Authors' notes: Oh well, here we are again :))) It took me ages to update, I know *sighs* But the job and all other stuff takes too much of my time to be as good on updates as before. I hope that you're still with me though :)))
Thanks for paying attention, really. I appreciated it a lot! Hope you don't mind me making this chap a sort of song-chap
-- Again and again I try
To understand the demons inside your head,
But the truth is you love them to death.
"The last time" by Within Temptation--
The alley in the old city park was dark and deserted, it was too late and cold for anyone to enjoy the walk or even pass by. The wrought-iron bench and the trees around it were covered with snow and lit by the lone dim streetlamp casting wicked-shaped shadows at the curving walkway.
"It was meant to be done," Anna Milton appeared from the shadows and stopped at the far end of the bench.
"I'm not saying it wasn't," Castiel said in calm assured voice standing on the walkway with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his raincoat.
"Give him some time, he will figure it out," she replied.
"We don't have much time."
"You don't have the power to force Dean do something against his will."
"No one does. But we can't wait for long."
"What do you know?" Anna demanded, all grave at once.
Castiel stayed silent for a very long moment looking at the flickering light, his lips pursed tight as though he didn't know whether he should answer her question at all. The gust of wind rumpled his hair and he shivered in the freezing-cold air.
"She's gathering the forces," he said at last. "Whatever she can find, she's getting stronger. And we're still losing."
Anna considered his words for a moment. "Who told you that?"
"Rumors and hearsay." Had she known him worse, she'd thought he was being sarcastic. "It's not like they share every piece of information with me." He paused and looked her in the face. "They'd cut me off any information if they find out I'm still in touch with you."
"You know, I can find other ways."
"It's not what I mean."
"I know what you mean, Castiel. I'm too much of an outcast to even be talked to. Good price for having my wish come true, I got that. Not that I'd ever make it any other way had I had another chance. I appreciate it that you still do, really. Talk to me, I mean. Just so you knew."
"You'd fall again," and they both knew it wasn't a question. "Even if you knew the exact consequences."
"I don't' expect you to understand." She knew the regret was obvious in her voice, no matter how hard she tried not to let it slip. Still… "Stay close to them, will you? And…" she hesitated for a moment. "Keep you eyes open." Their eyes met again. "I mean it, Castiel. Be careful."
There was a rustle behind Castiel's back and he span around… to find a bird taking off the nearest bush. When he turned back, the spot where Anna stood a moment ago was empty.
Strange how different the world could be when looking through the eyes of a person who knew exactly what hell looked like. Even the smallest things that people usually never paid much attention to gained the whole new meaning. The colors looked brighter and deeper; the sounds were clearer and louder. And the feelings… the feelings sharpened and sort of multiplied by thousand times. Like she was born all over again. The only difference was that now she could actually appreciate it to the full extent, what with knowing exactly what it had been on the other side.
But together with appreciation came the fear. Fear of hearing the howling again. Fear of dying. Something Bela knew she didn't have before. Not "Well, no one came back to tell us what it looks like" kind of anxiety the majority of human beings had. But "I'm going to dig my teeth and nails into whatever only to avoid going there ever again" horror. Animal fear that could keep her wide awake for several nights in a row, listening, waiting, until her consciousness turned off on the will of its own. The very fear that was making her hear the sounds and see the shadows in the dark that weren't actually there. The one that was making her clutch her gun tighter and catch her breath in order not to give away her location while her heart kept pumping out of her chest.
She would never have imagined it would be like that. Every bloody second of the time she spent in hell she wanted to get out. She hoped and prayed and pleaded and struggled but she never – not for a moment – thought about what it would be like to really escape and then be forced to learn to live from the start. What it would be like to try to get used to simple things. To get used to no pain.
And yet, it turned out to be a harder task than she ever thought it could be. Bela couldn't close her eyes without seeing herself on the rack, and demons all around her, and blood – probably hers. She could never stop thinking about what it felt like to be cut through. She couldn't do anything to block her mind from remembering every damned moment of this endless nightmare. She knew exactly what her insides looked like – saw them way too often to forget it ever. Knew what her heart looked like when someone – or more like something – held it in their hands. She was waking up with the tears streaming down her face and screams of fear, and usually it took her a long while to understand that they were her own screams.
Bela was out of hell, true, but hell was still inside of her, as though some part of her would always stay down there. And she also knew – no matter how much she tried NOT to think about it – that she would never be the same, and the whole world would never be the same, too. At least for her. Nothing would ever be the way it had been before. She knew she would never forget or let go. Her personal little hell. The new one, improved and upgraded version.
