Morgan Briarwood (briarwood) wrote,
Morgan Briarwood
briarwood

Fic: The Exiles (Part Four)

Title: The Exiles
Fandom: Supernatural/Angel
Rating: Mature
Pairing: None
Warnings: None
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 :)


PART FOUR

John climbed out of the grave and poured salt over the woman’s body, then followed it with a generous stream of gasoline. The scent of the gasoline was sharp and unpleasant. John struck a match and dropped it into the grave, watching the flare as the gasoline caught light.

He stepped back from the grave’s edge then. If he stood too close the light of the fire would make him visible to anyone who happened to glance in his direction and there were houses overlooking the cemetery as well as the road nearby. John took a drink from his hip flask while he waited. He leaned back against a nearby headstone and pulled out his phone. He checked the display for missed calls although he was sure he would have heard it ring. There were no calls. John pocketed the phone and waited while Cecily Grainger burned.

It was at times like this that John’s mind turned to darker things. Every hunt like this one, as necessary as it was, distracted him from the hunt: the hunt for Mary’s killer. When he was done here, he would need to find a job to occupy Dean for a few weeks at least. John needed to get back on the trail, and he couldn’t take Dean into that kind of danger.

Eventually, the flames died down and John returned to the grave. He shone his flashlight into the grave, confirming there was nothing left but ashes. Then he picked up the spade and began to fill the grave in again. This part was easier than opening the grave and the work went much faster. It wasn’t long before he was done. He tamped down the dirt and re-laid the sod. It would be obvious that the grave had been disturbed – there was no way to avoid that – but if no one noticed it, after a month or two you’d never know the difference.

John rubbed his hands on his jeans to get rid of the clinging dust. He packed his tools – spade, salt and gasoline – into his canvas bag, then pulled out his phone to call Kate.

It took a long time for Kate to answer her phone: long enough for John to worry.

When she answered, her voice was tight and breathy. “John? Tell me you burned that bitch!” He couldn’t tell if that was pain or panic in her voice.

“I did,” he answered. “What’s happening, Kate? Can you still see the spirit?” He held his breath: if she could still see it, he’d burned the wrong body.

“No,” Kate said, and her voice still sounded strange. “No, she’s gone.”

The spirit was gone…but there was something wrong. John waited.

“I’ve got the girls,” Kate said, speaking quickly. “Well, they found me, really, but they’re here.” She broke off and John heard her make a small sound of pain. “I need help,” Kate said.

They hadn’t known each other very long, but John knew that Kate had a lot of pride. Asking for help had cost her. Or was she asking under some kind of duress? Did that gasp of pain mean someone or something was with her? Had John been speaking to Dean, he would have known for sure. There were any number of private codes that Dean could have used to indicate things were okay…or not. But he’d had no time to develop that kind of rapport with Kate. He had no choice but to take the call at face value, and hope.

“What’s wrong?” he asked urgently.

“I feel like such an idiot, but I fell, John. I’m hurt bad – I think my knee’s busted.”

Busted could mean anything from a cut to permanently knee-capped. John didn’t ask for details. It was enough to know that Kate couldn’t walk. “Alright, I’m on my way. Are the girls with you?”

“Yes. They’re both alive.”

Alive, he thought, not “fine”. Kate tended to say what she meant; her phrasing worried him. But there was no time to worry about that now. “Are you at the school?”

“Yes. A path behind the playing fields.”

“I’ll find you, Kate. Hang tight.” John put the phone away. Damn it! Why had he sent her to the school alone? And Kate had his truck. He would have to steal a car to get to her.

***

John took a fresh flashlight from the truck, automatically noting what was missing: shotgun, the EMF, salt. Kate had done everything he’d instructed. What had gone wrong?

He loaded a sawed-off with rock salt – just in case – and tucked it under his coat before he headed into the school grounds. He walked across the parking lot and hesitated at the top of the path. He saw no sign of Kate, no light ahead. He called her cell.

“John, hi.” Kate’s voice still sounded odd, but he recognised it now as someone fighting pain. She was hurt badly.

