Her body goes limp as she falls back from her knees, her butt connecting painfully with the hardwood floor.
“Pregnant?” she parrots, unable to say or think of anything else.
Still holding her jaw in his palm, Castiel slides from the chair, kneeling in front of her and in all likelihood, keeping her body from falling completely to the floor.
He only nods in answer.
“What…how…what happened?” She shakes her head, more determined now than ever to know everything. “I need to know it all, Cas.”
This time, it’s Castiel that falls backwards to land on his butt. As he heaves a weary sigh, he draws one knee to his chest, resting his hands on top of his knee as he focuses on his fiddling hands instead of her.
“Four years ago,” he finally speaks, still not looking at her, “you showed up here in your brother’s camp. I don’t know what happened in the year that you were with Cort. You’d only say that you’d been hunting with him and waiting for something.” He shifts a bit, obviously uncomfortable with telling the tale, or perhaps it’s telling the tale to her.
“Things were awkward at first. Both between you and I, and between you and your brother. But eventually, you and I…rekindled. Neither of you would ever say, but there was always some kind of rift between you and Dean. I didn’t ask, but I gathered that was why you didn’t want him or anyone else to know about us. It didn’t matter to me. We were friendly in front of others, but at night, I had you to myself. And I felt different with you. Special…worthy…like I really was the man you saw when you looked at me. Someone special. Someone important.
“Even though I’d lost my powers, you and I seemed to make a good team, so Dean often sent us out to scout. Look for Crotes. Look for survivors. Look for supplies. And things went on like that for nearly two years.” Finally looking up, he meets her eyes, his gaze almost…hesitant. “We were…we were…happy…I think that’s the word…the emotion. I don’t know that I’d ever experienced it before…but I think we were happy. At least I think as happy as anyone can be in such desolate times.”
He begins to more nervously fidget with his hands as he glances away once more. “And then it happened. One day, you told me you were pregnant. We’d been careful, but you said it could still happen, despite precautions. I’ve seen enough human interaction to understand that in the situation, I was supposed to ‘do right by you’ and ‘make you an honest woman’…though I’d always found you to be sufficiently honest with me. I knew you at times kept things from me, but I think it was mostly for my benefit—”
“Cas,” she interrupts with a laugh at his confusion of the old phrase. “Never mind, just…go on.”
Nodding, he launches back in, still staring at his hands, as though he might lose his nerve if he looks up at her while he speaks. “When you agreed to marry me…that was when I knew I felt happiness. Real happiness. We planned to tell your brother and everyone else as soon as your pregnancy became too apparent to hide.”
He stops again, his hands still now, but still staring at them. “I never thought I would create a life. That was something for my Father alone to know. But there was such a miracle in that feeling, knowing I had created a life—that we had created a life.”
Suddenly, he makes a hurried and angry hand gesture. “I wish we never had,” he harshly whispers.
“What?” she questions, leaning back in a startled motion at his sudden change in demeanor.
This time when he looks up, he pins her with a hard stare, and something in the way he locks his eyes onto hers tells her that he’s trying to enforce the gravity of what he’s about to say.
“We went out on one last mission. After that, you were going to tell your brother about the pregnancy…about us. And then you’d agreed that you would stay in camp where you and the…our child would be safe. We argued about you even going out that last time. But it was just a simple run to gather more supplies. We’d done it a hundred times. It shouldn’t have been a problem.”
He reaches forward then, grabbing her hands to grip between the two of them, his fingers tightening almost painfully on hers. “We ran into demons, and were separated. I looked for you…tracked them for days, but it took nearly two weeks to find you.”
With jerking movements, Castiel suddenly releases her hands and stands, pacing back and forth as he continues. “Your brother had caught up by then, worried when we didn’t return. We found the demons; they’d been taking you to Lucifer.” He runs a frantic hand through his hair as his pacing increases, and Tabitha can only sit on the floor by the desk and stare up at him, waiting for him to finish.
“We got to you before they could deliver you, but…they’d already finished marking you. Finished what that demon began marking upon you years ago. And what they did to you…I wasn’t sure you’d even survive the things they’d done to you. You didn’t even look like you anymore.”
Finally, he stops pacing and stands in the middle of the room, facing away from her as he crosses his arms over his chest, seeming to hold himself together. When he speaks, she can hear the tears in his voice. “You were never the same again. We’d lost our child…and we both knew you’d been so severely injured that you’d never have another. It was as if you’d become a shell…an empty vessel. You rarely left your cabin, and though I did my best to care for you, I never saw you smile again. Once, you said that it was hard enough knowing you’d lost our child, but knowing that you could never bear another was a blow you couldn’t get over.”
She hears him sniffle and sees him roughly swipe at his nose.
“I wish you’d never been pregnant. Losing the child and never being able to replace it took you from me. You were never the same again. That loss was too much. Then, you left me alone.”
“How?” she whispers, slowly rising from the floor and moving to stand behind Castiel.
Unsure of herself, she hesitantly stands behind him, afraid to reach out to him as she sees him silently shaking.
“One day,” he brokenly begins whispering, “you handed me back the ring I gave you and informed me you were planning to say ‘yes’ to Azrael. Nothing I said would sway you. It was better to give in and hope Azrael could end the fighting than to continue fighting yourself when you had no willpower left, you told me. You just gave up. But it was too late. The demons had marked you, and when you said ‘yes’ to her, Lucifer had complete control of her. She was locked inside her vessel…inside you…and now…you are both lost. Under Lucifer’s complete command. His to control absolutely.”
Castiel finally turns to face her, tears running brightly down his cheeks. “You left me,” he whispers accusingly.
Her resolve breaks then, and she steps forward, pulling Castiel into her embrace as he wraps his arms desperately around her, pulling her almost too tightly against his chest, though she doesn’t object. Instead, she holds him even closer, smoothing her hands soothingly up and down his back as she makes calming noises to him.
With his head in the crook of her neck, he tells her, “It may already be too late. That demon began marking you. It may already be enough to allow Lucifer control of Azrael should you say ‘yes’ to her. Promise me that you’ll stay away when you return to your time. Promise me that you’ll disappear.”
“What about my brothers?” she whispers. “What about you?”
“I’ll continue to look after them,” he assures her, pushing back to grip her shoulders as he stares down into her eyes, tears shinning in his. “But, promise me you’ll leave. Promise me.”
Though she’s not sure she can promise him such a thing, she can’t bring herself to tell him that. She feels compelled to offer him some kind of assurance and relief for his the pain she sees burning so brightly.
“I promise I’ll do whatever needs to be done. Anything.”
He yanks her close again and hugs her gratefully, believing in what he wants to hear, just like he’s done in the past when she’s needed to lie to him without lying. He believes in what he wants to hear her say.
When he slowly releases her, she glances back towards the front of his cabin, thinking of him burying himself in drugs and decadence, and suddenly, she doesn’t blame him in the slightest for his actions. As an angel, she realizes he’s really not accustomed, or perhaps even built for withstanding such things.
If she had mercy in her heart, she knows she would end whatever she has been doing with Castiel when she returns to her time. To keep him from falling the way he has and losing himself so absolutely.
Staring at the closed door, she softly asks, “If you were the one to return to my time with all this knowledge, and not me, would you still tell me the same thing? Would you tell me to run, or even run yourself and not let anything more happen between us? Would you keep it all from ever happening in the first place? Knowing what you do now, why did you even sleep with me today? Why let things continue to go on?”