She didn't know how to be herself – or anyone else, speaking of that – with all the horrors of her past multiplied by her time down in the pit but Bela was oddly determine to at least give it a try. And wasn't coming back from hell worth it? She only needed to figure out the details… and maybe erase the memory of the past twenty years, too. It was hard to accept the fact that the world had changed as well. She'd been gone for almost a year – over a century in hell-time – and got back to the entirely different place. Yes, she'd been gone for way too long, but she still knew her way around the territory, and she didn't like what she'd learned. And it definitely wasn't helping her to have better sleep at night…
Bela snapped her eyes open and jerked her head up breathing hard and fighting yet another panic attack that she'd been having every single time upon waking now, which grew up a little when she didn't see the now familiar ceiling of her bedroom. So there, it happened after all, she thought with despair. It was all a dream, Dean, her coming back, her…
It took her a moment to realize that she must have simply dozed off on the couch in the living room. Bela blinked with confusion at the cup with the long cold tea and some papers scattered all over the coffee table before her, and then let out a long sigh of relief.
She tipped her head back against the back of the couch and rubbed tiredly at her eyelids. Suppressed the yawn and finally bothered to check the time. It was nearing four in the morning, which meat that she'd been out for only a couple of hours at most, too eager to get back to her normal self without actually knowing what normal meant, what with the case she'd taken recently. The papers were the information she'd managed to get so far, and all she actually wanted was to find the charm and…
It wasn't the dream that woke her up though, like almost every time she'd been ripped out of yet another nightmare by her own scream. The sense of some uneasiness crept all over her. Bela wasn't even sure she'd been having any dreams this time, at all. Or maybe her consciousness mercifully erased the memory of them. But if it wasn't a dream, then it was something else, and the thought suddenly became terrifying ever before it fully formed it her head. Bela knew way too much not to trust her instincts. Something just wasn't right.
The cat that was sleeping in the other end of the couch opened the eyes and raised its head. His ears twitched. Bela caught the movement out of the corner of her eyes and turned to look at him.
"What?" She frowned.
And then it happened again. The sound that must have interrupted her sleep.
The knock on the door?!
Bela span around and stared at the door. In complete silence that only night could bring the knock sounded especially blood-chilling. Her heart plummeted down and settled heavily in her stomach causing cold nauseating feeling.
Still looking in the direction of the hallway, Bela reached out behind one of the couch cushions and felt that her heart slowed down a little only when her fingers closed around cold steel of the gun. She kept them stashed all over her place now, at least one in each room. Bela Talbot might be getting a little paranoiac but she was anything but unarmed.
It wasn't hard to imagine that she could hear the hellhounds howling and scratching at the door again, exactly the way they did when they came for her the first time in that dump of a motel room that Sam and Dean had left behind so easily. And Bela had no problem with seeing her entire apartment filling with thick black smoke. In her mind these picture were as clear and real as they could possibly be. But there still was one thing that she was two hundred percent sure of – demons didn't need to knock! Too much delicacy. Like the last wish of the person sentenced to death. What was the point if one was going to die regardless?
"You're not waiting for an order from Chinese restaurant, are you?" She asked her cat in a low shaky voice and finally forced herself up from the couch, not as steady on her feet as she'd like to be; gun clenched tight in her hand but lowered in case it was a mistake or something.
She wasn't sure she needed the trouble of demonstrating the weapon to whoever was so persistent on the other side but her hand was already lying on the door knob. Listening to the dull thuds of her heart, Bela hesitated for a moment and then yanked the door open ready to cock the gun and pull the trigger if necessary.
She blinked then, startled with surprise and sudden relief, or at least something that had probably been relief somewhere deep inside, not that she had time to contemplate it.
There was a guy in a long beige coat that looked exactly like an estate or insurance agent with slightly rumpled hair, grave face and piecing blue eyes. The problem was – Bela couldn't quite imagine insurance agents paying a visit at four in the morning. And okay, even if they did, for some reason she couldn't quite get, they would definitely never be like that. The guy turned and looked at her.
He wasn't a demon – that, of all things, she was sure of. After all the time she spent in their company, she knew what the demons felt like. Also, he felt humanly tired. And he definitely didn't expect her to pull out the gun and shoot him. Or didn't fear it, so she held it hidden behind her back and just kept staring at him, wary all the same despite herself.
Neither of them spoke for a moment. Bela let the stranger study her face. He didn't look surprised, so she assumed that the question "I'm sorry, doesn't Mr. Smith live here?" wasn't coming.
"Hello, Bela," the man said in the end in a low velvet voice causing goose-bumps all over her flesh.
She took a small involuntary step back overwhelmed by newly arisen panic. The voice… Hell, it sounded like…
"Who are you?" She asked back, all suspicion at once.
There was a short pause during which the stranger just watched her with odd expression that Bela couldn't quite define.
