Chapter 17: Dum Spiro, Spero

 

“So. You guys find out anything useful?”

Sam and Dean pull up short at their sister’s voice. They’d been walking to the Impala from behind it, each tugging their ties off. Surprised to hear her voice, they step around to the front of the car, seeing her lounging on the hood, leaning back against the windshield as she stares up contemplating the vastness of the night sky.

“Not really,” Dean casually answers, throwing her a pointed look.

When she ignores their older brother’s less than veiled accusation, Sam steps forward to point out, “We didn’t realize you were gonna catch up with us all ready, Tab. You never called.”

She remains reclined on the hood of the Impala with her arms folded behind her head, enjoying the lingering heat from the engine beneath the hood, and the majesty of the stars above her. It makes her feel small…and somehow, like all their problems are also small and simple; insignificant even.

“Bobby told me where you boys were,” she finally offers, her only explanation for her sudden reappearance.

One of her brothers grunts in response, and she hears the telltale shuffling of them shedding the suits of whatever costume they’d most recently donned. CDC, she thinks she remembers Bobby telling her. Not that it matters, since they don’t seem to have found anything useful on tracking the next Horseman on their hit list.

After a few minutes, Dean moves to the driver’s side of the car, tapping the roof and gruffly telling her, “Get in.”

With a single nod, she slips from the hood, passing by her older brother to open the back door.

His hand closes over hers along the top edge of the window to stop her. “Good to have you back,” he tells her, offering a forced, but apologetic smile. It’s the closest he comes to offering actual sympathy for her failure to find Castiel, and he doesn’t bother to ask if she found him. For which she’s grateful. She’d rather focus on their remaining tasks to beat the Devil.

Proving that he’s as quick as anyone, Sam catches the somber undercurrents and mercifully doesn’t comment or ask about the missing angel either. Just softly welcomes her back.

Partway down the road, Sam finally breaks the silence of the car, calling Bobby from his cellphone and putting him on speaker for both of his siblings to hear.

Let me guess,” Bobby greets, “another steamin’-hot pile of swine flu.

“Yep,” Dean confirms in a clipped tone.

Sam puzzles, “Doesn’t make any sense, Bobby. Pestilence touched down here. I’m sure of it.”

“But why is he dealing them soft serve like swine flu when he’s got the Croatoan virus up his sleeve?” Dean, too, marvels. “I-I-I don’t get it.”

“Maybe it’s like War back in River Pass,” Tabitha wonders from the back seat, sitting forward to lean over the back of the front seat between her brothers. “I mean, he didn’t have to toy like that with some nothing little town. But he was having fun. Just…playing with them. Maybe that’s what Pestilence is doing. Just…toying with us.”

Doesn’t matter what the sick son of a bitch is doing,” Bobby points out. “What matters is this is the fourth town he’s hitthat we know ofand we’re still eating his dust. Did you get anything? We got even a snowball at probable next target?

“Uh, no pattern we can see,” Sam responds.

Sighing, Bobby answers, “Okay. Hold on.” They hear the squeaky sound of his wheelchair moving. “Well, as far as I can tell, he’s still heading east, so…head east, I guess.

“East?” all three siblings incredulously respond.

“This is west Nevada,” Tabitha quickly points out. “Everything is east of here.”

Yeah, well, you better get to drivin’.

When Bobby hangs up, the three share exasperated looks, wondering what their next move is.

Tabitha remains scooted forward, her arms folded across the top of the front seat between her brothers, her chin resting on her folded arms as they all contemplate what their next move should be.

Suddenly, Tabitha feels an icy hand slide up the small of her back underneath her t-shirt.

Startled, she twists and throws herself to one side of the car, drawing her Glock as a voice says, “Say…I’ve got an idea.”

All at once, she fires her gun, Dean slams on the brakes, and the car skids sideways as Sam scrambles over the back of the seat, Ruby’s knife in his hand as he stabs at Crowley.

“Did you guys get him?” Dean demands, turning to see if the crossroads demon has been shot and skewered in the back seat.

“He’s gone,” Tabitha growls, pulling herself up from where she’d been thrown to the floor by Dean’s wild stop.

The sound of knuckles rapping on the window above her head makes her scramble even faster from the floor.

“Fancy a fag and a chat?” Crowley congenially offers from outside the car.

Throwing her door open, causing the demon to have to jump back quickly as she storms towards him, she decisively raises her gun again, training it on his chest.

With placating hands, he tries to calm her. “You’re upset. We should discuss it.”

“Upset?” she repeats in disbelief. “You had your hand up my damn shirt!”

“What?” Sam and Dean demand in startled surprise, advancing on the demon as well, but stopping when they draw even with Tabitha.

Before they can demand answers, Crowley continues, “It’s not like I had my hand on your good bits. I was just trying to get your attention, luv. It was an honest mistake.”

“‘Honest mistake!'” Tabitha huffs.

Sam shakes his head, refocusing on the demon as he fumes, “You wanna talk? After what you did to us?”

“After what I—I didn’t have my hand anywhere near your shirt!”

“I’m talking about Carthage!” Sam snaps, all three Winchesters closing in on the demon in a semi-circle.

What!?” he shouts in disbelief. “I gave you the Colt!”

Tabitha and Dean maneuver to more fully encircle Crowley as Sam shouts back, “Yeah, and you knew it wouldn’t work against the Devil!”

“I never!”

“You set us up. We lost people on that suicide run—good people!”

Crowley shakes his head at Sam. “Who you take on the ride is your own business!”

With a placating hand towards all three Winchesters, Crowley continues in a desperately hopeful voice, “Look, everything is still the same. W-we’re all still in this together.”

“Sure we are,” Sam growls, then lunges at the demon with Ruby’s knife. But the knife whistles through the air as Crowley disappears and reappears behind Sam and next to Tabitha.

“Call your dog off—please,” he begs her.

She raises the gun she had only slightly lowered, centering it on the demon’s chest from only inches away as she warns him, “It ain’t him you should be worried about.”

He rolls his eyes. “Oh, like that little thing’s gonna do squat to me, darling. Might as well tickle me with a feather.”

“Maybe not,” she agrees, pressing the end of the barrel flat to his chest as she leans towards him, pressing the gun bruisingly against his flesh. “But it’ll sure make me feel all warm and tingly inside.”

Dean pushes Sam back and then grabs Tabitha’s arm, pulling her back on his other side as he threateningly tells the demon, “Give me one good reason.”

“I can give you Pestilence,” Crowley quickly supplies.

“What do you know about Pestilence?” Dean demands suspiciously, trying to hide his piqued interest.

“I know how to get him,” Crowley smugly answers, seeing the glimmer of curiosity shinning in Dean’s eyes. Grinning at their silence, he continues, “That’s got your interest, doesn’t it?”

Sam scoffs at the demon, but does a double take when he glances back at Dean and sees his face. “Are you actually listening to this?”

“Sam—” Dean begins in a placating voice.

