Ch. 48 – He’s the Man
A/N: This chapter incorporates the episode “Superstar”
Buffy wiped her eyes as she strolled along campus. She heaved a deep breath and let the cool breeze wash away the intense emotions gripping her heart. Instead of heading toward the dorms, she continued walking to clear her mind. She bit back her temptation to return to the motel, wanting to respect Dean’s request. Her heart clouded with regret when she recalled all the times she had brushed him off. She owed him the time he wanted her to spend and vowed she would honor his wish. It wouldn’t be easy though, as her heart swelled with happiness when her mind flashed through their history. She smiled wide, chipping off the gloomy expression that had painted her face since she left Riley’s. She pivoted and bounced off toward the dorms.
Later in the afternoon, Buffy met up with Willow at the Rocket Café. Willow eagerly listened as Buffy recapped the previous evening at the bar in more detail.
“So, what was it like after all these years to finally kiss him – was it everything you imagined?”
Buffy thought back to the pool of giddy emotions that had coursed through her body at that moment.
“It was better than I ever imagined! What made it so amazing was the feeling behind it, you know? I mean, when Dean kissed me, it was like the world wasn’t even there – it was just us, two friends who shared a long history and this amazing connection – and I could feel how much he cared about me – I mean, I was swimming in it – and I completely melted away and after awhile I didn’t really know where I was and I didn’t care, I just wanted to stay there with him…I didn’t want it to end but I had to because…it would have happened.”
Buffy averted her eyes as she drew a shy smile. Willow smiled and sighed.
“Wow,” she cooed.
Buffy soaked up her blissful state.
“And how sweet was it that Dean told you he didn’t want to rip your clothes off right then and there? I mean, that’s a big compliment to you, right?”
Buffy giggled briefly before she remarked, “Yeah. It kind of blew me away, you know? I mean, there I was, practically naked and willing and he turned me down! I should have been offended but – when I looked in his eyes, I knew he wasn’t rejecting me because he wasn’t interested, he wanted to make it more - significant….”
She broke into a silly grin.
“I never thought he’d want it to be….nice like that.”
She giggled briefly before settling down.
“Well, when you’ve been drowned so often it makes sense he wants to test the waters a little before he jumps back in,” Willow concluded.
Buffy let out a long breath as her smile shrouded into an expression thick with guilt.
“Yeah, I know,” Buffy replied softly.
Her eyes began to dampen as she reflected upon Dean’s personal confession earlier in the morning. She sunk her head in her hands for a moment and let out a deep sigh. When she looked at Willow, a few tears had rolled down her cheeks.
“Oh god Willow, I can’t believe how ignorant and….mean I was to him! I’m horrible! He should hate me!” she sobbed. “How….why would he even want me anymore? I mean, what if it’s too late? What if I see him tomorrow and he realizes it’s just not worth the risk? What if he thinks he can never trust me? What if he thinks I was just playing him?”
Buffy propped her arms on the table and leaned forward. She rested her head on her arms and sobbed softly.
She hitched her head up and eyed Willow.
“Maybe I deserve it,” she lamented. “I hurt him so bad, so often that he has every right to turn me away….”
Willow gave a sympathetic expression and patted Buffy on the hand.
“Oh sweetie,” Willow replied. “From what you’ve told me and from what I’ve seen, you and Dean have shared a bond that’s strengthened over the years. You two have been through a lot together and there were times I thought you’d drift apart but you always manage to stay friends, to stay close. I thought it was so amazing when you told me how when Dean was so mad at you for blowing off that night with me and Xander, he was set on leaving town and never talking to you ever again but after you two talked for five short minutes, things were okay again, like nothing ever happened. As bad as things can get between you two, it always seems to work out in the end. A relationship like that is so rare and special, that’s why I think even after all of this drama, it will still work out.”
Buffy wiped her eyes and sniffed. She looked at Willow as her heart swelled with hope.
“You think so?”
Willow nodded and smiled confidently. “Despite the hurt you caused him, I can see how much you want to make up for it and I think, with time, Dean will start to believe in it too. You just need to let things settle a little, take things slow and prove how much you love him.”
Buffy began to brighten with optimism as the smile returned to her face.
“You think he’ll forgive me?”
Willow nodded. “That boy really loves you.”
Buffy bounced in her seat.
“Oh! I just want to run over there and be with him right now,” she moped.
She settled down and drew a wide pout.
“If I hadn’t been such a blind idiot, we’d be making with the smoochies right now,” she lamented. “We’d be making with the snugglies and making…”
“Sweet, tender love by the fire?”
Buffy shied away as her cheeks flushed red.
“Oh, sweater face has returned,” Willow teased.
Buffy gasped and started to frantically fan away the heat from her cheeks.
“Uh, I couldn’t help it! I mean, considering how numb and mushy I felt when he kissed me, I can’t imagine what THAT is gonna be like!” she squealed softly.
Buffy peeled out of her coat as her entire body flashed with heat. She continued to fan herself silly until she finally settled down.
“Oh! This is so hard! It’s taking all of my self-control not to see him or call him. How am I going to get through the rest of the day…and the night for that matter? I mean, it felt so…wonderful to fall asleep next to him and wake up in his arms and know that he still cared about me the next morning.”
She sunk in her seat and moped.
