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A Demon-God Walks Into a Bar...

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This story is No. 3 in the series "The Adventures of John Winchester and Illyria". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Ellen meets Illyria. She's not impressed. (bad language)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Fred/Illyria-CenteredZanneSFR1315,311153,67710 Jun 0710 Jun 07Yes
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. I make no profit from this story and and no copyright infringement is intended. Kripke owns Supernatural and Whedon owns Illyria.

A Demon-God Walks Into a Bar…

The ’76 Cherokee seemed almost too up-scale for its surroundings, despite the garish orange-red paint coating its frame and the colorful floral decals that proclaimed past ownership by either a group of mystery solving teens or a pot-smoking college student. It sat idling in the empty parking lot, the only sign of life in this deserted little spot in the middle of Where-the-Fuck-Are-We, USA. With a strangled cough of complaint the engine cut off, leaving the lot drowning in the sudden pregnant silence – everything stilling as if waiting for its cue to snap back into action at a moment’s notice.

John took a deep breath, gazing out through the window of the Jeep with a rather dubious expression set firmly in place. Fred glanced from John to the nearly derelict shack filling the windscreen in front of them, studying the weather-beaten boards and peeling paint with a subdued curiosity.

Turning in her seat, Fred tucked her legs beneath her, carefully smoothing her pale pink skirt over her knees. “This is…quaint. I could estimate rats per square inch just by looking at it. Why are we here…is it haunted?”

John glanced at Fred out of the corner of his eye, taking in her pleasant smile and the way the stiff breeze through the partially open window blew strands of her silky hair around her face. The light of the late afternoon created a soft golden halo around her head, making John wonder anew at Illyria’s ability to cloak herself like a chameleon in Fred’s skin.

Nature was a God-damned traitor to humankind - John had come more firmly to this realization with every hour he spent in Fred’s company. If he didn’t know any better, he’d buy the pretty packaging wholesale, just like all those other suckers out there who swooned after her cute face and calming Texan twang. God, John had to scare off more idiotic hangers-on than he could shake a stick at. Sometimes, he felt more like Fred’s father than her supposed-to-be husband and his manly pride didn’t always appreciate the comparison.

Hanging with Illyria was turning out to be a thrill a minute – either his life or his ego was always on the line.

“I told you,” he reminded her calmly, his white-knuckled hands on the steering wheel belying his serene tone. “Back in Albuquerque, remember?”

Yeah, back in Albuquerque after hunting down that pack of ghouls. He kind of let it slip after a couple of beers and a plate of nachos, of which she ate the most, leaving him with an empty belly full of beer and a rambling, one-sided conversation about how his best friend Bobby – Remember how much she liked Bobby? The funny guy in the hat that tried to shoot them both? Had that really nice dog with the big teeth? - told him they should come here. Fred had been cleaning ghoul entrails from beneath her fingernails while scarfing his nachos, so he really shouldn’t be surprised at her lack of details – or his lack of interest in sharing the food. He felt a little sick just thinking about it.

Fred frowned thoughtfully, cocking her head to the side as she scanned her memories, her deceptively innocent face going blank.

“You mentioned something about Nebraska, John,” Fred chirped breezily, her expression suddenly animating as if a switch had flipped on somewhere in her brain, “but I tune y’all out when you get boring, so I don’t recall the rest.”

She flashed him a coy smile and he chuckled, shaking his head ruefully.

“We’re goin’ to meet Ellen. Things’ll be easier if she’s on our side.”

“Ellen?” Fred parroted, arching both eyebrows in surprise. “The Jell-O woman! I remember De-….”

“Do not bring up Jell-O wrestling to Ellen,” John interrupted hurriedly. “Dean was only kidding.”

