Author's notes: Honestly, I wrote this chapter a long time ago, somewhere between Ch 5 and 6 I guess. Just woke up one morning and had it fully formed in my head, so weird, but that's how it usually works :) I wasn't sure if I should post it though, because Ch 9 could be the last, and it would be okay.
But then… seriously, there are too many unhappy-endings in real life whether we want them or not. So why make another unhappy-ending when it could be happy instead? And wasn't it enough that my fav Spn character was killed off in the show? I couldn't believe it; I still can't; and I hope that sooner or later Bela is going to be back. And speaking of fav characters… how could I leave her unhappy and broken?
---What if I told you I've changed,
Would you still walk away?
What if I told you I loved you,
Would you say that it's too late?
What if you could feel what I feel
When I watch you slowly drift away?
What if you're wrong?
What if I'm right?
You could move on…
What if you stay?---
Bela leaned against the door, not really feeling cold steel with her back, and took several short convulsive breaths when muffled steps in the hallway faded away. Burning lump started forming in her throat and she had to bite her lower lip to stop unbidden tears from sliding down her cheeks. Bite it so hard that she even felt the taste of blood in her mouth. She wasn't going to cry. She couldn't afford crying. No way…
Well, she knew it would end like this, didn't she? She knew it from the start, no matter how hard she tried to pretend that it could be any different. No matter how desperately she wanted it to be something more than…than she didn't know what. She knew that Dean was going to forget everything, but preferred to pretend that there was hope, that Sam might be wrong about it, and it was her mistake. Rule #1 was to be honest with herself. Always. She wasn't this time, and look where it led!
It was so naïve, so childish to believe that they actually had a chance. She and Dean. Beautiful fairy-tale that ended by the dawn like a dream and left her broken and miserable. And alone. And what the hell could she do about it anyway? Tell him everything? Let him laugh her in the face? Let him say that he was not himself that he didn't know what he was doing? That it was nothing at all? Like it wasn't humiliating enough to know it! Like she wasn't more broken than she ever thought she could be.
Not able to stand on her trembling legs any longer, Bela slid down the door. She wrapped her arms around her knees and pressed them hard to her chest feeling that something was squeezing her lungs so tight that she could hardly breathe. She didn't want to cry, didn't mean to. Not because of him! Hell if he deserved her tears, this cold, arrogant, unbearable…
She knew she was strong. Stronger than that anyway. She knew she could handle it, go through it. Make it nothing more than a vague episode from the past. The one she'd learn to look back at without so much as a skipped heartbeat. Some day. And right now she just needed to take one small breath after another. Live through this minute, then through the next… Couldn't think any further now, but that was okay. She was going to make it, no matter what. And – hey! – she'd been through worse things, right? What was one little broken heart compared to… to…
Hot tears started streaming down her cheeks before she realized it and could take control of it. Her shoulders began to tremble slightly as Bela made an attempt to suppress her sobs, but she only made it worse. She hated Dean Winchester for that. For making her feel so terribly lost, and lonely, and… betrayed maybe. Cheated. For making her remember how to hope and wish for more than she could have.
To hell with you, Dean Winchester! Bela thought angrily. Go there! Save your precious brother! Hope you'll get to the hottest frying pan ever! And that very moment Bela Talbot meant every curse with all her heart, out of wish to make him feel the slightest bit of what she was feeling right now more than anything else because it hurt so much that she thought she was going to die.
So, she buried her face in her knees and let the storm grow stronger, hoping that she was going to feel better once it was over. And knowing for sure that it wasn't going to happen any time soon.
---I can't make you turn around,
And I can't take back what I did,
I wouldn't blame you if you hated me…
(Chuck Wicks "What if you stay?")---
There was one phone call, and one phone call only, which was surprising because, honestly, Bela never would have thought that she could be that strong. And even still it took her the whole two hours to talk herself into dialing the number, although what could be easier than pushing several buttons? But every time she took a receiver, there always appeared urgent things to be done right away, like feeding her cat, or watering the flowers, or pacing back and forth along the living room, or polishing her nails. Sure, making her dishes was a priority #1. And, seriously, these all were very good excuses, weren't they? But when there was nothing left she had to finally make a choice – to call or to forget about it, and she new that she wouldn't be able to forget even before the thought fully formed in her mind.
