Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy, nor do I own Supernatural. They belong to Whedon and Kripke. Not even the title's mine. That's snagged from the awesome Journey. I make no money off any of this.
A/N: Remember that hot, kinky threesome sex I'm not writing for Road to Morning? It had to go somewhere. And it landed here. This is the first story in a new series of (hopefully only) four or five one-shots. I blame the whole thing entirely on Amusewithaview who, instead of helping me kill the bunny, actually fed it and then did an amazing beta job on it.
Also, I wrote a sex scene. Sex scene, people. Like, seriously, me! Sex scene!
Warnings: (Heed them, people, or I'll rain all over you.) Rating: 18. Massive AU for Buffy. Sex. Cursing. Violence. References to incest and slash, which are going to become actual incest and slash somewhere down the road. Also heading towards a threesome. If you can't or don't want to take that, do us all a favor and go elsewhere.
Did you read the warnings? Good. You may now proceed. Enjoy.
Aka: The Damn Bunny That Wouldn't Die Because Certain People Refused to Give Me a Gun
Dean rolls into town with a smashing drum solo delivered on his steering wheel, singing TNT at the top of his lungs. When the tape fades to static he looks to the passenger side of the car for applause and a fake-annoyed eye-roll from Sam. There's no-one there. So he looks for Dad's truck in the rearview mirror, a dark monster protecting his back and there's nothing there either.
Sammy's six months gone to Apple Pie Land and Dad is halfway across the country doing his own thing. They cover more ground like this. Dean is old enough. People die if they don't help. They can always call each other if it gets rough.
It always gets rough but they never do call each other. Dean doesn't call because that's what John said, that's his orders and he follows them. That's when Dad is John and not Dad. When he orders. And Dean always obeys. Dad doesn't call because this time of year, he barely remembers where his phone is from all the booze. It starts on November 2nd, spans Thanksgiving and Christmas and ends some time after his wedding anniversary. The rest of the year Dad's okay, but in between the day Mom burned and the day he married her, he can barely look at Sam and Dean and since Dean turned sixteen and could take care of Sammy on his own, he doesn't bother trying anymore.
Dean checks into the quaint B&B alone, he gets his shit from the car alone, he fumbles for the room key alone. He takes his shower without anyone there to steal all the hot water from and he leaves his dirty jeans on the floor without anyone to stumble over them and call him a messy jerk. Which is why he leaves them there in the first place. So Sam can yell. Dean maintains that it's a very special way of showing affection. Sam maintains that he's a messy jerk.
Then he grabs his notebook and phone, his keys and knives and gun and figures out the way to the library on his own. He parks the Impala on the curb and sits there for five minutes, staring at the entrance of the Morrison Public Library and wondering why the hell he's even here.
What the hell is he doing?
What's he doing in this car, in this town, in this state, in this life?
I have dreams, Dean! Yeah, well, Dean has dreams, too. Or had, once upon a time. He didn't run off to become a fire fighter did he? No, because he had to look after Sam. But Sam… Sam doesn't have to look after anyone but himself. So fuck Sam and the goddamn bus he rode out on.
He gets out of the car, slamming the door hard enough to make him wince and rub a hand over her roof in silent apology. He jogs up the stairs to the entrance and picks the oldest, sternest looking librarian in the place. Going for the young ones is easy and the old ones, well, they know he won't keep a single one of his promises and they still smile and pat his arm. At least someone's happy then.
He gives them the student over at –insert whatever college is closest- story and asks about the four murders that have happened here in the past six months. Well, deaths, officially. They say bears did it. There are no bears around here. He's writing a paper, he says, on old folklore and if maybe there's something to it. He figures he can get away with it because none of the people who died were from this town, so the locals won't automatically shut down to protect their dead or something like that. (The first two were from one town over, the other two just passing through.)
The old gal (Becky; he files that away the same way he files away all the exits and escape routes, and she's only, like, in her late thirties or so), smiles at him, leading him towards the stacks where the newspapers are stored. She points him to the right ones and has him pull them down because she's a tiny thing. He does it, puts on a show for her and meets the glint of appreciation in her eyes with an easy grin. They're both getting what they want, here. After that she shows him where the folklore and mythology section is. It's small enough to be only two shelves and he grimaces a bit.
She notices, tucks a strand of dull red hair behind her ears and says, "You should talk to the Miss, you know? She's got more books than we have. And she knows all the local tales."
She talks about 'the Miss' in a way that Dean hears the capitals, and the implied assumption that he knows who she is. Probably some rich old bitch who donates to charity and collects ghost stories in her dotage. He shudders inwardly. No way is he kissing up to some ancient chick to get access to her library. The public stuff will just have to do, thank you very much. Don't get him wrong. He'll totally kiss wrinkly old-woman ass if he has to. But not a second earlier. Dad taught him respect for women and Dean has that, but if he never meets them he doesn't have to be respectful and old, rich chicks drive him up the wall because they always act like he's the fucking pool boy, here for the meat show. In which he's the meat. He doesn't mind being objectified, but he minds not getting hot ass out of the deal. Old chicks are not hot.
"I'm sure this is enough for my paper," he tells Becky with a smile that's all teeth and nothing real. Becky isn't that hot either, but she's useful, so he makes her happy. It's business and she knows it, too.
"Alrighty then, you have fun now, honey. And holler if you need anything." She winks and he winks back and then he's alone with about three hundred books, two hundred and ninety eight of which are probably useless. Better start with the newspapers. Double check the facts Dad gave him before he goes on to figuring out what it might be. Building a solid base of evidence, Dad calls it. Dean calls it a damn waste of time.
He should have brought M&Ms.
Five awesomely brain-numbing hours later Dean has broken two pencils, downed five cups of rat-poison coffee, gone to the toilet once, hit on Becky three more times to get some extra information on things people in the area take for granted but no outsider is ever going learn from books, and found nothing new. Dad's theory stands. It's a Black Dog.
The four victims, Jamie Harper Jr., James Harper Sr., Emily Walton and her fiancé Jeffrey Rouge all died within two miles of the old frontier cemetery just outside town, torn to shreds by some kind of big animal. There is a ton of local lore about the Black Dog seen around the cemetery, protecting it, bla bla. The vics died within six months of each other, not on significant days of any calendar of a full moon, which points to Dog and something setting the Dog off. He has no idea what that was, but the thing's killing people and Dean can cure that with a few rounds of silver and a simple ritual to cleanse the area of the spirit manifestation that is a Black Dog. All in a day's work.
He can get it done tonight, be back on the road tomorrow by lunch time and go… well, he'll find another hunt. Maybe he'll rustle up Caleb. The man always has a few new tricks to teach and he doesn't talk very much. Dean can appreciate that. Maybe he'll try to call Dad, see if he's alright.
He tucks away all the books he used and cleans up the newspapers, too, because you never know. If anything goes wrong he'll have to come back and pissing off people he might need again about nothing is simply too much of a hassle without Sam there to pull out the doe-eyes and the aw-shucks smile that go so well with that fake drawl of his, "Y'all have to forgive mah brother, he's not a very neat person." Vowels drawn out, of course.
Gets them every time. No matter how tall the kid grows, and how much muscle he puts on, anything with ovaries melts when Sam smiles at them. They melt when Dean smiles, too, but it's a different kind of melting, dirtier, rawer. Sam is puppies and Sunday picnics and Dean is sneaking away from the picnic and fucking against the wall of the nearest alley. Different. Edgier. He just can't pull innocent off very well. Not much there to work with.
As a final act of genius he stops by the map tacked to the wall next to the exit and memorizes the route to the graveyard. There's a neat little hiking path going past it. He'll take that, leave the Impala in the parking lot of the hotel, in and out without anyone noticing and, gosh, what a relief it will be when the deaths just suddenly stop. No explanation, no, the sheriff don't know either, honey, but it's over and that's what matters, yeah? At least it's over.
One of these days he's gonna send a fucking gift basket to himself. Just to find out what appreciation feels like.
He throws one last wave to Becky and gets back in the car. His notebooks (now with added copies and clippings sticking out willy-nilly) rides shotgun and AC/DC is almost loud enough. There's a quaint little restaurant close to the quaint little hotel and he acutely misses the filthy anonymity of motels and diners where he's just another redneck white-trash kid passing through. Here people pay attention. They look at him and when they go home after their shift, they still remember his face. It makes him itchy.
The pie's awesome, though.
The spare bed is mocking him when he gets back after two slices of pie and a beer. He knows it is. It sits there, empty, ugly bedspread going on for miles and miles. He threw his duffel on it earlier, spilled clothes over half of it but it doesn't help. It's still mocking him.
It's saying 'Sam should be here', saying 'This is Dad's bed'. It's saying 'They all leave you, sucker'. He kicks it as punishment and after he checks his guns, he wipes his greasy fingers off on the bedspread. It's petty and childish and totally fucking pointless because he's quite sure that inanimate objects can not actually mock you, especially not with an absence.
But then, Dean suspects that he and sanity aren't exactly on speaking terms right now because all the silence is driving him just the tiniest bit bonkers here.
He shoulders a knapsack with equipment and starts his hike, easily following the hand-painted little signs that mark the path, even in the dark. After ten minutes the fake bright-blue night of the town fades into a darker grey, light pollution only a smudge above the tree line whenever he looks over his shoulder.
Another fifteen and he pretty much runs into a surprisingly sturdy and high cemetery wall. Usually these things are crumbling, especially in places as old as this. He looked it up. No-one's been buried here since 1938. The last guy's name was Hanson Something-or-other. Everyone that came (or went, in this case) after him is buried in the new cemetery across town. This place here is only for ghost stories and brave teenagers now. And Black Dogs.
