Mikey’s body slid bonelessly to the dirty pavement. He didn’t move. Couldn’t move.
Would never move again.
But his eyes were locked on Tabitha’s. Sightless. But accusing.
“It’s your fault,” he denounced in flat tones echoing in the silence of the looming darkness.
Tabitha moved closer, her hand clutched at her chest as her eyes fixed on the slow trickle of blood chasing down between his eyes and across his nose. “I know,” she lowly admitted. “It’s all my fault.”
She waited, but Mikey didn’t move. Even though she expected him to jump up and grab her to punish her for his death. And despite the fact that she was certain she deserved that punishment, he still didn’t move. Just stared at her with those sightless accusing eyes.
“He’s right. It is your fault.”
Tabitha twirled to see Bobby standing behind her, one hand clutching at the wound to his stomach, heedless, it seemed, to the oozing blood slipping through his fingers.
“I know,” she repeated to him. “It’s all my fault.”
“You killed me, girl,” he continued as he lifted his bloody hand to point an accusing finger at her. “I always knew you’d be the death of me. You’ll be the death of this whole world.”
Tabitha tried and failed to choke back a sob at his accusation. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, Bobby! Least of all you!”
“You’ll be the death of us all.”
Tabitha jerked awake, trying to stifle a strangled sob as she pushed away from the warmth under her cheek.
Arms suddenly unwrapped from around her and Tabitha found herself staring down into the startled eyes of an angel.
An angel of Heaven. Her protector. Her confident. Her friend.
And now, her lover.
She fought a ridiculous blush as she swallowed thickly and cleared her throat.
Castiel was silent, but she saw question in his drawn gaze.
“Nightmare,” she quietly supplied as she rolled partly off the angel’s chest and onto her side.
The night before, she’d lived in the moment, hadn’t given one thought to the fact that an angel was in her bed. But as the old adage proclaimed, things were different in the cold light of day.
Or rather the graying light of dawn.
By her sore muscles and puffy eyes, she knew she’d only been asleep a few hours. But she was also just as sure that Castiel hadn’t slept or even moved at all in that time. Only further highlighting that her lover wasn’t a normal human.
She didn’t regret what had happened—it had certainly felt right last night—but she also knew that didn’t mean it should have happened. He was an angel and she was human. They were about as different as could be. Way beyond interracial. Not even the same species.
And she couldn’t help the church-morality part of her mind that told her she’d somehow sullied the angel. Or perhaps committed blasphemy. Even if he’d been a more than willing participant.
Things were simpler under the cover of darkness. She hadn’t even thought of him as an angel. It had simply been Castiel touching her in that way. But morning always brought truths easily brushed aside in the dark.
She’d had sex with her friend Castiel.
And she was wondering if it was becoming a pattern that she kept sleeping with her friends.
Except for the new angel twist anyway.
What happens now? she wondered to herself. But there was no answer.
Only the angel in her bed staring up at her. Looking up at her with the same question in his eyes it seemed.
She rolled away from him and slipped from the bed, dragging the top sheet with her to cover herself. Castiel’s eyes silently watched her as she crouched near her bag to hastily pull out clothes, slipping underwear and a pair of jeans on underneath the sheet wrapped around her.
Trying to shrug away any discomfort, Tabitha nonchalantly dropped the sheet as she began pulling a bra on, walking around the end of the bed as she picked up her clothes from the night before, as well as Castiel’s and tossing them to him on the bed. She bent back over her bag to dig out a t-shirt and sweatshirt to tug on.
Castiel caught his clothes one by one as he sat up. “What does this mean?” he asked her, still sitting on the bed.
“When someone throws your clothes at you, it means ‘put on your clothes,'” she directed, tugging a pair of socks on before pulling on her boots from the night before. She still couldn’t quite meet his eyes, choosing instead to try to keep herself busy by dressing and packing up her bags as she tried to sort her mind out.
“That’s not what I meant,” he mumbled, but did begin pulling on the clothes she’d tossed at him. Pants on, and pulling on his shirt, he tried again, “I meant, what happens now?”
She didn’t look up as she grumbled, “It’s supposed to be the girl that asks the obligatory ‘what does this mean?’ and ‘what happens next?’ Hell if I know.”
There was no answer to her grumbles, so Tabitha sighed as she finally looked across the motel room. Castiel’s eyes weren’t on her now, instead focused dubiously on the blue tie in his hands, staring at it as though it was a Rubik’s Cube that he was trying to solve.
Carefully taking the tie from his hands, Tabitha pulled his collar until it stood up, and then slipped the tie overhead, smoothing the collar back over it. She started to pull the tie straight, but left it loosened and crooked. It somehow fit the angel better than neatly squared away.
“I don’t know what happens now,” she admitted as she picked up his suit jacket from the bed and handed it to him. “But I think I better understand why you couldn’t tell me before why you’d kissed me. You didn’t know what this was or what to call it. Well…I don’t know, either. And I’m not sure there is a name to put on this. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. I guess we just roll with the punches.”
“‘Roll with the punches?'” he repeated, his forehead scrunched as he looked down at his crooked tie, trying to push it underneath his dark blue suit jacket.
She shrugged. “Take it one day at a time. See what happens.”
He finally looked up into her eyes. As usual, his face was wiped of emotion, but she saw a flicker of fear in his expressive eyes.
Emboldened by the emotion she’d seen, she reached up to cup his jaw with one hand. “You’re still the closest friend I’ve ever had. I don’t want to lose that. No matter what,” she assured him.
He relaxed somewhat, whatever fear there had been in his gaze easing at her words, and she gave a relieved sigh that she’d at least partially read him so well.
But she still needed some time to come to grips with the change in their relationship dynamic, so she stepped away as she gathered her bags and Bobby’s as well. “I should get back to the hospital; try to get Bobby out of town just as soon as he wakes up. No telling if or when more demons might show up,” she commented, her eyes trained on the floor again.
She hovered near the door, feeling the need to say something more, but not sure quite what it should be. Castiel saved her the trouble, stepping closer to her, his fingers gently guiding her gaze back to his.
“That’s probably a good idea,” he whispered. “Be careful. Now that we know it’s Lilith after you, you must be more vigilant than ever to stay hidden from her and any of her minions.”
He was silent for a moment. Not a muscle in his body moving, save for his thumb stroking against her cheek. “Perhaps you are right. I don’t know what this is either. I’ve told myself that I am selfish to continue coming back to you, but I cannot seem to stay away. But this puts you in more danger now. It puts us both in more danger now. If either Heaven or Hell found out… No one can know about this.”
She turned slightly into his palm, savoring the familiar warmth. “Don’t worry. No prying eyes can see us, right? And it’s not like I’m gonna run back to my brothers and tell them anything about this. Dean still likes to believe in his mind that I’m an innocent little virgin. He definitely doesn’t need to know about this.”
Castiel silently stared down at her upturned face. “Perhaps I was wrong to have indulged last night. The danger it places you in…”
He trailed off, and Tabitha reached up to softly kiss his lips. “Maybe it was wrong,” she conceded. “Lord knows I’ve done plenty of things that were. But it didn’t feel wrong last night.”
She stepped away and readjusted the bags on her shoulders. “I’ve gotta go check on Bobby. See you around, Cas.”
Tabitha drove silently to the hospital where she’d left Bobby, thankful that they’d left her Mustang at the motel so she didn’t have to boost another car to go get him.
But her dream weighed heavily on her mind. Reminding her that she was now responsible for more deaths. And she knew she couldn’t be the cause of any other friends dying because of her. Not that she had many other friends still left alive.
But there was one who didn’t know the dangers that could come after him.
Fishing out her phone, she scrolled through the recent call log and dialed. The call quickly connected, but no voice answered on the other end.
“I guess I deserve that, kid,” she reluctantly told Shawn. “But that’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. I’m sure you’re still trying to come to terms with everything, and I promised I’d leave you alone and not bother you until you were ready. And I’d really like to keep that promise, but I need you to do something for me, Shawn.”
“What?” The single word was soft, but spoken with an edge.
