templemarker: the dresden files: harry looking surprised. (dresden always)
[personal profile] templemarker
Boatswain and Beetlejuice
by [personal profile] minim_calibre and [personal profile] templemarker

Notes: So a billion years ago, I wrote Supernatural, and I wrote the best of it with [personal profile] minim_calibre. This is a repost of a story that was written in 2007, when this fandom still had a hold on me. Spoilers through All Hell Breaks Loose Part II. References to "For Better or For Worse," some bad puns, manly crying, and complete exposure of Min and templemarker's soft marshmallowy underbellies. There may be LOLcat references in here. Blame Minim, she has the LOLcats sickeness. There is also one wee crossover with The Dresden Files, which will not affect the story one bit if you don't know the show. Blame templemarker, she has the crossover sickness.

***

"Dean, if you play Black Dog one more time, I swear to god, I'm going to--" Sam shuts up abruptly, and Dean looks over at him with a laugh.

"Going to what, Sam? Kill me? Kind of a waste, seeing as you only have to put up with me for 364 more days. Hey, Sammy, you think Hellhounds like Milk Bones?"

Sam glowers at him, nostrils flared, and Dean laughs again and cranks up the Zeppelin. When they stop outside of Jasper for gas, Dean goes in to pay and comes out with two bags of Cheetos, a six pack of RC Cola, and a box of dog treats, which he drops in Sam's lap just to see the look on his face, which is totally worth the $4.99, even if it is highway robbery. It puts Dean in a charitable enough mood that the next time he pops Zeppelin IV into the cassette player, he skips right to "Rock and Roll", no more "Black Dog". Can't let the joke get too old.

***


Three weeks into the 52 he's got left, Dean accidentally gets himself an honest-to-god black dog of the non-supernatural variety. Finds it loitering around a motel parking lot in Missoula, looking for handouts. The thing's ancient, muzzle more grey than black and half its teeth gone. Pretty nice for a stray, though. Was probably someone's pet back a hundred or so dog years back. Getting a dog's nowhere to be found on his half-joke of a to do list, not even in the section of things he added just to get a rise out of Sam, but he takes a liking to it, and when they leave Montana a couple of days later, the dog comes with them.

"Seriously, Dean?" is all Sam says when Dean spreads the motel towels on the backseat and helps the dog into the Impala.

"Sam, meet Bo. Bo, meet Sam."

"Bo Duke?"

"Bo Guest. Bo-guest. Get it?"

Sam looks back at the long black form stretched out on the seat, looks back at Dean. "Yeah," he says, quietly. "I get it. Bo Guest, bo-guest, barghest. Black dog. Dean, when are we going to talk about this?"

Dean shrugs, digs around in his pocket for one of the Milk Bones he picked up as a joke that first night and tosses it back to Bo. "Not tonight, Sammy. Let's get a move on." On their way out of town, they stock up on salt, butane, and Alpo. Sam can bitch all he wants, but as far as Dean's concerned, Bo's staying.

The dog takes to the Impala like it was made to stick its grizzly head out the window, tongue waving out of the corner of his mouth like a sloppy pink flag. After about a week, Sam stops complaining about the smell, the dog hair on his clothes, and the frequent pit stops, and starts lobbying for better dog treats. That stops when they find out freeze-dried liver gives Bo gas. Dean hangs three of those pine-shaped air fresheners from the rear-view and they keep the windows rolled all the way down, rain or shine, until they're willing to breathe through their noses again.


***


They're on their way to Iowa, five weeks into fifty-two. News came to them of a nightmare that sounds enough like one of the hellspawn let out on the night both of them, in a rare moment of mutual denial, refuse to talk about. It's night-time, and Sam's half-asleep when the Impala pulls over next to a grassy field, stark and empty next to the neat rows of corn and soybeans nearby. He rustles around, watching through half-slitted eyes as Dean gets out of the car, walks out to the middle of the field, and lies down. After a couple of seconds Sam gets out of the car and does the same, resting next to Dean with a quiet thud. Bo follows shortly after, doing a circle at their feet before settling down with his head on his paws.

"Number sixty-two," Dean says quietly, though he didn't have to say anything at all about the list of things he wants to do before he dies.

"Look, it's Orion," is all Sam says in response.

"We should find a place with a VCR. Maybe rent Beetlejuice. Man, that was a great movie. Ghosts were all wrong, but Geena Davis and Winona Ryder were both smokin'."

That one takes Sam a little longer than Bo did, but he gets there soon enough, which is good, seeing as Dean doesn't exactly have time on his side at the moment. "Orion. Betelgeuse. Right. I thought you hated that movie."

Dean lets out a noncommittal noise and thinks on it for a minute before answering. "Not hated, exactly. Just took a critical slant, that's all."

Sam replies with a snort; he knows all too well about Dean's history with ghost flicks.

