Fork in the Road
Summary: A ghost is killing golfers, forcing Sam and Dean to pose as caddies... Post It's a Terrible Life
And now that the little ghost problem is cleared up, we have a little time for the brothers to talk… or not talk as the case may be… I hope you all enjoyed this story and thank you very, very much each and every review, especially to the anonymous reviews I can't respond to.
Sam stood back to watch his brother and had to smile. The jerk who'd cheated while Dean was caddying for him had actually shown up for their face-off. True to his boast, Dean was playing the man with nothing more than a wedge and a putter, while Kevin had a full set of clubs.
Sam might be smiling, but Dean was all seriousness. There was no trash talk today, well, less than Sam would have expected anyway. His brother was concentrating on giving Kevin a lesson in humility and nothing else. It was nearly the same mentality that Sam saw Dean wearing when he was on a hunt. He was relaxed, but focused. This wasn't fun. It was a job. He didn't like Kevin and he was on a mission.
The night before, they'd gone back to their room and Sam had fallen asleep to the sights and sounds of Dean meticulously cleaning and oiling his shotgun. Sam's ribs had been hurting so badly he hadn't even had the energy to tease him about it. Much, anyway. Dean's horrified expression when he realized Marigold had gone in the drink was really too good to let pass completely.
When Sam had woken up, he saw that Dean hadn't slept in his bed. It wasn't completely unusual. Dean had better nights than others. When his brother had come in, however, Sam had realized what was up. Dean had been out practicing again. Sam had forgotten about the contest, but Dean certainly hadn't.
From the looks of it, Dean's practice session had paid off. The round wasn't a runaway by any means, but his brother was in the lead and Kevin was sweating bullets. The man hadn't counted on his nobody caddy to have an innate ability to master physical tasks, as well as the ability to strategize like a general marshalling his troops.
Apparently, word of the match had gotten around and they had a bit of a crowd forming, getting bigger and bigger with each hole. Sam watched as Dean teed off, using the wedge as a driver. He'd moved the ball back farther than normal in his stance and he'd altered his swing to get the maximum distance instead of popping the ball up like the club was meant to do, "blading the ball," Dean had explained, whatever the heck that meant. Two days and Dean was already talking like the other golfers, another of his brother's chameleon-like gifts.
Dean was much happier today, especially since he wasn't being forced to wear the caddy coveralls. Instead he was in a black t-shirt and worn jeans, but appeared perfectly at home among the sharper dressed club members. He was also seemingly unperturbed by the people watching him golf. It was a marked change to Dean's need to stay in the shadows, and Sam hoped it was a return to his old form, when he truly enjoyed showing off from time to time, and letting himself be seen.
Dean came back to stand beside Sam while Kevin walked up to the tee. The man looked nervous, nervous and pissed. He'd started out cocky and browbeating Dean, but that had only lasted until the second hole. About the fourth hole, he'd started getting really worried. By the time they got to the tenth, he was angry and starting to swear at his caddy, his clubs, the course, anything he could other than himself. The swelling crowds weren't helping matters, because he knew he was going to lose and he was never, ever going to live it down.
"He kinda looks like he's gonna have an aneurism," Dean observed, his head cocked to one side as he watched his opponent tee off and then swear loudly and slam his club into the ground before tossing it to his caddy and stalking off down the fairway.
"He should be grateful he didn't have a heart attack," Sam returned wryly. He fell into step beside Dean as they followed behind Kevin.
"He was in the hospital yesterday evening," Sam heard off to his right.
He turned and saw that Dean's golf mentors, Ed and Tom, were trailing behind them. The movement put too much torque on his ribs and he was instantly sorry. Sam was grateful he didn't have to haul a golf bag today. He was having enough trouble with the standing and walking and was glad all he had to do was hold whichever club Dean wasn't using at the time.
"Eddie, my man! Tommy boy," Dean said cheerfully. "What are you doing here?"
"We heard about this little showdown and couldn't resist," Tom answered.
"Especially since we taught you everything you know," Ed added, a definite glint of amusement in his eye.
Dean chuckled and nodded. "Absolutely. What did you mean about him being in the hospital?"
"He went in for chest pain after his round yesterday afternoon."
"That so?" Dean asked, shooting a glance at Sam, who returned it with a bare nod.
Ed pursed his lips. "Apparently, he wasn't doing so well, and then presto, from one minute to the next they couldn't find anything wrong with him at all."
"Lucky guy," Dean said. They'd headed out to the course not long after dark and been back to the motel before midnight. Taking out the ghost had apparently saved Kevin from an early grave.
"I imagine they told him to take it easy," Tom said, his eyes on Kevin's back, "but from the looks of it, he's still going to work himself into a heart attack before he gets to the 18th."
"It's Warren's fault, you know," Ed said with a sad shake of his head.
Sam and Dean both stopped at that. Tom and Ed did the same and they faced each other. "What do you mean?" Sam asked.
"Well, he changed the membership rules six months ago," Ed explained. "Used to be you couldn't even ask to join. Someone from the club had to nominate you before you could be considered, etc, etc." Sam nodded. Typical good old boy club. "Somebody sued the club for being 'elitist' and Warren relaxed the rules to get a more balanced group of people."
