Title: Reflections Road

Author: Izzychase

Disclaimer: I do not own One Tree Hill, Supernatural, or any of its characters. This is purely a work of fiction.

Category: One Tree Hill and Supernatural AU/Crossover

Pairings: Rachel/Dean

Feedback: Is certainly welcome (I like constructive comments), but no flames please! If you don't like this pairing to begin with, you can click the 'back' button, but if you have an open mind, you might enjoy this too. 

Timeline: In this AU/Crossover, I would say that the two met in around S1 of Supernatural and S4 in One Tree Hill, just because I like to keep things relatively simple.

Dedication: To all my fellow Rachel/Dean fans over on FanForum (particularly Alex and Bru), who've been motivating me to write and whose love for the couple is my strong inspiration to write and not procrastinate.

Part One: Rachel

Rachel's sitting up front this time and Sam's sitting in the back busily typing away on his laptop as Dean drives the Impala through another unending stretch of green fields and countryside. They're driving to Missouri this time, investigating a haunting in a nearly abandoned ghost town. The afternoon sun is lazily beginning its descent from the sky, the road is gently winding through the hills of the western Appalachians, the windows of the Impala are halfway down, the wind rippling through her hair, bringing out all its bright red hues, and she's thinking that life doesn't get any stranger than this, but she's never been happier.

If somebody had told her that at the age of 19, she'd be driving through the United States with her boyfriend and his brother to hunt ghosts, demons, and other creatures of the night that hunt and stalk through the towns and cities of America, she'd laugh at them and wouldn't even believe it. However, after going from one city from another as her father hopped from head office to head office, she's finally reached somewhere (and someone) she could call home. Growing up, she moved every several years, never having a consistent set of friends until she reached Tree Hill, and learned to take of herself since her absentee parents cared about their investment portfolios and real estate deals more than parenting. Never really let anyone in, never let anyone see you vulnerable, and never let anyone see you be weak, was Rachel Gatina's motto. She preferred to go through life with a 'throw caution to the wind' attitude, surrounding herself with adoring boys and girls who would do her bidding. It didn't hurt that she had a vivacious personality, a credit card and a trust fund, a pretty face, and a body that other girls envied and guys appreciated. If all else failed, she had been able to develop a persona as an ice queen in order to help her cope with all the chaotic inconsistencies in her upbringing. It wasn't even until she reached Tree Hill, befriended Brooke Davis and Marvin "Mouth" McFadden that she could finally let down the walls around her and admit her loneliness in the life she led. It wasn't until Tree Hill that she found Brooke and Mouth, who showed her what a real friendship looked like, and it wasn't until she met Dean Winchester, that she understood what sacrificing for someone else looked like.

Leaning against her side of the passenger seat, she slid her gaze to Dean who had one hand on the steering wheel, the other arm resting on the side of the car as his soft green eyes gazed at the road ahead of them and occasionally checked his rear and side mirrors. Dean with his cocky attitude, witty one-liners, propensity for recklessness, and love of living life on the edge and to the max was in so many ways her equal. He was smart and competent as well, and the way he invented new weapons and equipment for their hunts always impressed her and she felt like she saw a new facet of him in these situations. However, Rachel also saw in Dean a guy who occasionally longed for a more normal life, a guy who loved his family and would do anything for them, and a guy who wanted someone who was real and not just a series of one-night stands. Every now and then, Dean revealed that side of himself through a remark or comment, through random acts of kindness towards his brother Sam, and tenderness towards her that she didn't know could reach to her beyond her own personal walls. No guy had the ability to match her cockiness with his own arrogance, make her laugh so much with his jokes and witty banter, make her angry enough to kiss him just to shut him up, melt her with a glance or smile, arouse her with just a touch, and reach her heart with his occasional slips of vulnerability as much as Dean. He wasn't the first boyfriend she had, and maybe he wasn't "the one", but Rachel didn't necessarily believe in "the one". What she definitely knew however, was that she had never cared about another guy as deeply as she cared about Dean and this was her longest relationship to date.

Yes, Rachel Gatina, who basically could have any guy she wanted, was making eyes at Dean Winchester. Dean was hot too, with his boyishly handsome face, his emerald green eyes, pouty lips that she loved to kiss, and his muscular body all toned and built from years of hunting. Their relationship sizzled partially due to the fact that they were both good looking and they both appreciated each other's physical attributes- for example, Rachel had always enjoyed wearing clothes that showed off her nice body and vibrant red hair, but she loved it when her boyfriend checked her out (which Dean did frequently), did a double take, or practically undressed her with his eyes. The mischievous side of her also liked it when Dean would glare at other guys who dared to check her out for too long and then when he would smirk when they found out that she was his girlfriend and that they had no chance with her. On the other hand, Dean would always grin at her whenever he caught her checking him out, which she did just as frequently and wiggle his eyebrows at her suggestively when she did so.

They met in her senior year, during a particularly slow week where she decided to skip school and fly to New York to see its frills and thrills instead. They met in a club just before the outskirts of Manhattan, where Dean and Sam were scoping out the social scene before chatting up the girls, when she had walked into the club in her typically confident style and their eyes instantly met. Rachel had immediately noticed the handsome guy in the leather jacket sitting at a table with the other guy beside him, eyeing the rest of the club with a smile on his kissable lips and playing with the shot glass in his hand, and despite the wide selection of guys to choose from, Rachel knew that he was the one she wanted to leave with. He looked alluring in a dangerous way, and Rachel Gatina had never been one to shy away from that. Later on the dance floor, green eyes met hazel brown eyes and both of their lives were changed in that moment.