“Are you friggin’ nuts?!” Sam shouts, furious at the notion of trusting the demon for help after their previous disastrous results.

“Shut up for a second, Sam!”

“Shut up, the both of you!” Tabitha shouts, annoyed by their childish bickering.

She reluctantly replaces her Glock, crossing her arms over her chest as she regards the demon. “Talk,” she brusquely directs him. “Make me believe I shouldn’t be peeling your skin from your flesh very slowly at this very moment.”

Crowley gives her a contemplative look before explaining, “Look…I swear…I thought the Colt would work. It’s an honest mistake.”

“There’s that honest mistake crap again,” she growls, eyes narrowing threateningly on the demon. “Every fiber of your being is craven, devious, malicious, conniving, and bloodthirsty.”

“You just named my five best qualities, luv,” he wickedly grins.

Then, more seriously, he assures her, “But really, it’s all part of the learning process. But nothing’s changed. I still want the Devil dead.” He pauses, thoughtfully reconsidering. “Well…one thing’s changed. Now the Devil knows that I want him dead. Which, by the way, makes me the most buggered son in all of creation.”

“Holy crap. We don’t care,” Dean dismisses, rolling his eyes.

“Oh,” Tabitha sarcastically coos. “That’s just tearing me up inside.”

“They burnt down my house!” Crowley indignantly shouts in response to their disinterest. When the Winchesters remain unmoved, he furiously shouts, “They ate my tailor!”

Still, the Winchesters merely shrug.

“Two months under a rock, like a bloody salamander! Every demon on Hell and Earth’s got his eyes out for me!” He slows his diatribe briefly to continue in a softer voice, “and yet…here I am…last place I should be—” His voice raises back to an angry pitch. “—in the road, talking to Tabitha, Sam, and Dean Winchester, under a friggin’ spotlight!”

As he finishes, he jabs his hand in the direction of the streetlight. The light bursts into a mass of sparks before going dark.

Appeased by the darkness, Crowley sighs and says more pleadingly, “So come with me. Please.”

When they still stare at him, Crowley presses, “Do you want the Horsemen rings or not?”

At their startled looks, he rolls his eyes, “Yes, I know all about that. Shall we?” He gestures towards the Impala.

After a shared look, both Dean and Tabitha nod in agreement.

“You can’t be serious!” Sam argues with them, furious at them agreeing to listen to the demon.

Without a word, Dean starts towards the car, silently pointing at Crowley and then the car, indicating for the demon to get in the back seat.

When Sam starts after Dean to argue further, Tabitha grabs his arm.

“Let’s at least hear the demon out, Sam,” she warns him, heading for the car as well. Over her shoulder, she tosses, “We can still always kill him if we don’t like what he’s peddling.”


Crowley leads them into an abandoned house. From the looks, it’s long since beginning to fall in on itself, and tagged with copious amounts of graffiti. Though, the demon seems to have added a great deal to it, drawing multiple warding spells and sigils all over, many of which Tabitha has never actually seen before, and reminds herself to study them sometime later.

“Here we are,” the demon sighs woefully. “My life on the lam. How the mighty have fallen.”

“You just keep breaking my heart,” Tabitha snidely comments as she pushes past the demon, her nose wrinkling at the pungent smell wafting from the falling down structure.

Crowley rolls his eyes at her, continuing to stroll through the house as he points out all its many flaws. “Single-pane glass, used contraception in the fireplace.” He pauses to gesture at said fireplace, and immediately a roaring fire springs to life.

“Not to mention the lovely smell of cat urine soaking most of the furniture,” Tabitha groans under her breath, picking her way closer to the fire to warm her hands, hoping that the heat and smoke will ward off the smell clinging to the inside of her nose and lungs.

Crowley nods in agreement, then continues to gesture around the place, saying, “The water damage alone—”

“My heart’s bleeding for you,” Dean coldly interrupts. “Now, how do you know about the rings?”

“Well, now…I’ve been keeping a close eye on you lot,” Crowley tells them.

Sam quickly points out, “We got hex bags. We’re hidden from demons.”

“All but one,” Crowley proudly argues, holding a single finger up in the air, and then pointing at himself with a flourish. He goes on to explain, “That night you broke into my house—” he sidles closer to Tabitha, brushing his shoulder against hers as he tacks on in a low, seductive whisper near her ear, “—our first date—” He raises his voice to continue, “My valet hid a tracking device in your car—a magical coin that easily trumps your little bags o’ bones. It allows me to hear things, too—” He shoots all three of them a coy smile and laugh as he adds, “And, my, the things I’ve heard.” Sobering again, he goes on. “So you want to cram the Devil back in the box? Cunning scheme. I want in.”

Suspiciously, Dean points out, “You said you could get us Pestilence.”

Following a sharp inhale, Crowley admits, “Well, now…I don’t know where Pestilence is…per se. But I do know the demon who does. He’s what you might call the Horsemen’s stable boy. He handles their itineraries, their personal needs. He’s who you want—believe me. He’ll tell us where Sneezy’s at.”

Still dubious, Dean asks, “Well, how do we get him to spill? Rip out his toenails?”

“No. Nuts at his pay grade don’t crack,” Crowley tells them, shoving his hands into the pockets of his dress coat. “We bring him here, then I sell him.”

“Sell him?” Sam repeats.

“Please. I’ve sold sin to saints for centuries,” the demon smugly tells them. “Think I can’t close one little demon?”

“All right,” Dean says. “So, where’s this demon of yours?”

Crowley grins. “Pharmaceutical company. Where else?”

Dean nods to himself, telling them all, “Fine. Let’s mount up. Everyone check your gear and get what you need.”

As Crowley meanders into another room of the house, Sam jumps at the opportunity to round in on their older brother. “Why are we even listening to him, Dean? This is totally insane.”

“I don’t disagree,” Dean comments, loading fresh rounds into the clip of his Colt 1911.

Choosing that moment to interrupt, Crowley returns, clapping his hands as he announces, “One big happy family. Are we, then? Fantastic.”

Ignoring the demon, Dean asks his siblings, “You ready to go?”

“Yes. Yes. I am,” Crowley jumps to announce, earning a roll of her eyes from Tabitha, who shoves her freshly loaded Glock into her shoulder harness, and her Smith and Wesson at the small of her back.

Turning to Sam and Tabitha he comments, “Sam, Tabitha, keep the home fires burning.”

“What are you talking about?” a startled Dean demands.

“They’re not coming,” the demon responds, gesturing at the bewildered pair.

Sam is quick to challenge, “And why the hell not?”

With another hand flourish at the furious youngest Winchester, Crowley tells him, “Because I don’t like you…” He steps closer as his words become increasingly hostile. “I don’t trust you…and—oh, yes—you keep trying to kill me.”

Seeing Tabitha about to voice her own objection, Crowley turns to tell her, caressing her arm in a placating fashion, “You’d be better off letting the big boys handle this, luv.”

