Chapter 11: Just Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Tabitha snorts at her brothers, but keeps her hands held up in the universal gesture of surrender. When neither of them moves or cracks a smile, she narrows her eyes suspiciously and tells them, "Alright, ha ha, guys. You're hilarious. Now put the damn guns away and tell me where all my shit is. Is it in the car or something?"
Sam and Dean exchange brief looks before Sam tells her, "Your stuff is probably wherever you left it, lady. That doesn't explain what you're doing half-dressed in our room."
Sam lowers his gun a bit as he leans forward to inspect her, and then he turns to Dean, demanding, "Is she some chick you slept with? Is that why she's wearing your shirt?"
Dean leans forward as well, lowering his gun to his waist. He shrugs then as he bites his lower lip and sheepishly admits, "I don't know. Maybe. I don't remember her. And you'd think I would. She's pretty hot, especially wearing my shirt."
"Ewww!" Tabitha exclaims, grossed out by such comments from her own brothers. "That's just wrong. This little joke the two of you cooked up has gone way beyond funny into sick territory, guys. So knock it off. You don't say shit like that about your sister. And the only reason I'm wearing Dean's shirt instead of one of yours, Sam, is that I'm not a ten-foot tall Sasquatch."
"'Sister?'" Sam repeats in an incredulous tone, then turns to lower his voice for Dean. "Yup, probably one you slept with. You always have a knack for bagging the crazies."
Sam sputters suddenly as another thought hits him, demanding, "Wait, how'd you even know our names?"
"I do not," Dean protests over his brother's question, then turns to face Tabitha again, waving his hand at her and then the door. "I don't know what game you're playing here, sister," he says, his tone using the word ironically, "but we've got important work to do and we can't be hampered with a case of the crazies. So, out you go. Run along back to the cuckoo's nest."
An unsettling emotion settles over Tabitha.
"You guys aren't bullshitting me, are you?" she asks in a horrified whisper, her stomach suddenly settling heavily at her feet.
"Uh, no," Sam answers her, exchanging another measured look with Dean.
"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto," she mutters to herself.
Tabitha collapses onto the foot of one of the beds, her hand flying to her side at the pain that shoots across her muscles with the sudden motion.
"How is this possible?" she whispers to herself in a pain-ragged voice. "How could my own brothers not remember me?"
When no answers come to mind, she looks back up at the two men shifting uncomfortably as they stare down at her.
"How can my own brothers not remember me?" she miserably asks them.
Sam seems to decide that she's not a threat and slides his gun back into his waistband, and then he speaks to her in a tone usually reserved for the bereaved or the crazy. "Look, I'm not sure what's going on with you, ma'am, but we're not your brothers. We don't know you. We don't even have a sister." He sighs and then crouches down to bring himself closer to her level as he asks, "Is there someone we can call for you?"
Annoyed by his tone with her, Tabitha glares at her brother and snaps, "Yeah, you can call my brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester. They were born in Lawrence, Kansas, to John and Mary Winchester. Same as me."
Dean steps forward, clapping a hand on his younger brother's shoulder to yank him back as his gun comes up to train threateningly on her again. "I knew something was off with you," he demands suspiciously. "Who the hell are you, and how do you know our real names and so much about us? Are you a demon?"
To punctuate Dean's angry demands, Sam suddenly produces a flask that he uses to fling a stream of Holy Water at her with.
She blinks and placidly wipes the wetness from her face, bunching her purloined shirt in her hand to mop up the rest from her skin.
"Thanks," she intones with an annoyed nod before suggesting, "You wanna get out a silver knife now, too, just to prove that I'm not a shape-shifter or any other kind of nasty?"
Seeming surprised that the Holy Water has no effect, Dean nods to his brother, telling him, "Better run her through all the tests."
Several minutes later, Tabitha stands once more from the bed, holding a wad of tissues against the shallow cut to her arm from the silver blade.
"See," she triumphantly tells them. "I'm not any kind of nasty."
"Doesn't mean you're our sister," Sam dubiously points out.
Dean snorts an agreement, his Colt 1911 still in his hand though lowered once more to his side. "Yeah, 'cause something like that I'd think we'd remember. And if you know so much about us, you'd know our mother died when Sam was only 6 months old. She didn't have any more kids."
With a droll stare, Tabitha responds, "I was the middle child, idiot. Two years younger than you and two years older than Sammy."
"Don't call me 'Sammy,'" Sam huffs in annoyance.
Before her younger brother can react, Tabitha reaches up to smack him in the back of the head, scolding, "Watch your tone with me. I'm not sure what's going on here, but I'll call you Sammy if I want. Same as I always have."
Sam's mouth hangs open as he rubs the back of his head, torn between feeling incredulous and feeling like a scolded child.
"Dude, you just got smacked by a girl," Dean chuckles.
"I can smack you just as easily," she warns the eldest of the Winchesters.
Sobering with her statement, Dean tells her, "This doesn't prove anything. You're not our sister."
Tabitha eyes the handgun her older brother loosely holds in his hand and slowly reaches for the small of her back. With careful movements, she pulls an identical pistol from her waistband and hands it across to Dean, carefully holding it out to him between her thumb and forefinger.
He takes the gun and hefts it in his left hand glancing between the two pearl-handled guns.
"Okaaayyy," he slowly drawls. "What's this prove? Other than you having great taste in firearms."
She nods towards the one she'd just handed over, directing him, "Take a closer look at it. Take a good look, Dean. It's identical. Down to the tiny scuff marks along the barrel from you shoving it in your waistband all the time and never using a holster, to the small chip in the pearlized handle on the right side of the grip where you hit a vampire over the head when you were 19 and we were hunting a nest outside of San Antonio. Or check out the cut mark along the left side of the barrel where a davea tried to claw the gun out of your hand when you were only 17."
Dean's mouth falls open as he twists and turns both guns in his hands, closely examining every mark to match them up.
Jutting his chin out, he demands from her, "Well, even if I were to believe something as crazy as what you're trying to sell, what are you doing with my gun?"
"You gave it to me when we split up. You were worried because I was hurt," she snaps, pulling the side of the shirt out enough to show the fresh telfa bandage taped to her side.
She steps forward then to take the gun back, but stops when Dean jerks it back out of her reach.
"If you think I'm giving you one of my guns back, you're truly one crazy chick," he tells her, brow raised in challenge.
With her hands on her hips, she considers him. "You still don't trust or believe me."
"You gotta see this from our side," Sam explains at least seeming to give her some credence, despite the unusual nature of the whole situation. "This is one crazy story you're coming to us with," he continues to point out.
"Fine," she agrees. "Then I'll prove it to you even more. What's the date?"
Sam seems surprised at her question, but answers readily, "It's November 13, 2009."
For a moment, she pauses at the answer, surprised that she's actually gone back in time by almost two months. Brushing it off as the less important discrepancy, she steps forward again, noting that Dean tenses, but lets her step until she's nearly toe-to-toe with him. Leaning forward, she whispers, "If I wasn't your sister, how else would I know that you and Anna got together and did a little 'cloud seeding?'" Smiling at the way he jumps in surprise and seemingly a little embarrassment, she continues, "Or that when you were 19, this girl you were seeing got you to try on her panties."
Dean jumps away from her, his face turning red as he demands, "How'd you know all that?"
Smirking and unrepentant, she continues, "They were pink. And satin." Rolling her eyes, at his incredulity, she adds, "When I found them doing laundry and realized they weren't mine, I figured out what had happened."
Sam sees the horror but no denial on Dean's face and begins laughing. Doubling over and reveling in his brother's chagrin, he asks through his laughter, "Dude, you wore women's panties?"
Tabitha steps closer to her younger brother, fighting a grin at the way her stiffens and tensely waits for her to reveal something equally humiliating and horrifying about him.
Refusing to disappoint, she lowers her voice and tells Sam, "And you had your first kiss when you were 15."
While Dean laughs about Sam not having his first kiss until he was 15, Tabitha lowers her voice to add for only Sam's ears, "And she wasn't human, either. She was a kitsune. Amy, right?"
Sam's face goes slack, and barely above a whisper, he asks, "How'd you know that?"
She rolls her eyes again, telling him, "Like I said. I'm your sister."
Both brothers have sobered by this time, their faces pinched as they try to reconcile the possibility in their minds.
"Okay…say we actually did believe this," Dean finally tells her, his mouth turned down in a frown even if he seems to be giving her story consideration. "How is it even possible? How'd you end up here, and why don't we remember you while you remember us?"
