If you’re out on a moonlit night
Be careful of them neighbourhood strays
Of a lady with long black hair
Tryin’ to win you with her feminine ways
Cliff Richard, Devil Woman
Sam handed the coffee to Needy over the seat-back. She smiled her thanks and Sam smiled back. Last night had been good. Sam was still waiting for Dean to give him shit about it. When Dean left their motel room last night, he’d known exactly what was on Sam’s mind, mouthing jailbait before he headed out the door. Sam didn’t much care what Dean thought of his sex life: his brother didn’t exactly have any moral high ground to stand on. But he didn’t want Needy caught up in the fall-out. She was very young and he felt protective.
Sam settled back into the seat. “Where were we?” he asked.
“Anticipation.” Needy balanced the coffee cup on her knee. “That’s what she was feeling last night. She knew we were here. She was stalking us.”
They were eating breakfast in Dean’s car because Dean hadn’t wanted to wait for Needy to pile on her Goth makeup and Sam was afraid she might be recognised at the diner. Needy sat in the back seat and the brothers in the front. There was music playing, but Sam had turned the volume down so they could talk.
“I want to know about possession,” Needy announced.
Dean twisted around, one arm stretched out across the seat. “What do you want to know?”
“What happens to the person who’s possessed? I mean, if you do an exorcism, is it possible for the person to be okay?”
Sam exchanged a glance with Dean. They both knew it was possible, but demons didn’t take good care of their human bodies. Sam remembered Ruby’s description with revulsion: demons leave ’em rode hard and put up wet. He’d been able to save a few by pulling demons with his psychic ability, but even then many of them died or were so badly hurt they would never recover. And that was without taking the mental scars into account. Ruby’s knife might kill the victim, but that was often kinder.
It was Sam who answered. “It’s possible, but demons…” he hesitated, “they ride their bodies pretty hard. While the demon is in there they heal, any injury. I’ve seen a demon fall eight storeys and just walk away. But when the demon is pulled out, all that comes back on the human body. The shock is too much for most people even if the injuries aren’t deadly.”
“So they die,” Needy said, looking down.
“Not always.” Sam looked at Dean, silently asking if he should go on.
Dean offered an unhelpful shrug and went right on eating his breakfast.
Sam turned back to Needy. “Needy, I think I made a mistake.”
For a moment, Needy looked stricken and Sam realised she thought he meant last night was a mistake. As if he’d talk about that in front of Dean! He went on quickly. “Last night, when I doused Jennifer in holy water, you didn’t feel that pain. But you did feel whatever that other demon did to her.”
“He crushed her hand.” Needy rubbed her own hand as if she still felt it. Her knuckles were bruised…but then so was Sam’s jaw.
“Exactly. You only felt the physical injury.”
“What’s your point, Sam?” Dean asked impatiently.
“I think Needy’s psychic connection is to Jennifer, not to the demon. Which would mean Jennifer is still alive in there.”
“No!” Needy cried, almost spilling her coffee. “You told me she was dead! Those guys killed her.”
“I think they did, Needy.” Sam looked very unhappy. “I don’t believe she can survive an exorcism, but you need to understand this. If she was still alive when the demon took her, even if she was dying…”
“She’s alive now. She’s trapped in there.” Needy sounded sick. She set her food aside. “My vision,” she said quietly. “All that blood. Hopelessness. It was Jennifer.” Sam saw tears brimming in her eyes and looked away, giving her privacy.
“How does that work?” Dean asked. “Your psychic thing?” He crushed the paper bag which had held his breakfast, gestured as if he intended to pitch it into the back, where Needy sat, then apparently thought better of it.
Needy frowned. “I don’t really know. I never thought of myself as psychic until Sam told me I am.” She was silent for a moment, considering. “Jennifer and I have been close since we were babies. She’s my best friend. My sister. I could always feel a connection with her. It was simple things like she’d phone me and I’d know it was her before I answered. Or I could feel her outside my house before she knocked on the door.”
“Was this only with Jennifer?” Sam asked. “Or do you sometimes know who’s calling when it’s not her?”
Needy shrugged. “I never really thought about it, Sam. I think it was mostly just Jennifer. Maybe Chip, too, but…no. I knew when he was calling because he was so predictable.” She fell silent again, then she realised they were waiting for her to go on. She picked up her story. “It got worse the night Colin died. I saw…a vision. Blood, and Jennifer as some kind of creature, lurking…and, God, it was so real!”
