He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Tabitha and her brothers approached the man behind the counter of the comic book store. He looked up in surprise and suspiciously looked them all over, his eyes lingering a little longer on Tabitha as they each pulled out their badges.
“Uh…can I help you?” the man asked with a raised brow. From his balding head, thick glasses, and stained sweatshirt, Tabitha was guessing that he lived in his mother’s basement. Or maybe above her garage. She glanced around the store, thinking that at least he seemed to fit in with his clientele.
Dean spoke for them. “Sure hope so. Agents DeYoung, Shaw, and Bullock. Just need to ask you a few questions.”
Sam immediately began the rapid-fire. “Notice anything strange in the building last couple of days?”
“Well, some other tenants reported flickering lights,” Dean replied.
Still with a confused look, the man stammered, “Uh…I don’t think so. Why?”
“What about noises? Any skittering in the walls? Kinda like rats?” Sam continued.
Tabitha looked away and rolled her eyes. She needed to give her brothers a refresher course on interview protocol. They weren’t even trying to not sound crazy.
The short man on his stool behind the counter seemed to think so, too. “And the FBI is investigating a rodent problem?” he dubiously asked.
“What about cold spots?” Sam asked without slowing down. “Feel any sudden drops in temperature?”
A look of dawning realization came over the chubby man’s face, his round and scruffy cheeks pulling up into a smile that was surprisingly…cute…for a chubby little man.
“I knew it!” the man exclaimed. “You guys are LARPing, aren’t you?”
Tabitha immediately cringed. That was a new one to be accused of, but she knew her brothers weren’t being careful enough. The FBI side of her wanted to lash out at being accused of role-playing, though.
“Excuse me,” Dean immediately responded.
“Fans of what?” Sam demanded.
Dean followed up with, “What is ‘LARPing?'”
The man grinned. “Like you don’t know.”
Both Sam and Dean stared at the man in confusion, while Tabitha shook her head in frustration. Pushing past her brothers, she leaned against the counter, looking the man in the eye as she told him, “Look, these two are new to the team, so they can come off a little dense, but I assure you, we are not role-playing or doing fantasy dress-up.”
“You’re kidding, right?” the man asked, swallowing as he slowly leaned back away from Tabitha’s intensity.
She pulled her badge out again, slapping it on the counter as she said, “I am Special Agent Annie Mae Bullock with the FBI. And that’s a real badge.” She pulled her coat and suit jacket aside, displaying her Glock in its holster on her hip. “And that’s a real gun. Do I look like I’m kidding you?”
“N-no ma’am,” he stuttered. “You’re obviously not. I just thought…you know…from their strange questions, that you guys were LARPing. You know, using fake badges and rock aliases and asking about haunted buildings…like in that one series, ‘Supernatural,’ I think.”
She could feel her brothers bristle behind, her, so she held up one hand to silence them. “What are you talking about? I’ve never heard of this series.” When the man looked confused, she continued, “The bureau likes to be made aware of anything even of a fictional nature that our agents might be…confused with.”
“Sure,” the man answered, some of his confidence returning. “Your two partners could definitely be confused for LARPers, but you’ve got the whole, scary, in-charge vibe down pat. You definitely give off that FBI feel.” He came around the counter, looking through a bin for something. “Your partners…they could use some work.”
Fighting a grin, she flatly told the man, “Just got them from Quantico. Haven’t had the chance to break them in yet.”
“Sure,” he agreed. Then ducked his head and told her. “I dig your in-charge vibe, though. It’s hot.”
She fought the urge to stammer, managing to keep a straight face as she emotionlessly asked, “Are you hitting on a federal agent?”
He paled. “No, ma’am.” The book in his hands moved into her line of vision as he shoved it towards her. “Here’s what I was looking for. There’s these two guys in it that travel around the country fighting ghosts, demons, vampires, and things like that. I can’t remember their names. Steve and Dirk? Uh, Sal and Dane?”
Sam took the book after Tabitha had glanced at it and passed it back. “Sam and Dean?” he asked.
“That’s it! There’s a chick, too, their sister, but she’s more of a side character. Doesn’t travel with the brothers.” He turned to look Tabitha up and down, snapping his fingers as he told her, “Come to think of it, she’s supposed to be a real FBI agent. You’d totally be able to pull her off. If she wasn’t fictional that is. I can’t remember her name, either. Tamara, or Teresa. Something like that.”
“Tabitha?” Dean asked, taking the book from Sam.
“Yeah!” the man exclaimed, and then he looked at them suspiciously again. “You sure you guys aren’t fans? You sure seem to know about the series.”
“Not a thing,” Dean assured him. “But you’re saying this is a book series. A whole series?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Didn’t sell many copies, though.” He gestured to the bargain bin where he’d grabbed the book. “Kind of had more of an underground cult following.”
Dean flipped the book over and read the summary out loud. “‘Along a lonely California highway, a mysterious woman in white lures men to their deaths.'”
Sam grabbed the book back and flipped through its pages, his expression when he glanced back up at his siblings told them that they had a serious problem.
Tabitha turned back to the store owner. “I’m going to need to requisition every copy of this ‘Supernatural’ series that you’ve got. The Bureau doesn’t like to be blindsided by things like this that apparently inspire fools into playing dress-up as federal agents for their…LARPing.”
“What the hell is LARPing?” Dean asked behind her once more.
“Later,” she whispered, staring at the owner and waiting for him to comply.
With another swallow, he nodded. “Sure. They’re all in this bin.”
Tabitha reclined against her bed, flipping through the pages of the book in her hand as she skimmed through it. On an abstract level, it was somewhat intriguing to read about her brothers and their hunts while she’d still been with the Bureau. At least it was an interesting way to get more of the stories from that time than either of them was willing to share. She just wondered how accurate they really were.
She paused and glanced up at Dean. There wasn’t quite as much worry in her heart when she looked at him now, but it was still there.
Surprisingly, whatever crazy field trip that new angel, Zachariah, had sent her brothers on several weeks before had actually seemed to help her older brother. He wasn’t quite back to normal yet, but then, if she was honest with herself, none of them were. It had taken most of the three months between the showdown with Alastair and the new angel showing up, but Dean’s body had finally healed from the damage that Alastair had inflicted on him.
And seeing the strange mundane life he could have had, and seeing that he was still drawn back to hunting, seemed to have helped something inside Dean as well. So Tabitha turned back to her book, deciding she wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, even if she did worry about the new angel from the outfield.
With a gasp, she suddenly slapped the paperback in her hands closed, holding it out at arm’s length as she exclaimed, “Ew. Ew. Ew.”
Dean sat up from where he’d been reclined on the other bed flipping through another book. “What?” he demanded in an annoyed voice as he glanced up to look at her.
She held the book between her thumb and forefinger, tossing it at him. “I thought it would skip over that. Or maybe just lead up to it and tastefully pull away. But damn…that’s just wrong. I did not need to start reading that and get that mental image in my head.”
“What?” Dean demanded in confusion.
Sam looked up from his laptop. “What are you talking about, Tab?”
“Please tell me you did not bang twins, just so you could cross that off your bucket-list before you went to Hell,” she demanded of her older brother instead of answering Sam directly.
Dean looked a little ashen as he grabbed the book she’d thrown at him and began paging through it. It was obvious when he found the scene. He cleared his throat a little. “Dude, this is freakin’ insane. How’s this guy know all this stuff?”
“You got me,” Sam answered, not seeming to understand why his siblings were acting so horrified.
“He knows everything that you guys did,” Tabitha told her younger brother, shock still clear in her voice. “Everything.”
Coughing a little, Dean unsteadily added. “She’s right. Everything. From the racist truck to—to me having sex. I’m full-frontal in here, dude.”
Sam choked back a laugh and shook his head as he turned back to his computer.
Dean avoided his sister’s eyes as he held the book she’d thrown at him away from her, nervously telling her, “I’ll just…uh…read this one myself…later. Nothing in there you need to be reading anyway.”
She picked up another book, biting her lip as she cautiously opened the tacky romance themed cover. Her cautious movements seemed more appropriate for a loaded weapon or an armed bomb, but somehow, the image of her brother that way had her wishing it was a bomb and not a tacky paperback that seemed to be featuring her brothers in erotica. A bomb would have been easier to diffuse than the tension that choked the room.
But at least she knew now to skip ahead if things looked like they were starting down a certain road.
Tabitha had just settled into a different paperback that was telling her far more about Sam getting killed and the deal her older brother had made to bring him back than either of the boys had deemed necessary to tell her, when Dean suddenly stood from his bed. His feet hit the floor with heavy thuds as he thundered closer to her, his face tight as he shook the book in his hand at her as if it was a weapon. “Collin?!” he demanded.
“What?” she asked, completely baffled by his sudden anger as she looked up from her current book. “What about Collin?”
“You slept with him! You slept with Collin McGilvrey. The hunter? You slept with a hunter?! What did I always tell you? Stay the hell away from hunters! That’s what I always told you!”
Tabitha felt her jaw drop. Rising to her knees on the bed, she snatched the book from his hand, looking at the page Dean had been holding it open to as she continued to gape. She looked back up from the incriminating—and extremely detailed—pages. “I can explain this,” she began.
He stared at her, his look dark and foreboding.
She shook her head and gulped a deep breath. “Okay. I could explain, but I think it would be best if I didn’t…and instead we just all forget about this,” she went on, holding the book behind her back as if it might make her brother forget about its existence. Out of sight, out of mind and all.
