Tabitha huffed as she rolled her aching neck back and forth on her shoulders, pushing back from her hunched position over the laptop she’d been bent over for the past four hours. Pushing back, she stood, her back popping and cracking as she unbent it as well.
“Damn,” she mumbled to herself, “I’m getting too old to spend this many hours glued to a computer screen. This isn’t college anymore.”
She swallowed the last of her long since flat beer, and decided to take a shower. Researching the bizarre case that had brought them to Pennsylvania wasn’t getting her anywhere, and if she knew her brothers—which she did—she knew they would have called it a night by now and long since found themselves one of the many German-themed taverns to wet their considerable whistle at. So she figured she was more than justified in knocking off for a few hours to order a pizza and take a shower while she waited for her food.
Dean had put her under strict orders to stay in the motel room while her brothers worked this case—and while she even agreed with the principle that she needed to lay low until they were sure the smoke surrounding Agent Tabitha Winchester had died down—she still chafed at being put on the bench.
Being confined to the crappy motel room for a second night was the worst part. She’d never done well being stuck in any one place. It was one of the reasons she had loved the FBI—always a new case in a new location.
She was starting to feel like she was getting cabin fever and the four tacky walls with their seventies-style flower wallpaper were closing in on her. Or maybe it was motel fever. Surely, that had to be a clinical diagnosis, right?
Shaking her head, she called and placed her order at a local pizzeria—never having been a fan of the chain pizza shops—and climbed in the shower to wash away the stench of her motel fever during her half-hour wait for her meal to be delivered.
Tabitha was still towel drying her hair as she carried her iPod out of the bathroom, singing along loudly to an Aerosmith song as she dropped her damp towel on the foot of the bed, shaking her hair out as she left it to finish air-drying.
“What are you researching?”
Her feet nearly caught beneath her as Tabitha jumped and tried to spin around all at once, gasping as she pressed a hand to her suddenly pounding heart.
“Dammit, Cas!” she breathed as she righted herself. “You scared the shit out of me! Knock next time or something. You about gave me a heart attack,” she told the angel as she lowered onto the bed, yanking the wet towel from beneath her when she felt the water was seeping through her cotton boxer sleep-shorts.
The angel was sitting in the seat she had previously occupied at the table, turned sideways in it to face her, his appearance, as usual, completely unchanged.
“What do you want me to ‘knock?'” he asked, his head tilting slightly to the side as he questioned her.
Tabitha finally cracked a smile as she shook her head. “Never mind. Just let me know the next time you’re going to show up out of thin air like that. You know, make some noise, say something. It’s lucky I had already changed in the bathroom and didn’t walk out here naked or something.”
“I don’t understand,” he told her, staring at her with his usual open, earnest, but confused gaze. “I did speak. And what would it matter if you walked out clothed or not? You’re no different than other humans I’ve observed clothed or unclothed.”
Snorting, Tabitha crossed her arms over her ratty sleep t-shirt and explained, “Here’s another tip from woman to angel: Don’t tell a woman she hasn’t got anything you haven’t seen before. Every woman, no matter how ugly, deep down wants to believe that her body is so hot, that it outranks anything you’ve ever seen before.”
Castiel continued staring at her, his eyes drawing together in confusion. “You want me to tell you that your body is ‘hot?'” he finally inquired.
Tabitha shook her head again as she ran a hand over her face to hide her laughter. “I guess this is what I get for trying to explain human complexities to an angel.” Looking back up at the angel still patiently awaiting her response, she continued, “Like I said before, never mind. I don’t know why I expect you to act or speak like normal humans do, anyway.”
“What are you researching?” he asked again, gesturing at the open laptop on the table in front of his chair. He seemed to jump from topic to topic without any regard to that last topic, sometimes making Tabitha feel like she was getting conversational whiplash.
Running her fingers through her hair to loosely comb it, Tabitha briefly explained, “I’m not sure to be honest. It’s a strange case. Vampires and werewolves it looks like. Only not real vampires or werewolves. Nothing’s right about the kills. It seems more like how vampires or werewolves kill in movies, not real life. I’d say it was a hoax by an obsessed movie buff, but something strong did this. I’m just not sure what would emulate movies like this.”
“I’m certain you’ll find your culprit,” Castiel assured her.
Before she could continue, a knock sounded at the door. Grabbing cash from her purse, she went to the door and paid for her steaming pizza, her mouth watering at the spicy aroma wafting from the box.
She set the box down on the table, sitting across the way from the angel as he silently cataloged her movements.
