AN: Hi guys! I've been drabbling so much recently there hasn't been any other writing done...until this first scene woke me up one night. lol Then the hunter wouldn't tell me who it was and then the bad guy wouldn't identify himself...you know how it goes. :D Anyway, this was beta'ed by the lovely and talented Tara (AKA LovinJackson) and Brigid Tanner. *Bows and blows kisses to both* Thanks, Ladies! I played a little after, so any goofs are all me.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making any money. No infringement intended.
The big car rolled slowly through the deserted intersection; the deep rumble of her engine giving only a hint of the power available at the touch of her accelerator. The driver sat almost casually, giving no indication of the tension beneath his facade. His sharp eyes moved back and forth, carefully looking into every nook and cranny as they passed.
The hour was late and no respectable person would be out at this time. His piercing eyes occasionally rested on a drunk wobbling his way home, but each was dismissed as unimportant. Any threats would more likely come from a different sort of being — like the being that had taken his family.
A hunter by trade, the driver was on a mission and wasn't going to rest until it was completed. His hunter's instincts would let him know when the creature he sought was close. He'd heard rumors about strange happenings in this general neighborhood and was confident it would show itself eventually. He just hoped it wouldn't be too late.
The rundown buildings in this old part of town spoke of a more prosperous time, but the hunter didn't really see the buildings — only the shadows they cast in the dim light of the streetlamps; the classic architecture was completely lost on him. Movement to his right caused the hunter's attention to flick in that direction, body immediately tense. He relaxed as the movement turned into a stray mutt trotting along with its nose fairly close to the ground.
Just a dog. Probably tracking a cat or something. Wait, what's that?
Six Hours Earlier – Singer's Auto Yard
"Sammy, pass the salt, please." Dean used his casted left arm to indicate the salt in front of his brother. He was perfectly capable of grasping it himself, but was milking his injury today. Besides, harassing his little brother was one of the perks of being older. A barely contained smirk lit his features as Sammy hastened to comply. Ah, this is going to be great!
Normally, the fifteen-year-old minimized his injuries in favor of the hunt or protecting his family. Neither of those situations was present at this time, however, so he felt he could relax and enjoy life for a bit.
The deceptive air of weakness he was currently adopting hid the competent hunter he'd become — and was capable of exhibiting no matter the injuries. Only a hint of danger was needed; but, for now, Dean was content to play this role as The Injured. He winced dramatically as he brought his arm back to rest in his lap.
"How're you feeling, Dean? Does it hurt a lot? Do you need some more pain pills?" Sammy switched to mother hen mode in an instant. Dean, his hero, was hurt so he'd do anything to help him feel better.
Letting out a dramatic sigh, Dean shook his head. "I'll be fine, but thanks, Sammy."
Across the table from the brothers, chocolate brown eyes watched the exchange while the owner chewed a bite of his dinner. Looking meaningfully at his elder son, John swallowed before speaking. "Dean's going to be fine, Sammy. It's a slight fracture and he'll be out of that cast in no time. Now, how about we just eat our dinner? Okay? Dean?" His glance moved back and forth between his two sons.
"Yes sir," came the simultaneous replies. Sammy glanced worriedly at his injured brother who looked through his eyelashes with a twinkle in his eye at his dad.
John chuckled softly as he shook his head and returned to his meal.
Bobby snorted. "You children going to be okay while I go to town?"
Dean placed his injured hand over his heart, feigning hurt. "Children? Do I look like a child to you? Don't answer that!" he quickly added as he saw the look on Bobby's face. "How about I go with you? We can leave these other two kids here to hold down the fort." He indicated his father and little brother.
Bobby's eyes narrowed. "I'm not your nursemaid, Dean. I'm not going to drag your whiny ass all over town and watch you use that cast to get girls! I've got work to do and it doesn't include keeping track of you."
Bobby's pointing finger had gotten closer to Dean's nose as he spoke. The teen was nearly cross-eyed from watching it approach. Sammy giggled at his brother as Bobby faked a swipe at Dean's face, his expression not changing, but his eyes relaxing a bit.
Dean gave the older man a crooked grin. "I thought Jeb closed the shop at six."
"Normally, he does, but he's got the part I need and he's going to leave it where I can just pick it up. I run a tab with him sometimes, so it'll be fine. I should be back in a couple of hours; maybe with some ice cream." His tone indicated that there better not be any more messing around or the potential ice cream would lose its potentiality.
The brothers shuffled in their seats and straightened up with mock seriousness; Sammy bringing out the puppy eyes in full force. Bobby, for his part, put forth a superhuman effort to not laugh out loud. His chair scraped the floor as he scooted it back and threw his napkin on the table. "I'm out of here!" He growled.
Dean and Sam looked at each other, honestly confused as to what had just happened. In their minds, they were doing as the older man had instructed.
"What was that?" Dean asked his father.
John's eyes went from the door that had just slammed to his sons. "Just finish your dinner, boys."
Outside, the rumble of Bobby's old truck could be heard speeding out of the yard and down the road.
John threw down the magazine he was not reading and looked at his watch for the one hundredth time in ten minutes. Bobby had been gone for four hours and it was not like the older hunter to be late without letting someone know. He wasn't answering his cell phone and that was never a good sign — unless he was on a hunt. He wasn't. He'd gone to town for a part or two. Running his hands through his hair in frustration, the hunter got up and headed toward the room where Bobby kept his arsenal. Dean magically appeared behind him as if through a puff of smoke.
"I want to go with you."
"Dad! I need to go with you. You need someone to watch your back."
Dean slammed his hand on the door jam, bringing his father up short. "Why not? You need me and Bobby needs me to help you. You don't know what it is, Dad."
John turned angry eyes on his first born, softening as he saw the fear and determination in the young man's own eyes. "It doesn't matter what it is right now, Dean. I'll find Bobby and bring him home safely. I don't want to have to worry about you, too. I know you're good, Son." He raised his hand at Dean's attempt to interrupt. "That's not the point. The point is that you're injured. I need you here — Sammy needs you here. Hey, kiddo."
