Sweat was trickling down Tabitha’s face by the time she jogged back down Bobby’s driveway, despite the still cool fall air. The last several hundred feet, she slowed to a walk, trying to cool down her exerted muscles. When she reached the front porch, she braced her arm on the railing, bending over to stretch her muscles as they continued cooling.
Suddenly she felt the headphones of her iPod ripped out of her ears.
“Where the hell have you been?” Dean demanded. “We woke up and you were gone.”
She gestured down at her sweat covered running pants and zip-up sweatshirt. “I went for a run. No big deal. You guys were still sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake you.”
Dean calmed down by a few degrees as he stood on the steps of the porch, running a hand through his hair. “Just… leave a note next time. Scared the crap out of us when we couldn’t find you. Especially after last night.”
“All right,” she sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m just not used to having to tell anyone what I’m doing or where I’m going.”
She paused to give her brother a dramatic and playful hug as she climbed the steps, laughing as he tried to push her away.
“Ugh, gross,” he complained, pushing at her shoulders. “You stink. What is with this sick obsession you and Sam have for running when nothing is chasing you? Didn’t you get enough exercise last night?”
She jogged up the steps and into the house, taking note of her younger brother at the table eating breakfast and reading the paper.
“I was just out jogging,” she called to Sam, “since Dean informs me that the two of you were so worried.”
Her little brother didn’t even look up. “Huh, yeah. Jogging. I told Dean it would be something like that.”
Tabitha pinned her older brother with a smug smile. “See. He wasn’t worried about me. I’m going to take a shower,” she called over her shoulder as she jogged up the steps.
Tabitha dropped into a chair between her brothers, plunking her laptop on the table along with a plate of scrambled eggs from the stove.
“Thanks for saving me some bacon,” she complained as she powered on her computer.
“I don’t get it,” Dean said. “Why would you eat bacon after doing the whole running for fitness thing?”
Tabitha took a piece of toast from Dean’s plate. “I run so I can eat bacon. So save me some next time.” Plus, she added to herself, running always helps with the guilt from a rare cigarette or my chocolate addiction.
They ate in silence for a time as the men read the various papers Bobby usually received and Tabitha checked her email.
But it didn’t last for long, and soon Dean was telling them about Castiel invading his dreams and what the angel had told him. Tabitha kept her head down and her attention on her laptop, afraid if she looked up, one of her brothers would see something in her face that gave her away. Guilt ate at her for keeping the whole hearing-the-angel’s-voice thing a secret, but she was more worried about telling them the truth than keeping it from them.
“Can you believe this, Tab? What do you think, if you believe in angels and God, do you believe in the Devil, too?” Dean asked her after posing the same question of their brother.
“I guess, I don’t know,” she answered vaguely, and then tried to quickly change the discussion, hoping to distract from the current topic. “Hey guys,” she called to her brothers, gesturing to her computer with her hands. “I think I’ve got a case here.”
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, Tab,” Sam complained, but leaned over to look at her screen. “These are police and FBI reports.” As he spoke, he gave her an appreciative and impressed smile.
She hurriedly chewed her mouthful, washing it down with coffee. “Yeah, some files a friend emailed to me. He wanted a second opinion.”
“I thought you said you were on leave?” Dean asked. “Why’s the FBI emailing you case files?”
She pointed at her laptop. “The FBI isn’t, my friend is. He knows I’m on leave, he just wanted another opinion.”
“So? What is it?” Dean asked.
“I think a vamp in Ohio. There’s been a string of girls disappearing,” she explained.
Dean shook his head, standing to take his dishes to the sink. “Missing girls doesn’t necessarily mean vamps, Tab. And why is this guy asking your opinion on abductions. I thought violent crimes was your thing.”
Tabitha stood as well, placing her dishes in the sink as she hurriedly explained, “It is. But there was blood found at the scenes where the women were taken. But not just their blood, an unknown male sample as well. So the FBI is thinking signs of a struggle.”
Sam turned around at the table to face the two. “Okay, starting to sound a little more interesting, but still not necessarily a vamp just because of a little blood. And those girls are missing, not drained and dead.”
Tabitha hurried to the table, picking up her computer and showing them the screen. “Yeah, but I found additional police reports from Cleveland. The girls have been disappearing from suburbs, but there have been deaths in some of the slum areas of Cleveland. Gangbangers with torn up necks and missing a lot of blood. Nobody’s connecting them because they’re assuming the deaths are simply gang violence.”
