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i tried to kill dean winchester and all i got was this lousy t-shirt

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Claire’s head hurt.

It was all she could focus on. She doubled over in pain, clutching her head in her hands. She was used to the occasional headache, she had been for most of her life, and they were par for the course for hunters, but this was something else. She’d never felt anything like this before.

“Claire?” came a voice to her left. Someone put their hand on her shoulder.

The pain faded to nothing.

Relief filled her, but it was short-lived.

Now the pain was gone, she could take in what was actually going on around her. She was outside, somewhere public, sitting on a cold bench. She could hear people living their lives around her. Snippets of conversation. Traffic.

She was sure that, until the moment her head had started trying to kill her, she’d been hiding in one of the bunker storerooms with Jack and Kaia.

Dean had decided that the entire bunker needed vacuuming, and that the most effective way of getting it done would be to get everyone currently staying there involved. Which was true, to be fair, but Claire had never enjoyed vacuuming, not even as a little kid. If she’d known that Dean was gonna catch the cleaning bug on that particular day then she would’ve put off her visit to the bunker by a couple of weeks. Kaia knew this, and hiding from Dean had been xir idea. Xe’d told Jack to take them to a storeroom on a lower level, and Jack had been more than happy to do so. They didn’t enjoy cleaning much either, and the three of them knew that Dean wouldn’t be too mad at them for skipping out for too long, so it was fine. And if they made a note of what was being stored in the room they hid in then Sam and Castiel would likely consider them to have been helpful anyway, and Dean would be overruled.

She wasn’t in the storeroom anymore.

She slowly sat up and opened her eyes, squinting in the light. She looked to her left to see Jack, their face full of concern and their hand still on her shoulder. They must’ve healed her from whatever that had been.

Had it been a side effect of being transported somewhere?

Considering that she and Jack had been transported somewhere, that was looking likely.

“Thanks,” she said.

“No problem.” They took back their hand and looked around. “What happened?”

“I don’t know, I -” she whipped her head around, searching for a familiar curl of dark hair or the red sweater xe’d stolen out of Claire’s bag that morning, but there was nothing suggesting xe was anywhere nearby. “Where’s Kaia?”

“I don’t think xe’s here,” said Jack. “Whatever happened to us, xe didn’t get caught in it.”

“Or xe got sent somewhere else.” Claire turned back to Jack, trying hard not to panic. It hadn’t been too long since Kaia had been rescued from that other world, less than a year, and if xe’d been lost again then-

Jack was shaking their head.

“No,” they said, “Kaia’s fine. We knocked over that jar, right?”

It took Claire a few moments to remember.

The storeroom that Jack had led them to had been full to bursting with all sorts of things. They’d all been careful not to touch anything or lean too hard on any of the shelves, but their efforts had been rendered moot when Kaia stood, saying xe needed the loo, and xir shoulder clipped a jar that had been sitting precariously near the edge of one of the shelves. Fortunately, it fell into a box sitting at the foot of the shelves. Unfortunately, it shattered on impact with the things already inside the box. They may not have had broken glass spread all over the room to deal with, but there was still broken glass, and none of them were enough of an asshole to leave shards of broken glass in that box as a fun surprise for whoever tried sorting through it in the future.

Claire had figured that the easiest way to clean up the glass was to tip out the box’s contents, put everything that wasn’t broken back into the box, before cleaning up the glass and whatever else was left from the floor.

The jar’s contents had been... glittery? Not liquid, that was for sure. She honestly hadn’t thought much of it.

Perhaps she should’ve.

Scratch that. The jar had broken, and less than five minutes later she and Jack had been transported to who knows where. She definitely should’ve thought more of it. She should’ve at least put on gloves before touching anything.

Lesson learned. She wouldn’t be making that mistake again.

“You think that’s what sent us here?”

Jack nodded. “I picked up the gold dagger and woke up here. I’m pretty sure you were reaching for it too.”

She already knew the answer, but she had to double check. “Did the dagger have a lot of the stuff that was in the jar on it?”

“Yes,” said Jack. “That’s why I went for it first, so I could clean it.”

Claire tipped her head back and looked at the sky. “Kaia was on the other side of the room,” she said. It wasn’t a question. Claire knew that Kaia had been on the other side of the room when she touched the dagger because she’d seen xem there herself.

“And xe would’ve seen us disappear and known not to do what we just did!” said Jack. Claire could hear the smile in their voice.

“Yeah,” said Claire. “Xe’s smart like that.” She looked over at Jack. “Not like us.”

Jack shrugged, still smiling. 

Claire’s gaze shifted past Jack’s face, to the street behind them, and was hit with a bolt of familiarity. She sat up. “I think I know where we are.”

“You do?”

She stood and turned on the spot, getting a good look at her surroundings. “Yeah,” she said. “I think we’re in Seattle. Me and Patience were here a couple of months ago, some vamps were gonna go after a school, and...” she trailed off. This was Seattle, but it wasn’t Seattle as it had looked in early 2021. There were at least three stores on this street that were different from how she remembered, and none of them looked new enough to have opened in the short time since she’d last been here. “Jack,” she said, “can you take us back to the bunker?”

Jack tapped their fingers to Claire’s wrist.

Nothing happened.

They frowned. “I can’t fly there. It’s blocked somehow, like it’s warded.” They looked up at her. “Something’s wrong.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Stay here.”

“But-”

She stepped back from the bench. “I’ll be right back, I promise. I just need to check something. I’ll be gone five minutes.”

Jack opened their mouth to argue, before apparently thinking better of it. “Five minutes,” they agreed.

Claire turned, crossed the street, and walked straight into the store directly ahead of her.

There was a possible reason that would explain why Seattle was different from how she remembered it, and why the bunker would suddenly have warding that could keep a nephilim who was also kinda sorta sometimes God from flying in. If she was right, then this would be a strong contender for the most ridiculous situation in her life, and she’d been in some ridiculous situations, but first she needed to confirm if that was what was really going on or not.

Newspapers were always how they did it in movies.

She grabbed the first one she saw, turned on her heel, and left the store. She couldn’t pay for it. Her wallet was in her bedroom in the bunker and her phone was on the floor of the storeroom, though if she was right about what was going on then her phone wouldn’t have been much help anyway. If she wanted the newspaper then her only option was to take it. It had been a while since she’d needed to shoplift anything, but she still knew the drill. If she couldn’t be sneaky then confidence was key. In and out as if nothing was amiss.

She’d promised Jack she’d be back in five minutes, but she was back in under two. She grabbed their wrist, pulled them to their feet, and walked down the street with them in tow.

Once they were far enough away from that store that Claire was confident that nobody was going to chase them over the stolen paper, she looked at the date at the top of the front page.

It was February 3rd, 2012.

Whatever had been in that smashed jar, coming into contact with it had sent her and Jack nearly a decade back in time.

Claire closed her eyes. In February 2012 she’d been fourteen, nearly fifteen. It had been nearly three years since... Well. Since. It had also been about half a year since her grandmother died, leaving Claire to bounce around foster homes. She was probably in her third one by now. That first year had been rough.

Ever since Castiel possessed her, she’d been able to feel him. The only people she’d tried to explain the feeling to after her grandmother’s death were Kaia and Jody, but she could always tell if Castiel was out there somewhere, alive, doing whatever it was he was doing. She’d always known when he died. She’d always known when he came back.

Wherever Castiel was in February 2012, he was alive. She could feel him now just like she could feel him back then and just like she could feel him in her own time.

But he’d been dead not too long ago. She knew she was remembering that right, because her grandmother had died while Castiel was dead, so the chances of her misremembering the timing were nonexistent. If she was remembering Castiel and the Winchesters’ explanations right, and she was sure she was, then that particular death had been the one that kicked off the Leviathan year. Castiel of 2012 wasn’t with the Winchesters. He didn’t even know who he was. He wouldn’t be able to help them get back to their present.

Plus, if they were stuck in the past, then interacting with people they knew probably wasn’t a good idea in the first place.

She opened her eyes and handed the newspaper to Jack.

They were quiet for a few seconds as they scanned the page, looking for what Claire had seen that was so significant.

“Oh,” they said on an exhale once they found it. “That’s why I can’t get into the bunker. It’s still sealed.”

“Huh?”

“They didn’t find the bunker until around this time next year. It was sealed before then.”

Claire didn’t know anything about when Sam and Dean had moved into the bunker. She’d surely been told at some point, but the information had disappeared from her brain. She didn’t need to know the Winchesters’ whole life story.

“Can you get us back to the present?” asked Claire.

Jack frowned. “Maybe theoretically? I’ve never tried time travel before. I think I probably could, but Cas says that time travel is really difficult, and I don’t want my first time to have such high stakes in case something goes wrong.”

“High stakes?” Claire moved Jack out the way of someone who’d decided that running down the sidewalk at full speed with no regard for the people around them was a good idea. Though, Claire and Jack were standing still in the middle of the way. They were being thoughtless too. “We should move.”

Jack nodded, and the two of them quickly made their way to the nearest park. It was only a few streets away, and had still been there when Claire had last been in Seattle, so it didn’t take long to find. They found a dry patch of grass and sat.

“What do you mean, high stakes?”

“You’re here with me,” said Jack, as if it were obvious. “There are so many things that I could get wrong when time travelling, and that list just gets longer if I have another person with me. What if you get hurt? What if I can only take myself and you get left behind? What if you get stuck in some other time entirely and then I can’t find you?” They shook their head. “Maybe if it were just me here I’d be willing to try it, but no. I’m not risking you.”

“We’re stuck here anyway if you don’t,” said Claire. “We shouldn’t bother Cas or the Winchesters or anyone else we know because we could fuck up the timeline, and messing with the bunker’s out for the same reason.”

“I don’t think we’re going to be stuck here for long.”

Claire raised her eyebrows. “You don’t?”

“No,” said Jack, full of confidence, “I don’t. Kaia saw what happened, so xe will have told everyone else, and they’ll be working on a way to get us back already. The worst case scenario is if Cas follows us.”

It struck Claire how much faith Jack had in Castiel and the Winchesters.

