Author: Vesper (Regina) [vespertanmer]
Summary: Threads of lives crossing.
Pairing: Ash/oc, Ellen Harvelle/Bobby Singer, Ellen Harvelle/William Harvelle
Spoilers and/or Warnings: All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2; (skip) sensuality; mild supernaturally-based coercion, non-sexual in nature
Title, Author and URL of original story: "Love in Two Parts" by redshoeson.
Notes: Portion of title from "Ramble On" sung by Led Zeppelin. Thanks to my betas, blueliath and poestheblackcat.
There's the smell of snow in the air. You pull your coat around you tighter, and hope the whiteness of its wool will help you stand out. You hold your thumb out. Funny how such a simple gesture conveys so much. A thumb out. A ride to anywhere.
You want to be gone. You hate this world, hate that you can smell, can see, can hear, can feel, everything, everyone. You miss her. You were never close, but...still. This you know--people are inextricably wound. Even you.
There's something you have to do still. Your second eldest sister doesn't understand why, but you've always gone your own way.
You shiver. Your hand trembles. Even though the light's not quite gone, a car approaches with its headlights on. You know who it is, who comes. You smell smoke, the char of burning flesh. You hear the wail of a baby, know that it's cold and angry at being born. Forward and back, and now. You see him, even before the car pulls up beside you, wheels spinning against gravel. You step back, don't want to be hit by flying pebbles.
"Hey, there, sweetheart. Where can I take you?" His eyes are kind, as he peers up at you from inside. He smiles and it's inviting. You can even forgive the hair.
"Anywhere," you say. You smile, make it sweet. You've always liked him. You see the wisp of iron touched to solder. Hear the click of a keyboard. He's done much. He'll do more before his time is done.
"Get in," he says, "I'll take you there."
You pull on the door, slide in, slam it closed. "My name is Claudia." 'And yours is Ash', you think. 'Ashes to ashes.'
"Ash," he says.
He smells good and you try to focus on that, the scent of fabric softener, of sweat, cigarettes. You'd kill for one, but they always make you gag, and besides, the scent is not his own.
"I was just on my way home," he says, as he puts the car in gear. He glances over at you, then out at the road, before moving out.
"Where is that?"
"Live in a roadhouse. Are you thirsty, hungry? I can take you there."
"Have Diet Coke?" you ask, and raise an eyebrow, a challenge.
"Of course, sweetheart. If that's what you want."
"I am thirsty."
"One side trip coming right up."
You listen as he talks, tells you about the owner of the roadhouse, 'Ellen Harvelle', you recite to yourself, before he says. You hear the clink of glasses, the click of a hammer on a gun. He says, "She's a good one. Let's me stay for my good looks."
You laugh and gently touch him on the shoulder, let your fingers drift down the soft plaid flannel, smooth out a wrinkle here and there. Then you let your hand rest in your lap, demure and innocent. There's spice in your voice when you say, "Oh, is that so?"
You saw how his eyes lingered on you. He laughs and amends, "Well, I'm pretty good with information gathering, stuff like that."
"Quid pro quo," you say, and gaze at him a little longer than needed. You don't need to do anything to cause that interest in you. He makes you feel warm and slow, and welcome. You haven't been welcome for a long time. He tries to keep his attention on the road and you at the same time, and it's sweet. It really is.
"I'm a little tired," you say, "wake me up when we get there?"
He nods, and you snuggle into the seat. The window feels good against the heat in your cheek.
You speak silently to him, 'I'm sorry, Ash.'
The jukebox in the corner plays something you could swear you've heard before. It's melodic and circular and seductive. It's something Ellen chose, because she wanted to remember, remember quiet nights, and the music on the radio, and William's voice in her ear, his lips brushing against her skin, causing her to shiver in response.
You know she's examining you. You know she thinks you look like Jo. You know that she thinks you weren't the one manipulating events to get here. To be in this place, face to face with the one person personally chosen by your sister to replace her. You smile through the pain, do the pretty, when she says, "Nice to meet you."
Ash's eyes are hungry on you. You follow him to his room, and out of sight, you press your mouth against his.
To forget, to forget, just for a little while. Ellen can wait.
Ash is asleep. You finger-comb your hair up, twist a metal-less holder around it, and pull the ponytail tight. It'll do.
Out in the bar, Ellen is putting chairs up on a table, and you can see the question in her eyes before her eyebrow climbs and she asks, "Leavin' already?"
