A/N: Well, here we go, end of the line. Kinda. Thank you all for your reviews and your support. Enjoy!
As soon as he was finished gagging on a feeling of vertigo more intense than any he’d ever felt before, Dean slumped sideways, leaning against Sam’s side with an exhausted sigh.
He could still feel fingers digging around his insides.
He wiped his mouth before heaving his body onto its knees and checking on his brother. Pulse steady, no obvious injuries, no blood. Good. Why wasn’t the idiot awake then?
Just then, as if he’d heard the question, Sam jerked and rolled onto his stomach, emptying it of all its contents at impressive speeds. Dean grimaced as he lay a heavy hand on his brother’s nape to let him know he wasn’t alone and tried not to feel relieved that he wasn’t the only one whose stomach had gotten upset after getting jerked around between sleeping and waking.
He dug through his pockets for the napkins he knew he’d stuffed in there and handed one of them to Sam, who wiped his mouth before throwing the thing into the semi-dark. Funny, now that the whole thing was over, it wasn’t even full dark yet.
They’d freakin’ won.
“That,” Dean finally said as Sam sat up and scooted away from the two puddles of vomit, “Was actually sort of anticlimactic. Apart from the puking.”
“Speak for yourself,” a rough voice warned from behind them and both brothers shot around to see Anne lying flat on her back, still within the circle of salt. She didn’t seem injured beyond what they had seen before the Nightmare had pulled them under, but she lay very still, just relearning how to breathe. She was wearing her necklace again.
“I’ve been waiting for this for two months, guys.”
She turned her head enough to look at them both and through the dirt, blood, leaves and clammy pallor, she grinned like a loon.
Dean snorted and stumbled to his feet, still feeling like someone had exchanged his bones for jelly and made his way over to the blonde, Sam hot on his heels.
“You alright?” he asked as he stood over her, resisting the inane urge to poke her with his toes to see if she would move.
She blinked once, slowly and then happily purred, “Every single inch of my body hurts
“And that’s good how?” Sam wanted to know, one hand absently freeing his brother’s back from leaves and other forest debris.
“Cuz I can feel it.”
Right. Obviously, two months without a body had slightly unbalanced their fellow hunter.
“Think you can stand?” Relevant question. The girl had been in a coma for more than seven weeks. Her limbs were probably noodles. Only she nodded confidently and held up both hands in silent request.
Each man took one of her limbs and pulled her to her feet, where she wobbled for a moment before catching herself and resuming her grinning. She dropped Sam’s hand with her left and kept Dean’s in her right.
“I think we skipped this part. Hi, I’m Buffy Summers, pleasedtameetcha.”
She shook his hand and Dean chuckled out loud. “Dean Winchester, pleasure’s mine. We thought your name was Anne?”
Buffy – holy hell, once they were all cleaned up and not hurting all over Dean was so
going to poke fun at that – frowned in confusion.
“Your journal. You wrote Josie Anne was named after you. We assumed…,” Sam offered by way of explanation before holding out his own hand. “Sam Winchester,” he added when Buffy’s expression cleared and she shook the offered appendage.
“Well, Buffy Anne
Summers, actually. There’s no way Faith would have named her child Buffy, sister or not. Thank god.”
She took back her hand and looked around, at the circle, the candles, the bag of weapons and the book Sam had dropped when they’d gone down. Then she took in the brothers from head to toe and back, simply soaking up the solidness of them, if they had to guess.
They let her until she suddenly started swaying and shivering from the cool fall night. Sam plucked the hospital blanket from the ground before declaring it a lost cause with a grimace and stripping off his own jacket to wrap around the girl. She protested, but all three knew that she didn’t mean it and she didn’t fight when Sam pulled her into his side and lead her to the car while Dean collected their things and destroyed the circle, making sure they left nothing behind that could be tied to them or the missing Jane Doe. The blanket he set on fire.
Then he shouldered the duffle bag and followed Sam and A- Buffy toward the car. He found both of them curled up in the backseat where Sam played heater for the shivering blonde.
Dean raised a silent eyebrow, asking how bad off Buffy was. He received a shrug in return and a motion that he interpreted to mean the girl was simply going into a mild shock. Being slammed back into your body so abruptly after such a long time would do that, he guessed as he slipped behind the wheel and started the car.
Next stop: Bed.
Thirty minutes later, Buffy crashed into Sam’s bed and was asleep – really asleep, for the first time in months – before she’d managed to pull a blanket over herself.