“Well, I have the rest of the day free. I was going to devote it to science lab but it sounds like you could use some best friend time complete with ice cream and movies.”
Buffy flashed an appreciative smile as they strolled out of the café.
Later in the evening, after watching three back to back movies while eating popcorn and ice cream, Buffy got ready for bed. She shuffled back into her room after brushing her teeth and washing her face. She eyed the phone as she rummaged through her drawers for her pajamas. As she changed into her pajama bottoms, she spotted Dean’s shirt draped over her desk chair. She smiled and snatched it off the chair. She inhaled it before she slipped it on over her night shirt. When Willow returned from the bathroom, she caught Buffy picking up the phone.
“Who are you calling?” she asked.
Buffy froze in embarrassment and gave a sheepish smile.
Willow frowned and crossed her arms. “You were going to call Dean, weren’t you?”
Buffy whined as her cheeks flushed bright red. “I just thought I’d call to say goodnight. I can do that, can’t I? It’s just good night!”
Willow drew a breath as she snatched the phone from Buffy.
“Be strong Buffy,” Willow replied.
Buffy whimpered as she curled up in bed.
“I don’t know if I can! Since I realized how I feel, it’s opened up this….tornado of happy emotions you know and I’m just anxious to show Dean how much I love him. I don’t think I really need to take any more time.”
Buffy drew another pout as she eyed the phone.
“Just keep thinking about what he said,” Willow replied. “You just came off the heels of breaking up with Riley and Dean just wants to know that he’s not just a rebound guy….he wants to know that when you wake up tomorrow and the next day that he’s the one you want to be with because you love him, not because of something else.
You sort of owe him that.”
Buffy let out a breath. “I know, you’re right….it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Willow nodded. “I’ll be here to get you through this.”
Buffy glanced at the phone before shifting her eyes to Willow.
“So, no good night?”
Willow shook her head. “It’s probably best to give it at least a day before you pick up conversation again, just to show him that you’re serious about taking the time to think this through.”
Buffy burrowed under the covers as she nodded at Willow.
“Okay,” she conceded.
Buffy shifted under the covers and coaxed herself to sleep.
The following morning, Dean rolled out of bed and let out a yawn. He stretched his arms above his head as the last remnants of his weary state left. He blinked and widened his eyes when he felt no sting in his torso. He shot up and got to his feet. He crossed to the mirror on the dresser and peeled off his bindings. The purplish bruise on his rib was now very faint and the welts on his face had cleared up as well. He wound his arms around for a few minutes and smiled.
“I’m back!” he cried gleefully.
He tore away the rest of his bindings and tossed the tape in the trash. After he showered and dressed, he headed
out of the room. The manager had completely eaten up his sad story \complete with fake tears and waived any damages in his old room. His upstairs unit was slightly more luxurious with a small fridge and kitchenette but strangely, there was no coffee maker.
After a quick stroll into the center of downtown, Dean stopped at the Espresso Pump to grab his usual. When he swept out the door, he took a long sip from his Styrofoam cup when something caught the corner of his eye. He looked up and to his right and noticed a billboard advertising the latest Mission Impossible movie, starring Sunnydale’s own Jonathan Levinson.
Dean stared at the elaborate billboard as his eyes widened. He gasped and bolted toward the Sunnydale Music shop. He passed by a bookstore display window promoting Jonathan’s latest book, an autobiography called; “Oh Jonathan”. He glanced at a bus stop poster of Jonathan smiling and endorsing an athletic shoe. He eyed the line of patrons gathered outside the Sun Cinema box office, anxiously waiting to buy tickets to the first showing of: BEING JONATHAN. He ran by a mini-mart where a life size cardboard stand up poster of Jonathan was displayed in the window. The cardboard likeness held a box of nutritional snacks called “Jon-o-bars”.
Dean paused when he hit the curb and caught his breath. He bounded around a corner and headed toward the music shop. A large radio station sponsor poster hung above the store reading: JONATHAN’S NEW ALBUM IN STORES TODAY!
The line spilling out from the music store snaked around for blocks. Dean groaned as he eyed the increasing crowds of people.
“Aw man! Now I am never going to get a copy!”
A young guy wearing a tee shirt advertising Jonathanpalooza began handing out free mini-Jonathan posters to the crowd. Dean watched the young guy’s stack dwindling as people in line took more than one. By the time the guy reached Dean, there was nothing left to hand out.
Dean frowned with disappointment.
“Dude, that sucks,” he grumbled.
After a few hours of waiting in line, Dean finally reached the register. When he was behind just one person, the clerk at the counter posted a handwritten sign that said: Jonathan album now sold out.
“Dammit,” Dean groaned as he bounded out of the store.
Dean moped as he strolled back down the street. He spotted another huge line snaking out from the bookstore that also wound around the corner. He let out a sigh as he considering cutting in line when he noticed Xander and
Anya inside the store.
Buffy waited patiently in line with Xander and Anya as they all watched a shop employee distributing copies of Jonathan’s new book. Anya narrowed her eyes on a group of teenage girls who had gathered around the table and started taking endless amounts of books. She flagged down another shop employee and began yelling at them until Xander calmed her down. The staff shuffled out the teenagers as the crowd around the table thickened.
