For love at once my shield and terror
Destination and cause for living today
And wanting to die tomorrow
Why is my whole life spent chasing my demise?
Human Drama, This Tangled Web
It was early morning when they finally reached St Jerome’s hospital. Dean could see Castiel waiting outside as he turned his car into the parking lot. It took a while to find a space long enough to accommodate the Impala. Beside Dean, Sam was almost ready to jump out of the car while it was still moving. If Dean had any doubts about his brother’s feelings for Needy, Sam’s impatience would have settled them.
“Sam, slow down,” Dean ordered as he shut off the engine. “Cas said there might be demons around, remember?”
“I’m ready,” Sam answered. He patted his jacket pocket and climbed out of the car.
Dean assumed the gesture meant Sam had salt or holy water, but he still grabbed his own bag from the back seat. He reached across to the glove compartment and rifled through his collection of fake IDs. He found his FBI badge and pocketed it, then pulled a tie out of the bag and hung it around his neck. He hurried to catch up with Sam, tying the tie as he walked.
“Where’s Needy?” Sam demanded the moment he reached Castiel.
“She is safe with her friend. I placed sigils around the room so nothing can harm them there.”
“Is she okay?”
Castiel hesitated, looking at Dean. “I think you should see for yourselves. But I must warn you, Lucifer has made her afraid of you both. I don’t know if he told her truth or lies.”
Dean didn’t like that look. Castiel was holding something back.
“Whatever he told her, I need to see she’s okay,” Sam insisted.
“I’ll take you to them,” Castiel agreed.
Cas already told them that Needy was unharmed; perhaps that was all that mattered. But Dean knew there was more. Something Cas didn’t want to say in front of Sam.
The three of them were alone in the elevator, so Dean took the opportunity to ask more questions. “Have the police got involved yet?”
“I believe they have been called,” Castiel answered.
“Great.” Dean glanced into the mirror. Driving all night left him looking wiped out, which was bad, but it was his clothing that was the real problem. He wasn’t wearing a suit, and the tie he’d chosen so hurriedly didn’t go well with the shirt. “Cas, switch coats with me.”
“Because you’re a lousy liar and I’m not. Now, Cas!”
Dean was still hurrying into the coat when the elevator doors opened. Castiel’s trench coat was a little narrow through the shoulders, but Dean could wear it. At least this way no one would laugh out loud when he claimed to be a Fed.
Cas didn’t put on Dean’s leather jacket, but simply carried it over his arm. He led them from the elevator past the nurses’ station. The nurse on duty nodded to Castiel as they passed, evidently accustomed to his presence.
Castiel stopped outside Jennifer’s room and Sam gave Dean a single worried glance before he headed inside.
Some time before they arrived, Jennifer had woken up long enough for a doctor to remove the breathing tube and assure Needy she was recovering well. When Sam and Dean walked into the room, Jennifer was propped up on her pillows, awake and listening to Needy, who was clutching Jennifer’s hand as if she couldn’t bear to let go. Jennifer seemed very weak and very tired. But she looked pretty damn good for a corpse, which was what she should have been. Once the demon was gone, Jennifer’s body should have gone back to being several weeks dead.
Needy looked up as they entered. Dean thought she looked pretty awful herself. She had washed that awful Goth makeup off her face and combed her hair, but she was very pale. There was a haunted look in her eyes…and Dean felt his stomach turn into lead as he realised he was looking into a mirror.
Fury flashed through him: Castiel must have known. He should have given Dean some warning! Dean could have found a way to keep Sam out of here if he’d known.
Sam moved toward Needy ahead of Dean, but he stopped when she looked up.
“Needy, are you okay?” Sam sounded wary.
She nodded, turning her gaze to Jennifer, whose eyes were closed again. “I will be,” she answered uncertainly.
No, she wouldn’t be okay. Dean moved forward. Better to get all the cards on the table, he decided.
“Don’t lie to us, Needy.” Dean made his voice harsh. He went on before she could draw breath to protest. “Why don’t you tell us what this cost?”
Her eyes widened in shock, but she recovered quickly. “What are you – ”
“How long?” Dean interrupted bluntly. Although, he realised, he might be wrong about the price…
Sam stiffened as Dean’s words got through to him. Dean laid a hand on Sam’s back, just a brief touch. A signal.
Needy stared at Dean. “How did you know?” she whispered.
Dean shrugged. “Takes one to know one, I guess. How long, Needy? Ten years?”
