A/N: This chapter was getting super long, so I’ve split it into two chapters. This is the longer of the two. But at least I’ve got the next one ready now, too!
And on another note, this chapter (and the next) takes a departure in style from past chapters. I’ve been writing in strictly 3rd person past-tense, but I feel like my verbiage was becoming stilted (and frankly, I think I was getting bored with it) and since I’m writing this as a learning experience anyway, I’ve decided to change it up and try 3rd person present-tense. So let me know what you guys think and if you like this new style better, or prefer the old past-tense. Thanks!
Oh yeah, and apparently I’m in a porny frame of mind. 🙂 Just call me Chuck! But I swear, it had been planned for this chapter for a long time. Pinky swear.
So, this chapter is like the other uncensored ones, you must be old enough to ride the ride, and so forth, proceed with caution, or go to the censored version if you’d prefer to read that one.
Chapter 5: Don’t Let It End (Uncensored)
Tabitha turns back into the room after Castiel disappears, searching the bedside table for her cell phone.
“Yeah, this is Dean; I’m probably out doing my thing. You know what to do.”
“Dammit, Dean,” Tabitha growls in frustration. “This is the third message I’ve left for you. Pick up your damn phone!” She pauses and then tries to more sedately tell him, “Whatever it is you and Castiel are up to, don’t. Don’t let that dumb angel do it.” She sighs, knowing the answering service will cut her off before she can really give him a piece of her mind like he deserves. “Just…call me back you asshole.”
She tosses the phone back onto the rumpled bed. There is nothing she can do to stop or help Castiel for the time being. She doesn’t even have a clue where he and her younger brother are at the moment. But she can try to make amends with Cort. If she can find where he’s gone anyway.
But first, she needs to take another shower.
Her fist knots the sheet tightly to her chest as she peers into the bathroom, expecting to see shattered glass strewn across the tile floor. She nearly gasps when she sees the room in perfect order, as though the night before hadn’t even happened.
The tightening in the still sensitized muscles of her body reminds her that it had been real, and as sated as she still feels, her body coyly brings to mind the erotic shower she’d taken with Castiel the night before.
Her bracelet jingles against her wrist, and she twists it until the angel wing charm is pressed into her palm. She almost swears it is still slightly warm, and the reminder of Castiel sends a shiver through her body. Followed by a loud growl from her stomach, reminding her of the many hours since she burned off her meal of oysters. She’d ended up using both of Cort’s suggestions to burn off her meal, but she had to say, the dancing wasn’t nearly the caloric workout as the other. And not nearly as bone-wrenchingly exhausting and satisfying either.
With another involuntary shiver, she deliberately drops the sheet on the floor and starts forward for what will be a decidedly cold shower. Perhaps the cold spray will help to refocus her mind on the apology she knows Cort is doubly owed…even if she has no intention of telling him about her late night visitor.
Cort truly is a magnificent specimen, she thinks to herself. Even covered in a layer of sweat. His brow seems perpetually furrowed as his tape wrapped hands pound an intense rhythm at the speed bag, punching a little harder every time the small bag swings back at him. His muscles are corded, striking out repeatedly with amazing speed and force at the bag. Each time his fist strikes out at the bag, it snaps back to a ready position framing his face.
He had to have been at it for hours by the sweat slicking his skin, but his form is still flawless.
“Picturing my head?” she asks him giving him a reserved smile.
With his eyes, he glances over at where she leans against the wall, but keeps his head facing his speed bag, his pounding fists never slowing their fierce beat.
“No, not you ma chére,” he tightly replies.
“I’d probably have it coming.”
He doesn’t acknowledge her comment.
“I mean, I wouldn’t hold it against you after…” she lamely tries again.
Cort finally stops his staccato beat, his hands grabbing at the speed bag to hold it still. “You trying to talk me into something, or trying to apologize again, Tabitha?”
“I guess apologize,” she mumbles, looking down.
“Don’t,” he shortly returns, stepping away to grab a water bottle from a nearby stool. “I asked you to give us a chance. I knew the risks I was running. Not your fault.”
“It kinda is,” she continues muttering to the floor, wincing at the thought of how his tune would change if he knew everything that had happened after he’d stormed off last night.
“I’m a grown damn man,” he growls, “I’m responsible for my own choices. Not you.”
He finally turns back towards her, his angry scowl dissipating with a visible effort. “How’d you know where I was?”
Finally hearing some of the anger bleed from his voice, she looks up to reply, “I remembered you telling me years ago that you liked to box when you needed to take your mind off things. This was the nearest boxing gym I could find that was open all night.”
Shaking his head, he wipes his face with a towel and murmurs to himself, “Only you would have known and remembered something like that.”
Flipping the towel over his shoulder, his eyes skim over her, taking in the sight of her own workout clothes and wrapped fists.
“You come to get a workout in, too?”
Heat suffuses her cheeks a little as she grins but admits, “Wasn’t sure how mad you’d be at me. Thought I should be ready for anything.”
His brows nearly hit his hairline. “You think I’d ever hit a woman? Come, chérie, you know me better than that.”
Though he laughs a little though to show he isn’t offended, taking one of her hands in his to examine her tape job. “You know how to wrap a hand well,” he compliments.
“Dean did teach me to box after you and I dated. He said he wanted me to be able to take care of myself. Not like I didn’t already know how to fight from both Bobby and Dad though.”
Cort tugs her over to a heavy bag, gesturing at some boxing gloves and telling her, “Let’s see what you got.”
She waves the gloves away. “Dad always said it was best to practice without the gloves. Not like you’re gonna have them when you’re hunting something anyway. And I did tape my hands for a little added protection and support.”
“True enough,” he agrees, positioning himself behind the bag. “Careful of your punches though, don’t break nothing in your hand.”
Bouncing lightly on her feet, she takes several hard jabs at the bag, shifting her weight as she changes it up with hooks and undercuts as well. By thirty or so punches, she’s beginning to get back into the groove, but also beginning to feel the burn of muscles she hasn’t utilized in a while.
An hour later, Cort steps away from the bag, calling for her to stop. “That’s enough, Tab, your form’s slipping.”
“I know,” she nods, wiping the sweat from her brow. “Been a long time since I really worked the heavy bag. I’m exhausted, but it feels good. Good reminder that I should be practicing that a bit more once I’m out on the road again, too.”
Although he’d been walking away, Cort tenses and then turns back towards her. “You leaving?”
“It’s time, Cort. I’ve worn out my welcome, I think,” she replies as she begins unwinding the tape from her hands.
“I didn’t say that.”
“You wouldn’t. Wouldn’t even think it. But that doesn’t make it any less true.”
Cort blows an annoyed puff of air past his lips. “Momma Cecile said you’d know when it was time to leave the city. When you’d seen a ring or something. That ain’t happened yet,” he doggedly insists.
“Why do you want me to stay, Cort, when all I’ve done is hurt you?” she wants to know, puzzled by his almost frantic desperation to get her to stay.
Suddenly, Cort is in front of her again, not touching her, but the heat from his body licking across her skin. “Guess part of me thinks it due penance for hurtin’ you those years ago. But part of me also knows that if you leave now, I’ll lose any hope forever of winning you back.”
“I’m not a prize to win,” she tells him, stepping back from his overwhelming presence.
“No, you’re not,” he readily agrees. “But I still think if you stay and give us a chance, we could make it work. We were good together once.”
“A long time ago,” she reminds him.
“Not so long ago. I still see it in my dreams.”
“I don’t,” she gently whispers, hoping to spare him some pain and gently placing her hand on his chest before taking another step back from him. Her eyes linger briefly on the angle wing charm at her wrist.
“I’m not that girl anymore. And I can’t be again. That girl wanted a man she could idolize and worship. The woman I became isn’t happy with hero-worship. She wants someone as flawed as she is who’d move Heaven and Hell for her. And who she’d move Heaven and Hell for in return.”
“And you think this guy is it? This guy who’s hurt you and doesn’t even love you?” he spits, looking away to hide the pain in his eyes.
“I don’t know,” she concedes. “All I know is I’ve already crossed a lot of lines for him already.”
“That doesn’t sound like a good thing. Certainly not a healthy thing, Tab.”
“Maybe not,” she easily agrees. “But I can’t change that I feel…something for him.”
“You love him,” he bitterly answers to himself, still avoiding her eyes.
“Didn’t say that. But it’s something.”
Turning back to her with a piecing look, he entreats one last time, “Stay. It’s not the time for you to leave yet. I’m not ready for this to be the end.”
Picking up the bag she’d carried in and shouldering it, she starts for the door. “Regardless of how long Momma Cecile cryptically said I could stay, it’s time for me to leave.”
Cort jogs after her onto the street. “It’s dangerous out there. You got demons hunting you still, right? Be safer here.”
“For how long?”
“Probably not long,” a voice casually throws out from an alleyway.
Cort and Tabitha both stop cold in their tracks, cautiously turning towards the alley and the suited figure intently watching them.
“Of course,” he casually continues, slender hands straightening his red tie, “you won’t ever have to worry about them again.”
Cort maneuvers between her and the stranger, but Tabitha discreetly tugs at his elbow, warningly hissing, “He’s an angel. We need to get out of here. Now.”
Suddenly, the angel is before them, his hand reaching out to touch Cort’s forehead before she can pull him back. The simple touch causes Cort to crumple at Tabitha’s feet, just as she’d seen angels do to others before.
The angel quickly reaches out to touch her forehead, but heaves a resigned shrug when nothing happens.
A long, silver looking stake or blade falls down his sleeve into his hand.
With the weapon poised in the air, he tells her, “Guess we’ll do it the messy way then. Zachariah sends his regards.”
Tabitha throws her arms instinctively over her head, knowing it’s pointless and that in mere moments she’ll be dead.
But the blow never comes.
Tabitha opens her eyes to see another angel standing behind the first, his dark eyes squinting as he holds the handle of an identical blade imbedded through the back of the first angel’s neck.
“And Azrael sends her regards as well,” the deep graveled voice tells the first angel as an explosion of light rushes from the vessel’s mouth.
The new angel’s vessel is that of an old man, wrinkled and creased, but giving him a craggy sort of appearance that is still imposing and impressive in his impeccable black suit. The accent was a slow southern drawl, but she knows better than to associate a vessel’s accent with the angel inside it.
Together, angel and human look down at the empty vessel that collapses to the ground at their feet, an eerie black outline of angel wings stretching the entire length of the alley around them.
Finding her voice, Tabitha asks in a stunned tone, “Who’s Azrael?” All the while wondering if this angel will try to kill her, too. Perhaps he’d just wanted to be the one to do the actual deed.
“You were made for her,” the imposing angel answers matter-of-factly, his head tilting in a way that reminds her of Castiel as the strange angel watches her.
“Pam,” Tabitha whispers to herself, understanding dawning, even if she still doesn’t know who exactly Azrael is.
