Chapter 15: Past the Point of No Return


“Can you make sure the stuff in this box gets where it belongs?” Dean asks, trying to sound stoic.

Tabitha pointedly ignores the envelopes on top bearing her name and Bobby’s. As well as the memory of watching him place his leather coat, car keys, and favorite pearlized handled Colt 1911 in the cardboard box as well.

For a moment, she almost thinks to tell him that she’s a poor choice for keeper of his belongings since no matter what Dean is planning on doing; she highly doubts she’ll be around after what he thinks he plans on doing. Not long enough to see that his box of most prized possessions are properly distributed anyway.

But thinking better of telling him the harsh truth, she settles for the kinder lie, assuring him, “Of course, Dean. I’ll take care of it.” And she knows that somehow she will. Even if it requires coordinating the distribution of the contents by Cort. Or maybe even Shawn. She knows that she owes them both a call and explanation of some sort in the coming days as well. But no matter what’s happened between her and the two very different men from her complicated past, she knows that if she asks one of them to take charge of the box, they’ll see to it that it reaches Sam or Bobby. She just hopes Shawn’s had enough time to get over his harsh introduction to the truth of the things that creep and crawl in the night.

Leaning back against the stiff headboard of the lumpy motel bed, she reminds herself not to look on the dark side of things just yet. After all, just as Dean thinks he’s been making plans, so has she, so there’s no reason to believe that box of belongings needs worrying about just yet. And not at all if she has any say in the matter.

Dean pours another glass of whiskey from his bottle, holding it out towards her as he asks, “Want some?”

She waves it off, folding her hands behind her head as she watches her older brother. Not that another drink isn’t more than tempting, but it doesn’t seem like that long ago that she just got over her last massive hangover. And she knows that someone should remain sober.

He snorts in amusement at her refusal, turning to look down at his glass as he moves to stand in front of the large mirror across the room from her. Standing where he is, she can see his back turned towards her, and his front through the reflection in the mirror, so she sees the hopeless glint in his eyes when he mutters to his glass, “Why not have another drink? You and I both know you’ve given up, too.”

She doesn’t correct him out loud, knowing that explaining the difference between giving up hope for herself and giving up hope in general are two very different things.

The motel room door eases open soundlessly, thanks to Tabitha having strategically left it unlocked, so Sam’s entrance goes unnoticed by Dean until their younger brother teasingly says, “Sending someone a candygram?”

Dean pulls the glass of whiskey from his lips, turning to stare in surprise at the youngest Winchester, watching as their sister moves to warmly welcome him, unsurprised by his sudden appearance.

Tabitha gives her younger brother a fond smile as she stops in front of him, pulling him down into a hug, and kissing his cheek before she releases him. “Good to see you, Sammy. I’m glad you made it so quick,” she whispers in his ear before letting him stand upright again.

He looks mildly surprised at her uncommonly affectionate welcome, so she laughs and waves it away, assuring him, “Don’t worry. I think I’m just feeling sappy. Must be that time of the month or something.”

There’s no need for Sam to think there’s anything out of the ordinary wrong. Just the impending doom of the apocalypse. She gives Sam’s hand one last squeeze, and then moves away to stand beside him.

Still holding his tumbler of whiskey, Dean attacks, “You told Sammy where I was?” He plunks the glass down with a heavy hand, surprising Tabitha when it doesn’t shatter from his force. “I thought you were gonna back my play, Tabitha?”

In response to his accusatory tone, she gives a noncommittal shrug. “I said I’d back whatever play we make together. All of us. That includes Sammy. And if you guys agree that you kamikazeing yourself with Michael is the only option, then hell yes I’ll back your play. But we haven’t decided that that is our only choice here. So, yeah, I called Sammy. Well, err, I texted him.”

Hands in his coat pockets, still looking a bit hurt at having been left behind in the first place, Sam quietly assures Dean, “It wasn’t that hard to figure out anyway. I mean, you’re gonna kill yourself, right? It wasn’t too hard to figure out the stops on the farewell tour. How’s Lisa doing, anyway?”

Ignoring Sam’s question, Dean tries to convince his siblings, “I’m not gonna kill myself.”

“No? So, Michael’s not about to make you his muppet?” Sam asks him. When Dean only looks annoyed as he takes another drink, Sam continues, “What the hell, man? This is how it ends? You just…walk out?”

Turning his anger on their sister, Sam continues, “And you just let him?”

Defensively, Tabitha reminds him, “Hey, I told you where he was. Saved you a bit of time in trying to hunt him down. I wasn’t just letting him walk out. But I knew he had someone out there to say goodbye to. And he had the right to do it before things get bad. Because no matter what we do next, things are going to get bad, Sam.” Lowering her voice, she apologetically and bitterly reminds him, “You and I don’t have anyone that needs saying goodbye to like Dean did.”

Picking up the half-full bottle on the dresser next to him, Dean sardonically intones, “Well, this is touching and all, but I guess that’s what I’m doing, Sam, despite what you and Tab think.”

“How could you do that?” Sam heatedly demands, tears gathering in his eyes but not falling.

“How could I?” Dean snaps in return. “All you’ve ever done is run away!” he shouts, waving angrily and encompassing both his brother and sister in his heated gesture. “Both of you.”

“And I was wrong every single time I did,” Sam reminds him, looking to Tabitha for her agreement before amending, “Both of us. We were both wrong for running away.”

“Sam’s right, Dean,” Tabitha agrees, taking a step forward as she tries to convince her older brother to keep fighting. “We were. I was wrong for leaving you like I did back then. For staying away. For not coming back when Dad died and you asked me to. But I’m here now. We’re here now. We’re not running anymore.”

Spreading his hands wide, Sam haltingly pleads, “Just…please…not now. Bobby is working on something.”

Unconvinced, Dean challenges, “Oh, really? What?” When Sam has no answer, Dean tells him, “The two of you got nothing, and you know it.”

In a low voice, Sam explains, “You know we have to stop you.”

Sniffing, Dean plunks his glass down one more time, moving to stand in front of his siblings. “Yeah, well, the two of you can try. But just remember, you’re not all hopped up on demon blood this time. And I taught the both of you. There’s no world where you can take me down. Even together.”

“That may be,” Tabitha admits, crossing her arms over her chest. “But I made sure that Sammy brought a little extra help.”

Realization dawning on him, Dean spins around to face Castiel just as the angel appears. Before Dean can either fight or run, the angel lifts his hand, touching the oldest Winchester on the forehead, and then dispassionately watching as he crumples to the floor.

Looking up to her younger brother, Tabitha sighs, “Well, now we just have to figure out getting him safely to Bobby’s.”

Dean only allows them a few hours at attempting to pour through Bobby’s books for a Hail-Mary before he starts deriding them.

“Yeah, no, this is good, really,” he snarks, pacing around the living room of Bobby’s house, not helping his siblings or Bobby. “Eight months of turned pages and screwed pooches, but tonight—tonight’s when the magic happens.”

“You ain’t helping,” Bobby reminds him, not looking up at his sarcastic tone.

“Yeah, well, why don’t you let me get out of your hair, then?”

That comment does bring Bobby’s attention from the book, forcing him to look up. “What the hell happened to you?”

“Reality happened. Nuclear’s the only option we have left. Michael can ice the Devil, save a boatload of people.”

‘But not all of them,” Bobby growls in return. “We got to think of something else.”

“Yeah, well, that’s easy for you to say,” Dean warns. “But if Lucifer burns this mother down and I could have done something about it, guess what—that’s on me!” Dean yells, pointing emphatically at himself.

