Ch. 50 – Don’t You Forget About Me
A/N: Okay, okay, enough with the teasing already. This update is a little sweet, a little funny and big on the steamy factor. The gloves – and the clothes come off for the ultimate competition between our heroes.
Buffy eyed the clock as she sat restlessly in her last class of the day. She completely tuned out the last remaining minutes of her professor’s instructions about the assigned reading as she bounced impatiently in her seat. When the class was dismissed, she bolted out of her seat and shot toward the door. She raced back to her dorm to change her outfit. She picked through an assortment of clothes before she settled on a knee length white floral skirt, a butter yellow lace tank top and some brown leather boots. She brushed her teeth and hair and sprayed on some fruity body splash before she shuffled out the door.
As she strolled along the walkway leading toward downtown, her heart danced with glee and sadness. She was excited to see Dean again but grew dispirited at his upcoming departure. She took a deep breath and tried to release the funk threatening to cloud her cheerful mood. When she reached the far side of town, she beamed a giddy smile when she spotted the Impala in the motel parking lot. She skipped over to the motel and climbed up the stairs. After a few knocks, the door swung open.
Dean cracked a sly smile as his eyes rolled over her.
“Well, you don’t match the description from the Wild Whores to Your Door website but, you’ll do.”
Buffy rolled her eyes as he chuckled and widened the door to let her in. She was about to get comfortable when she noticed Dean shrugging into his jacket.
“Oh, you’re going out now?”
“I have some supplies on order that just came in, I need to run over there before I go,” he answered.
Buffy sunk with disappointment.
“It won’t take long,” he said.
Buffy pivoted toward the door and followed Dean down the stairs to the car. After driving through the middle class neighborhoods, Buffy noticed the store fronts growing more dilapidated as they headed toward the south edge of town. Graffiti littered just about every wall of every retail building.
Dean eased the car into the parking lot of Frankie’s Gun and Supply Shop. It was a modest sized one story building with faded gray brick. The store sign was a bright blue neon fixture displayed over a black tinted door. A chime rang as he pushed through the door. Buffy eyed the glass displays filled with various pistols and hunting knives before shifting her attention to the counter where an elder lady in her sixties was thumbing through a Guns N’ Ammo magazine. The lady hitched her head up and glanced at Dean. She gave a warm smile which Dean returned.
“Hey Frankie, how’s business today?”
“Hey Dean, haven’t seen you by in awhile,” Frankie said. “You seeing another gun dealer?”
“Never!” Dean cracked. “You always give me what I need.”
Frankie roared with amused laughter. “Well, what can I help you with?”
Dean leaned against the counter as he eyed the new items displayed on a shelf behind Frankie.
“I had an order that came in this morning,” he answered. “It’s for Shelby Torino.”
Frankie nodded and disappeared in the back. Buffy wandered aimlessly around the shop as Dean waited at the counter. Frankie returned a short time later with a package which she set in front of him.
“Here you go,” she said. “It must be nice to work for a rich game hunter like Ms. Torino. I know she gives me a lot of business.”
Dean swallowed his amusement at the alias he had invented over a year ago. He pried a smile on his face and nodded.
“Yeah, she’s the best boss you could ever have,” he lied.
“Anything else I can get you?”
Dean glanced at the ammo case beside the counter.
“Yeah, I’ll take a box of .45s too,” he said.
Frankie slid the door of the case open, pulled out the box and set it on the counter. Her eyes shifted behind Dean.
“She’s a pretty one,” Frankie commented.
“Yeah, she is.”
Frankie rang him up as a young brunette in her twenties sashayed from the back. The girl smiled at Dean with a spark in her eyes.
“Hi Dean,” she said.
Frankie glared at Dean until he shifted uncomfortably in his stance. He gave a polite smile.
“Hey, Billie, good to see you,” he said.
Buffy heaved a sigh as her brain went numb with boredom. After making a third pass around the store, she paused when she noticed a pretty dark haired girl emerging from the back of the store. The girl paused and flashed a flirtatious smile at Dean.
Buffy felt her heart sink as she watched the girl making small chat with Dean. After a short second, Buffy forced her feet to move toward the counter. She shuffled over as a dark fog stitched over her mind.
Dean glanced at Buffy as she wandered over. He saw the wide sulk painting her face. He let out a long breath as he swept up the package and box of bullets from the counter.
“You ladies have a great rest of the day,” he replied politely.
Seeing Buffy starting to pout, he drew a hand along the small of her back and gently ushered her out of the store.
“Sorry,” he said. “That took longer than I thought. Frankie can talk your ear off if you let her. I know you were probably bored to death in there.”
Buffy slumped against the passenger seat and crossed her arms as Dean pulled the car out of the lot and veered onto the road. After feeling a heavy stare, Dean briefly shifted his eyes off the road to regard her.
