For hours, Tabitha had been sifting through the box of case notes and files that Casey had kept in his safe and that she had moved to her own safe upon his death. The pages and folders were presently littered seemingly haphazardly on the floor around her, hardly an inch of floor uncovered by the pages she’d been pouring over, looking for some kind of clue—or maybe more appropriately, a needle. A needle that might stand out in a stack of normal looking needles.
One group of stapled pages suddenly caught her eyes. They were peeking out from inside one of the official FBI folders Casey had stolen, but the folder hadn’t been what caught her attention. Casey’s handwritten notes in the margins of the page peeking out drew her in.
She flipped the folder open and began reading Casey’s notes. Most of the official report she had already seen and read when they’d been working the case, but her partner’s notes weren’t something she’d seen. As she flipped to another page, a loose picture fluttered out. The color image held her eyes. It was a close-up of a yellow powder on white linoleum floor tiles. Turning the picture over, she saw more of her partner’s familiar neat scrawl.
Yellow powder found to be sulfur. Sulfur in a pediatric ward? Why? How could it have gotten there?
The stapled pages of computer printed documents and reports with his notes in the margins held her utter attention now. She hadn’t seen the evidence photo with the sulfur before—didn’t even remember it coming up in the case, and she would have remembered sulfur.
She finally flipped the stapled papers over at the last page, finding it full of Casey’s handwriting, his notes taking on an almost journal like quality as he questioned himself and what to do.
Nothing about this case is adding up. Children disappearing from pediatric wards. Sometimes taken by nurses who’ve been trustworthy employees for years, sometimes taken with no trace of how. And the sulfur? How do I explain that? Or the missing children we have managed to find. Upon further examination, I was able to find traces of sulfur on all of the children. The bodies all looked like they’d been gnawed on, and all exsanguinated. Why steal children from pediatric wards only to drain them of their blood? Some kind of ritual? Something occult?
None of this seems…normal…human. Could something be doing this? Wish I could tell Tab, but how can I? She’ll think I’m crazy if I tell her I seriously suspect something was responsible for the deaths of all those children.
Tabitha felt tears of guilt gather as she read his notes. He’d started to suspect what was really out there, but had been afraid to come to her about it—even though she could have told him everything. Guilt nagged her more as she realized how much she’d missed on that case. She should have seen the same signs her partner had. Maybe then he’d still be alive.
One last piece of paper caught her eye, an employee record printout from the last hospital where babies had gone missing. There was a post-it note stuck to it with a place and time and a note that the nurse had been working in the hospital during all the times babies had gone missing. The place and time appeared to be Casey arranging to meet the woman, probably to confront her. It was the very same day that she remembered her partner had begun to act…strangely when he’d come by her place for the evening.
She grabbed the employee record and turned to her laptop, thankful now that Shawn had shown her how to use a backdoor access into the FBI database as she used it to search for the nurse. It was a long shot, but if the nurse had been possessed then, chances were decent that the demon might still be using her. Demons did grow fond of a meatsuit once they got in one. And they tended to stay until they’d used them up.
How it all could relate to Lilith still puzzled her, but she knew Lilith was old and insanely crazy from what her brother had said about her. And she liked to use children as meatsuits. She didn’t understand why she might be draining infants, but it seemed like something insane enough to fit the crazy demon they’d described to her.
Tabitha paused as she snuck down the stairs of Bobby’s house. She had a work address for a little hospital in Maryland where the nurse that Casey had been going to meet, had just started working at only a few weeks ago. It was a long shot, but it was her only lead.
Glancing back up the stairs, she considered going and waking Bobby, but finally shook her head to herself and continued out of the house alone. He’d only try to stop her. Especially if he knew she was actively looking for Lilith. But if there was even the barest of possibilities that finding the bitch might help her save her little brother, she was taking it. She couldn’t let Bobby stop her now. No matter how long the odds seemed.
She paused at her mustang, knowing that at least was likely to wake Bobby. And also knowing he’d try to track it. But she’d already arranged to fly to Maryland anyway—it would get her there faster. All she had to do was get to the Sioux Falls airport before Bobby stopped her. And hopefully her aliases and their various flights—as well as changing planes in Minneapolis would be enough to keep Bobby off her trail.
The lights in Bobby’s house flicked on as she pealed out of his salvage yard. And the old hunter had just reached his porch when she looked up into her rearview. His call to her cell a few seconds later wasn’t a surprise, but she ignored it and let it ring, whispering to herself, “Sorry, Bobby. This one I go alone.”
Flashing her FBI badge to stop one of the frantic nurses, Tabitha asked her, “What’s going on? What’s all the commotion about?”
The young nurse looked frazzled, but paused to push her brown bangs from her eyes and ask her, “Aren’t you with the others?”
Tabitha glanced across the parking garage towards the marked and unmarked police cars and police and FBI milling about. “Yes,” she easily lied. “But why is the staff out here in the parking garage and so frantic looking?”
The young woman seemed to become even more worried looking, darting glances around as she swallowed and explained, “But they said we could go home now. They interviewed us about that missing nurse and the baby she tried to take. But I don’t know anything. I just want to go home like everyone else.”
Maintaining a professional and detached manner, Tabitha pulled out a pad of paper and asked, “You’re speaking of nurse McKellan? She’s the nurse that has disappeared?”
“Well, yeah. That’s who all the cops are looking for,” the young nurse slowly told her.
“And she tried to take a baby but the baby is still here?”
