It took all Dean’s willpower to walk next to Ladona at a normal pace the few steps back to their room. He kept his arms at his sides and held himself stiffly, nodding briefly when Ladona said she’d meet him inside after going to the car to get some books out of the trunk. Dean took the few minutes he had to himself and let his frustration out, punching the wall, taking care that it’s not the same wall that separates their room from his dad’s room. When that didn’t do anything to help, he paced like a caged animal, muttering and periodically looking heavenward.
Ladona returned with several large books cradled in her arms. Dean answered her knock by swinging the door open and stepping aside so she could enter. Ladona frowned when Dean didn’t offer to take any of the books from her, but didn’t comment and placed the heavy stack on the small table as he went back to pacing and sighing heavily. He’ll talk when he’s ready, she thought, and even though John's plan did seem ... passive, Ladona couldn't think about it. Her mind kept wandering back to what happened during their hike up to the caves.
Witches and wizards taking people to feed on? She wasn't so naive to think that there weren't those seduced by the power to be found in the darkness, but she still couldn't wrap her mind around the possibility. Normal humans without power going to the dark side? That she had no trouble believing. But to imagine a witch knowingly ... no. NO! It hit too close to home and she firmly pushed it away, not willing to give in to the admission just yet.
Ladona reached into her bag and withdrew a pad of paper and her favorite pen. It had been a silly gift from Anna, actually, with a barrel that lit up, sparkles floating inside it, and a tuft of fake feathers on top. The ink was purple and Ladona used it to take notes while she researched cases and spells. She twirled it between her fingers like a baton and watched Dean stand stiffly before she sighed and bent her head to her books.
Dean went to stand in front of the window that looked out back of the hotel. It was a beautiful view of the
“What was that?”
Dean turned to face Ladona who had some books open in front of her and what looked like several pages of notes already. “What was what?”
“You said something and I didn’t hear you,” Ladona prompted him.
Damn, he thought. “Did I?” Dean paused, not sure how to go on. Ladona waited him out, carefully arranging her features into a neutral mask and putting her pen down. The explosion was coming. She’d felt the tension curling off Dean like smoke and had noted his scraped knuckles when she’d come back to the room with her books. Ladona held his gaze until …
“Can you believe this plan?! It’s so damn safe it’s not even worth it! We’ll be lucky to even find these assholes much less rescue anyone who might still be alive up there. Did he not see the carvings on the walls of that cave? Did he not see those paintings and all the blood?” And on he went, stalking from one end of the small room to the other, smashing one fist into the palm of the other hand as he continued to point out the plan’s flaws until he turned to find Ladona standing right in front of him.
She put her hands on his chest and instantly he stilled even as he continued to breathe harder and his heart pounded with the effort of keeping himself somewhat under control. “Dean.” Ladona’s voice was low and insistent. “Go talk to your father. Pacing around here and yelling at me … it’s not resolving anything.”
Dean sucked in his breath and looked up at the ceiling. “You’re right.” Ladona nodded and went back to the table where she watched Dean pause for a moment before he let himself out, letting the door shut behind him. She got up to check that the door was unlocked, figuring that if John were next door, it wouldn’t be more than a couple minutes before Anna came over to give father and son the space they were going to need to settle this latest disagreement.
“You’re being ridiculous and you know it!” Anna hisses but John just stares stubbornly back at her.
He was going to tell her why it’s so important to wait for Skye but she never gave him a chance. As soon as he was off the phone with Sam she lit into him. Now he’s feeling defensive and irritated that she doesn’t trust his judgment and assumes this is all about her. He quashes the tiny voice in his mind that pipes up to ask if she might not be at least a little right about that. Of course he’s not letting emotion blind him to reality! He’s a professional, damn it!
When he doesn’t respond at all she only gets angrier. “Damn it, there are lives at stake! Innocent men and women will die-”
A sharp knock at the door cuts her off in midsentence. Neither of them makes a move to see who it is for several minutes then Anna throws up her hands and goes to open the door. John bites back the order to be cautious; she probably wouldn’t listen and it’s too late anyway.
“Yes?” Anna snaps when she sees Dean. He’s looking just as stubborn as his damn father and she’d love nothing more than to throttle the two of them. Damn Winchesters, she thinks, conveniently forgetting she’s one too.
