And The Wheels Start To Run Off The Road:
Crowley smiled smugly up at me from his comfortable chair, but I forced myself to ignore him the best that I could right now. I hated to admit it, but I needed the demon even more now if I wanted to live to see another day and the worst part about my predicament was that he seemed to know this fact as well and was revealing in that feat.
After taking in a long, deep breath, I slowly turned to face the smiling monster that was still standing behind the desk. As soon as he saw my face, his smile wilted away piece by piece until he had a confused frown dominating his facial features and he didn't try to hide his shock as he said, "Lonnie..." He paused for a moment so that he could compose himself and then he more cheerfully said, "Lonnie it has been a while since we last spoke... And I'm sure that you're just dying to tell me what you've been up to lately young lady."
I didn't have to turn around to know that Crowley's face had fallen out of his smug smirk at Dick's obvious familiarity with me. The Leviathan continued to smile so widely that he looked like the perfect predator while I stood there feeling like the proverbial prey. I swallowed so thickly that I'm sure that they both could hear it and I tried to come up with a witty retort, but all I could manage to get out of my overly dry mouth was a weak, "Dick..."
The Leviathan's grin actually grew wider causing me to automatically cast my eyes to the floor and open my mouth to apologize for being so informal, but Dick laughed then said, "Oh now don't you dare even think about trying to apologize Lonnie. I'm just glad that I've finally broken you of that old nasty habit of calling me 'Mr. Roman'."
That comment caused me to sneak a peek at the demon sitting behind me. Crowley caught me trying to covertly look at him so he attempted to school his face, but I was still able to briefly take in a look of pure shock from him. Even though I knew that my bought of amnesia hadn't been a widely advertised event, I still didn't expect that it would surprise the King of Hell that this monster would know me so well or to that extent. After everything I had seen in hell, I figure that Crowley had seen (and done) it all, and yet he could still be surprised by a lowly human, who knew?
While I was half turned and looking at Crowley, Dick had quietly made his way around his desk to walk closer to us. When I straightened up in my spot, I jumped slightly at his now close proximity. He reached out almost as if he was going to hug me or grab (alright maybe just touch) my arm, but I felt with every fiber of my being that I couldn't allow him to do either of those actions. I took a large step back and away from him causing Dick to drop his hands back to his sides while his grin started to fall into a profound and somewhat confused frown.
"Lonnie," he said sounding wounded in an overly dramatic way. "You used to greet me in your home with open arms. In fact, if I recall correctly it was you that insisted that we were friends and that friends should greet each other with more than just a handshake. You insisted on hugging me 'hello' and 'goodbye' despite MY protests at being that touchy feely anytime I came to your home to visit with you and Edgar."
He made no move to get closer to me, but I still took a couple more steps back to increase the distance between the Leviathan and myself quietly replying, "Yeah, I remember that, but that was..." I swallowed the end of my sentence as I wrapped my arms around myself protectively. "That was... Umm..."
The cocky smirk returned to Dick's face just before he morphed into a perfect clone of me. I jumped back a couple of feet when I heard my voice say, "That was when you had amnesia, so if I touch you now I'll have full access to ALL of your memories."
Dick somehow managed to contort my lips into his signature smirk as he seamlessly morphed back into his body. Oh shit! I silently cursed to myself as a horrific thought dawned on me. I stumbled back a few more feet under the weight of my new revelation as to why the Leviathans had been so interested in me and I didn't even notice that I had actually landed in Crowley's lap. If he reacted to my being so close to him I wasn't given any indication because I remained so lost in my own frantic thoughts.
SHIT! Shit! That's what they wanted me for… It wasn't to mess with Dean and Sam; it was to find out what I knew about the two of them. I looked towards Dick, who had thankfully moved back behind his desk, but the distance did nothing to calm my nerves. Shit... Fuck... New primary objective in life is to keep him from touching me EVER AGAIN.
"Adelaide," I heard Crowley say like he had repeated himself a few times before my name registered with me. "Adelaide..."
I still wasn't fully conscious or aware of my surroundings as I turned my head to look at the face that accompanied the voice that continued to repeat my name. Crowley lifted his left hand to gingerly touch my right cheek as he quietly said, "Adelaide... Love you don't look so well." Without realizing it, I started to shake my head emphatically in response to everything that was happening and the thoughts running through my mind. Crowley actually gave me a look that seemed to be of genuine concern as he quietly said, "It's alright... Addy... Addy it will be okay."
Crowley then turned his eyes to the other monster in the room saying, "So Dick, I assume that you 'called' me here to discuss some business, why don't we get to that?"
"Yes, yes of course," Roman agreed shaking his head to clear some of his thoughts away. He then stood, extended a hand over his desk towards me and Crowley, but he let it drop to his side almost immediately after he had it raised waist high. "Of course, but first... Lonnie? Why don't you come with me so I can take you somewhere safe so Crowley and I can have some privacy?"
That question got my attention causing me to sit up straight and to finally move to get off Crowley's lap. Thankfully I wasn't worried about looking graceful in front of either man because instead of standing up, I spilled myself onto the floor and I landed hard on my hands and knees. Since I was already on all fours, I crawled behind Crowley's chair before even attempting to stand up so I could use the chair's back to help to steady myself on my shaky legs.
I held the back of the demon's chair in a white knuckled death grip to help keep me vertical. Crowley reached over his right shoulder to pat my hand with his left hand as he said, "Although I agree that we require some privacy, I don't think that I'll be letting Adelaide go anywhere with you. That spell summons me here and Adelaide only came along for the ride because I was unfortunately holding onto her arm, so I would prefer to send her home where she belongs. She need not be involved any further than she already has been in our affairs since it was my mistake bringing her here."
"Adelaide?" Dick questioned looking me square in the eye.
I nodded and swallowed hard before quietly answering, "Yeah... Yes... That's my real name."
"Adelaide... Addy," he mused looking lost in his own thoughts once again. He started to smile and it was just on this side of sinister as he quickly morphed his face and body to look like Dean. "Lay... Right... Oh the memories he has of you." He closed his eyes as he rifled through any number of memories that Dean and I had made together. His eyes suddenly shot open as he quietly chuckled then asked, "IN their bed? You are much kinkier than I would have predicted Miss Adelaide Jones."
