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25 May 2008 @ 10:36 pm
She Smiles (1/1)  
Title: She Smiles
Fandom: Supernatural
Characters: Bela Talbot (mentions of Sam and Dean Winchester, Lilith)
Word Count: 2,241
Rating: PG for some language and sensitive themes
Spoilers: Up through and including episode 3.15, "Time is on My Side"
Summary: Sometimes a simple smile is all a woman has to conceal much darker shades of her existence.
Other: I woke up one morning with this story in my head. I just wish that writing it had been as easy for me as coming up with it in the first place! Who knew that something so short and straightforward would eat my brain and consume so much time!
Author's Note: Supernatural and its characters have been manipulated here without the knowledge or consent of Eric Kripke and Warner Bros. Entertainment. No copyright infringement is intended.



The evening that her father first comes to her with malevolent intent, she cries. She cries because she's not sure when this happened. When did the compulsory paternal heed she's known him to have become something else? Something eerily like a covetous interest that she isn't able to put her finger on until it's too late.

There is something odd and foreboding about his demeanor from the moment he sets foot in her bedroom. In the way that he takes great care to press the door securely into its frame. In the way that he studies her as she perches uncomfortably at the edge of her bed, a smile on his face and a scowl in the knit of his eyebrows.

She can smell his favorite single malt Scotch on his breath as he crouches down in front of her, chucks her on the chin, caresses her cheek with the pad of his thumb. At not quite fourteen years old she hasn't tasted the whiskey that he keeps in a crystal decanter that she knows once belonged to Grandfather Bishop, but she recognizes the smell. Her father drinks it neat, nursing it from a brandy snifter every evening like clockwork. And tonight the smoky-sweet tang of the alcohol has erased the scent of dinner's curried prawns entirely.

She wonders how much he has had to drink as his long fingers burrow into her hair, trying her very hardest not to flinch. He asks her if she's finished her homework, if she's been a good girl, and the thick quality of his words is as unsettling as the hand that clamps down on the nape of her neck. For a moment she can barely breathe, but she finds it in herself to answer him, saying yes, calling him "sir."

"No, no, no, Abby. Sir?" He presses his forehead against hers and she shuts her eyes, "I've never liked it when you call me that."

"I'm sorry," she whispers. "I'm sorry, Father."

"Call me...Daddy."

His palm is on the fair skin of her thigh then, unwelcome but sliding below the hem of her tartan skirt and she knows once and for all that something has gone terribly wrong. This is so terribly wrong.

"Love, I want to hear you say it." He's slurring now and his fingertips are like hot pokers as they dig into her flesh. "Say it, Abigail."

She stammers, hot tears rising unbidden behind her tightly closed eyelids and he fists her thick hair in warning. His voice is as sharp as a knife and every bit as dangerous, "Say it."

She whimpers, compliant and pleading all at once. "Daddy."

***


Eight months after the automobile accident responsible for claiming her parents' lives, she begins to go by a different name. She smiles with a pride she is unaccustomed to the first time she is addressed as Bela. Miss Talbot, she hears herself being called.

"Miss Talbot?" The aproned grocer inquires as he appears at the front of the store where she is waiting for him and the impromptu interview that he promised her over the telephone. "Bela Talbot?"

"That's me," she tells him, squaring her shoulders and straightening away from the wall she's been propped against. "I'm Bela. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Mr. Ellis."

It feels like thumbing her nose up at bound and broken Abby Bishop. At her meekly compliant mother and immoral father. They're all dead to her. Bela Talbot is stronger, smarter and at the mercy of no one, she has decided. She makes her own rules.

She is not quite sixteen years of age and is unable to petition for a deed poll that declares her legal change of name, but she doesn't need a piece of paper.

This is who she is now. Bela Talbot.

Abby would still have extended family to turn to had she not severed those blood ties by fleeing London for Ipswich without any warning. Abby would have stood to inherit her dead parents' fortune at eighteen years old had she stayed. Abby would have gone on living a rich and simultaneously unfulfilling life, but not Bela.

Bela would rather be all alone in the world and learn to stand on her own. Bela would rather make her own money in whatever lucrative way possible and earn everything she knows she deserves. Bela would rather sell her soul all over again than go back to life before meeting the pale child with the unearthly red eyes.

She knows that the past will always be there, nipping at her heels like a vicious creature with dripping jowls and a hunger to tear her apart. And she knows that forgetting it will never be a possibility. But she is determined to forge ahead and fill the next ten years with whatever happiness she can make for herself.

She doesn't think that she believes in God but if He exists, she hopes that He realizes He owes her absolution. She understands that making a deal with a demon is quite unseemly but all of the time she spent in prayer didn't help her.

She didn't have any other choice.

Certainly a truly merciful God should be able to understand that?