“I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch,” Dean swore. He glanced over at Sam who sat at his laptop staring at his older sister. Dean ignored his brother’s stupefied look, ordering him with a commanding gesture, “You do your thing, Sam. Find that asshole so I can go kill him.” He began pacing a bit as he continued ranting to himself. “What kind of hunter knowingly sleeps with another hunter’s little sister? I knew Collin. Thought he was all right. But he’s dead now.”
Tabitha finally swallowed and leaned back against the headboard of her bed, discreetly shoving the offending book under the pillow behind her. “He is dead, Dean. Bobby and I found him dead during the Rising of the Witnesses thing a while back. And there’s no need to get so bent out of shape. I’m not a child.”
Dean stopped at her pronouncement, but muttered to himself about still bringing Collin back from the dead just to kill him again.
“What?!” Tabitha snapped at Sam when she felt him still staring at her.
“Collin?” he incredulously asked. “I just can’t believe it, Tab. I didn’t think he’d really be your type. I never got the impression he was the sharpest tool in the shed.”
She let one brow rise, considering whether Dean could handle it if she picked up on Sam’s unintended innuendo about tools, but finally decided that from the way Dean was still muttering that he probably couldn’t. She finally went with honesty. “Collin was sweet. And charming…in a simple way. And he could make me laugh. It really wasn’t a big deal.”
“Not a big deal?” Dean suddenly demanded, his hands waving around dramatically. “From what that said, you talked to him…a lot. Threw cases his way, and when he was anywhere near the east coast…” he trailed off, looking a little green around the gills.
Shrugging again, she pointed out, “At least it wasn’t some random night with two girls whose names you never got and know only in your mind as ‘The Doublemint Twins.'”
Dean stomped over to Sam, looking over his brother’s shoulder as he demanded, “How’s this guy know so much? And how come we haven’t heard of these books before?”
Sam glanced back and forth between his older siblings, uncomfortably clearing his throat as he tapped on the screen, explaining, “They’re pretty obscure. I mean, almost zero circulation. Uh, started in ’05. The publisher put out a couple dozen before going bankrupt. And, uh, the last one—’No Rest for the Wicked’—” Sam turned the laptop around. “Ends with you going to Hell.”
Tabitha rose from her seated position on the bed. “So if they end there, why am I even in the story? I thought that guy at the bookstore said I was a side character or something.”
Dean turned a glare on her as he caustically replied, “Oh, you’re a side character. With your own side stories sprinkled throughout. A wonderful heaping side of stuff I don’t need to know about my baby sister.”
Tabitha cleared her throat. “I think we can all agree that when looking at these books, that if one of us runs across anything…of a personal nature not pertaining to yourself, that we should just give the book to that person.”
They all nervously agreed, no doubt each running through their minds things they didn’t want their siblings to know.
Dean shook his head in disbelief. “I reiterate. Freaking insane.” He bent over the computer and scrolled through the site Sam had found. “Check it out. There’s actually fans. There’s not many of them, but still. Did you read this?”
Sam looked slightly chagrined. “Yeah.”
Continuing, Dean said, “Although for fans, they sure do complain a lot. Listen to this—Simpatico says, ‘The demon story line is trite, clichéd, and overall craptastic.’ Yeah, well, screw you, Simpatico. We lived it.” He looked further down the page. “Or this one—animelover56248 says, ‘The character of Tabitha is just a distraction from a story meant to be about two brothers. She’s unnecessary, except as a convenient plot device for when Sam and Dean need help covering something up or getting out of some mess. She could be axed from the story and absolutely nothing would be lost.”
Tabitha snorted, glancing back at where she’d hidden one of the books under her pillow. “Believe me, I’d have been just fine with being axed from those books. I really didn’t need to know that any part of my life was out there in public like this.”
Sam laughed. “There’s fans of your character, too, though. Mostly chicks, but that figures. Although I think some of them are dudes.”
Dean frowned a little and read another comment. “Huh, listen to this one. Cuckoo on a String—at least they come up with fitting names—says, ‘I think everyone needs to chill on Tabitha’s character. The author wouldn’t have been including her if she weren’t going to be important down the line. Even if only to show how much Sam and Dean’s work affects real cops who are left with their messes to clean up. At least she tries to plausibly explain things for people in the ‘real world,’ thereby keeping the boys hidden to continue their work. They should give her a break, too, they never even realize how much they’re imposing on her life. It’s a good reminder, that while the boys are dealing with everything supernatural out there, that she still has to stay back and deal with the multitude of natural murders that occur every day. The boys could give her a bit of a break in my opinion. They didn’t even realize she helped get them into and out of that prison right after she’d been choked by that john that was attacking prostitutes. I think we’ll see more of her in the future. I’d love to see her and Casey become hunters instead of working for the FBI. Or maybe see her finally get together with that mysterious hunter from her past that she’s always thinking about, but won’t ever talk about.”
Tabitha muttered quietly, “At least this Cuckoo on a String has a good head on her shoulders.”
Head shaking, Dean turned towards her. “There is so much about all of that that we need to talk about.”
She held up her forefinger. “One. The getting choked thing was no big deal. FBI helps local PD with stings sometimes—in this case, Vice—and I fit the physical type that one of their johns was attacking. I just happened to be the bait that got picked up that night by the perp, and he somehow managed to get the jump on me. But I got out of his grip, and put him on the ground until I could call for back-up. It was one time that I let my guard slip. No big deal.” She held up another finger. “Two. Well… Actually, all the rest we can file under the column of personal business we don’t really need to be asking each other about.”
“Casey?” Sam asked anyway, trying to place the other man the reader had mentioned.
She felt a twinge of guilt but waved it away. “My former partner with the FBI. The dead one.”
Sam nodded and gestured back at his laptop. “Keep reading. It gets better.”
Dean turned back to the screen. “There are ‘Sam girls,’ ‘Dean girls,’ ‘Tabitha/OC fans’ and—what’s a ‘slash fan?'”
Tabitha clapped a hand over her mouth to keep the laughter in.
Sam merely looked grim as he answered, “As in…Sam-slash-Dean. Together.”
“Like, together together?” Dean asked, a horrified look dawning.
“They do know we’re brothers, right?” Dean paled even more in horror. Not that she blamed him.
“Doesn’t seem to matter.”
Tabitha let a little giggle escape, not even able to fathom how anyone could imagine her brothers that way. Sam turned a sour look on her. “I wouldn’t laugh if I were you, there’s some fans out there who seem to insist that deep down, you bat for the other team.”
“Ew,” she answered, immediately sobering. “Not even in college.” She glanced down at herself. “Just because I carry a gun and happen to like biker boots does not mean I secretly like other women.”
Dean continued shaking his head in disgust. “Oh, come on. That… That’s just sick.” He slapped the laptop shut. “We got to find this Carver Edlund.”
“And I vote for killing him,” Tabitha chimed in, not feeling charitable after realizing how much of her life was out there for public consumption and speculation.
“Yeah, that might not be so easy,” Sam answered dubiously.
“Why not?” Dean demanded.
“No tax records, no known address. Looks like ‘Carver Edlund’ is a pen name.”
“Somebody’s gotta know who he is.”
“Sure,” Tabitha reasonably answered. “Let’s start with the publisher. They have to have record of who he really is so they can send his royalty checks to him.”
The Winchesters paused outside the Impala when they pulled up in front of the publisher’s house. Sam walked back to the trunk to get something out of his bag, leaving his siblings to wait for him. They’d decided go with the cover of writing an article, so they’d stayed in their civvies rather than changing into their FBI getups.
Dean gave Tabitha a significant look, so she stepped beside him, leaning her back against the Impala as she waited for him to speak.
“A hunter, Tabitha, really?” He frowned and gave her another familiar disapproving look. “I thought I’d told you enough times to stay away from hunters. That they were no good for you. Hunters aren’t even close to being the kind of steady material you should be looking for in a guy.”
She let out a derisive laugh. “You do realize I’m back to hunting full-time, too, now, right? Guess that doesn’t make me the steadiest kind of material, either.”
“You know what I mean.”
With a serious nod, she responded. “Yeah. I do. But it’s not like it was anything serious with him, Dean.”
He grimaced and looked away.
“I know that’s not anything you want to hear as my big brother. But you’ve got to stop looking at me like I’m still a little girl. I’m grown up. And guess what? Not a virgin. Haven’t been for a long time.”
He was still frowning when he shoved his hands into his jean pockets. “So you had this thing going on with Collin, and then something going on with this Casey guy, too? But it wasn’t serious with either one of them.”
She shrugged, frowning a little as she asked, “So?”
“You deserve better than that, Tab. That’s why I wanted you to stay away from hunters. Find something real and settle down maybe. Have a real life.”
Bumping her shoulder against her brother’s she explained, “That was probably never going to happen for me, Dean. Even in the FBI, my job just wasn’t conducive to dating or having a normal life. That’s why things fell together with Casey. I could talk to him about cases and things we’d seen that I could never talk to a civilian about.
“And I guess that’s why things fell together with Collin, too. As much as there was that I could talk to Casey about, I was never going to be able to tell him everything in my life. There would have always been secrets with him. Me always sneaking around to help you guys…or Bobby…or some other hunter. I couldn’t tell him about a lot of things. But I could talk with Collin about all of those things, and it was nice not having to censor myself. It was easy. But since he was a hunter, things were never going to be more than casual.”
“You could still get out of this life and have a normal one,” he pointed out.