“That could be vamps, but not necessarily related to the missing girls,” Dean agreed. “And if they are, why take girls from suburbs and dudes from the inner city? Some sorta taste preference?” he grinned.
“I think the girls are getting turned in those suburbs, Dean, and then they’re hunting in the city for blood.”
Dean seemed to give her idea some thought. “You got autopsy photos of the dead guys by chance?”
But his sister shook her head. “No. I haven’t told Evans that I think the cases are related, and I can’t make an FBI request to see local police reports right now.”
“I’m still not sure,” Dean started.
“Come on, Dean. I may have been out of the hands-on part of hunting for a while, but I still know what to look for. Hell, I’ve been tossing you and other hunters cases for years,” she insisted, crossing her arms as she held her ground.
“Look, I can buy into the dudes with the torn up necks being vamp food, but why are you so certain those girls are related?” Dean asked mimicking her stance and trying to stare her down.
Tabitha fought the slightest twitch of her lips. Dean was only slightly taller than she was and had never intimidated her. She’d seen his protectiveness for his siblings too many times to be subdued by his harsh stare alone.
“Call it a gut feeling,” she told him. “I’ve learned to trust my instincts.”
Dean continued to stare for a few more moments, but Tabitha met the challenge, refusing to back down.
“Fine,” he suddenly agreed. “We’ve got no idea where to go with this angel business anyway, and I’d rather hunt a vampire than sit around watching you two.”
Tabitha grinned as he turned away back into the living room.
Sam returned her grin, seeming genuinely happy that she had found a case for the three of them to hunt together. “I’ll go pack,” he piped up with a smile.
Suddenly, Dean stuck his head back into the kitchen. “I don’t suppose I can talk you into heading back to Virginia and letting Sam and me handle this alone, can I?”
Tabitha’s eyes narrowed in a scowl. “I told you, I’m sticking around until we know more about what’s going on with you.”
Dean huffed an exaggerated sound of frustration, and his sister’s expression eased to see his lightened mood. “Fine. Fine,” he told her. “Couldn’t blame me for trying though. At least a vampire hunt should be simple enough for your first hunt back.”
He disappeared back into the living room, but Tabitha yelled after him, “I’m an FBI agent! It’s not like I’ve been playing simple civilian all this time.”
Tabitha lounged in the back of the Impala as Dean drove and Sam rode shotgun. She really wasn’t all that upset by it; it was nice having the whole backseat to herself so she could stretch out and sleep if she wanted to.
But at the moment, she was relaxing with her feet stretched across and resting behind Sam’s head as she looked through files on her computer. She’d finally gotten Evans to email her some of the witness statements from the abduction cases and she didn’t want to miss any important details.
“Find anything new?” Dean asked as he turned a Kiss song down.
“Not really,” Tabitha admitted as she closed her laptop and shoved it back in her briefcase. “Just that none of the girls were at those bars looking for a guy or anything. Two were separated from their friends on the dance floor, and one disappeared before her friend showed up to meet her. But they all fit the same basic profile. Blonde, mid to late-twenties, pretty and outgoing, and from what their friends say, flirtatious. But according to those friends, much as they flirted, none of them was looking for a guy. Two already had boyfriends, and the other wasn’t looking from her friends’ statements.”
As she finished putting her laptop away, Tabitha pulled out the stack of IDs and badges Bobby had given her before they left. He said he had a feeling she would need the false IDs and had had a friend cobble them for her. She knew as a Fed she shouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but she’d been very touched by Bobby’s thoughtfulness, and practical enough to know how useful they’d be since she couldn’t flash her own real credentials.
“What about the attacks on the guys?” Sam asked as he turned partly in his seat.
“I don’t know for sure,” Tabitha shrugged, coming back to the conversation. “I’ve managed to hack into the local police database, but there weren’t any eyewitness statements of the attacks, just whoever finds the bodies, and they don’t have those statements posted in their database yet.”
“But you’re still sure those missing girls are connected?” Dean pressed, trying to look at his sister in the review mirror.
“Yeah. Something’s hunting those girls, Dean. Someone with enough charm and skill to get three intelligent girls to leave the safety of their friends in the company of a stranger. So it’s someone with experience at this, and the skills of a predator.”