“Touch me again, Crowley, and I’m gonna carve those fingers away. Inch by little inch,” she promises him in a low, threatening growl, jerking her arm from beneath his touch.

“See!” he declares. “Bloody bad as the moose here. That’s the third time you’ve threatened to kill me. Just this evening. You need to relax, darling.”

Taking a threatening step back towards him, she warns, “I’m only threatening to kill a filthy demon for laying his hooves on me. And I promise I’m gonna start carving something off the next demon that thinks it’s okay to touch me.”

Crowley gives her a strange, appraising look before turning back to Dean, telling him, “Nope. The chit’s not coming, either.”

“There’s no damn way,” Sam angrily breaks in. “This isn’t gonna happen!”

“I’m not asking you, am I?” Crowley tells him. “‘Cause you’re not invited. Neither of you are.” He turns to Dean. “I’m asking you. What’s it gonna be?”

The younger siblings turn to look expectantly at their brother. When he doesn’t respond, they turn triumphant smirks on the scoffing demon.

“Gentleman…” he scorns. “Chit… Enjoy your last few sunsets.”

As he walks away, Dean softly calls out, “Wait.”

When his siblings turn back to him in surprise, Dean looks down and tells the demon, “I’ll go.”

Head still down, he grabs his packed bag, bypassing Sam and Tabitha before he finally stops to tell them, “What can I say? I believe the guy.”

Sam and Tabitha can only stare at each other in shock.

After the sounds of the Impala’s squealing tires fade away, Sam stomps over to their supplies, pulling out a bottle of whiskey.

“Really think that’s the best solution?” she wryly observes, not actually moving to stop him.

“Why not?” he challenges. “Seems to work for you and Dean.” He follows his grumbles with a large swallow of the amber liquid straight from the bottle. Followed by another even more generous helping. And then another.

When he holds the bottle out to her, she rolls her eyes and waves it off, wondering aloud, “There’s gotta be something else more productive we can do. Even if we’re here…riding the pine.”

Sam snorts, sounding like the whiskey’s already getting to him. “Can you believe he just took off like that? With a demon?”

“A brother of mine taking off with a demon? Nooo. I can’t possibly buy in to a Winchester doing something like that.”

Sam winces and takes another swig, sullenly mumbling, “Point taken.”

Softening, Tabitha tells her younger brother, “Every time we second guess each other, we just make things worse. Am I pissed that they left us behind? Of course I am. But come on, Sam. We need to start trusting each other’s choices here a little bit. One of us might come up with something crazy…but hey, if it works?”

“Whatever,” he grumbles into his bottle, plopping down on the couch nearest the fire. “What are we supposed to do now?”

Tabitha turns to stare into the fire, biting her lip at the question. She’d been trying to avoid thinking ahead since she decided to reunite with her brothers. She’d just been focusing on finding them. And then helping them with whatever they needed. Thinking about the future hadn’t been part of her game plan.

The future isn’t something she thinks she’s even prepared to consider just yet. Not when she doesn’t have much of one herself. And not when even the possibility of one just seem so…empty.

“You never found anything on Cas?” Sam suddenly asks, oblivious to the hitch in her breath the question causes from her.

“No,” she answers softly. Amazed that even the single syllable comes out unbroken.

“Well, where could he possibly be? I mean, you don’t really think he’s dead, do you?” Sam asks, his tact going out the window as he drains more of the whiskey.

“I looked all over the country, Sam,” she snaps at her brother. “I couldn’t find anything on him in the FBI database. Not alive. Not dead. And it’s been over a week now.”

“But he could be anywhere in the world,” Sam blithely points out. “And just because he’s not in the system doesn’t mean anything. Lots of stuff doesn’t end up going through official channels.”

“I know,” she softly grants, still staring down into the dancing yellow flames of the fire.

But his words do give her an idea.

When she pulls her cellphone from her pocket, Sam curiously asks, “What are you doing?”

“Looking for Cas,” she replies. “You actually made a good point. He could still be anywhere in the world. And while I don’t have contacts everywhere, I do know a guy with Interpol that might be able to help.”

His brows shoot up in surprise. “You know someone in Interpol?”

“Yeah. FBI did a kind of exchange training program a few years back. We hosted some guys from Scotland Yard, and then me and few others got to spend a few months over there in England. I made…friends with a few of the…blokes over there. And Ian works for Interpol now. Last I knew, anyway.”

Sam shakes his head in disbelief. “Yeah, but you’re kinda forgetting something. Agent Winchester is dead. Remember?”

She shrugs. “I can work around that. If I’m lucky, he won’t have heard the news over there. If he has heard the news…I’ll make something up. Say it’s an elaborate cover I’m working or something. Don’t worry, Ian’ll help me out. And that’ll at least narrow down where Cas might be or might not be.”

Her heart unclenches slightly, eased by the notion of having a plan of attack at last. And knowing that no matter how dim the hope seems to be getting, that she’s still clinging to it by her fingertips. It’s probably another Hail Mary, she knows, but if Ian can’t turn up anything, she resolves to call to New Orleans after that. Perhaps the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans can shed some light on finding her angel.

“You seem pretty sure this guy will help you,” Sam cautiously points out. “Just how good a friend did you say he was?”

Tabitha smiles innocently, but her grin turns coy as she answers, “We were very good friends. He helped me…settle into my flat.”

“I didn’t need to hear that,” Sam groans as he downs three large gulps without breaking for air.

Laughing for the first time in a while, Tabitha walks into the other room to place her call, thankful for the time difference.


After her fruitless, but always flirtatious call with Ian, Tabitha wanders back into the main room of the house where Sam still waits. Even her call to New Orleans had been fruitless. She hadn’t been able to reach anyone, only leave messages for both Cort and Etienne.

As she nears where Sam is, and she hears his voice, she slows to gauge whom he’s talking to.

“And then Dean just walks…” She can hear him pausing to take another swallow of whiskey. “…right out the door with Crowley. Tabitha doesn’t even seem concerned about it.”

There’s silence for a few moments, followed by Sam answering to someone, “Yeah, maybe.” After a sigh, Sam continues, “Hey, Bobby? Uh…remember that time you were possessed?”

Tabitha shakes her head at the tactlessness of her drunken little brother, but eases closer to catch more of his conversation with Bobby, wondering where her little brother is going with it.

“When Meg told you to kill Dean, you didn’t. You took your body back.”

Tabitha pulls back slightly from the doorway as Sam stands, apparently listening to whatever Bobby’s response is. Then, he asks the older hunter, “Well, how’d you do it? I mean, how’d you take back the wheel?”

As Sam paces closer to where she remains hidden, she can hear Bobby ask over the phone, “Why are you asking, Sam?”

Wondering the same herself, Tabitha holds her breath and waits.

“Say we can open the cage. Great. But then what? W-we just lead the Devil to the edge and get him to jump in?”

You got me.”

“What if you guys lead the Devil to the edge and I jump in?”

Sam,” Bobby warns lowly.