“What’s going on?”
Buffy let out a long breath as her brows furrowed with suspicion.
“Did you sleep with her?”
Dean widened his eyes in disbelief. “Frankie? Are you kidding me? I mean, I have gone for mature women in the past but come on, you really think I’d…”
“I meant the girl,” Buffy clarified sharply. “The one who was practically drooling all over you.”
Dean let out a sigh of relief.
“Oh, you mean Billie.”
“Oh, you know her name,” she said flatly.
Dean noticed her sulking manner thickening by the second. He heaved a huge sigh and shook his head.
“Are you going to pitch a fit every time I run into an attractive girl in this town?”
She huffed as she felt several painful knots tightening in her neck.
“Answer the question before I kick your ass,” she snapped.
Dean let out another long sigh as he rolled his eyes.
“No,” he said.
Buffy narrowed her eyes.
“No what? No you didn’t sleep with her or no you’re not going to answer my question?”
Dean felt his good mood quickly fade away. His blood flashed hot with frustration as he huffed under his breath.
“What the hell woman! This thing isn’t even a day old and you’re already biting my head off about crap.”
He shook his head in dismay.
“Un-friggin-believable,” he grumbled.
Buffy scooted closer to the window and stared out for a long minute.
“Just drop me off at the dorm,” she muttered softly. “Have a nice trip wherever you go.”
“Oh Jesus Christ,” he groaned.
Dean yanked the steering wheel and tore off to the side of the road. He clutched the wheel for a long minute to release the infuriating sensation gripping his body. He let out a breath as he stared at Buffy looking blankly out the window.
“No, I did not sleep with Billie,” he answered. “Nor would I ever in the future, I try not to even look at her.”
Buffy kept her eyes on a patch of trees.
“Why? She seems like your type,” she mumbled softly.
“Yeah, she is and her old lady knows it. Did you not notice how Frankie was giving me the evil eye? If I didn’t leave
when I did, she probably would have slashed my throat before I could blink.”
Dean noticed the harsh lines on her face had cracked slightly. She still kept her eyes on the trees outside.
“Frankie’s her grandmother?”
“Yeah, that shop is a family business. They moved out here from Alabama. The whole family shoots game. Frankie may look like a sweet old lady but trust me; she’s a firecracker if you get on her bad side. The first time I went into that place, I did notice Billie and Frankie noticed me noticing and you know what she did? She told me if I so much as looked at her granddaughter in a way she felt was inappropriate, she’d yank my guts out my mouth and feed them to me – after she shoved them out of my ass….so no, no way in hell will I ever go after Billie.”
Buffy heard his tone soften with sincerity.
“That old lady pretty much scares the shit out of me,” he admitted.
After a brief second of flashing on his colorful imagery, Buffy unexpectedly burst out into laughter. The tension in her body quickly flushed away as she roared with amusement. Her eyes shifted back to Dean who was stewing with humiliation. The hard lines on her face dissipated as she drank in his humbled expression.
“If you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it until my last breath leaves me,” he said sharply.
Buffy let her laughter subside as Dean pulled back onto the road. After a few miles, Buffy rolled down the window and settled back in her seat. After a couple more miles, Dean rested an arm on the top of the seat and stole a glance at Buffy as she watched the sun beginning its descent into the horizon. She shifted her eyes away from the window and let out a breath. She spied a glance at Dean as he eyed the signs leading to a wilderness park. She scooted across the seat and curled up beneath his arm.
As she let her eyes drift shut, she felt a hand suddenly brush over her hair. She opened her eyes and looked up at Dean. He glanced at her as she gave a contented smile. After a brief second, he smiled back. She took comfort in his reciprocation, knowing it was the way they had always settled an uneasy feeling between them in the past, with an exchange of silent gestures to communicate that things were okay now.
A short time later, Dean veered the car over a dirt roadway leading to the entrance of Sunnydale’s wilderness park. The park was closed for the day but the campgrounds were still open. Buffy climbed out of the car and watched as Dean fished through a recycling bin near the exit of the park. He picked out a bunch of empty soda cans and ambled over to a wooden fence lining the hiking trails. He spaced the cans a few inches apart on top of the fence.
Buffy leaned against the hood of the car as Dean loaded a bunch of different pistols. He leveled each one and squeezed off a few rounds. One by one, he picked off each can with a steady shot. He crossed over to the recycling bin and fished out more cans. After a brief pause to line up the cans, he selected a different pistol, leveled it and fired off more rounds. He hit the cans dead center and sent them sailing off the fence.
“Damn straight,” he said.
When he walked back to the car to change out his pistol, he eyed Buffy who looked incredibly bored.
“What’s this all about?” she asked.
He loaded another pistol and ambled toward the fence.
