They’re locking up the sun, the light of reason’s gone
And hope has been successfully undone.
The question’s burning on, where is it coming from?
No one seems to know the monster born.
Poets of the Fall, Locking Up The Sun
The touch of the succubus’ hand was warm, her body temperature naturally higher than was normal for a human. Of course, she wasn’t human at all. The heat of her fingers made Dean flinch away remembering Hell and lava-hot knives tearing into his flesh. He raised the glass to his lips, hoping the gesture would cover his reaction. Ice clinked against his teeth. He opened his mouth to take the ice inside, crunched it and swallowed.
“You wanna get out of here?” he suggested. He smiled at the succubus, willing her to go for it.
She smiled back, her lovely eyes never leaving his. “What do you have in mind?”
Dean slid one arm around her waist, caressing the bare skin of her back just above her belt. He didn’t flinch again, though her skin felt hot under his palm. He was in control now. “The same thing you do, sweetheart. Don’t be coy.” He leaned close and spoke softly into her ear. “I have in mind being naked with you until dawn.” He could smell the sulphur on her skin, as if he needed a fresh reminder of what she was.
The succubus leaned into his embrace. “Sounds good to me.”
Dean set down his empty glass and picked up the guitar case without letting go of her. He steered the succubus toward the exit.
He didn’t look for Sam again, but knew his brother was watching. Sam and Needy would follow at a safe distance, but the next part of the plan was up to Dean. So far, everything was going smoothly. Maybe too smoothly. When was the last time a hunt went this easy?
Outside the bar the air was cooler. There were a few kids hanging out in the street: teenagers gathered in a rough circle around a streetlight. One of them wolf-whistled as Dean and Jennifer passed them.
Dean turned to them quickly. “Hey! Show a little respect!” Girls were always impressed by a man willing to defend their honour.
But the succubus laughed. “Oh, it’s okay.” She took a step toward the gathered teenagers. She didn’t say a single word and Dean couldn’t see her face, but the closest boy – the wolf-whistler, Dean thought – reacted in fear, backing off so fast he crashed into one of the girls.
That didn’t fit her usual pattern of behaviour, not unless Needy had left out a few details. In Devil’s Kettle she’d tried to blend in, to appear human. Dean, worried this could escalate into a bloodbath, took her hand in his and tugged lightly, playing the eager lover.
“Let’s go, sweetheart,” he urged.
Instantly, she was back at his side. “Where do you want to go?”
“I’m staying at the motel down the road,” Dean suggested.
She made a face. “Cheap motels are for hookers,” she complained. She laid her head on his shoulder as they walked. “Don’t you have a car?”
Dean hadn’t really expected she’d go for the motel room right off the bat. That would have been far too easy. “My car’s at the motel. Don’t you have a place?” Of course, he knew she didn’t live locally, but this was a familiar dance. He knew his role and all the steps. They would end up in the motel, or maybe breaking into an empty house. It didn’t really matter which. If he could talk her into going to his motel room she’d walk right into his devil’s trap. If they ended up somewhere else, he could use salt to trap her. Either way, the bitch was going back to the pit. Tonight.
There was just one problem with that plan. Sam was convinced the succubus had to die to set Needy free of her infection and blood-hunger. That meant no exorcism: they would have to use the knife to kill the demon. But Needy was convinced her friend was still alive inside this body. For some reason Dean couldn’t fathom, Sam had promised her they would try to save Jennifer’s life.
It wasn’t going to work. If Sam was right, either Jennifer or Needy had to die. It sucked, but there it was. In Dean’s mind, since a choice had to be made, it made sense to save the girl his brother was falling for. Even more so since Jennifer had very little chance of surviving an exorcism.
“Let’s go to the school!” Jennifer suggested excitedly.
“It’s not far and we can break into the gym. Make a bed out of all those mats.”
Dean laughed. If only she were human she’d be his perfect one-night-stand. “Sounds like fun,” he agreed.
She quickened her step, turning into the nearest alley. “This way!”
