In Need of Comfort
The Hardest Thing is Living
A birthday story for LaedieDuske. Hon, I know some of this is sad, but it's also uplifting. A strange mix of angst and humor. Hope you like it.
Thank you to Summerwood and the FICWISE Writing Group for all your input!
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Supernatural, and I am making no money on this.
* * * Chapter One
Buffy let the amber whiskey slide down her throat, wrinkling her nose and gasping at the burn. It wasn't her usual fruity cocktail, but tonight the potent whiskey seemed more appropriate.
It hadn't been a good day.
She stared into the shot glass. The color of the liquid was like honey, but it seemed washed out to her. None of the colors here were vivid enough, not bright enough or dark enough or deep enough.
It wasn't just the colors. It was everything. The sounds, the music. Something was missing. Something she'd had once... before she was pulled out.
Pulled back here. Back to this life, this pain.
She stared at the whiskey in disappointment. It wasn't doing what she'd hoped. It wasn't numbing her or making her forget.
"So... did you figure out the secret yet?"
Startled, she looked up, to see a tall guy with brown hair and sideburns, a touch too long. She almost had to crane her neck to see him. She was a bit annoyed...she really didn't want to make small talk right now.
"What?" she asked, letting her irritation show. She deliberately turned back to her drink, hoping Gargantuan would get the clue.
"You were staring so hard at the whiskey, I figured it was telling you some deep, dark secret. Something not for us mere mortals." She noticed his hands, large and calloused, when he gestured at her drink, but it was his voice, soft and kind, that made her look at him again.
Buffy let out a little snort. "Been a while since I've been called that."
"What, a mere mortal? Or a secret keeper?" He smiled. "Is this seat taken? You look like you could use some company." Secrets
, she thought. So used to keeping secrets.
She couldn't keep a lid on one secret, the biggest secret of all. And she'd paid the price. But at least Dawn didn't have to... Her sister didn't have to die.
She could have borne everything but that.
"I'm not very good company," Buffy admitted. "Not tonight." She'd already decided this guy wasn't a pickup artist, though he was kind of cute. But so tall. God, what did they feed him growing up, some kind of super-spinach?
"Well, as it happens, neither am I," he said. It had only been a few weeks since Bobby had breathed his last. The pain was still sharp, muting everything else. He found it hard to move sometimes, to get up and hunt. And it's worse for Dean,
Sam thought, but shoved that thought aside. His brother was over there, drowning his sorrows, and he'd made it clear that he didn't want Sam's help right now. But here was someone who looked like she needed comfort. Maybe he could help her, even if he couldn't help Dean. He didn't know why, but he thought she looked like someone who smiled and laughed a lot. Normally. "Sure, help her."
That sarcastic edge, that grating voice... coming right from the stool he was about to sit on. "After all, you couldn't help Bobby, and you certainly can't help Dean or yourself..."
Sam's heart sank but he refused to look at the stool, focusing instead on the girl. Lucifer was not here. He was not real. He was still back in the cage, in Hell. "That's right, Sam. You're still in Hell. Glad you finally admitted it."
"Misery loves company?" The woman smiled sadly. "I can relate. Sure, sit down... I didn't catch your name?" You're not here. You're not here.
Sam thought furiously. This is all in my head. "Oh, I most certainly am here,"
whispered Lucifer. "But go on, delude yourself. You're just so good at it."
Sam ignored the devil in his head and smiled at the blonde. "Sam," he said, sticking out his hand.
"Buffy." She smiled at Sam. Her hand seemed tiny when placed in his, but he seemed warm, comforting. She almost didn't want to let go.
Sam's smile got wider when he sat down on the stool, with no one under him. El diablo stumbled off the seat as if Sam had shoved him. It's my head, Lucie. My rules. You're not needed here.
For good measure, Sam clenched his left hand, chafing at the wound on his palm. The half-healed wound that he kept reopening.
The pain seemed to do the trick. The devil disappeared in a shower of snow, like a bad television special effect.
"Hey, Tony!" Buffy called to the bartender, finally realizing she'd been holding Sam's hand a bit too long. She reluctantly dropped it and cradled her glass like it was precious. "Another one for me. And whatever Sam here wants. Put it on my tab."
"Thanks," Sam said. "I'll have a whiskey." He looked at Buffy, wondering what her story was. What had put that weight on her shoulders?