“Residual Jonathan worship world hating I guess.”
Dean took a minute to focus his aim, and then swiftly tapped off three cans. He grinned with satisfaction.
“How the hell did that kid know all this stuff about me anyway? I never even met him.”
“Oh, Giles said the spell gave him an ominous or omnishous ability….an all knowing thing about everything and everyone.”
Dean twisted around as he reloaded his pistol.
“But he doesn’t remember anything now?”
“Nope, once the spell broke, his memories faded away,” she confirmed.
“Well that’s good,” he replied. “Have I told you how much I hate magic?”
Dean twisted back around and fired off more rounds. Buffy drew out a deep breath as her boredom shifted into irritation.
“Are you done now?” she groaned.
Dean continued to drink in his skillful shots as he turned back to her.
“Give me a few more minutes,” he said. “What’s the rush anyway? You got something else you want to do?”
Buffy averted her eyes and gave a shy smile.
“Um, yeah, kind of.”
Dean took aim at a long branch hanging from a tree about five feet away. He fired a round at the branch, severing it off the tree.
“Woo! That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not Goose. I’m Maverick.”
Buffy rolled her eyes as the sun completely washed away into the horizon. She caught Dean’s eyes as he walked back to the car.
“So what were you thinking?”
He stared at her with a blank expression as she fidgeted on the hood.
“Um, well, I thought we could…um do something …”
Dean narrowed his eyes on her and studied her for a minute. He widened his eyes.
“Oh! Right! I like how you think.”
He broke into a smile as she flushed red. He pocketed his pistol and ambled to the driver side.
“We should be eating our hearts out at that Chinese buffet I saw a few miles back,” he replied emphatically. “I can’t remember the last time I ate. Good thinking.”
Buffy opened her mouth in protest as he passed by her and got in the car. When she eventually climbed onto the passenger seat, Dean broke into laughter.
“You are really getting your ass kicked in this competition,” he boasted. “You think if you just wear some cute outfit, bat your eyes and flash a shy smile at me that I’m going to cave? Come on, you have sorely
He shook his head as he widened his amused grin. After pouting for a brief moment, Buffy brightened with a realization. She hitched her head up and grinned.
“You forget Dean that when it comes to competitions, I always kick your ass, always,” she replied firmly. “So you may as well surrender and save yourself the humiliation of LOSING.”
“No way Summers,” he said. “You’re a real rookie in this kind of competition. If you accept defeat now, I’ll only rib you for….a month.”
He chuckled to himself as Buffy let out a breath. She exaggerated a pout as she scooted over and settled herself over his lap. She draped her arms around him and feigned a hurt look.
“Do you really have to make this a game? I mean, I just want to show you how sorry I am and how much I love you and want you to forgive me….”
She dipped her mouth toward his and kissed him tenderly. She kissed him on the crook of his neck, on the bridge of his nose, on the corner of his mouth before meeting his eyes.
“I don’t know, maybe if you got on your knees and…..begged.”
He cracked an amused smile as she frowned. He shook his head as he chuckled for a long minute. Buffy tore out of his lap as he settled down.
“Oh come on, I totally saw through that one! You did the ‘caught in the closet’ face.”
He widened his eyes and mocked a pout.
“Oh but Dean, I’m sooo sorry…Oh Dean, I love you soooo much,” he cooed.
He rumbled with laughter as he started the car.
“I know all of your tricks,” he replied. “You are not going to win.”
Buffy sulked in her seat as Dean drove back to the motel.
When Buffy followed Dean inside the room, she continued to swim in her sour mood. She dropped down onto a chair in the corner of the room as Dean stuffed the supplies he picked up into his bag. She noticed he was almost completely packed up. She shifted in her seat as the irritation in her heart was washed away by her growing despondency over his departure. She let out a long breath and padded over to the edge of the bed where he was sitting. She slowly sat down next to him.
“What time are you leaving?” she asked softly.
He flashed an amused smile.
“Oh you’re talking to me now huh?”
Seeing the mist tugging over her eyes, he shook his amusement off and eyed the clock.
“Uh, I probably have to leave around four, five at the latest.”
He watched her mouth draw into a deep, genuine pout as her eyes clouded with moisture.
“I’m going to miss you,” she cried softly.
“Oh god, you’re giving me that ‘killed your dog’ look again,” he lamented. “I never know what to say or do when you look like that.”
Buffy threw her arms around him and sobbed softly for a long moment. She hitched her head up and sniffed as emotion clogged her throat.
“Say you’ll come back…..to me.”
He gave her an odd look. “Yeah, of course I’ll be back, unless this is still all a dream and I wake up.”
She gave a weak nod as tears began to roll down her cheeks. Dean drew his hands to her face and wiped the tears away. He brushed a finger under her chin and raised her eyes from the floor to meet his.
