I feel really bad about Sam being in a coma for most of the story. I swear it has a plot purpose and I'm not just trying to ignore Sam. I would NEVER.
I don't feel bad at all about all the Dean/Benny sex. I regret that I couldn't work more in.
It takes four days to hitch from the portal to Clayton, Louisiana, and that's about how many days it takes Dean to start feeling like a human being again. He's picked up some clean clothes along the way. He's stopped snarling at waitresses like they're here to take his plate away from him when they refill his coffee. He's started to tolerate the taste of coffee again – did coffee always taste this shitty? He remembers coffee being nice.
Everything on Earth is just a step or two to the left from how Dean remembers it. Even though he's been through this time warp once before, there's no getting used to it. He can't make himself understand that he's only been gone a year on Earth.
He lost count at one point, but he's sure it's been at least five years in Purgatory.
He mostly sleeps in ditches on the trip, or in the backseat of someone else's car. He remembers all the ways he used to scare up money when he needed it, but his whole concept of need is different now, and except for lifting a couple of wallets to keep himself in steak and egg money, he can't be bothered anymore. All he can think about is Clayton, Louisiana, St. John the Baptist Cemetary.
The force of Benny's – soul, or whatever it is Benny's got – burns under the skin of his arm, twenty-four-seven. The socket of Dean's left eye burns under the patch, too; it was better for a while, but he's picked up another infection, and he knows he'll have to deal with it sooner or later.
He gets a lot of weird looks on the road. He's filthy, and he's probably lost his looks after five years, so that's one or two ways to get by in the real world Dean figures he can scratch off the list – finally. Honestly, he's glad to see that part of his old life go. He always felt like a scumbag when he scammed women, and as for the men--
Well, he never felt much of anything there, and not much of anything was exactly what Dean figures most of them deserved from him.
He presses his palm against the blistering skin under his sleeve and closes his eyes for just a moment, imagining he can hear Benny's softly mocking lilt, saying You can try to blend in with all us dead things, but sugar, I can hear your heart from a mile away....
He does spring for a hotel in Clayton, figuring he's got a few hours til dark and – it wouldn't kill him to take a shower, not that he's in anywhere near the worst state Benny's seen and smelled him in. Still, it's the polite thing to do.
That's the plan, anyway, but at the last minute Dean finds himself standing in a bank of steam in a bathroom so small he couldn't lie down in it without smacking his head on something, listening to the water run and run, and he can't seem to....
He hasn't been naked in five fucking years – not all the way naked – and he's fighting a goddamn panic attack over the fact that if he takes his clothes off nothing is going to happen to him except a shower, because the motel room door is locked and braced shut with the dresser, and the bathroom door is locked, and he's – fine, he's safe, he's home. That shouldn't be something to panic about, but here he fucking is.
Home. Some forgettable Econolodge is as close to home as anywhere else Dean's ever been, so – he's home.
None of it feels real. He's convinced he's been gone for seven hundred years.
Eventually he manages to stand in the shower, almost fully dressed except for his boots and socks. The water tastes metallic, but not like blood. It tastes like stainless steel – clean and industrial and nothing, nothing like Purgatory.
He does his best to dry himself off, but he still gets water all over the bedspread when he lies back on it and waits with his hand clamped over his forearm for the sun to set. He can feel the throbbing through two shirts and a coat, which must mean Benny's alive (or whatever) and kicking. “I know, old man,” Dean mutters. He's pretty sure Benny can't hear him, or at least Benny never seems to respond to the sound of his voice, but Dean's used to having someone to talk to. “Would you just hold your horses? I ain't gonna forget you.”
It's a good thing Dean did get the room, because when he asks about St. John the Baptist at the front desk, he finds out there's an old cemetary and a new one, and the woman lets him Google both of them. His first instinct is the old cemetary, of course, because Benny's from like the Civil War or something, so he wastes an hour on a trip out there, and when he figures out his mistake, Dean wants to smack himself. Benny died in the Civil War or something, but that's not when he was buried.
Dean's gonna have to pull it together if he wants his World's Greatest Detective decoder ring back. He got real, real good with a mace made out of six teeth and a thighbone in Purgatory, but his critical thinking skills are probably gonna need quite a bit of polish if he plans to....
To go back to his old job? Does he plan to do that?
He doesn't have to think about that just yet. Not tonight, at least.
The new cemetary looks like it was founded with the new church building in the '40s or '50s, and it butts up against a piece of abandoned land that's marked Lafitte, so Dean knows he's in the right place, and then it's just a matter of good old fashioned gravedigging. Easy as pie.
His arm hurts like holy fuck, but he's come so far and he's so damn close, it's easy to block out the pain. When the knife slides across his skin, the release is almost orgasmic, the red gunk oozing and dripping out bringing an immediate ease in pressure. “Anima – corpori --” he rasps out, clinging by the fingertips of his right hand to the dirt so he doesn't get woozy and fall onto a pile of Benny's rotted bones. “Fuerit corpus...”
