Title: The Exiles (Epilogue)
Summary: Two years ago, Kate Lockley was kicked out of LAPD because of her obsession with the things out there in the dark. Now she’s a deputy in a small California town and something she knows isn’t human has abducted a young woman. Kate tracks the thing to its lair but she’s not the only one hunting it. When she runs into John and Dean Winchester, she comes to realise that despite her experience fighting vampires, demons and zombies, she ain’t seen nothing yet.
Notes: Gen, though it can be read as UST if you swing that way :)
Nebraska, Six Months Later
Kate had spent most of her life in California. She loved the sunshine state with its long beaches and Pacific surf, although she rarely found time to enjoy the beach. She loved the desert, too, with its huge vistas of rock and sand. She’d spent one summer at Lake Tahoe with its tall pines and mountain views, back in her college years. California was a land of contrasts: if you drove the length of the state you could pass through everything from arid desert to vibrant, smoggy cities to pure-aired green valleys.
So by the time she reached her destination, Kate was heartily sick of the endless grass and cornfields of Nebraska.
The building that was her destination had been bright and welcoming once, before years of hot sun and cold winters faded the paintwork to dull, greyish tones and the timbers to match the dusty ground. She looked up at the sign above the door. Someone with high hopes had painted that sign in red and pink and yellow. Someone ringed it with lights so it would shine out into the darkness of the evening. Now only about half of the lights worked and the paint was old and peeling. Someone didn’t have those high hopes any longer.
The thought made Kate consider her own choices. She was giving up a lot, and knew she might regret it. If the eight weeks sick leave she’d had to take waiting for her knee to heal hadn’t taught her that hunting came with serious risks, nothing would. It had made her take a step back from her decision, to consider it more carefully. But it hadn’t made her change her mind.
She couldn’t go on, knowing what was out there and doing nothing about it.
She killed a vampire serial murderer in LA. She killed him so that no other cop would have to create a wall filled with images of bodies with crosses carved into their cheeks. She killed him so that he wouldn’t keep killing. It was a good thing, and she had no problem taking the flak when, as far as LAPD was concerned, she’d let a serial killer escape. After all, what was she going to do: take a pile of dust down to forensics?
John Winchester, with his straightforward, black-and-white view of the world Kate had struggled with for so long, made her see her mistakes in LA in a different light. Perhaps Angel wasn’t evil, but he helped evil to thrive. She would never return to LA, so Angel specifically wasn’t the issue, but Kate was clear now on where the line should be drawn. And she couldn’t draw that line as a cop.
Kate left her car beside a battered old Ford pickup. There was no parking lot as such, just a few vehicles left in front of the building with a half-hearted attempt at order. She checked her gun and slid it into an inner-pants holster from which she could draw fast if she needed to. She didn’t expect to need it, but was going in prepared. She climbed out of the car. Her knee didn’t even twinge.
From where she stood beside her car, Kate could hear the murmur of voices from within. For a moment her resolve wavered and she almost climbed back into her car. Then she straightened her shoulders and walked up to the half-open door.
At first glance, it was no different from a hundred other roadside saloons. In her quick glance around the room Kate noted two pool tables: one had a game in progress and the other was being used as an actual table, with what looked like a map spread across the green baize and several people poring over it. There was a bank of the usual coin-operated games along the wall nearest the bar; no one was playing. She saw perhaps thirty people, mostly but not exclusively men, nursing drinks and grouped in twos and threes around the room.
The noise level dropped noticeably as Kate walked in. Though no one openly stared at her, she could feel their scrutiny like a blanket settling around her body.
Kate walked toward the bar, doing her best to appear relaxed. She started to get that itchy feeling between her shoulders that you get when someone’s behind you, and is armed. There was a woman behind the bar. She was leaning on the polished wood, apparently deep in conversation with another man who sat on a bar stool with an empty shot glass in front of him.
The woman looked up as Kate got close. “What can I get you?”
Kate hesitated. “Lemonade.” She heard a sound from the man beside her and suspected he was stifling a laugh. Great. All she needed was a pissing contest right now.
The woman simply nodded and produced a glass. “Ice?”
“Yes, thanks.” Kate paid for her drink and sat down on the nearest bar stool. She didn’t touch her glass. “Uh…are you Ellen?”
The woman quickly covered her surprise and turned toward Kate, her eyes openly appraising. “If you’re a cop, let me see your badge,” she demanded bluntly.
The man on the next bar stool stiffened at the woman’s words and Kate was aware of others now openly looking her way. Most of the conversations around them had stopped.
“I was with LAPD for a long time,” Kate volunteered. “I probably still look like a cop. But I’m not. Not any more.” It was an effort to keep her eyes on the bartender and not look around. “My name is Kate. Kate Lockley.”
A man appeared on Kate’s other side. He moved silently, so Kate didn’t notice until he was right there. It was only the movement of the bartender’s eyes that warned her. Kate jumped a little as he slid up to her side, her heart rate increasing.
“Down, boy,” the bartender said, and it didn’t sound like a joke.
“Just looking for another beer,” the man answered. His voice was low and calm. Kate was probably just imagining the undercurrent of menace.
The bartender opened a bottle and stood it on the bar with a thump. “One beer. Now go back to your table, Gordon, and quit tryin' to intimidate my customer.” Her eyes returned to Kate before the man moved away. “I’m Ellen Harvelle,” she confirmed. She looked at Kate, considering several questions before she settled on, “Why do you ask?”
Kate found she could breathe again. “A friend gave me your name,” she began.
“What friend?” Ellen asked sharply before Kate had a chance to say more.
Kate had been about to explain, but instead she simply answered the question. “John Winchester.”
This time there was no mistaking Ellen’s surprise. Her eyes widened and she glanced past Kate to someone else, then met Kate’s eyes again. “John?” she repeated, her voice softer.
Kate nodded, though she knew it wasn’t really a question. “He told me I could trust you,” she said, “and that you might be willing to help me.”
“I might,” Ellen conceded. “Depends what help you need.” She gestured sharply. “No, don’t tell me now. Enjoy your drink. We’ll talk when this place is a little quieter.”
“Okay.” Kate picked up her glass.
“And relax,” Ellen added. “Any friend of John’s is welcome here.” She moved off to serve someone else.
Kate smiled an acknowledgment, but she would have bet good money that Ellen was going to make a phone call before she came back to talk to her. Conversations around her gradually picked up again, and Kate felt a little better. It wasn’t much, but she felt she had made a beginning.
A good beginning.