"They let in the riffraff," Tom huffed. "Bunch of stupid people who didn't know the rules. Everyone in this club knew never, ever to cheat on the 17th. Every once a while some moron would try it, but they couldn't say they weren't warned."
"The president changed the membership requirements and all these people started joining who didn't know anything about what goes on here and ol' Mitch went right after them for breaking the rules," Ed stated as if it were the most ordinary thing on the planet. "He always hated cheaters."
"You knew all this time?" Dean asked, astounded.
"You think there is anything that goes on in this club that we don't hear about?" Tom cackled. "We knew you two were coming to take care of Mitch before you even got here."
"That you're a good golfer was just a bonus." Ed smiled broadly.
"The thing I don't understand is why President Warren called us in at all if he knew there was a chance we'd actually find the body," Sam mused.
Tom shook his head, amusement plain in his aged face. "The course trustees are the ones who made him call you two. With the health department as well as the trustees after him, he was in danger of losing his job, not to mention having the course closed."
Dean narrowed his eyes as he looked at the two old men. "And who are the trustees?"
Tom let out a now familiar cackle. "You're looking at two of them."
"We couldn't have the course closed," Ed explained. "Where would we go to play every day?"
Dean rolled his eyes while Sam just shook his head in disbelief. "Glad you have your priorities straight," Dean muttered.
"Oh, we've got them right where we want them. Don't we, Ed?"
Ed just smiled. "Well, we should let you get back to business. This young man needs a dressing down and we shouldn't distract you."
Sam and Dean shook the men's hands and watched as they wandered off down the fairway with the others, a trail of, "He's a natural," and "Who'd have believed it?" following in their wake.
They finished the 15th and 16th holes with Kevin managing to drop another stroke to Dean while also managing to so offend Tom and Ed, who had made a decent suggestion of a different club, that Sam was fairly certain Kevin's days at Oaklawn were numbered. Not that the guy would ever be able to show his face on the course again after today.
As they approached the 17th hole, a hush fell over the crowd and Sam saw quite a few members of the crowd staring at the part of the trees that still held crime scene tape. A police officer was actually posted at the edge of the trees to keep people away.
"I'm kinda surprised they didn't shut the course down for a day or two," Dean wondered out loud.
"We know the police chief," Tom, still standing nearby, stage whispered. "We're playing a round with him this afternoon."
"Guess it helps to know all the important people in town," Sam murmured.
"The joys of country club life," Dean replied.
The police, of course, had absolutely no clue what had happened. A greenskeeper had found the president dead of apparent blunt force trauma only a few feet from a burnt out golf bag containing another apparent, and as yet unidentified, murder victim.
After they finished looking down the fairway, the crowd turned back and seemed to stare with renewed interest at Sam and Dean like they knew.
Dean leaned over to him. "Is it just me or are you kinda freaked out?" he asked out of the side of his mouth.
"These people all knew about what was going on here and didn't say a word. I don't think they're gonna call the cops in now that it's all over."
"Dude," Dean said, as if a thought had just occurred to him. "If the police chief's a member of the club, then he knew about Mitch already. He just didn't know where the body was or have proof of who did it."
"Guess he'll be happy then. Mystery solved and his golf game is safe."
"Yeah. Happy days at Oaklawn," Dean remarked snidely, although he shot a definite sidelong glance in Sam's direction. "Now they can cheat again."
His brother just brushed it off and headed for the tee. "I'm up."
His stance was relaxed, not even a sign of nerves or tension. He struck the ball soundly and although it didn't go as far as it would have with a driver, it stayed nicely in the fairway. Kevin, however, looked like he was so tense he was going to explode and promptly hit his into the trees, albeit thankfully not on the side toward the lake.
"Something new and different," Dean declared. "You managed to hang a Louie."
"Shut up," Kevin snapped and once again stomped off to find his ball.
Dean just snorted. "I think his underwear's two sizes too small. It would explain the hostility."
Sam was barely listening. He was too busy trying to keep his temper in check. Dean's cheap shot had definitely been aimed at him. "Are we gonna talk about this?"
"About you cheating?"
"I'm not cheating," Sam said through clenched teeth. "I'm not doing anything."
"Tell me another one," Dean shot back. "Cause the ghost went right for you, man. You. Complete with the marks and the stopped heart. Tell me. Seen your girlfriend lately? She get over that little pea soup problem?"
"She's not my girlfriend," Sam hissed. "She's-"
"What, Sam?" Dean said in exasperation. "Your mentor? Your demonic Obi Wan? Your friend?"
Sam felt the words like another punch to the jaw. Not just the words, but the anger, the vitriol behind them. Ruby was a tool, a thing, something he was using to get the job done. They were on deck for the apocalypse and Sam was willing to use anything and everything necessary to stop it. If he got to rip Lilith's head off with his bare hands then that was a bonus.
Sam opened his mouth, but Dean held up a hand to stop him. "You know what? Whatever you're about to say is a lie, so why don't we just stop right there. Save you the trouble of tellin' it and me the trouble of pretendin' I almost believe it."
Sam could feel his blood rushing in his ears. Dean just wouldn't listen. Sam tried and tried and Dean refused to understand. The older they got and the deeper into this mess they got, Sam understood how much grayer the world was. There was no black and white anymore. Anything was fair game if it got the job done. Ruby, demon blood, his powers, they were necessary to get the job done, and the world was going to go to hell in a hand basket if he didn't use every resource at his command to bring down Lilith and her cronies.
"Sammy?" Dean said more quietly, almost tentatively.
"What?" he bit out.
"I know we screw up." He looked down and huffed out a weary, sorrowful version of a laugh. "At this point, I'm the poster boy for screw-ups. But..."
"Just... I want you to remember something for me, ok?"
Sam's jaw was clenched so tightly his teeth hurt. "What?"
"Remember we're the good guys. You are one of the good guys. Ok?"
Sam felt like all of the air had been sucked out of his lungs. Before he could answer, Dean turned away and walked toward his ball. He was farther from the hole than his opponent so he took his shot and then to Sam's surprise, he walked toward the trees and Kevin.
Sam followed and watched as Dean walked up to Kevin and put an arm around his shoulders. The other man bristled and tried to shove him off, but Dean barely budged. His grip had to be bruising despite how relaxed he appeared. He tilted his head closer and Sam could see he was speaking quickly and very quietly to the other golfer.
The small crowd that was standing in a semi-circle behind them waited silently with the exception of a few whispers as the two men spoke. After about thirty seconds, Sam saw Kevin settle down and actually start to listen, although Sam couldn't hear what was being said. After another thirty, the man was nodding. Thirty seconds after that Dean clapped him on the shoulder, and backed away.
Kevin looked at him for several seconds as if trying to figure him out and finally shook his head as if it was a lost cause. He called his caddy and chose a different club, then approached his ball which had a troublesome lie, but was playable. Sam heard his brother murmur something else and the man nodded and shifted just slightly. When he struck the ball, the thing actually did what it was supposed to do. It went toward the hole.
"That's what I'm talking about," Dean crowed, and slapped the man on the back. "See what happens when you're not a jackass?"
Kevin scowled and opened his mouth to retaliate, but Dean stopped him with a glare that had shut down many a better man. "What did we just talk about?" Dean said in a tone that was straight out of the John Winchester, I-will-not-put-up-with-your-crap-and-I'm-heavily-armed school of encouragement.
Kevin grunted and walked off toward the green, although without the furious clomping that he'd been displaying up to that point.
Several people in the crowd snickered, but Dean's gaze passed over the group and they quickly stopped. "Guys," Dean chastised lightly. "I'm tryin' for some positive reinforcement. Help me out here." Suddenly, he smiled and the crowd couldn't resist smiling in return. It was infectious. If Dean was happy, everyone around him was happy.
"Come on, people. We finish this up, there's a drink waiting for us at the club."
The crowd whooped, in a very dignified, we're too rich to really whoop sort of way, and headed toward the hole.
"What did you say to that guy?" Sam asked curiously.
Dean shrugged. "We had a meeting of the minds."
"You threatened to castrate him, didn't you?"
"I would never." Dean raised an eyebrow as if thinking. "Well, I might, but that's not what I said." They fell into step following the others. "I... uh... I told him life was too short not to listen to people who could help you."
Sam just nodded. That was part of the problem. He could help Dean, but his brother wasn't listening. And Dean... he thought Sam needed to listen, and refused to consider any other way. Mitchell Wray had died because he was being a stickler about the rules. He thought he was doing the right thing to keep Warren on the right path, but when it came down to it, dead was dead.
Dean was willing to do that. He was willing to go down, again, doing the "right" thing. Sam wasn't willing to do that anymore. He was willing to do whatever it took to keep Dean alive, whether his brother approved or not. Sam hadn't agreed with Dean's methods for bringing him back from the dead, so his brother was just going to have to take a little of his own medicine.
His not in front of Dean mantra was only going to hold for so long before Dean found out, but it had to be done. He had to save his brother. He had to save everyone. There was no other choice now, even if Dean couldn't follow where he was going. It was the only way.
Dean sighed. "Come on, Sam. We have a game to finish."
They did have a game to finish, and Sam was going to do it. "Yeah."
Dean grinned, and Sam couldn't help an answering grin, though it made his heart ache. They weren't there yet. They still had a little time. Not much, but a little.
"We'll finish up here, and then..."
Dean's grin broadened into a full-blown smile. "I've got a hot date."
"With who?" Sam jeered. "Ms. Nichols? Pretty sure she still thinks you're an uppity underling, even if you are the big hero."
"Uppity underling?" Dean laughed. "Ok, yeah, that sounds about right. But, no. I made a promise and I'm a man of my word."
Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out his lighter. "My Zippo and I have a hot date with some coveralls."
Sam just shook his head, but he joined Dean as they walked out of the trees toward the green and the 18th hole beyond. "Come on, Tiger. We'll finish here and then we'll see... We'll see..."
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this. Until next time...