“So it got stronger when she was possessed?” Dean clarified.
Needy agreed that it did.
“Do you know where she is right now?”
“That’s not how it works, Dean,” Needy protested. “I can tell if she’s close, but not where she is. Sometimes I can feel what she’s feeling, but I don’t see her or see through her eyes. Except that one vision.”
“Try,” Dean insisted.
Needy looked past him, through the windshield. Her eyes focussed on the building opposite where they were parked and Sam followed her gaze automatically. It was a bar. A weathered sign above the door read The Knight Club. Needy was silent for a long time, her eyes focussed on the sign, but Sam could tell she wasn’t really seeing it.
He was about to tell her to stop, afraid that Dean was pushing her too hard, when she blinked and looked at him.
“Jennifer’s still in town,” Needy said. “I think she’s sleeping, but I’m not sure.”
“She’ll be hunting tonight,” Sam said. “Maybe us. Maybe…not.” He looked grim. “We need some way to make sure it’s us she comes after.”
Dean nodded agreement.
“Uh, guys?” It was clear Needy didn’t like the sound of this. “I was never a big fan of fishing, but I do know that bait is the thing that gets chomped before the fish is reeled in.”
Dean grinned, and Sam knew what he was going to say before he spoke. “Relax. You won’t be the one on the hook. This demon likes guys.” Then Dean’s grin faded. “But I don’t know if bait will work if we don’t know where she’s going to be.”
The Impala was parked across the street from a bar that reminded Needy a little of Melody Lane. It was a small place, unkempt but in a comfy, can’t-afford-a-fresh-paintjob way rather than a dirty can’t-be-bothered way. As she watched, a man emerged from the building and erected a blackboard outside the bar. Needy read the message chalked on the board, not really paying attention. Then she realised its significance. A wide smile spread across her face.
“Sam. Dean. I have an idea.” She raised the coffee to her lips to hide her smile.
Both brothers turned to look at her. Dean’s expression said louder than words that he thought she should leave the planning to the pros. Sam merely looked interested.
She addressed her words to Dean. “Look, I’m new to this demon-hunting thing, and I know you both have more experience than I do. But I’m the expert in Jennifer. If you want to set a trap for her…” she smiled at Dean, “we’ve got the perfect bait right here.”
Dean’s arch look made it clear he understood her, but he said nothing.
“I know the kind of guy she goes for,” Needy pressed on, “and Dean, baby, you are catnip.” She tried for a smile when she said it. Okay, so she couldn’t flirt for shit. That had always been Jennifer’s thing. She felt her cheeks redden as she spoke, but she knew she was right. In Devil’s Kettle Jennifer killed guys she would never have looked at twice, but that was as much about deflecting suspicion as it was about her taste. Now, she was just hunting.
“Catnip, huh?” Dean glanced at Sam with a crooked smile. “Guess I can play bait. As long as I don’t have to follow-through. Banging demons ain’t my thing.”
Dean went on, “But to use bait, you’ve got to have a location to set the trap. What’s the rest of your idea, Needy?”
“Can you sing?” The words came out too fast. Needy’s excitement was growing. Her idea was right, and they were listening to her.
Dean’s eyes widened. “Sing?” he repeated. “For real?”
“What are you thinking, Needy?” Sam asked.
She pointed across the street to the chalk-board advertising an open mic night – tonight. “If you want to get Jennifer’s attention, that’s guaranteed.”
They both looked where she pointed.
“I don’t know,” Sam began.
Dean interrupted him. “I’ve heard worse plans. Why not?”
“Dean, it’s an open mic. It’s not karaoke.”
“So you need to supply your own music.”
Sam laughed derisively. “You thought you were Bob Dylan in high school. Dude, even if we still had a guitar, you were never that good.”
Needy’s heart sank. Her plan would only work if Dean could sell it. He didn’t have to be great – his looks would be the bait, not his talent – but he couldn’t be awful. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.
Dean hesitated. He looked about to speak, then didn’t. He turned away, fiddled with the radio and then turned it off. “I never told you,” he said eventually, “but after you left, I played a lot. I drove Dad crazy practicing the same three songs over and over. I wanted to piss him off, because he made you leave.”
