"Domain of the Beloved"  by Tidia

Chapter 1

An hour ago Sam fell fast asleep in the passenger seat of the Impala. Dean could hear his brother's breathing, even over the Led Zepplin tape that was playing softly throughcar's stereo speakers. There was a lot of road in front of them as they headed to Texas. The dark pavement was clear though and it was perfect driving weather-a few wispy clouds in the sky to cut down on the glare, the sun shining keeping the car's dark interior comfortable.

Dean rolled his shoulders. He was on his fourth hour of driving, and relished the fact that he would drive another two. There were days that he didn't want to relinquish control of driver's seat, and this was one of those days. He smiled, luxuriating in the open road of possibilities before him, and the responsiveness of a V-8 engine. Momentslike this seemed to be so passive, but actually involved action with a slight adjustment to the gas pedal or the steering wheel.

His phone began buzzing. When Sam had fallen asleep, he had placed the phone on vibe so that no incoming calls would disturb his younger brother's rest. Exhaustion was his brother's companion, and sometimes there was need for a trial separation. Sam would just crash, usually in the Impala where he was lulled like a child by the hum of the engine.

He glanced at the caller id, but did not recognize the number. There was familiarity in the area code—the state of Missouri. Dean answered it before it went into his voice mail.

"Hello," He gave a quiet greeting, keeping his voice low. He glanced at Sam who had not stirred at the disruption.

He listened to the feminine voice, trying to remember the last person he had hooked up with for a night of release. "Yes, that's me. How can I help you?"

He gripped the phone against his ear, frozen in moment. He didn't understand what the person was saying. "I'm sorry. I didn't catch that."

It was funny how the mind sometimes did not want to comprehend the unexpected. It was probably a protection mechanism. He heard himself asking the question, "When?" and then a moment later, "How?"

He swallowed at the replies, staring straight ahead. "Okay, thanks."

He blinked, remembering he was driving a car, but thankfully the car in front of him was still at a distance. During the conversation, his foot slipped slightly off the gas. Dean closed the phone, and then opened it, shutting it off. Closing it again he slipped it into his jacket pocket. His eyes filled up with the emotion that wanted to escape. He gave a soft cough, and then wiped his eyes. With two hands he gripped the steering wheel. He glanced in the rear view mirror, looking away when he did not like what he saw. He had to keep it together. He had to stay in control.

A small highway sign on the right hand side of the road stated that a rest area was up ahead. Dean pushed the signal lever up decided he needed to stop for a moment. The rest area had a gas station, Burger King and an Arbys giving travelers a choice in their caloric intake. Dean pulled the Impala over, parking it near a white Toyota Echo. He liked the contrast-black and white, big and small. It was the little thoughts that kept the horrors at bay.

He shut the car engine off, and pocketed the keys. He had forgotten that Sam was sleeping soundly as he shut the car door, letting it slip before he could quietly close it with a click.

"Hey?" His brother said groggily, stretching as he woke up, but not fully alert.

Dean opened the door again to speak to Sam. He didn't look at his brother; instead he focused on the family entering the fast food restaurant, taking them in as though they were the latest threat. "Yeah, I just need to take a leak."

"Okay," Sam sighed, rubbing his hair before curling up again.

"Go back to sleep." Dean said with a hush tone. This time he closed the door quietly.

There was a bank of bathrooms by the Burger King, for which he was grateful. He didn't want to have to walk into either of the restaurants, and then feel obligated that since he had used their bathroom he should make a purchase. The white doors on the blue painted cinder block structures were not inviting, but they allowed privacy. Dean closed the door behind him, careful to lock it before he slid down the door, coming to rest on the tile floor. He wrapped his hands over his head, so his elbows covered his eyes, and hunched his back. Tears rolled down his face as he hit the back of the door with his head.

He took a few deep breaths, willing himself to calm down. He couldn't stay in the bathroom too long, before Sam would become concerned. He removed his phone from his pocket again and turned it on. Scrolling deftly through the few numbers he highlighted 'Cassie.' He put the phone to his forehead, letting it rest there for a minute.

