Title: Meg and Benny's Excellent Adventure
Pairings/Warnings: Meg/Castiel, implied Meg/Jimmy Novak, mentions of Sam/Amelia, show-level violence
Summary: Meg and Benny go on a roadtrip. Pretexting, hunting, LARPing, and bickering over music in the car ensue.
Merlin’s “family homestead” was on the outskirts of Wales, a sprawling log cabin that had probably been originally built a couple of centuries ago but had been restored to keep the rustic look over the years. Sprawling pastures behind the house were dotted with sheep. Merlin’s truck was parked next to what looked like a sheepfold made of rough-hewn branches.
The sun had set, and most of the people of Wales were snug in their warm houses, drinking hot cocoa while smoke streamed out of their chimneys. Meg and Benny were armed with their Purgatory weapons, their cambion-buster packs, and maybe some liquid courage (whiskey for Meg, AB- for Benny).
They’d hunkered in a tree near the house, camouflaged by some demon magic that would hopefully go unnoticed in whatever demonic protections Merlin had set for himself. The house had sprawling windows, so they could see Merlin inside as he cooked a late supper, then spread his textbooks and notebooks out on the dining table to do his homework.
“Would a cambion who’s a centuries-old wizard really be doing homework?” Benny whispered. “Wouldn’t he know everything about, well, everything? Especially history.”
“Only if he was everywhere all at once,” Meg whispered back.
“He could have been, with that power.”
“He’s not the Antichrist. Which is why I picked him.” Meg was annoyed that Claire hadn’t called her back, but both she and Benny had taken pains to shut off their cell phones in Ephraim before they headed back to Wales. No phone calls till the deed was done. Meg had seen enough horror movies to know one ill-timed phone call meant the death of a hapless teen or two.
Merlin sat slumped over the dining table, hand buried in his hair. He looked tired, frustrated, and stumped. Meg squinted, but in a human body her senses were limited. She couldn’t read the title of the textbook he had just closed.
They’d discussed the plan. They’d go in through the back. As soon as he was settled back in at the dining table, they’d strike.
Benny shinned down the tree first. Meg teleported to the back so as to avoid making any noise as she climbed down. She had her holy oil gun poised as soon as she landed. Benny appeared beside her a moment later, and she signaled a go.
They started toward the back door in perfect Purgatory tandem.
It swung open.
Merlin leaned in the doorway, hands jammed in his pockets, expression disarmingly sweet. His eyes glowed golden with power.
Expletives in a thousand languages, few living, most dead, flew through Meg’s mind. He was one of Azazel’s cambions.
“I thought I recognized a sister,” he said. His eyes flickered back to that unearthly blue.
“Sister?” Benny’s tone was unreadable.
Meg cleared her throat. “We were, in our own separate ways, made by the same demon.”
Merlin straightened up, beckoned for them to enter. “Come in. I’ve been looking for messengers from home.” There was a command in his words, like Andy and Ansem had. Benny jumped, startled, but obeyed. Meg could resist the words, but she knew better than to disobey.
Merlin’s kitchen was large, spacious, had been used to feed a large family in the past. Now it displayed the hallmarks of bachelorhood: paper plates and plastic utensils stacked on one counter, dirty mugs circling the sink, and an out-of-place quaint tin kettle on the stove. It was bubbling away, not quite boiling.
Merlin smiled. “Tea?”
“No, thank you,” Benny said. He clutched his super-soaker like it was a lifeline.
Merlin didn’t seem to notice how Meg and Benny were armed. Instead he rinsed one of the mugs, popped a tea bag into it, and leaned against the counter, arms crossed over his chest. “How is our father?”
“Not my father, not really,” Meg said.
Merlin raised his eyebrows. “But he made you, as he made me. So you said.”
“Azazel is dead,” Meg said.
Merlin straightened up, surprise flitting across his face. “Dead? How? I didn’t think a demon could –”
“Humans are an inventive bunch – little Einsteins and Teslas, constantly nipping at our ankles,” Meg said. “They found ways.”
