The trick was knowing how to blend in with the other after-hours employees, and staying far enough away from them that they didn't ask questions. One thing he didn't count on was that she would be among them. His eyes widened and he ducked his head, focusing on picking up the trash, until he reconsidered and looked back up at her. "You're not supposed to be here." He said quietly. Of course, it was a wild guess.

Buffy looked startled. "How do you know?" She asked nervously, glancing around.

Dean shook his head and smiled. "Hoping to swipe some souvenirs?"


"What are you doing here, then?" He eyed her. "You're not dressed for trash detail."

Buffy put one hand on her hip. "Maybe my parole officer decided I needed to do some community service."

Dean laughed. "Sweetheart, you wouldn't get in trouble if you shot a man in Reno to watch him die. Not when you look like that."

Buffy frowned. "Okay..." Telling the truth was going to be enjoyable. He would freak out and leave her alone once he decided she was insane, and then she could do her job and get out of here. "I heard this place was haunted, and it's not my usual kind of case, but I needed a break from all the weirdo demons I've been coming in contact with lately." She turned her back and started picking up trash, in case anyone wondered why the two of them weren't working.

Dean looked around nervously and licked his lips before he walked toward her and whispered in her ear. "Do you always blurt it out like that to complete strangers?"

"When I want them to leave me alone, I do." She turned her head to look at him. "And since you're not running in the other direction, I can only assume one thing."

"Maybe I'm dangerous." Dean smirked, keeping his voice low. "You think I would care if you had just escaped from some asylum if I had plans for you myself?"

"I've had my back to you for a couple of minutes now." Buffy retorted. "If you wanted me dead, you're slacking."

"I didn't say a word about wanting to kill you." He mumbled.

She turned to face him, blushing. "You don't even know me."

"That doesn't make much of a difference to me." He shrugged. "Not usually, anyway."

"And if this is how you pick up women, I can only imagine the type that fall for your routine." Buffy muttered, walking away.

Dean followed behind her, picking up a few things along the way, just to keep up the charade that he was working. "Being honest isn't a routine."

"No, but that whole tall, dark, and deadly thing is."

He frowned at her. "Okay, humor me for a second. What if I wanted to do whatever I thought was necessary to get your attention? What would it take?"

"How do you know I'm not with somebody?"

"Like who, that guy you were with earlier today?" Dean snorted. "And you don't think I'd be a better choice? Besides, I don't see a ring on your finger."

"I'm not with Andrew!" Buffy hissed. "That's gross."

He smiled lazily at her. "So? What would it take? Flowers and a box of candy, right?"

She rolled her eyes as she looked up at him. "You could maybe start by asking me what my name is before you get visions in your head of white picket fences and a dog named Spot."

He leaned toward her. "What's your name?"

"Buffy. What's yours?"

"Dean." He paused. "And I would never name a dog Spot."

"What would you name it, then?" She blurted, smiling.

"Something cooler than that. Tougher. Like Bullet."

"Bullet?" Buffy snickered at him. "I hate guns. It's not going to work out between us. Sorry." She bit her lip to hide her smile as she started walking away.

Dean hurried to catch up to her. "So, I guess this is a bad time to tell you my last name's Winchester?"

They were an hour away from the roadhouse when Dean's cell phone beeped. His first thought was, 'Dad', but then he remembered that John was gone. He had burned his father's corpse himself, with Sam standing there watching him as though he had lost his mind.
He glanced in the rearview mirror to look for cars behind him, then snorted. Nobody in their right minds would be on some back country road at two o'clock in the morning.
Maybe he had. He pulled over to the shoulder of the road anyway, and flipped the phone open to read the text message.

Dawn 911 Cleveland

Dean pinched the bridge of his nose and glanced over at Sam. "We're not going to the roadhouse." He mumbled, pulling a u-turn and driving in the other direction.

"Where are we going?" Sam asked.

Dean put his foot down on the gas pedal. He tossed his cell phone at Sam. "Cleveland. Call that number back. Ask for Dawn, tell her you're my geek ass brother, and that we're on our way."

When they pulled up in front of the all-too-familiar two story house, Dean's jaw clenched. His sister-in-law (former) unfolded herself from the front porch steps and walked toward the car as he got out. Dawn smiled at him. "I'm glad you're here. I wasn't sure you'd show."

"You're the one that said it was an emergency." Dean shrugged.

Sam watched the exchange in silence. His brother seemed nonchalant, but only one thing could make Dean drive like a maniac: a family member in trouble.