“It’d be just like when you turned the knife around on yourself,” Sam rushes to point out, passionately and almost pleadingly saying, “One action—just one leap.”

As Tabitha lets her head fall back against the wall she’d been creeping against, her eyes blurring with tears, she hears Bobby shout through the phone, “Are you idjits trying to kill me?!

“Bobby—”

We just got done talking your brother off the ledge and now you’re lining up to say ‘Yes’? Is your sister the only sane one not rushing to sign her life away on some fool suicide mission?!

“It’s not like that,” Sam argues. “I’m not gonna do it. Not unless we all agree. But I think we got to look at our options.”

This isn’t an option, Sam.

“Why not?”

You can’t do it. What I did was a million-to-one, and that was some pissant demon I was brain-wrestling. You’re talking about taking back control from Satan himself.

“Yeah. Yeah, I am.”

Kid…it’s called ‘possession’ for a reason. You, of all people, ought to know.

“I’m strong enough,” Sam stubbornly insists.

You ain’t,” Bobby coldly informs him. “He’s gonna find every chink in your armor, Sam, and use it against youyour fear, your grief, your anger. And let’s face ityou’re not exactly Mr. Anger Management. How are you gonna control the Devil when you can’t control yourself?

After a weighted silence, Tabitha hears Sam snap his phone shut, followed by the hollow thumps of his boots as he paces into what was once a kitchen.

When he passes her, he stops to turn towards her, his shoulders slumping down when he sees her.

“You heard?” he guesses in a subdued voice.

“Sam,” she breathes, hearing the catch in her own voice. “What the hell are you thinking?”

“You did it,” he suddenly points out.

“Did what?” she scoffs in confusion.

“The Devil had control of you. You took it back. And you’re here now. Away from him.”

“That was different,” she points out, wrapping her arms around herself and unconsciously rubbing at the brand beneath the suddenly thin layers of her t-shirt and leather jacket.

“How?”

“Because it is!” she thunders, shoving away from the wall and stalking towards her brother, poking him in the chest as she snarls, “This is a stupid and reckless thing to even think about, Sam. You can’t go off half-cocked like that and think you can take on the Devil himself. You’re not doing it. Dean and I will come up with somethinganything else.”

Voice barely above a whisper, and tears sparkling in his eyes, Sam points out, “I’m not a child anymore, Tabitha. I don’t need your permission and I don’t need you and Dean making my every decision for me.”

“Apparently, you do,” she snaps.

She spins away, unnerved at the thought of Lucifer getting his cloven hooves on her little brother, shuddering at the thought of Sam feeling even an ounce of what she felt when he branded her months before.

“I guess you didn’t mean me when you said that we need to start trusting each other. That we couldn’t keep second-guessing each other all the time. I guess, like usual, that only applies to you and Dean. I just…don’t count in this family.”

Tabitha stiffens at his words, but when she turns around to address her brother, finds him gone.


At the sound of the Impala pulling up, Tabitha rises from the makeshift pallet she’d laid out on the floor near the fireplace so she can stand to greet her older brother.

She hears him shuffling through the house and just catches sight of him shoving someone in front of him into another room as Crowley stands just inside the door, giving her a disapproving look.

Before she can tell the demon to stuff it, Sam hustles down the stairs, avoiding her eyes as he questions Crowley, “Where’s Dean?”

Crowley turns from Tabitha and tosses her brother a look as well. “Now…for the record, I’m against this. Negotiating a high-level defection—it’s very delicate business.”

As Sam attempts to step past the demon, Crowley moves with him, stepping into his path to stop him.

“What are you talking about?” Sam demands.

“I begged Dean not to come back. We should be miles away…from you.” He throws Tabitha another look. “And you, too.” He glances back and forth between them as he continues. “He replied with a colorful rejoinder about my ‘corn chute.'”

After giving them another narrowed eyed look, Crowley reluctantly says, “So, go ahead. Go—ruin our last best hope.”

As Sam steps past him, the demon locks eyes with Tabitha, adding, “It’s only the end of the world.”

Confused by the warning look he gives her, and far too curious about what’s going on, she follows after her little brother. When they step into the next room, they see Dean securing a man with a burlap sack covering his head to a chair inside a Devil’s Trap. Blood soaks the top of the bag.

When Dean spots his siblings, he finishes securing the bound demon, stepping towards them with a warning tone. “Sam. Tabitha.”

“What’s going on, Dean?” Sam wonders.

“I need the two of you to stay on mission, okay?” he directs them. “Focused.”

“I don’t understand. What’s all this about?”

Tabitha folds her arms over her chest, waiting for Dean to answer their brother. He gives her another appraising look, and nods once before focusing again on Sam.

“I’m doing this ’cause I trust you,” he tells their younger brother.

The demon in the chair seems to begin coming to a bit, moaning under the head bag.

“Trust me to what?” Sam asks in confusion.

“Sam?” comes a voice from under the burlap sack. Clearing his throat, the bound demon presses on, “Sam, is that you?”

Dean gives their brother one last look before stepping over and yanking the sack from the demon’s head, causing Tabitha to curse under her breath and step backwards to the outside of the room.

“Brady?” Sam incredulously wonders.

Brady chuckles and informs them, “Brady hasn’t been Brady in years. Not since, oh… middle of our sophomore year?”

“What?”

“That’s right. You had a Devil on your shoulder even back then.”

As Sam struggles to contain and come to grips with the shocking news, the demon continues baiting him.

“All right, now, let it all sink in.”

“You son of a bitch. You son of a bitch! You introduced me to Jess!”

As he advances furiously on the demon, Dean steps forward to push Sam back.

“Ding, ding! I think he’s got it!” Brady mocks.

“Damn it, Sam!” Dean growls, trying to hold onto Sam.

“I’m gonna kill you!” Sam promises over Dean’s shoulder.

As Dean struggles to contain their brother, Brady lifts his head and sniffs delicately at the air, closing his eyes and seeming to savor it. “Well. Well. Well. I’d recognize that…scent anywhere. Tabitha Winchester! What a delight!” he mocks, looking past the struggling brothers.

Both boys stop to look suspiciously at their sister where she stands at the edge of the room.

“You asshole,” she exhales in quiet fury. The pain in her stomach feels almost like a physical blow, a kick to the gut, and she struggles not to double over to abate the painful sensation coursing through her. Shock and self-loathing fill her when she realizes she’d slept with not one, but two demons in her past…and she hadn’t realized it. Either time. Some hunter she’d really been. She hadn’t even seen the evil in two men that she’d so intimately allowed into her bed.

Brady continues to mockingly grin, heedless of the blood still trickling from his mouth. “What?” he harshly taunts. “Finally realize that I was the first demon to rock your world, not Casey.”

“What?” Sam softly asks, face bright with shock.

“What?!” Dean more loudly demands.