The young woman scrunched her face up as she stared up at Tabitha. “Yeah. Shouldn’t you know all that? They found the baby in the parking garage here, but that new nurse had just disappeared. I guess she changed her mind about stealing the baby.”
“You know nothing about where this woman might have gone?”
“No. I already told those detectives that interviewed me. And they said I could go.”
“You don’t know anything about where she might have been staying or where she might have been spending time?” Tabitha continued to push.
“No. I don’t,” the woman answered shortly, crossing her arms over her pale blue scrubs and glancing back towards the building where most of the cops were gathered.
Tabitha smiled as she backed up a step, casually dismissing the young nurse before she raised the attention of the cops near the hospital. “Of course. You’re free to go. I just wanted to make sure nothing had been missed.”
But she cursed inwardly as she walked away. The demon wouldn’t have just left the baby behind after going to the trouble of getting it that far out of the hospital. Her best bet was that Sam had managed to find the same track she had, but had beaten her to the nurse. Only now, Tabitha had no next move to make in tracking him down.
“Hey, agent…uh…agent!” the nurse called behind her.
Tabitha turned around to face her again. “Special agent Marianne Faithfull,” Tabitha supplied. “What was it you needed?”
“I just remembered something, I don’t know if it’s helpful or not,” the young nurse told her with an anticipatory edge.
With an impatient gesture, Tabitha urged her on, “Yes? What?”
“I remembered that a couple of days ago, Nurse McKellan asked for directions out to Mary’s Convent in Ilchester. She said she was going to meet some friends there in a few days. I told her it was a dumb idea, but she seemed pretty intent on going there.”
Holding her eagerness in check with her doubt, Tabitha questioned, “Why would you tell her not to go there?”
The nurse seemed confused for a second, but her face cleared as she continued, “Right. You’re not from around here. I told her it was a creepy place to meet friends, even if that is your thing. I mean, seeing as how that priest killed all those nuns in that convent back in the early seventies.”
Instantly, Tabitha was certain she was back on the right track. For the first time in many hours, she was sure she knew where she was going. But she hastened to tell the nurse, “I’m sure it’s nothing of any use, but I’ll have a patrol car swing by there just in case. Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”
She was walking away when the nurse called out again. “Don’t you wanna know my name or something?”
Over her shoulder, Tabitha pointed out, “Didn’t need to ask, you’ve still got your name tag on Nurse Reinhardt. I can match your name with your records.”
Not wasting another moment, Tabitha slid into the driver’s seat of her borrowed sedan in time to hear her cell phone ringing once again.
She flipped it open impatiently. “What?” she demanded even as she used her smart phone to look up directions to the old convent in Ilchester.
“Girl, I outta tan your hide for that tone,” Bobby warned her. “Taking off in the middle of the night, not answering your phone…and now taking an attitude with me. I’ve had enough of you Winchester kids acting like the spoiled little brat on the playground that keeps getting picked last for kickball. Suck it up and realize that maybe it’s your own piss poor damn attitudes playing a pretty big part.”
“We get the picture, Bobby,” Dean growled over the line, telling her that Bobby had his phone on speaker. “Where the hell are you, Tabitha? And why haven’t you been answering your phone?”
“I’m going after Sammy,” she answered in a clipped voice, not appreciating his own brusque tone. She could be to the convent in under ten-minutes. At least from the directions her phone gave.
“I already tried that,” he growled at her.
“Oh? How’d that go?” she needled, knowing from his pissed-off tone that it hadn’t been a warm reunion between them. He hadn’t told her before how it went, just sent a text saying Sam had taken off again. And she knew her brother well enough to guess just how it went down.
“Didn’t. Which is why you’re gonna get your ass back here. He could have killed you last time. Besides, I don’t even know where he’s gone now, so you might as well stop wasting your time.”
“I think I know where he’s headed.”
There was an extended pause on the line before Dean sweetly asked, “And just where are you at, Tabitha?”
She snorted at the falsely sweet tone as she told him, “Yeah. Like I’m real excited to tell you that. I’m doing this, Dean. You tried going after him, now it’s my turn to try.”
He immediately dropped the fake sweetness. “Just how the hell do you think you’re gonna find him? I already tracked him down once, and he’s gonna be more weary now. Just leave him.”
Tabitha sucked in a breath at the vehemence in her brother’s voice. “I will find him,” she swore.
“How?” he fired back. “You got special psychic powers now that you’ve been lying about, too?”
She ignored the barb. “He’s going after Lilith, right?”
“Yeah,” Dean slowly answered. There was a loud thud of something hitting the floor over the phone line as Dean seemed to catch on. “Oh, hell no, Tabitha. This is a stupid idea. That bitch wants you, too. To skin you and make a woman suit out of you for all we know. But she wants you, so this is a bad idea.”
“I’m just tracking her to find Sam,” she reasonably answered, pushing back her own fear.
There was another silence before Bobby asked, “You really think you can find Lilith?”
“Yeah. I do. It’s a long story, but it went back to her sicking one of her demons on my partner, Casey. I think he got too close to finding her, and she had a demon jump him when she realized he was my partner. I think it was just chance that she came across me that way. But the case that led Casey to her gave me a lead in how to find her now.”
“Where are you?” Dean asked in that deceptively calm voice again.
