Part Six

Despite any of her earlier proclamations of being anything other than tired, Bela's embarrassing and horribly timed cry had taken a lot out of her. She awoke to a face full of cotton—Dean's shoulder as it turned out—and a not so gentle nudging of her off of said shoulder.

"Up and at 'em," Dean was saying, a touch impatiently. "We have arrived."

Bela opened her eyes, curious to see where arrived was, only to slam them shut on a moan. Bloody hell, how she hated crying! She felt like she'd done a round with… with… well, with someone who only punched people in the eyes; hers were pounding practically out of her skull with each of Dean's not so gentle nudges. Wincing, she palmed at them and sat up.

"Crying's a bitch," Dean commiserated, before shoving open the Impala's door and leaving her alone inside, slouched all against the leather and grimacing to herself. The back door opened, and Dean was in again, swearing and yanking on her suitcase. For good measure, he added, "I'm so fucking sick of lugging this pink… atrocity around. Embarrassing!" And slammed the door again.

Bela pushed open the passenger side door and held it that way with her foot. "Afraid the neighbours will see you? Start asking questions? Wonder if--"

"Out of the car before my time's up." A pause, and then, "Don't you push on the door with your shoe! It's friggin' filthy!"

"The door or my shoe?" she sighed, peering at herself in the rearview mirror. The sight that greeted her wasn't pretty—were those creases on her cheeks? Oh God, was that eye makeup on her cheeks?—and she let out a little gasp, scrubbing at her skin hard with her palm. Ugh, wherever arrived was, she wasn't going in. And her hair! Oh, her hair—


Groaning, she stretched and caught sight of a modestly sized house, white sideboard bright in the early—early what? What the hell time was it anyway?—whatever sunshine. That was it then, she thought, peering harder to try to see something interesting. Neat lawn, neat yard, neat… All the way to Lawrence for this?

"Who lives here?" she asked, letting her boredom show. "Some kind of baddie? Are we going to get to kick a little ass? Looks terribly dangerous, I've got to tell you. Exciting—you know, really riveting! In a not very riveting way, you see."

Dean looked half a second away from grabbing her ankle and physically hauling her out of the car. "Name's Missouri. She's… a friend."

And oh ho ho, the return of newly jealous Bela! Was out of the car like a shot, nearly tripping on her heel.

"Friend?" she squeaked, high pitched and terrible. Oh bloody hell, and, "You have one?"

Dean made a snotty face and clapped the fingers of one hand at her, the universal blah blah blah gesture. "Can we go inside, please? Or am I going to be forced to listen to your wit on Missouri's lawn all goddamned day?"

"Touchy," she said, as she moved to yank her suitcase handle out of Dean's hand. With as much dignity as she could muster in her wrinkled pants and destroyed face, she passed him on the driveway and marched to the door. "Tell me about Missouri. I don't like going into situations blind."

"Friend of my dad," Dean admitted, trotting to catch her. "Promised Sam and I wouldn't be strangers but… well, you know. Don't much care for Lawrence."

Her throat constricted, and she swallowed hard, not glancing at him. "And now's the last chance."

"More or less," he replied, and there was something evasive there, in his tone. Peering at him strangely, Bela waited for him to ring the bell, lost her nerve, and demanded the car keys.

Dean narrowed his eyes at her. "Why?"

She felt her cheeks heat up and gestured at her hair. "I look terrible, Dean! I can't meet anyone like this. My hair!"

"Of all the vain, stupid things—"

"You could end this all by saying my hair looks good, you know."

But he bit his lip and snickered. "Why, Bela, lying is morally wrong." Still, passed her the car keys and that was really all she wanted. Clutching them tightly, she hopped down the steps, and was partly back to the car when she heard the front door open.

She heard someone cry out, "Well, if it isn't Dean Winchester" in a voice that was pleasantly soft; missed the rest, but gathered that it was something to do with the topic she didn't even like to think about. The woman—Missouri's—tone carried, concerned and sad, all the way down the drive. Ducking her head around, Bela saw her clap Dean into a comforting hug; saw Dean go rigid even across the distance.

