Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in these stories. No copyright infringement is intended. I am making no money from the sharing of this story. Kripke owns the Winchesters and Whedon owns Illyria. Thanks to my betas lyonie17 and hakirby!Home is Only a Heartbeat Away
The sun shone brightly against the clear blue sky, perfectly shaped cotton clouds dotting the horizon as birds chirped merrily in the nearby brush. The idyllic surroundings mocked the shuffling figure making his way towards his room, braced by a smaller female holding him steady with a strong arm around his waist.
“My son is dead,” John said listlessly as they entered the dim motel room, his face a dull gray, the lines etched deeply in the skin around his eyes and mouth. The door swung shut behind them, blissfully blocking out the sounds of life continuing as if nothing had happened – as if he hadn’t just watched from afar as they put the ashes of his eldest son into the ground.
Illyria stood beside him, still propping him up with a firm arm around his waist. “You knew it was inevitable. We have spoken of the possibility for years now.” She paused, before adding, “Sam knew you were there and he was grateful. He understood.”Sam – his tall, strong, infuriating son – looks so frail seated in the small chair by the gravesite, surrounded by living replicas of himself and his brother. Their eyes meet across the cemetery, Sam squinting to make out the dark figure he knows is his father’s, with his willowy blue shadow by his side. Sam nods, or perhaps it is just the palsy of old age, those familiar hazel eyes rheumy with grief, before he turns to face the pastor as he gives the final rites over the small urn buried beneath the soil.
“Next it will be Sam…and I will be alone – my entire family gone, taken away from me,” John continued as if he hadn’t heard her. “In what kind of world does a father live longer than his sons?” His wounded green-shrouded eyes shone faintly in the pale light from the curtained window, damp trails still lining his cheeks.
“I will still be here,” Illyria replied, stepping around his immobile body to stand before him and reaching up a tentative hand to cup his face.
John blinked, his gaze focusing on her bold blue eyes as if waking from a dream. He laid his hand over hers, rubbing his cheek against her palm. “Yes, you will be,” he said with sudden realization. “Forever and ever and ever….” Later, he realizes it is like the refrain of a fairytale – the glossed over ending they always give you when they don’t know what in the hell happens next, but is always better than tying matters up with a simple The End - because it leaves the possibility of a new chapter, of something more than that single culminating event as the summary of a life.
Squeezing his eyes shut in a vain attempt to deny the truth of the day, forcing the last few tears from beneath his lashes, he pressed his lips to hers, tightening his hold on her hand. She stiffened, unaccustomed to such intimate contact, ready to draw back as he whispered pleadingly under his breath, “Please
She relaxed slowly as he plundered her mouth, learning her taste and the feel of her unyielding skin beneath his hands as he traced the lines of her armor where it melded seamlessly into her flesh. Leaning his forehead against hers, he dropped his overcoat, whispering against her lips, “Be soft for me, Illyria. Please….” He doesn’t ask to her to be human; it is a distinction he sometimes wonders about decades later when it no longer matters.
Blinking her agreement, she shifted, Fred’s skin suddenly soft and warm beneath his hands. John opened his eyes when he felt the difference, his lids shuttering open and closed in bewilderment. “No,” he protested. “You, Illyria - I want you
….” Sometimes, when he remembers these moments – and there are a lot more of them as the years roll on - he agrees with her that humanity is weak. Illyria calls him a foolish old man, and forcibly reminds him what it was like when he was mortal and loss didn’t mean having so many memories for so very long. It makes him wonder if she were becoming more human, or if he were becoming less. Then he remembers her lip twitching in something like amusement whenever he asks her, and he realizes it’s a question he’s long had the answer to.
Furrowing her brow lightly, she shifted back, Illyria’s pale blue-white skin glowing in the dimness of the room with the absence of her concealing blood-dark armor. John melded against her with a grateful sigh, wrapping his arms around her as he pushed her back towards the bed, her skin still firmer than a human’s could ever be, but more yielding to the touch than before. He settled her on the edge of the bed, pausing to quickly shed his clothes as she watched stoically, giving him no hint as to what she was thinking – not that he
was thinking much at all.Why she does it – why she agrees to such an imprudent mortal whim she never tells him. He learns to stop asking and to be grateful for whatever vagaries of mood made her determine that it was the right thing to do at the time. Whether the blame lies in the fact that the remnants of Fred’s soul had corrupted the original bond or not they always suspect, but never discuss, because by that time neither of them cares.
This wasn’t for pleasure – this was an attempt to erase the day with something else, something that defied death, even if only for a little while. With barely any preamble except the feel of sharp teeth biting at her throat, he slipped inside her, setting a rough pace that slid her sharply against the sheets. Too forceful for a human woman, she took it without complaint, drinking in his suffering with her wide open eyes, the blue almost too painful to look at directly. She isn’t human, she is more – she is forever and ageless and his in a primal way he never had dared to acknowledge, but that his mind and body had accepted intuitively from that first moment they emerged into the winter-worn churchyard so long ago. A human woman would have been incapable of dealing with the fucking mess inside of his head, even on his best days. Illyria understands, often being more fucked up than he is and embracing it with her usual perfunctory pragmatism.
He cupped her face in his strong hands, leaning down to kiss her fiercely as he protested against her mouth with eyes that were fever-bright, “Why me? Why do I get to live?” With several more sharp thrusts, tearing a reluctant groan from him as pleasure slowly built in his belly, he continued, “After all of this, why couldn’t I save them?”
Wrapping her legs around his hips as she ground up against him, Illyria yanked on his hair to distance his face from hers so that he could see her earnestness, hissing between clenched teeth as if dealing with a dim-witted child, “You did
save them, John. You saw your success in the faces of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. You did not
fail.” It is always her bluntness that pulls him back from the edge, even centuries later when the world is a poisoned wreck and they are faced with the inevitable – abandoning the world he was born on, that his flesh and blood had been buried in, the only home he’s ever known – to carve out a new existence among the stars. She awaits his decision as the last ships load, willing to remain on this dead planet if he so wishes, to be the only two living things on a world reminiscent of Hell, and with that he realizes he already has a new home, and it would always be with her.
Burying himself deeply between her legs, he stiffened, spilling inside her just as the tears spilled freshly down his cheeks. Hiding his face in the crook of her neck, he wept for the loss of his son – the symbol of a future he had dreamed of when he held that tiny, warm body in the palms of his hands - safe in the arms of the one thing that would last with him throughout eternity.