A warm dark blush spread from my cheeks to my ears as I turned my face away from Dean's smiling face. I would have turned my back on him but Crowley's firm grip on my wrist kept me in my place. The demon must have sensed my unease and embarrassment because he patted my hand encouragingly and then let me go completely.
"Yes, yes Dean and Addy had a steamy love affair, nothing we didn't already know," Crowley commented as if he was completely uninterested. "Now if you'd change out of that handsome visage so that we can get down to business?" He then stood up to turn and face me. "And now to send you home."
I forced myself to make eye contact with Crowley as I hoarsely whispered, "Thanks. But... Why?"
He winked then whispered, "You'll owe me one."
In the blink of an eye, I was back in my garage. My knees couldn't hold my weight and I would have like to have been able to blame the demon tele-porting me, but in all honestly I knew that it was because of my emotional distress. I landed hard on my rear end and just remained in that spot on the floor for the time being while I tried to catch my breath.
"Shit," I cursed out softly as I pulled my knees up to my chest. "Shit! What does he mean by 'you'll owe me one'? Fuck... Fuck... Whatever it is, it can't be anything good.
I don't know how long I sat there just rocking back and forth and cursing softly, but the next thing I knew, I was standing by the table holding the bowl of singed ingredients. I dumped the contents of the bowl into the garbage before turning my attention back to the table. Even though I couldn't get the look on Crowley's face off my mind, I decided to tackle a challenge that I could conquer right now: cleaning up the supplies I had used to summon Crowley in the garage.
The task was benign enough that my thoughts remained focused on trying to figure out the meaning of Crowley's last statement to me. That easily turned into my imagination coming up with all kinds of interesting and disturbing ways that the demon might try to collect on this debt. By the time I had everything put away I was shivering and felt slightly nauseated.
As I walked towards my back door, I huddled into my jacket and pulled it as tightly as I could around my torso. That didn't help to ease the shivering or my feelings of dread that had washed over me while I was in the garage because after spending some time with Crowley on his home turf, my imagination had a lot of new material to use for its 'what if' scenarios. My footsteps slowed as I thrust my hands even deeper into my pockets in the hopes that I could at least warm them up and I soon stopped and just stared at nothing while I continued to shiver violently.
With my shoulders hunched and my hands stuffed as far as they could go into my coat pockets, I stood in the middle of my yard and was now just staring at my back door. I needed to find refuge somewhere until I could shake off these thoughts and feelings, but for some reason my house didn't feel like a safe place. Well if I was being honest with myself I did actually know the reasons why my house didn't immediately inspire thoughts of safety and security, but that didn't change the fact that I still felt some unease here.
"Dammit," I sighed out violently. "So what do you do now Girly Girl?"
My eyes remained focused on the back door as my hands finally started to unclench in my pockets. I almost jumped as if something bit me when the fingers of my right hand brushed against something in my pocket. After an embarrassed laugh passed my lips, I pulled the object out slowly so that I could inspect it.
"Dammit!" I cursed with a laugh when the 'offending' item came into view. "I am such an idiot."
My hand automatically wrapped itself tightly around the key to my GTO as a smile spread across my face. My Poppy had started to refurbish his classic muscle car pretty much the day after I told him that it was 'my favoritest car ever' when I was a child and I still felt the same way about the car decades later. Sydney had tried to tarnish my memories of my Phantom (the name I gave my car the day I received it as a birthday gift), but after making it home when my amnesia had cleared those doubts were forgotten. Poppy was one of the few people in my life who always made me feel loved and protected and a ghost of those feelings always returned to me whenever I was behind the wheel of my car.
Once I was in the driver's seat, I could feel my heart rate slowing and I could feel my core thawing out. As my mind cleared I realized that I had to get away from my house. Yes Crowley could probably find me anywhere that I tried to hide, but this was the place from which he and his goons had kidnapped me and now it was the place where I had summoned him, so I assumed this would be the first place for him to come looking for me. Sure he would follow my trail and would eventually find me, but putting some distance between myself and this place felt like a good idea and I was going to go with it.
I started the car with the full intention of driving around aimlessly for a while just to be away from my house when I hear a familiar voice singing And now I love you Love you only slightly less Than I loved you Loved you And it's hard to confess But my nearly love is not real enough...
"Toby!" I whispered almost tearfully. How could I have forgotten the three people who had been my foundation for nearly a decade? I had been so used to running to them to tend to my wounds, both physical and emotional, so why hadn't I thought of them sooner? Why wasn't their house the first safe haven to come to mind?
"Fuck," I sighed out at the dashboard as I drove when the answer hit me. "Crowley... I don't want them to have to deal with him too... Shit... but he's got business with Dick so it isn't like he'll be here today or anything, right?"
That reasoning seemed to be enough to ease some of the tension in my upper back which obviously meant I wasn't feeling guilty. Right? Okay, so my stomach still felt like it was a ship stuck in the eye of a hurricane, so I knew that I was still feeling at least a little bit guilty. But about what? That was the most important question for me.
I parked behind Bill's pickup and answered aloud, "I can't believe this wasn't the first place I thought to come to and hide."
If I believe it to be true, even just a little bit, then it wasn't a lie, right? Well even if that wasn't true I was more than happy to put my faith into this lie because I didn't want to investigate those feelings any deeper right now.
Somehow I had grown used to just letting myself into the Connor's house without knocking since returning from Edgar's house. Maureen had told me numerous times that I was family and that I had my own room in their home, so there was no need for me to act like a stranger or a visitor. I of course still had a key to let myself in because Dean and I had spent nearly a year here following my horrific car accident that caused me to lose our daughter, but I still felt somewhat odd using it to unlock their door. This was a house I had lived in while I healed, but it had never truly felt like my home. Plus Maureen was in the habit of leaving the back door unlocked when they were home now that she had neighbor's close by. Since moving into town she had become more like a stereotypical fifties housewife with an open door policy for all of the neighborhood kids. Of course the endless supply of fresh chocolate chip cookies and homemade pies didn't seem to hurt to attract teenage boys to the house on a frequent basis.
At the back door I hesitated slightly with my hand over the door knob. Before I could pull it away to ball my fingers into a fist and knock, I forced myself to open the door. It was a simple action and yet it seemed to take all the willpower that I had to do it. The absurdity of this train of thought caused me to laugh self-consciously as I walked through the doorway.
I was still chuckling to myself as I quietly closed the kitchen door, but I immediately fell silent when I heard someone shout, "But that's not fair!"