Feeling slightly ill, Bela let herself back into the Impala and wasted ten minutes poking and prodding at herself. She felt strangely nervous, about to meet a friend of the Winchesters, an actual honest to God friend, and entirely in over her head, having been told so little. Took a few deep breathes before steeling herself.

Kissing Dean and crying on his shoulder hadn't improved his manners any. Although he had taken in her suitcase for her, he had not bothered to wait on the doorstep. Grumbling to herself, Bela rapped her knuckles gently against the screen door and let herself in.

Missouri and Dean were still standing near the door, and Bela thought she walked in on a moment that might just have been some type of comfort; Missouri was saying, "You've done a big thing for your brother" when the screen door slammed shut behind Bela, loud and unfortunate in the quiet room. Cringing, Bela offered up an apologetic smile.

Dean said, "Got your hair done all up to perfection?" with a sarcastic smirk at the same time Missouri said, "Oh my God."

Bela ignored Dean, glancing in surprise instead at Missouri, and after a moment, Dean glanced too. Both of them were all out gawking, Bela knew, but then Missouri was in turn staring at Bela like she was Christmas and her birthday arrived all at once. And Bela knew she was pretty damned cool, but come on.

Under the blinding light of Missouri's smile, Bela tried to wince away in Dean's direction, uncomfortable and unnerved, but Missouri moved before she had a chance, and then Bela was being hugged too.

"You've finally done something right, boy!" Missouri announced to Dean over Bela's shoulder. "I thought for sure you'da scared her off by now and messed everything up."

When she pulled away, her eyes were damp and shining with something… was that relief? Tutting her confusion, Bela said, "I'm sorry, have we met?"

But Missouri shook her head, still smiling, and took Bela by the hand. "Not once, girl. Name's Missouri Moseley. You look like you've had a hell of a journey. Bathroom's just down the hall if you wanna freshen up."

A hell of a journey? Unnerved, Bela resisted the urge to chuckle hysterically, and shot a quick glance at Dean. He was still watching Missouri, face frozen as he analyzed the oddness of the moment just passed. Shook himself.

"This is Bela Talbot, Missouri. She's a…"

And he trailed off, fighting over words. Bela froze herself, watching Dean puzzle through connotations, and wondered exactly what he'd say. Had to know, really. If he said friend, would she be hurt or relieved? If he said sort of enemy, what did that mean? Oh God, acquaintance was the worst and—

Missouri took her hand again and squeezed. "Poor girl. I can tell you right now that no matter what comes out of his mouth, he feels the exact same way you do." And, "Shame on you, Dean, leaving her hanging! You should hear what's going on inside of that head of hers. Acquaintance this, friend that. Honestly, shame on you!"

And Bela, who had been pondering the ramifications of the exact same way you do, snapped her head up, and glared at Dean as the pieces fell together all at once. He was not looking at her, but he was blushing. A rueful smile replaced the analytical frown of moments before. Bela reached over and thumped him on the arm.

"You can read minds? Isn't that just charming," Bela said to Missouri. And to Dean, "I'm sure you meant to tell me, yeah?"

He offered up a sheepish smile, and cringed when Missouri said, "If you want to know something about her, no need to be so underhanded about it!"

And she pointed again to the bathroom, gesturing in a way that couldn't be mistaken as anything other than kind. Not to mention, Missouri was glaring at Dean, which really? Only made Bela feel better. Chin held high, she left the two of them in the entrance way.

The bathroom mirror revealed much more to be aghast at than the rearview mirror in the Impala had. It only took a minute or two of trying to admit that her appearance was beyond help. A splash of cold water on her face revived her a little and helped to dull the ache behind her eyes, but a stabbing realization deep inside made Bela think that the morning's tears might have opened the floodgate for a whole lot more.

"Damn you, Dean Winchester," she muttered.

Get yourself together, girl.

Returning to the entrance way proved that Missouri and Dean had moved on; she found them sitting amiably in the living room, Missouri drinking what looked like iced tea and Dean a beer. Dean, who was sitting straight-backed on the couch, saw her and moved over, eyes flickering to the spot beside him before resolutely moving away. Trying not to think under Missouri's watchful gaze, Bela sat down beside him and crossed her legs; Dean leaned into the cushions and threw an arm so casually that it was anything but over the back of the couch.