She sighed but told him, “Maryland. Not like it matters. You’re in South Dakota, so you can’t stop me. I’ll either have found Sam by tonight or well…”
“First Sam, and now you!” Dean yelled at her. “I swear, I’ve had enough of this damn family. None of you listen, and you’re all trying to turn into monsters or get yourselves killed!”
“The feeling is mutual!” she growled back into the phone. “You’re the one who signed up to be Heaven’s personal bitch gofer. I’m just doing my best to hang onto what I can of this stupid family that seems intent on getting itself wiped out one way or another.”
“At least she’s trying to reach him, Dean!” Bobby shouted through the phone. “I already told you to stow the whiney crap and stop being like your father. Stop pushing him away. Be a stronger man and help your sister reach him!”
Tabitha could hear someone moving around the room as she paused to check her directions again. She was getting closer to the old convent. Another turn on one of the dark country roads would get her there.
“I don’t know, Bobby,” she barely heard Dean say.
“What the hell!” Bobby suddenly shouted, alarm and fear in his voice.
Tabitha had made her last turn, but slammed on the brakes at the unusual fear in Bobby’s tone. “What? What happened?” she asked.
“It’s Dean,” he told her. “He just disappeared outta thin air.”
Tabitha sighed as she looked down the road to where the church lay. She could see a few cars outside of the supposedly abandoned church. “Angels took him,” she explained, knowing it was the truth.
“What now?” Bobby asked her, his voice coming and going as he paced.
“Now we hope for a miracle, Bobby. I’m here, and my gut’s telling me that Lilith is, too.”
During the long pause that filled the space of her borrowed car, Tabitha was almost certain Bobby was going to try to order her away, too. But he only told her, “Please be careful, Tabitha. That demon’s one tough bitch.”
“I know, Bobby. But if I can kill her to protect Sammy, I will.”
She hung up with phone without ceremony or goodbye, and prepared herself for whatever awaited her in the seemingly busy abandoned church.
Tabitha hadn’t even reached the side door of the church when she heard the demon come up behind her.
“You’re not the Winchester I was expecting.”
She turned around to face Lilith wearing the same dental hygienist that she had smoked out of when they’d led an archangel to her. But her face was turned up in a pleased smile this time.
“I like to surprise people,” Tabitha told her with a shrug, slipping her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket.
Two demons appeared on either side of her to immobilize her arms, yanking her hands back out of her pockets.
“Ah-uh,” Lilith scolded her as she stepped closer. With her chest almost brushing Tabitha’s, the demon reached into each pocket to pull out the contents. She held the flask in one hand and the rosary gingerly in the other. “Well, that’s not playing very nice,” Lilith tsked her.
“I never play nice,” Tabitha assured the demon.
Lilith flicked her hand at the two male demons holding her. “Check her over. Make sure she’s not holding onto any other surprises.”
The demons thoroughly patted her down, but seemed to dismiss her charm bracelet as nothing more than normal jewelry.
“I expected your younger brother, but not you,” Lilith told her as she walked around Tabitha and leaned back against the doors of the church.
“Like I said, I’m fond of surprises.”
Lilith’s smile widened. “Something tells me that you came here looking for him.” She leaned forward and winked. “But I’ve got a feeling he’ll be here soon enough.” She leaned back against the doors again with a dramatic sigh. “Not that you’ll be around to see it.”
“Oh?” Tabitha asked as the demons finished taking the last of her weapons, stepping away to leave her standing free before Lilith. “And I was hoping to see the show. I really didn’t want to miss seeing you die.”
A strange pleased look came to Lilith’s eyes at that. “We’ve all got to go sometime. Even demons. It’s what our death means that matters.”
Tabitha could feel her scowl grow at the demon’s perplexing answer. “You don’t seem all that worried at the thought of dying.”
“Do you?” Lilith asked as she tried to divert Tabitha’s question back on her. “You’re gonna die. Soon,” the demon leaned forward and whispered, as though they were girls sharing a secret.
“I thought you wanted me taken alive or something,” Tabitha hedged, her fingers rubbing the cross on her bracelet in her palm.
Lilith shrugged. “I did. Until I found out what you are for. Now I know you have to die. Can’t leave you alive and running around to be a future threat. Of course, your brother will have to go, too. Now that he’s served his purpose in breaking the first seal and getting the ball rolling. But at least I can make sure you die now. That way you won’t be a threat to our Father.”
Lilith snapped her fingers as Tabitha’s mind whirled with the demon’s strange announcement, but she didn’t have much time to give it thought as the two demons stepped closer to grab her again.
She held the cross in her palm and with it clutched in her hand, crossed herself as she knelt and recited, “Therefore God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in Heaven and of those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.*”
The demons fell to their knees as she recited the verse, each of them screaming in pain at the power of the words of God. Lilith didn’t fall, but did clutch her head and cringe.
But before Tabitha could begin an exorcism spell, something grabbed her by the shoulders from behind.
When she looked around again, Tabitha saw that she was no longer outside the convent in Maryland, but standing instead in a nondescript motel room.
“What in the name of hell?” she muttered to herself as she slowly spun around. When she’d made a complete circle, she finally spotted the familiar trench coat covered back of an angel. “I guess I should have said, ‘What in the name of Heaven,'” she corrected herself.
“Were you trying to get yourself killed?”
Tabitha frowned at the angel’s back.
“I was looking for Sammy,” she told him.
“How does your death at Lilith’s hand accomplish that?” he tersely demanded, still standing turned away from her, as though something fascinating about the ivory painted wall held his utter attention, although Tabitha couldn’t fathom what.