Merlin sank back, chin tucked to his chest, brooding. “You didn’t come here for a family reunion?”
Meg said, “No.”
“Then why are you here?”
Benny said, “To kill you.”
Merlin’s eyes flickered gold again. “Why? I have not wronged you.”
Meg bared her teeth in something not quite a smile. “It’s nothing personal. We just need parts of you.”
“Blood?” Merlin cupped a hand, and a blood-filled vial appeared. “I can give you blood.”
“Something a little more precious than blood,” Meg said, keeping her grip on her super-soaker tight.
“Bone? Skin? Semen?”
Benny made a choking noise at that last one.
Amusement crossed Merlin’s face. “Not much experience with witchcraft, eh? You’d be surprised at what bits people need for spells. I’m guessing it’s something more vital to continued living than mere DNA, or else you could have stolen hair or fingernail clippings or any number of my used mugs.”
Meg said nothing. Apart from the gold in his eyes, he was displaying no signs of great power, but he had it. Just because he was no antichrist didn’t mean he didn’t have substantial power. Claire was right, though – Meg was no demon to sneeze at.
“So what is it – liver, kidneys, lungs?”
“Thanks for the anatomy lesson,” Meg said, “but we really only want the one thing.”
“Brain?” Merlin guessed.
Benny darted a nervous glance at Meg. This wasn’t at all how this was supposed to go. She steeled herself. What could they do to take on a cambion? He had gone most of his existence assuming demons were invulnerable to humans. What had he been doing for the past one and a half millennia, that he didn’t know about devil’s traps and salt and holy water? All of those things had existed before he was born. Maybe they would all work on him.
Resignation settled across Merlin’s features. “Ah. My heart.”
The kettle began to whistle. Merlin actually turned his back on them to cross to the stove, fetch the kettle, and pour boiling water into his mug. Then he stirred the tea bag around to get the steeping started. Meg and Benny were left trapped between Merlin and the rest of the house. Their best chances at exit were to dive through a window or try to find the front door half-blind. If they could move at all.
“Those are curious weapons you’re carrying,” Merlin said. “I’ve seen their like, but far away, on islands in the sea where boys kill sharks to become men and men open coconuts with bamboo spears.” He glanced over his shoulder. Amusement gleamed in his blue eyes once more. “Neither of you look like the distant island type. Unless you went there on honeymoon? Although Grace was all wrong about that, wasn’t she? You’re not lovers – you’re comrades-in-arms.” He turned back to face them and leaned against the counter, mug cradled in his long-fingered hands. “I know what that’s like.” He tilted his head, squinted at Benny’s club. “Those spikes. What are they made of?”
“Something that works,” Benny said sharply.
Gold gleamed in Merlin’s eyes once more. “Something not of this earth? But also not quite of...home, either. You two have been very busy bees. So. You need my heart. For quite the spell, I imagine.”
“Quite the spell,” Meg echoed. Her mind raced. Jesse Turner had been capable of altering reality at a whim. If the legends were correct, however, Myrddin Wyllt had been little more than madman and prophet. If he was one of Azazel’s children, then he was like a jumped up Special Child, like Sam. His powers would include the ability to control demons, to exorcise demons with a thought (but he probably hadn’t tried that), voice commands, telekinesis, telepathy, and a killing touch. Maybe some pyrokinesis, because Azazel liked that trick. If any of Monmouth’s legends had truth to them, then Merlin would be able to shapeshift and bend the elements to his will, like melting a sword into a stone and then melting the sword out of it again. Dare she reach out, check for magical spells? While Merlin thought of himself as a demon, of Hell as home, he seemed more traditional witch than demon.
“You know,” Merlin said, “I could just give you my heart.”
Benny blinked at him. “What?”
“I don’t need a heart to live. No demon does.” Merlin flicked a glance at Meg. “Right?”
For a creature who thought himself a demon, he didn’t think like one. Meg lifted her chin. “What would you want in exchange?”
“Is the spell you’re doing designed to kill me?”
