Chapter 14: This Could Be My Last Hurrah


“Shit!” Dean curses as he rapidly spins the steering wheel to right the path of the Impala as they race through the night. He glances over his shoulder to gauge the distance of the demons chasing them, sparing a look at his siblings as well. “You guys alright?” he asks them, his voice strained.

Another round of shots ring out uncomfortably close to the Impala.

“Peachy!” Tabitha sarcastically throws back, hurriedly rolling down the window next to her on the driver’s side.

Sam holds his bleeding arm, urging his brother, “Drive faster, Dean.”

“I can’t!” Dean growls in return, glancing again in the rearview mirror before looking to his brother again. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m amazing,” Sam answers, voice dripping with sarcasm.

“You ever seen that many?” Dean asks, looking over his shoulder once more when he hears the increased rush of wind from behind him.

“What the hell!” Dean exclaims, spotting his sister pushing her upper body through the now open window behind him.

“Jesus Christ!” Sam shouts, flinging his upper body into the backseat to grasp at Tabitha’s legs when she leans backwards even further out the window, now sitting on the ledge and firing wildly at the demons chasing them.

Laughing a little manically, Tabitha replies, “Don’t think JC’s gonna be any help, Sammy!”

In response to Sam’s angry mutters, she only leans out further away from the car to get a better aim, relying on her brother alone to keep ahold of her and stop her from falling.

“Hang tight!” she advises her younger brother with a laugh, pumping the sawed-off and taking aim once more at their pursuers.

“In the car!” Dean screams, eyes on the road ahead of them. “Turn! Turn! All passengers must remain INSIDE the car at all times!”

“Dammit, Tabitha!” Sam groans, heaving his weight into jerking her back into the car just as Dean spins the wheel and makes a wild turn along the road. The centrifugal force throws Tabitha back against the passenger side of the car, somehow allowing Sam to right himself in the front seat. But before he can round on his sister for her antics, the car screeches to a halt, all three siblings bracing themselves from being thrown forward as they silently stare ahead at the flaming vehicle barricading the road.

“Awesome,” Tabitha groans under her breath, pumping her sawed-off shotgun again.

“Damn it!” Dean exclaims, starting to throw the Impala in reverse, cutting the wheel hard to change directions.

But he barely has the car moving backwards from the fire when the windows shatter as demons reach through to grab the three of them.

As her brothers struggle to shove the demons out of the front of the car, Tabitha slams the butt of her shotgun into the face of the demon grappling for her, and then quickly jumps out of the car after him, firing a round of rock salt into his chest and knocking him to the ground.

Before she can stalk closer, a stream of water sprays over the demon, causing him to scream and writhe on the ground. Stepping back from the water, Tabitha tracks its path back to a strangely converted old fire truck, where several distinctly civilian appearing men gather around it, one running the fire hose from the top. As the demons fight towards the fire truck presumably spraying Holy Water at them, one of the men steps a little apart from the others, raising a bullhorn to his mouth as he begins reciting something. It sounds like Enochian to her, and as she watches, the demons around the car smoke out of the bodies they’d possessed, the now freed bodies falling to the pavement with heavy thuds.

As the boys step out of the Impala behind her, Tabitha hears Dean say, “Well, that’s something you don’t see every day.”

Staring a little enviously at the civilian retrofitted fire truck, Tabitha comments, “No, but I want one.”

One of the men with a sawed off shotgun steps forward asking them, “You three all right?”

Answering for all three of them, Dean says a little incredulously, “Peachy.”

“Be careful. It’s…dangerous around here,” the stranger continues to warn them.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait, wait,” Dean sputters, starting after the man.

“No need to thank us,” the stranger returns, misinterpreting Dean’s actions and waving them away.

Dean continues trying to get their attention. “No, hold up a sec! Who are you?”

“We’re the Sacrament Lutheran Militia.”

“The what?” Tabitha asks, crossing her arms over her chest.

Looking like he’s breaking bad news, the stranger tells them, “I hate to tell you this, but those were demons, and this is the Apocalypse. So…buckle up.”

The Winchesters share a startled look before Sam tells the…self-proclaimed militia, “Yeah. We know a little something about the Apocalypse.”

Tabitha snorts and steps away from the group, turning most of her attention to her bloody shoulder to examine the wound as she snorts to herself, “Yeah, we’re the goddamn harbingers of it.”

The men of the militia step closer to the Winchesters, curious by their seemingly shared knowledge of demons.

“Really?” one of them challenges. “You’re hip to all this?”

Dean snorts, silently motioning them to step closer to the trunk of the Impala while Tabitha opens the back door, rummaging in her bag for something to clean away the blood from the graze to her shoulder left by a bullet.

As the militia look on in appreciation at the arsenal hidden under the false bottom in the trunk, Sam tells them, “Looks like we’re in the same business.”

With growing appreciation himself, Dean adds, “Yeah, and among colleagues.” He nods to the shotgun still held across the chest of one of the men, commenting, “That’s a police-issue shotgun. That truck is, uh…inspired.”

“No kidding,” Tabitha compliments as she peels off her torn and bloody button-up shirt. “I’m jealous as hell. I totally want one.”

Dean gives her a lopsided grin when he sees that her wound is minor, and tells her, “Sure, Tab. I’ll add that to your Christmas list this year.”

She grins in return, pouring some hydrogen peroxide across the cut flesh. When she looks up, she notices the teenage boy in the group staring at her, eyes transfixed. She rolls her eyes when she sees his gaze locked onto her chest, only covered now by a tight fitting white tank top, the edges of her black lacy bra peeking through. With the peroxide bottle in her hand, she waves it in front of her breasts and then motions up to her eyes. When the bright red face of the boy reaches her face, she gives him a wink, laughing as she turns back to her bag to look for bandages.

Behind the Impala, Dean continues addressing the militia. “Where’d you guys pick up all this crap?”

The darker haired of the two men explains, “You know, you…pick things up along the way.”

Apparently deciding to share information with the locals, Dean tells them, “This whole corner of the state is nuts with demon omens. We just want to help. That’s all.”

Sam throws in, “We’re on the same team here. Just talk to us.”

The two men and the teenager of the militia share a measured look before the blonde with the shotgun relents. “Follow us,” he instructs.

Seeming to be over his bout of nervousness at being caught staring at her assets, the teenager sidles closer to her and cockily tells Tabitha, “You can ride with us, sweetheart.”

Laughing at his audacity, Tabitha winks again and saucily tells the teenager, “Sure thing, kid. Why not?”

Dean sputters an objection when she follows him, but Tabitha waves his objection away. “You really think I can’t handle myself with glee club there?”

She doesn’t wait for his response, instead climbing into the back of the impressively converted fire truck with the grinning teen.

The teenager—whose name she’d learned was Dylan—is still grinning like he’s won the lottery when they arrive in Blue Earth, Minnesota.

Dylan even impressively holds out a hand to Tabitha to help her out of the back of the fire truck when they stop in front of a barricaded church. She sees her brothers park the Impala nearby, but doesn’t spare them more than a cursory glance.

Standing on the sidewalk as she takes in the town, Tabitha comments, “I’m not sure whether to be impressed and jealous of the innovation and fortifications of this town, or slightly terrified at the current state of the world.”

“It’s something else,” Dylan replies beside her, but Tabitha can’t decide just what his thoughts on the matter are.

Dylan gestures towards the church then where many of the denizens of the town are filing through the small opening between concrete road barriers and razor wire fence.

“Come on in and meet everyone,” he eagerly tells her, falling in step beside her.

As they cross through the opening—and over what appears to be an altered Devil’s Trap—Tabitha can see a middle-aged redhead waiting, her eyes on Dylan beside her.

When the redhead’s gaze runs up and down her appraisingly, Tabitha grimaces while placing the protective look. A suspicious mother.

