Title: Sound of Silence
Fandom: Criminal Minds/Supernatural
Characters/Pairing: Dean Winchester/Emily Prentiss
Summary: The apocalypse has passed, but its ramifications are widespread. Dean Winchester finds someone who's lost just as much as he has. Future!fic.
Warnings: Mentions of character death.
Dean was in Washington D.C, which, despite his nomadic nature, he had never actually seen before. Back when Sam was still around, they'd hit the small towns – Midwestern mostly. Apparently there was just something about evil that made it want to hit the Midwest. There was some kind of monster in D.C. though, and hunters were spread thin, which is why Dean Winchester made the 301 mile trip from St. Clairsville, Ohio where he'd been dealing with an angry spirit.
He had no particular interest in looking at the tourist attractions, and, truth told, he felt kind of claustrophobic. And maybe that was why they always seemed to hit the small towns. Maybe that was why the one thing he loved more than almost anything else was the open road. You didn't get that bumper-to-bumper, take two hours just to get from one side of town to the other thing.
The aftermath of the apocalypse was indiscriminate though, and he wasn't about to let some creature ravage an entire city just because he was a little uncomfortable.
The hotel he was staying in was a little swankier than usual – everything was kinda swanky in that part of town, and Dean took some glee in donning the complementary bathrobe. The room service prices, though, were a little less joyous.
'Seventeen bucks for a burger,' he muttered. 'Un-freaking-believable.'
If Sam were still around, he might have pointed out the fact that they were using a fake credit card anyway, but he wasn't, and instead, Dean flicked the TV on, but it wasn't really the same.
Emily Prentiss' condo was the epitome of loneliness. She'd just gotten back from Arizona, and the empty kitchen, the empty living room, the empty bedroom – it was as though they were all mocking her.
Part of that was the exhaustion, of course. Five bodies in three weeks didn't exactly promote a good night's sleep. Once upon a time, that would have been just another part of the job, but things have been a lot harder since…
She shook herself out of the reverie and went straight to the refrigerator. She had a half-empty bottle of red that needed finishing, and because she didn't particularly want to drink on an empty stomach, she found some frozen leftovers to reheat.
There were a dozen files on her coffee table –a dozen unsolved cases that just did not make sense. Once upon a time, she might have shown the files to Hotch, or maybe Rossi, but she couldn't really do that anymore.
Those times were long since past.
There had been a lot of death for a while; a lot of death that simply didn't fit any profile they could have given. That had all died down about a year ago, but it hadn't gone without a fight. The BAU still got their fair share of weird cases, but they were fewer and further between, and in many circumstances, they didn't even look like serial cases. Not that she would know anything about that. Reid would have been able to put it all together, but she couldn't exactly call on him either. Not without a Ouija board, and she'd left that kind of stuff behind with her angsty teenage years.
A phone call dragged her from the nostalgic reverie. 'Prentiss,' she answered, in a tired voice.
'How was Arizona?' Garcia's voice was like a candle in the darkness.
'Complete bust,' she replied, letting the wine swirl around the bottom of her glass. 'If I didn't know better, I would've said satanic cult, but we've all read…' We've all read Rossi's books, she was going to say, but it was still painful to bring them up, even now.
'I get you,' Garcia said in that reassuring tone of hers. 'And I hate to give you this after you just got back, but…'
'Another one?' Emily groaned, setting her glass down on the table.
'Sorry, sweetcheeks. It's like they're teleporting, or something.' The tech was joking, of course, but at that point, Emily was about to consider leprechauns as a viable suspect. She grabbed the notepad that was sitting next to the files, and jotted down the address of the latest attack.
Gun already strapped to her hip, and her bag still mostly packed, there wasn't much else she had to do – the case was a local one at least, which meant she wouldn't need to be using up her frequent flier miles on another wild goose chase.
'Be careful, Emily,' Garcia said, her tone somber, and Emily let her face fall into a grimace.
They'd lost enough already.
He heard the report on the police scanner that he'd picked up. It wasn't exactly his usual method, but things had changed a lot now that he was working alone, for the most part. Sometimes Bobby or Castiel would contact him with a new case, but he'd distanced himself from them, too. Whether that was because of guilt, or shame, or something else entirely, he wasn't quite sure. Part of him liked hunting alone – it gave him that freedom that he enjoyed so much. Mostly, though, he wished for the good old days, before Lucifer, before Michael, before the Apocalypse. Just him and Sammy, fighting the good fight.
Deep down, though, he knew that there was never really a "good old days". The Yellow-Eyed Demon had led to Lilith which led to Lucifer, like one long chain of evil. What he really missed was the in-between times. Ganking the demons that weren't going to bring about the end of the world. Hunting ghosts, and shapeshifters and werewolves, and putting on music he knew that Sam hated, just to get a reaction.
Thanks to the traffic, it was over an hour before he made it out to the crime scene. The cops were gone, but it didn't look as though forensics had been through yet. Some kind of backlog, maybe. He shined his flashlight over the scene, not deigning to step past the yellow tape. His details were already in the system, and he didn't want to be pinned for a murder he didn't commit. Again.