Buffy broke from the line and wandered off to the side. She gulped when Riley emerged from the crowd carrying three copies in his arms. Despite the chaos of noise in the store, a deafening silence slammed between them. Buffy shifted her eyes to Xander and Anya who were still tenth in line. After a long minute, Buffy thought of something to say as she regarded the number of copies in Riley’s hands.
“Don’t let Anya see you with those,” she said. “She’s been vigilant about the two copies per person limit. It might get ugly.”
Riley could only manage an awkward smile.
“Oh. Thanks for the warning,” he said.
He swiftly stuffed the books in his backpack and slung the straps over his shoulders. Another tense silence wedged between them before Riley shifted his stance toward the door. He paused and took a deep breath before turning back to Buffy.
“Buffy, I…do you want to get some coffee? Talk?”
Buffy drew a sigh as she shifted uncomfortably in her stance.
“Um…I’m waiting for Xander and Anya.”
“Well, what about after? It’s just, I think we really need to sit down and discuss this.”
Buffy stamped back the emotion rising in her throat as her eyes shifted over the large crowd in the store.
“There isn’t anything we have to discuss unless it’s about class,” she said softly.
Riley let out a breath as frustration began to paint his face.
“I still think you’re being a little rash in this decision,” he replied sharply. “I mean, I really think you just need to give it time or give us time to work through this.”
Buffy could see the pangs of hurt in his eyes. She bit down on her quivering lips as she struggled to keep her emotions in check.
“I’m sorry Riley,” she said. “I know that I hurt you but I don’t need more time and I don’t….there isn’t anything for us to work through. I –“
She paused as a group of older women rushed by them. Riley drew closer to Buffy but she took a few steps back.
“Do you really think he could love you Buffy?”
Buffy frowned with resentment.
“Stop making this about Dean. I told you this is not about him. It’s about me.”
Riley huffed in frustration as he gripped the handles of his backpack. He shook his head.
“No, it is about him and about you,” he declared adamantly. “I care about you Buffy and I don’t want to see you get hurt. You can’t seriously think you can have anything other than just a random night with Dean. Guys like him do not change their stripes.”
Buffy shook her head as she swallowed the anger hanging in her throat.
“You’re wrong,” she replied softly. “This isn’t about me dumping you for some stranger I met at a bar. This is one of my best friends in the whole world. I’ve known him since I was a little girl. What you see, what you think you see, that isn’t really him. It’s not my place to elaborate on that but I will defend him if you try to tear him down. You have no right to do that. I’ve made my decision and I am truly sorry I hurt you but I’m not being rash. The bond I have with Dean is beyond anything I have ever known and I can’t expect you to understand.”
Riley heaved another sigh as he narrowed his eyes on Buffy.
“Okay, I admit I don’t know much about him,” he replied. “Only what you’ve told me in the time we got to know each other. And what you’ve told me is that he only comes to town every so often so let me ask you this, when he leaves here, what happens then? When you’re not around, is he going to remember you? Is he going to stay faithful to you or will he be doing what he wants when you’re not looking? Do you really expect him to ignore all the attention he gets from girls? I mean, realistically, I don’t see how you can build a strong, trusting relationship when one person can only participate two weeks out of the month.”
Buffy inhaled a deep breath to calm the agony and rage churning violently within her body.
“Well, Dean and I have already managed to do that over ten plus years of friendship,” she said pointedly. “I’m not going to stand here and explain myself to you Riley. I know in my heart that I love him. I have no doubt that he’s the man for me.”
Buffy glanced at Riley’s disgruntled frown. She bit down hard on her quivering lips, desperate to hold back the wave of tears that threatened to clog her eyes.
“This is what I want and if you truly cared about me, you would want me to be happy.”
“I thought I made you happy,” he said softly.
Buffy dropped her eyes to the ground and swallowed a huge breath.
“I know and I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to lead you on,” she replied sincerely. “I was just...I don’t know…just please….leave this alone.”
Buffy ran off and dashed toward the door as her self-control spiraled out of her grasp.
Dean peeled through the throngs of people gathered in the bookstore and ambled over to Xander and Anya. He noticed a music shop bag in Xander’s hand and brightened.
“Tell me you got the J-Man’s new album in there.”
Xander fished out the CD and handed it Dean.
“I waited in line but they sold out by the time I got there,” he bemoaned.
“Mmm, we’ve been up since four, hitting all the stores,” Xander said.
“Can I borrow this after you?”
“Sure, or you can swing by later. Anya and I are having a listening party.”
Anya frowned at Xander as she elbowed him in the stomach. She muttered something inaudibly. Xander gulped and shaded a deep red.
“Um, actually, scratch that whole ‘party’ thing. That would require more than two people and Anya and I planned on….uh….uh…”
“Having sex to the new CD,” Anya replied bluntly.
Xander gulped again as Dean slowly flashed an amused grin.
“Well, sounds like a fun, I’d really hate to put a crimp in those – plans.”
“Willow’s going to burn copies for everyone,” Xander said. “But…you don’t have a CD player do you?”
Dean blinked in acknowledgement. “Damn, you’re right. Uh….I’ll have to uh ‘borrow’ one.”
Anya and Xander moved up in the line as Dean shifted his eyes around the shop. After a short time, Anya noticed Buffy and Riley having a heated discussion near the back of the shop.
