Tabitha was quickly becoming used to their current traveling arrangements. Dean of course drove most of the time—only switching off with Sam or Tabitha when exhaustion was nearly past the point of overwhelming him—and Sam usually rode shotgun. Leaving Tabitha to ride in the backseat.
Not that she minded. She got the whole backseat to herself to stretch out and sleep on and could spread her things out around her without it disturbing the boys too much. And she’d never had a problem with carsickness, so she could easily read or work in the back as they drove, too.
After waking from a long nap, she quietly dug out her laptop and powered it on. She knew she couldn’t work too long on it, she’d run her main laptop battery down that morning and had already used a little bit of the power on her backup battery. But at least she could check into a few things that she’d been thinking about as she’d drifted off to sleep.
Looking up as the laptop powered on, she caught her older brother’s eyes in the review mirror. He nodded to her, asking softly, “Sleep well?”
She shrugged in return, glancing in front of her at their younger brother. “Well enough,” she replied, careful to keep her tone quiet so as not to wake Sam from his sleep in the passenger seat. His head was turned to lean against the side of the car, and whatever folded-over newspaper he’d been reading had slid from his lap onto the floor at his feet.
Dean said nothing, his eyes turning back to the road as she concentrated on her computer screen, plugging in her wireless data card so she could access the internet as they drove.
Tabitha paused as she waited to connect to the internet, her eyes landing on the charms of her bracelet clinking lightly against her laptop. She’d been doing more research on some of the charms, but still hadn’t been able to learn much more about any of them. There was one she’d found some obscure references to in some hoodoo lore as a protection amulet against other magics. But there hadn’t been much about it online, and nothing she was certain she could really rely on. She was really hoping to find some time to do some research in the heart of hoodoo territory, but wasn’t sure when she’d get down to New Orleans.
Her brothers had done some research, too, but were as clueless as she was about the charms. She was just glad that Dean had begun to focus his attention on the mysteries of the charm bracelet instead of still riding her about not telling him she could hear angels’ voices. They’d had more than a few blowups over the whole issue. And Tabitha glumly wondered to herself how pissed off her brother would be if he realized she was spending as much time talking with the angel as she still was, or if he knew how close of a friend she considered Castiel. She even wondered to herself if she wasn’t better off finally breaking the news to him about their friendship rather than letting it go on longer in secret.
Finally, she put the matter of the angel and the charm bracelet on her mind, turning back to her computer and her current task.
Her attention was so focused on her computer screen, that she didn’t even really notice when her brother had pulled to a stop at a motel. Nor that her younger brother was now awake in the seat in front of her.
“Well,” Dean told them as he turned off the Impala, rubbing his neck as he did so, “looks like we’re finally here. Figured I’d get us a room so we could regroup and figure out our next move.”
Tabitha finally tore her attention away from her computer, looking at the cheap motel Dean had pulled up in front of—their standard fare of accommodations. The old hand-painted sign out front was so faded that it was hardly legible, or perhaps it might have been at one time, if not for the partially faded graffiti painted over part of it. Something about the sign tickled a memory, but she couldn’t place it, so she easily dismissed it. It wasn’t the first motel they’d stayed in that had been tagged with graffiti. This kind of motel was normal for the Winchesters, and strangely enough, comforting in its familiar, dilapidated state.
“Where are we?” she finally asked Sam as she looked around.
Her younger brother laughed from his seat as he swiveled to face her. “What are you working on so hard that’s got your full attention?” he asked instead.
With a careless shrug, she explained, “There’s not many people left from my old life that I was close to. Mostly they seem to have been possessed at one time or another and are dead now, but there’s still a couple of people I check up on. Those people all think I’m dead, but I can’t count on all those demons still believing that. I’m sure Alistair’s let that slip by now, so I still feel like I should check on them from time to time just to make sure the demons don’t go after them again.”
Sam looked slightly chagrined at her explanation. “Sorry,” he mumbled by way of apology. But she waved it away. Wasn’t his fault. He cleared his throat and continued, “Anyone in particular you’re keeping an eye on? Any close friends?”
With a sigh, she shut her laptop screen with some finality. “Truly? Not really. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, even in the Bureau, and pretty much none that weren’t associated with the Bureau somehow. The friends I did have are pretty much all dead now. There isn’t too much of anyone to really check on.”
“But there’s still some,” Sam astutely guessed. “And there’s something or someone you’re worried about.”
She sighed at his observant demeanor, but grudgingly admitted, “Yeah. There’s someone I’m a bit worried about. Kid of the one security guard I had to kill that night. I knew the kid a little bit. Knew him when he was in High School and getting himself into a bit of trouble. But he straightened out and went to college. Got a job out in California at a software firm writing code.”
“So what’s the problem?” Sam prompted.
“He went back home for his father’s funeral of course, and asked for some time off work afterwards, but he still hasn’t shown back up at his job. No one’s seen him since. And I can’t find much of any trail of him since his father’s funeral. I’m worried.”
Sam sighed as he laid his arm across the back of the seat, turning to face her more as he offered, “Maybe the kid just needed some time away to come to grips with his father’s death. Wouldn’t be unheard of, you know. It might be nothing.”
“I know,” she admitted. “And I’m seriously hoping it is nothing,” she whispered, not meeting her brother’s eyes as she set her laptop beside her on the seat, afraid that if she did meet his eyes, he’d see the doubt there.
