A/N: This story is part of my Crossed Swords Alternate Multiverse and a sequel to "Jeep Jockey Jumper." You don't need to have read the other stories to understand this one, but there are a few references to the earlier adventures here and there. This story is complete in four chapters; I'll be posting one chapter a day. SPN spoilers through mid-Season 7.
A Cage Full of Heroes
By San Antonio Rose
You're In the Army Now
Dean Winchester swore by all that was holy that he would kill this Trickster.
It wasn't Gabriel or even the real Loki—unfortunately—but when they'd gone to it for help against the Leviathans, it had decided to take a page out of the rebel archangel's book and stick them back in TVLand with the same rules for reasons known only to itself. And apparently the creep's cable lineup included some show about Air Force POWs in WWII because Dean and Sam had suddenly found themselves in front of a burning B-17 and surrounded by Germans. Sam, who just as suddenly had a haircut that would pass for regulation and sideburns that weren't muttonchops, had shot him a look that said Play along, so they surrendered. Now they were at some kind of processing center talking to a Nazi officer who barely spoke English. They had managed to inform each other of the surname and rank on their bomber jackets in the truck before being shut up by the guard, which came in very handy now.
"Ihre Name, Herr Hauptmann?" asked the German.
Dean really wanted to give a fake name, but he knew the jacket would give him away. And it wasn't like he existed in this show anyway. "Winchester, Dean, Captain, United States Army Air Force, 1121983."
The German duly wrote everything down and turned to Sam. "Herr Feldwebel?"
"Winchester, Samuel, Sergeant, United States Army Air Force, 8675309."
"... fünf-drei-null-neun." The German nodded as he finished writing and picked up the phone. "Geben Sie mir Luftstalag Dreizehn, bitte."
Though Sam swiftly hid his surprise, Dean knew his brother too well to miss it. "What?" he whispered.
"I know where we are," Sam whispered back, then added just loud enough for the Germans to hear, "They say Stalag 13 is the toughest POW camp in all of Germany. No escapes. That Col. Klink is a brute."
"Silence!" snapped the officer.
Dean blinked—that Klink? He'd never watched Hogan's Heroes, but he did watch The Simpsons enough to have seen the episode with Klink, the uptight German bungler who supposedly commanded Stalag 13, as Homer's guardian angel. And he knew that the camp, though none of the Germans realized it, was actually run by Col. Robert Hogan, alias Papa Bear, and his international team of prisoners-turned-spies as a processing point for escapees from other camps, a rescue center for downed airmen, and a base for sabotage and espionage. He thought he remembered something about a tunnel network, a hidden radio, a guard whose catchphrase was "I see NO-THINK!"...
Sam just nodded solemnly, confirming Dean's train of thought. Awesome.
The officer hung up the phone and barked an order, and as the guards herded the Winchesters back into the transport truck, it was all Dean could do to keep from laughing hysterically.
He still hated Tricksters, but this was a good one.
"Better set another place for dinner, LeBeau," Sgt. James "Kinch" Kinchloe stated as he walked into Barracks 2 at Stalag 13. "New prisoner just arrived."
"Two of 'em," Sgt. Andrew Carter corrected, following Kinch inside. "Both Americans. Just going into Klink's office now."
Hogan, who was pondering a radio message that had just been delivered to him, heard them and came out of his office. "Kinch, Carter, listen in on the coffee pot. I'll head over to Klink's."
"Right, Colonel," Kinch nodded, and the two American sergeants went into Hogan's office.
"Smells good, LeBeau," Hogan remarked on his way out the door. "Bouillabaisse?"
"Oui," nodded Cpl. Louis LeBeau. "And a good thing, too—as cold as it is, I bet those new prisoners will want some hot soup."
Hogan grinned; if one quality stood out about his French teammate more than his good cooking and his quick temper, it was his tendency to be a mother hen. "Likely."
He closed the door behind him and hurried across the compound to Klink's office, arriving in the outer office just in time to hear an American baritone repeating his name, rank, and an unusual-sounding serial number. Hilda, even though she was focused intently on her paperwork, was still blushing, so one or both men must be quite good-looking. Hogan gave her a peck on the cheek.
Her blush deepened a little, but she smiled at him. "Guten Tag, Col. Hogan."
"In there." She nodded at Klink's office door, which stood open.
Hogan kissed Hilda again and walked straight in to stand beside the sergeant who, though he slouched, was even taller than Kinch. Capt. Winchester, who had just finished speaking, looked around at him and then up at the sergeant, and something passed between them before the captain looked back at him and acknowledged him with a nod, a "Colonel," and a look that said We need to talk.
"Sir," the sergeant nodded down at him.
"Hi," Hogan replied, returning the nod to both men. "Col. Hogan. Welcome to Shangri-La."
"Col. Hogan," Klink said, "Capt. Dean Winchester, and this is..." He paused, waiting for the sergeant.
"Winchester, Sam, Sergeant, United States Army Air Force, 8675309."
"Are you two related?" Klink asked curiously as he wrote down Sgt. Winchester's information.
"Brothers," replied Capt. Winchester reluctantly.
And that was odd, though it explained the silent communication. How did two brothers end up in the same squadron, never mind on the same bomber crew? Regulations were supposed to prevent that sort of thing these days. They seemed a little old for their ranks, too, probably late 20s or early 30s.
Klink simply nodded in understanding. "Now, what is your flying group and where are you stationed?"
"Don't answer that," Hogan warned.
"Christo," the brothers chorused, their faces unreadable as they stared at Klink.
Oh, yeah. Something was definitely out of the ordinary here. No hobbits or spaceships, but that was not a normal response. Nor was their barely perceptible relaxation when Klink turned a puzzled frown on Hogan.
"Whaaat?" said Klink.
"Probably a concussion," Hogan said easily.
The brothers had a sudden coughing fit.
"See, Kommandant? These men aren't well. Let me take 'em back to the barracks and let Wilson check 'em over."
Klink looked worried. "I don't know, Hogan. If these men are contagious..."
Capt. Winchester cleared his throat and shook his head. "Allergies."
Sgt. Winchester coughed once more for emphasis. "My throat's still raw from all that smoke," he croaked.
Klink pondered a moment, then nodded. "All right. As long as Sgt. Wilson is sure they're not contagious, we will put them in your barracks and they will be your responsibility."
"Yes, sir." Hogan saluted sloppily. "C'mon, fellas."
With much throat-clearing and coughing and mutual back pounding, the Winchesters followed Hogan out of the office and across to Barracks 2. LeBeau met them at the door with cups of water, which they accepted with gratitude.
"Now what was so funny back there?" Hogan demanded.
"No offense, Colonel, but you were," Capt. Winchester grinned.
When a long look got nothing more out of the kid, Hogan sighed. "All right. Normally, as a commissioned officer, you'd bunk with me, but I get the feeling you'd rather stay with your brother." He pointed toward the bunk across the room from the tunnel entrance. "Those beds are free."
The captain nodded. "Got it. Thanks, Colonel."
"Is that coffee?" Sgt. Winchester asked hopefully, looking toward the hot plate on the table that held the useable coffee pot while the bouillabaisse simmered on the wood-burning stove.
"Oui," LeBeau nodded and poured him a cup.
Sgt. Winchester took a sip and groaned in pleasure.
"Dude," said his brother pointedly, using a word Hogan had only ever heard from the mouth of John Sheppard.
"Shut up. My throat does hurt."
"You don't have to..."
"My office, both of you," Hogan ordered before the conversation could get crude. "Kinch, Carter, come wait out here. LeBeau, go get Wilson and find Newkirk."
"Oui, Colonel," LeBeau nodded and hurried off while the brothers called each other names under their breath and Kinch and Carter came back into the main room.
Hogan herded the Winchesters into his office, closed the door, and blocked it. "Explain yourselves."
The brothers looked at each other, and Capt. Winchester sighed. "Where should I start?"
"Your real names would be nice."
"I'm Dean Winchester. This is my brother Sam. But we're not really in the Air Force."
"Yeah, I gathered that. I also gather you're not from this time period, possibly not even from this reality."
The Winchesters frowned at each other. "How do you know?" Capt.—Dean—asked, turning his frown on Hogan.
"Experience." Hogan slid his hunting knife out of its hiding place under his mattress and handed it to Dean. "That was given to me personally by an Elf."
"Did this Elf have a name?" Sam asked, setting his coffee cup on Hogan's desk as Dean slid the knife out of its sheath.
"He did, actually. Legolas Thranduilion."
Both brothers looked at him sharply, then at each other, then at the knife.
"Those are Tolkien's runes," Sam murmured. "And that... that's definitely Sindarin—I can't read it, but I recognize a word or two."
"The Trickster's not that good," Dean murmured back.
Hogan frowned and took the knife back. "The Trickster?"
Another shared look and a nod, and Dean took a deep breath. "It's a demigod who likes to..."
"Mess with people," Sam interrupted with a pointed look at Dean, and Hogan suspected he'd realized that their usual vocabulary was too obscene for this setting.
Dean glared at Sam but continued, "I dunno how we got crosswise with the... idjit, but he's been playin' some stupid game with us—we have to live through twenty-four hours of him puttin' us in a bunch of different TV shows. We play our roles, we survive."
"Um, television is... well, it's like movies, only broadcast like radio, but in a different frequency range," Sam explained.
Hogan nodded. "I can picture that. Thanks. And how do you know so much about demigods?"
"We're hunters," Dean replied. "We mostly hunt supernatural creatures—ghosts, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, demons, you name it. It's kind of the family business."
"Only we don't get paid," Sam added as if by habit.
"So that scene in the office," Hogan said, putting the pieces together. "You were testing Klink."
Dean turned to Sam in surprise. "He's quick."
"That's why I'm a colonel," Hogan quipped.
Sam frowned and crossed his arms. "Something's not right, though, Dean. I mean, yeah, everything else we've been through so far has been real in a sense, but the 'real' Col. Hogan shouldn't know anything about Lord of the Rings. I don't think he's the Trickster, though he is a trickster..."
"Well, thanks," Hogan remarked dryly.
Sam ignored him. "But we ought to be hearing a laugh track, at least—and have you noticed that in all the shows we've been through, the series regulars have either already known who we are to some degree or refused to accept that we weren't the characters they thought we were?"
Dean looked thoughtfully at Hogan as he ticked something off on his fingers, then turned back to Sam and apparently censored himself twice. "We're in an alternate universe."
Sam nodded. "That's my guess."
"How is that possible? Tricksters don't have that kind of power, and we know what it takes even for an angel to open a portal."
Sam shrugged. "Maybe we slipped through a crack... y'know, like in the Narnia books. Or maybe someone higher up decided we need a break."
"Sammy, in case you forgot, we have no friends left Upstairs. Unless Ash staged a coup or something."
"God's still out there."
"God abandoned us, dude. Slammed the door in our faces when we asked for help with the Apocalypse, wouldn't even show to stop Cas from popping Purgatory. Why the hell would he intervene now?"
"Maybe it wasn't God from our universe. Other worlds can't all be like that one Balthazar threw us into, can they?"
As Dean failed to come up with a response to that, Hogan interrupted, "Did you say the Apocalypse?"
Both brothers suddenly looked incredibly guilty. "It's a long story," Dean replied in a low voice.
Just then someone knocked on the door. "It's Kinch, Colonel," said his black chief of staff from the other side. "Wilson's here."
Hogan nodded to the Winchesters and opened the door to see that Wilson was getting a cup of coffee from LeBeau. Perfect. "Sgt. Wilson!" he called, loudly enough that everyone in the outer room could hear. "I promised Klink I'd have you give our visitors the once-over."
The barracks stilled for a split second as the other prisoners processed the code word. Hogan hoped the pause was less obvious to the brothers.
Then Wilson nodded. "Sure thing, Colonel. Anything in particular?"
Hogan shrugged. "Colds, mainly, and smoke inhalation."
"You got it, sir. Thanks, LeBeau," Wilson added with a smile and a slight raise of the coffee mug before heading into the office.
Hogan introduced the Winchesters to the medic before leaving the office, closing the door behind him, and heading over to the main table. "Ah, fellas?" he began, looking at his four teammates. As soon as he had their attention, he continued, "Need to talk to you a minute about this message Baker brought me a few minutes ago."
Olson immediately went to the door to keep watch.
"What is it, Colonel?" LeBeau asked. "Something wrong with our visitors?"
"Not exactly wrong," Hogan admitted before summarizing the interview for his men. "But the timing is curious," he continued, pulling Baker's message out of his pocket. "This just came in from Lily Frankel: 'Urgent, repeat, urgent: Gestapo suspicions piqued again by Saturday's ammo dump explosion. Underground ordered to halt all activity—suspect trap about to be set for Stalag 13. Do not, repeat, do not send men or information out of camp until further notice. Have notified London. Good luck.'"
A collective sigh went up from the group.
"You're sure there's no reason to suspect our new lads, Colonel?" asked RAF Cpl. Peter Newkirk.
Hogan nodded. "They're on the level. No German alive today would call another German 'dude' or talk about that Narnia story Beckett mentioned once, and they knew far too much about Tolkien just on the basis of Legolas' name to be spies. Even though London won't have anything on them, I think we can trust them. But they kept talking about this spirit called the Trickster who probably sent them here. They don't seem to think he's actually in this reality at the moment, but if the Gestapo is setting a trap..."
Carter muttered something uncomplimentary about Coyote in Sioux.
"How do we play it, then, Colonel?" Kinch asked.
"I dunno," Hogan sighed. "We can't be sure of anything until the Gestapo makes a move. But Lily's right about one thing. As of now, all activity comes to a halt. The only people I want down in the tunnel for any reason are Kinch and Baker. No outgoing calls, no outgoing radio messages—we're not gonna wait for a radio detector truck this time. And I'll see if the Winchesters know of a way to keep the Trickster from getting into the camp if he does show up. Carter, Newkirk, pass the word."
Carter and Newkirk nodded and left, and LeBeau went back to work on the bouillabaisse. All three had just finished their assigned tasks when the office door opened and the Winchesters came out.
"Anything wrong, Wilson?" Hogan asked.
Wilson shrugged. "Nothing contagious, if that's what you mean. Can I talk to you a minute, sir?"
Hogan nodded. "Sure. Winchester," he added, looking at Dean, "you can have my seat for the moment."
Dean nodded once. "Yes, sir. Thank you."
Once he was in the office with the door shut, Hogan looked at Wilson expectantly. "Well?"
Wilson smiled a little. "If I didn't already know they were visitors, the scars and tattoos woulda raised some questions. They've got matching tattoos on their chests—kind of looks like some native design except for the pentangle in the middle. The sergeant's got a few nasty scars: one on his hand where it looks like he fell on a broken jar or something, couple on his wrists that look like someone tried to make him bleed to death, and one on his back that looks like someone tried to sever his spinal cord. No idea how he survived that one. The captain's got one on his left shoulder that's shaped like a handprint. And they've both got a couple of round ones smack over their center of mass—could be shotgun wounds if they weren't still breathing."
"That's not what worries me."
"Both of 'em flinched when my hands got too close to their belts, like... well."
Hogan nodded. He could fill in that blank for himself perfectly well; he'd known a couple of cadets at West Point who'd gotten drunk enough one weekend to admit that they'd been sexually abused. No one ever talked about it again, but Hogan had been aware of the signs after that.
