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I've Loved You So Long

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Summary: A Look at the Lifetime Relationship between the Slayer and the Hunter

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: Dean WinchestersuperslayerFR1867381,87821244120,79117 Mar 0923 Aug 12No

Ch. 57 Say It Ain’t So

A/N: Based around “The Yoko Factor”

Disclaimer: Song owned by artist mentioned.

THEN:

A lifetime friendship that blossomed into a relationship could be gone in sixty seconds. As the seconds wound down, his mind beckoned him to just take off and surrender the to frustration and pain of the most complicated relationship he had ever experienced, but his heart beamed with hope that she would be standing outside before time ran out.
Dean stole one more look into the rear view mirror.

“Come on Summers,” he muttered very softly. “Come on.”


NOW:

Dean heaved a sigh as he kept staring in the rear view mirror. The opening strums of Lynard Skynard’s ‘Free Bird’ began playing over the radio as he drifted deeper into his
thoughts.

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see


He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel for a long moment as the radio blared through the speakers.

But if I stayed here with you, GIRL

He glanced at his watch as the seconds wound down. Ten, nine, eight.

Things just couldn't be the same

He blew out a breath as he recalled all the events that had unfolded over the past few days dealing with one ex lover and then another, always stuck in the damn middle. The stubborn little blonde was always going to run off after whoever she wanted and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to stop her.

'Cause I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change


He blew out another breath and shook his head, flashing a disgruntled frown.

“You can ruffle the feathers but you can’t change the bird,” he grumbled.

Six seconds, five, four.....

Bye bye, baby, it's been a sweet love, yeah, yeah
Though this feeling I can't change
But please don't take it so badly
'Cause Lord knows I'm to blame


Dean felt his foot easing off the brake as the last three seconds ticked away. When the passenger side door swung open, he weighted the brake as Buffy met his eyes and climbed inside. She was silent and sulking deeply as she clipped the door shut. She crossed her arms over her chest as she stared out the window, looking over the stairs leading to the police station.

Dean heaved out another hot breath as he stared at Buffy narrowing her eyes on the police station entrance.

Ohohohohohhhhh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change


Dean shook his head as she deepened her mope. He dipped his eyes down as he felt the muscles in his body winding even tighter with aggravation. She was quiet and moping and as far as he was concerned that little display of emotion spawned from that undead bastard was still too much for his tastes.

Lord knows I can't change
Lord help me I can't change


Buffy blew out a short breath when she heard the car engine idle. She turned her eyes to Dean as he assessed her for a long minute.

“Can we go now?” she asked softly.

She caught his eyes looking over her state of dress as he eased off the brake and yanked the car onto the street. She frowned with deep resentment and scoffed.

“You really think in the few minutes you left that Angel and I got it on right there in the police station lobby? Come on Dean. I thought you knew me better,” she admonished lightly.

Dean stamped down on the brakes and lowered the volume of the radio. Buffy gripped the dashboard when the car lurched forward. She observed Dean and noticed the harsh lines gathering over his face and his hands clutching the steering wheel tightly.

“Yeah, I do know you,” he said sharply. “I know that whenever you’re around Mr. Old and Brooding you lose all sense about him. You want to run to his side whether you’re with him or not.”

He scoffed softly as he shook his head before meeting her eyes. Buffy absorbed the deep flare of resentment and hurt flaring in his eyes.

“It’s always gonna be like this, isn’t it? He’s always going to be in your life whether you stay away or not. And I’m the one that ends up taking the bullet to the heart.”

Buffy shifted out of her sulking, agitated mood when the pain in his eyes thickened. She let out a deep breath as she gently dropped her hand over his.

“No Dean, not anymore,” she said softly. “We promised to stay out of each other’s lives.”

Dean scoffed loudly this time.

“Oh that seems to be working out brilliantly for the both of you.

