Choosing Friendship

Disclaimer: I don't own anything from the Conjuring universe and I'm not making any money from this fic

Summary: AU set between Annabelle: Creation and Annabelle. Linda tracks down her former best friend. Written for the non-consensual square in the Advent Holiday Bingo blackout

Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for every movie in the Conjuring franchise up to and including Annabelle: Creation; elements of horror; violence; some descriptions of a person being possessed

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Linda stood outside the house, looking up at the building. There was nothing on the outside to show what kind of evil it housed, in the form of the girl who'd been her best friend when they were children. There was no outward sign of the evil she knew was going to be wrought there.

She wasn't too late. Not yet.

Linda stepped up to the front door, but didn't bother knocking. The closer she came to it, the more her skin crawled. The demon was here. She could feel it, as strongly as she could sense her best friend, buried deep under stifling darkness.

If she couldn't halt this final step, Janice would be lost forever and killing the body that housed the demon could only be a kindness.

Linda closed her fingers around the door handle, unsurprised when the door opened easily. She pulled it out as carefully as possible, so no sound would escape, and slipped inside.

She hadn't been idle during the long years since she and Janice had been separated. Knowing she would eventually experience a showdown with the demon, she'd spent the years in between honing her psychic abilities and preparing herself emotionally for what was to come. She drew on those senses now, opening herself to the spirit world, disregarding the unnatural silence that permeated the building.

The presence of the demon showed up like a wound in the house, oozing thick, black ectoplasm that stained the very air. Linda knew breathing in too much would affect her in the exact same way breathing in poisonous gas.

It was upstairs, lurking in the corridor like a thief in the night. As Linda started to take the stairs, she pulled out the rosary from beneath her blouse, yanking it over her head and gripping the beads in her fist. As she continued walking, she began to mutter the Lord's Prayer and Hail Marys under her breath.

It was obvious when her 'sneak attack' began to take effect as, reaching the top of the stairs, she heard an animalistic growl. A pair of glowing eyes glared balefully at her.

Linda took a deep breath, gathering her courage, and stepped into the demon's path. She slid the rosary through her fingers as she said quietly, "Hello Janice."

The demon paused before moving fully into view. "Janice is gone."

"She's my best friend. I know she's still there inside you." Linda made herself look at the demon's eyes. Eyes were the window to the soul, after all...and she could see right through them down into the dark, twisted evil that had infected her friend.

The demon's mouth twisted into a grimace. "Get out of my way, little girl."

"I won't let you do this."

"Still trying to play the saviour." The demon began to stalk slowly towards her, like a lion preparing to pounce on its prey. "Is that because you think it's the only way anyone will even want you? Because we both know that no one ever has."

Linda tried to pretend that didn't hurt; that the demon hadn't hit the weak spot of the little girl deep inside who'd been so desperate for a family with her best friend. She had to keep strong even after the low blow she'd just received.

The demon could see anyway and it curled a lip at her. "You broke your promise," it said, in a singsong parody of a child's voice. "But I was still the one who got a family."

"No. You stole my family." Linda lunged forward and wrapped the rosary around the demon's wrists.

Smoke immediately began to rise from where the beads were in contact with the skin and the demon threw its head back and screamed.

"Annabelle!" a woman's voice came from behind Linda.

She turned to see an older woman and man standing behind her, both staring at her in shock. As if she was the monster. Before she could even try to make the situation any better, her eyes were drawn to the thin, skeletal man approaching the couple from behind. When she opened her senses, she saw the demon that ravaged the man's soul.

As his hand raised, a knife glinting in his fist, Linda threw an open vial at him. Her aim was true and holy water splashed over him, coating his face.

The scream was inhuman and Linda winced, then flung her hand out to the couple. "Run! Get out of here!" Before she could say anything else, her breath was cut off as her own rosary was wrapped around her neck.

The man swung his fist, but the demon just laughed and taunted, "Hit me again, Daddy. Harder."

Her vision turning black with red spots dancing in front of her eyes, Linda's hand slid into the front pocket of her blouse. As the second demon tried to stab the couple, she allowed her body to drop limp; just enough for the demon to loosen its hold on her. And then she whipped her hand up and stabbed the crucifix into the demon's hand.

