Author's Note: Sorry for the delay in posting. Things have been keeping me busy and off the computer lately. Mostly, the day job. It's sucking the life out of me. Speaking of sucking, here's chapter ten. (Oh, that can be interpreted SO MANY ways...)
"Excuse me?" I heard the voice before I saw its owner. Small surprise, considering that the owner of the voice was mostly invisible. Gradually, however, she materialized in front of me, a wispy, grey woman in colonial garb. She was taller than me. Looking down, however, I realized she had no feet and was, in fact, floating several inches off the ground, so it was kind of hard to judge her height with any accuracy.
"Um…Sam?" I squeaked for what seemed like the millionth time that night as a cold chill gripped me. Suddenly, I felt myself squashed into the back of my being like an old coat at the bottom of a full closet. (Seriously, you try and describe what it's like to be possessed by another entity, ethereal or not, and tell me you'll come up with a better way to put it. Go on, I dare you.)
I tried to scream, but it didn't happen.
Instead, the ghost currently and unexpectedly inhabiting my body gave me a once over. "You're a virgin?" she said to me—in my head—and I swear, she sounded surprised. "But…you're so old! Why haven't you been with a man?"
"Hey. Seriously?" I shot back. Silently, and in my head. Still, I thought it was audible—to her, anyway. Of all the things she had to notice about me, this was the one thing she chose?
Even ghosts made me feel like a freak of nature for my lack of sexual experience.
Then another thought brought me up short. Virgins were delicacies. "You're not going to eat me, are you?"
"No." She shook herself like you'd snap a new top sheet onto a mattress, floating gently into place and pushing me further back and almost out of my own body. "Not as long as you don't desire my husband for yourself."
"Are you serious? He looks like something you'd find forgotten at the bottom of the lettuce crisper. Have you taken a good look at him lately?" In fact, what I really desired was to get control over my own limbs again and get the crazy dead lady out of them. "What the heck gave you that idea?"
"Ben!" she croaked through my mouth, her voice scraping along my vocal cords. It was rusty-sounding, kind of dry, like when you wake up in the morning and have been sleeping all night with your mouth open. Understandably. She probably hadn't spoken much since she kacked, two-hundred-plus years earlier. "Benjamin Franklin! Husband, I see you in there!" She lifted her—my—arm and pointed through the iron fence. Through my eyes, she saw—and I did, too, sort of—Ben Franklin, looking more solid and less moldy than he'd been a few minutes before. And a bit surprised. I couldn't blame him, actually. I don't think he expected he'd get caught by his wife, especially since she was dead.
But then again, so was he. Poor planning on Mr. Franklin's part.
I would have thought more about it, but then-I felt Deborah's pain.
She'd loved him, the philandering fool. And he'd—well…ghosted on her. For seventeen years, she was ignored and treated like she didn't matter by the man she loved with all her heart. It was anguish.
It was unbearable.
It was…kind of what I'd done to Kieran. My heart began to break in my chest, tearing apart, sinew by sinew, snap, snap, snap…
No. Wait. It wasn't what I'd done, it was what Deborah Franklin was doing—she was tearing me apart in an attempt to possess me for good. I could feel my body shuddering, and a weird, whistling shriek emitted from the back of my throat. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see. I couldn't-
Whoosh! Suddenly, Ben's wife was gone, leaving me feeling like someone had just torn a scab off my entire body. I sank to my knees, retching from the pain of the departing ghost, and the agony of her unrequited love for the husband who—even in death—preferred others.
The ghost of Deborah sailed over the iron fence and collided with the ghost of her husband; there was a flash and a sucking noise, and then—all was quiet.
Sam knelt beside me. "Are you okay?"
I gasped, swallowed, and tried not to vomit. "I'm not great. What the heck just happened?"
"The last of the rock salt." Sam held up the red, two-gallon container he'd used in the graveyard. "And I think that Deborah cancelled out Ben. Not that I blame her. He was a terrible husband. But—let's get you out of here, just in case." He peered down at me. "Can you get up?"
I gagged in response as another wave of pain and a new feeling-one of lassitude-swept over me. I moaned and started falling forward, unable to stop myself from face planting on the ground at Sam's feet. He stopped me just in time.
