A/N: So far, general consensus was that you guys either liked the present-tense writing, or at least didn’t have a strong opinion one way or the other. So I guess I’m going to stick with it for now. I still have to remind myself from time to time when I slip, but overall, it’s a nice change of pace to write in present-tense instead of past-tense. So, enjoy!
And my excuses for the delay are in the end-notes. Sorry though for the wait!
Chapter 7: Sweet Child O’ Mine
Tabitha looks up as Dean enters their motel room with a raw ham. It seems a little on the nose, but she supposes there are worse things he could have chosen to test their theory.
However…wacky their current case might be, she is at least glad that the three of them are jelling together better as a team finally. She just hopes never to see a creature imitating Paris Hilton again. Or ever see the real Paris Hilton for that matter. Their first case back together had been…a little rocky…but things seem to be going smoother now.
If one didn’t count the non-kosher experiments they were currently conducting in their room.
The month they’d been back together since…the future field trip had mostly been spent searching for the Colt. But to no avail. Still, Dean has been persistent, refusing to give up looking for it. And Tabitha has to admit, trying to find the Colt seems like a better idea than any of them saying yes to their assigned angel pals.
“Put these on,” Dean tells his little sister and brother, passing out welder’s goggles.
Sam dons his, but Tabitha looks skeptically at hers.
“Do you really think this is necessary?” she asks her brothers, looking dubiously at the chunk of ham on the table.
“This thing electrocuted some guy, Tab, humor me,” Dean answers, pulling a pair of rubber gloves on.
Dean takes out the joke buzzer supposedly responsible for electrocuting a man to death while Sam and Tabitha back up a few steps.
“Hit it, Mr. Wizard,” Sam directs.
Dean lowers the joke buzzer to the ham. At the sound of sizzling meat and the smell of cooking ham, Tabitha jumps back a bit, glaring at Sam when he looks back to laugh at her reaction.
“I’ll be damned,” she says as Dean pulls his hand away from a now fully cooked ham.
“Told you there was something funky going down in this town,” Dean triumphantly crows. He looks back at the ham, smirking. “That’ll do, pig.”
“What the hell?” Sam asks as he comes closer. “That crap isn’t supposed to work.”
“How’s it even possible?” Tabitha asks, creeping a little closer, but carefully staying behind her brothers. “It doesn’t even have batteries.”
“So…so, what?” Sam stammers. “Are—are we looking at cursed objects?”
“Sounds good,” Dean agrees, pulling out his switchblade. “Maybe there’s a powerful witch in town.”
Dean uses his knife to cut a hunk of ham off, stuffing it in his mouth as he continues, “Is there any link between the, uh, the joy buzzer and the itching powder?”
Tabitha shudders as she steps away, warning her brother, “You really shouldn’t eat that. Who knows what that might be doing to you.” She steps over to the table to get her notes, telling her brothers, “The buzzer was made in China, the, uh…powder was made in Mexico.”
“Damn, what’s your problem, girl?” Dean asks, laughing a little as he continues pulling off ham to eat.
“What?” she asks in confusion.
“You haven’t stopped fretting and playing with your hair since we left the morgue and saw that babysitter. What’s your problem?” Dean asks.
Tabitha glances at her hands, startled to realize she has indeed pulled her hair over one shoulder, her hands knotting and twisting it nervously. With a conscious effort, she shoves her loose blonde hair back over her shoulder again.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she insists.
Sam suddenly starts laughing. “That one really freaked you out, huh?” he chuckles, stepping closer to swish his hand teasingly through her hair.
Twisting around, she tells him with a narrowed gaze, “It’s nothing.”
“Naw,” Dean argues, smirking with unrestrained amusement. “Sammy’s right. You been freaking out since the morgue. You didn’t even want to look at the girl. And come on, you’ve seen some gruesome stuff. Are you telling me you’re really freakin’ out about this girl pulling her hair out and trying to scratch out her brains?” He glances at Sam and shakes his head. “Who knew Tabby really could be so girly?”
“Ha, ha,” she mirthlessly intones. “Yes. Tabby really is a girl. I’m sorry if that freaks me out, but it does. Not that you two Neanderthals would understand, but hair is important to a girl, even one like me that is used to having to be a bit butch to be in a man’s world.”
“Is this about me and Sammy giving you a haircut that one time?” Dean asks, failing to hold back his laughter.
“Cut my hair?!” she snaps, poking at Dean’s chest when he bursts into laughter, and then turning to jab Sam in the chest when he joins in their brother’s amusement. “The two of you cut my hair off!” she yells. “All of it! Do you know how long it took to regrow?”
She turns back to Dean pointing threateningly at him as she reminds him, “And you tried to put itching powder in my hair that one Halloween. Remember? And you told me it would make my hair fall out. I had nightmares about that for months, Dean.”
“Yeah, but I never did it. Seriously, you need to get over that stuff, Tabby. That’s ancient history now,” Dean continues to laugh, waving a piece of ham at her. “I still don’t understand what the big deal is.”
“Hair does matter to a girl,” she reproaches a little sullenly, another small shudder shaking her body at the memory of the nightmares she used to have about brushing her hair and having it all fall out in the brush.
Sam holds up one hand, fighting to keep a straight face as he promises, “Look, we swear to keep any and all itching powder or anything else away from you that might damage your hair.”
Finally cracking a smile at his Boy Scout manner, Tabitha turns away, surreptitiously running a hand through her hair again as she tells her brothers, “Well, obviously these two items don’t share a country of origin, so what?”
Sam grabs his own notes, adding, “They were, uh, both bought from the same store.”
“Awesome, let’s go,” Dean responds.
The following day finds Tabitha pacing in front of their motel room, trying to force her mind onto the task at hand. She knows there must be some kind of explanation for all of the things that are happening, strange tooth fairies pulling teeth, kids with ulcers from Pop Rocks and Coke, a man whose face…froze that way.
It all has to add up to something. Some tangible thing causing it all.
Yet, Tabitha finds her mind continuing to wander. Much as it has for the past month since she reunited with her brothers. Every time she knows she should be focused on a case, she instead finds herself thinking back to her trip to the future.
When she closes her eyes to sleep, the Castiel from that future invades her thoughts, warning her. There’s no regret in her heart for not following his pleas and returning to her brothers anyway, but she can’t stop remembering everything else he’d told her. Everything she’d seen.
Her hand finds its way unconsciously to her stomach, protectively cradling it against something that hasn’t even happened. Protecting a child that may never be conceived. But some…emotion has been awakened in her. And she can imagine the…anguish she must have felt. To have conceived a child, lost that child, and then discover that she would never be able to have another.
In her heart, she knows that must be why she said “yes” to Azrael. Despite what she had told Castiel and what he assumed, she knows in her heart, that she said “yes” to the angel in the hopes that the angel would heal her body in return. Perhaps Azrael even offered that to entice her.
That Castiel from the future may have thought she abandoned him, but she knows…knows that no matter what, she was trying to fix herself…fix them.
Until that time, when Castiel had told her that she’d been pregnant and then miscarried, she’d never even realized that she had wanted children. Had never given it much thought. In her mind, she’d always dismissed it as an impossibility. First because of the life her family led, and then because of her FBI career, and then because of being thrown back into hunting.
Now, it’s all she can think about. And it’s such…a perplexing feeling to her to mourn a miscarriage that never actually happened to her. Somehow, there’s a feeling in the pit of her stomach that won’t go away though.
For a month, she’s waited for the strange sense of…mourning to pass. And for a month, she’s continued to feel it.
“How long can I keep mourning something that didn’t actually even happen?” she wonders to herself as she continues to pace. Fingers twitch, longing to light a cigarette, but she continues to push the cravings away.
In New Orleans, Cort had been adamant about her quitting, and despite leaving him on less than cordial terms, she feels compelled to honor his wishes on the matter. Perhaps because she knows she can’t honor anything else he wants from her.
Shoving her hand into the pockets of her slacks, she instead searches for the chocolate vice that has and will always replace her nicotine cravings. She’d shoved a few chocolate pieces into her pocket when she stepped outside to clear her mind, and she’s thankful for the foresight now. Her fingers fish out the foil wrapped chocolate, but also brush against the other two objects she’s been unable to part with.
When she pulls out her closed fist, she turns her palm up to see the scattered chocolate lying atop a creased Polaroid picture and a black gold ring, warmed by the closeness to her skin.
Practicing what self-control she has, she removes one piece of chocolate, placing it in her mouth to slowly suck on, and slips the other two chocolate pieces back into her pocket.
The Polaroid is more creased now than when she’d found it, but that’s not the only change. She’d almost expected it and the ring to disappear when she was returned to her own time period, but strangely, she’d still had them both when she was returned. The ring looked exactly the same. The picture was another story.
The focus of the photo remained, her sitting on Castiel’s lap, taking the photo of them while he smiles at her with such…devotion. And she’s still smiling her slightly-too-big-truly-happy-smile.
But the background is different.
Or at least, blurred. She can’t even say for certain what they’re sitting on anymore or see the room around them. Even their clothes seem…blurry now. But their faces…the expressions. Unchanged.
Does it mean that this…event…will still transpire, only that the place and circumstances are unsure? Or is she making too much of a Back to the Future leap and the photo will actually just slowly disintegrate because she’s removed it from its proper time period?
“I wish I could ask Cas about this, but how do I even begin to tell him about everything I saw?” she asks herself. She hasn’t even seen the angel since her return. Only briefly heard his voice as he spoke to Dean, through of all things, a cellphone.
“What do you wish you could ask Cas about?”
Gasping as she twists to face Sam, her hands fumble, dropping her two precious mementos from the future. The ring falls to the sidewalk with an ominous clap resounding through the air, or perhaps that’s merely Tabitha’s heart beating in dread. She watches almost helplessly as it hits the ground perfectly on its edge, seeming to wobble and roll with a mind of its own straight for her little brother’s giant feet.
Cursing her clumsy hands to herself, she grabs wildly at the Polaroid photo still fluttering to the ground, shoving it into the safety of her pocket even as she watches in mortification as Sam stoops to pick up the ring that has rolled unerringly into the sole of his heavy boot.
When he stands up, his face is frozen almost comically into a look of horror or shock.
Biting her lip, she reminds him, “You might want to stop that; your face might freeze that way.”
His mouth slams shut with a resounding clack, but the shock on his face remains as he looks up at her.
“This is a ring,” he tells her, his unsteady voice speaking the multitude of his utter shock.
“Nice ID skills,” she tells him, trying to grab the ring away. “Wanna try something else?”
Easily holding the ring up in the air out of her reach, Sam demands, “I know what it is, what I mean, is where did you get a ring like this?”
She cringes at the hissed question.
“I found it,” she mumbles, not meeting his face.
“Oh, sure,” he snaps in disbelief. “Because people are always just finding expensive rings with exotic stones just lying around the place.” Waving the ring under her face again, he demands, “What is this, Tab?”
“You’re not an idiot, Sam, so don’t expect me to believe you are and can’t figure out what that is,” she sullenly answers, trying to swipe the ring again as he holds it under her face.
