Hella had mentioned the possibility of demons chasing her. Even if she hadn't, Sam reasoned, they would still have been taken by surprise, but they would probably have had their weapons on them anyway. Years of training does that to a person. As it was, everything seemed to happen very quickly; Dean went for the sawed-off he had inside his jacket, Sam took Ruby's knife from his belt, Hella and Jög hit the ground as two of the three demons lunged for Sam and Dean.

Dean got the one that was approaching him and the one that was stalking towards Hella, no problems. Sam had to struggle a bit more, but the demon was killed easily enough. Dean had grabbed Hella's wrist and was already half way out the door. Sam stopped to check Jög was following them, and then ran out into the cold.

The grey sea had become tempestuous, and the sky had given way to storms. The wind howled and screeched, and rain fell, big fat raindrops firing down at them with force. Jög ran straight into the sea, shucking his clothes as he went, his body stretching and warping. Sam gasped in the cold air as he saw Hella and Dean ten feet in front of him, running towards the Impala. More demons appeared, encircling them.

It was an ambush.

Sam sprinted to catch up with them, plunging Ruby's knife into the back of the neck of one demon, pulling it free before turning and slashing through the air at another, which had tried to creep up on him.

"Sam!"

"Dean! You ok?"

"I'm good." Dean was shooting at any demons that tried to approach, but he was not exactly in the best of positions to be using a gun. "Could do with someone covering my back, though."

"I'm here, I gotcha…" Sam stabbed at another demon, just scratching, but enough to buy them some time and space. "Hella, you ok?"

"Mm…" Hella whimpered, her usually pale skin now even paler. She stuck close to the two of them, gripping what looked like a dagger in her hands. She looked so small… so weak…

Sam realised, then, that Hella wasn't like the other pagan Gods they'd met. Those were Gods who had gone into the world. They were selfish, violent and would do anything to get their way, which made sense, if you looked at their myths. But Hella? She'd never left the giant hall that was Hellheim. She'd probably never been in a car until a few days ago, and she'd certainly never killed anyone… even if they were demons, it must have been terrifying for her.

One of the demons lunged at her, trying to grab her by the shoulders, but she brought her little dagger up and slashed blindly at it. The demon staggered back, blood oozing from the cut, which was odd, because it couldn't have been much more than a graze.

The demon looked at the wound, and then stared at Hella, gasping as it shrivelled and shrank, seemingly starving to death in the space of a few seconds. Its skin became so dry, it turned to dust. Eventually, the demon crumpled on itself.

"Uh… what was that?" Dean shot another demon, glancing at Hella.

"It is my blade." She spoke, her voice forcibly calm. "In your language, it is called famine. It's not supposed to be used as a weapon, but I think this counts under the "desperate times" caveat."

Sam looked out to the sea, just in time to see a massive tidal wave loom over them.

"Uh, guys, hold tight…"

They clung to each other as the wave smashed over them, blasting apart the small circle the demons had formed around them.

"Car!" Dean yelled, over the now howling wind. "Now!"

They struggled towards the Impala, the waves and wind roaring at them, occasionally crashing down behind them.

Sam could see the Impala in front of them, they were so close… At least ten more demons appeared in front of them, five leaping towards Dean and struggling to take the sawed-off from his hands. The rest went for Sam.

Amid the flurry and confusion, he heard a high pitched wail drifting to him over the wind, and then felt something heavy blind-side him. He fell to the floor, blackness covering the rain, the wind, and the sounds of Dean's shotgun.

(-*-)

The sky boiled. The ground burned.

Ash consumed him, burning, whispering, clawing…

It hurts.

He could feel darkness plucking at him, as he lay, unable to move.

His arms and legs were immovable, bloodied and bruised. His head ached and throbbed, his whole body wracked with spasms of pain. For now, he was alone.

Alone.

This was one of his brief periods of respite. He occasionally got these moments, these islands, where for a little time, they'd leave him alone. Let his pain wash over him, tear through him. Did they come a minute or millennia apart? He couldn't tell. He just begged for these moments of being alone.

Alone. Alone alone alone alone alone alone alone alone alone alone.

Bobby, we need to do something.

The shadows stirred and twisted, clawing their way up to him. The brightest and darkest, loudest and quietest, strongest and weakest…

Well can you get any idea…

They were everything. They destroyed him and brought him back daily, and he could barely remember a time when he wasn't alone.

Nope, no word of…

Sam stirred, his eyes opening as the real world cut through his nightmare. He blinked awake, his head feeling like it was made of lead, the motel room ceiling swaying above him. He turned his head slightly, seeing Dean stood by the door, talking into his cell. He grinned when he noticed Sam.

"Well, Sam's up, at least… Yeah, ok. Just… find out what you can. Bye."