“Kate, I’m at the school. Can you give me directions?”

“There’s a fence on the far side of the playing field. We’re behind it.”

John shone the flashlight in that direction. The beam was strong and he located the fence quickly. “Okay, I see it. I’m on my way.” John had ended the call before he realised he probably shouldn’t have done that. Kate was tough, but she was no soldier. He should have stayed on the line with her. John would have felt foolish calling her back so he did the practical thing: quickened his pace to find her as fast as he could.

“Kate!” he called as he reached the fence.

“Here!” she shouted back.

John followed the sound of her voice and it wasn’t long before he saw her. It was very dark behind the fence, but Kate had propped her flashlight up on something so it cast light over the area. John added his light to hers and could see well enough. Kate was sitting on the ground with her back to the fence and both legs stretched out straight in front of her. Both of the missing girls were with her. Maria lay on the ground, her head pillowed on Kate’s thigh. Her dark hair covered her face so John couldn’t see if she was dead or sleeping. Kate had told him they were both alive, though. Her hand rested in Maria’s tangled hair. The other girl, Gina was sitting up, clinging to Kate’s other side. Kate had her arm around Gina’s shoulders, hugging her close. Gina’s hair was almost exactly the same shade as Kate’s own.

Kate and the girl looked up in the same moment. “John,” Kate said, “this is Gina. She’s okay, I think, just tired and scared. But Maria is sick. She was awake when I found her but now she won’t wake up.”

She was good at giving a report. It must be the cop training. John knelt down beside them while Kate was still speaking. He looked at Gina first, smiling. “Hi. I’m John.”

“Hi,” Gina whispered back. She stared at him, all huge eyes and paleness.

“We’re going to take care of you, Gina. I’m gonna get you to a hospital first and then we’ll call your mom. Would you like that?”

“I want to go home,” she whispered.

John took that as a yes. He turned to Kate. “What about you?”

“I fell by the sheds and hurt my knee. I thought it was just twisted but by the time I got here…” she shrugged.

“You tried to walk on a sprained knee,” John said flatly.

“Yeah.” She sounded embarrassed, and she should be. It was one thing to push past the pain of an injury if you were in imminent danger, or without backup, but Kate should have taken better care of herself. She had backup. She had him.

John didn’t let her see his thoughts. “Which knee?” he asked. He reached out to brush a lock of hair back from Maria’s face. Her eyes were closed and her skin was cool. Concerned, he felt for a pulse at her neck. She was alive, and breathing, but Kate was right: the girl was sick. A cihuateteo drained the life from its victims, but slowly. The children died of simple diseases: a cold that became pneumonia, or flu, or they simply went to sleep and never woke.

Kate gestured to the knee not being used as a pillow. John shone his torch downward. He could see at once that the knee was badly swollen: the denim of Kate’s jeans was stretched tight across the joint. John looked up at her. “You got this far on that knee? I’ll have to start calling you Rambo.”

“Very funny.”

“Learn how to take a compliment.” John probed gently at the knee. With this much swelling it could be broken. If he could be sure it was only a sprain he would have treated it himself. What would he do if this were Dean? When he framed the question like that, the answer was obvious. John would insist that Dean get an x-ray. He couldn’t do less for Kate. The children needed help, too. John had planned to drop the girls anonymously at the nearest ER. It would be much harder to be covert when Kate, too, needed medical assistance.

John turned to the little girl, Gina. “Can you walk, sweetheart?” he asked her gently.

“Yes.”

“Do you think you can help Kate to walk?”

“John, she’s just a kid,” Kate protested.

“I noticed. But I can’t carry all three of you. Gina, what do you think? Can you be strong?”

“I’ll try,” Gina answered, her voice still only a whisper.

Her uncertainty gave John more confidence. If she’d just said yes, he would have worried it was bravado. “Good girl,” he answered. He picked up Maria’s sleeping body. She felt cool, but not cold and he could see her chest rise and fall with her breath. But she didn’t stir as he arranged her on  his hip so he could carry her with one arm. Then he stood and offered his free hand to Kate. “Come on.”