“What about me?!” Tabitha shouts, standing from the book littered table and twisting to face her brother as her temper snaps. “Because it’s on me, too, Dean. You’re not the only one that can do something about all of this. I can, too. So why don’t I call her up, Dean?” She throws her arms wide as if making a sacrificial offer. “Why don’t I call her up and say ‘yes, take me’?!” She stalks closer to jab a finger in her brother’s chest. “You wanna go nuclear?” she repeats. “Then let’s go nuclear, dammit. Let’s blast this whole goddamned universe apart. ‘Cause I’m starting to see what she meant about it being better. About not having to watch her brothers fight each other this way. I mean, maybe you’re right. What’s the point? So why stop at lighting just this planet on fire. Let’s light up the whole universe, Dean. Let’s set it all on fire. ‘Cause if you can’t believe in either me or Sammy anymore, I don’t see the point in fighting at all.”

Lowly and meaningfully, Dean whispers to her, “I didn’t say I don’t believe in you.”

Appalled at the implication in his words—and ignoring the sudden inhale of breath from the youngest Winchester—she shoves at her older brother’s chest, backing away from him. In a barely constrained voice, she whispers, “That’s just as bad, Dean. And if you can’t believe in this whole fucked up family…then I don’t know that I see the point anymore, either.”

She tries to storm out of the room, but Castiel catches her by the elbow to stop her just as she hears Bobby pick up where she left off in trying to get through to Dean.

“You can’t give up, son,” Bobby argues.

Dean’s caustic answer is drowned out as the angel holds her arm, pulling her sideways a step closer to him, until he leans down to whisper warningly in her ear, “Don’t do anything reckless, Tabitha.”

She starts to pull away from him, but stops at his whispered and heartfelt plea, “Please. All I’ve tried to do was to protect you. Don’t throw away every sacrifice I’ve made.”

Looking up, she stares into his weary eyes, and seeing the testament of that sacrifice in his gaze, she whispers, “I know you think what you did was with the best of intentions, Cas. But you know where they say that road leads. And I’d of been better off if it had only led to Hell. I’m damned far worse off now.”

He releases her and she starts to pull away when they hear Bobby’s shouted voice, causing them both to turn to look at the older hunter.

“—Because I promised you I wouldn’t give up!”

Before Tabitha can break the loaded silence to ask what she’d missed, Castiel grabs his head next to her, doubling over in pain.

Reaching out for his arm, she helps support him and hold him upright, pushing him back against the wall next to the fireplace, though he still hunches forward against her shoulder.

“Cas, you okay?” Sam questions behind her.

Strangely, Tabitha can almost feel that he’s concentrating on something. Trying to hear something that’s just a little too far away for her to hear.

“No,” Castiel answers Sam in a pain-filled voice, finally opening his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Sam demands.

Pushing himself upright, the angel stares into Tabitha’s eyes and replies, “Something’s happening.”

“Where?” Dean presses.

A flash of something flits across the angel’s mind, and before Tabitha can think to be freaked out by seeing that flash of inner thought, she grabs his arm to demand, “I’m going with you.”

The angel only hesitates briefly before nodding in acquiescence, and then grabbing her other arm and transporting them to a forest.

Looking around at the destruction in stupefaction, Tabitha asks, “What happened here?”

An eerie silence fills the air, making her skin crawl with the wrongness of hearing no wildlife or even a breeze. She’d never realized before how noisy a forest usually sounds, until she found herself standing in the total silence of this one.

Castiel slides his hand down to hers, silently tugging her along in his wake as they pick their way through the leaf-littered ground. His grip gives her courage she didn’t realize she needed. They walk further, stepping over downed trees towards what appears to be the epicenter…of whatever happened. All of the downed trees spread outward away from a particular part in the forest. As if a blast of some sort had gone off there.

Again, Tabitha whispers, “What happened here, Cas?” It seems wrong to raise her voice in the resounding silence.

Suddenly, he stops, and then points to a piece of ground that seems to be slowly moving, pushing upwards as if something is buried alive there and struggling to the surface.

She kneels to inspect it, but spins around when she feels the electrifying sensation of another angel appearing behind them.

Castiel twirls to meet the attack, raising one hand to block the silver, triangular blade the other angle had been trying to stab him with. His own identical blade seems to appear from nowhere and the two angels begin grappling with each other. They break apart, each adjusting their grips on their blades, only to run at each other again. Castiel grabs for the other angel at takes a swipe at him, missing as the angel jumps over his blade, summersaulting across the ground and springing to his feet once more.

When the angel turns and rushes Castiel again, they lock arms once more, each blocking the blade of the other with their free hand.

Tabitha sees a second angel suddenly appear a few paces behind Castiel, eyeing his unprotected back.

When he rushes towards Castiel, she jumps behind the attacker, her hand closing over his fist on the blade, redirecting the blade from Castiel’s back, and pushing it forward into the stomach of the angel still grappling with Castiel.

The first angel drops his blade as a blinding light emits from him, going slack and falling to the ground in a burst of power that steals Tabitha’s breath. Castiel grabs the dropped blade before it falls more than a few inches, swinging it backwards into the angel between his back and Tabitha’s chest.

Only nicked by Castiel’s swipe, the angel spins towards Tabitha, knocking her hands away from himself and elbowing her in the face.

As she staggers backwards, she sees Castiel spin and knock the second angel to the ground, crouching over him as he ruthlessly stabs the blade into the angel’s chest like a stake.

After a second shock blast erupts from the other angel, the clearing falls silent once more.

Castiel looks up from his crouched position, staring at Tabitha as he whispers, “You saved my life.”

Her head cants to the side at the incredulity of his tone. “Of course I did,” she tells him confused by his bewilderment.

Standing from his crouch, he steps closer, an angel blade now in each of his hands. Shifting them to one hand, he reaches out to pull her to her feet, and then gently wipes the backs of his fingers under her nose.

Feeling him wipe away the wetness there, she reaches up as well, finding a bit of blood still trickling from her nose. Testing the bridge of cartilage, she assures him, “I’m fine. It’s not broken. Not even bleeding that bad.” Though she’s certain it will swell, enough even that she might soon be sporting the ever-unflattering raccoon look.

Castiel slides his hand along the underside of her jaw, fingers wrapping at the nape of her neck, his thumb stroking the sensitive skin under her ear.

As her eyes drift shut with the pleasant sensation, he leans close to whisper in her ear, “Thank you.”

She’s startled by his thanks, and remembering that stunned look in his eyes, she wonders if he’d really thought that she would have let him die. No matter how angry she’s been…she could never do that.

Before she can speak, they hear moaning coming from the ground, and looking over, they see that the same spot of earth and decaying leaves is still moving.

Castiel’s hand slides down her arm, but instead of grabbing her hand as he’d done before, Castiel presses one of the angel blades into her palm, curling her slack fingers around the handle when she stares up at him in shock.

Pointedly, he tells her, “This is the only weapon that can kill an angel.”

He turns, leaving her to stare at the bloody blade in her hand, and steps over to the strange patch of earth at the center of the felled trees.

Dropping his own bloody blade, he crouches once more, digging in the earth until a muddy hand shoots through, blindly searching for escape from its earthly prison.

Gasping in surprise, she darts forward, helping to pull the dirt away from whoever has been buried alive in the ground. When a bit more dirt is pulled away, Castiel grabs the wrist of the person, standing and pulling them from the ground with ease no human could replicate.

He drops the muddy figure on the ground next to where Tabitha still kneels.

Falling backwards for the second time, away from the muddy boy, she gasps, “Adam?”

Her half-brother is slung over the angel’s shoulder when they reappear in Bobby’s living room, and Tabitha wastes no time shouting for the rest of her brothers.

“Guys! Get in here, now!”

