Chapter 33: Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore
I just love to crush Dean for the sake of a good story! I broke up “Something Blue” into two parts. This first half deals with Dean finally mustering up the nerve to tell Buffy how he feels after he can’t ignore the signs anymore and builds up to the chaos in part two.
I messed with the true events of SB a little to suit my story.
Happy reading and thanks to all you awesome readers! Disclaimer: songs referenced belong to noted artists.
A mellow song played as Dean ambled into the Bronze. He wandered through the small crowds and found Buffy and Willow relaxing on a lounge in the corner. He paused by the bar and picked up a beer. He closed his eyes and chugged a majority of it down before weaving his way to the back of the club. Buffy shifted her eyes away from Willow when she saw Dean. She smiled sweetly.
“Hey,” she said. “I’m glad you made it.”
“Hey, can we talk uh in private?”
Willow got up, “It’s okay I think I’m going to call it a night anyway.”
“Are you sure?” Buffy asked.
Willow waved dismissively. “Yeah, I stayed out a whole hour, aren’t you proud of me? I’ll see you at home. Good night.”
He nodded to Willow as he took a deep breath and sat down next to Buffy. She flashed an angelic smile.
“So what’s going on?”
Dean took a long tug off the beer bottle. His heart was thundering behind his rib cage and his stomach was twisting into knots. He drew a deep breath to calm his nerves. It’s now or never.
“Well, I uh, I’ve been thinking about something lately….for awhile I guess and I uh….I think it’s time I let you know…how I uh…feel…about….you…”
He gulped down another long sip of his beer. Curiosity sparked in her eyes. She smiled.
“I know how you feel about me. You think I’m a dumb blonde girl who snaps her bubble gum too loud, reads stupid fashion magazines and drives you nuts.”
He managed to laugh, “Yeah, all that……but not really anymore. You’re really…..awesome.”Awesome?! What am I ten? Come on Dean, you’re great with women, why the hell is this so difficult for you
“Uh I mean….”I’ve never been so tongue tied over a girl in my life. Get with it!
She stared at him, trying to figure him out. She widened her eyes, a little taken aback by his odd behavior.
“Are you feeling alright?”
He sunk back on the lounge and exhaled. “Yeah, I’m fine…I guess I’m a little apprehensive about what I have to tell you because I’m not really certain how you’ll react.”
Her eyes sparked with sadness. “Oh god, did something happen with your dad too? Are you leaving for good?”
“No, no. Nothing like that. It’s not bad news…..at least I hope not…..it’s just….uh….l sort of….I think I….well….uh…..I think I….love you and I uh…..I want to see where this can go with you and…me….so uh…..what do you…think?”
He let out a breath and felt his heart beating in his throat. Buffy gazed at him for a long moment before breaking into a fit of laughter.
“You really had me going there for a second Dean….god, you are hysterical!”
She laughed a little longer until she saw the horror in his eyes. She gulped.
“Oh my god, you weren’t joking…..”
He knocked back the rest of his beer, completely mortified by her reaction. Buffy flushed red with guilt.
“Oh god…I laughed at you and you weren’t joking…I’m horrible! I’m so sorry it’s just…I didn’t expect you to say anything like that to me and actually mean it…..I mean, you’ve never let on how you felt…..and….you’re waiting for an answer…”
Buffy let out a breath and eyed his pale complexion.
“I uh…..I really care about you more than I ever thought I could…and I do love you – just not….that way…..”
He threw his eyes forward. “Because you’ll always love Angel, huh?”
“No, that’s not it….well, a part of me always will love him but that doesn’t have to do with you. I just, I just don’t feel it. I’m sorry.”
The singer on stage began to sing:Love hurts, love scars, love wounds, and marks…”
Dean snapped his eyes open upon hearing the alarm clock radio blasting Nazareth’s bittersweet tune, “Love Hurts.” "Love hurts, ooh ooh love hurts..."
