The "Angels at the Roadhouse" Series
A Supernatural/Angel/Buffy crossover
: The little red-head sitting at the Roadhouse bar was supposed to have been the least of Ellen's worries.Disclaimer
: Supernatural belongs to the CW and Kripke. Angel belongs to Joss Whedon. No profit has been made from this fic, and the only benefit to me is personal satisfaction and the creative process. Plus the pretties!Spoilers
: Contain vague spoilers for Supernatural 2x06, No Exit.
Sequel to Shadows Behind~~~~~~
The little red-headed girl sitting at the edge of the bar was supposed to be the least of Ellen's worries. The Winchesters were back at the Roadhouse, with Sam trying to hustle Ash at pool and Dean looking everywhere but at Jo, while Ellen's darling daughter stomped around the bar like a werewolf with a sore paw.
Still. As much as Ellen wanted to worry that Jo was driving the customers away, that Sam would win Ash's rent money, there was something about the desolate young woman that set off every warning bell Ellen had.
The girl didn't look dangerous. She looked tired and worn from too long on the road. When she'd arrived on foot just after sunset, she'd ordered a rum and coke, the same drink she had been nursing for the last two hours. The girl couldn't be much older than Sam Winchester, shorter than Jo and so very fragile, with pale milky skin under her freckles.
As the night wore on, the girl's drink slowly disappeared. When she set the empty glass back on the bar, Dean moved in for the kill.
"Hey," he said, sliding onto the bar stool next to the girl with what he probably thought was a winning grin. Ellen rolled her eyes as she dropped ice into a glass and poured herself a coke.
"Hi," the girl said, surprised. Come to think of it, no one had spoken to her all night long. Ellen frowned at her glass. No one, not a one of the many lonely hunters in the bar that night, had approached the pretty girl.
Either Dean knew something they didn't, or he was stupider than he looked. Ellen liked the boy, but she wasn't betting on door number one.
"Girl like you, sitting all alone?" Dean continued. It was such a bad line that Ellen had to turn away, which put her looking directly at Jo, across the room. Her daughter was glaring daggers at Dean.
Ellen could feel a headache building behind her eyes. It was going to be a long night.
"I'm just... drinking," the girl said reluctantly.
"That's a nice name." The girl went back to staring at her glass.
In spite of herself, the corner of Ellen's mouth twitched. Burn.
Dean sat back, not deterred. "Hey, can I buy you a drink?" he asked.
The girl's answer was lost in the ringing of the phone. Ellen set her drink down and reached for the receiver.
"Have you seen a young woman, red hair, people probably ignoring her?"
Ellen's stomach dropped into her shoes. Even though she had only heard that voice three-- no, four times in her life, she knew exactly who was on the other end of the line. "You have got to be kidding me," she said, turning her back to the crowd of the bar. "What do you want?"
"Is she there?" Angel demanded. "I heard she was headed towards Wisconsin, and the weird always end up in your bar."
"Thanks," Ellen said, the sarcasm cutting.
Ellen tapped on the plastic of the phone casing. She told herself she was only looking out for her customers, like she always did. That she wasn't acting jealous. "She a friend of yours?"
It took Angel a while to answer. "She... She saved me, Ellen."
"She saved your life?"
"She saved my soul." The words were ridiculous, but Angel wasn't kidding around. "For that alone, I'd do anything for her, but it's more than that. She's hurting and she needs help."
Ellen glanced in the mirror behind the bar, where Dean was still trying to talk to the girl. On closer inspection, the girl's skin was almost translucent, too thin over her bones. "She might be here," Ellen admitted.
"Can I talk to her?" Angel asked.
"She have a name?"
"Willow. Her name is Willow."
Ellen covered the phone with her hand and crossed the bar to where Dean was sitting with the girl. "Are you Willow?" Ellen asked, interrupting whatever Dean was saying.
The girl sat back, startled. More than startled, almost afraid. "Why?"
Ellen held out the phone. In spite of what Angel had said, she wasn't going to lie to the girl. "Angel wants to talk to you."
"Angel?" the girl blurted out.
The girl hesitated for a minute, then reached out for the offered phone. She took the receiver tentatively and lifted it to her ear. "Angel?"
Ellen had to look away from the lost expression on the girl's face. She started wiping down the bar, but she couldn't tune out the one-sided conversation.
"No, I... No, you can't tell them where I am!" Willow stared at her empty glass, biting her lower lip. "Angel... Yeah, I'm okay." She listened intently for a couple of minutes, then said in a tiny voice, "I didn't want anyone to worry."