“Maybe,” Dean conceded, but turned the music back up and returned his attention to the road.
Sam gave her a small smile, but didn’t speak for or against her theory, making Tabitha wonder just whose side he backed. But as she relaxed into the bench seat to take a nap, she knew it didn’t make a difference. She felt it in her gut that these cases were related, and her brothers would just have to wait and see.
Tabitha had chosen not to wait in the car as her brothers booked a room in a nondescript, rundown motel. It wasn’t the kind the FBI usually sprung for, but it reminded her of the years she had hunted with her brothers and father.
“Yeah, you got two rooms available?” Dean was asking the pimply-faced kid behind the counter. “One single and one double would be great, but I want them next to each other.”
At first, Tabitha was pleased with the thought of having her own room, but then a feeling of unease settled in. She’d usually had her own room with the Feds—or shared with another female agent if there was one working on the case—but hunting with her brothers and father, they’d always shared one room, cramming in to make it work. Of course, their father never had been wild about the idea of his daughter being out of his sight, or that of her brothers, even in her teenage years when she’d begged for her own room and own space. He claimed they were able to look out for each other better that way and Tabitha couldn’t argue now with his reasoning, suddenly unsure if it was a good idea for them to be separated now, even at night.
But she smiled as she thought of one way to change her brother’s mind without him really noticing it was her idea.
Stepping closer to Dean as the kid looked through his list of open rooms, she grinned and drawled, “I get my own room? Aww, thanks dad. Does that mean I can have boys over and everything?”
Both of her brothers turned to shoot dirty looks at her, but Dean immediately turned back to the teenager. “Scratch that. We’ll take one room. And a cot if you got it.”
Tabitha merely shrugged, fighting back a grin at her brother’s predictability.
The rest of the day had been spent in a tattoo parlor and shopping. The latter had been at Tabitha’s insistence since she had only packed her civvies for her stay at Bobby’s place and didn’t have any of her work suits with her.
But the tattoo parlor had been at her brothers’ insistence, much to her surprise.
“You want me to get a tattoo?” she asked incredulously.
“Yeah,” Dean responded simply, his arms folded over his chest again.
“You want me to get a tattoo?” she repeated, shaking her head as they stood outside the Impala at the first tattoo shop they’d come across in Cleveland near their motel. “What? Maybe a tramp-stamp with butterflies or hearts or something equally as stupid?”
Dean undid the first several buttons on his dark shirt, pulling it to one side to show an emblem with a pentagram in the center of a circle and what looked almost like flames around it, tattooed on his own chest. Tabitha leaned closer to look, and then turned to see that Sam had also opened his shirt and was sporting the same tat.
“It’s an anti-possession symbol against demons,” he told her, buttoning his shirt again.
“We’re hunting vampires,” Tabitha reminded, her brows drawing together in confusion. “Besides,” she added, pulling a necklace out from under her own shirt, “I still have my anti-possession charm that dad gave me years ago when we were all hunting.”
“Nope,” Dean shook his head. “Charms can be taken or lost. You’re getting a tat before we hunt anything. Just in case,” he warned.
Tabitha shrugged, not really against the principle of getting a tattoo, and agreeing with her normally reckless brother, that safe was better than sorry. “Fine,” she told them, “but I’m checking this place out to make sure I find a decent tattoo artist who won’t botch it and to make sure they’re up to health codes.”
An hour later, she was reclined more or less comfortably on the tattoo artist’s table on her stomach, her jeans pushed down and a towel covering the area the tattoo artist wasn’t working on.
Sam and Dean had refused to leave the suddenly cramped room, but neither would they face Tabitha while she was getting inked.
“Do you really have to get it on your ass?” Dean complained as he continued sulkily staring at the wall.
“Yeah,” Sam added uncomfortably, “why not on your arm or back or something?”
Tabitha pushed up on her elbows as she spoke to their backs. “I’m not getting a tattoo of a strange emblem on my arm or back for my friends or colleagues to see and ask about, and I’m not gonna get one where I’m always having to be careful about what I can wear and still cover the tat. If you guys don’t like it, you can wait out in the outer room.”
They grumbled, but neither one left.
“They always like this?” Crissy, her tattoo artist asked.
