I apologize for the time I've allowed to lapse between the last scene and this one. My life has not been all that wonderful this year, mostly due to my job, and as much as I wanted to escape to the wonderful world where Ben and Dean live, it was hard to do.
About this scene: it's rough, and not all happy times. But if you can get through this one, I can promise you that scene twelve, which will wrap this series up, will be pure joy, with house-hunting and cross-dressing and boys more in love than ever. (My best thanks to janissa11, who assured me that this scene worked for her, despite my misgivings.) Picking up right where we left off . . .
scenes one and two
It takes a few minutes for Ben to feel the pain of pulling John to his feet, but once his abused wrists start to protest, he cannot shut them up. John isn't letting go, though, so Ben just makes his best attempt at triage, even if his eyes keep getting caught on the dark blood oozing from Dean's slashed cheek. John is shaky, weak, and panting like he just ran a couple of marathons; there's no doubt that possession is not just a matter of the brain being violated, but a physical injury as well.
The clinic is perpetually low on supplies, and it doesn't make sense to wait here until someone comes to investigate the noise and demand explanations for the scorch marks and the spatters of blood and the wax patterns on the floor.
"We have to go," he says. "Come on."
He feels like a kindergartener on a field trip, a chain of linked hands keeping them together, one with Dean, and his other closed carefully with John's, pulling him to a safer space.
Ben can hear the duffel bag packed with weapons slapping against Sam's leg with every step, can feel Sam's eyes boring into the back of his head. He's grateful for the twin pillars flanking him, because he has no idea how to appease Sam, what Sam needs to hear that will make him believe that he loves Dean, that he has no intention of letting Dean go simply to diminish into the old, claustrophobic roles of peacemaker and caregiver that his family has made so necessary.
Their progress is slow, halting, given John's condition, and Sam gets a hand on his father's back, but it's his brother's name that he speaks. "God, Dean," Sam mutters, then trails off, then does it again.
"I know, Sammy. Let's get Dad home, okay?"
John's hand stays fast in Ben's when they finally reach the parking lot, and Dean doesn't seem to want to let go either, so they all slide in from the passenger side of Dean's car. Sam closes the door gently after his father's legs make it inside, eyeing Ben the whole time, and then he stalks off to the glossy black truck parked a knight's-hop away, two down and one across.
The inside of the car smells like Dean, and Ben starts to shake, like he can accept the reality of Dean's safety only because of that familiar scent, rather than Dean's warm, strong hand in his. Dean pulls him a little closer before starting the ignition. Ben buries his face in Dean's shoulder, kisses it quickly, and finally lets himself believe that they'll make it home in one piece.
He and Dean must be thinking along the same lines, because they move smoothly toward the bed, and deposit John in it. Dean unlaces his father's boots and pulls his belt free while Ben goes in search of the blankets he'd folded away when the weather turned. He turns back, blankets piled high in his arms, and sees Dean gazing down at his father, looking lost and uncertain. He tosses the blankets on one of the kitchen chairs and moves to stand behind Dean and wrap him in his arms. "He just needs some rest," he murmurs into Dean's smoky-smelling hair, gladly taking the additional weight when Dean leans back.
Sam's voice from the doorway makes them both jump, and even the frown lines on John's unconscious face deepen. "Dad belongs in a hospital."
Dean doesn't stir, but his eyes go sharp. "Not like the hospital's known what to do with the other victims." Trust Dean to remember Joe and Alison, even at a time like this. "If Ben says Dad just needs to stay warm and get some rest, then that's what we're going to do." Dean smiles his best conciliatory smile. "Can't beat free healthcare, Sammy."
"This isn't good enough," Sam says, enunciating in a way that makes Dean stand up straighter; that tone must be a sign that Sam's working his way up to an explosive fury. Ben tries to let go, but Dean keeps him from getting too far with an arm around his waist. He turns his head, and Dean's slashed cheek is just a few inches from him, a dark red furrow cutting an ugly path through bronze stubble, and Ben remembers that his work isn't nearly over.
"I'm going to cover up your dad, and then I'm going to need to take a look at the two of you," he says firmly, counting on the motions of shaking out the blankets to hide the minute but persistent trembling of his hands. Dean and Sam are both standing so solidly, facing each other head on, and he's shaking like he's palsied, wanting nothing more than for him and Dean to be curled up together on their bed, falling asleep tangled in each other.
It's not happening tonight.
He floats the blankets down onto John, confirming that his color is good, that he's neither shivering nor sweating, and that his respiration is easy. So far so good. He pulls Dean's med kit out from the duffel under the bed and turns to face him.
