Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters or parts of this story line. They belong to the brains of The Whedon and The Kripke.Chapter TwoHe ran at full speed through the small abandoned area, the brick on the buildings crumbling, old and grey against the lackluster sky. His shotgun was slippery in his fingers, a cold sweat sticking to his skin. The air was chilly and foggy, suffocating him; he felt like he couldn’t get any oxygen as he pushed air harshly through his nostrils, running harder.
He didn’t care - he had to get there.
That stupid, stupid fucking woman, always doing something rash, something so goddamned stupid he was willing to bet she got a kick out of it. Did all of it just because it made him feel like his intestines were braiding together with worry; he was pretty sure he was on his third ulcer, all with the name ‘Buffy’ stamped on them.
It anything happened to her… or to Sam…
He was going to tie her down in his trunk and put a leash on her so every time they argued about anything she thought she was right about, she didn’t disappear like this. He was going to fucking kill her if anything happened to either of them…
Dean rounded the corner, his chest burning, his legs aching from running. A thin drop of sweat slipped from his hair, tickling his temple and he growled, brushing it away when he saw her.
Dean quickly skidded to a stop as the scene in front of him registered, horror whirling through his body. He blinked.
A couple hundred feet before him, Buffy hung from a balcony, a thin rough rope wrapped tightly over and over around her neck. Her limp body swayed slightly in an invisible breeze, her head twisted at the wrong angle. Her eyes were closed. She didn’t move.
Dean choked on the air he tried to suck in, but he couldn't comprehend it as he stared at her. Blackness danced at the edge of his vision like fucked up tunnel vision. His world started falling in on itself, piece by piece, as he tried to make sense of it.
He tried to make sense of the lifeless body where it hung, how her head could be turned like that… like she was…
She was dead.
“No,” Dean whispered, agony ripping through him, his body shaking. He took a few steps towards her. Tunnel vision took over and he didn’t see anything but her swinging from the rope, just… there, lifeless…
He felt something hot and stinging on his face as he took a few more steps, but his feet were suddenly very heavy, his gun forgotten, slipping through his fingers to the ground with a loud clink. “No. No, no…”
She still didn’t move.
“Buffy!” Dean shouted, his voice not working, an unnatural pressure rising in his throat as he took a few more steps, waiting for the image to change, waiting for it to not be real. But it was. “No!”
And then he was running to her, the world shaking around him and she still didn’t respond.
She didn’t get up like she was lying on the couch taking a nap. She didn’t look at him with so much annoyance she looked ready to poke him in the eye. She didn’t tell him to fuck off when he knew he had pissed her off. She didn't yell at him that she was fine and didn't need his overbearing crap right then…
She didn’t do anything.
“Buffy!” Dean shouted, his voice short, almost reaching her but suddenly they weren’t alone. Sam appeared next to her with a harsh flap of invisible wings, staring at him calmly. Dean stopped abruptly, his chest full of concrete, and he tripped over his feet, falling to his knees. His mind quickly jumping to the obvious conclusion: that wasn’t Sam. He knew that wasn’t his brother anymore, he knew it in his gut that what was operating that body was not human, his entire body reacting to the sensation as he stared at his brother’s shell.
"No…" he whispered, his voice rough as he watched Sam reach up, snapping his fingers, and just like that the rope disappeared. Buffy’s empty body fell into Sam’s arms with a heavy thud.
It had happened… he’d let it happen. He’d let his brother die, pushed him away all this time for nothing, thinking it was for the best.
And now Buffy had paid the price too.
Lucifer looked up at him, his face twisted in compassion. He laid Buffy down on the ground gently, her head rolling limply to the side. Dean couldn’t move as he watched the scene unfold, couldn’t even remember that he knew he had the power to move, as he watched Sam’s fingers touch Buffy’s temple.
Dean sucked in a deep agonizing breath.
Sam was gone. They were both gone.
“Damn it,” Dean moaned, another tear leaking from his eye, feeling everything the last three years had been leading to building inside him with a sudden violent pressure. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen - this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. They were supposed to stay apart, stay away from each other, prevent the goddamn Apocalypse…
But Sam had said it. He’d said yes.
And Buffy had had to die to make it happen. Buffy was dead. And now Sam was gone too.
Dean felt like someone speared him with a two by four as everything inside him snapped - everything he’d kept down, kept tucked away, knowing… hoping… that they had been doing the right thing, that they had made the right choice by staying away from each other - as Sam stood, staring down at Buffy when she suddenly came back to life, her eyes shooting open as she gasped for air.