"We were just catching up," Dean informed her. Threw back a swig of beer and added, "Missouri here helped Sammy and I get rid of a nasty poltergeist couple years back."

Bela smiled, all teeth. "A nasty poltergeist? Is there any other kind?"

Dean conceded her point with a nod, and Missouri said, "Do you want a beer, honey? You still look plum tuckered out."

Oh God, thought Bela, one more beer in the presence of Dean Winchester and—

Missouri winked. "I've got some vodka lying around here somewhere."

Bela coloured, embarrassed both by Missouri's skills and Dean's fingers, which were toying aimlessly with the back of her neck.

"I'm actually fine right now, thank you," she answered, trying to dislodge Dean's hand as subtly as possible. He smirked around the mouth of the beer bottle, and shifted closer, dropping one finger down the back of her shirt. Bela barely resisted the urge to elbow him in the stomach. "Dean and I had coffee not very long ago, thanks."

Missouri nodded, smile still friendly, and leaned back into her chair. Her gaze, too sharp, too alert, darted between Bela and Dean, and Bela found herself growing unnecessarily… well, not uneasy, but definitely suspicious. Something was up with this one, most definitely, and Bela instantly thought that it wouldn't hurt to be on her guard.

The look on Missouri's face when she had first spotted her surpassed meeting the… date, or whatever of a young man she barely knew—and the fact that she barely knew him was steadily becoming obvious, what with Dean so stiff at her side—and went into an odd place that made Bela unsure. Narrowing her eyes as subtly as possible, she tried to block off her mind, employing the same trick she used on her talking board.

Don't let them in, Bela. They'll kill you as soon as help you, and you mustn't give them a thing. Her grandmother's advice.

Only Missouri did not seem dangerous, not at all. She was currently discussing fortune telling with Dean, and their laughter was easy enough. Dean was uncomfortable, but not exactly on guard—although she had seen his eyes narrow, all hunter, when Missouri had spotted her too.

And then Missouri cut them all to the chase and said, "Do you want to talk about why you're really here, Dean?"

Dean jerked beside her, and took an unreasonably large swallow of his drink. Fingers clenched in shock on Bela's neck and he sounded off when he said, "Can't stop by for a visit now, Missouri? Not very hospitable!"

Missouri chuckled, and leaned forward to smack Dean on the knee. "Course you can, honey. And I know you came out here to say goodbye. Just talking about the other reasons, that's all. I'm not mad. Just thought we should get it out of the way so we can move onto more pleasant things later."

And Bela knew what it was about, how could she not? Fortune telling and mind reading and well… the woman was clearly psychic. Didn't think she could be around for it, not so soon after this morning, not with Dean right here; couldn't actually hear what she herself had told Sam, not with Dean beside her, not I'm sorry, honey, but there's nothing. Strangely, she didn't feel exactly privy to it either and—

"Sit down, Bela," Dean said, when she made a move to stand. "It's okay."

Bela looked down at him, meeting and holding his gaze. He looked resigned to whatever Missouri had to say, but stubbornly steadfast in his desire not to have her leave. She figured that perhaps he had spent more time with her than Missouri, and therefore it made sense to have her sticking around, but all she could think of was crying in the car, and Missouri saying things like exactly the same way, and it was damned hard to block off her mind when it was on fire.

Sighing, she decided to forfeit the silent battle she was having with Dean. Seating herself again, she looked at him out of the corner of her eye, trying to hide her concern and her fear… for him and for herself, despicable thing that she was. A warm hand folded over hers, silver band on his finger a cold contrast to his skin. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, and saw the smile he attempted to hide.

When she looked up again, Missouri was watching them—watching her--with quiet calculation, but the older woman was quick to drop her gaze under Bela's scrutiny. Another sideways glance assured Bela that Dean had seen it too, no matter how distracted he was by what he was about to ask.

Slowly, he began, "I'm not trying to get out of my deal. No way in hell am I trying that." A pause, during which he toyed with her fingernail and made eye contact with no one. "I just thought that while I was here, with you being psychic—honestly, Missouri, it's not the only reason I came."