When there’s only silence, she glances back to see Castiel staring hard at the floor, his lips turned down into a frown. “I don’t know,” he admits.
“I don’t either, Cas.”
It’s nearing dark when she finally slips back into her own cabin, intending to look through the dressers for different clothing since what she is wearing still has dried blood on it.
As she slides the bookshelf back into place across the passageway, someone suddenly clears their throat loudly behind her.
Hand against her thumping chest, she turns to face Dean.
The cold look in his eyes tells her it’s not the one she came with.
“Umm…is there something you needed?” she asks hesitantly, wondering if he knows where she’s been.
He’s sitting at her desk, one of the drawers pulled out and a small leather-bound journal in his hands. She recognizes it as one she’d just bought in New Orleans in her own time. Its pages are filled with writing, wrinkled from use, and stuffed with other loose pages and objects as well.
Flipping it open, Future-Dean pulls out something and thrusts it out towards her.
“I really was blind, wasn’t I?” he spits in a hard voice. “Just good friends, huh?” he sarcastically continues, standing and walking towards her. “Looks like a helluva lot more than that. I should have seen it when the two of you always wanted to be sent out together. And I really should have seen it when he fell apart after what happened to you. I just thought he rightly blamed himself for losing you.”
Only a few feet away from her, he suddenly throws something at her, and she reacts quickly to snatch it up when it hits her chest. Glancing down, she sees another Polaroid, obviously from the same batch as the ones Castiel has; only this one appears to have been one she took, her arm partially out of the frame, holding the camera out to get both her and Castiel into the picture. She’s smiling her too big, truly happy smile, and Castiel is wearing a smile unlike anything she’s ever seen before, his gaze focused not on the camera, but turned on her with adoration.
“When did the two of you start screwing behind my back? Sometime before the demons got ahold of you, or does it go all the way back to now when you’ve been sent into the future? Is that it? Can’t resist the hippie former angel and his free love crap?” he angrily demands, his voice soft, but with a razor edge.
Holding the picture protectively close to her chest, she truthfully admits, “Even longer than now.”
Cussing under his breath, he stomps away from her and then back again. “I should kill him. If the two of you hadn’t been fooling around, he wouldn’t have lost all his mojo like he did, and then he could have kept you from getting captured by demons. Or at least healed you up after we found you. But the two of you are so stupid with your little star-crossed forbidden lovers crap, that you don’t use your damn heads to see what a mistake this is!”
“Don’t,” he interrupts. “You end this,” he orders while pointing accusingly at her. “End it now. When you get back to your time, you don’t let this continue. Maybe if the two of you aren’t being sappy versions of Romeo and Juliet, neither of you will end up being worthless.”
Drawing herself up to stand taller, Tabitha shoots back, “Don’t even try to compare me to some teenage, love-sick little girl that kills herself, you ass. And don’t presume to know anything about this, Dean. Castiel fell because he was trying to help us—all of us—keep Lucifer from rising. Because he was trying to help save humanity. So stop trying to make this into a sappy, fatalistic melodrama. Because it’s not.”
Pointing an accusing finger at her, he challenges, “You so sure about that? Because if you are, you’re dumber than I thought.”
Dropping his hand, he disgustedly looks away. “You aren’t gonna listen to anything I say anyway, are you? You’ll keep right on the same path, because that’s what I did.” He snorts derisively. “Must be a Winchester family curse that causes us to just not learn.” Stepping closer, he tells her, “Well here’s one thing you need to damn well learn and remember: Don’t say ‘yes’ to that bitch.”
He spins around and turns to the door, with his hand on the handle, she calls out to him.
“Are you going to say anything to him?”
From the stiffness of his back, they both know whom she means.
With a narrowed look over his shoulder, he tells her, “No. Because I could hardly stand to look at Cas when he was just negligent in protecting his scouting partner. Knowing all this…I wish I didn’t know.” He starts to open the door again, but pauses once more. Speaking to the door, he adds, “And I’m still hoping you’ll be smart enough to get back to your time and end it. That way, there’s nothing that I need to know about. And I can remain pleasantly clueless.”
He leaves with a loud thud of the slamming door.
That night, both Deans, Castiel, Tabitha, and a woman named Rissa are all gathered in the main cabin discussing Future-Dean’s plans.
She’d been somewhat surprised when the future version of her brother had shown up telling her that both she and Dean were expected to come to his little pow-wow that night, but she’d been too interested in what was going on to question him.
When she arrived at the cabin, Dean had been pacing back and forth, as much on his mind as their appeared to be on her own, but they didn’t speak, just nodded to each other.
As soon as Castiel had arrived, Tabitha felt a sensation of unease settle over her, and she’d begun pacing nervously around the cabin. In his future, they might have figured out how to pretend nothing was going on in front of others—and she’d even learned how to in her own present—but it was different now. Now that at least Future-Dean knew what was going on.
Castiel has changed since she last saw him, dressed in jeans and a dark blue jacket now that she can’t help but admiring the rugged appearance of and the way they conform to his body. She likes him in jeans, she thinks to herself.
Future-Dean’s glare at both her and Castiel cause her to jerk her eyes away however, and her pacing to increase.
Her very skin seems to feel Castiel watching her however as he stands near a wall sipping something from a tin cup.
Finally, trying to steady her nerves, she sits at the table in the middle of the room, crossing her arms behind her head to lend to the deception that she’s at ease. It doesn’t help that the other woman in the room, Rissa, has been splitting her time between glaring at each Dean and staring at Tabitha with a look that borders on hate and hysteria. Tabitha begins to think that if she moves too fast, the poor woman might jump out of her skin. And she fights the urge to jump while yelling “boo” at the woman, just to see what kind of a screamer she might be. It would be a change from the horrified staring.
And she wonders what one or both of the Deans have done to earn the brunette’s glares. She’d almost rather have the woman glare at her instead of the stare of terror. Whatever one or both of them did, it might be worth doing as well.
“So, that’s it?” Rissa finally asks, turning her eyes on the gun lying on the center of the table in front of Tabitha. “That’s the Colt?”
As she speaks, Castiel moves from his place at the wall, nonchalantly sitting across the corner of the table from Tabitha and propping his booted feet along the edge as he leans back in his chair towards her, still sipping from his cup.
Future-Dean leans heavily against the edge of the table, glaring between Tabitha and Castiel before he addresses Rissa. “If anything can kill Lucifer, this is it.”
Castiel sets his cup on the table and slides it across the corner towards Tabitha, lowering his voice and telling her, “Here, this will settle your nerves.”
Taking the old tin cup, she glances at Future-Dean’s continued glare, amazed that Castiel is either so oblivious to the look of loathing he’s being given, or just uncaring. Lifting the cup as she ignores the glare, she sniffs and turns a questioning look to Castiel, tilting the cup to examine the greenish liquid inside.
“Absinthe,” he shrugs, flicking his hand at the dark bottle he’d plunked down on the table near the Colt.
It explains the strong herb smell of the liquor. Having only tasted absinthe a few times in college, she carefully sips from the cup, nearly coughing it back up when she swallows and feels its bitter taste.
“Straight?” she whispers in a strained voice, coughing a little more to clear suddenly burning lungs. “People usually drink this stuff with water to cut the high alcohol content.”
