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SPN: Wolf Like Me

Title: Wolf Like Me
Author: schmevil
Summary: Meg takes Bela of the rack.
Characters: Bela/Meg
Word Count: 4132
Notes: Written for darkmagic_luvr by way of spn_fs_exchange. Originally posted here



One.

She knows what resigning yourself to fate looks like. It's something other people do.

But one day, years ago, she'd come to realize that it was inevitable. It wasn't fate, so much as unbelievably good odds that the house would win. Normally her solution would be to cheat; cheat until she'd turned those odds around to her own kind of inevitable. When the house was hell though, you might as well try to cheat the tide. You might outrun it for a day, a week, a year. You could layer your bolthole with every charm, line it with goofer dust and devil's shoestring, and settle in with an arsenal. Hell would still come.

When the hounds come for her, she tries to go limp, unresistant, thinking it will be easier. They aren't demons, the hounds. They don't have a taste for pain. Just flesh. Let go, she tells herself. You can't fight the tide. The hounds move in on her, their breath loud, her heartbeat louder. At the first growl, she finds that it's not in her. She never wanted a blaze of glory, but really, why not? She fights.

They tear her body apart. That's just the beginning.

***

The one who takes her off the rack is old. A deep black mass in the shape of a woman.

She's long since given up fighting. Long since given up on everything, save one thought she pushed to the core of her being early on: there will be an end to this. Demons have a taste for pain, the ones assigned to the racks most of all; but the older ones, the powers who hold their leashes, they like servants even more.

She holds that close through everything.

They cut her skin into strips and peel it back from her flesh. They carve her flesh. Grind her bones. None of it is real: skin, flesh, bones. It's all spirit. But quickly, they tear this from her too. They peel it out of her, a long string of screaming, confessions, pleas - all the lore she's read, the secrets she's stolen, and the ones she's hidden under a mantle of lies. They take all of it.

The demon rips out the bindings they'd sewn straight through her body to the rack, and then lowers her, all without touching. It doesn't tell her stay. She does so anyway. She crumples, a heap of huddled, shivering something - something that was once a human woman. Now lacking resistance, shape, or character without the rack to hold her. This demon doesn't speak, silent where all the others taunted. It's watching her. It has no eyes, just a deep, starless nothing, where its face should be. But she has the sense that it's watching her, cataloging her every movement.

She notes all of this: its easy, almost restive stance, its attention, the promise, the possibility of it ending finally. She notes all of this, and wonders, her thoughts clear for a moment of anticipation and pain; for a moment just the residual pain and nothing new. Her thoughts the clearest they've been in so, so long. But she doesn't know what - how - to feel.

It nods. She's lifted off the ground so that she's floating half a meter above it. Her fingers bump against it - powder over something slick and polished - as the demon drags her along behind itself. She has, for the the first time, to really see. They pass rows of tidily, efficiently lined up racks, their occupants screaming, always screaming - it's been the constant background to her stay here. She can't recognize anything in them except pain. Between each rack, there is a bubble of comparative quiet, stillness, dark, where she can see and hear other things. Things whispering, moving.

She-- blacks out for much of the journey. They'd kept that from her, all this time - made to feel every second, made to see it, and hear it when she didn't have any eyes. Sometimes they would describe it to her, in heavy, delighted whispers. Every thing they did to her, as detailed as a lab report.

Now she drifts, feels nothing but emptiness, the absence of them, the racks, the pain.

Finally, the faint light turns from red to gray. The screams stop. Instead of yellow-gray - bone - the ground is jagged, matte stone, cut with glittering black, and everything is close. The whispers, and echoes of whispers take on a different character. She can't see enough to judge, but it feels like there's a limit to the sky. Like they're inside. She's getting a tour of hell's architecture, and she can't see, or sense much of anything. They've left behind the red and black place that's been her world for so long, for something quiet and close.

Tunnels. It carries her through a network of tunnels.