Dean groaned and smacked the snooze button on the clock radio. He stared glumly up at the ceiling. The sting of his dream made him feel raw. He heaved a deep breath before he kicked the covers off of himself and shuffled into the bathroom to shower. Maybe I should just let this feeling go. She has such a horrible image of me anyway and I’m kidding myself in thinking that will ever change. She would never want a guy like me. She’s looking for more than what I have to offer.
This is some stupid crush and nothing else…. Maybe I’ll get over it…..it sure is taking a long time to get over it…..
God, who am I kidding? I want to see her but it’s getting hard just to be around her and not want to…..no, it’s not about that…she’s not just some chick I met at a bar….she’s different, she’s special…I respect her….god, if Sam could hear me now, he’d be laughing his ass off….and she probably would be too.
When he got out of the shower, he padded to the television and turned it on. As he got dressed, he flipped through the channels until he settled on a horror movie.Maybe I shouldn’t put in a visit this month.
He sat down on the edge of his bed and heaved a sigh. Jesus Dean, you’ve been hit with the wussy stick. Just let this go….there are plenty of girls out there who fall at your feet, why do you keep chasing after the one who doesn’t even notice you?
You don’t love her Dean, you don’t. That is not what you are feeling. You are just feeling like a big loser because you haven’t conquered her yet…..she’s a challenge…the one that got away…yeah, that’s it.
He began to pack up as the movie broke for commercial. "I was sleeping and right in the middle of a good dream…like all at once I wake up from something that keeps knocking at my brain….before I go insane I hold my pillow to my head..and spring up in my bed screaming out the words I dread….I think I love you!”
Dean drew his eyes to the television to see a guy in a suit dancing around his bedroom, a gleeful expression on his face. A cover band dressed up as the Partridge Family suddenly appeared in his bedroom as the suited man bit into a hamburger deemed, “less calories, more filling”. "I think I love you so what am I so afraid of…”
Dean frowned at the song’s relevance, “You got to be kidding me.”
He snatched the remote and quickly changed the channel as he heard the door swing open. His dad ambled in with a stack of newspapers and a brown take out bag. John fished out a wrapped breakfast sandwich and tossed it to Dean. As the two men ate breakfast, they looked over the national headlines. John marked various articles with a red Sharpee as he read off the ones of interest.
“We’ve got a possible case in Utah, man fell out of a thirty story building, not a scratch on him….or a fisherman in Seattle claimed to have seen a seven foot creature off Victoria Island….”
Dean flipped through the pages of another newspaper, “How about this one? Several citizens of a small town in Georgia all mysteriously perished within twenty-four hours. Police have no clues.”
John glanced at his son, “Georgia. That’s a little far east.”
Dean shrugged casually, “It sounds like an interesting case.”
John set down the newspaper and drew his full attention to his son.
“I thought you wanted to stay on the West for awhile.”
“Yeah…..but it’s been awhile and we should get back to going cross country, don’t you think?”
John eyed Dean curiously.
“Dean, did you and Buffy have a fight?” John asked.
“No. Why do you ask that?”
Dean wished he had something stronger to drink than the jet black coffee he was sucking down at that moment. John pointed out the obvious.
“You’re due for a visit to Sunnydale,” John stated, “Usually by this time you’re jumping up and down to get out there.”
Dean scoffed, “Dad, I’m not six. I do not jump up and down.”
John chuckled, “I just meant that you’re very enthusiastic around this time. I thought you’d be looking forward to going out there.”
Dean drew out a breath, “Uh well, you know, she’s got the college life and her friends keeping her busy and happy….I don’t see why she still cares to see some guy who teased her relentlessly through the years…..”
John noticed Dean’s gloomy expression change into an annoyed look. John watched as Dean stared at a commercial on television of a man on a business trip looking sad. The man reached into his pocket and retrieved a fancy cell phone to dial his girlfriend."I just called to say I love you…I just called to say how much I care…”
The Stevie Wonder classic was blended with clips of the man and woman on opposite sides of the country conversing lovingly. "I just called to say I love you…and I mean it from the bottom of my heart….”