Dean's obligingly seated himself in one of the kitchen chairs, face tilted helpfully up to the light. The gash in his cheek is ugly, but not so deep it needs anything other than a thorough cleaning. Dean does his best to distract him as he works, fingers threaded through the belt loops of his jeans, thumbs nudging up Ben's shirt to rub dizzying circles just above his hips, but it's not like Ben doesn't know Dean's looking right back at him, making sure he's okay too.
Dean squeezes him in thanks when he's finished, and Ben takes a deep breath.
"Sam?" he asks, gesturing to the chair Dean's vacated. It's the first time he's said Sam's name to his face in years, the first time he's listened to the sound of his voice shaping the syllable; he wonders what they both hear when he says it. At least his voice doesn't shake.
"Nothing happened to me," Sam says flatly.
"C'mon, Sammy, let 'im check you out," Dean coaxes, and Sam whirls on him, catching him mid-yawn.
"You think this is fucking funny, Dean? Having him 'check me out'?"
"Sam -" Dean says, his face darkening to match his brother's.
"There's salt on the doorsill, there are sigils all over his neck, because, what, Dean? You just opened your mouth and told him everything?"
"We wouldn't have walked out of there tonight if I hadn't told Ben the truth," Dean bites back. "I told him first thing, and I've never been sorry for it."
Ben is standing stock-still in his own kitchen, wondering if he should break this up, but he can't figure out what he'd say even if he could drag their attention off each other.
"And it's not like I tried to hide any of this from you, either," Dean continues, voice rising, finger stabbing in Sam's direction. "You were right there when I told Dad that we needed to get to Ben's, so don't even act like this is all coming out of nowhere."
"Yeah," Sam laughs, spiking close to hysteria, and painful to listen to, "because there's only one Ben in the whole world, Dean. Because of course when you and Dad were talking about somebody named Ben who could help out, I wouldn't assume it was some other hunter, of course I'd think, huh, that must be the guy Dean suddenly went gay for, and liberal old Dad has no problem with his favorite son taking it up the ass. Yeah, of course."
It sounds like homophobia, but it isn't; Ben's heard enough of the real thing to know that this is just Sam's easy way out, sparking internecine warfare. It's not entirely a pleasant surprise to discover he still knows Sam well enough to pinpoint the fear that's driving him. Though maybe it's not that he knows Sam so well, even after all this time, but that he lives with the same fear, that Dean will keep loving him but find someone else to love even more. And he can't say it, not in front of Dean, and not in front of Sam.
But Dean's not the type to make anyone beg for his love. His finger drops, and his shoulders slump with what looks more like defeat than a shucking off of a too-heavy weight. His voice is quiet after a long silence, marked only by John's increasingly uneven breathing. "I missed you, Sammy."
"Hard to tell," Sam says, eyes glittering as fiercely as the misshapen diamond ring dangling from the chain around his neck.
"Not to anyone who's been here," Dean says, and turns his gaze to his father, shifting restlessly in his sleep.
Ben can just make out the curve of Dean's turned-away cheek, that line he'd know anywhere, but all Sam can see is the tense breadth of Dean's back. Dean's shoulders aren't unknotting, even through the low, steady murmur of his voice as he tries to soothe his father back into slumber, and Ben is just about to go over and help out with John when he hears Sam's choked little voice.
"I'm supposed to believe this was all some big coincidence?" He spits it out like it's a dirty word, a clean sheet whisked off a rotten bed. "That you didn't go out the minute you were alone to try to find Dean?"
"The way you did?" Ben asks without flinching, without blinking; once he'd had a moment to breathe in what that bartender had said about the resemblance, once he'd let himself think back to his last day with Sam, he'd figured out the realization Sam must have come to. "Or at least trying for the next best thing?"
Sam goes red so quickly it looks like he's been slapped, and his jaw is tight with anger. "You were never -"
"Good enough, I know," Ben says, trying to keep one eye on John, who's struggling against Dean's hands.
"Hey!" Dean calls, and they both start forward to help.
It's Sam, with his long legs who gets there first, Sam whose touch wakes his father, Sam who supports a disoriented John as he stands and guides him to the door. "No room here, we'll find a motel," Sam says, managing to get them both out of the apartment without making further eye contact.
Dean's sitting on the bed with his eyes shut, but when Ben steps close, Dean presses his head softly against him, like a small child seeking comfort. "They'll be back tomorrow," Ben promises, and Dean just nods against Ben's belly.
To Ben's surprise, they both sleep soundly through the night, waking only to fully golden mid-morning light. "Mmmmmf," Dean says, mouth pressed sleepily to Ben's shoulder.