“Oh lovers spat,” Anya said.
Xander shifted his eyes to the scene and noticed the pained look on Buffy’s face.
“I wonder what they’re arguing about,” he said. “They don’t really strike me as the ‘I hate you – I wish you would die’ type.”
“Who cares as long as you there’s makeup sex,” she said dryly.
Dean tore his eyes away from Buffy and Riley as he cleared his throat.
“I’ll uh…see you guys later.”
Dean pivoted toward the door and resisted the urge to interfere in the argument playing out in the store. He swept out of the shop and ran into a crowd gathered around a stand. People were stuffing slips of paper in a fish bowl. He glanced at a sign advertising a contest to “Win a Day with Jonathan.” Dean read the description of the fun filled day with Jonathan which included a seaside breakfast, a tour of his personal collections and a private concert complete with autographed albums.
Dean looked around before he filled out a pad full of ballots and dropped them in. He pulled out a few other entries from the top and conveniently misplaced them. As he swung around, someone crashed into him.
Buffy sniffed back tears from her eyes when she collided with someone outside the store. Her damp eyes looked up to see Dean. She wiped her eyes and drew a deep breath.
“Hi,” she said softly.
She noticed the booth behind him and managed to smile.
“Were you entering the Win a Day with Jonathan contest?”
Dean forced out a laugh and shook his head.
“No. That contest is totally….lame.”
“It’s okay, I saw Xander and Anya stuffing the fishbowl earlier.”
“Oh,” he said.
The bookstore door opened and Riley ambled onto the walk. Buffy glanced at Riley for a long minute before he walked away. She shifted her eyes back to Dean who seemed uncomfortable to be stuck in the middle.
“I’m uh, going to take off now,” he said.
Buffy saddened as he turned toward the curb.
“Is it okay if I call you?” she asked timidly.
He paused and swung around. He eyed her curiously.
“Why wouldn’t it be okay?”
Buffy hugged herself, feeling cold and gloomy all of a sudden.
“Um, you said you wanted me to take time and….but I…I wanted to call just to say good night but I didn’t but I wanted to and I….we’re still friends right and we can still call and talk?”
Dean noticed the deep despondency in her eyes along with the cloudiness tugging at the corners. He let out a breath and nodded.
“Yeah, you can always call to talk,” he answered. “But keep it light for now, until you settle things….”
“I did settle things,” she replied weakly.
Dean shifted his eyes to the book shop and shined his skepticism.
“They didn’t look too settled back there.”
Buffy followed his sights before settling her eyes back on him.
“You saw that?”
“Oh, well, Riley’s not handling it too well,” she imparted. “I was trying to….’
Dean held a hand up to stop her from explaining any further.
“Remember what I said to you earlier,” he replied gently. “Don’t put me in the middle of this.”
Buffy glanced at his guarded expression and nodded.
“Well um, can I call you later? After I get back from group patrol?”
“Group patrol? Aren’t I part of the group?”
“Well yeah but what about your injury?”
Dean broke into a wide smile.
“It’s healed. Look!”
He swung his right arm in a mock punch.
“I’m good as new.”
Buffy brightened at the pure joy on his face.
“And it couldn’t have happened at a better time since I’ve been bored out of my mind. What time is everyone meeting up?”
“Just after sunset like usual,” she said. “At the foot of the cemetery.”
“Okay. Cool. I’ll see you later then.”
“Bye,” she sang softly.
Buffy watched Dean as he ambled down the block and disappeared around the corner. The heavy gloom that had clouded her heart earlier had dissipated after spending a mere five minutes with Dean. She drew a hopeful smile as she turned and went back into the bookshop.
Later that evening, the group met up in the cemetery. A brief minute later, a vampire sprung out from behind a mausoleum and attacked Buffy. Xander, Willow and Anya watched from a few feet away as Buffy sparred with the vampire. She was breathing heavily and barely blocking the vampire’s attack. Dean jumped in and very quickly felt his strength depleting after a few minutes of fighting. He very narrowly missed a brutal blow to the face as Buffy counterattacked.
Willow noticed something nearby and widened her eyes in fear.
“Guys! Behind you!”
Buffy and Dean swept their eyes behind them and spotted a vampire lunging into the air. Buffy kicked the vampire she had been fighting into Xander and Anya. Anya took a weak swing at the vampire. Xander kicked the vampire back into Buffy.
“Stake! Stake!” Willow hollered as she tossed a stake to Buffy.
The first vampire crashed into Buffy and fell onto the stake in her hand, exploding into dust. She heard a growling behind her and quickly spun around. Dean was on the ground, grappling with a vampire that had locked him in a chokehold. Buffy ran over and tore the vampire off of Dean. She kicked the vampire in the head, sending several feet back. She shifted her eyes to Dean and quickly examined him.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, scrambling to his feet. “Where is it?”
Buffy and Dean looked off to see the second vampire had disappeared. Buffy eyed the group.
“Did you see where the other one went?” she asked.
“Hopped off like a fangy kangy,” Xander replied.
Anya pointed to a bank of crypts. “It went in there.”
Buffy, Dean and the rest of the group crept inside the dark chamber of the crypt. When they reached the foot of the lower level, they saw five vampires huddled over a dead body. The crypt echoed with the sounds grotesque slurping. The gang exchanged looks before they flattened against the wall and edged back out of the crypt.
