On July 25, 1971, a silver bracelet was found near Clear Lake, South Dakota. It seemed like an unremarkable piece of jewelry. But it wasn’t.
The man who found it seemed like an unremarkable man. But neither was he.
In fact, that silver bracelet—already affixed with a few charms—would become one of the most important pieces of jewelry…no, the most important belonging…for the woman who would help her brothers change the course of destiny.
You see, while two brothers would be able to change the very course of fate—thanks in no small part to the immense importance of one single car—it was one woman who actually made it possible for them to do so in the first place. And one single piece of jewelry that made it all possible for her.
Sure, maybe it’s stereotypical for a car to be so important to guys while a piece of jewelry is so important to a woman, but hey, stereotypes became stereotypes for a reason. So back off.
Anyway, this bracelet was found by chance. Found by a man that had just finished a hunt. Not deer or anything like that mind you, but a nest of vampires. This hunter just happened to see the silver bracelet glinting in the dirt near the back tire of his station wagon. And he just happened to need a gift for his daughter’s 17th birthday. Which also just so happened to be the next day. Deciding that he couldn’t let a fourth year go by forgetting to find her a real present, the man felt he was just in luck.
He didn’t know what most of the charms were for—or even where the bracelet had come from—but he decided that the black jeweled cross on it was enough to satisfy his hunter’s instincts. And that the other strangely stylized charms were pretty enough to convince his daughter that he didn’t think only about hunting. Neither would ever realize that those charms were far more powerful than they were pretty.
Mary Campbell treasured that bracelet as the most thoughtful gift her father had ever given her. And her daughter treasured it even more after Mary died and it became hers.
In the years Tabitha owned the bracelet, she added to the modest collection of charms. Some held magical properties, others didn’t. But her favorites weren’t the ones she’d acquired for herself, or even the originals, but rather the ones that had been given to her.
When he was 11 years old, Sam bought her the pizza slice charm on her bracelet. She was chagrined to realize he bought it for her because he thought take-out pizza was the best meal she could make. It was many years before she mastered cooking. Well, a few dishes anyway.
Try as she would to forget why he chose that particular charm, the reason he bought her one at all was something she’d never forgotten. And probably never would.
It was after a fight that Sam had gotten into which left him bloody. But she’d let him fight his own battle when he’d asked her to stay out of it. And she’d smiled confidently when he’d looked so proud of himself, even though he’d lost badly. And despite the fact that she’d cried herself to sleep that night after cleaning and bandaging his cuts, she loved that charm for reminding her of that proud smile on his 11-year-old face.
And just as much as that silly pizza slice charm, she loved the four-leaf clover charm Dean had given her one day when she was sixteen, out of the clear blue. She’d loved the unexpected generosity of her older brother. Proving that even when he could be a jerk, he’d go out of his way to brighten her day because she was feeling blue.
Dean had actually bought the charm for her when he’d felt guilty about scaring off a guy that had asked her to the drive-in movies by telling the kid that she was actually a lesbian that despised men. When the kid hadn’t seemed convinced or scared off by Dean’s words, Dean had informed the boy that while his sister wasn’t interested, he sure was, and hit on the poor kid until he ran for the hills. After Tabitha had been so down over being stood up with no explanation, Dean had gotten her the charm to help her improve her “luck.”
Tabitha doesn’t know that story, but I’m sure looking back, she’d get a kick out of the lengths her brother had gone to to chase her would-be suitor off when he didn’t measure up in Dean’s eyes.
The revolver charm from Cort was another favorite of hers, reminding her of a different life she might have had, and the choice that she never made.
But her favorite, had secretly become the angel wing charm she’d accepted, reminding her of a choice she did make. And all the good and all the bad that came with it.
She appreciated all the benefits the other charms gave her in protecting her, but it was those few that really mattered. Those few that she really loved.
More than just about anything in the world.
And love…isn’t that what it really all boils down to?
“You figure out yet what this charm does?” Sam asks, tugging on the Fleur-de-lis charm on her bracelet.
Tabitha glances away from the other charms she’d been contemplating before dropping her hands and ruffling her brother’s hair as he reclines sideways on the hood of the Impala, his head on her thigh as he sips his beer.
“Nope,” she replies, not seeming all that concerned, and then going back to leaning against the windshield. “Momma Cecile made it herself, I guess. So that’s saying something. Don’t know what all the voodoo symbols on it mean, either, but it’s supposed to help. And she sent a message saying to trust my heart. Or something. Whatever that means.”
Tabitha shrugs off the questioning look from her brother and goes back to messaging his scalp while sipping her own beer. She’d already wasted enough hours contemplating the charm and cryptic message she’d received from the old voodoo priestess after Lucifer had marked her. She’d come to no conclusions, so she had quit thinking about it. Deciding that the best course of action was no course of action where the charm and her message were concerned.
Hearing their older brother approach, they both turn and offer quiet “Hey’s” as Dean snags a beer from the cooler and leans against the Impala next to them.
When Dean doesn’t speak, Sam sits up straighter, scooting up to sit beside Tabitha as he curiously asks, “Dean? What’s going on?”
Sighing, Dean heavily replies, “I’m in.”
“In with…?” Sam wonders in confusion.
“The whole ‘up with Satan’ thing. I’m on board.”
As Sam swings his legs over the side of the hood, Tabitha twists, pulling her legs underneath herself to sit Indian-style as she stares at their older brother, shocked by his proclamation. Throughout the entire drive back from Chicago, he’d maintained that they were going to figure out a way around their promise to Death. That they’d find another way.
She’d remained silent then.
She remains silent now.
“You’re gonna let me say ‘yes?'” Sam dubiously questions. He twists to look over his shoulder at her, likewise questioning, “You’re both gonna let me say ‘yes?'”
Dean replies first. “No. That’s the thing. It’s not on me to let you do anything. You’re a grown—well, overgrown—man. If this is what you want, I’ll back your play.”
Exhaling heavily, Sam admits, “That’s the last thing I thought you’d ever say.”
