For the tumblr superphantom week prompt: Role Swap. Not sure if this is considered a true role swap since the transition actually happens within the story, but anyway, thanks to Laora for this idea! :D
adj. exercising rule: reigning; having the chief power: dominant
February 20, 2014
With a flick of his wrist, Dean sent the small match flying straight into the red candle that flared to life with a series of sparks. They didn't even need to lift their eyes to see whether or not the summoning spell worked.
"What the—? Who's bloody summoning…!" came the disgruntled voice. Then, "Oh," he said as he caught sight of the hunters. "Of course, it's you two," he groused.
Sam canted his head. "Well, hello to you too, Crowley," he quipped.
"Shut up," the demon snapped irritably at him, blinking red rimmed eyes.
Dean sniffed and grimaced. "Some problems down under?"
The shaggy head rolled over in his direction and became, if possible, even more irked at his situation. Knowing from past experience that the Winchesters laid down a devil's trap before summoning anything, he didn't bother trying to stop out of his boundaries but simply glared.
"What do you want?"
Rubbing his hands together, Dean began, "Yeah, well, we've got a little problem…"
"Of course you do," Crowley interrupted. "Well, too bad."
Sam chuckled. "Oh, come on, Crowley, you owe us."
The demon looked up at him with an edge of defiance to his bleariness. "Well, I can't pay up. So bugger off."
Dean narrowed his eyes and took a step forward. "Oh you better pay up. Or we'll make you."
"Yeah?" Crowley sneered. "Me and what army?"
Confused, Dean flicked a glance at his brother before looking again at Crowley, taking in his dusty jacket and greasy hair and suddenly wondering what was going on. "Dude, that's our line."
"And… you're the King of Hell," Sam pointed out.
Crowley's eyes latched onto Sam with a glare that looked as if it would shatter stone had the circle painted on the floor not cancelled out his powers.
"Aren't you… King of Hell?" Sam asked, gently prodding for more information.
"Not anymore," Crowley said slowly, leaning forward. "And I'm not taking calls. I'm drinking tea in my dungeons and sulking. Now break this bloody devil's trap and let me go finish licking my wounds!"
The Winchesters blinked for a long moment.
"Don't think you can get out of it that easily," Dean finally said after an uncomfortable cough.
"Yeah?" Crowley swiveled toward him. "And what, pray tell, was it that you wanted from me? My fashion sense? My cutting wit? Or, oh, I don't know, my ability to zap you anywhere you wanted to go while keeping the hordes of Hell off your back?"
Dean opened his mouth and then closed it without saying a word.
"That's what I thought. So let me go and then you two can talk to the new guy if you want some help," he sneered.
"No," Dean countered. "How about we keep you here and you tell us how to summon him and we let you go when he agrees to the new terms of office."
The former King of Hell barked out something resembling a laugh. "You two are MORONS! You think that I'm just going to stand here and…"
"You have to, though," Sam pointed out. "Devil's Trap, remember?"
"And you think that summoning someone else into the same circle is going to work out well for all parties, do you? It's a good thing for everyone that you can't summon this guy, then, isn't it?"
"You mean, it's a good thing for you that we don't stick you in a supernatural boxing ring?"
"What, you think I just up and retired because I needed an extended vacation in the Bahamas?"
"But, hold on," Sam held an arm out placatingly. "What do you mean we can't summon him? We can summon any demon we want with the right information."
"Information that you're going to give us before you go anywhere," Dean reiterated.
Crowley graced him with a sarcastic laugh. "Aha, how quaint. But I guess you weren't listening to the part where I said that you can't summon this guy."
"But we have to be…"
"No," Crowley cut him off. "You can't. He doesn't come to you. If you still want to meet him, you will just have to go to him," he finished with a tilt of his head and his eyes fixed blankly on the floor. After a moment, he recovered himself and added, "Take it or leave it, fellows, that's how it is."
"Fine," Dean huffed as he went back to sit against the ledge of the table. "Do you know where to find this guy?"
"Yeah. The Masters mansion."
Sam stood up straighter. "The Masters mansion?"
"Good luck getting in there, though. I'd give up the souls of a few choice politicians to see you two oafs bumble your way through security, but unfortunately, I've got a date with some earl grey and the shattered remains of my dignity. So if you don't mind…" He looked down pointedly at the devil's trap containing him.
Sam finally moved forward to rub a toe against the rough edges of the wood until the paint wore off.
"But if we find out that you're lying to us," Dean warned.
"Yeah, yeah," Crowley drawled before disappearing.