"I've been trying to piece that together," Tabitha admits, crossing her arms over her chest. "And I think the answer lies in those guns."
"My guns?" Dean repeats, holding them up at shoulder height, palms turned towards her.
"Yeah," she agrees. "The fact that there's two of them anyway. I don't think this is the…I don't know…universe, or something that I'm from."
"You think you're from another universe," Sam questions, disbelief coloring his tone.
Dean begins moving a bit restlessly around the room, pausing long enough to tell them, "Well, we've seen some pretty strange things, Sammy."
"Exactly," Tabitha agrees, releasing a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding at hearing her brother go along with her idea. "I think this is a universe where I don't exist. Like, a parallel universe or something. I mean, actually, it's kinda thrilling to think about from a quantum or theoretical physics standpoint. The possibility has been seriously theorized by some mathematicians and physicists for decades."
"Yeah, but most of the reputable ones would consider it crackpot science," Sam points out.
Tabitha gestures to herself. "Think I'm kinda proof that it's not crackpot science. I mean, how else do you explain me showing up in a universe where I never existed before?"
Dean crosses the room to turn their police scanner onto a low volume. As he walks back, he tells her, "You got me. But I've got a few questions for you. I mean, assuming you really are our sister in some other universe. First, what the hell's your name, and second, how'd you even end up here?"
Blushing when she realizes that she hadn't told them her name—and that they obviously wouldn't know her the way she knows them—she introduces herself. "Tabitha. Tabitha Mary Winchester. But you guys usually call me Tab. Or sometimes Tabby."
"And the other," Dean presses.
She hesitates, but then vaguely says, "Cas screwed up in trying to send me home, I think. We were in the past, and when he tried sending me back into the future, he missed the mark and sent me into the future of the wrong universe."
"So why can't Cas, or at least our Cas just send you to the right universe?"
As if she hadn't thought of it. With a frown, she admits, "I've been silently—and not so silently—praying for him to get his ass here for the past few hours. Called out to him several times before you guys showed up. He isn't answering." She can't say why he hasn't been answering her, whether because something is wrong, or because the Castiel from this universe simply doesn't know her.
Dean scoffs and tells her, "Yeah, probably because he's too busy still trying to find God." His tone leaves little to the imagination as to what his opinion of the endeavor is. Though secretly, Tabitha doesn't disagree with her brother.
"You were in the past? Why?" Sam asks then, moving to sit on the bed and picking up a stake from the floor that he absently begins sharpening.
She tries to place the stake and the room from where they would have been in November, but can't quite remember the hunt. It amazes her how much had happened for her in the past several months.
"We just had to go back into the past," she hedges, not wanting to screw up their universe by telling them things that far into their future.
Both brother's catch her evasive answer and halt their movements.
Dean demands, "Why? What happened that you needed to go into the past? Should we expect to be headed into the past, too?"
With a slight shake, she tells them, "Not for a few months yet. I came from the beginning of 2010 before Cas sent us into the past and then sent me here to this universe."
"So you know what we're hunting here right now?" Sam asks, his knife pausing against the end of the stake.
She gives the room another probing glance. "Yeah. I guess. I just can't remember which hunt this is. This room is a lot filthier than I usually let you guys keep a place."
Before one of her brothers can explain where they are, they hear an unsteady voice come across the police scanner.
"Uh, dispatch? I got a possible one-eight-seven out here at the old paper mill on route six."
As Dean turns up the volume, another voice answers, "Roger that. What are you looking at, son?"
"Honestly, Walt, I wouldn't even know how to begin to describe what I'm seeing. Just, um, send everybody."
"Alright, stay calm. Stay by your car. Help's on the way," the dispatcher answers.
"Sounds like him," Dean tells Sam, popping to his feet and grabbing a few sharpened stakes from a table near the door.
He pauses as Sam grabs his coat and a few stakes as well to tell Tabitha, "Look, you just stay here while we handle this, and then we'll figure out how to handle your situation later. We're not letting this guy get away."
"He might be able to help us, Dean," Sam mutters under his breath.
Tabitha tucks the baggy shirt into her jeans, ignoring the dried blood hardening them in places as she jogs after her brothers.
"No way," she argues. "I'm not letting you guys run off on your own. You're my brothers. Even if you don't know me."
Dean stops at the driver's door, turning to and pointing back towards their motel as he tells her, "Whatever. Like you said, you were hurt to begin with. So you're staying back. You're not going up against the Trickster playing hurt."
Her mouth falls open as she remembers and places it all finally. "Shit. That's where we are?" She laughs and before Dean can stop her, yanks one of the Colt's from his waistband, tucking it into her jeans as she climbs into the backseat.
"Shut up and drive," she tells her brother, smiling at the thought of seeing Gabriel again. "Maybe I can get out of here yet."
"You think the Trickster will help?" Dean asks, letting out a dark chuckle. "Sister, you're gonna be disappointed, 'cause I plan on killing that douche."
Under her breath, she snorts, "Dean, you ain't got a clue what you're after."
Tabitha follows her brothers through the very déjà vu scenario of being thrown into TV Land, watching as her older brother secretly fangirls over the appearance of "Dr. Sexy" when he appears, walking towards them down the hospital hallway.
The faux "Dr. Sexy" greets all three of them with the disingenuous greetings of "Doctor." But when he glances at her with an intrigued look, Tabitha grins and steps closer to him, saying, "You know, usually I can't stand watching a rerun, but in your case, I'll make an exception. I seem to remember that you had some God-given talents."
Still grinning at his narrowed gaze, she grabs the lapels of his white lab coat, yanking on them to bring his lips down to hers. He only hesitates for a moment, and then as though not to disappoint her, twists and dips her back in the same manner he had once before, proving that his talent hadn't been a figment of her imagination the first time around.
When he lifts away from her this time though, he keeps her dipped backwards, staring down curiously into her eyes. She sees no recognition in them, only a puzzled look.
"That is not cool!" she hears Dean exclaiming in the background. "If you really are our sister, you don't go around tonguing dudes like that! Famous or not!"
She ignores her brother's outburst, grinning up at the errant angel as she whispers in greeting, "Hello, Gabriel."
The angel's face falls as he jerks her back up to her feet, snapping his fingers. The sudden movement sends a rush of pain through her side, and she grips the fresh stitches as they throb painfully.
Tabitha suddenly finds her brothers gone and herself standing with Gabriel—not the faux-Dr. Sexy—inside the warehouse they'd entered minutes before she and her brothers had fallen into TV Land.
Arms crossed over his chest, Gabriel demands, "Start talking, sister."
Despite the sudden resurgence of pain in her side, Tabitha enjoys the feeling of keeping the angel off-balance and confused. Unable to resist, she smirks as she answers, "What? I thought you were the all-powerful Trickster." Leaning forward, she tacks on, "You a little unnerved to find someone who knows all about you and your personal witness relocation program from your feuding brothers?"
"What…who told…how do you know all that?" he sputters, arm crossing defiantly over his leather jacket.
"Actually," she chuckles, "you told me all that. Or rather, you in another universe. I think." She shrugs, still trying not to think about the details of other universes too hard. "I'm not really sure how all this works."
Gabriel drops his arms and circles around her. It almost wouldn't surprise Tabitha if he leaned in to sniff her like a dog. But he only stops again in front of her.
"How'd you get to this universe then?" he asks.
The grin slips a little from her face. Tabitha had been almost certain she was in a different universe, but somehow, having an archangel confirm that it is indeed a possibility does nothing to comfort her. A part of her had still been holding out for the whole thing to be some strange dream.
With a little cough to clear her throat, Tabitha admits in a soft voice, "One word: Castiel."
This seems to surprise the archangel. At least from the way he leans back from her.
"Little Cassie boy? Why'd he send you to another universe?"
She snorts. "I doubt it was on purpose. He was just trying to return me from the past. Apparently he missed the mark and I ended up here."
Under his breath, Gabriel comments, "That's a pretty big miss." He straightens and returns his attention to her, sizing her up as he says, "From what the wonder twins said, I take it you're supposed to be their sister in this other world, right?"
She nods, and he makes an encouraging hand gesture, telling her, "Well, out with the story. Let's hear it all."
Figuring she has nothing to lose, and has the possibility of getting the archangel to send her back to her world again, Tabitha tells him the whole story. Only leaving out small, unnecessary details about her complicated history with Castiel.
