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The Last of Mine

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After the thing in the closet grabs her, drags her inside and wraps her up; after the cawing, shrieking, and flapping of the crows fades away; after Sam stops responding to her cries, even faintly; after the vines or branches o-or whatever they are have poked enough holes in her that she can't do more than whimper in protest; after all that, it's only when she starts seeing things that she wonders if she's going to die.

There isn't a sudden change from staring helplessly at the dimly lit closet door to wandering in a daze through unfamiliar woods. The door starts fading in and out of focus, and at first Lena thinks that she's passing out, that this is it - she's about to die, killed by a house and her own stupid curiosity. But then she feels a gust of wind, one that couldn't possibly exist in the still, trapped air of the house, and then she realizes she can move her arm, and then she's there.

Wherever "there" is.

The woods don't seem empty. Almost completely opposite that, she can almost hear whispers in the distance, see someone running away out of the corner of her eye - but with all the fog and the dry leaves underfoot, it's easy to believe her mind's playing tricks on her. (She still isn't entirely convinced that this isn't a near-death hallucination, at this point.) Then she hears a twig snap, and turns around to find herself face to face with a woman.

She's thin, pale, with dark red hair that only emphasizes both of those traits. She's wearing a low cut dress that looks centuries out of fashion, that looks like it might fall off her shoulders at any second, that looks like it'll snag on the underbrush and trip her up if she takes another step. She must be used to it, though, because nothing like that happens. What happens instead is that she freezes, staring at Lena, apparently as surprised to see Lena as Lena is to see her.

"Hi," Lena says cautiously. "I, uh, I don't really know what's going on? My name's Lena," she adds, and feels immediately stupid - how is that relevant? But how is she supposed to know what's relevant, when she doesn't even know what's possible? "I was visiting this old house, practically ancient, really, that my family used to own two hundred years ago, and then..." She stares down at her hands, remembers how the blood felt dripping off her fingertips. "I think I might be dead."

"If you are here you must be near death," the woman says, and hey, British accent. That's unexpected.

"Near death, huh?" That's better than being actually dead, she guesses. "And... where is here? And who are you?"

The woman looks around warily, then says, "This is a purgatory of a sorts, where lost souls wander. And I am Katrina Crane."

Purgatory? God, what does that even mean? Not up to the task of thinking about it, Lena jumps onto the next distracting thought: that name rings a bell. "Katrina Crane? But - that's the name of the last person to ask for sanctuary in my house!" That doesn't seem like it could be coincidence, but how could it be possible? Sure, the dress could maybe be from that time period, and if Katrina Crane died at the house Lena's dying in, they'd probably end up in the same place, but...

Katrina's eyes widen. "This house you speak of... it wouldn't be Fredericks Manor, by chance?"

"I - yes!" Which means... "So, you're that Katrina Crane? From back during the Revolutionary War?"

"I am," Katrina says solemnly, gazing over Lena's shoulder at - she checks - nothing in particular. "If I may ask: how, Lena, did you come to be dying?"

Lena shudders at the memory; it's like the vines are stabbing into her all over again. "There were branches in the closet. I tried to pull them out, to get rid of them, and then... they started pulling back."

Katrina's face twists into a sympathetic grimace. "The plant. It attacked like a thing possessed - and in a way it was," she adds thoughtfully, lifting a hand to her stomach. "It killed Lachlan in the doorway of his home, and then..." Her hand twitches against her stomach, as if...

Oh, god. "It got you, too?" Lena winces. Bad enough getting poked in the arm, but stabbed through the stomach?

"Yes. But at least Grace and Jeremy were able to make it to safety." She hesitates. "I - that is, I believe they were."

Lena mentally flicks back through the family tree, trying to remember... "Grace Dixon, the housemaid? She survived whatever happened at the manor. And... Jeremy was one of Lachlan's grandsons, right?" The youngest by a wide margin, if she remembers correctly, but the one who ultimately gained control of the family fortune. A lot of the stories Lena's heard about him are probably conjecture, but she enjoys them anyway.