Toby? I thought to myself as I made my way to the living room. Who the hell is he fighting with so loudly? I figured that I would be able to answer my own question when the other party replied, but the response must have come out too low for me to hear it because the next thing I knew, I heard Toby replying to their response.
"But all of the other guys are going to do it together! It won't be the same if I can't go with them!" Toby shouted sounding exasperated.
When I made it to the living room doorway, my question was finally answered. Toby was arguing with his mother, but unlike myself or Bill (to some extent) she didn't rise to his baiting her by raising her voice during their "conversation". Instead Maureen looked exactly as she usually did in her La-Z-Boy recliner with her latest knitting project draped across her lap.
Neither of them seemed to have noticed me, so I tried my best to remain as quiet as possible. Although it was hard for me to stifle a surprised noise when Maureen answered because her voice sounded so calm and serene especially compared to Toby's ranting and raving. "And as I told you before, that isn't a valid excuse ever to do something. You are your own person and you will make your own decisions."
"No Tobias. I warned you that issues such as this could and would come up when you decided to join the senior team. If I recall correctly, we put a situation similar to this one in the 'Con' category before you made your final decision," Maureen interrupted with the slightest hint of superiority slipping into her tone.
"I know, but," Toby tried again sounding calmer. He then noticed me standing in the doorway. Before continuing with his previous argument he pointed an accusatory finger in my direction nearly shouting with excitement. "ADDY! Addy has a tattoo and you don't think that she's a hooligan or a criminal!"
Maureen turned her head to face me and gave me a sympathetic smile in response to the shocked expression on my face. I still wasn't sure what the two of them were arguing about, but since Toby had effectively pulled me into the middle of it, I felt like I should enter the room. Maureen shook her head softly and looked like she wanted to apologize for Toby involving me in their fight but she maintained her focus on her son.
"Well Tobias," Maureen responded while turning her attention back to the blanket she was knitting. "Firstly, Adelaide isn't my daughter and the rules of her household were different for her growing up than mine are for you. Secondly..." Maureen paused there to turn and face Toby and I had to admit I was slightly taken aback by the look on her face. I had expected her to have her typical peaceful smile spreading across her face, but instead she had her own version of a smug smirk tugging at her lips as she continued her response, "If I recall correctly, Adelaide was eighteen when Victoria took her to get her protection tattoo. And as I've told you four times now, when you're eighteen like your teammates are right now and you don't require my signature on a permission slip... Well then you too can make the choice to mutilate your body as well. But since you are still a minor and you DO require parental permission to permanently disfigure yourself, which you do not and WILL NOT get, I believe that that means that this issued is concluded and no further discussion is needed."
"BUT MOM...!" Toby started with a whine, but he swiftly cut himself off when his insolent tone failed to insight any reaction from his mother. He shook his head as his facial features hardened into a deep scowl as he mumbled, "This is such bullshit."
I stared at him in wide-eyed disbelief as Maureen turned around once again to face him. I don't know what she did, but Toby actually flinched in his spot as if she had reached out and struck him. She then stood up and took a couple of steps around her chair so that he could experience the full weight of her glare causing him to shrink back against the wall behind him.
"That is more than enough out of you Tobias. I told you the argument was over so I don't want to hear another word out of you about this subject. As for your belligerent vocabulary, you are going to go to your room now and you are going to think of a way to apologize to me for being so disrespectful," Maureen stated in a severely authoritative tone without making herself sound irrationally angry. "And don't you dare get it in your head that I'm still going to let you play in that tournament this weekend. You can consider yourself grounded until further notice young man."
Toby's eyes flew open and he looked like he was nearly on the verge of tears when he tried to argue, "But..."
"I said not another word! Now go to your room and don't come out until I come to retrieve you to help me make dinner," Maureen interrupted coming dangerously close to shouting for the first time since I entered the house. Her voice held a tone of definite finality that Toby acknowledged by fleeing down the hallway to his room. To my surprise he actually closed his bedroom door quietly which I was sure was his attempt at making a small peace offering to his angry mother.
Once Toby followed her directive, Maureen turned on her heel and returned to her spot on her recliner and picked up her knitting as if the argument had never happened. It took me a couple of minutes to catch up with my racing thoughts of disbelief. Once I realized that I was still standing there with my mouth hanging open, I forced myself to close it and make my way to a spot on the couch close to Maureen's side.
"Whoa... Mo what was THAT all about?" I asked as I sat down.
She sighed heavily and shook her head as she answered, "It's so silly and petty. I'm sorry that you had to witness that ugliness Sweetheart."
"'Ugliness'?" I replied with a chuckle. "Oh that was nothing compared to the throw down, no holds barred screaming matches that I've had with Dean."
Maureen scowled softly at that statement then she said, "Of course, but to answer your earlier question Tobias was trying to convince me to agree to allow him to get a tattoo with his teammates. They've planned something out in case they win this tournament because for the majority of them this will be the last tournament with the team. After this they'll graduate and hopefully move onto college or the minor leagues."
"And you won't give him permission." I made it a statement but the stern look on Maureen's face told me that she thought that I was questioning her decision.
Before I could clarify my statement she replied, "No I will not and as I told him, that is my absolute and final decision."
"I know, I know. And not that it matters, but I agree whole-heartedly with your decision. I might argue if he was wanting to get the protection symbol tattooed on himself somewhere, but just some random design that he came up with his teammates? That has 'you'll regret it' written all over it."
Maureen's face softened immediately and she smiled warmly as she said, "I'm so relieved you agree with me. I was almost worried that he would be able to recruit you to try to convince me to let him get it done. That is if he hasn't already found a new topic to argue with me about."
"A new topic? You mean...? This isn't the first fight that he's started with you?" I asked unable to hide my disbelief because this was so out of character for Toby. He was prone to starting arguments with me, but I figured that it was because I needed the tension reliever of a screaming match as much as he did whenever we were researching and coming up with dead ends. Now I wasn't so sure that that was the actual reasoning behind his surly behavior as of late.
"No Adelaide, no it isn't," she replied with a sad sigh. "Lately it seems like all he ever does is argue with me. One day he wants to get his learner's permit, the next he doesn't have time to study for it because he's doing research on a hunt for you or working on his timing at the plate. One day he's begging me to agree to let him go out on a hunt with you then the next day he flies into a rage when I suggest calling you because he wants to spend his summer playing baseball. It seems like no matter what I say to him, it's the wrong thing. I don't know what to do anymore Adelaide, really I don't."
