“Wow,” Dean said, under his breath, and then “whoa.” Lizzie smirked at Ellen, twisting her hand, making Ellen shudder. Ellen squirmed under her, hot and prickly all over her body, but Lizzie always knew how to push her, how to keep her flying. Ellen was blushing like a schoolgirl, like it was her first time naked under someone else’s gaze. She gritted her teeth against it, heels pressing into the old sagging mattress. Stupid to be shy—she was forty-three years old, she’d been married for seven years, and she hadn’t exactly been a blushing schoolgirl in her time.
Ellen couldn’t claim to be any kind of virgin.
Lizzie leaned down and kissed her neck, licked up to her ear and whispered, “Are you okay?”
Ellen opened her eyes for the first time since all this had begun and nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
“All right, then,” Lizzie said. She switched her left hand over onto Ellen’s clit, using her thumb to draw ragged, wobbly, perfect circles. She reached her right hand out to the boy crouched on the edge of the bed. “Come on, Dean. Give me a hand here?”
“O-okay,” Dean said. Goddamn, he was such a kid. He cleared his throat hard, and moved closer. “Actually,” he said, cocky as anything, “I’ll give you something better than that.”
He put a hand on Ellen’s thigh and his head between her legs, and Ellen felt it go through her like an electric shock. She couldn’t stop the noises coming out of her mouth any more, and didn’t even try. Lizzie spooned up beside her, running her hands up and down Ellen’s body, gentle and teasing, soothing her down as Dean tried to take her even higher. It was crazy, it was wild, and Ellen couldn’t goddamn stop blushing.
She was no kind of virgin, but she’d never done anything like this before.
You can stay as long as you need to at Ellen’s. That’s something hunters know. They don’t take advantage of it often—damn stubborn independent bunch—but when they’ve got no place else to go, they park their trucks or their campers out back, and they stay. Hubbard Kirkwood stayed at the Roadhouse for nearly eight months after his wife was killed by a Black Dog. Took him a while to heal up from the wounds he’d taken in the fight, too. The first time he actually ran on his own two feet afterwards was when he was helping Jo learn how to ride a bike. Dora Ortiz stayed for a while, summer and fall of ‘03. Ellen helped her with her English and with her green card application. The green card fell through, mostly because there’s no real way to get across to Immigration that “wise woman” and “medium” are real jobs. Important jobs. But Dora’s still out there, sometimes travelling with one hunter, sometimes another.
Ash has been a fixture at the Roadhouse for maybe nine months now, but he’s still not the hunter who’s stayed the longest. That’d still be Lizzie Talbot, who stayed for a year, almost exactly to the day—from one autumn to the next, the year Jo was a high school sophomore. She ended up leaving on nearly the same day she’d arrived.
Talbot never looked much like a hunter. She was skinny as a rail, delicate-looking, with tousled brown curls and vivid green eyes. She always got at least a couple double-takes when she’d belly up to the bar, sometimes because she looked like a civilian, sometimes because she was just so damn pretty. Pretty as a picture, a little faded now, maybe, but you could tell just by looking that she’d really been something when she was a girl. When she was staying at the Roadhouse, she’d help out behind the bar some nights, and half the hunters who passed through assumed that was all she was, just some extra help Ellen had hired. Lizzie would just smile, and wait for the conversation to turn to apparitions or hauntings. Then she’d slip in some sharp observation that’d lay everyone at the table flat.
She was a ghost hunter, mainly, though she didn’t call herself that. Had her own way of going about it. Some other hunters grumbled at her for never bothering to dig up the bones. Lizzie didn’t even travel with a can of gas and a bag of salt, just a stack of books tucked under the seat of her truck. Most of the time she didn’t even need the books. It was all in her head, those rolling strange words. She had them down stone cold, used to mumble them while she slept, sometimes. Lizzie was an exorcist, and the hunters could sit and crank about it all they wanted, but every ghost that Lizzie had ever laid to rest had gone down for good. It was all in her voice.