***


Bela feels no self-reproach when she first sells a piece of Islamic occult history to the so-called highest bidder. She smiles as she she trades the Gembolo whip for nearly thirteen thousand pounds. The price has been agreed upon for weeks now but words cannot begin to describe how greatly she prefers the weight of crisp bills in her hand to the carved Stigi wood of the talisman.

Without the recently acquired whip, she may not be invulnerable to malignant spirits, but Bela knows that this is the start of a different life. A better one. A life where she, at nineteen years old, can finally afford to live.

No more stocking fruits and vegetables at a local grocery store for minimum wage. No more living on canned soup and saltine crackers when money gets particularly tight and a piece of fresh meat from the butcher is a luxury she can't spare the price of. No more struggling to sleep in her one-room flat; shivering cold in the winter even beneath a stack of blankets because she is unwilling to turn up the heat or sweating below the desperately churning ceiling fan in the summer until she strips to her knickers and opens yet another window.

As it stands, Bela has a mere five years left until her bill comes due and until now she's earned nothing for herself but a one-way ticket to Hell.

That's simply not good enough.

She wants to believe that Lilith will someday make good on her mysterious offering of a bona fide way out--a way to buy back her soul, she'd called it. But believing in a demon is no easy feat and Bela refuses to go down in flames without making the most of what's left of her life. The life that she, ironically enough, saved and sold at the same time.

And that's why she's already making plans for her money as she begins to count it. Plans for herself, too. Plans to drown herself in everything she's been forced to deny herself until now.

She'll have a silk Hermés pointu scarf, Jimmy Choo on her feet and the choice to swathe herself in Versace or Dior. She wants Tiffany's diamonds to drip from her earlobes and dangle from a neck scented with Chanel. She'll carry a Burberry bag, hide La Perla lace below her clothes and sleep on silk sheets in a bed big enough for three of her.

No desire seems too extravagant for a woman with an expiration date and by damn, if she's going to die, the hounds are going to have to haul her into Hell by her perfectly highlighted hair.

***


On that final morning, Bela has tea. She smiles at the Harlequin deco cup, running the neatly manicured nail of her index finger in an absent circular motion around the gilded edge of the saucer below it. The sunlight from the elegant bay windows at her back glints off of the floral pattern on the china, making it gleam in delicate shades of rosé and iridescent white. It's shaping up to be a lovely day, her impending death put aside, and Bela revels in the calm before the storm.

The familiarity of the black English Breakfast warms the cold hollow of her stomach and mutes the sound of her guilty inner voice. The colorful array of bite-sized canapés and sandwiches stacked in pyramids on golden trays help her forget the dirty deed Lilith expects of her. The almond-sweet scent of authentic Bakewell tart dulls her contrition in knowing that she will do it.

Sam Winchester may not deserve to die but he's the long-awaited answer and self-preservation is a strong motivator. And so is the desire to see another morning and taste another blend of Pekoe as satisfying to her palette as the one she is currently sipping.

When the waitress approaches the linen-draped corner table and refills her half-empty glass of iced water, Bela can barely pull herself from the intoxicating tea to thank her.

She is reluctant to part with the porcelain cup, as if it is a lover's lips below hers, but she does and courteously nods her gratitude, "Thank you."

"You're welcome." The girl's disposition is as sunny as the blonde hair that obscures her face as she leans over to test the warmth of the tea cozy with her bare palms, "Is there anything else I can get you while I'm here?"

"No, I..." Bela is briefly stunned into silence as she watches the expectant pair of blue eyes go black as they turn her way.

The ugly way in which the waitress's head contorts spasmodically is like a nightmare warped by a bad acid trip. It's unlike anything she's ever seen and yet somehow she knows just what it means.

Her time is almost up.

Somehow Bela manages to regroup, swallowing the trill of horror before it escapes the confines of her mouth, but it's all she can do to smile feebly at the pretty face of the tea room attendant named Eden.

Eden. Bela almost wants to laugh. What a place to catch a first glimpse of Hell.

"No, thank you." Her voice is brittle but nonetheless polite. "I'm fine."

I'm fine, she repeats, this time to herself, watching the girl walk away. Everything's going to be fine.

***


Two minutes before midnight, she cries. She cries because for the first time in ten long years, she feels like Abby. Scared and alone and not sure of who to turn to for help. Not sure of who would think her deserving of help. But it doesn't stop her from asking for it, too afraid for her own life to risk being cavalier about the ability to stand on her own two feet. The situation is out of her hands and she is woman enough to concede to the fact that she is in over her head. Even if it's too little, too late.

She cradles the receiver of the phone to her ear , choking on her own sincerity, "Dean, listen, I need help."

"Sweetheart, we are weeks past help."