Kate grasped his hand, got her good foot firmly planted on the ground and let John haul her upright. She winced as she straightened and clung to his arm for a moment. John could feel her shaking. Then she nodded. “I’m fine.”

“Okay.” John shifted so that Kate stood on his left, with her injured right leg on his side. “Gina, go stand on the other side of Kate. Kate, lean most of your weight on me. Keep your other hand on Gina’s shoulder and lean on her if you need to.” He waited for Kate’s nod of acknowledgement. “Gina, sweetheart, we’re gonna walk real slow. Like a three-legged race. Have you ever done that?”

“Like when you tie your feet together?” Gina asked.

“Just like that. You need to make believe you’re tied to Kate and stay in step with her. Okay?”

“Okay.”

John slid his hand around Kate’s waist to steady her and she held on to his shoulder. Together they began the long, slow journey back to the truck.

***

John parked within sight of the hospital, but didn’t drive into the grounds. Instead he shut off the engine and turned to his passengers. “Kate, do you trust me?”

Kate was cradling Maria in her arms. The child still hadn’t woken. “Yes,” she answered. “I trust you.”

“What I’m going to ask you to do will be painful, and it’s probably not good for that injury. But I believe it’s necessary to protect the job we do. Can you follow my orders, without question?”

Kate frowned, absently stroking Maria’s hair. “I don’t know. Tell me your orders and I’ll be able to answer.”

It wasn’t the simple yes he’d wanted, but John accepted it. “First, your cover story. You were walking near the school when you heard Maria calling for help. You followed the sound and discovered the girls. Tell the truth about how you fell and injured your knee.”

“It’s not a very convincing story,” Kate objected.

“No, but there will be no evidence to contradict you. Simple is better than complicated and realistic. Kate, you’re a cop. If they question you, stay calm and tell as much of the truth as you can without mentioning me or ghosts. If they actually arrest you, use your phone call to let me know and I’ll have a plan B. But I don’t think that will happen.”

Kate nodded. “Alright.”

“I want you to try to walk to the hospital from here. I know you can’t make it,” John said, raising a hand to forestall Kate’s attempt to interrupt him. “You only need to go a short distance. Gina will run ahead and find someone to help you. They’ll be caught up in helping you and Maria and won’t think to ask how you got this far until much later, if at all.”

Kate looked as if she wanted to argue, but she simply said, “And you will be…?”

“I’m going back to the school to make sure there’s no sign you were there. Then I’ll head to the motel and wait for you, or your call. Can you do it, Kate?”

She set her jaw, already anticipating pain. “Yes,” she answered grimly.

John walked around the truck to open the door for Kate. He took Maria from her while Kate climbed down. She cried out once, but finally stood on the sidewalk and took Maria back from him. Gina climbed down without help.

John knelt on the sidewalk to talk to Gina. “Gina, I want you to run to the hospital. You’ll see a big glass door  with lights on and probably lots of people inside – that’s the emergency room. Go in there, find a nurse or a doctor and tell them you need help. Don’t say anything else, just you need help. Then bring them here to Kate. Do you think you can do that?”

Gina nodded. “Yes.”

John gave her an encouraging smile. “Off you go then. Fast as you can.”

Gina sped off toward the hospital.

John turned to Kate. “I know I’m asking a lot…” he began.

“No. It’s a good plan. A painful plan, but I know why you don’t want us seen together.” She glanced down at Maria. “Will she be okay?”

“I don’t know,” John answered honestly. “I hope so. I’ll be waiting for your call.”

Kate smiled, though the smile was more of a grimace. “Go on. Get out of here. I’ll be okay.”

How did she know he’d needed that reassurance? John nodded. “Kate,” he said, as he walked back to the drivers’ side of the truck, “you did well out there. Be proud of yourself.”

“Thanks.” Kate tried to take a step forward. She managed to stay upright but he could tell she was hurting badly. It was okay. Gina would bring help.