Snatching it back and using his long arms to keep it from her reach, he whispers, “Is this from Cort? Did he ask you to marry him?”
Her head snaps up to stare at her brother in surprise. “What?! No,” she quickly denies, crossing her arms over her chest. “Look, it doesn’t matter. Just…give it back and pretend you never saw it.”
“Not happening, Tab,” he argues. “This is an engagement ring. So who the hell else would have given you an engagement ring that you’d be carrying around? I know you just got back from staying with Cort.” As if a light bulb has gone off, Sam’s entire face seems to brighten with realization. “Did this come from that little future trip the angels sent you and Dean on?”
When she narrows her eyes and refuses to answer, he nearly crows in triumph.
“That’s it!” he excitedly exclaims. “That’s what your mind has been on for the past month since you got back. That’s what keeps distracting you.”
She refuses to say anything, waiting for him to draw the inevitable conclusions.
“Wait,” he finally says, his voice more subdued with the answer he’s struggling to come to. “Why would you have it to bring back to this time? Wouldn’t your future self have kept it?”
“She was kinda busy playing vacant-eyed puppet to the Devil. Guess she had no use for the ring,” she replies, struggling to keep any anger out of her voice.
Apparently she hasn’t succeeded, because Sam deflates and cringes a bit, rolling his shoulders forward as he softly asks, “So why do you have it? Why doesn’t the guy? And who is this guy?”
He’s finally lowered his hand back to his side, allowing her to snatch the ring back, shoving it away from prying eyes into the safety of her pocket as she lowly answers, “He gave it to me, and then he died. So I couldn’t exactly give it back to him before I got yanked back home.”
“Jesus,” Sam mutters, his eyes dropping apologetically to avoid hers. “I’m sorry, Tabby. I didn’t know. Who was he?”
“He died, it doesn’t matter.”
Looking up, Sam tries to assure her, “Well, maybe if we stop Lucifer, none of this will happen. Maybe he’ll be okay.”
Then he’ll still be an angel, her inner voice reminds her. She looks away at the thought, knowing that it’s right. For everything else that’s been swirling in the back of her mind, there has also been a part of her consciousness that has continued to whisper to her, telling her that no matter what a secret part of her hopes, it’s all useless. All just futile dreams. If their future field trip comes true, he dies. If he doesn’t and they succeed in beating the Devil himself…he’s still an angel…and she’s still human.
“Sam, just…leave it alone, okay,” she pleads with her brother. “It’s something that can’t ever be anyway, so just…leave it alone. People like us weren’t meant to have love in our lives. All we do is get people killed.”
Sam draws a pained inhale, and Tabitha realizes that she’s pricked at a sensitive topic for him as well. Shaking her head ruefully, she looks back up.
“I’m sorry, Sam. I didn’t think.”
“No, it’s alright,” he assures her. “I guess you’re right. I won’t bring it up again. I’m sorry, too.”
They stand awkwardly for a moment, but then he gives her an almost shy, vulnerable smile as he tells her, “At least we still have each other.”
She knows he meant it to be a statement of reassurance, but she can see the question in his eyes. The same look of hesitation and fear that he’d look at her with when he was a child and wanted her to read him a story or sing to him after he’d had a nightmare and couldn’t get back to sleep. He would always stare up at her with those same eyes, clutching her hand when she’d finished her story or song, silently begging her to stay with him, so that he wasn’t alone.
And she’d always held his hand for a long time after he’d fallen back asleep, making sure that he didn’t awaken again and find himself alone to face the monsters of his dreams.
Reaching up to his great height, she wraps her arms around her much taller little brother, pulling him down into her embrace as she silently assures him that she’ll still be there for him. No matter what monsters the darkness brings.
And finally, some of the knot in the pit of her stomach unties itself. Somehow knowing that her little brother still needs her, even after so many years, comforts some instinct in her.
When they pull apart, he clears his throat and bumps his shoulder with hers, gruffly telling her, “Well, I guess we should go see what Dean’s up to. And I can fill you both in on what I found.”
They enter the room to find Dean still chowing down on the cooked ham.
“Dude, seriously—still with the ham?” Sam incredulously laughs at their brother.
“We don’t have a fridge,” he tells them with a muffled voice.
“I swear, it’s like living in a frat house,” Tabitha mutters as she passes her brothers. Turning in the doorway to the bathroom, she tells Dean, “Chew, then talk.”
“Well,” Sam interrupts, spreading a map out on the table, “I found something.” He glances up at Tabitha, “Aren’t you gonna stay to hear?”
“I’m going to go splash water on my face and fix my hair. Something tells me we might need to head out soon,” she tells him. “Just…speak up.”
He starts to say something, but gives her a look of understanding when he realizes she wants a few moments alone to pull herself together.
As she closes the bathroom door, she can hear Sam’s voice pick up as he explains, “Here, um, Tooth Fairy attack was here, Pop Rocks and Coke was here, then you’ve got itching powder, face freeze, and joy buzzer—all located within a 2-mile radius.”
“So this is centered around something?” Tabitha calls out so her brothers know she’s listening, even as she spares one last moment to stare at the photo and ring again before shoving them back into the safety of her pocket and turning her attention to her hair.
“Yeah,” Dean agrees. “And inside the circle of weird, fantasy becomes reality.”
“Looks like,” Sam agrees.
“And what’s the A-bomb at its center?” Dean continues.
“Four acres of farmland…and a house.”
Dean lowers his voice, barely perceptible to Tabitha as he whispers, “Our motel isn’t in that circle, by any chance?”
Tabitha exits the bathroom to see Dean holding his palm up for Sam to see, just before he jerks it down out of view again when he notices her.
“Is that hair on your palm?” she demands.
“Oh, d-dude—” Sam stutters.
“What, no,” Dean denies, trying to hide his hand.
Tabitha suddenly doubles over laughing. “Oh, this so makes up for the nightmares I had about my hair falling out. I warned you for years that doing that would make hair grow on your palm, and it actually did!” she exclaims through her tears and laughter.
“That is so messed up,” Sam says, his eyes still closed as he cringes.
Rubbing his hand against his thigh, Dean finally cracks a smile at his sister still doubled over and laughing. “Yeah, I got bored,” he tells them. “That nurse what hot,” he adds, referring to the nurse they’d run into at the hospital when questioning the now toothless man.
Wiping at the tears, Tabitha adds the other threat she’d always warned her brothers with, “You know you can go blind from that, too.”
Her brothers both cringe a bit as Dean turns away. “Give me five minutes. We’ll go check out that house.”
“Yeah,” Sam agrees. When he sees Dean headed for the bathroom, he shouts, “Hey, do not use my razor!”
Still laughing gleefully, Tabitha tells them, “You guys can duke that out, I’m gonna be in the car.”
As they climb the steps to a covered porch and reach the door of the farmhouse, Tabitha sees Dean discreetly check Ruby’s knife tucked into his belt. Following his lead, she taps the butt of her Glock in the shoulder harness under her suit jacket. Not that she’s sure how much either will help since they seem convinced the childlike pranks have to be the trickster she’s only heard and read about.
Sam crouches at the door, pulling out his lock picks. The site causes his sister to roll her eyes at his actions. Huffing she reaches over his shoulder to rap her knuckles against the glass of the front door.
“What?” he questions in annoyance, glancing up at her. “Not like there are any cars here.”
“Never take that—” She rocks back on her heels a bit as the door opens to reveal a boy of about eight or nine. Lowering her voice, she finishes to her brother, “—for granted.”
“Can I help you?” the boy asks them.
“Hi. Uh, what’s your name?” Sam asks, trying to cover for himself as he hides the lock picks and stands.
“Who wants to know?” the boys asks in return.
Tabitha grins at the savvy boy, pulling out her FBI ID and nudging for her brothers to do the same.
Holding the badge low for the boy to see, she tells him, “I’m Supervisory Special Agent Julia Wells, and these are special agents Page and Plant.” She grins over her shoulder at her brothers when they frown at her self-proclaimed title, knowing they can’t argue with her in front of the boy. But she figures she deserves to be the higher ranking fake Fed since she’s the only one with real Fed experience.
“Let me see that,” the boy tells her, taking her badge.
“Good for you,” she compliments. “It’s always best to check a badge thoroughly.” She can hear Dean cough warningly behind her, but she isn’t worried about her own badge appearing forged even to another Federal agent, let alone a young boy. As she’s warned them several times with their own IDs, she knows everything to look for in a forgery.
“So what do you want?” the boy asks as he hands her ID back to her.
“Are your parents home?” Dean asks with a tone of exasperation.
“They work,” the boy tells them, holding his ground in the doorway.
“Well, you mind if we ask you a few questions, maybe take a look around the house?” Sam asks next.
“I don’t know,” the boy replies, slightly uneasy.
Tabitha carefully squats down, smoothing her dress skirt over her knees as she meets the boy’s eyes, trying to get to his level so there aren’t three adults staring down intimidatingly at him.
“You don’t have to let us in if you don’t feel comfortable,” she assures him, ignoring the annoyed huffs of her brothers. “We can wait out in our car until your parents get back if you prefer. Or…we could wait inside with you. I bet it gets awful lonely here by yourself. I could even help you with your homework if you have any. My little brother used to ask me to help him with his all the time.”
Not exactly all true, she thinks to herself. I did occasionally help Sammy with homework, but it wasn’t that often that he ever asked me to help him, smart little turd that he was.
The boy seems to waver, teetering on his decision.
“If you want to ask me anything about being an FBI agent, I’ll do my best to answer, and then you can tell your class about it,” she entices him. “Your teacher might even let you talk about it in show and tell.”
She can see the totter tilt in her favor, though he maintains an extremely admirable poker face, shrugging as he steps back and opens the door. “Yeah, I guess,” he nonchalantly tells them, leading the way into the house.
Throwing a smirk at her doubting-Thomas brothers, Tabitha follows the boy through the house and into the kitchen/dining room that hasn’t seen an update since the farmhouse was originally built in the 50s.
“What’s that?” Sam asks as the boy goes to the stove and shuts off the gas burner.
“It’s called soup,” the boy almost snarkily answers. “You heat it up, and you eat it.”
Chuckling, Sam replies, “Right. I-I know. It’s just, um…I used to make my own dinner, too, when I was a kid.”
“We all did,” Tabitha replies under her breath, moving to take one of the seats at table across from the boy.
“Well, I’m not a kid,” the boy tells Sam.
“Right. No, I-I know,” Sam continues to stutter.
“Have a seat and ignore him,” Tabitha advises Jesse. “Of course you’re not a kid. Kids can’t take care of themselves or look after themselves.”
Child psychology hadn’t been an area of expertise for Tabitha in college, she’d focused on criminology, some forensic coursework, as well as some basic psychology, but when she’d finally been promoted in the FBI to her Violent Crimes team, she’d had to take a crash course in victim and child psychology. That had been her intended roll on the team. A woman was a requirement on the teams, and the unwritten job description of the woman on each team was to be the liaison between the team and victims and/or children. Cold facts were that it was simply easier for victims—sometimes even male victims—and children to open up and talk to a woman than to a man.
