It had been almost another four hours before anything noticeable had happened. I went to get Benny another beer and five or six chairs down, sat one of our regulars, Joe. He liked pretty much everybody in the place, except me. He was a friend of Gunner’s and was under the impression I had screwed Gunner to get my job and he had no respect for women that loose.
Politely, I had two or three times tried to explain I worked for everything I had. I was preaching to a brick wall, for all he was concerned. He heard nothing I said to him or in his direction, and he refused to be served by me.
That was fine by me, because I liked him about as far as I could throw him.
But I went to get Benny his beer and ask how he was holding up, when it happened.
I popped the top on Benny’s beer and set it on the bar in front of him.
“Ya doin’ alright, darlin’?” He asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, peachy.” I told him. He gave a little smirk. “You doin’ alright?”
He nodded. “Denise is awful friendly. We had a nice little chat.”
“About nothing too serious, I hope.” I said, worrying a little bit.
“Not at all. I told her I was your boyfriend though.” He said, as if he had just told me he’d like milk on his cereal.
“You… what?” I asked, tilting my head a bit.
He made a face. “I hated to do it to her, but she was a bit friendlier than I’m used to, darlin’.” He said, looking apologetic.
I nodded. Denise had a tendency to go home with some of the bar patrons to make a little extra cash. I didn’t mind at all, as long as she kept it out of the diner. “She can be like that sometimes. I’m sorry.” I told him.
He nodded with a little bit of a grin.
“Funny. You’re the fuckin’ slut.” Joe mumbled six chairs down from Benny.
As soon as the words were out of Joe’s mouth, I could see Benny’s face deform. Oh, that was the wrong thing to say in front of a chivalrous vampire. His whole aura turned red with green at the very center. That was weird…
Before Benny could turn to him, I set my hand on his hand that was on the bar, then set my other hand on his chin, so he’d stay looking at me.
“Gentlemen don’t get in fights over silly comments.” I told him.
“Maybe I ain’t a gentleman right now.” He told me and his accent deepened.
“Oh, Benny. But you are. You always are, remember? And there’s no reason to get in a fight over something so silly as that.” I told him, giving him a little smile.
He took a deep breath as he started shaking.
“Think of the color blue. Think of a crystal blue pond in the clearing of a rich green forest.” I told him quietly and very slowly, his aura released most of the red.
“Thank ya darlin’.” Benny said, an edge still to his voice.
“You are most welcome, my handsome Cajun friend.” I told him, squeezing his hand. “Are you ok?”
He nodded, not saying anything else.
I was worried as I left him, but I couldn’t help it. I still had half an hour to my shift. I took a deep breath and stole a glance at Benny every time I could. I was halfway scared he’d threaten Joe about the comment.
And then everything fell apart. I went into the back to drop off an order for two plates of fries for a group of teenagers. Jolie, who looked incredibly flustered, came up to me with wild eyes.
“Oh God, Viv. I’m so sorry but I need you to do me a huge favor.” She said, looking like she was going to fall apart.
“Yeah, Jolie. Anything.” I told her.
“Can you take this steak out to Joe?” She asked, taking one of four plates off her tray.
I could feel my face fall, but I knew she wouldn’t be asking unless she was at the end of her rope. “Yeah, Jolie. Sure thing.” I told her, taking the overcooked steak and walking out to the bar. I came up behind Joe and set it down next to him.
“I told ya to stop serving me, whore.” Joe said, as if he was asking for another cup of coffee.
“Joe, I know you don’t like me. But could you stop calling me names like that? Just tonight. Please.” I said, feeling like I was begging.
“You’re such a goddamn slut.” He said, standing up.
His hand sliced my face before I could even see him move and the strength he put into the action knocked me off my feet. I just laid there on the floor for a minute, gathering my breath when I heard a scuffle. I looked up to see Joe with his arm twisted behind his back by Benny.
“You owe the lady an apology.” Benny said, looking as calm as always.