"Okay," he said, bent, and lifted me into his arms, cradling me close so that the top of my head fit under his chin. I leaned my cheek against his warm, broad chest, and burrowed against him, shivering hard. His arms were hard and strong, and his chest was firm beneath my cheek.
Good Lord, I thought. Help me. Seriously. This Winchester attraction was really starting to bother me now. It wasn't funny anymore. Or even, fun. I inhaled through my nose. He smelled wonderful—sweet, like cedar, and the slightly dusty scent of books and printers' ink. I swallowed. What was wrong with me?
Fortunately, my unexpected attraction to Sam melted into the background as my teeth began to chatter and my limbs began to harden. Like I was being frozen from the inside out. "I'm freezing!" I gasped and clung to him.
"The aftereffects of ghost possession," he murmured, carrying me to the car. "It will take a while to wear off, but you'll be okay soon."
I tried to lift my arms to reach around his neck, but I could barely lift them. "I'm so weak!" I'm so cold. I'm so—Oh crap, I'm so horny. What the bloody hell, Isolde?
I wondered if sexual desire was an after-effect of being mauled by a perverted ghost. Were all the other affected women going through the same thing? They had looked at Sam like he was some kind of snack to enjoy as he'd strolled by. Those shoulders! That ass! Dear God. I shivered. But then again, weren't sexual thoughts heated? Didn't people use the term "hot and bothered"?
I was nowhere near hot. I wasn't even lukewarm. I was frigid—and that, I knew, was the complete opposite of lust. "Sam?"
"I got you, Isolde." Somehow, Sam managed to hang onto me, and the empty canister, and get the Impala's keys out of his pocket at the same time. I was amazed that he didn't try to put me down, which would have been far simpler. He even dropped the container onto the hood of the Impala so he could unlock the door, open it and only when he knew I'd be safe, slide me onto the seat. I sat shivering, watching him through the windows as he picked up the salt can and moved to the back of the car; the trunk squeaked as he opened it, and thunked when he slammed it shut.
When he returned, he got in behind the wheel and leaned to drape a funky-smelling, scratchy old blanket over me, tucking it around my arms and under my thighs until I was wrapped like a grey wool burrito. The blanket reeked of old blood, stale sexual encounters, Old Spice and again, Sulphur. "Dude," I whispered. "This thing is foul."
He shrugged. "Yeah, we forget it's there. I don't know the last time it got washed."
It was beyond washing. Burning would be the best thing for it, or a really complex spell. I didn't even have the strength for a simple spell. I was completely drained of strength and magic. So I sighed and decided to quit complaining. "That ghost was a bitch," I said. "In fact, both of them were."
"Most of them are," he noted, and started the car. "Let's get you home before something else goes wrong."
Home? I didn't have a home. My home was the van that Kieran and I used, and it was impounded. I wondered why I hadn't realized that before. I began to remember all the good times we'd had in it—the special things. Kieran's hair supplies. My books. Our tools.
Kieran's crappy taste in music...the way he'd smile and tap his fingers on the steering wheel and chant along with it, giving me the side-eye and a smirk as he did so. It suddenly occurred to me that he only played the music I loathed when I was in the van with him. I never heard him play it otherwise, anywhere else.
I thought of the way he'd deliberately turn up the bass whenever I complained…the way his eyes twinkled. The flash of white teeth. The curve of his lips. Almost like Dean's, I realized suddenly. Not like Sam's. But…I'd never taken the time to notice.
And I realized something else. Out of the blue, like a bolt of lightning. Kieran had done all that annoying crap on purpose, just to get me to bitch at him.
I'd bitched at him a lot. He'd goaded me.
Because otherwise, I realized, I wouldn't have paid much attention to him.
Sure, it would have been nice if he hadn't annoyed the shit out of me, but really—he didn't go out of his way to annoy anyone else. Just me. Because bitchiness and snark was the only reaction I ever gave him.
I thought of how I'd hide behind a newspaper so I wouldn't have to look at him, and suddenly, it felt like I'd been hit in the face with a brick. Tears filled my eyes and splashed down my cheeks and I choked on a sob.
"You okay?" Sam asked.
