Beta: The awesome sandymg (go read her stuff!)
Spoilers: For season 1 Route 666, although set pre-series
Disclaimer: Not mine, unfortunately
Summary: The story Dean never told Sam
Some Things Can't Be Undone
Yeah, Dean missed having Sam around to share the research.
But sometimes there were perks to being in the library by himself. Like today. 'Cause when the library was full of geek boys, Dean knew he was particularly noticeable. And the two girls over behind the reference counter were so checking him out.
Take that, Sam! he thought as he strolled over with a smirk.
"Hello ladies, I was wonderin' if you could help me?"
"Sure," one of them giggled. Bright blue eyes danced over him. Right. Perks.
Exactly two minutes to one Cassie pushed through the revolving door. Working part-time in the university library was ideal. Mid-semester was low-key as far as students needing a lot of assistance and during the down time she could work on her own research. She noted the handful of people sitting at the library tables and mentally rolled her eyes when she saw that Rowan was flirting with the student at the counter, but then she looked at the guy.
The first thing she registered was his physical grace. He inhabited every inch of his six-foot frame with confidence. Not like a jock, in an overpowering way, more feline. The second thing he exuded was awareness. Even slouched over the counter it seemed like he knew everything going on around him. She couldn't put her finger on what exactly made her think that, but she just knew no one ever snuck up on him. And okay, he had a cute butt. Not that he was wearing particularly tight jeans to accentuate it, but its muscular roundness was still noticeable.
He gestured at something, and Anne, standing slightly behind Rowan at the desk, blushed. It wouldn't take much to make Anne turn pink, but Cassie almost stopped walking at the off-handed elegance of the fluid motion. His silver ring reflected the light, subtly masculine on his long, slender fingers.
He chuckled, a low, earthy sound, and turned his head toward at her as she approached. She forced herself to look head on into his green (okay, amazing green) eyes. She was pretty sure he was used to women swooning when he turned that heated look on them, but she wasn't all women and she'd be damned if she was going to give him the satisfaction of seeing her visceral reaction.
"Oh, Cassie, we were just going to take Dean here up to the historical texts section."
Pathetic. They were already under the pretty boy's spell. "Did you see his student I.D.?"
Rowan's eyebrows shot up like Cassie had to be joking. Cassie didn't give an inch.
"Well? You know the rules."
He didn't even pretend to look for it, and there was not a shred of embarrassment at being called out.
" 'Fraid I don't have it with me … Couldn't I take a quick look, seein's how I'm already here?"
He quirked his lips into a charming how-could-it-hurt-to-bend-the-rules-just-this-once half-grin. So he was cute … okay, hot … but he was not God's gift to women no matter what he and probably most of the female population thought. And it was about time someone taught him that.
"Sorry, but without an I.D. you can't go in that section."
"Don't suppose 'pretty please' would change your mind?" Damned if he wasn't laughing at her refusing to fawn over him!
"Rules are rules, sorry." She glared steadily at him. Over his shoulder Rowan shot her a disappointed look but she ignored her. Anne was looking down, biting her lower lip.
"Well, then, I guess I'll come back tomorrow with my I.D. What time will you be here?"
"I'm always here in the afternoon," she answered without thinking. Damn him.
"See ya tomorrow, then." And he sauntered to the exit.
She faced her too-easily-influenced library mates. "You know the rules as well as I do, ladies. And they don't get bent just because someone's cute."
Rowan fake-whispered as she poked Anne. "Hey, at least she acknowledged he was cute."
Anne giggled, hand covering her mouth. "He was. Really cute." And she blushed again.
Cassie deliberately ignored them and forced the good-looking stranger out of her mind as she moved behind the counter and started her afternoon's paperwork.
The next day, Dean made a point of being at the Alden Library mid-morning. He had no trouble cajoling Anne and Rowan to let him into the restricted section, and he planned to be gone long before miss-stick-up-her-ass showed up.
Athens, Ohio, was considered one of the ten most haunted cities in the US, according to the American Paranormal Society. Which was of no particular credibility at all. Except that John Winchester had come across something, somewhere, that spoke of a pentagram formed by five cemeteries within the city limits, the rumored center of which was on the Ohio University campus. And the disturbing fact that, spread out over a hundred-fifteen-year period, there had been series of deaths clustered around one group of buildings.
Dean wondered when his father had time to figure out a pattern spread out that long – for that matter, what had made him even think to look for one so complicated? And of course, Dad was being closemouthed about what he thought it was. Dean's job was to determine which graveyards of the one-hundred-plus in the city would correlate to the pattern.
Tedious, yes. Dad had given him two starting cemeteries as most likely part of the design. Now Dean was cross-checking locations to find the other three points of the symbol. Most of what he was doing was playing with coordinates, and the university library had a three by five scale map of the city layout in 1874 that he was using for his attempts to make different cemeteries line up.
Yet the repetition of the task was actually soothing. Check the next cemetery's location, line up his rulers, see where the other points fell, look for a burial ground around them, repeat. Dean was the only occupant of the second floor history room, and he hadn't heard any sounds to indicate there was anyone else on this floor at all. He fell into a rhythm that he didn't break until he heard the sound of high heels coming up the stairs. Shit, he'd been at this for over three hours. He straightened his back, stretched until his spine cracked.
"I need to see your I.D."
Well, she certainly got to the point. Dean surveyed his nemesis through half-lidded eyes, smirking because he knew it would piss her off.
"Ya know, I still haven't found it."
"This section of the library is off-limits to anyone who's not an Ohio U student or who doesn't have written authorization from a faculty department head. And I doubt you have that, either."
Shame such a good-looking babe was such a bitch … "Look, sister, I promise I'm not hurting anything. Just doing some research that requires a historically accurate map, which is this one right here."
"Are you going to leave or do I have to call security?"
Dean had no doubt she would. Damn, he couldn't recall ever running into such a hard-nosed protector of the library books before. At least not one under sixty, he amended. He just wanted to get this research over with. He wondered, with a pang, if Sammy's puppy-dog eyes would work on her … But Sam wasn't here, he was probably in the library at Stanford right now. So, time for another charm offensive.
He began to gather his notes and rulers from the glass-topped map table, all the while keeping his eyes on her. "It's Cassie, right? I'm Dean, by the way."
She said nothing, just kept watching him, her lips pursed tightly.
"So, from the way you take guarding these old books so personally, I'm guessing you're what, a history major?"
He actually surprised an answer out of her. "No, journalism. Not that it's any of your business," she added.
"So what makes it so important that nobody disturb these books without a proper license? My dad taught me that libraries are fundamental to a free society, you know, so that anyone can look up information. You know, the public's right to know. Free speech. All that good stuff. As a journalism major, I think you'd be on that side." Dean didn't expect to get so intense, but he didn't like the way she was looking down her nose at him.
"These books are for the use of the students here."
Dean had collected all his stuff, so he stepped toward the doorway Cassie was in front of. She immediately moved away.
"So," and he really wanted to know how she would answer this, "what is the point of keeping all this," he gestured at the shelves, "restricted to being used by just the students? Shouldn't anybody be allowed to look at your books if they need to? Just because they can't afford to go to your fancy college, they still might want to learn something." Damn, he was too officially pissed to even pretend charming now.
She met his glare without flinching. "What is it you're looking for?"
"Graveyards." Shit, he hadn't meant to say that. He embellished quickly. "Athens has over a hundred of 'em. I'm plotting their locations relative to each other."
"Is this for some kind of project?"
"I, um, work for my dad. He hasn't told me the details yet, just gave me the assignment."
"So that's what you're doing with the map."
"Yeah. He needs to know the locations of the cemeteries as they were originally, before some of the graves were relocated in the name of progress, ya know?"
"Is you father a historian?"
He smirked. "Something like that."
She had big, dark eyes, and now that she wasn't scowling at him, Dean thought she was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen – her perfect skin was the same color as those fancy lattes Sam used to get once in a while, and if those weren't the most kissable lips on the planet they were at least in the top ten, right next to Angelina Jolie's. And he had the strangest desire to run his fingers through her mass of dark curls.
She continued to look at him without speaking. Dean had stopped moving toward the door. If there was ever a moment for a puppy-dog look, this was it. Channel Sammy. He tilted his chin down slightly, widened his eyes, and put just the hint of a smile on his lips.
Damn. Cassie knew she was being played, she knew it and she was going to let him get away with it. Because … he looked like a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar whose mother always let him have one when she caught him. Irresistible. Besides, a little bit of her did have to agree that the general principal behind libraries was to share knowledge, not hoard it. So just this once she was going to bend the rules. And it had nothing to do with his pretty-enough-to-be-a-model face or the remarkable eyelashes above those brilliant eyes.
"How long would it take you to finish?"
"Honestly? I don't know. Couple of days, probably."
Why was she even considering this? Except …
"I shouldn't be doing this." Sigh. "Go ahead, you can stay."
The grin he gave her was impossibly smug … and adorable. "Better be careful, once you start breaking rules it can become a habit. And … thanks."