Looking to Dylan, the woman tells him, “Dylan, it’s a church. Headphones off,” while gesturing for him to pull the earbuds out. She passes him a loving and indulgent look before turning a harder glare on Tabitha once more.

“This is Tabitha, Mom,” the boy introduces, gesturing between the pair of women. “We saved her and her brothers out on the highway into town. They seem to be down with this demon sh—err, stuff.”

Tabitha coughs at the boy’s near slip in language in front of his mother before she holds a hand out to the woman. “I wouldn’t say ‘saved,'” she corrects. “We’ve been neck deep in this…stuff for a long time. We manage just fine on our own.” She shakes the woman’s hand when she reluctantly offers her own, introducing herself. “Tabitha Winchester. I’d say pleased to meet you, but End Times aren’t exactly pleasant.”

The woman almost cracks a smile, offering a simple, “Jane,” as she pumps her hand once and drops it, herding her son into the church and away from Tabitha.

“Apocalypse or not, I’m pretty sure that’s all kinds of illegal,” Dean suddenly whispers in her ear.

With a snort, Tabitha retorts, “Hey, he’s eighteen. Just this side of legal.”

Laughing at his startled expression, Tabitha follows Sam into the heavily fortified and guarded church.

The Winchesters stand briefly in the back of the packed church, none of them exactly listening to whatever sermon is being preached in the front of the church.

Sam looks down the main isle between pews, nodding his head towards several of the men with shotguns sitting at the end of each pew.

Tabitha nods in return, lowering her voice to whisper to her younger brother, “I’ll say it again: I’m not sure whether I’m impressed with this town or slightly terrified.”

Her brother’s dark look tells her exactly what he thinks of the whole matter.

On her other side, Dean gestures to the front of the church with a jerk of his head, lowly asking her, “Is that a mass wedding?”

Disbelieving, Tabitha shakes her head and snorts softly, “‘Cause nothing says romance like the end of the world.”

The dark haired stranger that they’d run into outside of the town chimes in from the other side of Sam, confirming, “Yeah. We’ve had eight so far this week.”

The Winchesters can only share another look of quiet disbelief, remaining in the back of the church as the wedding comes to a close and the three newlywed couples exit the church amidst cheers and thrown rice.

Again, the three siblings stand a little apart outside the church, watching as the young couples leave.

From behind them, a voice casually says, “So, Rob tells me you three hunt demons.”

When they turn to face the voice, they’re momentarily startled to see the pastor of the church.

Stuttering a bit, Sam replies, “Uh…yes, sir.”

None of the siblings miss the incongruous sight of a pistol strapped to the pastor’s thigh as he comments, “You missed a few.”

Mirthlessly, Sam laughs and answers, “Yeah, tells us about it.” He continues asking, “Any idea why they’re here?”

Shaking his head, the pastor answers, “They sure seem to like us though.”

After another moment, the pastor looks them over and says, “Follow me, gentleman.” With a gracious nod, he tacks on, “And lady of course.”

Inside the church again, Dean comments, “So, you’re a preacher.”

“Not what you expected, huh?” he confirms, leading them down a set of stairs within the church.

“Well, dude, you’re packing,” Dean agrees.

“Strange times,” comes his answer as he leads them down into a busy dayroom in the basement of the church.

“Is that a 12-year-old packing salt rounds?” Dean observes, looking around at all of the activity.

“Everybody pitches in,” the preacher confirms.

“So, the whole church?” Sam questions.

But the preacher corrects, “The whole town.”

“A town of hunters,” Tabitha whistles. “I’ll keep saying it: This is either the most terrifying thing and we should run for the hills, or this is awesome and we should totally move in.”

The preacher stops to turn back to them again, explaining, “Well, the demons were killing us. We had to do something.”

“So why not call the National Guard?” Sam questions.

Derisively, Tabitha replies, “Yeah, ’cause that’s totally something the Guard prepares and drills for.” She taps her hand against her palm as she verbally ticks off a list, “Fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes…and oh yeah, demon attacks.”

The preacher shakes his head, answering Sam’s question. “We were told not to.”

“By who?” Sam incredulously asks.

When he looks reluctant to answer, Dean prods, “Come on, Padre. You’re as locked and loaded as we’ve ever seen. And that exorcism was Enochian. Someone’s telling you something.”

Apologetically, the preacher deflects, “Look, I’m sorry. I can’t discuss it.”

An teenage girl approaches them, telling the preacher, “Dad, it’s okay.”

“Leah—” her father starts to warn her.

But she interrupts, confidently telling him, “It’s Sam, Dean, and Tabitha Winchester. They’re safe. I know all about them.”

“You do?” Dean asks in surprise.

“Sure,” she answers with a soft smile. “From the angels.”

“The angels,” Dean repeats. “Awesome.”

“Super frickin’ fantastic,” Tabitha darkly adds. Then abashedly tells the preacher, “Sorry, Padre.”

Leah tries to allay their fears. “Don’t worry. They can’t see you here. The…marks on your ribs, right?” she says, nodding towards them and gesturing to her own ribs.

Tabitha instantly feels a tinge of suspicion at the girl’s knowledge, but Sam continues calmly questioning her.

“So, you know all about us because angels told you?”

“Yes. Among other things,” she confirms, as if confirming that the sun rises in the east.

“Like the snappy little exorcism spell,” Dean guesses.

“And they show me where the demons are gonna be before it happens, how to fight back.”

“She’s never been wrong,” her father chimes in. “Not once. She’s very special.”

“Dad,” Leah self-consciously demurs.

“Sure, something special,” Tabitha darkly intones. “But that doesn’t sound like any angels we’ve ever known. And believe it or not, we have met the least douchey of the lot.”

Dean nudges her with a reproachful look for her suspicious tone, and then turns back towards father and daughter as he questions, “Let me guess—before you see something, you get a really bad migraine, and you see flashing lights?”

“How’d you know?” Leah quietly wonders.

“‘Cause you’re not the first prophet we’ve met. But you are the cutest.”

At her father’s startled look, Dean quickly adds, “I mean that with total respect, of course.”

Under her breath, Tabitha maintains, “Something is funky here. I don’t buy what she’s selling.”

The girl hears her mutters to Sam and Dean, but offers a kind smile as she tells Tabitha, “I understand your reluctance to believe in the angels. You’ve been deceived more than once. But they’re not all trying to lie to you. The angels tell me that they only want to help you and your brothers. They never would have allowed you to fall into your current fate. You just trusted the wrong angel.”

Temper flaring at her words, Tabitha leans forward to threaten, “You watch your mouth, little girl. You’re talking about matters that are none of your business. And I don’t care what you think you are or what you’re telling them you are…if you keep running your mouth about things you don’t understand…I’ll end you.”

Shoving off her older brother’s reproachful grip, Tabitha pushes away to flee the church.

As she hits the cold air, she growls to herself, “I need a goddamned drink.”

Her brothers find her an hour later in the closest bar. Luckily, neither mentions the incident in the church, instead sitting on either side of her at the bar.

She grins at their arrival, waving down Paul—the dark haired man they’d met outside of town hours earlier—and asking him to set her brothers up with a round of tequila shots.

Dean tosses back his shot, forgoing the salt and lime that his sister favors.

“Tequila, huh?” he quietly questions, not commenting when she waves for the dark haired bartender to pour another for each of them.

“Why not?” she grins, giving Paul a little salute with the shot glass as she compliments, “The End is breathing down our backs and Paul here has some of the best damned tequila this side of the border.”

Paul grins and pours himself a shot as well, mirroring her own salute with the shot glass before saying, “How could I not break out my best when such a gorgeous creature graces my bar?”