Bobby looks up from the scattered books around him, surprised to see the angel carrying the dirt-encrusted body of a boy over his shoulder.

“Boys!” he shouts, echoing Tabitha’s summons with increasing urgency.

The angel less than gently dumps Adam on the cot Bobby has been using, and Tabitha rushes to help rearrange the boy as Bobby rolls his wheelchair closer, asking, “Who is it?”

Looking up, she glances at her other two brothers before quietly explaining to Bobby, “It’s our half-brother. Adam.”

As she watches their faces, she sees the surprise even on Castiel’s face. As she begins brushing the drying mud from Adam’s face, Bobby says, “Wait a minute. Your brother? Adam? That brother?”

“Yes, Bobby,” she huffs in exasperation, standing and rushing into the kitchen for wet rags to start cleaning the boy.

Dean leans over her to question curiously, “What happened to your nose?”

“Nothing.” She waves his concern off, focusing on issues that are more important instead.

As she kneels to start washing the dried mud away, Dean turns to the angel, demanding, “Cas, what the hell?”

Castiel drops one of the angel blades from their attackers on Bobby’s table, stating simply, “Angels.”

Surreptitiously, Tabitha feels under her leather coat where she’d slid the other angel blade into the waist of her jeans at the small of her back. Castiel meets her gaze, nodding once, as if affirming that he wants her to keep the second stolen blade hidden.

Baffled by the one word answer, Sam presses for more detail. “Angels? Why?”

The fallen angel shakes his head once. “I know one thing for sure.” He crosses the room to stand next to where Tabitha kneels, one hand gripping her shoulder as he leans over Adam. “We need to hide him now,” Castiel declares, squeezing her shoulder and pressing his other hand over Adam’s chest.

The action brings the boy around, causing his eyes to shoot open as he moans in agony. Tabitha reaches out to grab the boy’s hand, remembering herself how painful it had been when Castiel had carved her ribs what seems like a lifetime ago. Or rather, it seems like she’s experienced a few lifetimes worth of pain since then.

For a moment, Adam blindly grips her hand in return. But as the pain subsides, he looks around the room, and then drops her hand, scrambling back away from them all as he pants to regain his breath.

“Easy, it’s okay,” Tabitha tries to soothe, holding her hands out peacefully.

“Where am I?” Adam demands in confusion, reminding Tabitha that he wouldn’t know them…and that they hadn’t actually met Adam, either. Just the things that ate him and his mother.

Sam attempts to calm the frantic boy. “It’s okay. Just relax. You’re safe.”

“Who the hell are you?”

Dean steps in to explain. “You’re gonna find this a little—a lot crazy, but we’re actually your brothers and sister.” He gestures at Sam beside him and down at Tabitha still kneeling by the cot.

“It’s the truth,” Sam confirms. “John Winchester was our father, too. See, I’m Sam—”

Adam cuts him off. “Yeah, and I’m sure that’s Tabitha and Dean.”

Tabitha rocks back on her heels in surprise, dropping one of the wet rags to the floor and feeling her brothers stiffen behind her.

Their half-brother continues. “I know who you are.”

“How?” Sam questions, concern rising.

“They warned me about you.”

Dean’s quick to ask, “Who did?”

“The angels.” More angrily, he demands, “Now, where the hell is Zachariah?!”

Fuming at the mere mention of the angel that delighted in torturing her, Tabitha pushes to her feet, muttering, “Why the hell am I not surprised that scumbag is involved?”

She feels Dean place a placating hand on her shoulder even as she feels the comforting hand of Castiel wrap around her other arm, fingers soothingly rubbing against the leather of her jacket. After a moment, the soothing fingers pull discreetly away, as if startled aware to what they’d been doing.

Trying to calm the situation down, Dean tells their youngest, half-brother, “Look, why don’t you get cleaned up first. Tab was gonna try to wipe some of that mud away, but now that you’re vertical, maybe a shower and some clean clothes are in order, man. You know, so you don’t look like you’ve been rocking in a mosh pit.”

An hour later, everyone is once more gathered around Adam as he sits stiffly on Bobby’s cot, looking up at them by turns confused and spiteful.

Bobby and Dean take up positions sitting facing but flanking Adam, while Tabitha and Sam perch on the corners of Bobby’s cluttered desk. The angel waits further behind the group, seeming most comfortable in his prior position leaning near the hearth.

Arms braced against the back of the chair Dean has straddled in reverse, he asks Adam, “So, why don’t you just tell us everything? Start from the beginning.”

Adam seems a bit uncomfortable, woodenly holding the glass of water Tabitha had brought for him as he surveys his audience. Seeming to realize that he doesn’t have many other options, Adam sighs and begins his tale. “Well, I was dead and in Heaven…except it—it, uh, kind of looked like my prom. And I was making out with this girl. Her—her name was Kristin McGee.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Heaven,” Dean nods in agreement.

Under her breath, Tabitha comments, “Doesn’t sound much like the Heaven I got to see while running from angels and being tortured. Looked more like Gitmo angel style.” She light-heartedly scoffs and says a little louder, “Kristin McGee. Sounds more like a fitness instructor on one of those lame workout videos.”

Dean glances over at his sister, throwing her a sly wink before turning back to tease Adam. “Did you get to third base?”

Sam, ever uncomfortable with those kinds of comments even being hinted between his older siblings, clears his throat, trying to bring them back on topic. “Just, uh…just keep going.”

Adam relents with a nod. “Well, these—these angels, they popped out of nowhere, and they tell me that I-I’m chosen.”

“For what?” Sam asks, all three Winchester siblings leaning forward a bit in anticipation.

“To save the world?”

Looking baffled, Dean asks him, “How you gonna do that?”

Completely unruffled, Adam answers, “Oh, me and some archangel are gonna kill the Devil.”

“What archangel?”

“Michael. I’m his, uh, sword or vessel or something. I don’t know.”

With a dry laugh, Dean replies, “Well, that’s insane.”

Behind them, Castiel softly refutes, “Not necessarily.”

Turning around on his chair, Dean demands, “How do you mean?”

“Maybe they’re moving on from you, Dean.”

“Well, that doesn’t make sense,” he scoffs.

Looking down, Castiel flatly returns, “He’s John Winchester’s bloodline, Sam’s brother. Tabitha’s as well. It’s not perfect, but it’s possible.”

In frustration, Dean mutters, “Oh, you got to be kidding me.”

“Why would they do this?” Sam asks, turning to look at the angel as well.

Tabitha twists on the far corner of Bobby’s desk, bringing her legs up to cross them under herself as she, too, turns to face the angel. “Is this some kind of back-up plan? Plan B for if they can’t get Dean to say ‘yes’?”

The angel’s eyes continue to stare fixedly at the floor. But proving that he is listening, he nods once, saying, “Maybe they’re desperate. Maybe they’ve wrongly assumed Dean would be brave enough to withstand them.” With his last barb, the angel’s eyes move to stare accusingly at the eldest Winchester.

Dean twists back to Castiel, snapping at him, “All right, you know what? Blow me, Cas.”

Sam quickly denies the entire turn of events, completely angered by the revelations. “Look. Now way. After everything that’s happened, all that crap about destiny, suddenly the angels have a plan ‘B’?” He glances around the room, asking, “Does that smell right to anybody?”

Tabitha remembers Azrael approaching her the last time in Heaven. She’d been using their mother as a vessel then. And it worked because of the bloodline. But Sam’s right, she realizes, she already had a vessel in their mother. So if any vessel works, why was she still hounding and threatening Tabitha to say “yes”? Why did it have to be her?

Adam breaks her from her thoughts, looking annoyed as he tells them, “You know, this has been a really moving family reunion, but, uh, I got a thing, so—”

He starts to stand, but Sam leans forward to push him back down. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. No, no, no. Sit down. Just listen, okay? Please.”