"I'm—it's…" Kieran. I couldn't even say his name—if I tried, I was pretty sure my throat would close up and I'd bawl in earnest. So I swallowed, hard, and croaked, "Do you think Bobby and Magda will come up with a plan?"
"Of course," he said and looked down at me. "You know, it's not uncommon to get emotional after you've been possessed." His tone was kind.
I didn't deserve kindness, which made me cry harder. Because I knew my tears had nothing to do with being possessed, and everything to do with my not-so-related to me, Winchester-brother-non-cousin and the shitty way I'd treated him, even though he loved me.
And I loved Dean.
"Sammy? What happened? She okay?" The words were out of Dean's mouth the moment his brother stepped through the door of the motel room with me in his arms.
Sam put me down—instinctively, I think—because moments later, Dean had scooped me up into his arms and carried me to the bed. But he didn't set me down. Instead, he sat down on the mattress with me, and continued to cradle me. I snuggled into his chest and inhaled his scent. Not like Sam's. But wonderful. And also, arousing.
Maybe I wouldn't be satisfied unless I'd had my fill of both Winchester brothers. That, at least, made sense. After all, it was hard to choose…
But…Kieran. The thought nagged at me. Son of a bitch.
"She looks like she's been possessed. She's got that transparent look about her," I heard Magda say. And then, "Get away from her before you impregnate her, Winchester."
Magda! My lifelong training kicked in and I struggled to get away from Dean before she saw me. Stupidly, because—well. It was pretty obvious he was hugging me, and I was enjoying it. But—still—that training ran deep, and I struggled out of his grasp and stood so that maybe Magda wouldn't notice—as if she couldn't—that I'd just been cuddling against a Winchester.
After being carried into the room by another.
It was stupid, I'll admit; if it wasn't for Dean supporting me, I would have sprawled on the floor. So I did the next best thing. "We didn't do anything!" I blurted by way of greeting. (It made sense at the time.)
Everyone stared at me; I felt my face drain of color and then, blossom hot.
Especially when Dean—his macho pride hurt, or something—muttered, "Well, we did something, just not—that."
"And you won't." Magda pulled me into her arms; I could feel her trembling rage—or something—at Dean. "Not now that I'm here. There will be no more…anything. Especially with you, you cicisbeo."
"I'll sissy-sis…you. Um. What?" I watched Dean's face crumple with the confusion. Then he turned and stalked to the other side of the room, all bristly, and adorably perplexed.
I didn't blame him. Magda came up with some old-fashioned words sometimes, but this was a new one. A quick peek showed that even nerdly Sam was in full-forehead wrinkle as he chewed on it; in a moment, he was swiping at his phone and I knew—bless his nerdy heart—he was looking it up.
Bobby, however, appeared to agree.
"Sorry Mags. It's gotten so a man can't even use the john without worrying about Mr. Libido over there," the older man said. He spun and pinned Sam with a glare. "Little help you were."
"Hey, Bobby, I tried. And I followed them, once they left the room, so—"
"Yeah. At least we didn't go far." Dean put in his two cents. He was leaning against the counter, his arms folded over his chest and his ankles crossed so that the sole of one boot showed. I wanted so much to zap it with a de-mud charm, but I didn't have the strength. I sagged against Magda; she sank onto the bed, unable to support my weight. And then she lay me back against the pillow and started tugging off my boots. "And what you were doing, taking her to a haunted site? You're just as bad as him." She turned and threw another glare, this time Sam's way. "Did you think that was keeping her safe?"
He made a bitch face so similar to Kieran's, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. So I lay there and let her take off my other boot. She continued to rant, "Bobby. This never was supposed to happen."
"I know!" he raised his hands in either a warding gesture or maybe a readying for self-defense gesture. I couldn't be sure. All I did know was that Magda was mad, madder than I'd ever seen her before. Shorter than me, even, but at this very moment, she looked about eight feet tall, with flashing dark-blue eyes and long. black hair, threaded with silver and tumbling to her waist. Like some kind of Celtic Goddess. Or maybe a witch. Or both.
"I ought to castrate the lot of you," she muttered.
"Ho now, let's not get crazy, lady." Dean somehow managed to grab the white plastic drainage tray from the dish strainer and held it in front of him like a shield. "I told you-nothing happened!"