Dean followed her, wary now they were off the street. He disentangled his hand from hers and slid his arm around her waist again so they walked as if joined at the hip. He ran his hand down her side, lingering on her exposed skin before curving down over her hip and ass. She giggled and pressed her body closer to his. Dean squeezed her ass gently. Jennifer was warm and willing and for a moment he wished she were human. It would be good. A meaningless fuck. He could lose himself in her body. Pleasure. Rush. Sweat and sex. Physical.
Jennifer smiled and slowed her walk, forcing Dean to slow down as well. “What’s up?” he asked her.
Jennifer stopped walking and turned to face him. She looked up through her long lashes, smiling coyly. She reached up and ran her finger lightly down his face: beginning in the middle of his forehead, down to the tip of his nose and then pressing gently on his lips.
“I think we’re alone here,” she suggested, her voice rich as molasses.
Dean glanced back the way they’d come. “I think you’re right,” he agreed.
Jennifer dropped her hand to his chest, laying her palm over his heart. Then she shoved him, hard.
Dean actually heard the crack as his rib broke. Before the pain hit him, he was airborne. His back slammed into the brick wall of the alley. The impact drove the breath from his body. The guitar case, still in his hand, slammed into the wall and Dean heard the discordant echo of music as the guitar reverberated with the shock. Instinctively, he swung the guitar case in front of his body just as the succubus flew at him.
She reached out with hands that had become claws. She smiled, revealing a mouth full of razor-sharp fangs any vampire would have envied. She crushed the guitar case against his lower body. Pain exploded in him and Dean bit back a scream.
He had forgotten what she was. Only for a moment, but that moment was enough. How could he be so stupid?
And where the Hell was Sam?
Dean couldn’t pull the knife he carried while he held the guitar, but absurdly, he didn’t want to let it go. Seeing no other option, he let go of the handle, freeing his hand to grope for Ruby’s knife. The guitar remained trapped between their bodies.
The succubus’ hands clamped on his shoulders. She was so strong! One moment he was up against the wall, the next she was pulling him toward her even as he grabbed for the knife.
“He told me I can’t kill you yet,” she hissed, her brimstone breath hot in his face, “but he never said I couldn’t have a taste.” She bared her fangs and Dean knew she would take a chunk out of his flesh.
Dean’s hand closed around the hilt of Ruby’s knife.
Then Sam was there – finally! – pulling the bitch off him. She screamed in frustration, slashing at Sam with her claws. Sam tossed holy water at her. She threw up her hands to protect her face.
Dean tried to go to his brother’s aid and stumbled over the fallen guitar case. Pain sliced through him again, but he needed to help Sam. Sam had the demon up against the opposite wall, one of his arms across her throat. She was struggling, though. Her seductive power might not work on Sam, like that white-light mojo other demons did wouldn’t work on him, but her physical strength sure would.
Sam needed to exorcise the bitch now!
But Dean didn’t want that. Not before she’d told him what she meant about orders. Even as the first words of Latin came from Sam’s lips, Dean shouted, “Sam, no!”
Sam turned to him, not releasing the demon. “What?”
“I got questions for her.”
But the instant of distraction was all the demon needed. She moved so fast Dean wasn’t sure what she’d done, but Sam yelled in surprise and pain and the next moment the succubus was gone.
Sam staggered and grabbed the alley wall for support. Dean moved to his side and took his arm to help him up.
“I’m…okay.” Sam panted, straightening. There was blood welling from a gash in his cheek. “You?”
Dean clutched at his chest, the fading adrenaline rush making him more aware of the pain. “Bitch broke my ribs, I think.”
“You’re lucky she didn’t rip your heart out! We’d better get you to the ER.”
Dean objected at once. “Are you nuts? With the mojo Cas carved into my bones? Too many questions, Sam.”
“Oh. Yeah.” Sam glanced down at the bottle in his hand. It was empty. He shoved it into his jacket pocket. “Motel then. I’ll check you out.”
Dean didn’t argue. There were a few contacts Dean knew of who knew about their world and could be trusted not to ask too many questions when a hunter needed doctoring, but the closest was three states away. Sam was a fair medic; he would do. Dean straightened up and experimentally took a deep breath. He nodded once, indicating both that he was okay and that he would accept Sam’s help. Then he realised something was missing.
