By: Karen B.
Summary: Time set: Season two. Sometime before Playthings. The boys go hunting for a ghost that is haunting a covered bridge. Meanwhile, Sam comes up with the idea on how he can change his destiny.
Disclaimer: Not the owner.
Quote: "No, Dean, you don't understand, all right? The more people I save, the more I can change!"– Sam Winchester – 2-11 Playthings.
"Destiny is not a matter of chance; but a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; It is a thing to be achieved."
- William Jennings Bryan
The moon hung high and bright and round among a clear sky full of twinkling stars. Some of those stars streaked across the heavens like silver bullets, disappearing before ever finding a target.
She'd made many a wishes upon those falling stars, none of them every coming true; destiny was a monster she just couldn't fight any longer.
The night was muggy and stifling hot, even though the summer sun had long since made its way around to the other side of the earth. There was no breeze, the air stagnant and still. Moonlight beamed down to light the leafy canopy of large trees far below – most twenty-five feet and higher. The natural light continued to travel downward, bouncing off inner branches, creating shadows much the same way an artist's delicate paintbrush sweeps over canvas. The moon's beams traveled on, illuminating the edges of ragged leaves, contorting and reshaping the familiar landscape into confusing shapes and blobs. The glimmering rays splayed outward, pinpointing through the cracks of a gable peaked roof and spotting to the wooden road of the Stowe Hollow covered bridge before finally coming to glitter like liquid silver upon the quiet pond-like water of the slow moving river below it.
She stood in the center of the road, right hand cupped to her cheek. "Donald," she whispered.
Her heart was aching, broken beyond repair, but the tears wouldn't come. She could still feel his lips. His tender kisses. His breath hot in her ear as he whispered her name over and over – Emily.
Emily lowered her hand from her cheek and stared longingly at the engagement ring on her finger. It had cost Donald a small fortune. The white gold band was intricately carved and a full cut white diamond, surrounded by tiny blue-green gemstones sat in the center. She tilted her hand, left to right. Moonbeams refracted off the stone sending radiant spots of light dancing and shimmering about the covered bridge at every angle. She moved her other hand to rub a thumb over the diamond, a diamond as rare and as beautiful and as everlasting as their love.
Only their love was not everlasting, and her sadness was drowned out by her anger, and her tears dried by rage.
She pressed a hand to her swollen belly feeling the two lives that moved and kicked around inside of her. They were all alone now.
Banished from church and family, Donald had hung himself from the rafters in this very spot at the center of the bridge only a few days before their shotgun marriage was to take place.
Her anger rose as high as the moon. She would soon give birth to twins, unholy and alone and out of wedlock, both their families having disowned them.
She would not live the rest of her life hounded by whispers and snickers and the glaring eyes of damnation. She was no whore and her children to be…not bastards.
Balancing on top a block of dried ice she'd lugged out to the center of the bridge, Emily placed the rope around her neck and tightened the noose.
"We will be together soon, forever," she said.
Emily listened to the bubble of the river below, rolling along like syrup. This was her bridge, every board, every hole, every speck of dust – from uneven road to bat infested rafters – hers. This was the place the love of her life took his last breath and she and her children to be, now theirs.
There would be no white picket fence. No apple pie backing in the oven. No laundry strung out on the line, fresh and drying in the summer wind. This was her family's home now. And she would guard it through all eternity.
Damn those who judged others and dared to cross the bridge when the moon was full and the night was hot and no breeze could carry Donald's whispering voice to her ears, and damn the stars tabove that granted no one's wish.
The rope squeaked and the timbers creaked as the block of ice melted and the heavy knot around her neck pulled tighter and tighter, slowly cutting off her air supply. The diamond ring, her last connection to her love, accidently slipped off her finger .
"No," Emily choked out.
Listening as the ring plunked to the wooden road and boucned out of sight, there was no way for her to get it or her life back now. She gasped, legs kicking, her feet doing one last dance – mid-air- then eventually going still as she dangled - dead - from the noose.
