He doesn't think he's ever been in a cemetery this big.
Running flat out, for what feels like an entire mile, he still doesn't see the gates anywhere up ahead. Stupid for dropping the keys along with the bag of salt, stupid for being out here by himself when he knew damn well she's been closer to him now than ever before.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
It's oddly quiet out.
All moonlight and stars but no rustling of animals or insects, only the beat of his own heart in his ears, the sound of his breath flowing in and out of aching lungs.
He trips on an uprooted tree branch, a curse flying out of his mouth a millisecond before hitting the ground and tasting fresh earth. He's on his feet as quick as he can, feeling her phantom teeth scraping the back of his neck, knowing escaping on foot is futile but the survival instinct keeps him moving.
Leaping over a freshly dug grave, he curses again, seeing it only in the nick of time.
Samuel he hears on the wind.
His legs burn with the effort, the last ditch chance that he might get away, arms pumping and eyes wide against the black.
Finally he catches sight of the heavy iron gate in the distance, a cruel flicker of hope filling him.
For a second he thinks he sees Dean standing between them, waving his arms and jumping in place.
"Come on Sammy," he hears. "Ditch the bitch and let's go grab a burger what do you say?"
He almost falters right there, thinking it's her doing, distracting him just enough to strike.
Bursting through the gates he stumbles and slides against cheap asphalt, leaving part of his jeans and knee behind. Pain flashes up his leg, but he keeps moving, waving arms wildly to get back on his feet.
The crappy old Camaro squeals to a stop just in front of him, Ruby kicking open the door just as he's about to run straight into it, and he leaps into the passenger seat.
He doesn't look back and she peels away, knowing he'd be staring into furious white eyes if he did.
Back at the motel Ruby is pissed and pacing back and forth in front of him, the biting rhetoric obvious in her expression. He sits on the edge of the bed waiting for the speech to come, chewing on a fingernail and wondering what it's going to be.
"You never listen to me," she says through clenched teeth. "Not-" she starts, stops to raise a hand to cut off his interrupting gesture of rebuttal, "-when it's important. Not when it will get you killed."
While wanting to interrupt just a second ago, he has no reply to that.
"I told you to let this job go," she goes on. "That it wasn't necessary, and it would only catch her attention."
He stares at the awful green carpeting.
"War is about the bigger picture Sam. Sometimes the little things have to slip through."
He doesn't say anything.
"Do you want to join him that badly?" She asks. "Do you miss him that much?"
He stands up then, grabs her by the arms, fully ready to scream straight into her face. Dean is an off limits topic, she knows this, is pissed off enough not to care.
Yes, he wants to say, to pound that nail straight into her skull. But you could never understand that. There's not enough left inside you to ever fully appreciate caring about someone else more than your own life, about family, about sacrifice.
The war was fought for Dean, to save Dean, and in that failure he can't bring the energy into his mind to keep going with any sort of caution. Go down swinging, that was Dean's last wish, and now he finds that it's his as well.
To him no job is too small, no risk too big. He knows now his days are just as numbered as his brother's were. Knows that the simple fact is almost freeing in a way, not chasing death, but not afraid of it either.
Ruby stands there unimpressed. Knows he's not going to say whatever's on his mind.
He knows this and hates her for it.
The trick in the body is how unassuming it is.
It can't be any older than eleven or twelve.
No one would ever cast a second glance at her, and that's exactly the way she wants it.
It's unnerving to say the least, watching that calm empty expression on such an innocent face. Fighting against her invisible bonds, it seems a wasted effort, his eyes briefly falling on Ruby's lifeless form at his feet.
War is wrought with casualties, she'd tell him, should she be dying and not already gone. Don't cry for me because we both knew this would happen.
He wonders if it would have been him, had yellow-eyes plans gone into effect, standing there smirking at the sight of a fallen enemy.
She hasn't said anything since she ripped the demon from Ruby's body. Only stands there with head tilted in curiosity, as if to say, you're the one we were worried about? You're the one who was going to lead us?
