For a few seconds everyone froze, Dean and Sam tensed for whatever move Jenna was gonna make this time. She meanwhile seemed happy to just stand there, staring malevolently at them.
Sam glanced at Dean and then stepped forward slightly, ignoring the hissed 'Sam!' that he'd been fully expecting. He held his hands open to show her he wasn't going to do anything.
"Hey, Jenna. My name's Sam. Listen, we're just trying to help you." he said, certain he could actually feel Dean's look of disbelief behind him.
Jenna just looked at him and then, as quickly as she'd appeared, she vanished.
"Dammit." muttered Sam, turning round to face his brother who was looking less than pleased.
"We're just trying to help you? Dude, I swear no more 'Ghost Whisperer' for you. Did the whole she's trying to kill us thing not give you a clue she's not playing with a full deck?"
"Well it was worth a try." retorted Sam, looking round and trying to catch a glimpse of the spirit.
"No, what's worth a try is getting these damn bones to light." said Dean, turning his attention back to the matches again.
The now extremely damp matches.
After the third one fizzled out he swore and gave up. Shaking some of the rain out of his hair he turned to Sam, who was still scanning the woods around them.
"Hey - you got the lighter there, sparky?"
Sam turned round and winced.
"No, it's in the car – we were gonna refill it, remember?"
Dean closed his eyes.
"Perfect. I shoulda guessed. Alright, we need to try and get at least one of these lit before all the salt dissolves. Can you.."
Whatever Dean had been about to say was cut off as he suddenly felt something grab him round the throat and throw him through the air. Landing against the bank, hard, he felt all the air driven from his lungs.
Sam cleared the distance between them in about half a second, his anxious face coming into view as he leaned over him.
"Why is it always me they throw first?" wheezed Dean, and Sam let out the breath he'd been holding. If Dean was able to ponder questions like that then clearly no real harm had been done.
"Must be cos you're easier to lift." sad Sam dryly and, still being a little low on air, Dean was forced to settle for glaring.
Sam put his hand out to help Dean up, but he waved it away.
"Just get those bones lit, Sam. I'll deal with Casper." said Dean, still wheezing slightly, and when Sam hesitated he gave him a none too gentle shove towards the bones.
Still not entirely happy with the plan, Sam had to admit they really needed to get rid of Jenna before she resorted to worse things than just throwing them around. He knelt next to the bones, wet enough that it didn't really matter anymore, and tried in vain to keep the matches dry enough to actually light.
Dean by now had managed to stagger to his feet and was looking round for the first sign of their not-so-friendly ghost. He didn't have long to wait.
Although he was a little more braced for it this time he still saw stars when his head bounced off the tree trunk he was now currently pinned against.
He saw Sam stand up and held up his hand to stop him coming over. Sam hesitated, torn between getting the job done and helping Dean, but in the end he stayed where he was, now more determined than ever to somehow get at least one of the matches to stay alight for more than half a second.
"Come on, come on!" he said under his breath, keeping one eye on what he was doing and one on his brother.
As Jenna shimmered into view in front of him, Dean gave her a cocky grin.
"Well it's about time." he said, wishing his voice didn't sound quite so breathless. He subtley flexed his muscles, even as he kept his gaze on her, but it was no use. She was keeping him firmly in place against the tree so he was gonna have to settle for trying to keep her distracted enough for Sam to finish the job.
She tilted her head, her face eerily blank as she stared at him.
"He must pay."
Dean rolled his eyes.
"Lady, you gotta stop with the creepy ass muttering. You do know that's a cliché, right?"
Sam turned his head long enough to glare at his brother.
Did Dean always have to try and piss off whatever was trying to kill them that week?
Ignoring Sam's telegraphed warning with years of practice, Dean managed a slight shrug.
"And by the way, if that's Rob you're talking about? He already did pay. You drowned him, remember?"
The spirit seemed to think about this for a second and Dean actually felt the force holding him weaken slightly. He shifted and was about to attempt moving when it increased again.
Gasping as this time his ribs were pushed against the tree, reminding him of all the bruises he still had from their last encounter and making breathing more difficult, he watched as Jenna came nearer to him.
"He had to pay. All of you have to pay." she rasped and Dean wondered why they always ended up with the crazy ones.
"Look, you got issues – I get that. But you can't just go killing people. It's not polite." he managed to get out, deliberately not looking over to where Sam was despite wanting to know how much longer he was gonna have to keep this up.
Just how long does it take to light a friggin match? he thought, aware he was going to end up with some cracked ribs pretty soon if Jenna didn't ease up on the pressure.
