Tabitha parked the Impala and crossed Bobby’s salvage lot to where she could see her brother and Anna sitting huddled closely together.
“Figure out anything while I was gone?” she called out as she got closer.
Dean sprang to his feet, a guilty look on his face before he wiped it away. “Naw, not really. My baby okay?”
His sister tossed him his keys with a raised eyebrow.
But he immediately avoided her gaze, glancing back at the house and telling her, “I think I’ll go inside and see how Sammy’s coming along on figuring anything out.”
With a curious look at the angel Tabitha had now been left with, she chuckled and told Anna, “He can be so smooth sometimes, and then be such a bumbling kid at other times—like he got his hand caught in the cookie jar. I swear, I wonder what women see in him.”
Tabitha slid up onto the hood of the old car beside Anna, taking the spot her brother had previously occupied.
“I think there’s a certain amount of charm in seeing that smoothness deteriorate into the bumbling when he’s afraid of you seeing something he doesn’t want you to see,” Anna admitted with a small grin.
“There must be,” Tabitha agreed with a sarcastic look.
“He’s a good man, your brother is. I still can’t quite believe he actually wants to help me. And while part of me is grateful that you are all trying to help me, part of me just keeps reminding me that it’s futile and that you should all run for the hills.”
Tabitha pulled her legs up on the hood to sit cross-legged as she gave a self-deprecating laugh. “Yeah, well, nobody ever accused a Winchester of having great self-preservation skills.”
“Maybe,” Anna smiled, “but there’s definite loyalty and honor there.”
Shaking her head in return, Tabitha thought about her conversation with another angel as she stared down at the gravel lot, absently remarking, “Doesn’t seem that loyalty is real high on an angel’s list of traits though, no offense.”
Anna shook her head in return. “None taken. It’s one of the reasons I fell.” She looked sideways across at the other woman. “You probably think it was crazy that I wanted to fall and become human.”
Still looking down at the ground, Tabitha shrugged as she admitted, “No, I think I get it actually. To have the freedom that we do. To be able to make your own choices and feel the emotions you were always trying to lock away.”
“Exactly,” Anna breathed in a surprised rush. “That’s exactly why I fell.”
Tabitha finally looked up and turned towards Anna. “But why can’t angels? Why can’t angels think for themselves or make their own choices and mistakes?”
“We’re taught that emotions are forbidden. They lead to question, and then doubt. And that’s one of the worst things an angel can do—doubt,” Anna carefully explained. “We were made to be soldiers; we weren’t made to have the same freedoms as humans. It’s why many angels so resent humans, though resentment in itself is blasphemous.”
“Explains Uriel’s attitude though,” Tabitha agreed. “You really were their commander?” Tabitha asked, remembering when Anna had explained her former connection to the two angels sent to kill her.
“Yes. And that’s why it’s their job to hunt me down now. In some ways, I can’t blame them, they’re just following orders, but in other ways, I wish they weren’t so blind. I wish they would open their eyes and at least think to question why angels can’t have the same freedoms humans do. Sometimes, I’m not even sure that the orders that come down to the garrisons are even truly from our Father,” Anna admitted with a sigh.
“Do you think Castiel could ever understand why you did what you did or understand that his orders might need questioning?” Anna turned to look at her curiously. “It’s just that I—we—know Castiel better and have been around him more. We’ve only been around Uriel a couple of times and he makes it very clear that he has no love for humans.”
“Castiel was always a faithful soldier,” Anna explained. “I’m not surprised he was chosen to lead the garrison after I fell. Castiel always followed orders so very well. Never hesitated to follow them, and never deviated from them. I’m sure he’s still a good little servant to Heaven’s orders.”
Tabitha shrugged, but wasn’t so sure herself. He might still follow orders, but she knew he questioned them. And she knew he wasn’t as good a little servant as Anna thought. He was after all keeping the truth about her a secret from Heaven and the other angels. Was that just omitting unimportant facts, or was he disobeying the wishes of Heaven to help keep her a secret?
Tabitha walked back into the huge structure that had once been a large barn, but was now just an abandoned building, its rotten wood boards starting to crumble throughout the structure. But it had been the first place they had come across in Kentucky where they could hold up and regroup after failing to find Anna’s Grace like they’d been counting on.
She had gone back out to the Impala to gather more lore books to search through, and Dean had decided to stay outside at the car to look through the books he had.
As she entered the barn, she could hear Ruby telling Sam that they couldn’t fight both Heaven and Hell. Not both. Not at once. And Tabitha knew she was right, but like her brothers, she couldn’t just kick Anna to the curb now. They’d promised to help her. They just needed some sort of plan.
“Where’s Dean?” Sam asked when he saw her walk back into the barn.
“Wanted to stay outside to look through a few books,” she explained.
He nodded and looked back down at the tome laid out before him.
“Where’s Anna?” she asked him.
“Went outside for a walk,” he replied, not looking up.
“Huh,” she breathed, glancing over her shoulder at the large barn door she’d just come through. She wasn’t blind, she’d seen the looks pass between the former angel and her brother. She shook her head as she glanced back down at her younger brother. Wondering to herself at the choices of the Winchesters.
Her older brother was drawn to an angel, while her younger brother had been drawn to a demon. And her? Like always, Tabitha fell somewhere in the middle. She’d certainly slept with a demon—even if unknowingly—and now found her heart aching as she missed her angel friend.