Though it was four thirty and the full moon had replaced the summer sun, the dark was stifling and muggy. He took a break, glancing down at the Goldbrook river flowing beneath the 49' foot stretch of bridge. Sam was hot and Sam was sweaty and Sam was working hard, but most of all Sam was twitchy - a pent up sort of urgent- twitchy he couldn't understand or seem to control. All he knew was he wanted this job done and done fast.
Sam swiped sweat off his forehead with his bare forearm. The front of his tee shirt was soaking wet, and crap, he needed a shower and he needed a beer and he needed...shit…he didn't know what the hell he needed, but he needed it like yesterday whatever 'it' was.
He'd first salted his side of the bridge, and now red canister in hand, Sam rushed to finish his half of the job. Making his way up and down the interior right side of the covered bridge, he splashed gasoline soaking down the century-old wooden walls and hardwood road.
Their current research had brought them to the state of Vermont, down the graveled, one-lane road of Stowe Hollow to a wooden covered bridge that was built in 1844. A bridge said to be haunted by an unwed pregnant woman named Emily who was expecting twins. She'd hung herself from the rafter's just days after her finance had done the same, both unable to handle the disgrace and rejection of their families.
Up until a week ago, when a similar unmarried couple expecting twins was ironically found choked to death in their car at the center of the bridge, the paranormal activity reported by passerbyers had been seemingly harmless; the squeak of a rope rubbing against the timbers in the rafters, reports of a white ghostly female figure floating about, the shaking of cars and the slashing of paintjobs with claw-like nails, a wailing woman's voice eerily demanding they 'give it back.'" All the incidences were reported between the hours of 12am and 3:30 am on hot summer nights just like this one, when the wind didn't blow through the trees and the river ran quiet.
Sam knew over time and centuries a ghost's energy could, and most likely would, become violent. Their level of self-awareness blinded by the crushing misery and hatred of those still living.
Finding no body to burn led them to the only other conclusion – she'd attached herself to the place of her and her family's death. Both he and Dean figuring the old fashion approach would be the easiest way to rid the bridge of Emily's ghost. Salt and burn it. Though, Dean had wanted to get creative in their burning technique, using sticks of dynamite instead of gas and matches. Said it would be fun and way cool to blast the bitch into toothpicks like they did in that old-time movie he saw last month - The Bridge on the River Kwai.
They'd 'jerked' and 'bitched' their way through that conversation.
Dean had argued the smoke and flames would attract the cities attention fast, anyway. Sam was certain not as fast as twenty sticks of dynamite blasting and echoing over, and rattling the flat country landscape, not to mention, they needed at least a few minutes to make a getaway as the town was not far off.
Dean sadly gave in.
Sam continued to make his way up and down the interior right side of the covered bridge, nearly done now.
The impala was parked right at the porthole – nearest the road that would take them out of town. Even she was doing her job – her high beams lit, illuminating the dark remoteness of the bridge.
Sam dumped the last few drops to the ground and set his can down, suddenly realizing his footsteps were the only one's he'd heard this whole time. What the hell? He turned to look for–
"Dean!" Sam snapped at his brother who stood several feet away, staring at the wood planks with pen and paper in hand, a small flashlight tucked under his arm, and his canister of gasoline sitting on the ground beside him. Sam stomped over and picked up the can. It was just as heavy and full as his had been when he'd first lugged it out of the trunk and under the bridge. "What the hell, man?" Sam gave the large canister a shake, sloshing the flammable liquid about inside.
Not bothering to acknowledge his brother had said a word, Dean continued to concentrate, jotting things down on the small pad of paper – cool and calm, not having broken a droplet of sweat.
"Dean," Sam snapped again, tossing his hair out of his eyes and letting the canister slip out of his grasp to land on his brother's foot.