Contemplating her cheap can of beer, she lamented to the angel, “It’s not fair that Dean’s forcing me to stay in this tacky motel room and drink cheap swill when he gets to enjoy Oktoberfest and real beer. It’s got to be considered some kind of torture or cruel and unusual punishment.”
Castiel glanced down at the can in her hands. “What’s wrong with this beer?” he curiously asked.
Tabitha used the tab to pop open the beer. “For one, it’s in a can. There’s nothing like good beer on tap. And for another, it’s just whatever cheap brand Dean happened to have in his trunk.”
As she glanced up from opening her can, she looked across the table to see that the angel was gone. She paused with her can partway to her mouth and then set it down. “Okay,” she slowly drew out. “Not strange at all. Definitely need to teach the angel how to say goodbye though,” she mumbled as she flipped open the pizza box, bending down to smell the delicious supreme pizza.
She grabbed a slice out of the box, and then let the lid close on the pizza to keep it warm. As she lifted the slice balanced in her hand to her mouth, she stopped, just managing to choke back a gasp at the angel that had suddenly reappeared across from her.
“You have got to stop popping in and out like that. Humans just aren’t used to it,” she crossly told the angel as she set her slice down on top of the pizza box.
Castiel held something across the table to her, and she finally looked down from his face to see what his hands held.
“Where’d you get that?” she laughed, eagerly reaching across to accept the German-style beer stein he held towards her.
“A bar across town,” he simply answered. “You said it was better than what you had here and that you couldn’t leave this room,” he shrugged.
She took a healthy swig from the tall stein, humming her appreciation at the stout autumn lager, just the perfect hint of sweetness to it. Maybe even orange, Tabitha considered as she took another drink.
“Thank you,” she happily told the angel. “Sure as hell makes being stuck in this motel room a little easier.”
The angel nodded, but seemed content to sit and watch her.
Feeling uncomfortable, Tabitha set the mug down, picked up her slice, and asked the angel, “You didn’t get one for yourself?”
Castiel shrugged slightly. “Angels don’t need food or drink,” he explained.
“Yeah, but you can, right? I mean, you’re in a human body, so you can drink and eat if you wanted.”
“I suppose. But there isn’t any need.”
“Come on,” Tabitha scoffed. “Drinking a good beer is a need all on its own, whether you need it to survive or not. Have you ever even tasted beer?” The angel silently shook his head. “Then you should at least get yourself a beer, too. And you can try some of my pizza. I got plenty in case one or both of the guys came back and were still hungry. You don’t know what you’re missing until you try pizza and beer. I lived on it in college.”
The angel sat and stared at her for a moment, but Tabitha held his gaze, raising a challenging eyebrow as she waited for his move.
Suddenly, he disappeared, and Tabitha grinned in satisfaction as she reached across the table to clear her laptop out of Castiel’s way. She’d just sat back down in her seat, curling her bare legs beneath her, when Castiel reappeared in his seat once more, another large beer stein sitting on the table in front of him.
Castiel sat with his hands in his lap, staring down at the mug on the table.
“Go on,” Tabitha encouraged. “It’s not going to bite.” She paused. “Well, it’s a good bite anyway,” she corrected with a grin.
Glancing up at Tabitha, Castiel cautiously reached out and brought the mug to his lips, taking a small sip, and then with a hum of approval, took a longer drink.
“Told you you’d like it,” Tabitha laughed, opening the pizza box and turning it towards the angel. “Next step to nirvana: pizza.”
Castiel reached into the box, and just as cautiously slid his hand under a slice, lifting it upwards and frowning when the cheese pulled and stretched in the air between his slice and one still in the box. “This can’t be appetizing food,” he said as he stared at the stringy cheese. He leaned forward and sniffed it. “Certainly not a step to a transcendent state. It smells strange,” he added.
Tabitha laughed harder than she’d laughed in a long time, reaching out to break the cheese apart so he could lift his slice out of the box. “Guess humans and angels have different ideas of bliss. Just try it,” she told him through her laughter.
He sniffed it one more time, but finally took a decent bite of it, his eyes going wide as he chewed the slice.
“See, not so bad, huh? Maybe not bliss, but it depends on your standards and expectations. Mine are pretty low I guess. Plus it’s great with beer,” she told him.
He nodded and tried another gulp of the beer.
Still laughing, Tabitha licked marinara from her fingers and then reached into the box for another slice, wondering to herself if drinking beer and eating pizza with an angel was either the start of a joke, or some kind of blasphemy she was engaging in.
Castiel didn’t seem as impressed with the pizza as he did with the beer, so after finishing the slice she’d given him, he declined another. But he continued drinking from the tall mug, she noted.
