The first time Tris has to pull out the business card for her FBI “supervisor” and hand it to a skeptical county sheriff, she thinks she might actually have a heart attack right then and there. She’ll walk into a nest of vamps without breaking a sweat but the whole impersonating a federal officer thing terrifies her more than words.
She’s focused enough on trying to hide her internal breakdown that it’s not til the sheriff has punched in the number that she realizes she has no idea who might pick up on the other end.
Siobhan’s the one who gave her the number, some months back, but she’d been pretty clearly passing along information from someone else. Whoever “Assistant Director Robert Harvelle” is, she really, really hopes they come through for her, and she makes a mental note that if this all works out, she definitely needs to spend more time practicing her handcuff escapes.
The faint sound of someone picking up is audible through the sheriff’s phone, and Tris strains, unsuccessfully, to make out their words. All she can hear is the sheriff’s end of the conversation:
“Yes, I have one of your field agents here, a young woman. An agent… Ginsburg?”
Whatever he hears on the other end makes his eyebrows climb.
“No, sir, I didn’t mean — I understand, sir, it’s just—”
His face is starting to pale.
“Of course I support women in law enforcement, in fact — no. Yes, sir. Please— Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. I’ll get your agent what she needs.”
His hand is slightly shaky as he hangs up.
Tris breaks out her absolute best poker face to cover up a grin, voice perfectly neutral as she says, “The files from the Monroe case, then?”
Thank god for Assistant Director Robert Harvelle, she thinks.
She wonders again, briefly, who was on the other end of the phone, but then it turns out that there’s both a vengeful spirit and a poltergeist in the same museum and by the time she limps back to her motel room at three in the morning, any thoughts of her FBI-impersonating ally have gone right out the window.
It’s a handful of months later the next time Tris has to use the phone number. She doesn’t do the fed thing as often as some hunters she’s met — she knows she looks younger than she is, and the skepticism she gets from real law enforcement isn’t worth it when she can just do some good old-fashioned hacking to get the records she needs. Unfortunately, the coroner’s office in Lincoln County, Georgia is barely in the 20th century, technology-wise, let alone the 21st.
Siobhan's got a family thing so she’s working this case with an older hunter, a guy named Johnson, but he’d gone to interview the victim’s family and left her to deal with the records in the sweltering county office building.
“Sorry about the heat,” the sheriff-coroner tells her. “Our air conditioning went out last week.”
He’s a kind, older gentleman and he hasn’t been nearly as patronizing as most of the sheriffs she meets, which is a plus. Unfortunately, he’s also a stickler for rules and she doesn’t have the right paperwork (“Hotel printer was out of ink,” she told him with a sigh, clenching her fist tightly behind her back to release her nerves. “With everything digital these days, it’s like they don’t even care about people like you and me, who need hard copies in triplicate.”)
She’s more confident this time in passing over the business card. “My supervisor’ll get you what you need,” she says. “Just—he’s supposed to be out this week, so he might be a little irritable.”
The conversation doesn’t seem nearly as tense as the last one, and she escapes the heat of the building with the files she needs securely in hand and heads straight for the air-conditioned safety of a nearby diner.
It’s a spur of the moment decision as she sips her diet coke and waits for Johnson to meet her. She can’t help but be curious, and — well, she owes this guy a thank you.
The line rings three times before someone picks up.
“Assistant Director Harvelle,” a man answers, voice deep and brusque.
“I’m not— wait, sorry,” she stumbles, feeling like an idiot. “I’m the person who the sheriff was just calling about.”
“Agent Parton, was it?” the man asks, something wary in his voice.
She goes for broke: “Tris, actually. And I think there’s a witch in town.”
The man lets out a huff of laughter, and his tone is totally different when he responds. “Damn, I hate witches. You okay, Tris? Did you need help?”
“No, I’m okay, I just— I wanted to say thanks, I guess. Didn’t know who was coming to my rescue.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it, it’s all in the job,” he reassures her. “It’s kinda funny, with this number. So many people have it these days, I never know whose ass I’m bailing out.”
“So you’re a hunter?” she asks.
“Used to be,” the man says. “Retired now. I just pitch in when the phones ring.”
“Retired,” she repeats. “Wow. I’ve never heard of a retired hunter.” The reason for that is unspoken, but she knows they’re both thinking the same thing.