They move quickly, fast enough that she wouldn't have a chance to memorize their route, even if she was capable. The quiet deepens, until even the whispers fade, and finally they stop. It puts her down, and then collapses a section of tunnel behind itself.

She takes a long shuddering breath, thinking: air. It just watches, while she pushes to her knees, gasping-- air, it's closed the tunnel. Watching while she realizes that she doesn't need to breathe. And so, she stops. She falls back against the wall of the tunnel. Everything hurts, her body hurts, but it isn't flesh. It isn't flesh - but what does that mean?

When it finally speaks, the quiet is so complete that the demon's words hang close in whatever passes for atmosphere in hell; almost cleave to her.

"Let's talk allegiances," it says. "Things have changed since they strapped you up and started playing 'who's got my large intestine'."

There are questions she should be asking, she thinks. Things from before-- She manages to croak out. "Lilith?"

"Good girl. You remember."

Does she? She remembers... a little girl on a swing set, who collected wishes. Everything else is a blank, but she pushes at that blank, like probing a wound to see how serious it is. She starts at the fuzzy edges of it, the vast emptiness in the center of her, and works at it.

Lilith. Lilith. The little girl with red eyes, and the one who held her leash, the one who rode little girls as a matter of preference, instead of convenience.

"That's right. Do you remember your name?" It's there, just beyond her reach. The demon lets the silence go on and on, and she expects-- anything. They don't like to wait. But this one, it has patience.

It watches her while she scrambles through the mess of her memories, sorting fragments of recollection, imprints, the meaning of them hidden or just missing. Past the white there are images, flashes of sense memory, smells and sounds, all of them disconnected and jumbled. She has a fleeting thought - a question that flares and dies as quickly as she thinks of it - that she should feel something. Disturbed maybe, that this is now the state of her. All she can manage is weak gratitude for the absence of their attentions.

Her name - the demon keeps on waiting, waiting, until she finds it.

"Bela." There's no rush of memory to go with it. The demon, it doesn't react, just keeps on watching. So she risks it. "You?"

It laughs. "Does it matter? All our names are lies. Meat we consumed. Goddesses and fallen angels. Ghosts of human delusions. You're still young enough to remember your human life. But it's early days for you, kiddo." The mass shifts, moves closer, brushing against her. "Now, tell me what else you remember."

***

Time, she tells Bela, is relative. Along with many other things. None of it holds any meaning for her at first.

"Early days." When the demon laughs there's nothing nice in it.

Bela's existence has been defined by pain and its absence. Her laugh, the demon's, doesn't hurt. She lets the demon's words wash over her, a quiet stream that will later resolve itself into concepts, words, useful information about the infernal hierarchy and the state of things upstairs. For now, it's close to white noise.

Demons don't eat, drink, or sleep, so Bela has her undivided attention. She settles in to watch, while Bela's wounds heal. The demon explains that they aren't wounds, as Bela is used to thinking of them, and that the healing process no longer involves repairing damaged flesh. That this is all a kind of consensual delusion. Bela assesses the concept absently, in the quiet of her own mind. Whatever passes for mind here. She thinks, I should be panicked, angry, something. Instead she lies where the demon dropped her, while she-- rebuilds. And slowly, idly creates a model of hell. Has a metaphysical debate with herself. Wonders - can she hear all of this? Bit by bit, the white gives over to something with colour and character. She remembers-- fragments. Pieces of her life, her time on the racks.

"Don't be indulgent," the demon tells her. "You can learn a lot from how someone likes to hurt you."

So she hangs onto those fragments, as much as she does things from before.

The demon crowds close, and then drifts away to the furthest corners of the makeshift bolthole. There's no pattern to it, or reason, so far as Bela can tell. Brushing its fingers - not really fingers, but some of its substance, in the shape of human fingers - against her sometimes, when Bela can't stop the shaking. But not always. Other times she stays out of reach, watching Bela shiver, twitch, scream - studying her. Still other times, she smothers Bela's screams, until Bela is stupidly gasping for breath. It's so easy to forget.

