[identity profile] nagi-schwarz.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] nagi_fic

Title: Meg and Benny's Excellent Adventure
Author: [livejournal.com profile] nagi_schwarz
Artist: [livejournal.com profile] ms_doomandgloom
Fandom: Supernatural
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.



Chapter Twenty



Lawrence, Kansas was much bigger than Meg had expected, especially given the sales clerk’s comments back in Kansas City about how it was the last stop in civilization before Lawrence. The streets were neatly-kept, tree-lined, and the main streets were bustling with traffic and business. There were signs for two universities – the University of Kansas and the Haskell Nation University.

Granted, Meg hadn’t been there for three decades. She shouldn’t have been surprised that it wasn’t how she remembered, given that she’d blinked in in the middle of the night, watched a house fire erupt, and then left, marking Sam Winchester in Azazel’s Book of the Damned, his grotesque parody of the Book of Life. She gazed out the windows, curious, as Benny drove.

“It’s being held at the university convention center,” Benny said as he guided the car through the town. “Apparently they plan on using the entire campus for a LARP game.”

“Of course they are.” Meg fished her phone out of her pocket, checked it. No word from Claire, who was probably neck-deep in finals and freaking out.

“We should get a motel room,” Benny said.

“After we register for the convention and scout the joint,” Meg said. “Registration and the mixer is tonight, right? Real festivities start tomorrow. Or we could be real hunters and, you know, sleep in the car.”

“What if a demon notices us?”

“We still have our mini hex bags,” Meg said. “They didn’t work in the dream realm, but they ought to have retained their potency here.”

“Should we look up a campus map?” Benny asked.

“No,” Meg said. “We should roam, get a feel for the place. See if we sense anything.”

They parked in visitor parking on the south end of the campus and stepped out of their car, stared at the array of pale buildings with red roofs.

“Maybe we should look at a map,” Benny said, reaching into his jacket for his phone.

“Nope. Let’s march.” Meg tugged on her jacket and backpack full of hunting supplies, so Benny shrugged and did the same. They locked the car, and Meg scanned her surroundings for a landmark so she could blink them back in an instant if she needed to. Then they set off. At first they skirted the buildings, keeping to the paved paths. It was late, and most of the buildings were dark and deserted, but windows were lit here and there. The students tended to stay off the manicured lawns, walking in pairs or chattering clumps or striding along alone, lost in the worlds of their iPods and cell phones. Benny and Meg didn’t stand out as badly as they’d have thought, though they were still markedly older than most of the kids wandering around.

Benny began whistling idly to himself, always the “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” and a few heads turned as he passed. Meg let the music fade into the background, scanning her surroundings with a different purpose.

“Smell any sulfur?” she asked.

“Besides you?”

“I don’t smell like sulfur right now.”

“You smell like baby bones and fern right now.”

“Spike,” Meg said with exaggerated patience.

“Anya,” he replied in the same tone.

She cast him a look.

“Nothing so far,” Benny said obligingly. “Campus is pretty, though. Think this is where Sam and Dean would have gone?”

“Never really considered it,” Meg said, which was a lie, because she’d read more than her fair share of college AUs.

“If the books are right, Sam’s a damn smart kid. Dean, too, in his own way. Not sure he was the college type.” Benny resumed whistling.

“Maybe he would have been, if he hadn’t been ragingly parentified.”

Benny interrupted his own whistled song to laugh. “Apparently you have considered.”

“I consider many things,” Meg said. “What if Mary Winchester hadn’t made that deal in 1973? What if she’d defeated Azazel? What if Sam had shot John? What if? What if? There are too many what if’s. Like I said, there’s really only one thing that matters in my existence, and it’s my cause. And my cause is not contemplating all the ways Sam and Dean’s lives might have been normal.”

Benny resumed whistling.

“That sounds pleasant and all,” Meg said, “but I’m pretty sure a serial killer in a movie whistled that same song.” She paused. “Huhn. Maybe that’s why I think it sounds pleasant.”

“You think serial killers are pleasant?”

“Hi, I’m Meg,” she began.

He clapped a hand over her mouth.

She bit him.