“Oh fuck,” Dean whispered, closing his eyes so he didn't have to see it, sucking in a quick breath of relief before it was eclipsed by the knowledge that Sammy was gone. His innards shredded as he watched them, the shock numbing him to everything. Sam’s eyes stared down at Buffy and she cringed away, meeting his gaze fearfully.
Lucifer nodded and looked at Dean.
“A promise is a promise,” he said serenely. “I’m not a monster.”
Then he was gone in the blink of an eye, the sound of wings filling the area before silence rained down.
“Oh no… no, no, no,” Dean whispered, his voice catching, more tears falling. Sam was gone. Sam was gone, he was gone…
Dean let out a strangled noise as he slumped forward, his eyes hot and burning as more tears slipped out. He looked up as Buffy stood, touching her neck where a bright new red abrasion laid, staring back at him with an unreadable look.
He wanted to scream. He wanted to hit her, shake her. He wanted his brother back. He wanted to be happy she was alive, happy that he’d only had to see her gone for one second, but at what cost?
Dean shook his head as she approached, whispering his brother’s name agonizingly. She crouched down in front of him, her face crumpled, her cheeks wet. He felt her fingers trembling when she touched his cheek.
“Dean, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“Damn it,” he choked out, holding his face and Buffy pulled him into her arms. Dean collapsed against her, pressing his face into her chest, letting out another sob. Dean's hands clenched her hard, pulling her closer, wanting to climb inside and pretend like nothing had happened. That she hadn't come here, that they hadn't fought about it, that she had gone behind his back, that Sammy had never said anything, never been coerced by her to say yes to the goddamned devil…
A blinding rage started building in his chest as he realized what had gone down here, what had had to happen to follow the footsteps that had been laid out for them…
Buffy held him as close as she could, whispering over and over again that she was sorry as he shook against her, his fingers bruising her arms…
Dean woke from the dream with a gasp, sitting up in bed.
The bedroom was still dark and it was damned cold as Dean looked around, swallowing through his dry throat. He let out a broken breath as he replayed the memory, his stomach clenching with agony.
Buffy hanging from the building, dead. Sam no longer Sammy, but Lucifer. The anger that had quickly followed when his future self had put two and two together that Sam had only said yes because Buffy had fucking been there. Because Lucifer had used her as leverage to get Sam’s meat suit and Sam had agreed, only because he knew how much she had meant to his brother.
Dean rubbed his face, immediately pulling his hands back when he felt the tears. Groaning, Dean rubbed the salty liquid away before swinging the comforter back.
“Dean, what is it?” Lisa asked from her side of the bed, her hand on his bare back. He shrugged it off.
“Nothing,” he said, his voice cracking. He wiped his face, feeling Lisa sit up. “I’m fine.”
“Dean, you were crying-”
“I said I was fine, Lisa,” he snapped, barely glancing at her over his shoulder before leaning down, grabbing his shirt off the floor. He shrugged it on, straightening it as it twisted around his back. He didn’t get up for a moment and a heavy silence fell on the room as images flickered in his mind, bouncing against his skull with a vengeful pressure that was urged on by her not saying anything.
Dean's voice was soft when he spoke. “I’m gonna go downstairs for a minute.”
“Okay,” Lisa replied, her voice deceivingly neutral. He got up, moving stiffly, feeling her eyes drilling into his back as he left the room, leaving her alone in their bed.
Buffy’s boots echoed in the large abandoned warehouse. She walked slowly through the space. She studied her surroundings, her eyes catching everything, her body and head moving mechanically.
She’d missed the show on this one.
Rubbing her right shoulder through her jacket, Buffy ran her fingers across the edge of a rusty metal workbench. She stared at the dust on her fingers before looking at the mark she’d left behind. An easy deception, something an amateur would assume meant nobody had been in there for a very long time.
These charmers didn’t need the entire space; they only preferred the seclusion and only needed a few ropes, some needles and they were in business.
Buffy glanced up at the ceiling, pausing and cocking an eyebrow. Three large cables hung from the vaulted ceiling of the warehouse, dangling down just far enough for someone to reach up and snag them. Large loops were tied together at the end, enough to use them as anchors for something much heavier than a few boxes.
Like say, a human body.
She didn’t bother trying to test that theory. She made her way back outside.
It was spring but she could still see her breath when she slid the warehouse door open, not bothering to close it behind her. She wouldn’t be back, nobody would care. If the cops happened on this warehouse, they wouldn’t find anything worthwhile anyway.
Her prey was getting smarter.
Pulling her jacket in closer around her shoulders, she ignored the incessant itch on her right one and grabbed her helmet off the seat, slipping it on before straddling the bike, ripping it to life.