"Look, it's bad enough that Amityville and Poltergeist made everyone so shit-scared of trickster ghosts that the damn things got four hundred times stronger off the residual fear alone. But comedy's even worse. Hell, Ghostbusters alone means that every hunter worth his salt has gotta work twice as hard to keep his rep."

"Or her salt."

"What the fuck, Sam?"

"I think Jo might want you to acknowledge equal-opportunity hunting."

"Christ, not you too, Sammy. You two been talking or something?"

Sam imitates Dean's own noncommittal noise perfectly.

"Kee-rist," Dean mutters. They fall silent under the sharp spring sky, stars laid out before them like a well-worn blanket. Their father taught them the constellations and the stories behind them, all the stories he learned himself. When they were kids, they thought it was just storytime; but later he explained the kind of rituals that might be associated with the turning of the sky. Better to know something than not.

It doesn't detract from their beauty, and Dean's fingers make sketches in the sky, illustrating the bears and the dippers and everything he can make out.

Sam watches his fingers instead of the night sky, just like he did when they were little.

They're back on the road and into week eight quick as they can. Sam and Dean are getting good, damn good, at tracking down the demon-creatures and sending them back to where they came from with a minimal amount of fuss and bloodshed. Sometimes they encounter other hunters, fewer than there used to be, who have heard something about what's going on and have pulled away from other tracking to take care of this particularly nasty problem. Sometimes they help; sometimes they don't. They've developed a reputation, different from the one they had before and the one their father had. No one's quite sure what to make of these boys for whom death keeps taking a number.

Sam thinks taking care of all the things let loose to a Wyoming sky one night is probably number one on the crumpled list Dean keeps in his pocket. But that's something they don't talk about; it's easier to just put whatever they feel into summoning and banishing another damn demon.


***


Week eleven sees them in Chicago, helping a wizard set up some territory lines for a couple local werewolf packs. It's not something they'd normally involve themselves in--hell, they'd never encountered a wizard before now, either--but the guy seems honest and friendly and is willing to put them up, and a discreet call to Bobby checks him out okay. So they run around Chicago for a week, spilling some kind of weird shit the wizard cooks up in his lab; and in between they eat a lot of deep-dish, drink a lot of beer, and trade stories with the guy. He has some that almost tops theirs.

Bo and the guy's ridiculously enormous dog Mouse sniff each other out, but before long they're butting heads and heaped together on the cool stone floor to combat the heat of a Chicago summer. The colors of their coats, black and evening-grey mixing together, turning slightly golden in the evening summer light.

The wizard sends them away with some kind of amulet for each of them, though he claps Dean on the shoulder once or twice and avoids his eyes. The sight unsettles Sam, but it doesn't seem to bother Dean.

***


Week fourteen is a good week. Week fourteen involves New York, Little Italy, and more food than either of them have eaten before in their combined lives. Which is saying something. But the woman in the back, who comes out to see these two boys who left their meal entirely up to her, pats them both roughly on the cheek and says only that they could use some meat on their bones. She has a lingering, penetrating look for Dean, as if she can read something on his soul he's worked hard to keep invisible; but he stares back unflinchingly. "Mea culpa," she says kindly, and the next thing they have plates upon plates of antipasti, a freaking vat of fettuchine, and the most tender leg of lamb Sam things thinks he has ever had, or will ever have, in his life.

Everything is sent down with bottles of red wine that their server brings without asking, and by the time they get to the cannoli, the cheese, and the limoncello, Sam is pretty sure they will have to be rolled towards their rat-trap motel. He's already thinking about the weight of the doggy bags Dean had politely asked for. Bo is going to be disgusting in the car for the next couple of days, but it's a decent price to pay for extra stuffed peppers.

When time comes to pay the bill, the server won't accept their card, and at first Sam starts getting rabbity and wonders if he does quite look enough like Ricardo Martinez today. But then he sees the chef leaning against the doorway, her pleasant face unwontedly sober, and he hustles Dean out of the place before he can see the look too. He knows a death-gift when he sees one.

***


The next two months pass in a blur of salt and symbols. They find a wealth of information from a library in California suggested by a friend of a friend of a friend. Bo learns to be quiet and unnoticeable between the stacks of books, and they spend so much time there that after awhile the librarians start to turn a kind eye to the old mutt. Inside the library there's a couple of grimoires and a demon lore book that gives them a bunch of new leads on how to track and banish the demons they've been tailing. Sam gets a quick course in Ancient Sumerian and Dean forces himself to learn calligraphy, and by the time they leave Southern California they feel more equipped to handle the damned things than they did before. Their tracking system picks up three demons between there and New Mexico, and they take them out like a well-oiled machine. Bam-bam-bam. Three down, a thousand left to go.