She sounded like she was on the verge of tears so I reached over to pull her into a tight hug to try to comfort her. "Mo I'm so sorry you've been going through all of that. Why didn't you tell me about this sooner?"
Maureen pushed out of my embrace and cupped my cheek with her hand and gave me the saddest smile I had ever seen on her face. "Sweetheart you know I appreciate all of the help that you have given us over the years when we needed a place for Tobias to stay and everything else that you've done for him, but I'm his mother. When it comes to problems with discipline and disobedience, it's myself and his father who are tasked to correct it, so there was no need to burden you with this information."
"Mo you know that it isn't a burden. You three are the only family I have left and I'll be damned if I won't do everything in my power to help you guys through any difficult times. Understood?" I proclaimed keeping my voice soft to ensure that she would hear my concern for her, Bill and Toby.
She ran her thumb over my cheek while tears started to form in her eyes as she said, "I understand and I think you might be right, maybe you can be a solution to this problem. I haven't been able to get him to confide in me, but maybe he will tell his big sister about whatever it is that has been bothering him."
I pulled her into another hug and answered against her hair, "I can only promise to try my best."
Maureen squeezed me in her arms saying, "That's all that I can ask of you. Thank you so much for what you are going to do Sweetheart. And no matter the outcome I appreciate the effort."
She let me go to pet my cheek again and I could feel my eyes starting to tear up when I noticed that she had started to cry. Her voice had remained steady and only the moisture on her cheeks served as evidence of the anguish that she was feeling about this situation. She then abruptly turned her attention back to her knitting project so I got up off the couch and walk towards Toby's room. I paused briefly to dry my eyes and cheeks on my sleeve and turned to look at the back of Maureen's head. The only other time I had seen Maureen this upset was when Toby had been abducted so I couldn't help but wonder how long this hostility between mother and son had been going on.
At Toby's bedroom door I knocked softly and received a terse, incensed reply of, "What?" in return.
I cracked the door open to pop my head in and said, "How 'bout we try that again?"
After closing the door I knocked again, trying to make it sound lighter this time. After a couple of breaths I heard a heated, "What do YOU want?"
"Whoa," I stated as I walked through the door. "I would offer to let you try greeting me again properly, but I get the feeling that I'm just going to get even more attitude from you."
"Then maybe you should take the hint and stop trying," he commented with more disdain than I thought that he could muster as he rolled over on his bed so that his back was facing me.
I pulled his chair away from his computer desk and sat down facing his bed. I wasn't sure what I could say that wouldn't result in a testy response from the teenager so I opted to remain silent. I made myself comfortable with my elbows on my knees and my chin resting on the steepled fingertips of both of my hands while I just continued to watch him breathing. His shoulders weren't shaking, so I was pretty confident that he wasn't crying and I was fairly certain that the heaving motion of his breathing was due to his numerous angry outbursts over the last hour.
Toby continued to ignore me long enough that my knees started to ache where my elbows were pressing into them, so I shifted in my seat so that I was slumped down in the chair. I could feel myself starting to scowl, so I forced my face to be more neutral to try to make it appear that I wasn't angry when he turned around to face me again. IF he ever decided to turn over to face me. No, he couldn't ignore me forever, could he?
Just as I opened my mouth to speak, I heard him heave a heavy sigh and grunted out an annoyed huff. "Seriously?" He spat out still facing the wall. He then turned over (well it looked more like a fish flopping around on a dock than a teenager rolling over onto his side) then he glared at me saying, "Me not talking to you was kind of a hint that I didn't WANT to talk with you, so... Yeah..."
"Well look at you Mister Sarcastic," I attempted to joke, but my own sullenness slipped into my tone making me sound like I was just being as bitchy as he was at the moment.
Toby's response was to roll his eyes and sit up on his bed as he said, "Yeah... Well... I learned from the best." His reply must have elicited the response that he had wanted, my face contorting into a look of astonishment, because he actually cracked a small quick smile. "But seriously Addy, I don't want to talk about it."
I nodded then smiled softly which caused him to let out a relieved sigh and to shake out most of the tension in his shoulders. I'm sure that he expected me to leave everything at that and to just get up and leave, but I had promised his mother that I would try my best to find out the truth about what was going on with him, so I couldn't allow myself to walk away from this room just yet.
"So..." I started cautiously. "What design did your teammates come up with?"
"What?" He asked in that automatic way we all do when someone catches you off guard by asking a question you weren't prepared for as opposed to not actually hearing the words that they had said.
"The tattoo... It must be a pretty awesome design for you to fight with your mom about it so much."
"Oh..." He cast his eyes to his hands folded in his lap as a dark blush spread across his cheeks. "Umm it's going to be something that looks like our own crest or something with baseball bats instead of swords and stuff."
"Really? That sounds pretty interesting. Do you have a picture of it?" I asked with genuine curiosity.
Toby was shaking his head, still staring at his hands. "No, the guys haven't finalized the design yet."
"Seriously?" I questioned through a burst of laughter causing Toby's head to shoot up so he could glare at me once again. I threw my hands up in a sign of surrender as I apologized, "Sorry I didn't mean to sound like a jerk, but usually when someone is planning on getting a tattoo they have pictures of it because they can't wait to show it off to people."
Toby shrugged then replied, "Yeah well they have a concept figured out but none of us are artists so putting it together has been kind of hard."
"But you think they'll get it done by the time the tournament is over?" Toby once again had his chin pressed to his chest and just shrugged in response to my question. I waited a moment for him to speak, but the only noise he issued was a soft sniffle. I jumped out of my seat and sat beside him on his bed. When he made no attempts to move away from me, I placed my right hand over both of his in his lap. When I spoke again I made sure to keep my voice as soft and caring as possible. "Toby? Buddy? What's going on with you? Mo says that you've been picking fights with her lately and that just doesn't sound like you. Now when you pick a fight with me... I get it because I'm a pain in the ass, but you've always gotten along so well with your mom and I can't see her pushing your buttons like I do."
Toby sniffled again loudly and twisted his body so that he could bury his face in his hands. He didn't appear to be trying to get away from me, so I took my chances and wrapped my arm around his shoulders to give him a modified side hug. As soon as I had my side pressed against his, I felt his shoulders start to shake, but him resting his head against my shoulder and letting his tears hit my shirt gave me the confirmation that I was correct.