Bela is passive through it all. Maybe there's a part of her that would bite back, fight and never stop fighting. Just now, she can't find that part. She lies there, rebuilding, becoming something utterly new and inhuman.

"When you were on the rack," she tells Bela. "You had the illusion of humanity. I'm told it adds something to the process. For the first few years, at least. After a certain point, there's no use to it. If it doesn't fade away, they take it from you." She crouches beside Bela. Her outline isn't so sharp, right now. Her feet, calves and thighs are all fuzzy. Bela can't see the rest of her from this angle, but she imagines it's much the same.

She reaches out and pushes Bela onto her back, so that she's looking up into the place that would be its face. "It's time to put away childish things, kiddo."

"What's happening to me?"

"Oh, I think you know."

***

"Time is relative," she says again, once Bela has become a gray thing.

She moves the rocks that made their bolthole secret - telekinesis, if they were on earth, but Bela doesn't know what to call it here, or what it even is - and moves into the tunnel system. Bela follows her - what else is there to do?

"A hundred years in hell is a handful of months upstairs. Or it's a hundred years. A thousand."

"Is there a rule?" She looks at Bela, actually turns to her, the mass twisting, head tilting to looking at her. It's so totally human - she is - that Bela wonders, not for the first time, about possession. It's always seemed so easy for them, demons. There's something off, in their almost perfect imitation of humanity, but nothing awkward. They use human bodies like they're machines, pushing them to their design limits and past. And when they're done, they discard them like so much trash.

Does she know this one? Bela's met more demons than she could ever have wished, if she'd ever wanted the kind of power they offered.

"No," the demon says. Bela still doesn't have a name for her, or any aliases known or otherwise. "Not anything simple."

"I'm a quick learner."

"That's one of the things I like about you," she says, almost fondly. "Make it through the intro, and I'll tell you all about it."

"Intro?" The demon nods at a narrow tunnel that takes a sharp turn downwards. Bela can't see where it ends.

"I'll meet you on the other side," she says. When Bela turns - to protest maybe, she isn't sure - the demon is already gone.

"All right." She has no idea what to expect and no weapons besides herself, but if it's a choice between being put back on the rack, and going into the unknown, she'll take that gamble gladly.

***

Bela came into an inheritance and her independence young. There were lawyers, guardians, a whole team of adults charged with her care, all of whom she circumvented easily. With her parents gone - that's how she thought it then, just gone - she wasn't free, but she was damn well going to be as close to it as she could.

"I can take care of them for you," the girl with red eyes said. "And it won't cost you a thing, for ten whole years."

She knew too good to be true when she saw it - she'd been living it, her whole life. "I can take care of them," the girl said. Bela saw the red eyes, and she saw the lie of it, but she made the deal anyway. It was the easiest, and the best thing she'd ever done, until afterward. Ten years free of them.

Two years spent figuring it out what it meant. Bela was a quick study, but she had no place to start. No clues except the girl herself. Except for the fact of her parents' death. Keeping it secret was easy, natural even. Hadn't she been keeping secrets her whole life? And this one was the opposite of poison. This one was power. Two years of looking for clues and finding fairy tales, skiving off to hunt through makeshift libraries she had no business in, being seen in the wrong places, with the wrong people. Two years of determinedly ruining her reputation, because this was so much more important. Demons were real; she'd gone and sold her soul to one of them.

She spent a year convinced that she would find a way out of it. She combed through the lore, paid hunters for whatever leads they had, paid them to take her to all the places they wouldn't follow her. Devil's shoestring, goofer dust, every charm, incantation and trick - it took her a year to find them out. Along the way, she found herself a business. At the end of it, she realized the truth: hell would still come.

Three years not having to think about it, except in her dreams. The eventual payment occupied her attention much more than the services rendered. "I can take care of them for you, and it won't cost you a thing, for ten whole years." Three years and then she finally had to ask: would she have agreed, if she'd known what it meant?