He slings his sack onto the top of the wall and finds a convenient gap in the stones to boost himself up and across, landing on the other side with a rustle of grass and nothing else. He retrieves the knapsack, pulls out his Colt and takes in the perimeter. An old church looms in the center of the yard, bigger and more ostentatious than you'd expect from a place like this, typical cowboy cemetery. People came here to find luck, worked hard and then died. And they all landed here.
Headstones tip this way and that, a few graves only marked with piles of rocks or rotting wooden crosses. Dean's glad it's not a spirit he's hunting because finding any one grave in this place would be hell. Shrubs and grass grow pretty much where they want to, although there's a clear dusty path criss-crossing between graves, untouched by the surrounding flora. Someone still comes here, then.
He spots a convenient dark spot at the foot of a big tree, something leafy and old, that's all he can make out in the dark, and slinks over to hide himself. He's almost there when he notices something that's not at all old. There, right next to his chosen tree, in what has to be the oldest corner of the graveyard, judging by the plots and grave markers, is a flat rock. It's about two feet in every direction, the surface flat enough to be manmade. The center of it is piled high with wax of all colors. Red and especially white are dominant, but there are other colors mixed in, he can see that even in dark. The wax almost forms a hill, five inches high at the center and a foot across. Three candles of varying sizes and quality are embedded in the wax, though none are lit. Someone has been burning candles here for a very long time, which is strange, because the surrounding plots don't suggest that there's a grave here. Just a rock and a lot of candles. Strange. He shrugs and moves past it, nestling his back into a convenient curve of the base of the tree. Every place has its own little superstitions and rituals. These people like to light candles for no-one at the back of an abandoned cemetery. Who's he to judge?
Then he waits.
After ten minutes he starts bouncing his leg. After half an hour he gets cold. After an hour he can't feel his butt anymore. Sam isn't there to appreciate his running commentary on either of those things, so he does it in his head, really quiet and nutjob like, telling himself to man up and not be such a pussy. So he misses Sam's warmth sinking into his side, misses his touch from knee to shoulder, misses Sam breathing against his neck, saying, "Dean," in that bitch-voice of his.
He quite possibly misses groping Sam in the dark and the indignant sounds he makes, saying they are here to work not play and anyway, not in a cemetery, for Christ's sake. He misses grinning at Sam and telling him that that'd be only one more sin and who gives a shit? What they do is their business. Always has been. Him and Sam and Sam and him.
And it's not like he started it. Sam did, precocious little shit, sneaking into Dean's bed one night and saying, "Come on, come on, please."
Panting, sweating, touching, his breath hot on Dean's neck and Dean screwed his eyes shut so tight it hurt and didn't move a muscle because Dad was in the next room and it wasn't right, wasn't how it was supposed to be. He said no and Sam said fuck him and didn't move an inch. "It's not like there's anyone else."
And there isn't. Never was. Sam is always there and Dean is always there for Sam and sometimes they can't quite figure out where one ends and the other begins. And Dad taught them this, taught them to only ever trust family. Only family. Dean's pretty sure that that's not what he meant when he said it, but that's how it ended. Only family. Sam and Dean trust only each other, fight only for each other. They spent their lives following behind Dad on this crusade, their shoulders bumping, their steps in sync. Sometimes Dad led too far ahead and they were all that was left. Only family. Dean's never been able to say no to Sam. And he wants this, too. He wants Sam, wants all of him because Sam is the only thing in the world that was ever his.
Sam is the one constant in everything, the one part that never changes. Sam and Dad, but Dad is a distant memory, really, with drill sergeant John taking his place more and more as the years go by. But Sam belongs to Dean. Sam is always there.
Except he's not, is he? And here Dean is, screwed up and blue like some chick who got left by her boyfriend and isn't that awesome? Maybe he should go back to the hotel and get a tub of ice-cream and watch a chick-flick. Or maybe, hey, he could grow some balls and man the fuck up because he has a job to do.
Yeah. So here's what he'll do. He'll kill that fugly, get his car, drive into the next city that has more than hay, get drunk and find some barfly. He'll take her to his room and screw her until her eyes cross and then he'll pass out and in the morning he'll have a helluva hangover and be cured of all this emo crap.
Yeah, that's what he's gonna do.
When the Dog finally shows up it's a whisper of leaves at his back and when he whirls around, a glow of red eyes in the dark. He brings up his gun, but it's already gone again.
A growl, behind him. He spins again, fires, hits thin air. The next sound is close, far too close and he doesn't bother turning, just throws himself forward in a roll, tucking in all his limbs, coming up behind a tombstone so old, it's perfectly smooth.
The Black Dog leaps over it without hesitation and he flattens himself to the ground, fires blindly in the air. It twists away from the silver bullet, landing in the open, the moonlight giving it shape and – fuck. He's killed his fair share of these fuglies, some stronger some weaker, but this one is taller than any he's ever seen. It easily reaches four feet in the shoulder, more if you count its heavy head with the hell-red eyes. It spins to look at him steadily, like a cat at a mouse, flanks quivering. It doesn't breathe, doesn't even have organs. It's nothing but a manifestation, an idea. But its shape is that of a dog. Vaguely, at least. Dogs don't move this liquidly, dogs don't have such claws, such teeth, such a big head. Dog's don't have the special effect eyes. (The better to freak you the fuck out with.)
But the physiognomy is the same and Dean fires in a way that should be impossible for a dog to evade. Only this beast does. He scrambles to his feet, fumbling for bullets in his jacket pocket, retreating. He left his bag by the tree.
There's a whisper of wind and between one blink and the next, the Dog's gone. He tenses, knowing that chances are good the thing's right behind him. He exhales quietly, listens hard as he slowly withdraw his hand from his pocket. Shuffling behind him and he launches sideways, wincing as he hits something hard with his shoulder and lands in a heap, firing.
His shots illuminate the whole area like lightning for a few split seconds and he sees the Dog come right at him, swinging like a pendulum, left-right-left evading his bullets like he's throwing candy. This fucker isn't even remotely like the others Dean has hunted and with every new flash of light it's closer, closer, closer, like a badly cut movie, choppy and fuck, it's on him. He jams his gun into its mouth and punches it in the jaw.
It howls and he counts that as a victory because it's the first time the thing seems even remotely vulnerable. He kicks it in the belly, rolls again and draws his boot knife before taking off at a dead run towards the knapsack and his backup gun.
He hits his knees hard, starts digging in the messy pack, painfully aware that he has no clue where the thing is or what it's doing. This is why hunting is a two man job. Because you need more than two eyes and damn, where the hell is that gun?
He hears it a split second before it manifests again, right on top of him. Its claws dig into his shoulder and he swings his knife in a wide arc. The angle's bad and he only grazes it and there's not enough silver in the blade anyway. He bucks, trying to throw it off and it goes with the motion, throwing him flat to the ground as he comes back down, pinning him there. He flails, kicks, gets a foot hooked into its hind legs and wrenches with all he's got, getting it off. He flips on his back, scoots backwards, glaringly aware that his shoulder is bleeding like all get out and his ribs feel wrong in his chest, all jammed up.
Fucking two man job, this is a two man job but he's not…
It comes at him again and he knows it's the last time. He brings up the blade to put up a token resistance but this is it, he's done for. Dean Winchester, dog chow.
And he's not even saving anyone. He's just… dying.
He hopes, for one vindictive and cruel second, that Sammy gets eaten alive by guilt and then it's on him and he slams backwards with the force of it, cracking his skull open on a headstone like an egg.
Is brain matter white or yellow?
He didn't mean it. He doesn't want Sammy to feel guilty. Really. It's how own damn fault for not being faster, not being better armed, for being such a…
He wakes to the sound off someone humming and the echo of it, distorting the melody and making his head want to explode. There is the clattering of pans, the regular and small snip of a knife on a chopping board and he thinks that being dead is kinda okay if Mom's cooking for him. Tomato rice soup.
But, hold on. Mom's dead, Dad's hunting her killer and Sam's running in the exact opposite direction. And this, this probably isn't actually the afterlife because he hurts like the dickens and his much abused brain finally identifies the hummed melody as Dust in the Wind and dude, there's no way Mom would hum that. Mom hated Kansas.
And with that happy thought he carefully cracks one eye open and, yep, never seen that ceiling before. He sits up in slow motion, every muscle in his back and stomach protesting, shoulder throbbing, head doing a damn tango. He can feel stitches in his shoulder, under an impressive layer of bandages, can feel that his ribs are wrapped to keep them from rattling loosely around his chest, feels like, and there's a funny feeling on the left side of his head.
He reaches up with hesitation, remembers vaguely that he thought about eggs before everything went dark. How the hell is he still alive? There's no bandage wrapped around his skull like he half expects but he can feel his fingers on his forehead like they are hot pokers, searing right into his brain. Ouch.
He trails them to the left, across his temple and into his hairline. Only his hairline isn't there anymore. There's a wide swath of naked scalp under his fingers, two inches broad. Most of it is covered with bandage and tape and he easily resists the urge to grimace to try and feel if there are stitches. There are stitches. And his head is half shaved. Great. He probably looks like a psychotic serial killer on the run.
He checks the rest of his body and finds himself stripped to his boxers, bone tired, weak as a kitten but mobile. He could probably make a run for it if he has to.
