Team Free Will is working on a way to get Michael out of Dean’s head, when a mysterious stranger suddenly shows up with a warning.
Tabitha put the weights down on the floor beside the bench. She'd practically dropped them, making a louder noise than she had intended. She could feel a dozen pairs of eyes on her from around the workout room, and the girl next to her made an impatient sound.
Tabby ignored them all. She'd gotten pretty good at that in the past few years. People didn't realize. They just didn't. Her muscles were twitching, and her arms felt like wet noodles. She sat up slowly, grabbing a towel with the last bit of strength she had. She looked around her, daring someone to make eye contact, but they were all ignoring her now. Good. That was the way she liked it.
Ever since Tabby had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, her life had been turned upside down. Five years ago, she had discovered that she was suddenly having trouble moving in certain ways. Her vision had started to blur for no apparent reason, and she was finding it hard to keep her balance. Stuff like that. So she'd gone to see her doctor, and he'd sent her for a bunch of tests. The verdict? Tabitha had MS, a disease for which there was no known cure. Great. Fantastic.
She'd gone through the "Why Me?" phase, and then she'd become determined to find out everything she could about her affliction. She was only 30 years old, for goodness' sake. The prime of life. There was no way she was going to let some dumb disease ruin her life. No way.
The doctors said that physical therapy was one of the methods that had been proven to help a patient continue to function as normally as possible, so Tabby had started to come here to the gym every day after work. Then, when she could no longer work at her job, she'd stepped up the program to include weekends. And then, when her boyfriend had broken up with her, Tabby had practically moved in. She was determined to do everything she could not to let the disease win.
She toweled off, then picked up the weights again.
"So, what did the guy say? Did he give you anything we can actually use?" Dean asked Cas eagerly.
"No, It had no information," the Angel said in a frustrated tone of voice. He had interrogated the Demon for hours, but It had remained defiant: the lore was wrong. There was no way to drive an Archangel out of a human's brain. Well, not without killing the human, anyway. That was too bad for Dean Winchester, the Demon had said, with an ugly grin on Its ugly face. And even if there was a way, "Why on earth would he tell them about it?" the Demon had added, taunting Castiel. The only good Winchester was a dead Winchester. The champagne would be flowing in Hell once they received the news that Dean had bitten the dust. Maybe the elder Winchester would show up there, in time for Last Call. With all the bad things he had done in the past, Castiel's human friend probably had a special spot in the place, all picked out for him. And there would be no Angel army storming in there to rescue him this time, would there? Heaven was going through some serious staffing issues right now, the Demon had sneered. Then It had laughed and laughed, infuriating Castiel. Well, Cas knew of one staff member who wouldn't be showing up for work in Hell tomorrow, he'd told the Demon. Then, he had ended Its wretched existence.
"Great. Now we're back to square one," Dean said to Cas, frowning. Both of them were beyond frustrated. Everything they did, everything they had tried to deal with the Archangel Michael had come up snake eyes, Dean thought angrily. He could feel the sensation in his head constantly now: a clawing, scratching feeling that meant that Michael was chipping away at the door Dean had so hastily constructed to keep the Archangel locked away. Dean would never stop fighting, but this was ultimately going to be a losing battle, and he knew it.
"Wait a minute," Sam said slowly. He looked at Cas. "Didn't you say that the Demon said that if there was a way, he wouldn't tell you about it?"
"Yes, that's what It said, Sam," Cas replied, tight-lipped with anger and frustration. The Angel loved his friends, but he wished they would stop referring to Demons as "he" or "she". Demons were abominations, pure and simple.
"Well then, doesn't that mean that there might BE a way?" Sam persisted.
"No, it just means that the guy was being a dick," Dean said sharply. "Let's just forget it. If I have to talk to one more Demon, I'm gonna need to bathe in Purell." He turned around, abruptly leaving the room.
Cas and Sam exchanged glances that were both concerned and speculative at the same time. DID that mean that there might still be a way? Or were they grasping at straws, because they were so desperate to save Dean before it was too late?
"Let me look at that book again," Sam said, moving to the library shelf.
Tabby was breathing heavily now, gritting her teeth with effort, trying to push through another set of exercises. She glanced over at her mobility scooter, guessing she would need to use it to get home when she was done here. Whenever possible, Tabitha tried to walk from place to place. But she could usually only do that for a few minutes, and then her leg muscles would start to tremble. So she always had her scooter on standby now, ready to take her somewhere when she could no longer move under her own power. Sitting quietly by, like a faithful pet, or something. She should really give it a name, she thought with a rare flash of humour.
