Ch. 14 What You Don't Know, Won't Hurt You

This update includes episode Point of No Return.

Okay, so I know I said this would be the conclusion but after I finished watching the last four episodes of season five I have a lot of material left to cover. The conclusion will be after this chapter.


A few hours earlier:

Sam flew down the main highway, taking chase after his brother who had nearly two hours on him. Knowing an interchange was coming up in twenty miles, Sam picked up his cell phone from the passenger seat and dialed a number. He had already tried calling Dean several times but his brother, not surprisingly, had shut off his phone. After the second ring, the line picked up.

"Sam! Oh how good it is to hear from you! I've been so worried since I tracked those demons in Blue Earth. Are you okay?"

Sam glanced at the mile marker signs and pushed the gas pedal deeper into the floorboards. By the time he had found a car to hotwire, he had lost fifteen minutes on tracking his brother down, though he had a strong sense of where Dean was headed. There weren't too many places his brother would have sought to go in the final hours of his life.

"I'm fine Andrew," Sam said. "What about Giles? We saw some fireflies….um devour him."

"Oh, yes, Giles was returned to us in pieces," Andrew said.

"In…pieces? I'm really sorry," Sam lamented.

"What? Oh no no, that was supposed to happen in the event Giles was mortally wounded on his mission," Andrew explained. "You see those deflorias are a special breed, created them myself actually. When Giles was injured, they consumed his body and brought him back to us. He's in surgery now, I'm just waiting for news."

Sam let out a breath of relief as he spotted the interchange signs down the highway.

"Oh. That's good, well, keep me posted," he said.

"I sure will."

"Anyway, I'm calling because I need a favor."

"Oh! A favor from me? Of course, of course, you know I'd do anything for you Sam," Andrew said eagerly. "Name it."

"I need an address on Buffy," Sam said quickly.

"Buffy? I didn't realize you two spoke," Andrew replied. "Are you going to visit?"

"Um, no, I haven't really talked to her. I just need to know where she is," Sam said urgently.

"Oh, okay," Andrew said. "She's living the good life with her little diva in Cohasset, it's about two hours outside of Chicago. I can text you the address."

"Please."

"Consider it done," Andrew said emphatically. "Anything else?"

"No," Sam said. "Just update me on Giles' condition when you can."

"Okay, goodbye Sam. It was so nice to speak with you!"

"Um yeah, you too," Sam muttered.

Sam quickly hung up as he approached the interchange. He hopped onto the highway leading to Illinois, clamping down deeper onto the gas pedal.


Meanwhile:

Buffy eased her car onto a brick paved driveway hugging a three acre property in the upscale area of Cohasset. The fresh air swept over her face as she got out of the car, soothing her flushed cheeks, but it did nothing to alleviate her tightening nerves. She forced herself to take several deep breaths as she unbuckled Allie from her car seat. A bridge of pink and white floral shaped balloons hung over the main party location - a large garden adjacent to the two level manor.

"Wow, that's the biggest house I've ever seen!" Allie squealed with wide eyes. "It's like a castle!"

"Yeah, um, it is huh?" Buffy said shakily.

As Buffy picked up Allie in her arms and steered toward the garden, she tried to push back the swell of dreadful thoughts gathering in her mind.

"Pink flower balloons! Mommy, I want a balloon!" Allie cried. "Please mommy?"

Buffy chewed on her bottom lip as more anxiety and dread clouded her mind.

"Mom-my! Why aren't you listening to me?" Allie demanded. "Mommy?"

Buffy snapped out of her daze and regarded Allie's heavy scowl.

"Huh? I'm sorry sweetie, I was thinking about….something. What did you need?"

"I want a pink balloon!"

"Oh. Well, we'll ask Violet's mom if you can take one at the end of the party, okay?"

Allie drew a satisfied smile as she skipped through a tall white trellis. Several folding tables were set up with food, drinks and presents as a dozen little girls in dresses sat around a smaller table sprinkled with glittery favors.

"Oh, there's Violet. You go ahead and say hi to the birthday girl okay? I'm just gonna go put this by her presents," Buffy said as she waved a birthday bag.

Allie ran off to the party table, quickly latching arms with Violet. Buffy watched Allie for a minute before rummaging through her purse for her cell phone. She frowned in disappointment when she saw her battery was nearly drained.

"Figures," she moaned softly.

"Is something wrong Buffy? You look a little stressed."

Buffy whipped around to see Daniela, Violet's mom, carrying a tray of mini pizzas to the food table.

"Oh, um, yeah, I'm fine. I just wanted to make a quick call but I forgot to charge it last night."

"Oh, you can use our land line if you want," Daniela offered graciously. "William isn't much for cell phones. He's very old fashioned – he still listens to cassette tapes and record albums. Can you believe that?"

"No, wow, he's stuck in the past, huh?"

"Yes, most days he is, but I'm slowly luring him onto web chat since our mums are online a lot, they love Ebay!"

"The web! You know, I just remembered that I still have my laptop in the car, I think I'll try to get a hold of my friend that way."

"Oh, sure, the password to connect to my wi-fi is 'marketmum', all small letters," Daniela revealed. "I can watch Allie until you get back."

"Oh, thanks, but I won't be far."

Buffy glanced through the garden and witnessed Allie, Violet and the rest of the little girls having a tea party. Buffy withdrew a breath as she strolled the short distance to her car. She had been utilizing her laptop during lunch breaks to keep on top of her online classes. In the midst of her hectic schedule, she had often neglected bringing her tote bag inside the house at the end of the day. This afternoon, she was grateful to have it on hand after her cell phone so rudely conked out.

Once inside the car, Buffy swept her eyes back to Allie, still joyfully involved in a tea party. She forced out several breaths as she tapped on to Daniela's Wi-Fi signal, hurriedly inputting the password. When she had secured a connection, she logged into her web chat account. She groaned deeply when the system took painstakingly long to load. As a full minute ticked by, Buffy swept the laptop around, hoping to capture a stronger signal. Outside the car, she could hear the echoes of fervent little squeals. Buffy glanced back into the garden and saw the girls chatting and giggling as Daniela passed out the mini pizzas. Buffy sighed in relief as she shifted her sights back to the computer.

"Great," she moaned when she saw the web chat system still trying to log on.

Buffy scrambled through her purse, taking out her cell phone again. It beeped and flashed at her before powering down. She growled in her throat when the web chat system window finally popped up. She hurriedly pinged Andrew and waited for him to answer. Hearing more giggles, Buffy peered through the windshield to see Allie contentedly eating and chatting with Violet.

For a long moment, Buffy drifted back to the night she first met her beautiful girl - the night Dean showed up at her doorstep inviting her out for a bite to eat. She had sensed a weight of sadness hanging in his eyes back then, and now, it was clear that same gray feeling still haunted him. She remembered his fierce determination to protect Allie before she was even born and she was astounded that after all these years, he still held steadfast to that vow. And now, ever since he had left her house, her mind was still reeling over his confession of wanting a peaceful life with them; and then, that kiss…..

Her eyes welled with tears and her heart shivered when she absorbed Allie's delighted expression as she and Violet took turns putting on glittery pink crowns.

There's a future for you, the both of you…..

How in the world was Dean able to make a vow like that? What forces were at work that had broken him down so much that he was ready to give up? In her past experience, the gloom that had darkened his eyes was all too familiar. She had lost so many people in her life and the reality of losing someone who had formed such a strong paternal bond with her daughter was heartbreaking.

Her lips shook violently and her eyes thickened with tears. Her gut turned over incessantly with one blaring instinct - wherever Dean ran off to, he believed he wasn't coming back.

Buffy sucked in several deep breaths as tears streamed down her cheeks. She shook her head, trying to stamp the horror bleeding into her bones. As an image of Dean spinning Allie until she was giggling with intense glee flashed in her mind, Buffy thought back to her promise. It was imperative that she break the code of silence that her friends had taken about discussing demon matters with her. Dean was too important to Allie, to her – to just stand by and let him do whatever it was he had in mind to secure their safety.

"Buffy! Oh sorry I kept you waiting so long - I've been up to my ears in stuff this morning. When it rains it pours around here! How are you? How's my little starlet?"

"She's good," Buffy said quickly. "I was going to call you on the phone but my battery died."

"Oh, well, I'm always happy to see you!" Andrew said gleefully. "Is there something I can do for you?"

"Yeah, I need you to tell me what you've been helping Dean with," Buffy said directly.

Andrew drew a prim smile as he folded his hands together and eased back in his chair.

"Well, it's certainly not manners," he muttered through his teeth.

Buffy darkened with an impatient frown as Andrew grumbled under his breath a little longer. Buffy leaned closer to the camera and shot her famous glare at Andrew.

"Andrew! Focus!" she growled. "This is important."

Andrew sputtered with a nervous breath as he tugged at the knot in his tie.

"Yyyes, yes, whatever you need Buffy, I'm here for you," he stammered.

Satisfied by his attentive look, Buffy checked on Allie in the garden. She was involved in a party game with the rest of the girls. Buffy shifted her sights back to the computer screen.

"So you and Giles and the gang, you've been helping Dean fight something – something that has to do with all the weird weather occurrences going on across the country?"

"Uh, weird weather? Like what?"

Buffy frowned cynically when Andrew tried to pass off an innocent look.