“No,” Benny said. “Killing you is just a step in the process. But this spell isn’t about you.”
“And yet you need my heart.” Merlin sipped his tea delicately, his pink lips pursed into a perfect cupid’s bow.
“A cambion heart,” Meg said, “not Merlin’s heart.”
“And yet you sought me out. When none of our kind has done so since – since the gates closed.”
Apparently he’d missed several more recent gate openings. Was he some kind of hermit?
“Like I said, we needed a cambion.” Meg wished she had Ruby’s knife. It wouldn’t take out a knight of hell, so it probably wouldn’t kill a cambion, but it would at least slow a cambion down.
Merlin’s brow furrowed. “What of Caliban, Belasius, Sagheer and Ichiro, or Amaya?”
“Caliban was harder to find, the others we’ve never heard of,” Meg said, but stored their names away for later.
Merlin narrowed his eyes at her. “Is this jealousy, then, demons thinking cambions are abominations?”
Meg arched an eyebrow in disbelief. “Honey, Hell is all about abominations. The more, the merrier. Come roast marshmallows over the Pit with the rest of us.”
“You just need a heart from a cambion – any cambion – and the only one you could find was me,” Merlin confirmed. “It’s, as you say, nothing personal.”
Benny nodded tightly. “That’s right.”
Merlin was silent, sipping his tea. Neither Meg nor Benny twitched a muscle.
“Am I the only cambion left?”
Benny cast Meg another look.
“No.” Meg swallowed hard. “But you’re a little less scary than the other one.”
Merlin lit up. “So there is another? I had not sensed – but then during all the upset with the weather and earthquakes – and then with the meteor shower – he must be terribly young. Or she?”
“He,” Meg said. “They call him Antichrist.”
“Oh.” Merlin’s expression turned wistful. “Then the end is very near.”
“Not as near as you’d think.” Meg eyed him warily. He was wistful about the Apocalypse? Did he want the world to end? “So really, what’s in this for you?”
“Nothing,” Merlin said. “I need nothing. At least, what I need neither of you can give me, and harming you will not bring me any closer to what I want.” He drained his mug the way an alcoholic drains a bottle of whiskey and then set it aside. He shrugged off his jacket, tugged his t-shirt over his head. He was pale, slender, with a dusting of dark hairs across his chest.
What happened next was unnatural and also violated the laws of physics and human anatomy, but Merlin was a cambion and could do whatever he wanted with reality. Meg nearly dropped her super-soaker when Merlin picked up what looked like an ordinary butter knife and cut a slice down along his sternum. Then he pushed a hand into his own chest and dug around with a series of wet, squelching sounds that would have made any number of monsters upchuck their most recent meal. A moment later, with a sickening wet ‘pop’, Merlin held his own pulsing, dripping heart aloft. He cradled it in both hands like it was an injured bird – how had he not keeled over and died? – and tugged.
The heart cracked down the middle, and he held a half in each hand. The two halves continued to pulse in time with each other. They looked wet and gleaming and meaty, not brittle enough to crack like that.
Benny made a choking sound.
Meg glanced at him. His lips were skinned back from his fangs, his pupils were dilated, and he was panting. Hungry. Thirsty.
Merlin blinked, tilted his head curiously. “Do you eat the flesh of cambion hearts?” He offered one half of the heart.
Benny shuddered and took a few deep breaths. Then his fangs retracted, and he said, “No. I don’t. But I think the spell calls for an entire heart.”
Merlin’s smile was beatific. “And a whole heart I will give you.” With a stage magician’s flourish, Merlin brought both halves together with another wet squelch, and Meg jumped. Merlin gazed at his hands, eyes flickering from blue to gold and back again. Was he going to have a seizure?
They could take both pieces of his heart and just go if he collapsed.
But no. He wasn’t going to collapse. He was, however, going to grow both halves of his heart into two new wholes, perfectly identical, beating in synchronization. Damn. Not even an angel could do that. Maybe going after the Antichrist would have been a better idea after all. Merlin shoved one heart back into his chest, and the wound healed. The other heart he wrapped in cheesecloth and tucked into a jar, which he held out to Meg.