His eyes can't adjust to the unnatural light. He swears he's gonna pass out.
He swears this isn't gonna work after all. He's gonna lose--
He's already lost--
He can't again – he can't keep – he can't spend his fucking life like this, shoveling up bodies – alone with all us dead things – with all the fucking – dead things, and the loneliness and the graves, the endless, endless fucking graveyard of his life. He's thirty-whatever years old, and he's tapped out, he's let everything he's ever had pour out of him and he just wants to be left alone in the dark to....
“Totem resurgent,” he chokes out, because he has to. Because he has to finish this one thing, save this one....
Totem resurgent. Returned totally? His Latin's shitty, but it's – something like that. Returned in total. Returned whole.
That would've been nice.
In the silence and the darkness after the magic lights have finished doing their thing, Dean can almost feel it: what being whole might feel like. His feet dangle in an open grave, and he feels as at peace here as he's ever felt anywhere, except maybe a house that caught on fire in 1982.
Fuck, he guesses he's finally home, huh?
“Four days?” a voice says behind him, with the soft, subterranean chuckle that Dean knows so well. “'D you stop at Disneyland on your way?”
“Oh, well, you're fucking welcome,” Dean snorts. “You know you have to be nicer to me now, right? Now that you're not the only man in the world.”
Benny rests a hand on his shoulder. If he notices that Dean is shaking as he struggles to his feet, he doesn't say anything about it. He doesn't say anything at all, even when Dean turns to face him and he puts his hand on Dean's face, his thumb sliding across the path of the tear tracking down from Dean's one good eye. He just draws Dean closer, steady and unhurried and gentle, like always, like Benny, and kisses him.
For the first time in days, nothing hurts. Dean wraps both his arms tight around Benny and kisses back. This one thing – this one thing worked. This one thing, he didn't lose.
“You did it, sugar,” Benny says when it doesn't make sense to keep on kissing anymore, tracking his long fingers through Dean's hair, looking at Dean with eyes that shine in the dark like stars.
“We did it,” Dean corrects him. “Benny, I owe you-- “
“Not a damn thing,” Benny says, brushing his lips over Dean's eyebrow. “You just promise me you'll take care of yourself.”
Dean can feel his heart stutter and his breath tighten up, because – he guesses they're doing this? Right here and now, like this, they're-- This is goodbye. He thought....
He thought. Damn, he never learns, does he?
“You going somewhere?” Dean asks, trying to sound casual.
Benny sighs and steps away, shoving his hands in his pockets. He's wearing the same clothes he's always worn – the clothes he was buried in, Dean guesses. He even came back wearing his stupid hat. Dean wants to knock it off his head, sink his fingers in Benny's hair, kiss him and bite him and wind up with red highways of beard-burn all up and down his body – he just wants to hold –
Hold me, he wants to say. He wants to say, You idiot, you're gonna go just when things are starting to get good?
“I have to get back to my nest,” Benny says. He doesn't look any more thrilled about it than Dean feels. “Have to at least find out what's left of them.”
“I'll go with you,” Dean says. It's out of his mouth before he thinks it over, but once he does think it over, it sounds okay. Why not go with Benny? Where the fuck else is he going to go?
“I can't keep you safe,” Benny says, and when Dean raises an eyebrow he says, “They're – family, but it's not like I have any illusions about them. They're vampires.”
“They sound like assholes,” Dean says. “Blow 'em off.”
He smiles. God, there were so many days – weeks, months, maybe there were years – when that smile was the only thing in Dean's world that was worth being around to see. “They're assholes,” he agrees. “But they're my nest. Anyway, you know it's no good, me sticking with you. I make it three months before you're hip-deep in blood again, and that's not gonna work out for my sobriety.”
“I'm retiring,” Dean says.
It sounds pretty good as he says it. He thinks he might mean it.
He thinks he almost definitely means it.
“You're not,” Benny says fondly. “You wouldn't know how.”
“So this is – what, it? This is it?” On the one hand Dean guesses he knew it all along, but he still wasn't – wasn't mentally prepared, hadn't really thought this far ahead. Benny's been his constant for so long; Dean knew what was coming if they ever made it back to Earth, but it's still unimaginable. He should suck it up and deal, he shouldn't send Benny off after everything with another load of guilt to carry, but he ignores all his own good advice and says roughly, “What about – you know, us?”
Benny tilts his head to the side, and Dean feels it like a punch in the stomach, how much he looks like Cass when he does that – the same look Cass used to have, like he's thinking, No, this doesn't make sense, maybe from over here? Christ on a fucking cracker, like Dean doesn't have enough to cope with right now, he's gotta lay Cass' stupid, stubborn ghost to rest for the four thousandth time?
Benny is the third most frustrating dead person Dean knows, right behind John Winchester and fucking Cass.
“Aw, sugar,” he says. “You know you can do better.”