[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-Two



“Did you get anything?” Benny was slathering on sunscreen heavily just in case, even though they were going to be inside most of the time.

“Nothing,” Meg said. “We should head over to the convention and keep an eye on Sharon.”

“Anything you plan participating in besides the quiz bowl?” Benny asked. “So we fit in and all.”

“Maybe a few panels,” Meg said. “Our friend Abby is presenting on ‘Feminism and the Female Gaze in Supernatural’. I’m sure you’d be so very enlightened about the homoerotic subtext in the series.”

Benny bared his teeth at her in a scowl.

She laughed. “Fine! Fine. I’ll stop beating a dead horse. Let’s go.”

They had to leave the storage locker quietly, but rather than trying to sneak past the office manager, Meg blinked them back to the car, and they drove to the campus once more. The guest parking lot had more ‘67 Chevy Impalas than any one Chevy dealer must have had in 1967, all of them black and gleaming and with various Supernatural-related vanity plates.

“How no one caught onto them and their father after all these years driving around in one of those beasts remains a mystery to me,” Benny said, shaking his head.

Meg chuckled. “They got wise for a hot minute and put Baby in a corner, but Dean couldn’t leave her for long. You know, I actually got to drive her once.”

“How did that go?”

“I crashed her.”

Benny’s eyebrows flew up to his hairline. “And Dean didn’t kill you?”

Meg shrugged. “I was busy getting kidnapped by Crowley’s minions and he was busy riding some Dick down to Purgatory.”

“Right. You left that detail out last time.” Benny eyed the convention banner flapping over the door in the stiff autumn breeze. “Think that Abby-Bela girl will try to double-cross us?”

“Without a doubt,” Meg said. “She’s running something bigger than just hiding from Crowley and paying Sharon back for her coyote services.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Somehow she managed to either resurrect or replicate her original human body. It might explain why she uses her original name instead of her business alias.” Meg trotted up the steps to the convention center, Benny on her heels. “The longer a demon’s a demon, the less they remember about their former selves. For some demons, however, who they were as mortals might be something of a status symbol even after they make the transition. Being able to restore or replicate a demon’s original body – or for that matter, any body the demon so chooses – is a valuable trade secret.”

Benny nodded. “I can see that. Replicating a body with especially strong psychic gifts – would that be profitable to a demon?”

“Perhaps. Even more profitable would be, say, replicating Sam Winchester and then springing Lucifer from his cage, or replicating Dean or Adam and cutting a deal with the angels for some serious immunity.” Meg took a deep breath. “Bela might have found a way to jump-start the Apocalypse.”

“Third time’s the charm and all that,” Benny said. “Should we tell someone about this?”

Meg shook her head, let a smirk spread across her features. “No need. We’ll handle this ourselves. While I do think Abby will try to double-cross us, I don’t think she’ll succeed. I think she’ll double-cross Sharon too, though, and that would most likely play in our favor.”

“A demon in Omaha was trying to make a new Antichrist. This demon potentially has the means to jump-start the Apocalpyse: Round Three.” Benny looked at Meg askance. “Shouldn’t we be doing something more than...”

“Than restoring one third of the Team Free Will that averted the previous Apocalyptic episode?”

Benny considered this for a moment, and they stepped into the convention center. The crowds around the vendor booths were thin, but then there were panels going on.

“Do you want to go listen to the people who’ve met Carver Edlund in person?” Meg asked. She wondered if the breakfast offered at the panel was any good.

“I get that Castiel, Dean, and Sam averted the last Apocalypse,” Benny said, “but they’re not the same people. Dean and Sam don’t really trust each other, and Castiel – he’s made a lot of choices since then that make Dean not trust him much, either. Taking on the Apocalypse is a tough thing. Can they do it a second time?”

“We could pull a Season Seven Buffy and recruit a bunch of hunter hopefuls, build our own army,” Meg said. She scanned the crowds of flannel-clad young women – and a few random young men – and wondered which ones would, if presented with appropriate evidence, roll with the punches and join in a massive hunt. “Maybe we don’t need the Winchesters after all.”