Cassie worked very hard at not thinking about the non-student in the restricted section during her shift, with mixed success. Since Anne was working as well, Cassie started her research for her "Journalism Ethics" paper. She had finally gotten absorbed in the article about Daniel Ellsworth when footsteps approaching the checkout counter disturbed her. She looked up and there he was.
"I'm gonna call it a day. Wanted to say thanks again for bending the rules." There was a twinkle in his eyes as he said this. "You back here tomorrow?"
She did not think about the impulse that had her push back her chair and walk over to him.
"Yes, I'm here every afternoon."
"Then I'll see you tomorrow, Cassie." His gaze lingered on her an extra minute, before he turned toward the exit. As he went through the door she realized that now he was making no noise on the marble floor.
After two more afternoons staring at that damn map, Dean was no closer to having an answer for his father or to getting Cassie to smile at him. Losing his touch. Friday night in a college town, she probably already had a date. Or maybe not … as beautiful as she was, she definitely gave off the vibe of 'serious about school,' so she was probably gonna go home and hit the books. Good match for Sam … After six, make that seven not that he kept track months, he should be over missing his brother by now. It was probably being stuck in this damn college library all week that made the little ache when his mind accidentally thought of him. Sam was good, Sam was safe, Sam was living normal.
The library closed early on Fridays, at six instead of ten, and he wasn't gonna make a spectacular breakthrough any more tonight. Might as well pack it in. He arched his shoulders back to stretch out the tension, threw everything in the backpack, and clattered down the stairs. Always liked to give the girl warning he was coming. Didn't think she was the kind who liked surprises.
The main floor had about a dozen students lounging at the tables, which was unusual. Probably starting term paper time. After a cursory glance, he walked over to where Cassie was checking out a pile of books for a girl wearing a red tee-shirt and a denim miniskirt. Nice legs. One of the other student workers – couldn't remember her name -- was doing the same for a skinny guy with long greasy hair.
Dean leaned against the smooth countertop, relaxed, waiting for Cassie to finish.
The strangled grunt, scrape of chair legs, and immediate thud broke the respectable quiet. Dean's head whipped around to identify the threat. There. A body was lying on the floor next to one of the tables in the middle of the reading area. He could see it thrashing, there was a repetitive banging of limbs hitting the chair.
As the rest of the room had their frozen moment, Dean stepped over, already assessing what was going on. Kneeling down beside the young man who, eyes shut, was stiffly vibrating, Dean went through and discarded a dozen possibilities. He'd seen something like this before … a seizure, an epileptic fit. A girl he and Dad had rescued from a rawhead, she'd collapsed like this afterward and they'd taken care of her till she came out of it.
Dean pushed the chair away, kid was gonna have bruises enough from hitting the hard floor. Must have just slid out of his seat. Not restraining the jerking limbs, Dean slid out of his denim jacket and folded it into a pillow to put under the guy's head. What else? Just loosen the clothing around the neck, then wait till he comes out of it.
By now there was a circle of bystanders, all watching him. Useless civilians … "Somebody call 911?"
A flurry of movement as several cell phones popped open, then they all looked at each other to see who was going to make the call. As everyone stopped, Cassie spoke out. "Already on the way."
Dean nodded 'good girl' in her direction and then focused back on the student who had stopped flailing and was attempting to sit up.
"Easy there. Just roll on your side a minute." Dean put a hand on the guy's shoulder to help him shift. "You're in the library. I think you maybe had a seizure. Ever happen before?"
"Uh, yeah, I, uh …"
"Don't try to talk, paramedics are on their way. Just relax, I'm stayin' with you."
The kid was probably the same age as Sam, couldn't have been any older with that baby-smooth chin. He mumbled something but stayed still.
The ambulance was there in moments, and the crowd dispersed as the emergency workers took over. Dean quickly told them what he'd seen and done, then backed away to let them do their job. He found himself standing next to Cassie.
"You knew what to do."
"Seen it before. And you were fast with the call for help."
"Done it before." And she finally smiled. It transformed her face from beautiful but stern into totally alive. Dean was transfixed at the change. Like the real person had been hiding behind a mask.
"What time do you blow this place?" His words came out without thought.
"Twenty minutes." Dean could see the moment she decided to dare fraternizing with the enemy.
"We could grab a bite to eat after I lock up."
"I'll wait right here."
Cassie leaned against the closed door. Get a grip, girl, she told herself. Her skin was tingling and they hadn't even touched, let alone shared a good night kiss. God help her when they did. No, he'd walked her to the dorms and they'd stood almost touching and when he'd bent his head down she'd been sure he was going to do it – but he'd stopped and said instead, "I'd like to see you again." And she'd fallen into the depths of those eyes and nodded and finally managed, "I'd like that, too."
He'd smiled at this – why did she think it was a victory smile? – and said, "Tomorrow afternoon?" and she'd nodded, and he held open the lobby door for her before silently leaving.
Cassie couldn't decide which to do first, give herself a stern talking-to or collapse and try to figure out why this guy was giving her reckless ideas. It wasn't like she was an innocent … It was time to remember why emotional attachments were a bad idea. She couldn't let herself get sucked in. She needed to remember her mom's advice:
"Don't give all your passion to a man, Cassie. It doesn't work. Keep it for yourself, for what you want to do with your life."
Yes, she needed to make a sign with those words to read every day. Even if he did make her dizzy.
"What have you found out?"
Dean ran his hand through his hair the next morning. As always, the motel wall had a myriad of bits of paper taped to it, and it was time for Dean to contribute. Dad was not gonna like how long this was taking. There were just too many damn cemeteries. Dean pulled out his notes.
"If we start with Simms and Hanning, like you said, I've narrowed it down to two possible configurations. Could be these three to finish the pentagram," he pointed, "or these."
"Both sets make Wilson Hall the center?"
"Yeah. The last death in that area was a suicide there in 1976 – least it was reported as a suicide – room 428. The college eventually sealed that room off because every student assigned to it afterward moved out because of 'weird manifestations.' "
Surprisingly, his dad did not start laying into him for not having answers yet. "So you've got it narrowed down to these six. I've come up with some names. If we can connect any of these to your graveyards that might be all we need."
The paper he handed Dean had about fifteen names. Two of them he recognized immediately, one, the name of a campus building, the other had come up in connection with Hanning cemetery.
"I've got a lead to follow up on a piece of the Simms family estate, some journals that ended up in San Antonio. Gonna take almost two days to get down there, I'm leaving in the morning. I want you to work the names angle." John started to walk to the motel bathroom, then added, "Take a look at the dorm room. Easier for you to be on campus than me, maybe there'll be something there."
"Sure. Would help if I had a clue what I'm looking for, though, Dad." Dean kept his tone light, although he was feeling more than a little irritated at his dad's habit of parceling out facts like they were diamonds. He got a dark look despite the effort at casualness, but he wasn't a grunt in the army, even if Dad thought so, and he answered the glower thrown at him with steady eyes.
Still, Dean was startled when, after staring at him for a moment, his dad handed Dean the leather journal containing, as far as Dean knew, every scrap of supernatural knowledge John had collected in nearly twenty years.
"The green bookmark. Everything I've got so far."
In all honesty, Dean'd had no expectations for the afternoon. He half figured Cassie wouldn't even be in the dorm when he gave his name to the student manning the front desk, but he covered his surprise with a blatant grin of appreciation for the short pink skirt and sleek tank top she was wearing when she came off the elevator. Well, more for the way the clothes accentuated her alluring curves and long legs.
It was one of those heady early spring days where the pleasure of not needing to layer shirts under a jacket – not needing a jacket at all, at least while the sun was out – contributed to the lazy energy that inspired their leisurely walk around the university.
"So, a journalist, huh. Like Barbara Walters?"
"Good Lord, no. Not T.V. I want to work for a newspaper. Investigative reporter. There are too many things that the average person doesn't realize go on – corruption, fraud, crime – what really is happening around them. If it's out in the open there's a chance to fight it!"
"You really think people care? They really want to know the truth?"
"Yes, I do."
"I dunno, I think most people just want to live their life and not be bothered … It's easier to pretend everything's okay when you don't know stuff."
"But without accurate information the public is handicapped. Policy gets made that only benefits those with the right connections. Or justice gets applied based on who you know, not what you actually did."
"And libraries are only available to paying students?"
"Touché." A quick smile flashed across her face. "I can't really argue the point. Information should be free."
Dean was surprised by Cassie's sudden admission, and wasn't expecting the subject to jump to him.
"So what kind of work do you do?"
Dean fell back on the usual generality. "I work for m'dad."
"What does he do? You said you're doing some historical research for him."
"He takes on … different projects. We move around a lot …"
"Just you and your dad?"
"Yeah. M' brother, too." He paused. "Until last fall when he … went away to college."
"Where does he go?"
"Stanford." A beat. "Full ride."
It was gratifying how Cassie looked at that. Never got to brag about his little brother, how much he'd done to get that scholarship. Behind Dad's back. Behind his back. But had there really been any other option for Sam?
"He must be pretty smart. What about you?"
When he didn't continue, Cassie elaborated. "Have you gone to college?"