The advertisement ended with satisfied looks from the man and woman as a voiceover announced, “Make sure you have the very best cell phone coverage for those times when you’re missing the one you love.”
Dean rolled his eyes and switched the television off. John flashed an amused smile. He recognized the excitement in Dean’s eyes whenever a new month began as it meant a visit to Sunnydale. Lately, he noticed the severe change in his son’s demeanor whenever they looked at cases neighboring California. He wondered what was going on with Dean and Buffy, if their relationship had grown beyond a friendship that had suddenly run its course.
John had suspected that if there was a girl in the world who could tame his son’s carefree lifestyle, it was one Buffy Anne Summers. He had watched Joyce’s daughter grow up into a remarkable young woman, a fierce fighter and a devoted friend. He admired the hell out of Buffy and he was certain that his eldest son felt the same way, possibly even more.
“I think we’ll head out to Utah,” he replied. “See if this case pans out. I’ll go check us out. Be ready to go when I get back.”
“Yes sir,” Dean replied obediently.
Buffy soaked up the sunshine as she sat on a blanket next to Riley, eating her lunch. There were only a handful of students lounging on the lush green lawn providing an intimate setting. She smiled back at Riley who had been sharing some of his hobbies.
“Driving is your hobby? Isn’t it supposed to be like a necessity?”
“For every day getting around, yeah, but I’m talking about those times when you’re cruising with the top down with endless miles of open road ahead of you, not caring where you go and just letting everything slip away from your mind. With the right car, the right weather…”
“Oh, are you a car freak too?”
Riley frowned, a bit confused by her question.
“It’s just – my friend Dean, he’s kind of a nut about his car. This one time, when he was forced to drop me off at the mall, I started to retouch the paint on my toenails in the back seat and I swear I could feel knives slicing into me from the glare he was giving me from the rear view mirror….and then a couple years later, I told him that I accidentally put a tiny scratch in the backdoor and he…”
Buffy grinned at the memory.
“He totally had a hissy fit! I thought his head was going to explode.”
She threw her head back in laughter, remembering the image.
“Of course, I didn’t really do that, I just wanted to get back at him for doing this jerky thing to me.”
Buffy met Riley’s eyes and stopped laughing. The humor was completely lost on him.
“Sorry, it was one of those you had to be there moments,” she replied. “Anyway, driving…”
“Yeah, don’t you ever feel the need to just get in the car and drive – wherever?”
“Uh, not really – I’m more of a ‘feet do the walking’ kind of gal.”
Riley blinked. “Wait a second, do you know how to drive?”
Buffy bit her lip, “Uh, I took the class in high school but generally cars and Buffy are like – pickles and chocolate – a bad combination that just makes you queasy.”
“You just need a better experience. I was thinking, we could just get in the car, start out early, take the coastal route and just drive, maybe take turns.”
Buffy opened her mouth, “You would seriously let me drive your car?”
Riley smiled, “Sure. Why does that surprise you?”
“Well, it’s just that the whole guys and cars thing – Dean once said to me if you let a girl drive your car, you’re letting her drive your life….needless to say, not once has he ever let me drive his precious baby.”
Buffy noticed the enthusiasm drain from Riley’s face.
Riley dropped his eyes to the grass before setting them back on Buffy.
“It’s just – that’s about the second time you mentioned your friend Dean in the past five minutes.”
Riley slowly nodded.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing that.”
Riley drew out a breath. “Buffy, can I be frank with you?”
Buffy gave an amused smile, “Can I still be Buffy?”
Her smile faded when she noticed he was not laughing. She gulped.
“Do I have some competition?”
Her brows furrowed. “Huh?”
She thought about his question and suddenly realized what he was asking.
“Oh! God, no…you mean…you thought…”
“Well, you talk about him fondly and you seem to always be together so I just assumed…”
Buffy laughed, “God, can you imagine me and Dean in a relationship? We’d probably last five minutes before his eyes started wandering and I’d have to beat him very, very badly.”
“So you don’t find him attractive?”
