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Wand'ring Light

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"This isn't going to work," Ruby snaps. The dome light fades to black once more and Sam scrambles backwards out of the car, all bent limbs and stubborn determination.

He pretends to ignore her and she pretends not to care.

"It's old," she shouts through the open door. The night's wind curls into the interior and pools around her legs, licks up the skin like a ghost lover. Earth is colder than it used to be, even in summer. "And it's been translated too often. The ritual is lost."

He squares his shoulders, stands tall out there against the dark, one lone silhouette in the desert of Nevada. She knows the moment his eyes adjust to the darkness because he throws his head back and turns and turns, searching the sky for answers. With crooked fingers, he draws imaginary lines along the stars, wreaks havoc with quick strokes to tie Polaris to a hunter's leg and rip apart Lyra by the Milky Way’s stream. There is neither rhyme nor reason to his bearings, but he nods to himself and comes crawling back in, a nervous whisper on his lips.

"We should go after Lilith instead," she says. "It's our best chance."

The dome light flickers on, spreads sluggish, dirt yellow light over the seats.

He's squinting, momentarily blinded. The vinyl creaks under his weight, the car aches. "Don't use that word," he says. "We. There’s no we."

Only she's spread out in the Impala's back seat, propped naked against the door just like the whores his brother fucked, right here, and now it's Sam kneeling in that borrowed space, trying on a skin that's too big for him, orphan boy. And she'll be his whore, that's okay, lend him a body to paint and cry. As long as that brother of his burns in hell – and he'll burn his good time – there's no one to keep her from riding shotgun in his pretty car, all the way to the big showdown.

"Whatever." She'd shrug, but he's already got her pinned down, eyes now greedily searching for the last broken line, fingertips tapping with unease.

"There," he mumbles. "There," and quickly reaches around the front seat to pick up his writing equipment, dried up ink she killed three demons for and a quill he broke out of some hunter’s secret stash. She takes the latter as a sign of reassurance that there is no other “we” on the side either.

With thumb and index finger, he stretches the skin on her chest to ease the writing process. His palm with those rough gun-wrought calluses moves hot against her breast and the sharp edge of the quill drags down across her shoulder, leaving ink-stained welts that might look pretty but form nothing at all. Little bastard constellations. Messed up nonsense that he’s been dragging out of thin air. He’s doodling on a dead body, but holding his breath like this was the reveal of a new prophecy.

"So say it works," she continues. "The gate opens. What then? You think you walk into hell with nothing but a knife and they'll hand over your brother just like that?"

There is the tiniest stutter to the movement of his hand, but it's gone when he spits out, “Yes.”

So hard and hurt, still breaking, her little boy lost. No brother to hold his hand, no father to lay down the law. She bites back the mocking laugh. His grief springs from loving too much, and that's a noble sentiment if ever she's known one.

He wets his pinkie with spit to wipe a smudged stain away, but then instead of continuing the line, he hovers, unsure which direction to take.

With care, he puts ink and quill back onto the front seat, on the tissues he has no doubt spread out for protection. The light goes off and he's back out in the dark, searching for answers among the apathy of the stars. The cold sweeps in. Her vessel's freezing.

It goes on like this throughout the night, until that small body of hers is dotted and indexed like the perverted twin of a cartographer's map, void of meaning, leading nowhere. And when nothing happens, he starts all over again.

She waits. What she's got on her side are time and faith.

In the darkest hour before morning, he's scribbling along her thigh. Every so often, he tips the damp point of his quill into the larger dots he painted earlier in hopes of scraping up some of that thick ink that must seem wasted now. It doesn't help much, and he's scratching more than drawing, trying harder, adding force until the sharp edge of the quill rips skin. No matter which line he closes, which points he connects, the Earth stays still and solid. Hell evades his desperate grip.

“You knew this. You knew it wouldn't work.”

“I never lied to you, Sam.”

For a second, she thinks he'll hit something, but then he just leans against the seat and bites his knuckles hard. The dome light's fading now, painting its last sick shadows across his face.

“Sam,” she whispers, and climbs on his lap, curls into that radiant heat of his. She holds his face in her hands, begging him to look at her because she's got so much he wants, so much hope to promise. “It's not over. Get leverage, go after the demon who holds the contract.”

“Lilith.” He wrangles her name like a curse.

“Lilith,” she agrees, softer. “But you need to be strong.”

She moves her hand down along her thigh, crossing straight through the lines he drew, until she finds the bleeding tear. A drop or two stain her finger. “Sam,” she beckons. “Please.”

And it's just a tame kiss, just his lips that press to her skin, and she has to coax and beg him until he opens up for a soft kitty lap of his tongue.

The Milky Way's falling and the eastern sky gray, but she knows the wandering star that rises, that proud morning light.