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Running On Empty

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Summary: Dean is a broken man who is plagued not only by memories of the horrific things he's done, but also by lingering dark needs that he can't control. For him, there is no hope, until he meets the vampire Spike under circumstances that could finish them both.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Spike-Centered(Past Donor)CasFR1819157,38473013,67527 Jan 1127 Oct 12Yes

Chapter One

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Co-authored with BrimstoneGold
Pairing: Spike/Dean
Fandom: SPN X-over BtVS
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss and Kripke, we're just playing with them.
Ratings/Warnings: NC 17, bondage, non con, violence, blood play (both vampy and non vampy),
Summary: After being rescued from hell, Dean is a broken man who is plagued not only by memories of the horrific things he's done, but also by lingering dark needs that he can't control. He can't sleep, for fear of the things he might do. He can't trust his brother, who has walked the dark side with Ruby. He can't feel, not when he's self medicating with liquor. For him, there is no hope, until he meets the vampire Spike under circumstances that might finish them both. Of course Spike could be Dean's own 'walk on the dark side.' Set in early season 4 of SPN.

First it had been the damned ghost fever. Little girl Lilith had come calling, taunting him with promises and reminders of all the time he had spent in Hell and would again. Her voice still rang in his head with that deep throated "Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom," matching the increasing pace of his heart as all the memories of Hell swelled over him. That same heart had beat hard, as if trying to break free of his rib cage, while at the same time it felt as if it would freeze in his chest to match the icy fire of his blood. His heart had indeed stopped for just a moment before Sam and Bobby had destroyed the source of the ghost fever.

Then her simulacrum was gone, but her image lingered, and so did all the reminders she had recounted. When Sam asked him what fear the ghost fever had used that nearly killed him (though Sam never knew just how close) he'd told Sam he'd seen howler monkies. Sam knew he was lying of course. And Dean knew that Sam knew he was lying, but Sam hadn't pushed.

Then came Sam Hain and the breaking of the seal that they tried to save but failed. Castiel had tried to give him some reassurance, at least as best as Cas was able, but the angel kinda sucked at the whole human emotion empathy thing. Dean tried hard to forget the masks he had seen hanging in the art teacher's class room, masks that were recreations of the demons he had encountered in Hell. After those masks, after the angels and Sam's promises, it all but crushed what little was left inside him seeing Sam do the psychic crap. He watched Sam pull the spirit of Sam Hain out of the witch and send the evil spirit back to Hell. Apparently, to put the icing on the cake, that dick of an angel Uriel told Sam that Dean had done things in Hell. That he remembered Hell.

Sam had pushed. Not hard, but at that particular point Dean was in no mood for any sort of pushing. It was the anniversary of their Mom's death, Sam was walking the dark path, the angels were losing, seals were breaking, and the only time Dean got something like a decent night's sleep was when he was so drunk he simply passed out. So no, he wasn't in any god-damned mood for Sam to be even remotely pushing him about what he remembered of Hell.

That was when he grabbed his coat and his duffel and told Sam he needed some space. At least he didn't tell Sam to fuck off, though he came damned close.

Sam had called him again and again on his cell phone and finally Dean picked up.

"Sam. Space. A couple days, a week. I'll be back, Dude. Just...space." He heard Sam start to apologize but Dean ended the call and shut the phone off. He didn't want to hear any fucking platitudes, he didn't want to talk to Sam about his dark mojo, and he sure as hell didn't want to talk about his time in Hell. No. He definitely did not want to talk about that. What they did to him. What he did to others. No. God, no. He could still feel the blood on his hands, guts spilling out as the person on the rack screamed while Dean tortured them, shredding them with tools, blades, and even fingernails and teeth. Ripping them apart for ten years. Every day, destroying, mutilating, hearing them scream and reveling in every fucking minute of it.

He could still feel the touch, the burned-in scar on his shoulder where Castiel had grabbed hold and yanked him away from his newest victim, a child. Children were a rarity in Hell, but this one had done in her whole family and looked just a little like the meatsuit Lilith had worn at one point. Her tears and screams were more precious than anything Dean could remember, and then he felt the burn and saw the blinding light, then nothing, not until he woke up in his own coffin.

He'd been confused at first, things jumbled up inside of his mind and he wasn't entirely certain this wasn't a new game Alastair or Lilith was playing with him. It took him awhile to believe he was really out of Hell. He wasn't quite certain when that defining moment was. Maybe when he saw Bobby. Maybe when he hugged his brother, the brother that had changed so very much in what for Sam had been a mere few months and for Dean, forty years.

Dean had sixty plus years of memory and two thirds of those were of the tortures of Hell. It wasn't any wonder he felt fucked-up beyond fucked up. No matter how many people he saved, he knew nothing would fill that empty black hole inside him and make him feel that he had made up for even the barest bit of tortures he had visited on those souls in Hell. Now he understood how demons were made. He understood it all too well. Another ten, twenty, fifty, hundred years...he would be a black-eyed sonuvabitch following Alastair around like Alastair's little puppy-dog hellhound, ready to tear apart anything Alastair told him to.

He couldn't even cry anymore. Hell had burned all his tears out of him. Almost everything had been burned out of him in Hell. Everything except his love for his brother. Now, though, his love for his brother was on the teetering edge of turning to ash. Sam had lied to Dean. He'd...failed Dean. Not that Sam really could have gotten him out of Hell, but they'd freed their Dad, dammit. But Sam hadn't freed him and maybe, just a little, a part of him blamed Sam for his long time spent in Hell. Worst of all, the real deal-breaker, was that Sam hadn't kept his promise of staying off the dark path. He was using his psychic crap and BFF with the demon Ruby. Just how BFF, Dean was afraid to ask 'cause he didn't really want to know if Sam was humping the bitch.

Dean was just one royal fuck-up, plain and simple. Couldn't save his brother. Couldn't kill his brother. Couldn't live without his brother so he sold his soul. Couldn't keep his soul from going dark, from giving in and giving up after thirty years. Just thirty years. Oh, but God had work for him Cas said. What good was he to anyone? He functioned, he put on a good game face, but he was broken, barely holding himself together as everything ate him up from the inside out until there was nothing but this gaping hole festering with self-loathing and hate.