Joe spit at the ground in front of my feet and Benny must have tightened his grip, because Joe told him to stop. Benny loosened his grasp and Joe kind of hung his head. “I’m sorry.”
“A little bit of sincerity would be appreciated.” Benny told him, an edge to his voice.
“I’m sorry.” Joe said, sounding like he meant it.
I knew he didn’t, but Benny let him go and forced him back into his chair. “Now eat your meal and be on your way.” Benny told him, before turning to me and easily helping me off the cheap carpet. “You’re bleeding, darlin’.” He said, looking a little bit wounded.
I touched my hand to my face and pulled it away to see the red liquid on my fingers. I rushed past him into the employee bathroom at the back of the building and washed off the blood. I scrounged in the basic First Aid kit we had for a butterfly closure.
Joe’s ring must have cut my skin, because I couldn’t think of another reason for the cut. When I cleaned and dried the scratch, I put on the butterfly closure and pulled my bangs down, so you could only see the little tip of it.
I took a breath and left the bathroom. Almost instantly, Gunner found me. “Oh, Viv. I’m so sorry about Joe. Are you alright? Do you want me to kick him out?” He asked, but his words were hollow. He didn’t mean a word he said.
Gunner was the type of guy to take Denise home so he could make her feel ‘special’. He’d always had his eye on me, but I wasn’t interested. I never had been. And pity sex wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time.
“Nah. I’m fine. I’m out of here in half an hour.” I told him, moving past him to return to my tables as normal.
A few of the customers asked if I was ok and I said I was fine with a smile. It was the longest half an hour of my life. I did get quite a few tips though. Apparently being beaten and battered could work for me.
I collected my tips, paid off Benny’s tab, clocked out and met Benny at the back door. I wound my arm through his as we walked to my truck. About the time we got to the tailgate, he stopped me and turned me to face him.
He gently picked up my bangs and the feeling of his fingers brushing my skin made me close my eyes as he examined my new scar. “Might want to consider stitches.” He said quietly.
I nodded with my eyes closed. “I’ll do it when we get home.”
“You stitch yourself up?” He asked curiously.
“Well not all of us have a Dean around all the time.” I told him, opening my eyes to look at him.
His fingers lingered above my cut for a moment. “Suppose not.”
“Home?” I asked, feeling exhausted. He nodded, coming around to the driver’s side and opening my door for me. I dropped my head and smiled, before looking at him again. “You never cease to amaze.”
He shrugged. “Well, we can’t all be a Gunner.” He said sarcastically.
I walked over to him and placed my hand on his cheek. “If you ever compare yourself with that poor excuse of a human being again, I’ll shoot you.”
He smiled. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
I couldn’t help but give him a small smile as I climbed into the cab. He closed my door, went around to the other side and climbed in. I turned on the ignition and backed out of my parking space.
The ride was quiet and I couldn’t bring myself to break the silence. I didn’t even turn on the radio.
“Are you gonna tell the boys?” Benny asked.
“About what?” I asked, pulling up to the curb in front of my house.
He just sat there, making me look at him. He didn’t say anything, just gave me this frustrated look with sad eyes.
“Benny. I realize you’re a good person. But not very many people are as good as you are. And when you come across these people on a regular basis, you have to buck it up and deal with it like a big girl. You can’t go crying to your narcissistic cousins.” I told him, feeling like I was holding the flood gates back.
I didn’t want to see the look he gave me, so I slid out of the driver’s seat, taking my purse with me. I walked around the front of the rig to my walkway and my front door. I could feel Benny follow me, but my ears couldn’t pick up his movements.
I lost the purse and my keys and walked into my bedroom to get out of my work dress. I changed and heard a ruffling noise on the other side of the door. “So you won’t tell them?” Benny asked from the other side of my door.
I sighed, leaning my head against my dresser as I stood there without a shirt. “Why does it even matter?” I asked, in normal tones.
“Because there ain’t a man alive that should treat ya like that. If Dean treated ya like that, I’d kill him.” Benny said, the edge coming back to his voice.