“He didn’t make me.”
“Not the point, Sam.” Dean held up both hands, wiggling his fingers. “Muscle memory. I can do this. We’ve both done harder things for the job.”
“You still need a guitar,” Sam pointed out dubiously.
“And time to practice,” Dean agreed. “You and Needy stay here. Set things up. I’ll be back…” he checked his watch, “by six.”
Sam shrugged, apparently unwilling to argue further. “I’m not sure Metallica will be Jennifer’s thing.”
“Trust me,” was all Dean said.
It bothered Sam a little that Dean never actually agreed to his request that they team up again. They were still in the fight portion of the reunion when Jennifer showed up, and they just naturally slipped back into old roles. Before, Dean had been so adamant that they were better off apart, and he’d given Sam six kinds of Hell over the blood-thing; it made Sam nervous that when this hunt was over, Dean would expect them to go their separate ways again.
Maybe that was behind Dean’s sudden enthusiasm for Needy’s idea – the need for a guitar had taken Dean away from Sam for most of the day, and the plan they’d worked out would keep them apart for most of the evening, too. Had Dean engineered that? No, Sam thought as he ran through a final weapons-check, laying bottles, knives and guns out on the motel bed. He was just being paranoid.
Needy swore and threw something down with a clatter. Her breath huffed out; a sound of frustration.
“Needy?” Sam questioned.
“I’m okay,” she answered, in a voice that suggested she was nothing of the kind.
Sam left the weapons and walked over to stand behind her as she sat facing the mirror. She was partway through applying her Goth makeup and the artificial pallor to her skin made it hard to tell if she was getting sick again. The pale base makeup covered her whole face, even her lips, and her neck. He had to look at her hand to check her skin tone. Her hand looked normal.
“What’s wrong?” he asked her.
“I guess I’m nervous. My hands are shaking and I can’t do this!” She waved a hand toward her face.
Sam touched her shoulder and Needy turned to face him. She looked up and he could see the black line beneath her left eye where she’d tried to apply kohl. It wasn’t exactly straight. But this was a girl issue; not something Sam could help with.
“Do you need more?” Sam asked her seriously. It was too soon; based on her own story she should have been able to go two weeks on the blood he’d given her. He wondered if it made a difference that she hadn’t killed. He hoped not: if he had to give her blood again, Dean was going to see her as something to hunt. Sam still believed he could save her.
Needy’s blue eyes met his, full of confusion. He knew the exact moment she comprehended his meaning, because what replaced her confusion was desire. Open, naked desire. Sam struggled to control his own expression, remembering Ruby’s blood on his own tongue, the warmth of her flesh, the taste of blood, unexpectedly rich…and the rush of power it always gave him.
And suddenly, the urge to taste her blood was almost overpowering. Needy wasn’t a demon. It wouldn’t be falling off the wagon…would it?
“It’s okay if you do,” Sam said, his throat suddenly dry.
Needy tore her gaze away from his; it seemed to be a real effort. “What am I?” she whispered. Her left hand, gripping the edge of the table, was white-knuckled.
Sam understood. She didn’t need more blood. But she wanted it.
He reached out to cup her cheek gently. “You’re a seventeen-year-old girl who’s dealing with something that would make most people crazy,” he answered her question.
“You told me vampires are real.” There was a slight tremor in her voice.
“You’re not a vampire, Needy. You’re alive. They’re not.” He brushed a stray lock of blonde hair back from her face. “The blood thing…believe me, I know how gross it is, and I know it feels like it’s changing you. But you are still Needy. You’ll be okay.”
She nodded, unconvinced.
“Do you need more?” he asked again, hating that he was using Ruby’s words.
Needy drew in a deep breath, which did interesting things to her cleavage under the low-cut top. “No,” she answered firmly. “I’m fine.” She turned back to the mirror and picked up the kohl pencil again.
Sam left Needy to her makeup and set about getting himself ready for the night ahead. He couldn’t see himself going Goth, but he would have to make an effort to blend his look with Needy’s, so they wouldn’t look too out of place as a couple. He settled for all black clothing: army-surplus boots, cargo pants and a shirt he could wear open at the neck. He laid the clothing out on the bed then went into the bathroom to shower and shave.