Dean watched her for a moment longer. Anger flared again when he thought of what this might do to Sam. How could she? “Make the most of them, kid. It ain’t worth it, believe me.” Deliberately, he turned his back on her. “Come on, Sam. We can’t help her now.” He walked out, not waiting to see if Sam would follow.
Castiel hurriedly moved out of his way.
“Cas.” Dean spoke curtly, not about to let the angel get away with that. Outside the room, Dean rounded on Castiel. If they weren’t in a public place, he would have thrown a punch. “You knew she made a deal. You must have known!”
Castiel answered calmly. “I suspected. I did not know for sure until now.”
“You should have told us!” Should have told me.
“Dean,” Castiel said patiently, “I don’t understand human emotions. I believed it was better for you to see for yourselves.”
Dean swore. He looked into Castiel’s eyes, wondering how this got so fucked up. “Cas, do you remember what happened the last time someone Sam loves sold his soul?”
He saw genuine concern in Castiel’s eyes. “I do. I’m sorry, Dean.”
“A little heads-up, Cas. Next time.” Dean’s anger faded now he knew Cas got it. But that didn’t solve the problem.
“Dean.” Sam’s voice came from the doorway. “Do you really think I haven’t learned my lesson?”
“I don’t know, Sam. Have you?”
Castiel interrupted before Sam could respond. “If Needy truly sold her soul to Lucifer, he can use her to find you. You should leave immediately.”
That sounded like a good idea to Dean. But Sam instantly turned stubborn.
“You both go, if you want to. I can’t.” He looked at Dean, pleading. “I’ve got to talk to her.”
Dean wanted to punch him. He wouldn’t wish Needy’s fate on anyone but it was too late to help her. A deal is a deal. Sam knew that!
“I know,” Sam seemed to answer his thought. “But she’s got ten years, Dean. I don’t want her spending them in prison, and if the cops figure out who she is…”
Dean sighed and looked past him into the room. Needy was watching them closely. Jennifer seemed to be sleeping peacefully.
“Fine. I’ll watch sleeping beauty while you chat with your girlfriend. But don’t take too long!”
Sam walked back toward Needy, but the look in her eyes stopped him getting too close. She watched him warily. Fearful. He remembered Castiel’s warning.
“What did he tell you about me?” Sam asked softly.
“He didn’t tell me, he showed me,” she said. “You killed a woman. You drank her blood like a vampire.”
Sam felt his stomach churn. He swallowed hard. He couldn’t deny it.
“And Dean,” Needy went on, surprising him. “I saw him torturing an old man!”
Sam spread his hands, an I’m harmless gesture. “And you killed five men,” he pointed out gently. “I can’t deny what I’ve done and I won’t try to defend it, but there is a context. Will you let me explain?”
“Why does it matter what I think now? Your brother doesn’t want you to help me.”
“Dean’s pissed, but he doesn’t make decisions for me. I can explain that, too.”
Needy looked at the sleeping Jennifer. Sam followed her gaze. Jennifer more than any of them had been a pawn in this game: she never had a choice, never had a chance. He understood why Needy had been willing to bargain for her life. But she didn’t get much out of the deal. Would Jennifer ever recover from all she’d been through?
“You love her very much, don’t you?” Sam said quietly.
“She’s my sister,” Needy answered, her voice just as quiet.
Sam walked around the bed to Needy’s side. Those words cut down any reproach he could possibly give. He would have gone to Hell for Dean, without a second thought. And Dean had gone for him. It was fucked up, but Sam understood it. He knelt beside her chair; it made them almost the same height. “Is this what you wanted?” He nodded toward Jennifer, pale and unconscious in the bed.
Needy gazed at Jennifer, too. “I wanted the demon dead and Jen alive,” she answered. “I never thought…she’s alive now, isn’t she? Even if she never gets better, it’s what I agreed to.”
“Son of a bitch,” Sam muttered, seeing what she meant. He really fucking hated Lucifer! The crossroads demon was an evil bitch but at least she delivered on her bargains. Lucifer gave with one hand and took with the other, and Needy was right. She had what she bought: the letter of the contract, if not the spirit. The Devil’s in the details. Bastard!
Sam laid a hand on her shoulder. “We should talk, Needy, but not here. Can we go and get a coffee or something?”
Needy was reluctant to leave Jennifer’s side, but she agreed when Dean promised he and Castiel would stay with her. They ended up getting coffee from a vending machine and found an unoccupied room where they could talk privately. Sam dragged a chair across the room to block the door. Then he sat on the bed with Needy.