She wanted to decry her brothers’ choices, but knew she had no platform to judge from.
“We can’t fight both Heaven and Hell,” Sam suddenly said, “but the two have always fought each other.”
Tabitha stepped closer and set her books down next to Sam as she peered down at him. “What are you saying, Sam?”
He looked up as he continued with a little more enthusiasm. “They’ve always fought each other, so let’s let them duke it out.”
She stared at him for a moment, feeling the demon step closer as the two women silently considered Sam’s idea.
“You don’t think it’ll work,” Sam told his sister, his face falling a bit.
She held her hand out to stop him. “No. I think it might. You’re right actually, it’s a great idea. Let them both come after Anna, they’ll think one of them will be able to get her, that she’s stuck in the crossfire, but when you’re stuck in the crossfire, all you have to do is step back and let each side take out the other,” she responded, remembering Castiel’s words about not wanting her in the crossfire. “It’s a brilliant idea, Sam. We just need to figure out how to discreetly offer Anna up to both sides so they don’t see the trap.”
For a moment, Tabitha worried about leading Castiel into a trap like that, but she shook it from her mind. She’d seen him take out demons with no more than a touch of his hand. He could certainly take care of himself.
“This could be dangerous,” Ruby agreed. “But I think I can convince Alistair that I’m offering Anna up to him to save my ass.”
Tabitha looked doubtfully at the demon, wondering to herself if she really would offer the girl up to save herself.
“See,” Ruby snapped at her. “You can already believe I’d do it. Shouldn’t be too hard to convince Alistair.”
“Alistair?” she asked.
“He’s the demon that kicked your brothers’ asses when he came for the girl.”
“But this plan would mean using Anna as bait,” Sam pointed out, quickly changing the subject. “Is that really a good idea? She’s basically human. She can’t really protect herself right now.”
“She’s the one who did that blood spell, Sam,” Tabitha pointed out. “And whether we want to believe it or not, she’s not the innocent human we first thought she was. Now, I’m not saying feed her to the wolves, but we’re running out of options here. Desperate times and all that.”
“But how do we convince the angels that we want to give up Anna?” her brother replied. “They said we have ’til midnight to hand her over or they throw Dean back down into Hell. Maybe we should get him to offer her up.”
Tabitha bristled at the reminder of the angels’ threats, pissed that they would threaten her brother with something like that.
Sam started to stand up. “Maybe we should go get Dean and have him make the offer to the angels somehow.”
But Tabitha placed a hand on her brother’s shoulder, pressing him down into his chair as she replied, “Let’s just go through these books first and make sure we’re not missing anything. I think Dean needed a little time to himself, so let’s give him some space.”
She didn’t add that she thought he was actually taking some time with a fallen angel and not really alone. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing or the smartest choice, but if the fallen angel could bring her brother a little peace, she wasn’t going to stand in the way of it.
Tabitha looked around to find herself standing alone in the forest where Anna’s Grace had fallen.
“What am I doing out here?” Tabitha asked herself.
“I wished to speak with you again,” Castiel said from behind her.
Spinning to face the sound, Tabitha found the angel walking towards her through the tall blades of dried brown grass, the silver glow of the moonlight illuminating his usual trench coat in an almost ethereal glow.
“This is a dream,” she guessed.
“Yes,” he answered as he stepped past her, standing beside the giant oak tree that had grown where Anna’s Grace had been, and gently placing his palm against the rough bark. Still touching the tree, he turned his head to regard her. “But it was difficult to reach you even in dreams. What have you done to hide yourself so thoroughly?” he question again, his hand falling away from the tree, dropping to his side as he stepped closer, his head canting to the side slightly as he continued to silently regard her. “It can’t be the hex bag you had. That would do nothing to keep an angel from finding you in dreams.”
Tabitha crossed her arms over her chest as she truthfully answered, “I don’t know, Cas.”
His eyes were drawn down to her chest, and for a moment, Tabitha was surprised at where his stare landed, but then, he reached out and drew one of her hands towards himself, staring at the bracelet on her wrist, present even in her dream.
“Where did you get this?” he whispered.
“It was my mother’s,” she replied, sudden realization dawning on her. “I haven’t worn it in years, but that’s it, isn’t it? I’ve always wondered what all the strange symbols were, and there’s something on there hiding me from you and other angels.”
He held her hand out and gestured to one of the symbols dangling in the air from her wrist, not quite touching it as he said, “This is Enochian. It hides and protects you from angels. It’s a very powerful sigil of protection. No angel can penetrate its power to harm you or reach you.”
Tabitha’s eyes scrunched together. “But you found me. You found me here in my dreams, and you were able to speak to me before. It was difficult, but you did. And what’s Enochian?”
“More than difficult,” he agreed. “But I understand now why it took such effort on my part to reach you. And even then, you reached out partway to me each time; otherwise I never could have overcome this sigil to reach you. And the only reason I could even reach you partway is because I have can recognize your soul well enough to find the pathway to the wall you are hidden behind. But no other angel would be able to.” He looked up and met her eyes, relief awash in them. “Enochian is the language of Heaven—of angels. It’s good that you have this protection.”