But smiles were getting harder and harder to come by, these days. It hadn't always been this way for Tabitha, though. The roller coaster of emotions she had felt since being diagnosed had included some highs, as well as lows. She would never forget the day she'd found out that an actress from one of her favourite TV shows had also been diagnosed with MS. Tabby had been amazed. She'd gone online immediately, searching for updates on the actress. She was doing well, by all reports, raising awareness about the disease by speaking about it in public. She'd even taken a high-profile job at a non-profit company that helped people in need, worldwide.
Tabby had been inspired by what she'd read. This had been in the early stages of her own diagnosis, back when she'd still been telling herself that things would turn out OK for her. So she had started on this physical therapy program, and gone to see a counsellor for her depression. And for a while, it really did seem as if things were better. Everyone kept telling her a positive outlook would improve her health, and her life.
But eventually, as Tabby's physical condition deteriorated, so did her attitude. She'd been trying to ride it out; trying to look at the way she felt now as just a dip on the roller coaster ride, nothing more. But when the weights dropped from her hands as her strength gave out once again, Tabitha cursed loudly. She could feel everyone's eyes on her again, and now, there were a few low murmurs, too.
Then Tabby got mad. No, not just mad: furious. What was their problem? Did they think she was doing that on purpose? How would they like to be in her shoes, even for one day? She was mad at God. How could He let this happen to her? She was mad at the universe. Mad at her boyfriend. No; EX-boyfriend. She was mad at all these people in the gym, people who came here to lose weight, or just to look good. Must be nice. She was mad at anybody who was healthy, taking the fact that they could walk down to the corner store and back again without collapsing for granted.
Tabitha cursed out loud again, just because it had felt so good the first time. "I hate God, and I hate all of you!" she yelled.
And that was when the Demon took possession of her.
Dean was brooding, Sam was reading, and Cas was restless. He couldn't just sit around and watch his best friend, his brother, suffer. There were lines of stress on Dean's face that Cas had never seen before, and the Angel knew that Dean was struggling to contain Michael. Sam wasn't giving up; nor were Mary, or Bobby, or Jack, or any of their family. Even Rowena. The witch was in Rome at last report, working with Arthur Ketch on deciphering some ancient Latin texts that the British chapter of the Men of Letters had referred to in one of their Top Secret files. Ketch had nicked a handful of red files before that mysterious fire had broken out, in that allegedly secret location.
It was a good thing he had, too, the former assassin had told Cas and the Winchesters in a clipped tone. He'd wanted to remind them of his usefulness, while staying at arms' length for a while. Every time the brothers or that Angel looked at him, Arthur felt as if they were contemplating how satisfying it would be to just end his life, once and for all. So he had grudgingly agreed when they'd told him that Rowena was going to join him on their little Italian getaway. She'd had lots of experience with ancient foreign languages, Rowena had said, and if what they were going to Rome for was what they thought it was, they would need her help.
A Vatican spellbook? Castiel had his doubts. Still, they had to follow any possible leads, didn't they? So it was his job to follow this one. A while back, when he had accompanied the Winchesters to a Demon den, Cas had been surprised when one of the abominations had told them that there might be a way to deal with Michael. If they would only let It live, the Demon had said, It would help them by leading them to the map. What map? Castiel had asked, his eyes narrowing.
Why, the map of Hell, of course, It had replied casually. Crowley had had a secret inner sanctum there. The Demon that Cas was speaking to now knew about that because It had been one of Crowley's closest friends. Sure, Cas had said sarcastically. Because Crowley had been so pleasant; so personable. All right, the Demon had admitted. Maybe that was an exaggeration. But, the bottom line was: the King had kept a number of things in that room of his, and a certain possession of a certain Archangel was rumoured to be among them. Only a handful of Demons knew about the place, ones that had been around since the day that Lucifer had slithered down that fruit tree in the Garden. But they were all dead now; even Crowley. All except for him, It had said smugly.
Castiel had been hopeful upon hearing this, but in his zeal to help Dean, he had forgotten the most basic of facts: Demons lie. As it turned out, the one he had spoken with had only been repeating something It had heard another Demon say. So they had killed It. But they'd been pursuing the lead ever since, in case there was actually something to the story.
So, as the Winchesters sat in the library area, talking softly, Cas headed out to find another Demon.
Meanwhile, the Demon who was possessing Tabitha's body was quickly regretting it.
She had managed to get the girl's vessel into the scooter at the gym, and was now piloting it towards the elevator. But it had been quite a while since this Demon had been bound to the laws of physics, and she scraped the doorway on her way out. Oh, well. Maybe they should have made the doorway wider, if people in motorized scooters were going to need to go in and out.
