The Fury of Jewels and Coal

Three girls Dean Winchester will never understand. (Lyla Garrity, River Tam, Cordelia Chase) xover


Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural, Friday Night Lights, Firefly/Serenity, the Buffyverse, or any of the characters, settings, etc. therein, nor do I own the title, which comes from an Anne Sexton poem.

Timeline: All of these are set roughly during the second half of the second season of Supernatural, but before "All Hell Breaks Loose." Lyla's section is also the summer between Season 1 and 2 of Friday Night Lights, River's is before Firefly the series and most of Serenity and ignores most of the events of both; Cordy's is the second half of Season 2 of Angel, but before Pylea.

And for my purposes in River's section, the Impala is a spaceship class, like a Firefly. Because who doesn't want to see the Winchesters in a spaceship?


Ruby: Lyla

Little towns like this always have ghosts. Dean has yet to stumble across a town that doesn't have its fair share of hauntings, usually the benign kind that scare local kids with their spectral appearances, the kind that ignore the teenagers who sneak into abandoned houses and old graveyards on cloudless summer nights because there isn't much else to do. Dean imagines that if what happened hadn't happened, he and Sam would have grown up in Lawrence, doing much the same things: getting drunk, sneaking into the basement of their high school to find the ghost of the old janitor who'd died there. Those ghosts might all be real, but they didn't belong in Dean's world and so might as well be as much a fantasy as unicorns.

It's the bloodthirsty ones that concern him, and there's a hell of a one in Dillon, Texas. It's haunting the local antique store, killed four people in the last three weeks. Sam, of course, immediately develops the theory that it's a haunted piece of furniture like that painting in New York or Bloody Mary's mirror. Dean is just excited because Cindy's Diner has the best pie he's ever eaten and there are six more kinds to try. Ghosts, after all, even the bloodiest, are child's play compared to vampires and skinwalkers and yellow-eyed demons that killed your mother.

But he dutifully interviews everyone even remotely involved with the store and the deaths, staying in his jeans and flannel instead of a suit, because these Texans seem far more impressed by his ranger's badge than he could imagine them being about one of his government agency IDs. Sam buries himself in old newspapers and microfiche at the public library in an attempt to figure out just what this ghost wants. It feels like it's all going to play out like a normal case.

He's drinking a beer in the empty parking lot of the football field at dusk when she walks by. She doesn't smile or look him over flirtatiously. She just makes a noncommittal comment about him being new in town, one that he could easily bat away if he wanted her to leave.

He doesn't.

The gates are locked, but she knows ways in, just like everyone else in town, and they end up sitting on the bleachers, looking down at the empty field and not each other, talking in the vaguest sorts of ways: weather, pie, the local motel, the hangouts here, the town's reactions to the deaths. And once the sun has dipped below the horizon, she stands up, says goodbye, walks away.

He stares after her, then down at his empty beer bottle.

Her story, when he hears it, doesn't surprise him, but he aches for her, and that's something new. He cares about the people he helps, always has, but he doesn't let himself empathize with them or feel their pain. Not when he has his pain and Sammy's to carry. Not when what's left of his beat-up heart is full of fire and a hole where Mom used to be and Sam eating SpaghettiOs in motel rooms and yellow eyes and Dad in a hospital bed. But somehow, for some reason, when he hears her story, he finds that he had a little bit of room left his in his heart after all. Not enough for him to fall in love with her, because Dean doesn't fall in love, but enough for her to slip in and him to hurt for her.

Golden girl: rich daddy's little princess, oldest daughter, straight A's, cheerleading squad, star quarterback boyfriend. Broken world: boyfriend's back and her future shattered on the same night, daddy's betrayal, seeking solace from the only person she thought could understand her pain and then being judged by everybody because of it, and Dean's finally met a girl who's a bigger mess than he is.

It's that, more than anything else, that holds him back. If she were any other girl, any other girl he's ever met, he would have talked her into the back seat of the Impala by now, using sweet words he only half-means to coax something precious away from her. But she isn't any other girl, and maybe she's not so different, either, even though he doesn't think he'll ever be able to really know all the things she keeps tightly wrapped inside. To be honest, he's not really interested in trying. He just wants to sit beside her and listen to her talk. He's pretty sure that makes him a wuss and he kind of hates himself for it, but it's true.