"Oh, nah. Not me."
"Why not? You seem to know your way around a library." She laughed. "Especially the restricted section."
"Yeah, well, I do my own thing."
"So is most of your research historical?"
Dean tipped his head as he searched for the right words. He wanted Cassie to understand, a little, that what he and his dad did mattered. " 'S'not exactly that … It's … Connecting things. Looking for patterns that other people don't see. Like, say, local legends about a … haunted house. " He continued, feeling like he was edging close to a fine line of what was safe to talk about.
Cassie was clearly listening to the nuances of what he was saying, so Dean kept going.
"There's a reason … something happened originally, maybe a really long time ago, that has caused the story to be out there. It gets altered, maybe ... Probably. But legends, myths, stories about creatures … They don't come out of nowhere." They're real, he wanted to add. But didn't. Even though Dean inexplicably wanted to know if Cassie would believe him. If she'd trust he wasn't a total nutcase.
"Ghost stories? You investigate ghost stories?"
Sigh. She didn't exactly sound derisive. More like skeptical. "It's complicated. A little like that, I guess you could say."
"And somebody pays you to do that?"
Not so much, Dean thought. No, we live on credit card fraud and hustling and the occasional legit odd job …
It occurred to Dean this was a perfect opportunity to pump Cassie about the campus stories relating to the deaths, the sealed dorm room … Except, he didn't want to. If he couldn't talk openly with her about what he was doing, he didn't want to make her just another source to be played for information.
Dad would ask, he thought. Dad wouldn't understand why Dean didn't want to. Maybe Sam would?
Time to take control of this conversation.
"So where'd you grow up?"
"Missouri. Cape Girardeau. What about you?" So much for that gambit.
"Born in Lawrence, Kansas. But travelled all over as a kid."
"With your dad and your brother? Your mom?"
"Mom died when I was four. A fire."
"Oh, I'm sorry." She paused. Looked down, then met his eyes. Hers glowed warm, like dark chocolate. "You must be pretty close with your brother? I always wanted to have a sibling, someone to take my folks' attention off of me some of the time, you know?"
My dad paid more attention to the monsters he hunted than to either of us … Dean pushed distracting thoughts away and allowed his hand to lightly bump along Cassie's. She instantly twined her fingers into his. Dean could swear the sun got a little brighter at that.
"Sammy and me did everything together, pretty much. Our dad, um, travelled a lot, for work, so it was just the two of us a lot of the time." He stopped, caught his breath. Wasn't used to talking about himself. He thought about what he could share. "Dad's an ex-Marine and he taught us all the physical training." Dean unconsciously grinned. "I used to sorta pull my punches with Sam until he hit this growth spurt around sixteen and shot up like a tree. Then he took to lording it over me that he was taller. I could still kick his ass, though. Mostly, anyway." His smile widened at that. He'd admit a little bit of satisfaction when Sam was good enough to fight him to a draw. And once in a while come out on top. 'Cause it meant Dean'd taught him right.
The chime of a popsicle vendor's pushcart interrupted. That was too tempting to resist, and they claimed a sun-warmed bench to savor the cold sweetness. Dean was finding it hard to fully appreciate the creamy chocolate mint he was trying to eat because he kept being distracted by the delicate stripes Cassie was licking along her green kiwi-lime popsicle. A sticky chocolate drip landed on his jeans.
The chocolate almost matched Cassie's bare shoulder.
More tacky drips on his leg. Dean devoted the next minutes to seriously attacking what was still attached to the wooden stick. Cassie focused on hers as well, although in a more dainty fashion.
Finished, Dean flipped the licked-clean stick into the trash. Cassie repeated the gesture a moment later, and they stood up to resume walking. After a moment he slipped his hand from Cassie's fingers to her waist, snugging her to him so their hips touched as they walked
Things progressed very differently than Dean would have predicted from his first encounter with Cassie just five days ago. The longer they continued their aimless walking, the more Cassie relaxed against him. Until they were standing in a little garden area with a small three-tiered fountain and Dean impulsively slid his hand from Cassie's waist to the back of her head, into those luxurious black waves, and angled his head to kiss her. He half-expected to get slapped but she surprised him with only a second's hesitation before she parted her lips.
He felt the goose bumps on her arms. And saw the little swell of her nipples through her shirt.
"Gonna get chilly when the sun goes down."
She looked like a woman about to take a crazy dare, but only said, "We're not far from my dorm. Let's walk back, I can get a sweater, and then we can … eat?"
He tempted fate with one more kiss. This time she wrapped both her hands around the back of his neck and fingered the short hair there as she pressed against his body. When they finally pulled apart he murmured, "Sounds like a plan to me."
They each had a beer with dinner, and the enthusiasm with which Cassie drank straight from the bottle was at odds with the refined image she'd projected up till now. Then she surprised him by asking if he wanted to play a game of pool when the table in the back opened up. Dean was more interested in watching Cassie lean over the table and line up her shots than in paying attention to his own playing, but the score was close enough for him to be able to say honestly, "You play a good game."
"My dad taught me."
"Well, then, we finally have something in common."
"Besides thinking you're the hottest guy on campus and you aren't even a student?"
"Now that is the most complimentary insult I've ever heard," Dean smirked, and planted another long kiss on those willing lips. Back in the parking lot, standing next to the Impala, they pressed together and mutually stroked each other's back until their hands were meandering lower and finally Dean asked with a gasp, "D'you wanna come back with me?"
He thumbed a little harder and she twisted against his hand. Working around the elastic of her panties was an exhilarating challenge, one Dean was decidedly winning even as his back was pressed against the motel room door. Cassie was hungrily tasting his mouth with her tongue, her hot little moans exploding upon his lips. Her warm hands had worked under his tee-shirt, her long fingers stroking sensuously along his ribs.
Dean pulled her head even closer, fingers in her thick curls, to better explore the feel of her lush lips against the fullness of his own. She pushed frantically against him with little jerks of her hips until with an intense gasp she went rigid and her fingernails accidently stabbed hard enough for Dean to give a little grunt of his own.
When her breathing slowed to a pant and the tension of her body relaxed a little he slid his fingers out of her. Her eyes were enormous black pupils as she tilted her head away from him.
Now Cassie's fingers moved to undo his fly and Dean involuntarily shuddered as she massaged his cock through his boxers.
"Take off your shirt," she whispered.
He obliged then murmured in her ear, "You, too." He reached around, unhooked her bra, cupped his hands on her firm breasts and felt the hard little buds of her nipples. She responded by pushing at the waistband of his pants.
"I think we need to get horizontal."
She nodded without speaking and they moved over to the closest bed. Bodies still together Dean snagged the spread and sheet with one hand and tugged them down. Kicking off his boots while continuing to keep Cassie pressed against him was tricky, but he managed. He fished the condom from his back pocket before losing the rest of his clothes.
Then she was naked before him, legs eagerly apart, and Dean was ready to feel the hot pleasure of sliding into her.
"Wait," Cassie suddenly spoke and when Dean paused she pushed his chest. "Lay back."
Positioned above, she teased him into her. Dean groaned at the sensation. She shifted, tiny wriggles that sent thrilling shocks through him. Then she started to move, riding up and down bringing his hand to her mouth and tasting his fingers and he reached up and pulled her down and buried his hands in those curls that had been driving him crazy since the moment he'd first seen her. She brought her lips down for a kiss and their mouths followed the motion of their bodies as he sucked on her tongue and brushed his hands up and down her supple skin.
He gripped her hips and moved her to his rhythm as he thrust harder and quicker. She gyrated on top of him, until she whimpered and clasped her knees tight to him and shuddered and suddenly he needed her on her back and she rolled with him and his climax was searing and intense and enervating as he murmured her name.
Their mouths scorched back together, but Dean wanted to bring Cassie to that out-of-control moment again, and the second his heartbeat settled somewhere around normal he started licking along the line of her chin, then down her neck to her curves, gently tugging her nipples with his teeth, kissing down to the neat triangle of wiry hair, then tonguing against her sweet spot. He probed harder in response to her uncontrolled moans, until she held his head down and cried, "Don't stop!" over and over until she cried his name and arched and went limp again.
They lay relaxed together for a bit, until Cassie looked at him with a challenge in her sex-blown eyes, and she straddled him once more. It was her turn to mark him with her mouth, beginning with his left earlobe and making a path all the way down to his cock. She licked its length and then, with mouth and hands, sent Dean back into bliss once more.
The sun woke her, which wasn't all that unusual because she liked mornings and her curtains provided privacy but let in plenty of light. Except her curtains weren't McDonald's orange with yellow crescent moons. Oh god.
She shifted under the weight of the arm across her stomach.
He stirred, and relaxed green eyes met hers. "Mornin' darlin'."
What the hell had she done? She had made a huge, tremendous mistake. She had … they had…
and she'd spent the night? In this … motel room?
Cassie pulled the blanket tightly around herself and sat erect quickly. A snorted "hey" responded to her sudden move.