“Hey, listen,” he tells her. “There’s no rule that says you gotta do this until it kills you. If you want to get out, you can. You don’t have to save everyone.”
Tris never knew her dad, but she thinks this must be what having one is like. Usually she’d roll her eyes and shrug off unsolicited advice from some strange guy, but there’s an urgency, a depth in his voice that makes the words resonate.
“Yeah,” she says, after a long pause. “I hear you.”
“Good,” he says. “That’s official FBI Assistant Director advice, citizen.”
She laughs. The jangling bell over the front door catches her attention and she looks up to see Johnson walking in. “I gotta go, but— thanks again. It’s a good feeling to know that there’s someone out there, looking out for people like me, you know?”
He doesn’t respond right away, and she’s close to hanging up as Johnson approaches the table.
The voice over the phone is quieter as he says, “Good luck with the hunt, Tris.”
It’s only later that she realizes she never got a real name.
The next time she calls the number, there’s so much blood on her hands that she has to wipe them on her jeans for the screen to even register her touch, and she’s shaking so much she misdials twice. “Please, pick up pick up pick up,” she mutters, pacing back and forth on the motel carpet and trying desperately not to look over at the bed.
The voice is flat when it answers, “Assistant Director Harvelle.”
“Thank god — this is Tris? We talked a while back, and — I wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t an emergency, usually Siobhan is the one who I go to, but she’s— she’s—”
“Tris, breathe,” the man commands. She takes a deep breath, shaky. Distantly, she’s startled at her own compliance but this guy — Harvelle, she thinks of him, even knowing that’s definitely a fake name — has a tone that makes her trust him on instinct.
“Tell me what’s happening.”
She breathes in and out hard again, then tells him about the cursed object that Siobhan had touched by accident, how a symbol had burned itself into her chest and she’d started bleeding from the eyes, nose and ears before passing out.
“Is there a pulse?” the man asks, blunt.
“Yes. Or, there was when I checked before, but it’s been—”
“I need you to check again, Tris,” he says. “We gotta know what we’re working with.”
Hearing “we”, knowing she’s not in this alone anymore, relaxes the panic just enough that she can get a grip on herself. She turns back to the bed — the sight of Siobhan pale, unmoving and covered in blood still shoots icy fingers of terror up her spine, but she’s got a task to complete now and she moves forward on autopilot.
“There’s a pulse,” she says, pulling herself back under control. “It’s faint, but it’s there.”
“That’s good,” he says. “You said there was a symbol burned into her chest?”
“Yes, it’s like a, a circle with a squiggly line at the bottom, with a triangle in the middle and a crescent moon?”
There’s a pause and the sound of something that could be a pen scratching paper. “Shit, I’m no good at pictionary. Can you take a picture and text it? This is a cell.”
If she doesn’t let herself look at Siobhan’s face, she can let herself believe this is just another case.
When she texts the picture, the sound goes faint on the other end as Harvelle must pull the phone away from his ear to look. Distantly, she hears him say, “You recognize this?”
A rumbling voice answers him, but it’s too faint for Tris to pick it up.
“Okay — shit, Cas, the road,” he says, and the other person — Cas, apparently — responds, before the sound coming through the phone changes.
“Tris?” it’s Harvelle again, clearly now. “You’re on speaker. My partner here recognizes the symbol, he’s gonna talk you through it. Your friend’s gonna be okay, I promise.”
If Tris didn’t have so much adrenaline flooding her body, she thinks she might have actually collapsed to the floor in relief. She gasps out a heavy breath with only a small note of hysteria in it.
The second man, Cas, explains exactly what she needs to do to reverse the curse in a deep, calm voice, with occasional interjections from Harvelle to clarify where she can find the kinds of supplies he’s calling for.
“Let us know how it goes, okay?” Harvelle asks when she’s finished writing down the details.
“I will,” she promises, and hangs up. She’s got work to do.
Later, when Siobhan has wiped the blood off her face and made no fewer than four bad jokes about her near-untimely-demise and Tris has sobbed into her shoulder a reasonable amount, she calls the men back to thank them.
“It’s me,” she cuts him off. “It worked. Siobhan’s okay.”
“Hell yes,” he says, relief clear in his tone. “You did awesome, kid.”
“I didn’t— you guys were the ones who saved her,” she says. She’s a little embarrassed by how desperate she was when she called this near-stranger, but with Siobhan alive and well on the other side of the motel door, she can’t bring herself to care.