“She wants me alive,” she continues whispering. Scowling at the empty vessel at their feet, she goes on, “I still don’t understand why Zachariah wants me dead though if I’m this chick’s vessel.”
“Because Zachariah and his faction would do anything to keep Azrael from her vessel. But the followers of Azrael…” the angel trails off in a weary sigh weighted by unfathomable millennium. “We have made peace. We are ready for the End our Father prophesied.”
Tabitha begins slowly backing away from the angel. She throws a regretful look at where Cort lies unconscious, but neither of the angels had seemed even slightly interested in him.
“Yeah, well, I’m not interested in being her vessel, so you can send my regrets,” Tabitha shoots back, her muscles bunching as she gathers herself to flee like the scared rabbit Momma Cecile had praised her for not being. Truth is, she’s not unafraid of things like the old woman said. She simply knows when to hold her ground and when to run for the hills. Facing a powerful angel with unclear motives seems to be an excellent time for some hill running.
“Not even to stop the war that’s coming? Not even to stop Lucifer and Michael from taking hold of your brothers? Not even to save the lives of the millions that would be killed if Lucifer and Michael join in battle again?”
She’d been half turned away, her muscles even beginning to push her weight off from her back foot. But she stops cold at his words. Frozen in place by them.
“You’re saying that letting this Azrael chick nosedive into me will somehow accomplish all that? That she can really stop it all?”
Pam…or rather, Azrael had told her much the same, but she hadn’t quite believed it then. She still isn’t sure if it’s really true. Somehow, she’d known that strange, old Aramaic passage written by Nahara had to do with her and Azrael. But Momma Cecile had expressly told her that she couldn’t let that prophecy come true. Whatever it was.
So did that mean she couldn’t let Azrael take control of her, or that she should?
“She is the only angel granted the power by our Father to stop them,” he rushes to assure her.
Ever so slowly, the angel steps towards her, his hand lifted in the direction of her forehead.
Her face wrinkles as she leans slightly back and watches him, explaining, “I don’t know why you’re even trying, you angels can’t ever do anything to me when you touch me like that.”
The nameless angel’s face splits into a sardonic smile. “Perhaps Zachariah and his followers don’t have the power, but Azrael’s powers are far beyond his. Though he has devised a wonderful…educational trip for your brother. Azrael has been inspired to grant you the same. I may not have her power, but I am just delivering her gift to you. She wishes you to see what will happen if you do not acquiesce to her.”
Certain that nothing will happen when the angel touches her—just like every other time—Tabitha holds her ground, watching as his fingers inch closer to lightly touch her forehead.
Light explodes behind her eyes as she crumples to the ground.
Moaning, Tabitha pushes her aching body from the dirty carpeted floor where she’d been laying.
With confused glances, she sees that she was sprawled out on the floor just inside the main entrance of Cort’s house. But nothing looks like it should.
Everything was there. But so many things were askew in the house, and thick layers of dust coat everything, including the musty carpet she pushes herself up from.
“What the hell?” she mutters to herself, baffled not only by how she’d gone from that alleyway to Cort’s house, but the utter shambles Cort’s beautiful home is now in. She might have been inclined to believe that everything in the alleyway had been some freaky dream, save for the fact that she knew there was no way she would wake up to find Cort’s house so filthy.
Yet, there she stood, surrounded by the squalor that had once been his gorgeous mansion.
Creeping further into the house, she softly calls out for Cort, unnerved by the sensation that she’s in a bad horror movie and that at any second, an axe murderer is going to jump out to chop her into little bits and grind her bones to make his bread.
“You’ve watched too many cheesy horror movies, Winchester,” she scolds herself, trying to shove the ominous feeling away. But she still half expects an eerie music score to start playing at any second.
Coming around the corner into the kitchen, she lets out a muffled scream.
“Christ,” she mutters as she bites back the surprised yell.
Facing away from her in the kitchen is the familiar height and bulk of the man she’d been searching for.
“Damn, Cort. What the heck is going on here? What happened to this place?”
He doesn’t move or acknowledge her as she creeps closer.
As she reaches out to touch his shoulder, he suddenly twists to face her, swiping a hand out low towards her midsection.
Acting solely on instinct, she jerks away, but not before a searing pain bursts in her hip. Too late, she realizes he’d been holding a long carving knife from the kitchen.
“What the hell, Cort?!” she shouts, but he’s still coming at her, knife slashing dangerously through the air.
Trying to keep out of range from the knife, she twists in a circle, her stronger right leg lifting in the air to deliver a roundhouse kick. His greater height meant the blow didn’t land to his head like it was designed, but the kick to his shoulder does knock him off balance, sending him sideways into the center island as more pain radiates from her hip and thigh.
But he’s far from down. Grabbing a large pot from the counter, she arcs the pot through the air towards his lowered head, bringing it down forcefully against the back of his skull.
As he sprawls on the floor, she takes a second to stare at his strange appearance. His clothes are dirty and tattered, and his hair is so tangled and knotted it looks as if a rat had tried to nest in it.
“Agh!” he inhumanly growls, the knife sweeping out low from his body at her.
She neatly jumps over the path of the blade, ignoring the throbbing pain in her hip, but is stunned to see him pushing to his feet again. The blow should have knocked him out.
“Dammit, Cort,” she growls while backing away. “It’s me. It’s Tabitha.”
He continues pulling himself to his feet, a strangely predatory and murderous look in so vacant a stare.
“Shit!” she swears again while turning to flee, with Cort hot on her heels.
Running through the hallway, she slows only enough to overturn tables and shelving in her wake, trying to slow his pursuit. But he’s only slowed as much as she is by her efforts.
At the doorway on her left, she pushes the heavy door open into Cort’s garage, slamming it shut again in Cort’s face. As he screams and beats at the door, she pushes against it while reaching over to the metal shelving along the wall, pulling with all her strength to slide it and its contents in front of the door.
It helps, but Cort is still straining, trying to push open the door and move the shelf, too.
Frantically casting about, she sees his motorcycle sitting in the middle of the garage.
She pauses as she runs towards it, detouring to Cort’s large metal weapons locker to grab what she can, stuffing an old backpack with as many supplies as it can hold. Something tells her she’ll need it. Surprisingly, she hadn’t been dressed in the workout clothes she last remembered wearing, but in cargo pants and her leather coat. She zips it as she slaps a hand against the garage door opener.
It doesn’t open.
Indeed, she realizes that the only light in the garage is the sunlight spilling in through the narrow window high along the wall.
“What is going on?” she wonders to herself once more, jumping to grab the trip cord along the track of the door, unlocking the rolling garage door so she can push it up manually.
As she starts Cort’s Harley, she realizes the sounds of Cort trying to break down the door from inside the house have ceased. Gunning it, she slips through the open door just as Cort starts around the corner from the front door, having to duck low over the motorcycle to avoid his knife once more.
A half hour later, she pulls up in front of The House of the Rising Sun.
Momma Cecile’s house looks much like Cort’s house had, and indeed, the rest of the city. She’d seen some people out on the streets, but like Cort, they’d all run after her, murderous screams in their throats, and dead looks in their eyes.
The answer to what they were came as she slowed down by the courthouse downtown. “Croatoan” was spray-painted on the brick wall in an alley.
She hadn’t encountered the Croatoan virus with her brothers, but she’d heard about it from Bobby when he’d enlisted her initial help to clean up the town where the boys had encountered it. But by the time she’d sent CDC there with a story about a possible anthrax outbreak, everyone had vanished.
Still, she knows all the signs of the virus from Bobby and having read Chuck’s book about it. Thankfully, she’d waded through Chuck’s overly porn-esque filled writing since they met the man. Not that it explains how she’d awakened to a city nearly emptied of anything but Crotes.
Her attempts to call for Castiel have also proven fruitless. All that had been accomplished was screaming herself hoarse. Either he wasn’t answering, or… She doesn’t want to think of the alternative.
Her last ditch hope is that Momma Cecile might have some answers, but the now ramshackle house gives her pause.
Deciding to take a look since she is already at the house, she leaves the motorcycle and inches carefully towards the house. It is ominously silent.
As she climbs the steps to the covered porch, she holds her shotgun low, and then taps the 9 mm in her waistband to reassure herself that it is still there.
“Momma Cecile?” she softly calls, praying that the old woman is still alive to give her some answers, even if it is her usual vague bullshit.
Hand on the door to push it open, she calls out again a little louder, “Momma—”
Her call is cut off as she flies backwards through the air, landing hard on her back against the wood decking of the porch.
“This is your fault,” a woman spits from above her.
Tabitha looks up to see Momma Cecile’s not-so-friendly ghost bent over her, an angry glare in her eyes.
“You let her in only to get trapped. Now we’re all trapped here! You never should have said ‘yes!'” the ghost screams, lunging for her throat.
Tabitha rolls, bringing the shotgun up between them to fire a rock salt round into the ghost. Continuing her roll, she drops off the porch and runs for the motorcycle, knowing that Momma Cecile had to be gone if her ghost has gone vengeful like that.
There’s only one long shot prayer left now.
Her motorcycle isn’t alone when she runs to it. The angel from the alleyway leans causally against it.
“What did you do?” she demands.
Somehow though, she already knows the answer. “This is some kind of future field trip, isn’t it?” Somehow, she’d already known that she is somewhere in the future.
“You could say that.”
“How’d you even find me?”
“I’ve been following some of Zachariah’s followers in hopes of finding you.”
“How’d Zach’s guy find me then?” she wants to know.
He shrugs, completely unconcerned. “He’s been tapping fringe Christian groups.”
“The bible thumper,” she speaks to herself remembering the man that had approached her and Cort near Momma Cecile’s place. “So, who are you supposed to be? Doc Brown? You’re old and gray like him.”
His eyes narrow in confusion. “I am Israfil, one of Azrael’s loyal followers.”
“What is all this Back to the Future crap?” she asks him, waving an arm around the area.
“This is the year 2014. And this is what will happen if you wait too long and don’t align yourself with Azrael before it’s too late.”
And with his portent of doom, he disappears again.
Climbing back on the motorcycle, she prays that her next stop won’t also prove so useless. Or dangerous.
“Bobby?!” Tabitha yells as she climbs over the debris-field of Bobby’s house.
She doesn’t call out again as she surveys the wreckage. Her gut tells her that his house wouldn’t look like this if Bobby were still alive and well.
At the bottom of the stairs, she spots his overturned wheelchair, bullet holes through the back.
“Oh, Bobby,” she sighs as she crouches near it gingerly touching the holes through the vinyl back.
Wood creaking near the side door brings her attention back to the present. Backing away, she steps into the shadows and flattens herself against the wall.
As someone eases into the room, Tabitha reaches out to grab the lead arm holding the handgun, yanking forward on the arm to pull him off balance and turning into him as she drives her knee into the man’s sternum.