He was half a state away from Sam when he finally pulled off the road and into a little no-name town in Tennessee. The first bar he found, he pulled into. There was a motel next door. He could stagger over after tying one on, get a room, and finish off whatever was left of the bottle of whiskey in his duffel and pass out. Maybe he could sort shit out better in the morning. He looked between the bar and the motel. Shit. Better to get the room first.

He got the room for a couple nights and told them he wasn't sure how long he'd be staying. He might decide to get back on the road where he could get lost in the drive, or just spend a few days getting shitfaced and trying to deal with some of his demons without Sam constantly giving him his damned puppy-eyed looks of concern. After checking the charge on his phone and seeing Sam had left another half a dozen messages, he rolled his eyes and plugged the phone in to recharge. Tucking the room key in his pocket, he headed to the bar to get totally and completely shit-faced. If he found a busty, tight-assed girl to take his mind off of things for a couple hours, super. If not, then he and Mr. Jack Daniels would finish off the night together.

The bar was a little smoky, there was a juke box in the corner warbling country music, and containers of peanuts sat in little buckets on the tables and at the bar. The floor, unsurprisingly, was littered with empty shells that crunched under his boots, reminding him just a little too much of bones crunching underfoot. He approached the bar.

"Jack, neat, double," he said, laying a fifty on the bar. "Keep 'em coming."

The bartender, a burly man with red hair gave Dean a nod and poured him his drink. The man took the fifty and tucked it underneath the bottom of a glass, dropping two mixing straws into the glass. It was the easiest way for him to track how many drinks the stranger had and it didn't look like the man expected change which suited the bartender fine.

Dean looked around. There was a rowdy group in a corner booth drinking and laughing. Couples or singles were scattered about the bar, and mostly men sat on the barstools at the worn wooden bar. No busty waitress or good looking single woman anywhere in the bar. He eyed a dark haired woman looking over papers. She wasn't anything special to look at, but she wasn't bad by any means. Dean didn't really care if it gave him a place to stick his dick for the night. So long as she left before he fell asleep, it would all be good. He started toward her, then saw the thin gold ring on her finger. Crap. Shaking his head he returned to the bar. Best just to stay standing here, drinking and trying to forget, ridding his mind of their screams. Of his own screams.

*

He was drunk. Pretty thoroughly good and drunk. Maybe he would be able to sleep tonight. Though he wasn't sure if drunken unconsciousness really qualified as sleep. So long as he wasn't conscious enough to have dreams, he didn't give a shit. Staggaring, he headed out of the bar, nearly tripping over the threshold. He blinked his eyes, the hunter in him taking a moment to scan the parking lot. Nothing unusual, no one about. He made his way slowly toward the motel. It seemed farther away than he thought it had been. The path he walked was anything but straight as he headed toward his distant Impala and the motel room beckoning to him. He passed under the street light and then into a dark section of empty land between the bar and the motel. Blinding pain exploded in the back his skull and he fell to his knees, vaguely feeling the gravel dig into his knees as the darkness swallowed him.

*

The music was light and fun, with the sort of beat a teenager might like. Spike should know, he'd been surrounded by the scoobs for years, not that they'd ever grown out of their music or out of their teens even a decade later. Someone called out 'dinner' and another person asked if they were having a buffet. "Poor sod," Spike muttered, hearing the inevitable screams and pleas of the dinner. He didn't try to tug on the chains that bound him, not anymore. He'd learned a long time ago it wasn't any use.

There was no music down here, the music was from the mansion, upstairs. He was quite sure they were in the basement or dungeon. A dungeon of horrors. Once, long ago, he might have enjoyed the offerings of this place. Not as a victim but as one of the predators. How many of his own victims had died cursing and hoping the horrors of hell would be visited on him?

It was dark, but not pitch black. Dingy ceiling lights gave an eerie glow to the long hallway lined by cells on both sides. Bars separated the cells but there were no doors, they weren't needed as all the guests were kept manacled by their wrists. The flooring was cold bathroom tile with grates along the edges to allow water to drain when they were given their daily "showers" with a pressurized hose that was aimed at them and at any blood, urine and excrement.

His cell was at the end of the hall. He hadn't had any cellmates for a while, not until they'd brought this unconscious man in and shackled him up across from Spike, slightly to the left. That was hours ago. Now the man was making some noises and showing signs of waking up. The moans turned into an oath and the slumped body straightened, the man slowly raising his head.

"You're not a screamer, are you?" Spike asked, changing positions so one of his legs was no longer stretched out in front of him, but instead was bent at the knee with the sole of his boot flat on the floor. "All the new ones are. Screamers, that is."

Dean's head pounded from the alcohol he'd consumed and from the blow he'd taken. He was grateful the lights were dim. He'd been trying to sort out where the fuck he was when he realized he was shackled. Lifting his head, he focused on the man who'd spoken. The guy was a bleach blond, British judging by his accent, lean and muscular, dressed in a black t-shirt, jeans, biker boots and was shackled just like Dean.

Dean wet his dry lips as he studied his new surroundings. More people, both men and women, were shackled in other cells. Soft sobs were audible from further down the way. He realized he'd been stripped of his coat and over shirts. Pushing himself to his feet, he winced as he felt his stomach rebel at the sudden movement. He fought to keep his gorge down and succeeded, barely. After all, he'd had a lot of practice with that over the past weeks since his return from hell. Looking at the locks on the shackles, he saw they wouldn't be all that hard to pick. He checked his waistband but the lockpick was gone. His pockets were empty and even the thin wire he had taken to keeping in his pants cuff was gone, along with his silver knife and its ankle holster.

Crap.

"Where are we? Who's holding us?" Dean snapped at the man, turning his head to meet the blue eyes of his cellmate.

Spike tracked the bloke's movements. It was clear he was looking for weapons or tools, anything that might have been on him before he was taken. He did seem to be keeping his head though, and that was a good sign in a cell mate. Temporary as the arrangement might be.

"Last thing I remember is a back room poker game in Pleasant, Tennessee. That where you were taken from?" He lifted his face and saw the brief nod. "Get the same answer from everyone I've talked to so best guess is we're still in Tennessee. What's the date?" Hearing it, Spike swore and pulled on the chain, getting nothing but the sound of its rattling and rolling on the tile. "Three weeks for me," he finally said. "As for who's got us... The better questiong might be what's got us, yeah?" He didn't expect the man to believe, not until the first so called assembly of theirs.