“I would have been fine,” she tried to insist, although, nothing had quite gone how she’d pictured it in her mind when she’d approached the convent.
Castiel actually snorted, the sound seeming so foreign to Tabitha coming from him. “I suppose you had forgotten that Lilith is a powerful demon not easily killed by a mere exorcism spell?”
Crossing her hands stubbornly over her chest as she planted herself in the middle of the room, Tabitha admitted, “I didn’t think I’d have to try an exorcism on her. I figured I’d scope the place out and then wait for Sam to show up. I didn’t really expect them to get the jump on me like they did.”
She saw Castiel’s back stiffen a little as he crossed his arms at the small of his back, his fingers digging deeply into his wrists. “You shouldn’t have been anywhere near a demon that wanted to kill you. Getting killed would have done nothing to help your brother.”
“I didn’t ask you to save me!” she snarled at his back in response to his imperious demeanor. “And besides, I didn’t really think she wanted to kill me. She’s been trying to capture me all along, so I wasn’t too worried when she showed up. Figured I’d get away before Sam showed up or something. It wasn’t until she said she was gonna kill me that I got worried.”
He snorted derisively at her admission, but continued to stare at the bare wall.
Tabitha shifted a little bit to look around him, trying to figure out what held his attention so acutely, but couldn’t see anything. Not even a crack in the paint.
“Dammit,” she growled. “Would you just turn around and talk to me? Tell me why the hell you brought me here even when I didn’t ask for your help.”
Castiel was silent for a moment, but then he slowly told her, “I am trying to keep my face hidden.”
She immediately shook her head in confusion. “Why?” she demanded in an incredulous voice. “You got a big pimple or something you’re worried about? Believe me, that should be the least of our worries right now.”
He hesitated again, but then slowly told the wall, “You told me that you did not wish to ever see my face again.”
Mouth hanging open in shock, Tabitha could only stand and stare. She suddenly recalled that when he’d shown up to nab Anna, he’d kept his back to her then as well. Tabitha fell back on the bed behind her as she laughed bitterly. “Jesus, Cas,” she muttered as she stared up at the ceiling, her arms braced behind her on the bed. “I didn’t exactly mean that literally—well, I guess I sorta did—but since you’re here now, I’d rather talk to your face than your back.”
The angel almost cautiously turned around, seeming to wait for her to tell him to turn away from her again.
When he’d turned to face her, she leaned forward to brace her elbows on her knees, her hands gripped between them. “Now, tell me what the hell I’m doing here, ’cause it sure as hell isn’t helping Sam by being here.”
“No,” he agreed, giving her a little nod as he leaned back against the wall, his gaze hooded as he glanced carefully up at her. “You will not be helping Sam.”
Her jaw clenched tightly as she mashed her teeth together. “I take it you took Dean somewhere like this, too?” she ground out.
“Zachariah did,” he nodded again.
“Why has Lilith suddenly changed her tune? Why does she want me dead instead of captured?” Tabitha asked. “She said something like she’d found out I would be a threat or something. What was that supposed to mean? What did she find out about me?”
“I cannot say.”
Tabitha fought to keep from rolling her eyes. “Cannot or will not?”
His hooded stare was his only answer.
“How’d you even find me?” she tried asking when he remained silent.
He held her gaze for a minute before glancing away and softly admitting, “Dean asked that I go to you and stop you from going after Lilith to find Sam.”
She thought for a minute before continuing her next thought. “And now Zach is holding Dean somewhere else and you’re holding me here?” she clarified.
He nodded again.
She remembered her conversation with Anna, and began piecing together a few pieces of the puzzle together, though many of the crucial ones were still missing. Like trying to solve a puzzle with none of the middle pieces, just the edges to give her a vague notion of what the picture was. “You don’t want anyone to stop Sam, do you? You want Sam to be the one to kill Lilith. Even though you told Dean that he had to stop the apocalypse. Why?”
Castiel stiffened again, and she knew she was asking the right questions, but he would only say, “I’m just following orders.” And then disappeared.
“Screw this,” Tabitha growled to herself as she hopped to her feet. But as she pulled on the motel room door, the nob would only spin…and spin. Looking around, she realized the room wasn’t quite the standard motel room. There wasn’t a window in sight. Not even in the bathroom.
She was fuming when she made her way back to the door, lifting her leg and kicking at the door with all her strength. But the door didn’t even creak or groan.
Fifteen minutes later, she’d finally accepted that the angel wasn’t going to let her leave any time soon. She’d even taken to slamming the chairs against the door. Only for them to shatter uselessly. And then return wholly untouched when she turned back to the table.
Her cellphone also proved useless, given her a message that she was out of her coverage zone. She couldn’t seem to reach anyone and couldn’t do anything about her imprisonment.
Throwing her head back, she shouted uselessly at the angel that had imprisoned her, “Castiel! When I see you again, I’m gonna tell you to do more than not show your face again! I’m gonna tell you to go screw yourself, and actually expect you to figure out how to do it!”
Unsurprisingly, there was no answer to her threat.
After many hours had passed, and she’d long since grown bored with pacing around the silent room, Tabitha calmed herself and sat on the foot of the bed once more. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on Castiel and called for him, hoping that he would return.
She knew the moment he’d reappeared, even with her eyes closed and although he didn’t break the silence of the room.
Keeping her eyes closed, she asked, “Is Sammy still alive?”