“Team effort,” the man says mildly. “Take the wins when you get ‘em, Tris. They’re too friggin’ rare in this line of work.”
“Yeah,” she says. “Just— thank you anyway. And thank, uh, Cas for me.”
There’s a pause. “Right. Yeah, I will,” he says, and there’s something like discomfort in his voice. She wonders if he didn’t mean for her to hear the name. By now it’s pretty clear he’s keeping his own identity to himself for a reason.
“What the hell,” he mutters, then. “Hey, Tris? Let me give you a different number. I like playing FBI guy just fine but if you have another emergency — a real emergency — it's easier if you call my other cell instead.”
She takes it down. “I’m saving it in my phone as Harvelle,” she tells him, hoping that’s enough to let him know she’s respecting his desire for privacy.
There’s a smile in his voice when he says, “Perfect. Take care of yourself, Tris,” and she thinks he gets what she was trying to say.
It’s not like she’s not curious, though.
She can’t get to sleep that night, Siobhan’s bloody face playing over and over again on her closed eyelids every time she tries. She rolls onto her side to look over at the other bed.
“What’s up, Tris,” Siobhan asks, sleepy.
“Where’d you get the phone number for the FBI guy?” she asks.
Siobhan makes a humming noise as she rolls to her side to look over at Tris. “The guy who helped you with the spell?”
“Came through Terrence, the guy who got us the information on the vamp cure. I think he got it from Garth, you know, the werewolf hunter?”
“No, like— he’s a hunter, and he’s also a werewolf. I met him once, a few years back before I met you. Weird dude.”
“Do you think Garth is the one who answers the phone?”
“Not sure,” Siobhan says, thoughtful. “Why the interest?”
Tris lifts one shoulder. “He helped me save you today, and I don’t know who he is. Just — I don’t know, it’s kind of strange, knowing there’s some kinda mysterious hunter call center looking out for us, right?”
Siobhan’s mattress creaks as she sits up more fully. The moonlight falls on her face in long lines where it filters between the blinds, and Tris’s fingers itch to trace the paths it leaves. She clenches her fist under the blankets instead.
“I forget sometimes that you don’t remember what it used to be like,” Siobhan tells her. Siobhan’s been in the life since she was a teenager, dozens of hunts under her belt by the time she met Tris — grief-stricken and wide-eyed at the world she’d been violently made aware of. It was Siobhan who told her the truth about what had happened to Tris’ brother, and who showed her the ropes when Tris made it clear she wasn’t going to let it happen to anyone else if she could help it.
“Used to be, the only focus was, like, killing monsters. If there were things like the vamp cure, or the werewolf cure, none of us knew about them. And now it’s like there’s someone starting to organize people—like, how often have you or I been put in touch with another hunter to pair up on a case? That never used to happen.”
Tris frowns, having trouble imagining what Siobhan is describing. “You think there’s someone organizing hunters?”
Siobhan shrugs. “I mean, organizing hunters would be like herding cats, you know? But over the last few years, yeah, I think someone’s trying to make things better.”
“Huh,” Tris says. “And the Harvelle guy is part of it.”
“Must be. When Terrence gave me the number, I had the clear impression there was, like, a phone tree.”
Tris considers that. Some sort of invisible hand, nudging hunters just to make things a little easier for them. Maybe it should seem manipulative, but mostly she just finds it comforting.
“I’m glad they’re out there,” she says, finally. “Whoever they are. I didn’t know who else to call.”
Siobhan — beautiful and vibrant and alive — grins at her. “I’m glad, too. Now are you going to let me sleep? I know they say you can sleep when you’re dead but I got close enough today that I think I earned it.”
Tris throws a pillow at her. “You’re the worst,” she tells her.
But when she closes her eyes again, she can finally fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.
The next time Tris is forcibly reminded of how relatively new to hunting she is is when she finds herself at a hunter’s bar.
Siobhan had gone to give an old friend a hand with what they thought was a selkie out on the islands off North Carolina, leaving Tris to handle a haunting with a married pair of hunters who had already been in the area. And it was a cakewalk, spirit no problem for the three of them, and if Tris swallowed down a beat of jealousy at their easy partnership — well, no one has to know about it.
They’re the ones who invite her out for a drink after, naming a rundown bar out off I80 that’s so off-the-beaten-path that it doesn’t show up on google maps.