He shrugs again. “I like it straight.”
She shakes her head at his extreme tolerance of liquor, but does take a few more sips before passing the cup back across the table to him. The absinthe she’d had in the past had been a strong 130 proof—this tastes much stronger even than that. She wonders if it can double as lighter fluid. But the hint of licorice in it makes it palpable when slowly sipped. And as absinthe is known for, it soothes and relaxes her—while at the same time heightening her awareness of everything around her. Most notably, the former angel sitting only a foot away wearing a soft smile as he gauges her reaction to the drink.
Rissa seems to have dismissed Castiel, and finally Tabitha as well, her annoyed stare focused only on Future-Dean as she replies to his answer about the Colt killing Lucifer.
“Great,” she tells him. “Have we got anything that can find Lucifer?”
Future-Dean finally seems to notice her annoyance, turning his attention from his sister and the former angel to look at Rissa, asking her, “Are you okay?”
Dean quickly pipes up, seeming to find some kind of humor in the couple’s spat. “Oh, we were in, uh, Jane’s cabin last night. And, apparently, we and…Rissa have a connection.”
Castiel and Tabitha both stifle laughs at Future-Dean’s annoyance and Rissa’s outrage.
“You want to shut up?” Future-Dean orders as Dean raises his hands in surrender. Throwing a glare at Castiel’s smirk, he snidely tells the former angel under his breath, “You wanna cop to what…or who you been doing all afternoon?”
Unfazed by the blatant threat, Castiel raises his hands in fake surrender as well. And when Future-Dean pulls Tabitha into his glare, she smiles sweetly and shrugs in the innocence she’d perfected in her youth. Glad now that Castiel had given her the absinthe as she further relaxes, turning her back closer towards Castiel and propping her own feet along the table.
While Castiel chuckles at Future-Dean’s clear annoyance, he slides his glass across to her again, laughing when she takes another sip, causing Future-Dean to growl low in his throat.
“We don’t have to find Lucifer,” Future-Dean continues in his authoritative tone, appearing to choose the path of ignoring his sister and Castiel. “We know where he is.” Straightening, Future-Dean continues, “The demon we caught last week—he was one of the…big guy’s entourage. He knew.”
“So, a demon tells you where Satan’s gonna be, and you just believe it?” Rissa questions in disbelief.
“Oh, trust me—he wasn’t lying.”
“How can you be so sure?” Tabitha asks, leaning back further in her chair to balance it on its back legs.
It places her head closer to Castiel’s and he tips his forehead towards her to explain, “Our fearless leader, I’m afraid, is all too well schooled in the art of getting the truth.”
“Really?” Tabitha wonders, turning more towards Castiel and seeing the truth in his uninterested shrug.
“Torture?” Dean questions, seeming more upset about the information than Tabitha is, though she thinks her mellow response might be due to the absinthe.
Dean stands and approaches his future self as he continues to question the revelation. “Oh, so, we’re—we’re torturing again. No, that’s—that’s good. Classy.”
Castiel suddenly chuckles at Dean’s response, startling Tabitha, who grins when she realizes how much she likes the sound of Castiel’s laughter.
Future-Dean is less than pleased with the former angel’s mirth. But Castiel continues to chuckle; looking to his “fearless leader,” he defensively says, “What? I like ‘past you.'”
Tilting her head closer, Tabitha agrees. “I know, right?” She looks across to Dean again, telling him, “I told you. You become a real dick in the future.”
Once more, Future-Dean ignores his sister and Castiel, spreading out a map on the table as he explains, “Lucifer is here. Now, I know the block and I know the building.”
They all lean forward to look where he’s pointing.
It means nothing to Tabitha, but Castiel drops his feet from the table to casually comment, “Oh, good—it’s right in the middle of a hot zone.”
“Crawling with Crotes, yeah. You saying my plan is reckless?”
“Are you saying we, uh, walk in straight up the driveway, past all the demons and the Crotes, and we shoot the Devil?” Castiel asks.
“Okay, if you don’t like, uh, ‘reckless,’ I could use ‘insouciant,’ maybe,” he primly responds.
“Or how about ‘temerarious?'” Tabitha bitterly adds. “Or just plan idiotic. Or perhaps suicidal.”
Castiel looks at her and nods with an appreciative agreement.
“You don’t get a say,” Future-Dean crossly tells her, then turns to Castiel, his voice almost daring as he asks, “Are you coming?”
He glances at her, and then glances at Dean before answering Future-Dean’s question, sighing, “Of course.” With a second glance at both Tabitha and Dean, he asks, “But why are they? I mean, he’s you five years ago, and she…it’s just not a good idea. If something happens to her… But if something happens to him…you’re gone, right?”
“They’re coming,” Future-Dean orders in a tone that brooks no argument. He lowers his voice to viciously tell Castiel, “Besides, you’d have been better off worrying about Tab when it might have been useful.”
Castiel flinches, but overall, acts as if the barb isn’t a new one, softly replying, “Okay.” Leaning back from the table and not looking at Tabitha, he pushes to his feet, announcing, “Well, uh…I’ll get the grunts moving.”
“We’re loaded and on the road by midnight,” Future-Dean declares.
When Tabitha wordlessly stands to follow Castiel, both Deans simultaneously demand, “Where are you going?”
At the door, she pauses to glare at Future-Dean, asking, “Was that really necessary? It wasn’t his fault. You don’t need to be such an ass.”
“Where do you think you’re going?” Future-Dean continues demanding.
“Anywhere but here,” she snaps at him, and then with a pointed look at Dean, she asks, “You got a problem with that that you wanna talk about here and now?”
Future-Dean looks away with an expression of disgust, but doesn’t say anything further, apparently not wanting his past self to know the truth. She takes the silence as her cue to leave.
“You should be careful,” Castiel tells her when she catches up. “Where we’re going…it’s not safe and it’s not a walk down the street.”
“Walk in the park,” she corrects. “And I never thought it was. But, I’ll be okay. Azrael and Israfil sent me here to see what the future’s like. They didn’t send me here to get killed or something.”
He relaxes slightly, finally looking at her and nodding. “I hate the thought of you going into a Crote hot zone again,” he admits.
“I’ll be fine,” she repeats, but can see by his faraway look, that all he’s thinking of and seeing is the time when she wasn’t.
“You need to know something else,” he whispers, his tone soft and regretful.
“It’s about Sam,” he tells her. “He’s not dead, either.”
She stops in her tracks, forcing him to swing around to face her. Even without saying it, she knows by his apologetic look what he’s afraid to say.
“He said ‘yes,'” she whispers as understanding dawns.
“He said ‘yes’ to Lucifer,” he softly agrees. “You both said ‘yes.'”
“This plan is to kill our brother,” she breaths out in stunned understanding.
Before they are set to jump into the now prepared vehicles to leave, Castiel suddenly pulls Tabitha around the corner of a cabin, tugging on her hand until they are out of sight from her brothers and everyone else.
“What?” she asks in confusion.
Without a word, he pulls her close, wrapping her in a hug that stings of desperation and longing. For a long time, he simply holds her close, saying nothing, but inhaling her scent deeply into his lungs.
Finally pushing her away, Castiel presses something into her palm, closing her fist around it before she can see it. But she can feel the smooth surface of the ring he’d shown her earlier in her closed fist without even looking.
