I crawl underground for comfort
Stay out of my mind to keep from dying
Sold my life to bring the rain
(Maybe to wash me clean)
Sold my soul to stop the pain
(Hoping you’d set me free)
The Used, Sold My Soul
She could see the waning moon through the trees above the waterfall: almost a perfect semi-circle. But Jennifer cared nothing for the beauty of the night scene. She was much too scared. Her shoe caught on something and she screamed involuntarily as she fell. Shouldn’t have worn high heels.
Nicolai grasped the back of her coat and hauled her up. The coat tightened painfully beneath her breasts. He clapped a hand on her shoulder before she regained her balance. “Don’t do that again,” he snapped.
Jennifer shot him a resentful look, but she was too frightened to talk back at him. She was so scared, she thought she just might piss herself and wouldn’t that just make this little outing perfect? When they dragged her out of the van she thought there might be a way to escape from these sickos, but what might be out there in the darkness seemed even worse than staying where she was.
Whatever they forced her to drink – she did remember Nicolai tipping the contents of a glass into her mouth – was still fogging her mind, but she understood one thing clearly. They were going to rape her. She thought maybe that might be okay. In the sense that rape was something she could survive. They couldn’t break her.
So, although she fought when they tried to tie her down, fought hard enough to rip a couple of her nails on one guy’s face, she wasn’t fully focussed on what was happening with them. Not until Nicolai said something about the moon did it filter though her drugged mind that maybe this wasn’t what she thought.
The drummer-guy said something about a cool murder weapon and Jennifer saw the blade of the bowie knife in Nicolai’s hand, gleaming silver in the moonlight.
Jennifer tried to scream past the knotted cloth in her mouth.
The rest was a blur of terror. The men circling around her. The sound of the waterfall. Pain in her wrists as she struggled against the ropes binding her.
At one point, Nicolai pulled the gag out of her mouth. “What’s your name? Tiffany or something?”
She was so frightened by then she just answered him. “My name is Jennifer.” She saw the glint of moonlight on his teeth when he smiled.
“You know what? Maybe we’ll write a song about you. I think – as a fan – that’d be cool, right?”
A fan? God, as if she could be a fan after this! She was begging, hardly aware of what she was saying, just please don’t do this, please, please…
Then the knife flashed down.
“No! Noooo!” Needy screamed with Jennifer. She screwed her eyes shut as if that could banish the vision. She clawed at the sides of her head, anything, just make it stop, God, please!
But the vision wouldn’t let her go. She was forced to see all of it. She felt all of it as Jennifer had – the fear and confusion and pain. Too much pain. She couldn’t bear it.
Then the scene in her mind blurred, or switched or…something. Needy was still there, but the pain and terror were gone. When she realised what that meant, she wanted to throw up. What Jennifer had been feeling was gone…because Jennifer was dead.
“No,” his voice assured her, calm and quite certain. “She was only unconscious and no longer in pain.”
The knots in the ropes binding Jennifer’s body unravelled of their own accord. Not one of the men noticed.
Nicolai, his face spattered with Jennifer’s blood, stood over the whirlpool, watching the white foam swirl for a moment. He raised the bloody knife over his head and flung it into the water. It flashed once and vanished into the devil’s kettle.
“Well,” a woman’s voice cut through the darkness, “you boys certainly picked an interesting way to get my attention.”
The five men whirled to face her. The voice was coming from Jennifer’s body. She was standing, her clothing soaked in blood and gore, ropes dangling from her wrists. It was Jennifer’s body, but Jennifer certainly wasn’t driving. The voice wasn’t hers and her eyes…her eyes glowed scarlet.
She raised her hands above her head and stretched, a gesture that exposed parts of her body inside the open wounds across her abdomen. She laughed. “I do so enjoy a human sacrifice. It’s like the frosting on the cupcake. The olive in the martini.”
The men watched her, frozen in place. Needy felt fear from them now. She wondered if they’d really believed their little ritual would work. And that made her even more angry: did they murder her friend thinking it would be for nothing?