The team Tabitha had joined had gone through several women before she joined that hadn’t been able to handle the “violent” part of what their team dealt with. And while Tabitha hadn’t had much experience outside her brothers with handling children, she’d learned quickly how to get them to trust and open up.
“Yeah,” the boy agrees, pouring the soup from the pan into his bowl. “And I can take care of myself.”
“So what’s your name?” Tabitha asks as the boy sits across from her.
“Jesse,” he nods.
“It’s nice to meet you,” she greets. “You can call me Julia.”
Dean suddenly walks over to the table with a piece of paper from the fridge. “Did you draw this?” he asks, holding out the picture.
“It’s the Tooth Fairy,” the boy explains.
“That’s what you think the Tooth Fairy look like, huh?” Dean asks, glancing at the drawing before showing it to Tabitha and Sam.
Understanding dawns as she sees the crayon drawing of a man in a tutu, a wand in his hand, exactly as the now toothless man had described of his attacker.
“Yeah, my dad told me about him.”
“Huh,” Dean grunts.
“What, didn’t your dad tell you about the Tooth Fairy?”
“My dad?” Dean asks as Tabitha covers her mouth to hide a grin. Imaginary fairies leaving money behind for teeth wasn’t exactly their father’s idea of a story. More like stories about the shtriga that suck on children’s life-forces that she and Dean were told to protect Sammy from.
“My dad told me different stories,” Dean finishes with.
With a serious expression, the boy replies, “Well, the Tooth Fairy isn’t a story.”
Tabitha glances uncomfortably up at her brothers, knowing that somehow, these things have to be connected to the boy and him believing in them, but almost hating to shatter his boyhood beliefs. She and her brothers never got to have those childhood fantasies, and she hates to think about taking that away from this boy.
Dean gives her a hard look seeming to guess her thoughts, and then continues to question the boy, “What do you know about itching powder, Jesse?”
“That stuff will make you scratch your brains out,” he replies with absoluteness.
“Pop Rocks and Coke?”
“You mix them, and you’ll end up in the hospital. Everyone knows that.”
Dean pulls the joy buzzer out of his pocket, holding it up for the boy to see.
“You shouldn’t have that,” he immediately replies, eyes widening.
“It can electrocute you.”
“Actually, it can’t,” Dean argues.
The boy looks suspiciously at Tabitha for confirmation.
She shakes her head, jumping to support where Dean is going, even if she hates the thought of him losing some childhood innocence. “Nope. It can’t. It’s just a wind-up toy that makes noise to startle people. It can’t actually hurt you.”
“So it can’t shock you?” the boy asks, glancing between Tabitha and Dean.
“Nope. Not at all,” Dean agrees. “I swear.”
“Oh. Okay,” the boy quietly answers.
Dean continues, looking down at the toy in his hand. “I mean, all it does is just shake in your hand. It’s kind of lame. See?” Dean quickly moves to press the toy against Sam’s chest, and even Tabitha jumps worriedly in her seat, slumping back down in relief when all Sam does is jump and then glare at their brother in annoyance.
“What did you say your name was, again?” Dean asks the boy.
“You really think the boy doesn’t know what he’s doing?” Dean asks from his place reclined on one of the beds.
“I don’t see how he could,” Tabitha replies, glancing up from her laptop at the table. She uncrosses her legs, recrossing them as she turns back to her work. Lowering her voice, she admits, “There wasn’t any deception in the kid’s eyes. He just seems like a sweet…lonely kid.”
“Don’t tell me you’re gettin’ all momma bear on this kid, Tab. He’s not yours,” Dean warns her, shuffling some paperwork in his lap.
“I know that,” she frowns, snatching her hand from her abdomen when she realizes that her hand was absently rubbing it. “But you have to admit you felt for that kid, too. He seems like a good kid. We just have to figure out what’s going on, and hopefully fix it without tearing that kid’s childhood apart.”
Dean sets the papers in his hands down, looking across the way at his sister. “Did you really believe me when we were kids and I told you that itching powder would make your hair fall out?”
“Yeah,” she responds. Looking up with a raised brow as she asks, “Why?”
Clearing his throat, he admits, “I did, too. Ahem, you know, believe you about the…hairy palms thing.” He breaks into a grin when his sister begins snickering at him. “Yeah, yeah. I’m just sayin’, you know, we did believe in some silly childhood crap like that. Our childhoods weren’t totally messed up.”
Giving her brother a pointed look, she challenges, “Can you remember much of anything else about our childhood that was ‘normal,’ Dean? Because I can’t.”
“I guess not,” he shrugs. “Still. We had each other. The three of us stuck together. It wasn’t all bad.”
“I know,” she softly agrees. “We did have each other. But I’d still like to see this kid have a more normal childhood than we did.”
Dean picks up the paperwork in his lap again, looking down at it even as he gives one last parting statement. “You can’t save and fix everyone, Tabby.”
Turning away, her mind recalls the sights from their future trip, the people she’d seen killed, and the fates of herself and her brothers.
Under her breath, she answers, “It doesn’t mean I’m gonna stop trying.”
Sam finally returns to the motel, speaking as he closes the door. “So, dug up what I could on Jesse Turner. It’s not much. Uh, ‘B’ student, won last year’s Pinewood Derby. But get this. Jesse was adopted. His birth records are sealed.”
“So you unsealed them, and…?” Dean asks.
“There’s no father listed,” Sam explains. “But Jesse’s biological mom is named Julia Wright. She lives in Elk Creek, on the other side of the state.”
“Great,” Tabitha sighs, closing her laptop. “That’s like an eight…nine hour trip.”
“Let’s get on it,” Dean sighs.
Sam glances back and forth between his siblings. “You guys find anything yet that could explain how the kid is doing all this?”
Tabitha grabs a few of her books and things that she wants to bring with as she tells him, “Nope. Not me anyway. Nothing seems to fit. I can’t find anything that could explain why things that the kid thinks are true, actually become true. It’s almost god-like powers, but he’s just a kid.”
“I got bupkis,” Dean agrees, grabbing his suit coat as they head for the door. “I say we find this kid’s mom and see if any other puzzle pieces fall into place.”
“Read that passage to me again, Tab. The one you said you had translated in New Orleans,” Sam tells his sister, turning around in the front seat to look at her in the dim light of her flashlight in the backseat. “It’s a long drive, we might as well work on that, and we haven’t had time to talk about it much yet with looking for the Colt and all.”
Glancing up from the book in her lap, she shrugs. “Sure, just give me a sec.”
She digs through the bag at her feet, looking for the loose paper that has the English translation scrawled on it in Momma Cecile’s hand as she tells her brother, “I’m not sure what else we’re gonna come up with though. Cort and I spent hours already trying to figure it out.”
They hadn’t had much time to devote to researching Nehara’s passage, having spent a majority of the time looking instead for the Colt. They hadn’t even spent much time talking about what she and Dean had seen in their future trip. Sam had pressed for answers, but neither Dean nor Tabitha were willing to spill much. Tabitha hadn’t even told her older brother yet that she’d seen herself…or rather the puppet of herself and Azrael that Lucifer was pulling the strings to.
By unspoken agreement, they’d both decided not to speak much about the creepy trip.
And Tabitha knew that Dean had enough worries on his mind with watching over Sam. She figures there’s no sense in telling him about the creepy puppet of herself and Azrael when she has absolutely no intentions in Heaven or Hell of ever saying “yes” to the angel for any reason.
“Humor me,” Sam replies, gesturing for her to continue. “We’ve got a long drive yet tonight.”
Finding the folded piece of paper, she opens it and reads, “‘As the bitter struggle surges evermore, Graceful Beauty shall be the final and everlasting undoing. For He so said that the End Times shall be abolished not by squabbling and hate, but for love for the Serpent and love for the Sword. And so the Roe Deer shall obliterate the Kingdom and the Otherworlds, and silence shall ever reign.'”
“Touching,” Dean tritely replies from the driver’s seat. “What’s it mean?”
“I don’t know,” she tiredly huffs. She’s not even sure why she pulled the paper out. She’s stared at that translated passage long enough now, that she knows it by heart. “All I know is that I was told it was my prophecy and warned not to let it happen. And something about the ability to end it all lies in my hands or something, but that you guys were the ones that could stop it all or something.” She makes a frustrated motion with her hands, trying to remember what else Momma Cecile had told her. “But then, she also said something about me also having the ability to help you guys, and therefore save us all, too. So I don’t get it. Either I can end ‘it’ all—whatever, ‘it’ is—or I can help you guys. I just don’t get it.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t sound ominous at all,” Dean mutters under his breath.
“Let me see that,” Sam says, reaching for the paper.
“Knock yourself out,” she answers, gladly handing it over.
He stares at it for a few moments. Then clears his throat and points out, “Well, uh, traditionally, in the bible, Lucifer is often referred to as the Serpent.”
“Could Michael be the ‘sword’ that thing is talking about?” Dean asks, glancing away from the road.
“Probably,” Sam agrees. “So this is talking about something that loves them both, right?”
Tabitha lets out a derisive snort. “Yeah, a roe deer from what that passage says. So let’s go find us one.”
Dean chuckles as well.
“Wait,” Sam argues, turning in his seat more to face her. “I think you’re on to something there.”
Rubbing her forehead, Tabitha sighs, “I wasn’t serious, Sammy. I really doubt finding a deer is the answer we’re looking for to our Lucifer problem. Doubt Bambi’s gonna make him see the error of his ways. He’d probably kill Bambi right along with Bambi’s mother.”
“No, don’t you see?” he argues, his voice taking on that excited tone of his when he realizes something the others don’t. “It’s like Lucifer and Michael. The passage doesn’t say them specifically, but calls them the Sword and Serpent. That’s not so big a stretch from the bible, but what if it’s the same for this deer?” He holds the paper up for her to see, pointing to it. “See, ‘Roe Deer’ is capitalized just like ‘Serpent’ and ‘Sword’ are.”
“Yeah, and the crazy old lady that wrote it was like a hundred and fifty, Sam. It might not be that significant,” she points out.
“But I think it is, Tab. You mentioned that an angel had told you in your dreams that you were her vessel. What was her name? Does she have anything to do with deer?”
“Azrael,” she softly supplies.
“Wonderful,” Dean huffs. Under his breath, he adds, “Sounds too damn much like Azazel.”
“Azrael,” she stresses. “Angel, not demon.”
“Have you found out anything about her?” Sam presses.
Tabitha glances down at the still open book in her lap that she’d been reading. “Yeah,” she whispers. “But there’s nothing about deer that have anything to do with her.”
Hands drumming on the steering wheel, Dean exasperatedly asks, “Well, what’s her story then?”
Reluctantly, Tabitha answers, “She’s the archangel of death.”
The car swerves a little as Dean jerks to sit up straighter. “What?!” he demands. “She’s freakin’ Death?!”
