Beneath the Hollow

This is an AU version of Season Two, diverging after Devil's Trap, set in the Strange Angels'verse. Centuries have passed since the sealing of the Grigori, and the children of the Nephilim walk the Earth. With the battle lines drawn between the Circle of Enoch and John's Hunters, Dean and Sam work to find the four remaining members of The Twelve. The boys don't know that Alex Masters is looking for Sam — and Alex has orders to kill everyone who gets in his way.

It is the sequel to Strange Angels.

Disclaimer: The Winchester boys aren't mine. The Colt isn't mine. Wish the car was mine. But I can only blame myself for the Circle of Enoch.

Rating: M ( Language. Angst. Adult situations. )

Pairings (Overall): Dean/OFC, Sam/OFC

Summary: The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.

Feedback: Absolutely! Concrit is always welcome!

Miscellaneous: As always, this would not have been possible without my lovely brain twin, wenchpixie. I really cannot encompass the debt my writing owes her with mere words. She's the best brain twin a girl could have. The equally lovely embroiderama assisted me with character discussions and reassured me that everyone was acting properly. The good parts are because of them. The bad parts are all me. Everything that rocks in this piece is because of them. The mistakes? Those are all me.

Previous Chapter: Dean, Sam and the girls end up at Harvelle's Roadhouse. Along the way, Sam endures a conversation about the merits of Robyn Hitchcok versus Led Zeppelin, Dean's attempts at flirting, the truth about cowgirls and a vision that gets him pulled out of the car. Sam's suspicions regarding their father's intentions are proven true after some trigger-happy yahoo tries to shoot Ellie full of rock salt and Charlotte ends up getting interrogated. Ellen Harvelle manages to talk some sense into the Winchesters after Dean confronts John.

Chapter Two: Into the Fire

The simple plans always came back to bite her in the ass.

Maybe someday she'd think the whole thing was funny, that screwing up was part of her charm – if her back didn't hurt like hell, throbbing along with her head, and the memory of Ellie's scream wasn't rattling inside like fingernails on a chalkboard. Charlotte knew that the whole thing was going to be hard, half-expected the greeting they received at the hands of John Winchester's army. And she might even have helped Sam out of the standoff if some brain trust hadn't tried to take matter into his own hands, putting Dean out of commission and Ellie into an emotional tailspin.

It was pretty much all she wrote after that.

Charlotte leaned into the small shower, trying to rinse her hair without splashing water onto her cast. She was grateful for the privacy; Ellen had taken one look at her scars and erred on the side of sympathy – giving Charlotte the one upstairs room with its own attached bathroom. Ellen's jaw had actually tensed when she saw them, tried to pass it off with a joke about how the scars from the rock salt wouldn't be so bad – but Charlotte recognized the cold stab of pity when she felt it.

Ellen Harvelle had been feeling sorry for her from the first moment their eyes met, and it didn't let up, even after Charlotte was bandaged up and given some pills for the pain.

Not that Charlotte hadn't earned it; between her less than graceful attempt to protect Ellie and a plan almost as brilliant as the one that threw her in the backseat of the Impala, Charlotte Anne Webb was having a bang-up day.

She had seen the clues. Jo Harvelle had anxiety pouring off of her the moment she sat down and set two pints of beer on Charlotte's table, especially when it was immediately followed up by the flash of Jo putting something into one of the glasses. Charlotte decided not to say anything. She knew it was just a matter of time before John Winchester rambled over to her table and started asking her questions; if he needed to slip her something to feel comfortable about their talk, Charlotte had no problem drinking it.

John Winchester wouldn't trust her if he knew her Gift had revealed his secret, that Jo slipped something into Charlotte's drink. The look on his face when Ellie had called the Ziv Zakai was proof enough of that. Those powers were why his wife was killed, why his sons grew up on the run; Charlotte couldn't blame him because those powers stole John Winchester's life as easily as a fire had stolen hers. And Charlotte wanted him to trust her, for Dean and for Sam and maybe even for herself. So she made small talk with Jo, answering questions about traveling with the Winchesters and ignoring the blonde girl's guilt.

Without any warning at all, John Winchester sauntered over to her table and sat down with a smile; the same smile his oldest son had flashed at her when Dean slid next to her into the booth at Alfie's. Charlotte expected questions about the Circle – what her role was, why she had left, what information she could provide about their goals and tactics. But John Winchester was as uncanny as his sons and he started asking her about her relationship with Sam. Charlotte wanted to sink into the booth. How long have you been fucking Sam? The question was bad enough, but he said it so loudly everyone in the bar had heard.

Her answers just started pouring out.

Charlotte shivered, wrapping her hair in a towel and pulling on her robe. She didn't even remember everything she said; whatever the drug was, it was like watching the world through a series of snapshots. And one of them was clearer than all the rest – the look on Dean's face, cutting worse than any demon's claw through her back. She hadn't gained John Winchester's trust; even if she had, the price was too high. There was no reason for Dean Winchester to trust her now.

At least Ellen and Jo had left her in the room to wake up by herself after they undressed her. Charlotte hoped it was Ellen and Jo; she really didn't want to get a flash of her scars from one of the hunters downstairs. Or that Ash guy…

She turned off her iPod and stepped out of the bathroom, dropping the towel over the desk chair just as she saw the bare foot wriggling on the comforter. Dean had made himself at home – sacked out on her bed with headphones on, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts as he leaned up against the headboard. His hair was wet, like he'd taken a shower. Everything locked up tight inside; Dean probably didn't even realize that he used music the same way that she did.

He grinned at her but it didn't reach his eyes. "That Jo girl stuck me in a room with Sam," Dean said, "And you know he's been snoring a lot lately." His duffel bag was perched right next to hers, along with his gun bag and the Winchesters' first aid kit.

"There's still a lot of bruising around his eye," she returned.

"So it was either shacking up with you or spending the night on one of the pool tables downstairs." Dean pulled off his headphones, setting them on the bedside table next to one of her iPods.

They stared at each other like idiots.

There was so much to talk about but when she opened her mouth to say something, all that came out was a squeak. Charlotte didn't even know where to start – what she had said, how many secrets had tumbled out before someone had brought her upstairs – and Dean wasn't giving anything away. When he swallowed once and looked away, the words didn't matter.

Charlotte crossed the room and hobbled up onto the bed. Dean looked like he was trying to say something, too, but then she brought herself up and plastered her mouth on his; bracing herself against his chest while his hands wound into her hair. What mattered was Dean kissing her back, tasting like beer and nachos but mostly like Dean, and she felt like an idiot all over again. Trembling and breathless and trying like hell not to cry because of all the things she should have said to him before his father pulled them out of her.