He shook his head as a car horn whined incessantly behind him. He eased off the break, cranked the radio back up and headed for the highway. Buffy blew out a deep sigh as he waited in the intersection, avoiding eye contact with her. She blew out another sigh as she reached toward the stereo console and turned down the radio. He shot her an annoyed glare as her soft expression deepened.

“Look, I need YOU, I love YOU and YOU will always be the one I turn to, you always have been,” she replied firmly. “And I know that it took a lot of guts for you to come with me knowing you were going to run into Angel and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I know you put up with a lot and I meant what I told you about making things right with you.”

She pulled his hand off the steering wheel and clasped it within hers.

“I made my choice,” she affirmed. “I’m not turning back.”

She looked up at him as he stared out at the road. After a minute, he released a deep breath before his eyes drifted down to meet hers. She saw the intense gleam in his eyes as he studied her. When another car horn wailed behind him, he let off the brake and sailed down the street.

Buffy felt her heart crack when Dean yanked his hand out of hers and propped it back on the steering wheel. Once they were on the highway, he slipped into a brooding expression as he stamped down on the gas pedal. Buffy moped very deeply, her eyes flaring with hurt as Dean completely ignored her.



Back in Sunnydale, in a dark cave deep in the woods, Spike milled around Adam’s lair with a cool expression.

“You will be returned to your savage state after I have immobilized the Slayer,” Adam
remarked mechanically.

Spike blew out a bit of smoke and hitched his head back.

“Not as simple as you think mate,” Spike noted flatly. “Just when you think you’ve got her cornered like a helpless, fat kitten, she pulls an Ace out of her sleeve. Not to mention she’s got that band of bumbling friends....and a bloody sod of a boyfriend.”

“Band of friends,” Adam repeated.

“Yup, that’s where your variable comes in, this Slayer’s got her loyal groupies, whenever she goes to battle, they’re always there to back her up, ups her odds against winning.”

Adam looked off as he processed the information.

“Then remove the variable,” he said robotically.

“Yup, exactly mate,” Spike said. “Snag me a wrench, loosen up a few bolts and the tight wheel of the Slayer crew will topple and fall away after a time. She’ll be a solo gig and won’t have the time or effort to sniff us out. And, if I might add, she’ll be mopey and miserable without ‘em sorry mates so that’s a bonus for me.”

Spike smiled and nodded with excitement.

“I’ll break up the band, don’t you worry that.....”

Spike looked at Adam’s face.

“....head off.”

“Your current reprogramming restricts you from harming them, how will you succeed in this plan to, as you say, ‘break up the band’?”

Spike flashed a smug smile.

“I won’t have to do one bloody thing other than planting me a little seed in each of ‘em and then they’ll sprout their own drama. It’ll be bloody perfect.”



After several miles, Buffy deepened her mope as Dean continued his cold shoulder treatment toward her. He fished out his phone and turned the radio down as he answered it.

“Hey dad......yeah, I’m in L.A......yeah she’s behind bars.....he needs what?.....yeah, yeah I can get it to him....when does he need it?”

Dean glanced at his watch before looking up at the road.

“Okay.....yes sir......bye.”

Dean sighed as he pocketed his phone. He pitched a glance over his shoulder before veering across several lanes.

“Will you please talk to me?” Buffy pleaded softly.

Dean yanked the car off the highway and opened his mouth to respond. After a tense minute, he simply sighed and maneuvered the car toward the outskirts of Sunnydale. When he reached the curbside of Stevenson Hall, Buffy remained in the car and stared at him. Her heart sunk with agony as her eyes grew misty.

“So.....is this it? You’re done with me?”

Dean stared out the windshield for a very long minute as he rapped his fingers against the steering wheel.

“After everything we’ve been through, after all the years you’ve known me, now you’re going to just....wipe your hands free of me?”

Buffy watched the harsh lines on his face growing more stony and tense. After another long minute, Dean tapped the radio down and heaved a sigh.

“I’ve got get some supplies to a hunter friend of my dad’s,” he said. “It’s up north, at least half a day’s drive.”