“What do you need, son?” John fights to keep his voice neutral.
“We need to talk,” Dean says evenly. His eyes flick down to Anna dismissively then back over her head to John. “Privately.”
John’s brows draw together. That’s damn close to the line. Although he’s certainly proud of the man his son has become he’s not going to put up with him insulting his wife for a second. He’s also less than thrilled with this independent streak. There was a time when Dean wouldn’t have dared confront him over anything... He sighs inwardly. Those days are gone though and he’s taking it from all sides today.
He frowns. “It’ll have to wait,” he snaps. Until after my wife finishes rakin’ me over the coals, he adds dourly to himself.
“Ya know what? Never mind!” Anna shouts. “You two have fun!” She pushes Dean roughly aside and steps into the cold evening. She’s angry at the way Dean dismissed her like that but it might be a good thing if he can do what she was unable to and talk some sense into his dad. She’s been trying for nearly an hour and getting nowhere.
She takes less than two steps before John also pushes Dean aside to grab her arm. Dean stands looking at them both in astonishment. He’s never seen them act this way; he’s never seen his dad act this way. His brow furrows. Just another example of how Anna’s screwing up his dad’s life, he thinks darkly.
Anna tries to twist away. “Get your hands off of me!” she hisses but John grabs her other arm and gives her a little shake.
“I will,” he growls, “but listen. You can’t go off alone.” He jerks his head over his shoulder. “Go inside with Ladona. Please.”
Her first angry instinct is to refuse but the “please” reminds her that real danger lurks and it would be foolish to wander off on her own. So she takes a calming breath and says, “All right, I will. Now let go.”
He releases her immediately. She shoots furious looks at both Winchesters then turns toward the other motel room door with a flip of her long hair that catches John in the face. She knocks then enters at Ladona’s “Come in!” and slams the door hard behind her.
“Sorry,” she mumbles sheepishly as Ladona looks up from her work with raised eyebrows.
“Men,” Ladona shrugs and they both laugh softly.
“Worse…Winchesters,” Anna adds and they really crack up.
Anna sobers quickly though and stands leaning against the door looking down at her feet. This is all her fault and she doesn’t know how to fix it.
Ladona watches her quietly for a moment. She saw the wave of sadness wash over her friend’s face before she ducked her head. Pushing her own worries aside for the moment she rises and goes to Anna.
“Hey,” she says softly and is surprised to see that Anna’s crying. Without thinking about it she pulls the woman into her arms and feels her shaking with silent sobs. Anna hugs her back, her face buried against Ladona’s shoulder as her tears soak into the younger woman’s shirt. Ladona’s never seen Anna lose it like this and isn’t quite sure what to do so she just pats her on the back soothingly. After a minute she realizes there are words jumbled in with Anna’s sobs.
“I shouldn’t be here…John was right…I’m just a distraction…all I’m doing is holding him back and people are going to die because of my selfishness.”
“Oh, honey, you’re not a distraction,” Ladona murmurs but doesn’t know what else to say. John does seem pretty distracted but that doesn’t make it Anna’s fault. He’s a grownup and responsible for his own actions after all. But Anna’s speaking again so she turns her attention back to the mumbled words.
“It’s all my fault…he didn’t want me to make the deal…but I didn’t want to be alone…all I thought of was me…now everyone’s suffering.”
Ladona’s brows knit together. What the hell is Anna talking about now? “What deal?” she asks softly not really expecting an answer. She’s not even sure Anna can hear her through her sobs.
But Anna raises her head to look at Ladona. “Oh, I shouldn’t have said that,” she whispers, her green eyes wide. “Never mind. Just…” She wipes her eyes and tries a watery smile. “I’m just hysterical. Babbling.”
“That’s not true,” Ladona says softly. She draws Anna over to sit on the edge of the bed. “Look at me. Please.”
After a moment Anna meets her eyes and Ladona’s surprised to see fear there. And something else. Shame maybe? She cups Anna’s cheek gently. “Look, I understand if you don’t want to tell me what you meant. But…” She shrugs. “If it’ll help by getting it off your chest, I’m here. I’m a good listener.”
Anna looks into Ladona’s earnest eyes. She knows she shouldn’t be dumping any of this on her but she just doesn’t know what to do. She looks down at her hands twisted together in her lap.