“No,” she quickly corrects as both of her brothers stare at her. “From everything I can tell, she’s not…Death. Death is like the head Reaper or something. One of the horsemen. But Azrael has some kind of…affiliation to him and his reapers. Or something. There’s a few different stories in Lore about Azrael, and they all differ a bit. Most of them even say Azrael is a guy, but she clearly referred to herself as the middle sister to Michael and Lucifer.”
“Go on,” Dean impatiently demands.
Picking up the book she’d been reading she points to one of the pictures, “The common thread seems to be that Azrael’s dominion is death. She doesn’t deal it out or anything, but most of the stories say she’s there for it, recording constantly when we’re born and when we die, and ensuring that souls are ushered to Heaven or Hell as they deserve.”
“She’s an angel but she plays go-between for Heaven and Hell?” Sam asks, leaning over the back of his seat to look at her book.
Handing the book to Sam, she explains, “Everything I’ve read is pretty scant on details about her. But from what I gather, everyone kinda leaves her alone. Pretty much like they do Reapers. I mean, she’s an angel, but neither angels nor demons interfere with her. She’s an archangel, so she’s not exactly powerless herself.”
“But I thought you said that lackey of Zach’s said they were trying to gank you,” Dean points out. “So they’re not leaving her vessel alone.”
“True,” she agrees. “So I guess they leave her alone up to a certain point. At least some of the angels don’t want her in her vessel now.”
“Wonder why,” Dean mutters.
“I don’t know,” she shrugs. “She keeps saying that she loves them both and she can stop it all without bloodshed, but I don’t trust any of them. They never give the whole story.”
“You can see reapers, too.”
Tabitha jerks slightly at Sam’s whispered statement. “Yeah,” she softly draws out.
“Makes some sense then if you really are her vessel,” Dean agrees. “I mean, if she deals with them.”
“I guess it does,” she concedes.
“I think you’re the deer,” Sam suddenly says from his seat.
Tabitha stares at him in shock. “Say what? What about me says ‘deer?'” she demands.
He quickly backtracks, stammering as he tries to explain. “No, uh, just…think about it. What’s the translation of your name?”
She stares at him for a moment before telling him what she remembers their father saying. “Dad always told me that mom named me Tabitha because it meant beautiful.”
Sam shakes his head. “That’s one of the meanings. Tabitha translates from ancient Aramaic as ‘gazelle,’ which symbolized both grace and beauty. Roe deer was at one time an ancient term for gazelles.”
Her jaw drops as she runs the passage through her head again. “Dammit,” she mutters, shocked that she hadn’t seen it before. “It was damn near slapping me in the face.”
“What?” Dean demands.
Sam turns to Dean, rereading the passage again, stressing the important parts. “‘As the bitter struggle surges evermore, Graceful Beauty shall be the final and everlasting undoing. For He so said that the End Times shall be abolished not by squabbling and hate, but for love for the Serpent and love for the Sword. And so the Roe Deer shall obliterate the Kingdom and the Otherworlds, and silence shall ever reign.'”
“That damn thing is really about me?” Tabitha whispers in disbelief.
Nodding, Sam gently agrees, “Yeah. I think it’s about you and Azrael. Especially if she’s their sister. You said she loves them both. Both the Sword and the Serpent.”
“So maybe this is a good thing,” Dean tentatively wonders. “If she can stop it all without bloodshed, how’s that bad? It said something about her stopping the End Times or something, right?”
Frowning, she remembers something else Cort had pointed out in New Orleans. “Yeah, but after we got that translation, Cort said he thought the last part was talking about the End of everything. Earth, Heaven, Hell…all of it.”
Staring at the page and rubbing his chin, Sam finally agrees. “I think he was right. The Kingdom generally refers to the Earthly plane, but the Otherworlds I think means Heaven and Hell.”
“I don’t get it,” Dean returns in confusion. “Can this chick stop the Apocalypse or what?”
Tabitha had been staring down at her hands, but looks up to meet her brothers’ gazes. “I think she can, I’m just not sure at what cost.”
“You okay?” Sam asks Tabitha as they approach the address they’d found for Julia Wright. “You’ve been quiet.”
“Yeah,” she assures him, straightening her suit jacket as they walk closer. “I’ve just been thinking, I guess.”
Dean pauses to look back at her. “We’re not even sure we’re right on any of that, Tab. Let’s not worry about it until we talk it over with Bobby.” He starts forward and then swings back around again. “Or Cas. We could ask him about it, too. He’d probably know.”
She shakes her head. “I already asked…well, future him about it, and he refused to say much about her. Other than to stay away from her.”
Shrugging in response, Dean readily agrees. “Well, that’s what hippie-him said, maybe he’ll say more now. Either way, seems like it might be good advice.”
“I have no intention of saying ‘yes’ to her,” she snaps.
“Let’s focus on this,” Sam reminds them, trying to break things up.
She gives a tight nod. “Fine.”
The farmhouse they are approaching has seen better days. Even a fresh coat of paint would do wonders for it, Tabitha thinks to herself. But the many “No Trespassers” signs doesn’t give it an air of friendliness either.
As Dean rings the doorbell, Tabitha notes the double deadbolts in the door, making her think that the woman is either overly paranoid, or incredibly unfriendly.
“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested,” the tentative voice of a woman calls out through the bolted door.
“We’re not salesmen,” Dean assures her.
“We’re with the FBI ma’am,” Tabitha calls out. “Agents Wells, Page, and Plant.”
The three siblings pull their badges out and hold them up to the peephole in the door.
“Put your badge in the slot,” the woman tells them. “Your partners’, too.”
Tabitha glances at her brothers, but shrugs her indifference. Having actually been a Fed, she had advised many women living alone to be cautious about strangers waving badges, but it wasn’t often that she actually ran into people that used commonsense caution like that.
Gathering their badges, Dean stoops to shove all three through the mail slot, and then they wait impatiently for the woman to look them over.
In less time than it should have taken for the woman to thoroughly check the badges over, they hear the locks disengage as a blonde woman in her late thirties opens the door, handing their badges back.
“What do you want?”
“Um…we just had a few questions…about your son,” Sam quietly tells her.
Tabitha notes the nervous manner in which the woman seems to hold herself together, her arms wrapping tighter around her midsection as she wraps and rewraps her sweater around her body as if it were armor.
“I don’t have a son,” the woman denies, but even someone not trained at spotting lies would hear the nervous pitch in her voice.
“He was born March 29, 1998, in Omaha,” Sam continues. “You put him up for adoption?”
She looks down, and then reluctantly looks up as she questions, “What about him?”
“We were just wondering—um, was it a…was it a normal pregnancy?”
Dean impatiently jumps in to press, “Was there anything strange?”
The woman suddenly jumps away from the door, slamming it shut as she screams, “Stay away!”
The boys react quickly, Dean stepping forward to push the door back open before she can close it completely, shoving their way into the house after the woman.
“Mrs. Wright, wait!” he shouts, all while shoving Tabitha backwards onto the porch as he and Sam pursue on the woman’s heels.
“God save me from meathead brothers,” she mutters to herself, sprinting through the house in another direction. Instead of following their path after the woman, Tabitha cuts through the old farmhouse in the other direction, around the center placed staircase and through a laundry room.
As she pushes into a kitchen from the other side, she sees Julia grabbing for some unseen weapon on the countertop.
To immobilize the woman, Tabitha wrenches her arms behind her, locking her own arms through the frantic woman’s elbows to grip her tightly. A chokehold would have been more secure, but a proper one really needs a height advantage, so Tabitha settles for a looser grip.
“Now just settle down and breathe a minute. We just have a few questions,” Tabitha orders the woman, adjusting her hold to slide one arm through both of Julia’s elbows to hold her, maneuvering a bit around her so she can secure whatever weapon is on the counter.
She can hear her brothers panting behind her, no doubt slowed by whatever obstacles Julia had managed to overturn in their path.
“Huh,” Tabitha huffs as she looks at the counter, not spotting any weapons.
Carefully, she releases one of the still struggling hands of Julia, watching as she grabs for a container of salt.
Snatching it first, Tabitha looks inside. And finds salt.
Now free, Julia backs fearfully away into the corner of the kitchen, both of her exits currently blocked.
“This is what you were grabbing for?”
When Julia nods apprehensively, Tabitha turns to her brothers and casts an arc of grainy salt at them, the salt pelting them in the chest.
“What the hell, Tab?” Dean challenges, giving her an unimpressed look.
“You’re not demons,” Julia exclaims in a strangely happy surprise.
Looking down, Tabitha sees a little salt left in the canister, and arcs another sheet of salt at her brothers’ faces to dispel the remainder from the container.
“Nope,” she confirms. “Except when you try to separate him from his beer.”
Brushing away the salt, Dean ignores Tabitha and asks Julia, “How do you know about demons?”
Shaking herself a little, Julia tells them, “Maybe we should sit down.”
As they finally sit down in Julia’s dining room with cups of coffee, Julia haltingly begins her story.
“I was possessed,” she launches in. “A demon took control of my body, and I hurt people. I killed people.”
Tabitha had sat down next to the woman, across the corner of the table from her, so she kindly reaches out to pat Julia’s arm, gently assuring her, “That wasn’t you. It was the demon.”
“But I was there,” Julia argues, casting a shamefaced expression downwards. “I heard a woman beg for mercy. I…felt a young girl’s blood drip down my hands.”
“That’s how you knew about the salt,” Dean realizes from across the table.
Still looking down, she nods, staring at the lace pattern of the tablecloth. “Yeah, I picked up tricks. It was in my head for months.”
“How many months?” Dean pushes, leaning forward.
“So your son…” Sam trails off.
“Yeah—the whole time,” she grimly informs them. The pregnancy, birth—all of it. I was possessed.”
She takes a deep breath and leans back in her chair, looking up to meet their eyes around the table, but holding her arms tightly around her midsection as though to give herself courage by embracing her own body.
“The night the baby was born, I was alone. And the pain was—the pain was overwhelming. I-I screamed, and it came out a laugh…because the demon was happy. It used my body to give birth to a child. When it was over, something changed. Maybe the—the demon was tired or if the pain helped me fight it, but…somehow, I took control. And the demon wailed inside me. It pounded against my skull. I thought my head was gonna explode. But…I knew. I knew what I had to do.”
As the Winchesters listen with a horrified, but rapt attention, she describes eating a handful of road salt to dispel the demon.
“And when I was alone with the baby…a part of me…part of me wanted to kill it.”
“Him,” Tabitha corrects, her tone sharp and angry as she leans back away from the woman. “Not ‘it’…he was a boy. A baby. Who didn’t ask for any of this. He was your baby.”
“But I didn’t,” Julia jumps to correct. “God help me,” she continues in a strained voice. “I couldn’t do that. I…I put it up for adoption instead…and I ran.”
“Him,” Tabitha argues again, staring at the woman in disgust and anger. “Him. You abandoned him. Your own child. He is a great little boy, too. Smart, independent…savvy…not that he got any of that from you.”
Dean suddenly lunges to his feet on Tabitha’s other side, hauling her up by her arm as he spins her to face him.