“Are you going to come back?”

Another minute passed before he rapped on the steering wheel and heaved another sigh. Buffy stared at him as he kept his eyes forward.

“Give me sometime, alright? With all this crap from the past couple of days, I can’t really think straight right now.”

“So you’ll come back?”

Dean fell into contemplation for another minute. Buffy held back her tears as she touched his hand.

“We’ve been friends from the beginning,” she emphasized. “And whatever happens, we always will be. So if you decide to......”

Buffy paused as tears cloaked her throat. She sniffed them back and blew out a breath.

“Promise me that whatever you decide, you’ll tell me in person,” she pleaded.

Buffy gripped his hand as she struggled to contain her hurt. She saw him stamp his eyes shut as a few harsh lines on his face faded.

“Promise me,” she said shakily.

When he opened his eyes, Buffy sniffed as a single set of tears escaped and rolled down her cheeks.

“Dean....promise me,” she said again.

Dean slowly inhaled a deep breath as he shifted his sights to her. He caught the tears streaming down his face and felt a pang of remorse ringing through his heart.

“I promise,” he affirmed softly.

He shifted his eyes to the street.

“I need to get going,” he remarked.

Buffy sniffed as she swung the door open. She leaned over to him and tenderly kissed his cheek.

“You make me happy,” she cried softly. “And I hope I make you happy too.”

Buffy inhaled a breath as her eyes thickened with moisture. Her mouth dipped into a pout as she reluctantly climbed out of the car. When she shut the door, she saw the shimmer in his eyes as he looked at her before pulling away from the curb.

By the time she made it back to her room, she was too drained to even pull off her shoes. She collapsed on her bed but couldn’t fall asleep, her heart too heavy with dread and hurt and anger. After tossing and turning for several minutes, she sat up and reached under her bed, yanking out a box of photos. She rummaged through a stack until she fished out a handful she had been looking for. She fondly brushed a finger across one and put the rest of the photos away. She curled up in fetal position and clutched the picture, one of her favorites and a very rare moment in time when it came to her history with the Winchesters.

The longer she soaked in the photo, the quicker the black feeling in her heart lifted. She smiled as her eyes drifted over her and Sam seated on a beach side bench, Dean was standing behind them, flashing bunny ears over their heads, a mischievous little curl in the corners of his mouth. Buffy laughed softly at the precious memory when Dean wasn’t so broken in spirit by the rupture of his own family. She heaved a sigh and set the picture on her bedside table hoping her childhood friend and the best love of her life would return soon.



The following evening, after a long drive to mull over the past, present and future, Dean veered through downtown Sunnydale collecting his thoughts as he neared the college campus. He parked on the far end of the dorm and paused in alarm when he heard the echoes of a male voice howling in agony. He pushed off the curb and followed the sound until he heard several more male voices shouting and wailing.

Dean bolted off his feet and ran toward the echoes just as an Initiative Commando flew through the air and crashed hard to the ground a few steps away from him. He crouched over the Commando and checked for a pulse before fishing out his pistol and taking off in the direction of the multiple wails. As he barreled through the quad, he saw several more commandos on the ground, also unconscious. A guy in a long dark duster was in the middle of the four, his back facing Dean.

“Don’t move,” he barked as he leveled his pistol on the assailant.

“You really do like pointing that thing at me.”

Dean blinked briefly out of his stony glare as the guy in the duster slowly swung around revealed his identity. Dean shifted back into his stony glare as he lowered his pistol and yanked out a stake.

“Would this be a more suitable ‘welcome’ FangPop?”

Angel shook his head as he edged toward Dean and paced around him. “You really like insulting me with ridiculous nicknames too.”

Dean shrugged as he paced around Angel, gripping the stake tighter in his hand.

“Well, I could stop.....when you’re dead and dust and blowing in the wind.”

Dean glanced over the four commandos; one had a broken nose with a trickle of blood running from his mouth.

“What’s with the slumber party? You making a statement or....you ready to meet your maker?”