She didn’t like feeling anything negative towards Jack. Jack was the sweetest kid Claire had ever known. They made no secret of how much they looked up to her, and Claire had given up on pretending she was too cool to hang out with them a long time ago. She liked the kid! She could admit that they were practically her little brother at this point, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

And she knew that Jack’s relationship with their trio of dads hadn’t been great. She knew, okay? She’d heard all about it right from Jack themself, as they’d chattered away before about various points in their life that they hadn’t realised were as deeply fucked up as they were until they’d noticed Claire wasn’t smiling or laughing along with them. 

She’d had some choice words for Dean after that conversation.

But, despite everything, Jack was sure their dads would come for them. Was sure that Castiel would come for them.

Since Castiel came back into her life when she was seventeen, he’d always been more than prepared to drop everything if she needed him. He was always there for her, and it had stopped being about assuaging his guilt many years ago. He cared about her for her, not because of anything he owed her, and she cared about him right back. He wasn’t her dad. He could never be her dad. But, crucially, he wasn’t trying to be. He wasn’t trying to replace him. And he was family, there was no doubt about that. When she thought about it logically, she knew that Castiel would come for them both as soon as he could. He’d probably need to be stopped from following them immediately so that everyone could figure out a plan first.

But the years that came before then, the years of broken promises and unanswered prayers, still stung. Right now across the country there was a fourteen year old girl who’d given up hope. Claire would likely need to keep actively reminding herself that she wasn’t alone anymore for the rest of her life.

And here was Jack, blissfully unaware of Claire’s inner turmoil, acting as if Castiel caring about them was the surest thing in the universe.

She hated them a little for that.

And she hated that she hated them for it, because it wasn’t their fault, and they didn’t mean anything by it, and they didn’t know what it was like for her to go through that, and she loved them, she really did. She was glad they didn’t know what it was like to be abandoned. Just like they were probably glad she didn’t know what it was like to have a parent decide she was better off dead. Neither of them would wish their traumas on the other, and it wasn’t fair for Claire to resent Jack for any of it.

It wasn’t Jack’s fault, and it wasn’t their problem.

Claire swallowed.

“That’s not the worst case scenario,” she said, because it wasn’t. “Dean or Sam following and getting stuck here would be worse. At least Cas could maybe manage his own way back. They can’t.”

“True,” said Jack.

“And what if the time travel spell thing goes weird? Like in -” she stopped. “Wait,” she said, “have you seen or read any of the Narnia stuff?”

“I haven’t,” said Jack. “I know the basic premise, but I try to avoid anything involving other worlds or universes.”

Kaia was much the same. “Makes sense,” said Claire. “It’s very Christian anyway so I don’t know if you’d like it much, but I’m bringing it up because whenever someone travels to Narnia, it doesn’t matter how long they spend there, it’ll always be like no time has passed at all when they get back home, and then when they’re home and time does pass, way more time passes in Narnia. It’s not exactly the same because we’re in the past, not another universe, but what if someone comes back to get us and gets sent to a month from now? Or even later?”

Jack thought for a moment. “I don’t know,” they eventually said. “But I don’t want to do anything drastic. Chuck’s still out there right now, isn’t he? I think the best thing to do is stay put until someone comes to get us. If we go anywhere or do anything then we might get his attention.”

That was the real worst case scenario. 

“I’m willing to give it a week,” said Claire. “If it gets to a week then I’m gonna assume they can’t get to us, and I want you to try getting us home.”

“But -”

“I hear you, Jack,” she said. “I’m not ignoring what you said about what could go wrong, but I don’t want to be stuck in the past either. I trust you to get it right.” She tried for a smile. “You can get that in writing if it’ll make you feel better. Or you can record me saying it, if you’ve got your phone?”

Jack sighed. “I don’t have my phone,” they said. “I think it fell out of my pocket in the storeroom.”

“I put mine down in there, too,” said Claire. “I’m guessing you don’t have any money, either?”

“No, it’s all in my room. You?”

“Same.” She lay back on the grass and looked up at the sky. The ground was cold, leaching heat away from her. It wouldn’t be smart to lie down for long, but for now she wanted to look at the clouds. “We’re gonna need to figure out food and a place to sleep.”

“I could probably manage a week without either.”

Claire huffed a laugh. “Yeah, right. You might need less than humans but you still need some. You slept and ate even when you were God.”

She glanced at them to see them folding their arms. “I didn’t say it would be fun, just that I could manage. And I slept and ate while I was God mostly for normalcy. And technically I can get my full God powers back from Amara whenever I want, she’s just holding onto my share for now so I can live my life first.”

Claire looked up at the sky. “Contact her, then.”

“...Well I can’t right now.”

“That’s what I thought. Besides, even if you don’t need to eat or sleep, I’m still human and I still do.”

She hadn’t had to steal food to survive or sleep on the streets since Jody took her in. She didn’t relish the concept of doing it again.

“I could probably get us a room somewhere,” said Jack. “All it would take is a little bit of memory manipulation.” She wasn’t looking, but she could imagine the face they were pulling at the concept of doing that. “Messing with people’s memories makes me feel icky.”

She sat up. “Even if it’s for a good cause?”

“Even then,” said Jack. “I’d rather pay for a room if we can.”

Claire shook her head in disbelief. “Where did you get your morals from, because it certainly wasn’t any of your parents.”

That was when she heard a familiar rumble.

She locked eyes with Jack, whose eyes were wide. They must’ve heard it too. After a moment’s hesitation, they both shot to their feet and ran to the edge of the park, towards the noise that had caught their attention.

The Impala.

The Impala.

And sure enough, when the car came to a stop across the street and two men got out and walked away, Claire recognised them.

“Um,” said Jack.

Claire held Jack’s arm, keeping them still until Sam and Dean had turned a corner and no longer had any chance of seeing them.

“They’re wearing their FBI suits,” said Jack. “There’s a case here.”

“Yeah,” said Claire. “I bet they’re going to look at the scene right now. Probably couldn’t park closer ‘cause of all the cops.”

If it were the present day, and she’d just happened to end up in the same place as the Winchesters while they were working a case, she would’ve immediately suited up and swooped in to join them. She liked hunting, so why not? But it wasn’t the present. She already had enough to worry about right now without hunting on top of that. Whatever had brought the Winchesters here, it was a better idea to leave them to it and stay out of their way. Not to mention that every bit of media she’d ever consumed that involved time travel suggested that interfering with anything remotely connected to your own life was a disaster waiting to happen.

But them being here did present an opportunity.

Looking around to make sure nobody was watching her, Claire crossed the street and approached the car. 

Jack followed close behind. “What are you doing?”

Claire tried opening the trunk. Locked.

“Claire” Jack hissed.

“Can you get this open?”

“Not until you tell me what you’re trying to do!”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

Jack stared at her.

“We need food and somewhere to sleep, right?” she said. “And you don’t want to mess with anyone’s memories, which I totally get. I happen to know for a fact that Dean keeps a stack of spare cash in his car. Problem solved.”

Jack looked horrified. “You want to steal from them?”

Claire shrugged. “It’s not stealing. You’re their kid. They’d want you to be safe, and they’d be fine with you taking stuff from their past selves so you can be. I’ll give back anything we don’t use once we get home, and it’s not like we’re gonna go on some huge irresponsible shopping spree, we’re only gonna buy what we need.” She paused, then added, “The same goes for me too I suppose, even if I’m not technically their kid they’d rather I use their money than sleep on the streets.”

“If we could ask our Sam and Dean first then it would be fine,” said Jack. Their eyes darted around nervously, as if someone might have realised there was something happening here that shouldn’t be. “This Sam and Dean don’t know us! I don’t think they’d believe us!”

“Which is why I’m asking you to open the trunk for me instead of trying to pick the lock myself. I don’t want to have to figure out how to explain myself to these Winchesters either, and it’s faster if you do it.”

Smashing a window would be fastest, but she didn’t want to incur Dean’s wrath in the past or present by damaging his baby.

Jack still didn’t look happy about the idea, but they didn’t argue any further. They put their hand on the trunk and their eyes flashed briefly gold. “There.”

This time the trunk opened with ease.

The cash was in the same spot it was last time she saw Dean get some out of there. She did some quick estimations, and grabbed about half of what she could see. That would hopefully be more than enough. She went to close the trunk again, then thought better of it and grabbed one of the spare pistols.

“Why are you taking that?” asked Jack. “Are we hunting?”

“With any luck, no,” said Claire. “But if the Winchesters are here, and if there’s a case here, then monsters might find us. I’ll give it back later.” She tucked the gun into her back pocket.

Jack nodded. “Yeah, okay.”

“Do you need one, or are you good?”

“I’m good.”

“Good.” Claire looked down at the chaotic store of weapons and hunting equipment, hoping to find a box of ammo that matched the pistol she’d taken.

Stuffed into a corner was a ball of tan fabric that she tried not to look too closely at.

“HEY!”

Claire startled upright, narrowly avoiding hitting her head on the car. There, at the end of the street and angrily marching towards them, was 2012’s Dean Winchester.

Oops.

“We gotta go,” she said, and she turned and ran, leaving the Impala trunk open behind her. She didn’t dare look back, could only hope that Jack was keeping pace with her, as she crossed the street and ran through the park. She could still hear angry shouting behind her. What if Dean decided to give chase? If he caught them, things would get so much more complicated.

Suddenly the scenery changed around her. Instead of running on grass she was running on concrete. She came to an abrupt stop and whirled around just in time for Jack to collide with her, sending them both tumbling to the ground.

“Sorry!” they said. They scrambled to their feet and held out a hand to help her up. “We were just out of his sight, so I flew us further away. Are you okay?”

She took their hand and let them help her stand. She brushed herself down. “I’m okay. It’s alright.” She looked around. They were in a parking lot, with nobody else around. There was a motel practically right next to them. “You’ve got pretty good aim.”

“Thanks!”

 

The motel was decent. The room looked completely clean, including the minifridge and kitchen area, and the TV appeared to be new or at least newish.

However, there was, unfortunately, only one bed.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said when she saw it.

Jack tilted their head in confusion. “What’s wrong?”

“If Kaia and I don’t specify that we want one bed we always get given two,” she said, unable to stop the bitterness from leaking into her voice. “You and I didn’t specify just now, and we got one. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened in the present too. It pisses me off.”

“Oh, did the clerk assume we’re dating? And does it get assumed a lot that you and Kaia aren’t?”