The demon screeched and released its hold. Pulling on the chain to free the crucifix, Linda swung the chain above her head before she let it fly. Once again, her aim was true and the crucifix landed around the second demon's neck.

Howling, the demon dropped the knife and fell to his knees. Linda slipped past the couple and crouched in front of him, hitting the crucifix with the heel of her hand, driving it further against the demon's throat. "Tell me your name."

The answer came out in a rasp, but she heard it and began to mutter the words of the exorcism. He twisted and fought, but she was ultimately successful and the man's body sagged limply as the demon lost its grip on his soul.

"Well, Linda, looks like you have some use after all," her best friend's voice purred from behind her. "That's one less loose end for me to clean up."

Linda forced herself to stand, even though her body was weak and trembling. She turned round slowly and focused on the demon, who was holding the wife with an arm wrapped around her throat. The husband was sprawled on the floor. Dead or dying...Linda really couldn't tell. She took a step forward.

The demon tutted at her. "Now now, little girl. One wrong move and I'll snap Mommy Dearest's neck."

Linda held still. "Why are you killing your parents? Isn't this what you wanted? A life? A human life? No one could have loved you as you were, so you had to steal my sister."

The demon leaned close to the woman's neck and inhaled deeply. "Ah. The sweet smell of fear. So...delicious." An impossibly long tongue escaped from between her lips and she licked the woman's neck. "You're so useless, Linda. You couldn't save your best friend. And now? You can't save these people. You've used all the weapons in your arsenal."

Linda's hand slid behind her back, levering out something that had been hidden under her bra. She unfolded the material, still with her hand behind her back, and then threw it at the demon. "Not quite all."

The demon released the woman, but although it tried to duck the fabric, the material was drawn down as if attracted. The material, greyed and turned delicate with age, covered the demon's head, making it scream as if being burned.

Linda wasted no time. She threw herself at the body of her best friend, bearing both of them to the ground. In a few swift movements, she had Janice bent over her knee, bottom bare.

The demon laughed as Linda lifted her hand and brought it down in a resounding smack. When she repeated the action, the demon squirmed, one hand reaching for the shroud covering its head and shrieking in frustration when it stayed fast. "You stupid bitch!" it roared.

"I came well-prepared for you. It took a long time to get it, but that material's part of a very special burial shroud." Linda settled into a rhythm of swats, going down to her friend's thighs before starting over from the top.

The demon threw a hand back and dug its nails into Linda's arm. "You're not even hurting me through what you're doing. The only one feeling anything is Janice."

"Good." Linda yanked her arm free of the demon's grip, wincing at the pain as blood ran down her arm. She began smacking harder and faster, watching the backside across her lap begin to pink and then redden in parts. "I hope she does feel it," she added, her heart twisting. "I hope it gives her the strength she needs to fight out from under your control and come back to me." Tears filled her eyes and slipped down her cheeks, splashing onto the heated bottom squirming and twisting over her lap. "Janice..." she called. "It's not too late."

"No!" The half-choked cry was like a knife to Linda's heart. "It's too late. It's too late for me..."

"That's what it wants you to think," Linda replied. Her hand continued to fall in hard, crisp swats. Her tears did the same and she let out a tiny choked sob. "Janice...please."

"Linda." The voice was broken as Janice slumped over her lap and began to sob; so hard, it almost seemed like she couldn't breathe. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I...I don't know how to ask you to forgive me..."

Linda let out a quiet sob. Her tears continued to fall, but her hand slowed and came to a stop, resting on Janice's bottom. "The name." Her voice came out like the child she'd once been and she blinked, focusing on the child form of her best friend across her lap. She raised her other hand to touch her own face, shocked to realise her face was smooth and unlined...a child's face. "Janice." The word came out in a breathy gasp.

In one slow movement, Janice pushed herself up and looked around. "We're in Bee's room," she whispered, sounding like a lost little girl. "We're back...at the house."

Linda grabbed at her hand. "The demon. Is it...?"

Janice turned her hand over to grip Linda's and looked down at her leg, wrapped in its brace once more. "It's gone. It's...I think it's gone for good."

More tears welled in Linda's eyes and she quickly wrapped her arms around Janice. "I told you it wasn't too late," she whispered, relaxing as she felt her best friend hug her just as tight in return.

The End