“Would we need Castiel?”

“Why would you say no to your own Full Throttle Angel?”

Benny scanned the room, nudged Meg when he spotted Abby at Clairestiel’s booth. She nodded in acknowledgment and scanned the crowd for Sharon.

Sharon was standing outside the double doors leading to the main lecture hall where the breakfast panel was going on, for gold pass holders only. Alex was at her elbow, armed with a clipboard and pen and checking the badge passes of everyone who came to the doors. Meg pursed her lips. How best to get Sharon alone? Meg and Benny were both armed with their human-seeming hex bags and the demon ichor special bombs. They could attack quickly.

Meg nudged Benny, about to whisper so only his vampire ears could hear it, when Leanne called out.

“Rachel! Ty! Guess what?” She hurried across the room, grinning and beaming and utterly un-Castiel-like. She looked rather more like Jimmy, or perhaps that Misha person from Bizarro Earth (Meg still wasn’t entirely convinced that episode wasn’t fanfiction that sneaked under the radar).

“Leanne! Hey.” Meg smiled, open and friendly.

Benny winced. Meg stomped on his ankle. He elbowed her in the ribs.

“What’s up?” Meg asked.

“Stephanie and I are your quiz bowl partners!” Leanne beamed. “Isn’t that so awesome? We need to think of a cool team name.”

“Benny and the Jets,” Meg said without missing a beat.

“I like it!” Leanne grinned up at Benny, fluttered her eyelashes. “What do you think? Ready to be captain of this ship?”

Meg swallowed down a gurgle of laughter at Benny’s very cornered expression.

“Sure,” he said, gamely attempting nonchalance. “I don’t think I’ll be doing our team much good, but I don’t mind helping out where I can.”

“Where’s Stephanie?” Meg asked.

Leanne pointed to where a cluster of Dean-esque figures were crowded around Abby’s booth.

Abby lifted her head, caught Meg’s gaze pointedly. Then she nodded briefly in Sharon’s direction.

Sharon and Alex were speaking to Damian, all of them wearing serious expressions. Getting Sharon alone just got even more difficult.

“When does the quiz bowl start?” Meg asked.

“Right after this panel. Once that hall clears out, we take over,” Leanne said. She pointed at Sharon. “I think she’s in charge of it all. Only she knows what the super awesome grand prize is.”

“Not the boxed set of the original series?” Meg asked, remembering seeing Alex and Sharon guarding precisely that prize the night before.

Stephanie’s eyes lit up. “That would be awesome!”

Benny eyed Sharon, appraising and assessing. “How, exactly, does the whole quiz bowl thing work?”

Leanne wrinkled her nose; she was deliberately playing obtuse. She was two seconds from hanging off of Benny’s arm and feigning a dramatic swoon, wasn’t she? “Maybe we should ask one of the organizers. Maybe...Barnes?”

Meg nudged Benny. “Tall one. Crane your neck and search.”

Benny rolled his eyes. “I’m not really that tall. Have you ever stood next to Sam?”

Meg stared up at him, unamused. “Did you just complain about being not tall? Shut up and do your job.”

Benny had the gall to reach out and ruffle her hair like she was some kind of child. Leanne laughed, and Meg realized she must have been pouting. Finally Benny obliged her and searched the crowd.

“Barnes is over there.” He pointed across the main floor.

“Let’s go,” Leanne said. She caught Benny by the wrist and tugged him. He was too startled to resist. Meg followed along, smirking to herself at his obvious discomfort. They found Barnes standing behind one of the empty vendor booths that was purporting to sell hunter gear. He was in deep conversation with a man who looked like a genuine hunter. Not a costume-clad youth but an older, tired, gritty man who had seen real action. He and Barnes were engrossed in a heated argument, with much gesticulation and angry frowns.

“Take it or leave it,” Barnes said. “It’s not as easy to come by as you think. Not all of us are petty criminals.”

The hunter bared his teeth in a snarl.

Leanne, who’d looked delighted, paused and drew up short, glancing between the two men in alarm.

“You calling me a petty criminal?” the hunter demanded.