When she pushes in the doors to find a room full of plaid and a devil’s trap laid into the wood at the doorway, she understands why.
“Are there a lot of bars like this?” she asks Julissa under her breath, not wanting to come across like a total newbie.
Julissa’s kind, despite her tough tattooed appearance, and she doesn’t laugh at Tris for her question. “Not a lot,” she says as Tris slides into the seat beside her. “This one’s where Rick and I come the most, but there are a handful of others. I heard there’s a new one that popped up pretty recently somewhere out in— hon, where was it?”
“Kansas, I think,” Rick pipes in.
“Yeah, that sounds right. These kinds of places are all pretty off the radar.”
“You don’t have to be a hunter to drink at a place like this,” Rick adds. “But you gotta have a good sense of mind-your-own-business either way.”
Julissa squints at her. “You haven’t been doing this long,” she says, and there’s no judgment in her tone but Tris’ face heats regardless.
“Couple years,” she says evenly.
“You’re good,” Julissa tells her, and now Tris is definitely blushing. “You kicked ass today. First round’s on me.”
They’re onto round three when another gaggle of hunters comes through the door, and clearly Rick and Julissa go way back with them because everything starts getting rowdier, back-slapping hugs and fond teasing.
It’s a lot of overlapping chatter, and Tris is content to sit back and observe. She and her brother used to fish — before everything — and there’s something familiar in the definitely-exaggerated war stories people are swapping that reminds her of old fishermen reminiscing on their biggest catches.
“Hey, shit — Carlos, you gotta tell them what you heard,” one of the new arrivals says, elbowing his friend. “About the Winchesters.”
The buzz of noise dies down pretty quickly.
“Who are the Winchesters?” she asks Julissa, except with the sudden silence it comes out a lot louder than she expected.
Several heads turn to her. Shit.
“Damn, girl, you don’t know the Winchesters?” one guy says.
“Hey, old man, not everyone remembers the bad old days like you do,” Rick butts in, and Tris is grateful for the gentle defense.
“Can’t believe there’s a whole generation that doesn’t know their elders,” another guy bemoans.
“Let me guess,” Tris says, dry. “You all have a story to tell about them.”
There’s a rumble of laughter and the first guy tips his beer at her in a touché gesture.
“The Winchesters are like, hunting legends,” he tells her. “Guy I used to run with — and this was an old dude — he remembered crossing paths with the Winchesters as early as ’99, and they were good back then.”
“Nah, man, way to undersell. Those guys stopped the apocalypse. I swear it.”
Tris expects laughter, but a couple in the group are nodding. An older guy with a full beard, who’s been mostly silent so far, leans in. “It was.. ’07? ’08? Something big was going down, we all knew it. We hadn’t seen more than a handful of demons up til a few years earlier, and suddenly we were crawling with ‘em. That was the first time we saw angels, too, back before they started falling out of the sky. And didn’t matter who you talked to, angel or demon, they all couldn’t stop talking about Sam ’n’ Dean Winchester.”
“I heard the demons wanted Sam Winchester to lead them,” someone pipes in. “Heard he started the apocalypse.”
There’s an annoyed rumble from the assembled hunters. Tris realizes that most of the bar is tuned into the conversation now.
“Nah, that’s bullshit,” one says. “I met Sam Winchester once, him and his brother both, at a funeral a while back. They’re good guys.”
“Yeah, Dennis, you make a habit of believing what demons tell you?” a woman ribs the guy who piped up, and there’s a round of chatter.
“He beat Lucifer himself and people still spread around that myth.”
“Oh, come on.”
“I swear it!”
“Somebody told me the Winchesters have been dead for years but the demons still spread around their name like a cautionary tale. You know, be good and follow orders or the Winchesters’ll get you.”
“That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. How much have you had to drink?”
“You know the Winchesters are best friends with an actual angel?” someone adds from the bar.
“That one’s true,” another guy chimes in. “Friend of mine, Jesse, he met the angel and Dean Winchester both. He swears up and down that the rumor about Dean going to hell is true, and that the angel — Cassiel, something like that — was the one who pulled him out, and now he’s like his personal guardian angel.”
“Well that sure makes this more interesting news, doesn’t it,” adds the first guy, the one who mentioned the Winchesters in the first place. “Tell them, Carlos.”