"What's got us?" Dean asked, wanting nothing more than to have something to drive his fist into. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck-fuck. Why couldn't he be like any average joe who took off to get away from it all for a few days? But nooooo, the good old fucking Winchester curse just had to fucking kick in and from the way the guy said it, something supernatural had them.

"Fuck!" Dean snarled aloud, getting up and tugging at the chains in frustration. "Okay Cas, any fucking time now, you can show up!" Dean said glaring at the ceiling. After a moment Dean made a sound of disgust and looked down at the blond. "Any water around here?"

Eyes narrowed, Spike grabbed the cup on the ground next to him and leaned forward, holding it up. The water in it was untouched from hours ago. "Take mine. Feel free to share it with your invisible friend."

Dean gave a soft snort. "Yeah. Invisible friend."

The shackles had a decent run of chain on them and he took the couple steps needed to reach the water. He wanted to up end the whole glass, but who knew when they'd get more. He took slow sips, rolling each around in his parched mouth. When he'd drank about a third of it, he offered it back to the guy. "Thanks. So, give me the fucked up news. What has us?"

"Keep it." He probably shouldn't be torturing the guy but Spike had been alone for a while and needed some entertainment. Besides, this bloke looked like he had it together and could take it. "What's undead, suffers from nightclub pallor, gives you a...." his gaze automatically shifted to the column of the guy's throat. The sharp pang of hunger shot through him. Clamping down on it, he continued as if he'd never paused, "... stiff neck? Oh, right, and keeps its savings at a blood bank." Smirking, he challenged the man to come up with even a close answer.

Cocking an eyebrow at the guy Dean shrugged and gratefully took a few more sips of water. He'd drink half now and half a little later, or the guy might change his mind and want some, he thought as he listened to the riddle.

Vampires. Fucking vampires. He groaned. So why the hell hadn't Castiel shown up, if God had 'work for him to do' and all that crap? Maybe this was another test. Or maybe it was a little revenge for him selling his soul. Maybe they needed him all but indestructable and as a vampire, he sure as hell would fit that bill. Turning away from the guy, he shook his head in disgust. He set the water down by the bars and after looking around, saw the grating that was surely the 'restroom.' He had to piss, and piss bad, after all that alcohol. Turning to the grate, he unzipped. As pissed, he glanced back at the guy.

"So how big a nest are we talking?" Dean asked.

"Big." Spike didn't bother glancing away from the guy's face. In other circumstances he might have been tempted to to take a quick look at what the guy was hiding in his jeans. "You a vampire hunter?" That would be his bleeding luck, to be captured by maniacal vampires and chained in the same cell as a possibly maniacal vampire hunter. "Got a name?"

"Great," Dean muttered. "I'm a hunter," Dean said with a nod of his head. "I don't specialize in vamps though. I'll go after anything that kills people and is supernatural. I've taken down a nest before. Was going to take down another but...well, let's just say some vamps have wised up and decided eating people is bad for their health," Dean said as he tucked his cock back in his jeans, zipped up, and returned to sitting down, his back pressed against the bars and facing the guy. "Winchester. Dean Winchester. You?"

So, not a fanatic. Maybe. "Spike. Just Spike. You can say I'm a vampire hunter who hunts demons as well, or was." He gave a shrug. "My hunting partners" he wasn't about to call himself a 'Scoob,' "moved to Rome and I've been... haven't decided what I'm going to do next." He wasn't very welcome in Europe, especially by the Vatican, and he wasn't about to start all over trying to prove he was worthy of some respect. He gave Dean a speculative look. Maybe things were looking up. He hadn't found a way out, not for lack of trying, but with two experienced hunters, maybe they could manage.

"Rome? They must have come up with better ways to make cash than most hunters I know. Right now it looks like the next thing you're going to do is become a meal, or maybe they'll make you join their ranks. If by some miracle," he said looking toward the ceiling and sounding decidedly pissed off, "we get outta here," his gaze returned to Spike, "I'd focus on demons. Or hang up your hunting gear and go have the biggest fucking blowout you've ever had. Like you don't have a tomorrow."

"What about your hunting partner, Cas?" Spike guessed. "Good looking and kicks arse?" If he was lucky, she would be a slayer.

Dean made a face. "He's not my type and sure as hell not my hunting partner. He's a fucking pain in my ass and a dick." Dean's eyes grew distant and his face pained. "My hunting partner, my brother, Sam, he's...I don't know if...I don't know if we can stay..." Dean shook his head. "Things aren't good between us right now. He's acting like everything is fine and it's not. It's just...it's not."

"So you're surrounded by dicks and arses, probably makes you either a magnet or one of them." He could tell from the look on Dean's face the topic was closed. At least for now. "But he'd still come after you, your brother?" Right, didn't take a genius to read this man, and once again, the topic wasn't up for discussion. "This nest, it's run by blood dealers. Organized crime at its finest and money is their goal." He made a face. "That makes us the donors, and the entertainment. Don't appear too strong or you'll attract attention. More importantly, don't act too broken, or you'll be invited upstairs. I wouldn't believe their lies about letting you go." The screams had only now died down, but before that, there had been gurgling, and talk of stewing the victim in his own blood. Spike could hear it all even if there was at least one floor between this dungeon hell and party central in the mansion itself.

"Blood Dealers?" Dean asked. He sniffed. "Swell. Fucking great. Vamps got organized." Dean hung his head. Not too strong, not too broken. He was screwed. He wasn't going to just let the vamps feed on him. And broken? He was all sorts of that. He was pitiful and useless. Couldn't keep his brother from going dark, couldn't keep himself from giving in either. And here? Here there wouldn't be any alcohol to keep himself drunk enough to forget about Hell. After a deep sigh, he looked at Spike.

"Okay, you've been here three weeks. There's two of us now. All I need is something to pick locks with, hell, a paper clip even, and I can get these damned shackles off. So that's our first priority. Can you get us out from there if I get us out of the shackles?"

With the regular bloodletting, Spike was getting his strength back. He'd bitten his own inner arm in an attempt to bleed out the tainted blood inside him, but the scent had affected the vampires in a way he'd never anticipated. They'd gone off at each other and at the prisoners, like they were enthralled by uncontrollable lust. If he'd had these shackles off, he might have been able to escape while they couldn't think straight. Course if he'd been the object of their lust, without his strength, he'd have ... right, it was better not to think of the consequences.