“Keep this,” he tells her. “I meant it for you, but the you in this time period, doesn’t exist anymore.”
She opens her mouth to object, but closes it when she sees the tears shinning in his eyes. “I think I see where I could have easily loved you,” she whispers to him, the closest she’s ever allowed herself to come to naming whatever it is she feels for the angel.
He smiles a little crookedly. “I think I’ve come to learn why angels were not intended to love any save our Father. There is such loss that comes with it…I don’t know how humans survive such love.”
“I sometimes wonder the same,” she admits. To herself, she thinks that deep down, she can’t imagine a life now without having had Castiel in it. No matter how painful. And no matter for how short a time.
She reaches up to gently splay her hand across his jaw, her thumb running across the stubble of his cheek as she stares up at him. Stretching onto her toes, she gives him a gentle kiss.
But when she begins to retreat, Castiel follows, one hand threading into her hair as his other yanks her thigh up to curl around his waist, pushing her backwards until the rough logs of the cabin behind her connect with her back.
“Jesus!” a nervous voice suddenly exclaims, forcing them to turn and look at the shocked prophet—their own Porny-Chuck—as he comes around the corner. “It was creepy enough without the time-travel mixed in. Would you two get a room!” he tells them. “You keep necking out here like a couple of teenagers and Dean’s gonna catch you guys for sure—both of them. And then there’s gonna be one dead, featherless angel around here.”
The prophet shifts nervously from foot to foot as he avoids looking at them, his gaze darting around like one of the Dean’s might pop out and kill him or something.
“You know?” Tabitha starts to ask, reluctantly lowering her leg back to the ground even though Castiel doesn’t relinquish his hold on her.
“Of course, you know,” she quickly reminds herself when she remembers that Porny-Chuck’s been writing their “gospel.” I.e., porn-laced-romance-novels. She blushes as she wonders what else he’s written since Castiel came along.
“Yeah, uh, who do you think helped you guys keep things quiet all the time and helped you sneak around?” he responds.
Her respect for the man ratchets up a few degrees—she even decides to upgrade him to bring called simply, Chuck—and after Castiel presses a last parting kiss to her lips and releases her, she tells Chuck, “Thank you. For everything you have and will do for us.”
“Yeah,” he stammers, “Just, uh, do me a favor. If Dean ever does find out about…this…don’t tell him that I ever knew.”
As he hurries away, Castiel places one last kiss on her forehead and draws back, reluctantly telling her, “We should get going as well, I guess.”
“Yeah,” she whispers in agreement, following a few steps behind him and wishing she could walk beside him holding his hand.
She wonders if the day will ever come when they are able to freely walk beside each other.
An hour later, Tabitha finds herself riding in the backseat, Castiel driving, and her brother riding shotgun. Awkward as the arrangement is, she finds herself thankful that Future-Dean isn’t with them, too.
As Castiel drives, he opens a pill bottle and tosses a few back, silently holding them over his shoulder to Tabitha.
When she takes them and opens the bottle curiously, Dean swipes the bottle from her hands, suspiciously telling her, “Let me see those.”
“You want some?” Castiel asks him.
Holding the prescription bottle up to read in the moonlight, Dean says, “Amphetamines?”
“It’s the perfect antidote to that absinthe,” Castiel tells them, glancing meaningfully back at Tabitha.
Shrugging, Tabitha takes the bottle again and tosses back one of the pills, thinking to herself that she probably did worse in college when she was experimenting during her wild days.
Over his shoulder, Dean dubiously asks her, “You’re drinking absinthe and doing drugs now? Some Fed you are.”
She laughs, still feeling the mellowness of the absinthe in her system as she points out, “I’m an ex-Fed, or dead-Fed…I’m whatever it is when the FBI thinks you’re dead, but you’re not really. But regardless, I don’t have mandatory drug testing anymore. So, yay me. And, you know, when in Rome…” She trails off and waves her hand.
“Rome has a beautiful countryside,” Castiel says then. “I would have enjoyed seeing it with you.”
Dean looks curiously back and forth between Castiel and Tabitha as she laughs in the back seat.
“It’s just an expression, Cas. I wasn’t actually talking about being in Rome.”
His frown spreading, Dean clears his throat and tells Castiel, “Don’t get me wrong, Cas. I, uh…I’m happy that the stick is out of your ass…” he glances back at Tabitha, “and glad to see that you’re still a happy drunk…” focusing on Castiel again, he continues, “but…what’s going on—w-with the drugs and the orgies and the love-guru crap?”
For a second, Castiel looks uncomfortably in the rearview mirror at Tabitha. When she realizes he’s gauging her reaction, she shrugs to show that it doesn’t matter to her now. She’s made peace with his actions.
Tossing back his head, Castiel suddenly begins laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Dean asks.
Tabitha leans forward as well, curious by Castiel’s reaction, and wondering if the absinthe is still strong in his system.
“Dean, I’m not an angel anymore,” he explains to her brother.
“What?” Dean stares at him in shock, but Tabitha leans back and rolls her eyes, wondering what about that tickles Castiel’s funny bone.
“Yeah, I went mortal,” he continues, now avoiding her eyes.
“What do you mean? How?”
“I think it had something to do with the other angels leaving,” Castiel quietly says. His eyes lock ever so briefly with Tabitha’s in the mirror, and she wonders at the significance of his almost nervous glance. He jerks his eyes away to look at the road as he adds, “But when they bailed, my mojo just kind of…” He makes a gesture with his hands and sucks a breath through his teeth— “Shhrr!—Drained away. And now, you know, I’m practically human. I mean, Dean, I’m all but useless,” he explains, and she remembers Future-Dean telling him those exact words.
“Last year, broke my foot—laid up for two months.” He lowers his voice and adds, “I can’t protect anyone anymore.”
“Wow,” Dean says, not noticing the way Tabitha cringes and turns towards the side window.
“Yeah,” Castiel confirms.
“So, you’re human.” At the nod of the former angel, he adds, “Well, welcome to the club,” And then he turns to look out his own window.
“Thanks,” Castiel returns, his eyes on the road. “Except I used to belong to a much better club. And now I’m powerless…I’m hapless, I’m hopeless. I mean, why the hell not bury myself in women and decadence, right? It’s the end, baby, that’s what decadence is for. Why not bang a few gongs before the lights go out?”
Castiel pauses, and finally looks up into the mirror again, meeting Tabitha’s gaze as she cringes to hear her own words thrown back at her. What she wouldn’t give to take them back now…now that she knows how hard it had been for the former angel. Now that she knows what he’d really been through.
She mouths an I’m sorry, but Castiel tears his eyes away, hurt still shinning in them as he adds, “But, then…that’s just how I roll,” laughing a little bitterly as the vehicle falls silent.
The sheer destruction of buildings still amazes Tabitha as they carefully pick their way through the littered streets. There’s almost nothing about the city that’s recognizable to give her any hint to where they even are. So she and Dean simply follow the others, who warily watch every building and every side street, looking for possible attacks.
Though she’d wanted a gun—as had Dean—they were ordered to remain in the middle of the group without weapons. Neither Dean nor Tabitha were happy about it.
Finally, they reached an area fenced in and topped with razor wire, a sign reading Jackson County Sanitarium. It appears to be the area of the city Future-Dean has been looking for.