Needy couldn’t figure out how Sam knew which way Dean and Jennifer had gone. He insisted on following at a safe distance, which made sense because they didn’t want the demon to know Dean wasn’t a defenceless snack. But Sam’s idea of a safe distance was so far back the couple they were following were almost out of sight in the darkness. If Sam had told her he was literally following a scent Needy might have believed it. She couldn’t see any better explanation.
The alley was even darker than the street. Needy slipped the backpack off her shoulder, intending to pull out the flashlight.
Sam stopped her. “No. She’ll see the light. Just stay close to me, okay?”
Needy re-sealed the backpack obediently, but she didn’t like this. There were too many places something nasty could be hiding: behind a dumpster, in the recessed doorway they just passed, around the curve of the wall. She felt like the hunted instead of a hunter.
“Can you feel her, Needy?” Sam asked quietly.
Needy could, and it creeped her the Hell out. “She’s hungry.” Jennifer was hungry and Dean was on her menu. Needy didn’t like Dean much, but she didn’t want him turned into – how did they describe Colin’s body? – “lasagne with teeth”. Ew and ick.
The change came so fast Needy wasn’t prepared. The hunger she felt became so much more, like she was hollowed out inside. She smelled the leather of Dean’s jacket and felt a surge of defiant joy. “Sam!” she gasped, horrified. “It’s now!”
He understood instantly. “Stick to the plan,” he snapped and took off at a run.
Needy prepared to follow. She leaned forward, her muscles tensing, ready to run.
A hand covered her mouth. Another hand grasped her shoulder. Needy drew in her breath to scream.
All the air disappeared.
So did the alley.
Her feet hit the ground with a bone-numbing impact as if she’d jumped from much too high. She felt her left ankle turn and automatically bent her knees to let her legs absorb the impact. She landed in a low crouch. If she really had jumped, it might have worked, but instead her foot slid out across the smooth ground and she felt the pain of joints trying to bend in a way that just didn’t work. She fell to her side, biting back a cry.
Adrenaline helped. She scrambled to her feet. One flailing hand found purchase in the darkness, her fingers closed around something solid and she steadied herself. She managed to stand straight with most of her weight on her right foot. Only then could she pay attention to where she was.
She was holding onto the horizontal bar of a gymnasium ladder set. The room she was in was very dark, but she could tell it was big, with windows high above her which let in a little light. Needy recognised it as a school gym because it looked so much like her old school in Devil’s Kettle. She had no idea how she got here. Or even where “here” was.
There was, however, a glowing green exit sign which had to be over a door. Needy took a step toward it. Until that instant, she had been certain she was alone. But the dark figure of a man blocked her way.
The bowie knife was in her hand before Needy consciously thought of it. She slashed at the man, going for his throat. She felt the knife slice through…something. But the man didn’t react at all. The next instant a powerful tug wrenched the weapon from her hand, tearing the hilt from her fingers. It hurt and the pain made her hesitate.
“Forgive me,” the man said. His voice was quiet, but rich, like an opera singer’s voice. It was a voice that inspired trust. “I didn’t mean to frighten you, but I had to get you away from them.”
Needy rubbed her aching fingers. This was the second time in two days she’d hurt this hand – the first when she nearly broke her knuckles on Sam’s jaw. She didn’t understand what was going on. She wished she could see properly but the room was too dark and her eyes hadn’t adjusted yet.
“Who are you?” she demanded, but she thought she already knew what he was. Another demon.
“I’m someone who wants to help you,” he answered. He moved forward and the light from the window above shone onto his face. His features were handsome, but not exceptional: he was a white man with neatly-trimmed light hair. Needy couldn’t see colours because of the darkness, but she guessed his eyes were blue or grey. But it wasn’t his features that caught her attention. It was his expression. He gazed at her with eyes full of compassion. He looked so serious, almost…worried. It was hard to believe a demon could look like that.
“I don’t need help,” Needy answered, but somehow she didn’t sound as confident as she wanted to.
