“What happened? Where were you?” Tabitha asked from the passenger seat as Dean drove like a bat-out-of-hell for the address Castiel had given them.
“Castiel sent me into the past,” he answered shortly.
“Yeah, that’s what he told me,” she responded irritably. “But when? And better yet, why?”
Dean did a double take as he looked at his sister in the passenger seat. “What do you mean, ‘he told you?’ When?”
“After you disappeared,” she replied shortly. “Told me not to worry about you or something, and said he’d sent you into the past to see and learn what you needed to know.” She made an impatient motion with her hand. “Where and or when did he send you?”
“To Lawrence, back just before Mom and Dad got engaged.”
“You saw them? You saw Mom and Dad? Why? Why’d he send you back there? What happened?”
“Too many questions, Tab. I’ll answer them later. Right now, we gotta find Sam and figure out what the hell it is we’re supposed to stop,” he informed her, his foot pressing even further down on the gas pedal.
They finally pulled up by an old abandoned building—what looked like an old warehouse to her eyes. Tabitha had had enough of abandoned buildings to last her a while, but she shoved it aside, the need to find her little brother stronger than her unease with the locale.
Together, Dean and Tabitha edged silently through the building littered with trash and other abandoned goods. They crept carefully along, both with their pistols drawn as they looked for Sam, and finally, as they cleared several other rooms in the old building, they began hearing his voice towards a room in the back. It didn’t sound distressed, so they eased slightly as they crept closer.
Coming around a corner, they saw Sam and another woman on their feet, a strange man tied to a chair—demon, by the looks of the traps Sam had drawn.
“Is that—” Dean trailed off in a whisper.
But Tabitha saw it, too, and recognized the woman. “Yeah,” she whispered back. “The little brunette from the motel when we found Sam in Pontiac. What’s going on?”
Dean shook his head as they silently watched their brother and the woman. Sam and the demon in the chair spoke to each other, but then Sam raised his hand towards the demon, and as the siblings watched, smoke came out of the demon’s mouth, but instead of rising up and dispersing into the air, it was pulled down to the ground, the head of the man slumping forward against his chest as Sam finished.
“What the hell was that?” Tabitha whispered in shock, her hand rising to cover her mouth.
Dean’s face turned cold and hard, almost becoming someone Tabitha didn’t recognize. “That’s our brother doing something he shouldn’t,” he whispered dangerously back to his sister.
Sam had untied the man in the chair and was helping him to his feet when Dean and Tabitha came through the doorway into the room where a surprised Sam had halted.
“So, anything you want to tell us, Sam?” Dean asked, that dangerous edge still present in his tone.
“Dean, just hold on, okay,” Sam pleaded, setting the man back down in the chair. “Let me—”
“You gonna say, ‘let me explain?'” Dean interrupted. “You’re gonna explain this?” he said, gesturing angrily about the darkened room.
Dean kept walking closer to their brother as he talked, his expression making perfectly clear what his thoughts were. “How about this?” he continued. “Why don’t you start with who she is and what the hell is she doing here?” Dean demanded gesturing at the woman.
Sam was nearly shaking, his eyes darting about nervously before he turned away from the hard stares of his brother and sister, turning to look instead at the brunette interloper.
The woman looked at Dean with an air of familiarity, smiling as she said, “It’s good to see you again, Dean.” She turned a bit to include Tabitha in her greeting, her smirk broadening. “And it’s nice to finally meet you, Tabitha. We haven’t really been introduced yet.”
Tabitha moved closer to her brothers, her arms folding over her chest as she scowled at the strange woman.
“Ruby?” Dean asked incredulously. He turned to Sam asking in a tone that begged his younger brother to deny his sinking realization. “Is that Ruby?”
Sam didn’t speak, but his expression clearly told them it was.
“Ruby?” Tabitha repeated in surprise. “What the hell are you doing running around behind our backs with a demon, Sam?” They may not have met, but in the months she’d been with Bobby, she had heard of the demon.
Dean scoffed, and before his siblings could react, grabbed the demon by her shoulders and shoved her back against an industrial shelving unit, pulling the demon knife from his belt as he started to swing it down towards Ruby’s chest.