"I am Castiel," he said then, as if it was making any sense. And added, "I'm an angel of the Lord."
Bela blinked once, and then again. Took her time to process the information and felt her lips twisting into a smirk. She chuckled softly and shook her head, gave the guy another apprehensive look.
"Nice try!" And slammed the door right before his face, both relived and annoyed now. Let out a small nervous giggle. Insane!
She checked the locks then, wondering if some chamomile tea could help her get some more sleep, turned around… and all but stumbled and jerked back when she saw the stranger standing in the middle of her living room with the same calm and somewhat absent expression on his face.
"What the…" Bela started, threw a lightning-fast look over her shoulder and at the front door and then cocked her gun aiming right in the chest of her visitor. "How did you… Who are you?"
"I am Castiel. I'm an angel…"
"Cut the crap!" Soft click of her gun made Bela's voice stronger and steadier. One word or movement she'd interpret as threatening, and God help her but messing with her would be the last thing the guy would do in his life. "Who. The hell. Are you?" She repeated slowly making the way she said it speak volumes. Tried no to give in to the strange feeling that was making her insides twist.
The voice… It sounded like… like… oh, God! She was going crazy, really, but come on! Wasn't it the only way to stay alive? And still, the feeling that something wasn't the way she assumed wasn't letting go off of her.
"You know I am telling the truth," the man said.
"All I know is that I don't actually care who or what the hell ever you are. But I'm counting to three, and if you're still here when I'm done, you're in a big trouble" Bela fingers flexed on the gun. "One…"
"I need you to listen to me, it is very important--"
"Sorry, but I'm done with the deals." So, that was what it all was about, huh? Funny but the demons turned out to be a lot more persistent than all insurance agents or make-up retailers or whoever else could be, altogether. "Two…"
It was a little annoying and more than a little unnerving that he didn't seem to be merely bothered by the threat, as if he didn't see the gun aimed straight at his chest.
"You don't have to be afraid of me."
Bela chuckled despite herself. Oh yeah, right. She didn't have to worry about anything at all. All she had to do was to forget what had happened the last time she'd been foolish enough to trust someone she didn't know. Or, say, someone who had a tendency to appear out of the blue. And she wasn't a fool. At least in this new life.
"Sure, like anyone would ever buy that," she commented dryly. "I am not at all interested in whatever you have to say or to offer." And after a pause. "Three." She was so not going to be a part of whatever game they had in mind.
God, she just wanted him to go away and leave her alone. She wanted them all to leave her alone just for once. And preferably forever.
"You need to find Dean Winchester," the man said all of sudden, his voice implying that he hadn't heard that three of hers. "This is very serious, Bela. You need to listen to me. The war is coming and…"
The name struck her. Moreover, she was pretty sure she didn't hear a word after the phrase You need to find Dean Winchester. In the back of her mind Bela saw it coming, some part of her knew it from the start. And yet it was shocking. Unexpected.
She swallowed hard feeling a little dizzy all of a sudden, her finger paused on the trigger and her stomach plummeted down heavily. Not because of her visitor's weird attitude although it was enough to give her creeps, but because of the look in his eyes. Like… like he was actually expecting something from her. Like he was sure that she knew what he was talking about or something. And the worst thing was that deep inside she did know, or at least she thought that she might be right about it. Maybe…
Subtly, she took several deep breaths to try and calm down, eyes pinned to the man before her, waiting… Yeah, she was expecting his eyes to turn black ever from the start. It would be so logical and natural that every second of waiting seemed ridiculous.
The gaze of the blue eyes was intense and she felt like he was seeing right through her. Like he was reading her mind even.
And since the idea wasn't entirely impossible, Bela didn't like it. She took another deep breath to clear her mind as best she could. Tried to focus on the feeling of the weapon in her hand, its weight and texture, on her own fingertips and toes. Anything but the man before her. She knew she was good at it. Blocking her mind to the outer world was the first thing she learn when she started using the talking board to keep the spirits away. It wasn't hard. Generally. With the only exception that now she wasn't even half as calm and concentrated as when she was normally asking the other side for help.
"He needs you more than either of you can see," the man repeated, and Bela clenched her teeth against the goose bumps that ran down her spine at the sound of his voice.
"Whoever you are, you are crazy," she said finally finding the explanation that suited the situation and satisfied her most. "I don't know how you did thing trick with getting in through the closed door, but you either leave right now or…" She trailed off and gave him the most charming smile of hers; the one that Bela was pretty sure promised all horrors of hell to her guest.
She shifted from foot to foot, her hand getting a little tired of holding the gun, and fought for a quick witty reply. Old clock on the mantelpiece let out five slow dings. It gave her a start, made her turn her head in that direction for just a moment, too short for the man to act in case he planned to attack her or something, but when she looked back to where Castiel was supposed to be… he was gone.
