Author's note: Well, it took me a little longer than I expected but here it is – another chapter :))) Hope you're going to like it
Also, again, thanks a lot for your patience, guys. You have no idea how much it means to me :)
- It feels like the end of time
Like something bad is coming
You've been living in the world of lies
Your see through walls are falling
It's getting hard to accept that
I'm losing you
"Lost and lonely" by The Rasmus-
"I still can't believe I am doing it," Bela singsonged under her breath not addressing anyone in particular.
Because it really was just beyond her how she ended up sitting in the front seat of the Impala with the map sprawled on her lap, as she risked becoming deaf by the end of the hour if someone didn't turn down the blasting music.
Dean's chuckle was soft but distinguishable. Bela scolded him and reached out to turn the volume of the radio down to a bearable level breaking the "Don't touch anything" rule Dean set before letting her in the car without so much as a second thought. Like she cared for any of his stupid rules!
"No, Dean, really! Why?" She repeated – well, shouted actually – when he stubbornly turned the music up again. Rolled her eyes and turned the damned thing off for good deafened by the silence for a moment.
"You couldn't resist my charm," Dean wiggled his eyebrows at her.
Bela snickered. "Your begging, you mean?"
His jaw dropped and he spluttered fighting for the words, his eyes darting between her face and the road before him outside the windshield. "Wha… What? I didn't…! It wasn't…" He began, lost track of his thought and snapped, "I wasn't begging you!"
"Okay," Bela agreed easily.
And Dean knew with 100% accuracy that she did it only because she knew it would set his teeth on edge, which, of course, worked.
"It wasn't… begging!" He hissed darkly. "It was… reasoning!"
"Which of course does not exclude begging," she pointed out flashing the best smile of hers in his direction.
"Which of course does not exclude reasoning," he mimicked her and beamed proudly.
"So, you agree it was begging after all?"
Damn it! How? How was she doing it all the time?
Dean opened his mouth, didn't come up with an answer, closed it again. Bela's brows shot up as she waited.
"Shut up," he grumbled in the end, his eyes on the road again and his lips pursed into a thin line as he fumed silently.
"Yes, Dean, shut up beats everything."
Their trip was more or less like that ever since they took off several hours ago, after Dean bitched for an hour about her being too slow packing. She ignored him completely, as well as his advices that he was putting in every now and then. Considered telling him to go to hell, no matter how out of place it could sound in the light of their recent return from there and in the presence of an angel in the trench coat that was hanging around annoying crap out of her. It was too damn tempting. But then gave herself points for not doing it and settled on being satisfied with herself about that.
Down in the parking lot Dean lovingly rearranged his arsenal in the trunk of the Impala only to shove her suitcase into it beside his duffel bag like some piece of rubbish. For that she dug high heel of her designer boot into his foot on her way to the passenger door, chin tipped high, and paid no attention to his glare.
They stopped for coffee and lunch some time later. Bela only lifted her eyebrows at the sight of a diner that came right from 60s. Well, she was more than sure it had never been renovated ever since then. The kind of place one could see in "Pleasantville". Dean rolled his eyes at her expression and was the first to leave the car leaving the choice to follow him or not up to Bela making it clear that he was done with begging or whatever. Reasoning, right!
On a sigh – and with a smile which she was sure would get on his nerves – Bela opened the door. The wind sent shivers down her entire body and she folded her jacket tighter around her frame. Dean either knew she'd follow or didn't care because he didn't bother to wait. Or to hold the door for her. Or something else she didn't expect him to do.
By the time she walked through the glass door, Dean had already taken a seat in one of the booths near the window – red benches and red-and-white checked table-cloth on the table, no kidding – and was placing his order. Bela slid into the booth taking a seat across the table from him and picked up the menu feeling the eyes of both middle-aged waitress and Dean on her.
She chose breakfast special – pancakes with maple syrup, coffee and orange juice – believing that there was almost no way to ruin that, even in a place like this one. The waitress took their menus and left. Bela folded her arms across her chest and sagged into the time-softened leather of the red diner bench as they glared at each other without saying a word. Gee, must have been a nice image!