“Then why would he say it?” Fred wondered, her brow furrowing cutely. John groaned again, rolling his eyes at the display. This was so not a good idea. He once again debated the merits of stapling Dean’s mouth shut to keep them all out of trouble – Illyria tended to believe everything that Dean said, Dean reveled shamelessly in Illyria’s gullibility, and John had to deal with the repercussions, cleaning up after Illyria’s naively accrued disasters in following Dean’s oh-so- innocent suggestions. John would never have guessed a former Demon-God could be so damn…simple.

John studied the building in front of them once more, briefly wondering why Bobby had insisted on his bringing Illyria here of all places, probably the one location in all the world they should avoid – a Hunter’s haven with alcohol on tap. God, all they needed was a drunken mob of Hunters tailing their asses across America – even worse, a sober mob of Hunters.

“C’mon,” John growled roughly, opening the door and sliding his long legs out into the dry Nebraskan heat. “Let’s get this over with and get out of here.”

The addendum The faster the better went left unsaid, but John’s underlying surge of urgency made the bond hum, a soft buzzing in the back of the brain accompanied by an increased sense of unease that made Fred’s skin prickle; Fred glanced down at the betrayal of her own flesh, still unused to the ephemeral sensation that skittered over her skin with any especially strong emotion on John’s part.

A light sheen of sweat covered John’s upper lip by the time they reached the door – from the heat, he was sure, and not from the butterflies battling in his belly. This was nearly as bad as taking Illyria to meet Bobby for the first time, but he’d had his boys for back-up on that one. That didn’t keep bullets from flying, but it kept everyone alive and with a beer in hand after only an hour or so stand-off in the salvage yard.

Fred pointed at the yellowed CLOSED sign plastered across the dusty window and John just shrugged, shaking his head as he reached for the door handle. They were at least clear for a couple of hours.

The door swung open with an ominous squeak, faded shades slapping against the mottled wood from the sudden movement.

“‘Bout damn time you came in. Been sittin’ out in that car for near on ten minutes. Began to wonder if I should carry my place out to you.” Ellen stood behind the bar, calmly drying glasses as she cast a wry grin over in John’s direction. “C’mon in. I’ll get you a drink. Comin’ back from the dead must be thirsty work for a man of your years.”

John steeled his resolve and grabbed Fred’s hand, stepping boldly across the threshold. He sensed more than felt Fred’s skin shift beneath the sensitive flesh of his palm as they crossed into the room, glancing back in time to see Fred’s skin and hair bleed momentarily blue before snapping back into the solid warm tones of Fred in less than the blink of an eye. The few lights on in the bar flickered wildly at their entrance and burst in a sudden surge of power along the lines, touching the air with a hint of smoke mixed with the dusty air blowing in through the still open door. John subconsciously took a defensive stance in front of Fred, blocking her body from the aim of Ellen’s shotgun and the sudden cocking of a revolver to their left.

“What’s up, Ellen? You knew we were comin’.” John nodded casually in Ash’s direction, the young man flashing his teeth in a slightly befuddled manner over the barrel of his gun, as if it weren’t possible to focus on what was going on in front of him – so, pretty much the usual.

Ellen nodded, her sharp whistle catching Ash’s attention. He tucked the gun in his belt and ambled over to the bar where Ellen passed him a bottle of beer. “Yeah, we knew. Bobby told us.” Ellen arched an eyebrow in John’s direction, jerking her head at Fred standing behind him, peering steadily at her over John’s shoulder. “Told us a lot of interestin’ things ‘bout you and your friend here. He and Ash had a brain flash so we tried somethin’ they cooked up. Seems to have worked.”

Ash smiled proudly, draining the last of his beer before clumsily leaning over the bar, his feet dangling as he reached for another. Ellen swatted him on the hip, and he squealed in protest as she reminded him, “Ask for it. I don’t want you grindin’ all over my workspace here.”

