A/N: Thank you so to Woman of Letters for helping me with this story. If you want to check out an awesome story, read her The Hardest Thing Is Living. I know you will love it!
“Cover each other’s asses, ok. And watch your ammo, you run out before I’m done and they’ll rip you to shreds. Ready?” Bobby barked out the orders. They were in the basement preparing to exit the safe room, loaded down with every ghost-repelling weapon they had. Dean led the way, followed by Sam and Buffy, Bobby covering them from the rear. The house was quiet, but Buffy could feel an uneasy tingle in her belly.
“Hey, Dean. You remember me?” On top of the basement stairs, Buffy could see a young man blocking their way out. He appeared to be in his twenties, overweight and with a mop of dark, curly hair.
“Ronald, huh? With the laser eyes? Wish I could say it’s good to see you,” Dean addressed him casually but Buffy could see the tension and flash of regret that crossed his face. The ghost stood up and began to shout, his rage overflowing at the hunter's remarks.
“I am dead because of you. You were supposed to help me!”
Suddenly, the loud crack of a shotgun blast shattered the air, and the ghost disappeared.
“If you’re gonna shoot, shoot. Don’t talk,” Bobby grumbled at them as he pushed his way through and mounted the stairs. Buffy looked between the two men at her sides and the three of them shared an amused look before they followed him.
Dean stole a glance at the Slayer as they made their way into the library. Gone was the bubbly, laughing girl he had seen when they had eaten steaks in Bobby’s kitchen. Her face was deadly serious, her movement precise and stealthy. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that he was a little turned on. Needing something to do besides stare, he knelt down and started working on getting the fire built up in the fireplace. Sam had picked up a bag of salt and was creating a protective circle around the fireplace and the table where Bobby was going to be working the spell. Bobby was busy preparing for the spell that would put the souls of the ghosts back to rest. Buffy was armed with a shotgun in her hands and the scythe was hanging from her side, blade protected by a leather sleeve.
“Upstairs linen closet- red hex box. It’ll be heavy,” Bobby said to Buffy, who nodded her head and took off toward the set of stairs that lead to the second story. Dean watched her go and when he turned his head, he saw Bobby watching him, a knowing look on his face. The next instant two young girls appeared, just outside the salt line.
“Bobby!” Dean shouted in warning, but Sam had already pulled his gun and fired two shots. Bobby gave them both a nod of thanks and pointed to the left, towards the kitchen.
“Somebody go to the kitchen. Knife drawer, there’s a false bottom. Get me hemlock, opium and wormwood.” Dean stood and started walking to the other room but turned around. “Opium? Something you want to tell us, Bobby?"
“Go, you dunderhead!"
Buffy found the linen closet easily enough. It was in the hallway, across from the guest bathroom. Standing between her and the closet, though, was the form of Rupert Giles. Hostility was etched deeply in his face, the paternal love from his bespectacled eyes gone. With a painful sense of guilt, she raised the shotgun and pulled the trigger. She watched as the apparition flickered out and disappeared, memories heavy on her heart.
In the corner, on the floor of the closet, lay the hex box. Buffy picked it up, not bothered by the weight at all. She turned around and found herself face to face with the ghost of a young woman she didn't know. Anger and hatred flashed in the ghost’s eyes as she stared at her. Buffy stood still and waited. The shotgun lay at her feet, discarded for the moment, set down when she had taken the box.
"It's not fair. He tried to save you. But me? He just let me fall three stories out that window. Why are you so special, huh?" Buffy subtly shifted the weight of the box to her left hand and laid her right hand on the handle of the scythe. The ghost must have seen her intentions though, because she launched herself at the smaller, blonde woman. Buffy ducked and wrenched the scythe free from the leather casing. She swung the weapon but missed. The unknown woman was coming at her again and this time, Buffy’s strike hit true. The blade went right through the ghost and she disappeared. Buffy picked up the shotgun, holding it in the crook of her arm, and started on her way back to Bobby. The ghost appeared before her again and slammed the Slayer into the wall, hard enough to dent the sheetrock.