She smiled, blindly, kindly, and… sadly? "Wouldn't blame you if it was, dear. You're up against some pretty powerful things, aren't you?" And then, so softly that Bela nearly missed it, "I haven't seen anything in regards to you, Dean. You know I'd tell you if I had."

Crappy liar! Bloody terrible! Bela wanted to jump up and point out the evasive eye shift with glee; to pound Dean, who was wilting with poorly hidden disappointment beside her, on the back of the head and shout, "She knows something, you bloody fool!" Hope flooded her so quickly and so abruptly that she choked holding back a squeak; didn't see why Dean couldn't see it. Stupid blind Dean Winchester, always so easily led, always so easily manipulated—

Only it stood to reason that Missouri would have told Dean something good, now didn't it? And evasive eye contact was rarely good. Without hope, things felt a lot like devastation, and the warring emotions made her head hurt; made her dizzy. She fell back against the cushion, and then Dean was there, arm around her like she was the one to be disappointed by the news, not him at all. She sagged into him, and noticed that Missouri was still watching, damn her. Probably reading her mind, probably—

"Don't be thinking I'm cutting my visit short now, Missouri!" Dean was saying, on the most carefree terrible laugh Bela had ever heard. "I expect at least one good meal outta you."

An eyebrow arched. "Do you now? And not even a ma'am in there. What would your father say?" She stood up and brushed at her pants. "Want to grab Bela's suitcase? I'll show you to your rooms. Give you a chance to get settled, to process--"

But Dean was interrupting. "Rooms? Like in the plural?"

Missouri stopped in the doorway, rounding on him. "I won't have any sinning in my house, boy."

Spluttering so much that Bela had to giggle. "But… but I'm going to Hell anyway! You just said so!"

Smiling past the pit in her stomach, Bela reached forward to give Dean's butt a solid pinch. "Meet you in the car around midnight?" she suggested on a wink. And then, "Try not to bump my suitcase up the stairs, please."

Missouri, in some gesture of female solidarity, gave Bela the actual spare bedroom; gave Dean what looked like a closet converted to hold a bed. Neither one of them complained, both too distracted to say anything either way. The comforter on her bed was soft and clean, and Bela's expectations must have been dropping, but this was… nice. Reminded her of… of something. Of her grandmother's perhaps, when Bela was still very young; when her grandmother had only just begun to try her hand at selling.

Wishing she could luxuriate on her bed all day, Bela took off her shoes and wiggled her nylon covered toes. Then, she crept close to her bedroom door, pressed her ear to the wood, and listened. She could hear Missouri and Dean talking briefly outside of the other bedroom, then the door of that one was closing, and footsteps were signaling Missouri's retreat. She waited a scant second more before dashing to her suitcase to grope around for her gun. It wasn't necessary at the moment—Bela meant to do some investigating first—but the feel of it slowed her heartbeat and calmed her down enough to think straight.

So Missouri. Dean's lying friend. Distrust flooded through Bela so quickly that she set her jaw against it; pushed the gun far underneath her clothes once more and stood up. No need to be directly confrontational—Bela had been wrong before, and most likely would be again. All she wanted was a little chat, without Dean.

Opening the door slowly to avoid detection, Bela crept out into the hallway, sliding silently in her nylons. Dean's door was closed and a momentary hover outside revealed nothing but silence. Taking a moment, she thought, a moment in private—and her heart wrenched.

But that was playing into her plan, and so she squelched any momentary… softening.

Bela made her way down the stairs noiselessly, wanting the advantage on Missouri, and came across her seated at the kitchen table, sipping on a cup of something that smelled like chamomile tea. There was another cup waiting in front of the seat opposite her; Bela checked at the tableau she seemed to have walked into, caught off guard and more than a little thrown.

Missouri waited patiently for Bela to come back into herself; when Bela smiled her best cat-like grin, and fought for a reply, the older woman merely gestured at the seat.

"Sit down and have some tea, dear," she invited, leaning back in her seat. "You are just about as transparent as he is. All that relief, all that fear… you can't hide anything from me, girl."

