A/N: Epilogue! Right on schedule! Thanks to everyone who stuck with me through this story, and double thanks to everyone who's been sticking with me for this entire (endless) series. The next multiple-chapter part is still in the works, but I have one more filler before that.
Disclaimer II: Lyrics belong to Deathcab for Cutie. No profit made.
They landed hard in a tangle of limbs, the dull and spent amulet clattering to the ground between them and for a moment, Dean and Sam both stayed as they were, frozen in place, eyes closed, hope on their faces.
Waiting for the world to change around them, for their memories to shift. Waiting for their lives to become better than they were. Had been.
It didn’t come.
“You know it’s not gonna happen,” Buffy whispered, half squished under Sam’s left leg, with an elbow digging in her ribs.
Dean jerked and opened his eyes, looking at her, more naked than she’d ever seen him, and she’d seen him in his birthday suit.
“It would have only turned out worse than it is,” she added, hoping to convince someone. She wasn’t sure who. The last few days had never happened. They had lived them, had seen and felt and tasted them, they had laughed and cried and they had met their dead father, hugged him, spoken with him, told him all they never had the guts to say before.
And now it was all gone.
They had met themselves as children, seen the hope in their own eyes, heard the dreams and the plans, seen how small they had once been, how different. How innocent.
“You sure about that?” Sam asked blandly, not looking at anything but the stars above. He looked all of twelve years old. “I mean, wasn’t there any chance…”
All the fix-its, all the confessions and apologies. Never happened. John Winchester had dragged his children across the country in a wild hunt for the thing that had taken their mother and he had made them soldiers. He hadn’t meant to, but he had. There’d been no apple pie for them, no home, no peace.
Because everything John had known five minutes ago was now twenty years forgotten.
Buffy shook her head. “No.”
It was a lie.
But sometimes holding on to hope too long only hurt worse than letting go and those children she had bantered with had died long before she had met them.
They got in the car and drove out of the parking lot (they were seeing way too many parking lots lately) just as the sounds of fighting started inside their motel room. They drove until the sun had fully risen and then stopped at the nearest place that rented beds, which happened to be a Holiday Inn.
There was a convention of some sort in town and the only available room was the honeymoon suite. Buffy didn’t bat an eyelash as she forked over the credit card and only snarled mildly as the clerk gave her and the two beat up men hanging at her shoulders funny looks.
They rode the elevator to the fifth floor, found the right door and thirty five minutes later Sam and Dean were fast asleep. Better not to be awake and think, Buffy guessed. But she couldn’t sleep. She ordered a pot of coffee and sat on the sofa, repeatedly smoothing out the crumpled piece of paper she’d drawn the blue and copper amulet on twenty years ago.
Funny, it still looked almost new.
When the coffee came she poured herself a cup and didn’t touch it, staring at the crayon drawing like it held the secrets of the universe. Maybe it did.
Eventually, there was a rushing sound to her left and she asked, “Coffee?”
Castiel declined with a simple headshake, settling on the sofa next to her. “What is that drawing?” he asked.
“I keep dreaming about it.” And then, completely out of context, she wanted to know, “Why did you do it?”
“Why did I do what?”
“Why did you erase their memories when I asked you to? You didn’t know me from Adam.”
With the same care he did everything else, the angel reached out and took hold of the drawing, turning it this way and that, inspecting it. He made no comment about how her timeline had caught up with his, finally. It wasn’t his style. “Even without knowing you, I could see what you are.”
“And that was enough? Cas, you didn’t like me when we first met.”
He met her gaze head on, the way he did everything. “I was disappointed. You were not as… brilliant in Heaven as you are on Earth.”
She frowned. And here she’d been thinking she was done with time travel induced headaches. “So I ruined my first impression with a previous first impression I didn’t even know about?”
He considered it, then nodded.
“That’s still not a reason for you to have done what you did.”
In a move entirely unlike him, Castiel reached out a hand (warmer than it should be because even inside a human skin, angels burned
) and cupped her cheek. “I could see you then, Buffy, and I can see you now. You glow.”
“I’m not pregnant,” she denied with a small laugh.
He frowned. “Why would you be pregnant? I meant that I can see… what you are meant to be. Nineteen years ago I did what you asked me to do because I could see how important you are. I obeyed your order, nothing more. Your arguments were not that convincing.”
“You… I… what?” the slayer asked, jerking away from his hand. “You obeyed my order
? Since when can I order anyone around?!”
There was a disgruntled rumble from the bed where the brothers slept, wordlessly protesting how loud the conversation was getting. Buffy looked over at them and when she turned back, Castiel was gone.
“Cas, you jerk, come back!” she hissed at the empty space in front of her. He didn’t. “Sure, tell me you take orders from me and then run off and not come back when I order
you to. Damn featherbrain.”
She huffed. The silence mocked her and Castiel stayed gone. After a minute or two, sitting there, looking sullen, got boring and she sighed and slumped backwards, the exhaustion of the past few days and more than one sleepless night finally catching up with her.
But she refused to dream again, of the light and the heat. Burning. She knew what was inside of her, the potential that rested somewhere behind her heart, hot and burning every second of every day. So much light and Buffy was afraid of it.
Afraid of burning.
She didn’t want to dream of it, too. Funny, how she seemed to slip from one set of nightmares into the next since meeting the boys. First the Nightmare, now this. And the amulet. Mustn’t forget the amulet. She tapped the drawing that had floated to land on the sofa when Cas had up and disappeared and then stood, rummaging through her things for her ipod.
She fumbled with it for a bit before climbing onto the honeymoon sized bed, sitting Indian style at the end, between Dean’s and Sam’s feet. In her ears, Death Cab for Cutie was singing about brothers on a hotel bed and she smiled silently.
Dean was on his stomach, one arm under his pillow, fingers wrapped around the knife she knew was under there. Sam was on his side, his arm around his brother’s waist, breathing into his neck. Their legs were hopelessly tangled and Buffy knew Dean would bitch about Sam being a giant octopus when he woke up in the evening. But he’d make no move to pull away and when Sam got up, he’d shiver and pull the blankets tighter.
If she’d stripped down and crawled into bed with them now, they would have shifted to make room for her, would have wrapped around her instead of each other and not minded a bit. It wasn’t about sex (okay, it was, sometimes, but they never went through with it) but about warmth and comfort and sometimes simply about there only being one bed and three tired people.
The boys always let her in, never caring whose bed she slipped into. She was always welcome. But she didn’t really belong. Wanted, not needed. They were so very close and there were days and nights when she sat like this, a step away, letting them have room.
They needed it tonight. They’d just lost their father again, lost any chance and hope they’d ever had of normal. They were both raw and open and just looking at them hurt.
Sam muttered something in his sleep, twisting, unhappy. Dean pushed against his brother’s side and the younger man calmed down, settled again. Buffy tried to imagine spending her entire life with another person, so close, so interwoven that she recognized their presence even in her sleep.
But she could watch over those two until they had buried their new-old memories of three days that had never happened and a future that might have been. Until they had all the pieces scraped together and their game faces back on.
So she’d just sit here until sunrise, listening to music and making sure nothing came to get them.
+ With your arms outstretched trying to take flight
Leaving everything behind
But even at our swiftest speed we couldn’t break from the concrete
And I have learned that even landlocked lovers yearn for the sea like navymen.
One last review. Come one!