A/N: Thank you to Colourful-Mess for her beta work! This was my entry for the 'Women of Supernatural ficathon', the prompt being: AU Bela and Henricksen, dealing with the apocalypse. Enjoy and remember, reviews are love. Sometimes hate, but mostly, love.
Drifter on a Dead End Road
To be perfectly honest, Bela Talbot deserved to be in her current predicament. After all, her greed had always landed her in some tight spots.
Bela shifted her weight slightly, trying to be as comfortable as the enclosed space allowed her. This spot happened to be tight in the painful, literal way.
Ever since the Apocalypse started, almost three years ago, both angels and demons had turned the entire world into their very own war playground. Angels needed their specific vessels, and used up as many as it took to get them. Demons burned through as many as they could just for kicks. Humanity's survival instinct had been pushed into overdrive, and everyone had been desperate to get their hands on anything to ward off possession-demonic or otherwise. And that's where Bela came in. Desperate souls meant big profits. And big 'no-go' zones like Seattle were gold mines. Trading protection amulets and rituals for anything she deemed worthy, Bela had made her way through the new world. And yet here she was, crouched up behind a dumpster in a dirty dead-end alley.
She heard a noise – footsteps – coming from the alley entrance just as she was about to leave her hiding place. From where she crouched, she couldn't see anything, but she could tell that whoever was in the alley was alone. One demon she could handle. The ambush at the city entrance hadn't really been fair. At least she hoped whatever was out there was a demon. She was in no mood to deal with Saphiel. She shifted once again, sliding up from her crouch so that she was almost standing, her palms flat against the dumpster's sticky back. Good God, what she wouldn't trade for a hot bubble bath. She had come a long way from champagne and designer dresses. Her movement wasn't entirely silent, and she heard the footsteps stop. Bela waited a few moments then pushed, and the dumpster rolled away from her. There was a female yelp, mostly of surprise than pain, as the heavy metal bin connected with its intended target. As Bela stepped out to face her opponent, she saw that it was one of the demons that had attacked her earlier: a tall, blonde woman the others had called Lowelle.
'We've been searching for you, pet,' the demon purred. She pushed the dumpster away from her as if it was made of cardboard, and it smashed against the wall so loudly it made Bela flinch. 'You got away so fast, we hardly got to know each other.' Demon attitude. She really hated it. She pulled out a flask of holy water and uncapped it slowly. She had to be smart with it; she didn't have much left. Bela saw hesitation flutter briefly through Lowelle's eyes.
'Not thinking of running away, are you?' Bela taunted. She really shouldn't have – demons were dangerous enough without being aggravated – but her ego was still bruised from their first encounter.
The demon lashed out a kick aimed at Bela's side. Although Bela managed to block it with her arm, she regretted it immediately afterwards, as the impact sent a shattering ray of pain through her. She reminded herself to stick to evading. Taking advantage of her close proximity, Bela splashed some holy water on Lowelle's face. As the water burned and hissed on contact, the demon swore and fell back a couple of steps. Bela threw a kick at Lowelle's stomach as the demon wiped the water of her face with her sleeve. She stumbled backwards again, but recovered fast enough. When Bela threw a punch aimed at her head, Lowelle grabbed her wrist and threw a punch at her stomach. Bela didn't fall to her knees only because the demon was still holding her arm.
'I'm gonna enjoy wearing you, pet,' Lowelle whispered, snaking her other hand around Bela's neck. She closed her eyes and braced herself. She had been possessed once. It hadn't lasted very long, but it was not an experience she was looking forward to repeating.
There was the sound of wood hitting bone, and Lowelle grunted, losing her grip on Bela. A man, strong and dark, stood where Lowelle – who was now on the floor – had been, a thick plank of wood in his hands. Lowelle picked herself up, touching the back of her head where she had been hit. The hand came away bloody, and her eyes flashed black involuntarily. She flew at the man, but he fought her off well, moving fast and accurately.
A part of Bela wanted to run. No shame in living to fight another day. Instead, she joined the fray. The gentleman had, after all, saved her ass. Besides, she was on the wrong side of a dead-end alley, and would have to make it past them either way. Lowelle threw a punch that connected with the man's jaw, and he fell backwards against a wall. The demon was about to repeat the attack when Bela spoke.