"Geek Boy thought you'd lock me out," Dean said, one thumb brushing away the tear on her cheek. "Hey," he added softly.

Charlotte blinked and took a breath. "You'd just get your telekinetic little brother to unlock the door for you," she returned, and his hazel eyes were just as full as hers. "And then you'd waltz back inside like you owned the place."

"Sometimes I pick the locks myself," Dean returned solemnly. "Just to stay in practice."

"All I can do is translate dead languages."

"Since that's part of our plan, I dragged your scrawny ass up here." Dean's arms tightened around her. "I even undressed you." One hand brushed her forehead. "That would have been a lot more fun if the girl trying to hump me wasn't loopier than a fruit bat." His voice was low in his throat. "And the beer just made us both sticky by the time you were done."


"Between what you spilled and what you spit out of your mouth, I was damned impressed."

"Oh, God…" Charlotte wanted to hide but the best that she could do was bury her face in his chest.

"So now's probably not the best time to pull out that picture of you dancing on the table and singing Ring My Bell?" Dean flashed his trademark grin at her.

"You're such a jerk sometimes," Charlotte said, returning his grin with a smile.

She leaned up to brush her lips against his, caught short by the sudden shadows in his eyes. "You sure said a lot of things, Charlie." Dean's voice was rough and the sick feeling in her head was making her dizzy, like she was falling backwards.

"Things I shouldn't have said?"

"Well, you made Sam get freaking emo." He shook his head sharply. "And you have an awful high opinion of me."

Charlotte didn't let his eyes stop her a second time, kissing him while her heart stumbled in her chest – trembling a little when he opened his mouth to hers, trying to douse the fire that was burning inside. Her own throat was so sore, Charlotte couldn't say anything. Just kissed him as long as he would let her.

Dean started talking when they paused for breath. "Knew a girl once. Wanted to be a part of her life so much I even told her the truth about me. And she thought I was crazy." His hands twitched against her hips, guilt washing through both of them. "After I saw her last year, I swore I'd never…" Dean's voice trailed off and he started staring at something on the ceiling.

Even their breathing was loud in her ears.

"You swore you'd never get close to anyone again," Charlotte said slowly. Dean didn't say anything. But he didn't feel like he was letting her down easy, shock and anger and fear whirling in his stomach; his mouth twisted like it always did when Dean thought he'd already said too much. He felt like a bear caught in a trap, trying to warn her about something.

Dean took a ragged breath. "I can't even protect you." And that was an effort for him to say, ripped out behind a wild look in his eyes.

She couldn't protect him, either. Charlotte didn't need to close her eyes to remember. Her hands, holding him as he fell – farther and faster than they had ever fallen in dreams, than they had ever fallen before. Than they would ever fall again. Heard the voice from her last vision. He's not ready. There were things coming, just over the horizon; things that swirled around Sam and everyone who was near him. The line snaps. Angry things that wanted to break them all, unsatisfied with just a pound of flesh.

"I bring you here and you end up getting shot. What if they'd used bullets?" His voice was sharp-edged in his throat and she saw herself soaring backwards – landing on a floor with blood pooling underneath her. His hands were in her hair, pushing strands back behind her ears. "I told you this place was safe, Charlie."

She moved without even thinking and Dean jerked as her lips came down on his. Charlotte pushed everything she wouldn't say into his mouth – with her breath, tongue flickering against his. "That wasn't your fault, Dean," Charlotte whispered, her hands sliding behind his neck. But Dean spoke Winchester; words didn't work – so she kissed him again, snaking a tendril past those iron bands Dean kept around himself. One single crack wide open, like it was waiting just for her.

Dean recoiled when he felt the spark of her inside; full of disbelief as the memory of his lips brushing across every inch of her evoked a litany – the certain knowledge that she was on the verge of becoming, that she was alive for the very first time in her life, because of him. Charlotte pulled back to look Dean right in the eyes when he realized it, his skin so white that his freckles were stark across his nose. She slowly untied her belt; slipped off the robe with a shuffle of her shoulders.

She didn't speak Winchester but she'd think of something.

Charlotte licked the succubus scars on his chest, her hands reaching down to the waistband of his boxers; Dean bucked his hips and there was a stutter in his throat when she dipped down once to trace the scars on his left hip with her tongue. The way I see it, you got your scars the same way. Saving your dad. She curled her fingers around the elastic and pulled the boxers down just enough to get where she wanted.

He moaned when her lips encircled him, a slow sucking that grew more urgent when his hands fisted in her hair – and his voice was an animal thing as she flicked her tongue against him, moving fast and slow and swirling until she was slick with wanting; releasing him as quickly as she started. Dean's eyes flung open as she sank down, piercing herself so sharply that she could feel him swell within her. His fingers scratching her shoulders, her back, her arms. He understood her hips working slowly against him, the rise and fall of him deep inside.

And there were sounds in their language – his voice whispering her name, the brusque hitch to her breath as he rolled her over and her back slammed into the mattress. She screamed when he pushed deep, opening herself wide and wrapping her right leg around his thigh; the slap of flesh, her body rearing against his. Harder. Faster. Fingers digging into his arms, red half-moons on his skin. Harder. They were both speaking in tongues when the spasm rocked through her. She cried out as she came, hard and quivering, while Dean groaned.

"Charlie," he murmured suddenly.

She shuddered with him, arms around his neck until he stilled completely. Her back hurt and Charlotte felt the bruises underneath the fingers clamped onto her hips. Could still feel him ramming inside of her; an ache where he no longer was. And she knew there were scratches, that he'd ripped off some of her bandages. Charlotte didn't care – the need to mark him, to touch and be touched, thrummed through her – and Dean rolled onto his back with an expression she'd never seen; a feeling so jumbled inside that she couldn't name it.

But his eyes were unguarded when he touched her face.

"I don't think any place is safe," Charlotte said when she finally found her voice, could think beyond Dean to form words. "Not anymore. That storm gets closer no matter where we go." She kissed him again, because Dean was watching her like a wounded deer. "So maybe it's not about you protecting me," she added. The look in his eyes made her chest hurt. "Maybe it's about us taking care of each other. You and me. And Sam and Ellie. The people we'll find. Even this place. Like a…" Family.

Dean sucked in a breath, one finger trailing down a scratch he'd left on her right arm. "I'll take all the help I can get," he said, his voice getting stronger as he spoke. "Once Ellen takes a good look at you, she's going to kick my ass." His voice took on the bartender's cadence. "That girl needs her rest."

