It’s amazing how people see what they want to see; how the average man or woman will rearrange their memories, shaving off a fact here, a smidgeon of reality there just to make their lives neat and tidy and explainable. Sam and Dean have watched it all their lives; people justifying, explaining what can’t be explained, making excuses for it, dismissing the whispered warning and the hardwired shiver that races down their spines. But even after a lifetime of seeing it in action, it still somehow surprises Sam when people don’t question Spike’s obvious hellhound qualities. At all. It’s just…weird. People see Spike’s demony red eyes and comment on the cute little albino puppy; or in the waitress in Barlope’s case the ‘cutey whootey wittle doggy’ which…dude. Sam’s still thinking she made a pretty strong case for possession. But Dean, who talked her into comping their lunch, and then talked her into comping her body in the back storage room, swears up and down that she was not possessed and that hell yeah he would know.
But it’s like that wherever they go (except for the comments usually coming in a less gag-worthy form). Like the guy in Gallatin who witnesses Spike peeing against a bush, the subsequent smoldering demise of said bush, and then proceeds to hand Sam a card, an expression of sincere concern on his earnest, clean cut features, “Yeah my dog had a ph balance problem with his urine too. I took him to my vet—here’s his card—and with a special diet it cleared right up in just a few weeks.” At that point, what could Sam do but politely thank the man, take the card and assure him he’d check into it right away.
So, while Sam can only shake his head at this reminder of just how willing people are to plant ‘normal’ on the obviously not, it’s a huge relief as well, easing the worry they’d both had about how to explain Spike’s more hell houndy qualities to people. Of course, odds are people will become less gullible as Spike grows larger. It’s a lot easier to dismiss 14 lbs of red-eyed, tail wagging cuteness then it is 200 lbs of red-eyed, tail wagging scary muscle mass. But Sam’ll worry about that later.
‘Cause right now? He’s more worried about Dean and his brother’s current determination to bring Spike into the Winchester family business.
“He’s just a puppy Dean,” Sam objects…again, as he watches his brother in exasperation.
Dean looks up at Sam, his own face determined. “Spike’s old enough to get some training, Sammy. You agreed.”
“Uh, yeah, training as in…potty training and stay and sit and…Jesus, I don’t know…roll over,” Sam shoots back. “Not training as in attack and rend this monster limb from limb.”
Dean scowls as he looks down at Spike who’s currently craning his furry neck to sniff at a dandelion that’s taller than he is. “Spike’s a hellhound; a natural predator. Fighting should come natural to him.” The brothers both watch as Spike decides to eat the dandelion with cheerful enthusiasm and then falls into a sneezing fit, his furry little body shaking with the force of each explosive sneeze.
“Uh huh,” Sam says skeptically.
“It’s there,” Dean insists seriously, firmly stomping down the urge to smile at Spike’s baffled expression before the puppy reaches down to rub his itchy nose forcefully against the grassy floor.
“Well, first of all, I believe Spike’s an un-natural predator,” Sam points out, biting back a laugh at Dean’s narrow-eyed ‘bite me’ expression. “And second, dude, come on,” he points down to the object of their discussion who has now moved on to snuffling at a caterpillar, stubby tail whipping back and forth in happy glee. “Spike is not your normal evil, scary hell hound. Which, hello, we should be happy about,” Sam points out. “Since if he was a normal” (to Dean’s disgust Sam actually does air quotes), “hell hound we’d have had to kill him like we did his littermates.”
Dean just shakes his head and Sam frowns at Dean’s ‘I am more stubborn than you’ expression. Hell. Nine time out of ten Sam can out-stubborn Dean. His older brother’s a little too used to taking care of, and therefore giving in to, Sam. But once in awhile Dean gets set on something and then nothing, not Sam, God, the Devil, or even John Winchester himself can sway him from his course. But he’s still going to try.
“Come on Dean, he’s just a puppy. Even if Spike could learn to fight, he’s too little right now.”
Dean just shakes his head at Sam’s impeccable logic. “I’m not saying Spike’s going to be able to take down a werewolf tomorrow Sammy. But he needs to start learning now. Like Dad started teaching us as soon as we were old enough.”
Sam rolls his eyes. “Dean, Dad wasn’t teaching us how to handle a knife when we were two. He was teaching us how to go potty.”
“Uh, actually I was teaching you,” Dean points out, mouth widening into a smirk. “And dude, you were amazingly bad at it. In fact it took you for freaking ever.”
This earns Dean a narrow eyed glare. “My point, dipwad, is that Spike is a baby. And you can’t teach a baby how to hunt.”
Dean rewards this statement with a dismissive wave and Sam can only roll his eyes again at the shooing motion. “If you’re not gonna help me here Sammy, just get out of my way.”
