A/N: I would have sworn on just about anything that I posted this months ago. Sorry? I'm making it up to you by posting the rest in one go.
Dean shoved his brother into the backseat of the Impala without ceremony and wedged himself in after him, determined to be close by when Sammy finally gave himself an aneurism with his ESP shit.
Since Buffy was in the shit, she was shunted off to shotgun, leaving Victor with the dubious honor of driving the Impala for the first time. He looked properly terrified, almost enough so to make Buffy giggle at his discomfort and Dean’s backseat driving.
Somehow, she didn’t really feel like laughing, though.
The drive back to their rooms happened in dead silence (except for said backseat driving) and once they got there, Victor helped Dean maneuver twenty feet of little brother toward his bed, leaving the slayer sitting in the car alone. The night was strangely silent after the ringing sounds of the fight, leaving her feeling disoriented as she slowly came down from her adrenaline high.
Leaving her tired as hell, although that might have been just her. Some days she felt a hundred years old and the constant dreams about that damned amulet didn’t help. Neither did her worrying about the boys.
The boys, who would probably hate her now. She wished she’d said something earlier, about angels in general, if not about herself in particular. Wished she’d tried to get Dean past his hate and refusal to believe in angels at all. It was strange, how he could hate something he denied existed, but there it was. It smacked of disappointment, or loss and helpless anger and so many more old hurts.
It was Vic who came to fetch her after only a few short moments, pulling her car door open and leaning in. “Coming?” he asked lightly.
She frowned up at him. “You’re not pissed at me.”
He snorted. “I haven’t got a fucking clue what’s going on, honestly. You’re an angel and Sam just killed someone – something – with his mind. This is all scifi to me.”
That startled a laugh out of her. She knew the feeling. Some days she felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under her and turned the world upside down while she wasn’t looking.
How’d she gone from Californian cheerleader to semi-angel protector of Earth?
Alright, now she was just stalling. Procrastination, anyone? With a resigned sigh she slipped out of the car and past their baby-hunter, intentionally leaving the scythe behind. It wasn’t like anyone could steal it, really. That, and she was pretty sure that if she walked into that room armed, Dean was just going to ghost her and put his questions to her corpse.
When she entered the room, Dean was leaning against a wall next to Sam’s bed, protective glower fully in place. Sam was sitting on his bed, hugging a trash can and already looking better. His recovery time was getting less and less with each time he used his powers. That, and the fifth of liquid painkiller by the bedside table ensured that he’d be part of this conversation. Buffy was not yet sure if that was a good thing or not.
“From the beginning,” Dean ordered sharply before she could do more than take a deep breath. Down to business. Alright.
Except, “I kind of told you already. I was the slayer. I died. I went to Heaven and came back with some extra mojo.”
“The magic-understanding thing you do,” Sam said in dawning realization. Dean looked down at him questioningly.
“When we told Faith about how Buffy just gets
magic she got all shifty-eyed and we couldn’t figure out why. It’s because it’s not really a slayer-skill, is it?”
Buffy shrugged and sheepishly shook her head.
“So you lied about that, too?” Was it her, or did Dean sound more disappointed than angry? Maybe he was tired, too.
“What was I supposed to do?” she asked, a bit snappishly. She could feel her defenses going up, but she couldn’t stop it. “Hi, I’m Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And oh, by the way, I happen to be part angel, which gives me a whole lot of insight into useless things and occasional killer migraines when angel radio gets cranked up too high.” She snorted. “It’s not like I get anything out of this except more shit. I can’t go back to Heaven because I’m too human and I can’t properly fit in on Earth because I’m too angel. The real angels can’t stand me anymore than the demons because I’m some half-blood bitch they’re supposed to obey and they don’t feel like it, really.”
She spread her arms in a helpless gesture. “I’m me, Dean. I’m supposed to play some sort of role in the endgame, but I won’t because I’m not angel enough to take away my free will, so what does it matter? I’m me. So I’ve got a freakin’ wing. So what? You know me. You know who I am. Stop being a dick about this!”
“You lied to us!” Dean barked.
“I’m trying to save your sorry asses!”
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Buffy slapped a hand over it, like she could shove them back inside. She had not
planned to say that out loud. On the bed, Sam looked frozen. “What?”
She sighed, looked away, noticed Vic standing by the door. No easy escape. Damn it. Damn you
, she thought, eyes rolled toward the ceiling. Wherever God, the absent bastard, was, he was so laughing at her. Poor little Buffy, part desert, part sky, stuck in-between, trying to make things right and not having a clue how to.
All she had were demon rumors and instinct. The Winchesters were important. Dean couldn’t go to Hell. A blue amulet. She had no idea how the pieces fit and half the time she felt like every time she did manage to fit one into the puzzle, she got buried under a dozen new ones that made even less sense.
“Look around you,” she said quietly, because hey, the horses were already gone, or something along those lines. Was it cows? “Heaven and Hell both want a piece of you two. Dethroned boy king and a righteous man going to the pit. They don’t send out demon armies for just anyone, you know?