“What else is bothering you?”
Buffy bit down on her quivering lips as a dark thought shaded her heart. She hated that Riley’s words of warning had planted seeds of doubt in her mind that had now sprung into fully formed insecurities. Despite questioning Riley’s intentions, she felt pangs of wonder in her mind. She couldn’t hold in her thoughts knowing Dean was about to leave town in a matter of hours. She drew a deep breath and struggled to keep her emotions under control.
“Are you….are you going to remember me when you leave here tomorrow?” she asked shakily.
He blinked several times in bewilderment.
“Do I usually come down with a case of amnesia when I leave here?”
He let out a short laugh until he saw more tears streaming from her eyes.
“It’s just….what happens now? When you get to the next town….and you…”
Her voice trailed off for a second as she averted her eyes from his.
“And you go out at night….to a bar, am I….am I going to be on your mind?”
Dean noticed the intense flare of fear in her eyes and let out a long breath, completely understanding what was prompting the trepidation in her voice.
“You’re worried that despite these past – mind blowing days with you – I’m going to revert back to being….same
old Dean as soon as I hit the next town, huh?”
“It’s a fair concern, considering your history, isn’t it?”
Her voice had shrunk to a very faint, very small volume as she struggled to meet his eyes. She fully expected to see the steely glare that bore down on her whenever she angered him. She was questioning his past, questioning his loyalty, questioning the strength of their bond, questioning the heartfelt confession he had made to her earlier and was prepared to accept a harsh stare or a resentful statement. Instead, when she pulled her eyes up to meet his, she saw only regret swimming in his eyes.
Buffy watched his eyes sink to the floor briefly before meeting with hers. He let out a long sigh.
“Yeah, it’s a fair concern,” he conceded softly.
He released another deep sigh when she waited expectantly for an answer. He curled an arm around her waist and scooted back on the bed until he was resting against the headboard. Buffy snuggled her head within the crook of his arm and curled her legs up. She watched as Dean looked off for a very long minute before his eyes shifted down to lock with hers.
“You’re always on my mind,” he confessed. “Even when I don’t want you to be and trust me, I tried a lot of things, things I’m not proud of doing to try and forget you but there’s just too much history between us for me to ever really erase you from my mind. Sometimes it amazes me how long I’ve known you, I mean, I’ll hear some stupid jingle in the gas station convenience store that I heard when we were kids and then I’ll start remembering lame crap from our childhood. Sometimes I’ll be at a bar and I’ll be talking to girl when I realize she smells all fruity like you and then I start thinking about you and…..it ruins my night because now I’m just thinking about you when I’m with her and it pissed me off - a lot, I started to think you were using magic or something to link with my psyche just so you could bug the crap out of me from afar…”
He gently pulled on a lock of her hair before stroking her face.
“So yeah, when I hit the next town, and I go out to a bar, you’ll be on my mind - torturing me as usual.”
He mocked an annoyed frown before he let out a soft chuckle. Buffy gasped in awe as her sullen expression shifted into a smile.
“Wow Dean, you totally amaze me! You really do have a softer side.”
He blinked before he frowned with genuine sincerity.
“Yeah dammit,” he grumbled. “You’re trying to turn me into a sappy schmuck!”
He shook his head in mocked annoyance.
“I may as well grow a pair of boobs and call myself….Deana. God, just kill me now.”
Buffy snickered for a brief moment as he shook his head in mild dismay.
“Oh, so you’d be the butch in this relationship, huh?”
Now his annoyed frown was sincere. “Of course I would, what the hell, you think I’d be the lipstick lesbian?”
Buffy shrugged as she snuggled deeper in his arm.
“Well, you always claim to be prettier than me.”
Dean opened his mouth to dish out some sarcasm before he thought about her statement. His frown rapidly shifted into a wide grin as he burst into laughter.
“Okay, you got me there.”
He rumbled with laughter.
“I am WAY prettier than you,” he declared.
“You are not,” she moped.
“Oh I SO am,” he affirmed. “Especially in the morning, that bed hair of yours is horrifying.”
Buffy gasped with horror as Dean buckled forward in a fit of laughter. She smacked him lightly in the back of his head but he continued to laugh for a long minute. The longer she watched his amused smile, the sparkle in his eyes and drank in the tone of his laughter, the more rapid the fog in her heart drifted away. When Dean finally settled down, she curled back in the crook of his arm and beamed a loving smile.
“I love you,” she said sweetly.
She swept a finger across his jaw and widened her smile.
“Of course you do, I’m awesome and WAY prettier than you,” he quipped.
He chuckled to himself as she frowned.
“Must you ruin such a nice moment?”
“Always,” he said emphatically.