Looking through binoculars, Future-Dean points out, “There, second-floor window. We go in there.” He hands the binoculars back to Castiel who has crouched behind him to look over his shoulder.
Tabitha starts to sneak forward to see whatever they’re looking at, but Dean tugs on her elbow, holding her back and off to the side where they’ve crouched near another overturned car.
“You sure about this?” Rissa dubiously asks Future-Dean.
“They’ll never see us coming,” their fearless leader assures them. “Trust me.”
Tabitha can feel Dean stiffen beside her, and she worriedly tugs his arm, whispering, “He’s lying to them.” When he gives her a questioning look, she rolls her eyes. “You think I don’t know when you’re lying? I know every little expression you make when you lie. The way you shift your eyes and the way your voice becomes almost emotionless when you’re trying to convince someone of something you know is bullshit.”
He snorts, but agrees. “You’re right, he’s lying to them.” But he still holds her back with him, off to the side from the others.
Future-Dean continues telling his people, “Now, weapons check. We’re on the move in five.”
“Hey, uh…me,” Dean says beside her. “Can I talk to you for a sec?”
Dean stands to follow his future self, but Tabitha pulls away.
“Where are you going?” he whispers furiously at her.
“I want to talk to Cas,” she hisses back when he grabs at her. “You go talk to yourself. I’m talking to Cas.”
She doesn’t wait for his reaction, moving forward to catch the former angel’s eyes and motioning for him to follow her as her brothers head the other direction to talk.
Once she’s out of sight of the others, Tabitha turns to face Castiel behind her. “We need to talk,” she warningly explains.
“I don’t like you being here,” he repeats, frowning at her as she frowns at the sight he makes.
He’s dressed as he had been the night before, but with the additions of a submachine gun, a Heckler & Koch MP5, if she’s not mistaken. The sight is altogether strange to her; she’s never seen her Castiel, the angel, even handle a gun before.
Before she can tell him about her concerns, he steps closer, pulling a Beretta from his waistband at his back, handing it to her. “It shoots straight, never had it jam,” he explains, curling her fingers around the grip of the gun. “Take it, and watch yourself. Be careful. Israfil should be watching to make sure you don’t get hurt, but it’s dangerous since Zachariah sent Dean here, too. Zachariah will likely do what he can to ensure you don’t make it back to your time intact.”
“Why?” she demands, her fingers closing around the pistol with an easy familiarity. “Why is Zach trying so hard to have me killed? Why is Lucifer trying so hard to capture me? Why is Azrael so important?”
Castiel slides his MP5 around on its strap to his side, using both hands to hold and caress her face. “All that’s important is that you don’t say ‘yes.’ All you need to know is that while she’ll tell you that she can stop the battle between Michael and Lucifer, it could be too dangerous now for her to try. If Lucifer manages to bind her to him through you…that would be disastrous for everyone. Especially you. Just…stay away from her.”
“But…what if she’s right? If there’s a way that she can actually stop all this…stop Lucifer and Michael from fighting…then why isn’t that a good thing? I don’t understand. The demons haven’t gotten me yet. They didn’t finish marking me or whatever.”
Yanking her closer, Castiel stresses, “Don’t. No matter what, don’t give in to her. You don’t understand the ramifications.”
Folding her hands over his against her face, she pleads, “Then make me. I don’t get any of this. If she can stop it all…how is that a bad thing? How else is this ever going to end, Cas? You know Dean. He’ll never say ‘yes’ to Michael. Not when the stakes are so high. Not when saying ‘yes’ means they have a Battle Royale and roast half the planet. And Lucifer isn’t going to just wake up one day and realize the errors of his ways. Finally see that he’s just been experiencing some growing pains from no longer being the favorite baby of the family that gets all of dad’s love and attention. So how else do we stop it?”
“We kill the Devil,” Future-Dean reminds them as he appears behind Castiel.
Castiel’s hands immediately fall away from her face, a look of pain and guilt filling his expression.
“You’ve got orders,” Future-Dean reminds him.
When the former angel hesitates with a look of longing her way, Future-Dean takes a step closer, reminding him, “She may look like my sister, the woman you lost with your incompetence…but she isn’t. You can fool yourself and try to pretend that you’ve redeemed yourself because she’s here now and you can try to tell her things that will keep you from losing her like you already did. But we both know the score on that one. You can’t change the past.”
He throws a look at Tabitha. “Even when you bring the past into the future. I never learned, and neither will she. We were alike in that, I guess.”
Turning back to Castiel, he gives him a loath filled look. “You wanna finally do right by my sister, then help me free her. Do your job for once, and help me gank the Devil.”
When Castiel starts to turn away from her, she reaches out to grab his hand, leaning closer to whisper, “Don’t trust him. I know Dean. Past, present, or future. And he’s lying. Something about all of this is off. We’re supposed to be in such a dangerous area, but where’s the danger, Cas? It’s like they rolled out the red carpet for us. You said it would be filled with Crotes and demons. But there’s been nary a one.”
“Of course it’s a trap,” he whispers back. “You think I don’t know that. But we all have our roles to play. And he’s right…you were right. You’re not her. It’s been a nice diversion to have a version of you back again. Even for a while. It’s eased the guilt in my heart. But you’re not her. She’s out there. And if this plan kills the Devil. She’ll be free. Or at least, not leashed to his side. And maybe I’ll get to see her again…one last time.”
He pulls away and leaves, walking out of sight before she can say another word or even utter goodbye to him. She doesn’t say anything, but can’t help thinking that she’s not ready for things to end between them. Not ready for whatever she and any version of Castiel had to be the end. Don’t let it be the end. Don’t let it really end like this, she thinks to herself.
Jabbing at the suspicious wetness gathering at the corner of her eyes, she stiffly asks Future-Dean, “Where’s my brother? The two of you left to talk, but I don’t see him.”
He stands staring imposingly down at her for several moments, his arms crossed aggressively over his chest. When he finally speaks, it’s in a hard voice. “I told him that there was something he needed to see. He didn’t like my methods. I see that you don’t approve of them either.”
“What, sending your friends to their slaughter knowingly? Or your continued treatment and blame of Castiel for something that wasn’t his fault as far as I can tell,” she bites off.
“As far as you can tell,” he snidely repeats. “But you weren’t here.”
“Where is Dean?” she demands again, glancing around the small clearing they’re in, as close as he’s stayed to her since they arrived in the hot zone, she’s surprised not to see him rounding a corner to scold her for straying out of his sight.
“He’s…thinking things over,” Future-Dean replies a little too slowly. “When he’s ready, he’ll see what he needs to see.”
On alert, she nervously replies, “You’re lying hasn’t changed in years. You still give the same little nose wrinkle when you’re trying to be too careful about what you say.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he answers. “You need to see this, too. Cas was right about one thing, you absolutely can’t say ‘yes’ to her. We’re all dead if you do.”
Annoyed by the future version of her brother, she pushes by him. “Whatever. I’m looking for Dean.”
It doesn’t take her long to find him. She passes the area the rest of the group had been waiting in, pausing to watch as Castiel leads them through the fence and towards the former sanitarium building. She watches as they get smaller and smaller in the distance, but Castiel never once looks back. Her last glimpse of him is the former angel carefully edging around the corner of the building.
Turning away, she starts in the direction she’d last seen the two Deans wander off in.