Barnes shook his head, sighed. “That’s not what I meant. What I meant is that I come by my supplies legitimately, and that makes my product more secure, but also more expensive. So can you meet my price or not?”

“This is highway robbery,” the hunter grumbled, but he fished in his wallet for some cash. He shoved it at Barnes, who fumbled it for a moment, but then he pocketed the cash and handed the hunter a box of ammo. Silver ammo, Meg guessed. Getting good, bullet-worthy silver on the cheap was difficult unless one was willing to stoop to illegal means.

The hunter, clearly discomfited by his audience, hid the box somewhere in his bulky jacket, and turned to go.

Benny froze. It was Grandpa hunter, from back in Lebanon.

Meg froze. The hunter stared at her for a long moment.

Then he said, “Christo.”

Meg flinched like she’d been shocked, but the hex bag must have held, because confusion crossed the hunter’s face. No black eyes, then.

“Sorry,” he muttered, and he hurried away.

Benny watched him go, gaze laser-focused.

Leanne beamed at Barnes. “Hey, we just found out we’re a team for the quiz bowl. Whole bunches of teams have signed up. How do eliminations work?”

Barnes, who’d been eyeing Meg warily, broke out of his suspicious stupor. “Sorry! I haven’t finished posting the brackets yet. Teams face off in pairs. Single elimination. We tried to seed the brackets as fairly as possible based on the performances of those who competed last year.”

“Awesome! Thanks,” Leanne said. She tugged on Benny’s wrist again. “Let’s go find Stephanie.”

Stephanie emerged from the crowd around Abby’s booth with a brown paper bag full of patches. She fished one out of the bag and held it up to her left shoulder. It looked like a bloody hand print. “Check it out! I totally scored the last one.”

“We are so going to win this quiz bowl,” Leanne told her.

Stephanie looked down at where Leanne was hanging off of Benny’s arm, then up at Benny’s cautious expression. “What makes you say that?”

“Not because of me,” Benny said, raising one hand in surrender.

“We did really lousy last year, so they’ll expect us to do lousy this year. We’ll totally be dark horses.” Leanne’s expression turned gleeful.

“Always glad to be a horse of a different color,” Meg said.

Stephanie looked confused at the allusion. Meg caught Benny’s gaze, and he sighed.

Meg didn’t care how well they did so long as they caught Sharon alone. As Barnes’s explanation of the inner workings of the quiz bowl wore on, Meg realized that to catch Sharon alone, they would either have to stake out the restroom – or win. Lesser staff were running the questions on the elimination rounds while Sharon coordinated the points and brackets, Alex ever by her side.

If Meg weren’t doing this favor for Claire and an angel, she wouldn’t have hesitated to dismiss the trouble of Alex’s presence as collateral damage. As it was, Benny hadn’t fed in a few days. He needed to take an excursion to the local hospital for sustenance, and Meg couldn’t make a move without him.

When the first panel ended in a round of enthusiastic applause, Meg and Benny kept close to their quiz bowl teammates. Meg scanned the crowd for other demons. She wondered if Abby, now aware of Meg’s human-seeming hex bags, was just as wary of other demons hidden in the crowd. Meg saw none, and Benny didn’t seem to sense anything amiss either, but Meg did notice the spasm that crossed his face when he saw another girl cosplaying as him, the beautiful dark-haired girl at his side likely Andrea. More than one person had black contacts in to play demons. Meg had vaguely considered letting her eyes show, but as it turned out, no one would see them while she was wearing her hex bag, and she wasn’t taking it off.

Once the lecture hall was cleared, the other break-out sessions were announced, and some of the lesser convention staff scurried through the rows, straightening chairs and picking up trash. Sharon remained firmly ensconced between Barnes and Alex. Abby actually abandoned her post, letting another member of the convention staff take over, and she sauntered toward them.

“How do you fancy your chances at winning this thing?” She tucked her hands into her pockets, posture innocuous, tone innocently inquiring.

“Pretty good,” Stephanie said. “Leanne and I have been studying since the last convention quiz bowl.”

“I see.” Abby cast Benny and Meg pointed looks. “How do you think your teammates will fare?”