He thinks of Dean, how he changed his mind for there for awhile. Did not want to go to hell for reasons he never shared, and Sam never asked. How they tried to get him out of the deal. How Dean, when the devil dogs finally gave chase, did not run.
She smiles then, little Lilith demon child reading his mind.
"Don't worry," she says low and soft. "You'll see him again."
Her eyes go white.
He is not afraid.
She knows something's amiss the second she turns the car off.
The smallest of tell tale signs she notices as she moves up the walk, the fact that whoever's in her house didn't use it at all. There are footprints pressed into the grass, a beeline headed straight for the front door, and the mat just below it is slightly off kilter.
First suspicion is those wily Winchesters finally getting smart enough to track her down. She takes a closer look at the footsteps, sees that it's only one pair that are far too small for a man's heavy foot, and smirks inwardly for daring to give them so much credit.
Reaching into her purse she pulls out her gun, creeps slowly up to the door before nudging it open with her hip. Listening cautiously for a second she doesn't hear anything. No creak of a floorboard from someone crouched in a hiding spot. No sound of anticipated breathing of some would-be assassin waiting for the kill.
She aims at her blind spot, twists back around to cover her back.
"You can turn the light on," cuts through the dark and she spins on her heel aiming for the source.
She clicks back the hammer ready to shoot blindly, knowing her aim would be dead to rights.
"That won't make any difference," the voice says again, and something tells Bela it's true.
Still moving cautiously she makes her way to the light switch, flicks it on with gun still drawn, and tilts her head curiously when she sees a blonde twenty-something girl perched calmly on her couch.
"I take it you're not here to rob me," she says, gun still aimed.
"Can't steal what wasn't yours in the first place," the blonde says.
Bela feels the hairs on the back of her neck raise the slightest bit, knows immediately that this girl is talking about the colt, feels her confidence in its security shaken by the matter-of-fact way she refers to it.
"You took something that didn't belong to you," she says.
"I make quite a nice living taking what doesn't belong to me," Bela shoots back.
The blonde seems genuinely unimpressed. With the wit, with the gun, with her lavish surroundings, Bela doesn't quite know what to make of her. Usually dealing with men and using her beauty and charm to her full advantage.
"I knew someone who was pretty proud of being able to take whatever he wanted and always get away with it."
"If this is some morality tale to save me from wicked ways you can save it."
"They cut his hands off," she goes on as if Bela hadn't spoken at all. "Only to watch them grow back and be cut off again."
She smirks at her protagonist, and despite what she's seen and what she knows, doesn't believe a word.
"What it is that you want?" she finally asks, her patience in the situation wearing thin.
"I've got what I want," the blonde says again.
Denial instantly kicks in. She couldn't know where she kept the colt in this house, and even in the rare chance she did, there was no way she could break into her safe.
The blond must see this in her face, lifts up the colt for her to see.
Bela feels the anger swell up inside, her ego taking such a potshot from a snotty little bitch, infuriates her to no end. She wants to pull the trigger, to end this mess and get it back, but knows she was trained better than a trigger happy two-bit criminal.
"You don't understand," she says, but it comes out almost pitifully, the weak words tasting sour on her tongue.
"Oh I understand perfectly Bela Talbot," blonde girl says smugly. "Did you honestly think this," she nods at the gun, "was going to intimidate the demon that stole your sister's face? That you didn't kill her that day you shot right through her heart, but she still only smiled?"
Bela, for the first time since she was a teenager, feels her stomach drop down into her knees.
"She deserves to be at peace," she chokes out, finger still itching to pull the trigger and shut this bitch up.
"She was at peace already wasn't she? Before you convinced her to help you steal that amulet? Before the demon it held leap straight into her mouth, before you panicked and shot your own flesh and blood dead?"
"You shut your mouth," Bela shoots back.
"Why? Am I not understanding enough for you?"