Bela checked again but seated herself, fighting for decorum and… and…

"Don't flatter yourself," was what she said. "Dean might have been so overcome by disappointment that he didn't notice anything wrong, but you had better believe I did."

Missouri shrugged. "Dean did too, of course he did. And that's why we can't talk for long, you and I. Oh, don't look so petulant. I imagine we'll get some time later. Boy's wanting to go see the house he was born in, the place his mama died, and we'll talk then."

Wait until mind-reading Missouri got her alone? No thank you.

"Perhaps," Bela dawdled. "Or perhaps you could just give me a little hint right now. You were much too happy to see me, Missouri. I'm not exactly used to that reaction, and I want to know why."

That made Missouri laugh, and she clapped a hand over Bela's. "Oh yes, Miss Bela Talbot. Better believe I've heard of you! It's why I was so surprised and… yes, pleased to see you. Thought Dean Winchester would take one look at you and run the other way!" Another laugh, followed by a speculative once over. "But you are rather pretty, and that one's never been blind to the fairer sex. Gave his daddy all sorts of trouble."

"Yes, I'm sure he did." Bela sipped at her tea to kill the overly pleasant mmm that was forming on her lips, and then leaned back in her chair again, eyebrow arched. "Since our chat is going to be so short, you can start by telling me how Dean not running in the other direction matters." Cocked her head, and smiled again.

"Well, no need to get bossy." And then Missouri sighed and hunched forward, voice lowered. "Between you and me, you know. I don't want to raise Dean's hopes prematurely. I really saw nothing."

Bela had never been slow. "But you saw… you saw me." And her hopes were rising again, lurching sickeningly about her stomach.

A pause, a cautious glance over her shoulder, and then, "Well… I saw Sam. I saw nothing concrete, but you were there. Looked like a ritual. You know this could be years down the line, sweetie. Might have nothing to do with anything. I just saw you and--"

"Makes no sense down the line." Bela grimaced as hope fluttered violently. "I'd honestly rather die before joining forces with Sam. We don't really like each other. He'd only get in my way."

Another sip of tea. "And you in his, I imagine. But that's it, honey. All of it."

"And you want to discuss the connotations of it later?" Bela inquired, staring over the rim of her cup at Missouri. She believed her, although she could not quite say why. Knew in the pit of her gut that that really was it, details aside.

Missouri blanched a little, but Bela could see it now for fright, not deception. Doubt, maybe. "Not the connotations, exactly. Just more in detail about the… about the ritual. But not now. Not when Dean could pop down the stairs at any time."

"If it's nothing, it'll give him false hope," Bela pondered, rising. "And if it's something, Dean will stop it."

Missouri shrugged. "He means to go to Hell for this, Bela. Can't think of one thing that'll make him fight for it."

Stupid stubborn fatalistic Dean.

"Doesn't matter if he fights for it," Bela scoffed, stubbing her toe into the floor. "That's what he's got Sam for."

And then Missouri's eyebrow was arching. "And you, apparently."

Dean's door was still closed when Bela went back upstairs. It was an odd whim, a result of the fluttering in her stomach that Missouri's vision had caused, but she hesitated outside of it and rapped her knuckles gently against the wood. She heard a grunt from inside and braced herself for any eventuality—after all, Dean had drug them half way across the country to get confirmation out of Missouri, and Bela could only imagine how disappointed he must have been to have his worst fears confirmed. Or half confirmed, she reminded herself.

In the end, Dean's reaction to the whole thing was so anticlimactic that Bela almost hopped right back out of his room.

He was sitting on the bed—the cot, actually—with his back against the wall, box of tapes from the car at his side and pen in his hand. Dry eyed, and completely calm.

"What are you doing?" she asked, not bothering to hide her surprise.

"Crying," Dean answered, dead-pan. "Sobbing my fucking eyes out, waiting for a hot young thing to comfort me with equally hot sex. Help me repress my pain, Bela. I can't get through this moment alone." And he scoffed.

Bela narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. "Lovely, Dean."

A shrug. "I'm rewriting my tapes. Titles are getting smudged. Been meaning to do it for a long time and God knows Sam won't get off his ass and do it once I'm gone. Probably toss the whole lot of them for some of that wussy crap he loves so much."