The group emerged from the entrance of the crypt, all sickened by the sight that had corrupted their eyes. They shared their reactions as they strolled out of the cemetery.
“I don’t care if they are undead, they could still have the decency to eat with their mouths closed, not to mention wiping them when they’re finished,” Willow grumbled loudly.
Buffy forced a confident expression onto her face as she hitched her head up high.
“A vampire nest. Okay. No worries. I’m pretty sure I can clean it out.”
Buffy saw the wide skepticism among the group but she continued to try and convince herself.
“I mean, I could probably take on two, three if I tried really hard,” she said. “And you can manage the other two right?”
Buffy eyed Dean who ran the success rate in his head.
“Uh….yeah, sure…two……” he replied weakly. “No…problem at all.”
Anya glared at them with heavy doubt.
“Right and while the three of us run away screaming for help, the rest of those vampires will tackle you, then hang you from meat hooks and drain you dry.”
Buffy and Dean halted in their tracks as the horrifying image struck their minds. Buffy sunk in her stance as the margin of confidence in her expression washed away.
“Okay, yeah, maybe a nest is more than we can handle. We’re gonna need help,” she admitted.
Dean heaved a huge sigh as his face flooded with relief.
“Thank god! Two vampires is a lot!”
“Well, what are we going to do?” Willow asked.
“We need to bring in the real expert,” Buffy answered.
Dean blinked with recognition.
Buffy nodded as Dean drew a goofy grin.
After a short trek through the foothills, the gang paused to admire an enormous mansion overlooking the city before heading down a long driveway leading to the front door. The butler let them inside the foyer. Dean whistled as he swept his eyes over several movie props encased in glass. He peeked inside an expansive game room that included a bowling alley and an Olympic size swimming pool.
“Holy cow, this place is amazing!” he said gleefully.
The gang wandered into a lavishly furnished study where a black leather chair faced away from them.
Buffy cleared her throat and gave a sheepish wave.
“Hello? Hi. Uh….we have a situation,” she said.
The leather chair slowly swung around as Jonathan Levinson clasped his hands together and flashed a cordial smile. He wore a dapper black dinner jacket with a burgundy turtleneck that highlighted his handsome face.
Dean stared in fascination at the Sunnydale icon.
“How can I be of assistance?” he asked.
The gang plus Jonathan gathered at Giles’ place to strategize and prepare for battle. Willow worked diligently behind her lap top, Xander and Anya put together some snacks in the kitchen, while Giles sat behind his desk thumbing through various volumes. Jonathan worked with Buffy and Dean on their fight moves.
Dean swung a couple of punches at Jonathan who easily dodged out of the way. Jonathan counterattacked with a surprise mock punch combo that Dean barely escaped.
“Aw! You got me!” he groaned.
Buffy attacked with her best combos but Jonathan easily deflected them. Dean came at him from the other side but Jonathan blocked him without too much effort.
“Damn,” he grumbled.
Dean threw a right cross as Jonathan quickly blocked him. Buffy attacked, Jonathan blocked. Dean attacked; Jonathan blocked then surprised him with yet another feigned punch. Dean sighed with disappointment.
“Aw man!” he groaned. “You got me again!”
Dean dipped his eyes and sulked as Buffy tried to outwit Jonathan. He surprised her with a feigned punch as well.
“I used to be so good at this,” Dean lamented.
Jonathan gave him an encouraging smile and a pat on the shoulder.
“Don’t get so down on yourself Dean,” Jonathan replied. “You just got back on your feet again. In fact, you were doing very well in the beginning. I totally didn’t see that hook you threw at me.”
Dean brightened. “Really?”
Jonathan nodded. “You just some polishing and some creativity and you could be my co-star in my next action movie.”
Dean blinked in shock as he gave a modest smile. “Oh I don’t know about that man. I mean, I could never be as great a fighter as you.”
“Nonsense,” Jonathan replied. “You’re very good at what you do; you just need to believe in yourself.”
Dean blushed. “Aw, thanks man. You’re so awesome!”
“Thanks so much for helping us Jonathan,” Buffy said. “I know you’re really busy and had to take time away from something more important.”
Jonathan waved a hand dismissively. “Not a problem. Always happy to help when you need a nest cleaned out.”
After a few minutes the gang regrouped in the living room as Jonathan imparted the details of his battle plan. He tossed a crossbow and few stakes to Buffy and Dean while the rest of the gang got smaller more manageable weapons.
“Buffy will be the lead gal,” Jonathan said. “The rest of you will be her backup and then I will make an unannounced appearance and take them by surprise. We’ll show these unruly baddies who they’re messing with.”
As Jonathan led the group out the door, Dean grinned and shook his head in wonder.
“Wow. He’s the man!”
Back inside the crypt, Buffy followed the battle plan and shot a crossbow bolt through a vampire engorging the dead body. The vampire roared in surprise before exploding into dust. Dean, Xander, Willow and Anya stood directly behind her, ready to back her up. The remaining vampires attacked furiously.
Dean fired off a bolt and missed by a wide margin.
“Damn!” he moaned,
The vampires converged around the gang. The gang tried their very best efforts against the vampires. After a short minute, the vampires tossed the gang around and flung them across the crypt.