"I'm very motivated," Spike answered without fully answering. If his strength built up enough, then he'd be able to break the chains himself. But it was taking a long time. Wait until he got his hands on the bastard who'd injected him with what he bragged was a solution filled with silver micro-crosses that sapped him of strength. The bugger was laughing and collecting Spike's winnings at the poker table all the time Spike was writhing on the ground and blacking out. "Got a score to settle."

"If that score's with someone in this nest, I'll help, but it waits until we're both free and clear of here and can put together a plan. Deal?" Dean asked.

"That would make it two scores, and you've got yourself a deal." Eyeing Dean's as yet unmarked face, Spike could tell he would attract attention. For the hunter's sake, if it had to happen, he hoped it was a female vampire. Something told him this man would not take well to being used by anyone, but if he'd never had relations with males, it would be a worse experience. "And don't do that," he snapped. "Smile or look into anyone's eyes like you're asking for it."

Dean scowled, but nodded.

* * * *

Dean resisted sleeping. He knew he would probably wake up screaming, or crying, or at the least, smelling of fear, and any of those would likely be bad. He had long finished off Spike's water after offering it back to Spike a final time. He was getting hungry but hunger was one of those things he had felt in Hell constantly and it didn't take much for him to ignore his growling stomach. He hated the 'too much time to think' situation he was in. He and Spike began swapping hunter stories and sometimes had each other laughing so hard it almost hurt. He was fascinated by Spike's tales of the The Slayer though Spike avoided talking about any vamps she had taken down since he didn't want any sharp-eared vamp to hear him. She was legend as far as Dean was concerned and he thought how much Sam would love to hear the stories...and quickly pushed that thought away. He was still pissed at Sam and even though he knew this could be it, and that he ought to try to forgive Sam, he just couldn't. Sam had promised he wouldn't do the psychic mojo. Without Dean, he knew there would be nothing to keep Sam from going darkside. One more burden, one more failure for him.

After a while they had both fallen into silence. Spike had closed his eyes and Dean let the man sleep. It had been quiet for hours, but now he heard footsteps and muffled voices, more and more of them. Down the aisle of cells he heard the rustle of chains and renewed sobbing. A door opened and the sobbing ceased immediately. Dean kicked Spike's foot.

"We've got company coming," Dean hissed at him.

"Right. Time for entertainment," Spike groused, pushing up off the ground. "Come on, get up. It's better than being dragged out, yeah?" Spike shook his legs out and ignored the shouting and screaming as people were dragged from their cells. Some were new and were terrified because they didn't know what was coming, others had been here longer and were terrified because they did know.

By the time a woman with long hair down to her waist, a mini skirt and go go boots he remembered only too well from the sixties, walked in, Dean was up. Spike dociley raised his wrists up to her, gritting his teeth when she roughly undid the metal bracelet then the next one.

Brushing past him, she turned her feral gaze to Dean and suddenly gripped his throat and pushed him against the wall. "Fresh blood. Bet you taste delicious," she said, flashing her teeth at him as she forced a long nail into his flesh.

Wincing as the nail dug in, Dean started to make a snarky comment back to the bitch when he saw Spike's warning look. He ground his teeth and focused on Spike instead of the vampire bitch's eyes. He wanted nothing more than to stare her down and slam a fist into her face. Or to tell her to take off his shackles and get the damned show on the road, but he just kept focused on Spike's blue eyes. He turned his head away from Spike only when he felt her tongue lick across the wound her nail had given him and he forced himself to make his breath hitch, like he was afraid of what else she would do. When she started to suck at the small wound he just couldn't keep his mouth shut any longer.

"Either eat me or unshackle me, Bitch," he growled. He did manage to resist the urge to punch her in the gut even though he knew it wouldn't do anything more than piss her off.

"Is that an invitation?" She practically purred before she bit down on his lip and held it in the grip of her fangs. If she pulled back, it would rip a nice long tear from almost his lip to his chin.

Spike tripped over the cup Dean had left on the ground, cursed as he fell, and grabbed onto her skirt and thigh. The backhand sent him crashing into the wall. Apologizing profusely, he put his hand out for Dean to help him up.

The vamp had let go of his throat and lip when Spike startled her, but Spike paid for that distraction, painfully, and Dean felt a twinge of guilt. He helped Spike to his feet and got the warning glare from hell. He bowed his head and held out his wrists to the woman. "Sorry," he mumbled the apology to her, but really meant it for Spike. It galled the hell out of him to be fucking subservient to demonic-tainted trash like this bitch. If Spike was going to be stupid and take more punishment all because of Dean's smart mouth, he'd curb it. Or try to, at least.

When she freed Dean, she shoved him into Spike and told Spike, "Take your girlfriend to assembly, now."

Spike gripped Dean's hip and shoulder to prevent both of them from falling over. The scent of Dean's blood hit him. He licked his lips and releasing Dean's hip, dragged him out of the cell and walked quickly down the long hall. Most of the cells they passed were empty or were being emptied of humans, but one large cell was filled with women. Pregnant women, and one of them was crying 'not now, not now,' then taking deep breaths.

Dean's eyes widened at seeing all the pregnant women. No. Crap, no! He started toward them, not sure what he was going to do but he had to try to do something dammit! Spike's grip on his wrist was like iron and Spike yanked him back.

"Lemme go, dammit! We can't just--"

"Bloody hell, man, there's nothing you can do," Spike said forcefully, bringing his face into Dean's space. "You get yourself killed, or injured badly, they won't have a chance at rescue. Do you want that? If you do, then have at it," he shook the hunter. "Otherwise play along, live to see another day."

Other people started crowding behind them and Spike started to drag Dean again. At least Dean had gotten his point since he was now moving.

They rounded a corner and there was a line of vampires between them and the way to the stairs leading up to the mansion. They walked past the blocked stairs and went through a narrow door leading to a large chamber with a stage in the middle. Humans sat on chairs around the stage, many scrambling and trying to get seats as far from the stage as possible. Vampires walked between them, meting out unnecessary punishment.