She snickered. “Are you kidding? Even devout nuns find him attractive!”
Buffy saw Riley’s concern and stopped laughing.
“Uh, yeah, I find him attractive but I’m not attracted to him. I mean, he’s….Dean…I’ve known him for god knows how long and okay, I did have this mega crush on him when I was fifteen but I got over it….”
Her voice trailed off when she saw Riley’s growing dismay.
“You’re hating this conversation, aren’t you?”
“I’d be lying if I said no.”
Buffy nodded, “You don’t need to be concerned. We’re just friends.”
Riley slowly nodded, a little more concerned then he was earlier.
“So nothing is going to happen between you two?”
She snickered, “Are you kidding? We would seriously drive each other crazy like, every hour of the day. You have nothing to worry about. It’s not like I’m going to suddenly open my eyes and see him in a different way.”
Buffy stopped laughing as her mind lingered on the possibility before the thought quickly crumbled away.
Later that evening, Willow gathered her books and excitedly regarded Buffy.
“Okay, I’m off to my study group and when I get back I want to hear all about your lunch date with Riley!”
Buffy flushed red slightly and drew a goofy grin.
“It wasn’t exactly a lunch date. We just sat together in a previously decided upon location and ate food that he previously decided to provide.”
The phone rang. Buffy picked up the line.
“Hello?...Hey you…..Are you okay? You sound a little down……oh…”
Willow eyed the time and caught Buffy’s eyes.
“It’s Dean,” Buffy informed.
Willow nodded and waved. Buffy laughed.
“Willow says hey.”
Buffy smiled and glanced at Willow.
“He says hey….so what time will you be here tomorrow?”
Willow mouthed the words, “I’m going” to Buffy. Buffy nodded and waved goodbye. Willow opened the door and heard the hurt in Buffy’s voice.
“What do you mean you’re not coming?”
Willow pivoted but Buffy waved her away. Buffy leaned back against the headboard.
“You got an apocalypse going on wherever you are?....No? Then no excuses, come out here or I’ll come out there and kick your butt….”
Willow pulled the door shut.
Almost an hour later, Willow returned to the room to find Buffy still on the phone. She noticed the look of concern on Buffy’s face as she finally hung up ten minutes later.
“Was that Giles with a gloom and doom pitch?”
Buffy swung her feet on the floor and shook her head, “No, I was still talking to Dean.”
Willow widened her eyes, “But he called like an hour ago! You two never talk that long.”
“I know and I felt like I was talking him off a ledge,” Buffy noted. “I haven’t heard him sound that depressed since he told me about Sam. Something’s going on with him lately, I don’t really know what. It’s just a vibe I’ve gotten the past couple of times we’ve talked.”
Buffy drew out a breath and retrieved her bag. Her brows tightened with annoyance.
“Can you believe he actually tried to blow off a visit this month? I asked him why and you know what he said? ‘I don’t feel like it!’ So lame!”
Willow ambled along side Buffy as they exited the hallway and spilled out of the building. Buffy let out a breath and rolled her eyes.
“God, sometimes that boy really drives me up the wall!”
“So he’s still visiting?”
“Huh? Oh yeah, I managed to convince him after an hour of assuring him I still want him to visit….he keeps throwing that in, like I don’t want him around or something….anyway….”
Buffy rounded a corner of the quad.
“So….um, how was your lunch with Riley?”
Buffy thought about Riley and broke into a silly grin, “Oh, it was nice, really nice.”
The following evening, Dean slowly eased the Impala up to the curb of Stevenson Hall. “The Search is Over” by Survivor softly played on the radio."How can I convince you…what you see is real…who am I to blame you…for doubting what you feel….”
Dean stared apprehensively at the building and drew in a deep breath. His mind flashed back to his dream from the previous night and contemplated whether to go through with the speech he had practiced over and over in his head while driving across the state."I was always reachin'…you were just a girl I knew…I took for granted the friend I have in you…”
He shifted his eyes forward and gripped the steering wheel as he felt all the muscles in his body tense up.