She made the mistake of looking over at Dean. She'd yanked the covers off him. He lay seductively in all his … oh God. His eyes roved over her, unmistakably asking if she was ready to go again.
Okay, Cassie, get a grip. So she'd fallen under his charm and had a few drinks and that led to a little making out …and then a lot more ... Images swirled. Her body tingled. Desire grappled with self preservation. Because this was a mistake of epic proportions.
"C'mon back. 'S chilly without you."
You could say many things about this room right now. Chilly? Not so much. Felt like 110 degrees. "I … I … need to go …"
Dean's eyes lost all playfulness with a blink. His languid smile straightened into a line. He swung away from her, stood up and pulled on his boxers and jeans with a smooth, practiced motion. She remembered suddenly how they'd come off. All frantic and groping and … she swallowed. How was it that now he was practically fully dressed while she was wearing nothing but a blanket the neon colors of a Happy Meals toy.
He disappeared into the bathroom. "Wouldn't want to keep you."
There was no denying the edge to his voice. He wasn't even trying to hide it. Why did he care if she was leaving? He got what he wanted. She quickly found her discarded clothes. She shivered at the unasked-for memory of relentless pleasure as she stepped into her panties.
Finally, she was mercifully dressed. As she waited for him to exit the bathroom so she could use it, Cassie noted the patchwork of torn newspapers and scraps of writing taped above the scarred dresser. She wanted to see what they were, but she heard the water turn off in the bathroom.
Dean came out, passed by her without saying a word, and grabbed his tee-shirt from the floor.
Back straight, she stepped into the bathroom so she could at least use her finger to brush her teeth. She wouldn't have showered here anyway, but looking around the dismal bathroom she thought, he stayed here?
She washed her face and hands and used the corner of a thin towel to dry them. Her hair wasn't as much a tangle as she'd feared … he had corded his fingers through it for a long time when they'd finally relaxed together. Kinda like he couldn't get enough of it.
And there was the catch. Didn't goddamn feel like a one-night-stand.
Cassie stood stock still when she emerged from the bathroom as Dean's gaze traveled from staring out the window to her, locking those impossibly green eyes on her face. She decided she wasn't going to give an inch. "Well. I should go. I'll, uh, call a cab from the office."
Dean looked away first, but only for a moment. When he looked again she couldn't read his eyes. "You wanna let me know why I feel like you should set some money down on the table before you go?"
"Do all your women pay you afterward?" she snapped.
"No. It just looks like I'm something you're trying to scrape off your shoe the morning after."
She'd heard lots of qualities to his smooth voice. Teasing. Snarky. Annoyed. Even a little angry. This sounded a lot like hurt. Maybe she just needed to explain. "Dean. It's not like that. This was just a mistake."
"Right. Because there's no way someone like me is anywhere near good enough for someone like you."
"I didn't mean …"
"What did you mean, Cassie? Because I was certainly good enough last night for you."
Her temper flared. She'd been trying to leave without an awkward scene, but … "It was good, okay? …You were good ... But … this was just a bad idea … a really bad idea."
"For you, maybe. Not for me."
His eyes caught and held hers. And she knew she ought to run without looking back. But there was something … need … and vulnerability … She forced herself to choose her words carefully, he had to understand that there couldn't be more. Couldn't happen again. "Dean. You're not letting me explain. I know it was mutual. You know, between us. But that doesn't … look, you said yourself you're just here for a short while. Won't be staying long. Your life isn't … I've got school and my job in the library, and the career I want … There isn't time for … entanglements." Especially entanglements with men who are all wrong.
Her mother's voice warned, Don't give all your passion away. Yeah, well, she'd given an awful lot away last night. Now she needed to pull it back.
A harsh laugh broke the silence. "Bullshit."
"You heard me. This isn't about work or school. It's about you being scared."
"Of you? Don't flatter yourself." How did he manage to piss her off when she was trying to let him down easy?
Dean walked around her, circling like a prowling cat and she pulled back into herself a little, wondering why she was still here. Still listening to him.
"I get it now. The prim and proper vibe you give off. All 'follow the rules' unapproachable ice queen. Scares all the little college boys away, doesn't it? Let's you keep yourself nice and safe in your bubble of books and newspapers. Not gonna make much of journalist, though, if you're afraid to get a little dirty now and then." He stopped and the drop dead smile was back in place. "Last night we got ourselves a little dirty. For real. An' you're still in one piece, darlin.' "
Every nerve ending bristled. "You don't have any idea about me. I have goals, plans for my future."
That wiped the smirk off his face. "And you think I don't …Where do you get off thinking you're better than me? I may not have the schooling you have but I know things you couldn't even—" He stopped abruptly and clenched his jaw.
Cassie knew she was a reserved person. She held her feelings tight to protect herself. But she wasn't cruel. "Dean. I … I didn't mean …" What did she mean? "You have to know this," she pointed between them, "can't mean anything."
Again that unreadable look crossed his face. A subdued stare met her eyes. "Yeah. Sure. 'Course you're right."
He stood very still. He didn't move toward her yet wouldn't stop staring at her. The tension fluttered around and between them like a butterfly looking for a place to land. Finally, she took a step toward the door. Wasn't there supposed to be relief that he'd agreed with her? The next words left her lips before she could censor them. "Will you be coming back to the library for any more research?"
Dean didn't answer at first. She thought the answer had to be no. He'd say he was done. "Depends." Cassie turned from the door and faced him. "You still gonna let me use the restricted section?"
She searched for teasing. If it had been there, if his eyes had sparkled with his usual snarky glint, she'd have been able to tease back and leave and be done with him. Be able to go back to before it started. Before she'd felt his strong heartbeat beneath her fingers and lips.
His eyes burned steady and serious. And waiting for her answer.
"Yes," she answered on an exhale.
Dean still didn't smile. But the light was back in his eyes as he said firmly, "Let me drive you home."
Dean figured he'd have four days – four days before Dad got back from Texas. Four days of library research and four nights of exploring just how far he and Cassie could go …
Something about her was throwing him. She sure wasn't the first girl he'd screwed in a crappy motel room, although he didn't usually cuddle and fall asleep after … But it was bothering him just how trashy the room really was. Knew she'd noticed in the morning, and reflected it on him.
And that was closer to the problem. Yeah, occasionally he had to handle 'morning after' regrets, which was why he tried not to stick around for breakfast. But even if the chick felt a little Puritanical guilt he could coax 'em out of it because, let's face it, fucking was supposed to feel good, and how could feeling good be a bad thing? Especially because Dean Winchester knew how to make a girl feel really good. Leaning back in the library chair, he smirked. His own personal 'art form.'
Dean checked his watch. Cassie'd be coming in shortly. Library was only open a few hours on Sunday. He yawned and dragged a hand through his hair. He really better find something on those names from Dad. Wondered again if he should ask Cassie for help, but no, he wasn't going to. She had nothing to do with his 'real' life. Yeah, mistake. She was different. Smart, focused, had a plan for her future.
Hell, he knew his future, too. He'll be hunting at his dad's side until … Until what? Dad retires? Kills the thing that killed Mom? Till Dad's a hair too slow and Dean's not fast enough and it's over for one of them? Or both?
If Sam came back they could watch out for Dad together, have each other's back …
Damn, his head was so messed up today. Sitting in here was pointless. Might as well go check out the suspicious dorm room.
Cassie wouldn't miss him anyway.
"Oh, Dean's been upstairs since opening." Anne was perkily helpful answering Cassie's question. Like she suspected that it was more than a casual inquiry. Like there was a blinking sign over her head that said, "Slept with him!" Unless it was saying worse, "Falling for him!"
"I'm just going to check on what he's doing."
That got her a Cheshire Cat grin. Okay, Anne was definitely thinking too much. "Sure, Cassie."
"He's not there." Cassie swooped back down the stairs and waited for Anne to clarify.
"I didn't see him leave …"
Snort. If he didn't want you to see him then you wouldn't, Cassie thought. Not Anne's fault. Not her job to keep track of the unauthorized patron in the restricted stacks. Nobody's job. He wasn't supposed to be there. And he wasn't. That was good, what she wanted, right?
She locked the door behind her at four o'clock, and there he was. Serious. His face made her chest hurt. It was so much easier to dismiss him when he was obnoxiously flirting.
Cassie spoke first. "No research today? All done?"
He completely ignored her neutral gambit.
"I feel like I owe you some kind of apology. And I'm damned if I can figure out what for. So whatever I did wrong, I'm sorry. Not sorry for last night, though." With the last words his chin came up and Cassie quailed at the openness in his eyes.
She couldn't breathe. Whatever else he was, he was honest. And if she were honest too, she wanted him. Again.
Cassie very deliberately ignored all the warning bells clamoring in her head and reached up to kiss him.
It was definitely reciprocal at first – Dean's hands moved to her shoulders and he pulled her close to him – and then mid-kiss he drew his tongue back and stepped apart, though still gripping her shoulders tightly.
"I thought I'm a mistake," he said hoarsely.
"I … I don't honestly know," Cassie admitted. "Maybe … maybe you are, but … maybe that doesn't matter …"
Now his hands dropped to his sides and his eyes went dark and shuttered. "You have to decide. Your life. Your choice. Let me know if you want to see me again. But I don't expect you will."
