Title: Best Laid Plans (11/11) - Epilogue
Chapter Summary: The fate of the ghosts is settled and the legal battles are resolved. Nothing left to do but play Poker.
Best Laid Plans: Epilogue
Chloe, Sam and Mathew sat with Chris and Vin at one of the round tables in the saloon. Across the room, the rest of their group was occupied by the ultimate poker game. Dean and Ezra were determined to crown themselves champion and the others were gathered around to watch the epic struggle.
It hadn't been hard for Mathew to talk Chloe and the Winchesters into staying around until after the trial. While Chloe had her reporter's agenda and Dean wanted to play poker, Mathew was sure Sam's motivations were more serious; making sure the ghosts were no longer a danger.
Now that the legal battle was over and they were victorious, they'd come back to Four Corners to celebrate the return of the land to the Tanner family with the Seven.
"Historical Landmark status is just a formality at this point," Mathew explained as he finished detailing the success of the courtroom drama to Chris and Vin.
"Seems my grandson has done the family name proud," Vin said.
"Grandson?" Mathew asked, flattered that Vin had accepted him as family so quickly.
Vin nodded. "Seems appropriate. 'Sides it's too much trouble to repeat all them 'greats' every time."
"We always did like this Tanner best," Chris added, smiling at Mathew.
"Well, he is a good looking fella,"
"Now, I wouldn't go that far," Chris said.
"Don't go insulting my kin, pard" Vin teased.
The others at the table laughed, enjoying the playful banter between the old friends.
Chloe had been visiting daily since the reunion, gathering stories and detailed information about life in the old west. "I'm kind of sorry this is all coming to an end," she said.
"You got all the stories you want, Chloe?" Chris asked
"I think there may be a book in there somewhere," she said indicating her notebook which lay open on the table. "Once I get started, I'll know if I need to come back for more."
"You always welcome here and I know Buck'll be sorry to see you go." Chris sent her a knowing smile.
Chloe laughed. "Buck is still trying to figure out how a ghost and a human can - well you know," she stopped, embarrassed about what she was implying.
"That's Buck. He'll move mountains if it means he might win the girl," Vin said.
Chloe blushed. "So many of the stories he told would seem like exaggerations if I didn't have the rest of you to back him up. He was quite," she paused searching for the right word, "inexhaustible when he was alive."
That caused Vin and Chris to burst out laughing. "That's one way to put it," the bounty hunter said.
"So Chloe, are you heading back to Metropolis now?" Sam interrupted, purposefully turning the conversation away from her seeming fascination with Buck.
Chloe quirked an eyebrow at him. "I don't know. I do hate to break Buck's heart," she teased. "Maybe I should stay a little longer." When Sam's face fell, she allowed herself a small internal smile of victory.
"Oh," Sam said quietly.
Mathew exchanged a knowing look with the ghosts who just shook their heads. "He's worse than JD when he was courtin' Casey," Chris whispered to Vin who nodded his agreement.
Sam was lost in his thoughts when he felt the ghosts looking at him. "You say something, Chris?"
Chris shook his head and covered his mouth trying to contain his amusement at the cluelessness of the younger Winchester.
Vin elbowed him before answering Sam's question. "Just wondering when you and your brother were taking off. Gonna be hard pressed to drag him away from Ezra and the boys," he said nodding toward the other table.
"I suppose as soon as Ezra officially beats him," Sam smiled.
"No faith in your brother's abilities?" Vin asked.
Sam shrugged as he wacthed the other table. "Ezra's a professional."
"My money's on Ezra, too," Chloe laughed.
"Dean doesn't seem to have any fans at this table," Mathew observed as Chris and Vin threw their support behind their old friend.
"You know Sam," Chloe began. "I was wondering how you might feel about me tagging along with you and Dean for awhile. I think there's a great story in what you guys do."
Sam's face lit up with unabashed joy. "Really?" he asked, trying to give a nonchalant edge to his voice. "You're not thinking of writing about us, are you? We kind of like to stay under the radar."
"I can change a few details to keep your identities safe," she teased knowing that she was practically a professional when it came to protecting someone's secret identity. "So what do you say?
"It would mean being trapped in the Impala with Dean for days on end. That's not exactly a lot of fun even for me and I have to do it"
"I can handle your brother."
