She meets Claire Novak on a cool night with a clear full moon; once upon a time Krissy knows she and her old man would have been on the watch for werewolves on a night like that, loading up handguns with silver bullets that caught the candlelight like tiny stars. Only there aren't werewolves to shoot at any more. There aren't shifters, or ghouls or even many witches either, all the monsters she'd been brought up to know and sneer at dead and gone. Now there's only Croats, that night there's four of them and that turns out to be too many.

Her father's already gone cold in her arms when she hears footsteps coming from behind and she doesn't even turn to look. He's stiff by the time she's persuaded to let him go and it's maybe a full day before she actually looks at Claire enough to really see her; until then she's nothing but glimpses caught in Krissy's peripheral vision, blonde hair and calloused hands and a shotgun slung over one shoulder. Her father's dead and in front of her and Krissy can't imagine ever being able to look at anything else.

Claire sits with her until she shakes out of it. They burn his body that night, taking turns keeping watch until the fire sputters out with the dawn. Krissy almost doesn't go through with it. She knows what happens to people who die hard and don't get put to rest, spirits are almost as common as the Croats now and oh, that is tempting. She'd take his gun, or his belt or his flask, maybe, and then he'd never leave, just the way he'd promised back when she was young and naive enough to believe promises. Claire's hand on her shoulder is what lets her finally drop the match onto the pyre. Krissy steps back and watches the flames climb, taking whatever's lingering of her father off to wherever it is he's going. She knows wherever that is, it's got to be better than here.

Krissy manages to hold it together for two more days before the gurgling sound he'd made right before his chest stopped moving rips out of her memory and drops her to her knees. She throws up all over the dirt road as that night squeezes like hands around her throat: following the sounds of his moans to find him in the dark. The way his head fell back limp as she'd turned him over, and how he'd tried to say her name but started choking instead. His hand spasming in the dirt and how she hadn't thought to hold it until long after he'd stopped breathing. Wave after wave until she's heaving up phlegm and air and Claire's dragging her off the road and into the shade of what used to be someone's guest house. Claire hands her the half-empty whiskey bottle they'd looted off a corpse that morning and Krissy does her best to make it all of the way empty, trying to wash the taste out of her mouth and those images out of her brain. The way the booze hits her stomach is already making things blurry and Krissy wishes they'd stolen some more. "He told me to run," she says, putting the bottle on its side between them. "He said he'd be right behind me and then he made them chase him the opposite way."

"He led them away from you."

Krissy remembers that moment when she'd realized her father wasn't right behind her and never would be again. "I hate him so much."

Claire pulls her knees up to her chest. "That's what dads do," she says softly, wide blue eyes staring ahead. "They do anything they have to. Even if they know it's the last thing they ever do."

That's when Krissy knows for sure she and Claire are of a kind. Nothing but daddy issues and bruises, the both of them. She leans over and kisses Claire Novak on the lips, and if the kiss is a little fumbling and she's a little shaky, well, she's drunk a lot of whiskey.

Claire doesn't quite kiss back but she doesn't pull away, either. "A lot of people I knew growing up would say that's a sin."

It's been so long since Krissy's met anyone who cares about sin. "Yeah? What about you?"

Claire smiles, a low burning fury in those blue eyes now. She leans in close enough for her lips to brush Krissy's as she speaks. "They're dead now. And they lied."

888

Claire has a compass in her head. Or at least that's a good an explanation as Krissy can figure; she doesn't care where they go but Claire certainly has something in mind, but when Krissy asks Claire shakes her head. "I just know." Not that Krissy minds – the longer the journey, the more the riddle of Claire Novak unravels itself. She finds out early on how Claire hates demons and knows more ways to fight them than even her father had, but it takes a while to get the why. "My mom was possessed," she says one night unprompted as she steps back to judge devil's trap she's drawn over the doorway. "It made her try to kill me and my dad. He saved us." She sits back against the wall next to Krissy and digs into the MREs they'd found stockpiled in this basement. "After that I wanted to learn everything there was to know about fighting demons."

"Did your dad die? Is that how he saved the two of you?"

Claire's expression shadows. "It's complicated," she finally says, and Krissy knows that's all she's going to get, at least tonight. She doesn't ask where her mom is now. That's not the kind of question that ever has a good answer.

Krissy knows there's a lot of questions she could ask that Claire won't answer. When Claire talks in her sleep it's in a language Krissy doesn't know and she knows those are the nights Claire's going to wake up screaming. One night she wakes up in a panic and clutches onto Krissy tight enough to leave bruises, pleading /ipromise you won't say yes/i until Krissy does and Claire falls back asleep a sweat-soaked mess. Krissy doesn't really care what those nightmares mean, not as long as Claire's lips are there to coax her out of her own nightmares. Claire's arms around her in the dead of night are worth a thousand mysteries.

A month after that first kiss they find a fully stocked fall out shelter and have a little party. That's when Krissy finally works up the nerve to push Claire up against the wall of the shelter and slide one hand down her pants. Claire leans back, an almost dreamy smile on her face as Krissy starts to rub. Claire's already slick and Krissy barely has time to process that before she feels Claire's hands snake up under her shirt; she's not wearing a bra so there's nothing to get in the way of Claire cupping her breasts, thumbs tracing the outer ridge of areola. Krissy nips at her lower lip as her free hand undoes the button of Claire's jeans, taking the second to slide them down over Claire's hips. As if in response Claire pulls off Krissy's camo shirt and tank undershirt; Krissy feels her nipples gets hard when the air hits them and Claire leans down to lick one, the swirl of her tongue making Krissy shiver.