“Sure, Dean. ‘Cause seeing and talking to angels, and seeing reapers just spells all kind of possibilities for a normal life,” she dourly reminded him. “I think it’s time we all stop lying to ourselves about living normal lives. Sam and I tried. We just got sucked back in. It is what it is.”
“You never thought about telling this Casey guy the truth? Do like those psycho fans said and tell him about the big bad stuff out there. Tell him you knew what real evil was.”
She gave him a sidelong look as she frowned, telling him in a voice that slowly turned sarcastic, “Sure, Dean. I thought about it. Wondered what it would be like to tell him the truth, have him help me and maybe hunt alongside all of us. One happy, messed up family. Thought about it with all my other fairytale and princess dreams. Like finding out that I’m the long-lost heir to some kingdom I’ve never heard of. But it’s not like any of that was ever gonna happen. It’s all just silly dreams. Casey was never gonna just drop everything sane and normal that he’d known and join our family hunting the big baddies that go bump in the night.”
They stood beside each other as the silence lapsed.
“I can’t believe that douche Collin actually slept with my little sister, though. He should be happy he’s already dead,” Dean jokingly pointed out.
Tabitha looked up at her brother with narrowed eyes. “When did you meet Collin?”
He paused as he thought back. “Not long. I guess a year or two before I went down under.”
She cleared her throat. “I hate to break it to you, Dean, but I knew Collin first then. I was pretty sure that was the way it went. He said he didn’t know you and Sam except by reputation when he and I first met.”
“He should have told me he knew you then when I met him.”
With a dark laugh, Tabitha replied, “I can just see how that would have gone. ‘Oh, you’re Dean Winchester? Wow. I know your sister. How? Well, you see, I’ve been…'”
Dean waved his hand at her. “All right, all right. I get the picture. Not exactly something he could tell me right off the bat.” He gave her another narrowed look. “He should still be glad he’s dead.”
“Yeah, him and Casey both,” she glumly agreed.
Her brother’s look softened in sympathy. “Sorry. I didn’t think about the fact that they both were killed or how that might have hurt you. You all right with all of it?”
There was nothing she could to but shrug again. “Kinda sucks that my track record with men has been so rotten lately. Either dead or an…” she nearly bit her tongue as she slammed her mouth shut, her teeth actually rattling in her head. She’d let herself get comfortable talking with Dean, and had nearly blurted out something disastrous. But seeing his look narrow, she quickly finished with, “…guys that act like asses.”
Her older brother gave her an unflinching stare, telling her he hadn’t missed her near slip. Thankfully, Sam appeared beside them, his distraction timely as he told them, “Well, let’s go see if we can find our author.”
“What is up with you women getting tattoos on your ass?” Dean asked as they drove away.
“I’d say that great women think alike, but that chick was flat-out crazy,” Tabitha laughed in the back seat. “Big fan of you guys, though. But I guess she falls on the side of thinking I’m an unnecessary character,” she continued chuckling. She’d have been more offended if she wasn’t fairly certain that the crazy woman was more than half in love with what she thought were fictional characters and just hated the “character” of Tabitha for taking focus away from “her boys” as she kept calling them.
“And seriously, telling her we cry all the time?” Sam asked her, throwing her a glare over his shoulder.
She grinned. “Oh, come on. She was crazy. I was just having fun. Besides, I think I can count on one hand the number of times the two of you have sat and had tearful confessions with each other.” She pretended to think. “Maybe two hands. Unless you guys were doing a lot of that those years I was working with the FBI. In which case, I gotta wonder if I’m cramping your style. If you two need some guy time and want me to step back so the two of you can have your space…you know, to cry, laugh…hug it out, whatever—you just tell me, and hey, I’ll give you guys space.”
Dean whipped around as he was driving to throw an accusing gesture at her. “Hey! I don’t cry. We…don’t cry. And don’t you forget it.”
He quickly turned back around as Sam was about to reach out to steady the wheel.
Sam turned in the passenger seat to regard her. “What’s going on with you?” he asked.
“What?” she asked, baffled by the strange question.
“Something’s up with you. You don’t usually bait Dean so much unless you’re in a funky mood and trying to distract yourself. Or unless he’s really pissed you off.” He paused as he leaned his arm over the back of his seat and swiveled more towards her. “So which is it? Dean do something I don’t know about to piss you off and you’re getting even, or did something happen that you’re trying to distract yourself from?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she stiffly replied, looking out the window away from the probing stares of her brothers. Her mood was effectively soured, though. Mostly because her brother was right. She shot a glare at the back of her little brother’s head when he finally turned around, wondering to herself when he’d gotten to be so smart.
Because the truth had been that she was trying to distract herself. And until that moment, she’d been splendidly avoiding the thought of a certain, infuriating angel. Infuriating because no matter how much she told herself to forget him, she couldn’t get him completely out of her mind. She’d even nearly let his name slip to her older brother early that day.
And worst of all…she missed him. Truly missed him. Missed laughing at his usual confusion when she said something he didn’t get. Missed talking with him about mundane things like whatever case she and her brothers were on. And even talking with him about the important and scary stuff she couldn’t talk to her brothers about. Like what it meant that she could see reapers.
Mostly she just missed his comforting presence.
Why was it that the one being that gave her such a feeling of comfort and peace, was also the one that had been responsible for her brother nearly being pushed back over the edge? How could she reconcile that in her mind? And how could a part of her still want nothing more than to see him again, even after what had happened to Dean? It seemed so traitorous of her. She should hate him for what happened to Dean. Not miss him.
“You okay?” Dean asked when she fell so suddenly silent.
She picked up one of the books that she’d brought with, intending to find out a little more about her brothers’ lives while they’d been apart. Even reading the parts about herself was interesting since it was from an outside perspective.
“I’m fine,” she quietly assured him.
The music in the background had been easy to tune out as Tabitha read, but one song suddenly pricked her attention. Setting the book temporarily in her lap, she lifted her head to listen to the fast beating song.
I never meant to be so bad to you
One thing I said that I would never do
A look from you and I would fall from grace
And that would wipe the smile right from my face
Tabitha sat up straighter as she listened to the song. Her mind had been on the book in her hand, reading about Dean making his deal with the crossroads demon that had led to his trip to Hell, so her mind was sluggish in placing the song.
As the chorus began, it finally clicked in her mind.
It was the heat of the moment
Telling me what my heart meant
The heat of the moment showed in your eyes
“Change it to something else,” she irritably told her older brother, thinking to herself that for all she had lived her life “in the heat of the moment” and had thought it was the right way to live—that she’d actually been very wrong. She’d always told herself that living in the moment was right and that it didn’t bring her any regrets…but she had regrets now. One in particular. And she wished what they’d done in the “heat of the moment” could be taken back. Because she couldn’t get over what he’d allowed to happen to her brother.
Dean’s head bobbed a little in time with the Asia tune. “Why?” he asked, not reaching for the radio.
She cringed as the chorus started again, leaning forward as she threw the book in her hand at the radio, hitting it hard enough to depress one of the preset buttons and change the station. “There,” she said with satisfaction. “Took care of it for you.”
“What’s your problem with Asia?” Dean demanded as Sam bent over to pick up the fallen book by his feet. “They’re not so bad,” Dean continued.
Sam came to her defense however. “I’m with Tabby on this one, Dean. I had to listen to that song every morning for I don’t know how long when the Trickster had us stuck in that Mystery Spot. I’m pretty sick of that song now.”
Tabitha had heard this story—and skimmed through the book as well—but she hadn’t read or heard the part about the song. Not that it was important, other than in supporting her effort to not have to hear the song.
“Whatever,” Dean grumbled. But he looked up into the rearview mirror. “What’s your problem with that song though?”
“Just don’t like it,” she maintained, picking up another one of the books she’d brought with and opening it. It was named “Wendigo” and she cringed at the unoriginal title. “This guy could have used an editor’s help,” she mumbled as she began looking through the book.
Dean pulled to a stop along a residential street. “Well, you can be sure to tell him that. ‘Cause we’re here.”
They walked slowly up the sidewalk to the unkempt house. The yard was overgrown and weed infested, and the house looked…ramshackle…at least to Tabitha’s eyes.
Once they climbed to the top step at the door, they each exchanged a look of trepidation, wondering what they were going to find. Dean quickly pressed the doorbell, tapping his foot impatiently as they waited for it to be answered.
The man who opened the door was a fair reflection of his home—shaggy and unkempt—wearing a bathrobe that looked and smelled to Tabitha like it was past needing a wash. Likely the man beneath it was, too.
“You Chuck Shurley?” Dean asked the man in the bathrobe.
“The Chuck Shurley who wrote the ‘Supernatural’ books?” Sam clarified.
The man looked a little flustered as he answered. “Maybe. Why?”
Dean introduced them. “I’m Dean. This is Sam and Tabitha,” he explained, nodding his head towards each of them. “The Dean, Sam, and Tabitha you’ve been writing about.”
Chuck nodded and then shut the door, not seeming to believe them.
Dean immediately rang the doorbell again as they continued to impatiently wait.
“Look, uh…” Chuck began in frustration upon opening the door. “I appreciate your enthusiasm. Really, I do. It’s, uh, it’s always nice to hear from the fans. But, uh, for your own good, I strongly suggest you get a life.”
He tried to shut the door again, but Dean stopped it with a fist on the pebbled glass. “See, here’s the thing. We have a life. You’ve been using it to write your books.”
Dean pushed past Chuck, shoving him aside as his siblings followed into the house behind him.