First, he had to address whatever Lucifer had told her about him. He wouldn’t try to defend the indefensible, but he could give her the full story. He didn’t want Needy to fear him.
“When we first met,” Sam began, remembering, “you knew that I’d killed. I remember you telling me about your vision of me.”
“I can’t defend what I did. It was murder. I was…a junkie desperate for my fix and killing that woman was the only way I could get what I needed. But if Lucifer told you she was an innocent woman, he didn’t tell you the whole truth. She was a demon.” Beginning with his addiction and the reasons for it, Sam told Needy everything. He held nothing back this time, editing the story only for brevity. He told her about Dean’s sojourn in Hell, too: he had to because Lucifer had shown her Dean torturing Alastair. And he explained about Castiel, what he was and what he’d done to help Dean stop the apocalypse. He didn’t mention that Castiel was the one who brought Dean out of Hell.
“So, he’s not an angel any more?” Needy asked.
“It’s complicated. I don’t really understand it all. Angels can fall and become human, but Cas hasn’t done that. But he disobeyed. Which means he’s cut off from Heaven somehow. So I’m not sure. Maybe he’s half-angel or something. It’s not something he talks about.”
“And you…you’re not…”
It was sweet that she couldn’t make herself say the words, Sam thought, but he had to be honest with her. “Everything he showed you about me is true, Needy. I’ve done terrible things, and I live with them. But I don’t think I’m evil. Neither is Dean.”
Needy tried to drink some more coffee, found her paper cup empty and crushed it in her fist. “He was very convincing, Sam. What I saw…it felt like you lied to me about everything. I thought you were trying to manipulate me for some…I don’t know. Some master plan.” She turned tear-filled eyes to him. “I’m so sorry, Sam.”
She was apologising to him?
“You have nothing to be sorry for, Needy.” Sam reached for her. Needy resisted for a moment, but then she collapsed against him. Sam held her close while she sobbed against his shoulder. He felt awkward, uncertain what to do. After everything she’d been through, her tears were understandable, but they weren’t helpful.
When Needy and that other guy left the room, Jennifer, who had heard everything, opened her eyes. The man remaining was watching her. For a moment, they just looked at each other.
“I’m Dean,” he told her. He reached into a pocket and held up an ID badge. Jennifer’s eyesight was still a bit blurry, but she thought it said FBI. “Are you well enough to talk to me?” he asked gently.
“Needy was…” Jennifer’s voice cracked. She coughed and tried again, “She was gonna get me some ice chips.”
“I’ll see what I can find,” he agreed. He left the room quickly, pausing to speak briefly with the third man on his way out.
When he came back, Jennifer took the promised ice chips from him gratefully. She got some ice on her tongue, letting it melt there before swallowing. “It needs a little tequila,” she commented. Her voice sounded better already.
She’d hoped to get a smile out of him. She had a bet with herself that he had a great smile. He pulled up a chair and sat down beside her. “No tequila. I’ve got whiskey if you like.”
Jennifer smiled and held out the paper cup.
Dean produced a half-bottle of bourbon from somewhere under his coat and poured a little over her ice. Then he added a little more, took a swig for himself and screwed the cap back on the bottle.
“You’re not really FBI, are you?”
She’d been right: he did have a gorgeous smile.
“What gave it away? The whiskey?”
“No. You’re too cute to be a Fed.” She sipped her bourbon and ice. “And,” she added judiciously, “you’ve got too much of a bad-boy vibe going.”
His smile vanished. She wondered if she’d offended him.
“I know you remember,” he said seriously.
Suddenly Jennifer didn’t feel like smiling at all. “I remember everything,” she answered, wishing for more whiskey.
“Then you know why you’re alive.”
Jennifer held out her paper cup again.
Dean took the hint and poured more whiskey into it. “I have to ask you, Jennifer. You’re right, I’m not a Fed. This is my job.”
Jennifer drank, they lay back on her pillows with a sigh. “I was there the whole time,” she said. Needy hadn’t been aware of her presence in the gymnasium, but the demon was there, lurking in the shadows. Watching. Forcing Jennifer to watch, too. “He told her she was special. He was going to make her something powerful.”
“And she fell for that?” Dean sounded disgusted.
“No! That’s just it. I was…I wanted to scream at her to say no, but I couldn’t…”
“I know. It wasn’t your fault.” He swigged more bourbon.
“Needy looked right at him and told him she knew he was Lucifer. She knew! And she took the deal anyway. Why would she do that?”