“For the moment.”
She opened her eyes to see him leaning back against the wall across from her. As if he hadn’t ever left her and kept her locked alone in her angel jail cell.
“You know,” she told him as she pressed her palms together between her spread knees and leaned forward a little, “I’ve had a lot of time to sit here and think over the past however many hours since you locked me up. And I’m starting to find some of the crucial middle pieces of the puzzle, I think. It took me a while, and I feel stupid for not getting it sooner. They were there all along.”
Castiel waited for her to continue, looking at her from beneath his still hooded eyes even though he didn’t answer her.
“See, it was something Anna told me that should have tipped me off. But there were other clues, too. You finding me like you did was the very first. You said Dean told you where I was, but he only knew I was in Maryland somewhere. Not where specifically. Even with those sigils on my ribs and my bracelet, you found me. You knew right where I was. Because you knew right where Lilith was. That’s what got the ball rolling. I realized that as powerful as you angels seem to be, you sure seemed to be screwing the pooch on stopping the demons from breaking seals. And according to Anna, we’re at the final seal or seals now.”
She waited to see if Castiel would respond or contradict her, but he continued to stare at her as if unconcerned.
With a sigh, she stood from the bed and stepped closer. As she closed the distance, she saw something flicker in his eyes. Apprehension maybe.
When only a foot separated them, she stopped, looking into his eyes to gauge his responses as she continued. “Like I said, it was what Anna said to me that finally clicked and started making sense. She told me that I had to stop Sam; that he couldn’t kill Lilith. Couldn’t break the final seal.” She crossed her arms over her torso as she continued. “You see, I thought she was talking about two different things. I thought she was concerned—like I was…and am—that Sam couldn’t kill Lilith and still be the same afterwards. And that something might happen to him or he might do something afterwards that would break the final seal. But I’ve replayed what she said in my head a hundred times now. And what she was really telling me was that Lilith is the final seal. That Sam couldn’t break the final seal by killing her.”
Looking away from Castiel’s ever darkening stare, she began to pace, gesturing about with one hand as she walked back and forth. “It makes sense now. Given what Lilith told me, too. She kept talking about death not being so bad—even for a demon—when you died for a reason. I thought she was trying to talk about killing me, but she was talking about her own death. Somehow, she’s got to be the one to die to let her daddy out, huh?”
There was no answer, but she hadn’t really expected one. Still on a roll, her pacing increased as she continued, her loose hair fanning out around her as she turned sharper and sharper at the end of each line she paced. “That’s why Heaven was so damned intent on letting Sam go. They want him to keep drinking blood so he’s strong enough to kill her. They don’t want anyone else to try because they might not be strong enough to ice her ass. And Sam’s been obsessed with killing her ever since Dean was sent to Hell. It wasn’t hard to fan that desire into an obsession, even without his demon bitch egging him on all this time. All you guys had to do was sit back and let it happen. I mean, what’s it matter to you angels anyway? I’m sure you’ll all be safe in Heaven once the fireworks start. It’s just a bunch of humans that’ll die in the coming Armageddon, right? And what do you care about us?”
She finally stopped her now frantic pacing, coming to stand in front of Castiel as she stared up into his eyes. “Tell me I’m wrong,” she demanded. “Tell me the angels aren’t just letting the apocalypse get triggered.”
In return, he continued to stare at her.
Her face turned bitter as she looked away. “That’s as good as an admission that I’m right,” she whispered to him. “You suck at lying, so you try to not say anything to hide that you can’t lie worth a damn. But with you, that’s as good as telling me I’m right anyway.” She turned away to stand sideways to him, her shoulder only inches away from him as she squeezed her eyes shut and she struggled to hold her emotions in. “I just don’t get why you didn’t let Lilith kill me back there. Why save me if we’re all gonna die in the apocalypse?”
“You have your part to play.”
When her head snapped back to look at the angel, she found that he’d turned partly away from her, too, turning to face the opposite direction she’d turned. But his shoulder almost brushed hers, and his head was only inches away from hers as they stood side by side. Yet his eyes remained shut. Almost as if he couldn’t bear to turn and look her in the eye.
Before she could respond, he whispered, “Even if I hadn’t been ordered to save you from Lilith, I wouldn’t have let you die at her hand.”
Her heart strained to hear anything beneath his words, anything meaningful…anything that could prove he had some shred of emotion. But she didn’t trust her heart. Was it only grasping at straws when it told her that there was regret and longing in his voice? Was it only what she yearned for to justify how much she’d let herself care for him?
“We can still stop Sam. Still stop the apocalypse and everything else. It’s not too late,” she begged him.
“They don’t want it stopped. It’s already too late,” he seemed regretful to tell her. He opened his eyes and turned to look at her, whispering to her, “I’m sorry.”
She knew it was probably foolish. Knew it might be only desperation, but she reached up to cup his cheek in her hand, rubbing her thumb across his familiar stubble as she watched his eyes slide shut again. Not caring that she was begging, she pleaded him with increasing desperation, “If you ever felt a shred of emotion for me…if you ever felt even the glimmer of real feelings for me…please help me. At the very least, take me to Dean. Take me to one of my brothers.”
Her eyes shut as she felt his face turn into her hand. And for a moment, she let her heart readily believe the things it had felt all along. She savored the simple feel of his skin and whiskered cheek beneath her palm. She cherished the way his arm brushed against hers and the primal way their breathing slowed and evened until it was in-sync with each other. For that moment, she allowed herself to live in the yearning promise of that simple touch.