She catches a glimpse one day of the Winchester life in the trunk of the Impala. Her eyes clearly tell him she isn't convinced: he's not a ranger, and she knows it. Not when she's seen candles and knives and salt and crosses and holy water and comic books and skin mags all in a messy jumble. But she never says anything, never calls him on it, and so he doesn't bring it up, either. It doesn't really matter.

What she does instead is stride up, pull a shotgun out of the back and toss back a Grab one over her shoulder. Amused, he does as instructed.

She's a good shot, and he doesn't even have to add the qualifier "for a girl" to it. Not flawless, she's no Annie Oakley, but good enough for him to feel proud of her. He gives her a few pointers, and she's a quick study, too, improving immediately. Nothing flashy: she just calmly lifts the gun up to her cheek, squeezes the trigger, gives with the kickback, lifts a hand to shade her eyes as she looks to see that the coffee can is now lying on the ground, another hole for a souvenir.

They talk a little bit, but not about anything important. He doesn't tell her about Lawrence or life after it, about Dad or demons. She doesn't tell him about Jason or her dad, about rumors and football games, though he suspects that she knows he's found out all about her. The words don't matter, anyways: they have no weight here under that sky, tangled up in that dusty, humid air. What matters is a quick smile, the shrug of a bare shoulder, the flick of a long pony tail, the brush of her hand. He doesn't even try to kiss her.

He knows that there's no way she isn't being talked about again, that she must be getting lectures at home from her concerned mother (and, really, for once, Dean feels pleased instead of irritation that Mrs. Garrity is concerned, because, after all, he knows what it looks like, and he wouldn't let the guy he normally is around Lyla, not ever). She must have gained quite the reputation as the town slut, what with both the broody best friend and Dean himself hanging around. It makes him angry—she hasn't done anything wrong, and that in itself is new, because he's always promoted his reputation as a ladies' man, never once disputing the few women attributed to him that he didn't sleep with—but she never seems to mind, so he doesn't bring it up. She's not so broken that she wouldn't have walked away from him at the beginning if she really cared about her reputation anymore.

He doesn't spend all his time with her. He has a job to do, after all, protecting the people who have come in contact with the antique store over the past few weeks, still doing research, though they haven't come up with anything definitive yet, and she has a life. Still, he manages to find a few hours a day, usually around sunset, to drive out into the open land with her and shoot. Her voice, her scent, the summer air, the yellow sunlight lull him, loosening muscles and locks that have been screwed tight for years.

That's why, when it happens, he isn't nearly prepared.

He should have known that she had figured out what he really was. Probably not in a proactive kind of way—he can't see her sneaking around town gathering evidence or snooping through his motel room while he's researching—but just by keeping her eyes and her mind open. And more than that, he should have known that it wouldn't be enough to keep her away from him. He let himself get far too close to her.

When the terrified owner of the store calls him to say that Lyla Garrity had stopped by the store yesterday looking for him, he's drowned in a fear he hasn't felt since Dad died. He doesn't even take the time to call Sam, just grabs a shotgun and a bag full of salt bullets and tears over to her house (he knows which one it is, of course, even if he's never been there). It's empty: Dad long gone, Mom out running errands with the younger siblings in tow. But the door is unlocked.

It isn't a scream he hears from her bedroom, it's heavy, labored breathing, the kind that scrapes through lungs and out of an open mouth. He smells the blood, though, before he hears that, and when he throws the door open, she's lying propped up against the bed, scarlet blossoming across her white shirt till it could almost be a flowered pattern. Her eyes recognize him, even through the clouds of pain.

The ghost isn't there, but he wouldn't have stopped if it was, just sweeps her up in his arms as carefully but quickly as he can (and he's never been so glad of all his experience in these kinds of things). He's down the stairs and outside without thinking about it, listening only to the scratching sound of her breathing. As he eases her across the backseat of the Impala, he wishes that that he was good at the kind of softly-spoken encouragement, whispers of soothing words that he remembers his mother murmuring after nightmares. Sam would be good at that. He kisses her forehead.

He stumbles into the door of the hospital with her in his arms, lets them take her from him (she was never his to hold), and doesn't even wait around. She could live, she could die, and there's nothing he can do about either. He turns to leave. He knows what he can do.

This time, he does call Sam, because he doesn't have a death wish, not really, not when his death would mean his brother being alone in the world. But Sam's bewildered shouts don't stop him when he starts to destroy every piece of furniture in the store with the butt of his gun. He shakes Sam's hands off his shoulders, keeps moving, methodically, but with barely-contained fury, destroys.

