Tabitha studied the symbol from the book in her hand again, looking back up at the worn wood of the barn. It barely bore a resemblance, even to her eye.
“You’re getting the paint too thick; it’s dripping,” Dean gruffly complained as he passed behind her. “Haven’t you ever used spray paint before?”
She studied the drips of paint, and then tried to wipe them away with her fingers, only succeeding in covering them with black paint and smearing the drips. “No. Can’t say I ever got much into graffiti,” she answered, pushing the end of her ponytail back over her shoulder so it was away from the spray of black paint as she leaned closer to look at the wall.
“See,” Dean argued, “you should have hung out with me and Sammy more instead of reading books all the time.” He shook his head as he took the book from her and studied the design. “Who am I kidding,” he muttered under his breath. “I was lucky just to get Sammy away from his books occasionally.”
Tabitha smiled at her brother, glad to see him easing some on his hardass routine. It was the first words he’d exchanged with her that hadn’t bordered on shouting since he’d come up with his plan to summon the thing that brought him out of Hell and she’d insisted on coming with. She had agreed with leaving Sam out of it, though. Something about her younger brother still didn’t seem right to her, so she agreed it was best to leave him out of it.
Dean held his spray can up and gestured for Tabitha to watch. “See, you gotta move faster. You’re going too slow and getting the paint so heavy it’s running. That’ll ruin the symbols and then they won’t work.”
She studied his example, and then tried again herself, having to start again several times as he gave her more direction.
Finally, they’d finished tagging the entire interior structure of the barn with various symbols and every trap they knew to possibly use. But after Bobby had performed the ritual to summon the thing, they waited.
“Does it usually take this long?” Tabitha asked as she sat next to her brother on a high table, a shotgun across her lap and her handguns in her shoulder harness as she swung her heavy boots back and forth through the air. There were also weapons of every various kind to use on monsters around her and within reach of Dean and Bobby.
Bobby only graced her with a droll look.
“What?” she defended, pulling at the tail of her black long-sleeve t-shirt instead of looking up. “It’s been a while since I’ve done this, I guess. I just don’t remember a lot of sit and wait time when we were hunting monsters before.”
And then Tabitha felt a faint vibration of power, followed by the shingles of the barn rattling over their heads.
“Ya just had to say something like that,” Bobby muttered as they all slid to their feet, staring at the rattling shingles.
“Wishful thinking, but maybe it’s just the wind,” Dean tried as he nervously looked around.
“‘Cause that’s the kinda luck we usually get,” Tabitha muttered as she held her shotgun loosely to her shoulder, barrel pointed down at the ground until she had a target to aim at.
Every light bulb in the old fixtures suddenly began busting in the rafters, sparks raining down on them as they ducked their heads.
A loud crack resounded through the barn then, the heavy beam across the door snapping as the doors swung open, a lone figure casually walking through them.
The three stood almost dumbfounded by the sight of a plain looking man in a trench coat casually strolling through the open doors.
Tabitha wasn’t certain what she’d been expecting, but she’d partly been ready to see the face she’d seen a flash of during Pamela’s séance. Though it did give her hope that she had been imaging the face and the voice altogether. Because this normal looking man certainly wasn’t the image she thought she’d seen.
As the sparks stopped falling down on them, they realized that this ordinary looking creature was walking through and by every trap, talisman, and design they’d painted on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Dean raised his shotgun first and fired at the trench coat wearing creature, but Bobby and Tabitha quickly followed suit.
Still, not even the salt rounds slowed his easy stroll through the barn.
Dean grabbed the demon-killing knife from the table, and Tabitha grabbed a silver knife in one hand, sliding her handgun into her right hand. It was awkward holding both in her grip, and the regular rounds from her service weapon might not do anything on a monster like this, but Tabitha was willing to shoot it in the head to find out.
“Who are you?” Dean asked as the creature partially circled him.
“I’m the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition,” the creature matter-of-factly responded.
“Yeah, thanks for that,” Dean sarcastically answered, and then lunged forward, swinging the demon blade down in an overhand motion into what should have been the creature’s heart.
But it merely stood there, glancing down at the knife as though it were an interesting toy, and then easily sliding it from its chest, dropping the knife to the ground with a clatter.
Bobby moved next, swinging a tire iron down at its head, only to have the thing catch it in its hand without even looking, wrenching it from Bobby’s grip and then pressing two fingers to Bobby’s head.
Tabitha gasped as Bobby crumpled to the ground, her training taking over as she fired three shots in quick succession into the creature’s heart from behind. He turned and glanced at her, his head canting strangely to the side as he stared at her. Tabitha almost swore there was surprise in his eyes, but then she realized she’d followed her training and aimed only for the heart, so she raised her Glock to aim for his head.
Only to have her gun burn like a stovetop in her hand. It fell to the cement floor as she shook her hands, the creature continuing to stare at her. “What are you doing here? You should not be here,” it said to her. But when it stepped forward, Dean sidestepped into its path, placing his sister to his back as the creature looked at them in a curious but detached manner.
“We need to talk, Dean,” it finally told him, glancing at Bobby’s crumpled form and then over Dean’s shoulder.
The hint was less than subtle. Dean maneuvered closer to Bobby, one hand behind him, moving his sister along with him. “You’re not touching my sister,” he growled, crouching down near Bobby.
Tabitha immediately felt for the older man’s pulse, finding it steady and strong. “He’s okay, Dean. Just out,” she whispered to her brother so he could keep his focus on this seemingly unbeatable creature.
“Your friend’s alive,” it off-handedly supplied as it flipped through one of Bobby’s books.
Her brother didn’t seem impressed as he growled, “Who are you?”
“Castiel,” it said, still not looking up.
She knew it had to be so. But she couldn’t help the jolt of surprise that ran through her. Even though she had convinced herself that she hadn’t actually heard or seen anything, she’d still half expected to hear the same voice, or see that face she’s witnessed a brief flash of.
“Yeah, I figured that much,” Dean was saying, his back tense as he stayed crouched in front of Tabitha next to Bobby’s body. “I mean, what are you?”
The creature finally looked up and flatly said, “I’m an angel of The Lord.”
Dean stood uneasily, grabbing his sister’s hand and pulling her up behind him, even as she gapped at the creature.
“Get the hell out of here,” Dean replied. “There’s no such thing.”
“An angel,” Tabitha whispered to herself.
The creature—angel—or Castiel, as Tabitha was more comfortable thinking, turned towards them fully.
“This is your problem, Dean. You have no faith,” Castiel said, his head tipped down in such a way that he looked up at them through his eyelashes, seeming somehow more predatory in his gaze than angelic.
Lightening flashed, and Tabitha jumped behind her brother, his hand squeezing painfully on hers as dark wings seemed to unfold and spread in the shadows behind Castiel.
“Some angel you are,” Dean snidely replied. “You burned out the poor woman’s eyes.”
Tabitha stepped slightly to the side, gazing more fully at the angel. “Why would an angel have done that?” she asked.
Castiel looked down, and seemed plainly regretful. “I warned her not to spy on my true form. It can be,” he paused and looked up, meeting Tabitha’s eyes as he continued, “overwhelming to some humans. So can my real voice.” His gaze finally tore from Tabitha’s, switching to her brother’s. “But you already knew that.”