Ash looked insulted, tossing his long dirty-blonde hair over his shoulder as he straightened his bony shoulders to look a tad more officious. “Yep, me and Bobby was wonderin’ if Illyria’s form was physical or more of a mental projection that the human eye picks up on…conservation of energy on her part. Ya know, it takes massive amounts of energy to change states of matter, especially of that…” he glanced at Fred with a blissful smile, “well-proportioned size….”

“Get to the point, Ash,” Ellen interrupted with a snort.

“We figured a large enough EMF field might disrupt the pattern for a second. I hooked up my….”

“Enough,” Ellen cut him off. “Don’t go givin’ away all our trade secrets now.” She smiled kindly at the open-mouthed young man to ease her brusqueness. “Now go change the fuses before my ice starts meltin’. I can’t be servin’ warm beer to my customers.”

Ash sauntered off, muttering about earning another beer for his hard work, leaving Ellen alone with John and Fred. John glanced over at Fred, silently asking her if she were all right with a subtle tightening of his jaw and the slight crinkling around his eyes.

Fred nodded, shifting to Illyria, and waved off John’s frown. “They know what I am. I see no need to cloak my true form with my shell.” Illyria stalked in further, suddenly taking up more space as Illyria than as the shadow of Fred she arrived in. She stopped in the center of the room, hands folded behind her back as she stood at attention, her form-fitting red leather carapace absorbing the dim light in the bar, making her seem somehow more vibrant than the faded, dust-shrouded humans around her.

Illyria studied Ellen still ensconced behind the bar as if she were some interesting specimen trapped beneath a microscope, bold blue eyes burning brightly in her pale face. Ellen casually rested her hand on the shotgun lying beside her on the countertop and Illyria’s lip quirked in amusement, informing Ellen stoically, “It will not work again.”

“Might not or it might. Too expensive to run all out anyhow,” Ellen replied. “My electric bill’s gonna be ten times the usual with this little light show.” She flicked her eyes towards John. “I hope Hell made you a bigger tipper.”

John laughed openly, his sudden flush of relief making his cheeks pinken as his head tilted back, exposing the soft meat of his throat. Illyria narrowed her eyes at him as the relaxing warmth sizzled through the bond before sweeping her gaze back to Ellen, Illyria’s stance widening slightly as she took a stronger stand for possible battle when she saw the woman’s eyes resting on her Guide.

“I have been informed that this is your establishment,” Illyria stated, attempting to adopt the more pleasant conversational tone John had been trying to teach her, employing a traditional opening turn of phrase. Illyria decided to ignore the uncomfortable flutters of emotion that had been confusing her since they arrived – it hadn’t been this bad since she had been introduced to that Bobby a few months ago. She did not like this feeling of uncertainty – or, for that matter, feeling at all. It was the constant buzzing of an annoying insect in her ear and such matters were beneath the concern of one who had ruled this world.

Ellen nodded with a quick tilt of her head, picking up another glass to dry now that her guests were finally inside. “That it is.”

“I thought it was illegal to serve humans in establishments like these,” Illyria asserted to John, who looked on in horrified surprise. Illyria sniffed dismissively, eyes following the cracks in the tile and brushing over the chipped paint on the doorframe. “It should be burned to the ground and the earth salted to kill any forms of contagion that may have developed in the foundations. It is a blight on the landscape.”

John shushed her loudly, wrapping an arm around her to cover her mouth with his hand, his tanned fingers striping Illyria’s winter-white skin with slashes of color. “Sorry about that, Ellen. She hasn’t been fully civilized, yet.”

“I see that,” Ellen admitted coolly, studying Illyria though lowered lashes. “Guess you can’t expect manners from Demon-Gods, huh?”

John yelped and yanked his hand away when Illyria bit down on the heel of his palm, leaving a bright smear of blood across her pale chin. “Do not try to silence me like a human child!” she hissed indignantly. “If I were ruling this dimension, this domicile would be but ash and a temple would be built on its smoking ruins, honoring me as ruler of this realm and god to all those beneath me. The powder of your bones would serve as the mortar and your blood would paint the walls as worshippers cried my name to the heavens and begged for death by my hand.”

