Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The insistent ringing of his cell phone caused Spike to nearly knock the lamp off of his bedside table. If he had actually been awake, his vampiric night vision would have helped him reach his phone with no problem. Unfortunately, he hadn't gotten much sleep since he'd had to play substitute teacher because Angel was sick. Therefore, Spike's eyes were not really open all the way, and he ended up knocking things around until he finally found the small device Buffy had forced him to get.
" 'Lo," Spike answered as he sat up, one hand rubbing the sleep from his tired eyes.
Hearing the rough sound of his friend's voice, Spike instantly became alert. Finding his alarm clock on the floor, Spike noticed it was only just after ten in the morning, which meant it was most still dark, wherever Dean was calling him from. Usually Dean waited until it was mid afternoon in London in order to call Spike. By that time he could be sure Spike was actually awake, and most likely done with whatever Council related task had been set-aside for him. It also ensured Spike had yet to take his group of potentials out for their nightly patrol.
"What happened?" Spike asked, not waiting for his friend to continue. A harsh chuckle greeted his ears, only making Spike worry more. Dean wasn't the type to indulge in the touchy-feely side of life, but every now and then, the man needed someone to talk to. That someone had turned out to be Spike.
Ever since their first meeting months ago, the two had been close friends, discussing everything from demons, to which band was the best to listen to on long drives. So when Dean called without any regard to Spike's sleeping habits, that meant something had gone seriously wrong.
"Nothing," came Dean's short bitter answer.
"Alright, mate," Spike answered back, as he rearranged his pillows. Settling back against the headboard it seemed to him his friend was hanging on by a thread, but simply refused to let go. Dean Winchester had spent his entire life either protecting his little brother, or fighting some nasty demon or spirit in order to protect his little brother. Family was everything to the man who had lost so much. Sammy was all he had left now.
Unlike his brother and father, Dean was not merely obsessed with killing the demon who had taken their mother. Sure he wanted it gone, but ridding the world of all the evil things that went bump in the night meant he was making sure some other child would never know the pain of losing a parent the way he had. It also made it difficult for Dean to open up to his brother. They were close, but despite all the years they had lived and fought together, Dean would always feel it was his job to protect his brother, a job he had gladly undertaken when ordered to by his father all those years before.
"You're going to make me say it aren't you?" Dean sighed over the other end of the phone. Spike knew the brothers had at least stopped for the night somewhere, he could hear the large trucks downshifting on the highway as they struggled the meet their deadline. That meant Sam must be asleep, which meant Dean obviously was not getting any.
"Well, yeah," Spike drawled. "How else am I supposed to find out what I need to kill?"
Spike grinned at the soft chuckle following his comment. It made Spike feel like not all was lost with his friend.
"Ever hear of the Robert Johnson legend?" Dean asked with a sigh.
"Yeah," Spike answered. "Made a deal with a demon for talent and fame. Died ten years later talking about black dogs, or some such rot."
"Don't tell me the bloody thing is true!" Spike cried out in utter disbelief, and no little amount of jealousy. His friend got all to good hunts while Spike got stuck with smelly goblins.
"Yep," Dean answered. Spike could just see the smirk gracing the other man's face.
"And a bunch of idiot sods made a deal with a demon, and you and Sammy had to go and drag their bloody useless hides from the fire."
"Bloody hell," Spike sighed. He was in complete agreement with Dean on this whole mess. Demons they both understood, but people were just crazy. "So how much of the legend was accurate?"
"Quite a bit actually," Dean said, sounding as if he was giving a report. It helped him deal with the events that followed easier if he simply stated the facts. Once that was out of the way he'd get down to the more delicate details of his story. "Some people summoned a red-eyed demon. It would show up in the form of a woman, and would grant their request on the condition they paid up in ten years time."
"Bloody useless buggers," Spike growled, already hating the selfish people for causing Dean and his brother so much pain. "Should have let the hell hounds come and collect."
"That's what I said," Dean grumbled.
"Let me guess," Spike started. "Ole Sammy wouldn't hear of it?"
"Hey. That's my brother you talking about," Dean responded automatically to the insult directed at his brother.
"Yeah, but you agree with me," Spike said, a slight chuckle filling his voice.
"That's not the point," Dean answered. "Only I get to insult Sammy."
"Fine," Spike grumbled. "Only you get to insult that wanker of a brother you've got."
When silence settled over the line, Spike pushed their conversation forward.
"So what happened next?"