Oh, who's he kidding, he's in a comfortable bed, there's someone humming and cooking in the background and he doesn't want to move an inch. He doesn't even care if the Hummer is gonna cook him for dinner. Not really.
Once he has taken full stock of his body, he looks around. Big, sturdy bed. A dresser, a few piles of clothes shoved into a corner. His own clothes are nowhere to be seen, nor his weapons or bag. But there's a First Aid kit open on the trunk at the foot of the bed. A winding staircase sinks into the floor in the far right corner. The walls are whitewashed and their uneven surface makes him think he's in an old building.
To his left there's a railing of sandy brown wood, smooth with age and beyond – holy crap! He straightens and regrets it as his ribs clearly state their opinion on that move, but, hell. He shifts to the edge of the bed, sets his feet on the cold stone floor and just stares.
He's in a church.
But not any church he's ever seen. Form the vague impression he got the night before, he thinks this may be the out-of-place big church in the cemetery, too expensive and nice for a town like this. But, hell. The bed stands where the organ used to be, up on the gallery, over the entrance. It's the ground floor beyond the railing that has his brain stuttering a bit. The floors were raised so the colorful stained glass windows start only inches above the hardwood floor. The main part of the church contains a sitting area with two comfortable looking couches, a TV, a coffee table, shelves. Closer to the front, a dining room table with only two chairs. And where the altar used to be, a kitchen.
It's raised another step from the ground level, built around a small island, open and friendly and there's a short blonde woman puttering around, still humming. Someone converted a church into a home. Christ. Just when he thought he'd seen everything. The walls are all white, the windows almost painfully cheery with all those bright colors (not the images, though, just the colors), the floors and the rugs strewn everywhere warm. It's a cozy place. A home. In a church.
He must make some sort of noise, because the blonde suddenly looks up from chopping tomatoes and straight at him through the gaps in the railing. She smiles. "You're awake," she states unnecessarily. She speaks normally, but the acoustics of the room carry her voice like she's standing next to him. No whispering in this place, he guesses. "Can you lug your carcass down here on your own or do you need help?"
He blinks. What?
"Food?" She asks, gentler, tapping the side of a bowl with her knife. He still doesn't react. "Please tell me you're just in awe of this place and not, like, brain dead or something? Because you took it pretty hard on the head and I was worried for a while, especially because you kept grunting at me every time I woke you up because of your concussion and please don't be a vegetable? They drool. I hate drooling."
"I…," he shifts, sending spikes of agony through his entire torso. "I'm… okay."
She lets out a big, swooshing breath. "Thank Lord. Can you make it down the stairs?"
She taps the bowl again and he thinks that it's just his luck that his good Samaritan is a batty chick living in a church. At least she's hot.
He contemplates nodding but settles for a simple, "I think so."
She grins. "Good. Cuz lugging you up there was hard enough. What did they feed you as a kid anyway?"
He grunts as he starts experimenting with getting his feet under him and, lo and behold, as long as he holds onto the railing he's almost steady. Problem: there's about ten feet of open space between him and the stairs and then he has to get down in one piece. His expression apparently gives him away because Hummer abandons her knife and tomatoes and comes jogging across the open space of the living area and a moment later, appears beside him. She hands him an old t-shirt that definitely doesn't belong to her, as it's easily big enough for him. It says Sex Pistols on the front. Better than Britney Spears, he figures. She helps him pull it on and then grins. "Let's get that heavy butt down, yeah?"
He tries to protest her calling him heavy. He really does. But she tugs at his wrist that very second, taking away his support and he almost face plants right back onto the bed. She slings his arm over her shoulder and starts steering him, taking surprisingly much of his weight. So much, in fact, that it might make him worry if he were all there. But he's not.
The stairs are hell and he's about to just tell her to let him get back into bed, but she shakes her head at his unspoken request, saying, "You're gonna get all stiff. Besides, the bathroom is downstairs anyway."
The stairs end in a small office area. There's a big, old desk shoved against the wall, stacked his with books and a computer. To their left, more stairs lead down to what have to be the original double doors of the church. The other side of the small stairwell is walled off and he guesses that that's where the bathroom is.
"Nice digs," he manages as she half drags him past the couches and deposits him gently at the dining table.
Her smile and quick and easy. "Thanks."
She flits into the kitchen and comes back with a glass of lukewarm water and some pills. Oh, painkillers. He might have to marry that woman. She puts both in front of him and says, "Sorry it's nothing stronger but you still have that concussion," – which he remembers nothing of, nor of getting woken up during the night by his hot nurse - , "And I really don't want you puking out your guts on top of everything else."
God, being sick with broken ribs. He did that once, no repeat performance necessary. Ever. It felt like his whole ribcage was trying to come out through his mouth.
He downs the pills easily (practice makes perfect) and watches her putter around the kitchen. She's making scrambled eggs, frying bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms on the side. It's hypnotic, watching her move, doing five things at once and never losing her beat. Eventually she stops and turns to look at him, eyebrow raised expectantly.
He startles, asks, "Wha - ?"
"I asked if you have a name, or if I have to keep calling you 'guy who falls on tombstones'."
"Dean," he rasps, not even considering a fake name. She probably saved his life, took him in her home, plans on feeding him. No lies. Just this once, no damn lies.
She gifts him with another one of those smiles and says, "Hi, I'm Buffy!"
"Seriously?" It's out before he knows it and he's pretty sure that too much alone-time has screwed with his brain-mouth filter. He'll blame it on the drugs. She giggles and rolls her eyes (heard that before, buddy), before slinging a plate filled to capacity across the table at him. She takes the other chair, hands him a fork and says, "Dig in. You need to eat something or those pills will burn a hole in you."
Nice imagery, that there. He eats, trying to avoid the mushrooms because they're all blackish and greasy looking. Besides, Dean Winchester doesn't do vegetables. Tomatoes are okay because… well, because, but mushrooms? No way. Except, when he spears one by accident, it's actually sort of… neat.
He eats less than half of his plate before his stomach starts rolling and he knows it's either stop or barf. He pushes the rest of the food away, watches the chick - Buffy – polish her portion off like it's a snack. Hungry, that one.
Eventually she stacks his plate on top of her empty one and pushes both down the table toward the end where no-one is sitting. She leans her elbows on the table and asks, "You gonna tell me why you tangled with Eddy?"
He must have been zoning out, because her voice hits him like a medium sized explosion and he cringes from it, fighting down nausea. He has a concussion alright. It's a miracle his brain's not fried all to hell after the beating he took.
"The Black Dog that almost killed you? Eddy?"
The things that penetrate his pain and drug fogged mind are these: a) she knows there's a Black Dog out there, b) she knows there are such things as Black Dogs and c) she's given it a name. What the fuck?
"What the fuck?"
"Well," she snaps, a bit defensive, "What was I supposed to call him? He doesn't look like a Walter, or a Henry, does he? He's an Eddy."
"You named the thing?"
"It's a he," she insists. "At least I'm pretty sure. He acts kinda… male."
"It tried to turn me into shish kebab!" He tries throwing up his arms and cringes at the pain.
She's considerate enough to wait until the room stop spinning before snapping right back, "Well, you tried to turn him into Swiss cheese first!"
"It killed four people!" He should stop yelling. It's making his head throb and his stomach heave and the rest of him feel all sideways and wrong and he thinks he might pass out if this keeps going. How embarrassing.
"No, he didn't," she says and suddenly she's all dulcet tones again, no more screaming. "Is that why you tried to kill him?"
He gives her his best 'well, duh' look and makes the mistake of rolling his eyes. The next thing he knows is that she's kneeling next to his chair, holding him upright, worried look on her face. He tries to focus on her and after a few tries, manages to figure out the color of her eyes. They're sort of green, with flecks of brown. Like Sammy's.
"Way to end an argument," she tells him and she's smiling. He tries to settle back down but she'll have none of it, tugging him out of his chair instead and leading him to one of the couches. Makes for a softer fall if he keels over again, he guesses.
She sits next to him, keeping a steadying hand on his arm and surprisingly he doesn't mind so much. "Eddy didn't kill those people. And I can prove it. What do you know about Black Dogs? Dean?"
He jerks away from where he was letting himself by hypnotized by the play of sunlight on the stained glass window across the room. He thinks it might be Michael doing some smiting in that window, but he's not sure. "Yeah," he mutters and then works through what she wants from him.
"Black Dogs," he starts rattling off once he's got it figured out. "Originally guardians of cemeteries. They're made out of the energy of people's prayers for protection of their dead loved ones. And they like to chew on me."
Buffy laughed quietly. "Apparently," she agreed, "But the important bit is that they are confined to the cemetery they are meant to guard. As long as people remember them and appreciate them they are damn useful. They keep away desecrators and robbers, but also ghouls, etc. There are no restless spirits in cemeteries that have Black Dogs. They keep order. It's when people forget about them that the tie to their territory fades and they go rogue."
Apparently his brain isn't as fried as he thought it was because he makes the connection. "The stone with the candles. People here remember."
She nods. "Exactly. Eddy is confined to the walls of the graveyard. He can't leave. All the victims died in places where he can't go. Ergo, Eddy's innocent."
"He still tried to eat me."
"He's a Black Dog. He doesn't eat."
"Kill me then," he insists, sullen, tired and cranky. His head is shaved, goddamn it. He gets to bitch about that.
"I told you, you attacked him first. Besides, you were trespassing, buddy."
He tries to tell her where she can shove her fucking trespassing, thanks a fucking lot, that fucking loopy bitch, but his tongue's too heavy, his head too small and his limbs like noodles. He grunts. Buffy moves aside and lowers him down on the couch until he's lying flat on his back.