Ellen's hand stilled on the bar. How many lost little girls had Angel gone on to save? How had this one saved Angel's soul?
"Okay," Willow was saying. "Yeah, I'll wait." Then she frowned. "Who's Ellen?"
Ellen tossed the cloth onto the countertop. "That's me," she said.
Wordlessly, Willow gave Ellen the phone.
"Can you keep an eye on her?" Angel asked as soon as Ellen lifted the phone to her ear. "I'll be there in a few hours."
"I'm not keeping her here if she wants to leave," Ellen told him.
"No one's asking you to. Just keep her safe until I get there."
Angel hung up.
Shaking her head, Ellen put the phone back on the hook. "You okay with sticking around?" she asked Willow.
Willow nodded, a little shaky. "Uh huh." She bit her lower lip, looking about sixteen and fragile as hell. Ellen couldn't remember ever being that delicate. "So, you know Angel?"
"I do." To forestall any more questions, Ellen reached for a clean rag. "You want another drink?"
"Do you have any coffee?"
Ellen pushed all the nonsensical jealousy out of her head. She was too old to be acting like this, to be letting emotions get in the way of a promised job. She could keep one little girl safe for a few hours, especially in a bar full of hunters.
Unless the hunters were supposed to be what she was protecting Willow from.
Now that was a disconcerting idea.
"Coffee, coming right up," Ellen said, trying to hide her worry. She flicked her eyes at an uncharacteristically silent Dean. "Another beer?"
He nodded. Something about the way he was looking at her reminded Ellen too much of John Winchester. The look was too probing, too intent, for Dean's level of intoxication.
Just what Ellen needed, another complication.
Jo came over, on the opposite side of the bar from Willow and Dean, and thumped her tray down on the counter. "I need another round of beers," she announced.
Ellen's headache migrated to her right temple. She leaned across the bar. "Jo, stop it," she said in a low voice. "Whatever's pissed you off, put it away and deal with it later."
"Jo. Not. Tonight."
Maybe it was the lack of emotion in Ellen's voice, maybe it was something else, but Jo shut her mouth. The way Jo stood, the set of her shoulders, was so different from how Ellen was, so unlike Billy had been, that Ellen wondered why no one had ever questioned that Billy was Jo's daddy. "I still need that beer."
Ellen wanted to tell her daughter to get out and away, away from the unnamed potential danger sitting across the bar, but Jo could take care of herself in a fight. It was better to keep Jo around, Ellen told herself. "Give me a minute."
Filling drink orders was something Ellen could do in her sleep, and it helped her pull herself together. When she took Dean's drink over to where the boy was sitting, she had pushed all her uncertainty down. Ellen had known Angel for over thirty years, and in that time he hadn't steered her wrong. In fact, he'd given them real, solid clues in their fight with the Demon.
"Here," she said, dropping the beer in front of Dean. "Coffee will be up in a minute, I'm just brewing a fresh pot."
"Thanks," Willow said with a shy smile.
Then a fight started between two knife-wielding hunters, and Ellen didn't have time to think about Angel or Willow for a few minutes.~~~
"Want any more ice?" Ellen asked Sam.
The boy shook his head, then winced. "No, I'm good."
"Yeah, way to break up a fight with your face, you moron," Dean said, hiding his smirk behind another beer.
"I didn't see you helping out any," Jo said tartly.
Dean sat back, wounded. "Sam and your mom had it all under control."
"So now you're letting my mother
fight your fights for you?"
"Hey, your mom's frickin' terrifying in a bar fight!"
Ellen poured Sam a glass of water, letting Jo and Dean fight it out. Other than the group at the bar, the Roadhouse was empty, save for Ash trying to repair the jukebox and Willow at the far end of the bar. It was late, and there was nothing like a brawl to clear the place out good.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Willow asked when Ellen made it back around to the girl's end of the bar.
Ellen shrugged. "This place cleans up fine."
Willow nodded. "So, um, Angel?"
Behind them, the argument between Jo and Dean was escalating. Trusting that Dean wouldn't hit a girl, no matter the provocation, Ellen let them go at it. "What about him?"
"You know him." It wasn't a question. "He said I could trust you, he doesn't-- He's not really what you'd call the trusting type."
"That's for sure," Ellen muttered. "But yeah, I've known him for a while."
"A while?" The girl seized on the time with an almost fierce intensity. "So you know he's..." She waved her hands around. "You know."
Ellen had never been too sure what of Angel's brand of weird, not really, but there was no need to explain that. Let the girl believe what she wanted. "Yeah."
Willow looked down at her hands. Ellen hadn't noticed before, but there was something under the girl's nails, blood or dirt or both. "He said that he'd worked with you before, and that you fight... you know."