The rest of the week flew by in a blur. Rachel had never had such an intense and passionate connection with anyone before. On a whim, she had given the key card of her hotel room to Sam so that he could enjoy the sights and sounds of Manhattan, and moved into his and Dean's room, so she could enjoy being with Dean. Rachel remembered how Dean's eyes had widened at that gesture and its implications, and she smirked at how it all ended up working out since she and Dean had barely left their room for the first two days afterwards and Sam had to leave exasperated voicemails for his brother to check whether Dean and Rachel even came up for air. Neither Dean nor Rachel had felt compelled to answer their phones immediately when they had been so engrossed in each other.

Somewhere in the middle of the week, the connection developed into one that was more than just physical. They had been playing pool at a quiet bar on 41st street when Dean admitted that he hadn't felt this relaxed and at ease in a very long time after sinking his shot. Rachel had been about to make an innuendo about how she could help Dean 'relax' even more later that night, but the look of quiet content on his face stopped her. Instead she asked him about what normally caused him to be tense, and what followed was an honest discussion on their common problem of growing up with absentee parents and how that affected them. That night, Rachel realized that she wanted to get to know him better instead of treating him like any other guy she used to have flings with. When she, Dean, and Sam were having breakfast together the next morning at an outdoor patio the next day and Rachel was watching Dean scarf down his eggs on toast like it was his last meal on earth, she realized she was ridiculously happy. Dean looked up at her as if he knew she was watching him only to find her grinning.

"What, do I have something on my face?" He asked in between bites.

"Not your entire meal," Rachel teased, and then leaned over with a napkin to catch a stray crumb at the side of his mouth in a surprisingly soft way that had Dean blinking at her gentleness. "I just realized how much I never want this week to end."

She realized that she had said those words out loud, and she was okay with not taking them back but
Dean's eyes grew soft and he nodded in agreement. "Yeah, me too, Rachel."

They had both shared a shy smile with each other at that point, but by the end of the week, they were practically a couple, and Rachel Gatina normally did not do the whole 'couple' thing. She normally found it much too stifling for her liking, but with Dean, things were different. She wanted to either stay with him in New York, or she wanted to bring him back home to Tree Hill because by the fifth day, she knew that she wanted him more than she had wanted anybody. Her text message to Brooke back in Tree Hill simply read, "I'm in love". Details could wait until she got back to Tree Hill.

Finally, on a cloudy Saturday, a case that Sam was researching forced him and Dean to take off for a few hours to solve it, and Dean and Rachel were reluctantly split up for an afternoon. Rachel had asked point blank in her usual direct style what it was that Dean and Sam did for a living and they came to an impasse. Dean, usually so loud and with an easy reply at the tip of his tongue actually furrowed his brows in thought and took a few moments before admitting that he and Sam were actually paranormal hunters. He must have seen the look of disbelief on her face because in an uncharacteristically harsh manner towards her, Dean had barked out a laugh.

"That's what I do, sweetheart. I've been hunting demons, ghosts, and vampires for most of my life and I often have to pretend to be part of the FBI just to be able to do what I was raised to do. You're probably thinking right now that I'm either crazy or deluded or both, but that's the truth. And if you want to walk away from all of that, I won't blame you." He gave her a bitter smile, and pulled out his duffel bag and started filling it with gear from the trunk of his Impala. From where Rachel had been standing, it looked like he was filling his bag with different types of weapons. Usually Rachel had a reply and remark for everything, but in that instance, she had been speechless. She just watched him and finally, when he finished, he closed the trunk with a bit more of a slam than usual. She hadn't been able to read the look on Dean's face as he had tried to study her reaction, and finally he uttered a small sigh and stepped closer to her. Rachel had felt frozen and she had made no attempt to get closer to Dean, which was unusual for her, given that they had practically been inseparable. Dean pecked her on the lips, a little more quickly than usual, and he gave her an almost inscrutable look.

"I feel like I've been crazily in love for an entire week and you're the reason for it. You help remind me of how it feels to just have a normal life and a normal vacation and I hadn't realized how great it feels to just be away from what I do for just a few days. I wish things could be different and I can be the normal guy you want. I wish…" His voice had been husky and he trailed off, not knowing what to say next.

At that moment, Sam had shown up, and Rachel was spared a reply. Instead, she had turned away, overcome by the entire situation but not before noticing the hurt look that flashed across Dean's face before he slipped back into "tough guy Dean" mode. She had glimpsed the look of concern that flashed across Sam's face as he had watched the exchange between Dean and Rachel, but she was in no mood to answer questions, so in typical Rachel fashion, she had walked away.

"All right, Sammy. Let's go." She heard Dean say a bit roughly, his voice still a bit husky from the previous conversation. She heard them get into the Impala and drive away and it wasn't until later that afternoon, when she had been wandering around Central Park, unable to get Dean and his words out of her mind when she had finally sunken down on a park bench, put her head in her hands, and wondered what to do next. In that moment, she had wondered why she couldn't pluck up the courage to tell Dean the truth that she had fallen for him, and why the hurt look on his face that had been there for just a second affected her more than she liked to admit.