'Hey!' she called, distracting her. 'We have unfinished business.' Lowelle paused, eyes darting between Bela and the man. Bela came closer and Lowelle threw a punch aimed at her head, but she managed to catch the demon's wrist, albeit awkwardly. The man grabbed the demon, wrapping strong arms around her neck and waist. He began reciting Latin, an exorcism Bela was quite familiar with. Lowelle twitched and screamed, and before the exorcism was even half way, the demon fled its victim. The blonde woman's body hung limply in the man's arms.
'Is she dead?' Bela asked quietly.
'Yes.' His voice was softer than she'd expected. Now that she could see his face clearly, she found it familiar. She had met this man before, she was sure, but when he looked at her, he showed no sign of recognition. He laid the body gently on the ground. There was nothing they could do for her now. 'You ok?' Bela only nodded vaguely. Her arm hurt like a bitch.
She walked back to her original hiding spot, to pick up her duffel.
'I'm Victor, by the way. And you're welcome.' He said pointedly. Bela froze, half bent to the floor, duffel strap in her hands. Victor. Victor Henricksen. That's where she knew him from. She hadn't actually met him, which explained why he didn't recognise her and she'd been having such a hard time herself, but she had spent a few weeks researching him, a while ago. And Bela never forgot a face, especially a cop's one. He had been the FBI agent after the Winchesters, and he'd been the one she called with the Colorado tip. Small world. She swung the duffel strap over her shoulder, and the movement sent a sharp pain up her injured arm; she flinched and grunted. She really hated demons. 'We should have a look at that arm.'
'No thank you,' she said, carefully adjusting the strap.
'My camp is less than five minutes away,' Henricksen said, indicating the street behind him with his thumb. Everyone she met had the annoying habit of inviting her into their little club. Bela Talbot didn't play well with others. Unlike pretty much everyone else on the planet, she had no 'camp', and was happy to keep it that way. Bela travelled alone.
She opened her mouth to speak, but he beat her to it. 'We have hot water.' A smile spread across her face. He has spoken the magic words.
'Lead the way.'
'I didn't catch your name,' he said.
'I never said it.' He chuckled at her answer, looked up at the street behind him then back at her, as if waiting. His smile told her she wasn't going anywhere before he had a name. Eventually, hot showers won over stubbornness and pride. 'Bela.' His smile widened, and he began walking.
'Follow me, Bela.'
Henricksen's camp was somewhat lacking. The location wasn't bad, and the protection and arsenal were better than most camps Bela had visited, but as she followed him in, she couldn't help frowning as she took in the interior. Three people, two men and one woman, sat around a table. The two men were busy working around a gun and didn't even notice them enter. Boys and their toys. The woman, a tall brunette, looked up from the box of bullets she was hunched over and threw a vague greeting in their direction, then went back to work. Henricksen let her have a hot shower, free of charge. The water turned out to be barely warm and the water pressure practically non-existent, but after such a long time spent in freezing water, it felt like a blessing. There was a gentle knock on the door just as she stepped out, dripping wet, and she wrapped herself in the thin towel Henricksen had given her. It barely covered the essentials, but it would have to do. When she pulled the door open, she was face to face with the man himself. He was about to speak when he noticed her clothing, or lack thereof. She saw his gaze linger on her long legs before it found her face again. Bela couldn't help but break into an amused smile.
'Sorry. I thought you were done,' he said, fully composed again.
'It's been a while...' she said. 'Ten more minutes.'
'That's fine. I just wanted to let you know we got some food together. When you're ready.'
'How's the arm?' he asked. He was holding her gaze without faltering, which she had to give him credit for.
'Much better. Thanks.' There was a faint bruise on the inside of her forearm, but the pain had died down. He lingered at the door for a few moments, then turned and left. Bela got dressed and joined them at their makeshift kitchen. The woman, Sarah, handed her a plate without a single word, then joined the other two men at the table. Henricksen, who was sitting by himself on a small sofa in front of a fireplace, waved her over and she sat next to him.