Adam shakes his head, but does turn back to pace in front of the cot as he mutters, “It’s unbelievable.”

He sits again as Sam starts. “Now, Adam…the angels are lying to you.”

“That’s what they all do,” Tabitha bitterly breaks in. “They’re all full of crap and lies.” Realizing that Castiel is still standing just out of the corner of her eye and that she’s still taking some of her anger at him out in front of her brothers, she glances back, covering by sheepishly adding, “No offense, Cas.”

His eyes drop once more, and he doesn’t move in response.

On the cot, Adam barks a laugh, darkly denying, “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“Really?” Sam scoffs. “Why not?”

“Um, ’cause they’re angels.”

Still looking down, Castiel regretfully supplies, “That doesn’t make us infallible.”

Searchingly, Sam glances at the ceiling before he continues trying to get through to Adam. “They tell you they were gonna roast half the planet?”

“They said the fight might get pretty hairy, but it is the Devil, right? So we got to stop him.”

“They tell you that if this fight doesn’t go exactly the way they want it to, that another angel wants to instead roast the whole damn universe? Heaven and Hell, too?” Tabitha breaks in, bracing her hands on her knees.

Adam leans forward to meet her gaze, eyes narrowing as he answers her as assuredly as he had Sam. “Yeah. And they said that was why we had to move on the Devil now. Before there was any chance that it could go wrong.”

Huffing, Sam informs him, “Yeah, but there’s another way.”

“Great. What is it?” Adam asks without hesitation.

Derisively, Dean comes back with, “Well, we’re working on the power of love.”

“How’s that going?” Adam dares.

“Not good,” Dean sardonically grins.

Frustration growing, Sam breaks in, “Look, Adam…you don’t know me form a hole in the wall, I know, but I’m begging you. Please, just trust me. Give me some time.”

“Give me one good reason,” Adam challenges.

“Because we’re blood.”

“You got no right to say that to me,” their half-brother darkly replies.

“You’re still John’s boy,” Bobby tries to reason.

“No, John Winchester was some guy who took me to a baseball game once a year. I didn’t have a dad,” Adam argues. Looking back to his half-siblings, he informs them, “So, we may be blood, but we are not family. My mom is my family, and if I do my job, I get to see her again. So, no offense, but she’s the one I give a rat’s ass about, not you.”

“Fair enough,” Sam agrees, “but if you have one good memory of Dad—just one—then you’ll give us a little more time. Please.”

“We’re not asking you for a commitment,” Tabitha reminds him. “Just a little time.”

Tabitha wanders through the kitchen, not looking up from her book as she softly pads over to the fridge.

“Were you headed somewhere?”

Adam stops in his tracks at the side door off the hallway, turning to scowl when he hears her question.

“Out for a…beer,” Adam attempts to lie, trying to cover his failed escape.

Eyes still scanning the Latin passage she’s translating, Tabitha props the fridge open with one hip, reaching in without looking and grabbing two longneck bottles. As she lets the fridge close, she turns to underhand lob one at her younger half-brother, finally tearing her eyes from the book to look up at him.

He’s still scowling as he grabs the beer from its arc through the air at him. Sighing, he slumps down again at the table.

“You know,” Tabitha conversationally tells him, “sneaking out is kinda pointless. I learned all the best tricks from Dean for sneaking out undetected when he would cut out late at night growing up, and practiced spotting all of them with Sammy when he tried to sneak out. And being the only girl, I learned plenty of proven techniques for sneaking out from the watchful male eyes of the family myself. So I wouldn’t try anything here. Unless you’re willing to bring your A game.”

“Great,” Adam mutters under his breath, poking once more at his half-eaten sandwich.

Tabitha glances over his shoulder, frowning as she asks, “Did you want something else? Or something more with that? I’m not much of a cook—and Bobby never has much outside of pork and beans—but I can try to fix you something different if you want. I make some mean macaroni and cheese. Rarely burn it.”

Turning to full-on glare at her, Adam tells her, “You know, your brother pitched this whole dewy-eyed bromance thing, but the truth is, I’m on lockdown, aren’t I?”

Shrugging, Tabitha lowers herself into the chair across the small kitchen table from Adam, setting her book aside as she tells him, “You know how parents tell you that they’re doing something for your own good? Usually making you do something you don’t want to do. Like when Dad wouldn’t let me play with dolls and made me learn to sanctify water into Holy Water. And the deadliest places to stab someone when I was seven-years-old, you know, instead of teaching me how to write my name.” When Adam’s eyebrows fly upward, she chews her lip and shakes her head. “Just me? Oh well. You get the picture. This is like that. You may not understand why this is important—just like I didn’t then, but believe me. This is. And you’re safer here. We’re just trying to protect you.”

“Protect me? I suppose Dad was just trying to protect me, too,” Adam disputes, leaning forward over the table. “Protected me and my mom so well that monsters ate us.”

Biting her cheek, Tabitha admits, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure he didn’t know it would turn out that way. But if we’d known…we would have been there for you.”

“Right,” Adam bites out sarcastically, finally leaning back in his chair and taking the beer she’d given him. “Just one big, happy, screwed up damn family. Maybe we could hop in the family truckster and pop on down to Wally World.”

Pushing to her feet again, and taking her bottle and book with her, Tabitha smirks down at her brother, leaving him with one last thought before she departs. “No matter what you say or think, you fit right in with this family. Snarky…quick-tempered…and just as stubborn as any other Winchester.”

She steps past him, ruffling his hair despite him shoving her hand away. “Welcome to the family, kid. You’re a Winchester whether you want to be or not.”

Tabitha spots her younger brother hurrying up the stairs from the basement, and quickens her pace to catch him before he can head up to the second floor of Bobby’s house.

“Sam? Sam! Wait up. How’s Dean?” she asks, jogging to catch him at the bottom of the stairs. She’d hated them having to lock their older brother up in Bobby’s safe room, but she’d agreed that Dean was the more dangerous threat between their obstinate brothers and should be kept there until they could better reason with him. Or at least all of them come up with some kind of consensus on a plan. Whatever that was going to be. And whatever it was…she had a feeling she wasn’t going to like it.

Sam stops briefly at the bottom of the stairs when she grabs his elbow, but doesn’t turn around. “He’s fine,” her younger brother answers stiffly. “I’m tired. I’m gonna hit the rack.”

Grown or a little boy, Tabitha has always been able to hear the emotion in her younger brother’s voice, so when Sam tries to pull away again to continue up the stairs, she maneuvers in front of him, lightly jumping up a few steps before turning to face him. From the time he’d hit his growth spurt and outgrown her…and then Dean…Tabitha had learned to use whatever advantages she had to keep the upper hand with her little brother.

Bracing her hands on his shoulders to keep him from turning away, she demands, “What’s going on? What happened?”

Sam’s head remains tipped down for a moment, but when he looks up, she can see the tears sparkling in his eyes. Still, he tries to remain stoic, telling her, “Nothing, Tab. It’s nothing. He just took a hunk outta me is all. I probably deserved it.”

“What did he say?” she more gently inquires, her hands changing from bracing against his shoulders to rubbing soothing circles against his worn flannel shirt.

Finally, Sam relents and admits in a harsh whisper, “He doesn’t trust me. He doesn’t trust that I’ll hold out. He’s convinced I’ll turn and say ‘yes’ to Lucifer.”

Feeling his shoulders shake under her palms, Tabitha pulls her brother closer, sighing at the way he collapses against her shoulder. She soothes him silently for a minute, then softly assures him, “It’s okay, Sammy. He’s just having a lapse in faith. We all have lapses in faith. Even with each other. He just needs time to remember. Time to remember that you’re our brother and that you will make the right choice.”