“Oh, such a flatterer,” Tabitha purrs as Paul slams back the shot. Moving quickly, she plucks a lime wedge from the bowl on the bar, wrapping her lips around it as she leans over the wood separating them. With one hand, she grips Paul by the back of the neck, pulling him forward until his lips seal over hers, his tongue sweeping across her lower lip and pulling the lime wedge from between her teeth.

Dean grabs his sister’s hips and forcefully yanks her back into her seat before Tabitha is ready, and she falls hard against the stool as she scowls at him. “We were going to share that lime wedge,” she huffs in annoyance.

“What the hell has gotten into you?” he demands, pushing away her now empty shot glass and the half-full bottle of tequila. “First, you’re reckless as hell going after demons, then you’re hitting on a kid not even old enough to shave, and now you’re just making out with random dudes in bars? What the hell? You turning into a crazy drunken cougar?”

Tabitha shrugs. “Maybe I am. I never really tried a younger guy before. Being a cougar could be fun. I usually go for the older guys, you know? Maybe younger ones are even better. And I gotta admit, Dylan’s one cute guy.” She winks at her brother, her smile turning into a full laugh at the look of horror that settles over his face.

Wrapping an arm around her stomach to hold in her laughter, she tells Dean, “Come on. Lighten up. I’m just trying to have a little fun here before I go.”

“By getting yourself arrested for hitting on teenage boys.”

With another saucy wink, she retorts, “Eighteen. The kid’s eighteen, Dean. Perfectly legal.”

Shaking her head, she continues, “What’s the big deal anyway? So I want to have a little fun before the lights go out. It’s probably not going to be that long before they do and you know it, too. And let me tell you, my time down here is the last chance I’m gonna have to have fun. I mean, real fun. I never really had fun, you know? Not like you always did. I was the good little sister. The good middle kid that listened to her older brother and father and looked after her younger brother. I was a little wild in college, but not too wild. I partied a little, but not too much. I tried marijuana, but never anything harder than that. I did some naughty things, but nothing too naughty. I had some fun, but I never really cut loose. And now, my time’s running out to really have fun. So I’ve gotta do it all now. Everything I was too scared…or too good to do before.” She turns to give Paul another flirtatious grin as she continues, “And that includes doing shots with lovely bartenders.” She sizes him up before asking, “You ever do body shots before?”

Dean shoots a dark look at Paul, almost daring him to speak or step closer to his sister. With forced calm, he commands the bartender, “I think my little sister’s had enough. Why don’t you go grab her a cup of coffee before something bad happens.”

Paul seems to wisely hear the less than veiled threat in those words and nods before going to pour a cup of coffee from a carafe further down the bar.

On the other side of her, Sam suddenly tosses back his own shot of tequila, shaking himself as he mutters, “Wow. I think I’m scarred for life, sis.”

With a dark look at the coffee cup suddenly plunked in front of her, Tabitha crosses her arms over her chest and stares defiantly at the cup, an awkward silence filling the air between the siblings as she refuses to touch the steaming mug.

Breaking the weighty air, Sam finally suggests, “So, Tab, I’m thinking that with all the weird stuff going on here, we should probably get another opinion.”

When she swivels towards him with a raised eyebrow, he clarifies, “Of the angel variety.”

She scoffs and returns her glare to the steaming cup in front of her. “Gee. Which angel do you wanna phone? Michael, Lucifer, Azrael… How ’bout Zachariah?” she waves her hands in the air as she continues, “Or you know, those silent assholes that always follow him around…Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”

Impatiently, he tells her, “I was thinking more along the lines of Cas, Tab. You can get ahold of him, right? So maybe you should reach out and fill him in on what’s going on here.”

“You wanna talk to that ass, then you call him. Last I checked, he still had a cellphone,” she snaps.

“Fine,” he growls in return, impatiently digging out his cell as he steps away from the noisy bar to make his call.

With a dark chuckle, Tabitha snidely comments to her coffee cup, “Good luck reaching him. I don’t think the idiot has really mastered the art of cellular communication yet.”

Realizing her older brother’s disproving eyes are still focused on her, Tabitha turns to snap, “What?”

“Just how drunk are you?” he demands in his usual older brother judgmental tone.

“Enough,” she scowls, not sure what his point is.

He gestures at the coffee cup. “You gonna drink that?”

“Kinda defeats the purpose of trying to get drunk,” she growls. Which in truth had been a large feat in and of itself. She’s noticed that not only has the stupid angel wing charm on her bracelet increased her hunger—she supposes in order for her body to maintain an angel’s Grace—it also seems to have made it a bit more difficult to actually get drunk. Probably part of some kind of increased metabolism.

She’d downed half the bottle of tequila before she started to feel the floating sensation of herself drifting away on her buzz. And she didn’t want to undo all her hard work. People would definitely notice if she had to finish the rest of the bottle of tequila to achieve her buzz once more.

“I’ll give you a choice,” Dean imperiously tells her as he pulls her to her feet, dragging her to an empty table a ways from the bar and plunking her down at it. “Either you start drinking that coffee…or you tell me just what bee crawled up your ass and died.”

Arms still folded defiantly across her chest, she glares unflinchingly up at Dean as he stands and glares down at her.

“I’m guessing it has something to do with that charm on your bracelet and why you’ve been so bitchy whenever Cas even gets mentioned. We all know there’s more to that situation than you’re letting on. And more to what happened in Heaven. So either you can spill…or you can drink that damn coffee,” he threatens. “Seems like an easy choice to me.”

Tabitha lowers her arms to her side when she recognizes the dark promise in her brother’s unflinching gaze. Past experience tells her that when he throws down an ultimatum like this, that she might as well choose while she’s still able to make the more favorable choice. Or her brother will choose the harder one for her.

Still, as she takes the coffee cup, she defensively tells him, “My throat’s a little sore anyway and something hot sounds like it would hit the spot right about now.”

Dean scoffs, but doesn’t challenge her deflection as he sits in the chair across the table from her.

When Sam joins them, Dean asks, “So, did you get ahold of Cas?”

“Yeah, I left him a message,” Sam confirms, handing a beer bottle to Dean and keeping one for himself. “I think.”

Tabitha looks longingly at the bottles, but when Dean gives her another dark and daring look, she raises her coffee cup and sarcastically hums, “Umm-mmm.”

Glancing surreptitiously between them, Sam changes the subject. “So, uh, what’s your theory? Why all the demon hits?”

“I don’t know,” Dean admits, glancing around the bar.

Looking back, he guesses, “Gank the girl prophet, maybe?”

“Have at her,” Tabitha grumbles into her coffee, blowing across the cup before taking a sip.

Sam gives both his siblings a strange look.

It prompts Dean to ask simply, “What?”

“Just, these angels are sending these people to do their dirty work.”

“Yeah. And?” Dean jadedly responds.

“And they could get ripped to shreds.”

“We’re all gonna die, Sam,” Dean points out. “In like a month—maybe two. I mean it. I mean, this is the end of the world. But these people aren’t freaking out. In fact, they’re running to the exits in an orderly fashion. I don’t know that that’s such a bad thing.”

“Who says they’re all gonna die?” Sam challenges. “Whatever happened to us saving them?” Sam turns to Tabitha beside him, giving her a confused look when she doesn’t jump to his side and argue against Dean’s glum assessment. “Come on, Tab. You can’t tell me that you feel that way, too.”

Wrapping both hands around her mug, Tabitha stares down at the dark brown liquid as she tells her younger brother, “Gotta say, Sam, yeah. I can’t argue with Dean here. I mean, come on. All we’ve seen the angels do so far is send others to do their dirty work.” She gestures in a circle around the table. “I mean, seriously… Our lives have become doing their dirty work. Or trying to keep from doing more of their dirty work. All we do is gank demons. More than those frickin’ angels do. And now we’re trying to stop the apocalypse that they had just as big a hand in starting as far as I’m concerned. But us trying to stop it? How well has that been going, Sammy? ‘Cause I’d say we’re losing on that score. I’m starting to finally see the full scope of power that these angels have, and there ain’t much we can do against ’em. We’re losing, Sammy. Maybe it’s time to accept it and make the best of it. I’m still not saying I buy what this Leah girl is selling, but at least these people get to feel like they’re doing something meaningful and useful with whatever time they’ve got left. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I’ve lost that illusion that we’re actually doing any good out there.”

