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And keep me safe 'til morning light

Title: And keep me safe 'til morning light
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating/Pairing: PG/gen; OC
Summary: "It's broad daylight, and they're sitting on a bench in the park and talking of things that don't belong to daylight: ghosts and spirits and creatures of darkness, silver and iron and salt and weapons, rituals and prayers and invocations." Written for spn_xx prompt 107: For most of history, Anonymous was a woman. -- Virginia Woolf




She's ten when her brother dies at the hands of a shtriga. Not that she knows that's what it's called; she doesn't have a name for it, not yet, but it comes and it eats her brother's soul and then looks at her and she knows she'll be next.

Not that night. Soon. But she has time, and so she researches, carefully, thoroughly, and completely alone. Everyone thinks she's crazy, poor thing, she didn't really see what she says she saw, she's grieving and making up stories to cover it...

The first night she borrows the big container of table salt, draws careful lines across all the windows in her room, and across the doorway, and in front of the closet just to make sure. It comes for her, that night, a clawed cold shadow outside her window. She wants to hide and pretend it's not there, but she watches because she can't not. It comes, each night for five nights in a row, but it doesn't enter, doesn't cross the salt, and she doesn't sleep until it's gone again and the only shadows are those of the trees.

On the sixth day she finds something that says how to kill it, and so she brushes away the salt from one window and lies trembling under the covers, clenching her chosen weapon so hard that her hands hurt. It's a borrowed candlestick, heavy for how small it is, and sharp in places. It belongs to the church, so she figures that makes it consecrated enough, and it's made of pure iron.

She hears her window open; she doesn't hear the thing come in, but she knows it's there. She waits. Rustling, like leaves, and then she can feel it above her. It doesn't touch her, but a strong lethargy creeps over her, whispering there's nothing to be afraid of to her muscles even though her heart's hammering wildly with terror.

She waits, because she has to.

When it finally starts to feed -- now, now -- it takes all of her strength and all of her willpower to lift her arm. Once she starts moving, though, she finds it's not all that hard to push the candlestick up, up, up, through the thing's heart (if it has one). It falls away with a scream, and vanishes, leaving a tattered black robe behind with the candlestick twined through.

She isn't ever sure whether she killed it or not, but it never comes back.

#

She's thirteen when she learns that there are other people who see what she sees. Other people who know about the things that she researches in secret. Other people who fight.

She learns this because one of those people -- a woman the same age her mother would have been -- finds her, one day, and tells her things. It's broad daylight, and they're sitting on a bench in the park and talking of things that don't belong to daylight: ghosts and spirits and creatures of darkness, silver and iron and salt and weapons, rituals and prayers and invocations. Some of the things she'd known already; some, she'd known wrong; some are new.

When the sun is close to setting and she needs to go home, she asks, "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you needed to know," the woman says. "Because you wanted to know."

She swallows, and says, "Who are you?"

"Nobody." There's a faint smile on the woman's face. "Just like you."

#

She's nineteen when she marries. Joseph is a good man, everyone says, a good husband; she is a good wife.

No one mentions the quirks she has, the times she disappears for an hour or two; no one notices the way strange things become less strange by the time she gets back. She doesn't bring it to anyone's attention, even Joseph's.

No one mentions her bruises, either. She sees the looks, knows that they think it's just a man disciplining his wife the way she deserves, but she never mentions that it wasn't Joseph who gave them to her.

They have two children together, a boy and a girl. She names the boy after her brother, and the girl after Joseph's grandmother, and she sews protective runes into the lining of each piece of their clothing.

#

She's twenty-three when her husband dies. Heart attack, people say, and it's such a shame, and right after their children passed, too...

She wears black, and mourns, and is silent.

She knows better than to tell anyone that it wasn't a heart attack, that Joseph had died because of holy water and lines of chalk and an old exorcism ritual. That his eyes had been coal-black the whole way through, that he had spoken filthy things to her while she was reciting the Latin in a surprisingly steady voice, and that he had told her exactly how he had killed their children.

She grieves for Joseph, but she doesn't grieve for the thing she killed.

#

She's twenty-seven when part of the town burns. Old buildings made of wood, and a hot dry summer, means no one's really surprised by the fire. Pretty much everyone in the town turns out to help fight it.

She isn't one of those.