It works, though. There is the ghost and it's slashing at him with the same butcher knife he knows it used to attack Lyla, but he ignores the pain, the blood streaming into his eyes, letting Sam take care of letting loose a round of salt bullets. It's in the bottom drawer of an innocuous-looking cabinet that he finds the bones, and then he's reaching for salt, the kerosene, his lighter.

The cabinet goes up in flames, the ghost disappears, and he strides out the door, not helping Sam in his furious attempts to put out the fire now that the job is done. He waits outside in the driver's seat.

He sends Sam into the hospital to find out, and he doesn't say anything when the news is good. She'll be fine, make a full recovery, though she's lost a lot of blood and will be weak for a while. He just turns the car towards the highway.

Sam opens his mouth to say something, but Dean flips on AC/DC and guns it. Sammy, with his tender, tragic love for his lost Jessica and his life in Stanford, could never understand.

Dean could never stay in a place that wasn't his in the first place.


Emerald: River

Dean understands Simon Tam. Sam stares at him like he's crazy when he agrees to help the young doctor out—for a reasonable price, of course—even though there's no way it won't draw Alliance attention to them, and that's the one thing the Winchesters have always avoided. His brother smiles tightly at Simon, murmurs a polite word, jerks Dean away so that they can speak without being heard. Simon, of course, turns away. Nearly too polite, that boy. It could easily get him killed one day.

Dean rolls his eyes and answers all of Sam's hissed protests and accusations with flip sardonicisms. His brother's frustration doesn't faze him, and he doesn't even try to explain what he's thinking—Sam is the little brother; he could never understand.

He also doesn't tell Sam that earlier, when the youngest Winchester slipped away to check on the Impala, Simon leaned across the table and grabbed Dean's arm. Your brother's smart; that much is clear. And you want a better life for him. If the opportunity had arisen, you would have put him in that program in a second. And then it would be him in there, getting hurt. Think about it, Mr. Winchester. What if it were your brother?

There wasn't anything Dean could say to that, not when his mind was filled with a thousand of images of Sammy being tortured by the Alliance. The choice was clear then.

Sam, though, still thinks it's about the money. He may be smart, but Dean marvels at his stupidity sometimes. Nothing was ever about the money.

Getting Simon in and out is both easier and more complicated than Dean thought it would be. He had to call up a dozen favors—from Bobby, from Derrial, from all his dad's old friends—and spend more of Simon's money than he's really comfortable with, though he would never admit to that. But one look at the young doctor's eyes, and Dean knew that the money didn't matter to him either. Nothing did but River. Dean can respect that.

When they're home-free and shooting out into the Black, Dean finally has a chance to look at the trembling girl in the bay, wrapped in her brother's arms. Simon's fighting back tears, speaking comforting words, but River's eyes are dry, flickering over the bay, taking in everything. Dean suddenly, irrationally, wishes that he'd tidied up the place a bit. And when her eyes find him, he feels the same way about himself. He glares at her to cover for it.

It's clear even to Dean's untrained eyes that there is something deeply wrong with River. Simon had spoken of a brilliant girl, lovely and wickedly funny, able to learn anything better than anyone else. This River isn't exactly broken—strangely, he doesn't think that's possible—but something has cracked or shattered inside her. She shrieks in her nightmare nights (Dean grumbles, but doesn't really complain), babbles on, words that, on their own, make perfect sense, but strung together defy understanding. She finds all the nooks and crannies in the Impala, hides in them, singing softly to herself. Simon and Sam are both patient and gentle with her. The girl is batshit insane, Dean says.

She likes to sit perched in Sam's co-pilot's seat (Sam isn't ever really needed to fly the thing in the first place, but Dean would rather have his brother by his side than not, even if Sam protests that he hasn't needed a babysitter in years), bare feet tucked underneath her, the hem of her green dress hanging over the edge of the seat. They don't say much because whenever he does say anything to her, she either gives him a "you're dumb as a brick" look or says something he doesn't understand but that's clearly disdainful, intellectual, and sarcastic. In that order. That always ends in him saying something equally sarcastic and borderline cruel and Simon's face clouding—and, after all, he likes the guy and it isn't worth fighting with the sister over. At first he feels jumpy, having her there at his shoulder, but after a while he takes to her presence like he might a silent and watchful cat.