"I still can't believe we're doing this," Dean grumbled as he shut the driver's side door and prepared to abandon the Impala for a while.
"I can't believe that the new King of Hell's headquarters is in the Master's mansion," Sam said as he came around the back of the car to join his brother.
"You know this place?" Dean asked in surprise.
"Yeah," Sam responded. "It was on like every single piece of motivational lit in college. 'Be successful and maybe you'll get rich like Vlad Masters.'"
"So, what are we thinking? He's possessed by the new big guy in town?"
"Would make sense," Sam grimaced at the thought. "The man's a billionaire with connections to everything. It's scary to think of how powerful that would make even a low level demon."
Dean turned the keys in the trunk and lifted the hood to reveal their varied arsenal. Ruby's knife already tucked away safely in his jacket, Sam grabbed one rosary to put in his sock and another in the side of his boot while Dean filled up his pocket flask from the plastic gallon jug of water they kept wedged in the corner.
"So what does he do?" Dean asked. "Masters?"
Sam scoffed. "What doesn't he do, you mean?"
"Sure," Dean returned easily as they approached the grounds. "What doesn't he do?"
Both brothers paused and tried to make themselves smaller as they saw shapes appear from the mansion's grounds and all but float past the wrought iron gates.
"He doesn't let anyone sneak through his security," Sam whispered as they waited until they both felt safe continuing forward.
"Which is why we're not sneaking," Dean grinned.
"Right, because just walking up and knocking is such a smart plan," Sam grimaced back.
"Well," Dean tilted his head, "to be honest, we've had much stupider ones."
"True," Sam agreed as they came to a stop in front of the gates that towered above them and thrummed with a green energy, "but still. We're just going to walk up and knock and expect it to… swing open…?"
They stared wide eyed as the doors did just that, opening wide to let them pass through. Dean edged forward tentatively to see how they would be accepted if they moved in further or if the gates opened at a fortuitous time but for someone else. No one appeared on the grounds in front of them, though, so, with a shrewd look, they tried to calculate whether the possibility of a trap would be enough to discourage them from making the trek. The whole reason they had come this far, though, was to get inside the house, so into the estate it was.
Even after they began walking up the gravel pathway, there was no sign of life. No armed guards came to escort them in under close watch. Dean spotted no surveillance cameras swiveling their way. And yet they were sure that they were being monitored in some way because the new King of Hell could hardly be that careless.
Standing on the front doorstep, they exchanged pensive glances, offering themselves a final exit, before Sam raised a hand to the elaborate knocker on the door.
It swung open before he even touched it to reveal an utterly empty hallway.
"Geez, I'm starting to get creeped out by this," Dean muttered as he stuck his head inside the doorframe. Nothing moved.
Sam stepped inside, silently relieved when nothing happened. "Hello?" he called, voice echoing on the high marble ceilings.
"Ahhhhhh," a suave voice purred above them.
Both heads whipped up to zero in on the figure that certainly hadn't been there moments before.
"Masters," Sam whispered to Dean.
The older hunter was still shivering at the voice. "Do they all have to sound like that?" he asked petulantly.
"Probably a job requirement," Sam whispered back to him out of the side of his mouth as they both tracked the slow movements of the man on the second story landing. "Like the suits."
"The Winchesters, yes? Sam and Dean?"
Dean couldn't help the look of surprise that spread across his face for a second.
"I thought so," the man said as he descended the stairs. "I was told that you might show up… looking for favors. It seems that you two had a remarkably close connection with the previous King of Hell. Interesting for two hunters, isn't it?"
Dean had to consciously make the effort not to edge backwards as their host approached, but he knew that he couldn't lose ground before they had even begun. "Yeah, so what happened with you and Crowley anyway?"
Vlad Masters considered for a moment, as if he hadn't expected the question. "Oh. Well. He stepped down and I filled the vacancy."
"Somehow, I doubt that's what happened," Sam said.
Vlad smiled, teeth flashing in the light streaming in the door as he took the last few steps. "Perhaps I showed my hand and that's all it took."
He was in front of them now, a tall imposing silver haired figure with sharp features and the uncanny ability to look down his nose at them even though he wasn't as tall as Sam.
The door swung closed behind them, soundlessly, so that they had no clue it was happening until it clicked behind them and they lost the light.
"Yeah?" Sam asked as Dean reached into his pocket, valiantly trying to cover the hitch that wanted to creep into his voice. This really did have to be their stupidest plan yet. "And what cards did you have?"