"Ow!" Dean jumped backward, hopping up and down on his right leg, the flashlight slipping out from under his arm and the canister clomping over onto its side. "Dude! What's your problem?" he barked, still hoping and leaning over to pick up the flashlight.
"Dude," Sam mocked, "My problem is, my side is set to go up in flames and you haven't even poured a drop of gasoline on your side."
"What's your rush pyromaniac? You said yourself she only shows between midnight and 3:30. "Dean glanced at his watch. "It's 4:30 in the morning, and there's no need to worry about Dunkin Donuts and Tasey McGee over there." Dean waved a hand at the black and white police unit parked on the shoulder of the road, obviously posted there to watch over the bridge since the recent murder had dubbed it a crime scene. "I saw to it they're out for the count. Chloroform will do that to you."
"So," Sam snarked.
"So," Dean said, going back to writing on his pad. "She's not showing tonight, and we'll have this piece of scrap wood burnt long before midnight tomorrow."
"Not at your rate," Sam said sarcastically.
"Shut up." Dean glanced up one side of the bridge and down the other. "Besides, mine isn't as big as yours."
"Really? It's not?" Sam couldn't help but smile.
"Wait." Dean frowned and glanced down at his crouch then back up. "No." He shook his head vigorously and pointed a finger at Sam. "Forget I said that. Look." He thumped a heavy boot several times to the timber road, a plum of grit and dust rising up from between the cracks. "See," he choked waiving a hand in exaggeration even as the dirt had already settled. "She'll drink up the gasoline like an old drunk and go up faster than a haystack."
"Dean, you're just mad you didn't get to use dynamite, man."
"Sam, you're just too uptight. A two-day-old discarded cigarette butt would burn this bitch to the ground. Job's a piece of – "
"Don't say pie," Sam tsked.
"Pizza," Dean finished. "You happy now?"
"Not so much," Sam's smile faded as he examined Dean's side of the bridge, not understanding his own urgency and not wanting to take the time to Dr. Phil himself.
So maybe Dean's side was smaller, shorter than his. He cringed, whatever. There were several open slots where whole boards were missing. Some rotted away and others probably vandalized. Sure it wouldn't take Dean as long to douse them, but there was a job to do and Sam just wanted it done now so they could move on to the next.
Sam huffed looking back at his brother. "What are you doing that is so much more important than what we came out here for, anyway, Dean?"
Dean didn't answer just kept right on writing.
"Dean, you want to stop doodling and get back to the business of," a pause, "Business," Sam said.
"Not doodling, Sammy, saving this for prosperity." Dean kept writing.
"You say tomato, I say tomato." Dean shrugged carelessly.
"Grrr." Every muscle in Sam stiffened, without another word; he reached out and grabbed the pad and pencil out of Dean's hands.
"Dude! What the hell," Dean whirled, making a mad swipe for the notepad.
Sam dodged him, turning toward the Impala's headlights and squinting to read his brother's Kindergarten scrawl. He glanced up at Dean and frowned. "This is what you're saving for future generations?"
Dean smiled. "We'll, yeah."
Sam looked back down at the notepad and began to read aloud, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and chains excite me," he cleared his throat, and then read on, "I was here, but now I'm not. I sat right here and smoked some pot?" He flicked another brief glance up at Dean, then read, "Life is beautiful, especially when you're drunk."
"That's my personal favorite," Dean interrupted with a grin.
Ignoring Dean, Sam reluctantly flipped to the next page. "There once was an old man from Nantucket, whose dick was so long he could suc – " Sam cocked his head off to one side, pressing his lips together tightly and refusing to read on. "Really, Dean," he huffed. "Graffiti?"
"Art, Sammy, in its purest form," Dean explained. "You're always saying I need to show more sensitivity and become more cultural." Dean smiled widely.
"It's not art, Dean, its profanity and since when do you listen to a word I say anyway?" Sam questioned accusingly, flipping the page full-on expecting more vulgarity. Instead he was glued to the pages as he read silently to himself:
"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world." William Shakespeare.