Dean wasn't happy, but Spike was right, God dammit. He looked at the arena-like area, the way people tried to get away from it, and the blood stains on the stage. Fuck. Whatever was going to happen wasn't going to be good. He let Spike drag him to seating on the second row back from the stage. Not too close, but not the desperately far away seats others were trying to get to. Based on what Spike had told him earlier, the location made sense. Not too strong, not too broken.

He watched as vampires started putting IVs in people's arms with an IV adjustable dial that they opened. Blood began to drip very slowly down the tubes. When a vampire reached him, Spike gave him a discreet kick before Dean did any of the number of things that flashed into his mind. He gave Spike an evil glare but kept his mouth shut and let them insert the IV and tape it down.

The vampire gave Dean a once over. "You're new," he said then wrote 'N5' on the bag the IV tubing was connected to. "You try to remove the IV and you'll be the entertainment. Got it, pretty boy?"

"Yeah," Dean said, starting to meet the vampire's eyes, ready to give him a dark glare, but stopped himself. Instead, he turned his eyes to the stage. The lights went out and Dean heard a slight scuffle and a guy sobbing, mixed with blubbering cries of 'No, please!'. The stage lights came on and a guy was standing there, looking scared out of his wits, trembling. A vampire dressed in tight leather pants, leather straps criss-crossing his chest in crazy patterns and looking very much like what Dean figured a guy with a bondage fetish would, walked onto the stage. Cat calls and shouts of encouragement sounded from behind Dean. He turned but couldn't see more than dark outlines of people.

The leather clad guy on stage stretched, flexing his muscles, and said to the terrified man. "Fight or die. You know the deal. Fight good enough, we'll let you live and you'll be safe from being chosen again, at least for a few days."

This was going to be quick, Spike could already tell. He looked at a spot on the wall behind the two men, but couldn't avoid the scene altogether. Anyone who didn't look at the stage was severely punished as an example. The point was that they wanted fear-induced, adrenalin-rich blood, and this ensured they got it.

The fight started off brutally. The vampire stalked the human but didn't bother playing. His hand shot out and initially it looked like he grabbed the guy's hair. One tug, and it was clear the reason the man was shouting wasn't fear alone, but pain. The vampire had gotten his hard as steel nails into the man's scalp and had torn it off so part of it was now hanging from his head as blood poured into the man's eyes and down his shoulders.

Spike's stomach roiled with pity and hunger. He clenched his teeth together and tried not to think of the scent.

Dean wanted to look away but saw what happened to those who did. This was a pale shadow of the things he had been forced to watch in Hell, endured in Hell, but it still brought back those memories and made him want to puke. He wanted to jump onto the stage and try to protect the poor guy, but there were no weapons to fight with, and going up against what he assumed was a vampire, all these vampires bare-handed? Yeah. Suicide.

Dean's nails dug into the arms of the chair as he watched the vampire flay the man, stripping off chunks of skin using his nails. The man was screaming in agony and Dean shut his eyes, the man's screams echoing in his skull mirroring the screams he had screamed, and the screams he had caused. The slap to his face snapped his head sharply to the side.

"Watch!" a vampire yelled at Dean

Out of instinct, Dean was almost ready to go down on his knees and beg forgiveness. He stared at the vampire wide-eyed, for the barest of moments seeing Alastair, and his breath simply locked up. It rushed out of him and a frightened "Yes sir," was out of his mouth before he could prevent it. His gaze returned instantly to the stage and he felt the tremors start in his muscles. I'm not in Hell, I'm not in Hell, I'm not in Hell...he kept repeating to himself.

Dual images warred in his mind, of suffering the sorts of things the man was suffering, and of dishing out the sort of torture the vampire was dishing out. He didn't realize it but he gripped Spike's wrist as if trying to find some sort of grounding in this reality, trying not fall into the tortured memories in his mind.

Spike gave Dean a sidelong look. He looked like a pale shadow of the calm and rebellious hunter who would have taken on the vampire in their cell and all the rest of them to save the pregnant women. It was clear to Spike, who'd been there himself, that Dean was fighting a private battle of his own. This... these games of theirs would take hours. He needed to help this man now.

The deathblow was violent and bloody. The man's body was tossed into the crowd, causing those he fell on to scream in terror even after his body was pulled away and taken out.

Two women, sisters or twins, were shoved onto the stage. They wanted to survive and were putting up a fight, but Spike knew they were already dead. He couldn't do anything for them, but maybe he could do something for Dean who was shaking and appeared to be going into some sort of shock. Spike spoke softly, though he knew any vampire who cared to would hear him. Point was, they could talk, but not look away. Unless they changed the rules today.

"The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though childlike form.

The flames roll'd on...he would not go
Without his father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He call'd aloud..."Say, father, say
If yet my task is done!"
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son."


Spike didn't know why he'd chosen the poem about the brave young boy, a child, who'd stayed at his post on a burning ship during the 1798 battle of the Nile between the Royal British Navy and French fleet. In a stunning show of devotion and duty, the boy had refused to abandon his post because his father, an officer, had not given the order. In Spike's time, the poem by Mrs. Felicia Dorothea Hemans, had been quite popular. Though he doubted Dean would understand more than half of what he said, he knew the rhythm of the words would help. It was how he'd survived imprisonment and mind tricks once.

Dean watched the bloody death of the man, not flinching when the body landed in the crowd and watching as the two women came on stage. He knew their fate would be the same though they would die differently. The same death over and over grew wearisome, boring for the torturer and had less impact for the onlookers. He saw the vampire's nails rip open the belly of one of the women, pulling out entrails through the wound. Distantly he heard words in a British accent whispered to him. Tears began to spill down his cheeks.

"Let me go, tell me I'm done," he whispered softly, practically begging. But he knew it wasn't over, he knew he wasn't done, and he felt like the woman on stage having her guts ripped out. He eased his grip on Spike's wrist and watched the spectacles, one after another, with nearly sightless eyes.

As Dean's fingers slipped off his wrist, Spike gripped Dean's hand and held it tight, wanting him to know he wasn't alone. Hours later, when the IV's were ripped off, he leaned over to Dean and whispered in his ear. "You're done." With that, he helped the hunter up but quickly released him when he saw a certain light enter his eyes.