"So... what brings a superhero like you down to Earth to hang with us mere mortals?" Sam joked. He really wanted to ask, "Wanna talk about it," but he felt like this woman kept things close to the vest. If she wanted to open up, she would. If she didn't, well... she could take the easy way out and keep it light.
She looked at him, startled, a little suspicious at how close to the truth he'd come. But then, she realized, he was just making a play on the words "mere mortal". He couldn't know who she really was. The events this year had just made her really paranoid... She raised her glass, now full-to-the-rim with whiskey. "First, a toast."
He looked at her quizzically, but picked up his own glass and clinked hers.
"To Heaven," she whispered.
"To Heaven," he echoed, and waited for her to explain.
* * *
Dean sat, hunched over, a few feet away from his brother, sipping from Bobby's whiskey flask. He hadn't even bothered to order shot glasses, just asked them to give him a bottle. He was on his second bottle tonight, and his third refill of the flask. The numbness was welcome, even if it didn't really help. He knew he'd wake up with a splitting headache in the morning and nothing would change. But drowning his sorrows was the only way he could keep going, to find some way to mute the pain of this harsh world.
He was only slightly aware of Sammy talking to that cute blonde he'd noticed when they came in. Good for Sammy. Might as well see one Winchester get some action tonight. It wouldn't be him; his heart just wasn't in it.
Not in the chase, not in the game. If he had to be honest, it'd been like that since those damn Leviathans had come on the scene, killing Cas. Murdering the closest thing to a brother he'd had that wasn't his own blood. And now they'd murdered Bobby as well. And I couldn't do a damn thing about it.
He'd been useless. Too late to save Cas, too late to do anything but sit around while Bobby died in a hospital bed. Too stupid to figure out why Bobby wrote those numbers on his hand, the last thing he'd done before he died. It was Frank, the crazy sonofabitch, the paranoid mofo who barely knew Bobby, who'd figured out they pointed to an empty field in Wisconsin.
Dean winced. Always knew he wasn't the smart one in the family. But even college-educated Sam hadn't figured that one out. Bobby, what's so important about that field? Wish I could talk to you...
So often in the weeks since Bobby's death, he'd longed to talk to the man who'd been like a second father to him. He felt
him. Like Bobby was still here, hadn't moved on. But he knew that couldn't be true. They'd burned Bobby's bones.
The whiskey hitting his stomach felt like the fire incinerating Bobby's bones. And like fuel poured on a fire, it ignited the anger that Dean had been trying to ignore - the white hot rage he'd been trying to dull since he came into this bar. Rage at Bobby for dying and leaving them fatherless. Rage at whatever stupid fate or power had decreed it was Bobby's time. Rage at himself for failing Cas and Bobby, for not being the brother and son he should've been.
* * *
Bobby Singer stood right next to Dean and waved his hand in front of the man's face. Of course he got no reaction. Dammit, boy. Why don't you see me? Fought that reaper so I could help ya. Fat lot of good that's done.
He'd been sure that Sam would've sensed him, with that fool psychic talent of his. Not that he'd used it much since the start of the Apocalypse, but still... Seemed Sam wasn't tuned to the psychic mojo like he used ta be. He was locked in some kind of zen mode on one hand, placid and stoic, and fighting some kind of internal battle with Lucifer on the other. Oh, Bobby knew that Sam was grievin'. He was just quieter about it, tryin' to be strong for his brother. He knew these boys better than they knew themselves. He'd had a hand in raisin' 'em, after all, pickin' 'em up when John couldn't handle things, or just when the man needed a break. Or when the man dropped the ball and left 'em to fend for themselves, like stray kittens left out in the storm. There were times when he'd cursed John Winchester for a fool, puttin' revenge above his own flesh and blood.
He shook himself out of his reverie. He had a stronger chance of gettin' through to Dean. The boy had his flask, so they were already connected. But it took so much energy just to do little things like drinking Dean's beer. He hadn't yet been able to move things or write on walls, or do anything that would remotely communicate with the boys. Some help you are,
he told , there had to be a way to let the boys know he was here, ready to help. To get revenge on Dick Roman. To make sure the asshole was killed or stuffed back into purgatory, where he belonged. The frustration of inaction, the need for revenge, boiled up in Bobby like magma building up in a volcano, and he felt the urge to kill something.
Bobby damped down the urge. He would not become a murdering spirit. He was here to help the boys, that was all. He looked at Dean. The boy was sulking in his alcohol. How could he reach him, let him know he hadn't moved on? Thought I taught you better than this, boy. Where's your gumption?
* * *