With bitterness in his voice Dean turned and headed toward the street. His back was stiff and proud, his hands clenched in fists.
This was it. Let him walk away and she was safe. Keep the memory of last night locked away and let it fade until it never happened. That would be the smart thing. But would it be the right thing? Suddenly, Cassie was angry. She hadn't asked him to waltz into her life and complicate it, and it wasn't fair of him to leave it completely up to her. If he wanted to be with her then say so.
He did say it, whispered in her mind.
Not really, she responded. And she was running after him, grabbed his arm.
He froze mid-step. She didn't give him time to say anything, just blurted out her words with deadly intensity.
"You came into my library and … you … you came on to me! And last night was … okay, dammit, I've never had a night like that before. So now you don't get to walk away without telling me your feelings!"
Dean actually took a step back from her. She moved with him. His glibness was gone.
"What the hell do you want from me? I am what I am. Not safe and solid boyfriend material by your standards. So, I'm leaving you to figure out what you want. Without me to confuse you," he hissed.
"That's a copout and you know it!"
"I don't see any other options. 'S not up to me what you do!"
"Do you care?"
His steel gaze wavered, then he looked down.
"Yeah. I do." It was a whisper. "It probably is a bad idea. I have no idea what to do. But, God, you're beautiful … and amazing …" he bit his lip, "and I want to be with you."
"So we're in agreement that this is a bad idea." Cassie kept her voice as soft as his and put her hand out.
"Yeah." He started to pull away but Cassie kept her grasp on his arm.
"And we're going to do it anyway." She pressed her lips back to his and this time he didn't pull away.
"Look. No offense, okay? But, I am not going back to that motel room."
Bodies tangled together in the passenger seat, and having just slid his fingers against the satiny skin under her lacy bra, Dean said the first thing that popped into his mind.
"There's plenty of room in the back seat."
"What kind of a girl do you think I am?" Cassie pulled her lips away from his throat.
"A horny one."
Dean could see the struggle between Cassie wanting to be angry and wanting to laugh. He nudged with what he hoped would take her in the second direction.
"Hey, if we're going with making a mistake, might as well do it right."
She did laugh. "You're bad." She resumed running her tongue along the tendons of his neck. Her deliberateness was intoxicating. He wanted he wanted …
"I have a private room. No one cares."
"Now." Cassie gave him a little push toward the steering wheel. His groan as he pulled away was only half-joking, but she nestled right up to him and set her hand on the inside of his thigh. Dean drove as fast as he thought he could get away with.
In retrospect, their first night proved to have been only a prologue. They took turns shivering each other to climax, lips, hands, tongues fully enraptured in simultaneous exploration and pleasuring.
Finally both were satiated and Dean drifted to sleep with Cassie's breath ghosting against his chest and her name still lingering on his lips as he inhaled the unique spicy fragrance of her hair.
Waking up was disorienting. The pillow under his head was plush and lightly fragrant, a pristine white ceiling loomed above him, a male voice near his head was talking about Donald Rumsfeld and Afghanistan. Dean realized simultaneously he was alone in bed but that the sheets surrounding him were still warm.
"Good morning, Mr. Sunshine."
Dean squinted his eyes at the clock radio. Six-fifteen?
"Here." His jeans and shirt landed next to his head.
"Why the fuck are you up so early?"
"I've got a life to live." Dean must have winced at Cassie's words because she sat down on the edge of the mattress and planted a kiss on his jaw. "I go running every morning and then I have an early class on Mondays and Wednesdays. So I have to get going, and you," another kiss, this time on his earlobe, "have to leave."
"I could just wait for you here."
"Uh-uh. Without a student I.D. you can't be in the building without me."
"Seriously? We still wrangling over the stupid I.D.?"
"There is a limit to how many rules I will break for you, Dean Winchester." There was an edge to the tease in Cassie's voice. Wasn't worth pushing, he couldn't stay here all day anyway.
"A' right. We'll just have to see about tonight, then. 'Cause my backseat can be pretty cozy."
Cassie ran a fingertip lightly down his bare chest. "We'll just see about that," she murmured. The assumption they'd be seeing each other again that night hung between them for a second. The promise in Cassie's voice brought his cock to attention and he snaked a finger up the leg of her running shorts hoping to distract her.
She was, however, made of stronger stuff and slid away from him. "Not kidding, Dean. You have to go now." But she took the sting out of her words by adding, "I'll see you at the library later, right?"
Figures he'd get a break when he least expected, and from a completely lame-ass source. Buried on the bottom of a bookshelf in a corner, the title Haunted Ohio made Dean pause and slide the book out because it was hardly restricted and most likely just misshelved. Among its dubious records of paranormal activities was a lengthy article about Judge John Simms and his unpleasant proclivity to order death by hanging for both freed slaves and supposed witches, both of which Simms hated. The author then continued in dramatic detail about the sightings of the ghosts of his victims, and damned if several of the surnames on his dad's list didn't match up with the names on Simms' hit list.
Dean collected all the pertinent information and briefly considered tossing the book in his backpack but that would be shabby repayment of Cassie's trust, so he tucked it back where he found it.
Now that he had an inkling of what else he was looking for, newspaper records would probably be the most help.
It was too early for Cassie to have come in yet, but her coworkers were behind the counter as usual. Rowan and the other one who never seemed to meet his eyes.
"So, if I want to check the Athens newspaper archives for some names for, say, the last one hundred or so years, will you have the records here or do I go to the newspaper offices?"
Rowan leaned on the marble top, pretty much inviting him to look down her cleavage. Which he did while she pondered his question. "I don't think we have that far back … Anne? Do you know?"
Anne's pointy little face hid under frizzy red bangs, and she sucked on her lip. "Cassie would know for sure just how far back," she said finally. "We do have some of the really old newspapers on microfiche. But it's another restricted section," she added.
Dean simply flashed his most innocent smile and Anne caved, mumbling, "I guess Cassie'd say okay," and led him to the files.
So now he had a shit pile of dates and facts to go with the names on his dad's list. Had to be a pattern in there somewhere … Dean ran a hand over his face, what the fuck time was it now, anyway?
There was a light tap on the door to his cubicle. He turned to see Cassie looking through the glass panel and he nodded her in.
"Coming up for air?" she asked.
"Um, yeah …" Real snappy response, he thought. He wanted to let the research go, wanted to just drink in the beautiful woman standing there, get close and smell her ever-so-slightly exotic scent, sweep his fingers over her glossy brown skin, taste the fierceness of her warm mouth …
"Earth to Dean! Are you all there?" Cassie snapped her fingers at him.
He rubbed his eyes, buying time to pull himself together. It would be so easy … so satisfying … to just let this happen …
"Do you work till closing tonight?"
"Yes, a couple more hours. You've been in here since noon, Anne said. Must be really fascinating to keep you here all that time without taking a break to eat."
Now that it had been mentioned, naturally the feeling of being famished attacked him. But the dribbles of facts about John Simms and Mary Roberts and David Tischman and a dozen more were swirling around his brain and he needed to do something with them … or with Cassie … he couldn't handle the mash-up in his head between phantoms and the real person next to him …
"I'm gonna go … grab something to eat, okay?"
Dean really thought he could walk past her without pausing but Cassie put a hand on his chest to stop him and opened her mouth invitingly and there was no way to resist. Though her eyes were puzzled when he pulled away after just brushing his tongue to hers. "Back soon," he muttered as he put some space between them and headed for the library exit.
He hadn't meant to return to the motel room with his burger, but the weight of the case was pulling at him. While he could stare at words just as well at the library as here, he knew that his focus would be divided, wanting to stare just as hard at his …
What, exactly? He couldn't presume to call Cassie his girlfriend … Winchesters didn't do girlfriends. He amended that. He didn't know if his dad had a girlfriend before Mom. Certainly none after. And Dean hadn't ever called one of his flings by that title, even if a few high school girlshad wanted to consider themselves such … but Sam, well who knew, maybe Sam had hooked himself up with a steady girl by now. That'd be normal for a college kid, wouldn't it?
Stop it, he ordered himself. There's a case to be solved before anyone else gets hurt. Dad left him with the pieces, he just had to put the puzzle together.
He ended up writing out a piece of paper for every name, every location, and every date and started to lay them out on the bedspread in groups. Rudimentary line-ups at first, putting the dates in sequence, then matching up the names by date of death, then by where they were buried, then shifting the scraps around …There was something there, just out of focus …
Crap! It was after one a.m. How could he have been caught up in this for four hours? God, Cassie was gonna be pissed and how the fuck would he ever explain this?
He took a minute to place some books over the papers on the bed so opening the motel door wouldn't cause them to flutter out of place, then gunned the Impala over to Cassie's building.
Of course it was locked. Being after hours and all. He could pick the lock easily enough … but that didn't seem like the best idea, to showcase his breaking-and-entering skills for a girl he was trying to … impress.