He falls asleep to the sound of her doing the dishes.
"Why do they remember?"
It's dark again outside and he woke from his nap half an hour ago to find Buffy sitting on the other couch, reading a book that looked older than both of them together and possibly Sammy on top.
She helped him to the bathroom, cracked a few jokes that made him feel at ease and then gave him more pills. Right now she's coming down the stairs with the First Aid kit and he suspects there is prodding and poking in his imminent future. So he distracts her.
"Why does who remember what?" She blinks at him owlishly.
His head feels better so he smiles crookedly and says, "The people around here. You say they remember about Black Dogs. Why?"
She shrugs, half looks away. "Dunno. More traditional than other places, I guess."
She's lying. He lets it slide and she sits next to him, carefully reaching up to tug at the taped down bandage keeping his brain inside his skull. He starts cussing as soon as her fingers touch skin and only stops when she sighs and rips the bandage off in one swoop. He yells briefly and she makes a soothing noise at the back of her throat, like he's a wounded animal. Well, he thinks, she did find him injured in her own backyard. He'll never fly, though, no matter how well she looks after him.
She starts carefully prodding his stitches and he distracts himself by looking down her shirt. When that's not enough, he runs his mouth. "So are you a hunter?"
She shrugs, pinching a bit at the puckered skin of his wound. "Sorta. I mean, not all the time, but yeah. I'm a hunter."
"So then why haven't you figured this bitch out yet?" He doesn't have to explain what 'this bitch' is. Four dead people ring a bell?
"I was out of the country for the past eight months. You're lucky I got back yesterday or you probably would have bled out before anyone found you."
Yeah. Lucky. That's what he is. Damn, fucking lucky. He doesn't feel like it for some reason. He stays silent.
"Well, this one looks okay. Let me take a look at your shoulder and then I'll wrap you back up, Mr. Mummy."
"What could it be, if it's not the…Eddy?" She smothers a smile as he submits and calls the beast that almost shredded him by its name. He doesn't know why he does it, but he suspects that it has to do with there not being an ounce of fight left in him.
She gets up abruptly, picking up something from the desk in the far corner. She comes back and hands him a few loose sheets of paper, standing in front of him expectantly as he looks them over. He reads the first few lines of the list put down in old-fashioned, curly handwriting. Werewolf, it says. Eddy. Hell Hound. Wendigo The list goes on for three pages.
"I got bored last night. This is a list of everything our monster is not."
Wow. That is… so completely useless it's actually kinda amazing. He skims the list, finding most things he knows that could have done this and a few he's never heard of. "So what is it then?"
She shrugs and goes back to his shoulder, messing with the stitches there, checking for infection. "I haven't got the slightest idea."
"We gotta figure this out," he tells her, trying to sound decisive. It works, sorta, because she nods.
"I'm on it. But you gotta take it easy for a few days before you go monster hunting again. Maybe wait until the stitches are out."
"Someone else might die," he points out.
"You might die," she retorts, like his life matters more than any other. He should probably disillusion her, but he just snorts.
She keeps prodding and, eventually, announces, "You'll live."
It's like one of those movies where they pack years into ninety minutes and between one scene and the next, weeks and months can pass. He closes his eyes and when he opens the next time it's five hours, seven hours, twelve hours later. He just blinks, and around him the world goes on fast forward.
Buffy wears different clothes, does different things. The light through the hypnotizing windows has changed again and the new play of color fascinates him every time. If he needed proof that he is really, really not alright, this is it. He thinks that three days pass in that blur, because Buffy wakes him three times for breakfast.
"Thanks," he says eventually, when he can move on his own again and his head is almost clear.
She smiles and simply returns, "You're welcome."
Like it's no big deal that she saved him, patched him back up, let him take over her bed. That she fed him and mothered him like no-one has since Mom died.
"No," he reiterates, "Seriously. Thanks."
She nods. "Seriously," she echoes, "You're welcome. If you wanna pay me back, stick around for a while. I get lonely."
He doubts that very much because here she is, young, pretty, smart, kind and obviously well off. People are probably licking the damn ground she walks on. But he agrees, putting only one condition on the deal. "Until we get this fucker."
"Until we get this fucker." The profanity sound awkward from her lips, unpracticed. Like it's not even an English word.
Eventually, he can't ignore the fact that he smells anymore. Stitches or not, he needs a damn shower. Now. He hobbles into the bathroom after announcing his interest and carefully strips first his boxers and t-shirt and then his bandages. He's healed enough to get wet, he figures, as long as he stays away from shampoo.
He's naked when Buffy knocks on the door and asks him if he can manage for half an hour because she has an errand to run. He promises not to try to crack his damn head open again and hears the front door close behind her a moment later.
In front of the mirror he stops and stares. He's lost weight. It's not a recent thing, but he's lost weight. He's also pasty pale and the dirty rust of dried blood still clings to him in places. His new haircut makes him look deranged. The stitches in his shoulder start just above his collarbone and go round and down, ending at the bottom of his shoulder blade. They are tiny and stark black against his skin, four neat rows. This will scar.
He turns on the shower, lets the water run hot and steps under it, simply soaking until he feels guilty for wasting water. He scrubs gingerly, getting rid of blood, sweat and dirt and then wraps himself in a fuzzy towel he'd never admit to liking, before he sinks down on the edge of the tub, utterly exhausted.
There's another knock and Buffy lets herself in. It's the first time he notices there is no lock and he wonders if that means she's always alone up here. Sounds like a crappy deal. She's carrying a stack of clothes in her arms and as she sets it down next to him and picks up a dry washcloth to dab at his head wound, he realizes they're his clothes.
She notices his surprise and shrugs. "Margie, the hotel manager let me into your room. I got your stuff and your car's outside, too. She's not even charging you for the past three days. Cool, huh?"
He grunts and nods his agreement, glad he won't have to pay and cringing at the thought of anyone driving his baby but him. He lets her re-mummify him and then dresses in silence, utterly spent.
She insists on cutting his hair before she lets him outside. Says that it won't look quite as lopsided if his whole head is shaved. At the word 'shaved' he automatically raises a hand, shielding his hair. He likes his damn hair.
They squabble about it like an old married couple for a few minutes and it's so much like bitching at Sam that his entire chest hurts. Just the ribs again, really.
"What about a Mohawk?" she finally asks, trying to compromise, which is entirely unlike Sam, who, somewhere along the road, made my way or the highway his motto.
He runs a hand over the top of his head, palm skimming hair and stubble and bandage and considers the idea. He'd look totally badass with a Mohawk, wouldn't he?
She grins, a glint of teeth and anticipation, reading the decision on his face. "What the fuck," he says, "Yeah. Let's do it."
Now, don't tell this to anyone, but this? This is fun. He's having honest to God fun with that chick and he looks at his cellphone lying on the coffee table at least once a day, thinking that he should call Dad, tell him he's alive and that the Black Dog thing was a bust. But he never does. It's against orders but screw this, screw all of it. Just this once, Dean is doing something that he wants. And what he wants is to be here, with this girl that he's almost calling a friend already in his head and see how good of a hunter she is because he's seen her chopping away at all kinds of veggies in the kitchen and damn, that kind of skill tickles something deep in his gut, stirs a fire that's been sputtering and guttering for a while. (Since Sammy left, but he doesn't even think that. He doesn't.) He wants this. So he takes it.
Sam would probably be proud.
(The thought tastes bitter.)
The morning after his shower and haircut, Buffy cleans away the dishes with his help and then pulls the rug between couch and dining room table aside with a flourish, revealing a trapdoor underneath.
She motions for him to wait, gathers the stacks of musty books she's strewn around the place these past few days and puts them on the floor next to the door. Then she opens it, climbs down half the ladder, grabs the stack and disappears into the floor altogether. He crosses his feet at the ankles and sinks down next to the hole, peering down. All he can make out in the dim light are shelves and shelves of books and the sharp glint of more weapons than an army could carry. Clever little girl, she raised the floor of the church not only so she'd have better lighting, but also because it gave her a basement, one she's obviously using for anything hunting related. He's figured out over the past few days of choppy-movie wakings that she deals with antiques in some way. Anything lying around upstairs can be explained away with that.
And all that time, death, blood and damnation lie just under the feet of anyone walking through the church. Holy above, hell below.
"You're a crafty bitch, aren't you?" he asks, not kindly, but with a kind of admiration. Living on consecrated ground, in a church, with an arsenal under her feet, she's practically untouchable. This is the fucking Fort Knox of the supernatural.
"Careful," she teases as she smacks a new stack of books down next to him and reemerges, "Language, Mister."
He laughs and it's a raw and surprised sound. It's been a while. He takes her offered hand with his good one and lets her pull him to his feet, helps her put the rug back in place and pick up the books. "What? You gonna spank me?"
Her laugh sounds better than his, easier, but just as rusty, if he listens closely. She drops her book load on the coffee table and swats him on the ass none too gently.
He winks at her.
Hours later he's pretty sure she's evil. Fucking evil bitch from hell, come to make his brains leak out of his ears. She's making him read all those damn books. He hates research.
Especially research as tricky as this. They have no clue what they're looking for, going endlessly in circles and coming back to the same few potential fuglies, which they all know are not the right ones.
He sets the latest tome-o-doom down on his lap and looks around, grimacing as he realizes both they, and the couches are hopelessly covered in books, books and more books. "Sammy'd love this shit," he mutters under his breath and is surprised when Buffy's pen stops scratching over paper.