When he finds she's reset the navigation computer, he yells and storms, furious. She doesn't cower, just stares up at him with uninterested eyes. Later, once he calms down, he finds that the new coordinates she's entered save them time and also keep them far a field of any place they might run into Alliance ships. He definitely doesn't apologize.

She dances in the bay, slipping out of her shoes and twirling in impossibly fast circles, hair streaming out, making impossibly light leaps, landing quietly as a cat. With her dark hair, in her green dress, she likes like a figure out the myths of Earth-That-Was that Mom used to tell him at night. Sam tosses him a grin, but Dean isn't finding excuses to pass by the bay whenever he can.

They're on Persephone for three days, and Sam cocks an eyebrow when Dean doesn't appear back at the ship the first night with a local girl picked up from one of the bars in tow. Dean doesn't let himself think about why he doesn't, but River's eyes peek over the pile of cargo boxes, solemn and speculating.

Apparently, the doctor must have had a little bit of money left, because when they leave Persephone, River is sitting on top of the kitchen table, a dozen books in as many languages—many of them long dead—piled beside her. Once they're safely into the Black and he's moving through the kitchen making dinner, she starts to chatter away—places, names, dates he's never heard of, big long words of the kind a Shepherd of a university professor might use trailing around her like her hair. She's talking to him, and though he knows she doesn't expect him to understand any of the words she's speaking, her big eyes tell him she knows that he does know what she's getting at.

It's on Whitefall that they finally figure out what it was the government was poking around in her brain for. Surrounded by Alliance soldiers—and this is the first time that the Winchesters get confirmation that yes, the Alliance does know they were involved—Dean and Sam raise their rifles, begin to take out the soldiers. Sam is cool and calm as ever, Dean fire and taunts at those sons-of-bitches (he can never forget Mom, forget Dad, forget home, forget everything the Alliance took). Simon is doing a good job of hiding his fear, but he's covered with the stench of it and none of his bullets come anywhere near doing any damage to the soldiers. It's only out of the corner of his eye that he sees River grab her brother's gun, close her eyes and take down the remaining five soldiers. When she opens them, she meets his gaze, and he feels a chill run down his back.

He lies in bed that night, hating himself for even toying with the idea of asking the Tams to stay on. A doctor would be a good thing to have around, endlessly useful, and Simon, with his carefully-chosen words and his unruffled appearance could probably get them into places the Winchesters wouldn't have even dreamed of going. And besides, he tells himself, River would be good in a fight.

But he never speaks the words—life since the Alliance took over the small planet of Lawrence has always been him, Sam, their guns, and the Impala, and Dean knows he wouldn't know how to live anything different—and so when they reach Ezra four days later, the Tams pack their things.

When the doctor shakes his hand solemnly, neither thanks the other or mentions anything about how they came to end up on the same ship. There aren't words for things like that. But Dean looks again at the cut of Simon's suit, the snowy white of his shirt, his doctor's hands and wonders how the children of an Osiris diplomat will survive on a backwater dustball of a moon.

But then River comes twirling out of the ship, books tucked in the crook of each arm. She lets Sam hug her, returns his smile, then darts up to Dean and kisses his cheek before darting away. When he stares after her in astonishment, she shoots a mischievous glance over her shoulder before disappearing from sight, and he realizes that the Tams will survive. After what they've been through, they can get through anything.

That girl is batshit insane, Dean mutters as he follows his brother back into the ship and on with their lives.

Sam smiles.


Sapphire: Cordy

The last thing he expected when he and Sam tracked the Slacar demon into L.A. was that there would already be someone else hunting it. Someone who was a vampire. Someone who was a vampire with a soul and a supernatural detective agency (which sounds like the premise of a really lame TV show to Dean, the type even he wouldn't watch at 2:00 in the morning when he's run out of quarters).

Someone who was a vampire with a soul and a supernatural detective agency and a really, really hot secretary.

Who just so happened to shoot an arrow right into Dean's shoulder while she and her boss and her co-workers and Sam and Dean all try to take out the demon.

And then doesn't even care, just sniffs and says something about how he shouldn't have gotten in the way of people who know what they're doing.

At that moment, Dean decides that even though he'd still sleep with her, he really, really hates her.

Which means, of course, that as soon as they kill the Slacar, they discover that there's a whole nest of them, a nest even the six of them together can't take, and that they'll have to stick around town till they can come up with a way to take it out. And, of course, that the Winchesters won't be able to turn down the offer of a free place to stay at the hotel that the vampire has turned into a detective agency, even if Dean isn't anywhere close to trusting said vampire.