“That’s enough, Tabitha,” he snaps, pushing her away from the room and towards the front door. “You need to step outside and get your shit together. We’ll finish up in here ourselves.”
For a moment, Tabitha considers arguing, but she can see by the glare in his eye that he’s serious, so she spins on her heel, stomping heavily outside.
She spends the next several minutes pacing in the woman’s driveway, trying to calm herself down, but every time she thinks about that woman just abandoning that boy…Jesse…she gets angry all over again. Who could abandon their own child when some women would give anything to have a child of their own?
“What the hell was that back there?” Dean demands as he and Sam step away from the dilapidated farmhouse. Her older brother’s strides are quick, revealing his own lingering anger. “Since when do you attack and accuse the victim of shit like that?”
“Of what?” she snaps back, her anger still unchecked, and only growing in the presence of his. “Of abandoning her child? ‘Cause last I checked, that’s exactly what she did! She abandoned her son—who did nothing wrong…other than being born. How does a woman just throw her own child away like it was nothing?”
Stalking forward to close the distance between them, Dean grabs her by the arm and shakes his other hand in her face. “I don’t know what bee crawled up your bonnet, but you need to chill on this, Tab. That woman back there was possessed. And young, too. She freaked out. And we don’t blame the victims when they freak out about something like that.” He releases her when she wrenches her arm away, but he continues staring down at her while he lectures, “Wasn’t it you who has always been all women’s lib, and dudes don’t get to judge women for their choices after traumatic stuff like that because we don’t understand what they’ve been through? Well…you don’t get to now either, Tab. You have no idea what it’s like to go through what she did, so you don’t get to judge her.”
“She talked about killing that boy, Dean,” Tabitha sullenly returns, looking away as the logical side of her argues with her anger, knowing that her brother is right. In the past, she’s always been very firm in the belief of a woman choosing for herself in such matters because no one else can know what she’s going through or what she can handle…only than the woman herself can know. So why does she suddenly feel so strongly about this?
Lowering his voice, Dean more kindly tells her, “I know you liked that kid, Tabby. I did, too. But that doesn’t give you the right to jump all over that woman for making the same choice any scared, freaked-out victim would have made.”
Stepping closer again, Dean looks down at his sister more curiously. “What’s gotten into you on this case? It’s usually you that’s all over me and Sam to be more respectful of the victims and especially choices made when it comes to women’s rights. Why are you all riled up about this? It’s not just about that kid…so what’s really going on?”
Tabitha pulls away, facing towards the car as she tries to explain even to herself the anger that she feels and knows to be unfair and irrational. But she’s not certain she can explain it even to herself, let alone her brothers.
When she looks down, she realizes her right hand has slipped to protectively cover her abdomen again, and for a second, she feels such a strange sensation of grief and loss…for something she never even had.
Jerking her hand away, she fishes into the pocket of her suit jacket for a cigarette, her fingers brushing against the cold surface of gold and stone before she jerks her hand out with the rolled tobacco between her fingers.
Immediately, Dean steps forward to flick the unlit cigarette from her lips, telling her in annoyance, “I thought you were quitting that crap again.”
In response, she jerks her jacket down over her shoulder to reveal the nicotine patch on her upper arm. “I am, but I think I’m just cranky from the cravings.”
Both of her brothers stare at her with matching expressions of disbelief, not seeming to buy the reason for her moodiness.
Dean heads for the driver’s side of the Impala, imperialistically advising her, “Then slap another patch on, because you’re not smoking while I’m around.”
Tabitha follows her brothers to the car, but spares one last look at Julia Wright’s house. Objectively, she knows Dean’s exactly right and that she had no right to snap at the poor woman after what she went through. But her emotions are another matter. Irrational, and unreasonable. And as she stares at the house, she feels a strange sense of…envy…or something close to it.
“You’ve got to get over this,” she chastises herself in a whisper. “You weren’t even pregnant, that was just some crazy story you were told on that future field trip. It didn’t really happen.”
But it’s hard to reason with the deep-seated emotions that have wormed their way into her heart. However irrational.
Tabitha trails her brothers into their motel room, still wiping the sleep from her eyes after catching some Z’s in the back of the Impala while her brothers had driven in silence. No one had wanted to talk about the possibilities of what Jesse was, or why such a young kid was so powerful. And while Sam had called Castiel’s cellphone to ask him for his help, they hadn’t reached him or heard back from the angel.
Although, it might have helped if the angel would set up his answering service on his cellphone so they could leave a voicemail.
At Dean’s request, Tabitha had tried reaching out to the angel as well, but she’d been too tired to do much more than send out a quick message, and had no way to know for sure if he’d received it.
That’s a lie, she chastises herself. You didn’t open the line between the two of you well enough for him to answer because you are too much of a coward to reach out to him. She shoves the annoying inner voice away, annoyed by how often it seems to be infuriatingly correct. Sometimes, she really hates having to listen to herself. Why couldn’t she have been the dumb bimbo blond so many men take her for when they see her hair, her rack, and her face?
Her brothers hesitate as they enter the motel room, and Tabitha peers around their backs to see Castiel standing stoically in the center of the motel room.
The effect of seeing him standing there—the first time she’s even laid eyes on him since she witnessed his death in the future—is almost like the proverbial fist to the stomach. Her breath escapes her lungs in a shuddering rush, and tears blur her vision to see him standing there. Whole…and unharmed. Untouched.
His gaze flicks to hers, pinching in concern as he stares at her.
Realizing that his attention on her is causing her brothers to pause and look back as well, Tabitha immediately schools her facial expressions with the years of practice both hunting and the FBI has given her.
“So,” she says as she clears her throat and steps forward, dropping her bag onto the small, red and white checkerboard cloth-covered table. “It seems you got our message.”
Castiel’s eyes remain on Tabitha although she doesn’t look up to confirm it. As she feels his stare on her, she calmly ignores it, pulling her suit jacket off and untucking her blouse as she pulls out one of the chairs next to the one already claimed by her little brother.
The angel’s voice is deep but expressionless as he tells them, “It’s lucky you found the boy.”
Nearly wincing at the effect his toneless speech has on her, Tabitha feels tears spring to her eyes again, only now realizing just how differently his future counterpart had sounded. How animated. How…alive he’d sounded. Until she’d witnessed herself kill him.
“Yeah,” she grumbles, trying to wipe the imagery of killing Castiel from her mind. “Real lucky.”
Dean walks behind his siblings at the table, fiddling with the key to the room as he asks, “Yeah, what do we do with him?”
Sam had been in the middle of loosening his tie, Dean dropping the key onto the counter, and Tabitha crossing her legs to pull her plain black heel from one foot when they all froze in a shocked tableau at the angel’s words.
“Cas,” Dean quietly begins.
Tabitha lets the shoe fall from her fingers with a resounding thud, the sound ringing as she twists to stare in disbelief up at the angel’s hardened stare.
“You can’t possibly be serious about killing a boy, Cas,” she denies, certain she has to have been hearing things because her mind had been swirling around such unpleasant matters.
“This child is half demon and half human,” he launches by way of explanation, still holding her eyes. “But it’s far more powerful than either.”
Tabitha frowns as she feels her heart constrict, her mind yanking her back to the memory of herself kneeling at future Castiel’s feet, asking him what had happened in that future, and of him telling her that she had been pregnant.
Castiel stalks forward, tearing her mind away from a memory as he ominously continues, “Other cultures call this hybrid Cambion or Katako.” He pauses to encompass her brothers in his stare as he finishes with, “You know him as the Antichrist.”
Her mind reels as his words, and yet…she continues returning to the previous memory. Castiel telling her in a broken voice that she’d been pregnant. And the horror and wonder that now swirls in her mind. If the child of a human and demon was the Antichrist, what would her child have been?
Castiel lowers himself into the chair directly across from the middle Winchester, his eyes focusing on hers as he watches the micro-expression she can feel flit across her face while she avoids his gaze.
Until the silence is broken by an extended farting noise coming from the angel.
Sam and Tabitha both give a startled jump as they turn surprised looks on the angel, watching as he woodenly sits on the chair, eventually shifting to pull a whoopee cushion from the seat.
“That wasn’t me,” he flatly explains as he examines the deflated novelty toy.
“Who put that there?” Dean childishly asks as he leans against the counter behind his younger siblings.
Tabitha scowls and turns to launch into her brother for his immaturity, but stops when she meets his eyes.
For the first time in…perhaps even years, she can see them twinkling with laughter, a naughty smile tugging his lips as he fights unsuccessfully to squash it and appear innocent.
As she stares at him, she struggles to remember the last time she’d really seen that boyish look on his face. Even seen him so carefree as to play his usual childhood pranks.
She hadn’t seen it since she returned to her brothers to hunt…since Dean returned from Hell.
Not once. Not one prank.
It is such a stark difference from the complete asshole he’d become in the future. This…this is more like the old Dean. The one she hasn’t seen since before she and Sam left for college. Perhaps she hasn’t even really seen him herself since before she’d started dating Cort and had unintentionally created the rift that had engulfed their previous relationship.
It was the first time she had seen a glimmer of hope that the two of them might really be okay again. That they might be the team they’d once been. That everything might return to normal one day.
Fighting her own grin, she half-heartedly scolds the eldest Winchester, “Behave.”
Ignoring Dean’s antics, Sam refocuses their attention. “Anyways, I don’t get it. Jesse is the Devil’s son?”
Tabitha’s brief smile deflates at Sam’s reminder that things are far from okay.
With an extended sigh, Castiel explains to Sam, “No, of course not. Your bible gets more wrong than it does right. The Antichrist is not Lucifer’s child. It’s just demon spawn. But it is one of the Devil’s greatest weapons in the war against Heaven.”
Falling back in her chair, Tabitha fights the shiver that races up her spine as she meets Castiel’s cold eyes. She can almost imagine him saying in the same hardened tone, “It’s just angel spawn.”
Dean moves restlessly behind her, asking the angel, “Well, if Jesse’s a demonic howitzer, then what the hell’s he doing in Nebraska?”
“The demons lost him. They can’t find him. But they’re looking.”
“And they lost him because…?” Dean questions.
“Because of the child’s power. It hides him from both angels and demons. For now.”
“So he’s got like, a force field around him. Well, that’s great. Problem solved,” Dean insists.
Castiel leans forward to address Dean. “With Lucifer risen, this child grows strong. Soon, he will do more than just make a few toys come to life—something that will draw the demons to him. The demons will find this child. Lucifer will twist this boy to his purpose. And then, with a word, this child will destroy the host of Heaven.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait,” Dean back-pedals. “You’re saying that—that Jesse’s gonna nuke the angels?”
“We cannot allow that to happen,” Castiel informs them.
Lurching to his feet, Sam points to himself and says, “Wait, we’re the good guys.” He throws a look of disbelief around the room. “We—we don’t just kill children.”
Castiel stands as well, harshly telling Sam, “A year ago, you would have done whatever it took to win this war.”
“Things change,” Sam maintains.
