Hunter's Mystique

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or its Characters including Sam and Dean Winchester, Bobby Singer, Castiel, etc. They are the property of Eric Kripke and The CW.

Author's Note: Hey guys, so I apologize it's been forever, but I've been super busy! So my bad on that front, but we're getting towards the end of the road here anyway so it's getting harder to write. Hopefully I will be a lot quicker with the next chapter, but you never know so I hope you like this one enough to tide you over for a while. Please review and stuff-that always helps if only to remind me to write the story when I forget about it.

Chapter Twenty-Three

The Footnote

Charlie woke up hours later with Dean's arms wrapped around her tightly. She thought it felt incredible to be in his arms. Like it was right. Dean's body was warm and comforting, nothing like she had expected that day that she saw all his hard muscles when she barged in on him while he was taking a shower. She had an urge to turn around and run her hands over his entire body, but she knew he'd wake up and then he'd never let her live it down.

Charlie turned in his arms so that she was facing him. He shifted slightly, signaling that he was gradually waking up. Charlie figured she would help speed up the process. She reached up to brush his hair off his face and then trailed kisses along his cheek until she reached his lips. She kissed him with a lazy sort of passion and slipped her tongue in his mouth. That woke him up all the way. Dean's eyes snapped open and he enthusiastically reciprocated. He smiled into the kiss and flipped her so that he was on top of her.

"From now on this is how I'd like to be woken up every day. Do you think we could manage that?" Dean asked.

"I'm up for trying." She replied.

"Good." He said and leaned down to kiss her again. His necklace hung from his neck as he did and tickled her chest. She laughed and pushed him off of her.

"Hey!" He bounced to his side of the bed and landed so that he was propped up on his elbow, facing her. She copied his posture, propping up on her elbow and facing him.

She smiled and just stared into his eyes. She usually felt uncomfortable looking people in the eyes for more than a few seconds, but she could stare into his for hours without getting embarrassed or bored.

"I wish it could just be like this from now on. I'd be okay with just waiting like this forever." Charlie said wistfully, winding her fingers with his.

"I'd be okay with staying in this room forever." Dean told her, his voice husky. He leaned forward and rested his forehead against hers.

She gave him a slow and sexy kiss in response and then pulled away. "As good as that sounds, I don't even think that you could last that long." She said, trailing her eyes down to one of her new favorite parts on his anatomy. "Besides we're out of protection. We'd have to at least leave to go get more from the car."

"We went through all of them?"

"It was an action packed night."

"Damn, I'm impressed with myself." Dean commented with a smirk.

Charlie rolled her eyes and moved to get out of the bed.

"What are you doing?" Dean asked.

"Getting dressed."

Dean caught her arm and pulled her back to the bed so that she was sitting in his lap. "Why?"

"Because I'm not having sex with you without a condom. I'm not an idiot."

"No! I know that! Just because we aren't going to have sex doesn't mean we have to leave. I'd be completely happy with staying here and just kissing you for the rest of the day. Kissing and talking—just being alone with you."

Charlie didn't say anything. She was surprised by how sweet and sincere Dean sounded. She got a thrill at his words—one that was equal parts fear and excitement. Finally, she leaned back into his chest. He tucked her head under his chin.

"I guess I could stay a little while longer then." She said, pulling his arms around her. Dean smiled, squeezing her sides until he made her laugh and they sank back on the bed.

A couple of days later, Charlie and Dean developed a sort of routine. Spend the day hitting the books while exchanging significant looks and stealing away whatever free moments they could find. And then after a late dinner, they would spend long, luxurious nights exploring each other and catching a few hours of sleep in each other's arms. Charlie hadn't felt this light and happy in a long time—since way before Darren was alive—which was saying something considering the impending apocalypse.

Unfortunately for Charlie, that feeling wasn't going to last much longer. She was hitting the books, reading up on everything she would need to do for the spell, and counting down the hours until it could just be her and Dean when she opened up to a page in the Necromicon that she had read before. Bobby sat next to her, typing away slowly at Sam's laptop and grumbling one thing or another about technology. She smiled and shook her head as she scanned her current page. She squinted her eyes and leaned in to read the small text of a footnote at the bottom of the page. Her smile vanished from her face and she snapped the book shut with a loud THUNK! Her heartbeat thrummed frantically in her chest.

Bobby looked up from the laptop screen and raised his eyebrows at her. "What in the hell is wrong with you?" He asked. He didn't pick up on Charlie's cues—didn't recognize them because he had never really seen a show of fear from her in all the years he'd known her.