"We found the crossroads. Had yarrow flowers planted at each corner. It was right next to this bar call Lloyd's…"
"Bloody hell! I've head of that place." Spike interrupted. "Never been there myself, but I've heard the stories. Didn't know it was the bar in the legend thought. Been tempted a time or two to head down there and make a deal of my own."
"Well, maybe you can help us figure out how to close the damn thing down."
"Right, as soon as we're done here, I'll go and scare some Junior Watchers into researching how to stop it," Spike said, already making plans on which one he could intimidate. Normally he'd target Andrew, but the irritating sod had developed the tendency to run to Buffy whenever Spike tried to bully him into doing something. It was really an inconvenience, Spike now had to train another Watcher to do his bidding.
"I'm sure you will," Dean said, a hint of a smile in his voice once again. Spike considered this a small victory, and despite the trouble he was no doubt about to bring down on his head, Spike knew it would be worth it.
"Anyway, we found this guy, Evan Hudson, who made the deal in order to save his dying wife," Dean said, picking up the story once again. "I made Sammy stay with him while I went to deal with the demon."
The harsh intake of breath over the other end of the phone let Dean know Spike understood exactly what had followed. It was nice to finally have a friend who understood the things he didn't necessarily want to say.
"What did that bloody thing tell you?" Spike growled out, his mind supplying every scenario possible, all going from bad to worse.
"It offered me a deal," was all Dean said in answer to Spike's question.
"And you wanted to take that deal," Spike stated, already knowing what was going through the other man's head. That bloody thing had offered to bring their father back; no doubt telling Dean John Winchester was suffering in some horrible hell dimension.
"I didn't," Dean answered firmly, a bit of steel entering his voice. "I couldn't. Not after what you told me about Buffy."
"I know," Spike sighed, gathering his courage. "You want answers? I'm sure Willow can find them for you."
Dean's ragged breath alerted Spike he had hit on the reason for the phone call. It wasn't that Dean had been tempted; Spike knew almost anyone would have taken the deal offered, but it was about the fact some demon had touched on every single one of Dean's fears concerning his father's death. Dean suspected the reason he was alive was because his father had made a deal with another demon, one the entire Winchester family all wanted dead, and to have a different demon know this and tell him his father was suffering, it certainly made any deal all the more tempting.
Since Dean had turned the offer down, Spike knew the brothers were now left with more questions about where their father's spirit really was. Spike knew he could give his friend answers, and if it came that the demon's words were in fact true? Then Spike would take on hell itself in order to give his friends peace. It was a promise he'd happily keep.
"Thanks man," Dean whispered before ending the call. Hanging up his own phone, Spike stared at it for a few minutes before climbing out of bed in order to get dressed. He needed to find Buffy and fast. This task would take more than just bulling rookie Watchers. Besides, Spike felt like he needed to let his girl in on the problem. Buffy had a knack for finding answers in the most unusual of places, and since this thing had hurt two of their friends, it was only a matter of time before they put the bastard down.
Yanking open the door, Spike stalked down the nearly empty hallways of the residential wing of the Council training center. Opening the wide double doors at the end of the hallway, Spike quickly made his way towards where the staff offices where located. Finding Buffy's office door closed, Spike gave it two sharp knocks before opening the door. He couldn't stop the smirk from forming on his face. Spike had managed to find Buffy. She was sitting behind her desk, and pretending to be busy. In reality, she was playing one of the many online games Xander and Andrew had installed onto the Council's computers. Spike did not need to see her computer screen to tell she was in the middle of playing a game. Her guilty look combined with the headset used for team speak was a dead giveaway.
"Which one, luv?" Spike asked, grinning at his guilty girlfriend.
"World of Warcraft," Buffy answered softly, ducking her head in order to hide her grin. It wasn't the first time either of them had caught the other goofing off during office hours, and it certainly would not be the last.
"So what's up?" Buffy asked as she logged off of her game. Closing the door, Spike came forward and took a seat before her desk. Sighing, he looked up into her concerned greens eyes and plunged head first into his tale.
"Crap," Buffy muttered once she had heard the entire story. "So when are we leaving?"
Looking up at his slayer, Spike smiled his first genuine smile. Standing he leaned forward, placed both hands on either side of her face, and kissed her until she needed to back away so she could finally breath.
"You go pack for us and I'll go talk to Willow," Buffy smiled.
Turning, Spike sent a soft look her way, leaving her office with a quite and sincere, "Thank you." Leaning back so she could rest in her chair, Buffy thought the situation over for a minute before picking up the phone and dialing the extension to Willow's office. The phone was answered on the first ring.