Even two cups of strong and surprisingly good coffee didn't stop her from falling asleep shortly after getting back to the car as she was lulled by the hypnotizing flicker of trees outside and monotonous rumbling of the engine, despite almost unnatural crane of her neck.
Sometime later she opened her eyes right in time to see Dean pulling the car into the run-down gas-station. He was out of the car before she had time to process what exactly was going on, still half-asleep, and then he got back with two cups of weird substance that was supposed to be coffee – which she doubted – and a paper-bag of snacks. And, well, he filled the tank, which she was endlessly grateful for because getting lost in the middle of nowhere without gas was the last thing on her least of fun things.
After a while Bela ended up with the road map on her lap trying to figure out where they were. It wasn't hard to follow their way from Queens but Dean's charming habit to take back roads and old and abandoned highways made its job – she didn't even know what state they were in. She tried to recall the last time they passed any road sign, or the last time they saw another car come to think of it, and failed miserably.
"Can you please keep this thing away from me?" Dean asked with fake politeness shoving the map off of his lap. "It's kinda interferes with my driving," he added in a voice that implied that it was beyond boring to indicate obvious things.
"Well, I'm sorry, Dean," Bela traced her fingers along the red line that indicated I-something from New-York to the highway she remembered last. "Apparently, I am the only one who cares about us being lost."
"What? We're not lost!" He snapped.
"Really?" She looked pointedly at him, her brows quirked up in that elegant way of hers. "Where are we, then?"
"We're…" He stuttered. "We're…"
"I am not asking for exact location. State would be enough."
"We're not lost! No one can be lost on the road. It leads… somewhere."
Bela blinked at him. "Good point. I have never thought about it that way." She shook her head. "It's not really comforting but… where are we going, anyway?" She wondered realizing if a little belatedly that it should have been asked in the first place.
"We'll figure it out," Dean shrugged and then beamed at her. "On the way."
"On the way where?" She asked cautiously as a really unpleasant suspicion crept in.
"Oh, please tell me that all this joyful ride wasn't just for fun," Bela started, her voice gaining a warning edge to it. As in, tell me what I don't want to hear and I'll kill you.
He considered her question for a moment. "There will be a sign," and then added on a sigh, "Believe me, there always is."
"Terrific," she breathed out in disbelief.
What seemed to be nothing but an impulse of an idea at first was clearly turning into total insanity.
She turned around and stared out the passenger window at the blinking row of grayish trees along the road, pretty much naked at this time of the year. The sky was heavy and low, and even though it was too warm for the show to start, they were probably getting some rain soon.
It wasn't the weather that bothered her of course, regardless of how depressing it was. It was the reason why she ended up stuck in the car with the man she should have stayed away from – like, several stated away preferably – that left her restless and her mind unsettled. And the reason was, as much as she hated it – she owed her life to Dean Winchester and his winged friends, and even her 24/7 bitchy self couldn't let her close her eyes at that and step aside when he was struggling so hard to save the world in one piece. She didn't give a damn, truth be told. Her faith in Good winning over Evil was long shattered and forgotten. But his attitude was admirable, to say the least, and she had to give him that.
To be honest, Bela seriously doubted she could be of much help, but she could at least try, right? Or pretend that she was, or whatever. It annoyed hell out of her though that he didn't even have to so much as snap his fingers for her to be on the way, a suitcase in hand. The general idea was to prove him wrong of course, about saving the words and her eagerness, and that was exactly what she was going to do, but still…
Bela sighed and tried to relax as best she could in given circumstances, and what was the most important – she tried to get all of that the hell out of her mind.
Lulled by the monotonous ride and, well, boredom, she dozed off somewhere… between here and there. She came to with a start though when she felt the car slow down.
"Rise and shine, sweetheart," Dean signsonged merrily making a u-turn and hitting the brakes.
Bela growled rubbing her eyes as she straightened up in the seat. It was dark already and she blinked fighting to make something out outside the car. It took her a moment to realize that something was blinking back at her, and that something was a neon sigh switching from Vacancy to No Vacancy faster than he sleepy mind could process.
"What is this place?" She croaked yawning, making sure she made it sound like Did you really have to wake me up or what?
"We're stopping for the night," Dean announced enthusiastically killing the engine. "Some of us had to drive all, see."
