Author's Note: I was bored a few days ago, with the lack of an episode this week to speculate about. When I'm bored, there are one-shots. ;-)
Thanks to Cheryl for the beta and the title idea.
Warnings: Well, not really a warning, but if you love Benny, you might not want to read this.
Summary: This is the most important job Dean could ever imagine having to do, and he's pretty sure his world is going to end if he fails. And instead of his usual partner he has Garth. Spoilers through to 8.16, Remember the Titans.
I exchange a glance with Garth as we stand on either side of the door. The wrongness of it makes me tighten my fingers on my gun. Garth isn't the person I want watching my back as I break down the door. Ideally, my partner should be twelve feet tall and packed with solid muscle to kill most things, have a freakish brain to outsmart the things he can't kill, and come equipped with dewy puppy eyes to steamroll anything still standing after the killing and outsmarting are done.
Right now, though, I have to make do with what I've got. This is too important for me to screw it up just because Garth isn't Sammy.
"On three?" Garth asks.
I roll my eyes. Sam wouldn't be asking me stupid questions. Sam wouldn't need me to count. Sam would meet my eyes for a fraction of a second and we'd move in perfect sync without having to make speeches about it.
"Sure," I say through gritted teeth. "You can count."
On two, I kick the door in.
I don't pause to react to Garth's glare; I just stalk into the building.
It's an old warehouse. Footprints mark uneven paths on the dusty floor. For some reason evil sons of bitches seem to like warehouses. I can smell the sharp tang of sulphur in the air. There were demons here earlier, even if there aren't any now.
"I guess you were right," Garth whispers. He can smell it, too. "It was Crowley."
I nod. Garth speculated, after four days spent talking to witnesses, that Benny was involved. I've been trying to tell him he couldn't be. Benny isn't going to go down that road again. It cost him too much the first time; he wound up in a hastily-dug grave with his head hacked off. And Benny, whatever else he might do, wouldn't do this. Not to me.
Garth hasn't been receptive. I get the feeling he might've discussed Benny with Sam – I'm pretty sure Garth knows Martin died, and how, if he's been keeping tabs on the community. It pisses me off a bit that Sam might've discussed Benny with Garth when I wasn't around, but I can't really blame him. I would've done the same if he'd picked up any monster friends in our year apart.
The thought of Sam, who isn't here having my back, sends a tendril of something unpleasant through my gut, overpowering the relief of knowing Benny's not involved. I push it down. This isn't the time. I still have a job to do, and this is the best lead. The only lead.
"Are you sure this is the place?" Garth asks, looking around.
"Yeah," I say. I can feel it in my bones. "This is it. We just need to find them, that's all."
We check the room for clues, and I've worked with Garth enough that we manage not to get in each other's way. Garth's the one who spots the signs and calls me over.
There are scuff marks in the corner, where something – someone – disturbed years of dust. Red stains on the wall that haven't been there long enough to fade to rust.
This is the place.
I tamp down on the anger and adrenaline. Job, I remind myself. Finish the job.
There are more marks in the dust, blood and drag marks, where someone was hauled away from there and towards the door in the far wall.
Garth looks at me, dramatically and pointlessly releases the safety catch of his gun, and nods towards the door.
I force myself not to grumble about how Sam would've been doing this without the theatrics, would've been quick and efficient and would've had the lock picked and been halfway up the stairs by now. There's no point pissing Garth off, and there's nobody other than Garth I would ever dream of trusting to help me with this.
I follow Garth to the door. He picks the lock, with far more awkward fumbling than I'm used to from my brother.
Since I have time to kill while Garth works the lock awkwardly – and honestly, Sam would have done the job quicker with a needle – I take a moment to wonder if Benny's OK. I need to take my mind off Sam. Thinking about him is threatening to send my brain spinning off course into a minefield of rage and fear and misery. I can't afford that distraction. Not till this is done.
I hope Benny's OK. It's not something I've spared a lot of thought for lately – I've been too worried about Sam and –
Right. Don't think about Sam until this job is done. That was the point.
Before my mind can start gnawing on pictures of my little brother alone and hurting, Garth lets out a soft but triumphant, "Got it!"
"Freaking finally," I mutter, following him through.
There's a staircase on the other side, and the occasional still-damp red spot on the banister indicates that we're on the right track.
We're up to the second landing when we hear voices. Crowley, some woman, and…
It can't be Benny.