“I don’t understand,” Tabitha shook her head. “You know my soul? What does that even mean? And does it mean an angel made this?”
Castiel traced a finger across the back of Tabitha’s hand as he stared at the path he traced, reminding her that he still held her hand in his. “I can’t say who made it. Perhaps an angel, perhaps not. But in the time I have come to spend with you, I know the feel of your soul—it’s the force, the energy within you. No soul is like another.”
“You know me, know my soul so well, but you’ve still been avoiding me. Refusing to answer when I called out for you so that I could try to explain what happened and make you understand that it was just a drunken accident.”
His eyes jerked up to hers as his brows drew together. “I didn’t hear you call for me and not answer. I would guess this sigil kept me from hearing you. I didn’t know you had called for me.”
“But you’ve still been avoiding me.”
“I thought it for the best,” he replied, letting go of his grip on her hand and stepping backwards. Tabitha’s hand hung almost mournfully in the air for a moment, and then fell back to her side. “I didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding of my intention of friendship.”
Tabitha huffed. “Just like any man, you know that? Stop taking yourself so seriously. I was drunk. It didn’t mean anything. Other than me offending a friend. But you can’t hold the actions of a drunk against them. You can’t let it ruin a good friendship.”
Castiel continued to stare at the ground, his face drawn and confused. “It meant nothing?” he softly asked, something strange in his voice.
“No,” she vehemently replied, trying to reassure the angel. “Other than me scaring off a friend, like I said. And I’ve missed you, Cas. I really have. But it was just a mistake, and we don’t have to let it ruin our friendship. I’ve missed you,” she repeated.
There was a look in his eyes as he glanced back up, sadness, and something else she couldn’t place.
“But now we come down on different sides of this latest issue,” he softly reminded her, diverting her attention from trying to place his look.
She shrugged in return and argued, “So what? Friends disagree on things. They don’t always have to be on the same side. I know this is a little different than the disagreements most friends have. They don’t always disagree on whether or not someone should be killed, but we’re not normal. You’re an angel, and I’m…I don’t know what the hell I am. But I’m not normal, Cas. So we can disagree, but we can still be friends. Can’t we?”
“Uriel has spoken to Dean,” he told her, surprising her with the sudden change in topic.
“He tells me that Dean has agreed to give us Anna,” the angel quietly informed her, seeming to brace himself.
“Uriel threatened Dean, didn’t he?” Tabitha demanded. “I don’t mean threatened him personally, but he threatened to hurt Sam and I, didn’t he? That’s the only reason Dean would actually agree to turn Anna over like that.”
Tabitha gave a disgusted snort, walking away and turning herself partially away from Castiel. “And you’re okay with that? You’re okay with your buddy threatening my brother with harming me and Sam? That’s okay if it delivers the results you want in the end.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Castiel step closer, his hands fidgeting almost nervously at his side as he told her, “I don’t have the luxury of disobeying direct orders. I have to deliver the results Heaven wants. One way or another.”
“And would you do it?” she demanded, twirling to face him again. “If it came down to it, would you hurt or kill me and Sam to get what you need to follow your orders?”
He glanced away, hesitant again to meet her eyes. “I don’t know,” he admitted in a solemn whisper. “And that frightens me more than you know. But I have prayed to my Father that such a time never comes,” he continued, raising his head to show her the pain in his eyes.
“I pray it never comes to that, too.”
“Then will you stand in the way? Or when we come for Anna, will you stay out of our path?” he pleaded with her, the pain still unmasked in his eyes.
She looked away and refused to meet Castiel’s eyes as she told him, “Just as there is nothing Dean wouldn’t do to protect Sam and me, there’s nothing I won’t do to protect him and Sam and keep you from throwing Dean back into Hell.”
Castiel seemed to accept the non-answer, stepping closer as he reached out to lightly grip her hand, softly saying, “Thank you.”
Tabitha finally turned back towards him, gripping his hand in a crushing hold and telling him, “Even if you don’t understand, I’m trying to do what I think is right. But I’ll always do what I must to protect those I love.”
“I know,” Castiel responded.
Tabitha’s eyes jerked open with a start. She looked around and saw that she was back in the old barn she’d fallen asleep in, her head resting on one of the open books she’d been going through. Sam was next to her, sleeping in a similar manner against the old table they’d laid their work out at.
Dean walked into the barn with Anna following behind him just as Tabitha sat up. He glanced at her and Sam next to her, still sleeping away, and then his eyes darted quickly back towards Anna before guiltily looking away from any of them.
Tabitha caught her brother’s covert look at the fallen angel, his apparent guiltiness, as well as the way they both were still tugging at their clothes, but chose to ignore it, waiting instead for him to speak first as she leaned back in her uncomfortable wooden chair. She stretched where she sat, her body feeling stiff and sore from falling asleep in the strange position.
“I did my part,” he said in low tones, trying to keep from waking Sam. “The angels are properly baited.” He looked around. “Where’s Ruby?”
Looking around as well, Tabitha couldn’t find the demon. “I don’t know. She was here when I fell asleep, but maybe she took off to handle her part of the plan. She said she knew what she was doing.”
“Can we trust her?” Dean asked. “This plan won’t work worth shit if the angels are the only ones to show.”