After a light chuckle from Sam, Dean continues, “I’m not gonna lie to you, though. It goes against ever fiber I got. I mean, truth is…you know, watching out for you…the both of you…it’s kinda been my job, you know? But more than that, it’s…it’s kinda who I am. You’re not a kid anymore, Sam, I’m probably better at accepting that with Tab most of the time, but you’re not a kid either, and I can’t keep treating either of you like one. Maybe I got to grow up a little, too.” He pauses to inhale before telling them, “I don’t know if we got a snowball’s chance. But…but I do know that if anybody can do it…it’s you, Sam.”
Sam twists to stare questioningly at Tabitha, waiting for her to speak or argue against Dean.
Exhaling, and looking down to fiddle with her bracelet, hoping to hide the tears in her eyes, Tabitha thinks of her brothers. Thinks of them about to embark on the decision for Sam to say “yes.” Thinks about what might…or will happen, if they both say “yes” and the Celebrity Death-Match ensues.
She even thinks about Azrael, knowing that strangely enough, the angel might be the only one who can truly sympathize with her at the moment. And then she remembers that just by saying “yes” herself, she can spare the coming fight between her brothers. She can spare it all.
But Sam seems desperate to try to shove the Jack back in the box…and now, even Dean seems willing to give it a try.
With a little sniffle, she swipes at a stray tear, finally making her own decision.
“No matter what, I’m not giving up on you guys. I’ve said it before,” she passionately promises, “and I’ll say it again: No matter what it takes, I’ll back your guys’ play. With everything I’ve got.”
Sam glances between them before exhaling gratefully, “Thank you.”
“If this is what you want…” Dean begins, trailing off to affirm, “Is this really what you want?”
Inhaling, Sam assures them, “I let him out. I got to put him back in.”
“Okay,” Dean agrees. “That’s it, then.”
Slumping back against the windshield again, Tabitha bleakly agrees, “Yeah, that’s it.”
Tabitha files out of the decrepit warehouse last, standing in the doorway as she watches Castiel and Sam load the gallons of demon blood into the trunk while Dean wipes the last of the blood from Ruby’s knife.
She’d barely been able to stomach what they’d had to do. Having to catch, kill, and drain demons. Just for their blood. Somehow, the whole thing has left her feeling dirtier than some of their worst jobs.
“It had to be done. Your brother will need every drop of that blood if he hopes to overpower Lucifer,” Castiel assures her.
She shakes herself, blinking to focus her eyes on the form of the fallen angel standing a few steps down from her, staring up at her with a consoling look. Glancing to make sure Sam has trailed after Dean and out of earshot, she tells the angel, “I know. I know. It still sickens me though. Not just having to kill and drain those demons like that. But that my baby brother is going to have to…” She trails off, flicking a gesture towards the now closed trunk.
When Castiel holds his hand out towards her, she carefully descends the rickety wooden stairs, placing her hand in his as he reminds her, “We make what sacrifices we must.”
“I know,” she breathes, eyes flicking to the wing pendant on her bracelet at the reminder of sacrifices made. And those yet to come.
Staring down at her hand in the fallen angel’s, she suddenly wonders aloud, “I used to think that God was watching out for us. No matter how bad things got, I used to think that he didn’t give us more than we could handle. Or take from us more than we could withstand. I’m not so sure any more.”
“I used to believe much the same of my Father,” Castiel admits in a rough, rumbling voice. “Now, I only wonder how much more he will take from me.”
His desperate words yank her eyes up, forcing her to note the dark circles under his eyes, the lines of stress across his forehead, and the hollows of his cheeks. How utterly…human, he now appears.
“I’m sorry,” she replies, apologizing for her part in his weakened state, squeezing his hand once before turning and striding closer to where Dean stands talking with Bobby.
As she approaches, she hears Bobby ask, “These look like omens to you?”
Dean takes the newspaper, scanning the headlines as Bobby continues. “Cyclone in Florida, temperature drop in Detroit, wildfires in L.A.”
“Wait. What about Detroit?” Dean interrupts, twisting to share a dark look with Tabitha as she slides closer to look as well.
“Temp’s dropped about 20 degrees, but only in a five-block radius of downtown Motown,” Bobby blithely continues, oblivious to Dean and Tabitha’s shared frowns.
“That’s the one,” Dean informs Bobby, tossing down the paper in the back of Bobby’s van.
“Really?” Bobby skeptically questions. “As far as foreboding goes, it’s a little light in the loafers. You sure?”
“Yeah, we’re sure,” Tabitha affirms, wrapping her arms around herself at the memory of Lucifer in their brother on their future field trip months back.
Somehow, hours later, Tabitha and Castiel had both ended up in the backseat of the Impala together. Besides the car being a more comfortable ride, Tabitha had wanted to spend whatever time she could with her brothers in the Impala.
No one had thought to question why the angel chose to ride with the Winchesters instead of with Bobby.
Tabitha had been propped up in the corner of her seat, head leaning against the side of the car, but at some point, Castiel had slumped sideways against her, sliding until he was curled up against her, his head resting in her lap as he softly snored.
Glancing over his shoulder and thinking them both asleep, Dean jokingly comments, “Aw. Ain’t he a little angel?”
Sam glances into the backseat before bleakly reminding Dean, “Angels don’t sleep.”
After a few unsettling moments, the soft static of the radio changes, and the soft lyrics of Bryan Adams fills the car, causing Tabitha’s hands to momentarily stiffen where she’d been running them soothingly through the angel’s hair.
As she listens to the melody, she thinks of how human her angel has become. How much of his Grace and strength he’s lost…given to her…trying to protect her. She thinks of everything he’s lost…all because she loves him, and because she can’t seem to let him go. Even if perhaps he’d be better off away from her.
Singing quietly to the chorus, she whispers, “Please forgive me‒I know not what I do. Please forgive me‒I can’t stop lovin’ you.”
After a suspicious sniffle from the front seat, Dean reaches forward to shut the radio off, glancing over his shoulder with narrowed eyes as he tries to gauge if their sister is still asleep.