At the end, Gabriel lets out a low whistle. "Little brother really screwed up," he comments.
"Great," she huffs in aggravation. "I already knew that. What I'm more interested in is seeing if you can get me the hell out of here. Send me back to where I belong."
"No such luck, sister."
Her eyes narrow on the archangel, thinking the fun-loving, wannabe trickster is messing with her. When she doesn't see the hint of a smile or amusement, she demands, "Why not?"
He rolls his eyes as though his answer should be as clear as the nose on her face. "Because I don't know where you came from. So I'd probably end up sending you to yet another wrong universe."
"So, what? I'm screwed. I'm just stuck here in some universe where I don't exist and my own brothers don't even know me?"
"Looks like, sister," he agrees, seeming completely unsympathetic.
He seems to finally notice the way she holds her side however, and gestures impatiently in the area of her midsection.
"What's this about?" he asks.
Figuring that he might know something about her wound, she untucks and lifts her shirt, briefly explaining that she'd been stabbed by an angel blade and the strange blue light that came out of the wound.
Gabriel stalks closer to her at that, reaching out and ripping the telfa pad away from her skin.
At the pain, she gasps and cries, "Sonfoa…"
His hand clamps over the red skin and line of stitches.
"Ooo-wee," he clucks amid dark laughter. "Little Cassie is gonna be in truhb-uhl," he sings.
"What? Why?" she asks, confused by his assertion and not knowing what it has to do with her wound.
"You're barking up the wrong angel, girl," he informs her, pulling his hand from her side. "You want answers, better talk to feather-brains and ask him just what he was thinking."
Realizing that he must be referring to the charm Castiel gave her—and talking in circles around it, just like all the other angels have been—she mutters, "I wish just one of you could give a straight answer."
When Gabriel steps back from her, Tabitha gasps again. This time in surprise, rather than pain. Despite his evasiveness, Gabriel had healed her wound. She softens a bit at his aid, but still can't seem to fully warm her heart to him again when he seems completely uninterested in helping her.
The pair stands staring at each other as the minutes tick by. Before Tabitha can stop him, Gabriel shrugs and turns away.
Over his shoulder, he tells her, "Well, you're stuck here now, and I need to get back to dumb and dumber. I don't want to miss the show." He pauses to look at her again, and then holds his hand up in the air. "No reason you can't join in on the fun."
With that, he snaps his fingers, sending her back into TV Land.
Tabitha sits on the tall stool with her arms crossed defiantly over her chest, refusing to participate.
When the host leans forward to prompt her again, she angrily snaps, "I'm not playing this ridiculous game. Send me back to that stupid 'Fear Factor' knock-off or come up with something new. I'm sick of these stupid reruns."
Before the host—of course, yet another doppelgänger of Gabriel, just like all the contestants—can prod her again to take part in the game, a body hurls across the stage.
The host and contestants don't seem very interested in the occurrence, but Tabitha cautiously stands from her seat.
When a familiar trench coat wearing angel moans and rolls over on the stage floor, Tabitha runs to his side.
"Cas, are you all right?" she asks worriedly.
As she kneels to help the angel sit up, she can't help but sigh at the confused looks that greets her.
"Who are you?" he asks, struggling to regain his footing, but failing as he slumps back to the ground.
She gives him a once over, noting that he looks a little worse for wear from Gabriel flinging him around TV Land, but he still appears miles better than he had when she'd last lain eyes on her own version of him.
"Tabitha. Tabitha Winchester. Not that it really matters who I am right now," she sighs, wiping a small trickle of blood from his nose.
He glances down at the red staining her fingers, gingerly touching where she'd wiped the blood from his skin.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asks him again. "I may have seen you looking worse recently, but Gabriel still knocked you for a loop."
His eyes widen as he stares at her.
"You know Gabriel?"
"Yeah," she sighs, weary with everyone reacting in surprise to everything she says. "I know you from another universe, too. But that's not really the point right now. I'd rather find a way to get your brother to stop this ridiculous game of his."
She stands, using both hands to tug Castiel to his feet, and still holding one of his hands, tugs him along as she goes to confront the host of the dumb dating game show the archangel had been trying to force her into playing again.
"Gabriel, this is enough. We need to talk."
Suddenly, the contestants all morph together with the host, leaving her facing just one Gabriel. Either he's gotten bored with her refusal to play the game or he realizes from her voice that she's serious.
"You rang," he drolly intones, arms crossed as he examines his fingernails in boredom.
"Come on," she implores him. "This game of yours has gone on long enough. And I've already been through it in my universe. So I'm speaking from experience here when I tell you that you trying to teach my brothers a lesson isn't going to work. So why don't you give up and just let us all go."
Gabriel thoughtfully rubs his chin, looking between her and Castiel. Realizing that she's still holding the other angel's hand, she opens her fingers and starts to tug her hand back from Castiel who is still standing behind her. Her hand goes nowhere, and she glances over her shoulder when the angel clamps his hand tighter over hers, refusing to relinquish his grip.
By the time she turns back to Gabriel, there's a little grin playing on his face as he continues to stroke his chin.
Finally, he leans forward, conspiratorially telling her, "No. And better yet, I've decided to change channels."
Though she darts forward, reaching out with her free hand to grab him, Gabriel snaps his fingers and disappears before she can touch him.
The scenery is suddenly changed. Instead of the television study and dating game show, Tabitha finds herself sitting backwards in the front of a rowboat, Castiel sitting on a bench in the rear of the boat facing her.
"What the hell?" she mutters, looking around the expanse of water surrounding them. Great trees spring out of the water nearly as far as she can see, and beautiful white ducks swim lazily across the glassy surface, weaving around lily pads and seeming totally unconcerned by their presence. The trees and water remind her of the bayou lakes and waters of the south, but she can't quite place why it seems so familiar.
Looking back to the stupefied angel across from her, Tabitha asks, "You wanna get us out of here? I don't fancy hanging out here on the water and waiting for mosquitos to pick us off."
With a look of utter concentration, the angel across from her closes his eyes.
"Performance anxiety?" she asks when nothing happens.
Whether he understands the reference or is embarrassed with his lack of results, Castiel admits sheepishly, "I can't seem to overcome Gabriel's wards in this reality to use my powers."
Tabitha's eyes travel up and down the angel as she comments under her breath, "I guess I wasn't far off with the impotence joke."
Louder, she tells him as she gestures to the paddles trailing lazily in the water, "Well, let's at least get off this water and see if we can't figure out where we are and what your brother is up to."
Castiel hesitantly places his hands on the ends of the wooden paddles, but doesn't move any further as he stares at them, as though willing them to row on their own.
Awkwardly, he tries pulling the ends of the paddles towards himself, causing the wide end of the paddles to skip across the top of the water, spraying Tabitha with a sheet of icy water.
Dripping and gasping in surprise, she swipes the wetness from her face, staring accusingly at the angel as she counts slowly to ten in her head.
"Maybe I should paddle," she suggests, the calmness in her voice belying her inner emotions. She notes the way the angel cringes in embarrassment at the sight of her wringing water from her shirt.
But he doesn't argue with her suggestion, and they both stand to change positions in the boat. After them both nearly ending up in the water, they manage to reposition themselves in the small rowboat.
Castiel sits uselessly on the front bench, frowning at her as she begins rowing with far more ease than his failed attempt.
"Ask," she tiredly commands when she gets annoyed by him frowning at her. She can almost see the gears turning in his head as he tries to figure out her place in all this. Distant thunder begins to rumble as the sky darkens, so Tabitha renews her vigor in paddling, hoping to get to some sort of destination before they are caught in a storm and become the stars in some twisted version of "Cast Away" in Gabriel's little TV Land.
Across from her, the angel surprises her by asking, "How did you get that charm?"
She hesitates for a moment, but then tells him simply, "You."
Instead of surprise or denial, he only asks, "How?"
For some reason, she finds herself surprised that he seems so accepting of the whole strange situation.
"Like I said before," she begins, glancing over her shoulder as she rows, not really knowing where she's going, but aiming for a shoreline and a building she can see in the distance. "I'm from another universe or whatever. And the Cas from my universe gave it to me."
They paddle in silence again, but Tabitha shrugs off the angel's withdrawn response as he frowns, staring into the bottom of the boat.
As the boat steadily approaches the building she'd spotted earlier, she can finally make out a dock jutting out from the shoreline, and is able to see that the building is a grand, three story, Southern-styled mansion. It seems familiar somehow, but her attention is drawn away from it as Castiel shifts across from her and lowly grumbles to himself.