***

There's a sea of gray and black stretching out to the limits of the cavern, and it's made up of demons. She goes still for a second - maybe they won't notice her - but things are moving in that mass, turning to her. The closest turn and see her - how do they see, she has a second to wonder, how does she - and then they scream. It's shrill and guttural at once, and she feels it - pressure in her chest and ears - more than hears it.

She stands there frozen. They're closing on her, coming closer. If they had eyes, she'd see the whites of them, but all she sees is their faceless, oily black. Smoke curled like hands, tongues, knives, rushing in on her. She's frozen - for a second, another second while she takes it in. Then she howls, and dives into the center of them.

***

When Bela crawls out, the demon is waiting for her. She falls to her hands and knees, emptying her stomach, choking on red-black oil as it comes up. The matte stone of the cavern shines dully where she vomits.

"There you are, kiddo. Times a wasting."

She coughs, wipes her mouth. "Who are you?"

"Sure you want an answer?"

"I'll take the lie," Bela says. She falls back, her legs folded under her, and her arms loose at her sides. Kneeling in front of the demon, but she might like that. Some of them do. "Or the truth, if you have it."

She laughs. "My father called me Sitri." It sounds right, like the truth does. It's not a name that Bela knows. "Lately I've been going by Meg."

"Meg." She tries it out, the sound of it from her new mouth. "Why did you take me down?"

"You and I have a few things in common," she says, the smile obvious in her voice, if not on her face.

"Such as?" Her voice is rough but she keeps it even.

"Let's start with the Winchesters, and go from there."



Two.

"How long?" she asks Meg.

"About a year and a half." Her hand rests on Bela's hip, and she rubs tiny circles into the small of her back. Only, it's not Bela's back, not really. It's Jenny's back.

Jenny was born in 1989, in Shichaun province. Her family emigrated when she was seventeen. She speaks English with a slight accent, but perfect grammar. She's a senior at a state college and gets decent, though unimpressive grades. Her real passion is track. She's not an Olympic hopeful. Now she never will be.

Jenny disappeared two days ago. She lived at home. Her parents thought it was late blooming rebellion. They called the police in the morning. Jenny's young and cute, and the local cops showed an immediate interest. They won't find any evidence, or leads. She's meat now, and they won't be getting her back.

"How long was it for Dean?" she asks.

"Just one bad summer."

"How lovely for him."

"Isn't it just?" Meg drops her hand from Bela's hip, and steps in front of her. She adjusts Jenny's collar, so her shirt's sitting low, showing as much cleavage as possible. "Might as well take advantage." She smiles. Meg's meat suit is a pretty brown-haired woman, a little taller than Jenny. Bela can see Meg's smile behind the full lips.

Stepping into Jenny was like putting on a suit of imperfect clothes. Meg picked her own vessel first, and then helped Bela find hers. Jenny seemed just right. Until she slipped down her throat, took over all her motor functions and sealed Jenny in a tiny box inside her own mind. There was a jolt of sensation, when Bela took control - so much feeling. Meg held onto her shoulders while the body swayed and Bela wavered. Suppressing Jenny was easy; directing her body was harder. A real body and not just a reasonable facsimile of one. Reasonable because she decided it was. Because everyone in hell agreed that it was real, that it was the natural shape a soul should take.

Then quickly, it all came back to her, a rush of muscle memory from another, different body, and none of it made sense for this one. Bela's body had been taller. Longer legs and arms, and less muscle. Meg held her while she got her bearings, relearned breathing, moving, staying upright.

Before Bela took Jenny, Meg had warned her: "First time can be rough." Bela had barely been able to keep from rolling eyes she didn't have.

"Thank you mother," she says now. Meg laughs. Bela's favourite of all her laughs, light and purely amused.

Meg lifts her hands from Bela's hips. They settle delicately, just the fingertips, on the sides of her face. She brushes Jenny's - Bela's - hair back, studies her. Bela has a moment of double vision, the body and Meg inside it, behind stolen skin. She inhabits it so perfectly, a seamless imitation of the meat's previous owner, if she wants. Body language, accent, memories. She took those as easily as she did the body.