Dean rested his back against the brick wall and then slid down to sit on the concrete walkway. He'd screwed this up big time. Why did it matter? Dad was gonna be back in two, three days max, and Dean was pretty sure some grave digging was gonna be happening regardless of what else was going on with this pentagram thing, and then they would leave. And that would be it, right?
'Cause what else could there possibly be?
A few ambitious students started straggling out as the sun was rising, most either clutching coffee or heading off in running shoes. Dean thought about standing up but it was just too damn much work. His body had settled into comfortably stiff against the wall and getting up would be a bitch, so he allowed himself to return to the light doze he'd been in most of the night.
He was standing before he hit completely conscious when he heard the confused incredulous angry sound of his name.
"Um, good morning?"
"Where the hell were you last night?" Cassie didn't yell, rather her voice was quietly freezing.
"Sitting here for most of it." Dean tried to deflect the frostiness with a grin.
Pretty much knew it wouldn't distract her.
"I don't know what game you're playing, Dean, but I'm not some … some booty call for your convenience. So just leave me alone, okay?"
Words of explanation tumbled futilely through his brain and none of them seemed worth uttering in the face of Cassie's icy stare. "I'm …" sorry, he was about to say, but he was sorry for so much more than missing last night and it was too much.
"Screw you," came out tiredly instead, and with that Dean turned and walked away.
Screw you. Cassie couldn't believe he had the audacity to say that to her. He'd been the one …
"Don't you dare walk away from me, Dean Winchester! Or are you a coward? Ashamed to look me in the face?"
Half the students in the vicinity were looking uncomfortable, the rest were clearly interested in the diversion of an early morning lovers' quarrel. Oh, God, she was making a scene … over a guy she's known less than … a week.
But she'd gotten Dean's attention, he reversed his stride. And he also noticed the attention they were attracting.
"If you want to do this right now, in front of an audience, I will. You're the one with an image to keep up, not me."
Damn him anyway. She didn't have an image. Just dignity. Nonetheless, she came closer and lowered her voice. "Where were you last night?"
He looked surprised at her switch to calmness. Cassie wasn't sure he was going to answer. And what the hell was with her sudden … possessiveness? Why did it matter that he hadn't come back to the library? Who cares what he did last night. Except, she did.
He rubbed the back of his neck. "I got caught up with the … work I'm doing. The research. Trying to put it together. Before I knew, it was late." His head tilted toward her dorm building. "Doors were locked."
She studied him. His story made sense. Why hadn't he just explained? Why'd he get all pissy? "You could have just said that."
"You coulda been less of a bitch about it."
Her temper flared again. "Me? I'm not the one who keeps walking away. If you didn't want to see me, then why sit all night outside my dorm?"
Dean took in her proud, haughty look. She so had him. Truth is he had no good reason for camping out in front of her building like a stalker. He had no good reason for her at all. This case needed solving. And he needed to leave.
"Like you said. It's a mistake." He took one step further away from her. "Bye, Cassie."
Her hand caught his jacket sleeve. "Don't do this." Her voice took on a soft rasp, like sand flickering through his fingers.
"Do what?" he asked, fighting the urge to touch those curls again. He shoved his hands in his pockets.
"I … don't know. Hide. Run. Disappear inside yourself."
" 'S that what I do?" his lip twisted up crookedly. Where did she get off psychoanalyzing him? "And what do you do?" She looked puzzled. "What do you do when you don't like what—"
"When I don't like what?"
"Nothing. I'm goin'. See you around." But he didn't move.
She looked like she suddenly figured something out. "You don't know what to do about this any more than I do."
This. Whatever the fuck this was. He was kissing her before he could formulate the thought that there was no place for this in his life.
"Are you coming to the library today?"
No. He was done there, had what he needed.
"I'll be there when you get out."
Several cups of strong diner coffee later, Dean was back staring at the puzzle on the motel bed. It wasn't helping that his mind kept floating back to feeling Cassie pressed against him … Fuck. This was getting him nowhere. He grabbed the list of names and decided to just go to the cemeteries. Find a grave for one of these people, see if that gave him an inspiration. Might as well start with Judge Simms, seeing as he had a cemetery with his name on it.
Most people would laugh at the idea that one graveyard was different than another, but Dean knew that each one was unique. His impressions were affected considerably by whether he was visiting by day or night, but even so, he had come across a place or two that seemed almost peaceful – well-tended, with simple grave markers, stately trees screening visitors from the outside traffic – although that last bit was also valuable whenever they were planning a salt 'n' burn in a less serene burial ground.
Some cemeteries felt watchful. Sometimes when Dean would cross over a fence he'd get a picture in his mind's eye of something hibernating, one eye slit open just enough to see who had entered. There would be a mix of old ornate tombstones with smooth rectangular slabs flush to the grass, lots of angels looming over the grounds like they were waiting for someone to vanquish a spirit that was resisting moving on. Sometimes those jobs were easy, sometimes they got nasty.
And then there were places that the only word for them was 'malevolent.' Full of massive old monuments and mausoleums, plots chaotically laid out, whole sections for just one family. Evil waiting to fight. Winchesters always left blood when Dean felt that kind of heaviness.
Simms Cemetery had to be one of those, naturally.
"I'm not here to salt-and-burn today," he muttered. Appeasing the angry ghosts before they got pissed … right. Someone who didn't know about supernatural shit would think he was ready for the funny farm.
So, there was the 'hanging tree' that had been mentioned in the book. Tree protruding sideways from a rocky area where the ground dropped down abruptly five feet. All senses alert, Dean catfooted closer. Yeah, there were the rope scars marring the trunk.
So where was Judge Simms buried? Prowling among the headstones, Dean stopped when something caught his eye. Amelia Cooper. That name was on his dad's list. 1925 – 1943, Beloved Daughter of Marshall Cooper and Bertha Simms Cooper. Dean shuffled through his notes. She'd been a freshman at Ohio U, mysterious death in Wilson Hall. He looked at the nearby graves. Eldred Burns, Beloved Son. Matthias Burns. Eleanor Simms Burns.
Randall Worthington. Worthington, there was a Worthington in his notes. Jane Worthington, 1947 – 1965. Yahtzee. Tracking the markers, Worthington looked like a branch of the Simms family, too. And Jane had also died on the university campus. At eighteen.
By the time he finished his survey of Simms Cemetery, Dean found six of his leads were Simms' descendants. Two of them had been professors, according to his research in the newspaper archives. All died on campus. But the papers hadn't gone back into family history, which is why the connection hadn't been obvious.
Judge Simms himself was, of course, buried in an elaborate above-ground crypt. Dean was willing to lay odds that Simms would be toasted before this was over, but he had to pin down the other connections.
Hanning Memorial Cemetery. Definite unfriendly vibe this place, too. Nine names left. The last victim, David Tischman, was buried here. 1976. Dean walked around, searching for more links to present themselves. There it was, another name. Cordelia Roberts. 1863 – 1884. Her mother, Mary Roberts, had been hanged as a witch in 1871. By Judge John Simms.
By the time Dean had been to all five cemeteries he was pretty sure that all the victims were related to the same three families. Simms, first. And then the Roberts family, who were actually buried in three different graveyards. That connection to Simms was plain.
He'd found the last of the names on headstones in Cuckler Cemetery, and they all seemed to tie backwards to the Jefferson family. Now he had to figure out the how the Jeffersons fit in to the picture he was getting.
It only took a couple hours at the county registrar's office to find the last clue. Frederick Jefferson had been a slave in Georgia who'd come to Ohio after the Civil War. He'd run afoul of John Simms and ended up dangling from a rope on the hanging tree.
So what he and Dad were up against was like a feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys … and the Smiths. Or rather, the Hatfields and McCoys together fighting against the Smiths. Or Simms, in this case.
So just how many fucking graves were they gonna have to dig up?
Cassie hated when her own feelings confused her. Did she want Dean to be waiting for her tonight or not? Not would be so much easier … and yet … When she realized the she was making a mental list of the pros and cons of seeing him again it was time to give herself a stern order to put Dean Winchester out of your mind, girl! And concentrate on the essay due this week.
She wasn't terribly successful.
Why was she so hung up on the guy, anyway?
Yes, he was goddamn gorgeous. But she's seen other guys on campus who were equally attractive. Not quite the same way, but come on, he wasn't the world's only beautiful guy.
He had the bad-boy thing going on. But she knew better than to fall for that type of guy.
Okay, in bed … well, he had her there. Best sex she'd ever had. Not that she had that much to compare it too, but still … it was clearly important to him that it be as good for her as for him. Unselfish, okay, that was the word she was looking for.
And if he was that unselfish in bed, it had to be part of his whole personality, didn't it?
But what did she really know about him? His mother had died when he was little, he had a father who travelled, and a brother who was smart enough to get a scholarship to Stanford … she would bet that Dean, while not necessarily schooling-smart, had more than enough real-world smarts to run rings around a lot of guys with college degrees. It was his concentration, she thought. How focused he was when he was researching. Or making love.
Essay. Right. How the Nazi party adapted their propaganda during the course of World War II.