"I'll kick her ass if she looks at you the wrong way." Charlotte kissed him on the forehead, brushing her hand through his hair. "I'll grab the nearest book bag and unleash hell if she even thinks about messing with what's mine." And she raised her chin, knowing that she was daring something by the way his mouth quirked when he stared back at her.

"Never had a girl willing to go toe-to-toe for me with a book bag," Dean said finally.

Charlotte smiled, because otherwise it stung, and she knew then why Winchesters were always cracking jokes. "When properly applied, a book bag can be a formidable weapon," she said, mouth twisting, "Provided I don't fall down while I'm swinging it."

"You are a freak." Dean snorted. Charlotte opened her mouth to protest, but he kissed her – a smile playing against her lips as she brought her arms back around his neck. "You can yell at me all you want after I take care of you," he said. Dean was his own language, a different kind of Winchester than Sam for all that they shared the same basic vocabulary. His hand brushed down one of the bandages that had come undone and Charlotte shivered.

The next thing she knew, Dean was standing and sliding the rest of the way out of his boxer shorts. He grinned as she watched him and then pulled her off the bed; actually picked her up and carried her to the bathroom. He set her on the counter and kissed her for a long time before realizing he had forgotten the first aid kit.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sam had gone to bed after Dean moved his things into Charlotte's room next door. He was alone; Ellie was still asleep in Jo's room and the blonde girl was sleeping with her mother downstairs.

He lay in bed, listening to the murmur of voices on the other side of the wall. It was hypnotic and Sam sank into the mattress; Dean's tone was low and Charlotte spoke with a musical cadence that Sam suspected she didn't realize that she used. Hearing low laughter after what happened downstairs made whatever was coming easier to face. The small things hadn't gotten lost yet in the swirling mass of Shemhezai's wrath.

Even his eye was hurting less the closer he drifted to sleep.

Their voices changed and Sam floated in a lullaby of sighs and soft sounds – but the moment Charlotte gave out a half-ragged scream, Sam's eyes snapped open. His own body stirred as he listened to the rhythm, voices rough and tender in counterpoint to the creak of the mattress. It was Jess and Stanford and all of the bright things he remembered having in California and before Sam knew it, he was riding it out right along with them; keeping his own cries low because they were on the other side of the wall.

Not that they would have heard him.

When they stopped talking and Sam heard running water coming from the room, he eased himself out of the bed; grabbing a towel and a change of underwear, he headed towards the restroom. There was still a light on downstairs in the bar, flickering up the stairs. And the light was there after he closed the bathroom door behind him, a voice singing softly to the music playing low on the jukebox. Sam didn't even have to close his eyes to know who was singing; the voice was a constant memory, gruff and angry and worried.

Sam probably would have let it go and gone to bed but the moment his head hit the pillow, he heard Charlotte making tiny little moans on the other side of his headboard and Dean's voice was a grumble; Sam knew he wouldn't be getting to sleep any time soon if he stayed. He pulled a t-shirt on over his boxers and padded downstairs in his bare feet.

His father was crouched in the corner of the same booth he used to interrogate Charlotte, a half-empty bottle of whiskey in front of him. There was a second glass, which Sam realized that Dad had probably set out for Dean – drinking together was their way of apologizing after a fight. His stomach hurt when his father's eyes focused on him and fell, realizing that Sam wasn't the son that John Winchester was waiting for; but then Dad was pushing the glass in his direction as Sam walked forwards, a low growl inside that roared before sullenly going silent.

I need you near, but love and duty called you higher –

Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire.

"Springsteen," Sam said softly, sliding into the booth. He swallowed as his father's jaw clenched, followed by a nod before John looked away. Sam helped himself to two fingers of whiskey and took a sip from the glass before coughing.

"You look like hell, Sam." His father's voice was husky, almost as dark as his eyes.

Sam almost made a crack about that being normal when there was a demon in your belly but his father's shoulders were slumping and there was a look in his eyes like he'd been beaten down too much and didn't know how to pick himself up. Sam knew how that felt, feeling the fingers ripping through his skin; of being shed like a worthless snakeskin.

"Your mother would kill me herself if she saw you like this." Dad took a long pull from the glass before slamming it down on the table. He was already filling it up again when he looked across at Sam. "I got my wish, Sam. You're a soldier. I can see it in the way you move, the way you talk. The way you tried to protect those girls." John shook his head. "And I'd take it all back if I could."


"Is it true that your eye was ripped out, son?" And the way Dad asked it, Sam knew his father was asking for a lie.

Sam couldn't give it to him. He nodded, the ache in the socket as constant as it had been the night that the Cordi Peredo pulled it out of his head. "The demon we were fighting was trying to taunt Shemhezai." Sam tried to make his voice calm when he said it but his father's body recoiled anyway when he said Shemhezai. "Charlotte says it was Dean that saved us. I think it was blind luck," Sam added. He rubbed his stomach absently, feeling his shirt rough against the healing scabs.

His father actually chuckled at that, staring hard at Sam's bruised face, before taking another sip of his whiskey. "I should have told you sooner, Sam. You shouldn't have learned about that thing…from a stranger." Sam's throat tightened; it was the closest thing to an apology his father had ever given him, wrung out by alcohol and remorse. "I thought I could keep you safe, until…" Dad's head snapped sharply. "It's why I kept running."

"But I went to Stanford," Sam returned. "And the Circle killed Jess to get to me."

"Only Dean grabbed you and started running all over again." Dad's index finger went around the rim of his glass and he frowned. "He doesn't think I trust him. I left you with him, raised him to protect you."

"What do you expect him to think, Dad? Someone tried to blast Ellie full of rock salt because they couldn't tell the difference between a demon and the light of God. Hell, you drugged Charlotte." Sam felt the anger eddy inside his chest, remembering the way Ellie screamed when she saw Dean laying prone on the floor or the throb in Charlotte's voice when she told a room full of strangers about broken hearts and the sacrifices she was willing to make to help Sam Winchester. "We gave our word that they'd be safe and you broke it for both of us," Sam added.

Dad's eyes glittered and he turned his head, hearing the jukebox click to another song. "This is a war, son. I didn't start it but I'm going to finish it. Those girls don't matter to me the way you boys do."

Sam wanted to slam down his glass and list all of the ways those girls mattered to him but Dad couldn't even meet his eyes. It was like watching Dean during those first few days on the road with Charlotte, realizing black and white was a lot more gray than it should have been. Sam could have told them both that the world never worked the way Winchesters thought it should.

Stanford had taught him that.

"Besides," his father continued in his crusty voice, "Can't change what I've done to either of them. All we can do now is find some common ground." John drained the glass and held it to his cheek. "And that's nothing compared to what I did to Dean."