“You don’t really believe that. Do you, Tabitha?” Sam asks her, his brow furrowed as he frowns across at her. She knows he’s struggling with both her and Dean accepting the path they seem destined for, but she can’t seem to bring herself to comfort him at the moment. Not when it’s taking her all to keep herself from balling up into the fetal position and crying it out until Judgment Day finally arrives.

Luckily, she’s saved from answering his probing look by the tolling of church bells, causing all three siblings to look around in confusion as the bar begins quickly emptying.

“Something I said?” Dean cracks.

“Paul, what’s going on?” Sam asks the bartender as the man closes up his bar.

“Leah’s had another vision.”

“Want to go to church?” Sam asks turning back to his brother and sister.

Dean snarks while finishing his beer. “You know me—downright pious.”

Tabitha lets out a disbelieving snort, standing and starting for the bar. “Well, if we’re headed to church, I’m definitely gonna need another drink…or twelve.”

Dean stands to throw an arm around her shoulders, guiding her away from the bar as he advises, “I’m pretty sure you’ve had enough there, Tab.”

“Ugh,” she groans, seeding to fact that Dean won’t allow her to do something he’s set his mind against. “I’m in no condition to go to church right now.”

With a dark chuckle, Dean replies, “Yeah, don’t want to blaspheme in a church by showing up drunk.”

She returns his dark chuckle as she answers, “Not real worried these days about the fate of my soul.” She shudders at the knowledge of just what awaits her now when she dies. Pushing the mental images away, she corrects her brother. “And I meant that I’m too sober to be in a church right now.”

Hours later, the Winchesters approach the farmhouse from Leah’s vision along with the other volunteers from the church.

Though her brothers throw a few worried looks her way, Tabitha feels more than sobered by the time they arrive.

Sam has Ruby’s knife in hand, and both Dean and Tabitha sport their standard sawed-off shotguns with salt rounds.

As the preacher signals the group to split up to approach the house, the siblings disperse as well, each going with different groups of townspeople.

Tabitha follows the preacher and the redhead, Jane, around behind the house to ensure that no demons escape out the back.

Nodding at the weed sprayer currently holding Holy Water on Jane’s back, she whispers in compliment, “I gotta say, the ingenuity of household items for fighting demons in this town is commendable.”

Jane smiles grimly. “Necessity is the mother of all invention. Or so they say.”

It had seemed deathly quiet while they stalked closer to the house, leaving Tabitha to wonder about the validity of Leah’s “visions.” But as they approach the back door, they all jump when they hear gunfire ring out from the front of the house. Jane looks worriedly around the way they’d come, and Tabitha knows by the look in her eyes that she’s thinking about her son, Dylan.

“Focus,” Tabitha advises the woman when she would have gone back the way they’d come, grabbing the worried mother’s arm and pushing her towards the back door instead.

Tabitha doesn’t bother with the lock-pick set in the pocket of her leather coat, instead, leaning her weight back onto one leg and then kicking the door in.

Pastor Gideon enters first, immediately firing a salt round at a demon rushing down the stair towards them. Jane follows into the house, turning right just inside and spraying Holy Water at anything that moves. Tabitha can hear the pastor speaking in Enochian as she rushes past him, stepping into the kitchen and firing her shotgun at another demon trying to jump Paul from behind. He nods his thanks at her and turns to repeat the same Enochian that the others are using.

Not pausing, Tabitha spins on her heel to step into the living room, seeing her brothers and Dylan fighting several more demons there.

One of the demons rushes her, and she quickly raises her shotgun to fire a salt round into its chest, but it only manages to knock the demon back a few steps. When it rushes her again, she turns her shotgun, swinging the butt of the gun across the demon’s face and knocking it to its knees.

“Dean! Tab needs the knife,” she hears Sam shout from somewhere behind her, and turns just in time to see her older brother lob the knife at her.

The demon had been rushing her again, but tries valiantly to change his course when he sees the knife tossed to her. With one quick step, Tabitha slams the knife forward into the chest of the demon with one hand on the handle of the knife.

When she yanks the knife back out of the lifeless demon’s chest, she realizes there is silence in the house. No shouts. No demons fighting. Just the quiet pants of herself and those she and her brothers had arrived with.

The fight is over, and she is shocked to realize it couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. Maybe two.

Her brothers seem just as baffled by the lightning quick fight as she is while they leave the now silent farmhouse.

“I guess that’s what it’s like, huh?” Sam comments, seeming slightly dazed.

“What?” Dean asks, glancing back at the house, almost still in disbelief.

“Having backup.”

They remain in quiet contemplation as they repack their weapons in the trunk of the Impala, but look up when they hear Dylan calling out to the three of them. The boy had been helping the others of the militia repack their converted fire truck, and seem almost ready to head out.

“Hey. So, um, is—is that—is that cool if I get a ride back with you guys?” Dylan eeks out in question to them, darting looks at Tabitha that are by turns shy and daring.

Dean rolls his eyes when he notices the looks the kid gives his sister, but waves the others of the militia away, signaling that they’ll get Dylan back to town themselves.

As the old-fashioned fire truck pulls out, he warmly tells the kid, “Hey, you saved my ass twice already. One more time, you can drive.”

Laughing, Tabitha tells her brother, “In that case, I should be allowed to drive all the time.”

“Shut your cake-hole and get in the back,” he ribs her with a good-natured grin. Turning back to Dylan, he says, “You have a beer?”

At Dylan’s eager look, he covertly tosses a can across the car, glancing over his shoulder to ensure that no one from the retreating fire truck sees. “You earned it,” he assures the kid. Then warns, “Don’t tell your mom.”

“Oh, believe me—I will not,” Dylan emphatically agrees. He sidles closer to Tabitha again, cockily telling her, “You know, I can think of lots of things I can not tell my mom.”

“Oh yeah?” Tabitha purrs, leaning closer. She cups his chin in her hand, fighting a grin at the way his eyes almost glaze over in eager anticipation. Leaning even closer, she whispers, “Faces that still haven’t seen a razor are just a bit young for me.”

Seeing his disappoint shinning in his eyes, she winks and tells him, “How ’bout you agree not to tell your mom about this.” As Dylan’s eyes widen in shock, she leans closer to brush a soft kiss across his baby soft lips.

When he stands stock still, staring at her in wonder and disbelief, she steps away, laughing to herself and wondering if his awed look means she’d just given him his first kiss. At least, maybe his first kiss outside of clumsy playground fumbling. She laughs outright when she thinks to herself that the kid has a lot of swagger for such a late bloomer.

Tabitha is barely around to the trunk of the Impala, intending on fetching herself a beer when she hears Dylan suddenly screaming. The pain and terror in his cries brings her running back to the side of the car where she’d left him, falling to her knees and tugging him from beneath the car where a demon must have dragged him.

“Dylan?” Dean demands, dropping to his knees beside her as they hear Sam fighting a demon on the other side of the car.

Dean helps her tug Dylan from beneath the car, but they both fall silent when they see the lifeless eyes staring up at them.

Cradling the boy’s head in her lap, Tabitha wipes away the ribbons of blood running down his neck from where the demon had torn it open.

“Oh, kid,” she chokes out, brushing the hair back from his young face.

All she can think as she stares down at those lifeless eyes is that the world is cruel indeed to take the life from a boy who had only just experienced the wonder of his first real kiss.