“Where are we, anyway?” she asked him instead, desperate for a change in topics, not wanting to swim in the guilt she still felt for what had happened.
Sam’s expression suddenly changed, becoming almost guarded as he carefully replied, “Fairfax. Fairfax, Indiana.”
She felt her face scrunch as she tried to place why it seemed familiar. She was certain she hadn’t worked any cases with the FBI there, so why did it seem familiar?
“Fairfax?” she slowly said, and then the memory came back to her. “You mean Fairfax, like where we stayed and went to school for like a month?”
Sam nodded, a little grin coming to his expression as he explained to her, “Yeah, I was reading about a case while you were sleeping last night, about a girl that killed another girl at the high school.”
“Nothing super unusual there,” she pointed out. “Teenage girls are vicious little creatures, I remember too well,” she explained, suppressing a small shudder. She’d never understood girls. Maybe it came from growing up with two brothers or from growing up with a father that treated them all like his little Marine recruits, but she had never gotten along well with other girls in her formative years. She’d much preferred the company of boys growing up. Though, when puberty had hit, that had taken on a completely different reason, she thought with a little grin.
“Yeah, but from reading the reports and testimony of the girl in the paper, it sounded like it could have been possession.”
“How’d she kill the other girl?” Tabitha suspiciously asked, still not buying in.
Sam looked a little reluctant but finally muttered, “Drowned her in a toilet.”
Flicking her fingers dismissively, Tabitha returned, “See? Just vicious girl drama. Doesn’t mean demons.”
“We should at least check into it. What if you’re wrong? Can you just turn away now without at least checking it out, Tab?”
Frowning slightly, Tabitha asked, “Why are you fighting so hard for this maybe case? What’s the big deal?”
“I just want to make sure nothing’s going on here. Would it really be so terrible to check things out?”
Sensing that this really seemed like a big deal to her brother, she shrugged and relented, “Fine. Whatever. You want to go stomp around a school where went for a while way back when, I’ll go along with it.”
Dean ducked back in the car then, holding out a pair of room keys as he told them, “Got us a room. You guys want to check-in and regroup or what?”
Tabitha was about to agree with the idea, intent on grabbing a shower to wash away the scent and feel of their long road-trip, but Sam spoke first.
“Let’s go check out our supposed killer. They’ve got her in a psych ward from what the paper I read reported.”
“Fine,” Dean grudgingly agreed. “Let’s get this over with.”
By the time Dean had driven to the mental ward, Sam’s excitement over their case seemed to have returned.
They parked the car in the back parking lot as Sam turned to his siblings and asked, “So, how should we go about this? FBI again? US Marshals? Reporters? What?”
With a frown at his excited demeanor, Tabitha shot his ideas down. “Marshals probably wouldn’t be interested in a case like this, and they’d never let reporters in. But I don’t think you’d really get much out of a teenage girl as a Fed either. She’d probably be too intimidated to talk to you and let her guard down.”
Swiveling to face her, Dean suggested, “Why don’t you play psychologist again? You pulled it off pretty well before.”
Her face scrunching, Tabitha replied, “I’d really rather not. I told you guys, I hate being in those places. They creep me out, and I’ve been in enough of them over the years. Besides, this is Sam’s catch, let him go play mad doctor.”
As they contemplated it, an employee pushed a large rolling bin of dirty scrubs out by a loading dock, no doubt waiting for their cleaning service to come pick it up.
Smiling at the sight, Sam told them, “How ’bout I go in as an employee? An orderly or something. I’m sure we can find something in there to wear.”
Dean waved his hand and slouched down in the driver’s seat. “Go, do your thing. Still don’t buy that the girl was possessed anyway. So I’m staying here and taking a nap.”
With a half-smile, Tabitha told her brother. “Sorry, Sammy. I’m with Dean on this one. Besides, I still have some things I’m looking into on my laptop. And you don’t need me to go with you to check this out. Go in and talk to the girl. Let us know if there really is something going on.”
Their brother sighed and got out to go snag some white scrubs, then snuck into the building. Both Dean and Tabitha turned back to their own endeavors, both still having a hard time believing what their younger brother was telling them. A girl drowning another teenage girl in a toilet at school just didn’t seem like something a demon would decide to do if it had possessed the girl. It just seemed too…juvenile. But they’d let Sam check it out and tell them what he found.
They were back in their motel room that night, both Dean and Tabitha had been trying to research more about the school, their killer, and any other strange deaths or incidents around the school or town. Neither one of them were yet convinced of demonic possession, but Sam had seemed certain that something was happening in Fairfax, and specifically, at the school they’d once attended, Truman High.
“Got covers arranged for us,” Sam announced as he walked back into the motel room later that night.
“Awesome,” Dean responded, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “Whatever it is, it can wait until morning. I’m getting some shut-eye.” And with his announcement, he pulled his long-sleeve button-up shirt off and climbed into bed, almost immediately snoring softly away.
Sam shook his head as he joined Tabitha on the couch, grabbing his laptop from the coffee table in front of them.
Pausing from what she’d been doing, Tabitha turned to look at her brother, and then set her laptop down as she turned sideways on the couch, pulling her legs up to sit Indian-style as she faced him.
“Truman High was that one school you really liked back when you were like 14, isn’t it?” she asked him.
Still looking at his computer, Sam shrugged and offered a simple, “I guess.”
“Is that why it’s so important to look into this?” she pressed.
“I guess it is, Tabitha,” he huffed.