It took him a little less than five minutes to realize that he wasn't the only one snooping around. His hand drifted towards the weapon tucked into the back of his jeans. It was probably nothing, but you couldn't be too careful.
He pivoted on one foot, leveling his weapon at whoever else had been snooping around. It was a person who, as it turned out, already had their weapon pointed at him. She, rather. A kinda attractive, dark hair, dark eyes, nice legs she, but that wasn't important. The stance told him that she definitely knew how to use the weapon in her hands. Law enforcement, maybe, but then she hadn't identified herself.
'I'm going to take out my badge,' he said, lowering the gun and putting one hand into his jacket pocket. He was gambling on the fact that this woman wasn't the kind to shoot first and ask questions later. And if she was? Well…he'd deal with that problem when it came.
'Bill Ward, FBI.' He gave the badge a brief sideways glance, making sure that he was using the right alias.
'That's a fake,' she said, without skipping a beat.
'Excuse me?' he asked, a little dumbfounded. They – he – had been called out on his intentions before, but never on the authenticity of the badges.
'Your badge is fake,' she repeated, adding, in that same assertive tone. 'FBI agents don't keep their weapons tucked in the back of their jeans. And they don't dress like you do.'
'So I'm off the clock – sue me. I have my supervisor's card. You can call him to verify my identity.' She kept the gun trained on him as he pulled out his wallet, searching for the fake card.
'You're with the D.C. field office?' she asked, looking at the card, but not moving to take it from his hands.
'The SAIC of the D.C. Field Office's name is Walter Jennings, not Mike Kayser. And Bill Ward is the drummer for Black Sabbath. Who the hell are you?'
'I think the better question is, "Who the hell are you?" You haven't identified yourself as law enforcement, so even if every single thing I'm saying is a lie, then you have no authority to do anything.'
'No,' she conceded, 'But I can call the cops on a wanted fugitive. I think they'll be pretty interested to find Dean Winchester hanging around the scene of another murder.'
He held the woman's eye for a few moments. 'You could, but you won't,' he finally said. 'You want to find out what's going on as much as I do.' He almost kicked himself for the next words, but they were the only way he could get her to put down the gun. 'The only way you can do that is with my help.'
She raised an eyebrow, but lowered the gun slightly. 'What makes you think I can't figure it out on my own?'
'Trust me,' he told her, face twisting into a half-grimace. 'There is so much going on that you wouldn't understand, it'd make your head spin.'
She nodded. 'Right. This must be the superiority complex the profile was talking about.'
'Superiority complex?' he asked, incredulous. 'Just because I want to save your ass from demons, that suddenly makes me a narcissist?'
'And there are the delusions,' she added, but there was something in her voice that told him she didn't quite subscribe to the words she was saying.
He shook his head. 'I'm going to put my gun back, and then I'm going to turn around and take a look at this crime scene. You can either shoot me in the back, or you can come over and be a second set of eyes. Your choice.'
He half expected her to shoot him as he turned, but there was no loud crack, no burning point of pain, and he was almost a little disappointed.
'Don't go under the tape,' she told him as she stepped to his side a moment later. Her gun – a Glock 17 – had been reholstered, and her eyes were pointedly focused on the scene, rather than on him. 'Locard's exchange principle.'
'Is that something they teach in the Academy?' he asked, watching her face for any reaction. She didn't give one. Looking at her features, she seemed almost familiar, as if he'd seen her before. He'd been to so many places, met so many people, it was hard to tell anymore.
'Huh. Well, seeing as how you know my name, I'd prefer we were on an even footing.'
'Does that pick-up line work all the time?'
'Not a pick-up line,' he countered. 'If I was trying to pick you up, I would have asked for your phone number as well.'
She made a sound of disbelief and then rolled her eyes. 'Emily,' she told him. 'Yes, I am former FBI, and no, I don't want to talk about it.'
Dean held his hands up in a defensive gesture. 'I wasn't going to ask.' Yet, he added to himself. He let his flashlight shine over the area behind the yellow tape. Symbols drawn in blood, a wooden chair, a circle of salt. Looked like your standard exorcism, if a little over-dramatized. The only problem was, someone forgot to clean up afterwards.
'Do you smell sulfur?' he asked, getting as close to the yellow tape as he dared without actually crossing it.
If Emily was surprised by the question, she didn't show it. 'No. Mildew and blood, and that smell that all abandoned buildings seem to have, but not sulfur.'
He moved the flashlight so that it focused on the chair, and Emily adjusted hers to match, the two beams of light intersecting. 'You see the symbol under the chair? Devil's Trap – you get a demon in the middle of that, and they can't get out. Almost makes the salt circle redundant. But if there's no demon at all…'
'You need to start explaining what the hell you're talking about pretty quickly, Dean,' she warned him.
He considered the point for a moment. She was clearly pretty intelligent, but that didn't mean she would believe him. It was a hard concept to sell.
'Do you remember, about a year ago, when people were…dying a lot more frequently than usual? Deaths that just-'
'Didn't make sense,' Emily finished. 'Yeah, I remember. What does that have to do with what's going on now?'