Jenna said nothing but just as suddenly as he'd been pinned he was released, dropping to the ground with a grunt. Whatever relief he felt at being free was shortlived as he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. Well honed reflexes were all that saved him from a branch to the side of his head as he ducked and was showered with bark when it crashed into the tree behind him.
"Oh good, now we've moved onto the throwing." he muttered, rolling to one side and standing up.
He watched Jenna warily, trying to keep an eye on Sam at the same time.
Now. Now would be good with the fire. he thought, wishing that just once a supposedly simple job really could be that straightforward.
As if reading his mind, Jenna's gaze flicked towards Sam and Dean saw a large branch lift off the ground and waver for a second before hurtling towards his brother.
"Sam – down!" he yelled and Sam dropped to the ground without even hesitating. As the branch shattered where his head had been seconds before, Sam rolled to one side and partly hid behind the tree the bones were leaning against.
Dean looked relieved and stepped a little closer to Jenna, wanting to draw her attention away from Sam.
"Hey, I thought we were talking." he said and she turned back to face him. "You were about to tell me why we all have to pay?"
She moved, faster than his eyes could track, and stopped directly in front of him. He forced himself not to flinch as she stared at him with blank eyes.
"You should have drowned."
Dean shrugged. "Sorry to disappoint, lady, but I'm not that easy to kill."
Over on the other side of the clearing Sam winced and made a mental note to remind Dean not to tempt fate when he was dealing with a homicidal spirit.
Predictably the spirit was not amused by Dean's boast and they were both forced to duck behind the nearest tree again as a strong wind suddenly whirled all around them and several branches and other debris were aimed in their directions.
"Nice move pissing her off there, Dean." muttered Sam, just loud enough for his brother to hear. Now the rain was blowing at him horizontally there was even less chance the matches were gonna light.
"How is it she's doing the tornado impression and I get the blame?" said Dean indignantly, raising his voice above the howling of the unnatural wind.
Before Sam could reply Jenna materialised in front of Dean again and he couldn't stop himself jumping.
"I really hate when they do that." he said under his breath, waiting for next creepy sentence he was certain was on its way.
"You should have drowned."
He resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
"Yeah, you already mentioned that part. Short term memory not so good there, huh?"
"You should both have drowned. Now you must die."
"Well, I'm all for dedication but you really need to – wait, what did you say?" said Dean, frowning as her words sank in. Across the clearing Sam froze.
"Oh crap." he thought.
"I had you both but you got away. You won't get away this time."
Dean stared past her now, fixing Sam with a glare.
"What does she mean we should both have drowned?" he shouted and Sam concentrated on the matches, avoiding meeting Dean's gaze.
Ok, his brother was definitely working himself up. Sam was distracted briefly as a medium sized rock bounced off his shoulder with enough force there would definitely be a bruise. He tried to get further behind the tree and finally looked at Dean, an exasperated expression on his face.
"You really think now is the time to do this?" he called and Dean dodged a well aimed branch before answering.
"Yes, I think now is the time to do this! You happen to forget to mention you were in the water too?"
Sam swallowed, knowing Dean wasn't about to let this drop anytime soon. He cursed the fact they hadn't managed to get rid of Jenna before she'd been able to helpfully point out that she'd tried to kill both of them and not just Dean.
"Look, it was no big deal, ok? I was barely in the water five minutes." he called.
Which wasn't technically a lie as he wasn't really sure exactly how long it had been, since he'd been unconscious. But he figured it couldn't have been that long, otherwise he really would have drowned.
"Oh well, that's alright then!" retorted Dean and Sam unfortunately knew that definitely wasn't a genuine statement.
"Dude, seriously – we got bigger issues right now!" he called back, partly to distract Dean and partly because it was true. It seemed like Jenna was currently trying to throw the whole forest at them.
"Don't think I'm gonna just forget this, Sam!" said Dean, acknowledging that he did have a point. The whole duck and weave thing was beginning to grate on his nerves now.
Unfortunately at that moment he weaved instead of ducking and a large piece of tree struck him right on the side of his head. He dropped like a stone, still concious but seeing nothing but sparkly lights in front of his eyes.
Sam saw his brother go down and felt his stomach clench. Knowing he'd do neither of them any good running over there, however hard it was not to, he turned his back to the clearing and tried to shelter the matches enough with his own body for one of them to light.
They were so adding a flame thrower to their kit after this.
It was his turn to jump this time as Jenna's spirit shimmered into being in front of him. He moved back a little, unable to go any further thanks to the tree he was up against, and forced himself to meet her empty gaze.