Katrina rears back like she's been slapped. "One of Lachlan's - " she repeats, indignant, then suddenly calms down. "Well, he couldn't have been passed off as one of Grace's children, I suppose," she mumbles under her breath. "And better that than an orphanage."

Lena's definitely missing something here, but there's a familiar pain starting up in her arms and legs, and her vision's getting fuzzy, and that seems more immediately important than whatever Katrina's talking about. "Katrina," she says, and hates the high note of fear in her voice a little, "Things are fading out - I think I might be leaving. Am I dying for real?"

Katrina looks around warily again, but whatever she's looking for still isn't there. "I am not sure. Let me see..." She reaches out a hand to Lena, who takes it desperately, hoping for something, anything to distract her from the horrifying thought of going back there to die alone, in a closet, wrapped up in a killer plant.

And then something weird happens.

"Mrs. Crane, I won't be leaving without you - "

"No, I can't, I have to stay with Lachlan - "

" - you have to stay with your child."

" - it's the only way to protect my child!"

The black woman watches warily for a moment, and then the baby cries - and somewhere far away, so does a man, shouting out in pain. The woman nods, clutches the baby tighter to her chest, and shuts the door behind her.

Lena turns around, terrified beyond all reason, and hikes up her skirt, heading for the ground floor and calling up all her strength. She arrives in time to see Lachlan's body fall to the ground, shaken off the plant's arm like a piece of filth.

"This war may have taken my friend, and it may have taken my husband," she declares. "It may even take me. But it will not take my son!"

Heedless of her words, the plant lunges at Luna, stabbing -

And whatever she's done with her power, it wasn't fast enough, the plant has got her, has gutted her, and oh, how it hurts. But this will not stop her; so she is embedded on the plant's arm? So much the better. She grabs it 'round the waist and holds on, concentrating the last of her strength on this creature, on defeating it any way possible -

And it works, the creature fades, releases her to retreat out of doors, where the last of its strength lies.

Lena lays dying, and hopes that Grace Dixon knows better than to come back to this house ever again.

And maybe, just maybe, she'll be able to see Ichabod now...

Lena wakes up with a shuddering gasp, and nearly cries; on top of everything else, she's back in the closet.

Was any of it even real?

Then the door opens, flashlights blinding her, and Lena stares. She shouldn't know that face, has never seen it before - not really - but even in the dying, half-imagined memories of Katrina Crane, her husband's features are distinct.

"Miss Gilbert?" Ichabod Crane asks carefully, trying to free Lena from the branches. Lena whimpers, protests - no, no, god that's a bad idea - but he persists, tugging until one of the vines breaks and starts... oh god, that had better not be all Lena's blood. She tries to explain the house, the plant, feeling sicker by the second, but it does no good. Ichabod and a black woman - a police officer, Abbie Mills - pull her out of the closet despite her warnings, and try to lead her to an exit.

She can only spare Sam's body a brief, painful glance, before she's heading deeper into the manor on unsteady feet, trying to remember things she saw only momentarily through Katrina's eyes and memories. At least, she thinks that's what that was. It all happened so fast, though, and it was so intense. Especially the feelings. She stares at Ichabod for a moment and is filled with a pervasive longing that isn't quite her own. It makes her uncomfortable, so she sticks a little closer to Detective Mills.

Mills stops abruptly, eyes distant like Katrina's were, seeing something that Lena can't, and makes a different turn, one that leads to a room Lena half-knows thanks to Katrina. They're getting closer to the hidden exit. Lena starts breathing easier. And then around the corner is the walking version of the plant, the... oh god, the scarecrow from outside, she'd just walked right past it without giving it a second glance! And now it's going to kill her like it did Lachlan Fredericks, like it did Katrina Crane. God, oh god, why is this happening now, when they're so close to escaping?

Feeling faint, she almost doesn't notice the world going fuzzy until she can see Katrina again, offering a hand. Without thinking, she takes it.

Things go weird again.