"Well, I sort of lied." Dawn admitted. "But hey, since you're here, you should come in." She grabbed his hand when he would have protested, and practically dragged him into the house.

Sam followed them, grinning.

Dawn pushed the door shut behind Sam and stepped around him, moving back toward Dean like she was afraid he'd turn and run from her.

"Dawn!" Dean snapped. "What the hell's going on? Five words or less." Even as he said it, a corner of his mouth curved up slightly. Every second of the day, he was reminded of his wife. When he said things that seemed like they came from her, he felt closer to her somehow. And then when he remembered, 'oh yeah, she's gone'...he felt colder.

Dawn's smile got bigger and she squealed. "Buffy's home!" She stopped and counted on her fingers quickly. "You're an ass."

Sam couldn't help smiling at the woman's antics, even as her words registered.

"Buffy's-" Dean shook his head. "No. She was a pile of ashes." He glared. "Don't fuck with me like this." His voice rose. "I'm trying to move on!"

"I'm not fucking with you." Dawn retorted. "Go look in the kitchen."

Dean stared at Dawn for a couple of seconds, then turned and strode into the kitchen. His gaze shifted from the left to the right, and his breath caught in his throat when he saw her there at the table. "How are you here?"

Buffy got up and walked toward him. "Come sit with me." She held a hand out to him.

Dean folded his arms across his chest and shook his head at her. "I don't even know if you're you. You could be anything else, and maybe you tricked Dawn, but I'm not buying it."

"Go get whatever you need." Buffy murmured. "I'll be right here." She studied his face. "I missed you."

Dean glared at her as he turned and went back to the car. He opened the trunk and started gathering things. Holy water, rock salt, a crucifix. He thought for a second, then picked up the book of Latin prayers.

Sam and Dawn stood on the porch like sentries when he walked back up to the front door. His brother frowned. "What are you doing, Dean?"

"I've gotta be sure." Dean muttered, gulping. He pushed the door open and went back into the kitchen, setting everything on the table.

Buffy eyed the pile of supplies with an almost amused look. "I'm not going to like being shot by the rock salt, but you can make it up to me later. And you'd better."

"Shut up." Dean snapped. His hands shook as he opened the bottle of holy water.

Buffy held her hand out over the sink. "Come on. Let's just get this over with."

Dean poured some of the water from the bottle over her hand. It ran off and went down the drain. His eyes widened as he turned his head to look at her.

Buffy looked exasperated. "Want me to get the-"

Dean set the bottle on the counter and pulled her into his arms. "God. I'm sorry." He murmured. "It's you. I know it. I was freaked. Can ya blame me? What are you doing here?"

Buffy giggled and stood up on her toes to kiss him gently. "Come sit down with me and I'll tell you everything."

Dean pulled a chair out for her at the table, then sat beside her, gripping her hands in his. "Sam!" He yelled, not taking his eyes from Buffy's. "Get our stuff outta the car. We're stayin' here."

"The demon didn't kill me. I don't think it knew what to do with me, since I'm a slayer." Buffy mused. "All the ashes it leaves behind - they're like, leftovers. Not from the women being burned alive. It's just a sort of side-effect." She paused, trying to gather her thoughts. This wasn't the time for her to babble, the way she usually did. "He takes another dimension. Doesn't have to torture us. Separation's enough. We only get to sit there and watch life go on around us until it's enough to make us break."

"There've been other women taken since you." Dean interjected. "Did you see them?"

"I couldn't get to them. Remember me telling you about the Initiative and all the glass cages? It was like that. Worse, but similar. I don't know why it took me. They were all mothers. I wasn't."

"I loved you."

Buffy's eyebrow rose.

"Love you." Dean corrected himself. "It was enough to piss that thing off."

"Maybe because I'm a slayer, it didn't want us to have a chance to have a kid." Buffy guessed. "But I got out. I freed who I could. There weren't many left."

Dean pushed his chair back and tugged on her hands. "C'mere."

She smiled and sat down in his lap. "I don't know how we're going to explain this to people. I saw you shoot that shapeshifter. Looks like we're not going to be able to vote or anything. Pay taxes." She smiled.

"Willow can still hack into stuff, right?" Dean asked. "We'll get her to help us out."

"You want to pay taxes?" Buffy grinned.

"Nah." Dean put his arms around her and stood up. "Where the hell's your room?"

"Same place it's always been." Buffy told him.

"I think we're long overdue for a kid, don't you?" He murmured.