On that he opened the door letting the chilly air in. Bela shivered a little, glaring daggers at his back. It wasn't her fault he had to drive all the time. Graciously, she offered to take his place for a while but only got an Are you nuts? look in response. Whatever.
Well, technically speaking she could use some proper rest, she admitted pondering the thought without enthusiasm. She felt like crap, her entire body was stiff and felt twisted at the most impossible angles and her neck… her neck was definitely not going to be straight ever again. She rubbed the back of it wishing she were anywhere but here. Her only concern was that proper rest could not possibly be associated with any place Dean Winchester could pich for it.
At last, she pushed her own door open and all but fell out of the Impala.
"You've gotta be kidding me."
Yes, it was even worse than she expected. If it was even possible.
She took in the neon sign and what probably were a palm and a seagull, or so she guessed assuming that not all parts of it were on. The car was parked at the half-empty lot before the one-storey building with crooked blinds on the half-glassed door. Behind it was another building, also one-storied and long, with a row of identical green doors and curtained windows, some of them lit up. The whole place was run-down, cheap and depressing. She was not going to stay here for the night, or for another five minutes come to think of it.
Bela craned her neck to the sound of the truck being slammed close and saw her suitcase standing near the back door.
"We're not staying here," she informed Dean when he showed up from behind the car with his duffel bag in his hand.
He looked down his nose at her. "Fine. I am staying here. You, on the other hand, are free and look for something else for your royal self." On that he headed to the registration office. "Make sure you don't fall asleep in the car. I am not going to haul your frozen ass outa there in the morning," he added over the shoulder.
Tempting, Bela thought. She could have had the entire back seat for herself. In that case she at least wouldn't be at risk of catching something nasty in that dump of a place, even if her body would hate her for the rest of her life. So damn tempting.
Cursing, she rolled her eyes hating Dean Winchester – and pretty much the rest of the world; grabbed the handle of her suitcase and followed him, fuming inside. Did her best not to step on the cracks in the pavement out of fear to leave the heels of her boots in them and all but stumbled over the bumps she didn't want to give much thought to.
Run-down was a flattering understatement, she added darkly in her mind. She caught up with Dean half-way to the building and went past him with her chin tipped high with more dignity than she actually felt leaving her suitcase beside him. If he was actually going to make her carry it by herself, or worse – if he was going to just leave it behind, she was so going to make him regret saving her!
Dean knew better than that though. So, he rolled his eyes too and muttered something unintelligible under his breath, which Bela knew wasn't a compliment, but he did not dare to leave her stuff outside.
In fact, he beat her to the registration office and when Bela finally made it there, both sleepiness and high heels considered, both he and a middle-aged skinny balding clerk with the wiry glasses perched on the very tip of his nose stared at her. Clerk – with curiosity. Dean – with appreciation. He gave her a long thoughtful once-over receiving a scold back and turned back to the man.
"Make it two." And then, "Unless you insist on sharing one," wiggled his eyebrows at Bela giving her a quick glance.
"You wish," she scoffed, oddly uncomfortable in the light of the reception area lamps after the semi-darkness of the car and parking lot. Suppressed the urge to check her hair and decided that she probably was a step away from actually killing someone for shower.
Dean sighed. "See what I have to deal with?" He asked the man in a tired confiding voice and shook his head. Bela snorted but did not dignify that with any sort of verbal response.
She waited for him to fill in whatever he needed to fill in and sign standing at the door, arms folded on her chest, and gawking at the photos hanging on the walls. Vaguely, she wondered if they actually ended up here simply because he couldn't afford anything more decent than that. In any case, if she was going to spend the night in that godforsaken place, she was not going to actually pay for it! Part of her wondered mischievously if he was going to ask her to, and then she had to hold back disappointed sigh when he didn't.
She let him walk her to the door, scarred and with peeling paint, took the key from him and then all but slammed said door in his face when he only started saying, "Well, good ni-"
Once inside, Bela flipped the lights on and observed the room curiously, if only because she never had a pleasure of being in a place like that. Well, minus that night when they… she pushed the memories away wincing inwardly. Okay, her room was rather big, a queen-sized bed covered with faded dark-green comforter occupied a greater part of it. At the opposite wall she spotted a dresser with small old TV on top of it and a couple of chairs on each side of it. Another chair stood near the table to the left from her.