Seeming satisfied, he turns back to the road.
Ominously, Dean confides, “Sam, I got a bad feeling about this.”
After glancing likewise at their sister, and seeming satisfied with what he sees, Sam acknowledges, “Well, you’d be nuts to have a good feeling about it.”
“You know what I mean.” He clarifies then, “Detroit. He always said he’d jump your bones in Detroit. Here we are.”
“Here we are,” Sam concurs.
“Maybe this is him rolling out the red carpet, you know? Maybe he knows something we don’t.”
Chuckling, Sam replies, “Dean, I’m sure he knows a buttload we don’t. We just got to hope he doesn’t know about the rings.”
After a few anxious minutes, Sam haltingly begins, “Hey, um…on the subject, there’s something I got to talk to you about.”
“What?” Dean questions, his tone short and clipped.
“This thing goes our way and I…triple Lindy into that box…y-you know I’m not coming back.”
After a slight hesitation, Dean concedes, “Yeah, I’m aware.”
“So you got to promise me something.”
“Okay. Yeah. Anything.”
“You got to promise that neither of you is going to try to bring me back.”
With a tone of incredulity, Dean demands, “What?” Then angrily continues, “No, I didn’t sign up for that. Neither did Tab.”
Cutting off his argument, Dean snaps, “Your Hell is gonna make my tour look like Graceland. Y-you want us to just sit by and do nothing?”
“Once the cage is shut, you guys can’t go poking at it, Dean. It’s too risky,” Sam argues.
“No, no, no, no, no. As if we’re just gonna let you rot in there.”
“Yeah, you are. You guys don’t have a choice.”
“You can’t ask us to do this. You know Tab will never stand for this either,” Dean argues, glancing over his shoulder into the backseat.
Tabitha considers opening her eyes and joining the argument…but something holds her back. Keeps her from taking Dean’s side. From taking either side.
After checking on their sister, Dean lowers his voice and adds to Sam, “You can’t ask either of us to do this. You can’t ask me to do this. And you can’t do this to Tab. Not again, Sammy. You can’t put her through this again. She’s barely been keeping it together the past few months. And you know it.”
“I’m sorry, Dean,” Sam sincerely but unyieldingly replies. “I don’t want to do this to her, either. But I have to. You have to.”
“So what am I supposed to do? What’s Tabitha supposed to do, huh?”
Throatily, Sam replies, “You go find Lisa. You pray to god she’s dumb enough to take you in, and you—you have barbecues and go to football games. You go live some normal, apple-pie life, Dean. And you take Tabitha with you. You make sure she gets out of this life again. That she finally finds some kind of happiness. The kind she had before we dragged her back in. Promise me.”
“That’s really what you want?” Dean hesitantly asks.
“Yes,” Sam whispers, voice steady and sure with conviction.
Tabitha doesn’t open her eyes to see what Dean’s response might be, and she certainly doesn’t hear him verbally respond. But as she runs her fingers through her angel’s hair, all she can think, is that with what she knows to be coming, how can life ever go back to what it once was?
The twinge in her heart tells her that there is no going back.
But she wonders if there’s any way to move forward and have the future she wants either.
Bobby strides back to the alley where the Winchesters wait alongside Castiel.
“Demons,” Bobby breathlessly confirms to them when he’s within earshot. “At least two dozen of them.” He spreads his hands as he tells Dean, “You were right—something’s up.”
“More than something,” Tabitha uneasily agrees, glancing back down the alley.
Dean nods in her direction, agreeing. “You’re right,” he tells her. Turning to the others, he says, “He’s here. I know it.”
When Dean steps around them, wordlessly heading to the trunk of the Impala, Bobby sighs, and then approaches Sam.
Voice tight, he tells the youngest Winchester, “I’ll see you around, kid.”
Struggling to retain his stoicism, Sam answers, “See you around.”
Instead of watching their goodbyes any longer, Tabitha jerks away, stepping over to the front of the Impala, leaning down heavily onto the hood as she struggles to keep her frazzled emotions in check. When she hears someone approach behind her, sniffles before glancing over her shoulder.
“I know I have to let him do this,” she whispers helplessly to Castiel, “but how am I supposed to wish for his success? How do I do that, when his success means an eternity of torment stuck in some hole with the Devil himself? Tell me, Cas, how do I hope for the success of this plan?”
“It’s your brother’s choice,” he reminds her, not reaching out to touch her, but still moving to stand a little closer beside her at the hood of the car. “All you can do is honor his choice, and remember what he’s doing is to save humanity. To save this whole planet.”
Hardly daring to even whisper the words, she wonders aloud, “And what if he fails? What then? Am I just supposed to watch him and Adam duke it out, taking this planet with it? Just because Lucifer and Michael can’t stop being dicks and get over their ridiculous sibling rivalry.”
Castiel shakes his head, a frown spreading across his face as he looks down before slowly telling her, “You said once that the paradise my brothers promise at the end of this battle they seek was a manufactured joy. Unreal. Because there was no freedom. That freedom was better than peace. That real joy comes with excruciating pain. That the deeper the pain, the more magnificent the joy. You said that freedom was what you wanted. That it was what I should fight for. That you wanted that choice—that…freewill, rather than destiny. And this is your brother’s choice. And I suppose, this is that excruciating pain you spoke of.”
Reaching up, Tabitha threads one hand behind Castiel’s neck, tugging him closer as she lifts to her toes, pressing her forehead against his. Whispering against his mouth, she pleads, “But what if I lose everything? Some…dark recess of my heart keeps warning me that I’m about to lose it all. That this is my last goodbye to everything I hold dear. What if I lose everything I love? My brothers have been the whole world to me for my whole life. How do I survive losing it all now?”