He stumbles back as she strips the gun from his hand, sputtering and coughing as he stares at her in shock.
He steps towards her, but falls back gripping his nose when she delivers a mean left hook.
“What the hell was that for, Tabitha?!” he nasally demands as he holds his bleeding nose.
“What year are you from?” she demands in return.
His eyes widen in understanding as he wipes away some of the blood. “2009, same as you I’m guessing.”
Her eyes narrow in anger. “Then I owe you more than one punch,” she declares as Dean nervously takes a step back from her advancing form.
She points an accusing finger at her older brother. “How ’bout for starters, not calling me back after leaving you several messages.” Suddenly remembering her last message in particular, she stops her forward progression and asks, “Speaking of, did you and Cas follow through on that dumb plan of his? Is he all right?”
Dean seems confused by her question, but wipes away the last trickles of blood from under his nose. “How’d you know about that? And why’s it matter?”
“I saw him,” she quickly answers. “Is he okay?”
His frown deepens as he stares at the blood on his sleeve. “I can’t believe you just punched me.”
Stepping forward threateningly, she warns him, “I could have broken your dang nose if I really wanted to, and you and I both know it. Stop being a baby, and tell me if Cas is okay!”
“He’s fine,” Dean answers, meeting her narrowed gaze. “Why do you care anyway? I swear, I can’t keep track of whether or not the two of you are pissed at each other, or secret BFFs again.”
“We’re just friends,” she hastens to tell him.
He gives his sister a suspicious look. “Don’t get me wrong, I like Cas; he’s a good guy…for an angel anyway. But the two of you are more on again off again as friends than a pair of twelve-year-old girls. If you’re gonna be pissed at him, be pissed at him, but stop letting him yank you around and play you like he’s been doing. You’re expecting too much out of the dude for friendship. He’s an angel, Tab.”
“I know what he is,” she snaps. “And I just wanted to know if he was all right.”
She steps away and looks around at the wreckage again.
“How’d you end up here?” Dean finally asks. “Zach send you here, too? He didn’t mention it.”
“No. Some jackass named Israfil.”
She continues looking down where she’d crouched to sort through a pile of discarded books. All from Bobby’s extensive lore collection.
“Some follower of Azrael’s I guess.”
“Still means nothing to me.”
Looking up, she shrugs self-consciously. “She’s the chick that wants to wear my skin like a bad horror movie psycho. Says I’m her vessel. Did you listen to any of my messages? I told you about this angel, Pam, that said I was her vessel.”
Dean avoids her eyes, stepping over to the mantel to open one of Bobby’s secret compartments above the fireplace. “Didn’t see the point in listening to your messages,” he shrugs. “But I’m not surprised, I guess. Those dick angels seem to have plans for all of us. Michael wants me—which, come on, who can blame him—Lucifer wants Sam, and now this chick wants you. Who is she to them anyway?”
Tabitha follows her brother in time to see him pull out their father’s journal. “I guess Azrael is their sister. Least that’s what she told me. And how do you know about Sam and Lucifer? Azrael was the one that told me.”
Flipping through the journal and still avoiding her, Dean absently answers, “Sam called to tell me.”
Pushing down on the journal in his hands, Tabitha angrily demands, “So you’ll take Sam’s calls, but not mine?! What the hell?”
Finally looking up, Dean snaps, “You took off. Figured you were doing just fine on your own.”
“So did Sam,” she’s quick to point out. “But you still took his call. I just needed time to get things together in my head, but there’s been a lot going on that I could have used my big brother’s input on.”
“Figured that was why you went to Cort. To get his input,” he condescendingly shoots back. “Bobby said you hightailed it straight for his arms. And I saw his bike out front when I got here.”
Folding her arms over her chest, Tabitha demands, “So? What does it matter where I went? I needed a place to stay, and Cort was a good enough friend to offer me a room at his place.”
With thumping steps, Dean angrily stomped around his sister, snidely telling her, “Yeah, his room I bet.”
Quickly reaching out, Tabitha yanks her brother to a stop by his elbow. “As a matter of fact, no. Not that it’s any of your business. And why have you got your panties in such a twist over this anyway?”
Her brother sidesteps until he’s back in front of her. “Just strikes me that your lying traces back to him. Before he showed up again and you started sleeping with him, you used to tell me everything. You came to me about gettin’ your darn period for crying out loud! We were a team. You and me looking after Sammy and protecting him. Helpin’ take care of Dad when he’d had too much after a bad hunt. But you take up with Cort, and the lies start.” His voice rises to a high, mocking pitch. “‘No, I’m not sleeping with Cort, Dean. Why would you think such a crazy thing like that?'” Shaking a furious fist in her face, he continues, “But I saw you leaving his motel room back then. And I swear, you never stopped lying to me after that. You and I were never a team again like we had been. When you left with Sammy, you were supposed to watch over him, but you turned your back on him, too. Started doing your own thing, and left him alone. Let evil find him again.”
Tabitha falls back at the infuriated onslaught from her brother. She realizes now that there had been a distance between them that had only grown since she was seventeen. She’d just never traced it back to the moment in time that she and Cort had briefly dated.
His bitterness towards her after she and Sam left, and then after she returned, seems to make sense now. They’d mostly gotten along since she started hunting with her brothers again, and she knows Dean still loves her, but there has always an underlying strain, a resentment towards her that she’s never quite been able to put her finger on.
Worse yet, everything he’d said and accused her of was true. She can’t defend herself.
“You’re right,” she carefully admits. “I did all that. I never realized I was the one that caused such a rift between us.” He looks away from her, but not before she sees the pained glint of abandonment in his eyes. He’d forgiven Sam for leaving, but he couldn’t forgive her because before Cort came along, it had always been Dean and Tabitha together as a team. They protected Sam and shielded him from their father as best they could. Sam choosing to leave had been hard for him, but she sees now how truly traitorous it had been in his eyes that she had left him behind.
“I’m sorry, Dean,” she tries again. “I was young and just wanted to have a chance at a normal life. I never meant to…leave you behind like that. And I know I didn’t always tell you everything in my life, but I was seventeen. The days of me telling you everything in my life were passing. I grew up, Dean. And part of growing up was that I couldn’t tell you everything in my life anymore. I’m your sister, Dean. Did you really want me telling you about the first guy I ever slept with, or how painful that first time was? And how wonderful the other times after that were.”
Dean grimaces and looks a little green around the gills.
“Exactly,” she quickly points out. “I couldn’t tell you about Cort. Not after all the lectures you’d given me about never dating or sleeping with a hunter. You were my big brother, and even though I didn’t regret my choices, I didn’t want to disappoint you. And you have to take some of the responsibility here, too. I can’t tell you how many times I lied to you because there was no other choice.”
“Oh, now it’s my fault you been lying to me for so many years? Try again, Tab,” he defensively demands.
“I made those choices, but I didn’t always have many other options than to lie to you. You don’t always make it easy to tell you the truth. For me…or for Sammy. Neither of us wants to disappoint you. And you make it impossible to tell you the truth when we know damn well you’re just gonna fly off the handle if we do.”
“I do not,” he stubbornly maintains.
“Yeah, ya do,” she answers, her lips curling in anger at his stubborn streak. She ticks the list off with her fingers. “One, the whole Cort thing…which goes back way longer than I ever realized. Two, me sleeping with Collin. You totally freaked out about that when you found out. Three, you finding out I could hear and see angels. Four, the demon blood, marking or brand thingy—”
He interrupts. “And every one of those times you lied to me about it instead of telling me the truth!”
She shakes her head and rolls her eyes. “If you really think you would have reacted any differently, then you’re delusional.” Seeing he’s about to argue again, she steps in front of him, saying, “Remember when I was twelve and kissed my first boy on the playground? You punched him so hard, you knocked out a tooth, Dean. And I kissed him! Or remember when I was fifteen and I snuck out to go to the movies with that boy down in Greenback? You threatened him and yelled and screamed in the theatre so much I thought they were gonna call the cops on you. Or what about—”
“Fine, I get the picture,” he snaps. “But those were all times you were with guys too old for you and doing things you weren’t ready for yet. And you shouldn’t have lied to me about what you were doing anyway.”
“I can name a dozen other times you got mad at me for something that I really wish I’d lied to you about instead. And are you saying you want me to give full disclosure about every guy I’ve slept with and disclose every time in the future what guys I will sleep with? Maybe I should give you a call every time…just to run it by you,” she flatly responds.
“Whatever,” he growls. “Fine. You made your point. I don’t need to know about the dudes in your life. But the rest of it, you need to stop lying about.”
“I’ve been trying to call you to keep you informed about what’s going on,” she points out. “You were the one not taking my calls. And you’ve got to start being a little more understanding when Sam and I do tell you things you don’t like or wanna hear, otherwise we’ll both stop telling you the truth again.”
“We need to just all go our own ways,” he sighs to her. “You ever stop to think about all the messes we get each other into because we’re trying to help each other? You’d still be with the FBI for one—if we had just stayed away from each other. We’re each others’ Achilles’ heel—all three of us—and we need to start waking up and realizing that the bad guys are just gonna keep using us against each other every time.”
Raising her chin, she responds, “I don’t agree with that. We’re stronger together. Being apart…just means we’re getting into trouble on our own. Making stupid choices without each other to back us up on our choices.”
He ignores her comment, but finally glances at her hip, frowning a little at the dried blood staining her cargo pants.
“What happened?” he inquires, nodding to the dried blood.
“Cort,” she answers in a clipped tone. Softening a little, she explains. “I woke up there in New Orleans and he and everyone else had turned into Crotes.” With a negating hand gesture, she continues, “I’m fine though. What do you think is going on though?”
She’d had some gauze padding from the supplies she grabbed at Cort’s that she’d stuffed in the side of her pants to stop the bleeding. The pain was only dull now anyway, but she hadn’t had the time to really look at it. From the amount of blood, she fears it might need stitches, but doesn’t want to take the time now to do it.
“Not sure,” he mutters in reply, opening the journal again.
“You think Sammy is somewhere here, too?” Tabitha asks as he leafs through the yellowed pages of the journal. “And what are we supposed to be learning on this field trip? I mean, what even happened here?”
Dean pauses as he pulls out an old black and white photo. “This might have some answers,” he says, handing the photo to her.
She sees Bobby in his wheel chair at the center of a group, Castiel standing behind and off to his left a little, and three other men she doesn’t recognize. All of them are posing holding shotguns next to a wooden sign that reads: Camp Chitaqua.
“Camp Chitaqua,” Dean declares. “Might get some answers there.”
Nodding, she agrees. “It’s our best and only real lead at the moment.”
It’s dark when Dean and Tabitha drive up to the outskirts of Camp Chitaqua in the car Dean had stolen. They’d left Cort’s bike behind at Bobby’s to travel together. Not only had it been more efficient, it also gave them the opportunity to fill each other in.
