Summary: Season 8 – "Where's Sam?" Dean asked, feeling his heart hammer in his chest as adrenaline began to flood his system; his body preparing to fight while his mind buzzed with potential reasons for why a vampire he trusted and a demon he hated would be standing together in nonverbal solidarity.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warnings: Spoilers for season 8 (with actual dialogue from 8x01) and usual language

A/N: I know a lot of fans are frustrated by the new season and the seemingly uncharacteristic dynamics between Sam and Dean. And I must admit that it is certainly disheartening to watch, especially with no explanations to answer all of our questions. But I love the brothers (BOTH of them) too much to just give up. So instead of walking away as I know a lot of fans have chosen to do, I've chosen to do what I usually do – reject the SPN writers' reality and replace it with my own. So, whether you love it or hate it, here we go...

It was not your fault but mine...I really fucked it up this time. Didn't I, my dear? ~ Mumford & Sons

Out of all the things Dean was expecting when he walked into the dimly lit warehouse, this certainly wasn't on the list of possibilities.

And yet, there he stood.

There they both stood – side-by-side with their body language relaxed and casual while they unintentionally mirrored each other.

Both standing with their feet apart and their hands tucked inside their coat pockets; both assuming a similar stance as people who are familiar with one another often do without realizing.

That detail alone spoke volumes even before either of them said a word, and Dean felt his stomach twist as realization began to dawn.

Because they knew each other – there was no doubt about it now that he saw them together – and Dean inwardly kicked himself for ignoring Sam's warnings over the past few weeks; for silencing his own instinct and allowing himself to drop his guard; for foolishly believing a bond forged in the depths of Purgatory could somehow trump the default settings of hunter and hunted once they were back on earth.

But that didn't seem to be the case.

In fact, if anything, it seemed the proverbial tables had been turned – the hunted manipulatively hunting the hunter...and in plain sight, no less.

"Like Ruby..." Sam had heatedly pointed out as the brothers had yelled at each other a few nights ago in their motel room over the subject of Dean's new best friend.

And although Dean had vehemently denied it then – had defended Benny based on what they had experienced together in Purgatory – he was more inclined to agree with that comparison now.

Because Benny clearly wasn't under duress; wasn't being made to go along with whatever plan Crowley had developed that had led Dean to the warehouse in the middle of the night.

Dean had been with Benny long enough to read him, and from the characteristics he saw now, he knew that Benny was fine; was confident, comfortable, content.

Which meant Benny was in on this – whatever this turned out to be – and was not merely a helpless bystander, powerless to stop the plan from moving forward.

Quite the opposite in fact.

Because from the quietly satisfied expression on Benny's face, Dean knew his vampire friend had helped orchestrate the entire plan, most likely from the first time they had met in Purgatory until now.

"I got something you need...a way out," Benny had told him; had wasted no time in drawing Dean in.

And although the possibility had attracted Dean's attention, it had still seemed too good to be true.

After all, monsters lied.

"Prove it," Dean had responded; had known better – at least back then – than to trust a vampire.

"Nah," Benny had replied with the same casual tone of a crossroads demon; had known even then that he held the upper hand; had known desperate humans did desperate things and had not felt the least bit worried that Dean wouldn't take the bait. "You're either in or you're out."

It had been the same black and white outlook John Winchester had always lived by, had raised his sons by.

You're either in or you're out.

And although the ultimatum had been familiar, Dean had narrowed his eyes; his heightened senses detecting the scent of bullshit swirling in the air as he and Benny had walked a tight circle, continuing to size each other up.

"So you just want to guide me out of Purgatory out of the goodness of your undead heart?"

Benny had smirked at Dean's suspicious sarcasm. "More or less."

Dean's glare had intensified, hating the dodge of a vague answer. "What's in it for you?"

Because he had known better than to expect to get something for nothing.

"I'm hoppin' a ride," Benny had readily confessed; had used such quick honesty to further gain Dean's trust.

But Dean still had not been convinced. "How do I know this isn't a setup?"

It had been his first instinct to suspect such a scenario...and as usual, his instinct had been right.

If only he had listened to himself.

Because here Benny stood with Crowley in what was clearly a setup.

"How do I know I ain't gonna end up like your friend over there?" Dean had further pressed as he and Benny had stood in the middle of Purgatory; had kept his eyes on the vampire as he had waved his self-made weapon toward the headless corpse sprawled on the ground.

Benny had nodded his agreement as he had glanced in the same direction at the monster he had just beheaded. "He was my friend," he had confirmed, still using his honesty to draw Dean closer; holding his hands out to his side as a nonverbal indication that he had nothing to hide and meant Dean no harm. "Now you are."

Which had been proof of just how quickly Benny switched sides; how easily his allegiance could change.