'Well,' he told her. 'Those deaths were part of what we hunters like to call the Apocalypse. End of Days. Armageddon, only with less Bruce Willis, and more fallen angel versus archangel smackdown.'
Emily raised an eyebrow. 'Maybe you want to start a little earlier? "Fallen angel versus archangel smackdown"? Are you talking about the Devil?'
'Right, of course. Dummies Guide to the Apocalypse. Lucifer is real. God is real. Lucifer is pissed, and God doesn't give a crap. Lucifer is in league with the demons and the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and they pretty much thought it'd be a great idea to go around killing people. Hence the death. And then…and then we stopped the Apocalypse. Lucifer went back to his cage in the depths of hell, and the Horsemen weren't so trigger happy without their rings of power.'
There was a long moment of silence. 'That sounds like a really bad pitch to Hollywood,' she told him bluntly.
Dean shrugged. 'I skipped a few details. Dummies Guide. It was a long few months, okay?'
Emily nodded, eyebrows raised. 'Right. So the increase in death – that was all just part of the Devil's plan?'
'Sure,' he told her. 'Why not?'
She shook her head. 'The profile was right. You really are delusional.' She started taking photos with the camera slung around her neck then, but not moving past the yellow tape.
'I'm not,' he said, unsure why it was so important that she believe him.
No-one else had. Not in a long time.
She got away from the crime scene quickly – it wouldn't be long before the forensic techs did get there. Transient evidence gave them a limited time frame. Dean had seemed a little upset when she told him that he was delusional, but that was far better than the alternative.
It was late when Emily got in, and her appetite had been sullied by the encounter with a wanted felon. Instead, she slipped the memory card into her computer and brought up the images of the scene. Not the best angles – she could have called Garcia to see if the technical analyst was willing to hack into police files, but she had asked too much already. When you were the only survivor of a horrific event, people tended to either blame you, or pity you, and Penelope Garcia had chosen the latter.
Maybe in the morning she would call, if only to ask about Dean Winchester. While the file she'd read had mentioned that he was wanted for murder, he absolutely hadn't given that vibe. Of course, she'd seen at least a dozen unsubs that profiled as "normal." Charming, attractive sociopaths. Part of her figured that if he was a serial killer, then he wouldn't have let her leave the crime scene, Locard's exchange principle be-damned.
Staring at the photos, Emily shook her head. She couldn't concentrate, her mind scattered. The laptop she switched off, but the files she left spread across the desk – she'd only be coming back in the morning to go over them again.
Stopping by the kitchen on her way upstairs, she poured two fingers of whiskey into an empty glass. Even if it didn't help her sleep, it might serve to numb the pain. At least, for a little while.
The moment he got back to his hotel room, Dean Winchester slammed the door shut and picked up the phone. He needed that burger, cost be damned.
One of the good things about paying exorbitant amounts for a room was the fact that they offered free wireless. He wasn't quite as proficient with computers as Sam had been, but he could hold his own. He wouldn't be breaking into any secure databases, but he was perfectly capable of running a few searches.
Former FBI agents named Emily who lived in the D.C. area. There couldn't be that many.
His search was finished before the burger even got there. "FBI Agent Acquitted of Colleagues' Deaths" was the most recent headline – from just over two months ago – and he went backwards from there, piecing together the story. If you listened to the prosecution, Emily Prentiss had snapped one day, and straight up murdered the five other agents on her team. If you listened to the defense, then Emily Prentiss had been the victim of some really shitty luck. Dean had his money on the second of those options. Two weeks in hospital, three months in prison on remand, a lengthy court case. No wonder she'd left the Bureau.
He clicked back to the very first article, the "Five Agents Dead in Raid" article. They hadn't shown the actual crime scene photos, for obvious reasons, but he could see the blood – a lot of blood – and the set-up and he drew his own conclusions. There was no way one agent could have taken out five others while only suffering relatively minor injuries. Even if her turning on them had been unexpected, there was no way she should have been alive after the first death.
Judging by the satanic symbols in the picture, Dean had a pretty good idea of what had gone down. Guy the FBI is chasing was dealing in some pretty heavy mojo. Demon that he summons escapes, possesses FBI agent, kills other agents, and then flees. Agent is left to take the blame. Good news for the demon, not so much for the agent. No wonder she'd been at the crime scene – she was looking for some kind of reason.
Part of him was determined to help her, if only because he was looking for the same damn thing.
Emily felt unsettled about the whole situation before she even stepped out of the SUV. The whole case had been weird in a way that not even Reid could quantify. No such thing as satanic cults, she reminded herself, but damned if she wasn't half expecting to walk in on some kind of human sacrifice.
The rush of wind came when she was at the door, waiting for Morgan to kick it in, and when he did, she followed him in, only it wasn't really her that was doing the following. She could see what was happening, and she could hear and feel and smell, but it was almost as though she was trapped inside her own mind, and someone else was at the wheel.