“Here,” he said. “For your spell.”
Meg and Benny looked at each other. Benny nodded at Meg. She looked at Merlin. His expression was utterly sincere.
Meg tucked her super-soaker into its holster, reached for the jar.
It hit the floor and shattered.
Merlin locked an arm around her throat, spun her into his grip so her pack full of holy oil was smashed against his bare, bloody chest.
“Of course losing my heart would kill me,” he said. “Which is why I don’t keep it where everyone else keeps it.” His breath against her ear was frighteningly cold.
Benny let loose with his super-soaker. Meg screamed and writhed when the holy water hit her. Merlin didn’t feel a thing. He leaned in, inhaled the steam rising off of Meg’s skin. “Fascinating. Smells like monotheism and confusion. I hadn’t realized anything could hurt you. But I’m not one of you, not really. What hurts you doesn’t hurt me.”
“Give her back,” Benny said, “and we won’t hurt you.”
Merlin threw his head back and laughed. He was giving up all pretense of being human. The timbre of his true voice – elemental, musical, water over rock – bled through his bland American accent. “You’re funny, little fanged thing. You, hurt me? Never. Anything you do to hurt me will only hurt her more.”
“Hurt her, maybe,” Benny said, “but not kill her. I’ll kill you.”
Merlin pressed a blade to Meg’s throat.
“Knives won’t kill me,” she said. “I am not my body. I can take another body in an instant.” Could she take his?
Magic, thick and cloying and oozing the scent of sulfur under magnolias, filled Meg’s nostrils, throat, made her gag. Her body panicked.
“No, I don’t think you’re going anywhere.” Merlin chuckled, low and ruthless. “Not until I take you there. Now, fanged thing, drop your weapons.”
Benny darted a glance at Meg. She was useless. She was choking. She was suffocating.
“I said, drop your weapons.”
Benny obeyed, because he had no choice.
And then they weren’t in the house anymore. They were somewhere cold, dark, damp. Merlin murmured a syllable in a dead language. His golden eyes were the only light in the darkness until old-fashioned mining lamps hanging from rusting nails on support beams lit up, one after another, as if by an invisible lamp lighter.
They were down in the mines.
“I knew what you were as soon as I saw you,” Merlin crooned in Meg’s ear. “I could smell it on you. Not just a demon, but a demon who had been to the Great Beyond – and returned. When I saw your weapons, I knew. You’ve been to the other side. Where demons go when they die.”
Benny was frozen, unfettered but bound by the force of Merlin’s will, beneath one of the lamps.
“You can open the gate for me,” Merlin said.
Meg, too, was frozen by his willpower. She couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. Her head was cloudy and spinning from the overwhelming stench of his power. Azazel and flowers. What a terrible combination. She couldn’t smoke out.
“The great beyond is where they send us when we die – and those we love, too, if our souls are bound.” Merlin stroked Meg’s throat with the dull side of the knife. “But I need some of your blood to complete the ritual.”
Meg choked out, “Purgatory? You want to open the gate to Purgatory?” How many ways were there to open that place, and why hadn’t someone gotten her out sooner?
“No – the Great Beyond is Avalon.” Merlin hauled Meg further into the mine, lamps flickering to life to illuminate the way. Benny was dragged along haplessly in Merlin’s magical wake. Their destination was the final depths of the mine, where workers had stopped wielding their picks decades ago.
Merlin’s grip on Meg’s throat eased up, but she couldn’t leave her meatsuit, not for love or money. “That’s not how to get to Avalon,” she said. “Pour some cream and ask a fairy.”
“Don’t you think I’ve tried? But their fairy queen, their Morgana Le Fay, she has banished me from all Seeleigh and Unseeleigh borders. So I found another way.” Merlin waved a hand, planted Benny against one wall. “All I need is your heart or, if you were a willing sacrifice, your blood, to open the portal.” He yanked Meg around to face him. “Sister, you should will your blood to me. You could live. We can both live – forever. And if you came with me beyond, I could make you queen of all, chief sorceress, give you power not even our father could dream of. Leave this fanged thing behind and embrace your heritage. Your birthright.” His golden gaze was earnest, pleading.