Jonathan ran in to save the day, skillfully sparring with one of the vampires. Two vampires split off and ran out the door, leaving Buffy with two to spar on her own. One of the two vampires tried running away but Dean bolted forward and blocked the entrance. He started fighting the vampire, growing more confident with each attack and block, until he finally managed to stake it through the heart. He grinned with satisfaction when the vamp turned to dust.
“Woo! I did it!”
Jonathan gave him a congratulatory pat on the back when the nest was successfully cleaned out.
“See Dean? If you believe you can do it, you can.”
Buffy slowly got to her feet as Jonathan shined his encouragement on her.
“Oh, I can’t believe I let that one get away,” she lamented.
“Keep your head up Buffy. You took on two with great skill and that is all that really matters.”
Jonathan checked on the gang before he led the way out of the crypt. Buffy hung back and eyed Dean, who was still swimming with admiration.
“The J-Man is so awesome!” he cried emphatically. “I can’t believe he’s here helping us! I can’t believe he told me that I could actually be his Wingman…wow.”
As the group spilled out of the cemetery, a crowd of photographers converged around Jonathan. He paused to pose and wave for the cameras as the group talked amongst themselves.
“Well, we sure showed those…”
Dean tried to drum up a humorous nickname but drew a blank.
“Undead dudes, didn’t we?” he asked.
“Yeah we made them go from undead status to dead in a short time,” Xander quipped.
Anya shrugged with skepticism. “We were just the distractions. Had they been more attentive, they would have bum rushed Buffy and killed her in a blur.”
Buffy frowned then gulped.
“Uh, gee, thanks for the vote of confidence and the impending nightmare I’m going to have for the rest of my life.”
Jonathan smiled confidently. “Vampires are a bit of a lazy bunch. The only reason to form nests is to send the younger ones off to hunt while the others sit around and wait for dinner to arrive. Normally they prefer the solitary life – or undead life – if you will, lurking and skulking in the shadows. Isn’t that right Spike?”
Jonathan shifted around as Spike emerged from the dark. The gang jumped in surprise as Jonathan and Spike exchanged intimidating glares.
“If it isn’t the living legend himself,” Spike replied dryly.
“What brings you out here Spike?”
“You’re standing on my doorstep. And I’m not in the mood to chat with Super-Jonathan and his pathetic band of crime fighting puppies.”
Dean frowned at the vampire’s disrespectful attitude. He pooled his mind for a clever insult.
“Hey! Watch your mouth – you - stupid……undead….guy.”
“Very original,” Spike quipped. “Did someone read that from a book for you?”
Dean rushed forward in anger but Jonathan held him back.
“Easy Dean,” Jonathan replied. “Spike is still trouble.”
“Yeah, trouble,” Spike conceded.
Buffy frowned and rolled her eyes. “Oh, I’m so scared….NOT.”
“Very intimidating Bunny,” Spike replied caustically.
Buffy hardened her frown.
“My name is Buffy, you big….”
She eyed Dean for help in a clever potshot. He simply shrugged.
“Pasty….bonehead,” she finished.
Buffy sighed with disappointment and backed off. Jonathan and Spike exchanged words and threats before the
vampire scooted off.
A short time later, as Jonathan escorted the group to their homes. Buffy hung back and watched as Jonathan dispensed more encouraging words to Dean before pausing at the foot of the motel parking lot.
“This is my stop,” Dean remarked.
“It’s been a pleasure,” Jonathan replied.
Dean cracked a smile.
“No man, the pleasure was all mine.”
“Good night,” Buffy said with a shy smile.
They held a long gaze before turning away from each other.
Willow animatedly retold the events of her night out with the group while clipping photos from various magazines in Tara’s room.
“What about Buffy? Is she okay?”
“She did pretty well!”
Willow recalled her favorite part of the group patrol where Buffy dusted a vampire in the crypt.
“Oh, that’s great but I was asking about how she was doing emotionally. You know with the whole Faith drama, that stuff really scared me a lot and I got the sense that it was weighing pretty heavily on her.”
Willow let out a breath. “Right. Yes, it has been.”
“But she and Riley are working it out?”
Willow bit her lip as she debated whether to spill the beans.
Willow couldn’t keep the information to herself so she took several minutes to update Tara on Buffy’s love life. Tara leaned back and drew a breath to absorb the revelation.
“So she and Dean are together now,” she replied.
“Well, no, not officially but it’s heading that way pretty soon,” Willow assessed. “Don’t get me wrong, Faith is evil but in a freaky, weird way, she sort of brought those two together. She made Buffy realize how important Dean is to her and where exactly he fits in her life. She’s been pretty down about how much she hurt him in the past but she’s determined to make things right.”
“I don’t know Dean very well but when I first met him, he had a very strong aura and when he and Buffy were in the same room together, I was kind of amazed how their auras…meshed almost like they were one….when you told me they were just friends, it seemed odd to me because of how well their spiritual energies blended together, like they do with soul mates.”
“Yeah Buffy is kind of kicking herself now for not realizing how she felt about him.”
“Well, I hope it works out for them,” Tara replied sincerely.
Willow gave an optimistic smile. “It should in time.”