She had no clue what he really did. If she had to guess she'd think it had to include a good deal of physical labor, from the shape he was in, because he was not the kind of guy who worked out in a gym to get those abs and biceps … and scars. When she'd run her hands over him there'd been a lot of little seams and puckers and a few big ones marring that perfect physique.
Why did she think she didn't really want to know how he got them even though she was terribly curious.
Maybe what he did was criminal. Could he be the kind of person who lived on the wrong side of the law? The thought stopped her cold. His alertness. His stealth. That sense that he was deliberately hiding part of himself behind that breath-taking smirk. The fact that he stayed in a craphole of a motel with no visible means of support. Could just mean limited funds. Could mean something more sinister.
What had she gotten herself into?
Dean shook his head. This was going to be a sonuvabitch to pull off. There were eighteen corpses that had to be torched to be sure the cycle of vengeance was stopped. He still hadn't worked out the exact details of what powered the whole mess, though it had to be connected to the pentagram of the cemeteries providing energy to the ghosts.
Dean had thought to set the motel alarm clock to go off a half an hour before the library closed so he wouldn't blow it again. Although part of him wondered why he was doing this – how could he possibly justify seeing Cassie again when he knew nothing could come of it. He couldn't stay here, and he couldn't ask her to drop her life and come with him … hell, he really didn't want her with him, she wasn't a hunter, wasn't meant for living on the road. Couldn't risk her getting hurt.
Why couldn't he just walk away?
Why wasn't she just another physically gratifying one-night stand? Why the hell was he emotionally involved?
She was beautiful. So he'd slept with a lot of beautiful girls.
She was smart. Not like he never slept with an intelligent woman, but okay, he didn't bother with an I.Q. test beforehand. She had strong opinions … but she wasn't close-minded, she'd let him in the library, after all. She was … complete, he realized. She didn't need to be taken care of. And yet she'd let her defenses down for him. And he wanted to … to what? Show her she didn't have to protect herself so hard, that he would do that for her.
Damn, he was so messed up over this …
And he better go now, if he didn't want to be late again.
Once again Dean materialized as Cassie was locking the library door.
He was holding a bouquet of flowers, the kind street corner vendors sell, with an almost bashful look on his face. Almost like he'd never given a girl flowers before.
And all her earlier misgivings dissolved like sidewalk chalk in the rain as she reached up and responded with a kiss.
They ended up back in her dorm room. Much as Cassie wanted to talk, to ask him to explain away her nagging thoughts, the heat of being near him was too much. So it wasn't until much later, lying together in contented exhaustion, she tried one last time.
"So what are you researching next? Something around Athens?"
"Dunno yet. Not quite finished here. But it's up to m'dad."
"What about what you want?"
Silence. She looked over and those green eyes were staring at the ceiling like the answer to a mystery was written up there.
He effectively stopped her questions with another unforgettable kiss and her need for answers vanished under her need for him.
As Dean turned into the pothole-ridden motel lot in the morning, his stomach sank. Dad's truck was parked in the Impala's spot. Great. Now Dad knew he'd been out all night. Dammit, he was a grown man, so why did knowing his dad was inside waiting make him want to piss like a scared little kid?
Dean opened the room door to find his dad staring at the scraps of paper still lying on the second bed. The air gusting in sent them fluttering but John settled them down automatically.
"Where were you?"
Well, Dad never did beat around the bush.
"Out." Wasn't like this was the first time Dean had been out all night. "Didn't know what time you'd get back here." Dammit, why did that sound so defensive? Diversion. "So what did you find out in San Antonio?"
"Not a damn thing. Total waste of gas," John said disgustedly.
"Well, I think I've got it, Dad."
Dean laid out his findings and then continued with his thoughts on how to handle eighteen salt-and-burns in one night. Finished, he waited for his dad to react.
"So, it all stems from Judge Simms? And you don't think we should start with him?"
"I just think if we get rid of the other ghosts in his family tree first he'll be weaker when we get to him."
"Eighteen graves in one night, huh." John stopped but Dean could hear the rest of the sentence: sure would be easier with Sam to help.
It was true, but there wasn't anything to be said about that.
"We can do Mary Roberts today, she's actually buried on what was her family's farm. And splitting up the graves, it'll be tricky to do some alone, but I don't see any other way to get it all done."
"You did good work here, Dean," John said gruffly. "I'm going to get some shut-eye, been driving all night. We'll tackle the first grave late afternoon, do the rest tonight, and be out of here in the morning."
"Tomorrow morning? We have to leave that soon?"
His dad gave him a look that said 'what is wrong with you?' "We don't want to be hanging around here when the authorities find that many desecrated graves in the morning."
"We don't have to do it tonight. You just got in …"
"Do you want to risk someone else's life? No way to know when the bastards might pick another victim. We wait, someone gets hurt … You want that?"
"No." Shit. He thought he'd have more time.
Dean sat in the Impala, Foreigner blasting. He wanted to drive somewhere to think but knew it really wouldn't matter where he drove, his mind would still be stuck with the same problem. He couldn't just disappear this time. He didn't want to.
What if? What if he stayed here? There had to be work he could do, auto repair, manual labor, something that would support him. And Cassie could finish school and then move wherever she wanted to work and he could go with her … He'd have to keep a low profile after finishing tonight's job … he could do that.
But how could he live a normal life knowing about all the evil crap still out there, hurting innocent people? Could he really pretend he was blind to it? Could he just run away from it like Sam did? Leave his dad to hunt alone?
Was there another possibility?
What if he told Cassie what he really did? They'd occasionally had to explain the truth to civilians caught in the middle of a case. Most of 'em didn't want to believe what they were hearing, but a few understood there was more going on than they'd known, accepted that the Winchesters were protecting them.
Cassie believed truth shouldn't be hidden … maybe she'd understand? Like when she talked about being a journalist to show people what was really happening around them? Wasn't this the same thing? Working without notice for the good of everyone?
He wished there was someone he could talk to, tell him if he was about to do the right thing … or something very stupid. He pulled out his phone, pulled up Sam's number. Stopped. He was pretty sure what his brother would say. Sam wouldn't hold with hiding the truth from someone who was important to him. Hell, Sam would tell him to grow a pair, say 'screw you' to Dad and quit. But Dean couldn't do that. He couldn't just abandon Dad like that.
Dean chewed on his lip, hating this uncertain feeling. They didn't tell civilians about what they did. Dad had drilled that into him growing up. Knew Dad would be angry, wouldn't understand why Dean had to do this. But if he and Cassie were going to have any kind of a future at all, he had to be honest with her. Because a hunter is who he was. And she'd either accept that … or she wouldn't.
Dean took a deep breath. He was going to do this.
The shadow made Cassie look up, she hadn't heard footsteps. It wasn't anywhere near the end of her shift, Dean knew that, so why was he here? More research? But then she was arrested by the fierce look on his face. She hadn't seen that expression on him before. It made her think of what a condemned man on the gallows might look like. Nothing to lose.
As soon as he saw her looking at him, the reckless expression disappeared. Still serious, yes, but he was almost beseeching her to understand something …
"Cassie, we have to talk."
"I don't get off till nine again tonight."
"I know, and that will be too late. I won't be here then. We've gotta talk now … please. Can … Is there someone else who can watch for … unauthorized library patrons," his lips quirked at that, "for just a few minutes?"
"Well, I can call Anne away from shelving, I guess."
Cassie could see the blatant curiosity as Anne came to the counter, but she just said 'sure' when Cassie asked her to take over for a short while.
"Let's go in here." Dean took Cassie's arm and guided her to the room where he'd been engrossed in research the other day. He shut the door.
"Okay, I know this is going to sound … unbelievable. Just hear me out before you say anything, okay?"
That look of abandonment of his better judgment was back on his face. It scared her. Before she could react he continued.
"What my dad and I do is, we hunt evil things. Like supernatural things, ghosts, werewolves, monsters, not … human things."
She couldn't help it. Cassie backed away.
"Please, you have to understand. I know these things aren't supposed to exist, okay, but they do. My mom, my mom was killed by a demon. In a fire, in my brother's nursery. The demon put her on the ceiling and burned her. Ever since, that's all my dad has done, hunt the sons of bitches that can hurt other innocent people because no one believes they exist. And that's what he trained me and my brother to do, too."
He was insane.
He must have read her face.
"I know it's hard to believe, and I wouldn't tell you like this except we're leaving tonight. That research I've been doing, I figured out the ghosts responsible for the deaths around Wilson Hall for the last hundred years, and we have to salt and burn them tonight and then we've gotta go. But I couldn't just leave, have you think I just disappeared on you. Not when … not when I've never felt like this about anybody." His last words were a whisper.
It was too much to absorb.
"You're leaving tonight?"
"And you want me to believe it's because you're off hunting monsters?"
"I'm sure Dad has an idea for the next hunt … but we have to leave tonight because after we dig up the graves, well, we just can't risk staying around in case the cops figure it out. If it wasn't so many of 'em it wouldn't be such a big deal, Dad would still want to go but I'd push to stay a little longer … but this time it's just too much of a chance."