Angel snorted with amusement. “If I was, I really doubt you could introduce me. You hide behind your shiny weapons and your pointy objects to compensate for what you know you lack – confidence, especially against someone like me. I’m not talking just about the demon inside me.”

Dean tossed the stake on the ground as Angel finished laughing.

“Alright asswipe, no more ‘respecting my elders’, you’re like a goddamn cancer that still flares up even after you’ve nuked it with radiation and I’m tired of dealing with it, dealing with you. So let’s finish this, right here, right now.”

Angel snorted again as he continued to pace around Dean.

“You’re in way over your head if you think you can take me,” he boasted.

Dean shrugged as he cracked his knuckles and deepened his icy glare.

“Try me.”

“I could snap your neck before you even blink boy,” Angel barked.

“But you won’t unless you’re a soulless bastard again. Are you?”

Angel shrugged.

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.”

Dean assessed his taunting smile for a long minute before he noticed another commando bleeding from the forehead. He yanked the commando up by the collar and threw him hard into Angel. Angel caught the guy as more blood flowed from the wound.

“Hungry?”

Dean watched Angel with wide amusement as he tried to stave off the bloodlust, trembling violently for a minute.

“Come on Gramps, I really worry about you,” Dean said with a taunting smile. “You never eat, you never sleep, you look so SICKLY, so just have a little taste for me, for your favorite grandchild....come on Poppy, please....”

Dean chuckled wickedly as Angel continued to fight the raging beast within him. After a second, Angel stopped shaking and dropped the commando on the ground. Angel threw Dean a steely glare.

“Well, guess you do have a soul....but you’re still a bastard.”

Angel clenched his fists, ready to strike until he let his annoyance settle.

“I didn’t come here for this,” he said.

Angel pivoted to leave until Dean ambled in front of him with a hard look.

“The dirt you want to bury yourself in is in THAT direction,” he barked as he pointed over Angel’s shoulder.

Angel clenched his fists again but held back the urge to punch Winchester in the face.

“I’ll leave after I take care of some business.”

“No, you’ll leave now, you have no business here to take care of,” Dean snapped.

Angel edged closer to Dean as the two exchanged long and volatile glares. After a minute, Angel stepped back.

“I just came to say a few things to her,” he imparted softly.

“Well save it and spare her anymore pain,” Dean groaned. “Because every time you come crashing back into her life it’s a goddamn mess whether you want it to be or not. I don’t know what the hell you talked about before she left, all I know is that it effects her and I’m the one left to deal with it.”

Angel shined a mocking glare.

“Oh, yes because you’re just a shoulder to cry on, that’s all you’ll ever be Winchester.
Buffy’s little puppy that she occasionally takes pity on with her little pout and a bat of the eyes and you eat it up believing she actually means it, that she could actually LOVE you.”

Angel roared with boastful laughter.

“But face it, I was the first love and you never forget that one, especially when you’re undead, she’ll see my face FOREVER,” he taunted.

Angel laughed again as Dean fumed a brief second before cracking his fist into the vampire’s face. Angel absorbed the hit before charging into Dean and smashing him to the ground. Dean swallowed the sting as he eyed a baton slung in a commando’s leg holster. He rolled over, fished it out and whipping Angel hard across the face just as he lunged at him. Angel stumbled back as Dean sailed to his feet. Dean charged Angel, throwing him down and then punching him in the face. Angel retaliated with a powerful punch to the chin, then to the face and then a knee to the gut. Dean recoiled, sucking in a breath for air as Angel rushed him hard into a wall of a building. He threw his face hard into Dean’s and laughed in his throat as he kept Dean pinned to the wall.

“Not so confident now, huh Winchester?”

Angel absorbed Dean’s seemingly defeated look until he felt something jammed under his chin. Angel blinked in surprise before frowning.

“Hiding behind more weapons?”

“I’m not hiding,” Dean grunted. “You can plainly see me, so see me saying, ‘SUCK IT you annoying undead sonofabitch!