"Why would I give such power to some human?"
"'Some human?'" she repeats, the paddles trailing across the top of the water as she stares incredulously at the angel. "I'm not 'some human,' you know. For starters, I'm a Winchester, too. And for another, you and me…you know…we were…are…close."
"How do you know Gabriel, and why has he trapped me with you?"
She resumes paddling, her strokes taking on an angry stabbing motion to the water as she propels the boat closer to the dock and the promise of land and some distance from the angel that seems intent on infuriating her more by the second.
Lip curling, she snaps, "Jesus, you say that like there's something wrong with being stuck here with me. Like I did something wrong or I'm some kinda leper."
The boat glides smoothly next to the dock, and Tabitha quickly ties the boat off before hopping out onto the dock, the sounds of rolling thunder increasing threateningly overhead.
Partway down the dock, she finally glances back to see where the angel is, and groans when she realizes he's stuck in the boat, trying to figure out how to get out without tipping the rowboat and dumping himself into the water.
Grumbling to herself, she walks back and holds out her hand.
"Here," she huffs in annoyance, pulling him up onto the dock before he can tip the boat over and end up taking an unintended bath.
Tabitha attempts to release Castiel's hand as she turns away, but the angel grips it tighter, pulling her back to face him as he once more demands, "How did you end up here?"
Through her grinding teeth, Tabitha tells him again, "You."
He does look surprised this time. He seems more surprised to find out that he'd sent her to another universe than he'd been to find out that he'd given her the charm everyone seems so intent on being mysterious about.
"You sent me here. Although, I'm pretty sure it was an accident. You had meant to just send me back to the future of my world."
He finally releases her hand and steps around her, looking her up and down as he asks, "You say you are a Winchester?"
"Yeah," she sighs, turning with the angel when she gets fed up with his shark circling routine. "Apparently I don't exist in this universe, but I'm Sam and Dean's sister where I'm from."
His hand darts out again, capturing her wrist once more as he examines the bracelet—most specifically the angel wing charm her own Castiel had given her.
"You don't appear special or unique in any way that would warrant such protection," he mutters to himself. "Just an ordinary human."
Yanking out of his grip again, she snaps, "Gee. Thanks. I'd really forgotten what a bigoted asshole you can be, you know it, Cas? At least I'm not totally useless without angelic powers."
He looks surprised at her offense. Even going so far as to plainly tell her, "I don't understand your anger. I am merely stating a fact. I fail to see anything special about you. Sam and Dean are important because the fate of the apocalypse rests in their hands, but you…you're just a human." Under his breath, he adds, "An acerbic one at that."
"'Acerbic?'" she scoffs in disbelief. "I'm acerbic, huh? Well let me tell you in my acerbic manner to kiss my ass!" She spins on her heel, stalking down the dock once more.
The water-smoothed boards sway and bounce as she feels Castiel jog behind her to catch up, grabbing her arm to spin her around. Crashing thunder erupts loudly overhead as a rush of rain begins to fall, but Tabitha momentarily ignores it, allowing the angel to spin her around and even stepping towards him as she roughly shoves at his shoulder, knocking him back a step.
"I'm only trying to ascertain why I would go to such trouble to protect a human like you," he tells her, frowning as he glances down to his shoulder where she'd shoved him.
"You'd have to ask your counterpart in my universe, I guess. I'm just some nothing human," she snaps, trying in vain to hold her hands over her face to shield herself from the rain running down into her eyes.
Giving up on the futile attempt to divert the torrents of water streaming down her skin, she drops her arms. Seeing the way the angel seems unaffected by the rain, and still awaiting a better answer from her, she softly admits, "I don't know why you gave me the damn charm." Her eyes trail down to the bracelet as she fingers the still warm charm and object of such cryptic debate. "I didn't really know it was anything special when you gave it to me. You never told me what it was. Just asked me to wear it. It's only been recently that I've been starting to put together the reactions of some of the other angels to realize you did something…big…or important to it. You saying now that it's for protection or something…is the most I've really heard about what the thing is."
"I can only guess that it was given to protect you," he corrects. "The question remains: Why would I give such…power, to a mere human?"
She doesn't look up at Castiel, instead, keeps her head dipped down as the rain races down her cheeks and chin. Though she's unable to admit it aloud, her pride takes a hit at his comments, and a buried fear swims to the surface, the one that constantly asks her, Why me? Why am I special to Castiel? To an angel. I'm just…human. She knows why he's special to her. But a deep-seated part of her has always wondered what an angel could possibly see in her.
Barely above a whisper, she carefully explains, "I still can't say why you gave it to me. We were friends in my universe. More than that even. We've been…lovers…for some time now."
A loaded silence follows. Unable to resist the urge, Tabitha risks the rain to glance up, catching sight of the angel as he stares at her in shock, looking like a feather could knock him off the dock.
Seeing her gaze on him, he asks in a halting voice, "Lovers…as in…sexual…intercourse?"
Tabitha rolls her eyes at the high-pitched squeak his voice elevates to.
Snarkily, she throws back, "No. As in lovers of scrapbooking. We're making one right now. We're gonna call it, 'Apocalypse: Misunderstood Biblical Event.'" Her hands find her hips as her tone hardens. "Yeah. I'm talking sex here, Cas. What the hell do you think I mean?"
His eyes widen even more. Lowly, he says, "I can't fathom why I would choose to…bed…a woman like you."
Throwing a single fingered gesture his direction, she shouts, "You know what, go screw yourself, Cas!" And then spins on her heel again as she stomps towards the large white house she'd seen further up the hill from the shoreline, still nursing her wounded pride.
She doesn't recognize the house fully until she is under the overhang and yanking the screen door open to step inside the house, but then, the interior finally jogs her memory.
"Goddamn you, Gabriel! You think you're real funny, don't you?" she groans, realizing what movie he'd "changed channels" to. "I'd have way rather ended up in the freakin' 'Cast Away' with just Wilson to keep me company than in the freakin' 'Notebook!'"
The screen door squeaks behind her as Castiel steps in out of the rain as well.
Spinning to face him, she continues in accusing tones, "This is your fault somehow. Why the hell else would he change things up this time and throw us into 'The Notebook'?"
Castiel looks around in confusion. "We are in a house," he states in a careful tone.
She rolls her eyes. "No. 'The Notebook.' You know, the freakin' tear-feast, ultimate chick-flick romance movie. Based on the entirely too sappy book, 'The Notebook.'"
The angel frowns at her. "I don't understand. Are we in a notebook, a movie, or a book?"
Slapping her forehead, she groans, "You know what? Forget it."
She moves away from him, kicking out of her boots with loud thumps as she crosses into the living room where she crouches to examine the darkened fireplace.
As she sets about looking for matches and kindling to light the wood already laid out in the fireplace, she pauses to ask the quiet angel watching her from the entrance of the room, "Don't suppose you've strapped your wings on yet?"
His frown deepens. "I don't understand your question."
"Your powers," she huffs. "Are you still juiceless? Any chance you could light this thing?" she asks, gesturing to the wood.
"My powers are still inaccessible."
"Great," she mutters, feeling blindly along the top of the mantle in the hopes of finding a lighter or matches. "Stupid angel still can't get it up. Maybe he should try drinking a Red Bull."
"Ah-ha!" she exclaims, finally finding a tin box on the mantle with matches and another larger one nearby with some kindling.
Once a fire is finally glowing in the fireplace, Tabitha stands, and still ignoring the angel, begins stripping her wet shirt and jeans off to hang from the mantle.
Though she leaves her bra and underwear on, she hears Castiel cough and make fretting noises behind her.
"What are you doing?" he finally asks, his voice taking on that nervous squeak again.
"Letting my clothes dry. Wet jeans chafe like a mother…"
At his silence, she turns around, noting the way his gaze darts uncomfortably around the room.
Gesturing to her black lacy bra and boy short underwear, she points out, "This covers more than some swim suits I've had. So grow up and act like the many thousand year old angel you are instead of a thirteen year old boy that just got caught with his mother's lingerie catalog."
When he still stands awkwardly in the entryway of the room, she waves him towards the fire. "At least come stand closer to the flames so your clothes have a chance of drying if you're not going to take them off and hang them up."
He edges closer, but keeps a more than modest distance between them. Huffing her annoyance, Tabitha turns to pick up a blanket, swinging it easily around her shoulders as she tells him, "I'm gonna go explore this place. Got nothing better to do until Gabriel gets tired of his little game." Under her breath, she adds, "Or until my idiot brothers finally figure things out."