“I’ve watched many humans,” he assures her, his lips just brushing against hers as he raises a hand to brush his finger down her side. “You are stronger than any I have seen before. You will survive.” His last words are spoken like a promise, and sealed with a searing kiss as he closes the scant distance between their lips. His hand tightens on her hip as he drags her closer. But before she can even begin to savor the heated exchange, he pulls away, releasing her. Then he steps with determination towards Sam, no doubt intending to say his own goodbyes now that the older hunter has stepped away from her younger brother.
Following that thought, she looks around curiously for the surrogate father figure to the Winchesters, realizing that he’s the only one she can’t either see or hear.
With a frown in the direction of the rummaging still coming from Dean standing at the trunk opposite from her, she turns around to gather her bag from the back of the Impala. Her breath is cut off as she nearly runs into Bobby’s chest, her hand flying to her suddenly thumping heart.
“Jesus, Bobby,” she groans, willing her heart to settle into a normal rhythm again. “‘Bout gave me a heart attack.”
Bobby frowns down at her, one hand contemplatively stroking his bearded chin as he tells her, “Saw angel boy skedaddling from here pretty quickly just a moment ago, and now you’re jumpier than frog on a tin roof in a lightnin’ storm. Something you want to tell me?”
Frowning in return, she shoots back, “Yeah, that you’re sneaking up on people is creepy. Especially given the circumstances that we’re here hunting the friggin’ Devil.”
Whether or not he buys her deflection she can’t quite tell, but he frowns as he slowly exhales a semi-sarcastic, “Sure.”
Hoping that removing herself from his scrutiny will remove any suspicions from his mind, she stomps towards Castiel and her younger brother.
Her steps turn hesitant as she nears them, despite her decisiveness to say her own goodbyes, she suddenly realizes that she doesn’t have the first clue what to say to her brother.
As she stops behind the angel, she hears Castiel admonish himself, “Oh. I was supposed to lie.” In a quasi-reassuring tone, he tries assuring Sam, “Uh…sure. They’ll be fine. I—”
Sam cuts him off as he shakes his head in incredulity. “Just—just stop…talking.”
Castiel looks uneasily between the three Winchesters before removing himself. Sam follows the angel’s movements, scoffing slightly to himself before squaring his shoulders and facing Tabitha.
“Tab…” he begins, but doesn’t seem to know what to say.
“Are you absolutely certain this is what you want to do?” she questions, needing to know for certain that this is indeed his choice. Even if it breaks her heart.
“Yeah,” he replies, giving her a half smile. “Yeah. I gotta do this, Tab. It’s the right choice. It’s my choice.”
She frowns in reply, looking down briefly at her charm bracelet as a swirl of past conversations spin in her mind. Momma Cecile’s voice blending together with those or Lucifer’s, Azrael’s, and even Castiel’s voices. Azrael’s voice raises above all the others, promising her the ability to spare her brothers the coming battle.
As she stares downward, Sam prompts her, “I know you and Dean have always looked out for me, but I think it’s time you guys look out for yourselves. Promise me that you’ll get out of this life. Promise me that whatever you do, you’ll be happy. That you’ll try to find someone to be happy with. Just…promise me that.”
Shaking the memories of voices away, she looks up before tugging her younger brother into her arms, hugging him tightly and whispering in his ear, “No matter what happens next, I’ll always have your back, little brother. Whatever is coming, I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure you can pull this off.”
A look of doubt flashes in his face as she pulls away from him. “Do you really think I can do it? Am I strong enough?” he doubtfully asks.
She remembers his words to her in that abandoned house Crowley had led them to not long ago. The desperation on his face when he accused her of not having the same trust in him that she did in Dean.
Hoarsely, she insists, “I have absolute faith in you, Sammy. Dean and I have maybe gone overboard in trying to protect you all the time, but not because we didn’t trust you or didn’t think you could handle it. We did it because we didn’t want you to have to handle it, Sam. But now that the time’s come, I know you’ll do it.” Voice breaking, she adds, “I’d stake it all on it.”
Nodding fast and looking away to hide the tears gathering in his eyes, Sam gruffly tells her, “Guess the time’s come then. Let’s do this.”
She watches as he approaches the trunk of the Impala where Dean still waits, silently observing the short conversation they have before Dean leaves their younger brother alone at the trunk.
Knowing what he’ll have to do, she turns away, facing towards the building at the far end of the alley where she’s sure Lucifer awaits.
“Maybe you should sit this one out,” Dean tells her as he joins her.
She shakes her head once, not bothering to reply as she looks down and zips up her leather coat, nervously wiping her hands on her torn jeans.
Half-heartedly, her brother continues to argue, “With his mark on you and all…it just might be better if you stayed here.”
In a flat voice, Tabitha tells him, “If Sammy wins…it won’t matter. If not…”
“Nothing will matter,” Dean despondently finishes when she trails off.
As they stand side by side, he looks over at her to ask, “Do you think it will work? Do you really think Sammy can do it?”
With a sad, fond sort of smile, she responds, “Of course. It might take the two of you a while, but in the end, you guys always come through.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Dean snorts and tells her, “And no matter the cost, in the end, you’re always there doing what needs done to make sure we can.”
Tilting her head to rest against his shoulder, she whispers, “Of course. What are sisters for?”
When Sam and Dean stalk across the street towards the demons guarding the building across the alley, Tabitha spares one last glance at Bobby and Castiel. A nod goodbye is all she allows herself to grant the two. Knowing that whatever is about to come, it has to be the siblings that face it together.
As she hears Sam confidently shout out, she jogs to catch up, sawed-off shotgun held tentatively out in front of her as her younger brother yells at them, “We’re here, you sons of bitches! Come and get it!”
The demons file through the door, frowning at the sudden and loud appearance of the siblings.
Dean greets sardonically them with, “Hey, guys. Is your father home?”
In short order, they are disarmed, and led—or rather, shoved—up the stairs into a dilapidated apartment that even most squatters would find beneath their standards.
At the window is the figure that has haunted many of Tabitha’s dreams, the same one that even thoughts of cause the mark on her chest to begin burning and itching. Now is no different. She rubs at the mark as the demons shove them towards Lucifer, who continues to stare contemplatively out the window.