When she met Dean’s eyes, Jennifer felt like she was seeing him for the first time. Whatever she’d seen before was a mask. This was real, and it was pain: raw, bleeding pain.
When Dean spoke, to answer her question, it was as if each word was being dragged from him. “She took the deal because it was the only way she could live with herself.” Dean closed his eyes, turning his face away from her.
Jennifer didn’t understand why it hurt him so much. She thought she should ask, but didn’t. Instead, she focussed on her own issue. “But…why? I don’t understand.”
Dean looked at her then, and it wasn’t a friendly look. “She loves you.”
Jennifer narrowed her eyes, giving him the look that deserved. “I know that, genius. We’ve always been like sisters. But that’s not enough.”
Dean’s expression changed. Suddenly, he was taking her seriously. “Maybe you’re right,” he said, his tone suggesting it was a revelation to him. “Jennifer, was any of this her fault? I mean, what happened to you?”
“No! God, no. I dragged her to Melody Lane that night. She even tried to stop me going with those guys.”
“But she didn’t stop you, did she? Maybe she blames herself for that.” Dean took a deep breath and shook his head. “I don’t know. I hardly know her.”
She blames herself. Jennifer understood him, then. “She killed me,” she said quietly. “Or…she tried to.”
“Yeah, I know.” Dean offered more bourbon, but Jennifer refused with a gesture. “Everyone believes you’re dead, you know? You understand…you can’t go home.”
Jennifer hadn’t considered it, but as soon as he said the words it was obvious. She could never return to Devil’s Kettle. She could never see her family again. The first would be okay. The second…she didn’t know. She still had Needy…
…But only for ten more years, which suddenly felt like no time at all.
When her tears subsided, Needy drew back from Sam. She gave a little embarrassed laugh. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Sam brushed her hair back from her face. “Needy, I have some questions. Is that okay?”
Needy wiped her eyes, looked up at him and frowned. “What happened to your face?”
Sam reached up to touch his cheek where Jennifer had clawed him. “I’d forgotten it,” he admitted. “The demon attacked us after you were taken. It’s nothing. Won’t even scar.”
Needy managed a watery smile. “I’m glad it won’t scar. That would be a real shame.” Her expression turned serious. “I’m really screwed, aren’t I?”
Yeah, you’re really screwed. Sam shifted a little closer to her, putting an arm around her shoulders. “Tell me the exact terms of your deal,” he suggested, without much hope. “What did you buy from him?”
Needy bit her lip. “Sam, I…I didn’t have a choice. What happened to Jennifer was all my fault and – ”
Sam interrupted her quickly. “You didn’t sacrifice her, Needy. No matter what you did after, this wasn’t your fault.” He stroked her arm, holding her firmly against his side. “I don’t need to know why you made a deal. Only the terms.”
“You do need to know why. Sam, please!” She shifted on the bed so she could face him. She took his hand, pleading. “It’s important.”
Sam swallowed. He didn’t want to hear that he was responsible for another person going to Hell. But he owed Needy this much. “I’m listening.”
“I didn’t realise who he was at first. He talked like he was rescuing me.”
“From the evil Winchesters?” Sam guessed.
“Yeah. And he showed me what happened to Jen. Everything that happened. And he showed me what you are…were…and Dean…and me. What I could become. What I did to those Low Shoulder guys…”
“I know,” Sam said as her voice trailed off.
“Lucifer said I was the hand of divine justice. Or something like that. He talked about me doing that for real. I didn’t really follow. I mean, what I did was real, wasn’t it?”
Sam felt cold. He had a horrible feeling he understood what for real meant. Lucifer created the first demon by twisting a human soul: Lilith. “Not in Lucifer’s world, I think,” he answered evasively. “So…what else did he show you?” he asked, to keep her on track.
“He said he’d kill the demon, and that would make me human again. I told him I could do that myself. Then he said I could, but if I did that Jennifer would die. He could do it so she’d live.” Needy looked up at Sam, tears in her eyes. “I figured I had nothing left to lose. So I asked what he wanted.”
“And he wanted your soul.”
Needy nodded and blinked away her tears. “I knew who he was then. I knew he wouldn’t let me go until I agreed. I was going to take the deal, but then I thought, maybe something good could come out of it.”
Sam frowned, not understanding her. “Something good?”
Needy hesitated. “I don’t know. Maybe I screwed up, but it was all I could think of at the time. I was so scared, Sam…”
“Just tell me.”