Claire took a deep breath and reminded herself that Jack wasn’t even four yet, and that their home situation of having three dads, two being in a relationship with each other and the third being the brother of one of those two, didn’t exactly set them up for an effortless understanding of the heteronormativity of wider society.

“Yes. That’s it.”

“I’m gonna go ask for a different room,” they said, and they were out the door before Claire had a chance to say anything else.

They were back five minutes later, an apologetic look on their face and holding cash they hadn’t left with.

“No dice?” asked Claire.

“No,” said Jack. “I explained that you’re my sister, not my girlfriend, and the clerk was really sorry for the mistake, but there aren’t any rooms with two beds free right now. She gave me some of our money back instead.” They handed the money over to Claire. “We could try going somewhere else?”

Claire put the money back with the rest. “It’s fine,” she said. “Sharing a bed isn’t actually a problem. It was the principle of the thing more than anything.”

“We could treat it like a sleepover!”

Claire smiled. Sharing a bed was fine. It was one of those things that was only as weird as the people involved let it be, and Jack was her kid brother, so it literally wasn’t a big deal, and with the apology-discount it was also now the cheapest option. Jack’s suggestion was more than welcome, though. Jack’s ability to look at a situation and figure out a way to make it into a positive was one of the things she really liked about them. “Yeah,” she said, “we can do that.”

They went to a nearby store and bought an armful of snacks and candy each, ordered pizza to their room, and after channel surfing for a bit through their room’s TV’s limited channel selection they eventually settled on a Scooby Doo marathon.

They spent a few hours like that, chatting a little and occasionally yelling at the screen, until Jack spoke up about something more serious.

“Earlier, you said that talking to Sam and Dean or going to the bunker could ‘fuck up the timeline’.” They brought up a hand to make air quotes as they said it. “What did that mean?”

Claire lay back on the bed as she thought about how best to respond. “It’s like... Have you seen Back to the Future? Or know about the butterfly effect?”

They shook their head.

“For Dean Winchester’s kid, your pop culture knowledge is lacking.”

“There’s so many movies, Claire! I’m not even four yet! And I spent most of the first year of my life stuck in another universe!”

Claire laughed. “Yeah, yeah, I know. As soon as we get home we can watch it, it’s a classic.”

Jack let themself fall backwards on the bed beside Claire with a huff. “What does this have to do with timelines and not being able to do certain things?”

“Because Back to the Future is about this guy who travels back in time, meets his parents when they were his age,  and accidentally stops them from meeting. He nearly writes himself out of existence by being careless in the past. And the butterfly effect is when apparently small things have a huge impact later on.” She rolled onto her side so she could see them properly, and they mirrored her. “Do you see where I’m going with this? You said they find the bunker in a year, and before they find it it’s fully sealed. If we mess with the bunker now, then in a year when they find it they might realise it wasn’t fully sealed and decide not to stay, and that would change things.”

“Oh,” said Jack. “That makes sense. I wouldn’t want to ruin that for them, or for us.”

“Exactly,” said Claire. “But that’s not even the biggest risk. Right now, Sam and Dean think Cas is dead.”

Jack’s mouth dropped open and they half sat up. “But he’s not! I can feel him!”

Claire didn’t know why she was surprised about that. Of course Jack could feel him too. If her being able to feel Castiel was because of the residual grace left inside of her, then it made sense that Jack would be able to feel Castiel as well, using their own grace. “So can I,” she said. “But they can’t feel him, and they don’t know he’s alive. If we went to them for help and explained who we were, we’d have to tell them that Cas is alive, and that could change everything.”

Slowly, Jack lay back down. “Wouldn’t it be kinder to tell them? If they think Cas is dead then they’re grieving him right now.”

For two years, Dark Kaia had been in this universe, knowing full well that Kaia was alive, and xe’d made no attempt to let Claire know, leaving her to her grief and misery. Granted, Claire would not have taken well to Dark Kaia’s presence, given that xe was the one who’d apparently killed Kaia in the first place, but looking back on it all now Claire thought she would’ve liked to know. Even if she couldn’t do anything to help get Kaia back, at least she would’ve known that Kaia was alive.

“It would be kinder,” she agreed. “But you know what your dads are like. If they knew Cas was alive they’d go find him right away, and for all we know that could change enough that you end up never being born.”

Jack wasn’t the only thing at risk if they interfered with the Winchesters’ lives. Claire already existed in 2012, so she wasn’t at risk of being erased entirely, but a decade was a long time. If she reminded Castiel and the Winchesters that she existed now, then they might seek her out sooner. And maybe her teenage years would be better for it! Or maybe they wouldn’t! She didn’t know! What she did know was that the life she had now, the family she had now, were dependent on things going the way they did. She only knew Kaia because xe’d met Jack under some very specific circumstances. She only had Jody, Alex, and Patience because all their lives had gone the way they’d gone. Her relationship with Castiel would be very different if he’d tracked her down earlier than he had. And she refused to lose Jack. 

She wouldn’t trade her life now for anything.

“Okay,” said Jack. “I understand. We’ll be careful.”

They didn’t look happy about it.

“Hey,” said Claire, as gently as she could manage, “Sam and Dean will be okay. So will Cas. They’re all back at the bunker, and aside from the fact that they’re worried about us, they’re happy. Things suck for them in 2012, but it turns out okay eventually. Focus on that.”

Jack nodded. “I’ll try.” They rolled onto their back. “Can we watch the news for a bit?”

A little thrown by the change in subject, Claire reached for the remote. “Sure, why?”

Jack took the remote, sat up against the headboard, and put it on the news channel. “I want to see if the case in the area right now is something we need to worry about.”

“You’re an ultra powerful nephilim, so I doubt it.”

Jack cracked a smile.

The story currently being discussed on the news was about a string of deaths in the city. All young men, all home alone, and all killed without any sign of a break in. This was probably the case Sam and Dean were here on.

"The victim was mutilated before he was killed, with his hands and feet being cut off while he was still alive. This brutal attack is similar enough to other killings that took place this past two weeks that police are treating the deaths as linked. The general public are advised to proceed with extreme caution and ensure their doors and windows are locked.”

Claire sat up. “Is it just me or is that way more than usually gets said on TV news?”

Jack nodded. “Rookie reporter, maybe?”

Sure enough, the reporter on-screen was abruptly cut away from mid-sentence. 

“Someone’s getting fired,” said Claire. She’d dealt with enough police and journalists while hunting that there was no doubt in her mind that that reporter was in for it. They never released exact details about how people died on TV news like that. Newspapers and websites often had more information, the kind of information that meant the difference between a real case or not, but that shit was usually kept off the TV.

What a way to go, though. Those poor guys. It would be one thing if they had body parts cut off after they were dead, but while they were still alive? Claire shuddered and tried to stop imagining it happening to her. Hopefully Sam and Dean would find and stop the monster before anyone else could get hurt.

And the report had at least dispelled any concern she’d had that she and Jack could get accidentally caught up in the case. Whatever this was, neither of them fit the victim profile, and they weren’t planning on leaving each other alone anyway.

“I want to take a look at the bodies.”

Claire whipped her head around to Jack. “You what?”

She was expecting them to look curious, intrigued, or even excited. She knew she often got like that when finding a new case. The double barrel satisfaction of solving a puzzle and saving lives was a great feeling, and was why she was usually so eager to hunt. Jack liked hunting too, so if they’d decided they wanted in on this one, that would make sense to Claire. She kinda did too. If it weren’t for the risk of fucking the timeline up she’d be right in there.

Being the responsible one was exhausting. When she was with Alex and Patience, it didn’t matter that she was technically the oldest. They were sensible enough that she could be as chaotic as she liked, secure in the knowledge that they were there to be the voices of reason and reign her in. It wasn’t like that with Jack. Jack was three, and for some unfathomable reason they thought Claire was a reasonable role model. She had to at least try and act like it.

She especially had to act like it now, when it was just the two of them, and one wrong move could erase Jack from time altogether.

But when she looked at Jack, expecting to have to rehash all the reasons why they couldn’t get involved in this particular hunt, the words died in her throat when she saw the actual expression on their face.

They didn’t look excited at all.

They looked uncertain. And sad. 

They stood. “I won’t be long,” they said. “I think I know which case this is. I just want to see if I’m right.”

Claire launched to her feet and grabbed their wrist. They jolted back in surprise.

“If you think you’re going to look at the bodies without me, you’ve got another thing coming!” She attempted to smile without letting any of her worry show, but could tell from Jack’s reaction she didn’t succeed. “As if I’m gonna let you have all the fun.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “Looking at corpses is fun?”

“Uh, well -”

“It’s okay,” they said, gently pulling their wrist out of Claire’s grip. “You don’t need to worry about me. It’ll only take a minute, and I’ll be careful.”

Claire looked them dead in the eye and took hold of the edge of their t-shirt. “If you’re going to the morgue, then so am I, whether you like it or not.”

Jack hesitated, then said, “Fine.”

They held Claire’s wrist properly as they flew to the morgue.

It was late, so it was empty and all the lights were off. Claire stood in place while Jack made their way through the dark to the light switches. Once the lights were on and Claire’s eyes had adjusted enough that she could see again, she joined Jack at the filing cabinet and helped them search for the files they needed.

It didn’t take them long, and soon they were opening the fridge that the victim from that morning was stored in.

The guy’s chest was stained red. Claire could only imagine how much of a bloody mess it had been when the guy’s body had been found that even after cleaning him up his skin was still stained. 

That wasn’t the main thing Claire noticed about his chest, though. The main thing she noticed was the symbol that had been carved into him.

It was a horrific thing to do to someone, especially if it was done while they were still alive, which going by his bloodstained skin and the fact that his hands and feet had been cut off while he was still alive, he definitely had been. It also wasn’t something that the vast majority of monsters or ghosts would bother doing. Most things killed for a purpose, and doing something like this would at best waste time and at worst run counter to that purpose. This wasn’t the work of something standard like a vampire or a werewolf.

The symbol looked familiar, somehow. She didn’t know where she’d seen it before. It wasn’t anything angelic. Ever since her brief stint as a vessel she’d been able to read and recall all angelic symbols and warding, and this wasn’t anything like that. She didn’t think it was demonic either, but she couldn’t be sure. The most likely place she’d seen the symbol before was in one of the many many books in the bunker, but that didn’t help her narrow down what the symbol might be or what it might mean.