She doesn't know who you are, what you do. She doesn't know that you've come specifically to see her. Doesn't know that her spirit's called you across state-lines, across rivers, and endless empty plains. She gets you a Diet Coke and sits down with you, one also in her hand. She doesn't know that you and she are closer in spirit, in grief than she could ever know.
She pries, with honest curiosity, "So, you're off to Anytown, U.S.A.? Any place in particular?"
She drinks as she talks, tracing drops of condensation on her glass. Her voice is kind, in a rough-worn way. You find yourself watching her, slyly, stolen glances. You've seen her often in your visions. Ellen is equal parts iron and silk. Uses a soft phrase to soothe, is strong when needed. In her presence, you find the tension in your stomach unwinds. You didn't know it would be like this, but the ties speak stronger than you expected.
You are open with her, because if you aren't she'll sense it, "It's a spiritual journey, more or less. I'm going away to celebrate my oldest sister's life. She died recently."
Ellen's response is to apologize. You take it with grace. She says, "You'll get by. You'll see."
You keep talking, talking, even though it's not what you want to say. You know it must be so, because this is your purpose, to spin. And you do, you spin your own truth, about losing your sister, about finding your way.
"I can't even find a reason to keep..." you trail off, wanting to say, "living," but that's not true. No matter that you feel like you've had a vital piece of you cut away, that's not true.
Instead, instead you say, "...doing this."
Ellen presses, "Doing what?"
This time you know what to say, but it's only the kernel of the truth. "Waiting."
For peace. For another to come and take your place, another to spin the thread of life. You don't answer, since you cannot have that. You will find a replacement when the time is come. Even your thread will break. You look down at your hands, see them, see another's, know the memory comes from the woman beside you. This woman's daughter. Tiny hands reaching for bullets, pushing them, and they roll and fall. She cries as they are taken from her, a slap across the back of that chubby hand.
You blink, see your hands again, curled loosely around your glass. You pull them away, rub the wetness between your fingers. You came here with a purpose. You may grieve, you will grieve, but you will continue.
You say, "So I'm not standing still anymore. I'm moving on."
Ellen comforts you. Everything she says is what you want to hear.
You say, "Adelaide never understood that." Adelaide is dead. You blink hard against the prick of tears.
Ellen straightens on her seat, stiffens into wariness. It doesn't matter. You don't have a grudge against her, and she has nothing to fear from you, but you want her to know, to begin to suspect why you are here.
You lead her into what you want to know, lead her into telling you about herself. You are subtle, gentle. She tells you about William.
She used to call him Billy, when he was younger. That was years ago, when she made a choice, and you understand that all too well. She made a new life, a new love with a good man, who was just doing his job, doing what his family taught him to do, a man who banished your sister.
She falls into her memories and you are pulled along with her. You see his face in moonlight, feel the rough pull of calluses on his fingers, gentle, slow, loving. So strong her memories. So strong her love for him. You take a deep breath and push her memories away. You focus on her face, how it softens when she talks about him, and the love there makes your heart ache. She hasn't let go of his memory yet, hasn't reached that place of a new beginning.
You want that for her. It's the least you can do to show her something you know and she hasn't considered. So you follow the threads of the lives intersecting hers, down and over, around and under, and each face flashes before you, until one comes into view. Ah. Of course.
'Gently', you remind yourself. 'This woman is clever, don't give it away before it's time.' You ask, "Hasn't there been anybody since your husband? Anybody at all you feel close to, like you did back then?"
She considers the questions before she answers. You wait.
"I suppose you could say there's been one," she says, and drains the rest of her soda. "He's been good to me and my daughter. Understands the lifestyle we lead, doesn't make too many judgments. If I had to pick anybody to start over with, I guess it'd be him."
Although you know the answer, you ask anyway. "What's his name?" you ask, and push just a little to get her to say it. She says, "Bobby" and an echo, 'Bobby' speaks to you from the thread of her life. You are there as she says, "Bobby, you're a good man."
"What?" He looks startled, as she grasps his hand in hers, scoots her chair closer, leans in.
She kisses his cheek. She likes the tickle of his beard under her lips. "You're a good man, Bobby Singer," she repeats. "Someone I'd like to have around a lot more."
"Don't you give me reasons why it's a bad idea. Just don't." She squeezes his hand tighter and then lets go. She rearranges the open books on the table, closes those not needed anymore, stacks them. Her hands fall still when he places a hand on hers.
"I wouldn't dream of it," he says.
You say, "Ms. Harvelle," and smile. This is what she needs, even if she doesn't know it. "Ms. Harvelle, you've been so kind to me, sitting and talking to me about my sister's death. May I give you some advice?"