Dean explained Castiel’s attempt to extract the location of God from Raphael, and their failure to get anything useful from him. And she gave him the lowdown on what the translated verse from the Campbell family bible read, as well as her encounters with the angel she now knows to be Azrael.
She continued to leave out Castiel’s visit, deciding to adhere to Dean’s decree that he didn’t need to know about the guys in her life. She figures angels count, too.
“But you still don’t know who this chick is or anything about her other than that she’d like to slip you on and wear you around?” Dean quietly asks as they edge closer to the camp and the sign they recognize from the photo.
“I only found out her name from that jackass just before sent me here. I haven’t had time to see if there’s any lore on her. And I still haven’t figured out what that passage really means, other than that I’m apparently not supposed to let whatever it is happen,” she huffs in return.
“We’ll figure it out, Tabby,” Dean tells her over his shoulder, his tone softer with her than it has been in a long time. “But first, we’ve got to figure out how to get back to the past.” He shakes his head as they continue, muttering to himself, “I can’t believe I just said that.”
Dean’s hand suddenly swipes out to hold her back as they approach a fence and see guards walking by. He silently gestures her for silence. She nods in agreement.
“Oh, baby, no,” he moans as he stares through the fence once the guards are gone.
She starts to ask what he’s upset about, but then spots the Impala. Dented, rusty, and obviously abandoned. It almost seems as if more than five years have passed. Certainly five hard years.
They climb the fence easily without being spotted, but Dean mournfully detours to the car, stooping to look in through the missing driver’s door.
“Ohhh. Baby, what did they do to you?” he bemoans.
“Get over it, Dean. Let’s go,” she warns as she looks watchfully towards the center of the camp for anyone that might spot them.
Hearing a grunt and a thud, she turns to look back at Dean.
But sees him standing over…himself.
The second Dean isn’t dressed like the first even though their faces are identical, and there’s a hard look in his eyes as he stares across the unconscious Dean at her.
They stand in a tableau for a minute, neither hardly daring to breathe as each waits for the other to move first. After a long minute has passed, Dean begins cautiously walking towards her, almost a fearful hesitation to his steps.
“You’re the Dean from this future, aren’t you?” she slowly asks him.
He frowns in confusion as he draws closer, and then before she can react, he raises his shotgun and swings it at the side of her head.
Dazed, she almost doesn’t react at all to him swinging the shotgun at her, but barely manages to lean back from the blow.
Still, the butt of the shotgun catches her temple, and she drops to the ground, her eyes fluttering as she helplessly watches the future version of her brother pick up the one she came with, hoisting the slumped body over his shoulder.
Then, her eyes stop fluttering and close.
When she wakes, it’s to that eerie feeling of being watched. But when she opens her eyes, all she sees is a dirty mattress pressed against her face. Only the flickering light of a burning lantern illuminates the room. Struggling for her equilibrium, she sits up, her movements hampered by her legs being tied together by thick rope and one of her hands is cuffed to a strong eyebolt driven into the wood floor next to the mattress.
“Owww!” she dramatically says as she struggles to sit up and face her brother.
One look at his hardened gaze is all it takes to tell her this one is the future version of him.
“Since when did you start hitting me?” she demands, rubbing her temple with her free hand and feeling the dried blood flaking off onto her fingertips. Even when they’d sparred together growing up when he’d been teaching her, he’d always been so careful never to actually hit her.
He doesn’t answer, simply remains motionless where he stands, staring down at her without a shred of emotion on his face and a shotgun cradled in his arms.
“You gonna say something, or just mutely stare at me? ‘Cause that’s kinda creepy, Dean. Or Future-Dean. Whatever. Is that what you do in the future now? Just stand around and stare. Or did you get kicked in the head by a mule and can’t talk now?”
“Why do you keep saying future?” he suddenly asks.
“Because to me, this is the future. An asshole angel sent me here. And in the future, apparently you become kinda a dick. You wanna let me go now? I’m guessing you’ve already established that I’m not a shapeshifter, demon, or anything else.”
“No. You ain’t going anywhere.”
She frowns at his uncompromising answer. “You know what, Future-Dean is really getting on my last nerve, and I’ve got a pounding headache, so why don’t you kiss off and send in Future-Me or something. And where is my brother, anyway? The one I came with. He’s certainly not here,” she says, looking around the cabin empty of any furniture save for the mattress she’s sitting on.
Crouching low to put his eyes level with hers, Future-Dean harshly answers, “I don’t know what the hell you’re playing at, but it’s not gonna work. Salt, iron, and silver may not work on you now, but they never did, have they, bitch? I don’t know what you’re doing off your leash or pretending to be weak, but if you really are weakened for some reason, no way am I letting you go.” Standing, he viciously adds, “And if I knew what was good for this camp, I’d gank your ass now and make sure you can’t ever serve your master again.”
Before she can even lean back from the blow this time, the shotgun butt again connects with her temple.
Sunlight streams through the closed windows the next time she opens her eyes. Thankfully, she doesn’t feel the watchful burning eyes of her asshole future brother.
“I’m gonna bust your nose and more,” she growls as she pushes up once more.
Just as before, her legs are bound and her hand is cuffed to the eyebolt in the floor.
But on the dusty floor near the mattress is a plate with what looks like Spam, only slightly moldy bread, and a glass of cloudy water.
“Yummy,” she intones, but doesn’t touch any of it, almost expecting it to be poisoned from the venom in her future brother’s voice. Saying he had become an asshole was a complete understatement. He’d become certifiable.
She tugs on her handcuff, wondering how to slip out of them. As a Fed, she’d learned more than a few ways get out of cuffs—most she’d already known from her father and Dean. But the most expedient way out of handcuffs—without tools anyway—was to dislocate your thumb. Not a very tempting thought, but something she knows she’ll do if she has to.
But there were other ways to find tools, even if there was nothing in sight. And luckily, even her future brother doesn’t know as much about women as he always thought he did.
Shimmying around, she manages to pull her bra off and slide it down her cuffed arm past her hand. Then, it only takes a matter of minutes to work the underwire out from the cup of one bra.
Before five minutes have passed, she’s gotten herself uncuffed, untied, and redressed.
At first, she wanders through the camp, carefully avoiding the people wandering about. But there are enough buildings that she isn’t sure she’ll be able to find wherever Future-Dean has locked up her brother.
Seeing a woman standing by herself alongside one cabin, Tabitha ambles over, hoping that the woman will simply think it’s the future version of herself as she taps the woman’s shoulder.
“Hey, have you seen my brother?” she kindly asks the woman.
The small brunette turns to face her, terror settling over her face when she sees her. With a deep inhale, a scream builds in the brunette’s throat. Tabitha starts to step forward to silence the woman, but is left standing in shock when she faints and crumples to the ground in a heap at Tabitha’s feet.
“Wow,” she utters to herself in disbelief, totally baffled by the strange response.
Looking across the way at another row of cabins, she sees her brother approaching one of them.
She pauses, but realizes by his hesitant steps and familiar clothing, that he is indeed her brother and not the future asshole he becomes.
“Dean!” she softly calls, trying not to raise her voice. When he doesn’t hear her, she darts across the dirt road to get his attention.
“Tabitha!” he exclaims, backing off the steps to the cabin he’d been approaching. “Damn I’m glad to see a familiar face that’s not trying to hit me or something.”
Letting him pull her into a hug, and wrapping her own arms gratefully him in return, she finally breathes a sigh of relief.
“Had a run-in with Future-You, huh?” she chuckles.
“Yeah, him and some chick he’s apparently been ducking,” he explains, pushing back from her.
“Somehow, I find that hilarious that you’re finally getting the guff you deserve for your bed-hopping,” she laughs.
Ignoring her jab, he tenderly touches her temple. “What the hell happened? I’ve been looking for you, but I wouldn’t tell me where you were.”
Shaking her head at the strange sentence, she comments, “I think that’s too many pronouns to wrap my head around.” But she waves it off. “Yeah, future you is kind of a dick. No offense. What the hell happened here in the future? I tried talking to you…er…Future-Dean, but he wouldn’t hardly say anything to me, and what he did say I don’t understand, and then he knocked me out. Again.”
Gesturing around the camp, Dean tells her, “Apparently these are some survivors that I have brought here to fight the Croatoan epidemic. I guess that’s the Devil’s endgame. Sounds like the world really goes to hell in the next five years.”
“Awesome,” she mutters. “Have you seen Sam? Ours or theirs?”
Dean shifts from foot to foot, obviously uncomfortable and reluctant. “Apparently he didn’t make it. Went down in Detroit. I was a little vague with me on the details. I don’t think our Sam is here either. I doubt Lucifer would send him here like our angel pals did.”
“What about me?” Tabitha whispers, almost hating herself for even asking. Between Future-Dean and Fainting Woman, something tells her that there’s a bad story behind her as well.
“Told me you didn’t make it, either,” he utters, barely audible.
“Guess that explains why some chick fainted at the sight of me,” she tells herself.
Wrapping her arms around her torso, she recounts the tally. “So, in this future—according to some jackass angels anyway—Bobby’s dead, Sam’s dead, I’m dead, and you’re a total ass. Not to mention the whole world going to the Crotes thing.”
“Yeah,” he grimly agrees. “I think we should get the hell out of here. Chuck said this was Cas’s cabin, so let’s find that little angel and get him to send our asses back home. This place is creeping me out.”
Tabitha smiles almost against her better judgment. “Chuck…as in our Porny-Chuck, or Future-Porny-Chuck?”
“You’ve got to stop calling him Porny-Chuck.”
“Hey, if the erotic novel fits,” she mumbles. “I’ve read his stuff; he makes me sound like I’m Jenna Jameson or something.”
Dean tactfully ignores her words. “Yeah, it was Future him or whatever, he didn’t recognize me at all. Thought I was my future version.” Gesturing up the steps he’d started up before she called, he tells her, “Let’s go find Cas. Get him to send us home.”
“Sure,” she agrees, smiling a little at the thought of seeing their angel, even in this Apocalypse Now version of the world.
Dean starts up the steps but stops and looks over his shoulder to tell her, “Maybe you should sorta hang back. I mean, already had one chick fainting at seeing the dead girl walking.”
She doesn’t like it, but nods in agreement as they approach the cabin. It’s probably not the most productive idea to have a repeat of the fainting girl.
As they enter through the beaded doorway of the log cabin, she can hear Castiel’s familiar voice speaking to someone, but as Dean goes further into the room, Tabitha hangs back in the corner, watching the strange sight of Cas sitting Indian style on the ground, a group of pretty women gathered in a circle around him.
“So, in this way, we’re each a fragment of total perception—just, uh, one compartment in that dragonfly eye of group mind.”