Tabitha looked over her shoulder at the woman. She was short with pixie cut brunette hair. Tab wondered if the girl was even five-foot tall since she had to stand on a small stool to work. Tabitha considered her quite pretty, maybe not in the conventional sense—she had too many tattoos and piercings covering her exposed skin for that—but still, they brought a hard edge to the soft femininity her small frame gave her, the hard well complementing the soft side of her.
“Yeah,” Tabitha confirmed. “They’re always like that.”
Crissy made a polite noise as Tabitha went back to laying her head on her folded arms.
“So,” the shorter woman politely inquired, “what’s the deal with you all having the same tat? Some kind of gang thing? Or something to show you belong to these two hunks?”
“No,” Tabitha quickly answered as her brothers made choking noises. She quickly thought on her feet, so to speak, as she lied, “It’s the same tattoo our father had. And we all agreed to get one like his to remember him.”
“Cool,” Crissy answered. “But why are your brothers so concerned if you get another tattoo on your ass? Not like it’s their business.”
“Another?” Dean repeated, whirling around to face her.
Tabitha felt the blood rush to her face as she stared him in the eyes with her head still reclined on her arms. “It’s none of your business. I got it one drunken night after me and Sammy left for college.” She pushed up on her elbows again, raising a challenging eyebrow. “Why? You wanna see it?”
Dean whipped around again, grumbling under his breath as Tabitha looked over her shoulder once more.
Crissy grinned wickedly. “Sorry, I assumed they didn’t know, and I couldn’t resist tweaking them.”
“Thanks,” Tabitha drawled sarcastically, and then lay back down again. She couldn’t wait for this to be over.
It was late when Tabitha limped into their motel room later that night, carrying several shopping bags with her purchases from earlier in the day. She dropped them beside the bed nearest the bathroom and flopped down on her stomach, grumbling, “I’m taking this bed.”
As she looked across the room, she saw her brothers staring at the remaining bed, and then they turned to each other and quickly played a silent game of rock-paper-scissors. Sam won, and Tabitha began feeling guilty as she saw their older brother’s scowl as he spread a blanket out on the floor. There hadn’t been any cots available, and Tabitha suddenly felt like she should take the floor since she had gotten the guys to have just one room.
“I can take the floor, Dean,” she offered, starting to push off the bed she’d commandeered.
Her brother flopped over on his back. “Nope. You can have the bed tonight, especially seeing how you just got a fresh tat.” She opened her mouth to speak, but Dean cut her off without even opening his eyes. “Go to sleep, Tab.”
She huffed, and decided to go change in the bathroom since she was already up. While she was in the bathroom she decided to shower, and then she decided to take the time to smooth more Bacitracin on the fresh ink, admiring little Crissy’s handiwork in the mirror as she did so. Once she was finished, she began wrapping an ace bandage over some plastic wrap and the tattoo. Tabitha wasn’t the kind of woman who necessarily liked to get a lot of tattoos—the first had been a drunken idea—but she figured if she was going to get one more, she wanted it to look good and heal well.
And she was suddenly glad that they were already in Cleveland and didn’t have to spend a ton of hours sitting in the car driving anywhere. It probably wasn’t going to be much fun sitting for the next several days as it was.
When she finally came out of the bathroom, she saw that both of her brothers had fallen fast asleep. And she was reminded again of how removed she felt from them. All day they had talked about past cases and joked around with each other in shorthand and inside jokes that she was mostly left out of. She didn’t begrudge them their closeness, in fact, she was glad to see how well they still got along after Dean had been gone for four months, but she couldn’t help the pang of feeling like an outsider. It was a painful reminder of what she’d felt before she finally left to follow Sam.
She’d never been quite one of the guys. She hunted with them, researched alongside Sam, could shoot a pistol, rifle, or shotgun as well as Dean, but their father had always tried to keep her separate. It was one of the reasons she’d started taking online courses the last several years she’d been with them, needing to do something that was all her own. And partly why it had been so easy for her to walk away with Sam when he had.
But things were different now. Their father was dead, and she knew the truth was, she wasn’t the same girl she had been back then, anyway.
She just had to figure out where she fit into things now.
Because the truth was, even if she went back to Virginia tomorrow, she knew she would never go back to staying so out of touch with her brothers.
They were back in her life, and she was keeping them there if she could help it.
Tabitha groaned as she carefully rolled over in bed, trying to slip onto her side without jostling her tender flesh too badly. But as she rolled over and rearranged her pillow, she became aware of a pained moan echoing in the room. Lifting her head, she could see that it wasn’t Sam, who was sprawled out in the other bed, his mouth partly open as soft snores escaped.