It was annoying to see Dean's genuine distress over the possible ill-fate of his tapes when he was being so cavalier about his own. Huffing, she joined him on the bed, pushing the box out of her way in spite of his irritated gasp. The cot jolted at their weight, the mattress lurched, and then the whole thing settled.

"If I get holed up inside some stupid cot fold just because of your--"

"Cut the crap," she snapped. "You were a little disappointed. Just admit it."

He glowered at her, before lifting the pen and going back to his list. "Pretty fucking hard to be disappointed in the answer you knew you were going to get. I didn't come see Missouri because of that anyway."

"Right. And that is exactly why you are holed up in here all by yourself pouting."

The pen stilled, and his glower gave way to a full-out glare. "I am not pouting. I am--"

"Calmly preparing for your own death, I get it." And the anger was rising so fast in Bela that even she felt a little blindsided. Rituals and Sam Winchester and Dean and his bloody fucking tapes and—"Do you even care, Dean? Like… at all?"


The anger was choking her, joined now by indignation. "No! I mean it! Because Sam is out there busting his ass and Missouri's already missing you, and I… I…"

"If you want me to say that I regret saving my brother," began Dean, voice deadly calm, "then you're gonna be waiting one helluva long time. There's not one fucking thing I'd redo about that day."

Bela went to punch the mattress of the cot, missed, and thumped Dean on the thigh. "I don't want you to say you regret it! Regretting it and wanting to live are two entirely different things, Dean."

But he wasn't hearing it. "Do you know what, Bela? I thank God every single goddamned day that I only got a year. I couldn't put up with this shit--"

"Put up with?" she mimicked, poking his leg again. "Now you are only putting up with us all? Why, of all the high-handed--"

"No!" He put the pen down, angled as much as he could, and glared at her dead on. "Don't you be putting words in my mouth. I thought it would be nice to see what Missouri knew. There, you happy now, you nosey bi--"

"Don't you dare call me that, you--"

"Just shut up, Bela. Like seriously. You're more worked up about this than I am." Which was so painfully obvious that Bela winced. "I accepted a long fucking time ago that there's nothing. I'm not going to waste a single second of--"

The fight went out of her so abruptly that she slumped forward. Thought of rituals and Sam and maybes; grabbed his hand and thought about it warm in hers. The mother of all stress headaches was forming behind her eyes, and she blinked in a failed attempt to clear it. If Missouri was right—oh, but then that was grasping at straws, and all she had that was real was Dean, here with her right now.

She didn't want to lose Dean, she thought on a rush of painful breath.

"I don't want to fight," she murmured, gentling her tone.

He reeled back at her mercurial mood, but nodded. "Me neither. Right." And then, "Listen… whatever, okay? It's not how I thought everything would go when I was younger. That good enough for you?"

She shrugged and leaned back against the wall, shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip with Dean. The cot was small enough for it to be absurdly uncomfortable, but Bela was too mentally drained to even contemplate moving. The thought of losing him—

Well, Sam had been right. Bela had absolutely nothing, did she? Just a cat and an empty flat with no visitors. Dean Winchester, damn her luck, was the first person to really take an interest in anything in so long, and the reality of returning to her isolated existence, with nothing but buyers for company, brought her up short.

"Do you ever wished you smoked?" she asked. "Seems like a bloody good moment to light up."

Dean laughed. "Wouldn't want to shorten my lifespan, sweetheart."

"Not funny." An elbow to the ribs for good measure.

Silence then. Bela stared at their feet through half-opened eyes, his so much further down the mattress than hers. The cot would be too small for him laid out, she thought idly.

Abruptly, he asked, "What colour panties are you wearing?"

Bela startled at the question and his teasing tone; then she giggled, jabbing him in the ribs again. "Beg your pardon? I don't see how my knickers—"

"Oh, come on!" He moved so fast that she was flat out and he was hovering over her before she knew quite what was what. She jerked away from his questing fingers, snorting when the cot bounced in protestation, but Dean was persistent, and his hands chased her wiggling hips. "I just want one look. Just one. That's all. One little peek for the dying man! What are you hiding? Are they pink? Fuck, let them be pink!"