Charlie took a moment to pull herself together, but it wasn't working too well. She processed the information that she read and tried to get past it. When that didn't work she at least composed herself and looked to Bobby with a serious expression on her face. "There was uh…this—I don't know—footnote I guess…more like a disclaimer actually that I missed during the first go round." She started to explain. Something caught in her throat and she cleared it roughly. She took a deep breath. "Turns out that the spell works by gathering energy from the soul of its caster. And it takes a lot of energy to expel all of those demons. Basically, the spell will likely suck my soul from my body…and I'm probably going to die.

Bobby stared at her, taking in her expression and knowing that this wasn't just a really bad joke. He got out of his chair and made a beeline for his stash of whiskey. He pulled out the bottle and a glass and then thought better of it. He ditched the glass and took a long pull straight from the bottle. He swallowed, looked at her, and opened his mouth to speak. Nothing. He looked away and put the bottle to his lips again. Sam and Dean walked in then with bags of food in their hands. They looked from Charlie's stricken face to Bobby's make-out session with the whiskey bottle and they knew that something was wrong. Dean narrowed his eyes and took a step toward Charlie, but she help up a hand to stop him.

"I just—uh…I need some air. I'll be right back." She said and fled out the screen door.

As soon as she made it outside, she sucked in a lungful of air in hopes that it was in fact all she needed to pull herself together. Her breathing became ragged with each successive breath and she slowly slid down against one of the junkyard trucks to calm herself. Her body shook slightly as her breathing started to return to normal. The new information had messed with her head and Dean coming back right after she read it—reminding her of exactly what she wanted to live for—didn't help. She didn't need the reminder of the fact that she now had someone to be with, someone who made her really happy, someone who made her realize she had been numb for years by waking her up to her feelings again.

Her thoughts sprinted away from there when Dean tumbled through the door with a look of equal parts concern and fear. Charlie could tell that Bobby had filled him in. He looked around wildly, but didn't see her in his practically panicked state of mind, The sight of him made her want to break down and cry, but she held herself together. She called his attention with a feeble, "Hey."

He locked his gaze onto her and skidded to the ground beside her. He put a hand on either side of her face and pulled her gaze to him. She attempted a small smile, but it didn't reach her eyes.

"You okay? How ya feeling?" He asked her.

"Peachy." She answered sarcastically and then twisted her face out of his hands so that she could stare at his chest instead. She moved her hands and started playing with his shirt.

"Charlie, seriously." Dean said. The caring in his voice almost made her lose it again.

She cleared her throat and rolled away from him. She pushed herself to her feet. "Sorry. Yeah, I'm good. Had a weak moment there—I'm over it."

Dean shook his head. "You don't need to be over it. You're allowed to be human. Fear is a normal reaction."

"Yea, but we're not normal—I'm not. It was stupid, but it got to me for a second. You think I'd be used to the idea of dying. But it's one thing to know it's a possibility that you might die when you go on a hunt—I usually just choose to ignore the possibility—it's different when death is the most likely outcome." She tried to shrug off the truth behind her words, but the sinking feeling stuck in her stomach.

Dean turned her toward him and pulled her into his arms. She reflexively hugged him back as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Don't worry. Don't freak out. We'll find some other way to win this thing. I won't let you get hurt." He told her in what she was sure was supposed to be a soothing voice.

"What are you talking about—another way?" She asked and pulled out of his grip. She took a step back and a confrontational stance. "Dean. I'm still doing the spell. This doesn't change anything."

"Are you insane? It changes everything!"

"How? This is still our best option for killing him!" Charlie said in a way that made it seem like she was talking to a five-year-old.

"If it means you die, it's not our best option." He was getting angry, seeing the stubborn determination on her face and knowing she was geared up for a fight.

"You have another way? Something you've been hiding up your sleeve all this time?" Charlie threw her hands up in a moment of frustration. "Trust me, if you do I'd love to hear it."

"We'll figure something out."

"With what time? He's already held off from destroying the world this long for some unknown reason—I don't know what, maybe he's building his army. But he's gonna make his move soon and we need to stop it before that happens."

"We will. We just have to keep looking."

"It took forever to figure out this way! You're being illogical."

"I don't care! If we can't find another way then we need to find someone else to do the spell. Someone who's not you—I'll do it if I have to." He reached for her cheek, but she leaned her head out of his reach.

"Dean there is no one else to do it. There's a reason I'm the only one who can read that book. It's because I'm the only one who's meant to do it. It's my destiny to cast this spell and it's your destiny to kill the son of a bitch after I do it." Charlie glared at him angrily after she spoke, just realizing the implications of his last words. "And if you think I'm the type of person who would stand by and let someone else die in my place then you don't know me at all."

"I didn't mean it like that. I just don't want anything to happen to you." Dean took a step toward her and this time Charlie didn't move away.

"Dean, it's either sacrifice me and save the world or let it all go to Hell and die in the struggle anyway." Charlie pressed her forehead to his. She could see his clenched jaw where he was trying and failing to hold back his emotions.