“You’ve been deceived. I can show you the truth.” He raised a hand as if to touch her.
Needy sprang back, but she’d forgotten her injured ankle. Pain shot up her left leg when she put her weight on it. Well, fuck. If she was gonna hurt, she might as well make it count. Needy transferred her weight to the other foot and spun, sweeping out her injured leg in a hard kick.
Like the knife, it connected.
Like the knife, it had no effect.
And it fucking hurt.
He came toward her, not hurrying, and crouched near her even as she scrambled to get away. Then the words came into her mind, the Latin phrases Sam made her practice over and over. Without hesitation, she spoke the words aloud. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus…”
“I’m not a demon, child,” he said, still in that soft, soothing voice. Then his hand found hers. The moment his skin touched hers, the dark gymnasium vanished and Needy was lost in a vision.
She saw Dean holding a gun to a woman’s head, his expression full of hatred. Needy could feel the woman’s terror. She cringed back against a white-painted door and there was a bullet hole in the wood beside her head. She closed her eyes, waiting for the bullet, never doubting it would come. But then Dean grasped her arm, roughly yanking her away from the door. For an instant, she saw a different kind of violence in his eyes…
Sam was in bed with a dark-haired woman. Needy felt his lust, and the woman’s. His hands gripped her body as they fucked; she would be bruised, but she wanted the pain, wanted him to mark her skin. Sam groaned her name, “Madison.”
Then the vision changed and Sam held a gun pointed at the woman’s chest. For a moment, Needy felt his resolve waver. But the woman wasn’t human. She was a monster. Sam pulled the trigger: a single bullet to her heart. Blowback spattered his face with blood and more…
An older man was chained, upright, his arms spread wide like Jesus on the cross. Needy saw Dean approach him with a knife. Dean moved slowly, studying the man’s body, careful to select a spot that would be painful, but not fatal. He thrust the knife into flesh. He looked into the man’s eyes as he did it, and Needy could feel his satisfaction when the man’s scream filled the air…
Sam opened the trunk of a car and dragged a woman out. She was screaming, struggling and begging him for her life. Oh, God, she was so scared! Sam forced her to her knees. He grabbed her by her hair, forcing her head to one side. There was so much rage pouring off him, Needy couldn’t make sense of it. Then he thrust a knife into the woman’s neck. Blood spurted into his face. He bent his head to the wound and Needy saw his throat working as he swallowed…
Oh, God, no!
Needy had known what Sam was. She knew he was a killer. She’d seen the blood on his hands, but this…oh, this couldn’t be real.
But she knew that it was.
She knew something else, too. Sam told Needy she was the same thing he was. He made Needy drink his blood. Was this what he meant?
Sam drank, greedy for blood. He paid no attention to the woman bleeding to death in his arms. Into his mouth. Needy saw her body go limp, felt the life draining from her, but Sam held her like she was just so much meat…
Was he trying to turn Needy into that?
The vision went on relentlessly. Needy clung to the man’s hand because it was the only thing she could feel. She needed that, had to have that physical contact or her mind would spin off into the vision. She might never come back.
Dean lay in a hospital bed, his eyes closed, his face badly bruised. He opened his eyes and looked at someone sitting near him. He whispered through dry and cracked lips, “I started all this. I broke the first seal.” …
Sam stood, squaring his jaw with something like defiance. “Lilith was the final seal. I killed her. I freed Lucifer. I started the apocalypse.” …
“What if you’re wrong, Sam?” Dean demanded.
Sam glanced toward the window avoiding his brother’s eyes. He looked unhappy, but then his expression hardened. “If it doesn’t work…if Needy really does need to kill to go on, I will put her down myself.”
Needy moaned wordlessly, not wanting to believe it of Sam. But somehow she knew this, too, was true. That less than an hour before he made love to her, Sam had declared he would kill her. And he meant it. Needy had known it wasn’t love when they were together; she knew too much, had been through too much, to have that kind of naïveté. But she thought Sam cared about her. How could he kiss her the way he had, how could he touch her, fly with her like that, and yet be willing to kill her?