"Like a sea of dead fish in Maine, a two hundred year old dormant volcano in Hawaii suddenly setting off, or, the rainstorm of toads that hit my town not too long ago. Don't act like you don't know Andrew," she cited sharply.

Andrew fussed with his tie as his face knotted with hesitation.

"Mmmaybe I do know, but, it's nothing….."

Buffy held a hand up to cut him off and frowned with exasperation.

"Do NOT give me the, 'don't worry about it Buffy' or the 'you don't need to know' because right now, I am BEYOND worried so I DO need to know, everything – NOW," she insisted. "No more keeping this from me Andrew."

Buffy intensified her glare until Andrew cracked with remorse. He buried his face in his hands and sniffled softly for a moment before his damp eyes met hers.

"Oh god Buffy, I'm so, so sorry," he wailed. "I never wanted to deceive you but Giles and the rest of the gang, they told me I couldn't say a word – Willow even threatened to obliterate my entire Star Wars action figure collection – and Faith nearly ran over my Darth Vader bust when I wanted to confess to you long ago! I was bullied into keeping quiet about the threat of an apocalypse!"

Buffy widened her eyes in disbelief as Andrew crumbled out of his chair and dropped to his knees.

"An apocalypse? Again?" she gasped.

Andrew crawled back into his chair and deepened his regretful look.

"Please, please don't be wrathful Buffy! Oh, I hate myself for lying to you!"

As Andrew started hyperventilating with sorrow, Buffy absorbed the weight of his earlier revelation.

"Andrew, take a breath and then start from the beginning."

Andrew dropped his head between his legs and bellowed with deep breaths. He began chanting softly as his eyes lulled in a meditative state for a moment.

"Okay," he sighed. "Our tale starts with the brave and selfless Sam Winchester…."

"Andrew, skip the narrative," Buffy demanded. "Just lay out the details and while you're doing that, I need you to track Dean down. He left here without a word about where he was going."

Andrew obediently nodded as he turned his chair toward another computer console and began typing.

"His phone must be turned off, I can't access him on GPS," he said. "I can hack into the satellites and see if his car turns up somewhere; it might take some time…."

"What about Sam? Have you talked to him?"

"Oh, yes, we spoke this morning actually; he wanted to know your home address."

"He did? Why?"

"I'm not sure why, we didn't talk very long," Andrew said. "I'm dialing him now…."

After a minute, Andrew heaved a sigh of disappointment.

"It went straight to voicemail, but give me a second….okay, I got him on GPS, he's…..crossing through the Illinois border now….."

Buffy let the information stew in her mind until a theory formed.

"What? Sam must be tracking his brother down," she said, sighing in relief. "I feel a little better knowing he's looking out for him. But I still need to know the rest."

"Yes, where was I?" Andrew said. "Well, a few years ago, Sam and I met on my web site, he needed help in finding a way out of the deal his brother made with a Crossroads demon – but Dean only did that in a desperate measure to save Sam, you see, Sam died – killed by a boy named Jake….oh goodness, to explain that I have to go back further."

"Okay, so go back."

Buffy lifted her sights and perused the garden grounds again. Allie and Violet were playing another game. Allie was having so much fun and Buffy couldn't bear the idea of taking her home now. But considering the state of the world and Dean's shocking revelations, she couldn't just sit down and make casual talk with the grown ups. Dean had done so much for her in the past that if she could help him, she would and nothing and no one was going to stop her.

"Well, Jake opened the Devil's Gate," Andrew continued.

Buffy snapped out of her whirlwind thoughts and gasped in recognition.

"You mean the gate that released….."

"Yoseth," Andrew gulped quietly. "I'm sorry…I didn't want to bring him up again…"

Buffy shook her head, too preoccupied by the present to let her past haunt her.

"It's okay," she said forgivingly. "Keep going Andrew."

Over the next half hour, as Andrew continued reporting details, Buffy kept frequent watch over the garden grounds, always aware of where Allie was. Presently, she was sitting on a large pink blanket, eating finger sandwiches and chatting animatedly with Violet and another girl. Buffy turned her eyes back to Andrew when she heard him sniffle.

"….we tried everything we could think of but unfortunately in the end, we couldn't save him," Andrew moaned. "No demon was willing to deal, they all wanted Dean dead. Sam was so disenchanted."

Feeling her cheeks streaked with tears of compassion, Buffy swept them away, trying to keep a grip on her composure.

"But even still, we kept working, right up until May first," Andrew explained. "Sam stopped returning my calls though and then….then his brother died on May second, torn apart by Hellhounds…."

"Wait, did you say May second?" Buffy repeated through a shaky breath.

"The evening before Allie was born, yes," Andrew confirmed.

Buffy widened her eyes as a squeak of shock sputtered through her mouth.

"Dean came to see me the night before he was going to die? Oh my….."

Buffy forced air through her lungs as the realization slammed through her.

"Tis a tragic story," Andrew said. "And then after, Sam went off the rails. He contacted me and Giles asking if we knew of a way to bring Dean back, to raise him from Hell….he was devastated, he needed hugs but he refused to listen to any reason…"

"He lost his brother," Buffy said understandingly. "Their dad died so they only had each other. What does this have to do with the Apocalypse?"

Buffy jumped in startle when a soft knock on the door broke the intense discussion. She caught her breath when she looked out her window and saw Allie staring up at her with curious eyes. Buffy rolled down the window and pulled a calm expression over her face.

"Mommy, what are you doing in the car?"

"Oh, I just had to check on something," Buffy replied with a maternal smile. "Are you having fun?"

Allie grinned and nodded.

"I'm having lots of fun! They're having the cake now!"

Buffy broke out of her anxious state for a time as she soaked in her little girl's effervescent grin.

"Come out here and have cake mommy," she said. "I don't want you to stay in the car by yourself!"

"Okay sweetie, just give me one second and I'll be right there," Buffy said. "Why don't you go back into the garden? Violet looks like she's waiting for you."

"Uh huh, her mommy said they'd watch and wait for me to come back!" Allie said with a smile.

"Oh, I'm so glad," Buffy replied. "Go on ahead – I'm a second behind you."

Allie nodded and skipped off back to the garden, under Buffy's watchful eyes. When Allie returned to Violet and Daniela, Buffy heaved a long breath and steered her eyes to the laptop screen. Andrew was off screen, talking to someone.

"Andrew?"

Andrew frantically ran back to his computer, looking frazzled.

"I'm here! Did I hear my little Alice?"

"Yeah, I have to go Andrew," Buffy said.

"Oh, okay," Andrew sighed.

"We're not finished," Buffy expressed adamantly. "I'll be home within the next hour and I want you to be there. I still have a lot of questions that need to be answered."

"Yes, of course," Andrew said eagerly. "I'll get myself transported right away."

"Good. And one more thing, text me Sam's number, I want to talk to him as soon as I get home."

"Okay, will do, I'll see you soon my lovely!"


After putting a sleeping Allie down for her nap, Buffy glanced at the time as she yanked her phone and charger from her purse. Hurriedly, she plugged her phone into the outlet beside her desk and powered it on. When the screen lit up, she saw a message from Andrew and quickly scrawled down the number, and then dialed it on her land line.

Buffy struggled with great difficulty to remain patient as the phone rang twice and then a third time. She rubbed a tight knot in the back of her neck as the line finally picked up after the fourth ring.

"Hello?"

"Sam! Thank god," Buffy gasped. "It's Buffy."

"Buffy? Uh, hey."

Hearing the incessant roar of a car engine in the background, Buffy let out a deep breath as her right foot tapped anxiously against the floor.

"Hey, are you in Cohasset yet?"

"Uh, I'm just entering Chicago," he said. "How did you….."

"I asked Andrew to track you down," Buffy said urgently. "I'm sorry to be so short and impersonal with you right now but I have to know, have you found your brother yet?"

"Um, no, not yet," Sam said. "I um, I had a hunch he went to see you….at least I assumed."

"Yeah, he was here earlier, he um, said some….stuff….but then he took off without saying where he was headed. He's in pretty bad shape Sam and ever since he left, I can't kick this awful feeling in my gut that he's about to do something drastic – like jumping off a cliff drastic! Do you have a clue to where he's going?"

As Sam paused on the other line for a long moment, Buffy clapped a hand on her jittery leg and steadied it.

"I think I might," Sam finally said. "I mean, I know my brother's habits so I'm pretty sure I can find him."

"Okay, so where he is off to?"

Taking in Buffy's family situation and unaware of how much she knew about the looming apocalypse, Sam refrained from unloading the grim details of his and Dean's battle against Lucifer.

"Buffy, I think it's better if I handle this," Sam said gently.

After a bout of contemplative silence, Buffy forced herself to stay calm, flushing back her apprehension.

"Okay. He's your brother and you know him best. But I need you to promise me, that when you find him, you'll do whatever you have to, to talk him off that proverbial ledge. Promise me," Buffy persisted.

"Um yeah, of course, I promise," Sam vowed.

Buffy bellowed with another long breath as a layer of anxiety broke away.

"Good. When you see him, tell him I want to talk to him."

"Okay."

"Oh and please call me and let me know Dean is safe."

"Okay."

"And Sam?"

"Yeah?"

"Don't give up. Even when it looks hopeless, you'll find a way, you just have to believe in it," Buffy declared.