Cassie was dead.

Her friend had called, having found his phone number listed in her Palm Pilot. Cassie had moved to a new town as working at another newspaper. Dean had known that part. Cassie had been excited at the challenge.

She had just purchased a condo. And then Dean could visualize the rest-her death.

The demon, his yellow eyes glowing menacingly, had stood over her. He would have liked to think that she was sleeping, but more than likely he had stalked her in her own home, cornering her and then pinned her to the ceiling. Her blood dripped as she screamed for help. But, Dean wasn't there to save her. She had burned, like his mother, like Jessica.

Cassie's friend had told him the official story: There had been a fire; faulty wiring to blame and she had died.

Dean looked at the phone again. He had been in the bathroom for five minutes. It was funny how time passed so slowly, yet moments stayed ingrained in your mind for a lifetime. Dean stood up, and walked over to the mirror. Tears streaked his face. His eyes were red. He also saw the truth.

It had been the demon exacting revenge on Dean. Two wrongs don't make a right, the demon has said before attacking him. The Demon was getting even. Dean turned on the cold water and splashed his face. The water burned against his eyes, or that may have been the tears trying to permeate his being once more. He grabbed a fistful of the coarse paper towels and patted his face dry.

Again he looked at the pocked mirror, checking to see for evidence. To his eyes he looked hollow, but no one else would see it. Sam wouldn't see it, which was the way it needed to be.

He patted his other pocket, remembering he had sunglasses in there. He unlocked the door, went out the glare of the rest stop, making his way with determined steps back to the Impala while putting on his dark sunglasses for protection. Sam was resting again, head pressed against the glass. He opened his eyes a crack at the creak of the car door, and gave a nod.

Dean nodded, and started the engine, backing out to get them back on the highway. He kept the silence, and Sam fell asleep once more leaving Dean to his own remunerations.

Hours passed as he relived his moments with Cassie. First the two weeks he had spent with her in Georgia. They met on a Friday and had thirteen nights together. Thirteen had never been an unlucky number for him-he never believed all the press about the number thirteen. But, there wasn't a fourteenth night because he had told her the truth, about the 'family business.' Maybe fourteen should be his unlucky number.

Then there was the phone call that changed his life once more, and he embraced it. A few more days together, and he questioned his choices. Sure, they would fight until they were eighty, but there was something powerful between them. Now, Cassie wouldn't live to see twenty-six. Had he cursed her, believing she would live to a ripe old age by his side? His guilty thoughts were interrupted by his brother.

"When did we make it into Texas?" Sam stated sounding alert and refreshed. He was looking at the green highway signs.

Dean had taken notice intermittently of his surroundings, even though he was lost in his own emotional world. "About an hour and half ago."

Dean felt his brother's staring at him. "Geez, Dean, why didn't you wake me? You've been driving for over six hours."

"Time goes by when you are having fun." The older Winchester smirked. The responsibility of driving was the only thing keeping him sane. The monotony was in direct dichotomy to turmoil he was feeling. However, he understood his limitations, and the fact he had to maintain his shell for Sam. "I figured we would stop soon."

"We close to Dumas?" Sam looked around, attempting to get some bearings. The Texas panhandle was flat and its unremarkable highway terrain did not reveal its location to travelers.

"It's the next town over." Dean cleared his throat. His internal monologue had left his throat dry and constricted. He had a role that he had to play-big brother not mourner.

Sam did not notice anything amiss with Dean. The younger brother rolled his shoulders. "Do you want to go to the school now or tomorrow?"

Dean felt he was barely keeping it together. He couldn't focus on a hunt at this moment. "Tomorrow, no rush since school is out for the summer." He had to think about pretenses, what would he have done if he hadn't gotten the phone call of Cassie's death? He had to think back when things were simple direct versus indirect. "We can get something to eat, find a place and play some pool."

"Fine," Sam sighed, and Dean heard the frustration in the tone.