Startled, Dean turned to see his little brother standing behind him. When had the kid gotten so stealthy? "Hey, Sammy. What's up?"
The younger boy looked fearfully between his father and his big brother. "Is Bobby going to be okay? Are you going after him?"
The older Winchesters automatically switched into 'protect Sammy' mode.
"Bobby's going to be fine!" Came the reply in unison.
"And yes, I'm going after him." John looked pointedly at his first born. "Dean's going to stay here with you. Bobby and I will be back in a few hours." John hitched the duffle of weapons over his shoulder and headed out into the hall. "I'll call you in a little while with an update. Don't forget what you're supposed to do when I leave."
"I've already checked the wards, Dad. I'll replenish the salt by the door and the windows when you leave." Dean looked for all the world like he'd lost his best friend.
"That's my boy." John headed out the door.
Sammy came up to stand beside his big brother, who put his uninjured arm around the younger boy's shoulders. Together, they stood in the doorway and watched the Impala head out of the junkyard and toward town; her muffler fading into silence. Quiet reigned for a few more moments until Dean closed the door and Sammy laid a fresh line of salt in front of it.
"Are we really going to stay here?"
"That's what Dad said to do, right?"
"Yes, he did, Dean, but you hardly ever do what Dad says on something like this."
The older boy sighed and used his good hand to cup his little brother's neck. "We don't know what the problem is, Sammy; but I'm not going to put you in danger. We'll wait and see what Dad finds out. He'll call as soon as he knows something."
"Okay, but then I'll go with you, right?"
Dean snorted. "We'll see."
Glowering at his big brother, the younger boy threw himself down on the sofa, grabbed the TV remote, and began flipping through the channels. He had no idea what he was seeing on the screen, but it didn't really matter. His mind was so busy he couldn't have concentrated on anything, anyway.
The older boy sighed as he sat beside Sammy, his own mind racing. He was very worried about Bobby and now his dad had gone, too. Not knowing what they were dealing with was the worst. As much as he hated the idea, they'd just have to do as they were told and wait.
John made a beeline for the auto parts store that Jeb owned. Bobby's truck was there, all right, but the shop was dark and there was no sign of his old friend. John got out and pounded on the door of the shop, in case the men were in the back or something. There was no answer. He looked in the window, holding his hands up to his face to shield his eyes from the ambient light. Again, nothing.
The oldest Winchester was becoming more worried as the minutes passed. This was not like Bobby at all and the fact that he hadn't answered his phone was the biggest problem. He would always call; but if he didn't, he'd always answer his phone — always. It was an unspoken rule in the hunting world. If you were alive, you answered your phone. If you didn't answer, or at the very least return the phone call, the worst could be assumed.
John pounded a fist on the door in frustration and turned toward the old truck. Staring at it for a moment in an attempt to catch anything 'off' about it, he realized that the passenger door he was facing wasn't closed all the way. The truck was older than dirt, but Bobby kept it in good working order so there was no reason that the door wouldn't have been able to be closed all the way. He stepped toward the truck, studying the door and the surrounding area for any sign. It was difficult to see with the streetlamp casting a shadow on that side of the truck, but John's keen eyes spotted a smear that he didn't think should be there.
Placing his finger on the smear, he knew without any further evidence that it was blood; nothing in his experience felt the same as blood. His heart sank. He knew it was Bobby's blood, but what had happened? He looked inside the truck and saw the part that had brought the mechanic to town lying on the seat. He must have been surprised when his back was turned. The hunter turned slowly as he scoured the ground for any sign of what might have happened here.
There were signs of a struggle and some odd prints moving away, but there were drag marks through them. That and the dim light made them impossible to identify. He followed them the best he could, but had to give up as they blended in with other, more obvious footprints. Frustrated, he returned to the Impala and drove off in the general direction the marks had indicated.
The big car rolled slowly through the deserted intersection; the deep rumble of her engine giving only a hint of the power available at the touch of her accelerator. John sat almost casually, giving no indication of the tension he felt. His sharp eyes moved back and forth, carefully looking into every nook and cranny as they passed. He saw a drunk wobbling his way home, but dismissed him as a threat. Whatever had Bobby most likely was a different kind of being.
John thought about calling his boys, but they were in the safest place they could be — probably the safest place in the whole country. He had nothing really to report and was sure they were all right. Besides, Dean injured was more formidable than any other teenager in healthy condition. John knew his older boy wouldn't let anything happen to Sammy or himself.
The architecture of the rundown buildings in this old part of town spoke of a more prosperous time, but John didn't really see the buildings — only the shadows they cast in the dim light of the streetlamps. Movement to his right made him glance in that direction, body immediately tense. He relaxed as the movement turned out to be a stray mutt trotting along with its nose fairly close to the ground.
Just a dog. Probably tracking a cat or something. Wait, what's that?
The mutt suddenly stopped his tracking and raised his hackles as he gave out a low growl. John didn't hear the growl over the sound of the idling engine, but the dog's actions let him know pretty much what was going on. Suddenly startled, the dog yelped, turned and ran in the opposite direction with his tail between his legs.
Huh! That's probably worth checking out.
John pulled the Impala over toward the curb and shut off the ignition. He waited a few moments to see if there was any sound or visible sign of what had frightened the dog so much. Not seeing or hearing anything, he picked up his weapon from the seat beside him and slowly got out of the car. He cringed at the noise the door made and vowed to get some WD-40 sprayed on it after he found Bobby. He shut the door normally, knowing whatever chance of surprise he'd had was busted.
Holding his weapon in front of him military style, he slowly approached the alley as much from the side as he could. He wanted whatever cover he could get in case he was dealing with a human who might throw some bullets his way. Upon reaching the end of the wall, John peeked around the corner and pulled back quickly. His trained eyes had taken in more in that glance than an average person would have; years in the Marines and years as a hunter had made sure of that. Unfortunately, what he'd seen was just an alley. There were dumpsters lining the walls beside rear doors of businesses. Light from high windows gave off enough light to let him know there wasn't much else back there. Something scared that mutt, though.