Hearing a soft rapping at the front door, Buffy strolled toward it, clutching the phone to her ear.

"I have to go but keep your head up and…keep kicking ass," she added.

Sam unexpectedly chuckled very briefly in his throat. After hours of driving in a state of panic, the former Slayer had managed to lure out a moment of amusement and inspiration in the span of a few minutes. It was no wonder his brother was so crazy about her.

"I will," he said.

"Take care Sam. When this is all over, I hope you and your brother will come by and we can sit and talk about non end of the world stuff. And you can meet Allie."

Finding her positive outlook infectious, Sam felt his mouth bending with an enthusiastic smile.

"I'd like that, thanks."

Buffy said goodbye and pulled the door open to see Andrew, smoothing the wrinkles out in his velvet jacket.

"Buffy! I'm here and at your service!" he wailed as he dropped to his knees. "I will do whatever you wish to get back into your good graces!"

Buffy pulled Andrew inside and shut the front door.

"I forgive you Andrew as long as you don't evade my questions anymore."

"I'll tell you whatever you want to know," he said anxiously. "I've got the scoop on everyone."

"I just want you to pick up where you left off."

Buffy pointed to the couch and Andrew obediently rushed over, taking a seat. Buffy settled into her armchair as Andrew unzipped the backpack slung over his shoulder. He pulled out a thermos and a mug, extending both toward Buffy.

"Hot cocoa my lovely? Or, I have green tea."

Andrew yanked out another thermos from his backpack.

"No, I'm fine," Buffy insisted.

"Okay, let me think, where was I?"

"Dean...went to Hell," Buffy prompted very softly.

"Oh yes. Obviously, he was brought back, but why and by whom? This is where things get very intense….."

By the time Andrew updated Buffy on all the events leading up to the impending apocalypse, a painful numbness had gripped her bones. As her mind whirled furiously, Buffy pushed herself up and slowly walked around the living room, trying to pool the blood back into her veins.

"Lucifer is walking the Earth," she said in awe.

"Sam feels horrible for freeing him," Andrew moaned.

"So what's the plan to stop him?"

"There have been many," Andrew replied.

As Andrew imparted the various strategies the Scooby gang had expedited over the months, Buffy quickened her pace, feeling the blood running through her legs again. After several minutes of losing herself in the details, she glanced at one of the photos hanging on the wall of Xander and Willow.

"So that's how Xander got his broken arm and Willow ended up in a coma."

"Yes. They've all made speedy recoveries and Giles will too," Andrew blurted.

Buffy shrieked and widened her eyes in horror as her face flushed white.

"What? What happened to Giles?"

Andrew cowered on the couch as Buffy hovered over him, her eyebrows tense with a demanding look.

"Hhhe went to help Sam and Dean in Blue Earth, they were in trouble – major trouble and he…..he was stabbed in the gut by a vicious, lying little whore!"

Buffy frowned with wonder and took a step back.

"Huh?"

"The Whore of Babylon!"

Buffy folded down onto the couch next to Andrew and released a deep breath.

"What's his condition?"

"He's unconscious but the doctors managed to stop the bleeding. No damage to his internal organs. He just needs time to recuperate."

"Well thank god he's okay but in the future Andrew, whenever anyone gets hurt, minor or major, you pick up the damn phone and you call me!" she demanded.

Andrew raised his hand and nodded.

"I shall not keep anything from you ever again," he swore.

When something chirped in his backpack, Andrew reached inside and retrieved a sleek, palm sized portable computer. He flipped it open and tapped on a button, bringing up a live feed. Xander's face appeared on screen. He looked exhausted and had a few cuts on his cheek.

"Andrew, you sure picked a good time to leave," he moaned.

Andrew turned his nose up defiantly.

"When my Slayer needs me, I go! When my Slayer wants answers, I give them to her."

"You mean you….no Andrew!" Xander said admonishingly. "You were supposed to shut up."

"I don't answer to you!"

As Andrew scowled into the screen, Buffy snatched the device from him and addressed Xander, her face shrouding with fear.

"Xander, you know what Dean means to me and Allie. I won't lose him. So please just stop withholding stuff and get the gang together - NOW."

Xander's irritated look cracked with remorse.

"We didn't tell you because we didn't want to upset your life Buff," Xander said.

"I realize your intentions were good. But keeping something like this upsets me."

Disquieted by the immense tragedy and shocking revelations she had learned over the past few hours, Buffy crept up the stairs to check on Allie. Finding her still sleeping soundly, Buffy gently leaned down and planted a long kiss on the top of her head. After observing Allie for a second, her eyes pulled to the pictures on the dresser.

Buffy quietly padded to the dresser and picked up the picture of Allie and Dean, taken on May first. She remembered thinking Dean had shown such a rare display of emotion that night and an even more intense affection toward Allie. She had passed it off as the good hearted guy he had proven to be but now, she fully grasped the significance of Allie's birthday – a day of life on the eve before his death.

Overwhelmed by emotion, her hands shuddered violently, rattling the picture in her grip. Choked by a sharp pang in her heart, Buffy pushed air through her lungs several times, gently setting the picture back down on the dresser. As her eyes turned to Allie, soaking in her precious, peaceful expression, Buffy suddenly burst into tears. She dipped her face into her hands and allowed some of the well of compassion and fear out of her system.

A few minutes later, Buffy collected herself and trekked down the stairs, finding Andrew tidying up the toys and books scattered throughout the living room. Buffy shot him an appreciative look as she sat on the couch and picked up Andrew's mobile computer to see just Xander.

"Faith's making her way back from patrol," he said. "Will wanted to be here but she has a bad headache. She's still recuperating. And um, Giles is um…."

Xander looked away as he fidgeted in his seat.

"He's…."

"I know about Giles. And I know he'll be up and back on his feet in no time," Buffy said confidently.

Xander nodded in affirmation as Faith plopped down in the chair beside him.

"Hey B."

Buffy narrowed her eyes on Faith's right wrist which was wrapped in a gauze bandage.

"Is that from patrol or the Devil himself?" Buffy asked.

"Some of his loyal minions he sent to keep us all distracted," Faith said. "So you know everything?"

"Yes and I'll be mad about it later," Buffy said mildly. "Right now, I want to know what the latest strategy to tack Lucifer back to his cage is."

"We're always looking for new ways," Xander said. "And believe me, we've tried everything but Luci, he always seems to be one step ahead of us."

"But you're not giving up, are you?" Buffy pressed.

"Hell no," Faith said emphatically.

"We're working night and day," Xander added. "I don't think any of us have really slept much since Dean and Sam asked us for help."

Feeling the tides of anxiety rising through her system again, Buffy started massaging her temples.

"Well, explain to me why Dean has given up," she said.

Buffy took in Xander and Faith's utterly clueless expressions.

"What are you talking about?" Xander asked.

"Dean showed up here this morning and….said some things to me….things I'm still trying to process and then he ….he kissed me and it gave me this bad….."

"What? He kissed you?"

Faith roughly shoved Xander in the shoulder, pushing him and his chair out of the way.

"Woah, now who's been holding back on scoop?" she said with a silly grin on her face.

"It wasn't like that Faith, I mean….it gave me chills."

"That good huh?" Faith snorted.

Buffy couldn't even manage a margin of a smile with her mind and body so wracked with dread.

"I'm just trying to lighten things up a little," Faith sighed.

"Appreciated but not really helping."

Xander reappeared on screen, rubbing his sore shoulder. He scowled at Faith who kept her attention on Buffy.

"What I meant was, after everything he said - I knew it was a kiss….goodbye," Buffy cried softly.

As her eyes sprung with tears, she had to stop talking to combat the horrific scenarios burgeoning in her mind. Andrew wrapped a consoling arm around her shoulder as she swiped at the tears in her eyes.

"You should have seen him - he looked so defeated. Before he took off, he said that he could guarantee my safety. How can he make a promise like that? Who would have the power to….."

When the answer rippled to the surface of her mind, her eyes popped wide as she uttered a soundless shriek.

"The Angels…Michael….he's in charge right?"

"Yes," Andrew affirmed. "He's the big boss upstairs while his Grand Holiness is MIA."

"So that's what he meant when he said 'they're not gonna get me', he was talking about the angels," she concluded. "Oh, oh my god, he's going to surrender himself to Michael!"

Xander and Faith stared at Buffy in sheer astonishment.

"What?" they gasped.

Buffy took a breath before elaborating on Dean's promise to protect her and Allie.

"So he said your town would be safe from all the death and destruction but the rest of us are out of luck? Wow. What a standup guy Buff," Xander quipped dryly.

"He was in a very bad state of mind when he came here," Buffy explained. "He thinks it's the only way to stop Lucifer."

"Is he crazy?" Xander asked.

"Or stupid?" Faith proposed.

"He's a desperate man," Buffy said. "And despite all of your efforts and support, he's lost all hope."

"But that's just….suicidal," Andrew moaned. "Sam would be devastated if he lost his big brother."

"It's death by celestial body napping," Xander said flatly. "Not to mention human casualties in the billions."

Buffy shook her head as determination carved her face.

"We're not going to let any of that happen," she declared. "I talked to Sam and he's on his way to stop Dean."

"Well, let's hope he gets there in time," Faith replied. "All he's gotta do is hit a church or a devout homeless person."

"Sam promised he'd call me with news," Buffy said. "In the meantime, I'm going to borrow Andrew for awhile."