“I didn’t before,” he miserably whispers against her shoulder, shaking with silent tears.

Tabitha pushes Sam back, forcing him to look up at her again. When she’s certain that he’s looking at her and really listening, she reassures him, “But you learn from your mistakes. And Dean’ll remember that. Just…give him time.”

Seeming to feel a little better, Sam gives her a crooked smile, asking her, “You’re not having a crisis of faith anymore, either? I mean, you’re not getting drunk like you were a couple of days ago. So is your faith in us restored?”

Squeezing his shoulders, Tabitha smiles and promises him, “Sam, I didn’t lose faith in you or Dean. Never in you guys.” Before he can answer, she changes the subject, wanting him to get his mind off Dean’s foul mood. “Why don’t you head to the kitchen and keep an eye on Adam for a while now. I’ll head down and check in with Mr. Sunshine downstairs.”

“Sure,” Sam agrees, reaching up and squeezing her hand gratefully one last time before turning away. At least he’s smiling again.

Tabitha knows the tingling sensation of power crawling up her spine like the back of her hand, and isn’t surprised when she hears Castiel’s voice further up the stairs behind her.

“Is it me you lost faith in?”

For a moment, Tabitha considers ignoring the question and continuing to her destination in the basement. But the genuine hopelessness in his whispered voice stills her feet.

Instead, she turns and watches as he slowly descends the stairs that separate them, until he’s left standing on the next step above her, forcing her to tilt her head back to meet his eyes. Their chests are only inches apart.

Strangely, his height advantage doesn’t make her feel at a disadvantage. And a part of her files that thought away for dissection at another time.

“I think I lost faith in us,” she replies, surprising even herself when she finally speaks.

The angel flinches at the whispered answer as if she’d shouted the words at him. Whether at the notion of there having been a “them” or at the continued reminder of his actions being the root of the cause she isn’t sure.

“My intention was never for you to be hurt. I just wanted to protect you,” he stubbornly reminds her, one hand seeming to unconsciously reach out, one finger running up and down the bare skin of her arm in a feathery caress.

Sighing in frustration at the same words being repeated to her, she assures the angel, “I know you had the best intentions, Cas. And believe it or not, I do forgive you for what you did because I know you were trying to protect me in some strange way. It’s the lies I can’t forgive. You had several opportunities to tell me the truth. To tell me what was going on before I had to find out the way I did. The hard way. And I don’t know what to say anymore. You have brought me to that moment when words run dry.”

Tabitha reaches up to grab Castiel’s wrist, stopping his fingers from caressing her arm. But instead of pushing him away, she slides her grip down to his hand, lacing her fingers through his and staring up into his eyes as he searches hers. She wonders what he sees shining in her eyes.

“I do forgive you for what you did, Cas. Because I really do believe you thought you were protecting me,” she continues firmly. Then, she pulls her hand away, their fingers untangling as she leans back and lets her hand drop to her side. “But you can’t keep trying to always do something wrong but with the best of intentions. Maybe it’ll work out well a few times and everything will be okay. But one of these days, you’re going to cross a line. You’re going to burn one too many bridges. Someday, you’ll do something wrong but with the best of intentions, and it’ll be too far…and I just won’t be able to forgive you. And neither will anyone else.”

After her words sink in for a few moments, Castiel nods and haltingly replies, “I feel…regret. Regretful for…” he slowly gestures back and forth in the small space between them, “the damage I’ve done to the…bond we share. Shared. I don’t know how to repair it.”

“You can’t force it,” she explains, regret darkening her reply. “It takes time to repair what’s been broken. If it can ever be what it was before.” She glances away as she gathers her courage, and steeling herself, looks back up into the intense blue eyes of the angel. “I don’t know if we can ever be what we were before. You hurt me more than I can describe by not trusting me enough to tell me what was going on and what I was accepting. Or what I was giving up. That you thought so little of me that you could just brush aside the idea of telling me what was going on… But I do know that I miss my friend, Cas. With everything that’s happening… If the world’s gonna… I just want my friend back, Cas. Can we just be friends again?”

She ignores the tears that glisten in her vision, and the tears the make her voice low and husky, but stares up at the angel instead of turning away, awaiting a response from him. Always waiting for him. She wonders if she will ever be able to escape that.

Yet, no matter what her mind says or she tells herself, her heart thrums a different beat. It reminds her of all the lines she’s already crossed for him. Lines that can’t be uncrossed. Bridges that can’t be unburned.

The bridge is crossed, so stand and watch it burn, her heart screams.

But her mind still tells her to protect herself.

Which will win out in the end?

When he speaks, his voice is barely above a whisper. Forcing her to strain to hear the anguished words. “Some days, I ask myself time and again, ‘Why did I rebel? Why did I turn against my brothers and sisters?'”

Blindly reaching out, Tabitha finds his hand between their bodies, reassuringly squeezing it as she answers, “Because it was the right thing. For Dean. And even for Sam. You rebelled to help them.”

“What about you?”

For a second, her breath stills, and she almost convinces herself that her mind hadn’t heard right. But the angel stares down expectantly, awaiting her answer.

“I’m just the girl in the middle. The girl trying to help her brothers. The girl trying to help the angel understand the strange mortals. I’m not important. Nothing to rebel for.”

Despite the conviction of her words, her free hand slips into the pocket of her jeans, caressing the dark golden circle and smoothing across the sleek gems. It’s a constant reminder of her momentous “what if?” But it seems like an ever-diminishing promise.

Even her only other memento of that…journey…is an ever-darkening hope. The Polaroid remains folded in her back pocket, but she knows what she’d see if she looked at it. An image of a blissfully happy couple, slowly fading and blurring into obscurity. The background had long gone hazy, but now even the image of herself and Castiel has begun to blur. Only the bright smile on her lips, and the intense look of love in his eyes remain in focus.

But how long can it last?

Castiel’s hand unerringly finds her cheek, cupping her jaw with aching familiarity as he whispers, “You’re something special.”

Disrupted from her thoughts, she smiles faintly at the familiar words. They’re ones he’s told her before. With a light touch, she reaches up to tug his hand down into both of hers, holding it between them as she contests, “Not that special.” Shaking her head, she reminds him, “It’s Sam and Dean. It’s always been about them. And they’ll figure out a way to stop all of this. I’ll make sure of it. If it’s the last thing I do.”

In a low, desolate voice, he whispers, “Lead me, save me from my solitude.”

Not knowing how she can answer him with the way things have been, or what more can be said, she releases the angel’s hand, stepping backwards down one step before turning to head down the others, at the bottom of the stairs, she turns back, having to ask, “Can we at least still be friends, Cas? I don’t want to be lonely either.”

At first, he doesn’t answer. Then, he slowly descends the stairs after her, pausing beside her at the bottom of the staircase.

“Of course,” he agrees, nodding as a look of grief and sadness flit across his face before it becomes an impenetrable mask once more. “If that’s what you want.” He nods back up the stairs, telling her, “Why don’t you get some sleep. I’ll check on your brother.”

Her head barely hits her pillow when she feels the painful explosion of power that accompanies her angel being banished by a blood sigil.

Castiel had been searching for Dean since the moment he’d regained enough power after being banished by the human’s blood sigil. It takes time, but listening to prayers finally pays off.

Appearing next to the man with fervent and impassioned prayers on his lips, and Dean Winchester on his mind, Castiel tells the man, “You pray too loud,” and touches the man’s shoulder to silence him.

Grabbing Dean, he shoves him into an alleyway away from the other humans.

Shocked, Dean demands, “What, are you crazy?!”