Shrugging, Tabitha honestly answered, “Well, I think that demon is devious enough to pull it off. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Dean looked at her suspiciously. “You didn’t ask if I was sure the angels were coming, or how I knew they were.”
Tabitha stood and walked a few steps away, stretching her back and looking out through the gaps in the boards over the windows at the dark night as she whispered in return, “Didn’t need to ask you. I talked to Castiel, and he has no doubt that you’ll just hand Anna over. Uriel was very convincing it seems in getting your agreement.”
In the silence that followed, Tabitha finally turned to face her brother.
His face was dark and his words were tight as he carefully spoke, “Well, I guess it’s good to have confirmation that the angels believe us, but you need to stop talking to those dickwads.”
Tabitha shrugged, knowing her brother still didn’t like her talking to the angels, but knowing she couldn’t really stop it just because he didn’t like it. She couldn’t keep Castiel from talking to her if he wanted to, and truthfully, she didn’t want him to stop.
Anna’s gaze darted back and forth between the siblings, sensing the more than obvious tension that had developed between the two and had yet to dissipate. “You spoke to Castiel?” At Tabitha’s nod she slowly continued, “I would have—I should have heard that you spoke to him, it made sense that Uriel was so careful… Which means Castiel is being very careful in coming to you and speaking with you, too. I wonder if it’s so I wouldn’t overhear it, or so someone else wouldn’t overhear.”
With a shrug, Tabitha looked away again. She didn’t want to discuss it, even with Anna.
“Do you really think this will work?” Dean softly asked. “I mean, this whole plan hinges on us being able to pull a fast one on not only the angels, but the demons as well. Are we getting in too deep here?”
“You don’t have to do any of this,” Anna replied, causing Tabitha to spin back around. “You could take the angel’s offer and keep your family safe.”
With an incredulous look, Tabitha stared at Anna, and then turned towards Dean. He held her eyes in the same silent look. The same silent agreement. They’d come too far and risked too much to turn away now.
Without a word, Tabitha turned back around, hearing Dean walk away as he spoke in low tones to Anna.
“We’re not turning back now. One way or another, we’re seeing this through.”
It was late morning when the three Winchesters nervously paced around the barn, waiting with the fallen angel. Waiting for noon when the angels were to arrive. Waiting for what would break loose after that.
Gusts of wind and power suddenly swept through the barn, blowing the doors open as Castiel and Uriel walked through the doorway side by side.
The Winchesters gathered protectively around Anna as the angels came to a stop a few feet away from them. Sam and Dean were on either side of Tabitha and Anna.
Uriel sneered at them all, but Castiel’s expression was almost soft and kind as he gently said, “Hello, Anna. It’s good to see you.”
“How?” Sam incredulously demanded. “How did you find us?”
Castiel glanced briefly at Dean, drawing Sam’s attention towards his brother. Dean responded by guiltily looking away, not meeting his brother’s eyes.
“Dean?” Sam questioned as Anna turned to regard Dean as well.
But Tabitha looked straight ahead, staring at Castiel until he glanced almost apologetically up at her, his true voice gently whispering, I’m sorry for what we have to do.
Unsure if it would work, Tabitha concentrated and pushed a thought silently back at him. I am, too.
Sam turned to their sister, saying in an imploring voice, “Tabitha?”
She held Castiel’s gaze as she shook her head and responded to her brother, “We all have to make hard choices sometimes, Sam. Sometimes deciding to make the right choice is an impossibly difficult thing and the consequences can be so high.”
Castiel gave the slightest nod to her in return, as if acknowledging the hard choice he knew she had to make. But she knew he didn’t really understand it.
Dean finally glanced up at Anna, whispering to her, “I’m sorry.”
Tabitha broke her gaze with Castiel, glancing towards Anna beside her as she echoed Dean. “I’m sorry as well, but there’s no turning back now.”
“Why?” Sam demanded, not knowing what deal Dean had struck the night before while he’d been sleeping.
Anna glanced at the other angels before turning to look across Tabitha at Sam. “Because they gave him a choice. They either kill me…or kill the two of you.” Sam looked accusingly at Castiel as the angel dropped his eyes. “I know how their minds work,” Anna continued.
Castiel looked up again, glancing between Tabitha and Anna, but no refute was on his lips.
Anna turned to Dean, laying a gentle hand on his arm as she turned and stepped closer, pressing a soft, lingering kiss to his lips as she told him, “You did the best you could. I forgive you.” She glanced at Tabitha as well. “And I forgive you. I know you can’t stop what’s been started.”
She faced the other two angels with determination, bravely stepping forward as she told them, “Okay. No more tricks. No more running. I’m ready.”
“I’m sorry,” Castiel told her.
“No. You’re not,” Anna argued. “Not really. You don’t know the feeling.”
Castiel shook his head. “Still, we have a history. It’s just—”
“Orders are orders,” Anna angrily cut him off. “I know. Just make it quick.”
“Don’t you touch a hair on that poor girl’s head,” suddenly rang out behind them, causing them all to turn and face the demons that had just appeared in the barn. Two demons stood behind the one that had spoken, holding a bleeding and shaky Ruby up between them.
Together, Dean and Tabitha stepped forward to grab Anna, pulling her towards the side of the barn, out of the pathway as Uriel stalked towards the demons. The two holding Ruby unceremoniously dropped her, allowing her to crawl to the side of the barn out of the way.