Because for Benny, the length of friendship and the depth of loyalty were both entirely dependent on how beneficial they proved to be for him. He would gladly betray trust if it meant furthering his own agenda.

Not that any of Benny's previous friends could testify about the vampire's tendency to deceive and mislead since all of them were dead.

There had been a beat of silence as hunter and vampire had stared at each other in Purgatory's forest.

"First rule of Purgatory, kid – you can't trust nobody," Benny had confided as if Dean had just arrived and hadn't already figured that out.

"You just asked me to trust you," Dean had sharply reminded.

"You see?" Benny had responded, had made sure his tone sounded proud of Dean. "You're gettin' it now."

Nobody could be trusted.

And yet by pointing that out – by seeming honest and open about that fact – Benny had earned just a little more of Dean's trust.

The vampire had known it in the way the corner of Dean's mouth had flickered in a brief, appreciative smile.

But Dean wasn't smiling now.

Benny was.

Dean shook his head – further disgusted with himself, with the situation, with the opportunities for manipulation he had allowed to persist – and narrowed his eyes in suspicion as he continued to approach Benny and Crowley.

Without warning, the door suddenly closed behind him – the sound echoing in the large expanse of the empty warehouse – and Dean halted mid-stride, not needing to look to know that a lesser demon had moved to block the exit.

That was always a good sign.

Dean sighed, feeling his heart hammer in his chest as adrenaline began to flood his system; his body preparing to fight while his mind buzzed with potential reasons for why a vampire he trusted and a demon he hated would be standing together in nonverbal solidarity.

Both watched him with the same vaguely amused smirk, and Dean felt the heat of anger begin to mix with the adrenaline already pulsing through his veins.

Because Dean Winchester was nobody's sucker...and yet it seemed in this situation, that's exactly what he was – a seasoned, lethal hunter who had always prided himself on his instincts but had somehow been played like a proverbial fiddle by two supernatural dicks.

What the fuck?

Dean clenched his jaw as fresh rage surged through his system.

The vampire stared knowingly at Dean as he listened to the rush of the hunter's blood; always able to hear it and even smell it, which was why it was so easy to find Dean and to keep track of him in Purgatory...and topside.

Dean shifted under Benny's gaze, arching an eyebrow as he suddenly realized why the vampire was looking at him like that; had always looked at him like that.

It wasn't a nonverbal expression of friendly affection shared by two beings who had experienced Purgatory together and had lived to tell about it.


It was because Benny could hear his blood; could tell how Dean felt, could learn everything he needed to know, could maintain a connection just by that alone.

After all, Dean had been a vampire once, too, and he remembered what it was like; the loud, maddening whoosh of others' blood all around him communicating things they would never say aloud.

Benny's smile broadened. "Blood brothers, right?" he asked.

And Dean felt sick at the description; at finally understanding what Benny had meant each time he had referred to them as such.

There was a beat of silence.

"What is this?" Dean asked; his tone sharp as he stared straight at Benny and wished he had brought more than just his gun tucked in the waist of his jeans and his knife hidden in his boot. "I thought we were friends. But now you're hooking up with this dick?"

Crowley arched an eyebrow at Dean's description of him but said nothing; glancing instead at Benny to allow the vampire to break the news.

"We were friends," Benny allowed in that same tone as he had used in Purgatory when Dean had asked him about the monster he had killed. "Now we are," he needlessly informed, tilting his head to indicate Crowley.

Dean shook his head, refusing to believe what didn't make sense to him. Because after everything he and Benny had been through, this was how the vampire repaid him?

"Why?" Dean asked simply, wanting to know the reason behind their alliance.

There was silence.

"Why?" Dean repeated, his gaze flickering between Benny and Crowley.

"Because," Crowley answered, giving the same dismissal most parents gave their annoying children.

Dean shook his head once more, indicating that reply wasn't enough. "I want to know why," he pressed, still staring at Benny. "You owe me that much."

"He owes you nothing," Crowley scoffed before Benny could respond. "You both made a deal that was mutually beneficial at the time but has since become irrelevant." He paused. "You were a means to an end, Dean. And the end is now."

Benny smiled – always impressed with how Crowley handled himself – and then nodded his agreement. "And like I said," he told Dean. "Me and Crowley are friends now."

"Old friends, actually..." Crowley corrected and then smiled when Dean glared at him.

"How?" Dean demanded. "Benny's been in Purgatory."

The statement offered as proof that what was happening wasn't true; that Benny and Crowley couldn't be friends, couldn't be working together because the vampire had been locked in a place the demon couldn't access for at least the past century.

"Yes, I know," Crowley agreed about Benny's previous location, having sent the vampire there on assignment not as long ago as Dean believed; as Dean had been told by Benny.