Ellen raised her eyebrows.
"Things that go bump in the night?" Willow finished weakly. Oh god, don't let this be some stupid sorority girl who's on the road to hunt evil,
Ellen thought. "I might have done, once upon a time." Ellen met Willow's questioning eyes. "Not any more."
Willow smirked, a self-deprecating expression that added decades of experience to her face. It was the expression of a seasoned hunter, like the one Dean Winchester often wore, like John Winchester before him.
"I know how that goes," Willow said, the air of a bar-time confessional about her. "It's just that after a while..." Willow took a quick gulp of coffee. "No matter how much sand you shovel, the pile never seems to get any smaller."
Distantly, Ellen was aware that Jo and Dean had stopped arguing. "Willow, how long you been doing this?" she asked, keeping her voice low.
Willow shrugged. "Eight... No, nine years."
Ellen had to step away for a minute. The thought of a fourteen-year-old going after vengeful spirits and monsters struck a little too close to home. Ellen could still remember being thirteen, remember smelling the foul breath of the thing
that had tried to rape her in the alley behind the movie theatre, how it had very nearly succeeded, how it would
have succeeded if Angel hadn't been passing by at just the right moment.
Not that Ellen could argue with a kid fighting monsters. She'd tracked her first vengeful spirit when she was fifteen, barely escaping with her life. She'd completed her first successful hunt at nineteen, wasted a Red Cap a few weeks later (although that had been a total fluke and she still had the scars on her back as a reminder) and her first werewolf at twenty. Ellen understood what could drive a kid to hunt monsters.
All things she would never, ever tell Jo. She wasn't going to lose her daughter the way she'd lost her husband, and it didn't matter if she had to lie about her past to do it.
Ellen brought over the coffee pot to hide her momentary break-down, feeling the cold metal press against her back where she'd tucked the pistol into the back of her jeans after the fight. "Isn't fourteen a little early to start?" Ellen asked Willow.
Willow's eyes grew wide. "Oh, no, I wasn't fourteen, I was sixteen," she said hastily. As if that made it any better. "I met Angel then too."
"Was he helping you out?" Ellen had to ask.
"Sort of," Willow said. "Well, not exactly helping me
, but a friend of mine. She was the real monster fighter." Willow dropped her eyes to her coffee cup. "She's the one who makes a difference."
Ellen managed to stop herself from glancing behind her at the Winchesters. "Ain't no such thing as a sidekick in this business," she said. "You start thinking you're a lesser partner, you end up dead."
The jukebox started blaring Dancing Queen, and whatever Willow might have said was masked as Dean started shouting at the retreating Ash. Ellen headed towards the broom. The place may clean up fine, but she still had a lot of work to do if she wanted to get any sleep that night. Glass to clean up, beer to mop up off the floor... At least Sam had stopped any bloodshed.
A few minutes later, Ellen almost walked into Sam. "What?" she demanded. She had to crane her head back to look up at the boy.
Sam gave her a tiny smile. "I thought I could help, you know," he said, words muffled as he spoke around his split lip. "Sweeping and stuff."
Ellen glanced back at the bar, where Dean was once again trying to talk to Willow and Jo was very carefully ignoring the both of them. "Right," Ellen said. She smacked the broom into Sam's hand. "Knock yourself out."
The rap on the door was quiet underneath the music coming from the jukebox, but Ellen heard it. No one ever knocked on the Roadhouse door, they just walked right in... unless the protective wards hidden in the walls were keeping something out.What monsters may come to my door this night?
Before anyone else in the bar could react, Ellen pulled the gun out of her waistband and flipped the safety off, opening the door with one hand and aiming the gun out into the night.
Angel stood on the front step of the Roadhouse. He glanced at the gun, pointed at his chest, then back to Ellen. "Are you going to shoot me?" he asked, that old familiar smirk on his face.
Ellen scanned the field behind him, making sure he was alone before she pulled the gun back. "And waste a bullet?" she asked as she pushed the door open. "You may as well come in."
"Thanks." Angel stepped into the bar, closing the door behind him. Ellen tucked the gun away as she turned around, but she stopped in her tracks when she saw both Dean and Sam with drawn guns, and Jo behind the bar where they kept the shotgun.
"Guys, it's all right," Ellen said, standing half in front of Angel. She thought she could talk her way out of this one, until she glanced at Willow. The red-head was staring at the gun in Dean's hand, her face totally blank. Shit.
"Guys, I mean it. Put 'em back in your pants."