So, she took a deep breath like before diving into the water and pushed Dial. Felt her stomach flopping uncomfortably but knew that she could handle it, now that there was no way back. Had to, actually. But…
"Yeah," way too familiar voice grunted on the other end of the call.
"Hi, Sam," Bela drawled, forced herself to smile so that he could hear it. And, okay, talking to Sam was the best she could do. Couldn't make herself dial Dean's number anyway. No way on Earth!
"Bela," which sounded more like Why the hell did you bother me with you phone call? And although he didn't say it, his voice was cold enough for her to hear it. Feel it. Like, reading between the lines. Except for there were no lines.
And… silence. He was definitely waiting for her to continue since it was she who made a call.
Bela closed her eyes and counted to five, checked if Sam hung up and went on when it turned out that he didn't, obviously curious despite himself since there was no particular reason for her to call. She hoped that she managed to keep her voice level and indifferent enough. Wondered if Dean was anywhere around, and, honestly, wanted him to be. Maybe she could hear his voice, a word or two… Or maybe not, and it would be better because it definitely was more than she could handle right now. Well, anyway…
"Heard about that haunted house in Philadelphia, which you made not so haunted," she said. "Good job!"
Sam sneered. "Do you care?"
"Not really," she admitted easily, and paused, willing herself to sound all business. "Anyway…" Another deep breath, and her finger was seconds away from pushing Disconnect button. "I know about Dean's deal, Sam."
The pause on the line was so long and heavy that Bela suspected it would never end. What would she feel had she been in Sam's place?
"How do you…?"
"It doesn't matter," she cut him off. Sighed. "I know how to break it."
Sam choked. She could have sworn that whatever he was occupying himself with while talking to her, he stumbled and choked, because that was how it sounded. And she knew that he caught his breath, too.
"If it is a joke…" Sam started cautiously, hoping, Bela knew. Clinging on to any half-lead. Ready to accept any help. Even her help.
"It isn't," she hissed with fury, genuinely insulted. "Now shut up and listen to me. There is this ritual…" And she described it to him in as much details as she could, every nuance, every moment, praying for him to remember it all – write it all maybe – so that he did everything the way it should be done. "It is risky," she finished, grateful that Sam never interrupted her. He was probably too busy with memorizing her words to think properly about anything else. "And I can't promise that it's going to work. But if it works…" by the end of her monologue Bela's voice softened. Not too much, she hoped because, hell, she was so consumed with all this hope and emotions and fear that she wondered how she managed not to give herself away so far. "Give it a try." Thank God, they weren't talking face-to-face!
Sam cleared his throat. She knew her call was a surprise for him and now he tried to collect his thoughts, utterly torn between hope and disbelief. "Um… okay," she heard at last and couldn't help but sigh with relief. "It sounds… promising." And it did sound like he was offering a truce. But still, "What's in it for you, anyway?"
Bela clenched her teeth.
"Don't you think I can be good every once in a while?" All innocence!
"No," without so much as a moment's hesitation.
"Whatever." Bela rolled her eyes and grimaced as if Sam could see her, a little too hurt by his response. "Don't tell Dean that you found out about all this stuff from me, okay?" She asked. Nearly whispered. She didn't know Dean well, not the Dean, but what she knew was enough to be sure that he might be too stubbornly stupid to refuse to do whatever could actually help him out of the deal only because she offered it. And, truth be told, she couldn't even blame him for that. "Call me if it doesn't work," added even quieter. Because if it doesn't, I swear to God I'll come up with something else, anything. But I won't let him… never…
Wondered if Sam heard her.
He did. "Sure." Paused uneasily. "And what if it…"
Obviously, Dean wasn't around. Otherwise he'd without a doubt appear somewhere there as a background noise, attracted by the weird and mostly one-sided conversation.
"If it works, I'll know, right?" Bela mustered a resentful snort. Sooner or later.
And hung up before Sam could say one thing or another. Before Dean showed up. Before she started asking questions about him because it was the worst idea ever. Before she confided that she was scared like hell or anything else stupid. It was more than she could handle at the moment.