Dean hung up, sitting on the bed opposite Sam.

"How you feeling?"

"I've been worse. What happened?"

"You got blind-sided by a demon in a body-builder meat suit." Dean stared at the floor, looking weary and down-trodden.

"I got rid of most of them, but… they got Hella."

Sam blinked, feeling the weight of the words hit him, and being more surprised to find out how upset it made him.

"Well… do we know who sent them? Where she is, what they want with her?"

"Nothing." Dean shrugged. "But going on the fact that they let her get Jög's hair before they attacked, Bobby's betting on this being to do with the ritual. He says we just have to… wait for the ransom note, I guess."

"But… no, Dean we have to find her."

"There's not much we can do, Sam."

"But…" Sam sat up, and instantly regretted it. His brain felt like it was rolling around his skull. Dean shot him a sarcastic smirk.

"You're not going anywhere. Most we can do is rest up… maybe figure out how we're going to get Gabriel's remains, if we need to finish this ritual. But for now, rest." He patted Sam on the knee, and moved to the fridge.

Sam did what he did best; namely, he fell into a pit of anxious worry.

(-*-)

They stayed in the motel for the rest of the day, making sure they were patched up and fully stocked on all the ammo they needed.

Sam spent the day popping pain killers and drifting in and out of nightmare-ridden sleep.

When he woke up the next morning, he got to his feet and stretched, deciding to make himself some breakfast. That was when the TV jumped into life.

"Dean?"

Sam slapped vaguely at Dean's slumbering form, not taking his eyes off the TV.

Dean struggled awake, staring at the play icon on the TV screen.

"Dude, what?"

"It turned itself on..."

"What?"
"The TV, it just turned itself on. Should I press play?"

Dean blinked, getting too much weird thrown on him given that he was still half asleep.

"Yeah… I guess…"

Sam hit play on the remote, and the picture jumped into movement, revealing a worryingly familiar face.

"Hello, boys."

Dean snapped awake in an instant.

"Why is Crowley on our TV?"

Sam shrugged, still not taking his eyes off the screen. The video continued.

"First thing, I'd like to apologise for the impersonal nature of this, you know I'd normally turn up to gloat in person… then again, talking to a camera is far less irritating than talking to you two."

He hadn't lost his trademark charm, Sam observed.

"I would love to pop topside and yell at you for a while, but the thing is, until our "mutual friend" is no longer seeking my dismemberment, I'm doing my best to stay under the radar."

He smiled; it was a terrifying, sadistic grin that didn't just seem to say "I know something you don't know", it also said "and I'm going to use it to ruin your life".

"Speaking of mutual friends, there's someone here who's just dying to say hello."

He stepped back, revealing something that looked like a cross between a dentists' chair and a hospital gurney, lit by a bare, stark light. On the horrifyingly clinical surface was Hella, wearing what looked like a white hospital gown, her frost-bitten black legs hanging limply. She had a leather strap across her waist, her neck and the top of her head, and her hands were cuffed above her head. Her hair was wet with what could have been sweat or blood, and her face and arms were cut and bruised. She looked ten times worse than she did when she'd turned up at Bobby's

Crowley stood by her head, and motioned for the camera to follow him. They could see her face, her eyes red from tears, her nose broken and bleeding, her mouth gagged with a strip of leather. She cried mournfully at the sight of the camera, but couldn't move away.

"All this in one night…" Crowley tutted. Hella flinched at his voice, whimpering. "It wouldn't be so bad if you hadn't fought so much when we were trying to tie you down, you stupid cow."

Crowley pulled the camera back, smiling into it.

"It's simple, boys. I'm currently holding the most powerful piece on the board, but you have the means to make your own. So, here's the offer I'm going to strike you. You both go and get whatever else is needed for this ritual, and take it all to the warehouse this little slut mentioned. When you get there, we'll swap. Your archangel ritual, for my pagan goddess."

Crowley suddenly lost the tiny glimmer of levity he'd had in his voice. He moved the camera back so it was focused on Hella's face.

"And don't even think of trying to squirm out of this one. She's not going anywhere. The longer you put it off, the longer little miss half-breed spends here in my play room. You wouldn't want that now, would you?"

Hella's eyes grew wide, and she started screaming against her gag.

"Get to it, boys."

The video cut out.

Sam and Dean tore their eyes from the blacked out screen, and stared at each other. There was no time for wallowing in what they should have done. They grabbed their possessions and bundled everything into the Impala, trying to remember exactly how they had gotten to the Elysian Fields motel last time. They tore down the interstate, Sam searching through a road atlas, scanning the pages for landmarks.

They lived with death and torture. It was, for them, a fact of life. But if Hella had to go through that as well… they couldn't live with themselves.