“I can’t tell you everything. But I need you to pack up and move outta Boston. It might not be safe.” She could hear his indignant and stuttered reply building, so she quickly cut him off. “I mean it, Shawn. You can be pissed at me all you want, but I need you to pack up and move. Just go…somewhere else. And don’t tell me where. Leave nothing behind to lead back to you. Just do it. There’s been more…trouble…and I don’t think there’s anything that can lead back to you. But I’d rather you be safe than dead. So just do this for me, Shawn. Just go.”
Silence filled the line for nearly a full minute before she heard the reluctant sigh from the other end. “Fine. I’ve been in Boston for a while anyway. So I’ll go.”
“And tell no one,” she reminded him. “If you need anything, you can try this number, and if for some reason I don’t have it any longer, you know the other emergency ways to get ahold of me. Just…be careful.”
“Fine.” And with the single utterance, he hung up.
With a heavy sigh, she acknowledged that even if he was still mad at her, he was at least going to do what she told him, and hopefully that would be enough to keep him safe.
Castiel proved to be true to his word, and Bobby was still peacefully sleeping when she’d found his room number. A bandage was wrapped around his temple, but otherwise, he could have just been sleeping peacefully in his own bed.
She gave a silent prayer of thanks to Castiel, sitting beside the old hunter as she gingerly picked up his hand in hers.
The hunter jerked slightly at her touch, his eyes fluttering open as he looked around. “Where am I?” he asked.
“Hospital,” Tabitha supplied, gratefully squeezing his hand and scooting her chair closer. “But you’re fine. Got your head wound stitched up, and we can leave anytime you want.”
Bobby’s face tightened in confusion as he lifted his blankets, his free hand hesitantly touching his hospital gown-covered midsection. “How can that be?” he whispered to himself.
Tabitha opened her mouth to explain what had happened, but suddenly hesitated. Castiel had told her that they had to be careful now, that no one could know what had happened between them. Would telling the older hunter that the angel had come and healed him make him ask too many questions?
She pasted a smile on her face, deciding she couldn’t place Bobby in any more danger because of her choices. “What, Bobby? You just had a head wound. That demon hit you pretty hard, I think knocked a few nuts loose, maybe the bolts, too,” she laughed.
Bobby let the blankets fall to his torso as he glanced back at her. “I was stabbed in the stomach last night. Wasn’t I?”
Tabitha laughed again and reassuringly squeezed his hand again. “No, Bobby. How hard did that demon hit you? You weren’t stabbed. Just a hit that cut to your temple and rung your bell. You’ve been out all night. I’m just glad to see you awake.”
Bobby shook his confusion off, swinging his legs over the side of the hospital bed. “Whatever,” he shrugged. “Just get me some clothes and let’s get outta here. Hate these damn places.”
“You and me both,” Tabitha laughed as she handed him his duffle bag of clothes, standing and pulling the curtain around his bed to give him privacy.
“Errrgh, why don’t you try asking the question one more time!” Tabitha growled as she threw down the newspaper that she had hopelessly been trying to read. She might have been able to at least skim through it, that is if her older brother would have stopped hounding her.
“I’m just trying to figure out how you got out of a trap set by demons and managed to drag an unconscious old man with you,” he angrily replied, pacing in their motel room at the foot of the beds.
Tabitha leaned back against the headboard of the bed she’d commandeered, fighting the urge to repeatedly bash her head against it. It might have been better than Dean’s repeated questions. At least there she had the chance of knocking herself out.
“I already said,” she repeated in an exasperated voice, “that Bobby got knocked out, and I threw some Holy water I had at the demons, buying me enough time to exorcise them.” She closed her eyes, trying to count backwards from a hundred at having to repeat her story for what had to be the tenth time.
“So you threw Holy water on a bunch of advancing demons and that just happened to buy you enough time so that you could exorcise them all?”
“Yes!” she answered, swinging her legs over the side of the bed as she leaned forward, tapping her nose with one hand and pointing at Dean with the other. “That’s exactly what I’m telling you.” She wasn’t exactly lying. Saying, “that’s what I told you,” wasn’t the same as saying, “that’s what happened.”
“Then why didn’t you call us right away to tell us that Bobby was hurt and that the two of you had been in an ambush? Sam and I both called your number and Bobby’s for hours. Why couldn’t we get ahold of either of you for so damn long?” he rounded on her, stepping in front of her and staring accusingly down at where she sat.
Hating the height advantage, Tabitha sprang to her feet and brushed by her brother, throwing a glare at her younger brother lounging on the other bed, silently watching their verbal sparring match—just like he’d been doing for the past hour that Dean had been grilling her. He silently raised his hands in defeat. He’d asked her a few questions at first, too, expressing his own doubts, but he had shut up pretty quickly when Tabitha pointedly reminded him that he might have to answer a few of her questions if he kept prodding.
“Did you ever think that maybe I was kinda upset at the notion of Bobby being hurt?” she threw over her shoulder, squatting in front of the small fridge to get another beer. She had already had three during their argument, and she had the feeling she might need a few more before it was done. “I was upset and didn’t think to stop and call you. My first thought was just to get Bobby to a hospital.” Which was completely true, she merely left out that he’d actually been knocking on Death’s door at the time instead of a little bump to the head.
But Dean wasn’t easily fooled.
“For a hit to the head and little gash that only needed a few stitches? It doesn’t make sense, Tabitha. Why the hell did you even take him to the hospital for something little like that?”
Tabitha had guzzled nearly half of her bottle of beer, and twirled to face her brother again, slamming the bottle down on the dresser beside her. “I was upset!” she yelled in return. “Head wounds can bleed a lot, and all I saw was the blood and just freaked at the thought of something happening to Bobby. Excuse me for being cautious about something like that.” Still no lies. Just not full truths.
“Bullshit,” Dean whispered, still standing at the bed where she’d been sitting, staring at the now empty space.
“What did you say?”
“You heard me,” he ground out, turning to face her down. “I’ve seen you stitch up both Sam and I, and even Dad when we were a helluva lot worse off than a bump to the head, and you were always calm and collected about it. And hell, after your FBI training, you got even calmer about it. You’ve seen the two of us way more beat up than a little bump on the head, hell, even jumped in and took care of Anna when she’d sliced her arm up like a Christmas Turkey. Didn’t flinch or bat an eye. But you expect me to believe that you ‘freaked’ just because Bobby was bleeding a little from his head? There’s something you’re not telling me, even Bobby says certain things didn’t make sense to him. So what the hell is it you’re hiding?”
Throwing her head back, Tabitha groaned in frustration. “I’m telling you that there’s nothing I’m hiding. Why can’t you accept that?” she insisted, huffing as she went to stand and stare out the window. She swallowed the rest of her bottle before she muttered to herself. “I shouldn’t have left my Mustang at Bobby’s. I should have taken the damn thing and gone my own way.”
“The hell you are!” Dean shouted at her back. “You aren’t going anywhere on your own until we know just what the hell it is Lilith wants with you. You’ve already walked into two of her traps. Sheer dumb luck that you walked out of either of them. Next time she might be there waiting for you herself.”
Tabitha spun around to glare at Dean, having to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from telling him that she’d gotten out of both traps because the angel he always grumbled about had saved her life. That luck had had nothing to do with it. But she’d already decided she couldn’t tell her brothers about Castiel. That it was safer if they didn’t know anything at all about the angel being present that night.
“I told you what happened,” she slowly ground out, trying to keep from raising her voice again even though her face felt hot from her ever-rising temper.
“And I say it’s bullshit,” Dean returned. “There’s something going on that you’re not telling us. You’re lying about something.”
“Well if you’re so goddamned smart, why don’t you tell me what it is!” she shouted, bending down to grab her previously discarded black leather jacket, yanking it on with stiff movements as she headed for the door.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Dean demanded, stopping from his wild pacing in the room.
Tabitha paused in the doorway. “I’m going for a walk, and I swear to God, you try to order me to stay in this room, and you’re gonna walk with a permanent limp!” she shouted, slamming the door shut behind her with an echoing finality.