Benny couldn't –
Maybe this is the wrong place. That could be it. Maybe we followed the wrong clues and we're in the wrong place and Benny is here doing some crap with Crowley but not –
As soon as my conscious brain has worked out the implications of that thought, I'm filled with a nameless terror. This can't be the wrong place. It can't be. If it is, it means I spent days chasing false leads while –
No. No no no no no. I don't care who's upstairs and who's involved. I will kill anyone and anything I have to. This has to be the right place.
"Dean," Garth says gently, and my self-control almost snaps.
"Let's go," I snap.
I take the steps four at a time, not even looking to see if Garth is following.
Once we're on the second floor, I don't bother with subtlety. I can hear the voices behind the door to my right. I blow out the lock and shove the door open, Garth following me into the room.
My eyes go straight to the huddled figure cuffed to a chair in the centre of the room, and all thoughts of feeling betrayed by Benny are pushed out of my head by panic and rage.
It takes me a moment to suppress the instinct to run to my little brother and find out how badly he's hurt, a minute of pointing out to myself that I'll have all the time in the world to fuss over him once I've dealt with the sons of bitches who took him. That minute is all it takes for something inside me to start roaring for blood. It's also enough for Garth to step past me into the room.
"No!" I say sharply, when Garth advances on Benny with his machete raised. "Don't touch him."
Sam raises his head. He's gagged, so he can't say anything, but he's staring at me with astonishment and something horribly like hurt in his eyes. I understand why when I work out what that sentence must have sounded like to Sam, weakened and not thinking clearly.
But Garth's staring at me like I've lost my mind, too. And Garth doesn't have the excuse of being faint from blood loss.
Across the room, Crowley is busy putting as much distance between me and him as possible. At least someone knows the score. It's a little pathetic that it's Crowley, but I can't blame Sam for being disorientated. Garth, on the other hand…
"Don't touch him," I say, enunciating clearly so there's no way I can be misunderstood. "He's mine."
"What?" Garth asks idiotically.
"He hurt Sammy. I have dibs."
Benny speaks for the first time, stepping forward like he's going to try to reason with me. "Dean. I was hoping you would come by, brother. I couldn't think of any other way to bring you here. We have to talk."
"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Crowley asks Benny, sounding genuinely curious.
Benny eyes Crowley like he's the insane one. And, well, he is insane if he thought he was going to take Sam and get away with it, but right now he seems like the sanest person – demon – in the room.
"Dean and I understand each other," Benny says, with a smile that doesn't quite meet his eyes. "He told me where to find the kid, after all. I just had to follow directions."
Sam makes a small, injured, broken sound through the gag. I don't dare turn to face him. If I look at him right now there's no way I'll stay strong enough to finish this. There'll be plenty of time for explanations later.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Crowley move, and I say, "You do realize I'm coming for you."
"I look forward to it," Crowley says, before he and the demon with him disappear.
There's a moment of stillness. Then Garth quickly crosses the room, dropping to his knees by Sam to work on the handcuffs.
I'm torn between needing to help Sam and needing to hurt Benny.
"Dean," Garth says suddenly, "Benny's been feeding."
That's all it takes to push me over the edge into murderous rage.
"My brother?" I growl, taking a step towards Benny, hefting my machete. "Sam? You son of a bitch. You've been feeding on my little brother?"
"You need to get him to train more, Dean," Benny says. "The way you described him, I always thought it would be difficult to take him down. Turned out it was like bleeding a baby." He smiles. "He's going to get himself hurt one day."
"You son of a bitch. If he'd been healthy he would have wiped the floor with you. You started going after kids when they're sick and can't defend themselves? Is that your new game?"
Benny shrugs. "If he'd listened to me…"
"I told you –"
I stop short, realizing my mistake, but Benny pounces on it. "You told me he wouldn't want to listen to me. When I spoke to you last week while Sam was out tracking down some voodoo book. And then you told me where he was –"
I don't need to turn to see Sam's hurt expression.
"Shut up," I snap.
"How much longer does he have, Dean? He was coughing up blood even before Crowley started on him. A few weeks more? Not much to worry about then. We can get together after." He shoots a glance over my shoulder. "You know, if you don't want to upset your brother when he's d–"
I bring the blade down before Benny can get the last word out.
Then, staring down at Benny's body, I sigh. "Crap." I turn to Garth and Sam. "I didn't mean to do that." Garth looks shocked, but Sam just gives me an exhausted, like he knows exactly what I mean, before dropping his head. He probably does know exactly what I mean. "I wanted to kill him slowly," I explain for Garth's benefit. "He got me so riled up I couldn't wait."
Garth nods, though he still looks a little uncertain, and starts to heave Sam to his feet. It's a struggle for both of them.
I shake my head and step in. "Not like that." Garth's trying his best, but he's just making Sam uncomfortable. It's like he has no idea what to do for Sam when he's hurting.