Sam's ribs felt like they were cracking and it had nothing to do with the thing sliding through them. John Winchester was breaking right there in a booth – his body curled between the table and the wall, the glass shaking in his hand. His father was cutting himself and spilling out everything for Sam to see and he could hear Charlotte's soft voice. Penance. And the look in his father's eyes was one Sam heard him dismiss so many times while they were growing up, the shakes that his father could never quite hide after a hunt.

"I don't know if…" Sam began when his father began pouring another shot of whiskey, liquid spilling over the edge of the glass.

"You're a smart boy, Sam, but you don't know as much as you think you do." His father's voice was gravelly and it felt like Sam's ribs were opening up all over again when he watched his father breathe. "About your mother, your brother. The Beata left us to fend for ourselves after she died. There were things I had to do…" John Winchester was actually trying to cross the spaces between them.

"Not now, Dad." And Sam meant it. He wanted to know the truth without having to pull it from his father like a violation. "Ellen was right. We need to talk…but not tonight." Sam sounded stronger than he felt and he brought his glass up to his mouth for a swallow. "There's things you need to know, too."

His father just looked at him like he used to when Sam fell in the park and came running to Daddy with two skinned knees. "No more secrets, Sammy," John Winchester said finally. "Not after tomorrow. We can't win this thing with secrets."

Sam's mouth quirked up but he didn't say anything. The song changed on the jukebox again, an old Stones song that used to make Dean laugh, and both of them chuckled. It was easier to sing along with his father, closing his eyes and remembering how the Impala howled through Oklahoma with Beggar's Banquet as its soundtrack. Goddamn Dean had kept on singing the whole time. Dad was so drunk he didn't even realize that all Sam was doing was moving his mouth while John Winchester bellowed about being born in a crossfire hurricane.

There were some secrets Sam Winchester wasn't ready to give up.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

She was sitting next to Daddy on the swing, tucked underneath his arm and snuggled against his chest. Charlie could hear the crickets calling to each other in the yard as Daddy's long legs pushed the swing slowly, back and forth, until her eyes started to close and her head jerked forward. Daddy would laugh every time she mumbled and woke back up, pushing back into him. Sometimes, she'd look up into his brown eyes and he'd smile down at her, crinkles in the corners.

She knew nothing could hurt her on that swing and the only thing she worried about was Daddy letting her stay up longer with him. Charlie was safe. Always safe and warm, listening to his breath whisper in his chest; two strong arms around her, holding her tight. Holding her close as the crickets sang around them, and the moon shone down on the grass still wet with the rain. Charlie wished she and Daddy could stay like that forever, just the slow rock of the swing and night sounds all around them.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Charlotte realized she was blinking, eyes adjusting to the dim light in the room. Her left arm was wrapped around Dean's waist as she lay on top of him and he was holding her close while he slept. She'd never expected that, the tenderness that was underneath the surface – the way his voice would go soft in his throat when he said her name or the look in his eyes when he listened to her read to Ellie. Not even Miles had held her while they slept, never touched her the way that Dean did; his rough fingers soft against her scars.

An entire library of books hadn't prepared her for Dean Winchester. He had ruined every plan Charlotte had made, for herself and for Sam, but she couldn't stay angry the moment Dean smirked at her and called her Charlie. It made her want to trust him, because Dean Winchester knew her real name, even when every instinct inside was telling her to run – that the thing inside of Sam wanted to break her, break them all, and Charlotte Webb was the weakest link in the chain.

Her cheek was pressed against a slick spot on his chest and she brought one hand up to check her mouth. Oh, crap… She sure as hell wasn't giving him the chance to make fun of her for drooling on him. Except she had a wet spot on her forehead where his mouth was resting.

Moving her arm slowly, Charlotte tried to bring herself up into a sitting position. Dean's arms weren't budging and her chin smacked into his shoulder, hard enough to jar her teeth a little. "What the fuck, Charlie," Dean muttered, hazel eyes focusing on her face. "Are you trying to kill me in my sleep?" One hand wiped at his chest. "Jesus," he added, grinning at her. "I'm covered in spit. Maybe I should have taken my luck with a pool table."

"At least my hair would be dry," Charlotte retorted.

His eyes focused on her matted hair and Dean actually had the grace to chuckle before pulling up the comforter and wiping her forehead with it. "Better?" Dean asked softly.

"Maybe we should both get cleaned up," she said. Charlotte reached up to kiss his chin. "I might even let you help me."

Dean raised an eyebrow. "I charge for my services." One hand slithered out and started tickling her underneath her arm and Dean was laughing until Charlotte kicked and accidentally hit his shin with her cast. "You fight dirty," he said, rolling her over onto her back. The pressure hurt, small prickles from the rock salt wounds, but she wasn't going to let that stop her.

"And you scream like a little girl," Charlotte answered, snaking her hand out to tickle right where his leg met his hip.

"You bitch!" But Dean couldn't keep the hooting noise from escaping his lips when her fingers connected with his skin – even by twisting his body out of the way.

Charlotte reached up and kissed him, wanting to touch his crooked smile before it went away. She still hadn't told him everything she should have; they had spent hours talking, but Dean always managed to touch the right place with his lips or wind his hands through her hair while pushing her backwards and the last thing Charlotte wanted to do when he did that was talk. Even after just waking up, he was insatiable. Charlotte pulled back. "How can a man who hunts demons be so horrible at tickle fights? No wonder Ellie always wins."

Dean laughed. "Maybe I'm just lulling you into a false sense of security," he whispered into her neck. "Waiting for the perfect moment to make my move."

"I can't believe you're trying to make a move on me when your chest is covered in drool." Charlotte snorted, holding him tight as she looked up into his eyes.

"It's your drool, sweetheart." Dean's lopsided grin wasn't a denial. "And I don't see you doing anything to get yourself out of the situation. You're probably some kind of glutton for punishment."

"Probably? I'm in love with the world's biggest prick." Charlotte sighed and suddenly felt a clench inside when her eyes met Dean's. He was staring at her like she was an alien thing wearing her skin.

Oh, fuck...

"Don't tease a man like that, Charlie." His voice was gruff but he hadn't let her go.

Charlotte swallowed. "I'm not teasing," she said softly. "It's true." It happened somewhere between Dean splinting her leg in Wisconsin and being kissed in a food court like she was the last woman in the world. She just didn't realize it until she was standing in a roadhouse in Nebraska and having her heart ripped open to a bar full of strangers, an admission she remembered even if they didn't know what it really meant.

Dean is the most important thing in the world.