She pushes Claire against the wall again and goes back to fingering her, exploring those wet folds and listening for the little hitch in Claire's breathing that means she's found the right spot. Claire's legs are already shaking by the time she guides Krissy's hand further back. At first Krissy just fingers the outside of Claire's opening; she knows Claire's a virgin, they both are and the last thing she wants is for anything to hurt right now. Then Claire lets out a little whimper and all Krissy can think is fuck it. Claire's so wet that one finger slides in like nothing but when Krissy slides in a second Claire makes that helpless little sound again; Krissy goes to her knees and spreads Claire's legs as much as she can, taking a deep breath to gather up her nerve.

The moment Krissy's tongue touches her Claire moans, her breathing ragged. Krissy wonders how she's lived this long without knowing Claire's taste, what it would feel like to have Claire shaking apart under her tongue and fingers. The world slows down to Claire's hand clenched in her hair, Claire's wetness on her lips and then Claire moans, her body pulsing hot and tight around Krissy's fingers. Krissy stands back up and wraps both arms around her, leaning them both against the wall because really, she's not all that steady on her feet either.

It seems like hours before Claire's able to raise her head up from Krissy's shoulder, her bright blue eyes shining. She's seen Claire smile before but this is the first time she's actually seen her happy. "Let's do that again."

888

Sometimes when Claire's lying naked next to her Krissy remembers a song her father used to play on repeat, the line she looks like a teenage anthem. She'd never really understood that line until meeting Claire and wishes she could remember the rest of the song. God, she'd do anything to hear her father's shitty music one more time.

It's almost enough to make Krissy glad the world's gone to hell. In a "normal" world, whatever that means, she knows Claire Novak would be the kind of girl who'd go to school wearing a plaid skirt and a blazer, while she...Krissy doesn't know. She doesn't remember normal. Maybe she'd be the kind of girl who skips school and drives a motorcycle and wears a leather jacket, like in those crappy old movies she used to watch waiting for her father to get home from hunts.

Maybe she's wrong, anyway. Maybe that Claire would still let that Krissy seduce her out of her skirt. Imagining that was one of the surer ways Krissy has of making sure she has good dreams.

"You shouldn't keep following me," Claire says one night.

"Yeah?" Krissy says, licking that sensitive little spot between her shoulder blades. "Why not?"

Claire just smiles that sad smile of hers. "Because you don't even know where I'm going."

Krissy shrugs. "I don't care where you're going."

Sometimes when Claire gets in these moods she talks about angels, broad strokes and vague the way you'd describe a dream you couldn't quite touch. It took a long time for her to even say the word and Krissy still has no idea what any of it means, except that she knows those are the nights Claire's nightmares will be at their worst. She's not even sure she believes in angels, although once when she told Claire that she just said there really weren't angels anymore. And how she knew that Krissy doesn't know, just that it's one of the many things Claire says are complicated.

It doesn't really matter to her, anyway. And if she were going to believe in angels, seeing Claire stretched out naked beside her, her blonde hair fanned over the pillow, that would almost be enough to do it.

A few days later they come to one of those bullshit camps her father had always told her to avoid. This one's called Chatiqua and Claire goes right towards it like a moth flying into a flame. The place is all but empty; they're poking around for almost ten minutes before someone comes out, a curly haired guy with a beard who Krissy's pretty sure she could take in a fight. "Hey! Where did you kids come from?"

"Where is he?" Claire says, in way that makes Krissy wonder if she knows this guy.

"Okay, why don't we introduce ourselves? I'm Chuck..."

"I want to talk to him."

"Talk to who? I don't..." There's the faintest glimmer of recognition in the man's eyes. "Oh, you're...oh." He grabs a nearby overturned stool and sits. "Sorry, you were younger when I wrote..." He let out a deep breath. "Huh."

"Where is he?" Claire says, and hearing Claire's voice like that raises the hair on Krissy's neck.

"He's gone. They're all...they're all gone. They went to fight Lucifer and no one came back, weeks ago. And almost everyone who didn't go left after."

Krissy's never seen anyone as pale as Claire is right now. "No."

"We can put you two up for the night, if you want. Stay longer than a night. Okay?"

Krissy nods for the both of them and the Chuck guy leads them to a cabin, purposefully walking past one that would be closer. Claire doesn't eat the food he brings and doesn't say a word until late into the night, when Krissy slides into bed next to her and wraps both arms tight around her waist. "He's not dead," she whispers. "I'd know. I did before."

"Let me guess. Complicated."

Claire nods, turning over to face her. "You really, really don't want to stay with me now."

"Why? Where the hell could you be going that's worse than where we've been?"

"Hell," she says, with a hysterical little laugh. "Maybe. I don't know."

Krissy kisses her. "You think I'm kidding," Claire says.

And Krissy really considers it. Takes her completely at face value, this is all true. She's heard stories. Fought demons. She knows hell is full of the worst tortures out there and tries to really imagine it.

All she can come up with is watching the light in her father's eyes go out. "I've already been there."

For an instant she thinks Claire is going to keep warning her off, but then instead she presses close, their legs twining together. "I'm scared."

"You sure you have to do this? I mean, whatever this is?"

Claire hesitates a second, then nods. "Yeah."

"Okay then, here's the deal. You know how you promised not to say yes or whatever, right?" Claire nods again and Krissy presses as close as possible, tangling her hands in Claire's hair. "Now you promise that you'll always be right behind me."

They're so close she feels Claire smile. "Deal."

When Claire kisses her Krissy knows she doesn't care if the devil shows up in the room right then and there. If the floor opens up and swallows them all down into hell itself. Bring it.

Better hell in front of her than staying behind with the dust and the ghosts any day.