Buffy rolled her eyes until his laughter became infectious. She joined in after awhile before another question pressed on her mind.
“Is it really going to be two weeks until I see you again?”
“Probably,” he answered. “I might be able to get back in about a week…”
“But dad will wonder why I’m aching to get back here so soon,” he finished.
She shaded with hurt. “And you don’t want to tell him? Are you embarrassed to be with me?”
“No, no, no, it’s nothing like that.”
Buffy sprung out of his hold when she saw the deep reluctance on his face.
“Then why can’t you just ask him if you can come back here sooner? Why can’t you tell him about me? About us?”
Dean let out a breath as he watched the fear flooding in her eyes again.
“I’m not really sure how he’s going to take it,” he said. “I mean, dad and I don’t usually have personal in depth conversations, if ever. My whole life it’s been, ‘dig’, ‘shoot’, ‘wait’, ‘call’, ‘go’, ‘watch’….he’s more likely to say, ‘oh’ if that.”
Buffy saw the profound emptiness swimming in his eyes as he reflected upon his upbringing in the Winchester family. She was acutely aware of how often John Winchester had left Dean the responsibility of taking care of Sam while he was away on hunts. She was all too familiar with the inherent loneliness that accompanied his life.
Buffy felt her heart shimmer with empathy. She folded herself over his lap and wrapped her arms tightly around him. As much as she adored the Winchester men, Dean had been the only one who had stood by her through every poignant time in her life. Sam had abandoned their friendship to pursue his own happiness and John had always sided with her responsibilities as the Slayer over everything else. But Dean had always been there for her, whether willingly or out of obligation to their family history. When she stumbled, he caught her before she hit the ground. When she was in the deepest, darkest tunnel, feeling cold and alone, he would wander around looking for her, shedding light in the abyss of her life, extending a comforting hand.
“Well, why wouldn’t he be happy for you? I mean, if you’re happy, he’s happy, right….you are happy, aren’t you?”
Her lips started to quiver so he pressed a finger against them to calm her down.
“Remember the whole waiting for the bottom to drop out thing? I guess I’m still kind of walking on shaky ground….”
Buffy sunk with guilt as she framed his face with her hands and gave him a long, tender kiss. When she pulled away, she locked eyes with him.
“I love you,” she affirmed. “And I want to make you happy.”
Dean felt his eyes dampen when he saw the deep remorse in hers. He pressed a tender kiss against her forehead. She nestled her head in the crook of his arms and looked up at him.
“The time I’ve spent with you has been…..amazing and I guess a part of me still thinks I’m going to wake up…I mean, I went through this whole ‘light as a feather’ phase for awhile until it started to crash really fast…and I didn’t want to go through that again….and I know, I hope with you it’s different. And it has been, I don’t have to lie to you, I don’t have to makeup stories about why I have to pick up and leave or why I’m stressed out, I can just be me and it’s been fantastic and fun and….better than I’d hope…..but then when you tried to rip me a new one over that chick at the gun shop, I had a glimmer of doubt over whether this was going to work…”
Buffy shined her guilt. “Oh, I overreacted.”
Dean shook his head.
“No, I get it. You have every reason to doubt me. You’ve known me a long time, you know my habits but I can’t take back the past, I can’t change the way I behaved. And honestly, this thing is going to take some getting used to so you have to give me a little slack. I haven’t been in as many relationships as you have.”
Buffy flashed a humbled smile.
“I’m not exactly the model relationship girl.”
She leaned up and kissed him long and lovingly.
“I don’t mean to press you about telling your dad,” she said softly. “It’s just I start to get really sad when I know you have to go soon, especially if you don’t know when you’re going to be back. It’s going to be so hard to not see you for awhile.”
Tears welled in her eyes but she stamped back the urge to cry.
“It’s not going to be a cake walk for me either,” he confessed. “I wish this time didn’t have to end…..I mean, it’s been awhile since I laughed at you that much.”
Buffy rolled her eyes before his smile warmed her heart.
“I think your dad will be cool about us,” she said.
“Yeah well, we’ll know soon enough. He’ll be cool with you. He’d probably threaten to kick my ass if I piss you off.”
“Oh no he won’t,” she affirmed. “I’ll kick your ass if you piss me off. He can just be back up.”
She cracked a smile. Dean rolled his eyes.
“Oh great,” he groaned. “Gang up on me.”
They shared a brief, loving kiss before going out to grab some dinner. Buffy snuggled up to Dean as they finished up their meals. When the waitress dropped off the check, she watched Dean as he picked through the cash in his wallet before putting a credit card down on the tray. She glanced at the name on the card. She eyed him curiously.
“Siegfried Houdini? Are you kidding?”
Dean cleared his throat as the waitress arrived to pick up the bill tray. He watched the waitress take the tray away before he settled a frown on Buffy.
