Full header in chapter 1
Chapter 4 of 4
They approached the ward stealthily. Dean explained how it could only be killed when feeding.
“What if you hit a child instead?”
“You’ve faced this before?”
A look passed between brothers. Instantly, she understood. It had come for his baby brother. Was that the loss she felt? Except it didn’t feel right. The devastation she’d felt was recent. And they both had it.
“You stopped it,” she said. “When it came for Sam.”
“Our Dad did,” he answered before turning to stare at her in an open question.
She tried to explain. Frightening him was never her plan. “I sense things sometimes. Read between the lines. You two are … closer than most.”
They both fidgeted some at this. “It’s good. You have each other’s backs. Always.” On the last word she spoke only to Dean. Knowing without words he needed this more than the air he breathed. He looked away but not before something lightened in his stance.
“Let’s do this Sam.”
They passed each bed slowly. The children were fighting numerous infections and were hooked up to IV drips. Some had plastic tenting to help keep them from getting reinfected. Tessa stopped before the bed of a little girl. “This one and the one before,” she said in hardly a whisper. “It’s already …”
“How do you--?”
“Dean, she’s an empath. Think about it. It’s why Tessa, the other … used her as a model.”
Dean looked at her with something she couldn’t describe. Didn’t happen much. If she had to force a word to it, she came up with longing.
“So you’re the real Tessa,” he said softly. Their eyes met and the rush she got just about floored her. Whoa. It was like a switch went off in his head and things he hadn’t let himself think or feel before were rising up like a wild surf on a Hawaiian shore. She took a step backward. Someone like this you didn’t play with … not when he’d already been through more pain than she could even fathom. It was all in, or not at all.
A bit awkward, Sam said, “It’s gone but it’ll be back. There are two kids left. I’m guessing we caught it on a break. Good chance it’s still someone on staff here. Nurse maybe. They would cover all the kids.”
Tessa quickly confirmed this with a nod.
“We need to move that boy. Roll the bed somewhere else and put another one in its place.” Dean said.
“Okay,” Tessa said. “This way.”
They shifted the last two children to the other side of the floor and replaced their spots with empty beds.
Sam and Dean stared at each other a moment and then back down to the empty bed.
“I’ll do it,” Sam said. “You’re the better shot.”
“Right. Because the Shtriga’s so gonna believe Sasquatch is a child.”
Tessa looked at them both. “What are you …”
“I’ll do it,” Dean said in a tone that she was certain ended most conversations.
Sam’s expression twisted into an exaggerating whine.
“Is he always like this?” she asked him.
“It’s hard for him to risk you, Sam.”
Those hazel eyes grabbed her. “It’s hard for me, too.”
“Hey, if Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura are through with the daily sap me to death program we have a monster to hunt here!”
“Dean,” Tessa began slowly. He wouldn’t like this. She braced. “The only one of us that could possibly fool anyone into believing it was a child in that bed is me.”
“Dean. Please. I spend every day helping kids die. Let me. Just once. Help them to live.”
Sam looked away. After a moment he stepped a bit further back. She knew he was on her side. But that didn’t mean he’d oppose Dean.
She approached Dean and invaded his personal space so she knew he’d hear her. He was sensitive but proximity counted. Close enough to feel his breath she whispered, “I know. It should be you. Always be you. But it doesn’t have to be. Dean, you’re not alone. A soul like yours has touched so many. We’re all here. We all care. Let me do this. Not for you. For me.”
He had his hands in her hair and looked at her like she was someone way older than she felt. For a second a flicker of jealousy seared her with a vicious sting.
“Don’t,” he said so softly she wasn’t sure it was spoken or just in her mind. “You don’t want to be her. I don’t want you to be her.”
Sam coughed gently. “We need to make a decision.”
She didn’t wait for Dean to say anything more. Touching his cheek again gently she promised him something with her eyes and then slipped under the cool sheets.
Tessa made herself as small as she could. She knew she wasn’t child size but it was dim in the ward and if the … thing … was hungry enough it shouldn’t matter. She felt pretty calm considering that she was laying here as bait for a monster. Especially as just that morning she would have sworn on two stacks of bibles they didn’t exist. Of course, she didn’t believe in the bible either.
She didn’t see either brother as they’d taken strategic positions while they waited. This is what they did, she pondered with amazement. Fought monsters. More than that, they faced evil. So wrong. Blacker than the emptiest void. She’d known something was going on. The world seemed off the past few months. She’d receive flashes of anger, rage, an intensity of emotions that scared her. And they were so random. Once or twice she’d even seen the shadow of a missing soul take over someone’s eyes.
Dean saw this. Felt it from a place so bleak it defied description. And a light, too beautiful to conceive of, had pulled him. Saved him. And now this man, this warrior, was here. In her little hospital. She reached out … let me in, she wanted to shout. The cloak remained. So afraid. More alone than anyone should ever have to be. Sam, she reached out. Sam try to see. It’s scary. Scares me and I hardly know him. With love like that you have to give till there’s no more. Because he’ll do that. Only he won’t ask for anything and if you let him, he’ll disappear one day. And this time, not come back.