She took a deep breath. “I said I wanted one more thing before I’d agree. If he was giving me ten years, he had to guarantee me ten years. I said I didn’t want to fall in front of a truck and end up in Hell ahead of schedule.”
In spite of himself, Sam smiled. “And Lucifer went for that?” It was smart, but those ten years were going to feel like ten weeks. Until the end.
“He did. But Sam, this is where I need you to understand why I did it. Because it wasn’t about me. I thought…I thought that way I was buying time for you.”
“Me?” Sam didn’t understand.
“If I have ten years, then so do you. I mean, if he destroys the world, everyone dies, right?”
Sam stared at Needy, finally comprehending her logic. He had told her it was the end of the world. Needy thought that by making her deal on those terms she was postponing the apocalypse. Was she right? Sam frowned, searching for the flaws in her plan.
Lucifer was an archangel. He could raise the dead. Castiel brought Dean back, not merely as good as before, but with all his old injuries healed, from childhood scrapes to adult hunting scars. Lucifer was much more powerful than Castiel. He could have brought Jennifer back just as she was before the sacrifice. But he hadn’t. He’d brought her back just alive enough to die in Needy’s arms, had Castiel not been there.
There had to be a hundred ways Lucifer could keep to the letter of this agreement, while breaking the spirit of it as he had with Jennifer. He had only promised Needy she would live, not that anyone else would, or that she’d have any quality of life. The chances were good she hadn’t bought Sam anything.
But it was still an incredibly brave thing for her to do. Unwillingly, he thought of Dean’s deal, of how in his desperation Dean accepted the worst terms possible. Needy negotiated well. Sam took her into his arms and held her tight for a long moment, feeling her warmth against his body.
“I wish you hadn’t made that deal, Needy. But, God, that was smart!” He wouldn’t spoil her hope. He wouldn’t tell her anything more. She deserved that much. “Just…one more question, okay?”
“Okay,” she answered, her voice muffled against his shoulder.
Sam moved away from her so he could look into her eyes. “Needy, this is really important. Did you make this deal with Lucifer directly? No other demon involved?”
“Yes.” She meets his gaze, looking very confused. “Why does that matter?”
It mattered because it meant only Lucifer could hold her contract. It was more than Sam had when Dean made his deal. It wasn’t much…in some ways it reduced her options. You could trap a crossroads demon, force it to re-negotiate. Trying that with Lucifer would be suicidal at best.
“I knew what I was signing up for,” Needy said softly. “I’m going to Hell.”
Sam didn’t say, Not if I can help it. He couldn’t let himself think that way. Needy wasn’t Dean. What he did say was, “You have no idea what that means.”
She gave a crooked, forced smile. “I haven’t been to Mass for a long time, but I was raised Catholic. I know what it means.” She reached up to cup his cheek in her hand, as if she was about to kiss him. “It’s okay, Sam. The whole world’s going to Hell anyway, right?”
When they returned to Jennifer’s room, Dean was in the corridor talking to a couple of uniformed cops. Castiel was at his side, trying to look like he belonged there. He caught Sam’s eye as they approached then looked away quickly – a signal Sam understood. It meant Stay the Hell out of my way. Sam guided Needy away. He could trust Dean to take care of this.
“Who called the cops?” Needy demanded as he hustled her around the corner.
“Probably the first doctor who examined Jennifer,” Sam told her. “It would have been obvious she was stabbed.” He positioned them so he could see Dean’s reflection in a window. “Needy, what did you tell them happened to her?”
“She fell.” Needy shrugged.
Sam couldn’t help smiling. “I bet they bought that.”
“Well, of course not. I told them an obvious lie so I’d have time to come up with a more convincing story.”
“That’s not a bad idea.” Sam was impressed. “What name did you give for her?”
“I used her right name. On TV that’s one of the questions they ask when you wake up so I didn’t risk lying about it. But I misspelled it. Czech like Czechoslovakia. And I’m Anita Blake.”
Sam nodded. “Good.” He saw movement in the reflection. “The cops are leaving. Let’s see what kind of story Dean came up with.”
Dean ushered them all into Jennifer’s room before he would tell them anything. Needy went straight to Jennifer’s side. She was awake, sitting up in bed with a cup of ice chips.
“Jennifer is a kidnap victim,” Dean announced. “Her family is in Iowa and I’m the FBI agent in charge of getting her back. I told the cops Needy works for me – kind of a 21 Jump Street deal. So she’s here to protect Jennifer. It’ll be enough to keep the cops off your back, Needy, unless one of ’em’s bright enough to call the real Feds. Can you keep up that story?”