He stepped forward carefully. He still had to check it out. Something or someone could be hiding behind a dumpster or one of the closed doors. As he took his first full step into the alley, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise — there was definitely something here.
Sam had finally settled on a mindless program to watch. He and Dean had been sitting quietly while the show ran, neither paying it much attention. Dean swore he could hear his little brother's gears whirring. The older boy couldn't blame him; he wasn't very calm either.
Both boys jumped as they heard Rumsfeld going after something out in the auto yard. There was a yip followed by silence. Sam turned wide eyes to Dean who placed his hand on the younger boy's shoulder, indicating he should stay put for a bit. Dean turned off the television and placed the remote onto the sofa as he got up. He crept carefully to the door and picked up the salt-loaded shotgun that stood next to it. Glancing back at his brother to make sure he was where he'd been left, Dean turned back to the door standing up a little to see what had happened.
Before he could reach his full height, there was a slam at the door from the other side causing Dean to stumble back and land on his butt. Sam was there instantly. He'd jumped at the sudden noise so close to them, but moved to help his brother up without a thought. Both their hearts were beating rapidly and two sets of lungs tried desperately for air as the brothers held onto each other. Another loud slam on the door penetrated their shock and both scrambled to get up and get away. Sam handed his brother the shotgun that had bounced away from them as they headed upstairs.
"Dean! Did you see what it was?" Sam asked over his shoulder as they ran up the steps.
"Hell no! Scared the crap out of me, though."
Dean's heart hadn't slowed down from the fright and the run up the stairs wasn't helping. He had to hang on for Sammy, though. At eleven, Sam was small for his age, but had learned almost as much as Dean knew about self-defense and weaponry. As soon as they got to their dad's room, they'd get a weapon for Sam. Another slam on the door caused the brothers to almost leap past the final few stairs onto the landing.
The older boy pushed the younger to keep moving. "Head to Dad's room! The weapons bag is in there."
Used to following orders without hesitation in a serious situation, Sammy obeyed without question. Dean followed his little brother and closed the door behind them. Sammy was already going through the bag on the floor since it was still too heavy for him to lift.
"What should I take, Dean? We don't know what it is!"
Dean knelt beside his brother. "Get a knife for each of us and my sawed-off — you can use it and I'll keep this one," he indicated the shotgun he was holding. "What kind of rounds do we have?"
Sammy laid the two hunting knives on the floor and rummaged for the boxes of shells. "Looks like a lot of salt rounds for both shotguns, iron rounds, regular rounds, and silver rounds for the .45s." Sammy glanced up at his brother, waiting for a decision.
"Okay. Good. It could be a spirit or a demon, but I doubt it would be able to get past all the wards and sigils that Bobby has up. If that's what it is, we should be safe inside the house. It won't be able to get across the salt lines. If it's not that, then the salt rounds won't do us much good. Forget what I said, we'll just use my sawed off. You take one of the .45s and give me the other. Take some of each kind of rounds and fill your pockets. I'll take the rest."
Dean reached into the bag for his knife sheath as Sam began gathering his supplies as instructed. The older boy strapped his sheath on his ankle outside of his jeans and shoved the knife home. He placed the other one in a sheath on his little brother's back. The younger boy was still too small to wear it on his leg, but it would be in a good place for Dean to grab if he lost his own.
Suddenly, a crashing sound from downstairs had both boys turning to look at the door. Whatever had been outside was now inside.
John had no trouble seeing what was obviously there. Unfortunately, he knew there were probably things there that weren't visible. He moved forward soundlessly, senses alert for anything unusual. He tried the first door he came to and found it locked, so moved onto the next one. It too, was locked, so he turned toward the first dumpster. A noise behind him made him jump, twisting as he did so. He relaxed as he saw that the noise had been a cat running away.
Giving his heart a second to return to a normal rhythm, John leaned against the brick wall where he was standing. This is probably the creepiest alley I've been in. Part of him was wondering why he was in such a creepy place while the other part was wondering why he was being such a wuss about the whole thing. You're a hunter for God's sake, Winchester — man up! Singer needs you, you sonofabitch!
Slightly more fortified after his little 'talk' with himself, he pushed away from the wall and finished the couple of steps to the dumpster. The lids were open so he just had to stand up tall and peak over the side.
Nothing. The odor was enough to about knock him onto his butt, though.
This is going to take forever at this rate!
Taking a deep breath and stepping out into the relative brightness of the main part of the alley, John shouted, "Who's back there? Come out where I can see you!"
"I said to come out where I can see you! I've got a gun and won't hesitate to use it!" John took two very cautious steps forward, every sense alert. He didn't hear the movement behind him, though, nor sense the creature in time to dodge it as it leaped onto his back, knocking him unconscious to the ground.
"Sammy! Shove that chair under the doorknob!" Dean turned to finish his job with the weapons, knowing his little brother was doing what he asked. They may have to make a stand in this room, but that was okay. If whatever it was got into the house, they were as safe here as anywhere else inside.
"Dean! What is it?"
Both boys listened to the thumbing and strange growling that was coming from below them. They caught the occasional word, but the other sounds were just weird.
"I don't know. I've never heard anyone or anything sound like that. It's sort of speaking like humans, but it's also making some sort of growling sound, too. I don't think the salt's going to do us any good at all, Sammy."
Sammy glanced back at his big brother and threw the salt-loaded sawed off on the bed; knowing without being told to find another weapon. Dean moved to stand between the door and his little brother as the younger boy retrieved another .45 and a couple of clips each of iron rounds and silver rounds. Properly armed, he took his place beside and behind his big brother.
Dean didn't have to look to know that Sammy was in the right place. The eleven-year-old may not have actively participated in any hunts, but he knew where he belonged. That had been drilled into him for a long time. Dean's fear amped up a little bit at his baby brother being in such danger, but he was also confident in his own ability to protect the younger boy.
The young hunter concentrated on settling his emotions and focusing on the door. The weird noises from the lower floor were definitely moving toward the stairs. There was no doubt in his mind that whatever it was would be outside their door way too soon.