Dean shook his head, still confused about the relationship between demon and vampire. "So – "

" – so we chatted the last time I was down there," Crowley interrupted and shrugged as though it was no big deal; as though he routinely visited the depths of Purgatory to call on old friends.

Dean arched an eyebrow. "I thought you didn't know how to open Purgatory. I thought that's why we went through all that crap with Raphael and Cas and – "

" – and I thought you would know better by now than to believe anything I told you," Crowley commented – his tone both amused and superior – and then shook his head at the stupid hunter standing in front of him.

"What?" Dean growled, fresh anger surging through him as he thought of how everything they had done two years ago – and everything that had happened, everything they had lost in the aftermath – had been for nothing.

"My business is global," Crowley informed like the proud capitalist he was; collecting souls like businessmen collected stock shares. "I have offices all over the world...and under it."

Dean shook his head, still confused and pissed. "Then why collect the Alphas? Why fight against Raphael? Why make such a big deal about opening Purgatory if you already knew how?"

Crowley smirked. "I had my reasons."

"Why?" Dean growled.

Crowley snorted at the demand for an answer. "A master doesn't explain himself to his dog," he replied, his accent as gratingly arrogant as ever. "And I'm not explaining myself to you. Not about my access to Purgatory and not about my arrangements with Elijah Benjamin."

Dean frowned, glancing at Benny as Crowley did. "Elijah Benjamin," he repeated, having never heard Benny's full name before now.

Crowley nodded. "Or Eli, as I've always called him." He paused, glancing again at Dean knowingly. "Of course, he couldn't introduce himself to you as Eli because you might have remembered him from when he used to be with Lenore's nest several years back." He glanced at Benny. "I assured him you weren't smart enough to make the connection, but he insisted. So...Benny it is."

Benny nodded, smirking at Dean as the hunter heatedly stared at him. "You didn't know, did you?"

Dean said nothing.

Benny nodded again. "Yeah, I didn't think you did," he agreed. "But Sam..." He shook his head, remembering the brief flash of recognition in Sam's eyes when they had met several weeks ago. "I think your brother might suspect that he's seen me before. Which I guess would make sense since we had a more personal encounter back when I was running with Lenore."

Benny smiled at the memory of forcibly abducting Sam from that motel room several years ago, and then felt the expression slip as he was reminded about taking the younger Winchester back unharmed per Lenore's orders.

Such a waste.

"So this whole time?" Dean finally asked, a hard edge in his voice; pissed beyond words that he had been played so fucking well. "You've been working for Crowley since back then?"

"Not for...with," Benny corrected. "And it's complicated," he added with a shrug.

Crowley chuckled at Benny's description of their friendship. "I remember that first time we met. You were still working for the Merchant Marines and we – "

" – Merchant Marines?" Dean interrupted, his gaze flickering between Crowley and Benny.

Benny nodded.

"Oh, come on," Crowley grumbled at what he thought was obvious. "The coat, the cap..." He waved vaguely at Benny standing beside him. "It's like somebody from the wardrobe department put him in costume. And you're just now realizing?"

Dean didn't respond.

Crowley sighed and shook his head in annoyance before glancing back at Benny.

The vampire ghosted a smile; thinking, not for the first time, how his job then as a Merchant Marine and now as a partner with Crowley didn't much differ – both requiring him to move cargo between nations...whether it be between actual continents or from the underworld to the topside.

Either way, he loved his job.

There was a beat of silence.

Dean clenched his jaw, curling his hands into fists as they hung by his side.

Because the more he thought about this entire situation, the more pissed he got.

Crowley chuckled again at Dean's response, at the hunter's barely controlled rage. "Down, boy..." he reprimanded, as if Dean was truly his dog. "I didn't call you here to fight."

Dean arched an eyebrow. "You didn't call me at all," he returned and shifted his attention to Benny still standing beside Crowley. "You called..." he stated coldly as he stared at the vampire, remembering how Benny's voice had sounded breathless and in pain as it had traveled over the phone line half an hour ago; how Benny had claimed he was in trouble and needed Dean's help.

And just like that, Dean had dropped everything – including Sam – to rush to Benny's aid...but instead had willingly walked into a trap.

Dean swallowed, having always hated the sour taste of humiliation.

"I can see how you would think that since it did sound like his voice," Crowley allowed. "But Benny was on...well...we'll call it an errand."

Vampire and demon exchanged glances and quiet chuckles at the vague explanation.

"So, I called you," Crowley finished. "And you came a runnin'. Just like Benny said you would..." He glanced at the vampire and then back at Dean. "Very sweet."

Dean ignored the verbal jab and arched an eyebrow as his attention flickered to the demon standing beside Benny. "You?"

Because he knew what he had heard over the phone...and it had been Benny's voice, not Crowley's.

Crowley rolled his eyes. "Oh, please. Don't tell me you're just now realizing the voice altering abilities of demons?"