She nodded. “Yes. I think so.” She looked up at her friend. “Jennifer?”
“I can lie to the cops,” Jennifer agreed. She raised her cup. “Can someone get me more ice chips?”
Needy stayed with Jennifer all day. Dean’s deception gave the hospital staff reason to accept her presence and if any of them doubted the story, none showed it. It probably helped that Jennifer was able to confirm she wanted Needy around.
Together, they watched TV and talked about who was doing whom on Dr Sexy M.D. and whether Brad and Angelina might split. It was almost like old times. But there was a giant elephant in the room with them and they were both pretending it wasn’t there. Neither of them mentioned Devil’s Kettle or their old friends or even Sam and Dean. Neither of them mentioned the reason Jennifer was in a hospital bed instead of a grave.
It was okay. It was a relief, really. Needy didn’t want to relive the horror they’d both been through. She didn’t want to talk about the horror she still had ahead of her. She was just happy to have Jennifer alive.
The occasional interruptions were welcome, though. The doctor came in three times to check on Jennifer and reassured them both she was doing fine. Someone came in with breakfast and later with lunch: only for Jen, though. Needy bought soda and snacks from a vending machine.
Jennifer lifted something on her fork, looked at it and then dropped it back onto the plastic plate.
Needy watched her, concerned. “What’s up, Vagisil?” she asked brightly. The affectionate nickname should have fetched a smile and a teasing reply. It didn’t.
Jennifer sighed and leaned back on her pillows. “As of right now,” she announced, “I’m officially vegan.” She pushed the tray away with a grimace. “God, I can’t even stand the sight of…”
Of meat. Needy stood and examined the contents of Jennifer’s tray. She salvaged the small bowl of green Jell-o and its plastic spoon, handing both to Jennifer. Then she carried the tray as far away from Jen as the room allowed. She didn’t need to ask why. She didn’t even want to think about why.
Jennifer smiled wanly. “Thanks, Monistat.”
“I’ll tell the nurse they got your diet sheet wrong. It’ll be fine.” She took her seat again.
Jennifer gazed down into her Jell-o for a moment. “Needy,” she began.
Don’t do this, Jen. “What’s up?”
“I remember. All of it.”
Needy leaned forward, reaching for Jennifer’s hand. “So do I,” she answered, struggling to keep her voice steady.
Jennifer squeezed her hand. “I remember what I said to you. This wasn’t your fault, Needy. None of it was your fault.”
Needy swallowed. “I…I killed you, Jen,” she whispered, her voice cracking.
Jennifer’s mouth quirked in a quick smile. “Okay. That part was your fault. But I deserved it. I meant how this started. I don’t want you beating yourself up because I did something retarded.”
Needy felt tears sting her eyes, the old guilt rising. “If I hadn’t told those guys…”
“It wasn’t you, Needy. Let me tell you.”
She nodded, her tears spilling over to fall, silent, down her cheeks. She didn’t trust herself to speak.
“I was the one who got into that van with them. You tried to stop me.”
Needy nodded again. That much was true. She had begged Jennifer not to go with those creeps. She’d even tried to distract her with a promise of nachos at El Ojo’s – Jen was addicted to nachos with Badger Sauce – but nothing worked. Jennifer just told her to shut up and got into the big scary van with its black-painted windows as if it meant nothing.
“When we drove off,” Jennifer went on, her grip tightening on Needy’s hand, “I got scared. They had all this weird stuff, spell books and a skull and shit. I thought they were gonna rape me.” She fell silent for a while, her eyes unfocussed.
Needy held her hand and waited patiently.
“I didn’t remember what you told me in the bar. I know you warned me he only wanted me because he thought I was a virgin. But I was so scared I forgot that part. So when one of them asked…I told them I was. I figured maybe if they thought I’d be a lousy lay they’d let me go.”
They’d both believed that, Needy realised. It was what they’d been taught all their lives: men only want one thing from women. If a guy was evil it meant he’d beat you or rape you. It wasn’t supposed to mean he was a Devil-worshipper looking for a virgin sacrifice.
Some of the burden of guilt Needy carried for so long began to lift. She gazed at Jennifer, unable to speak.
Jennifer put the untouched bowl of Jell-o down and with her free hand she reached out toward Needy’s face. It seemed like an effort. Needy rose and came closer. Jennifer’s fingers delicately wiped away her tears.
“Still my Biff, Monistat?”
Needy smiled through her tears. “Always.” And she meant it.