She put the key onto it and rolled her suitcase up to the dresser.
"Home, sweet home," Bela drawled mockingly under her breath, not quite sure what to make out of all of that. It didn't look bad but she felt her standards dropping and she didn't like the feeling. At this rate she'd probably start considering McDonalds a five-star restaurant soon, which was just sickening. Also, some part of her expected to spot roaches or rats or something else nasty any moment, and it wasn't exactly helping the matters. She was uncomfortable and frustrated.
Bela made a short tour around the place, huge that it was, poking her nose here and there. There was a nightstand to the right from the bed with a reading lamp and a phone. And, funnily, the Bible in the lower drawer. Apparently, people who didn't have a choice but to stay in places like that hadn't much to hope for so prayer was their safe resort, she decided trying to keep the sarcasm intact.
In the end, she grabbed the remote from the dresser, kicked off her heels and flopped onto the bed wiggling her toes. Now that was heaven, she thought with a quiet moan of please, or at least the closest thing to it she could get now. Her entire body responded to the move. God, it was exactly why she preferred to travel by air – anything was better than having to be stuck in the car for good ten hours in a row.
The first thing that Bela saw on TV was a rerun of "Gone with the Wind", the moment when the legendary Scarlett O'Hara was making her way down the stairs in the similarly legendary dress of hers, and Bela wondered for the umpteenth time if they made it through filming this movie without broken legs.
And then the phone rang.
She looked pointedly at the green door leading to the neighboring room. Turned the volume of the TV down and then picked up the receiver.
"It's been 15 minutes, Dean, and you miss me already?" She asked, sounding endlessly flattered.
"Ha-ha, funny. Now can you please get over yourself for just a moment?" And since the question did not quite require an answer, he went on, "Anyway, I am going to order some pizza. You in?"
"Since when food machines in the hall are not your thing anymore?"
"Are you in?" He repeated impatiently, ignoring her.
"Um, no." The bagel I got at the gas station is still stuck somewhere in my throat. "Enjoy yourself."
He scoffed. "Fine. But don't come knocking on my door in the middle of the night if you get hungry." And added as an afterthought, "Come to think of it, don't come knocking on my door for anything."
"And you tell me to get over myself?" She snickered. "Thanks for reminding me to unplug my phone by the way."
"Whatever." She could have sworn he rolled his eyes here. "And FYI, we're taking off right after breakfast. You sleep in and you're going to hitchhike."
"Are you seriously saying that you'd leave me behind?" Her eyebrows shot up in disbelief before she realized he couldn't actually see it.
"See it for yourself," Dean snorted making her wish to smack him with the receiver.
Bela hung up on him there without so much as a goodnight. Stared at the phone for a couple of moments contemplating the idea of sleeping in on purpose to see what he'd actually do in that case. But then it occurred to her to ignoring every single word he was saying was probably a better idea.
The movie lost its appeal in about five minutes, and Scarlet's inability to freaking strangle Rhett became beyond annoying. Bela left the TV running as a background noise, rolled off of the bed and strolled to explore the bathroom trying to keep her expectations to a minimum.
The bathroom was a pleasant surprise though, to Bela's endless surprise. It was small, and although a couple of tiles were cracked and the mirror above the sink had a black corner that could only have appeared after its 20 years of existence, the towels were new, soft and crispy. And they smelled nice too – like a lemon and mint fabric softener. And hell yeah, there was hot water. She missed Astoria or Marriott with all her heart, but at the same time she had to admit that everything could have been much worse – assuming Dean's taste and financial situation.
Hot shower made Bela feel much better. Not entirely perfect but she became more of a human and less of a walking dead by any means. And the familiar feel of her pajama t-shirt and shorts brought her world back. And to be honest, that was as much as she could have asked in given circumstances.
