Episode Twenty-Two: When the War Comes

By:Tracer and BurstynOut

Part One

 

 


Undisclosed Location

Sweat dripped off the faces of the men that sat cramped together in the small meeting room, the assembly quarters far too small to accommodate their number. They had all gathered for the same purpose, and each man wiped the moisture from his forehead in apprehension, tingling with excitement as they awaited their leader.

Tense acquaintances and fresh new alliances were formed within the daily expanding group as more hunters joined the fight, but the overwhelming sense of purpose and duty had formed camaraderie among them, regardless. Weak, fledgling bonds and former disputes were given less importance than the strength they all stood to gain against the common enemy. Today, they were united.

The air was thick with the heavy scent of whiskey mixed with the hint of gun powder and leather as the older hunters, their gray hair, beards, and well-worn faces conveying their stint in battle and a wealth of knowledge, took their seats along the far wall, drinks held idly in their hands. Their empty, tired eyes watched the young counterparts to their impending mission drink and celebrate recklessly, their chatter booming through the small space. No man doubted that youth and agility were certainly assets they could draw upon, although the breakneck tendencies of the inexperienced younger members laced fear into the hearts of many. This was not a time to fail because of carelessness.

A sliver of light pierced through the dim room at the creak of the main door, and every man turned, voices falling silent as they watched two men appear through the entryway. Their hearts swelled as the first man was revealed to be their leader and then hardened again when a dark-haired stranger sauntered in behind him.

“Afternoon,” their leader greeted, his damaged voice but a harsh whisper, his badge of courage earned breathing fire demon destruction at very close range. He gestured for the men to relax but listen. “I would like to introduce John Winchester, a man I’ve known for some time. He has come to join our fight, and we’re very fortunate to have him.”

John nodded a greeting, and a loud welcoming cheer echoed through the room, the expanse of which filled quickly with the clinking of shot glasses and shouted orders for more. A wry smile appeared on both John and the leader’s faces. John stepped aside, leaning against the wall as he watched how, with just a clearing of his throat, the commanding hunter fought to regain the silence. A slew of older hunters began issuing orders for quiet and order, their respect for the man obvious. When the room fell silent yet again, the leader smiled at his compiled army, vibrating with anticipation for his announcement.

“Men,” he began, the raspy susurration captivating every man’s attention, “it has been a long road and we have lost many in our fight. But in this hour, the tide has changed.”

A slew of whispers and questions hit the air and were silenced by a wave of the hand from their leader. “As you know we lost two good men when they attempted to scout out our enemy, their bodies were left displayed to strike fear in our hearts. But when we recovered the bodies, we were rewarded with information.” The speaker held up a small piece of crumpled paper stained with spots of crimson. “They left us coordinates. I searched them out this morning and it is with pride that I tell you—we have found our enemy.”

John Winchester’s eyes widened in skepticism and disbelief. He had hunted this demon for years, and while his past ally was declaring that and end was in sight, he had to admit it seemed sudden. Why had none of these scouts had been mentioned before? The other men, however, appeared prepared for a fight, and the excitement became tangible as the voices grew louder and shouts of readiness and battle filled the air.

“Now is the time,” the leader stated quietly, his eyes scanning the crowd slowly, “The war has come.”


****


John swallowed the shot of whiskey, relishing in the dull burn as the amber liquid rolled down his throat. His eyes had yet to leave their self-appointed leader, and upon seeing the man turn to head outside, John quickly rose, his long strides catching up as he exited the building.

“That was quite a speech you gave in there,” John commented with a smirk, his voice held an edge of questioning. “Can’t help but wonder if it was all on the up-and-up, though, or if you might just be warming up for a career in politics.” He looked down briefly, aware that his friend was probably not used to being questions, based on his observations of the rest of the growing crew. “I mean, I’ve know you for years, and you never once told me about those scouts.”

“There wasn’t much to tell,” the man replied, rubbing a hand over the scar lining his neck gingerly, “It is not wise to dwell in failure, John.”

John scratched the stubble lining his chin, his deep brown eyes locking on his fellow hunter’s form. His comrades attention was distant, focused on the surrounding wall that encased their hideout. “Zack.”

The man turned a weary smile on his face, reading the desperation in his comrade’s expression. “What do you need?”

“I need your word that my boys stay out of this fight,” John answered, running his hands through his hair. “Look, you’re the only one who really knows about them, and you’re calling the shots here. I need your guys to lay off and let Sam and Dean handle their own work.”

“Your boys are men, John,” Zack’s gravelly voice chided. “Don’t you think that is their decision?”

John clenched his jaw, his body going rigid with frustration. “After what happened last time - No, it’s not their decision.”