He emerged from the bathroom wearing nothing but a towel, not bothering with modesty since she’d seen him naked the night before. Needy had fixed her makeup. She smiled at him, making a show of looking him up and down. Sam had enough of an ego to enjoy her appreciation.
“There isn’t time,” he told her, returning her smile.
“I know. Dean called while you were in the shower. He’ll be here by seven.”
“Thanks.” Sam turned around to begin dressing. He heard Needy come up behind him.
Her fingers were cool on his bare back. “Sam, what’s this?”
He knew at once what she saw there. It’s how I killed my brother, he thought. Aloud he said, “It’s just an old knife wound.” He hoped his voice sounded sufficiently casual.
Needy probed the scar carefully and Sam knew she wasn’t fooled. “That’s right on your spine. If someone stabbed you there, how is it you can still walk?”
Sam moved away from her touch. “Long story,” he answered curtly. He went on getting dressed. Once his clothing was in place he strapped a knife to his calf and concealed a gun at his back. He slid a hip-flask of holy water into his pocket, and had another bottle for his jacket pocket. He offered a third bottle to Needy.
“I have plenty.” She opened her mini-backpack to show him. She looked up then, her face very serious. “Sam, I have to know something.”
Sam could tell she had been waiting for this. She was determined to know. He nodded. “Alright.”
“Is it possible to come that close to death and walk away?”
Sam remembered her tears over Jennifer and knew exactly where she was going with the question. He came back from the dead. But the price for his life was far higher than Sam would ever have agreed to pay and the consequences…
The hopeful look on Needy’s face was heartbreaking. Sam hated to crush that hope, but he had to make her understand.
Sam knelt in front of her and took her hands in his. “No, Needy. It’s not possible,” he said firmly.
“There are ways it can happen,” he admitted reluctantly. “Evil ways. The price is always too high, Needy. Please believe me. Would you trade an innocent life for your friend?”
“I’d trade mine,” she answered at once.
It was just what Sam didn’t want to hear. Trading your life is easy, Needy. Would you trade your soul? He did not ask the question out loud. Instead, he pulled her to him and told her, “It’s never that easy, sweetheart. I wish it could be.”
She answered him, her voice muffled against his body. “She was my friend, Sam. Oh, God, if there’s any chance she’s still alive…”
“We’ll do everything we can,” Sam promised her, but he knew in his heart the best they could offer Jennifer was a clean death.
Sam asked the bartender for two beers and leaned back against the bar while the man retrieved the bottles. Needy was waiting on the other side of the room. She sat on a high stool, having claimed for them a table built around one of the tall pillars. Her ruffled skirt rode up, revealing the slim length of her thigh. She raised a hand to her blue-and-black wig as he watched, but then let the hand drop, thinking better of it. The Goth look certainly transformed her. Needy seemed more comfortable with the disguise than she’d been the previous night. Sam paid for the drinks and headed back to her side, weaving between the tables as he walked. When Needy looked his way and saw him coming, Sam pointed one of the bottles toward the pool table, asking silently if she wanted to play. They might as well. They had some time to kill before the big plan could get started.
Needy jumped down from her stool and headed for the pool table, pacing her stride so they reached it from opposite sides at the same time.
Sam gave her one of the bottles he carried. “Make it last,” he advised. “You need to look like you’re drinking, but you’ll want to keep your head clear.”
She touched the bottle to her lips, but didn’t drink.
Sam smiled approvingly. “Can you play?” He reached for a cue.
“Not really,” Needy shrugged. “I’m more of a pinball fan.”
Sam gave her the cue and began to stack the balls. “You know the rules, right?” he asked her. He knew she did: she’d spent hours watching him play – hustle – a few nights earlier. She’d picked up the con impressively quickly. But this was just for fun, to help them both relax until showtime.
Needy’s answer was to bend over the table and break. She had a strong arm and the balls scattered well. She smiled at him smugly as she stepped back.
“I guess you do,” Sam agreed, though he could have done better. He studied the table for a moment. “Top left,” he decided, and played the shot. When was the last time he’d played pool purely for fun? Sam wondered. It was always part of a hustle when he played Dean.
Sam won the first game easily. As they played the second, he noticed Needy considering her shots more carefully, taking time to study the table and plan her strategy. Sam deliberately missed a few shots, giving her more time at the table, but he still won. Immediately, Needy stacked the balls for a third game.