Satisfied, John climbed into the truck and left them there.

***

It’s strange, the things you miss when you’re sick or hurting. For Kate, it was Starbucks espresso with hazelnut syrup. She ordered one for herself and a double espresso for John, plus a selection of sandwiches because she hadn’t eaten in what felt like forever. The barista, who had already remarked on Kate’s obvious injury (the crutches were hard to miss), told her he would bring the order to her table.

Kate’s knee wasn’t broken. She had damaged the tendons and cartilage and torn muscles. The doctor at the ER had given her something for the pain and insisted she stay overnight, because they couldn’t fit a knee brace until the swelling went down. While she was waiting for the x-ray results, Kate had called the police about the children. She knew that the hospital would have called already, but by contacting them herself she established herself as a fellow officer and gave them a chance to check her out. It meant that when the police came to the hospital, they were more disposed to believe her.

Kate told the story John had given her, embellishing just enough to make the story seem real. If she’d been the cop instead of the witness, she would never have accepted such a steaming pile of bullshit. The deputy she spoke to, however, seemed to accept her story. He asked a couple of sharp questions and clearly thought she was lying about her reason for walking past the school so late at night, but he didn’t arrest her and he didn’t seem to think she was into anything shady.

When she was done with the deputy and had been admitted to the ward, Kate called John to let him know what was going on. Then, her duty done, Kate closed her eyes and let the sedatives do their work.

In the morning, Kate’s knee was sore as hell and purple with bruises, but the swelling was down. A doctor fitted a brace on her knee and gave her a pair of crutches, a prescription for pain meds and a long lecture about keeping her weight off the leg while it healed. He also made her promise to see a physiotherapist when she got back to her hometown. Kate agreed to everything he wanted and the hospital discharged her before noon.

Before she left the hospital, Kate asked after the children. She wasn’t allowed to see them, but was told they were both alive and “improving”. That worried her a little, as she’d thought Gina was okay, but she was neither a relative nor a cop in this town so she had no right to press for more details. The girls were alive: that was good enough for the cop in her. Kate knew you couldn’t expect every case to end in happily ever after. Putting some bastard behind bars couldn’t undo the damage they’d done. But you knew each arrest meant a few people were a little safer and that was enough.

Kate called a cab to take her back to the motel.

John opened the motel room door before Kate could knock. She knew he’d been watching for her. Or perhaps he was watching for trouble.

Kate smiled a greeting. “Hi, John. Miss me?”

He stepped back to let her into the room, not responding to her attempt at levity. “You look like hell,” he remarked.

Kate knew she did. Her clothing was a mess: the hospital staff had sliced open one leg of her jeans in order to get them off her injured leg. Now she wore the torn jeans over her leg brace, the lower part of the denim flapping around her calf. Her shirt was okay, but the jacket was dirty and her hair was unwashed and a mess, since she had no hairbrush or comb with her at the hospital. She didn’t care. She manoeuvred herself into the room, still awkward on the crutches.

“The police asked me to come in to answer a few more questions but they bought my story,” Kate volunteered.

“That’s good.”

Kate reached her bed and sat down with relief, propping the crutches against the wall nearby. “No,” she disagreed, “it’s not. I fed them a pile of crap and any decent cop should have known I was lying. That they bought it means they think they know who took the girls, so they didn’t listen too closely to my story. They’re going to pin this on someone.”

John looked grim as he sat down on the other bed. “Not our problem, Kate. We can’t tell the truth, so the rest is up to the system.”

She shrugged off her jacket. “I guess,” she agreed unhappily.

“Do you know about the children?” John asked gently.

Kate nodded, though she didn’t: not to her satisfaction. “They told me both girls are alive.”

“Gina is fine. She has a fever and hadn’t eaten for days but those are both things they can fix. Maria is still comatose. They haven’t figured out why. I can show you the hospital reports if you like.”

Kate stared. “How…?” He’d been so insistent about them not being seen together she couldn’t believe he’d impersonated a doctor to get all that. Though, she realised, she was pretty sure he’d pull it off if he tried.