'Lovely bunch of people,' she mumbled.
'There used to be 12 of us,' Henricksen said, keeping his eyes on the flames. 'I guess we're a bit reluctant to make new friends.'
Bela chuckled lightly. 'That's okay. People tend not to like me much anyway.'
'Why's that?' The question was genuine. Clearly, he didn't feel that way. She pushed some food around her plate. For someone who hardly got to eat, she had no appetite.
'You have a good set up here,' she said, avoiding the question. Henricksen wondered whether to press her, but let it go.
'Yeah, we got lucky. What about you, where's your camp?'
'Never really had one. I like to work alone. Always have.' Henricksen simply nodded, then picked up another piece of wood, a chair leg it seemed, and threw in the fire. He then sat back, staring at her with a frown, as if in deep concentration.
'This is gonna sound like a line but... have we met before?'
It was Bela's turn to smile. She could say no. She could finish her food, say goodbye and leave. But even though she liked being alone, sitting next to someone reminded her how much she missed company. And for some reason, she liked Henricksen, and it seemed he was prepared to give her a chance. For the first time in a very long time, she didn't feel hated right off the bat. She should enjoy that.
'The Winchesters. I called in the Colorado tip,' she said, avoiding his gaze. There was a pause as Henricksen thought about it.
'The Colorado tip... of course, that accent...that was you, you called that in?' She nodded, and to her surprise, laughed. 'Ah man, you have no idea what that call meant to me. I swore once they were locked up, I'd track you down and buy you dinner.' It was Bela's turn to laugh.
'Mission accomplished,' she said, indicating her plate.
'I'm serious. The Winchester case was making me nuts. I wouldn't have rested 'til I found the bastards. Course, turns out I was chasing the good guys... hell, they even saved my ass.' Bela had gone quiet. Her own memories of the Winchester brothers weren't so fond. When she spoke, her voice was cold.
'Really. They left me behind to die.' Henricksen was silent for a few seconds before he spoke.
'You gave them away to the feds.'
'Just trying to keep my bloody ass alive.' Thinking about the Winchesters made her think about her deal, and how she almost ended up in Hell. It made her think about her father. She swore never to think about her father again on the day he died.
'Looks like it worked,' he said, his tone becoming light again, oblivious to her thoughts.
'I had some divine help,' she admitted. 'Turns out I'm important after all.' Henricksen knit his eyebrows at her. 'You're a vessel?' Bela nodded. 'Who?'
'Saphiel. I haven't seen her in almost two weeks. Maybe the demons finally got her.'
'Nah. You'd know,' he said, shaking his head. 'I was a vessel too. I felt mine die,' he added, in response to her look. Bela didn't say anything. What could you say to that? I'm sorry? Lucky you? She had never been good at that crap anyway. It was Henricksen who picked up the conversation again. 'Maybe she's letting you cook for a while. See if you change your mind.'
'I don't think I will. I like my own skin too much.'
'I dunno,' he said, kicking some ashes with his foot. 'What I've seen out there... sometimes it makes me wish I'd said yes.' Bela raised an eyebrow at him.
'And spend the rest of your life as some angel's bitch?'
'Yeah, when you put it like that...' Henricksen chuckled.
They carried on talking, about everything and anything, until Bela finished her food, and then long after that. Henricksen did most of the talking, of course, while Bela listened. She liked listening to him speak.
She didn't remember falling asleep, but when she woke up, the sun was rising and the fire had died out. They were alone. She had been sleeping with her head on Henricksen's chest, one of his arms around her. She must have fallen asleep first. She smiled at the thought, even though it was slightly perplexing how the two of them had connected so well, and so quickly, especially considering their past occupations. Who'd have thought that she, of all people, would be snuggling up to an FBI? But this was a new world after all. Bela could make this a fresh start. As gently as she could, she moved his arm and stood up. Henricksen stirred, but didn't wake up. She was glad he hadn't. Bela Talbot did not do goodbyes. She thought about staying, but knew she couldn't. It wasn't in her nature. But maybe life would bring them together again. Maybe next time she would make a different choice. But for now, Bela Talbot travelled alone.