“Not sure,” Stephanie said, “but I figure they’ll help us out. Right, guys?”

“Like I said, I’m just a warm body filling a seat.” Benny shrugged.

The corner of Abby’s mouth curved upward in amusement. “Yeah. Sure. Warm.”

“I’ve read all the books,” Meg said, “and I have a decent memory. I’ll pull my weight.”

“How goes the patch business?” Benny asked.

“Briskly,” Abby replied. “Clairestiel will be glad of the profit I have turned for her.” The double entendre in her words and the gleam in her eye were lost on Stephanie and Leanne, who cast uneasy looks at Benny and Meg. Meg and Benny shrugged off the pointed humor as if they didn’t get it, either.

“I’m glad something useful, like protection, is what’s selling,” Meg said, and Stephanie and Leanne snickered at the unintentional – and juvenile – pun.

From the front of the room, Barnes announced the first round of contestants. “Benny and the Jets versus Team Impala!”

Leanne’s eyes lit up. “That’s us!” She dragged Benny to the front of the room. The other two exchanged amused glances and followed.

The elimination round was just that – to eliminate teams efficiently. All the questions were softballs, fairly well-known pieces of information – the brothers’ birthdays, make and model of the car, their parents’ names, Sam’s girlfriend’s names. Winning had less to do with knowledge of trivia; the questions were less trivial and more to do with information one could learn from a single reading of the canon series. Winning was more about grace under pressure - who could answer quickly and not get flustered when all eyes were on them.

Benny surprised himself and his teammates with the pieces of trivia he knew, and he ducked his head, embarrassed (he was too undead to blush). Abby watched from the back of the room, arms crossed over her chest, expression calculating. Team Impala put up a good fight, but Benny and Meg had inhuman reflexes, which paid off with those buzzers.

As soon as their elimination heat was done – ten minutes of rapid-fire questions – Meg headed to the back of the hall to talk to Abby.

“Have you learned anything new about the current prophet?” she asked.

“Nothing more than I told you last night,” Abby said. She was angled toward Meg and gesticulating like she was discussing portions of the most recent quiz challenge. “But with the profit I’m turning for Clairestiel, I expect she’ll be fairly quick to trust me. We should know her location by the end of the convention.”

“And you’ll tell me straight away?” Meg asked.

Abby nodded. She was lying. She’d tell whoever could give her the biggest payday.

“Could you do something else for me?” Meg asked.

“Do what?”

Meg leaned in, lowered her voice. “Could you tell me how you did it?”

Abby stepped back a hair, expression wary. “How I did what?”

“How you got your original body back.”

Abby went utterly still.

“Or did you just replicate it?”

Abby didn’t say a word, didn’t move a muscle.

“Because if you could replicate me a vessel – say, the ultimate in demonic vessels – I could pay you well.”

Abby recovered enough to reply, tone smooth and unflappable. “How well is well? Because what you’re asking is worth more than all the money in the world.”

Meg said, “What about an angel’s grace?”

Abby stared at her. “How could you...? Not Castiel’s.”

Meg held her gaze, unmoving.

Abby swallowed hard. “And they call me cold and opportunistic.” She looked Meg up and down, appraising, calculating. For that price, Abby would get Meg anything she wanted. Was Abby smart enough to realize that an angel’s grace was like his soul, and if it were tortured like a soul, it could become a demonic weapon with power beyond current comprehension?

Before Meg could say more, Benny put a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, cousin. I’m going to duck out for a snack. I’ll be back in time for the next round of the quiz bowl.”

“A snack?” Abby raised her eyebrows. “Don’t you mean a drink?”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” Benny said, refusing to rise to the bait.

Leanne giggled and swatted him on the arm. “You’re so funny! And so good at staying in character.”

Benny cast Meg an aggrieved look, then turned and ducked out of the room.

“I’d better get back to my booth,” Abby said. “Good luck in the quiz bowl tournament. And about that offer you made – if you’re serious, come by and tell me more.” She held Meg’s gaze for a moment, then spun away and left the lecture hall.