Dean took a moment to glance at Sammy. He knew he was in place, but wanted to make sure the younger boy was okay. With a little surprise and a burst of pride, he saw the fear in his brother's face, but also a steely determination that gave the older boy confidence that he would be an excellent hunter one day. Noises coming up the stairs brought Dean's attention back to the door. The fact that the creatures didn't try to hide their location made the older boy certain they were not dealing with anything completely human.
"They're coming, Sammy!" He whispered. "You clear on what to do?"
"I'm ready," Came the slightly shaky voice from his little brother.
The brothers focused on the door before them, jumping slightly when the door shook from a blow strong enough to almost shatter the hinges. Another blow and the chair splintered into pieces and both hunters began firing as the door opened.
John opened his eyes — at least he thought he did. He blinked several times, but there was only darkness; darkness as complete as when he'd taken the boys through that cave that time in Missouri and the guide had turned off the lights. It was disorienting and scary as hell.
The pain in his head brought him back to the present and a moan escaped his lips before he caught himself. As he started to take inventory of his other pains and diagnose his injuries, another sound caught his attention. There was movement in the darkness off to his right. The experienced hunter stilled instantly, not even breathing so he wouldn't miss anything.
"Winchester! Is that you?"
John's shoulders sagged at the welcome sound of that gravelly voice. "Bobby! Are you all right? What happened to you? Where the hell are we?"
The mechanic snorted, "Of course I'm not all right! I got jumped and I've no idea where we are. What the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm rescuing you, you dumb sonovabictch; what do you think I'm doing here?"
"Nice rescue, asshole. I was afraid they'd gotten into the house and taken the three of you. Where are the boys?"
"The boys are back at the yard. They're fine. I came into town and found your truck at the parts shop; started driving around town to see if I could come up with anything. There were some weird sort of tracks that lead off in this general direction and I thought I'd take a chance. Found you, huh?" John's smile was a little ironic, but lost on the other hunter. "Who are 'they', anyway? What's got us?"
"I'm not completely sure, but I think it's a group of were-cats."
"Were-cats? Were-cats! Here? Thought the closest they were was South America."
"Yeah, me too. And they're usually solitary and territorial like regular house cats, but this group seems to be acting more like a pride of lions. It's like they're a family or something."
John tried to move to get more comfortable, only to find that he was bound hand and foot to a pole or something. He dropped his chin on his chest in temporary defeat.
"Have you ever come across one before?"
"I was in Mexico about a year ago hunting a chupacabra, but it turned out to be a were-cat — a young one. Killed it and didn't find any other sign in the area. That's my one and only experience with one. Anything I know about them has come from books and word of mouth. They ain't very common and I never expected to see one this far north!"
John huffed, "I guess we can be grateful for small favors. How many of them do you figure we're dealing with?"
Bobby was quiet for a few seconds; long enough that John thought he might not have heard the question and was about to ask it again, when the mechanic spoke.
"What?" John hissed.
"I wonder if somehow a human family got turned and the young one that I killed is part of this group."
"What? Revenge? You think that's what this is about? Why haven't they killed you…us?"
John could almost feel the other hunter shrug. "I have no idea. They seem to be waiting for something, though."
"Have they said anything, done anything to you? Do they ever turn on the lights?"
"Nope. Nothing. I think they're staying in cat form; they don't turn a light on, actually, just open a door or something to the outside. Just enough to let in some of the ambient light from outside so their reflective eyes can work for them. I hear them moving around from time to time, but they don't bother me at all. Like I said — they seem to be waiting."
John suddenly began to swear impressively as he renewed his struggle to get free.
"What the hell, John?"
"They're after the boys! I'm sure of it. They lured us in here to get them alone so they could go after them. If that young one you killed was part of this family, that's the revenge they're trying to get. They want you to suffer by losing young ones you care about!"
"Damn it! Of course that's it!" Bobby began his own struggles to get free, determined not to let the young Winchesters suffer or die because of him.
The smell of blood and cordite was heavy in the air in the bedroom as the two boys struggled with what had happened in the last few moments that had seemed to last for an eternity. Sam had been knocked away from Dean and had to gingerly step over the bodies of the creatures at their feet to get back to his big brother.
"Wh…what are they, Dean?"
"'M not sure, Sammy," The older boy looked at his little brother's face, his green eyes much wider than usual and his heart pumping like a super-charged engine. He moved away from the wall he'd been sagging against since the shooting and roaring stopped and reached for Sam. "You okay, kiddo? Did they get you at all?"
Sam blinked at the question almost as if his brother was speaking a foreign language. Slowly, his eyes rolled back and his body began to sag. Dean reacted instantly, dropping his weapon and grabbing his little brother with his good arm before the younger boy hit the floor.
"Hey, Sammy! You hurt?" The fear that had begun to subside amped up again as he laid his brother on the bed and checked him for any injuries. There was blood on Sammy, but most of it didn't appear to be his. There were scratches aplenty — some probably from flying pieces of chair and some from claws — but there didn't appear to be any puncture wounds.
Dean almost laughed with relief as he realized that his little brother had simply fainted. With big-brother glee, he filed the information away for use against his younger sibling at a more appropriate time. For now, though, he had to wake the kid up.
"Sam! Sammy! Come on, dude, wake up for me! You hear me, Sammy?" The older boy gently slapped his brother's cheeks as he tried to get him awake.
"What?" Sammy came awake swinging, looking around frantically.
"Nothing, dude. It's okay. They're dead and the danger's passed. You've got some blood on you, but most of it's theirs." He indicated the bodies on the floor.
Both boys looked at the remains, suddenly mesmerized as they began to change before their eyes. What had been monsters with murder on their minds were turning into human form. Of the three bodies, there was a boy a little older than Dean, a girl about his own age, and a woman. Shaken by what they were seeing, the boys held onto each other for strength and, if they were honest, comfort. This appeared to be a family on the floor — a human family.
The brothers looked at each other and back down to the bodies on the floor. "They must have been were-somethings. Not were-wolves, though; we both know what those look like."
"I - I think I know wh-what they are." The younger boy's voice trembled as he tried to speak. "I think I saw a picture in one of Bobby's books. Were-cats."