Drawing her knees up, she crossed her arms over them. “I’m just trying to figure out why it’s such a big deal to you, Sam.”
He finally closed the lid on his laptop a little, turning to face her more as he gestured around the room. “Don’t you remember staying here? Don’t you remember going to school at Truman?”
“Here? As in this motel?” At his affirmative nod, she admitted, “I guess not. I mean, we probably stayed at hundreds of motels that looked just like this growing up.” She glanced around the room again, taking in the decor and bedding that was all the original 70’s style that it had been when it was built. Just like so many other motels they’d stayed in and continued to stay in.
Reaching forward, he placed his laptop back on the coffee table, grabbing the half-drank beer can Dean seemed to have forgotten about. “I’m surprised that you and Dean don’t remember this place better. Dad dropped us off here and left on a hunt. He ended up being gone for nearly a month. Remember while we were here, we ran into that guy—what was his name?—he was some hunter from down in New Orleans, or somewhere in Louisiana. Remember him? I’d be surprised if you and Dean didn’t. The two of you gushed and talked about him for months—hell, a year or more. You guys were so impressed with him.”
“Cort,” Tabitha softly whispered. “Cort Delacroix.”
“Yeah, that was his name.”
With a shake of her head, Tabitha looked around the motel room again. “I forgot it was in Fairfax when we first met him. I remember meeting him that first time, I just didn’t remember where.”
Sam seemed oblivious to her contemplative state, continuing obliviously. “Yeah, I can’t believe you and Dean aren’t more excited to be back where we first met him. The two of you practically worshiped him. You guys finally found a hunter that you thought was cooler than Dad.”
Smiling faintly, Tabitha tore herself away from old memories best left in the past and told her brother, “That was a long time ago. Dean was 18 and I was only 16, still just a teenager at the time. Of course we thought Cort was…cool. But we grew up…things changed. I went down another path for a while, and Dean became a hunter himself. Probably thinks he’s a lot ‘cooler’ than he ever imagine Cort being.”
“I don’t know,” Sam laughed. “Dean couldn’t stop talking about him or quoting the guy for nearly an entire year or something. I’m surprised he doesn’t still. I mean, I admit that the guy seemed pretty cool to a kid, drove that big Harley, and then Dean wanted a motorcycle for the longest time after that.”
“Yeah, he did,” Tabitha agreed in a distracted manner. Unfolding her legs, she stood up, grabbing one of her brothers’ coats from a nearby chair and pulling it over her shoulders. It turned out to be Sam’s coat, nearly swallowing her with its size, but she needed to get out of the room. “I need some fresh air,” she told her younger brother, “think I’ll take a walk. But you should get some sleep. And then you can tell us in the morning what our cover at the school is going to be.”
She was out the door before her brother could respond, stepping out into the bitter cold, and the snap of it stealing her breath.
As she walked away from the motel, she paused near the street, looking back at the old motel sign. The old graffiti on the sign brought back a bittersweet memory now, but she remembered the annoyance and anger she’d felt when she’d first seen it all those years ago.
“Shouldn’t you be inside with your brothers?” Castiel asked.
Tabitha turned to look at the angel. She’d been wrapped up in a memory and hadn’t sensed his appearance as she normally did, but she wasn’t surprised by him showing up unannounced. Or even that he could find her despite her charm bracelet. He could still find her brothers. And he often showed up when she was by herself at their motels, or away from her brothers in some way. He always seemed to know when she was alone, and that was the only time he showed up to spend time with her.
“I just needed to go for a walk to get some air,” she finally told him.
Seeing the question in his eyes, and knowing instinctively what he was going to say or ask, she headed him off with a chuckle. “It’s one of those common human phrases, Cas. I just mean that I needed to step outside and go for a walk. I just wanted a few moments to myself.”
“Do you want me to leave?” he asked, taking a half step backwards.
Grabbing his hand, she stopped him. “No. Stay. It’s okay.” She jerked her head down the street. “Walk with me?”
He nodded and fell in step beside her as she released his hand.
“Is there something troubling you?” he finally asked her as they walked down a dark, deserted sidewalk.
“No… Yes… It’s nothing for you to worry about,” she finally got out. “Just a lot on my mind, I guess.”
They walked a little further, keeping stride close beside each other, but neither one touching, and neither one speaking.
Tabitha steered their course, walking in a large square around the motel, traveling several blocks along the quiet sidewalks. She realized that even though she wouldn’t have been afraid to walk down dark sidewalks by herself, she still felt a little more at ease with Castiel walking beside her. She figured there wasn’t much she and the angel couldn’t take on together.
As they silently walked, a sight caught Tabitha’s eye up ahead. She tugged on Castiel’s arm, pulling him to a stop under the darkened shadow the spreading boughs that a large oak created. The angel looked at her curiously, and Tabitha nodded her head down the sidewalk, indicating to a teenage couple in front of a darkened house. The young couple was partway down the block from them, but their giggles and laughter carried down the street to where Tabitha and Castiel watched from the shadows.
“Is it normal for young people to be out so late?” Castiel whispered to her.
Tabitha grinned as she watched the girl, probably 16 or 17, trying to slip away from the boy and towards the little yellow house. And every time she’d almost slipped away, the boy, somewhere near her age, would grab her hand and pull her back into his arms, pressing more kisses to her lips as she giggled and then pulled away again.
Glancing at the angel, she whispered in return, “Young love. At this hour of the night, I’m sure she snuck out and her parents have no idea she’s even gone.”