In that moment, Rachel had loved the anonymity of New York and the fact that she could just sit here thinking without interruption. If this was Tree Hill, somebody would've recognized her and she would've been forced to either give a fake "I'm fine" smile if they were from school or blow them off with a glare, if they were a complete stranger. Instead, she breathed in the chilly spring air all around her and as she glanced around the skyline of Central Park and heard the bustle of the city behind it, and she remembered all the times she and Dean had spent together in this amazing city that had brought them together within its vastness and came to a personal decision. Usually it was easier for Rachel to run away from her problems instead of dealing with them, but the hurt look on Dean's face as he had read the rejection in hers bothered her more than she thought. It reminded her of the time that she had been infatuated with Cooper and had lied to him about her age, which caused the whole train of events that culminated in the accident that happened at Haley and Nathan's wedding. While Cooper and Nathan both recovered, Rachel still hadn't been able to forgive herself, and she still didn't feel too comfortable around Haley and Nathan.

Rachel wasn't one to give into her emotions straightaway, but maybe it was the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan New York, or the lack of social pressure that would usually come from her peers and friends in Tree Hill, and maybe it was the rush of excitement that Rachel felt whenever Dean kissed her or touched her, but this time, Rachel actually wanted to try to work things out. She realized that while she had been infatuated with Cooper and even thought she was in love with him, the feelings she had for him were nowhere close to the ones she had for Dean. She had the urge to do the honest thing this time, so that she could still fix things with Dean before it was too late.

She went back to the room that she and Dean both shared, ran a brush through her luxurious red hair, applied a fresh coat of lip gloss and touched up her makeup. Rachel had enough experience to know that looking good (and showing some of her cleavage) was an important part of preparing for a difficult conversation, especially if she was the one apologizing. Hey, do whatever works, right? She took her spot by the balcony window and just spent some time admiring the skyline until she heard the door close as Dean came into the room. He looked a bit tired, but also triumphant, with his "wake up the world" grin that she found to be just too adorable. He had a look of surprise on his face as he noticed she was in the room, but he waited for her to make the first move. His emerald green eyes still seemed a bit guarded as he watched her carefully and looked her up and down.

"I have something I want to tell you too," Rachel began, unconsciously playing with her hair a bit. That smirk from his kissable lips and his openly checking her out was distracting her.

"Shoot," Dean took off his leather jacket, tossed it onto the couch, and turned to her expectantly.

"I'm 18 and I'm finishing my senior year in Tree Hill, North Carolina, and I'm not twenty-two, like I said earlier. I lied about my age because I didn't want it to seem like I'm in high school, because it's lame and I'm not just some teenager." She blurted out, hating how awkward things were between them at this moment. She longed to be making out with him and being back in his arms, not across the room.

"Why are you telling me this now?" Dean asked, crossing his arms.

"Because you told me the truth and that's worth something to me." She replied, walking across the room and closing the distance between them. Rachel didn't always have heart-to-hearts, but when she did, she could be truthful and sincere about her feelings. "I had lied to someone I cared about before, and I don't want to do that again. What you and Sam do in work doesn't change anything between us, and it doesn't change," Her voice lowered a bit and she put a finger on his lips, "It doesn't change my feelings for you."

Dean looked at her for a moment, as if trying to gauge whether she was telling the truth or not, but she had looked back resolutely at him. Then, Dean broke into a real smile as he took her into his arms and Rachel welcomed it, greeting him with a proper kiss. As their kiss broke off, Dean laughed.

"So I've done a lot of illegal stuff in my life, but you're 18, so I haven't technically slept with a minor- good to know. You don't seem like an 18 year old; you seem more like my equal."

With that, he put his arms back around her while she laughed with delight, forgetting that she would soon have to fly back to Tree Hill and he would have to keep going on to upstate New York. A little while later, she was helping him clean a scratch on his left arm and they had gotten into an easy and relaxed conversation that was different from their usual heavy flirting when suddenly the alarm beeped on Rachel's cell phone, reminding her to check in for her flight.

"What's wrong, babe?" Dean's eyes showed some concern as he took in the disappointed look that appeared on her face as she flipped the sleek black mobile phone shut. He automatically hooked an arm around her waist to bring her closer to him. They both found that throughout the course of the week, they liked being in constant physical contact with each other, even when they weren't in bed together or making out. Rachel had never felt the need to hold hands with a guy all the time or the need to be in constant contact before, but she found that with Dean, even just his arm around her shoulder gave her a sense of reassurance that she hadn't known she was looking for. As for Dean, she knew that he would never admit it in front of her or Sam, but she did notice that a soft smile would creep onto his face every once in a while when she would lift up his chin with her forefinger before giving him a kiss or she would squeeze his hand. Knowing that she had that power over him gave her an exhilarating feeling, not just because she liked making guys want her, but because she was actually in love with him as well.

"My flight leaves tomorrow afternoon and my cell phone reminded me to check in," She admitted, before sitting back down in his lap with a sigh and putting her arms around his neck. They both sat in silence for a moment, Dean's arms around her tightening as he was allowing the reality to sink in, before Dean had quirked an eyebrow at her and said to her directly,

"The two of us having feelings for each other makes things complicated doesn't it? You like to be independent and Miss-I-don't-need-anybody, and I try not to break a heart each time I leave a state. Now both of us have admitted that we're crazy about one another, and you don't say that to too many guys and I don't say that to a lot of girls. You're one of the few girls that can cause me to act like I'm in a chick flick, and that's usually Sammy's thing."

