Chapter 11, Know Thy Enemy

Erin stood with unnatural straightness, far more refreshed than could be attributed to her brief rest. Both Sam and Dean immediately suspected some supernatural cause, which made Dean decidedly nervous. Despite the notable exceptions he made for Sam and Missouri and some friends who had proven themselves trustworthy, Dean still tended to see the supernatural as something to be hunted, rather than befriended. He put himself protectively between Cassie and the witch.

Cassie was sitting straight, panic carefully masked. But Dean felt the tautness of her shoulders and knew that she was terrified, which was saying a lot. Cassie didn't scare easy.

"Who are you?" Cassie demanded softly.

Erin didn't answer directly."He's been dreaming about you," she said cryptically, radiating power so intense Sam wondered how he had missed it before.

"Are you one of us?" Sam asked, referring to his generation of chosen ones.

Erin fixed dark eyes on Sam, like Grace did when she was trying to get a read on him. Sam swallowed nervously, but held her gaze.

"I'm not one of anything," she responded after a momentary pause. "I've been alone for so long…" she trailed off, but seemed to find herself again. "He marked me, like he did you, Cassie. But as a child, before I could protect myself. He used me and my… abilities… to do terrible things. But I finally fought my way free of him. I thought… I thought I was safe."

She shivered and Winchesters were silent. With all their experience with Nasty, they still couldn't imagine just how horrible that must have been.

"But why does he want me?" Cassie demanded.

"He doesn't want you at all. Even now that he has you. He wants your daughter."

"But why?" Cassie said desperately, shaking as Dean surged to his feet, pacing angrily.

"Because she's like me," Erin said quietly. "She will be… is… very powerful."

"Oh good, she inherited the freak gene," Dean spit out, glaring at Sam as if it were his fault. After all that he had lost, Dean was fiercely protective of his family. There were some things, though, he couldn't protect them from.

"Dean," Sam protested. Dean couldn't meet his gaze and dropped his eyes. "We are going to keep her safe, Dean," the younger brother said, voice quiet and earnest.

Dean nodded once, silencing the father in him. He became the calm hunter his daddy had trained him to be.

"He's gathering his forces," Erin said. "I can sense when they are near."

"You know where he is?" Sam pushed.

Erin nodded, "Always."

"Can you help us?" Cassie asked, made confused and unsure by the revelations.

Erin looked at her with too much empathy. "There is a price be free of him which only you can pay, but I'll help you in any way that I can."

Cassie did not look reassured. "We need to get Ellie out of here. I... we're leading him here!"

"He cannot sense me," Erin said cooly, "and I can shield you too."

"We need to know what he's capable of," Sam started, pulling out his journal and switching on his computer. He pulled up his file on necromancy and flipped to a clean page. His professionalism seemed to have a calming effect on the party.

Erin started to fill him in. "He is known as Michael Yearling, owner of the Jupiter Conglomerate. He's a very powerful man..."

Cassie, who had been stiff and wide-eyed at Erin's story, now got up, moving with Dean to the area in front of the question and speaking softly so that the others could not hear. "Dean, what are we going to do?" He was the only one she trusted completely.

"Listen, Everything's going to be fine. You need to get some rest, okay?"

Cassie closed her eyes briefly in physical and emotional fatigue. Dean saw it and put his hands on her thing shoulders. "I'm gonna be right here. Sam and I got this. Go get some sleep." He kissed her tenderly on the forehead and she melted into his arms. "Shh. Shh. Shh," he crooned, rubbing the back of her neck. He brushed the mark and she shivered, clinging to him.

Cassie's ironic smile was back as she finally pulled away. "You're such a Dad," she teased, wiping away her tears.

Dean smiled in return. "And you're a sexy momma," he said, kissing her a little less chastely.

Cassie felt better when she finally pulled away, moving back to her bedroom and running a brush over her teeth. Alone in her room, though, she shivered, unable to avoid the damaged window or the unholy stain which marred that room and even her own body. After a pause, she crossed the hall to Ellie's room.

Cassie hadn't exactly planned on kids. Her unwed motherhood had made her an outcast in the conservative Missouri town and her traditional values and quaint accent alienated her in the big city. She and Ellie had been alone for a long time. The little girl made her swell in a city that made her fell small.

The sight of her daughter's dark, unruly curls spread over the light blue pillowcase, illuminated by the twinkling night light filled her both with love and dread. Ellie was everything she had. Dean Winchester may be the love her life, the champion she never knew she wanted or needed until she had him, as much as any women could "have" a man like that. But Ellie was her life and she couldn't loose that little girl.

Kicking off her shoes, she shed her professional jacket. She popped the bras she barely needed, slipping into the sweats she had grabbed from her room. There was enough room for both the five year old and her thin mother in the twin bed, so Cassie slipped in under the overs, wrapping her arms around Ellie's soft warmth and breathing in deep.

"Momma?" Ellie said, sleepily, tuning toward her.

"Hey baby," Cassie whispered in her ear, kissing her head and letting their heartbeats synchronize.