* * *

The scream tore from his throat as he twisted and writhed on the rack. His skin was peeled off, his entrails pulled out, other demons playing with them as Alastair continued his work. One part of Dean's brain noted that Alastair wasn't very creative today as he suffered through everything done to the people he had watched die on the stage. Though he was screaming in his nightmare he only whimpered softly aloud as if wanting to stay quiet so as not to wake his brother he was certain was sleeping in the next bed.

Spike was used to the muffled cries, they came at him from all directions every time the lights were dimmed to indicate it was time for the humans to sleep. Realizing some of them came from Dean, he crawled over, gripped the hunter's shoulder and shook him. "Wake up. Dean, it's nothing but a dream, mate, open your eyes," he demanded with a stronger shake.

Dean's eyes shot open and he sucked in a breath, the nightmare still so fresh in his mind he wasn't sure where he was for a moment. "I'm fine, Sam. Go back to sleep," he mumbled as he swam toward full consciousness. He frowned as the fact Sam's voice wasn't right and had an accent tickled his brain. He slowly focused on the man staring down at him with worried eyes.

"Spike..." he said, trying to get his brain back in gear. Fuck he needed a drink. "I'm okay, I'm fine," he said, his voice growing stronger as he pushed himself upright, feeling the shackles on his wrists and hearing the chains clink against one another and scrape over the floor. He was anything but alright, but he wouldn't admit to that, except to himself. "Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you. Go on back to sleep," he encouraged. He knew he was definitely done sleeping for the night.

Slapping the bloke's face lightly, Spike answered. "Good." Crawling back, Spike leaned against the bars and brought his knees up.

The lights were still dim, but Dean let his gaze rove over the cell he was in, the cells that lined the basement, and the sleeping forms inside them. He could feel Spike's eyes on him but ignored the man. He finally let his head fall back and just stared at an indistinct spot on the ceiling, fighting with his own demons and trying to forget the nightmare.

After about ten minutes of silence, Spike quietly said, "I'm all ears. Whatever you're dreaming, it can't be worse than this hellhole, yeah?"

At Spike's soft words, a bitter laugh broke from Dean. "This is a vacation spot in Tahiti, Dude," Dean answered. He dropped his gaze from the ceiling and met Spike's eyes. He could see Spike wanted an explanantion for that cryptic comment.

After a long struggle with himself he finally gave a sigh and a wave of his hand. "The...show...they put on, it brought back some memories of a place I was trapped for a long time. I've only been 'free' a couple months." Dean dry scrubbed his face. He debated about saying more. Spike had helped him in the brief time he'd been here, and he knew it was only going to get worse for him. The alcohol was the only thing that had been helping him through it as he tried to numb the pain and guilt. Spike wouldn't believe the truth of course. The whole 'Yeah, sold my soul, went to hell, and after thirty years I got off the rack and started returning the favor until an angel of God pulled the useless piece of crap I am out of the pit.' Spike would figure he was fucking nuts and he wasn't really sure he wasn't. He didn't want Spike to look at him in disgust, to pull back that support he reluctantly admitted he needed. After a moment he added, "I drink. I drink a lot. Only thing that let's me get anything resembling sleep. I'd fucking kill for a bottle of Jack right about now."

Spike listened without comment. He'd been in worse or comparable places before, and he'd been held prisoner many times. But that was during a lifespan of a hundred years. This guy who was probably less than a third of his age had just been freed from one place, only to land in this one? He had to have been born under a bad sign.

He'd smelled like alcohol when he'd been brought in. So it hadn't been an isolated bout of drinking. Right now, Spike could see clear to his soul, the soul of a broken man. Anyone could break in here, but the thing of it was that this place hadn't done it, someplace else, some other predators had done this to Dean. A sense of angry helplessness washed over Spike, maybe because he really had walked in this man's shoes. And maybe it was because of all the glimpses he'd gotten of the other man still inside Dean, the confident and rebellious hunter determined to beat the odds. He was in there too, maybe fighting to surface.

Tugging on the metal chains Spike made his way over to Dean, sat next to him and putting one arm around him, pulled him close so he could rest his head on Spike's shoulder or chest if he wanted. "I'd kill for a drink myself," he said, shifting his mind with iron determination away from the sound of the hunter's steady pulse.

When Spike put him arm around his shoulder and pulled him close, Dean twisted his head and looked at him with surprise. He didn't know if Spike was offering him comfort or comfort.

"Dude, I so don't swing that way," he said, but forced a light and teasing tone, giving a smirk so as not to offend the man, whatever his intentions had been. He grasped Spike's hand and used it to gently pull his arm off his shoulder. "I 'ppreciate it, Spike, I do, but touchy-feely isn't me. Neither is chick-flick." He twisted a bit and squeezed Spike's shoulder. "I'm fine, Dude. Really. It was just a nightmare."

Spike gave what could pass for a smile or a 'huh,' but didn't comment. It wasn't as if he was surprised.

Pushing himself to his feet, Dean got up and pissed again. They'd given everyone a shitload of water and orange juice after the 'show.' The orange juice had burned like a bitch in the wound the vampire had given his lip but he drank it without complaint. Spike told him they'd be fed after they slept since most people couldn't eat after the show. Dean had grumbled he wasn't most people and was fucking starved. Although he wanted to pace, Dean didn't want Spike to think his gesture had freaked him or something so he settled back down on the floor beside Spike. His stomach growled again.

"Food might be good but what comes after's a bit of a bugger." Spike stole a glance at Dean, then rubbed the back of his own neck. "Unless you like cold water."

"Well I wish they'd feed us already," Dean said. He couldn't remember the last time he ate. "Cold water?" Dean asked. "...I'm assuming you're not talking about cold water to drink."

"Shower. Bloody pressurized hose. When they start, you might want to take your clothes off." Feeling Dean's gaze, he shook his head. "Don't flatter yourself, yeah?"

"I don't have to. All the ladies do it for me," Dean said with a smirk. "Yeah, don't think I want to sit down here with soaked clothes. I'm betting 'I have a pneumonia' wouldn't be a good excuse to avoid the 'show.' Probably make you go to the front of the line as the entertainment." Dean was silent a minute then said, "I've seen some of the vamps wearing jewelry, pins and crap. If we can snag something like that, I can probably use it to pick the locks, so long as the metal isn't too brittle."