Dean pulled the trigger on a tazer, shooting several high voltage jolts of electricity into Angel for several minutes. Angel grimaced and convulsed as he stumbled away from Dean. Angel slumped over as his convulsions dissipated. Dean tossed the tazer when it ran out of juice and fished up a trash can lid nearby. He pounded Angel several times across the head sending the vampire tumbling back. Angel grunted as he flashed his vampire fangs at Dean.

“I’m not hiding anymore either,” Angel snarled.

Dean threw the trash can lid down and shot Angel a steely glare.

“Bring it,” he growled.

Dean and Angel circled each others like two predators vying for the crown in the animal kingdom. Dean ripped out his stake and held it at his side.

“If you kill me, Buffy’s really going to be pissed at you.”

Dean paused in his circling and shrugged.

“She usually is at some point so I don’t care.”

Dean went back to circling Angel. After a flash, the two men charged each other, exchanging punches. Dean stumbled several feet back as he swallowed the pain from Angel’s demon powered blows. Angel lunged toward Dean, gripped him by the collar and hit him several more times, not holding back. Dean absorbed the sting as he caught Angel’s fist and shot his arm back, making the vampire elbow himself in the face. Angel growled and propelled Dean through the air several feet across the quad. A lamppost broke his fall as he crumbled to the ground and groaned deeply. Just as Angel was about to attack again, he whipped his eyes to a set of headlights cutting through the faint darkness. When he saw the Humvees cruising down the street, he retreated into the shadows and took off.




Buffy winced as she finished bandaging the wound on her arm she had acquired from her fight with Adam. When she returned to her room, she made a few phone calls to the gang. She hung onto the phone and contemplated whether to call Dean or not, wanting to give him the time he asked for. But she missed him dreadfully since he had dropped her off and she longed to hear his voice even if his tone was disgruntled. As she punched in the first set of numbers, she heard a soft rapping on the door. She quickly hung up and heaved a breath of hope as she shuffled to the door. She shined her surprise when she saw Angel leaning in the doorway, looking a little disheveled and beat up.

“What are you doing here?” she asked softly.

“We need to talk. May I?”

Angel looked over her shoulder. Buffy heaved a breath as she flashed a defeated look.

“Um....”

She ended up just shrugging. Angel exuded mild exasperation.

“Then I have to stay put,” he said.

In her foggy mind, it registered what he was getting at. She widened her door.

“Oh, sorry, you can come inside,” she clarified.

Angel brushed passed her as she swung the door shut. She cautiously kept her distance, her mind still reeling from their last encounter and exchange of words. As he perched by the window, Buffy noticed the wounds on his face.

“Someone did some real work on you,” she remarked. “Demon?”

Angel threw a casual look and shrugged.

“Yeah, you could say that,” he answered cryptically. “Not one I couldn’t handle.”

Buffy shrouded a look of confusion.

“It’s not important,” he said. “I came here to see you.”

“Why? Did you have more hurtful remarks that were too priceless to dish out over a phone call?”

Angel heaved a sigh and a remorseful expression.

“Buffy, please just listen for a second. I didn’t come here to fight.....”

“Well, I did, you crock of shit.”

Buffy widened her eyes in astonishment as she swung around to see Dean leaning in the doorway, leveling a crossbow at Angel’s heart. His face was bruised and cut up and he winced as he slowly edged into the room.

“Dean? What....what’s going on?”

“Finishing what’s been a long time coming,” he answered, keeping his stony glare on
Angel.

Buffy glanced at Angel who was throwing equal animosity at Dean. She shook her head in wide disbelief before she rolled her eyes.

“Unbelievable,” she groaned.

Angel shifted out his glare and shot an apologetic expression at Buffy.

“It’s not what you think,” he said.

“Not what I think? What I THINK is that for a two hundred plus year old you are pretty immature to throw your weight around whenever my boyfriend ‘happens’ to go on a tangent about why he dislikes you. You can’t just crack people’s faces because you can’t stand them.”