She was getting closer to it. She could feel it.
With a large burst of sound, she slipped the bike into gear and took off violently, leaving behind a spray of gravel and a large cloud of dust.
She headed back towards the road, leaving the warehouse to its seclusion.
“Geez, you look like crap.”
“Wow, thanks, Sid,” Dean replied, sliding onto the barstool next to his friend. He felt like crap and now he looked like crap although he didn’t need either a mirror or someone telling him this. He could only imagine the pale skin, the circles under his eyes and the glare he shot every single person who was within ten feet of him.
He smiled at Karen the bartender when she sidled up next to them. “Just the usual, Kay.”
“Comin’ up,” she said with a smile and a wink. Dean's return smile was tight; he wasn’t in the mood to play into Karen’s little flirts tonight. He just wanted to get some goddamn alcohol in his system to scrub his brain with like a normal, warm-blooded person who hadn’t slept a decent night of sleep in well over a month.
Dean glanced at Sid was who was staring at him.
“No, seriously,” Sid said. “I don’t think liquor is your friend tonight, man.”
“Yeah, well,” Dean said warily, rubbing his face as the lady behind the bar set the tumbler on a napkin before him. He shot her a half-assed smiled to which she smirked before he grabbed the cup. He tilted it to Sid. “You know what they say.” He slammed the whiskey before waving at Karen again.
“No, what do they say?”
Dean opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He shrugged, putting his hand on the filled glass when she set it down and shot Sid a smirk. “I don’t know, man, whatever they say about booze.”
“Okay, whoa, let’s take a step back here,” Sid said, putting his hands up and Dean just stared at him. He felt a deeper exhaustion settling in his bones than he remembered feeling for a long time. What he wouldn’t do to sleep for five fucking minutes without seeing his face, her face…
Every single damn time he closed his eyes he was seeing Sam or Buffy. The first time he hadn’t dreamt about Sam was well over a month ago; it was the first time he’d gotten some relief only it was replaced with his future self’s memories of Buffy, of the five years that never were. And now they were taking turns, pulling up certain Fun Sam and Buffy Facts and slapping his brain with them whenever he drifted off. It was driving him up the fucking wall.
None of it was helped that he was starting to feel a gross sense of resentment towards Buffy as her dreams became more and more frequent… because it meant he wasn’t seeing Sammy, even though he had prayed for that relief for months. It was fucked up.
He just wanted darkness, oblivious… some damn peace.
“What the hell happened to you?”
Dean shook his head, rubbing his eyes, his eyelids feeling heavy and scratchy and he fought the urge to lay his head down on the bar and take a quick nap. He still had to drive home.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” Dean answered honestly.
Sid angled his head, trying to catch Dean’s eye but Dean just focused his gaze on the amber liquid in his glass.
“Are you toasted already?”
“What?” Dean asked, shooting him an annoyed look. “No. No, I just had a bit of a rough night, that’s all.”
Sid held out his hands in the universal ‘spit it out’ gesture and Dean just looked at him. Sid shrugged. “Come on.”
“Oh no,” Dean drawled.
Sid interrupted him, “How many months have we been coming here and how often have you not said a word about anything going on inside that freaky head of yours?”
Dean frowned at his choice of words, shooting him a look before taking all the whiskey down in one gulp again. He motioned to Karen as a memory of talking to Sam filtered through his mind. Amazing how a few words could bring up the most vivid memories. Hell, amazing how a few thoughts could bring up the most vivid dreams.
He was a walking, talking fucked-up example of someone who’d escaped from a loony bin he didn't remember checking into.
Dean shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
Sid snorted and Dean smirked at the sound. The strange thing was he wanted to talk; he needed to talk about it. It wasn’t just a need to get Sid off his back, he really needed to talk to someone and make sure he wasn’t going bat shit crazy on accident. He couldn’t believe that he was just seeing things; he knew there was a reason that the only thing he could dream about was suddenly Buffy-related.
Because if there wasn’t a damn reason, he didn’t know what to do.
And then again, maybe this was just the inevitable happening - he didn’t have Sammy here, he didn’t have the hunt; he didn’t have anything but the memories, constantly pushing at him, pressing in. Dean couldn’t believe how much his mind was opening up like a broken damn inside his broken head, letting loose all sorts of things he thought he had put away forever.
At first, seeing a few things wasn’t so bad. Almost like a soothing balm he hadn’t expected. But now, after the last month of sleepless rest, he was starting to get a little pissed off. How much could one freaking man take? Take his girl, take his brother and then spend months torturing him with it…
God, how he wished he could stick it to Zachariah one more time.