He yelped and withdrew. Several passersby looked at them askance. They traded looks and stifled laughter, then resumed their inspection of the campus. After an hour, Benny said, “Let me find a campus map.”

“No need,” a girl said.

Meg and Benny turned in unison, going for their weapons. And stared at the two college-age girls who stood before them. One wore a familiar tan overcoat, dark suit, button down white shirt, and blue tie. She’d dyed her hair dark and cut it short for the occasion. The other had short, dark blond hair, a familiar leather jacket, amulet, worn blue jeans, and boots.

“You’re here for the convention, right?” the Dean Girl asked.

Meg couldn’t help the expression of unholy glee that crossed her face. “Absolutely right. Castiel. Dean.”

Benny made an incoherent noise of disbelief.

“Who are you?” the Castiel Girl asked.

“Obviously,” said the Dean Girl, “they’re Benny and –”

“Meg.” She smiled, teeth gleaming.

Castiel Girl raised her eyebrows. “Huhn. That’s not how I pictured Meg.”

“I’m Meg 2.0,” she said. “So done with the blonde thing.”

“Crowley bleached her hair in ‘Goodbye Stranger,’” Castiel Girl said.

“And Meg wasn’t too pleased about it. If she’d had her druthers, she’d have left her hair as it was. Natural, of course.” Meg winked.

“What are your real names?” Dean Girl asked.

“I’m Rachel,” Meg said, lying through her teeth. “This is my cousin, Ty.”

“Awesome!” Dean Girl said. “I’m Stephanie. And this is my roommate, Leanne.”

Meg grinned at them. “So, you doing the Destiel thing?”

“Nope. We don’t hate on the ship, obviously, but it’s not our thing.” Stephanie shrugged. “We overheard your conversation. I couldn’t help but notice – Ty. Your accent is amazing.”

“Thanks,” Benny said flatly.

“It’s his real accent,” Meg said. “He’s not much of a fan, but I told him I needed a big strong man to protect me, and along he came.”

Benny hunched his shoulders, ducked his head, looking uncomfortable.

“That’s really nice of you, Ty,” Leanne said, smiling up at him. “So, you heading over to the convention center to register?”

“That’s the plan,” Meg said. She looked Leanne up and down. “So, you into Megstiel?”

Benny rolled his eyes. “Stop scaring the children.”

“Not scaring any children,” Meg said. “Just being friendly with a fellow fan.” She smiled, a little too sweetly to be nice, at Leanne. “Right?”

“Yeah,” Leanne said, unbothered. “The convention center is this way.” She turned and headed down another path, and Meg fell into step beside her. Benny and Stephanie walked behind them in awkward silence.

“So,” Leanne said, “what made you pick that costume to represent Meg?”

She looked down at herself. “Why not? It’s what Meg would wear. Dark leather jacket with space for weapons, dark jeans that are stylish but also functional.”

“It doesn’t really scream...demon.” Leanne shrugged apologetically.

“Well, Meg is just a name that stuck after the previous body,” Meg said. “Demons as a general rule possess humans, so I guess that’s the danger of a demon, isn’t it? They could be anyone.”

“True.” Leanne glanced over her shoulder. “Ty’s costume is pretty awesome. The accent is what seals it, though.”

“Hear that, Ty?” Meg called out. “Your costume is awesome. You owe me one.”

His response was an annoyed grunt. He’d suggested changing into Winchester-style hunting gear in an attempt to blend in. She’d shot him down.

Leanne tugged open her tan overcoat to reveal a plastic silver cylinder that, if one squinted a little, could have been an angel blade. “I ordered mine online. What are you packing?”

“Not one of those,” Meg said, “though I wouldn’t mind having one. I’d have to tussle with an angel to get one.”

“Or kiss one,” Leanne pointed out.

“That was a one-time deal.” Meg eyed Leanne up and down. Was she flirting? It was hard to tell. “So, what events are you looking forward to the most?”

“The LARP is fun every year,” Leanne said. “They didn’t go quite as all-out as they did at the first con, what with the crazy special effects and hiring actors to play Sam and Dean, but they’re always pretty good.”