“I called a friendly hacker. The internet makes this job so much easier than when I started hunting.” He leaned forward a little, looking into her eyes. “How are you, Kate?”

“No permanent damage and my insurance will cover it,” Kate shrugged. At least she had insurance; she suspected John didn’t. “I guess I screwed up my first hunt,” she said.

“No, you didn’t.” John shook his head slightly. “You saved the children, and the cihuateteo won’t be back. That’s what this job is about, Kate. Saving lives. I’m not saying you didn’t make mistakes, but you got the job done. That’s a win.”

“You’re right.” Kate managed a smile. “God, yes. It’s a win.” Gina would be okay. Maria might be, too. It was a good result. Hell, it was a better result that most cops got from a child abduction case.

“Usually at this point I’d suggest going out for a beer, but…” he shrugged.

Kate smiled back. “Will you settle for a celebratory coffee?” she suggested.

Which was how they ended up in Starbucks, sharing a corner table with a snakes-and-ladders game painted on it, and with Kate’s crutches propped against the window beside them.

Kate met John’s look across the table. “You were wrong about one thing.”

“What’s that?” His eyes twinkled with humour, but he didn’t smile.

“It wasn’t my first hunt. The first ghost, but… Well, someday I’ll tell you about the zombie cops on patrol in LA.”

“It sounds like quite a story.”

“It is.” Kate fell silent as the barista approached them with a tray. He set John’s espresso and the plate of sandwiches on the table but handed Kate’s coffee to her directly. Kate smiled her thanks, but kept the eye contact brief. She didn’t mind a little casual flirting but she wasn’t in the mood for it today. She sipped her coffee, watching with her peripheral vision as the barista walked away. Hot, sweet espresso with the not-very-subtle flavour of hazelnut. It was just what she needed.

“Tell me,” John asked, “do you think this life is for you?”

Kate had been expecting the question. “Not if I’m gonna get banged up like this every time,” she answered with a grin. “But something tells me that’s not how most hunts go.”

John finished his espresso quickly, knocking it back like a shot of whiskey. “Not all of them, but more than you’d think. There’s no such thing as a hunt without risk. If you decide to hunt, you’re going to get hurt again. Maybe worse than…” He gestured vaguely toward his own knee, as if she needed help to get the point.

“And I won’t have decent insurance if I quit my job,” Kate added.

“Well…that depends. You can’t be a hunter and a cop. Too much of what we do involves doing things that are technically illegal. But there are ways to…” he hesitated, searching for a phrase. Finally, he settled on, “…to make an honest living and still do this job.”

Kate wondered why he chose not to do that, if it were so simple. “Like what?” she asked.

“Whatever suits your skills. I know hunters who run their own businesses, either as solo operations or with family so they can take off whenever they need to. Some go for jobs that involve a lot of travel: sales reps, for instance. And others just pick up minimum wage work wherever the job takes them. I know one woman hunter who spends six months working in Vegas as a dancer and saves enough to hunt the other half of the year.” He shakes his head. “It ain’t for everyone but it seems to work for her.”

Kate grimaced. “Yeah. Well, I’ve done my share of undercover work but I think I draw the line at dancing in my underwear.”

Most men after a line like that would have given Kate a long look to let her know he was seeing her in that underwear, or less. To his credit, John simply nodded. “I figured,” he agreed. Then he looked at her, studying her, but not in a way that made Kate uncomfortable. “Okay, seriously. How about private detective? A lot of ex-cops do it and it would be a good cover for anywhere you need to go.”

Kate remembered telling Angel, The thing about detectives is that they have resumés and business licenses and last names. Well, she had two out of three and the third might not be too difficult to obtain. It certainly had possibilities. She finished her sweet espresso and reached for a sandwich. “I want to do it, John. I’m going to hunt.”

“Why?” he asked.