'Clear.' Emily heard her voice, but had no recollection of saying the word. She tried to pull herself to a stop, to call out to the team, to tell them that she was in trouble, but she couldn't. It was, without a doubt, the most terrifying thing she'd ever experienced. The nightmares that haunted her dreams every night, where she lost control.
Control was important. Control was everything.
'Clear.' It wasn't her voice that time, it was Morgan's.
'We've got something.' Reid, that time. Reid would know what to do. He would know what was going on. The problem was, Emily had absolutely no way of talking to him.
Her legs carried her into the next room, where she saw the body tied to the chair, two gunshot wounds to the chest. A flower of blood had blossomed on his white shirt, and she felt something inside of her…laughing. Whatever it was that had taken over her body had killed this man, or was responsible for his death, or something.
And it was laughing.
Part of her took that laugh to mean "you're next," only that wasn't what happened. She would have preferred that path, but destiny was apparently a bitch.
Emily felt her hand drifting downwards – towards her holster, and she was screaming "No!" inside her head, but the thing just kept laughing. Hotch was checking the pulse, and Reid was looking at the symbols, and Morgan and JJ were going over the rest of the room. It was Rossi that saw her lift the gun, her finger starting to squeeze against the trigger.
'Emily, what are you-'
She shot him twice.
And then everything went to hell.
Emily woke with a start, body covered in a cold sweat, and her head throbbing.
'Fuck,' she muttered, letting her head fall into her hands. It wasn't the first time she'd had the nightmare. Not even the hundredth. It almost felt as though every time she closed her eyes, it was all she could see. Sometimes there was no strange force. Sometimes it was her, killing her colleagues. Her friends. Sometimes they fought back. They always lost.
The wound in her shoulder ached, and she let her finger rub across the scar tissue. That was Hotch's bullet. And it really, really stung, because if Aaron Hotchner had wanted to put a bullet in her head, he would have. Maybe if he had, the rest of the might still be alive. Maybe not.
The second one, a little lower, a little more centered, was Morgan's bullet. There'd been tears in his eyes as he pulled the trigger, only seconds after she'd snapped Reid's neck. That had done as little as Hotch's bullet had.
She didn't feel the pain of the bullets until after she'd smashed JJ's head into the concrete floor, and suddenly, she was in control of her body again, only it was too late to save any of them. That thought stung so, so much more than any bullet wound.
Fully awake now, Emily padded downstairs. It was a little after three a.m, but she was fairly sure there was no way she was getting back to sleep.
Her unwashed glass was still sitting on the sink, and it was so fucking tempting to get out that bottle again, but she didn't. Not least of all because it was three o'clock in the morning, and going over the files while drunk was not the best of ideas. The thought of going over the files while slightly buzzed was nowhere near enough to take the edge off.
Ibuprofen wasn't the most preferred substitute, but it might at the very least get rid of the throbbing. She filled the glass with water and popped two tiny white pills when the doorbell rang.
She didn't know anyone that would come visiting at three o'clock in the morning. Not anymore.
Still, part of her was not surprised in the least when she looked through the peephole and saw Dean Winchester standing on her doorstep. Resisting the urge to just call the cops on him she did what was potentially a very, very stupid thing and opened the door.
He stared at her for a few seconds, at which point Emily realized she was still wearing the singlet and panties that she'd gone to bed in.
'How did you get this address?' she demanded, not making a move to cover up. She wasn't going to act self-conscious in front of Dean freaking Winchester.
He grinned at that. 'I'm as much of a detective as you are,' he said.
'What do you want?'
That question seemed a little harder for him to answer. 'I just figured…maybe we could talk,' he said, clearly a little uncomfortable at the thought. With a sigh, she stepped backwards to let him inside. If he planned on killing her, he probably wouldn't have rung the doorbell.
She tried not to think about the fact that her condo looked as though a tornado had ripped through it – the files scattered everywhere were only the tip of the iceberg. It felt kind of symbolic of the slow self-destruction that Emily knew she was undergoing. She could profile the signs, but she couldn't quite find a way to stop it.
'I don't think the victim was a demon at all,' Dean said eventually, and Emily raised an eyebrow.
'You don't say.'
He seemed unperturbed by her disbelief, and continued on, as though she shared in his delusions. 'Five victims in the Baltimore-Washington Metro Area, evidence of exorcism ritual, but no evidence of an actual demon.'
Emily's thoughts flashed back to Matthew, to John Cooley, to the demons that weren't actually demons. But maybe they were, if Dean was telling the truth. She didn't want to consider that possibility.
'What about Arizona?' she found herself saying, instead, finding the files in amongst the mess. 'Five bodies, strange symbols…'
He flipped through the files, his head starting to shake before he'd even made it to the second page. 'This isn't the same. Something hinky's happening in Arizona, but it's nothing to do with our fake demons.'
Emily's shoulders slumped slightly in disappointment. She'd spent almost a month working on Arizona, hoping that it might be the piece to the puzzle that she needed. His next words, though, were like a knife to a chest.
'Tell me about Seattle.'
Her heartbeat sped up for a few seconds, and it got a little hard to breath. 'I don't…what do you want to know?'