"Listen, we just want to help you move on. You can't stay here, not like this. You can't keep hurting people." he said, aware it was probably pointless trying to reason with her at this stage. She'd been exacting vengeance for so long he doubted there was anything of the original Jenna left in her.
"He betrayed me. We were supposed to be together forever."
Sam actually felt almost sorry for her. Almost. The fact he still didn't know how badly Dean had been hurt across the clearing and that she was responsible took away most of the sympathy he may have felt.
"He didn't betray you, Jenna. Rob never betrayed you. You weren't thinking straight, because of the accident. He was just trying to take care of you, remember?"
She actually looked slightly confused for a moment, as if trying to remember. It was enough for the wind to drop suddenly and Sam took advantage of the lull to try one last time with three of the matches from the bottom of the box. He saw them spark and without hesitating he turned round and dropped them on the bones. They flickered for a second and his heart sank as he wondered if the rain had washed away all the salt and kerosene by this point, but for once fate gave them a break and almost instantly there was a flare and the flames caught.
Jenna shrieked and the wind picked up again but this time all it did was fan the flames. Her shriek became louder and more high pitched, and Sam flinched. He always hated this part of the salt and burn, even though the spirit they were dispatching was always one of the bad guys. It didn't make it any easier on the occasions they were right in front of you.
As the flames consumed the entire skeleton, forcing Sam to scramble backwards in case the tree caught as well, Jenna shimmered once and finally disappeared in a flash of fire.
Sam let out a sigh of relief, watching as the fire fizzed where the rain was coming into contact with it. Even in the wet conditions with the salt and the kerosene it should at least burn long enough to get rid of all the bones.
Finally free to focus his attention on Dean, Sam staggered to his feet and ran over to him, sliding in the mud as he went.
"Dean!" he said, his heart in his mouth as he knelt next to his prone brother.
"Dude, could you not yell? I think she hit me with a tree."
Sam breathed out a sigh of relief and reached out to check the side of Dean's head where the blood was mixing with the rainwater running down his face.
As Sam's fingers came into contact with the spot where the branch had hit, Dean winced and batted his hand away.
"Hey, it hurts enough without you poking it!" he said and Sam shook his head.
"I'm not poking it I'm trying to make sure she didn't crack your skull. Could you keep still for five seconds?" he said as Dean tried to sit up.
"Yeah, cos lying here in the mud is so much fun. If you wanna be useful how about helping me up?"
Sam sighed but got to his feet and reached down to help Dean stand. Apart from swaying slightly for a second Dean seemed fairly steady on his feet considering, and Sam backed away a step, knowing how well Dean reacted to any kind of 'hovering' as he insisted on putting it.
Dean rubbed the back of his neck and looked across at the flames that were now dying down.
"Please tell me we got her finally?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah, she's gone."
"Thank god." he said fervently. Now the stars were finally starting to fade his last conversation with the spirit came back to him and his gaze narrowed as he looked at his brother accusingly.
"Well now that's done, you wanna fill me in on why you neglected to mention your little dip in the water?"
Sam swallowed. "I didn't mention it cos it was no big deal and I knew you'd only worry." he said and Dean raised his eyebrows.
"Right, so I don't mention something and it's a bad thing but when you do it, it's for my own good? How is that fair?"
"Because I don't keep things like potentially life threatening injuries a secret, that's why." said Sam and Dean had the good grace to look at least slightly uncomfortable at that.
"Don't exaggerate, and stop trying to get out of it. I asked you what happened after I got swept away and all you said was you'd been looking for me."
"Which I had." interrupted Sam "And could we seriously not talk about this in the car? You know, where it's warm and dry. Unlike here."
"Stop trying to change the subject." said Dean, and Sam ran his hands through his wet hair exasperatedly.
"Dean, would you just let it go, man? I'm fine, the job's done, and we're both still standing. Although we really need to get that cut seen to." he said, fishing a fairly clean handkerchief out of his pocket and pressing it against the side of Dean's head.
Dean grabbed hold of it himself irritatedly, pushing Sam's hand away.
"It still doesn't change the fact you lied, Sammy." he said and Sam rolled his eyes.
"I did not lie. I just didn't mention it."
Dean shook his head, a move that didn't really improve his banging headache any.
"You know as well as I do Dad made it perfectly clear lying by omission still counts."
Sam did indeed remember the lecture they'd received after neglecting to mention they'd both been hurt on their first hunt alone. When John had seen the state of them at the rendezvous point two days later he'd been less than impressed.
"For the record it was your idea not to tell Dad all the details back then. And anyway, we're not exactly kids anymore, Dean. I can manage to take care of myself without needing you to hold my hand."