She laughed and shot her hand up, connecting her palm with his face, and tried to shove him away from her. His fingers caught her belly and tickled so suddenly that she gasped, and tried to knee him wherever she could hit. Managed to knee him in the stomach, but he was still trying to hold her down, laughing too.

"They're not pink," she informed him, as prissily as she could with his arm pressing on her lungs. "Get off me, you giant perv!"

Rubbed himself playfully against her leg and cackled manically, "Oh, I'll get off alright" but let her shove him over. She bit at her palm to suppress her laughter, hopping off the cot and skirting away from him. Glanced back at the doorway to see him watching her retreat, cheeks flushed and hair mussed.

"You should go visit with Missouri!" she accused, pointing. "Not be accosting me!"

He snorted. "Accosted? Please. That would have been so much more fun." And he wiggled his eyebrows and shot her that smile.

She gave him the finger for good measure and danced back out into the hallway. Waited the required beat, and stuck her head back into the room. Dean was sitting up, apparently searching for an errant… something. Possibly his pen. Was still smirking to himself. He looked up when she popped her head in. She toyed with the frame of the door with her fingers and grinned wide.

"Not wearing any knickers, Dean," she informed him. "Do think about that for a while, yeah?"

And she fled on the growl that was his response, bounced to her room, and closed the door properly behind her.

After that, she decided a nap would be just the thing. Didn't think Missouri or Dean would hold it against her; she was still tuckered out from that morning's cry, and her whirling thoughts did nothing to make her feel better now. Taking off her suit made her nearly moan with pleasure; she was too lazy to find pajamas and settled on her housecoat.

Her bed was so much better than Dean's and, warmly cocooned in blankets, Bela was out in no time.

She awoke to fingers in her hair, massaging slowly at her temples, and opened her eyes to see Dean angled over her, a small smile softening the hard contours of his face. Blinked up at him and made a sleepy noise in the back of her throat, stretching and angling for more of that elusive touch.

"Did you visit with Missouri at all?" she whispered, blinking again to clear away sleep.

Still smiling that gentle smile, Dean moved to lay fully beside her, but stayed propped up on one elbow, fingers from his other hand teasing down her cheek to settle abruptly upon her shoulder. He blinked a few times as well, squinting at her, and then leaned down minutely.

"Visited with her for hours. Thought I'd come see if you were still alive." His thumb darted out to trace her collarbone, and she sighed sleepily. "I'm gonna go for a drive. Came to say goodbye so you wouldn't wake up and think I left you here. I'll be back in an hour or so."

But he didn't move, or at least didn't move anything other than his hand. Bela went perfectly still, afraid of the easy look on his face; afraid of startling him out of his momentary spurt of closeness like she had the other day. Afraid of him moving, away from her… away period. Her eyes fluttered closed and she smiled back; shifted closer herself, but only a little.

Then, just when his careful ministrations were pushing her back towards sleep, he said, "Thanks."

She opened her eyes and found him peering at her, curious and somewhat shamefaced. Frowning, she said, "For what?"

He shrugged. "Not wanting me to die. That's… nice. And for coming with me, I guess."

A lump in her throat rendered speech impossible. She choked around it for a moment, watching green eyes look anywhere but into hers, and then managed a garbled, "Was I a big enough pain in the ass for you?"

He chuckled, the movement bouncing his side into hers. Moved the hand off her shoulder and back to her cheek. "Definitely."

She watched him watch her mouth; counted the seconds. He was close enough that she could feel his breath tickling at her lips; close enough that she imagined she could hear his heartbeat. Carefully, she stretched out her fingers and pressed her palm down over his heart, smiling when it beat proud and firm under her hand. Felt him sigh, that close, and then his mouth was right over hers.

"I'm going to kiss you," he warned. "Just once more, and then we've gotta be done with this. Timing is way too fucked up."

"Was it my lack of knickers that brought you to the edge?" she snickered.

