Title :: The Art of Living
Rating :: FR15
Fandom :: Supernatural and ‘The Return’
Disclaimer :: I do not own these characters and no profit is being made from the use of them.
Note/Spoilers :: This fic takes place a year after the movie and during the episodes, “All Hell Breaks Loose Parts I & II.” Dialogue taken from the episodes written by Sera Gamble, Eric Kripke and Michael T. Moore.
Synopsis :: Azazel discovers a child from the previous generation that survived the purging and pits her against the would-be soldiers of this generation.
La Salle, Texas
37 years ago
The young mother leaned forward, over her infant daughter to pull on the plastic handle between the Jolly Jumping Jack’s legs. The toys eyes began to shift back and forth and his limbs lifted up and dropped down from his place on the side of the crib as the string slowly disappeared. A happy squeaking sound emanated from the toy and her daughter cooed, tiny feet working against the flannel sheets as her head shifted toward the sound and a fist found its way to her mouth. Where several of her knuckles were sucked greedily inside as her mother bent over the cradle’s edge to brush a light kiss across her forehead.
The young mother pulled back, smiling as she made her way from the room and closed the door so that only a crack of light could enter from the hall. A moment passed and the toy fell silent as the baby continued to kick her bootie covered feet and her head rolled, blue eyes focusing on the mobile above as her mouth continued to work over her fisted hand. The cutout images of Timmy the Turtle began to rock from side to side before the mobile creaked and began to slowly rotate. She gurgled around her hand and her feet lifted higher, knees coming up towards her stomach as she watched the toy come to life.
A shadow separated itself from the wall, leaching its way forward until it came abreast with the crib and Jolly Jack’s limbs and eyes began their steady movement again. The baby’s head shifted, hand falling away as she watched her favorite toy squeak and dance. The figure hovering beside her crib lifted a balled fist and placed it over the crib, over the infant and he drew the thumbnail of his opposite hand through the delicate skin of his wrist.
The whispered call of her name drew the infant’s blue eyes back to center and they met with molted yellow. Her mouth opened into a nearly toothless grin and her feet worked faster. His fisted hand turned, tilting his wound over the baby’s opened mouth and several drops of blood coated her tongue, slipping down her throat.
“That’s it my sweet Annie.”
Cold Oak, South Dakota
Lashes fluttered against pale cheeks and the scent of mildew pulled Joanna Mills from the uncomfortable arms of Morpheus. Green eyes opened, brows sloping at the unfamiliar ceiling above her and she sat up, wincing as her back protested. Her breath misted on the cold air and she pulled her jean covered knees up, pushing the heels of her cowboy boots into the worn wood floors that had made her bed and shoved herself onto her feet.
Small hands brushed at her slightly damp backside and she turned, glancing around the broken, beaten down bar surrounding her. Her mouth thinned, the crease between her brows deepening as she swallowed and stepped forward, around an overturned barstool and toward the aged wood creating the bar. The glass wall backing it was sectioned into small squares and several of those sections were shattered, fracturing her reflection. She’d blacked out again. She sighed, just what her life needed, as she was finally getting it back on track, more mind-fucks.
Jo’s lips curved further downward as she stepped away from the bar and slipped a hand into the pocket of her slim jeans, searching for her spring blade. The familiar honey horn handle filled her palm and she tugged it free, compressing the edge and she turned away from the bar as the blade sprung outward, narrow and dangerous. She twisted her hand so that the knife came to rest against her wrist, inside the sleeve of her jacket as she turned, making her way back to the entrance.
A crack in the front doors was leaking in the damp cold from the outside and the white tank she wore beneath her jean jacket was little protection. She sighed and brought the knife to her mouth, gripping the blade between her teeth before dropping her hands to grasp the sides of her jacket. Chilled fingers caught either side and tugged them together so that she could zip the dark blue material and help block some of the cold that was permeating the room.