Sam tucked her in while Dean took a fast and hot shower and then they traded places, one monitoring Buffy for any aftereffects of her ordeal, the other cleaning up. They spent an hour waiting for any signs of unrest or sickness and when they found none, the finally gave in to their own exhaustion and crawled into Dean’s bed.
There was a moment of awkwardness born of two grown men trying to share a bed made for only one. Then Dean huffed quietly and gave up on being manly and tough, rolling onto his side and throwing an arm round his brother’s waist.
If they didn’t try to stay away from each other, they’d fit just fine and the awkwardness was forgotten in the wake of comfort and warmth and sleep. Besides, they’d shared a bed practically until Sam had gone to Stanford. Dad got one, the boys got the other. Their minds balked a bit after so long, but their bodies remembered the routine of sleeping with the other in a tight space all too well.
Before long, they were both out like lights.
It was the smell of coffee that woke them both after a solid twelve hours of sleep and they sat up, still mostly on autopilot, following their noses toward the heavenly stench of bitter, black diner coffee.
Then someone giggled and they both snapped fully awake.
Buffy was sitting at the table, half eaten donut in hand, watching them both with an amused expression.
“You look a bit like zombies on a brain-hunt right there,” she informed them brightly.
She had obviously found her car keys on the nightstand and made the most of it, getting her clothes and toiletries, washing and dressing. She looked like a new person with washed hair falling past her shoulder blades, wearing tight jeans and a loose top, sitting upright, in full control of her body. There was no sign of the exhaustion that had torn at her the night before.
Dean grunted a non-verbal response to her observation and dropped into the other chair, leaving Sam to sit at the end of one of the beds as they both grabbed coffee and downed about half of it in one go. Then they focused on the food and grew wide eyed.
Pancakes, bagels, eggs, hash browns, donuts, extra coffee and some fruit salad on top. And enough of all of it to feed several hungry bears. Or three hungry hunters. Buffy, despite her small frame, ate almost as much as Dean, who watched her with amazement before putting it down to the novelty of eating after months of liquid diet through a tube.
“You look good,” Sam finally said as he pushed his second helping of eggs away half- eaten, looking like a content cat.
“Thanks,” Buffy chirped, smiling again. It a far cry from the smiles she’d given them in her coma. This smile was still tainted with sadness and resignation, but they were old aches, pains long passed. This smile was bright and happy, right here, right now. It was contagious.
“In fact,” Dean said between two bites of hash brown, “You look a bit too good.”
And that beautiful smile fell and from underneath jeans and blonde hair a warrior emerged, tense and ready to run. Not to fight though, Sam noted. He had noticed the outline of a knife at the small of her back earlier, but she didn’t reach for it now. That, more than her words, told him that she was trustworthy.
“About that,” she started, shifting in her chair, “Do you guys buy into the whole if it’s supernatural, we kill it
Dean swallowed and shrugged, ostensibly dismissing the subject. Sam knew better. His brother knew very well where this was going and doing his usual goofy and dumb act to keep the situation cool. “Depends. If it hurts others? Yes. If it’s not meant to exist? Yes. And sure as hell if it messes with Sammy.”
“So if I told you, purely hypothetically, that I’m technically not entirely human, you wouldn’t jump the gun and shoot me with it?”
This time Dean made no pretenses. He simply leaned back in his chair and focused green eyes on Buffy, staring at her frankly and openly. “Would a gun kill you?”
Buffy hesitated briefly, then nodded. “Yes.”
“What are you?” Sam decided to cut in, because he felt the slightest bit sorry for the blonde. She’d protected them, killed the Nightmare, saved their asses. She was good in his books and he knew that Dean thought the same way. He was just testing her.
Buffy’s gaze didn’t move from Dean’s. “Do you guys know what a vampire slayer is?”
Sam’s eyes widened. “No way,” he breathed, awed.
Dean had a bit more control over his facial features and only raised one sharp eyebrow. “As in one girl to save the world? All that lore?”
Buffy nodded again. “Yep. Created when the essence of a demon was shoved into a defenseless girl and bound there, forever. I’m the last true slayer in the world.”
Last? Sam had thought the line was supposed to be never ending, one protector for the world at any given moment in the history of mankind. But then he knew better than most that the information in books didn’t always hold up when there were actual people involved. The human factor. It tended to mess up any account of events.
But they’d both read the stories as kids, encouraged by the thought that there was an actual
superhero out there, fighting the good fight. Now, years later, seeing Buffy sitting across from them, obviously human and vulnerable and fragile but also a hunter through and through, he understood that slayers weren’t exactly superheroes. But they were definitely not villains.