"Who's Sammy?" she asks after a long minute of silence.
He looks away, intently studying the sketch of a hellhound eviscerating a man that's displayed on the open page of his book. "My brother," he whispers at the dying man.
More silence. Then Buffy volunteers, still holding on to her pencil, "I had a sister."
It's an offering, a gift. Her battle scars for his, he guesses, but at the same time, she's not pushing. Just… talking. It's a strange notion, talking just to talk. Oh, he's freaking great and filling the silence with chatter, but that's not talking. That's just noise.
Winchester's in general never talk. They yell, order, exchange information. They curse a whole damn lot. But they don't talk. Sammy's the only one who ever tries and he usually gets shot down quick and hard, unless Dean's feeling very, very mellow. Which only happens when he just got laid, which hasn't really happened since Sam's left, which opens a whole different can of worms because Dean can do just about any illegal and kinky act to his brother but talking about it? Thinking about it?
His tongue down Sam's throat feels a lot better than it sounds. He's a doer, not a thinker and every time he thinks about it, that low weight settles in his stomach, along with the voice whispering, "You gonna ruin your little brother this way, too?"
Doesn't matter that Sammy's the one who started it, the one who keeps – kept – coming back. Doesn't matter that it takes two to tango. Doesn't matter that Dean sometimes suspects, in his darker moments, that this is all Dad's fault. All those orders, all that brainwashing (stick together, trust no-one, watch out for Sammy), well it has to have unhinged something in them.
But that's all over anyway now. Sam's gone to Cali to make it big and if they ever see each other again (Oh God, please, let him see Sammy again), the fact that he used to screw his brother will be the last thing Sammy ever wants to think about.
"She was younger than me," Buffy starts after a too long silence and Dean yanks himself back to reality hard, forcing himself to listen to every word she has to say in order to ban Sam from his mind. Because Sam left. Sam doesn't need him and fuck if he needs Sam.
"Six years younger than me. God, I hated the brat sometimes. Our father died in the… war," (that's a lie), "And Mom got sick and died, too when she was still just a kid. I raised her. And then, when she was only fourteen… there was this demon."
She stops, licks her lips, closes her eyes and Dean's heart sinks because apparently sibling-shaped wounds never heal. It's a dark prognosis for his own future. But if her sister was six years younger and died at fourteen, then Buffy must have been twenty and looking at her, Dean wonders for the first time how old she is. "It tried to use her in some ritual to open a gate to hell."
He winces in sympathy but makes no other move. Her decision to talk, her decision to stop. She doesn't. "I stopped it. But she was injured too badly and they… they say she died peacefully." She smiles. "Doesn't really help, you know?"
No, he really doesn't. Because Sam may be gone but he's alive and whole and happy. Gone, but not dead. "Did you get the fucker?"
She shakes her head and then leans it back, eyes closed, obviously fighting tears. Talk about awkward. "I will," she suddenly announces with a sharpness that doesn't match her pained expression. "I'll find it and I'll rip it limb from limb."
"Want some help?" he offers because he can. And because he wants to.
Later that night, after dinner, when he starts feeling woozy again, he puts down the last of the books and says, "Sammy's a total geek. He's four years younger than me, but way smarter. Got a full ride for Stanford. Our father didn't want him to go, but he went anyway, stubborn little shit. Wants to be a lawyer. He sure as hell argues enough. After Mom died, I kinda looked after him, ya know? He was my responsibility. Still is. He hates the life though, wants normal. I just… I want him to be happy, but at the same time…"
He has no idea why he is telling a stranger this when he has never even told his own family.
"You want to keep him close, where you can always see him, always know he's safe and sound, where you can look out for him and protect him and where he can't leave you because without him breathing is too damn hard," Buffy finishes for him, her expression solemn.
For one mad-crazy second he is about to open his mouth and ask, "Oh, so you used to fuck your sibling, too?"
But then he seals his lips tightly shut and simply nods, thinking that maybe he does know why he tells her, of all people.
His clean bill of health follows two days later. She takes out the stitches, tells him to take a real shower because she can smell him from across the room and disappears into her little secret basement to try and step up the research.
He gets clean, gets dressed, returns all his weapons (which she had been storing in aforementioned basement) to their places along his body and tells her he's going back into town to try and find something new to work with.
Outside he looks around, taking in the strange sight of an old, derelict cemetery in the bright, spring sunshine. Tilted headstones and rotting crosses that look foreboding in the dark become nothing more than pale shadows against scraggly green-yellowish grass. The pile of sacrificial wax looks too bright with it's mostly while color and a few feet from it, he finds a few dark patches on trampled ground, where Eddy almost made him its midnight snack.
He's pretty sure he sees a dark shape slinking alongside him in the shadows of the trees and the wall as he makes his way down the path toward the sagging front gate, but he doesn't turn his head to look, perfectly content with ignoring the deadly, supernatural entity following his every step, thanks a fucking lot.
The Impala is parked right outside the gates, shiny and looking like home, as always. He strokes along her hood and side, pats her roof and exhales as he turns the key in the lock and she opens her doors to him. Home, sweet home.
Becky' smile has grown wider during his absence, more real. He returns it and wonders as he asks her for obituaries, any and all they have. He wants to check the cemetery on the other side of town for potential ghosts. Just because the death happened close to Buffy's cemetery, that doesn't mean it can't be a ghost buried elsewhere. They've tried working from the victims to a solution and nothing gave. Now he'll try to work from the place they all got killed in, see what he can find. Maybe there was a convenient tree hugger who loved most to hug the trees right there, where four people died in the past six months.
She tells him to take a seat and then proceeds to stack armful after armful of dusty, yellowed paper in front of him. Eventually the table is filled to capacity and she leans close, smiles a smile that was probably damn hot twenty years ago and asks, "So, how do you like the Miss's place, honey? Isn't it just beautiful?"
Dean opens his mouth to ask her what the hell she's talking about when a few details clock into place and he realizes that 'Miss' is the loopy mid-twenty blonde he's been doing research with for the past week. A frown crosses his face before he smoothes it out and nods. "Yeah, totally awesome. Has she been living up there long?"
He's fishing and Becky knows it. Her expression goes from flirty back to maternal and she pats his shoulder. He nails are painted fire engine red, chipped at the edges. "You ask her that, young man," she orders and walks away.
"Nothing," he barks as a greeting as soon as he's let himself in with the key she lent him. He flings himself on the free couch across from her and repeats, "Nothing. No-one who's buried in the new graveyard ever had any special connection to that spot I could find. This is getting ridiculous."
She slams the book on her lap closed and throws it on the coffee table with a heavy thud before nodding. "You're right."
She rubs her eyes tiredly and stretches, standing to go make coffee.
"So what do we do?" He asks as he watches her ass in those tight jeans.
She fiddles with the water tank, then looks at him. "We start from the top," she tells him. "What do we know?"
He sighs but plays along gamely. This isn't new ground. If a problem gets too complicated, you strip away all the layers until there's only bare bones left. And you start again. Sam sucks at it, because he always complicates things, sometimes without even meaning to. "Four victims. Jamie Harper Jr. was out in the woods doing God knows what when he got killed. A week later, after his funeral, his father, James Harper Sr. went out there to… dunno, say goodbye or something. Second vic. Nothing for almost five months. Then Emily Walton and Jeffrey Rouge. They were hikers passing through. They were found off the trail. All vics were torn apart, no organs missing, no particular moonphase, no pagan holidays. Just torn apart."
Buffy nods along to his report, knowing the facts as well as he does. She puts coffee into the machine and hits the red button before flinging herself down next to him. "That sounds like a spirit," she sums up.
Dean frowns, "More like something corporeal. Hence the Black Dog thing."
She shakes her head. "Nuh-uh. The Black Dog theory was based on the cemetery being so close, admit it. And the newspapers got it wrong. They talked about ripped apart and animal attacks. I read the coroner's reports. They were literally torn apart."
"As in, body parts?" He grimaces at her nod. "Okay. Spirit then." Anything corporeal would leave some sort of mark, claws or teeth. People spattering all over the place is more spirit than Dog.
"But not someone buried in this cemetery because of Eddy."
"And no-one from the other cemetery because I triple checked everyone who's buried there and nada."
"What does that leave?" Buffy asks, her head resting on the back of the couch, eyes rolled up to stare at the high ceiling. He tugs on a strand of her long hair because he can and she doesn't smack him for it.
"Any Native American burial ground around here?" he suggests.
She rolls her head, left to right and back. "Nope. I checked before I moved here. What else could it be?"
He lets go of her hair and rests his arm behind her, an open embrace, only half paying attention to what he's doing, the rest of his mind on the puzzle at hand. After a few minutes of silence he suddenly straightens. "Suicides," he blurts.
"Suicides were buried outside cemeteries. You said Eddy is confined to the cemetery."
She sits up, eyes wide and finishes his thought. "And a suicide would be outside Eddy's territory, thus free to roam. Jamie was looking for material for his wife's rock garden. He probably stirred up a suicide!"
And then she's on him, small hands bracketing his face, lips on his, kissing him for all she's worth and his arms come up automatically, fingers wrapping around her ribcage, holding close, pulling in, tasting coffee and sugar and Buffy and the elation of finally figuring it out.