Tabitha snaps out of her stupor, lurching unsteadily to her feet beside her younger brother, wobbling when she realizes she’s still wearing only one heel. Angrily kicking it across the room, she faces off with the angel across the small table, leaning down with her hands against the tacky tablecloth as she harshly advises the angel, “No way in hell are we hurting that little boy. I don’t care what you say; he’s still just a boy, Cas. None of this is his fault. He didn’t ask to be born this way, and we’re not killing him when he’s done nothing wrong. You can’t just kill a child because of what they are…something he didn’t even ask for.”
“It has to die,” he grits out, his face hardening as he leans down to mirror her stance, leaning on his hands and bringing his face level with hers across the table, only a scant foot of space separating them.
“It is a child,” she growls. “You gonna kill every child born that’s not a hundred percent human?”
“If it is an abomination, yes,” he hisses. “You have no comprehension of what this child really is.”
Tabitha suddenly feels hands wrap around her shoulders to pull her back from the infuriating angel. She throws a glance over one shoulder and huffs to see Dean trying to plant himself between her and the angelic asshole.
“Glad to see you two are back to being bitchy twelve year olds again,” he mutters. Clearing his throat, he firmly tells Castiel, “Tab’s right though. We’re not gonna kill him. All right? But we can’t leave Jesse here either, we know that. So…” Dean trails off as he looks at his siblings for help or perhaps inspiration.
“We can take him to Bobby’s,” Tabitha suggests, knowing full well that the hunter had done as much or more to raise the three of them than their own father had.
“Good,” Dean readily agrees. “He’ll know what to do.”
“You’ll kidnap him?” Castiel scoffs in response.
Dean shrugs and looks to his siblings as though he sees no issue with that.
Castiel continues in condescending tones. “What is going on in this town, it’s what happens when this thing is happy. You cannot imagine what it will do if it’s angry. Besides, how will you hold him? With a thought, he could be halfway around the world.”
Tabitha huffs in annoyance and exasperatedly tells him, “Who said anything about ‘holding’ him? We’re not going to hold this boy against his will. He’s a boy, not a goldfish we’re picking up at the store and taking home. We explain to him what’s going on. He’s a smart kid.”
Sam had been brooding and silent since Castiel shut him down, but quickly jumps to Tabitha’s argument, supporting her eagerly. “Yeah, we tell the kid the truth.” He turns to step closer to the angel, insistently telling him, “You say Jesse’s destined to go dark side—fine. But he hasn’t yet. So if we lay it all out for him—what he is, the Apocalypse, everything—he might make the right choice.”
Silence reigns in the room for several tense seconds as they wait to see if Castiel will be swayed.
But the angel’s expression only darkens as he leans toward Sam to growl, “You didn’t. And I can’t take that chance.”
Tabitha can feel the shift of power signaling the angel’s imminent departure, and scrambles around Sam as she tries to grab at the angel to stop him, but Castiel has disappeared before she can grab him to try to stop him.
“Dammit,” she growls in frustration, ripping off the remainder of her suit without bothering to step into the bathroom. Her brothers quickly follow suit, expedience taking precedence to modesty. “We’ve got to get to Jesse’s house now,” she tells her brothers as she hurries to redress, stuffing her bare feet into heavy boots instead of her heels again. Something tells her she’s going to want the ability to run rather than look professionally dressed.
Tabitha follows closely behind her brothers as they kick down the front door to Jesse’s house, rushing inside as they each pray they aren’t too late to save the boy from Castiel.
As they frantically round into the living room, they find a frightened Jesse bracing himself in the corner of the room.
“Was there a guy here?” Dean questions the scared boy. “In a trench coat?”
Jesse slowly gestures towards the floor at his feet in seeming disbelief.
The Winchesters follow his hand gesture and eyes to see what appears to be a toy action figure bearing a striking resemblance to the obstinate angel they’d chased to Jesse’s house.
When the truth of the strange occurrences surrounding Jesse finally sinks into Tabitha’s mind, she stifles a shocked gasp, biting off a strangled moan of the angel’s name.
Dean steps tentatively forward, kneeling as he carefully picks the toy angel up, throwing a baffled look at his shocked younger siblings.
Jesse stays in the corner, looking so lost and scared that it jolts Tabitha from where she stands, urging her forward to wrap an arm around the boy.
“Come on, Jesse,” she whispers in motherly tones, ushering him towards the couch across from the fireplace.
The boy watches with keen eyes as Dean carefully sets Castiel on top of the mantel over the fireplace.
“Was he your friend?” he astutely asks, fear and apprehension darkening his young face until it looks far older than his scant years.
“Him? No,” Dean denies.
The boy frowns, not seeming to believe Dean, but he doesn’t challenge it.
“I did that,” Jesse whispers to them, causing them to glance at the toy on the mantle again. “But how did I do that?”
The Winchesters exchange looks, silently discussing how best to handle the boy’s question.
Before his siblings can speak, Dean turns to the boy with a confident smile, telling Jesse, “You’re a superhero.”
“I am?” Jesse questions as Tabitha jerks around, silently mouthing to her older brother, “What?”
“Yeah,” Dean confirms, stepping closer to stand in front of the boy, surreptitiously kicking his sister in the foot when she opens her mouth to object to his lies.
Dean swaggers and continues to tell the boy, “Yeah. I mean, who else could turn someone into a toy? You’re Superman—minus the cape and the go-go boots.” Dean crouches low in front of the boy as he adds, “See, my—my partners and I, we work for a secret government agency. It’s our job to find kids with special powers.”
“Dean—” Tabitha starts to protest from beside the boy on the couch, thinking to herself that his X-men analogy is too far off base, and too close to flat-out lying to the boy for her comfort. The truth is impossibly hard, but she still thinks the kid is too smart to lie to.
Her admonition is cut off by Dean reaching out to jab his knuckles against her kneecap, making her jerk in her seat from the charley horse.
Taking advantage of her silence, Dean goes on. “In fact, we’re here to take you to a hidden base in South Dakota, where you’ll be trained to fight evil.”
“Like the X-men?” Jesse asks, latching onto the lie Tabitha had wanted to avoid.
“Exactly like the X-men,” Dean animatedly agrees, moving to stand again. “In fact, the, uh, guy we’re taking you to—he’s even in a wheelchair. You’ll be a hero. You’ll save lives. You’ll get the girl. Sounds like fun, right?”
Tabitha moves to stand as well, edging closer to her older brother to hiss, “Enough, Dean. This isn’t the way to do this.”
Before Dean can answer, he is suddenly flung away from her, slamming into the far wall.
Everyone else jerks around to look at the front door when they hear a woman’s voice.
“They’re lying to you.”
Sam moves to stand beside Tabitha as Julia strides into the room.
But as she swipes a hand at him and sends Sam flying into the wall beside Dean, Tabitha realizes that this isn’t the same timid woman they’d spoken to before. Her black eyes reveal that the woman is once more possessed.
“Stay right there, dreamboat,” she orders Sam as Tabitha pulls Jesse protectively behind her back. “Can’t hurt you. Orders.”
Julia sneers at Tabitha’s movement and assures her, “Not supposed to hurt you either, boss man says so.” She swipes her hand at Tabitha, and then gapes open-mouthed when Tabitha isn’t flung to the side as well.
“Huh,” she mutters. “They said you’d be difficult.”
“You’re not touching Jesse, so why don’t you just skip on out of here,” Tabitha snarls.
Julia’s mouth turns up in a slow, sly smile. “Just who are you gonna choose, your little friend there, or your own brothers? ‘Cause hurting the dopey one is actually encouraged.”
She gestures to Dean and then flings him across the room, sending him crashing into the other wall, and then slamming him back into the first wall next to Sam again.
Jesse edges around Tabitha, although he holds tightly to her hand when she pulls him protectively into her side. “Leave him alone,” the boy orders Julia.
“Jesse,” Julia almost reverently breathes, stepping towards the boy, Sam and Dean forgotten for the moment as they remain held immobile against the wall.
“You’re beautiful,” she continues, crouching closer to see the boy.
Yanking the boy further into her side, Tabitha lifts her hand to shove the demon away from her and Jesse.
“Leave him alone,” she hisses again.
Julia glares at Tabitha, ignoring her when she looks back to Jesse to say, “You have your father’s eyes.” But thankfully, she doesn’t approach the boy again.
“Who are you?” Jesse fearfully asks, and then glances up at Tabitha. “Who is she?”
“I’m your mother,” Julia explains, beating Tabitha to the punch.
“No, you’re not.” With a pleading look, Jesse turns to Tabitha. “She’s not, right?”
“I’m so sorry, Jesse,” Tabitha whispers, unwilling to lie to the boy, especially now.
Julia makes a humming noise as she happily grins, telling him, “You’re half human…half one of us.”
Wrapping her arm protectively around Jesse and rubbing her hand up and down his arm, she tells him, “She’s a demon, Jesse. A demon…and she’s dangerous.”
“You can’t trust her!” Dean shouts.
Julia glares at the Winchester boys, lifting her hand to silence them as they twist in unspeaking agony.
“Those people you call your parents—” Julia continues, “—they lied to you, too. You’re not theirs—not really.”
“My mom and dad love me,” Jesse insists.
“Yes they do,” Tabitha agrees, trying to maneuver Jesse behind her once more as she tells the demon, “That’s enough. I’m not letting you have this boy, so why don’t you just smoke on out of that woman.”
As she speaks, Tabitha covertly inches her hand under her leather coat, slowly bringing her gun out of the shoulder holster.
Julia grins when she sees the gun. “What? Gonna shoot me? Fat lot of good it’ll do. Other than killing his mother,” she sneers. And Tabitha holds her aim, knowing that it won’t actually do any good, and also knowing that it’s too dangerous to try exorcising the demon with Jesse standing right behind her.
The demon looks again at where Jesse is peeking around Tabitha, telling him, “Look into your heart, Jesse. You’ve always known you weren’t theirs. You’ve always known you were different. Everyone has lied to you.” Julia looks at the guys and then pointedly at Tabitha as she adds, “They’re not FBI agents. And you’re not a superhero.”
Jesse tugs on Tabitha’s hand, staring up at her as he asks, “What am I?”
“You’re not a superhero, Jesse. But it’s complicated,” Tabitha hedges.
Snorting derisively, Julia corrects, “What you are, is powerful. You can have anything you want. You can do anything you want. That’s not complicated.”
“It’s not that simple,” Tabitha says, dropping to her knees to get to Jesse’s height as she holds his shoulders and stares into his eyes. “You are powerful Jesse, and as corny as it sounds, with great power comes great responsibility. People can and have been seriously hurt by your power. You have to learn how to use it properly so people don’t get hurt.”
“They treated you like a child,” Julia snaps, flinging more power at Dean when he struggles to speak. “Nobody trusted you. Everybody’s lied to you. Her included. Doesn’t that make you angry?”
Jesse yanks away from Tabitha, his fists clenching as he stares angrily up at her, his eyes shining with betrayal.
Fire suddenly flares in the fireplace, the whole house shaking as the lights all flicker with the waves of power rolling off the boy.
