Aliens, Trolls and Gods, Oh My!
Rework of the following episodes Listening to Fear – Into the Woods – Triangle – Checkpoint.
Sorry for the very long delay to my readers. RL has just been crazy so here’s a big update.
The line: "If it bleeds, we can kill it." is from the movie Predator, I do not own.
“Buffy, it’s okay, you don’t need to keep me company. You have other responsibilities – things you need to go out and do – like patrolling. So go ahead,” Joyce said understandingly.
Buffy clutched her mother’s hand and shook her head as her face knitted with conviction.
“I’m not going anywhere. My only responsibility and need is to take care of you. And anyway, Dean’s picked up my patrols and trust me he was more than willing to be the ‘leader’ of the pack. He’s got a handle on it, I’m not worried.”
Willow, Giles and Xander struggled to keep breathing as they tangled with two female vampires, while the third had Dean pinned to the ground, ferociously growling and trying to bite him. The female fang snarled in his face as he fought her off, pressing his forearm against her neck.
“I’m not gonna kiss you sweetheart until you use a breath mint,” he grunted.
As Dean hurled his fist into the vampire’s face, another fang tossed Willow to the ground. Dean shifted his eyes to check on the gang as they worked together to fight the other two vamps.
“Not a vamp! Not a vamp!” Xander hollered at Giles.
Dean looked back at his vampire just as she slashed her long nails across his cheek, drawing blood. As she raged with bloodlust, she nicked Dean in the throat but he elbowed her repeatedly in the face until she scrambled back slightly. Xander was dodging blows with as much effort as he could but still absorbing just as many, Giles was on his knees, having been thrown aside by a vampire and Willow was just now sitting up. All three were visibly exhausted while the vampires were gaining momentum.
As the three vamps closed in on the gang, Dean swiped at the stream of blood flowing from his bite wound. He raised his hand and whistled.
“Hey you vamp chicks! There’s a blood party over here and I’m on the menu! You smell that? Doesn’t it smell good?! You want some of this yummy goodness huh?”
The three vamps bolted to a stop and swung around, sniffing the air and then snarling with hunger. Xander, Willow and Giles popped their eyes wide in horror.
“Wh-what’s he doing?” Willow asked apprehensively.
“Feeding himself to vampires,” Xander replied.
“That is completely asinine,” Giles said in appall.
The three vamps pounced on Dean, fighting each other for the first bite. The one who had slashed Dean pushed the other two away and then clamped her fangs into his neck. Dean swallowed the sting of the bite as the vampire began to take a drink.
The vamp bolted upright, shrieked in agony and widened her eyes as smoke billowed from her mouth.
The other two exchanged looks as Dean watched in wicked delight as his vampire’s mouth began flaming away from the inside.
“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, I had a holy water cocktail about ten minutes ago so…..”
The fang’s body trembled and convulsed violently until she fell away into smoke.
Giles, Willow and Xander lunged at their two vampires as Dean tagged his. As Giles and Xander held one of the vamps, Willow staked her. She whistled victoriously when she heard Dean calling her name. Willow ducked out of the path of a raging vampire as Dean charged after it. Willow courageously stuck her foot out, tripping the vampire as it targeted Xander. The vampire fumbled in her footing giving Dean the advantage as he tackled her to the ground and shoved a stake through her back.
“Good lord,” Giles gasped when the melee ceased.
“I got one!” Willow said boastfully. “Whoop! That was awesome as long as I don’t remember how utterly scared I was that I almost passed out.”
Giles, Willow and Xander examined each other before turning their sights to Dean as he spat out some blood.
“Are you alright?” Giles asked as Dean dabbed at the wound on his neck.
“Yeah, yeah, Elvira just scratched me a little,” Dean said dismissively.
“Good,” Giles said in relief.
Then, Giles shaded with a peevish frown.
“What you did was completely insane,” he admonished.
Dean raised an eyebrow at Giles’ scolding tone.
“You do know me right? And besides, I knew what I was doing.”
“That is no excuse for being so reckless,” Giles said sternly.
“We needed a distraction and it worked,” Dean reasoned.
“That wasn’t too bad,” Xander said. “Though I’m now starting to like the idea of making vamps go boom. Much more effective and a lot less chance of getting staked by a Watcher.”
As Giles and Willow glanced at Xander oddly, Dean shot him a conspiratorial look.
“What? Are you sayin’ you wanted to blow them up? Wow, Xander, that’s creative,” Dean covered.
Giles and Willow stared at Dean and then back at Xander. Xander caved with a sheepish look.
“Whoops,” he gulped.
Willow widened her eyes with a revelation.
“Oh, you blew up the nest of vampires when we told you not to,” she said.
“May I repeat the word reckless,” Giles emphasized.
“Okay, okay, so maybe it was a little but it was effective,” Dean said.
Giles dusted off his jacket and drew a paternal frown.
“You really should be more careful,” he said. “Buffy has been through enough. I doubt she would be pleased to hear of your methods of eradicating vampire nests.”
“I know, which is why none of you should mention it.”
Giles and Willow exuded their reluctance until Dean pleaded more of his case.
“Come on, nothing happened to me and there’s one less vamp nest out there, so really, there’s no reason you need to bring it up.”
After another long moment of hesitation, Giles let out a sigh.
“I suppose you are right.”
“Of course I am,” Dean said with a satisfied smile.
Dean backed out of the exam room and threw a smile at the young RN who had been fussing over him for the past ten minutes. All he had needed was an extra bandage to dress his wounds but the medical professional had insisted on examining it.
“That’s alright sweetheart, I’m fine, seriously,” he insisted.
“I still recommend you get a rabies shot hon,” the nurse stressed as she picked up a vial and a syringe. “Just to be safe since we’re dealing with a wild animal. That bite looked pretty nasty.”
Dean waved a hand in dismiss as he hung out in the hall.
“Nah, I won’t need it, the girl barely grazed me,” he said. “Anyway, thanks for loaning me the bandage.”
Dean cracked a wink before he ambled down the hallway leading to Joyce Summers’ room. After he rounded a corner, he spotted Willow, Buffy and Dawn exiting Joyce’s room.
Dean flipped the collar of his jacket and zipped it all the way up, discreetly covering his neck wound as he bounded over to the trio of girls. Buffy let out a deep sigh when she Dean ambling toward her. Taking in the looks of wonder, Dean cracked an eyebrow as Buffy gave him a hug.
“What’s going on?”
“I’ll fill you in later,” Buffy said. “Looks like patrol went okay then. No snags?”
Dean spied a glance at Willow and noticed her trying to distract herself.
“Nope,” he said with a confident smile. “I’ve got it all under control.”
Buffy let out a breath of relief and appreciation as she pushed off her toes and leaned in for a kiss. Dawn rolled her eyes and began making gagging noises, causing Buffy to pause and shake her head. As the four continued down the hall, a family strolled along from the opposite end. When the middle aged man in the family swerved incessantly as he walked with his wife and daughters, Buffy deftly stepped out his way just before he collided into her. Buffy peered up at him as he rambled incoherently.
The man eyed each one of them until he began pointing his finger at Dawn.
“What’s this? What’s this?” he asked. “I have nothing! No info! What is this?”
Buffy cupped an arm around Dawn, shielding her from the man as he grew more agitated. His eyes were wide and fearful as he kept staring at Dawn.
“What’s this?!” he demanded.
Buffy eyed Dean apprehensively as the man kept badgering them. Dean gently steered the man in the direction of his family, walking him back to the wife.
“I believe this one belongs to you.”
The man’s wife gave a sheepish look as she ushered him away, their daughters trailing behind.
When Dean returned to the girls, they were still staring at the man with his family as they exited the hall.
“What a real looney tune huh?”
Buffy kept her arm protectively around Dawn.
“Just forget about it,” Buffy said.
“Yikes, I hope he wasn’t bothering you too much.”
Dean groaned deep in his throat and smiled begrudgingly when Ben appeared behind the girls.
“Do you EVER go home?” Dean muttered.
As Ben and then Buffy stared at him, Dean pushed his civil expression deeper over his face.
“I mean, you seem to work so hard.”
Buffy gave a polite wave as she introduced Willow.
“As to your question, he was reaching the ‘too much’ point,” she admitted. “We’re fine now though, no big. Is he really going home with his family?”
Ben brightened his warm smile as he rolled his eyes.
“It’s a really long story, but yeah,” he moaned. “We had a bit of a mishap in the psychiatric wing – it got overbooked and the overflow has just caused a lot of – well madness around here. Anyone with family nearby gets sent home to be in their care. I hope he didn’t say anything that made you feel uncomfortable.”
As Ben looked concerned, Buffy showed polite appreciation, while Dawn was visibly disturbed and Dean was downright irritated.
“It’s none of your business,” Dean grumbled softly.
When Ben turned his eyes on him and looked confused, Dean pushed an innocent look over his face.
“Nonsense,” he said. “Buncha nonsense. See ya.”
“What’s taking so long?!” Joyce asked impatiently.
Buffy, Dean and Dawn were gathered around Joyce’s bed as she pressed the call button incessantly, her face riddled with
“I think it’s broken!” Joyce moaned.
“You know what, let me see if I can find the doc,” Dean offered.
Buffy gently pulled her mother’s hand away from the call button, briefly passing Dean an appreciative look.
“They’re probably on their way,” Buffy assured.
A minute later, Dean propped the door open for Doctor Kriegel. Buffy and Joyce greeted him with anxious looks when a cell phone chimed through the air. Dean flashed an apologetic look as he stepped out of the room, giving the Summers family time with the doctor. Seeing Buffy’s old dorm room number on the caller ID screen, Dean answered his phone after the second ring.
“Yeah? Hey Willow…..”
As Willow sputtered with news on the other line, Dean widened his eyes in disbelief.
“You saw a what? Seriously? Uh yeah, yeah, when?”
Dean glanced at his watch as Dawn slipped out of the room, steering toward the vending machines. As the door began to swing shut, Dean caught a glimpse of Buffy and Dr. Kriegel in an intense discussion.
After hanging up, Dean ambled down the hall, looking for Dawn. He paused abruptly in the hallway when something in his gut tightened. Dean cautiously shifted his sights around, feeling his instinct tugging even tighter. His eyes drifted upward to the ceiling but after a long scope, he saw nothing. As the uneasy feeling settled, Dean ambled over to the vending
machines were Dawn was lingering.
“Hey Dawn, I gotta run out and take care of something. You gonna be okay?”
Dawn nodded, even though she was still visibly upset. Dean took out a couple of dollar bills and stuffed them in the
vending machine. He looked over the choices and hit several buttons. After fishing out his selections, he held up two of them.
“Want one of these?”
Dawn simply stared off, her face riddled with fear. Dean pushed a few bills in her hand.
“Get what you want when you feel hungry. If you girls need anything, just call.”
A short time later, Dean met up with the gang at the edge of the forest, quickly removing a couple of flashlights from his bag. Willow and Tara flanked him as they led the group through the woods. After a long trek, the gang spilled out into a clearing and looked off in different directions.
“Hey, I think I found it,” Dean announced as he swung his flashlight over a sunken section of the clearing.
The gang followed Dean as he ambled toward the edge of the clearing and peered into a large hole. The gang gathered
around and gawked at the charred ground surrounding the meteorite.
“Holy crap,” Dean gasped softly.
Dean hopped into the sunken hole, sweeping his flashlight over the meteorite. Xander followed suit, jumping in.
“You shouldn’t get too close if it’s glowing,” Anya warned. “You know, if it’s glowing and hot that means it’s got radiation and that causes sterility.”
Xander impulsively backed away as Dean washed the light over the meteorite a second time.
“We’re fine. This thing is out of juice,” Dean said.
After tapping the meteor rock with his boot, the gang heard a low echo.
“It’s empty?” Willow asked as she leaned her sights over the edge.
“You know what I’m thinking?” Anya said.
“Someone stole all the yummy candy from the party piñata?” Xander cracked.
Dean crouched down beside a section of the meteorite and noticed a large split.
“More like General Zod busted his way out of his mirror prison,” Dean replied grimly.
“General Who?” Giles asked with a clueless expression.
Dean looked offended as he stared at Giles.
“Geez Giles, will you rent a movie once in awhile?”
“Maybe he’s mad as hell and out to enslave humanity or….eat us,” Xander guessed.
Xander and Willow gulped as their faces flushed with dread while Giles tried to remain calm and rational.
“We don’t even know if it is a ‘he’,” Dean remarked. “Maybe it’s a hot she-alien and she’s here along with all her hot sisters to capture all the men on Earth and make them her love slaves.”
“What if it’s here to experiment on humans, you know with all the scary high tech alien tools and…..that table where they….they….ppprobe you,” Xander said apprehensively.
Dean and Xander stared off, lost in that thought, their faces flushing of color.
“I’m going with my hot she alien scenario,” Dean said after clearing his throat.
“Until we know more, we cannot be certain of its intentions,” Giles stressed. “Nor can we be certain what we are dealing with.”
“I’ll tell ya what we’re dealing with,” Dean said. “We’ve got ourselves a bonafide extra terrestrial and that – that’s awesome!”
“Until he’s ripping your head off with its talons,” Anya added dryly.
“Maybe we should look around some more,” Tara gulped.
Dean, Xander and Giles split off one way, while the girls drifted another direction.
After a short minute, the guys drew alarm after hearing a faint yelp. Xander widened his eyes in a panic.
“That was Will!”
Dean, Giles and Xander took off toward where the girls were last seen. When they reached Willow, she, Anya and Tara were standing over a man’s dead body.
“Well, now we can cross off human enslavement and devouring us as a motive,” Xander quipped. “He’s just plain dead.”
Dean stepped passed everyone and crouched over the body, taking a long examination.
“No visible markings,” he said as he began inspecting the man’s neckline.
“Why does he look familiar?” Willow asked as she frowned with wonder.
Dean eased back to scope over the man’s face.
“Oh!” Willow gasped. “I know!”
Dean glanced at Willow before looking over the man again.
“Crazy muttering dude at the hospital,” Dean replied. “Well, he gets his walking papers and where does he end up? Good
and dead. That sucks.”
When something caught his eye, Dean inched closer to the dead man, extracting a pen from his pocket.
“Hold on a second,” he said.
“What is it?” Giles inquired.
Dean slipped the pen in the man’s mouth and slowly pried it open.
“I thought I saw something weird…..”
Dean removed the pen to reveal a thick black viscous substance coating the tip. Once the substance hit the air, the gang grimaced deeply and stepped back.
“Ugh,” they all groaned.
“Something either crawled out of him or….died inside him,” Dean moaned as he wiped the pen against the grass.
“Well, what are we gonna do?” Anya asked.
“Ask Buffy,” Willow blurted. “Except….we shouldn’t…..but I want too.”
“But we shouldn’t,” Tara said gently.
“Uh hello?” Dean interjected as he waved his hand. “Have these patrols I’ve lead you on lately meant nothing to any of you?”
Willow and Tara shaded with guilty looks as Dean beamed his annoyance.
“Sorry,” Willow lamented. “It’s just, we’re so used to Buffy being in charge. Now, we have to figure everything out by ourselves, but that’s not hard, I mean, we do this all the time, right?”
“Right, because we fight extra terrestrials every week,” Anya said dryly. “No, wait we don’t….”
As lost looks fell upon the gang, Dean scoped the surrounding area for tracks before addressing everyone.
“Look, we just have to treat this like any case,” he said. “We have to find out what kind of creature we have on our hands and how to kill it.”
“But what if it’s something that can’t be killed?” Tara asked nervously.
Dean scoffed defiantly as he raised his pistol and did his best Arnold impression.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
As all humor was lost on the gang, Dean heaved a sigh of disappointment.
“So we’re thinking research?” Xander asked anxiously.
“Or we could look around a bit more,” Giles replied. “Perhaps split up and explore the woods.”
The gang looked apprehensively into the deep, spooky woods as Dean swept his flashlight a few feet away.
“I vote research,” Xander gulped.
“Yes, perhaps that is the best option,” Giles acceded.
The gang let out a collective sigh of relief as Dean pivoted toward the edge of town.
“You guys get started and I’ll meet up with you later,” he said. “I’m gonna follow this trail leading out of here. Maybe I can find some clues to where Ooey Gooey went. ”
“Okay but as Buffy would say, ‘be careful’,” Xander stated.
“Yes, do not do anything reckless,” Giles said sternly.
“Hey, I’ve proven that ‘reckless’ saves lives,” Dean vaunted.
“Well, please call us if you need help,” Giles persisted.
Dean gave a nod as he and the Scoobies parted ways.
Buffy squeezed out a breath as she eyed Dawn watching TV in her bedroom. She bit back her apprehension, prying an encouraging expression over her face when Dawn met her eyes. When the phone rang, disrupting the silence, Buffy hurriedly ran down the stairs and picked up the line in the living room.
“Hello?” she said softly.
“Hey, the nurse told me you checked out awhile ago. You get your mom settled in okay?”
Buffy released a sigh of relief when she heard the familiar voice on the other line.
“Yeah, um, for the most part,” she said.
“And the rest? You okay?”
Buffy pushed back her intense dread as she clutched the phone tighter against her ear.
“I could say that I am but you probably can tell.”
“Yeah, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
After a brief silence on the other line, Buffy heard muffled chatter in the background.
“Are you still on patrol? Did you find something? Did you run into Glory?” she asked anxiously.
“No, I’m just checking into something. Don’t worry about it alright? You focus on taking care of your mom. If you need me, just call.”
“Okay, I’ll see you soon.”
After Dean hung up, he heard a flurry of voices echoing at the far end of the hall. As he strolled down the corridor, he caught sight of a group of men in black field uniforms ushering several medical staff away.
Dean peered through a group of confused hospital staff to see the mental ward completely sealed off. He frowned curiously when a familiar face roamed around inside the ward, talking to another familiar face in uniform.
“You back for that rabies shot?”
Dean nearly jumped in startle as he discreetly watched the activity in the ward. He turned around to see the young nurse behind him.
“Uh, no, no, I was looking for my…..grandfather” he lied. “You see, he thinks he’s a…..a vampire, you know, talking about how he’s so lonely being undead for so long and why won’t his most beloved nephew just pick up a stake and take pity upon him? He’s a real sad sack of bones but what can you do huh?”
The nurse tossed Dean a strange look as he indulged in his own fantasies for a moment. Seeing her look linger, Dean shook off his thought and eyed the closed off ward.
“What happened in there?”
The nurse shaded with a look of dread.
“It was just awful,” she said. “Five of our patients died suddenly.”
“Yeah,” the nurse confirmed. “I’m afraid I don’t have more information. But, if your grandfather wasn’t sent home…..”
The nurse dropped her eyes in remorse.
“Oh, no, he’s not a patient here he just likes to….hang out and feel sorry for himself. He’s got a lot of guilt, my pappy.”
As the nurse shot another strange look at him, Dean threw her a smile before walking off. After bounding around a corner, Dean halted abruptly when he noticed another set of guys in field uniforms whisking staff and visitors away. He ducked into a supply closet just as the government guys charged toward him. Dean kept the door slightly ajar and peeked through the slit. Their commanding officer, an older man with a hard jaw line and an intense look, stopped them in the middle of the hall.
“You know the ‘official’ story gentlemen.”
The group charged off as the commanding officer disappeared into the ward. Dean widened his eyes as his nerves popped with excitement.
“Well, a government conspiracy, isn’t that surprising?”
After the hallway was clear, Dean slipped out of the supply closet and quietly crept away from the mental ward. As he stalked down the corridor in silence, he felt his cell phone buzzing in his pocket.
Dean cautiously looked out for government goons as he headed toward the nurses’ station. He didn’t recognize the number that popped up on caller ID but it was listed as University.
“Dean, it’s Willow.”
“Hey, you find anything?”
“Yeah, our alien is actually a Queller demon!” Willow said. “Basically…..”
A few minutes later, after Willow summarized the findings, Dean felt all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place.
“Our best theory is that it was lured here to…..”
“Munch on crazy brains?”
“Uh, yeah but…I didn’t even get to that part,” Willow said in amazement. “Did you find out something?”
“Oh, not really, except that the mental ward is on lock down by some government special forces and five of the patients are dead. Guess this thing’s been on a bender.”
“The mental ward? You mean at Sunnydale Memorial? Oh no. Buffy, Dawn and her mom….” Willow gasped.
“They went home,” Dean reported. “The doc released Joyce awhile ago.”
“Thank goodness,” Willow sighed. “I was really getting worried about Buffy’s mom. She was behaving a bit loopy when I saw her. You know, loopy in a looney kind of way.”
Dean processed the revelation and added the somber conversation with Buffy earlier.
“That makes sense now,” he said into the phone.
“Oh well, what about the Queller thing, did you find it?”
“No, turns out that black goo stuff conveniently dissolves within minutes. But I have an idea of how it’s been getting in and out of this place.”
“Okay, should we come and help you?”
“Did you find out how to kill this thing?”
“Okay, then keep looking and let me know.”
“What if you run into it?”
“I’ll figure something out.”
A few minutes later, Dean stealthily crept through a hallway flooded with the secret government group. He peered around the corner and watched as a couple of guys held gauges in their hands. By the sound of the incessant low clicking, Dean recognized the gauges as Geiger counters, a common tool in the military used to trace radioactive signatures. Following his best lead on the Queller demon, Dean discreetly trailed behind the group as they filed through the entrance doors. Seeing the cover of a large van, Dean hid behind it to listen in on the excited conversation in the parking lot. As he picked up bits and pieces of the discussion, he felt his gut tensing with a very bad feeling.
“I’ve got traces here.”
Dean peeked around the van as a commando leaned over a parking space and double checked his reading from the Geiger counter.
“Looks like it crawled under the vehicle that was parked here.”
“.....it got itself a ride with some mental patient that walked out of here today,” said the commanding officer.
“Oh crap,” Dean muttered softly when he identified the car that had been in that space not too long ago.
Dean stiffened suddenly when he heard the sound of a rifle cocking behind him.
“You, hands up.”
As Dean ambled out from behind the van, he was met by scrutinizing eyes and aimed rifles. Dean was forcefully ushered over to the commanding officer, Major Ellis.
“Found this one lurking, sir.”
Dean shifted his eyes to Finn as the commandos glared dubiously at him.
“You know this civilian?” Ellis asked Riley.
“Oh yeah, me and Ri go way back,” Dean said with a wink and a smirk.
When the commandos deepened their glares, Dean let out a sigh while Riley stepped forward.
“What are you doing?”
“I could ask the same of you,” Dean challenged. “Last time I checked, you turned in your Boy Scout badge.”
As more commandos surrounded him, Dean cautiously eyed their superior.
“Can you give me one reason why I shouldn’t throw you in a cell for interfering in a government operation?” Ellis demanded.
“Yeah, I got a big one,” Dean grunted. “I’m the only guy who knows where this thing is and if you stop me, you’re gonna have more blood on your hands.”
After a tense silence, Dean veered his glare at Riley.
“I helped your ass out a couple of times man.”
For a brief second, Dean and Riley stared at each other with assessing looks.
“I don’t owe you any favors,” Riley said tersely.
“Maybe not, but I know someone you do owe for saving your life,” Dean pointed with a knowing glare.
After another tense stare down, Riley waved at the commandos, signaling them to lower their rifles.
“Now hold on,” Ellis snapped. “I’m not letting a civilian take charge of this operation. There’s a chain of command.”
Dean quickly dusted himself off as he glared back at Ellis.
“I don’t give a crap about your chain of command,” he grunted. “All I care about are the three lives you’re putting in danger
if you get in my way.”
As Ellis balked at Dean, Riley cut him off.
“Let him go sir,” he said.
Dean charged off to his car as he heard an argument unfolding behind him.
Buffy sucked in a very long breath, struggling to calm the fear assailing her system. She cranked the volume of the radio up, immersing herself in the hypnotic beat of the song playing. She picked up her sponge and began vigorously scrubbing the pots and plates in the soapy sink, desperate to distract herself from dwelling on the thoughts lurking at the back of her mind. The more she struggled, the quicker and harder she scrubbed the dirty dishes. She bit down on her quivering lower lip when it started to betray her.
After several minutes of scrubbing furiously, Buffy felt her body shuddering uncontrollably. She shook her head, trying to hold back the tears gathering in her eyes. She clenched them back, forcing herself to keep scrubbing, but more moisture thickened in her eyes. She cranked the volume of the radio to its highest setting, hoping the music would drive her trembling nerves away. When she felt herself breaking, despite all efforts, Buffy heaved forward, releasing a shaky breath just as footsteps charged into the kitchen.
Buffy sucked in her tears as she tilted her eyes over her shoulder to see Dean, waving his pistol into the pockets of darkness, dread and tension flooding his face. Buffy turned back to the window as Dean reached over her and lowered the volume on the radio.
“So that’s why you didn’t pick up the phone.”
Buffy stared into the sink as her hands trembled under the soapy water.
Trying to cease her quivering hands, Buffy shook her head furiously.
“Nothing,” she said automatically.
As she continued to shake her head, she felt Dean swerving her around to face him.
“Let’s try this again. What’s wrong?”
Buffy kept her eyes down but Dean crooked her chin up with a gentle hand. His face flushed with concern when he saw the tears she was fighting back from her eyes.
“Hey, you know you can’t wear a mask with me,” he said softly.
As Dean hooked her with a knowing gaze, Buffy finally surrendered to the fear and pressure broiling inside her. She sunk against Dean and completely let herself go, sobbing intensely for a long minute. Dean held her firmly as her entire body quaked with emotion. When the swells of her cries gradually dissipated, Dean gingerly cupped her chin and lifted her eyes to meet his. Buffy slipped her hand over his and sighed in immense relief.
“I’m done,” she said firmly.
“Good, where’s your mom and Dawn?” he asked anxiously.
“Um, upstairs, what….what’s going on?”
As a loud slamming sound echoed from upstairs, Buffy and Dean hitched their eyes to the ceiling.
“What?! What is?” Buffy pressed in a panic.
Buffy didn’t wait as she frantically took off toward the stairs.
When they spilled into the hallway, they heard Dawn’s desperate cries for help behind Joyce’s bedroom. Buffy raced to the bedroom as Dean searched the dark hallway for any movement.
“What’s going on?” Buffy asked as she went through the door.
“Something attacked us,” Dawn stammered.
After he passed through the doorway, Dean looked over Dawn and Joyce as they clutched each other in comfort.
“It keeps looking at me,” Joyce moaned. “I can’t stand it. I can’t stand it.”
“Stay put,” Buffy requested firmly. “We’ll find where it…..”
Out of the darkness, Buffy recoiled slightly when the Queller demon lunged on top of her. Dean lined up his sights and was about to squeeze the trigger when the creature skittered away in a flash. Buffy regained her footing as Dean searched the darkness for any sudden movements. The creature shrieked and lunged at Dean, tackling him to the ground, knocking his pistol loose. Dean grappled with the demon, rolling it out of the bedroom and into the hallway.
The creature lashed out with its spindly arms as Dean hit it in the face as hard as he could. Still locked within the creature’s grip, Dean rolled it to the edge of the stairway as Buffy took off running toward him, her fists clenched for a fight. The monster howled and flailed its claws, spitting its black ooze at Dean as they tumbled down each step. The more Dean punched the demon, the more it spit at him with its black ooze. The monster reared itself back and then hurled Dean into the front door before taking off in a flash. Buffy leapt off the second to the last step and whipped her eyes around, carefully listening for the slightest stir.
Dean groaned softly as he levered to his feet, rubbing the back of his head. As Buffy stalked into the kitchen, fervently scanning the area from floor to ceiling, Dean padded after her, adding his own survey.
Buffy plucked up a carving knife out of the knife block and gripped it firmly in her hand while Dean took out his own dagger. Standing back to back, they searched the darkness, listening acutely for the slightest sound. When the basement door burst open, Buffy and Dean whipped toward it, ready to strike. They both frowned as Spike shook in startle at seeing the two. Spike shifted in his stance as he slipped his hands behind his back.
“We really don’t have time to kill you right now,” Dean snapped.
“I thought I heard a scuffle or something,” Spike said as he kept his eyes on Buffy.
“What were you doing down there?” Buffy demanded.
Spike bounced off his toes, looking completely shameless.
“Alright, no sense in covering it up,” he said. “I was just having a look at the junk in your basement. See if anything caught me eye.”
“What were you hoping to steal this time huh? Bunny slippers or a fluffy pink robe?” Dean said snidely.
Buffy deepened her glare until curiosity struck her eyes. She turned her sights up to Dean as he glowered at Spike. Spike
ignored him as he slipped something in his pocket.
“Huh? What do you mean this time?”
“I gotta earn a living somehow and I can’t really sling burgers at the Meat Palace,” Spike said, eyes honed on Buffy.
“Get out,” Buffy growled. “And don’t ever….”
But before she could finish her threat, the creature dropped onto Spike and knocked him hard to the ground. Spike howled as the creature attacked him. Buffy firmed her grip on her knife as Spike thrashed his arms and legs at the creature. As
Buffy waited to take a shot at the creature, Dean voiced his protests.
“Oh come on, can’t we just let the thing eat him?” Dean moaned. “It’d be doing us a favor.”
Buffy charged forward when she got a clear shot. Dean bellowed with a sigh as he choked up on his dagger.
“Oh fine, we’ll save the damn vampire,” he muttered as he moved in to assist.
As Buffy brought her knife down, Spike’s flailing right foot knocked it out of her hand while his left hand accidentally struck
Dean in the face. Dean scowled until he heard Spike’s familiar wail of agony as the chip activated. He cracked a smirk as
Buffy dove into the demon, wrestling it away from Spike. She tumbled out of the kitchen and into the dining area as the creature thrashed and shrieked within her hold. Dean stifled his amusement and charged into the dining room where chaotic fighting between Buffy and the demon ensued.
Buffy hurled it into a wall and pounced off a tilted chair to attack it again. As she made her descent, she heard Dean whistle and turned her eyes to see his dagger whirling through the air. She caught it deftly in her hand as her heels hit the ground. As the creature dashed toward the stairs, Dean cut it off and quickly pinned it to the ground. He rolled onto his back as the creature flared its teeth and spat its black ooze at his face. Buffy jumped onto the creature’s back as Dean held it steady in his grip. Buffy shoved the dagger into the creature’s back, stabbing it fiercely until it stopped moving.
Buffy bellowed with breaths of exertion as she climbed off the dead creature while Dean let out a groan from the obnoxious black ooze carpeting the air. Dean sat up and wiped the ooze from his face before he glanced at Buffy, still breathing heavily. Her face was knitted with exhaustion while her eyes flared with curiosity as she briefly stared at the creature. Dean got to his feet and held out a hand as Buffy steadied her breathing. She looked up at Dean and gratefully took his hand, using his strength to ease her back onto her feet. In the calm silence, the two exchanged looks, examining each other for injuries.
Suddenly, the silence was snapped by dual banging sounds followed by the crashing of the front and back doors. Dean and Buffy watched as Riley and the commandos barged into the house with their weapons at the ready. The commandos split off to search the first floor while a few flanked Riley as he entered the disheveled dining room.
“Is everyone alright?” he asked.
Buffy shifted her eyes up at Dean, passing him a look before she took off toward the stairs. As the commandos roamed
through the house, Dean eyed Riley and then nodded at the dead alien.
“You’re a little late on the draw, man.”
As Riley approached the creature’s body, the commando group gathered into the dining room, holstering their weapons. Ellis glanced at the creature and then drew an intimidating glare at Dean.
“You saw nothing,” he ordered. “If you breathe one word….”
Dean brushed off Ellis’ threatening tone as he pivoted toward the doorway.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, just take it away and don’t bust open anything else.”
Dean shuffled out of the dining room and stopped in the kitchen.
“Gee, Spike ran away again, wasn’t expecting that,” he said wryly.
After washing the black goop from his face, Dean headed upstairs to check on the women.
When he reached the master bedroom, he saw Buffy, Dawn and Joyce huddled together in comfort.
“What a way to end the night huh?”
Buffy, Dawn and Joyce didn’t respond, simply clutching each other tighter. Dean cleared his throat, feeling awkward at interrupting the family moment.
“I’ll uh, be around if anyone needs anything.”
A little while later, Buffy drifted down the stairs to find Dean cleaning up the debris in the dining room.
“Hey, everyone okay?”
Buffy nodded as she collapsed into a chair and took a look around the dining room. All the upended furniture had been set back in place and the black ooze had been scrubbed off the carpet.
“Thanks for cleaning up,” she said with an appreciative look.
Buffy let out a long breath of exhaustion as she absorbed the calm of the night.
“So, what was that thing? Did Glory send it after me?”
“It came from above.”
“E.T. crashed to Earth but he didn’t come in peace.”
Buffy pushed her eyes open as wide as she could and felt exhaustion rushing through her veins.
“Well, why did it come here? And what were Riley and those commandos doing here?”
Dean set the trash bag full of debris aside and then put a hand on Buffy’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s over and done with and everyone’s okay.”
Buffy let out a heavy sigh as she slipped her hand over Dean’s until an earlier conversation rippled through her mind.
“Speaking of everyone,” she said. “Willow and Xander called while you were in the shower. Will wanted to know if we found the thing and Xander asked how we killed it. When I told him I stabbed it he said, ‘oh, so no boom’.”
Buffy turned around in her chair, drawing her curious eyes at Dean.
“What did he mean by that?”
Dean pulled an innocent look over his face and shrugged as he picked up the bag of trash.
“I don’t know,” he said casually.
Dean shuffled into the kitchen as Buffy crooked her eyebrows in wonder. As the chaos from her mind settled, her eyes stamped wide in recognition. She darted out of her chair and bounded into the kitchen just as Dean returned from the backyard.
“Did you blow something up?” she gasped.
“What? No,” Dean answered quickly.
Buffy narrowed her eyes and studied Dean as he washed his hands in the sink.
“Oh my god, you’re lying to me,” she challenged.
Dean scoffed as he turned the water off and dried his hands.
“I am not lying,” he said.
Dean raised his hand up in an oath.
“I did not blow anything up,” he said firmly.
Buffy crooked her eyebrows, still suspicious as Dean picked up a tool box and pivoted toward the living room.
“Today,” he muttered softly.
As he headed toward the front door, Buffy let out a gasp when her acute hearing had picked up his confession.
“Did you blow something up yesterday?!”
After inspecting the broken hinges on the front door, Dean looked up at the ceiling, counting back the days in his mind.
“Nope,” he said with a sly grin. “I did not blow up anything yesterday.”
Buffy huffed with impatience as Dean went back to repairing the door. She narrowed her eyes, glaring at him as he rummaged through his toolbox. As her glare deepened, Dean picked up a screwdriver and sighed.
“Okay, okay,” he surrendered. “There might have been some….explosive vampire dusting going on at some point in time.
But in my defense, it was very effective in taking out a nest.”
Buffy blinked rapidly as the confession rumbled through her.
“You blew up a nest?! What were you thinking?”
Dean cocked his head and drew a casual look.
“I was thinking, bloodsucking vampires go boom, yayyyyy!” he declared without an ounce of remorse in his eyes.
Dean looked up and took in Buffy’s disapproving expression.
“I know what you’re about to say,” he said. “And for the record, no one was hurt, okay? I knew what I was doing. You on the other hand, I have my doubts.”
“About you buying that whiny Q tip – hot wings.”
Buffy shaded with a frown as her foggy mind lingered with wonder.
“At the Bronze?”
After a long minute, Buffy shook her head as her frown eased into an acknowledging look.
“Oh,” she said. “It wasn’t like that. I needed information from him.”
“So you bribed him with dinner?”
Buffy let out a breath before she briefly imparted details about her night out with Spike.
“Huh,” Dean remarked after absorbing the info. “Well, was it useful?”
“I haven’t really had time to process it all with everything that’s going on,” Buffy admitted. “Which brings me back to YOU. I still don’t like the idea of you playing with bombs or taking down a whole nest on your own. I mean, with what’s going on with my mom, and the reality about Dawn, if something happened to you, if you got hurt, I don’t think I could take it.”
As a reel of horrific scenarios whirled through her mind, Buffy tightened with dread and worry. Feeling her anxiety coiling around her veins again, Buffy clapped the sides of her head and frowned.
“Hey, hey, stop stressing yourself out,” Dean urged as he rose to his feet. “Everyone’s fine, I’m fine, your mom is gonna get through her operation with those major flying colors and we’re gonna stop that hellbitch Glory.”
Buffy folded herself into his arms and clutched him tightly.
“Just please promise me you’ll be careful,” she said insistently. “You’re the only one keeping me from falling down right now. The only one.”
In the still of the night, Buffy clung to Dean a little tighter, letting the comfort of his embrace flush out the deep seated worry. When a chiming cell phone cut the blissful silence, Dean heaved a sigh and pulled away, flashing an apologetic expression.
“Sorry, I should take this, in case it’s dad.”
Buffy gave an understanding nod as Dean fished his phone out of his back pocket.
“Hello? Yeah, that’s me….uh huh….he did? When was this? Oh, so you didn’t actually talk to him? Well, did he sound okay, what was his mood like? No man, I wasn’t……Sorry, what do you need?”
Buffy frowned with wonder as Dean dug out a pen and scribbled an address on the back of his left hand.
“Yeah, I’m about four hours away….uh huh…..okay….”
When he hung up, Buffy exuded an apprehensive look.
“You have to go now?”
“Yeah, some business of my dad’s,” Dean explained. “He was supposed to help out this guy, Arthur, but left him a message to contact me instead. I should figure out what’s going on.”
“Okay, I was getting used to you being around more than usual,” Buffy said.
“I’ll try to be back before your mom goes in for surgery,” Dean said.
Later the next day, the gang was huddled in the waiting area near Joyce’s room. As the elevator doors parted, Dean hurriedly exited the carriage and spotted Xander and Anya sitting in the hallway with Dawn. After giving a nod of acknowledgement to everyone, Dean threw his eyes to the door to Joyce’s room.
“Good timing Dean, they’re about to take her to the OR,” Xander informed.
Dean glanced at his watch and heaved a sigh.
“I would have been here sooner but there was a big smashup on the highway – I couldn’t move for hours,” he moaned.
As the gang shot to their feet, Dean swung his eyes around to see Buffy walking out of her mom’s room. She met up with Dawn and gave her an encouraging expression, clutching her arm in comfort. A minute later, an orderly exited the room, pushing Joyce in a wheelchair. Joyce passed a brave smile to her daughters as they watched her, their hands clasped tightly together. As she was wheeled away, the gang watched in hopeful unison. When Dean shuffled over to Buffy, she emitted a grateful spark from her eyes. She slipped her other hand through his and then inhaled a deep breath as her mother was wheeled toward the OR.
Several hours later, the gang camped out together in the waiting area. Buffy glanced down at her lap where Dawn’s head was propped as she slept. Buffy anxiously eyed the clock before staring at it blankly, her mind falling into a fog. When she heard a very faint drumming sound, she blinked rapidly out of her daze and turned to see Dean with a pair of headphones on, listening to music on his walkman. She blew out a breath of trepidation and dipped her head on his shoulder, trying to keep herself afloat. When she felt a hand gently brushing over the top of her head, her eyes rolled shut, the small but comforting gesture soothing some of the grinding tension in her nerves.
When footsteps echoed behind her, Buffy perked up and shot her eyes around with expectant wonder. Her face caved with disappointment as Giles approached her.
“Sorry, it’s only me,” Giles said softly. “Is there anything I can do or get for you? Coffee? Something from the cafeteria?”
Buffy shook her head, drawing an appreciative look at Giles.
Another hour later, Buffy fidgeted in her seat, careful not to rouse Dawn. Her brows furrowed with wonder when she felt headphones slipping over her ears and then a weird heavy metal song playing.
“What is this?” she asked as she swung her eyes up to Dean.
“Metallica, it always helps me relax when I’m anxious about - something. Give it a try.”
Buffy deepened her brows and grimaced as she listened to the jarring tune for a second. She snatched the headphones off and handed them back to Dean.
“It just makes me feel tense,” she said.
Dean shrugged nonchalantly as Buffy glanced at the clock and then frowned.
“Is that clock working?”
Dean peered at his watch and double checked it against the clock.
“Mine’s a few minutes fast but yeah.”
Buffy flushed a heavy breath through her lungs as lines of agitation knotted deeper on her face.
“How can that be? What could be going on? I don’t know if I can sit here much longer,” she groaned.
As her face tightened even more, Dean pressed a hand on her shoulder.
“Take a breath, try to relax, okay? The amount of time they’re taking just means they’re being thorough and checking
everything – and that’s a good thing.”
Buffy absorbed this rational and forced herself to take several deep breaths. She felt another degree of tension unfurling from her bones as Dean pulled her against him, rubbing her arm in comfort. When her hearing picked up the sound of a door swinging, she anxiously looked up to see Dr. Keiser ambling down the hall.
Buffy shot up in her seat and gently shook Dawn awake as the rest of the gang steered their attention toward Keiser.
Buffy, Dean and Dawn met up with Dr. Keiser in the middle of the hallway. Buffy clutched Dawn’s hand and brimmed with anticipation as the gang stood nearby.
“Come on Doc, we’ve been waiting for hours, don’t put us all through the wringer anymore,” Dean moaned.
Keiser directed his eyes to Buffy.
“We’ve settled your mom in the recovery ward,” he started.
“So what does that mean?” Buffy pressed impatiently. “How is she? What’s going on?”
As her mind began to fog upon the doctor’s medical explanation, she almost missed his positive prognosis.
“Wait, what?” she asked in a daze.
“Bearing a follow up test in a few weeks, I’m confident we successfully removed the tumor,” Keiser declared.
Buffy rocked back on her heels as the relief washed over her. As the gang celebrated with hugs, high fives, back pats and
whistles, Buffy sucked in a deep breath as tears of joy welled in her eyes.
“Thank god….” she sighed. “You….oh Doctor Kaiser, I can’t…I can’t thank you enough….”
Dr. Kaiser opened his mouth to respond as Buffy yanked him into a bear hug, squeezing him with intense gratitude. The doctor gasped desperately for air, letting a few of her tears fall down her face.
“I can’t…breathe!” Kaiser gasped.
Buffy cracked with a remorseful look as she let go of the doctor.
“Oh gosh, I’m sorry, I….I’m just so grateful for what you’ve done,” she stated.
Kaiser stepped back and gave a polite smile.
“Please, I’m just doing my job,” he said. “It’s going to be awhile before your mom comes off the anesthetic so I suggest that all of you head home and catch up on sleep.”
Buffy threw a grateful look at the doctor as he shuffled away while the gang exchanged sighs and smiles.
“What a momentous evening,” Giles cheered.
“Yeah, we should all go out and celebrate,” Xander suggested.
Buffy heaved another deep breath as she felt the strain on her nerves dwindling away. As the gang chatted excitedly, Buffy and Dean set their eyes on each other.
“…or we could check out that new waffle cone ice cream shop, I heard they make chocolate waffle cones,” Willow said.
When the chatter ceased, the gang noticed the Slayer and the Hunter in a long embrace. Buffy pulled away, keeping her eyes locked on Dean.
“Um, I think I want to catch up on sleep,” she said more to Dean then the rest of the gang.
“Yeah, you know, ‘sleep’ was prescribed by the doctor,” Dean acknowledged. “I could use some sleep too, I mean, I can’t even remember the last time you and I….got some sleep so we should head home and ‘crash’ for awhile ……”
Buffy peeled her eyes away from Dean to address the gang.
“Don’t mean to be party poopers but, I’d really like to just go home and sleep.”
Xander slung his arm around Anya and cleared his throat.
“Uh right, ‘sleep’, yeah okay, well, we can take Dawn out for some dinner and then a movie and you can pick her up later.”
Xander gulped as Buffy shot him a conspiratorial look.
“Or, she can just sleepover and we’ll drop her off in the morning, yeah, that way you guys can catch up….on all that sleeping….”
Xander laughed awkwardly as Dawn rolled her eyes.
“Okay, thanks,” Buffy said quickly. “Be good Dawn.”
Dawn scoffed as Buffy shuffled away with Dean. Xander rubbed his hands as he flashed an enthusiastic smile.
“You don’t have to pretend Xander. I know they just want to be alone so they can boink all night,” Dawn groaned. “I’m not dumb, I know the code words they use.”
Xander feigned an innocent look as he and Anya and Dawn strolled down the hall.
“Code words? I didn’t pick up on any code words. Nah, they just want to go home and spend some time – cuddling and unwinding.”
Dawn shook her head and frowned.
“Right – cuddling is just another code word they use for ‘let’s go upstairs and hug each other’s clothes off’,” she snorted.
“I wasn’t born yesterday you know. My sister had that ‘oh Dean, take me home so we can have obnoxiously loud sex’ look on her face.”
Dawn smirked smugly at Anya and Xander before pacing ahead of them in the hall.
Sometime later, Buffy released a contented sigh as she soaked in the soothing atmosphere of the living room, lit by just a few candles. As she was entangled within Dean’s arms, moving slowly to an old song playing through the stereo, she felt weeks of grinding tension falling away. She clutched Dean tighter and let out another happy sigh.
“Mmm, I like this lady song,” she remarked quietly. “What’s it called?”
Buffy looked up to see a sincere expression on Dean’s face instead of a sarcastic one.
“Oh. Well I like it, I’m a fan of a classic,” she cooed.
“Ah, I knew it was only a matter of time before I turned you.”
“I’m a fan of this night too.”
“Yeah, this was definitely a good night.”
Buffy relished in the blissful relaxation seeping into her veins as Dean stroked her hair until her eyelids felt heavy.
“I feel so relaxed,” she sighed. “I could fall asleep right now, just like this.”
“Well then, you’re gonna miss out, cause I was gonna make you a fan of me.”
“Oh, so that was your plan all along? The mood lighting and slow songs were all just a way of seducing me?”
“Yup,” Dean said shamelessly.
When she took in his silly smirk, Buffy felt herself bursting with a long absent reaction - laughter.
“God, I can’t remember the last time I laughed,” she said.
Buffy looked up at Dean and cupped his chin, smiling with deep appreciation.
“I don’t think I could have held myself together if you weren’t here,” she confessed. “I mean, I was freaking out inside and….I’m supposed to be strong.”
“You are,” Dean stated. “But what you’ve had to go through lately…I mean, you may be super powered but you’re still human.”
Buffy took a long look of the darkened living room before she gazed up at Dean.
“You know, it’s funny, when we were younger and I used to cry my eyes out, you’d throw me a coupon for a tub of ice cream and tell me to suck it up,” she said. “And now….”
“Now, I just throw a tub of ice cream at you.”
As Dean filled the room with his laughter, Buffy glowed with a sentimental smile.
“I’m just saying, after all the years we’ve known each other, look where we ended up.”
“Oh I’m looking but we’re not ending up here, we’ll probably start here, but we’re definitely not ending here, at least not if I get my way.”
As more laughter filled the room, Buffy simply swam in the joy washing through her system.
“Wow, you know, now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much either,” he confessed.
Buffy watched the humor fading from his face as he took in a deep breath.
“It’s been a rough couple of months so, halle-freakin’-julah to tonight huh?”
Buffy gave him a short but affectionate kiss, which quickly drifted into a longer, passionate lip lock. After several minutes, Buffy gently parted from Dean, panting heavily.
“I can’t remember the last time we’ve kissed like that,” she said softly. “It feels like it’s been forever.”
“Yeah, it does. So, what do you say we get reacquainted with each other?”
“I’d say, I’m a fan of that,” Buffy answered with a coy smile.
Standing in just the wash of faint moonlight beaming through the window, Buffy and Dean kissed softly in the quiet, undisturbed night. Relishing in the celebration, the two latched hands, clinging tighter to each other as their kiss deepened. Buffy pushed off her toes, sighing joyously as the tender kiss lingered, sending delightful chills up her spine. She was utterly surprised at how her clothes were still on since their lovemaking sessions always kicked off with some teasing take-offs. Not this time. Time was so precious and Buffy had spent so much of her life fighting evil to protect people, to protect her family. With her mom’s illness and recovery, time was all she wanted now. Dean had seemed to grasp that same desire as all his actions were slow and absorbing. When she tenderly cupped his cheek, she noticed his eyes rolling shut, his hand curling over her hand. The lines on his face were soft but the tug in his eyebrows revealed he was thinking about something. She would have asked him what was on his mind but she wasn’t really in the mood for talking.
Buffy pulled her hand from his face and slid it down his arm, arms that had always held her when she needed it. When his eyes met hers, she soaked in their bright flare as he looked upon her intently.
Moving her hand along the line of his body, Buffy snagged the hem of his shirt and slowly pushed it up. She leaned forward and kissed the flesh just beneath his collarbone, watching the muscles in his torso jolt in response. Her lungs bellowed with a heated breath as she felt a flame licking at the center of her body. The cold numbness she had felt for months quickly warmed over as she yanked Dean’s shirt off his head. Still wanting to savor time, Buffy bit back the desire to feel his heat flooding her insides. It was a mighty feat for once she gazed upon his half naked frame, her heartbeat palpitated faster and the fire rising in her body was almost suffocating.
She discarded her discipline after a few minutes when they fell onto the bed, hastily stripping clothes away, their mouths locked together, their hot, naked bodies melded against each other. A squeak of delight bubbled in her throat as he slid himself inside her, pushing slowly to the hilt of her canal. Her mouth opened as a deep moan rumbled out and broke the silence. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head as she released another moan, feeling him ease a few inches back from the hilt, then pushing up to the wall, then pulling back, over and over, slowly, intensely. Her back arched against the arm he had tucked under waist as her lungs heaved with hot, staggered pants.
She knew he was taking his time as pleasurable agony gradually swelled and filled every muscle in her body. Her mind flourished with an absence of worry or distraction as her eyes grew glassy. Her head dipped back as her mouth opened. A long, deep moan spilled out of her mouth, followed by another shorter one. Her body writhed and lurched forward as a series of short, rapid cries bubbled into a long one. After a moment, her face glowed with a giddy smile as she heard a deep, male cry overlapping with hers before a blissful silence hung in the air.
Buffy sighed joyously as she collapsed onto the bed and exhaled a breath of exhaustion.
“That was different.”
Heaving with ragged breaths, Dean lifted his head from the crook of her neck and scowled lightly at her.
“What do you mean by that? Different how? I stuck to the classics.”
“I meant, that was very – romantic,” she clarified softly.
Dean frowned with slightly mock disgust.
“Take that back.”
Buffy giggled as she kissed him sweetly on the mouth.
“Well, I liked it, couldn’t you tell?”
As fatigue quickly settled into her bones, Buffy felt her eyelids growing heavy and soon, she drifted off to sleep, snuggling deeper against him.
Hearing a howl in the breeze sweeping through the window, Dean carefully got out of bed and shuffled to the sill. He gripped the sill and leaned slightly out, peering down at the sidewalk. As he scanned the street, an orange glow caught his attention. Frowning with a heavy suspicion, Dean quietly slipped the window shut and turned to see Buffy still in a deep sleep. Stalking down the stairs, keeping his hearing tuned for any disturbance in the calm air, Dean reached the front door and slipped out into the night.
Walking barefoot toward that orange glow, Dean frowned deeper when he saw the burning cigarette on the edge of the curb. Looking over his shoulder at the second story window, it was obvious who had been there only a short time ago. Hurriedly, Dean trekked back toward the house and gathered up his shirt, jacket and shoes. As he passed through the bedroom doorway, he threw his eyes behind him, watching Buffy as she still slept soundly.
About an hour later, Spike grumbled incessantly under his breath as he bounded into his crypt. Hearing a whisper, Spike turned around and felt a pair of booted feet slamming into his chest. Hitting the back of his head into the concrete, Spike wailed in agony as the sharp edge of a stake slammed into his right shoulder.
Dean pinned Spike’s flailing right arm to the ground and glowered down at him.
“Welcome home, honey,” he grunted.
“You missed,” Spike snorted.
Dean responded with an icy glare, shoving the stake deeper into Spike’s shoulder. The vampire howled a long moment as Dean yanked the stake out.
“What do you want now?” Spike said with a heavy scowl as he rose to his feet.
“I want you to get a freakin’ clue,” Dean snarled. “You haven’t got a chance in Hell with her so quit lurking in the shadows peeping in her bedroom window and stealing her fuzzy sweaters.”
Dean hardened his glare as Spike played up a clueless look. Dean picked out the pile of cigarette stubs from his pocket and hurled them at Spike.
“If I catch you again, I will light you up and roast marshmallows over your burning body.”
“Don’t tease me,” Spike said derisively. “The only thing saving you from a bloody death is this chip in me head.”
“I’d be happy to cut it out for you.”
“Oh so frightening,” Spike groaned sardonically. “Is that the best you can do? Cause let’s face it, the only reason you threaten me is cause you feel threatened by me.”
“Like hell I do.”
“You do,” Spike taunted. “You see, I’ve got myself an advantage over you.”
Spike stepped back and shook his head until his fangs flared and his face distorted.
“When it comes down to it, who’s she gonna pick? Monster or….pathetic wanna be one?”
“Aww, you’re not that pathetic,” Dean snorted with a mocking smile.
“When are you gonna stop kidding yourself? You’re Mr. Reliable. Mr. Convenient.”
Spike clicked his tongue and grinned smugly.
“But you’re not Mr. Long Term and you know it.”
Dean narrowed his icy eyes on Spike as he gripped his stake in his hand. As he stopped within an inch of Spike, he used his other hand to poke the vampire repeatedly in the shoulder. Spike grimaced, struggling not to wince with pain but Dean kept jamming his finger into the wound until he finally cracked. Spike wailed in his throat as he walked over to his armchair and snatched up his opened bottle of whisky, taking a long swig.
“You think you’re all intense and broody but lookin’ at her history, how long has it lasted with those Average Joes from her past eh? Not long cause a girl like her needs that drama only a forbidden kind of thing has and you - you’re not it.”
Spike sunk another long sip and smiled thinly, feeling a bit better.
“Well it ain’t you either – so stop kidding yourself. The only way you’ll ever get in her pants is if she put your ashes in her
pocket,” Dean growled.
“You’re not always around to give the Slayer her sickly snugglies,” Spike implied with a grin.
“Not even if you were the last neutered demon on Earth.”
Spike shrugged lightly as Dean charged toward the crypt entrance.
“Just stay away from her,” Dean barked over his shoulder.
Buffy was still sleeping peacefully when Dean crept back into the bedroom. As he slipped back under the covers, Buffy stirred slightly, letting out a soft moan. Her eyelids fluttered open and then she smiled dreamily at him.
“Where’d you go?” she asked sleepily.
“I was just checking the house, making sure nothing came crashing in here to disturb you.”
Buffy widened her smile as she snuggled against him.
“Mmm, I love that I can always count on you to take care of things,” she cooed before her eyelids shut.
“Yeah, that’s me. Mr. Reliable,” Dean muttered softly.
As Buffy fell asleep cradled under his arm, Dean settled his head against the pillow but felt wide awake. In the quiet night, Dean stared up at the ceiling as his mind began to buzz with a whirlwind of thoughts.
Buffy roused late the next morning, yawning as she rolled out of bed. She let out another yawn as she descended the stairs, smelling the delectable aroma of fresh brewed coffee and cinnamon. She helped herself to a cup and then lifted out a warm cinnamon doughnut as she heard Dean out back.
“…..just let me know if you hear from him. Thanks.”
Buffy pushed through the door and perched on the porch beside Dean.
“Still no word from your dad yet?”
“No. His phone keeps going straight to voice mail.”
“He’ll call,” Buffy said as she cupped a reassuring hand on his arm.
“Yeah, I’m sure, it’s just….the last time it was three days but at least he got back to me, now it’s four and the only word
I’ve heard from him was through Arthur.”
“Maybe he’s just been deep in a case and hasn’t had a chance to check his messages,” Buffy replied in a soothing tone.
“Your dad gets pretty wrapped up in his work.”
“Yeah,” Dean sighed as he drew a hand to back of his neck and prodded a tight muscle.
“He’ll call,” Buffy said again before turning her eyes back to the house when she heard voices. “Dawn’s home.”
Buffy got to her feet just as Dean’s phone buzzed. She cupped his shoulder in encouragement before she passed through
the door to meet Dawn.
She found Dawn in the living room with Xander and Anya.
“Hey Buffy, you look very…..relaxed,” Xander said.
Dawn rolled her eyes as she trudged up the stairs to her room.
“You would be too from a marathon of sex,” Anya added. “Which we didn’t have.”
Xander cleared his throat as Buffy gave an appreciative smile.
“Thanks for letting Dawn stay with you.”
“No problem, it was fun,” Xander said.
Anya hooked her arm around Xander.
“Yes, now we must go home and catch up on sex,” Anya said.
“Anya,” Xander gulped, shading red.
“What? Why do we need to use code words?” Anya said as she steered Xander toward the door.
“Bye guys and thanks again,” Buffy called out.
After checking on Dawn, Buffy found Dean in her bedroom, packing up his things.
“Was that your dad?” she asked hopefully.
“No, old hunter friend of my dad’s. I gotta go.”
“Okay, when will you be back?”
“Don’t really know,” he said. “It’s about a day’s drive there and back so, probably a couple of days, a week at the most. I need to see what kind of case I’m dealing with first.”
Buffy leaned against her dresser and moped.
“I’m gonna miss you,” she moaned.
“Yeah, I know you’re out a babysitter and an errand boy,” Dean replied dryly.
“That’s not what you are,” Buffy said.
She pushed off her toes and gave him a sweet kiss.
“These past few weeks, you have been so…”
“I was going to say, amazing,” Buffy said with a smile. “And I love you for that.”
Buffy kissed him again with more fervor as Dean’s cell phone sputtered.
“Sorry,” he sighed as he parted from her mouth.
After he walked to the bedside table, he pushed a button on his phone.
“I’m gonna take a quick shower before I head out.”
When the bathroom door clapped shut, Dawn shuffled down the hall and scowled at Buffy.
“There’s nothing to eat in the fridge,” she groaned. “You could have taken five minutes out of your all night boink fest to get some food.”
“I did not have a…”
Dawn crossed her arms and rolled her eyes as she plopped down on the edge of Buffy’s bed.
“I’m not stupid Buffy. I know why you wanted to get rid of me.”
“I wasn’t trying to get rid of you,” Buffy insisted. “And I was going to make a grocery run before we go get mom.”
Dawn turned her eyes to the bedside table as Dean’s cell phone whined with a series of text message alerts.
“It’s called – SILENCE MODE,” Dawn said snidely. “I could hear that thing buzzing from my room.”
Buffy let out a sigh as she picked up the phone.
“It could be John,” Buffy said. “Dean hasn’t heard from him in awhile.”
Fumbling with the buttons, Buffy inadvertently pressed the new message screen. When it buzzed off in her hand, Dawn rolled her eyes and groaned.
“I’m gonna go on a food hunt,” she said, getting to her feet.
Buffy stared with wonder as she glanced at the message screen.
Buffy whipped her eyes over her shoulder to see Dawn spying a look at the screen. She dropped the phone at her side and frowned.
“No one,” she said quickly. “It’s business. There’s a new box of cereal in the cupboard. Go get yourself some and be ready to go soon.”
Buffy ushered Dawn out of her room and into the hallway, waiting for her to go down to the kitchen. Sucking in a breath, Buffy reread the text, wondering if her eyesight had deceived her. But there it was – the name Josie attached to several pleading messages. As her mind was paralyzed with disbelief, her eyes slowly read over each text correspondence.I’m sorry to pull you away, but I really do need you – Josie
You know I’m here for you.. Be there as soon as I can. – Dean
When do you think you’ll be leaving? – Josie
In a few, have some things to take care of. – Dean
An ill feeling cloaked her throat as she reviewed the correspondence. No, no. no. Buffy bit down on her shaking lower lip, trying to bat away the thoughts of betrayal stemming in her mind. She had known Dean for too long, trusted him with all her heart to believe he could ever stray.
Hearing footsteps lumbering in the hallway, she put the phone back on the bedside table just as Dean strolled in, rubbing a towel through his damp hair. Hit with an odd feeling, Dean studied Buffy for a second.
“Something up?” he asked.
Buffy glanced at her alarm clock and shook her head.
“Um no, just thinking about all the stuff I have to do before school starts up again and you know, having mom back,” she said.
Dean picked up his cell phone as it hummed yet again. He scrolled through his messages before pocketing his phone.
“You can get back to your life now,” he said lightly.
Dean pulled on his jacket and then shouldered his bag. Buffy walked him down the stairs and out of the house, to his car. Watching him pack up the trunk, her heart rumbled with anxiety at the notion that Dean had lied to her.
“You’ll be back soon?”
“Yeah, when I can.”
As he crossed to the driver side, Buffy wrung her hands behind her back, following him.
“Drive safe, be careful. I love you,” she cooed.
Relieved that he kissed her goodbye, Buffy drew a dreamy smile at him as he got into the car. There was nothing going on with this Josie girl, Buffy told herself. Dean said it was business and she believed that’s what it was. Confident she would see him soon, Buffy skipped back into the house.
“Let me know if you need anything mom,” Buffy said softly before shutting the door.
She drifted into the kitchen, feeling the pangs of hunger attacking her stomach. After relishing in a peanut butter-chocolate chip muffin, she snatched the phone and quickly dialed Dean. In two rings, the line picked up. Buffy lit up with delight after having reached his voicemail the previous nights before. But the voice that answered battered her heart into her toes.
“Dean’s phone,” said a young female voice.
Buffy hung with shock and confusion as she lacked the mental comprehension to speak.
“Hello?” the young voice called. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
Buffy gradually snapped out of her fog, placing a hand on the back of her neck to get at the tension biting at the muscles.
“Um, is Dean…is he there?” she finally said.
“He went out to get us dinner, can I take a message?”
Buffy dug her fingers into the knots in her neck while her mind conjured up images of the young girl that answered her boyfriend’s phone. She sounded young and flighty.
“Are you still there?” the girl asked.
“Um, no, no message,” Buffy stammered before hanging up.
Buffy nearly stumbled from disbelief as she backed away from the phone. Balancing herself, Buffy heaved with several deep breaths. Her lower lip quavered with dread as her head shook furiously.
“Buffy?!” Dawn called from the upstairs landing. “Hey Buffy?”
Buffy gripped the column of the doorway, her fingernails nearly shattering the wood as she struggled to control her anxiety.
“Mom wants some tea,” Dawn said. “Can you make her some?”
Buffy forced a long breath out, feeling the tension in her body dissipating slightly.
“Yeah, I’ll bring it up in a sec!”
Without a thank you, Dawn returned to her bedroom. Buffy sighed as she swallowed the remnants of her fears, hastily rummaging through a cabinet to get the tea bags.
Somewhere in Wisconsin:
Dean walked briskly into the motel room, carrying two boxes of pizza and hurriedly dropped it on the table. He dug into one of the boxes topped with everything, tearing off three slices and stacking them in a napkin.
“You forgot your phone.”
“Yeah, I realized that when I was half way to the pizzeria.”
Josie gingerly pulled a slice off the second double cheese pizza.
“Well, it rang and I answered it because I didn’t want to wake her up. I hope you don’t mind. I think it was your girlfriend because the caller ID said Buffy, that’s her name right?”
“Yeah,” Dean said as he snatched up his phone and checked his missed messages.
“Have you even talked to her since you got here? I bet she’s worried about you.”
“I’ll call her later, right now, I’ve got to go,” Dean said quickly. “Lock the door when I leave, don’t answer it for anyone and if anything does get in…”
“Go for the shotgun under the bed, I know, you’ve been over this like a thousand times Dean,” Josie groaned.
Dean patted her on the head and gave her a stern look.
“Humor me, okay?”
“Okay, be careful.”
The following afternoon:
Buffy strolled out of a classroom with Tara as the hallway flooded with students. Enjoying the sunshine as they walked out of the atrium, Buffy and Tara made casual chat about their classes.
“….I guess that’s what it’s like to be at a Gallagher show when he starts hitting watermelons with a sledgehammer,” Buffy remarked. “Except the people in the first few rows didn’t get ponchos, or a warning for that matter.”
“I think he was just trying to enunciate,” Tara said.
“Or he doesn’t realize he’s a spitter,” Buffy said with a grimace.
“Next time we can sit in the back.”
“I’m all for that,” Buffy said eagerly. “I can’t really afford to drop this course. Even though I was daydreaming for a majority of it, this is the only class that works into my crazy schedule.”
“I noticed,” Tara said meekly. “I thought you were taking notes but…you were writing….”
“Josie – question mark,” Buffy surrendered. “Yeah, I tried not to think about it, but apparently, my subconscious mind took over. It’s been THREE days and I haven’t heard from Dean, you know? Usually he calls me when he gets to his destination or the morning after if he’s too tired. But three days and…nothing.”
“Maybe he’s just been too busy with work,” Tara said.
“Yeah, probably…it’s just….he went out to….I don’t even know where he went, to see this girl – this Josie and….”
Buffy paused under the shade of a tree and bellowed with a sigh, confessing the details of the text messages she had inadvertently seen as well as the phone call.
“Am I being ridiculous? Dean said it had to do with hunting. And for all intents and purposes, I should believe him. And I do but….there’s that little nagging part of me that thinks ‘don’t be so blind’, you know? I mean, we’ve been so solid for awhile and he’s been so supportive and understanding with everything that was happening with my mom. So I feel horrible for ever doubting him like this but I can’t help it. She answered his phone. Why would she do that? And why was he getting them dinner? He doesn’t do that for just some random girl,” she whined.
Seeing the awkward look on Tara’s face, Buffy sputtered with a long breath.
“You said she was a hunter friend.”
“A hunter friend of his dad’s,” Buffy said. “That’s what he SAID. I expect the friend to be oldish and a man, not some young girl and she sounded way young. Like high school. Oh god, do you think he’s gotten tired of me? He drives all the way out to see me and I’ve spent all my time with my mom – he must be so bored and….but…he kissed me goodbye…it wasn’t goodbye-goodbye, you know what I mean? Oh…I’m rambling and I’m driving myself crazy with all these what ifs.”
“It’s probably nothing Buffy,” Tara said. “Willow has told me from the time we met how much you and Dean have been through and that it was only a matter of time before you found each other. Plus, your auras are so strong. The love you have for each other, it radiates whenever you’re in the room. You’re the twin flames – your souls complete each other. That doesn’t happen all the time.”
Buffy gasped softly as her eyes welled with moisture.
“Oh god, I AM horrible! How can I doubt my twin flame!” she cried. “Dean’s always been there for me, he’s always been the guy!”
Buffy sunk against the tree trunk and wiped the dampness from her eyes.
“I need a little pick me up to lift me out this hole of guilt,” she said. “What do you say you, me and Will have a ‘eat your guilt’ away burger somewhere?”
“We could do that,” Tara said. “I’m not sure if she’s still at the magic shop though after that squabble she got into with Anya. It was very…intense to say the least. Xander wasn’t happy either. Livid is a better word. He walked out.”
Buffy gasped again with more volume.
“What?! Xander walked out on Anya?! When did this happen?” she shrieked.
Tara flushed red and shook her head as Buffy started sniffling.
“Hhhheee didn’t, nnnno, no, I meant….oh, that didn’t come out right,” she stammered. “It wasn’t like that. It was kind of sudden, they – Willow and Anya – they started arguing about stuff and then – then Xander got fffed up and yelled at them. And then he walked out.”
“So he walked out on Anya,” Buffy said through a shaky breath.
“Well, um, physically yes but not….”
“Oh god,” Buffy wailed. “It’s all falling apart! Everything that was once good is now going bad! Nooooo!”
Buffy threw her face into her hands and began sobbing.
“Why? Why is this happening? True love is supposed to last forever!”
As her sobs increased in volume, several students walking by stared at her. Tara gulped with embarrassment as she gently
patted Buffy on the back in comfort.
“He has to come back! He just has to,” Buffy wailed softly.
“Um, it’s okay Buffy, everything is going to work out.”
Buffy leaned her head on Tara’s shoulder and wept some more, oblivious to the odd looks she was garnering from passerby.
Dean let out a huge yawn as he eased the car through downtown Sunnydale. It was late in the evening and it took all of the energy left in his reservoir to stay awake. He had survived the first long leg of driving on coffee and sugar loaded treats but now he was feeling the effects of extreme fatigue. He couldn’t remember the last time he had slept more than a few hours in the past couple of days. Feeling his eyelids drawing shut, he pushed his eyes wide open and cranked the radio to its maximum volume. He just needed to stay awake until he got to the Summers’ house and then he planned on sleeping for a year.
Pulling up to a red light in the downtown section, he rapped his hands against the steering wheel as AC/DC’s War Machine played on the radio. He rolled the window down, letting the crisp breeze wash over his face. When the light shifted green, Dean let off the brake as an echo of screams burst into the air. Then a crowd of people rushed across the street, nearly crashing into the bumper of his car. Dean slammed on the brakes and frowned until he realized the crowd wasn’t just jaywalking for kicks, they were running away from something. As another crowd skittered by, his eyes widened at the sight of a gigantic man barreling down the street, yelling at all the people before stopping in front of the Impala.
The gigantic man studied the car as it rumbled idle in the road.
“How does it move without a mighty steed to pull it?” he wondered. “Ah, no matter, I shall strike it down!”
Dean shrieked inaudibly as the overzealous ogre slammed the hammer into the hood of his car. Losing all feeling in his legs, Dean flung the driver side door open and stumbled out of the car just as the ogre raised his hammer again.
Dean reached for his pistol, his face tightening with a murderous look.
“I’m gonna make you eat that hammer,” he growled.
The ogre chortled as he glanced at the pistol.
“You wish to duel me with that meager little musket?”
“It’s not the size, it’s how you….”
But before Dean could finish his snarky comment, the big man flicked the pistol out of his hand, with as much effort as someone who picked a piece of lint off their shoulder.
“I will crush you!” he said as he grabbed Dean by the neck and tossed him around in the air.
When the shaking finally stopped, Dean pulled in his swirling vision as the ogre swung his nose over his shoulder.
“Do I smell ale? Oh yes! It calls my name! Olaf - come drink me! I shall!”
Dean felt his head spinning violently as Olaf tossed him aside. He crashed into a pair of newsstands as Olaf charged away.
Inside the Bronze, patrons were clamoring with fear as Olaf lumbered around confidently, smashing or taking whatever he pleased. As he lifted a keg of beer to his mouth, Buffy and Tara hurried in and spotted Willow, Xander and Anya. As Tara and Willow hugged each other, Buffy observed Olaf chugging down the keg.
“So what’s the story with Green Giant?” Buffy asked. “Who sent him?”
Spike moseyed through the gang and nodded at Buffy.
“Buffy,” he said with his most friendly grin.
Buffy merely shot him a glare of disgust when a familiar gruff voice sputtered from behind her.
Buffy steered her eyes around and gasped with delight when she saw Dean.
“Dean! You came back!” she squealed. “You came back to me!”
Buffy threw her arms around Dean and squeezed him tightly as Spike bowed his head and discreetly stepped away. Too
wired to lighten his expression, Dean pulled out of Buffy’s embrace and quickly scanned the Bronze.
“Yeah and I want the ogre’s head on a platter.”
“He’s a troll,” Anya corrected.
“Whatever, he’s a dead troll when I get my hands on him,” Dean grunted.
“It’s Willow’s fault,” Anya said flatly. “She took ingredients from the shop – without paying for them – and then performed a spell – incorrectly. She let him out.”
Buffy noticed Dean keeping his sights trained on Olaf so she shifted hers to Willow.
“Is that true Will?”
Flustered by the accusation, Willow shot a beet red.
“Of course not! It’s not my fault! Not completely. She did stuff too! I kept telling her!” she groused.
“The spell can be undone,” Anya stated. “So just do it Willow.”
At that moment, Olaf flicked the empty keg aside as he scrutinized the gang. He picked up his hammer, staring straight through everyone except Anya. Willow clutched her spell book and began chanting.
Olaf raised his hammer and shouted angrily at Willow. Willow shook in startle and stopped chanting as Olaf glowered at Anya.
“This was your doing!” he accused. “You cannot stand the idea of me having any fun, can you?! You did the same thing when we were lovers!”
Buffy, Dean, Xander and Tara shared looks of shock as they stared at the unruly Olaf before drawing their eyes to Anya.
“What?” Xander gasped. “You and the big furry man were….were lovers?!”
“Why am I the only one not surprised?” Willow uttered.
Just as Anya began to explain her history with Olaf, he raised his hammer and slammed it into the bar, breaking it in half.
“Um, troll,” Tara cried meekly. “Remember the big scary troll?”
As Olaf began rambling in his defense, Dean shook his head in annoyance.
“For crying out loud,” he groaned. “He’s just a big whiny bitch.”
“I hate witches!” Olaf growled. “I will kill them all!”
Olaf howled like a hungry predator as he targeted his eyes on Willow. Buffy positioned herself in front Willow, prepared to shield her from Olaf’s attack. Dean unquestioningly stepped in beside her, ready for a fight.
“Do it Will, hurry!” Buffy said over her shoulder.
Willow recited the spell very quickly as Olaf inched toward her. As she finished a passage, Olaf stopped in surprise.
“Your spell is useless!” he snorted.
“Um, hold on a sec…” Willow said as she skimmed down the page.
Olaf charged toward Willow, as Buffy and Dean dove into his path.
“Guess we’re kicking your ass the old fashioned way!” Dean snarled.
Buffy and Dean swapped hard punches at Olaf from both sides. Though Buffy absorbed the impact of hitting the giant, Dean shook out his fist, swearing he fractured a few of his knuckle bones. As he attacked with his other hand, Olaf caught his fist and jerked his arm forward. Dean groaned in agony as Olaf swiped his hammer at Buffy when she charged toward him. Buffy sailed through the air, landing clear across the other side of the Bronze.
Dean ducked a second before Olaf struck at him with the hammer, grabbing the bottom of the handle. He tried to wrest the hammer from the troll, but Olaf’s strength was no match for him.
Olaf growled and jutted the hammer into Dean’s stomach. Dean tumbled back onto the ground, gasping desperately for air, feeling as if his lungs had been crushed in.
Olaf roared as he batted his hammer toward the pillars supporting the upper level of the Bronze. Wood and plaster splintered into the air as the loft level began to teeter toward the ground. Patrons below screamed and fled for safety as the floor above collapsed toward them. Xander, Anya, Willow, Spike and Tara ushered people out of the way but Buffy charged toward Olaf, determined to stop his destruction. Olaf chortled victoriously as he stormed out of the Bronze, a second before a loud boom rang throughout.
Moaning in immense pain, Dean winced and then clutched his left shoulder as he sat up. Inhaling dusty fumes from the debris, Dean coughed several times and steered his sights to see several injured people on the ground, some were pinned beneath the rubble as cries for help and groans echoed in the air.
Struggling to swallow the pang in his chest, Dean pushed himself to his feet. As he passed by a pile of debris, he jumped in startle when a large piece of a pillar shot through the air. Buffy let out a grunt and sat up, brushing off the bits of plaster and wood on her jacket and in her hair. When a hand appeared in front of her, she looked up and sighed in relief. She took Dean’s hand as he hauled her up to her feet, noticing the strain on his face when he exhaled a deep breath. He steadied himself, feeling nausea and dizziness gripping his system. Buffy watched him gripping his shoulder.
“I’m fine, my stomach’s in my throat, but I’m fine.”
“You want me to pop that back in?”
Dean sucked in a breath as he held out his arm.
“On three?” Buffy asked.
“Like you’re gonna wait for three,” Dean groaned. “Just do it.”
“Okay, here goes.....”
Willow, Tara, Xander and Anya rushed over to meet Buffy as she yanked on Dean’s arm. He let out a low howl and started rubbing at the soreness as Buffy searched for Olaf.
“He got away?”
“Yeah,” Willow said glumly.
Buffy heaved a sigh of frustration when muffled moans drew her attention. She and Tara quickly started tending to the people pinned under the rubble, with the rest of the gang jumping in to help.
“He couldn’t have gotten too far,” Dean said through a dizzy spell. “He may be strong but he ain’t fast. I’m gonna go after him.”
Buffy tossed several heavy pieces of plaster off one of the victims as she eyed Dean, clearly trying to hold back the pain.
“You won’t get too far with your sore shoulder,” she said as she turned her sights to Xander. “Xander, you go with Dean and see if you can track him down.”
Buffy delegated instructions to Anya and Willow and then the four headed for the entrance to the Bronze. Once outside, Anya and Willow split off from the boys.
Dean swallowed another bout of dizziness as he crossed to his car. Xander trekked beside Dean and then widened his eyes when he saw the mangled hood of the Impala.
“Yikes,” Xander gulped. “That’s one heck of a…”
Xander clenched his fists and impersonated the Incredible Hulk’s look of fury.
“Hulk - smash!” he roared.
Xander chortled briefly until Dean shot him a sour look.
“Sorry,” he gulped.
Dean eased the trunk open, discreetly checking the street for bystanders before he lifted the secret compartment up. He pulled out a few weapons. Lifting an arm to shut the trunk, Dean let out a very low groan when the movement sent ripples of pain through his shoulder.
“Where do we start?” Xander asked anxiously.
Surveying the street, Dean noticed the smashed mailboxes, overturned trash receptacles, shattered store front windows or car windshields along the north side. When he looked to the south, there was no evidence of the troll’s war path.
As they wended down the path of destruction, Dean remained tense while Xander bounced on his feet.
“You picked a fine time to show up back in town, huh Dean?”
Garnering another sour look, Xander gulped.
“I’ll shut up now,” Xander muttered.
Dean slowly pushed out a sigh and looked ruefully at Xander.
“Sorry man, I’m just not in the greatest of moods right now,” he lamented. “I’ve been working three days straight without much sleep and then drove all the way out here. I was hoping to just climb into bed and…”
“Do some ‘catching up’ with Buffy?” Xander said awkwardly.
Dean managed a small smile and half a chuckle as he steered toward the shopping block.
“Eventually that, yeah. Anyway, I guess having a little time off is too much to ask for in this town.”
Xander shrugged as he nodded back in the direction of the Bronze.
“Well, you could always sit this one out, we’ve got it covered.”
“Dude, did you SEE what Gigantor did to my car?! No way am I sitting this one out.”
Xander bolted to a stop as his eyes widened in fear. Dean followed his sights to see the door to the magic shop completely demolished.
When screams echoed outside the magic shop, Dean and Xander raced inside. Xander stiffened when he saw two pairs of feet sticking out from behind a counter as Olaf slowly advanced on Anya and Willow.
“Don’t you go near them!” Xander growled.
Olaf stopped, turned around and then chortled at Xander. Xander stood tall and glared defiantly at Olaf, full of bravado.
“You heard him Cro-Moron Man,” Dean snapped.
“Pah! Such brave little men you are,” Olaf huffed. “Alas, you are far outmatched in this duel.”
As Willow groaned very softly, Olaf turned back to her, prepared to strike again.
“I SAID, don’t you go near them!” Xander howled.
Xander charged toward Olaf, tackling him but the troll didn’t even stumble. He snorted and swiped his hammer at Xander. Xander flew through the air and crashed into the wall. Xander groaned as Dean wound back his good arm and got Olaf’s attention.
“Hey, stinky, check out my war hammer!”
Olaf swung his head toward Dean, just as Dean swung a large sledgehammer at him. Olaf stepped out of the way and then swung his hammer, blocking Dean’s attack. With a slight push of his hammer, Dean was blown back through the front door. Olaf laughed jovially as Xander rose to his feet.
Dean steadied himself quickly and rushed toward Olaf, jumping on the troll’s back. He slid his arm under Olaf’s neck and started squeezing the oxygen out of him. Olaf growled and propelled himself back into a wall, furiously slamming Dean into it several times until he finally dropped to the ground, unconscious.
Buffy ran into the magic shop, with Giles and Tara right on her heels. While Giles and Tara stopped headed for Anya and Tara, Buffy lunged toward Olaf and immediately started attacking him.
“The hammer Buffy! It’s the hammer that has the power!” Anya cried out.
Chaos broke out in the shop as Buffy sparred with Olaf while Anya heckled him and Willow began chanting.
As Dean slowly gripped consciousness, his ears rang with utter madness. His eyes flitted open as he cupped the back of his head and very carefully pulled himself up against a wall. Releasing a deep groan, he spotted Xander approaching him. Xander, cradling his wrist, plopped down next to Dean.
“You okay man?” Xander asked.
Dean shifted his eyes around the magic shop and saw Buffy fighting Olaf.
“Oh come on, no one’s killed him yet? I thought this was all a bad dream,” he groaned.
Olaf’s hammer suddenly flew out of his grasp, hurled through the air, hit a wall and then fell to the ground. Dean blinked rapidly in disbelief as he pushed himself up along the wall to get to his feet.
“What the hell just happened?”
“The power’s in the hammer,” Xander replied.
“So, he’s just a big tool now huh?”
Dean felt himself smiling wide for the first time since he rolled into town. He lumbered over to Buffy as she grinned victoriously at Olaf.
“Well, watcha gonna do now without your big hammer? Not so powerful now,” she taunted.
When Dean reached Buffy, she stormed toward Olaf. Olaf smacked her face with his hand, tossing Buffy into a glass counter display. Buffy eyed Anya, who simply shrugged.
“What? He’s a troll,” she said. “Trolls are strong even without weapons.”
“I am done with granting mercy!” Olaf growled. “I will kill each and every one of you.”
Buffy sprung to her feet as Dean mustered the last of his energy, swiftly hurling himself into Olaf’s massive chest. Dean let out a silent gasp as he felt like he was hitting a brick wall. Olaf clapped a hand on Dean’s sore shoulder and whirled him away as Buffy launched into a spin kick, striking her foot out, aiming for Olaf’s head. Buffy huffed in exasperation when her foot drove Olaf back only a stumble. He swatted at her like she was a fly but she deftly grabbed his arm and twisted it back, using every bit of her Slayer strength to hold him. Still, Olaf shook her free without too much effort. Olaf scowled at Buffy and Dean as they circled him, ready to fight again.
“You two are completely aggravating! Why do you insist on attacking me?”
Dean stopped circling Olaf and cocked his head.
“Well, you could surrender.”
Olaf answered by growling and then looking at Anya and Xander.
“You wish to fight for her and him? You waste your energy! What they have is not love. It is pity! For she is incapable of appreciating anyone and he is much too weak for her, what they have, whatever it is, it is doomed!” he declared.
Buffy turned her eyes to Dean when she heard a familiar sigh of annoyance.
“Good grief. Will you shut up already?” Dean groaned. “Your life sucks, I get it. But you stray from the barn, you’re gonna get mowed over. So just get over it!”
Olaf snarled at Dean.
Dean shook his head. “Or don’t. But I’m still gonna kick your ass!”
And with that, Dean advanced toward Olaf but Buffy was already airborne. She snapped her foot out and slammed it hard into Olaf’s head. This time, Olaf stumbled far back, crashing into the wall near the front door.
Stunned, Olaf looked at Buffy as she leaped into the air again and landed right in front of him. Without blinking, Buffy drew her right arm back and punched Olaf square in the face. His head bowed back as Buffy hit him with a series of rapid fire punches.
Xander, Willow, Anya, Tara and Giles hung back and watched as Buffy relentlessly pummeled Olaf across the shop.
When she was finally done, Buffy stood over Olaf, triumphantly smiling at his unconscious state. She wielded his hammer and propped a foot on his chest, posing for a second.
“Buffy?” Tara called.
Buffy swung her eyes to Tara, crouched over an unconscious Dean. As a low groan emitted from the middle of the shop, Buffy ran over just as he faded back to the waking world. She gasped when she saw the blood trickling from his nose.
“Oh my god Dean, what happened?”
The gang gathered around as Buffy sat down, tenderly cradling his head in her lap.
“I don’t know, I just got a little dizzy, so I closed my eyes for a second and then…..I woke up like this…..But, I’m fine now.”
As he tried to get up, Buffy gently pushed him down.
“You’re not fine. We should get you to the hospital.”
“No hospital,” Dean said in protest. “I’m good, seriously. I mean, I’m seeing three of you, so how can that be a bad thing?”
As Dean smirked, Buffy drew a grave look.
“You could have a concussion.”
“Oh, that’s guaranteed with all the years I’ve been kicked in the head or thrown into something, but I’m not going to a hospital.”
When he tried to get to his feet, Buffy helped him up. Noticing Olaf on the ground, immobilized, Dean frowned in disappointment.
“Dammit, what’d I miss?”
Later, Willow completed a spell as Buffy and the gang looked on. After watching Olaf disappear in a cloud of mystical smoke, lively chatter erupted among them. Dean stepped away from the group when his cell phone hummed in his pocket.
“Everything worked out,” Buffy cooed happily. “We’re all together again!”
Buffy smiled as she looked at everyone. Her joyful expression sunk when she saw Dean was gone.
“Where’s Dean? Where’d he go?” she asked softly.
The gang swung their heads around and displayed their confusion.
“He was just here a second ago,” Willow said.
“Yeah, I didn’t even see him leave,” Xander said. “He is pretty stealthy though.”
Buffy shrieked soundlessly as her eyes welled with tears.
“You mean he…hheee left me again? But….what did I do?”
Buffy bellowed forward and sputtered with cries as the gang exchanged awkward looks. Buffy warbled with more tears as Dean sauntered back into the front of the shop.
“Uh, what’s going on?” he asked.
Buffy widened her glassy eyes and threw her arms around Dean.
“You didn’t leave me!” she wailed.
“Well, technically, I had to leave to take a phone call.”
Buffy buried her face in his shoulder.
“You came back, you came back,” she cried.
Dean pulled back from her hold and studied her curiously.
“Okay, that’s the second time you said that. Are you okay?”
Buffy sniffled as she smiled in relief.
“I’m just so happy you’re here, with me,” she said.
Dean looked over Buffy’s shoulder to Xander for a clue. Xander shrugged while the others started cleaning up the debris in the shop.
A few hours later, Buffy walked into her house, holding onto Dean as his gait stumbled a bit.
“I still don’t think this is a good idea. You have a mild concussion and need to rest. The doctor said you had to stay in the hospital.”
“No, he said I had to stay in bed,” Dean clarified. “He didn’t specify whose bed it had to be or where. Besides, why would I want to spend the night there, being tended to by a sixty year old nurse who smells like shoe polish when I can just as well be here, being catered to by a hot young blonde who smells like vanilla?”
Buffy drew a coy smile as they went upstairs.
“Plus, we made a deal, I went to the hospital as long as I didn’t have to stay there.”
Once in her bedroom, Dean sprawled on top of it and let out a contented sigh as fatigue swept over him.
“Much more comfortable than that hospital bed,” he mumbled.
Buffy strolled over and peeled his jacket off. She propped a pillow under his head and then smiled down at him as his eyes fluttered shut.
“I’m so glad you’re back and that you’re okay.”
Dean pushed his weary eyes open and gazed at Buffy with concern.
“Alright, now that we have time, you want to tell me what all of this, ‘I’m back’ stuff is about? Why wouldn’t you think I’d be back huh?”
Buffy sat down beside him as she chewed anxiously on her lower lip.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I guess when I didn’t hear from you after you left and then….I um, I….accidentally saw a text on your phone from a girl….I got kind of…..panicky.”
“You were reading my text messages?” Dean asked in surprise.
Buffy averted her eyes in a guilty manner.
“I didn’t intend do,” she confessed. “But your phone kept buzzing and buzzing and….I tried to quiet it and….saw them.”
Buffy gulped when she steered her eyes back to Dean and noticed his long, assessing stare.
“So, you thought I left you to go half way across the country just to fool around with some girl?”
“No,” Buffy said quickly.
When his stare lingered, Buffy moped deeply with remorse.
“Maybe,” she admitted sheepishly.
“Seriously? Haven’t we taken turns with the whole trust issue?”
Buffy sunk back against the headboard and released a heavy sigh.
“I know, I know,” she moaned. “I’m sorry. I trust you, I do. And I know, no matter what, you always come back.”
Buffy leaned her head against Dean’s and pouted.
“I don’t know why I doubted you.”
Buffy slipped down the bed, curling up next to Dean. She gently latched her arms around him, nestling her head in the crook of his neck as he closed his eyes again, letting fatigue draw him into sleep.
“So, um, there wasn’t anything going on between you and…Josie?”
Buffy dipped her eyes up to see Dean still had his shut.
“If there was, you’d be giving me conjugal visits in jail,” he uttered.
Dean sighed as he opened his eyes.
“She’s eleven and a half,” he explained. “And like an annoying little sister I never wanted.”
“Oh,” Buffy said softly, guilt tugging at her eyes. “You said she was a hunter friend of your dad’s.”
“I didn’t really have time to get into it, but yeah, her dad was.”
“Was? Retired or….”
“Or,” Dean answered grimly. “She lost a brother too on a hunt, Ethan. He was my age. Anyway, she’s got her mom and her brother left. When Kyle went missing, her mom had a complete breakdown so Josie called my dad but when she couldn’t get a hold of him…”
“She called you for help,” Buffy said.
“Yeah, turns out Kyle wasn’t the only one to go missing in that town.”
Letting his eyes drift shut again, Dean spent several minutes imparting the details of the case. Buffy heaved a deep sigh of relief.
“Well, I’m glad you found her brother,” she said. “Although, I don’t like that you went hunting by yourself.”
“I’ve been hunting by myself for awhile,” Dean pointed out. “And I did have backup. Once I found Kyle, he armed up and we blew that evil bitch away.”
“How’s their mom?”
“She was slowly coming out of it as I got ready to leave. She’s got two good kids that’ll take care of her, so I wasn’t worried.”
“A family of hunters,” Buffy said in awe.
“It’s rare but not unusual,” Dean said as his face bled with nostalgia.
Hearing the doorbell chiming downstairs, Buffy looked off into the hall.
“That’s Giles. He has news about his meeting with the council.”
“Okay, I’ll be down in a second.”
Buffy shook her head as she sat up.
“No, you rest,” she urged. “I’ll fill you in on anything im….”
Before Buffy could finish, Dean had already fallen into a deep sleep. She smiled and then snapped out the bedside lamp before quietly leaving the room.
A few days later:
Buffy eagerly skipped down the stairs when she heard heavy footsteps lumbering around in the kitchen. She sparked with a smile when she saw the familiar sight of Dean leaning over the fridge door, scoping its contents.
“Hi!” she said gleefully.
Dean straightened and smiled back as he finished chewing a cheddar cube.
“How’d it go on that scavenger hunt thing in L.A.? I would think it went well since you didn’t get back last night.”
Dean threw Buffy a guilty look as he set a loaf of bread and a carton of deli meat on the counter.
“Yeah, I planned on heading back but Jackson and I hung out until about three in the morning so I just crashed for awhile.”
“Yeah, he doesn’t just run the scrap yard; he’s a pretty hard core fan of classic cars so when I told him what I was looking
for, he started talking about all the cars he’s worked on and the next thing I know, I’m back at his place having a beer.”
Buffy absorbed the pleasant smile on Dean’s face as he stuffed a piece of his sandwich in his mouth.
“You went back to his place huh? Did you at least give him your real number when you snuck out this morning?” she said with a teasing tint in her eyes.
Dean snorted in mild amusement as he polished off his sandwich.
“Of course, I’m not a tease like you are,” he retorted.
“I’m not a tease,” Buffy said innocently.
“No, you’re ‘just playin’.”
Buffy rolled her eyes before they both burst into laughter.
“So, how was that meeting I missed?”
Buffy sputtered with an anxious breath before she informed Dean about the meeting.
“The Watcher’s Hit Squad is coming here?”
“Giles said they’re probably in transit.”
“Okay, so when they get here, we’ll kidnap them, strip them of their weapons and then lock them up with a bunch of vampires. It’s the least we can do to them for trying to kill you TWICE. We’ll see how much they like being on the other end.”
“I know!” Buffy moaned. “I’d rather not have a ‘third time’s a charm’ thing.”
“Me either,” Dean assented. “Giles is okay with this?”
“Yeah,” Buffy sighed. “He said we don’t really have that much of a choice since we don’t know a lot about Glory.”
“I hate to agree,” Dean groaned. “But that doesn’t mean we should trust them.”
“Oh no worries, I’m not about to trust them.”
When Dean eyed his watch and pushed off for the front door, Buffy moped as she walked him out.
“How long is it going to take to fix the car? You seem to be gone all day and all night on these scavenger hunts. I mean, I thought it was just the hood and a few of the thingees underneath that got damaged.”
Dean bolted in his tracks when he heard the term and then shook his head.
“Well, those ‘thingees’ aren’t easy to come by,” he said mildly.
“Still, there’s this great invention called the ‘internet’, you do a search for ‘car thingees’ and then it gives you information on where you can buy it and have it shipped,” Buffy said with a smile.
“Ha ha. I know what the internet is. I’ve just been bed bound for the past couple of days so I don’t mind doing the leg work.”
Buffy pouted as Dean steered his attention toward the wrecked Impala. She watched him slide a hand along the front edge of the car, his eyes filled with genuine sadness.
“Just a few more days and I’ll put you back together,” he soothed. “I promise.”
“Hey, don’t forget about this girl.”
Dean crouched down and stroked the front bumper.
“Don’t let her jealousy bother you sweetheart,” he whispered.
Buffy rolled her eyes as Dean gave the car one last pat. He ambled over to Buffy and gave her a playful pat on the butt.
“I’m off to find more thingees,” he said, pulling Buffy into his arms.
As they shared a long kiss on the driveway, a groan echoed from the front door.
“If you’re done swallowing each others tongues, mom wants to talk to you before you leave!” Dawn hollered impatiently.
Buffy parted very slightly from Dean and sighed in annoyance.
“Call me later and let me know when you’ll be back?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, I’ll keep you posted.”
Later that evening, Buffy bellowed with an angry breath as she grappled with a vampire in the graveyard.
“Blah, blah, blah, I’m the professor, I know more than you, blah blah blah,” she said mockingly.
Buffy hurled the vampire over a large headstone as she continued to rant to herself.
“Oh Miss Summers, where’s your teacher’s certificate?”
The vampire snarled as he charged her. Buffy, hardly looking at her target, snapped her fist up and punched him in the face.
“Blah, blah, blah, teach the class, blah blah blah, pfooey.”
“What are you talking about?” the vampire asked as he stumbled over a potted plant.
Quickly recovering, the vampire took advantage of Buffy’s distracted state, throwing a hard body blow. Buffy absorbed the impact as she staggered backward. She steadied herself and immediately struck back, kicking the vamp in the gut. The vampire tumbled toward the ground as someone jumped out of the dark and shoved a stake through its back.
Buffy stared at the cloud dust and then the figure standing behind it. She glared deeply as Spike grinned victoriously.
“What did you think you were doing?” she asked harshly.
Spike’s grin faded as Buffy bore her eyes into him.
“Taking out the evil in the world,” he chimed. “And at no cost to you. I did it just to get a simple thank you.”
Spike grinned again as Buffy fumed.
“A thank you? Are you kidding?” she growled.
“No, I saved your life.”
“Saved my life?” Buffy snorted derisively. “I didn’t need saving. I was working up to killing him.”
“It looked to me like you were working up to be a buncha pieces. I was trying to help since your guard puppy ain’t around. Or did he chew through that leash of yours and run off?”
Buffy glared resentfully at Spike as he widened his snide grin.
“First of all, Dean is not a guard…puppy that I keep on a leash. And secondly, even if I did need help, I’d never ask you.
There’s nothing you have that I need.”
Spike flinched very slightly as Buffy looked away in sheer disgust.
“Right, right,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about you – it’s always about you, innit Slayer? Your friends, your lovers, you expect them to give up so much for you but what do they get in return? A heartfelt speech about how much they mean to you? Pfft, it’s all rubbish, all a play to keep ‘em around because you don’t want ‘em to drop you like Angel did.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Buffy snarled.
“You can deny it all you want but between you and me, we know he still carries a piece of your heart. There’s no one else like him. Not even your himbo boyfriend. And I have a feeling he knows that. Must be why he’s been around less and less, eh? Always finding reasons to get out of town? Maybe you’ve been a bit too smothering and clingy. Or maybe you’ve been too demanding.”
Buffy raised her hand and cut her eyes through Spike.
“Just shut up Spike,” she barked.
“Perhaps it’s just about you being incapable of loving anyone,” Spike continued.
Spike shrugged as he abruptly spun around and ambled away. Buffy scoffed as she stood alone in the graveyard, reluctantly absorbing Spike’s comments.
The next day:
Buffy swept out of the house and made her way toward the garage, carrying a cup of coffee and a plate of breakfast. Dean was already at work on the car, humming along to some old song on the radio. She kissed him on the cheek and then handed him the cup and plate.
“Hey, mom made Spanish omelets,” she said hurriedly. “I’ve got to run to class. Oh and don’t forget, the Council guys might be dropping in to talk to you sometime today.”
“Right, this whole thing sucks,” Dean groaned. “I had a feeling their visit here had a catch. I mean, threatening to deport Giles unless you cooperate? It’s called blackmail you know. You should just tell them to screw themselves.”
“They’ve got me cornered. I can’t risk losing Giles. I don’t really know what else to do. So whatever they ask you…..just be prepared for anything.”
“Isn’t that my motto?” Dean said with a winning smile.
Buffy glanced at him with dread in her eyes. Dean let his smile die away as a sincere expression took over his face.
“No worries, I’ve been interrogated before,” he said. “I know how to cover my ass.”
As Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” blasted from an old radio set on a cabinet, Dean bobbed his head to the drumbeat while he meticulously made repairs to his car. When the volume of the radio abruptly lowered, he scowled, expecting Dawn to make some complaint about his music. But when he looked up, he saw a very polished looking older man walking into the Summers’ garage.
“Mr. Winchester I presume?”
Dean set down his wrench and wiped his greasy hands on the hem of his shirt.
“You must be one of the Council cronies,” he said with a wry grin. “I’ve been waiting around for hours. I thought I’d be first on the list of most wanted for questioning.”
The older man gave Dean a stuffy look as he removed a clipboard from his briefcase.
“Nigel Worthington. Shall we proceed with the inquiry?”
“By inquiry you mean a voluntary interview right? No coercion by questionable methods to get information?”
Nigel simply furrowed his brows as he rocked back on his impeccably shined shoes.
“If you elect not to participate in our inquiry, we will simply make a notation in Miss Summers’ review.”
“So if I don’t answer your questions, you’ll put something negative in these ‘notes’, that’s what you’re saying right? Nice subtle little manipulation.”
Nigel remained cool and undaunted by Dean’s suspicious questioning.
“Does that mean you do not wish to conduct this interview?”
After trying to intimidate the proper man with a heavy stare, Dean relented with a sigh.
“Put it on record that I was cooperative and charming,” he said as he pulled up a stool.
Dean waved at the stool as he opted to lean against one of the storage cabinets. Nigel scrutinized the stool, taking a handkerchief from his coat to sweep away the dust and dirt. Once he was seated, he readied his fancy fountain pen as Dean reached into a small cooler for a drink. He offered one to Nigel but he held a hand up to decline.
“Would you please describe your relationship to the Slayer?”
“Hmm. Exciting, exhausting, unpredictable, sometimes aggravating, but overall – awesome,” Dean cheered.
“Could you be more specific? Are you friends or merely acquaintances?”
“We’re a bit of everything now, I mean, I’ve known her since before she was kicking demon ass. There were times I wanted to wipe my hands of her and other times I’ve wanted to put my hands all over …..”
Meeting the stringent eyes of the Watcher, Dean stopped himself from finishing his statement. He cleared his throat and pushed a polite smile on his face.
“I’ve just uh, known her for a long a time.”
Nigel intensified his stare as he studied Dean for a minute.
“Your relationship with Miss Summers is a romantic one then?” Nigel deduced.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘romantic’,” Dean replied with a mild frown. “But you English folk are so Victorian, so you can go with that I guess.”
Nigel made a notation on his clipboard before moving on.
“How does your relationship benefit Miss Summers’ position as the Slayer?”
Dean opened his mouth when a very naughty comment rolled through his mind. He chuckled awkwardly as Nigel’s expectant gaze lingered.
“Well, when I’m town, she never has to fight alone. I’m always up for wastin’ evil, big or small, whatever, just tell me how to kill it and I’m first in line,” he answered enthusiastically.
“I see,” Nigel said primly. “Your father, John Winchester, has been a civilian eradicator of supernatural entities for several decades?”
“That’s quite a mouthful,” Dean remarked. “We’re just known as hunters.”
Nigel drew an assessing look as he wrote a note on his clipboard.
“Are you a member of the International Society of Citizens for the Obliteration of Unnatural Beings?”
Dean crooked an eyebrow as Nigel conveyed a serious expression.
“It is the only civilian society recognized by the Watcher’s Council.”
“Sure, yeah, I’m a card carrying member.”
“May I see your identification card?”
Dean pried an innocent look over his face.
“Ah, you know, the thing’s quite flimsy and I don’t have it on me anymore.”
Nigel made a note and then moved on.
“And where did you receive your formal fight training? What disciplines have you mastered?”
“Haven’t really had anything formal, I learned things, my dad taught me things and some things I just use a little…creativity,” Dean said with a gloating smile.
Nigel remained unimpressed as Dean took in his all business attitude. After summarizing a few of his fighting techniques, Nigel wrote a very long note on his clipboard.
“Would you proclaim to have a vast knowledge of demons and the supernatural world?”
“Oh yeah,” Dean said emphatically. “It’s all stored in my personal library.”
Dean grinned as he tapped on his head.
“Then you are familiar with the basic literature ‘An Amateur’s Guide to Ridding a Spirit’?”
“Sure, yeah, first thing I ever read.”
“What about ‘Vampires and You?’
Dean scratched his head and inadvertently chuckled.
“Vampires and You…..you’re joking, right?”
Seeing no humor on Nigel’s face, Dean let out a deep sigh.
“Look, I’m not saying I know about every demon there is in existence, but when I come across one, I look into it,” he said.
Nigel nodded as he made a note.
“So you consider yourself an asset and ally to the Slayer?”
“I would think so, I mean, sometimes we have this unspoken language with each other, you know? When we’re in the thick of a fight, she gives me a signal and I know what she means and vice versa. And when she gets distracted, well, I’m always there to help her…readjust her priorities.”
“Does the Slayer get distracted often?” Nigel perused with great interest.
“No, no,” Dean covered. “Not distracted, I meant, ‘focused’. She can get her mind set on something and you can’t really turn her attention away from it.”
“So you’re saying she can be irrational at times,” Nigel stated.
Dean winced when Nigel looked down at his clipboard to scribble on it.
“No, no, no,” Dean sputtered. “Determined, not irrational, she’s very determined to vanquish all evil things.”
“And how many times would you estimate she has endangered the lives of her friends due to these ‘distractions?”
Dean held back a frown as Nigel flipped to a page toward the back of his clipboard.
“My colleagues made a notation that Miss Rosenberg and Mr. Harris have a history of being targets by demons simply based on their social relationship with the Slayer.”
Dean shrugged casually as Nigel held his pen at the ready.
“That’s not her fault. She doesn’t twist our arm to fight along side her. I know she’d rather we not. We fight because we believe in her to save the world. Even against all odds, she always finds a way to win. Who wouldn’t want to get in line with that?”
After a long gaze, Nigel scratched his chin.
“One last question Mr. Winchester,” he said. “Do you have any knowledge about The Key?”
Dean pulled on his poker face.
“Nope,” he lied.
Satisfied, Nigel rose to his feet, tucking his clipboard away.
“Thank you for your time Mr. Winchester,” he said cordially.
Late that evening, Buffy let out an exhausted sigh as she strolled up to her house. Hearing faint music echoing from the garage, Buffy steered herself over. Inside the garage, Buffy noticed an assortment of car parts were strewn over a work table, a trash can full of fast food and candy bar wrappers, but no Dean. Moving through the side door leading into the house, Buffy heard a familiar chuckle from the kitchen.
Dean was skimming a book and eating cookies as Buffy dropped her backpack on the table, collapsing in his lap.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” he said. “How’d that test thing go?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Buffy groaned as she snatched a cookie from Dean’s plate.
Buffy felt her body shaking as Dean let out a hearty laugh while reading a passage from his book.
“What are you reading?”
“Oh, just some book that stuffy Nigel recommended,” Dean said lightly.
Buffy pulled up the book to get a look at the title. She raised an eyebrow as Dean chuckled again.
“Vampires and You?” she said in disbelief.
“Yeah, can you believe they actually had a copy at the library? This stuff is hilarious. If I knew it was this funny, I would have read this years ago!”
Dean shook his head in amusement as Buffy shifted her eyes to the living area.
Engrossed in his reading material, Dean didn’t look up.
“She’s in her room, she wanted to take a bath and catch up on reading. Dawn’s moping about something in her room.”
“Oh, I’ll let mom know I’m home.”
Buffy ambled through the threshold as Dean let out another stir of laughter. Moving across the darkened living room, Buffy halted when a shadow suddenly lurked in front of her. She tensed with alarm when one of the lamps snapped on. Glory clapped her hands on her hips and grinned.
“Hi honey, how was your day?”
Glory strolled around the living room widening her fearless smile.
“Well, what a quaint little place you have here Slayer,” she said. “Day in and day out you spend your time here cuddling up by the fireplace drinking cocoa with those little marshmallows, huh? That’s so adorable I could throw up.”
Glory brushed by Buffy, taking a longer look at the living room.
“Mmm, I’m not much for the décor but you know it suits you. So cozy, so irritatingly cute ….”
In a flash Glory whipped her arm out, slamming Dean into a wall. She pinned him against the wall with one hand, as she used her free hand to effortlessly remove the gun from his hand.
“You really shouldn’t play with guns hon, someone could get hurt,” she sneered.
Glory aimed the pistol between his eyes, sliding her finger over the trigger. After a second, she eyed the gun and flashed her disgust, tossing the weapon aside.
“Barbarians and their weapons,” she groaned.
Glory smashed the ball of her hand into Dean’s windpipe as Buffy tried to stalk toward her, clutching a fire poker behind her back.
“Now, now, tough little Buff,” Glory said in a mock scolding tone. “Put that pokey stick down or I’ll rip his throat out before you can eek out a breath, okay?”
Glory threw a wicked smile at Buffy. Glory shoved her hand deeper into Dean’s, making him gag sickly. Buffy dropped the fire poker as Glory gloated with satisfaction. Glory released Dean, watching him drop abruptly to the ground. He gripped his neck, flushing air through his lungs as Glory strutted over to Buffy.
“If I came here to kill you, you’d already be dead, okay?”
“Then why are you here?” Buffy demanded.
“I thought you were supposed to be in the big leagues,” Glory said disparagingly. “I want my key and you being the protector of this pathetic little town, I believe you can tell me where to find it. That’s the only reason you aren’t dead.”
Buffy peered over Glory’s shoulder and immediately stiffened. Glory sauntered around Buffy as she continued to rant. Dean clasped his throat as he caught sight of Dawn standing under the threshold of the living room.
Glory rambled on and on, seemingly oblivious to Buffy’s silent cues to Dawn. As Glory was about to pivot toward Dawn’s direction, Dean cleared his sore throat and stepped in front of her.
“Has anyone told you that you talk too much?” he groused as his face crinkled with an overly annoyed look. “Unless this is how you disarm your enemies by giving these boring, repetitive, ‘I’m so much more awesome than you are’ speeches.”
Glory clapped her hands on her hips and glared contemptuously at Dean.
“You really are a Neanderthal,” she flouted. “I should pound that empty skull of yours until its dust under my heel.”
Dawn was one step from passing through the kitchen when Glory snapped her arm behind her without turning around. Dean impulsively rushed Glory but she anticipated his attack. She elbowed him in the face and then kneed him in the stomach. Dean collapsed to his knees and groaned under his breath. As she gripped Dawn’s shoulder, she grinned wickedly down at Dean, ruffling the hair on top of his head.
“Now, was that so hard to kneel before me?” she said with a nasty smile.
“Bite me bitch,” Dean growled.
Glory fumed as she struck out her high heel and kicked Dean under the chin, sending him flying across the living room.
“Stop it!” Buffy howled through her teeth.
“I was trying to ask you ‘nicely’,” Glory said with a snort.
“You came here for me,” Buffy snapped.
Glory scoffed as she looked at her manicured nails.
“You really think so highly of yourself huh? I came here for my Key.”
Glory let go of Dawn, taking a closer look at her.
“Aren’t you just the cutest little thing? Who are you?”
Dawn gulped nervously as Glory smiled eerily at her.
“IIIII’m Dddddawn,” she said meekly. “Bbbbufffy’s my sister.”
“Oh, well I’m sure as sisters, you’re close right? You tell each other everything? So she probably told you one of her deepest secrets, like where she put my Key? Well I’m taking it back, so why don’t you be a doll and tell me where it is, okay?”
Buffy wedged herself in front of Dawn, defiantly glaring at Glory.
“I don’t know anything about this Key and neither does she,” Buffy said coarsely.
Dawn hitched her head up and frowned resentfully.
“I’m not a dumb kid Buffy,” she grunted. “There’s a lot of things I know that you can’t even fathom!”
Buffy shot a ‘shut up’ look at Dawn but the younger Summers ignored her.
“She probably takes stuff from you too,” Glory said. “Tell ya what kiddo, you tell me where my Key is, I’ll make sure your conniving, pathetic big sister can’t take anything that’s not hers again.”
Buffy passed a conspiratorial look at Dawn. Dawn glanced at Buffy and then at Glory, her face tugging with confusion and frustration. She huffed deeply as she angled toward the stairs.
“You always try to keep stuff from me but I’ll find out eventually!” Dawn bellowed.
Dawn stormed up the stairs as Glory snorted in mild amusement.
“Oh, what a spunky little thing! Kind of like your little sis…..but not enough to spare her life or anyone else’s. Baby sister, mommy, bonehead lover and all the rest of them will die right in front of your eyes.”
Glory shrugged as she flicked a lock of hair behind her.
“This is the deal – you want to spare all your loved ones from a slow and painful death, tell me where my Key is or give it back to me. I’m not asking you ‘nicely’ again.”
Glory glared murderously at Buffy before she strutted out the door, slamming it behind her. Buffy stared at the door, her jaw open in wonder and panic as Joyce came down the stairs.
Joyce paused at the foot of the stairs when she heard a deep groan. Dean slowly sat up, rubbing his aching jaw.
“What in the world happened here?” Joyce demanded.
Dean looked around the room and scowled when he found Glory was gone. As he rose to his feet, he eyed Buffy.
“Just tell me you got a few hits in before she left?”
Lost in her thoughts, Buffy shook herself out of her daze as two sets of eyes stared at her. She focused on her mom, quickly urging her back up the stairs.
“I’ll explain everything to you on the way,” she said. “But first, you need to pack some things.”
Buffy planted herself in the hall, watching her mom and Dawn hastily gathering clothes and toiletries. Dean lumbered up the stairs, cupping a bag of ice to his sore chin. Buffy passed him a quick glance. His shirt was opened up, displaying a purplish splotch on his stomach As Joyce passed through the hall, Dean fumbled to button his shirt with one hand while keeping his chin iced.
“For the record, I still hate this idea,” Dean groused. “Just say the word and I can get them out of town, up north, some hunter friends of my dad’s have a cabin. They can camp out there.”
“Glory will just find them,” Buffy said grimly. “She found me. I can’t take the risk. I need them close but safe.”
Dean grumbled under his breath as Dawn poked her head into her mom’s room.
“Why do you need him?” Dean muttered.
Detecting a flare of suspicion in his eyes, Buffy eased his mind by clasping his hand.
“I DON’T need him,” she said explicitly. “I need you alive. Glory is too strong.”
Picking up on a sense, Dean shook his head.
“Too strong for me you mean,” he said mildly. “Cause I’m only human.”
“She’s kicked my ass in the past,” Buffy acknowledged humbly. “Look, he’s the only one who stands a chance against Glory. And it’s just temporary.”
Seeing the heavy determination on her face, Dean relented with a sigh.
“Fine but we’re not giving him a dime. Just threaten to beat his ass into the ground….in the non sexy kind of way.”
Buffy threw an odd look at Dean.
“Just don’t want him to get any ideas,” he mumbled.
Buffy checked on her mom and Dawn before a bud of curiosity sprouted in her mind.
“What?” she asked.
“Nothing. You sure you don’t want me to take them over to William the Whiny’s?”
Buffy shook her head as she pivoted toward her mom’s room.
“I’ll feel better dropping them off myself,” she said. “I’ll meet you over at the Magic Shop.”
A little while later, Dean kept an eye on the time as he strolled into the Magic shop. Xander waved from the gallery level as the Watchers Council packed up books in boxes. Dean hung out by the door as Xander strolled down to meet him.
“Hey man, got any idea when the guest of honor is gonna be here? The party goers are getting antsy,” Xander quipped as he pointed his thumb at the Watchers. “They’re taking all the nifty favors!”
Dean momentarily ignored Xander as he stared out the shop window.
“If she’s late, it can’t be good,” he grumbled to himself.
Dean ambled out of the shop and began pacing along the walkway, scoping out the street. His hand impulsively reached into his pocket to snag his cell phone. The home line rang until the answering machine picked up. As his gut wrenched with anxiety, Dean quickly bounded down the street, hoping she was simply late.
Buffy growled under her breath as one of her attackers struck her behind her knees. She dropped to the ground as another masked attacker smashed his weapon in her face.
Buffy moaned softly as she fell hard against the concrete. Trying to shake off the dizzying impact, she saw a blurry vision of a sword rising in the air and heard the echoes of grunts and clinking metal. The sword made its descent toward her neck but then suddenly stopped in mid air.
Buffy blinked rapidly in surprise when she noticed someone defensively wielding another sword.
“Looks like I missed a party,” he grunted as his sword was entangled with the mystery attacker’s.
Buffy rolled away as Dean parried with the swordsman.
Buffy sprung to her feet and leaped into the air, taking on the third enemy. She knocked the attacker’s quarter staff to the ground and then delivered a brutal roundhouse kick to the head. Glancing over at Dean, still in an intense fencing duel, Buffy snatched up the quarter staff and ran toward him.
Buffy barreled into the swordsman’s side, battering him down to the ground. She smacked him several times across the face with the quarter staff as frustration and adrenaline soared through her veins.
“Okay, ENOUGH! It’s been a really long night and I have somewhere to be!” she growled. “So this ends NOW!”
Buffy straddled her mystery attacker, shoving the quarterstaff against his windpipe, cutting off his circulation as Dean whistled through his teeth.
“Nothing like a good old fashioned sword fight to cap off a crappy week,” he said.
“It’s time to show yourself,” Buffy grunted.
She gripped the man’s chainmail mask and ripped it off to reveal a young and handsome man with a weird symbol tattooed on his forehead.
“Well, not so fugly,” Dean snorted.
“End it then Slayer. For my death will only bring you the reward of time,” the man stated cryptically.
“Uh, okay, how about you tell me who you are,” Buffy demanded.
A few minutes later, Buffy and Dean strolled down the block, absorbing the strange information they had just heard.
“Wow, just when I thought I couldn’t get my mind blown anymore in this whole thing….” Dean said in awe. “The Knights of Byzantium.”
Buffy didn’t meet his eyes or verbally respond. She simply clutched the sword as her mind whirled.
“I have to say, for an ancient order of soldiers, I did pretty damn well,” Dean added with a smile.
He admired the sword glinting under the moonlight before he drew his concern over Buffy.
“Hey, you okay?”
Buffy lifted out of her pensive daze as her eyes shifted from the sword to Dean.
“Yeah, I just came to a realization,” she said softly.
“No one’s the boss of me,” she growled softly.
When Dean met her eyes, he saw the fierce glow firing within them and bubbled with a wide grin. Holding the sword out in front of her, Buffy charged toward the Magic Shop, a new vigor in her step.
When she walked inside, she barely paid a glance to the Watchers dispersed around the shop. Travers merely scowled as
he tapped on his watch.
“You were to be here thirty minutes ago Miss Summers,” he reprimanded.
Dean wandered up to the balcony to join the Scoobies, proudly cradling his sword.
“Check out these party favors,” he cheered.
Xander glanced down at Buffy’s sword and then back at Dean.
“His and hers, neat.”
After noticing the pair of swords, Giles frowned with grave concern.
“Were you attacked by something?”
“Uh huh,” Buffy said.
“Now that you have decided to grace us with your presence, we may now proceed with your review,” Travers said haughtily.
“Sorry to hafta to change your plans but I’m not doing the review,” Buffy said briskly.
With a reserved manner, Buffy strolled over to Travers, slowly raising the sword to him. Travers eyed the sword as Buffy set it down on the table where he was seated, the sharp end pointed toward him.
“I’ve had enough,” Buffy snapped. “Your assessment of me, my friends, my life, whatever song and dance you planned to put me through – it all ends now. I’m done.”
Nigel, standing near a bookshelf, stepped toward her and opened his mouth to speak but Buffy glared brutally at him.
“I’m done with all your people too,” she added with a glare.
Buffy crossed her arms as she addressed the Watchers.
“You see, the past couple of days, people have taken every opportunity to cut me down, to make me feel small, telling me how I amount to nothing in this world. It started to get to me until I realized why. I have power, a power that they can’t grasp.”
With the entire room listening intently, Buffy strolled around, her head high with confidence and determination.
“Take Glory for example. She dropped by my house unannounced a few hours ago.”
As murmurs swept through the room, Buffy kept circling the Watchers. Giles displayed his immense anxiety as he attentively observed Buffy.
“She just wanted to give me a piece of her mind, you know, “I’m nothing but a bug she could easily stamp out before I blinked, yadda yadda yadda. We had things to discuss. In a freaky way, it was almost…civilized. She could have killed me right then and there but she didn’t. There’s something I have that she needed and that, THAT gave me power.”
Buffy targeted a glare at Travers before raining it upon the other Watchers.
“Your visit here wasn’t to see if I’m qualified to be your little helper. You flew all this way to plead with me to be MY little helper. Because without me, your lives have no purpose, no substance. Without me, you’re all just a bunch of book enthusiasts,” she said roughly.
Dean snorted in amusement as the Scoobies exchanged looks. Nigel scoffed as he pushed off the bookshelf.
“We will not stand for such disrespect and…”
In a blink, Buffy plucked up her sword and hurled it across the room. The sharp end of the blade slammed into the bookshelf, a mere inch from the tip of Nigel’s head.
Buffy glowered at Nigel as he stood there, completely stunned.
“I believe I told you I was done with all of you.”
The Scoobies gawked and grinned at each other.
“That’s my girl,” Dean exalted softly.
Buffy shifted her glowering eyes to the remaining Watchers.
“You can do all the research you want, but without me, it just sits there in your big, thick notebooks, gathering dust. You want to do your jobs? Then listen up! You give me all the scoop on Glory and then you go home and stay out of my way.
If you find out more information, you can contact me on the phone, no personal visits. You’re not closing the magic shop
nor are you taking Giles with you. You will reinstate him as my Watcher IMMEDIATELY and pay him his salary…”
Giles leaned toward Buffy and coughed into his hand, uttering a word.
“Retroactively,” she demanded. “Starting from the day you fired him. You do your jobs and I’ll do mine. If my friends want to help, then they will.”
The female Watcher, Lydia, sheepishly drew a hand.
“Please don’t throw a weapon at my head,” she said. “But surely you cannot continue to endanger the lives of these civilians.”
Buffy rolled her eyes over her friends.
“Civilians? More like seasoned witches, an ex vengeance demon and two hardened soldiers.”
Anya exaggerated a wide eyed look.
“What?! An ex what?!”
Anya’s feigned shock was lost on everyone as Nigel scrutinized the guys.
“I will agree that Mr. Winchester has a sufficient skill set at best.”
Dean frowned with offense as he waved his sword.
“Sufficient skill set? I was in a swordfight with a medieval dude and I WON! That takes MAD skills!”
Nigel ignored Dean as he glanced at Xander.
“Him? He has no sufficient skill or power.”
“He’s one of the bravest souls I know,” Buffy interjected. “If you could bottle his courage, no one in the world would ever be afraid again. Xander has faced the worst evils we’ve ever seen without hesitation and he fights with all his heart. He’s instrumental and valuable to my team.”
Hearing a soft sniffle, Dean glanced over at Xander and saw his eyes glistening with pride. Dean curled a fist and raised it toward Xander.
“Props man,” he cheered softly.
Xander tapped fists with Dean as Willow squeezed his arm.
“If you want to know what it’s actually like to have a Slayer to WORK WITH, then you’ll do as I ask,” Buffy said as she looked at Nigel, Lydia and Philip. “Think about it, sit on it, whatever I don’t care. What concerns me at this moment in time, is your answer, Quentin.”
Buffy stared at Travers as he leaned back in his chair and silently assessed everyone in the room before drawing his eyes back to the Slayer.
“Alright, I will agree to your terms Miss Summers.”
Cheers and whistles erupted from the Scoobies in the gallery, dissipating after a short moment. Satisfied, Buffy joined Giles at the table, pulling up a chair across from Travers while the Scoobies drifted down the stairs.
“Now wasn’t that pleasant? There was zero pleading involved,” she said quietly.
Relaxing his posture, Travers turned in his chair toward Giles as the gang started unloading the books the Watchers had packed away.
“Well, Rupert, I believe in our inventory of this establishment, we uncovered a fine single malt scotch that was stuffed behind some sacks of incense.”
Giles tugged on the collar of his shirt as he tried to look clueless.
“You did? Why...perhaps a customer left it behind and….”
“Perhaps you could pour us a glass? The night has been quite….unexpected.”
Giles let out a breath as he gave a cordial nod and rose from his chair.
“Yes, it seems it would be appropriate to…”
Buffy sighed impatiently as she interrupted their brief moment of understanding.
“Hold on a second,” she said tartly.
Dean wandered over to Buffy when he saw an intense look on her face as she spoke to Travers.
“Tell me about Glory,” Buffy said anxiously.
“Well, there is a significant amount of notes you will need to read over first,” Travers stated.
“Give me the basics,” Buffy said. “What type of demon is she and how do I kill her?”
“It is not that simple,” Travers replied grimly. “You see, Glory is not a demon at all.”
Buffy briefly acknowledged Dean as he hitched a foot on a chair.
“Okay, so, tell me what she is.”
“Perhaps you should see for yourself.”
Travers sat up and flipped a large leather bound text open to a page with a sketch. Buffy and Dean leaned across the table and glanced at the elaborate drawing complete with written notes. After taking a longer study, Buffy and Dean exchanged looks of disbelief.
“Oh god,” Buffy gasped.
“Precisely,” Travers acknowledged.