She eased her white-knuckled grip on the cell phone and put it away after the final look at the black screen. Sam didn't call back right away to specify the details of the ritual like she half-expected, and there were only two explanations of that – he either got it right, or ignored her call. Preferred to rely on himself, or Bobby, or Ruby, or… luck.
Bela hoped that he was smarter than that. And anyway, she did what she was meant to do. All she could do now was wait… and hope.
Business was business and no bloody hunter could ruin it, even if he tried, intentionally or not.
Bela got an un-cursing spell from Bobby, and – shocking! – he didn't even ask any questions. Well, she got him in the middle of something more important and blamed his disinterest on whatever he was occupying himself with. Another job, she guessed. Wheedled a promise out of him not to tell Sam and Dean she contacted him though, out of wish to protect herself from this potential headache in the first place, and settled her business with Luke after that hoping he'd get rid of the dream catcher before her trick was discovered. Anyway, he never showed up at her doorstep with a gun pointed at her head so far, so she preferred to think that it worked.
Then she sold a charm she had and spent almost all money she got for it to buy a painting. Sold it, too, for the double price. Went to Texas after that to retrieve an old magic book that, rumor was, belonged to Salem witches centuries ago. Got stuck in Virginia for two days on the way back because it was pouring cats and dogs for almost forty hours in a row. It made her regret she didn't fly instead of driving actually, but all in all it didn't matter because her buyer was willing to wait for a while. And – hey! – she did get her money after all, didn't she?
Life was going on. Poor imitation of what it was before actually, but it was going to get better some day. Or maybe not. Who knew? At least that was what Bela tried to persuade herself of. As for now, living through the day – one after another – was the greatest achievement, like winning a race or taking the highest barrier. Sam never called her, and Bela didn't know if it was a good or a bad sign. She knew they were both okay – alive – but that was it. Didn't know the details and didn't want to. Not really…
Bela woke up in the middle of the night, rolled over to another side and groped for the soft and warm form of her cat not even opening her eyes. That unexpected and utterly annoying wish to feel a living creature by her side started bothering Bela already but she hoped it would end some time soon. Blamed it on lack of sleep and intense job. Yeah, she hadn't been sleeping well lately, counted herself lucky if she managed to grab three of four hours during the night. But it couldn't last forever, right? So, all she could do was just wait patiently for something to change. Tried hard not to think about anything but her job, and almost succeeded.
Her cat was nowhere to be found and Bela forced her eyes open. Observed empty bed and nearly groaned. Where could he be? Usually he was sleeping with her through entire night as if feeling that silent company was what she needed most, and she appreciated it, really. He might have went downstairs though, Bela decided, to eat or something. She remembered leaving him full bowl of cat food in the evening. Or maybe he decided to check on one of numerous night sounds that might seem suspicious to him.
Bela sighed and kicked her blankets aside. She knew she wouldn't be able to fall asleep without soft purring form right there with her. So, it made sense to go downstairs and look for her little friend if she wanted to have a couple more hours of her so-called sleep filled with dreams, which she tried not to even think about during daylight.
The lights were out and the only source of illumination was a streetlamp outside the living room window. It wasn't bright but all the same it was enough to let Bela pass through her apartment without stumbling or dropping something valuable to the floor. Or wringing her neck on the stairs. Red indicator on her security system panel flickered steadily in the corridor near the door.
"Hey, kitty-kitty-kitty!" She whispered into the darkness and looked around expecting to see her cat running towards her across the hallway, tail up.
Well, she was alone and it was stupid to whisper, and generally she could have turned the lights on, but she didn't want to and whispering in the darkness seemed to be the most right thing to do.
"Losing your grip, Bela, huh?" The voice came somewhere from her couch, accompanied by the chuckle.
It made her jump on the spot and whirl around with lightning speed, her heart started hammering in her chest at least three times faster than usually, out of surprise, or shock, or who knew what else. The first impulse was to reach for her gun but as soon as Bela did so, she realized that she was dressed in nothing but her pajama shorts and a t-shirt, and her gun was left upstairs.
And, anyway, it didn't look like she needed it.