Which all gives him a chance to get to know her better and makes him realize that, yeah. He really, really does hate her.

Of course, she's got that rich girl superiority complex that lets him know without a doubt that she would never let him touch her—her every look screams, you've got no chance, buddy—though she's nothing but friendly to Sam. He decides she wouldn't be worth it anyway.

As Dean and Sam slide into the daily life of Angel Investigations, he wonders at the obvious affection the other three men—strike that: two men and one vampire—show for her, since they all seem like reasonable guys—even the vampire. Why would they put up with such a bitch?

Except, when she thinks he isn't looking, she isn't such a bitch. Sure, she obviously cares too much about her appearance (which is really kind of ridiculous, considering what she looks like, trust him: nobody's going to be looking at her clothes when she has a body like that underneath them), has an aversion to bugs and "icky" things, sometimes imperiously hands out orders like they should be obeyed just because she is who she is.

And yet…. He'd spent a lot of time at first, wondering what it was she really does: with the amount and kind of business this place does, Angel clearly doesn't need a secretary. But then he sees—and the irony isn't lost on him, because he's never been terribly observant about things that didn't have teeth and claws or weren't Sam—that it's the little things she does that make the place work.

She fetches blood, warms it, spices it up for Angel. Keeps Wes's books and papers arranged and stacked, saving them half a dozen times from getting covered with demon goo or pizza sauce. Keeps Gunn's weapons in shining order, always at the ready. Makes the tea to hand to the trembling victims who come in to ask for help. Teases Angel out of his brooding, Wes away from his office, Gunn into feeling important. She laughs with Sam, and he can see that his little brother adores her.

But with him, she's always the most infuriating mixture of aloof and flirtatious that lets him know just how far out of his league she is and just how highly she doesn't think of him. She never even talks directly to him, always addressing anything she needs to say to him to one of the other people in the room, like a little kid needing a mediator to talk to a sibling she's angry at. He can't decide if he wants to strangle her or drag her off to bed.

He tells himself that he isn't spending time thinking about her. After all, he does have a lot of things to think about, like the research Sam is helping Wes with. They don't come up with anything at first, but Dean doesn't worry about it too much because he trusts Wes to come up with a solution. At first, he'd thought the Englishman was a wuss they kept around to do the bookwork, but as he gets to know him, he's finding more and more that there's so much more going on with the guy and that he's a man Dean can respect. He reminds him, in a lot of ways, of Pastor Jim. It feels a little like home.

And then, of course, there's the Angel issue. Dean just doesn't trust the guy. Sure, he's listened to the "vampire-with-a-soul" spiel multiple times now, and the guy does seem to be reformed and trying to help people. But he's a vampire, and as such, Dean can't help but distrust him, even after Lenore. It doesn't help matters that one night when he and Gunn get drunk at a local bar the other man tells him stories he in turn had heard from Cordy and Wes about "Angelus." The dichotomy thing, as Wes calls it, doesn't sit right with Dean, and he's on edge whenever the vampire is around.

But he bites his tongue as much as he can, voicing his thoughts only to Sam when no one else is around. Sam is, of course, much more trusting. But he's also smart, and he'll keep his eyes open.

All this distrust, though, doesn't stop them from working with Angel Investigations. It's kind of nice to have a base of operations, to have people come to them with problems instead of scouring newspapers and internet sites for potential cases. Getting paid is also pretty sweet, though they certainly aren't making all that much. Still, it's easier than pool hustling and credit card scams.

And L.A. seems to be full of every kind of thing-that-goes-bump-in-the-night imaginable, though Wes says it hasn't got anything on a place just a few miles down the road called Sunnydale. Still, Dean sees things during these weeks he hadn't even read about, things he'd thought were myths. When he mentions something about that to Gunn, Cordy sniffs, saying something about how she would have thought it would be advisable in this kind of life to keep an open mind. Gunn bursts out laughing at her snooty words. Dean glares at her.

They take out a ghora demon one night. He saves her life. She doesn't even bother to thank him. He fumes.

Things carry on that way for a few weeks: Dean mostly leaving Sam to research with Wes, patrolling with Gunn, trying not to lose his temper with Cordy, keeping an eye on Angel. But everything changes the night they fight the nest of Rancuar demons.