"Hey, Wills," Buffy said by way of greeting. "How do you feel about visiting the States for a few days?"
A few days later the jet-lagged trio found themselves standing before "The Roadhouse". A familiar black Chevy Impala sat parked in front of the large wooden building. There were a few other vehicles in the parking lot, but they were of no concern to the group now making their way towards the entrance.
Upon entering, Spike quickly scanned the bar and found his targets sitting at a table well away from the rest of the small crowd. Nodding a quick greeting towards Ellen, the group made their way over to the brother's table.
"How is it you get uglier every time I see you?" Spike asked as he placed a cool hand on Sam's shoulder. His comment was directed towards Dean, and had the desired effect. Dean's face lit up, and a smirk quickly spread out over his face.
"Ugly?" Dean asked, eyebrow rising. "Have you actually seen yourself lately? Oh wait…you can't."
"Beautiful for all eternity, mate. Unlike some people. Hey Dean? Is that gray hair I see?" Spike shot back as he took a seat on Sam's right so he could face Dean from across the table. Buffy took the seat on Spike's right, which put her next to Dean, and Willow sat between the grinning brothers.
"Men," Willow and Buffy sighed as their gazes held, their giggles giving away any pretense of being annoyed. Instead their words sounded more affectionate than reprimanding.
"Not that I'm not glad to see you guys, but why are you here?" Sam asked as his gaze drifted from Buffy to Willow and finally coming to rest on Spike.
"They're here because I asked them to come," Dean said his eyes locked firmly on the top of their table. He knew his brother, and once he figured out Dean's reasons for calling Spike and his friends, Sam was sure to blow his top. It was just one more thing that reminded Dean of their father, and one more trait Sam would deny he shared with their old man.
Looking at his brother's bowed head, Sam knew instantly what the surprise visit was all about. A part of him wasn't surprised Dean had called Spike, the two had a lot in common and could easily dump their troubles onto the other. They had no pressing need to protect each other; but the part that still secretly cherished every time his brother called him Sammy, was hurt. He was hurt his brother felt he couldn't come to him with his worries and fears, hurt that Dean still thought he had to protect him from everything. But most of all Sam was hurt because Dean still thought he wasn't allowed to show Sam just how much their father's death was tearing him apart.
Sam half prayed for Dean to show him his pain, and allow Sam to help him carry some of it, but he also feared that ever happening. Dean was strong, fearless in the face of death, and over all his indestructible big brother. Dean wasn't supposed to break, and the fact he was, even though he didn't want Sam to know it, frightened him more than any demon they could ever face. All in all, Sam had no idea how to handle the situation, and hoped his mounting frustration would not cause another fight.
"Dean…" Sam started but trailed off, not sure whether he should be angry or supportive. They were both drowning in their emotions, and neither could see the life rafts the other so desperately tried to throw the other.
"Not now Sammy," Dean said as he quickly stood. Leaving a few bills on the table, Dean stalked through the crowded bar and had soon vanished out the door and into the parking lot.
Standing, Sam followed his brother's example and shoved his way out the door.
Getting to their feet, Spike quickly led the way out of the bustling bar and right into the middle of the brother's heated argument. Raising a hand, Spike signaled for Buffy and Willow to stand back, and simply watch out for any unwanted interruptions. Sam and Dean needed to get all of their grievances out, and now was the perfect time to do so.
"I said not now Sammy," Dean growled as he marched over towards his beloved Impala. Searching his jacket, Dean frantically looked for his keys only to find out his brother was holding them in his uninjured hand.
"Give me the keys Sam," Dean snapped, leveling a deadly look his brother's way.
"No Dean," Sam stated firmly. "I'm not letting you drive off just so you can avoid me."
"Fine," Dean snarled as he turned on his heel and jerked open the driver's side door. "I'll just hot wire the Impala."
Before he could get inside, Sam rushed over to his brother's side and forcefully pulled him away from the vehicle. Angry at the interruption, Dean turned fist already swinging. His punch landed along Sam's jaw line, and caused him to stumble back a few steps.
"Dean!" Sam cried out, his lip already starting to swell. Bringing his hand up to his mouth Sam gingerly felt around the area his brother had injured. No bones felt broken, but there was a small bit of blood staining Sam's fingertips.