With the last words, Dean flung the flask filled with holy water out of his pocket at the King of Hell.
"Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus…" he began before trailing off as the man gently blew a rivulet of water off of his lip and turning back to them. There was no steaming, no cringing, no symptoms at all except for the wetness.
Dean's eyes widened and he looked to Sam, understanding by just how much they had underestimated the situation.
"Perhaps that's one of my cards," Vlad responded quietly.
Both brothers moved closer to stand together. "What are you?" Dean demanded.
"The new King of Hell," Vlad responded with a smirk. "And I can do things that no one has ever seen." To prove his point, he flashed invisible for the briefest of moments and all of the water that had come from Dean's flask fell to the floor in a shower of drops to form a small pool on the tile.
Dean stared at the water in shock. Eyeing the man, Sam asked, "You're not… possessed, are you?"
Vlad laughed long and hard. "No. No, I'm not."
"You've never been possessed," he continued with new understanding. "All this… all your wealth… you've gotten it because of your abilities."
"Dude, you cheated!" Dean exclaimed, finally drawing his attention away from the water and back to the conversation at hand. "And you're on all of the motivational literature!"
Even Sam had to smirk at the ill timed but well meaning remark.
But the billionaire's eyes darkened. "It's not wise to insult the person you're about to ask a favor from, is it?"
Vlad stopped his protest with a glare before turning back to Sam. "But this?" He gestured behind him. "Everything I have, I have gotten through hard work and the skills I have developed over the years. The ability to understand people and the petty things that drive them. Being able to offer a deal that they simply can't refuse."
"And if, occasionally, that is helped along by the fact that they don't remember there was ever a choice to make until after the deal has been signed, well, I can't really help that now, can I?" Vlad asked with a light shrug that belied the seriousness of the veiled threat.
The Winchesters easily slid into a stance from which they could either attack or defend, depending on what was coming next.
Vlad sized them up as he took a small step to his left, forcing the hunters to adjust their stances if they wanted to maintain optimal reaction time.
For a long moment, both parties just stared at each other, almost daring someone to make the first move.
"Well," Vlad finally said, "since we've all established that I'm a despicable person who isn't possessed, how about the two of you stop trying to attack me in my own home when I have been nothing but hospitable and we sit down to discuss business, since, I assume, business is what you came for?"
He watched Sam and Dean exchange a glance and step forward together.
"Excellent," Vlad said as he turned to lead them down the hallway toward his sitting room. "Might I interest either of you in some tea?"
"No thanks," Dean huffed.
Sam hesitated for a moment before saying, "I'll have some."
Most people probably wouldn't have been able to hear the hushed whispers that were currently being exchanged hurriedly behind his back, but Vlad understood it all perfectly, and had to refrain from smirking as the door swung open and he ushered them into the room.
A sweeping arm gestured toward some plush high backed chairs, a steaming teacup waiting on the small table nestled between the two obviously meant for the Winchesters while Vlad took a seat on the more ornate seat opposite them.
"Have a seat," he prodded when he had settled in only to find his guests still standing.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand…" Sam was looking at him with a furrowed brow. "I mean… Dean just doused water all over you and now you're offering us tea. You're the King of Hell," he said, as if the man had forgotten.
"Yeah," Dean cut in, now too suspicious to sit down. "Why are you being so nice to us. What's the catch?"
Vlad raised an eyebrow as he sipped on his tea. "You mean to tell me that Crowley wasn't this pleasant to all of his… friends?" he asked loftily.
He scoffed after the pregnant pause that followed. "Typical," he scoffed. "He may be well dressed, but even an impeccable sense of fashion cannot cover the fact that the man has no idea how to deal with anyone that isn't around simply as a pawn to do his dirty work. He can rule over pathetic masses of low grade demonic minions, but that's about it."
"Whereas you…?" Sam was almost afraid to ask.
"Want to know who and what I'm dealing with before I make any drastic decisions one way or another," Vlad answered with a tight smile.
"Right," Dean shuffled in place. "Well, that makes sense."
Sam looked at the King of Hell as if trying to figure out a puzzle. "And so the reason you're thinking about working with us… is…?"
Vlad pinned him with a look. "Well, I haven't said that that's really a possibility yet, now have I? No," he answered his own question. "But why did... my predecessor have so many dealings with you?"
"If he scratches our back…" Dean answered awkwardly as he finally took a seat, Sam joining him a second later.
"Yes. Quite," Vlad grimaced at the imagery. "And I must say," he savored the words, leaning forward, "that I am intrigued by the only hunters, in the entire world, perhaps, that choose to work alongside Hell almost as much as they do against its children."