Tabitha and Sam both are fighting laughter as they come through the doorway of the motel room, both trying to prop the other up as they fight their mirth.

“Where have you two been?” Dean wearily asks from where he sits on one of the beds.

Sam and Tabitha glance at each other, both bursting out in laughter again before Sam answers simply, “Drinkin’.”

Tabitha pats Sam’s back with the hand she’d had wrapped around his waist to support herself. “Sammy here doesn’t have any objections to drinkin’ and cuttin’ loose now and then. Or…you know…when the Apocalypse is near.”

Dean shakes his head before closing his eyes and leaning back against the headboard again. “What a couple of rebels,” he sighs, referring to the latest rules laid down by the angels as relayed by Leah during Dylan’s funeral earlier that day. She sours a little at the reminder of what she’d been drinking to forget in the first place. The reminder that she held a major share in the blame for that boy’s death. She hadn’t even been able to argue with his mother when Jane had shouted her angry accusations at her. Even without the accusations, Tabitha felt the burden of her guilt for the boy’s death.

Unaware of the sour turn her mood had taken, Sam continues speaking to their brother. “We’d have had more, um…” Sam starts to explain, half setting, half dumping his sister on the other bed next to the one Dean’s on.

“…But we got kicked out due to curfew,” Tabitha finishes, struggling to pull her arm out of her unzipped leather jacket, determined to push the lingering guilt away and wallow in the bliss of drunkenness. Rolling back and forth on the bed, she manages to slide one arm out of its sleeve. As she struggles with the other arm, she sourly explains to Dean, “Wasn’t near as much fun as drinkin’ there the other night when the place was hoppin’. With the new rules according to Leah, the place was empty. Paul wasn’t even as much fun tonight. Bunch of dour sour pusses.”

“Right,” Dean answers noncommittally.

Finally, Tabitha rolls on top of the bed enough and manages to slip her arm out of the jacket. Before she can gloat in satisfaction at the seemingly huge achievement, something slams into her back and the back of her head.

Sam appears then in her line of vision, and she suddenly realizes that she can see the ceiling behind him. And that somehow the bed is now beside her. Instead of under her.

“What?” she wonders with a frown, allowing Sam to pull her up from the floor with unsteady hands and push her back onto the bed.

“How’d that happen?” she wonders to herself.

“I don’t know,” Sam chuckles as he steps away again. “Probably has something to do with that second bottle of tequila you started on,” he points out, struggling to contain his mirth.

“Could be,” she admits, rubbing the back of her head and wondering if she’s already feeling a lump forming. “But I was just helping Paul clear out his stock. Now that all the fun stuff is outlawed in this town.” She shakes her head. “I’ve finally decided. I totally don’t like this town. We should leave. Maybe after I finish off Paul’s supply of that gold label tequila.”

The boys ignore her rambling, and Sam turns back to Dean to question him, “You hear they shut down the cell towers?”

“No. That’s, uh, news to me.” Tabitha can hear her older brother answer in the same weary tones from before. But the noise of her brothers is already starting to give her a headache so she flops onto the bed, covering her head with one of the pillows.

She vaguely realizes that she can hear her brothers arguing with each other and tries to ignore it in favor of pressing the pillow tighter over her head to drown them out. She knows that Sam is concerned about the changes suddenly happening in this town and from what she catches of Dean’s muffled responses, that her older brother doesn’t seem to muster up much concern for the changes though he’s noticed them as well.

When she hears Sam’s confession that he’s white-knuckling his way through everything that’s happening and that he needs the two of them to keep him steady, she hears Dean unsympathetically reply that he just doesn’t care anymore and that they can’t stop what’s coming.

“No!” Sam suddenly shouts, and she feels a hand shove at her hip, rolling her over onto her back.

Blearily, she looks up at her brothers facing off with each other as Sam continues, “You can’t do this to me. To us!” he shouts, jabbing a finger at himself and Tabitha.

He sighs as he looks back and forth between his siblings, frowning at them both. “I got one thing—one thing keeping me going. You think you’re the only one white-knuckling it here, Dean? I can’t count on anyone else. And I can’t do this alone. I need this family.”

Fighting back tears, Sam looks to his sister for support. “Come on, Tab. We’re all hanging on by a thread here. You, too. We have to stick together. We can do this if we stick together, guys.”

Tabitha lays one hand over her forehead as she stares at the ceiling, unwilling to stare into her younger brother’s pleading eyes any longer when she can’t give him what he’s looking for. “Sam…” she sighs, searching for the right words. “You don’t want to hear it, but maybe Dean’s right. What hope do we have? We haven’t accomplished a damn thing yet. Apocalypse is still knocking on the door…and no matter how you look at it…the three of us are screwed ten ways from Sunday.”

“You can’t just give up, too, Tab. We can do this. We’ll figure it out. Everything will be alright,” Sam insists.

“Sam, Lucifer and Michael wanna wear the two of you to the prom. And not only have I got Azrael breathing down my neck for a piece of my ass…now I’ve got Lucifer staking a claim on me to get at her…and who knows what Castiel is doing. I haven’t got enough room on my shoulders anymore for all the angels angling for a piece of me. So excuse me if I’ve accepted that things are gonna happen the way the angels want them to. Might as well sit back and enjoy what little time we’ve got left. Make sure we go out with a bang,” she advises with the aplomb only drunkenness can achieve.

She can hear Sam stalk closer to her.

“You can’t be serious,” he rails in disbelief. “You can’t be saying that you’re just giving up, too. I need you. I need both of you. I need this family.”

Tabitha sighs and rolls over on the bed, pulling the pillow up by her head again, ignoring her brother’s words as she tries to push away her building headache. The feeling of her drunkenness slipping away annoys her. She already misses her high from the bar and certainly doesn’t want to deal with any of these arguments after a night of drinking away her guilt.

Dimly, she hears Dean leaving their motel room.

“Dean,” Sam calls after him.

“I got to clear my head,” Dean replies shortly.

“It’s past curfew,” Sam calls. The door slams and Sam more quietly repeats, “It’s past curfew.”

Despite the silence between Sam and Tabitha, she can’t quite lull herself into sleeping or passing out for the sounds of her younger brother shuffling around the room. She knows he wants to talk about what had happened earlier, but she can’t bring herself to take back what she said. She’s seen firsthand the futileness in hoping for any different outcome when trying to go against the angels. And she’s still just drunk enough to not care about anything at the moment.

A sudden familiar sensation crawls along her spine, forcing her to bolt upright with a startled gasp of air at the familiar sensation.

Sam twirls to stare at her, and then spins back again at the voice slurring from across the room behind him.

“I got your message.”

Castiel stands propping himself against the half-wall near the door to their room, staring down at the floor and pointedly avoiding looking towards Tabitha.

In a graveled voice, Castiel continues slurring, “It was long, your message. And I find the sound of your voice grating.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Sam asks, staring in bewilderment at the swaying angel.

“Are you…drunk?” he continues asking seeming unable to reconcile the notion with the angel in front of him. Truthfully, though it’s quite apparent to Tabitha that the angel is even drunker than she is, she’s also having trouble reconciling the notion of her straight-laced angel actually getting hammered. She scowls as she reminds herself that he’s not her angel.

Castiel finally turns to fully face Sam, answering indignantly, “No!” He sways further and braces himself to keep from falling. More quietly, he amends with simple acceptance, “Yes.”

“What the hell happened to you?” Sam questions, looking unsure if he should move closer to help the angel or not.

“I found a liquor store,” Castiel replies as if it’s completely obvious.


“And I drank it,” the angel snaps. “Why’d you call me?”

The angel finally darts a fleeting look at Tabitha, and when she realizes she’d been holding her breath and waiting for just that moment, she sighs in frustration and flops angrily back onto the bed, annoyed with herself for still waiting with baited breath for any scrape from the angel. Even after everything he’s done to her and his lies.