She hears him enter into the bedroom behind her sometime later.
"What are you looking at?" he asks.
Not turning, she shrugs and taps the glass of the window she'd been leaning against for the past hour. "Just watching the rain taper off. It's prettier than I realized…the rain falling out on the water like that."
She feels him step further into the room, and pulls the blanket tighter around her shoulders.
Castiel clears his throat and tells her, "If I offended you before, I am… I was merely trying to determine how you came to have that…charm."
Sighing, she derisively adds, "You mean why some no account human like me has it, right?"
Castiel huffs briefly, and then she hears, Gabriel! Enough of your games. I know it's you. Release me from this place. I tire of this human's company.
The windows under Tabitha's fingers rattle with the force of Castiel's "real" voice calling out to his brother, and Tabitha winces at the high-pitched sound that accompanies it.
"Turn it down a notch," she growls, rubbing at her ear and grimacing. "Gabriel isn't going to do anything just because you ask or tell him to, so you might as well accept that we're stuck here for now. Even if you can't stand this human's company."
Castiel strides over to her, stopping in front of her as she leans sideways against the window.
"You can hear me?" he incredulously demands.
"Yep," she answers with a short popping sound, still looking out the window, barely able to see the water now that darkness has set in.
She can feel his eyes on her, so she turns to observe him assessing her with new eyes.
"Can you hear all angels?" he almost timidly asks.
With a shrug, she tells him, "When they're nearby and talking like that. I can't hear all angels all the time though. Thank God for that."
"Is that what makes you different? Or have I protected you in your universe for your brothers' sakes?"
She opens her mouth to snap back at him that hearing angels doesn't make her special, but quickly closes it. Suddenly realizing that she can't say why exactly she was so special that she had to be watched so closely, even before Castiel knew she could hear angels. Long before they'd even begun sleeping together. Though she does think that affected a lot of it as well.
As she looks away, she physically withdraws as well, climbing up to sit cross-legged on the nearby bed as she tells him, "It's more likely that it all started—even you watching over me before my brothers and I knew anything about angels—because I'm Azrael's vessel."
Castiel stiffens where he stands by the window, his face becoming a closed off mask again.
"You are Azrael's vessel?" he asks in a hushed, worried tone.
She nods once.
He seems almost frightened to say anything in return to her.
"Look, not that this hasn't been fun and all," she finally tells him, "but is there any possible way that you can send me back to my world?"
"I don't know," he quietly admits, returning from his thoughts about Azrael.
"I know you can't right now what with Gabriel playing his stupid games, but I mean later. Can you send me back after we get out of here?"
Castiel glances up, sadly meeting her eyes as he repeats, "I don't know."
Her hand flies up to cover her mouth. "You mean I might really be stuck here? Like, forever?"
The angel moves closer, cautiously sitting on the edge of the bed near her as he explains, "There are many universes out there. All are strongly interconnected, but finding the right one might prove impossible." His words echo Gabriel's, but she'd wanted to believe that Castiel could still send her back.
Frowning, she asks a question that has been on her mind for some time, "If there's all these universes out there, and they're all connected, how is it that I don't exist in this one? I mean, Azrael must exist in this one from your earlier reaction, but not me?"
He searches for the right explanation. "They are not all identical. Even if they are all dependent on each other. They mirror each other. But smaller details can be and are very different."
"So the Apocalypse might be successfully diverted in one but not another? Or even better yet, could there be one where it was never triggered to begin with?"
To her dismay, he shakes his head in the negative. "No. Such events are what link each of these, worlds, as you say, irrevocably. They are almost like…chain reactions. With such great events…when it happens in one, it is destined to happen across them all."
"So no luck on you just trying to find me the world where the Apocalypse is unheard of and I'm happily married to someone like Brad Pitt or Channing Tatum?"
"I don't know these people," he answers with a frown.
After a few minutes pass, Castiel softly consoles, "I'm sorry you are stuck in this world. And I'm sorry if my…questions offended you. Dean…your brother says I must work on my 'people skills.'"
A small smile begins at that. Spreading into a soft chuckle as she teases, "You don't say? That just shocks me."
Sobering, she apologizes as well, "I shouldn't have gotten so upset with you, either. It's…strange to be stuck suddenly in a world where I don't exist and no one knows me. I forget how much things between you and I changed from the time I first met you until now. And I guess that I'm just a little on the defensive because of all this."
"This is an apology?" he carefully asks, as though unsure of what one even is.
"Yeah," she laughs. "That was an apology."
They sit silently next to each other before Castiel clears his throat, breaking the stillness.
"Why did we become…"
"Lovers?" she fills in, guessing the nature of his question from his unease.
He nods, looking like a deer about to bolt in the forest. Or like he's about to swallow his own tongue.
Suddenly aware that they're both sitting next to each other on a bed, and that she's wearing only a blanket pulled over her underwear, she coughs and nervously answers, "Well, it's not like we just started out that way. I'm not even sure how to explain how it happened. We were friends first. We spent a lot of time together. Talking about what was going on in our lives, our triumphs and failures in trying to stop those damn seals from breaking." She pauses as she tries to think back over the long months since their relationship had so drastically changed.
In a small voice, she explains, "You're still one of my closest friends. The only one I can get furious with and can get furious with me, and we still forgive each other, because no matter how furious we are with each other…you're always there for me when it matters most. And I try to always be there for you, even if you don't always understand my actions. We became more than friends, sure, but…I think underneath it all…that's still the most important part. That we're friends through it all."
Castiel's voice comes out barely above a saddened whisper as he stares at his hands. "I've never had a friend like you speak of."
Spurred on by the hurt laced in his soft admission, Tabitha reaches across to grip one of Castiel's hands. Softly, she assures him, "I may not exist in this world, but in whatever world I do exist, I'm certain you can still name me as that kind of friend."
"Angels are not supposed to develop such attachments to humans," he almost regretfully informs her.
The familiar words bring a grin to her face, causing her to lift her other hand to cup the angel's cheek.
"I know," she chuckles, smiling at the way Castiel's eyes drift shut as he leans into her open palm, like a man starved for the feeling of another's touch. "You've told me before," she finishes.
Before reason can reassert itself to tell her why it's a bad idea, Tabitha leans in, ever so softly brushing her lips across Castiel's.
He jumps as if he'd been touched by a live wire, his eyes shooting open. But just as Tabitha pulls away from the soft touch of her lips to his, he yanks her back, hands gripping her arm as he slides one hand to splay across the back of her neck.
His kiss is both familiar and different against her lips. Like navigating a trail you've been over before as a child, but discovering it anew, as though for the first time since climbing the great heights of the Alps or Everest and seeing it with whole new eyes.
"Well I'll be a monkey's uncle," Gabriel's voice booms out, along with a slow, exaggerated clapping.
Tabitha tears away, spinning to see Gabriel standing in the center of a ring of Holy Fire. The warehouse again their familiar backdrop. Her eyes dart beyond him to see her brothers standing on the other side of the flames, their mouths hanging open in shock as they stare across at her.
She glances down, heaving a sigh of relief for the small mercy that she's at least no longer clad only in a blanket and her underwear.
Despite the stares of her brothers—and the knowing grin and waggling eyebrows of Gabriel—Tabitha nonchalantly makes her way to where her brothers stand.
"Were you just making out with Cas?" Dean demands in the stunned silence.
Still unable to tell her brothers the truth—even in another world—Tabitha mutters, "It was one of Gabriel's TV Land things. We were stuck in 'The Notebook.' We had to play along. Just like you guys."
Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Dean warily eyeing Castiel as the angel approaches his trapped brother, but luckily, Castiel gives nothing away in his expression.
Under his breath, Dean informs Tabitha, "If you really are our sister, we've gotta have a talk about all the dudes you've been kissing." He snorts and adds, "Or rather, angels."
His eyes narrow on her as he tacks on, "And if I catch either of those angels even so much as looking sideways at you, I'm gonna start plucking some feathers."
Tabitha laughs a little nervously as she shifts from foot to foot, telling her brother, "Why would they? I'm just some human."
She falls back a step as her brothers confront Gabriel. There's nothing more she can ask the archangel for—not after having already been assured by him that he can't return her to her world—so she silently hangs back until her brothers leave the warehouse.
