and the door behind him slammed open. The crowd screamed so loudly that it filled the room like smoke. Dean spun and stopped, glaring up at the tall shape stood silhouetted in the door of the cage. One problem.
It wasn't Sam.
"Oh, shit." Dean said.
He realised quite quickly that the fact that the man was not Sam was the least of his problems. The man was three times his size, with pieces of metal sticking out of his face, and he punched like a pro. Dean took a couple of good ones before he switched tactics and went on the defensive; blocking or dodging most of the punches. The few that got through were hard enough to make his ears ring.
Different people fought in different styles. Sam fought wildly, great roundhouse punches with those huge fists that mostly failed. Dean had long ago adopted the mantra 'whatever works', and stuck with it. That meant fighting with guns and knives, crossbows and stakes, tables and crowbars, rock salt and Latin rituals. And fists.
Dean liked fist fighting and he was good at it, but he still preferred guns. The present fight was doing absolutely nothing to change his mind. He swayed back and twisted; took a blow on his shoulder intended for his chin. His knuckles were bleeding. So was his face.
His opponent wound up for another punch and the neon glinted on the chain that ran from his nose to the lowest of six piercings in his ear.
Dean dodged, feinted to the right and moved his left hand in, hard and fast. His fist closed on the chain. He tugged and snapped his elbow back, bracing the move against his hip.
The chain ripped from Mr Piercings' face. Pieces of ear, or possibly nose, splattered on the fence as blood freckled the faces of the spectators.
Dean dropped the chain to the mat. The big man stuttered; his hands to his face, and Dean showed him against the fence. He wiped his hands on his jeans and searched the crowd for Sam. A few fighters were trading drinks at the bar or having their wounds patched up by a thin tattooed man, but there was no sign of Sammy.
There was a hiss from behind him. Dean spun, booted feet light on the mat, and took a step back. Mr Piercings was neither down nor out, but rising from the cage floor like a pissed-off leviathan, exhaling foam and bloody sputum from his nose and mouth.
Dean thought that he could have used a rocket launcher right about now. He could handle one normal man, even two, given the right arena and a bit of luck. More than two was pushing it. He wasn't sure what guys twice the volume of normal men rated, but Mr Piercings was proving a challenge.
Dean dodged, came up behind him and rabbit punched him twice to the nape of his neck, leaning all his weight into the blows. His opponent didn't even feel it. He reached over his shoulder to grab Dean's wrist, both of their palms now slick with sweat, and snapped his arm out. Dean went with it; it was that or fracture his arm. He stretched out his own right hand, hoping for a grip, but clutched at fresh air. The faces of the audience blurred into one as he started to fall. Mr Piercings grabbed his right shoulder, yanking Dean to a sudden halt, and backhanded him twice across the mouth, Dean's head snapped around. He reeled back against the fence. Blood oozed from his right eyebrow. His head ached.
Mr Piercings advanced with the speed and inexorability of a lava flow, and the crowd's shouting rose to an almost hysterical pitch.
Dean's head snapped round, considering. He bounced once on the balls of his feet, reached upwards, jumped, grabbed the padded lip of the cage and used his momentum and the pressure of the mesh at his back to pull his legs up to chest level. The soles of his boots hit Mr Piercings mid chest with a noise like a sack of lard being thrown from a cliff.
One. Two. Three.
The man staggered back and Dean aimed his mark a little lower. He managed a couple of blows before his hands slid from the vinyl padding and he dropped down, wrists burning and chain-link indelibly tattooed on his back.
Mr Piercings was on his knees, clutching at a private and important part of himself. Dean slammed his boot into the man's temple, and he went down. Someone opened the door, reached in, and fastened a rope around the big man's right ankle. He left a smear of blood on the vinyl as he was dragged out.
Dean sank down, leaning his back against the mesh link. He worked his mouth and spat, which possibly made the mat a little cleaner. The cut on his eyebrow had re-opened and he smeared blood all over his hands wiping sweat from his face. He cleaned his hands on his jeans until long smeared stains decorated the denim, running from hip to knee. By the time they had dried to brownish rust, a buzzer sounded. The door opened and another fighter was shoved through.
He wasn't Sam, either.
The second fighter was better than the first, but smaller. He kept his hands mostly away from Dean's face, concentrating mostly on torso, elbows and knees, searching for a lucky blow that would disable him long enough to take down. Dean concentrated on not giving him that opening. By the time he finished the guy with a lucky kick to the face he was panting with exhaustion, dripping sweat and blood onto the mat.
The second break was slightly longer. It felt very late, but a quick check of the clock told Dean that it couldn't have been more than an hour since the time when he walked in the door. He was pleased to see that the odds on him had risen throughout the night; the chalkboard now had him as second favourite, and he wondered whether he'd get to see any of the money.
He was still wondering about the cash when the buzzer sounded, the door opened, and a third fighter stumbled in. Dean pushed off the mat, grabbed at the mesh for support, and stood up.
It was Sammy.