Tears again. What the hell? Tessa knew she had to compose herself. This was no time to break down like a damn girl. She felt the cold before anything else. Icy fingers coming ever closer. A feeling of alarm, tension, a snap of fear … for her. Dean. It’s okay. I need to do this. You are good. Always were. Kill this thing. End it.
The cold radiated through her to leave a burning trail. God. She couldn’t open her eyes. Couldn’t move. She’d stopped breathing and her lungs burned, hungered. A white light flickered a moment in front of her. The calm returned. She saw a woman, wearing all white. A woman who wore her face. “I knew he’d find you,” the woman said. “He can’t stay. Know this. But tell him to return here. To you. When it’s over. Tell him to rest, not with me, but with you. If he lives, I give him to you.” The woman faded back into the light. Somewhere, far away, there was panic, desperation.
“Dean. Take the shot!”
“Can’t. It’s too close, I’ll hit Tessa.”
Oh God, it was pulling so much harder now. She felt the tendrils of her life, of her soul, coming frayed. Undone. Dean.
He appeared as a blur above her, fast, driven, lethal. The ice was ripped from her mouth, her veins, her chest. She gasped wildly for air as the warmth penetrated her bones. Relief was short. Fear. Spine tingling, paralyzing. No! Sam. Help him. Do something.
She rose up a touch to see the thing … uglier than death itself sucking on the most beautiful soul she’d ever seen. “No!” she sputtered out through a throat returning from its own version of hell. Waves hit her. Wrath. Determination. Not. My. Brother!
The evil dissolved in a whirl of smoke leaving only gray useless tendrils in its wake. Sam ran to his brother, eyes wide and glassy.
“’M okay,” Dean sputtered. “Tess …a.”
“Fine. I’m fine,” she said in as strong a voice as she could muster.
Sam helped Dean up and walked him over to the bed where she’d managed to sit up. He sat next to her and she threw herself into his arms because at that moment she didn’t know of anywhere else she belonged.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Sam start to shift away. She reached a hand up to him, grabbing his for a minute and smiling weakly, before returning her attention back to Dean. “You did it,” she said to him moving herself back a tad to try to catch his eye, see and not just feel, that he was okay.
“Sam did it,” Dean replied reaching up to grip his brother’s forearm a second.
Something passed between these two wonderful men. And in that moment she cherished her gift because not everyone would have seen it. It had to be felt. To be allowed within their unbreakable link felt like a privilege.
They made their way slowly out of the hospital. In the parking lot Sam took Tessa’s hand. “Thank you. Not everyone would have … Just, thank you.”
“We saved those children,” she said because that was enough to warrant any further talk of this beyond unnecessary.
Sam looked from her to his brother. Dean was holding his hand at her waist. She didn’t know if he even realized it.
“My car’s over there,” she said.
“Dean, why don’t you make sure Tessa gets home safely?”
He was about to go but Tessa stepped up on her tippy toes to kiss his cheek. “Sam. It’s okay.” She pulled in closer and he leaned in instinctively so that she was able to whisper in his ear. “You’ll keep him safe.”
Stepping back his eyes locked with hers so naked they were ripped bare. Or die trying. Closing her eyes to his mute reply she fought the fear she’d never see him again. She didn’t know. She’d told the truth about her limitations.
Dean walked her quietly to her car. They drove in silence, her heart pounding. Was it real? The vision. Had she made it up to satisfy some fantasy? She’d never have called herself a romantic. She liked men. Had had one long-term relationship that went nowhere. Dated when she could. This. Was something else.
In her driveway she didn’t get out. She didn’t know how. He reached down to kiss her as she knew he would. Felt it happening before his lips touched hers. “Different,” he murmured. “Warm. Not cold.”
She deepened the kiss as her body started to flush. “Mmm. Very warm. Hot.”
Familiar and new. The sensations merged in a sensory overload. Nobody had ever kissed her like he did. That hunger that she’d felt simmering was a torrent now pulling her in as their tongues mated and licked and teased. His hands in her hair kept pulling her closer till she felt every inch of his hard muscles straining against her. It wasn’t possible to feel this much, this soon. Didn’t make sense. Lust. Had to be.
He pulled back and they caught up on breathing. He looked as stunned as she felt. Made her want to giggle and so she did. His eyes lit up as a smile curved his lips. “Yeah,” he said licking his lips.
She felt her heart hammer. Felt his heart hammer. That part wasn’t unusual for her. The perfect synchronicity … that was new. “You could come in.”
He wanted to, you hardly needed any special gift to know that. But she knew a lot more. This part of the vision, at least, was deadly true. The regret poured off him in waves. He’d already left.