Tabitha knows she can either fall apart or attack, and she knows she can’t afford to fall apart again for fear that she’ll never pick herself back up. So she takes a determined and threatening step towards the demon, stopping only when Dean grabs her arm to pull her back where he holds Sam. “I’m gonna peel that smile off your face, you smug bastard. And shove it slowly back down your throat!”

With a waggling brow, Brady jeers, “So, you do remember how I like it…nice and slow.”

“Tabitha!” Dean admonishingly growls when she starts forward again.

“What!” she snaps, but allows him to shove her and Sam out of the room.

Sam starts back into the room almost as soon as Dean has shoved them out, but is stopped short when Dean thrusts him back again.

“Hey! That’s enough!” he shouts at their brother.

Sam rounds on Tabitha instead. “You slept with Brady?!”

Defensively, she snaps back, “What does it matter? That was years ago. When you were still in college.”

Even more furious when she doesn’t outright deny it, he yells, “When?! And why the hell were you sleeping with my friends?!”

Jabbing an emphatic finger in the direction of Brady, she shouts back, “One friend. And only once. And we were…well, at least I was drunk. It was that New Year’s I slipped away from the academy to come see you. I didn’t mean to sleep with your friend and I certainly didn’t know I was sleeping with a goddamned demon!”

“Shit!” she exclaims to herself in frustration, shoving her hair back from her face as she paces around the room, fuming to herself, “I swear to god, if I find out about any other creatures I’ve shared a bed with… I swear I’m gonna start dousing my bed in Holy Water and circling it with Holy Fire, just so I know for sure what’s in my bed!”

After her mutters sink in, Dean haltingly demands, “Wait. What?” He turns away from Sam to look skeptically at her. “I thought you said you didn’t sleep with Gabriel.”

Chagrined at her slip, she winces and rushes to assure him, “I didn’t sleep with that angel. It was just an example.”

Dean looks ready to start in on her, too, but stops when Sam tries to take the opportunity to dart past him for Brady.

“Get out of my way!” he shouts at Dean who scrambles to contain him.

“No.”

“Get out of my way, Dean.”

“There is only one way to win,” Dean reminds him. “And it ain’t by killing that thing in there.”

Crowley chooses that moment to reappear. “Well…sounds like you got him nice and fluffed. Thanks so much.” He steps around the brothers, passing Tabitha as he suggestively adds, “I hear you’re…especially gifted at…fluffing a demon.”

Grabbing Crowley’s arm, she growls at him, “Just get what we need from him. And keep your comments to yourself. Or I’ll show you just how good I am at…defluffing demons, too.”

Crowley looks down at the knife suddenly pressing against his stomach, a brow arching delicately at her threat. “Point…taken, luv,” he tells her, slipping past and into the room with Brady.

“Listen to me,” Dean tries to calmly tell their brother. “We need Pestilence to get at the Devil, and we need Brady to get to Pestilence. So no matter how much we’d both like to ventilate him—” he warns, throwing a censoring look at their sister, “—we can’t touch him. Yet.”

“Why?” Sam demands. “Because Crowley said so? Because we trust him now? Like I trusted Ruby? Or like I trusted Brady back at school?”

Dean doesn’t answer, simply remains blocking his path.

After a silent stare-down, Sam finally turns to storm off, heading out into the stark dawn sunlight.

After watching their brother stalk off, Dean turns to confront Tabitha.

Really?” he incredulously queries. “You slept with Chuckles in there?!”

Her hand swings through the air in an exasperated fashion. “Don’t even start with me,” she scorns. “If you and I are going to start comparing each other’s questionable one-night-stands, we’re gonna be here all night. And I figure the whole End of the World thing outta take precedence for now.”

After a fair amount of teeth grinding, Dean folds his arms over his chest and implores her, “Swear to me that you didn’t really sleep with Gabriel, too.”

Tabitha stiffens slightly, but raises her right hand to solemnly assure him, “Hand to God…I did not sleep with…that angel.”

“Fine. Good,” he briskly agrees. Under his breath adding, “Fantastic, at least she hasn’t been making time with the dick angels. Super duper.”

“I heard that,” she mutters, bending to grab a beer from the cooler by the coffee table and now makeshift work desk.

When he silently gestures for one as well, she tosses it over, moving to sit lightly on the edge of the couch as he plops down in the dusty easy chair, propping his boots up on the table.

Tabitha hears Crowley amble into the room behind her, and looks over her shoulder as he stops to appraise them.

“Well, how’d it go?” Dean asks the demon, drinking from his beer. “He buy your Girl Scout cookies?”

“Not yet,” Crowley admits. He looks curiously around the room before asking, “Where’s your moose?”

Dean glances around before telling the demon, “He’s cooling off.”

“All right, then. Get bent,” Crowley suddenly tells them, turning to walk away.

“You headed somewhere?” Tabitha asks, sipping from her beer, all while still keeping a careful eye on the demon to watch for his…wandering hands.

Crowley gestures over his shoulder in the direction of Brady. “Well, he won’t budge, so now I go stick my neck out.”

Dean sits up to ask, “What are you gonna do?”

“Exactly the kind of desperate swashbuckle I’ve been trying to avoid.”

“Yeah, avoiding it by having gullible us do it instead,” Tabitha bitterly points out, pushing away the memory of those they lost the last time they trusted Crowley’s plans.

“Quite,” he agrees in a clipped tone. “Now I go kick open a hive of demons.”

He starts to turn away from them, but stops, and turns back. “This whole bloody ring business better work.”

The siblings roll their eyes at the demon, but when they turn back to look where he’d stood, find that he’s disappeared.


“What are you doing, Sam?” Tabitha hesitantly questions, stopping halfway down the stairs. She’d been upstairs talking to Ian and confirming that he still hadn’t found anything when she’d heard a commotion downstairs.

Sam looks up from where he’d shut Dean into the bathroom, locking their older brother in.

The door rattles and bangs against the chair Sam has shoved under the doorknob. Behind the door, she can clearly hear Dean shouting, “Sam, come on! Open the door!”

Shifting from foot to foot, Sam doesn’t answer her, and he doesn’t look up to meet her eyes.

Finally, he whispers, “I gotta do this, Tab.”

“What? Lock Dean in the bathroom? I didn’t realize his hygiene was getting that bad,” she facetiously comments, trying in vain to make light of the strange circumstances.

His eyes track up to meet hers, not joining in on her joke. “You know what I mean,” he gravely replies.

As he turns slightly to face her, she sees the glint of light catching on Ruby’s knife in his hand.

Swallowing hard, she eases down two more steps before stopping and agreeing in solemn voice, “Yeah. I know what you mean. But, Sam…you can’t do this.”

After easing down another two steps, she stops to resume her argument. “I want him dead, too, Sammy. And not just ’cause I’m pissed to realize how stupidly blind I apparently am to the men in my…” she casts about for a more polite word than what had come to mind, “…life being possessed. I want him to burn for hurting you. For making you doubt yourself. For being part of the heartache of your past. I want him to fry for it, Sam. I want to carve away little pieces of him until there’s nothing left to even scream in agony anymore for hurting you.