"Were-cats, huh?" Dean put his arm around Sammy's shoulders, not doubting his geek little brother's assessment of the creatures. Sam at eleven knew more about supernatural creatures than most hunters that had been in the business a lifetime.
"Yeah." The younger boy scooted a little closer to his brother. "They aren't normally found around here. Supposed to be in South America at the closest."
"What do you suppose they're doing here?" Dean rubbed the side of his cheek thoughtfully.
"It looks like a family."
"Yep, it does."
The older boy stood up suddenly, almost pulling his little brother off the bed as he did. "It does look like a family — but not a whole family. I'll bet there are more of them. Come on, Sammy. We've got to get out of here!" Dean began to gather the weapons and toss them back into the bag as he urged his brother to move.
"What? We've got to go!"
"We should reload everything with the silver rounds before we leave here. Right?" The younger boy's voice was very quiet on the last word.
Dean's expression turned from frustration to realization, then to pride. "You're definitely right, Little Man. We don't know for sure they all came in here. There might be more downstairs or in the yard." He put the weapons bag back down and the two of them made sure that every weapon had silver rounds in it.
Satisfied, Dean opened the door and the brothers thundered down the stairs at full tilt. Dean's broken wrist had been completely forgotten since the whole thing had started, but he figured he'd feel it the next day.
As they reached the door, he pulled them to a halt and gave Sammy the signal to wait, receiving a slight nod in return. He leaned forward enough to just get a glimpse of the immediate area and pulled back quickly. Waiting a moment to see if there was any reaction to his peek, he slowly stepped out onto the porch. Sammy moved closer to the door, but only peeked out. Dean continued his inspection of the area, but found nothing. Releasing the tension in his shoulders, he gave Sammy the okay to come outside.
"Do you see Rumsfeld?"
"Not yet. I'm going to look over here. It sounded like he was in this direction," Dean pointed toward the back of the house and headed off. Sammy moved to the end of the porch to keep watch and wait. "I found him. He's unconscious, but breathing." A beat of silence. "He'll be okay. He's waking up."
Dean reappeared at the corner of the house a moment later with a groggy Rumsfeld at his heels. "I can't find anything wrong with him other than the bastards knocked him out." Dean's anger was rolling off of him in waves. "Guess we should be grateful they didn't kill him."
Sammy nodded as he rose from where he was doing his own inspection of the loyal dog. "Don't know why they always have to hurt the dog!" Sam's anger equaled his brother's. "Did you see any other sign?"
"Nope, but they appear to be pretty clever. We'd better head to town, find Dad and Bobby. I'd rather we were all together."
"Bobby's got his truck and Dad took the Impala."
"Yeah." Dean turned toward the yard. Sammy could tell he was mentally going through Bobby's inventory. "That Camaro should run well enough to get us to town. He hasn't got keys for it, but that's no problem. Let's go!"
Sammy didn't need to be told twice. He gave Rumsfeld one more pet and headed out fast after his big brother, his shorter legs having to work extra hard to keep up. Dean had the hood of the old car up and was fiddling with what Sammy considered mystery parts by the time the younger boy arrived. "Put one of your weapons inside and stand guard for me. I don't think this will take long."
The two senior hunters had completely worn themselves out with their struggles. They'd done it as silently as possible so as not to raise any alarm with the were-cats holding them captive. John's hands and wrists were slick with what he knew was blood from trying to get the ropes off of his hands; he also knew that Bobby's had to be in the same condition.
There was a slight movement, John pictured the tired mechanic raising his chin from his chest and then — "Yeah?"
"How're you doin'?"
"Well now ain't that the stupidest damn question of the century! Just how the hell do you think I'm doing? I think I'll just get up and dance a jig here, I'm doing so fine. If you can't think of anything better to come out of your mouth, then keep it the hell shut!"
Several beats of complete silence.
"I'm sorry, John. This is so damn frustrating, I could scream. No call to take it out on you, though — even if you do deserve it."
Before the worried father could comment, a sound caused them both to still. As Bobby had earlier described, an opening appeared and a tiny light shown through — apparently enough light for the were-cats to see, but not really enough for human eyes to see by. The two hunters' eyes had been so completely without light for long enough that they could take better advantage of the glow than they normally would have. What they saw didn't make either of them happy.
There were two of them and they were ugly. The one that entered first was huge with large teeth and claws; obviously the alpha male. The next one was smaller, possibly a cub kitten?; teeth and claws not as large but appearing no less lethal. At a signal from the large cat, the young one came forward to check the two captives. It's eerie enough to see cats' eyes reflecting back at you on a dark road, but to have them seemingly float in the dark, the closer they got, nearly made the seasoned hunters cry out. Later, of course, neither man would admit to any such thing.
The cub reached John first and began sniffing his hands. John nearly let a giggle escape as the unexpected gentleness and soft whiskers actually tickled. He managed to keep himself under control and endure the rest of the inspection without reaction. The cub gave a noise that sounded like a mix between an attempted word and a growl like a cat would make. The Alpha stepped forward to do his own inspection of John's hands. The cub stepped back either to be out of the way or in deference to the Alpha, John didn't know, but he missed the gentle touch. The alpha was none too gentle, growling and even touching his wrist with his tongue. Without warning, the large cat got right into John's face and nearly roared like a lion. The hunter was shocked enough to throw himself back into the wall, banging his head on what appeared to be very sturdy wood.
The alpha was angry, no two ways about that. He stomped over to Bobby to sniff his hands and repeated his roar. Bobby's chains didn't make as much noise as John's but it was obvious that the mechanic/hunter had jerked back. It seemed that the alpha realized the hunters had been trying to escape hard enough to bloody themselves. He made it very clear they were to cease and desist immediately. For the moment, neither hunter had a problem with that. Apparently the alpha felt he needed to underscore his 'statement' as he leaned in close to the mechanic once more; this time raking his claws through both of the hunter's upper arms.
Bobby couldn't help the scream that erupted as John yelled, "You bastard! I'm going to get free from these chains and rip your heart out and feed it to you!" John didn't care about the order to cease and desist at the moment; he wanted to get free and kill this sonofabitch — and his 'kitten', too.
The young cat came over to John to watch the hunter fight his bonds.
John ignored him.
That was a mistake.
What he hadn't seen was the cub glance toward the alpha who gave a signal of sorts in response. The cub actually seemed to purr as he stepped closer to the hunter; the hunter who was now paying wary attention to him. The cub actually had a happy sneer on its face — John would swear to this for the rest of his life.
Suddenly moving with the cat-like grace and speed of a true feline, the cub slashed through one arm and then the other.
The pain was so intense that John couldn't help the agonized scream that escaped from him any more than Bobby had been able to. Both hunters were panting to control the pain of the slices through their arms, the blood oozing down toward their torsos in steady streams. In amazement despite the pain, they watched the two – cats walk out together, tails held high and intertwined and definitely purring. Utter darkness returned.
Silence other than the sound of heavy breathing reigned for several moments until Bobby was able to form words, "Winchester," he panted. "I think I can die now 'cause I've absolutely seen everything!"
"You're not going to die on me, you old fart!" John snorted. "We do need to come up with an alternate plan, however. Don't know about you, but I don't have much control over my arms anymore."
"Me neither. They definitely sliced through the muscles."
Sammy kept watch, his .45 loaded with silver rounds held out the window of the Camaro as Dean inspected the truck in front of the parts shop. "Do you see anything, Dean?"
The older boy moved on to inspecting the ground around the truck. "There's a small amount of dried blood on the passenger door and some weird tracks out here; and there's dad's and here's the Impala's. I'd know hers anywhere. They're all headed off in that direction." He trotted back to the car, starting the engine before the door had even closed. With Sammy already tucked back inside and the accelerator pushed to the floor, the back tires spun and the powerful sport car fish tailed back out onto the road in the direction the tracks had indicated.
"Was there much blood?" Sammy asked after several moments.
Dean glanced at his little brother, realizing that in the heat of what was going on; he'd forgotten how young Sammy really was. He'd held up his end of everything, even though he'd never really been on a hunt. The kid does pay attention.
"No, there was just a smear. Like I said, it was dried and probably wasn't Dad's. Besides, the Impala's tracks headed off this way. He got there well after whatever happened. If it was Bobby's from tonight, it wasn't much at all. Most likely, it was from some cut he got while working on one of his hunks of junk out in the yard."
"Okay. I was just wondering." Sammy looked down at the weapon in his hands and then back out the window with no further comment other than a big sigh.
Dean put his hand on his brother's shoulder, squeezing gently. "Don't worry, kiddo. We'll find them and they'll be just fine."
Grateful eyes looked up at the older boy. "I know."
"You know you did really good back at the house. I'm proud of you, Sammy."
Sammy seemed to sit a little straighter at the compliment, a big smile appearing on his face.
Dean grinned in return then turned his attention back to the road. "Look, Sammy; there's the Impala!" He slammed on the brakes and swerved to the side of the road, coming to a stop a little way behind the big black car. Pointing a finger at his little brother, he used is no nonsense voice, "Stay here in the car. I need you to watch my back … okay?"
His only argument negated before he could speak it, Sammy nodded and assumed his position at the passenger window. He watched his brother get out and carefully approach the other vehicle, his weapon held in his good hand. The young hunter slid up the side of the car and looked into the rear driver's window then moved forward to the driver's window. Apparently finding nothing of interest, Dean moved around to squat in front of the car and inspect the front end. After a moment, he rose and returned to the driver's door, which he opened and sat behind the wheel for a moment. Sammy could see that his brother was looking around in the car for something.
John's first-born got out of the Impala and motioned for Sammy to come to him. Sammy got out and arrived by his brother as Dean was placing his weapon in the waistband of his jeans.
"I want you to sit in here, Sammy. Lock the doors and hide below the windows, but stay up enough to cover me. Got it?"
"Great! Now, get in there. From the way the car's parked, I think Dad went down that alley. You'll be able to see me and anything that might come after me, so I'm depending on you. Don't hesitate, Sammy. If something shows itself, shoot it. Do you have silver rounds in your weapon and a spare clip?"
Sammy held up his pistol and this spare clip. "Silver in both," he said with confidence.
"Okay! Good job! Get in there and make yourself comfortable, but make sure you can still see."
The younger boy climbed into the car and settled himself on his knees by the passenger door, his weapon resting on the window ledge and his head only high enough to see into the alley.
"Looks good, Sammy. It's going to be daylight in a while, so you should be able to see everything. If Dad went down there, something snuck up on him in the dark."
"I'll watch out for you, Dean." Sammy glanced over his shoulder at his big brother.
Dean couldn't respond due to a lump in his throat that had suddenly developed, so he smiled and headed around the car toward the alley. He glanced back at his little brother, saluting him then turning to head into the apparently empty alley.
"Whaddya want?" Bobby's voice was losing its crispness. He was gruff at the best of times, but always clear. Now he sounded tired, his voice much softer than normal.
"How are you, Bobby?" John wasn't feeling so swell, himself. The blood continued its journey downward from his arm and showed no signs of stopping. His shirt was soaked in it and felt like there was a puddle forming on the floor. "Are you still bleeding? Is it bad?"
"I'm just swell, Winchester. How the hell do you think I am?"
"You old goat! You don't have to answer me like that!" John's own temper flared briefly. "Just see if I come to save your ass again! I was worried about you…okay?"
"Yeah, fine! With the way this rescue is going, I'd rather take my chances!" Bobby took a deep breath to calm himself. "I'm sorry, John. Just a little worn out, I guess."
"I know. Me, too."
"Yeah, I'm still bleeding. I don't think it's even slowed up at all. Dozed off a bit ago; did anything happen while I was out? Did you hear anything?"
"Couldn't hear a damn thing over your snoring, but it's really got my curiosity up. God, I hope we're wrong about their family or whatever going after the boys! I'll tear their hearts out!"
"I'll help you, John. Nothing's going to happen to those boys."
John closed his eyes and whispered a prayer that the other hunter was right.
Dean had made it half way down the alley before he heard it. He'd seen a few of his father's footprints, he was sure; in concentrating on them, almost missed the sound. He stopped in his tracks to listen. Purring? It's purring? Is there a cat around here? Should have seen it by now or heard some rummaging sounds.
"Here kitty, kitty. Come on out, kitty, I won't hurt you. You need to get out of this alley, though."
The sound of something bumping the dumpster behind him caused him to turn around to see what the source of the sound was. Expecting to see a domestic cat, he was surprised to see a small were-cat instead; it seemed to be sneering at him — and purring. He had heard purring. There hadn't been time for games back at the auto yard and they didn't know a lot about these creatures, but this was just weird.
"Hello, kitty." Dean winced slightly at his own smart-alec comment, but he couldn't help himself. "Nice kitty. Do you know where my dad and my uncle are? I'll just bet you do. Why don't you come on over here and we'll discuss it, okay?" He held out his hand. What the hell am I doing?
The purr changed to a growl; the sneer changed to menace.
Behind the creature, Dean could see Sammy sneaking up, knife in hand. Damn that kid! Why didn't he stay in the car and shoot it — or just stay in the car? I'm so going to kill him when we're done here! Determined to keep the cat's attention on himself and give his bratty little brother a chance, Dean took a step forward.
The creature reacted immediately to the advance. Its growl took on the scream quality of a cat in a fight as it leaped at Dean. Unbalanced from the step he was taking, the unexpected weight of the attack knocked the young hunter to the ground. The creature became all teeth and claws and Dean held his casted arm up to keep the teeth from getting to his flesh. He'd lost his weapon as they fell to the ground and couldn't get to his knife. Claws were ripping into his flesh so fast, he could hardly feel them.
Suddenly, his attacker stopped his slicing and slashing as he let out a yowl that almost made Dean's short hair curl. There was unbearable agony in that scream, which slowly came to a stop as the creature's eyes began to glass over and it collapsed down onto its intended victim.
"Dean! Dean? Are you okay?" Sammy was there and trying to roll the creature off of his brother. "Dean! Answer me, please!" He collapsed onto the older boy, embracing him with all of his might.
That 'please' had sounded more like a sob and the big brother that he was couldn't allow that to continue. Pulling himself together, Dean managed to get his un-casted hand up onto Sammy's back to return the embrace.
"I'm awesome, kiddo. I've got the world's best little brother. Why did you take a chance like that, Sammy? You could have been killed. Why didn't you shoot it?" The sobs seemed to be getting softer and Dean could feel his brother getting ready to speak.
"I was aiming at it, but I was just too afraid I'd miss and hit you or the bullet would go through it and hit you. My knife was the only thing I could think of. But you're bleeding! I took too long! I should have shot it instead of taking the time to use the knife. You could have been killed … or turned!" With that the sobs increased again.
Dean had been trying to sit them up while his brother was talking, but Sammy's renewed distress forced them back down to the ground. Okay, we have to stop this. Poor kid! Shit, these slashes are starting to hurt!
"Sammy. Dude. Come on, kiddo. Remember why we're here? We've got to save Dad and Bobby. I'm going to be fine. You did good. The cat didn't bite me, so don't worry about that. Sammy, this is getting embarrassing!" Dean glanced around them to make sure no one was seeing the embarrassing scene. What he saw was much worse — there was a huge were-cat coming at them and it was very angry.
"Move! Now!" Dean commanded his little brother who obeyed instantly, once again responding automatically to the tone of the command. Sammy rolled one way and Dean rolled the other, grabbing the .45 that had been knocked from his hand and firing two quick shots in one smooth motion. The creature screamed in agonized protest as the silver bullets that would kill him penetrated his body. All sound in the alley ceased and the brothers lay immobile for a moment both to see if anything else was coming and to recover from the adrenalin rush of the action.
Slowly, Sammy rose from the crouch he'd rolled into and walked to his brother who had dropped his chin to the pavement and let the pistol fall from his hand.
"Dean? Are you all right? Dean?" Sammy was afraid his brother had finally succumbed to his injuries.
Dean finally raised his head in response to the tone of Sammy's voice. "I'm good, Sammy." He managed a little smile. "God, I hope that's the last of them! Help me up, kiddo, we've got work to do. Get your knife from that cat and — where's your pistol?"
"I left it in the Impala. I'll get it." When Sammy was sure that his big brother was steady on his feet, he ran to the car and leaned in through the window he'd used to climb out and retrieved his hand gun. He turned back to the smaller creature for his knife and winced as the thing was beginning to turn to its human form. It was about the same age as Sammy and he vaguely wondered if it and the one that age out at Bobby's were twins. He shook himself to get rid of that thought and hurried toward his brother, trying not to let the sight of all the blood covering the older boy bother him too much. He'd try and save that for later. Right now his brother needed him to be strong and help him save his dad and Bobby.
"I'm ready. What are we going to do now?"
Moving his body to loosen up, Dean cringed at the pain it caused but immediately got his expression under control. "Now we're going to find Dad and Bobby and get the hell out of Dodge!" He grinned at the smile on his little brother's face. "Let's go get them, but be careful. We don't know if that's all of the creatures or not. I think it is…" he indicated the big one, "that looks like it's probably the boss and I doubt they'd need more than two of them to guard a couple of guys who are either tied up or unconscious. We can't take chances, though."
"I understand. I'm ready. Let's get our family back!"
The eleven-year-old stood tall and fierce with that statement and Dean felt ready to burst with pride. Patting his brother's shoulder, he nodded down the alley and they headed out. A million things were going through Dean's mind as they crept forward, not the least of which were the various slashes on his body that were trying to get his attention. He also thought his wrist was going to need to be reset by the clamor coming from inside his ruined cast. He didn't have time for those things now, though, so he clamped down on his pain receptors and determined to complete the rescue.
There had been so much action that he was sure the sun should be high overhead by now; he was a little surprised to realize that it hadn't even risen yet. The alley was definitely easy to see now, but it was the gray of pre-dawn. Huh!
Dean jumped slightly at the poke in his side from his brother. "What?" He vaguely wondered why he was whispering after all the noise of the gunshots.
Sammy indicated a door ahead on the left that looked like it was slightly open. "He might have come from there."
"Let's check it out."
As one, the brothers moved toward the door — Dean pushed it further open with his casted hand, keeping his weapon trained on the opening and knowing Sammy was doing the same thing. There was a little light inside that seemed to be coming from some high windows; enough so they could see that the room was unoccupied. The young hunter moved inside to inspect the area. Finding nothing, he turned to motion Sammy inside to find him perfectly positioned to both watch the alley and still have Dean's back. I'm gonna buy that kid any book he wants!
At his big brother's hiss, the younger boy came into the room. The brothers separated to search for another door to check. The room had definitely been occupied for a while. It smelled horrible and there were piles of rags that had probably been bedding. Once again, it was Sammy who found the door.
Dean nodded his approval and moved in front of his little brother. He soon realized, however, that he couldn't turn the doorknob with his casted hand as he held his weapon at the ready. Disgusted, he turned to Sammy who was already moving forward to grasp the knob. Dean silently counted with his fingers where they both could see them. At the count of three, Sammy pulled the door open and Dean slipped through, weapon first and Sammy right behind. While Dean was vigilant, Sammy looked for a light switch and turned it on. A set of downward stairs was before them; in unison, they slowly headed toward the bottom.
As they reached a spot that allowed them to see what was down there, Dean sucked in a breath and Sammy whimpered behind him. The older hunter reached back with his casted hand to comfort his brother, never taking his eyes off the sight before them and the room in general. It appeared to be an abandoned wine cellar and their dad and Bobby were chained to the ends of two very sturdy wine racks. Both men were apparently unconscious and definitely covered in blood. The boys resisted their instincts to run to the men and methodically checked the room for any sign of other occupants.
Finally satisfied, the boys ran to the prisoners, checking for signs of life and severity of injury. Finding thready pulses on both men, they set about to figure a way to release them. At the touches and hearing voices, the older hunters began to rouse.
"Dean?" John's woozy voice had never sounded so beautiful to the fifteen-year-old.
"Yeah, Dad. Me and Sammy are here to get you out. I think we killed the last two cats. We're just going to get you loose. Sammy's gone for the tire iron so we can get these chains off and get back to the yard. We need to leave as soon as possible. We had to do some shooting. Can you walk, Dad? We won't be able to carry you."
"I'm okay, son." John murmured as he tried to focus on his boy.
"Good to see you, boy," Bobby growled softly.
"Believe me, Bobby. We're really happy to see you two."
"I've got the tire iron!" Sammy barreled down the stairs and into the room.
With much grunting and pulling and working together, the brothers managed to get the chains free from their bases. John and Bobby groaned as their arms were gently lowered. The pain was excruciating after having been up for so long. The bleeding had finally slowed, but they both had lost a lot of blood.
Somehow, they got outside in the fresh air. Neither man commented on the bodies, now fully returned to human form, in the alley. The four hunters merely hurried slowly toward the car.
"What should we do about the Camaro, Bobby?" Dean asked as they settled the injured men into the back seat of the Impala.
"Leave it," the mechanic groaned as he tried to find a position that didn't hurt. "It ain't worth much and it'll be stripped to the bone in no time. Nothing to connect it to us. Just leave it. Didn't have keys for it anyway." He opened one eye and glanced at Dean who grinned.
Satisfied that everything that could be done for the injured men at this point had been done, the younger hunters got into the front seat. Dean started the powerful engine and the force of the peel-out pressed everyone into their seats.
Dean had used Bobby's acetylene torch to cut the chains off of the older hunters while Sammy cleaned them up. Both men were drinking sports drinks and had taken vitamin C to help replace the fluids and blood that they'd lost. Dean had wanted to stitch them up right away, but John had insisted that he get himself cleaned up so his dad could assess his injuries. Dean finally agreed to a quick shower and was currently enjoying the hot water streaming across his sore body. The sting of it hitting his cuts was quickly overcome by the relief he felt.
He reluctantly got out of the comfort of the hot water and began drying himself off. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he went into the bedroom he shared with his little brother to get dressed. His cuts were not all that severe and butterfly bandages should do the trick for him; his cast was completely toast and would need to be replaced. Suddenly overcome by the events of the night, he collapsed against the wall, barely avoiding crashing to the floor. He took a couple of slow deep breaths and took the time to get himself together before heading back downstairs. They all needed sleep.
Dean heard Sammy talking about what had happened. The kid will probably be chattering all day and not let any of us sleep. He was pleased to see that his baby brother had gotten the first aid kits and had put butterfly bandages where appropriate on the older men.
John noticed Dean enter the room and held up a hand to quiet his younger son. "You look better, sport."
"I'm okay, Dad. After I get you two stitched up and a couple of my slashes stitched, Sammy and I will get the bodies from upstairs and salt and burn them."
"Nah. I called Caleb. He's on his way over to take care of it." Bobby was slumped in his favorite chair with Rumsfeld sitting so the hunter could pet him. "We all need to rest. None of us is in any condition to do all that. Caleb can put a new cast on for you, too." Looking down at his faithful dog, Bobby growled. "It's a good thing those critters are already dead, boy. I'd like to kill them again for what they did to you!"
Rumsfeld looked up at his master with adoring eyes, causing Bobby to sniff. Everyone studiously ignored the man's reaction to avoid embarrassing him. They all knew how Bobby felt about the dog.
Dean had to admit to being relieved to hear they were going to have some help. He moved to take over from Sammy to begin stitching the slices on the older men's upper arms. The younger boy didn't question, but didn't go far. He stood by his dad's shoulder, not wanting to leave his side.
"Tell me, son. How did you get past our guards? They were damn sneaky. I didn't hear a single thing when they got me."
"You went in alone, Dad." Dean frowned in concentration as he threaded the needle for stitching. "I wasn't alone; Sammy had my back."
Thanks for reading, folks. Please leave a review.