"What the…?" Bela whirled around, gun cocked up and clutched tight, expecting to see her visitor fleeing.
But the living room was empty, and so were the kitchen and the part of the corridor she could see from where she was standing. She paused for a very long moment listening intensely but everything was quiet, and all she could actually hear was the soft roar of the fridge working in the kitchen and the ticking of the clock.
Cautiously she approached the door to find it locked the way she left it, with the chain on and all. Green light on the security panel was on, too. Whoever her stranger visitor was, he walked in right through the solid wood and then… well, disappeared.
Bela let out the breath she didn't even notice she was holding and finally lowered her hand, the gun still clutched tight. Leaned against the corridor wall and ran her fingers through her hair. Made an attempt to think straight.
It wasn't a dream or a trick of her mind, that she was sure of. The salesman-looking guy was as real as one could be. His soft voice, so familiar, was ringing in her head. And… he bloody knew Dean Winchester!
The name – even being said only in her mind – gave Bela's heart a leap and made her swallow hard. She closed her eyes and rubbed tiredly at her eyelids. It was juts a little too much… she snapped her eyes open then feeling the rage growing inside of her. Pure, white-hot, consuming fury. It was right about time to have a little talk.
She knew where he was. Of course she did. How could she not? Kept track of him, just in case. Not that she actually cared but… It was funny to see how easily some of her skills were coming back even through the utter chaos in her head and soul. As if it was something like… breathing. Something that she couldn't have forgotten even if she wanted. Once again life proved to Bela that surviving at any cost was her talent of some sort.
Eyes narrowed and fixed on the road, fingers flexing on the steering wheel, Bela felt dark determination growing inside of her. This time Dean Winchester went just a little too far.
And come on! Like there weren't enough stuff happening in her life to blow her mind! Of all the things in the world, one Bela was sure of – there was no such thing as angels. It took her a while to get why her visitor was so familiar. But it definitely was him. She had already heard that soft velvet voice before. She had heard it on the night she got back. The man was right there with Dean in that motel room. Her memories of that were blurred and quite random. She didn't even know how much of what she remembered had happened for real. But she was sure she could bet all of her money on hearing that voice before. Well, that could at least explain how he got to know her name. Nothing mysterious after all.
She passed by a rather rundown gas-station located so far from the main highways that Bela doubted that they had more than a couple of clients a month. Felt the need to have some coffee and decided to stop at the next one hoping it would be more decent. God, she needed coffee. Coffee, some sleep, and to kill Dean Winchester.
She let out a long breath and relaxed her fingers a little when she noticed that she was holding the steering wheel so tight that her knuckles turned white.
Five weeks. Bloody hell, she hadn't heard a word from him for over five weeks.
Her mind drifted back to that night…
Five weeks ago Bela woke up in the empty motel room with no Dean in sight and the feeling that the whole out of hell thing was a dream. The room was dark, small and depressingly empty. The second bed was undoubtedly untouched. She failed to find a goodbye note, or any other note at all, specking of that, just the keys from the rented car were lying on the nightstand. Oh, and the fact that the room was paid for. He hadn't called or showed up later either. No one bothered to come and explain to her how and why it happened that she wasn't dead anymore. Why they were both alive.
Not that she cared… All she bloody wanted was to have her life back, and apparently to have her dream come true she needed to get rid of the mess in her head. She needed to get the answers and then try and cross Dean Winchester and his geek of a brother out of her life once and for all.
The motel was small, cheap and looked pretty much like a dump of a place which made Bela wonder what on earth could possibly make people even come near it. Not that it was such a surprise. After all of her previous experience with the Winchesters she didn't exactly expect to see anything else.
But the view made her squint all the same.
Bela hit the brakes and car came to an abrupt stop, tires squealing on the asphalt. Didn't care to park properly leaving one of the front wheels almost in the flowerbed covered with fresh snow at this time of the year. She pushed the door open fighting the sudden wish to u-turn and speed away instead, and left the car. Hands balled, she stomped up the icy pavement to the door with peeling green paint.
Room 1246. That was what the spirits told her. Riverside Motel – yeah, smart! She hadn't seen a single river for miles! – room 1246.
She hesitated for a moment, her heart thumping like crazy. Oh hell, after almost a twelve-hour drive it was a little too late to turn back. She pursed her lips tight feeling a little dizzy – probably because of lack of sleep and an excessive consumption of caffeine, and finally reached out to knock.
The knock on the door came together with the referee's whistle making Dean all but jump in his seat. He span around and stared at it, arm reaching for the gun on an instinct. He put down the beer and grabbed the remote to mute the TV.