"Good, cos I wasn't offering, Samantha. This isn't about hand holding and you know it." said Dean firmly and Sam sighed.
"Alright, I get it – you want to know all the details. But you were the one who got swept away by the water and you were in it far longer than me. And since you insisted you were fine then obviously it was no big deal what happened with me. Right?"
Dean glared at him as he realised he'd just been outmanoeuvred by his own words. Try as he might there was no way out of the corner Sam had just put him in. And judging by the smug look on his brother's face, he was well aware of that.
"You know you're right, you would have made a good lawyer." Dean muttered and Sam grinned.
"It wasn't a compliment."
Ignoring the jibe, Sam turned his attention to how they were going to make it back up to the car.
"That looks like it's gonna be fun." he said, gesturing towards the bank which was now even wetter than it had been on the way down.
Grudgingly putting aside the whole issue of Sam being economical with the truth earlier – for now - Dean stepped up beside him and surveyed the steep climb with a frown.
"Personally I don't care how we manage it, I am not spending a minute longer down here than we have to. I swear I feel like I'm never gonna be dry again." he said firmly, already able to feel that the water had soaked all the way through his clothes.
Sam frowned and went over to where the rope lay on the ground, deliberately ignoring the still smouldering bones.
"If we can get this round that tree up there we can pull ourselves up and scramble the rest of the way." he said, as he walked back over.
"That's a great plan, Sam, except last time I checked neither of us was Clint Eastwood. Unless you got a secret talent for lassoing you've been keeping secret all these years?"
"It's not that far. It can't be too hard." said Sam, trying to sound more confident than he was.
Dean shook his head and folded his arms.
"Alright - away you go, cowboy." he said with a slight smirk and Sam found himself regretting his bold statement already.
If he didn't manage this Dean was never going to let him forget it.
Concentrating, he tied a loop carefully in the end of the rope and backed up a little to give himself more room to manoeuvre. He sensed Dean move to one side, probably not keen on the idea of getting smacked in the face with wet rope, and he narrowed his gaze as he tried to judge how far away the tree was.
They'd watched enough Westerns in the past – Dean being a fan – that he knew theoretically how it should work. He just hoped it hadn't always been a case of camera trickery.
His first attempt was close but not close enough. Pausing only to glare at Dean for the snigger-turned-cough he'd heard, he took a deep breath and tried again. This time his luck was in and he looked triumphant as the loop landed round the tree perfectly. Pulling the rope so it was now taught he turned round and saw Dean watching him with an expression that was part amusement and part pride.
Quickly wiping the look off his face before Sam could comment on it, Dean stepped forward and nudged him with his shoulder.
"Not bad, Sammy." he said and Sam couldn't stop himself grinning. Knowing Dean would insist on going first he handed over the rope without even arguing and stepped back as Dean gave the rope a couple of hard tugs, just in case. Satisfied it was not about to come loose he braced his feet against the bank and began pulling himself up.
There were a couple of hairy moments when his boots couldn't find a hold in the thick mud and threatened to send him face first into it, but he somehow managed to keep his balance and once he was past the tree it was relatively easy to stagger up the final few yards.
Leaning against the fence to get his breath back, and surreptitiously rubbing the bruises that hadn't appreciated the extra work out, he watched as Sam followed him. As he neared the top Dean grabbed hold of the fence with one hand and held out the other for Sam to take. Helping him up the rest of the way Dean let go as soon as Sam was level with him and grinned.
"Well, that actually wasn't a bad plan. I'm impressed." he said, only partly teasing.
"How about being impressed inside the car where it's actually dry?" said Sam, ducking under the fence to get back on the road.
Annoyingly – although predictably – Dean made him stand there in the rain for a further few minutes while he dug out some towels from the trunk to protect the Impala's seats before either of them could get in. Finally satisfied his baby was protected from the mud that covered both of them, Dean slid into the driver's seat and switched on the ignition. Turning the heaters up full blast he pulled out and headed towards the cabin.
Sam felt even more uneasy about being there now Jenna was gone for good but he couldn't argue with the fact it was the nearest place that was both warm and dry, and neither of them would be able to check them into a Motel without attracting more attention than they needed, looking like they did.
Once inside Dean insisted on Sam using the bathroom first and while he waited his turn he set about re-lighting the fire that had gone out completely this time. As he stood in front of it, waiting for the flames to get hot enough to actually provide some warmth, he stared at the photograph of Rob and Jenna on the mantle.