"Who the hell do you think you are?"
The blonde smiles that she successfully pushed so many buttons, as finally gets up from her seat on the couch, flashes her black eyes for Bela to see. The gun goes off before she even realizes it, and the blonde only looks annoyed.
"Ow," she says, not even flinching. "I have seriously got to stop letting people do that."
Suddenly she's close enough to knock the gun right out of Bela's hand, who in turn bites her lip to keep the groan from escaping her mouth, but the blonde grabs her by the throat that would have kept it at bay just the same.
The wall slams into her back with such force, what little breath she has left comes whooshing out.
"You want to know who I am?" The blonde says. "I'm a soldier fighting a war. And what I don't need is some prissy petty thief swooping in and taking a weapon I worked hard to repair, one that puts favor on my side, all for a tragic little case of revenge."
She pulls a knife from the sheath on her belt.
"Tell me procurer of rare items," she goes on. "Do you know what this is?"
Bela nods her head the slightest bit.
"What kind of price do you think it can fetch? A little less than the colt I'm sure, but really, just ballpark it for me."
Bela feels a tear slide down her cheek as the knife slides into her stomach, the cry falling shy to the fingers wrapped around her throat, blood slowly dripping from her lips and her vision becoming blurred.
She sees her sister standing just over the shoulder of the murderous blonde, waiting, beckoning for her to come along.
She is not afraid.
His grandfather was Robert.
His father Bob, well, Big Bob is what they called him.
Why Bobby stuck with him so long, even after his father's death, is anyone's guess. The name itself says thirteen-year-old boy, not greasy old mechanic pushing fifty, but for whatever reason it still seems to fit. Puts people at ease in a way, an instant ice-breaker of a friendly moniker.
It's a Singer trait, the instant likeability. When his grandfather died nearly half the town showed up for the funeral, same thing with his father. He shifts a little, as much as he can in the confined space, wonders how many people would be at his own if Sarah never died.
How he would have been the third most popular version of Robert Singer had his life not taken that harsh left turn one windy autumn day. How they would have spoken fondly of him instead of the averted gazes and hushed whispers, the kind he gets whenever he heads into town.
Some sacrifices have to be made, this he knows, learned it the hardest way. He can take it, always had a tough skin, the kind you need in the line of work he found himself in.
He closes his eyes, sees his name carved in marble, numbers telling everyone how long he was here.
They met at the county fair.
It being one of the few social gatherings that didn't involve the church or a town meeting, she was at the cotton candy booth waiting her turn for the giant puff of sugary sweetness, and he stopped dead in his tracks once he caught sight of her.
He had never liked cotton candy. Always thought it too sweet to actually be able to enjoy, but that day decided it was worth a second try. He walked up to the booth, put on that old Singer charm as he asked for one, and nodded a hello to her.
The smile that made his heart stop everyday until the day it no longer could first appeared.
She was a pistol that Sarah.
The first time he tried to kiss her she smacked him, asked what kind of girl he thought she was. He laughed, she laughed, as he pulled her close and she let him get what he wanted.
Married on a Tuesday at a justice of the peace down in Sioux Falls because they just couldn't wait, bought a small house just off Main Street, Bobby couldn't remember ever being happier.
He knew something was wrong that afternoon coming back from the yard, could feel it just before he opened the door. The faucet was on in the kitchen, some half cut vegetables still lying in the bottom of the sink. Turning it of, he caught the refrigerator left open out of the corner of his eye.
"Sarah?" He called out. "Baby?"
No one answered, and the swirling feeling in the bottom of his stomach just grew worse as he moved to shut the fridge door. The house was unearthly quiet, as if all sound had magically disappeared.
He hoped there wasn't some kind of emergency. Her father had been getting on in years but knew his last appointment with the doctor gave him a clean bill of health for his age. Still, it's the only fathomable reason he can think of for her to just leave in the middle of a task without so much as shutting anything off as she went.