Strangely, Castiel waits in the doorway for her as she turns back to look one last time at Gabriel. Unable to simply walk away from him without a word, she calls out, "See ya, Gabriel. It's been…something. But I still think you should go find your girl, Kali. I mean, if the world's really gonna end, do you want to spend it being too chicken to at least tell her how you really feel about her?"
Gabriel's eyes widen comically as she leaves him amidst the dying flames of his entrapment, wondering to himself how she could possibly know about his thing for the goddess.
Meeting her brothers at the Impala, she asks them, "Now what? My hopes of Gabriel sending me back to my world were dashed, and even Cas here says he can't send me back to the right world. So what do I do now?"
Dean shifts nervously from foot to foot for a moment before stepping forward to wrap an awkward but brotherly arm over her shoulders. But his voice is soft and kind as he assures her, "Look, I really don't think you were lying about being our sister. So, me and Sammy…we'll do everything we can to help you get back to your world if it's possible. And if not, then being stuck here can't be so bad. We'll look out for you."
She smiles a little, telling him, "If it's anything like living with you guys in my world, what that really means is me looking out for you two bird-brains and picking up after all your messes. And doing your laundry half the time 'cause I'm sick of the smell. Or getting you out of your half-planned messes when you get into trouble."
Dean grins as he turns to climb into the Impala, enthusiastically telling her, "Sounds damn near perfect to me."
After a week spent researching in their motel, the Winchesters are still unable to find any concrete way or plan for sending Tabitha back to her own world.
And though she appreciates the efforts her brothers have gone to to make her feel comfortable with them, it's been awkward all the way around.
Dean and Sam both try their best to behave how a stereotypical older or younger brother should towards their sister, but in the end, all it does is make her melancholy for her own brothers, or more often, pissed off with their dictatorial behavior.
"Dammit, Tabitha Mary Winchester," Dean growls when she enters their motel room, "I told you not to take off on your own like that."
Tabitha grabs a towel from their bathroom, mopping the sweat from her face, and stretching after her morning run. Balling up the sweaty towel, she chucks it at her older brother's head, snapping at him, "First of all, Dad, I'm not 12 years old anymore. I can go out for a morning run without asking for your permission." She squares off with this world's angry Dean with hands on her hips. "And second of all, the only person that gets to three-name me like that now that Mom and Dad are both dead, is Bobby. So stop trying to act like I'm a child! I'm barely two years younger than you!" she shouts, the last shred of her composure cracking.
Trying to play peacekeeper, Sam interjects, "Look, Tabitha, Dean and I were just worried about you when we woke up and you were gone. It's dangerous out there, and you shouldn't be out on your own like that. You might get hurt."
As annoying as Dean's protective attempts are, her younger brother's attempts at peacekeeping and his own protective streak irate her even more.
"Zip it, Sammy," she growls. Waving her hands at them both and then herself, she asks, "What about me saying that I've hunted damn near my whole life, too, have you guys forgotten? Just because I went for a run by myself, doesn't mean I'm suddenly gonna become demon-bait or forget everything I know about all the shit that's out there."
"We're just trying to look out for you," Dean grumbles, plopping back onto one of the unmade beds as he picks up the laptop in front of him, eyes on the screen as he returns to researching.
"Maybe we should head to Bobby's," she finally suggests, unsure even to herself if involving Bobby is a good idea or a bad one. But at least at Bobby's place, there would be more room to get away from Sam and Dean when they continue to stomp all over her last nerve. And then do the hokey-pokey on it.
"I'm not sure springing this on Bobby is a good idea," Sam says, echoing her thoughts with annoying clarity. That much is no different between the Sam of this world and hers. Continuing on, he carefully explains, "I mean, we've come to accept your story, but how can we be sure Bobby will? Let's just keep researching…give it another week or so, and if we still can't find anything, then we'll get Bobby involved."
"Fine," she huffs, heading for the door again. Deciding that she's still not ready to put up with Sam and Dean, version 2.0. In her mind, just like with every great movie and their remakes, the original is always better.
"Where do you think you're going now?" Dean demands, sitting up from the bed he'd been reclining against.
"For a cool down walk and a smoke. That all right, Dad?" she tosses over her shoulder, not waiting for his reply as she slams the door behind her over his sputtered answer.
Two cigarettes later—which she directly blames her return to smoking on her parallel-world brothers—she's finally calm enough to admit that her brothers are just trying to adjust to her sudden existence in their lives and world. And they've dropped everything else to help her look for a way back. Most of her annoyance is with the fact that they can't seem to make any headway, and the thought that she might really be stuck in this world. She'd never realized before how much she missed the way her Dean walked the fine line of being protective older brother, and older brother that stood beside her getting into the same trouble she was. Or even the way her Sam both came to her for help and guidance as his older sister, and tried so hard to make her proud of him.
Flicking the last cigarette away, she tries to look on the bright side, telling herself, "Well, at least if I don't exist in this world, that means I was never wanted by the FBI here and don't have to worry so much about being caught by the police or something." It's a cold comfort.
She leans back against the chilly brick wall in the alleyway next to their motel, closing her eyes as she laments, "But it's no trade for having no one really know who I am."
Her eyes spring open as she feels Castiel appear before her, eagerly asking him, "Have you found any way for me to get back yet?"
His head swings once from side to side as her emotions plummet once more.
"Dammit," she hisses to herself.
"I'm sorry," Castiel regretfully whispers.
"Maybe it's time for more drastic measures," she wonders aloud. Her desperation has been growing by the day.
Though her eyes had fallen shut again, Tabitha can still feel the way the angel tenses.
"What measures?" he asks simply though cautiously.
"What about Azrael?" Tabitha reasonably asks, opening her eyes enough to look at him through a lidded gaze. She crosses her arms over her chest as she leans back to stare at the angel across the alley from her, trying to project cool confidence.
"She's freakin' powerful, and not to mention, I'm her vessel, so she might be inclined to help me out if I ask," Tabitha continues to sanguinely point out.
"In exchange for your acceptance as her vessel," Castiel darkly answers, his voice deepening with his apparent anger at her suggestion.
"Maybe not," Tabitha tries arguing. "I mean, she's got to have another vessel of some sort in this universe since I don't exist here. Maybe I can get her to return me on goodwill or whatever to my own universe where I'm the vessel for her counterpart there."
Castiel suddenly stalks across the alley, standing in front of her as he stares down while explaining, "You are Azrael's vessel. In this universe. Your universe. In any universe. I don't know why she doesn't have a true vessel in this universe. But she doesn't. Because you don't exist here. We had all assumed she was simply continuing her appointed duties for Death and not intervening in Lucifer and Michael's coming war, but if she's made aware of your existence here…there's no telling what she might do to you to make you say 'yes' to her. It won't matter what universe you say 'yes' to her in. She'll be able to accomplish the same thing, regardless of where you submit to her."
"So it's a risk, but maybe I can bargain with her, get her help without 'submitting' to her." Tabitha brushes off his concern, all while internally bristling at his wording of submitting to anyone or anything. "But I'm sick of this. I'm sick of this strange limbo I'm stuck in here. I'm not supposed to be here. And I'm reminded of it every second of every day. In the way that Dean tries to be my protective older brother and only succeeds in being a domineering ass. In the way that Sam tries to be peacekeeper and only succeeds in acting like he's sticking his nose where it doesn't belong."
Castiel stands in front of her, some of the anger slipping away as he looks awkwardly at her, unsure of how to handle her sudden outburst of emotion, his hands clenching and unclenching in a nervous manner.
Sighing, she adds, "Or even the way you have no idea what to say or do. At least in my world, even when you don't have a clue what to say, you still somehow know what to do."
"Your brothers need time to adjust to your presence," he tries insisting, not addressing her words. That much she notes is no different between her Castiel and this. The way he brushes off things he doesn't understand.
Lowering his voice, he adds, "It is difficult now, but in time, they will become used to you, and you won't even remember that you hadn't once existed here."
"But it'll always be there in the background," she argues, wrapping her arms around herself. "There will always be things I remember from my world, that I will be the only one here to know. Even if I share those memories with those two here. They'll only be stories to that Sam and Dean," she tells him, flinging a hand back in the direction of her brothers' motel room.
"I'll always be alone here," she whispers, closing her eyes to stem the tears that threaten to fall. Loneliness…had always been the things she feared most. The one thing she had always felt would one day swallow her whole.
Castiel's voice drops to a soft whisper, his breath tickling her cheek as he leans closer to assure her, "You don't have to be."