I pulled a shirt out of the dresser at random and pulled it over my head. “No, you wouldn’t.” I called before I opened the door and walked past him into the kitchen.
He was quiet for a moment, while I grabbed the whiskey out of the fridge and took a mouthful. “No, maybe I wouldn’t. But I’d hit him.”
I nodded, holding the bottle out to him.
He took a swig and handed it back.
I took another swallow and moved past him, down the hall and made a right into the bathroom. I yanked open a drawer and pulled out a little needle and clear surgical thread.
I took one more mouthful of the honey colored liquor and a deep breath before I threaded the needle and took off the butterfly closure.
He stood there silently while I put three stitches in my face. I didn’t like the look he was giving me. I knotted the thread and cut it off, letting out a deep breath as my knees shook. I took as much whiskey into my mouth as I could and swallowed, relishing the burn of it on the way down.
I looked over at him and he was watching me carefully. I sighed, looking down at the laminate counter. “The first time a guy hit me, I was thirteen. My mom was dating her dealer. He was so strong; he turned the whole left side of my face purple. When Bobby found out, he beat the guy so bad that he had four broken ribs, a punctured lung, and his eye bled so bad, he’d be blind in it the rest of his life.” I told him, not sure why.
I looked over at him to see if he’d left or something. He just stood there.
“The first time I sewed myself up, I was sixteen. Dean had given me a lesson on sewing behind Bobby’s back. I’d started going on jobs with all of them and I’d got thrown out a window. It was the first floor, so nothing real bad. But I had this gash on my arm.” I told him, pulling up the sleeve of the t-shirt to reveal the scar that had healed rather nicely.
“It used to be six inches long, but it’s faded pretty well. It soaked my jacket in so much blood; we had to throw it away. Dean said he’d stitch me up and took me into Bobby’s garage. But he told me that a hunter is only as good as what they can walk away from. So if you couldn’t sew yourself up, you weren’t gonna walk too far.”
Benny said nothing, just listened.
I cleared my throat and looked up at him. “If I tell a Winchester that a guy is being mean to me, they end up more broken than me and nobody really deserves that. Misery loves company and all that jazz.”
“I’m sorry. I won’t say nothin’ if you don’t want me to.” He said from the other side of the room.
“But if you don’t talk to Gunner, I will.” He told me.
I looked over at him and his green and yellow aura was tinged with red. “What were you thinking about at the bar, right after dinner?”
“Why do you ask?” He said, looking completely at home against the door jamb.
“You were a green and orange mix. It was really pretty.” I told him, moving so that I was leaning my hip against the counter, facing him.
He grinned a bit and ducked his head momentarily. “Ain’t nothing worth talkin’ ‘bout.”
“Oh, but I beg to differ, my good sir.” I told him, taking another swig of whiskey and holding it out to him.
He took it and took a gulp before handing it back. “Just thinkin’.” He said with a shrug.
“About what?” I asked and I started to feel the whiskey reach my brain.
He was quiet for a moment, staring at the tile in between us. “Are you going to talk to Gunner?” He asked.
“Very nice change of subject.” I said with another sip of the liquor.
He smiled. “Just takin’ lessons from the master.”
“Was that an insult or a compliment?” I asked myself out loud.
“Suppose you’ve had enough of that.” Benny said, gesturing to the bottle that was almost gone.
I smiled at him. “I’ve got the alcohol tolerance of a Winchester.”
He looked mildly surprised. “I don’t know how Winchesters have the alcohol tolerance of a Winchester.”
I smiled at him, feeling much better than when I got out of the truck earlier, despite how sore my face was. “So tell me a secret.”
Benny looked slightly confused. “Why?”
I shrugged. “I told you something I never told anybody else, so tell me something.”
“I told ya ‘bout Andrea.” He said.
I rolled my eyes. “You know what I mean, Benny.”
He smirked a bit and thought for a moment. “I was with three girls before I was turned.”
