They are in Chicago a few weeks after Gordon and the vampires, looking for a chupacabra. Dean is in sweatpants and a t-shirt, sprawled over the scratchy motel bedspread with a horrid floral print, trying not to think about the last time they were here. There is nothing on the staticky TV but Law & Order and shopping channels. The low hum of the television and the water running for Sam’s shower are almost putting him to sleep when Dean feels a breeze on his face and then there is a naked girl standing in front of him.
She stumbles, looking faintly disoriented. Her loose dark hair tumbles to her elbows in soft but unruly waves. Her face is beautiful, half-cherubic and conveying wisdom beyond her years—she only looks to be about twenty.
As she breaks into a smile, Dean leaps to his feet, grabbing the dagger from under his pillow. The girl’s eyes widen almost comically. She looks confused, lost. “Dean?”
He pauses for a moment, and then fear and panic write themselves across his face. “No,” he whispers, low, fervent, resolute. “You can’t take me. You can’t. Go away, Tessa. I don’t want to see you. You can’t take me.”
“Dean?” Then, “Shit. Dean. Put the dagger down. Please. Lemme borrow a sweatshirt and I will explain everything. I’m not gonna hurt you.” She bares her teeth, pulling her top lip up. “See? No fangs. Obviously I have no weapons. Not gonna hurt you.”
Her voice is low and soothing. Almost hypnotized, he reaches out with his left hand, the one without the dagger, and touches her arm. “You’re corporeal.”
“I’m human, Dean. I’m Alba. Who’s Tessa?”
As Sam skids out of the shower, clad in a towel, a billow of steam escapes behind him. “Dean? I heard v— where the hell did she come from?”
“You can see her.” It sounds like a statement, but Sam knows better. Dean’s eyes don’t stray from the strange girl’s face.
“Yes, Dean. I can see her. Where did she come from, Dean?”
“She just appeared.” His voice and face are stony, body rigid.
“Just like that?”
“Just like that. Completely naked and all. Not that I’m exactly complainin’.”
“Dean!” The girl scolds, blushing pink.
He blinks hard, squeezing his eyes closed for a second. When they open, it seems to Sam that he has come back to life. “How the hell did you know my name?”
“Can I put some clothes on please?”
“Tell me how you know my name.”
“It’s a long story.” Her eyes move to Sam. “Sam? Can I borrow a sweatshirt, please?”
“How the hell do you know his name?”
“It’s a long fucking story, okay! I’m naked, and I’m a little bit cold, and I’m sorry that you don’t know me yet but can I please put on some goddamn clothes?”
Her outburst shocks some sense into Sam, at least. “Um, yeah. Here. Sure.” He rummages through his duffel bag, tosses her a sweatshirt and some clean pajama pants. “Go change in the bathroom, then we’ll talk.”
The bathroom door closes behind her and Dean sinks down onto the end of the bed heavily. The dagger drops from his hand. The only noise for several minutes is the rustling of fabric as Sam pulls on boxers, jeans, a shirt.
“So who’s Tessa?”
“What?” Dean blinks, looks over at Sam.
“You said she looked just like Tessa. Who’s Tessa?”
“Tessa was the Reaper I saw in the hospital. Who I told you about on the Ouija board.”
“You remember that?”
“Just now. I guess it was seeing what’s-her-name. Looks just like her, Sammy, swear to God.”
“Yeah, I believe you.” Sam thuds down next to Dean. “So I guess that chupacabra’s gonna have to wait, huh?”
The bathroom door clicks. The girl emerges, nearly swimming in Sam’s sweatshirt and pants. She sits down on the other bed Indian-style. “Sam and Dean Winchester, I’m Alba DeTamble. I am what will be known in about three years as a Chrono-Displaced Person. Note the ‘person.’” She smiles wryly. Dean thinks maybe he could really like this girl.
“That means I time travel. Accidentally. It’s a thing with my brain—I don’t perceive time like you guys do. I sometimes fall out of it. And when I do, I can end up, say, thirteen years in the past and in a completely different location from where I was. Just now, for instance, I was taking the SAT and bored out of my skull. And now I’m here.”
“The SAT? How old are you?” Dean has a bad feeling about this.
“Eighteen. My birthday is September 6, 2001,” she announces proudly.
“And you just came from 2019,” Sam says slowly. “So right now you’re really five. The you that’s…” He gestures vaguely. “Current. Linear. Not you, your past self. Which is actually your present self.”
“Uh-huh!” She nods happily. “I’m so glad you guys understand.”
“Why are we supposed to believe you? Maybe you’re just some kind of weird supernatural creature pretending to be one of these chrono-discombobulated whatevers.”