Maybe it was happening too fast and before getting shoved in the back of the Impala that would have bothered her – but a storm was coming. Time isn't always on your side, Charlie. Sometimes you have to jump. "This won't change anything," Charlotte continued, her confidence dwindling when his shoulders twitched. "You've got other priorities. I know that. Sam will always come first. It's one of the things I love about you." Saying it a second time made it easier.

"One of the things?" Dean's throat was working and he looked like he wanted to fling himself off of her and run. Charlotte could appreciate the feeling – she'd probably be hiding in the bathroom if he wasn't pinning her down. "You've got a list or something?" Dean demanded.

"I do." Charlotte stopped looking into his eyes long enough to kiss him before sinking back down into the pillow, trembling when he took a deep breath and just wrapped himself around her. There were so many things she could say and probably not the ones he'd expect – the way Dean did the voices when he read out loud to Ellie or the fact that he shared Ding Dongs with both of them and tried to hide what he was doing. The morning Dean woke her up and started showing her every single one of his scars and told her stories in that voice of his about how he got them. Not to mention every time he poked her in the arm.

"You're just full of surprises," he said, and his eyes looked so young that Charlotte thought she was imagining it until her chest flared – a burning inside that matched his, and it had nothing to do with the Grigori or the secrets of the Beata or anything snarling down the winds that led to Sam. Dean's hands were in her hair again and his mouth started making lazy swirls on her neck.

The war had started and the people who would fight it were beginning to stir, soldiers preparing to face a fate they couldn't avoid, and it was hard not to feel guilty about waking up in Dean Winchester's arms. So many people full of fear and mistrust and a burning need to take back their world and she was stumbling into something with Dean where prophecies and plans no longer held the answers, where all that mattered was Dean and the parts of herself she was just beginning to recognize. It didn't seem fair to find that when Sam was trying so hard not to lose himself.

"Your brother's still your first priority, right?"

Dean's eyes softened. "Nothing's going to change that."

"Good." Charlotte took a breath. "And if we can't make this work without hurting Sam, we'll stop?"

"There's no way we're going to hurt Sam."

"Dean – "

"It'll be okay, Charlie."

When Charlotte opened her mouth to say something back, she wasn't surprised when his mouth slammed down onto hers and Dean kept her quiet with his hands and the way he was pushing her down against the mattress – another shield gone as she breathed against his lips. One day there was going to be nothing left between them but each other; that should have scared her but Charlotte just closed her eyes and heard crickets singing.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Sam woke up to the smell of strawberries and Dean's chuckle as an arm curled around his.

"That can't be comfortable," Dean said as Sam sat up, pushing his shoulders into the leather of the seat behind his back. "He's bonier than you are." His older brother's eyes were bright and he was pushing a plate piled full of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast covered with butter in Sam's direction. "It's not a Big Mac but it'll probably do the trick."

Sam's stomach rumbled and he felt faintly sick, both sensations at war with each other. He didn't remember how long he and Dad had stayed up, drinking whiskey and listening to songs ramble out of the jukebox; old songs from the war, Dad had said, his hand shaking the whole time and his eyes looking more haunted than they had in years. As the world came into focus, Sam spotted Ellie, sitting at a table with Ash while the two of them colored together. Charlotte's arm was looped through his and she leaned up to kiss him on the forehead.

"Your brother's a jerk," she said softly and the cotton taste in his mouth eased just enough for the smell of the eggs to be appetizing – and the bacon was cooked soft, almost as greasy as a Big Mac. At least they hadn't tried to give him a banana.

"I'm the one who fixed him a plate of food," Dean retorted, stretching his arms up into the air while the two of them smiled at each other. Sam waited for the scream inside that heralded Shemhezai's scorn but all he heard was the rush of blood in his ears, pumping as his heart sped up. It was slow and easy between them, like it used to be with him and Jess and that ached because he still missed it – but Charlotte's arm tightened around his and Dean's eyes turned towards Sam with uncertainty inside.

They were both asking him for permission, a question caught between Dean's swallow and Charlotte's arm entangled with his. Sam knew what was coming – what was planned for them by the thing that was going to break the world – and no was the only answer that might keep both of them safe but the memory of their voices, of Dean's low laughter and Charlotte's sighs, conjured up visions of Jess reading to him every Sunday morning – lounging in bed over pancakes and orange juice, words tripping over themselves as Sam closed his eyes and planned his future to the sing-song repetition of her voice.

Shall I tell you what the real evil is? To cringe to the things that are called evils, to surrender to them our freedom, in defiance of which we ought to face any suffering.

Sam took a breath, seeing Dean's eyes widen as it came out ragged and sharp. "We need to get one thing straight," he said, cocking his head at his older brother. "That little pony of yours might have the stamina of a horse, Dean, but the minute there's humping when I'm trying to sleep, I'm pulling out the rocket launcher."

Dean's face split into a grin. "That depends entirely on Charlie." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "She thinks I'm irresistible, you know. Adorable, even." He chuckled when she snorted. "Damn girl can't get enough of me."

"Damn girl might like more than an hour of sleep every night," Charlotte retorted, cheeks turning red as she lowered her head and scooted away from Sam. "So you keep that rocket launcher handy, Sam." She looked like she was going to say more but Charlotte stiffened when she heard a deep laugh behind her. Dad. "I'll go check up on Ellie," she added softly, starting to slide out of the seat.

"Don't leave on my account," Dad said slowly, sitting down next to Dean. His older brother's jaw tightened and hazel eyes flashed at Charlotte, a look passing between them, and her shoulders stiffened. Don't you dare run from him, Charlie. Charlotte's hands slid to her sides, closed into fists. Sam's left hand dropped down to settle on her right one and she wrapped it around his.

Sam couldn't help but think she wished that he was Dean, the way she held on, but then she squeezed. And that is why a dorky girl like me is lucky enough to have someone like you care about her. He squeezed back and Dean was watching them both with something close to approval before turning a cold glare towards their father. Dad didn't even flinch. "Waited up for you last night," his father said, shooting the same grin at Dean that Sam was used to seeing every time his older brother was being a smart-ass.

"Had some things to take care of," Dean returned slowly.

"So I gathered." Dad shifted in his set, placing both elbows on the table and leaning forward on his hands. The man from last night was gone, replaced by the calm soldier Sam remembered – a general who was putting all the pieces on the board and figuring out how best to use him. "Some folks will be here after lunch. We'll make our plans then."

"Some things we need to say aren't part of a plan," Sam returned.

"We're only going through all of this once." And there was no arguing with Dad when he sounded like that. Sam's mouth snapped shut.

"We already have a plan." Dean was staring at the wall. "We take Ellie and we leave. Figure out where to find the rest of the Twelve and get them before the Circle does. Seems pretty simple to me."