He was pretty sure it was a combination of the lackluster sleep with too many dreams and his third double whiskey in a matter of minutes but he sighed, cradling his forehead in his palm.
“I don’t know, I just haven’t been sleeping… and I’ve been…” Dean cleared his throat, closing his eyes. “Seeing things lately.” Sid raised an eyebrow and Dean cut him to the quick. “Not things, a person. A someone. Someone I used to know a long time ago.”
“So I take it this means an old girlfriend?” Sid asked and Dean chuckled dryly, shrugging as he sipped from his glass.
“I guess you could say that. It’s… complicated,” he breathed, staring at the mirror behind the bar. He completely avoided his own reflection; he had no desire to see the road kill his face was.
“So that’s what all your weird behavior’s been about?” Sid continued, motioning to Karen for another beer as he looked at Dean. Dean just looked at him in response and Sid shrugged. “A guy’s bound to notice things. What, did you run into her or something? See her somewhere or with someone?” Dean shot him a tired glance and Sid slapped his shoulder. “Come on, man, we’ve all been there.”
Dean couldn’t help the amused smile as he finished his third glass. Oh, if only he knew…
“So tell me about her,” Sid said. He watched Dean expectantly as Dean waved Karen down for another. “And hold up on those drinks, man, or I’ll be the one driving you home and delivering you to Lisa.” He caught the slight grimace on Dean’s face. “Oh, tell me Lisa doesn’t know about your girl.”
Dean shook his head. “No, I’ve just been… off. I haven’t been sleeping.” He touched his temple to finish the thought with an ‘I’m fucked in the head’ gesture.
Sid chuckled, gesturing to Dean’s face. “Understatement, my friend, understatement.”
“That’s what friends are for.” He slapped Dean’s back. “You know, if I didn’t know better, I would say we’re having an actual conversation. A real conversation. About things. About people in your life. This is good!”
The sound bites coming from the television stopped the grin Dean was about to shoot Sid’s way and he turned to glance at the tiny screen behind the bar where Karen stood watching. It was a newscast talking about dead bodies showing up in the next town over.
Dean frowned, leaning forward and ignoring Sid, said, “Hey, Kay, turn that up.”
Karen glanced at him before turning the TV up. The news reporter’s serious voice echoed in the bar and Dean stared at her visage where she stood in front of a large white-washed wall, blue and red lights dancing on it behind her from the cop cars.
“Tonight marks the second warehouse to be found housing three or more dead bodies. Police have yet to release the identities of the victims or the circumstances surrounding their deaths but they have confirmed that all victims involved in the Warehouse Murders were young females, averaging in their early 20’s. It all started when just last week police received an anonymous tip from a Good Samaritan reporting the first three bodies in Wabash. Police believe these two incidents may have a connection despite the locale change. They will release more information as it becomes available.”
The reporter glanced at her notepad.
“Police have officially issued a warning to all surrounding towns to be cautious and vigilant as the investigation continues. They are urging people to be aware of their surroundings and to call police with any suspicious activity. Unfortunately at this time that is all the information being released, but when we get it, so will you. Reporting live from Bloomington, this is Clarissa Vanza with KARE 11. Back to you, Dave.”
“Gruesome,” Sid said but Dean didn’t respond. Karen’s slim, tattooed wrist reached out to turn the volume back down as the anchors came back to the screen. Dean sat back on his stool, his eyes glued to the screen. Karen came over to refill his glass, an eyebrow raised at him in question but Dean didn’t notice, his mind churning. She poured anyway.
“Thanks, Kay,” Dean said absently, holding his glass as he furrowed his brow, mulling over the newscast. Warehouse. Dead bodies. He felt like he should be concerned about it. Like that little tickle he usually got in the back of his head should be alerting him to something.
It was suddenly like trying to push through a puffy hallway of cotton inside his mind as he tried to connect his thoughts together…
It was probably a crazy hobo walking around kidnapping young woman. Classy.
For some reason that seemed to fit better…
“You’re starin’ at Karen’s ass, dude, you’re gonna make that girl think you’re interested,” Sid continued, chuckling and Dean shook himself from his reverie. He blushed when he saw Karen throw him a grin and Dean frowned at her. And then he noticed the beginnings of an intricate tattoo on her lower back when she leaned over to grab a dishrag. Sid slapped his shoulder. “Okay, if you aren’t toasted yet, you doin’ drugs? Crystal? Cocaine? Come on, what’re you hiding in there?”
“What?” Dean asked, turning to look at him and Sid made a face.
“You sure it’s just a lack of sleep bogging you down there, buddy?” Sid asked and Dean shook his head.