Tabitha stares at Castiel as he speaks, shocked by not only his New Age themed talk to the scantily-clad girls hanging on his every word, but by the very sight of him. The perpetual scruff she was so used to had at some point grown into a light, disheveled beard. And gone is the familiar trench coat and rumpled suit she knows so well, replaced by a loose blue shirt and cotton pants, lending credence to his Hippie, New Age vibe.
“Now,” he continues speaking to the girls still focused solely on him, “the key to this total, shared perception—it’s, um…it’s surprisingly physical.”
Finally noticing Dean as he steps into the room, Cas looks up. “Oh.” He briefly turns back to the women, “Excuse me, ladies. I think I need to confer with our fearless leader for a minute.” He throws a surprisingly coy wink at Dean as he speaks to them. “Why not go get washed up for the orgy?”
From the corner of her eye, she sees Dean do a double take, and feels her own mouth drop and as small gasp of shock escape while the girls file out of the cabin.
The girls file past her and Dean, but none seem to recognize her, giving her only cursory glances as they almost jealously ask each other who the new girl is.
“What are you, a hippie?” Dean asks the angel in disbelief while Castiel stands and stretches the muscles of his back.
Still facing away from them, Castiel sighs and comments, “I thought you’d gotten over trying to label me.
He finally turns to face Dean as her brother tells the angel, “Cas, we got to talk.”
Castiel gives him a startled look. “Whoa. Strange.”
“You…are not you—not ‘now’ you, anyway,” he tells Dean, his eyes wide as he looks at him with just a shadow of that former head tilt she recognizes.
“No! Yeah. Yes, exactly,” Dean tells him.
The angel suddenly looks over Dean’s shoulder, for the first time noticing Tabitha still standing in shock in the corner of the room.
She expects a look of recognition from him, perhaps even surprise. The utter look of grief, pain, and…resignation…takes her by surprise.
Her feet follow an unerring path towards him and her brother without thought, and as she draws even with Dean, she whispers, “Hey, Cas,” not knowing what else to say.
Even in her present time, she doesn’t know what she and Cas are, but here, she’s even more at a loss for what he should mean to her, especially after finding him as they have. Seemingly conducting of all things…orgies.
With a shaky step, Castiel starts towards her, an intense look in his eyes that she can’t place as he whispers in disbelief, “Tab.”
At the intimate sensation that slithers through her with that one utterance, she takes a step back, darting a look at Dean, afraid of what he might see or realize. And no less confused by what they mean or had meant to each other in this time and place. It’s shocking to think of the angel burying himself in orgies as it appears, but she knows in her heart that it’s not something she would have been any part of. So does that mean they had broken off…whatever they were doing since Castiel is now conducting orgies?
Castiel freezes at her retreat, seeming startled from his daze, but he doesn’t take his eyes off her as his face softens into some kind of understanding.
“What year are you from?” he whispers intensely, still staring at her as if afraid to look away.
“2009,” Dean answers before she can form any words.
“Who did this to you? Is it Zachariah?”
“Yes,” Dean agrees, seeming thankfully preoccupied with his own concern of getting back to their time and oblivious to Castiel’s consumed gaze on his sister.
Clearing her throat at the unsettling feeling of Castiel’s intense stare, she corrects her brother, “Zach sent Dean here. Some angel named Israfil sent me.”
Castiel nods as if hearing what he expects, but then surprises her by telling her, “You need to stay as far away from Israfil and… Just stay away from all angels. It’s not safe.”
“Whatever,” Dean says, clapping his hands and finally drawing the angel’s attention back to himself as he continues, “why don’t you strap on your angel wings and fly us back to our page on the calendar?”
Castiel turns and wanders away a bit while sardonically laughing to himself.
Still darkly chuckling, he tells them, “I wish I could just, uh, strap on my wings, but I’m sorry—no dice.”
As Castiel continues laughing to himself in a manner so unlike the angel they know, Dean asks him, “What are you stoned?”
“Uh…generally, yeah,” Castiel laughs, turning back towards them, allowing Tabitha to finally notice the unusual dilation of his pupils that she’d missed before. Meaning he’s definitely on something, not that the strange laughing from him hadn’t tipped her off. She’s not certain she’s ever really heard Castiel laugh before.
“What happened to you, Cas?” Tabitha can’t stop from asking.
“Life,” Castiel tells her. “And some death.”
Tabitha and Dean stare in shock at the angel, but before either of them can respond, they hear vehicles outside and the commotion of the denizens of the camp gathering around it.
Not speaking, Dean turns to wander out of the cabin.
Tabitha starts to follow her brother after awkwardly staring at the angel when they’re left alone in his cabin.
But when she’s only a few feet from the beaded doorway, a tug on her arm spins her around, and before she can react, she feels the hard logs of the cabin connect with her back as the firm planes of Castiel’s chest mold to her front.
She gasps in surprise, but has no more time than the surprised exhale that escapes before one of his hands fists into the hair at the nape of her neck, roughly tilting her head back as his mouth descends to desperately swallow her cry.
For just a moment, she’s shocked by the sheer despair and anguish in his kiss, but as his other hand slides down her hip to yank her thigh to his waist; she lets the surprise slide away, gasping again as his hips roll and buck against her. Meeting his movements, she tightens the leg around his waist, one of her hands fisting in the curly waves of his brown hair while her other hand dips into the open V of his loose blue shirt, her fingers circling and then flicking one of his nipples.
He gasps in return at her ministrations, and releases her mouth to slide his lips to her neck, his teeth finding her pulse point and nipping in an erotically painful way at the sensitive skin there.
Her head falls back in ecstasy, but her eyes open and she sees the log rafters of the cabin, and her eyes land on a bra caught high in the rafters. Much larger than her own small cup size.
“Stop, Cas,” she tells him, feeling as if a bucket of cold water has doused her flames.
“No,” he moans, his hips continuing to grind against hers.
“Stop it!” she harshly commands, shoving at his shoulders until he gives her enough room to stand on her own again. “I’m not one of your orgy girls,” she tells him, looking away as she pulls down the tank top he’d somehow managed to shove up past her bra.
Trying to hide her sudden hurt under righteous anger, she snaps, “What the hell do you think you’re doing here? What, it’s the end of the world so why not bang a few gongs? Get in your share of decadence and deprivation. You may be burying yourself in a tangle of slutty women, but I have a little more self-respect than to just wallow in this kind of meaningless sex. Or was that all I ever was to you?” She looks away before he can answer, afraid of what truth she might read in his eyes. Softly, she whispers, “I always knew I was blind when it came to you. You told me you’d never feel anything for me. Maybe you were right. So why not bury yourself in a mountain of willing chicks? I guess that’s just how you roll. I was certainly a willing fool.”
“That’s not how I roll!” he immediately denies. “I mean, it wasn’t. You never were.” The angel looks almost pained as his eyes track guiltily down. “No,” he chokes out. “I never meant for you to know that. To see…that.”
Running a hand through her hair to straighten it, Tabitha forces her expression to become neutral as she nods, telling him, “It’s really none of my business. I don’t know what went on here, but I guess I really have no cause to judge what you’re doing now. Especially since I’m, uh…dead, in this time period. And it’s not like we are an item…or I was anything special…even in my time.”
“We will be,” she swears she can hear him whisper, but then he looks up and pins her with a confused stare. A little louder, he says, “You were always something special. The only one that ever was.”
He opens his mouth to tell her something else, but then shakes his head before nodding once to himself, as though coming to some sort of decision.
“It was…hard…after I…lost you,” he whispers by way of explanation. “For a long time, it’s been easier to bury the pain in these…distractions. I guess, I don’t do lonely any better than you once said you did.” His head hangs in shame again as he repeats, “I’m sorry.”
Softening at the pain and regret so obvious in his eyes, she steps forward to place a comforting hand on his shoulder, but she can’t help curiously asking, “So, you and I…uh…get…together…in this future?”
She can feel her face heat at her stumbled question, but he looks up, his eyes filled with…adoration…or something close to it as he nods. “Yes. Until I…lost you.”
Squeezing his shoulder once, she tells him, “Well, I guess I’m sorry for dying on you in this future.”
They can hear more commotion from the people outside, and when a bullet resounds as well, Tabitha steps away from Castiel, intent on seeing what’s going on and insuring that her brother is all right.
But once more, Castiel stops her, his hands tightly gripping hers as he suddenly pleads with her, “Leave this place as soon as you can. Call for Israfil; beg him to take you back to your time. And then leave. Disappear. Stay away from your brothers. Stay away from me. Stay away from all angels, demons, and everything supernatural. Hide somewhere safe and never look back. They can’t find you if you don’t want to be found.”
His hold on her hand tightens almost despairingly. “Promise me,” he pleads in an anguished voice. “Promise me you’ll stay away from everything. It’s the only way you can stay safe.”
Carefully extracting her hand, she turns away, stepping out of the cabin without answering Castiel’s desperate plea, not even knowing how to answer the grief and desperation in his voice.
Wiping at her eyes to push her emotions away, she steps out onto the porch of Castiel’s cabin, watching the sight of her brother staring down his future self, a dead body on the ground between them. From Dean’s accusing glare, she can guess that his future self is responsible for the dead body.
She feels Castiel follow her onto the porch, but he only looks on with an indifferent expression at the sight, as if Future-Dean shooting people from their camp is a common enough occurrence.
The questioning look she gives him is only met with a dispassionate shrug, so she jogs down the steps to stand beside her brother.
Future-Dean gives her an annoyed look, turning to tell the suddenly terrified men behind him, “I know. Her, too. Look, there’s no reason to be afraid of her. More than that…you don’t need to know.” He waves his arms impatiently at them. “Get back to work!”
As they fearfully flee the clearing around the dead body and the Jeep, Future-Dean stalks closer, grabbing Dean and Tabitha each by their elbows and propelling them forward. As he passes by Castiel he growls at the angel, “Can’t you do anything useful? Couldn’t keep her safe, but I figured you’d at least have enough brains to keep her out of sight! You’re all but useless anymore.”
“Hey!” Tabitha objects as he pushes them towards a cabin, roughly shoving them both through the doorway and slamming it behind them.
“What the hell was that?” Future-Dean demands. “Are you both idiots?”
“What the hell was that?” Dean returns in disbelief. “You just shot a guy in cold blood.”
“We were in an open quarantine zone—got ambushed by some Crotes on the way out,” Future-Dean explains. “Crotes—Croatoans. One of them infected Yager.”
“How do you even know?” Tabitha interjects.
“‘Cause after a few years of this, I know. I started seeing symptoms about a half an hour ago. Wasn’t going to be long before he flipped. I didn’t see the point in troubling a good man with bad news.”
“‘Troubling a good man?'” Dean repeats. “You just blew him away in front of your own people. Don’t you think that freaked them out a little bit?”
“It’s 2014,” Future-Dean reminds them, as if everything about this time doesn’t remind them of that. “Plugging some Crote—it’s called commonplace. Trading words with my friggin’ clone—that might have freaked them out a little.”