It's a big nest, one of the biggest he's ever seen, holed in up an abandoned warehouse in what Gunn calls "my part of town." There are over twenty of them there, but the team and the Winchesters are professionals. They dispatch of them pretty easily, ignoring the disgusting but harmless goo that coats them, spurting out every time they hit one of the Rancuars. In only fifteen minutes, they'd killed all of them, and the six hunters stood in the middle of the warehouse, covered in goo and surrounded by green, rubbery corpses.

They'd all turned to leave when the Rancour leaps out of nowhere. Dean doesn't even have time to wonder how they'd missed one: the thing has claws that were more than capable of ripping off a head, and it is headed right at Angel.

Guns don't do much on these guys, and he doesn't have time to raise his crossbow. Instead, he rips the machete out of his belt and takes his own leap forward.

He crashes into the demon in midair, feeling all the air go out of him. They collapse into a tangle on the floor before Dean recovers enough to start hacking at the thing with his machete. It's dead within seconds.

When he lets Angel pull him to his feet, he feels Cordy's eyes on him. As the vampire quietly but sincerely thanks him, he feels Cordy's eyes on him. As they troop out to the cars, drive back to the Hyperion, he feels Cordy's eyes on him.

But it isn't until they're alone in the lobby of the hotel, the others having disappeared, that she says anything to him. She pins him with her big shining eyes and says, You saved Angel's life. And you don't even trust him.

And that's when she throws her arms around him and kisses him more fiercely than any woman ever has. He doesn't question, just returns it as completely, and even this is better than he imagined.

When she breaks away to beam up at him, he shakes his head in amazement. You're the weirdest woman in the world. I've never met anyone like you.

Her grin turns cheeky. I know, she says, then tugs him by the hand back to the hotel. And up to his room.

They're both completely covered in Rancour goo the first time, barely managing to strip out of their clothes, and not getting anywhere near the bathroom they were aiming for. Truthfully, it takes them quite a while to make it there, and by the time they do, most of the goo is now covering the room instead of them anyways. They take a shower anyways.

Sam and Gunn both grin knowingly when he comes downstairs the next morning, and Wes's eyes sparkle before he coughs and heads back into his office. Angel won't meet his eye, though, and he's pretty sure that if it were possible for a vampire to blush, this one would be doing so. Cordy seems completely unaware. But she grins at him over her coffee.

Without anyone speaking at all, Sam moves into another room and Cordy stops going back to her apartment at night. Before long her shampoo bottles are mixing with his, her clothes have taken over one of her drawers, his money clip and keys are all mixed up with her jewelry on the table. He hasn't ever had this before, and he doesn't really know how to react to it. He isn't sure he's doing any of the right things, but she never makes him feel insufficient and that's something.

They fight. A lot. Most of it's nothing serious, but there are a few shouting matches that have something deep inside that he denies trembling for fear it will break. But she sure as hell knows how to make up afterwards. He doesn't really tell her much about the past, though she tells him funny stories about her high school days in Sunnydale (though he can hear behind some of the stories pain and loneliness that she never acknowledges). Besides, he gets the feeling she's figured out more than enough about his past on her own. And they don't talk, either, never say sweet or loving words. He never learned how, and neither of them are so delusional think this is forever. It's better just to let it happen.

But she manages to be affectionate without being clingy, interested in him without prying, concerned without nagging. She doesn't flinch away when he's covered with blood or sweat, even when she's in her good clothes. She asks him to teach her to fight, and she's a quick learner, though he teases her for saying it's because of cheerleading. He thinks she may be the perfect woman.

But then Wes and Sam finally come up with something. It's a long shot and relies heavily on magic, something Dean isn't very comfortable with. Still, they've all taken bigger risks before, and those Slacar haven't stopped preying on children. They suit up.

The battle is furious and Dean feels the itch and crawl of magic even as he fights. He doesn't like the way it seems to coat him in a sheen as fine as sweat, but it's good to know that the others are watching his, and especially Sam's, back.

When he kills the last one, he doesn't look at Cordy. His excuse for staying is gone now.

She doesn't ask them—him—to stay. She stands straight-backed and dry-eyed as the Winchesters shake hands with Angel's team, then walk to the Impala (they said their goodbyes the night before, a dozen times, without ever saying the words). As he slides the car into gear, he glances out the window, catches her eye. She doesn't smile, but the look there is better than that.

It isn't till they stop four hours later for gas that he discovers the carefully packed cooler in the back seat and a note in her girlish handwriting.

You're quite a man, Dean Winchester. Don't forget me.

As if he ever could.