“Oh, she’s charmin’,” Ellen drawled with a less than subtle tinge of sarcasm to her tone. “I can see why Bobby took to her so strongly.”

John gave Illyria a warning look and she closed her mouth into a mulish line of discontent as John took a seat at the bar, indicating the stool next to him with a gentle pat on the seat. Illyria crossed her arms over her chest, stating clearly, “Do not look at me so. You told me it was appropriate to open with a comment on the surroundings.”

“Forgive me for failing to mention not to suggest burning the place down.” John rolled his eyes at Ellen, who reluctantly grinned and passed John a beer before turning to root around in the mini-fridge hidden beneath the counter and pulling out a bowl full of gelled green cubes.

John snorted beer out of his nose, coughing into his sleeve as he tried to catch his breath. He finally managed to gasp out, “What’s that for?”

Ellen shrugged, a flicker of confusion crossing her features. “Dean called when he heard you were droppin’ by. Said to give her Jell-O. Only thing she could stomach.” Ellen glanced at the Demon-God still stubbornly hanging back a few feet and whispered, “She’s lucky she’s not wearin’ it.”

Ellen threw the dishrag onto the counter with a frustrated sigh. “I’m gonna check on Ash, see what’s takin’ so long. Be back in a sec’.”

John coughed once more into his hand, muttering something about the imminent demise of his eldest son the next time he saw him. When Illyria cocked her head in his direction, silently demanding what to do with the strange green substance in front of her, John hissed, “Just eat it. It’s called being polite to your hostess. You’ve got a lot to make up for.”

Illyria settled on the stool beside him, cautiously poking at the green sludge with the tip of her finger as John watched her warily from the corner of his eye, coolly sipping his beer while trying to gauge Illyria’s meltdown potential. This was going about as well as he’d hoped – no one was bleeding, yet…well, except for him, but that was already healed so it didn’t count.

Illyria hesitantly licked at a cube of Jell-O held between her thumb and forefinger, the tip of her blue-shaded tongue causing a disconcerting jolt to surge in John’s belly. He bit down on the inside of his cheek, trying to steel himself for whatever might come next – not as a distraction, he told himself, most certainly not. Illyria glared at the offending material in her hand, stating boldly, “It reminds me of the innards of a Jer’anjak. I would prefer chocolate pudding.”

John groaned, leaning over to whisper in her ear, “I’ll buy you pudding later. Just give it to me and I’ll eat-….”

Illyria shoved the Jell-O cube in John’s half-open mouth before he could finish his thought. John had gotten rather used to being Illyria’s garbage can – if she tried something she didn’t like, it often wound up shoved in his mouth at the most inopportune times. He automatically bit down, tightening his lips around her fingers as she drew them from his mouth, sucking the cold gel from her digits and savoring the tart taste of lime on his tongue with a blissful sigh.

A slightly amused voice came from behind them, informing them with unabashed delight, “I think my pants just got a little tight.” Ash draped himself on the stool next to Illyria, leaning forward with a playful leer. “How ‘bout you feed me, sweetpants? I got a thing for ladies in leather.”

The young man swept his gaze lecherously over Illyria’s form, focusing with heated interest on her fingers still poised in front of John’s mouth. Ash opened his mouth expectantly, inciting John to lean past Illyria with a low growl spilling from his lips.

“Down, boy,” came Ellen’s soothing tone from a few steps away. “Ash, you better take your tight pants outta here. If she doesn’t kill you, John may very well do the job for her.”

Ash grumbled something about the tough guys getting all the hot chicks as he stumbled his way towards the back room, casting another appreciative glance at Illyria over his shoulder along with a cheerful wave and a lusty wink. “You change your mind, I’ll be back here!” he called out faintly, the door slamming closed behind him.