Castiel observed the young couple for another minute, the two of them watching as the teenagers made slow progress towards the girl’s house, the boy whispering teases to the girl that they couldn’t hear, but causing her to laugh even more. The girl finally became serious, seeming to tell the boy that she had to get back in her house, and Tabitha and Castiel watched as he gave her one last searing kiss before releasing her and watching her run up the steps to her door, quietly easing her way inside.
“They love each other?” Castiel whispered, his eyes still fixed on the sight, watching the boy as he looked longingly at the house before finally turning and walking down the street to where he’d parked his old car.
Tabitha shrugged. “Probably. It’s not like I know them, but teenagers probably have the most uncomplicated love. Or at least what they think is love. Things seem simpler when you’re that young. Plus all the hormones convincing you it’s love. I’ve always thought of real love as being something that weathers good times and bad, something that’s still there after all the highs and lows a couple goes through. Something that endures even when a couple goes through every other spectrum of emotion for and with each other.” She nodded her head at the now empty sidewalk. “But to those two kids, I bet they think it’s love. Maybe time will prove them right. Or maybe it will prove just to have been teenage hormones.”
Castiel finally turned to look at her. “Have you ever loved? Like what you describe?”
She carefully considered her words as she began walking again, Castiel silently falling in step with her once more. “I’ve been a teenager who thought she was in love, just like I’m sure that girl thinks,” she admitted. “But I’ve grown up and changed. Seen more of the world. I’m not the same naïve girl anymore, and truthfully, I think I gave up on that kind of love a long time ago. You don’t live the kind of life I have and still expect to find and have that kind of love. Besides, the life of a hunter isn’t exactly any more conducive to dating than my life as a Fed was before.”
“Why do those ‘kids’ as you say, think that what they feel is love if they will likely one day change their minds as you explain? I have seen this often myself. Why do they think it is love when it proves not to be in the end?”
“You ask difficult questions sometimes, Cas,” she admitted with a rueful laugh. “I think that the truth is, we humans just don’t always know. Maybe it is love, but it’s just not the real, lasting kind. We are an impulsive creature, I think. And our emotions drive us. And love, even if it’s not lasting, is a very powerful thing.” She glanced at the angel as they walked, shoving her hands into the deep pockets of the oversized coat she had borrowed from her brother as a chill washed over her. “What about angels, Cas? Haven’t you ever felt love, felt the driving force of it?”
He shook his head. “As I’ve told you, angels don’t feel. We don’t experience emotion as humans do. I don’t understand this ‘driving force’ you speak of.”
With a slight shake of her head, Tabitha replied, “I still think you’re wrong about that, Cas. I do think you feel emotion. You just bury it deep beneath your need to obey and follow orders. Or maybe it’s that you don’t understand these emotions, just like you said.”
“Angels are not meant to feel emotion,” he maintained, his eyes looking straight ahead.
Deciding to avoid that and going back to his previous question, Tabitha tried to explain. “Love is different for everyone, I think. But it’s like those two kids back there,” she said, jerking her head over her shoulder at the yellow house now behind them. “For those two kids, it’s maybe simpler than it is when you get older, just that need to be close, to touch, to kiss, to laugh with each other, and to see the other one smile. As we get older, it gets more complicated, but a lot of those base needs and instincts are still there.”
“And humans follow these ‘instincts,’ these needs?” he asked, finally glancing at her. “That is why they so often sate their lust?”
“I guess,” she shrugged again. “Sometimes that driving need is just too strong to deny. You see someone you care about and you just have to touch them, kiss them, and love them.”
Silence fell once more as the pair walked. Tabitha wasn’t sure if what she’d said made sense to the angel and his need to understand humans, but he seemed to be thinking it over carefully. She just hoped she hadn’t confused the poor angel more with her attempts.
The motel was looming ahead of them before Tabitha broke the silence again. “Do you ever wish you weren’t an angel?”
Castiel stopped at the sudden question, surprised by the strange topic. “I am an angel,” he slowly told her. “I cannot be anything else.”
Tabitha had slightly overshot her friend when he stopped so suddenly, so she walked back to stand in front of him, looking at his surprised face, his dark blue eyes wide as they stared at her.
“Yeah, but you don’t always seem all that happy being one; not like I would have imagined angels to be anyway. You’ve told me a little about the other angels in your garrison, and I’ve met Uriel. But it doesn’t ever seem like you want to spend much time with them. You’re here with me so often—and you know I’m not complaining about it, because I enjoy your company—but I wonder if you spend any of your free time with any of the other angels. I know you said angels don’t really have friends—not even with other angels—and that it’s lonely being an angel…” she trailed off from her rambling, trying to finally pull her words coherently together. With a sigh, she continued, “It just makes me wonder if you ever wished that you could be human or something other than an angel. I mean…why else would you be spending so much time with me? I’m just some nothing human. It’s not like I’m important and you have to spend all this time with me.”
For a moment, Castiel only stared at her, and then, he reached up with his hand, his fingertips just touching the skin of her cheek, brushing down in a whisper across her jaw and chin. Tabitha closed her eyes at the sensation, marveling at how softly the angel always touched her, always just his fingertips gently grazing her skin, as though he was mapping the terrain.