He waves an accusing hand at Tabitha. “And don’t even get me started on you!”
“All right, look—” Dean starts to say.
“No, you look. Both of you. This isn’t your time. Neither of you. It’s mine. You don’t make the decisions. I do. So, when I say stay in, you stay in.”
Tabitha starts angrily toward her future brother when he turns away, but Dean throws a hand in front of her to stop her advance, telling his future self, “All right, man. We’re sorry. Look, we’re not trying to mess you or…me—us up here.”
“I know,” Future-Dean agrees, pouring himself a drink.
“It’s just been a really wacky weekend.”
Tabitha thinks back on her heated encounter with Castiel only minutes before, as well as his…bevy of beauties, and steps beside her future brother to pour herself a tall drink as well, muttering to them both, “That’s a gross understatement. This is some Twilight Zone shit here.”
“Tell me about it,” Future-Dean agrees, eyeing Tabitha and then pouring another glass of whiskey for Dean as well.
The three…siblings…stand around the table in the center of the room and take long drinks from their glasses.
“What was the mission anyway?” Dean wonders.
Future-Dean looks hesitant, but reaches into the bag he’d set down, pulling a familiar revolver from within.
“The Colt?” Dean and Tabitha say together.
“The Colt,” Future-Dean agrees, holding it up to examine it.
“Where was it?” Tabitha asks, almost instantly seeing her brother’s plan, or rather, his future plans.
“Everywhere. They’ve been moving it around. Took me five years, but…I finally got it. And tonight…tonight, I’m gonna kill the Devil.”
He finishes the last of his whiskey, looking at Dean.
“You can stay here…where you’re outa sight.” Turning towards Tabitha, he grimaces and looks away while pointing blindly at her. “But you gotta stay somewhere else. In case someone stops by or something.” Lowering his voice, he adds, “Besides, you’re freakin’ me out.”
Hands on her hips, she demands, “Well, where should I go? And if you put your hands on my again to shove me around anywhere, you’re gonna walk with a permanent limp.”
Looking her over from the corner of his eye, her future brother seems to come to some kind of conclusion. “You can spend the day in your cabin. No one ever really goes there now anyway.”
That no one ever really goes to her old cabin Tabitha thinks must be an understatement. She imagines it looks exactly like it had before she died, or will die, or died in the future.
Shaking away the headache such thinking will only bring, she examines the space of her cabin. Layers of dust and cobwebs coat the entire interior. Moving closer to the bed, she can see the rumpled sheets and blankets tossed back and untouched since she last got up from this bed.
Knickknacks and pictures line the shelves and dressers, and even a book lays open on the table beside her bed, as though patiently waiting for her to return to finish it. She’d obviously never known she wasn’t going to be coming back the last time she left this cabin. And she wonders to herself again, how she died. So far, she’s been hesitant to ask, not wanting to breach such a delicate and painful topic, but now, she wishes she had.
Curious, she picks up the open book on the nightstand, dusting off the paperback to see the cover.
“Lucifer’s Hammer,” she reads to herself, her lips twisting up a bit.
“You were reading that before…before I lost you.”
Twisting around, Tabitha is surprised by the sudden appearance of Castiel. Looking to the front of the cabin, she finds the heavy wood door still shut and bolted from the inside.
When she glances back to Castiel, she sees his smirk as he gestures behind him. “Your cabin and mine share a wall, and we long ago created a hidden door to go back and forth unnoticed.”
He pushes on the bookcase next to him, and slides it down the wall far enough to show her the opening cut into the logs.
“I guess that means we weren’t openly…together,” she notes.
“No. We hadn’t yet gotten around to telling your brother. And he was your main…worry,” he explains, looking down.
She frowns at the way he talks about what she did, as if she’d just woken with amnesia and doesn’t remember her past instead of talking about things that are still the future to her.
Returning to his first statement, she sets the paperback back on the nightstand. “I’m surprised I would choose to read that again. But I guess it makes some sense.”
“You’d read it before?”
“Yeah. In high school. I think.” Glancing at the novel, she sums it up. “Apocalyptic type world, post-society, with survivors striving to rebuild and live. I guess those themes and themes about whether or not it’s the ‘good’ man that survives and what new mores in post-civilization are is strikingly apropos.”
Shrugging, Castiel says while still looking down, “I haven’t read it. You were reading through it at night those last few weeks.”
Glancing at their “secret passageway” Tabitha can’t help asking, “So, I guess we spent a lot of time together?”
“Yes,” he agrees, staring at his toes and shuffling his feet in a strangely human manner. “Mostly we slept in my cabin, since you were worried about Dean coming into yours unannounced. He stopped coming into mine without warning after he almost caught us and realized I’d been sleeping with someone.” He gestures around her cabin. “You always kept most of your things here. And we slept here mostly those last few weeks, when you didn’t feel up to leaving your cabin to come to mine.”
When she sees the grief in his eyes and hears his anguish, she steps in front of him, but then stops and awkwardly shoves her hands into her pockets as she asks, “What happened, Cas? How’d I die?” Rather than speak of the future, she decides it’s easier to speak as he does, as if it’s a past event.
Such a pained sound escapes Castiel’s chest. Something between an anguished cry and a pained moan.
“Please don’t ask me to talk about that, Tabitha,” he pleads, his voice a hoarse whisper. “It was hard enough to live through.”
“I’m sorry,” she quietly apologizes, reaching out to lay a comforting hand on his folded arms.
Moving swiftly, Castiel sweeps her into his arms, pressing her head against his shoulder as his hands run across her back as though to reacquaint himself with the feel of her body in his arms or perhaps to reassure himself that she’s actually there.
Her own arms settle comfortably around his waist as she holds him tightly, trying to soothe him as he silently shakes in her arms.
When she feels the wetness of tears fall into her hair, she twists her face to press her nose into the crook of his neck, savoring the unaccustomed smell of what she recognizes as marijuana smoke, and underneath the pungent smoke, is the familiar tang of his musk that she knows so well.
“I missed you so much,” she hears whispered throatily against the top of her head.
His hands descend to her waist, beginning to pull her tighter into the fold of his body, but before she can protest, he pushes her back again, frowning as he examines the dried blood still flaking away from her clothes at her hip.
“What happened here?”
Glancing down and self-consciously brushing away some of the dried flecks, she explains, “It’s nothing. Happened down in New Orleans. But I should change the bandaging and clean it a bit if you’ve got supplies.”
Castiel frowns as he takes a step back. “Why were you in New Orleans?” he whispers with a fierce intensity.
Her frown mimics his. “I guess I woke up there because that’s where I was when Israfil found me.”
“Yeah, that’s where I was,” she agrees, baffled by the hard edge to his tone.
“What happened to him? Something had to happen for you to come here. You only showed up here asking to stay in Dean’s camp four years ago. You said you’d stayed with Cort for a year before coming here. But you’d only say things didn’t work out between you,” he explains, his gaze fixed on the floor as he visibly braces himself.
“I don’t know why I stayed with him for a year or why I left, Cas,” she sighs. “I only know that when I woke up in New Orleans a few days ago…that Cort tried to kill me.” Her voice drops as she explains, “He was a Crote.”
Suddenly, Castiel’s hands are framing her face, clinging to her almost desperately as he pleads, “Did he bleed on you? Are you okay?” He seems to shake himself, whispering a reminder to himself, “You must be okay if it was days ago.”
“He didn’t bleed on me,” she confirms, her hands gently tugging his away from her face. “And I got out of there right after. I’m fine.”
He nods more to himself and releases one of her hands, tugging on her other to lead her towards the passageway to his cabin.
“Come,” he tells her. “We’ll get it cleaned up. Can’t risk infection.”
She balks inside his cabin when he veers off towards the open doorway of what appears to be his bedroom.
He glances back and immediately reads the hesitation in her eyes and knows the reason.
Lowering both his voice and his eyes, he tells her, “I won’t lie and say there haven’t been other women in my cabin, but my room was always my sanctuary to remember you. No one else has ever been allowed in that room.
Unable to form any kind of answer to his admission, she only nods, allowing him to lead her forward once more.
“Lie down,” he gently commands upon shutting the door and gesturing to the bed. The closed door helps. It further shuts out the reality of him with other women in the rest of the cabin.
She does as he commands, stretching on her side as she props her head up by her elbow, watching as he silently moves about the simply furnished room, gathering supplies and a basin of water.
Setting his burden down on the nightstand by her head, he gestures to her, saying, “Roll over so I can see your hip.”
For a moment, she hesitates, but then rolls over to bring her left hip up, turning her back to him as he kneels on the side of the bed behind her.
With nearly shaking hands, she reaches for the button of her cargo pants to loosen them so he can see the wound. He has other ideas though. His strong hands glide over her hip, silently catching hers and pushing them away. Without uttering a word, he flicks the button open and tugs the zipper down.
As his hands careful push her pants past the makeshift bandaging she’d shoved against the wound, she raises her hips to ease the process.
He still doesn’t speak as he pulls the gauze pad away, but hisses an inhale through his teeth when he sees the wound.
“This really needs to be cleaned and stitched, angel,” he tells her as a wet cloth begins to gentle clean the wound.
She smiles a bit and comments, “It’s sorta strange to hear an angel call me one.”
His hands falter slightly in their work before resuming. “I haven’t been an angel in a long time, Tabitha. I fell. I’m almost utterly human now. You were my angel,” he whispers, his fingers moving from the rag to flutter caressingly along her waist, gently pushing up her shirt as his hand settles on the bare skin of her waist. He leans forward to press a soft kiss to her temple. “You were the only angel that mattered,” he softly adds against her skin.
She doesn’t know how to respond, but he doesn’t seem to expect one as he sits up to resume cleaning her hip.
Once the wound is cleaned, he leaves the bed and returns with a needle and thread, as well as a glass of water and two pills in his hand.
Glancing over her shoulder, she asks, “What’s this?”
“Oxy,” he succinctly replies. “For the pain. It’s hard to find now, but you should take some.”
She shakes her head and closes his fist around the pills. “It’s not that bad. Wasn’t even when it happened. I’ve had worse.”
Lips thinning into a hard line, he whispers, “I know.”
But he pulls his hand back, offering her a rolled blunt instead. “At least take this. It’ll take the edge off.” She starts to object, but he softly pleads, “Please.”
“Alright,” she agrees, taking the proffered joint. “Guess I’m not a Fed anymore anyway and there probably aren’t even laws against it anymore.”
A laugh bubbles up in her throat as he lights it for her. Inhaling and then slowly exhaling, she tells him, “It’s been a long time since I smoked marijuana, and I didn’t exactly expect you to be the one offering me a joint and getting me to light up a joint again.”
“Things are…different now, I guess,” he agrees, laughing a little as he takes the joint and draws a long inhale.