“It was pretty smart of the publishing house,” Stephanie piped up, “to tie the first convention into the series continuation. Pretty genius. And since Carver Edlund was there, he experienced all the details firsthand.”

“That was one of the best publicity stunts ever,” Leanne agreed.

Meg glanced over her shoulder at Benny, who looked pained at the notion of LARPing.

“The cosplay contest is always fun,” Stephanie said. “Also, the karaoke is good times. But we’re holding out for the quiz bowl.”

Meg raised her eyebrows. “Quiz bowl?”

Leanne nodded. “Yeah. Supernatural Trivia Quiz Bowl. Grand prize is something super special. Runner-up gets two hundred dollars.”

Meg glanced over her shoulder again. “What do you say, cousin? Think we’d have a shot at a quiz bowl?”

“You more than me,” he said. “I couldn’t even guess how many times you’ve read all those books.”

“I’m presenting at one of the panels,” Leanne said. “About how Carver Edlund drew on the Book of Enoch in constructing his angelology. Stephanie’s presenting on how Dean was parentified.”

“Both very interesting and appropriate topics,” Meg said, and she was impressed at the dedication both girls had to their obsession. A good demon could take that kind of dedication and turn it into something darker, twisted. Like drugging and tricking a man into marriage.

The convention center was one of the massive pale buildings with a dark red roof on the eastern edge of campus. The banner over the door proclaimed the Sixth Annual Supernatural Convention. A host of young people – mostly girls – in hunter-esque flannel and army surplus gear lingered near the doors. Some others were dressed like Castiel, and even fewer others were dressed as Crowley in dark suits, wore yellow contact lenses, or dressed as various monsters from the original books, like the woman in white, Bloody Mary, the Hook Man, and the scarecrow. One girl wore a sleek little black dress and red contact lenses. Best as Meg could tell from a cursory prod with her senses, none were demons.

The interior of the convention center was well lit, with sleek, unobtrusive carpets and stalls lining the walls. One vendor was selling replicas of Mary Winchester’s hunter charm bracelet. Another vendor sold replicas of the Colt, angel blades, and Ruby’s knife. Yet another vendor was selling familiar denim patches with all manner of protective sigils on them.

“Registration table’s that way,” Leanne said, pointing.

In the center of the room, two men, both dressed like hunters, one tall and slender, the other short and stocky, were keeping tabs on a cash box, sign-in sheets, and what looked like a raffle jar.

“Thanks a bunch,” Meg said. “Hopefully we’ll see you around.”

It was Leanne’s turn to wink. “Yeah. We’ll get our Megstiel on.” Then, with her voice gruff like she had strep, she said, “Let’s go, Dean.”

Stephanie waved, and the two of them plunged into a crowd of flannel and leather jackets.

Meg stepped up to the table and had to tug Benny with her. “Hey,” she said, “we didn’t have a chance to buy tickets online. Got really late notice of the event. We were out of range of civilization for longer than we’d have liked.” She flashed the tall one, Barnes, a smile.

“No problem,” he said. “We have enough tickets left for you and your –”

“Cousin,” Meg said. She elbowed Benny. He smiled weakly.

Barnes looked him up and down, whistled. “That’s the best Benny get-up I’ve seen all night.” Then he eyed Meg. “Wo are you supposed to be?”

“A demon,” she said.

“Oh.” His disappointment was obvious. After all that juicy Meg fanfiction out there, was this the response she was going to get all convention long?

“Figured it was a little too dark to be wearing the black contacts,” Meg said. “I’ll put them in tomorrow.”

Benny cast her a warning look. She ignored him.

“Right on,” Barnes said. “Good call. I’ve seen a couple of Megs and Rubys walk into stuff tonight. That’ll be a hundred bucks for the pair of you.”

Meg forked over the money without blinking.

Barnes handed them both convention passes and programs. “There’s a breakfast panel tomorrow with a question-and-answer session for a rep from the publishing house, Becky Rosen, and a couple of people who met Carver Edlund at the first convention. After that, panels happen on the hour every other hour. Between the panels are the elimination rounds for the Quiz Bowl. Sign up in teams of four.”

Meg scanned the sign-in sheets. “Sign up over here?”

