This is the first writing collabaration between aussiemel and alibongo, an Aussie who likes a bit of angst and a Brit, with fond memories of Tombstone, who prefers light and fluffy. Witness the result.
Take an evil spirit, mix it up with some OC, add a dash of angst and a good slug of humour...and voila...you have 'Tombstone.'
This fiction is set in season 2 shortly after Fulsom Prison Blues. It's a multi chapter fic, looks like being about 11 chapters, and we should be updating regularly.
The language in the story is quite peppery (blame Ali for that) and we have taken some outrageous liberties with the history of the town of Tombstone.
Disclaimer: We have no right or entitlement to Supernatural and its characters. Frankly, they wouldn't want what we have to offer.
The mid afternoon sun was hazing on the road, reflecting the August heat, as the Impala purred along the highway leading into Tombstone, Arizona. It was open country to the left and right, low lying shrubs and trees struggling in the barren, dusty soil and the only impediment to an outlook that might have stretched for miles in every direction were natural bumps in the landscape, the earth's refusal to lay down.
Dean perched his elbow in the breach of the driver's window, tapped his index finger on the sill in lazy accompaniment to the music of the local radio station and savored the dusty air on his face chasing away the humidity. He noted the passing vista more out of instinct than interest, an inherent reflex to always be aware of his surrounds. He wasn't one to find country side beautiful or striking, he was too hard and unromantic for that sort of sensitivity, but he could appreciate a countryside where nothing was hidden, nothing was laying in wait. There was security in the emptiness and it gave him leave to let down his guard a little, uncoil the knots that gathered in his shoulders, turn his mind to thoughts other than their immediate safety.
Dean's eyes cut right, to where Sam was slouched against the passenger door, one too long leg folded across the other, immersed in a book, a tourist's guide to Tombstone that had been a free offering at the last gas station.
Sam's head jerked up, his brother's voice jolting him out of his thoughts. He'd been so engrossed in what he was reading that he'd lost track of where he was, forgotten Dean was sitting right next to him. It took a few beats to understand Dean's query then Sam waved a dismissive hand, tipped his head downward again and muttered, "Nothing."
"Don't do that," Dean complained. "Don't say huh like you read something interesting and then tell me it's nothing. What is it?"
Without raising his eyes, Sam retorted, "What I find interesting and what you find interesting are very different things."
Ain't that the truth, Dean silently conceded, but was unwilling to be deflected. "Just tell me what it is."
When Sam remained unmoved Dean leaned fractionally toward him and added, "Don't make me punch it out of you, because you know how much I would enjoy that."
Sam expelled a long breath. No-one could make a nuisance of themself like Dean could, he had it down to a lazy art, the poking and prodding until you wanted to smack him in the face. It was an old, familiar dance between them, the power play, Dean asserting authority and Sam reluctant to bow. And on this occasion it was over information that Sam knew his brother wasn't going to be interested in. It was historical for a start, big cross there. It was an annoying and unnecessary attempt to provoke, which made Sam burn with indignation because all he wanted to do was quietly read.
But ignoring Dean or raising an objection would only incite a more insistent response, become a challenge. Dean was looking for an outlet for his boredom and Sam wasn't going to get any peace until he complied.
"You shouldn't punch and drive," Sam said dryly, wearily settling the book in his lap, a thumb tabbing the page, capitulating in the battle of wills.
He had difficulty finding focusing after being engaged in the close reading for so long and brought up a hand to rub his eyes, then stretched his neck from side to side to alleviate the tightness that had crept into his posture.
Dean waited for Sam to talk. He knew the signs, could see the white flag and was a little disappointed Sam was going to humor him and tell him what he'd been reading. Entering into a verbal sparring match, even having an argument, would have been more stimulating than being regaled with historical facts.
"It's nothing," Sam stated with a reinforcing shake of his head. "It's just weird to come across a town that embraces its ghosts. I mean, what we do is always so secretive and here is a town promoting its ghosts, urging people to come and have a look. This is a tourist book," Sam raised the book as exhibit A before dropping it into his lap again, "and it has some pretty creepy stories and photos. We're going to be able to walk into this town, say we're looking for ghosts and nobody will bat an eye. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if people encouraged us, told us where to look." As his eyes drifted back to the book he repeated, "It's just weird is all."
Dean tilted his temple toward Sam in acknowledgment. It was certainly going to be a new experience if they could undertake the job without subterfuge and trickery.
But then where was the fun in that.
"Maybe we should make this town our base of operations."