“Yeah,” said Jack, re-covering the body, “I thought so.”

“Thought what?” asked Claire. “You know that symbol?”

“They’re Amazons.”

It took Claire a moment.

“Oh! The warrior women who are also kinda demigods but not really, right? They rapidly age and kill their fathers?”

Jack nodded, pushed the body back into the fridge, and closed the door.

“Poor guy,” said Claire. “I came across a tribe of them a few years back, but when I called Cas for backup ‘cause there were so many of them he put an entirely different hunter on the case instead and wouldn’t let me carry on. I never understood why. I mean, if it was so dangerous then why couldn’t I get him, the Winchesters, and extra hunters to come help? Why did we have to -”

Jack didn’t seem to be listening. They’d leant their back against the wall of fridges and slid to the floor.

“Jack?”

“I’m not supposed to know about this,” said Jack, staring at their knees. “They don’t talk about it. Dean doesn’t talk about it. But I was God, and he thinks so loudly. I couldn’t help learning about her.”

A heavy feeling settled in Claire’s gut. “Her?”

No response.

Claire crouched so she was level with Jack. “What’s going on, Jack?”

They looked up at Claire. Their eyes were shining with tears they were barely holding back.

“Emma,” they said. “Her name was Emma. Is Emma, I suppose. She was born earlier today.”

Oh no.

Claire shifted so she was sat against the fridges next to Jack. Jack leant their head on her shoulder and kept talking.

“She’s Dean’s daughter,” they said, “and she’s an Amazon. Tomorrow the tribe will take her from her mother and train her and start her initiation, and the day after when she’s fully grown they’re going to send her to kill Dean. She doesn’t want to kill him, not really, but she thinks it’s her only option. And you know he doesn’t want to hurt her.”

Claire tried to kill Dean, once. She regretted it immediately, and he’d long since forgiven her for it. She didn’t think he’d so much as thought about it in years. If he had then maybe he wouldn’t look out for her so much. Maybe he wouldn’t care about her so much. He wasn’t her dad, and just like Castiel he wasn’t actively trying to replace her father, but, also just like Castiel, he was family as far as Claire was concerned, and she knew he felt that way about her too. Over the years she’d come to learn that Dean had a tendency to pseudo-adopt any and all kids he came across, and was fiercely protective of the ones that stuck around, herself included.

She wondered if, when she tried to kill him, he’d been reminded of his real daughter.

“He was talking her down when Sam arrived,” Jack continued. “And Sam didn’t hesitate.”

“He killed her?”

“Yeah.’ Jack hugged their knees tighter to themself. “By the time they reached where the rest of the tribe had been hiding out, they were all gone.”

So even if she had managed to kill Dean and complete her initiation, the rest of the Amazons would’ve abandoned her anyway. Charming.

It didn’t surprise Claire that Dean hadn’t been able to bring himself to kill Emma. Even if she wasn’t human, she was still a kid. She was still his kid. Claire knew all about the shit that Dean had put Jack through, but for all Dean’s talk about killing Jack, and for all he’d locked them in a box and pointed a powerful gun at their face, he’d never actually done it. She didn’t think he could. And hadn’t Dean practically raised Sam? Claire knew from skimming the books Chuck wrote that Dean’s father told him to kill Sam, and Dean had ended up doing the exact opposite.

But when Dean had been on the warpath about Jack, Sam was the one who’d believed Jack could be good, and had argued against hurting them. It didn’t make sense to Claire that Sam would shoot his brother’s daughter like she was nothing unless she was actively hurting Dean at the time, and from what Jack was saying it didn’t sound like that was the case.

“Why would Sam do that?”

“They think Cas is dead,” said Jack. “You know what Dean’s like when Cas dies.”

Claire nodded. She knew all too well. When Dean was grieving Cas he drank way too much, was quick to anger, and had a tendency to be suicidally reckless. Seeing Dean like that had been an uncomfortable look at her own behaviour after losing Kaia.

“They also lost Bobby a few weeks ago. He was basically their dad. Like how they’re my dads, he was theirs, and he’d just died. And now Dean’s facing his Amazon daughter, who Sam knows he won’t defend himself against, and who has a reason to attack Dean. Sam was scared that if he didn’t kill Emma then he’d lose the only person he had left. And Sam’s hallucinating Lucifer right now, too, which only makes everything worse.”

When it was all laid out for her like that, no wonder Sam took the shot.

Claire would do anything to protect her siblings. If she’d lost everyone except any one of them, and then they were put at risk, she knew that she’d do whatever it took to keep them safe. She’d like to believe that she wouldn’t kill a kid, even if that kid wasn’t human or they looked older than they were, but she didn’t think she was a good enough person for that. If her family was at risk then all bets were off.

She’d already lost one family. She wouldn’t lose another.

But, similarly, she couldn’t imagine what this was like for Dean. If Claire had lost Kaia, and then Jody, and then her own child at the hands of one of her siblings, she didn’t know what she’d do. The results certainly wouldn’t be pretty.

And then there was Emma herself, who’d been killed when she was only two days old, because Sam panicked. 

“They’ve only ever talked about her once,” said Jack. “Shortly after I was born, and Sam was insisting that I could be good while Dean was saying that was impossible. Sam regrets killing her. Because she was like me, you know? We’re both not fully human, and we both grew really fast but are still kids even if we don’t look like it, and we were both expected by our non-human parents to help them kill people. And if I could be good despite that then she could be good despite that. Even if him shooting her was understandable it still wasn’t right and she still didn’t deserve it. She wasn’t even three days old.”

“I bet that was a fun conversation to overhear.”

Jack shook their head. “I didn’t overhear them. I learnt about all this while I was God. Dean thinks about Emma all the time, and I got curious and followed the thread. He doesn’t know that I know.”

Claire felt a suspicious dampness on her shoulder. She put her arm around Jack and hugged them to her side.

“Sorry.”

“It’s alright,” said Claire. “It’s not fair.”

“No,” said Jack, “it’s not. When I found out about her I went looking for her in Purgatory, thinking I could bring her back to life or something, but I couldn’t find her. She wasn’t there. The only reason why she wouldn’t be there is if a Leviathan consumed her. She didn’t even get a chance and she’s gone and there’s nothing I can do to help her.”

Jack wasn’t bothering to hide their tears anymore.

Claire didn’t realise she was speaking until the words were out of her mouth.

“Yes there is.”

“Hm?”

Claire could backtrack. She could pretend she hadn’t said anything, or that she’d said something else intending to comfort Jack. She could get Jack to take them back to the motel without discussing things any further. She could let events run their course. She could keep her focus on keeping herself and Jack safe until someone from the present came to get them.

She didn’t want to do any of that.

The heavy feeling in her stomach solidified into something more like determination.

“Yes there is,” she repeated. “She’s alive right now, isn’t she? And we’re here too, and we know what’s going to happen. We could save her.”

Jack pulled away and looked at Claire, their eyes full of tears and confusion. “What about the timeline? If we change stuff it could go really bad.”

Claire shrugged. “Fuck the timeline,” she said. “There’s a kid that needs saving. Surely we’re smart enough to figure out how to do that without destroying everything?”

Slowly, Jack nodded. “Yeah, we are.” They wiped the tear tracks from their face and rubbed their eyes. “You really think it’s possible?”

Claire smiled. “You said you couldn’t find her in Purgatory. Sure, that could mean she got eaten by a Leviathan, but it could also mean she was never there in the first place.” She got to her feet and held out a hand to help Jack up. “So yeah, I think it’s possible. It’s like you said. We’ve had chances. She should get one too.”

Jack took Claire’s hand and stood. “Okay,” they said. “Let’s do this.”

 

They woke early the next morning, ate what was left of the pizza for breakfast, and started to plan.

“I’m not sure what time the tribe are picking her up, but it’s soon.” said Jack. They were sat at the table by the window, jotting notes onto a memo pad. “If we wanted to take her before the rest of the Amazons can get to her then we should go now. Fighting off her mother shouldn’t be too hard for me, and I’m sure I can hide her from the others easily enough.” 

Claire finished chewing her final mouthful of pizza crust. “Keeping her away from the people telling her she has to kill her dad would be great, but that’s a paradox waiting to happen.”

“A what?”

“It means a situation that’s impossible and contradicts itself.” She closed her empty pizza box and put it on the ground next to the bed. “If Emma never goes to the Amazons, and never gets sent after Dean, and Dean never learns about her and Sam never kills her, then Dean wouldn’t think about her, so you’d never learn about her, so we’d be doing literally anything else right now, so we wouldn’t save her, and the cycle would never end.”

Jack frowned. “I don’t get it.”

Claire crossed her legs in front of her as she tried to think of a simpler way to word it. “If we make it look like her life never needed to be saved, then we’ll change our present so that we won’t know we need to save her. Her life depends on us knowing that she dies. If we don’t save her, then she dies, then we know she dies and so we save her, then we don’t know she dies, so we don’t save her, and so on. You get the picture.”

“And that’s a paradox?”

Claire nodded. “Generally considered a bad thing, according to every time travel movie or TV show ever.”

“What would happen if we did it anyway? Just because the theory makes an endless loop doesn’t mean that’s what would really happen.”

“I don’t know what would happen,” said Claire. “As far as anyone knows, no one’s created a real paradox before. But if I’m going to learn one thing from the shit you and your dads have been through, it's that if there’s a chance it could destroy the world then it shouldn’t be plan A.”

Jack laughed. “That’s fair,” they said. Their smile dimmed. “Does that mean we have to let her go to the Amazons?”

“It means that, however we save her, Sam and Dean have to still think Sam killed her.”

Jack wrapped their arms around their middle. “I was hoping we wouldn’t have to do that.”

“Yeah,” said Claire, “I wish we could, too. But it’s not a good idea.” She let her gaze shift past Jack’s head, instead looking out the window at the city. “We could intercept her on her way to their motel room, and then you could alter Sam and Dean’s memories?”

“I hate messing with people’s memories,” said Jack. “And I don’t want to mess with Sam and Dean’s.”

“How else are we gonna save Emma, then?” asked Claire. “This way would work.”