She didn’t zipper her worn leather jacket as she walked, feeling overheated from her frustration and anger, despite the bitter temperatures that reminded her real winter weather was around the corner in this part of Iowa.
Part of her anger and frustration was with herself. She hated having to tell even partial lies to her brothers, but she had to keep reminding herself that it was best for them. But there was still a part of her that wished the annoying oaf would just accept what she was telling him and stop questioning her.
It had started when Sam and Dean had picked her up from Bobby’s place, and had only stopped when Tabitha had put headphones on in the backseat and laid down, refusing to listen to the same questions and demands over and over again. But once they’d stopped for the night in whatever part of Iowa they were in, Dean had started in again, like a dog with a bone, refusing to let up.
She snorted to herself. She’d been looking for some way to get Dean to let up on hounding her about being able to hear angels and not telling him, but this wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind. True he hadn’t brought the angel thing up in a while, but she could just envision her brother harping on the details of her failed California trip for the next month or more.
The wind was biting as Tabitha walked down the line of motel room doors. But she barely felt the chill as her mind whirled with questions and worries. She stopped at the end of the motel wing, contemplating whether or not to brave the full force of the wind by stepping out of the partial shelter from the wind that the motel provided.
Instead, she leaned against the door furthest down the line, closing her eyes as her thoughts swirled around. As she silently leaned against the door, she felt the strangest sensation slide up her spine, something almost akin to the sensation of being watched, mixed with the strange, eerie sensation she’d heard people describe when they talked about someone walking over a person’s grave.
She opened her eyes to look around, but there was only her and the low whistling of the bitter wind.
Carefully thinking of the angel, she whispered, “Cas, if you’re not busy, I could really use someone to talk to right now.”
For several moments, she waited, but only the whistling wind answered her. She knew that her friend might be busy, or that she might not have called out to him strongly enough to overcome whatever her bracelet did to hide her. But she couldn’t bring herself to call out again, not wanting to be a bother.
Her eyes snapped open and her head jerked up from where she’d let it fall against the door behind her. “Cas?” she said, surprised to see the angel actually standing in front of her when she’d written him off in her mind.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, stepping closer as a frown creased his face.
She gave a matching frown as she remembered her earlier ire. “Just arguing with Dean,” she shrugged as she glanced down, her hands nervously fidgeting in front of her. “I hate lying to him,” she admitted in a whisper. Looking up, she started to ask, “Maybe it would be best if I told them—”
Castiel quickly stepped forward, his fingertips lightly touching one cheek as he apologized. “I’m sorry you have been put in this position. But he cannot know. An angel could read the thoughts in his mind and know the truth. But no angel can read your mind. Not even Uriel was able to breach your thoughts.”
“Would it really be so terrible if it got out?”
“Angels are forbidden from such longstanding and…close interactions. We are forbidden to form human emotions. I’m charged with protecting you. I cannot put you at such risk.”
“I don’t get it. You say I’m to be protected, why would I be in danger?”
He gave a suffering sigh, seeming to weigh what he should tell her before he grudgingly continued, “Angels are not the only ones punished for such interactions. In the rare occurrences that such…lasting interactions were formed, the humans were always struck down along with the angel. Heaven could easily resurrect you after…” He’d trailed off, seeming reluctant to continue, but his thick and heavy tone said enough. “If Hell discovered…it would be even worse. If they thought they had a human they could leverage against an angel…”
Once more, he’d trailed off. But once more, the words he’d left unsaid spoke volumes. I can’t believe I’m involved in some twisted version of Romeo and Juliette, she thought to herself. But quickly corrected the dismal thought. The young lovers had faced feuding families but their true danger had been their own idiotic joint-suicide. The consequences Castiel was describing were far worse. Death, torture, and likely things even far worse. Probably more akin to Macbeth than Shakespeare’s play of young lovers.
She knew if she were smart, she’d get out while she still could. But she was a Winchester after all. And she’d always been a bit of a moth to the flame. Too entranced by the light as she danced in the fire of her own destruction. But perhaps the price was worth the dance.
She sighed, coming back to Castiel’s words and knowing he was right. She wouldn’t put her brothers in jeopardy for the choices she made. So she repeated in a whisper, “I know. I just hate lying to them.”
Castiel stepped back from her, letting his hand fall away from her face. “I am the one who has put you in this position. It’s my fault. It won’t happen again.”
Pushing away from the shelter of the motel, Tabitha reached out to halt Castiel’s retreat, grasping his hand again. “That sounds kinda final,” she told him. “And I don’t want this—” she gestured her hand between them, “whatever this is—to be over. No one has to know. I just wish my brothers would trust me.”
Several moments passed as the pair stared at each other, each waiting for something—some sign from the other.
“I don’t want to give you up,” Castiel suddenly admitted, seeming surprised that he’d actually spoken.
It was all the encouragement Tabitha needed, stepping into the warmth Castiel offered, one arm wrapping around his shoulders as her other buried in his hair. He responded with equal fervor, his arms sliding around her back to pull her body flush against his as he battled with her for dominance in their kiss.
Something solid pressed against her back and Tabitha suddenly realized that he’d backed her against the motel room door behind her.
Smiling at the opportunity knocking at her back, Tabitha breathlessly pulled away from the angel, twisting in his arms as she fished one of her lock-pick sets out of the pocket inside her leather coat, fumbling with the old motel lock as Castiel’s hands braced against the door on either side of her, his own breathing strained. But at least the old motel hadn’t switched to electronic key cards.
“What are you doing?”
Biting off a grumble at her fumbling hands, she replied, “There’s no car parked anywhere near this end of the motel, so I’m guessing this room’s empty. I’m trying to get the door open.”
Castiel removed one hand from where it was braced at her shoulder level, sliding it over her hands and pulling them away before simply twisting the knob and opening the door in his hand.
She nearly stumbled into the darkened room as she turned a questioning look at the angel. But he merely shrugged as if to say “so what?”
With a small shake of her head, she pulled him further into the room. “That’s pretty handy,” she told him.
As they moved to the foot of the motel bed decorated in tacky large flowers of 70’s decor, Tabitha began pushing the trench coat from his shoulders. Already the act was starting to gain a warm familiar feeling to her.
But the angel stopped her movements before the coat was over his shoulders, reaching up with his hands to cup her face.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
She gave his question due consideration, but finally resumed pushing the coat past his shoulders, forcing him to drop his arms so the coat could fall to the floor.
“I don’t know a lot about what I should or shouldn’t be doing anymore. But here in this moment…this is what I want,” she assured him.
As she pushed his suit jacket over his shoulders as well, she stepped into his embrace again, allowing him to push her own jacket away as he bent to kiss her again.
She didn’t settle for slow and gentle, there was nothing chaste in her responses to him. She channeled all of the past hours of frustrations and anger with her brothers into passion. Her brothers couldn’t know the truth of what she was doing, but she would wring every moment of pleasure and bliss out of these moments in exchange for those frustrations and the lies she was forced to tell.
Perhaps she could make that passion overshadow the ache in her heart for her lies.
Castiel seemed of equal opinion, eagerly and expediently sliding his hands underneath her sweatshirt and t-shirt, sliding them together up and over her head before staring down at her like a starved man.
“I don’t want to give you up,” he whispered.
Tabitha awoke the next morning alone. But she’d had the vague memory of Castiel telling her he had to leave as she drifted off. She’d only meant to nap for a while, and then return to the room with her brothers before they knew anything was amiss.
But as she scrambled out of bed and hurriedly stuffed herself back into her clothes, she realized there wouldn’t be much hiding that she’d been out all night. And she’d have to scramble for something to tell her brothers.
She briskly walked down the path to their room, still casting about for what to tell them as she cautiously let herself through the door. Dean was sitting on his bed, bent over tying his shoes, and Sam was packing the last of his clothes into his duffle bag. They both stopped to stare at her in the doorway. Brushing their stares off, she continued into the room and grabbed her own bags, untouched from when she’d brought them in the night before.
“Where’ve you been?” Sam asked her as he paused in his packing.