Katrina's taking an enormous risk in doing this - Lena's latent powers concealed her presence from Moloch's sight while they were in Purgatory, but that is no guarantee that he will not notice this near-escape. He will almost definitely notice, in fact, but Katrina is past caring. He will not destroy her, not when she is his bargaining chip with Death. Anything else, she can survive.

Alone, having just given birth, Katrina was not capable of defeating this demon, even after Lachlan had struck it a serious blow. The best she had been capable of was draining its power, barely forcing it to become dormant. A drop of witch's blood was all it needed to awaken, and a witch drained slowly would have, in time, given it more than enough power to defeat those of Moloch's foes that Death could not reach.

Now, Katrina has Lena's strength to rely on, on top of her own, and she is not weak from childbirth. She is sharp, focused and furious, and at long last has a target for her rage that she can fight, one she can defeat.

"I told you before what I would not allow," she tells the demon, "but circumstances have changed, and it seems the lesson needs repeating. This war has taken many lives, and will take more yet, but it will not take this Witness! Or my husband! Or our descendants!" This time, her power is such that the demon does not even have time to lunge before it wilts and crumples, the blood flowing through it losing potency, the curse powering it losing its magic.

Abigail Mills catches Katrina when she stumbles - these shoes Lena prefers are strange to her, in the way her own skirts were strange to Lena - and sets a concerned hand on her shoulder.

"Miss Gilbert?" she asks cautiously.

Katrina laughs breathily, dizzily; defeating that demon was more exhausting than she had expected. "Not at the moment, Miss Mills."

A quiet rush of air behind them, an innocuous sound, and yet one Katrina would know anywhere. She turns, and yes, there he is. Her husband.

"Katrina," he whispers, not believing what he sees or hears.

"Only briefly," she says sadly, staring into a mirror hung on the far wall. Purgatory is waiting; though Moloch does not seem to have noticed her absence, she cannot risk staying much longer. Katrina places a hand atop Abigail's, and squeezes. "Grace will show you the way out. Lena has lost a great deal of blood, but when she recovers she can tell you more of what has happened. Protect her, please," she begs quietly, staring at Ichabod and willing him to understand. As the worlds begin blending together, she tries to say as much as she can in as few words: "She is the last of mine."

Lena... sort of wakes up? She'd been conscious while Katrina was possessing her, but it had been kind of like dreaming, where you can't really control what happens but you can still see it happening? So when Katrina leaves her, it's sort of like waking up, but more like shifting from the passenger's seat back to the driver's seat where she belongs. It's a relief, but it also means she's the one supporting her weight on shaky, bloodless limbs, which is a lot harder than Katrina made it out to be.

"Whoa," Detective Mills says when Lena sags against her, but she shoulders the added weight easily enough.

Lena tries to walk, but it's really no use. Her legs hurt too much, and the blood loss means they wouldn't obey her right now anyway. She groans, feeling fifty shades of pathetic, but ultimately has no choice except to let Detective Mills drag her out.

"Miss Gilbert?" asks a voice from over her shoulder. Lena cranes her neck around, even though she recognizes it. Ichabod. He paces them easily with long, slow steps, and is watching her more than where he's going. "I assume you are in full possession of your faculties again?"

Lena tries to laugh. It doesn't really work. "More or less," she says with a stiff grin. "Your wife's back in purgatory, if that's what you mean."

Detective Mills stumbles to a halt, nearly dropping Lena. "How do you know about that?"

And so Lena explains: her near-death experience in the closet and talking to Katrina in purgatory; being afraid of fading away and grabbing Katrina's hand; the weird secondhand memories and emotions after that; finding Katrina again when face to face with the plant demon, and letting Katrina take over to take care of it. Almost none of it makes any more sense to her now than when she first heard about it. There's definitely things Katrina said that are meaningless to her but that make perfect sense to Ichabod and Detective Mills.

If she could, Lena would just leave it to them. But Katrina had said to protect Lena, and she has a feeling that isn't just out of some two centuries-displaced pseudo-maternal concern. She's probably in danger - and if Katrina is right about Lena being a witch, she can probably be helpful too.

...if she can find someone to teach her.