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Break The Chain

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Colt". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: There is a monster in the woods and skeletons in the closet and it ends the way things always do. Or: Buffy and Dean go wendigo hunting. (Sequel to Going Anywhere)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: Dean Winchester(Past Moderator)FaithUnbreakableFR15113,1985212,43822 Oct 1022 Oct 10Yes
Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, nor Supernatural. They belong to Whedon and Kripke. The title is from The Chain by Fleetwood Mac and thus not mine either. I make no money off this.

Warnings: Same as the last story, i.e. mentions (rather explicit ones at some points) of incest. And slash. Slashy incest. Which is heading towards a threesome. If that disturbs you in any way, please don't read. If you bitch about it, I'll shove your nose into this warning like a naughty puppy. Apart from that, we have a few minor triggers: swearing like it's going out of style, some sexy situations and violence. Gore.

A/N: So, here comes the sequel! Yay for me for not going nuts with this and throwing my laptop against the wall. Yay for you guys being patient with me and encouraging, despite the somewhat... delicate subject. And Yay for Amusewithaview who didn't only beta and put her stamp of approval on it, but also patiently listened to my bitching and let herself be abused as a sounding board. Thanks for that. A lot.

Enjoy.

+

Break the Chain

+

He calls her. Of course he calls her.

Oh, he doesn’t want to, tries not to. He manages until the Mohawk is almost gone, before he gives in. They (he and Dad) are hunting some critter they’ve never seen in Texas and when Dad finally gives up and grunts that he’s going to ask a few of his contacts for help, Dean stands and says he’ll do the same.

Dad stops and looks at him funny because his contacts are Dean’s contacts. And they are, pretty much, except for a loopy, blonde immortal living in a church, waiting for him to make a move.

So he does.

She gets back to him with an identification and a way to kill the fugly in less than two days and she doesn’t once ask him a personal question. He simply tells her thanks and goes to kill himself a fairy tale monster.

Afterwards, lying on his back, staring at the cracked motel ceiling, he picks up his phone almost automatically and he doesn’t press ‘S’ but ‘B’.

“How are you?” he asks when she picks up. She tells him.

+

After that it’s like a dam breaks and he just keeps dialing her number when he wants to talk because Dad is being an ass or because he misses Sam. He never comes right out and tells her that he misses the weight of his brother’s arm thrown across him and his heat against his side, but she had a sister once and she gets the sibling part at least.

Even if she’d be disgusted by the other part.

But that’s okay because he still tells her about a hundred percent more than anyone else. She listens and then cracks a joke and they move on. Easy-peasy.

He once tells her that this is as close to a relationship as he’s ever come (because Sam isn’t a relationship, he’s simply Dean’s brother and that kind of makes him everything) and she laughs and asks if that makes her his girlfriend.

Instead of running the other way and possibly burning his phone, he laughs out loud, head thrown back. “Wanna go with me to prom?”

“You just wanna have sex in the back seat of your car,” she retorts, deadpan.

“Of course.”

+

Six months pass that way and Sam’s been gone a year before he knows it. A year without calls, without even a text. A year without him there to bitch at, to annoy, to love. A year simply without.

Dad takes off for a week to crawl into a bottle of Jack and try to forget his own name and Dean is nothing if not Daddy’s biggest fan, so he pretty much does the same only he picks tequila as his poison and he stops before he hits rock bottom. Barely.

There’s a barfly making eyes at him all evening and she’s small and pretty and she has Sam’s eyes and if he squints just right, she looks like a mixture between his brother and Buffy and that is so very fucked up that he simply goes home and passes out.

She calls him the next day around noon (Buffy, not the barfly) and when he only grunts into the phone before running to barf, she yells until he picks the phone back up and then orders him to take some aspirin and get his ass good and hydrated before leaving him alone again.

For an hour. The pills just start working and he can almost see straight again when she calls and orders him to turn on the TV and switch to some random channel that’s showing Terminator I. He calls her a bossy bitch and does it and they spend the whole movie on the phone, moaning about the bad special effects and the suckiness that is Arni.

It’s stupid and random and inane and it makes him feel better in ways he won’t ever admit, even under duress.

+

“Shit,” Dean curses, heartfelt as he helps Dad heave his broken leg up on the bed. That’s one wendigo hunt gone down the drain real fast. They barely managed to track the thing one day before it turned the tables on them and threw Dad into a tree.

That was before it got away, of course.

Two days later the hospital releases John Winchester with a cast that weighs probably as much as his whole leg. Eight weeks at least, the doc said. Hence the ‘shit’.

“Stop cussing and call Caleb, dude,” Dad orders, sounding even grumpier than usual because the painkillers only take the edge of his various scrapes and bruises and he’s stone cold sober for once.

“Caleb’s busy on the coast,” Dean supplies. “Jim can’t get away, Bobby’s with Caleb.”

“You’re not huntin’ this fucker alone.”

“No,” Dean agrees easily. “My backup’s getting here in the afternoon.”

“Who?”

It’s a bark and even though Dean knows most of it is worry, he can’t help but smirk and say, in his best asshole-voice, “You’ll see.”

He just spent forty-eight hours listening to his father sober up, cursing and in pain, and seriously, even good sons have shit-limits. His has been reached.

+

Buffy saunters into the room after he opens the door for her, looking like she did half a year ago, wearing boots and jeans and a duffel slung over her shoulder. Her smile is as ditzy as he’s ever seen her and damn, she’s hot.

She drops the bag and crosses her arms over her chest, keeping the dopey expression as she looks Dad up and down. “So you’re the infamous John Winchester, huh?”

Dad ignores her, glares at his son and snaps, “What the fuck, dude?”

Dean grins and slings a companionable arm around her shoulders. “Dad, meet Buffy. Buffy, my dad. Thanks for coming out.”

She shrugs and nods and the cheerleader façade falls a bit because she can’t be a badass hunter and a dumb blonde at the same time. At least he doesn’t think so. “No problem. You wanna head out today?”

He shakes his head.”Sucker got us in the dark. I’d rather start tomorrow morning.”

“You are not-,” Dad starts but Dean ignores him and he trails off for once, more interested in watching his son’s friend move across the room. Maybe he’s remembering some of his own lessons about not judging a book by its cover. Dean thinks it’s more likely that he’s imagining ways for Buffy to be torn apart by a wendigo, though. Sometimes the man is downright irrational when it comes to strangers.

Buffy stops in front of the map tacked to the wall, inspecting it. “How long do we have?” she asks.

He leans against the wall next to the map, careful not to mess with the other clippings and print-outs pinned there. Arms crossed, he says, “’Bout a week, we figure.”

She nods and taps the map with one finger. “The marks?”

He points to the red pins. “Deaths.” The green ones. “Confirmed sightings.” Blue. “Unconfirmed sightings.” Yellow. “Camp sites of the vics.”

“Survivors?”

“Purple,” he offers. There isn’t a single purple pin on the entire map. Her lips thin as she nods.

“You were looking here?” There’s a big empty area at the center of the loose circle of pins, open to one side. They are pretty sure the thing’s lair is somewhere in the area, but it’s still damn big and those things hide very, very well. And in a week it’ll go back to sleep for another thirty years and their chances of finding it then? Zip.

He nods and points at a small area crossed out with black marker. “We started here. Didn’t get very far, though. And there’s still a shitload of ground to cover.”

She hums and shifts a bit, tilting her head to inspect the map at a different angle. Suddenly she points to where two small rivers meet, a bit north of the center of the deaths. “Do those rivers really join?”

“Yep.” He risks a glance at Dad, who sits silently sullen on his bed, watching them.

Buffy traces the two rivers backwards with her forefingers, drawing two lines like a piece of pie that closes around the open part of the circle. “We can cross out that area,” she announces, pointing at the ‘v’ she just drew out.

“Why?” This from Dad, glowering.