Tabitha paused as she passed Chuck, getting a strong whiff of the whiskey leeching from his pores as she added, “Yeah, and you’ve been using way too damn much of our lives, too.”
“Now, wait a minute. Now, this isn’t funny,” Chuck protested helplessly as they entered his house.
Tabitha might have felt bad about invading his personal space like that—that is if he hadn’t invaded their personal space first by writing down so much of their private lives and spilled parts of her past that her brothers had no business knowing about.
“Damn straight, it’s not funny,” Dean was agreeing as Chuck backed away from them into his living room, becoming more fearful. Tabitha moved away from the men, letting her brothers corner the little man as she examined the scattered state of Chuck’s house, pausing when she found his desk and computer.
“Look, we just want to know how you’re doing it,” Sam told him.
“I’m not doing anything,” Chuck maintained.
“Are you a hunter?” Dean pressed.
“What? No. I’m a writer.”
“Then how do you know so much about demons and tulpas and changlings?” her older brother was demanding.
“Is this some kind of ‘Misery’ thing?” Chuck asked. Tabitha looked up from the papers she’d found to see that Chuck had fallen over sideways on his couch. “Ah, it is, isn’t it? It’s a ‘Misery’ thing!”
“It’s not a ‘Misery’ thing,” Dean insisted. “Believe me, we are not fans.”
“Well, then, what do you want?!”
“I’m Sam. And that’s Dean.”
Tabitha came back over with the papers in her hands, standing beside her brothers as she said, “And I’m Tabitha.” She looked down at where he was sprawled on the couch, his eyes wide with fear. “And close your robe. Nobody wants to see your boxers.”
Chuck immediately jerked the robe closed around him. “Sam, Dean, and Tabitha are fictional characters. I made them up! They’re not real!”
Tabitha ignored his insistence, handing the pages she’d found to her brothers. “This was on his printer. He was writing about us walking up to his house as we were walking up to his house. Something messed up is happening around here.”
Her brothers glanced at the pages, and then Dean bent down to grab the fearful author, dragging him by the arm out to look in the trunk of the Impala.
“Are those real guns?” Chuck asked in disbelief as he stared at their cache.
“Yup,” Dean agreed. He leaned into the trunk. “And this is real rock salt and these are real fake I.D.s.”
Chuck laughed, still not understanding. “Well, I got to hand it to you guys. You really are my number-one fans. That’s awesome. So, I—I think I’ve got some posters in the house.”
“Chuck, stop,” Dean demanded as the author turned back towards his house.
“Wait. Please, don’t hurt me.”
“How much do you know?” Sam demanded. “Do you know about the angels? Or Lilith breaking the Seals?”
“Wait a minute. How do you know about that?” Chuck demanded.
“The real question is, how do you?” Tabitha shot back.
“‘Cause I wrote it.”
“You kept writing?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, even after the publisher went bankrupt. But those books never came out.” The Winchesters exchanged a look as Chuck laughed and continued, “Okay, wait a minute. This is some kind of joke, right? Did that—did Phil put you up to this?”
“You’re not getting this, Chuck,” Tabitha sighed. She gestured to her brothers and herself. “We’re the real Winchesters. Dean, Tabitha, and Sam.”
Chuck paled a little. “The last names were never in the books. I never told anybody about that. I never even wrote that down.”
“Well, you did write down plenty of other things that I wish you hadn’t,” Tabitha muttered.
Chuck opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Instead, he turned and walked unsteadily back into the house, the Winchesters trailing after him.
They followed him into his kitchen where he fixed himself a drink with shaking hands, downing it and then turning around towards them. He groaned when he saw them. “Oh! Oh, you’re still there.”
“Yup,” Dean agreed as they waited to see how Chuck would handle things.
“You’re not a hallucination.”
“Well, there’s only one explanation. Obviously, I’m a god.”
“You’re not a god,” Sam huffed.
“How else do you explain it? I write things and then they come to life. Yeah, no, I’m definitely a god. A cruel, cruel, capricious god. The things I put you through—the physical beatings alone.”
“Yeah, we’re still in one piece,” Dean chimed in.
“I killed your father,” Chuck apologized. “I burned your mother alive. And then you had to go through the whole horrific deal again with Jessica.”
“Chuck,” Sam tried to interrupt.
“All for what?” Chuck continued. “All for the sake of literary symmetry. I toyed with your lives, your emotions, for…entertainment.”
“You didn’t toy with us, Chuck, okay?” Dean told him, pushing away from the wall he’d been leaning against. “You didn’t create us.”
“Did you really have to live through the bugs?”
“Yeah,” Sam agreed.
“What about the ghost ship?”
“Yes, that too,” Dean sighed.
“I am so sorry. I mean, horror is one thing, but to be forced to live bad writing…”
Chuck turned to Tabitha, “And I am so sorry for killing the last two men you had relationships with. And then making you start up with…” He trailed off with a gulp as she leaned forward with murderous intent in her eyes.
He swallowed and continued speaking to them all. “If I would have known it was real, I would have done another pass.”
Dean had reached his frustration level. “Chuck, you’re not a god!”
“You’re probably psychic or something,” Tabitha told him, feeling a twinge of grief at thought of the last psychic they’d known. “But I doubt a god would be sitting in this heap in a dirty bathrobe.”
Chuck disagreed. “No. If I were psychic, you think I’d be writing? Writing is hard,” he insisted as he sat in front of his computer.
“It seems that somehow, you’re just…focused on our lives,” Sam tried to explain.
Dean agreed. “Yeah, like laser-focused.” He paused before asking, “Are you working on anything right now?”
“Holy crap,” Chuck uttered under his breath.
“What?” Dean asked.
Chuck picked up some of the other loose papers that were still on his desk. “The, uh, latest book. It’s, uh, it’s kind of weird.”
Sam immediately jumped on his statement. “‘Weird’ how?”
Rubbing his face, Chuck reluctantly told them, “It’s very Vonnegut.”
“‘Slaughterhouse-five,’ Vonnegut or ‘Cat’s Cradle,’ Vonnegut?” Dean demanded.
Tabitha almost laughed. Trust her brother to make those references. “I’m surprised you’ve read Vonnegut. I never really got him.”
“What?” Sam asked Dean clearly surprised that their brother had read Vonnegut, maybe even surprised he’d read any book.
“What?” Dean parroted, trying to seem offended.
“It’s, uh, ‘Kilgore Trout,’ Vonnegut. I wrote myself into it. I wrote myself, at my house…confronted by my characters.”
“I’m sitting in a Laundromat, reading about myself sitting in a Laundromat, reading about myself—my head hurts,” Dean complained as he poured through the printed out pages.
“There’s got to be something this guy’s not telling us,” Sam commented as he grabbed a wad of his clothes to shove in a washer.
Dean continued reading. “‘Sam tossed his gigantic darks into the machine. He was starting to have doubts about Chuck, about whether he was telling the whole truth.'”
“Stop it,” Sam demanded as he turned to face Dean.
“‘Stop it,’ Sam said.” Dean looked up from the pages with a little grin. “Guess what you do next.”
Sam glared for a moment before turning around again.
“‘Sam turned his back on Dean. His face, brooding and pensive.’ I mean, I don’t know how he’s doing it, but this guy is doing it. I can’t see your face, but those are definitely your ‘brooding and pensive’ shoulders.”
Sam sighed and looked up at where Tabitha sat crossed-legged on a top-loading washing machine just down from him.
“He’s right,” she smirked. “That’ definitely your ‘brooding and pensive’ face.”
“You just thought we were dicks,” Dean commented as he looked up.
Sam looked mildly impressed as he turned around. “The guy’s good.”
“I’m hurt, Sammy. Truly hurt by that,” Tabitha chuckled, turning back to the pages in her hands. She didn’t even want to attempt reading the current pages of what they were doing—just the thought of it gave her a headache, but she wanted to look through what Chuck had written since he stopped publishing, just to make sure the smelly little man hadn’t written about everything.
“‘Tabitha sat on top of the washing machine, relishing the sight of making her brothers do the laundry for a change. She took the time to read through the pages of work that Chuck had written, just to make sure the smelly little man hadn’t written about everything.’ What does that mean, Tabitha?” Dean suspiciously asked.
She nearly choked on her suddenly inhaled breath. “Goddamn, Dean. That’s just creeping me the hell out. Stop reading from that.” And she quickly made the effort to remove all thoughts from her mind.
He pointed at her with the pages in his hand. “What does this mean?” he insisted. “What are you worried about me finding out about?”
“It means that I want to make sure that neither one of you is going to stumble across anything of mine of a personal nature. Like that bit with Collin that you read last night.”
His hand dropped back to his knee as his face paled a little. But he still managed to crossly tell her. “One of these days I’m gonna make you tell me everything, and not let you use the threat of telling me intimate details of your…sex life…stop me.” His face had taken on an almost comical sour look as he said the “S” word, causing Tabitha to grin despite his anger.
“Is that day going to be today?” she asked.
He paused, but then grumbled, “No.”
“Then I guess I’ll keep falling back on that defense until it comes.”
The next day, the Winchesters sat around Chuck’s living room as he walked in with pages in his hands, waiting for the author to speak.
Sam finally prompted, “So…you wrote another chapter?”
Chuck nervously held the pages in his hands as he told them, “This was all so much easier before you were real.”
“We can take it,” Dean assured him. “Just spit it out.”
“You especially are not gonna like this,” he told Dean.
“I didn’t like Hell.”
Chuck gave a dramatic sigh and said, “It’s Lilith. She’s coming for Sam.”