“Yeah, something like that.” Dean threw back his drink, his eyes finding the TV screen again. The volume was down and a commercial advertising deodorant was on.
He felt something ominous, but it wasn’t anything he felt like he needed to jump into action with… like he should know something, but he couldn’t reach it. Like it wasn’t necessary to be concerned about it.
Dean fought the urge to yawn; one thing he did know was that he should probably get going before he really was too toasted to drive and he had to explain too much to Lisa.
Karen came back, leaning over the bar and grabbed his glass, her fingers brushing along his arm, ready to pour him another. Dean jerked at the sensation before covering his glass, shaking his head. “No, I’m good.”
“Okay,” Karen replied, shooting him a smile, before turning back to the TV, setting the bottle down noisily.
Dean stood, ignoring the world around him wiggling just a little too much and he pushed his stool in. He fished his wallet out of his pocket, Sid turning towards him. Dean dropped a few bills on the bar.
“I get one bit of information out of you and then poof, you’re gone.”
Dean smiled apologetically. “It’s not that, man. I just forgot there’s a few things I need to do before heading home.”
“And dead bodies remind you of things you need to do?” Sid asked, his tone joking and he let out a laugh. Dean smiled uneasily at the words.
“Yeah, I know. I’m weird.” Dean waved his hand at him. “I’m out.”
“Your entire world is becoming an understatement, my friend,” Sid said loudly to Dean’s back as Dean exited the bar with a wave over his shoulder. Sid was getting too smart for his own good.
The cool night air touched his face and Dean breathed with relief, feeling better with the lack of stale bar air in his lungs, the fogginess leaving his brain. He frowned, turning to look back at the closed door before shaking his head. Definitely a combination of no sleep, too much whiskey, Sid rattling off in his ear and Kay’s mesmerizing tattoos that he never bothered to notice before…
Maybe he’d try those sleeping pills he knew Lisa kept somewhere in the house. Get some goddamn sleep. Or maybe just resort to his good old fashioned tactics and slam his own bottle when he got back to the house - he sincerely needed some oblivion.
Dean started to his truck when a loud slap of metal echoed in the night from behind him.
Dean paused, turning to look over his shoulder at the large decrepit building next to the bar. The building was tall and abandoned, what Lisa called, “The place where the government takes you when they want you gone.” She didn’t like the bar he and Sid chose, The Backspace - not that he could blame her.
Dean shook his head, unlocking the driver’s side door and swinging it open when another loud slap of metal echoed out into the night, coming again from the building.
Dean stopped, staring over his shoulder, his brow furrowed. He could feel the tug of sleep pushing at the frayed edges of his mind, urging him to go home and go to bed, but that was too distinct a sound to be coming from anything but a human being.
It came again, louder this time, and Dean couldn’t ignore it anymore.
A normal person would do just that and pretend like nothing was happening or maybe even call the cops. Well, he sure wasn’t normal and there was no harm in taking a little looksee.
Dean leaned into the truck, feeling the familiar rush of adrenaline in response to action as he grabbed his gun from under the seat. Clicking the safety off, he kept it low as he checked the clip before snapping it back into place and sliding it into the band of his pants at the small of his back. It felt surprisingly good going through the familiar motions, like he’d just found an old friend.
Dean checked to make sure Sid hadn’t followed him out before he made his way towards the building. A flash of white caught the edge of his eye and Dean jerked to a stop, sliding behind a parked car, but there was nothing there. He frowned, rubbing his eyes to refocus them, but there was still nothing.
“Jesus, Dean,” he breathed, shaking his head.
Maybe he should get his eyes checked. Or maybe he should get off the damn ground and go back to his truck. What was he doing? What were the odds that anything was happening in there other than a little raccoon or something? What was he going to do, shoot the little black-eyed sucker? Since when was he fucking pest control?
Dean stood up. He was three words from talking himself into just leaving when he saw her.
Dean felt like someone had gut-punched him again. His insides hollowed out as he watched her move around, glancing up at the building, wearing the same Army fatigue pants that he had seen when he’d visited 2014, the same gun holster… He knew with every instinctual nerve in his body that he was looking at Buffy Summers as she darted around a few pieces of debris inside the fence surrounding the building lot. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, as she paused at the door, trying to handle. Even he could hear the jangle of the locked knob and she looked around.
Dean couldn’t move, even if he wanted to. He was paralyzed, watching her…
What was she doing here?
She picked up a large piece of scrap metal and slammed it into the doorknob a few times, the large angry clanging sound echoing in the street and in Dean’s head, but he still didn’t move as the knob finally gave way, the door popping open.