Sam reacted quicker than Tabitha did, grabbing Dean’s arm to halt the knife’s path, shouting, “Don’t!” as they struggled for control of the blade.
Tabitha quickly interceded, grabbing the demon by one shoulder and yanking her away from her feuding brothers, shoving her behind her back as Sam wrested the knife from Dean.
Anger still boiling, Dean spun around, ready to take on the demon barehanded.
“Enough, Dean,” Tabitha growled warningly at her brother, at least managing to stop his angry march.
“Thanks for that,” the demon whispered behind her, her hand descending lightly onto Tabitha’s shoulder and squeezing like an old friend.
Tabitha twirled around as she knocked the hand away. “Keep your damn hands off me!” she ordered furiously. “I didn’t do that because I want to be your buddy. I did that because despite what you are, you did help my brothers out occasionally. But I’ll only go so far in defense of a damn demon.”
Ruby’s eyes narrowed angrily as she stepped forward, her fist swinging up in a hook towards Tabitha. But years of training made it easy for Tabitha to deflect the blow with her forearm, knocking Ruby a step sideways with a well-placed shove before the demon regained her balance.
“Ruby, stop it,” Sam suddenly ordered, even as Dean grabbed his sister by one arm. It was a tossup if he was trying to hold her back, or anchoring himself to her elbow to keep himself from launching forward again.
The demon halted at Sam’s words, but glared angrily at his older siblings.
Dean sneered at the demon, “Well, aren’t you an obedient little bitch?”
“Ruby,” Sam called again when the demon eagerly leaned forward. “Ruby… he’s hurt,” Sam told her, pointing to the injured man in the chair when he had her attention. “Go.”
Glancing once more at the pair, Ruby turned and went to the man, sliding her shoulders under one of his arms as she hoisted him to his feet.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Dean demanded.
“The ER… unless you want to go another round first,” Ruby taunted.
Dean had released his sister’s arm, but she returned the favor, grabbing his when he leaned forward.
With another sneer on her face, the demon drug the man out of the room.
Tabitha glanced between her brothers, and then nodded silently to Dean as she trailed out of the room after the demon. No matter what was going on between the demon and her younger brother, Tabitha still didn’t trust a demon.
When she exited the building, the demon was helping the man slide into the passenger seat of her car.
“Come to make sure I didn’t eat him?” Ruby hurled at Tabitha as she swung around, slamming the passenger door shut with the motion.
With her arms crossed uneasily, Tabitha nodded. “Something like that.”
Ruby took a step closer, the gleam in her eye saying she was still itching for a fight. “I haven’t hurt that guy. And because of your brother, he’s still alive. You should be happy. You should be proud of Sam. Not pissed off at him because you don’t like the methods.”
Tabitha held her ground, fighting her own urge to step closer and knock the demon woman on her ass. “And just what damage is that doing to Sam, whatever the hell is it he’s doing? Just what’s the cost? ‘Cause anything a demon’s helping him to do, has a cost to it. And you and I both know it.”
Ruby shrugged as if it didn’t matter. “Sam’s a big boy. He can make his own decisions. He doesn’t need his older brother and sister telling him every decision to make. He knows what the costs are, and he’s decided saving lives outweighs it.”
Leaning forward, Tabitha whispered in a deathly serious tone, “Does Sam really know what the costs are? ‘Cause you and I both know, you’re not telling him everything, otherwise, you wouldn’t be so worried about me and Dean finding out about what you’ve been doing.”
The two women stared each other down for another minute, both eagerly waiting for the other to make the first move.
Finally, Ruby made an impatient noise, turning away and getting in her car. “I’ve got to get this guy to the ER,” she explained in bored tones.
Tabitha watched as the demon drove away, fighting the urge to get in the Impala and follow the demon, but knowing she needed to check on her brothers. Much as she hated leaving an innocent with a demon, she knew her brothers had to come first.
Just as Tabitha was about to walk back into the building, Dean came barreling out, nearly running over his sister.
“Whoa,” she said, quickly righting herself and jumping out of his warpath. “Where’s the fire?”
Dean didn’t respond, just strode past her to the Impala.
“Dean!” she called out, trying to stop him. “What’s going on? Where’s Sam?”
