New scene starring my favorite boys here, picking up right where the last one left off, so no more talk of me being evil, okay? As always, I owe janissa11 big time for all of her time and energy.
scenes one and two
Another sob, more hitching breath, and Ben can see that Dean's too scared of missing something to pull the phone away from his ear and take it off speaker. "Sammy," Dean murmurs, his voice dropping down into something low and soothing, a tone designed by instinct to wipe fear and panic right out. "Sa -"
The call cuts out and Dean just sits on the edge of the bed for a moment before growling and searching for the number in his phone. Ben gets up, wide awake now, and starts to pack. J still has Dean's green flannel shirt, but there are plenty more scattered around the room. He rolls each shirt up, stuffs it into the duffel so that the weapons have soft layers between them; he can see Dean dialing the number over and over, growing more and more frantic as each call fails to connect.
He finishes and steps forward. Dean looks up, face drawn. "I gotta -"
"Go," Ben finishes with him, holding up the packed duffel. "I know. But you need to get some sleep."
Dean's shaking his head. "Can't." He looks wired and exhausted, a dangerous combination familiar from the routine of the clinic and the ER, and Ben feels a flutter of fear in his stomach.
"Can't," Dean repeats, but it's not stubbornness; it's just the truth. Ben drops the bag and sits next to Dean just as Dean gets up. "He needs me." Emotions keep chasing each other across Dean's face, too many to count or process, all of them for Sam, Sammy, the one who hurt them both.
Ben stands up too, gets his fingers in Dean's thick hair, strokes his scalp, and is surprised when Dean's arms come up around him, clinging tightly, painfully. It's a struggle to get his voice to work, to figure out what to say. "You really want to go right now, you should at least get in the shower first. Wake yourself up a little." He's messing this up so badly, giving Dean impersonal advice like he's just another patient at the clinic.
Dean sways a little on his feet when he lets go, but disappears into the bathroom without a word.
Ben opens Dean's duffel again and takes a change of clothes into the bathroom, depositing it on the counter. He’s got coffee made and steaming in two paper cups when Dean emerges, impatiently toweling his hair dry. He slides the cup without a lid over to Dean and lets him take a long swallow. He watches Dean fortify himself with heat and caffeine - such inadequate weapons - and hands Dean his credit card.
"Take it," he says, when Dean looks like he's going to protest. "You've got no cash right now and the cards you've got are going to land you in jail."
"Like you've got money to burn," Dean argues, lacing up his boots with unsteady hands.
Dean nods sharply, pocketing the card, and then heads out the door, the second cup of coffee in his hand and the duffel's straps hooked over his shoulder. Ben hugs himself with goosebumped arms, watches Dean go, and tells himself everything will be okay.
He wakes up cold. The blankets have puffed around him like a cocoon, barely touching his skin, as if aware that Dean should be there, taking up that space. He checks his phone for messages and gets up, moving like there are weights attached to his limbs.
He's bleary-eyed when he stumbles downstairs and tries to read the breakfast menu, and J plucks it right out of his hands when she sits down next to him. "Mom and Dad'll be here in about five minutes, so talk fast," she says, studying his face with soft eyes gone sharp. "Where's Dean?"
"Sam called." That's enough to get her back to straighten, her hands to clench into fists. "I told him to go, J. That's his brother."
He can practically see the litany of epithets she'd like to call Sam on the tip of her tongue. But she surprises him by drawing his head down and laying a kiss on top like he's three years old again. She smells like lemon lotion and sandalwood soap, like comfort and love. "Too bad. Would have been nice to see how hot Freckleface is in the daylight."
He wants so badly to play along, to let her take care of him. "Incredible," he says, trying his best.
"I just bet." She slides her arm around him.
When Mom and Dad come down and ask where Dean is, he's able to say in a normal voice, "His brother called - family emergency," and J casually changes the subject.
J watches him pace around his hotel room for a few minutes in dead silence.
"Let's do something," he finally says, just as she's asking if he ever wants to leave the room.
"Yes," she agrees emphatically. "Grab your phone and let's go."
They have to wait for the elevator, and he turns to her. She's changed since he last saw her - new haircut, less tomboyish clothes. "You were fantastic last night," he blurts out. "I should have said it before."
Her face lights up but her voice stays light; she knows how to control that at least, her talent disciplined by years of practice. "You're saying it now." She shakes her head and looks up at him. "I missed you the most, you little punk."
"I know, J," he says, tugging at her hair. God, how he missed her.
"Stop!" She ducks and spins away from him, shaking her hair back dramatically. "I have to be beautiful for tonight."
He gets his hand in her hair and rubs, pushing it over her face, and she's shrieking with laughter. "Jackass!" she whoops, her fingers darting out to find the ticklish spots in his armpits and on his ribs.