Ellen pushed another bottle towards John, asking Illyria teasingly, “Got a leash for him, girl?” Ellen laughed throatily, leaning back against the opposite counter with her arms crossed over her belly. “Bobby warned me about it, but I didn’t believe him. John Winchester growling like a mad dog over his demon-bride.”

“Bobby needs to learn to keep his mouth shut,” John grumbled, taking another long drink, exposing the length of his throat as he emptied the bottle. Illyria studied the faint throb of his pulse against his skin, assured her Guide was still in good health.

“You would not allow me to kill him when he shot me,” Illyria reminded him pointedly. “May I kill him now?”

“I’m considerin’ it,” John told her with a small grin. “Maybe for your birthday.”

“I do not have a birthday,” Illyria replied, a look of confusion crossing her face at his sudden laugh.

“Anniversary present, then,” John answered, licking his thumb and reaching over to wipe away the stain of his blood still on her chin.

“I’ll be sure to call Bobby and warn ‘im,” Ellen interjected with a chuckle, silently observing the touch and filing it away for rehashing when she talked to Bobby later. Things might be more complex than they had feared. “Maybe he’ll get another shot at you, John.”

Ellen tugged at the box of light bulbs she’d brought in from the back room, tearing open the top to study its contents. “I’d hoped Ash would put these in for me, but he’s undoubtedly already lost his pants.” She cast a frustrated look at the door to the back, the faint strains of Zeppelin the only indication Ash was still there.

John chuckled, reaching out to grab a box. “Let me help. I think I owe you some hard labor for this lovely afternoon.”

“You owe me a lot more than screwin’ in a few bulbs,” Ellen retorted. “This beer ain’t free.”

“Put it on my credit card,” John replied.

“Cash only.”

“Damn,” John laughed. “There goes my life savings.” He leaned over, his lips brushing the curve of Illyria’s ear as he whispered, “Behave yourself. No killing, maiming or…funny looks.” John knew Ellen could hear what was being said, but he trusted Ellen to remain civil as long as Illyria did.

Illyria blinked in her usual direct manner, neither confirming nor denying his demand. John studied her for a moment, his dark hazel eyes boring into her cool blue ones with a silent plea to follow his orders, just this once. Illyria’s lip quirked slightly and John took that as a sign of acquiescence, letting out a slow breath as he left the two women behind.

“I see he’s as bossy as ever,” Ellen began, indicating John with a wave of her hand.

“He can be extremely irritating,” Illyria agreed.

“It must be hard for you to deal with a…human partner.”

“I have previously associated with humans before going to Hell,” Illyria told Ellen, “but I often consider killing John in his sleep, particularly when he molds himself to my side like a fungus.”

Ellen blinked in surprise at this new piece of information, filing it under her WTF?! file for later consideration.

“It restricts my movement,” Illyria explained, “but John has forbidden me from harming him unless he is awake to fight back.”

“Damn straight,” came John’s voice from across the room, catching only the last part of the conversation.

“Things seem very cozy ‘tween you two,” Ellen suggested quietly, finding it easier to get information out of the former Old One than she had thought.

“He is my Qua’Hazon. His role is to serve me,” Illyria said with a lizard-like blink, as if that explained everything.

“So,” Ellen began drolly, “just like you’re married then.” She casually swiped at the counter with the dishrag, asking pointedly, “What other things is your…Qwuan-Hizzen responsible for?”

“Qua’Hazon,” Illyria repeated, as if to a dim-witted underling. “My Qua’Hazon is most high amongst my servants. He has the honor of bathing me after battle and keeping my weapons ready for combat. When I once again rule this world, he shall serve at my right hand and have a harem of attendants to aid him.” Illyria cast an assessing eye on Ellen behind the bar. “You are not too old for pleasure. He may have you, if he wishes.”