Faith swatted a hand through the air.

"Keep him if you want," she said. "After all, we know you called him first cause you could him break him down without much effort."

Faith drew a teasing smile as Buffy balked lightly.

"I did not," Buffy said in protest.

"That's right, Buffy genuinely adores me!" Andrew proclaimed just before the web cam faded out.

Buffy set aside Andrew's device and got to her feet. She began pacing around the room, trying to push back the worry fueling in her system.

"What's next? What can I do?"

As she reviewed the mountain of information she had learned over the past few hours, her brain began buzzing with curiosities.

"Get me all the research you've pulled so far, along with a log of your previous strategies for putting Lucifer down."

Andrew dutifully nodded as he yanked out a full size laptop from his back pack and took a seat at Buffy's desk.

"It's all in my journals, I'll download them onto your desktop."

"I also want to know more about the Angels in general, mentalities, weaknesses...do you think I could talk to Castiel?"

"He'd be an excellent resource for all things heavenly," Andrew affirmed. "Sam has told me that he has been a great ally and friend."

"Okay, let's get him down here. I assume we'd have to pray?"

Andrew dropped out of his chair and was about to take a prayer formation when Buffy plopped a hand on his shoulder.

"Perhaps you want to take the ward down? Frying an Angel on our side isn't exactly a great first intro."

Andrew took out his cell phone and remote dialed a code. The house emitted a buzzing sound for a minute before fading. Andrew returned to his knees and folded his hands together.

"Oh mighty celestial one they call Castiel, we call to you to answer our prayers! Please, please hear me."

After a long silence, Buffy felt an odd presence behind her. She swung her eyes around to see a dark haired man in a trench coat staring at her with distant eyes.

"You're Castiel," she said.

"Yes," he intoned.

"I'm Buffy."

"This house is warded by magic."

"Yeah, I let the ward down so you could be here."

"I was not so fortunate last time," Cass stated flatly.

"You've been here before?" Buffy asked with great surprise.

"Yes. I was looking for Dean but the ward kept me at bay," he explained. "I did not know who lived here or why I was not to come back here."

"Well, I'm, or was a Slayer."

Buffy watched the Angel cock his head up as his eyes narrowed on her.

"You are Buffy Summers," Cass acknowledged. "You have faced many formidable enemies. You defeated the First evil in a great battle and awakened thousands of new soldiers around the world."

"Well, I guess you do know me," Buffy said with a smile.

The Angel's face remained tense.

"You are a curiosity among the Garrison," he revealed. "There has been much discussion about you."

Buffy gaped in awe when she heard this.

"Are you serious? The Angels in Heaven are talking about me? I didn't realize I was such a water cooler topic," she snorted.

When the Angel simply frowned in puzzlement, Buffy cleared her throat in awkwardness, quickly shifting to the matter at hand.

"Can I….get you some coffee or…..something to eat?"

"I am fine," Cass replied succinctly.

"Okay, um, please sit then."

Buffy motioned to the armchair as she folded onto the couch. Cass frowned at Andrew as he remained on his knees, his cheeks stained with tears of remorse. When Cass stood rigidly where he was, Buffy let out a sigh as she patted Andrew on the shoulder.

"Andrew, would you give me a moment?'

Andrew nodded quickly as he scrambled to his feet and grabbed his laptop.

"I'll be in the kitchen," he said.

"Thanks Andrew."

Andrew scampered off toward the kitchen as Buffy turned her eyes on Cass as he grabbed the sides of his head and winced.

"Are you okay?"

Cass leaned against the armchair and winced deeper.

"Do you need some aspirin?"

"No, I shall be fine," Cass said in a monotone. "The Whore has been vanquished."

Buffy crooked an eyebrow as Cass slid into the armchair.

"The Whore of Babylon, guess she did a real number on everyone huh?" she said lightly.

Cass looked up at her with deep wonder as he clenched his temples again.

"Why did you call me here?"

"You're a friend of Dean's," Buffy stated.

"Yes. We have been through much together."

"I'm glad he's got you and Sam. He can't fight this war against Lucifer alone. That's why I wanted to talk to you, specifically about Lucifer and Michael…."

"What is it you wish to know?"

Over the next half hour, Buffy utilized her opportunity to sit down with Castiel, questioning him rapidly and extensively.


Meanwhile:

Once Sam entered the city limits of Cohasset, he traveled down Colonial Boulevard – the town's main road - and surveyed the block, mentally noting the hotels scattered throughout the downtown district. He was amazed at the span of culturally and socially rich venues littering each block he passed, from museums, to small churches of every religion, from mom and pop coffee shops, to a humongous Starbucks, to a multi floor Cineplex just a few steps away from an old movie theater. Cohasset was quite the burgeoning metropolis. He shook off his awe as he exited downtown and drove up a brick lined roundabout. At the yield, Sam quickly scanned his options. To the east, he saw a residential area of tree lined townhouses and apartment buildings. According to the address from Andrew, Serenity Road was about two and half miles east of Colonial. Sam doubted Dean would have stayed at Buffy's too long so he maneuvered the car along the roundabout and headed west, where rows of factories bled over the horizon.

As he eased slowly through the manufacturing district, he passed by several no name motels with parking lots facing the street. Sam kept heading down the road until a motel in particular caught his eyes. Mike's Motor Lodge was situated on the corner, but there was a sign directing guests to the parking lot down the block. Sam made a sharp turn across the intersection onto a narrow street leading to a dead end.

Once he reached the end, he spotted the rear of the Impala parked in one of the six space carports conveniently squared off by an eight foot white planked fence. He swung the car back around and out the alley, pulling along a curb on the main street.

Sam quickly took out his cell phone and hurriedly dialed.

"Come on Cass, pick up," he muttered.


Buffy exhaled a long breath as she digested Castiel's insight. Her fingernails rapped on her thigh as more curiosities stitched in her mind.

"What's your take on it all?" she inquired. "I mean, you've been on the frontline with Dean and Sam, but on a personal note, where do you stand?"

Buffy watched Castiel as his steely eyes looked away for a moment.

"What do you wish me to say?" he said when he met her eyes again.

"I don't 'wish' you to say anything that isn't the truth," Buffy said frankly.

Castiel looked away for a longer moment this time. Buffy opened her mouth in shock when despite having known the Angel for less than an hour, the doubt on his face was completely clear.

"I believe….that Dean will fail," he said gloomily.

The Angel dropped his eyes as Allie skipped down the stairs and ran into the living room.

Buffy swallowed Castiel's astounding admission as Allie hopped into her lap.

"Did you have a good nap sweetie? You slept a long time," Buffy said with a maternal smile.

"Uh huh, I was SO tired from all the fun at the party," Allie said. "I wanna watch the Backyardigans now."

"Well, your Uncle Andrew's here and he can take you upstairs to my room and you can watch it there. I've got a visitor but I'll be with you as I'm done okay?"

"Okay!"

Buffy kissed the top of her head before Allie hopped off the couch.

"I love you," Buffy said.

Allie skipped over to Cass and leaned against him as she stared up at him with her deep green eyes.

"Hi! I'm Allie!"

Cass stared intensely at Allie as she grinned and waved fervently.

"Hello," Cass said flatly.

"What's your name?"

"I am Castiel."

"Hi!" Allie said.

Bemused, the Angel frowned as Allie bounced excitedly at the new person in the room.

"Hello," he repeated.

"It's nice to meet you!" Allie squealed as she waved some more.

Buffy choked on a giggle when Cass stiffly waved back.

"Andrew?" Buffy called.

In a flash, Andrew rushed out of the kitchen with an eager smile.

"Yes my Queen! What can I do for you?"

"Can you take Allie upstairs to watch the Backyardigans?"

"Oh, of course! I would just love to, come on my little sparkle," Andrew chimed.

Andrew skipped off upstairs with Allie, leaving Buffy alone with Cass.

"The Slayer is with child," Castiel said in astonishment.

"I'm not the Slayer anymore," Buffy clarified.

"But your legend lives on," Castiel said. "It is why this house is protected by a mystic ward. Should your enemies find you, you are not vulnerable to attack. And it is why Dean withheld your identity and forbid me to come here – for fear of your safety. He did not want me to be aware of you and his child. It makes sense to me now."

Buffy sucked in a breath and snapped her eyes wide as her face flooded with awkwardness.

"Um, no, no, Allie's not his child. He's just very protective of her, even since before she was born, you know he….it's a long story for another…"

Buffy stopped when she heard a cell phone ringing loudly. Cass shifted in his seat as he reached into a pocket of his trench coat and pulled out a phone. Buffy widened her eyes in disbelief as Cass punched a button after the third ring.

"Yes," Cass answered. "Yes. I will be right there."

Cass rose to his feet.

"I'm sorry but I must go," he said.

Buffy blinked rapidly when Cass disappeared from her living room.

"An Angel with a cell phone?"

Buffy got to her feet and felt the wealth of information slamming through her mind again. She slowly trekked up the stairs, hearing Allie's giggles echoing from her bedroom as tension coiled around her bones. Her face tightened with anxiety as she shuffled into her bedroom to see Allie and Andrew on her bed, watching Tyrone and Tasha on the television.

Allie threw her head back and laughed as Buffy sat on the edge of the bed. Andrew crawled over and clapped his hands on her shoulders and began massaging them.