Barnes nodded. “There’s a sheet for teams of four and also anyone else less than four willing to be combined into teams. Check back here tomorrow morning after the breakfast panel for your team assignments.”

Benny scanned their surroundings, winced when he spotted two boys, one dressed as him, one dressed as Dean, standing close. Romantically close. “Quite the set-up you got here. Must take a lot to run it.”

“We’ve had a great team this year,” Barnes said. He lit up. “Cool accent!”

The growl that rose in the back of Benny’s throat was inaudible to most human ears. Meg’s ears were, luckily, demon-enhanced.

“Thanks,” Benny muttered.

“If you have any questions and can’t find me or Damian, feel free to ask Alex or Sharon or anyone else wearing a staff badge.” Barnes pointed to another table where two girls, one short and mousy-haired, the other tall and blonde, were guarding what looked like a collector’s edition of the original Supernatural books. The short girl was reading something on an ebook reader while the tall girl was poking at her smart phone.

“Awesome.” Meg reached out, scrawled her and Benny’s aliases on the quiz bowl sign-up list, and flashed Barnes another smile. Then she turned, pocketing the programs with one hand and catching Benny’s elbow with the other, and dragged him over to the vendor table where some of Claire’s patches were being sold.

According to the vendor sign, Patches by Clairestiel were designed and hand-stitched by a dedicated fan and being sold for five dollars a patch, eighteen for four patches. There were anti-possession charms, angel banishing sigils, devil’s traps, symbols from all the major religions of the world and a few minor ones, and then a whole host of actual anti-demon and anti-angel Enochian wards.

Meg was impressed at Claire’s fluency in Enochian. A talent left over from her stint as Clairestiel, perhaps? She smiled at the brown-haired girl behind the counter who was avidly devouring a paperback copy of “Bad Day at Black Rock.” “Are you Clairestiel? These are really impressive.”

The girl lifted her head, and Meg immediately recognized the demon behind her eyes. “Ah, no,” the girl said. “I’m just the merchant. Someone else makes them. I sell them.” Meg knew the girl behind the glasses and deliberately scruffy hair.

“What’s your name?”

“Abby.” She pushed her glasses up her nose. They glinted with an unusual sheen. Ah. Bathed in holy fire. Could detect hellhounds.

“I’m Rachel.” Meg offered a brief, polite smile.

“Hi, Rachel.” She had the faintest tinge of an upper-crust British accent in her voice. “So, who are you supposed to be?”

“Oh, you know,” Meg said, “just a regular old demon.”

“You look like an ordinary human.”

“As do most demons.”

“That’s not much fun.”

“Black eyes at night are an injury waiting to happen,” Meg said.

Abby winced sympathetically. “Indeed. And Benny the vampire, I presume?”

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

“Your accent is truly delightful.” Abby smiled up at him.

“So I’ve heard. Yours isn’t so bad, either.” He didn’t sound annoyed for once.

Abby cleared her throat. “Oh. I’ve been stateside so long, most people don’t even notice. They think I’m from Canada or something. But thank you. Any patches you’re particularly interested in?”

“Not sure yet,” Meg said. “There are so many to choose from.” She reached out, fingered an anti-angel ward. It wasn’t very effective on its own, but with two or six others, it would make the wearer invisible to any angel and any prayers inaudible. “How does Clairestiel design these?”

“I think some of them she looked up in the Key of Solomon,” Abby said, nodding at some of the devil’s traps. “The others...I don’t know. Just artistic flair, I guess. Like the Hunter’s Marks from The Mortal Instruments series, you know?”

Meg hummed vague agreement, though she didn’t know anything about any mortal instruments. “I’ll have to think about it,” she said. “You want any?” she asked Benny.

“I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” he said, unnerved by Meg and Abby’s sudden focus on him.

Abby pushed her glasses higher up her nose. “Well, the anti-possession and devil’s traps are always the best place to start. Maybe the angel-banishing sigil as more of a reference tool. I could cut you a deal, three for ten.”

Benny glanced at Meg and then, with challenge in his eyes, said, “Deal.” He fished a ten out of his wallet.

Abby wrapped the patches in tissue paper, tucked them into a paper bag with twine handles, and deposited the cash in a little cash box. “Enjoy,” she said.

