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Salve Regina

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Nancy still wears the anti-possession charm.

The first day at her new job, the manager glances at it, lips pursed, and asks, “What are you, a Satanist or something?”

There’s an angry retort on the tip of Nancy’s tongue. But she hasn’t prayed since everything that happened back home in Monument, and she’s dreaming about the Devil like she hasn’t since she was a little girl, so she bites it back. “Or something,” she says, and tucks the charm inside her blouse.

Her crucifix sits on the nightstand in her new, undecorated apartment. Sometimes she touches it before she closes her eyes at night.

She still dreams of demons.

 


 

Reception clerk at a fancy hotel in Chicago isn’t really her, and it’s a step down from secretary at the Sheriff’s office. (Dad had made a face and told her she was wasting herself; Mom had shushed him, patted Nancy’s arm, and said that of course she’d find something better soon.)

Thing is, Nancy isn’t so sure she wants something better. Here, nobody walks through the door bloody and cursing. She doesn’t have to see the aftermath of fights, wives with bruises and scared eyes refusing to press charges, teenagers strung out on drugs. Nancy doesn’t think she could handle that stuff anymore.

Plus, here, everything’s… insulated. She makes bookings, takes payments, arranges fresh towels and room service. Room 250 want champagne and strawberries. 146 is mad he didn’t get the free mint on his pillow today. Trivial luxuries. Sometimes, she could almost imagine she lives in a world where demons don’t eviscerate people just for funsies, where there’s such a thing as mercy, where Hell is just a story people tell to frighten children.

Sometimes. It always comes back in her dreams, though. Nancy pops an Ambien before bed more often than not, these days, but when she drifts off it’s always that night again.

She couldn’t relax, after the Winchesters left. She remembered that demon shoving his way out back, and it nagged at her until she murmured something about needing a glass of water and headed out to take a look around.

There was nobody there, of course, and Nancy was about to head back inside. That was when she heard the voices out front. One of them was a little girl’s, but with nothing childish about its intonation. No survivors, it had said, as matter-of-fact as if it were saying, Cream, no sugar. Dimly, Nancy registered that it must be Lilith. Then the sound of the front door opening, and a flash of light, like an atomic bomb in a movie just before everything fades to white.

Nancy still doesn’t know how long she hid for. Just that when she headed back inside, most of them were dead. The Sheriff. Deputy Phil, staring sightlessly at the ceiling with bloody holes where his eyes used to be. That FBI agent, the handsome one who’d told her they were gonna get through this, with blood spilling out of his mouth.

When she’s lucky, that’s where Nancy wakes up. Last night, she wasn’t lucky.

She’s been equal parts tired and antsy all through her shift, trying not to zone out at the counter because she knows she won’t like what she sees if she lets her mind drift. It’s quiet, and when somebody calls down from one of the upper floors complaining that their pillow’s the wrong shade of white—or something like that, anyway—Nancy decides to head on up there herself.

She’s almost there when she passes a half-open door on her left. It’s just a glimpse out of the corner of her eye, but—

But there’s somebody on the floor in there, and there’s blood, and then she’s sinking to the floor in the corridor with her back against the wall, fear knocking her legs out from under her and trapping her voice in the back of her throat.

Rina, one of the maids, finds her there a couple minutes later. Nancy still can’t summon up words so she points silently at the half-open door, and Rina pokes her head through to take a look.

She screams; and Nancy feels it, relief like a balloon bursting.

 


 

Much later—after the cops have been and gone, after she’s gotten herself together and answered their questions—Nancy sits on her bed and stares as the nightstand. The cross she used to wear sits there, gleaming coolly under the lamp.

She overheard the cops talking, down at the station while she sat nursing her coffee with a blanket draped around her shoulders. Animal attack, one of them had said. Something drained all his blood, said another. How the fuck is that even— His voice trailed off there, and Nancy’s hands trembled.

There’s a scrap of paper folded up small in the nightstand drawer. It’s been there since she left Monument.

Dean slipped it into her hand before they left the Sheriff’s office. She’s thought about him sometimes, since. The cocky smirk and the big soft eyes. How he talked about demons like they were just another bad day at the office, but still argued until his voice cracked when she offered herself up. How he tried to save everybody.