"Dean – " Dad stopped the moment Dean's eyes met his and both their mouths tightened. His father swallowed, glanced across the table at Sam like he was calling for backup, as if one night of whiskey and old songs from the war Sam wasn't born to fight would make Sam choose sides. But damn if one look from Dean didn't make Dad open up when a whole bottle of whiskey kept him locked up with Sam. "Some things were necessary," their father added.

"I get that, Dad." Dean's right hand was balled into a fist on the table, his knuckles white.

"You understand, don't you, girl?" Dad's gaze settled on Charlotte, his face closing as she bit her lip and did her best not to look away. "Better than my sons." When Charlotte didn't say anything, John Winchester continued blithely like she had agreed with him. "You've lived in the belly of the beast. No one who lives close to that power can be trusted. It's why your father decided to break the Circle in the first place and scatter you kids to the winds."

"To save the children." Charlotte's teeth worked on her lip. "But the Circle found them anyway." Her brow furrowed.

"So what makes you think the Circle doesn't already know where the rest of them are right now," Dad replied. He sounded angry but he looked thoughtful. It was a dare; Sam had seen it before. Show me the answer, son. Unless something had changed, his father already knew what it was.

"They probably do but…" She looked at Dean suddenly. "That makes no sense. Didn't…my father…tell Sam that he had to find the others first. That he needed to get to them before the Circle did?" Sam's eyes widened when Charlotte swallowed but he wasn't surprised – Dean had probably told her the whole damn thing, how Aaron Webb visited Sam in dreams and taught him what he needed to know to Awaken.

"That's what he said," Dean answered softly.

"So what does that mean exactly?" Charlotte had stopped biting her lip and both of her hands were suddenly flat on the table as she leaned forward. "It implies that the Circle doesn't know where to find them anymore than we do."

"Could have just been a turn of phrase." Dean was looking at her thoughtfully.

"No way." She shook her head sharply. "My father wouldn't have said something like that unless he deliberately meant it."

Sam snorted. "This is the same man whose making me read Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah as part of my training, Charlotte. I think he'd go into shock if he wasn't being cryptic."

Dean stiffened but Charlotte flashed a rueful smile. "You just don't know how to read him, Sam," she said. And then her eyes softened. Charlotte reached across the table for Dean's hand with her left, holding onto Sam's with her right, and it was like they were the only ones in the Roadhouse. Even the jukebox faded to nothing. "I know you boys don't want to hurt me but I understand the proscriptions under which the Guardians operate," she added. "You have to tell me what he says the next time."

Dad's breath brought Sam back when Charlotte let go of their hands. "So if the Circle doesn't know where the other children are, how did they track them down in the first place?" Dean asked with a frown.

Sam's stomach churned. The answer was obvious. "The Circle didn't track the children. They tracked the parents." Dad's breath was jagged in his chest, a heaviness laying about his shaking hands on the table – just inches from Charlotte's. Circle doesn't have them all. We made sure of that – hid them well, sealed their gifts until the time was right for them to Awaken. "Oh, God," Sam managed. "The children's gifts were sealed so the Circle couldn't find them."

"Which means our parents all made themselves targets," Charlotte returned softly. "Hoping the prophecy would kick in and the children would be lost in the fallout. They had to have known. Jacob's translation is only partial but…it mentions going into the fire." Her eyes were glistening as she looked at their father. "My mother always said she got me because I belonged to her. But if both parents died or the one without a gift fled…"

"The kids would be as good as gone," Dean finished. "But is a prophecy powerful enough to keep something like the Circle of Enoch off the scent?" He almost grinned at Charlotte. "This is where you'd tell me that I need to have a little faith, huh?"

Charlotte shrugged. "You're Chosen, Dean."

"You make that sound like it's the answer when it's the question, Charlie." Dean scratched underneath his ear, looking at Sam. Dad was watching them all with hooded eyes, hands shaking so hard that Charlotte surprised them all by putting her hands on top of them with a small sigh. Sam tried to ignore the flicker of blue along her knuckles.

"I think the Awakening is the key," Sam said. "Aaron said their gifts were sealed until the time was right for them to Awaken." Charlotte was shaking a little in her shoulders, but Sam didn't know if that was because of his father or the fact that he used Aaron's name.

"That's just coming into our Gifts, right?" Dean asked. Both of them looked at Charlotte.

"No. It's deeper than that. The Twelve are vessels for the Grigori. They're too powerful to be borne by most human flesh but we're supposed to have been bred for them, capable of withstanding their power. My daddy used to tell me that if I Awakened, Armaros would lose its vessel. Remember Armaros' curse?" Charlotte asked.

"We live with it every goddamn day," Dean returned. Sam's foot shot out towards Dean's shin. "Hey, watch it!" his older brother yelped as it connected. "Not that it isn't cute and all." Even Dad was smiling at the look that crossed Charlotte's face, a quick shake of resignation when her eyes met Dean's. "Where are you going with this, Girl Genius?"

"Sam's right. The Circle never taught us about the Awakening – I learned that from my father before he died. It was the one lesson he always told me that I had to remember." Charlotte held his father's hands in her own, arms shaking more forcefully. "It gets better, too. My mother always said that my body had to stay intact but the scars never mattered. Armaros would Rise when Shemhezai Ascended and my body would be made whole in the Rising. It would happen earlier if I died; Armaros could Rise if my soul no longer inhabited the body."

"So the Circle doesn't lose anything if those kids just live normal lives. If Shemhezai Ascends, they'll become a vessel for one of the Grigori," Sam added. "And the same thing goes if they just die before the end." He and Charlotte nodded at each other. "But if we go after them ourselves? And they Awaken?"

"We make them targets." Dean frowned. "What's so important about Awakening anyway?"

"Apart from rendering you immune to the Rising?" Charlotte returned with an arch glance over her glasses that made Dean smile. "There are specific passages within the text of the prophecy that relate to the Awakening of Divine Blood – it's called the Blessing. I always thought was misleading because Beata means blessed and that applies to any one of the descendants, not just the ones who are supposed to be the Twelve – " She jumped when Dean coughed.

Charlotte's cheeks flushed and she continued. "The description of the Blessing is obscure. It states that the children can use their Gifts together to affect different outcomes, to share the power of disparate Gifts." Charlotte's jaw actually dropped and she looked over at Ellie. "That night with the Cordi Peredo. Dean and I barely held on until…" Her voice was barely a murmur. "The Perfection of God."

"Holy shit," Sam's throat closed, hearing Ellie laugh with Ash and ask for a green crayon. "Wouldn't being Awakened make you a bigger target?"

"Especially if you're six." Dean's face was white. "We are so screwed."