Just as Ladona’s certain Anna won’t confide in her the woman’s soft voice fills the room. “I…only a few people know about this because, well, it’s not something that should be advertised. And John didn’t want his boys to worry.” She looks up at the ceiling, blinking away her tears. “Nemesis came to visit John and me before the rescue. She told us I’d be able to live for the length of time I’d been in Hell as long as we killed…” She spits the next word. “Him.”
Ladona doesn’t have to ask who she means. She grabs Anna’s hand to offer comfort but her heart sinks as she realizes more than half of the 11 months have already passed. No wonder John hasn’t wanted to be apart from her; she only has a few months left to live! Tears spring to her own eyes. After all they went through, this is their reward, she thinks angrily.
Anna continues, “But she offered us a deal. If John kept hunting I could…” She bows her head. “I could live as long as he does. We’ll die at exactly the same time.” She raises her eyes to Ladona’s, a bitter smile twisting her lips. “Of course there’s a catch. We have no idea if we’ll live longer than the original 11 months or not. John worries we won’t but…what choice did I have?” Tears flow down her face but she doesn’t bother to wipe them away.
Ladona’s completely stunned. She can see why they’ve kept this quiet. It would be very bad for their enemies to know all they have to do is target Anna to kill John. And she has to admit that Dean would be pretty upset if he knew, considering the way he still feels about Anna. But the deeper implications are mind blowing. Goddess, she thinks. Would I be willing to tie my life to Dean’s or anyone else’s with no assurance of how long that would be? And then risk that shared life by continuing to hunt, continuing to put myself and my love in danger? It’s something I would have to think long and hard about, she admits, even if it were Dean. Yet Anna clearly had no trouble making the choice. The depth of love between her and John is simply staggering.
Before Ladona can formulate an answer to Anna’s question the window behind her explodes soundlessly in a ball of fire, sending the two of them sprawling in different directions. It takes her only a fraction of a second to recognize the same magic she felt on the mountain and she instinctively rolls aside as another silent ball of fire singes the carpet where she lay just seconds before. She’s on her feet in the blink of an eye, her knife in her right hand, her left hand cupped to call her magic. Problem is, it doesn’t seem to be there.
Anna lies face down on the carpet, too dazed to move. She hit the dresser hard enough to send it toppling onto its side and her crashing to the floor. John’s voice in her head keeps ordering her to get the hell up and she finally manages to stumble to her feet, the room spinning crazily around her. She sees Ladona grappling with two figures just a few feet away. One of them manages to grab Ladona’s arm and twist it to make her drop her knife. But before Anna can do anything to help a ball of heat slams into her back, sending her crashing to the floor in a boneless heap.
Ladona screams soundlessly at the pain in her arm but her instincts keep her moving. She grasps one of her attackers by the arm, turns, and manages a one handed shoulder throw that sends him crashing into the table covered in her books. It overturns, sending books and papers in all directions. The spell, she thinks, but there’s no time to worry about it now. She starts to turn toward the other man, the bastard who broke her right arm, and feels a burning pain as he uses her own damn knife to slice the same arm open from shoulder to elbow. Her sharp intake of breath is as soundless as everything else and she realizes belatedly they’ve put some kind of silencing charm on the room so John and Dean next door won’t hear anything. It must be suppressing her own magic as well. Good thing I have other skills, she thinks grimly. She knees the man in the groin, causing him to double up and drop the knife. But before she can retrieve it she sees a dark haired woman standing over Anna’s body, her hands outstretched toward Ladona.
Sudden understanding flows over Ladona. They’re not getting out of this and there’s no way to warn the men or tell them of the counterspell she found. Still, she’s not one to give up without a fight. She whirls and races the ball of fire across the room. She just has time to yank the door open before it engulfs her and she too collapses to the floor.Celeste watches her companions climb slowly to their feet. My god should have left it to me, she thinks disdainfully. Those two idiots did absolutely nothing productive. Her eyes travel to the two unconscious women. The witch’s arm is bleeding profusely. She smiles. No doubt her god will want her first. The smile disappears as she glares down at the redhead. And that will work perfectly, she thinks. It will be a pleasure to exact her revenge against this wife of the man who scarred her. She tilts her head. Yes, a matching scar across that smooth skin will be the first order of business. She smiles again, dropping the temperature in the room 20 degrees. And then the real fun will begin.