I narrowed my eyes at him. He met my gaze, blinked, shrugged. "Well…it didn't. That doesn't mean it wouldn't have if Sammy and Bobby hadn't busted in. I mean, it was all systems go—"
"Hold up, boy. TMI. Also-nobody's castrating anybody. Magda's just a bit riled up, and understandably so." Bobby stepped in front of Dean. I got the feeling he wasn't protecting him as much as he was trying to shut him up. Which was also understandable. I'd never seen Magda be so intimidating—or less likely to be stopped. Especially by a cheap piece of plastic. Best that we didn't give her even more reason to want to de-masculate Dean.
So I gave defusing her anger my best shot. "It's true, Magda," I told her. "Dean's telling the truth. It didn't."
She turned to look at me, and her eyes softened. Maybe it's because she saw how wiped out, I was. Or maybe—just maybe—she remembered what it was like to be seduced by a Winchester man. "Okay," she said. Then she touched my forehead with a warm, gentle hand. "I'll get you some chocolate. That usually helps, after a possession. I think I have some in my bag."
"Chocolate?" Sam asked. Of course. He moved forward then, almost sitting on the edge of the bed. One glance from Magda had him changing his mind, and his course—he moved to the armchair in the corner. "Chocolate works? Same as Harry Potter?"
Magda tilted her eyebrow at him. "And why wouldn't Harry Potter be full of useful information about magic?" She huffed a sigh and moved to a small pile of luggage on the opposite side of the room. "You think books like that happen by accident?"
My eyes met Sam's, and we both shrugged.
Magda returned with a bag of smooth milk chocolate truffles, all individually wrapped in red and silver paper, and my mouth watered as she handed me one. "Easy, now," she cautioned as I unwrapped it and crammed it into my mouth. "You eat too many too fast, and you're going to be sicker than ever."
"Yes ma'am," I answered obediently. She dispensed me another truffle, then took one for herself; after a moment's consideration, she handed the bag to Bobby. "Help yourself, Singer. And you—only one!" She pointed as Dean stepped forward to tug the truffles out of the older man's hand. "Leave some for your brother!"
He seemed to fight with himself, then returned to his spot by the sink, still holding the drainboard in place like a shield. Magda turned away, and as she did, I saw the corner of her mouth quirk in a smile. She didn't dislike Dean, I realized, she just was establishing herself as a woman unaffected by his charms. I couldn't help but admire her. Go, Magda.
The chocolate seemed to do the trick in changing everyone's mood and energy levels; after a short while, I was sitting up, and Magda and Bobby were hunched over a laptop at the motel's tiny Formica-topped table. Sam had gotten a book out of his duffle bag and was deeply absorbed. I wasn't surprised to see it was the third book in the Harry Potter series. I had no doubt he was researching the effect of chocolate on the aftermath of dementors for a correlation to ghost possession.
Dean had decided to sit on the bed next to mine; he'd propped one of the pillows against the headboard, turned on the television and was flicking through the channels. I slipped over to plop down beside him.
"Not too close, Insult," he warned. "Apparently I can impregnate you at a glance." He paused, considered this, and blinked. Then he grinned. "It's like a superpower. Fertilization Man!"
"Stow it, Dean," Bobby groused without turning away from the laptop. "Or I'll show you some fertilizer you'll never forget."
Magda shot him a look over Bobby's shoulder; his expression turned a bit sheepish. Me, however—I wasn't having it. "I don't see what the big deal is, to be honest."
"Shh. No, really. It's okay." Dean grabbed the pillow from behind me and put it over his lap. "I get it. Besides, she just calmed down. Don't piss her off again."
I ignored him. Instead, I stood up and moved to confront Magda. "I like him. He likes me." I flickered a glance his way—he appeared to be working hard at watching the tv and not listening to this conversation. The fact that he was watching what appeared to be a soap opera on Telemundo didn't escape me—I was fairly certain he didn't speak Spanish. "I think he likes me, anyway. It's not like I'm the kind of woman all guys just want to sleep with."