Only a few dozen feet away, she finds Dean face down, unconscious on the ground as rapid gunfire sounds in the distance.
Urgently shaking his shoulder as she kneels by him, she frantically tries to wake him. “Come on, Dean, wakeup,” she commands him.
Suddenly, his eyes clear and she helps steady him as he sits up.
“I knock myself out again and…” he trails off in his slightly slurred threat. “What’s that?” he tips his head at the sound of the gunfire.
With a grim look, she tells him, “The trap they were walking into, I think.”
Dean grabs her hand and pulls her with him as they run towards the gunfire. They can both see the windows of the sanitarium lit up by the gunfire inside on various floors.
When she starts in the direction she’d seen Cas and the others go, Dean tugs on her hand. “They went this way,” she tells him.
“But I didn’t. He…I…whatever, used them as a diversion. It’s too late to help them by running into a trap after them. Just…come on,” he impatiently tells her.
Though she knows in her heart that he’s right, she still casts a longing look over her shoulder before allowing Dean to pull her on with him, praying that Castiel somehow makes it out of the mess he’s willingly walked into.
As they round the corner of the sanitarium, they can see Future-Dean on the ground, a man dressed in white standing over him, holding him down with one white dress shoe against his throat. Before they can move, the man twists his foot, breaking Future-Dean’s neck.
At the soft gasp that escapes from Tabitha, the man turns around, lightening flashing in the sky, and they finally see him. Their brother. Lucifer.
“Oh,” he tells them. “Hello, Dean. Hello, Tabitha.”
Dean slides a hand in front of Tabitha, pushing her slightly behind himself as the thing wearing their brother continues to speak.
“Aren’t the two of you a surprise,” he continues to congenially tell them.
Lightning flashes again, and Tabitha suddenly feels someone breathing down her neck.
“Still fresh and unmarked,” Sam’s voice breathes in her ear, somehow instantly appearing behind her.
Gasping again, she twirls around, only to have Dean shove her behind him again as he twists to face Lucifer in their little brother’s body.
“You’ve come a long way to see this, haven’t you?” Lucifer asks him then.
Dean stiffens his back in front of her, standing taller as he tells Lucifer, “Well, go ahead. Kill me.”
“Kill you?” Lucifer casts a curious look at the future version of Dean lying dead on the ground. “Don’t you think that would be a little…redundant?”
Lucifer heaves a weary sigh. “I’m sorry. It must be painful…speaking to me in this…shape. But it had to be your brother,” he tells them as he stalks closer. Dean backs up a step, his hand snaking behind his back to grip Tabitha again, as though to reassure himself that she’s still safe behind him. “It had to be,” Lucifer continues as he reaches out to place a hand on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean pulls back, pushing her with him.
“You don’t have to be afraid of me, Dean,” Lucifer continues assuring. “What do you think I’m going to do?”
As Lucifer walks past them, Dean loosens his grip a little, but still maneuvers so that he keeps Tabitha at his back.
“I don’t know,” Dean answers. “Maybe deep-fry the planet?”
Lucifer stops to examine a rose, but at Dean’s accusation, turns to face them again. “Why? Why would I want to destroy this stunning thing…beautiful in a trillion different ways…the last perfect handiwork of God?”
He pauses, and then asks them, “You ever hear the story of how I fell from Grace?”
“Oh, good god,” Dean says in exasperation. “You’re not gonna tell us a bedtime story, are you? My stomach’s almost out of bile.”
Ignoring the sarcasm, Lucifer continues. “You know why God cast me down? Because I loved him. More than anything. And then God created…” Lucifer lets out a strained chuckle, “…you. The little…hairless apes. And then he asked all of us to bow down before you—to love you more than him. And I said, ‘Father…I can’t.’ I said, ‘These human beings are flawed, murderous.’ And for that…God had Michael cast me into Hell. Now, tell me…does the punishment fit the crime? Especially when I was right? Look what six billion of you have done to this thing. And how many of you blame me for it?”
“You’re not fooling me. You know that?” Dean replies, his voice full of emotion. “With this sympathy-for-the-Devil crap. I know what you are.”
“What am I?”
“You’re the same thing, only bigger. The same brand of cockroach we’ve been squashing our whole lives—an ugly, evil, belly-to-the-ground, supernatural piece of crap. The only difference between them and you is the size of your ego.”
Lucifer looks over Dean’s shoulder at Tabitha. “You really think so, too? You who has seen the darkness and depravity of all of mankind. Seen the terrors that man commits even without any outside supernatural influence.”
Seeing Dean’s hand reach out blindly behind him, she steps forward to grip his hand again, offering and accepting support as she nods. “I’m with Dean all the way. There are a lot of good people out there that you’re talking about slaughtering. And yeah, there are bad ones, too. There are bad ones in any group. But, then…you’re proof of that, aren’t you?”
His smile falters for just a second, but it soon widens into a benevolent smile as Lucifer tells them, “I like the two of you. I get what the other angels see in both of you. Goodbye. We’ll meet again soon,” he nods, turning away.
“You better kill me now!” Dean shouts after him.
Turning to face them, Lucifer asks, “Pardon?”
“You better kill me now,” Dean repeats as Tabitha keeps her grip on her brother’s hand, but moves to stand beside him, defiantly raising her chin to support his words.
“Or, I swear,” Dean continues, “I will find a way to kill you. And I won’t stop.”
“I know you won’t,” Lucifer answers. “I know you won’t say ‘yes’ to Michael, either.” He looks over at Tabitha. “Just like I know you will. You will say ‘yes’ and do anything to help your brothers. And I know neither of you will kill Sam. Whatever either of you do…you will always end up here. Whatever choices you make, whatever details you alter, we will always end up…here. I win. So, I win.”
“You’re wrong,” Tabitha whispers, hearing her voice break.
“See you in five years, Dean,” he says. Looking to Tabitha, he tells her, “See you sooner than that, Tabitha.”
Lightning flashes and she can feel Dean turn to look behind him, and then…he disappears, leaving her alone in the clearing facing Lucifer.
He smiles at her. “I’m glad you’re still here,” he tells her. “There’s someone you should meet.”
Turning, he smiles and looks expectantly behind him. And as she watches, she sees a woman in a white dress, almost gliding along. Beautiful and ethereal like Lucifer…if not for the man she half drags behind her with the ease of a child tugging a rag-doll along.
When she reaches Lucifer, she heaves the man in front of her.
As the man falls to his knees, bloody and gasping for breath, Tabitha’s heart drops. The bloody man on his knees is Castiel.
Looking up again, Tabitha sees herself. A mirror image of herself, dressed in plain, pristine white, spaghetti-strap dress. Its white too brilliant and white for having dragged a bloody man around. Her hair is loose past her shoulders, but it’s the almost vacant stare in her eyes that keeps Tabitha from running forward to help Castiel.
As she watches, Lucifer moves to stand behind the woman in white, running a finger almost lovingly across her cheek before he looks up at Tabitha.
“This was always how it was meant to be,” he smugly tells her. “My sister will always come to me…side with me.”
Tabitha stares in horror at herself, seeing the vacant way…Future-Tabitha stands and stares, unmoving and unblinking. “She hasn’t sided with anyone,” Tabitha says in horror. “She may as well be a puppet with you pulling her strings.”