About to head up the stairs when she suddenly appears at the top of them, her head tilted downward as if she hadn't expected to see him home so early, he called her name again and still she didn't reply.
He took that first step before she took one of her own, making her way so slowly downward. Something was so terribly unnerving in the way she took the steps, as if she was learning to walk for the first time, her arms stiff and awkward hanging at her sides.
Calling her name again and again incited no reaction, he found himself backpedaling to her advancing form, her face was blank and lifeless, as if she had no clue who he was. He moved to touch her arm and found the skin so, so cold.
Back in the kitchen before he even realized, her head still titled toward him in that frightening way, and her eyes that clouded black caused his heart to stop.
The knife was suddenly in his hand, his mind never recalling how he scrambled for it in the sink, as Sarah's lip curled in a wretched mockery of the smile he loved.
No reason, he thought. No rhyme or reason for it at all.
He can't remember who screamed louder as silver met white before turning red, the black smoked erupting from her mouth, as her lifeless body collapsed to the floor.
It was bound to happen.
Of all the things he's ever learned, the first and foremost has always been simple: hunters don't live to a ripe old age. Oh he's lasted longer than most. Sometimes due to cunning, sometimes due to all the knowledge he's accumulated over the years, most of the time due to grit and luck.
He always knew one day they'd get smarter, he'd get slower, that it would surely mean the end.
Still, it is hard to prepare for the surprise attack of at least twenty, what looked like twenty anyway, demons tossing a couple of grenades into your living room because they were well aware of the devils trap on his ceiling.
It's hard to defend the bum rush of said demons crashing into the house in a wave of fury before he could even think to reach for a weapon.
He stares upward, hand scraping the metal of the old Packard's trunk, wondering why the black-eyed bastards were taking their sweet time in ending it. Why demons bother to plot such elaborate forms of torture at all when it's simply easier to kill someone, some thing, and be done with it.
The groaning sound of his crane whirring to life somewhere in the distance catches his attention, knows it's going to be over soon.
He thinks of John Winchester's boys, how in another life they might have been his own, his and Sarah's to raise up right in a world where evil was just something of fairy tales. He thinks of Ellen and Jo, and so many other hunters whose lives had been ruined just the same as his.
So many what ifs, so many regrets.
The car is lifted off the ground but he won't scream like he knows they want him too, won't even think of giving them the satisfaction.
The sound of twisting metal fills his ears over the smooth hydraulic hum of the compactor.
He closes his eyes and sees Sarah waiting for him with open arms.
He is not afraid.
Her father always called her the rarest of flowers.
One that sprang up toward the heavens, rising far above the weeds of a simple blacksmith and his wife. It was her eyes that caught most people's attention, from an early age they could hypnotize even the most stoic of strangers. Her prettiness, she detested the word beauty, brought unwanted attention and advances from simple man or gentleman both.
It made her nervous most of the time, the leering, and the constant threat of being taken against her will because that's how things worked in those days. The one incident coming back from the market where a nobleman stopped his carriage, she honestly thought he would claim her on the spot, haunted her dreams for months.
It didn't help that she loved to wander.
When chores were finished and she was free to do as she pleased, she spent nearly all of the daylight hours exploring the forest. Walking along creek beds and riverbanks, climbing hills and trees, wondering what was out there.
Her mother called her a dreamer. A girl whose eyes were always focused in the distance, longing for what would never be, a girl like that had no place in this world, mother said.
One day while walking along the trees she came across another explorer, a girl not much older than she, with dark flowing hair and matching deep eyes, pale skin, full lips, and a smooth graceful step. Easily the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
When the stranger noticed her she smiled.
And when the stranger asked her name, all she could give was a whispered Ruari.
The stranger then offered her hand, replied with Niela.
Her father has offered her hand to his apprentice.
So she confessed sobbingly to Neila one day in the forest, in their own private clearing hidden deep within the depths of the trees. She had always wanted more out of this life, more than reliving her mother's own, more than a simple blacksmith's wife.