Feeling that it might be close to the truth, Castiel slams Dean from one wall to another across the alley, before throwing him again. Remembering Tabitha’s insistent words that his rebellion had been for Sam and Dean’s sake, he demands, “I rebelled for this?!”

Not wanting an answer from Dean, he slams his fist into the human’s face. With the withering of his Grace, his hands feel the instant pain of the impact, and it feels strangely…comforting. So he quickly punches again. Trying to reconcile how he’d fallen so far for a human that would spurn his sacrifices and give himself up to the other angel’s whims for war and bloodshed.

After a third punch, the pain begins to throb in Castiel’s hand, but the feeling is somehow…right.

Still shouting, he grabs Dean as the human doubles over, pulling him upright and grabbing his shirtfront to demand, “So that you could surrender to them?”

He twists and throws Dean back against the opposite wall, swinging his fist in an uppercut at the human’s already bleeding jaw, and then delivering another punishing blow to his side when he doubles over against his pain.

“Cas! Please!” Dean pleads, blood trickling from his lips.

Not wanting those pleas, Castiel twists to throw Dean back across the alley, propping him once more against the wall as he threatens, “I gave everything for you. And this is what you give to me.”

But it isn’t Dean Winchester’s bloody face his mind sees when he utters those words. It’s another, fairer face, and laughing brown eyes that fills his mind when he thinks of whom he gave everything for. The very human that holds his Grace. That has somehow captured…him.

And then turned him away.

Pulling Dean from the wall, he pushes him back a step, and then winds up and punches him with all his might, pulling back and kicking the human when he doubles over once more.

Dean flies backwards into a chain-link fence, where he remains crumpled on the pavement, coughing and spitting blood from his beating. The beating seems more than deserved for failing Castiel after all he’d given up for him. For her.

Still, Dean manages to look up, defiantly daring the angel, “Do it. Just do it!”

Castiel sees an anger that matches his own shining in Dean’s face. Anger, he realizes, at the situation he finds himself in, and at himself for not being able to find a way out of it. Just as Castiel finds himself.

The anger recedes enough for Castiel to see more clearly. The angel knows he’s furious with Dean for giving up after all he has sacrificed to help them get where they are, but he realizes that there’s a lot of anger intertwined with Tabitha as well.

No. Not with her.

With himself.

He’d given up a lot to help Dean when the human had pleaded with him to do the “right” thing. But he’d given up more for the human that had become an anchor for him in this world. He’d rebelled for Dean and his cause. But he’d fallen…was losing his Grace…for her.

And as much as he wants to be angry with her for ripping away the hand of comfort and kindness she’d once so willingly offered, he knows he can’t place the blame on her shoulders.

He’d given up everything he had at the kindness her smile offered him, but she might well lose everything she had because of his actions.

He hadn’t meant for it to be that way.

Hadn’t thought about what would happen after she accepted his mark. He’d only thought far enough ahead to know that if he was going to die, he wanted…needed to know that she would be protected. Somehow.

The thought that his Grace would alter her so much that her own Heaven would be ripped from her hadn’t entered his frantic thoughts that night. Just a strange…overwhelming need to do something to protect her.

But in the back of his mind, he’d known there would be dire consequences and repercussions to her accepting the talisman of protection he’d fashioned to absorb his waning Grace. And he’d made the choice not to tell her.

And when she’d broached the matter of his talisman later…he’d deflected…and lied to her.

Just as she’d said.

He’d been the one to break the bond between them.

The pain in his chest won’t relent. No matter how many times he strikes Dean. No matter how much he might convince himself that Dean deserves his wrath just as much as he deserves Tabitha’s.

But she hadn’t given him her wrath. She’d forgiven him. As not even his Father could ever do for his firstborn. Her forgiveness was even more confounding…and more…profound than the kindness she always gave him. And somehow even more unanticipated, unforeseen, and…unattainable.

But granted so easily from her. With a kind touch. And a soft smile.

Unclenching his fist, Castiel finally looks past Dean’s defiant stare, reaching down to tap his shoulder, granting him sleep.

“He’s gone how?” Sam frantically demands again, still pacing in the kitchen as he shouts at Tabitha and Bobby.

After both Cas and Dean had disappeared at the same time—and they’d found Dean’s blood sigil—Sam had left to search for their brother, leaving Tabitha and Bobby to watch over Adam. Which shouldn’t have been a problem. Under normal circumstances.

Shoving his hands through his hair, Sam shouts, “What the hell, Tabitha?!”

“Watch your tone, boy,” Bobby warns.

Folding her arms over her chest, Tabitha reminds, “You’re not too big for me to beat the ever-loving piss outta.”

“He was right in front of me,” Bobby explains to Sam, “and he disappeared into thin air.”

Shoving the stray hairs back from her face, Tabitha repeats to her brother, “I told you. I was upstairs, and could hear the whispers of an angel’s voice. By the time I realized it might be Zachariah, probably talking in Adam’s dream, and got down here, it was too late. That asshole probably found out where he was from Adam himself and then had angels body-snatched him.”

In truth, she partially blames herself. When she’d heard the whispers of an angel, she’d frozen, frantically trying to figure out if it was Castiel reaching out to her. To let her know he was all right or where Dean was. It had taken her too long to realize that the voice she was hearing wasn’t the same smooth one of Castiel’s real voice. And longer still to snap out of her daze and rush to where she’d left Adam.

“They did,” Castiel confirms, suddenly appearing in the living room.

The other three turn in the kitchen, staring in shock at the nearly limp body of Dean being propped up by the angel. One of Dean’s arms is slung over the angel’s shoulders as he slumps against Castiel’s grip.

“What the hell happened to him?” Sam asks in disbelief, taking in their brother’s bloodied and swollen face.

“Me,” Castiel informs simply. He maneuvers across the living room to unceremoniously drop Dean on Bobby’s cot.

Wincing at the sight of the angel dropping a second brother in as many days in the same harsh manner on the same little cot, she hurries forward, scolding, “Gently, Cas.”

Bobby seems less concerned with Dean’s state, asking instead, “What do you mean, the angels took Adam? You branded his ribs, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Castiel replies, and then gestures to where Tabitha bends over her unconscious older brother to inspect the damage. “But as Tabitha deduced, Adam likely tipped them in a dream.”

“Well, where would they take him?” Sam asks, glancing back and forth to Dean’s prone form and the angel standing in front of them.

Castiel thinks for a moment, and then realizes, “I think I know.”

“I was right. They’re holding Adam where they held your brother before Lucifer was freed.”

Tabitha sighs and looks up at the angel standing in the middle of her bedroom. It crosses her mind to remind him that human custom would dictate that people who are only friends shouldn’t be so familiar in each other’s bedrooms, but she shoves it aside, knowing that those human intricacies are beyond the angel’s comprehension.

“The same one you took me to meet Dean in before we went to Chuck’s?” she clarifies in a weary and leaden voice.


Rubbing her hands against her jean-clad knees in an effort to ease her rising tension as she sits on her still unmade bed, she asks, “I’m guessing it’s crawling with angels, right?”


“Wonderful,” she sighs, flopping back onto her bed, staring helplessly at the ceiling.

Continuing her questions, she asks, “Did you let Sam know what you found?”


No longer eyeing the angel, she feels bold enough to comment, “That was quite the number you did on Dean.”


Twisting to lay on her side, she turns to look at him, raising a brow as she asks, “Have anything more to do with a little something else than just subduing him?”


Rolling her eyes and propping her head up by her elbow, she demands, “Really, Cas? One word, monotone answers all I’m gonna get now?”

