A/N: This chapter was a long time coming, and I apologize profusely for that. Basically, my mindset has been "as long as Kind of a Forever Deal hasn't updated either, I'm allowed to procrastinate" which is not fair to the lovely people following this story. I love all of you, so very very much. Sartha makes family of us all. Anyway, I wasn't entirely happy with the previous couple of chapters, but I think this one is more up to scratch. Please let me know if I'm sorely mistaken and it actually sucks balls.
"I can't believe I let you talk me into this," Dean grumbled as Sam and Martha fastened the ropes around his wrists. They were back in the warehouse, setting up for Martha's plan.
"Well, you wouldn't let me do it," Sam reminded him.
"And you wouldn't let me," Martha cut in, double checking the knots that tied the older Winchester's ankles to the legs of a chair. "I think we're ready."
"You guys could have held off on the ropes." Dean shifted uncomfortably.
"You need to be vulnerable, or it won't show up."
"Yeah, how do we even know that it'll show up either way?"
"It's the best plan we've got," Martha retorted, tugging Dean's bindings. "With all of the people from the bus accident dead, that makes you the most tortured person in town."
"Alright, alright, I heard the spiel already. Just lemme be the bait in peace."
Martha rolled her eyes in amused exasperation and went off to the spot where she would hide and await the arrival of their mystery creature.
Sam clapped his brother on the shoulder on his way to the door.
"You'll be fine, Dean. We got this."
"Yeah, I know Sammy. Now go on, get to your place. I wanna know that you'll be there to gank the son of a bitch if it does come to eat me." Sam smirked and walked across the room, ducking behind a crate near the front door of the warehouse. Martha was stationed at the back. There was nothing to do now but wait.
Dean was halfway through humming 'Enter Sandman' when the lights shut off. There was a shuffling sound from somewhere behind him, followed by a thump and several long moments of silence. He didn't move, didn't breathe, a lifetime's worth of sharply-honed instincts on alert for any sign of movement. There were footsteps coming closer. All he would need to do would be to call out and Sam and Martha would come running. The room wasn't huge; they could be here in a few seconds. No need to worry. Still, the darkness was unexpected, and the sharp footfalls that rang throughout in the room were getting steadily louder. The click of the person's shoes sounded like those of a woman. Probably smallish in stature, though in Dean's experience that had nothing to do with how dangerous something could be. Lilith had been partial to possessing little girls, after all. Dean's muscles tensed. The knots weren't too tight. He could be out of this chair in a matter of seconds. He counted his breaths, forcing them quiet, as the unseen individual stalked ever nearer. There was a quiet pop and the light directly over Dean's head turned on. He blinked at the sudden illumination, and flinched in aborted surprise as he took in the form of Martha Jones standing less than a foot away.
"Sh- Marty! Jesus, don't do that!" He inhaled, then let it out slowly. "What's going on?"
Martha shrugged and smiled at him. Dean did a double take, because that was not Martha's usual smile. This one was like a razor blade, wicked and cruel, all of the usual softness of her face erased.
The smile widened, and Dean was disturbingly reminded of Jack Nicholson's Joker.
"Hey, Sam!" Dean shouted for his brother, knowing something was definitely wrong. Sam slipped out of the shadows and rushed to his side, gun at the ready. Martha turned and fixed her eerie smile on him.
She raised one hand and pointed it directly at Sam's chest.
"Of all dark things that mold and fester, there's none so tainted as Sam Winchester," she sing-songed. Sam's eyes rolled back in his head and his jaw went slack as he keeled over like a two-by-four.
"Sammy!" Dean shouted.
"An old bag from the Rexel planetary configuration taught me that. Who knew it would come in useful?" Martha turned her cold smile back to Dean.
"You bitch," he spat. "What did you do to him?"
"Oh, Dean, Dean, Dean. You of all people, doing what you do, should know about the magic in words, in names. To name something is to have power over it. It's a shame that Sammy here is so far from normal, or he'd never wake up. Hell and magic infects him. It's repulsive, really. But he'll be fine."
"I will rip out your intestines and tie them around your pretty little throat if you come one step closer, I swear to god."