“It might work, but I don’t think Sam or Dean would ever forgive me if I did that to them.”

“They’d forgive you,” said Claire. “You would’ve saved Dean’s daughter’s life! And by doing it in a way that didn’t fuck up the timeline it would be a no strings attached win. We don’t get nearly enough of those. I’m not seeing a downside here.”

“Claire,” said Jack. Their voice was low and level, and Claire shut the fuck up. Jack didn’t sound like that unless they were really upset and trying really hard not to be. “Dean wouldn’t forgive me because losing Emma hurt him. He thinks about her every day, he sees her dying in his nightmares, and he’s never forgiven himself for her death. Things between Dean and me are good now, but if he found out that I’d used my powers to change his memories and fabricate that pain it could destroy everything. He might think I’m just another Chuck. And Sam feels so guilty about killing her. If he learnt that he only thought he killed her because I’d made him think that... I don’t want them to hate me, and if I did that to them then they would hate me.”

Claire got off the bed and stood. “I don’t think they’d hate you,” she said, as gently as she could. “They might be a bit angry, but they’d have to be angry at me too, because I’m just as involved as you are. And Emma would be alive, which would be the most important thing.”

Jack turned and glared at her. “You don’t get it!”

Claire had never had a parent decide that she was better off dead. Jack had.

“No,” she said, “I don’t. But if we do this and they try to start any shit, I’ll beat them up for you. And you know Cas would be on our side if it came to it.”

Jack made a noise that was half laugh, half sob. “I don’t want to tear our family apart again. I’m not going to change their memories.”

Claire sat on the edge of the bed. “What other options have we got?” she asked. “I’m not trying to be a dick, but it might be the only way.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Claire tried to think of other options, but everything she could come up with either came back to Jack altering people’s memories or needed way more magical equipment and know-how than either she or Jack had or could get their hands on in the next day. She made a mental note not to take Sam or Rowena for granted so much in the future.

“I might have an idea,” said Jack.

“What is it?”

Jack didn’t respond with words. Instead, they vanished.

Claire sighed. Hopefully wherever Jack had flown off to, they’d be back soon. Hopefully they hadn’t decided to ignore her caution about paradoxes and wouldn’t be bringing a half grown Amazon child back with them.

“Can you see me?”

Claire jumped to her feet.

The voice had sounded exactly like Jack, but Jack wasn’t here. Claire was alone in the room.

“Claire.”

“Jack?”

“Can you see me?”

She shook her head. “What’s going on?”

Jack reappeared.

“Cas told me that angels can turn invisible if they want. He hasn’t done it in years, ‘cause things went really wrong last time he did, but he still can. I tried it out a few times after he told me about it, and I got pretty good at it! It’s been a while since I tried it, but I could probably get the hang of it again before tomorrow.”

Slowly, Claire sank back onto the bed. “What are you suggesting?”

“I hide in the motel room while invisible. At the moment she gets shot, I heal her and knock her out. When Sam and Dean leave to try and catch the other Amazons, I bring her back here and replace her body with something else. I’m thinking we could make a dummy and I could make its outside look like her? We won’t have time for me to recreate a whole body from scratch. They’ll think she’s dead, but she’ll really be here!”

Claire had to admit, it sounded like a pretty good plan. It avoided creating a paradox, and it avoided any need for Jack to alter Sam and Dean’s memories. It would need Jack to be very precise, though. “What if she dies before you can heal her?”

“She won’t,” said Jack. “I can heal people very quickly.”

“Yeah, but what if? You can’t go in there without a plan for if this one goes wrong.”

Jack drummed their fingers on the table. “I guess if she dies I’ll open a portal to Purgatory and bring her back. I wouldn’t do it in front of Sam and Dean, obviously, but I’m not leaving her there to be eaten by Leviathans.”

“And what are the chances that Chuck would notice you doing that?”

“I’ll take that risk.”

She couldn’t argue with that one.

Was there anything else?

“The fake body,” she said, “you said you could make the outside look like her. What about the inside? Won’t they notice when they burn it?”

“They won’t burn it. They buried her. So as long as I get the weight distribution right, they won’t notice anything different.”

“They buried her?”

“I don’t know why,” said Jack. “You’d think they’d burn her, just because that’s what you do. I guess neither of them were thinking straight.”

“No,” said Claire. “I guess not.”

“Does that plan sound okay?” Jack asked. Claire could hear a trickle of uncertainty in their voice. “I can’t think of anything else wrong with it, but there might be something I’ve missed.”

Claire thought it over again.

“It sounds okay to me,” she said. “You sure you’re up for it? It’s a lot of pressure on you.”

Jack smiled.

“Please,” they said. “I was God. I can handle this.”

 

They spent the rest of the day preparing for the day after.

The main thing they needed to do was explore the nearby thrift stores. When they’d been sent back to 2012, they’d only brought with them what had been physically on them at the time, and that meant neither of them had a single change of clothes, so they both had to get clothes for themselves. 

They also needed stuff for Emma. They’d need to dress the decoy body in whatever Emma would be wearing the next day, so they had to get her something . They weren’t sure what size she’d be. Claire had never seen her, and Jack had only seen her in Sam and Dean’s memories, but Jack was fairly certain that she’d be taller than Claire. Claire picked out a pair of jeans that would be slightly too long for herself, a t-shirt, and an intentionally oversized hoodie. Once Emma was with them they could find her more clothes that would actually fit.

They also grabbed a bunch of the ugliest shirts they could find, a spare pair of jeans, and a needle and thread. These would be what they would make the fake body out of.

They were only a few paces away from their room back in the motel when Claire saw a familiar figure ahead of them. She grabbed Jack and pushed them round a corner, hoping she’d been fast enough not to be seen.

Sam walked past them and carried on towards the stairs without so much as a glance in their direction.

“What was that for?” said Jack, rubbing their arm where Claire had grabbed it.

“We’re in the same motel as the Winchesters.”

“Are we?” Jack looked around Claire, trying to catch sight of the long gone Sam. “Huh, you’re right, I can feel them.”

Claire closed her eyes. “Of course you can feel them.”

“I didn’t know, I swear! I can only sense them now because I just tracked them, I was gonna do that tomorrow morning originally. I had no idea they were so close.”

“It’s okay, I believe you. We just need to be careful we don’t run into them.”

“Well,” said Jack as they unlocked their room door, “would it matter so much if they see us? It’s not like either of them would recognise us.”

“You do remember that Dean saw us messing with his car, right?”

“Oh.” They pushed the door open. “That might be a problem.”

“Yup.” Claire walked past them into the room. “And then there’s how we both look like Cas.”

Jack closed the door behind them. “You think he’d notice that?”

“I don’t think he’d notice that he’d noticed,” said Claire, dropping her bag on the bed. “But if we can keep things as simple as possible and not take that risk then let’s do that.”

Jack sighed. “I bet they took the last room with two beds instead of one.”

Claire grinned. “They probably did. What assholes.”

Jack returned the grin. “Such assholes.”

They both got to work on the fake body, stuffing the jeans and one of the shirts full with all the other shirts, making a ball of the shirts that were left over to form what would be the head, and then sewing all the pieces together. It didn’t take them too long, even with Jack somehow managing to unthread the needle more times than Claire bothered to count.

The evening was dedicated to making sure Jack was completely confident in their ability to maintain their invisibility and to heal people quickly. 

Jack never usually had cause to turn themself invisible, so while they assured Claire it was simple, she insisted on them practising anyway. The last thing anyone needed was for Jack’s invisibility to fail while he was in the Winchesters’ motel room tomorrow.

As for the healing, Claire considered offering to shoot herself in a non-vital body part and have Jack heal it. If she’d been here with either of her sisters then she would’ve said it, even if she decided against following through, because their horrified reactions would’ve been funny and so worth it. But she wasn’t here with Alex or Patience. She was here with Jack. A horrified reaction from them wouldn’t be funny at all, and then there was always the chance they’d be up for it, which would be even worse. If she inadvertently taught Jack that hurting themself was fine if they knew it wouldn’t last then Castiel really would be angry with her, and his anger wouldn’t come anywhere close to how angry she’d be with herself. So she didn’t suggest she seriously injure herself. Instead she scratched at her arm, hard enough to draw blood, and Jack healed her, and they repeated this until Jack could reliably heal her at almost the exact same moment there was anything to heal.

It still wasn’t great, but it was a lot better than her first idea had been, and she made sure that Jack understood that it wasn’t something they should ever be copying.

No new deaths had been reported since they arrived in 2012. Claire was glad about that. Any Amazon kills that happened after their arrival would’ve been deaths that she and Jack could’ve prevented, and that they’d decided to let happen because they were worried about the adverse effect that helping could’ve had on their own lives. She hadn’t wanted to think about that side of it. Thankfully, the evening news only talked about the deaths that had already happened, and they already knew that once Emma was sent after Dean there wouldn’t be any more.

 

Jack couldn’t be sure what time Emma would be there, so they hid in Dean’s room as soon as Sam left and was prepared to stay there as long as necessary, even if it turned out to be the whole day.

Claire sat on the stairs leading up to their rooms. Her job was to let Jack know when Emma arrived, and then to go and get food for the three of them. She couldn’t do anything else to help Jack. Their whole plan relied on the powers he had as a nephilim, and leftover angel grace from when she was twelve notwithstanding, Claire was entirely human. They both agreed that having two people try to explain what was going on to Emma at once would overwhelm her. If immediately post possession Claire had been flown away by a total stranger and had that stranger plus another stranger try to explain to her that they were from the future, she didn’t think she would’ve taken it well. Emma was about to have a day that was comparably bad, and there wasn’t much they could do to alleviate that. They could introduce her to the people from the future one at a time. And Claire could bring food as a peace offering. Hopefully that would help.

Through the morning a few people passed Claire by. Men, mostly. None of them acknowledged her, which suited her fine.

Then, a few minutes past midday, a teenage girl came up the stairs.

She had long blonde hair, a few shades darker than Claire’s own. She wore a pale jacket and a bright pink shirt, and was pulling a pink suitcase behind her. She was worrying at her lip, and Claire got the impression she was fighting the urge to turn and run.

This had to be Emma.

She’s here, Claire prayed.