Tabitha felt her breath stop…and then leave in a rush. And she instantly felt guilty for being relieved that Chuck had said Lilith was coming for her brother, and not her.
“Coming to kill him?” Dean asked.
“When?” Sam wanted to know.
“She’s just gonna show up? Here?” Dean pressed.
Chuck sat on his couch and pulled out his glasses to look at the pages. “Uh…uh…’Lilith patted the bed seductively. Unable to deny his desires, Sam succumbed, and they sank into the throes of fiery demonic passion.'”
Sam laughed mockingly as Dean and Tabitha stared at Chuck in shock.
“You’re kidding me, right?” Sam asked them all.
“You think this is funny, Sam?” Tabitha demanded.
“You don’t? I mean, come on. ‘Fiery demonic passion?'” he mockingly quoted.
“It’s just a first draft,” Chuck quietly defended.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait,” Dean interrupted. “Lilith is a little girl.”
Chuck shook his head as he consulted his pages. “No, uh, this time she’s a—’comely dental hygienist from Bloomington, Indiana.'”
“Great. Perfect,” Dean stressed with sarcasm. “So what happens after the…’fiery demonic’ whatever?” he asked, closing his eyes.
“I don’t know. That hasn’t come to me yet,” Chuck answered regretfully.
Sam jumped to defend himself. “Dean, Tabitha, look, there’s nothing to worry about. Lilith and me? In bed?”
Tabitha and Dean shared looks that said it didn’t seem so far-fetched to them. They both knew about Ruby after all.
Dean ignored their brother’s plea and addressed Chuck. “How does this whole psychic thing of yours work?”
“You mean my process?” he corrected.
“Whatever you want to call it,” Tabitha irritably huffed.
“Well, it usually starts with a headache. A really bad headache. Aspirin is useless, so…I drink. Until I fall asleep. The first time it happened, I thought it was just a crazy dream.”
“The first time you dreamt about us?” Tabitha clarified as she leaned back in one of Chuck’s cleaner looking chairs.
“It flowed,” he continued. “It just—it kept flowing. Still does. I—I can’t stop it, really.”
Sam broke in. “You can’t seriously believe—”
“Humor me,” Dean snapped. “Look, why don’t we, we just…” he stopped in surprise as he realized Chuck was already handing him the pages he’d been reading from. He continued in a more subdued tone. “Take a look at these and see what’s what.” He turned to Chuck. “You—”
“…knew you were gonna ask for that. Yeah,” he commented in a resigned voice.
Dean hummed thoughtfully.
As the Winchesters were finally leaving Chuck’s place, Tabitha paused inside the house once her brothers had left, grabbing Chuck by his shirt front—and thankful that he was dressed this time—and pulling him closer as she asked, “You know about me and…” But she trailed off, not wanting to voice it if he didn’t know. She was still somehow hoping that her bracelet might just keep her hidden from Chuck’s eyes as well.
Chuck swallowed with difficulty as he held his hands up in surrender. “You mean you and Castiel?”
Her grip loosened a little in defeat. It had been three and half months since she’d even seen the angel, but he hadn’t ever seemed to completely leave her mind. Even in her brief moments of sleep, she would swear she was catching a glimpse of the angel, but when she would turn to search from him, he would be gone, and unnerved, she would immediately wake from her dreams, shaking in a nervous sweat, like a drug addict gone too long without a hit. Worse yet, she continued to vacillate between anger with him, and missing him. And then return to anger with herself for missing the angel she held responsible for the long months it had taken her brother to recover.
“Have you written about…that…yet?” she asked, her throat suddenly dry and tight.
With a shake, he answered, “No. It just didn’t seem…right. You know. It seemed kinda…porny…to write that about an angel, I mean.”
She gave a dark bark of laughter. “I read the stuff you wrote about Collin and me—thanks for that by the way, Dean read that—and you make some erotica seem tame by comparison.”
“It just seemed wrong writing that about an angel. I was afraid people wouldn’t think it was believable.”
Her hand released him as she shook a finger at him and threatened, “Just make sure that you don’t ever even hint about that in your books.”
Chuck instantly nodded in agreement, seeming more than a little frightened of her, for which she wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or offended. “You do know it’s wrong to be hiding something like this, don’t you?” he asked.
She took a threatening step forward again. “Nothing is going on anymore. But I guess you know that. So there’s nothing to talk about, is there?”
“I don’t think even you really believe it’s over.”
“It is. It’s been months since he was even around.”
A look briefly flitted across his face, but he sighed and stepped lightly around Tabitha, letting out a relieved sigh as he put a little distance between them. “Then why do you keep trying to convince yourself of it?” He shuffled his feet and shoved his hands into his pockets as he stared at the floor. “I don’t know how things are going to end up—I don’t see that far—but I do know you’re headed down a path of a lot of heartache.”
Gritting her teeth, she headed for the door once more, pausing to softly insist, “I’m not heading down any path.”
The next day—after realizing they couldn’t get out of town with the bridge closed off, and in an effort to not follow the pages they’d gotten from Chuck—they all tried to do the opposite of what had been written. They’d left Sam at the Toreador Motel—since Lilith was supposed to find him at the Red Motel—and had even taken away his laptop so he couldn’t research; leaving him hidden from demons by the hex bags they’d placed around the room. And then Dean and Tabitha had gone to park Impala somewhere since the two of them were supposed to drive around in it all day.
“Where you going?” Dean asked when she started to walk away from him and the Impala.
She shrugged as she walked backwards away from him. “I figured it might be best if we split up. Especially since we’re trying to maintain your whole idea of opposite day and you and I were supposed to spend the day together.”
After a moment, Dean finally jerked his head in agreement. “Fine. But whatever you’re gonna do, be careful. Lilith may be here for Sam, but she could come after you, too. And no skateboarding!”
Tabitha laughed at the ridiculousness as they parted. She was across the street when she heard screeching tires, a blaring horn, and the concerned shouts of a lot of people.
Immediately, she whipped around to look—and ran into a teenage boy that had been zipping down the sidewalk on a skateboard. The boy hopped off the skateboard to avoid her, and her feet tangled on the contraption, one foot falling on it as she lost her balance and rocketed forward. Into a tree.
Tabitha was picking herself up off the ground before she even quite realized she’d fallen down, one hand cupping the eye she’d slammed against the tree as she shrugged the worried skateboarder off, biting back curses and assuring the kid that she would be fine.
Looking over her shoulder, she saw Dean sprawled out on the ground. Where he’d been struck by a minivan. Just the way Chuck had written.
She ignored her rapidly swelling eye as she ran back towards Dean, pushing past bystanders and telling them she was the injured man’s sister when they tried to stop her. As she broke through, she dropped to her knees in time to see a little girl gingerly placing pink flower band-aids on his face as another woman bent over him.
Dean was just starting to come around, his eyes opening as he muttered, “Stars,”
“What was that?” the woman leaning over him asked.
“Crap,” Tabitha swore, helping to support Dean by his elbow as he started to sit up. Everything was happening just as Chuck had written it, no matter how improbable it had seemed.
“Are you okay, Dean?” she whispered to her brother as he blearily blinked his eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” the other woman was saying. “I just didn’t see you. Are you okay?” She looked up at Tabitha. “Are you okay?”
Dean sat up further, but didn’t speak.
“We’re fine,” Tabitha tried to assure the woman.
“And sorry about…you know,” the woman continued. “M-my daughter’s going through a doctor phase.”
“What are you talking about?” Dean finally asked.
“You’re better now,” the little girl confidently told him and then turned to Tabitha. “Do you want me to fix your owie, too?”
Tabitha shook her head at the little girl and turned back to Dean, gesturing at his face and forehead. “Pink flower band-aids,” she whispered to him.
Dean finally seemed to focus on her face. “What happened to your eye?”
She gritted her teeth and admitted, “I tripped on a skateboard and fell into a tree.” Just like Chuck had written, she thought to herself.
He turned to look at the Impala, and Tabitha turned with him to see that the back window was busted out and the driver door hanging open.
“Oh, no,” Dean huffed. As he stood and walked over to the car, Tabitha waved the bystanders off, assuring them that her brother was fine before she followed him to take in the damage.
“There’s duct tape and a tarp in the trunk,” she softly told him, remembering that Chuck had written that they’d drive away, the tarp in the back window, flapping like the wings of a crow.
Dean’s only response was a muttered curse.
Chuck’s hands were full when he reentered his house, but he didn’t seem all that surprised to see Dean and Tabitha sitting in his living room waiting for him.
“Dean. Tabitha,” he quietly greeted.
“I take it you knew we’d be here,” Dean replied.
“You guys look terrible,” Chuck told him instead.
“That’s ’cause I just got hit by a minivan, Chuck.”
“And I tripped over a skateboard,” Tabitha snapped, readjusting the stolen bag of frozen peas over her eye.
“Oh,” he commented unsteadily.
“That it? Every damn thing you write about us comes true. And that’s all you have to say, is ‘Oh?!'” Dean shouted.
“Please don’t yell at me,” Chuck nervously pleaded.
“Why do I get the feeling there’s something that you’re not telling us?” Dean demanded as he stood and came closer to Chuck.
Tabitha tried to calm him a little, but not so hard that she actually rose from her chair or disturbed the frozen peas over her eye. “Take it easy, Dean,” she half-heartedly tried.
“What wouldn’t I be telling you?” Chuck continued to nervously stammer.
“How you know what you know for starters!”