Lucifer lets out a short snort, smiling at her as if she just doesn’t understand. As he moves to Future-Tabitha’s other side, he gently runs his hand down her motionless arm, gently scolding her, “You’ve finished all the others and brought our little brother here, Azrael. But it’s time to finish this. Finish him.”
Castiel finally looks up from his knees, his face streaked with blood and one eye swollen shut as he stares into Future-Tabitha’s face. “It’s alright,” he tells her, his voice soft and wheezing. “I’m here, angel. I’m here, Tabitha. I’m here for you.”
Turning, he meets Tabitha’s eyes one last time. “Don’t say ‘yes.’ Don’t ever say ‘yes’ to her,” he pleads. “Don’t let it end. Not here. Not like this.”
Eyes unblinking and unfeeling, Future-Tabitha’s head tilts as she looks down at him. She moves no more than that, and suddenly Castiel pitches over to his side, falling dead as Tabitha gasps and presses her hands to her mouth in shock.
“That’s not me…and that’s not even your sister anymore,” Tabitha gasps as she stares in horror at herself. There’s nothing of herself or the angel left in that woman. She’s just an empty shell of power, forced to do Lucifer’s bidding.
Lucifer doesn’t look up at her for a moment, continuing to run his hand gently up and down the motionless arm of the woman standing slightly in front of him. “Azrael is in there. So are you,” he explains, finally looking up. “And one day, Azrael will see that I’ve bound her for her own good. To keep her from acting as she thinks our Father would want. One day, she’ll see that I’m just trying to save her…and this world.” His smile turns to that condescending benevolence again. “I’m not the evil monster here. I’m trying to save this world. Keep it from being destroyed. She’ll understand that one day. And…so will you.”
Lightning flashes even closer, forcing Tabitha’s eyes closed, and then, suddenly, she’s standing once more in the alleyway in New Orleans where she’d been what feels like years ago.
“Jesus, Tabitha,” Cort exclaims, yanking her close as her eyes jump around the alley. Her stomach lurches as she regains her balance again in the present. She’s never felt like her insides had been scrambled like they’ve felt each time Israfil has hurled her somewhere, but then, every other time she’s gone somewhere with an angel, they hadn’t had the power to overcome her charms, and she’d had to mentally reach out to them to make it work. She understands now why Dean has complained every time the angels have sent him anywhere.
“That is what will happen,” the craggy voice of Israfil tells her, drawing her attention to where he stands in the alley. “That is what will happen if you don’t say ‘yes’ now. Say ‘yes’ now, before the demons get a hold of you. Before Lucifer destroys half of this planet. Say ‘yes’ to Azrael now, and let her finish this, without bloodshed.”
Standing in front of Cort, Tabitha holds her hands out protectively in front of him, backing up, and forcing him to back with her towards the mouth of the alleyway. Cort had been unconscious when she’d left, but a bit of time seems to have passed since he’s now awake.
Israfil takes a few steps towards her. “It’s useless to run from me,” he tells her. “I’ve found you now, and Azrael tires of waiting. You will come with me, and you will say ‘yes’ to her.”
Mind filled with the image of her future-self, no more than a vacant shell, fills her mind. The memory of herself killing Castiel without even moving is so fresh, she can still hear Castiel’s broken voice assuring her that it was okay, knowing exactly what she was about to do to him.
Tears run down her cheeks as she tells Azrael, “I’ll die before I say ‘yes’ to her. I won’t risk it.”
“It would save him.”
Her eyes widen at his statement, knowing exactly whom Israfil means.
“I won’t risk there ever being a future where I’m the one that does that. Where I kill him,” she vehemently promises.
“We’ll see,” Israfil replies, walking faster towards them.
Cort suddenly yanks her back from the alley, slamming his palm against the brick building facing the sidewalk as Israfil comes around the corner and yells, “No!”
Light fills the sidewalk as the angel disappears.
“Glad to see that really does work,” Cort contemplatively says, staring down at his bloody palm and the bloody sigil he’d drawn on the brick.
“I’m glad now I showed you how to do that,” she whispers. “I didn’t think the angels would find me here, but I’m glad now I took the precaution.”
“Where the hell did you go?” Cort asks her, turning her away from the alleyway to face him. “You were gone nearly fifteen minutes. Like to have scared the tar out of me.”
“Fifteen minutes,” she repeats. “I was gone days,” she tells him, looking away as she uncomfortably shoves her hands into her pockets.
She can feel him look her up and down. “I don’t even know how that’s possible, but you’re not wearing what you were a few minutes ago.” He reaches out to rub his thumb across her cheek, wiping something away. “And you’re spattered in blood. Where were you?”
Her eyes close, not wanting to see Cort when she’d last seen him as a Crote, and guilt filling her heart at the concern in his voice when her own heart is still filled with grief for what had happened to Castiel.
Opening her eyes and forcing herself to meet Cort’s gaze, she rubs the contents of her pockets, feeling the two objects in her hands. In her right hand, a worn and creased Polaroid photo, and in her left, the smooth hard surface of black gold that she rubs between her thumb and forefinger.
Holding his gaze, she lowly tells Cort, “I saw my future ring.” Momma Cecile’s words—at least some of them—finally make sense. It’s time for her to leave—would be even if angels didn’t know where she was.
And as she speaks to Cort, she lets the ring slide onto and off her ring finger in her pocket, its weight in her hand heavier now than it had been before.
Dean feels himself yanked away from Zachariah, he’d been bracing himself for the angel’s attack after he’d told the angel that he wouldn’t say “yes” to Michael, no matter what the Back to the Future trip they’d rigged up had shown him. He’d learned a lesson on that trip, but it wasn’t the one that the angels had wanted him to learn. He’d realized that he needed to keep his family close. He had to protect Sam and Tabitha. He couldn’t let them go out on their own anymore. Couldn’t let…those dick angels have his little brother and sister.
Looking around, he realizes he’s no longer in the motel where Zachariah had brought him back to. Now he’s standing alongside an empty highway somewhere in the countryside.
A chuckle of relief escapes as he turns to see Castiel behind him.
“That’s pretty nice timing, Cas.”
“We had an appointment,” the angel replies.
Remembering the laughing, love-guru, drug-using, hippie-former-angel he’d become in that trip to the future, Dean grabs Castiel’s shoulder, advising him, “Don’t ever change.”
“How did Zachariah find you?” Castiel asks in his thankfully no-nonsense manner.
“Long story. Let’s just stay away from Jehovah’s Witnesses from now on, okay?”
He pulls out his cell phone as he talks, intending to finally call Tabitha back, needing to know if she’d really been pulled into the future with him, and if so, if she’d made it back okay, as well.
“What are you doing?” Castiel asks.
“I need to make sure Tabitha got back okay, too.”
“Tabitha?” Castiel asks in surprise, stepping a little closer.
Dean pauses in dialing, glancing over at the obvious concern on the angel’s face. Suddenly he remembers the way Tabitha had sought out Castiel’s company in the future. He’d thought she’d done it just because she knew him and he was familiar to her. Now though, he remembers the two of them sitting beside each other that night, drinking absinthe together.
She’d been giggling and smiling at the hippie angel, but that hadn’t seemed so strange to him at the time. Girl was almost always a happy drunk. He’d only once seen the mean drunk in her.
But Castiel… He realizes now that the guy had been smiling back at her. Smiling and giving her an almost…tender look when he glanced across the corner of the table at her beside him. Was he…
“What happened to Tabitha?” Castiel urgently asks, his voice low and intense as he stares at Dean.