With her customary shrug, she tossed the metal over her shoulder and went in.
“Buffy?” he said softly, his throat closed. The door was still open, the metal still sat where she had tossed it. He wasn’t seeing things. It was her, it was really her. And he was standing there like a goddamn idiot, not doing anything about it.
Dean didn’t realize he was moving until he found himself at the fence. He scaled it easily, pulling himself over and landing with a heavy grunt. He was at the door in just a few second, ripping it open…
“Buffy?” His voice echoed down the long dusty hallway.
Dean waited for her to pop her head out and ask him the question that had been bouncing around in his head for the last several months: what the hell are you doing? But nothing happened save for dust particles dancing in the moonlight.
Dean knew the minute he stepped a few more feet into the building that he wasn’t going to find crap, including her. Dean glanced at the floor; the concrete was coated in a thick layer of dust and his were the only footprints.
It hadn't been real.
Dean let out an exasperated breath at himself.
Christ, she wasn’t even there. She had never been there. He had imagined
it. He was fucking hallucinating.
That dark black hole in his chest sunk in a little more. Dean closed his eyes, feeling a frantic need to ram his fist into the wall, the memory clear as day in his mind as he saw her trying the door, breaking it open. It had been her, it had to have been. It was too clear, too perfect…
But when he opened his eyes, he knew he hadn’t.
“I’m going to need a new liver,” Dean whispered, rubbing his eyes until nothing was left but sparks of light against his lids. Letting out a heavy breath, Dean turned to leave when he heard a shuffle in the room to the left. Dean stopped, his stomach dropping and he stared at the dark space before reaching out, pushing the partially closed door.
Moonlight from the main door lit up the space; papers were scattered all over the floor, a long table was pushed against the wall and chairs were upturned everywhere. Graffiti and old motivational posters decorated the walls. Dean took a step in, holding his breath, scanning the space. A shot of trepidation shot through his gut when something in the corner shuffled again.
“Buffy?” Dean asked without thinking, his voice croaking and he felt foolish the minute it came out. He gritted his jaw as the black hole flared, reaching further into his chest like disgusting black mold. Rationally he knew this wasn’t Buffy - that someone must be slipping him acid because he was seeing shit - but it was like he was dancing on puppet strings.
The corner shifted again and Dean reached back to make sure his gun was still there, his fingers itching to hold it when something moved. Dean stepped forward, unable to stop until he saw what it was - quite the ‘what if’ in his stupid head - and he reached out to touch it.
The lump suddenly jumped up, a loud shriek coming from its lips as it whirled around. A man’s shaggy head popped out of the sodden blanket and Dean jumped back in alarm, his foot catching the corner of something heavy and he caught himself before he fell on his ass.
“Whoa there, buddy,” Dean said, his voice shaky, holding his hands up. “It’s all good.”
“Nobody, nothing, just…” Dean rolled his eyes at himself. Christ, what the hell had he actually thought, that Buffy was sitting in the corner, sucking on her hair, waiting for him to come to find her? “Just heard something, that’s all.”
“You hear something?” the guy replied, taking a menacing step forward and Dean reciprocated in the opposite direction.
“You know what, my bad, dude.” Dean pointed at the door behind him. “I’ll just get out of your way.”
Backing out of the room, Dean kept his eyes glued on the homeless man before dodging out. He yanked the main door closed behind him and glancing at the building again before looking around. The metal piece he had seen Buffy using was gone. He turned back to the door and swung it open again, frowning. The lock had long ago rusted off and the door barely shut anymore.
“Real smooth there, Dean. Let’s get raped by the local Homeless Men Society to cap off the best year ever.”
Pulling himself up over the fence again, Dean made his way back to his truck. Opening the door, he slipped his gun out, staring at it for a moment before leaning over and sliding it back into its hidden place.
He didn’t see the shadow on the other side of the building, watching him berate himself before he got in and drove away.
*“Get that thing away from me.”
“If you would just hold still for five seconds, it would be over and you could stop your goddamn bitching.”
“I already said no, so knock it off.”
“Jesus Christ, I just want one picture of you!”
“You said that thirty pictures ago!”
“Gee, I wonder why, maybe it’s because you’re making a stupid face or blurring yourself on purpose just to piss me off.”
“Oh yeah, that’s why.” Dean rolled his eyes at her and he looked over to see her glowering at him before she tossed the camera into the backseat, flipping him off. “Geez, Summers, don’t get your panties all bunched up.”
“Don’t be such a jerk, Winchester,” she replied mockingly and Dean smirked at her. Buffy just glared at him, crossing her arms and turning to look out the passenger window.