The red-eyed demon looked at each of the men in turn before fixing those livid eyes on Nicolai. “So, you called. I came. What can I do for you boys?”
Nicolai looked like he really needed some toilet paper. “Are…are you S-satan?” He stammered the words, and right away seemed to wish he hadn’t spoken.
The thing in Jennifer’s body giggled. “No, baby. I’m just…the sales rep. Yes, I like that. So tell me what you need and we’ll make a deal.” She was moving closer to Nicolai as she spoke. She reached out to caress his face, smearing blood down his cheek. “What’ll it be, handsome? Fame? Wealth?” She looked up through Jennifer’s long lashes. “Women?”
He seemed to gather himself, finding a backbone from somewhere. “All that,” he answered.
She tutted softly. “Greedy, greedy.”
“We want success,” he blurted out. “We wanna be the biggest indie band since Maroon 5.”
When she smiled, they could all see the blood on her teeth. “Success for your little band. Is that all?”
She looked at each of the others. “And this is a group desire?”
Each of them looked at Nicolai before they answered. Each of them answered in the affirmative.
“Do you all understand the price?”
Nicolai made an awkward gesture toward her. “We sacrificed her – ”
“That’s just how you knock on the door, baby.” Her voice was harsh. “If you want the door to open, the price is a little more…personal.” She took Nicolai’s chin in her hand, tilting his head to one side as if she planned to kiss him. But when she leaned in, she hissed into his ear, “Your soul.”
He jerked back as if burned, but then he laughed. “Well, sure. It’s not like I’m using it.”
The demon laughed delightedly. “So very true.” She turned away, pushing something back into Jennifer’s torn stomach, and paused as if considering. “Now, the terms,” she mused aloud. “Indie bands do come and go rather rapidly, don’t they? You boys will want time to enjoy your success, so…hm.” She looked back to Nicolai. “Shall we say ten years?”
He looked taken aback. “Uh…yeah,” he mumbled. Then he began to smile and Needy, watching in her vision, knew he was thinking of all the decadence he could enjoy in ten years of fame and fortune. Bastard. “Ten years,” he confirmed. “Sounds good.”
One of the others – the drummer, Needy remembered – spoke up. “Uh, are we supposed to, like, sign in blood? ’Cause I don’t think – ”
“Oh, no, baby. That’s so last millennium. This century, we seal it with a kiss.”
Which was exactly what they did. Needy wasn’t sure who was more revolted by the whole process: those men, forced to smooch the bloody body they so recently turned into chum; or Needy herself, watching them maul Jennifer’s body. Her broken, unconscious body. When the demon had sealed the contract with each of them, the men simply stood there, as if they couldn’t figure out what would happen next.
“Just one more thing, boys,” the demon said as she stepped back. “You need to pick your sacrifices more carefully.” She ran her hands down Jennifer’s body, a gesture that might have been seductive in lingerie, but was pretty damn gross with her looking like a zombie carnage victim. “This body,” she explained, “is no virgin. I suggest you start running, because when she wakes up, she’s going to be very, very hungry.”
The five men stared at her.
She made a cute little “shoo!” gesture with her fingers. “Go ahead. Run!”
They fled, and the last thing Needy heard as the vision finally released her was Low Shoulder crashing through the trees like a panicked herd of elephants.
Needy came to herself and her gorge rose immediately. She turned to one side and threw up. She threw up for a long time.
The angel simply watched her.
Eventually, Needy’s retching stopped. She wiped her mouth and left a long smear of lipstick on the back of her hand. She remembered the holy water in her backpack. She squirmed to get it off her back and ripped the strap. Her hands were shaking – the aftermath of tossing her cookies like that, she hoped – but she managed to get it open and pull out a bottle. She rinsed out her mouth, spitting the water out onto the floor since she’d already made a mess and then took a drink.