Sam had almost forgotten that their father was sitting there, watching the entire exchange, until he coughed. Three pairs of eyes focused on his face and John Winchester was smiling, looking like he had in all of the pictures Sam remembered from before the fire. "Now you three are beginning to see the bigger picture," he said gruffly. Sam thought he might have said more, but Dad slowly pulled his hands out from underneath Charlotte's and he stood up quickly.

John Winchester walked away, not even turning to look back at them, while all three of them stared at his retreating back. But Sam thought he still saw a smile on his father's face as his body turned. When Sam blinked, it was too late to tell.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After John Winchester walked away from the table, Dean and Sam converged on Ellie – pulling out more pages from her coloring books and sharing crayons, all but pushing Ash away from the table. Charlotte knew they were reassuring themselves, trying to convince themselves that Ellie Jenkins was just a little girl even though they all knew she wasn't. We can't fix him without his eye. That little girl knew exactly what she was doing and being Awakened answered every single one of Charlotte's questions.

Charlotte had wasted enough time, worrying about where she grew up and not wanting to cause a rift between Dean and Sam and their father. It was hard not to feel sorry for the man, even after what he had done to her. John Winchester's loss, for his sons and the wife he knew was doomed the moment she left the Circle of Enoch, was a barrier he couldn't cross – two decades of responses to the sin that caused darkness in them all. She could sense that same loss in the others John Winchester had gathered; parents or siblings or friends who had all lost something to the shadows. Even Ellie, the most innocent of them all, was curled over her mother and covered in blood when the police first found her. Every single one of them ending up in Harvelle's Roadhouse.

They all had roles to play – even a clumsy girl from Connecticut.

She ran into Jo Harvelle the moment she stepped off the stairs, two book bags slung over her shoulders and a laptop bag in one hand. There was a shriek as their bodies collided and the laptop went flying out of her hand; Charlotte grabbed onto the strap and braced it against her wrist, wincing a little as it twisted. "I'm sorry," Charlotte began, feeling the flush in her cheeks, but Jo just laughed.

"I heard you coming down the stairs," the blond girl said. "I just didn't get out of the way fast enough." Jo grinned at her. "You move pretty fast for someone with her leg in a cast." She grabbed the strap of the laptop case and tugged. Charlotte flipped her wrist and it slipped into Jo's hand. "And you're not one for letting someone help, are you?"

"Thank you." It was all Charlotte could say as she followed the blonde girl out of the hallway. Jo reminded her of Meg, of bright blonde girls whose smiles could light up a room, but Meg had been sharp since her thirteenth birthday – since the first time she gave herself to Azazeal. You're weak, Charlotte. You'll never be strong enough for this. A girl who might have been her friend lost by a demon's touch inside. Jo Harvelle was still soft in all the ways that were important, hardened by a life devoted to John Winchester's cause but not hard.

"You're welcome," Jo returned slowly. There was disappointment there and more guilt from the night before, the sting of a rebuff and the knowledge that it was earned. She followed Charlotte to where Dean was sitting, the contents of his gun bag strewn across the table. Jo frowned. "I'm sorry about last night," the blonde girl said.

Dean's eyebrows shot up when he heard the words but he just looked at Charlotte. "I know," Charlotte returned, setting her book bags onto the opposite seat of the booth and pushing them towards the wall. Jo was still waiting with the laptop case. "It's okay," Charlotte added. "I know you didn't want to do it. But you're not disloyal. I don't agree with some of John Winchester's methods, either, but I believe in what he's trying to do." Jo's face froze and Charlotte knew she had said too much; she always said too much. No one liked talking to a girl with a direct connection to their secrets and no one liked having their secrets laid bare by a stranger.

But Jo Harvelle surprised her, handing Charlotte the laptop case with another smile. "It's good not being the only girl under twenty-five in the club," Jo said, giving a nod and sauntering over to where her mother was talking with Sam.

"What the hell was that all about?" Dean spun the barrel on the gun he was peering through and closed it with a snap.

"I think she wants to be friends." Charlotte set the laptop on the same seat with the book bags. One of the men from the night before, a face in the crowd Charlotte remembered in the jumble, said something low to Jo as she walked towards the bar. Jo laughed brightly, flicking the towel at her waist at his arm before continuing on her way. The blonde girl was grace itself. Nothing clumsy about her.

"Didn't I already warn you about thinking too hard?" Dean asked. He picked up another gun as Charlotte hitched herself up into the seat next to him. She knew she should be pulling out her computer – the prophecy wasn't going to translate itself – but Charlotte scooted close enough for her arm to brush against his. The other, blowing through her.

Dean had a role to play, too. But it wasn't protecting Sam. He can stop this. It was her father's voice, watching Dean fall into Sam's shattered body; white light all around them as Shemhezai ascended. Dean was always falling in her dreams, the line between them snapping because he wasn't ready and she wasn't strong enough to hold him. Sam told her once that there was no line Dean wouldn't cross to save someone he loved but it wasn't entirely true – there was no line Dean wouldn't cross to save Sam.

"Dean?" Charlotte's voice cracked just enough for him to notice it, his shoulders tightening. "We need to talk," she added. The gun didn't fall out of his hand but it bounced on the table.

"Here?" And panic shot through her chest when Dean asked the question.

She took a deep breath. "I…"

"Look." Dean pushed gun parts out of the way, body twisting to look at her. "If you've got something to say to me, just fucking say it." There was a beautiful dark-haired black girl dancing on the back of Charlotte's eyelids, with shoulder-length curly hair and a book in her hand that the girl used to gesture wildly at someone. The girl was angry, bristling with disbelief, and Dean's face was reflected in her eyes. Charlotte lurched forward, her head almost bouncing on Dean's chest.

Knew a girl once. Wanted to be a part of her life so much I even told her the truth about me. And she thought I was crazy.

Whoever that girl was, she had left cuts on Dean that scarred. And they were old wounds; his reflection was younger than Sam but his eyes looked just like they had the night Charlotte found him on the back of the Impala. Charlotte grabbed Dean's shirt by the collar and pulled his mouth down onto hers, fierce and ravenous and hoping he would believe that she was staying no matter where the highway took them. Her cheeks burned and his hands braced her hips when Charlotte sighed. "You're rubbing off on me, Dean Winchester," she whispered.

"You say that like it's a bad thing, Charlie." His breath was hot on her skin, a murmur in her hair. "Got an hour before lunch."

"And that's why we're having this conversation in public." Charlotte's fingers curled around the fabric of the collar. She wasn't letting him go until she was finished. "I've been having dreams about you."