“Jesse…” Tabitha warily begins, only to fall backwards onto her ass with the angry wave the rolls off the boy, her gun falling from her grip.
“Don’t touch me. You lied to me, just like everyone else,” he tells her.
“See?” Julia delightedly tells Jesse, looking gleeful to see the boy’s power work so well on Tabitha. “It does make you angry. But I’m telling you the truth, Jesse. Wouldn’t it be better if there were no more lies? Come with me…and you can wash it all clean. Start over. Imagine that—a world without lies.”
Scooting back to her knees, Tabitha faces Jesse once more, heedless of the walls cracking around them and facing Jesse despite his angry stare. “It’s true,” she begins. “We did lie. But so is she. Lies are an unfortunate part of life. But your parents lie to protect you. Because they want you to believe in silly things like the Tooth Fairy instead of the evil things that are really out there. Things like demons. And we lied to you, too, but we just didn’t know how to explain the truth to you without frightening you. We just wanted help you. Keep you safe.”
Julia’s face contorts in anger as she stares at Tabitha, striding forward to physically stop her from speaking. “Shut your mouth, bitch.”
Her arm pulls back to swing at Tabitha, and Tabitha lifts her own arm to block the coming blow from the demon.
“Stop it,” Jesse orders, halting Julia’s punch before it can land. “I want to hear what she has to say.”
“You’re stronger than I thought,” Julia compliments, as she’s forced back a few steps from the still kneeling Tabitha.
“We lied to you,” Tabitha shakily continues. “We did. We’re not the FBI. My name is Tabitha Winchester, and these are my brothers, Sam and Dean. We hunt monsters. We protect innocent people from demons and other things like her. And that’s all I wanted to do, Jesse, protect you from things like her. Because all she wants to do is use you. Use your powers. She really is your mother, but that thing inside her is a demon.”
“Oh, she’s lying to you,” Julia spits. “Don’t listen to anything she says.”
“Sit down and shut up,” Jesse orders, a chair slamming into the backs of Julia’s legs as she falls silently but struggling into the chair.
“I don’t want to use you, Jesse. I promise you that,” Tabitha continues, holding Jesse’s eyes. “And your parents are still your parents, no matter what. They lie because they love you. But they can’t protect you. Not from demons. You have my promise that I’ll do everything I can to protect you though. I’ll do anything to keep you safe. You and your parents. I’ll take you somewhere where the demons’ll never find you. I’ll keep them and anyone else from ever using you. I’ll protect you.”
“I’m just a kid,” Jesse tearfully mumbles.
“I know,” Tabitha agrees, her heart tearing for the kid. “And it’s not fair, but I will give anything to help protect you and let you be a kid for as long as possible. But more demons will come for you. It’s not safe here. You can either go with her, or trust me and come with me. The choice is yours, Jesse. We can’t make you do anything you don’t want to.”
“Am I really half demon, like her?” Jesse asks.
“Yes,” Sam says, stepping away from the wall to stand behind Tabitha. “But you’re half human, too. You can do the right thing. You can either help them kill millions of people, or save them. You’ve got choices, Jesse. But if you make the wrong ones, it’ll haunt you for the rest of your life.”
Tabitha feels her younger brother stop behind her, his hand resting on her shoulder supportively. She reaches up to grasp his hand as they wait for Jesse.
“Why are you telling me this?!” Jesse shouts, his voice breaking.
“Because I have to believe someone can make the right choice, even if I can’t,” Sam tells him.
Tabitha squeezes her brother’s hand in sympathy, telling Jesse, “You wanted the truth. And the truth is hard. But I will do everything I can to protect you. To keep you safe and help you.”
“Promise?” Jesse whispers.
With a lopsided smile, Tabitha draws an X over her heart. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
Jesse holds her gaze for a moment, and then looks again at Julia, the demon struggling in the chair but unable to speak or move from her confinement. “Get out of her.”
The Winchesters watch in stupefaction as the demon immediately smokes out of Julia, swirling up and out the chimney.
“How did you do that?” Dean whispers in shock.
“I just did.”
“Kid…you’re awesome,” Dean tells him, still groaning in pain from being flung around the room.
“Is she gonna be all right?” Jesse asks, staring at the slumped over Julia.
“Eventually,” Dean assures him.
Tabitha steps away, picking up Castiel from where he’d fallen from the mantle, frowning as she looks at the angel. She knows he can’t stay as a toy, but she’s afraid of what he might still try to do to the boy. And whatever she feels for the angel, she also feels the desire to protect Jesse, even from Castiel.
She can only hope that she can talk the angel down and keep her word to protect the boy.
“He actually is a friend, Jesse,” she tells the boy, still looking down at the toy angel in her palm. “And even though he was going to try to hurt you, I’d still appreciate it if you’d turn him back. I’m kind of partial to him…” She glances up when Dean frowns at her, hastily adding, “Guess I’m too used to hardheaded fools like my brothers.”
“He tried to kill me,” Jesse replies.
“He’s just a dumb male,” Tabitha insists. “Kinda like my idiot brothers. But I’ll handle him.”
When Jesse stares blankly, she glances down at the angel in her palm, muttering, “Never mind.” To herself, she thinks that she can try to contact Anna to perhaps fix the angel. She doesn’t know any other angel that she can remotely trust to contact.
“It’s been a long night,” Dean agrees, taking the angel from Tabitha to place back on the mantle. “We’ll talk about it later.”
“What now?” Jesse questions.
The siblings silently confer before Dean answers, “Now we take you someplace safe, get you trained up. You’d be handy in a fight, kid.”
Tabitha scowls at her brother, thinking to herself that she’d wanted to keep the boy out of such things, to keep him safe.
“What if I don’t want to fight?”
“Then you don’t have to,” Tabitha hurriedly tells him, cutting off whatever Sam had been about to say.
“But you could help people,” Sam nevertheless insists. “You’re more powerful than pretty much anything we’ve come up against.”
“I can’t stay here, can I?”
“No,” Dean tells him. “The demons know where you are, and more will be coming.”
“I won’t go without my mom and dad.”
Tabitha sighs. “And we can bring them if you want. But that’s two more people on the run from the demons. Two more people to try to keep safe. Two people who can’t protect themselves. They’d be safer here. The demons don’t want them. They want you. But we’ll honor whatever you decide.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Jesse whispers, staring up at Tabitha with pleading eyes.
She shakes her head. “You have to make this choice yourself, Jesse. We’ll support it either way.”
“Can I go see my parents? I, um…I need to…say goodbye.”
“Of course, Jesse,” Tabitha assures him, watching as the boy turns and slowly makes his way up the stairs to say goodbye to his parents.
“He’s making the right choice,” Dean softly tells her, moving to stand beside her as they watch the boy disappear up the stairs. “I know you’re feeling for the boy, Tab. But this is something that has to be done. We can teach that boy to fight demons. He can help us win this thing.”
“No,” she hisses, turning to face her older brother. “You’re not using him just like demons want to. If he wants to help, he can decide that when he’s grown. But we’re not using a little boy like a weapon.”
“We don’t have years, Tab,” he snaps. “We need that kid’s powers now.”
“It’ll still be his choice,” Sam agrees, “but Dean’s right. We need him now. He’s powerful, even if he’s a kid.”
“I’m not doing to him what dad did to us,” she tells them, pointing accusingly at them both. “I promised that boy I’d protect him, and I will. Even from you two. I want to see that kid grow up as normal as he can. Not like us.”
Sam sighs, but neither of them argues with her for the moment, both stepping away to silently pace as they wait.
“He’s been up there a long time,” Tabitha worriedly muses after several minutes have passed without Jesse returning.
She starts up the stairs, her brothers following as they go to look for the boy.
“He’s gone,” Castiel suddenly says from behind them as they enter Jesse’s room.
“Where?” Sam asks, surprised to see their friend out of toy form.
“I don’t know,” the angel tells them. “Jesse put everyone in town back to normal—the ones still alive. Then he vanished.”
“Good,” Tabitha whispers, collapsing onto Jesse’s bed, gently holding the letter the boy left for his parents.
Castiel glowers at her for a moment.
“How do we find him?” Dean questions.
“With the boy’s powers, we can’t,” Castiel answers. “Not unless he wants to be found.”
Anger flaring at the memory of Castiel saying the boy had to die, she responds, “I hope he never is. Least of all by you.”
He continues to glare, and then disappears without another word.
“Where are we?” Castiel asks, coming to stand beside Tabitha.
She doesn’t answer right away, staring ahead as she considers whether or not to even acknowledge his presence.
Finally, she flatly tells him, “It’s a playground. A place for kids to play.” She gestures towards the children swinging on swing-sets, playing on teeter-totters, and climbing monkey bars, snidely telling him, “You know, miniature humans. Apparently they’re more dangerous when they’re small and compact.”
The angel holds her eyes with a flat stare.
“What are you doing in my dream?” she snaps when he only stares at her without speaking. “How’d you even find me between the charms and my carved up ribs?”
Castiel suddenly stalks forward, the intense look in his eyes startling her until she falls back several steps in surprise, backing away from him with uncertainty at the meaning of his burning gaze.
He reaches her quickly, grabbing her by the upper arm to yank her closer, thereby halting her retreat.
She gasps in surprise, but the inhaled breath is swallowed by the angel as his lips crash against hers, their teeth clacking almost painfully together with the force of his kiss.
The shock of his movement keeps her immobile, no longer moving away from him, and then her anger is soon forgotten as she leans into him, her hand sliding into his trench coat as her baser instincts respond to the heated assault.
Suddenly, Castiel pulls away from her, his hand sliding up to the nape of her neck as he whispers against her mouth, “I know you now. All of you. I can find you when you reach out to me in your dreams. When you overcome the shields that hide you from even me.”
She frowns, trying to think of how she’d been reaching out to him in her dream. “But I wasn’t,” she tells him, shaking her head in confusion. “I was actually enjoying the solitude of my dream.”
His eyes narrow as he releases her and takes a step back. “Something in your dream reached out to me. I used the thread to find you.”
Glad for the space he’s given her to breathe and gather her thoughts, she glances again at the playground, shaking her head when she realizes what allowed him to follow her.
“Never mind,” she whispers, pulling her eyes back to the angel. To forestall him questioning her, she attacks. “You here to kill some dream kids, too?”
“You’re angry with me,” Castiel slowly states.
“Ya think?” she snorts, shaking her head at how blind he can be sometimes. “You wanted to kill that boy. You actually tried to kill him.”
“And thanks to you and your brothers, I was unable to, and now it has disappeared. It’s out there somewhere, and you should pray to God that the demons don’t find him again. Or worse…Lucifer,” he tells her, looking away to stare at the playground full of children in her dream.
“Stop calling that boy ‘it,'” she snarls, trying to bring his attention back to her. When he looks back, she continues, “He’s still a little boy. Regardless of being half demon.”
“It is the Antichrist. Not a child. You can’t continue to think of that…abomination as a child. Would you think of the monsters you hunt as…children…just because they’re young? They’re still monsters,” he insists, stepping closer to her again as he tries to force her understanding.