So now she knew the truth of what happened to Jennifer that night at the falls. Jennifer had told her some of it, but not everything. Oh, not nearly everything. And now that Needy knew, she felt as empty as her stomach. She had nothing left.
Everyone she loved was gone. Her mom, who had always been her first defender, thought she was a lunatic killer. Jennifer was dead because Needy lied about her to a bunch of deranged Devil-worshippers. Chip was dead because she hadn’t moved fast enough to save him. Sam, who seemed like he was trying to help her, was a psycho.
She couldn’t go home, and she had nowhere else to go.
She had no one she could trust. Sam’s story suggested she couldn’t even trust an angel, but Sam could have lied about that as well. She had been alone in Devil’s Kettle, too. Not even Chip believed her, but she’d still managed to do what had to be done.
Except she’d waited too long, and Chip paid the price. Except she screwed up, because Jennifer was dead. She never wanted Jennifer dead; she only wanted the demon dead. She just didn’t understand the difference. Now Jennifer – or the thing walking around in her skin – was back and killing again.
And there was her own problem, too. Needy was carrying around some freaktarded demonic infection. The killing hadn’t stopped. Instead, Needy had become the killer.
She tried to run a hand through her hair and discovered the black wig, askew on her head. Angrily she wrenched it off and threw it. Her blonde hair was pinned up beneath the wig. She pulled at the pins and worked her fingers through the tangles until it felt a bit more like her own hair. She probably looked as much a wreck as she felt.
The angel still stood there. He was no comfort, damn him. There was compassion in his words, but he seemed distant, or…aloof. Yes, that was the word. It was as if his mind was somewhere high above hers…which kinda made sense for an angel, but she still resented it. Why did he have to show her all that stuff? She’d been doing fine!
Needy looked up at him, aware that he was waiting for…something. She had a sense that he wanted something from her, but she couldn’t imagine what she could possibly do for an angel. She was just a kid who hadn’t even graduated from high school. She wasn’t Buffy. She wasn’t even the Pink Power Ranger. She was just…just Needy. What could an angel want with her?
She remembered all those letters she received when she was in Leech Lake. Creepy letters from creepier guys who had seen her picture in the news and thought having some kind of a relationship with an insane, jailbait murderess would be fulfilling. Hate mail, most of it from strangers. And then there were the kindly-meant letters, from people who said they were praying for her. Some of them sent kitsch images of Jesus and urged her to accept Christ into her heart. Needy’s mom still went to Mass every week and she’d raised her little girl right. Though she was as enthusiastic about church as the average seventeen year old girl intent on enjoying her youth, Needy considered herself a believer. She was willing enough to accept Jesus into her heart, but he didn’t seem to want in. Alone in her cell, she said the prayers aloud, but they were just words and after a while the words themselves lost all meaning. Prayer couldn’t undo her mistakes, couldn’t bring back Chip or Jennifer. She could say the words, she could even mean them, but she felt nothing at all. Jesus just wasn’t there.
But, apparently, an angel was.
The Impala’s engine roared as they passed the Welcome to Providence sign on their way out of town. The radio was on, playing some phone-in request show. Sam sat sullenly, gazing out of the window. Now they were out of town, it was so dark out there all he could see was his own reflection in the glass.
“Cas will find her,” Dean said grimly. He was no happier about this than his brother.
“Cas can’t fight Lucifer,” Sam replied.
“Well, neither can we,” Dean snapped, “and you know it. Cas has a chance.”
Sam couldn’t really argue, so lapsed back into sullen silence. He felt like a coward, abandoning Needy to her fate like this. He knew all the arguments. This was bigger than one person. It was literally about the fate of the entire world. Lucifer already had Needy: Sam and Dean couldn’t fight the Devil, so any rescue mission would be plain suicide. Worse than suicide, because this wasn’t just about them. Castiel had a chance. Not a good one, but a chance, nonetheless.