Kate had a feeling he was asking why the way a teacher would ask: not accusation or censure, but simply interest. “Back in LA,” she explained, “after my father was killed, I tried to go after the evil in the dark. I had no idea what I was doing, not really. Any time a call came in with anything…weird, I was there, looking for…I’m not even sure what I was looking for. Proof? I already knew it was real.”

“You mind telling me why you’re here examining a crime scene that wasn’t assigned to you?”

Kate gave Kendrick her best stone-face. “It looked interesting,” she answered, as if her presence were completely routine.

Kendrick wasn’t fooled. “Right,” he said sarcastically. “You’ve heard the rumours, haven’t you?”

“What rumours?” Kate asked, knowing perfectly well. She’d heard that this girl woke from a year-long coma and just walked out of the hospital. She knew that didn’t happen: a comatose patient could wake up, sure, but muscle atrophy, tendons shrinking and general being sick would prevent anyone walking out the way this girl apparently did. And then she just vanished. Kate wasn’t sure what kind of demon the girl really was…but she was pretty sure she wasn’t human.

“Come on, Kate,” Kendrick pressed. “Everybody knows you’ve gone all Scully. Anytime one of these weird cases crosses anyone’s deskyou’re always there. What’s going on with you?”

Kate wouldn’t dignify that with an answer. She look up at Kendrickdamn the man for being so much taller than she was!and let him see how tired she was. “Scully is the sceptic.”

“Huh?” 

“Mulder is the believer,” Kate explained with exaggerated patience. “Scully is the sceptic.”

Kendrick actually scratched his head, like a puzzled cartoon character. “Scully is the chick, right?”

He had to be trying to irritate her: no one was this dense. Kate kept her voice even. “Yes. But she’s not the one that wants to believe.”

“And you wanna believe.”

She was tired and stressed and not thinking clearly enough to come up with a lie. She began to walk away from him. Over her shoulder she said. “I already believe. That’s the problem.”

“They started calling me Scully,” Kate went on.

“Cops!” John scoffed. “No imagination.”

She couldn’t help smiling. “But they were right. It was like an obsession. And the more I learned about…that underground world, the less I knew. I got all mixed up. I couldn’t tell good from evil, friend from enemy.” She swallowed and looked up at John. “I screwed up. I was screwed up. But I think the reason it drove me crazy was that I couldn’t make what I knew fit with being a cop. I started to see the supernatural in everything, and maybe I was right, but I couldn’t do anything about it without endangering my career.” She laughed suddenly, surprised by how bitter she still felt. “Well, I don’t have a career now and I won’t make the same mistakes again. Now I want to find what’s out there and stop it.”

John was silent for a long time. Finally, he nodded. “Good. You’ll have to let that knee heal first.”

“Yeah. Silly to quit my job while I can get paid sick leave.”

“I’ll give you some names, people who can help you. People to avoid. You’ll need someone to show you the ropes at first.”

“Not you?” Kate felt oddly disappointed. She’d come to like him, and she trusted him. After everything she’d been through in LA, she didn’t trust easily.

“Kate…” he began.

“No, it’s okay.”

“Kate, I’m still looking for the thing that killed my wife. It’s taking me a long time but I learn a little more every year. When I close in on the son of a bitch… I’m not prepared to put anyone else in danger. Not even Dean.”

***

Palo Alto, California

There were six kids in the group, crossing the square together. They seemed to be a friendly group: one young man hand in hand with one of the girls, another girl smiling as she talked with the tallest man in the group. Even if Kate hadn’t seen his photograph, she would have had no trouble picking out the tall one as John’s son. He paid attention to everything around them. He saw the truck, and Kate in the driver’s seat. His eyes moved past her, unconcerned, but she knew he would remember her if she hung around. He even hung back a little, placing himself at the back of the group: a protective position. She wondered if he was armed. She saw no sign of it, but he was too far away for her to be sure, and he wore a loose-fitting jacket and baggy jeans that could easily have concealed several weapons.