'You felt like you weren't in control? Like something had taken over your body?'
She closed her eyes, remembered the sound of bullets, the sound of her friends shouting her name, the sound of…silence.
'I couldn't stop it,' she said, words and tears coming out in tandem. 'I tried to break free, but…It killed them all.'
'Who killed the man?'
She frowned, her brow furrowing in confusion. 'What?'
'The man in the chair. None of your team killed him; the demon would have needed a host to kill him. So who pulled the trigger?'
Emily shook her head. 'I don't know.' She started at him, noting the pain in his eyes that mirrored hers. That had nothing to do with fake demons.
'What did he do?' she asked, her voice soft. 'What did your brother do that has you so lost, Dean?'
It was Dean's turn on the offensive, his eyes widening slightly as he processed her question. 'He, uh…saved the world.' He let out a short, not quite mirthless laugh. 'That's my Sammy. Being the bait so we could get Lucifer back in his cage. And no matter how many demons, how many angels you talk to, suddenly no-one's interested in trying to bring him back. Only interested in what's good for them.'
His behavior hadn't changed since the last time she'd spoken to him, and yet suddenly there was no doubt in her mind that he was telling the absolute truth. There was a long, pained silence between them.
'We could power a whole freaking city with this kind of guilt,' Dean muttered, and Emily found herself intrigued by his phrasing.
'You feel guilty that you couldn't save your brother?'
'A lot of people have died because of me,' he answered, which wasn't really an answer at all.
'But you've saved a lot of lives too,' she pointed out.
'So have you.'
That's different, she wanted to say, but she wasn't entirely sure that it was. His eyes were filled with tears now too, and more than anything, she could see the depth of his hopes, his fears, and she knew that the profile was full of crap. Still, she wasn't particularly surprised when he leaned in and kissed her. His lips were smooth, but the kiss was rough, and she liked that. She didn't want slow and sensual and romantic. Not tonight.
She put a hand to his cheek, tracing the path of his stubble. Their bodies shifted, and she found herself lying beneath him, his jacket hanging down to brush her stomach. She pushed it back over Dean's shoulders, and he finished the job, flinging the garment somewhere in the direction of the television.
The situation was kind of ludicrous, but quite frankly, Emily didn't care. Didn't care that she was making out with a fugitive in the middle of her living room. Didn't care that there were fake demons and real demons and psychological demons running around all over the place. All she wanted was to be held. To just…forget.
It was nine a.m when Dean left Emily's condo, and she was still asleep – probably wouldn't wake for another couple of hours at least. He wasn't the kind to stay for breakfast and morning sex. Usually he was out the door and on the road before they'd even realized he was gone.
This time, though, it was less about escaping, and more about getting to the bottom of the fake demon business. Maybe then, she'd be able to move on, but even that probably wouldn't be enough. It wasn't exactly puppies and sunshine.
On his way out, he'd grabbed the case files – both for the D.C area cases, and the one in Seattle that could well have been the start of everything. Emily could get pissed at him later, but he was pretty sure that she had read and re-read every single detail of these cases so many times that it probably wouldn't make a difference.
He found a McDonalds and grabbed breakfast before heading back to the hotel. He didn't need to spend fifty bucks on breakfast, even if it did come on a little silver cart. He kind of missed the nameless diners in the middle of nowhere that made pancakes that didn't taste so mass-produced. Just another reason why he didn't usually come to the big cities. The sooner he could get this case finished, the sooner he could get back on the road.
The files didn't tell him much that he didn't already know – there was a lot of technical information that was pretty much useless, considering the cops had no idea what to look for.
A hunter, probably. Or someone who'd had transgressions with demons before. The question was, why? Why try to exorcise people that clearly weren't demonic in any way, shape or form? Maybe the "delusional" thing that Emily kept going on about did have some basis in reality. His monsters were usually very decidedly not human. Humans were different. Humans were hard.
'Damnit,' he muttered. 'Sammy, I…I wish you were here, buddy. I'm not sure I can do this without you.'
He flipped through the files again. What had changed? Why go from Seattle to D.C.? 3000 miles was a long way to travel just to murder some people. The only reason to travel that far was if you were following someone. Dean stood suddenly, knocking his breakfast to the floor.
The killer had followed her back from Seattle. He grabbed his phone, and then stopped, realizing he had no idea what her phone number was. Castiel's angel mojo had only been able to give him an address; the apocalypse had diminished his powers considerably. In any case, this was something that Dean needed to do on his own.
Emily was naked when she woke, completely unsurprised to find the other side of the bed empty. She'd slept well – better than she had done in a long time. Her mind made a note – rough sex better than relaxation for good sleep. Somehow, she didn't think Dean Winchester was willing to hang around just so she could get laid.
Not willing to hang around period.
She showered and dressed in a tank top and sweatpants, feeling a little better than she had the previous day, but not quite well enough to go dancing in the streets.
The kitchen was empty – no note, no used dishes – and the files she'd gotten off Garcia on the D.C. murders were missing. Fan-fucking-tastic. That, too, was unsurprising.