The movie was long over by the time she emerged from the bathroom followed by the flowery smelling steam. She turned the TV off having no wish to watch the news or flip through the rest of the channels that this place was offering. Pizza didn't sound like a bad idea anymore and Bela regretted declining Dean's offer. But dignity was a bitch and she didn't want to call Dean and give him an opportunity to mock her for the rest of their trip, however long it would be. Instead, she sighed, considering the options and settled on sleep. She climbed under the covers letting her body relax completely and fell asleep in no time.
She woke up with a start a few hours later, as if something pushed her out of the safe confines of her dreams – or lack of those – and right into the cold cruel reality. Something was wrong, she knew it instantly. Could feel it with her skin even. She lay still with her eyes shut, listening. It was so quiet that this fact alone was giving her creeps, making her wish to hear a car passing by outside or muffled sound of the TV coming from another room. But there was nothing, as if the entire world was dead.
The thought made her snap her eyes open on a sharp intake of breath as her heartbeat accelerated by the second, settling a cold sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach. A panic attack, she got used to them over time. Mostly, they were unreasonable and nothing but an aftereffect of her vacation in hell and all her fears and pain and everything she had to go through. But now it felt different. It felt real and dangerous, as if it wasn't just something in her mind screwing with her. Bela rolled onto her back and looked around… and all but screamed when she saw dark lopsided letters on the pale wallpaper lit by the moonlight filtering through the light half-transparent beige curtains.
"You're dead," the words said.
Forgetting how to breathe momentarily, she scooted upwards until her back was pressed against the headboard of the bed, her rapid heartbeat and the rush of adrenaline in her system making her lightheaded and dizzy, and yet paralyzing her with fear.
"No," she mumbled almost soundlessly. Couldn't be. It was a dream. She was sleeping, wasn't she? It couldn't be happening to her for real. It was impossible.
Automatically, her eyes still glued to the wall, Bela reached out to flip the light on but it didn't work. She kept turning the switch listening to dry clicks of it but the room remained dark. In the end, unable to keep sitting there, she all but fell out of the bed and stumbled backwards until she hit the half-open bathroom door with the elbow. Disoriented, she barged inside reaching for the switch on instinct when complete darkness of the place swallowed her.
And then had to screw her eyes tight when the light came to life all of a sudden. Deep inside, she didn't expect it to happen assuming that the lamp in the room didn't work. Bela rubbed at her eyes gulping hungrily for air now that the world finally came into focus again. It was just a nightmare, she told herself. No big deal, she'd had to shortage of them lately. And that thing on the wall was probably just a shadow from the tree or something else outside her room, and she just read what her twisted mind told her to into it. End of story, right?
Slowly, she took yet another deep breath and pried her eyes open when she was sure the light wouldn't blind her. God, she was so losing it. The thought made her sneer inwardly.
And then she saw it, everywhere around her. Red on white. Blood on the tiles. Everywhere.
"You are dead."
The letters were crooked and the blood was trickling down the walls and dripping into the bathtub and on the floor forming misshaped pools. Small and big, the words were taking almost all space on the walls. And the mirror… Dead. Dead. Dead. It was all she could see as the room started spinning around her like a carousel merging into one never evening sickening motion.
"No," she repeated shaking her head like crazy, and it came out as a low horrified whimper. "No, no, no!"
Bela backed away until her back hit the wall, and then slid down to the floor when her knees gave in and the walls started to close in on her.
"No, no, no, please," she kept repeating as if all the blood could just disappear on her command.
Feeling the cold tile through the soft cotton of her t-shirt, she swallowed hard, trembling all over, and brought her hands up to cover her face to stop seeing all of that as though just shutting her eyes wasn't enough. And froze when she saw the cuts on her wrists and the blood dripping from them and down her arms and onto her pajama. Its thick sweet scent filled her head instantly as if it was something physical muting the rest of her thoughts.
Terrifying realization hit her like a hard blow in the gut. It was her blood all over. She did it. She wrote all of it because she knew the truth no matter how hard she tried to push it away. She was dead. She didn't belong among the living. She didn't deserve to be here. She was dead.
And that was when she started to scream.
-I watch you as you sleep
Your nightmares break the silence
I can tell that you're in too deep
Got your mind down to a science
And every time that I touch you
I'm losing you
"Lost and lonely" by The Rasmus-
To be continued!
Stay tuned! Reviews are highly appreciated!