“Monster,” she whispered aloud. She felt the hot tears fill her eyes and spill over, unstoppable.
“I am so sorry to cause you pain,” her captor said, and he sounded sincerely regretful. He drew his hand out of her vicelike grip, but he didn’t break the contact between them. Instead, he stroked her wrist and hand with gentle fingers. “I know they lied to you. I couldn’t leave you with them.”
She stared at him, though tears blurred her vision. “Who are you?” she asked, but then she realised that a name probably wouldn’t mean anything to her. She blinked hard and corrected herself. “I mean, what are you?”
“I’m an angel,” he answered.
“She was right here!” Sam protested. He didn’t understand. Needy had been right at his side. She came into the alley with him. He had heard her footsteps behind him when he rushed ahead to save Dean.
Why wasn’t she here now?
Sam turned and ran back the way they had come. “Needy! Needy!”
He half expected to find her body lying somewhere in the alley, broken and bloody, but he reached the street and found no trace of her.
“Needy!” he called again.
“She’s gone.” Dean moved up to his side.
Sam turned to his brother, struggling to control his rising panic. They both knew what this meant. Needy wouldn’t have slipped away voluntarily. So she had been taken.
“Jennifer wasn’t working alone,” Dean said grimly, putting into words what they were both thinking.
Sam nodded. They thought they were setting a trap for the succubus. They were wrong. Jennifer was the bait. For them. A distraction, so some other demon could take Needy.
“But…why?” Sam asked helplessly. “What does Needy mean to them?”
“Oh, let’s think.” Dean’s voice was heavy with sarcasm.
“What?” Sam demanded.
Dean gave him a scathing look. “She’s got demon blood and psychic powers. She likes a good bloody slaughter. What use could she possibly have to the other side? Huh?”
Dean’s words stopped Sam cold. He grasped instantly what Dean meant. Hadn’t he said himself that he thought Needy was like him? There was a long history of demons using humans who had just a little demon in them. The yellow-eyed demon used Jake to open the devil’s gate in Wyoming. Then there was Sam himself, manipulated by Ruby and Lilith into jump-starting the apocalypse and setting the Devil loose.
But…the apocalypse was already in-progress. What could Needy do for them now? Could things possibly get any worse?
Sam knew the answer to that. Every time he thought things couldn’t get worse, they did.
“We’ve got to find her!” Sam turned back toward the alley. But he already knew she wasn’t there.
“It’ll be faster if we go back for the car,” Dean suggested. Sam noticed that, for some reason, he was still carrying the guitar.
Sam wasn’t sure going back for the Impala would be faster – after all, he had no idea where to start looking. But the Impala contained their arsenal and Sam knew they would need that. “Let’s go,” he said.
Sam walked quickly down the street, lengthening his stride until he was nearly running. Dean kept pace with him, of course. He always did. Neither of them spoke, which left Sam’s mind free to focus on Needy. What could the demons want with her? Was Needy, like him, a victim of some huge demonic conspiracy? Perhaps another of Azazel’s special children? All Sam knew was what the yellow-eyed demon told him in Cold Oak: that there were other generations. Or perhaps it was only the succubus bite that gave Needy her demonic powers, but she had been psychic before that. Either way, Needy was special.
She was special to Sam, too. He should have taken better care of her. Where had the demons taken her? Was she even alive?
Dean pulled his phone from his pocket and held it to his ear. “Cas, this isn’t a good time,” he snapped. Dean glanced at Sam as he spoke, but neither of them slowed their pace.
Sam let Dean see his impatience but said nothing. He couldn’t hear Castiel’s side of the conversation.
“Providence, Minnesota,” Dean said curtly, then after a short silence. “We’re on our way back to the motel. There’s only one. But whatever it is can wait, Cas. I’ve – ” he broke off and for an instant Sam saw fear cross his brother’s face. Without another word, he flipped the phone closed and pocketed it.
“Angels need cell phones now?” Sam asked.
“Yeah. He’ll be at the motel.”
Sam broke into a run.