Seeing dark form of Dean Winchester on the white leather of her couch made Bela nearly regret that she didn't have some kind of weapon close at hand. Chances were, one bullet might make him stop scaring crap out of her every once in a while. She scowled at the sight of her cat sitting in his lap and clenched her teeth.
"What the… What are you doing here, Dean?" Bela hissed, all indignation, put her hands on her hips and tipped her chin high. Tried to ignore her stomach that started flopping violently. Held her breath in anticipation of an answer because from where she was standing, she could see no reason for him to be here… to even give her an extra thought, unless he didn't have money even for the cheapest motel ever and decided to drop in here instead of sleeping in the car, which wasn't inspiring supposition and it only made her frown harder.
God knew, she did her best to stay out of his way lately. For the whole three weeks, five days and – what time was it? – eight hours. But who is counting, Bela thought bitterly.
"Been waiting for almost two hours already," Dean said, and was it her imagination or did his words really sound somewhat accusatory? As if he expected her to feel him or something!
"It is not an answer to my question," she pointed out. "And, honestly, I don't want to know it. Just get out and stop breaking into my place in the middle of the night whenever you feel like it. It stopped being new and exciting a long time ago."
She switched on reading lamp at last. It felt strangely uncomfortable to talk to Dean in the dark. Well, maybe not uncomfortable exactly but Bela felt somewhat vulnerable when she couldn't see his face because, knowing Dean, the expression of his eyes could be a better answer than any words he might be saying. Besides, she wanted to see him before he left, which was probably a matter of five minutes, at most. Had to memorize it in case she wouldn't have another chance any time soon.
He looked tired and there were lines in the corners of his eyes that she didn't remember. But she blamed it on lack of sleep, assuming the time, and maybe his overly rich with events life, and refused to feel any sympathy. Not now.
"I need to talk to you," Dean answered simply.
"The phone would work, too, you know. And… Jesus, Dean! Why always at night?" Bela rolled her eyes melodramatically and congratulated herself mentally on keeping her voice irritated, not shaking.
"Been to Montana," he shrugged, and had Bela not known him better, she'd think the gesture was apologetic. Awkward. "Bloody poltergeist. A spirit of some crazy old broad was driving mad the whole hotel because she was freaking pissed off when her grandson turned her lovely house into a public place." Another shrug. "Halloween's always busy time."
"Charming! I can imagine how much fun the two of you had. Would you like to discuss it in detail?" She cut her tongue before the question about the damn ritual and its consequences slipped out. Supposedly, she couldn't know about it. Supposedly, she didn't know about Dean's deal in the first place. "Where is Sam, anyway?"
"On the hunt," matter-of-factly.
"Really? Alone? Gee, and I thought that you're like musketeers, always together."
"We can't be like musketeers," Dean snorted. "There were three of them."
"Right," Bela nodded. "My point exactly – you, Sam and your precious car."
And he definitely winced when she mentioned the Impala, she noted.
Bela kept on standing and looking at him from above, wondering how much time he would need to take it as a hint to get out. Tried to ignore his studying gaze although it definitely made her feel slightly uneasy. It felt like it was the first time that he looked at her and actually saw her. Of course it was nothing, just her imagination, what else? But it felt creepy anyway. Bela shifted her weight from foot to foot and scowled.
Made an attempt to recall any point where their paths could possibly cross in the past few weeks but found none and anything but sighed with relief. It wasn't business then. Probably. Although she wouldn't put it past Dean to blame his every failure on her. Old habits die hard.
"Sam told me everything," he said suddenly.
"Oh, come on!" She rolled her eyes and sneered. "Even Sam can't know everything!"
Dean ignored her sarcasm though and went on, "About this freaking accident with memory loss and…"
And it was a miracle that Bela didn't collapse right away because she seriously suspected for a moment or two that she could. Wondered somewhat absentmindedly if Dean could hear that crazily thumping of her heart, too. As for her, she could hardly hear anything but it, in her head, in her mind. Everywhere. It was sort of blocking all other sounds around, and thoughts too, truth be told.
Sam couldn't… could he? No, of course not! He wouldn't dare… Not because of her, but because he probably didn't want to even think about theoretical possibility of her relationship with his brother.