Buffy strolled alongside Jonathan as she soaked in the sunshine. After she had parted from Dean, she had struggled to fall asleep without talking to him again. Though she was extremely tempted to call and just say a few words, she left him alone. She had seen the deep steeliness in his eyes when he had mentioned witnessing the scene with Riley. The more her mind lingered on his disappointment the more her heart began to hammer with fear. After a few minutes, she drew a deep breath and pressed Jonathan’s ear for a few minutes.
“Oh, what am I going to do Jonathan? I’m so worried that seeing me with Riley yesterday is going to make Dean walk away now. I just got him! I don’t want to lose him now. He means so much to me and I really want to show him that. But, I think I may have blown my chances.”
She sniffed as tears welled in her eyes. Jonathan drew a friendly hand upon her shoulder.
“Just give it a little more time Buffy,” he advised. “He may have been knocked off that horse a couple of times but he’s strong, he’s a fighter. He’ll get back in that saddle again.”
A fan ran up to Jonathan and handed him a book. He autographed it as Buffy inhaled a few deep breaths.
“Oh I know! I’m the thing that kicked him down so many times! It was me! How could I do that to him over and over again? How could I be so cruel? Why was I so stupid? How will he ever love me again? Why would he want to?”
She dipped her head and sulked for a long minute.
“He will,” Jonathan replied confidently.
Buffy snapped her eyes up and sniffed.
Jonathan smiled and nodded. “You two share a rare and amazing bond that’s grown stronger every time you’re together. That kind of connection doesn’t just fade or break away easily. You’ve obviously worked at staying friends and developed an understanding about each other. You’ve been through a lot and you’ll get through this too.”
“Oh I don’t know,” Buffy lamented. “I mean, I really hurt him.”
Another autograph hound approached Jonathan. He quickly acknowledged his fan as he signed his book. He shifted his attention back to Buffy.
“I know it. You see, last night, when you two were in the same room, not much conversation passed but I could see it in your eyes, how much love you have for each other. And that kind of love endures anything.”
Buffy drew in a long breath as her sadness faded.
“You just have to believe in it.”
Buffy slowly smiled with hope.
“Well, what do I do now? I mean, I really just want to run to Dean and hug him forever, you know? But I don’t want to do anything to make him doubt me.”
“It will take time and work and support,” Jonathan said.
“I’ll do all of that. I want to make him happy in every way….”
“But you have some concerns?”
Buffy gulped as Jonathan temporarily shifted his attention to a fan girl named Karen. When Karen wandered off, Jonathan noticed Buffy’s face had flushed red.
“Um, maybe just a – small one.”
Dean blinked in fear when he heard the Impala sputtering. He pulled off to the side of the road and killed the engine. He peeled out of his jacket and propped the hood up. After spending fifteen agonizing minutes searching for the problem, he blew out a breath and wiped the coat of sweat from his face.
“Come on baby,” he moaned. “What’s wrong with you?”
Dean fiddled and fumbled and tweaked various parts but soon grew frustrated after several hours went by with no diagnosis. Cars sped by him without any regard of his roadside problems. Several minutes later, he heard the rumbling of a car as it pulled up along side him. Dean rolled his eyes over a sleek red Lamborghini. Jonathan eyed Dean hovered over the hood and drew concern.
“Car trouble?” he asked.
Dean hid his embarrassment as he wiped his greasy hands on his shirt.
“Uh, no, no, I’m fine,” he lied.
Jonathan turned the car engine off and hopped out of the driver seat.
“Would you mind if I take a look? Maybe a second pair of eyes could help?”
Dean gave a casual shrug. “Uh, sure, knock yourself out.”
Jonathan flipped the end of his tie over his shoulder as he leaned over the hood. After a few minutes of meticulous inspection, he reached inside and fuddled with a part.
“Ah, here’s your problem, your distributor cap is getting a little worn, needs replacing.”
Dean blinked several times in shock.
“Aw man!” he groaned. “Of course! God I’m such an idiot! What’s wrong with me? I should have seen that!”
He shook his head in embarrassment.
“Cars are my thing man,” he lamented. “I spent two hours looking at everything and you figured it out in less than two minutes! Geez!”
Jonathan gave him a pat on the back.
“Simple oversight,” he said. “Nothing to get worked up about but it’s obvious something or someone is distracting you. Perhaps someone you have concerns about?”
Dean leaned against the car and heaved a huge sigh.
“Yeah, you read me so well man….”
“You and Buffy have reached a pivotal turning point in your long term friendship. She’s relayed her feelings but you still have reservations that she’ll hurt you again.”
Dean gave a defeated look.
“Am I just being a selfish jerk?”
Jonathan shifted his eyes over the hood before glancing at Dean.
“You have concerns, it’s only natural given your past history with her. But she has concerns too.”
Jonathan reached under the hood and tweaked another part. Dean mulled over Jonathan’s statement for a long minute. He leaned over the hood and started working under the hood with Jonathan.
“Concerns? About what?”
Jonathan gave a polite smile. “She has a desire to make you happy and having taken your ‘colorful’ history with women under consideration; she’s feeling a little - skittish about whether she can accomplish that desire.”
Dean thought for a long moment when it suddenly dawned on him what Jonathan was talking about. Dean widened his eyes in recognition.
“Oh! You mean….”