“I will.”

“It was nice meeting you, Abby,” Meg said. “We’ll probably be back for more.”

“Thanks,” said Abby. “It was nice meeting you, too.”

Benny said to Meg, “Where next?”

“I want to look at the replicas of Ruby’s knife.” Meg tugged on his sleeve. That booth was about as far from the Clairestiel patch booth as they could get.

She and Benny hung back from the crowd of shoppers so as to avoid being reeled in with a sales pitch. “Found her,” Meg said.

“Already?” Benny glanced over his shoulder. “Who?”

“Abby,” Meg said.

Benny’s brow furrowed. “Abby? Why would she sell anti-demon protection?” He darted a glance at her out of the corner of his eye.

“That’s an excellent question, isn’t it?” Meg said. “We’d better keep scouting around, check for any back up she might have.”

“Weren’t those the patches Claire makes? Claire’s working with a demon?”

Meg raised her eyebrows at him. “And?”

“Well, fine, she’s working with you, but you and she have a vested interest in a common goal.” Benny rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “What if Abby is a demon like you? Claire would probably be mad if we killed another one of her friends.”

“Then let’s find out if she’s a friend,” Meg said. She dug her cell phone out of her pocket. “Outside.”

They passed what looked like a crowd of Sams as they stepped into the chilly October night. They ducked around the corner for privacy, Benny keeping watch with his epic vampire senses while Meg made the call.

“What’s up, Holy Roller?”

“Just got done with marine fu.” Claire sounded winded. “How’s it going?”

“We’re at the Supernatural convention. I saw some of your patches on sale.”

“I feel like I’m selling out, but fans pay way more than hunters ever would. Getting actual cash out of them is a nightmare.” Claire’s voice was mixed in with the sounds of traffic. Was she walking home? “Besides, the fans have some real protection now.”

The traffic turned into crowds of people. She was headed for a metro station.

“How did you arrange for someone to be in your place?” Meg asked.

“A fan from LJ who liked my Etsy store and Tumblr account,” Claire said. “Her name’s Abby. Online handle’s English Rose. She’s kinda new to the fandom, but pretty nice. Why?”

“Met her. Was curious. So she’s read your blog?”

“Yeah. That’s how we became friends,” Claire said. “She’s new at the fanfic thing and had questions about writing back-story for an otherwise minor character. Her character of choice is Bela Talbot.”

“Of course it is,” Meg muttered.

“What does that mean?” Claire’s voice was staticky; she was probably underground.

“She is Bela Talbot,” Meg said.

What?

“What did you think became of people who sold their souls to demons? That they went to Heaven?” Meg sighed. “She probably read your blog and realized, like me, that you’re the real deal. Did you contact her or did she contact you first?”

“She contacted me first.” Claire’s voice was faint, though whether that was from poor signal or shock Meg couldn’t tell.

“Did she ever ask you questions about KTAP?”

“...Yes.”

“All right.” Damn, damn, double damn, triple damn, all the multiple damns in the world. “We’ll get you your final ingredient.”

“Are you sure Abby’s...?”

“Abby is Bela’s real name.”

Benny cleared his throat warningly. Their privacy was about to be compromised.

“I have to go. We’ll handle this. Put up a few extra wards just to be safe.” Meg hung up and pocketed her phone.

The group of Sams came careening around the corner, laughing wildly. Most of them sounded drunk.

“What’s the news?” Benny asked.

“Let’s wait for Abby,” Meg said. “Come on. We should find a motel room to crash in, and then we’ll come back when registration has ended. It’ll give us time to build our demon bombs.”

“And we’ll use them on her?”

“We’ll question her first,” Meg said. “On second thought, who needs a motel room? What we need is a storage locker.”

“Why a storage locker?”

“Isolated, quiet. We can torture someone if need be. And it’s not like either of us need to sleep.”

Benny looked her up and down. “Your mind is a scary place.” Then he held up a hand. “And I swear, if you say, ‘hi, I’m Meg, I’m a demon’ one more time, I will –”

“Like Dean,” Meg said, “I trained under Alistair. Unlike Dean, I do whatever it takes to get what I want.”



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