Carlos, who’s clearly waiting for the moment of maximum drama to tell his story, pauses until all eyes are on him.
“Dean Winchester is dead.”
There’s a pause, before—
“Boooo. Get the fuck out of here.”
“Come on, dude.”
Carlos waves his hand. “Listen, I heard this for sure from a guy who took out a rawhead some months back with a woman who used to be close with the Winchesters, and he swore it up and down. Dean got taken out by a whole nest of vamps. Took down a dozen of ‘em singlehandedly but he didn’t make it out himself.”
Someone scoffs. “Can’t imagine Dean Winchester getting done in by a vampire. Didn’t they used to say he killed Death?”
“Yeah, I heard that too. Carlos is just makin’ shit up.”
“Nah, it makes sense. Dean Winchester would always go out in a blaze of glory. Can you see someone like that retiring?”
“Sitting poolside with a margarita in one hand and a shotgun in the other,” someone adds to a roar of laughter.
“What happened to Sam?” someone less skeptical asks Carlos.
“He quit the life cold turkey. Heard he’s settling down now, marrying a nice, normal girl,” Carlos says, and something in the way he says it reminds Tris again of the fishermen, adding on detail after detail to flesh out the story of their massive catch.
“Carlos, you’re so full of shit,” the woman at the bar says. “But I’ll toast to the Winchesters anyway. Here’s to those sorry sons of bitches.”
The bar rumbles with agreement, and Tris raises her glass along with the rest. For some reason Harvelle’s words echo in her mind, back when he first told her he was a retired hunter. “There’s no rule that says you gotta do this until it kills you. If you want to get out, you can.”
She thinks about this Dean Winchester going out in a blaze of glory as she sips her beer, and feels a sudden swell of sadness for this guy she’s never met. Maybe someone should have told him that, that he could get out if he wanted.
So Carlos turns out to be totally full of shit.
Siobhan’s friend Alicia — who is so unbelievably cool and mysterious that Tris can’t tell if she wants to date her or be her — cackles with laughter at the story.
“I mean, come on. Vampires?”
“He’ll be so insulted,” her brother drawls, and pulls out his phone. “Hang on, I’m telling Sam.”
“Dude, you’re on a texting basis with Sam Winchester?” Siobhan gasps, totally shameless.
“Let’s just say… we’ve got history,” Max says, and smirks. It’s a meaningful smirk.
Alicia slaps him in the shoulder. “Stop implying you slept with Sam Winchester, you asshole.”
“Who am I to stop the people from believing what they want?” Max says regally, and Alicia rolls her eyes.
“Sam makes a personal call to the Queen of Hell to save your soul from eternal damnation and this is the thanks he gets.”
Tris, startled, meets Siobhan’s eyes, as wide as hers. The world of ghosts and vampires and demons was enough to blow Tris’ mind in the first place. Someone being on a personal basis with the Queen of Hell? That’s so far above her pay grade she she’s not even gonna try to touch it.
Max looks up from his phone. “According to Sam, Dean says: if you’re gonna tell people I’m dead it’s gotta be more interesting than any of my real deaths. Step it up.”
Deaths, plural? Yeah, no, Tris is not engaging with that one either.
But it’s nice to hear — actually, weirdly relieving to hear — that this Dean Winchester is alive and well, no matter what the hunter gossip circles say.
She’s been hunting with Siobhan for a few months straight, and even though Tris is bone tired it feels so good to be in a rhythm like this. The longer they hunt without splitting up to take separate jobs, the smoother they are together, knowing how to back each other up instinctively on a hunt or support the other’s easy lies to a law enforcement officer.
They’ve been talking about taking some time off, earning some honest money for a few months to save up. Something flutters in her stomach when she thinks about the two of them renting a place together, not living out of motels, and acting like respectable members of society.
That is, if they can ever figure out what the hell is going on with this case.
Siobhan lifts her head from where she’s collapsed onto the police reports.
“Is this what going mad feels like?” she asks.
“I imagine going mad involves fewer photocopies,” Tris says, going for another sip of coffee and groaning when she finds her cup empty.
“This case makes no goddamn sense,” Siobhan says for the sixth time. “Regis, I would like to phone a friend.”
Tris stretches, popping her shoulder, and then — wait. “Wait,” she says.
“I have an idea.”
“Music to my ears, Tris. I could kiss you right now.”