She doesn't know who moves first, whether she pulls the angel to her, or if he closes the gap to capture her lips. Or perhaps they move together, their lips connecting and moving in a well-synchronized dance.
But as one, they stumble together out of the alley, shuffling with tangled feet towards the closest motel room along the long line of doors. Tabitha fumbles with the doorknob, struggling to open it, but Castiel reaches out to cover her hand, and suddenly, the door opens easily as they stumble in. Castiel wastes no time in returning to her lips, tasting her with the eagerness of a child that has just discovered the wonderful joy of his first lick of cool, sweet ice cream.
Her movements are nearly frantic as Tabitha shoves Castiel's trench coat and suit coat over his shoulders. She delights in the hungry moans she elicits when she rakes her hands up his chest, grabbing his shirt and yanking it open, buttons flying across the room. When she roughly loosens the tie and pulls it over Castiel's head, forcing him to part from her lips, she nearly laughs at his boyishly impatient noises. But her smile is cut off as he returns to her lips with an increased fervor.
His hands had mostly been complacent, gripping her arms as his lips tasted her, but she pulls them away, sliding one down to her hip and the other up her side under her sweatshirt as she raggedly breaths, "Touch me, Cas."
With that tiny encouragement, he grips her sweatshirt in both hands, not bothering to unzip it, but bunching it and the tank top beneath in his insistent fingers and tugging it up over her head.
The rest of their clothes soon are flung to the floor as well, Castiel backing Tabitha step by step until she falls backwards onto the bed.
And then he crawls eagerly after her.
In the aftermath, Tabitha lays with her head on Castiel's chest, struggling to regain her breath as he holds her close with one arm.
His chest rumbles beneath her ear as he asks, "Did I…do that right?"
Her laughter comes out in a soft rush as she twists more onto her side to look at him. Gently, she assures him, "Yeah. You did that exactly right."
She laughs a little more at his satisfied grin, thinking to herself that his first time in this world wasn't too different than it had been in her world. Despite his lack of experience, he'd had more than enough passion and instinct to make up for it.
As a thought hits her, she scoots a little further under the covers, covering her face as she groans, "Oh my god."
"Yes, you called out to God many times. Are prayers very common during sex?"
Tabitha slides her hands down to stare up into Castiel's curious gaze, her mouth hanging open for a moment before she laughs and tells him, "Well, I do often find myself praying when I'm with you. But it's not exactly God I'm thinkin' of."
She shakes her head as she comes back to her original thought. "I was just realizing that I've taken your…virginity…twice now. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at that realization."
Castiel reaches down to cup her face, his forehead wrinkling as he worriedly asks, "Why should that make you cry? I thought I did that right?"
Her own expression softens as she assures him, "You did. You were…great. Just like always."
To herself, she can't stop the thought, But you're still not my Cas.
Unaware of her inner turmoil, he tells her, "I know it will still take time for you to adjust to this world, but I can't imagine not having you in it now. It seems…empty to look back on it the way it was before. As if…there was some…darkness, always threatening to swallow me whole before." He blushes a bit before telling her, "I've come to like simply looking at your smile. It…makes my chest feel lighter somehow. What is that? What is that feeling?"
Tears well in her eyes at hearing such hauntingly similar words echo in this world to those she and Castiel had once shared in her own world.
And despite the fact that this Castiel isn't her Castiel, she softly whispers, "Love. It's love. And I've loved you for a long time, Cas."
Never in her own world had she been brave enough to even consider those words to herself. Never allowed herself to admit that feeling. Admitting it now, she realizes she can't stay. That she has to get home. Somehow.
Suddenly, she springs to her feet, tugging her clothes on with frantic movements, ignoring Castiel's startled protests as he begins redressing as well, asking her repeatedly what's wrong.
She pauses at the door, telling him, "I'm sorry, Cas. I'm sorry for what I have to do. But I have to risk it. This isn't where I belong. I have to go back."
The door slams behind her as she races outside, closing her eyes, and then both mentally and verbally screaming out with all her might, "Azrael!"
There's a soft chuckle before a familiar voice greets her with, "Well, well, well. Isn't this just curious?"
Before she can open her eyes, she feels Azrael yank her from the motel parking lot.
"So, you're my vessel," Azrael comments, causing Tabitha to open her eyes, carefully taking in the sight of the archangel.
"You're not what I expected," the angel continues to observe.
Somehow, finding Azrael still using the deceased psychic to appear in isn't quite what Tabitha had expected however. Not that she can imagine how else the angel would have appeared to her.
Tabitha takes her time looking around her new surroundings, taking in the almost rural landscape, and the tombstones scattered spaciously around the weed-over-run area.
Turning her attention back to the angel, Tabitha thinks to ask, "Am I dreaming? I mean, every other time you've appeared to me, it's been in a dream. I thought Castiel told me once that you could use a dead person's image—" she gestures to the angel appearing as her friend, Pamela, "—in a human's dreams, but that you needed an actual, willing, vessel to actually walk the earth."
Azrael shrugs in a careless fashion. "True," she agrees, and then gestures flippantly around them. "Think of this place as somewhere between the sleeping and waking world."
Tabitha points out, "I was pretty awake when I called out to you."
With a droll look, Azrael explains, "I'm an archangel. Not some powerless little cherub."
"Right," Tabitha grumbles, crossing her arms over her chest. After a steadying breath, she rolls back her shoulders and tells the angel, "So. About why I called out for you…"
"Dorothy wants to go home. I know," Azrael laughs, examining her fingernails. "She wants to get back to the brainless scarecrow and cowardly lion."
Tabitha's mouth falls open, her jaw slack for several seconds as she stares in shock. Finally, she sputters, "Those are my brothers you're talking about. And your brothers' vessels."
Rolling her eyes, Azrael tells her, "I didn't say my own brothers aren't just as bad." Then she grins before adding, "But you and I both know which one of your brothers is which."
Deciding not to dignify the insult to her brothers—after all, only she gets to insult them like that—she asks the angel in a clipped tone, "So I take it that makes you the good ole Wizard that can send me home? Right? Although I'd have thought you fit the role of the Wicked Witch of the West a little better."
She chuckles mirthfully in response. "I like you," she tells Tabitha with a happy grin. "I had a moment there of doubt, but you've got spunk and spirit." The grin falls away as Azrael's face becomes an expressionless mask. "You'll need that strength," she continues in a factual voice.
The way Azrael and all angels can switch off their emotions has always unnerved Tabitha, and this time is no exception.
Shifting from foot to foot, Tabitha decides to comment, "You talk like you know exactly who I am and what I contacted you about."
Answering the unasked question, Azrael once more grins, but it's a hollow expression, lacking the light of true emotion in her eyes as the angel tells her, "Of course I know who you are and what you want. The second you reached out to me, I knew everything."
Azrael moves to perch herself on the edge of an old tombstone, the edges of the stone weather smoothed, and tipping slightly forward from the years stuck in the unstable ground. As the angel poses, crossing one leg over the other at her knee, she gestures back at Tabitha with a flourish. "There's a connection between us. A connection between every angel their vessel. Long established in the bloodlines. That connection is what makes you my vessel. It's what allowed me to know everything about you the moment you lowered your guard and reached out to me. And it's why you will one day say 'yes' to me."
"You keep saying that. And I keep saying 'no,'" Tabitha huffs in reply, hoping that she's able to keep the anxiety from showing in her voice. She doesn't want the angel to know her words have any real effect. If she can keep it all calm and business like, she still thinks she can convince the powerful archangel to send her back to her own world.
"It's inevitable," Azrael shrugs dismissively. "It's just a matter of how much damage our brothers will do in the meantime."
"My brothers are at least trying to stop this mess," she hisses, losing her cool grip on her emotions. "Why don't you do something about your brothers without sacrificing the human race?!"
"It will happen," Azrael repeats. "No matter what I say or do to try and stop them. Believe me, been there, done that, got the t-shirt," Azrael snips. "The only recourse I've got left to stop my brothers, is what my Father left to me. To us."
Azrael heaves a sigh, and for just a minute, Tabitha sees real emotion flicker in the archangel's eyes. A crushing weariness born of uncountable millennia. In a flash, it's gone, though a lingering weariness remains in her voice as Azrael explains, "You don't understand what's coming, Tabitha. I know I've tried to be patient with you in your world, explain it to you gently and wait for you to come to me—" she heaves another sigh, pulling both legs up to cross underneath herself as she props herself precariously on the tombstone before continuing. "But in this world, I don't have that kind of time. You need to see what's coming. Now. Before it's too late."