His voice is almost bored as he greets, “Hey, guys,” while still facing the windowpane. “So nice of you to drop in.”
The Winchesters share a look when the Devil doesn’t seem surprised at their appearance.
As the three watch, he blows on the glass, frost spreading across it before he draws in the white crystals the way a child would write their name in a winter-frosted window. Instead of his name, the Devil draws a simple trident while insincerely telling them, “Sorry if it’s a bit chilly. Most people think I burn hot. It’s actually quite the opposite.”
“Well, I’ll alert the media,” Dean assures him.
His snarky response finally pulls Lucifer’s attention from the window.
As he ambles closer, he asks them, “Help me understand something, guys. I mean, stomping through my front door is…a tad suicidal, don’t you think?”
Despite Dean looking unsettled by the Devil’s laid-back demeanor, Sam confidently replies, “We’re not here to fight you.”
“No?” Lucifer questions. “Then why are you?”
“I want to say ‘yes.'”
Lucifer’s head tilts slightly with the first beginnings of true interest. “Excuse me?”
In response, Sam closes his eyes, and all around them, demons fall lifelessly to the floor.
Full interest peaks as Lucifer comments, “Chock-full of Ovaltine, are we?”
“You heard me. Yes.”
“Look, Judgment Day’s a runaway train. We get it now,” Sam confidently assures the Devil. “We just want off.”
“Deal of the century. I give you a free ride, but when it’s all over, I live, he lives, she lives, you bring our parents back—”
Lucifer cuts off his diatribe, though he thoughtfully taps his chin as he responds, “Okay, can we drop the Telenovela? I know you have the Rings, Sam.”
As Tabitha and Dean share shocked looks, Sam maintains, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Annoyed, Lucifer replies, “The Horsemen’s Rings? The magic keys to my cage?” Stalking closer to Sam, he presses, “Ring a bell?”
How? Tabitha mouths to Dean, who looks increasingly frightened by the turn of events.
As if hearing her, Lucifer, twists to face her, even stepping closer as he asks, “Why else do you think I really let you leave? It might have been difficult, but I did manage to siphon a few useful pieces of information from you since you ‘made your escape.'” He pantomimes air quotes as he speaks, smiling almost lasciviously at her as he assures her, “You truly were worth the effort. More than paid off all the work that went into marking you.”
Leaving her shocked and gasping at the realization, Lucifer steps back to Sam, telling him, “Come on, Sam. I’ve never lied to you. You could at least pay me the same respect.”
Furious, Sam spins to face him, but Lucifer continues with, “It’s okay. I’m not mad. A wrestling match inside your noggin…I like the idea. Just you and me, one round, no tricks. You win, you jump in the hole. I win…well, then I win. What do you say, Sam? A fiddle against your soul says I’m better than you-ou.”
When Dean and Tabitha turn imploringly towards him, Sam insists, “So he knows. Doesn’t change anything.”
“Sam,” Dean pleads.
“We don’t have any other choice.”
“Are you sure?” Tabitha whispers.
Squaring his shoulders, Sam replies one last time, “Yes.”
A blinding light grows as Lucifer shuts his eyes, the brightness and pain suddenly bursting in her chest bringing Tabitha to her knees. Then, it abruptly stops, and Dean squeezes her shoulder in question.
“Fine,” she mumbles, pushing the hand away and pointing to where Sam lies on the floor. She scrambles to her feet, following her brother as he pulls the rings from his pocket, flinging them at the far wall.
“No,” Tabitha interrupts in frustration, “You’re saying it wrong. You never could remember incantations right.” Concentrating, she continues, “Bvtmon…tabges…babalon.”
Beneath the rings, the wall cracks and suddenly gives way. A vortex appears where the wall once stood, air rushing past into the swirling depth as Dean rushes to pull Sam to his feet.
“Dean! Tabitha!” Sam shouts, pain distorting his face as the siblings struggle to pull him upright. “I can feel him,” Sam groans. “Oh, God!”
“You got to go now!” Dean demands, pulling harder to bring him to his feet.
Tabitha slides under his other arm, trying to assure him, “Come on. You can do it, Sammy.”
“Come on!” Dean demands. “Go now, Sammy.”
As Sam finally struggles to his feet, he takes a few staggering steps towards the vortex, pausing just short of it. And standing and staring at the vortex.
When he turns back towards them, Tabitha can instantly sense the difference, and sucks in deep, shuddering breath.
Facing them, he scoffs before giving a satisfied little grin and confessing, “I was just messing with you. Sammy’s long gone.”
As Dean and Tabitha watch, Lucifer turns, chanting, “Chdr, bvtmon tabges babalon.”
More abruptly even than it began, the vortex stops, the gate closing as Lucifer gently pulls the rings from the wall before slipping them into his pocket.
When he faces Dean again, his face is that haunting combination of benevolent and condescending. “I told you…this would always happen in Detroit.”
Stepping towards Tabitha, he lifts his hand, intending to run the backs of his knuckles down her cheek. When she jerks backwards, he lets his hand fall slowly back to his side. “You’ve helped me a great deal already. But you’ll come to me in time. When you’ve said ‘yes’ to my sister.”
“Neither of those things is gonna happen,” she furiously spits at him.
“Of course they will,” he assures her. “Have I been wrong yet?”
He disappears, leaving Dean and Tabitha alone and shell-shocked.
By the time Dean and Tabitha silently stumble back down to the street, signs of the Apocalypse mark every station of the evening news in the window TV displays of a nearby store.
“Reports are flooding in—a 7.6 earthquake in Portland, 8.1 in Boston, more in Hong Kong, Berlin, and Tehran.”
Bobby and Castiel wordlessly join brother and sister at the storefront, watching the frantic newscast. No words are needed to ask the obvious outcome.
Although, one angel still feels the need to speak, telling them as he walks away, “It’s starting.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” Tabitha snaps, not bothering to wipe the tears from her cheeks.
Dean shoots the angel a dark look as well, before Castiel replies, “You don’t have to be mean.”