Holy ravioli, Batman. Being alive this long had made Merlin crazy. Meg peeked at Benny. He watched her, face blank, eyes full of fear.
Meg took a deep breath. “If I were your queen, would you be my king?”
“The King has been and always will be,” Merlin whispered, “once and future. But with both of us by his side, we will be master of all we see and all we create.”
King Arthur. He was talking about waking up King Arthur. He’d mentioned a portal to Avalon before, one in the mines - he’d claimed it was a legend his ancestors told. He had no ancestors. He was his own ancestor. And he’d said the other half of his soul was in Avalon.
Could Meg bluff the most powerful cambion since the Antichrist?
Could Meg bluff a crazy person who could read minds?
Merlin cast a hateful glare at Benny. “Your fanged friend is of no service to you. See, he has led you here on this faithless quest, led you to your death. Cast him aside, join with me, and have the riches of eternity.”
Merlin didn’t know, didn’t realize this was all Meg’s idea. Maybe he really couldn’t read minds. Or maybe he was so crazy that he only considered what fit his worldview.
So she said, “Okay.”
Merlin blinked. “What?”
Benny’s expression echoed the same sentiment wordlessly.
Meg straightened up as best as she could. “You’re right. Benny’s pointless. I’ll do it. I’ll help you open the gate.”
Merlin’s eyes shone with avarice. “You’ll will your blood to me?”
“I’ll will my blood to you. For the spell.”
Merlin exhaled shakily, and he released her, stepped back. “Excellent. Come. Let us do this quickly.” He tugged her back in with a thought, used his knife to open the vein in her left wrist.
Should he need that much blood if she was willing?
Apparently he needed enough blood to make Benny start to twitch and fret. Benny’d had a blood pack earlier that evening. Wasn’t it enough?
No. It was never enough. That was why Benny and other vampires were bundles of emo nerves. They were constantly on the verge of committing murder.
Or maybe just vampires like Benny, who went without what they liked best.
Merlin summoned a silver dish from nowhere to catch what of Meg’s blood he needed. He stared, fixed, at each drop of blood that dripped from her wrist and into the bowl.
Benny started to struggle against his invisible bonds, mouth open in a fanged snarl. He glared at Meg with seething hatred.
“What will you do with the fanged one?” Meg asked.
Merlin glanced up. “Hm? Oh. Kill him, I suppose. Add him to my collection. Master Belasius was insistent that I keep thorough records of every creature I come across. I never bothered with the supernatural world when the natural world is so lively, ever-changing. So much to see and study and catalogue before the humans destroy it all.” He flicked a look at Benny. “Humans. Such weak, small-minded creatures. Same as the things they mutate into, I suppose.” He smiled at Meg. “But you and me, we’re different.”
No, Meg thought, we’re not. We’re mutants of the humans, too. And you’re a mutant twice over, in both body and soul.
“Brother,” she said, “I never did greet you properly.”
Merlin flicked his wrist, and the silver bowl went and settled at the base of the back wall of the mine corridor. “Oh?”
Meg held out her arms. “A hug, brother. That is how family meets.”
Merlin straightened up. “An embrace of affection. Yes, sister. That is how family greets.” He flung himself into her arms. She reached up and hugged him back. Benny’s gaze darted from her bleeding wrist to Merlin’s back, where some of her blood smeared. His nostrils flared. Meg rubbed Merlin’s back soothingly, smearing her blood further. The fury in Benny’s eyes didn’t abate.
Meg stepped back, and she cradled Merlin’s face in her hands. “Now, brother, are you ready?”
He nodded. “I’m ready.”
Meg kneed him in the groin.
Merlin doubled over with a gasp of pain.