They were going to meet Castiel in Milwaukee: it was the furthest destination Sam would agree to. If Cas didn’t show, they would know something was very wrong. If Cas showed up without Needy…Sam was going to kick the shit out of him.
“Dean, why are we under the speed limit?”
“Because this road is inches deep in mud,” Dean answered as the wheels slipped again, illustrating his words.
As soon as they reached good road, Dean flipped the radio onto a new channel and floored the gas.
“Do you not want your friend to live?” the angel asked her.
Hot tears cut tracks in Needy’s thick makeup, but she wiped them away with the back of her hand. She swallowed, hard, hoping she could hide how scared she was. She turned to the angel, steeling herself to meet his eyes.
“You’re Lucifer, aren’t you?” she demanded, pleased that her voice came out strong and confident, even though she felt neither of those things.
He didn’t flinch. “Yes, I am.”
Needy took a deep breath. “You’re right. I want her alive. But…” please don’t kill me for this “…I want one more thing before I agree.”
The tiniest smile touched his lips before he nodded seriously. “What more can I offer you?”
Please, please, please… Needy swallowed back her terror, cleared her throat, and told him what she wanted.
Lucifer smiled and somehow the smile was the most terrifying thing Needy had seen yet.
“I knew you were the one. Very clever, Needy. I agree.”
Needy let out her breath. “Okay. I guess we have a deal.”
“Don’t guess. You have to say it clearly. Yes or no?”
No, Needy wanted to say, but it was too late for that. She had no choice. “Yes,” she said.
Only when he was certain the Winchester boys were out of harm’s way did Castiel fly to the school. He was uncertain whether his presence would benefit the girl. It was possible, should Lucifer become aware of his presence, he might make her situation worse. He would do what he was able to do, because he had promised Dean he would try.
When he reached the school, he knew he was too late. The high windows of the building filled with blinding light as Castiel watched. No human could have gone near there. Castiel walked toward the building, alert for any hint that his presence was noticed. There was a taint in the air that suggested a demonic presence, but Castiel sensed no demons outside. A demon – perhaps more than one – had been here, but was no longer in the vicinity unless it was inside.
He reached the door but did not open it. Instead, he walked around to one side. Above him, angelic light still shone from the windows. Castiel laid one hand on the bricks, cautiously extending his awareness into the building.
Immediately, he understood the source of the light. Cut off from Heaven, Castiel’s abilities were…limited. The same should have been true of Lucifer, though as an archangel he would never have been as limited as Castiel. However, Lucifer found an alternative source of power: Hell itself. With that as his source, he could retain almost all the powers of an archangel, but the exercise of those powers was very different.
Castiel felt death. He concentrated, risking discovery to find out exactly what Lucifer was doing. What he found made no sense. The death he felt was not the girl’s death. It was a demon’s death. Castiel was not concerned with Lucifer’s motivation, but it did make him curious. Why would Lucifer kill a demon?
The surge of power faded and Castiel withdrew. He heard a girl’s voice, pain and distress. A moment later Lucifer was gone. All that remained was the girl, crying in pain. Castiel felt relief: at least she was alive.
With Lucifer gone, Castiel felt it was safe for him to approach. He moved quickly around to the front of the gym and scanned for demons – there were none – before pushing the door open.
Within, he found two girls. The dark haired girl, he realised quickly, had been possessed. The demon was gone from her now; but it left the body as so much scorched earth. The girl was dying. Castiel no longer had the ability to heal, or he might have helped her. Still, the dark-haired girl was not his concern. He had promised Dean only that he would attempt to save the other.
Although, Castiel mused, it was possible Dean would consider their agreement covered both girls. He had a disconcerting tendency to expect more of Castiel than he had specified. Would that peculiar habit apply to this particular situation? Castiel had to consider it carefully, because he could not afford to lose Dean’s trust.
While he examined all the angles of that dilemma, Castiel turned his attention to the other girl, the one he had come for. He was immediately aware of her distress: Needy’s breathing was erratic and her pulse was elevated. She bent over the other girl’s body. It seemed she was attempting to speak, but no coherent words came out. Needy was not injured, but her extreme distress was damaging her body.