“So, what do we do now?” Dean asks, refusing to give up.
Castiel pauses before replying, “I suggest we imbibe copious quantities of alcohol…just wait for the inevitable blast wave.”
Annoyed, Dean responds, “Swell. Thank you, Bukowski. I-I mean, how do we stop it?”
“We don’t,” Castiel ominously responds, turning towards Dean once more.
Before the angel can continue, a woman appears beside Tabitha, grabbing her by the throat and hoisting her into the air with one hand as she assures Castiel, “That’s right. None of you can. But we will.”
Dean surges towards the two women, crying out in shock, “Mom?” even as Bobby wisely hauls him back.
Dangling from the older blonde’s iron grip and clawing at the fingers around her throat, Tabitha manages to gurgle out in explanation, “Azrael.”
“Jesus. Let her go!” Dean shouts, struggling even harder against Bobby and trying to reach his sister dangling from the outstretched arm of their mother’s body. Or at least, the angel currently occupying their mother.
Staring into her eyes, Azrael reminds Tabitha, “I tried so hard to do things with you the easy way. To give you every opportunity to do the right thing. It’s too late for niceties now. Now…I’ll beat your agreement out of you if I have to.”
Knowing she’s about to take Tabitha, Castiel surges forward, grabbing the other angel’s elbow as Azrael disappears, taking both Castiel and Tabitha with her.
Azrael drops Tabitha from her grip, the woman falling to her hands and knees as she gulps greedy breaths of air. The Fallen angel, Azrael flicks away with barely a movement of her elbow sending him flying across the clearing into the nearby line of trees.
Choosing to ignore the other angel, Azrael circles Tabitha, stooping down to tell her, “You’ve really gone and done it now, haven’t you? The three of you and your idiotic plans. How many times did I tell you we had to strike before Lucifer wormed his way into his vessel? Hmm? Always letting things slide until the last minute, aren’t we? Well, it’s the last minute all right. Zero hour. So you better pull your head out of your ass and say ‘yes’ so we can straighten out this mess before any unnecessary damage is done.”
Wheezing, Tabitha grips her throat with one hand and asks, “Any unnecessary damage like wiping out the whole damn universe?! You mean like that?!”
The effort to shout dissolves into a coughing fit, but Tabitha still manages to push to her knees, turning a rebellious glare on the angel in the body of her mother.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” the angel scolds, actually shaking her forefinger at her. “I’m not talking about wiping out everything. I’m talking about a clean slate. Starting over. That’s what my Father will be able to do when you and I are done wiping it all away. That’s not destroying everything that ever was. It’s more like…it never was in the first place. That’s not so bad, is it?”
Shaking her head, Tabitha replies, “It doesn’t matter anyway. Lucifer is in his vessel. And if I give you my consent now, he’ll have complete control of us. Just like that vision you showed me of the future.”
“Well at this point, we’ve got nothing to lose, do we?”
Azrael stalks closer to her, and when her fist swings at her temple, Tabitha is so surprised by the thrown punch that she doesn’t move to avoid it. Unrelenting, Azrael delivers kick after kick once Tabitha falls to the ground, though Tabitha tries in vain to shield her ribs with her arms from the angel’s punishing kicks.
The kicks stop suddenly when Castiel grabs the other angel, jerking her around and punching her with all his strength. Though her head snaps to the side, Azrael seems unfazed by the hit, slowly turning back towards him and flicking her hand at him until he falls to the ground, groaning and writhing in agony as she flexes her power over him.
Though she hadn’t uttered a word to stop the attack on herself, Tabitha spits the blood from her lips and begs the other angel, “Stop! Just stop! Leave him out of this.”
A slow smile spreads menacingly across her lips as Azrael does briefly stop, her head tipping to the side as she briefly regards the human. But instead of approaching Tabitha, Azrael appears behind Castiel, jerking his head upright by a handful of hair, an angel blade appearing in her other hand, which she holds poised unerringly over Castiel’s heart as he helplessly kneels on the dry grass.
Gasping in shock, Tabitha presses a hand to her mouth, stifling a scream as she stares in horror at the sight.
“You’ve got a choice to make,” Azrael tells her, lightly tapping the blade to Castiel’s chest. “And I’m going to make it very easy for you. Say ‘yes,’ and you’ll save him the pain and agony of being staked by an angel blade. And sure, I know there’s the whole business of if you say ‘yes,’ he’ll be dead anyway, but really, as I said, he won’t really…exist after we’re done. Isn’t that better than this?” As she finishes, she presses the blade lightly into Castiel’s chest, blood and light oozing around the silver blade. And though he tries to stifle the moan of pain, she can see the agony clearly on his face.
Seeing her indecision, Azrael presses the blade even further into his chest as she taunts, “You have no idea how painful it is for an angel to be staked. None. It’s not like being stabbed. Not really. It’s infinitely worse. The pain…it’s indescribable. It’s not just the physical pain of our vessel being impaled. It’s…the incomprehensible feeling of our Grace being fractured into a billion pieces. Even just the slightest pressure of a blade like this against our Grace… It’s excruciating. And I must say, your little angel here really is quite commendable. Because believe me, he’s in an excruciating amount of pain.”
“Don’t…listen to her,” Castiel pants, sweat breaking out across his forehead at the apparent pain he tries to mask.
Closing her eyes, Tabitha desperately begs, “Stop! Just stop.”
At the increased sound of Castiel’s choked moans, Tabitha opens her eyes to promise, “I’ll give you what you want. I promise. Please, just stop.”
“She’ll destroy the whole universe,” Castiel despairingly warns her. “If she has her way, both of your brothers will be gone.”
“They’ll be gone soon anyway,” Azrael angrily snaps at Castiel, pushing the blade further, earning another gasp of pain from him. “Not that you’ll have to worry about it soon enough. I’ve lost what patience I once had.” Looking back up at Tabitha she insistently presses, “Are you in? Or is he out?”
Tabitha nods once, nearly frantic to make her stop, knowing that the blade can’t go much deeper before her angel is truly gone.