“Those suckers can’t cross running water. It’s traditionally a purifier and wendigos are nothing if not unnatural and twisted. It matches the death sites.” She adds the last only for the sake of the aging hunter on the bed. Proof for a man who knows no trust.

“Awesome,” Dean cuts in before Dad can lay into Buffy for knowing something he doesn’t. “That disqualifies a third of the area.”

“Are you absolutely sure? What about bridges?”

Buffy moves to sit on the other bed, hands folded in her lap. It reminds him of old, proper ladies and he remembers that technically, she is one. It explains so much. Her cooking and singing, the way she seems unused to swearing a lot. She’s an old school girl. Dean smiles vaguely at the thought and then swallows it because the Inquisition just started.

“Bridges don’t matter. The water’s still there. And yes, I am sure. Saved my life once, that little trick.”

+

Dad grills Buffy for another hour before she bows out of the game, telling them she still has to get a room, she’ll meet Dean for dinner later. As soon as the door falls shut behind her, Dad turns to him and says, “I don’t want you huntin’ with her.”

“Why?”

“You questionin’ me, boy?”

It’s a rhetorical question. Dean just raises one eyebrow and says, very cooly (a lot cooler than he feels because this is Dad), “I could go alone.”

That’s the end of that conversation.

+

They have dinner before bringing the old man something to chew on. Then they do a late night grocery run because while they’re out in the woods, Dad is going to be on his own and he can’t really go to town and shop.

Conversation comes as easy face to face as it does over the phone and they just talk and Dean has this weird feeling that he knows her, like, her quirks and ideas and stories. It’s completely fucked because he only really knows two people and they’re both blood and now here she is, screwing with everything.

They dump the groceries and Dean waves goodbye to Dad and spends the night in Buffy’s room, not really sleeping all that much. It should be weird, screwing someone he knows isn’t human, someone, something he should hunt, but it’s also not weird at all.

Because she’s just Buffy, you know? She’s the chick that lives in a church and has a basement full of death and cracks funny PG rated jokes. The only reminder of how much of a freak she is, is that the bite mark he leaves on her collarbone is faded by the time she gets up for a shower and tells him to sleep for real, they’ll have a hard couple of days.

It doesn’t really surprise him that he falls asleep next to her.

+

The next day he wakes Dad up to say goodbye and leaves the room again before the old man can start rattling off a million warnings that have been seared into his mind since early childhood anyway. He switches off his phone for good measure and meets Buffy in the parking lot. They take her car because he’s not leaving his baby somewhere in the woods for however many days and more or less park it in a ditch where the rangers won’t find it. Hopefully. The whole area is off limits since the fourth disappearance and the last thing they need is a search party on their wendigo-hunting asses.

They squabble over who has the better sense of direction and then she pulls out one of those GPS things and he guesses that means he loses, but he can still bitch at her. They hike towards the fugly’s territory at an easy pace, bumping hips when he gets bored, telling tall tales of hunts gone sideways.

Around noon Buffy shrugs at nothing and says, “So. Your dad. I thought he’d be taller.”

He laughs and shakes his head. “Most people do. He’s John Goddamn Winchester. He’s a legend.”

She laughs at the arrogance he puts into his tone, just because. “How’s that going for you? Being the son of a legend?”

It’s awesome and sucks in equal measures because he says his name and people respect him, but they don’t do it because of what he did. He’s twenty three and riding Daddy’s coattails. “It goes. What about you? You gotta have some pull with the hunters.”

She laughs and shakes her head. “You kidding? I stay as far away from those maniacs as I can. Sometimes other hunters take credit for my jobs, but most of the time the deaths just stop and everyone goes home. I don’t have a name in the community and that’s just how I like it.” There’s a tiny warning in her tone for him to keep his mouth shut and he nods to show he caught what she threw because she knew he was a hunter when she saved his life and that means she risked herself and her secret to help him. She gets points for that. A shitload of them, in fact.

“What about before? I mean, before…”

“Before it became sort of obvious that I wasn’t aging and just wouldn’t die?”

“Yeah.”

“I had my fifteen minutes of fame,” she allows.

“That all?” Because he’s seen her move and she’s something else, absolutely fearless and beautiful.

“Wild West, baby,” she drawls as she climbs over a fallen log and waits from him to tumble after, not quite as graceful as her. “Every cowboy was also a hunter and the monsters didn’t bother staying under wraps a lot of the time. I wasn’t anything special. We were all just trying to survive.”

And then she died and came back and somehow became the ultimate survivor. The one that can’t die. Ever.

(There’s a certain irony in that.)

+

“We should stay here,” she says half an hour before sunset, in a small clearing. They’re barely inside the wendigo’s territory but he doesn’t fancy being mauled and eaten, so he agrees. That way, they’ll have all their protections and safety measures set up before full dark and he’ll sleep better knowing that the thing won’t get past the circle of symbols just because they didn’t notice a sloppy loop or line in the dark.

They set up camp quietly and efficiently and Buffy takes it upon herself to make dinner over the small fire at the center of the circle they scratched into the dirt and carved into trees. She tweaks and messes with the few provisions they brought, making something edible out of it and he sits across from her and imagines her in a dress, a revolver slung over each hip, dusty from riding all day. Imagines that other Buffy sitting at a camp fire, preparing food. Back then, girls were brought up to be housewives, weren’t they? So she’d have known what she was doing. Knows it now. This whole camping thing is routine for her, utterly normal because when she was born, this kind of living was normal.

It’s kind of funny how the totally outlandish and unnatural nature of this, of her, doesn’t make him twitchy at all anymore. Mostly.

+

They eat dinner, shoot the breeze, wait around for a few hours to see if the monster’s gonna come snack on them and then she leans over and kisses him and he sort of forgets about keeping watch because her tongue’s in his mouth and her hand in his jeans and oh, fuck, yeah.

+

He pays for their little lapse in judgment an hour later when he goes hunting after a scared deer in his birthday suit because he thinks it’s a big, bad monster. When he comes back with his shotgun in hand and not a stitch if clothing on his body, Buffy laughs so hard she pulls a muscle.

“Laugh it up, bitch,” he growls at her, trying to find something to wipe his feet off with because he is not a big fan of mud between his toes.

“I am,” she assures him, handing him his t-shirt because there’s nothing else handy. He frowns at it and then gives in because mud. She watches, laughter slowly trailing off into random chuckles.

After he’s done with his feet he pulls on his jeans and inspects the scratches on his chest and sides he got from something thorny. “Damn,” he mutters, twisting and turning to see if any are deep enough to warrant treatment.

Buffy slinks up behind him, wrapped in a sleeping bag, and lays her arms around his shoulders. “Would you like me to kiss it better?”

+

The next morning is interesting because at around ten Buffy suddenly just stops in the middle of the barely-there hiking trail they’ve been following. He runs smack into her back and the only thing keeping him from taking them both down is her hand, shooting out, quick as lightning, to steady him.

She keeps her hands bunched in his jacket as she closes her eyes, head cocked to the side like a dog catching a far-off sound. He steps away and around her, half to be able to see her face, half to have her back.

Her nostrils flare and her eyelids flutter and he feels an ice-cold finger running down his spine because this is the first time he really sees what he’s known for a while.

Freak. Monster. Inhuman. This is Buffy and this is something he should put bullets into because it’s not normal. It’s not natural and it’s certainly not human. He shifts on his feet and fights his instincts, trying to look away and ignore what’s in front of him, but his training won’t let him take his eyes off of a potential threat. Yesterday at the fire she was just an anachronistic girl and he was okay. But right now, every hair he has is standing on edge. Predator.

Then she opens her eyes and smiles at him briefly, full of sunshine through stained glass windows, and he remembers that it doesn’t matter what she is because she’s good. She helps people.

He believes that. He does. (But his hands still twitch sometimes.)