Zack nodded thoughtfully, his lips forming a tight line. “They think I’m dead. Most of the hunters in their realm do as well. If that’s what it takes to get you fighting by my side, John Winchester, then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Good,” John sighed, his nervous hands sliding into the pockets of his jacket. “I’m gonna have to call them soon, keep them busy.”

“Do what you must,” Zack stated absently, his gaze returning to the wall as John nodded and turned to walk away. A sea of loud voices flooded the outside as the father re-entered the hunter’s headquarters.

Zack breathed in the afternoon air deeply, finding his center before reaching into his jacket and pulling out his worn cell phone and dialing. John wasn’t the only man with work to do.


****


Dean eased the Impala into the motel parking space directly in front of their room, wiping a hand across his face and grimacing at the wetness there. “Look, Sam, all I’m saying is that if you want a woman to pay attention to you, you might want to lose that ‘I sweat, therefore I am’ scent you got going on.”

“I’m not the one who suggested a ten mile run, Dean,” Sam griped, groaning as he cracked open the passenger door and moved his sore, screaming body out of the car. “What was with that damn trail anyways? Uphill on the home stretch?”

“Ah, you’re getting soft on me, Sammy,” Dean teased breathily, pulling at the damp collar of his T-shirt as he trudged to the room. “Your heart rate is supposed to go up. Why it’s called exercise.”

“And people wonder why the majority of the population just doesn’t care,” Sam commented through a deep exhale. He jiggled the door handle and looked at Dean in desperation. “Key, bro. C’mon.”

“I’m coming,” Dean muttered, wincing as he reached for his wallet, retrieving the motel key and unlocking the door, his face twisted from his body soreness.

“Seems I’m not the only one who’s not in shape,” Sam laughed, nudging his brother in the ribs and eliciting a shaky scoff from Dean as he brushed past him and flopped down on the far bed.

Dean shook his head as he sank down on the edge of his bed and slowly lifted a leg that now seemed weigh several hundred pounds in order to remove his shoe. “You are the one who’s going to shower first, though.”

“No,” Sam murmured, shifting slightly and carefully as his whole body felt like it was on fire, his head buried in his pillow.

“Sorry, bro,” the older brother snarked, dropping the heavy with a thud and lifting up the other one with equally exorbitant exertion, his arms protesting the motion as he reached for his second shoe. “But if I let you sleep there for even ten minutes, they ain’t never gonna get the smell out of those sheets.”

“Oh, you’re hilarious,” Sam slurred, his voice muffled by his comfortable head rest.

“Sam, seriously, dude,” Dean laughed, reaching over and swatting the younger brother’s foot, “Just leave me some hot water.”

Sam slid up slowly, his hair askew and a glare on his face. “No way in hell.”

“Don’t be like that,” Dean drawled, throwing a clean shirt in Sam’s direction. The younger man caught it and trudged wearily to the bathroom, stopping at the coffee table to retrieve a fresh pair of jeans from his pack, his eyes falling on Dean’s phone.

“Hey, you got a message,” Sam stated, selecting a pair of pants from his grand total of three.

“Yeah?” Dean asked curiously, grunting to a stand and shuffling over to the table. He retrieved his phone, eyes studying the screen. “Well, somebody loves me.”

Sam rolled his eyes and groaned, moving in closer to peer over his brother’s shoulder. “Who’s it from?”

“Dude, get in the shower,” Dean complained, scrunching his nose in disgust and jerking away from Sam’s prying eyes.

“You smell like a sweat shop too, you know?” Sam shot back, crossing his arms in defiance. “Who called?”

“Nobody,” Dean said with a cocky smirk. “It was a text.”

Sam sucked in a breath. “From Dad?”

“No number. So, yeah, probably,” Dean reasoned, dropping the phone down on the table and glancing over at his brother. “Coordinates. He’s giving us another run around. Can you believe that?”

“We don’t know that,” Sam stated thoughtfully, “Maybe it’s where he is?”

Dean barked a laugh, his eyes brows quirked in amusement. “Yeah, Sammy.”

“Look, Dean, I’m pissed too, okay?” Sam offered, ducking his head to establish a sight line connection with his brother, “But we need to check this out. We don’t know if it’s a real gig or not.”

“Yeah, man, I know,” Dean sighed, scratching his head idly. “You pretty much ready to go? I mean, after you shower that is. You’re not getting back in my baby reeking like that.”

“Shut up,” Sam muttered, turning on his heel and heading toward the bathroom. “And yeah, I’m ready. I’ll research those out when you’re in, okay? Find out where we’re heading?”

“Works for me,” Dean stated, rummaging through his own pack and waving Sam off to the shower. He heard the soft click of the bathroom door, and snapped his head up. “Hot Water!”

The cry pierced through the worn wood separating the brothers, and Dean nearly knocked it down when Sam’s petulant reply flew back at him.