Dean had that way of being able to see through her, of being to see past all the walls she liked to put up, and being able to call her out on it. It was one of his characteristics that Rachel appreciated the most about him and it was one of the reasons they had stayed together for so long. Dean actually did understand her because he put up similar walls around himself as well, and she knew that he had his tough exterior in order to guard feelings and emotions that he had learned long ago could be a huge distraction to his work. The honesty they could share with each other was reminiscent of the friendship she had with Brooke and Mouth, both of whom could tell when she was being genuine and real and when she was just putting on a brave front. The first week she had come back to Tree Hill was certainly one where she felt so exhausted from pretending that she was fine when in reality, she had left her heart in New York with a certain green-eyed, cocky, and handsome guy named Dean Winchester.

The last night that she shared with Dean in New York had been the most exhilarating one of them all; the urgency of time brought a heightened sense of excitement and thrill to their lovemaking. When they had lain intertwined together in the still of the night, so close to one another that their chests were touching and she could feel his heartbeat near her own, Dean admitted that he loved her in a low voice full of raw emotion. Rachel never forgot that moment and she had cupped Dean's face, before whispering "I love you too" and she had given him a passionate kiss in return. Even when they had exchanged all their contact information and some lingering kisses before she left the next day, it felt anti-climatic.

Even now, Rachel remembered how the last semester of senior year had felt like time just spent in between the week she had in New York and her life now. She had always felt that her craving for excitement in life stretched beyond the cozy comforts of Tree Hill, but now that she had a taste of what life could be like when she took a chance to trust her deep feelings for someone and be honest about it instead of playing games, she felt that she had been changed.

"Ok, Rachel, you've been gone for one week and you leave me one text message for the entire week. Friend, you have thirty seconds to give me the full scoop." Brooke cornered her in the quad right before second period in her first day back and gave her the Brooke death glare that had been patented so well over so many years.

"Meet me at Tric for drinks at 8pm tonight and I'll tell you everything," Rachel promised, before hurrying to her next class. Skipping classes to go to party in the next county or major city was not new for her, but she did want to graduate from this school, if only to move on with the rest of her life.

At Tric, Rachel gave her best friend the entire story of her trip in New York. Brooke genuinely screamed with excitement when Rachel told her about Dean. Brooke begged for details, but for once, Rachel didn't tell her everything. She felt that some moments she and Dean had shared were just that, private moments, but she didn't hold anything else back from Brooke.

"So you're really in love with him, huh?" Brooke asked, sipping from her Bellini thoughtfully. "I never thought I'd see this, but Miss-Take-No-Prisoners Gatina is actually in love and not just lust."

Rachel had given her best friend a mock glare. "Bitch."

"Whore." Brooke shot back, not missing a beat.

"Not anymore." Rachel surprised both herself and Brooke by that honest statement.

"You're giving up all other guys for him? Wow." Brooke nodded, impressed. Brooke's support had come to mean so much for Rachel over the years, especially in the absence of other girls she could confide in who would really understand. Brooke had been the one Rachel would confide in, after Rachel would email or call Dean. Those conversations never lasted too long and could never replace their face-to-face interactions though, because Dean would always be in the middle of the hunt and was rarely within driving distance of Tree Hill. He tried to call her back whenever he could, but Rachel knew that a long distance relationship would never work out between her and Dean, given both of their personalities. In those moments, Brooke had been a good friend, offering to take her to the spa, or to the mall, or to the movies, anything to cheer her up. One day, Rachel had broken down crying in the girls' bathroom after school, feeling overwhelmed with how much she missed Dean and how their sporadic 10-15 minute long conversations were such a poor substitute for what they shared together in New York, when Brooke had found her, and she just hugged Rachel silently until her sobs subsided.

"You guys need to talk in person about the relationship," Brooke insisted. "You can't go on like this, Rachel. You're obviously still in love with him. Tell him to come to Tree Hill so you guys can figure things out. If it's meant to be, it'll work itself out."

Rachel had looked up at her then, realizing that Brooke had voiced what she had been thinking all along.

"Besides," Brooke added with a small smirk on her face, "We all want to meet him and see if he's as hot as you say he is. And, you and Dean and Lucas and I can all go on a double date!"

At that point, Rachel laughed, loving how Brooke was just so, well, Brooke.

Mouth, her other best friend, had initially been sceptical and when she had told him about Dean, he had asked her if she was sure she knew what she was getting into.

"Be careful, Rachel. You've only known him for a week and when you think you're in love you're going to have blinders on. He may seem like the guy you want, but you've got to make sure that he's going to treat you like you matter, because you do." Mouth said earnestly. "I just don't want you getting hurt. I just want to make sure that if you're going to commit to a guy, he's going to be worthy of everything you can give him."

"I know you care, Mouth, and you're a good guy. I'm lucky to have you as my friend." She hugged him, touched by his thoughtfulness.

"One more thing, Rachel," Mouth said, "You've told me that Dean has to do a lot of travelling. If you want to be with him, you may have to think about how your life is going to change, and whether he's worth all of it."

Rachel had actually given this some thought in the last few months of high school. She had always known that she wasn't particularly academically inclined, but she was street-smart and she could take care of herself. The only career plan she had considered after high school was packing up from Tree Hill and trying for a modelling gig in L.A. or in New York, and this was something she still eventually wanted to do. For now, she was content with travelling with Dean and Sam and living their lifestyle, but that didn't mean she didn't want normal one day. She knew that Dean wanted that as well, deep down inside, but she loved him enough to stay with him on this current path until they could both have a more normal life.

She ended up calling Dean. She took a deep breath before dialling the number she had already memorized, and when Dean's deep voice answered the phone, her heart skipped a beat.

"Hey," She started the conversation in a flirtatious voice.

"Hey, babe," He returned. She could imagine him smiling as he said it.