“You do any tricks, Magic Man?” she asked with a teasing smile.
A smirk cracked his frown.
“Yeah, I’ve got a few up my sleeve but you’ll have to wait until I see you again,” he quipped.
“I’m not begging,” she groaned.
“You want to write that down on this napkin here so that when you are, I can flaunt it in your face?”
He widened his smirk as she hardened her scowl.
By the time they went back to the motel, it was nearing the nine o’clock hour. Dean gently drew Buffy to the car.
Her silly smile shrouded with sadness.
“Can’t I stay a little longer?”
“I really need to get a few hours of sleep since I’ve got quite a long drive tomorrow.”
She clung tightly to him and drank in the warmth and comfort of his embrace.
“I’ll call you, every morning and every evening until you get back here,” she said.
“Aw man, I better change my number,” he joked.
She drew a deep pout until he yanked her back into his arms and stroked her hair.
“Go ahead and call when you want,” he said. “But not too often and don’t freak out if I don’t answer or call back right away. I do have to work you know.”
“I know,” she said softly.
They shared another long, passionate kiss before getting in the car. Buffy felt her heart grow heavy as the car veered closer to her dorm. When Dean pulled to the curb outside Stevenson hall, she was completely drunk with sadness. She tried to fight the tears gathering in her eyes but found herself overwhelmed with emotion.
“No sappy goodbyes Summers,” Dean warned lightly.
“Oh but what happened to my sappy, soft Dean?” she whined.
“Let’s get one thing straight, there is nothing ‘soft’ about me and when you realize that, you’ll be ‘begging’ to see for yourself.”
He flashed a smug smile as she frowned.
“I’m not begging,” she snapped. “Now kiss me goodbye before I smack you.”
“Well, that could be….interesting,” he cracked.
Buffy heaved a huge sigh as he rolled his eyes and pulled her close. She let out a contented sigh as he took her in his arms and kissed her for a long minute. She fumbled for the door handle as her body went numb with bliss. When she stepped out of the car, she was careful to make sure her feet were firmly planted on the pavement before she straightened. After a quick exchange of goodbyes, she felt a pain in her heart as he drove away.
One week later:
John eyed Dean’s cell phone as it rang for the fifth time. Dean gave a sheepish smile as he glanced at the screen and swept if off the diner table. After meeting up with his dad in Louisiana, Dean had been thrown into a series of hunting duties, from research, to acquisitions, to digging up yet another grave. The entire week had been heavy on work but Dean had fully expected business as usual.
Dean set the phone on vibrate and put it back on the table. He shifted his focus back on his dad as he read off the history involved in their current job. When the cell phone hummed fifteen minutes later, Dean let out a long sigh when he noticed the California area code. John eyed Dean with intense interest.
“You want to answer that son? That’s been ringing since we sat down for breakfast. It’s probably important.”
Dean had held off on elaborating the details about his last visit to Sunnydale, not because of his insecurity over the new development in his relationship with Buffy but because he wasn’t quite sure how to explain it to his dad. He didn’t want to impart the complicated mess involving Faith and Riley because he didn’t feel it was his place to divulge such personal information. He let out a long sigh as he picked up the phone and answered.
He heard a girlish squeal in the background.
“Hi, what are you doing?”
Dean felt the weight of his dad’s stare and pried a smile on his face.
“Uh, I’m eating breakfast.”
“Oh, are you being a good boy and having something nutritious?”
Dean stifled a deep groan as he rolled his eyes.
“Is something going on?” he asked.
“Um no, I just wanted to call and say hi.”
Buffy giggled on the other end. “So, what’s new out there?”
“Um, nothing new going on since I talked to you last night.”
“Oh, did you get some sleep?”
“Some,” he answered.
“Oh, did you….go out last night?”
Dean stamped out the growing annoyance rising in his throat.
“Yeah, for a little bit. Had to eat.”
“Oh…..did you go home after you ate?”
Dean let out a long sigh. “I ate, I had a drink, then I went back to the motel, went to sleep, got up, took a shower, now I’m eating breakfast.”
“Oh,” she said.
Dean shifted his eyes to his dad who was still observing him curiously.
“I have to go,” he said gently.
He heard the blaring disappointment in her voice and sighed.
“Can I call you later?”
“Yeah, sure….but end of day later, not fifteen minutes later,” he clarified. “I really have to work.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to you later,” she said. “I miss you and I love you.”
Dean glanced at his dad who had gone back to paging through the newspaper.
He heard a very distinct pout on the other line.
“Aren’t you going to say it back?”
He let out another sigh.
“I’m with my dad right now.”
“You haven’t told him yet? It’s been a week,” she moped.
“I know, I’ve been caught up with work.”
“But you’re going to tell him soon?”