“You mean the gas station and the motel? That was you talking?” As Dean spoke, he stole a glance at his sister, pulling her closer and slightly behind him again.
Castiel only nodded serenely to Dean.
“Buddy, next time, lower the volume.”
“It was my mistake,” Castiel told him. “Certain people, special people,” he continued, his eyes trailing back to Tabitha, “can perceive my true visage. I thought you would be one of them. I was wrong.”
Tabitha’s brows drew together at his words, and she almost swore he nodded at her. But she shook her head, unable to believe that she could be one of those people.
“And what visage are you in now?” Dean demanded. “What, holy tax accountant?”
“This,” Castiel said, looking down and fingering the trench coat, “this, is a vessel.”
“You’re possessing someone?” Tabitha choked out.
“He’s a devout man,” Castiel nodded. “He actually prayed for this.”
“Look pal, I’m not buying what you’re selling. So who are you really?”
Castiel looked genuinely confused, his face drawing together in a mask of bewilderment. “I told you.”
“Right. And why would an angel, rescue me from Hell?” Dean demanded.
Castiel stepped closer, only a scant distance separating them as he answered, “Good things do happen, Dean.”
“Not in my experience,” Dean replied, his voice thick with emotion.
“Not in our family,” Tabitha added, thinking of all the trouble both the boys had had, along with their father.
Castiel squinted, looking at them both, his head canted to the side again as he gazed back and forth between them. “Have you not escaped almost certain death, only to wonder at your fortune?” His eyes turned and locked on Tabitha’s again. “Have you not worshiped, and prayed, and given your thanks to God for His blessings when you have been saved?”
“How could you know that?” Tabitha gasped, her free hand covering her mouth.
Dean glanced dubiously over his shoulder at her, but Castiel focused on him again.
“You don’t think you deserve to be saved,” he stated, staring at Dean as though he were perplexed by him.
“Why’d you do it?” Dean finally asked.
“Because God commanded it,” Castiel said. “Because we have work for you.”
“You’re really an angel?” Tabitha whispered.
“Yes,” he answered. And then from one blink to the next, he was gone.
“This can’t be happening,” Dean muttered.
Bobby was seated at his desk going through books as Dean and Sam argued over the possibilities of angels.
Tabitha sat nearby on the couch, trying to ignore their voices as she poured over the book in her own lap. It was hard trying to read over the boys’ arguing, but she was finding that she was quickly remembering the skill from her childhood.
She looked up at Bobby shouting her name.
He held up a thick book in his hand, it was worn, but she could see “Bible” emblazoned on the cover. “Researching angels. You wanna help?” he sarcastically asked.
She held up the book in her lap. “Already am.”
He stood and came closer, looking at the old text she held. “What’s that?”
“Mom’s old bible. She said it came from her side of the family, I think,” Tabitha answered.
Bobby glanced at the cover, and then thumbed through the first few pages. “Looks old. Obscure. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill Gideon bible. Might be useful,” he agreed, walking back to his desk.
“I didn’t even know Mom had a bible from her side of the family,” Dean commented from the chair he’d laid himself out in, sullenly looking at the old bible on his own lap. “Why’d you keep something like that all these years anyway?”
Tabitha shrugged. “It was from her folks. Seemed like something that should be kept.”
Several minutes passed, but Tabitha could feel her brother staring at her from across the way.
“What?” she finally demanded.
“You really believe that thing was an angel, just like Sam does?”
“Who’s to say it wasn’t? We know there’s demons, so why can’t there be angels. I guess it makes a certain amount of sense.” She braced for the arguments he’d had with Sam, but he seemed to be turning something else over in his mind.
“What did he mean about you worshiping and praying to God?” he finally asked, his eyes fixed on the floor.
“I go to church,” she finally answered. “At least, there’s a church I go to when I’m actually at my place in Virginia.
“Why?” He still wouldn’t meet her eye.
She shrugged, not knowing how to frame her answer for the brother she knew wasn’t a believer in God.
“I believe,” she finally simply settled on.
Whatever Dean had wanted, her answer didn’t seem to be it. But he only grunted and opened the book in his lap.
“Where’s Sam?” Tabitha asked.
“Went to get pie,” Dean answered shortly.
Tabitha sighed and returned to her attention to the Campbell family bible.
Sam and Dean followed behind Tabitha and Bobby to go check on his hunter friend after she’d left him a message frantically asking for help. Tabitha had tried talking to him several times as they drove, trying to ease his fears, but he’d never said a word back to her, so she’d eventually given up, instead riding in silence.
When they’d pulled up at the woman’s house, Tabitha automatically followed Bobby to his trunk, grabbing one of his shotguns out of the back.
“You’re staying here,” Dean told her, trying to take the shotgun from her hands.
“I don’t think so.”
“He’s right, Tab,” Sam added, stepping closer as he glanced at the old house. “This could be dangerous.”
“Darn. And I was hoping for a bake sale,” Tabitha answered in a droll voice. She stepped around her brothers and onto the front steps, turning when she heard her older brother’s voice.
“We’re just trying to look out for you. You’re getting drug back into something you might not be able to get out of,” he warned.
“I know,” she told them. “But I make my own choices. And I’m not turning my back now.”
Her brothers were fast on her heels as they fanned out through the house, calling out for Olivia.
Tabitha rounded into the dining room to see her brothers crouched over a woman’s badly torn up body. Sam stood and tried to block the sight, but Tabitha moved around him and crouched over the body.
“What could have done this?” she asked Dean.
He held up an EMF meter. “We’re thinking ghost.”
She glanced back at the body. “Hell of a lot of rage,” she commented.
Bobby stepped back in the room saying, “Called some hunters nearby.”
“Good, we could use the help,” Tabitha answered.
“Except, they ain’t answering their phone neither,” Bobby finished.
“Something’s up, huh?” Sam quietly stated.
“You think?” Bobby quietly answered.
For the next several minutes, they all took pages from Bobby’s address book and started calling hunters who were in the area, but to no avail.
They finally decided to split up again and start making house calls.
“You shouldn’t do this,” Dean warned as Tabitha moved to get in the passenger seat of Bobby’s car. “I’ve got a bad feeling that it’s just going to be more gruesome sights like that one. You don’t need this kind of thing haunting you.”
Tabitha stopped and sadly looked into her brother’s eyes. “Do you know how I ended up in the Violent Crime Section? It’s because I could handle sights like that,” she told him with a jerk of her head towards the old house. “I ended up on a team that specifically works on some of the worst, and most gruesome of cases that the Violent Crime Section deals with, because they needed a woman on the team, and I was the only one they could find who could handle sights like that and didn’t burn out from it.” She sighed and laid a placating hand on her brother’s arm. “I’ve seen a lot of crime scenes that haunt me more than that will, Dean.”
“It’s still taking a step further into this world,” he argued.
“I know,” she told him as she turned and stepped into Bobby’s Chevelle.
Several houses later, Bobby found Tabitha crouched over yet another torn up body.
“You alright, Tab?” he asked her.
“Yeah,” she answered faintly.
He stepped closer, squatting down next to her. “Little harder than you let Dean believe, huh?” he asked in a low voice.
She shook herself from her trance and looked at Bobby. “Yes. And no.”