So it had to be Dean. She rolled to her feet and tiptoed closer to him, seeing that he was tossing slightly as his moans increased, a look of pain or anguish marring his normally jovial face.
Kneeling beside him, she gently nudged his shoulder. “Dean. Wake up, Dean,” she whispered.
He jerked up so quickly that Tabitha fell back on her butt to keep from being clocked in the head with his noggin, groaning at the pain as she fell on her tender flesh.
“You alright? What’s wrong, Tab?” Dean demanded in a whisper, grabbing her shoulders.
She pushed onto her knees again, rubbing lightly at the tender skin of her tattoo. “I’m fine,” she assured him, focusing her attention on him. “It was you I was worried about, Dean. You were moaning in your sleep like someone was skinning you alive. Are you okay?”
Tabitha didn’t miss the way his eyes widened fearfully at her words, darting almost nervously around the room. “I’m fine. Must have been a dream. I don’t even remember,” he hurriedly told her.
“Bullshit!” she nearly shouted, barely remembering to drop her voice as Sam continued to sleep unaware. “You seem to forget, Dean. I’m a Fed. We’re good at body language and reading lies. And I’m especially good at reading your lies. What’s going on? What were you dreaming?” she demanded.
Dean jumped to his feet and paced inside the room, looking like a caged animal desperate for escape.
“It’s nothing, Tab. I don’t remember, really,” he insisted. But his lie was no more convincing to her a second time around.
She pushed to her feet as well, stepping in front of her brother to halt his pacing, and grabbing his hand as she pulled him to her bed. As she pulled him down to sit on the edge of her bed, she told him, “You can tell me anything, Dean. I’ll always be here for you.”
He didn’t say anything, just silently sat on the bed as he stared at the floor. But he hadn’t released her hand.
“You remember Hell, don’t you?” she whispered, almost afraid to say the words and spook him.
Dean tensed, and she knew he was going to spring up again, so she tightened her grip, and turned to face him more, ignoring the pain sitting on the bed caused her new tattoo. “I mean it, Dean. You can tell me anything. And don’t you dare try to lie to me again and say you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
“Fine. I won’t lie,” Dean said, and then proceeded to say nothing.
Tabitha sighed in frustration. What could she say? It wasn’t as though she could say she understood what it was like in Hell, or that she even had an inkling as to what it was that happened there. If he didn’t want to talk, she couldn’t force him.
“You don’t have to tell me,” she finally whispered, staring down at their hands. “But I know you’ve been having trouble sleeping. You don’t have to hide that. And if you ever want to talk, I’ll listen. You’ve always tried to look after Sam and me. Let us return the favor.”
She felt Dean turn to look at her, so she lifted her head to meet his gaze.
“What about you? You haven’t been sleeping that well, either,” he pointed out.
She opened her mouth to deny it, but his glare made her shut her mouth abruptly as she remembered waking from a nightmare as she napped in the back of the car just that afternoon.
Tabitha shrugged. “It’s no big deal,” she told him. “Not anywhere on the scale of having been in Hell.”
Dean’s gaze darkened slightly, but he didn’t turn away. “About that guy from Bobby’s? Casey, right?”
She only nodded.
“You said he was your partner,” Dean continued, “but he seemed awful up-close-and-personal when I found you. And I heard some of the stuff he said to you. Want to talk about it?”
Tabitha felt the heat build in her cheeks and her eyebrows climb. “I doubt that’s really something you want to talk about,” she evaded.
Dean’s cheek turned white as he seemed to bite it before continuing calmly. “I told you, I heard some of what he said. So I already know you were sleeping with the guy. Did you love him?”
She immediately shook her head, trying her damnedest not to sound or act like a sixteen-year-old virgin as she discussed her personal life with her brother. She was a grown woman, and if she could chose to do something stupid like sleeping with her partner, she knew she should be grown up enough to discuss it. Still, it felt strange telling Dean.
“No,” she quickly responded. “I didn’t love him. But we’d been together as partners for a while. We were good friends. He was funny, smart, good-looking, and we were friends. It just sorta happened.” She cleared her throat nervously. “And then it just kept happening. It’s hard to have a normal dating life when you’re an FBI agent and always being sent all over the country. We knew all those little things about each other that normally only couples know about each other.” She shrugged again. “It just happened.”