She pulls back after only a moment, licking her lips, eyes alight, leaving him high and dry. He'd call her a teasing bitch, if she weren't so obviously excited by his epiphany. "Wait here," she calls as she jumps to her feet and pulls on the rug. He watches her ass as she opens the trapdoor and climbs down, adjusting his position on the couch slightly. A minute later she comes back from the basement with a new arm full of books. "Town chronicles," she announces, bouncing on her feet.
He gives her a smirk. "Is there anything you don't have down there?"
She pretends to think, "Bunny suits. They came with the church."
"The bunny suits?"
"The chronicles. Start searching." She throws one of the big books at him, keeps another for herself and dumps the rest on the already groaning coffee table. She sits down next to him, way inside his personal space and he grins to himself. He's still got it.
"Michael Bentham," he announces close to midnight, tucking a strip of notepad paper between the pages so he won't lose his find. "Shot himself in the head 1874. Buried along the wall."
Buffy nods and looks up, chewing on a pencil. He reaches over and plucks it from her lips, twirling it between his fingers. "I know where. South corner. But I don't think he's our man."
A shrug. "His story's kinda famous. His wife killed herself after she lost the third child in a row. He raised their other kids and fifteen years after her death, a week after he married off his youngest daughter, he kissed a gun. His suicide note only read 'Mary's been waiting so long'. He wanted to die and move on. Not exactly material for a restless spirit."
"Maybe he didn't find his wife-y?"
Buffy frowns. "Death's not a revolving door, Dean. You can't look in on the other side and come back out if you don't find who you're looking for. It's permanent."
"Well then, what about the wife? Mary? Where's she buried? With him?"
She grumbles under her breath, throwing around numbers and dates and finally reaches for one of the chronicles, flipping it open somewhere in the middle. The year at the top of the page is 1859. She runs one finger over births, weddings, baptisms, diseases, enlistments and deaths and stop at the very bottom of the page, tapping the yellowed paper twice. "Mary Bentham. Committed suicide by drowning. She was buried, oh crap!"
She stands, agitated, handing the book over to Dean, who finds her place and keeps reading. The priest that buried Mary was apparently not the same as the one that buried her husband fifteen years later, because Mary's not buried along the wall. The priest had her buried at a crossroads in the woods, so her soul would forever wander, never finding its way into the afterlife. Apparently, Mr. Priest thought hell was too good for suicides.
"Dude," Dean say softly, "That's…"
"Fucking medieval?" Buffy ventures.
He shoots her a mock-affronted look. "I was going to say 'archaic'."
She snorts. "Sure you were. Seriously, though, that's tough."
"And damn pagan, come to think of it," he feels the need to point out. He feels a bit sorry for Mary. Not because she turned tail and killed herself, abandoning her living children and husband, but because he can sort of understand giving up. He wouldn't ever, mind you, but he damn well understands it. She lost too much of what she loved. And intentionally binding her soul to this plane, no matter how primitively it was done, is just the icing on the cake.
Buffy nods, shrugs. "Back then a lot of people brought a lot of superstitions from Europe. You could find all sorts of rituals and practices that were only Christian in name. Plus, people still knew what went bump in the night, back then. Salt over your shoulder, stuff like that. It's not so unusual." She shrugs again and wants to know, "Does it say which crossroads?"
Dean turns the page and skims the contents of the text before finding what he's looking for. "Here. Along Hilton Road. You know where that is?"
"Yeah. Hilton was a tiny place a few miles from here. Disappeared ages ago. The road's mostly a hiking path these days. What's left of it. Wanna bet Jamie Harper dug for rocks right there, at the crossroads?"
"And woke good ole' Mary."
"Guess that means we're going hiking."
Her grin is all action and no hesitation.
She gets the backpack full with fugly-burning goodies and he gets the shovels and the flashlight because his shoulder's still a lot more tender than he'd like to admit. Nevermind that she seems to know anyway.
She laughs at his biker boots and he pokes fun at her jeans, which are too long and dirty to the knee by the time they leave the graveyard. It rained last night. Then she pokes fun at the woolen hat he's put on because the cool breeze feels like ice blades against his newly shaven head. But that's okay because he pokes right back at her girly blonde hair which is visible in the dark like a goddamn beacon, thanks a lot.
She retorts that she at least still has hair to be visible and could he please stop cracking blonde jokes, he's just as much of one as she is. Doofus.
Yes, she calls him doofus. It's around that time that he realizes they are both totally hyped on pre-battle adrenaline already and probably scaring half the wildlife and all the vengeful spirits in the vicinity. He still hip-bumps her like he would Sam, only with less force because let's face it, Sam has about three feet and two hundred pounds on that tiny thing. He feels strangely gratified, though, when she bumps him right back hard enough to send him careening into a convenient tree. And instead of apologizing for playing too rough, she laughs and walks right past him. Maybe he should marry that girl.
She's got a mouth and a body, she kicks right back, doesn't flinch at blood or his coarse language and never backs down. She researches with a diligence and dedication that's as stunning as it is mind numbing and she doesn't let him get away with shit. She's also probably a fire cracker in bed and a damn fine hunter. She looks hot with guns in her hands and hotter with knives, because she handles them like extensions of her body and, wow.
He's totally comparing the chick he's planning on screwing into the mattress later that night with his brother. Okay, so he used to screw Sam into the mattress, too, but that's not the point. He thinks he may be using Buffy to work out his issues and damn, not fair. It's not her fault that he and Sam are too fucked in the head to ever be normal, to love anyone but each other.
Except, he thinks that without Sam, he might be able to love that girl because she just… she gets it. He feeds her bullshit and she just gives him the eyebrow that says, 'yeah, right' and something just… clicks. Between them. Oh god-fucking-damn, he's totally sounding like he grew a vag just there, isn't he? How long has he known her? A week? And he spent at least half of that passed out on her couch like a real big boy.
Screw this. He bumps her again but the playfulness is gone from it, replaced by a sudden anger he couldn't explain if he tried. Who's he pissed at anyway? Sam, Buffy or himself. Why not all three?
She is forced to take a hasty step to the side, landing almost ankle deep in mud. She looks up at him, expression curious and skeptic, obviously feeling the sudden hostility.
"Problem?" she asks, fake-casual. He can see her shift minutely, adjusting her stance.
She's expecting him to attack her.
"I miss Sam," he blurts and then actually jerks because the fuck? Why is he telling her this? He wouldn't even tell Sam. Especially not Sam. Not even if he answered the phone. Ever. Talking to someone, anyone, should not be so easy. But something about Buffy just greases all his wheels.
He looks away, sets the shovels down. "Usually when there's a Salt'n'Burn to be done…"
"You do it with Sam," she finishes and she doesn't sound mad. Damn her. Damn her to hell for understanding because how the fuck is he supposed to get his guard back up when she doesn't give him a reason to?
He nods, looking away like a twelve-year-old caught having naughty thoughts. Buffy hums at his side for a moment before asking, "You know that saying, if you love it, let it go?"
He shrugs, so-so, not really giving a shit. She waits for a moment and then walks past him, carefully picking her way through the dark, eyes open for danger and not waiting for him.
Over her shoulder she finally finishes, "It says if it comes back you can keep it."
That's the fucking problem, isn't it?
"Are you sure we're not lost?" Dean bitches for the third time some time past midnight when he's sure they've just passed that particular tree for the third time.
"Yes, damnit," she bitches right back. "I'm not a guy."
"What's that have to do with anything?"
She hushes him with a glare. As if the ghost hasn't known they're coming since… oh, at least an hour ago. "Women have a better sense of orientation," she tells him, deadpan.
"No. Chicks just ask for the damn way. Who're you gonna ask? The fucking trees?"
"No," she tells him and she's suddenly all smug. The hell? "The rocks," she corrects and points to his right where a pile of dug up rocks lie next to a small dip in the ground. The place where Jamie Harper dug up shit for his wife's rock garden and got killed.
Dead for a few rocks. And not even valuable ones. On Dean's list of ways not to go, that one ranges slightly above choking on a taco and below being thrown into a meat grinder. Dying under a hot chick, on the other hand, he can totally get behind. Or on top of.
They both stomp around the small clearing a few times until they find the place where the vague path crosses and even more overgrown and weathered one and decide that yeah, paydirt. Literally. A lot of dirt. Is it wrong of Dean to wish that people were buried in shallow graves more often?
They ignore the tension that sprung up from their impromptu argument, which they both know is caused by his foul mood and abandonment issues. And shit, yeah, he knows that's what they're called. Doesn't mean he'll ever admit to having them. Or, you know, go and try to fix them. What's the point? He's right.
"Are we sure this is the right place?" he wants to know. "Because I ain't digging up more than one place tonight."
"Jamie is the first who died and he dug here. Also, crossroads." She points to the spot where Dean kicked at the dirt until the very center of the two crossing paths became visible."
"Then where's Mary Suicide?" In his experience, the bitch should be on top of them by now, all vengeful and restless and trying to rip their lungs from their ribcages or something.
Buffy smacks him on the arm. "Don't say her name. And I really don't care. Let's dig."
He grunts, glowers and wedges the flashlight in a convenient tree fork so they'll have light. Then he starts kicking the rocks out of the way.
The good news is they manage the first four feet or so without Mary Suicide interrupting their little mud-slinging party. The bad news is that, just when his injured arm starts shaking so much he's pretty sure he either has to stop digging or spend the next week with it in a sling, she does crash the party.
Hey, at least that means their theory is sound and they're not digging up the wrong chick.
He sees her first and lunges for the shotgun he placed at the edge of the grave, fully loaded. He aims loosely (suddenly very glad that ghosts don't give a shit about heart and heart) and fires over Buffy's head, scattering Mary Bentham all over the clearing with a shriek for fury. Hers, not his.