“Why are you here, Cas?” Tabitha finally got around to asking. “Not that I’m complaining, but is there something going on or something you needed?”
The angel shook his head, his eyes fixated steadily on the tabletop as though he were afraid to look up. “You said that you considered me a friend. It was my understanding of human interactions and relationships that friends spend time with one another,” he deliberately spoke. His expression was drawn, as though he wasn’t sure of what he was saying or if it was right. But his eyes darted up to look at her, almost shyly, as though afraid to hold her gaze.
She nodded and gave the angel an encouraging smile to let him know he wasn’t wrong. “That’s right. Friends do that. And of course you’re welcome to drop by anytime. It’s definitely more fun talking to you than staring at these walls while Dean has me under motel-arrest.”
Silence lapsed for a few minutes. The angel seemed unconcerned by it, finally relaxing in his chair and silently drinking from his mug. Tabitha found she wasn’t even all that uncomfortable in the silence as she tended to be with a lot of people. But then she started to feel guilty that Castiel was trying to figure out human friendships and she wasn’t finding anything to say.
“How have you been, Cas?” she finally asked as she finished a slice of pizza and leaned back in her chair to continue sipping her beer.
The angel’s brow knit together in confusion as he gazed across at her. “I’m fine,” he stiffly told her. But the look on his face told Tabitha he didn’t really understand this part of human conversation either.
She leaned forward again as she set her mug down on the table. “It’s something friends ask each other, Castiel. They ask each other how the other one is doing, and what’s going on in their lives. Friends tell each other what’s happening and if they’re having problems, or tell each other the good things that are going on, too.”
The angel’s expression didn’t change as he stared down at his own mug on the table. But he finally looked up to meet her eyes as he spoke in a grave tone, “Things are difficult. We’ve saved many seals. But there are too many seals to save them all. Too many possibilities. And Lilith only needs to break a fraction of them to succeed,” he heavily told her. “I’ve lost many brothers and sisters, and my brethren don’t know what it means. Heaven is becoming chaotic.”
Tabitha swallowed hard at his confession. It wasn’t the lighthearted conversation that normal human friends had, but then, she knew she had to stop expecting the angel to be like other humans. She had told him to tell her his problems. And this was certainly a problem.
“That’s a lot to take in,” she whispered in return. “But I have to ask, Castiel, if things are going this badly, and Heaven is becoming such a mess, why do you keep showing up down here? Why do you keep seeking me out? I mean, I’m not complaining, like I said, I consider you a friend, and you’ve saved my life and my brother’s life, but I don’t understand why you would want to spend time with me when all this is going on.”
Castiel stood and walked away from her. She almost thought he was going to disappear again, but he merely walked to the window and looked out between the partial opening of the drapes.
Not wanting to push him, Tabitha stayed in her seat and waited for the angel to speak when he was ready.
“It’s more peaceful here than in Heaven,” he suddenly whispered to the dark shadows on the other side of the glass.
“‘Peaceful?'” Tabitha repeated in surprise. “I would think Heaven is more peaceful than Earth is. It’s more like a mad mob down here.”
Castiel closed the drapes all the way and shook his head as he turned around to face her, leaning backwards against the now closed drapes. “It’s more peaceful in your presence than it is with my brothers and sisters. In Heaven, my superiors only make demands of me for more progress and more answers. The rest of the angels only have more questions for me as well. More demands for what is happening and what will happen.”
“I’ve made demands and asked you questions you couldn’t answer, too, ya know,” she quietly reminded him, guilt lacing her words at the realization.
Castiel nodded, drawing his arms behind his back as he continued explaining, “Yes. You ask the same questions I ask my own superiors. But you also offer words of kindness. Concern. Angels don’t offer each other such things. Only make demands for more answers.”
Tabitha tried to swallow again, but found her mouth had gone dry at the angel’s admission. She felt like she should respond, but didn’t know what to say to the angel.
Seeing her silence, Castiel went on. “When I’m in Heaven, all I feel is… a tightness in my heart. A weight. When I am here with you… it lifts; the tightness in my heart eases. What is that? What is it I feel when I come to see you?” His words had taken on an almost desperate and pleading quality as he spoke. He pushed away from the window, striding closer to stand in front of Tabitha, staring down into her eyes where she still sat.
Tabitha pushed from the chair to stand up, feeling uncomfortable with the angel looming over her. “You feel like the pressure fades away?” she tentatively asked for clarification. He nodded, still eagerly awaiting her answer. “That’s comfort, Cas. It’s the comfort of friendship. That’s what you feel.”