She squeezed herself against the wall to let Emma and her suitcase through unhindered, and Emma smiled down at her. “Sorry,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Claire.

She could stop her. She could tell her who she was. She could beg her not to go into that room. It would be the kind thing to do. It would spare Emma from a horrible experience, one that would haunt her if she survived it.

She couldn’t. Everything could fall apart if she did.

If it had a chance of destroying the world, it shouldn’t be plan A.

She let Emma go.

Jack’s plan would work. And if it didn’t, they had a plan B. Opening a portal to Purgatory was risky, but neither Claire nor Jack were prepared to leave Emma here to die.

Once Emma was out of sight, Claire stood.

Jack had no way of getting in contact with her to let her know when she was clear to come back, so she’d just have to hope that however long it took to get the food would be long enough. 

She could go for a walk first. That would work.

She left the motel and turned right.

She didn’t have any particular destination in mind. She was just walking to pass the time, and when she felt like enough had passed she’d search for food in earnest. She didn’t go for walks alone very often, and on the rare occasion she did she almost always had her phone with her and music playing. She had none of that this time. It was just her, and her own thoughts, which largely stayed mercifully blank.

Before too long she reached the bench that she and Jack had been sitting on when they woke up in 2012.

She hadn’t meant to retrace their steps so fully, but this was where her feet had taken her when she’d switched her brain off and wandered. It was a little strange to think about. She and Jack had only been here for two days, and it simultaneously felt like much longer and no time at all. Neither of them had known when they’d first figured out when and where they were what they’d end up doing.

She wondered why they’d been sent here, specifically. The contents of that smashed jar had probably had something to do with it, she could figure out that much for herself, but did the dagger that she and Jack had reached for factor in in any way? There was always the chance that it had been a generic time travel spell, but it was too much of a coincidence that they’d ended up at the exact time and place when Dean’s daughter had lived and died for Claire to be able to dismiss it as such.

There were two men standing across the street from the bench.

Shit.

Dean and Castiel were standing across the street from the bench.

Claire spun and walked away as fast as she could.

She was glad to see them! She’d been so focused on the Emma thing that it had fallen a little by the wayside, but if someone hadn’t shown up for them soon she would’ve gotten worried that no one was coming at all. If the time that passed here mapped exactly onto the time that passed back home, then she was honestly kinda glad they’d taken their time about it. They’d figured out what kind of situation they were walking into before walking into it, and would have a plan about how to get everybody home. That was a relief. And even though she’d been the one to say that she was willing to have Jack take them home themself, she was glad to not be a passenger on baby’s first time travel attempt.

But if she let them see her then they wouldn’t leave her side, which would be kinda detrimental to her attempt at not overwhelming Emma. Dean and Cas would need to wait. They could survive not knowing where Claire or Jack were for a couple more hours.

Dean probably recognised where and when he was, anyway. It wasn’t just Emma she was protecting by not letting everything happen at once, it was Dean as well. It was a much better idea to let him adjust to being in Seattle in February 2012 before bringing Emma herself into the mix.

She slowed her pace once she was a comfortable distance away, bought burgers for the three of them, and made her way back to the motel.

Emma was sitting in the centre of the bed. She wasn’t wearing what she’d been wearing when Claire saw her earlier, she was wearing the jeans and hoodie that Claire had picked out from the thrift shop the previous day, and the fake body was gone. 

It was done, then. Emma’s life had officially been saved. 

She had her arms wrapped around her knees, hugging them to her chest. Her gaze was distant, like she wasn’t all there.

She looked remarkably like Jack did when they were upset.

“Hey,” said Claire. She stepped further into the room. “Are you hungry? I got us burgers.”

“This is Claire,” said Jack. They were sitting on the floor by the bed.

Emma blinked, and looked up at Claire. “You were on the stairs.”

“Yeah, I was.”

“If you’re really from the future and knew what was gonna happen, why didn’t you stop me?”

“Would you have listened to me if I’d tried?” asked Claire. She took one of the burgers out of the bag and held it out to her. “I wanted to,” she said, “but things had to happen a certain way for us to know there was something wrong. If I’d stopped you going in, then I wouldn’t have known I needed to stop you from going in. I know it’s kinda complicated.”

Emma stared at Claire, then, slowly, she took the offered burger. “I am hungry,” she said.

Claire gave Jack their burger and sat on the floor next to them. They all ate in silence.

Emma was less than half a week old, but she looked like she was around sixteen. Across the country, 2012’s Claire Novak was fourteen. If Emma had lived without needing their intervention, there was a good chance that she and Claire would’ve met at some point. They would’ve been close in age, maturity-wise at least. Maybe Claire’s relationship with the Winchesters wouldn’t have been so rocky at the beginning if Emma’d been with them. Maybe they could've helped each other.

They’d never know.

“Dean and Cas are here,” said Claire, once they’d all finished eating.

“Here? As in -”

“As in, in Seattle in 2012. I’m pretty sure they’d have followed me if they’d seen me.” She looked towards Emma. “How much did Jack explain to you before I arrived?”

“They told me you’re from nearly 10 years in the future, that they’re a nephilim and grew up really fast like I did, and that my father adopted them along with the guy who just shot me and an angel. They also said you’re kinda their sister.” She glanced at Jack, before looking back at Claire. “I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.”

“It means I’m kinda their sister,” said Claire. “The angel, his name’s Castiel, he’s possessing my dad’s body. He got my dad killed, but I’m mostly over it these days.”

“What about your mother?”

“Bio mom’s also dead, adoptive mom’s alive and kicking and totally awesome. She took in me and some other girls whose lives got ruined by supernatural shit.” She smiled at Emma, the same smile she always gave the people she saved while hunting to reassure them. “If you like, you could come home with me and meet her. You’ll be safe with us, I promise.”

“You’ll also be safe if you don’t want to do that,” said Jack. “Dean would be so happy if you wanted to live with him, but if there’s somewhere else you want to go then that’s also okay. You can do whatever you want.”

Emma fiddled with the string of the hoodie. “I can’t do whatever I want,” she said. “I can’t go back to my tribe. Not while he’s still alive.”

“You couldn’t go back to them anyway,” said Claire. “They left without you.”

Emma snapped her head up. “You’re lying.”

“Claire...” said Jack, a warning tone to their voice.

“We can take you there to see for yourself if you need proof, but they’re already gone. They sent you on a near suicide mission, and they left you to die. Is that really the kind of family you want to stick with?”

Emma clenched her hands into fists.

“I’m sorry,” said Claire, “I really am. But you need to know what’s going on here. We’re not going to force you to come back to the future with us, but whether you do or you don’t you need to figure out what you’re doing next, and rejoining the Amazons isn’t an option.”

“I could,” said Emma. “If I completed my mission.”

“You won’t,” said Jack. “You could if you really wanted to, and we all know Dean would let you, but you don’t want to. And we don’t want you to either, so could you please not?”

Emma stared at them, then deflated and looked back down at her knees. “Yeah,” she said. “You’re right.”

“Dean, our Dean, would be really happy to see you,” said Jack. “He’s here with Cas, and they can take us home. You can decide what you want to do from there. How does that sound? You’ll have more options in 2021 than you do now.”

Emma nodded. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll come with you.”

They agreed after a little more discussion that it would be better for Emma to be reintroduced to Dean in a public place. It probably wouldn’t be better for Dean, he was bound to have an emotional reaction which the setting wouldn’t help him with at all, but Dean wasn’t their priority here, Emma was. Dean would understand, and he’d just have to deal.

The three of them left the room together and started to make their way down the stairs.

They were only halfway down when Claire came face to face with Sam and Dean from 2012.

She almost collided with them. She’d been so focused on talking to Emma, reassuring her that she’d be okay whatever she decided to do once they were in 2021, that she wasn’t watching where she was going.

Sam’s movements were jerky, his expression dark. Claire hadn’t seen him this angry since that time this guy from the British Men of Letters suggested killing her after she’d been turned into a werewolf. She supposed that made sense. As far as Sam knew, Dean’s life had been in danger today, and he hadn’t been able to do anything about the group as a whole who were responsible for that.

Dean didn’t look angry. He looked sad, almost haunted. Any fool could tell at a single glance that something was deeply wrong. How could Sam not see it? How could Sam not realise how deeply he’d fucked up here?

He was so worried about Dean that he was forgetting to worry about Dean. Not to mention how much of his attention was undoubtedly being taken up by Lucifer whispering in his ear.

Speaking of Lucifer, his son and also Emma had been just behind Claire. If 2012 Sam and Dean had seen them, then Jack would have to flex their memory alteration abilities whether they liked it or not, because they could not know that Emma was still alive.

She looked behind her and was faced with nothing but an empty staircase.

Nice reaction time, she prayed to Jack.

They couldn’t respond, obviously, but she imagined their proud smile and smiled to herself.

Sam murmured an apology for nearly knocking her over and carried on up the stairs. Dean nearly did the same, but then his gaze passed over her face and he stopped. His expression hardened.

“Car thief girl,” he said.

You abandoned me, you traitor.

“I didn’t damage your car,” said Claire, “and I didn’t tell anyone about the arsenal you’ve got in your trunk, and I didn’t tell anyone about you and your partner impersonating officers. I’d say we’re even.”

She tried to walk around him, but he put a hand on her shoulder, stopping her.

There was a very short list of men that Claire was willing to let do that. That list pretty much consisted of just Dean, Sam, and Castiel. Dean didn’t know how lucky he was that she didn’t push him down the stairs right now.

She shrugged him off, and he let her. She didn’t try to get past him again. If he wanted to stand there and loom over her and yell then, honestly, it was whatever. He wasn’t going to hurt her, and he was going through a rough time. She could call him out on it later.

He didn’t yell.

He sent a quick glance up the stairs after his brother.

“How did you get into my car?” he asked. He looked back at her, a flicker of fear on his face. “Did you come here after...” he trailed off.

Did he... recognise her? Or did he realise she was a hunter? Or did he think she was an Amazon? That she’d been scoping him out, and was now here to finish the job? She had to admit that from where he was standing it wasn’t as ridiculous an idea as it might seem. She had to remember that Dean probably wasn’t thinking entirely rationally right now. He’d just watched his daughter die. She’d certainly never been at her most rational after watching people she loved be killed. The extra layer of Sam having been the one to kill Emma would be making it a million times worse.