I then wrapped my left arm around him so that I was hugging him properly. "Toby? Come on... Please tell me what has you so upset. Please?"
He shook his head and replied against my shoulder, "You'll think it's stupid."
"No I won't Buddy. If it's important enough to bring you to tears then I'm sure I won't think that it's stupid."
He continued to cry quietly so I just rubbed soothing circles on his upper back. The longer he cried the more certain I became that there was something more than just a few fights with his mother that was bothering the teen that I held in my arms.
"Hey… Hey… Tobs it's okay… Whatever it is, we'll figure it out… Just take your time Bubby… There's no rush," I whispered against his ear. He continued to cry quietly so I tried my best just to give him the time he needed to get this angst out of his system so that he would hopefully be able to talk with me or at least clue me into whatever the hell was happening with him lately.
After an unknown amount of time, I felt Toby squeeze me in his arms as he took in a couple of slow, deep, calming breaths. Although his tears had subsided, Toby's breathing was still too quick and too shallow for me to think that he had become completely calm. The fact that he was still clinging to me seemed like a good sign, however his lack of discourse kept me slightly on edge.
I continued running my hands up and down Toby's back while rubbing circles on his tense muscles at random intervals because there wasn't much else I could think of to do right now. In the back of my mind I knew that this was one of my sure fire ways to help Dean relax, but I refused to allow myself to consciously acknowledge that fact. I had to force myself no to think of him in this moment because I had to remember that Dean and I were no longer able to play the roles of 'Mum and Dad', especially now that we were no longer a part of each other's lives. I instead had to force myself to revert back to my old way of thinking, the way I had adopted when Dean and I split up for the first time, the one where I was just a 'big sister' figure in Toby's life and not a 'maternal' presence. That role had always been easier for me to play when Dean was out of the picture so I reminded myself yet again that he wasn't around anymore because I had chosen to cut him out of my life and I was happier for it. I really was… Wasn't I?
Before I could get lost in that kind of thinking, I heard Toby heave a heavy sigh and then he mumbled against my shirt, "She called me a freak."
When his words registered in my brain I felt myself go completely rigid in his arms. Who called him a freak? Mo? No… No way! There is absolutely no way she would ever say something like that to Toby… But then again she IS the person that Toby has been fighting with the most. But… No! There's no way it can be her, right? Right?
Even though my conflicting thoughts kept racing through my mind, I still managed to quietly ask in an even tone, "Who called you that Tobs? It wasn't your mom was it?"
"What?" He replied as he sat back to look me in the eye. He started shaking his head rapidly from side to side saying, "No, no mom would never say something like that to anyone… Ever! Why would you think that she would?"
"Well…" I started in a soft, concerned voice as I dried some of his tears with my shirt sleeves. "She told me that you've been really argumentative with her lately and I just figured that that could be a reason why."
"Oh… No, it wasn't mom," he repeated as he started to blush slightly.
He turned his eyes down to his hands that were in his lap and nervously picked at the cuff of his left sleeve. Although he had his chin pressed to his chest so that I couldn't see his face, I could tell that he had started to cry again because his shoulders were shaking slightly.
I moved closer to his side and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. He didn't try to push me away, so I ran my hand up and down the length of his arm to comfort him. I then pressed my forehead against his temple and whispered, "Buddy, please talk to me. Who hurt you this badly? I can't help you unless I know. Please?"
Toby grunted out a sound that sounded like "Nuh uh" before he quietly protested with a whine, "You'll think it's stupid."
Since we had returned to square one I figured it was time to try a different tactic to get the truth out of him. I moved my hands so that I was gripping each of his shoulders and then I shifted his position on the bed so that he was facing me. He settled in his seat and then I gently forced him to raise his face with a bent knuckle under his chin. His eyes were closed once his face was raised, so I petted his cheek and remained silent until he finally opened his eyes.
Once we had established proper eye contact, I smiled warmly then said, "Have I said anything remotely close to that about anything that you've told me so far?" He shook his head from side to side looking totally miserable. "No I haven't, so I promise that I'll try to keep an open mind about whatever it is that you think I'll say is stupid, okay? I just really need you to keep talking to me, alright? You trust me, don't you Buddy?"
He nodded softly then hoarsely replied, "Yeah I've always been able to trust you."
"Good. So trust me now, okay? I really want to help you, but I can't do that unless I know what's going on… So…? Who is this girl that called you such a nasty name?"
Toby sat there silently for a few minutes without moving and then he wiped his face harshly on his sleeves. Once his cheeks were dry, Toby avoided making eye contact once again while he nearly whispered, "Her… Her name is Heather… She and I have had a few classes together since… And…"
"She was at your Bar-B-Que, right?" I interrupted in the hopes that he would expedite this portion of his explanation. He nodded and bit his lip hard to keep me from seeing it start to tremble. I placed a hand on each of his cheeks then added with a soft tease, "And from what your mom's been telling me, she's also kind of your girlfriend now too, right?"
Toby let out a tearful laugh then said, "Well now she definitely isn't my girlfriend anymore and come Monday I'm pretty sure she'll make sure that no girl will ever want to go out on a date with me ever again… Because nobody wants to date the class weirdo."
The last part of his statement was said with equal parts venom and despair, so I tried to pull him into another hug but Toby wouldn't have it. Instead he jumped off of the bed and turned his back on me. I watched him for a moment and it looked to me like he was trying not to cry again because he kept his back completely rigid and was bouncing his balled fists against his thighs almost angrily.
"Toby you aren't a freak or a weirdo. You are a handsome, funny, intelligent young man… And you're a damn fine ball player to name a few things, but you most definitely are not any of those names that she called you," I finally said when it became abundantly clear that he had no intention of breaking the silence that was hanging heavily between us.
He whipped around in his spot and I braced myself for another tongue lashing, but instead he just sighed then dejectedly stated, "You have to say nice things like that because you're family and not because you really believe them."
He sounded so sure of his words that they hit me as if they were a physical blow to the gut. I don't know what reaction he had expected to get out of me, but he looked genuinely shocked he noticed tears forming in my eyes. This time it was my turn to twist my body around so that he couldn't see my face while I tried my best not to start crying.
Once I felt that I could speak clearly through the tears I couldn't stop, I said with my back still facing him, "No Toby you're wrong. In my experience it's family that can usually come up with the ugliest insults that you'll ever hear. They don't always say nice things just to try to comfort you."