"What? Can't wait to smell the pencils and paper? " The older Winchester brother was going to hold firm. They had yet to think of a plan on how to tackle this latest supernatural finding.

"No, it's just that web board. . ." Sam stretched his arms, until his shoulders popped. He relayed the story that had gotten their attention. "A popular girl dies when no one picks up her after volleyball practice. The police have no idea who did it. Then suddenly there is all this strange stuff happening." The Dumas High School web board was filled with pages of comments from classmates who were sharing their experiences with the supernatural. "Kids are getting hurt. It seems urgent."

"Sam, they're high schoolers. It's all about the drama with them. Don't you watch One Tree Hill?" The incidents ranged from the innocuous with people being locked in rooms and furniture moving around unassisted to physical attacks. Three boys had been pummeled by gym equipment when they went into the supply closet. Some lockers closed unexpectantly while students were still getting out books had left many a bruised hand.

Sam raised his eyebrows. "I don't think that One Tree Hill has had an episode where the bathrooms on the first floor filled with blood."

Dean's reply was silent, as he looked at the road ahead. That had been the catalyst that had them on the road from Tennessee. The principal had quickly reassured the students that the incident was normal-the city was cleaning out the water pipes. But, a quick look at records showed the Winchester brothers that the water department was not cleaning on that day.

"It's the summer-no kids in school. It can wait a day." Dean knew it was completely unnatural for him not to want to rush in, but he wanted to be more cautious or maybe it was the feelings of sadness on the periphery that made him feel deeply calm. "Plus, it isn't like we don't know what we are getting into—those kids already did our research for us. Everything started with the girl's death."

Sam nodded in agreement although knowing his brother there would be some research involved. "I wonder if they would have noticed if Christy Kenney wasn't one of the most popular girls at school."

Dean smiled. The grin did not reach his eyes, and didn't echo inside of him, but Sam's high school angst was a laughable issue. "Dude, get over it."

"What?" Sam stated, looking at his brother in puzzlement.

Dean shook his head. He remembered his brother's complaining the entire last four years of his public school education. It was part of his brother's modus operandi-he had wanted to fit in, and be normal-part of his grand plan. "You weren't popular in high school." Dean reminded his younger brother. "It's over-not everyone can reach those upper echelons of high school."

"Upper echelons?" Sam snorted. He gestured to the tape hanging out of the Impala's stereo. "You didn't even rank."

"I was cool-I didn't need to be popular." Dean replied, wanting to quickly dismiss this conversation. It was all so unimportant. At that moment he wanted to drop the façade. He wanted to tell his brother that Cassie was dead. But, that would lead to a pity party, and Dean didn't want pity. He didn't want his brother to say the famous cliché, 'Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.' And he didn't want the camaraderie of death with his brother. Dean gripped the steering wheel tighter. Sometimes he needed to get through things not day by day but, moment by moment.

"Riigghht, whatever you need to tell yourself." Sam commented, and Dean found it appropriate in light of his thoughts. "You know, maybe Christy Kenney was a coincidence- a red herring." Sam rubbed a hand over hid mouth in thought.

"Maybe, I mean that school was asking for trouble." Dean recalled the Dumas high school web page. "Their athletic teams are called the Demons and Demonettes. Talk about playing for the wrong team. . ."

Sam laughed. "They were conference champs-guess it's not hurting them."

"Deals with the devil. . ." Dean let his words trail off finding that topic completely inappropriate. They had entered Dumas city limits and the metallic Super Motel sign loomed ahead.

Dean flicked the signal up, and turned right into the parking lot. Two cars were in the parking lot. Summer season in Dumas didn't invite tourist. Dean parked the car near the door of the furthest room. He shut the car off, and walked to the registration area-the heat from the pavement coming through his shoes with each step.

The bell above the door jingled, announcing his entry to the bored clerk watching television. Dean checked in without issue and minimal conversation. As he walked back to the Impala, he noticed Sam outside by the trunk removing their bags.

Dean accepted his duffle, and tossed the memento the clerk had given him to his brother. "Here, don't say I don't think of you."