"Dean, I miss you and I love you," She confessed, trying not to sound too desperate, "and I would never ask you to do this if it wasn't important, but we need to talk. Could you please come to Tree Hill?"

Dean paused for a moment, as he heard the seriousness in her voice.

"I miss you too," His voice had been husky over the phone. "I haven't been able to get you off my mind."

She heard Sam say something in the background and then she heard Dean say to his brother, "Sammy, go play with your dolls and stop laughing at me."

Rachel smiled at the banter between the two of them. It reminded her of herself and Brooke interacting with each other.

"I want to see you and I'll make it worth your while, I promise." She told him.

"I know you will, babe, and I have a few ideas about how you can start," Dean joked, and Rachel couldn't help but roll her eyes at how horny he was, even as she chuckled. Flirtatious bantering had always put them at ease with each other and even in these more difficult conversations.

"So can you come to Tree Hill?" She asked, wanting to make sure he was okay with it.

"Yes," Dean had agreed. "Let me and Sammy wrap things up here and I'll stop by Tree Hill when we're done. Give me a week or two."

"Perfect," She smiled and then gave him her address so that he and Sam could find her when they got into town. As they hung up from their call, Rachel let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding. She walked over to the window, looking out over the serene suburbs of the place she had called home for the past three years of her life and realized that she would miss Tree Hill, even with her decision. Over the past several years, she had come to call this place home, with her friends, her school, and the comforting small-town aura it always had. She wondered if Dean missed Kansas and his hometown and as she thought about how lonely he must have been before even travelling with Sam, it had occurred to her that her travelling with him could be meaningful to Dean as well.

For the next several weeks, Rachel walked through her decision even as she went to school, cheered at games, bantered with Brooke and Mouth, and carried on with her daily routines. She also made sure that she could still access some of the money in her trust fund, started to figure out how she would break the news to her absentee parents and started making arrangements to leave Tree Hill after graduation. She especially cherished the moments in between that she could spend with all her friends because she knew that they might all go their separate ways.

It happened to be one particularly warm Saturday afternoon that Rachel had been washing her Escalade outside, dressed in cut-off denim shorts and a green bikini top, absorbed in her task when she heard a low whistle behind her and whirled around to find her boyfriend appreciatively checking her out and Sam standing a little ways back, trying not to check her out too much and giving her a small smile.

"I might just let you wash my baby if you promise to wear that while you're doing it." Dean said, his grin widening as they made eye contact. She had grinned back at him before closing the distance between them and welcoming him with a kiss as she wrapped her arms around his neck. He deepened the kiss as his arms tightened around her waist and he lifted her up, while she had happily wrapped her long legs around his waist. There were quite a few things they had to talk about, but for now, Rachel had to take some time out just to enjoy being with Dean again.

Later on, Rachel had actually cooked for all of them, and she and Sam shared a comfortable smile between them as they both watched Dean eat. Rachel had definitely missed hanging out with both of them. She wanted to introduce them to Brooke and Mouth and take them out to Tric, but she could tell by the circles that were under Dean's eyes that they were both tired, and that all the things Rachel had planned out in her mind for when Dean and Sam arrived in Tree Hill would have to be put on hold, including the talk she was to have with Dean. Instead, she brought out some extra bedding and towels so that Sam could comfortably stay in the guest room, and she gave Dean a brief kiss on the cheek before telling him that he was welcome to share her room with her. She knew after spending a week with the two of them that they didn't stay in places that were both clean and comfortable very often. Coincidentally, she had done some research the day previously and found out that some of her parents' vacation properties were actually in her name, and had written down the directions to those cottages and cabins just in case. Rachel knew she would miss the life of luxury she had been accustomed to up until now, but that night, when she had seen the look of peace and content on Dean's face as he slept fitfully in her bed with her, dressed comfortably in his t-shirt and boxers with his strong arms wrapped around her and lulling her to sleep with his rhythmic breathing, she had thought before she drifted off to sleep that maybe, just maybe, for him she could give it up.

They ended up having the conversation two nights later, sitting on her porch outside, Rachel's legs in Dean's lap as they sat on the bench together, finally alone at last. Dean and Sam already had the chance to meet her friends and they had gone out to Tric the previous night and now Sam offered to go see another band at Tric and to let Dean and Rachel talk. Rachel had given Sam a grateful glance as he had graciously offered that alone time and she made a mental note to help Sam find a girl who could appreciate him one day.

"What's up?" Dean asked, direct and to the point as usual.

"I've been thinking about what I'm going to do next, after high school," She replied, "I couldn't stop thinking about you after New York. I don't want to do this long distance anymore and when I graduate in a month or so, I want to go with you and Sam."

She leaned in to initiate a kiss, thinking that he would react well to the news, but the look on his face stopped her as he held a hand up between them.

"Rachel," Dean started, then running a hand through his hair as he tried to figure out what to say next, "You don't know what you're asking for."

She recoiled with a hurt look on her face, almost jerking back immediately as Dean took another deep breath and tried again.

"Babe, it's not that I don't want you and that I don't want to be with you, because I do; it's that I can't let you do this. What Sam and I do is dangerous and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if you had gotten hurt because you were with me. I know as far as things go you're pretty tough, but you're not going to be able to just jump in like you did last night and start spraying those guys who were after Mouth's friend with Mace every time. Sam and I," He paused, "We were raised to do this. I was practically raised by my dad to hunt since I was a kid and Sam's started to figure out this part of our family calling. You don't have to do this and if anything ever happened to you... "

She saw the look of pain that crossed his face at that thought and she tried again.