She appeared to be oblivious to Castiel’s presence in the room, which gave him time to consider the situation. Why had Lucifer left her unharmed? That was not consistent with his previous actions. It was…worrying. Castiel saw nothing unusual about the girl. She appeared to be a normal human being and there was nothing to indicate why Lucifer had an interest in her. Nothing, that was, except her proximity to Sam Winchester.
“Who the fuck are you?” Needy demanded. She probably intended her tone to be belligerent but her tears ruined the effect.
Castiel knew he had been standing there watching her for too long, even by human standards. It was a hazard of having spent more than a thousand years doing nothing but watch. He was also taking too long to answer her question, but there was no succinct answer he could give her.
“Don’t just stand there!” she yelled at him. “Call 911!”
Castiel started to reach for his cell phone, but then he concluded that Dean would expect much more of him than this so-human response. His choice made, Castiel strode across the floor to where the girls lay. He bent down to touch them both and transported them all out of there.
Five minutes after the Impala crossed the state line into Wisconsin, Dean’s phone finally rang again. Sam, who had been slumped against the window, not sleeping, but perhaps working on it, came alert at the first notes of Dean’s ringtone.
Dean answered the call quickly. “Yeah? Cas?”
Castiel’s voice was as neutral as always. “I am in Milwaukee,” he reported.
“Are you okay? And Needy?”
“I am…” Castiel hesitated and Dean tensed, “…okay. The girl is…” again, there was a brief hesitation, “…unhurt. Her friend is…not.”
Her friend? What friend? “Holy crap, you mean Jennifer?”
“Dean, what?” Sam demanded urgently.
“Yes,” Castiel confirmed. “Jennifer. The demon is gone, but it left her…damaged.”
“Right.” Dean knew how that went. “Where are you exactly?”
“St Jerome’s hospital, near the port.”
“We’re still a few hours drive away,” Dean said. He could shave a little off that time, but even at the Impala’s best speed they wouldn’t be there much before dawn.
“I will wait,” Castiel answered. “Be careful when you reach here, Dean. I believe you and Sam may be…expected.”
“Wonderful,” Dean said sarcastically. “See you in a few hours.” He flipped his phone closed and turned to Sam. “He says Needy’s fine.”
Sam let out his breath in a huge sigh. “Thank God.”
“Thank Cas,” Dean corrected. “The demon is out of Jennifer – he didn’t say how – and I guess she’s hurt. Cas zapped them both to a hospital.”
Sam nodded. “She was a victim of human sacrifice. I doubt there’s much the hospital can do for her.”
“Cas didn’t say.” Although Castiel’s silence on the subject spoke volumes, Dean thought. Jennifer hadn’t just been sliced-and-diced by those sons-of-bitches, she’d been dead. She’d been buried. There was something odd about her being alive at all, with no demon animating her body.
“If Needy still has her backpack she’s got a few hundred dollars and a fake ID,” Sam mused aloud. “It won’t be enough for serious hospital bills and she’ll be in real trouble if they make an ID.”
“We’re running from Lucifer and you’re worried about health insurance?”
Sam forced a smile. “I guess I’m just worried about Needy. How did Castiel get her away from Lucifer?”
“He didn’t say.”
“You don’t find that odd?”
Dean snorted with laughter. “Dude, it’s Cas. Everything he does is odd.”
Dean floored the gas and the Impala sped on into the night.
Needy leapt to her feet every time she saw a doctor coming toward her, but none of them spoke to her. All she knew was that Jennifer was in surgery.
She had other problems to occupy her mind while she waited. She had used the fake driver’s license Sam made for her to prove her identity as “Anita Blake”, but she didn’t want to risk giving a fake name for Jennifer, because she knew it was one of the first questions a doctor would ask her when she regained consciousness. She’d registered her as Jennifer Check, but spelled the last name C-Z-E-C-H, hoping that would be enough to hide who she was. No one had asked her about insurance yet.
