Hey all! Miss me? I started this story way back in April and I just got around to getting my butt in gear to finish it. Summer has a way of making me incredibly lazy and I ask your forgiveness. It's not beta'd so all mistakes are my own (and I cherish each and every one!!!) I'm so looking forward to season 5 and all the things I've heard so far. But, until then, I offer up this little adventure.
Takes place between 'Monster At The End of This Book' and 'Jump the Shark'. Boys in peril… what else is there?
The Winchester Gospels.
Dean shook his head, a soft chuckle escaping his lips as he considered the words Castiel had used to describe Chuck's series of Supernatural books. He simply couldn't wrap his head around it. Chuck? A prophet? In what reality was that even a good idea let alone a possibility? Maybe he was still in Hell. Maybe this was the demons' way of playing with his head, making him believe he still had some sort of chance at a real life while throwing in preposterous ideas like Chuck's Gospels just to keep him guessing. There was just no way. Could his life get any weirder?
"What's so funny?"
Dean glanced at his brother, seeing a mirrored grin on Sam's face.
"Nothing," he said with another shake of his head. "It's just… gospels? Us? I mean… that's just too…"
"Weird." Sam finished for him.
"To say the least."
Their conversation was interrupted by the muffled sounds of Led Zepplin coming from Dean's jacket pocket. Without taking his eyes from the road, he shifted enough to allow his right hand to dive into the pocket and retrieve his cell phone. He glanced at the display, wincing at the name flashing against the background.
He sighed, knowing he was in for an ass chewing before he even answered the call. They'd spoken briefly while Dean was in the hospital after his encounter with Alistair, but other than a quick update to let the old mechanic in on the new wrinkles in the unfolding drama, they hadn't been really talked. After Zachariah's three week jaunt into the corporate wonderland of Sandover Bridge & Iron, they had called the older hunter and explain why they had been off-line for so long and give him the reader's digest version of what they had learned about the angel's so-called 'plan'. They'd promised to head directly to Singer Salvage to regroup, but diving into Chuck's world of science not-so-fiction had detoured them another week and they had yet to contact the man whom they both considered as close as family to explain just what had been going on. He knew Bobby would ream him a new one – and he fully accepted the blame for not contacting the mechanic sooner. With a look of resignation directed to his curious brother, he flipped open the phone and placed it next to his ear.
"Hey yourself. Nice of you boys to keep in touch."
Dean tilted his head in acceptance of the rebuke. "Uh, yeah, about that. We kind of got… distracted."
"Don't matter. You can give me your excuses later in person so I can kick your asses proper. Right now I think I could use your help."
Dean frowned. It wasn't like Bobby to let protocol slide so easily. "Okay. You alright?"
"I'm a little tied up on a hunt right now. Was hopin' you boys could swing by and save an old man some grief."
Dean's head snapped up at the older man's words. While he and Sam tended to use more inventive code words to depict trouble, Bobby's list had always been a bit more overt. Of course, it wasn't like the older hunter had ever had to use one before – especially to them – but that didn't mean Dean didn't recognize one when it was right in front of him. "Where?"
"Mansfield, Ohio. The old Ohio State Reformatory just outside the city on Rte. 545. You think you boys could double time it and give me a hand?"
"Uh, yeah, Bobby." He glanced at Sam, the younger man picking up on the change in attitude immediately. "We're about six hours out. Think you can hold out that long?"
Bobby's voice was tinged with something Dean could only label as distaste. "Yeah. But it's gonna be tough. I've only got a few longnecks left in the cooler. Maybe you boys can stock up before you get here?"
"Will do, Bobby," Dean responded, once again catching the mechanics hidden meaning within the conventional phrasing. He licked his lips, his heart beating faster in response to the fear he felt for their old friend. Whatever he'd gotten himself into, he was letting them know they were walking into a trap. Dean just hoped whoever was holding him didn't catch on to the information he had covertly given them. "We're on our way. Don't do anything stupid, man."
"Me?" Dean was relieved to hear the humor in the older man's voice. "I'm the smart one. I'll leave stupid to you two chuckleheads."
The connection went dead and Dean tossed the cell phone down onto the seat.
"What's going on? Is Bobby okay?"
Dean shook his head, his eyes on the road as he pressed down on the accelerator. "He's in trouble."
"What did he say?" Sam prompted.
"At least three guys holding him," Dean repeated, interpreting Bobby's code phrases for his brother. "He said there were a few longnecks and we should stock up before we get there."
Sam nodded, understanding the underlying meaning of the words. "Okay, so he wants us to come in armed."
"Right," Dean nodded. "I told him six hours double time."
Sam bobbed his head again. "So we're three hours out. Where?"
"Mansfield, Ohio. Old prison outside of town." Dean frowned, a vague memory tugging at him. "Mansfield… that sounds familiar. Check Dad's journal."
Sam turned and dug into the duffel in the back seat, fishing out the well-worn leather book containing all their father's research throughout the years. "You think Dad checked the place out?"
Dean shrugged and steered the old Chevy onto the on ramp to I-71. "I don't know. If there's nothing, we'll stop when we get closer and figure out what we're up against."
Sam started paging through the journal, stopping to throw a glance toward his brother. "You know Bobby wouldn't call unless he didn't have a choice."
Dean nodded, a soft sigh slipping from his lips. "That's what I'm afraid of."
Dean pulled the Impala onto the shoulder of the deserted two-lane highway and cut the engine, the rumble of the big Chevy echoing in the sudden silence. He leaned forward in tandem with his brother, his eyes widening as he took in the ominous sight of the old prison sprawled across the barren Ohio landscape in the distance.
"Well that's disturbing," he commented in a low voice. Sam merely grunted in response.
Mansfield Reformatory was a large stone structure jutting up from the flat, dead looking piece of land less than a mile from Interstate 71. The imposing architecture reminded Dean of an old world castle or gothic cathedral with the few outlying structures connected by long, flat stone walls. The walls themselves rose at least twenty feet from the ground, broken by tall, uniformly placed arched windows complete with rusted iron grating. All in all, the old prison looked like a fortress, able to withstand any attack from without as well as within.
"So what exactly has the old coot gotten himself into? What do we know about this place?"
At his brothers' inquiry, Sam tore his eyes from the gloomy visage of the prison lying silhouetted against the waning light of the setting sun and flipped open his laptop. They'd made a stop at a café in downtown Mansfield, knowing that information was more important than alacrity in their present situation. Taking advantage of the café's free wi-fi, he had managed to find quite a few websites about the prison, downloading as much as he could to give them a firm idea of what they could expect.
"According to the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society website, the prison was built in 1886 and was designed to humanely rehabilitate first time offenders," Sam read from the screen.
"Sounds like a penal resort instead of a prison."
Sam nodded then continued. "But, conditions deteriorated as conditions tend to do and after 94 years of operation the prisons legacy became one of abuse, torture and murder."
Dean bobbed his head. "The rose was off the bloom."
"Way off," Sam concurred. "In 1990 it was shut down by civil rights activists for its 'brutalizing and inhumane conditions.'"
Sam snorted a laugh at his brother's assessment. "Exactly."
Dean pursed his lips and leaned back in the seat, one arm lying across the back of the bench. "So we're dealing with a crapload of crazy felon ghosts?"
"Maybe," Sam responded with a shrug. At his brother's look of confusion, he took a breath and continued. "According to all these websites, it's pretty common knowledge that Mansfield is haunted, Dean, but as far as I can find, there's never been an incident that's resulted in any kind of violence."
Sam closed the laptop and turned in the seat, mirroring Dean's posture. "It just doesn't add up. Bobby lets us know he's in trouble, but the place he leads us to isn't exactly a hot spot on the hunter's clearing house radar. Even Dad mentioned it in his journal but dismissed it as harmless."
"Bobby told me there were at least three bogeys," Dean frowned as his mind processed through the information at hand. "And I doubt if ghosts are gonna hang back to let him make a phone call. You think he's being held by other hunters?" At Sam's shrug, he frowned. "So why call us?"
"Wouldn't be the first time another hunter decided we're targets." Sam reminded him. "I mean I have demon blood, you came back from Hell…" He left his voice trail off, knowing his brother got the idea.