Ellen’s jaw dropped and she stared in mute amazement at the Demon-God sitting so innocently before her, as if she hadn’t just suggested Ellen serve as John Winchester’s fuck-buddy – like that was even a possibility. Hell would not only have to freeze over, but Bobby would have to dance the Waltz of the Flowers in a purple tutu before that even entered the scope of maybe.

Illyria ignored her, swiveling her head to study John across the way, admiring the play of muscles under her Guide’s shirt as it tightened across his shoulders – a servant was a reflection of its master and John functioned as an adequate representation of Illyria’s prowess.

“But you are too old for breeding purposes,” Illyria continued on blandly. “The rest of his court must be far younger. I am told you have a daughter. Your stock seems strong so she may be considered.”

“Now wait a damn minute…” Ellen began, looking ready to crawl over the bar to get her hands on the Demon-King taking up stool space when John suddenly appeared, tugging the stool with Illyria still on it out of Ellen’s reach.

“What did you do, Illyria?” John asked calmly, rubbing his hand on the small of her back to keep her still. He kept Ellen in his sights out of the corner of his eye, making sure she wasn’t reaching for a weapon or readying a punch.

“I merely extended an offer for her and her offspring to join your harem,” Illyria told him, amusement flashing over her still features. “I do not think she finds the offer to mate with you very enticing.”

If it were still possible for him to have a heart attack, John was certain he would be having one now. As it was, he was praying for a brain aneurysm to take him away before Ellen got her hands on him. John slipped between Illyria’s parted knees to stand face-to-face with her, completely ignoring Ellen in his frustration with his pet pain-in-his-ass. He didn’t know whether to give in to his urge to throttle her or just to collapse in humiliation - both were high on his list for some point later today. The intimacy of their positioning didn’t escape Ellen’s notice and she didn’t know whether to laugh or to spray them with a hose.

Dear Lord, John Winchester was fucked.

“God-dammit, Illyria,” John pleaded angrily, his face reddening. “Stop trying to breed me!”

“You cannot seem to manage on your own,” Illyria interjected with a nearly smug expression on her still face.

“I hope Bobby got this introductory offer or I might just sue for sexual discrimination,” Ellen said, biting her lower lip to keep from laughing at John’s appalled expression. “Does this offer come with a dental plan?”

Both John and Illyria paused in the midst of their squabbling, turning as one to stare curiously at Ellen as she stacked the mugs behind the counter. John huffed an irritated breath before glaring at Illyria from the corner of his eye as he absently rubbed a hand along the back of his neck. “I could make a bad joke at this point regarding proper oral care, but I think I might just take her home before I die of embarrassment.”

John hushed Illyria by holding up one hand when she opened her mouth to reply. “Don’t. It is possible to die of embarrassment and you are going to make me prove it one day – just not today, God-willing.”

John turned back to Ellen and smiled grimly. “Thank you for having us. I apologize for my partner here,” he said, indicating Illyria with a sharp tilt of his head.

Ellen snorted, hiding her smirk as she nodded slightly at the blue-haired demon studying her so intently. “Not a problem, John. Come back…some time that’s not soon.” Ellen laughed throatily, shaking her head in disbelief. “I’m not sure she’d mix well with our usual crowd. Good idea to be gone ‘fore they start showin’ up.”

“Don’t I know it,” John agreed, herding Illyria towards the door. “But we’ll keep in touch.”

Ellen stood at the window, arms crossed over her chest as she watched John opening the car door for Fred, John unable to refrain from laughing at whatever Fred said as she slid into the undoubtedly oven-like interior of the Jeep. Ellen pursed her lips in thought, Bobby’s familiar bulk looming comfortingly behind her as he finally made his way from the back room where he’d been waiting.

“I see why you like her so much,” Ellen began dryly, before Bobby had a chance to speak. “She’s all sugar n’ honey, ain’t she?” She squinted against the late afternoon glare, trying to make out the shadows hidden in the darker recesses of the Jeep’s interior, guessing that was the subtle shape of John’s hand reaching over to Fred to…do what, she couldn’t make out.