Dean was silent for a moment before he asked with obvious discomfort, “And I take it the FBI doesn’t condone that sort of thing?”
“No,” she answered with a shake. “But after he was killed in the explosion, they did a standard investigation into his death, and it didn’t take long for them to discover that he’d been spending a lot of time at my home. Too much time. That’s really why I’m on leave. They told me I had to. Either that or I’d be put on suspension and it would go on my record what happened between us. I went on ‘leave’ only a few days before Bobby called to tell me about you. So I didn’t think twice about leaving Virginia and coming back.”
“And you had no clue the guy was possessed?” he asked, reaching over with his other hand to cover hers with both of his strong hands.
“No. He was acting strange those last several weeks, but we’d just come off a tough case where several kids had been murdered and more had disappeared, and I just thought it had gotten to him. Her voice dropped as she whispered, “How could I not have known?” As she spoke, she looked away, ashamed at her ignorance of her own partner. A man she’d even been sharing her bed with.
Dean suddenly pulled her into his side, offering her the same familiar comfort he’d always given when they were children. “You can’t know everything. Not even you, Super Special Agent Winchester,” he chuckled softly.
Tabitha smiled as well. “What about you? Are you even going to be able to get back to sleep?”
She could almost feel the smile melt from his face. “I doubt it, but why don’t you get some sleep,” he told her, gently pushing her back towards the bed.
Moving across the bed, she also pulled him with her, patting the space beside her on the queen bed as she leaned against the headboard, mostly sitting upright. He looked at her curiously, but allowed her to pull him down until his head was resting on her legs as she ran her fingers through his hair, humming a soft lullaby she remembered singing to her brothers when they’d been little and couldn’t sleep.
“Do you remember Mom singing that to us?” Dean asked sleepily.
“No,” she whispered. “But sometimes I think I do. Who knows if what I remember is real or not?” In truth, she only had a handful of memories of their mother, and even those, she wasn’t sure if they were real, or fabricated in her mind after hearing stories from their father and from Dean.
As Dean’s breathing evened out again, she finally felt like she’d fallen back into place with her brothers. At least for the moment.
The sudden sound of flapping wings had Tabitha tensing as she looked up. But she gave a shaky sigh when she saw Castiel in his familiar trench coat standing only a few feet away from her.
“It’s kinda terrifying the way you can just show up like that,” she whispered to the angel.
“Why are you still here?” Castiel asked her as he wandered around the foot of the bed, looking at the papers with the news reports of the dead gang members they’d collected that day.
Tabitha paused to look down at her brother still sleeping with his head on her lap, and her younger brother still sleeping in his bed unaware of their visitor.
“We just got here today. What do you mean, ‘what are you still doing here?'” she asked, completely confused by what the angel meant.
He turned to fully face her, looking down at where she still sat, his arms folded behind his back. “I don’t mean them. I mean you. What are you still doing here? It was hoped that you would return to your life and stay out of the dangers your brothers are facing.”
Tabitha shifted to get up, but felt Dean slightly tense at the movement. Not wanting to disturb what little sleep he seemed to get, she froze, annoyed that she couldn’t stand to face the angel.
“I don’t get it. Why do you care if I’m here with my brothers or not,” she huffed, careful not to raise her voice and wake Sam or Dean.
“I am only—” the angel started to say.
“Following orders,” she cut him off. “Yeah, you’ve said that. But despite what you’ve told Dean and I, we still don’t know why the hell angels give one whit about us. And honestly, it’s a little terrifying not knowing why you’re interested in us. I’m starting to think that angels aren’t much different from humans in that you don’t do something for nothing. So forgive me if I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Castiel stood staring at her in the silence that followed her words. She knew it might not have been prudent, but she couldn’t help the need to know what was going on.
“I just don’t like being clueless,” she finally told the silent angel.
Castiel finally sighed when it appeared Tabitha wasn’t going to back down and stepped closer to her as he spoke, his arms still folded behind his back as he leaned down towards her. “I cannot help that you are clueless for I don’t know any more than you do. Heaven has something in mind for you and your brother, some purpose, but it hasn’t been revealed to me.”
“So how do we find out?” Tabitha whispered, looking over at her two sleeping brothers.
“‘We?'” he repeated, leaning back from her a little in surprise.