“You don’t know what kind of monster he is. He just watched as I suffered and he did nothing! I didn’t deserve to die.” She was crazed, Buffy could see that now. Madness was the only thing in her eyes as the two women wrestled on the floor.
Buffy managed to get the hex box out of the way as she went down with the crazed ghost. The box skidded along the wood floor, but seemed to be undamaged. The shotgun was still in her hands, and for once, she was grateful to have a firearm. She brought the butt-stock up and slammed it into the side of her opponent's head, buying herself time. Rolling out of the way, she cocked the gun and shot. The blast shattered the ghost into a wispy oblivion. Buffy grabbed the box and ran back downstairs. They needed to end this, now.
Dean yanked hard on the drawer, sending silver utensils clattering to the ground. Without even a second thought, Dean dumped the remaining contents on the floor, searching for its hidden compartment. He jumped when the kitchen door slammed shut on its own, and cursed under his breath.
"Dean?" Sam called out to his brother.
"I'm alright, Sammy. Just keep watch over Bobby," Dean ordered. He went back to the drawer but couldn't find the false bottom. With a frustrated huff, he pulled out the next drawer but stopped when he felt the sudden chill of the air around him. Henriksen was beside him when he turned, the former agent arrogant as ever.
“I know,” Dean said, trying to placate the ghost.
With a sad shake of his, Henriksen stepped closer. “No. You don’t know.”
“It’s my fault you’re dead. I left you behind. And the minute I heard about that explosion, I thought, ‘I should have known.’ I should have protected you.” While he had been talking, Dean had tried to position himself closer to the gun on the counter. He grabbed it but before he could fire, it went flying out of his hands and across the room.
“Not so fast, Dean. You think you ran and Lilith came and we all died in a beautiful, peaceful blast of white light? If only. Forty-five minutes.”
“What?” Dean was shocked. While he hadn’t given much thought to the guy, what with all the crap that was his life, he had never thought that any of them had really suffered. He didn’t know if he should believe him now, either.
“Over forty-five minutes. Lilith said she wanted to have some... fun. Remember Nancy, the virgin? We had to watch as she had her skin filleted off her, piece by piece. She never stopped screaming. You think one little ‘I’m sorry’ is going to fix that?”
“No.” Shame washed over him. He should have been able to protect them. Hell, they thought they were protecting them, leaving them. Lilith hadn’t wanted them, only him and Sam.
“You think if I fillet the skin off that pretty, little Slayer and make you watch, you think that would make us even, Dean?” Henriksen said. “Tell me how this is fair? You get brought back from Hell-- and I die. Why do you deserve so many fucking chances? Maybe, I should just rip your heart out, instead." Henriksen lunged for him and the two men collided together. Henriksen’s right hand was just above his heart, the fingertips gouging into his flesh. Dean pushed him off and kicked, sending him back several feet. He took off, trying to get to the fallen gun but Sam burst through the kitchen door. He fired two rounds, each one landing in the former agent's chest. Dean let out a sigh of relief and thanked his brother.
"Get the stuff and let's go, I don't like leaving Bobby in there by himself," Sam said as Dean removed the correct drawer and retrieved the needed items. A noise to the other side of the house drew both of their attentions, making them draw their guns. Buffy emerged, big red case in hand. The three of them went back to the library. Bobby looked up at their entrance, his lips moving quickly as he read the words of the spell in Latin. They had just made it into the protective circle when the lights in house began to flicker wildly. The window on the far side of the room blew open and filled the room with a chilling, unnatural wind, breaking their salt line.
As if on cue, the room filled with ghosts. There were seven spirits, at least, that Buffy counted. The three of them were armed with the shotguns, extras on the table beside them. The fat man from the basement appeared right in front of Dean, looking at him hungrily.