Castiel staggers towards Sam, who’s forced to jump forward to steady the angel when he almost falls.

“Whoa. There you go. Easy,” he says as he steadies Castiel. “Are you okay?”

From her place on the bed, Tabitha can still see the angel lean closer to her younger brother, gesturing him closer still before growling in his ear, “Don’t ask stupid questions.”

Sam leans back with an annoyed expression, throwing her a pleading look. She shrugs as best she can from her reclined position. She’s not about to offer her brother any help. Not half hung-over.

“Tell me what you need,” Castiel commands, leaning sloppily back against the table to support himself.

Sam fidgets as he explains, “T-there have been these—these demon attacks. Massive, right on the edge of town, and we can’t figure out why they’re—”

“Any sign of angels?” Castiel interrupts.

“Not until now,” Tabitha mutters, rising from the bed and taking the long circuit around the room to avoid said angel as she moves to fix herself a cup of coffee. Strong, crappy, motel coffee sounds just like what she needs to deal with the turn her night has taken. She either needs to be more sober or more drunk. And the liquor supply in their room is gone.

“Sort of,” Sam answers a little haltingly. “They’ve been speaking to this prophet. This girl, Leah Gideon.”

“She’s not a prophet,” Castiel immediately tells him.

“I’m pretty sure she is,” Sam argues, seeming annoyed with the drunken angel.

“Or she’s not,” Tabitha interrupts, hardly believing that she’s actually siding with the angel. She pops a mug of water into the microwave as she continues, “I told you that girl was fishy.”

“But she has visions, headaches—” Sam keeps arguing. “—the whole package.”

Wearily, Castiel explains, “The names of all the prophets—they’re seared into my brain.” With a droll look at Sam, he continues, “Leah Gideon is not one of them.”

Pulling out her hot water and mixing her crappy instant coffee, Tabitha sarcastically intones, “Yay me. The sister’s right again. But do they listen to me? Nooo. Drunk or not, this chick knows what she’s talkin’ about.”

Glancing back and forth across the room at the angel and his sister, Sam asks, “Then what is she?”

“We went out looking for you,” Sam accuses the moment Dean steps back into their motel room the next morning.

Sam pauses in his accusations when he sees the stark look on their brother’s face and the blood on his hands, inquiring with more concern, “You all right?”

Dean seems almost dazed as he glances down at the blood drying on his hands. “Yeah. It’s—it’s not my blood.” He pauses before stepping further into the room. “Paul’s dead.”

Tabitha had been hunched over another cup of disgusting tasting instant coffee at the small dinette table, but bolts upright at his words. “What?!” she demands thinking it couldn’t have been that many hours ago that she and Sam had still been drinking with the man in his bar. “What happened to him?”

Somehow, her guilt just compounds from the already high levels that had driven her to getting drunk the night before. Why does it seem like every man she looks at twice either ends up dead…or somehow being the worst mistake of her life?

She frowns and darts a look at Castiel in the corner of the room before focusing again on Dean.

“Jane shot him,” Dean explains simply, still seeming dazed.

“Why the hell would she do that?” she demands, dumbfounded by his answer.

Over her words, Castiel tells Sam, “It’s starting.”

What’s starting?” Dean asks the room, and then does a double take at the angel sprawled on top of the tacky red pleather couch. “Where the hell have you been?”

“On a bender,” Castiel snaps, surprising them all that he even knows what the word means.

Dean looks to Sam to softly confirm, “Did he—” then thinks better of it and turns back to the angel to more directly ask him, “—did you say ‘on a bender’?”

“Yeah,” Sam confirms for the angel. “He’s still pretty smashed.”

The angel of topic waves the discussion away, insisting, “It is not of import.”

Tabitha had avoided the company of the angel for most of the night, spending it instead searching for her older brother. But now cooped up in the same room with him again—and still nursing a massive hangover—she snaps at him, “You know what, Cas? You don’t get to decide what things are of ‘import—‘” She sarcastically repeats his wording, using air quotes as she rises from her chair to stalk closer. “—to impart to us, you son of a bitch. I’d say your decision making skills in that arena are kinda horse-shit, Cas.”

Castiel looks up to stare across the expanse of cheap motel carpet, holding her infuriated gaze. It’s the first time either of them has held each other’s gaze for more than a split second. She can see a multitude of swirling emotion in his eyes, and she makes sure that her own gaze mirrors her equally tumultuous emotions.

“I was trying to protect you,” Castiel insists, just as he had when she’d first been returned from Heaven.

“If your idea of protecting me is obliterating my Heaven and ensuring that I’m screwed royally for the rest of eternity…then you’ve got a fucked up idea of protection, Cas. And I’m not sure who the bigger moron here is. You for offering this stupid charm to me—” she lowly threatens, shaking her wrist with the charm bracelet at him, “—or me for being so damn naïve as to accept the damn thing.”

A few tense moments pass where the boys glance back and forth between their sister and the angel. Neither of them spills any actual details like both Sam and Dean have been hoping and waiting for, leaving the brothers still somewhat at a loss for why exactly Tabitha is taking Castiel’s actions so hard. All she’s divulged to them is that the charm is like a homing beacon in Heaven. She’s managed to keep them as much in the dark about what really happened in Heaven as she can. As well as keeping from them that her Heaven has been permanently obliterated. Or that Castiel had used the charm to siphon a part of his Grace off into her.

Not to mention keeping the fact from them about why exactly she feels so betrayed by his failure to tell her everything she was accepting and the ramifications of her choice.

After holding her gaze for a few moments, Castiel begins speaking to her a little angrily, waving his hands around as he does. “We need to talk about what’s happening here.”

“Well, I’m all ears,” Dean sighs, moving to finally wash away the blood from his hands in the kitchen sink.

Sam starts with the explanations, still casting lingering and curious looks between his sister and the angel. “Well, for starters…Leah is not a real prophet.”

Picking up her bitter coffee again, Tabitha raises her free hand and reminds them, “And who said that girl was full of shit? That’s right, me.”

Turning from the sink, Dean asks them, “Well, since you’re always right, what is she, exactly?”

Tabitha shrugs and tosses out, “Dunno. A bitch.”

“The whore,” Castiel matter-of-factly supplies.

“Sure, that, too,” Tabitha agrees, absently thinking that drinking has certainly loosened up the angel’s vocabulary. Few more weeks of drinking and he might actually be able to speak like an actual human.

“Wow. Cas, tell us what you really think,” Dean says, shaking his head.

Impatiently, Castiel explains to them, “She rises when Lucifer walks the Earth.” He points down at an old bible he’d been leafing through, reciting, “‘And she shall come, bearing false prophecy.'” He taps the worn parchment pages of the bible and the section he’d been looking at. “This creature has the power to take a human’s form, read minds. Book of Revelations calls her ‘The Whore of Babylon.'”

“Well, that’s catchy,” Dean jokes, stepping closer to look at the bible on the coffee table.

“The real Leah was probably killed months ago,” Sam guesses.

“What about the demons attacking the town?” Dean wonders.

“They’re under her control,” comes the angel’s answer.

“And the Enochian exorcism?”

“Fake,” Castiel tells Dean. “It actually means, ‘You, um, breed with the mouth of a goat.'”

When none of them seems to find the humor that the angel does, he hastens to explain, “It’s funnier in Enochian.”

Moving on from the angel’s skewed humor, Dean presses, “So the demons smoking out—that’s just a con? Why? What’s the endgame?”

“What you just saw—innocent blood spilled in God’s name,” Castiel explains, referring to Paul’s death.

“You heard all that Heaven talk the girl was spouting,” Tabitha adds from her place at the small table near the kitchen. “She’s just manipulating people. Using their fear of what’s coming—”

Dean cuts her off as he understands. “—To slaughter and kill and sing peppy little hymns.” He stands and moves across the room again, muttering, “Awesome.”