"I can't let you do this." He said, refusing to listen to her argument. He pressed a gentle kiss to her lips.

"It's not up to you." She answered softly against his mouth.

She pulled away from him. She knew she was pissing him off by being so stubborn. He at least wanted some show that she was as scared as he was—that she wanted to live as much as he wanted her to. But his argument had put her into a defensive mode that made her lose sight of her fear and simply amplify her conviction to do the right thing for the world.

Dean came to the conclusion that the only way to get through to her now was appeal to her emotions, considering his pleas for reason had all failed. "I can't lose you. I refuse to go through that all over again."

"Sorry—." She whispered.

"I'm in love with you." Dean suddenly blurted out, cutting her off. Charlie saw momentary surprise settle over Dean's face, but then he smiled like he was happy that the words were finally out. When he looked to Charlie, his smile faded.

She didn't respond in any of the ways that he would have expected. There was no shock, no fear, and worst no smile of happiness. She just continued to look at him with the same stare of stubborn defiance like she hadn't heard what he said.

He waited for her to say something, but she did nothing. Just waited like he hadn't finished speaking.

"Did you hear me?" He asked slowly, trying not to jump to any immediate anger. "I lov—."

"You love me. Yeah, I heard you."

Dean furrowed his eyebrows. "And you have no response to that?"

"What do you expect me to do? Should I jump up and down in giddy excitement? Go weak in the knees? Or maybe melt into a puddle on the floor? You should know that I'm not that type of girl."

"No, I know that but I expected you not to jump down the throat of a guy you're supposed to care about after he just poured his heart out to you." Dean bit back.

Charlie sighed. "I'm sorry."

"You're sorry? That's all? You've got to know how difficult it was for me to say that. I've never told any girl that I love her—I've barely ever said that to my family and for a long time they were all I ever cared about!" Dean shouted, covering his hurt with anger.

"I know all that, but how do I know you're telling the truth? It's not fair of you to try and manipulate me into thinking like you by saying you love me. Do you even know what it means to be in love?" Charlie put her hands to her hips and looked at him pointedly.

He took a few steps back from her as if she had just shot him. He couldn't help but think that she wouldn't say any of these things if she felt remotely the same way about him that he felt about her. He couldn't see that she was building up a wall between them—one of anger and denial and fear. That she thought it would be easier for him to lose her if he hated her instead of loved her.

"I can't believe you just asked me that!" Dean yelled at her finally.

"Do you really blame me? You said it yourself, you've never really told a girl you love her. You've never been in a serious relationship in your life. And your family life is so screwed up that the only normal, loving relationship that you have ever seen was from when you were like five—I'm betting you don't remember a lot of the detail there." As Charlie ranted on and on, Dean continued to get angrier and angrier. "You're probably confusing your lust—or the honeymoon phase of a new relationship—with love."

"I'm not confusing anything. I know what lust is—trust me, I've had my share of it—and that's not what this is. I know what love means. It means that you can piss me off most of the time. That you drive me up a wall because you're so much like me, but that I can't get enough of you. You can challenge me and keep up with me and keep me on my toes." Dean almost smiled before he remembered to be angry. He ran his fingers through his hair. "And you know me better than anyone—you know my history because I know you've read those freaking books, you know my family because you fit into it perfectly like you've been here all along, and you can read me as well as Sam can which is freaky. And I know you too, you've opened up to me and I can read when you're scared or happy or upset with one look at you when it wouldn't even register with other people. Me and Sam—we put our lives on the line to save people all the time and it gets to me—it does. Sometimes so much that I want to quit, but I know I'd be bored and I don't know, unfulfilled I guess, if I quit for good. And you're the only person I've ever imagined quitting for and being completely content with it—knowing that I couldn't ever get bored with you around. And at the same time, I know I could deal with hunting for the rest of me life if I had to as long as you're there with me because you make it okay. I know I love you because I'd rather risk the world than lose you again—because I don't want to think about a world that doesn't have you in it." Dean finished his long speech with a bang.

Charlie didn't know what to say. Throughout his speech she felt like she was holding her breath and waiting for him to yell out "psych!" halfway through. And when he didn't all she wanted to do was give him the exact reaction he expected, the giddiness, the knees, the melting—all of it. But she couldn't, she wasn't that girl and she knew it. And right now she needed him to realize that. She just shook her head and said nothing.

"Don't act like you don't feel anything for me. I know that game, I've played that game. I don't believe you." Dean said and he crossed his arms over her chest. "When you want to admit it, come find me." Dean told her and then stormed back inside.

Charlie clasped her hands on top of her head and looked up to the sky. She blew out a shaky breath in an attempt to hold back her tears. "Why now? Why did you have to do this now that I have something to lose?" She asked the sky and waited patiently for an answer that would never come.