“Offer?” Stephanie asked.

“For some custom patches,” Meg said. She smiled briefly, not quite nicely. “So, where are you two headed next?”

“We’re going to the next panel,” Leanne said. “It’s about classism in Supernatural.”

Meg raised her eyebrows. “Classism?”

Stephanie nodded. “Haven’t you ever noticed? All of the hunters, the fighters, the heroes, they’re all half-educated, blue collar. The demons and angels always wear perfectly tailored suits, except for the ambiguous ones, like Meg and Castiel. Sam had to give up education and a good life to hunt, as did Kevin to embrace his calling as a prophet.” Leanne wrinkled her nose. “It’s a little condescending, in its own way. Choose: heroism and a life of bravery or cowardice and a life of undeserved comfort. Money is evil and poverty is good. Being book-smart is laziness, softness, and being uneducated and proud of it is masculine, strong.”

“I’d never noticed that,” Meg said. She’d figured Crowley and the angels were mostly vain, if anything, given the vessels they picked. She picked her vessels because they were pretty. Hands down Sam had been the prettiest, but she preferred girls. But then she didn’t see the Supernatural books as a literary world with themes to be explored. The world was actually Supernatural. Her world, at any rate.

“It’ll be really interesting,” Leanne said earnestly. “We can save you a seat if you want.”

“No, but thanks,” Meg said. “I need some fresh air.”

“Okay. See you at the next round.” Stephanie waved, and she and Leanne departed.

What Meg needed to do was watch Sharon and wait. And she needed to call Claire while she was on her lunch break. Meg left the building and strode away from it till she was out of earshot of the majority of the convention attendees. She settled under a broad, shady tree – unlike Benny, she could enjoy the sun instead of constantly reapplying sunblock – and dialed.

“Hey, Meg.” Claire sounded surprisingly chipper and unharried.

“Hey to you, too, Featherby.”

“What’s up?”

“Got a lead on a demon,” Meg said. “We haven’t made our move yet because the demon has some information, and I need to know what it is, how far it’s spread before I can do my thing.”

“What kind of information?”

“Actually,” Meg said, “there are two demons. One is after you – or rather, the current prophet who she thinks is you. I suspect the other may or may not be trying to jump-start the Apocalypse.”

“What?” Claire hissed.

“Are you the current prophet?”

“No!”

“Well, protect yourself extra, and tell her to do the same,” Meg said. “I need to find out what both demons are up to, and then I can end them. I might have to end a few more while I’m at it.”

“Be careful,” Claire said. “I’ll take extra care and warn the prophet to do the same. How’s Benny?”

“Covered in sunblock, grumpy, and surprisingly full of Supernatural trivia.”

“Tell him hi for me,” Claire said. “I’d better go.” There was a pause, and then a muffled, “Hi, Joey.” It was sweet, flirtatious.

Meg couldn’t help the gleeful grin that crossed her face. “Claire, are you talking to a boy?”

“Bye,” Claire said pointedly, and then to someone else, muffled, “You look pretty great yourself,” and the call ended.

Huhn. Claire Novak. Flirting with boys. She was already in college – talk about being a late bloomer. What would Jimmy Novak have to say about that? Or perhaps, more amusingly, what would Castiel have to say?

Meg pocketed her cell phone, stood up, and stretched. When she stepped back into the convention center, Sharon and Abby were in the middle of an intense conversation, and Sharon cast several piercing glances in Meg’s direction. If this were high school, Meg would have suspected Sharon and Abby of plotting to have the most popular boy in school ask her to prom so they could empty a bucket of pig’s blood all over her. But this wasn’t high school, and Meg was immensely glad she kept her backpack full of weapons with her at all times. Was Abby selling Meg and Benny down the river, or was Sharon one of the rare smart demons?

Before Meg could wander over to Sharon and introduce herself and start fishing for information, a blonde girl wearing a yellow leather jacket similar to one Meg had once worn sauntered up to her.

“Hi! You’re a Meg, right?”

Meg blinked at her. And then she realized what the girl meant. “Yes. I’m Meg 2.0. You make a pretty good 1.0.”