She is unsurprised by his lack of sympathy but maybe there is at least one innate part of him left to appeal to. His conscience.

Bela's attitude has gotten her nowhere in the past with Dean Winchester and in spite of the way that they tend to bring out the worst in one another, she knows that he has a conscience. That he has a heart. It may not be open to her, not even in her darkest hour, but he's a hunter. She's come across a handful in her line of work, each unlike the last, but they all have in common the indwelling compulsion to save lives.

"I know I don't deserve it," she admits through an onslaught of eleventh-hour tears. What she doesn't admit is that she desperately wants to hear him tell her that she's wrong. That no one deserves what Hell has in store for her.

But why should he? Dean must feel the hellfire on the back of his neck as much as she does. They've both been damned for the bargains they've made and after all that she's put him through, she doesn't really expect him to feel sympathy for her. And apparently he doesn't.

"You know what, you're right. You don't. But you know what the bitch of the bunch is? If you would've just come to us sooner and asked for our help, we probably could have taken the Colt and saved you."

Even in her despair Bela can taste her usual venom at the back of her throat. She wants to wail at the man on the other end of the line and call him a bastard for dangling the regret that she already feels in front of her. But bridges have already been burned and humility won't deliver her from the fate that she chose for herself. Having the final word means nothing as the clock on the hotel nightstand tells her that the day has come to its final minute, just like her life.

"I know," Bela confesses, finally resigned, not looking for redemption. "And saved yourself."
 
 
Current Mood: relievedrelieved
Current Music: "The World I Know," David Cook
 
 
kriptkeeperkriptkeeper on May 26th, 2008 04:40 am (UTC)
I like it! This is what I feel like we needed, more development of Bela before offing her! Great job.
Erinxxsh0tgun on May 26th, 2008 04:48 am (UTC)
Thank you :) This story started out in my mind with the possibility of so many things that I've imagined factoring in to Bela being the person we saw her as on the show and I ultimately had to cut it down to include what I think is important and not be filled with extraneous crap. But I'm definitely with you on the fact that I would have loved to learn more about who Kripke & Co. envisioned her as before they gave her the axe!
kriptkeeperkriptkeeper on May 26th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
One development that I really liked was that she didn't stick around to inherit all that money, that she was a 'self-made woman'.
ErinRua: Bless meerinrua on May 26th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
Oh, nicely done! If only Kripke et al had the time (and episodes) to develope Bela properly, I'd like to think her story was much like this. You've done a good job of painting between the lines and giving us her journey, empty and painful though it may be. Yes, let earthly pleasures give her joy, for she would find joy no other place. Fine job weaving her tale back into canon, at the end.

Thanks for sharing!
Cheers ~

Erin
Erinxxsh0tgun on May 26th, 2008 05:45 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to read and leave feedback - especially of the positive variety. For some reason I really struggled with this, maybe because I was having a hard time sussing out exactly what I felt needed to be included to make it as well-rounded as possible given the fact that so much is still left to the imagination.

I definitely didn't want to completely change the Bela that we've seen as viewers but I feel like there's more to her story than an unfortunate childhood and I sincerely wish we'd been given more, too!

Again, thank you! :D
Miss Firecracker: Bela All the things you've donex_spikeaholic_x on May 26th, 2008 05:56 am (UTC)
Wow, this was really well done. I wish we had gotten to see more stuff like this on the show!
Erinxxsh0tgun on May 26th, 2008 06:02 am (UTC)
And what an appropriate icon you've used. I really needed that for this story ;D

But thank you so much for reading! I sort of wrote this to appease my own desire to see more backstory on Bela and if it appeals to someone else, it was worth the headache it turned out to be.

I know that Bela hasn't been a fan favorite but I couldn't help but recognize the fact that she's an interesting character to explore and that we're given a lot of free reign in doing so with our limited knowledge of her.
the ricky the bartender fanatic.: spn: bela (despair)vorrothiel on June 7th, 2008 05:17 am (UTC)
Even though I'm not a fan of Bela (liked the idea of her, but IMO she was executed horribly), I really enjoyed this fic.

How Abby becomes Bela - it's hard to say whether or not Bela deserved to go to hell for her deal, and I can't blame her for wanting to kill Sam as a way out of it. Very well written! :D
Erinxxsh0tgun on June 7th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I think it's because Bela was executed rather horribly that I felt so compelled to write this and it's good to know that it was worth my while! I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond :)
pecansodapecansoda on September 16th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
Oh this is gorgeous and lovely and so fragile. I love this. :)
Erinxxsh0tgun on September 16th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
Eee, thank you! This was such a tiny little story but I have to admit it was sort of my baby for a while. Bela so didn't get the backstory that she deserved and it was kind of therapeutic for me to fill in the blanks! :D