Unstrung Hero (1/1)
Characters: Chloe, Clark, Ellen
Summary: How did Chloe meet Ellen? While Saving Clark from himself.
This is part of my Sam Dean and Chloe crossover series Special Projects. The rest of the series can be found here.
Written for the Crossovers100 challenge. Prompt #87 Choice. The table is here.
She's a hunter, and she doesn't even know there are such things.
Ellen looked at the little blonde in pity, and thought of Jo. The two girls were superficially alike. Same blonde hair. Possibly the same age. Ellen couldn't tell -- this girl wore maturity and responsibility like an old coat.
But that's where the similarities ended. Jo would run blindly into danger just to prove herself. Judging by the world-weary expression on her face, this girl was a planner. Someone who avoided danger when she could. Someone who wasn't particularly interested in proving anything.
Someone who had been a warrior when she didn’t even know there was a war to be fought.
Ellen had her pegged as a hunter the second she walked into the roadhouse. Her perceptive gaze swept the room, taking in everything with that one glance. The older woman knew that the girl hadn't missed the way that everyone stood, the barely-concealed weaponry, or the cautious gazes that they returned.
She crossed the room with deliberately slow steps, careful not to cause alarm in a room with more firepower than a small artillery division. Her gait was no-nonsense, and told Ellen that she wasn't here to have a casual beer.
She positioned herself at a table near the jukebox, where she could see the room, pulled out a battered road map, and studied it. As Ellen approached, the girl's stance tensed, and her eyes darted up to meet her. Years of serving dangerous men and women with hair-trigger nerves and violent tendencies had made the bar owner circumspect in her approach.
“What'll you have?”
“You got food?”
“Sandwiches.” Ellen nodded.
“I'll take one – and some strong coffee. To go, if possible.”
Ellen worked quickly to fill the order. When a hunter needed to go – life and death hung in the balance.
She quickly exchanged her parcel for money, and the girl folded the map. She intended to let the girl go at that, but her mind was still on the girl's age, Jo, and the physical similarities they shared, and Ellen's curiosity got the better of her.
“If you don't mind my asking . . . What are you hunting?”
The girl's eyes remained wary, but she must've seen something in Ellen that she could trust.
“Hunting?” She snorted in mirthless laughter. “Being hunted.” Then she pulled a photo from her pocket. “You ever see him?”
Ellen looked at the photo – a young man with startling green eyes and hair like the blackened flames of hell itself.
“No,” she shivered involuntarily.
“You will,” The girl said with a haunting certainty. “When you do – tell him exactly which way I went.”
Ellen stared at her searchingly. “You sure?”
“Oh yeah,” she nodded with certainty. “You don't want him hanging around here any longer than you have to.”
The older woman didn't scare easily, but something in the girl's eyes filled her with trepidation. She studied the photo again and committed it to memory.
The girl nodded in acknowledgment as she gathered together her things. She was halfway across the room when the man from the photo was suddenly there. He just appeared, startling Ellen and causing the majority of the room to reach for their weapons.
The boy gave off a powerful, palpable, otherworldly aura – which was probably why most of the Bar's patrons hadn't drawn down yet. Experienced hunters studied a situation before committing to it. Ellen guessed that most of them wanted to see how things would play out with the little blond.
“Hello, Chlo.” He fixed the girl with a chilling stare.
“Clark,” she lifted her chin defiantly.
“It's Kal,” his voice carried the slightest rebuke. “Did you really think you could outrun me?”
“Wasn't trying to. I just wanted to get clear of home before things went all pear-shaped.” In a burst of movement that went by too quickly for Ellen to comprehend, “Chlo” went for a weapon. Just as quickly, “Kal” was on her: one hand around her neck and the other crushing the gun she was attempting to draw.
“Stupid,” he scolded her.
Just as Ellen was registering this sequence in her head, the girl let a glass vial drop from her fingertips to the floor. As the rest of the hunters in the room reached for their weapons, the vial shattered at her feet.
Whatever was in the vial blew up like a canister of tear gas. Most of the hunters fled for the safety of the outside, but this was Ellen's roadhouse, and she wasn't leaving it to Chlo and Kal. The bar owner was quick to get the doors and windows open. As the smoke dissipated, she saw Kal lying on the floor incapacitated while Chlo frisked him.
After a moment of frantic searching, she found what she was looking for: a ruby red ring.
“Sorry Kal,” the girl said as she placed the ring in an ornate lead box. “It's time you went back in the box.”
Once the lid was closed, Kal's snarling face crumbled.
“Chloe . . . God . . . I'm sorry.”
“It's okay Clark,” her voice was kind, but Ellen could see that her eyes were weary. As if she had done this more than once and was flat sick of it. She helped Clark up and steered him toward the exit, passed row upon row of cautious hunters with drawn weaponry. The boy ignored them as if all that heavy firepower meant nothing.
As she moved to follow her friend, Ellen stopped her at the door.
“Did you plan that?”
Chloe sighed. “I hoped for it. It was . . . the best possible outcome.”
Ellen nodded, and maybe the pity she felt for the young woman showed in her eyes.
“You know . . . I chose this,” Chloe said in a way that made it clear that Ellen's feelings were unwelcome.
“But you regret it,” the older woman prompted.
“Sooner or later, everyone regrets something.” Chloe shrugged as if to say what is there to do about it?
“Why do you do it?” It was a question she wanted to ask Jo, wanted to ask her husband. Why put yourself in the middle of a situation you don't want to be in. But with family, she could never could find the courage to voice it.
Chloe tilted her head sideways in a pose of thinking, biting her lip as she considered Ellen's question. Finally she fixed the older woman with a steady gaze. “I've known since I was five that there are more things in heaven and earth than can fill a Shakespeare tragedy. I've learned since then that everything has a price. Even friendship.”
In Chloe’s words, Ellen can hear the echo of another voice. Where Chloe says “He’s my friend,” Ellen hears a low tenor in a slow southern drawl. “He’s my brother.”
And suddenly, she sees in the little blonde a kinship to an almost-son.
Oblivious to Ellen’s mental realization, Chloe continues on. “Most of the time, he's Clark. And Clark saves everyone. But occasionally, he's Kal. And Kal is the price I pay for Clark.
“If I don't pay the price, someone less-prepared will get stuck with a bigger bill. I'm just making sure there are safe places left for people who don't even know that there is something to be paid.”
Ellen never heard it explained quite like that. Put that way, she had given up her husband, and possibly someday might have to give up her little girl so that her grandkids might not have to pay a bigger bill. She may not like it, but it's a choice she could make peace with.
“Thank you,” she told Chloe.
With a nod and a Mona Lisa smile, Chloe turned and followed Clark-who-is-Also-Kal from the bar.