“Come on, man. Don’t look at me like that, Ronald,” Dean said as he reloaded his shotgun. Buffy looked back at Bobby, who was working furiously, mixing and grinding ingredients. The odds were almost two-to-one. She knew the guys would be using the shotguns, but she felt like she would do best hand-to-hand. Grabbing one of the iron rods from the table, she waited to see who would attack first.
“I am going to eat you alive.” The group of ghosts were starting to move closer. Buffy could see Giles and Kendra, their hate-filled eyes boring into her.
“I’m not a cheeseburger,” Dean said, bringing up the gun and shooting. Buffy launched herself at her mentor and friend the moment he pulled the trigger. The iron rod ripped through and dispelled them. They reappeared moments later, but Buffy continued, never giving them time to stay solid for long.
Sam and Dean were almost out of ammunition, every shot counting as they defended Bobby from the brutal attacks. Dean tried to keep Buffy in his sights to make sure she didn't get overwhelmed. She had gone into full Slayer mode, taking on two to three ghosts at once with a grace and skill that awed him.
He must have been watching for too long though. Henriksen got too close and knocked the gun that he was reloading out of his hands. Seizing another from the table, he pointed and pulled the trigger. It was empty. Quickly discarding that one as well, he grabbed one of the iron rods and hit the agent as hard as he could. Dean looked up, just in time to see Sam slammed into the wall and pinned there with a heavy, wooden desk by Meg.
“Sam!” Dean rushed over to his brother and tried to move the firmly lodged furniture.
“Cover Bobby!” Sam yelled at his brother. Meg had just appeared behind the older hunter. Dean abandoned the fight to free his brother and ran to help the other man, knowing he wasn’t in the same immediate danger that Bobby was. But the ghost was quicker and plunged her hand into Bobby’s back, a throaty groan leaving him as he dropped the bowl that was in his hands.
“Bobby!” Buffy had run to Sam, extracting him from his pinned position against the wall, when she saw what was happening. Dean was fast, though, and caught the bowl Bobby had dropped before it could fall from the table onto the floor.
"Fireplace!" Bobby cried out and pointed. Dean threw the bowl into the flames, which rose up to consume the contents with a fiery boom.
As quickly as it happened, the ghosts vanished. Dean was the first one to reach Bobby, helping him to stand. All around them, silence. Buffy heaved a sigh of relief. The spell had worked; her stomach was no longer tied in knots. But somehow, she knew it was just the beginning.
The house was quiet and dark. Dean lay on the couch, trying to get some sleep. He should have been tired, it had been one hell of a day. But sitting there, in the dark of the night, on Bobby's old, lumpy couch, he only had one thing on his mind.
Buffy was leaving tomorrow, going back to her home in L.A. He wanted to be happy about that; she wouldn't be anywhere near him, tempting him to want things that could never be. The other part of him, though, wanted her more than he had ever wanted any other woman in his life. And that scared the ever-living shit out of him.
The lights in the old farmhouse kitchen came on suddenly, illuminating a figure darkening the doorway to the kitchen. Dean sat up, instantly alert, and saw that it was the angel, Castiel. He leaned forward and looked over to Sam, who appeared to be sleeping. Glad to catch a break for once, he rose out of bed and made his way to the kitchen, wooden planks of the floor creaking under his weight.
“Excellent job with the witnesses,” Castiel said, his voice rough but emotionless. Dressed in the same tax accountant suit and trench coat, he was standing in front of Dean, hands hanging awkwardly at his sides as though he didn't know quite what to do with them. The dim lighting of the kitchen was casting eerie shadows around the contours of his face. Dean recalled the warehouse, the glimpse of shadowed wings burned into his mind.
“Yeah? Were you hip to all this, huh?” Dean asked, anger making the words clipped and harsh. He didn’t need the approval of this douchebag, or anyone else.