"You look so stressed Buffy," Andrew expressed. "Can I run a nice, soothing lavender bath for you?"

Buffy winced as the stress escalated in her muscles from Andrew's sloppy massaging. She gently pushed his hands away and then rubbed the back of her neck.

"No, that's okay," she said. "But, I could use a little run, settle my mind a bit."

"Are you sick mommy?" Allie asked with sad eyes.

"No, sweetie, I just need some fresh air."

Allie patted her arm and drew a sympathetic expression.

"Feel better," she said sweetly.

Buffy smiled lovingly as she kissed Allie's forehead.

"Do you want to stay here with Uncle Andrew?"

Allie nodded as she clutched a pink pillow.

"Uh huh, I'm keeping him company! I'll be a good host!"

"That's my girl," Buffy cheered. "I won't be too long."

"Take the time you need Buffy," Andrew insisted. "I'm here for you. I can even make dinner arrangements if you want. I've got your local restaurants on speed dial."

"Oh, you don't have to go to the trouble. I can whip something up when I get back."

Andrew shook his head as he pulled Buffy to her feet.

"I insist of taking care of dinner tonight," he said firmly. "You go have a nice, therapeutic run."


A short time later, as her feet pounded against the pavement, Buffy relished the feeling of adrenaline snapping through her veins. As her mind still whirled from shock, her feet pushed her through several neighborhoods. Having lost herself in her drumming heartbeat, Buffy was surprised she had run several miles as she stopped on the curb of the community center to drink some water.

Breathing rapidly but not heavily, Buffy felt an urge for a more vigorous workout, welcoming the effects of adrenaline washing out her deep seated anxiety. She jogged lightly into the community center and then wandered toward the exercise rooms on the south end. Seeing the empty fitness rooms, Buffy ducked inside one and discovered some new boxing equipment, including three training dummies that had masks on their rubber heads.

Buffy peeled off her jacket and stepped in front of the dummy. She closed her eyes, inhaled a deep breath and curled her hands into fists. In an instant, her fists raised and she began, almost automatically, delivering several hard jabs into the masked dummy's torso.

As her mind began to fog with disturbing images of death and destruction, of Dean's sacrifices over the years, of the looming Apocalypse, of the Angels plans, Buffy aggressively punched harder and faster, channeling all of her distress into each blow. After a few minutes, she added roundhouse, back and side kicks and then she just started freestyling, alternating between two dummies. She briefly drew a nostalgic look, remembering the days of her daily training sessions as an active Slayer. Though she didn't miss her life as a Slayer, she did miss the high of her workouts; especially now, as she kept riding the swell of adrenaline assailing her system.

Glancing at her watch, Buffy delved back into her routine, bouncing fervently off the balls of her feet.

After twenty minutes of vigorous combos, beads of sweat rolled down her body as her low grunts echoed through the room.

Completely focused and consumed by her exercise, her gut instinctively tensed when she felt a presence behind her. As she spun on her heel, her fist went flying toward someone's face. Her eyes snapped wide when her fist was deftly caught in a male hand. Her chest bellowed rapidly as she breathed with heavy exertion.

"Rick?"

"Nice punch," Rick replied with a look of awe.

"Nice block," Buffy said.

As Rick gazed at her with wonder, Buffy noticed their hands were still locked together.

"Um, could I have my hand back?"

"That depends if you're going to try and punch me in the face again."

Buffy chuckled awkwardly as her cheeks heated with color.

"I didn't mean to the first time," she said sheepishly.

Still somewhat wary, Rick loosened his grip, allowing Buffy to remove her hand. She could have easily dislodged her hand from Rick's, but she had already drawn enough suspicion from him.

"Sorry about that. I guess I just…got carried away."

"I noticed. And I'm starting to wonder if you have a little more training then you've led on."

Buffy followed his sights as he inspected the three dummies.

"Um, maybe…a tad," she confessed.

Engaging her with another look of awe, Buffy threw her eyes around the room.

"I didn't think anyone would be here at this hour. Are you teaching?"

"No. I'm setting up for the fitness expo this weekend. I was going to use this room for demos since all the equipment is new but now…."

Buffy gulped when Rick turned his eyes on one of the dummy's heads, drooping sickly over its neck.

"Whoops," she muttered. "I can pay for that."

Rick pushed the mangled dummy off to the side and gave her a forgiving look.

"It's okay, better you pummel the dummy then someone's head. You seem a bit….intense. Is Allie alright?"

Buffy drew an appreciative smile and nodded.

"Yeah, she's really good, thanks for asking," she said. "It's not about her though. I'm just…really worried about a friend of mine who's going through a….difficult situation."

"Sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do?"

"No, not really. I mean, the pummeling dummies helps…..and um, I just wanted to do a couple more drills – I promise I won't ruin any more of the equipment."

"I didn't mean to interrupt. I just saw some of those combos and…well, that's not covered in my beginner's class. Anyway, I'll leave you with those two unfortunate dummies."

Buffy passed him a polite smile as Rick started toward the exit. When he reached the doorway, he stopped under it and turned back around.

"You know, you might want to try meditation. I find it's a lot more effective physically and mentally in relieving stress. That's just my unsolicited piece of advice."

Rick returned her polite smile before he strolled out of the room. When he left, Buffy picked out her cell phone and checked for any new messages. She sighed in disappointment when she hadn't received any word from Sam yet.


The manager at Mike's Motor Lodge wasn't much for keeping policies or privacy for that matter. With a few large bills, Sam was able to get a look at the registry without much question. Recognizing one of Dean's aliases, Sam got the room number and quickly headed out of the manager's office. When he stepped into the parking lot, he spotted Cass standing under a broken street light. The Angel had his hands in his pockets, his usual intense look stitched over his face as Sam met up with him.

"Thanks for coming right away," Sam said.

"You said it was an emergency," Cass stated. "What is it you need?"

"I need you to help me stop Dean from killing himself," Sam said emphatically.

Dean took a long breath to reform his thoughts as he sat at a desk in his motel room, composing a letter to Bobby. It had taken him almost two hours and several drafts later to get his mess of words together but finally, he was nearly done. Most of his instructions were self explanatory but there were a few things he had to say, things Bobby had to know.

If you ever meet her, you'll know why I had to do this….

As the last of his thoughts tumbled out, Dean signed the letter and stuffed it in an envelope. He pushed his chair from the desk and got up, placing the letter a top of a box sitting on the bed.

"Mailing a care package to someone?"

Surprised by the intrusion, Dean whipped around to see Sam in front of the door.

"Sam. You found me? How?"

Sam let out a long breath as he slowly approached his brother.

"I know things have been rough between us, but I still know you. And I know, these days, when it comes down to it, you feel like there's only one place you'd really want to stop off and say your goodbyes before you hit Death Row, right?"

"That's not what this is," Dean denied.

"Really?" Sam challenged, frowning doubtfully. "You're not about to bend over to Michael? What exactly do you think you're doing Dean? After everything – all the crap about changing our destinies, about fighting the Angels and God - now you're just what…..you're ready to surrender?"

"I guess I am," Dean sighed.

Sam shook his head in fury.

"What the hell Dean! How can you just walk out on this?" he demanded.

Dean scoffed sharply as his face tightened with a bitter frown.

"You're a friggin' hypocrite Sam," he vexed. "You've made walking out a damn art form!"

Sam dropped his eyes in genuine remorse for a second as he released a sigh.

"I know," Sam said humbly. "And I've regretted it all those times. It wasn't the right thing to do. I know that. So you should know that this isn't the way to go Dean. So please just don't, okay? I talked to Bobby and he may have something for us."

"May have something?" Dean asked cynically. "Well what is it he may have?"

Sam hesitated, prompting Dean to deepen his cynical look.

"Right, so you've got a big plate full of NOTHING," he snapped. "We've had a plate full of nothing for months and I'm tired of it. This is my only option now."

"Then my only option is to stop you however I can," Sam warned.

"If that's how it's gonna be, fine," Dean said brusquely. "But you know what? You don't have the advantage of demon blood in your system – me, I've got nothing to lose. That's my advantage."

"Maybe but I've got something else," Sam said. "An angel up my sleeve."

Seeing Sam's eyes looking past him, Dean turned around to see Cass just a foot behind him. Cass struck fast, pressing his fingers into Dean's forehead. Dean moaned very softly as his eyes rolled to the back of his head and then he collapsed to the ground, fading out.


By the time Buffy returned home, the tension in her muscles had completely dissipated. Invigorated by her bout of stress reducing exercise, Buffy pushed through the front door, feeling significantly calmer than when she had left.

"Allie! Andrew! I'm home!"

Dumping her key on the foyer table, Buffy peeled off her running jacket and trotted up the stairs. Hearing giggles from Allie's bedroom, Buffy bounded down the hallway. Peering inside Allie's room, she saw Andrew on his hands and knees beside her pink table, pretending to eat out of a trough. Allie was seated at the table, swinging her feet against her chair as she chomped on a small slice of pizza.

"Hi baby, did you have fun while I was out?" Buffy asked as she kissed Allie's cheek.

"We had pizza for dinner!" Allie cheered. "And Uncle Andrew Horse is eating with me."

Buffy stared at Andrew as he obediently whinnied like a horse.

"Oh, wow, Uncle Andrew Horse, huh?" she snorted.