She angles her body to the left and takes off like a shot a second later and it’s pretty much all he can do to keep up.

+

He follows her for almost half a mile, panting all the way because she’s fast as fuck and there’s no way that’s normal. He’s never seen anything human run like that and he still gets the feeling that she’s holding back because somehow she always stays within his sights.

She stops as abruptly as she took off, in the middle of a small clearing and it takes him a moment to catch on to what drew her attention. It’s silent. Like, completely silent. He can’t even hear the hum of insects that always hangs in the air in these woods.

Nothing.

Slowly, very slowly, his hand inches toward his gun and he clicks off the safety, pressing it against his leg and turning his back to Buffy.

For a minute they’re both silent, the only sound in the world their breathing and the beat of his rabbit heart in his chest as adrenaline pumps through his veins. They both scan the trees, listening hard, but there’s nothing there.

Eventually Buffy says, very quietly, “I smell blood.”

He smells nothing and only grunts in response. She takes a step away from him and adds, “It’s gone. I think it killed some game close by, but it’s gone.”

“Where?”

She points north and they walk carefully, still covering each other even though, from the set of her shoulders, he surmises that she’s sure they’re safe. They find three dead does a few dozen feet from the clearing, their necks broken and their soft bellies torn open. There’s nothing missing as far as he can see. They’re just dead.

“Think this is a trap?” he asks because wendigos do not eat anything but humans and yet this one clearly killed the game. For what? Sport? He doesn’t think so.

She shakes her head as she rounds the carcasses, taking them in, looking for tracks. “I think it’s a present.”

She carefully nudges one doe’s hind leg to the side to look at something beneath it. “That thing was human once, after all.”

Human and smart. Tricky. Fast. An intelligent mind, armed with the weapons of the supernatural. Just sign him up for vacation in Anywhere But Here.

Suddenly she sighs and shrugs. “At least we know what’s for dinner tonight.”

He thinks his expression states rather clearly what he thinks of eating the leftover carcasses of something killed by a fugly. She takes one look at him and laughs out loud again, startling birds that, until that very second, were deadly silent.

+

They track it away from the carcasses for maybe five miles before losing it again. By that time they have pretty much no idea where they are and Buffy gloats while they’re backtracking, waving her GPS in his face the whole time.

They hit the trail they were following in the morning only two miles from where they left it and mark that area as checked anyway because there’s no way the fugly set up shop this close to where it left its little present. Unless, of course, that is exactly what it wants them to think. But he’s not quite paranoid enough yet to believe that that thing isn’t only smart, but smart enough to think three steps ahead of two seasoned hunters. That way lie padded cells and jackets with long sleeves.

After that, they just stick to their maps and plans for the rest of the day before repeating their routine from the night before, setting up camp before dark. Dean is frustrated but trying not to show it. Buffy figures it out anyway and successfully distracts him again.

He lets her because he’s figured out that she can do all kinds of crap and still be completely aware of her surroundings. It’s got to do with her mad skills, she tells him and he lets it be. He needs to know what she can do, not why.

After full dark they have dinner.

(It’s not venison.)

+

He wakes to the feeling of someone trailing wet kisses down his spine, hot breath fanning his skin, the contrast stark in the cool morning air. He shivers and grins dozily into his sleeping bag, trying to hold still as those lips and that tongue go lower, lower, lower until they suddenly change direction and move back up, away from the fun places. He groans as he arches his spine, trying to direct the movement. His punishment is a nip of teeth on top of an old scar, just enough to pinch.

He bites his lip. “Sammy…”

The mouth disappears and silence rings in his ears. He blinks out of his haze and forces his brain to kick into gear. What the hell is going on? He’s… he’s…and then reality reasserts itself. He’s not out hunting with Sammy. He’s out hunting with Buffy.

Buffy who… “Fuck.”

“Dean?” Buffy asks from behind him, her voice very tight and very controlled. He squeezes his eyes shut, wanting nothing more than to bury his face in his sleeping bag and pretend the world just went away.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, shit, fuck. How could he be so careless? How could he slip up? How could he… how could he ever get comfortable enough with anyone to lose himself so?

He looks at the blonde over his shoulder, fleetingly and without making eye contact. She’s kneeling next to his thighs, wearing only her jeans and a tank top and making both look good. He looks away, but the brief acknowledgement is enough for her to speak again. “Why are you calling me by your brother’s name when I kiss you?”

He hesitates too long before spinning his lie and he knows it. “Another Sammy,” he tells her, staring straight ahead. “Samatha, ya know?”

“He’s… I mean… you…,” she sounds lost, utterly lost. “Your brother?”

He can’t say yes. He can’t. He’s kept this secret for so long, has kept everything concerning him and Sam buried so deep. Years and years of lies and stolen touches, of knowing that he’s going to hell and deserves it, too, knowing also that he won’t change it, can’t change it. Wouldn’t ever change it. He needs Sam like he needs air and his brother needs him, too. Needed. Past tense. What-the-fuck-ever.

He can’t say yes. He can’t let go of this secrets. But there’s no point in saying no.

“That’s wrong,” Buffy says. He nods, not moving.

“That’s sick.” And he nods again. What? It’s the truth. He knows that. It doesn’t change anything, but he knows it.

“Is he… I mean, do you both…”

A third nod. She makes a sound that’s halfway between a sob and a scream, standing abruptly. “That’s a sin,” she bites out before grabbing her pack and fleeing from the tent.

He’s left with a ball of lead in his stomach and silence that echoes in his head.

+

By the time he manages to dress himself, the camp is packed up, the fire pit is filled with dirt and all the symbols scratched into trees and soil have been crossed out or erased. Buffy is fully dressed and standing stiffly as far from the tent as she can get without leaving the clearing.

Her face is empty, emptier than it was when he went into her basement and found her own dark secret. She watches without moving as he packs up the tent and attaches it to his backpack, not moving once. It’s freaking him out, that stillness, that otherness.

Then he looks down to check he’s got everything and when he looks back up she’s standing in front of him. He didn’t even hear her move. “It was here. Watching. I found tracks,” she informs him, pointing to the right.

He nods again, apparently tongue-tied for good and reaches a hand out to rest on her shoulder. To try… whatever. His hand hits nothing but empty air as she jumps ten feet away from him in less than a second.

“Let’s hunt,” she orders, voice without inflection.

He nods one last time, shouldering his pack and following her into the trees. He gets the feeling hunting today is the last thing they’ll ever do together. After this, he’ll never see Crazy Church Girl again.

Surprisingly, that thought hurts.

+

He’s used to the silent treatment. He got enough of it from Sam growing up. Especially once he hit his teens, the kid got tenacious. But with Sam he always had a silver lining that he doesn’t have with Buffy. Sam sulked. And he glowered. And he brooded. And he angsted. But eventually he’d crack and all the things he was chewing on inside that giant noggin of his would come flooding out and Dean would know exactly where he stood. (And yes, he’s aware that he’s thinking all that in the past tense, thank you very much. He wonders if Sam still sulks the same way he did a year ago and then pushes the thought aside because it’s none of his business anymore. That has been made very clear.)

But three hours after they broke camp, Buffy isn’t any closer to breaking than she was when they left. He’s sick. That was the last thing she said on the subject of him fucking his baby brother. He’s sick. And then she shut down and he might as well be talking to the trees for all the reactions he gets from her.

He jokes. He tells stories. He even tries apologizing once, but all that earns him is a look out of the corner of her eye and a branch that accidentally-on-purpose smacks him in the neck. Hell, by noon he’s regressed to trying to make her angry. Trying to bait her.