Sighing, Emily grabbed a box of cereal from her pantry, and then went to put it back almost immediately. There was no way her milk was still in date after Arizona. There was bread in the freezer though, and she was pretty sure she still had some peanut butter.
She heard the sound of footsteps behind her, and swore. 'Dean, if that's you, I swear to God…' The taser struck her in the back of the neck, and she felt the electricity jolt through her body, fiery arcs of pain. Was this some kind of karmic retribution? Had her possession been some kind of illusion? Was this the price she was to pay for killing her friends?
Her head struck the floor as she fell, the world a dizzying blur. Spots of black and white and a veritable rainbow of colors danced in her vision, and at first she heard a high-pitched ringing, but after that there was only silence.
Dean badged his way to the door again, and found it unlocked, which was the first bad sign. The second was the presence of tiny scratch marks in the metal, as though someone had picked the lock, or at least, tried to.
This was pretty bad. Pulling the gun out from under his jacket, Dean stepped inside. At first glance, he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, but then the place had in such chaos yesterday anyway that it was hard to tell.
The cereal scattered across the floor was new. No matter what depths of self-wallowing she'd reached, it was the kind of thing that probably would have been cleaned up straight away.
'Should've figured this out earlier,' he muttered to himself.
He knelt down to the floor, seeing if there was anything else that could determine what had gone down. Nothing. The phone started to ring, and he stayed low. The sound echoed in the near empty condo.
After a few rings, it clicked over to an answering machine. 'Hey, chica. Oracle of Quantico here. Just calling to check up on you – wanted to see how last night at the crime scene went. I'm gonna try your cell now, so don't be surprised if you've already actually talked to me when you get this.'
There was a few seconds of silence, and then a second ringing punctuated the air. Dean got to his feet and picked up the vibrating object.
"Penelope Garcia" the display said, and it was a really, really bad idea, but he knew that she could have information he could use.
He put the phone to his ear.
He cleared his throat. 'No, this is, uh…My name is Dean. I'm a private investigator. I ran into Emily at the crime scene yesterday, and now she's disappeared.'
'Oh God,' Penelope said. He heard the sound of typing in the background, and figured that she was looking up something. 'How do I know you haven't kidnapped her, and this is the ransom call?'
'You really think that? I'm in Emily's apartment now – I'm guessing you're the Oracle of Quantico that left an answering machine message. I'm not asking that we suddenly become best buddies, I just don't want anyone else to die.'
'Feisty.' Penelope's words were tinged with fear, and Dean didn't particularly blame her. 'Okay, I have a mysteriously handsome stranger coming to her door at three o'clock in the morning.'
Dean scratched his head. 'That, uh…that would be me.'
'Really, now? We have the mysteriously handsome Dean leaving at nine a.m, and then half an hour later…a less handsome stranger picking the lock on her door.'
'Can you describe him?'
He heard the sound of keys tapping again. 'Zooming in a bit. Quality isn't great, but our man looks like he's late thirties, Caucasian. Dark hair. Kinda scruffy, casual clothes.' That wasn't really anything that could tell Dean what he didn't already know – the description could be applied to about half of the hunters that he knew.
'Mysterious not-so-handsome stranger goes inside, and…fast-forward a little. Leaves with an unconscious brunette around twenty minutes later.'
Dean frowned. 'That seems like pretty poor security if you ask me. Guy carries an unconscious woman out of an apartment building, and no-one stops him?'
'Oh, I didn't say no-one tried to stop him. Dead security guard in the parking garage, and…it looks like he took Emily's car. Late model Toyota Prius, black.'
'Can you put out an APB?'
'I'm just a tech analyst,' she told him. 'I have no authority, and quite frankly, the name Emily Prentiss isn't exactly worth much around here anymore.'
'Jerks,' Dean muttered.
'You're telling me. So exactly what kind of private investigator are you that you go to crime scenes with satanic symbols, and all other kinds of crazy stuff?'
'Let's just say I look into…weird stuff.'
There was a long pause. 'Wait a minute. Dean Winchester? Oh, boy.'
He almost laughed. 'What do they have some kind of fugitive newsletter that gets emailed around?'
'I'm the Oracle of Quantico – if I didn't know about the hunter that keeps saving the world, I wouldn't be doing a very good job.'
'Then you know about what really happened in Seattle?'
'All I know is that Emily Prentiss would never, ever, in a million-billion years do what she did on that day.'
'Ain't that the truth.' He'd only known Emily for a little over twelve hours (not counting knowing her in the biblical sense) and he was pretty sure that it was an accurate assessment. Though, he'd been fooled before.
He set the phone to speaker and put it down on the kitchen counter; it almost felt as though he was having a real conversation, bouncing ideas off of Sam in a motel room, or a diner, only Sam had experienced a sudden gender shift and joined the FBI. There were far, far greater differences than that, but it wasn't the time for him to list every single one of them.
'I think whoever it is that's killing these people followed her back from Seattle. What was the date of the first case?'