This time, Sam took the time to tutor her, pointing out opportunities, correcting her aim and showing her how to plan a shot to both sink the ball and position the cue ball for the next shot. He leaned over the table with her, one of his hands resting lightly on her waist as he explained a move.
“It’s all in where you strike the cue ball. You want just a smidge below dead centre.” He put just a little pressure on her hand, adjusting her aim. “Not too low – you don’t want to make it jump. Just corkscrew.”
Sam felt Needy stiffen under his hand. He let go of her right away, not sure what he’d done wrong. He was about to apologise when he saw where she was looking.
“Needy, don’t stare,” he ordered quietly, resisting the temptation to look for himself. He backed away from the pool table, giving Needy room to take her shot. He raised an empty beer bottle to his lips to cover his glance toward the mirror on the far wall. In its reflection, he saw her.
The night before, Sam hadn’t really seen Jennifer. What he saw outside the motel room was a demon with long, dark hair and his mind immediately leapt to Ruby. Though he knew Ruby was dead, the blind rage that rose up when he so much as thought of her had driven him and he saw only the threat, a demon to be destroyed. Jennifer fled before Sam had time to notice her true appearance.
Now he wondered how he could possibly have failed to notice her. Jennifer was stunning. Her hair was waist length, straight and glossy-black, shining under the dim lights of the bar. Her face was almost glowing, a lovely smile stretching full lips, and somehow even from his distance Sam could see her eyes were cerulean blue. The glitter of gold drew his eyes downward and he saw the pendant between her breasts, setting off the creamy skin. She wore a yellow top and skin-tight black jeans. A heavy diamante-studded belt glittered low on her hips, making sure every red-blooded male with 20/20 vision would notice her ass, just as the pendant drew the eye to her breasts.
Sam drew in a shaky breath. Jennifer was no mere demon. He was looking at a succubus in full-on hunting mode.
“Sam.” Needy nudged him, nodding toward the pool table.
It was his turn. Sam wrenched his attention away from Jennifer and his heart-rate steadied. The desire to look her way again was almost overwhelming. Her pull was more powerful than he’d realised – all that just from her reflection? And Dean was going up against that thing! Fuck!
They were too conspicuous at the pool table. Sam picked up his cue and cleared the table quickly, barely even pausing between shots. He nodded to the two young men who had been hovering while he tutored Needy, waiting for their turn. “Thanks for waiting, guys.”
One of them grinned at Needy. “Sure, no problem.”
Sam led Needy away, pulling out his phone.
The timing of Jennifer’s arrival was almost perfect: Dean was here and the open mic entertainment was about to begin. But Sam was worried now. It wasn’t their first succubus; Dean could handle it, as long as he was forewarned. But Sam couldn’t talk to Dean because the plan depended on Jennifer not knowing they were connected. So he sent a text message instead:
SHES A SUCCUBUS. C HER? U OK WITH THIS?
The words couldn’t convey his concerns, but he expected Dean to understand.
Sam located a free table where they could watch both Jennifer and the stage. He left Needy there and made his way through the crowd to the bar. There were a lot of people here tonight: evidently the open mic was a draw for the locals. Sam’s phone buzzed before he got there. It was Dean’s reply:
DUDE RELAX I NO HOW 2 GET A HOT CHICK 2 WANT ME ;)
Sam groaned. Then he ordered two beers and some food. He wasn’t particularly hungry but he wanted the food to cushion the alcohol. If Dean was about to do something stupid, Sam could not afford to be off his game. Not even two beers off his game.
Needy gave him a smile when he returned. “You okay, Sam? You look worried.”
He showed her Dean’s text message. “There are so many ways this could go wrong.”
Now Needy looked worried. “Why? Dean said – ”
Sam caught himself. It wasn’t Needy’s fault she hadn’t known what Jennifer was. How could she know? He didn’t want to make her more nervous than she was: he needed her on her game tonight, too. So he focussed on the earlier problem, the one that suddenly seemed irrelevant.
“Look at him,” he interrupted her, nodding to where Dean sat, drinking whiskey in a corner with the others who were planning to take advantage of the open mic. “He has an acoustic guitar. Dean’s style of music is a bit more…”
“Heavy metal,” Needy nodded. “I remember. But, you know, an electric guitar would have cost a lot more. He’d have needed amps, too.” She caught Sam’s expression and smiled suddenly. “What? I know stuff.”