Anything to get her to talk. Anything to get her to stop looking through him like he’s a ghost. She can’t look at him like that. Not her. Not after what they did together, not after he opened up and let her in and had sex with her next to a smoldering corpse and felt alive. He thinks he probably left a few pieces of what little is left of him in that church and she doesn’t get to throw them away like Sam, like Dad. Like Mom. But she can’t die and maybe he thought that made her safe and that was damn stupid because of the three people he loved in his life only one died but the others are pretty much just as gone. Sammy at any rate. And Sammy’s all that matters.

Except, Buffy. Here, now, a year after Sammy left. Making him laugh. Ignoring him.

“So are you pissed because I fucked my brother or because you think you’re a rebound?”

He says ‘fucked’ because he knows she doesn’t like the word. It wasn’t even invented when she was born, probably, and she can take it just fine as a curse, but this, this is raw and ugly. An ugly word. Anything to get her talking. Even if he’s never ‘fucked’ Sam in his life. That’s not what they do. Did.

(See, he’s learning. Past tense, sucker.)

It works. She stops and spins on her heel to growl at him, fire in her eyes. Anger. Anger is better than silence. Anger is hot. Anger leads to pain and pain Dean can take. Pain is better than cold silence because the cold freezes things, preserves them. It numbs him. Anger burns but he can deal with fire. Has, ever since he was four and watched Mommy burn like an old Christmas tree.

You mistook me for your brother, Dean!”

He shrugs, sending his best con-smirk her way. “Honest mistake,” he drawls, hoping she’ll buy it, hoping she’ll see right through his bravado and see how scared he is. How scared of losing her, too, just after he admitted that maybe, he wants to need her. Hell, he practically brought her home to meet the ‘rents, didn’t he? And he can’t, and he won’t, and he’s not… but the universe never asks Dean his opinion before it shits on him, does it?

Her eyes flare and there is anger. And hurt. He cringes back and rejoices because hurt means she cares, doesn’t it? He’ll take hurt over not caring at all. Hating is still feeling. Hating doesn’t walk away and not look back. Hurt is hate and he’ll take that.

“You disgust me,” she bites and he takes it back. He won’t take the hate. He wants the other thing back, the fuzzy feelings and easy laughter he had last night. He wants his Crazy Church Girl back.

Deflating, smirk falling, shoulders drooping, he asks, very quietly, in his scolded-boy voice, “You ever loved someone you shouldn’t?”

He’s not sure if he’s talking about his brother or the girl with the monster inside that’s standing in front of him. He’s not sure which one is the mistake, but knowing his track record, probably both. He always fucks things up. And yes, yes, he’d like some cheese with that whine. (And maybe a bottle of the hard stuff, to erase the past twelve hours or so. If it works for Daddy, why not for him, too?)

She opens her mouth, undoubtedly to tell him to take his disgusting wrongness, his sin, his perversion and go to hell. Do not pass go, do not stop, do not come back to this town. Ever. But then something creaks and breaks in the far distance and she zeroes in on it like a shark on a drop of blood, only maybe the metaphor isn’t quite right because the way her head tilts and her nostrils flare is probably more hound than shark. Either way, blood. Trail. And the hunt is on.

She takes off, going from zero to sixty in less time than it takes him to make the decision to follow and before long, he only catches glimpses on her bright red backpack in the distance. Fuck, but that girl can run.

+

Trees. Branches. Brushes. Trees. Rocks. Logs. Trees. Branches. Fuck, ow, toes. Faster. Trees. Rocks. More goddamn branches and these have thorns.

Dean runs at what feels like warp speed, keeping one eye on the ground, one on Buffy’s backpack and one on his surroundings. And yes, that makes three eyes when he has only two, which means he’s screwed but has no time to think about it because the backpack is shrinking and he can’t lose the person that’s supposed to have his back, damnit!

His breath is coming in great gasping gulps, his lungs feel like they’re about to collapse, his throat burns, his legs are killing him and Buffy doesn’t slow down. If anything, she’s getting faster. Or maybe he’s getting slower but there’s only so long he can run and they have to be five miles from where they started.

It’s getting dark, too. He keeps running, trying to ignore his burning body, trying not to trip and break his neck, breathing, in, out, in, out, in, out, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.

Trees, branches, underbrush, rockslogsholestreesbranchesthorns.

There’s a rushing sound up ahead and the part of his mind that’s not focused on running and trying not to die lets him know one of the rivers is coming up and that means they have the fugly, means they’ve got it trapped. Can’t cross water!

He puts on a burst of speed he didn’t know he still had in him, looking for the speck of red that lets him know where Buffy is.

It’s not there.

It’s not…

Smart monster, leaving them gifts. Stalking them. They haven’t cornered it. It’s led them right into a trap. They’re not the hunters. They’re the prey. Split up, vulnerable, thinking they won. Thinking they’ve got it. Thinking…

He almost manages to turn around and face the thing. Almost manages to see its ugly, disfigured face. Almost. The world goes black before he does and he’s only vaguely aware of his body hitting the ground.

+

He’s pretty sure he’s supposed to be glad he’s still alive but, Jesus Christ, he’d take dead over that headache any day. The spot where the wendigo whacked him one feels like it’s cracked open and leaking brains all over the place. His back and legs hurt, too and he’s been dragged around unconscious a time or two, so he knows exactly what the pain’s from.

He tells his head to stop spinning and his stomach to start revolting at the scent of decay that’s filling his nostrils, and then, slowly, starts checking all his limbs. Legs, check. Ouch, but check. Feet, check. Arms. Check. There’s something cold and heavy around his left wrist and he figures hoping that it’s not a chain would be a bit naïve. Shoulders. Back. And he sure as hell doesn’t need to move his head to know it’s still attached. Just once he’d like for a monster to drag him to its secret hidey hole without knocking him out. An I-won’t-kick-if-you-don’t-give-me-a-migraine kind of deal.

Once all his limbs are accounted for and he’s got no other excuse, he starts opening his eyes. It’s dark, which is good, but not dark enough to not stab him in the eyeballs. He hasn’t felt that shitty since Eddy cracked his head open like an egg and Buffy had to save him.

Buffy!

His eyes fly wide open and for a moment, before the nausea hits, he feels only panic. Where’s Buffy?!

Okay, he tells himself, calm down. This isn’t helping. He looks down and yep, chained to the wall of rock he’s leaning against. Awe-some.

He looks around carefully, hoping to find something useful. Something that will get him out of here and to wherever Buffy is so they can kill some mofo ass.

Except… boots. Hiking boots. Tan. And light blue jeans. Looks like he doesn’t have to go looking for Buffy. He calls her name. Nothing. He tries again. Nothing. Still knocked out?

With a quiet groan of pain he wiggles forward. There’s enough slack in the chain for him to reach her and he crawls up her body until the slack is all used up. He sits next to her hip, one arm extended behind him and looks her over.

The first bad sign is that she’s not chained like he is.

Her jeans are bloody and her left leg looks broken, not badly twisted, but definitely not quite right. What the hell is it with that thing and broken legs? Don’t answer that. He knows. Prey can’t run that way. But shit, getting her out of here on one leg is gonna be hell.

There’s more blood on her jacket, smeared badly so it’s impossible to tell where it comes from. Her eyes are closed, her forehead cracked open. It’s not bleeding.

It’s not bleeding.

He lurches forward, almost yanking his arm out of its socket, and presses his hand to her chest, feeling for a heartbeat.

She’s not bleeding and she’s not chained down.

Heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat. Nothing. He stretches further, finds her neck, presses his fingers into cool flesh. Too cool. No, nonononono. She’s supposed to be immortal, isn’t she? Can’t be dead. Can’t be, can’t be can’tfuckingbedeadohgod.

His hand, palm down, over her nose and mouth, waiting, hoping, praying for a little dampness, a little breath.

But her wounds are open and not bleeding, she’s not chained down, her body is cool and there’s no breath left in her.

Buffy’s dead.

She’s fucking dead in the fucking wendigo’s fucking cave and the last thing he ever did was goad her.