"Mmmmmf to you too," Ben says, shifting down to kiss Dean. His hands drift down the rumpled cotton of Dean's shirt, dipping just underneath the waistband of Dean's boxer-briefs. There are tiny dimples in Dean's warm skin there, little resting places for his fingertips.
Dean responds like he's never been touched before, fervent and eager and adoring. "Can we?" he breathes, looking so hopeful, that Ben tosses out the idea of going slow.
"Love you, Dean," he says, sliding down the bed, lifting Dean's red t-shirt just enough to clear his navel, and then biting down gently on the hot, freckled skin just below. Dean's fingers twist sharply in his hair, and he smiles against Dean's belly. "Anything you want," he translates, and Dean rolls them over too quickly for another word.
"Your dad really did need some sleep," Ben points out while he does the dishes and Dean finishes his usual sniff test of the laundry. "We have no idea when they'll get here, but they'll come."
He's startled by Dean's strong arm slipping around his hips, drawing him back so that Dean can nip sharply at his jaw. "At least you didn't say 'it's done.'"
"It's not, is it?" Ben turns to face Dean, drying his hands on a towel and then tossing it on top of the pile going into the washer. "From what you said, from what Bobby said, there are more demons, more everything, and . . ."
"Yeah," Dean says, clear eyes unwavering.
"Yeah," Ben says, and the buzzer finally rings.
Sam's wearing a face like a thundercloud, but his lips are pressed firmly shut. John's just as quiet, until Dean's hand lands on his forearm. "Dad? You okay?"
Dean's wrapped in his father's arms, and Ben can just barely hear John saying so proud against the top of Dean's head. "You too, son," is the next audible thing out of John's mouth, and Ben turns around from putting the chain back on the door to see John holding his right hand out to him.
It's been less than a day since that same hand was desperately clutching his, and it's not just for Dean's sake that Ben is fiercely glad that John is standing on his own two feet again. "Thank you," John says, and they shake.
"Sam?" Dean asks, looking at his brother with that same hope Ben had seen in bed. Sam crashes forward, pitching himself into Dean's arms like the baby brother he was years ago. Ben turns away when Sam starts to sob, and John looks awkward at the sight of Dean rocking Sam steadily as he cries.
Too bad there are no walls inside the apartment, but still. "Coffee?" he asks, and Dean's dad nods gratefully.
Fortunately, the coffeemaker is ancient, and notwithstanding his and Dean's tinkering, about as loud as a vacuum cleaner, so he and John are mostly shielded from whatever Dean and Sam are saying to each other, perched on the edge of the unmade bed.
John resolutely turns his back on them, and Ben can almost hear his mom saying the two of you need to work this out yourselves, so he asks as he gets out the mugs, "What are you going to do now?"
"Sam deserves to finish his degree. God knows he earned it ten times over." John sighs. "And Mary would have wanted him - have you seen my Mary?"
Ben shakes his head. "Just the picture Dean carries around, the one of the four of you."
John flips open his wallet and hands over a snapshot of a woman who could be Dean's little sister, brighter blonde than she was in Dean's faded photo. "She'd've liked you," John says. "And she'd've trusted you to keep looking after Dean the way you've been doing."
"Got it," Ben says, handing the picture back, resisting the impulse to salute her or him, but Dean's dad must see the glint in his eyes because he grins that same roguish grin that Dean wears on occasion. "So you're taking Sam back to California to take his finals?"
"Yeah. And then, who knows, but it doesn't have to be hunting anymore."
"Will it be for you?" Ben asks, then starts to pour the coffee into the mugs on the counter. "Milk? Sugar?"
John shakes his head. "Well, maybe a little sugar." He takes a long sip - Dean must have inherited his asbestos esophagus and cast-iron stomach from his father - and meets Ben's gaze almost sheepishly. "The job is over. All I want to do now is be the father the boys deserve."
It's not up to him to decide what's best for Dean's family, but he can't keep himself from nodding at John and lifting his own mug in a toast. "Here's to that."
John drains his cup, then asks, "Got any more? Or should I save some of this for the boys?"
Ben looks over at them to see if they're winding down. Sam is clutching at Dean's shirt, his face still shining with tear-tracks. "But demons lie, Dean!" Dean doesn't look away, just leans forward to speak softly to his brother. "You don't, though," Sam admits, and Dean's smile lights up the room.
"You can have mine," Ben says, turning back to Dean's dad. There's no point taking in caffeine, not when all he has to do before falling back asleep is hold Dean tight, tell him he's loved, and kiss him goodnight.
I have missed my boys!