Not even Jo knew how close Lizzie and Ellen had gotten, that one year she’d stayed at the Roadhouse. At least Ellen didn’t think she knew. That year Jo was all caught up in school and her friends, and Ellen couldn’t help but encourage it: go on, then. Join the yearbook staff, join the rifle club. Play girls’ basketball, travel to all the away games. What with all her activities, Jo spent more time out of the house than she did in it. Which was fine with Ellen. Jo was growing, losing her baby fat, getting curvy in all the right places for hunters to appreciate, and Ellen didn’t want to start breaking broomsticks over her customers’ heads any sooner than she absolutely had to. Better for Jo to be out with her friends, playing silly games. Better to let her be a little girl living a normal life, as long as she could.
Lizzie helped out a lot that year, doing Jo’s chores when she was gone. Helping with Ellen’s too. She settled into their lives slow and easy, becoming something more than a guest, something more than a boarder. She had a wicked sense of humor, but she knew how to be still, too, which Ellen appreciated. Sometimes hunters couldn’t handle the quiet, and they’d follow you around, talking and talking, needing company, needing something—well, something more than Ellen could give. Lizzie liked to read, though, liked to go for long walks, and liked keeping to herself, most times. Made for a good guest.
And if there was something more between them… well, Ellen hadn’t felt a twitch or a blush like that since Bill had died, so maybe she was imagining things. She felt awful for even thinking about it, but sometimes she wished she could feel like that for someone else, even if it seemed like a betrayal to Bill’s memory. But hell, she wasn’t even forty yet. It was a little early to be turning the lights out for good.
Still, Lizzie never said or did anything to make Ellen think that she for sure was a dyke, or even interested in Ellen if she was. So Ellen just let it be. Let it be what it was. Just two good friends, maybe. Or just flirting, maybe. Or a build-up to something more, maybe—and then one night Jo was at a sleepover and the generator went out. Ellen had been meaning to clean out the flue in the old woodstove, but it was clogged tight and the wind outside was blowing like a knife.
“Sorry about this,” she said, tugging an armful of extra quilts into Lizzie’s room and dumping them on the bed. Lizzie was already bundled up in layers of t-shirts and sweats, hugging her own blankets closely around herself, but she tugged them aside, making room for Ellen.
“We’ll survive,” Lizzie said, her voice tight from the cold. Ellen blinked at her—she hadn’t meant to invite herself in, but she could see what Lizzie meant. It would be warmer. She climbed in, and together they arranged the quilts and comforters as quickly as they could, yanking the heavy drifts of blankets over their heads and scooting in close, like puppies. They both laughed—laughter born of nervous tension, and Ellen wondered, even as she laughed, what Lizzie had to be nervous about.
Lizzie buried her head against Ellen’s shoulder and curled an arm around her waist, sighing. Ellen could feel her hot breath even through Bill’s old flannel shirt, buttoned up over her nightgown. She put her arm around Lizzie’s shoulder gingerly, and Lizzie relaxed.
“You’re really beautiful, Ellen,” Lizzie said, stuttering a little as her teeth chattered. “And I like you a lot.” Ellen didn’t move, didn’t twitch, except to open her eyes wide and stare up at the cracks in the paint. God damn, she’d been right about Lizzie after all. “But I’m not going to do anything about it tonight,” she continued, “because if you kick me out of this nice warm bed, I’m sure I will die.”
“I’m not gonna kick you out of bed,” Ellen huffed. Lizzie was quiet a minute.
“Thanks,” she finally said, and she sounded so quiet and lonely, Ellen’s heart ached.
“I mean it,” Ellen said, and she yanked the blankets over both their heads. She couldn’t see a thing now, but she could feel Lizzie’s startled gasp, feel her warm body under her hands. “I ain’t done this before,” she said, feeling like a dumb hick even as she said it, even as she slipped her hand under a few of Lizzie’s layers. But hell, Lizzie knew her well enough by now, and didn’t seem to mind her ways. So. “But I like you, and I… I’m not kicking you out of bed.”
After Sam and Dean got back from Guthrie, they had a lot to tell Ellen, and it was a lot to take in. There was some connection between Sam and the demon. Ellen could hardly believe it. John Winchester’s boy, cursed with some kind of demonic powers? Not that Dean had said it in those words. He’d been damn careful not to say it like that, not to let Sam talk about it like that either. But Ellen had known witches, she’d known psychics and wise women and palm-readers and hoodoo men, and none of them could do what Sam could. There was human ability and then there was what Sam could do—what Max and Andy and Anson Weems could do.