Azrael looks suspicious, but doesn’t stop, her hand hovering in place instead. “Your word.”
“You have my word. Please…just stop,” Tabitha begs, ignoring the pained and pleading looks Castiel shoots her way.
Azrael yanks the blade free, shoving at Castiel’s back to push him away, seeming unconcerned as Castiel sprawls forward at her feet. “As you wish,” she blithely tells Tabitha, stepping away as Tabitha rushes forward to turn Castiel over, her hand pressing over the hole in his chest.
“Tabitha, you can’t,” Castiel warns her through tightly clenched teeth, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth.
With her other hand, Tabitha brushes the hair from his forehead, whispering, “I can’t stand back and watch you die again, Cas. I’ve already done that once. I’m not doing it again. Not if I can help it.” Squeezing his fingers one last time, she assures him, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”
Pulling her hand back, she reaches into the pocket of her leather jacket, withdrawing the two items she’s kept with her constantly since returning from the future months before. One is a Polaroid, now faded to bleak white. All promise of a future wiped from its surface. The other, is a ring of black gold and the darkest of Ruby stones. Once, it had felt of the warmth of hope. Now, it only feels of the coldness of reality.
She sets both on his chest, placing his hand securely over them as she tells him, “I know now why I gave this ring back to you in the future. It wasn’t because I gave up like you thought I did. It was because I knew what I had to do. And I knew that it was something I had to do alone.”
When he looks down at the items in confusion, she takes the opportunity to pull her hands away, standing as she does.
She spins away while Castiel pushes to his elbows, sputtering objections behind her as she steps towards Azrael.
“I’m ready. But before we do this, I have to ask one question.”
“What?” Azrael demands, her tone both bored and annoyed.
“When did you stop loving your brothers?”
That catches the angel’s attention. Straightening and sputtering, she assures Tabitha, “I-I never stopped loving them. Everything I’m about to do, is for them. To protect them. From one of them having to live with the horror of killing the other.”
“You have no idea what it really is to love your brothers. To truly love…and trust them. And be willing to sacrifice everything because you believe in them and know they’ll come through in the end.” She shakes her head, shoving all the voices from her mind that had whispered their advice in her ear over the past year. “Sam made his choice. And now it’s my turn. And I’m saying ‘yes.'” She nods once more for effect. “‘Yes.'”
“No!” Castiel screams behind her, but too late as a blinding light fills the clearing, ending with both women falling limply on the forest floor.
As Castiel drags himself closer, Tabitha shakes her head and pushes to her feet, looking down unpityingly at the Fallen angel once she stands over him.
“I suppose it was noble of her,” Azrael dryly comments as she watches Castiel’s face crumple and fall in realization. “She sacrificed herself to save you from pain. A human, sacrificing herself for one of us. For an angel. So very curious a thing, isn’t it? Though ultimately useless. Your pain would have only been short-lived. I suppose it doesn’t really matter one way or the other now. Soon, you’ll have never been.”
She crouches down, running one finger down the side of Castiel’s cheek, looking intrigued by the tear that spills over his eyelashes as he shies away from her touch. “So very curious,” she murmurs to herself. Picking up the blank Polaroid, she glances at it before letting it flutter discarded to the ground again. “Soon, all will be as blank as this silly piece of plastic. Don’t feel too bad for her, little brother, soon, she won’t be any more, either. Neither will my brothers. Neither will I. Because despite what that little human thinks, I do love them. So much so, that I will stop at nothing to keep them from killing each other. Even if it means ending everything that ever was.”
Azrael stands and takes a few steps away, murmuring to herself, “See, there’s nothing my love for them would keep me from doing.”
As she takes another step, her whole body sporadically shudders, causing her to fall to her hands and knees as she shakes and convulses.
“Stop fighting me, Tabitha. This is the way it must be,” Azrael groans, shaking her head and trying to push the human back into the far recesses of her mind.
But her eyes fall on the charm bracelet at her wrist. The charm reminding her to let her brothers sometimes stand on their own. The charm reminding her that sometimes all she needs is a little luck. The charm reminding her that every choice leads down a different path, and sometimes to a different life. And the charm reminding her of everything someone else gave up protecting her. But it’s the last charm, the fleur-de-lis that really catches her eye. And Momma Cecile’s voice reminding her to trust her heart. That she had to rely on the love not within her, but without her.
As much as she wants to live, it’s the love she has outside of her heart that gives her the strength to push back Azrael. The love not for herself, but for her brothers. For Castiel. It’s the love for them that gives her the strength to take control.
“You don’t know what it truly is to love your brothers, Azrael,” she snarls as she twists her body to sit upright. “You love your brothers only enough to doubt them and second-guess them. I love mine enough to know that if I give them the chance, they can do anything.”
Tabitha pushes to her feet, unsteadily walking to Castiel until she falls to her knees beside him, groaning as she struggles to hold back Azrael.
Placing her hand on his chest, she pleads, “Promise me that you’ll make sure my brothers have the time they need. You promise me that you’ll do whatever it takes to help them. That you’ll make sure things are set right again. They always pull through in the end. Always.”
“I promise,” Castiel agrees, gasping as she pulls her hand away from his suddenly healed chest.
With her other hand, she slides her angel blade from the small of her back. Tabitha raises it, turning that deadly point steadily towards her own chest.
“W-what are you doing?” Castiel haltingly asks, baffled eyes trailing from her hand on his now healed chest to the other holding the very blade he gave her for protection.
“Letting my brothers make their own choices, and doing everything I promised to back them up.” She swallows thickly before she whispers, “I’ve always told myself that I was brave…but I was a coward for not telling you sooner that I loved you. ‘Cause I’ve loved you for so damn long it’s ridiculous.”
“Tabitha,” the angel whispers in anguish, reaching out towards her. “What are you doing?”
“Death said she could kill anything. Any…single…thing. So I’m doing what has to be done. Now you keep your promise and help my brothers!”