“It’s all about you two. Whatever the hell is going on here, you two are the lynchpin in the whole game. It’s you. It’s you and whatever destiny’s written for you and I’m trying… I’ve been trying to stop it. I’m supposed to play in Heaven’s corner and you two have been conscripted for Hell. We have roles to play, do you get that? Destiny, prophecy. Whatever you wanna call it. It’s happening. To all of us. You wanna know why I made you bring Victor?”
She shot the man a look, which he returned evenly. At least someone wasn’t screaming. Although neither Sam nor Dean looked like they felt like screaming anymore. They looked nauseated.
“Because I keep dreaming about him. I keep dreaming of what’s going to happen and he’s there. He needs
to be there. It’s like a giant game of chess and I’m the only one who knows we’re playing. And I’m trying, I’m trying so hard, to find a way to stop it, to find a way to keep us all alive and together so we can fight, so we can rewrite this whole story but I can’t…”
She was so, so tired of fighting. Of being alone. Of being stuck between Heaven and Earth, of knowing but not understanding, of having a role and no damn guidebook.
Lucifer wanted Sam. Michael wanted Dean. Heaven wanted her to help free Lucifer, wanted her to battle the hordes of Hell and help create Paradise anew. Sam would die. Dean would burn out. Earth would be erased. Mankind obliterated. And her? God only knew – literally, probably – what would happen to Heaven’s tool once it had served its purpose.
And she couldn’t allow any of that. Sam and Dean had to live. Lucifer had to stay in his cage. Mankind had to survive. She wouldn’t accept any less. All she needed to do was stop Dean from breaking the first seal, then destroy the last one. Keep Lucifer locked up. No apocalypse.
But how did the amulet figure in there? Was it meant to help her destiny along or hinder it? Was it for Heaven or for Hell? And if it was written what would happen, on whose authority could she change things? Was it all angels and demons now, or did God still have his sticky fingers in the pie somehow?
She missed the days of see-vamp-stake-vamp so badly it hurt.
That’s when she realized she was crying.
Great. Now she’d turned into the Great Weeping Woman.
She pawed angrily at her cheeks, wiping the traitor tears away. Crying like a baby, like she was sixteen and whiny as hell again. Sixteen and not wanting to die. Oh, what a long way she’d come since then and how the tune had changed. She missed Heaven enough for it to be a physical ache.
But dying wasn’t an option. Because mankind needed saving and Sam and Dean and Faith and Josie and Bobby and Dawn and the Scoobies deserved to live. To be happy. To not be the playthings of angels and demons. She loved them. All
of them, even if she hadn’t known the boys all that long. She loved them and she was going to keep them safe and so she kept fighting but, God, she was tired.
“Ignore the crying jag,” she tried to snap. It came out a bit flat, but judging by the looks on the boys’ faces, they hadn’t planned on saying anything either. They were still stunned into silence.
Then Sam took a deep breath, put down his friend the trash can and scooted toward the edge of the bed. “You’ve got a wing?”
The reaction was instantaneous.
Buffy looked startled for a mere second and then a giggle burst out of her, involuntarily. And then another. And then another one. Buffy laughed until she was bent in half, tears still running down her face, laughed and laughed and laughed and felt like she was letting off the pressure of years
“Of course,” she gasped, trying to get her bearings and failing miserably as soon as she lay eyes on the boys’ confused-amused faces. “That’s the one thing you pick out of all that.”
Then she went back to wheezing.
Buffy sounded like Dean felt: Way beyond the end of her rope, clinging to sanity with nothing but fingertips and sheer, cussed stubbornness.
His anger, white hot right after the fight, had cooled rapidly. Buffy looked so beaten down after he lost it at her, so hurt, and when she started explaining (yelling, more like), he found himself wanting to forgive her more than he wanted to be angry.
He knew all about lying to protect someone. It was the Winchester way. And he didn’t want to lose the first real friend he’d had in… ever. So he was willing to forgive her even before she blurted out everything she’d been doing behind their backs, all in the name of keeping them safe.
It might have been a game, a con. A lie.
But it wasn’t.
Sam had wondered, ever since he learned of Buffy having been to Heaven, about the significance of them meeting as they had. There had been so many coincidences involved in getting them together. Why hadn’t anyone else taken the Nightmare hunt? Why had Buffy been able to find them in dreams so easily? Why had they trusted each other so quickly?
Dean didn’t like the idea of not being the boss of his own life, of his own moves, but even he could feel things clicking into place around the three of them. A storm coming, that was what Bobby kept calling it.
And there was.
But neither the Winchesters no Buffy were playing by the rules. Someone had set them up to meet. But from here on out, they made their own fates.
And that meant he should probably stop glowering at Buffy, especially since she was sort of having a minor breakdown in the middle of the room, howling with laughter like she didn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
She’d possibly been under more pressure than they’d known, what with the secrets and trying to keep them safe and saving the world and being an angel. Part angel.
That was going to take some getting used to.
His best friend was part angel. Did that mean imagining Buffy naked was a sin?