Still. She’d gotten to know the Winchester boys pretty well over the last few weeks. She’d seen Dean’s devotion to his family, seen the pain in Sam’s eyes when he talked about his father, and that, well. That was nothing but human.
Didn’t mean the whole story didn’t give her the shivers, though. War was coming. There was always talk, always rumors and prophecies, but nobody ever really wanted to believe that the big war would happen in their lifetime. Or their children’s lifetimes. But there had been so many signs and portents, lately—you didn’t have to be Ash to know which way the wind was blowing. Made her wish she could go upstairs and crawl into bed with Lizzie… but Jo was home, and the boys were staying for a few days, so she couldn’t.
Lizzie had shown up just as the boys had left for Oklahoma. Ellen hadn’t seen her in going on three years. She was the same as ever, though—beanpole skinny, thin smile, eyes bright. Her hair was longer, tangled up and dirty but down to her shoulders. Ellen had offered her a meal, a shower and a bed, in that order. She also let Lizzie see her cast a regretful glance at Jo (behind Jo’s back, of course) by way of apology for not climbing into that bed with her. Lizzie just smiled and hugged her, and went up to bed alone.
She came down for breakfast, though, and met the boys. Sam seemed uncomfortable with her for some reason—maybe he just couldn’t handle strangers right now. Maybe he was worried Ellen and Jo couldn’t keep secrets. He hadn’t known them as long as his father had, after all. Ellen ended up sending him and Jo out in her old station wagon to pick up supplies for the Roadhouse. It was an hour or so up the road to WalMart, and knowing Jo she’d find a thousand things to do in town while they were there, and they probably wouldn’t be back till after dark.
Which was fine with Ellen.
She’d meant to send Dean along too, but he begged off, claming that Jo’s taste in music would make his head explode. “Sides, I could still stand to do a little work on the Impala,” he said when Sam frowned at him. “There’s a little ticking sound I don’t quite like when she turns over.”
“You’re so paranoid,” Sam said, but he went off with Jo and left Dean to his own devices.
Ellen was washing the dishes, Lizzie drying. Dean had gone outside for a walk. From the kitchen window they could see him as he came around the side of the building and spotted the woodpile, picking up Ellen’s ax and giving it a few swings. Glancing up, he waved at her, in the window, a little cautious. She waved back, letting him know it was all right, and he set to work.
People liked to feel useful.
“That’s honestly the most eerie thing I’ve seen in months,” Lizzie said after a while.
“What?” Ellen looked over at her.
“Him,” Lizzie said, lifting her chin to indicate Dean. “That voice, those mannerisms. Pure John Winchester.”
“You met him?” Ellen glanced over, startled.
“Once. Briefly,” Lizzie said, wryly. “I didn’t want to mention it to the boys. We—didn’t exactly get along well,” she said. Her tone hinted that wasn’t the half of it. “Still, he was… a good soldier.”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone John Winchester got along well with,” Ellen said. “Might have to nominate ‘em for sainthood if I did.”
“And yet Dean’s so open and friendly,” Lizzie smirked. “Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, is that the saying?”
“He’s a good soldier too,” Ellen said, a little uneasily.
“Yes,” Lizzie said. “They get younger every year.”
After a while, the morning sun burned through the clouds, and Dean actually took his shirt off, tyng the flannel around his waist and splitting the wood in just a sweaty old wifebeater that had seen better days. Ellen watched his shoulders and arms work, idly enjoying the view, and next to her, Lizzie set a glass upside down in the dish-drainer and chuckled throatily.
“Now that’s a good reason to have a man around the house.” She smirked at Ellen, and Ellen raised her eyebrows.
“Didn’t know you, uh,” She gestured at Dean. “Looked at it that way.”
“No?” Lizzie shrugged. “I guess when I’m at the Roadhouse I’ve only got eyes for you.” She looked back out at Dean, letting her smile grow into a lustful grin. “Well, with certain particular exceptions.”