“But we need him. We need to know what he knows. We can’t… Unfortunately we can’t save this world without him. And that has to mean something. We can’t have made all the sacrifices we’ve made and not reach the finish line. It all has to mean something. All the loss. All the death. Everyone we’ve lost and that’s sacrificed themselves. That has to mean more than us wanting that piece of garbage in there to squirm on the rack. We can’t do this, little brother.”

She finally descends to the bottom of the staircase, standing in front of her brother and staring pleadingly up into his eyes. As she waits for him, he glances over her shoulder, seeming to note how she’s placed herself strategically between him and the bound demon in the other room.

His gaze had been unfocused as he listened to her, but his eyes shift again, narrowing down on her as he counters, “I need answers, Tabitha. I need answers only he can give me. However I need to get them.”

“Sam—” she beings to reproach.

He cuts her off harshly. “Do you trust me?”

“What?” she replies, falling back a step in her surprise. “Of course I do.”

“No,” he argues. “Do you really trust me? Because you’ve never really acted like it. Not you…and not Dean. Not like the two of you trust each other. Even when you’re pissed and suspicious of each other…you still somehow manage to trust each other. But not me. Neither of you really trusts me. I’m always just the screw-up kid brother. And I know, I get it. I am. You and Dean have always followed after me—my whole life—trying to watch over my shoulder and protect me. Even when I ran away and went to college…you went, too. You guys are always there trying to make all the decisions…keep me out of trouble. But just once, I wish you’d take the leaps of faith for me that you take for Dean. Just once I wish you’d trust me…even when I don’t deserve it.”

“Neither of us wants to see you get hurt any worse, Sam,” she whispers. But she finally moves, stepping out of Sam’s path, giving him silent approval for whatever his plan is. And giving him the trust he so desperately seems to need and thinks he doesn’t have from her.

When he steps even with her, she catches his elbow, forcing him to pause in his determined path.

“I do trust you, Sammy,” she assures him, tears glittering in her eyes when she realizes how much he’d truly doubted it. “I trust you just as much as I do Dean. It just gets buried under the momentous need we feel to protect you from the rest of the crap that the world seems determined to hurl your way.” She releases his arm, stepping back away from him and giving him the room to do whatever he has planned. “I trust you.”

“Thank you,” he whispers, and stalks forward with the gait of a predator circling its wounded prey. She just hopes it doesn’t bode ill for Brady’s outcome.

Tabitha stands at the rusty sink of the old kitchen, waiting for the outcome of her choice…and of Sam’s decision. She can hear the slightly raised voices of the both of them in the other room. But no screams of pain. No death cries. Just…the steady beat of Dean continuing to pound at the bathroom door as he demands his release.

After a few minutes, she can hear Sam calling out to Dean and freeing him.

“What happened?” Dean orders. As he stomps out of the bathroom, he pauses by the kitchen at the sight of Tabitha near the sink. “And what, you just stand there?!” he shouts.

She shrugs her shoulders, picking up the beer she’d left half-drank on the counter. “Guess so,” she agrees, slowly meandering after him as he stalks towards where they’re keeping the bound demon.

“What happened?” he repeats to Sam.

“Nothing,” Sam informs him.

“My ass.”

“Dean, I’m fine.”

“Yeah? And what about Brady?” He rounds on Tabitha again, “What, you just decided to stand around doing nothing?! Just let him skewer the demon. Our only shot at finding Pestilence.”

As they round the corner into the room with the still alive, and well…possessed demon, Sam reminds him, “Like you said…we need him.”

Dean huffs, not ready to let go of his anger. “Great. Well, he’s still alive. But still not talking. Now what?”

Tabitha passes by her brothers, handing Sam her beer bottle as she tells them, “How ’bout I give him a whirl.” Dean shoots her another look that clearly says he’s still pissed off, so she points out, “Look, we’ve got nothing to lose, Dean. Maybe I can scare him straight.”

Dean scoffs loudly at her notion. “Oh, right,” he bitterly laughs. “‘Cause you’re really gonna scare a demon, Tab.”

She peels her jacket off and tosses it at him, smoothing her plain ribbed tank top down before she stretches her arms above her head, grinning to herself at the way Brady tracks the movements with greedy eyes. Turning her back to the demon, she assures her brothers, “Trust me on this, women can be twice as bloodthirsty as men…plus, more creative. And there’s…perks to a woman that…knows a man intimately having…certain kinds of conversations with a guy. It helps when a woman knows what a man dislikes, but also what he likes…and what she can twist and turn against him.” She pauses and gestures for them to back up. “You boys probably don’t want to be here, though.” She tosses them a wink. “Actually, trust me on this, you’re not gonna want to hear the little story I’m about to tell good ol’ Brady, here.”

The boys look skeptical, but finally nod and step back, letting her stay alone in the room with Brady.

Before Sam leaves, he softly tells his sister, “Thanks for having my back.”


An hour later, Tabitha steps back out of the room, taking her leather jacket from the back of the nearby sofa and tugging it on.

“Well, he’s still not cracking,” she sighs as she turns back to her brothers. “Not yet anyway. I’m giving him a little time to consider…the picture I drew for him. Hopefully once he’s thought it over, he’ll come to his senses.”

With her jacket pulled on, she finally looks at her brothers, pausing at the grayish pallor of their skin.

“What?” she hesitantly asks them.

Dean swallows thickly. “You, ah…sure got a creative mind there, Tab. Dark and twisted…but creative.”

She snorts. “Warned you not to listen in. And I already told you that women are the more bloodthirsty sex.”

“I’ll say,” Crowley quietly agrees from behind the boys, startling them all with his sudden reappearance. Even he looks a bit…astounded. He thoughtfully rubs at his chin as he appraises her with whole new eyes, telling her, “Creative is an understatement. I find myself strangely horrified and aroused at the same time. Thrilling prospect, really, luv.”

Tabitha’s expression crumples into a jeer. “And here I just find myself disgusted in your presence.”

Crowley shakes himself and looks past her to where Brady is still tied, looking a bit…green around the gills for a demon.

“Right,” he comments almost cheerfully, “I’d say he’s softened up quite nicely now.”

Tabitha scoffs once more at him. “Well, I aim for customer satisfaction.”

Crowley shakes his head then, stepping around the Winchesters as he groans theatrically, “God. The day I’ve had.”

And for once, Tabitha almost believes him as she actually pauses to take in the sight of him. Judging by the rumpled and disheveled appearance he suddenly sports, he seems to have had some kind of day. His previously pristine suit is filthy and torn. Looking so very out of place for the demon.

As he steps into the room with Brady, he announces, “Good news. You’re going to live forever.”

While Crowley chuckles to himself, Brady suspiciously demands, “What did you do?”

Circling the bound demon, Crowley explains, “Went over to a demons’ nest—had a little massacre.”

“And you didn’t invite me?” Tabitha chimes in with false cheer. “And here I thought we had something special going, Crowley.”