“Hey, princess,” he asked, to distract himself, and as a peace offering between them, “You gotta put your panties back on and take a deep breath.”
That set her off again momentarily before she inhaled deeply and made a visible effort at containing herself. She wiped at the tears on her face, closed her eyes and when he thought she was going to burst out laughing again, a sound like a storm blew through the room and –
Victor jerked back so fast that he lost his footing and actually crashed into the wall. Sam jumped half a foot high. Dean just stared, utterly transfixed.
Buffy had a wing.
It wasn’t white and feathery at all but rather black and smoky, almost translucent. It looked like a shadow, extending from her left shoulder blade upwards and out, spanning at least six feet.
“Dude,” Sam breathed at the same time as Dean muttered, “Well, fuck me sideways.”
The wing twitched, almost like it meant to flap and a breeze curled around the slayer. Guardian, Dean corrected himself. Not slayer. Buffy was a Guardian. The Guardian.
“Can you fly?” he blurted.
She smiled, shaking her head. Her eyes were still red and her face a bit blotchy, but she looked like she was pulling herself together again. “Only one wing,” she said. “I’d fly in circles. It’s neat for some acrobatics though.”
“Can I… I mean, can I touch it?” Sam asked, hesitantly and reverently. Dean wasn’t sure that the awed look in Sammy’s eyes sat right with him, but he wasn’t going to say anything. Wing or not, this was still basically Buffy, not some angel dick.
Buffy had barely been a toddler when his mom had died. Whatever angel had failed to watch over Mary Winchester, it hadn’t been Buffy.
Buffy shook her head. “Sorry. It doesn’t actually exist on this plane. I’m just forcing you to see an approximation of it.”
Sam frowned. “So you’re in our heads?”
“Nope. I just… I want you to see it, so it’s sort of like… a window I guess. To the true nature of things. Angels, real angels, I mean, they’re made of light. This is… actually, it’s a negative of what it really looks like.”
“So angel wings are white?” Victor asked, a smile tugging on his lips. He was teasing.
,” Buffy corrected, easily.
It was Dean who felt the need to get them all back on the solid ground of reality, muddy as it was these days. “So why was Meg all gung ho about Flygirl here?”
Flygirl. Stupid name. It was as good as any peace offering he was ever going to make.
With a snap and a rustle of feathers they probably only imagined, the wing was gone and Buffy looked as she always had, except for the red eyes. “I’m an obstacle,” she said, sounding flat. “An asset for the angel side, or so the demons think. So she wanted to clear me outta the way and collect a cookie from the boss man as a reward. Also, Flygirl?”
“Bitch,” Dean remarked, offhandedly, about Meg, before asking, “And why did you want her dead so badly? Yes, Flygirl. Flygirl. Or would you prefer princess?”
A shrug. “Touché. Meg knew things that aren’t common knowledge. If she’d made it back downstairs with that knowledge, Hell woulda, literally, rained down on me. Obscurity is such a nice place to be, doncha think?”
Dean snorted because it really wasn’t. No recognition, no thanks, and their faces pasted on the Most Wanted lists. Obscurity was shitty. But it was also what kept them alive and free, so they didn’t complain. Much. Sam looked between them, a bit lost and then gave up trying to figure them out.
“So Buffy’s an angel. Can we sleep now? My head’s killing me.”
For a long moment Dean hesitated. He wasn’t going to pack the princess full of bullets anymore, but there were still things to ask, things he needed to know. What exactly was a Guardian? What game plan was it Buffy was trying to mess up? How exactly was she messing it up? And why hadn’t she come clean a lot earlier?
Questions. So many. But he knew that Buffy was still Buffy, that she was in their corner, and that she wasn’t going to screw them over. Because, he realized, she loved them, as much as they loved her.
His questions could wait. Dean nodded slightly as Buffy bit her lip, worrying at it. Then she popped it out of her mouth, red and shiny and said, carefully, “Cat’s out of the bag, so, if you want me to I can…” she waved a hand in the vague direction of Sam’s head.
“Do what?” he asked, curious and a bit taken aback.
“Do something about that headache. It’s crap for most injuries, but the angel mojo works for psychic damage like this.”
Sam immediately nodded and then winced, obviously regretting the move. Buffy stepped forward and Dean held himself very still. He trusted Buffy, he did, but it was going to take his body some time to catch up to that again after tonight. Because for all that she was Buffy she was also alien
. Not human. Almost thirty years of conditioning didn’t take well to that. A wing. She had a goddamn wing. Made of light.
Fuck him sideways.
She gently placed her hands on Sam’s temples and both their eyes fluttered closed on some invisible sign. For a moment, the briefest of moments, Dean thought he saw them both glow too bright to look at. By the time he’d blinked away the spots, Buffy had stepped back, hands falling to her sides. Sam opened his eyes, tilted his head this way and that, testing. Then he grinned brightly. “Man, this is better than any painkillers! Thanks!”
Buffy smiled warmly and Dean relaxed another fraction.