Buffy appeared in the hallway and smiled when she saw the Impala waiting at the curb. Dean looked out the passenger window as Buffy made her way toward the car. Her golden locks shined in the moonlight as she drew a hand and waved. He took in another breath as she slipped into the passenger seat and met his eyes."Now I look into your eyes, I can see forever….”
“Hey,” she said, smiling brightly."The search is over….”
The tension in his body unwound at the sight of her effervescent demeanor.
“Hey,” he said, returning her smile."You were with me all the while……”
Dean spotted Willow walking slowly toward the car.
“Willow is coming?”
“Well yeah, I told you everyone is meeting up tonight.”
“Oh, yeah, I just thought she was riding over with Xander or someone.”
“No, I asked you earlier if you could pick me and Willow up.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Remember I mentioned that something new happened with Oz and she wanted to bail on going out but I convinced her to come with us?”
Buffy stared at him for a moment. He had a far off look on his face. "Now the miles stretch out behind me….loves that I have lost…broken hearts lie victims of the game…”
“Is it still okay?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, yeah it’s fine,” he said. “It’s just…I wanted to talk to you about something…but it can wait until later.”
Willow pried a smile on her face as she reached the car."Then good luck, it finally stuck like lightning from the blue….”
Buffy reached behind her and unlocked the back door. When she twisted back around, she suddenly noticed the style of music playing in the car. "Every highway's leading me back to you….”
Buffy drew an amused smile, “Wow Dean, did you get hit with the sappy stick while you were away?”
Dean watched her eyes shift to the radio.
“Kind of a chick song, isn’t it?” she asked, widening her smile.
Dean became painfully embarrassed of the soft rock song and feigned an annoyed look.
“…Yeah! What the hell is this crap?”
He fumbled with the dial and turned it to a classic rock station. Buffy eyed him for a couple of seconds in complete wonderment.
“For a second there, I almost thought you had a romantic side…”
He cleared his throat, “Uh, yeah, that’d be awful, wouldn’t it?”
He stole a look at her to gauge a reaction but she turned back to Willow to check on her. He heaved a sigh.
Once inside the Bronze, Buffy looked around for Anya and Xander. When she didn’t see them, she made a beeline for an empty table. Willow burrowed in her coat and eyed the crowd.
“I think I’m going to try and mingle,” she said.
“Oh, that’s a good idea, I’ll come with.”
Willow waved a hand dismissively, “No, no. You spend time with Dean. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Willow put on a brave face, nodded and wandered off.
“I’m uh, going to get something from the bar. Can I get you anything?”
Buffy waited for him to add a sarcastic remark but it never came. She was a little incredulous when she saw the serious look on his face.
“Uh yeah, Coke me,” she cracked.
He nodded and wandered off to the bar.
At the bar, Dean eyed the table and hoped that Anya and Xander took their time getting there. He quickly plucked his beer up from the counter and took an extra long sip. When he reached the table, he took a seat next to her and caught his breath. Buffy watched the various people in the crowd as an REO Speedwagon tune came over the speakers."I can’t fight this feeling any longer…and yet I’m still afraid to let it flow…”
Dean groaned when he recognized the song, “Good grief.” “What started out as friendship has grown stronger….”
Buffy shifted her eyes to Dean and saw him shake his head.
He was astounded by how every where he went, some stupid love song managed to corrupt his ears. It was like somebody upstairs was having a gigantic laugh. “I only wish I had the strength to let it show…”
He glanced at Buffy who eyed him curiously.
“Uh….the music still sucks in this place,” he covered.
“That’s because you’re still stuck in time,” she replied. “Maybe one day, you’ll live in the now with the rest of us.”
Dean watched the curve of her lips as they formed a smile and got caught up in the hypnotic sparkle of her eyes. “I tell myself that I can’t hold out forever…”
He tugged on his beer slowly as she went back to people watching. When she twisted around in her seat, blonde curls blanketed her face. God, she is so damn beautiful… I don’t know if I can do this.