Tabitha was surprised that he’d been the first one to break the silence, but she figured that if she turned around to look at Dean, she’d see that he was preparing to blow a gasket.
“Out. Went for a walk.”
“All night?” Dean incredulously demanded. Yep, she thought, gasket blown.
She tried to brush by her brothers to leave the room with her bags as she answered. “You boys sure are quick. Yes, all night. Needed to blow off some steam.”
Dean sprang up from the bed and planted himself between her and the exit. “All night?” he repeated again.
“Yes. All night. What do you care? I was sick of arguing with you. And now you’ve just reinforced why.” She tried to step around him, but he mirrored her movements, not allowing her out.
“Where the hell did you spend the night?” he growled, leaning forward towards her, and rounding his shoulders threateningly.
She narrowed her eyes and fired back. “Walked down to the nearest bar, had a drink, and grabbed the first man I came across and had my way with him. Would you like all the tantalizing details?”
Dean immediately blanched, and then his face began rotating between a horrified paleness, and an angry red. She almost smiled at the comical sight as her brother tried to decide which emotion to settle on.
Finally, he turned away and crossly told her, “You shouldn’t disappear for hours on end when we know that demon bitch is after you.”
“So noted,” she bit out, and then held up her cell phone. “But you could have called, too. I did have my phone with me this time.”
Dean didn’t answer, but wouldn’t meet her eyes either, finally telling her, “Sam found a case not too far away, in Bedford. We’re headed there now.”
“Come on,” Sam quietly told her as he brushed past his siblings and headed out the door. “Let’s load our stuff and I’ll tell you what we know so far while Dean finishes packing.”
“Super,” she sarcastically intoned, giving him a tight smile.
“Why does the PD keep sending you guys? I already said, I don’t want a lawyer,” Adam Benson grimly told her from where he sat across the table, staring at the thing like he hoped it would swallow him.
Tabitha scooted forward on the uncomfortable metal chair. “You need legal representation, Mr. Benson. The DA’s talking about pushing for the maximum. You need some kind of counsel.”
“I’m pleading guilty. I don’t need counsel to do that,” he returned.
“At least talk to me,” she tried again, pushing her lined notepad away and leaning further over the table. “Help me to understand what happened and why you wouldn’t want to accept the legal counsel I’m trying to offer you. Just make me understand what happened. Was she cheating? Were you fighting? What were the circumstances that led to this?”
Adam Benson sighed across the way, setting his cuffed hands heavily on the metal table separating them as he stared down at the metal encircling his wrists before hesitantly meeting her eyes.
“The circumstances? The circumstances were that I killed my wife. And you wanna know why? For making plans without asking me.”
Tabitha’s lips pressed into a thin line. “Have you had fights over things like that before? Fights in general? That seems like a little thing to fight over.”
“I know,” he whispered, looking down again as shame filled his face.
“Did you feel some urge to suddenly hurt her? Did you feel out of control or like you weren’t aware of your own actions?” she gently probed. She was glad now that she’d talked her brothers into going to check with the ME and letting her interview the suspects by herself. They’d argued that a woman interrogating men who’d by all accounts gone nuts and killed their wives wasn’t a good idea, but Tabitha had a feeling she just might get more out of them then two guys might. That a little gentle questioning might just be the ticket. And besides, as she reminded them, she was more than well equipped and used to interviewing hostile suspects.
“I knew exactly what I was doing,” he told her, the shame in his face spreading and seeming to weigh his whole body down. “I was crystal clear.”
“Then why?” she continued to gently press.
He shook his head, a few tears gathering in his eyes. “I don’t know. I loved her. We were happy.”
Tabitha leaned back as she considered her next move. Trying to decide between pushing him harder, or continuing her gentle probing.
Somehow, she didn’t think it would take much more prodding to break him and get him to tell her what she already knew. “There are only a few reasons that a man who truly claims to love his wife would kill her. Love. Now, you say you loved her, and she loved you, but sometimes we can’t keep from loving more than one person. So either you were lying and she was cheating and you were jealous, or perhaps she wasn’t the one cheating. Some people decide they can only love one person.” She left her words hanging between them, watching as his eyes jerked back up to hers.
“You know?” he whispered in disbelief.
“I know you spent a lot of money at a strip club, and there’s only one reason a man would continually spend that kind of money returning time after time to the same strip club.”
His face turned grim again as he admitted, “Her name was Jasmine. I didn’t mean for it to happen, I don’t like to go to strip bars. My buddy was having a bachelor party, and there she was.”
“She came right up to me,” he explained, almost sounding slightly eager now. “And…I don’t know, she was just…perfect. Everything that I wanted.”
“With that kind of woman, when the price is right, she can be anything you want,” she tried to point out.
“It wasn’t about the money,” he hastened to contradict. “It wasn’t even about the sex. It was…I don’t know. I…I don’t know what it was. It’s hard to explain,” he said, sounding frustrated as he slumped back in his seat.
“Did your wife know?”
He shook his head. “No, she never had a clue,” he said, seeming pretty sure of himself.
“Then why? If you could have kept her clueless and had them both, why kill your wife?”
“For Jasmine,” he slowly explained. “She said we would be together forever. If…if only Vicki was…”
“Dead,” Tabitha supplied.
He nodded reluctantly across from her before continuing. “Afterwards, me and Jasmine were supposed to meet and she never showed. I don’t know where she lives, I don’t know her last name, I don’t even know her real first name! I’m an idiot.”
Tabitha couldn’t agree more, but she kept it to herself. “Why didn’t you tell this to the cops, or to one of the other attorneys they tried to send over?”
“What for?” he asked, his body curling in on himself as he hunched over more. “The stripper didn’t do it, I did it. And I know what I deserve. The judge doesn’t give me the death sentence, I’ll just do it myself.”
“What did you guys find out?” Tabitha asked as she slipped into the back seat of the Impala when her brothers drove up to the prison to pick her up.
“That Sammy cock-blocked me,” Dean grumbled under his breath.
Tabitha wasn’t certain she had been meant to hear it, but she still turned to the youngest Winchester with a wide grin. “Oh? What’s this now? Has Sammy found himself a lady?”
Sam bit back a grin even as Dean’s scowl deepened. “Cara and I were just talking,” he insisted. “And it’s not my fault she liked me better, Dean.” His eyes cut across to Dean even as a small, but smug smile tugged at his lips.
“Oh, it’s Cara now? Not Doctor Roberts?” Dean shot back with a frown. Tabitha could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to figure out what the woman saw in Sam that made her more receptive to him instead of Dean who was so used to women fawning over him.
“I think I’ve got this figured out now,” she told her brothers, leaning back in her seat and feeling a wave of satisfaction at their little brother finally attracting a woman over their older brother. “The key word was ‘Doctor,’ Dean. The woman’s a doctor. Not your usual fare.”
“Shut up,” he grumbled, but both Sam and Tabitha could tell he wasn’t really all that upset.
“Anyway,” Dean continued. “What did you find out from the husbands while we were at the hospital?”
“Oh, you mean while you were striking out with the doctor lady?”
Dean looked up to glare at her in the review, but there wasn’t any real heat in his look.
“Pretty much the same story from all three guys. Spent a ton of money on a stripper who then less than subtly convinced them they should off their wives so they could be together forever.”
“You sure it was a stripper?” Sam asked.
“You know anyone that would choose to name their daughter Jasmine?”
The boys grunted in agreement.
“‘Cause nothing says love like killing your wife for your stripper mistress,” Sam responded.
“These guys fess up?” Dean asked.
“Yup. All of them. One drained their savings, another his IRA, and one emptied his kids’ college fund, all on the same day,” Tabitha replied.
“For strippers?” Sam clarified.
“For strippers,” Tabitha agreed with a nod.
“I checked into it,” Dean supplied. “All three guys went to the same place. Place called ‘The Honey Wagon.'”
“They all have affairs with a stripper named Jasmine, too?” Sam asked.
Tabitha shook her head as she leaned forward. “This is where it gets interesting. Yes to the fact that they were all strippers. But they all had different names. And each described very different looking women.”
“So these chicks connected somehow? Working together or something?” Dean asked, looking up into the review again.