Garth moves away, and I crouch in front of Sam so he can see me without raising his head.
"Hey, kiddo. Looks like they got you pretty bad." I cup his cheek. He leans into the touch. "You trust me?" Sam nods, and I pat his shoulder. "Good. I'll tell you everything, but first we need to get you patched up. Can you stand up for me?"
Dad never got this about Sam. Hell, sometimes I forget it myself. Order him around and he'll balk, but tell him what's going and tell him you need him and he'll walk on live coals for you.
Sam manages to get to his feet.
The drive back to the motel is quick. I hold off on the triaging until we get there. It isn't safe to stay, and Sam would've told me if he had any life-threatening injuries.
Once there, Garth fetches the first aid kit and hands me alcohol wipes and gauze without needing to be told. He asks if I need him to hold Sam still while I stitch, and I just manage not to laugh. Sam'll stay still for my voice, and having strange people (when Sam's hurting, strange people means anyone other than Dean) touch him is only going to upset him.
When I'm finished and the last butterfly bandage is in place, Garth, with surprising tact, announces that he's going to get dinner. I explain Sam's new dietary restrictions to him, describe how important it is for Sam to get all the major food groups, and hand Garth one of the charts I've taken to carrying around with me that lists the vitamin and mineral content of common fruits and vegetables. Garth looks a little dazed, but he accepts the sheet of paper and stumbles out.
"I didn't know it was Benny calling," I say, pushing the first aid kit aside so I can sit on the edge of the bed. "It was a different number."
"OK," Sam says.
"And he wanted to meet. I said no. He wanted to talk to you, wanted to try to talk you around himself. I told him he couldn't because you were in New Orleans. Sammy, I had no idea –"
"I know." Sam's voice is completely free of accusation. "It's OK, Dean. It's over. We're both alive. That's what's important."
Something tugs at my gut. "Yeah."
Sam grins at me. "Movie?"
When Garth comes back, The Dark Knight is playing on the TV and Sam, now high on painkillers – I gave him the good stuff – is alternating between insisting Heath Ledger's makeup doesn't freak him out and hiding his face in my shoulder every time he's onscreen.
Sam pulls away when he sees Garth. I glare at Garth because now the kid is trying to sit up by himself and he'll probably tear the stitches. Garth couldn't wait until Sam fell asleep?
"Is it the scars?" Heath Ledger asks, and suddenly Sam's pressed up against my side again.
I roll my eyes – stupid Sammy getting buzzed on his meds and doing things that are bad for my manliness – and slip my arm around him, giving him a light squeeze. "It's OK, Sammy. Clowns are scared of big brothers."
"Even the Joker?" Sam stage-whispers.
"Yeah, even the Joker. I'm Batman, remember?"
"Hey!" the voice on the TV says. "Look at me."
Sam looks, shuts his eyes, turns to mumble something into my shirt, pats my arm to make sure it's solid and there between him and the evil clown on TV, and finally dares to squint at the screen again.
"If you coo," I warn Garth, who's looking at Sam like he's a particularly adorable Labrador puppy, "I'm going to kill you."
"Hey, Garth," Sam says, noticing him for the first time. "You're back."
"Yeah," Garth says carefully, and I suddenly realize Garth has never experienced stoned Sammy before. "So you're watching a movie."
Sam nods. "It has a clown."
Garth looks at me, and I shrug. "He's always been scared of them."
"Why?" Garth asks. "Did he have a traumatic experience with Ronald McDonald?"
That cuts close enough to home that I don't bother to respond, just tug Sam closer to me. Sam smiles, apparently satisfied that I'm doing my job right, before he turns back to Garth.
"You don't have a big brother."
"No," Garth agrees, sitting on the other side of the couch.
"Then who protects you from clowns?"
Garth gapes at me, and I bite my lip to stifle my laughter.
"What am I supposed to say?" Garth asks me.
I snicker, bending to whisper to Sam, "Garth doesn't have a big brother, Sammy. We're not supposed to ask him about and make him feel bad."
"But you don't have a big brother either," Sam whispers back.
"I have a little brother, though, don't I? Garth doesn't have any brothers at all."
Sam turns dewy, sad eyes on a bewildered Garth, who looks at me again. "Dean, what am I supposed to do?" Sam's eyes soften even more. "Dean, seriously. He can have anything he wants. What am I supposed to do?"
"Learn to resist the eyes," I tell him, rubbing Sam's back to encourage him to keep puppy-dogging Garth. "You want to be hunting Ground Control? Most important thing is learning to resist the eyes."
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