When she opened her eyes again, they were standing in an ornately decorated room with lots of gold and filigree, and platters of what appeared to be burgers laid out along a long, buffet-style table.
Mutters caught her ear, and her hand fell to her side as she turned to see Dean pacing, his cellphone in hand.
He looked up and stopped, then crossed the room to drag her into his arms, dropping a kiss to the top of her head as he held her and she fervently returned the embrace. As she looked over his shoulder, she mouthed a silent thanks to the angel as he motionlessly observed them.
“You scared the ever-loving piss outta me, Tabby,” he whispered to the top of her head. “Going after Lilith like that. I thought I was gonna lose you, too. Where the hell have you been?”
“Stuck, just like you are. Although in slightly less posh surroundings,” she whispered against his shoulder.
“No more taking off without a word to me or Bobby. Got it? You let us in on your crazy plans from now on.”
“Ditto,” she returned, a small smile lifting the corner of her lips.
“You know the score on what’s going down? What they want Sammy to do?” he whispered into her hair, his voice dropping even lower.
Dean finally stepped back to hold his sister at arm’s length, giving her a once over—and reaching up a hand to brush against the bandage still taped to her neck—before turning back to Castiel.
“Thanks for at least bringing Tabitha here,” he tersely told the angel. “Even if I’ve been asking you to do that for hours.” He paused and then irritably asked, “Any chance you wanna just go ahead and zap Sammy here, too?”
Castiel turned to position his back to the wall, going into his angel-statue mode.
“Why are you even here, Cas?” Dean demanded.
Castiel turned to look at him. “We’ve been through much together, you and I. And I just wanted to say, I’m sorry it ended like this.”
“‘Sorry?'” Dean scoffed, stepping away from his sister to punch the angel. She hissed as his hand painfully connected, not seeming to affect the angel in the slightest.
Undeterred, Dean shook his hand and told him, “It’s Armageddon, Cas. You need a bigger word than ‘sorry.'”
The angel gave Dean an annoyed look. “Try to understand—this is long foretold. This is your…”
“Destiny?” Dean cut him off in anger. “Don’t give me that ‘holy’ crap. Destiny. God’s plan… It’s all a bunch of lies, you poor, stupid son of a bitch! It’s just a way for your bosses to keep me and keep you in line! You know what’s real? People, families—that’s real. And you’re gonna watch them all burn?”
“You can’t just let the whole world burn, Cas,” Tabitha pleaded, stepping beside her brother as she placed a hand on his arm in unity with him.
“What is so worth saving?” the angel demanded in return, taking a stride closer as he looked between the siblings. “I see nothing but pain here,” he spat as he stared meaningfully at Tabitha, then he turned his stare on Dean. “I see inside you. I see your guilt, your anger, confusion. In paradise, all is forgiven. You’ll be at peace. Even with Sam.”
Dean scoffed and stomped away, but Tabitha remained frozen, staring at the darkened expression on Castiel’s face as he stared at the spot beside her where Dean had been.
“You’re right,” she whispered in return. “There’s a lot of pain here. I’ll be the first to agree with you on that. And I’ve felt a lot of it myself. Those I’ve…cared for…have given me a lot of pain in return for what I felt for them.”
Castiel turned, almost curiously regarding her, staring into her eyes as if to understand what she was saying by force of will.
Seeing she had his attention, she ardently continued, “But I wouldn’t trade it, Cas. Not one minute. Not one cut to my heart that made me bleed. I wouldn’t trade that pain for anything. Because the stronger that pain was, the deeper the good emotions were, too. Joy. Happiness. Peace.” She glanced away from him as his face softened somewhat, finally admitting to him, “Even the love I felt that couldn’t possibly be returned. I wouldn’t trade it no matter how deep the corresponding pain was. Because it would take away that joy and happiness, too, Cas. That’s what emotions are. They hurt and they’re painful. But I wouldn’t give them up for all the promise in the universe of an artificial happiness. Because it’ll never feel real if you’ve felt that gut-wrenching…heart-stabbing…knock-your-breath-awa y kinda pain that comes from real peace and happiness.”
For several moments, Castiel only stared at her, seeming to struggle with understanding her words.
But Dean came back to them, his hand on his sister’s shoulder as he stepped between them, bending down to place his face in the angel’s, telling him, “You can take your peace…and shove it up your lily-white ass. Tabby’s right. ‘Cause I’ll take the pain and the guilt. I’ll even take Sam as is. All I need is my brother and sister as they are. It’s a lot better than being some Stepford bitch in paradise. This is simple, Cas!” Dean yelled as Castiel turned away from them. “No more crap about being a good soldier. There is a right and there is a wrong here, and you know it. Look at me!” he demanded, spinning the angel back around. “You know it!”
“You were gonna help me once, weren’t you?” Dean continued as Castiel began to fidget and look like a cornered animal. “You were gonna warn me about all this, before they dragged you back to Bible camp. Help me…help us—now. Please.”
Castiel looked around almost frantically, then, his eyes darted almost pleadingly back to Tabitha’s. Still unsure if she was imagining the emotion she saw in her eyes, she threw the warnings in her mind behind her, grasping at his imploring look, to beg him again, “Please, Cas.” She darted a look at Dean’s fixed stare on the angel, and silently begged Castiel, If you ever felt anything at all for me, please help us now. Show me I wasn’t a complete fool to have ever believed that an angel could have possibly felt…anything at all for me.