Neila rested a hand on her shaking shoulders, a touch she felt down in the deep recesses of herself. Neila understood her, something she knew from the moment they'd first exchanged words. Her first friend, honest and true, and she clung to her as if she could somehow save her from her fate.
"Dearest Ruari," Neila whispered. "You do not have to marry if it is not what you wish."
Her sobs stilled, head tilted upward in curiosity.
"You can have anything your heart desires," Neila went on.
She could only stare.
"Anything at all."
She found herself nodding, and Neila smiled.
What did she have to do?
"Do you trust me?"
Yes. God yes, she trusted her.
With her life.
With her soul.
Her lungs burned as tore her way into the forest, the torches only seconds behind her, the screams for her head.
She had been a fool to think no one would be jealous over her newfound good fortune. How they would suspect her of devious intentions because they themselves only wanted the world to share in their miseries.
It was a foolish mistake. She had been too headstrong, too vain in her abilities, to use her power out in the open like that because some constable had a rather high opinion of himself and tried to feel her backside through her cloak.
It was a simple flash, just to get him to step away, and suddenly the cries of witch spread like wildfire.
The clearing was coming up; she could see Neila's fire burning just beyond the next patch of trees. Too out of breath to shout a warning to her, she burst onto the scene, frightened and gasping.
Neila was not fazed at all by her sudden appearance, turned toward her as if she expected such an entrance, her normally bright smile now hard and grim.
"Trouble brewing little Ruari?" She asked in a voice so unlike her own.
A sharp pain suddenly wound its way into her stomach, twisting and stabbing, and if she hadn't been on her knees already she would have collapsed to them.
"I warned you about exposing yourself, bringing this down upon me. I warned you what would happen if you did."
The pain, it's sending her insides in knots.
"Greedy little heathen you are."
Her eyes went wide as Neila's went black.
"Power is a funny thing isn't it? How all it takes is just a little taste and suddenly you are begging for more. You did not wish to wed that miscreant of an apprentice therefore you did not. You wanted your family to be free of the plague while your neighbors died of it.
You come to me, your dear true friend, never realizing you are slowly giving yourself to me, piece by lovely piece."
She could taste copper in her mouth, see stars forming on the back of her eyelids, hear the sounds of the villagers as they came for her. Neila leaned in close, ran a finger along her jaw, smiled at the way it trembled.
"My name," Neila said. "My proper name, where we are going, you will have to speak it, so they know who it is you belong to."
She let her mouth hover just above her ear, whispered her true name in a deep carrying octave.
"Don't worry," she laughed as she rose to her feet. "I will take care of you."
The pain, she could no longer bare it, felt her eyes roll back into her head.
The acrid smell of smoke stirred the conscious thought back into her, as she lifted her head to see a collection of angry hateful faces in front of her. Her arms would not move when she tried, nor could her legs.
Panic set in.
She was left there for them to find.
An idle tear fell down her cheek, as the villagers, people she had known all her life, screamed obscenities and threw rocks.
She could see her mother and father, weeping, staring onward in hopeless desperation as they realize their only daughter is a witch, an abomination of god.
Fire licked up her legs, new pain fresh and agonizing, as her mouth dropped open to scream.
She thought of Neila's betrayal, no, what had she said?
She will remember.
Her once pure heart now seethed with a hatred she had never known. One day, somehow, someway, she would take her revenge.
The flames climbed higher.
She was not afraid.
The first time he almost dies, it's completely an accident.
Stupid rawheads and their habitats of dank, moist filled basements. Stupid, well, stupid him for not knowing better than to get out of that puddle before shooting off ten-thousand volts at a monster that never wore shoes.
A heart attack at twenty-six.
Not exactly the picture of perfect health. Still, he knew the risks that came with the job, had it ingrained into his brain ever since dad let him hold up a shotgun to blast away the first evil thing he'd ever seen.