She glanced back at the body. “I learned a long time ago, that if you want to get ahead as a woman in a man’s world, you’ve got to prove that you’re as tough as they are and can take anything they can. It was the only way I got ahead in the FBI with all my male bosses. I can’t let Dean think I’m bothered by sights like that any more than I could let my bosses think it.” She paused and turned back to the body in front of them. “And yes, I’ve seen more gruesome sights than this.”
Bobby waited for her to continue, but finally prompted, “So what is it about this one is making you pause.”
Tabitha reached out as though she was going to touch the man’s body, but then stopped inches away from touching his cheek, pulling her hand back, and pushing to stand up straight. “Just never thought I’d see Collin torn to pieces like this, that’s all.”
“You knew Collin?” Bobby asked, standing to face her in shock. “Since when?”
“Few years back,” Tabitha replied, moving through the house and back to Bobby’s car. He followed, but waited at the driver’s door for her to continue.
She paused and set her shotgun down on the roof, leaning down over the car to finish explaining. “I was still fairly new to the team in Violent Crimes, and it was one of my first cases. Ended up in Nebraska looking into some gruesome killings. Locals had thought it was a mountain lion that had traveled from the Rockies or South Dakota at first, but the kills didn’t seem right, so they called us in. The team was thinking some kind of out of control serial killer or cannibal with how torn up the bodies were, but something didn’t sit right with me. So I went out to one of the crime scenes late at night to take another look. I caught Collin out there, but when I saw the weapons he had with him, I realized he was a hunter. After I proved to him that I understood what he was and came from a family of hunters, he told me he was hunting a rugaru. We stayed in touch afterwards.”
Tabitha shrugged and then climbed into the car.
Bobby followed her. “‘Stayed in touch?'” he repeated.
“Yeah,” Tabitha replied, a defensive tone creeping in. “I got to know a few of the hunters you sent my way to have me clean up their trails. Collin was just another hunter I knew. I’d occasionally throw cases his way when I saw something come through the FBI that I knew wasn’t a human culprit.”
“But you stayed in touch with Collin?” Bobby repeated, his tone making the unvoiced accusation clear.
Tabitha glared across at Bobby. “A time or two, all right? And if you breathe a word of that to Dean, I’ll deny it and tell him you’re getting senile.”
Bobby chuckled humorlessly as he finally started the engine. “Like I wanna start that fight. Still, I can see why this one would be hard for you.”
Tabitha glanced back at the house. “I’m just tired of seeing men I’ve cared for, dead,” she whispered.
Her words rang a chord with Bobby, but he couldn’t put a finger on what seemed strange about her wording or voice.
“Drive,” Tabitha finally told Bobby, breaking his thoughts. “Where we going next?”
“We’re not making any headway,” Bobby answered. “Might as well head home and see if we can’t figure out what’s doing this.”
“You find anything yet?” Bobby called out from behind his desk.
“Not really!” Tabitha called back. She was starting to get frustrated with the lack of progress, and dug another handful of M&Ms out of the bag on the kitchen table as she got up and wandered back into the living room, looking for another book to pour through.
“You just going to binge on candy, or are you actually working?” Bobby grumbled.
Tabitha grabbed a book and wandered back to her own little workstation in the kitchen. “I eat when I’m frustrated!” she threw back over her shoulder, rubbing her arms at the cold air in the house, and considering whether to get up again to go get a sweatshirt.
“And it was always chocolate that was your fix, wasn’t it?” a familiar voice said behind her.
Tabitha gasped, nearly inhaling an M&M as she scrambled out of her seat, the chair skidding backwards away from her as she spun around. The lights in the kitchen began flickering around them.
“It can’t be. You’re dead,” she rasped, her throat hoarse as she spit out the M&M she’d nearly choked on.
He stepped closer, and then moved around her as he trailed a finger along the table near the open bag of candy. “Yes. You were always fond of your M&Ms. But any chocolate really. Anytime you were frustrated, or exhausted,” he looked up and gave her a wicked grin. A look that was so painfully familiar on that square face. “Or satisfied. Any of those times, and you’d grab for a bag of chocolate.” His grin suddenly turned snide, the normal laugh lines around his mouth drawing into harsh and cruel lines. “Quite the stereotypical woman, weren’t you?”
“Tabitha?” Bobby shouted from the other room. She could hear him coming closer, but the sliding pocket doors suddenly slammed shut between them.
She reached for the saltshaker behind her, but before she could break it open or get the lid off, she was thrown backwards on the table, her back bending over at a painful angle.
“Tsk, tsk,” he said as he held her down by her throat, grabbing the saltshaker from her hand and throwing it across the room. “Can’t have that now. We were just starting to catch up.”
“Casey, please,” she rasped, struggling for air as she pushed at him, trying to pry his hand away from her throat.
Suddenly, he picked her up by her throat and threw her across the room. She hit the kitchen counter near the sink, and fell to the floor in a heap.
“You should beg!” he shouted.
Tabitha pulled herself up from the floor, fighting to her feet as she stared at Casey’s once familiar and handsome face, now distorted with rage as he flashed in front of her, grabbing her by the throat again as he pushed her against the sink, bending her backwards once more.
“You should beg for your life,” he continued screaming. “I’m dead because of you!”
“Didn’t know about the bomb,” she wheezed out, her eyes watering as she struggled against his hold. She tried kicking and hitting at him, and although she met something solid with each strike, it did nothing. She tried twisting away from his grasp, but it was like fighting a brick wall, nothing seemed to budge him.
Casey bent her head to the side, pressing his face into the crease of her neck and shoulder, almost seeming to inhale at that spot before bringing his lips up to her ear. “You should have been at my side when I walked into that building. I was your partner; you should have been beside me. Where were you? Where were you when I was blown to hell?” he whispered in a caress to her ear.
A tear escaped to run down her cheek. “I’m sorry.”
Tabitha felt Casey’s other hand run ever so gently up her arm, cupping her jaw and pushing her head back, even as his other hand tightened around her throat. “You should beg me,” he repeated. “You know how much I like to hear you beg me.”
“I’m sorry,” she repeated in a croak, her vision darkening.
And then, the sound of a shotgun echoed in her ears as something tore through Casey’s body, his image disappearing, and leaving Tabitha to crumple to the floor as she began wheezing in deep breaths.
Something grabbed her by the arm, yanking her to her feet and propping her up with an arm under her shoulders when her legs couldn’t support her weight.
She shook her head and finally realized Dean was shouting her name.
“Dammit, Tabitha! You gotta pull yourself together!” Dean yelled, his eyes frantically darting about. “They’re ghosts, Tab. Just ghosts.”
She pulled away and nodded. “Stron—uhm—stronger than any I’ve seen before,” she rasped.
He glanced back at her and handed her the fire poker he was holding, a shotgun in his other hand. “But still ghosts. Same rules apply.”
She nodded again, holding the iron fire poker like a lifeline.
“Where’s Bobby?” Dean asked.
“I haven’t seen him since Case—since that ghost showed up.”
Dean glanced over at her verbal slip, but they continued moving out of the kitchen towards Bobby’s desk.
“Where’s Sam?” Tabitha asked.
“Outside. We split up looking for you two.”
“You’ve seen them, too?” But she didn’t need to ask. Something in her brother’s spooked look gave her her answer.