Self preservation warred with the need to give. Now it would only hurt some. Tomorrow it would pierce. If he lives, I give him to you. She didn’t know either, the woman, the reaper, she realized suddenly with the clarity of the newly in love. The reaper that had let him go once already. Nobody knew if he’d ever come back. She kissed him again softly, took a calming breath and let her mind go. She knew instantly that she’d reached him by the way his breath hitched.
“You sure?” he asked.
She opened her car door and waited patiently for him to follow.
They didn’t speak much. Usually she was always fairly sparing on words. Perhaps unusually so for a woman. But he was so sensitive to her she felt like she was babbling nonstop. His body reacted in advance of her needs in a way that almost frightened. He took his shirt off in one sinuous movement the moment they hit her bed. Her eyes widened at the smooth unblemished skin and looked up at him puzzled.
“What?” he asked while tugging up on her shirt. She lifted it up and over her head but couldn’t stop from drawing her fingertips over the scars that she felt but couldn’t see.
“I don’t … you were hurt.” The word didn’t begin to describe the terrors she felt. He stiffened but didn’t pull away from her touch. She shut her eyes a moment and took it in. Years, decades of such excruciating pain it threatened to take her breath away. “God,” she murmured.
Eyes never leaving her he said softly, “God has nothing to do with me.”
“But you’re alive.”
At that he shuddered and looked away. Shame. Anger. Venomous wrath. Hard eyes turned back to her, daring her, threatening her. “Still sure you want to do this?”
She was scared. It was impossible not to be. Evil looked back at her forcing her to look harder, look deeper, see under it all. Damnit. What was left of Dean? Tears trailing down her face she searched for the man at the center of the turmoil. The one that they all wanted. All used. He waited patiently for her to kick him. It’s what he did. What he deserved.
“No.” It had come out harsher, louder than she’d realized. “You … you can’t see it. You don’t see it. Look Dean. Look harder. It’s still there. That light. It glows brighter than the rest. The darkness can’t fight when that light is around. That’s why …”
She shut up. He didn’t need words. She’d said them for herself and because maybe one day he’d see on his own. Now he just needed this. She put her lips back to work in a much more pleasurable way, tasting him the way he’d tasted her. Giving more than even he could return because once, just once, she wanted him to know what that was like. They’d taken so much. Not tonight. He needed to rebuild. Urging him to her with ever frantic moves she let him feel everything inside her as they made love. It was scary. She’d never opened up like this before, never thought a man could stand it if truth be told. But this wasn’t any man. Death itself had gifted her this man. Letting go was not an option.
Later when he was able to speak he’d leaned over her and said, “Jeeze, I … Damn Tessa.”
She giggled. “Yeah.”
He squeezed her against his side and raised himself up on his elbow to look at her. One hand moved her hair softly away from her face. He was so gorgeous she thought she was dreaming. “You know, right?” he asked catching her stare.
Regret again. Sadness. Tiredness. “That you have to leave? Yes.”
“There’s this … war.”
“They want you.” A sudden insight hit. “Oh. And Sam.”
At his brother’s name the emotions soared. “Don’t think it,” she said. “Won’t happen.”
“What?” he said.
“You won’t kill him.”
He studied her a moment surprised, yet not, at how much she just knew.
“Then the world ends.”
“So it ends,” she said calmly. Cool blue eyes trying to chill that fiery fear out of his. “Those of us who … love … we’ll still be here. You and your brother, being brothers, that won’t end the world Dean. It can’t. It is the world. Or at least what’s good about it.”
He leaned in to kiss her gently before moving back to play with her hair again. “Are you really just a girl?”
She laughed. “Yes.”
He didn’t have to say anything because their shared emotions filled her so completely she thought it surely radiated out of her hands and feet and eyes.
“I could …”
“I could, too, Dean.”
She took a deep breath. Unsure if this should be shared or not.
“What?” he asked sensing her unease.
"Earlier tonight, when the monster … I saw her Dean.”
“No. Tessa. The one you met first.”
Fear travelled through him so quick she held him before he could get a word out. “No. Not like that. It’s not my time yet. She had a message for me.”
He was still uncomfortable and held onto her like letting go would make her vanish on the spot.
“She said that she knew you’d find me. That I should tell you to come back. Not to her. To me.”
He avoided Tessa’s eyes and in that instant she knew that indeed it might be a competition one day. Tears flowing freely now she made him look at her. “You choose everyone's life above your own Dean. I can’t change you. Would never want to. Just see yourself, once, like I do. Feel it Dean. Value it. She said she was giving you to me. Like a gift. It doesn’t work that way though. She doesn’t have that kind of power.” Only you do.
Dean looked down at her, eyes moist and reaching. “A reaper just gave me life,” he said softly before kissing her again more fervently than ever before.
And for that instance, when they were one, she mirrored back the man she saw – brave, strong, smart, loyal, loving beyond measure. And in her mind’s eye, he smiled.