'13th of July. That's…'
'The week after the acquittal,' Dean finished, pacing across Emily's tiled floor. 'Maybe this guy was involved in the first killing somehow. Like, I don't know…'
'Like he blames her for what happened,' Penelope suggested, sounding a little unsure of what she was saying. 'That's not exactly a short list. A lot of people were pretty upset about that.'
'You think one of the family members of your team might have…' he trailed off, not particularly wanting to finish the question.
'No, absolutely not.'
He nodded, even though she couldn't see him. Penelope was probably right, but not for the right reasons. There was still something missing.
'Who shot him? The very first victim – who pulled the trigger?'
'They never found out…That was the main reason the state couldn't convict. Reasonable doubt, plus a really, really good lawyer. Do you think that whoever killed the unsub from that case is going after Emily?'
Dean frowned. What did he think, really? Dramatized exorcism scenes. Ritualistic…Delusional. 'He thinks he's killing demons, but he's not. The first guy he killed was summoning demons, but he wasn't a demon. Even if he knew that the people he killed weren't demons, then he's still following the ritual. Why kill five people before going after the one you're really interested in…unless that's part of the ritual, too.'
'What am I looking for?'
'Bring up a map. Pinpoint the location of each of the murders.' He heard the sound of fingers tapping again, and the softer, slower sound of mouse clicks. 'Do you see a pattern?'
'I think so…yes. Yes! It's a pentagon.'
'Not a pentagon.' He shook his head, more for his own benefit than for hers. 'A pentagram. A giant freaking Devil's trap. Like Samuel Colt's gateway to hell. And he's going to put Emily smack bang in the middle of it.'
She woke up to a bucket of water being splashed over her face. Cold water. It was getting closer to winter, and Emily wasn't particularly interesting in getting pneumonia. Of course, that seemed to be the least of her problems. Her head was fuzzy, and her body still tingled slightly, and her limbs were strapped to a large wooden chair.
Glancing downward, she noticed the symbol painted in dried blood that encircled the chair. Not her blood – even if she was bleeding, she didn't think she'd have lost nearly enough to draw a symbol that big.
Her eyes moved back upwards to see the man that had thrown the bucket of water. He was tall, with dark, unkempt hair. She'd never seen him before in her life, and that, more than anything else made it seem as though the universe was conspiring against her.
'Are you ready to go back to hell, you demon whore?' She barely had enough time to react before his fist hit her face, a movement accompanied by the crunch of bone. She felt the blood drip from her nose, felt it tickling over her lips. Breathing became a little bit harder. The man stepped backwards, so that he was standing on unmarked concrete.
'Not a demon,' she managed to say.
'Of course you'd say that,' he spat. '"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." Corinthians. You and your kind – you thought you could destroy the world. You underestimated the strength of man.'
There was a damn good reason Emily Prentiss hated delusional unsubs. The sociopaths and the psychopaths and the narcissists she could deal with, but the delusional ones really, truly believed that they were doing the right thing, and it frustrated her to no end. The problem, though, was that she wasn't entirely sure that he was wrong.
The cold was starting to bite through properly now, and Emily let her teeth clamp against her lip to suppress the shiver. If she'd known she was going to get kidnapped by a religious fanatic intent on avenging the near apocalypse, she would have worn something a little warmer.
He hit her again, this time in the ribs. The wind rushed out of her, and breath came in short, fast gulps.
You've been through worse than this, part of her said. You can take it.
Another part said, you deserve this, and she didn't ignore it. The water and blood on her face started to mix with tears, and she couldn't stop the sobs that wracked her body, jarring the injuries the unsub had inflicted.
He stopped, not in hesitation – because she didn't doubt that his previous victims might have begged for their lives. He seemed almost…triumphant.
'Your tears can't fool me,' he whispered. 'I know what you are. A liar. A murderer.'
She closed her eyes, and desperately wished she could do the same to her ears. It was worse, in a way, with eyes closed. It meant that her imagination could take over; she saw five bodies lying there, only suddenly they weren't. "You killed me," they said to say in ethereal voices. The vision was punctuated by a soft click. Emily opened her eyes to see the cold steel barrel of a revolver was pressed against her forehead. He had a book in one hand, and the words that came out next were beyond her understanding, and yet she knew what it was.
An exorcism ritual. Her last freaking rites. She let her eyes close again, and this time all she saw was darkness. All she heard was silence. Was this how Matthew had felt, right before his death?
'Any last words?' His voice echoed in the room.
'Kill me,' she whispered.
'Regna terrae, cantate Deo, psallite Domino…'
Emily frowned. That didn't sound like part of the exorcism ritual. In fact, it almost sounded like…her eyes opened, her head jerking towards the man that stood at the door, gun pointed at the man about to blow her brains out.
'I suggest you step away, otherwise you might find it a little difficult to move, seeing as how there'll be a bullet in your skull.'
The man turned, but didn't step away, and the barrel of the gun still pressed against her forehead. 'Winchester. This demon needs to be sent back to hell.'
'See, that's the problem. She isn't a demon.' The gun swung away from Emily's forehead, and she had enough presence of mind to realize that it was now being pointed towards Dean.