“Well, yeah, I don’t know any other angels. Who else is going to help us?” she reasoned.
Castiel still seemed surprised, and more than a little baffled. “You want my help specifically?” he asked.
“Well, yeah. You’re the only angel we know,” she repeated with a small laugh. Sobering, she continued, “But you’ve protected me before. And maybe it’s crazy, but my gut tells me we can trust you. You saved my brother, and that means something to me.”
The angel started to move closer to her again, turning his back to her brothers as he sat on the edge of the bed near her feet, twisting his torso to look Tabitha in the eye. “Do you really wish to know?”
“Yes,” she immediately nodded. “I know we all do. But especially Dean and I.”
For a few moments, Castiel seemed to consider something internally. “It could be difficult,” he finally told her.
Tabitha nodded. “I’m starting to get that most things are difficult when it comes to angels. Or are you not like other angels?” She smiled as she said it, trying to tease the serious angel.
But her teasing seemed to go over his head, with a serious expression on his face, he shrugged, but carefully answered, “I doubt you’d like to know what it is like to work with most of the other angels. Most other angels are… even less accustomed to dealing with humans than I am.”
There was something heavy in his tone that told Tabitha there was more to his words than he was saying, but she didn’t press him on it.
Castiel glanced over his shoulder at her brothers again, lowly saying, “It would still be best if you were not in their company. You are not accustomed to the things they face and will continue to face.”
She shook her head, her loose and mussed blond hair tossing from side to side as she did so. “Why are you so adamant about me not being here? Why do you keep asking why I’m here?”
He leaned sideways towards her, his eyes staring at her in that manner so that she felt like she was under a microscope. “I do not understand your insistence on placing yourself in danger. Your brothers are in too deep to escape it. But I do not understand why you persist in bringing yourself deeper as well. Why do you do this?”
Tabitha began to feel slightly crowded again, and leaned back against the headboard as she considered her answer, wondering why this angel even cared to know what her reasons were.
“They’re my brothers. My family—my blood. And I’ve already let them down by not being there in the past. And I won’t let them down again. So until I know what’s going on and why Heaven is interested in my brother, I’m not going anywhere. I stayed away before, and I wasn’t there when the boys were in trouble. I have to be there for them now. In whatever way I can,” she insisted. “I’m tougher than you think, you know. I can take care of myself.”
The angel didn’t respond, and suddenly stood, walking away from her to look at the articles scattered on the table.
“What are you hunting?” he asked, his back to her as he sifted through the papers.
The surprise of his question stilled Tabitha’s words for several moments, but she finally managed to say, “A vampire. At least I think so. Case came through a colleague of mine, and I’m pretty sure the missing girls and murdered men are all connected to a vampire. Maybe more than one vampire.” She glanced down at Dean again, whispering to herself, “Dean’s not so sure though.”
Castiel glanced over his shoulder at her. “You have good instincts. I saw that in the times I checked in on you when I was tasked with watching you. Trust them. Your brothers will learn to. That is if you still insist on joining them. You’ll need your instincts.”
Tabitha opened her mouth, still unsure what she was going to say, whether to thank him for believing in her when her brothers didn’t, or perhaps to finally ask him why he’d shown up in their motel room in the first place, but before she could speak, the angel disappeared with the soft flutter of wings.
But whether her brothers believed her or not, she wasn’t going anywhere. She’d made a promise to herself to do a better job of looking after her brothers, and as long as things with these angels and demons were still up in the air, and the apocalypse hanging on the horizon, she wasn’t going anywhere.
After their mother had been killed, she’d always done her best to take care of her brothers. She remembered the vague memory of Sam’s birth and how upset she’d been to no longer be the youngest child. Her mother had told her that she had to look after the boys, that it was her responsibility as their only sister to take care of them and keep them out of trouble.
And she realized with a sinking sensation, that she hadn’t been around to do that in a long time, and vowed to herself that she would do better. She’d look after them as best as she could.
A/N: Thanks so much to everyone for reading and reviewing!
Sorry this chapter took a bit to get out. I knew what point I was trying to write to in the next section of the story, and when I finally got to it, it was almost 23k words! Needless to say, I decided that was just too big a chunk to cram into one chapter, so I ended up finding good places to split it up, and it’s now four chapters. But that’s the good news, too! I’ve already got them done, so I’ll post them every so often as I continue to write.
As always, let me know what you think!