"You're digging up graves tonight?"
"Yeah, I …"
"Stop." Cassie held up her hands. "You're telling me that you hunt things that don't exist – ghosts and demons and vampires – and that you are digging up graves tonight and then leaving."
She closed her eyes, unable to look at his face. Because when she looked in his eyes she could almost believe his bizarre story. And it couldn't possibly be true. She'd been right, she didn't want to know what he really did. Because this had to be a made-up story to hide something worse, right?
"Cassie, please believe me."
She couldn't. There was no way he was going to walk into her life and turn the entire way the world is upside-down.
"I have nothing more to say to you, Dean Winchester." A flare of pride that her voice came out steady in spite of what she was feeling.
His voice broke as he said her name and he moved toward her. Self-preservation kicked in – if he touched her she would never be able to let him go. She took another step away from him.
"Please just go. It's my own fault I let myself fall for you, you don't have to make up a story to let me down easy. I get it, I do. The sex was great. A fun little fling for both of us. And you're leaving tonight so it's over. So just go."
And then, she knew it was cowardly, but she couldn't stay in this little room with him for a second longer, so Cassie turned and walked out.
He'd been an idiot.
Dean slammed the Impala door, turned the music up full volume, and tore out of the parking lot like the Gates of Hell had opened and the devil was after him with all his troops. There's a reason we don't talk about it, he could hear his dad's voice castigating him. And a reason we don't get involved, he berated himself.
Never again, he promised. One-night stands, love 'em and leave 'em, only way it can ever be. So that's how it will be.
Dean wished Mary Robert's ghost had put up a fight that would have given him some satisfaction, but one rock salt blast was all it took to dispel her long enough to finish the job on her remains.
He obviously wasn't covering his distress because his dad asked twice if Dean was okay.
Dad cocked his head and stared at him. "You set with the plan for tonight?"
"Three graves at Cucklor, call to check in, two at Zion, while you clear Higgins and Hanning, then we meet at Simms for the rest."
"You've got everything packed so we can take off from the cemetery? I picked up a lead on a case near Tulsa, and that's far enough from here in case there's any fallout."
Dean didn't answer, just gave a nod and headed back to the car.
A solo salt-and-burn was always tricky. It required being hyper aware of the sound of something coming at your back, dropping the shovel and grabbing the sawed-off before it could reach you. Dean made it through the first two excavations but got caught at the third. Frederick Jefferson was not happy about being dug up. Dean was just slow enough that the ghost flung him away from the grave before Dean could get the shotgun. It was pure luck that Dean hit the ground instead of a headstone. Still knocked the wind from him, but dirt was definitely softer than marble.
When Jefferson came at him again, Dean had a fistful of salt from his pocket ready, and then scrambled back to the shovel. Digging with one hand was a bitch but Jefferson didn't back off and it was pretty much 'shovel, shovel, shoot, shovel' until he threw the lighter on the gasoline-soaked bones.
Damn. He hoped the ghosts at Zion would be easier. And that the ones his dad had to handle wouldn't figure out what was happening until they were burning.
At the car he called, got voicemail, but John called back within a few minutes to say he'd finished his first three and had just arrived at Hanning.
The second ghost at Zion threw Dean into a tree, and it was grimly satisfying to torch that sucker.
Two-thirty in the morning found the two of them tackling the first of the seven graves at Simms. The routine was a relief, one digging, one watching. And the Simms' spirits were not happy. However it was going smoothly until the next-to-last one. Fenton Simms called upon his old man for help, and suddenly Dean found himself flying through the air even as his dad was shooting in the other direction.
John whirled and shot as Dean's luck ran out and he hit one of those super-sized monuments with his whole left side.
Shit, ouch, and fuck combined into one explosive sound.
He dimly heard the shotgun go off again. Couldn't leave Dad alone. Blood was dripping in his left eye, but Dean staggered upright and headed back toward the noise.
He dropped, rock pellets sprayed over his head. Getting up without putting weight on his left arm was tricky, but suddenly his dad was there, helping him up.
"How bad you hurt?"
"Banged into a tombstone with m' head and left arm … 'M all right, let's just get this finished."
"I'll dig, can you handle the gun?"
"Yeah." Dean swiped at the blood on his face, then wiped his hand on his jeans. This was what he did. For a fleeting second he wondered if Cassie would believe if she was here now, but there was no time for that, the Simms were both back.
Two shots, a quick reload.
"Got it! Just hold 'em off another minute, Dean!"
Last one. The judge was in a mausoleum, so they wouldn't have to dig. But they still had to move fast.
Simms came at them twice while John was getting the lock open. Dean was ready both times, but then a wave of dizziness hit him and he had to lean against the building for support.
With that one-word question Dean knew his dad wanted to know if he could count on Dean to continue watching his back. Dean straightened in answer. No way was this bastard getting past him.
Dean backed in behind John, feeling his way carefully on the uneven floor. Now that they were in the crypt, however, Simms attacked from John's other side and it was Dean's turn to yell, "Get down!" and fire.
"I've got it." John tugged at the casket on the shelf, with a grunt pulling it to crash on the stone floor. John was emptying the gas can over the mess as Dean turned and took Simms out one more time. Then the match flamed, a whoosh, and his dad was shoving Dean out the entrance.
It was over.
Since Dean was pretty sure he didn't have a concussion – he knew exactly what those felt like – his dad didn't argue about Dean driving the Impala. And because he was a mess, John agreed to make a stop back at the motel long enough for Dean to wash the blood and dirt off and see if stitches were needed on his forehead.
Fortunately they weren't.
The sun was just rising. "Ready to go, Dean?"
No. "Dad, listen, I need to finish something before I leave."
"Not a good idea to stick around, you know that. Plan was to leave from the cemetery, not even stop back here."
"I know, but this won't take long, and I have to … have to do this, okay? Look, you go ahead, I'll catch up with you in Indiana."
Dean looked John straight in the face. He didn't ask his dad for much. He had to have just a little more time. Just this once, Dad.
His dad must have understood the message.
"Be careful. I'll stop in the first town across the state line on Route 70. How long you gonna be?"
"I'll be outa here by eight."
They'd discarded all the notes on the case once it had been recorded in Dad's journal last night. Dean pulled the two largest scraps out of the trash bucket and smoothed them out. On the back of the smaller paper he wrote:
Leaving with my dad now.
Be safe. There really are bad things out there. I hope you never know about them.
But if you ever need me call this number.
He stopped. Stared at what he'd written. He was leaving, didn't matter, really.
He finished writing. He'd never written that word before.
Then he wrote the number for the cell phone that only Dad and Sam knew, each one of them having a back-up emergency phone whose number was never given to anyone else so it never had to be changed. He folded the bigger paper around his note and taped it closed. It wasn't until he was done Dean saw the blood smear on the improvised envelope, but there weren't any other pieces of paper in the garbage big enough to use instead.
Cassie wouldn't know what it was, anyway.
He waited outside the library until a quarter to eight, when he saw the shy student walk up the stairs to unlock the place. Wish he could think of her name, but …
The poor kid jumped a foot.
Dean smiled. "Didn't mean to scare you."
"Oh, um, yeah, that's okay …" She was clearly trying to figure out why he was there so early. "Do you need to get in …"
Dean could see exactly when his beat-up appearance registered. "Um, you don't look so good. Are you hurt? Should I … call somebody?"
He must have grimaced instead of smiled because she recoiled nervously. Dean deliberately put on his reassuring grin. He was a master at keeping his face separated from his feelings, right?
"I'm fine, sweetheart. Just need you to do me a favor. Give this to Cassie when she comes in today, okay?"
"Um, sure. You sure you don't need like, a doctor or something?"
"Nah, I'm peachy. You have a good day, now, and just be sure to give that to Cassie for me." She nodded. "Thanks."
And he walked noiselessly away.
She hadn't been able to sleep at all. And the thought of breakfast – even just coffee – made her feel like vomiting.
She didn't have any way to get in touch with him.
What if she was wrong? What if there really were things out there that people didn't know about, and he really did hunt them? She was going to be a journalist, she should be able to track down the truth.
But she thought she already knew. It had been on his face. He knew it was an outlandish story, and if he just wanted to dump her there were a million easier lies to say. He wouldn't have even had to say anything, just leave.
But he'd trusted her with the truth – the truth as he saw it, anyway – and she had walked away because it scared the shit out of her. Because he scared her.
And it was easier to have him leave.
When Cassie arrived at the library at one o'clock, Anne was waiting right inside the library door nervously fingering a ratty-looking paper.
"D-Dean left this for you." Anne glanced at Cassie expectantly, like she would open it right there.
She put it in her bag, clocked in. When Anne's eyes finally stopped following Cassie's every move, Cassie slid it out and stopped into the restroom.
The was a brownish-red streak on one side of the paper. Blood?
The morning news included a brief story about a bizarre string of grave desecrations that had occurred overnight. The police didn't know if it was theft related or occultist. Theories were flying.
She read the neatly printed note.
What had she done? Cassie put her fist in her mouth and sobbed as quietly as she could.