He hands it back and gives her a few moments to let the effects settle in, gently running his hand in circles at her waist while he waits for her to finish the joint.
“This wasn’t exactly what I would have imagined for where you and I would be in five years,” she giggles, feeling the drug start to take effect. “Lying half naked on a bed with a fallen angel at my back, smoking a joint.”
Castiel drops his nose to her shoulder, laughing lightly as well as he corrects her. “You’re not even half naked, yet. But I can push those pants down lower if you’d like to remedy the situation.”
“Hey now,” she giggles again. “Keep your mind on business, mister. You’re supposed to be stitching me up, not trying to undress me.” She glances back over her shoulder again. “Are you even sober enough to stitch straight? Don’t want a crooked scar or anything.”
He’s serious as he leans down to kiss the skin of her hip above the wound. “I’ll do my best to keep the stitches even. I have no desire to leave you with an unsightly scar.”
For a moment, Tabitha fights the urge to tell him to forget stitching and keep kissing her skin. Her hand itches to press his lips back to her when he pulls away.
Clearing her throat she instead says, “Let’s get this over with.”
He nods. “Just lie back and don’t think about it.”
“I’ve been stitched up before. I’ll be fine,” she assures him, giggling again. “Just never by a fallen angel.”
Though she doesn’t watch, she can feel him working on her hip, and knows by his careful manner that his stitches are perfect and evenly spaced.
When he’s done, he leans down to press another kiss to the line of stitches.
“You should be more careful,” he warns her.
Something tells her he’s not speaking just about her wounded hip.
“It’s not always so easy.”
“I know,” he agrees.
Moving gingerly, Tabitha rolls over onto her back, her head supported by the pillows as she stares up at Castiel. The soft smile on his face almost surprises her; she thinks to herself that she’s never seen her Castiel smile so much. Then again, she’s never seen him stoned like this one either.
Slowly, Castiel stretches out on the bed beside her, his head and shoulders still propped up so he can stare down at her, but as she watches, he leans down to press a kiss to her lips.
She responds, letting her hand settle on his hip as she feels his hand skim up her side, running the length from her thigh, up to the side of her breast, lingering there as he cups it.
Arching her back, she responds to the kiss, but then, pulls away, turning her head to the side as she whispers, “I’m not her.”
His head retreats a little and then his hands still as he looks at her curiously.
“I’m not the woman that you know from this future,” she says again, forcing herself to turn and face him to tell him why they have to stop, despite how much she wants him to continue. She just can’t fight the feeling that’s urging her to speak.
“She’s a whole different woman,” she continues. “Shaped by things I haven’t experienced. And you’re certainly not the same Castiel I’m familiar with. I’m not sure what’s going on between him and I, but this still feels…I don’t know…it feels…like a line I shouldn’t cross.”
His smile turns sweet as his hand leaves her breast, running down her arm until he has twinned his hand with hers, fingers interlaced as he pulls her hand up and presses a kiss to the back of it.
“I told you once that as an angel, I wasn’t capable of human emotion. But I think that was a lie. I may not have been capable of the gamut of human emotions—I still may not be—but there is one I’ve found that I am capable of…one I’ve felt for a very long time.”
His eyes are locked onto their hands as he speaks, but then, he glances up to stare into her eyes, his blue gaze shinning in the soft glow of the lanterns lighting his room. “Love. I’ve loved you for a very long time. Longer than I even knew what the emotion was or what it meant. I loved the woman you were, the woman you are, and the woman you will become. Time is fluid and changing, yes, but that wasn’t. The complexity of the space/time continuum does not lessen the single human emotion I know I’ve gained. The one you taught me. Who you were, who you are, even who I was or will be…it is merely a change in scenery. You are not a different woman to that emotion. I love the entirety of you—who you were, who you are, and who you will be.”
“Cas,” she whispers, hearing the quiver in her voice.
He gives her no chance to say anything else, not that she knows what to say. She thinks that her heart has swelled in her chest to hear him say such things…to speak of loving her. But regardless of his absoluteness that he loves any version of her, she’s not certain she’s there herself. He’s had five years of experiences that have changed and shaped him. Years of interactions with her that has brought him to that point. And though she feels something for Castiel—both her version of him, and this version of him—she’s still not sure that it’s love she feels for either of them. Still not even sure that she agrees that he’s the same person when everything about this Castiel is so different.
Still holding her palm tightly in his, he leans down, gently kissing her lips. A part of her thinks that she should push him away, that he’s not the same and that she shouldn’t cross this line.
Then, she closes her eyes and falls into his kiss, flying past that line like she’s crossed every other with Castiel.
He moans when he feels her respond to the kiss, rolling on top of her, his knees straddling her hips to keep part of his weight off her and freeing his other hand to run up her side, dragging her shirt up with it.
She arches her back and then lifts her head to allow him to free her of the garment, breaking their kiss for a moment as he makes quick work of her bra. Tugging on his shirt, she wordlessly commands him to get rid of the barrier to his skin.
“Now,” she moans, startled by the huskiness in her hoarse demand.
Slowly grinning, he crosses his arms and then quickly yanks the shirt over his head.
He only stays still for a moment, barely letting her take in the sight of his body, the same one she knows so well, and yet one so intractably changed.
When he dips low again to rekindle their kiss, she braces her hands on his chest, running them over the familiar planes and noting the change in typography. His muscles are tighter now, hardened by equally hard years, and scarred by battles she hasn’t yet seen.
Her fingers linger on some of the worst ones, running gently along them as a strange feeling of familiarity fills her, somehow telling her that these scars are ones she stitched for him just as he stitched her hip.
Groaning into her mouth, he sits up and frantically shoves at his cotton pants, raising his hips when her hands join his to push them away.
When they’re gone, he pushes her back, but doesn’t immediately rejoin her. Instead, he leans down to lightly run the tip of his tongue around her navel, and then blows air across the wet trail circling her skin.
Cool air tightens the muscles in her stomach, causing her to gasp and her hips to jerk instinctively up in the air.
With a knowing laugh, he uses the movement to pull her cargo pants further past her hips, tugging her underwear with them as he tosses them aside.
“You did that on purpose,” she accuses.
“Yes,” he agrees, his eyes nearly twinkling with his mirth.
His laughter disappears altogether as he settles back over her, his hips falling easily into the V of her thighs as she wraps her arm behind his neck and pulls him closer.
Leaning over her, he lowers his head to slowly kiss her shoulder. In response, she rolls her shoulders back and arches into him, welcoming his touch.
Then, his hands tug her thighs apart, slipping between them as he slowly parts her, his fingers cleverly sliding in and out.
She rides the indescribable feelings, gently rocking her hips in time to his movements until he curls his fingers and finds the delicate bundle of nerves, causing her to throw her head back as she stifles a scream, gripping his shoulders for support as her legs clench around his hips.
“Stop,” she groans, intent on giving him the same pleasure he’s giving her.
“No,” he moans, his mouth trailing across her skin, lips nimbly pulling her nipple between his teeth.
Unable to think coherently or hold back after the double onslaught of his hands and mouth, she closes her eyes and screams, heart thumping in her chest as waves of ecstasy wash over her.
Yet, when she comes down from her high, it’s not enough. She wants more.
“Now,” she roughly tells him, still gripping his shoulders and tugging him up her body to kiss his lips. “Now, Cas.”
He settles back into the V of her thighs, but hesitates as he struggles to speak. “Wait, angel…wait…we, uh, need—”
His words are bitten off in a deep moan as she wraps her hands around him, pumping slowly along his length.
But she knows what he’s trying to say.
“I’ve been on the birth control patch since you and I first started sleeping together almost a year ago,” she assures him, sliding one of his hands around her hip to feel the slightly raised patch on her upper buttock.
“Thank God,” he sighs, his hands clenching against her butt where she’d placed it, his hips surging forward as she guides him.
Almost instantly, he sets a fast pace, his hips rocking back and forth in an increasingly jerky manner. It doesn’t take long for her to feel the tightening in her muscles again, and she feels her eyes close and head begin tilting back as she waits for the orgasm to wash over her once more.
“No,” Castiel moans, one hand sliding to the back of her head to fist in her hair, tugging her back up to face him. “Don’t close your eyes,” he begs. “I need to see you.”
“I’m here,” she sighs, her eyes focused on his again.
His breathing is hard and labored, a layer of sweat glistening on his skin to match hers. She’s never seen him so out of breath…so flushed…so…human.
And she can tell he’s struggling to hold out, trying to keep back from the edge for as long as he can, but teetering ever closer.
“Let go,” she whispers, pulling his head down and whispering in his ear. “Let yourself go. I’m here. I’ve got you.”
He groans at her words, but his hips continue their steady yet frantic pace as he fights to last a little longer.
Turning her head to seek his lips, she kisses him as she slides a hand between them, cupping him and gently squeezing until he gasps against her mouth, finally falling over the edge and taking her with him.
When his body finally stops moving, pleasure wrung from him entirely, he falls against her, his skin damp and overheated. She cradles him to her chest as they both struggle to regain their breath, and when his evens out a bit, he slides part of his body off of her until only his head and one arm and leg are thrown over her, gripping her tightly in the shelter of his arms.
She plays with his hair as she waits for her body to cool down a bit from their exertions, marveling to herself how different it had been to experience sex with a very human Castiel. It was every bit as good, but it was also slightly strange to see him gasping for air just like her, or to see his body slicked with sweat like hers was inside the warm cabin. And there had been a desperation in him that she’d never felt before in his touch.
A noise startles her, and Tabitha jumps a little when she looks down and realizes it’s a soft snore coming from Castiel as he sleeps.
It’s somehow terrifying and humbling to see his face slack in sleep against her chest. Terrifying to see how human he’s become, but humbling to see his trust in her as he rests so easily against her skin.
Unlike the men Tabitha has been with in her life, she’s not usually one to feel sleepy after sex, but it does appear that human Castiel is like other men, she thinks as she continues to twirl his shaggy hair around her fingers.
She passes nearly an hour just savoring the feeling of Castiel sleeping in her arms, not allowing herself to think about anything. But soon, she begins to look around his room, and finds herself curious about that man this Castiel has become.
Ever so gently, she slides out from under him, grinning to herself at the way his arms quickly commandeer her pillow, pressing his face into it as he inhales deeply, and then sighs with a satisfied smile on his face.
His room doesn’t seem so different from her own cabin, she thinks to herself as she wanders about, dressed only in his castoff blue cotton shirt. Skimming through his bookshelves, she’s surprised not only by the number of them, but also how many seem to be deeply philosophical texts. Though, she supposes for an angel that has fallen to humanity, it makes some sense that he’s become introspective about that humanity and what it means.
Seeing a cluttered desk, she wanders over, carefully sitting in the wooden chair and drawing her legs up on the seat as she glances across the surface.