Buffy glanced at the pizza box sitting on Allie's bed and noticed only one slice was gone.

"Did you let….Uncle Andrew horse eat some pizza?"

Allie shook her head and scowled.

"Don't be silly mommy. Horseys don't eat pizza! They eat carrots!"

"Oh, yeah, you're right, but, Andrew came a long way to see us, so I'm sure he's hungry and would want some pizza."

"I am happy to eat what my little queen gives me," Andrew said with a humbled look.

"No talking," Allie groaned.

Andrew bowed his head and went back to play eating. Buffy pulled Andrew onto his feet.

"How about we spend time with Uncle Andrew downstairs? We can have a pizza party and then eat ice cream on the deck."

Allie shot out of her chair and nodded.

"I looooooooooooooove ice cream!" she squealed.

Allie skipped out of the bedroom and dashed down the stairs as Buffy walked with Andrew.

"Have you heard from anyone? Sam? Dean?"

"No, sorry," Andrew sighed. "Sam's line goes straight to voice mail and Dean's phone is still turned off. I can do that satellite tracking for you if you wish."

Buffy chewed on her lower lip as Allie did a little dance when she reached the foot of the stairs.

"No, I'd feel better if I could talk to them."

"I'll keep dialing Sam until he picks up," Andrew offered.


"Come on Sam, are you really gonna do this?" Dean moaned.

Sam stood in front of the door to Bobby's panic room and issued a sigh.

"You gave me no choice Dean," Sam said. "Between you and Adam vying to jump ship first – I can't take the chance."

"There's no way I'm gonna just sit back and let him do this," Dean growled.

"You mean letting Adam say yes? Of course, absolutely not," Sam acceded.

Dean huffed in frustration as he leaned against a rusted cabinet.

"I don't think you're hearing me Sam," he said peevishly.

"I hear you loud and clear Dean. Adam's not saying yes and neither are you."

"Adam's just a kid and I'm not gonna let Michael wear him."

When Sam stared him down, Dean clenched his jaw and frowned.

"I'm not messing around here Sam," he spat. "This crap stops now. Have you thought about, I mean, really thought about all the people who have died for us over the years? Our parents, Ellen, Jo, Jessica…..Giles….."

"Giles is in surgery," Sam said quickly. "But he's gonna be okay. And we never asked anyone to die for us."

"But they still did," Dean groused. "And I'm done. I can't take anymore. I can't keep denying what's meant for me."

Sam grunted under his breath and shot a resentful look at his brother.

"How about you wait a second instead of throwing your life away? Okay? Do you think you and me can stand together on this?"

"Honestly? I really don't," Dean confessed.

Sam shaded with a mixture of hurt and surprise.

"What? But…why? Come on Dean, be straight with me."


A few minutes later, Sam returned to Bobby's study, scowling heavily.

"He okay?"

Sam scoffed loudly and shrugged.

"You okay?"

Sam expired as a string of chimes went off. Bobby frowned as he eyed Sam's cell phone.

"That dang thing has been pissing like crazy since you turned it on," he grunted.

Sam swept up the phone and glanced at the screen, indicating eight missed calls.

"Um, it's Andrew."

Just as he uttered the name, the phone rang. Sam was about to hit ignore until he caught Bobby's wrathful look.

"Will you just answer it? I'm starting to hear ringing in my ears!" Bobby snarled.

Sam obliged, hitting the talk button.

"Andrew."

"Sam! There you are! Is everything okay? You haven't been answering your phone! What's going on? Did you find your brother? I'm calling on Buffy's behalf and she requests an update. So, where are you and how are you?"

In the midst of all the chaos, Sam had forgotten on the promise he made to Buffy.

"Sorry, I've been caught up in the latest….developments," he said. "I…"

Hearing a faint scream downstairs, Sam tensed with alarm.

"Sorry Andrew but I have to go," he said hurriedly.


"Can I have a little bit more mommy?" Allie asked as she drew her thumb and index finger within an inch of each other. "Please?"

Buffy embraced the laughter sputtering through her as Allie clutched her empty ice cream bowl.

"Okay, you can have 'a little bit' more," she said as she took Allie's bowl.

Buffy returned to the kitchen to see Andrew's pouty face as he set his cell phone on the table.

"What's wrong Andrew?"

"I got a hold of Sam for one blissful second before he had to go," Andrew reported.

"And?"

"I'm sorry Buffy," he moaned. "He didn't have time to talk. I'm afraid I don't have any news for you. Please don't be mad at me!"

Buffy glanced through the screen door and watched Allie as she scribbled on the deck with her set of colored chalks.

"I'm not mad," Buffy said. "I just hate all the waiting. I'm not used it, you know? Before, if I wanted answers, I went and got them no matter who I had to shake down or how far I had to go – but with Allie…."

Andrew sprung from his seat when Buffy's land line rang.

"Miss Summers' palatial residence, may I help you? Xander…..my line's been busy, I've been trying to get a hold of Brave Brother Winchester…what? Oh! Buffy will be immensely relieved!"

Andrew hung up the line without saying goodbye and turned to Buffy.

"Giles is awake!" he announced.

"Thank goodness," Buffy cheered as Allie pushed through the screen door.

"He's groggy and sore from the surgery so he has to stay in the hospital for several more days."

"Who's in the hospital mommy?"

Buffy crouched down to be eye level with Allie.

"Your Uncle Giles had an accident and he had to go to the hospital to get better."

Allie moped as her eyes glistened with sadness.

"Oh no! I love Uncle Giles, is he better now?"

Buffy nodded with a confident smile.

"Yeah, he already is sweetie; he just needs to rest for awhile."

"I'm going to make him a get well card," Allie said sweetly.

"He will love that Allie, he misses you so much."

Allie ran off into the living room, collected her crayons and art paper and then took a seat at her table in the play area. Buffy expelled a breath as she leaned in the doorway to the living room observing Allie fervently drawing a picture. She set down Allie's bowl with a few small tablespoons of ice cream and then cupped the top of her head.

A few minutes later, Andrew settled himself in the kitchen; Buffy picked up her laptop and sat on the couch. Allie hummed softly as Buffy opened one of the files Andrew had downloaded onto her computer. It was a picture file of several paintings in a reduced size – Michael versus Lucifer, the Four Horsemen leaving a path of death and destruction behind them, Angels at war.

"Mommy, how do you spell Uncle?"

Buffy shook off the grim images burgeoning in her mind as she looked up from her computer.

"You know how to spell uncle, we spell it out every day," Buffy said with a smile. "Remember 'U', 'N'…."

Allie licked her lips as she pressed her pencil on the paper and began to form letters.

"Like this?"

Allie held up her paper, showing it to Buffy.

"Yep, that's exactly right," Buffy praised. "I knew you could do it."

"How do you spell Giles?"

Spotting the file from the corner of her eye, Buffy pooled a breath out of her lungs. As much as her gut flared with a fighting impulse, with a fierce desire to help out a dear friend, her heart trembled with maternal instinct at that moment. If something was coming, she would be prepared and she would protect Allie with her life.

But for now, as she stared at the little girl filled with curiosity and innocence, Buffy put aside the gloomy matters pecking at her brain.

Buffy collapsed her laptop and then kneeled beside Allie, smiling encouragingly.

"Giles is with a G."


Dean boiled with anger and horror as he stared at Sam and Adam lying on the floor, both coughing up rivers of blood and losing consciousness.

"This is your only option, you know that right Deany boy?" Zachariah said with a smug smile.

"Just stop this," Dean pleaded. "Just stop what you're doing to them!"

"If I do that for you, what do I get in return?" Zachariah said with a knowing grin.

As Sam uttered a groan of agony, Dean stared at his younger brother for a second.

"Alright," Dean said tightly.

Zachariah touched the back of his right ear lobe and leaned forward.

"Alright what?"

Dean noticed Sam struggling to hold onto consciousness, begging him with his eyes not to give in.

"You can have me okay? I'm saying yes to Michael. So hurry up and get your boss down here you ball-less sonofabitch," he snarled.

"Are you lying to me?" Zachariah asked dubiously.

"Take a good look at my face and tell me if I am," Dean challenged, deepening his icy look.

Zachariah spun on his heel and began chanting in Enochian as Dean threw a look at Sam. When Zach turned back to Dean, he grinned with gratification.

"Excellent, Michael is on his way."

"You do know I have a few demands that have to be met before Michael zips me up."

"Such as?"

"I want to guarantee the survival of a couple of people."

Zachariah snorted and waved dismissively.

"Fine, whatever. Send me a text."

"Most importantly, I'm not giving my blessing until Michael does something first."

"And what might that be?"

"He has to waste you," Dean said through clenched teeth.


A little later, Dean and Sam were still reeling with the events that had unfolded in the Green Room. The two stared out the windshield as the car flew down a faintly lit highway.

"What do you think happened to Adam?" Sam asked apprehensively.

"It can't be good," Dean replied glumly. "And I doubt Cass got a ticket to Paradise. We'll find them though."

After deep sighs in unison, Dean focused on maneuvering along the winding highway while Sam simply shot his brother a look of disbelief. Feeling his gaze, Dean met Sam's eyes and frowned curiously.

"What's that look about?"

Sam let out a short breath as he tapped his fingers on his knees.