Sam? Well, actually, could be. Possibly. Dean hadn't heard from him for a while but it didn't mean… Could be Castiel, too. Maybe he finally learned how to knock instead of making that hocus-pocus of his with jumping out of nowhere when he least expected. That – Dean knew – he might as well be grateful for. It would probably save him a great deal of nerves and gray hair.
The thing was, the place like that didn't exactly have room service to expect. Oh, well, he could still hope for it anyway.
The door burst open nearly hitting Dean on the face the moment he turned the door knob, and then something fierce and fast and pretty furious came crushing in on, "This is sick, Dean!"
Not Sam. Not even Castiel as he secretly half-hoped because it normally meant long boring crap and yet the minimum of problems.
She marched past him and turned around when she reached the center of the room to look at him, her eyes flaring and brows furrowed.
"You barging in here and ruing my exciting night?" He mustered a chuckle as best he could and shook his head. Dear Lord, he wished he could rub at his eyes to make sure he wasn't seeing things or something. "I couldn't agree more." Okay, honestly he had no idea what exactly she meant but it was getting interesting.
Bela snickered at his comment, then gave the room the appreciative look, noted a pile of old news-papers, a stack of plastic glasses and two beds – one undoubtedly untouched, a pair of dirty jeans lying atop the faded cover. Small nightstand squeezed between the beds was covered in several paper-bags from the nearest take-away. Absently, she wondered what the place looked like in the daylight, with the sun streaming through the old curtains. If only it was actually making a way in through the washed off cloth at all. Not that it was a problem of hers. She spotted a turned-on laptop on the table and the TV showing a football game perched on some metallic construction in the corner under the very ceiling.
"Yeah, I see you're having quite a party here," she wrinkled her nose at the smell of dust, booze and desperation. Kept looking around to avoid meeting his eye slightly bothered by the second that Dean Winchester was now standing between her and the door. She didn't like it, annoyed by the fact that she was probably losing her grip here. The urge to flee became almost overwhelming.
"Low standards," he shrugged nonchalantly, not at all offended by her implications.
She looked tired, he noticed. Yeah, furious too, and possibly a step away from pointing her gun at him in that charming manner of hers, but tired all the same. These dark circles under her eyes… Dean looked away and out the window at the neon sign flickering on the other side of the parking lot visible between the curtains like it had become something extremely interesting by the second. It was none of his business anymore. He shouldn't be giving a damn.
It was weird to see that she remained the same classy bitch, at least externally, even after... Weird and somewhat sobering. "So, you were what, just passing by and had no other place to stop for the night?" He asked, all elegance, and graced her with a cheeky smile.
"What?" Bale gave a place another once-over. "Over my dead body!" Her disbelief was so whole-hearted that Dean couldn't help but squint. Finally, she forced herself to look him in the face. Tried to see past her memories…
"So, what do I owe the honor to?"
"Tell your friends to back off, or I swear to God, the next time I won't hesitate to pull the trigger."
Dean blinked processing her words. Replayed them in his head once again in case he missed something, but no, it still wasn't making nay sense.
"I guess it means you're finally out of your mind," he said in the end. "Cute!"
"I am dead serious," Bela growled.
"I have no idea what the hell you're talking about," Dean snorted. God, the very fact of her showing up here was more than enough to turn everything upside down. She couldn't possibly expect him to actually think! "Sorry, sweetheart, but I'm a little busy here--" he started, but then she was talking, too.
And yeah, she knew how to catch him off-guard. "Who is Castiel?"
Dean froze, eyes pinned to the suspicious spot on the carpet he kept ignoring ever since he moved in, feeling his heart plummeting to the bottom of his stomach.
"What?" He straightened up frowning.
"You heard me!" She snapped. "Who is Castiel, Dean?"
Finally, Dean managed to gain his composure back. Arched one brow at her, even.
"Why? Didn't he introduce himself? Shocking! Actually, the dude's good at that. All grave and 'I'm an angel of the Lord'," he hoped his imitation was close to the original.
In his mind though, he was still confused. Why would Cas…?
"Who the hell is he?" Bela repeated slowly looking at Dean as if he was mentally damaged.
"An angel," he said in a voice that most people used when talking to children – patient and a little cautious.
Bela pursed her lips tight and glared daggers at him wishing with all her heart that the power of mind could actually kill. "Stop it!"
"What now? You wanted the friggin' answer, and here it is!"
"There is no such thing as angels."
"And who told you that?"
The regarded each other for a long moment.
"And you call me crazy?" Bela scoffed in the end. "Whatever, Dean, really. Just stay away from me, and tell your friend that he is so dead if I ever see him again."