"I can smell your fear, you know," Martha remarked, casual as anything. "It's potent...delicious..." She sidled up to Dean, who was struggling with the ropes around his wrists. "It's a shame that you, too, carry the mark of another dimension." She slid her fingers almost tenderly across his left shoulder, just above where Castiel's hand-print was burned into his skin. "I won't be able to kill you nicely, with your name. So we'll have to do it the old-fashioned way."
Suddenly, the edge of a knife was pressed against Dean's throat. It was as sharp and icy as the look in Martha's eyes. The change in them was dramatic, as those eyes had always been so warm and soft before. The bottom of Dean's stomach dropped as he realized that this was someone for whom he had been developing a great deal of respect. Apparently, though, it was all an act. And wasn't that just typical for the Winchesters?
"So, what, all of this, pretending to have some soul-connection with Sam that survived across the "reversal of time itself", helping us, it was all so you could get at my tortured ass?" Dean sneered. "'Cuz, I gotta say, there are much easier plans you could have gone with."
Martha made a noncommittal sound.
"I take opportunities as they come," she muttered vaguely, stroking her captive's throat with the tip of her blade. "My people are blessed with certain capabilities, so I ought to make use of them, don't you think?"
"What are you?" he asked in a low voice.
"We have a lot of names on your world. Energy vampire, succubus, demon, we even get confused for a particular breed of djinn on occasion." Martha smirked, and then her expression turned stony. "But I'm none of those. My home is farther away than you could imagine. It's made of marble, and so are we. Oh, you tiny little humans just feel so much. I could feast on the psychic energy in one of your bed-wetting little brats for weeks. Except, call me a glutton, but I like a little variety in my meals. And you, mister Winchester, are the main course. All that pain and fear and repression, oh." She licked her lips, quick and lizard-like. "I could sleep for a century on the full belly you'll give me."
Her mouth opened inhumanly wide, and Dean felt a tightening sensation deep in his chest. Panic clawed its way up his throat, rising like bile and making his heart pound. Sweat broke out across Dean's brow, and he was dimly aware that he was screaming. There was something swirling past Martha's lips and into the cavern of her mouth, twisting like smoke and with a gentle bluish glow. This energy rose from where Dean sat, coming from him somehow. It only made the terror worse.
His ordeal was cut short abruptly, however, as a fist seemed to whip out of nowhere over to Martha's right. In that fist was the butt of a gun, which cracked across her skull and she fell over with a cry. Standing there after Martha had fallen was... Martha.
"How about you sleep for a bit longer than that?" Martha Jones snarled at her doppelganger. Aiming her pistol, she fired three shots into its chest. Martha, the real Martha, had a look of fire in her eyes. She was angry.
"Tie me up a bit better next time, yeah?" she suggested to the alien corpse at her feet. "The naming doesn't work on me, either."
"Marty?" Dean asked weakly. Martha smiled and rushed to untie him from the chair.
"It's me this time, Dean. Really, properly me. Promise."
"Go check on Sam," he urged her. "I can get out of these." Martha nodded and rushed over to the prostrate form of the younger Winchester. Dean was still shaking slightly as he pulled out of the ropes, but making sure that his little brother was safe took priority, as always.
Sam opened his eyes and blinked blearily. Martha's face swam into focus above him, smiling in relief.
"What-" he began, then stopped as the events immediately preceding his state of unconsciousness came back to him. Sam pulled sharply away. His grogginess had faded quickly, and he was able to jump to his feet. "You... You betrayed us?"
"Woah, hey, Sam," Dean put his hands on his brother's shoulders. "She didn't betray us. She saved us. Look."
Sam turned, and his eyes widened in shock as he took in the sight of Martha's dead body, riddled with bullet holes and lying in a pool of greenish liquid. He did a humorous double take between the body and where the real Martha stood, alive and healthy.
"That's the thing we were after. It changed into her. Would have killed me if Marty hadn't ganked it first." Dean pulled Martha closer to them both and patted her shoulder, looking almost proud. Sam's look of hurt confusion changed drastically to one of delight. He wrapped his arms around Martha and held her tight.
"Thank you," he muttered into her hair.
"Don't mention it," she whispered, squeezing back.