He had a gash where half of his eyebrow used to be and duct tape wrapped around his hands like the last of the action heroes, but he was in one piece and Dean had rarely been so glad to see him.
Sam's ginormous fist narrowly missed his face.
He'd fought Sam several times before; seriously and not-so seriously. They'd learned one kind of fighting for demons and monsters, the knock-'em-hard, take-'em-down school, and a second for family; the shouting, flashy kind that looked impressive but left no trace the next morning.
This wasn't that kind of fighting.
Sam launched a piledriver punch to his face. Dean grabbed his arm and leaned on it, breaking the hold, and took a good look in Sam's eyes. The pupils were dark, dilated with adrenaline, but they weren't the flat silvery eyes of a demon. Neither were they the sulphur-yellow eyes of their mother's killer. Dean glanced down at the mat. No sulphur.
"Christo." he said quietly.
Sam split his lip open.
"Dude, I'm not possessed!"
"What the fuck are you playing at, then?"
Sam flicked his arm down, breaking the hold and knocking Dean onto the mat. Dean rolled, hands thrown protectively up over his face, and Sam advanced on him. He looked so menacing that Dean was sure he was faking it until he unloaded a couple of jabs right into Dean's ribs.
"Sorry." Sam hissed. "I know what I'm doing."
"Fuck, Sammy!" Dean caught the force of the blow on his forearms. "You so do not." He twisted around and wrenched Sam's arm behind his back. Sam arched his spine and yelled, and Dean loosened his grip. Too soon. Sam reversed the hold, and then Dean was staring down at the mat, his right wrist somewhere in the vicinity of his shoulder blades. "Sam!"
Fuck this, Dean decided, and jabbed at Sam's face with his free elbow. The first blow missed, the second one connected with something hard, and it must have hurt because Sam stumbled back with his hands over his face.
You get in that cage, he remembered the bouncer saying. You fight. And you don't leave the cage until one of you goes down.
One of them was going to have to fake it, and it wasn't going to be Dean. He could weld, for Chrissake, and Sam had spent that last two years sitting on his ass at Stanford. This shouldn't be so hard.
Unfortunately, it looked like Sammy was going to be stubborn.
"Take a fall." Dean mouthed.
"We'll win more if you go down." Dean hissed. It was a tricky concept to get across while dodging Sam's fists. Sam's brow furrowed, cleared, and he closed again, hands swinging at Dean's face. Dean leaned backwards and kneed Sam in the general region of his testicles. Unfortunately, it didn't connect. Dean's knee thumped into muscle, and a blow that would have kept Sam nice and quiet for long enough to Dean to finish him off with a gentle, brotherly punch to the chin instead just pissed him off. He countered with a shove that sent Dean reeling back against the chain link. Dean opened his mouth to call Sam on his pussy fighting, and Sam's fist connected with Dean's chin.
He woke up in the Impala's passenger seat, speeding down I-26 back to the motel. His hair was sticky with stale beer, and his head hurt like hell. Sam was in the driver's seat, cruising along slowly, as he always did, and taking careful account of all the road signs, as he always did. Around them the morning dawned slowly, like a migraine.
"You didn't have to hit me."
"I had to make it look real." Sam explained. "Besides, I only did one round last night. It drove up the odds."
Dean pushed himself upright. "Son of a bitch!" He ran careful fingers up to his hairline. They came away sticky and caked with blood. He groaned.
Sam shot him a worried look. It wasn't a long worried look; because that would have involved taking his eyes off the road for more than two seconds, but it was a worried look none the less. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I'll live. No fucking thanks to you. Make much?"
Sam grinned. "Only six hundred bucks."
"Awesome.' Dean fumbled for his sunglasses on the dash. 'But one thing. Never lie to me again."
"I didn't lie. I just didn't tell the truth."
"Yep. That's lying."
"Are you kidding? You lie all the time, Dean."
"Not to you."
"What about the itching powder in my laundry? And the jackalopes in the state of Maine? And the-"
"Okay. But not about important things. Dude, you should have told me."
"Yeah. Okay." Sam looked downcast for a second, then brightened. "Hey. You saw the first fight?
Dean nodded carefully, in case the top of his head fell off. "Yeah."
"Did you see when I kicked him right in the-"
"Yeah. That was awesome, dude." Dean could feel a smile spreading over his face, however hard he tried to prevent it.
They drove on for a while. Sam had a grin on his face wide as the state of Texas.
"But seriously." Dean said after a while. "No more cage fighting."
Sam sighed. 'Okay."
Dean flipped his sunglasses down to cover his eyes. "Let's not mention this again."
And they never did.
This fic isn't so much Badass Sam as Hardly There At All Sam, but it kind of grew on me. Season one timeline, somewhere. I had a major problem writing stuff set in a country I've only been to twice, set in a state I worked in for four months five years ago, so the style's a little more spare than I'm used to. Kudos for sevenfists for hosting this awesome challenge, and to ignipes for the prompt. The description bears no resemblance to any real club in North Carolina, or to real cage fighting (which I'm assured is a very respectable sport these days). Any mistakes are entirely my own.