Then Kate looked at John, watching from beside her. At once, she wished she hadn’t. Kate had known this man for such a short time; they were strangers, really. Yet she felt she knew him, or at least understood him. They could be friends, perhaps, but they weren’t there yet. John was good at hiding his thoughts and his feelings, but not in this moment. Everything he felt was raw on his face as he looked at his son, and Kate couldn’t look away, the way you can’t tear your eyes from a car wreck.

Finally, the group was out of sight, and John opened the truck door and got out. Kate slid across the seat to the passenger side as he walked around. Neither of them said anything. John turned the keys in the ignition and turned the truck around.

Kate wished she’d insisted John drive her straight home instead of agreeing to this. He’d asked for her help, but didn’t explain. Now she got it. He’d needed her as camouflage. 

Kate couldn’t remain silent any longer. “This is your relationship with your son?”

John kept his eyes on the road. “It’s not your business, Kate.”

“No,” she acknowledged. “It’s not.” Except he’d made it her business by bringing her along. “John, I know what it’s like to have no real communication with my Dad – ”

“Oh, Jesus!” John turned the truck into the verge with a screech of tyres. Another car’s horn honked loudly as it passed them. John switched off the engine and turned to face Kate, his eyes glittering with anger. “If you’re gonna butt in where you’re not wanted, at least talk like you. Not like Oprah.”

Kate held her ground. “Okay. This is me. Go talk to him, John. It won’t kill you to say hi.”

John stared grimly ahead. “I can’t. I can’t say hi. Not unless…”

“Unless what, John?”

John’s expression was back to his usual carefully unreadable mask. “The day Sammy left…the only reason we didn’t come to blows is because Dean got in between us. We both said things. The kind of things you can’t take back.”

“It won’t matter. He’s your son.”

“Yes, he is,” John agreed, but it sounded like he meant something else. He glanced back to the road, the way they had come, then shook his head. “You don’t know how much I want to go back there and talk to my boy. But he’s made his choice and he’s safer here than he would be with me.”

“Safety isn’t everything, John,” Kate tried, but even as she spoke she knew she wouldn’t get through. John was too damned stubborn.

The cihuateteo showed Kate her father, but it hadn’t shown her good memories. It made her relive the times she was afraid of him, though her Dad never hurt her or abused her. It showed the times when she’d felt abandoned, though even as a kid she’d understood that sometimes the work of a cop was more important than a silly school pageant. With the cihuateteo’s touch, Kate relived the very worst memories she had of her father…and then it pretended to be the mother she’d lost so long ago.

She looked down, hoping John couldn’t see the thought that suddenly occurred to her. John was wearing his battered leather coat and when Kate dropped her gaze her eyes fell on the bulge of his journal in the inner pocket of the coat. He’d shown her that journal when he’d been explaining to her what they were hunting. She remembered the drawing that fell out of the journal: a child’s drawing of an angel. And she remembered John telling her that a cihuateteo had taken Dean from him once. The connection was suddenly clear, and she knew what the cihuateteo had been for Dean. Shit.

“Kate,” John said, his voice gentle now, “what is it?”

Kate steeled herself to meet his eyes. “You’re right. It’s none of my business.”

She saw the faintest hint of a smile touch his lips before he said, “But…?”

It was an opening and Kate took it. “If it were my business, I’d tell you what a child really needs from a father is to believe he sees her. Or him. I don’t know anything about your relationship with Sammy but I know that today, you see him. Not who you want or expect him to be, but him. You should show him that, John, because one day, it’ll be too late.” She fell silent, aware that she’d said too much.

“The way it was for you,” John answered.

“Yeah.” Kate shook her head to dispel the memory of her Dad’s body on the floor of his apartment, a vampire bite on his neck. The father who had used her friendship with Angel to get information for drug-dealing demons. And Angel, who even as Kate wept over her father’s body, tried to make it all about him.

Kate loved her father more than anything…but she’d never known him at all.

“Exile is exile, John. Especially when it’s from family.”

John started the engine. “I’ll take you home,” he said, and Kate knew that was all the response she would get from him. Perhaps it was all she deserved.

Epilogue

Tags: fandom:angel, fandom:supernatural, fic:bigbang, fic:gen
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