It didn't end that way, exactly (Bruce, she would explain, has a tendency to whine-er-exaggerate – it's his least-appealing characteristic in the absolute minefield of frailties that makes up his humanity).
They did manage to defeat the wicked Guan Di, to come away alive and to get back to Gold Lick (how the hell that exactly happened Kelly still didn't have a clue. Jeff said something about having a cell phone on him, but really, she was too wrapped up in Bruce to notice).
A week later, he declares aloud that he's staying with her.
The first time is a groping affair that takes place in her nightlamp-lit bedroom (Jeff's is next to hers, and he's blasting some sort of bizarre music on his stereo, the lyrics and rhythm boxing each other, as if Marilyn Manson and The Killers were in the middle of a tempestuous love affair).
The lovemaking is silent but never, ever solemn, as they're both too old to pretend innocence over anything they do together. Inside of her, he laughs until his head falls back. Soon, all of the layers have fallen away, and they cling, happy, in the darkness.
Afterward, she holds his hand against the pillow. "That was nice."
He gives her a lazy, very satisfied smile. "Nice? I was goin' for spectacular, brown-eyes."
"Ah. You remembered," she rests her head on the soft part of his inner arm.
"Why would I forget?" There's a lack of confidence in his voice that makes her squeeze his hand.
She doesn't have the energy to argue about it now. Marilyn Killer finally thumps toward dead silence, and she falls asleep there, resting against the thickness of his body, the thump of his heart a strange new lullaby.
It takes Jeff a few months to get used to eating breakfast with The Bruce Campbell.
Sometimes, he'll look up and start giggling – usually with good reason, as Bruce has a tendency to chew very noisily. Sometimes, he'll just make a declarative statement: "Bruce Campbell is MY DAD." His 'dad' hasn't stepped forward to correct that sentiment yet. He, in fact, seems to be settling into the role pretty well.
At least until videos of Bruce face-down in his Wheaties surface online.
Two days later, Jeff's Youtube channel is deleted.
Jeff turns eighteen in September, and Kelly decides to do something special. Forced to hang out with his mother (all of his friends, after all, ARE pretty dead), he submits his party plans, and Kelly signs off on them.
Bruce isn't exactly overjoyed by the notion, but he's a willing participant in Jeff's all-night Evil Dead Trilogy marathon.
Kelly hates the first one ("Tree rape?!" "VINE rape, mom!" "Don't blame me, it was Rob's idea!"), sort of enjoys the second, and falls in love with the third.
"You would," Bruce opines, as he shuts off the machine. "S' almost a chick flick, if you squint at it the right way."
Kelly chortles. "Chick flick. The girl gets carried away, molested by a demon, becomes a demon and takes a swan-dive over the side of a castle before you…"
"ASH," Bruce corrects.
"…ASH dumps her," Kelly snorts. "Why DID he leave Sheila, anyway?"
"'Cause he didn't love her!" Jeff cries out.
"Oh, bull! His hands were all over her…."
Jeff says, in an insufferable lecturer's tone, "well, in the REAL ending, Ash wakes up in London after a nuclear holocaust, so…"
Kelly frowns. "So he dies of radiation poisoning?"
"NO HE DOESEN'T…" Bruce's features crumple in thought. "Wait…"
Kelly gives a disgusted sigh. "NONE of these movies make sense! It's like someone wrote them while they were stoned out of their minds on PCP…" Bruce chortles into his beer. "What?"
"Never mind," he smirks. "SO! Who's up for some birthday cake?"
She hops up, heads to the kitchen. "I don't know why we couldn't've just watched Bubba Ho Tep. I LOVE Bubba Ho Tep!"
"EVERYONE loves Bubba Ho Tep!" Bruce and Jeff cry out simultaneously, their voices filled with an amusingly tragic sort of regret.
Kelly laughs – it's all she can do.
By October, a carefully crafted invitation arrives in their borrowed mailbox.
"Who's Cheryl?" she wonders, reading over Bruce's shoulder (he hates this, she doesn't care) at their rented kitchen table. She's come with him for the location shooting necessitated by Cave Alien (is it five now? She's lost track). He abruptly whoops, grabbing her up and tossing her in the air, and the sentiment is appreciated if not particularly enjoyed. "BRUCE LORNE CAMPBELL, PUT ME DOWN!"
"Hey, angels belong in the air, don't they?" She groans at his lame pick-up line and he puts her down. "Cheryl is my ex. My ex, who's marrying her divorce lawyer. Get it? Married? As in doesn't-need-my-alimony-checks-anymore?"
Kelly lets out a little squeak of relief, and then laughs. "She's marrying her divorce lawyer?"
His brow quirks. "Babe, it's always the divorce lawyer. You don't watch a lot of TV, do you? They're usually the closest piece of ass available." He gives her a Very Wise Nod, as if that makes universal sense.
Kelly just shakes her head and sighs. "Well, that's a relief."
"One more of these babies," he gestures toward the outside world, "and it's all over. Then I can start auditioning…" his fingers tighten against her upper arm. "Think about it, baby – I could do Hemmingway! Shakespeare…ANYTHING…I'll be free…"
He doesn't mention her place in his future at all. She sighs and fiddles with the collar on his Hawaiian shirt, remembering Gold Lick, missing home.