"Come on kiddo," she says. "Things to do, people to see." Meg drops her hands and moves away.

Bela raises her hand without thinking, the first natural movement since she took over Jenny's body, and catches her hand. Meg watches her, eyes going heavy lidded, as Bela runs a thumb over the inside of her wrist. Meg, she realizes, is allowing herself to feel this. Bela pushes herself, deeper into Jenny's body, somehow lets go and then she's feeling everything. She hears herself - the body - gasp. Watches Meg's pupils dilate, her lips curve into a smirk. The black expands, suddenly covers the whole of the eye.

Meg shifts away from her, but holds onto her hand, using it to tug Bela along behind her. Bela goes, all unsteady again.

"Virgins are so cute," Meg says. "Things to do-"

"People to kill," Bela finishes.

"That's my girl." Meg smiles, sharp and nasty and perfect.

***

Staying with Meg is easy. Meg is, in so many ways.

"You've seen how it can be, down in the pit. So now you've got a choice. You can go out there alone or you can stay with me."

Her front painted with red-black oil, battered and bruised so she can hardly move, Bela doesn't have to think about it. Meg crouches in front of her, tips up her chin so Bela is looking into her face. "Leaving has a price. So does staying."

She coughs, long and stuttering, then finally manages to grind out: "Yes."

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, I'm with you."

"You made the right choice, kiddo," Meg says.

Bela made her choice down in the pit, fighting for her survival. Half-mad with it, like every other demon down there. Some of them were already pledged to powers, a third to Lilith. Bela knew something that most of them didn't - that hell was unsettled, its kings and queens gone upstairs to die. Lilith was gone. Azazel, Meg's father, was gone too. They would leave this pit, only to be savaged again by warring factions. None of whom had any idea why they were fighting, except that they were demons, and this was their nature. Bela knew, because the demon who'd taken her down from the rack, taught her how to mend the remains of her soul, taught her how to use her new body, had told her, then set her loose to become whatever she would.

Staying with Meg is easy. She has a sense of mission, of purpose. For a long time, Bela's only mission is survival. Then revenge. But day by day the long game becomes clearer.

Meg takes her down the narrowest tunnel, to the deepest part of hell. They navigate by feel, fingers scraping the sides of the tunnel as they descend. Meg stops her suddenly with a warning hand, guides Bela's fingers to the edge of the tunnel, which has become the edge of a cliff.

"What-"

"Shut up and listen," Meg says, holding her by the edge, and keeping her still. At first there's nothing except the sense of something past them, an emptiness. They can't fall if they don't want to - they aren't ground bound like humans. Hell's dangers are chiefly other demons and it's just the two of them here. She listens though, because Meg tells her to, and Meg has never lied to her. She's never needed to.

It starts with a whisper. Something that sounds like a whisper, but isn't - she isn't hearing it, she's feeling it with a sense she can't describe. A soft, beautiful whisper. She turns to it, sways into it, only distantly aware of Meg keeping her from falling in. It's a whisper, a deep voice that touches every part of her. Speaking to life memories of deep space and stars being born, endless welcome, and a gravitational pull that could wreck her, if she just-- Took. That. Step.

She lets out a groan. Meg eases her down. Everything goes black.

When she comes back to herself, they're in another of Meg's boltholes, the older demon hovering over her. "What was that?" she asks.

"Our Father."

"Not- your father is dead."

"No, Bela. Our Father - all of us." The cynical part of her wants to deny it - surely the devil couldn't be real? But what she'd felt-- "He's our freedom, kiddo. Our salvation."

"Freedom," she says, liking the taste of it.



END

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
cybel
Jan. 21st, 2011 01:46 am (UTC)
twasadark
Mar. 25th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Just listened to nickelmountain's podfic of this and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Such a creepy, chilling look at hell and demons and what an unfortunate soul might face there. Excellent writing!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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