“Let’s split up,” she told her brother. “You go upstairs; I’ll get the rest of the main floor and the basement looking for Bobby.”
Dean grabbed her arm. “I don’t think so. That thing nearly killed you. You’re not getting out of my sight.”
Tabitha held up her new weapon. “I’m fine now. I’ve got this, and I’ll grab one of the shotguns that Bobby’s got stashed around the house. It won’t catch me off guard again. I just didn’t see it coming.”
Her brother paused, torn between the common sense of splitting up to search, and the need to watch his sister and protect her.
“We have to make sure Bobby’s okay. I haven’t seen him since that thing grabbed me,” she insisted. Better to call it a thing than to think of that as any part of the man she’d once known and cared for.
“Fine. But you be careful. And if you get killed by that thing, I’m bringing you back and killing you again,” Dean warned.
“Back at ya,” she answered as they separated. She soon grabbed one of Bobby’s salt loaded shotguns from the linen closet, continuing her search for Bobby.
It was hard to tell in Bobby’s house if anything was out of place, it had that lived-in look of chaos. But from what Tabitha saw as she went through the main floor, there was nothing to indicate any kind of real struggle anywhere. Other than where she’d been in the kitchen anyway. Only one thing might have been out of place. An iron bar on the floor at the base of the steps. But still no sign of Bobby.
She was just reaching the top of the basement stairs when she heard a loud crash from upstairs and heard Dean’s pained voice.
Pulling the shotgun into the crook of her shoulder, she ran for the stairs to the upper level, taking them two at a time as she raced towards her brother.
As she came around into a hallway upstairs, she saw Dean on the floor, a woman with shoulder length blond hair and a filthy white shirt advancing on him.
“You know how little siblings are, right? How they’ll do anything for you?” the woman was asking Dean.
She started to draw back to kick him, but Tabitha raised the shotgun and fired a shot through her before she could. “Yeah, little siblings will do anything, won’t they?” she told the now empty space.
Coming forward, she helped pull her brother to his feet.
“They will, huh?” he asked, a small smile coming to his lips as he bent to pick up his shotgun from the floor.
“We’re even,” she told him. Glancing back where the woman had stood, she asked, “Who was that?”
“Meg.” At her blank stare, he continued. “Girl possessed by a demon. Story for another time,” he waved off. “Guy downstairs?”
“Casey,” she answered shortly. When Dean gave her a pointed look, she continued, “Dead FBI partner. Story for another time.”
“Fine. Let’s find Bobby and Sam,” Dean told her, pulling her towards the stairs. “And we’re sticking together this time.”
They jogged down the stairs together. Just as Bobby and Sam came into the house, calling their names.
“Are you guys alright?” Sam asked, meeting them in Bobby’s living room. He grabbed his sister’s shoulders, staring down at her throat. “What the hell happened?” he demanded.
She pushed away to collapse on the couch, the adrenaline rush starting to wear off now and the pain in her throat making its presence known. Along with all the other aches in her body.
“Ghost,” she answered, not wanting to say more and not feeling like she was able.
Dean left the living room, coming back with a glass of water and a bag of frozen peas he’d managed to find somewhere, silently handing both to her. He paused long enough to gently turn her head to the side, no doubt gauging the bruises she could feel forming.
“I’m gonna kill that guy,” he growled in a low tone.
“Who?” Sam demanded, hearing her older brother’s vow.
Tabitha shook her head. “He’s already dead,” she reminded them.
But as she took the offered items, she saw her older brother looking over her head and subtly shaking his head at their younger brother. She knew her brothers were likely having some silent conversation, but didn’t have the energy to deal with it. Instead, she sipped her water and held the peas to her throat.
The men started discussing the ghosts they’d seen while Tabitha silently drank her water.
“So, they’re all people we know?” Sam asked.
“No just people we know, people we couldn’t save,” Dean responded, reloading shotguns, and handing one to his sister.
She took it, setting it beside her as she listened to them.
“Hey, I saw something on Meg,” Dean said, seeming to remember something. “Did she have a tattoo when she was alive?”
“I don’t think so,” Sam answered, shaking his head.
“It was like a mark on her hand. Almost like a brand.”
“I saw a mark, too. On Henriksen,” Sam responded.
They glanced at Tabitha and she nodded, pointing to the spot where she’d seen something on the back of its hand between the thumb and forefinger. “There. And I know he never had any sort of mark or brand or tattoo when he was alive,” she told them.
“What’d it look like?” Bobby wearily asked.
“Paper?” Sam asked, grabbing the proffered paper and pencil from Bobby and drawing the mark.
But as he drew, the Campbell family bible still on the couch caught Tabitha’s eye, and she grabbed it, flipping through its pages.
Sam held his drawing up for them to look at.
“That’s it,” Dean agreed.
And Tabitha held the bible up, pointing to the symbol on the page. “The Mark of the Witness,” she rasped.
Bobby looked at the page and agreed, a worried look sliding across his face.
“I think I’ve seen this before,” he agreed. But before he could continue, the lights began flickering once more in the room. “We’ve gotta move,” he told them.
“Where?” Tabitha croaked, but jumping up and taking the bible in her hands, along with the shotgun and fire poker at her feet with her as she followed Bobby.
“Somewhere safe,” he told them, leading the way down the stairs to the basement.
At one end of the musty basement was a small round room the opened with a heavy iron door, and was completely lined with iron.
“Bobby, is this—” Sam started asking.
“Solid iron,” Bobby assured them. “Completely coated in salt. One-hundred percent ghost proof,” he proudly continued.
They all looked up at the huge ceiling fan, around it and in the cage around it, Bobby had also managed to design a devil’s trap.
“You built a panic-room,” Sam marveled.
Bobby shrugged. “I had a weekend off.”
Tabitha leaned back against outer wall, feeling exhausted already. “I wonder what my bosses and colleagues would say about a panic-room like this?” she offered with a small smile.
Dean turned around with an assault-rifle in his hands. “Bobby. You’re awesome,” he told the man in awe.
“So what’s that thing say about the mark?” Bobby asked, gesturing to the heavy bible in Tabitha’s hands.
“Dunno,” she answered. “Just remembered seeing it. I haven’t read this thing cover to cover. It’s so darn long and has tiny print.”
“My problem with all books,” Dean pointed out.
“Well, get to reading,” Bobby told her, then pointed to the stack of books he’d brought down with them. “I’ll start on these.” He turned to the boys, pointing at a table with munitions supplies. “Why don’t you two make more salt rounds? I have a feeling we’re gonna need them.”
Tabitha sat cross-legged on the cot while Bobby took his usual position at the desk.
Sam and Dean had begun arguing about whether or not God existed, but mostly Bobby and Tabitha tried to ignore the conversation as they researched a solution.
“But if he is out there, what the hell is wrong with him? Where is he while all these decent people are getting torn to shreds? How does he live with himself? Why doesn’t he help?” Dean demanded as he faced off with Sam as they sat side by side at the table, shotgun shells with packed salt.
Sam stared at him blankly, and then two boys turned their stare on Bobby.
“I ain’t touching this one with a ten-foot pole,” he nervously laughed, holding his place in the book on the desk.
“What about you?” Dean asked then, nodding over at his sister. “You said you go to church. You pray. You believe. Is that what you believe in?”
She ignored the hostility in his voice. “Yes,” she answered, not looking up.