Being immortal didn’t mean one was immune to pain. Being a warrior, a soldier meant one could keep moving even when one felt pain. Being an immortal wizard who bent reality to his will meant Merlin never felt pain accidentally. He assumed he was immune to deliberate pain or that any attack would be magical because he was magical.
Meg shoved him at Benny.
Benny, free from Merlin’s will, leaped on him and tried to tear out his throat. He hung on for a few seconds, snarling and biting and guzzling down blood that smelled even more thickly of demon sulfur and those damnable flowers.
But Merlin was immortal. He recovered quickly.
“Traitor!” He flung a hand at Meg, and she hit the back wall. Stars danced in her eyes.
There was another rush of power, and then a cry of pain. It wasn’t Benny. It took Meg a moment to shake off the damage to her meatsuit. Demonic super-healing only worked so fast.
Merlin was flat on his back while Benny advanced. Blood stained the lower half of Benny’s face and shirt and lapels of his coat. His eyes glowed gold.
Merlin tried to sit up. He slammed back down to the ground, swatted by a giant, invisible hand. Benny looked startled, but then he lifted a hand to his jaw, wiped up some of the blood, licked it. Gold flared in his eyes again.
Dammit. Azazel’s blood. It allowed a non-demon to consume demon blood and gain power. And Merlin had a lot of power.
Meg stumbled to her feet. “Benny –”
He swatted her aside without looking at her. Damn, that hurt. No wonder Sam and Dean always made faces when she did it to them.
Benny advanced on Merlin. “I’m not a ‘fanged one’. I’m a person. My name’s Benny. And cutting your heart out? Was her idea. The one you call sister. But she’s not your sister, because you sure as hell don’t act like a brother.”
Merlin gazed up at Benny in terror. “What are you?”
“I’m Benny Lafitte, and I’m a vampire.” Benny fell upon him.
Meg was across the mine in a blink. “Benny, be careful. The heart. We need it. Don’t –”
But Merlin was shrieking and the sound of flesh tearing like that was one Meg hadn’t heard since Hell. All she could do was step back and wait.
Benny didn’t eat the entire body, but the face and throat were unrecognizable as human body parts when he was done.
Merlin hadn’t been lying. His chest had an empty, gaping socket where a heart would be. Benny’s eyes were still glowing golden like Merlin’s when he finally straightened up, scrubbed a hand over his face. He was covered in blood. His eyes and teeth were the only pale parts of him, gleaming in the flickering lamplight.
Meg swallowed hard. “Benny, we have to get out of here, find Merlin’s heart.”
Blue flared momentarily behind the gold. Benny grinned at her, fangs retracted. “I know you didn’t mean what you said, sister. Now, let’s go get that heart.”
“You’re covered in blood.”
Benny arched an eyebrow, and suddenly he was clean. The wound on Meg’s wrist was closed.
“Thanks,” she said.
Benny threw his head back, laughed. “Wow! Holy hell. Is this what demons feel like all the time? Because this is fantastic.”
“No,” Meg said. “That isn’t how we feel. Trust me. Now we need to go, get your weapons, get our car so no one suspects us – we don’t need the cops after us, and cops will come after us – and we need to find that heart.”
Benny actually winked at her. “You’re on, sister.”
That was how Meg, Benny, their car, and all their gear ended up smack dab in the middle of Broceliande Forest. The naked wiccans ran screaming. Meg put out the bonfire before it could destroy the car.
Benny knelt, pressed a hand to the forest floor. A moment later, he was holding a wooden box. Inside, a cambion heart, fleshy and pink with thick, black demon-blood veins, still pumped. Benny summoned Meg’s knife from her jacket, unsheathed it, and drove it neatly through the heart.
It stopped beating.Benny fell to his knees, retching.
Meg knelt beside him, wrestled off his cap and coat so he wouldn’t mess them up, and stroked his hair.
So. Phase one complete.
Meg couldn’t teleport a car in her state, and she wasn’t about to try. So she sat beside Benny till he fell asleep. Until she had a signal by which to send Claire the good news, she would read.