“You are accustomed to a certain ‘quality’ shall I say? She fears she may not live up to your standards,” Jonathan noted gently.
Dean pushed away from the car and sunk with a little self-loathing.
“Aw man! I hate me sometimes!” he groaned.
He charged around in a circle and shook his head. After a few seconds, Dean sulked some more as he leaned against the car.
“I hope she really doesn’t feel that way. I mean, there’s no way she could disappoint me. I mean just the fact that it’s her will make it – amazing. She’s really got nothing to worry about.”
“Have you told her that?”
“Well, uh, no. We haven’t really discussed any of that yet. I mean, there’s really no sense in it until she’s made up her mind. But now that you mention it, I really hope that conversation doesn’t come up.”
Dean absorbed the intense dread as his mind ran over a number of possible reactions to that discussion.
“Buffy has made up her mind,” Jonathan replied with a confident nod. “And I think you know she has.”
Dean shifted in his stance as he drew a skeptical frown. “I used to think I knew how to read her but lately…..I don’t know….”
“You do know Dean. You and Buffy have developed a mutual respect and fondness for each other through the years. It’s only natural for those feelings to progress beyond a platonic relationship. Yes, it took her awhile to realize it but she was scared that if she took this journey with you, something would happen that would cause her to lose you. And the idea of losing you is the scariest thing in the world for her. You’re a very precious part of her life that she cherishes and she’s grasped her feelings now and she’s ready to show you just how much you mean to her. And if she means anything to you Dean, if you cherish her in the same way, then embrace that, embrace her, because I really believe that you two are going to be very happy together.”
Dean eyed Jonathan with great admiration.
“You think so?”
“Absolutely, as long as you both put in the work and continue communicating in your amazing way, it’ll be the time of your life.”
Jonathan strolled back to his car.
“Oh by the way, I noticed you didn’t RSVP to the performance tonight.”
Dean flushed red. “Uh….I uh….forgot.”
“I’ll have you added to the guest list, plus one.”
“Oh okay thanks man….wait…plus one?”
Jonathan clasped his hands together and nodded.
“It’s not too late to ask her,” he said. “I know she’s hoping you will.”
Dean blew out a breath. “You don’t think I’d be like – going back on this whole givin’ it time thing?”
Jonathan shook his head.
“You’ve always been friends, right? Just think of it as two friends attending a nice evening out. The rest will be up to you two.”
Later in the afternoon, right after hanging up the phone, Buffy bounced up and down with a giddy smile. Willow swung through the door as Buffy frantically ransacked her closet. She picked off outfits and tossed clothes on the ground until there were multiple piles scattered around the room.
“Woah! It looks like a war zone for the fashionably dressed in here. What’s going on?”
“He called!” Buffy squealed. “He asked me! He asked me out!”
Buffy jogged briefly in excitement.
“On a date!” she squeaked. “I’m going on a date! Eeee!”
Buffy squealed for a long minute.
Buffy paused in her squeal fest and eyed Willow.
“With Dean of course.”
“Oh, I was just checking. So, he called you?”
Buffy flashed a dreamy smile as she examined a possible outfit in the mirror.
“Yeah, I was really surprised but happy and then when he asked me out I just about died! Oh Will, this is a good sign, right? I mean, I gave the time he wanted and maybe he saw that. He wouldn’t ask me out if he wasn’t sure about this, right?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Willow deduced.
Buffy looked back at her wardrobe options and pouted.
“Oh! I have nothing to wear and no time to go to the mall! Help! Help!” she cried.
Willow dutifully fulfilled her role as best friend and swiftly dove into Buffy’s closet. She yanked out a couple of options as Buffy began to brush her hair.
“I am going on a date – with – Dean!” she cried gleefully. “I feel like I’m fifteen again!”
Willow flashed a possible top and skirt combo which Buffy quickly rejected. Buffy bounced as she brushed her hair out and rifled through her makeup box.
“Oh, Buffy fifteen is so cute!” Willow cooed.
Buffy snickered as she fished through a drawer of hair clips.
“Are you going to wear your hair up or down?”
Buffy flashed a coy smile.
“Down. He likes it down.”
Willow dug out a sexy little black dress from the back of Buffy’s closet. Buffy gasped.
“Oh Will! That’s perfect! I forgot I had this!”
Buffy clutched the dress to her body and examined the look in the mirror. She beamed a smile at Willow as she moved on to picking out shoes.
“I can’t wait for my date to start!”
“What time is he picking you up?”
Buffy’s goofy smile faded slightly. “Um, he’s going to meet me at the Bronze, he mentioned something about the car and errands I don’t really remember because I was too dizzy with excitement after he said the word….”
Buffy flushed red as she gave an abashed smile. “Hi.”
“Wow, I’ve never seen you so excited before.”
Buffy’s dreamy smile returned to her face. “Yeah. Who would have thought, huh? Anyway, it’s going to be so nice to have a real date, without the awkward moments of trying to find something to talk about or wondering if there’s any chemistry….”
“Dating a friend you’ve known so long is definitely a perk,” Willow replied.
Buffy nodded as her dreamy smile shifted back into a giddy one. She eyed the time and gasped.
“I have to hurry!”
Buffy gathered her outfit, shoes, jewelry and makeup together and rushed off to the bathroom dripping with excitement.