As Uriel got closer to the demons, he snidely told them, “How dare you come in the room…you pussing sore?”
The demon that seemed to be the ring-leader sneered in return, stepping forward as he spoke in a slightly effeminate voice as he casually twirled the knife Sam and Dean had previously lost, giving Tabitha a pretty good idea that this was the same strong-ass demon, Alistair, Ruby had told her about. “Name-calling. That hurt my feelings…you sanctimonious fanatical prick.”
“Turn around and walk away now,” Castiel ordered.
Alistair smirked. “Sure. Just give us the girl. We’ll make sure she gets punished good and proper.”
Castiel stared at the demons. “You know who we are and what we will do,” he softly threatened as he stepped forward beside Uriel. “I won’t say it again. Leave now…or we lay you to waste.”
Grinning, Alistair told him, “Think I’ll take my chances.”
Uriel suddenly lunged at one of the other two minion demons, shoving him backwards into one of the support beams, snapping the thing in two as he wrestled with the demon he held as well as the other when it tried to jump him.
Castiel stepped towards Alistair, punching him several times before pressing his palm to the demon’s forehead. Tabitha waited for the demon to disappear in a bright light like the others had when Castiel had done that, but the demon remained unaffected, staring back at the angel as Castiel pulled his hand away in surprise.
“Sorry kiddo,” the demon told him. “Why don’t you go run to daddy?” he continued as he shoved Castiel’s hand away, punching upwards at the angel’s jaw and sending him flying backwards to land in a heap on his back.
The siblings had planned to stay back and let the two forces duke it out, and while Uriel seemed to be handling the other two, easily dispatching the first demon he had grabbed, Castiel was knocked onto his back as Alistair straddled him and grabbed his neck, the angel’s eyes bulging as he struggled against the demon’s hold. Alistair was meanwhile leaning over him as he chanted, “Potestas inferna, me confirma. Potestas inferna, me confirma. Potestas inferma, me confirma!”
“Shit,” Tabitha gasped, shocked that a demon was able to get the best of an angel. Her Latin translations were rusty, but she knew Alistair was essentially praying to Hell for strength, Tabitha just didn’t know if the demon was trying to kill or exorcise the angel—if that was even possible. But it certainly looked bad. Turning, she grabbed a nearby crowbar and ran back towards the struggling demon and angel, shaking off Dean’s grabbing hand when he tried to stop her and swinging the heavy iron bar in an upwards arc at the demon’s face, knocking his hold on the angel away.
Dean suddenly grabbed her arm, shoving her behind him as he punched the demon rising to his feet.
Alistair merely wagged his finger at him in return. “Dean, Dean, Dean…” he reproachfully spoke. “I am so disappointed. You had such promise,” he continued as he stepped around Dean.
Dean backed up as he pushed Tabitha away from him, trying to distance himself from her as the demon raised his hand towards them.
Sam and Dean both immediately grabbed at their throats, contorting in pain as they fell to their knees, choking and moaning as they dropped.
But then, the demon threw a surprised look at Tabitha still on her feet, and raised his other hand towards her, flicking his fingers at her again as she actually felt the wave of power wash around her, passing her by as though she were a boulder with gentle waves of a stream rolling past.
“What?” he whispered to himself in surprise.
Tabitha turned her head and yelled at Anna. “Go now, Anna, get it before it’s too late!”
She didn’t wait to see if Anna followed her order or not, but held her ground as Alistair stalked closer to her, seeing from the corner of her eye that her brothers were still contorting with pain.
Holding the crowbar defensively in the air between them, Tabitha quickly began reciting, “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, omnis—”
Her words were cut off as Alistair reached out and backhanded her, knocking her sideways with the force until she fell to one knee, bracing her fall with one hand before pushing to rise and face the demon again.
“You think you can use a simple exorcism to be rid of me?” Alistair asked, gesturing to himself. “Whatever your little tricks or spells to protect yourself are, they won’t be enough to actually exorcise me. Or keep me from beating the life out of you if I must. I don’t mind getting my hands a little dirty.”
She glanced over her shoulder, seeing Anna grab the necklace from around Uriel’s neck and throwing it to the ground.
“I don’t need to use tricks or spells to get rid of you,” she told him. “Just a few tricks to distract you and buy time.”
Anna suddenly fell to her knees as light began leeching through her very skin. She twisted and contorted as she yelled to them, “Shut your eyes! Shut your eyes!”
The demon’s attention fell away from Tabitha as he glanced up at Anna, now almost wholly awash in light as she screamed one last time, “Shut your eyes!” screaming in pain as power and light began to swell around her, filling the barn.
Tabitha fell to her knees as she closed her eyes, feeling the demon rush past her as he tried to grab Anna.
And suddenly, the light and power were gone, silence filling the air where Anna’s screams had been.
Everyone slowly got to their feet, stepping to the middle of the barn where Anna had been. Dean paused to pick up the demon killing knife that Alistair had dropped when he grabbed for Anna, disappearing in the light that had burst from her.
Tabitha glanced cautiously at Castiel as the two rose to their feet only a foot away from each other, each looking the other over before their gazes darted away.
Dean stared hard at Castiel, telling him, “Well, what are you guys waiting for? Go get Anna…unless, of course, you’re scared.”