"I don't know" Sam looked at her skeptically. Most women couldn't resist Dean, and his brother certainly wouldn't make life easy for Chloe. As much as Sam liked the idea of her coming along, it could be a real disaster.
"Best not to doubt her, pard," Vin said. "I think she can take him."
Chloe nodded her agreement. "Plus, I have my own gun," she reminded Sam.
Sam smiled. "Then I think we have room in the back seat for you."
"Great," she smiled in return. "Knew you'd see it my way."
Dean slammed the cards down. "No way!" He shouted.
"Is something wrong, Dean?" Ezra gave him a lazy smile.
"I was sure you were bluffing."
Ezra leaned forward to slide the pile of chips toward him. "You assumed incorrectly, I fear," he said as he nodded toward the three Jacks prominently displayed on the table. "Three of a kind will always beat two pair."
"I know the rules," Dean growled as he tossed his five's and ten's at the gambler for the next deal.
Dean had supplied a set of poker chips for the game and while they weren't playing for money, there was no doubt in the minds of those assembled that the bragging rights at stake were significantly more valuable.
"I was just checking," Ezra chuckled. "Because it seems you continue to make that mistake."
"Ha ha, very funny," Dean groused good-naturedly but noticed that his pile of chips was significantly smaller than Ezra's. "Shut up and deal. A few more hands and you'll be the one needing lessons."
Ezra smiled sweetly and began to shuffle the cards.
"You think it's wise to let Ezra deal?" Nathan asked.
Dean gave the gambler a wolfish smile. "Oh I think Ezra knows I'd shoot him repeatedly with rock salt if he cheated."
"I can assure you that I will win this without any chicanery, Nathan. I need only skill to take Dean down," he said as he returned the hunter's predatory smile.
"So how about that story you were going to tell us about Sam?" Josiah asked as Ezra dealt the cards.
Dean laughed. "I think all you have to do is watch how he's been stumbling over Chloe to understand exactly how bad my little brother is with women."
"He does get a bit tongue-tied," Josiah observed.
Dean examined his cards and made his bet before responding to Josiah's comment. "There was this one time when he was in high school, he had it bad for this really hot girl."
"Hot?" Buck interrupted.
"You know, sexy," Dean explained as he gestured with his hands to indicate the girl had a great body and the others smiled. "Any way, he tripped over his tongue so badly the girl thought he was retarded. He finally blurted out some nonsense and ran away."
"How'd you find out?" Nathan wondered. "I'm betting Sam never told you."
"I spent some alone time with her, if you know what I mean, and she told me how sweet my 'slow' brother was."
While the others laughed at the image of a hapless Sam, JD was indignant. "You stole your brother's girl?"
"First, she wasn't his girl; Sam never could complete a sentence in her presence. And more importantly, she was too much woman for him anyway," Dean said.
"It's like I always told you JD. You have to know how to sweet-talk a woman," Buck teased.
"How's that working out for you and Chloe?" JD tossed out.
"Kid, Buck maybe a ghost but he has a better chance of hooking up with Chloe than Sam does." Dean and Buck exchanged a knowing smile about the ineptitude of lesser men when it came to women.
"If you are done sharing, Dean, I believe the pot is mine," Ezra said as he laid down his hand.
"Not again," he grumbled and watched Ezra sweep the pile of chips away.
Sam had approached the table during Dean's moment of defeat. "Looks like you pretty much done here," he said eyeing the few remaining chips lying in front of Dean."
"Well hey there, stud," Buck smiled. "You done talking to Chloe."
The others around the table chuckled. "What did you tell them, Dean?" he asked eyeing his brother with suspicion.
"I am happy to explain the details of your brother's conversation and I shall endeavor to use small words if necessary," Ezra said.
"Don't think that's possible for you Ezra," Nathan laughed.
"I'm not leaving yet, Sammy," Dean replied ignoring his brother's glare. "Why don't you head back with Chloe? I'll catch a ride with Matt once I'm done with Ezra." Dean pulled the Impala keys out of his pocket and tossed them at Sam.
"You sure?" Sam said glancing from the keys to where Chloe sat in conversation at the other table.
"It is unlikely that this game will continue much longer, Sam," Ezra laughed. "Maybe you should wait for you're brother's inevitable defeat."
"I suppose that might be fun to watch." Sam smiled at the gambler. It was time someone took Dean down a peg.