“I have wondered what it would be like to be human,” he admitted in a hushed whisper, as though afraid to say the words any louder. “Even wished to myself that I was not what I am and did not carry the weight of my responsibilities and my burdens.” He sighed, and his hand fell away, causing Tabitha to open her eyes again as she stared at him, waiting for him to continue. “But wishing does no good. I am what I am. And you are not unimportant. That much…I know. You’re…special.”
He stepped back, and Tabitha knew he was about to disappear, so she reached out for his hand, stopping him as she wrapped one arm around his shoulders in a hug. She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek in goodbye, smiling that the action still seemed to bring some surprise to the angel’s eyes.
“Whether you’re an angel or anything else doesn’t matter. But I’m glad you’re a friend. It’s nice to have at least one good friend these days. And I’m glad you finally have one, too, Cas. You mean more to me than anyone has in a long time, even if you are learning to lie better. I’m just some human. I’m nothing important like you are. Angel of The Lord,” she told him with a fond smile at the memory of his pronouncement the night he’d first appeared to them.
“You are important,” he stressed. “And important to me as well. You mean… You mean…something to me.”
And in Castiel fashion, he disappeared.
Tabitha hadn’t slept much that night. Truthfully, she hadn’t slept at all. So by morning when the boys were finally up, they found their sister sitting on the low couch in front of the muted TV, folding all of their assorted clothes she’d obviously washed sometime during the night.
Dean walked over and dug through one of her piles, grabbing a flannel shirt in muted brown colors and a dark Van Halen t-shirt to wear underneath it.
“Awesome, Tabby,” he grinned as he pulled off his dirty, gray t-shirt and began pulling the clean t-shirt on. “Thanks for doing laundry, Tab.”
Sam came over as well, digging through the pile and looking through the stack of folded clothes as Tabitha swatted at his hands.
“What’s up with doing laundry, Tab?” Sam asked with a cheeky smile, ignoring her slapping hands. “I thought we were supposed to do our own laundry and not try to treat you like a maid service.”
She tossed down the t-shirt in her hands, crossly straightening out the stacks of clothes her brothers had knocked over. “Yeah. You’re not. So enjoy it while it lasts,” she told them. “I just needed something to do last night; couldn’t sleep. And the motel let me use their Laundromat. Seemed silly not to do all the laundry at once. But don’t expect that to become a normal thing.”
“‘Course not, Tabby,” Dean laughed. “Man, this smells great. How do you always get it so soft?” he asked, pulling his t-shirt away from his body and rubbing his nose back and forth across the inside of it. It was something he’d done habitually when they were kids, and it finally brought a smile to Tabitha’s face.
“It’s called fabric softener, Dean. I know, real mysterious stuff, huh?”
“Whatever.” He turned to Sam. “So, what’s your big idea for our covers? ‘Cause I was thinking Homeland Security this time. We haven’t done that in a while, and nobody ever really knows what they do anyway. They’re just some big, über-scary branch of the government.”
Sam hurried over to the small table, grabbing two manila folders and handing them to his siblings as he spoke. “I figured we’d get more answers if we were inside the school and inconspicuous. So I arranged for Dean to be the substitute gym teacher instead of the guy they had originally hired to come in. And after the librarian got an unexpected call about her elderly parents needing her to come home, the school needed someone to fill in as librarian as well. That way you can both interact with a majority of the students to see if any of them are acting strange.”
“Man, high school,” Dean complained in a whine. “I was just getting used to no more teachers’ dirty looks,” he muttered as his siblings ignored him.
“Librarian?” Tabitha asked with an unimpressed look, flipping through her folder. There were a few pages detailing her expected duties. Apparently as librarian, she would also be running the computer lab, and working as an aid that helped students with troubles in reading.
Dean on the other hand seemed excited. “Awesome. Gym teacher doesn’t need to know anything besides blowing a whistle and making the kids run laps. I can dig that.”
“And what are you going to be?” Tabitha asked, noticing that Sam wasn’t holding a folder.
“Janitor,” he shrugged. “At least that way I can get all around the school without seeming out of place while I check it out.”
“Librarian?” Tabitha suddenly repeated, her voice bordering on a whine. “Why the hell do I have to be a librarian? And what the hell does a librarian even wear?”
Dean grinned as he started to say, “Well…” but trailed off as he once again realized it was his sister. “Dammit, Tab. You’re killing all of my favorite fantasies.”
She let out an unladylike snort. “Good. I do what I can. And I’m not worried about you running out of material. You have a porny mind anyway.”
“True,” he agreed, not bothering to deny it. “Well, let’s hurry up and get this over with.”
Tabitha was in complete agreement. “Why don’t you guys go on ahead. I’ll figure out my own ride there.” At her brother’s inquiring looks, she responded, “Do you realize how weird it would look if the janitor, librarian, and gym teacher all showed up at school together?”
“She’s got a point,” Sam agreed.
“I hate to admit it,” Dean added, ducking with a sly grin as Tabitha chucked her folder at his head. “Fine. Fine. Let’s just get this over with.”
Tabitha pulled into the teacher’s parking lot at Truman High. She’d paid for the use of a serviceable sedan for a few days from the motel owner for fifty bucks. But at least their cover would seem more believable this way. And she wouldn’t have to listen to her brothers’ wisecracks about her librarian outfit anymore. Which they’d both had a hand in helping to craft.
She’d finally settled on wearing a charcoal gray, knee-length pencil skirt, dark blue blouse, and a lavender button-up knit. She’d thought a pair of black heels had completed the ensemble well enough, but Dean had insisted she wear a pair of reading glasses as well. Where he’d even gotten them from, Tabitha didn’t know, and wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
As she walked into the school, old memories swelled in her mind. Memories she hadn’t thought of or allowed herself to dwell on in a long time.
