Ghouls don’t normally travel in packs. They also don’t normally leave the remains of their kills lying out in the open, but maybe overconfidence is another side effect of being juiced up on archangel grace. Claire takes a deep breath, wiping away the blood on her cheek with her shoulder, and tightens her grip on the blade in her hand. She can think of more than a couple of choice swear words to call one Michael not-of-this-world (in more ways than one) but she keeps them in her head because Jody is coming up right behind her.
Claire nods. “Yeah. Let’s just get this done with.” Her back twinges with the ache of too many sleepless nights and too little brief naps in the back seat of the car. She’s been chasing this pack across three states, and was gone from home long enough that Jody started to worry ; when she eventually caught up to Claire it didn’t take much to convince her to let her join. Sam and Dean are off dealing with Other Michael and she hasn’t heard from Cas in awhile. Last time he texted he was on a case in a city nearby, looking for some kind of angelic weapon. She messaged him about joining her, and he said he was on his way, but that was several days ago and nothing since. Probably got wrapped up in Winchester problem #384 again.
Jody twirls her machete and nods towards the dilapidated farm house in front of them, where moving shadows are gathering into a charge towards them. “Shall we?”
By the time the limbs stop flailing and heads stop flying, Claire feels just about ready to collapse and join the bodies littered across the straw-strewn floor. There’s a jagged scratch down her arm that’s bleeding sluggishly and her thumb is broken on the left hand but the ghouls are finally dead. Every last one of them.
Until she hears a low smacking sound coming from the darkened corner of the barn, behind the pile of wooden planks. Jody is still pulling her machete out of one of the ghoul’s neck, and she gives her a quick nod of acknowledgement before Claire rushes over to the corner, blade held high. The ghoul sits crouched on it’s heels, it’s ashen face smeared with blood as it digs into the body in front of it. Long, thick, pulpy intestines spill from the shredded torso, and the ghoul tries to slurp up one last string of rubbery flesh but Claire’s sword meets his neck first. His jaw slackens and his open-mouthed expression goes rolling across the floor with his head.
“There,” Claire exhales.
Her eyes fall to the half-eaten body at her feet. The fabric of the victim’s clothes is barely distinguishable from the blood soaking them from head to toe. Several of the toes have been reduced to chewed-up stumps and the flesh has been ripped off the legs, exposing the femur. From the giant cavity in the chest she can see the rib cage exposed and little pools of blood still spurting noiselessly.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, looking at the teeth marks in the neck and the mangled face--wide sightless eyes--and--
The machete drops out of her hand, landing with a soft thunk in the hay.
Claire tries to take a step back and instead her knees hit the ground. She hears herself screaming.
“What’s wrong?” Jody’s footsteps hurry over. “What happened, are you hurt? Did it get to you?”
Claire’s body folds in on itself and the only thing that answers is another scream.
“Claire--” Jody’s voice comes closer, one hand on either shoulder. “Talk to me, what--” The sheriff sucks in a breath and then exhales a small, terrified “no.”
Jody’s seen it. She’s seen him--Cas--lying there, half-eaten, organs sprawled across the floor. Claire can’t even feel her jaw anymore but she still screams again and again as she is pulled against a warm chest, arms clutching her close.
She jerks out of the embrace and crawls over to the body, as if the magnitude of her voice can reverse time. Can wipe the puddles of blood off the floor. Can make those cold eyes blink. Can make him send one of those ridiculous indecipherable texts with too many emoticons. Can bring that awkward half smile back to his face.
Jody grasps at her, trying to pull her back, and she wrenches away. “P-please,” she gasps, face flattened against the itchy floorboards. “Please, please, please, please,” is the only prayer she can pray right now.
The shadow of Jody falls over her and Claire remains bowed to the ground, immobile. She wonders if she can ever move again; if Jody will have to cut around the wooden boards to carry her away from here.
Then a small shudder of breath makes her pause.
”Claire,” Jody says, disbelief evident in her own voice. “He’s not dead.”
Claire keeps her eyes shut. That image of him is already tattooed into her brain.
“I can feel a pulse,” Jody goes on. “I don’t know--how?”
“Please, please” Claire repeats numbly. If God was ever going to grant her one mercy in life this is the one. She’ll never ask for anything else again.
It can’t be. It’s just a memory of what he sounds like; how he’d always say her name when leaving voice messages even though it was obviously her number.
Jody’s fingers brush against her hair. “Just look.”.
Claire lifts her head slowly, blinking to clear the blur of red in her misty eyes. She finds herself face to face with two blinking blue eye.
“Claire.” His swollen lips part. “C-”
She whips her head towards Jody to make sure she’s seeing this too. That this isn’t some hallucination of grief, that she isn’t dreaming somewhere in one of the Bunker’s bedrooms. Jody nods. Her face is wet but smiling.
Cas sucks in a wheezing breath. “C-Can you help me?”
That's when Claire starts to cry.