She strode past him to the door and it was hard to miss that she kept avoiding his eyes as much as possible. Kept the distance between the two of them, too, as if there actually was a physical barrier that prevented her from coming any closer, and all but sucked in her belly when coming closer was inevitable. Her shoulders went stiff when she had to turn her back to him but apparently backing all the way to the door was simply impossible for her dignity. Dean let out a sigh when all this registered in his mind. She hated him, and apparently was scared of him, too. And he couldn't even blame her for it.
His own shoulder slumped in defeat. He rubbed tiredly on his face. Good start, huh? Five minutes, and they already all but cut into each other's throats.
"He really is an angel," he said in a dull voice, and chuckled softly to himself. "With wings and stuff. Don't let the coat and the looks deceive you." Waited for her to turn around. "I've never seen the halo but I bet it can be found somewhere in the pocket."
"It is not funny. It is mean, Dean."
"Truth hurts," he shrugged.
"Oh, please…" she rolled her eyes.
"He's the one who brought you back from…" he blurted interrupting her and then trailed off when it turned out that he'd probably went a little too far. Cleared his throat and dropped his eyes suddenly finding his shoes endlessly fascinating.
Well, he might have as well punched her in the gut, Bela thought, and yet he wouldn't have achieved a better effect.
She froze feeling as if something had just sucked out all the air from the room. She could barely breathe, the blood hammering loud in her ears making her pretty much deaf to the entire world. Her consciousness kept clinging on to the simple things that she thought were normal, ordinary and familiar, but the thoughts, guesses and assumptions that she forced back as best she could were thrown right in her face blinding her, driving her crazy all over again.
Bela swallowed hard.
"What are you talking about?"
Dean's smirk was rueful, and he wasn't looking at her either when he replied, "Well, you didn't think that one could make it out for the good behavior or something, did'ya?" Kinda sending her hopes for all of this to be a joke far, far away.
"So, you're saying he's actually an… an…"
"An angel," Dean nodded regretting he brought the thing up. "It took me a lot longer to get that. You're having a damn good progress."
Bela felt her head spinning. "Why would an angel or… whatever want to help me out?"
Dean felt his insides twist into a tight knot. "I though you were going to leave," he waved a hand at her, a dismissive gesture he hoped she'd get fast. "You know where the door is."
The images filled his mind again. The images of Bela before. The sparkle in the eyes, the bold smirk, vital energy he could feel coming from her. And then they were washed away by something else. The memories of Bela in hell, crying, begging, in blood and in pain. The first time he saw her on the rack. The first time she saw him, pure horror in her eyes. He'd seen her a moment before, watching Alastair. There was a dare and hatred, not animal fear. He wished she hated him then, wished she resented him to pieces because it would make his job easier, a lot easier. But hell wasn't exactly the place for the easy things, and Dean knew why Alastair brought him to her. That was the moment when something broke inside him forever…
And then there was the night she came back, scared and confused, and there was the same fear again. Like maybe she had decided back then that he was her personal curse. Dean's insides twisted at the thought of all the pain he caused her.
"So typical of you, Dean!" Suddenly, her anger was beyond her control and pouring out before Bela had time to think. "Why can't you make it simple for once and just answer my question?"
"Why can't I make it simple for once?" He snapped his head up, expression of shock and disbelief on his face. "Why couldn't you make it simple for starters? Mm, Bela? Why all those secrets and half-murmured lies? Why not tell the truth?"
"It is not what we're talking about."
"Why not?" It was just past him to stop now even if he knew in the back of his mind that they were both walking on thin ice. "If you just came and told us everything, if only you didn't steal the bloody Colt, none of us would have to die." He bellowed.
Bela took a small step back as if he had slapped her on the face, felt the chill run down her spine at the sight of him being enraged like that. Like he was going to… turn in the Dean she remembered best of all.
Wrong turn. Okay, fine, he had probably gone too far this time because it was a little more complicated than that, but now it was too late to turn back. And… hell, he was so tired of feeling damn guilty all the time!
"Don't you dare blame me for what had happened," she said in a low voice hoping it didn't tremble.
"Why didn't you just explain all that mess?"
"Because I couldn't! Don't you understand?" Bela exclaimed. "My past, my life… It wasn't something to brag about and from where I was standing… you'd laugh in my face and I doubt it would help the matters."
"I would never…"
"You want the truth, Dean? You really want to hear it all? Fine! So let's just face it. Yes, I made the deal, and I swear I would make it again had I gone back in time because you know what? My life in hell after death was worth getting out of it while I was alive. You don't know how I felt, and you have no idea what it felt like to live like that, day after day for years. So go to hell and don't you dare blame me for anything. Especially for not opening up to you."
The pause followed during which they just stared at each other, the tension so think in the air that it felt like the electric charge could run between the two of them any moment.