Castiel picks up the explanation. “Her goal is to condemn as many souls to Hell as possible. And it’s…just beginning. She’s well on her way to dragging this whole town into the pit.”

“All right. So, then, how do we go Pimp of Babylon all over this bitch?” Dean questions, jumping to action as he always does.

After a second, Castiel disappears, leaving the Winchesters alone to study the bible passage Castiel had been reading from. Less than a minute passes before Castiel reappears and plunks a gnarled looking stick on top of the bible in front of the boys, telling them, “The Whore can be killed with that.” He turns to walk across into the kitchen, continuing his explanation. “It’s a stake made from a Cypress tree in Babylon.”

“Great. Let’s ventilate her,” Dean agrees. Talking things to death has never been his forte. If the Whore needs killing, he’d just as soon get to ganking the bitch.

After filling a glass of water, the angel tiredly replies, “It’s not that easy.”

“When is it ever?” Tabitha asks in frustration, leaning her chair back so it balances on its two back legs, crossing her arms behind her head and watching the angel as well as her two brothers who pass the stake back and forth between them.

“The Whore can only be killed by a true servant of Heaven.”

“Servant, like…” Dean trails off.

“Not you,” the angel immediately replies, his eyes downcast as he frowns. “Or me.” His eyes cut across the room to Tabitha as he adds almost apologetically, “Tabitha is barely human now.”

Her chair drops forward with a loud thud as she braces her hands on the wooden table in front of her, glaring at the angel until his eyes drop guiltily away. Seeing his gaze move from her, she lowly demands, “And whose fault is that?”

His eyes snap back to hers, gaze dropping meaningfully to the spot on her chest that was branded what almost seems like a lifetime ago. When his eyes trail back to meet hers, he maintains, “As much my brother’s fault as mine. And that charm is likely what helped you to overcome his brand for so long.”

Stiffly, she demands, “And did you give me this stupid charm with the knowledge that I was going to end up branded?!”

Voice dropping more, Castiel stiffly admits, “I gave you that charm in the hopes that it would strengthen you enough to withstand whatever was coming. Whether it was Lucifer or Azrael.”

Fighting the tears and hurt she feels at his manipulations and lies, Tabitha looks away, refusing to let the gathering tears fall and profess her weakness.

She can hear Castiel turn back to her brothers as he flatly continues. “Sam, of course, is an abomination.” He pauses before glumly finishing with, “We’ll have to find someone else.”

The Winchesters look almost as startled as Pastor Gideon does when Castiel reappears in their room with the man in tow. Much to Dean’s chagrin, they’d spent the day making preparations instead of acting, but the sight of the angel and the preacher gives him hope that their idleness will soon be over.

“What the hell was that?” the pastor whispers incredulously to himself.

“Yeah, he wasn’t lying about the angel thing,” Dean explains, guessing part of the reason for the disbelief on the preacher’s face.

Arms folded over her chest, Tabitha frowns as she reproaches, “You might wanna give people a bit of a heads up next time, Cas. Gettin’ jerked around by angels the way you like to do kinda gets old fast.”

He scowls at her words, not seeming to understand them, but very clearly catching the anger and malice still laced within them.

Dean walks up to the baffled man, telling him, “Have a seat, Padre. We got to have a chat.”

The man still looks startled and confused, but obediently sits and listens as the four of them fill him in on the details.

Several minutes and an outlined plan later, he vehemently shakes his head. “No. She’s my daughter.”

Trying to be sympathetic, Dean tells him, “I’m sorry, but she’s not. She’s the thing that killed your daughter.”

“That’s impossible.”

“But it’s true,” Sam interjects. “And deep down, you know it.” Looking for a way to make the pious and devote man understand, Sam continues, “Look, we get it—it’s too much. But if you don’t do this, she’s going to kill a lot of people and damn the rest to Hell.”

“Sam’s right,” Tabitha agrees. She can see the lingering doubt and questions in his eyes. But she also sees the devotion of a father shining there. She tries to appeal to his lingering doubt. “This thing may look like your daughter, but you know it isn’t. You know and you’ve questioned it for some time, haven’t you? You know she isn’t saying and doing the things your Leah would do. Because that’s not your Leah.”

“It’s just…”

Pastor Gideon seems to finally relent somewhat, seeming to agree that something isn’t right with his daughter. He stares at the stake Dean holds out towards him before continuing in a desperate whisper. “Why does it have to be me?”

It’s the angel that offers the soft and apologetic explanation. “You’re a servant of Heaven.”

“And you’re an angel,” the pastor snaps, turning in his chair to face him.

“Poor example of one,” Castiel apologizes, eyes looking sorrowfully at Tabitha for a brief moment.

As the pastor turns back to stare at the outstretched stake, Tabitha stands to silently slip out of the motel room. The angel’s words affect her more than she cares to consider. The thought that she might be even partially responsible for Castiel’s downfall is almost more than she can bear. Or even wrap her head around.

She leans against the trunk of the Impala, wrapping her arms around her midsection in an effort to fend off the sudden chill she feels enveloping her in an embrace.

Though it’s silent, she can still feel the approach of the angel behind her.

“I was losing my Grace,” she hears him softly tell her.

Sniffing a little, she turns to face him, flatly asking, “What?”

He steps around the car, moving a little closer and reaching out to touch her arm, but stopping when he sees the slightest flinch at his action. His arms flop stiffly back to his sides.

In a soft whisper, he continues to expound, regardless of her drawing minutely away from him. “Cut off from Heaven as I have been…I am losing my Grace. It is…dissipating. Before I asked you to accept the charm, I was intending to confront Raphael with your brother.” He sighs as his gaze drops to the pavement at his feet. Hurt laces his tone as he admits, “I didn’t expect to survive the encounter with my brother.”

He shuffles his feet for a minute before he inhales a steadying breath to continue. “All I could think was that I would die and you would be left alone and vulnerable. To both Lucifer and Azrael. So I poured a part of my Grace—Grace I am losing every day regardless—into that charm. And asked you to wear it in the hopes that it would make you strong enough to withstand them after Raphael killed me. Strong enough to keep you alive and whole.”

Castiel moves a bit closer again, and this time, when he slowly and painstakingly raises his hand and reaches up towards her face, Tabitha remains still, her eyes slipping closed as his fingertips gently brush across her cheek. The tentative touch recalls to her mind the days before they became lovers. When he would touch her cheek in the same hesitant and gentle way. As if afraid to actually reach out and touch her, but craving just the smallest contact all the same.

Voice dropping until she can barely hear it, he continues to whisper, “I just wanted you to be strong enough to withstand what I knew was coming.”

For a moment, Tabitha indulges in leaning into his touch, turning her head until his whole hand is pressed flush against her face, slightly caressing her skin.

Forcing her eyes open, she whispers, “Did you know that me accepting a part of your Grace like that would mean that I was relinquishing my personal Heaven?”

His eyes drop away from hers, giving her all the answer she needs.

Twisting away from him, she angrily demands, “How could you, Cas? You knew. You knew I was losing my Heaven. And you let me accept it anyway. How could you ask me to take that charm when you knew you were damning me to the torment of your asshole brothers up there for eternity?”

The cold air licks across her cheek where his hand had been as if a cruel reminder of the warmth that had been there, and before she realizes it, she reaches up to cover the spot with her own hand, stroking the skin as if the cold has burned her.

Still looking guiltily at the pavement, Castiel admits, “My only thought was to ensure that you would be strong enough to withstand Azrael and Lucifer. I knew even with my added Grace…that the chances were still likely to be impossible. Their threat was more pressing than what might happen to you later. I just wanted you to live.”

“So you didn’t think that far ahead,” she surmises, swiping at the tears that escape past her lashes. “And I end up paying the price. ‘Cause I’m human, Cas. And I will die someday. And we both know what I have to look forward to now.” Sniffing, she whispers, “You lied to me, Cas.”