She looks elsewhere, because it occurs to her to, and finds the fire demon that started it. Kills the fireling, with the help of another woman who shows up there; it's doubly vulnerable to holy water, and doesn't put up much of a fight. They share a smile, and they say nothing to each other or to anyone else.

When they return, the fire is out; many of the men are stumbling with exhaustion, hands and faces and clothing streaked black with soot. Quietly they join the other women in helping clean up, in offering a place to those whose who need it while things get rebuilt. Newer materials, less likely to burn.

One of the things that had burned, one of the things being rebuilt, was the town's only elementary school. One night, early in the rebuilding process, she goes out to place protective sachets in the corners of the foundation, to make sure this doesn't happen again, and finds that she isn't the first.

#

She's twenty-nine when she's approached by an old woman who looks her in the eye, smiling. "I know what you're doing, dearie," the woman says, and pats her on the cheek. "Keep it up, there's a girl."

There's a silver cross around the woman's neck, and her fingernails are dark, and neither of them knows the other's name.

#

She's thirty-two when she finds a girl who's seen too much. There's something undefinable in the eyes, something that changes after you Know Things. Most people don't ever know; of those that do, most forget; but some are haunted by it forever.

The child's only seven.

She stops, and tells the girl far too many things. Not everything she knows, but she tells her about salt and fire, about Latin and holy water, about defending and protecting yourself and others, about all the little things, and the girl looks wide-eyed up at her and soaks it in without comment.

#

She's thirty-six when she dies.

There isn't much she can do, dead, to fight the darkness, to protect the children that aren't hers, but she tries anyway. Mainly she has to settle for murmuring things into the ears of the few who are attuned enough to the supernatural to hear her but not so attuned that they dismiss her outright.

She's ten years dead when someone finally comes to put her properly to rest, and by then she's ready for it.

The someone turns out to be a girl, just shy of being a young woman, blonde-haired and blue-eyed and thin as a child. She watches as the girl moves through a familiar routine, digging and salting and lighting a match; there's a wild part of her that wants to fight, to try to keep the girl from doing what she's doing, to behave like the ghosts she's fought, but enough of her true self remains to keep that wild part in check.

The bones burn, and she feels the fire ripple through her like wind; it doesn't hurt as much as she was expecting.

She whispers "thank you" into the darkness.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
erinrua
Aug. 10th, 2007 01:11 am (UTC)
Wow. Just ... wow. Tragic and beautiful. One of the many untold stories that pass just beyond Sam and Dean's line of sight. And the ending? Soft as a blessing, with fire cleansing, not hurting, freeing, not destroying. This definitely puts a lump in the throat. Thank you for this.
Cheers ~

Erin
emmademarais
Aug. 10th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
Yay for early fic! Congrats!

This was just lovely. Sam and Dean's story is but one of many, so it's nice to see it from someone else's eyes. We've seen that hunters tend to come from victim's families, so this rings very true. I like how other anonymous women interact with her over time - the silent strength protecting the world.

As a Buffy fan, I thought about Der Kindestod. That's such a frightening image, especially when you imagine it through the eyes of the child witnessing it - more so through the eyes of the child being attacked. /shudders/

Nice tie in with the title, btw, to the shtriga episode and to Metallica.

I didn't see that ending coming - which is a good thing - and it ties up with sadness, a wistful sense of what went undone and a hint of peace. Very well done.

Brava.
vaznetti
Aug. 10th, 2007 08:59 am (UTC)
Oh! I really like this. It's a wonderful use of the prompt. Lovely. Thank you for writing it.
saveric
Aug. 10th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
This was lovely. It's beautiful and tragic and it left me wanting to learn more about all the women you've given us glimpses of here.
embroiderama
Aug. 12th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is gorgeous and quietly devastating. Amazing look at another kind of hunter who could exist in the Winchesters' world.
girlfan1979
Aug. 12th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
Bittersweet and beautifully told.
cofax7
Aug. 14th, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
That was very good. Legendary. You can see the line carry on, through the years.
hearseeno
Aug. 16th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)
Very nice. I really like your use of parallel structure to each glimpse of this woman's life, they echo like ripples in a still pool.
logovo
Aug. 18th, 2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
This was such an intriguing history! I enjoyed reading it, thank you.
cass404
Oct. 20th, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)
This was lovely.
arliss
Oct. 20th, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
Beautifully done. As true as Winchesters.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )