Well, here we are at the final chapter. I surely hope everyone has enjoyed the ride and that this wrap-up chapter satisfies in every way. Thanks to one and all who took the time to read and also those who left lovely reviews. They were appreciated beyond belief.

Vanessa

Now on with the show....


Battle Cry (An Octelle Poem)

I will fight to the very end,
stand strong to protect and defend.
Conquer now a growing threat.
Challenge not to go unmet.
Don a calm and brave veneer,
when evil strikes far too near.
I will fight to the very end,
Stand strong to protect and defend.

© 2009, Vanessa Sgroi


"Stay the hell away from him!"

The creature, for indeed it was a creature and not an innocent hot red-headed nurse, merely smirked, garnet lips twisting obscenely, at Sam while simultaneously taking a step forward, closer to Dean's bed. "I think not. I'm hungry."

Sam's expression turned colder and more deadly, and he pulled the gun from the small of his back, quickly taking aim. Before his finger could tighten on the trigger though a midnight tentacle from one of the Thoen near the bed wrapped itself around his wrist, and Sam cried out in pain as his wrist and hand blistered from an intense cold beyond belief. The gun fell from his grasp and skidded across the floor with a metallic thwang. The masquerading Monica took a step closer to the ring of salt.

Now weaponless, the tall young hunter acted instinctively and dived toward the monster wearing human skin, making his toned and muscular body a missile. The tackle was dead center and she—no—it went down with an unearthly screech, hitting the floor with a gelatinous squelch.

Sam fought to pin her—it—in place but it proved to be an almost impossible task as it slithered, bucked, and shuddered beneath him. With otherworldly strength, the creature maneuvered out from under Sam and sent him ass-over-teakettle across the room. He hit the wall with enough force to force the breath from his lungs.

"Sam!" Dean's weak call echoed from his left.

"'m fine," wheezed Sam as he quickly gained his feet, set his stance, and executed another tackle, again sending the lead Thoen to the floor with him sprawled on top.

"What the hell is going on in here?" This time the voice thundered from the doorway. It was Nurse Ursula Perdue.

Too busy struggling with the monster beneath him, Sam ignored her indignant demand. His cell phone chose that moment to start ringing startling him. With a move that would do a double-jointed circus performer proud, the hunter managed to extract the phone from his pocket and send it sliding across the floor toward the stunned hospital worker. "Answer it!" he barked. Beneath his fingers, small areas of the human skin fissured and cracked revealing blackness beneath before becoming whole once more.

Ursula, who had been standing frozen a foot inside the door, bent down, snatched up the cell, and flipped it open. "H-H-Hello?"

"Who is this?" a gruff male voice growled over the airwaves.

"N-Nurse P-Perdue."

"Where's Sam?"

"He…he…um…" Behind Ursula suddenly came another voice as Dr. Mike Ward pushed through the door and froze.

"What the hell?" The doctor could hardly believe the horror-filled tableau before his eyes.

A sharp elbow connected with Sam's nose and warm blood began to flow. "Somebody talk to…the guy…on the phone…dammit." He sniffed and gurgled against the salty thick fluid decorating his upper lip and dripping into his mouth.

Seeing the cell phone in Ursula's hand and the utterly blank look on her face, mesmerized as she was by the writhing shadows and wrestling humans, Mike reached out and extracted the phone from her lax fingers. "Hello?"

"Oh, for the love of God, who's this now? And where the hell is Sam?"

"This is Dr. Mike Ward. Sam is…is fighting someone…" A low and gutteral growl reverberated through the room. "…make that something."

The caller's breath hitched slightly before he said, "Damn. Tell him he has to unmask her…it."

Over the din, Mike called out, "Sam, whoever this is says you have to unmask it." Whatever that means. Mike's mind was racing in twenty different directions.

Sam let out a harsh cry as the Thoen bent his right pinky finger sideways, snapping it. "Great," he panted, "How?" The creature bucked beneath him, nearly unseating him. Sam tightened his hold and felt wiry undulations under the human skin. It rent wide in places, and this time stayed that way.

"How?" muttered Mike into the phone.

"Acetic acid," growled the disembodied voice, "Douse her good—especially her face—with acetic acid."

Mike repeated the caller's instructions, watching as rivulets of sweat rolled down Sam's face and dripped off his chin. He wanted to move forward—wanted to help—but didn't know where or how to begin.

The thing underneath Sam suddenly twisted violently from Sam's hold and rolled away making a beeline for the salt ring. Seeking fingers missed the white grains by a half an inch. The hunter yanked it backward by its ankle and once more fell on top of the beast. "Where? Where can. I. Get. Some?" he gasped. The fight was beginning to take its toll.

Nurse Perdue suddenly shook herself out of her stupor, her eyes going wide. "I-I know where I can get some. I'll be right back." The nurse took off out of the room.

Dr. Ward jumped when the creature Sam was struggling with let out a hiss and flipped the hunter onto his back. It springboarded off of Sam's chest, dived for the ring of salt, and this time managed to reach it, clawing a line through the white grains and consequently breaking the seal of the circle. The Death Shadows converged with glee, and Dean began to cry out in pain as the black tongues whipped out and touched, tasted, burned. Mike dropped the cell phone and dove forward; this time joining Sam in the tackling of this abomination. Its snapping growls and grunts combined with Dean's pain-filled cries and echoed throughout the room.

Without warning, a cold liquid rained down all around them. The pungent and overpowering odor of vinegar filled the hospital room. The lead Thoen began to squirm and smoke beneath the two men. Sam palmed the faux nurse's chin and shoved upward, allowing the clear liquid to splash liberally over her face.

For a heartbeat, nothing happened. Then the creature screamed in agony as its facial façade began to melt. As soon as the last bit of gummy white flesh dropped away, the Death Shadows turned away from Dean en masse. Sam yelled, "Roll!" a split second before the murderous, ravenous shadows sinuously writhed around and enshrouded their former controller. In mere moments, the Death Shadows devoured one of their own, leaving behind nothing but a puddle of goop and a shredded nurse's uniform.

Silence reigned as all three of the men present fought to catch their breath. Into the silence, Ursula murmured quietly, "So there really was something wrong with Room 4-22 all this time." Her fingers tightened on the now empty bottle in her grasp.

Sam coughed and swiped the back of his good hand under his nose, smearing the blood there across his cheek. "Yeah. And we just killed that thing with…vinegar?" The look on his face was priceless.

Dr. Ward couldn't help it; he chuckled. "Yup. Acetic acid. Vinegar's key ingredient. Vinegar was discovered more than 10,000 years ago, and you'd be surprised what it can do. Soak a pearl in it and the pearl will dissolve. I think Cleopatra won some kind of bet doing that. And a chicken bone will turn rubbery if you soak it in vinegar for three or four days."

Sam shot a glance over at his brother who executed a "who knew" shrug albeit very carefully.

Realizing his inner geek was showing, Mike shook his head ruefully and rose to his feet, holding a hand out to Sam to help him up. "C'mon, let's get you two out of this room; it's starting to smell like a rancid salad bar in here." He smiled at the two brothers though his eyes remained full of questions. "Looks like I have a bit of doctoring to do—again."

An unusually subdued Nurse Perdue chimed in with, "I'll get a wheelchair."

Dean started to protest but a precipitous dizzy spell combined with a fierce look from the stern-faced nurse quickly dispelled any hint of orneriness. When the nurse returned moments later, he slumped down in the wheelchair obediently if not a little sullenly. Knew I hated hospitals.

While Dean suffered through the indignity, Sam retrieved his cell phone from the floor.

"Bobby?"

"Sam! Thank God. I take it it worked?"

"Uh…yeah…does that mean you weren't sure it would?" Sam's fingers cautiously probed his throbbing nose.

"The texts were damnably vague—which ain't all that unusual. You boys any worse for wear?"

Sam stared at his red and blistered hand with its pinky sticking out at an odd and obscenely wrong angle and felt nausea churn in his belly. "Just a little. Dr. Ward's standing by now to patch us back up."

"Get to it then. I'll call ya idjits sometime tomorrow."

The younger man acquiesced and said goodbye before flipping the phone closed.

(SN) (SN) (SN)

Mike sprung them both from hospital hell at 11:00 the next morning after insisting they stay and recuperate a bit. He pushed Dean's wheelchair to Patient Discharge where Sam was waiting with the Impala running.

As the older Winchester opened the door and settled himself very gingerly into the passenger seat, the doctor spoke, "Can I just ask one question?"

"Sure, Doc," rasped Dean.

"You guys—you…uh…deal…with stuff like we saw last night all the time, don't you?"

The brothers glanced at each other before Dean replied, "Yeah, you could say that, Doc."

"Nurse Perdue told me this morning that she's retiring. She said after last night…well…can't say that I blame her, ya know. Almost wish I was old enough to retire. So you guys will be all right?" His concerned gaze traveled from Dean's various bruises, bandages, and wraps to Sam's splinted finger, gauze-encased hand, and bruised nose.

The boys answered simultaneously. "We'll be fine."

Mike nodded as if he was having a little trouble believing their stock, tried-and-true answer. He shut the door after Dean was settled and offered a small salute. Mike watched the Impala coast away with a thoughtful look on his face.

Inside the car, Sam looked over at his brother. "You doin' okay over there?"

"Yeah, yeah. Just glad to be outta that freakin' place."

Sam pulled up to a four-way stop intersection at the same time as the flashy silver Corvette from the day before. The Impala's engine suddenly revved as if Sam were flooring then releasing the gas pedal. The powerful vehicle, metal and leather alike, vibrated around them both almost hard enough to aggravate their various and sundry injuries.

"Dude, stop that! What the hell are you doing with the car?"

"I'm not doing anything!"

The phenomenon continued as the Corvette passed through the intersection and proceeded a half a block up the street before disappearing around a corner. When the other car was out of sight, the Impala's engine returned to its normal rumbly growl.

Dean tossed a puzzled glare at his younger brother. "What the hell was that all about?"

Sam, equally puzzled, shrugged. "Beats me. I wasn't even touching the gas."

"I'll have to give her a once over when we get to the next motel."

The younger man drove through the intersection and followed the signs to the nearest state route. They were only fifteen minutes into their current journey when Sam pushed his bangs off his forehead and said in a way too casual voice, "Hey, you know, when we stop for lunch, I-I was thinking maybe we should get some fried chicken."

"Fried chicken? Since when do you want fried ch…" Dean snapped his fingers as the proverbial lightbulb went on. "Wait a minute—you wanna try that freaky thing with the vinegar and the chicken bone, don't you?"

Sam squirmed in his seat, looking sheepish. "No, it just sounded—okay, yes, I wanted to give it a try. Is that a crime? And a chicken bone is easier to come by than a cultured pearl."

Dean groaned and covered his eyes with his good hand. "Oh, God. I feel like I'm living through an episode of 'When Geeks Unite'. Someone save me."

"Oh, come on. Seriously, dude, you can't tell me you don't wanna give it a try…"

The Winchester brothers made it a full hour on the road before finally pulling over at a place that served fried chicken. Afterward, they made a quick stop at the nearest store for a bottle of white vinegar.

Fin