The girl beamed, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Thanks! Most people don’t seem to get who I am, but I just can’t wear contacts, especially not those all-black ones. I’m Nina, by the way.”

“Rachel.” Meg shook Nina’s proffered hand. “Demons aren’t just about black eyes, and Meg especially has a character all her own. I think a really good cosplayer can demonstrate she’s Meg without stumbling into things blindly because of those contacts.”

“I know, right? Meg’s amazing. Powerful. Sexy, but smart and dangerous, and assertive.” Nina nodded earnestly. “When I first read the books, I totally hated Meg, although I wouldn’t have minded tying Sam up and climbing on his lap, if you know what I mean.”

“I do,” Meg said.

“But at the end, in ‘Goodbye Stranger,’ I was actually sad to see her go.” Nina sighed. “I know a lot of people think Meg 2.0 is non-canon and that she was portrayed pretty out-of-character, but I don’t think that’s true. She had character development. In the earlier books, she was helping Azazel, and then she was on a revenge kick, but by the time she got past that and Lucifer rose, she had a cause. She had a definite arc, and I really appreciated that. Not many female characters in Supernatural have the same nuance, you know?”

Meg nodded. “So true.”

Nina looked young, maybe in her very early twenties, and earnest, fresh-faced. Like the original Meg Masters. She grinned, expression sly. “So, Megstiel. Do you ship it?”

“Totally,” Meg said. “It’s not cliché. It’s canon.” But she remembered, briefly, standing in Jimmy Novak’s kitchen and making dinner for Claire. She remembered Jimmy’s hands on her waist, his lips on her throat. She pushed that aside.

“The whole demon-angel thing is a little cliché,” Nina said. “I kinda like to ship Sam/Meg. You know? She was inside of him. She knows him better than anyone.”

“By that token,” Meg said, “you could ship Sam/Gadreel or even Sam/Crowley.” One day, Sam would know she’d participated in this conversation. She might as well give him something to remember.

“Not entirely. Maybe Gadreel, given how long he was in Sam,” Nina said. “But not Sam/Crowley. That’s too short. Of course, there are the rare fans on Team Samifer.”

It took Meg a moment to puzzle out that ship portmanteau, and she managed not to shudder. Even though she’d given up supporting Lucifer in the end – because he’d lost – she was still a demon, and Ruby had been right: there was something one could call Demon Sunday School. And she’d never be able to imagine Lucifer having something resembling a lover. Physical lovers, yes, but not...not what she thought of Castiel. Sam had been through a Hell not even Meg wanted to imagine, and at least half of that was at Lucifer’s hands. Some things could not be turned into romance, and some things should not be.

But she also knew the power of being able to turn one into the other.

“Does anyone ship Adam/Michael, do you know?” Meg asked.

“I don’t know,” Nina confessed. “I’ve never really looked.” She paused, waved at someone over Meg’s shoulder. “Do you think, now that Castiel is human, Meg would still be interested in him?”

Once again, Meg saw that dream kitchen, that dream man standing in the doorway, heard the mortal lightness in his voice, remembered thinking he was Castiel. “I think so,” she said.

Nina wrinkled her nose. “Really? No way! Meg’s too badass for that. Cas as a human is –”

“A baby in a trenchcoat?”

Nina laughed. “Exactly. Oooh, hey, second round of the quiz bowl is starting soon. I saw you and your team. Good luck! We’re rooting for you.”

“Thanks.” Meg glanced at her watch. Where was Benny?

Nina waved and headed over to a group of other girls dressed as some of the female characters. Meg thought she recognized Jo, Tamara, and Tessa the Reaper. She even thought she saw someone who might be Bela, and she wondered what Abby thought of all the cheap imitations. Not much, when she could replicate the real people.

A hand came down on Meg’s shoulder.

She turned, one hand coming to brush off the stranger, other hand going for her blade.

Benny said, “Where are my Jets?” He grinned. He had a fresh coat of sunblock on and looked chipper.

“How much did you drink?” Meg asked quietly.