“It don’t matter to me.” Ellen said, handing her a plate. “I just didn’t know.”
Lizzie smiled, maybe paying a little too much attention to the plate as she rubbed it dry. “Never did manage to fall in love with one,” she mused. “A man, I mean. But as far as falling into bed with them—no, I never minded that.”
Ellen nodded, watching Lizzie almost as closely as Lizzie was watching her work. Was that a flush on her cheek, or was that just the morning sun? She’d always thought of herself as so countrified and Lizzie as so sophisticated. Who knew there was something she could still blush at?
“They are handy for certain things. Opening jars,” Lizzie continued, in her teasing voice. “Killing spiders.”
Ellen laughed. “You know—” She shook her head, scrubbing at a bowl.
“What?” Lizzie said, elbowing her.
“Nothing,” Ellen said. “No, nothing, it’s just—I thought that at the time,” she said, and Lizzie looked at her curiously. “If Bill had been around, he’d have fixed that flue,” she explained.
“Hah! Still would’ve been a cold winter for me, though,” Lizzie said, then smiled awkwardly. Ellen reached out, but her dishwashing gloves were wet and sudsy, and she had to strip them off first. Lizzie watched expectantly, and Ellen reached out to stroke her arm. A laugh broke from her lips, and she quickly lifted her hand to cover her mouth, but couldn’t keep from laughing a little more.
“What are you thinking?” Lizzie said. Something about her always made Ellen feel daring, so Ellen just—opened her mouth and said it.
“Oh, I was just thinking about all three of us in that bed together,” she said, laughing again, and of course that was when Dean came around the corner.
He’d heard her, obviously, and Ellen choked on her laughter. Damn boy moved like a cat. Dean stopped, wide-eyed, looking back and forth between them. Lizzie had been smiling, but now she sputtered and started laughing, too.
It seemed to reassure Dean. “Oh—sorry. Thought you were talking about—” He grinned self-deprecatingly, as if… well. As if there was no way in the world that two old ladies like Lizzie and Ellen could’ve been talking about… you know. Ellen frowned, shifting from embarrassment to resentment in a heartbeat. Why was it so funny? She wasn’t dead yet. Neither was Lizzie. “Guess it was one of those things that sounds worse than it is,” Dean said, and smiled at them both.
“What’d you think we were talking about, Dean?” Lizzie said, and Ellen swung a dishcloth at her, whacking her on the hip.
“Oh, leave the kid alone, Liz.”
“Think we were talking about you?” Lizzie said, crossing towards Dean. She was putting a little extra sway in her hips, and Ellen shook her head, grinning.
“I didn’t think you were talking about me,” Dean said, glancing helplessly at Ellen. She leaned back against the sink, crossing her arms over her chest.
“What if we were?” Lizzie asked sweetly.
Dean brought his shoulders up, aiming a thousand-watt smile at Lizzie. Girls twenty years younger probably fainted when they got that look turned on them. Lizzie just smiled even brighter. “Ma’am, if you were serious, all you’d have to say is where you want me and how high I should jump. I may be young but I ain’t stupid.”
Lizzie reached out, cupping Dean’s face in her hand, and his eyes popped a little as he realized she might just be calling his bluff. Ellen tried to say something, maybe to stop all this silliness, but her voice caught in her throat as Lizzie slowly stroked her hand down Dean’s chest. “Don’t call me ma’am. Call me Lizzie.”
Ellen shook her head, and gave up any thought of being the smart one in the room. She didn’t know what had kicked Lizzie into high gear this morning, but then, she didn’t much care, either.
She might be old, but she wasn’t dead.
The thing about sleeping with a woman—or at least, the thing about sleeping with Lizzie—was that she didn’t roll over and fall asleep on you afterward. Sometimes it felt to Ellen like they were passing a candle between them, or a lit torch, and every time they passed it back and forth it just got hotter and brighter. Sometimes it felt like they were going to burn the house down.
Sometimes she didn’t care.
She had that same crazy feeling fluttering in her chest now, as Lizzie pushed Dean upstairs. She turned, reaching a hand out to Ellen, and Ellen fumbled with the dishtowel, then set it aside.