The jacket settled over her chest and she rubbed her arms, attempting to smooth the goosebumps tightening her skin. Her next breath eased between chattering teeth and she reached above and behind her head to pull the elastic band free of her hair, to allow the dark mass of it to fall around her shoulders and be another layer against the cold. Jo adjusted her collar as well before removing the knife from her teeth. Twisting her hand, she resettled the blade against her wrist and moved toward the doors letting in that shuddering cold.
The front entrance consisted of double doors, held closed by brass slide-locks at the top of the frame. She stepped closer, rising on tiptoe to reach the small knob and exposing her stomach. Ignoring the sudden burst of discomfort against her bare skin, Jo caught the knob and pulled it down. The door trembled as it lost that bit of support and she stumbled back as the top hinge pulled free of the crumbling wood. Her boot heel caught the lip of one of the planks in the floor and she fell backwards on her ass, the blade jabbing into the edge of her forearm.
The pain was instant and intense but soon overshadowed by the sudden roaring in her head and she dropped the knife to gripe her temples as a brilliant, pain-filled light cut across her vision. A pretty blonde stood in front of her, jaw tense and eyes brimming with tears as she shouted, “You don’t know anything! I tri… I accidentally touched my girlfriend.” The words slipped away and there was another flash of white hot pain and the scene shifted, showing the pretty blonde now hanging lifeless from a windmill.
The vision melted and her stomach turned, her mouth watered, filling with saliva as she fought the urge to lose what little she had eaten the day before. Jo rolled onto her knees and coughed, spitting at the floor beneath her as her stomach continued to rebel and she caught hold of her knife. Fingers wrapping around the handle, knuckles striking, dragging against the worn floor as she continue to try and calm herself with slow even breathes. A shuddered slipped down her spine and she pushed herself up, onto her knees and used the floor to compress the blade back into the handle.
“Hey, you okay?”
Her shoulders tightened and she took a moment to slip her knife into a pocket of her jacket before pushing herself all the way to her feet. She stumbled, her head still throbbing and strong hands caught her, held her upright as the world faded and Jo struggled to focus through the pain. Her sight cleared enough that she noticed the desert camo covering the chest of the person holding her. Blinking, she focused on the Army tag sitting above his heart before her chin tilted and she saw concerned brown eyes staring down at her.
“You okay, ma’am?” He turned, bringing her abreast with him so that they faced the broken door. The entry had been cleared and she hadn’t even noticed the sound—Michelle would have a field day with that tidbit of knowledge right after she reamed Jo about it.
“Let’s get you outside and to some fresh air.”
Her brows rose with the almost gentleman like attitude that reminded her of Terry. She flinched away from that train of thought. She didn’t want to think of Terry and of what they—he and Annie had had a lifetime ago. Jo pulled herself free of those feelings and nodded, suddenly thankful for the company, of the distraction her would-be savior had on her thoughts.
“I’m Jake, by the way.”
She smiled. “Jo, Joanna really.”
His smile was welcoming and she found herself returning it as they left the saloon she had woke in and stepped out to a small village of boarded-up shops. Her brows drew together as she looked up and down the mud covered street and wondered where the hell she—they—had found themselves in. “Where are we?”
She felt Jake’s shrug as he led them across the bent and broken porch. He eased her down the three steps that separated them from the street before having her take a seat on those steps. He settled a hand on her shoulder, but turned away from her to give both sides of the street a curious once over. Her breath was heavy on the air as she pulled her arms in tighter to her body and tucked a pointed chin in, towards her chest.
She looked up, saw Jake watching her and nodded before adding, “Colder too.”
Jake’s lips quirked. “Yeah.”
The both turned their heads and Jo noticed that Jake took a step in front of her, but not enough to block her view of the pretty blonde from her vision. The urge to throw up was back in full force and she ignored the burning in her forearm as the cut she’d given herself suddenly reminded her of its presence. Jake moved forward and Jo took a moment to simply breathe as he greeted the blonde. After a moments hesitation she put her palms against the steps and pushed herself to her feet.
The world didn’t tilt and Jo took comfort in that fact as she made her way through the mud toward the pair. The blonde caught sight of her and inclined her head. “Who’re you?”