Tris forces a laugh, like Siobhan must be expecting, and pretends her ears aren’t flushing. Funny joke. Ha ha. Like that isn’t exactly what she wants. She fumbles for her phone, scrolling to the H section and dialing.
This time, when Harvelle answers he doesn’t do the fake FBI impersonation. “Yeah?” he says, with the assuredness that anyone who has this phone number must be calling for a reason and doesn’t have time for small talk.
“This is Tris. You helped me with the cursed object thing a while back?”
“Right, I remember,” he says — though it’s hard for her to hear over the clamor in the background, a clatter of glass and something that sounds like it could be rock music behind the sound of laughter. “Hey, hang on a sec.”
After a moment, the background noise becomes quieter. “Sorry, loud in there.”
“I hope you don’t mind that I called. No one is dying this time. Not right now, at least,” she says, and he laughs.
“Don’t be sorry, I love it when people aren’t dying. But I figure this isn’t just a social call.”
“It’s not. We’ve got four dead bodies and evidence that makes absolutely no sense between them, and I didn’t know who else to reach out to.”
“Yeah, there’s not really a monster 411 number, is there,” he says, and there’s something thoughtful in his voice. “Lay it on me.”
Tris is, yeah, maybe a little embarrassed by how he can instantly name the creature responsible for the attacks and describe how to kill it after two minutes on the phone, when it’s taken her and Siobhan a week to turn up nothing but dead ends. She tells him as much and he laughs dryly.
“Spend as much time in the life as I have and you’re bound to pick up a few things.”
She’s not sure what compels her to tell him — blame it on the fact that she’s been running on gas-n-sip coffee and almost no sleep for the past week. “Siobhan and I, we’re thinking about taking a break from hunting.”
“That’s good,” he tells her instantly. “This life, it can be pretty all consuming. If you can find some kinda work-life balance, you’d be doing a lot better than I ever did.”
“Except you’re retired.”
“That I am,” he says, and there’s a smile in his voice. “Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go stop my partner from hustling everybody here out of their money just to show off his skills at darts. Good luck with the hunt.”
When she hangs up, Siobhan’s giving her an interested look. “Was that the fake Fed guy?”
“Yeah,” she says. “He told me he was retired, but — I kind of get the feeling he likes helping out. At least, he’s never been an asshole about it.”
“If he’s right about this and we can finally leave this goddamn town, he will have helped us more than he could ever know.”
“You’re really ready for that break, huh?”
Siobhan gives her a bright smile. “You and me, an apartment with a real shower and a few months without having to scrub grave dirt out from under my nails? Babe, I’m so ready.”
Tris thinks, if the monster doesn’t kill her, Siobhan will absolutely be the death of her.
A week later, Siobhan looks up from her phone. “Just got a text from Terrence,” she says. “There’s a phone number circulating now. Apparently you can text it for, like, research questions. How to kill something, that kind of thing.”
“Huh,” Tris says, and smiles out at the road.
It all comes to a head some eight or nine months later.
They’re out somewhere in northwest Kansas — like, way out there, where the billboards bear paintings of Jesus with wheat stalks. Siobhan and Tris have been shaking off the rust after their time away, teaming up with other hunters when they can. Though honestly, the woman — Krissy — that they’ve paired up with on this vamp hunt hardly needed any help, taking out at least half the vamps herself.
“You’ve gotta let us buy you a beer,” Tris tells her again, and Krissy waves her off.
“I’ll take you up on that another time, believe me,” she says. “Oh, but hey — a friend has a bar not far from here. Mostly hunters, but less of the male chauvinist set than your usual hunter bar. You two should check it out.”
Tris, who by now has been in enough hunter roadhouses to know exactly what she means, takes the recommendation seriously, plugging the coordinates Krissy gives her into her phone and dropping a pin to save the address.
“What do you say?” Tris asks Siobhan after Krissy’s pulled away. “Want to get a drink?”
“Is that even a question? It’s like you don’t even know me,” Siobhan says, feigning wounded.
“Can’t believe you didn’t go into acting, sense of drama like that.”
“And give up this life of crime with you? Never, babe.” Siobhan bumps her shoulder and winks at her.
This is still new enough that Tris’ instinct is to bite back her reaction, like she always did when Siobhan play-flirted with her.