"It's just…I could tell what was really in your eyes Dean. You wanted Michael to suit up. You almost let him do it. What stopped you?"

After a long, pensive moment, Dean finally answered with a sincere expression.

"The honest to God truth? It's one of those 'I'll be damned' moments. Here we are, the end of the world is looming and we're getting our asses kicked and then – I see you and I'm thinking – 'this little punk WANTED me to come' – I kept hearing that in my head and that was it, you know? I couldn't disappoint you."

"Well, you came pretty close to it," Sam said lightly. "But in the end – you're far from it."

"Yeah well, I should apologize now," Dean said humbly.

Sam shook his head. "There's no need Dean. Really."

"Okay but…I will say one thing. Maybe it's just a big brother thing, who knows but I still see you as that obnoxious little kid that I was responsible for. But you and I both know you stopped being that a long time ago. And I've got to accept that. You're a grown man and you make your own choices. You kept believing in me even when I stopped believing in myself. So for that, I should pay you back. I'm all for kicking destiny in the ass and not looking back, how about you?"

Sam flooded with relief and nodded at his brother's newfound confidence.

"Yeah, count me in."

Sam heaved with more relief when his cell phone rang. Shifting in his seat, Sam took his phone out of his pocket and glanced at the screen.

"Bobby?" Dean assumed.

Sam shook his head as he hit the talk button.

"Hey Andrew….uh, yeah I'll…..hello?"

Sam frowned when he heard Andrew panting on the other line.

"Uh Andrew?"


"I finished mommy! Look!"

Buffy pushed her dinner plate aside and brushed the crumbs off her hands as Allie climbed onto the couch and showed off her drawing.

"That's me and Uncle Giles and we're having a tea party!" Allie said gleefully. "Uncle Giles likes tea!"

Endeared by the immense joy on Allie's face, Buffy grinned with pride.

"What do you think?"

"It's perfect Allie," Buffy said adoringly. "You have captured your Uncle Giles so well."

Allie smiled from ear to ear as she signed her name at the bottom of the paper.

"Love Allie!" she said gaily.

Andrew rushed into the living room, waving his cell phone at Buffy.

"Oh gloriousness! He's available now! Buffy! Oh Buffy! I've got Sam on the phone!"

Andrew eagerly handed the phone over to Buffy.

"Thanks Andrew."

Buffy glanced at Allie as she took out a fresh sheet of paper to draw on. Andrew sat down with Allie as Buffy shuffled into the kitchen.

"Sam, it's Buffy."

"Uh, hey. Sorry I didn't call you earlier I got caught up in…stuff," Sam said.

"Angel stuff?" Buffy asked directly.

"Um, among other things," Sam mumbled.

"But Dean is okay?" Buffy pressed anxiously. "Michael isn't occupying him?"

Amazed by the former Slayer's conclusion Sam threw a sidelong glance at his brother.

"No, he's fine. He's here with me."

Buffy exhaled a long sigh.

"Good. So where are you guys headed next?"

Twenty-seven minutes later:

"No, you're very clear," Sam uttered. "Okay….yeah, we'll see you then."

Sam hung up and immediately felt his brother's stare.

"Well, you were awfully chatty with your BFF," Dean said, forming the foundations of a smirk.

Sam rolled his eyes as he tucked his phone away.

"That wasn't Andrew, it was Buffy," he stated.

Sam watched the restraint pulling over Dean's face at mention of the name.

"Really, I wasn't aware you two talked."

"We haven't. She called me after you took off. She's been worried about you ever since. Whatever you said to Buffy left an impression because she wants to talk to you."

"I've said all I needed to," Dean said quietly.

Sam sputtered out a sigh. "I'm sure you'll have something to say once we get there."

Seeing his brother's eyes pulling from the road to him, Sam bit back a gratified smile.

"Get where?"

"Buffy's house. She expects us to come by the day after tomorrow," Sam said.

Dean looked back to the road, drawing one hand off the steering wheel to dig at a knot forming in the back of his neck.

"I don't think that's a good idea."

"Did you hear what I said? Buffy EXPECTS us to be there," Sam reiterated. "That means, we don't have a choice and she's not going to take no for an answer."

"Well, we'll come up with a reason why we can't show up," Dean said adamantly. "You know, in our line of work, things – evil things come up often, so, she'll understand."

Sam huffed as he recognized Dean's deep seated reluctance that always darkened his face whenever the subject of Buffy came up.

"Dean, will you please quit this whole "I don't care" act when we're talking about Buffy? I may not know her very well, but in the two phone conversations I've had with her, I can tell she cares about you as much as you care about her and there's nothing wrong with that."

As Dean fell into a brief trance, Sam rapped lightly on the dashboard.

"Plus, Buffy made it clear in a borderline threatening way - that if we don't go to her, she'll come to us," Sam added. "So unless you want her showing up at our motel door, you better hook up with the I-80."

"Sam," Dean started.

"And your car is still in Cohasset, remember?" Sam said pointedly.

Dean tilted his head back, acknowledging the dark blue '78 Camaro he had hotwired in Van Nuys. With extreme exhaustion swelling up in his muscles, his mind barely processed the reality that he wasn't presently driving his baby.

"Right," he surrendered, veering the car toward a highway interchange.


"Everything okay Buffy my dear?" Andrew asked with a hopeful look.

Buffy nodded as she plopped down on the floor beside Allie, looking over a wealth of drawings. Each picture was signed 'Love, Allie'. Buffy picked one up and smiled.

"You love spelling your name now, huh Allie?"

Allie nodded as she pointed to each letter.

"A-l-l-i-e! I love my name," she cheered. "I want to learn to spell my middle name mommy."

"Oh, I guess that makes sense, you're already an expert at spelling mommy, uncle, auntie and family."

"Uh huh, so how do I spell it?" Allie asked eagerly.

Buffy glanced at the clock as Allie waited patiently.

"We'll go over it for ten minutes and then it's bath time," she said.

Allie scowled deeply as Andrew let out a yawn.

"Why do I need another bath? I had one yesterday," she moaned.

"Yes, you did but you were playing outside all day today, putting your hands and feet in things, so you need one."

Allie sighed in protest as Buffy picked out one of her pencils.

"Don't be that way sweetie, you know every time you get in the bath you end up not wanting to get out."

Allie sighed again, propping her elbows on her little table so she could rest her chin in her hands.

"Can I have a little more ice cream after bath time?"

"You already had 'a little more'," Buffy said sternly. "BUT, tomorrow after you take a bath, you can have a little ice cream."

"I have to take another bath tomorrow?"

"Yeah Allie, you should take one every day," Buffy said.

Allie huffed loudly as she scribbled on her paper.

"Plus, we're going to have some special guests for dinner this weekend," Buffy said.

"Special guests?"

Buffy nodded as she spelled out Allie's name on a sheet of paper.

"Yeah, but I'm not telling you who – it's a surprise."

Allie bounced excitedly in her seat.

"Is it the Backyardigans?"

Buffy snorted in amusement. "No, sorry, it's not them. But, I can promise you, you'll be very happy."


Later the next day:

As Buffy pulled into her driveway, she heard the roar of a motorcycle engine sputtering down her street. Knowing her block was filled with mainly drivers of SUVs or sedans, she glanced curiously at the rider as the motorcycle slowed to a stop in front of her house. When the rider pulled off their helmet, Buffy widened her eyes in surprise.

"Faith?"

Faith shut down the engine and pushed out the side stand.

"Hey Buffy."

"Hey. So who'd you snake this off of?"

"Scourge demon I ran into a couple towns back," Faith explained. "He smashed my ride up so I took his. Ain't it sweet?"

Buffy looked over the red and black Kawasaki, taking notice of a burning skull design emblazoned over the gas tank.

"Uh, it seems to…suit you."

Faith grinned as she eased off the bike and joined Buffy on the curb.

"You just passing through or did you come by to beg me for forgiveness too?" Buffy said with an amused smile.

Faith scoffed, waving her gloved hand through the air as she followed Buffy to the rear of the car.

"Do I look like Andrew? Besides I stand by my decision to keep it all from you B. I mean, I don't want you taking a minute away from Allie to deal with demon stuff. Your life with her is precious you know?"

"I know," Buffy acknowledged. "It's just that I'm…."

Buffy sighed as she leaned into the open trunk and yanked out as many grocery bags as she could carry.

"You're still pissed at all of us for keeping it from you?"

Faith took out the rest of the bags and then walked with Buffy to the front door.

"Maybe a little," Buffy confessed softly. "I get why you guys did, I do. But this involves Dean – and what he's been through, what he's sacrificed, I can't help but want to do…SOMETHING to help after everything he's done for me."

Flustered by the anxiety stewing in her veins again, Buffy forced out a deep breath as she pushed through the door.

"Well that's exactly why all of us made a pact not to say anything to you," Faith said. "We knew you'd get curious – maybe even seek out your old demon allies for info. So we couldn't let that happen. The ward on your house may keep demons away, but keeping you away from them…."

Buffy absorbed Faith's point, but was still determined to voice her own. She dropped bags on the kitchen counter and then folded her arms as a frown shaded over her face.

"I'm not saying I'm going to dust off my stake and fight Lucifer – but I still need to know what we're facing because, worse case scenario – if it's Doomsday, I'm going to be prepared and I will do EVERYTHING in my power to protect Allie."