"Really?" Dean sounded like he was smiling and his hands were in her hair, a distraction. "Was I naked?"


"So where does that fall on your list? My being naked?"

"Dean!" Charlotte frowned but shivered when his muted chuckle made the hair on her neck bristle. "Please?" she asked. "This is hard enough for me to say. It's important." She pulled back, her fingers so tight on his shirt that they were almost numb. "Remember when we were driving to Georgia?"

"Yeah. We thought you were having a seizure."

"It was about you." Charlotte sucked in a breath, keeping Dean close when his body jerked. Words never worked they way that they should with Winchesters but words were all that she had. There was no way to sugarcoat it; Dean needed to know. "Every vision I've had since Sam pushed me into the back of the car has been about you," she added.

"Sam won't fall. Sam will rise," Dean replied, his voice hollow within his chest. "But Dean will fall. I saw it." Charlotte could hear her own voice imposed on top of his, fighting with the ringing in her head, and the look Dean gave her was enough to make her let go of his collar. "I've already figured out I'm not making it to the end, Charlie. There was always Sam. Always Dad." He looked away from her towards the other side of the booth. "And now there's you and Ellie."

"Don't you ever say that again!" Charlotte could feel the stares on her back. She should have been used to being the center of attention in a room full of strangers but that didn't keep her voice from becoming a shrill echo. Dean recoiled, not even able to look in her eyes. "I'm not letting that happen!" And Charlotte knew she was loud enough to pull every eye in the bar, hoping a room full of witnesses would make Dean listen to her. "Do you understand?" Charlotte demanded.

"What are you going to do?" Dean asked, sounding so tired it was all she could do to breathe. "Limp down into Hell after me?"

"We're going to do better than that, Dean Winchester!" Charlotte's voice was a hiss. Her hands were back on his collar and Charlotte lifted herself up. Dean pulled her towards him, a jagged edge in his chest that blossomed into a bruise when their mouths collided. "There's not a lot I can teach you about being Beata," she added when Dean broke for air, his hands a tangle at the back of her neck. "You've been putting yourself between the innocent and the darkness since you were four." She smiled gently, her own hands going around his neck. "And you're better at it than I am."

"Charlie…" Dean was all embarrassment and disbelief, the rush of fire blowing through both of them when Dean closed his eyes. A boy, and a fire and the baby in his arms. They always came back to the place where a little boy ran through the crackle and the spit of the fire with the most precious thing in the world. It was the cipher that could crack the code.

"But you've never had anyone teach you about your Gift." Charlotte tightened her arms. "It's strong. I think that's why I keep getting Called for you." She didn't blame him for the way he almost pulled away, between the shock of his mother's death and his father's constant guilt locked inside where the little boy waited. Charlotte knew what the Gift could do, the irony of something so passive twisting inside until it left a constant ache. "I've seen you do things instinctively that took me years to learn how to manage," she added. "Imagine what you can do if someone teaches you. You'll be ready for the end."

"So that's how you're going to keep me from falling?"

"Yes." Charlotte buried her face where his neck met his shoulder. "But I'm ready to limp down into Hell right after you." Charlotte could see him there, doing whatever it took to kill everything thrown his way if it meant that Sam would get out alive. Dean Winchester was Called and he was Chosen; he would die fighting. He would fight in Death; his was a Guardian's soul. "A fire didn't stop either of us the first time, Dean."

He pulled her closer, his arms tight across her back. It was hard to breathe, an iron band around both of them. "That's your plan?" Dean finally managed. "To go in after me?" And he actually laughed, his shoulders loosening with the sound.

"I'll be bringing my book bag," she said. "It's our best bet if I have to go toe-to-toe with something." That only made him laugh harder, the pain underneath diminishing when he started pushing her backwards out of the booth. Charlotte almost fell before her cast touched down on the ground, Dean's hands on her arms holding her steady while she regained her balance.

"Your plan sucks," Dean said when he was standing next to her. "Mine is a lot better," he added, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards the hall that led to the upstairs stairway. "Sammy, put the guns away," Dean added, yelling at his little brother over his shoulder.

"Your plan is having sex, isn't it?" Charlotte asked as he dragged her up the stairs.

Dean grinned at her before flinging the door to the room open. "That's why my plan doesn't suck," he said, kicking the door closed behind him. "A girl could take lessons," he added, pushing her backwards onto the bed. His mouth marked hers as they crashed into the mattress, tiny aches blossoming across her back. Dean's hands were already reaching under her dress and the contact of his ring against her left thigh was cold against the burn of his hand. And his eyes – when her fingers began undoing the button fly on his jeans, they flared.

"But it could," she returned, hand dipping into his boxer shorts. Fingers worked around him before Dean could stop her and he bucked against her hand.

"Jesus, Charlie..." Dean's voice was low, filled with a wish pouring through her; the words ripped out hard and unfinished but his mouth slammed down onto hers and she heard cotton tear in his hands. He was scalding, shuddering when her hands hooked jeans and boxers and pulled – a scrape of fabric against skin as they came down. There was a cold shock of air when his fingers opened her, a shiver down her spine when Dean pushed inside and filled her – his body moving against hers as they gasped.

She met each thrust with a lift of her hips, a different memory flitting across his face when he rocked back against her – the way he looked when he was asleep, his eyes when he was watching her, his grin when he was glancing at her sideways and poking her on the arm. Dean groaned into her neck, head coming forward as he moved hard between her thighs, and he was the only thing she knew between memory and desire. "Love you, Dean." It hummed through her skin, a wave swirling around them.

Charlotte brought her hands to his hips to hold on as tight as she could, fingers digging into the flesh to keep him steady. Dean began slowing down when she clamped around him, hips arching into his. Her body was working on its own, sounds coming out of her that she didn't even recognize, wanting nothing more than him – needing to meet him halfway because then they would never be lost. She was curling into him, a slow swing as crickets sang around them. He leaned down to capture her moan with his lips, hands braced on her shoulders as she writhed underneath him. "Charlotte," he whispered, a hot surge inside of her.

She was on fire all over again.


The title of the chapter is a song by Bruce Springsteen.

Born in a crossfire hurricane? That can only be one song. "Jumping Jack Flash," of course!

The Big Mac and the banana were both an homage to the lovely wenchpixie, specifically "Fat, Salt and Sugar are Better than a Ten Mile Run." She and I definitely agree on certain things in our personal fanon and one of them just happens to be the best cure for a hangover.

Sam's quote in his second POV is by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a Roman philosopher and playwright. Charlie paraphrases a Victor Hugo quote as well: "The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness." It just seemed to me that both would be well-read, all things considered.

And that Enochian lore just keeps right on coming…