Dean blinked.

Crowley sighed. "You really are a dumbass," he commented and then shook his head pityingly. "I can sound like anybody," he informed, showing off the ability by once again perfectly matching Benny's accent. "It's really quite useful," he added, sounding exactly like Sam. "Helps speed things along..."

Dean glared, wanting to punch Crowley in the throat for daring to imitate his brother.

Speaking of...

"Where's Sam?" Dean demanded, suddenly fearing for the kid's safety; knowing Sam had been alone an entire year and could certainly handle himself back at the motel if there was trouble...but also feeling the familiar worried paranoia of a big brother.

A feeling he hadn't felt in too long.

"Where is he?" Dean repeated, taking a step forward; unable to shake the feeling that they had done something to Sam...or were planning to.

"Relax, brother..." Benny soothed, staring at Dean from beneath the brim of his cap.

"I'm not your brother," Dean sharply corrected and glared to further make his point.

Benny snorted at the admonishment. "It's like that, huh? You save a guy's life, you show him the road home, and then he just cuts you off."

"I should've cut you off a long time ago," Dean replied, knowing Benny realized he was referring to more than just cutting ties as friends.

Benny chuckled at the threat, rubbing his neck and appreciating the fact his head was still least for now. "How quickly things change..."

Dean nodded his agreement and held his glare. "I trusted you."

The statement an accusation.

Benny shrugged. "Your choice, chief. You're either in or you're out...and you chose in."

Dean swallowed; hating having his mistake, his error in judgment thrown in his face. Especially since he knew he had chosen to be in with Benny only so he could get out of Purgatory...but had, for whatever reason, struggled with severing ties with the vampire once they were both topside.

It had bothered Dean more than he would admit.

But Sam's detachment and the distance he felt with his brother since he had been back had only made it easier to continue relying on Benny for the camaraderie he craved.

Maybe if Sam had looked for him while he was gone; maybe if Sam had reacted differently to Dean being back, Dean would have found it easier to cut ties with a vampire he knew at his core was bad news.

But days had turned into weeks.

Awkward silence between the brothers had grown into quiet burning resentment.

And Dean had almost found himself missing the good ol' days with Benny back in Purgatory; where things were purely black or white; where only one decision seemed to matter...whether you were in or out.

And though Dean had chosen in, he now realized what he had known all along – that it was past time to get out.

Because the one rule in Purgatory was the same rule on earth – you didn't trust anybody...except family.

And whether or not Sam had looked for him; whether or not Sam was distant and detached didn't matter. Because Sam was still family – his only family – and it was past time that Dean was reminded of that.

After all, this wasn't the first time his and Sam's relationship had been strained. And they would eventually find their way back to each long as something else wasn't constantly standing between them – like Dean's uncharacteristic loyalty to a vampire.

But that was over now.

And while Dean didn't regret the relationship that had gotten him out of Purgatory, he did regret allowing it to continue. He regretted allowing it to come between him and Sam. He regretted allowing himself to be put in this current position – trapped alone with a demon and a vampire. And he regretted not listening to his instincts to chop off Benny's head the instant the vampire had regained his body and had first shown his rows of teeth.

Dean sighed, refocusing on Benny and Crowley as they stood across from him. "Where's Sam?" he asked again, having no reason to suspect that the kid wasn't back at the motel where he had left him...but still concerned that his brother was the other shoe they were holding and waiting to drop.

"Don't know. Don't care," Crowley lied about Sam's location – because he always knew where either Winchester brother was – but kept his tone and expression flat as if the topic was boring him. "I didn't call you here to discuss your precious baby moose."

Dean scowled at Crowley's description of his brother; knowing the demon was lying because sooner or later it always came back around to Sam.

Because even after everything, that floppy-haired kid was still Dean's weak spot.

And the supernatural knew it, too.

"Fine," Dean allowed evenly. "Why did you call me here?"

"For a meet and greet," Crowley responded as though he was the social director. "I think it's past time for you to meet a special someone."

Dean arched an eyebrow. "Meaning...?"

"My partner in crime," Crowley replied.

Dean glanced at Benny.

Crowley chuckled. "My other partner in crime," he amended. "It takes a village these days..." he mused and then nodded at the vampire standing beside him.

Benny returned the nod at the nonverbal signal before letting loose a remarkably loud, piercing whistle; his lips pulled back tight to make the sound.

The same sound Dean had often listened for in Purgatory when they were hunting together; their way of communicating location or direction to each other across distance.

Benny glanced at Dean as they waited, knowing he remembered, and then chuckled at the expression on the hunter's face. "Sound familiar, brother?"

Dean clenched his jaw – suddenly hating when Benny called him that – and directed his attention toward one of the warehouse's side doors as a woman was suddenly pushed into the room and roughly manhandled to stand at his side.