He’s… she’s…oh god, oh god, he wishes his head would just explode already. Wishes it would just blow up and…

She’s supposed to be immortal. She told him, didn’t she? Can’t die. Tried. Didn’t stick. So she’ll be okay. She’ll come back, right. She’ll be…

She’s dead.

+

He tugs and pulls her limp body until he’s sitting back against the wall with her head in his lap. He strokes her hair to keep himself busy and he waits.

She’s immortal.

She better fucking come back from the dead sometime soon because if he’s got to sit here and stroke a corpse’s hair for much longer he’s going to goddamn lose it and the wendigo is going to come and it’s going to eat him and then it’s going to eat her or maybe it’ll eat her first and make him watch and he’ll end up like one of those people that sit in corners and rock themselves and chat with Jesus and that just doesn’t fly so she better come the hell back now.

He thinks he would probably deal better if she were just dead because then he could push it away and move on and kill the mofo that killed her but here he is, waiting and hoping and it’s seriously screwing with his head because he thinks that maybe there’s something he should be doing, something important and he can’t because he’s chained down and probably in shock or something and his inner monologue is running out of swearwords and she’s still dead.

“You’re immortal,” he tells her body and stops stroking for a moment, as if waiting for her to answer.

Bye-bye, sanity.

He thinks he should maybe wonder why this girl matters so much, but he’s really not in the mood for analyzing himself right now so it just is. The mattering, that is. She matters. Even if she’s never gonna talk to him again after this is over.

“Come on, come on, come on, come…”

She suddenly gasps, jerks, twists and pukes all over his leg and all he can do is laugh as he helps her fumble her hair out of her face because she’s alive.

+

She stops gagging up blood eventually and goes limp against him, breathing hard. He doesn’t do anything except listen to her rasping, feeling giddy as a cheerleader on prom night. (Alive, alive, alive.)

Eventually she coughs, “I need a new contingency plan.” He thinks the sound she makes after is supposed to be a laugh, but he’s not sure. It’s all wet and gurgly.

“That was part of a plan?”

“Yep,” she nods weakly. “Get the damn fugly to kill me so it won’t chain me up. Works like a charm but damn if it doesn’t hurt like hell.”

Note to self: Buffy’s mouth gets pottier when she dies.

Apart from that little revelation he’s kind of stuck on the fact that she let herself get put through the grinder on purpose. Keeping lock picks in her boots would have been easier. Crazy, suicidal girl, throwing her lives around like party favors. He hopes, really hopes, she has more than nine.

“How are you?” Dumb question.

She wipes her mouth on her sleeve and manages to lie flat on her back. Her gaze is bleary as it focuses on him upside down. “Leg, ribs, internal bleeding. I should be good to go in a few minutes.”

O-kay. Entering Twilight Zone now.

He goes back to stroking her hair and hoping. “Maybe we should wait until you stop coughing up blood?”

She looks up at him again and her gaze seems a bit sharper already. “Maybe wait until the wendigo shows up to snack on us, too?”

Then she starts hacking again and he helps her turn enough to spit out a mouthful of blood. Pierced lung. She should be dying. Instead she’s healing. He’d be lying if he said it doesn’t creep him the fuck out.

“We’ll be fine for a while,” he tries to reassure because sure, he could carry her if it was only her leg, but if he throws her over his shoulder they way she’s now, she’s gonna die on him again and he’s still freaking the hell out about the first time, thanks a lot.

“Dean, that thing eats people!” She sounds scared. It takes him a moment to place the tone because he’s never heard it before.

“Yeah so, it’s not like you’ll stay dead!” he says it loudly enough for his voice to echo and they both flinch. Buffy doesn’t say anything for a long time. Eventually he catches on and almost feels sick. “Buffy?”

“Yeah?”

“What happens if that thing eats you?”

She doesn’t look at him as she whispers, “I don’t know.”

He says nothing as he starts patting down their pockets for anything to pick a lock with.

+

Thank women for always having bobby pins around, even if they never use them and do not, in fact, have long hair. It takes a while to trick the thin wire into the right position to crack the ancient, rusted lock of the cuff tying him down, but once it’s open, he breathes a sigh of relief. He puts Buffy’s head down gently and looks around their small branch of the cave they’re apparently in. He finds Buffy’s backpack but not his own. It’s better than nothing, but she carries a lot less weapons than he does. Still. Horses. Mouths. Shut up and deal.

She makes noise about moving for a minute, before trying to sit up and falling over in another coughing fit. Still blood. He’s armed now, and free. He figures they can wait for her to heal enough to be moved, especially if it goes as fast as she says. Hell, he’s seen it himself. That rip the ghost of Mary Bentham made went from her neck to her belly and it was deep enough to bleed like hell. Twelve hours later it was gone without a trace.

A few hours and Buffy will be able to move. Until then, he sits next to her, gun in hand, and listens to her breathing. It’s kind of an awesome sound. He missed it while it was gone. And speaking of ‘while she was gone’…

The last thing he did was goad her. And he figures now might be a good time to put it all out there, because if she ever brings it up afterwards he can tell her she was suffering from hallucinations caused by blood loss and severe death, or something.

“I didn’t mistake you for Sammy,” he says after half an hour of silence.

She stiffens and remains silent.

“Not really. I mean, yeah, but… it was more the whole thing, okay? I… I never slept next to anyone ‘xcept Sam.” (And now her. Funny, that.)

“Never?”

He shakes his head even though she’s not looking and the cave’s not exactly well lit either. “Can’t sleep with anyone else in the room. ‘Xcept Dad.”

She nods her head slightly. “Thank you.”

She’s thanking him for explaining. Since she’s generally a polite person, that tells him shit. So he waits.

+

Half an hour later he’s still waiting for her to say something and nothing’s coming. There’s the silence again and the only reason it’s lacking the teeth it had earlier is that she’s too tired to make it so.

So he does what he always accuses other people (Sammy) of. He babbles.

“I know it’s wrong, okay? And it’s not… I didn’t plan it. Sammy just… he was just there one night and he… he’s a determined little fuck, okay? And I… he’s mine. I mean, I practically raised the kid. I changed his diapers and read him stories, all that crap and he’s… he’s all I got. He’s the only thing, the only thing in the world that’s mine. He’s… it’s… And anyway, it’s not like it matters, right? Because he’s gone anyway and he’s not coming back. I know my brother. Like I said, determined little fuck. Might not ever see him again, so… Whatever. I just thought…”

He licks his lips, dry after stuttering for minutes on end. Buffy still hasn’t moved an inch and he wants to maybe check her pulse again, just to make sure, but he doesn’t dare.

“I thought you should know. Because it’s not… it’s wrong. I get that. But it’s not evil. We’re not hurtin’ anyone and I’m goin’ to hell anyway, so why bother. I’d change it if I could, make it right. But it’s…”

There are no words for what it is, at least not in his limited vocabulary. He’s pretty sure that a smarter man might know how to put this, how to give a riveting speech that would convince Buffy that he’s not the lowest piece of scum to ever grace God’s green Earth, but he’s not that man. He’s Dean Goddamn Winchester and he knows guns and monsters way better than he knows words.

So he swallows hard and looks into the dark as he offers her the only truth he has. “It’s Sam.. He’s m’brother.”

It’s not profound, but it’s really all there is to it. Brother, to him, doesn’t just mean blood. It also means tears and sweat and heat and fire and frustration and home and shelter and pain and memory and loss and heartache and belonging and rage and something fierce that he has never named and never will because some things are best left unsaid. ‘Brother’ means ‘everything’. (Because Sammy is everything, remember?)

He shuts his mouth with a click, bites his tongue and fights (and loses against) the urge to check if his balls have completely retracted yet. They’re still there. Barely.

Buffy says nothing.

+

“Their names were Angel. And Spike.”