Sam put down the cup of tea he had just been about to drink from and Dean coughed awkwardly.
"Alright then," Sam said. "We're here to talk business. Where do we start?"
Vlad set down his cup of tea. And any traces of a smile of friendliness had left his face as he looked up at the brothers. "We start with this," he said. "We start with the fact that I am the King of Hell. I control all of the tools that you have glimpsed in addition to significant resources which you cannot possibly fathom.
"You must know, of course, that no one who takes the position as King of Hell can possibly be a decent person. Even now, I'm not sure how in the world you could have become such bosom pals with the likes of Crowley, but know that I am a much less amiable person than he is. I do not have friends. I do not hand out favors.
"I am, however, able to see allies wherever they may come and am more than adept at forming partnerships when necessary. At heart, if I have one," he allowed with a tilt of his head, "I am a business man. My word is binding. I will not go back on it. I will not try to double cross you. I expect my associates to do the same for me. If you try to trick me, if you try to attack me when I have upheld my end of the bargain, believe me when I say that I will spare no expenses eliminating you from the face of the planet and personally planning your stay in my realm. You understand?"
They nodded wordlessly.
As he continued speaking, the temperature around them dropped just enough for them to notice and the air began to thrum with tension like it was just waiting to crackle around them. "And before I consider the possibility of associating in any capacity… I need to be convinced. You may have had a working relationship with Crowley but I am not willing to make any decisions based upon that fact. All I know of you two are your reputations, which, might I add, do not make me trust you any further than I could blast you. I could be persuaded to take a chance and accept you with a clean slate if you can prove to me that I should ignore your past history with Hell."
Sam worked his jaw for a few moments before answering, "Right. And so how do we prove that?"
"Don't be so flippant," Vlad snapped. "You get one chance. Just one to prove to me where you stand and why I should not unleash Hell on you for all the trouble you have caused for me and my kind. I could have killed you fifty times over since you've been here. I hope you appreciate the lenience I'm granting you."
Sam swallowed and pulled back from the leering face in front of him.
"Fine," Dean countered, looking at his brother for confirmation. "What's your test?"
Vlad stared at him. "They're right about your empty bravado and your cheap quips," he finally answered. Then he smiled. "I think I know just where to send you."
"Amity Park, Illinois," Vlad said as he leaned back into his chair and crossed his legs. "Heard of it?"
"It's the most haunted town in America."
"Yeah?" Dean scoffed. "Can't tell you how many times we've heard that one."
"I'm the King of Hell," Vlad deadpanned. "Don't you think I know which claims are tourist traps and which ones aren't?
"They already have hunters there… of a kind," he said with his face screwed up. "Enough to avert casualties but not enough to derail the enormous damage that occurs with nearly every ghost attack. But they've had no success whatsoever in cornering, capturing, or decommissioning the town's nuisance. Danny Phantom."
Sam and Dean raised eyebrows at each other.
"They opened an invitation to all comers to get rid of him. Offered an exorbitant reward. But it still didn't work."
"So…" Dean wondered. "You want us to hunt him down and kill him? I thought you would have wanted him to be haunting the town and wrecking havoc…"
"Yes, you're an idiot to think I want him 'dead,'" Vlad sneered. "I want you to bring him here so that he and I can have a little chat about our affairs…"
That was honestly the last thing that the Winchesters wanted to facilitate, but at the same time, they realized that this was their one chance to get into the leader of the new regime's favor, or at least, stay off of his bad side. And while they probably could find a way to do this next job without the help of the King of Hell, although that would certainly help, but the last thing they could afford was to have all the demons and hellhounds of the depths chasing after them across the country still smelling of fire and brimstone.
"He's learned to avoid hunters," Vlad continued. "So it should be quite the fun exercise for you. Bring him here and then you can present your case and explain to me why you should think I should stoop to scratching your backs."
Sam and Dean both looked at him wide eyed.
"Are we in understanding?" the King of Hell finally asked.
"Y-yes," Sam nodded.
"Excellent," Vlad unsteepled his fingers to push himself out of the chair while dropping his voice to the most menacing they had heard it all afternoon. "Now… kindly get out of my house."
Woohoo! More Vlad and Crowley rivalry since it's the best thing in the world and also checked "Vlad commissioning Sam and Dean to go to Amity Park" off my list of things to write without even suggesting that they have to kill Danny. Not that this fate is any better, but still. So impressed with myself. B)