The meaning behind my confession must have finally gotten through to him because the next thing I heard Toby say was a remorseful, "Addy, I'm so sorry. I didn't…"
"It's fine Toby," I interrupted as I turned to face him again with my face and emotions now under control. "What happened to me isn't your fault… But it doesn't change the fact that I really want to help you get through whatever this is right now. So why would she call you such a horrible name if the two of you had gotten so close? I mean why be so hurtful to the person you were dating?"
"Because I am," he retorted with a tone of absolute certainty.
I opened my mouth to protest, but I was easily silenced by the defiant glare on Toby's face. I threw my hands up in defeat then said, "Fine have it your way. So what did you do to her to prove to both of you that you are in fact a freak?"
His eyes flew open in wide-eyed disbelief as he gasped out a quiet, "What?"
I reclined comfortably on his bed then smugly replied, "Well obviously you had to have done something to her to finally make her snap and call you that, so…? What was it? Did you hurt her? Maybe smack her around a little bit to show her who's boss?"
"No," he said over and over somewhat frantically. "I would never do anything to hurt her… At least not on purpose. You know that I would never lay a hand on her in anger like… THAT Addy!" I knew his 'THAT' was in reference to what Sydney had done to me, but I couldn't let up on him… Not quite yet.
I scoffed softly and managed to sound disgusted even though all I really wanted to do was to hug Toby and comfort him while I replied, "Yeah… Right…"
"I swear I didn't Addy," he said with more conviction as he sat down on the bed and my held one of my hands. I remained silent so he pressed my hand against his chest and more desperately pleaded, "You have to believe me Addy. I would never lay a hand on any woman in anger… Heck I haven't even been in a fight since mom was in the hospital that one time. Please Addy you HAVE to believe me, please!"
Hearing the genuine sorrow and concern in Toby's tone broke my heart and it forced me to drop my snide façade immediately. I cupped his cheek with my free hand then replied in a voice thick with tears, "I know that you wouldn't Buddy. You're just too kind-hearted to do something so horrible, but I know something did happen, so would you please tell me about it? Please?"
He closed his eyes then dropped my hand while he silently contemplated my question. I pulled my other hand away from his face slowly, letting my fingertips ling on his jaw line slightly. Whatever happed was probably recent because I could tell that the wounds she inflicted on him emotionally seemed so fresh and gaping.
With his eyes still squeezed tightly shut, Toby nodded once quickly before he stood up from the bed. Once his feet were on the ground he started pacing while he explained, "We went on a few dates, Heather and me and she… She was my girlfriend. Sorry I didn't tell you about that sooner, but I didn't want to rub your face in my relationship since you and Dean broke up again, so… Well… Anyways… I don't think she'll want to go out with me anymore." He paused there and took a deep breath before resuming his pacing once again. "So her parents went out of town and she invited me over to… Uhh… Hang out…"
OH SHIT! I thought in a mild panic. I was thrilled that he was finally confiding in me once again, but this most definitely was not what I was expecting to hear from him at this stage in his life. Granted I hadn't been much older than him the first time that I had sex with Dean and I'm sure Dean had lost his virginity long before his sixteenth birthday, but I still wasn't ready to hear Toby tell me about his first sexual encounter. In all honesty I wasn't ready for him not to be a little boy that followed me around in blind loyalty any more, no matter how often I had treated him like the man he had started to become without my noticing or acknowledging it.
My shock and distress must have been displayed plainly on my face because Toby froze in his spot and quickly exclaimed, "Oh God Addy! I didn't mean THAT! She invited me over to watch a movie and that turned into us making out on her couch, but that's as far as it went, I swear!"
I exhaled the breath that I had been holding, "Okay well that's good to hear, but Tobs…"
He groaned loudly then sat beside me again on the bed. He held his head with both hands while his elbows rested on his knees as he quietly pleaded, "Please don't start a safe sex lecture. It was awkward enough when dad sat me down for the 'man to man' talk." He then raised his head and smiled crookedly as he continued, "I want to make it to the Show one day and the number one way for me to screw up that dream would be to get a girl pregnant and I don't plan on doing that anytime soon, okay?"
I stroked the side of his head saying, "Okay. But an unplanned family isn't the primary way to ruin your baseball career…" He gave me a questioning look and I couldn't help but chuckle before finishing, "A stupid injury would probably be a bigger road block for you and that could happen a hundred different ways."
He let out a tension easing laugh just like I had hoped that he would. "Yeah that's probably true."
I let my hand fall away from his face as I said, "But you were say that the two of you were 'hanging out' at her house… What happened next?"
"Right…" He stood up again and started pacing as he picked up his narrative once again. "So we ended up on her couch and were… Umm… You know kissing and stuff when I started hearing weird noises. She didn't seem to notice it so I tried my best to ignore it too and tried to just focus on her… Then after a while things got a little… Uhh… More heated between us, but before either of us could try to… Umm… Try to… Uhh… Make the next move… To take it to the next step, something flew off the shelf of the entertainment center and it hit the couch's side."
He stopped there to monitor my reaction and seemed to relax when he noticed that I looked pensive. "So it was just the two of you in the house and something threw an object at you? Did you feel a drop in temperature in the room? Has Heather experienced something like that before? Did you see any weird shadows? See any flickering lights? Fell any sudden gusts of wind?"
Toby smiled cheekily and said, "Now who's asking a million questions all at once?"
I hadn't realized that I had used Toby's typical rapid fire style of blurting out questions, so I blushed saying, "Okay so I've been prone to do that too when I don't want to forget to ask one of my questions. You got me and now you know my dirty little secret. But they all still stand true Tobs…"
"Yeah, I know," he replied sitting down beside me once again. "And no there was no change in temperature or atmosphere in the room at all. Other than the DVD case flying off the shelf nothing else out of place happened. When I asked Heather about it she just shrugged then sat up and started watching the movie again as if nothing had happened."
I listened intently but couldn't help but speak up when Toby grimaced at the end of his statement. "But you didn't let her ignore your questions, right? There's no way you would just leave it at that, right Buddy?"
"No you're right; I couldn't leave well enough alone. Instead I started hounding her with questions about the history of the house and about any other experiences she might have had there," he responded sounding like he was somewhat repulsed by what he was saying.
I placed my hand over his and gave it a squeeze asking, "When you say 'hounding her with questions' those are her words, not yours right?"