Buffy straightens and they stay like that for a moment, each checking their surroundings over the other's shoulder. After a minute without telltale signs of white or sudden bouts of cold, they relax marginally.
Then she's right on top of them and he doesn't get the shotgun up nearly fast enough to do anything before she lands smack on Buffy, who falls back against the muddy walls of the hole, grasping her throat, obviously choking. A moment later a bright red slash appears on her cheek, going down her neck and disappearing into her jacket. It blooms like a flower and Dean has to tear his gaze away from it to bring up the gun again, using it to take a wild swing at the ghost hanging between them.
There's a slim bar of iron welded to the barrel of the gun and it probably saves Buffy's life as it scatters the spirit for the second time. This time he doesn't fall for the quiet and heaves himself out of the grave, smearing mud all over his front and doing bad things to his newly healed shoulder. His head throbs along the new scar. He spins in a circle, tense and ready, listening to Buffy's breathing even out and become more quiet surprisingly quickly.
"You okay?" he asks when he's pretty sure she can talk again.
"Peachy," she croaks. "Keep watch, I'll dig."
And then she uses her floppy hat to wipe the blood from her face and gets back to digging with a fury he honestly doesn't expect. Not from the girl who spent the past week cleaning his injuries with hands gentler than any other he remembers.
But she picks up speed as she goes and soon the dirt flies out of the hole in arcs. He blows Mary Suicide up nineteen more times in the next twenty minutes and it would be more if all the salt weren't sucking the juice out of her.
Still, she's been trapped in this place for a hundred and fifty years and for a suicide, that has to suck ass. She's probably right to be pissed. Too bad the douchebag that had her buried here is long dead and unavailable for a bit of revenge.
But then that's not his problem. Sam is the bleeding heart in this family. All Dean cares about at the moment is that a) the bitch is trying to tear them apart and b) he's slowly but surely running out of ammo. Not. Good.
The sound of metal hitting rotting wood is music to his ears and Buffy stops digging, scraping dirt from the coffin instead, trying to clear a space big enough to douse the corpse through.
Apparently Dean is not the only one who notices the change in pace though, because the ghost of suddenly right in front of him, clothes dripping with phantom water, eyes wide and hands twisted into claws. He brings up the gun, fires, clicks empty. He throws himself to the left, landing hard (on his bad shoulder of course) and starts reloading flat on his back, vulnerable as a baby. Lucky for him, Mary Bentham goes for Buffy instead, recognizing her as the imminent threat.
He doesn't see what happens in the hole but there is an unearthly shriek of rage and then Buffy suddenly comes flying over the edge, and not like she's being thrown either. She lands in a crouch, perfectly balanced and ready to move. A quick look in his direction is all he gets before she pulls a dull, blackish knife from the shaft of her boot and slashes at the ghost coming up behind her. She straightens, spins, dances away from the grave, constantly slashing with her iron knife as she goes. It's not enough to scatter the ghost, but parts of it fade out like bad reception, an arm, a bit of the torso. Slow it down.
Dean finally manages to get the last shell in the gun, cocks and shoots. His partner doesn't relax. "Can you burn her?" she wants to know, slowly turning in circles, knife at the ready.
"Yes," he answers verbally even as he goes for the gas and salt in her backpack, trying to do it by touch so he can keep his eyes open. But the bag isn't his and the things inside aren't familiar and so he has to transfer his gun to the crook of his arm and use both hands and his eyes to search, heart hammering in his chest, feeling like it's trying to climb up his throat.
He only notices the ghost behind him when Buffy is there with her knife, chasing her off. The blonde jumps back a few feet, comes to a halt at the center of the crossroads, calling, "Mary. Mary Bentham," trying to draw her out.
He doesn't wait around to see if it works. His hand finally closes over a small metal container and then another and he pulls both out, dropping and rolling to the edge of the hole, already working to unscrew the gas.
Buffy put a hole in the coffin and he squirts the gas into it, sends the salt right after it, fumbling. Behind him Mary screeches and Buffy makes that half choked noise again and he can't help it, he spins and looks and suddenly the dead bitch seems to notice him, or maybe the feeling of flammables dripping from her bones and rushes him. He flicks open his lighter, fumbles it, tries again and throws it, hoping to God it hits bones and not dirt. That very same second Mary reaches him and so does Buffy (how did she move so damn fast?), tackling him like a battering ram, sending them both skidding backwards in the mud, away from the rampaging ghost. And then the screeching grows louder and louder and louder and Buffy tucks her head into his chest tightly as the ghost explodes in a shower of sparks and ashes above them.
It's so loud it rings in his ears and for a moment neither of them moves, breathing heavily and quietly enjoying the feeling of being alive and mostly unhurt. His shoulder hurts, his head throbs and the cut down Buffy's face and neck must burn like hell, but he can feel her frantic heartbeat against his own, racing, racing, racing.
She raises her head eventually to look him straight in the eye and he brushes a clump of dirt out of her tangles nest of hair with one hand, holding it up between their faces for inspection. Leaves, dirt and even a few small bits of gravel.
She laughs and he flicks the clump away and joins right in.
They help each other to their feet and brush the worst of the leaves and dirt off in the dim glow of the already dying fire. And then they just stand there, looking at each other, hearts still racing, blood pumping and, shit.
Just… shit. She wipes blood from her cheek with her thumb and then licks it clean without breaking eye contact.
He has her pressed against the nearest tree ten seconds later, his mouth on hers, his fingers buried in her hair and he's kind of surprised that she doesn't taste like sunshine and flowers but something darker, tangier.
She bites his lower lip until it's swollen and red and throws her legs around his waist, not really careful not to touch his shoulder. He nips his way down her chin and jaw, finds the cut on her face and licks the smears of blood she made with her fingers away. It smells like copper and dirt and he follows its trail down to the collar of her jacket, strips it off, and further down, into her shirt.
It's a single, red line, thin and sharp and not nearly as deep as he thought. Just bled like a bitch. But it's long, trailing past her right breast, only ending on her floating ribs and he thinks that it looks like a fault line, like that, right there, was where the fucking ghost was going to tear her apart. She uses her shoulders to push off from the wall and sends him staggering away from the hole, toward the crossroads where a vengeful suicide was trapped for the past hundred and fifty years.
That's a new level of kinky, even for him. She fumbles off his jacket and flannel before crashing him into another tree and he winces as his shoulder is jarred but she helps him pull his shirt off and kisses it all better, tracing wet paths along his new scars. It's not warm enough to strip outside, nor is the muddy ground conductive to what they are obviously headed toward, but he's not feeling very cold. Or picky. Actually, he's not feeling much of anything except horny.
He groans and pulls her closer, causing her to laugh into his skin. "Am I too much for you?" she asks, teasing, licking at him like a kitten. They are both still standing but when he starts sliding down the tree trunk, she follows and his ass is cold and wet, yeah, but there's a hot, willing girl in his lap so he counts it as a win. She just keeps licking and biting and scratching with teeth and nails, driving him up the wall. Or tree. Whatever.
"You're fucking killing me, woman," he tries to snap, but it really comes out more pleading.
She sits up, breaking skin contact. "Would you like some cheese with that whine, you baby?"
His eyes narrow and he jerks his hips upwards to meet her where she's straddling his lap. It's her turn to gasp. "Does this feel like baby to you, sugar?"
She grins, wolfish and wild and he pulls her back down by her hair none too gently, trying to eat her mouth. They kiss for a few minutes, not leisurely, but like it's worth something. Eventually she attacks the buttons of his jeans and he returns the favor.
They have to break apart so she can get her boots and socks off, because seriously, naked with socks on is a turn off, no matter what people tell you. But it only takes a few seconds and then she's back on him, tugging on his jeans. He stops her before she can shove them down his thighs, pulling his wallet from a back pocket and digging out a condom. He lays it on the ground next to them and she's grinning again before shoving his jeans down as far as they go in his current position, not really caring to sit his naked ass in the mud, thanks a lot.
She watches. "Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?"
He reels her in, by her hips this time and fucking hell, he knew she'd be hot, but she's smooth and tanned and tiny all over and he does not think about what it means that the bruise on her face and the cut down her torso are actually turn ons. "I got you naked, didn't I?"
In the goddamn woods, no less. He doesn't think he's ever gotten anyone to strip down completely in a place like this. She doesn't seem to mind at all.
He expects her to turn coy and bat her eyelashes at him because that's what chicks do at this point, but she looks at him, just looks and he understands why she doesn't taste like sunshine. She climbs back on his lap, pressing down hard, making him go cross-eyed with sensation. The move puts her nipples (and yeah, he doesn't think that's just the crisp night air, thanks a lot) on mouth-level and when she grabs the back of his Mohawk and pulls him closer, he goes willingly. Never let it be said that Dean Winchester doesn't know how to make a woman squirm and his mouth and fingers work their magic on her.
Two minutes later she jerks and digs her fingers into his shoulder. Hard. He winces but doesn't let up. He's going to hurt like the dickens tomorrow anyway, why not make it worth it?
She twists too hard and fresh blood wells up in her cut and he licks that away, too, as she grabs the condom and starts fumbling with it. She finally gets it where it's supposed to go and they're both panting, him from sensational overload, her because she's still coming down and he hasn't stopped what he's doing even once. He's kind of disappointed she isn't screaming yet.