Bela hoped she managed to keep her cool, at least externally. She swallowed hard and wondered if she paled a bit. Well, even if she did, dim light of reading lamp was probably a good cover.
Dean didn't seem to pay attention to her uneasiness though, and once Bela managed to cope with her emotions – in a way – she saw that he looked rather confused. Embarrassed even.
"What about it?" She asked indifferently.
"Well… um, nothing. Just… It's creepy, you know," he confessed softly, all his attention on her cat. "One moment I was drawing protection symbols on the floor of that bleeding warehouse while Sam read that Latin stuff out loud, and the next I was here, in your place, almost one freaking week later." He gave out short laugh, and scratched Bela's cat between his ears and, well, didn't look like he was intended to leave any time soon. And then raised his head to look Bela in the face. "Sam told you were… kind of helping."
Yeah, with kind of being the key words!
"Helping!" Bela snorted. Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad after all. "It wasn't my choice, actually, and Sam might have mentioned it." She grimaced at him and folded her arms on the chest. Wished she were wearing a housecoat over her pajamas. It would definitely make her feel better. "Besides, he was supposed to pay."
"Well, yeah… maybe," Dean ran his hand through his short hair.
"Oh, please tell me that you didn't make all this way from Montana only to say thank you," she cocked her head in mock sympathy. "I appreciate it, Dean. Really. But a simple postcard would be enough. I'd stick it to my fridge as a reminder of how damn generous I can be from time to time."
Dean chuckled. He let go off her cat, got to his feet and made a circle around her antique coffee table. Paused to take a close look at the book or one of the statuettes on the shelf – Bela didn't understand – and then turned and peered intensely at her, considering.
"Do you really think that everything in this life is about you?"
Bela held his gaze, all dignity, and didn't look away, as much as she'd like to. Hell, the sound of his voice in her dreams was driving her crazy. His presence in her living room in the flesh, so warm and close, was making her wish to run away.
"It is just a guess, assuming that you came to my place." And she even managed to keep her voice level, which could be called a really serious achievement. "What is this little chit-chat about then?"
Dean watched her face without saying a word long enough for Bela to start feeling extremely uncomfortable. She glared coldly back at him, chin tipped high, all pure challenge and confidence. From outside. But, seriously, she'd rather he said something – anything, really! – to end this silent game. If it was a game. Well, whatever the hell it was. But she hadn't spoken first, decided to let him be responsible for whatever was going on here.
"Yeah, right," Dean smirked at last, gave her a long one over again and shook his head. Bela didn't need to be a genius to see that generally he addressed that smirk to himself, not to her at all. A bitter curve of lips that lacked any actual humor or fun. Sadness was there though, some kind of very human sorrow and something that Bela didn't recognize. "I should have known better than that."
"Stop it, Dean!" She snapped. To hell with self-control. The whole situation was getting ridiculous, for God's sake! "You broke into my apartment in the middle of the night surely not out of wish to entertain yourself, so stop talking to me in half-phrases and tell me what the hell you came here for in a full, meaningful and informative sentence!"
Bela wanted him out of her place. Out of her life! Now! Without a trace!
But even more she wanted him to stay. And she wanted it so badly that the longer he stood there before her, the more obvious it was becoming that she was getting very close to begging him to stay. So, the sooner he disappeared into nowhere, the better.
"It's nothing. Do you have a beer or something?"
He headed past her into the kitchen, and hemmed when Bela practically sucked her belly in to avoid accidental touch.
"Dean, you can't just…" she cut off and rolled her eyes when he shot his brows up. "Whatever! Just tell me what the hell it is." Noted that she sounded considerably softer, and added not without sarcasm, "No, seriously, you've got to tell me. I probably won't be able to fall asleep until you satisfy my curiosity." Ha! Like she would at all, now that he freaking revived so many memories, cut the wound open again. Thanks! So damn timely!
He shut her fridge with a grimace, and it was a justified grimace Bela had to admit. A bottle of juice that expired a week ago, a couple of yogurts and a long forgotten can of tuna wouldn't impress her too, had she been in his place. No beer.