“But you only use your power for good?” Dean asked, face straight.
“Yup. Totally. That, and cheating at arm wrestling.”
And that… really said all that needed saying.
There was a moment of silence as they all relaxed, letting the tension of the past few minutes fade away. Buffy was good in the brothers’ books and they were good in hers. They were on the same side of the fight. End of story.
“So,” Sam asked as he watched his brother help himself to the leftover eggs and dig in. “What do you plan to do right now? And what time is it, for that matter? We gotta call Bobby, Dean.”
A grunt was his only response as Buffy shrugged. “Early,” she supplied, “I couldn’t really sleep, so I’m up since… well, most of the night actually. Slept long enough to heal up and then…” She shuddered, “Not really keen on dreaming, you know?
Nods all around. Sam didn’t think he’d mind if he didn’t dream at all for a while.
“As for plans, I have no idea. I was out of the game for quite a while, so I guess I’ll play catch up. First I’ll have to drop by the hospital though, let them know I’m alive and not kidnapped and sold or something.”
Both boys shuddered slightly at the reminder that they had technically just added kidnapping charges to their laundry list of crimes. Yeah, better if Buffy went and set some minds at ease before they found their mug shots on CNN.
“And then I’ll have to find someone to check over my car after just sitting there for months.”
Immediately, the older man perked up. “Want me to look her over?”
He’d been itching to get a look under the Mustang’s hood for days, but, car enthusiast that he was, he would never touch the car without express permission.
Buffy agreed easily and after the men dressed, the three relocated outside with their coffee. Sam and Buffy sat on the stairs leading up to the wraparound porch that ran along the front of all rooms and Dean all but disappeared inside the Mustang, making cooing noises every now and again.
They chatted easily, Sam catching their fellow hunter up on things she had missed while in her coma, including the long and sad list of the names of the dead caused by the yellow-eyed demon.
Buffy acknowledged the loss of a lot of good hunters but it was obvious there was no real, personal grief there. She had known none of them, opting to stay away from those hardcore believers that anything supernatural needed to be dead.
Their coffees were long gone by the time Dean closed the hood and asked, with his best puppy dog eyes, if he could take the car for a test drive. Buffy hesitated. “I don’t think you can
drive that car,” she finally confessed when Dean added in a pout.
He immediately switched to offended and she hurried to explain, “Not because of you. Just… I totaled three cars when I was a teenager. Afterwards, no-one would even let me near one.”
Here, Dean blanched eyes automatically going to his baby parked two doors down. Sam didn’t bother hide his laugh.
“An old… boyfriend eventually figured out why I’m so hazardous on cars because he had the same problems. He just never thought I’d have them, too.”
“What’s that?” Dean was still suspicious. He trusted people with his life easier than with his car. Only Sam topped the car on his brother’s list of priorities.
“Supernatural reflexes and instincts. I react much faster than a human and when I try to translate that into controlling a car, things go whacky. My friend, who happened to be a reformed vampire, before you ask, knew this guy in LA who tuned cars for the less than human and got me the Mustang. I can drive it just fine, but I’ve never tried to let a human drive it. It’s kinda… sensitive?”
Of course, instead of being dejected, Dean perked up even more. Not only a beautiful car, but a beautiful car that presented a challenge. He wheedled Buffy for so long that she gave in simply to get him to shut up and turn those eyes elsewhere. He’d get to drive the ‘stang. Outside of town. Where there was lots of room and little to crash into.
And of course it had to happen right now
Sam sighed, shook his head, argued for the sake of arguing and went to check them out of the motel without a proper fight because Dean so rarely wanted anything and now… now his time was running out and Sam could say no to him even less than before.
Whatever Dean wanted, wherever he wanted to go, whatever he wanted to do, Sam would make it happen. He had to. He didn’t think he could live with himself otherwise.
Still, it didn’t seem fair. Dean had looked after Sam for twenty-five years almost, and Sam only got to take care of him for another eleven months.
Sometimes Sam hated Dean for that.
They found an empty parking lot and parked the Impala at the very edge of it before Buffy handed her car keys to Dean, who was grinning like a madman at the time. Impossibly, his smile grew wider as he slipped into the driver’s seat and started the engine, which – thanks to his tender care – purred like a big, lazy cat.
Then the other two hunters sought refuge on the Impala’s hood and watched the oldest of them spin around the parking lot, whooping loudly every time he underestimated the car’s reaction time.
Sam and Buffy picked up their conversation from the morning seamlessly and she told him with a grimace how the Nightmare had gotten to Hollow Springs in the first place. The first victim, the teenaged girl, had worked part time in an antique shop and had broken a china bottle that had been centuries old and come from Asia, where someone had probably bound the Nightmare to it.
She wasn’t entirely sure how it had gone off, but that bottle was the only reasonable explanation for the Nightmare showing up out of nowhere. Plus, the girl had broken the bottle the day before she’d fallen into a coma. Apparently, the Nightmare had had a twisted sense of gratitude toward the one that had freed it.
Buffy just shuddered, shrugged and cursed violently when Dean almost wrapped her car around a lamp post. He was slowly learning to control the wicked machine, but it still bucked occasionally, overreacting to a twist of the wheel or a tap on the brake.
The slayer, deciding she’d rather not watch, scooted backwards until she could lie down and soak in the late afternoon sun, letting it soothe away the aches that still had to linger, super healing or not.
The motion caused her charms to slip out from under her shirt with a silvery sound and Sam found himself reaching for them before his mind caught up and he blushed. But the blonde made no move to pull away as he rolled the star and cross through his fingers.
“Iron and silver,” he found himself murmuring.
She smiled and added, “Star and cross. This is gonna sound ridiculous, but I actually felt it when they took it off me at the hospital.”
Sam shook his head. “I believe you. It saved our lives last night. Without it, we never would have found you in there.”
She shrugged, not saying anything and leaving Sam to his memories of the night before. They were still fuzzy in places but he remembered, quite clearly, his brother’s voice in his ear, loud enough to make his head ring, telling him to get that necklace.
And he had.
The implications of that scared the shit out of him.
But somehow, here and now, making a new friend in the sunshine while watching his brother laugh freely and have fun, he couldn’t quite muster the amount of worry he should have. For still being a freak, for never escaping his parents’ murderer, for Dean’s deal and the minutes, seconds, hours, trickling through their fingers like water, gone forever and so very, very finite.
Dean had promised, in his own wordless way, that they would talk after this hunt and they would. Eventually. Soon. About the deal and about Sam’s Shining
. Maybe… maybe there was a way for Sam to use his new abilities to help Dean. Maybe.
“What’s the last charm?” He asked, taking the small vial between thumb and forefinger, pushing all other thoughts away. Dean wasn’t the only master at avoiding complicated, emotional messes in this family.
She scrunched up her nose and confessed, “Actually, it’s just dirt.”
“Graveyard dirt.” And Sam, who knew all about magical properties of all kinds of dirt and soil, heard the words under the words and knew that this last charm wasn’t magical at all.
“From whose grave?”
Buffy took a deep breath, sought out her car driving figure eights around two lamp posts and said, “Mine.”
Carefully, Sam dropped the charms back on her chest and laid his hand in his lap. “You have a grave?”
“I was dead,” she said, still watching Dean’s inane patterns across the parking lot. “Dead and buried. Five months gone.”
“Then how – “
“Friends. Dangerous magical artifact. Lots of mojo. And hey presto, one resurrected slayer, fresh out of heaven.”
Heaven? Sam looked at her and expected wings to sprout from her back and light to illuminate her bright white, for choirs to sing and clouds to float past. Nothing happened.
She’d been to heaven.
And all this time, he had wondered if such a thing even existed and now… Dean was going to hell. Buffy had been to heaven. And yet she lived. She lived and breathed and…
“Hey Buffy? Why’d you take this hunt?”
She looked up at him, squinting into the sun at his back, and shrugged. “Dunno. Felt right.”
Sam smiled and the pressure in his neck and temples finally eased, the feeling of foreboding and knowing
fading. It looked like he’d found what he had been looking for.
Looking at Buffy and finding her with her eyes closed, lying in the sun, completely at ease next to him, he thought that maybe he wasn’t the only one. Heaven, hell, dying, living, deals and nightmares, dreams, visions, family and crosses, stars and dirt.
Somehow, all that fit together.
“Bobby, the hunter who helped us out with the research, said he wants to meet you.”
“Cool by me,” Buffy said, not even opening her eyes.
Sam jumped to his feet and tried to flag down his brother, who merely waved and hollered at them as he rushed past, much too fast, laughing loud enough to be heard over the thrum of the engine.
With a sigh, the younger Winchester sat back down. They weren’t in a hurry today and there was that haunted house about five hours from here that they wanted to check out eventually. He didn’t think Buffy would mind the little detour.
As for Bobby, well, they’d get there.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next stories in the series and now be kind and give me one last review? Pretty please.