"I won't be losing," Dean insisted. "And we could be here for a long time. You should take Chloe home."
When Sam didn't move but stood waiting for the next hand to be played, Dean rolled his eyes and looked at Buck. The ladies man just snickered. "He really is clueless, ain't he?"
"Give it a shot Buck. I'm not getting through," Dean laughed.
Buck stood and walked over to Sam. "You need to rethink your priorities," he said. "Let me show you how it's done, kid."
"What are you two talking about?"
"Chloe darlin', can you come over her for a minute."
Then, understanding dawned on Sam. "No hey, Buck. It's okay, really." Sam was panicking. It was bad enough that Dean felt the need to interfere with his love life, now it seemed he'd recruited Buck to help.
"Relax, stud," he said. "I just want to say goodbye."
Chloe, Mathew, Chris and Vin headed over to join the rest of the group.
"Seems Dean ain't ready to admit that Ezra has him beat," Chris said eyeing the lack of funds in front of the hunter.
"A chip and a chair 'sall I need to stage my comeback," Dean replied.
"The song of the defeated," Ezra quipped as he waited for Dean to deal the cards.
"What's up Buck?" Chloe asked.
Buck smiled at her. "Seems you're taking off and I just want to say how sorry I'll be to see you go." His voice had a breathy quality that added a deeper layer of meaning to every word.
Chloe cleared her throat and looked up into his deep blue eyes. "I'll miss you too Buck," she said and added quickly, "All of you." Acknowledge the others around the room.
"Not so much as our Mr. Wilmington, I'll wager."
"That's not true Ezra. I've enjoyed getting to know all of you."
Buck reached down and took her hand. "I am crushed Chloe. I thought we'd made a special connection."
"I – well yes but - " she stammered as her eyes locked with Buck's. He flicked them over toward Sam and smiled.
Chloe smiled in return, understanding what Buck was planning and happy to play along. She was curious to see what Sam would do. "You are right Buck, I will miss you terribly. I've never met anyone like you."
"And you are a most fascinating woman. I would love to spend forever learning all the things that make you happy," he said his voice as soft as caress.
"Ready to go, Chloe," Sam interrupted, jealousy etched on his face. "It's been a long day and I can take you back in the Impala, now."
Chloe nodded but didn't break her gaze with Buck. "That sounds wonderful." Inside she was trying not to giggle. Even though she knew Buck was trying to make Sam jealous, he seemed so sincere.
Dean laughed. "Maybe Chloe should stay." The others murmured their agreement except for Ezra who kept trying to get Dean's attention to deal the cards.
Sam glared at his brother. "Just play your game and mind you own business."
"Yes Dean, I believe it's your deal." Ezra pushed the deck toward him.
"Buck, what do you think you're doing," JD hissed as he came to stand by Sam in a show of solidarity. He had spent some time commiserating with Sam about how infuriating well-meaning friends and big brothers could be.
"Chloe knows what I'm doing. Don't you darlin'?" he said giving her his best megawatt smile.
"But I fear it would never work between us," she said with exaggerated sincerity while trying hard not to snicker as the syrupy and clichéd words spilled from her mouth.
"Okay very funny," Sam said finally realizing what he hoped was going on.
Chloe leaned in to whisper loudly to Buck. "I think he's on to you."
Buck laughed. "Don't mean it's not working."
JD looked at Buck, confusion on his face. "Am I missing something?"
"JD, you're always missing something," Vin said. "Nice to know you haven't changed."
"That's not true. I have changed."
Laughter came from around the table. JD was indignant as he once again found himself in the middle of a joke he didn't get.
"It's okay JD. Buck just thinks he has something to teach me about women," Sam said and turned to Chloe. "I'm sorry that you're being used in Buck and Dean's little game."
"Hey, I'm not part of this," Dean said looking up from his cards as he made his bet. The poker game had continued in spite of the other distractions in the room. "I've got you this time, Ezra."
"So it would seem," the gambler said with disgust as he tossed his cards into the middle.
"I'm making a comeback, Sam."
"Yeah that's great Dean. Happy for you." Sam mocked as he looked back to Chloe.
"I don't feel used," Chloe said picking up the thread of their conversation.
"Well then maybe you might be up for a little experiment before you leave?" Buck asked.
She swung her gaze back to the ghost. "What did you have in mind?" she asked.