The archangel raises her hand, snapping her fingers reminiscently in the same manner that Gabriel had. But the sights the accost Tabitha are no fun and games like the TV-loving angel's had been.
Images swirl around her in a haze until one sight blurs into another. Tabitha sees the small country graveyard she stands in become the first battleground in the final war between Lucifer and Michael. Sees them as they face off against each other in their true vessels. She watches as her brothers' bodies take hit after hit as the final war is waged. Sees her brothers as they host the angelic brothers in their war…sees that war traverse the world. Scores of humans die all around her. The screams swelling in her ears as blood runs down the streets in crimson and viscous sheets. Above her and all around her, the skies rain fire and ash…and angels fall and die alongside the billions of humans she witnesses in the merciless slaughter of Heavenly war.
Her heart constricts as she plays helpless witness to Castiel's fall as well. Watches as he struggles to stop his brothers, pleads with them to spare humanity their war and to spare her brothers as well. She can do nothing but watch in horror as Lucifer snaps his fingers, effortlessly slaying Castiel for his efforts.
Finally, her heart plummets to unimaginable depths as she witnesses the culmination. Sees the unrelenting battle between Lucifer and Michael. Watches as they refuse to back down, each ensuring the death of the other, amid the last death-knell of the last living human. The hapless victims of the brothers' struggle.
"How can that be better than what I offer?"
Tabitha looks up from the ground where she kneels, hands spread wide amidst the dried grasses as she braces herself, tears blurring her view of the world she finds herself in once more.
Remaining on her knees, she touches the wetness of her cheeks, almost in disbelief that something as simple as tears can still exist in the world after the horror she's witnessed. Something as urbane as tears so at odds with the depth of abhorrence she feels.
"What?" she croaks in confusion, her throat feeling as stripped raw as her emotions now are.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, she can finally see Azrael perched on the tombstone in front of her.
The angel repeats herself, her gaze looking almost apologetic. Almost. "How can what I've shown you be better than what I offer?"
"All those people died," she whispers in a horrified voice. "The world ran red with their blood," she cries, feeling the resurgence of tears. "My brothers died. Cas…died."
"They all died horrible deaths," she placidly agrees, as though unaffected by the vision she's just given Tabitha. "The whole world. What I offer instead…is a mercy."
"It's still the death of everything and everyone."
She shakes her head. "I offer peace. There won't be any suffering. No pain. It'll be as if no one and none of this ever existed." Her voice lowers and softens as she gestured around the desolate graveyard. "It's better even than the pain that this world and your world currently wallow in."
Gracefully, the angel unfolds herself from the tombstone, moving to stand in front of where Tabitha still kneels, reaching down to cup her face.
"You think I bring only death," the angel whispers. "But when we finally come together as one…we'll bring mercy, Tabitha. Peace. Rest."
When Tabitha cannot speak around the lump that forms in her throat, the angel presses, "You'll bring peace and mercy to your brothers…to Castiel. Why rip out the Tin Man's heart when he's just found it?"
Tabitha wrenches away from the angel, scrambling ungainly to her feet to face the archangel. "No," she vehemently hisses. "No matter what you say or what parlor tricks you try to show me, I won't give in to you. I won't ever give up on my brothers like you did on yours. They'll find a way. We'll find a way."
Azrael sighs as her arms cross over her chest. "And scores of people will die before you understand what you have to do."
"You're wrong," Tabitha insists, but her words sound weak, even to herself.
After a tense moment, Tabitha whispers, "I just want to go home. What do you want from me in exchange for sending me home?"
"I always intended to send you home," the angel tells her. "You're right in that you don't belong here. But you needed to see what I hadn't shown you before. You needed to see what the consequences would be. And now that you've followed the Yellow Brick Road, it's time to go home."
"How?" Tabitha whispers.
The angel laughs a little. "This is the part where I tell you that you've always had the power to return, isn't it? That you've had it all along."
"What, click my heels three times and say, 'There's no place like home'?" Tabitha snaps in return. "Sorry. Fresh out of magic slippers."
Azrael reaches out, gripping Tabitha's wrist before she can pull away. The angel fingers the single wing pendant on her bracelet as she explains, "You've got something better. Something that connects and grounds you to where you belong."
Tabitha's eyes narrow suspiciously on the charm that Azrael holds in her fingers. "So that charm's gonna be what gets me home? Just close my eyes and wish three times?"
The angel nods. "Something like that," she chuckles. "Concentrate on the connection this charm provides to where you belong, and with a little push from me, you'll be home."
Just as her eyes close and she thinks of her brothers and another angel from her world, Tabitha feels herself jerked through time and space again.
"Tab! Tab! Are you okay?!" Dean's voice pleads as she feels her body being shaken.
As she opens her eyes, she sees her brothers leaning over her as she lies on the floor.
"Where were you?" Sam worriedly asks her, helping her to sit up from the hard carpet of their motel room.
"I'm back?" she asks them, gingerly touching each of her brothers to confirm that it's not a strange dream.
"Just appeared in the room and collapsed on the floor," Dean confirms, brow furrowed and lips pulled tight from worry.
Tabitha scoots back to rest against the nearby bed as she tells her brothers, "There's no place like home. Even if it's a dingy motel room."
Her brothers give her strange looks, but as she glances over at the motionless form of the trench coated angel on the other bed, and wonders to herself once more, if it really is inevitable that she'll say yes to another angel…if only to protect her scarecrow, lion, and tin man.
A/N: Man, seems like all I do the last several chapters is apologize for the delays. But here it is again. Sorry! I…um…got caught up in the Olympics?
Okay, sorta true. I have been watching them since the opening. What a game between the men's US hockey team with Russia. Frickin' awesome! Lol, sorry. Former hockey nut here. Played women's hockey all the way through college, so that was an exciting game for me to watch. Not quite the 1980 game, but…wow. Having been a goalie, I can tell you how nerve wracking those penalty shots are. My record was in a tournament where our team battled through 7 sudden death overtimes and I took (and blocked) 8 penalty shots before our team finally scored. I was exhausted mentally and physically!
Anywho, back to the story. What really took me so long to finish this chapter was the fact that it didn't end up being what I started writing. I had the idea of the storyline a while back, and thought it would be fun. But as I got into writing it, I realized I was writing a chapter that wasn't furthering the plot or character development, or anything. It was just a fun storyline I'd imagined where she falls into a world where Sam and Dean don't have a sister. I'd planned a lot of cute and funny scenes, both with the boys, and even with Gabriel. But it wasn't really furthering anything. And that's just something I can't stand in fiction.
There's nothing I hate more than reading a never-ending story that becomes that way because an author doesn't know what stuff should be cut from the pages. ( And yes, I know this story has become a behemoth itself) but there isn't a single chapter written in this story that doesn't in some way further plot, character development, or relationship building. Sometimes, I'm furthering plots that are still WAY down the track. But things are planned out in my mind.
Until I came to this chapter anyway. From day one, it was a somewhat chaotic, crazy idea that came from left field. And I literally cringed when I realized this chapter was going literally nowhere and was just a fun, fluffy chapter. And that's cool sometimes, but I'm a big believer that even fluff has to have a point. I hate books I've read where the author goes into minute detail of the character's every movement, down to the rye and pastrami sandwich they have on Tuesday and then again on Thursday. Really? How does that matter to the story?!
So I was left with two choices: Admit my foolish mistake and scrap the whole idea and chapter, or make some drastic changes to fill a harebrained idea with substance.
As scraping the idea would have meant rewriting the ending of the previous chapter, I decided to grit my teeth and forge ahead.
I'm not sure I'm completely happy with the resulting chapter. Some of it may have been forced—at least to my mind—but at least what I came up with furthered plot, character development, and even a little bit of relationship discovery on Tabitha's part. She's admitted something to herself now, seen her own brothers in a different light, and even Azrael has gotten a little face-time so that she can nudge Tabitha a bit further towards her own goals. Whether those goals are right or wrong. ;)
There's still plenty of mystery ahead, and hopefully I've got things back on track where they belong. And we can continue with our regularly scheduled program in the next chapter.
If this was a disappointing chapter, I apologize profusely! But hopefully I was still able to inject some levity into a chapter that I had to force some substance into. Either way, it's finally done and I can move on!
Thanks to everyone for reading, and every review is a smile in my day that reminds me to hurry up with whatever I'm doing so I can get back to something I love.
Love to all!