“Yes?” he repeated incredulously. “That’s what you believe in? A god who doesn’t do jack-squat?”
“Yeah,” she repeated, sitting up straighter and finally looking up at his angry tone. “He gave us freewill to make our own choices and be our own people. He gave us the freedom to fight for the things we wanted. Should he take over and do our fighting for us and make all of our decisions for us?” she asked in clipped tones.
“That’s not what I’m saying. I get what you’re saying about freewill, and I’m all for it. But does he have to sit on his ass while demons and monsters tear this world apart? Doesn’t he give a damn? If he does, why’d he even allow monsters and demons to exist in the first place?” Dean angrily demanded.
“Because the bad has to exist for the good to exist,” she answered, trying to keep calm and be logical.
“Oh, are you all Zen now? Gotta have yin and yang, is that it?” he scoffed.
“Don’t be an ass,” she growled turning back to the bible in her hands.
Bobby cleared his throat. “Found it,” he told them, pointing at the page of the book in front of him with the pencil in his hands and effectively stopping their argument.
“What?” Sam asked.
“The symbol you saw, the brand on the ghosts, the Mark of the Witness,” he said.
Sam sat back in his chair. “We knew that much. Tab found the name, but she can’t find what it’s witness to.”
“The unnatural,” Bobby answered, causing the three Winchesters to sit up straighter as they listened.
“None of them died what you’d call, ordinary deaths. See, these ghosts, they were forced to rise. They woke up in agony. They’re like rabid dogs. It ain’t their fault. Someone, rose ’em. On purpose.”
“Who?” Sam asked.
“Do I look like I know,” Bobby answered. “But whoever it was, used a spell so powerful, it left a mark, a brand on their souls. Whoever did this, had big plans. It’s called the Rising of the Witnesses. I just ain’t figured out what it does.”
Tabitha frantically flipped back through the pages in her bible, looking for the text she remembered seeing. “It’s a prophecy,” she told them. “From Revelations, according to this. It’s a sign—” she gulped hard before continuing. “—a sign of the Apocalypse.”
“Apocalypse?” Dean asked. At his sister’s nod, he continued. “As in Apocalypse, Apocalypse? The four horsemen, pestilence, five-dollar-a-gallon-gas-Apocalypse?”
“That’s the one,” Bobby sighed.
Bobby grabbed another book and looked through it, adding to Tabitha’s explanation, “It says here, the Rise of the Witnesses is a mile-marker.”
Tabitha leaned back against the wall again as the boys asked what to do next. She briefly thought to herself that she had perfect timing in coming back into the supernatural world just in time for the Apocalypse, but immediately chastised her snide thought. At least if it was going to come, she wasn’t going to sit around ignorantly.
“There’s one thing I don’t get,” she told the boys after she’d thought it over for a while.
“What’s that, Tab?” Sam asked.
She opened her eyes to look at Bobby. “According to what you and I have read, these ghosts are all people who didn’t die ordinary deaths, right?” Bobby nodded. “But well—Casey—he very much died an ordinary death. I mean, he walked into an office building to question a suspect, and the guy had the place rigged to blow with explosives, but it was still a human death. Not supernatural. So why was he here trying to choke the life outta me. And he was marked just like the others were.”
Bobby shrugged. “I don’t have any answers for you. Maybe whatever it was that set off the explosion wasn’t really human. You said you’ve run across monsters that you’ve tossed to other hunters. Maybe that was one of them and you didn’t realize it.”
“Maybe,” she shrugged. “But I don’t think so.”
“I just don’t know, Tab.”
“How’d you avoid the blast?” Sam asked in a quiet voice.
Tabitha looked down, the guilt creeping in just as it always did when she remembered that day. “Random stupid luck,” she admitted. “I somehow forgot my badge in the car and went back for it. We were just going to question a witness we thought, so Casey went ahead. We didn’t think there was any danger.”
She shifted uncomfortably on the stiff cot, the springs groaning audibly in the silence of the room.
“I just got lucky that I remembered my badge and went back for it,” she whispered.
The silence stretched on. Tabitha pointedly turned back to the bible in her lap, and the boys soon turned back to filling their shells.
After some digging, Bobby finally found a spell in one of his books that would put the witnesses to rest`11. As luck would have it, he said he had everything that was needed.
Unfortunately, it was all upstairs.
“Maybe you should sit this one out,” Dean told his sister as they prepared to leave the panic-room. “I don’t want you getting hurt any worse.”
“I’ll be fine,” she insisted.
“That guy nearly killed you. And would have if I hadn’t come along.”
“And you got your ass kicked by some little nothing of a girl,” Tabitha reminded him. “You’re lucky I came along, too.”
“Wow,” Sam laughed. “You got your ass kicked by a girl?”
“Shut up,” Dean told him. “And that was no girl. That was a ghost.”
“Exactly. And you were susceptible to it even though you were on guard. So I’m going to help watch your guys’ backs.”
“And who’s gonna watch yours?” Dean insisted.
Bobby broke in, stepping between the siblings and shoving a shotgun at each of them. “That’s enough. We’re gonna need every shotgun up there we can get. So you all watch each other’s backs. And watch where you’re shooting,” he told them, going to the heavy iron door.
They all took as many salt rounds as they could carry, shoving them in pockets before Bobby opened the door.
As they started climbing the stairs, a voice called out above them.
“Howdy boys.” They all stopped to see Agent Henriksen at the top of the stairs. “And Special Agent Tabitha Winchester,” he almost pleasantly drawled. “Bet you never thought you’d see me again.”
“I’m sorry for what happened, Victor,” she apologized, her voice tight and strained with regret.
“Oh, you’re sorry, are you? Sorry that I’m dead, or sorry that you didn’t tell me what was really going on when I went after your brothers?” he continued.
“I couldn’t tell you everything. I told you there was more to them than you realized,” she defended, her brothers stepping closer to either side of her.
“What did you expect her to tell you?” Sam asked.
But a shot rang out next to them, and Henriksen’s image dissolved as the salt round from Bobby’s shotgun tore through him.
“If you’re gonna shoot, shoot. Don’t talk,” he told the siblings.
As they entered the living room, the four split up, Bobby grabbing supplies for the spell, and the Winchesters spreading salt lines to ward off the ghosts.
Bobby lit the fire in the fireplace, and then started giving orders to the others for the supplies throughout the house that he needed, sending Sam upstairs for a hex box.
Dean and Tabitha looked up at the childish voices to see the two small girls staring at Bobby. Without hesitation, Dean fired a shot through them, nodding to his sister and saying, “Keep salting.”
“Closet down the hall. There’s another book I need,” Bobby said. “Thick, old leather bound. Red Sumerian letters.”
Dean nodded and left to gather it, telling his sister, “You stay with him.”
But Bobby was already calling out for the other items he needed. “Kitchen cutlery drawer. It’s got a false bottom. Hemlock, opium, wormwood.”
“Opium?” Tabitha repeated as she made her way to the kitchen. “I’m not sure I should legally know that you have that, Bobby.”
She entered the kitchen and yanked open the cutlery drawer, dumping its contents on the counter and pulling at the false bottom to get to Bobby’s stash.
Suddenly, she heard the sliding doors to the kitchen slam shut again.
“Tabitha?” Bobby called from the living room.