But his lips on hers were the answer, and then he was kissing her, slowly and leisurely, and like they had all the time in the world. She let him trace and outline her mouth, delighting in the feel of stubble under her palms, and then parted her lips on a sigh, wanting more.

Dean was ever one to oblige when it suited him; she felt his acquiescence all through his body, and then he was deepening the kiss, tongue tangling with hers, breath combined, and so slow and beautiful. Her heart hammered hard underneath her ribs when his fingers traced down her arm to cup her breast through her housecoat; let the desire to point out that that wasn't really just a kiss die a slow and brutal death. Instead arched enough that he could touch her fully; imagined his hand under her housecoat, skin on skin, and sighed breathy need into his mouth, even as she was afraid of him pulling back, of him spouting all of that crap about dying and honour and pains in the asses and—

But Dean wasn't pulling back. Dean was moving forward, lips leaving hers to trace a very pointed trail across her cheek, to her ear, and then down her neck, nipping and warm and… and… his hand was moving too, caressing and then slipping easy as you please past the ties of her housecoat, fingers tickling at the skin on her belly before sliding up and up and up—

His lips were on hers again then, swallowing her own gasp of acceptance, and—

"Going to join me for supper tonight, Bela?"

The words were so out of place with everything that was going on that Bela could not form a response—or even really process the question at all—immediately. Truthfully, before knuckles rapped against her door, she half thought the question came from Dean.

But not Dean. Definitely Missouri. Dean was chuckling out his frustration, head smashed into the pillow, and hand still just under her breast. As for Bela, she felt nearly cross-eyed with it and—

"Goddamn it!" Dean grunted near her ear. "Answer her before she comes in."

Smacking her palm against her face, Bela groaned and said, "I'll be right down! I'm sorry to have slept so long!"

Missouri laughed; replied, "It's been a tiring time for all of us" and then Bela heard her retreating footsteps.

She and Dean lay frozen for a moment; then, with a fleeting farewell kiss, Dean hoisted himself up off the bed, blushing and looking uncomfortable.

"Right," he said. Shifted his weight. "I'll be back. In an hour or two at most. Yeah…"

And then he was gone, fleeing more or less, and the bedroom door was closed behind him. She was alone with her thoughts again, alone period, and... just ugh. Contemplatively, she pressed her fingertips to her lips and--

Bela rolled her eyes at herself and moved her hand to her heart, feeling its riotous rhythm beneath her palm. So Dean was gone—or would be soon—and Missouri was waiting downstairs for… the talk. To try to hammer out with Bela what it all meant. Bela choked on held breath; didn't think she could ever go down there to realize that it meant nothing. The tiny glimmer of hope she felt was an extreme annoyance—how could she be expected to think clearly when the stakes were so high and she… kind of cared a little bit?

Giggling a touch hysterically, Bela stood and straightened her clothes. Her cell phone was in her purse and she retrieved it before moving to sit on the bed. She didn't have Sam Winchester's number, but found it on her list of missed calls. Sighing, she selected it and waited for the phone to connect.

It rang once, twice, three times; Bela was poised and waiting to hear Sam's grunt of greeting, but what she heard instead was, "Hi, you've reached Sam Winchester. Sorry to have missed your call. Leave a message and I'll get right back to you"—which was kind of a boring message, and ugh, a message?

Nevertheless, after the beep, Bela said, "Hey, Sam, it's your favourite girl in the whole wide world. We're here at Missouri's—Dean is fine, by the way—and she mentioned some sort of ritual to me. Some kind of vision or something, involving the two of us. Funny, eh? Anyway, I don't know where you are or what you're doing or how much time you want to focus on a vague vision that could happen at any time, but… thought I'd let you know. And... umm... listen. If you need money... honestly, do try to get a bank loan first, because... oh, bloody hell, Sam, I will charge you and your brother so much interest, but if... you... you know, need it..." A laugh, because... she was so dumb.

Then, "Dean is out right now and I'm going to go talk about it with Missouri, but I'll call you back at some point. Don't call me; Dean doesn't know. Give Ruby a kiss for me! Ta!"

And she hung up, bracing herself for a bit of detective work that she really really didn't want to do. Braced herself to find out answers that were quite possibly going to be unpleasant.