"What God abandoned, these defended…" A.E. Housman, Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

Zachariah got it wrong. He got it so unbelievably wrong.

He had all the power - and observational technology - of Heaven on his side and he still got it wrong. He took one measure of Dean, one measure only, and thought that was enough.

When it was show-time for the Apocalypse and the stage was set and the orchestra was tuning up, Zachariah actually thought that Dean Winchester would placidly wait for his cue, content with 'burgers, beer and the promise of babes', as though he were some rock star diva who needed to be kept calm and diverted lest he wander off right before the big show.

I can even see Zachariah taking the blue M&Ms out of the candy bowl, cackling all the while over what a mad genius he was.


He got it so wrong.

Yes, Dean Winchester is ultimately, overwhelmingly, undeniably hedonistic, inclined to a life of sensual pleasure, happily partaking of all the burgers, beers & babes within his reach.

But only after his job is done and everyone within his reach is safe.

Let me say that again for those of you who didn't get it the first time (if there are any of you left alive): Dean Winchester indulges himself only after everyone else is safe.

Zachariah got it so wrong.

Pardon me while I snicker a bit.

(And then perhaps just a bit more.)

Dean has said that, in another life, he would have wanted to be a firefighter. An apt choice. Firefighters and Winchesters are, after all, the only people who will march onhell to save other people, damn the consequences.

You tell a firefighter that someone might be trapped in a burning building, and in they go, searching top to bottom, attic to cellar, room by room by fire-filled room, fighting smoke and flame and collapsing floors, not stopping until they've found the lost and rescued the imperiled.

Or until they've died trying.

You tell Dean Winchester that someone might be in danger, and in he goes. All else is set aside. He doesn't sit in a 'green room', twiddling his thumbs, waiting to be told when to act. He acts.

And then he continues to act.

Firefighters never throw up their hands and hoses and say, 'Oh well, we did our best, this fire's got us beat. Let 'er burn.'

They fight and they fight and they fight some more until they have won. And they do always win. They may not save every person, every building, every scrap of property, and they may carry those particular scars of failure for the rest of their lives.

But firefighters always win because fire is their enemy and the fire always dies in the end.

Just as the Winchesters' enemies always die.

Because they never stop fighting.


To be continued

A/N: although this poem was written for soldiers in WWI, I have long thought it appropriate for firefighters.

I post it here in honor of the 19 firefighters who died this weekend fighting the wild fire in Arizona,

and for all firefighters, everywhere, living and dead:

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,

The hour when earth's foundations fled,

Followed their mercenary calling,

And took their wages, and are dead.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;

They stood, and earth's foundations stay;

What God abandoned, these defended,

And saved the sum of things for pay.

A.E. Housman