His ears burned with the blaring sound of his rapid heart beat. He felt his throat tighten with anxiety. "I said there is no reason for my fear…”
He let out a deep breath as Buffy shifted her eyes over the crowd.
“You…look great tonight…..”
Buffy drew her eyes back to Dean and looked surprised when he didn’t follow his compliment with a sarcastic remark.
“Uh, thank you…..”
She gave him an appreciative smile which instantly soothed his wrangled nerves. "You give my life direction…you make everything so clear…”
Dean reminded himself to breathe. You can do this."And even as I wander, I’m keeping you in sight…”
Buffy took a sip of her drink. “Was it snowing in Utah?”
“Yeah, pretty heavily and it was like twelve degrees.”
Buffy shuddered, “I don’t really like the cold….I hoped you stayed warm enough.”"You’re a candle in the window…On a cold, dark winter’s night…”
She smiled, flooding his heart with warmth.
“Yeah, I managed.”
He was suddenly drawn to the curls in her hair again."And I’m getting closer than I ever thought I might…”
He snatched a lock of her hair and gently tried to pull the curl out. "And I can’t fight this feeling anymore…”God, her hair is so silky.
She shot him a strange look when she saw what he was doing."I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for…”
Buffy noticed the far off look on his face.
“Dean, you can’t pull on my hair anymore. I’m not four.”
He let go of the golden strand and swallowed his embarrassment.
“Uh, sorry, I don’t know what came over me,” he said.
She studied him for a second before going back to people watching. He leaned back in his chair and took a few more long sips of his beer. Buffy stirred the straw in her Coke when her eyes drifted back to Dean. She felt the weight of his gaze. She regarded him with inquisitive eyes.
Buffy was a little awestruck by the uncharacteristic silence of her longtime friend. There was something stirring within his eyes that she could not quite identify.
“Are you okay? You seem a little intense,” she said.
He shifted in his seat and drew out a breath.
Buffy nodded. "It’s time to bring this ship into the shore…And throw away the oars, forever…”
He drummed his fingers on the table as his mind and heart raced.
“Oh….uh….it’s just….I have something I wanted to talk to you about….”
Interest sparked in her eyes as she folded her arms on the table and leaned a little closer to him.
“Oh yeah? What about?”
Dean opened his mouth and beckoned the words from his speech to roll out. When he couldn’t conjure forth what he had practiced, he was forced to wing it. Shit, I’m going to sound like a total idiot now.
He looked at her as she waited expectantly.
“Uh, well, you know….I’ve uh….had a question for you that’s been pressing on my mind for awhile….”
Buffy observed Dean with intently curious eyes. She drew a playful grin.
“Oh….Are you going to pop the question?”
He forced out a laugh, “Uh, no….”
“Oh, well that’s a relief.”
He felt like a wall of bricks had slammed into him.
“Because then I’d be convinced that somebody killed you and replaced you with a copy,” she added.
He let out a breath, grateful she had been joking.
Her laughter ceased.
“Anyway…you were saying?”
He shifted in his seat when he realized he had her full attention.
“Uh…we’ve known each other for a long time, right?”Duh! Jesus Dean, you are an idiot. Just spit it out already.
Buffy smiled, “Yeah, we have.”
“And I know I’ve always teased you mercilessly when you were growing up.”
“Yeah, you have,” she confirmed.
“But lately, for awhile, I’ve sort of realized something about you….”
“What is that? You don’t like me anymore?” she asked with feigned sadness.
Her mock pout turned into a silly smile."Baby, I can’t fight this feeling anymore...”
Dean drew in a breath as he leaned a little closer to her.
“Actually,” he said, “I think that I luh…”
“You will never guess what happened!” Xander hollered as he and Anya approached the table.
Buffy shifted her eyes to Xander as he imparted a story. Dean sunk with frustration.Dammit, all I needed was half a second more and this torture would be over!