Sometimes she wonders if he saw it on the TV news, afterward, and hated himself for leaving before Lilith showed up. Or if Lilith caught up with them, too. If they’re rotting in a ditch somewhere right now, and all Nancy will hear if she calls is, This number is no longer available.

She tries anyway.

It rings for a long time, and after a moment it occurs to her that it’s late. He might be sleeping. Then there’s a click, and Dean’s voice says, “Who’s this?”

His voice is rough, from sleep or maybe alcohol. Nancy hesitates a second before answering, and he speaks again:

“Listen, I got just about enough on my plate right now, so either you tell me who the hell you are and how you got this number, or—”

“It’s Nancy.” She swallows hard. “Nancy Fitzgerald. From, from Monument.”

“Yeah,” Dean says. It’s quiet, punched out of him. “Yeah, I remember.” And then, “You’re alive.”

They’d reported her missing at first. She remembers watching it on the TV at the station, panicking until somebody found her a phone and let her call Mom and Dad. (Thank God, Mom said, and she couldn’t think of anything to say in return so she stayed silent.)

“Yeah,” she says, now. “I, uh—I was out back when…” She breaks off. “But, you answered the phone, so Lilith didn’t find you guys, right?”

Dean gives a short laugh, more breath than anything, and says, “Long story.”

 


 

They show up late the next day. There are tests first, to make sure she is who she says she is. Holy water and silver. Dean holds the knife out to her, handle first, then frowns and says, “You want me to—?”

Nancy squeezes her eyes shut and opens them again, then shakes her head firmly. She takes the knife.

Dean hesitates briefly before pulling her into a hug. Sam hangs back, and Nancy thinks maybe he doesn’t want to freak her out by touching her, after he scared her so bad by grabbing her arm in the cells. Then she sees how he is with the other witnesses, and decides that maybe he’s just awkward.

Dean flashes his grin and his fake FBI badge around, tells everybody, We’re gonna get the asshole, don’t worry. But there’s something different about him. Nancy sees him drop his smile when the civilians turn away; sees him zone out a little a couple times, and look surprised when he remembers where he is.

Maybe it’s just that this time, she isn’t new to it all. She’s getting a glimpse behind the façade.

Or maybe he really is different. Tireder, less sure of himself. Nancy shouldn’t be surprised. After all, she’s different, too.

 


 

She’s still signed off work, and she can’t settle in her apartment, so she takes shelter in a bar down the street from the hotel. It’s sleek and expensive, sells bottles of wine that would cost her a week’s paycheck. Nancy feels out-of-place there, honestly, but it's better than going home, so she sits at the bar and turns her glass between her fingers and tries not to think too hard.

Somebody sets down a glass on the bartop and perches on the stool beside her. Nancy doesn’t feel like making conversation, so she doesn’t look around.

He doesn’t take the hint, though. “Couldn’t help noticing you were on your own. You waiting for somebody?”

“Mm-hmm,” she says.

“Aw, c’mon. I promise I’m not a creep.”

She glances at him, this time—and okay, he’s actually kind of cute, in a groomed, clean-shaved kind of a way. He grins at her.

Some other day, Nancy might be tempted. She’s had her share of one-night hook-ups since she moved here. (Sometimes they’re fun, but she always kicks them out before she goes to sleep.) Right now, though, she’s equal parts nervous and exhausted, checking her phone for an update from the Winchesters every couple minutes, and she is so not in the mood.

“Just one drink?” wheedles the guy, and that’s when Nancy notices he’s not looking her in the eyes. He’s looking at her neck. Instinctively, she reaches for the anti-possession charm, but it’s still tucked safely inside her blouse.

“I’m good,” she says, and the guy grips her wrist.

He’s strong. Like, more than humanly strong. His hand is cold. Nancy’s heart leaps in her chest, and she waits for his eyes to turn black, for everything to shatter into blood and screaming—

“’Scuse me. Looks like you’re bothering my friend here.”

Dean’s smile is as friendly as a tiger’s, but she lets out a breath of relief at the sight of him. He raises his arm to pat Clean Shaven on the shoulder, and something tucked inside his sleeve catches the light. A syringe, Nancy thinks.

“Dead man’s blood,” Dean explains, helpfully, and Clean Shaven scowls.