But they had asked her about Jennifer’s injuries. Needy claimed she’d found Jennifer unconscious and didn’t know what happened, but it looked like she’d fallen down the stairs. She knew they didn’t believe her. She was sure they had called the cops, but so far she hadn’t seen any sign of police.
It felt like hours before a man in green scrubs finally approached her. “Miss…Blake?”
Needy leapt up nervously. “Is Jennifer okay?”
“She’s been moved to recovery. We were able to repair the damage to her heart, which was the most serious – ”
Needy interrupted him, shaking her head. “It’s been a horrible day, Doctor. Right now I can’t take in anything more complicated than yes or no. Please just tell me if she’ll be alright.”
“She’s stable. We’ll know more when she wakes up.”
“Can I see her?”
“She’s going to be sleeping for a while, but you can look in on her if you like. I’ll ask one of the nurses to show you the way.”
Jennifer looked terrible. She lay there wearing only the hospital-issue gown. Wires ran from pads on her chest to a machine which showed her heartbeat; Needy recognised the display from TV but the machine wasn’t beeping like they did on General Hospital. Maybe they turned the sound down at night. There was another machine which was breathing for her: an ugly plastic tube disappeared into her mouth. There was a drip in her arm, too, giving her blood, not that clear liquid Needy always saw in the TV shows. That worried her, but she didn’t know what it meant. Jennifer’s skin was deathly pale, but the thin flesh around her eyes was dark, as if she had two black eyes.
Needy couldn’t bear to see the friend she loved like this. But neither could she leave Jennifer’s side. Jennifer had to live! If she died, this was all for nothing.
Although she expected the nurse to throw her out any moment, Needy lifted a chair and carried it over to the bed. She sat down, taking Jennifer’s hand in hers. Her skin felt dry and fragile, like someone very old, but it was warm, too. Jennifer was always so alive, so vital. This wasn’t right.
Needy laid her forehead on the edge of the bed and closed her eyes. She considered praying, but who should she pray to?
Castiel’s shadow fell across her from the doorway. Needy had no idea what to make of him. He had a weird name and he obviously wasn’t human, but he looked like a lawyer or an accountant. She hadn’t dared to ask him what he was. She didn’t even know what side he was on. But he seemed kind, and he had helped by bringing them to the ER. That was good enough for now.
When Needy did nothing but stare at him, Castiel entered the room. He stood at the bottom of the bed, like a doctor, regarding Jennifer silently for a moment. “She will recover, physically,” he said eventually.
“She may remember. She may not.”
Needy swallowed. She didn’t want Jennifer to remember the horrible things the demon had done. “What about…me?” she asked.
Castiel turned those impossibly blue eyes to her, saying nothing at all. But Needy understood what the look meant. He knew what she had done.
“Dean and Sam are on their way – ” Castiel began.
“What? No!” Needy was on her feet. The chair fell with a crash. Needy ignored it, her eyes searching for an escape as if they were already in the room. “Why would you – ”
Castiel was across the room in three swift strides. He took her by the shoulders, looking deep into her eyes. “No, Needy, no. The Winchesters are good men and Sam cares for you. You should not fear them.”
Needy returned his gaze and could see only truth in his eyes. But her visions had been true, she was certain. How could what she saw, and Castiel’s words both be true?
Castiel moved even closer to her. He didn’t hug her, not exactly, but she felt his hand rest briefly on her hair. “Ssh, Needy.” His voice was quietly hypnotic. “Don’t think about it now.”
“But… But I…” Needy’s voice trailed off. It was hard to think. What was she saying?
“It’s time to rest,” Castiel suggested. “You are safe in this room, and I will see that no one disturbs you tonight.”
She smiled gratefully. “Thank you.”
As Castiel closed the door behind him, Needy righted her chair and moved it even closer to the bed. She sat down and, in mere moments, she was asleep.