“It’s fine, Bobby!” she called back, pulling the shotgun to her shoulder again. “Keep working!”
As the lights began flickering again, she used one hand to loosely hold the shotgun, and the other to grab the bundles from the hidden compartment of the drawer. But as she reached for the last one, a hand clamped down on her arm in a crushing grip. Swiveling, she tried turning into the grip and raising her sawed-off, but the crushing hand lifted her from her feet and threw her backwards.
Crumpling against the kitchen cabinets as the doors cracked and bounced open, she pushed to her knees and tried bringing the shotgun up again, but it was knocked from her grip.
Kneeling in front of her, Casey grabbed at her throat again and pushed her against the base cabinets.
“There was nothing I could have done,” she gasped to her former partner. “I didn’t know it would blow.”
“No,” he agreed, leaning close to her face again. All pretense of his familiar smile and the kindness that had once been burned into her memory, had fled from his face, replaced by a twisted hatred she didn’t recognize.
He continued in low tones, his face close to hers as his breath caressed her cheek, now harsh and cruel instead of familiar and comforting. “But you should have known more. You should have realized I wasn’t me,” he growled in her face, squeezing painfully as he stood, lifting her in his grasp until she dangled from his hand, trying in vain to reach the ground with her toes.
“I don’t understand,” she wheezed, tears burning painfully in her eyes at the lack of air. She tried striking and kicking his torso. She even tried clawing at him, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“You come from a family of hunters, and you didn’t even realize that man you were fucking wasn’t really me!” he shouted.
“What?” she gasped, her face drawing together in confusion as her hands flailed behind her for something to use against him.
“That’s right,” he growled, shaking her to emphasize his point. “I was being ridden by a demon. Your own partner was a demon and you didn’t even know it. Didn’t see it. You were screwing a demon, and you didn’t even realize it! Some hunter you are. But then, I guess that’s why you ran away, wasn’t it? Because you were no good at it. Just like you were a no good partner!” His other hand suddenly plunged through her chest, his hand grasping her heart and squeezing, even as he squeezed in time at her throat.
She gasped in pain, but couldn’t so much as yell out as he tightened his grip on her throat. But finally, she yanked her hand from behind her and swung it through her former partner, his image disappearing as she fell hard to her feet. She stood holding the old cast-iron frying pan for a moment, hardly believing her luck in being able to reach it as her other hand clung to the counter, trying to keep on her feet.
But she didn’t have time to dwell on the pain or her lack of breath; she knew he would be back, so wheezing for air, she grabbed her shotgun and Bobby’s stash, running into the living room to get it to him.
“Here,” she told Bobby as she set the herbs and drugs on his desk.
Her brothers entered just behind her, looking no better off than she felt.
The three went back to laying more salt lines down as the windows shattered and gusts of wind scattered their salt lines, ghosts appearing in the room and disappearing as the siblings began firing at them. They danced around each other as they fired, falling into the easy routine of watching each other’s backs just like when they’d been younger.
The small girls suddenly appeared, pinning Sam against the wall with the heavy roll-top desk.
“Sam!” Tabitha called, stepping towards him. She couldn’t fire a shot from her angle though, not without hitting her younger brother.
“Cover Bobby!” Sam ordered, and Tabitha and Dean turned back again to face the continued onslaught.
A fist suddenly sailed into Tabitha’s peripheral vision, connecting with her temple as she staggered sideways, getting knocked down as something heavy came down after her.
She instinctively blocked with the shotgun, stopping Victor’s hands from grabbing at her. Instead, his grip tightened on the gun as he tried to push it down at her head.
“Tabitha!” Dean shouted.
“I’m alright!” she called back as she grunted and fought to push up on the shotgun.
Victor snarled down at her over the gun. “I wasn’t alright,” he growled. “You should have told me about them. You should have warned me to stay away from them before they got me killed!” he yelled.
And then he let one hand slip from the shotgun, plunging it through her chest just as her former partner had done. She threw her head back, biting off a scream of agony as the pain tore through her chest again.
“You should have told me that they’d get me killed. That’s why you ran away from them after all, isn’t it? You knew it was only a matter of time until they got everyone around them killed,” he told her.
She couldn’t breathe through the pain, could barely think, but then his other hand on the shotgun seemed to loosen as he concentrated on the hand pushing through her chest, and in one smooth motion, Tabitha twisted the shotgun and fired it into Victor’s face. The ghost disappeared, and Tabitha heard a sudden explosion in the fireplace, followed by a white light bursting through the room.
And then silence.
“Bobby?” Dean asked. “Tabitha, Sam? You guys okay?”
“I’ll live. I think,” Bobby answered in a tired voice.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” Sam added.
“Tabitha?” Dean called.
“Tab, you okay?” Sam added, as she heard her brothers rush around looking for her.
She tried holding up a hand to signal she was okay, but realized she was behind the couch and they couldn’t see her gesture, so she pushed painfully to her feet, one hand trailing the shotgun with her as she leaned hard over the couch.
“I’m here,” she told them. “Please tell me you iced their asses. I think I could use a little sleep before battling another ghost.”
Her brothers reached her and pulled her into their arms. Dropping the shotgun, she gratefully wrapped her own arms around each of them in return.
“Yeah, Tab. We iced them,” Dean whispered, his hand reaching up to pat her head.
“Ouch,” she whispered, pulling away from her brothers.
Dean looked down at his hand, the fingertips dotted with blood where he’d touched her head.
“Turn around,” he ordered.
“It’s just a bump,” she told them, but studiously turned around. She knew it was only one of many bumps. “You guys don’t look much of any better,” she reminded them. Like her, they were covered in small cuts, and lumps and bruises that were beginning to form.
“It’s a pretty big one,” Sam told her. “And split open. But I don’t think it really needs stitches.”
She jerked away from them, gingerly touching the lump to the back of her head with her own fingers. There was only a small amount of wetness that she could feel. “Good, ’cause I’m not letting the two of you try to shave my head again under the guise of giving me stitches this time.”
The boys grinned and then fell into laughter as they remembered the childhood incident. “I thought dad was going to tan our hides,” Sam laughed.
Dean grinned at the memory as well. “You kept complaining you needed a haircut. Dad didn’t want to take you somewhere and have to wait forever at some salon. So he said to cut Tabby’s hair. I thought you looked good.”
She pointed an accusing finger at them. “You made me look like a boy. Do you know how long that hair took to grow out again? Years.”
The brothers laughed at the memory, and even Bobby chuckled from his seat at his desk, remembering the irate little girl who had hitchhiked for four days to reach his house, and then refused to leave for almost four months to rejoin her brothers.
And for once, as the men laughed at the memory of a nearly bald little girl, Tabitha actually felt like things might be okay again between her and the three men she cared most about.
It had only taken a few ghosts trying to rip their hearts out.
Tabitha jerked awake in the room where she had slept for the past four months in Bobby’s house. The nightmare was fading from her memory, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. So she eased out of bed and dug through her luggage, finally finding one of her boots and holding it upside down, her stash of cigarettes and a lighter sliding onto her palm.
The boys were sleeping on the couches downstairs since they hadn’t wanted to take the time to clear out one of Bobby’s other spare bedrooms. So she slowly and quietly eased down the stairs, trying not to wake them.
