Weight of Souls
Reaper 'verse. Ellen, The Preacher (OFC), All Audiences
People gave me prompts. They were supposed to be drabbles. This one: not so much. 1,634 words
For nardsarmy -- ketchup, fork, blood
All pure her face, her hands, her heart unseen,
Chaste, white rapture, as morning glow:
She ponders deep. Her sorrow shows,
She bears the weight of souls on earth below.
~Prayer to Mary, Mother of God
The Preacher was the first female hunter Ellen ever met, ever knew existed. Wasn't that she thought women couldn't do the work, wouldn't ever find themselves face to face with something in the dark, something unspeakable and learn to fight back rather than run or cower in fear.
But all of the hunters she'd met until The Preacher were men, like her Bill. Sometimes with families -- sometimes for vengeance for those families or out of a need to protect them. Everything she knew about the Reverend Jane Ellesmor said she wasn't protecting family, and for a woman bent on vengeance, The Preacher was remarkably calm, not quite as hungry or hard about hunting as most of the men she saw.
She'd been heavy with Jo when they first met, when The Preacher had pulled up in her big truck (she'd been driving a Dodge back then). Mistook her for a man when she came into the Roadhouse, and not until Jane had pulled up a stool and pulled her hat off, shrugged out of her long coat had Ellen had reason to think any different.
She'd been looking for Bill, of course, and she hadn't stayed long once Bill came up and spent a few minutes talking to her. She hadn't asked for anything and Ellen had been distracted enough not to ask.
Jane had stopped only long enough to observe Ellen's round belly with a faint smile. "Don't get out this way much," she said. "Congratulations to you both."
A week later there'd been a small envelope in the mail, a plain card and an even plainer silver cross stuck inside. For the baby. Rev. E.
She'd come to Bill's funeral, such as it was. Local minister had done the service even though Jim Murphy and Jane were both there, would have done the service if Ellen had asked. She didn't ask. She'd have chased every damn hunter away if she could have. All but one. She wanted John Winchester there. He should have been there to see her Billy lowered into the ground. She'd have made him shovel every pound of dirt onto the coffin.
That anger had long since burned out, and Ellen found herself looking for those familiar faces more as the years went by, mostly because you never knew when the last time you'd see one of them would be.
The Preacher came by only every couple of years, on her way to somewhere else, sometimes on her way to Boston to see her brother. Ellen let her tuck her camper on the corner of the lot -- she might stay overnight or a couple of days. When Jo was young, she loved it when The Preacher came. That camper of hers was like a big playhouse to a small girl.
She heard that Joshua Ellesmor had died, two months after it happened. Never met the man, but she knew of him. The Preacher would speak of him with fondness, maybe a bit of adoration of a sister for her older brother. It was cute and sweet to see it on a face as lined as Jane Ellesmor's was.
Still, she was a little surprised when Jane showed up about six months after she'd put her brother in his grave. She met Ellen's eyes over the bar and nodded, but she didn't sit there. Found a table near one of the dirty windows and waited calm and quiet.
Ellen had had to hire some help when Jo took off with Ryan. Keith was good man, smart one, and he and Jo made a good team. Married now, at some drive through chapel in Vegas and Jo kept promising she'd come back and do it proper so Ellen could see it, but Ellen wasn't likely to hold her to it. She'd married Bill in front of a Clerk of the county office with some secretary and a man looking for a hunting license as witnesses.
She'd expected Ash to be a bit more broken up about it, but for all his admiration and mooning after Jo, he was smarter than that. He took off for a week though, Ellen never knew where. Came back drunk and amiable, reeking of pot and probably high on things Ellen didn't want to know about. He had blood on his knuckles and dried in his hair but he seemed whole enough. He slept for two days and then emerged again, kind of like a battered butterfly, and spent the next week outside, applying paint to the side of the Roadhouse without asking. It was the most God Awful shade of Happy Blue Ellen had ever seen.
She'd gotten used to it.
