“Have you ever been raped?”
Dean Winchester’s voice was casual, almost uninterested. Before she could do more than stiffen minutely, he continued: “It’s not on the menu for tonight, if you’re wondering. I just wanted to know if you really understood what you’d done to Sam.”
In the near-darkness, his profile was as heroic and stolid as any John Wayne. The hire car was already warming up from their combined heat. The car had a bench seat—she hadn’t even been aware that such were available any more—and they were less than a foot from what any outsider would have called snuggling. There had been a time when even the thought of breathing in molecules he’d breathed out would have been vaguely nauseating. Now, she smelled the faint orangish scent of whatever had been used to clean the car between customers and remembered how it had been to bend her head to her baby’s nape and breathe him in.
“Am I boring you?”
It’s important to respond to questions, however impertinent, when the person asking can kill you.
“I didn’t—he enjoyed it,” and knew it for a mistake as soon as the words left her mouth.
“Say that again,” he suggested.
Sweat beaded on the back of her neck. She kept her breathing even all the same.
He was, as all reports and experience indicated, impatient. “Tell me why you raped Sam.”
“I’m surprised he told you about our little interlude,” she said, attempting to even the score somewhat. Her voice was sharper than she wanted it to be.
“Me and Sam don’t keep secrets.”
“So he knows you’re here, then.”
Dean’s eyes flickered; a hit. She didn’t know why it mattered to score points on him, but habits of a lifetime and all that. “Tell me,” he said, and now he was closer, though she hadn’t noticed him moving, “why you raped Sam.”
“Because he was winning!” She clamped her mouth shut, too late.
Dean Winchester settled back against the seat, not satisfied, but propitiated for a time. He nodded, which was only appropriate given the weakness she’d revealed. It was too dark for any outsiders to see more than their outlines, if there had been outsiders to pass by, but this wasn’t that kind of neighborhood. Still, she imagined that they must look like intimates; why would two people sit stationary in a tiny car otherwise? Even without magic, they were creating an illusion. That seemed relevant, though perhaps it was just impending death making every moment feel falsely significant.
“Where are the other Men of Letters?”
This, she could answer without unnecessary emotion. “I don’t know. There may have been a housecleaning after the American misadventure. It’s none of my concern. I left.”
“Because they tried to kill you.”
“Technically, because they failed to kill me.”
He rolled his eyes. If she’d planned on making a move to escape, now would have been the time. She wasn’t even sure what held her in place. Honor? That word didn’t taste right. Exhaustion? Shame, perhaps, at the ruin of her life’s work and the realization that none of it had been pure, that she’d killed and maimed and—and raped in the service of an ideal rotten at its core.
“So what now? If I didn’t show up, what’s next for Lady Toni? You going freelance witch? Rogue demon hunter?”
“I told you, I left. That part of my life is over. At the very least, for my own safety.”
She felt the weight of his gaze. It was heated, but not in a sexual way—that much, she believed. This was what it must feel like to be in the halls of the dead, watching the feather tremble on the scales, watching the gleam of light on the gold links as the universe made its judgments. Dean Winchester had been Death, according to reports. Here, he still was.
“Who takes care of the kid when you’re gone?”
“I’ve made arrangements,” she said. There was nothing stopping him from going up the path to the house, once he was done here. Experience, however, suggested that he was not a killer of innocents. Had her information been otherwise, she would have fled before him and kept running. She might no longer be willing to debase herself for the Men of Letters, but she was still a mother. “He doesn’t know, if you’re wondering. Not that you’re here, not why you’re here. His closest brush with magic has been from Harry Potter.”
Beside her, he drew in a slow, controlled breath. “You got no idea how much I want to strangle you,” he said. “Not a gun, not even a knife. I want to feel you give it up. I know how to slow it down, so I can watch the lights go out in your eyes. I can do it so you can feel the arteries tearing before you go. You won’t be able to help yourself—you’ll fight, you’ll piss yourself—and I’m thinking that you hate losing control more than almost anything else.”
Involuntarily, she swallowed, even though it drew focus to her throat.
“Killing someone like that, it’s a rush like nothing else,” he mused. “Even what you did to Sam, that’s not as good, ‘cause he won. You serious about the leaving magic thing? None for you, none for your kid?”
The sudden switch dizzied her, but only for a second. “Yes,” she said. He’d believe her, or he wouldn’t. Dean Winchester might have been the deadliest killer of the supernatural who’d ever lived, but he didn’t know anything about how often her own life hadn’t been within her control.
“Be sure,” he said. “You get one more chance.” Then the door was creaking open and he was gone, like he’d never been there.
She waited a full minute before she let herself truly react, long shuddering breaths. Despite everything, her body was buzzing, her hands shaking. She’d believed his threat for so long that she wasn’t sure whether this was real, or the random firings of dying neurons. She’d arranged her entire life on the assumption that there was little of it remaining.
Toni chuckled, though it came out more like a gasp. Trust Dean Winchester to disrupt even the most carefully laid plans. That was what he did.
She didn’t know what came next, though discreetly losing her dinner seemed like a real possibility, with all the adrenalin flooding her system.
It took her two tries to get her hand firmly on the door handle, and she’d done no more than touch the lever when the door on the opposite side opened again.
“Sam,” she said as he folded himself into the seat, the compression of his huge frame somehow amusing but not at all awkward as he avoided the steering wheel while keeping his gun aimed unerringly at her face. “So you did know about Dean’s little trans-Atlantic adventure.”
Sam smiled, fondly. “Dean doesn’t hide things from me, even when he doesn’t say them out loud.”
“He said much the same,” she acknowledged. “Are you here to back up his threats, if I don’t stay in line?”
Sam’s eyes gleamed—he was watching her face, her body language, prepared for any move she might make. His smile turned even more tender. “The thing about Dean is, he fundamentally doesn’t get revenge. He talks a big game, but when we were taking you down, we worked with two hunters who killed us—literally killed us—and all Dean cared about was whether they’d get the job done. Dean cares about harm reduction, about what you’re going to do tomorrow.”
“I take it you’re leading up to your own more nuanced assessment.” She recalled an internal debate. Rochelle (who possibly was still alive, somewhere; possibly was tasked with finding and eliminating her) had agreed with her about taking decisive action against the Winchesters: “I fear we will live to regret attempting to coopt them. Dean Winchester is a killer. But he’s also sentimental. He can be reached through appeals to our common humanity. His brother is something rather more than that.”
At the time, she’d been confident of the ultimate outcome, even if she’d disagreed with the methods. She’d assured Rochelle, “Sam Winchester hasn’t been given real access. We’re taking the necessary steps to win his sympathies, so that he won’t expect a reversal.”
“Yes, well,” Rochelle had said, “let’s hope he can be won over.”
Now, she felt Sam draw back the safety. She wondered who would clean the car, and otherwise erase their traces. “You shouldn’t have made my mother hurt Dean,” he said.