Dean heaved a huge sigh as Xander finished up his story, which he had completely tuned out. He stuffed his vulnerability back into his heart and finished up the last few sips of his beer. He masked his irritation at Xander’s lousy timing and tried to settle back into the discussion going on.
Buffy took the opportunity to update everyone about Oz’s permanent departure.
Xander opened his mouth in shock. “Oz had his stuff packed and shipped out to him and he didn’t even leave Willow a note or call her? That’s pretty low.”
Anya nodded and added sincerely, “Mmm, if I were still a vengeance demon, I would have boiled his organs into a nice stew of which I would have then fed him teaspoon by teaspoon.”
“Aw, how – nice of you,” Xander replied. “I feel horrible for Willow…she must be…dancing the light fantastic.”
The three of them followed Xander’s line of sight to see Willow with a group of people on the dance floor, smiling and shaking her booty.
“Looks like she’s bounced back sooner than we thought,” Buffy replied, a little perplexed by the scene.
“She’s doing the happy Snoopy dance,” Xander said.
After a minute, Willow sashayed over, bopping her head to the techno beat. She waved to everyone and grinned.
“I love this song, come on everyone, let’s dance!”
“I’m glad to see you wore your happy hat tonight Will,” Xander noted.
Willow regarded the group as she peeled out of her coat.
“Oh yeah, I know I’ve been on the blue train lately so I decided to tell myself it was time to get off here and…dance!”
“Whatever works,” Buffy added.
“Oh, it so works!”
Willow draped her coat over one of the stools.
“I just thought when it comes to the big picture, we’re all…”
A beer bottle rolled out from under her coat and fell to the ground. Everyone eyed the bottle, then Willow. Buffy looked at Willow with curious eyes.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Willow said.
She hurriedly snatched the bottle off the floor and shoved it in her coat pocket. Xander frowned with concern.
“Will, I’m not really liking this whole drinking my troubles away.”
“I’m not drinking them away, I’m….splashing them away.”
She yanked the beer bottle out and tapped on the label.
“Look. It’s light beer for…light splashing of troubles…nothing to be concerned about.”
Buffy drew a look of skepticism.
“Nothing to be concerned about? Does anyone remember when Buffy had a beer binge and reenacted scenes from Clan of the Cave Bear?”
Buffy shot her eyes to Dean, expecting a tiresome comment about that night. She was taken aback when he said nothing.
“Yes, unfortunately, without the loin cloth,” Xander blurted.
“Not helping Xander,” Anya snapped.
Xander got up. “Why don’t you hand over the beer young lady?”
Willow backed away, clutching the beer bottle behind her back. Her defenses began to harden as well as her frown.
“Why can’t I keep it? I’m feeling pain here – big, ugly pain.”
“We know how you feel,” Xander said.
Willow deepened her frown. “No, you don’t. You tell people you have your own place even though it’s actually in the basement of your mom’s house…that’s not pain, that’s…pathetic.”
Xander gulped, genuinely shocked and hurt. The rest of the group shared collective looks of concern.
“Wow, she’s now gone from happy drunk to belligerent drunk and you don’t want to see what comes next,” Dean said, “Trust me.”
Buffy nodded and latched onto Willow’s arm. She tried to steer Willow away from the group.
“Come on Will, let’s get you home.”
Willow swatted Buffy’s hand away.
“No, I don’t want to go home.”
“If you want one friend left in the morning, you will.”
Willow drew a frown in protest. She glanced at Buffy, sighed and then nodded. Buffy looked over at Dean.
“Do you mind?”
He sighed as he drew an amused grin, “Yeah no problem. Your chariot awaits you, your highness.”
Once they reached the car, Buffy climbed into the back seat and let Willow sit up front. Willow rolled the window down and let the cool air wash over her face.
“I just wish I could stop feeling this way,” she lamented.
Buffy propped her arms on top of the bucket seat and leaned forward.
“It will be but it just takes time,” she assured.
Willow shook her head. “I don’t want it to take any more time. I feel – weak that this is still getting to me. I should feel stronger – what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, isn’t that the saying? But I don’t feel strong, far from it.”