The angel’s eyes drew together further as he continued his intense stare. “Do you feel this… comfort, too?”
“Yeah, of course I do, Castiel,” she lightly told the angel, grabbing his hand in hers and leading him back to the table. The discussion had become entirely too somber she decided. “Believe me, the way you keep saving my butt, I definitely feel comfort when you’re around. Plus you’re not all over my ass about everything and worrying about me stepping foot outside like Sam and Dean are lately.”
Castiel walked with her back to the table, but stayed standing when she gestured for him to sit again.
“I can’t stay longer,” he apologized to her. “I must return to Heaven.”
She was starting to recognize the slight stirring of power that accompanied his arrivals and departs, so she reached out to grab the hand she had previously released.
“You can come back any time you need to, Cas. I may not understand everything that’s going on in Heaven, but you can still tell me. Or if you just want to sit and share a beer and some pizza again, we can do that, too,” she assured the angel.
Before he could respond, she wrapped one arm loosely around his torso to give him a half-hug. “Be careful, Castiel. Take care of yourself, my friend.”
She released the angel and stepped back. Castiel paused, looking down at the woman in front of him, nodding slightly as he said, “Thank you.”
And then, he was gone.
“How have things been going?” Bobby asked as they leaned side by side against his Chevelle, each sipping from a bottle of beer.
She held her free hand out in front of her, tipping it from side to side. “So-so,” she told the older hunter. “Some days I want to throttle both of the boys for hovering over me and trying to make me stay in whatever motel we’re staying in. But then other days aren’t so bad. ‘Course, then I wake up,” she grinned.
Bobby snorted beside her. “I meant how have things been going with you since your demon showdown in Virginia,” he clarified.
“I know what you meant,” she answered, her feet sliding out further from the car as she leaned her back more fully against it.
Bobby didn’t turn towards her or move, but cleared his throat pointedly. “I’m expecting an answer here, girl.”
Smiling at Bobby’s dig, she finally answered, “I’m just fine, Bobby. It’s going as well as I can expect. My life kinda turned upside down on me. But hell, it had over five months ago, didn’t it? At least I still had hunting to come back to. Not sure what other kind of job my skills with a handgun were supposed to land me. Can’t wear a badge anymore, not for real. Maybe it’s better this way.”
“Balls!” Bobby swore as he finally turned to face her. “You’re as stubborn and prideful about showing your pain as your dern father and brothers. But I know you liked that job, and I know you’re upset about those people they’re saying you killed. You don’t have to pretend you’re not upset about it.”
Tabitha glanced over at the Impala where Sam and Dean were loading the last of their gear. Dean in particular was itching to get on the road and away from Rock Ridge, Colorado. Not that she could blame him. She knew she and Sam weren’t likely to let their oldest brother forget anytime soon how afraid the ghost sickness had made him of everything. From heights, driving too fast, and even to the point of being chased by some little toy-breed dog. If she were Dean, she’d want to put this little burg in their review mirror as quickly as possible, too.
“Of course I’m upset,” she responded, bringing herself back to the conversation with Bobby. When Dean’s “sickness” had put him out of commission, she and Sam had called Bobby to get him to come help “cure” their brother before his time ran out. But now she was regretting his helpfulness. “And I did kill those people, Bobby,” she reminded him.
“Yeah, but they were possessed,” he defended.
“Yeah,” she agreed with a heavy sigh, “they were possessed.” But it still seemed to her like that was the real problem. Not so much that she had killed them. By that point, she hadn’t had much other choice. What she felt guiltiest about, was that they had been possessed because of her in the first place.
“You sure you don’t want to cool your heels for a while and get over what happened in Virginia?” Bobby asked. “My place is always open to you. You haven’t really taken any time since it happened. You and the boys have been pretty much working one case after another since you left my place.”
Tabitha turned to lean sideways against the car, facing Bobby. “Is that something you really ever get over, Bobby? Does time actually make you feel any less guilt for killing friends, demon possession or not?”
Bobby’s silence was answer enough.
“That’s what I thought,” she told him. “Better to keep moving and take out a few more of those demons when and where I can, and help the boys take out a few monsters along the way, too. Besides, I hear there’s this whole apocalypse thing coming our way, so I might as well hang around and do what I can to help stop it.”
The older hunter grunted in response. “You three getting any closer to finding out more on that score?” he asked.
“No. Not really. Still looking through some old texts I’ve got.”
The pair turned to lean their backs against the car again.
“How are things going with the boys anyway? They doing alright?” Bobby finally asked.