“Yeah, soon,” he said. “Now I really have to go.”
He released another sigh when she finally allowed him to hang up.
“Was that Buffy?”
Dean snapped his eyes to his dad.
“Uh yeah, how’d you know?”
John drew an amused smile.
“You look very annoyed.”
John chuckled briefly.
“Still driving you crazy, huh son?”
“Yeah, she makes a point of it sometimes,” Dean replied.
Their waitress was a young, attractive, perky girl with an angelic smile. She hovered over their table with a pot of coffee.
“Can I get you handsome gentlemen anything else this morning?”
“No, we’re good,” John answered with a polite smile.
John took note that the young girl was shamelessly admiring Dean. Knowing his son’s unabashed display of confidence and charm around the opposite sex, he was taken aback when Dean merely glanced politely and gave a thank you when the waitress filled his coffee cup. She dropped a stack of napkins beside him. John noticed a phone number scrawled on one of the napkins.
“So what’s going on in Sunnydale?” John asked. “If Buffy is calling you this much, I’d assume you still have a problem with Adam, does she need you out there?”
Dean eased back in his seat.
“Uh, yeah but not in the way you’d think,” he replied softly.
John studied his son for a very long minute.
“Oh, I see. Well, how long has this been going on?”
Dean shifted his eyes from the diner window to his dad who had the widest smile on his face.
“Uh how long has what been going on?”
“When a girl calls you incessantly throughout the day it usually means one of two things, she’s either obsessed with you in an unhealthy way, or….she’s missing you a lot and just wants to hear your voice. Since I know Buffy, I’m assuming it’s the latter. So I ask again, how long has this been going on?” he asked gruffly.
Dean rapped on the table with his fingers before he let out a breath.
“It kind of just….happened while I was out there last week,” he admitted.
John took a long sip from his coffee mug as he narrowed his eyes on his son.
“Do you feel the same way about her?”
Dean felt the heavy weight of his dad’s probing eyes and shifted in his seat.
“Yes sir,” he answered.
“I’m not interrogating you Dean, I’m just curious.”
John settled back in seat.
“Well, you and Buffy…..”
John stared at Dean for a long minute before breaking into a grin.
“It’s about damn time.”
John roared with laughter as Dean eyed him curiously.
“What are you talking about?”
“Come on son, your feelings for Buffy have been obvious to me for awhile.”
“They have? What, do I talk in my sleep or something?”
“I was in love once too – with your mother,” John replied. “The chemistry you have with Buffy is very similar to what your mother and I had when we first started dating. There were moments when we couldn’t get enough of each other and other moments when we couldn’t stand to be in the same room. You look at Buffy the same way I looked at your mother.”
“Oh, did she call you ten times a day for no reason at all and annoy the hell out of you?”
John chuckled as Dean fell into a mild scowl.
“She did – on a good day, on bad days she would leave just as many messages.”
Dean groaned. “Oh crap, I haven’t even checked my voicemails yet. I swear to god they’re gonna be like, hi it’s me….hi it’s me again…hi, what are you doing?”
He shook his head.
“Geez, what the hell did I get myself into?”
“Well, it’s fairly new, if you need some more time or space, don’t be afraid to tell her. You two always seemed to be able to communicate so well over the years.”
Dean let out a long breath. “Yeah…..it’s just…as much as it annoys me that she calls like, every fifteen minutes…..I sort of…..like it…god help me.”
John watched Dean ponder over thoughts as he tapped on the napkin that had the waitress’ phone number. Dean shifted his eyes on the napkin and noticed the number. He set his coffee mug down on the napkin.
“Say dad, do you have any idea where our next case may take us? Anywhere west?”
John drew a paternal smile. “Missing her that much?”
Dean feigned an innocent look.
“I was just…curious.”
“Tell you what, you give me three days of hard, solid work and I’ll give you a pass for the weekend.”
“Really?” Dean asked with caution.
“Buffy has a big heart,” John replied. “She’s a sweet, strong and independent young woman. When she sets her mind on something, there’s no getting in her way. I know what happens when you do.”
Dean pried a mild frown over his face. “Oh come on dad, how can she scare you? She’s just a stubborn little blonde girl with crappy taste in music.”
“That stubborn little blonde girl can kick your ass and mine without much effort,” John cracked lightly. “She’s already proven how often she kicks yours.”
Dean scowled as John chuckled with amusement.
“Buffy’s not just any girl,” John pointed. “I hope you know that.”
“Yeah, I do,” he answered softly.
“You better,” John warned. “She’ll always have a connection to this family so I hope that you treat her with the respect she deserves or god knows I’ll hear about it. She’s got my number too.”
Dean flashed an amused smile.
“Yeah maybe we should look into getting new numbers.”
After sharing a light moment, John regarded Dean with a stern expression.