"The sergeant kind of blanked out for a moment while I was checking on the captain, staring off at something that wasn't there. And then he started rubbing that scar on his hand—really pushing his thumb into it, probably hard enough to hurt. The captain called him by name a couple of times, and he snapped out of it. I'm no psychiatrist, but I'd put money on his having some kind of trauma-related hallucinations."
Hogan sighed. "Anything else?"
"I smelled whiskey on the captain's breath."
Hogan frowned. "He doesn't act drunk."
Wilson nodded. "I know. That's a bad sign. And since the last cave-in took out our wine cellar, my guess is that he's gonna start going into serious withdrawal before too many days. I can cover it as the flu, since we've all had that this winter, but..."
Hogan sighed again. "Sounds like they've had a rough time."
"You know the old saying, sir, but we've only been through war. Those boys have been through hell."
How literally, I wonder, Hogan thought as he nodded. "Thanks, Wilson."
Dean was begging LeBeau for a second helping of bouillabaisse when Wilson and Hogan came out of the office, and across the table Sam was shooting his brother a look of amused bewilderment while Kinch and Newkirk were clearly trying hard not to laugh. Carter, on the other hand, was concentrating intently on something he was making with what looked like a piece of string and thus wasn't paying attention to any of them. Wilson took his leave and went to make his report to Klink, and Hogan sat down beside Dean.
"Enjoying the food that much?" he asked.
Sam snorted. "Dean will eat anything that's not a vegetable."
"Dude, shut up," Dean shot back. "Lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are fine when they're on bacon cheeseburgers. Don't get me started on what you eat."
Sam rolled his eyes and ate another spoonful of soup.
LeBeau served Hogan and himself and set another serving aside to keep warm on the hotplate for Carter before granting Dean's seconds. "Have you ever had bouillabaisse before?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah, couple of times when I was working a job in New Orleans—man. That was a lifetime ago. It was just diner food, though; not sure I've ever had a meal prepared by a real French chef before. Have you, College Boy?"
Sam shook his head. "No, Jess... Jess was more into Asian, Greek, Lebanese." And he set his spoon in his bowl for a moment while he pressed his thumb into his left palm.
Dean's face fell. "Sammy? Sammy, hey, I'm sorry..."
Sam took a deep breath, met Dean's eyes, and shook his head. "No, it—it's okay, Dean, honest. I'm fine."
Sam nodded and went back to work on his soup. Unsure what to say, so did Hogan, and everyone else did likewise (except Carter, who was still working on whatever it was).
After a moment, Dean thought of something mid-bite and held up a finger while he swallowed. "Colonel, couple of things I forgot to ask. First, what day is it?" Dean asked.
"January 15, 1945," Kinch answered.
Dean looked at Sam, who shrugged. Then he looked back at Hogan. "Second, to make sure this isn't a working vacation, do you mind if we... take some precautions?"
Hogan shrugged. "Go ahead. We'll tell Schultz you're superstitious. And if you know some way to keep the Trickster out, so much the better."
Sam frowned. "I don't think it's likely that he'll be able to follow us here; like we said, your average Trickster doesn't have the power to actually cross realities. Loki probably did, but... in our reality, he's dead."
Dean sighed and shook his head a little. "Weird as it sounds, I actually miss the guy."
"Yeah," Sam agreed quietly. "Me, too." Then he shuddered—hard.
Dean just about jumped over the table. "Sam?"
"N—Dean, I'm okay, I'm not—I'm fine, honest." Sam looked over at Kinch, almost desperately. "Please tell me you guys have some kind of PT every day."
Rattled, Kinch cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah. We can put you guys on work details, too, if you want... KP, motor pool..."
Dean perked up. "Motor pool? Like, mechanic work?"
"Yeah! You a mechanic?"
"Well, not professionally. Dad was, though, and he taught me everything he knew."
Sam grinned suddenly, but it wasn't the kind of grin that came with a psychotic break; he looked downright proud. "Dean's rebuilt our car from the frame up twice now. He's awesome."