“Class, this is Tabitha Winchester. She’ll be joining us for a while. Class, say ‘hello’ to Tabitha,” the portly, middle-aged teacher droned.
The class gave unenthusiastic mumbles in return few of them even really looking up at the new girl as they doodled in their notebooks.
Turning to the girl standing beside him, Mr. Ekren continued, “Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself, Tabitha?” His voice was monotone and uninterested as he spoke from rote, and Tabitha wondered if he was even listening to her.
The girl shrugged, shoving her hands into the pockets of her short-cropped jean jacket as she said, “I’m Tabitha. I’m a Pisces who enjoys long walks on the beach and underwater basket weaving.”
Mr. Ekren huffed amidst the classroom’s laughter; evidently, he had been listening to her. “Go take your seat,” he stiffly told her. “You can find an extra algebra book in the back of the room.”
Shrugging, Tabitha went to the back of the room and grabbed one of the extra books off a table, dropping her backpack on the floor beside her as she slumped into the empty desk in the back of the room.
Their teacher started monotonely droning on, but Tabitha ignored it, flipping the book open as well opening one of her notebooks.
“Hey,” the boy next to her whispered. “Tabitha, right?”
She glanced at him; he was wearing a Truman High football sweatshirt, proudly proclaiming him as a jock. His brown hair was colored with drastic white-blonde highlights, and spiked with gel. From his archetypical jock appearance—right down to the single stud diamond in his left ear—she was absolutely positive she would find a letterman jacket in his locker as well.
“Wow, you listened to my name,” she uninterestedly whispered back, rolling her eyes as she turned back to her notebook.
“You’re pretty funny,” he continued unperturbed. “And pretty hot, too. You got a boyfriend?”
She glanced back up and told him in a bored tone, “No. I just got here, and my family never stays anywhere very long.”
“Want me to show you around the school at lunch? I could introduce you to everyone. I pretty much know everyone that matters in this school since I’m on the football team. I’ll be the starting quarterback by next year. And then I’ll have my junior and senior years to take our team to state.”
She felt her eyebrow rise in an unimpressed manner at his bragging. Her brothers and she wouldn’t be there more than a few weeks before their father came back for them, so she didn’t much care what he thought he was going to do on the football team in the next two years.
“Good for you,” she whispered back. “But I won’t be here but for a couple of weeks.”
Still not put off, he leaned closer across the aisle, whispering, “I’m Jake, by the way. So…you gonna let me show you around at lunch?”
Wanting him to stop talking before their teacher noticed, she finally gave a small nod. “Fine. Whatever.” And then turned back to her notebook.
She could hear the teaching still talking up at the blackboard, the chalk making soft dragging noises as he went back and forth across the board, showing them how to work out the latest equations so they could do their homework. But Tabitha never looked up as he talked, instead, her pencil worked busily away in her own notebook.
She heard Mr. Ekren’s voice getting closer, and quickly shut her notebook, looking up just as he came to stand in front of her.
“I know you’re new here, Miss Winchester, but we do not write notes to boys in class. Do that on your lunch break or after school and pay attention to the lesson.”
She pushed back in her seat. “I wasn’t writing to any boys,” she huffed, her arms crossing over her chest. “I just got here. Who do you think I’m writing to? The whole male student body?”
The class laughed, partly at her answer, and partly at her daring to retort back to their teacher.
Mr. Ekren frowned, unimpressed, crossing his own arms, his chalky fingers leaving white dust all over the front of his dark blue shirt. “Then feel free to share with the whole class just what you were working so hard on that was tearing your attention away from the lesson.”
Reaching onto her desk, she flipped the notebook open, pointing her finger at it as she said, “I was doing the assignment you already have written on the board.”
He glanced back at where the assignment was indeed written in the top corner of the blackboard, scrawled out so that he wouldn’t have to repeat it or rewrite it for every class period. Frowning back down at her, he answered, “Homework is meant to be done at home. Not in class. You need to pay attention to the lesson so that you are sure you’re doing it right.”
He started to turn away, thinking the matter done, but Tabitha wasn’t through yet. “I am doing it right. I looked at the examples in the book and taught myself. And I don’t have a home, I live in a motel. So I’d rather get my homework done here.”
Turning back to her with narrowed eyes, he said, “And you’re positive you can teach yourself better than I can?”
She tore the page out of her notebook, handing it defiantly to him. “Why not? I can teach myself as well as any of the teachers I’ve ever had over the years. And I’m done with the assignment.”
The bell rang just as Mr. Ekren took it, the hushed students who had been watching the byplay suddenly springing up from their desks and rushing to their next classes.
Still holding the sheet of paper, Mr. Ekren asked her, “And you’re certain of the work here? You don’t want to take it home with you and look it over?”
She shrugged and shouldered her backpack. Math was one of the easier classes. The books always had the answers to the odd numbered questions in the back, and then she only had to figure out the answers for the evens. And with half the answers given, she’d always been able to teach herself how to work out the equations in half the time it took her various teachers to drone on about them.
“Yeah. I’m sure,” she answered, leaving the room as she dug out her class schedule, looking for her next class.
She bumped into Jake out in the hall, surprised at the bright grin on his face as he fell in step beside her. “Hot, smart, and not afraid to talk back to the teachers. You’re just the whole package, aren’t you?” he laughed appreciatively.