Her stomach knotted as her vision gained a voice and the beginnings of a personality. “Jo.”
The blonde watched her for another beat before answering with, “Lily.”
The skin around Jo’s eyes tightened and she fought the urge to frown, to ask questions and just nodded as Jake took control of the situation. “Alright, so there’s three of us. Think there’s anymore?” Jo and Lily shrugged in unison and Jake nodded. “So let’s find out.”
He turned away from them and began making his way down the street, head swiveling back and forth as he looked in windows and down alleyways. “Hello?” His voice had a loud booming quality and Jo glanced at Lily, raising her brows in question before following.
Jake leapt onto a storefront porch that was slightly elevated, gaze flitting every which way. “Hello? Is anybody there?”
Lily made her way around Jo, giving her a wide berth and Jo arched a brow as the other woman climbed the steps and joined Jake up on the porch. She stepped back, looked up at the two story structure that would have been stunning had someone not left it for rot. She frowned at the glassless windows that decorated the second story. The porch that ran along that upper level was also missing one of the two doors that led onto it and she turned away from the neglected building. Jo’s stomach knotted as the desolations that surround her finally registered full and she suddenly became wreathed in a miasma of despair.
Jake and Lily made their way along the porch beneath, heading toward the back and away from her. Jo resisted the urge to call out to them, to draw their attention to her shaking hands and her ashen features. Heavy foot falls stalled her thoughts and she turned to watch three new figures make their way down the street towards her and the storefront. Jo slipped her hands into the front pockets of her jacket, right hand curving over her knife.
The three slowed as they came near her and the person leading the small group stepped forward. “Hello?”
She offered him a confused smile as he took another step toward her and his greeting became more certain. “Hey, I’m Sam.”
Jake came back around the corner of the building and Sam’s hazel-blue eyes left Jo to study the newest edition to the small group. The other guy from the trio separated himself and stepped toward Jo, offered her a wave from a hand that was in the pocket of his hoodie.
She smiled, despite her confusion. “Jo.”
Her name caused Sam to turn back towards her for a moment and give her another once over. She pulled her elbows into her body and ducked her head, letting her hair fall forward to create a brown curtain between her and the rest of the group as Jake introduced himself and Lily.
Sam nodded and asked, “Are there anymore of you?”
Jake shook his head. “No.”
Lily stepped forward, around Jake and sent the small group a narrow-eyed glare. “How did we even get here? A minute ago I was in San Diego.”
Jake’s brows rose and he turned to give Lily an even stare. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I went to sleep last night in Afghanistan.”
Jo’s stomach knotted again and she raised her brows. “How is that suppose to make her feel better?”
Jake shrugged. “Just tryin’ to put things in perspective.” She caught the slightest trace of irony in his words and they exchanged smiles.
Sam interrupted the small moment of understanding as he stepped up onto the porch and addressed them. “Let me take a wild guess. You three are twenty-three?” Jo watched Lily and Jake stiffen and focus more on Sam as her lips thinned in confusion but he was already pushing on before she address the age issue. “We all are. We all have abilities.”
Jo’s brows rose higher as Jack’s sloped down into a frown and he asked, “What?”
Sam trudged on. “It started a little over a year ago, and you found you could do things. Things you didn’t think were possible.” He paused, glanced around the small, silent group before offering, “I have visions. I see things before they happen.”
The blue-eyed girl that had arrived with Sam and Andy stepped forward, her voice hoarse as she stated, “Yeah, me too.”
A roaring filled Jo’s ears as she realized she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t a freak, was she? Jo was different from them, older and her visions had been of the past until recently, but that didn’t completely alienate her from this small abnormal group. She tuned out Andy’s ramble about mind control, the groups apparent immunity and gay porn, uncertain what the latter had to do with the former but unwilling to ask him to clarify as Lily suddenly drew her attention away from her internal thoughts as her pain, her rage added a tremble to her voice.
“So you go ‘Simon says gimme your wallet,’ and they do?” Her glare turned on Sam. “You have visions? That’s great. I’d kill for something like that.”