“This isn’t over,” Uriel threatened as he lunged for Dean, stopping when Castiel grabbed his shoulder and calmly pulled him back.
“Oh, it looks over to me, junkless.”
Castiel stared back and forth at both Tabitha and Dean, finally holding Tabitha’s eyes alone as a questioning look filled his eyes.
“Sometimes we have to make hard choices,” she repeated to him. “But at least now Anna’s strong enough to face whatever’s coming for her. She can face whatever the consequences of her choices were on her own now.”
He gave an almost imperceptible nod, and then disappeared, leaving the Winchesters standing in the middle of the barn as Ruby lurched to her feet and joined them.
“You okay?” Sam asked her.
“Not so much,” she replied, sounding almost out of breath.
“What took you so long to get here?” Dean complained.
“Sorry I’m late with the demon delivery. I was only being tortured.”
Dean gave a slight wince and looked away as Sam looked the demon’s injuries over.
“I got to hand it to you, Sammy, bringing them all together all at once—angels and demons. It’s a damn good plan,” Dean complimented.
Sam glanced at Ruby. “Yeah, well, when you got Godzilla and Mothra on your ass, best to get out of their way and let them fight. But I still wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Tab’s the one who said who should let them go at it and just step out of the crossfire and let them take each other out.”
Dean gave a half-hearted laugh. “Yeah, now you’re just bragging.”
Tabitha gave a small smile as she looked up at her younger brother. “You gave one hell of a performance, Sammy. You could have been one heck of an actor. You had even me believing you were totally clueless about why the angels had come.”
He smiled slightly. “You guys, too. I almost believed that you guys were conspiring to turn her over to the angels.”
Silence fell for a moment as they thought about Anna and the fact that she, too, was now an angel.
“So, I guess she’s some big-time angel now, huh?” Sam quietly observed. “She must be happy…wherever she is.”
Dean looked sad as he replied, “I doubt it.”
Sam quietly helped Ruby out of the barn, but Tabitha hung back with Dean as she whispered to him, “You okay?”
“Yeah. Fine,” he answered in clipped tones.
“It’s okay to miss her,” Tabitha gently reminded him, ignoring his brusqueness.
He shrugged. “Won’t change anything. She’s an angel now, and I’m just a human. That kind of thing could never possibly work out, and I’d be an idiot if I ever thought it could. They’re nothing like us.”
Tabitha watched silently as her brother walked out of the barn, repeating softly to herself, “Yeah, only an idiot would ever think that could work. But Winchesters were never accused of making the smart choices.”
Tabitha strolled along the bank of the lake, her hands trailing through the tall grass as she gazed at the placid water, small beads of sweat gathering and rolling over her skin in the humid air.
Suddenly, the lake erupted in a violent splash, peals of laughter coming from the water as Tabitha turned her head to see Dean lazily stroking his arms against the churning water. He swam easily backwards through the water as he called to Sam and encouraged his younger brother to join him in the water.
Tabitha laughed as she watched Sam grab the rope suspended from a limb, backing up and then running towards the lake as he swung out over the water by the thick rope, waiting until he was at the highest point of the arc before letting go, sailing out through the air over Dean’s head before landing in the water with another loud splash.
They swam contentedly for a few minutes before turning to the wooded shoreline and calling to Tabitha, laughing and egging her on, encouraging her to join them in the water.
But she stayed on the shore, watching them swim and push and splash each other as she observed their play. She was dressed in a bikini with a white beach sarong wrapped around her waist. Her attire was perfect to join her brothers in their play, but she remained on the shore instead.
“This is one of my favorite dreams,” she said with a happy smile. “One of my favorite memories.”
“You seemed happy here,” Castiel observed.
Tabitha finally looked over to see the angel standing beside her, still in his trench coat, his arms grasped behind his lower back in what she was starting to think of as his familiar and habitual stance.
“I was,” she agreed, glancing back out at her brothers, now darting after each other in the water, each trying to grab and dunk the other under.
“I don’t understand why watching your brothers bathe in a lake would be a happy memory,” Castiel told her, his face slightly scrunching as he stared at their horseplay.
Choking back a laugh, Tabitha told him, “They’re not bathing. They’re just swimming. And having fun. This is the last happy and carefree memory I have with my brothers. It was like three months before my father and Sam had their last fight and Sam wanted to leave. This was the last time the three of us were together, just young—maybe naïve—but happy. Really carefree and happy. Dad had just taken off on his own hunt, and sent the three of us to look into this probable vengeful spirit. And we managed to take care of it in like a day and a half, and as we were driving back from this old country cemetery where we’d torched the bones, we found this little lake out in the country, and we decided that we’d earned the rest of the day off. So we just pulled over, changed into our swimming suits, and relaxed, swam, sunbathed—just played and enjoyed each other like we were normal kids, normal siblings. We didn’t have many moments like that growing up where we were just normal kids. And I remember every one of them.”
For a while, human and angel stood side by side in silence, just observing the scene before them. But Tabitha could feel the change in the angel beside her, and knew he was about to change the mood of the scene with whatever he was about to say.
Turning from the happy memory to keep it unsullied, Tabitha walked away, calling over her shoulder to the angel, “Come on.”