She’s been silent for so long and he’s been staring into the dark for so long, that her voice sends a jolt of electricity through him and he jumps like a scared rabbit. The fact that he didn’t expect her to ever speak another word to him doesn’t help.

“Wha’?”

“You asked me if I ever loved anyone I shouldn’t have.”

He knows it’s dangerous, but he twists to look down at her prone form because he can’t not look at her when she’s saying things like that. She bites her lip, licks it and probably tastes the dried blood there. She still looks more than half dead and momentary panic makes his mouth run off. “Were they gay fetish guys?”

She laughs, groans, wraps an arm around her torso and gasps for air. “Shit. Don’t make me laugh, you asshole.”

He’s not sure if the ‘asshole’ if for making her laugh or for making her spill her deep dark secrets on the floor of a wendigo’s cave. Eventually she manages to relax enough to talk again without wheezing and he pushes aside his worry to listen.

“They were vampires. And I… I loved them, despite what they were.” She laughs quietly but it rings hollow, and not just because of the cave. “With Angel I thought it was romantic. I was young and dumb and we had this whole secret, tragic love affair. It went bad, of course, and I had to put him down like a rabid dog before he managed to end the world. Spike came later. No romantic ideas anymore. He was just… company, you know? Someone who gave as good as he got. These days he’s the last one around to remember human Buffy.”

Dean probably looks like a fish out of water as he asks, “Vampires?”

She nods.

“You screwed vampires?”

Another nod.

“And you give me shit? You fucked killers?”

She doesn’t look all that dead anymore when she glares up at him from her position on the floor. “You don’t know me, Dean.”

He snorts and snaps right back, “And you don’t know me. Can you move yet?”

She tries to feel along her leg and hisses in pain, clutching her middle. She takes a few deep breaths and then fights into a sitting position. He’d help her, but he’s pretty sure she doesn’t want him to, so all he does is offer his shin to lean against once she’s upright. She accepts it with a grunt and leans forward, running her fingers along her leg. After a minute or so she shifts it, then bends it and stretches again.

“Leg’s okay,” she informs him, wheezing a bit as she’s obviously short on breath. He’d ask how her insides are doing, but it’s pretty clear they’re still mush as she spits out another mouthful of blood. He makes a mental note that bones seem to heal faster than organs and then strikes it. It’s not like he’s gonna need to know it after today.

“That mean you can walk?”

She nods and sways as he removes his leg from her back to get up. He shoulders the backpack, makes sure he has two flares stuffed into his jacket and a small container of gas and a lighter for when things go really south. He tucks his gun into his jeans and offers the blonde two hands to pull her up. To her credit, she doesn’t bitch about not needing help.

+

She’s walking, but he uses the word loosely. The last time he swayed and stumbled like that, he’d just become intimate friends with half a bottle of booze and was on his way to conk out in bed for the next twelve hours. Buffy doesn’t have that luxury and she sure as hell didn’t have the fun of getting drunk before the ouch set in.

She insisted on her own flare and dug a knife out of the backpack. It’s a close combat weapon and he’s pretty sure that, if the thing gets close enough for her to use her knife, he’s going to have another cuddle-the-corpse episode, but he understands her need to not feel naked and defenseless.

Both weapons are tucked into her pockets so her hands are free. She has one arm wrapped around her middle like she’s keeping parts in place and the fingers of the other are hooked into the back of his jeans, like he’s the momma-duck. They walk slowly (painfully so, in both senses of the word), trying to find a way out of the cave. Dean’s not yet sure if he wants to cross paths with the wendigo on the way or not. He’d rather know it dead, but the advantage isn’t exactly on their side anymore. If it ever was.

He stops at the center of a crossroads (or is that a crosstunnels?), looking around, looking for some clue on which way’s up. A sign maybe? Handpainted? Or a few useful arrows pointing toward freedom?

Maybe he banged his head harder than he thought. Or maybe head trauma accumulates and he’s finally getting the bill for twenty years of landing on his thick skull.

Buffy’s leaning on the wall behind him, trying to cough very quietly. She spits, takes a few more deep breaths and then tugs on his belt loops. “Left, I think,” she says.

“How do you know?”

“I think I smell clean air.”

He twists to look at her without making her let go of him, eyebrow raised. Just how freaky is that girl? She notices his expression and shrugs before poking him in the small of his back with a finger. “Go, horsey.”

He bites back a short bark of laughter as he starts moving. To the left. “Go, horsey? Is that how you talked to real horses, back when?”

Part of him wants to distract her from her pain, but mostly he’s curious. All those old cowboy movies he watched as a kid and she was there. Horses, guns, saloons. Hell, this girl probably wore corsets at one point in her life.

“Course not. They had names. My favorite was Mr. Gordo. Stubborn as a mule. Saved my life once, though.”

“Mr. Gordo?” Ouch. Seriously, ouch. That’s unmanly, even for a horse.

“Gimme a break. I was twelve when he was born and I got to name him. Dawn suggested Snuggles.”

Double ouch. Maybe Mr. Gordo isn’t so bad after all. They fall silent again, history lesson over, but he imagines it’s less strained than before. For a few minutes they simply trudge along, carefully peering around corners and then…

“Is it getting lighter?”

Behind him, Buffy laughs instead of answering. And she doesn’t even cough afterwards. Well, not a lot.

+

Homestretch.

Dean knows better than to trust it. The cave entrance is fifty feet straight ahead. Fifteen feet ahead, the tunnel broadens into something more traditionally cave-like. He can make out one more tunnel coming into that space from the left and there’s a cleft in the right-hand wall. He can’t judge from this angle if it’s big enough for a grown human (or monster) to slip through, but knowing his luck, it is. On top of that, the light they’re seeing isn’t daylight, it’s moonlight, shining through the entrance, which pretty much points straight up at the clear night sky.

They don’t even get the dubious safety of sunlight. Not that it helped them much in the first place, mind you. The thing managed to catch them just fine before dark. Dean is starting to really hate deep, dark forests. He feels a bit like Hänsel, waiting to be eaten. Buffy can be Dessert-Gretel.

Wow. Morbid.

So, he thinks, forcing his mind back on track. He’s got room to fight, up ahead. He’s also got two possible directions for the wendigo to come from and a whole forest outside that’s as safe Russian Roulette with a full clip.

Awesome odds. He needs to get rid of the backpack, but he’s not willing to leave it behind. He reaches behind his back, grabbing Buffy’s hand and pulling her to his side, motioning from her to the bag. Talking feels like an unnecessary risk, all of a sudden. She nods and he strips the pack off, hesitating for a moment. One of the straps is broken and he carried it slung over one shoulder, but there is no way the blonde can do that in her current condition. He passes her his gun for a moment and uses both hands to lengthen the strap so he can sling it across her chest diagonally, going from her left shoulder to below her right arm.

She tests the construction with a little wriggle and nods, handing him back his weapon. Then she asks, “Make a break for it?”

“Make a break for it,” he echoes, taking a deep breath.

They better make it out of this alive. Dad’s never gonna let him live this down otherwise.

+

Three, two, one, run!

Ten feet, nothing yet. Fifteen feet, the tunnel opens up, twenty feet, there’s something moving that shouldn’t be, twenty-five feet, halfway there.

Thirty feet. This time he’s fast enough to actually see the thing’s face as it comes bulldozing at them from the crack on the right-hand side. Figures. It’s butt ugly.

Dean hauls his companion past him and gives her a shove towards freedom before throwing himself backwards, narrowly avoiding swinging claws. The wendigo’s momentum carries it past the two of them, giving him long enough to get his feet under him and bring up his gun. But not long enough to shoot. He’s barreled over by several hundred pounds of monster, all of which settle on his chest like they belong there.

He blocks the first swipe of claws with his gun, which goes flying, and the second with his arm. He hears the rip and tear of fabric and skin more than he feels it, because it comes so fast. An errant thought runs through his head: He’s gonna need tetanus shots after this. Possibly rabies as well.