"What Sammy? What do you want me to say? Huh? That dad's death isn't killing me? That knowing I'm responsible doesn't make it worse?" Dean shouted, his voice shaky as he tried to calm his raging emotions. The last thing he wanted to do was break down in front of his brother. He needed to be the strong one. If he wasn't then there was no way he could protect his brother from the demon hunting their family.
"It's not your fault Dean. Nobody forced Dad to do what he did," Sam said, his voice calm and soothing. He knew Dean needed to let go, but if he got angry then Dean would simply clam up and not say anything. In that respect, the two brothers were very much alike.
"Yes it is Sam, and you know it," Dean said his voice filled with conviction. How else was his miraculous recovery possible? He should be dead, twice over, but here he was while nothing remained of their father but ash.
"That demon could have been lying. It found your deepest fears and played them." Sam said, trying to reason with his brother.
"It didn't find my deepest fears Sam, it found my deepest desires. I wanted to take that deal. I was so close. You would have gotten Dad back and I would be…" Dean said, his voice slowing down to a pained whisper.
"Dead? Cause that's exactly what would have happened. Maybe not right away, but in ten years time you would be," Sam yelled, forgetting his earlier vow of trying to remain calm. The thought of losing Dean was intolerable. Sam had no idea if he could ever survive such an event, and he never wanted to find out.
"Well, maybe it would be for the best!" Dean yelled, tears filling his eyes. His confusion and pain were plain for anyone to hear.
"What are you talking about Dean? How could you being dead ever be a good thing?"
"I'm not supposed to be here Sammy," Dean stated with finality. Nothing anyone could say would change his mind. He should be dead, and their father should be alive. It was that simple.
The agony in his friend's voice tore at Spike. This was one of the few times Spike wished he could turn off his hearing. His soul cried for his friend, understanding all too clearly how losing someone you loved, whether a parent or not, could send your world spinning out of control.
Spike's demon on the other hand wanted to howl its rage into the still night. In the demon's mind, Dean and Sam were its family. As much as Spike cared for the Scoobies, with the exception of Buffy and Dawn, Spike's demon really only protected them for his girl's sakes, but the Winchester brothers had accepted him and they treated him like an equal. They didn't talk down to him, or get uncomfortable when reminded that even with a soul he was still a demon. They judged people on their actions not what they were, and Spike's demon had quietly marked them as his.
"How can you say that?" Sam whispered, his eyes filling with tears.
"Easily, because it's true," Dean said. "First was the faith healer, and some guy dies in my place, and now Dad goes and makes another deal to extend my life, but this time it's his life for mine."
"Dean…" Sam started, taking a few tentative steps towards his brother.
"Sammy, I'm not angry over the first one," Dean sighed as he ran a shaky hand through his short hair. "Neither of us knew she was controlling a reaper, and once we did, we made sure no one else was going to die unnecessarily. But Dad…he knew Sammy. He knew when he made that deal he was not going to walk away, and now I've got to live with that."
"Dean it's not like that!" Sam pleaded with his brother. Placing a hand on Dean's shoulder, Sam turned his brother so they were facing each other again.
"Isn't it? I should have died Sammy, both times."
"Dean. Look at me," Sam ordered, sounding painfully like their father when he was about to tell his boys something he knew they needed to hear, even though they hadn't always wanted to hear his words.
"You're my brother. I need you here with me. In fact I'm always going to need you. If you're gone who's going to be around to drive me crazy with heavy metal, and an unhealthy obsession with that damn car? Who's going to keep calling me Sammy even when I'm eighty? Who's going to insist their still better looking than me when we're both gumming our food?"
"Well Sammy, you've always been fugly dude. You just couldn't help it. That's why Dad and I always kept you back, didn't want anyone mistaking you for the elephant man," Dean smirked, his soul feeling a bit lighter despite the pain still filling his heart.
Inside he could hardly remember when their roles had reversed. For years he had been the one taking care of his baby brother, and now it looked like his brother was taking care of him.
"Dean!" Sam yelled, outraged though inside he was cheering. If Dean could make jokes all was right with the world. That didn't mean he was going to let his brother get away with insulting him though.
"Yeah, yeah I here ya. It's not nice to make fun of the ugly kid," Dean smirked, taking the sting from his words. "It's not like you can help how you look."
The giggling behind them alerted the brother's to their silent observers. Turning they saw their friends standing as far away as possible, but still keeping a watch over them.
"Come on slackers!" Dean called, sending a grateful look his friends' way. "We've got a demon to exorcise, and you bozos are wasting time."