“I don’t know how I know. I just do.”
“That’s not good enough,” Dean told him, grabbing him by his shirtfront.
Tabitha hadn’t expected his anger to come to a head so violently, so she finally sprang up, letting the bag of peas fall, and trying to hold Dean back and remind him that they couldn’t find out anything if he killed the guy.
Dean ignored her, slamming Chuck against the wall. “How the hell are you doing this?!”
Inserting herself between the two, Tabitha finally managed to shove her brother back.
But they both stopped when a voice behind him commanded, “Dean, let him go.”
The siblings turned in shock to see Castiel, and Tabitha almost winced at her competing emotions of longing, and anger at the sight of him appearing so suddenly after the long months that had passed.
“This man is to be protected,” Castiel told Dean, holding only her brother’s gaze and avoiding Tabitha’s.
“Why?” Dean cautiously asked.
“He’s a prophet of The Lord.”
Tabitha looked over her shoulder at Chuck who was still cowering behind her from Dean. “Doesn’t look much like I’d expect of a prophet.”
Chuck was staring over her shoulder at the angel. “You…you’re Castiel…aren’t you?”
“It’s an honor to meet you, Chuck,” Castiel told him in his usual dry manner. “I…admire your work.” He paused to pick up one of the open books on an end table near him, flipping through it.
Tabitha turned to face Chuck again. “I notice you aren’t exactly surprised at the news that you’re supposedly a prophet.”
He cringed a bit.
“Whoa, whoa. This guy, a prophet?” Dean exclaimed in disbelief. “Come on, he’s—he’s…he’s practically a Penthouse forum writer!”
Tabitha shrugged noncommittally. Her brother probably wasn’t far off the mark from the things she’d read. She hadn’t exactly ever thought of her own life as all that exciting, but reading some of those excerpts from Chuck’s books made her sex life seem almost porn-worthy.
Dean suddenly seemed to catch what she’d said before, turning to Chuck and demanding, “Wait…she’s right. You don’t seem surprised. Did you know about this?”
“I, uh, I might have dreamt about it,” he admitted, sitting in a chair and opening a bottle of beer.
“And you didn’t tell us?!”
“Calm down, Dean,” Tabitha soothed as she paced and tried to avoid looking at the angel who stood calmly flipping through one of Chuck’s books.
“It was too preposterous,” Chuck explained. “Not to mention arrogant. I mean, writing yourself into the story is one thing, but as a prophet? That’s like M. Night-level douchiness.”
“This is the guy who decides our fate?” Dean demanded as Chuck began proving the skills of a semi-functioning alcoholic.
“He isn’t deciding anything,” Castiel absently commented. “He’s a mouthpiece—a conduit for The Inspired Word.”
“The word?” Dean asked. “The Word of God?”
“That crap is Inspired Word?” Tabitha incredulously asked.
“What, like the New New Testament?” Dean continued.
“One day these books, they’ll be known as the Winchester Gospel.”
“How the hell do we end up in a gospel?” Tabitha demanded. “There ain’t exactly a whole lot that’s holy about us.”
“You got to be kidding me?” Dean and Chuck simultaneously demanded.
Castiel closed the book, looking up and flatly telling Dean, “I am not…kidding you.”
Chuck suddenly lurched to his feet. “If you’d all excuse me one minute.” And then he scurried up the stairs, glancing down at them all as he hurried away.
“Him? Really?” Tabitha couldn’t help asking. There was absolutely nothing divine about the guy.
Still not looking at her, Castiel commented, “You should’ve seen Luke.”
Sick of being ignored, yet somewhat thankful at the same time, Tabitha took to leaning against the wall as she watched her brother and the angel.
“Why’d he get tapped?” Dean asked as he paced.
“I don’t know how prophets are chosen. The order comes from higher up on the celestial chain of command.”
“How high?” Dean asked.
“Well, whatever. How do we get around this?”
“Around what?” Castiel slowly asked.
“This Sam-Lilith love connection,” Dean angrily told him.
Tabitha couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. “You know, my other brother being in mortal danger,” she snapped.
Castiel finally turned towards her; for a second, surprise flashed there, and she remembered that her eye looked pretty bad. She lightly touched her fingertip to the skin below her eye, winching at the pain, but thankful that it hadn’t swollen shut. When she looked back at the angel, he was suddenly closed off to her; shut down so completely, that she couldn’t even see any of the normal emotion in his eyes.
“How do we stop it from happening?” Dean continued, unaware of the undercurrents between his sister and the angel.
Castiel turned back to her brother, his head tilting back in frustration as he replied, “What the prophet has written can’t be unwritten. As he has seen it, so it shall come to pass.”
“You can’t be serious, Cas,” Tabitha demanded.
He turned towards her again, his brow furrowed. “Why would you doubt my seriousness at a time like this?”
She huffed in frustration, not finding his normal confusion cute or charming like she once had. “There has to be a way around this.”
“There isn’t,” he assured her in heavy tones. “I cannot change this any more than I could disobey orders.”
Dean glanced back and forth between their angry stares, finally turning away and telling his sister. “Come on, Tab. We’re getting Sammy and getting the hell out of town. I don’t care if we have to drive through that river or even swim it. We’re leaving.”
Castiel grabbed Dean’s arm. “She should remain here. It’s safer.”
Dean jerked in surprise, and Tabitha stared at the angel in shock. She was about to object when Castiel’s voice whispered in her mind for the first time in months, Please stay.
Before she had given it any thought, she had turned towards Dean, who was also about to object. “Maybe he’s right, Dean. Lilith is out there, and she’s looking for Sam. You go get him out of town if you can. I’ll stay here and see if there’s anything else I can get out of the stuff Chuck has written. Maybe something will be of use in helping to protect Sam.”
She was almost surprised at how easily she had acquiesced to the angel’s request when she’d been trying so hard to avoid him. But she’d heard the worry and desperation in his plea, and had responded to it before she could remind herself of the promise she’d made not to. More than three months of silence from him, and you still hop to his bidding because he asks, she silently berated herself.
Dean looked momentarily suspicious, but Castiel’s face hadn’t changed despite his sudden request, and Tabitha had managed to school her features as well. “Fine. Maybe that’s a good idea. Get anything you can out of Chuck. I’ll come back for you after I’ve gotten Sammy somewhere safe.”
He left quickly, and Tabitha found herself alone with the angel just as she had sworn she wouldn’t allow to happen.
Shuffling her feet, she quietly said, “So…”
Castiel turned toward her, his brow furrowed. “So?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes at his confusion, but it had managed to break the ice. “So… Over three months of silence from you, but I’m staying here. Like you wanted. Even if I don’t get why. And I’m not even sure why I’m listening to anything you have to say.”
“You are angry with me?”
With a huff, she looked upward in silent appeal, but then realized whom that implied she was turning to for help. So she shook her head and answered as honestly as she knew how. “I don’t know what I am with you anymore.” She ticked the list off using the fingers of her hand. “Angry, sure. Frustrated, you bet. Disappointed, oh yeah. And a whole lot else I can’t put a name to. You let my brother nearly get beaten to death.”
“That wasn’t my intent. Uriel freed Alastair…if I had known what would happen…” He gave her a frustrated look as he shuffled his body slightly, folding his arms behind his back and standing stiffly. “I would have given anything to have not had to ask Dean to do any of that. But I must follow orders. For the good of all.”
It wasn’t anything she hadn’t heard before, but she still made a frustrated noise as she moved restlessly in Chuck’s living room. Finally, she came to a stop in front of the windows looking out on the street. She didn’t turn around, but spoke to the angel she knew still stood somewhere behind her. “But you disappear without a word for more than three months.” And until she spoke the words, she didn’t realize how much his long absence and silence had hurt her, despite the fact that she’d told him to leave and had tried to convince herself that she didn’t ever want to see him again.
“You told me to leave. That you didn’t want to see me ever again. I have done my best, but I am still responsible for your welfare, so I can’t forever avoid your company,” he tightly responded.
She glanced over her shoulder at him. There was bewilderment in his eyes, but also frustration. Problem was, she was bewildered and frustrated, too. His absence had hurt, but she wasn’t certain she could have dealt with seeing him any sooner. Wasn’t even sure if she could deal with seeing him now. Just the sight of him brought the pain of betrayal swirling back to the surface.
She turned back to stare out the window, speaking before she could give it too much thought. “Maybe it was a mistake. Us getting more involved with each other. I keep trying to think of you as more than an angel now—even though you took great pains to remind me that you’re not—and I expected you to act differently than an angel should, I guess. Maybe we should just go back to that way things were in the beginning. You just do your angel duties, and I’ll just stick with my brothers.”
Silence filled the cluttered mess of Chuck’s living room. She wasn’t sure what the angel was thinking, but her own thoughts had taken a dark turn. Giving them voice, she half-heartedly asked the angel as she glanced over her shoulder, “I don’t suppose you can do anything to help get Sam out of town before Lilith shows up, can you? So I actually have both of my brothers to stick with.”
In the instant that Tabitha had looked over her shoulder, she caught a dark, almost pain-filled look in the angel’s eyes, but it quickly vanished, replaced by a softer look of regret. And regret was in his voice as he told her, “As it was written, so it shall come to pass. I can’t change it, Tabitha.”
With a bitter laugh, Tabitha responded, “You angels are just determined to try and destroy what’s left of my brothers, aren’t you?”
“I can’t interfere,” he maintained.
“Of course,” she flatly agreed. “You’re an Angel of The Lord. Nothing more important than that.”