She climbed the stairs slowly, letting the fire build in her. She could hear Lizzie and Dean laughing, could hear them bumping against the walls as they rocked their way down the hall, already locked in each others’ arms. By the time she reached the guest bedroom Dean was topless and Lizzie was stripped down to her bra, jeans unzipped.
It was hotter than Ellen ever would have thought, watching Dean and Lizzie kiss. Lizzie had always been a good kisser. Good at the kind of kisses Ellen liked, anyway. Long and deep, breathtaking kisses that lasted for hours. Dean was greedy, rushed and unfocused, or maybe he was just right for his age—taking half a kiss and then going to kiss Lizzie’s breasts, taking another taste and sucking at her earlobe. Ellen leaned against the doorframe and watched.
Lizzie reached out a hand for her as Dean nuzzled her neck, both hands at work tugging her jeans down around her hips. “Ellen, help me out, here.”
Dean’s hands stopped, and Lizzie slapped his back impatiently. He shivered, then set to work again.
“You seem like you’re doing all right,” Ellen observed.
“Oh, sure,” Lizzie said. “But I think you and me could show this kid a thing or two.”
“I think we could,” Ellen said, and she began to unbutton her shirt.
She could see it pretty clearly, that Dean was scared now. Scared of what the Harvelles knew about Sam and what it meant. She could see him running pretty easily. His father had been like that, too. Always ready to cut ties, burn bridges and move on.
Maybe this would help. Maybe it’d keep Dean coming around. And if it did, well, Ellen was all for it. She wasn’t going to let this Winchester run off and get himself killed.
Ellen frowned, pushing aside thoughts of John Winchester as she let her shirt fall open, revealing her bra. Dean’s eyes were gratifyingly hot when Lizzie turned him around, putting her arms around his waist and leaning her head against his shoulderblade. “Oh, you are a nice big one, aren’t you.”
“Never had any complaints yet, ma’am,” Dean said, then jumped. “I mean, Lizzie.”
“Come on, Ellen,” Lizzie said, reaching out for Ellen, and Ellen came into her arms, into Dean’s arms, and kissed him.
Maybe she was doing this for the right reasons, or maybe she was only justifying a pretty damn reckless decision.
Either way, hell.
It was going to be fun.
Ellen had never asked where she’d come from. You never asked hunters for their story. They’d either tell you or they wouldn’t. They were either ready or they weren’t. Lizzie didn’t seem to have a past. All she had this high-toned New England accent and this crisp way of speaking, clear as a bell. The kind of thing that made you think of sailboats and French tutors and tennis lessons. Whatever it was, it was like nails on a chalkboard to a ghost. Or maybe it wasn’t the way of speaking at all, but the meaning Lizzie put behind it.
Whatever it was, she was good.
That one night, the night the generator went out, afterwards, Lizzie had snuggled her head into her pillow and sighed a little. “I didn’t know anything,” she said, low and half muffled. “I didn’t know anything, I was out camping with my sister and my cousin. It was a Gray Lady…”
She didn’t say anything for a while. Ellen didn’t make a move, didn’t say “Hush, hush,” or “There, there.”
Finally Lizzie sighed. “It took Corrie and it drowned her in the lake and then the next night it took Angie. It made us sleep during the day, so we couldn’t leave. And I woke up alone, that last day, and I knew it was me next, and I’d never done anything with my life…” She scooted closer to Ellen on the bed, curled one skinny strong arm around her waist, and pressed her forehead against the back of Ellen’s neck. “I was up to my ankles and he came out of the woods. Carrying this book, saying the words…”
Ellen tucked her arm around Lizzie’s arm and held on.
“She killed him too. Dragged him down and pushed him under the water, right in front of me. He didn’t try to fight her once she pushed his head under. He just held the book up, out of the water, like it was his baby, and I…”
“You took it.” Ellen nodded. It happened that way, sometimes. One falls, another one picks up the gun.
“Yeah,” Lizzie breathed, and Ellen rolled over and held her tight, held her close.
Maybe she wasn’t Lizzie, but maybe she could make this ghost go away.