Toby nodded then replied just over a whisper, "Yeah. She wouldn't say anything for the longest time and then she finally snapped and started yelling at me about why couldn't I just leave it alone…? Why was I asking her so many weird questions…? When she finally stopped yelling to take a breath I jumped in saying that the questions might seem weird and out of place but I needed to know all of that information so that I could figure out what kind of spirit it was that was haunting her house so that I could vanquish it for her… I told her that I was a hunter and that I could fix everything for her… God I was so stupid… I should have just kept my mouth shut."
"Toby… Wanting to do anything in your power to keep someone you care about safe isn't stupid. Actually it's really quite noble and brave," I stated with calm certainty in an effort to comfort him.
"Yeah well I don't think she saw it the same way that you do because when I told her I knew the truth about abnormal stuff like ghosts she got even madder. She wouldn't let me touch her or even get close to her again. And when I said the word 'hunter'… Oh man Addy you should have seen the look on her face…" He paused then swallowed thickly before adding, "That's when she completely blew up and called me a freak while she pushed me out of her house. I think something else flew across the room while she was yelling… I don't know but… Well… Either way I don't even remember the walk home afterwards so…"
"Oh Toby… Buddy I'm so sorry… Wait! Did you say something else threw itself across the room?" I questioned while I stared at him feeling slightly dumbfounded.
"Yeah I did. She was screaming at me and then a book hit the wall behind her while she pushed me towards the front door. And before you ask, so she didn't seem to notice it… Heck she didn't even jump, but I know I did."
"Huh… Really?" I said while getting lost in my own thoughts.
"Yeah really," Toby answered suspiciously. He then grabbed my upper arm and shook me gently in an attempt to get me to focus on him again. "Addy…? Addy? You've thought of something, haven't you? What is it?"
"Huh? OH… Uhh… Sorry… Sorry Toby, but yeah I think I might have…" I turned to face him while I tried to think of the right words to use to explain my theory to him. He looked vaguely frightened, so I leaned over to kiss his cheek and then we held each other's hands on the small space on the bed that remained between us. "Buddy I don't think that it was a spirit… I think that it was Heather that threw the things around the room… But I don't think that she meant to do it."
Toby scowled softly in thought and then asked, "You mean that she did it subconsciously…? That she's like telekinetic or something?"
"More like psychokinetic," I corrected gently as I stroked the back of his hand with my fingertips. "But yeah… You remember that story I told you about the psychic Dean and Sam met before they killed the demon, right? You know the guy that they tried to help in Michigan?"
Toby didn't move anything but the muscles in his face while he tried to evoke memories of that tale. Once the details of that story came back to him he said, "Yeah. He was abused by his dad and uncle so he killed them by using his psychic power, right?"
"That's it exactly," I confirmed trying not to sound happy. "And from everything I've ever read about abilities like this, they can easily manifest themselves when the psychic is under emotional distress. In a lot of cases the abilities first present themselves during adolescence and some of the theories say that it's because of the changes in the body's hormones that transform us from children into adults."
He listened intently then nodded and asked, "Okay I think I understand all of that, but…? Umm… Why would it have happened when we were…? Uhh…" Toby's cheeks blazed brightly in a newer, darker hue of pink as he trailed off and finally fell into an embarrassed silence.
I brushed his cheek with the backs of my fingers to get him to look at me before I asked, "Truth?"
Toby actually took a moment to ponder the possible ramifications of my question before he nodded and answered, "It's going to suck I'm sure, but I've begged you not to hold back on me before when it came to a job, so why should this be any different, right?"
We both chuckled uncomfortably and then we laughed sounding more at ease. "Tobs it's always different when it's personal, so don't feel like you have to be stoic and numb when it's yourself stuck in the middle of the storm, okay?"
"Alright," he answered before raising a challenging eyebrow. The look on his face reminded me so much of Dean that I had to force myself not to react to it. "But if it was you Addy? Would you shy away from hearing the brutally honest, awful truth?"
I sighed and shook my head replying, "No, I've never been good at backing down from a challenge and… The people I've loved have always been too good at forcing me to not to lie to myself." Toby smiled softly and I inhaled sharply in preparation for my impending explanation. "Okay so my theory is that when you and Heather were… On the couch together that she was afraid of where it was leading, so that's why the DVD case hit the couch. It forced you two to stop so things wouldn't progress any further from there. As for the book… Well rage is an emotion that makes us all lose control. I don't think that she meant for either object to actually hit you, or her, but then again I don't believe that she was really thinking straight either, so she couldn't really control anything that happened."
"Wow… Yeah that all actually makes sense, but…" He shrunk back in his spot before he managed to get his question out. "Why would she call me a freak when really…? I… I didn't mean… But…"
He started to physically withdraw himself away from me even further than he had before, so I pulled him into a hug. While I held him tightly against my torso I answered, "She was yelling at herself and you were just a convenient scapegoat to help her deflect from facing reality."
"What? I… I have no idea what that means."
"Oh no?" I questioned with the slightest hint of sarcasm. He moved out of my embrace scowling in frustration which almost made me laugh. I managed somehow not to do that, but I couldn't help but raise a defiant eyebrow before saying, "Because that isn't anything like what you've been doing with your mother at all… It's absolutely nothing like you picking fights with Maureen to deflect attention from the fact that you had been deeply wounded and by whom? Right?"
When I finished my questions Toby's face crumbled completely, but he waited until he had his face buried in his hands before he let the first tears fall with a loud sob. I watched him cry in stunned disbelief for a moment and then I felt incredibly guilty. Toby always acted so mature and adult that I sometimes forgot that he was actually still just a teenage boy that was still being molded into the man that he would eventually become as opposed to the hardened cynic I sometimes mistook him for when we were together.
I reached out a hand to try to comfort him but stopped myself just short of touching him when I heard him tearfully say, "You're right! I suck! I've done nothing but treat mom like shit…" His head shot up before he quickly added, "I meant to say 'crap'! I've treated her like CRAP! Please don't tell her that I swore, please! Although I've been such a jerk to her that it probably won't even matter because I'm sure she hates me now. Nothing either of us can say anything to make her love me again, not like before…"
"Toby… Oh my goodness… Buddy," I answered stumbling over my words as I gave into my urge to hug him. "Maureen isn't capable of hatred… Especially not when it comes to you. She loves you more than anything on this planet, which is why she's been so worried sick about you and whatever has been eating away at you. She loves you Toby… She adores you… You are a piece of her heart and don't you dare start to doubt that Tobs."