"Dean, if you haven't noticed already, I love danger. I go out of my way to try new things, to shake off the boredom of small-town Tree Hill life and when I came back from New York I felt so alive. You make me happy and I want us to be together."

"Even if you came with me, it is not going to be like New York," He had told her, looking deeply into her eyes with his own. "New York was one of the best weeks of my life, but that's all it could ever be because if you come with me and Sam, that's not what the rest of our life is like. It's dangerous; it's filled with ghosts and demons that try to kill us and angry authorities who want to arrest us; and I certainly won't be able to give you, this," He waved his hand vaguely at their surroundings. He broke into his sarcastic Dean laugh. "I play pool and poker so that Sam and I can have enough money to eat and fill the gas tank because neither of us can hold down a steady job in what we do. I can't give you what you deserve and what you're used to."

"I can learn to live without all of that," Rachel had almost cried out in frustration. "I love you and I want to be with you. We can figure everything else out. Why is that so hard to grasp?"

"Rachel, have you ever seen what it is that we hunt? Do you have any idea what you're asking to get involved with?" Dean had countered back, his emerald eyes hardening as they bore into her.

"No," She admitted. Rachel had never been one to believe that there were chick flick endings to these kinds of conversations and this conversation was clearly not going into the direction she had hoped. "But that doesn't mean that when I came back to Tree Hill without you it didn't hurt, and even if I live a life separate from you and without you, it won't hurt any less."

It had taken her a lot to say those words.

"I know that what you and Sam do is very dangerous. But I also know that you and I make each other happy and I'm willing to take that chance," She added.

"Baby, I love you," Dean had sighed, backing down from his previous harsh tone. "But I can't let you do this. I'm sorry."

He gently lifted her legs off of his lap and stood up. She could see that he was all tense from the conversation they had just finished and she remained on the bench, speechless for the moment.

"I just need to go clear my head, I'll be back." Dean turned around briefly, pecked her on the lips, and then had turned away, clearly lost in thought. She suspected that in typical Dean fashion, he would drive or walk around until he figured things out.

Later on that night, Rachel had nearly fallen asleep curled up underneath the covers when Dean's warm arms snaked around her bare midriff and he nuzzled her neck fondly as he crawled into their bed.

"Did you mean everything you said back there about coming with me and Sam and wanting to be with me?" He asked her just one question, but Rachel could hear him holding his breath as he waited for her answer.

"Yes, I meant every word of it," She replied sleepily but truthfully, turning around so she could get closer to him.

"Okay," He breathed a sigh of relief. "We'll figure something out tomorrow," She could almost see him smile as he dropped a kiss onto her hair and she heard him give a contented sigh as he settled in.

"Does that mean you've changed your mind?" She asked, almost mumbling the words against the crook of his neck and shoulder and snuggling deeper into him. She had definitely missed falling asleep in his arms in the past several months, and she had never been that kind of a girl who needed to fall asleep in a guy's arms.

"Yeah," Dean simply admitted. "I wouldn't have come to Tree Hill if I didn't want you. If you're serious enough to give up all these things just to be with me, then it's worth a shot. The rest we can figure out as we go along."

She had smiled against his neck as she had heard that and as she felt his arms tighten around her.

Even now, they still got into their fair share of disagreements from time to time. They were both impulsive and passionate and they were almost a force of nature together if they acted in harmony, but when Dean's instincts and impulses were vastly different from her own it could also be like two storm fronts colliding. In those instances, she was glad that Sam could act as a moderator and that Sam didn't take crap from either of them. Sometimes she felt bad that Sam had to be the referee, telling both of them to calm down and to talk instead of just fighting about the situation. She also knew that while Dean had the ability to fall in love, it was a bit more difficult for him to stay in long-term relationships. While he always cited his work as the reason, Rachel had come to understand that other complicating factors in his life, such as his insecurities related to his strained relationship with his father and the way he had always been independent played a role. Rachel also knew that Dean was a flirt just like her, and while they were together, Dean sometimes also automatically checked out other girls, just as part of being a guy. Over time, she had learned not to be jealous when this occurred, but Dean knew how to push her buttons and he would flirt just a little with other girls when he and Rachel were arguing. It never led anywhere, but it was enough to force her to resolve the issue at hand or watch her boyfriend look at other girls with the admiring eyes he usually had for her. She was able to understand most of the time why they fought, since they were feisty, opinionated, and not always willing to back down but that didn't mean that it was always easy to deal with. Sometimes it took the two of them needing some space from each other, but eventually they always found a way of working things out because neither of them could stay mad at each other for too long and they both loved each other.

One of the conditions Dean had set for her to be with him was that she would have to learn how protect and defend herself. She had never seen Dean be so serious about anything in their time together, but she knew that the determination in his eyes and in his voice was very real. She promised him and Sam that she would train with them on a daily basis and to learn how to use all the different weapons they used. They began training the day afterwards and Rachel started to see a side of Dean that she hadn't had the opportunity to observe much before. She saw how focused and determined he was in hunting, and that made her respect him even more. Rachel didn't always apply herself fully to everything if she didn't think it was worth it (school being a good example), but when had seen how important Dean's work was to him, it made her take it seriously as well. She also had to admit that it drove her wild to have Dean's strong muscular arms wrapped around hers when he showed her how to use various types of rifles or when he would touch her in order to show her various self-defense techniques. Rachel found that her heart beat a shade faster when he put his hands on her hips or on her arms to guide her in various moves and stances, and she noticed that a faint blush crept onto Dean's cheeks (despite the signature smirk on his face) whenever they ended up sprawled together in a suggestive position after sparring together.