And then, in a rush of sudden confidence, not quite looking at her – not looking anywhere, actually, "I've been having these dreams lately. About you and me." A pause and a wince. "Pretty annoying stuff, I've gotta say, and it totally freaked me out. It's just they were, you know, more like… memories, than dreams." He shrugged with confusion, still not meeting her eyes. Preferred to study a shell-shaped magnet instead. "Something like that. Dunno." Huffed with frustration and clear annoyance. "Man, I already speak like Sam! It sounds so girly that I regret brining the subject up at all."
"So, you've been having dreams about me," Bela drawled feeling as if he had just hit her in the gut – so very close to gasping for air. It couldn't be happening… It couldn't… And it was a miracle that she managed to keep her voice light and mocking. "How sweet, Dean. I'm flattered, really. Just give me a second to cope with all this unexpected happiness, and… yes, I definitely should mark that day in my calendar. Do you have a red pen?" She cocked her head and arched an eyebrow.
"Not that I expected anything," Dean smirked after a while. Gave her apartment a quick once over as if trying to memorize it or something – like looking for a reason to stay but obviously found none, and headed for the door. "See ya then, Bela," threw over his shoulder without so much as a look back. Waved his hand vaguely. "Be good."
And he was gone, the smell of his cologne and something else painfully familiar left behind him.
Slowly, Bela followed him to the door. Needed to close it properly anyway, turn the security system on, that was what she told herself. The lamest excuse ever. She felt dizzy and could hardly breathe; her eyes and throat were burning with the upcoming tears. Her heart was very close to jumping out of her chest, or stopping, which didn't quite matter either. Nothing would change essentially if it did stop for real, Bela thought somewhat indifferently.
She leaned her forehead against the cold steel and started taking deep and slow breaths hoping that they would hold the tears. What the hell did she just do? Why? It was her only chance. One in a million. Something that she didn't even dare to hope for. And she let him go once again. Let him slip away just like that. Probably, forever this time.
Why did he come at all? Why did he have to break whatever peaceful Dean-Winchester-free world she managed to create for herself over these weeks? Was it a matter of honor for him or what? Like another point in his life goals list, if he even had one. Wasn't turning her entire existence upside down and making her feel miserable enough for now?
She covered the doorknob where Dean's hand touched it minutes ago with her palm as if it could still keep the warmth of his body, but there was nothing. Reached for the lock, but then suddenly yanked the door open in a rush of… something. Crazy hope maybe. Desperation. Need.
And he was there, standing in the middle of the hallway, looking right back at her.
Bela swallowed. Paused in the doorway, surprised, and relived, and confused, and scared, and God knew what else. Couldn't think properly anyway to even start trying to define her feelings.
They watched each other for what seemed like an eternity. And then – Bela didn't even notice how Dean crossed the distance between them – he was right before her, pushing his hands through her hair, framing her face, and his lips were on hers before she could blink. Before she could fully realize what was happening. So warm, and soft, and familiar. And it all was like finally. Like coming home. And she was clinging on to his jacket, and his arms, and wherever else she could reach, as if he could disappear like a dream in the morning, thoughts getting rather mixed and foggy.
"I knew it wasn't just some freaking stupid dream, always felt it," Dean whispered as he rested his forehead against hers, giving them both a chance to catch their breath, his fingers tangled in her hair. "Been thinking of you all the time, Bela," he confided softly, barely audibly on a sharp intake of breath. "Couldn't get you out of my head for one goddamned minute. Thought I'd go crazy."
"I take it you were missing me, Dean," she murmured and caught his mouth with hers once again, claiming for more, making the moment last forever.
"What? A couple of nightmares, and you already start flattering yourself, sweetheart?"
Bela laughed softly.
And they probably looked extremely stupid from outside, standing like that in the doorway of her apartment, which seemed strangely right.
"Says who?" Dean chuckled. Then, "You know what I think of your business, do you?" Bela nodded shortly. To hell with business, not now. "And you know what? I don't care, really." He paused, traced a feather light touch down her cheek. "Well, not much. But… just tell me one thing, Bela. And I want to hear the truth this time." Another effective pause, and she knew what he was going to ask. "Did we really break into the storehouse in Black Rock?"
The real ending this time :) I leave the rest to your imagination!
PS A/N: This fic is the longest of all my fics so far, a kind of personal milestone. And I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Reviews are highly appreciated!