The scene around them changed, and she was dressed in her usual attire of jeans, boots, and a t-shirt as she strolled across the back patio of her home in Virginia, sitting on the end of one of her rarely used lounge chairs. She gestured to the one beside her as she swiveled to face it, grinning when the angel uncomfortably sat sideways on the low lounge chair like she had.
“I rarely got to use my patio when I actually owned the place, but there’s nothing to say I can’t use it in my dreams, huh?” she grinned.
Castiel only nodded in return.
“Say it,” she told the angel. “Just say whatever it is that brought you here to my dreams.”
“You purposefully lead us into a trap,” Castiel said. There wasn’t any accusation in his voice, but she was pretty sure she heard confusion.
She shrugged as she leaned forward, bracing her elbows on her knees as she wished for a beer, and then grinning when a bottle of her favorite micro-brew in Virginia appeared in her hand. She took a slow pull from the bottle, and wished to herself that it was a real beer and not just a dream as she stared down at the bottle in her hands, still leaning on her elbows.
“I’m not going to apologize for that,” she slowly told him. “But I will say it didn’t go down quite like we were expecting.” She looked up to meet Castiel’s confused gaze. “I—we—never would have risked that if we’d known you wouldn’t be able to take out Alistair like I’ve seen you do with other demons.”
Clenching her fists around the bottle she held and feeling her chest constrict at the mention of the demon, she told the angel with a voice that nearly broke, “And I wanted to thank you again. I know I’ve thanked you before for saving Dean, but I had no idea what he went through when he was down there. What they did to him, and what that demon made him do. He finally told us, at least told us the broad-strokes of what Hell was like. I just wanted to thank you again for saving him.”
“I was just following orders,” Castiel told her, his gaze downturned and his voice soft.
“Of course. But still.”
The angel looked up into her face again. “You could have been killed today. What you did was foolish and more than dangerous. You could have been killed.”
“You, too,” she softly pointed out.
He looked away as he admitted in a flat tone, “Yes.”
“Don’t like that a human saved your life, or me in particular?” she asked as she studiously worked on peeling the paper label off her bottle.
Castiel’s gaze jerked back to hers. “What you did—facing Alistair like that…facing a demon that powerful…it could have gotten you killed. It was foolish,” he repeated.
Instead of looking up, Tabitha continued to peel away at the label with her thumbnail. “Maybe it was. But we brought those demons there. It was partly my responsibility.”
The angel blew a loud breath through his nose. “It’s my responsibility to protect you,” he reminded her. “But you make it difficult when you trick and mislead me,” he stiffly continued.
Finally looking up to meet his stern gaze, Tabitha defended herself. “I already told you that I wasn’t going to apologize for that. I don’t know what Dean said to Uriel, but I never lied to you. I never implied that I was going to do anything other than what I did. If you made certain assumptions and drew certain conclusions, I can’t help that.”
The angel’s head canted slightly to the side as he observed her. “I drew the conclusions you wanted me to come to at the time,” he pointedly reminded.
“Maybe,” she admitted. “But I meant what I said then, I’ll do whatever I have to do to protect those I care for. And dammit, I do care about you, Cas. You’re my friend. And if I have to mislead you a little bit to protect you in the end, so be it.”
“Protect me?” he incredulously asked, leaning backwards in the lounge chair in his surprise. “How is misleading me and not allowing me to carry out my orders protecting me?!” he demanded, raising his voice more than she had ever heard from the angel when he spoke to her.
Springing to her feet, Tabitha stared down at the angel as she crossly told him, “Because I know you, Cas. I see past that wall you try to put up. You keep trying to point out and tell me that you’re heartless and that you’ll do whatever you have to, and even Anna thinks you don’t feel, but I’ve seen that you do. You didn’t want to follow those orders to kill Anna. I saw the pain in your eyes when you thought about having to kill her. I saw your grief and regret. You didn’t want to. And maybe you’re not sorry about it like she thinks you should be, maybe you don’t feel the same way humans do, or even understand the way humans do, but you do feel. And even though you didn’t want to kill Anna, you would have carried out your orders because you’re obedient to Heaven. I may not get that, but I understand that you are.”
Tabitha paced anxiously as she continued. “Being a friend isn’t always about doing what your friend asks you to do, Cas. Sometimes you have to do the opposite to do what’s really best for them. Even if it’ll just piss them off with you. And maybe that’s it. Maybe you’re pissed off with me for not doing exactly what you asked me to do, and maybe I’m going to Hell for conspiring to keep an angel from being able to follow his orders, but I’d do it again, Cas. Even if I never see you again, because you are a friend to me and that’s what friends do. You didn’t really want to have to kill Anna. You knew her for a long time, and didn’t want to have to kill her. I saw how much that would have pained you—how much that would have wounded a piece of you. So I did what I had to do to help you.”
She finally stopped paced and turned to face the still seated angel, taking in the way he stared up at her with a strange look.
“I won’t apologize,” she repeated to him.
He slowly stood to face her, stepping closer as he searched her eyes. “This is what friends do for each other?”
Nodding, she explained. “Yeah, this is what real friends do for each other. They make hard choices and do things to protect their friends even though it might incur their wrath.” She suddenly laughed to herself. “Although, the wrath of an angel does put a different spin on things than with normal human friendships.”