As she reached the middle of the stairs, she realized she could hear Dean’s voice, and slowed to a stop, trying to catch his words and whom he was talking to.
She was surprised when she heard the angel’s voice.
Remaining perfectly still on the stairs, she listened to the angel and her brother talking about the seals and what they were. Hardly breathing as the angel explained that Lucifer himself would be set free with the breaking of the seals.
“Well, bang up job so far,” Dean was telling the angel in condescending tones. “Stellar work with the witnesses. It’s nice.”
Tabitha tensed at her brother’s disrespectful words, fearing just what affect they would have on an angel, and so she shuffled quietly further down the stairs, trying to get closer to the conversation in case she needed to intervene.
“We tried,” Castiel responded in calm tones. “And there are other battles. Other seals. Some we’ll win, some we’ll lose. This one, we lost.”
She heard her brother scoff as she stepped off the last step, waiting at the bottom of the staircase as she held her breath.
Her brother must have done something to anger the angel, because he continued in stilted and harsh tones. “Our numbers are not unlimited. Six of my brothers died in the field this week.” Tabitha froze at that, shocked that angels actually could be killed, given their own attempts to kill him, and briefly wondered what actually could kill an angel. “You think the armies of Heaven should just follow you around? There’s a bigger picture here. You should show me some respect. I dragged you out of Hell. I can throw you back in.”
At his angry words, Tabitha trotted into the kitchen where the voices seemed to come from, determined to defend her brother.
Only, the kitchen was empty.
She walked through and into the living room, only to find Sam asleep on the couch and Dean likewise fast asleep, using his coat for a blanket on the floor.
“What the hell?” she muttered to herself, looking around, but seeing no angel.
With tremulous steps, she quietly slipped out of the house, standing barefoot on the porch. Her breath hung in the air in heavy clouds. The cool air of the fall night licking over her exposed flesh, but after the nightmare she’d had, and the pounding in her heart now, the snap of the cold air felt refreshing. But her hands shook with anxiety so that it took six tries to strike her lighter and light a cigarette, but she finally brought it to her lips, drawing in a long inhale.
Slowly exhaling, she whispered to the soft singing of the crickets, “Am I really going crazy?”
“No. You are not crazy.”
She coughed on an inhale of smoke, whipping around to see Castiel, still in his suit and trench coat, leaning casually against the faded siding of the house, his hands braced behind his back.
Still sputtering, and leaning back against the weather-beaten railing behind her, she demanded, “What the hell are you doing here? What’s going on?”
He stared at her for so long, she didn’t think he was going to answer her.
“I merely wished to assure you that you were not insane,” he finally told her.
She took another long, nervous inhale of her cigarette, the smoke burning her sore throat, but helping to calm her shaking hands as she asked, “I really did hear you talking to Dean?”
She waited for him to elaborate, and made a frustrated motion with her hands when he didn’t. “How? He was still asleep on the couch. And you were nowhere in sight. What’s going on?”
“I spoke to Dean in his dream,” Castiel explained, as though it were something as simple as using a telephone.
“In a dream?” she dubiously repeated.
“Yes. Why must I repeat myself so often with you and your brother?” Castiel suddenly asked, exasperation creeping into his own voice.
“Well, sorry. I guess us humans just aren’t used to dealing with angels. It’s kind of hard to wrap our heads around,” she told him, her tension easing somewhat as her irritation set in and replaced her nervousness. She hopped up on the railing behind her, sitting with her bare feet dangling between the bars of the railing beneath her.
“Why would you want to ‘wrap you heads around’ something?” the angel asked, his head canting to the side again.
Tabitha suddenly threw back her head and laughed, and then clapped a hand over her mouth, not wanting to wake the men in the house.
Castiel pushed away from the house, waving a dismissive hand towards the old structure. “They still sleep,” he assured her, still staring at her as he waited almost anxiously for her explanation.
“Castiel,” she laughed quietly, “it’s just an expression. It means to understand or comprehend something.”
“Then why do you not say that?” he asked, clearly still baffled by the idea of human idioms.
“I don’t know.” She shook her head, finding his bewilderment and interest in her wording humorous.
But then, she sobered. “So. I can hear you when you talk to my brother in dreams. How is that possible?”
Castiel moved closer to her, standing almost uncomfortably close and reminding her of children who had been deprived interaction with the outside world and had no understanding of acceptable social manners and boundaries.
“You are one of the humans I spoke of. One who can perceive my true voice and visage,” he explained, his body nearly touching her bare knees as he moved even closer to her, his head less than a foot away from hers.
She scooted back on the railing, hanging dangerously over the back of it, her hands nervously rubbing at the cut-off sleep shorts she was wearing. The action would have been an indication for a normal human to back up and give space, but the angel merely waited for her response, not moving an inch as he stared down at her.
“So,” she nervously began, trying to ignore her unease. “I can hear your voice, see what you look like. I’m not gonna argue with an angel on that, I guess, but how can I hear you in my brother’s dream? It was this voice the one of your ‘vessel’ or whatever, not your true voice. And how could I hear Dean’s voice, too? He’s no angel.”
He slowly reached out and touched his fingers to her temple. “You perceive my voice with your mind. Not your ears. When I spoke with Dean, you were able to catch the wavelength of our conversation and hear his responses as well. If you had concentrated, you could very well have seen it if you wished.”
As he pulled his fingers away from her temple, she slid from the railing and pushed by the angel, moving to stand on the other side of the porch.
“I did not intend you to overhear my conversation with Dean, and I apologize that you were disturbed by it. I have not spent time around humans like you who can perceive us and did not realize you would hear me if I entered your brother’s dream. Have I done something wrong?” As he spoke, his words increased in pace so that his last several sentences were spoken so quickly they ran together into one long sentence.
Tabitha turned around from the other side of the porch, deliberately leaning sideways against the railing and trying to appear nonchalant as she gave him a questioning look.
“You suddenly appear agitated,” he clarified.
She sighed. “You were too close.”
“I do not understand.” He looked around the porch. “Too close to what?”
“Me,” she sighed. “You were standing too close to me. Look, I get that you’re an angel and apparently don’t understand human norms, but humans don’t like to be crowded. It makes us feel uncomfortable.”
“I apologize,” he said, his voice sounding like a mixture of regret and frustration.
“It’s all right. Like I said, I get that you’re not human. That’s why I’m telling you how humans are.”
“Then, I thank you for explaining your discomfort to me,” he slowly answered.
She turned and leaned her forearms on the railing, bringing her forgotten cigarette to her mouth again.
“Why are you doing that out here?” Castiel suddenly asked.
She glanced at him, and he gestured to the cigarette in her hand.
“Because Dean has a weird thing about smoking. Says it’s dangerous,” she laughed. “As if hunting and all the drinking he does isn’t.” When the angel stared at her blankly, she continued. “I came outside so he wouldn’t know. I just needed something to settle my nerves, I guess.”
“You’re like a little kid, you know?” But she shook her head and stood up straight, turning until she was leaning back against the railing again, and facing the angel who was keeping a more respectful distance, though he had moved a bit closer to her. “Why did I need to settle my nerves you mean?” At his nod, she continued. “Oh, I don’t know, my brother suddenly showing back up from Hell, seeing the dead body or ghost of the last two men I’ve both slept with, one of whom turns out was actually a demon, finding out that the Apocalypse is coming, or oh, I don’t know, hearing you tell Dean that all this really means that some demon bitch is actually trying to raise the damn devil. Guess it’s probably one of those things. Not sure which. It’s been a long couple’a days.” She flicked one hand up in the air as she looked away. “Take your pick, I guess.”