"To do more for the world than the world does for you - that is success." Henry Ford.
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. Serve and thou shall be served." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sam slowly turned to the next page.
"Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have." Jim Rohn.
"Quality stuff, huh, check out page eight," Dean chuckled. "Jasper likes it with fuzzy pink slippers on his feet and a wadded up sock in his mouth," Dean laughed louder.
Sam ingnored him still reading, something tickling the back of his mind.
"Do all the good you can, and make as little fuss about it as possible." Charles Dickens.
"The more I help others to succeed, the more I succeed." Ray Kroc
Maybe those guys had the right idea. Sam thought staring at the page. To save himself he had to save others.
"Okay, give it back," Dean said.
Sam just kept stared blankly at Dean's book.
"Sam," Dean called out worriedly, snapping his fingers in front of Sam's face.
Sam shook his head dramatically, closing his mouth shut and rubbing his eyes. "What?" He asked in annoyance, not appreciating his train of thought being interrupted.
"Nothing…ha," Dean laughed, snatching back his book and stuffing it in his jacket. "We got work to do, man." Hey bent down to snatch up the canister and trotted off.
"…you're a real pain in my ass, Dean," Sam shouted at his brother's retreating back.
"Can't hear you, Sammy." Dean sung out as he unscrewed the cap of his canister and started to splash gasoline up and down his side of the bridge. "Too busy being busy."
Exasperated, Sam rolled his eyes to the rafters. Hundreds of small black shadows roosting in the crossbeams squeaked and grappled over one another. Sam stared unphased by the bats. Fact was most people seemed to be afraid of bats, thought them echolocating, blood drinking, diseased monsters, like Dracula. Sam wasn't most people, always felt out of place, the oddball, the freak. Fact was bats were vital to the ecology, pollinating flower and keeping the insect population down. But people didn't always know the facts. Fact was there really were blood drinking monsters out there, and what if Sam became one of them.
What if that out of place, not feeling like he fit in anywhere, even with his very own family, what if that feeling was really no feeling at all? What if that was destiny's monster? Heaving and snorting and living and hiding in a place he didn't know about inside of him.
Sam shivered. Hard. What if he really was a freak? What if there truly was a chain-rattling monster inside of him trying to escape. His DNA sequenced differently, biologically half human, half – who knew what? The weight of his thoughts bearing down on his shoulders made his legs tremble.
He took three wobbly steps to the side of the bridge and stared out through one of the missing clapboards; far past the river, past the trees, past the deep dark-purple of the night. He could feel it inside of him, that something evil and black and unnatural. That something he always knew was there but never could put a finger on. Dad knew it. Why else would he tell Dean he might have to kill him?
What if he lost himself? What if he grew sharp claws and jagged teeth, pointy horns and two disfigured heads? What if he started hunting humans?
What if he hurt someone? What if he killed someone? Ripped them apart and gorged himself on fresh blood, consuming and chomping into every vital organ like a bright-red juicy apple.
Sam's lips twisted against the bile he tasted in his mouth. What if that someone was Dean? What if…
Sam jolted hard against the strong hand clamping down forcefully onto his forearm. "What?" he looked wide-eyed at Dean, standing only inches from him, open Zippo in hand.
"Uh…I…so…uh…yes, I'm fine, Dean," Sam bit out in annoyance.
"Right," Dean scowled, "You look like a whipped puppy, man. "
Sam couldn't find his voice and his eyes watered as he gazed back at Dean who was yammering on about something.
I won't become a monster. I'm not. I can't be.
"I said, let's light this bitch, gotta call Desire." Dean winked, patting his jacket pocket where his book obviously was. "For a good time," he added.
"Of course, right," Sam said dully, reaching into his pocket for his own Zippo, trying to shake off his dark thoughts. "So you're finally ready?"