His head jerks up as he insists, “I never lied to you about the charm.”

Shaking her head in disbelief, she corrects him. “You knew what would happen. You knew so much more than you told me. And still you asked me to accept this damn charm without giving me all the information I needed. Withholding that kind of information is tantamount to lying, Cas.”

The angel reaches out one last time to grab her arm, but she twists away, dancing out of his grip.

“I’ve lost all hope in my Father,” he confides brokenly as she starts to walk away from him. “I have been broken at the thought of losing you as well, Tabitha.”

Facing away from him, she whispers, “You never had me if you thought you could lie to me that way, Cas. About something that big.”

Despite her anger at Castiel earlier in the evening, Tabitha can’t force herself to remain so cold to the pained angel as she helps lower him onto one of their beds. She feels his clammy forehead with the back of her hand.

“She really did a number on you with whatever she said, or whatever that spell was she threw at you,” she whispers to the angel, remembering the way he’d dropped and writhed in pain in response to whatever the Whore of Babylon had recited at him.

“I’m fine,” he groans, attempting to hide his pain even as he curls onto his side, nearly into the fetal position.

She manages a half smile at his stoic attempt, telling him, “At least Dean managed to kill her. I’m glad for Pastor Gideon that he didn’t have to. No father should have to do that, regardless of what she really was. And even if it’s completely baffling that Dean’s somehow a servant of Heaven. Who woulda figured that?”

Dean snorts behind her when he overhears her joking slight, half-heartedly joking in return, “Yeah, guess it’s just my long run of good luck.”

Tabitha starts to move away from the angel, but stops when his hand darts out to grab her wrist, halting her retreat.

When she glances back down, he whispers in a desperate plea, “How do I stop the pain?”

Unable to hold herself back, she brushes some of his hair from his forehead as she assures him, “Don’t worry. I’ll get you some aspirin. Or maybe I can find something stronger.”

“No,” he groans when she starts to turn away again, his grip tightening on her wrist as a look of fear glints in his gaze. “Not that pain.” He taps his chest with his other hand. “The pain here. The ache. I tried to drown it with liquor as I’ve seen other humans do…as I’ve heard you speak of doing. But it didn’t help. How do I stop this unrelenting ache in my chest?”

With her other hand, Tabitha gently pries Castiel’s hand from her wrist. “Believe me, Cas, I really wish with all my heart that I knew how to stop the pain of heartache. I really do. More than you know. Drinking is only good for dulling it periodically. I should know, I’ve tried that, too.”

Quickly, she moves away from the prone angel, glancing at her brothers as they help patch up the pastor. She sees the faraway look in Dean’s eyes as he watches Sam wrapping gauze around Pastor Gideon’s arm.

It’s brief, but she has a sudden flash of understanding for that faraway look in his eyes, and so she slips out of the motel before either of her brothers notice.

She’s waiting in the passenger seat of the Impala when Dean slips into the driver’s seat.

He jumps at the unexpected sight of her in the car, and then narrows his eyes as he orders, “Get out and get back into that motel, Tab.”

“No,” she answers simply, looking at him with one eyebrow raised in challenge. “And unless you wanna sit around here and give Sammy more time to figure out what you’re actually doing, I suggest you stop arguing with me and we get going.”

“Just where do you think we’re going?” he demands suspiciously, his hand fingering the keys as he holds them halfway to the ignition.

“To say goodbye to Lisa,” she whispers matter-of-factly.

When he stares at her in shock, she gives a watery smile as she explains, “It’s what I would do if I were you. Take the time to say last goodbyes to people I love. Before it’s too late.”

“You’re not talking me out of doing what I have to do,” he promises in a low and deadly serious voice.

“I know,” she whispers a bit sadly. “I’ve never wanted to stop you from doing what you thought you had to do, Dean,” she assures him. Rubbing lightly at the spot where the brand lies on her chest, she promises, “But I’ll always do whatever I have to do to ensure that you can do what you feel you need and must do, Dean. And I’ll be with you for as long as I can. So you’re not alone in this.”

Dean glances back at the motel one last time before starting the Impala with a look of determined decision. As the engine roars to life, Dean throws it in gear and peels out of the parking lot.

Tabitha waits in the car when Dean approaches Lisa’s house. She can see the look of confusion and surprise on the dark-haired woman’s face, but looks away, not wanting to intrude on the private moment between the two. She’d told Dean that she would support his decisions, and that’s all she intends to do. Whatever it may be. But she couldn’t bring herself to let him make this goodbye trip alone.

When Dean climbs back into the Impala, they both ignore the tears in his eyes as Dean sits unmoving, hands braced on the wheel.

Suddenly, he tells her in a choked voice, “I’m gonna make sure that she’s okay. Her and Ben. I’ll make sure they take care of her.” His voice lowers as he adds, “I’m gonna ask them to take care of you, too, Tab.”

Tabitha lets her head fall back against the seat behind her, blinking furiously at the gathering tears.

She wants to tell him that it’s futile to ask anything for her. Between being Azrael’s vessel, being marked by Lucifer, and then the rest of the angel factions just wanting her dead…there’s no hope for her protection. And that was before she realized the lasting consequences of Castiel’s charm.

Dean breaks the heavy silence by telling her, “I’m going to say ‘yes’ to Michael. I have to. I have to end this now. You know Sam will say ‘yes’ to Lucifer eventually. I have to do this. Maybe…maybe if I do, that bitch will leave you alone, too.”

Tabitha reaches across the car to squeeze her brother’s hand, and not addressing the last part, she tremulously tells him, “Whatever decision we make together, Dean, I’ll back your play. I’ll have your back no matter what it takes.”

“I love you, Tabby,” he assures her, squeezing her hand in return. Holding it like it’s his last lifeline.

“I know,” she brokenly whispers. “I know, Dean. I love you, too.”

“I’m just so tired. It has to end.” He sighs and roughly jerks the gearshift into drive, pulling away from Lisa’s house.

As they speed away, Tabitha looks out the passenger window, her mind drifting to her dark impending future when she dies. She can’t lie to herself and say that she isn’t terrified of it. Because she’s beyond petrified of it. But drinking and trying to convince herself that she’s having one last hurrah before she dies has done nothing to lessen her fear of her impending doom. Yet, at the same time, a strange sort of peace comes with accepting its inevitability. She can’t stop it, and she does fear it, but she can make damn sure that she gives her brothers whatever help they need before she goes.

Whispering lowly to herself, she promises, “I know. I’m tired, too. But I’ll do whatever I have to to back your play. No matter what it takes.”

A/N: That was a bit shorter chapter, but at least I finally got it done.

Sorry that took a while, and thanks so much to everyone for your patience and for your kind reviews letting me know every day that you guys were still reading and still waiting for a new chapter. Time just seemed to keep getting away from me the past month or so, and I’ll admit to having some personal issues lately that simply made writing a very difficult task when my mind wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I won’t bore with details, but I’m trying to work through my shit and get things in my life back on track. Some days are better than others.

But I managed to pull together a few good days as well as some free time and get this chapter shot out. Hopefully the next chapter will be up with far less delay, and I’m already getting started on it.

Thanks again to all my lovely readers! All admit that on some bad days, your reviews were the only bright spot that made me smile. So thank you all a million!


Chapter 15: Past the Point of No Return


2 responses to “Chapter 14: This Could Be My Last Hurrah

    • Yeah, SPN definitely goes through a few dark spots in their story arcs. 😉 So I guess we gotta go through them, too. But I mean, it IS the apocalypse. It would be weird if everything with Cas and Tab was all wine and roses in the middle of that. 😀

      Anyway, I’ve got a new chapter up! Check it out! And thanks so much for reading!

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