“I was, uh, made aware of it, yes,” The angel replied, choosing his words with thought. Dean wasn’t sure, but there was an undercurrent of...disapproval maybe, in his tone.
“Well, thanks for the angelic assistance today. Bobby almost had his heart ripped out.”
“But he didn’t.” The words were just a matter of fact, like the sky was blue, not meant to soothe him.
“What about those other hunters, huh? You think they feel the same way? You winged dillholes could have told us what was happening and we could have saved them before they were murdered. Or better yet, you could have prevented the whole damn thing. Where the hell is your boss? If there even is a God.”
“There is a God.” The words came out forcibly, with an absolute conviction that Dean did not understand.
"I'm not convinced. 'Cause if there's a God, what the hell is He waiting for, huh? Genocide? Monsters roaming the earth? The freaking apocalypse? At what point does He lift a damn finger and help the poor bastards that are stuck down here?"
"The Lord works..."
"If you say ‘mysterious ways,’ so help me, I will kick your ass,” Dean said, interrupting before he became even more pissed. “So, Bobby was right... about the witnesses. This is some kind of a... sign of the apocalypse."
"Where is the Slayer?" The sudden interest in Buffy made him instinctively defensive, his body rigid. The need to protect her rose to the surface.
"Buffy? What the hell do you want with her?"
"I need to speak with her, with both of you."
"Do I want to know why?" Buffy said as she entered the room quietly. She was dressed in a small pair of black stretch shorts and tank top. Dean couldn't help but let his eyes wander over her body. Damn, no bra. Was she trying to kill him?
"I sincerely doubt it, but you need to know. The rising of the witnesses is one of the 66 seals." Dean turned back to Castiel when he heard him speak. The angel, though, was watching Buffy, annoyance in his eyes.
"Please tell me that is the next boy band about to sweep the world with their non-threatening good looks and two-part harmonies, " Buffy said.
"No," the angel said seriously. "Lilith is the one breaking the seals."
"You're saying Lilith the-hell-bitch is the one who did that spell? She rose the witnesses," said Dean. Buffy sat on the counter, bare feet dangling, and looked at him, quietly assessing. He was dressed in a simple black t-shirt and boxers, hair mussed from the hours spent on the lumpy couch. He was still drop-dead gorgeous .
"Yes. And not just here. Twenty other hunters are dead." The words were spoken without a hint a remorse and Buffy felt a white-hot surge of anger at the Heavenly intruder. Those people didn't deserve to die. Who knew angels were such... dicks.
"We stopped them, though, put the souls back to rest," Dean said. He had seen the flash of anger and disgust that crossed her face and couldn't help but agree.
"It doesn't matter. The seal was still broken."
"Why break the seals? What's the payoff there?" Buffy asked, rummaging through the cabinet next to her to find something to snack on. She hit the jackpot with a box of girl scout cookies. Mmm, thin mints.
"Think of the seals as locks on a door."
"Ok. What happens when the last one opens?" The words were spoken around a mouth full of cookie. Buffy swallowed and offered some to Dean, who passed. She waved the sleeve of treats enticingly under the angel's nose, but he paid her no heed.
"Lucifer walks free. That cannot be allowed to happen."
“The Devil? We have to stop psycho bitch from releasing the Devil?! Are you freaking shitting me?” Dean exclaimed. This was too much. Why the hell was all this up to him?
“I do not understand what you mean by ‘shitting’ you,” the angel said, clearly confused. Dean let out an exasperated sigh.
“Why aren’t you angels types on top of this? Isn’t this something you could possible get off your little, fluffy clouds for?”
“We tried. And there are other battles, other seals. Some we'll win, some we'll lose. This one we lost. Our numbers are not unlimited. Six of my brothers died in the field this week. You think the armies of Heaven should just follow you around? There's a bigger picture here.”
“Yeah? Why don’t you tell us what that is?”
“You are the only ones who can stop Lilith from setting Lucifer free upon the earth.”