“Yeah, right!”

****

They were ready in less than half an hour, Dean sulking in the driver’s seat, body still damp from the ice water shower and Sam sitting comfortably in the passenger, wringing the flicks of water out of his long shaggy locks.

“This better be a real case,” Dean snapped, selecting his musical choice for the beginning of the drive, and clenching his jaw when Sam shook his head, droplets of water flinging onto Dean’s face. “Dude, that gets on the leather…”

“I know, I know,” Sam placated, twisting the stolen motel towel in his hands.

“Not sure you do,” Dean threatened, eyeing his little brother carefully before reaching over and smacking the back of his head playfully.

“I think I got the point,” Sam shot back, rubbing his head and feigning hurt. “And I don’t think Dad would do that again, Dean.”

“Hope not,” Dean muttered with a sigh, “Then I might have to kick his ass.”

“Ha! That’d be fun to watch,” Sam laughed, shaking his head when he saw the CD Dean had chosen. Switching expressions quickly he issued a begging glance for Dean to pick another. “I think I’d sell tickets.”

“You’d be right next to me,” Dean stated with finality, inserting the CD despite Sam’s protest. “Tag team, only way we stand a chance.”

“He’d still kick our asses,” Sam murmured truthfully, a frown on his face as Blue Oyster Cult pounded out the speakers.

“You do your homework, Sammy?” Dean asked, turning onto the highway exit.

“Yep,” Sam replied, patting the top of his laptop lovingly. “Got it right here.”


****

“Oh, this is just…peachy,” Dean grumbled, pressing his lips together hard enough on the “p” to make a noise like cracking chewing gum as he spat it out. The word was obviously not his first choice phrase, considering he’d spoken in mostly four-letter words the entire drive up there. He smacked his hands against the steering wheel indignantly and stepped out of the car, taking in his surroundings, and shutting the door as solidly as he could while refraining from actually slamming it.

That would just be abuse. The car was the only Winchester not allowed to take any of that.

It wasn’t the Impala’s fault that the entire facility that the mysterious coordinates had led them to was surrounded by a ten-foot, chain-link fence. “I thought you said this was a school, not a friggin’ prison,” he scowled, stalking around to the trunk which, like the rest of the car, was semi-hidden in the dense underbrush.

“Military school,” Sam corrected. “Might as well be prison. Some very rich people spent a whole lotta cash to send their spoiled brats here for some tough love.” He looked at the towering fence appraisingly, almost kinking his neck as he pointed his chin to the top.

“Kinda makes you glad Dad never took Aunt Cindy’s advice about sending you to one, doesn’t it?” He asked, cocking his eyebrow expectantly as Dean frowned dubiously at the task before him. “Not that we needed military school with our own flesh-and-blood drill instructor sleeping in the next room.”

“Yyyeah,” Dean said distractedly, not nearly as quick to jump to his father’s defense after the wild goose chase he’d sent them on a week earlier. The fact that the old man was apparently back to sending them coordinates again instead of addressing them directly was almost a slap in the face after all they’d been through in the last year.

Dean grasped the chain links in one hand and gave the fence a shake. Not even a wiggle. He guessed the support poles had to be embedded in concrete to keep the wire stretched that tightly over the years of abandonment. “School my ass. Add a little razor wire and this place could pass for Manticore.”

Sam wrinkled his eyebrows. “Dark Angel?”

“Duude, Jessica Alba in camouflage and army boots, kicking ass and taking names?” He defended, dismissing his brother’s skeptical smirk. “She was like Luke Skywalker with b… boots,” he waffled with a smirk, leading his brother on. He wiggled his eyebrows. Thought I was gonna say boobs didn’t ya? Perv.

“Besides, that show was freakin’ hilarious,” Dean continued. “That guy, Normal, he was totally gay for the good-looking transgenic kid. What was his name? Alex? Allan? Alec?” He shook his head to break the train of thought and get back to the business at hand. “Something like that anyways…” he trailed off, following Sam’s glare up to the apex of the perimeter fence. “Could totally use some of that souped-up, genetically-engineered strength about now, though. Then we could just make like an X-5 and jump this mother.”

Sam caught the doubtful look on his brother’s face. “Well, we could always walk the perimeter and see if there’s an opening,” he suggested.

“What’s the matter, Francis?” Dean smirked, stuffing his EMF meter into the inner pocket of his jacket and zipping it safely inside. “‘Fraid you might break a nail?”

“Yeah, right. I was thinking more about you and your little, uh, handicap,” Sam snarked.
“Handicap?”

“Well, I hate to point it out to you, big brother, or should I say, older brother, but you’re a little vertically challenged.”