"I know. We ALL know Buffy," Faith said in a sharper tone. "And we'll be damned if we let you do anything that takes you away from her. So whether you like it or not, you can't go sniffing around Lucifer's playground."

Buffy bit down on her lower lip as Faith steered her eyes toward the stairs.

"Where's the kid?"

Letting go of the dark subject matter, Buffy pulled out a few groceries and sighed.

"Oh, she's at her friend Juliet's house, I was about to pick her up after my market run but Juliet's mom called me to say the girls were having too much fun and wanted to have dinner together. I didn't want to be selfish and end their fun. So, for the first time since Allie was born, I've found myself having dinner alone."

Buffy widened her eyes in amazement before her lips pursued into a pout.

"Wow, sounds like she's finding her independence. Al's growing up fast huh?" Faith said.

Buffy put her face in her hands and moped.

"Yeah, sometimes I'm afraid to blink because I'll miss something in her life."

"Even more reason to focus on being a mom."

Buffy surrendered to Faith's advice for the time being, opening up the fridge to put some items away. Faith started taking out several containers and boxes from the bags, laying them all on the counter.

"Geez, you'd think you had six kids with all these groceries."

"Oh, some of it is just pantry stock the rest is for…"

Faith crooked an eyebrow in curiosity as she plucked out a six pack of beer.

"Male company?"

Buffy gulped when she felt heat rising in her cheeks at Faith's goofy grin.

"It's not what you think. I asked Sam and Dean to come by for dinner tomorrow," she sputtered. "But it's just to have a discussion…."

Faith set a carton of ice cream next to the beer and grinned wider.

"Well - ice cream, beer and hot guys," she said. "That's some discussion right there."

Faith chortled as Buffy looked away, feeling more color in her cheeks.

"I have questions," Buffy stated when she met Faith's eyes again.

"I bet you do," Faith said as she hopped on a stool and tore open a bag of pretzels. "And I'll bet they're more geared toward big bro, right?"

Faith pumped her eyebrows in a blatant plea. Buffy fidgeted in her stance as Faith gave her a nudge in the arm.

"Come on Buffy, throw me a bone – ever since you told me he kissed you, I've been going crazy with wonder. And who else can you really talk to about this? It's not like you can pick it apart with one of your neighbor pals. So gimme the deets. Did he 'profess his undying love for you' or something?"

Buffy forced herself to laugh as she shook her head.

"Uh, no, not….exactly…" she muttered.

"But he professed something? Or did he just show up here and smack one on you?"

Buffy chewed on her lower lip as she glanced at the clock.

"You know, um, if you have somewhere to be, don't let me keep you."

"I'm good. Andrew's handling the Watcher's Council stuff while Giles is recovering, Xander and Willow are on Devil tracking duties and I don't have to meet with this Potential until tomorrow afternoon. Until then…."

Faith prompted Buffy with another silly eyebrow pump. Buffy sputtered with a relenting breath.

"He may have said something about wanting to….be with me and Allie if….if um he didn't have to hunt…"

As Faith stared back at her, Buffy caved with another sigh before unloading more details.

After several minutes, Buffy watched Faith as she looked amazed.

"Woah. So you make him feel 'whole' again, damn B," she gasped. "No wonder you were blown away."

"Well, it's Allie mostly that makes him feel….that way," Buffy said modestly.

"Maybe but he liked you before he even met Allie," Faith said pointedly. And I knew I liked him as soon as you told us about him. All the times he's shown up here, he wasn't just spending time with Al – he was picturing himself in your life."

"You don't really know that. I mean, you can't assume…." Buffy stuttered. "Dean was in a bad place when he was here the other day."

"True but he could have kept on driving," Faith said. "He could have pulled over at a church and surrendered to Michael. But instead, he stopped off here to say goodbye, of all the people in the world, he needed to see YOU. Just like he could have gotten totally shitfaced the night before his contract was up - he drove hundreds of miles to see YOU. Add that to his true confession about wanting a life with you – I gotta give him props, he really lays out all his cards when he's looking at death's door."

Buffy flashed a bittersweet expression before sadness flared in her eyes.

"But put that part aside, now that you know how he really feels, what are you feeling? Can you see yourself with Dean – having him around twenty four seven, helping you out with Allie, being part of your everyday life?"

"I…I don't…..I haven't really thought about it."

Faith cocked an eyebrow in doubt.

"Seriously? You haven't thought about how many guys in this town could handle knowing the life you used to live – the evil things you've faced in your time, the super powered things you can do? You said to me awhile back that you're tired of having to hide your true self, well, with a guy like Dean, you don't have that problem. When he found out about you, he didn't run away screaming – he kept coming around. That has to tell you a lot – and then – that kiss….."

Buffy drew her eyes to the window as her cheeks warmed with color again.

"I um…I'm still trying to process it…all of it," she admitted. "I mean, there's a lot that hasn't been said, a lot that I don't know and I…"

Buffy bellowed with a heavy sigh.

"It's just overwhelming," she said candidly. "All of it."

"We never wanted to hurt you," Faith lamented.

Buffy shook her head in dismiss.

"It's not that. What hurts the most was seeing this guy, who only a few years ago, stopped at nothing to protect me and Allie – who never gave up. To see him now – to hear him accepting defeat…after everything he's been through….it breaks my heart."

Buffy sniffed softly as a few tears rolled down her cheeks. Buffy wiped her damp cheeks as Faith drew a smile.

"Well, there's my answer about how you feel."

Faith crumbled up the empty bag of pretzels and tossed it in the trash as Buffy reeled in her composure again.

"So, what's for dinner?"

"Oh, I was just gonna throw some leftover pizza in the microwave."

Faith hopped off her chair and shook her head.

"Al's with her gal pal so let's go have a grown up dinner. We can hit AJ's for some burgers, maybe play some darts."

"I have to pick Allie up in a few hours."

While her brows hung with hesitation, the idea of an AJ's burger, voted best in Cohasset, made her stomach growl. She hadn't had one since the first week she had moved into town, when she had lived off the daily specials while looking for a job.

"But an AJ's burger sounds really good right now."

"Cool, let's go then."

Faith snatched her arm and led her toward the front door.

"You want to ride with me?" Faith asked, nodding toward her bike.

Buffy winced at the thought of riding on the back of a motorcycle, knowing Faith's driving behavior.

"Uh, why don't we um…walk, you know, it's not that far and I've found the fresh air has been good for unwinding my nerves lately."

Faith shrugged nonchalantly as she pivoted toward the east end of the block. When the cranks started churning furiously in her brain, Faith crooked her eyebrows at Buffy.

"You're gonna interrogate me now, huh?"

Buffy's casual expression shifted into a dead serious look.

"Well, as long as you're here," she stated.

Faith snorted in amusement.

"Right. Okay, so what do you want to know?"

Buffy swept her eyes across the street as her mind fired up an assortment of questions.

"The Four Horsemen…."


"Leave it to that whiny winged dick to kill a good time," Faith groaned.

Buffy blew out an anxious breath, drumming her fingers against her legs as Faith climbed onto her motorcycle. They had only eaten half of their burgers when Faith had received an important call from a new Watcher.

"How many Slayers have Lucifer's minions taken out?"

"This is the first casualty," Faith revealed. "A few months ago, after he raised Death, his loyal demon douche bags started popping up everywhere, hunting down some of the girls, trying to keep us busy. We had every Watcher on alert."

Buffy drew a hand to the back of her neck as her face tightened with dread.

"Just when I feel like I know everything to settle my mind, something else comes to light," she said.

"It's not your responsibility to know every detail anymore," Faith said. "All you really need to know is that we're on it, twenty-four seven and we're not stopping until we send Lucifer back to Hell."

"Good."

"Tell Allie I said hi," Faith said.

Still digging at the painful knots in the back of her neck, Buffy gave a nod.

"I will. Ride safe. And call me when you get back."

Faith grinned as she picked up her helmet.

"I'm sure if I don't you'll be doing a round robin of phone calls," she snorted.

"Well that's all the more reason to call me back," Buffy replied lightly.

"Guess so. Kay, I gotta motor. Talk to you soon and oh yeah, don't feel awkward tomorrow."

"About what?"

"Oh, you know, seeing Dean after that big 'ol kiss he gave you, it'll probably be an awkward moment but don't let it get to you."

"It wasn't that big of a….."

Faith chortled when Buffy's cheeks flooded beet red.

"Bye B."

As the quiet night air cracked with the sound of the motorcycle's roaring engine, Buffy watched Faith sail down the street and disappear around the corner. When the roar of the motorcycle faded, Buffy looked up at the sky, staring for a long moment. Despite knowing the truth now, her heart felt heavy with all the tragic events that had happened over the years. As thoughts of Dean's periodic presence in her life popped into her mind, her maternal instinct focused in on Allie. Even when he was carrying the burden of an Apocalypse on his shoulders, Dean had still been thinking about her little girl.

Buffy may not have been an active Slayer anymore and while she wasn't about to face Lucifer head on, she couldn't just stand on the sidelines and watch all friends march off to war. She had years of experience and plenty of insight to give. And she would give her input whether anyone wanted to hear it or not.

As a faint chime rang out, Buffy fished out her cell phone and glanced at the alarm alert she had set. Feeling her toes snap with steadfast determination, Buffy pivoted around and trotted toward the door.