He inhaled deeply before asking, “What would you have me do?”
“Get us to Sam,” Dean desperately pounced. “We can stop this before it’s too late.”
“I do that, we will all be hunted. We’ll all be killed,” he feverishly replied, darting a concerned look at Tabitha.
Tabitha reached out to grab Castiel’s palm in her right hand, and then gripped her brother’s hand in her left one, holding the two on either side of her as she told them, “Lilith was right about one thing. Some things are worth dying for…this is one of those things, Cas.”
He stared almost fearfully into her eyes, shaking his head slightly as he looked away, and then glanced across her at Dean before dropping his gaze and looking away once more.
“You spineless…soulless son of a bitch,” he growled as he yanked his hand away from his sister, stalking to the nearest wall.
Tabitha pulled her right hand from the angel as well, crossing her arms over her chest as she told him in an uneven voice, “I was right, wasn’t I? You angels just aren’t capable of emotion. Not capable of feeling anything at all. And you’re just like the rest of those angels. I thought you were different. But you’re not. You’re just like every other angel up there in Heaven.”
She looked away and stepped in the opposite direction that Dean had stalked in, not wanting him to see her tears or the depth of her devastation.
“Tabitha,” Castiel softly called after her.
“Just leave,” she brokenly answered.
“We’re done!” Dean added from his side of the room.
Tabitha felt the angel leave, but didn’t turn to confirm his departure as she struggled to regain her composure.
“Can you believe that robot?” Dean asked her as he began pacing around the room.
Tabitha tried to smile at her brother’s obvious deflection from his own emotions.
“I guess we shouldn’t be surprised,” she tried lightly replying, playing along.
“It’s gonna be okay, Tabby,” he rushed to assure her. “I know you’re worried sick about Sam, but he’ll be okay.” He lowered his voice and whispered more to himself, “He has to be.”
She didn’t try to correct his assumptions about her current tears—though if she was honest with herself, it was just as much worry about Sam as the…pain…spreading in her heart.
“Of course,” she tried to smile in return as she came across the room to fold into one of the chairs, pulling her legs up on the seat and wrapping her arms around them. “It’s Sammy. He’s always all right,” she continued lightly.
Dean was still pacing across the way when Tabitha felt Castiel reappear in the room. She jerked her head up from where it had been bent down to her knees, turning in time to see the angel slam her brother against the wall.
She scrambled from the chair, running to grab at the angel’s arm as she saw him silently hold Ruby’s knife out between them. The man and angel shared a look, and Dean nodded slightly in return to whatever passed between the two, though Tabitha was left confused.
The siblings turned to look down as the angel drew the knife across his already exposed forearm, blood welling thickly around the cut. He dipped his fingers in the blood, quickly working a sigil with the viscous fluid on the wall.
Dean grabbed Tabitha by her arm, pulling her back a ways from Castiel as they silently watched him, trying to figure out what the angel was doing with his own blood.
“Castiel!” another angel shouted as he appeared in the room. Tabitha hadn’t yet met him, but recognized him as Zachariah from her brothers’ descriptions of him.
“Would you mind explaining just what the hell you’re doing. And what the hell the girl’s doing here. The Winchesters seem to be suddenly multiplying like rabbits, I know I left only one in here,” he sneered.
As he strode closer, Castiel finished the sigil, slamming his bloody palm against the marking as Zachariah disappeared in a sudden swell of power. One Tabitha recognized from when Anna had sent Castiel and Uriel away.
“He won’t be gone long,” Castiel hastily told them. “We have to find Sam now,” he continued.
“Where is he?” Dean asked, looking slightly shaken by the sudden rebellion of the normally obedient Castiel.
“I don’t know,” Castiel answered before Tabitha could speak. “But I know who does. We have to stop him, Dean, from killing Lilith.”
“But Lilith’s gonna break the final seal,” Dean replied as Castiel handed him Ruby’s bloody knife.
Tabitha broke the death-grip her brother had formed on her elbow to tell him, “Lilith is the final seal, Dean. That’s why the angels wanted Sam to kill her.”
Dean stared at her in disbelief, and then coldly looked at Castiel.
The angel confirmed. “She dies, the End begins.”
He suddenly grabbed both Winchesters by their elbows, transporting them to Chuck’s house.
The author was fully dressed this time, but was on the phone, pacing about his living room as he said, “Then, uh, I’ll take 20 girls for the whole night.” Tabitha’s head twisted in surprise as he paused before telling the person on the other end, “Lady, sometimes you got to live like there’s no tomorrow.”
He turned around, spotted them, and then froze in surprise.
“You try to take on 20 women in one night, and there might not be any tomorrow for you there, Chuck,” Tabitha told him. She considered him for a moment, her head twisting a little more as she thoughtfully added, “Unless you got other superpowers we don’t know about.”
Dean shot her a glare across a confused looking angel.
Chuck stammered, “Wait. T-t-this isn’t supposed to happen.” He pulled the phone up to his ear again as he told the woman on the other end, “No, lady, this is definitely supposed to happen, but I just got to call you back.” He hung up and turned to the three of them as he continued to stutter, “I…I-I-I. What are you doing here?”
“We need to know where Sam is,” Dean demanded, making his way to Chuck’s computer without waiting.
Tabitha started following her brother to tell him where Sam would probably be, or at least where Lilith had been, but was stopped by Castiel grabbing her arm.