He grins saucily at her. “Next massacre, luv.”

Turning back to Brady, he woefully explains, all with a smile, “Must be losing my touch, though—let one of the little toads live.” He stops again in front of Brad as he cheerfully adds, “Oops.” Then continues, “Also might have given said toad the impression that you left your post last night because you and I are—” he dramatically pauses and holds up one stalling finger, “—wait for it—lovers in league against Satan.”

As Brady closes his eyes in dread, Tabitha finds herself reluctantly grinning and admiring the demon’s devious ingenuity.

“Nice,” she grudgingly compliments. “Even has a nice ring to it.”

After Crowley lets the news sink in for Brady, he grins and greets his bound counterpart, “Hello, darling.” At Brady’s stony silence, Crowley illustrates for him, “So, now death is off the table. Now you get to be on the boss’s eternal-torment list. With little old me.”

Finally cracking, Brady disbelievingly repeats, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no.”

Unrelenting, Crowley adds, “Something else we have in common—apart from our torrid passion, of course—craven self-preservation. So, now, why don’t you tell me where Pestilence is at?”

Brady starts to open his mouth, but pauses when they all hear the sounds of distant snarling and vicious barking.

Staring in shock and fear at the distance, Brady seems to realize what they’re hearing first, fearfully whispering, “Oh, god, Crowley.”

Catching on, too, Dean asks in disbelief, “Was that a Hellhound?”

The sounds cause a shiver to run down Tabitha’s spine, and when she hears the hound release a chilling howl, she doubles over in pain, clutching at the mark on her chest, suddenly feeling a fire course through it like when Lucifer had first placed it on her.

As the snarling gets closer, Crowley confirms, “I’d say yeah.”

Why was that a Hellhound?” Dean continues, worriedly grabbing at Tabitha’s back to support her, bending down to search her eyes. Fear floods his own as his eyes narrow in on where her hand is clutching.

With all of her willpower, Tabitha straightens and shoves Dean’s hand and concern away, insisting to him, “I’m fine. It’s nothing.”

Groaning and ignoring Tabitha and Dean, Crowley reaches into the pocket of his suit jacket and fishes out an ancient looking coin.

“What’s that?” Sam asks throwing worried looks at Tabitha, who shakes her head and squares her shoulders, reminding herself that she’s lived through pain like that before and worse. And that if she lets it cripple her now, she’ll find out just what kind of pain becoming a Hellhound’s chew-toy involves.

“Remember I was telling you about my crafty little tracking device?” he asks, considering the coin in his hand.

“Yeah.”

“Demons planted one on me.”

Furiously, Sam demands, “You’re saying a Hellhound followed you here?”

Turning the coin back and forth to display it, he emphasizes, “Well, technically, he followed this.”

Interrupting, Brady desperately pleas, “Get me out of here. I’ll tell you anything you want.”

“Shut up,” Sam irritably directs him.

Trying to remain calm, but still worriedly holding his sister’s elbow, Dean says, “Okay, well, then we should go.”

“Sorry, kids, no one knows more about the hounds than I. You’re long past the point of ‘Go.'”

Crowley tosses the coin up in the air, and after they all watch Dean catch it, they look up to see that the crossroads demon has disappeared.

“Damn him,” Tabitha snarls, stepping into the space he’d occupied seconds before. “He brings this crap to our doorstep and then ditches us.”

“I told you!” Sam snarls furiously at Dean.

Mockingly, Dean replies, “Oh, well, good for you.” He pauses to look again at Tabitha with concern in his eyes before adding more seriously, “Luckily, we have salt in the kitchen.”

Tabitha rushes after her brother, waving a dismissive hand in the air when Sam calls out, “I’ll watch Brady.”

As she rushes for her weapons cache, she hears Brady scoff then yell, “Watch me? Get me the hell out of here!”

Dean jogs into the kitchen, telling his sister, “I’ve got the salt, Tab. Get those sawed-off shotguns with the rock salt rounds and get back to Sam.”

“On it!” she huffs in annoyance, trying to fight the chill running up her back as she hears the increasingly loud sounds of snarling and growling. As the hound lets out another blood-curdling howl, she buckles to one knee, dropping one of the sawed-offs to clutch again at the searing pain in her chest.

When she hears the shattering of glass, even her breath stops as she looks up to see the rough, ebony skin of a massive hound crash through the window, knocking Dean over as it scrambles to find purchase amidst the broken table it crashed into. The hound finally rights itself, turning red glowing eyes on Dean where he is still sprawled on the floor. When he scrambles on his hands and knees for the box of salt ten feet away from him, the hound launches itself in pursuit, corded muscles bunching and rolling underneath mottled and charcoal-blackened skin.

Tabitha knows by instinct that the hound is moving faster than her brother—that he won’t make it to the box of salt—and intuitively brings her sawed-off up to the her shoulder, aiming for the powerful shoulder of the dog before firing. The rock salt blasts into the shoulder of the beast, ripping the hairless hide away from its joint, but only slightly slowing it down.

Quickly sliding the pump, she chambers another shell and fires again, aiming this time for the unprotected stomach of the hound as she stalks closer, pumping the shotgun with another practiced motion. The shot to the abdomen from only five feet away finally knocks the hound to its side, and as it snaps and snarls at her, struggling to regain its feet, she slams a foot into its neck, pinning it down as she places the shotgun behind its ear and firing once more.

For several seconds, she watches at the salt leaches away from the dog’s wounds, and the wounds actually begin closing back up before she snaps out of her shock and begins backing away.

When she draws even with where Dean stands with another shotgun, she grabs his elbow, pulling him back towards Sam and Brady as she tells him, “Come on. That last shot’s only gonna keep him down another minute or so. Damn thing’s healing fast and it’s gonna be pissed now.”

As they back into the room where Sam is frantically untying Brady, Dean hisses to her, “You can see the damn thing?!”

She almost falters and does trip a little as she backs up, startled that the revelation that hadn’t hit her sooner than it hit him.

“You…can’t?” she hesitantly asks in a small voice, feeling her mouth suddenly go dry.

Dean grabs her and shoves her behind his back as he holds his shotgun at the ready, hearing what she can see around his shoulder: a pissed-off hellhound carefully rising from the floor as it pants and advances on them.

In a stark tone, he tells her over his shoulder, “I only saw them right before they ripped me to shreds and dragged me off to Hell. When I was marked for death.”

She swallows hard but tells him, “I don’t think they’re here for me, though. I just think I can see them, ’cause of the…mark, you know.”

Dean coldly fires another round at the hound, seeming to find comfort in the way it yelps and pauses just a bit in its advance. Under his breath he tells her, “That doesn’t exactly make me feel any better, Tab.”

Sam pauses in untying Brady to hopefully ask, “Salt?”

Dean jerks his head in a negative response, carefully keeping himself between the snarling hound and his sister.

Frantically, Brady pleads, “Damn it, get me out of here!”