Ellen felt Angel's hand on her lower back for a moment as he stepped around her. "Hi Willow," he said, ignoring the other people in the room. "You doing okay?"
Willow blinked hard, and the scary blankness vanished. "Yeah, I'm fine."
Angel continued to approach Willow warily. "What have you been up to?"
"Stuff." Willow examined her fingernails. "Seeing the Northeast."
"Sounds exciting." Angel leaned on the edge of the bar, just out of Willow's reach. Anxiety swirled in Ellen's stomach. She had a rule, and that was when the scary things got scared, it was time to bail. What the hell was it about this girl Willow, anyway?
Willow looked at Angel out of the corner of her eye. "You don't have to do that," she said. "Look at me like I'm going to go all psycho."
Angel shrugged. "Dawn wasn't too clear on the phone."
"Buffy didn't call you?" Willow bit her lower lip, looking as if she was going to cry. "No, of course she didn't."
Beside Ellen, Sam shifted nervously on his feet. Reminded that there was work to be done, outside of the weird little drama at the bar, Ellen pushed the broom back into Sam's hands. Another two steps across the room let her grab the mop, and smack the handle across Dean's chest. "Make yourself useful," Ellen ordered, giving him a glare.
Dean looked as if he was going to argue, so Ellen ratcheted up the glare and continued past him. She slipped behind the bar and pried Jo's hands off the shotgun. "Go turn off that jukebox, would you?" Ellen said in a low voice. "Now," she added before Jo could argue. She wanted Jo out of the line of fire if something went sideways with Willow and Angel.
Angel glanced at Ellen. She wasn't sure if it was to tell her to not get involved, but frankly, it was her bar and she didn't care. "Willow, it's not the end of the world," Angel said.
Willow sniffled. "That's not funny."
"Yeah, sorry." Angel glanced in the mirror behind the bar, then back to Willow. Ellen followed his glance, to see the Winchester boys cleaning up her bar, Jo poking at the jukebox, and Willow and Ellen herself by the bar.
That was it.
Angel didn't have a reflection.
"It's just that if Xander gets to leave, why can't I?" Willow asked.
"Xander's not going off to hunt demons on his own," Angel said, then hesitated. "Is he?"
"He better not." Willow pushed her hair back from her face.
"So why are you?"
"I'm not hunting demons." Willow looked at her dirty hands again.
"Then what did that?" Angel pointed at Willow's wrist.
Slowly, Willow pulled her sleeve back, to reveal healing claw marks and bruises. "Not a demon," she said distantly.
The curve to the claw marks were familiar; Ellen had seen them on too many hunters' corpses to count. In spite of herself, Ellen edged closer. "You're the one who killed Black Annis over in High Falls last week?" Ellen demanded. "That thing's taken out more hunters in the last decade than anything else in this side of the country."
Willow pulled her sleeve back up. "I can take care of myself," she told Ellen.
"No kidding." Ellen was aware that the boys had given up the pretence of cleaning. "Jesus, Angel, why'd you want me to look out for someone like this?"
"Because she's a friend," Angel said. "Willow, I know you can do this on your own, but you don't have to."
"You do," Willow shot back.
"That's different," Angel said, shifting on the seat. "I'm..."
"Yeah, and I'm like that too." Willow sat up. "They don't need me anymore, Angel, not the girls, not Buffy, not... not Kennedy. So why can't I go do this on my own?"
"Um, Ellen?" Dean interrupted. He was slowly approaching the bar, gun in his hand. Ellen knew without looking that Dean was staring at Angel's lack of reflection.
"Not now," Ellen said.
"I know." Ellen glared at him. "I know exactly who I invited into my bar. Now back off."
"Uh, no?" Dean gripped his gun with two hands, aiming it at Angel
Even though Angel was older than Ellen by decades, she suddenly felt ancient. "Dean, Angel's a friend of mine. You shoot that gun, you'd better start running."
The flummoxed expression on Dean's face was almost too much, as he tried to work through what Ellen had said. Ellen tried to imagine what John might have thought of Angel; hell, what Billy might have done if he'd known his wife had slept with something like Angel. She'd spent years avoiding these thoughts, and now wasn't the time to change that.
"Dean, I'm serious."
After a moment, Dean lowered the gun.
Willow had gone so pale that Ellen worried that she might faint. Still, the girl swallowed hard and straightened her spine. "I'm not going back. Not yet."
"I'm not here to take you back," Angel said.
"So why are you here?"
Angel shrugged. "It's been a while since I've been out hunting on the road. Thought I might join you."
Willow blinked wide eyes. "You're kidding. This is a joke, right?"