Amen! Tabby said in her head, startling the Demon. Oh. Okie-dokie, then. This one might be a little stronger than she'd originally thought. It didn't matter, though. She'd needed an emergency vessel, and this one had impressed the Demon with all her cursing, and the hatred. A kindred spirit, so to speak. Too bad it came in such a weak package.
But the Demon was on a mission now, and she hadn't had the time to cherry-pick vessels. Word had come down the pipe that those guys were at it again. The Winchesters and the Angel were beating the bushes, sticking their noses in where they didn't belong. As usual. Why was it always those three? Something had to be done, and fast, before this got totally out of hand.
Cas was walking down the street, lost in thought. He could sense the presence of several Demons in and around the downtown area. There was one that was very close by him, in fact. But, how should he proceed? What could he do differently, to try to get a straight answer from one of them?
Cas was so lost in thought that he didn't notice the woman in the scooter, gliding toward him on the sidewalk. At the last moment, he realized that he was directly in her path. He moved to the side, but the woman did too, in the same direction. So he moved to the other side of the pavement, but she steered the scooter his way again, blocking his path once more.
Cas sighed. "Excuse me," he said, as patiently as he could.
"Why; what did you do?" the woman said, grinning.
"No, I mean...." Cas tried again. "I mean, please let me by."
"Oh. Okay. Sorry," the woman said.
Cas let out another sigh, but this time, it was one of relief. "Thank you," he said. He moved to the other side of the sidewalk, but once again, the woman steered the scooter right in front of him.
The two of them looked at each other for a few more seconds, and then the Demon started to laugh at the expression on his face. She couldn't help it; this was too funny.
"Hey, Clarence," Meg said.
Cas was beyond astonished. "Meg?!" he exclaimed. But the people who were walking by on the sidewalk were looking at him with narrowed eyes now, so he lowered his voice. "I thought....We thought you were dead."
"Surprise," she said, still smiling.
"What are you doing here?" Cas asked her, puzzled.
"I heard that you and the Hardy Boys have been poking your noses into things that are none of your business," Meg said bluntly. "Believing in myths. Urban legends."
"If they're only myths, then why are you so interested in where we poke our noses?" Cas said shrewdly.
Meg let out a frustrated breath. "Fine. Let's talk. But maybe we should go someplace a little more private. What do you say, Big Boy? Your place, or mine?"
"Mine," Cas said.
There was only one problem. Well, two, actually.
The first was solved pretty quickly. When Cas had wondered how he was supposed to get Meg into the bunker, with all of its protections, he remembered that a resident of the bunker could invite an evil entity inside, simply by virtue of the invitation. That was how Crowley had been able to enter the place in the past: Dean had simply invited him in. Well, Cas lived in the bunker now too, didn't he? He even had his own room, complete with a bed, even though he didn't sleep. And not too long ago, Sam and Dean had surprised him by putting a flat-screen television in there, complete with a digital cable system. That had been a wonderful day.
But the second problem was a little more daunting: there was no way for a person in a scooter to access the bunker. It had a metal door at ground level, leading down to a long flight of stairs. No elevator.
"You know what, Clarence?" Meg said sardonically. "You're supposed to be the good guys, right? So, would it kill you to put in an elevator? Or maybe even a ramp?"
He looked at her, dismayed, but then Cas saw that she was smiling. "Would it kill YOU to call me by my name?" he quipped, surprising a laugh out of her.
"OK, Cas, you win," Meg said, inclining her head in acknowledgement. "But now, we're back to the question: how am I supposed to get in there? There's no way she can go down that many stairs."
Cas was thoughtful for a moment, and then his expression brightened. "There is a way," he said quietly. "Yes, there is."
Sam and Dean's heads snapped up when they heard the bunker door open. Cas must be back. He'd just taken off, without a word. He did that from time to time. Their Angel friend was a lot more human-like than he used to be, but every now and then, he reverted back to his old enigmatic ways. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing; it was just one of the things that made Cas....well, Cas.
"Hey, Cas, where'd you - " Dean started to say, but then he broke off the sentence. What was Cas doing? He had a woman in his arms, and he was carrying her down the stairs, moving slowly and gingerly.
"Uhhh....what's going on, Cas?" Sam asked their friend, bemused.
Cas didn't reply. He carried Meg all the way down the stairs, then placed her in one of the chairs at the library table.