“Enough.” He turned and scanned the crowd. Moments later, Leanne and Stephanie arrived. Leanne was hanging off of Benny’s arm before Meg could even say hello.

Alex was the quiz master for the second round of eliminations. Again, Abby hovered in the back of the room and watched.

“This round will test your knowledge of pop culture!” Alex crowed, and the crowd cheered.

Benny cast Meg a nervous look. Leanne and Stephanie were practically thrumming with excitement. Meg was leery. What did pop culture have to do with Supernatural? It had everything to do with the aliases Sam and Dean chose. Meg suspected the majority of them were chosen by Dean.

Alex named a pair of aliases, and teams had to correctly guess where the aliases hailed from. For a man who liked old jazz and blues and had taken a shine to Norah Jones, Benny knew a surprising amount about classic rock and metal.

The other team was stumped on who Lenny Kilmister was, but Benny successfully identified him as the bassist and lead singer of the band Motorhead. Meg stared at him in shock. Benny also knew Fisher and Wilson were from Heart, Michaels and Deville were from Poison, and that Saul Hudson was Slash’s real name. Leanne cleaned house on any aliases that hailed from movies, like Die Hard and Beverly Hills Cop.

Everything was going swimmingly – Team Sam’s Laptop was going down, and not even swinging – till they ran into pop music.

“Spears and Aguilera?”

Benny looked confused.

Team Sam’s Laptop chimed in with 90’s pop princesses.

“Banner and Stark?”

Team Sam’s Laptop chimed in with Marvel Comics characters.

“Agent Leiter?”

Silence reigned. Stephanie and Meg fixed their gazes on Leanne, who shrugged. Leanne nudged Benny. He shook his head, threw his hands up.

Alex peered at Team Sam’s Laptop, four girls all cosplaying as variations of Sam – Samifer, Sam Wesson, Hunter, and Agent – and they shook their heads. Alex looked out at the crowd where plenty of others were waving raised hands.

It was Abby who called out, in her crisp accent, “Felix Leiter, the CIA Agent who was a recurring character in James Bond films.”

Leanne groaned and let her forehead drop to her hands. “Bond. I totally spaced it.”

“Most of us didn’t watch old Bond movies growing up,” Stephanie said.

“I never watched them, either,” Benny said.

“But you’re older than us,” Leanne protested.

Meg laughed. “You have no idea. But Benny’s not much one for movies, though, are you?”

“Not unless Dean mentioned them while we were trawling Purgatory,” Benny said.

Stephanie blinked at him. “Wait. You blanked on that answer because you’re in character?”

“No,” Meg said, “he blanked on that answer because he has boring taste in media. Good showing there on the classic rock, though, cousin.”

The cousin was a sharp reminder of who they were supposed to be.

Benny grinned and said, “You know Dean, always looking to educate people in his musical ways.”

Before an argument could really ensue, Nina and Abby came to congratulate them. Once again, Abby’s gaze was pointed; also, her handshake was literally cold. She wasn’t riding a human vessel, then. Stephanie and Nina fell into a conversation about their respective leather jackets and how hard it was to find leather jackets that achieved the hunter look but also looked flattering on a girl.

“So,” Abby said when Leanne and Stephanie wandered away with Nina, “I might have some information for you.”

Meg glanced at Benny, who nodded. Abby started to lead them away, then paused.

“Sorry. Duty calls. Meet me before the next round, all right?” She sounded distracted, her gazed fixed on someone in the crowd near her booth; Meg couldn’t quite tell who Abby was looking at, but then she was gone.

As soon as she was out of demonic earshot – Meg had taught Benny the difference between human, demon, vampire, and angelic earshot – Benny said, “She’s going to stab us in the back, isn’t she?”

“She’s a demon,” Meg said. “Do you really have to ask?”

Benny looked at her. “Would you stab me in the back?”

“Depends,” Meg said. “Would you be trying to kill me?”

“I can’t say I’d never try, because that’s a pretty long time, and you and I are most likely destined for a long time walking this dustbowl.” Benny shrugged. “But for the foreseeable future, we’re on the same team.”

“Then for the foreseeable future, I won’t stab you in the back.”

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