Her brother finally paused as he stood between the open driver’s door and the car, looking impatiently over the roof of the Impala as he commanded, “Let’s go.”
“Where’s Sam?” she repeated, throwing a look over her shoulder for their brother.
“I don’t give a damn!” he shouted, his hand banging down on the black roof.
Tabitha jumped despite herself, knowing how angry he had to be if he was abusing his baby that way. “We can’t leave without Sam,” she told him. “No matter how angry you are with him.”
“Get in the car,” he ordered again, pointing an imperious finger against the same roof he’d hit.
Tabitha stepped forward, but stopped several feet short of the car with her hands on her hips as she growled back, “Enough of this, Dean. I get that you’re pissed. The whole world does. But we’re not going anywhere without Sammy.”
Her brother threw an angry gesture towards the building. “Fine. Stay here with him. I’m leaving. But he doesn’t need you anymore than he needs me apparently!”
Before she could respond, Dean crawled into the car and drove off to the sound of screeching and squealing tires.
As she watched the oldest Winchester race away, she felt the youngest come out of the building to stand beside her to watch.
Her fingers dug into her hips as she grumbled quietly to herself, “I’m starting to have flashbacks to those fantasies I had as a kid where I was an only child.”
Looking up, she saw Sam’s worried face staring in the direction their brother had disappeared. “Come on,” she told him. “It’s a long walk until we can get to a part of town that’ll have cabs so we can get back to the motel.”
Sam fell in step beside her, but didn’t speak as he sullenly shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans.
“Dean’s pissed, but he’ll show back up at the motel when he’s cooled down,” she assured her younger brother.
“You don’t know that,” he finally whispered in a small voice.
“It’s just Dean,” she maintained. “He’s always been a bit of a hothead.”
Silence fell again as they made the long trek to a part of town were a cab might pick them up at these ungodly early morning hours.
“Talk,” Tabitha finally commanded as they entered their motel room.
Sam folded himself into one of the chairs at the small table, opening his laptop as he absently asked, “About what?”
Tabitha had bent over near her bed to pick up her bag, pulling the holster for her gun out and sliding the Glock in. At her brother’s answer, she shoved the pistol and holster into her bag and threw it down on top of her bed. “Dammit Sam, don’t do that. Don’t play dumb with me. What the hell are you doing with that demon?”
“I’m saving lives,” he defended.
“With a demon?” she asked, her head shaking in disbelief. “Do you even have any idea what the repercussions are to what you’re doing?”
“I’m fine,” he insisted with a careless shrug. “Don’t worry about me.”
“‘Don’t worry,'” she repeated, pacing several steps beside her bed. “All I do is worry. It’s kind of my right as your sister,” she reminded him. “Don’t you get how dangerous this is, Sam? I’m worried about you. You’ve already been dead once, and Dean’s been dead and sent to Hell! Of course I’m worried about you two!”
Tabitha knew whatever Sam was doing was dangerous. Dangerous enough that a damn angel had come to tell Dean and her to stop what Sam was doing. And that should have terrified Tabitha more than it did. But the truth was, she couldn’t believe that her brother was doing anything evil, not purposefully anyway. She was far more terrified that he was hurting himself more in the long run than him supposedly being of harm to others. And she couldn’t shake the feeling in her gut that told her there was more to the demon—Ruby—than Sam could see. Or was letting himself see.
Maybe you’re just letting the fact that you didn’t know Casey was possessed, color your feelings, some part of her subconscious wondered. Maybe the fact that you don’t know what that demon had wanted with you makes you paranoid of all demons.
Turning away from her, Sam visibly focused his attention on his laptop as he said, “I know what I’m doing.”
Striding forward, Tabitha leaned her hands down on the table as she argued. “You may think you know what’s going on, Sam, but you know better. You know demons always have another agenda going on that they’re not telling you. She isn’t helping you save humans out of the goodness of her heart. I’d be surprised if she even has one.”
Sam stood up, angrily shouting back as he pointed an accusatory finger at his sister. “What right do you have to tell me that I’m doing wrong, or that I don’t know what I’m doing? You haven’t been here. You don’t know what I’ve been through or what’s been happening, so don’t come in here like you know better than I do.” He pushed past her as he grabbed a warm beer off the table, cracking the bottle open and taking a long swig. “And what right do you have to say I should stay away from this demon, weren’t you screwing one not so long ago?”