"Yeah," Sam agreed distractedly, not really listening.
As the desert started to recede, replaced by low density housing and the hallmarks of suburbia, Sam eyes darted between his book and the passing view, not wanting to miss any landmarks on the way into the historic town.
A sign appeared to the left with directions to 'Boothill Graveyard'.
"Come on," Dean snapped, with such irritation that Sam shot him a sharp, enquiring look. "Either stop doing that or tell me what's so interesting, because that is frigging annoying."
Sam blinked at his brother and did a mental backtrack, figuring out it was the huh that had pressed Dean's buttons.
"No, it's- just that sign back there for Boothill Graveyard, that place gets mentioned a lot in the guidebook. It's good to know where it is because we may be visiting at some point."
Dean knew his short temper was in correlation to the number of hours they had been on the road. He loved his car, loved driving his car, loved cruising the open highways, but it had its limits and they'd been travelling for most of the day. His legs twitched in a demand for more space, his knees ached to be stretched, his body pinched and complained about the extended confinement. He pressed his foot a little heavier on the accelerator and turned his mind to the job they were heading to.
A newspaper article he'd found a few days ago reported on numerous mishaps at a local construction site which had employees threatening to walk off the job. No-one had been killed but there had been a number of injuries and even in this town where the folk embraced their ghosts, people were reluctant to credit the accidents as the work of the supernatural, blaming instead the construction manager for maintaining an unsafe workplace.
But just from what was written in the article, Dean could tell there was a restless spirit at work. How else could you explain such oddities as a worker being stuck overnight with his foot encased in cement, another worker being trapped in a cupboard for two hours, an errant nail gun pinning a guy to a wall, a roof panel falling on a guy working underneath… the list of unfortunate incidents went on. One or two such occurrences could be explained away as pranks or bad management, but to have nearly a dozen clearly indicated something else was in play.
It was a by the numbers job - identify the spirit, salt and burn - it was the reason he had chosen it. He just wanted something simple, something they could close their eyes and do. Put demons behind them for a while, ignore what may or may not be going on with Sam and the pull of the darkside, keep a low profile against the tenacious Henricksen who was probably tearing the country apart after their recent escape from Fulsom Prison, distract himself from the lingering guilt about Dad's death.
Nearing the centre of town a flashing neon sign for the Larian Motel caught Dean's eye. When it was followed up with the promise of 'large clean rooms' he thought sounds good to me, although he couldn't help but frown at the motel's logo of an oversized stetson with an arrow run through the middle. What exactly were the owners trying to convey with that? It was a little disconcerting.
Dean eased the car into the parking lot without feeling the need to obtain Sam's approval to the choice of accommodation. As the vehicle came to a halt Sam's eyes snapped up from the book and surveyed the U shaped establishment with cursory interest before returning to the page.
"Jesus Sam, how interesting can a guide book be?" Dean commented as he slid out of the car.
With a hand on the door, ready to close, Dean paused and asked, "Anything I should know about?"
Yeah, all of it Sam wanted to say, of the belief that people should know the history of their country. He knew what his brother was asking, if there was anything in the guide book that might relate to the job they were here to investigate, and he considered whether he wanted to deliberately misinterpret the question to score a point.
"No," was the short answer, and the driver door slammed as Dean went to secure a room.
A short time later Sam jumped when there was a knock on the window against which he was leaning. Dean must have rounded the back of the car, out of sight, and Sam wondered whether he had done that deliberately to startle him.
"Come on, we have a room."
Sam climbed out of the car and moved to the open trunk to pick up his duffel.
"We're in Johnny Ringo," Dean stated as he closed the lid, his disdain at the rooms being named rather than numbered obvious in the tone of his voice and the roll of his eyes.
Dean led the way and Sam noted that every room was named after a historical figure, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, all the local legends. Although having read about Johnny Ringo in the guide book, the young man was surprised that a ruthless, murderous cowboy would be considered suitable to immortalize in a room name. He silently joked to himself that the manager had taken one look at Dean and thought Johnny Ringo Room.
The older brother opened the door to a cosy, pleasant space. Dean was a little unhappy about the lack of flamboyance. Having experienced an inordinate number of motel rooms in his life he had developed a fondness for the eccentric and this room was very conservatively furnished with white walls and neutral décor. But he was impressed by the cleanliness, bonus points there, and on the whole he considered they would be comfortable here for the next few days.
The boys dropped their bags and were in quick agreement on taking a walk to check out the surroundings.