“My brother’s yet to come across a lock he hasn’t been able to get open,” she said. “And we needed somewhere to stay. If we’d known the people we robbed were staying here too, we’d have gone somewhere else. We’re not idiots.”

Dean nodded. He only looked a little reassured. He studied her face. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

He did recognise her. But, like she’d predicted, he didn’t know where from.

It was tempting to respond with something cryptic but technically true. So tempting. But Dean had already been through so much today, and having any fun at his expense would be cruel.

Lying to his face was the best option.

“No,” she said. “We don’t know each other. Can I go?”

He blinked, and seemed to remember himself. He stepped to the side. “Don’t make breaking into people’s cars a habit. The next guy might not let you off so lightly.”

She rolled her eyes, and remembered the gun sitting in her jacket pocket. “Here,” she said, and gave it to him. “Didn’t end up needing this.”

He looked somewhat taken aback. “Thanks?”

Claire flashed a grin. “You’re welcome.”

Without waiting for a response, she carried on down the stairs.

Jack and Emma were waiting for her in the motel foyer.

“All good?” asked Jack.

“I can’t believe you did that to me.”

“They’d already seen you,” they said. “If you suddenly disappeared it would’ve raised questions. You’re the one who's been saying we can’t be noticed.”

“I have been betrayed.”

Emma giggled. Claire smiled at her.

“Come on,” said Claire. “Let’s go find your dads.”

Emma ended up spotting them first. They were passing by a Starbucks when she froze, staring in through the window. Claire followed her gaze and saw Dean sitting opposite Castiel, mug in hand. He hadn’t seen them, but all it would take was for him to stop focusing on Castiel, and he would.

They backed up so they weren’t visible from inside anymore.

“I’ll go in,” said Claire. “I can explain things, and then you guys come in after. Sound good?”

Jack nodded.

“How will we know when it’s okay to come in?” asked Emma.

“I’ll pray to Jack.”

Emma’s eyes went wide. “You can do that?”

“Yep! They’re part angel, so anything angels can do, they can do too, including hearing prayers. It’s basically just one way telepathy for us at this point.”

“It’s not the intended use,” said Jack, “but we don’t particularly care about the intended use.”

Emma smiled. “Cool.”

She seemed to really mean it, and Claire had to agree. Taking aspects of Jack’s angelic nature and using them for their own purposes was very cool.

Claire went into the Starbucks.

She bypassed the queue, grabbed a chair from an empty table, pulled it up to Dean and Castiel’s, and sat between them.

“‘Sup.”

“Claire!” said Castiel. “You’re alright. That’s a relief.”

“What? Did you think I wouldn’t be?”

“No,” said Castiel, a fond smile on his face, “I had every faith in you. It’s still good to know I was right.”

“Gave us a fright there, kiddo,” said Dean.

“Is Kaia okay?” asked Claire. She swiped Dean’s mug and took a sip. The coffee was a little sweeter than she liked it, but it was acceptable.

Dean waited for her to put the mug down before taking it back. “Xe’s fine. Was frantic a couple of days ago when xe watched you and Jack disappear right in front of xem.”

Claire winced. “It was an accident. We weren’t trying to send ourselves back in time.”

“We know,” said Castiel. “The jar that smashed was holding one of Rowena’s spells. Sam was only partially able to reverse engineer it. We had to contact Rowena for a full explanation of what it was.”

“Which is?”

“It worked as intended,” said Castiel. He drank from his own mug. “When spread over an item, the next person to come into contact with that item is sent to a significant time in that object’s past. Rowena abandoned the spell when the person she got to test it failed to return to the present.”

“She abandoned it in your basement.”

Castiel shrugged. “She visits a lot.”

“And you guys came here the same way?”

“We did,” said Castiel. “We believed that it was the surest way of ending up in the same time and place as you and Jack.”

“Landing gave me a hell of a headache, though,” said Dean.

“It did to me too,” said Claire. “It’s a good thing Jack was with me, waiting that one out would’ve been awful.”

Castiel smiled. “Rowena and Sam will appreciate the feedback. The spell obviously needs some refinement.”

Dean groaned. “Or they can just not mess with time. That’s an option too, you know.”

“I’m guessing you guys wouldn’t have followed if you didn’t have a solid way of getting back,” said Claire. “At least I hope you didn’t.”

“Yeah,” said Dean. “Rowena says that all we need to do is touch the thing we touched to get here and we’ll be sent back, so it’s just a matter of getting our hands on that dagger.” He sipped his coffee. “We’ll have a window of a couple hours where it’ll be in the trunk when me and Sam aren’t there.”

He was doing a pretty good job of hiding his distress. Anyone who didn’t know him would fall for it for sure. Unfortunately for him, Claire had actually met him before and was already familiar with his bullshit, especially when he was trying to cover this level of upset. She’d seen him while Castiel was in the empty. Most days Dean had been a wreck, but every now and then would be a day where he’d try to pretend that nothing was wrong at all. Those days were always the worst. It was so fake, and it invariably led to a breakdown of some sort when he couldn’t maintain it anymore. Dean now, drinking his coffee and casually commenting on how to plan around his past self, reminded Claire with startling clarity of Dean as he was on those days. A breakdown was incoming.

There was also the fact that Castiel wasn’t bothering to disguise his concern.

Obviously Claire would’ve at least figured out what the case in this city was after being here for a couple of days, even if she’d proceeded to stay well away from it. Claire was a very good hunter, and she wasn’t an idiot, and Castiel knew this. He wasn’t going to join in with Dean’s attempt to pretend there wasn’t anything wrong, because there was no way Claire didn’t know what was wrong. He didn’t treat her like she was a child. She appreciated that.

“Where’s Jack?” asked Castiel.

“They’re waiting outside,” said Claire.

How best to word this? She was sure Dean would be happy to hear that Emma was alive, but he was on more of a knife’s edge than she’d expected him to be.

There wasn’t really a way to ease him into it. No matter how she told him, it was gonna be a shock.

“We did something,” said Claire. “Something good. Though,” she turned to Castiel, “how confident are you in your ability to time travel? We’ve got an extra person we want to bring with us, and touching the dagger isn’t gonna do much for her.”

“It would be tiring, but I could take one person,” said Castiel. “The rest of you would need to use the spell to get back.”

“Claire,” said Dean. “What are you talking about?”

“So first of all, it’s not Jack’s fault they knew about her, so don’t get mad at them over it.” She fixed Dean with a stare. “I’m serious Dean. They couldn’t choose what they learnt when they were God.”

Dean blinked.

“We were dropped here two days ago,” Claire continued, “and it didn’t take Jack long to figure out the significance of when and where we were. We couldn’t just leave her. Jack had tried to get her out of Purgatory before, actually, but they hadn’t been able to find her.” She smiled. “I guess now we know why.”

“You mean -” He stopped. Swallowed. “Emma’s alive?”

Claire nodded. “She’s a bit shaken up, but yeah, she’s okay. I’m sorry, but we had to let things happen as they already did as much as possible because we didn’t know what would happen if we threw the timeline off track.”

Dean nodded, but Claire didn’t think he’d really heard her. His gaze had gone distant and he stared into the middle distance.

Emma had done that earlier.

Jack did it sometimes too.

Claire thought maybe she did it at times as well.

If she didn’t know better, she’d think they really were all related.

She looked at Castiel, who smiled encouragingly at her.

“Dean?” she said.

It took a bit, but Dean’s eyes gradually refocused and he looked at Claire properly. “Yeah,” he said. He huffed a wet sounding laugh. “Sorry, yeah. That’s uh...” He shook his head. “That’s amazing.”

“Would you like to meet her?”

He laugh-sobbed again. “Yeah,” he said. “I’d love that.”

Dean’s kinda crying, prayed Claire, but you can come in now.

When Jack and Emma walked into the Starbucks, Claire was a little surprised to see that Emma was taking the lead and walking ahead. She didn’t dawdle. She walked with a purpose towards the table with her head held high.

Castiel stood and silently offered Emma his seat. She nodded at him, and sat.

Claire pushed her chair back a little, but didn’t stand. If Emma indicated that she wanted her to leave then she would, but otherwise Claire was staying put. She didn’t think a mediator would be needed, but she did think that Emma would appreciate the support.

“Emma...” said Dean.

“Hi,” said Emma.

Her face was carefully blank, all except for the spark of defiance in her eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

That visibly threw her.

Dean’s face crumpled. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I should’ve been faster. I should’ve protected you. I’ve regretted that every day of my life for the last nine years.”

Hesitantly, Emma said, “You thought I was gonna try and kill you.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t make a difference. You’re my kid. You didn’t deserve that.”

“No,” said Emma. “I didn’t.” She shot a quick look at Claire before looking back at Dean. “I don’t want to kill you. Just so we’re clear.”

Dean smiled. “Good,” he said. “That’s good. Would’ve been awkward if you did.”

“Yeah.”

Dean wiped his face. “The other kids have already said you can live with us?”

Emma nodded. “I get it if that’s not okay, though.” She picked up a stray napkin and twisted it round her fingers. “Just because watching me die sucked doesn’t mean you have to want me around. I don’t have to stay with you.”

“Em,” said Dean, “of course I want you around. I never didn’t want you. If you don’t want to stay, and it’s understandable if you don’t, then we’ll figure something out, but if you want to stay then stay.” 

Emma swallowed. Blinked.

“Okay.”

 

Jack and Castiel went to heist the dagger while Dean, Emma, and Claire waited in the motel room. Castiel and Jack would bring the dagger up and they’d use it to send Dean, Claire, and Jack home, before Castiel would return the dagger to the Impala and take Emma to 2021 himself.

They’d also be stopping on the way to politely request that Bobby not tell Sam and Dean about any of this. Because apparently Bobby’s ghost was hanging around right now, and could’ve seen everything. Dean was sure that Bobby would keep his mouth shut once the basics of the situation had been explained. Claire was sure that ghosts were known for having a lack of self control, and if their self control was better then maybe they wouldn’t wind up killing people so often. But if Dean wasn’t worried about it then Claire wasn’t going to be either. Dean knew what went down with Bobby better than she did. If he said it was fine, then she believed him.