Sam moved forward, reached out a hand to her. “Lily, listen. It’s okay.”
She stepped back, shook her head. “No, it’s not. I touch people…” she trailed off swallowed before trying again, “their hearts stop. I can barely leave my house. My life hasn’t exactly improved. So screw you. I just want to go home.”
“And what, we don’t?”
Lily spun on Jake, almost raising her hand. “You know, don’t talk to me like that. Nobody—”
Sam interceded, acted as peacekeeper. “Hey guys, come on.”
Their words faded as Lily’s words and Jo’s vision collided and made perfect, horrible sense and she stated her voice soft. “You touched your girlfriend.”
Lily’s entire body stiffened with Jo’s words and she spun on the other woman as Sam turned towards her. “What?”
Jo ignored Sam’s inquiry and made her way around the porch towards the now wide-eyed Lily. “You touched her and her heart stopped, didn’t it?”
Lily’s jaw tensed, nostrils flaring and Jo watched that fresh pain wash over the younger woman as she made her way up the steps and crossed over to her. Jake’s eyes widened as Jo brought her hand up and Lily flinched back.
Sam lunged toward her but it was too late, her hand held Lily’s cold cheek and she drew a thumb through the tear stains that lay there. “The pain of death fades, but that only makes it worse. Doesn’t it?”
Wide green eyes stared at her, stunned and terrified before Lily’s features crumbled and she fell to her knees. Jo followed her down and pulled the younger woman into her arms as she began to sob. Sam stepped forward, throwing them into his shadow as he stared down at Jo. She lifted her chin and stated simply, “Andy said we were immune to his powers. I assumed we’d be immune to Lily’s.”
“That assumption could’ve gotten you killed.”
The gravel tone to Jack’s voice drew Jo’s back up and she turned toward him. “Does that really matter now?” The question silenced any further comments and she ran a gentle hand over Lily’s hair and ignored the thoughtful look Sam was currently aiming her way.
The small group had separated, Jake leaving them far behind as Ava and Andy hung back, still trying to comprehend everything that Sam had dropped on them. Jo felt Lily’s hand tightened around her own as they followed their quasi-leader and she winced when the taller girl’s thumb ring dug into her skin, leaving a shallow indent. She returned the squeeze halfheartedly and dipped her head, keeping her features, her worry blocked by a curtain of hair as she quickened her steps to catch up with Sam’s long stride and Lily followed.
His head shifted, chin dipping so that he could meet her gaze as she reached his side. “So we’re soldiers?”
His chest expanded with a heavy sigh before he nodded. “Yeah, from what I’ve learned. We’re supposed to be soldiers.”
“And you don’t know why we were picked?” Jo tightened her hand around Lily’s as the other girl joined the conversation and glanced to her right. The blonde was facing forward, her pale eyes narrowed and darting around the street and the shops along it.
“No,” he gave a derisive laugh, “we’re special I suppose.”
Lily stopped, halting Jo with a tug on her arm and Sam paused, turned back to meet her angry eyes as she asked, her voice hollow, “Did this demon make us this way?”
Jo’s brows rose and she glanced back to Sam, waited for his answer as his gaze flitted back and forth between them. “I’m not sure.”
The blonde frowned. “So I’m a freak by nature. Great.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed as he stated, “but not the only freak.”
Jo nodded and squeezed her hand again. “You’re not alone anymore.”
Lily’s lips quirked at the corners and she nodded. “That’s something I guess.”
Pale lips parted and Jo prepared herself to tell Lily it was a lot more than ‘something’ when the same bright, hot pain as before speared through her temples and the hand holding Lily’s tightened as her knees gave out. Strong hands caught her ribcage, held her as she collapsed and white light flooded her vision, crystallizing it and Jake stood before a shallow-pallor child wearing a tattered dress.
The little girl lifted her hands and her fingers lengthened, nails sloping downward as her mouth opened impossibly wide and the light scattered, fragmented only to reform and bring forth the image of Jack’s supine, the little girl straddling his hips as she dug those talon-like nails deeper into his chest and his anguished roar thrummed down her spine as the vision dissipated and she found herself sagged in Sam’s arms.