He brings her with him to LA for pilot season, and he spends hours going from casting agent to casting agent. Jeff's along for the ride (the last summer before he starts classes at NYU), but all he seems to want or care about's the one thing Bruce promises, up and down, that he can deliver – a meeting with Sam Raimi.
He tries to do something nice for Kelly, too, but the trip to Spagos turns into a disaster when someone (quite literally) takes his reserved table and gives it to Jessica Simpson. The family ends up at the California Pizza Kitchen while he swears, up and down, that he's firing his PA, his agent – anyone who might be involved.
"I'm happy where I am, Bruce." He just can't fathom that – her easy happiness. She and Jeff have provided the only satisfaction Bruce has had in many years; it's all new to him, scary to him.
She sees the realization solidify within him while he watches an overjoyed Jeff behind the wheel of Sam Raimi's car, clicking pictures with his cell phone.
Then Bruce takes a look at the car itself and growls. "Shoulda run the thing off a bridge while I had the chance…"
In February he lands Burn Notice, and she'll be damned if he's going to Florida without her.
It's hot – painfully hot, all day – and she finds herself inventing excuses to stand under the spray of a cold shower. He comes home soaked through with sweat. He complains about the heat, the room service, the director, the fact that Gabrielle Anwar "steals his key light" and the fact that he's been "forced" to gain some weight for the role.
The online community, once they get hold of publicity shots for the show, immediately assume he's dying of some sort of thyroid disease.
That fall – after the show is declared a bonified hit – Kelly takes away his keyboard "for his own good".
Over his hiatus, they head out on a road trip to promote "Cavealien 5" to the masses.
Kelly keeps a tally of the number of tattoos she sees (2,507), and the number of times Bruce is asked about Evil Dead 4 (she loses count after it breaks the hundred thousand mark). He signs anything given to him by anyone and answers the most appalling questions ever put to a human being (and some of the cleverest, sweetest, and nicest ones). She kicks him under the table when he turns too bitter, pats his knee when he's sweet.
"I'm not a circus elephant," he bitches.
His moodiness drives her to distraction. In Tucson, she abandons him in a Dairy Queen and drives around in circles, cursing his "fat ass" over and over again for making her crazy…but eventually she comes back, and he's sitting there on the curb with a DQ sundae, his eyes the only thing about him which betrays his worry.
In Chicago, they meet Roger Ebert at a screening (he gives Cavealien 5 a star and a half which, Bruce notes, is a half-star more than he got for The Evil Dead). The old critical lion smiles and pats Bruce's hand when he comes up to greet him, and swiftly types a sentence into his iMac. "You know the words, Bruce," the mechanical voice says. "Some day, you'll learn the music."
"I'm fifty fuckin' years old," he whines to Kelly over beers at the nearest Applebees. "I should know the music by now."
Between the fifth and the fourth season of Burn Notice – after Bruce's Cavealien commitments have concluded – they take a trip to New York, where he's (FINALLY) going to portray Falstaff in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. It's Shakespere in the Park, and he's been on cloud nine for months.
They're in the front row at Jeff's senior thesis presentation: a horror film called "The Bleeding" that empties out a once-packed NYU screening room and leaves the rest of its audience pale-faced and speechless ("You're the one who let him watch Within The Woods!" she cries. "…LET him watch?" he replies.), and somehow they manage to comfortably lie to the boy about how much they "loved" his film.
"Kid'll always be able to get a job with Lion's Gate," Bruce notes, as they take a stroll along the Hudson.
"Don't you think he deserves something better?" she teases. "Maybe you should make a movie together."
"….Yeah. No. No more harnesses, no more Karo syrup blood, no more…" she gives him a look that makes him go quiet. He rolls his eyes. "You're gonna make me run around with a fake pitchfork stuck to my head, aren't you?"
"I've never made you do anything," she says, quite serenely.
"You made me change my whole life just by batting those pretty eyes of yours."
"Mmm, and what color are they now?"
He gives her a 'seductive' look that reads much more like constipation. "I've got something more important to ask you, lady." He clears his throat. "You know I'm not very good without a scriptwriter behind me…not that they know anything about life. Did you ever see 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'? Who TALKS like that?"
"Bruce…" she's cold, and her heels are pinching the hell out of her toes.
"All right….remember back in Gold Lick, when I told you that I didn't even know you but I l…" he chokes. "Love you…"
"Yes, Fonzie – I remember that you said you 'l-love me'…but…" He shuts her up by sinking down onto bended knee.
"I know we've both done this before, but…"
A fog horn blasts repeatedly in the distance. To the passerby, what he says to her seems swallowed up by the sound. But she's close enough to hear him, to squeal, to grab him around the neck and be swung around like the belle of the ball.
A boat chugs by, a trawler filled with fishermen cheering them on, their fists pumping toward the sky. All at once, they're bellowing, and Kelly laughs to hear their celebration as he dips her back and kisses her, right there in front of everyone.
"WAY TO GO, ASH!"