“Guess so,” she mumbled, looking at her schedule and trying to figure out where she was headed next.
Jake took the paper from her hand. “European History with Ms. Martin,” he read. “I’ve got that next, too. Come on. I’ll show you the way.”
With another careless shrug, she followed Jake, listening to his light banter and trying to fill in her family’s usual stories for the questions he asked about her. She had to admit though, Jake was actually a pretty cute looking jock, and could surprisingly carry on a conversation. He might not be so annoying after all.
Tabitha and Dean slipped out of the auditorium together, finding Sam in the hall, EMF reader in hand as he looked for signs of ghost activity.
Just before lunch, Tabitha and Dean had still been convinced that nothing was happening in the school, and had told Sam they wanted to leave. Although Dean had stipulated that he wanted to stay for sloppy joes at lunch. Tabitha had feared that the power of Dean being in charge of students—even just for gym—was going to Dean’s head. He seemed to be really into the gym teacher cover.
But by the time lunch was over, it seemed that they had found the evidence Sam had been looking for. One student using a food processor during Home-Ec class trying and chop the hand off another student had been a pretty good clue that something more was going on at the school. The only luck in the situation was that Sam had been nearby and had seen the kid fall to the ground after everyone else had rushed from the room. And Sam had witnessed the ectoplasm oozing out of the kid’s ear.
“Think school’s out completely?” Dean asked Tabitha with a grin as they walked. Tabitha only rolled her eyes.
“How’s the nonviolence assembly going?” Sam asked as Tabitha and Dean caught up with him.
“Apparently, shoving a kid’s arm into a Cuisinart is not a ‘healthy display of anger,'” Dean answered as they walked together down the hallway.
“Yeah,” Sam agreed, glancing across at Tabitha. “Maybe we should have had you in the Home-Ec class instead of the library.”
“Maybe,” she agreed. “Hell of a lot more ways for kids to kill each other in there than in a library anyway.”
“So, the kid had ectoplasm leaking out his ear?” Dean asked again.
“Which only comes from a seriously pissed-off spirit,” Sam agreed. “It’s got to be ghost possession.”
“That’s pretty rare, though,” Tabitha pointed out. “Takes one strong damn spirit.”
“Yeah, but it happens,” Sam reminded them. “I mean, they get angry enough, they can take control of a person’s body.”
“All right,” Dean continued, as they walked down the hallway, “so, what, we got a ghost in the building?”
“Yeah, but where?” Sam replied, holding up his EMF reader. “I mean, there’s no EMF.”
“Then let’s try to find out who it is,” Tabitha pointed out. “To be tied here, the person probably died in the school. Can’t be that hard to find out. They would have had to have died bloody. Got to be record of that somewhere.”
“Way ahead of you guys,” Dean told them. “I had to break into the principal’s office to get this,” he explained, pulling a folded piece of paper out of his red, school track pants. “Oh, and FYI, three of the cheerleaders are legal. Guess which ones.”
Sam and Tabitha both rolled their eyes.
“God, get Dean back in a high school and he goes right back to being the same pervy teenager he was then,” Tabitha chuckled. “Keep your eyes on something a little more age appropriate,” she reminded him.
Frowning, Dean looked down at the paper as he continued, “So, there was only one death on campus. It was a suicide back in ’98. Some kid named Barry Cook.”
Sam suddenly looked chagrined, a dark look crossing his face.
“What?” Dean and Tabitha simultaneously demanded.
Sam sighed as he admitted, “I knew him. How did he die?”
“He slit his wrists in the first-floor girls’ bathroom,” Dean supplied.
“That’s where—” Sam started.
“Right,” Dean picked up, “where the chick got swirleyed to death, exactly.”
Tabitha shook her head as they continued walking down the hallway. “So this ghost is possessing the kids getting picked on and using them to get back at bullies?”
“It looks like,” Sam agreed.
“Well,” Dean asked, “does that sound like Barry’s M.O.?”
Sam had a faraway look in his eyes as he explained, “Barry had a hard time.” And then continued on to explain what he remembered about Barry being picked on by a kid named Dirk when they’d gone to school at Truman.
“I’d say Barry sounds like our angry spirit then,” Tabitha surmised when Sam had finished his story. “Suicide is enough to create an angry spirit.”
“Easy enough then. Just gotta salt and torch the bones and then this kid is put to rest,” Dean said. “Let’s get this done and get out of here.”
“You guys go ahead,” Tabitha told them, looking down at her librarian outfit. “I’m not really dressed for burning a corpse anyway. Besides, there are a few things I should do in the library before I just disappear.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “Right. You just don’t want to have to do any digging.”
“Well, there is that,” she grinned. “But I left my purse in the library, and I really would feel bad if all three of us just took off and one of us didn’t at least stick out the day.”
Sam shrugged. “Well, why don’t you hit the computers and find out where Barry’s buried then. Give us a call when you figure it out.”
Tabitha was balancing a stack of books as she carefully maneuvered through the unfamiliar library.
After she’d gotten back to the library, she hacked into the city records to find the location of Barry’s grave and texted it to her brothers. But once she was done with that task, she’d come out to the front desk where her purse waited for her, only to find the desk littered with returned books.