Lily’s frantic call of her name turned her head and she blinked, pushing back the urge to be sick as she attempted to stand on her own only to have her legs revolt. She felt Sam’s wide hands tighten around her ribcage and he shifted, sliding her against his chest and she shook her head. “No, Jake.”
Sam’s body stiffened and he took several steps, supporting Jo as she stumbled with him until he could sit her on wooden planks of the sidewalk. He squatted, putting himself at eyelevel with her before asking, “What’a’bout Jake?”
“He’s being attacked.” Her brows sloped and she corrected, “or will be. A little girl, not really a girl though.”
Sam’s jaw tensed and he caught her chin as it dipped and forced it up, forced Jo to focus. “Where?”
Her mouth opened, closed before she shook her head, dislodging Sam’s hand and shut her eyes. Shallow pants slipped past parted lips as she tried to remember, tried to look past the sight of that child slicing into Jake and her brows pulled together as she whispered. “There’s desks,” she winced, stomach turning, “so much blood.” She felt Sam’s hands cup her knees, offering silent support and Lily traced a light touch over the crown of her head. Her head lifted, eyes opening wide as she met Sam’s gaze. “There was a chalkboard.”
“A school.” He stood, took three steps and then paused, glanced back at them.
Lily’s hand cupped the back of Jo’s head and she met his gaze. “Go, I’ll take care of her.”
He nodded once, trusting her to do the right thing before taking off at a run down the street. His voice echoed as he shouted for Ava and Andy, who had finally began to make their way towards the trio. Jo lifted her head and watched as they pair turned and began to jog to Sam as he lead them toward a small building set apart from the rest.
Lily folded her lean frame down beside Jo and they watched the three moved further and further away before Jo leaned forward and spat on the ground. Shaking her head, she tried to free it of the images of Jake dead and lying on the ground while she straightened.
Jo spared Lily and absent smile. “Oh, just dandy.”
“Do the visions always hurt like that?”
She winced. “Sometimes worse.”
Lily leaned back, bracing her palms against the wood as she stated, “So we get the shaft while Andy rides high?”
Jo opened her mouth to argue and then stopped, cocking her head. “Damn.”
“That’s what I’m thinking.”
The cold air burned the back of his throat and lungs as Sam pushed himself faster and leapt onto the small porch, spilling himself forward through the opened door. His eyes widened at the sight of Jake backing away from the child-like creature and his gaze dipped, scanning the room. He bent toward the small coal fireplace and caught a cast-iron stoker in a firm gripe before moving forward and behind the demon.
His gaze locked with Jake’s for a brief moment before he brought the stoker up and over his right shoulder and then into a downward arch. The demon split in two before dissolving into black smoke that arched around Sam and spiraled up and over Andy and Ava’s heads as they finally reached the entrance to the school. Sam’s jaw tensed when he saw the horror on Ava’s features as she spun with the black cloud, wide blue eyes trained skyward as her hand unconsciously tightened its grip on the doorframe.
Sam’s shoulders stiffened as he turned back to Jake and sighed. “Just so you know,” he paused waited for Jake to meet his gaze before stating, “that was a demon.”
With a shake of his head Sam turned and made his way back to the entrance. He suppressed the urge to smile when he heard Jake’s heavy steps as he hurried to catch up with him. Ava was still watching the cloud covered sky as Andy pushed his hands deeper into the pockets of his hoodie before lifting his startled face to Sam.
“That was a demon?”
Sam inclined his head. “Yeah, I’m not sure but I think it was an Acheri. Demon that disguises itself as a little girl. Still doesn’t tell us where we are…” he trailed off noticing the glazed like in his sort-of-friend’s eyes and questioned, “Andy? You with me or what?”
The shortest of the foursome blinked and visibly shook himself before answering. “Give me a minute. I’m still working through demons are real and want us all dead.”
Sam’s lips quirked and he sighed, glancing back at Jake. “You alright man?”