The lush forest rushed past them as Dean pushed seventy on the small highway. He watched the wind blowing out her hair, so much longer than when they had first met. It was tied back in a loose braid but she never caught all the strands. And they were always tangled to hell when they finally stopped but she didn’t care. He liked that she didn’t care. He liked her smooth, tangled, messy and clean. He didn’t care.
“No, Dean, just drive. Just drive your stupid big car to the stupid town so we can pull over so I can properly kick your stupid ass.”
“You know my ass is yours anytime you want it, so why wait?” he replied smartly and Buffy gave him an impatient look and he chuckled before slowing the car down, pulling it off to the side. Buffy didn’t move, her arms still crossed, her body rocking with the car when Dean hit the brakes too hard. She didn’t move when he reached into the backseat to grab the camera and she ignored him when he tapped her shoulder with it. “Alright, come on.”
“No,” she said stubbornly, her eyes fixed on a tree.
“Screw off, Dean.”
“Come on, look at me.”
“Come on, eat me.”
“Oh don’t tease me, baby,” he said with a chuckle and Buffy whipped around, her arm out to smack him in the chest when a bright flash went off in her face. She gasped at him before growling and reaching for the camera, but he held it away from her, laughing.
“God, you’re such a dick,” she snapped but there was no anger or annoyance left in her voice. He knew his girl better than she thought as she crawled on top of him to reach the camera he held in his left hand out the window. Dean wrapped his other arm around her waist, holding her securely in place against his body as she struggled.
Buffy glared at him, trying to push him away, but he only smirked and pressed his lips to her. She grumbled before pulling away with faux look of consternation and in response he tickled her. Buffy let out a loud shriek, batting at his shoulders and he laughed with her.
It felt good, amazing… right. It felt warm and comfortable and delicious. Everything he could want or need was right here in his arms and he was constantly amazed at what each day brought him. Even after all the crap - all the hell - this last year and a half had been what someone who talked in girly poetic format would call perfection. She had stubbornly stuck around and had gotten him through one of the darkest periods of his life and even then still stuck around, worming her way under his skin and making a warm, snug place for herself, earning not only his respect, but his trust.
Buffy finally cracked a smile as she hovered over him, readjusting so her chest was pressed against his and he licked his lips at the sensation.
“What’d you turn me into, Summers?” he said softly. She smirked, the scar rising up against her cheek. He pulled his arm inside, dropping the camera on the floor. Dean traced the scar before touching her lips, his thumb running across her bottom one and she opened her mouth slightly. He felt a tiny puff of hot air and her eyes were liquid heat as she stared at him.
Dean kissed her again. The kiss was long, languid, hot and sticky. Her skin was slick from the overwhelming humidity outside and he wanted more, pulling her tighter against his chest. Buffy responded in kind, rubbing herself against him, her hands in his hair, holding him close.
Without an ounce of warning, she suddenly broke the kiss with a tiny giggle and slipped out of his arms. Dean made a tiny distraught sound at the loss of contact and he moved to grab her back but she was too quick.
Buffy wiggled her way down his lap and Dean let out a broken breath as her hands, arms and shoulders rubbed everything and anything in between his chest and his feet. And then she was back, scooting out of his lap and sitting next to him, her head pressed against his chest, the camera angled at them. He could see the huge smile on her face, her cheek pressed against him as she stared into the camera and he couldn’t hold back his own at how ridiculously dorky she could be without even knowing it. That he would find such a think so damn cute literally made his head spin.
Dean grunted, rolling away from the warm hand shaking him awake, fighting to keep the memory from fading again but it fell away. The hand was relentless.
“What?” he groaned, squinting open an eye to glare at his dream intruder. The living room was pitch black, the only light coming from the upstairs hallway, barely lighting Lisa where she leaned over him on the recliner. Dean blinked himself awake, shaking the fuzziness away. “Hey. Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Lisa replied. Dean shifted in the chair, grimacing when his back protested painfully from the stupid thing. Lisa paused. “You were dreaming again.”
“What?” he asked absently, her words not penetrating and he rubbed his eyes, trying to reorient himself before the words finally hit home. He looked up at her. “I was dreaming?”
“Yeah. You were talking about going to Buffy.” Dean’s heart seized at the sound of her name on Lisa’s lips and he stared at her, mouth gaped, frozen. “What’s Buffy?”
“Nothing,” Dean replied instantly, pulling himself to his feet. He maneuvered around her, making a show of stretching his arms as he fought the insane urge to not too politely tell her to never say that name again. “Just a wacky dream, I guess. What time is it?”