Then the fugly pulls back for a third swipe and he tries frantically to punch it, shove it, unseat it for just half a second so he can get the hell away because his arm’s not going to hold up to another attack by four inch claws and he really likes his head attached to his body, thanks a lot. But the thing rides him like he’s a price bull and he’s pretty sure it’s smiling, somewhere under all the ugly. Smiling at his useless struggle.

Forget a shot against rabies, he’s gonna need one against death.

Then, suddenly, there’s a pale hand gripping the thing’s chin, jerking upwards, and Buffy slit’s the wendigo’s throat from behind. The mofo should look like an extra from a Kill Bill set, with its throat slit to the bone, but it doesn’t. Instead of a gush of blood, there’s only a slow trickle of tar-like substance down its chest. It smells like rotten eggs.

The monster howls and clutches at the wound and Buffy grabs it by the wrists and hauls it backwards, off Dean, with enough oomph to almost get buried under the thing herself. She slips away at the last moment and Dean takes a single second to breathe before he rolls to his feet, grabbing his gun on the way.

He has time for a brief look at his partner, who’s flipped her knife to a backwards grip. Defense instead of offense. She looks paler than before and he can’t expect much help from that corner. Then he tries to go for one of the flares in his pocket, but he’s out of time.

Fucker is fast.

It comes at him with a howl that shakes his bones and he barely (barely!) manages to get up the gun and fire into its chest at point blank range. One, two. The muzzle flash turns the whole thing into a horror show and the thing’s black body jerks in time with the gunshot cracks, but it doesn’t go down. Instead it jack-knifes forward and slams into him, head first. Later, Dean will swear that he heard the sound of his ribs shifting and straining under the pressure, but right now, all he knows it that his lungs just got folded up like a piece of paper and there’s no air left in him. He makes a sound halfway between gasp and scream and hits the wall, back first, feeling like his insides are mush.

If Buffy feels like that, she’s a lot tougher than he thought because he can’t even think of moving.

The wendigo straightens, using its body to wedge him into the wall, and its teeth come way too close to his neck for comfort. He manages to bring up his arm, pushing at it. It’s enough to keep his throat where it belongs for a few seconds and then, sweet mercy, something hisses behind the fugly and the scent of chemicals fills the cave.

Buffy got her flare lit.

The wendigo, instinctively afraid of fire, rears away from him and around, looking for the source of light. Buffy stands, brandishing the chemical torch like a sword, ten feet away. The monster hisses, spits and lunges forward a bit, before pulling back again in indecision. It’s smart, they figured that out when they got their gift, but right now, smart is a problem. Instinct tells it to fear fire, but there’s a human mind somewhere inside that blackened, twisted body, and that mind can plan. Not good. Not good at all.

Dean slips sideways, not even looking for his gun. Might as well be a prop anyway. Instead he fumbles through his pockets for his own flares as he moves closer and closer to Buffy in a half circle, never taking his eyes off the wendigo.

It’s the only reason he sees the split second decision to jump Buffy in its gaze. Without thinking he pulls his hands out of his pockets and twists around, lunging the last few feet and hitting the blonde in a picture book tackle that sends her sprawling and leaves him directly in the wendigo’s path. He bends his legs at the knee, pulling them as close as he can and then straightens at the last possible moment, hammering his heavy boots into the fucking thing’s chest.

It rears and he fumbles with one hand, looking for the flare Buffy dropped as she went flying. He can smell it, hear it, but not see it and there’s no way he’s giving the thing his back so he fumbles, fumbles, fumbles, feeling his heart in his throat, adrenaline burning in his veins, pumping so hard he’s pretty sure his head is about to blow off.

Then, finally, yesyesyes, there it is, he closes his fingers around the stick but doesn’t pick it up, not yet, waitwaitwait, for the mofo to get its feet back under it and come at him again, instinct winning over smarts now, nothing but blind rage, it comes for him, comescomescomes and when it’s almost there, only a foot away, he swings his arm around, brings up the torch and digs it into papery black skin like a knife. The whoosh of something old and dry catching fire and then the wendigo is screaming loud enough to make his head ring, stumbling away, clawing at its own chest, trying to dislodge the flare. It’s too late, though. Most of its torso is already burning. A few moments later, the scream tapers off into gurgling and eventually, the pile of bones and meat stops flailing, leaving only thick, gag-inducing smoke to rise from the corpse.

Dean watches.

+

Buffy is the first one to speak, but it’s not until long after the smoldering heap of wendigo stops crackling. “You jumped in front of me,” she says, her voice very matter of fact.

Dean, who’s lying flat on his back, enjoying life, twists enough to look at her, also lying on the ground, but propped up on her elbows. She’s studying him intently. “Well, yeah,” he answers her non-question, wondering if she hit her head.

She frowns, sits up, scoots toward him on her ass and settles down next to him. Then she punches him in the shoulder. “You idiot.”

He jerks away from her, rubbing his shoulder. “Ouch, woman! What the hell?!”

“I would have been fine! Can’t die, remember?”

Honestly, it was a reflex. See person about to be bulldozed by wendigo, jump to the rescue. He would have done it for everyone. Well, most people. And maybe not for very many with the same panicked fervor, but he would have done it. Actually, for very few people. But. Reflex. Damn it.

“Yes, you can,” he snaps back, more sharply than intended. He needs to be cut some slack, though, because it’s been a helluva day. “And watching it once today was more than enough, so don’t bitch at me for saving your ass.”

Period.

She looks sheepish. Then, “Sorry.”

He frowns and rotates his shoulder to make a point. She looks even more sheepish. “You’re forgiven.”

+

Yep, definitely need those shots, Dean decides as he watches Buffy wrap his forearm with what little First Aid stuff they have. Those claws went deep. She reaches the end of the bandage and rips it neatly down the middle so she has two ends to knot around his wrist.

Then she pats the freshly bandaged arm once (why do people do that?) and neatly collapses beside him. He’s not an expert, but he’s pretty sure that the fight just undid whatever healing she managed to get done in the cave. She looks all waxy and white again.

He watches her chest rise and fall for a few minutes before heaving his tired ass up and going to check what they have. Lots of food, a clean set of clothes for Buffy, though he doubts she really cares enough to change, enough weapons now that the fugly’s dead and one sleeping bag. No tent. No blankets. No second sleeping bag. Usually he’d just shrug and say ‘cozy up’ but as things stand (what with the mortal danger being over and Buffy having time to remember what went on before they got captured), he’s pretty sure he’s about to spend the night freezing his ass off.

And there is simply no way they can walk back to civilization in the dark with all their assorted scrapes and injuries. He eyes the cave for a moment, considering sleeping in there but, nah. No way is he sleeping next to the remains of that thing. Plus, he’s pretty sure caves are going to give him nightmares for the foreseeable future. Wonder why?

He sets the sleeping bag down next to Buffy and putters around for a while, finding enough wood for a fire and heating a can of beans. Buffy would make something out of it, but all he wants is substance. The blonde watches from slitted eyes, sleeping bag pulled over her like a blanket. He offers her dinner but she turns him down, muttering something about ‘rather not’ and ‘coughing up beans’. He doesn’t ask again.

The silence is back. It’s got less teeth than it had the past twenty-four hours, but the elephant’s still standing tall in the middle of their little camp site. He opens his mouth, almost says something, but then simply shakes his head and puts some more twigs on the fire. He’s way too tired for this, too worn, too hurt, too whatever. If she’s going to let it lie, so will he. Tomorrow they’ll get back to civilization together and then split. He’ll go wherever Dad wants him to and she’ll go home and they’ll never see each other again because he is what he is and she can’t accept that. He doesn’t blame her, but he’s not going to change either.

Fun while it lasted, right?