Buffy blinked with alarm when Dean stumbled and nearly toppled over. She caught him and held him upright.

“He threw the first punch,” Angel whined.

Buffy shot her eyes to Angel and glared.

“Then I’ll throw the last,” Dean barked as he leveled his crossbow.

Angel chuckled briefly when he caught Dean wincing from the action.

“You can barely breathe without feeling pain,” Angel boasted.

Dean tightened his grip around the trigger. “Maybe, maybe not all you should be worried about is my steady trigger finger suddenly having a spontaneous impulse.”
Angel eyed Buffy.

“Are you sure it’s love you feel for him and not sympathy?”

Dean huffed as he released the trigger.

“Oops,” he grunted.

Buffy widened her eyes as the bolt sailed toward Angel. She snapped her hand up and caught the bolt within an inch of hitting his chest. She glared at Dean as she cracked the bolt over her knee and hurled it to the ground. Angel started edging toward Dean, shooting daggers with his stony eyes. Buffy roughly shoved him back into a corner of the room. He knocked his head back into a wall and winced. Buffy whipped around and edged Dean away before she glared at both guys several times.

“GOD you two are IMPOSSIBLE!” she barked. “If either of you start measuring your cocks again I swear I will rip them BOTH off!”

Buffy clenched her fists and shot her ire at both guys.

“You think I’m bluffing? Try me, just try me!”

She growled loudly in her throat as Angel and Dean shot one last round of acrimonious glares before looking away. When her fury settled down, she let out a deep sigh as she eyed Angel.

“You wanted to say something to me? Then say it and go Angel,” she said.

“How about he just go?” Dean asked sharply as he settled down on her bed and grimaced from the action.

Angel snorted softly until Buffy glared deeply at him.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’ll say what I need and then go.”

Buffy yanked the door open and waited expectantly for him to go. When she saw Angel hovering she narrowed her eyes.

“Don’t even think about getting in a last word,” she snapped.

Buffy shifted her eyes to Dean and softened her expression.

“I’ll be right back,” she said.

Buffy drifted into the hallway and shut the door behind her. She tensed up as Angel lingered near.

“What the hell did you think you were doing? I went to L.A. to help you with Faith and
then you kick me out of your city after spitting out hateful words to me and then you rushed back her to what......beat up on Dean for calling you names?”

“Well, it does get on my nerves,” he reasoned.

Buffy deepened her glare until Angel clammed up.

“I came to make peace,” he said.

Buffy scoffed loudly as Angel absorbed his statement. After a minute, the two eyed each other and silently acknowledged the ridiculousness of the situation by laughing.

“I think I’m doing a bang up job,” Angel cracked.

“Yeah, fantastic,” she said dryly.

Buffy leaned against her door and sighed, letting her fury dissipate.

“I didn’t want things to end like that between us,” he admitted. “I just wanted to apologize to you for what I said and the tone I took with you. It wasn’t my business or my right.”

Buffy absorbed his apology as she glanced behind her.

“And your umpteenth cage fighting round with Dean?”

“Some commando guys jumped me, he got stuck in the middle, he didn’t try too hard in thinking BETTER of me.”

“Neither do you,” Buffy pointed.

Angel dropped his eyes as he nodded.

“Yeah, I...I know.”

Buffy heaved a breath as Angel met her eyes.

“The blame isn’t all yours here,” she confessed. “You weren’t completely off about why I went to L.A. And we did agree to stay out of each other’s lives. I had no business just dropping in and accusing you of things.”

Angel nodded. “I am truly sorry.”

Buffy nodded in acknowledgment.

“I appreciate it,” she said. “But next time pick up the phone and say it.”

Angel nodded with a smile.

“I will.”

After friendly smiles, Angel pivoted toward the hallway.

“I said what I needed to, now it’s time for me to go.”

“Have a safe trip,” she said.