"Don't you put the words in my mouth," Dean broke the silence at last. "You couldn't know--"
"How do you imagine it, for God's sake? Me coming to you and saying 'Could you please help me wiggle out of the deal I made to kill my mommy and daddy?' Oh yeah, right, you'd forget about the connotations to save me, sure!"
"You could have friggin' explained!" He shot back.
"No, I couldn't!" There was plea for understanding in her voice now. "I couldn't," she repeated softer making Dean's insides jump up to his throat twisting with pain. He hurried to look away, which only made Bela feel much worse. She chuckled bitterly under her breath, all I knew it would be like that. "You know what, Dean? You're so full of damn prejudices that you can't see anything but you want to see. So why didn't I tell you a word? Only because I thought I'd rather die the way I died than let you make fun of me. I didn't want you to judge my life and least of all I wanted to become an amusing episode in yours."
They watched each other for a very long moment. The game on TV came to an end and the news block started instead. Someone turned on the music in the neighboring room. The car's engine roared outside. But all the sounds remained on periphery.
"It is flattering to know hat it was how you thought of me," he smirked, and the smirk lacked any actual humor.
"You never gave me the reason to think any other way," Bela retorted gravely.
"Yeah, and you were all so nice and trusting!" He snapped. "You do remember that you hadn't said a word of truth ever since we met, do you? When you were alive I mean. If only I knew you'd actually need some torture to finally reveal the truth…"
Thin ice cracked.
Bela took a deep breath to try and calm down instead of giving in to the panic attack, not feeling her own nails digging into gentle flesh of her palms. It wasn't easy to fight the images that started filling her mind at Dean's words.
"Look," he started in a lousy attempt to back off and find the words to apologize so that they wouldn't look like an apology. She looked hurt, and he hated himself for it.
"I need to know how I got back, Dean" she interrupted him. "I spent half of my life waiting for someone to come and claim my soul, and if you think that I will ever let anything like that happen again… because this salvation looks like a too serious gift--"
"You have nothing to worry about."
"Yes, I have, and it is not an answer! Why would anyone, leave alone an angel, save me?"
"Seriously, Bela…" he winced. "You're alive and no one's going to come for you. Unless of course you go and piss off someone big, bad and scary, which I am sure will happen sooner or later. Other than that, you're good."
"Why, Dean?" She pressed on.
"It doesn't matter!"
"Yes, it does! For God's sake, why?"
He huffed through his nose, irritated like hell by that very moment, wanting to say something sharp and smart and quick back, like that it was none of her business, or that she could have been a lot more grateful, or that he didn't want to say anything at all just because.
"Because I asked him, okay?" He retorted instead, surprising himself. "Because the bloody war is coming and I said the winged dude that I wouldn't so much as lift my finger to help him save the world until he goes and drags your precious ass back to life. Is that what you wanted to hear, Bela? Happy now?" He paused, breathless, somewhat drained by his sudden outburst.
Bela gaped at him, shocked and taken aback by the utterly unimaginable information, her mind refusing to take in and process his words.
She swallowed hard watching the annoyance appearing on his face. He grabbed the remote from the chair as if he needed to occupy himself somehow but then tossed it away almost immediately and it landed on the bed. It didn't look like flipping through the channels on TV was the most appropriate thing to do.
"You did what?" She asked slowly after what looked like an eternity. "I don't believe it," let out a short nervous laugh, and ran her fingers through her hair. "You're kidding, right? Please tell me you're kidding." And then, "Brilliant! Now I owe my life to Dean Winchester," when he scowled at her in response. "Of all people in the world…"
Dean's mouth fell open in shock. "So this is what comes for 'Oh, thank you for brining me back from hell?'" He mimicked her in girly high-pitched voice. "Never mind, really. Don't even mention it!" He bellowed. "Not that anyone would ever expect you to."
Bela put her hands on her hips. "I guess it means I should wait for the bill to arrive some time soon?" She cocked her head to her shoulder, face curious and voice mocking. "Not that I can't afford you services."
He gave her a long once over feeling pained by the second at the thought that she saw no other way of dealing with the things except for paying for them. Besides, it wasn't exactly the reaction he saw coming. Yeah, well, he didn't expect much, but this?
"I did it because I couldn't leave you behind after…" after what I did to you… after what I've been doing for years… after what I've learnt about you. "After what had happened, you ungrateful bitch."
"I didn't ask you to help me, Dean," she pointed out, and by the end of the phrase her voice dropped.
Dean chuckled and shook his head. Looked at the door behind her back and then again at her face. "But you always expected me to."
"Keep believing that if you want."
She turned around and walked out of the room, slammed the door behind her and totally missed Dean's wince.