And then she rises above him and sinks down, quick and hard and ruthless, her knees digging into the dirt on either side of his thighs, moonlight making the sweat on her skin shine, leaves and other shit tangled in her hair. She looks like something that belongs in these woods, like a part of the earth and the dirt and the sharp tang of burning bones and gas in the air. It's as gorgeous as it's creepy. And there's that sound he's been looking for. They kiss as she shifts around to find her pace and then she figures out a rhythm and things get sort of hazy because, god, fuck, yeah, right there, just like that and then…
He uses every trick he knows to make sure she hits it right alongside him and she does and they both come and there are no fireworks because everything goes black for a moment.
Let's hear it for post-hunt fucks, he thinks as soon as his brain reboots. Buffy is leaning against him, her head on his shoulder, panting and laughing quietly into his skin. It's a good laugh, boneless and lazy. As soon as she notices he's halfway coherent again she twists her hips just so and he groans, throwing his head back.
"Fuck," he curses.
"That's what I thought," she agrees against his neck. "Think we can make it to my place?"
They do. As soon as their legs carry them again.
He wakes in a comfortable bed with a warm body pressed against his side and holds his breath, waiting for the self loathing to set in. The one that says he only screwed that barfly to get Sam out of his system and it didn't work, the one that says he's a major fuck up and why is he drawing some random girl into his bullshit? The one that laughs in his face and says, didn't work anyway, did it?
It doesn't come.
No loathing. No hate. No disgust. Just the deep ache, the slow pull of tired muscles. He looks down his chest and finds a blonde head resting there, comfortable and asleep.
Who he screwed naked in the dirt on the crossroads, less than twenty feet away from a smoldering corpse.
Not some random barfly he picked up wherever. Not that they are a new thing, mind you. But when Sam was still around, screwing them was about fun. These days it's about trying to prove something to himself.
Only, he realizes, he hasn't thought of Sam once since their trek through the woods last night. Not a single time. That means something.
He looks down at Buffy again, admitting to himself that she's actually kind of awesome.
Sure, if she knew just why he misses his baby brother so much she'd kick him out and never speak a word to him again, but she doesn't know and she… gets him. He runs his fingers over her tangled hair, brushes it out of her face to check on her cut and the bruise that was blooming bright purple the last time he ran his tongue over it, sometime around sunrise.
It's gone. His hand stills, his entire body stills. The cuts are gone. All that's left are a few smudges of blood here and there, pale pink and rusty brown in the multi colored light from the windows.
He remembers a stray thought last night, about how the cut wasn't as deep as he thought it was. He remembers asking why people in this town remember the old ways and her answer, which was a lie. He remembers Becky telling him to ask the 'Miss', who knows all about this place and its myths. He remembers the instant glint in people's eyes when he told them who he's staying with. He remembers her talking about old stories and old traditions like she understands them, knows them. He remembers her talking about her sister like she's been dead for a long, long time, when really, it can't have been more than a few years.
He remembers that she always finds a way to keep him out of the fake basement under the floor.
It takes him five minutes to slip out of bed without waking her and then almost as long again to get down the stairs. He finds his jeans on the floor and pulls them on, clumps of dried mud hitting the floor, sweeps aside the rug and carefully, quietly, opens the trapdoor.
He looks down into the dark, dusty space and wonders what he'll find there, feeling, at the same time, strangely detached. He should be feeling horrified and pissed and homicidal at the thought of having fucked a potential fugly, but it's all dull. Blunted.
He thinks that Sam left so they could figure out if maybe they can be normal, if they're not together all the time, if they can love someone else, besides each other. He thinks it's telling that the first person he meets after Sam that he thinks might get him is probably out to murder him and drink his blood, or some such shit.
Then he climbs down into the hole.
There is a cord next to the ladder and he pulls it, blinking as light floods the underground room, illuminating walls filled with books and weapons, ammo and magical paraphernalia.
And pictures. A long row of them, leading to his left, toward the stone foundation of the altar.
The first one is of Buffy sitting on a park bench in the sunshine, her legs curled under her, laughing as she reaches for the camera, trying to take it away. The photograph is a bit blurry because she's moving, smudging the red of her lips and the gold of her hair.
There's a boy sitting next to her, perfectly focused because he's holding still. He grins up at her with a gap toothed smile, looking happy.
The second is obviously taken at night, at some club. It's Buffy again, decked out in leggings and a loose shirt, impossibly cheap and big earrings dangling all the way to her shoulders. There's a blonde man in a leather coat standing next to her and they're both gesturing, obviously unaware of the picture being taken. It's so eighties it makes Dean's teeth ache.
In the third, Buffy is wearing a skirt, knee socks, a blouse and patent leather shoes. She's standing in front of the church, a stack of plans and papers in her hands, men in jeans and work boots surrounding her, all of them grinning brightly. Fifties, if Dean has to guess, maybe early sixties.
The fourth is black and white, Buffy in a demure dress, sitting in a chair, a family surrounding her, a tiny, dark haired child sitting on her lap. They all stare at the camera like it's a funeral. Twenties, at the most.
After that the pictures become worse and worse, photographs that have been added to by hand, pale and faded things and eventually, small paintings, sketches, drawings. Going back in time all the way to a portrait of Buffy, a study of her face, laughing, happy and visibly younger than she looks now.
Almost a child.
It's at least two hundred years old.
"I guess it was too much to hope you wouldn't figure it out," she says, her voice quiet, sad. She's standing at the bottom of the ladder, wearing his flannel shirt, smiling bravely.
"What are you?" he wants to throw a 'hell' in there, wants to scream 'fuck', but it won't come.
"Human," she answers and then shrugs. "Mostly."
She moves toward him, slowly, arms at her sides. Like she's closing in on a spooked animal. He backs away, switching their positions so he's closer to the escape route than she is. She stands in front of that first portrait and tells him, "This one was taken in 1830. I was eighteen."
She smiles at her younger self and turns to look at him. "I didn't lie to you. When I told you what happened to my sister. I just left out a few facts. Like, how I stopped the demon. Her blood was the key. And the only way for the door to close was for the blood to stop flowing."
He doesn't think she killed her sister. It's not a possibility, just like him killing Sam is not a possibility. He doesn't know how he knows that, but he does. "But her blood was my blood. So I jumped into the gate, killing myself, closing it. Dawn still died though. She lost too much blood and back then, there were no transfusions, no hospitals. My friends buried her next to me and then… things got bad. A lot of critters slipped through before I closed the gate and this whole continent was overrun.
"One of my friends was a witch. Old school, wiccan, connected to the Earth. Not demon deal. She found a spell and she found something called an Urn of Osiris. And she resurrected me with the darkest, most twisted magic there is. Only she screwed up. Not only did she tip all kinds of scales the wrong way, but she also brought me back… wrong. I was different. First I thought it was because she literally ripped me from Heaven, but then…. She brought me back for good. Two years later we were desperately trying to restore the balance her spell ruined and I died. Sword to the gut, end of story. Only I didn't."
She shrugs again, trailing one hand over picture frames, from then to now. She stops when she reaches the one with the church and looks at him with weary eyes. "You can kill me. You can shoot me, stab me, burn me. But there's nothing you can do to me that I haven't done to myself. Nothing works. Willow brought me back perfectly. I don't age. I don't get sick, I don't… It's like death doesn't want me anymore. And I know that's not right. Humans aren't meant to live forever. But from the looks of it, I will. I'm trying to do good with it. To hunt, to save people. But that doesn't change what I am, does it? My best friend tried to save me, but all she did was curse me."
The thing is, he believes her. He believes that she's mostly human, that this is a curse, that she's trying. She lives in a church and he's seen her handle salt, iron, holy water. She's not any kind of critter he usually hunts. But neither is she human. She's… in-between, maybe. And she saved his life.
He nods, once, curt and to the point. "I should go."
She doesn't try to stop him.
He packs his things, gets dressed in clean clothes, even takes the time to brush his teeth. She stays downstairs and he makes no move to reclaim his shirt. When he looks down the hole he finds her sitting at the bottom rung of the ladder, staring at the newest picture. He wonders who the little boy is but doesn't ask.
"There's something on the table by the door for you," she says without looking up.
He nods and spins on his heel, walking away. There's a creamy envelope with his name spelled out on it on the table and he takes it, stuffing it in his jacket. The door bangs shut behind him loudly and he rubs a hand over his face, wishing for sunglasses.
Eddy is nowhere to be found in the noon sun and the Impala gleams. He gets in, cranks up the music and drives.
And he just keeps on driving.
It takes him two days to open her letter. There is no greeting on it, only a phone number.
Anything, anytime. Promise me, Dean. Promise you'll call when you need help.
And underneath, hastily scrawled, probably while he was looking at her pictures, I hope you're okay. And I hope your brother finds his way back to you. Don't die.
It's not signed and he wonders, for a moment, what her real name is. Because there's no way she was actually named Buffy. He sits on his motel bed for an hour, turning his cell phone over in his hands. He already called Dad and got yelled at. They're meeting up tomorrow. He could call Sam, right now, say, "Hey, guess what, I screwed an immortal. She even had a sword. Totally hot."
He could say, "I miss you, you fucking asshole and I love you and I hate you for leaving because this shit we have going on isn't going to go away because we're hardwired that way and you know that, for fuck's sake!"
But that's the thing. Sam knows. And he still left for sunny Cali. And Dean… Dean is still here and no, he's not okay.
But he thinks that maybe one day he might be.
He programs Buffy's number into his phone, burns her letter and lets his hair grow until the Mohawk is gone.
Review, pretty please? Let me know how far out there that was.