***


Week thirty-six finds them out on the Oregon Coast, tracking down some kind of water demon that turns out to be a sea lion with a bad temper and no fear of tourists.

"Guess he got pissed that people kept taking his bucket," Dean says. Fish and Wildlife's taken care of the rogue, so they're taking a break for a couple of days. He tosses a stick of driftwood into the surf where the waves are breaking and watches Bo trundle after it.

"That's a walrus, Dean."

"Dude. Walrus, sea lion. Close enough." Bo comes back with the stick and flops it at Dean's feet, raising his head expectantly. Dean rewards him with a scratch behind the ears, leaving his fingers smelling of old, wet dog. The damp salt air of the Pacific feels strange and foreign on his skin and in his lungs and he shifts uncomfortably on his feet, thrown again by the endless span of water.

He glances over at Sam, who's leaning up against a grey-white log, arms looped loosely over his knees, small smile at the corners of his mouth, totally at peace. Sam gives a low whistle and Bo comes trotting over to rest his head on Sammy's knees, just a boy and his dog, not a care in the word. It's good. Maybe worth a little discomfort. He settles in next to the two of them and closes his eyes against the wind.

***


It's not long after their impromptu vacation that things begin to go south, starting with a twisted ankle that leaves Dean relegated to grave digging, research, and anything else that doesn't require moving too fast. He grumbles about it, not wanting to let Sam go off alone, suggests maybe they stop hunting for a while, but Sam'll have none of it.

"Dean, don't worry about it," Sam keeps saying. "Bo's got my back."

Bo was an old dog when Dean found him, but it turns out that old saw about new tricks has less truth to it than one of their cover stories--either that, or the owner Dean's pretty sure Bo'd had back in the day had been a hunter himself. Or herself, he hears Sam remind him in his head, even though Sam's off ahead with Bo, checking out another haunted freakin' homestead in the middle of nowhere. Dustbowl made a lot of the damn things. Bo's better than an EMF detector when it comes to finding ghostly activity. Dean's not sure if Bo smells the ghosts or just hears them, but he's joked more than once that, if he could teach Bo to speak English instead of Fugly Lab Mix, they'd never have to run anything through Goldwave again.

"Any luck figuring out where this son of a bitch is buried?" he asks as Sam and Bo come trotting up.

Sam pops open the trunk, tosses a treat to Bo and a shovel and a bag of salt at Dean. "Bo's nose says we're in luck. The body should be just behind the house. I'll keep it busy, you salt and burn."

He's just got the bones uncovered when he hears Sam's startled shout. The time it takes to toss salt, butane, and a match on them feels like forever, but Dean's running before he even hears the shotgun blast and the frantic flurry of barking, to hell with his ankle. Rest of him's going there soon enough, after all. There's a growl that ends with a whimper and the sound of solid flesh hitting a wall, and it's all the worse for not even seeing it. The ghost of a kid who couldn't have been more than ten or eleven flames out as her bones burn, but Dean's only got eyes for his brother, bent over the still black form of their dog.

"Sammy?"

"He's still breathing, Dean." Sam's already crying, face a mess of snot and tears. "We can get help, get him to a vet."

Dean leans over, touches the rough coat, feels the ragged breaths and shakes his head. He's stared death in the face too many times not to know it for what it is. "Let's get him back to the car, Sam, make him comfortable." He takes off his jacket, folds it around Bo, biting down hard on the inside of his lip to keep from crying himself when he feels that warm pink tongue sloppy against his hand.

Bo's gone by the time they lay him out in the backseat. Sam's crying quietly now, Dean just sits and watches the night sky, remembering when Farley died in For Better or For Worse, and how he cried like a little bitch when he read it, locking himself in the bathroom so no one would see him. It was the first time he really realized that even normal had its fair share of pain.

They bury Bo the next morning, along with his towel and the rest of his Milk Bones.

"In this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices. Not to mention a smell that would choke a skunk, and a cast-iron stomach a goat would envy." Dean says, patting down the last of the dirt with the back of the shovel."

"Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"That's Byron." Sam sounds bewildered.

Dean coughs. "Except for the part about the skunk and the goat, yeah."

"Dean, how do you know Byron?"

"Saw that movie Gothic with Julie Westerson back in junior year. She had this thing for Julian Sands and the Romantic Poets. Man, you'd be amazed how far a little bit of research will take you."

There's an affectionate snort of laughter out of Sam, and a long pause before he speaks again. "He was trying to protect me, and I couldn't save him."

They're not talking about the dog anymore, not really. "He died knowing you were safe, Sammy. That's something."

Sam opens his mouth like he's going to say something, closes it again and swallows hard. "Yeah," he says eventually. "I guess it is."

Less than a hundred days left, not a loophole in sight, but somehow, just watching Sam--watching him breathing, living, being--Dean figures win or lose, it'll all be okay.

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