This surprised me. “Only three?” I asked.
He smiled. “You’ve got to remember this was almost seventy years ago. I was considered incredibly promiscuous.”
Again, I rolled my eyes. “Denise sleeps with more men than that in a week.”
Benny smiled. “I caught that drift.” The air was quiet for a moment while I took another swallow. “How many men have you been with?”
I barely heard his question, focusing my energy on staring at the wall. “Three that I’m counting.”
“And why wouldn’t ya count someone?” Benny asked, incredibly curious.
I smiled. I was in my bathroom, talking about sex partners, with a vampire, after I stitched up my cheek. How did I end up in situations like this? “Because one of them couldn’t keep it going long enough to count.”
Benny’s eyebrows went high up on his forehead. “Can’t see that being a problem around you.”
Honestly, I didn’t know how to take that, but since the edges of my vision were starting to blur, I quickly forgot it. “I wasn’t the problem. He was. I swear, ten minutes and he was done. Which pissed me off.” I said, jumping to sit on the counter so I was only a foot or so away from him.
His eyebrows didn’t lower themselves. “Ten minutes?”
“Yes. It’s like, I’m not asking for four hours, but seriously. I should get something out of the deal.” I said and Benny smiled.
“I know it don’t mean nothin’, but my shortest time is longer than that.” He said, leaning in a little bit.
“No, it doesn’t mean anything, but my shortest time is longer than that too.” I told him, equally leaning closer.
“What’s your shortest time?” He asked, curiously.
“I’ll tell you if you tell me.” I said, giving him a sly wink. Or at least, I was under the impression it was a sly wink. How did we end up talking about times?
“Two hours.” He said.
My eyebrows pulled together. “Shortest, Benny. What’s the shortest?”
He gave me a wolfish grin. “Two hours, darlin’.”
I blinked. “Are you serious?”
“Deadly.” He said, leaning in just a little bit more.
“My shortest was almost an hour, not counting the ten minute sprinter.” I told him.
He smiled. “Sounds like you’re a bundle of fun.”
“Are you hitting on me again?” I asked seriously.
“What if I am?” He asked.
“I wouldn’t know how to reply to that.” I told him, feeling the need to lean closer to him.
“Suppose we should get you to bed darlin’.” He said, pulling back.
I didn’t know why, but I felt robbed. He was so close and now so far away. “I’ll just crash in the living room. Not the first drunken bender I’ve spent on the couch.” I told him, jumping off the counter. It was a good plan until my legs gave out and Benny caught me before I crashed face first into the tile. “Hey, you’re kind of handy.”
“There’s a perfectly good bedroom around the corner.” He told me, holding me up.
“And I have no will power to get that far.” I told him, closing my eyes.
He was moving me and when I opened my eyes, he was carrying me into the bedroom, bridal style.
“I didn’t realize you were so strong.” I said with a yawn.
“Ain’t that strong.” He said, setting me on top of the covers.
“Obviously, you’re lying.” I told him, trying to prop myself up. “Usefully dangerous.”
“What was that?” He asked, looking at me sharply.
“You’re lying?” I asked, not entirely sure what I’d just said.
“After that.” Benny said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Usefully dangerous?” I asked, because it sounded right.
“What do you mean?” He asked, looking at me funny.
“Super handy vampire guy. Usefully dangerous.” I said. I’d said it before, but I didn’t remember when.
“You think I’m dangerous?” He asked.
I couldn’t help but smile at him. “You’re a vampire, Benny. That’s what killed my mom. I’m surprised Dean didn’t tell you.”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” He asked.
I smiled, closing my eyes. “You’re such a good person; I had to give you a chance.”
“That’s awful brave of ya, darlin’.” Benny said, his voice floating around my head like music.
I opened my eyes and the edges of my vision were obscured. “You’re really handsome.”
Benny gave me a little smile. “Go to sleep, darlin’.” He said, standing up and leaving the room.I snuggled up to my pillow and yawned deeply before sleep took me.