Castiel slowly reached up to touch his fingertips to her cheek, seeming to test the surface of her skin before he completely pressed the palm of his hand fully against the side of her face. Tabitha’s eyes slid closed at the warm and peaceful sensation it filled her with. “You saved my life when you fought Alistair. I was unprepared for his strength,” he softly told her. “It was foolish and dangerous, but…thank you. Thank you for all you have tried to do for me. No one has ever…”
Tabitha’s eyes slowly opened as he trailed off, his blue eyes sparkling down at hers as he stared down at her with unrestrained gratitude.
Impulsively, she leaned forward and softly brushed her lips across his cheek, whispering, “You’re welcome,” and smiling when he leaned back, his face becoming closed off and guarded once more.
“Relax,” she told him. “I’m not being dumb and drunk again. That was just a friendly kiss on the cheek. Just a gesture of comfort.”
“A friendly kiss?” he repeated in question.
She laughed up at the angel, shaking her head as she told him, “Yeah. Friendly. Friends kiss on the cheek. And I promise to try not to get so drunk around you again and make any more inappropriate passes. But if I do, you’re welcome to push me away and tell me to go sleep my drunk off.”
The angel nodded but didn’t seem so sure.
“We cool?” she asked him, gesturing with her hand between the two of them.
“No,” he slowly answered. “You are a perfectly normal temperature for a human and I am able to maintain my vessel at a normal temperature as well.”
Biting her lower lip to keep from laughing, Tabitha carefully told the angel, “It’s human speak for is everything okay between us? Can we just go back to being friends again? Like we were. I miss you stopping by to hang out. It’s hard just having the boys to talk to all the time.”
Castiel nodded in slow understanding of her explanation, but surprised her when he said, “I wish I could hear your thoughts to better understand you. To know what you were truly thinking.”
Tabitha jerked back slightly. “‘Hear my thoughts?'” she repeated in surprise. “You can hear thoughts?” she suspiciously asked, more than slightly unnerved.
He nodded. “I can see into the mind and soul of any human to read their thoughts and their heart. But not you. With you, I don’t know what you are thinking. I can feel your soul, but your thoughts are beyond my reach.”
Tabitha glanced down at the charm bracelet present on her wrist even in her dream.
Following her gaze, Castiel shook his head. “Your thoughts were beyond my reach even before you began wearing those charms. I don’t know if your thoughts are hidden from me for the same reason you can hear my true voice, or if there is some other reason. I have never known a human like you before, so I can’t say.”
Staring at the bracelet, Tabitha lightly touched her finger to the charm Castiel had said was an Enochian sigil of protection. The charm was intricately carved, seeming almost too fine to have even been done by any human. The charm had a small circle in the middle, waving lines running from it to the outer edges of the charm, almost appearing like a stylistic sun, but at the ends of each line, and in between each line, we many more strange symbols she had never seen before.
As she stared at the bracelet, she asked Castiel, “Why did you say it was good that I had this charm to hide and protect me? I thought the angels wanted me protected for some reason anyway. So why do I need it to protect me from them?”
“It protects you from more than just angels,” he told her, drawing her attention away from the charm as she remembered Alistair not being able to fling his mojo at her like he had with her brothers. “And I think there is still good reason to keep you hidden from other angels,” he cautiously admitted to her.
“But I’m hidden from you, too,” she reminded him.
He nodded. “Yes. But I can still find your brothers. And you can still overcome the power of the spell to speak to me.” He looked around the patio of her former Virginia home, now bathed in the soft orange and red lights of sunset. “And I can of course bypass its power to reach you in dreams, though it is not an easy task.”
“Shouldn’t we figure out a way to make charms like this for my brothers?” she asked him, holding her wrist up and indicating to the charm.
Castiel took her wrist between his two hands, gently spinning the bracelet around to stare down at the charm. “This is more than a simple sigil that I can reproduce. There is power imbedded in this charm. Power I cannot reproduce. Besides, it’s best that I still be able to find your brothers at need. Dean is important to the angels, they won’t hurt him.”
“But it’s important that I’m hidden from them?” she questioned in confusion.
Still staring down at the hand he held between his, Castiel lowly told her, “Angels are not meant to form friendships with humans. We are meant to watch them. Protect them. But not closely interact with them.” He finally looked up into her eyes, almost apologetically telling her, “It’s safer this way.”
Staring at her for another minute, Castiel whispered to her, “I’m sorry for—”
Tabitha felt herself roughly jerked in a rocking motion. Rolling to her back, she opened her eyes and sat up in the back of the Impala.
Sam pulled his arm back over the seat as he stopped shaking her. “I’m sorry for waking you, Tab. But we found a motel for the night. And I think we found another case, but we need to do a little research to check it out.”
“Of course we do,” she groaned to herself.
Tabitha wiped the sleep from her eyes as she stepped out of the car, stretching her stiff muscles as she looked at the rundown motel, thinking to herself that if it looked this bad in the dead of night, she wasn’t looking forward to seeing it in sunlight.
As she followed her brothers to their room, she couldn’t help but ponder the angel’s confession that their friendship put her in some danger. Her brother and Pamela had warned her against it as well.
She knew the smart thing would have been to cut all ties with the angel and keep her head down and protect herself.
But she reminded herself once more that she was a Winchester, and the Winchesters weren’t always known for making the “smart” choice.