For all that he told Sam he didn't think too much about that stuff, the truth was he was not exactly immune to the tragedy of the situation either. He just tried not to think about it although on occasion, like right now, it was hard not to. He might have carried a grudge against Jenna's spirit for what she'd put them through the last couple of days but when you got right back down to it, it hadn't been entirely her fault. He could well imagine how she must have felt when she'd realised she'd killed the person she cared most about in the world and it was understandable in a way that such anguish would create an unstable spirit.
Tearing his glance away from the photograph he poked the fire with more force than was really necessary, trying to shake off the mood. He looked up as Sam came out of the bathroom, dressed in dry clothes now and towelling off his hair.
"All yours." he said and Dean cleared the space between him and the bathroom in about three strides, more than keen to get rid of the mud and god knows what else that he was currently covered in.
By the time he came out Sam had made coffee and he accepted a cup gratefully, wrapping his hands round the mug to savour the warmth. Even after the hot bath it still felt like he was never going to be properly warm again.
Sitting down on one of the chairs he saw Sam frowning at him and looked down at himself, in case he'd buttoned up his shirt wrong or something.
"What?" he said.
"I don't think that's gonna need stitches but you should put some antiseptic on it." said Sam, and Dean realised he was referring to the gash on his temple from where Jenna had thrown the branch at him. He'd already come to that conclusion himself once he'd washed the dried blood away but he nodded anyway, humouring his brother.
"Yeah, I know."
"Anything else that should be checked out?" said Sam, trying to appear nonchalant and Dean almost grinned. It had to hurt, the amount of effort Sam was putting into that.
"No. Like I said, it's just bruises. What about you? Since we're being so honest about everything?" he said, stressing the word 'honest'.
"No, I'm fine." said Sam truthfully and Dean studied him for a second before seeming to accept the answer.
"Well in that case I guess we can call this one of our more successful jobs." he said and Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Oh yeah, cos it was a total walk in the park." he said dryly and Dean shrugged as he sipped his coffee.
"Compared to some of 'em it was."
Sam had to admit Dean unfortunately had a point there and wondered briefly what it must be like to have a job where getting half drowned and thrown around by a spirit wasn't considered one of your better days.
"So, what now?" he asked after a moment and Dean leant back against his chair.
"I don't know. We should probably clear out of here now, we don't really want to risk getting spotted after getting this far."
"Ok. I think we should take a few days before the next job though. At least until some of those bruises of yours have eased a bit."
Dean figured it was not worth fighting about a few days so he just shook his head but didn't object, and Sam looked pleased.
Having finished their coffee Sam cleared up in the kitchen while Dean gathered their things and loaded the Impala. Satisfied that the cabin was actually cleaner than they'd found it, Sam followed Dean out and closed the door firmly behind them. As Dean reversed the car out Sam took one final look at the place.
"You think she's really at peace now?" he said and Dean resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Leave it to his brother to always worry about stuff like that.
"Yeah, I'm sure she's leaping through the meadows all happy and smiley, Sam."
Sam gave him a disapproving look.
"I'm serious, Dean. I know what she was doing was wrong, and it doesn't help those guys she killed, but she wasn't really evil. Not to begin with."
Dean sighed and wished that just sometimes Sam would just let this stuff go.
"I never said she was evil, I said she was psychotic. And honestly? You know how I feel about all this afterlife business so I'm probably the wrong person to ask."
Sam had to admit, reluctantly, that Dean had a point on that score. Watching the trees pass by for a moment he jumped a little when Dean spoke again.
"I guess I can understand why she killed herself though."
Sam turned to look at him.
Dean was still watching the road and Sam wondered if he realised he'd spoken out loud until he saw Dean's gaze flick his way briefly.
"What do you mean?" he asked when nothing else was forthcoming and Dean shifted a little, as if regretting saying anything.
"I just mean it makes sense. She killed Rob, right? You kill the person you care about most in the world, no way you're gonna just carry on."
Sam felt his stomach flip as he realised what Dean was referring to.
"Dean." he began but Dean had clearly said more than he wanted to and he sat up straighter, reaching out and flicking on the radio.
As the music cut off the conversation Sam still continued to look at Dean, realising possibly for the first time the full implications of what he'd been asking his brother to do for the last few weeks.
He'd been so caught up in the idea of turning evil that he hadn't stopped to consider the bigger picture. Now he did he felt guilty, but the harsh truth was he still needed Dean to keep that promise. Because as heartbreaking as it was to think about what he'd be putting him through, the idea of what he could become – of what he might do – was even worse.
He sighed and turned his gaze back to the passing scenery. When it came down to it they were in a no win situation. He guessed all he could do was hope that maybe they really could come up with a way to change his destiny.
For both their sakes.