“Well, there is one thing,” Tabitha began. “They described physically different women, but there was one thing each of the guys said about them that was exactly the same. That they were perfect and everything they wanted.”
Sam snorted. “Yeah, at least until Dream Barbie convinced them to murder their wives.”
“Yeah,” Tabitha agreed.
“What if it’s some kind of love spell?” Dean asked. “Could be a coven of skeevy witches.”
Tabitha smiled a little at his obvious dislike of anything having to do with witches. Not that she disagreed.
“Could be,” Sam agreed. “And it caused them to become totally psychotic.”
“Absolutely,” Dean almost happily agreed.
“You seem pretty cheery,” Sam laughed.
“Strippers, Sammy. Strippers. We’re on an actual case involving strippers. Finally.”
“Oh joy,” Tabitha sarcastically intoned.
Dean frowned as he looked at his sister in the mirror again. “Maybe you should sit this next visit out. That’s no place for a nice girl like you.”
Tabitha nearly burst out laughing at his serious tone, as if he really thought a strip bar would somehow be damaging to her mental health or something.
“I’ve been to strip clubs,” she told him between little giggles that slipped out. “Had to for a few cases. And even went a time or two just for fun,” she told him as she waggled her eyebrows. As his jaw dropped open, she continued, “‘Course, the ones we went to for fun were more along the lines of ‘The Thunder from Down Under’ than the kind you’re thinking of.”
“That’s just wrong,” Dean mumbled, refusing to meet her eyes again.
“Relax,” she assured him. “I have no more desire to go to a strip club with my brothers than you guys have for bringing me with to one. Besides, I’ve probably ruined enough of your silly man-fantasies. Just drop me off at the motel and I’ll start researching. See if I can’t start digging into what we might be facing.”
She could see Dean relax slightly in the front seat, but he still wouldn’t look up to meet her eyes as he headed for their motel. Shaking her head, she turned to Sam and began asking him to fill in what they’d found out at the hospital. She’d need all the information they had to start researching what they were facing.
Tabitha was just walking out of the bathroom after a long shower when she heard the door to their room open.
“Jesus, Tab! Put some damn clothes on!” Dean exclaimed as he quickly spun away towards the door, running into Sam who immediately threw a hand over his eyes like a little boy that had seen a scary monster in a movie.
Tabitha looked down at her shirt, tugging a little at the hem in response to their virulent reaction. She wasn’t altogether sure what the big deal was. The t-shirt covered her underwear, and her brothers had certainly seen her in swimsuits before.
But she obligingly tossed the bottle of lotion she’d been rubbing onto her legs into her bag, and then began tugging on a pair of jeans, tossing the rest of the M&Ms from her hand into her mouth. There was a lingering guilt in the return of her chocolate habit—she hadn’t much touched chocolate since it had too strongly reminded her of the encounter with the ghost of her former lover and partner, but it seemed that her abstinence from chocolate had a direct correlation to her celibacy. And now that her eight-month celibacy had gone out the window, her abstinence from chocolate had cracked, too.
“Dude, why the hell are you wandering around the room half-naked anyway?” Dean asked her into Sam’s chest.
She snickered at the sight of the pair facing each other and unmoving, as though the slightest movement might mean they’d suddenly see their sister in ways that would scar them for life.
“Dude,” she sarcastically snickered back, “I was more than decently covered. And you have no idea what a bitch it is to pull on tight jeans when you’re fresh from the shower. I was just trying to air dry a little. Besides, I figured I’d have a couple of hours more to myself. Last call isn’t for a few hours yet, and I assumed you guys would stick around until then. It is a strip club after all.”
Sam’s face scrunched up a little behind his hand. “Are you decent yet?”
She finished button-fly of her faded jeans. “Yeah,” she grunted with another snicker.
Her brothers finally turned to cautiously face her again.
“There wasn’t much reason to stay very late. We couldn’t find too much there…and we figured it probably wasn’t a good idea to leave you alone for too long,” Sam admitted.
Tabitha heaved a sigh. “I’m perfectly fine. Not gonna walk into a trap again anytime soon. I think I learned my lesson there. And I can take care of myself as well as you guys can, probably better if the two of you are spending too much effort on worrying about me. There’s a lot of shit going down for all of us, so I think we all need to do a better job of keeping our eyes out for protecting ourselves.”
Her brothers paused at her reminder that they all had various reasons to be wary.
“You find anything useful here? We couldn’t find much. Asked around the club, but even the manager couldn’t even remember if he had girls working there by the names Aurora, Ariel, or Jasmine,” Dean told her, steering the conversation back around.
Dropping onto the bed where she’d been working, Tabitha opened up her laptop again, and handed it to her brothers. “Actually, Bobby and I have come up with a theory on what’s going on.”
“Yeah?” Sam asked, taking the laptop and looking at the screen with interest. “Siren?” he asked in a contemplative voice.
“What? Like Greek myth siren, The Odyssey?”
Sam and Tabitha both paused to turn astonished looks on the eldest Winchester.
“Hey, I read!” he defended himself.
“Actually, yeah. Like that, but they’re not actually a myth. Bobby says they’re more like a beautiful creature that preys on men, enticing them with their siren song.”
“Let me guess,” Dean drawled, “Welcome to the Jungle? No, no. Warrant’s Cherry Pie.”
“It’s a metaphor, Dean. Not an actual song,” Tabitha explained as she rolled her eyes. “It’s their appeal…their allure. You know, how I said all those guys talked about these chicks being perfect in every way?”
Sam finally handed the laptop back to Tabitha, saying, “So what, they do whatever to perfectly entice each man? Give him exactly what he desires and he just does her bidding?”
She shrugged. “I guess. Sirens lived on islands; sailors would chase ’em, completely ignoring the rocky shores…and dash themselves to pieces.”
Sam nodded. “Sounds like these three guys.”
“And if I were a siren in ’09, I couldn’t think of a better place to set up shop and wait for a bunch of morons to destroy themselves. You men at strip clubs are kind of easy marks anyway.”
Dean grunted, but didn’t argue with her assessment. “So whatever floats the guy’s boat, that’s what they look like?”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “They’re supposed to be able to read minds. They see what you want most and then can somehow cloak themselves. Like an illusion.”
Sam pulled his suit jacket off and tossed it at the foot of the other bed. “So this could all be the same chick? Morphing into, uh, different dream girls?”
Tabitha unfolded from sitting on her bed, picking up her brother’s crumpled and discarded coat, shaking it out, and reaching up to smack the back of Sam’s head as she passed behind him to hang the jacket up. “Probably,” she agreed. “Sirens are supposed to be pretty solitary.”
Dean took his own jacket off and tossed it at Tabitha, grinning when she caught it with a glare and hung it beside Sam’s. “How do we kill it?” he asked her.
She shrugged. “Bobby and I are still working on that part. There are lots of stories of sailors smashing their ships on the rocks because of a siren’s call, but so far nothing about anyone actually walking away from them.”
Sam was ruefully rubbing the back of his head, earning another glare from his sister. She hadn’t hit him that hard. “Besides, our real problem’s gonna be finding it. It could be anyone.”
“Why do you think Dean wanted to stay back at the motel while we went and interviewed Lenny Bristol?” Sam asked as he and Tabitha stepped out of the Impala once they’d returned to the motel.
Tabitha paused, flipping the keys around her pointer finger as she looked at her younger brother across the hood. “He said he wanted to catch a little more sleep. He hasn’t been sleeping all that well since he got back,” she carefully pointed out.
Sam gave her a jaded look as he popped one hip on the edge of the hood, turning so he was in profile to her and still able to look at the motel. “Don’t try to sell me on something you don’t really believe yourself. He didn’t just hang back because he wanted sleep. I’m asking why you think he really stayed back.”
She shrugged and copied her brother’s movements, easing partly onto the hood herself, her purse tucked under her arm. “I’m sure Dean has his reasons. He usually does. I’m just glad to have some piece for a while.”
Sam’s expression turned a little darker as he glanced across the distance between them. “You’re not afraid he’s going to try and figure out where you were the other night?”