“You should stay here,” he suddenly tells her, crossing the room and stiffly sitting on the edge of her bed beside her. He doesn’t turn to look at her, but his words turn fierce as he argues, “Both you and Dean should remain here. There’s little to no chance that we can retrieve Adam, Dean is just as likely to surrender himself as help, and it’s too dangerous for Zachariah to get his hands on you again. I won’t let him.”

She considers his words, and replays her discussion with Sam in her head.

“Sam and I already agreed to bring Dean with. We’re gonna need everyone if we’re gonna pull this off, Cas. And against all odds…we trust him to make the right choice in the end.”

“He ran from here once to find Zachariah. You can’t trust him,” Castiel stubbornly maintains, hands clenching into fists at his sides.

Tabitha snakes a hand across the bed to unclench his fist, lacing her fingers with his, and finally causing him to turn to stare down at her.

“Winchesters often make the wrong choice the first time around. Sometimes even the second and third. It’s just the way bullheaded people like us are. Sometimes, it takes us a try or ten to get it right,” she explains with a teasing smile, squeezing his hand.

He opens his mouth to reply, but is interrupted by Sam’s voice shouting for her from downstairs.

With one last reassuring squeeze, Tabitha releases Castiel’s hand and pushes up from her bed, giving the angel a more resigned smile as she tells him, “Guess that means he talked with Dean and it’s time to go.”

Castiel stands a moment after she does, stopping her with a tug on her elbow. “Please be careful,” he implores one last time.

Dean glances around in confusion when Castiel transports the three siblings to the outside of what appears to be a group of old abandoned warehouses. Some of them sport weather-beaten signs for some kind of muffler factory.

“Where the hell are we?” Dean asks.

“Van Nuys, California,” Castiel matter-of-factly explains.

“So where’s that swanky room we were in?” Tabitha asks, looking around at the overgrown palm trees and scrub brush in bewilderment. Nothing about overgrown weeds screams swanky to her.

Distractedly, Castiel gestures at the warehouse they’re currently walking beside. “In there.”

Astonished, Dean replies, “The Beautiful Room is in an abandoned muffler factory in Van Nuys, California.”

“Where’d you think it was?”

“I-I don’t know,” Dean stutters. “Jupiter?”

Shrugging in more or less agreement, Tabitha adds, “A blade of grass, maybe. Wouldn’t have guessed Van Nuys.” Even though the place seems strangely abandoned, Tabitha can’t deny the angelic power from the area that she can feel licking across her skin. Too strong and too foreign feeling to be accounted to just Castiel.

Rarely one to appreciate humor in tense situations, Sam tries again to steer them back on track. “Tell me again why you don’t just grab Adam and shazam the hell out of here,” he presses the angel.

Temper flaring slightly, Castiel rounds back with, “Because there are at least five angels in there.”

“So? You’re fast,” Dean cajoles as they stop near an entrance of the building.

Forebodingly, Castiel explains, “They’re faster.”

Tabitha stiffens when Castiel begins removing his tie and loosening his white shirt. Even her brothers shift uncomfortably, sharing questioning looks with each other.

“I’ll clear them out,” Castiel continues, looking around in distraction.

Balling the tie up in his hands, Castiel looks back to the Winchesters as he continues directing, “You three grab the boy.”

“No,” Tabitha immediately disagrees. She knows that look of grim and stoic determination in Castiel’s eyes. She’d seen it once before. The night he’d come to her in New Orleans. It had been the same night he’d given her the cursed charm on her wrist. But it had also been the same night he’d been certain would be his last on earth.

Whatever he’s planning, she knows it’s going to be reckless.

And she won’t let him go alone.

Despite her general confusion about what she should feel about him and what they are…her heart knows, even if her mind can’t decide.

Often to her detriment, she usually follows her heart.

“I’m going with you,” she finally tells the angel when he stops speaking, waiting to hear her objection. “Dean and Sam can cover getting Adam. I’ll watch your back.”

Castiel’s eyes dart surreptitiously between her brothers before focusing on her again, but they darken with worry as he tells her, “I’m planning to distract them. It’ll be too dangerous for you.”

“But not too dangerous for you to go in there without someone watching your back?” she challenges, rolling back her shoulders in determination.

“These are angels, Tab,” Dean reminds her. “Not boy scouts.”

Reaching behind her, Tabitha pulls out the angel blade Castiel had given her the day before. Spinning it in her hand with the practiced ease of a lifetime spent handling knives, she assures her brother, “I think I can handle them.”

“This is our only chance,” Castiel reminds her.

“Then it’s all the more reason for you to have someone at your back, Cas,” she stubbornly maintains. She raises her arm, shaking her bracelet dramatically at him. “Besides, with all the charms on this thing, they can’t lay their whammy on me, right? This isn’t like up in Heaven. I’ve got a body down here that the charms protect.”

Castiel looks pointedly at the blade balanced in her palm. “They don’t have to use their powers to harm you.”

“I’m going with you,” she flatly issues, using her most commanding tone of voice. The one that she generally reserves for her brothers when she’s had enough of them ordering her around or not listening to her.

“This is a bad idea,” Dean mutters to himself.

“Fine,” Castiel relents to her, murmuring under his breath and turning towards the large wooden doors of the white warehouse.

“Whoa, wait,” Dean suddenly interrupts, seeming to have second thoughts. “You two are just gonna take on five angels?”

“Yes,” Castiel and Tabitha answer in unison. They’d fought two angels together. How much harder could three more be? Just because the angels will be ready and waiting for them to come rescue Adam doesn’t mean it’ll be any harder, right?

Tabitha scowls at herself to keep from talking herself out of what she needs to do.

“I’m not liking this,” Dean argues. “Isn’t that suicide?”

“Maybe it is. And I’ll do everything in my power to make sure Tabitha makes it out okay,” Castiel edgily tells him. “But at least I won’t have to watch you fail.” He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Dean. I don’t have the same faith in you that Sam and Tabitha do.”

He steps away again, telling the boys over his shoulder, “You should check the perimeter one more time before we go in.”

A weary exchange passes between Sam and Dean, but they finally nod and split up, each cautiously making their way around the outside of the warehouse Castiel has led them all to. Tabitha takes a moment to slip the angel blade back into her waistband at the small of her back. It feels strange to have the blade there instead of her customary Glock or Smith and Wesson, but somehow reassuring at the same time.

“Here,” Castiel tells Tabitha, taking her hand and placing the balled up tie into it.

Closing her fist around it, she tilts her head to look up at the angel, startled by the way he sometimes stares so intensely at her. As if committing her every feature to memory, cataloguing every freckle that lightly dusts her nose.

“You’ll come out of this okay,” he assures her, seeming to be making a promise to himself more than reassuring her.

Shoving the balled up tie into her jacket pocket, Tabitha steps forward to grip the lapels of the angel’s trench coat. “Promise me that you’ll come out of this, too, Cas.”

“I can’t,” he roughly whispers.

Swallowing against the bile she can feel rising in her throat, Tabitha suddenly tells him, “The thing about broken trust, Cas, is that it can be rebuilt. It takes time…and a lot of effort…but it can be rebuilt.” Flicking away the tears she can feel threatening to fall with one shaking hand, she continues in a voice made husky with emotion, “But see, you have to be around for that to happen, Cas. And I want you to be around. I want you to be around for a long time.”

Castiel reaches out, his fingers brushing her cheek and catching a few tears on his fingertips. “I have never understood human tears,” he softly confides, eyes fixed on the glistening drops. “Surely, they are one of my Father’s true miracles, and I cannot fathom why you would shed them for me. How could I possibly be worthy of such honor?”

Tugging desperately on his lapels, she demands with a voice that breaks, “Promise me that you’ll be around long enough for us to fix this. To fix us.”