“What?” she asked him. “I can tell him right where Sam is. Or at least where Lilith was. So can you,” she pointed out.
“Please…wait,” he softly entreated her.
She nodded once, deciding that she could hold her silence for now given what the angel had done for them. When Castiel dropped her arm, she felt strangely lost. Not knowing why Castiel had decided to rebel, and feeling uncomfortable with just him and her in Chuck’s living room, she turned to follow Dean into the kitchen.
“St. Mary’s? What is it, a convent?” he was asking Chuck as he leafed through several pages.
“Yeah,” Chuck agreed. “But you guys aren’t supposed to be there. You’re not in this story,” he told them.
Castiel glanced down at the pages on the table, blandly replying, “Yeah, well…we’re making it up as we go.”
Tabitha gasped as she suddenly felt a swelling of power that seemed to steal the very oxygen of the room. Castiel wrapped an arm behind her back to support her as the power unsteadied her balance.
The room shook and lights flickered with an aching familiarity. Even Chuck recognized the return of his archangel as he groaned, “Aw, man! Not again!”
Instead of the warning the archangel had apparently given with the small waft of power she’d felt before, Tabitha knew by the sheer magnitude she felt now that the archangel was fully unfurling his wings and meant absolute business in protecting his prophet from them.
“It’s the archangel!” Castiel shouted over the rising din, pulling Tabitha closer into his body as she panted through the all-encompassing power. Turning to Dean, he told him, “I’ll hold him off! I’ll hold them all off! Just stop Sam!”
Dean seemed to understand something Tabitha wasn’t capable of comprehending at the moment, giving her a strangely pained look as he shouted to Castiel, “What about my sister?”
“She’ll be safe here! The archangel won’t hurt her! Stop Sam!”
“Make sure she’s okay!” Dean yelled.
Tabitha managed to raise her head from where it had fallen against Castiel’s chest in time to see the angel press his palm to her brother’s forehead, sending him away.
She grabbed at the angel’s hand as Dean disappeared, panting and asking him, “What…about…my brothers?”
Castiel shook her hand from his, reaching down to cup her cheek in his warm palm as he pressed her closer into his chest, giving her a look unlike anything she’d ever seen from him. Something almost…sweet…and…tender.
“I’ve done my best for them,” he whispered to her as she stared up at him, barely hearing him over the mighty roar. “But I wanted to make sure you made it here to safety. That’s why I brought you here. You’ll be safe…here.”
The angel’s slow, even breathing was so at odds with her own shallow pants. And she briefly tried to close her eyes and concentrate on his breathing beneath her ear as she melted against him. But she only succeeded in allowing a few tears to fall wetly on her lashes.
“I wanted you to see me the way you once did…” he softly confided to her, her head rising and falling with his chest as he spoke. “…different from the other angels. I liked being…unique…different in your eyes. I didn’t want to go back to being just another angel in Heaven…nobody in particular. I wanted to be someone…unique in your eyes again. Even if only for a moment.”
Opening her eyes, she looked back up into the expectant eyes of the angel. “They’ll kill you for helping us, won’t they?” He nodded once, his eyes telling her that he was resigned to his fate. “Oh, Cas,” she softly exhaled, her hand clutching fiercely at the lapels of his trench coat. “You could never be nobody to me.”
For just a brief moment, he bent down to brush his lips across hers. It was nothing like the first fevered and impassioned kiss he’d given her in that library so many months ago. Didn’t even last a fraction of that first kiss. But she knew she’d remember every sensation of that brief, sweet brush against her lips. She’d never forget the simple peace of that chaste brush across her skin. And how it swept away the pain that had welled up in her heart for so long. Proving that the price of such pain was worth the reward of such peace.
Like all of the best things in life, it lasted for just a moment. Not even a fraction of a second. And then it was over. He pushed her back and towards Chuck, who seemed to belatedly understand and helped to support her as she struggled under the ever rising power of the archangels flexing their power.
She tried to struggle out of Chuck’s grip, but could barely muster the strength to continue her shallow pants as Castiel turned towards the bright light filling Chuck’s picture window.
He seemed almost peaceful as he waited, bathed in the light bent on ripping him away.
For just another moment though, he paused to look back at her, smiling briefly as he told her, “If angels were capable of emotions…I would have had them for you.”
Like an ocean tide, the power roared and swelled as it washed over them, filling the room with the destruction of the light as Chuck pulled Tabitha away to shield her. Away from the dying of the light. Away from the rising of the Morning Star.
A/N: Shew. That’s over. You have NO idea how hard that chapter was to write. And yet, when I got started on this one, I just sat down and wrote away at it in one sitting! I’d had this one in my mind for a while now, and I knew just how I wanted it to go.
Season 4 finally over, and on to season 5. I’m really excited about that one, because I have a LOT of fun stuff planned, and even some fun times with some of my own characters! 😉
Thanks so much to everyone who’s followed and reviewed up to this point! Thanks for helping to get us here!
And Marianne Faithfull—the alias Tab uses—is the actress that played in the cult film Lucifer Rising. She played Lilith. It just kinda tickled my funny bone to have Tabitha use it. 🙂
* Philippians 2:5-11 This is supposed to be a very effective bible verse against demons and demonic possession. Not necessarily in the show, but if you believe in that stuff in real life…I’ve read that it’s supposed to be effective against demons. Easier to remember than Latin anyway! 😉