Sam fumbled for a moment, but caught the item. "What is this?"

Dean smirked at the caricature of the cowboy illustrated on the pin. "A pin they give to all the losers-I mean travelers who come here."

"I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas?" Sam replied, studying the inscription. He tossed it back at his older brother.

"Some guy wrote this song, inspired by this town . . . and the rest is history." Dean threw the pin away in the trash. They walked to the door of the room. Dean opened the door. "The clerk said here was a bar down the road with the best barbecue."

Sam paused for a moment, gauging his hunger level. "I could eat."

After a quick shower to remove the sediment of the drive they headed to Sal's Barbeque. The bar was no different than any of the other dives they went to, greeting patrons with its dark wood accented by glass and mirrors. Two flat screen televisions adorned each corner-one with triple A baseball and the other with National League game. Three pool tables to the left attracted a small crowd. Pub tables were set up in front of the bar, for additional seating. Dean and Sam occupied a table.

Dean tried to ignore the stench of smoke and the sweet smell of barbeque, which he usually found invigorating. Normally, he would asses the crowd-the women mainly, pick one out and hone in. Everyone looked ugly to him. He let Sam order-two beers and two full slabs of ribs.

Dean smiled at the waitress as an acknowledgement, nothing more. Dean let Sam ramble, lulled by his brother's narrow mumblings about the present job. The ribs and the beer came quickly, with a set of wet wipes on the side.

Sam, after having slept for most of the car ride decided he was ravenous and inhaled his order. The French fries were attacked next.

"Next time Sammy, order the whole cow." Dean had eaten half of the slab, instead finding the beer more refreshing.

Sam eyed his brother's remnants. "If you're not going to finish yours off…."

"Here," Dean pushed the basket to his brother. He looked back to the pool tables. They needed some money, and Dean craved being productive. He signaled to his brother that he was heading to the pool tables. Dean scanned the few patrons, finally finding his mark-An older biker with red scraggly hair, a pool stick in one hand and his woman in the other. She was a bleached blonde, pretending she was in her twenties with a too short skirt, when she was over forty.

Dean pulled out a twenty from his wallet, folded it and placed it between two fingers in his right hand. "You interested?" He asked interrupting the couple.

The older man was shaking his head, happy to be with his lady friend. She however prompted him.

"Come on, honey, for me?" She cooed, pursing her lips, making the bright pink blush on her cheeks stand out more.

"Just for you," he pulled her in tighter. "Rack 'em up."

Dean knew he was better, but let the game continue at an amiable rate. The girl, Cheryl, kept cheering on her boyfriend, Roy, who Dean discovered was wearing Outlaw colors on the back of his denim vest. Had Dean saw the skull and cross bones insignia he would have picked someone else to play.

Dean won the first game, and would have walked away, but it was double or nothing and he was tired of the smug, happy couple. He wanted them to lose. The hunter let the biker break out of courtesy, but that was Dean's last friendly gesture.

At some point, Dean got into his face-toe to toe with a man with the skull and cross bones patch on his vest. Incredibly stupid, but he didn't care. Sam must have been watching from his perch at the bar, because he wandered over when he saw his brother's confrontation. He pulled his brother back, trying to decrease the tension of the situation. "Dean what is up with you?" Sam smiled at the victim giving him a nod.

"What?" Dean replied, jutting out his chin. "He thinks I'm cheating!"

Sam shook his head out of disbelief and courtesy to the large man that his brother had insulted. "Can you read minds or something?"

"Or something," Dean walked around his brother, and gestured to the other player. "Forget it. Take another shot if it makes you feel better. Five minutes more won't make a difference." Dean taunted.

"Kid, back off." The red headed man turned his neck and looked at his patch as a warning to Dean. "This is a friendly game of pool-that's all."

Sam laughed nervously, and stayed close to his brother, ready to fight by his side. "Yeah, friendly, Dean can do friendly." Sam glared at his brother. Dean ignored him. He didn't want Sam making excuses for him, after they had thrown their happiness in his face.