“Some kind of supernatural creature your dad’s never heard of?”
“How the hell do you know about our dad?”
“Chill out, Dean. Thirteen years from now, you guys are my friends. Actually, we’re friends starting from right now, because I said so. When exactly is right now, by the way?”
“Four-thirty-three P.M.,” Sam says when it becomes apparent that Dean won’t answer.
“I mean the date, doofus.”
“You don’t get to call me doofus yet,” Sam says.
“But I will someday!” Alba smirks like she thinks she’s won.
Dean rolls his eyes. “November 11, 2006.”
“Awesome. If you would be so kind to drive, we can go to the house where my other self is currently living. This is the Lakeside Motel, right? If it’s not, we’re gonna have to bust out the MapQuest.”
“It is. Do I even want to know how you know that? Sammy, go bring the car around… I don’t want to leave her alone up here, and she doesn’t have any shoes.” Dean tosses the keys to Sam. Alba watches their nonverbal communication, catches the implied ‘in case she disappears,’ and lets it slide, choosing instead to answer Dean’s question.
“I normally travel to places I’ve already been… And I was here for a rather momentous occasion recently, although I didn’t really understand why until now.” She looks away, contemplative. “Dammit. I’m sorry. I hate it when my daddy does that to me, and now I’m doing it to you.” At Dean’s confused look, “Being all cryptic, I mean. There are certain things that I can’t say, because then everything gets all fucked up with inevitability.”
Dean thinks his brow is beginning to feel permanently furrowed.
The horn sounds outside.
That’s how they end up at the DeTamble residence, a sprawling brick bungalow. Alba retrieves a spare key from underneath a flowerpot – “usually we use it for my dad”—and makes her way inside. The hardwood floors of the front hall gleam.
“Alba!” A small barefoot girl, about age five, comes running into the hallway.
“Hey there, baby girl!” Alba picks her younger self up, spins her around, presses a kiss to her temple.
Sam leans over. “Can she do that? Shouldn’t the world explode or something?”
“Alba, this is Sam and Dean Winchester. Boys, Alba DeTamble.” Little Alba waves.
“Alba?” A feminine voice calls out from within the house. When two voices chorus back, then giggle in unison, footsteps sound and a slender, red-haired woman in her mid-thirties walks in.
“Hey, sweetheart.” She kisses older Alba on the cheek, then takes younger Alba when she reaches out.
“Mama, this is Sam and Dean Winchester.”
“Hi, I’m Clare DeTamble. Please call me Clare. So when are you from?” she asks Alba.
“October 2019. Taking the SATs.”
Clare looks faintly worried. “How long are you going to be here?”
“Through dinner. Tonight’s a spaghetti night, right?”
“Yeah! Mama said you were coming and we made enough for everybody,” her younger self answers. They high-five.
“Why don’t you two go into the kitchen and keep an eye on dinner? Let me talk to the boys.”
“Okay,” the older Alba answers, and they wander hand-in-hand into the kitchen, younger Alba chattering away about blue squirrels or something.
“Alba’s told me about you before. The other week she was here from 2024. I’m so sorry about your father. And I know that this, meeting us, is probably very strange for you. But Alba has told me that we’re very great friends and I’m really looking forward to it.”
“Hey, we eat strange for breakfast,” Dean says, and smiles.
At dinner, younger Alba insists on sitting next to Dean and rambles to him the entire time about someone named Kimy. Henry, Alba’s father, keeps eyeing Sam strangely, but he’s surprisingly easygoing for a guy who just had his feet amputated. Sam’s seated next to older Alba, and her when her hand finds his under the table he lets her hold it, even though he’s seventeen freaking years older than her and that’s kind of weird. Her younger self smiles at him from across the table.
It’s surprising, how unconditionally the DeTambles accept Sam and Dean into their lives just because Alba says that’s how it is. When he mentions it to her, she says, “It’s kind of like Oedipus, you know? Not in the creepy incest way, I mean. But it’s like… I’m like the Oracle at Delphi. Regardless of whether Oedipus and his parents knew what he’d do, he’d still end up doing it. And not knowing—that’s really what makes life worth living, isn’t it?” Sam nods, vaguely humming assent. “Shit, it’s eight o’clock—I’m gonna be gone soon. Ask Mama about taking me to the park tomorrow. I’m sure I—I mean, little me, you know—would love to go. And she knows she can trust you.”
“Yeah, all right.” Sam is nodding, and his smile is easy. “See you later, Sammy.”
Before he can object to the nickname, there is a whooshing noise and Alba is gone.