Claire collected her and Jack’s discarded clothing that they’d thrown to the corner of the room and put it on a pile in the middle of the bed. She liked the shirt she’d been wearing and didn’t want to lose it, and she was pretty sure Jack felt similarly about theirs, so it would be nothing to make sure someone was in contact with them when they touched the dagger.

“Is your brother gonna be there?” asked Emma, looking at Dean.

Dean turned away from the window. “Huh?”

“The one who shot me. Is he gonna be there? In 2021?”

Dean visibly steeled himself.

“Yeah,” he said. “Sam’s gonna be there too.”

“Right.” Emma shifted in place, and looked away. “I see.”

“He’s probably gonna burst into tears or something and beg for your forgiveness,” said Claire. “You don’t have to forgive him, but like, you don’t have to worry about him either. The Sam who shot you today’s going through a really rough time. Doesn’t make it okay, but he wouldn’t usually make that decision, and he regrets it a lot. He’s not going to hurt you. He’s also not going to be mad if you want to avoid him anyway. He might look like a kicked puppy about it, but he won’t stop you.” She huffed a laugh. “It might even be worth doing for a while just so you can enjoy his reaction. Call it revenge.”

“Hey,” said Dean, “wait a second -”

“Shut up Dean,” said Claire. She turned her back on him, ignoring his spluttering. “Jack’s technically the son of Satan,” she said, “and Sam’s been great with them. Most people’s first reaction when they learn who Jack’s bio dad is is to assume Jack’s evil too, even Dean did it, but Sam never did and always stood up for them.” She paused, and softened her voice. “I know it’s not much comfort to hear that someone who hurt you managed not to hurt the person who came after you, I know it’s not fair, but it means he’s grown since the Sam you met today.”

Emma sat on the end of the bed. “You’re right. It’s not a comfort.”

“Look, Em,” started Dean.

“I told you Cas got my dad killed and is still possessing his body,” Claire said, drowning Dean out. She heard him sigh in frustration behind her, but she ignored him. He meant well, but there was no way he wasn’t going to try and make excuses for Sam or try to convince Emma to forgive him, and while things would be easier if she did forgive him, it wasn’t that simple. Claire would know. “Cas promised my dad he’d protect me, and then he didn’t. I was alone for years because of him. And he possessed me for a few minutes, which was awful, and if my dad hadn’t literally begged him to let me go then it’s my corpse he’d be piloting around today. Cas has grown tons since then. Ask him what his biggest regret is, and he’ll say it’s what he did to me and my family, and he’d be telling you the truth. He’d never do something like that now. But that doesn’t change that he did it to me then.” Claire sat next to Emma. “And then Jack came along, and Cas was immediately Jack’s father and the person that Jack could count on the most. How do you think that felt?”

Claire had only said all this out loud once before. A few weeks after Castiel and the Winchesters got Jack back from the apocalypse world, Castiel had told Claire about his day like he normally did, and had mentioned how well Jack was doing without his grace. There was nothing unusual about this interaction at all, but something inside of Claire just snapped. She’d gone to the nearest bar and drunk until she blacked out. The next thing she remembered was sitting in the passenger seat of Jody’s car, sobbing into Jody’s shoulder, telling her everything in a near incoherent ramble. Sure, Jody already knew the story, she’d been told about it when she took Claire in, it wasn’t a secret, but this was different. Nobody else knew the intricacies of Claire’s feelings on the matter. Nobody else knew anything about how Jack’s existence made things worse.

She’d felt terrible when she heard about Jack’s death a week later.

Telling Emma about it all now was weirdly easy. Maybe it was because it was something Emma needed to hear. Emma needed to know that, while nobody else had been through the exact same experience as her, there were still people who could empathise, and to a certain extent knew exactly how she was feeling. Emma needed to know that she wasn’t alone.

She hadn’t planned on ever letting Dean know about this, but he was in the room too, so it was unavoidable. She hoped he’d have enough sense not to pass any of it on to Castiel or to Jack. She caught his eye, and saw more understanding on his face than she’d expected.

He had a much younger half brother, didn’t he? Maybe he knew how it felt, too.

“It must’ve been awful,” said Emma, without hesitation.

“Exactly,” said Claire. “It was awful. And yeah, I’m mostly over it. I’ve mostly forgiven Cas for what he did. But sometimes I’m not over it, and I can’t forgive him. Sometimes I can’t stand to be around Cas or acknowledge he exists. And it sucks. It sucks for both of us. But that’s just how it is, and he gets that, and he doesn’t get mad at me for it because he knows he brought it on himself. Most of the time we are fine. We’re family because I’ve decided we can be. I call the shots, and that works for us.”

Emma shook her head. “You hadn’t done anything to make Cas want to hurt you, though. Sam’s different. I was trying to kill his brother. Just because he’s good with Jack, or regrets what happened when I’m not there, doesn’t mean he’s going to take kindly to me being there now.”

Claire glanced at Dean again, before putting a reassuring arm around Emma’s shoulder. “If Sam’s gonna have an issue with you because you tried to kill Dean, then he should have an issue with me too, and I’ve been alright so far.”

“What?” said Dean. “What are you talking about?”

She had to laugh. She knew Dean’s life was wild, but how wild did someone’s life have to be for them to straight up forget about that time someone they otherwise care about tried to kill them?

“Just after Cas made contact with me? I got this couple to attack you. You had the Mark at the time, nearly killed them back.”

“Oh,” said Dean. He nodded. “Yeah, Em, Claire’s right. If Sam doesn’t want you around because you tried to kill me, then he’d need to kick Claire out too. And he’d need to kick out Cas, and I promise there’s no way that’s happening.”

“Only the coolest people have tried to kill Dean,” said Claire. “It’s a very exclusive club.”

“You can make t-shirts,” said Dean.

“Oh, I’m definitely making t-shirts.”

Emma smiled. “I’d like a t-shirt.”

“That’s our first job when we get back,” said Claire. “You, me, and Cas can figure out a design we like.”

Emma nodded. Her fear and discomfort was mostly gone, replaced with anticipation. Whether it was just for the t-shirts, or if there was some excitement at the prospect seeing Sam’s reaction to her being alive mixed in there too, Claire couldn’t say, but it didn’t matter.

Emma was alive, and she was going to be okay.

That was the most important thing.

 

When Castiel arrived in the bunker war room with Emma in tow, thirty seconds after everyone else was deposited there by the dagger, three things happened in rapid succession.

The first was that Castiel staggered to the nearest chair and collapsed into it. This was a surprise to nobody, and Claire learnt later that by managing to remain conscious this had turned out to not be the worst time travel landing he’d ever had.

The second was that Sam, who’d been pacing at the top of the steps leading to the library, looked up from the book he'd been reading. He recognised Emma instantly. His mouth dropped open in shock, and he was halfway through saying her name when he missed his footing and went tumbling down the stairs. Within five seconds of Emma’s arrival, Sam Winchester, well respected hunter and Man of Letters, was sprawled out on the floor having been defeated by gravity.

The third was that Emma laughed and laughed at Sam’s misfortune.

In Claire’s opinion, that initial reunion couldn’t have gone better.



It took Claire a week to remember about the rest of the cash.

When she’d taken the gun and money from Dean in 2012, she’d told herself and Jack that she’d return anything she didn’t use. She’d already given back the gun. What was left of the cash was still sitting in the pocket of the jacket she’d been wearing.

Of course, she only thought of it in the middle of the night.

She briefly considered keeping it. Dean wouldn’t care. If he remembered her at all, and if he’d put the pieces together, he wasn’t going to ask for the money back.

She didn’t actually like the idea of stealing from him.

With a groan, she extracted herself from Kaia’s arms and threw on the nearest dressing gown. She grabbed Dean’s money and went to find him.

The door to Jack’s room was propped ajar. Claire could see the glow from their computer screen spilling out into the hall and could hear quiet voices coming from inside.

She stopped at the door and looked in.

Jack and Emma were sitting on Jack’s bed, watching something on Jack’s laptop.

Jack spotted Claire first, and waved at her. Emma looked up and smiled.

“You should sleep soon,” said Claire. “It’s late.”

“We will,” said Jack. “We just wanted to finish this episode first.”

“Do you guys know if Dean went to bed yet?”

“I think he’s still in the library,” said Emma.

“Thanks.”

She left them to it. 

Dean was indeed in the library, but he wasn’t there alone. He and Castiel were sat with their backs to the doorway Claire was coming through. Dean had a hand cupped around Castiel’s cheek, either about to kiss him or having just finished kissing him. Perhaps both.

Claire could return the money in the morning.

She tried to creep backwards.

“Claire,” said Castiel. He pulled away from Dean and turned to face her.

Damn that angel and his super-senses or whatever the fuck.

“I don’t want to interrupt anything.”

Dean chuckled, and shook his head. “You’re not. What’s up?”

Slowly, Claire walked further into the room. “Do you remember someone taking money from your car in 2012?”

Dean looked directly at her. “Yes. I do remember that.”

Claire laughed softly. “How long has that one been bothering you?”

“Only made the connection a week ago, kiddo.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t spend the last few years freaking out about it.” She held out the remaining money. “It really was for food and the room for Jack and me. It wasn’t just for the hell of it. You can have the rest back.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “I’m not mad. I’m glad you took it. It’s a lot better than some of the alternatives.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m giving the rest back anyway.” She thrust her arm out again. “Just take it already.”

Dean took the money.

“Right,” said Claire. “I’m gonna go back to bed now. You two just,” she made a vague gesture in their general direction, “carry on.”

Castiel smiled warmly at her. “Thank you, Claire.”

“Yeah,” said Dean, putting the cash on the table, “thanks.”

Claire nodded, and left.

Emma was still in Jack’s room when she passed it, but she didn’t stop this time. Dean would probably come by before too long and tell them to go to bed. Jack would decide for themself whether they needed to listen or not, being a nephilim they needed less sleep than everyone else and was already pretty good at regulating their own sleep schedule. Emma wasn’t human either, but they were all still figuring her out. Maybe Emma would listen and go to bed, or maybe she wouldn’t, and maybe that would be fine, or maybe Emma would turn out to be just as cranky when sleep deprived as her father was. Claire supposed she’d find out in the morning.

She returned to her own room, and before she knew it she was drifting to sleep in Kaia’s arms.