“Oh, man, I fell asleep,” Dean said roughly. “I’ll, uh… I’ll be up in a sec.”
“Hey,” Lisa said, grabbing his arm before he could pass. “Are you okay?” She angled her head to catch his eye but Dean nodded, turning away from her. He headed towards the main picture window, checking the locks. Lisa watched him. “You’re getting kinda… I don’t know… antsy.”
Dean could hear what she was really saying: ‘You’re getting really weird and it’s freaking me out because you’re clearly hiding more than a few horror stories from me and I’m afraid you’re going to put our lives in danger.’
With a flare of annoyance, Dean wished she would just come out and say it. Do the easy thing and kick his crazy ass to the curb.
“I’m fine. Just… not sleeping enough.” What a crock. His body was sleeping plenty. His mind on the other hand… He glanced at her. “I’m fine.”
“You know, you keep repeating that, maybe one day you’ll be right.” The words were said with a gentle tone but they hung stagnant in the air between them. She sighed, putting her hands up in surrender. “Okay.”
Lisa watched him make the rounds through the windows before checking the back door. She watched the way his body tightened every time he looked outside, almost like he was prepared for something to come flying through the glass; how his hands shook slightly when he didn’t have anything left to do for the night, when all that was left was to go upstairs and sleep; the way he stopped and stared absently for a moment, lost inside his head, before coming back… less and less each time.
“I’m always here if you want to talk.” Dean paused, but he didn’t look at her. “You know that, right?”
Dean shot her a half smile over his shoulder. “Yeah. I know.”
Lisa nodded slowly. She headed back to the stairs and Dean followed behind her. He checked the front door and was heading into the kitchen when Lisa’s hand shot out, grabbing his arm again, pulling him close. Dean's chest tightened, but he didn't pull away. He had no reason to pull away. Lisa stared up at him but he didn't meet her eyes. She touched his cheek to stop him when he looked away.
“You coming to bed?”
“Yeah. I’ll be up in a minute.”
Lisa smiled, nodding, but she didn’t let him go. She held him in place when he tried to move away again and she cupped his cheeks, standing on her toes to reach his lips.
She kissed him softly, inhaling his scent. He smelled like aged whiskey and wood chips from work with a hint of the cologne she had gotten him for Christmas. Simple, gentle. He smelled like Dean and for a second, it was just her and him.
The kiss stayed easy, gentle… and then Dean responded, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her against his chest, deepening the kiss. Lisa breathed a sigh of relief, opening herself to him, a pool of warmth coming to life in the pit of her stomach. She felt his body hardening, felt his hands pulling her closer before he suddenly stopped, breaking away. Lisa's insides turning to ice again when he stepped back, giving her his customary ‘I’m good’ smile and her throat tightened when he went back to staring at the wall instead of looking at her.
She felt something inside her splinter.
“I’ll be up in a minute,” he said before heading into the kitchen.
Buffy stood across the street from the large open house. She stood in the shadow of a streetlight, watching his progress into the kitchen where he turned on the light. She could see through the large window parallel to the front door the woman standing at the stairs where he’d left her, her arms crossed. Buffy narrowed her eyes as she turned and headed back upstairs.
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” she whispered, her eyes ticking back to the kitchen, watching Dean through the partially closed blinds as he grabbed a glass and pulled down a large glass bottle of amber liquid from on top of the fridge.
So Dean was a normie now; playing house with the chick, the kid and even a white picket fence.
Buffy shifted her right shoulder in the leather jacket, bringing her hand up to rub the spot, the always constant itch never dissipating.
She watched him pour a glass but he didn’t drink it. Instead he stared at the table and she imagined this was the point where she should feel bad for him. Cue the sappy music. Feel bad that he was one of them now and apparently it wasn’t all candy canes and lollipops.
“Dean Winchester,” Buffy mused softly, the name rolling off her tongue naturally. It’d been a damn long time since she’d let herself think about him - a damn long time and she had spent a lot of that time burying all the crap from the last time she’d seen him because it was never anything but a distraction, and distractions got you killed.
But now here she was, running into him on a hunt only to see he had checked out long ago.
Buffy ignored the pang in her gut at the thought of him playing that role - finding that life… It wasn’t her problem, was it?
A long moment passed by before he finally drank what he had poured.
How fun that a big baddy was sweeping through his town and Dean Winchester’s biggest problem was fixing sink pipes, changing the oil in his car and patching a broken fence.
Buffy chuckled incredulously. “What are the fucking odds?”
She smirked at him from her shadow across the way before he moved towards her and shut the blinds.
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