Then he drops Nancy’s arm and bolts. Round behind the bar and out through what must be the kitchen door.

“Don’t go anywhere,” Dean tells her, and follows.

 


 

He’s back twenty minutes later. Nancy thinks she can be forgiven for watching the clock.

Dean takes the stool that creepy-guy was sitting on and gives her a reassuring smile. "Sam’s taking care of cleanup," he tells her, and waves to the bartender for a beer. "Pretty sure he was the last bloodsucker in the gang. So now you can put up a sign. One hundred percent certified vamp-free."

"Vampires." Nancy exhales. "So, those are real too, huh."

"Those and just about every other ugly sonofabitch that goes bump in the night."

"Awesome."

Dean's face does something complicated, but he's interrupted before he can say whatever he's thinking by the bartender setting a glass down in front of him. It’s some fancy craft beer, and he makes a face. "What's with this place, anyway?" he asks her, glancing around at the shiny decor. "Didn't exactly figure you for Material Girl."

Nancy shrugs. Truth be told, she's not sure what kind of girl she is these days. “Yeah, not really me,” she admits. “It’s just… different.”

He nods like he gets it.

They sit in silence a little while. It isn’t uncomfortable, but eventually she feels the need to break it anyway.

“Thanks for coming,” she tells him. “I’m—I’m glad Lilith didn’t get to you.”

There’s the complicated expression again. “’S my job,” he says, eventually. And then, warmer, “I’m glad you got out, though.”

Nancy knows her smile is pained but can’t bring herself to fake any harder, just swallows back the rest of her wine. “He was still alive,” she says softly, after a moment.

Dean blinks at her.

“One of the FBI guys,” she goes on, eyes down. “When I snuck back in there, after Lilith left—he was still alive. He couldn’t talk. I—I think they pulled his tongue out. But he tried to give me his gun. He was pointing it back at himself. And I—”

Dean isn’t smiling anymore. The look on his face is soft and sad.

“I ran away,” she says. “I couldn’t do it.”

It isn’t exactly a weight off, but she hasn’t been to confession in half a year, and it’s something.

She starts a little when Dean takes her hand. His touch is very gentle, the way his thumb strokes over her knuckles. “It wasn’t your fault,” he tells her. “You shouldn’t have had to—” He breaks off; doesn’t say, I’m sorry. She’s grateful for that. “Mercy ain’t always on the table,” he says, then. “The fact it still gets to you? That’s a good thing. Means you’ve stayed human.”

He isn’t looking at her anymore, and it sounds as much like he’s trying to convince himself as anything else. This time, Nancy’s the one who squeezes his hand.

“Did something—?” She breaks off, not sure how she’s even supposed to start here, and Dean shakes his head.

“Don’t.” It comes out a little sharp, and he glances down apologetically. “I just—I can’t.”

Nancy nods to herself. Maybe she doesn’t want to know. She already knows too much. But she wants to say something, do something. For Dean or for herself, she isn’t honestly sure.

She hesitates a second before reaching over to cup the side of his face. “I, uh.” She wets her lips. “I don’t really want to be alone tonight.”

Dean looks at her uncertainly for a second, and then one side of his mouth quirks up a little. “Yeah, I might be able to help with that.” It sounds as much like relief as anything.

 


 

Nancy remembers patching Dean up at the station, after that demon shot at him. He’d been covered in scars, old and new. Now, it’s all gone, his skin as smooth and unbroken as her own.

He catches her looking, gives her a pained little smile. “Long story.”

“Was it magic?” Nancy finds herself asking. “Some kind of—witch, or something?”

Dean shakes his head, worries at his lower lip for a second before answering. “You know how demons are real?” he tells her, at last. “Turns out angels are, too.”

Nancy doesn’t know what to say to that. She doesn’t know if she wants to think about it at all, so she doesn’t ask anything more, just kisses him again.

He seems to take the hint.

 


 

But later, when she wakes in the small hours with Dean asleep beside her, she turns over and sees her crucifix on the nightstand. It gleams in the gray pre-dawn light.

She doesn’t reach out to touch it. She definitely doesn’t offer up a prayer. But for once, she doesn’t close her eyes and pretend it isn’t there.