A sharp chuckle of disbelief escaped before she could stop it. “And just what is Dean gonna find? Besides, I’m a grown woman, if I want to spend the night out, I don’t have to ask you boys for permission.”
For several moments, a small frown creased her brother’s face as he seemed to internally weigh something. “Tabitha, I have to tell you, I’m with Dean on this matter. You were lying about whatever happened the other night, and you were lying about whatever happened out in California. It’s not like you to keep lying about stuff like this. Big stuff. What’s really going on?”
Tabitha slid quickly off the hood of the Impala, stalking around the front of it to stare up at her brother. Even partially sitting, he was still taller than she was. But he’d been taller than her for a lot of years, and it had never stopped her from putting her younger brother in his place.
Glaring up into his eyes, she told him in low tones, “You wanna know where I was the other night? Having sex. You wanna know what positions I favor? I’m a grown damn woman, and I make my own choices. But, oh, you wanna talk about lies? How ’bout we start with you, little brother? Where do you go when you sneak off in the middle of the night? Who do you talk to when you make secret phone calls you think no one can hear? We all live in glass houses, Sam. Especially in this family. I’d think carefully about those stones you’re tossing about. Someone might just decide to toss it right back. And while we’re at it, Dean might be focused on riding my ass about the other night and about California, but don’t think for one minute that he hasn’t noticed everything I have about you.”
She didn’t give her brother the chance to retort, but spun on her heel to stride towards their motel. But as quickly as her anger had come, by ten steps, it had quickly dissipated. Half-way between their car and the motel, she stopped to face Sam again. He’d just stood up to begin following after her, his face looking closed off.
“I’m sorry, Sam,” she whispered in a low voice. “I had no right to take a hunk out of you like that. I keep promising myself that I’m not gonna let us drift apart again, and then I turn around an’ snarl at ya.”
He drew closer and gave her a reluctant smile. Shrugging, he told her, “Hey, we’re Winchesters. Taking a hunk out of each other is practically the way we say ‘I love you.’ And you’re right. I’ve got no business casting stones.” The last part was said in a quiet voice as he looked at the ground, deliberately not meeting her eyes.
A torn feeling welled in her heart. She wanted to question Sam about his secrets and disappearances as much as Dean did. She worried about him just as much. But as they stood staring at the ground between them, they both knew they were at an impasse. To question one was for the other to have a fair shot at questioning them back. And it was clear to them both that they each had things they wanted to keep secret. The question that remained was who would hold onto their secret longest. Just who felt their secret was more desperate to keep than was worthy of leveraging against their sibling for answers?
Tabitha sighed, and Sam gave a reluctant sigh as well. And they both knew the impasse would remain.
Jerking her head towards the motel, Tabitha told her brother, “Let’s go fill Dean in on what we found out about our last night’s vic.”
Dean looked nervous when his younger siblings entered their motel room, and both Tabitha and Sam paused to glance curiously at each other.
But Sam shrugged it off and told Dean, “Lenny Bristol was definitely another siren vic.”
“You guys got in to see him?”
“Yeah,” Tabitha confirmed, peeling off the jacket of her skirt suit. “This time, our vic brought home a stripper named Belle. And then a few hours later, he offed his mother. Belle, of course, seemed to disappear in the wind.”
Dean leaned forward from where he’d been sitting at the small table. “Wait, he killed his mom?”
“The woman he was closest to,” Sam confirmed.
A phone rang on the table, and their eyes all turned to see that it was Sam’s Blackberry.
Dean gestured at it and then tossed it to Sam as he stood. “Yeah, you, uh, forgot your cell phone.”
“Hey Bobby,” Sam answered.
Tabitha’s forehead furrowed. She was surprised that Bobby was calling Sam since she had been the one working with him on the research. Slipping her purse from her shoulder, she quickly dug through it looking for her cell.
Dean cleared his throat, holding her iPhone up from the table in front of him as well. “Forgot yours, too,” he told her, not meeting her eyes.
She glanced at the missed calls from Bobby, and started to call her older brother on his lie when Sam put his phone on speaker so they could all hear Bobby’s voice.
“Sam, did you find her yet?”
“Uh, no. And, uh, it doesn’t seem like she’s slowing down any. What about you? Got anything?”
“Well, some lore from a dusty Greek poem. Shockingly, it’s a little vague.”
“Big surprise,” Tabitha muttered, still looking suspiciously at Dean while he avoided her eyes. She knew when her brothers were lying as well as they seemed to know when she was. And she knew she’d put her phone in her purse that morning.
“It says you need ‘a bronze dagger, covered in the blood of a sailor, under the spell of the song,'” Bobby continued, the pitch of his voice telling them he was quoting some text.
“What the hell does that mean?” Dean asked, staring at Sam’s phone from where he stood.
Bobby sighed on his end. “You got me. We’re dealing with 3,000 years of the telephone game here.”
“Best guess?” Sam prodded.
“Well, the siren’s spell ain’t got nothing to do with any song. It’s most likely some kind of toxin or venom. Something she gets in the vics’ blood.”
“That makes them go all Manchurian Candidate,” Sam surmised. “Uh, what do you think, she infects the men during sex?”
“Supernatural STD,” Dean grunted sitting down across from Sam.
“Well, however it happens, once it’s done, the siren’s gotta watch her back. If she gets a dose of her own medicine…”
“It kills her,” Sam finished.
“Like a snake getting iced by its own venom.”
“So we just gotta find a way to juice one of the OJs in jail?” Dean asked.
“It’s not that easy. None of those guys are under the spell anymore. Haven’t got a clue where you’re gonna get the blood you need.”
“What about from the blood sample you guys said that doctor took?” Tabitha asked. “You guys said she’d told you it had something in it. What was it again?”
“Oxytocin,” Sam answered. “Yeah. That might work.”
“Be careful,” Bobby cautioned them. “These things are tricky bitches. Wrap you up in knots before you know what hit ya. And where you been, Tab? I’ve been calling. Was starting to get worried… You’ve been quiet, too. Wasn’t even sure you were there.”
“I’ve been here, Bobby.” She glanced at Dean who looked quickly away again. “Sorry about missing your calls. Forgot my cell in the room when Sam and I went out. But thanks for the info.”
“Be careful,” he cautioned one last time.
“There a reason you snagged my phone?” Tabitha immediately asked Dean.
He finally looked up at her and shrugged. “You must have forgotten it here. You gonna tell me more about where you were the other night or what really happened in California?”
Tabitha rubbed her forehead at the feeling of the headache she knew was coming. Bypassing Dean’s stare, she stepped further into the room to grab her duffle bag from the floor. Pausing in the doorway of the bathroom, she told her brothers, “Why don’t you guys go back to the hospital and talk to that doctor again. Try to get that blood. I’m gonna change, maybe do a little more research, and then go check out the crime scenes myself. Maybe I can find something there to give us some more clues on finding this siren.”
Dean stood and took a step towards her before she could shut the bathroom door, his eyes narrowed. “Alone? And just how are you gonna go check out these crime scenes?”
“I’ll borrow another car. I’ve become quite good at boosting cars again,” she sardonically replied. “And I’m perfectly capable of checking out a crime scene, Dean.” She let her own eyes narrow warningly on her brother. “We need to stop fighting, Dean. We’ve been fighting non-stop ever since you found out about me overhearing angels. And I’m getting tired of it, Dean. I know I should have told you about that sooner, but I was still working through what it meant in my own mind. Can you just at least trust me a little, Dean? Can you just trust that I’m not keeping anything from you maliciously? I’m your sister. Trust me.”
Dean stared at her for several moments before turning away without acknowledging anything she’d said. He looked at Sam and told him, “Just let me get changed and then you and me can go head back to the hospital.”
It was the early morning hours when Tabitha had finally left the last crime scene. She hadn’t found a single thing of use at any of the scenes—though the first three had since been released from the police and cleaned—but she hadn’t even found anything at the latest scene either. The only thing she had accomplished was to gain a little distance and perspective from her brothers in her hours alone. They were with each other for such huge chunks of time, and she knew she wasn’t doing enough to get a little time to herself to think as it was. And she vowed to herself that she would do a better job of jogging regularly so that she would have at least some alone time. Not to mention it was a good counter-measure for her returned chocolate habit.