Tabitha ignored the pain in her chest that his words caused, ignored the pain of her fingernails digging into her palms, and ignored the strongest pain in her heart at the mention of a man she had cared a great deal for and respected. She hadn’t even realized Dean had shared that information with their younger brother, though it shouldn’t have surprised her.
Closing her eyes as she ignored the insult, she pleaded in a whisper filled with dread, “Please tell me you’re not sleeping with her.”
When she opened her eyes, Sam had his back turned to her. The hunch of his shoulders and the tightness of his back was answer enough, though as she continued, “There’s a difference between choosing to sleep with a demon, and sleeping with someone you didn’t realize was demon ridden at the time.”
She had tried to keep the emotion and hurt out of her voice as she spoke, but it must have seeped through.
Looking over his shoulder, Sam whispered regretfully, “I’m sorry. That was uncalled for and I shouldn’t have said it.”
With a sigh, Tabitha agreed, “No. You shouldn’t have.” She stepped beside her brother and bumped his arm companionably with her shoulder as she continued, “But I shouldn’t have yelled at you either. Guess I’m getting as bad as Dean about being a hothead.” She laughed as she said it, and Sam joined her with a small laugh, even a small smile growing.
“Naw, not quite as bad. You didn’t drive off without me,” he reminded.
“We still have to talk,” she replied to her brother.
Sam ran a hand through his hair, letting out a shaky sigh. “I don’t know what to say,” he told her.
Tabitha grabbed another of the beer bottles off the dresser in the room, twisting the top off as she gestured back to the table where Sam had been sitting. “Let’s have a seat and you can just start wherever you need to.”
The beer was warm but smooth going down Tabitha’s throat as she sat across from Sam. She was past her college days of swigging warm beer at four in the morning, but she had a feeling she was going to need the beer to take the edge off the coming conversation.
Sam sat nursing his own warm beer, his eyes fastened studiously on the bottle as he avoided looking up at his sister.
“How ’bout let’s start with when this all began,” Tabitha suggested. “And how it is that was Ruby back there. From what you and Bobby told me, I thought she had been sent back to Hell by Lilith or something.”
Nodding, Sam answered, “Yeah. She was, I guess. But she got back out again, and found me a while after I’d taken off looking for a way to bring Dean back.”
When he didn’t continue, Tabitha prompted, “And what, she started teaching you to do whatever it was that happened back there?”
Looking up to meet her eyes, Sam insisted, “I’m exorcising demons. I’m helping people.”
Tabitha took a deep breath as she thought it over, trying not to overreact again. “But you kept it from us. You kept it from Dean, and you kept it from me even before that. So you must have realized something wasn’t right with what you were doing.”
Sam suddenly unfolded from his chair and began pacing in the motel room, the room quickly seeming much smaller with his nervous movements.
“Of course I kept it from you,” he told her, not meeting her eyes as he paced. “I knew what you and Dean would think. I knew the way you’d look at me. Like I’m a freak. Like there’s something wrong with me. And maybe there is. But I’m using it to do something good. So what’s wrong with that?”
“Road to Hell and all that,” Tabitha carefully said. She didn’t miss the slight tensing of her brother’s shoulders at her offhand comment. So he’s already considered that it might be wrong, despite his best intentions, she thought to herself.
She wanted to reach out and stop Sam’s nervous pacing, but she had the feeling he needed to keep moving to work off the nervous energy coursing through him. So instead, she carefully leaned back in the cheap, wobbly motel chair as she spoke. “And you’re not a freak, Sam. This isn’t your fault, it was done to you. Being different isn’t unique to you. Everyone’s different. But just because you are different, doesn’t mean you should try to manipulate it for your own uses like this. Isn’t that what Azazel wanted you to do anyway, to use it? Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to use it.”
Still pacing, Sam glanced up at her, but didn’t speak or stop moving.
Finally, he said, “You don’t know what it’s like to be different. You don’t know what it’s like to be a freak.”
Tabitha laughed, surprising her brother as he stopped to stare at her.
