painted lady

The woman had been drinking all night, sipping neon cocktails and then telling the waitress to leave the glass behind when she brought the next one. The table in front of her was covered with different glasses, all smeared with dark lipstick and bright with different coloured dregs. She herself was monochrome, all in black; her lipstick was black, her eyeshadow was black, and her hair was black as a demon's eyes. Even the bar lights couldn't give her pale skin any warmth.

It was her eyes that were the clue to her true nature. They were as vivid as butterfly wings, a different shade each time she blinked.

Dean slid in opposite her, the bottle of holy water a comforting weight in his coat pocket. "Hi there," he said, and gave her his biggest shit-eating smile. "Pretty lady like you shouldn't be drinking alone."

The woman looked at him. Her eyes were like holes in her head. "Pretty man like you offering to buy me a drink?" she asked.

Dean grinned again, holding the bottle of Campari up, then the two glasses in his other hand. It was the same sort of stuff that she'd been drinking all night. He'd bought the bottle at the bar, then wandered over for an innocent-looking chat with Sam ("Hey, buddy, I'm going to talk to the lady, don't wait up") and between them they'd hidden the bottle from public view for long enough for Sam to stick a needle through the top and pump in a healthy dose of holy water.

He hadn't figured out yet how they were going to explain the black smoke and screaming when the demon vacated the premises. Maybe they could pass it off as a bad reaction from mixing drinks. Hell, this girl's liver had to be running up the white flag as it was.

"I don't think so," the girl said, and yawned. Her nail varnish was as black as the rest of her outfit. "I don't drink with other people's property. It's so . . . embarrassing, don't you think?" She leaned forward, her gaze like needles. "Who do you think you're fooling? I can see the seal on you like a polar bear on an iceberg."

Dean kept the smile. He put the bottle and the glasses down, conscious of the weight of the knife in his other pocket. "Bitch, if you've got an in with the crossroad demons, then this is your chance to make both of us very happy very fast. You get someone to take this deal away from me, which makes me very happy, and -"

She yawned again. "And I get to live, which makes me very happy. Yes, yes, I know the routine. Don't bother. Draw that knife and I'll turn it into butterflies."

"Butterflies?" Dean said. The knife didn't feel quite as comforting any more.

The woman leaned forward and ran her finger round the edge of her current glass, then dipped the tip of her nail into the creamy orange liquid inside. The liquid rippled, and a butterfly came clambering out of it. It perched on the edge of the glass, flexing its wings.

All Dean could think of was to try to remember what sort of butterfly had those wings. Orange, brown-edged, white spots. He knew he'd seen it before somewhere.

"Listen," the woman said sweetly, "my dove, my doe, my dapple, my dainty, my delicatessen. I'm not your meat. Not now, not ever. I'm not playing games that you need to try to stop. Put your hand on the table."

Dean found his right hand moving before he could stop it. He flattened his palm against the table, in the little space left by all the glasses. Across the room, Sam was casting him worried looks.

Hell yeah, Sammy, this would be a real good moment to come on over and work your mojo on this bitch -

"I could kill you here and now," the woman said. She ran her finger down the back of his hand, along the line of the middle bone, and her nail left a thin sticky trail of alcohol behind it. "But my sweet, how could I resist someone who hates himself as much as I do?"

The words clogged in Dean's mouth as he tried to speak. Nothing came out.

"Go on," she whispered, her voice intimate and obscene. "Tell me that you aren't counting the days till you get what you deserve. Oh, how dear! How tender! To finally pay what you owe at the hands of those who'll accept no excuses, no refusal, who won't insult you with forgiveness, and who will know you're worthless, my darling -"

Dean ripped his hand away from hers, shoving his chair back as he staggered to his feet. Nearly vomiting, he ran for the door, unable to stay in the same room as that creature a moment longer.

She was laughing, broken bells of laughter. "As worthless as I am!" she was crying. "As worthless as I am!"

Sam was a few paces behind him. The moment they were out of that place, he grabbed Dean's arm, pulling him to one side. "Did she get you?" he demanded, face blank and ignorant. "Did she hurt you? We can go back and finish her later -"

"No," Dean said, his voice cracking. He spat, then said again, louder this time, "No. That bitch isn't worth it. We've got better things to spend our time on. I'm not even sure what she was."

"But Dean -" Sam started, and he went on and on and on about how they ought to be killing all the demons, except maybe Ruby who was a good demon, right, and Dean let him go on, because now he had remembered what the butterfly was.

It was a Painted Lady. Right.

Painted like the heart of hell.