"Hello, boys," Meg said to the astonished Winchesters. She grinned at the looks on their faces. It was impossible not to. She hadn't smiled this much in ages, Meg thought with a touch of regret. Me neither, Tabby chipped in, but Meg pushed her host away for the time being. Amusement notwithstanding, there was important business to discuss here.
"Hi, I'm Meg. I'm a Demon," Meg said, echoing something she'd said to the men before. She figured they would remember. But, in case they didn't, she looked up at Cas. "A little help, here?" Meg said to the Angel.
Cas was momentarily confused, but then, he got it. It would make things much easier. He waved his hand over Tabitha's face, and the Winchesters gasped. Now they could see Meg's face, or at least, the face she'd had when they had seen her last. Blonde hair, full lips, and defiant expression. The grimace of pain she'd made when Crowley had thrust his knife into her.
"Cas! What the hell?!" Dean exclaimed, but Meg held her hands up. "Whoa, there, big fella, she said, smirking. "I come in peace. I even chose a....'differently abled' person, as the expression goes, so you wouldn't think I was trying to cause you any trouble. Even though you left me there in your dust, being killed by Crowley."
"Well, for somebody who's supposedly dead, you look pretty good," Sam remarked dryly. "How are you still alive?"
Meg shrugged. "Doesn't matter. What matters right now is that you guys need to stop."
"Stop what?" Dean said irritably, although he was pretty sure he knew.
Meg gave him a baleful look. "I see you haven't joined Mensa since I've been gone."
"Crowley killed you," Sam persisted. "We saw him do it."
Meg looked at him. "Yeah, well, cockroaches like us never really die, do we, Sammy?" she said, with more than a trace of bitterness in her voice. She was getting angry now. Tabby was pushing back, telling the Demon that she didn't appreciate being hijacked like this. Wasn't being differently abled enough of a challenge, without being invaded, too? And by a Demon, no less? An evil being, who was full of hate. Wow; hypocrite much? Meg snapped back. Who was it who had just been loudly expressing her hate for God and everybody, back at that gym?
Then Tabitha had grown silent, and Meg had smiled to herself. But the Demon was unsettled now. She'd taken the vessel because it was handy, and because the human who owned it had been bitter and angry. Emotions Meg herself felt, the vast majority of the time. Because, just like Tabitha had not asked for a debilitating disease, Meg had not asked to be a Demon. None of these men had any idea how and why she had become a Demon in the first place, and none of them had ever asked, not even Cas.
"No, cockroaches like us never really die," Meg repeated. "We just hang around in dark places, waiting for opportunities."
"I don't think you're a cockroach," Cas said softly.
"Well, I do," Dean piped up, but Sam elbowed his brother, nodding in Cas's direction.
"I think there's some good in you," Cas continued, staring at Meg. "In fact, I know there is. You helped us before, and I think you're here because you want to help us now. You've helped ME, more than you'll ever know."
"Yeah?" Meg said with a smirk, trying to maintain her tough facade. The King of Hell thought that he had killed her, but it was this Angel who was going to be the death of her. "How's that, Clarence?" she added, because using his name would hurt her too much right now.
"You helped me to see that things aren't always so black and white," Cas told her sincerely. "That colours come in many interesting and beautiful shades."
Right on! Tabby cheered. But Meg had no sharp retort or quick comeback to make. She was literally speechless. For one moment, for just a brief, shining split second, she allowed herself to imagine what it could be like: her and Cas, visiting their friends, Sam and Dean Winchester. Cas, lifting her tenderly from the scooter into her usual seat at the library table, the same seat she was sitting in right now. She could probably do it herself, but she knew that helping her made Cas happy. And besides, she liked the way he smelled, and the warm feeling of his arms around her. Sam and Dean would welcome Meg as a friend, because....because....
Yeah, right. Because....why? They'd had such a great relationship in the past? Snap out of it, Meg told herself harshly. That was never gonna happen. Never. What kind of a sappy, sentimental idiot had she become, anyway? Ten minutes in this place, and she was contemplating trading in her horns for a halo? Good things didn't happen to people like her: that fact had been made abundantly clear to Meg, from a very young age.
She knew what she had to do now. She had to get out of here, before it was too late.
"Well, this has been a fun reunion, boys, but I've got to go," Meg said coolly. "It's been great, catching up like this."
"Why did you come here in the first place?" Sam asked the Demon, curious.
"Let's just say I wanted to see you all once more, just for old times' sake," Meg replied in a casual tone.
"That's bull," Dean said bluntly. "Why don't you tell us why you really came?"