“I know exactly what it’s like to be a freak, Sam,” she told him as she bitterly shook her head. “I always felt different—like a freak—when I was with my FBI colleagues. They’d all be looking for blood spatter, prints, or witnesses. I was looking for that and hex bags, symbols, emf, or sulfur. And doing my damnedest to make sure they didn’t realize what I was looking around for. I get feeling like a freak, Sam. But this,” she said, gesturing towards him, “what you’re doing goes beyond feeling like you’re not like everyone else. You’re choosing to make yourself different.”
Sam leaned against the short wall jutting out near the bathroom as he faced his sister. “It’s still not the same thing, Tabby. You felt different because you know more about what’s out there than the people you work with did. I’m different because of what’s inside of me. Because of what I can do. It’s not the same,” he repeated as he sighed, taking his seat across from his sister again.
Tabitha felt the urge to tell her brother more. To tell him that she was apparently different as well. But the words wouldn’t come out.
She could tell herself it was because she didn’t want to talk about something she wasn’t sure she understood herself, but the truth was, she was afraid to tell her brothers.
Just as afraid to tell them as Sam had been of them finding out his secret.
She didn’t want to be any more of a freak than Sam wanted to.
She saw her brother’s motivations more clearly than he realized—saw his fear—and she knew she needed to reach him, needed to help him with the things he couldn’t go to Dean with. The same things she knew she couldn’t go to Dean with. Seeing that her brother had settled down some, Tabitha reached her hand across the table, laying it with her palm up. An open invitation, careful not to force him.
He sighed and smiled almost ruefully as he took her much smaller hand in his.
“I know it’s different, Sam. But I also know that you’re my little brother and I’ll love you no matter what. And you can tell me anything. Even things I don’t agree with and don’t understand. And I’ll still love you.”
They sat in silence for only a few more minutes before they heard the distinctive rumble of the Impala drive up. As the siblings had sat talking, the sun had begun to rise, turning the sky to a light gray as Dean opened the motel door and stalked into the room.
Dean ignored the pair, steadily grabbing his things and packing his bags as Tabitha and Sam stood from the table.
“Dean, what are you doing?” Sam finally asked. “What, are you—are you leaving?”
The oldest Winchester continued packing, uncaring it seemed of the pain in Sam’s voice as he spoke.
“You don’t need me,” Dean calmly explained, the way he shoved his hanging shirts into a duffel bag belying the emotion he was barely containing. “You and Ruby go fight demons. Tabitha can go back to the FBI. Everyone will be real happy.”
“Dean, don’t be ridiculous,” Tabitha broke in, annoyed by the theatrics.
Dean kept walking for the door, ignoring them both. Trying to stop him, Sam reached out to snag a hold of his brother’s elbow.
Tabitha jerked in surprise when Dean spun into Sam, throwing a mean right hook. She jumped closer to the brothers, ready to intercede if she needed to, but knowing full well, some things had to be settled physically between men, especially her brothers.
“You satisfied?” Sam asked, blood trickling from his lip.
His answer came in the form of another right hook as Dean stared angrily at Sam.
Jumping between the boys, Tabitha braced her hands on her older brother’s shoulders. “That’s enough, Dean,” she quietly told him as Sam spoke.
“Guess not,” the youngest Winchester replied as he straightened up, wiping away the blood.
She tried to hold Dean in place, but he wrenched her hands away from his shoulders, gripping her wrists in his hands as he gapped down at her. “You’re gonna take his side?” he asked unbelievingly.
“I’m not taking sides, Dean. But this has got to stop. This isn’t about right or wrong right now. He’s our brother,” she explained.
“‘Not about right or wrong,'” he repeated. “Well it’s pretty damn clear that it is about right and wrong. Or else a damn angel wouldn’t have told us to stop it.” He stared over Tabitha’s shoulder at Sam as he continued stepping closer, saying, “Do you even know how far off the reservation you’ve gone? How far from normal? From human?”
“I’m just exorcising demons,” Sam maintained. The same as he’d told his sister.
“With your mind!” Dean bellowed.
Sam looked down guiltily, but didn’t respond.
Not finished yet, Dean demanded, “What else can you do?”
To his credit, Sam didn’t hesitate in answering, “I can send them back to Hell. It only works with demons, and that’s it.”