“Would you come over here,” Buffy’s annoyed voice cuts into his head-space, completely startling him.

“Wha-?”

“I can hear you shivering from here. Move your butt.”

His body apparently likes being warm more than the rest of him likes to keep its emotional distance because he’s halfway around the camp fire before he realizes he’s moving and, Jesus, body heat. Blanket. Warm.

He stops shivering within a minute and Buffy snuggles into his side, her head on his chest, breathing hot air into his neck. It’s kinda heaven. He didn’t even notice he was that cold.

+

He’s almost asleep when she says, “You were right.”

He rouses enough to ask, “’Bout what?”

“Me. Sitting in the glasshouse. Throwing rocks at you.”

That wakes him right up. “Is this about…”

Of course it is. What else would it be about? She nods into his shoulder.

“Oh,” he whispers. He didn’t expect her to see his point. Not after the things she said. Not after the parallel she drew between Sam and her mass murdering vampire fuck buddies. Apparently she did. Glasshouse. “Okay.”

A beat.

“Does that mean we’re okay?”

She fingers one of the buttons on his shirt and shrugs one shoulder lightly. “I don’t know,” she admits and at least it’s honest.

She’s asleep before he can dig deeper.

+

He is woken by the cold and finds himself alone in their little camp, just him and the fire. It’s burning again, which tells him Buffy isn’t too far or too long gone. He wonders if she’s running from him.

But then he hears a sharp yelp echo from between the trees and from the direction of it, distorted as it is, he figures she’s down by the water, where the wendigo trapped them.

Where it killed her.

He stands and stretches, kicking a bit more dirt towards the fire to shore it up. Forest fires are kind of low on his list of things to do today. Then he moves towards the yelp and finds Buffy, naked as the day she was born, skinny dipping in the small stream that kept the wendigo hemmed in.

He just looks at the water and feels the cold seeping into his bones, but he guesses pre-modern age girl doesn’t mind so much. She’s actually smiling as she washes off caked blood with smooth, quick movements.

For a moment he feels bad for watching her naked after all that happened, but it’s not like she’s making a secret out of what she’s doing and he’s a guy. So he looks.

She bends backwards, dipping her hair underwater and wringing it until most of the dirt is gone. The move does interesting things to her boobs and he can’t help but cock his head to one side to watch closer.

Right until she looks up, flipping her hair over one shoulder and says, “Why, hello there, Tom.”

He snorts and simply returns, “Morning.”

If he thought she was going to be shy, he was dead wrong. She wipes the water off her arms, chest and stomach as well as she can and then wades over slippery stones towards where she left the clothes they saved with her pack and for the first time he notices his own lost backpack lying next to her stuff on the ground. Apparently she found it.

He breathes a sigh of relief because he really, really didn’t want to go home and have to tell Dad he lost several hundred bucks worth of weapons and ammo. He’s not twelve anymore but that lecture would have made him feel like it. Plus, you know, certain people bled and puked on his clothes yesterday.

Buffy notices him perk up and smiles but doesn’t talk. She’s in a strange mood today. Or maybe that’s just him, projecting his total freak-out at the fact that she’s completely healed from a severe case of dead less than twenty-four hours after it happened.

She grabs her clothes in a bundle and comes walking toward him. Right in front of him, way in his personal space. For the longest moment, they just stand and stare. She stands on tip-toe and kisses him.

As far as kisses from Buffy go, this one is almost sisterly. Lips closed, no tongue, no biting, no nothing. Just pressure and water-cool skin. She pulls back after a moment and tells him, voice completely blank, “That’s for jumping in front of me.”

Then she walks past him toward a flat rock, where she dumps her bundle and sits down to wipe the mud from her feet before she starts getting dressed.

After a minute of doing a very interesting fish-out-of-water imitation, Dean goes to inspect his pack for damage.

+

He’s in the middle of sorting through his clothes for something mostly clean to wear when he realizes that kiss was Buffy’s way of saying goodbye.

+

The hike out in a (mostly) straight line takes all day. And it’s only mostly straight because the GPS is dead and gone, somewhere between the river and the cave, lost forever.

They walk quietly, each with their own pack and their own thoughts, not keeping extra distance between them but definitely more than there was before. Dean doesn’t think about that (or the kiss) at all. Instead he counts his steps, tries to remember the names of every plant he passes by and wonders how badly Dad is going to lay into him for the amazing clusterfuck that was this hunt.

Then he goes through it all in his head and figures out that he’s going to leave out the post-dinner fucks, the rude awakening when he called his lover by his brother’s name, the ensuing fight, the trap they ran into, the dying, the healing and probably most of the final showdown, too. He runs through the edited version in his head and sighs.

He’s still going to get fucking reamed.

They reach the car just as dusk turns into true night and slide in without fuss. Buffy doesn’t say a single word about dirt on the seats or not tracking mud onto the floorboards. She just puts the key into the ignition and drives.

Back into town, back to the motel. He invites her inside (because he’s being nice, not because he needs a shield between him and his perfectionist, drill sergeant father, nosir) and she declines with a smile.

“For a shower at least. A hot one,” he teases. Flat.

“I’ll grab a shower at a truck stop. Not like I have clean clothes anyway.” She pointedly leaves the engine running as she waits for him to grab his shit and get out of her car.

He flounders, trying to find something else to say, but all that comes is to thank her for coming out to help. So he does that. She waves him off, smiles again and still doesn’t kill the engine.

He can take a hint.

No, really.

He gets out, grabs his bag, waves through the window and tries not to look like someone stabbed his fucking puppy to death with a butter knife. From the way she’s not so much looking at him but past him, he figures he sucks at it.

Then she kicks the car into gear and peels out of the parking lot, leaving him standing there like an idiot.

+

Later, later, after Dad and a shower and food and Dad and his report, edited as it was, he sits in the middle of his bed, staring at his phone, finger poised over the button that will delete her phone number forever.

(It’s only a gesture because he knows it by heart, but sometimes gestures are symbols, and he thinks she would appreciate this one. He’s not going to hound her.)

He sits and stares and sits and stares and listens to Dad snore on the other bed, grumpy because he’s off the meds but not yet back on the liquid medication that’s beer.

He promised Buffy to help her hunt down the demon that killed her sister. Which is probably telling, because he’s not all for his own father’s crusade to avenge his mother and yet here he is, promising to help someone who’s damn near a stranger (or was, back then) to fight her crusade with her. Telling, yes. But he has no idea what it tells.

Eventually, he takes his finger off the phone, puts it on the nightstand and lies down. It’s only a symbol anyway and he doesn’t want her to be completely gone yet. He tells himself it’d because he’s a hunter and a hunter never gives up anything that might one day save his ass, but really, if he deletes her number from his phone, then he’ll start staring at Sam’s number again instead and that sucks.

(Not that staring at her number sucks any less now, no. They’re equal in this, Buffy and Sam. He wants them both, greedy bastard that he is.)

He won’t delete the number, but he won’t use it either. Buffy has washed her hands of him.

+

(What Dean doesn’t know is that, ten miles outside town, Buffy is sitting in her car on the side of the road, her head on the wheel, crying quietly. Crying, because she wants to be angry, wants to be disgusted, but can’t.

Because Dean was right, she doesn’t get to throw stones and he loves his brother.

That’s the part that hurts, you know? She’s been alone for so, so long and then there was this man, this hunter, this beautiful, beautiful creature and she knew he loved his brother, but she figured, maybe, there was space for her next to Sam, in Dean’s heart.

She figured maybe she could be less alone with Dean.

But Sam fills all of Dean’s heart, brother, friend, even lover and there’s no room for her. It’s not him fucking Sam that hurts, it’s that she really is nothing but a rebound.

Dean doesn’t know that Buffy is crying not because she hates him, but because she loves him.

And she’s so tired of being alone.)

+

+

Fin

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The End

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