Before he’d seen Jennifer and realised what she was, Sam had been fighting a vision of Dean trying to belt out Dead or Alive or Eye of the Tiger on the stage and he might have seriously considered leaving Dean to face the demon alone to avoid that embarrassment. Now, he half-hoped Dean would make an ass of himself, so the succubus would pick a different victim. But he also knew that Dean was right about one thing: when Dean turned on the charm, it very rarely failed.
Someone came onto the stage to introduce the first performers: a woman singing with a man playing the piano. As they began their set, Sam watched Jennifer move through the throng toward the stage. Almost every man Jennifer passed took notice as she walked by. She chose a place close to the stage, but also in full view of the side where the performers waited. Dean smiled her way, and raised his whiskey glass in a salute with a swift wink. Dean in I-want-to-get-laid mode. Sam frowned, worried. He told himself Dean knew what he was doing, but he didn’t really convince himself. The burger he had been enjoying a moment before was suddenly tasteless.
The woman singing was quite good. Her voice was a rich contralto, suited to the ballads her pianist played. The pianist was very good. Through it all, Jennifer watched the singer, her expression slightly bored.
The second performer was not good. The singer was a young man, maybe not even old enough to drink. Sam hoped the guy was doing this for a bet. If he was trying to impress a girl he was going to be seriously disappointed.
Needy leaned across to Sam. “Look!”
The singer reaching for, but failing to hit, a high note in his song, had distracted Sam, but at Needy’s urgent order he searched for Jennifer again. She was talking to Dean. Dean had the guitar across his lap as if he was about to start playing, but he was smiling up at Jennifer with a confident grin Sam recognised: Dean thought he’d scored.
“She’s going for it,” Needy said, as quietly as she could and still be heard. “As long as he doesn’t suck when he sings…”
“Dean says he knows what he’s doing,” Sam answered her, but her comment reminded him of his earlier doubts. On stage, the kid was mangling Every Breath You Take.
“Can I kill him?” Needy asked conversationally. “Or at least, you know, kick him a little?”
Sam saw the little quirk to her mouth that indicated she was joking, so Sam answered in the same light tone, “Only if he does Cry Me a River.”
Dean gave Jennifer his best cocky grin and moved away from her. Sam wondered why: Dean’s usual MO was to keep them talking. He saw Dean approach the piano player and engage him in conversation.
A few people applauded politely as the singer left the stage, thankfully without singing Cry Me a River. Now it was Dean’s turn. Dean carried a tall stool onto the stage with him and adjusted the height of the mic before going back for his guitar. A hush fell over the crowd as Dean took his place, the guitar resting on his thigh. Sam realised this was something new for the audience. Dean wasn’t a local, and they were probably used to “the usual suspects” singing on these nights.
Dean strummed the guitar, adjusted one string and leaned into the mic. “Good evening, Providence,” he said sounding for all the world like a visiting rock star, and a ripple of appreciative applause ran through the room. Dean began to play, picking out a melody that sounded vaguely familiar to Sam. Sam couldn’t immediately name it, but at least it wasn’t Metallica or AC/DC. Sam looked for Jennifer. She had moved closer to the stage, her bright eyes fixed on Dean, but Dean didn’t look at her once. What was Dean doing? The whole point of this was to get Jennifer’s attention. Ignoring her wasn’t the way to do that.
Then Dean began to sing.
I’m a worried man with a worried mind
No one in front of me and nothing behind
There’s a woman on my lap and she’s drinking champagne…
Sam caught his breath. He knew the song now: Bob Dylan’s Things Have Changed. It wasn’t what he expected from Dean, but it suited him. Dean’s fingers fumbled a little on the guitar strings when he started to sing; with so little time to practice it couldn’t be easy to do both at once. But he held the melody and his voice never faltered.
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m outta range…
Sam looked for Jennifer again. She was watching Dean, running the chain of her pendant through her fingers as if bored.
Sam leaned across to Needy. “I think we’re losing her. I’ll – ”
“Ssh!” she hissed, her eyes locked on Dean.