“You’ll get through this because you are strong. And I know it hurts big time but the only way to get over this is to just let it take its course. I promise you that one day soon you’ll wake up and it won’t hurt anymore.”
Willow looked back at Buffy with mild hesitation.
Buffy lightly slapped Dean on the shoulder. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat as two sets of eyes fixated on him.
“Uh, yeah, sure,” he answered.
“Don’t be a dope,” Buffy replied.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Buffy sighed and slapped him a little harder on the shoulder.
“Come on. You don’t have to hide that you went through it too.”
Dean pressed down on the gas pedal, eager to get back to Stevenson Hall. Buffy rolled her eyes before setting them on Willow.
“My point is, everyone goes through it, even this guy here – he may put on a Mr. Tough Guy face but deep down inside, he’s a real softie – you slam dunk his heart and he’ll break….”
Dean frowned, “Uh, he is right here and he is not a softie.”
“You so are,” she said.
“Am not,” he grumbled.
“You are too,” she said.
Willow spoke up, “Um, grievy Willow here.”
“Sorry, I was just saying that it will get better. Trust me.”
Willow drew out a breath. “Can’t I just wave my proverbial wand and poof it away?”
Dean grumbled, “That would make it easy but life is far from easy.”
Buffy shot him a look in the rear view mirror. “Can you dreary that up anymore?”
“Sorry,” he said.
As soon as he reached the dorm, Buffy climbed out of the back seat and opened Willow’s door. Willow got out and inhaled a deep breath. Buffy twisted around, suddenly remembering something. She trotted back to the curb and poked her head through the passenger window.
“Weren’t you supposed to finish telling me something?”
“Uh, it can wait for another day,” he answered, “Take care of Willow.”
“Okay, thanks for ride….Jeeves,” she quipped.
Dean cracked a smile, “You’re welcome, Miss Daisy.”
As the sun dipped into the horizon, Buffy bit her lip, still thinking about the previous night at the Bronze with Dean. He had been exhibiting uncharacteristically reserved behavior and she had been carrying a funny feeling in her gut ever since he dropped her off. After her last couple of phone conversations with him, she couldn’t help but wonder what was bothering him. She hadn’t had a chance to really talk to him since he got into town.
Buffy picked up the phone and dialed the number she knew by heart. After a couple of rings, Dean picked up.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” Buffy replied. “I’m going out in a bit to patrol. You want to come along? I can’t help but think I bailed on you when you needed to talk to me.”
“No, it’s fine,” he assured. “How is Willow doing?”
“Oh, she’s trying to stay afloat,” she answered. “So, you up for patrol?”
“Yeah, give me ten minutes. You want me to swing by and get you?”
“No, I’m on my way out now. I’ll meet you on the south end of the main quad.”
After Dean hung up, he shrugged into his coat and swiped his keys off the dresser. Strolling through the cemetery wasn’t an ideal location for getting his thoughts off his mind but he would have to settle for it.
When he got to campus, he bounded toward the south end of the main quad. He mulled over the remainder of his thoughts. All right, take two.
As he rounded the corner of a brick building, he spied a glance of Buffy leaning against a telephone pole and drew a smile. When he reached her, his smile faded as he realized she had been conversing with Anya and Xander.
“Hey,” Buffy said.
“Hey,” he said. “I uh, I didn’t know this was a group patrol.”
“It wasn’t really,” Buffy said. “I just ran into these guys.”
Anya huddled against Xander.
“My mom made her famous meatloaf surprise and it stunk up the whole house. We had to get out of there until the place has aired out,” Xander replied.
“Yes, it smells like feet,” Anya said.
Buffy hung back with Dean as Anya and Xander walked through the quad.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy lamented. “I really didn’t expect this to turn into a group thing.”
“Uh, it’s fine,” he said.
“Oh, okay. You want to talk now?”
Dean let out a sigh and shut his eyes for a brief moment before looking over at her.
“Another time,” he said.
FEEDBACK PLEASE. I'll have the second half up very soon.