He started at the door for a very long moment, the echo of it shutting behind her back sounding in his head, and then heaved a deep sigh and rubbed at his eyes feeling exhausted like never before in his life, their fight seemed to take too much out of him. Numb in a way he hadn't felt in a while already, and it didn't feel right. Nothing felt right anymore. So, was there any chance at all for someone to show up and tell him what to do next? Because it didn't look like a good start to him.
Dean shook his head. Ridiculous.
His thoughts were a chaos, his feeling were a mess – a knot of anger at himself and at her for showing up like that, ruining whatever he managed to become; of pity and guilt, of pain that he wanted to believe had dulled a little over the months that had passed since he got back. But no, she was there, and he was lost again.
He needed to go and close the door properly, he thought absently. It was probably the only thing that was making any sense at the moment.
Dean crossed the room and walked up to the door. The smell of Bela's perfume still lingered in the air and he breathed in gently flower scent. Scolded at the warm feeling that it caused, and refused to hold on to it. It was oddly familiar, too frighteningly familiar, and he didn't want to even start thinking about it.
He reached out for the door chain but then the door suddenly burst open letting Bela back in. She hesitated for the barest of moments to meet his eyes, probably surprised to find him right before her, but the next moment her arms wrapped around Dean's neck pulling him closer, and her lips were on his, and before he knew, he was kissing her back with desperate hunger. Her hands raked trough his hair, and in the back of her mind she heard him letting out a soft groan, of surprise or satisfaction she didn't know.
Bela kicked the door closed behind her, clinging on to his shoulders, pulling down his button-up flannel shirt. Her fingers slipped under his black cotton t-shirt and found hot skin of his chest. Dean jolted at her touch but didn't pull back sending inward thrill through Bela's body. His hands traveled down her arms and around her back, pulling her against him, holding her tight.
"Bela," he breathed out, his voice hoarse and throaty.
"Please," she whispered clutching on to his shirt, scared all of a sudden that he would turn around and walk away. "Please, Dean… I need to start feeling…"
"Damn it," Bela muttered when she kicked the leg of the chair with her toes while groping her way through the darkened room in desperate search for her clothes. Her coat at the moment, to be specific. Winced in pain and cursed in her mind.
It was some time around dawn already; she could see the graying sky on the east and it felt like about time to get out.
If only she could find the bloody coat, she thought tossing the strands of hair away from her face. Fighting the feeling of uncertainly and guilt, not at all sure by the moment it was a good idea to give in to the momentary impulse after all. Like her life wasn't complicated enough! She might have as well given him a call…
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
"There you are," Bela breathed out soundlessly when she spotted the said object of her clothing lying on the floor by the door, reached out to pick it up…
"Leaving just like that, Bela?" The voice asked behind her back, startling her and making her all but swirl around to find Dean standing some two feet away from her. "How about a goodbye note?"
"Jesus, Dean! Do you really have to do that?" She was that close to having a heart attack!
"Sneak around like that," she growled, the annoyance growing inside of her. It was past her how he managed to be so damn quiet. Like some bloody cat! She could have sworn he was fast asleep a just minute ago.
Well, apparently he wasn't.
Right at the moment he was standing right before her, bare-chested and with the hair rumpled from sleep. Literary within arm's reach. Bela could practically feel the heat radiating from his body. Wished she slipped away sooner. She swallowed uneasily, torn between the urge to flee and a sudden desire to send everything to hell and stay, and scowled at herself for even contemplating the latter. And what if he actually asked…?
"Speaking of sneaking around…" Dean started arching his eyebrows pointedly.
"Let's not make a fuss about it, shall we?" The words came out of her mouth before Bela knew, her voice oddly cold and random. She made sure the wall between them was back, and watched him calmly, like she had already made the decision for the both of them and whatever he could say didn't really matter. Good thing, it was too dark for him to see her… blushing or something.
Oh, whatever, for God's sake! The room was rapidly getting too small for the two of them.
"Classy, Bela," he smirked.
"Goodbye, Dean." She yanked on her coat and grabbed her purse what was peacefully lying on the chair.
"Is that a promise or a threat?"
She regarded him for a moment. Debated snorting but it suddenly seemed too childish. Not that she actually hoped for anything other than that. In the end she just turned on her heels and left the room for good, feeling both very right and endlessly wrong at the same time. She still didn't have her answers and instead of untangling the knot and only made the whole situation a lot more complicated. Great!
Chilly air hit her in the face, filed Bela's lungs with cold freshness. She needed to get out, away from him, away from everything. Now!
-- You can blame and you can hide
Behind what is wrong and what is right.
Life is the choices we make,
I hope you'll awake before it's too late.
"The last time" by Within Temptation--
To be continued…
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