It’s littered with loose pages, most of which seem to be written in Enochian symbols or sigils that she doesn’t understand, but there are also a few open books lying on the top as well. But what really holds her attention, is the corner of a Polaroid sticking out beneath some papers, a smiling face that she recognizes well. As though afraid to touch it and have it disintegrate under her fingertips, she slowly slides it out using only one fingernail to catch the corner.
Feeling bolder when she sees the happy, laughing smile on her own face, she picks it up and holds it in her hands.
The photo was obviously taken in Castiel’s room; she recognizes the faded mauve fabric of the barrel back chair still situated in the corner. In the photo, she appears to be straddling Castiel’s lap facing him, reaching out to the camera even as his arms extend out of the frame, seemingly taking the picture and keeping the camera from her reach. Still, though she seems to be twisting and reaching for the camera, her shoulders are drawn up and turned a bit, her shrug and teasing smile making it obvious that whatever she and Castiel were doing was more of a game than her actually trying to take the camera away.
She studies the photo, but unfortunately, the picture is close and framed only on her face. She can tell that she’s sitting in Castiel’s lap facing him, her hands braced on his shoulders as she pushes back and coyly poses for the picture, but most of his body is out of the frame, only his torso and an arm are visible.
Glancing back at the littered desk, she sees that another Polaroid had been with the first, and she slides it out as well.
This one almost surprises her more. It was obviously taken at the same time, she can see she’s still sitting in Castiel’s lap, but she’s not teasingly trying to grab the camera from him, this time, she’s patiently posing for the picture, her mouth split open in a real, honest smile. It’s never been a smile that she’s fond of herself, she thinks. She usually smiles more closed mouth when posing for a camera, but when she’s really happy, it’s this smile that comes out.
But it’s the tears catching light in her eyes that truly grabs her focus. Something big happened in this moment. Something important, she knows. Whatever happened, brought tears to her eyes, and caused her to smile her slightly too big, honest-to-goodness happy smile.
“That was a good day. One of the best.”
Tabitha jumps at Castiel’s sudden voice, spinning and nearly dropping the photos from her hands as she twists to look at him. He’s stretched out in the bed, his head propped up as he watches her.
“I always feel a strange satisfaction seeing you dressed in my clothes, even though they are so ill fitting on you,” he tells her.
“I didn’t mean to intrude,” she apologizes, gesturing to the photos she can’t seem to put down. “It’s so strange to look at photos of myself and not remember them. To see familiar emotions on my face and know exactly what I must have been feeling, but have no clue what I was feeling them about.”
“We were on a scouting mission when you came across a strange camera,” he begins telling her. “I didn’t understand your excitement at finding it, until we got back and you showed me how it made ‘instant pictures’ as you called them.”
“Polaroid,” she offers by way of explanation, laughing a little at his description. “I’m surprised that anyone would still have one of them even in my present time. I can see why it would be exciting here where digital cameras are almost worthless and you can’t exactly go to the photo-mat to get negatives developed.”
Castiel frowns as he asks, “Why would you want to develop something that is negative?”
She throws back her head and laughs, wiping at her eyes as she tells him, “Well, I’m glad to see that you don’t completely change in the future.”
Before she can launch into an explanation, a loud rumbling from her stomach fills the room.
Hand uselessly trying to cover the noise, she sheepishly asks, “Don’t suppose there’s any food in this joint? I don’t know why, but I’ve been hungry as a racehorse for days.”
“I highly doubt you would be able to eat as much as a horse, let alone be able to have a sustainable diet of the roughage and grains that a horse consumes,” he tells her, sliding from the bed and tugging his white cotton pants back on.
Rather than point out that her statement had been a simile and not a statement of fact, she smiles and retorts, “I’ve been hungry enough the past several days that I just might be able to.”
As he nears the door, he tells her, “Most of our supplies are canned goods anymore, but I think I’ve got some soups I can heat up if you’d like?”
“Sure,” she agrees, moving to follow him.
He stops her at the door, hesitantly glancing away as he tells her, “Perhaps you should stay here. Dean was right in that it might be best if you remain unseen. It would…unsettle the people here.”
“Sure,” she slowly agrees, finally nodding when he looks relieved. Reaching out, she pulls him close for a quick kiss, her hands lingering briefly on his bare chest. “Thanks again for stitching my hip. That was the most…physically intense stitch job I’ve ever had done.” At his grin, she adds, “It’s probably a miracle I didn’t pop a stitch right away though.”
In response to his smug laughter, she pushes lightly on his chest, reminding him, “I mean it, I’m starving.”
His eyes drop to glance at the charm bracelet dangling from her wrist. The grin slipping from his lips and turning wistful as he reaches out to lightly caress the angel wing he’d given her.
“How long ago did I give this to you?”
Shrugging, she answers, “Night before my field trip to the future. So, only a couple of days now.”
“That explains it,” he says, more to himself.
Tearing his eyes away from the charm, he pulls back his hand and answers a little too quickly and nervously, “What time period you were removed from.”
She nods, but doesn’t press him on the strange conversation, pushing lightly on his shoulder when her stomach growls again. “Go. Food,” she intones.
He grins and slips from the room, leaving her alone to continue her perusal of his domain.
After making a quick circuit of the space, she finds herself back at his desk again, staring down at the two pictures she’d found earlier.
Whatever had been the importance of that day, she’d been happy. Really happy. And the photos obviously held some importance to Castiel, even now. The white plastic framing around the pictures show clear signs of heavy handling, as though they’d spent many hours being held by his fingers.
Hearing the former angel reenter the room, she looks up to see him set a large bowl of soup in front of her. He sits on the bed to eat his own, and for several minutes, they do so in comfortable silence.
But the photo niggles at her curiosity, until she has to ask, “What was important about that day? I can feel that it means something, even if I don’t know what. Almost like a strange déjà vu.”
With a resigned sigh, Castiel sets his bowl aside, sliding out the drawer of the nightstand next to him and reaching inside. He pulls something out, but it’s too small for her to see what’s in his hand.
“I gave this to you that day,” he whispers, still staring down and his curled palm.
Setting her empty bowl aside as well, she moves to sit beside him on the bed again, looking into his hand.
The shock of the sight nearly causes her to fall backwards, but she regains her composure and asks through a suddenly dry throat, “A ring?”
An answer isn’t necessary; she knows. A ring like that isn’t just any ring. And the smile on her face in that photo hadn’t been just any smile.
“I asked you to marry me,” he needlessly supplies.
It’s unnecessary to ask if she said “yes,” she’s seen the answer in the photo.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispers, staring at the ring in his palm. Truly, it’s one of the most beautiful rings she’s ever seen, and somehow seems so fitting as well.
She’s never been one to gauge carats of stones, but a good-sized blood red ruby is nestled in the center of a circle of black diamonds, even the ring itself is made of black gold. Along the sides of the band are more black diamonds, too. It’s unique and unequalled, she thinks to herself, but then, so is the former angel that holds it.
Yet, something doesn’t seem right. She knows by the photo that she obviously said “yes” to him…so why does he have the ring? Taking the ring from her body doesn’t seem like something he would do, even if he’s a former angel, she thinks he would have left the ring with her when she died.
“How did I die, Cas?”
He springs to his feet, stepping away from her and refusing to look back as he commands, “Don’t ask me about that. Just…don’t talk about that.”
Though it’s picking at an obvious wound, she can’t leave it alone now.
“I need to know, Cas. I have a right to know what happened,” she tries to reasonably explain.
Whipping around, he faces her, his eyes lightened with the moisture of unshed tears. “It doesn’t matter. What happened…it’s too…unspeakable. If you want to keep it from happening, then do what I asked of you. When you get back to your time, you leave. Disappear. Have no further contact with anything or anyone of the supernatural. Stay away from your brothers. Stay away from me. And most importantly…stay away from Azrael.” As he speaks, he stalks closer, until he’s gripped her shoulders and shakes her with his every command.
Shrugging out of his grip, she pushes away and stands to face him, arms crossed over her chest. “Then you need to give me something. You need to explain it to me. Because I’m thinking back on things, and starting to piece some things together, while at the same time, asking myself a lot of questions about things that don’t make sense.”
She holds one finger out on her hand as she begins, ignoring his obvious frustration and discomfort with the topic. “One, that girl I ran into this morning never sat right with me. Dean said that his future self told him that I died in this future. But that just doesn’t fit with that girl’s reaction. Her fainting like that wasn’t ‘Oh my God, there’s a dead girl walking around!’ That’s probably not so out of place with all the Crotes around here. She was terrified when she saw me. Not, I-saw-a-dead-girl, terrified. She was, I’m-gonna-have-my-face-ripped-off, terrified.”
She extends a second finger even as Castiel angrily turns away from her, moving to the desk and leaning down heavily on his braced hands. “And then there’s you. You see, I’ve just taken for granted that you’re the same terrible liar I’ve always known. But I’m thinking that you finally learned how to lie well. In that the best lie, isn’t a lie at all. It’s saying just the right things, to let the other person believe what they want, but never actually contradicting them or saying an outright lie. And you never said I was dead. You kept saying you ‘lost’ me. I just assumed that meant I died. So what really happened, Cas? Am I running around out there as a Crote or something?”
The silence as she waits for his answer is suddenly shattered as he slams his fist against the surface of the desk. “You said ‘yes!'” he all but screams.
Confusion tightens her features as she stares at him, not understanding why he’s circling back to his proposal. She’d already known by the photo what her answer had been.
“I know,” she tells him. “It doesn’t take a genius to put it together and see that I said ‘yes’ to you.”
“Not me,” he exclaims in a pained voice, falling into the chair, his head slumping down to fall into his hands. “You said ‘yes’ to her.”
Her jaw falls slack as she comprehends. “Azrael.”
“Yes,” he hisses through his hands, “Azrael.”
He shoves the shaggy hair back from his face, turning to look at her with bloodshot eyes. “You cannot say ‘yes’ to her. Stay away from me and your brothers if you must to hide from her, but don’t say ‘yes’ to her. No matter what.”
Pulled in by the pain in his voice and the anguish in his eyes, she moves closer and kneels in front of him, pulling his hands into hers as she pleads, “Tell me what happened, Cas. You’re asking me to leave everything I love. My family. Give me a reason to just disappear and leave it all behind. Leave my brothers behind. I’ve got to know what happened here, Cas.”
Slipping one of his hands free, he reaches down to cup her jaw in his palm as he tells her, “That day. The day that I finally had the courage to ask you to marry me, was the same day you told me you were pregnant.”
A/N: Shew! I knew that chapter would be long, but I had no idea! Before I split it up, it was over 30k words!
Anyway, be sure to leave some review love wherever you read this chapter. Your feedback is the only payment fanfiction writers get for our time, and the only way we can learn, so give any thoughts you may have. Thanks again!
And more surprises to come! 🙂