With a huff of annoyance, Sam gives up, leans down to pat the cheerfully red-eyed Spike on his fuzzy, tufted black head and then ambles over to the side of the clearing to watch Dean fail.
Spike pauses in his investigation of the funny crawling thing and listens to his pack mates argue. It scared him at first, the arguing; it made him whimper and cringe and bury his face in the soft blanket Sam gave him for his very own. But it doesn’t scare Spike anymore. Because Spike knows they’re not using real ‘angry’ or ‘very angry’ or ‘you are about to die’ barks. Spike knows these barks from the bad time; from ‘before’. But, no, Spike has come to realize this is just the way his new pack mates are. They like to play growl at each other. Sam or Dean will bark a pretend mean bark and then the other will growl, grrrr, but it’s a pretend growl. And then Dean or Sam will use sar-casm and bark more play barks at each other like the ‘dude’ bark or the ‘dumb-ass’ bark or sometimes the ‘bitch’ bark; Dean really likes the ‘bitch’ bark!
And Spike is proud of himself because he is learning them all. His brain is clever and he wants to know, wants to understand everything Sam and Dean say. It was hard at first, because the barks Sam and Dean make are so different and Spike can’t make them himself even though he really, really tries. But Spike is smart! He’s learning. Even if Sam and Dean use so many barks that sometimes it makes Spike’s brain hurt.
So Spike knows these barks aren’t bad, mean, real growls. They’re pretend growls. And Spike knows Sam and Dean are only ‘playing’ and that their barks won’t be followed by bad shit (Dean likes this phrase too!) like blood and pain and fear. They will be followed by more ‘dude’ and ‘dumb-ass’ barks and Spike will still get hugged by Sam and will still get his nose rubbed by Dean when they’re all done playing.
Spike turns his attention back to the crawling thing again as he thinks of ‘before’. ‘Before’ was a fucking (Spike learns lots of cool words from Dean!) bad time. ‘Before’ was fear and hunger and hiding from everything in his world. There were his litter mates who somehow knew he was different and weak. There was his mother with her big ass teeth which snapped and growled. And the Master, the one who was Sam and Dean shaped but who smelled like rot and dead things. The Master was one mean-assed son of a bitch, Spike thinks. The Master used to pick Spike and his litter mates up to examine them and each time the master did this, Spike feared that this time he would be thrown into the angry fire instead of back down to the hard, bruising floor. ‘Before’, to Spike, the world was fear and hunger and hiding.
But then Sam had come (Sam!). Sam, with his gentle touch and soothing words and cradling hands who taught Spike for the first time ever what ‘safe’ was. Sam taught Spike about fun and happy and safe. Sam taught Spike love.
Dean was different from Sam; harder and colder and at first Spike had been wary of this new packmate. But even if Dean growled a lot, he didn’t hit and Spike slowly began to feel safe with Dean too. And then the day came when Spike accident-ally hurt their fourth pack mate. The one Dean called ‘baby’ and Sam called ‘car’. Dean had been very, very angry. He had growled very, very hard. And Spike had cowered and waited for Dean to punish him. But Dean hadn’t! Instead he had done a very important thing. Dean had named him. Dean had named him Spike. And now Spike has his name and his pack and he isn’t alone or afraid. Spike knows what happy is. And he knows what love is. Love is Sam and Dean.
Spike looks up at Dean and Sam now and sees Sam do the strange rolling of his eyes that he does to Dean a lot and then walk away. Spike starts to follow, panting happily. He gets to play with Sam now! But Dean speaks sharply and shakes his head and Spike pauses and cocks his head, looking back to study Dean.
“Stay here,” Dean says firmly.
Spike pauses and considers. He really wants to see what Sam is doing over there. But…he sits. Dean wants him to stay. So he’ll stay.
Dean smiles, wide and easy, green eyes sparkling in the cool sunlight. “Hah! See that. Spike’s a genius. He already knows stay.”
Sam gives a fond smile to Spike and then rolls his eyes again at Dean. “There’s a big difference between stay and kill. Besides,” he frowns down at the puppy in thoughtful worry. “I don’t think this kind of violence can be good for Spike. He must have some pretty traumatic memories from before.”
Dean shoots Sam a disbelieving stare. “Dude. Are you psychoanalyzing our dog?” He shakes his head in disbelief, face taking on a mournful expression. “Is that what they taught you in that fancy ass college?”
“No,” Sam replies dryly. “I learned it before college. It’s called empathy. You may have heard of it?”
Sam bites back a smile at the “can’t freaking believe we’re related, freaking empathy” mutter from Dean. Heh.
Dean’s attention focuses back on Spike who’s now sitting in the tall grass, watching Dean with ears perked at attention. Seeing Dean’s gaze settle on him, Spike utters a happy “yip!” and Sam watches his brother’s serious gaze involuntarily soften.