Dean ducked his head a little in embarrassment, but he couldn't keep from grinning back at his brother.
Kinch looked at Hogan. "What do you think, Colonel?"
Hogan shrugged. "Sounds like a good fit to me. And Sam, we can partner you with Newkirk and LeBeau on clean-up detail—nothing dangerous, but it'll keep you moving most of the day. If this is anything like what happened with the hobbits, you'll only be here a few days, but it would be a good idea for you to be on work details just to keep the Germans from getting suspicious."
The brothers looked at each other again, and something—relief, perhaps, or maybe hope—dawned on both faces.
"Colonel, thank you," Sam replied sincerely. "Not just for putting us up—for understanding."
"This time last year, I might not have," Hogan stated matter-of-factly. "Now we've dealt with too much weirdness of our own not to understand. I'm just sorry it's not the Riviera; sounds like you guys need a real rest."
"As bad as it is, Colonel, it beats Hell," Dean returned quietly. "And I mean that literally."
And there it was. Hogan decided not to push the question, but he had that much of an answer, and it explained a lot. Instead, he turned to the bunk behind him. "Carter, aren't you gonna eat?"
"In a minute, sir," came the distracted reply. "Can't stop or I'll lose the tension." Carter slid a bead onto the string and kept going.
Newkirk finished his soup and looked over at Dean. "A right car bug, eh, Captain?"
Dean grinned. "You could say that."
"What do you drive?"
"It's a Chevy, but it's not a model you'd have heard of."
"Impala won't come out until '58."
"What would they have in the UK now?" Sam asked, frowning. "Standard Six?"
Dean nodded. "Standard Six—most of the other new lines since the '20s have been replaced or suspended because of the war. And the Standard Six is a good car, don't get me wrong, but my baby's got a V8."
"And lousy mileage."
"Dude, do not get me started on that plastic piece of garbage you drove for a year. Thing dinged at you if you didn't put your seatbelt on," Dean confided to Newkirk with clear disdain. "But I didn't have to put up with it long. Two guys fell out a fifth-floor window onto it, totaled it."
Hogan glanced around the room to see varying levels of shock on the faces of the other men in the barracks. He couldn't help smiling into his coffee.
"Wait," said Mills, leaning forward on his bunk. "They fell five stories and damaged the car?"
"I still don't quite understand that one myself," Sam mused. "I mean, they were angels—you'd think they'd remember to fly."
Both the excited chatter and the incredulous questions provoked by that pronouncement lasted until roll call, resumed as soon as roll call was over, and continued until Hogan shut it down a few minutes before lights out. He might have done so sooner, but the Winchesters seemed to be enjoying the attention, and their answers helped put to rest any lingering suspicions that they might in fact be Gestapo plants. Himmler might be an occultist, but no one in the SS would so casually admit to the kinds of things these men knew and had killed, nor would he have laughed at a question Potowsky threw out in Yiddish, never mind answering in the same language as easily as Dean did.
The joy went out of both brothers' faces when the lights out warning was given, though. Dean, especially, looked like he really didn't want to face whatever was lurking in his dreams. Yet they said their good-nights pleasantly enough and headed for their bunks.
"Uh, guys?" Carter suddenly spoke up from across the room. "I thought you might like these."
The brothers turned and saw that Carter was holding up two dream-catchers.
"It's really more of a Chippewa thing," Carter shrugged, "but just 'cause I'm part Sioux doesn't mean I don't know how to make 'em."
"Wait," Dean said. "You made those? For us? Today?"
"Yeah," Carter confirmed, confused. "I thought you might have nightmares from... whatever sent you here."
Sam and Dean looked at each other, and Hogan wondered if they might actually break down and cry. Then Sam walked around the table and accepted the dream-catchers from Carter. After staring at them for a moment, he looked back at Carter with a sad smile. "Thanks, Carter."
The last thing Hogan saw before retiring to his quarters for the night was the Winchesters carefully pinning the dream-catchers to the wall over their heads.