Meg let out a frustrated breath. "All right, fine. I heard it through the grapevine that you're poking around, trying to find Crowley's secret stash."
"So what if we are?" Dean retorted. "What's it to you?"
"To me?" she shot back. "It's nothing to me. But, it might be something to all of you. How would you like to unleash the Plagues on the Earth? Again? Maybe the Flood, or another Apocalypse? If Crowley had that stash, and I'm not saying he does, don't you think he would have it booby-trapped beyond your wildest nightmares? As much as it pains me to say it, you guys are smarter than that. The only things that would come out of there would be dark, and dangerous. Ugly things, that nobody could ever love," Meg added, looking at Castiel. She extended her arms to him. "I'm ready to go now, Clarence."
Sam and Dean looked at each other with puzzled expressions after Cas and Meg had left the bunker. What had THAT been all about?
Meg closed the front door of Tabitha's house. Castiel had escorted her all the way home. She'd thought he was going to interrogate her the entire way, but to her surprise, he hadn't said a word. Just walked alongside the scooter, like some kind of Angelic sidekick, or something. Maybe he was waiting for her to say something. But what could she possibly say? She'd done what she had set out to do. The warning had been issued, and if those guys were too hard-headed to heed it, well, that wasn't her fault, was it?
But, who was she kidding? This was Sam and Dean Winchester she was talking about. The guys who had torn up the script, cancelled the Apocalypse, and reconciled God with his sister, after unleashing Amara on the Earth in the first place. Warnings meant nothing to guys like that.
As they'd arrived at Tabby's place, Meg had halted the scooter and looked up at Cas. He stood there stoically, but the expression on his face was sad and reflective.
"They didn't listen to a word I said, did they?" Meg asked the Angel.
Cas's lips twitched briefly. "Probably not," he admitted.
Meg sighed. "All right, then. Fine. At the risk of ruining my rotten reputation, I'll give you some free advice: Don't go looking in the shadows, if you want to see the light."
Cas's forehead wrinkled. "What do you mean?"
Meg smiled. He was cute when he was puzzled. "Think about it, Cas. Michael is an Archangel, isn't he? Then, doesn't it make sense that you need another Archangel to defeat him?"
"But there aren't any other Archangels," Cas protested. "Lucifer and Gabriel are dead."
"Are you sure?" Meg countered. "You thought I was dead, too."
Cas was thoughtful now, considering this. He supposed she was right about that.
"Well, I've got to go, now," Meg said abruptly. It would be so easy to just sit here and look at him. Talk to him some more. But unicorns were mythical creatures, weren't they? They always had been, and they always would be. That was something else that she'd learned from a very young age.
So she had turned the scooter around and gone into the house, closing the door softly behind her. Not looking back.
Cas stood looking at the spot where Meg had been just a moment ago, and a gentle smile crept across his face. Meg was alive. Somewhere, on some level of being, she still existed, and she still had goodness in her heart. That made him very happy. Maybe they would see each other again, one day. He would like that very much.
Cas rushed home, to talk to Sam and Dean. They had some more research to do.
Meg watched as Tabitha picked up her cell phone and dialed the number.
"MS Society," a female answered. "How can I help you?"
Tabby smiled. "I was just about to ask YOU that question," she said to the woman. "I'd like to volunteer my services."
"Oh. Well, do you know anything about Multiple Sclerosis?" the voice at the other end inquired.
Tabitha laughed. It was funny, really. One minute, she'd been so angry at the world and everyone in it, and the next, she'd been inspired all over again. What had changed, in the space of a minute or two? She had no idea, but whatever had caused her sudden change in attitude, Tabby welcomed with open arms. Physical challenges aside, she still had a lot to offer. Life was a gift, and she intended to make the most out of it.
There, Meg thought to herself. She took one last look at the strongest vessel she had ever occupied. There.
And then, she was gone.
- THE END. -
As I’m sure you’ve all guessed by now, I was inspired by Rachel Miner to write this story. I met her last year at VanCon, and told her that her panel inspired me to write a differently abled character. She has talked before about reprising her role as Meg, but as herself, with her physical challenges, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to do both. I asked Rachel to name the character, and we joked about “the pressure”, with her deciding on the name Tabitha. I may still use Tabby in my continuing book series in a different capacity, but I wanted to give her this story as a gift, because she gives so much to others.
What do you think, readers? Would you like to see Rachel reprise her role as Meg? How did she become a Demon in the first place?
Who else would you like to see return, and why?
I would love to see your reactions and opinions in the Comments section below.
Check out my other stories on the WFB Writers’ Page! Happy reading!