Rachel had to admit that life had definitely taken a strange turn and she was now exposed to things that she would've merely thought were fantastic or impossible in her old life. She learned that ghosts, demons, and strange occurrences that couldn't always be explained were now weekly if not daily phenomena in the guys' lives. Sometimes it felt too strange to be real, to be honest. She had never imagined that she would be learning how to research different types of ghosts and demons or that she would be practicing with a rifle and loading it on a regular basis. She had to admit however, that the thrill and adrenaline she got from helping out in the hunts was better than any Rachel had ever experience. More importantly, she felt like she became a better person and less like the spoiled and selfish girl she used to be every time she got a chance to help someone else. But now, she could also understand why Dean could miss a normal life so much, why he wanted to initially protect her from all of this, and why he could put walls and barriers around himself. He had also wanted her to enjoy the rest of her time in high school and to cherish the life that she had before she willingly walked away from it.

Dean and Sam couldn't stay in Tree Hill for the entire week, but before they had left, they had promised to come back after she graduated. Rachel had gotten used to having Dean's things everywhere in her room, his clothes and belongings mixed with hers and even his toothbrush beside hers on the bathroom counter. Rachel had never shared this much space with any guy, but by now, it felt natural to share living space with him.

"Rachel, what's this doing in here?" Dean held up several new shirts he had pulled out of his bag.

"Well," She replied, crossing the room to stand in front of him and putting her hands on his chest, "I noticed that some of your shirts looked pretty threadbare so I went out and bought you some new ones. I even had Lucas help me pick some out, because he has this whole Abercrombie and Fitch casual style going on and he manages to choose things that last."

A year ago if someone had told her that she would be shopping for her boyfriend she would've rolled her eyes and laughed, but now she was one of "those" girls. Dean, on the other hand, looked touched by the gesture as he eyed the shirts thoughtfully.

"I guess this makes us officially a couple," Dean had laughed good-naturedly. "I've got my girl buying clothes for me. I hope you didn't tell Sam because he'll never let me hear the end of it."

"Your secret's safe with me," She had replied with a wink before standing up on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his lips. They had just begun to deepen the kiss when Dean pulled back.

"I want to give you something as well. I got an amulet from one of my father's friends several weeks ago when we helped him with something and I want you to have it."

He dug around his bag for a moment before pulling out an amulet on a black string similar to the one he wore around his neck, but in a slightly different pattern. Rachel was familiar with the story of how Sam had given Dean that amulet for Christmas when they were both children, and Rachel had been touched by how he had given her a similar amulet. For someone like Dean who didn't always open up to others what he was thinking or feeling, it had meant a lot that he would give something like this to her. She swallowed.

"Thank you," She said softly, looking down at the amulet and then up at him. He seemed slightly embarrassed, but he had a soft smile on his face and his brilliant green eyes looked at her with love. While she had plenty of jewellery, Rachel already knew that this piece would be more important than the others. "Why don't you put it on for me?"

She saw Dean's hands tremble just the slightest as he placed the amulet around her neck, and she settled the amulet so that it was nestled comfortably in between her cleavage before giving him another kiss, this one more passionate. Saying goodbye to the two of them this time around was easier, especially now that she knew where she and Dean's relationship stood and she knew that they would be back soon.

It turned out to be a great graduation year. Rachel loved the fact that she could actually graduate with her best friends and they used the last several weeks to just spend time with each other before everyone would go their separate ways. Rachel invited her friends to stay up in her parents' cabin with her for a weekend; and they went hiking, fishing, and spent a lot of time just hanging out and enjoying each others' company. She and Mouth went to the prom as dates, but it was more because Rachel didn't want Mouth to be too depressed that he was single at most dances while he would have to watch Brooke and Lucas be all cute for the whole evening. Rachel also knew a little bit that Mouth had a bit of a crush on her throughout high school, and while she knew she was with Dean for the long haul, she also wanted to do something special for Mouth too just because he had been such a loyal friend. Peyton invited everyone for a graduation party at Tric, and Brooke had planned a huge going away party at her parents' place. Brooke and Mouth had even handed her a scrapbook of all the times they had shared in high school. Best of all was the calls and text messages she would get in between from Dean as the boys travelled and worked.

Brooke had been there as Rachel packed her bags to leave Tree Hill. Dean had warned her to pack light, and although she was following his directions, she still wanted Brooke's impeccable fashion sense to advise her on a few special items, like lingerie. Rachel had noticed that her lingerie budget had skyrocketed since being with Dean and now Brooke helped her choose between colours and styles and teased her about spending so much money. More than anything, Rachel just needed an excuse to hang out with Brooke.

"You probably spent more on lingerie this month than the boys spent on food," Brooke joked, and then waved to the pile of lingerie on Rachel's bed. "Why don't you take it all with you? I'm sure Dean wouldn't mind carrying *that* extra bag for you."

"He's serious, Brooke." Rachel replied, before tossing a few items in one of her bags. "Dean and I like green so I'm sticking with green. Now, girl's opinion: deep blue or grey?"

"Deep blue, it's more of a contrast with your hair," Brooke automatically replied. "You know, Rachel, you're a crazy bitch but I'm glad you're my best friend. I'm going to miss you"

Rachel shot a glance over at Brooke, touched by her statement. She stopped packing for a moment and crossed over to give Brooke a hug. "I'm going to miss you too. You're a good friend."