Except — it wasn’t play-flirting, it turns out, and she’s got no reason to hide anymore. Now she can grin wide, and nudge Siobhan’s shoulder right back.
One shower — okay, two, they’re still kind of in the honeymoon phase, sue them — and forty-five minutes on the road later, and they pull up outside an unassuming bar. The light streaming out the windows is welcoming, and Tris can hear some kind of classic rock playing inside.
“Hey, I think we’re not far from the continental center of the U.S.,” she tells Siobhan as she zooms out from the map on her phone.
“Nerd. Want to go see it tomorrow?”
“If I say yes, you’re going to call me a nerd again.”
“Babe, don’t be like that. I’m going to call you a nerd no matter what you say.”
Siobhan pushes the door open, and Tris decides right away that she likes this bar. It’s unpretentious but clean and clearly well-loved. There are enough people filling the space to create a rumble of noise, but it’s not so loud that she’ll have to shout to be heard.
They slide into two stools at the end of the bar. The dark-haired man behind the bar nods over at them, holding up one finger in a clear one minute gesture before going back to what looks like a conversation in sign language with a woman at the other end.
Siobhan leans in close to Tris, pushing her still-damp hair behind her ear to whisper, “Does that guy look familiar to you?”
Tris, trying not to be distracted by the way Siobhan’s fingers trace the curve of her ear, squints at the guy. “I don’t think so,” she says.
Siobhan hums thoughtfully, and pulls away as the guy approaches them.
“Welcome,” he says. “What can I get for you?” And it’s funny, because Tris doesn’t recognize his face, but his voice is definitely familiar. She can’t quite place it, but she knows she’s heard that deep rumble before.
She’s distracted enough by trying to figure it out that Siobhan jumps in to order for both of them. “Whiskey ginger for her, and I’ll take whatever the darkest beer you’ve got on tap is.”
He nods and steps back to grab two glasses off the shelf. As he moves, the light from the neon sign behind his head catches in his hair, framing him, and Siobhan inhales sharply.
He looks up, clearly hearing it, and cocks his head at her. When Siobhan says nothing, he frowns a bit but goes back to pouring the whiskey.
As soon as his attention is elsewhere, Siobhan’s leaning in close again. “Holy shit, I know who that is,” she says, soft and urgent in Tris’s ear. “There’s a church, a stained glass thing— doesn’t matter. That’s Castiel.”
The name’s familiar to Tris the same way his voice is, but she can’t connect the dots. She hums questioningly.
“The angel,” Siobhan adds, reverent. “I’ve heard stories about him. He, like, turned his back on heaven to help humanity.”
Tris may have stopped being really religious a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less stunned. Demons, she’s encountered. And it’s not like she didn’t know angels were real, and apparently mostly assholes, but.
Sitting here, at a bar, watching a real life angel frown in concentration as he pulls a perfect draft of stout, with the neon light from a beer sign lighting a halo around his head?
It’s a lot for her lapsed-Catholic heart to take.
“Be cool,” Siobhan hisses, like Tris is the one they need to worry about being a shameless fangirl.
When he returns to place their drinks in front of them, laying them neatly on bar napkins, Tris has the strangest feeling the angel knows exactly what was said.
He gives them both a calm, assessing look. “What were your names?” he asks in that same rumbling bass.
“Tris,” she says, pointing at herself, and jerking a thumb towards Siobhan. “Siobhan.”
Something flickers in his eyes and he gives a genuine smile. “It’s good to meet you in person,” he says.
Tris catches Siobhan’s eye; she looks as confused as Tris feels. Is this some kind of heavenly soul thing? she wonders.
Their confusion must be obvious, because his smile deepens. “Is it such a common occurrence for you to reverse the Sign of Adrammelech, that you wouldn’t remember the first time?” he asks, drily.
That’s where she knows the voice from.
What feels like a lifetime ago, when she was desperate and Siobhan was unmoving and a kind, deep voice on the phone talked her through saving her friend’s life.
“Cas,” she says, awed, and he nods. “Thank you. Again. Really.”
Cas waves her off. “I’m just glad we could help. You seem to have made a full recovery,” he says to Siobhan, who — Tris can just tell — is absolutely losing it internally at the fact that Tris is, apparently, on a first name basis with an angel.
Under the bar, Tris squeezes her thigh. Be cool.
“Yep, I’m— right as rain. Never better,” Siobhan tells him, voice only slightly squeaky.