“Yeah, just never thought I’d miss Afghanistan.”
The two paused and shared a look that Sam was found oddly refreshing since he didn’t have to hunch down or drop his chin to meet the other man’s gaze. His smile stretched before he turned away from Jake and frowned when he saw that Ava gripped her temples. He stepped toward her, concern etching his features into a frown as he asked, “Hey, you okay?”
Her shoulders stiffened and the hands at her temples slipped to catch the back of her neck and she stretched it forward a moment before shooting him a tired smile. “Just a headache.”
His brows rose. “Not a vision?”
She shook her head. “Nope, not this time.”
He nodded and turned back to Jake. “Jo had one just a moment ago.”
Jake inclined his head. “’bout me?”
“Where are Jo and Lily?”
Sam glanced over at Andy, grateful that he’d finally joined the here and now and the conversation. “Left Lily watching over Jo. Visions tend to take a lot out of a person.”
Ava’s lips quirked as she stated dryly, “Tell me about it.”
“Let’s head back to them.” Sam frowned and glanced around before making his way off the porch and back to the two he’d left behind. “I don’t like the idea of us split up.”
Andy quickly fell instep beside him as Ava and Jake brought up the rear. His fingers flexed around the iron stoker and he twisted it so that the slightly curved end was pointed away his thigh so that it would do more damage when swung outward. Sam sighed as the adrenaline rush began to fade and left his body numb and his mind agitated as the quiet of the group’s surroundings began to sink in.
Ava voice disturbed that silence and Sam turned toward her gratefully. She made a motion with her hand and his gaze followed the length of her arm toward a bell set up in the center of town. His brows sloped downward as he made his way forward and brought the stoker slightly in front of his body as he freed himself of the cover of the shops and stepped out into the open. His eyes narrowed as he reached the worn and moss covered bell and saw the oak tree impressed on it—damn.
Jake stepped around him and closer to the bell, frowning at the dilapidated construction as Sam shook his head and stated, “I’ve seen that bell before. I think I know where we are, Cold Oak, South Dakota.” He snorted, “A town so haunted, every single resident fled.”
Ava’s eyes widened. “Swell. Good to know we’re somewhere so historical.”
Andy’s brows pulled together. “How’d you see this thing?”
Ava blinked, turned to Andy. “What?”
The shorter man kept his hands in his pockets as he shrugged. “I just mean, how’d you notice this bell?”
“I just did.” Her gaze turned to Sam, pleading. “I’m not sure how,” her voice took on a somewhat frantic tone as she stepped closer to Sam, “I just did. Oh God, Sam!”
He lifted his hands. “Hey, it’s okay. Things like that can happen.”
Jake and Andy sent him a considering look before shrugging in unison and Jake lifted a hand to the back of his head and asked, “So why and the hell are we here?”
Sam frowned. “I was wondering the same thing.”
“Does it matter?” Andy raised his brows at the rest of them. “I mean, shouldn’t we be getting outta here?”
“The only way out of here is through miles of woods.”
Sam’s easy words forced Andy back a step, but he met the taller man’s gaze nonetheless. “So?”
Ava’s lips thinned as she turned to Andy. “What about the demon?”
Sam nodded with Ava’s assumption and addressed the small group. “Look, we don’t know what’s going on yet. We don’t even know how many of them are out there right now.”
“I’m with Sam.”
Jake glance at Ava, but nodded as well. “He’s right. We should ju—”
A feminine scream cut Jake off mid-word and the group spun toward the sound. Sam’s stomach knotted and he stated softly, “Lily and Jo,” before taking off the way they’d come with Ava, Andy and Jake not far behind.
The presence at her side was comforting and Jo turned her head, glancing over her shoulder to offer Lily a sheepish smile. “Thanks for staying with me.”
The other girl’s brows rose. “Like I want to rush off to face a freaky demon kid?”
“Yeah, I am the lesser of two evils,” she laughed.
Lily sat forward, propping her elbows on her knees and turned her head so that they were facing. “Ever think this is where you’d end up?”