He continued to cry as he asked, "That's why she asked you over to help, right?"
I chuckled softly before I lowered my cheek to the top of his head as I replied, "No I was having a REALLY bad day so I came here to try to remedy it… But then I walked into the latest installment of Connor versus Connor and yeah after that… Yes your mother did recruit me to try to find out why her son was acting like he had been possessed by a demon or something, but thankfully no exorcisms seem to be in order… Just yet."
"Why…? Oh God! I'm the worst son ever!" Toby exclaimed mournfully into my neck. "Why should she ever forgive me? I suck worse than the 1899 Cleveland Spiders!"
I squeezed him in my arms and replied after a chuckle at his obscure baseball reference, "It's because she loves you." I pushed him back out of my hold then winked, cheekily adding, "Plus I would be more than happy to play the role of advocate on your behalf to try to smooth things over with Mo any day because I have had practice with things like this."
Toby let himself slump against my chest as he tiredly replied, "There's no one else I could ever hope to have plead my case with mom than you… Not even dad. Thanks Addy."
I hugged him against my chest again then replied, "That's good to hear. Now as for your apology to your mom…"
"I think I have an idea," he replied hugging me tightly in his arms. He then whispered wheat he had come up with and it was all I could do not to burst into tears of joy at hearing his idea unfold because I was so proud of him.
When he had finished speaking I held Toby's cheeks in both hands to peck him on the lips before saying, "That sounds more than perfect to me. Why don't I head out there and talk with Mo and have her come in here to talk things out with you?"
Toby looked beyond stunned for a moment then he nodded quickly while quietly replying, "Yes… Please? I think I'm ready to come clean with her and… And to apologize for being such a jerk to her."
I kissed the side of his head and then I got up and walked out of his room. Once his bedroom door was closed behind me, I rested my forehead against it in an effort to calm myself down. Had Toby and I really gone through that much angst without either of us resorting to physical violence? Not that I'm saying that he's a product of biology but my Toby…
"Adelaide?" Maureen called out softly at the sound of my closing his door.
"Yeah Mo," I called out to give myself a moment to straighten out my face before I faced her. "I think I got through to Toby and your son is finally ready to talk to you about what's eating at him."
As soon as I had my car parked at the back of my house I heard my phone ringing so I scooped it up and almost didn't answer it when I saw the name on my caller ID because I had absolutely no idea how I would control this phone call. I had still been out hunting so I still felt like me, but I wasn't an active member of their crew so why was HE calling me? That question of course pique my curiosity beyond belief and I couldn't help but find out what it was about so I knew that I would answer his call no matter how much I had tried to convince myself otherwise.
It took all that I had in me to keep my tone of voice even and neutral as I answered, "Hey Sam… How ya going?"
"Hey Addy…" he replied with a nervous edge to his voice. "I know that I promised not to bother you again unless it was the actual end of the world or something, but… Well with Bobby AND Frank gone… I honestly didn't know who else to call."
Sam paused there and I almost called him out on the apparent low blow by using Bobby's name since our last falling out had to do with the Winchesters not telling me that Bobby's spirit had been haunting them. I then took a deep breath and I somehow managed to sound incensed as I asked, "Oh yeah? So what's the apocalyptical problem you need my help with today Sam?"
I was tired from my heart to heart with Toby and that kept me from feeling guilty about being so short with Sam right now. Sam took in a deep breath before he let out a loud sigh then answered, "It's Dean… He's… Gone."
"Really Sam?" I retorted with a fairly spiteful laugh. "THAT'S the best you could come up with? Did you try looking…"
"We got the last of the ingredients for the Leviathan weapon… And then Dean… He disappeared after he killed Dick," Sam quickly interrupted over the rest of my ugly words.
I scowled at the night sky outside of my windshield while I remained seated behind the wheel of my GTO before I finally asked in a much more civil tone, "'Disappeared' like how?"
"Like one second Dean was there and after I blinked he was gone… Same with Cas… And I honestly have no idea where they could have gone. I waited around a bit for Cas to zap them back but they're just gone. I… I just really need someone's help to find him… Them. Please Addy? You're the only person I could think of to help me. Well Toby came to mind too but I knew he wouldn't be on board with this unless you were. So…?"
Sam sounded so sad that I couldn't help but crumble under the weight of his words and then I suddenly heard myself saying, "Sure Sammy… Sure, I'll help you as much as I can. But you were there and I wasn't so I don't really know what good I can do right now." I paused there when I heard bitterness slipping into my tone and I tiredly added, "Look I just got home from a really shitty… Job… But if you're certain that Toby and I are the best people to help you… Well then why don't you come to my house and then we can figure the rest out from there?"
"Okay," Sam responded sounding somewhat non-committal. "Okay… Sure… That's a plan."
We hung up without saying anything else and then I tucked my phone into my pocket while I tried to regroup mentally. I stayed in my car for a few minutes without actually being able to focus on any one single train of thought except that I wanted to run away from here again. But since I had promised Sam that I would help, I forced myself to go into my house and not to run like the coward I felt like I was being.
Even if I couldn't help to figure out where Sam's brother was right now, the least I could off him was a comfortable place to wait out this latest Winchester drama. But at the end of the day, setting up the guest bedroom for Sam could turn out to be a good distraction so that I wouldn't allow myself to obsess and worry about Dean's whereabouts just yet. Yes his dishonesty had angered me, but I never would have wished him dead or worse. He had just vanished from what Sam had said, but without knowing all of the ingredients the Winchesters had used to make the Dick Roman killing weapon or what happened when the Leviathan died, I had no starting point to work from so I was glad to have the distraction, no matter how flimsy it was right now.
After I had the guest room set up, I found myself sitting in my living room with a tumbler of scotch in my hand. I didn't remember pouring it and I just ended up staring at it dumbly for a while. I felt completely numb and I realized it was because I was afraid to see Sam again. Seeing him in person meant that I was willingly letting the Winchesters back into my life and everything always seemed to be so complicated when we were all together. But was complicated really such a bad thing? Would I rather lead a boring life without them in it?
Maybe if I had the answers to those questions I wouldn't feel so on edge all the time. Maybe I wouldn't feel like my life was spiraling out of control.