"I'll keep a look out. If they didn't come down here in hoards, we could take the key off one of them. Only time there's fewer than what you saw is when they bring the..." Right, there was no need to protect Dean from the information, Dean would find out anyway. "Sometimes they whore people out and it's one-on-one. Blood. Sex. Rough play. But then we're chained. They've thought it all through."

Dean stared at Spike a moment. Flashbacks of the abuses he had suffered in Hell sprang into his mind. He'd been raped so many times...Shaking himself out of the memories he nodded grimly. "Yeah, I'm not surprised. Kinda goes along with the whole demonic torture theme they're mastering. Still, all hazy with sex makes 'em sloppy. Better chance to grab something unnoticed, unless we're chained up too tight to have a hope of grabbing something?"

"Haven't had that pleasure yet. It's good being at the end of the cells, they usually end up picking people in the cells at the beginning. No patience," he shrugged. "I don't think people are chained up any tighter but I haven't heard anything good that would make me hope one of us is chosen. Unless it's for a blood donation. They seem to pick blood dolls within a few hours of the assemblies, when they're offering us up."

"You do what you gotta do to survive," Dean said darkly. "If getting bit, hit and fucked means I lay my hands on something to pick these locks, it's nothing that hasn't happened to me before."

"If you get your hands on something," Spike nodded. "But it's the twenty first century, and in case you haven't noticed, no one's walking around with hatpins, and there aren't that many wearing broaches. Chances are, all you'll be getting is bit, hit and fucked." He banged the back of his head against the wall. "At one of the assemblies, they had barbed wire on the ground and around the ring. Maybe we could get a piece of it if they use it again, and I get picked." He hoped, with a bit more strength, he'd be able to break off a piece.

"Maybe no hatpins, Dude, but some of the punksters have safety pins. I saw one with a metal wire bracelet that was thin enough to use. A couple of the women have hoop earrings. The buckle on a watch band might work, though usually those are too cheap and the metal will break when you try to bend it open. You just have to keep an open mind." Looking at Spike he shook his head. "You getting picked isn't a good option. Not after what I saw in the ring tonight. What were they doing, thinning out the herd? I didn't see any walk away from that ring alive. And if they did use barbed wire, how the hell are you going to get a piece? Gnaw it off with your teeth?" He looked at Spike, giving him his best older brother look. "Don't get stupid and volunteer yourself up. I'm not walking out of here without you."

"I knew you cared. Don't worry, you have your ways, I have mine," he gave a smug smile. "And I've been picked before. It's not always a 'to the death' deal. Not that it was..." He looked down. "After I made it through the course they'd set up, they had me pick... Pick the next victim or it's the entire row, they said."

His moment of triumph had taken a turn straight to hell.

"You gotta do what you gotta do. Wasn't your fault, Spike," Dean said emphatically. "Just another way to mindfuck you. They really have it down to a science, the bastards. You'd think they'd been to Hell and back. Maybe there's a real demon in the mix," he added, glaring at the ceiling. "Wish I could remember a full exorcism rite to test that theory. I'm not good past a couple lines without a book usually." He shrugged. "Always left that to my brother, the one with more trivia locked in his brain than beer in a brothel." After a pause he asked, "So when do they start choosing the victims? You seen any rhyme or reason as to who they choose?"

"Depends on the game, and there's no pattern to that. We'll find something," he patted Dean's shoulder and stood up to stretch. "You're in luck. Food's coming." He could smell it and he'd heard the sound of a pushcart from a distance.

Dean perked up at the thought of food. "About damned time. I hope it's not crap, though I'm about ready to eat shoe leather at this point." His stomach growled loudly as if in agreement.

"If you close your eyes, it tastes like steak and potatoes. And marmite," he added with just a touch of malice. The sound of metal clinking increased as more and more prisoners woke and accepted their food and water and began another day of their miserable existence.

Dean gave him a sidelong glance. What the hell was marmite?

The pushcart reached their cell and a fledgling walked in. Spike gave him a second look. "Switched sides, did you."

"Shut the fuck up." The guy didn't look into Spike's eyes as he put two bowls on the ground and tossed a bread roll on top of each. He started to pour water into two plastic cups. "Put the old ones on the bottom of the cart," he snapped.

Spike put his hand out for Dean to give him the old cup, then tossed it into the cart. He knew Dean was checking the guy out too, for anything that might be useful, but they were out of luck. "How's your wife?" It only dawned on Spike now that he hadn't seen the mousy haired woman with the brilliant blue eyes yesterday at the assembly. Sensing the fledgling's rising anger, he asked again. "Are you going to let them do what they want with her? Kill--"

The fledgling grabbed his throat and had him pushed up against the bars. It took everything Spike had to prevent himself from trying to fight back. "Michelle, that's her..."

The fledgling's eyes glittered with anger and emotions as he pressed harder.

Giving a fake cough, Spike waited for the pressure to be reduced. "Already gone, is she."

"I killed her, and I will kill you--"

"Andy!"

The fledgling immediately let go and started to push the cart out.

"You'll never forget it, you know." Spike rubbed his throat. "The weight of it will be with you always, unless--" This time it was an unexpected punch in the jaw. Rubbing it, he remained silent until the guy left. "So much for trying to create an ally..."

"Real way you've got with people there, Spike. Sam's puppy-dog eyes of doom could have probably--" Dean immediately shut his mouth. He didn't want to think about Sam. If Sam figured out where Dean was and tried to rescue him, for the number of vamps in this place, he'd get killed trying.

Dean grabbed his bowl of food and sat down, his back against the bars. He lifted the bread off the top and wrinkled his nose. Glop. Brown glop with stringy green stuff and other undefinable chunks of food. Surprisingly, there was plastic spoon, though if Dean thought about it, the vamps probably wanted to keep their 'cattle' healthy. He tentatively took a scoopful of the food, and tasted it. He gave something of a shrug. It wasn't great, the gravy was fatty as hell, but there were potatoes or potato-like somethings in there, the green slime he figured out was spinach--made sense, high in iron--some other veggies he wasn't sure what they were and meat that he thought were cheap cuts of beef. Red meat, more high iron stuff. It was edible and he was hungry. Not like the vamps were going to poison him on anything, though he bit down on something that he quickly decided was a pill. Probably vitamins thrown in. Like rolling a pill in a piece of meat for a dog.