She glanced at her cell phone as she left the house of Lenny Bristol—still an active crime scene—but didn’t see any new texts from her brothers. They’d both kept her updated throughout the evening—and she’d updated them on her own lack of progress—but she hadn’t heard from either of them in a while. Sam had last reported that he was checking security tapes with the doctor to look for who could have stolen the missing blood samples, and Dean had headed back to the Strip Club with an FBI agent that had shown up, doing his best to keep the Fed occupied and out of the way while still looking for their siren.
Tabitha’s phone suddenly rang. She glanced at Bobby’s name on the screen before answering it. “What’s up, Bobby?”
“Are you with either of your idgit brothers?” he huffed. But despite his gruff voice, she heard the hint of worry beneath it.
“No. Why? I just left the last crime scene. Looking for anything that might have been missed.”
“Dean called me about an hour ago, told me he thought Sam might be under the siren’s spell, said he thought it was the lady doc. But he said he was gonna check it out. And now…I can’t get a hold of him, Tab. And I’m not sure if I should try calling Sam. Not if he is under the siren’s spell.”
Tabitha cursed under her breath. “I haven’t heard from either of them in over an hour either. But why the hell isn’t Dean answering his phone if he thinks Sam’s under the spell? And why the hell didn’t he call me?” She didn’t expect an answer from Bobby, so she kept talking as she ran for her “borrowed” car. “Look, maybe it’ll be tipping Sam off if I call him and he is under the spell, but I’ve got a bad feeling about Dean not answering his cell. Thanks for calling me, Bobby. I’ll find them,” she assured him.
“You got a bronze knife?”
“In the trunk of the Impala,” she reluctantly answered, already pushing her stolen car hard towards their motel.
“Which is where?”
“Wherever the hell Dean is.”
“I’m thinking one or both of them are under the spell,” he told her unnecessarily.
“I know,” she whispered.
“Neither of them is gonna be up for dealing with this thing even if one of them ain’t under the spell. Siren’s ensnare men too easily. You’ve got to find it and deal with it Tabitha. From everything I can tell, it either doesn’t have any effect on women, or just doesn’t go after them. And I’m too far away to be of help, so you’ve got to handle this and take care of those idgits.”
“I will.” She hung up her phone without another word to Bobby, quickly trying Dean’s number first. It wasn’t much of a surprise when there was no answer, but still, she’d hoped he would pick up and say he just hadn’t heard his cell over the music of the strip club. Without any hesitation, she next called Sam, needing to talk to at least one of her brothers, under a siren’s call or not.
“What’s up, Tab?” he amiably answered.
“You heard from Dean?” she cautiously asked.
He sighed on his end. “Yeah. Fought with him on the phone and now I’m headed back to the motel again. He thinks Cara is the siren and that I’m under her spell. Just won’t listen when I tell him I feel fine.”
Tabitha didn’t respond to his assessment of himself. She was sure all the other men had thought they felt fine as well. But they were exactly the best judges of their own actions or feelings when they’d been under the siren’s spell.
“Where was Dean? What was he doing? I haven’t been able to reach him.”
“He was at the strip club with that Fed we ran into at the hospital. I texted you about him, didn’t I? Nick Munroe. Guy from Omaha with the Violent Crimes Unit.”
Tabitha felt the blood drain from her face as she processed the information.
She spoke hurried rush. “Dammit, Sam. There isn’t a Violent Crime Unit in the Omaha offices. And nobody by the name of Nick Munroe on any VCU team in any part of the country. Why didn’t you tell me more about this guy sooner?” There were certain to have been new hires to VCU teams since she’d left the Feds, but she knew they hadn’t opened entirely new teams. The two added together certainly equated to the man being a counterfeit.
The sound of a door opening echoed over her frantic reply to her brother. And she heard a small gasp from him.
“Nick. What are you doing here?”
“Sam!” Tabitha shouted out, damning the speed limit and racing for their motel. But as she strained against her phone, hoping to hear something from her brother, she caught only muffled sounds, and then the call was disconnected. Even though this Nick didn’t fit the usual pattern, she was certain he was their siren.
And surely, if this Nick was in their motel, then Dean was as well. And as long as her brothers were both together, she’d do anything to protect them, even from themselves.
When she skidded into the parking lot, she was relieved to see the Impala parked nearby, and it only took her a moment to dig through the trunk for the bronze knife she needed. Now she just had to get some blood from her brother. Dean might not be under the spell—maybe neither of them was—but she didn’t think that the Winchesters would get that lucky.
Sliding the knife into the waist of her jeans at the small of her back, she ran into the motel, cursing that all the rooms of this motel had only interior doors. She much preferred the smaller motels that had been built in the style of the old motor inns, each room having a door to the exterior that a guest could pull their car directly up to. Each step she took into the interior of the motel and up the stairs to their third floor was agonizing.
When she finally reached their room, she could hear the raised voices of her brothers as they yelled back and forth at each other.
She was finally close enough to the closed door to make out Dean’s words. “And it’s not the demon blood or the psychic crap. It’s the little stuff—the lies. The secrets.”
Tabitha moved closer and waited, not wanting to miss her best advantage.
“Oh, yeah?” she heard Sam answer. “What secrets?”
“The phone calls to Ruby, for one.”
Tabitha sighed, she’d figured as much as well, but that was neither here nor there at the moment.
“So I need your say-so to make a phone call?”
“That’s the point. You’re hiding things from me. What else aren’t you telling me?”
“None of your business,” Sam answered.
“See what I mean? We used to be in this together. We used to have each other’s backs!”
Tabitha pressed a little closer to the door, trying to judge where her brothers were, and trying in vain to listen for Nick. She needed to know where the siren was most of all before she did anything rash.
“Okay, fine,” Sam continued. “You know why I didn’t tell you about Ruby? And how we’re hunting down Lilith? Because you’re too weak to go after her, Dean. You’re holding me back. I’m a better hunter than you are—stronger, smarter. I can take out demons you’re too scared to go near.”
Tabitha tried to muffle her sharp intake of breath at the nasty barb Sam had thrown, but luckily, neither one of them seemed to hear her.
“That’s crap,” Dean growled.
“You’re too busy sitting around feeling sorry for yourself or trying to order me and Tab around. But we don’t need you and all your whining about all the souls you tortured in Hell. Boo-hoo.”
She heard scuffling and then the telltale noises of punches being thrown and furniture breaking. Tabitha’s patience went out the window. She couldn’t stand by while her brothers beat the tar out of each other, regardless of the fact that she still wasn’t sure where the siren was in the room.
The knob on the door wouldn’t budge when she tried it, so she stepped back and lifted her foot, glad now that she was in her heavy biker boots and not her dress heels.
The door crashed open with a thud as she stepped into the room, her pistol drawn and in her grip before she even realized she’d automatically drawn it. The three men froze and glanced up at her less than subtle entrance.
“We having a party and no one thought to invite Tabitha, huh?” she tried to lightly joke.
Her brothers were standing only a few feet from each other, both with bloody faces and skinned knuckles. But Tabitha’s eyes only skimmed over them, quickly lighting on the strange man seated on the edge of one of the beds, his hands folded over his crossed leg at his knee, looking for all the world like a spectator at a tennis match.
“Interesting,” the man commented, looking her up and down.
She returned the favor. “I’d say likewise, but you’re definitely not what I had in mind for a siren turned stripper.”
He shrugged. “I’m just providing what they want. And it wasn’t some piece of ass in a G-string. It was a sibling they could count on. One that was strong—and loyal. One that they could trust.”
Tabitha eased further into the room, her gun lowered as she moved to where she could keep an eye on the siren as well as her brothers. “Yeah, well. We’re full up on siblings in this family. No need to apply. And the mess that is our family is what makes us Winchesters. It’s not for everyone.”