"You deserve a new beginning."
'You deserve someone there when you escape. You deserve to have him pull you close after, after everything burns, and you're left with nothing but ashes. Someone who will fear for you enough that his voice trembles when you show up out of nowhere, who will snatch you close and murmur your name into your hair over and over again.'
"Go and get it."
You can tell your plucking the strings is starting to wear on her. She moves away from you, starts wiping the bar down, a compulsive movement, and she won't meet your eyes. If you push too hard.... But no, you never have. It's what made you different from Adelaide, what made you more like Lexis, what kept you out of the sights of countless hunters. Ellen is starting to suspect who you are, but it doesn't matter. Things have to change. You want them to change.
"Just promise you'll think about it," you say.
'Think about it before you walk the wrong path,' you say to yourself. 'Think about it. Please. There's more for you to do and people who will depend on you, not just Bobby Singer.'
Ellen looks at you, silent, and there's the dawn of resentment in her eyes. She wants to say a dozen things you won't let her. Instead she says, "I don't think so."
This is nothing you didn't expect. "Well, can't say I didn't try."
You feel tired, drained, now. You've been doing this for so long. Spinning, spinning, always spinning. 'One more time,' you think. 'One more try, and then I'll go.'.
"Still," you say, "if you're not interested in him, you might be interested in a different kind of new beginning--a job offer, from me."
"I'm not looking to leave," she answers immediately.
"This is a different kind of job offer, Ms. Harvelle. It has to do with new beginnings, like I said. Lots of new beginnings. Helping people to get off on the right foot. Starting people off on journeys they know they're meant to take but haven't started yet. You'd be helping people fulfill their destinies, achieve their dreams." You sell it as best you can, try to sweeten the deal by mentioning Jo, and by doing so, reveal yourself.
She refuses. You don't expect it to hit you like a hard gust of wind, for it to steal your breath, and put water in your eyes. You swallow, hard, against the sudden clutch in your throat. You quit pulling on her attention, release your influence. You say your goodbyes, act the polite guest. Keep it together until you get away.
Leaving the Roadhouse, you wrap your arms tightly around yourself. You stop right outside the door, look up at the sky. It's vast and dark. You blink, and the sky is filled with billows of smoke. They move with purpose. You blink again, and they are gone. Dark days coming. A million places you could be. You need to keep moving.
A shift in shadows catches your eyes, and you see your sister come toward you, expression cool. She stops a few feet away, hand on her hip.
You say, "I don't want to see you right now, Lexis."
"Why must you always use our human names?"
"We're in their world now, Lachesis."
"They don't appreciate what we do for them, Clotho."
You turn away from her, twist your mouth into defiance. "You're starting to sound like Atropos."
She puts a hand on your shoulder, moves in front of you, and holds your chin in her hand. You stare at her, hard and cold. She relents, her face growing concerned and pitying. "I miss her, too," she says.
You step back, out of her grasp. The stones underneath your feet shift, make you feel unstable.
"We have to find our own ways, now, Lexis. She refused."
"You had to try, didn't you?"
"She was to be her replacement. I did." You feel the tears rise again. "I did." Your voice trembles.
Lexis draws you against her, cradling you. You rest your forehead on her shoulder. It's enough and you draw a deep breath, stronger now.
Lexis says, "The ties are always strong. Always strong, until they fail. You did what you could."
"Leave me to go," you say.
She lets go, and looks at you, mouth tight, eyes dark. That's pity you don't want, or need.
"I'm going," you say, and walk away. You don't look back.
You have to find your own way. Just like Ellen, just like Jo, just like Ash, whom you will never see again.
Inside the Roadhouse, Ellen is making a phone call. You hear her voice, clear inside your head, feel the connections of two lives.
"Bobby, I need you to come down here. Something we need to discuss."
And his voice, strong and unsuspecting, "Ellen. Good you called. I was gonna give you a heads up. One of the Moirae--"
"Was here." So matter-of-fact, she is. You shake your head.
A stunned silence. "What? I'll be there as soon as I can."
You smile to yourself, seeing the threads, his and hers, like gossamer strands of spider silk in sunlight, twined together. You wrap your arms around you more tightly, keep walking. Headlights pass you, as you reach the shoulder of the highway. You stand, sway, extend yourself along the threads. You know who you are. You keep walking. A car slows down beside you, and a woman's voice asks, "Where are you headed?"
"Anywhere," you tell her. "Anywhere."