After finishing off the bowl, he turned to the roll. It was little chewy, but again, not the worst he had ever had, not by a long shot. He used it to scrape out the bowl. No matter how bad it tasted, Dean probably would have eaten it. If he was going to get himself the hell out of here, he needed his strength and the constant blood letting was going to quickly steal that away.

He looked over at Spike. "So what's marmite?" he asked around a mouthful of roll.

Pushing the food around in the bowl and giving Dean a disgusted look for how quickly he'd eaten what even the vampire knew wasn't appetizing, he answered. "It's like vegemite, only it's British. I was hoping to disgust you, but after seeing you eat this..." he raised his bowl, "I'd have to take it up a few hundred notches. Have mine, will you?" He was sitting again, so he shoved the bowl across the floor and then made as if to sip on his water.

Dean gave him a scowl. "Dude, it tastes like ass, but it's food, which means it's energy and energy is what you're going to need when we bust out of here. Eat it." He slid the bowl back toward Spike, but Spike shoved it right back in front of him.

Fuck it. He was hungry. If the other hunter wanted to be an idiot, there wasn't anything Dean could do shy of force-feeding him. He began on Spike's dinner, noting it seemed to taste worse with time. Food he reminded himself and forced the rest of it down. He ate the roll too, but didn't scrape the bowl clean like he had with his own. Slowly sipping the water, he sloshed it around in his mouth to get rid of the foul taste of dinner, though the roll had sort of helped with that. After drinking half of it down, he remembered Spike said they'd get their 'shower' soon. Spike had water when Dean woke up which meant they'd get more water because these flimsy cups wouldn't withstand a pressurized hose. Recalling that, he finished off his water.

Burping, he rubbed his stomach. Felt kinda like a lead weight sitting in there but it was better than nothing. He'd wait to take a shit until they almost reached them with the hose, that way the cell would stay clean and he could wash up. "Do they take blood from us every night? Seems like it would put us into the useless category pretty damned fast if they didn't give us a few days between the bloodletting."

Spike had lost his sense of time. "I'm not sure, it feels like we're on a less than 24 hour clock. Some 'cycles,' not everyone is taken to assembly. But that hasn't happened often so I don't think we get that many breaks. People die or are killed all the time, they don't care about making us last, yeah?" From a business perspective, he could see Dean's point, but the vampires they were dealing with were arrogant, uncaring, and slightly off. He frowned. "They must take their own drugs. I'm guessing here but they're not just evil, there's more to it than that." Unable to put his finger on it, he mused out loud, "We could make crosses out of the legs of the chairs in the assembly room." Naturally, he meant Dean could.

"Then they have to be bringing people in from more than just Pleasant, Tennessee. They can't keep up this volume without drawing attention." Suddenly what Spike said about crosses made Dean look at him. "What the fuck are you talking about? Making crosses? I thought you said you were a vampire hunter. You know none of that Hollywood shit works on vamps, not daylight, holy water, stake through the heart, crosses, none of it. Beheading is the only thing that takes them down." Dean tilted his head and his eyes softened a little. "Did you lose someone? Come after them? Thought you knew all the lore and found out you were wrong?"

"Don't be a bloody idiot," Spike gripped one of the bars and stared at Dean. "I thought you were a hunter. Crosses work, not little tiny ones on a chain, but big ones." Or micro ones floating in your bloodstream, those seemed to work too bleeding good. "And a stake to the heart turns them to ash. It's easier taking them out that way than by beheading." Everything about the man screamed 'hunter' and yet... vampires walking in the sun, ha! Only if they got their humanity back, and as far as Spike knew, it wasn't possible. "What is a Brugala? And how do you kill it?"

"Crosses don't work! Hell, the nest I went after and took out with my family? The head vampire's chick had a silver cross big as shit around her neck. They don't like the sun, but they sure as hell can walk in it if they want. Vampires don't turn to ash, just a messy headless body. And if you haven't noticed, they don't exactly have fangs like good old Dracula. It's all crap!" Dean said, his voice rising a little. "I've never heard of a Brugala or gone up against one, so I don't know. Wendigos, fire. Ghouls, headshots. Werewolves, silver bullets. Zombies, stake em in their coffin, though silver slows them down a bit. Shtrigas, consecrated iron rounds but you can only kill them when they're feeding," Dean ticked off. "So let's go with an easy one for you. How do you get rid of a ghost?"

Spike couldn't believe what he was hearing, but he did know some of the entities Dean was spewing about and his answers as to those were right. "You're testing me?" he sneered. "Listen you, I've got..." he strode toward Dean but one of the chains leading to his shackles was tangled and held him back. Cursing as he tugged it free, he calmed down. It wasn't like he could announce he knew what he was talking about because he was a vampire and had about seventy years experience on Dean. "Ghost." He sighed. "If its not causing any trouble, you leave it alone. If its angry or whiny, then you figure out what its unresolved issues are, fix them, and they're off. Or you exorcise them, if you feel it's an evil ghost. Right, you satisfied now?"

"You have got to be shitting me. Exorcisms are for demons. You salt and burn their bones or any remains. If you can't do that, you get creative. You don't play patty-cake with 'em!"

"Well maybe you're not as charming as you think, so they don't play with you. How long did you say you've been doing this? Don't bloody tell me for the months you've been free," he said, giving Dean another look.

"All my life," Dean snapped. "Since I was four and a demon killed my mother, my dad raised me and Sam to be hunters. I killed my first werewolf when I was sixteen. How long have you been doing it?" he challenged.

"Longer than you," Spike snapped right back. Alright, so a greater part of his hunting practice had been hunting humans and slayers, but he'd always fought demons too, so technically, he didn't have to admit he'd only switched sides in the last decade and a half. "Let's just say we have different methods, then."

Dean's nostrils flared. The man didn't look any older than he was but he wasn't going to argue that or point it out. "Fine," Dean said tightly. "Maybe it's different in England, but I'm right about these vamps. Maybe you have gone up against Dracula type vamps. Maybe there's more than one breed. But I know this type, I've gone up against them before. The lore is wrong when it comes to them. The only way to take them down is beheading. Nothing else fazes them, nothing else works."

"Maybe." There was only one way to know. "We'll find out soon enough."

Dean nodded. "Yeah, we will. And you're gonna owe me a steak dinner when you find out I'm right."
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