Brooke welcomed the hug and the two girls held on tight, just enjoying the moment. Rachel stepped out of the hug just as she said, "Promise me that you'll text and call me no matter wherever I am."

"Promise," Brooke smiled and gave her a wink. "Now you better keep eliminating from that pile."

Rachel had finished packing and making all her arrangements to leave Tree Hill by the day of the graduation ceremony, and while she was disappointed that her parents couldn't make it to the ceremony, she wasn't too surprised. As she lined up with her classmates and they took their seats on the podium before the diplomas were handed out, she noticed that Dean and Sam had snuck in at the back and she saw her boyfriend give her a wink as they slid into two empty seats. Rachel beamed back, touched by their thoughtfulness. Later on, as she walked across the stage and as she joined the others in tossing their graduation caps, Rachel felt a sense of completion and closure.

After they loaded her bags into the trunk of the Impala, Dean drew her into his arms and they just shared a private moment together, without exchanging a word and readying themselves for the next step in both of their lives.

Rachel reached out, her hand resting gently on Dean's thigh as he drove. The gesture was not even meant to be sexual; Rachel just liked to let Dean know that she had been thinking about him. Dean shot her a quick glance, his eyebrows shooting up in curiosity.

"Babe, I know you can't get enough of me, but I'm driving and you're just going to have to wait," He joked, his green eyes twinkling with laughter, even as he knew that her gesture was one of affection and not just a come-on. He still liked to joke and have his fun though.

"Oh, please, Dean, you're the one who can't get enough of me," She joked back, playing along. It was true; the passion that had been ignited in New York between the two of them had not died; in fact, every time after an intense hunt Dean would still scoop her up in his arms and they would share a kiss, and if one of them had gotten hurt during that hunt, those kisses were often more demanding and passionate. It was as if they had both realized how quickly things could change and how fragile their mortality was, no matter how experienced and skilled Dean was in hunting or how accurate Rachel's intervening shot from a crossbow or a rifle had been.

"Oh, please, Dean," Dean threw his head back, mimicking her in a breathy voice. "That was more like the way you said it last night."

"Really don't need to know, thank you very much," Sam muttered, plugging his earphones into the earphone jack at the side of his laptop. Even though they all got along for the most part, Sam would occasionally roll his eyes in those moments, but Rachel could also see the relief in his eyes when he saw how at ease they all were around each other.

"Shut up, Sammy," Rachel and Dean had responded at once. Neither of them were particularly prudish; they had a great sex life together and there was no need for either of them to pretend that it was otherwise. However, Rachel also turned around to give Sam a smile just to let him know that they had just been joking. Since meeting the two of them in New York and seeing how much of a family they were, she had learned to be more discreet and to not make Sam feel like a third wheel, and to make sure that Dean and Sam's brotherly bond wasn't negatively impacted by her entering into their lives. She knew sometimes that they just needed to spend some time together and do their own thing, and during those times, Rachel would offer to go shopping, write emails to Brooke and Mouth, or do some stuff on her own so that they could have that time together.

Sam was kind and thoughtful, and Rachel felt comfortable with him just as much as she felt comfortable with Dean. Rachel felt comfortable talking with Sam and opening up to him because she found him to be a good listener. He also had lots of experience in dealing with difficult people and the fact that he wasn't too phased or intimidated by her also earned him points in her book. She had come to see him as the brother that she had never had, and in the moments when she missed Tree Hill and all her friends there, he reminded her of Mouth. He was much deeper and more perceptive than anyone gave him credit for, and whenever she needed advice or perspective, she would go to Sam.

Rachel saw Dean glance in his rear view mirror and smile fondly at the sight of his brother, immersed in his own research and studiously ignoring their interactions. He shot her a laid-back grin. In those moments, neither of them needed to say anything. Overall though, life with him was better than life without him, and for Rachel, who had been alone for so long in her life, to finally find someone she was comfortable with and someone she enjoyed being around meant that she could make trade-offs and give other things up.

Rachel had no idea where this adventure would lead them to next, but she learned that with the Winchester brothers, life was unpredictable, dangerous, and often times surreal. It was a life where each hunt could be the final one, and each place could be the last destination in their travels. While she couldn't control where she had lived or moved in previous places in her life, every time now she contributed to helping protect a civilian or saving someone by helping Dean and Sam eliminate another paranormal threat, Rachel could say that who and where she was today was a choice of her own free will. Looking back, she could see that she had matured in the past year, when the doors from a previously uncomplicated life were opened to the shadowed complexity of this one.

Rachel leaned over and planted a soft and gentle kiss on Dean's cheek, letting her body brush with his briefly. In the midst of all the danger that marked all of their lives she had still managed to find love and hold onto it; and now, whether she woke up in a small farm town in upstate New York, a hot and muggy sleepy city in Louisiana, or a cabin tucked away in the rainy Pacific Northwest, the intensity and excitement that marked her life and relationship with Dean interspersed with the moments of peace and content they shared together made her not regret a single minute of this new life at all.

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Other Author's Notes: I had written Rachel with this particular characterization because I saw her as a dynamic character and one capable of changing upon reflection of previous mistakes. I wanted to show her character growth as a person, and while I am generous to my writing of Rachel, I do believe this to be possible based on the glimpses that we saw of her character, her generosity, her loyalty, and her insecurities that we finally started to see in season 4 of One Tree Hill. I do believe that she is capable of change, and while she isn't perfect now, she's come along way. –Izzy.