“You’re aware of the average life span of a Slayer?” he asked morosely.
Dean stared down into his coffee mug for a long moment before glancing at his dad.
“Yes,” he answered very softly.
“And you understand that Buffy’s first responsibility is to her duty as the Slayer?”
Dean drew out a long breath.
“Yes,” he answered.
John’s stern expression softened a slight degree.
“I’m not trying to bring you down Dean,” he replied. “I just want to be certain that you’re aware that a relationship with the Slayer is not going to be some school yard romance. It’s going to be very rough at times for both of you, especially knowing the type of darkness she faces everyday. It’s easy to get caught up in each other and I know that Buffy is a very passionate girl. There may come a time when she may want to throw the sword down, to shirk her responsibilities, her destiny, for the love a good man…..”
Dean let out a long breath as he heard the familiar authoritative tone bleeding in his dad’s voice.
“Are you prepared to talk her down and walk away if this happens?”
Dean stared back and saw the steely eyes of the man who had raised a soldier and not a son. He bit back the resentment and hurt thickening in his throat at the reality of what he was being asked to sacrifice – again. He had given up many experiences and opportunities for the job without much complaint. This was the life he had been brought up in: constantly moving around, living in motels, assuming fake names and fake histories, never allowing himself to become too attached to anyone, always sacrificing his own happiness to serve his father’s purpose.
He worked diligently day in and day out for his dad not because he wanted to but because he was expected to; he was raised and trained to obey orders and rules. It was the only life he had known, until one day he stole a certain little girl’s cookie, and that girl grew up to be the most amazing hunter he had ever seen, the most amazing girl he had ever met. If she had never opened her heart to him, he would have still felt the same pangs of resentment of having to cut her out of his life for the sake of duty. Every little gesture of hers, every one of her habits and even her annoyances had profoundly bled into the fabric of his soul over the years. No matter how far away he was, she was always a thought in his mind, an extra beat in his heart, a long, lingering breath on a cold winter day.
Dean shifted in his seat as he felt the weight of his father’s stare. He stamped down the anger and bitterness brimming in his system. Despite recognizing his love and affection for Buffy, his dad was treating his newfound happiness with the familiar dialogue of priorities and duties. He felt moisture swelling at the back of his throat as his eyes began to glisten with fury. He took a long, deep breath to quell the black emotions raging within his heart.
“Dean,” John barked lightly. “Did you hear me?”
Dean shut his eyes to beat down the agony threatening to pour out. He took several more breaths before he opened his eyes.
“Yes, I heard you,” he said softly.
“Do you accept and understand what you may need to do?”
“Yes sir,” he answered.
Just then, Dean eyed his cell phone as it danced along the table. He glanced at the caller ID. Instead of feeling a cloud of annoyance that she was calling for the umpteenth time, he was grateful she disregarded his request to wait until the end of the day.
“Go ahead and take the call,” John replied. “I need to run to the gas station and fuel up, then I’m heading over to talk to the family. I want you to go over to the museum and talk to the curator.”
John pushed out his chair from the table as Dean swiped up his phone. He ambled out of the door and watched his dad climbing into his truck. He blew out a deep breath before he answered the phone.
“Hey,” he said softly.
“Ohhh, I know I was supposed to wait until the end of day, but I heard this song on the radio and it made me think of you and then….I sort of ‘accidentally’ called you…..I’m sorry to bother you so much.”
Dean felt his heart lifting out of his gloomy state when he heard the soft squeak in her moping tone. He found himself chuckling briefly as he wiped the faint moisture from his eyes.
“It’s okay,” he said.
After a pause, she came back on the line.
“Are you okay? You sound…different.”
Dean sniffed back the sting of his dad’s words and forced out a breath.
“Uh, I’m fine, I’m just….tired,” he said.
“Ohhhh, that’s probably my bad, huh? I promise I won’t call you anymore until later…..I just miss you a lot.”
“I miss you too,” he professed softly.
There wasn’t an ounce of force in the statement.
“Awwww, you said it!” she squealed. “I love sappy Dean!”
Dean felt loads lighter when she giggled on the other line. A smile cracked away his sullen expression as he climbed into the car. Buffy drifted onto a topic that he would have normally tuned out, but he was in desperate need of hearing her voice. The longer she gossiped, the quicker his black mood completely broke away. He didn’t even know or care what she was talking about but the cute lilt of her voice when she got excited made his heart dance. When she finally took pause to let him speak, he took a deep breath.
“Well, I’ve got an update for you,” he said.
After five minutes of incessant squealing over the news of his upcoming visit, Buffy promised to lay off the speed dial. Sure enough, eight minutes later, his cell phone rang again.
Dean glanced at the caller ID and shook his head.
“You asked for this Dean,” he said.