Silence followed for so long, that she thought Castiel had either disappeared, or actually been a figment of her imagination all along. But when she opened her eyes, she saw he was still standing there, his head still tilted to the side as he studied her.
Uncomfortable with the silent assessment, she wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly wishing she’d thrown a sweatshirt on over the worn spaghetti-strap tank top she’d worn to bed.
She cleared her throat in the silence, and nervously continued, “And I usually eat chocolate when I need my nerves settled, but I think it’s going to be a long time until I touch chocolate again.”
Still, the angel stared.
She cleared her throat one more time and turned sideways to the angel, looking out over Bobby’s scrap yard. “It’s impolite to stare at people like that, too,” she told him.
From the corner of her eye, she saw his gaze immediately drop away. “Forgive me,” he quietly offered.
But Tabitha silently shrugged it away. It was uncomfortable, but she couldn’t really blame an angel for not understanding social norms of humans. But it made her wonder if angels just sat around in heaven staring at each other all day.
“How did you find out your partner was possessed by a demon?” he suddenly asked.
Tabitha turned again to face him, surprise coloring her tone. “He—I guess, his ghost—told me. He was so mad at me for not knowing he had been possessed.” She looked away as she leaned heavily back against the railing. “I should have known,” she whispered.
“You could not. The demon did not wish you to know,” he offered, surprising her with the kindness in his tone.
“But I should have,” she whispered in instance. To herself, she continued, “Was it the whole time? Just how long was he possessed?”
“Only a few weeks,” the angel assured her.
Her attention snapped back to Castiel. “How would you know that? For that matter, how did you know he was my partner?” she demanded. “I said one of the men I’d slept with had been a demon. Not my partner. How do you know so much about me?” She remembered something else. “And why did you say that I shouldn’t be here when you first came to Dean at that old barn?”
The angel looked nervously away. “I ah… I am an angel. I know many things,” he told her, not meeting her eyes, but his voice was uneven and nervous.
“Bullshit,” she growled. “You may be seemingly unkillable, but you’re a horrible liar. How do you know those things about me? How do you know anything about me?”
The angel sighed tiredly, and looked back into her eyes. “I was tasked with watching over you for some time.”
“What? When? How long?”
The angel shrugged, the action seeming almost elegant. “For a few years. Since the time you left the protection of your father and brother. I was told to watch over you.”
“Why?” she demanded, her hand pressing nervously over the thumping of her heart.
“I do not know,” Castiel answered. “I am a soldier. I follow orders.”
“Is it because I can hear your real voice?” she whispered. “Because I’m not a normal human and can hear angels?”
“As I said. I do not know, although it was not until you responded to my words when I spoke to Dean that I realized you could hear my voice. I do not know why you were to be watched.”
Her head was spinning as she mentally ran through the last several years. With a gasp, she turned back to face the angel.
“I heard your voice then, too, didn’t I?” she asked him. “When Casey went into the building and was blown up, I heard your real voice whisper one word to me: badge. And I checked and realized I’d forgotten it and went back to the car. That was you, wasn’t it?”
He nodded slowly. “I did not know if you heard my whisper in your ear or not,” he told her. “You did not react nor turn away for several moments. I thought you had realized it on your own.”
“You knew Casey was possessed, did you have something to do with his death? It had to be a supernatural death for him to rise with the other witnesses. Did you do something to him?”
The angel looked uncomfortable and turned away from her. “I was following my orders. When I relayed that the man you were intimate with had been possessed, heaven ordered that I smite the man so that you would not be in danger of whatever the demon’s plans were.”
“Why? Why would heaven order an angel to watch me? What could either Dean or I possible mean to anyone in heaven? Why are we important? What do you know?”
He turned back towards her at her barrage of questions, and slowly and angrily repeated, “I. Do. Not. Know. I am a soldier. It is not my place to question orders. Only to follow them.”
Tabitha paced on the porch, crushing her forgotten cigarette and flicking it away as she paced.
“If you were sent to watch me, why were you surprised to see me with Dean the other night?” she suddenly asked.
The angel looked reluctant to say more, but sighed and continued. “My orders changed. I was recalled to heaven and then after a time, given new orders to bring your brother out of perdition. Another angel was tasked with watching you. I know not who.”
“Some job they’re doing,” she muttered. “Nearly had my heart ripped out of my chest.”
The angel stalked closer, his eyes narrowed as he stared down at her. “You and your brother are most frustrating. You are both alive. Do not complain about that. We do not have the luxury of following your every move. We are not guardians, but soldiers tasked with watching you humans. And neither your brother nor you are helpless. You are both alive. I lost brothers in the field who are not.”
The pain was masked from his voice, but plain in the eyes that stared down at her. As was his regret. The angel didn’t lie well with his words, but he didn’t show much emotion on his face to betray himself either. If he didn’t speak, he could have been a hell of a poker player.
Except for the eyes, Tabitha realized to herself. No emotion showed, except for in the subtle softness of his light blue eyes. She moved closer to the angel, watching as he tracked her movement. When she stood before him, she had to look up into his eyes. He wouldn’t have been much taller than her normally, but standing barefoot on the cold wooden floorboards of the porch gave him the advantage.
She exhaled a long breath to calm herself and placed a comforting hand on the angel’s shoulder. His head jerked to the side at her action, staring down at her hand, seemingly in shock at her boldness or the gesture.
“I’m sorry,” she told him, watching as his head whipped back to face her, his blue eyes staring incredulously down into hers. “I know what it is to lose a brother. And I’m sorry for your loss. And I know you’re frustrated with Dean and I, but this is a lot for a human to take in in such a short time. It’s hard to imagine what interest Dean or I could hold for anyone in heaven, let alone, God. We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on. So I’m sorry if we haven’t been the easiest to deal with.”
He stared at her for so long, that Tabitha started to wonder if she’d done something improper in touching the angel, and began slowly removing her hand, pulling it back to herself.
But his suddenly closed over her hand, pressing it to his shoulder as he continued staring at her. “Thank you for your condolences,” he whispered. “These times are difficult for angels. We walk the earth as we have not in thousands of years. And I am not accustomed to losing so many of my brothers in so short a span of time.”
“It doesn’t matter how long the span of time is,” she offered. “I know each one hurts no matter how much time passes.”
The angel nodded in reply.
“Thank you,” Tabitha quietly whispered to Castiel, feeling the angel jerk beneath her fingers at her words. He looked confused, so she elaborated. “For saving me back then from that demon and whatever it had been planning, and for bringing Dean back from Hell. I know I didn’t say that earlier. And I know Dean would sooner swallow his own tongue than give a genuine thank you to a stranger, so, thank you for us both.”
“You are welcome,” he whispered back, still staring down at her in surprise. “And I appreciate your consideration on your brother’s behalf. He is not as… understanding or accommodating to speak with as you have proven to be.” As he spoke, he gently squeezed her hand one last time.
And then disappeared beneath her fingertips, leaving only the fluttering sound of feathered wings flapping in the night air.