“But Jesse isn’t a monster,” she insists, stepping away and turning her back on the joyous laughter of the playground.
Castiel comes to stand beside her, once more silent as he grips his hands behind his back looking at the dense forest surrounding them and the playground at their backs.
“What about a child that’s half angel?” she suddenly blurts out, unable to censor the thought that has been racing in the back of her mind since they discovered what Jesse is.
The angel looks startled as well, dropping his hands to his side as he turns to gape at her. It’s the most human expression she’s seen from the present version of him. It makes him almost look like his future counterpart.
“A nephilim,” he whispers. “Why do you ask about this?”
“So it can happen,” she says, turning to look at Castiel, ignoring the moisture she feels in her eyes. “If you have a name for it, it can happen. A human and angel can…reproduce. The child would be a nephilim.”
“It would be an abomination,” he vehemently replies, and for a moment, Tabitha swears she sees fear in his eyes. “It is forbidden. Angels are not meant to sire children.”
Her arms wrap protectively around herself at his words. Words both so strikingly similar to what his future self had said, and so starkly different. Future Castiel had said he wished she’d never been pregnant, but she’d seen the heartbreak in his eyes. She’d seen the mourning. Despite his words, he’d wanted that child, too.
Yet to hear him now call what any child of theirs would be…an abomination… It’s more than she can handle.
“If I had your child, would you try to kill it, too?” she finds herself asking, her voice barely above a whisper.
He frowns as he stares at her, looking uncomfortable as he continues. “You aren’t with child. You’ve always been…diligent about precautions. And I can sense when you are…fertile. Such an…occurrence…can’t be allowed to happen.”
Looking away, she discreetly runs the back of her hand across her cheek to swipe at the wetness. “You’re right,” she returns still in a whisper. “I guess that’s why I’ve always been so ‘diligent’ about making sure it doesn’t happen. I guess I always knew what a mistake it would be.”
“You aren’t angry with me now?” he tentatively asks, still seeming clueless about how to handle her emotions.
A dark laugh escapes as she shakes her head and turns back towards him. “I guess not. How can I be angry with you for just being you? I keep expecting things I shouldn’t when it comes to you. That’s my fault, not yours.”
Stepping closer to the angel, Tabitha carefully places her hand on his chest, letting it lie there for a moment as she feels his heat under her palm. She wonders if it’s real, if anything she’s feeling is real within her dream.
It doesn’t matter, she realizes. In this moment, it feels real. And the moment has always been where Tabitha has tried to live.
She can’t live in a future that hasn’t happened yet…and may never happen. She can’t live hoping for a future where the angel under her palm becomes something other than what he is.
And she can’t live in the past and the choices already made.
Only the choice of this moment matters.
Carefully, she lifts onto her toes, closing the short distance between them to press a soft, closed-mouth kiss to Castiel’s lips. When she drops back to her heels, his frown has deepened with his confusion.
“We have to stop doing…” she waves her hand in the air between them, “whatever this is we’ve been doing. I care about you, Cas. And I hope we can still be friends…but it can’t be more than that anymore. We’re too…different. And whatever we’re doing…I think it’s a mistake, Cas.”
Scowling harder, Castiel stares down at her hands as she tightly gripes her fingers together, wringing them in an almost nervous manner.
“It doesn’t feel like a mistake,” he whispers.
“Maybe not,” she allows, surprised by the realization that she actually does agree with him. Shaking her head to dispel the thought, she tells him, “Doesn’t mean we should continue.” She sighs again, trying to find the words she needs. She settles for repeating, “We’re too different.”
“Because I said the…child, had to be killed?”
“Because you couldn’t even see any other option,” she corrects, her heart constricting at the thought of him trying to kill their own child.
“I don’t understand.”
She rests her hand briefly on his chest again, feeling his heat, and then forcing herself to push away from him as she backs up, her hand slipping to fall against her side, cold creeping into her from every limb.
“You need to leave, Cas. You can’t keep showing up in my dreams. And we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing. This has to be the end, I think. We have to stop before it’s too late.”
Castiel stares at her, and she forces herself to hold his eyes, not allowing herself to cowardly look away.
And as she watches, he disappears with only the soft flutter of wings marking his departure.
When she turns back to the playground, a small girl comes running towards her. Long brown hair streaked with gold glinting in the sunlight, and the light of the world shinning in her smile as the girl eagerly runs to her.
“Mommy!” the girl cheerfully greets, wrapping her little arms around Tabitha when she crouches to embrace the girl.
The child twists in Tabitha’s arms, wiggling until she’s turned sideways to sit on one of Tabitha’s bent thighs as she balances the little girl from her crouched position.
“Who was that, Mommy?” the girl inquires, staring up at Tabitha with guileless eyes colored a hauntingly familiar stormy blue.
“No one, baby,” she assures the girl, brushing her long brown and gold locks out of her face. “No one you need to worry about, honey.”
Still smiling as brightly as the sun, the little girl wiggles more, worming her way closer into Tabitha’s chest as she tells her, “Good, Mommy. Can we go play now?”
Tears sting her eyes as Tabitha gently pushes the girl away, holding her by her upper arms as she kneels in front of the girl.
“No, honey,” she whispers in a voice that breaks. “We can’t. We can’t play together anymore. I can’t see you again. It’s been wonderful seeing you in my dreams, but you’re not real. And you never will be. You can’t. You have to go now.”
The little girl frowns, tears gathering in those stormy blues and lightening them to a pale snowy sky. “But I don’t want to go, Mommy,” she sniffles.
“You have to,” Tabitha chokes, forcing herself to let go of the girl, pushing to her feet. “You have to. Because you can’t ever be real. And I can’t have angels using you to find me. Even Castiel.” She knows in her heart that it was the girl that called Castiel to her dream. Somehow, the child is a part of him, even if only a figment of a dream.
“I’m sorry,” the little girl cries, her tears falling freely now as she reaches pleadingly up towards Tabitha. “I’m sorry, Mommy! What did I do wrong?”
Feeling as if her heart has been stabbed with the cold that settles even further over her, Tabitha forces herself away, backing step by painful step.
“Nothing,” she manages in a choked voice, continuing backwards as the girl’s cries become more and more muffled by the distance. “You did nothing wrong. But you can’t ever be. It’s better this way. It’s better that you just don’t ever exist.” She’s not sure if she’s trying to convince the girl or herself, but she knows it has to be true. She can’t see any other option.
“I’m sorry, too,” she whispers more to herself, the girl nearly out of sight now as the thick forest swallows Tabitha. To herself, she prays she’ll wake from her torment, hating the pain that has twisted from this previously happy dream.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” she repeats as she feels the dream finally slip away, fading into nothing.
A/N: First off, ten points to anyone that can come up with where the alias Tabitha uses comes from. It was Julia Wells. Here’s a hint, think children’s movies. 🙂 Who is she?
Okay, so I fully well admit that the ending of this chapter just came out of nowhere. I generally have things kind of plotted in my head, but sometimes I only have pieces plotted and the rest just has to fall into place as I write. This was one of those times. I really had no idea how this chapter was going to end. Only a vague notion that after the events of the last chapter and this chapter, a wedge would be driven between Castiel and Tabitha, and that they’d part from each other (again, I know!) but I didn’t really know how it was going to play out.
The idea to use the dream gambit again just seemed like a natural choice for her and Castiel to be able to talk without her brothers overhearing. But I swear, that scene just suddenly had a life of its own! I had never envisioned their child being there in the dream, or any of it! It was like I was shocked the entire time my fingers were typing it. I didn’t even know what was going to happen until it came rushing out of my fingertips! Kinda terrifying in a way.
And let me tell you, this is the only time I’ve really cried while writing a scene, I think mostly because even I had no idea what my fingers were going to type next. Wow! Sorry for the angsty ending! I truly hadn’t intended it!
But let me know what you thought! Should I be punishing my fingers for them taking over that scene, or let them have a shot more often? Maybe I should try an exorcism on them; I swear they were suddenly possessed!
Also, so so sorry for the horribly long delay in between chapters. I really thought things might start settling down this fall here and I could write more, but it’s been one thing after another. I needed to sub at the local middle school one week, then I was sick for a few weeks, and then winter decided to smack us all in the face out here in western South Dakota last weekend (4-6). Wow! We didn’t even really have fall. Went from 80s one week to a horrendous blizzard the next.
It’s been devastating out here. Luckily, all I raise anymore are Corgis, (and of course my other female just had her pups right after the blizzard) but it was hell out here for the ranchers. Nearly a 100,000 head of cattle have been lost. And numbers are still coming in as ranchers dig through the snow to find their stock. And a lot of horses and sheep were lost, too.
This blizzard was so early in the year, and came out of nowhere. Like I said, weather had just been in the 80s the week before. Cattle and sheep were still in summer pasture where the windbreaks aren’t as good, and none of the animals had their winter hair grown yet. Thousands of cattle died because they were quite literally buried under several feet of snow when they sought out low ground to take shelter, and thousands more simply dropped of exhaustion and suffocation from the incredibly wet snow as they continued to walk miles and miles with the hurricane force winds looking for shelter.
This area of the country has a heavily agricultural based economy, and we’re all devastated by the catastrophic loss of animals. Most people were without power for days (me included) and some may be without power for another week yet. And that’s on top of the momentous task now of disposing of so many animals all lost at once.
The blizzard that hit was record-breaking in how early it came, how much snow it dropped, and the devastation to livestock and our economy. Further north they had 40-50 inches! Millions of acres of crops that had not yet been harvested have also been destroyed. And so many trees across the area were also destroyed from the wet heavy snow. None of this has been made easier by the government shutdown.
As I said, I was lucky myself. We held out fine, dogs did fine, and I was able to blanket my three horses and keep them close into the barn to keep them warm, but others who lived further north weren’t so lucky. My brother’s cattle herd seems to have survived very well, but many of their neighbors are reporting losses of 50% or more of their herd. Imagine any business saying they had 50% or more loss of their inventory from a storm, and the government not racing to their aid.
Most people in the country aren’t even aware of the devastation that has struck our area. And not just because of the government shutdown. People in general—and even the mainstream media—tend to forget that it’s people like those who live out here who grow and raise the food that feeds this nation. Meat, grains, vegetables…they don’t just come from a store, appearing by magic—they are produced by hardworking individuals like the farmers and ranchers of our area.
Now, I don’t mean to get preachy, and my family (except for my brother) isn’t directly involved in production agriculture anymore, but most of my friends and neighbors are. So all I would ask of all of you tonight, is to send some kind thoughts and hopes for the future for all those people out here who have been so overwhelmed with these catastrophic losses.
Then only a week later (11th), we were hit with flooding from huge rainfalls. The double whammy has been hard.
And I’ll try to get back to updating when I can, but most of my free time now will be devoted to cutting down broken branches and cutting up downed trees from the massive damage that was done.
But I’ll still write when I can, and I’m already excited about the next chapter! That should be a pretty fun one for a change. 🙂 I think we all need it after the angsty past few chapters.
Be sure to leave your thoughts!