Castiel was waiting for them outside Dean’s room. He stood there, statue-still, until they reached the room.
“Sam,” he greeted Sam in his usual neutral tone, betraying no surprise at seeing him with Dean.
Sam nodded back. “Castiel.”
Castiel turned to Dean, but didn’t speak. A flicker of his eyes toward the door sent a silent message: he wanted to talk to Dean alone.
Dean threw the Impala’s keys to Sam. “I left some things in my room. Be with you in a minute.”
Sam caught the keys. “Want me to take that, too?” he asked, indicating the guitar case.
Dean handed it over and headed into his room. Castiel followed him. The moment they were both inside Dean slammed the door. “We’re in the middle of a hunt, Cas, and there’s a girl missing. So talk fast.”
Castiel did not start talking. He regarded Dean silently for a long moment. It was something Dean was accustomed to, but right now he didn’t have time for the angel’s quirks.
“Cas! Clock’s ticking!”
The blue eyes narrowed. “Do you trust me, Dean?”
“What kind of a question is that?”
“If you trust me, you and Sam will leave this town. Now.”
Dean stared. Castiel met his surprised gaze unwaveringly. He was serious. Of course he was; Cas didn’t joke.
Dean shook his head. “I can’t. Sam won’t leave until we at least look for – ”
“The girl,” Castiel interrupted, “is insignificant. You and Sam must leave, for everyone’s sake.”
Uh-huh. All Cas told him on the phone was that the town was in peril. “Why?” Dean asked. “Horsemen?”
“Demons? Rain of fire?”
“Nothing so mundane.”
“Then what?” Dean demanded, raising his voice. Castiel’s characteristic reticence was frustrating as Hell. When Castiel didn’t answer at once, Dean shrugged. “You know what? Screw it. Trust goes two ways, Cas. If you can’t explain why we should leave, I’m not going anywhere.”
Castiel sighed. “The girl you seek is at Providence High School. Lucifer is with her.”
For a moment, the name robbed Dean of any possible argument. He thought for a moment. He thought about Needy, and Sam, and whatever was between them. “Well, we – ” he began.
“You need to take your brother,” Castiel said, in a voice that brooked no disagreement, “and get him as far from here as you can go. Do not allow him anywhere near that school.”
Dean took a deep breath. He got it. Sam was supposed to be Lucifer’s vessel. It would be seriously catastrophic if they got together. Not that Sam was gonna say yes or anything, but still, why give the Devil a chance?
But there was still a not-quite-innocent girl to think of. “If we go,” Dean asked, “what’s going to happen to Needy?”
Castiel closed his eyes briefly. “It’s likely she is already lost.”
“What does that mean? What does Lucifer want with her?”
“Fallen or not, he is an archangel. I cannot see into his mind.”
Dean let his breath out in a disgusted sound. “That’s angel-speak for ‘no freaking clue’, right, Cas?”
Castiel’s silence answered him.
Then I’m sorry, Cas. I can’t do this. “I’ll keep Sam away, of course I will, but I can’t abandon Needy. I won’t.” He headed for the door, cutting off any further debate. Cas could draw any conclusion he liked about Dean’s motivations. Dean didn’t want to save Needy for any heroic reason. He would save her for Sam’s sake.
“Dean,” Castiel called after him.
Dean looked back over his shoulder. There was only one way he was going to do what Cas wanted, but he couldn’t ask it. He didn’t know how much juice Cas still had, but he knew it wasn’t enough to gank Lucifer. He couldn’t ask…but he could lead.
“Can you step up, Cas? Because you’re right, we’ve got to keep Sam away from the Devil, but the only way that’s happening is if we go instead. You and me.”
“You cannot face Lucifer. He will kill you, because you are Michael’s vessel.”
“I’ll take my chances,” Dean insisted. And he would, for Sam.
“If you will leave, I will go after the girl.” Castiel’s voice was flat and emotionless, but Dean understood what the offer meant. He knew Cas would be risking his life. He felt a little guilty for pushing him into it.
“Tell me you will leave,” Castiel pressed.
Dean nodded. “Alright. We’ll leave.”