That's one thing that he never thought Sam could grasp, at least at that time anyway. The good guys don't always come out on top. Sometimes they have to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Sometimes they just have to lay down their weapons, their burdens, and let the next man take his place.
Sam didn't believe what he believed, refused to let it be the end, didn't laugh at his jokes, made no promise to take care of the car. Went out and hunted down a fucking real life miracle worker just because he would not, could not, let him go.
Or course there are no such thing as miracles. He's never seen anything to justify the belief. There's always a catch to good fortune, and Dean hates the fact that he was at the center of that lesson for Sam to learn. Preacher's wife controlling reapers and passing them off as an act of god, miracles need not apply.
It's the first bitter pill he had to swallow in narrowly escaping death.
Sometimes he thinks of Layla Rourke.
Thinks it should have been her instead of him.
The second time he almost dies it's completely premeditated.
The demon taking hold of dad, trying to con the colt away from him and Sammy, trying one too many lines of what he thought they wanted to hear. Dean knew his father better than anyone, stated as much to the thing in there trying to fool him.
Oh how he did not like Dean's defense mechanisms, tossed them back in his face to dig at him more because he couldn't move.
He talked about family as if he knew what the word truly meant. Spoke through lies, chipping away at his insecurities, his worst fears of never making dad proud.
The yellow-eyed bastard trying to make his insides come out his mouth, wearing his father's face while doing so.
He remembers begging, for his life, for dad to fight the monster inside before the world drowned in a black pool of nothing.
Then Sam is hovering above him, saying something about him losing a lot of blood, and the first thing he can think to say is about dad. For him to check on dad.
Sam don't you do it. Don't you do it.
Dad yelling, Sam with the colt still aimed at his chest.
His insides slowly bleeding out.
Then the car, those luxurious leather seats, and a blinding light before nothing.
Another reaper, another life lesson, another bitter pill to swallow because he's alive and dad is dead.
In his mind it's not a fair trade.
The first time he actually dies it's by his own hand.
Oh, not in the way you're thinking, not exactly.
Sam lay there on that dirt road, growing so cold and lifeless. Dean knew the feeling, had been there twice before, suddenly knew how Sam felt that first time. Still didn't believe in miracles, had no faith healer to cart him off to.
What he did have was a box buried in a hole at the crossroads, a deal sealed with a kiss, and three-hundred sixty-five days left to himself.
It was liberating at first, freedom in a way he'd never felt before, the possibilities of what one could accomplish when you knew damn well there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course Sam fought for him again, tried his best to pull him out of the contract, made his own deals with demons.
Not so liberating when he finds out there is a light after all, black, reflected in his own eyes. No exceptions to the rule, save for one special case in an untold number of millions, the one who tells him so. Vegas wouldn't have very good odds on it happening twice.
Even when he recanted, nasty tea and a dreamlike state unlike any kinky co-ed fantasy he's had before, self-realization becoming so frighteningly obvious to feelings he thought buried.
Truth be told he was terrified. Not of death itself, no, they were almost old pals at this point. It's the aftermath, the fear of what he leaves behind. Sammy is on a downward spiral trying to save him, and they didn't fight so hard, so long, for him to fulfill the destiny set out for him, quite possibly death's last bitter pill for him to choke down.
There's also the fear of what he'll be, in years to come, something no better than the things they hunt.
Never did want to know what it was like on the other end of that knife, bullet, or incantation.
Hours turn to days, days to weeks, weeks to months.
He slips something into the last beer he and Sam ever share, leaves the Impala's keys on the nightstand, and returns the charm he had gotten by default so many Christmases ago.
He steals a truck parked on a side street, tears ass right out of town and doesn't let off the pedal until the tank runs dry.
The sun cracks along the horizon as he walks down the silent highway, thinking of his epitaph.
Dean Winchester: One-hundred percent badass son, brother, hunter.
He feels them coming before he hears the howls, never turns his head to see, just keeps walking toward that last sunrise.
He is not afraid.