As they stepped out of the parking lot onto the sidewalk, Sam slowed to gaze upon an impressive original building to the right, large lettering on the façade identifying it as Scheifflin Hall. He nodded to himself and recognized the landmark from his reading, built as a luxury theatre in the 1880s as an homage to Ed Scheifflin, the founder of the town. Applied learning was Sam's forte, something he enjoyed, reading about something then understanding it in context. He would have loved to share his knowledge with Dean, regale him with facts and myths about the building, the town, its founder, but he knew his brother would be an unenthusiastic listener, would be derisive about such 'useless' information and he felt a slight resentment at Dean's lack of indulgence in intellectual matters, his unwillingness to humor Sam's interests, which meant he had to keep his mouth shut about such things.
The brothers were heading toward the center of town, for no other reason than that it was only a few streets away and they didn't know where the site they wanted to investigate was located. If they could get a feel for the town, endear themselves to a conversational local, get a parochial perspective on what people thought might be happening at the site, that would be a worthwhile start to the groundwork.
As they crossed the road and made their way into the main thoroughfare, both men stopped short. All of a sudden the town became a historical throwback. Where there should be paved road was dirt. Concrete and brick gave way to timber, stucco or earthen buildings in the style of the 1880s, all straight lines and sharp angles, practical and functional with scant regard for flourish and design. The footpath was bisected by posts propping up heavy awnings with long reaches, shading boldly painted frontages in monochromatic colors.
Sam cast a sidelong glance at Dean, trying to gauge his reaction to the old fashioned appearance of the street.
Dean's brow furrowed as his eyes flicked over the streetscape, an entire block of period architecture. His gaze lingered on old fashioned detailing, garish signage and Sam got the feeling that Dean found no charm in a town that was clinging to its past. Whatever Dean's thoughts on the subject, he didn't pass comment, just gave Sam a quick eyebrow raise which seemed to suggest this is unusual and continued strolling into the main avenue.
On their right they passed the Tombstone Epitaph, a newspaper that had been in operation for more than a century, old enough to have reported on the gunfight at the OK Corral. Sam slowed at the store front to peer into the window and admire the displayed vintage equipment, but he only managed a brief glimpse before having to take some hurried steps to catch up with Dean, who didn't break stride.
As they wandered along the dusty pathway, the brothers heard a gentle ching, ching noise behind them. The uncommonness of the sound made them both slow and seek out the source. They turned and found a man walking towards them, looking like he had stepped straight out of the Wyatt Earp era. From the decorative spurs on his well worn boots, to his waistcoat and bootlace tie, topped off with a black felt Stetson, he was dressed for a different century.
As the man passed the brothers he touched his hat.
Sam smiled politely and returned the greeting with a slight nod of his head.
Dean eyed the man with suspicious uncertainty, not sure if he was touched in the head or an intentional actor in the historical context. Or maybe just someone taking the ye olde style of the town a little too seriously. He slid his gaze to Sam and cocked an eyebrow, silently asking is he for real? to which Sam responded with an amused shrug.
Dean wasn't the sort to indulge in dress up and pretend. He was a little disturbed by the town's presentation. There was something desperate and contrived about a place anchored to a popular period long since passed, trading on its history and refusing to progress. And it felt disconcertingly educational, like he was on a school field trip and maybe should be taking notes. To geeks and nerds that might be appealing (and hello, there was one standing next to him), but to Dean it was unsettling.
But despite the qualms, he couldn't deny that the town was engaging. The attention to detail was remarkable. Everywhere he turned it was the wild west and it was easy to get lost in the atmosphere. He couldn't help but imagine himself in another time, another incarnation, a cowboy that was a mix of John Wayne and Dirty Harry, a couple of six shooters on his hip hidden under a long black coat, living hard on a combination of whiskey, women and guns, calling men out just to prove he was quicker on the draw, fast and loose with the law. With a dangerous attitude, a pretty face and an itchy trigger finger he would have been notorious.
He chuckled to himself at the thought of it.
"What's so funny?"
"Just this town," Dean replied, shaking off the reverie. "It's a little deluded, a little out of touch."
"I don't know," Sam countered, unwilling to admit that he liked the step back in time, but also unwilling to allow Dean to write the town off. "It's pretty authentic. You could almost imagine you were in the Wild West. It's kinda quaint."
"Quaint? Really?" there was no mistaking the mock in the tone. "Because quaint is what I look for in a town." Dean cocked an eyebrow. "Shall we find the quilt store grandma?"
Sam rolled his eyes and kept moving.
At the cross of roads Sam looked left and right, surprised at his jittery expectation, his eagerness to see what else the town had to offer. He was walking in the footsteps of Wyatt Earp, recognizing landmarks, feeling the history of the place. To his left was the The Bird Cage Theater, in its heyday a bar come theatre come gambling hall come brothel. It had a violent history, twenty six people had died in the eight years it operated, there were bullet holes in the bar, stab marks in one of the hung portraits and it was supposedly rife with ghosts. As a matter of professional interest Sam itched to visit the place, whether it was relevant to the job they were here for or not.
But what Sam really wanted to see, what he was trying unobtrusively to locate by pushing himself up slightly on the balls of his feet, was the scene of the most famous historical gunfight, the OK Corral. And he knew that was lame. So touristy. It was a rare occasion that he actually felt like a geek, despite the frequency with which Dean tossed the monicker his way, but he was fairly certain that getting excited about visiting the site of a thirty second gunfight which occurred over a hundred years ago landed him squarely in the category. If Dean only knew how much he wanted to see it there would be no end to the teasing.
The Corral was on the street somewhere. His eyes flicked over the signage up and down the road and he could barely contain his glee when they alighted on the prize. But then he was in a quandary about how to get Dean to walk past it without being obvious and revealing his enthusiasm.
"What are you looking at?" Dean queried, trying to follow his brother's line of sight.
"Nothing," the young hunter answered, a little too quickly, and jerked his gaze away for the Corral. "I was just seeing if there was a construction site on this street."
Be cool Sam counseled himself, you're not a kid, so just be cool. With that silent mantra he stowed his schoolish eagerness and adopted a nonchalant façade. There was plenty of time to visit the OK Corral, he didn't have to see it in the first five minutes. And it would be much better if he could visit without Dean by his side injecting acerbic, sarcastic comments, taking the edge off the pleasure.
Dean did a visual scan left and right then shrugged. "A construction site shouldn't be too hard to find in this town, it'll stick out like a sore thumb."
"Maybe we should ask around." Sam nudged his brother and nodded toward Big Nose Kate's Saloon across the road. "Shall we start there?"
Dean snorted at the name. "Tell me there wasn't actually a woman called Big Nose Kate."
"Yeah there was, she was Doc Holliday's girlfriend."
Dean shook his head. "I'll bet she was a real looker."
"Smart woman apparently. Broke Doc Holliday out of jail. He called her his intellectual equal."
"She had to be smart to make up for being ugly as sin." The older hunter cast a sidelong glance at his brother and flashed a knowing smirk. "You're really loving this history stuff aren't you geekmeister?"
Sam gave an awkward smile, not sure if he should admit to that or not, decided it was not in his interests to answer either way so ducked his head and strode across the road toward the bar's entrance. Dean followed with a grin.
Upon entering Sam was surprised at the size of the place, it looked deceptively small from the outside, squeezed between storefronts, but it opened into a large heavily wooded hall, the walls covered in photographs and historical paraphernalia.
Dean's eyes lit up at the sight of female staff elaborately clothed in low cut satin gowns, tight in the bodice and flowing at the waist, in the style of the wild west. The women's breasts were pushed precariously high, almost spilling out of their outfits.
"Oh I'm going to like it here," he murmured, then shouldered the younger man, "You get us a table, I'll make some discreet enquiries at the bar."
The way Dean said it immediately had Sam on the alert. The fact that he added the word discreet was an indication that he was going to be anything but.
"Don't make a scene," Sam warned.
Dean held his hands out to the side in mock indignation. Who me? But the twinkle in his eye belied the innocent gesture as he swaggered toward to the bar.
The saloon was well patronized. Even though it wasn't quite dusk there was a decent crowd lounging at the tables, creating a backdrop of muted white noise, the conversations echoing off the walls and mixing together indistinctly.
"I'm looking for ghosts."
Sam cringed. That was distinct. Dean had made the pronouncement as if the barman might be hard of hearing. And Sam knew he had only himself to blame, he was the one who had suggested to his brother that no-one would bat an eye at being asked about ghosts, Dean was just testing the theory.
Refusing to look at his brother Sam scampered to a vacant table and threw himself into a chair. He hoped nobody had seen him enter with the loud mouth and was relieved that there was no abatement of the hubbub in the room, nobody seemed to be taking any notice of Dean. And really, that was the best way to deal with his brother.
Sam pretended to be engrossed in the drinks menu when a few minutes later Dean placed a glass in front of him. Sam frowned at the contents.
"We're in the wild west Sam. This isn't beer town."
"What town is it?" There were a number of things the coloured liquid in the tumbler could be.
"It's whiskey town."
Sam screwed up his face in disgust.
"Just drink it. Be a man."
Sam twisted the glass between his fingers and regarded the beverage with distaste. "Did your yelling about ghosts produce a result?" he asked, distracting from his unwillingness to drink.
Dean smirked. "Did you like that? Pretty smooth, huh?"
"Oh yeah, real understated."
"I thought so," Dean proudly replied. "The bartender was busy, but he said he would send over some locals that know everything about the town."
"What did you say about us? Did you give him a cover?"
"Yeah," Dean leaned forward conspiratorily and Sam followed suit. "I told him that I was a millionaire playboy race car driver and you were my disapproving, stick up the ass butler. Try and work to that."
Sam sat back with a roll of the eyes and a small shake of the head. "No-one's buying you as millionaire playboy race car driver."
"Bet they'd buy you as a disapproving stick up the ass butler," Dean returned with a raise of his glass.
Sam snorted. "You're an idiot."
Dean cocked an eyebrow, dipped his head and seemed to take it as a compliment.
Voices being raised behind drew their attention. Standing at the bar only a few feet away were two middle aged women, Dean guessed them to be in their 50's, and their conversation was becoming increasingly voluble. Their foreign accents made them even more noticeable, British from the sounds, although the inflections were different, they didn't come from the same area.
The taller of the women had dark, shoulder length hair, dotted with streaks of grey and the other wore glasses, had dark blonde hair with grey peeking through at the roots and Dean wasn't sure if it was a trick of the light but there seemed to be flecks of pink as well, although it was hard to distinguish the details when the hair was tied in a haphazard ponytail. The women were similarly dressed, both in worn jeans and boots but the dark haired woman had a checked shirt on, to which the blonde was taking great exception. It appeared to be the source of the argument.
"Cat fight," Dean quietly enthused, fingers lightly slapping Sam's arm.
"How old are you?"
Dean looked at his brother quizzically, as if he couldn't understand who wouldn't be drawn to a cat fight, then twisted in his chair and directed his attention toward the women like he was watching a floorshow.
"Jesus Christ Ada, would you get over the checked shirt?" the dark haired woman moaned.
The shorter of the two women, Ada, narrowed her eyes at her companion.
"I want to know where the bloody hell you found it, dingus. I swear I burned all those god awful shirts."
"You'd better not be burning my shirts," was the sharp retort.
"I mean for fucks sake Maud, do you even care about your appearance? Did you bother looking in the mirror before you came out? Put your jacket back on, before someone sees you."
"It's too warm in here."
"I cannot continue standing next to you while you're wearing that shirt. It makes you look like a lush and it reflects badly on me."
Maud drew up indignantly. "A lush? That's rich coming from a boozehound. And how does a shirt make someone look like a lush? That makes no sense. How can an item of clothing imply an overfondness of alcohol?"
"You don't like lush? Well how about knobhead then? Does that suit better?"
"Yeah wang wacker. Knobhead suits just fine."
Dean shot his brother a bemused expression and mouthed the words wang wacker? He was enjoying the spectacle way too much for Sam's liking, who considered mature aged women acting in such a manner, throwing around such language, was appalling.
The women glared at each other in a tense standoff and Dean wondered whether they were about to witness their first gunfight in Tombstone. Between middle aged women. Over a checked shirt.
That would be weird.
To his surprise the impasse was broken when the ladies burst out laughing.
"I thought we agreed you weren't going to say wang wacker any more. It is such a lame insult Maud," said Ada, her face crinkled in mirth.
"Yeah, I panicked," chuckled Maud. "What are you doing using my dingus? You know I have a limited range of insults."
"I say dingus too," the blonde haired woman protested.
"No, you say div."
"Are you telling me how to throw insults?"
"Well you're not doing it right."
"There is no right and wrong with insults, dickhead."
"Oh yeah? You want to settle it with pistols at dawn?"
Again both women dissolved into laughter, leaving Dean shaking his head in puzzlement, unable to plot the progress of the argument.
"Fucking pistols at dawn," Ada breathed through the laughter and playfully slapped her friend's shoulder. "You've got to come up with some new material."
The bartender leant over to the two women and said something quietly, eyes and hands making discreet motions in Dean and Sam's direction.
"Oh great," Dean groaned, his amusement immediately subsiding. "I think these are the locals we're waiting for."