He glanced at me with a speculative tilt of the eyebrows; I had a sudden, overwhelming sense that I was, in fact, the kind of girl all guys might lust, and I fought the urge to sigh. Dean Winchester, Sex God and Superhero. I realized suddenly that fertilization wasn't his superpower. No, it was his ability to make a woman confident in her own attractiveness. Less of a superpower, more of a super empowerment. I smiled at him, then turned back to the older woman. "But even if I was—why are you guys so over the top with keeping me…um…intact?"
"You might as well tell her, Magda," Bobby muttered. "I don't know why you Cleaners are all so secretive about these things, anyway. Sometimes it's better to know things."
"Some people are more prone to fighting their destinies." She looked at Sam and Dean in turn, almost like she knew something about them, which I thought was kind of weird. Remember how I said my mother had a reputation as kind of a seer? Well, Magda wasn't just sort of a seer—she not only saw things, she knew things. Right then, I knew she knew something important. About them.
But I also knew better than to ask because she'd deny it anyway. Instead, I decided to focus on whatever it was that she and Bobby both knew—about me.
"What do you mean, destiny?" I asked.
"It's nothing you need to know about. Now." Magda shook her head.
"You ask me, you're making a mistake," Bobby groused.
"I'm not asking you, Singer," Magda said.
"Yeah, but I am." I pushed.
She pursed her lips. "All right. I'll tell you, but not now. Another time. We should wait until—"
"Until what, Magda? Until it's too late? It's not gonna get any easier if you wait for what you think is just the right time, the right place. It will never happen. And in the meantime—you know what almost happened today." The older man gestured to Dean. And Sam. "It's not going to get any better. It's only going to get worse."
Worse? What? What could be worse? I looked from Magda to Bobby. They stared at each other, like I wasn't even there.
"But the prophecy-" Magda said, then trailed off.
Prophecy? What prophecy? "Excuse me. I'm right. Here." I pointed out. "You don't have to talk about me like I'm not. And what do you mean, 'destiny' No, forget that. What about , 'prophecy'?"
They ignored me. "What if me an' Sam hadn't put the kibosh on their antics today? There go hundreds of years of carefully manipulated genetics. Marriages and couplings and spell work…You think they're not gonna sneak off the next chance they get? And then what? We're going to have to wait another coupla centuries for everything to line up just right again?" Bobby took his cap off, ran his fingers through whatever was left of his hair, and put it back on. "I'm telling ya, Magda! I can't watch them twenty-four-seven. Now that they know each other…" He pushed himself to his feet, towering over the little woman. "A man's gotta poop sometime, and I, for one, am not putting my bowels on hold so that you can keep a secret you should have shared with the girl when she came of age. Tell her, before everything blows all to hell. Give her some credit!"
"Exactly," I prodded. "Give me some credit." I thought about what he'd said. "Wait. What?" Blow all what to hell? Holding his…or…hundreds of years of…genetic manipulation? I turned and looked over at Sam.
What the hell? I mouthed at him. He shrugged, and I'm fairly sure the dumbfounded expression on his face was mirrored on my own. We were clueless. I peeked at Dean. Also clueless. He was pursing his mouth in just that way that his grimples were showing. I fought the urge to go over and insert the tip of my tongue in them. Instead, I turned back to the arguing couple at the table.
"Guys. What are you talking about?"
Neither of them looked at me. Bobby continued to rail, "She can handle it. She has to—she's got no choice. And besides—telling her would be way easier than gelding Dean."
"Excuse me. Easier than what, now?" Dean leapt to his feet behind me. I turned to him, but he barely focused on me. "Listen. I'm with Bobby. Insult-she can handle anything you throw at her. You don't need to…you know. Me." He waved his hand around near his pelvis.
Magda inhaled deeply. Then she let her chin drop to her chest and exhaled. "All right," she said softly. "I'll tell her." She lifted her head then and shook her finger at Bobby's face. "I still think it's better to wait until just before the ceremony of the Long Night Moon. But if she tries to get out of it, then it's on your head, Singer."
"To be honest, what she does is less important than getting your son out of the pokey and back here where he belongs!"
Magda's shoulders sagged. She took a deep breath then, and as she pinned me with her dark blue gaze and opened her mouth to speak, I realized that my entire life was about to change. Again.