'She's corrupted you. You've fallen victim to her wiles. She must be sent back to hell,' he repeated.
'Yeah, that's not going to happen.'
Emily's whole body jerked as she heard the gunshot. The unsub's body fell to the ground, and she wasn't quite sure whether to be relieved or upset that he hadn't managed to kill her first.
'Emily!' He was at her side in a split second, unbuckling the straps at her wrists and ankles, and wrapping his jacket around her shoulders. 'How're you doing?' He pulled her into an embrace, the pain in her ribs insignificant compared to the warmth that he gave her.
'Cold,' she muttered. 'How'd you find me?'
'I had a little help,' he admitted. 'Penelope Garcia is one hell of a woman.'
In spite of herself, Emily grinned. 'Yeah. Yeah, she is.' She passed out in his arms, the sound of a siren ringing in her ears.
When she woke up, she was in a hospital bed, and it was dark outside. Assuming it was still the same day, she couldn't have been unconscious for much more than a dozen or so hours. Garcia was sitting at her bedside, knitting what looked like a very, very long scarf.
'You got a TARDIS to go with that?' Emily muttered, trying to pull herself up to a seated position, and then regretting it almost immediately.
'It's for Kevin's Halloween costume. I keep telling him that he'd be a much better Ten, but he just won't listen.' She gave Emily a soft smile. 'How're you feeling?'
There were a lot of answers to that question, none of which were particularly heartwarming. 'Tired,' she finally settled on, which wasn't exactly a lie. Apparently fake exorcisms were pretty exhausting.
'Hey,' came Dean's voice from the door. 'I just wanted to check up on you before I…' He trailed off, and Emily finished the sentence in her head. Wanted to check up on you before I left.
'I'll leave you two lovebirds to it,' Garcia winked, and Emily rolled her eyes. Dean sat in Garcia's empty seat, and there were a few moments of silence.
'Death might seem an easy way out, but it really, really isn't,' he said eventually. 'Trust me, I spent forty years in hell.' It took her a split second to realize that he was being deadly serious.
'I killed my friends,' she said bluntly, hyperaware of the tears starting to form at the corner of her eye.
'I started the apocalypse,' he countered. 'I think I have you beat.'
'So it goes, huh?'
He shook his head. 'Not really.'
Emily gave a hollow laugh. 'How do you keep going?' she asked. 'Knowing that people are dead because of you?'
He shrugged. 'Just got to balance it out, I guess. Keep fighting the good fight. I'll tell you one thing, though – your friends know for a fact it wasn't you that killed them. They don't blame you. If you're gonna have faith in one thing, have faith in that.'
Dean stayed by her side until she fell asleep again, and when she woke up, he was gone. All that was left was silence.
Three months later.
Dean cracked open his beer, tipping it towards the empty seat opposite him. He'd just dealt with a vampire infested town a little way south, and was looking forward to the recuperation before moving on to the next crisis.
He gave the waitress a smile as she brought him his burger. 'Thanks.'
'You're welcome, sweetheart.' She tipped him a wink, and he briefly considered asking her what time she got off, but then decided against it. He finished his meal in silence, and drained the last few drops from the bottle. Almost about to get up and leave, he stopped, as a second bottle was slammed in front of him.
'You are a hard man to catch, Dean Winchester.' Emily Prentiss slid in to the seat opposite him. 'But if you ask around for a white knight on his dark steed going around killing monsters, then it gets a little easier.'
'Emily.' He smiled, and it was a genuine smile. 'Nice to see you out of the hospital bed.'
'Well,' she shrugged. 'It's thanks to you I didn't end up in the morgue instead, so I guess I'm kind of thankful. Not that you gave me a chance to say it.'
'What can I say?' He cracked open the beer and took a long swing. 'Monsters to kill.'
'Yeah…looks like you could use some help with that.' Dean instinctively put a hand over the twin fang marks on his neck. 'What works on a vampire? Fire? Stake?'
'Decapitation's the only sure-fire way,' he said, before he could stop himself. 'But you…You're not hunting with me.'
'Whatever happened to "keep fighting the good fight"?'
'Well, I was kinda referring to human monsters there. You know, the kind you're used to dealing with.'
'In case you hadn't noticed, Dean, I'm persona non grata with law enforcement right now. No-one in any police department, in any field office, is going to work with someone accused of killing their entire team. And I know you aren't really that well suited to working alone.'
He raised his eyebrows at that. 'What gave you that impression?'
'You know monsters, I know people,' she shrugged. 'But I'm willing to make a transition.'
'It's a dangerous job.'
'I've died three times now. It's not glamorous – I spend my days on the road, and my nights in cheap hotel rooms. The FBI can keep their Gulfstream.'
He paid for his meal, including a healthy tip for the waitress. Emily followed him out into the bar's parking lot, and across the street to the motel. He stopped by the Impala, and turned to look her in the eye.
'The first rule of hunting is that the driver picks the music.'
'I can live with that,' she said, smiling – and for the first time, he could actually see the happiness in her eyes.
It was a beautiful sight.