She pressed a hand to the filmy glass of Chuck’s window, leaning heavily against it as she tried to think of what she could do to help get Sam out of town. Castiel had proven he would be no help, so she figured she had one slim hope left. Pushing away from the glass, she turned around to face the angel again. “I guess I better go grill Chuck and see if he knows anything useful I can use to help my brothers.”
Castiel reached out to catch her arm as she lightly stepped past him, halting her retreat. “I would have given anything to keep Dean from having to torture Alastair. And I would give anything to be able to help Sam now. But I also would give even more than I have to keep you safe. But I fear I don’t know how well I’ll be able to protect you, or even how much your charms will be able to protect you. Zachariah has grown too curious of you.” He stared into her eyes for a moment, and then reached his other arm across to press against her chest as he softly lamented, “Forgive me for this.”
For a second, Tabitha thought to ask what he wanted forgiveness for now…but then the pain hit her like an ocean tide, knocking the breath from her lungs and stealing her strength. She would have fallen to the floor if Castiel hadn’t been holding her by the arm as waves of pain seared through her torso.
Then suddenly, the pain stopped, and Castiel released her. She stumbled back from him, but her hands flailed and managed to find purchase on the entryway into the living room as her other arm wrapped around her torso. For several minutes, she merely clung to the entryway and breathed as she kept her arm protectively wrapped around herself. Or at least she struggled to breathe.
Finally, she turned to the angel and demanded, “What the hell was that, Cas?”
“Added protection.” He moved to stand against the other side of the wide entrance as he spoke, leaning back against the wood trim as he stared at her.
“Against what? Being able to breathe? I don’t know if you realize it or not, Cas, but breathing is something we human-types generally like being able to do.”
His frown deepened. “Yes. I am well aware that humans require being able to breathe to regulate the oxygen in their lungs and in their blood. It is a very important function.”
She shook her head but managed to smile a little as she again asked him, “Protection against what?”
“Other angels. I carved sigils on your ribs to hide you from any angel. It will hide you more absolutely than the charms of your bracelet, though they still well protect you from other kinds of harm.”
Tabitha looked down at herself, tenderly touching one of her ribs as if she could feel the sigils. Her ribs didn’t quite hurt anymore, but still felt slightly…warm. “Okaayy,” she slowly told him. “Thanks. I guess.” But she wondered. “Why is Zachariah curious though? I haven’t even met him. I just heard about him after he sent Sam and Dean into that little bizzaro world. I only heard about him after they woke up and told me about their little trip. He didn’t even bother sending me on that field trip.”
“Not for lack of trying,” Castiel informed her. “He couldn’t send you. But he did try. And now he’s asking a lot of questions about you. I told him I had placed sigils of protection upon you after you had been attacked several times by demons on Lilith’s orders.” She opened her mouth to question his surprising lie, but he continued with a pointed look. “And now I have. The sigils I placed shouldn’t be able to keep him from using many angel powers on you—such as sending you into another reality, but hopefully they will be enough that he’ll stop looking into you. There are too many things that you are able to do now that other angels can’t know about.”
She swallowed. “The stuff I can do because of the mark that demon started putting on me?” When he nodded, she voiced her own fearful theory. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot the past months, and I think there was demon blood in it,” she whispered as she looked away. “It would explain why I’ve been able to do some of those things, like moving stuff with my mind.”
“Perhaps,” he agreed, his tone grim. “Have you still been using your mind to—”
Shaking her head, she cut him off. “No. I’m half-terrified to even try.”
He nodded once with a satisfied look. “It might be for the best.”
Tabitha stared across the wide entryway into Chuck’s living room at the silent angel. Finally, she had to ask, “Why are you going to such lengths to help me so much? The things you’re doing…the trouble you’ve gone to…I just don’t get it. You’ve made it very clear that you have to follow orders, and then you turn right around and do something that contradicts that. Why? Why not help Dean? He’s the one you say has to stop the apocalypse. So why allow them to force him into torturing Alastair and nearly breaking him in the process?”
“But he didn’t break,” Castiel reminded her. “And I do everything in my power to protect my charges.”
“But you couldn’t keep from almost breaking Dean or letting him get wailed on, and you can’t help Sam now?”
He didn’t answer, and silence filled the space between them once more.
“Why did you want me to stay here?” she finally asked.
“It’s safer here,” he maintained, moving away from the entryway and wandering around the room, picking up a book here, some scattered pages there, and pausing to look at them before setting them down. He finally continued, though he still didn’t look at her. “Lilith is out there, and so you would be safer here. Prophets are protected by the fiercest archangels. No harm can come to you while you are near the prophet, for it might harm the prophet as well.”
Castiel suddenly stopped wandering around the room, circling back to where she was standing, his arms gripped behind his back once more. “I am doing my best to help…and to protect you. There is nothing fiercer than an archangel protecting his prophet. He will smite any demon or other danger that threatens the prophet. Remember that.”
With his final warning, he disappeared.
Tabitha stood silently trying to decipher his last words. Somehow, she had the feeling that it meant more than it seemed—that it was some kind of message—but she couldn’t figure out what.
Eventually, she moved over to Chuck’s computer, reading through the pages he’d printed off, and then breaking into his computer to read what he hadn’t printed yet. But she wasn’t having much luck in finding anything useful about stopping Lilith from finding Sam.
“What are you still doing here?” Chuck demanded in surprise as he came back down the stairs.
“I was just about to get you,” she told him. “You and I…we’re gonna talk.”
Dean stormed into Chuck’s house, surprising both Tabitha and the frustrated author. She’d been grilling him for nearly an hour, and had resorted to asking him to try inducing a vision. But they hadn’t had much success.
“What are you doing here?” Chuck demanded from where he sat on the couch, a blanket wrapped around him. “I didn’t write this. I didn’t write any of this.”
“Why aren’t you getting out of town with Sam,” Tabitha demanded.
“I tried, he won’t go,” Dean answered her in clipped tones, crossing the room to grab the drink from Chuck’s hand and then manhandling him through his house, telling him. “Come on. I need you to come with me.”
“What? Where?” Chuck fearfully asked.
“To the motel where Sam is,” Dean explained.
Tabitha set down the glass she’d been sipping whiskey from, jumping up to follow her brother as she questioned him, “What? Why?”
Chuck paused and told Dean in confusion, “That’s where Lilith is.”
“Yeah, exactly. I need you to stop her.”
“Are you insane? Lilith?” Chuck angrily demanded.
Tabitha cautiously added. “He’s right, Dean. This guy is just a writer. How’s he gonna help?”
Chuck continued, “I know what she’s capable of, Dean—I wrote her.”
Dean ignored his sister for the moment, telling Chuck, “All right, listen to me. You have an archangel tethered to you, okay? All you got to do is show up and boom!—Lilith gets smoked.”
Chuck stuttered in protest. “But I-I-I-I-I haven’t seen that yet. T-the story—”
Feeling like a dunce, Tabitha shook her head and grimaced, quietly exclaiming, “You’re an idiot, Tabitha.” Because Castiel’s strange warnings about an archangel protecting Chuck finally made sense. He had actually been trying to help her. She just hadn’t gotten it.
Dean paused to give her a searching look, but turned back to Chuck, pleading with him. “Chuck, you’re the only shot that I’ve got left.”
“But…I’m just a writer,” Chuck fearfully fell back on.
Dean shouted, “This isn’t a story anymore, man. This is real! And you’re in it! Now, I need you to get off your ass and fight.”
Tabitha placed a bolstering hand on Chuck’s shoulder. “You don’t even really have to fight, Chuck. Just come with us.”
Chuck seemed to gather himself up a bit, and stepped past Dean.
“Come on, Chuck,” he encouraged him.
But then Chuck turned back to face them as he grabbed his liquid courage again. “No friggin’ way.”
Dean let out a resigned sight. “Okay, well, then, how about this—I’ve got a gun in my pocket, and if you don’t come with me, I’ll blow your brains out.” Tabitha cringed a little, looking around the room in case an archangel might suddenly appear at the hint of threat.
Chuck shuffled as he held his drink a little closer. “I thought you said I was protected by an archangel.”
“Well,” Dean began, “interesting exercise. Let’s see who the quicker draw is.”
Chuck continued to stare at them, so Tabitha stepped between them, slowly pulling her Glock from the small of her back as she told the author, “Look, Chuck, I have no intention of truly hurting you, but if this can protect my little brother, then you’re coming with us. And either you can walk out of your house like a man on your own two feet, or I can knock you over the head and carry you out like the sniveling drunk you seem to be trying too damned hard to become. So which is it? ‘Cause I’m down with either choice when it comes to protecting my brothers, and you know it.”
“You’re sure I have an archangel protecting me?” he thickly swallowed.
“Cas said so himself,” Dean assured him.
Tabitha glanced at her brother, somehow surprised that Castiel had given her brother the same piece of information. Surprised…but pleased as well, because Dean had put it together when she hadn’t.
“I’ll go with you,” Chuck meekly decided.
“Good choice, Chuck,” Tabitha told him, still not putting her Glock away in case he changed his mind. “Let’s go,” she directed, gesturing towards his door.
Dean kicked down the door to their motel room—whose sign was partially burned out and now read “The Red Motel”—and Dean, Tabitha, and Chuck ran into the room to see a pretty blonde woman—Lilith—straddling Sam, Ruby’s knife in her hand.
It was a step down from what Tabitha had uncharitably feared, but her brother was in no less danger.