Along with her shout, she shoves at his chest, sending him hurtling through space towards Dean, even as the blinding light that fills the clearing fades from his eyes.
Arms grab Castiel from behind, keeping him from falling as he stumbles to regain his feet, whispering in pain and anguish over and over, “Tabitha.”
“What?” Dean demands from behind him. “What the hell happened? Where’s Tabitha, Cas? Where’s my sister?” He shakes the angel as he speaks, trying to get his attention.
The angel turns to face Dean, startled to find himself back on the sidewalk beside the two equally baffled humans.
“She said ‘yes,'” he tells the two waiting hunters.
Dean exhales in shock even as Bobby looks around in wonder, trying to figure out how the world is still turning if Tabitha said “yes” to the angel nuclear warhead.
“She did?” Dean whispers, dumbfounded. “Why? Where is she? What happened, damn it!?”
Castiel looks away before admitting, “She regained control, and then told Azrael that she wouldn’t give up on her brothers as Azrael did with Lucifer and Michael. Then turned Azrael’s powers on herself.” Looking back, the angel takes a deep breath before adding, “She’s gone, Dean.”
Dean’s face crumples before he yanks the angel closer, wrapping his arms around Castiel as the angel stands stiffly, awkwardly patting the human’s back, not knowing how to offer him comfort.
Pulling away again, Dean asks, “What do we do now?”
“What your sister asked. Help Sam. Although, I don’t know how we’re supposed to do that now,” Castiel admits.
“Well, there’s got to be something we can do,” Dean barks back. He turns to look at Bobby who can only shrug.
“I don’t know what we can do,” Bobby admits.
Tears gathering, Dean tells them, “If Tabitha sacrificed herself for us, the least I can do is be there for Sammy at the end.”
“What are you gonna do now?” Dean asks as he looks across the Impala at Castiel in the passenger seat. Though it just happened, Dean can hardly believe what took place out at the cemetery.
“Return to Heaven, I suppose,” Castiel replies, eyes furrowed as he looks straight ahead.
“Heaven?” Dean questions in surprise.
“With Michael in the cage, I’m sure it’s total anarchy up there.”
“So, what, you’re the new sheriff in town?”
For the first time, a small smile lights onto Castiel’s mouth. “I like that. Yeah. I suppose I am.” It will give him purpose he thinks.
“Wow,” Dean mumbles. “God gives you a brand-new, shiny set of wings, and suddenly you’re his bitch again.”
Shaking his head, Castiel argues, “I don’t know what God wants. I don’t even know if he’ll return. It just…seems like the right thing to do.” He sighs before adding in a whisper, “Besides, I promised your sister.”
“That you’d return to Heaven?” Dean incredulously asks.
“No,” he corrects, frowning to himself. “That I’d set things right. Heaven seems like the best place to start.”
“Yeah. Right,” Dean grumbles noncommittally.
Shifting in the driver’s seat, Dean finally turns to ask the angel, “Cas, when you were, ah, dead, did you see her?”
“Mother Theresa. Who the hell do you think I mean? Tabitha! Did you, you know, see Tabitha in Heaven?”
Castiel’s scowl deepens. “No,” he finally admits. “She’s not in Heaven.”
“What?!” Dean shouts, the car swerving slightly before he rights it. “She can’t have ended up in Hell! I mean, self-sacrifice to help save the world and all, how could she not have gotten into Heaven?”
“I don’t know,” Castiel admits, pausing to look down at the small wing charm along with the black and ruby ring in his palm. Dean misses the sight of them, and Castiel pockets them before Dean looks over again. “She’s just…gone. As if she never existed. I suppose it was Azrael’s full power she turned on herself after all.”
Dean swallows several times before speaking in a halting voice. “S-she’s really, just…gone. Nowhere.”
“I’ve looked,” Castiel confirms, looking away when he feels a strange sensation burning in his throat. Lingering emotion from being human he assures himself.
“Was it all worth it?” Dean suddenly demands of the angel, his tone low and graveled. “My sister…gone. Sam and Adam both stuck for an eternity in some cage with Lucifer and Michael. Was it really all worth it? Where was God in all this?!”
“You’re angry,” Castiel observes, turning to face Dean, as if surprised he identified the emotion. Wondering to himself if that’s the unnamed sensation crawling beneath his skin. Anger…or sadness…or…loss perhaps.
“That’s an understatement,” Dean growls in agreement, bringing Castiel back to their conversation.
“He helped,” Castiel points out as Dean scoffs. “Maybe even more than we realize.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Dean continues to scoff. “He brought you back. But what about Sam? Or Tabitha? What about me, huh? Where’s my grand prize? All I got is my brother in a hole, and my sister disappeared from friggin’ existence!”
“You got what you asked for, Dean. What you and Tabitha both asked for. No Paradise. No Hell. Just more of the same. I mean it, Dean. What would you rather have? Peace or freedom?” Castiel turns to look out the other window, recalling words Tabitha had once told him. “Because apparently with the joy of freedom comes this excruciating pain.”
He disappears before Dean can reply.
Dean and Bobby won’t see each other again for a very long time. For that matter, they won’t see Cas again for a long time, either.
This time next week, Bobby will be hunting a Rugaru outside of Dayton. But not Dean.
Dean didn’t want Cas to save him. Every part of him, every fiber he’s got, wants to die, or find a way to bring Sam and Tabitha back. But he isn’t going to do either. Because he made a promise.
So, what’s it all add up to? It’s hard to say. But me, I’d say this was a test…for Sam, Dean, and Tabitha. And I think they did all right. Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny, and God himself, they made their own choices. They chose family. They chose love. And, well…isn’t that kinda the whole point?
A/N: Well, that’s it. The end of Angels on My Shoulders. It’s finished!
Wait! It’s not over over. There’s more to come. Part three shall be called, Crooked He Did Fly. There’s still a lot more in store for Cas and the boys. And more surprises ahead as well. 😀
Sorry I’ve been slow to update still. But progress is still being made. I promise.
And Happy New Year!