Dean suppressed a shudder as he recalled their ordeal at the hands of Gordon Walker. "So you think a couple of whacked out hunters got the divine newsletter and then nabbed Bobby to lure us to some low-risk hunt and finish what Gordon started?" He shook his head slowly. "Bobby wouldn't fall for that. He's too careful to let anyone get the drop on him."
"Unless they were people he trusted, or…" Sam thinned his lips, his eyebrows disappearing under his bangs as another thought occurred to him.
"Or," the young hunter drawled. "Whoever – or whatever – took Bobby wasn't exactly human."
Dean stared at his brother while his mind raced to connect the dots. "Demons?"
Sam shrugged again. "Maybe."
Dean sighed and shifted in his seat, the weight of responsibility becoming that much heavier on his shoulders. It was one thing to be singled out as the lone hope for saving the world, but it was something else entirely to have your friends and family at risk simply because they were important to you – a weapon to be used against you. He took a deep breath and rubbed his hand along a denim clad thigh, closing his eyes momentarily as he struggled to force his anger back down where it could be of some use. "Well, we're not learning anything new sitting out here. What do you say we go save Bobby's ass for a change?"
Sam grinned. "I'm in. How do you want to play it?"
"Well, Bobby said to load up, so I guess we do what the man said. Holy water, salt and iron rounds, the works." With a final nod to Sam, Dean pushed open the door and stepped out onto the dirt shoulder of the road, his brother following suit on the opposite side of the car.
They moved around the car, meeting at the back of the Impala, Sam keeping an eye out for any signs of movement as he waited for his brother to open the trunk. Reaching in, they armed themselves with their usual weapons, filling their pockets with shells as well as flasks of Holy water and loose rock salt. Sam watched his brother out of the corner of his eye, trying to assess how ready Dean was for what they might face inside the dark prison walls.
Demons and ghosts they wouldn't hesitate to take out, but Sam felt a need to clarify how far they were willing to go – or how far Dean was willing to go. It wasn't lost on the younger man that before Dean had died and spent the equivalent of a lifetime in the pit, the doubts about his brother's willingness to do whatever it took wouldn't even have been an issue, but Sam wasn't entirely sure what Dean was capable of anymore. With the pressures of Castiel's presence and God's so called prophecy weighing him down – not to mention the horrors that still filled his head from his stay in the pit -- Sam wasn't sure Dean would be able to do what was necessary when it came right down to it. He hated doubting his brother. But he hated the thought of losing him again even more. Of course, the role reversal they now seemed to be experiencing wasn't lost on the younger man.
He was pretty sure Dean was aware of the change in him as well, and Sam was certain it was bothering his brother just as much as it was bothering Sam. They had come to a kind of impasse. Neither brother understanding what was truly going on with the other, and neither knowing how to breach the ever widening divide forming between them. Dean had taken a 'don't ask, don't tell' kind of approach to the problem as of late, and Sam was more than willing to follow his lead. He knew it wouldn't last, that Dean would eventually figure out what he'd been doing with Ruby, but he was more than happy to pretend everything was okay just as long as his brother was.
"So, what if it is hunters?" he asked carefully as he stepped back from the trunk, shotgun lying across his forearm. "What if they're human, Dean?"
The shorter man hesitated for a split second, hardly noticeable to anyone who hadn't known him all his life. His gaze flicked to Sam momentarily, the flash of disappointment quickly shadowed, but noticed nonetheless. He leaned into the trunk and pulled the shiny Desert Eagle from its place in the weapons cache. He flipped the safety, sliding the clip from the pistol to check that it was fully loaded before slamming it back home. He reset the safety and shoved it into the back of his jeans, then straightened and leveled his gaze at his brother. "They made their choice, Sammy. If it is hunters, we do what's necessary to protect our own." He yanked the sawed-off from the trunk and stepped back, slamming the lid soundly.
Sam swallowed and nodded, distressed by the disappointment in Dean's eyes, yet buoyed by the certainty in his deep voice. "We'll get him out, Dean. We're not losing anyone else."
Dean turned toward the prison, his head moving slightly as he nodded his agreement. He placed the sawed off against his shoulder and turned to face Sam, his eyes telegraphing his resolve. "Damn straight."