With a half smile still fighting for possession of his mouth Dean crouches down and reaches into the duffel he’d dropped to the clearing floor earlier. Taking out what looks like an oversized mitt made of foam and leather and cloth he wraps and ties it around his right arm. Once the homemade padding is secure Dean waves it in front of Spike who watches the arm waving back and forth with keen interest, head cocked in a serious stare of dog puzzlement.
“Okay Spike, attack.” Arm wave, arm wave.
Spike remains in his sitting position, wondering what the hell Dean is doing.
“Dean, do you even have any idea how to train an attack dog?” Sam asks skeptically.
“Hell yeah,” Dean answers, sparing his little brother an admonishing look. “I watched Caleb train a couple of his dogs.”
If anything, Sam looks even more skeptical. “You’re using Caleb as your role model? Dean, he feeds his dogs beer.”
“Yeah,” Dean says, shooting Sam a look that clearly asks ‘what’s you’re point doofus’?
“Beer is the nectar of gods and dogs Sammy,” Dean defends the dog training methods of their dad’s old hunting comrade.
“That’s ambrosia,” Sam corrects. “And I don’t recall dogs being mentioned.”
“Uh, no. Not the same difference. Completely not the same difference.”
“Shh, I’m trying to concentrate here,” Dean says absently as he frowns down at Spike, wondering if he’s forgetting something. He’s pretty sure this is what Caleb had done and those dogs had gone at it like a milken demon with the scent of blood in their freaky slit nostrils. Hmm. Maybe if he attached meat or something to the cloth…well, if Spike doesn’t go for it today he’ll try that.
“Come on Spike boy,” Dean dips his wrapped arm in front of Spike’s nose. “Attack!”
Spike leans forward to delicately sniff at the padding. Then he tries to lick Dean’s hand through it.
“No!” Dean orders Spike as he ignores the sound of Sam’s muffled laughter.
Spike stops and backs away, a quizzical growl huffing from his throat. Dean’s saying attack but Spike must not understand the word right. Attack means bad things. He doesn’t want to do anything bad to Dean!
“Attack!” Dean repeats and demonstrates, doing a mock growl and chewing on the padding himself. “See,” his voice is muffled as he continues to gnaw. “I wan’you to accack. Accack!” His peripheral vision catches a glimpse of something and he whips his head around to glare at Sam. “Did you just take a picture?”
Sam stares back at him in complete innocence, casually hiding the cell phone in the palm of his closed hand. “What? No.”
Dean’s glare turns deadly. “You are such a freaking liar. You did take a picture.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about man,” Sam answers, eyes wide, and Dean thinks that, Jesus, for a Winchester, Sammy is a pathetic liar.
His voice turns threatening. “Listen you little…”
“Taller than you, shorty,” Sam smirks back.
The promise of pain shoots out from Dean’s gleaming eyes. “Oh that is it bitch. You are meat. You are…” Dean’s attention is turned from plans for the imminent ass-kicking of his little brother when he feels the tugging on his arm. Looking down he feels a pang of pure pride shoot through him as he sees Spike up on his hind paws, teeth clamped on the padding which he’s trying to worry back and forth, little face set in determination as he issues a muffled ‘grrrr’. Okay, yeah, his tail’s still wagging and Dean can pretty much lift the little guy off the ground by sneezing, but it’s a start.
“That’s great Spike! Good boy! Come on! Go for it!”
Dean drops to his knees to give Spike better leverage and shakes his hand back and forth gently, causing Spike to whip from side to side to maintain his grip, but the little guy hangs gamely on, tail still whipping furiously. After about a minute Dean can’t help but laugh ‘cause damn, Spike just looks so cute all serious and determined like that. At the sound of Dean’s laughter, Spike lets go and jumps on Dean, licking his face frantically ‘Yip, yip! Yip!’
Sam walks over to where Dean has now wrestled Spike to the ground and is rubbing his belly, causing Spike to squirm in delight and raises a skeptical brow. “Oh yeah, our dog’s a killer all right.”
“Hey, he did great for his first try,” Dean shoots a narrow eyed glare at Sam, insulted on Spike’s behalf. “We’ll make a hunter of him yet.”
Sam personally thinks Spike thought the whole thing was a game. But, hey, let Dean have his little fantasy. “Uh huh.” He crouches down and tickles Spike under the chin, face breaking into a wide grin at the contented grunt Spike gives.
“Spike’s definitely a Winchester,” Dean states with satisfaction, visions of the three of them on the hunt together dancing through his head.
“Dean, he ran away from a kitten this morning,” Sam points out, trying to bring a little reality to the situation.
Dean blinks. “Umh, yeah, so we’ve still gotta little work to do.”
Spike squirms happily under the attention of Dean and Sam. He figured it out! It was a play attack, like Dean and Sam like to play growl at each other. He can do that. That was fun!
And that kitten? Was mean.