"Just hold still," he said, a look of profound concentration on his face.
Without another word, Buck reached out to embrace Chloe and pull her close. He shifted her into a dip as he captured her mouth for a kiss. Caught off guard Chloe retuned the kiss as she reached up her arms to encircle his neck.
"He sure ain't lost his touch," Vin said.
Chris smiled. "Seems even when Buck's dead, no woman is safe."
When the ladies man finally set Chloe back on her feet, she was flushed and out of breath. "Wow. Um, how -"
Buck was grinning. "I've been working on my control. What do you think?"
Chloe was still a little flustered as she put her fingers to her lips, "Good control," she said absently.
"Don't you ever stop, Buck," JD chided him.
"You're a ghost. That kind of - of -," Sam stammered as he waved his hand at Buck who just stared at him, mischief in his eyes. "That shouldn't be possible."
"With Buck and a pretty girl, anything is possible," Chris informed him.
"Well it shouldn't be," Sam snapped.
Buck walked past Sam and whispered, "That's the way it's done, stud," as he headed back to his seat on the other side of the table.
Sam was dumbstruck and just watched the big man walk away.
Chloe was smiling. "I think it's time I left before Buck tries any more of his experiments."
She circled the room as she said her individual goodbyes, carefully avoiding a repeat performance with Buck by simply sharing a final smile with him.
When she returned to Sam's side he was engaged in a familiar battle with his brother.
"Not funny Dean," he said.
"What, that you can't compete with a ghost? That's hilarious."
Sam glared at Dean and then blushed as he realized Chloe was standing beside him.
"Ignore him," he pleaded.
"I been doing that for days," she quipped. "It'll be good practice for later."
Dean's ears perked up. "You have something in mind for later?" He asked suggestively.
She rolled her eyes at him. "With you, nothing?"
That elicited a few snickers from those gathered.
"I invited Chloe to tag along on our next hunt," Sam said figuring now was as good a time as any to tell Dean what he'd done.
Dean smiled. "That's a great idea."
"Wait. You agree?" Of all the reactions he'd expected, immediate acceptance hadn't been one of them.
"Sure why not," he said as he refocused his attention on the poker game.
"But I thought-" Sam studied his brother as he dealt the next hand. "What's the catch?"
"No catch. Blondie can come along as long as she stays out of trouble." Dean said not taking his focus off Ezra.
"He's going to have to stop calling me blondie or I may shoot him," Chloe said. "But otherwise I can handle myself.
"Okaaay then it's settled," Sam said still unsure of what had just happened.
Sam then turned to Mathew "Guess this is goodbye."
"I was serious before, Sam," Mathew said. "You ever want to quit this crazy life I could use someone with your skills."
"You never know," he replied. "And call us if you need anything and especially if - you know." Sam said indicating that Mathew should keep an eye on the ghosts.
Sam finished his goodbyes to the ghosts ending with JD.
"Nice having you around," JD said.
"Don't let them gang up on you," Sam said.
"Don't worry, I've been handling them for a long time," he assured Sam. "Don't let Dean screw that up." He tilted his head toward Chloe. "Most times their help ain't that much help."
Sam laughed. "That is very true."
He wandered back to Chloe and with a final wave the two headed through the door.
"Have fun kids," Dean yelled as the doors swung back.
Sam stepped back in to glare at Dean one last time and then at Buck for good measure; before leaving for good.
Once they were sure that Sam was gone the men all broke into uncontrollable laughter. Dean looked over at Buck. "Nice work, Buck. Not sure it'll help."
The big man shrugged. "I can only share what I know can't force 'em to learn. Never helped JD either."
"If you gentlemen are finished fixing Sam's love life, we are still engaged in this battle of skill," Ezra said reaching for the cards. "And it's my deal."
Hours later the Seven gathered in the street to watch Mathew and Dean drive away.
"That was quite the comeback Dean had," Josiah remarked.
Ezra laughed. "But I still won in the end. Even so, he may be one of the most skilled opponents I have ever faced in an honest game."
Nathan snorted. "There's a difference?"
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Of course there's a difference."
"So," Vin asked "What do you guys do around here for fun?"
Chris clapped him on the shoulder. "Anything we want. We got all the time in the world."
"Saloon?" Vin chuckled.
"Saloon," Chris nodded.
The Seven turned and striding abreast, headed back down Main Street.