Angel turned down the hallway and slowly walked away. After a few steps, he paused and swung around as Buffy gripped the door knob.

“Oh, and about Winchester?”

Buffy turned her sights to Angel.

“I still hate him,” he admitted. “Sorry.”

Buffy sucked in a breath before she shook her head and drew an amused smile. Angel flashed an amused smile as he swung around and drifted away.

Buffy pushed through the door to find Dean sprawled out on her bed, his head resting on a bunch of pillows, breathing very slowly, clearly in pain. She drew a deep sigh as she sat beside him and examined the wounds on his face. She noticed Dean clutching his side and gingerly pulled up his shirt, seeing a purplish bruise on the flesh.

“It looks worse than it is,” he said softly.

He stared at the bandage on her arm before shifting his eyes up to her.

“Who the hell did that to you?”

“Adam, I....I found him or he found me and I....we fought and then......”

She got up and fetched a small first aid kit. She settled back down beside him and caught him gazing up at her. As she began to wipe the blood off his face, she noticed the stony lines around his eyes rapidly fading.

“I would have called you but, you said you wanted time and then.....then you showed up here.”

“I told you I’d come back,” he answered.

Buffy paused in her action as dread gripped her throat. She pouted deeply as her heart rippled with apprehension.

“Dean, I....I don’t think I can deal with this now.”

“You think it’s bad news,” he assessed.

Buffy heaved a breath as her pout deepened even more.

“You drop back in to town and run into Angel after dealing with him in L.A. and then dealing with this whole Riley thing before, you’ve been so....on edge the past couple of days you’ve been here and....I’m just not prepared for any more fallout right now. So if you came back to break up with me....”

Her lips began to quiver as she stamped back the tears gathering in her eyes. When emotion overwhelmed her, she squeaked as a few tears rolled down her face. Dean sucked in a breath as he raised a hand to brush the tears away.

“I told you I needed time to think, to just get away from all the drama, and twelve hours roundtrip is a lot of time to sit with things and figure stuff out.”

Buffy gulped as she searched his eyes for an answer.

“And what did you figure? Why did you come back?”

“I came back.....to come back,” he answered. “Because I always seem to no matter how pissed off I am at the world or you or that pain in the ass Angel, the road I take brings me back here after awhile and that makes me wonder....why. Am I glutton for punishment or sick in the head?”

When he spotted the hurt flickering in her eyes, he cupped her chin.

“Or am I just so crazy when it comes to you I can’t think rationally?”

Buffy soaked in the sparkle of his eyes as the weight in her heart lifted.

“Are you?”

After a minute, Dean shrugged and drew an amused smile.

“Jury’s still out on that one.”

Buffy cradled his face careful not to touch his wounds.

“You came back because you love me,” she said. “You’ve loved me since I was fifteen years old.”

Dean scoffed softly.

“What? I think you’re crazy now,” he remarked.

Buffy snatched up the photo on her bedside table and tapped it.

“This is PROOF,” she said.

Dean glanced at the photo and frowned.

“In what way is that proof? If anything it shows how annoyed I was that you FORCED me to take a picture with you.”

Buffy shook her head. “I’m talking about this day, my fifteenth birthday, we went to Venice had lunch at this burger shack and this old icky man kept looking at me while we were eating. He came by and started flirting with me and YOU told him to go away.
That I was jailbait, you don’t remember this?”

Dean feigned an innocent look.

“No, not really but, you were jailbait.”

“Well, that kooky old man kept hanging around until you made him walk away. I think maybe you flashed him your gun, did you even carry one back then?”

“I always carry one,” he said.

“You really don’t remember this?”

“I don’t know, was it worth remembering?”

“It was to me, I asked you why you told that perv off if you really didn’t care about
me and you passed it off as just trying to protect me at your dad’s request.”

“Well, that is true; it’s always been my....burden when I rolled into town to visit,” he cracked.

Buffy heaved a deep sigh before she beamed an amused grin.