Castiel suddenly seems to snap out of his daze, eyes turning from the tears on his fingertips, tracking back to her. Before she can react, his hands frame her face, holding her still as he swoops down. He captures the surprised inhale of breath on her lips, his tongue hungrily delving into her mouth, gliding along hers and demanding her response.

Without care for what was or is, Tabitha abandons all thoughts and reservations, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him back. Words have never been her strong suit, and understanding them certainly hasn’t been the angel’s, so she pours all of her frustration and anger into the kiss. All of her fear and her yearning.

All of her love and her hope.

Her lips have always communicated better this way.

Defenseless and silent, now I am here with you.

Past all thought of right or wrong.

When Castiel’s lips slowly retreat from hers, she’s left breathless, and even the angel seems slightly that way, resting his forehead against hers as they gather their thoughts along with the greedy gulps of air.

Retreating more from her, Castiel stares down into her waiting gaze, apologetically telling her, “There’s something I need to do.” As he speaks, he slides a box cutter from his coat pocket.

Her gaze narrows on it. “What do you need to do?”

Nervously shifting his weight, he replies, “Insure that I remove all the angels from the warehouse before you get hurt.” He clears his throat, finally squaring his shoulders and steadfastly telling her, “No matter how much my actions damaged things between us, I can’t tell you I would have acted differently. I did what I thought best to protect you. Even if it earns your hatred for me, I’d do it again. Now, turn around. I don’t think you’ll want to see this.” He returns to unbuttoning his shirt as he finishes speaking, nodding towards her with his chin, indicating for her to turn around.

Gobsmacked by the resolved and absolute way he tells her he wouldn’t change anything he’d done, she mutely nods in assent and turns around, wincing and shuddering at the familiar meaty sound of blade against flesh behind her. She has an inkling of what the angel is doing, and thinks to herself that she definitely doesn’t want to witness it.

“Promise you’ll come back to me, Cas,” she whispers to the angel behind her.

She can hear the angel buttoning his shirt once more, and feels him step behind her, the heat of his body warming her back, even through her leather coat.

Whispering in her ear, he answers, “If it’s my choice, I’ll always come back to you. So long as you let me.”

Always, her heart whispers. Anywhere you go let me go, too.

The sudden cold at her back informs her that he’s pulled away, and she silently laments his departure, but sends one quick prayer to God—prayer she hasn’t engaged in in a long time—and promising that she will do everything she can to have Castiel’s back.

“It’s time,” Castiel informs her when she turns around.

They walk silently to the wooden door of the warehouse just as Sam and Dean return. The four exchange silent nods before Castiel takes the first step to open the door.

As Tabitha passes through behind him, Dean gently calls out to her, “Watch your own back, too, Tab.”

She gives him her best confident smile, and then silently crosses into the warehouse behind Castiel.

Nothing happens as she follows him further into the abandoned building. She’d almost expected to be attacked immediately upon entering, and when nothing happens, she sort of feels let down by the fear that had built up.

Still, she knows that’s the very moment that a person’s liable to be attacked, just when they let their guard down, so she slides her hand beneath her coat. With the weight of the angel blade in her hand once more, she follows Castiel as they circle around what she guesses might have been an office for the factory or perhaps some kind of management headquarters for the factory floor at one time.

Castiel moves closer to the door of the office, but suddenly spins back towards her, shoving her to one side just as she registers the feeling of an angel behind her.

As he grapples with the first angel, she spins to face the second closing in on his back, throwing up her blade to block the other angel’s attack. The angel snarls at her when Tabitha blocks her next attempt to stab at Tabitha, muttering something in Enochian before trying to punch her in the spleen with a free hand.

Tabitha barely manages to block the punch as she feels an angel die in an explosion of power behind her. She hesitates briefly, a sudden fear gripping her at the thought that it might be Castiel, and that falter is enough time for the angel in front of her to drive her knee upwards into Tabitha’s stomach.

Doubling over and backing away, she’s suddenly yanked behind someone, and she sighs in relief at the sight of the familiar trench coat standing protectively in front of her.

Remembering her promise to watch his back, she twists, pressing her back against his as she surveys the angels closing in on them in a shrinking circle.

“Two for me, two for you,” she mutters to the angel behind her.

As if in response, Castiel drops his blade. The loud clatter makes Tabitha give a startled jump as she turns to see him spread his empty arms out wide, daring the other angels, “What are you waiting for? Come on.”

At his challenge, the other angels raise their blades, advancing in their circle.

“Cas, what are you doing?!” she hisses, eyes darting to his dropped blade.

He twists to stare at her, eyes locked meaningfully with hers as he vows, “I’ll always do whatever I have to do to protect you.”

Then, he rips open his white shirt, revealing the bloody sigil he’d carved into his own chest.

“Cas, no!”

He slams his hand across the sigil before she can reach him, blinding light and shuttering power from all five of the remaining angels overwhelming her and bringing her to her knees on the cold concrete.

She’s still shaking and barely able to open her eyes when she feels someone wrap their arms around her, roughly hauling her to her feet and dragging her away unsteadily.

“Come on,” she hears Sam roughly whisper in her ear. “We should get you out of here.”

“Cas,” she chokes out in a quavering lament, trying to get her feet to cooperate beneath her. “Cas, he’s…” The notion is too unbearable to voice. Coughing, she wearily asks instead, “Where’s Dean? Did you guys get Adam?”

Dean appears on her other side, and she almost collapses in relief at the knowledge that he must not have surrendered himself to Michael. She forces strength she doesn’t feel into her body as she wraps an arm around him, pressing her forehead against his in relief, telling him, “I knew you’d do the right thing in the end, Dean. Winchesters pull through…eventually.”

Leaning back and finally feeling strong enough to stand on her own, she turns to see Sam wiping blood from his face. But no sign of Adam.

Hesitantly, and dreading the coming answer, she asks, “Where’s Adam?”

“Gone,” Dean regretfully whispers.

“Castiel?” Sam asks in a fearful voice.

“Gone,” Tabitha starkly confirms, feeling almost numb as she slowly spins in a circle to look around the warehouse. It’s empty. And she can’t feel an ounce of angelic power left.

“We’ll get ’em,” Dean assures her, a look of fight returning to his eyes that she isn’t sure she’s seen in a long time. “We’ll keep fighting.”

But despite his renewed vigor, she can barely muster half a fake smile.

“Sure we will,” she whispers, but even to her own ears, the words sound lost and broken. She needs to find her angel if he’s somehow survived. He has to have survived. Because she can’t fool herself into thinking that she can live without him any longer.

We’ve passed the point of no return.

A/N: Not so bad of a wait this time, huh? 😀

Thanks for reading!

And hoped you liked the bonus Cas POV in the middle. I hope I was able to get across his self-anger and confusion. I wanted him kinda bouncing back and forth between anger with Dean and with Tab during his beat-down. Hope I sorta pulled it off.

And bonus points if anyone noticed the lyrics to a certain song sprinkled throughout. 😉

Thanks for your kind thoughts last time! Mostly it’s been money trouble, but a friend in a nearby tourist town has given me a full-time summer job running one of her hotels, so hopefully that helps the money situation. Yay! Or not. Two full-time jobs now. 😦 But I’m hoping to still have time to write here and there. Maybe. But more importantly, not be fighting the stress and depression of bills piling up and not enough money to pay them. That kind of stress is killer for someone like me. And I hate the person it turns me into.

But I really appreciate your thoughts and kind words. I’m giving you guys the credit for all the good vibes in helping me find a second summer job when it was desperately needed.

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts! Good, bad, or ugly, I love hearing from you guys!


Chapter 16: Should I Stay or Should I Go?


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