She had seriously considered leaving the mess for the real librarian when she returned from the “emergency” Sam had sent her on, but felt guilty enough that they’d probably scared the poor woman, and decided the least she could do was check the books back in and reshelf them. But as she carted stacks of books around, she realized the Dewey Decimal System was a little more complicated than she’d anticipated.
“What are you doing?”
Tabitha jumped at Castiel’s voice, nearly knocking over the stack of books balanced on one arm as she tried to shelve a book with her other hand.
Castiel suddenly reached out and took the stack of books from her arm, holding the books in his hands as he stared at her, waiting for her answer.
She shelved the book she still held and turned to face the angel. “Well, it started out as just trying to do a friendly deed in exchange for pretending to be the school librarian, but I think I’m nearly out of goodwill.” But she smiled as she said it. She was nearly done with her task anyway, the stack of books now in Castiel’s hands being the last of the books she needed to put away.
She took one from the top of his stack and headed to where it belonged, looking over her shoulder as he followed her. “You showed up at the perfect time to help me put the rest of this away though.”
Castiel continued to follow Tabitha silently as she finished putting away the books.
When she was finally done, she clapped her hands once in appreciation at finishing the task, feeling slightly better about posing as the librarian for the day.
But when she turned to face the angel, she saw his furrowed gaze looking her up and down.
With a downward glance, Tabitha laughingly explained, “Part of the cover was to pretend I was the librarian.”
Giving a tired sigh, Tabitha smoothed her hands down the front of her form fitting skirt and smoothed where her blouse was tucked into it, having long since abandoned the dowdy sweater part of her costume as she shelved books. “This was what we came up with anyway for me to look the part.” She put the black frame reading glasses back on to complete the look again. “Dean found these somewhere, too.” She struck a pose and smoothed the ends of her hair where they stuck up from the top of her French twist. “What do you think? Do I look like a librarian? Or more like a porny version of one?” she laughed, thinking to herself that Dean’s addition of the reading glasses put her too close to the latter.
“‘Porny?'” Castiel slowly repeated, stepping slightly closer as his head slanted a bit to the side.
She laughed, removing the glasses from her eyes as she considered them. “Yeah, you know, like I look more like I belong in a porn movie about naughty librarians or something. You know, a movie like that one you were watching at the motel that time.”
“It was about a pizza man who—”
But Tabitha stopped his words by placing a hand over his mouth, laughing as she told him, “I really don’t want to know what the plot was about.” She stepped back and then slipped her heels off, dangling them from her fingertips as she turned back towards the angel and pulled the bobby pins from her hair with her other hand, shaking her head to loosen her hair. “But I’m no beautiful, plastic, done-up actress in a porn film. I’m just plain old Tabitha.”
“You are a very lovely human,” the angel earnestly told her.
Stepping forward in her bare feet, Tabitha pressed a quick kiss to his cheek, having to rise slightly on her toes to do so even though they were close to each other in height. “It’s nice of you to say so,” she chuckled as she stepped back, “but I’m sure I’ve got nothing on an angel’s beauty.”
“You are more,” he whispered in return, stepping closer to close the gap she had created, reaching up to touch her cheek with his fingertips once more.
Tabitha had almost grown used to the feel of the pads of his fingers brushing against her skin, and smiled at the sensation. But when his hand flattened and fully pressed against her skin, spanning her cheek and jaw, her eyes snapped open to stare up into his dark blue eyes. Eyes that seemed even darker with some unreadable emotion as he inched closer to her.
She gasped when his mouth suddenly swept down to meet hers, but her lips were soon eagerly accepting the promise his gave. Her mouth closed along his lower lip, her tongue sweeping out to slowly glide across it as he hummed a noise of appreciation.
Suddenly, his hands were at her hips, lifting her up in the air and walking with her in his arms. One of her hands slid up his back and up to his head, threading in his hair and pressing him closer even as he blindly carried her and unerringly set her on a low table just behind her. As soon as he set her down, his body began to press closer to her, his hands on her hips pulling her towards him as her legs struggled against her fitted skirt to make way for his demanding presence. His lips never once left hers, and his gaze bored into her, his lips and eyes speaking volumes that perhaps only her heart had any hopes of translating.
Her shoes and the reading glasses had fallen heedlessly from her hands, freeing them both to pull at his shoulders, needing the feel of his warmth pressed closer to her body. She was amazed at his fervor and insistence in his kiss, but her mind had no more time for any other emotion or thoughts. It could only savor the sweet mellow taste of his lips, like warm, sweet honey on a summer day.
A sensation of warmth and comfort spread throughout her as her hands slid to his shoulders, just starting to push the trench coat from them so that she could feel more of him. His own hands sliding from her hips, to her waist, and up her sides, his touch leaving a trail of fire along her body, even through her clothes.
“Yo! Tabitha! Where the hell are you?!”
Castiel jumped back at Dean’s bellowing interruption, and both of them turned towards the front of the library, trying to look in vain through the rows of bookshelves towards where Dean’s voice was coming from. And Tabitha cringed at the thought of what his reaction might be if he saw them like this.
And for that matter, what her own reaction should be.
A/N: Well, Cas finally kisses her! But as usual, it won’t be smooth sailing from here on.
And sorry to cut it off there. This was getting to be a super long chapter (almost 20k) so I decided to split it into two chapters. So we’ll see the fallout of Cas’s sudden indulgence in his feelings and impulses in the coming chapters. 😉
Also, this chapter is named after the Alice Cooper song, and 10 points to anyone who can find the couple of lyrics from it that Dean works in!