She snorted and glanced around the abandon buildings before lifting her foot and examining the mud caked to her cowboy boot. Her lips spread into a self-deprecating smile as she shifted her gaze back to Lily. “Would you believe me if I said I wasn’t entirely surprised?”
“My life didn’t start changing a year ago,” Jo shrugged and added, “I’ve been having visions, or hallucinations as my doctors would put it, since I was eleven.”
Lily stiffened and shifted so that her entire body was facing Jo. “Eleven? You’ve been going through this shit since you were a kid?”
“Pretty much.” Her gaze shot up, eyes going wide. “Not that what I’ve been through is worse then you—”
Lily held up a hand, cut her off. “Shut up. You didn’t even imply that.”
“Good. Thank God.”
Lily leaned forward as she offered softly, “I miss her. All the damn time.”
Jo blinked, her brows pulling together. “What was she like?”
“Smart. A hell of a lot smarter than me. And funny, kind.” Her mouth twisted into the echo of a real smile. “And hot,” she shook her head, “so damn hot.”
Jo’s brows rose as she laughed. “Sounds like love.”
“It was. She was the best thing that ever happened to me and I killed her.”
“You didn’t kill her,” the venom in Jo’s voice jerked Lily’s focus back to her as she finished, “it was an accident.”
“Does it matter?”
“It will in time.”
A sudden cold settled over Jo’s shoulders after her words and she shuddered, tucking her arms closer to her body as the hairs along the back of her neck rose. Green eyes narrowed, looking past Lily’s shoulder and toward the empty street. A child’s soft laughter pulled Jo up straighter and she watched Lily do the same, her gaze going past Jo before her eyes widened and she pushed herself to her feet and caught Jo’s arm, yanking her up as well.
Jo spun, caught sight of the child from her vision standing only twenty feet away. Her startled cry stuck in her throat and she blinked, only to open her eyes and the child was suddenly at the porch steps. The two women stumbled back and the Lily turned, her hand still firmly wrapped around Jo’s bicep, and pulled her into the store behind them. Jo stepped ahead of her and Lily caught the door and slammed it behind them.
The frame shuddered and Lily pushed Jo back and behind her as one of the panels in the window beside the door cracked, shattered and allowed an inky black cloud into the room. The child reformed before them and her hands lifted, fingers elongating as her nails curved downward and Jo turned, grapping Lily and ran for the back of the store. The child-like laughter followed them as they skirted around the shelving and Jo caught sight of another door along the far wall and darted toward it, Lily only a few steps behind. Her palm struck the wall to stop her forward momentum as she grasped the handle and pushed it inward, spilling her into a small shelf-lined room and not outside—dammit.
She turned back saw the child just behind Lily and her breath caught in her throat as a hand struck her chest, shoving Jo further into the room. Pale green eyes met hers and Jo’s widened as Lily caught the doors handle and slammed it, trapping Jo in the room and herself outside with the demon.
Jo lunged forward and caught the handle in her hands, shaking it before the wall, the entire room shuddered and she stumbled back. There was a shriek from the other side of the door and the wood groaned as it bent inward.
Jo whispered as another scream echoed in the enclosed room followed by a helpless gurgle. Blood seeped in through the crack under the door and inched its way closer to Jo and the sight of it brought her back to life and she grasped the handle once more. The scent of sulfur was overpowering and she swallowed her terror and yanked the door open. Lily’s mutilated upper body fell into the room and Jo’s hand tightened around the tarnished knob as the other rose to cup her mouth. Her vision blurred as she stared down into Lily’s lifeless eyes and she fell to her knees.
The soft peal of laughter lifted her hand and Jo’s eyes narrowed on the demon with its bloody hands. Her voice was low as she stated, “Don’t.”
The creature’s head cocked with her order as the front entrance to the shop exploded inward and Sam filled the entryway. His wide gaze taking in the scene before he ran forward and lunged, swinging a metal rod at the demon. It dissipated back into the inky cloud and spiraled upward through a vent in the ceiling as Jo dropped her head and reached forward to close Lily’s eyes.