They're howling like kids, breathless with laughter, when the elevator finally arrives. J smoothes her hair into place, fixes him with a stern look, and steps demurely inside like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. "C'mon, Monkeyface," she whispers, and he can't help but follow.
He can't take it anymore. As soon as he's on the train, he dials Dean's number. "Where are you?"
Dean's voice is scratched to hell and uncertain, like he had to wake himself up to answer. There's no music in the background. "Leaving Pennsylvania."
That means Dean's setting a pace that will kill him. But he can't order Dean to stop, won't become someone Dean has to fight against.
"My friend Mark lives in Cleveland. Let me call him, get you a place to sleep for a couple hours." He can't stand this walking on eggshells, wishes he could just say what it is he's feeling. Go. He needs you. But come back, because I love you.
"Yeah, okay," Dean agrees finally.
That's as good as it's going to get, and Ben knows that even after pushing himself like this, Dean will step up, ready and eager to take on whatever hurt Sam. "Love you," Ben says without thinking, unsure if it's for his benefit or Dean's that he says it. Dean is more than Sam's big brother, more than a hunter, and Ben doesn't know how else to express that.
And he doesn't know if Dean is ready for it this time or if he's simply too intent on Sam to worry about what tumbles out of his mouth. All he knows is that Dean's voice is quiet when he says, "Love you."
His apartment looks unfamiliar when he walks in, like all the colors have changed or he's looking at a mirror image instead of the real thing. The casual mess he remembers creating feels completely foreign.
He wanders about for a little while, picking things up and putting them back down, not really cleaning. His stomach growls and he dumps a packet of noodles into a pot on the stove, stirring it while a sitcom plays in the background. Sorting through a fistful of bills, he chokes the food down.
It occurs to him that he's doing what he prays Dean isn't - just the bare minimum to keep going - but this state of limbo, waiting for the phone to ring, is tying him up into knots.
Dean calls as he's walking into Bobby's spare room; Ben can hear Bobby's gruff voice saying something about food and rest and Dean says, "It's Ben," and Bobby says hello loud enough for him to hear.
He hears the warning in Bobby's voice, and he's glad beyond measure that Dean's with someone who'll take care of him without worrying about pride or boundaries, utterly relieved that Dean stopped at all.
"Too tired to sleep," Dean sighs into the phone once Bobby's voice fades away.
"You need it, though. At least lie down."
"Lemme just take off my boots, or Bobby'll kill me for messing up Molly's quilt." That's it, no jokes about playing doctor; Ben had no idea he'd miss them this much. Dean sounds more rational, though, like he recognizes that his body needs sustenance and rest if he doesn't want to collapse the moment he sees Sam, or maybe even before.
Ben waits, hearing Dean's quiet breaths, his deep groan when he finally stretches out. There's a pause, and then Dean says, "Sam's still not picking up. I don't know . . . I don't know what could have happened." He hears Dean roll over, the bedding rustle as he shifts onto his side. "I haven't heard from him since he got on the bus to California. Not one word. Figured he was making a go of it."
Here at least he can help. "He was. He was doing great. I promise."
"Yeah?" There's a painful degree of hope in Dean's voice.
"Yeah." He makes his own voice as warm as he can. "Go to sleep. Tomorrow you'll see Sam." Dean hums sleepily in agreement. "Night, Dean."
He's dreaming of Dean, soft and avid eyes shining down at him as he moves his mouth, Dean's thighs heavy in his hands and downy against his tongue. Dean's hands are clutching at him, head tipping back as his eyes slowly close; Dean is saying everything he's ever said all over again, the words spilling out of him, transparent and substantial and real, and Ben smiles against his skin, holds him closer, and feels himself give way.
At the clinic the next morning, he keeps his cell phone on him, checks it as he jogs from one patient to the next. He listens to stories of injury and illness, diagnoses and treats, but always with half his mind on Dean. It's only when he's writing up the paperwork that he realizes how much he must have missed with his diminished attention, and is disgusted with himself.
There is nothing he can do right now, and if he's honest, nothing he would do to keep Dean from Sam; Dean wouldn't be Dean if he could ignore a call for help.
It's time to stop behaving like the world has ended. Dean shouldn't have to come home to a maudlin mess. He pulls the folder of residency applications out of his locker and starts filling out the ones for East Coast hospitals, those in the area under Dean's watch, places where he could make a difference.
He's in the ER, stitching up a jagged tear in an older man's side and wondering if the guy's a hunter, someone Dean and his dad know, when his phone buzzes. He finishes up, explains when the guy should come back for a checkup, and scrubs his hands clean. There's a text from Dean unspooling across the screen. Got him. Safe. Not good. Home late.
If Dean's texting rather than calling, there's a reason for it, and he's on the ER clock anyway. He desperately wants to hear Dean's voice, but he contents himself with a text message in return: Anytime.
Sweeeeeet boys. I love them so.