“Some dude named Israfil hurled her into the future, too,” he explains, looking the angel up and down as he wonders to himself.
“You don’t…like…dig my sister or something, do you?” he hesitantly asks, thinking to himself that that would be strange and awkward.
“What would I dig her out of?” the angel replies, his face drawn in confusion.
Dean relaxes as the momentary suspicion bleeds away. Of course nothing was going on. “Nothing,” he laughs. “Never mind, Cas.”
He finishes dialing the number to Tabitha’s cell, waiting for her to answer.
“Finally,” she sighs in exasperation. “Was beginning to wonder if your phone skills didn’t work anymore.”
“You…okay?” he hesitantly asks, unsure if she really had gone to the future with him, or if that had been some trick of Zachariah’s, too.
She sighs again. “Yeah, I’m okay,” she softly explains. “Israfil brought me back, too. And luckily, Cort had drawn an angel banishing sigil to get rid of him by the time we reappeared. I’m just packing up now to get out of here.”
He can hear Cort’s voice arguing with her in the background, but he clenches his jaw at the sound of the other man’s voice and asks her instead, “Where are you going?”
“I…I guess I don’t know yet.” It’s her turn for her voice to turn hesitant.
“We need to stick together,” he rushes to tell her, driven by the need to have both of his little siblings back in his sight where he can protect them. For however long he can. “I’m sorry for everything from before. But we need to stick together. All of us, Tab. You, me, and Sammy, too. I’ll call Sam and figure out a place to meet that’s pretty central for all three of us.”
He doesn’t ask where she is, he’d already known about her being in New Orleans with Cort, but he pushes the initial anger away at knowing she’s there with him. It doesn’t matter anymore that she defied him and had gone to the hunter…even though he still didn’t trust the guy…he just wants his little sister back at his side. Where he can protect her, and she can help him watch out for Sammy. Like they did in the old days.
“Tabby?” he asks when she’s silent for too long.
“I’m…here,” she whispers almost haltingly. “Does that mean you forgive me? For everything? Can we go back to the way things were before…before everything. Before I left…before when you and I were a team?”
He closes his eyes as he remembers their confrontation in future-bizarro-world at Bobby’s place. Until that argument, he hadn’t realized himself how angry and hurt he’d been with her leaving him and taking off to live her own life while he’d stayed and been the dutiful son alone. And he realizes how much he’d missed her, even in the nearly year that she’d been back with them hunting again. He’d still missed her. Missed the team they’d once been. Hell, he missed the team he and Sammy had once been.
He’s missed both his little brother and his little sister. He’d missed them for a long, long time, too.
“Are you there, Dean?” she asks into the silence.
“Yeah,” he says, clearing his throat. “Yeah, I want that, too. I want us to be the team we were before. We need to stick together if we’re gonna protect Sammy from what’s coming.”
He hears her let out a soft exhale. “Yeah, from Lucifer himself,” she agrees. Softly, she assures him, “Dean, I’ll do whatever it takes to protect you and Sammy. Anything. I promise you that.”
With a faint smile, he tells her, “I’ll let you know where Sammy and I decide to meet.”
Ending the call, he dials Sam’s number, telling the curious angel as he looks on, “Now, I’m gonna do something else I should have done a long time ago.”
“Tabitha is okay?” Castiel softly inquires, his eyes still staring at the phone in Dean’s hand.
Dean frowns at the question, briefly wondering again what the reasons are for the angel’s obvious concern about his sister. They couldn’t have…gotten together? he wonders to himself.
“Naw,” he softly consoles himself, remembering the way the angel had freaked out when he’d tried to get him laid not that long ago. True, the angel had become a voracious love-guru in the future, but that had probably taken all of those five years for him to work up to from nerdy virgin angel.
And he realizes that if Castiel had been asking about Sam in the same situation, he wouldn’t have batted an eye at the angel’s concern.
To himself, he thinks, Probably still just wound up about her making time with that damn asshole in New Orleans even after I told her to stay away from him and other hunters. Yeah, that’s probably it, he convinces himself.
Tabitha can see Dean and Sam standing beside their cars as she drives up the side road under the bridge Dean had chosen. Driving the motorcycle between the two cars, she pulls her helmet off, glancing back and forth between the two of them in the ensuing silence.
“Sam just got here, too,” Dean assures her, barely glancing down at the motorcycle she’s straddling.
Sam steps away from where he’d been leaning against his car, taking in her motorcycle, leather jacket, and black helmet. “Nice look,” he says with a wan smile.
“Thanks,” she softly says, looking down at the motorcycle Cort had insisted she take, even knowing she’d likely have to leave it behind.
Looking between her two brothers, she recalls Future-Castiel’s desperate pleas with her to return to her time period and then disappear. At the time, she had made a vague promise to do whatever she needed to, but even after seeing what that future had in store, she had still chosen to return to her brothers. No matter what might be the smart choice, she can’t run now. She won’t. She can’t leave her brothers. Not again.
And after all, she is a Winchester. They don’t always make the smart choice. She’s no different.
Her brothers move closer to her between the two cars as she steps off the bike, cementing her choice. No matter what the future field trip had shown, she’s won’t believe it. The only possible future she’ll believe in is the one they make together.
“Sam, Tab,” Dean greets.
They each nod in return.
In the tense silence, Dean pulls out Ruby’s knife, considering it for a moment before holding the blade out towards Sam, handle first, telling him, “If you’re serious and you want back in…you should hang on to this. I’m sure you’re rusty.”
He glances at Tabitha. “You said you were still hunting in New Orleans?”
She nods, giving him a lopsided smile as she pulls out her Glock 22 from the shoulder holster she’d worn inside her jacket. “Don’t worry,” she assures him. “I didn’t get rusty over the past three months on my own.”
Dean frowns a little at the reminder of how long they’ve been apart, apologetically telling them, “Look, guys, I’m sorry. I don’t know. I’m…whatever I need to be. But I was, uh…wrong.”
“I was, too, Dean,” Tabitha tells him, lowering her eyes. “We need each other. You know that.” Dean meets her eyes and nods at their shared understanding of why they have to stick together.
“What made you guys change your minds?” Sam tentatively asks.
After sharing another look with Tabitha, Dean says, “Long story. The point is…we are each other’s Achilles’ heel. Maybe they’ll find a way to use us against each other. I don’t know. I just know we’re all we’ve got. More than that. We keep each other human.”
“Thank you,” Sam tells them. “Really. Thank you. I won’t let you guys down.”
“Oh, I know it,” Dean replies. “Neither of you will. I mean, you guys are the second and third-best hunters on the planet.” Smirking in familiar Dean fashion, he adds, “I’ll let you guys figure out which is which.”
Sam smiles and asks, “So, what do we do now?”
“We make our own future,” Dean answers.
“Together,” Tabitha tacks on. “And damn anyone else trying to stop us.”
Nodding, Sam replies, “Guess we have no choice.”
“We’ll stick together,” Tabitha agrees. “Until the end. Whatever that may be.”
A/N: Thanks so much for all the wonderful reviews! You guys amaze and humble me. 🙂
Also, please let me know what your thoughts are on the change to present-tense writing style.
Thanks! And feed the writer with your thought! I get hungry. 🙂