“Shut up!” all of the Winchesters yell at once.

Unmindful of their yells, Brady continues to frantically cry, “Great. Just great.”

“Where is it?” Dean whispers under his breath to his sister.

Over his shoulder, she points at it, explaining, “There. Torn between catching us or snacking on the conveniently staked goat over there,” she motions to where Brady is still tied.

As Dean begins to raise his shotgun again, Crowley suddenly yells out, “Hey!” from behind the hound, catching its attention.

Shocked and obviously relieved, Dean exclaims, “You’re back?”

“I’m invested,” Crowley almost gallantly explains, but does tack on, “Currently.”

And though Dean looks a bit more hopeful, Tabitha shrinks back behind him at the sight standing next to the demon.

It locks eyes on her and steps slowly forward, stalking with the eagerness of a lion hunting a gazelle.

But before it can take two steps, Crowley commands, “Stay!” halting the hound beside him.

Shocking both Winchesters, Dean manages to expectantly ask, “You can control them?”

Crowley points at the hound warily standing in the open space between them, saying, “Not that one,” then pats the head of the hound beside him, actually having to reach up to do so.

He clarifies for Dean, “I brought my own. Mine’s bigger.” Then he turns to his hound and shouts, “Sic him, boy!”

The hound squares off and charges the much smaller one, latching onto its throat and shaking its head, ripping flesh away from the smaller hound’s neck as it yips and tries to scramble away from the death-grip.

Not wasting the opportunity of the hound’s preoccupation with Crowley’s hound, the Winchesters gather up Brady and shove him out of the house towards the Impala.

As Brady clamors into the back seat, Dean hold’s open the driver’s door and shoves Tabitha into the middle of the front seat.

Crowley takes the time to gloat, “I’ll wager $1,000 my pup wins.” He laughs as he climbs into the back seat so they can take off.


“You okay?” Dean asks as he comes around to stand in front of the Impala.

Tabitha looks up from where she’d been sitting on the hood, arms wrapped around her torso. She shrugs in response.

He pauses beside her with a consoling squeeze to her shoulder. “It’ll be okay,” he assures her. “We’ll get the Horsemen, lock the Devil in his cage, and figure out a way to scrub that mark off you.”

Tabitha swallows thickly, looking down the alley at where Crowley and Brady are softly talking to each other. Brady mostly has his head down, writing something on a piece of paper.

Hesitantly, Tabitha tells her brother, “Maybe I should lay low for a while. Go stay with Bobby or something. I…I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I think Dad was right, I wasn’t meant to be a hunter.”

In the hours since they fled Crowley’s safe house, she’d had ample time to think. Ample time to consider all the mistakes she’s made. Ample time to see how hopeless it all has become.

Dean follows her gaze, sighing in understanding. “What, because of the demon? Look, I know I was pissed, Tab. But not at you…not really. I’m pissed at that damn demon. But it’s not your fault. It’s no reason to quit now just because of a one-time mistake,” he insists, moving to sit on the edge of the hood beside her.

“Two-times,” she reminds him. “I’ve slept with two men now that were possessed and I didn’t even know it. With Brady it was only the one time, but with Casey? That was months, Dean. Months. And I didn’t see it. And everything that’s happened since? I let the goddamned Devil get his hands on me and mark me. And then I accept the stupid charm from Cas and end up destroying my Heaven.” Her breath hitches a bit at the mention of the angel—the thought of losing him tears her up because she feels like that’s her fault, too, because she was in danger and he felt the need to give her some of his Grace to protect her…thereby weakening himself. She swipes the leather sleeve of her jacket under her nose as she sniffles. “I thought I was ready to be back in the game and hunting with you guys, but I think I just keep making things worse by being here, Dean. Dad was right. I have no business out here. And you guys don’t need me complicating things right now. You’re trying to stop Armageddon. You don’t need me making things worse. You don’t need the distraction.”

Dean springs to his feet, pacing back and forth a few times before stopping in front of her and spitting out, “Bullshit.”

She pulls back in shock at the venom in that one word, still sniffling and wiping at the tears chasing each other down her cheeks.

Her brother grabs her shoulders as he insists, “You snap outta this bullshit, right now, Tabitha. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. And stop lying to yourself. ‘Cause that crap you just said, is a bunch of lies. And screw what Dad said to you back then. He was wrong then, and he’s wrong now. You’ve got the best instincts of any hunter I know. Even better than me, which is saying something.”

She manages to smile a bit at his over-inflated ego, and he latches onto it, seriously insisting, “I mean it, Tab. You’ve got better instincts than either me or Sammy. I know I don’t tell you that, or tell you enough when you’re right, but you are the second best hunter I know…behind me of course. And I can’t have you quitting on me now. Not when we’re so close to nabbing the last two rings. I still need you to help me protect Sammy.”

He glances back down the alley to where Sam stands watch over the two demons.

Turning back to her, he continues, “I know you think your instincts are wrong because of those two assholes, but everyone makes mistakes. Hell, even me. Doesn’t mean you get to give up though. And it doesn’t mean your instincts are faulty.”

She nods once, feeling her spirits lift a bit despite herself.

“Now,” he tells her, letting go of her shoulders and stepping back, “let’s go see what Crowley found out.”

She feels her phone vibrate, and recognizing the Louisiana area code in New Orleans, she hangs back, telling her brother, “I gotta get this, Dean.”

He nods and continues down the alley without her.

“Cort,” she greets, immediately telling him, “I’m glad you finally called back. I’ve been trying to get a hold of someone to talk to Momma Cecile. I need to get a message, er, well, a request to her—”

“That’s gonna have to wait, chére,” he interrupts her. “She sent me a message that you need to get your butt down here. Not sure what’s going on, but the message said there’s something down here you’ll need if you’re gonna win.”

She stands up straighter at the cryptic message, hesitantly and almost hopefully asking, “What’s down there that I’m gonna need?”

“Dunno, chérie,” he sighs. “Was told just a few minutes ago to get you on your way. I’m gonna go check on it now.”

Glancing down the alley, she sees where Sam and Dean are locking Brady behind a salt line at the dead end. An appropriate location. She’d wanted in on dispatching him, but her gut tells her that Cort’s call is more important. She just hopes Dean is right about her instincts, because she still feels a bit shaky on them herself. Finally, she decides that as long as she’s still breathing, she has to trust to hope.

Turning away, she makes her decision and assures Cort, “I’ll be on my way in a few minutes.”


A/N: So sorry for the delay again in posting. Work is super busy, but I’m really liking the new job. But like anything, it has its good days and bad.

And you guys continue to amaze me with your amazing loyalty in reading and reviewing, so thank you, thank you!

There will be more to come, but since I’m in a bit of a rush to post this one today, I can’t respond individually to reviews like I normally do, so I’ll just tell you all right now how much I appreciate every one of you. I also read every review from you guys, and they are what keep me writing. So never give up on me. 🙂

 

Chapter 18: Let the Sky Fall (Censored)

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