“What else can you do?!” Dean shouted, shoving Sam back against the wall.
“I told you!” Sam shouted back as Tabitha tried to pry Dean away from their younger brother.
“Stop, Dean,” she begged him. “That’s enough!”
Dean stepped back as his sister shoved them apart again. “And I have every reason in the world to believe that,” Dean pointed out.
“You don’t exactly make it easy to tell you things like this,” Tabitha threw angrily at Dean.
He rounded on her. “Don’t you make excuses for him. He should have told us this, and you know it!”
Sam broke in. “Look, I should have said something. I’m sorry, guys. I am. But try to see the other side here.”
“The other side?!” Dean shouted.
“I’m pulling demons out of innocent people.”
“Use the knife!”
“The knife kills the victim!” Sam shouted back. “What I do, most of them survive! Look, I’ve saved more people in the last five months than we save in a year.”
Dean whispered in return, “That what Ruby wants you to think? Huh? Kind of like the way she tricked you into using your powers? Slippery slope, brother. Just wait and see. Because it’s gonna get darker and darker, and god knows where it ends.”
Tabitha sank heavily onto the end of the bed at hearing Dean voice the very same worries and concerns she’d had, somehow making them more real and terrifying than before.
“You know how I feel, Sam,” she croaked, suddenly so exhausted she barely felt like she could find her voice. Looking up at Sam, she repeated. “Road to Hell, little brother. You know I have the same fears Dean does. You think you’re helping people, and that’s great, but I’m selfish, I guess, because I don’t want you to keep doing this and continuing to incur whatever cost there is for doing it. And it can only get worse.”
“I’m not gonna let it go too far,” Sam argued.
Dean chuckled mirthlessly. As he turned away, hurling his hand at the lamp on the nightstand and sending it flying at the wall as he whipped back around. “It’s already gone too far, Sam.” He stepped closer and whispered, “If I didn’t know you… I would want to hunt you.”
Tabitha felt bitter tears well in her eyes at Dean’s words, pleading softly, “Stop it, Dean. Don’t say things like that. It isn’t helping.”
But Dean continued in a shaky voice, “And so would other hunters.”
“You were gone,” Sam explained, pain laced in his voice. “I was here. I had to keep on fighting without you. And what I’m doing… it works.”
Wiping at the tears with the back of her hands, Tabitha stood and faced Sam. “But I was here, too. And I was hurting just as much as you were, Sam. You could have come to me. I would have gone with you to hunt. I would have helped you,” she told him, her voice breaking. “You didn’t come to me because you knew you shouldn’t have been doing it.”
“It works,” he repeated.
Dean shook his head. “So tell me, if it’s so terrific… then why’d you lie about it to us? Why did an angel tell us to stop you?”
Sam’s eyes jerked up at that. “What?”
Dean continued softly, “Cas said that if we don’t stop you, he will. See, what that means, Sam—that means that God doesn’t want you doing this. So, are you just gonna stand there and tell us that everything is all good?”
Sam looked away as tears filled his eyes, unable to meet the stares of his siblings.
Before Dean could continue, Sam’s phone rang. As her brother answered it, Tabitha went to stand at the motel window, staring out at the empty, rundown parking lot as she listened to her brother take the information for what was certain to be another hunt.
She listened absently as Sam explained that another hunter was asking them to look into a case for him.
“So are you coming or not, Dean?” Sam suddenly asked. “We need to look into this for Travis.”
In the silence that followed, Dean finally answered, “Fine. Let’s do this. Get the car loaded.” She could hear them moving around behind her, and then Dean continued, “But this isn’t over.”
Tabitha’s eyes closed tiredly in the gray light of the early morning sun, rubbing her fingers against her throbbing temples, exhausted by the incredibly long night, made longer by the scant sleep she had managed to get since her strange vampire hunt.
“You coming, Tab?” Dean called behind her.
She turned to see him gathering his own bags, still not meeting her eyes, and not seeming much happier with her than he was with Sam.
Yes, she thought to herself, all is bright and cheerful in the Winchester family. Just like old times.
She silently gathered her own bags and quickly followed her brothers out the door.
Ought to be one hell of a fun ride, she bitterly thought to herself.
A/N: As always, let me know what you think!