The siren looked away from her, seeming bored with her as he spoke to her brothers. “Nothing’s changed. Whoever survives can be with me forever. But we don’t need a sister.”
Sam and Dean had both been frozen in a tableau, but came to life at his words, both turning to look at her as their faces darkened even more.
“You’re no better than him,” Dean said with a jerk of his head towards Sam. “Worse even. You lie to my face and then have the gall to tell me that you’re trying to do what’s best for our family. And you’re just as much of a freak as him. I should get rid of both of you. I’d be better off.”
Sam grunted beside him. “She’s nothing like me. She’s weak—weak like you. Too caught up in the people who die because they get in the middle of this war against demons. Grow up, Tabitha. There are always casualties in war.”
She frowned as they both focused their attention on her, but waited at the ready for one of them to make a move.
Sam moved first, his face contorting with rage as he stepped at her, his fist swinging at her in a wild arc. But his fighting was wild and uncontrolled from what the siren had done to him, so Tabitha only had to step closer to Sam, raising her arm and blocking his hit. With her too close to him, his hit missed completely, his reach longer and his arm striking hers where she’d reached up to block. With her other hand, Tabitha brought the butt of her gun down hard against the base of Sam’s head, dazing him enough that his knees gave out and he crashed to the floor.
Dean took the moment of weakness to launch his own assault at Sam, his eyes fixed on his target as he advanced. Tabitha only had to let him step closer, suddenly sidestepping and sweeping out a kick to connect against the back of his knee, causing it to buckle. As Dean fell to his knees next to Sam, Tabitha yanked out the hidden knife from behind her back, swiping it across Dean’s bicep to color the bronze blade red with his blood.
The siren had stood during the melee—perhaps sensing that the fight wouldn’t end as it had thought—and was starting to flee through the open door when Tabitha looked up.
It moved fast, too fast to chase, so Tabitha changed her grip on the knife and threw it, watching as it embedded in the back of the fleeing siren.
And suddenly, the spell was over. Sam and Dean had been struggling to their feet next to her, but abruptly sat down, staring at each other and at her in shock.
She shared their stupor for a moment, but then turned to assess her brothers and the damage around them. The room was nearly destroyed—or at the very least looked like it had been professionally trashed by a Rock band—but her brothers didn’t seem too worse for wear. No worse than usual anyway.
Finally, she shook herself and turned away from the stunned looks of her brothers. “We need to pack up and get the hell out of here,” she told them. “Someone will have called in all the commotion by now.”
They nodded and for once mutely followed her bidding. She’d have found some pleasure in that fact if not for the circumstances of the night.
They hadn’t driven far when Dean pulled over into an empty parking lot in a mostly deserted looking part of town. None of them said anything to each other as they climbed out and awkwardly gathered around the Impala, but Tabitha knew her brothers wanted to talk.
Hoping to alleviate the tenseness of the moment, Tabitha went around to the trunk of the Impala and pulled out three bottles from the cooler they kept there. Coming around to her brothers again, she handed a bottle to each of them.
“Soda?” Dean asked with a raised brow as he took his.
Tabitha grinned as she popped the top off her own bottle. “Well, you’re driving,” she pointed out.
“I’m not,” Sam pointed out as he held up his own bottle, frowning a little at it and pointed looking at her own bottle of beer.
“Yeah, well, the pair of you were fighting like damn little boys, so I figured soda was more fitting,” she explained, giving them both a cheeky smiling, trying to lighten the moment.
Dean let out a huff, but had to bit off a smile as he opened his bottle and took a long drink.
Sam took a drink from his own bottle before shifting as he leaned against the Impala, nervously clearing his throat. “Thanks, Tabby. You know, if you hadn’t shown up when you did…”
She shrugged it off, looking down at the bottle in her hands as she absently peeled the label up with her thumbnail. Raising her head to pin them both in a pointed stare, she told them, “What are sisters for? And I am your guys’ sibling.”
They both nodded and looked down at her gentle reminder that she was their sibling, not some siren.
“Besides,” she continued, “We watch each other’s backs even when we’re ticked off with each other. It’s just what we do.”
Silence followed as the boys continued to stare at the bottles in their hands.
“Are the two of you going to be okay?”
They finally looked up, and then glanced a little hesitantly at each other.
“Yeah, fine,” Sam assured her.
Dean agreed. “Yeah, good.”
Not quite buying it, Tabitha told them, “You know, from everything I read, those things were nasty creatures. So don’t feel too bad about getting caught up by it.” She paused to look at Dean. “How’s your arm doing?”
His hand brushed across his bicep where she’d hastily cleaned and bandaged his wound before they’d left their trashed motel room. “It’ll be fine,” he assured her. “Barely a scratch. That knife throw was impressive though, haven’t seen you throw a knife in years.”
With a dry laugh, she admitted, “Me either. I’m just glad I didn’t forget everything Bobby taught me.” Being a girl and woman, and obviously never going to be as strong as a man was, Bobby had always insisted on teaching Tabitha to fight defensively, and to use weapons that gave her a longer range so she didn’t get drawn into a close-quarters fight where her lack of strength might get her hurt or killed. Her father being a Marine had only really known how to teach her to use guns in such instances, but Bobby’s added teachings had rounded her out.
And the FBI had taught her how to fight defensively in close-quarters to negate her opponents’ strength.
“Sorry about trying to take a swing at you,” Sam mumbled apologetically.
“Me, too,” Dean added.
She shrugged. She’d been able to sidestep them both well enough, but they were both experienced enough fighters that she doubted even all her training with Bobby and the FBI would have helped her if her brothers hadn’t been a little out of control from the siren. They hadn’t fought in their normally cool and collected manners.
Meeting Sam’s eyes first, she told them both, “No worries. That kind of thing just seems to be how we say ‘I love you’ in this family.” Then she impulsively stepped forward and wrapped Sam in a theatrical hug, dramatically telling him, “Aww, I love you, Sammy.” She pressed a kiss to his cheek as he laughingly pushed her away and then grabbed Dean as he tried to back away, giving him the same exaggerated hug and kissing his cheek as she told him, “And I wuv you, too, big brother.”
Dean was laughing as he pushed her away, nearly spilling his soda as he danced out of her reach. “Enough of that,” he told her, trying to maintain a scowl and a growl. “We’re not that kind of family.” But the darkness had fled her brothers’ eyes, replaced with a little light as they laughed at her. And she was willing to do more than play the clown if it returned that kind of light to their eyes.
Glancing at Sam, Dean asked him, “You gonna say goodbye to Cara?”
“Nah, not interested,” Sam replied as he settled back against the car.
“Well, look at you. Love ’em and leave ’em,” Dean said in an almost impressed tone.
Sam turned serious. “Dean, Tab, look, you know I didn’t mean the things I said back there, right? That it was just the siren’s spell talking?”
“Of course,” Dean hastened to reply. “Me, too.”
A heavy silence built.
“‘Kay. So…so we’re good?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, we’re good.”
But as the three Winchesters glanced around at each other, they could see that none of them fully bought it. Tabitha hated the distance that had returned between them all, but wasn’t sure how to fix it. More laughter wouldn’t do anything to actually solve their problems.
For an instant, Tabitha considered coming clean to her brothers about everything. It would light the burden she’d been feeling since she’d first had to lie to them, but as she opened her mouth, she realized that telling them now would be selfish. All it would really accomplish was to make her feel better. But she’d made choices now that put her in danger—put Castiel in danger—and if her brothers knew, might put them in danger. And she knew that she couldn’t selfishly unburden herself of those secrets just because she felt guilty. She knew the guilt was well deserved. It was the price she had to pay for her choices.
But even knowing the price, she wasn’t sure she would have changed what she’d done. And she wasn’t sure she could keep from making the same choices in the future.
So she closed her mouth and shrugged. “I guess we should get back on the road,” she lamely told them.
But they shrugged and half-heartedly agreed as they all climbed back into the Impala, the secrets of the Winchesters still unshared.
A/N: I know, no Bobby in this one, but I figured it was okay since he was in the last one. And since I figured Tabitha was there to cover her brothers’ butts.