This kid Lucas had shown up a year or so back, looking for work. No experience but he had a name as a reference and that carried some weight with Ellen. Dean Winchester didn't come this way much any more though they talked now and again. Too dangerous he'd said and Ellen hadn't questioned it. She hired Lucas on the spot, set him to bussing tables and washing dishes and paid for his liquor license when he hit twenty-one. She didn't think he'd stay much longer, but for now he was a big help, customers liked him and he'd gotten pretty damn good at hustling the troublemakers out into the parking lot.
She caught his eye as he headed toward The Preacher's table and then went to see to her herself.
"Good to see you, Preacher," she said and got that quiet smile she most often associated with the woman. She looked older, a lot older since the last time Ellen had seen her.
"And you, Ellen. Business looks to be holding you well."
"We do all right. What can I get you?"
"You still make those burgers with the barbecue sauce?"
Ellen smiled. "We do. Well done, right? Fries?"
The Preacher nodded. "And I think I'd like a beer. Something light."
Ellen had never seen The Preacher take a drink. "Sure. You want some coffee too?"
The Preacher nodded. "That'd be good, too."
She sent her over a Corona and put the order in, watching the woman carefully. The Preacher sipped at her beer slowly, not like she planned on getting drunk, eyes to the window. When her food came she went at it the same way, slow, deliberate. Ketchup on the plate for her fries, peeling the bun back and cutting her burger up into small pieces with knife and fork.
Ellen checked on her when the coffee cup was empty and the beer bottle near so. It was quiet in the bar, mid-afternoon.
The Preacher hadn't come here for a meal.
Ellen came back over with another beer, unopened, but also with a bottle of whiskey and two glasses.
The Preacher eyed what Ellen had in her hands and smiled, nodding for Ellen to take a seat. "You've got the look of a mother confessor, Ellen."
"That what you need?" Ellen asked settling in the chair and setting the glasses down. She opened and when Jane fingered her glass, she poured, little more than a shot's worth. "I heard about your brother. I'm sorry, Jane."
She got another nod and it hit her that it wasn't age on Jane's face, but grief. "Thank you. It was quiet, good. Not unexpected." She sipped at her whiskey and made a face at the burn, but she took another.
"Can I do something for you, Preacher?" Ellen asked quietly. "I don’t think you came all this way for my burgers and a beer."
That got a dry chuckle and Ellen sipped her own whiskey, taking a moment to scan the bar. Lucas was watching with some interest but still working and Ash was wreaking havoc on the newest video game the leasing company had dropped off. "I actually came here hoping you could put me in touch with Dean Winchester and…and his brother," her voice dropped low, barely above a whisper.
Ellen thought she did really well not to slam the rest of the whiskey back in surprise. Before she could say anything though the Preacher shook her head. "But…sitting here. I've changed my mind." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a long black feather. "Leaves them like calling cards, doesn't he?"
Ellen touched the feather, surprised as ever by the weight of it. She'd read once that the Egyptians used to use a feather to balance the scales against a soul's worth.
"I can get a message to…to Dean," she said.
Jane finished her whiskey in a single swallow and set the glass back down. Reached in and pulled out bills enough to cover the food and the drinks. "No. No…maybe just tell him thank you. That I hope to see him again. Both of them."
"Saved my life a few years back. Or his brother; I was probably an afterthought, but I'm still standing just the same. There's some trouble down in Albuquerque I should look into. It was good to see you again, Ellen."
The Preacher left with a nod to one or two of the other hunters in the bar, and another to Lucas.
Ellen cleared the table first, then came back for the feather.
She had quite a collection of them now; some black, some white, woven into the frame of the dream catcher hanging over her bed. Individually all the feathers felt heavier than they should for what they were, but when she added the new one, a breeze caught the whole thing and it swung and danced on the light breeze like it was made of paper rather than metal and leather and stone.
The weight of souls.
She left it fluttering and twisting and went to leave a message for Dean.
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