"Nope." Angel smiled. "I have it on good authority I make excellent back-up." He looked at Ellen. "Right?"
"Where by back-up, you mean standing back?" Ellen asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Hey, you had that poltergeist under control."
"It was my first hunt."
"You could take care of yourself at thirteen, nineteen wasn't any different."
A strangled exclamation sounded across the room. "You went on a hunt at nineteen without back-up?" Jo demanded, storming over.
Ellen took a deep breath. "That's different," she said, glaring at Angel.
"How exactly is it different?" Jo demanded. "I was twenty-one, with
back-up, and you freak out over that?"
Ellen pressed her lips together. "Can we not talk about this now?"
"No, I think now's the perfect time to talk about it," Jo snapped. For a moment, she looked so much like her father that Ellen's breath caught.
Ellen glanced at Angel, and in that moment, she knew that he knew about Jo. His expression didn't change, but there was a weight in his eyes that told her the truth.
There was nothing she could say, nothing to excuse the fact that she hadn't told him.
"And how can this guy have been your backup, he's like Dean's age," Jo continued. "How does that work?"
"I'm older than I look," Angel said, before turning back to Willow. "You want to head out?"
Willow was looking at Jo with wide eyes, and Ellen's stomach clenched. "I... what?"
"Head out. I've got the car outside," Angel said.
"Where are we going?"
Angel shrugged as he stood up. "Wherever."
"Not back to Cleveland."
"We can go wherever you want."
There was a moment in which everything seemed to hang in the balance, then Willow nodded and Ellen could breathe again. "Okay," Willow said. She slowly stood. "Let's go."
While Willow was gathering up her bag, Angel looked at Ellen. There was so much she couldn't say, so much she'd never say to him, about Jo, about everything. "We going to see you around again?" Ellen asked.
"Maybe," Angel said. "Who knows?"
Dean grumbled under his breath, but he kept the gun down.
Ellen cleared her throat. "Hey, Angel. Thank your friend for the book."
Willow appeared at Angel's side. "What book? From who?"
"Illyria had... You know, it's a long story," Angel said. "Tell you later."
Willow took a step back. "Is Illyria in the car?" Willow demanded. "She's usually with you, right?"
"Not right now." Angel glanced around the bar, his attention freezing on Sam for a minute. Sam was staring hard at Angel. "She heard that an old friend of hers was in Santiago."
"So she's in Chile? Why? She wanted to catch up on old times?"
"Sure, if by 'catch up' you mean 'rend limb from limb'."
Willow made a face. "Gross much?"
Angel adjusted his coat. "It keeps her off the streets." He looked back at Sam. "What?"
"Do I know you from somewhere?" Sam asked.
"I have that kind of face..." Angel stopped mid-sentence and took a closer look at Sam. "Wait."
Sam blinked and took a step back, holding the broom like a shield. "You know what? Never mind, I must have been mistaken," he said in a hurry.
"No, I do know you," Angel said. "You were that punk kid in L.A. a couple of years back."
"I've never been to L.A.," Sam said quickly.
Dean gave his brother a look. "Dude, what are you talking about? We spent a year there when you were fifteen."
Angel turned to Ellen. "During the demon riots, this kid comes out of nowhere and blows up a horde of ogres with a gas tanker. Innovative."
"That wasn't me," Sam protested, not able to look at Dean.
"Then he took out a nightcrawler with a flare gun," Angel added.
Dean was looking at Sam as if the younger man had shot Dean's puppy. "You were in the L.A. demon riots?" Dean demanded. "How the hell is that living a normal life at Stanford?"
"Come on, if every hunter who claims to have been in L.A. during the riots had really been there, the place would have been like an evil Woodstock," Sam said, trying to placate his brother without actually denying what Angel had said.
Ellen glanced at her glowering daughter, then threw a glare over her shoulder at Angel. "Thanks for stopping by, Angel."
He cracked an apologetic smile, and Ellen knew they were okay, regardless of whatever secrets they'd been keeping. He'd be back, she knew that much.
Willow gave Ellen a little wave as Angel herded her out of the door. As soon as the door banged shut behind them, Dean started up again. "Christ, Sammy, we thought you were safe in Stanford!"
"I was only three hundred miles away, I couldn't not go!"
Ellen was about to tell them to take it outside, when Jo whirled around. "Now can we talk about what a hypocrite you are?" Jo demanded, eyes snapping in anger.
Fleetingly Ellen wondered if it was too late to run out and tag along with Angel. But no, she'd chosen this life, and she was going to stick with it.
Ellen smiled. "Not on your life, sweetie."the end
Monster footnotes: Information on Red Caps
, Black Annis