Shrugging, Tabitha honestly answered, “Some days, I think nothing’s changed since the days we all hunted with Dad. But most days… I’m just not that sure what to say or do with them. Dean’s doing better trusting Sam, but sometimes I can still see the suspicion in his eyes.”
“And Sam? Did he really agree to stop the mind tricks?” Bobby pushed.
“Yeah, Dean told me that Sam had said he was really worried about the road it might lead down, and had promised on his own that he was done. And most of the time, I think he’s doing fine. He really has great instincts as a hunter, and he’s better at interviewing witnesses than Dean is—better at relating and sympathizing with them. Better even than I was trained by the FBI to be.”
“But?” Bobby pressed in the intervening silence.
“But… I don’t know. I can’t give any proof or anything, but he still doesn’t seem right to me, Bobby. Something still feels off. Sometimes, the way he looks at me… I just don’t know what’s going through that big head of his,” she whispered lowly as she looked away from Bobby. “I guess I’m just worried about him,” she confessed.
Beside her, Bobby sighed, but didn’t have anything to offer her. Finally, he asked, “But you three are getting along better?”
She turned back to face him. “Yeah. The boys are mostly getting along better, I think. And Sam’s finally letting up on me getting back out on hunts after the Virginia thing. Especially after he had to let me help him here with Dean being too afraid to leave the motel room and all. I just wish Dean would finally let up on me and let me off the leash he’s trying to keep me on. It’s been a couple of weeks now, and Agent Tabitha Winchester has been officially declared dead. They’re not looking for me anymore. He doesn’t need to keep trying to place me under motel-arrest all the time.”
“He’s just being cautious,” Bobby defended. “You said it yourself. It’s only been a couple of weeks since that all went down. It’s not that long. Maybe you should hang back for a while yet. Even if the Feds aren’t looking for you, doesn’t mean the demons won’t still try to grab you to use against your brothers.”
Tabitha patently ignored the fact that the demons seemed to have other reasons for hunting her down. “I’ll be fine,” she assured Bobby with a roll of her eyes.
“What are you guys talking about?” Dean asked as the brothers walked up to join them by Bobby’s car.
Tabitha glanced at Bobby and winked at him out of the corner of her eye. “I was just telling Bobby about the case, and trying to make sure I was telling him all the accurate pieces of information in case some other hunter runs across this again.” Turning to her older brother, she pointed her half-empty bottle at him and asked, “Now, I wasn’t sure, but was it a full-size Yorkshire Terrier that was chasing you and going to kill you, or a toy Yorkie?”
“Shut up,” he intoned grumpily, hiding a smile, and swiping the bottle from her hands, downing the remaining beer in several swallows.
Bobby kept a straight face as he picked up the reins from Tabitha. “No, she’s right. I really should know the particulars in case another hunter comes across this ghost sickness again. Or do ya think the Yorkshire was another matter altogether? Did it have fangs? Was it cursed? Maybe it was a ghost Yorkie.”
Dean pushed away from the Chevelle, walking backwards towards his Impala as he waved the empty bottle at the other hunter. “That’s it, you’re dead, old man,” he threatened cheekily. “You can just keep the two of them, too,” he said, pointing at his sister and brother as he turned and climbed into the driver’s seat of his car.
“See ya, Bobby,” Sam laughed as he turned to follow his brother.
Tabitha gave the man a quick hug, turning to jog several steps backwards towards the Impala. “Sorry, Bobby! I gotta go, they’re still my ride. And I wouldn’t put it past Dean to try and take off without me.”
Bobby smiled to himself as he watched the Winchester trio drive away. Even without his talk with Tabitha, he’d seen the strain between the siblings. But he was glad to see some lighthearted banter between them as well.
He’d truly worry about them if and when that disappeared altogether.
A/N: Well, general consensus appears to be that you guys like the longer chapters, so that’s what I’ll try to keep in mind for the future. But like I said, some will be longer or shorter just by their nature, and this one was a shorter filler chapter. It covers two episodes where Tabitha isn’t really affecting anything, so I didn’t see the need to rehash those episodes, even though the Yellow Fever episode is one of my faves.
And now, I have actually come to the point where I’m posting my last finished chapter. The last I don’t know how many were ones I’d already gotten ahead with in writing, but with the holidays, I’ve gotten behind in writing. Hopefully things will settle down here now though and I’ll find the groove again.
Thanks so much for the reviews! And be sure to leave more, they’re crack for writers! 😉
And have a wonderful New Year’s Eve! I’ll see you next year! Hope ’13 doesn’t turn out to be an unlucky one!