“It just looks that way from your freakishly exaggerated perspective. Objects in Sam’s line of sight are closer than they appear. You’re just getting the panoramic view. You miss a lot of the detail that way. A good macro lens comes in handier in our line of work.”

Dean took a few steps away from the fence and assumed a runner’s standing start position. “C’mon, Twiggy. Let’s just get this over with.”

With that, he sprinted forward and launched himself as far up the wire as he could reach.

It was an impressive leap, and he managed to get a handhold about eighteen inches from the top, grunting loudly as his arms stretched in their sockets. He hit the wire chest first, feet uselessly dangling for a hold beneath him. After a couple seconds of awkward kicking, he managed to wedge the toe of one of his boots into the diamond mesh and pushed up, alleviating the strain on his arm sockets and taking a moment to catch his breath.

Dean heard two long strides crunch over the gravel behind him and a grunt of exertion, and then Sam was at his side.

To the older brother’s dismay, the long-legged geek boy was like a cat, latching the top rail of the fence in one bound and hoisting himself smoothly up to the top while barely wiggling the wire. Sam balanced his big feet on the top rail for a second, taking most of his weight on his arms as he smoothly turned around and began lowering himself down the other side. He paused momentarily, a cheshire grin on his face that seemed remarkably fitting as his bangs clung to his forehead in black tabby stripes.

“You were saying, Shorty?” He teased, looking down upon his brother as Dean wrestled his way up by brute force alone.

Dean ignored the remark and kept doggedly climbing, concentrating on each hand and foothold. He was nearly to the top when he felt a strange movement beneath his jacket.

It was then that he remembered the tear in the lining of the pocket.

He reached out gracefully with his own cat-like reflexes and caught the EMF detector just as it slid free of its hiding spot. He caught the prized meter easily but lost both footholds in the process and was dangling helplessly by one arm in the blink of an eye.

His face grew red with exertion as he tried to muscle his way back into a safe position using just the strength of his one arm and upper back. Oh crap. This is gonna hurt.

Before his brutalized fingers could slide free of the death grip they were trying desperately to maintain on the wire, Dean felt two giant hands snake under his arms and haul him up to the top. Sam maintained his grasp long enough for Dean to get his one free arm up and over the rail, fingers twined into the mesh on the opposite side and feet braced in firm holds.

Dean caught sight of his brother’s self-satisfied, expectant smirk and groaned audibly with a roll of his eyes. He would have preferred falling on his ass to having his ginormous baby brother save it, thus validating Sam’s suggestion that they should’ve just looked for an open gate somewhere.

“I had it, Sam,” he protested with a look of ‘God just kill me now.’

Sam laughed in disbelief and proceeded to lower himself down the other side of the fence. “Whatever, man.”

Dean watched him work his way down to the ground and managed to get himself turned around to the other side of the wire with just the one free arm. Then he paused momentarily to consider what he should do with the EMF detector, because no way was he gonna be able to climb down with it in his hand. “Sam, I’m gonna drop the EMF down to you…” he began.

As he turned his head to find Sam’s position, he lost his tremulous grasp of his own and a wave of vertigo washed over him just long enough for his fingers to unwind from the rail. Without warning, he fell, landing on top of his brother and knocking them both to the ground.

The fence was located on the top of an incline, and the brothers went rolling down it, through the brush and gravel for what seemed like a hundred yards before they coasted to a stop, leaving behind a trail of dust and a string of curses they were pretty sure they wouldn’t want their dad knowing they had in their vocabularies.

Of course, they’d learned most of them from John to begin with.

Shaking his head as the world stopped spinning at last, Dean took stock of his various body parts. He quickly realized that nothing was seriously injured, but the position of his arms and legs, akimbo atop Sam’s sprawled form, was likely going to get him in a whole world of hurt if he didn’t get the hell off before his brother decided to go mechanical bull and throw him off.

Jerking spastically, awkward much, Dean rolled off of Sam and stood shakily, brushing the leaves and dirt from his body as he did so. “You okay, Sammy?” He asked, glancing down at his brother uncomfortably. “You know, if you wanted to go for a roll, we coulda stopped a couple of towns back to relieve a little tension with a couple of pretty local girls,” he snarked half-heartedly, embarrassed at his own clumsiness.

“Zack?” Sam asked.

Dean looked at his brother with an expression of total bewilderment. “Zack? Dude, you didn’t hit your head or anything did you?”

Only then did he catch Sam’s glance diverting to just over his right shoulder. The click of a revolver being armed, the cylinder rolling into place just behind Dean’s head, had the older brother’s hands stuttering in their process of cleaning up and raising weakly in a gesture of surprised submission.

The voice that parted his hair was the unmistakably raspy bark of their crazy old friend, Zack Murzak.

“Nice of you boys to finally drop in,” Zack growled, and the barrel of the gun pressed hard into Dean’s neck.

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