Chuck stepped forward and held warding hands towards the demon as he unsteadily told her, “I am the prophet Chuck!”
Lilith leaned away from Sam, a look of real fear on her face as she exclaimed, “You’ve got to be joking.”
As though it was a signal, the walls around the motel room began to shake and Tabitha could feel a swelling of power that she had associated with angels, but the strength unlike anything she had felt yet. Castiel wasn’t kidding about these guys.
“Oh, this is no joke,” Dean told her over the rising noise. “See, Chuck here’s got an archangel on his shoulder.”
Things around the room began to fall over and off the wall as a light built outside, spilling into their room as Lilith stalked closer to them.
“You’ve got about 10 seconds,” Dean continued warning, “before this room is full of wrath and you’re a piece of charcoal. You sure you want to tangle with that?”
Lilith threw a look over her shoulder at Sam, and then looked forward at Tabitha, warning her, “This isn’t over. I’ll be back for the two of you.” She threw back her head and disappeared in a swirl of black smoke, the woman falling to the floor as the power and noise around them immediately stopped.
Tabitha stepped around her shocked older brother and Chuck, walking to the bed and asking her panting younger brother, “You okay, Sammy?”
He nodded but didn’t seem to trust himself to speak.
“You asked me to come?”
Tabitha whirled around to face the angel that had so suddenly appeared behind her. “Even in dreams, you manage to sneak up on me and scare the holy hell out of me.”
“You asked for me,” he reminded.
She shuffled her feet. “I wasn’t sure how these sigils worked, if you’d still be able to answer me or come to me in a dream. Heck, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to call out to you in a dream like this, regardless of the sigils.”
He waited, but she wasn’t surprised by his silence. She’d obviously gotten her answers since he’d appeared. Sigils or not, she’d somehow made sure he would hear her.
She came across the room to sit on the foot of the bed near the window Castiel was looking out.
“Why is my dream here in the Toreador Motel? I fell asleep in the back seat of the Impala, and it’s not like this place holds any special meaning to me. Kinda the opposite.”
Castiel paused to look back at her over his shoulder, and then moved to sit at the small table near the window, his hands folded loosely on the surface of the cheap imitation wood grain. “I cannot begin to fathom the intricacies of the human mind and their dreams. Perhaps you dream of it simply because it is where you last were.”
“Angels don’t dream, do they?” she asked, though she was nearly certain of the answer. She’d never seen Castiel sleep.
“Angels have no need for sleep, and therefore do not dream.”
She made a soft, regretful noise. “I think that’s sad. I may have a lot of bad dreams, but I also get to see places and people in my dreams that I’ll never get to see again when I’m awake. And there’s a lot of things I can only do in my dreams.” As she spoke, she moved from the bed to take the seat across from Castiel, leaning back in the chair as she gazed out the window as he had been.
In the unfathomable way of dreams, it wasn’t the sight of the parking lot beyond the glass, but instead a scene that seemed perfectly natural in the unnatural ways of dreams. Beyond the glass spread the expanse of Bobby’s salvage yard on a warm summer day. Her teenage self stood with a bit younger version of Bobby as the hunter once more demonstrated the art of knife throwing, trying to reposition the stance and grip of her teenage counterpart. Tabitha watched as her younger image tried and failed to throw the blade at the chipboard target like Bobby had shown. She even smiled at the sight of her younger self growling and stomping her feet in anger when she couldn’t immediately do what Bobby had.
“I’d forgotten what a pain in the butt I could be to teach. I’ve always been a bit impatient, but Bobby really was a saint to put up with me so well like he always did,” she commented.
Castiel didn’t speak, but glanced out the window as well before turning back to her. “Did you request my presence to discuss the peculiarities of human dreams?”
She frowned slightly, but admitted, “No. I didn’t.” After shifting a bit in her seat, she finally leaned forward to brace her forearms on the table surface. “You helped us with Sam.”
Unlike her, Castiel didn’t move or shift. Even in dreams, he didn’t act as a human would. He answered simply, “I only explained the nature of archangels.”
Not arguing with him or pointing out what they both knew he’d done, she leaned forward to gently pull one of his hand into hers, simply telling him, “Thank you.”
His hand turned under hers, lying on the table palm up as he lightly returned her grip. But he remained silent.
“You’ve been there in my dreams the past three and a half months, haven’t you?” she quietly inquired.
Castiel didn’t move or answer, but she didn’t need him to. Having him next to her in her current dream made her finally recognize his familiar presence, and made her realize he’d been there all along, watching her from the shadows of her dreams, and disappearing when she was about to notice him.
“Why?” she wondered.
Without looking at her, the angel admitted in a quiet voice, “You told me to stay away, but I found myself needing to return—to check on you. I thought you might not notice my presence if I hid myself in your dreams, but you have dreamt so rarely in the past months. And even in dreams you seem to quickly sense me.”
She nodded once. “I think a part of me always knew you were there. And that’s why I didn’t want to sleep. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see you even in dreams.”
They sat in a comfortable silence for several minutes before it was broken, strangely, by the angel.
“You aren’t angry with me now?” he curiously asked.
Tabitha glanced back out the window. “I think memories like that—” she started as she tipped her head towards the scene of her throwing her hands theatrically in the air and grumbling at Bobby while stomping around, “—are good reminders that I’m sometimes quick to anger. I’ve mellowed a little with age I’d like to think, but the truth is it’s still quick to come out when I’m protecting the things I care about, like my brothers. I’m not saying I condone what you made Dean do, but I guess I can’t expect you to have the same protective drive for them that I do. And I’ve got to accept that you’re an angel and you’ve got responsibilities and orders that I can’t understand and won’t always like. But I guess that doesn’t mean you won’t come through for me—and my brothers—when you can. And I do appreciate that.”
Castiel looked briefly at their entwined hands as he told her, “I’m glad you’re no longer angry with me.”
She sighed, not wanting him to think things would go back exactly as they’d been or that a part of her wasn’t still furious at what had been asked of her brother. “I’m not saying that, Cas. But the blinders are off now. I know that I can’t hold you to the same standards as a human. You’re an angel, as you’re so quick to remind me. You’ll follow your orders and make the choices you have to…and so will I. But I can’t deny that you’re there in my heart now. You’ve carved out a little place…and I’m not ready to give up our friendship. If this is going to be like it was between us…or at least something like it was…we’re both going to have to accept the choices the other makes even when we don’t like them. Especially when we don’t like them. But, Cas, my brothers will come first, so don’t ask me to choose between you and them.”
He was still turned slightly away as he gazed out the window, but he nodded in answer. She wondered what he was thinking, but he remained silent, leaving her to ponder it to herself.
The silence stretched on again until Tabitha spoke once more, her eyes gazing out the window just as his were. “Will you at least promise to warn me if something big or potentially dangerous is happening or about to happen concerning my brothers?”
“I can’t promise that.” His face was still turned away, but there was something dark and foreboding in his words.
She sighed at his refusal, but reluctantly nodded. “Well…I guess I have more respect for you not making a promise you can’t keep than if you took the temptation to just lie to me instead.”
“I will tell you what I’m able to,” he finally promised.
They continued sitting across the small table from each other, neither looking at the other, and only their two hands clasped between them. They watched the scene in Bobby’s salvage yard unfold. Bobby’s patience with a frustrated teenage-Tabitha as she slowly learned the movements he was showing her, and finally throwing a blade so that it nearly stuck in the wooden target.
“I finally started getting this lesson the next day,” Tabitha absently explained. “It was too bad I couldn’t have kept at it this first day though. I almost had it. But then a storm came in, and we had to stop.”
Tabitha and Castiel continued to sit at the small table as they observed storm clouds roll in. The sky turned dark, intermittently illuminated by steaks of lightning as thunder shook the motel around them.
But they remained seated across from each other, silently observing as the thunderclouds drew closer, hands gripped between them as they watched the coming storm.
Tabitha wondered if she was now making the right choice when she’d sworn to stay away from the angel before, but she knew only that something in her was changing, and that she didn’t want to turn away from Castiel now.
But maybe the coming storm would change her mind.
Or maybe it would only draw her deeper.
“Danger is coming,” he whispered, his grip tightening on her hand.
Her answer was a simple nod. She could see the dark abyss of clouds rolling in as they sat and watched.
A/N: Thanks so so much to animelover56248 and Cuckoo on a String for allowing me to use their names in this chapter. Their statements were totally written by me though, so blame me! 🙂
Anyone know what alias Tabitha used this time? She used Annie Mae Bullock, anyone know who that is?
This was definitely an interesting portion to write. I think my head hurt, writing about Dean sitting in a Laundromat and reading about himself, sitting in a Laundromat reading about himself…oy! My head hurts trying to keep it straight!
Also, fair warning, there’s been a lot of feels as they say so far in this story, and there’s more coming. But no one said the apocalypse starting was going to be a joyride!
We’re coming into the homestretch on this story. I’d originally considered keeping it all together into one story, but I didn’t want it to get insanely long. It’s already a lot longer than I realized it would get. We’re on chapter 21, and well over 200,000 words now. Wow! I didn’t expect how long this first part of the story would be!
The next story will probably be long, too. And that’s where a lot of the really exciting stuff is gonna happen I think. I can’t wait to get to it. I’m expecting that this story will probably finish out somewhere around chapter 23 or 24, depending on how or if I split up the coming parts. I just started writing chapter 23, so we’ll see how it goes.
If you’ve liked the story so far, let me know! Or if you haven’t liked something, let me know that, too! 🙂