“Think we should send up flares?” Bobby asked, expression devoid of any kindness as he watched his once most-trusted friend driving off with the enemy. “Be honest, Ellen. It’s why I sent ‘em here.” Bobby took a shuddering breath, looking down at the toes of his boots before adding, “I didn’t want to start a panic over nothin’.”

“Good Lord, Bobby. I don’t know.” Ellen ground her teeth in frustration, eyes still focused on the eddies of dust swirling in the parking lot, the only sign left of John’s passing. “We should be screamin’ at everybody we know to holster up and hunt that thing down….

“But it can’t die…and if we found a way to kill it, what would happen to John….” Bobby murmured, stroking his beard as he pondered the possibilities. “Haven’t found a damn thing about how to get ‘im outta this.”

Ellen ignored his rant, still absently focused on the empty lot outside the barroom window, watching the wind stir up a hazy curtain of dust. “But,” she continued as if he hadn’t spoken, “it hasn’t done anything worth killin’ over.”

Ellen finally glanced over her shoulder at the man behind her, reminding Bobby curtly, “They’ve been out there for over a year and…nothin’. No unexplainable deaths, possessions or even a sign of anything strange wherever they’ve been. Not a blip on any Hunter’s radar.” She turned away from the lure of the outdoors to face him, her expression set. “We’ve backtracked them to that God-damned church and still nothin’.”

Ellen huffed a breath, trying to calm her nerves. “That taken care of, yet?”

“Yep, couple months ago,” Bobby informed her. “Bad wiring burnt it to the ground.”

“Good,” Ellen said, a small smile slipping over her face. “Passport office’s closed.” She absently ran her tongue over her upper lip, eyeing the empty bottles left on the bar from her recent guests. “She’s a…descriptive little thing, ain’t she? Didn’t know whether to bust up laughin’ or crawl under the bar and hide.”

Bobby tugged on the brim of his hat, shoving it at a rakish angle on the back of his head, leaving his face bare and vulnerable. “If we can trust John’s reports, she’s been effectively neutered – can’t do more’n shift back ‘n forth and the whole near invulnerability thing….”

“That all?” Ellen scoffed with a wry tilt to her eyebrow. “How dare she call herself a demon.” She took a few steps back towards the sanctuary of her bar, where all that mattered was if the pretzel bowls were empty or if someone needed a refill, before pausing to ask quietly, “All in all, he seemed…better, didn’t he?”

“Not such a tight-assed son of a bitch, you mean,” Bobby rumbled, his laugh low and deep.

“Is it true? What she said?” Ellen asked, prurient curiosity overcoming her usual reticence.

A legitimate laugh escaped Bobby at that, as he shook his head at the memory. “Every bit. Saw enough to curl my hair. John’s pure demon-whipped.”

“John Winchester beddin’ down with a demon. Sure it ain’t a sign of the Apocalypse?”

Bobby stuck his hands in his pockets, his reluctance to continue evident in the slope of his shoulders and the heavy creases deepening around his eyes. “It’s for the nightmares. God, Ellen…if you could’ve heard ‘im screamin’ at night….” A tremor shook Bobby’s bulky body, making him appear suddenly frailer and Ellen reached out to stroke his arm soothingly. “I think she keeps him sane.”

Both Hunters fell silent, unable to look at each other as they thought about what they had been considering. Although necessary, the uncomfortable slimy taint of betrayal made their skins feel greasy, and they crossed their arms over their chests, trying to wipe away the stain of it against their shirtsleeves.

“Keep an eye on ‘em then,” Ellen summarized, bringing their unofficial cabinet to a close. “And if things change….”

Bobby’ lifted his head, staring off into the distance with his jaw set firmly. “Then we’ll make the call.”

Author's Note: Thanks to hakirby for being the beta-wonder she is. This was written in an attempt to break my writer's block on my other John stories. It kind of worked.

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