Dean had been correct. Five minutes was all that was needed to win the game. The larger man handed Dean a fifty dollar bill, folded, and placed it in Dean's shirt pocket. He patted the pocket. "You're lucky, kid. Very lucky, that she's here." Dean was about to make a derogatory comment, but glanced at Cheryl. He was reminded about the power of women-how their touchcould bewas empowering, loving and calming.

Sam pulled his brother away, pushing him out the exit. Dean let himself be pushed, and guided.

"Wow, you were a real ass." Sam walked over to the driver's side. He held up his hand for Dean to throw him the keys.

"Whatever," Dean accepted his punishment, and tossed his brother the car keys. He could turn off and on his emotions, but some were seeping out in his need to be violent. He wanted a fight, but knew he couldn't draw attention to himself, or Sam.

The younger hunter continued his diatribe. "We're spending the next few days here and you go riling up the locals, a one percenter—not cool."

"You done? 'Cause I'm tired." Dean closed his eyes, and relaxed against the leather passenger seat of the Impala. The drive was only a few minutes, but it allowed him to gather his thoughts.

The hotel initially appeared dingy, suddenly was pristine after leaving the bar. Dean took another shower, avoiding any further discussion with his brother who was researching on his laptop, plugged into the phone outlet in order to gain internet access. Dean flopped on the bed, and turned the television on. He waited for Sam to fall asleep, feigning sleep for hours. Dean wished that Sam had not slept the hours away in the car. Hours passed before Sam emitted a yawn and decided to call it a night, or an early morning as the case may be. Dean waited, patiently for the soft even breathing that signaled REM sleep. Quietly, he removed the sheet that covered him, pausing so that the motel's mattress squeak would not give away his intentions. Satisfied, he went to the desk and opened the laptop. He checked to make sure the volume was off.

The laptop powered up, and he googled Cassie's name. He needed to look up Cassie's obituary and the fire. He needed knowledge about her last moments. He knew reading he reports of the fire would not change his mind. It was macabre to dwell on her death-to feel a sense of caustic obsession imagining her last moments. But, Dean had to ingrain it all in his memory. There was a fine line between being swallowed by despair and being fed by it to continue forward.

For three days the local newspaper reported on the fire. The first day it was front page news. The second day it was pushed to page four. The third day the world news had forced the reports of the fire and the single death to the fifteenth page. Then there was nothingness.

The obituary was placed before the classifieds-disrespectful of the dead. The dead could not complain and the living that remained were burdened by their grief. Cassie's obituary was one column long stretching to the end of the page. The first statement stated that only her mother remained- a family yet again affected by the supernatural. Then Dean was introduced to the Cassie he never knew. The girl who was captain of her high school field hockey team, recipient of a National Merit Scholarship, and journalist for her college paper. Instead of sharing the past experiences with him, he was reading about the Cassie he didn't get a chance to know.

Dean glanced back to check his younger brother. Sam was still sleeping soundly.

Her picture was above the obituary. Dean copied the photo onto to the laptop's desktop. He looked up the local Walgreen's website, and sent the photo to be picked up by him in the morning. He cleared the cache and the history of the web browser. He placed the photo in the recycle bin, and then emptied the trash. He didn't want Sam inadvertently discovering Cassie's death. Hesitantly, he closed the web browser, and felt the aching of the finality of it all. He stared at the computer, and hit 'Shutdown.' Then he slumped, exhaustion filling him. A black and white, four by six photo would be the only evidence that Cassie had been a part of Dean's universe.

Dean pushed himself up, and crept back into bed. The rough sheet grated against his skin. It was still dark out, and things always looked darkest before the dawn. Sadly, though Dean knew that the daylight would not change the fact that Cassie was gone.

Notes: Dumas is a real town in Texas where there was a death of a high school student. And, I found out afterwards that the teams are really called Demons and Demonettes. The Outlaws are a motorcycle gang and 1 refers to the percentage of those who own motorcycles who are in a , Walgreens does offer that photo service I describe.

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