I’ve been walking forty miles of bad road
If the Bible is right, the world will explode
I’ve been trying to get as far away from myself as I can…
Dean met Sam’s eyes briefly as he sang that part, and Sam recognised the message in the words. An expression of solidarity. Sam smiled back, but by then Dean’s eyes had already moved on. That was sensible: a longer look and Jennifer might have noticed.
The song came to an end and the applause began. Dean took a sip of his whiskey and saluted his audience with the glass. He glanced pointedly to one side and Sam noticed the pianist take his place at the instrument again. The pianist nodded to Dean, who tapped out a slow beat on the body of his guitar, giving the pianist the tempo he wanted.
The pianist began to play and this time Sam recognised the song instantly. When Sam was nine years old Smells Like Teen Spirit was on every radio station and music channel in America. It was inescapable, even among the typical music of his family. The Bob Dylan song seemed to suit Dean; this one didn’t, although it was one of the few chart hits he’d enjoyed back in the nineties. It was an even stranger choice of song for this purpose.
Though the tune was familiar, the tempo wasn’t; the pianist played noticeably slower than the original. Dean’s guitar joined the piano, Dean plucking out the melody, though the piano dominated. That was a good idea: the piano covered most of Dean’s mistakes. Dean’s eyes swept the audience as he leaned into the mic. He smiled directly at Jennifer and sang
Load up on guns, bring your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend…
Sam couldn’t help smiling, too. For kids Dean’s age and a bit older, the nonsensical lyrics had been a generation’s call to rebellion. For Sam, it was the soundtrack of the year his safe world fell to pieces under the revelations of what his Dad really did when he went out at nights. Maybe it had inspired his own rebellion, as well.
She’s overboard and self assured
Oh, no, I know a dirty word
Hello, hello, hello…
Dean’s gaze was locked on Jennifer as he sang. Only he could make that repeated, crooned hello sound pornographically suggestive.
Sam shook his head in awe of his big brother as he abruptly understood Dean’s intent. He was making the song itself a seduction…and damn if it wasn’t working. Jennifer stood mesmerised; the gold heart dangling from her frozen fingers an inch above her breasts.
I’m worse at what I do best
And for this gift I feel blessed
Our little group has always been
And always will until the end
Hello, hello, hello…
Sam felt heat rising into his cheeks…and other body parts. He squirmed on his bar stool, unable to tear his eyes away from Dean, but feeling like he was spying on his brother in an act far more intimate than simply singing. What the Hell was wrong with him? He didn’t react to his brother this way! He clenched his fist beneath the table and forced himself to watch Jennifer instead of Dean.
Jennifer took a single step toward the stage and it didn’t seem to be voluntary. Her lips were slightly parted as she gazed at him. Dean’s eyes left her face for just a moment, and Sam could see her disappointment. She looked, for those two seconds, like a kicked puppy, utterly bewildered by the pain. Then Dean locked gazes with her again, as he sang the so-familiar refrain.
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us
Jennifer licked her lips.
The music faded away and there was a moment of silence before the applause began. It was no polite ripple this time, but real, thunderous applause. Dean never took his eyes off Jennifer. He smiled for her and leaned into the mic. “Thank you, you’re a great audience,” he drawled, the words for her alone. Then he sauntered off the stage and hurried around to Jennifer’s side.
“Son of a bitch. He did it.” Sam shook his head, unclenching his fist. His fingers ached. He glanced over to Needy.
Needy was gazing at the empty stage. She shook herself visibly and turned to Sam. Even beneath the Goth makeup he could see the blush in her cheeks. “Are you sure,” Needy asked, “that you’re the one with the demon blood?”
Sam frowned at the question, but no one was listening to them. Still, it seemed an odd thing to say. “Needy, why would you ask that?”
“Because he’s got to be at least half incubus. Holy moly, Sam!”
He couldn’t help smiling. “You enjoyed the show, then?”
“I’m not the only one. There’s not a dry pair of panties in this room! Sam, tell me you could feel that?”
Sam understood her. And he had felt it, hadn’t he? Though evidently she had felt whatever it was more strongly than he. He saw Dean and Jennifer head toward the exit. “Heads up, Needy. We’ve got work to do.”
But as they headed out into the night, Needy’s comment stayed with him. He’s got to be at least half incubus. What exactly had Dean done? Some kind of spell? And how had he done it?