“I guess you really can’t think rationally when it comes to me,” she said.

The phone interrupted the silence as she widened her smile. She picked up the landline and answered.

“Giles? Oh, yeah, it is important.....okay, I’ll be there shortly.”

Buffy sighed as she hung up the phone.

“I need to check in with the gang, update them about Adam,” she said.

Dean clutched his side as he started to sit up.

“One chauffeur at your service,” he grunted.

Buffy gently pressed him back to the bed.

“You stay here and rest,” she stressed. “And YOU ARE NOT a chauffeur, you never were and it means a lot, SO MUCH to me that you came back.”

She planted a loving kiss on his forehead as she got to her feet.

“And when I get back, you get the VIP recovery treatment,” she replied.

Dean stamped down some more pain as he hitched up an eyebrow in curiosity.

“Oh yeah? Is the naughty scientist going to examine me or take specimen samples?”

Buffy blinked in shock before she folded over with laughter.

“Hey, hey, no jokes, I’m serious. You still got that lab coat stashed somewhere, don’t ya?”

Buffy straightened as her giggles subsided.

“Um.....yeah but....it doesn’t really work well with this outfit.”

“Who says I want you to wear an outfit underneath?”

Buffy gauged his sincerity and erupted into more laughter. She picked up her coat and ambled to the door.

“I’ll be back soon, try and get some rest. Bye.”




A short time later, Buffy ambled through the door to her room to see Dean in the same position on the bed as before.

“Thank god you’re back, I’ve got an itch I can’t scratch,” he moaned.

Buffy tossed her jacket aside and walked over to the bed. When she caught his eyes,
the humor in his expression faded.

“Jesus, what’s wrong now?”

He flashed a disgruntled frown.

“Did you run into the old man again? God, he is a royal prick,” he grumbled.

Buffy gently settled next to him and blew out a breath.

“No um, there were....developments at this meeting,” she said.

“Developments? Like what?”

A few minutes after updating Dean about the tense meeting with the gang, Buffy watched the curiosity on his face shift into shock.

“Are you kidding me? GILES WAS WASTED and I MISSED IT? Dammit. I really needed a laugh. Did he have like a little speck of vomit on his mouth or was he slurring words?”

Dean studied her glum expression and gently sighed.

“Tough crowd,” he moaned.

As her pout deepened, he took her hand in his and tugged her down to the mattress. She eased onto the bed and settled beside him.

“I’m sure no one meant what they said,” he said. “Especially Giles.....damn, you didn’t take video did you?”

Buffy shot him a doubtful look as he sighed before playing with a lock of her hair.

“I don’t know what anyone meant but....it still hurt and....we’ve all been so close for so long that this.....maybe it just snapped and everything is falling apart, I don’t know, all I know is that you really are the only one I can count on. I need you now more than ever,” she said as her tone quavered with emotion.

She gingerly curled up next to him, mindful of the pain ringing through his body. She lightly pressed her mouth on his and kissed him very softly. When she pulled away she soaked in the gleam of his eyes as she snuggled closer to him.

“You’ve never said it,” she remarked.

“Said what?”

“That....you love me,” she said. “You’ve never really said it so how do I know that you
do?”

As her lips began to shake and her eyes grew glassy with misery, he swept a loose tendril from her face.

“I came back,” he answered.

Buffy saw the spark in his eyes flare up intensely as he tucked her in his arms. All the shock and awe that had slammed through her over the past few days, quickly dissipated the longer he held her within his arms. She inched toward him and kissed him for a long minute. When she pulled away, she gazed deeply into his eyes. As her gaze lingered, she drifted into her memories about this man who held her in comfort, the man who had stood by her through the best and worst of times of her life. She kissed the bridge of his nose affectionately as her gaze lengthened. He had come back even after dealing with two of her exes, he had come back so many times when he could have written her off instead. He had come back to her and as he clutched her tighter and kissed her deeply, she knew, despite her shattered confidence that he always would.
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