He nods solemnly, but Tris is pretty sure she can see laughter in his eyes.
“Tell Harvelle thanks for us, too, would you?” she says.
He frowns. “Harvelle?” There’s a pause before his eyebrows lift. “Right, of course.”
Then he smiles. “You can tell him yourself.” He looks over his shoulder, just as a lighter-haired guy walks through the door from the back.
Tris thinks, he must have seen him out of his peripheral vision, somehow, because the timing of that was way too good and there’s no other explanation for how Cas seemed to just know that the guy was approaching. Unless it’s an angel thing.
And then she remembers where she first heard the name Castiel before.
And the penny drops.
Tris feels a little bit like she’s having an out of body experience as the man nears them, putting one hand on the small of Cas’s back and leaning in to listen to whatever Cas is telling him — it must be their names, because he looks over with a grin of recognition.
“Tris!” he says. “Good to see you found your way here.”
“Harvelle, I presume,” she says, and is so proud of how even her voice sounds as she reaches out a hand to shake his. “Or do you prefer Winchester?”
Dean Winchester is clearly not startled by the way she’s figured out who he is, grinning even wider. “Just Dean is fine,” he says.
“Oh my god,” Siobhan mutters, very quietly. Tris chooses to ignore her.
“How’d you find this joint?” Dean asks them.
“We were just on a hunt with a friend of yours. Krissy? She sent us here,” Tris explains, and Dean nods.
“Krissy’s a good kid. She didn’t come with you?”
“Said she had plans.”
Dean clicks his tongue. “Too bad.” There’s a knocking noise from the other end of the bar, and Dean looks back to catch the eye of the woman Cas was talking to earlier. She signs something in ASL, and he responds quickly before turning back to them.
“Duty calls. But hey, your first round is on the house, alright? Only one who ever called to thank the fake Fed.”
“Dean,” Cas says, rolling his eyes. “You can’t keep giving everyone free drinks.”
“Sure I can!” he says brightly. “It’s my bar, I can do what I want.”
“It’s our bar,” Cas says. “You can do 50% of what you want.”
“You can do 100% of what you want,” he says with an exaggerated wink, waggling his eyebrows.
“That doesn’t even make sense,” Cas tells him flatly.
Dean grins at him and leans in to kiss him on the cheek. “You don’t even make sense,” he says.
He turns to Tris and Siobhan, knocking a fist against the bar. Tris catches a flash of silver on his finger. “Stay a while, don’t let this asshole scare you off,” he tells them, before turning back to talk to the woman at the other end.
Cas shakes his head. “He’s the worst,” he tells them conspiratorially.
“Didn’t he save the world a bunch of times?” Siobhan asks breathlessly.
“It doesn’t excuse terrible business practices, but yes,” Cas says, and his eyes soften. He looks at them consideringly. “I hope you understand we try to keep a low profile these days,” he says. “We’ve made a few enemies in our time, Dean especially. I know there are stories going around that Dean is dead, or that his brother is, or that we all are, and it doesn’t bother us to let the rumor mill work. The bar isn’t a secret or anything, but I hope you’ll be,” he pauses. “Judicious. When you talk about it.”
Tris hears Siobhan inhale, and can just tell there’s going to be a load of questions incoming. She wraps an arm around Siobhan’s shoulder and covers her mouth, nodding at Cas. “I understand,” she says. “We both do.”
There’s laughter in his eyes again as he looks at them, but he doesn’t comment. “Thank you,” he says, gravelly, then turns to join Dean at the other end of the bar.
“God, you’re hot when you’re casual friends with hunting legends,” Siobhan tells her when she releases her, and Tris, struck suddenly by the absurdity of the whole situation, laughs loudly.
Dean Winchester — she’s not sure what’s true or not, but she’s heard he killed Death, tamed an archangel, saved the world; he’s the guy who demons tell scary stories about — and Castiel, the angel who betrayed heaven to defend humanity. And here they are: retired, married, living a quiet life running a bar amid the Kansas cornfields, and making time to help out the next generation of hunters, the ones carrying on their legacy.
Tris hasn’t been in the life as long as many, but she’s still been to more than her fair share of funerals. It’s not a life that brings a lot of happiness, or one that comes with a long life expectancy.
But hell, she thinks. If Dean Winchester can make it out the other end, there’s hope for the rest of them.