"Sammy, Sammy, Sammy," Dean flicked the lighter, producing a flame. "I was born ready to set the world on fire."
"Right…just…you're." Sam quirked his lip. "Just you take the high road," he tipped a chin toward the waiting Impala, I'll take the low. If Emily truly is attached to this bridge we have to be sure we burn every square inch of it. Can't have one sliver falling into the river, and besides," Sam added, "We need to keep the fire contained to just the bridge. That shouldn't be a problem, the surrounding trees are far enough away and if we light the bridge simultaneously from each end scorching it from the inside, it will devour…"something snapped inside of Sam, "Itself," he trailed off.
"And how do you plan on getting back across the burning bridge to the Impala so we can make our great escape, ha, Mr. Know It All? Fly?" Dean snipped.
Sam stared off through the weathered planks down at the slow moving water. Devour, devour, devour. Flames had devoured Jessica. He'd dreamt it would happen and it did. He could have stopped it, could have saved her. Maybe that was the secret. Devour. Devour.
Maybe he could keep himself from becoming a monster. Devour the thing that was apparently dormant inside of him. Devour it from the inside out. He thought about Jessica. Her lips, her kiss, the soft way she would whisper his name. He didn't save Jessica, didn't even try and he could have. He didn't pick up on his nightmares; he ignored the signs. He knew what was going to happen; he had the power to prevent it. Maybe he had the power to stop himself, save himself…and Dean in the process. Because if his big brother had to end him, Sam knew Dean wouldn't be far behind.
"Sammy!" Dean punched his shoulder.
"Ow." Sam snapped to attention. "What?"
"What's with you? I asked you, and how do you plan on getting back across to the Impala? Fly?"
"Swim," Sam stated plainly.
"Dude," Dean drew up straight and tall, "That's just stupid."
"Dean, it's not that far across," Sam argued, "The water isn't raging and I'm not a friggin' idiot, I know how to swim."
"No." Dean glanced away then back again. "No! No way. I don't like it," he argued.
Sam drew in a deep breath then let it out in an irritated huff. "Okay, fine, look," he gave a brief glance over his shoulder, "I'll set my end on fire first. When I'm sure it's caught, I'll race back your way and as soon as I cross the finish line you light your end. Should still consume itself fairly quickly. Then we're out of here. Deal?"
"Why do you get to play Sammy express?"
"I run faster."
Dean thought about that a second. "Yeah, okay," Dean conceded, "But don't expect me to put a ring of roses around your giant horse's ass after you cross the finish line."
Sam had to laugh at that.
"Sammy, be careful," Dean stated seriously.
Sam got serious and said, "You, too, Dean."
They both turned away at the same time, fast moving boots thunk, thunk, thunking off the planks.
Sam skidded to a halt in front of the bridge's roadblock. "Now, Sam." Dean's voice echoed from behind.
The night suddenly turned cold, wind moaning through the one-inch spaces between the planks. Sam glanced over his shoulder. Dean stood at his end of the bridge, obviously anxious and at the ready.
Sam thumbed his lighter and lit the sawhorse that blocked the road, then the right side of the bridge, then the left.
In a flash the old wood whooshed up into flames, lighting the darkness in a yellow glow like the flick of a lightswitch. Sam backed up a few feet then paused to make sure the fire was a blaze but good. The yellow glow grew quickly; turning deep orange as the fire grew, speeding along both sides.
"Go Sam." Dean yelled. "Go Now!"
Following his brother's panicked orders; Sam turned and tore back through the enclosure toward the finish line. Dean was right; a two-day old cigarette butt would have been enough. Sam glanced back, not surprised to see how quickly the fire was closing in on him.
"Sammy, run faster, damn it!" Dean yelled.
Sam obeyed, running faster. Arms pumping wildly, sweat dripping profusely, hair plastered back. He could hear the roar of the flames – a fast moving animal – hot on his heels. But he was faster and knew he would make it.
He was just past mid-way across the bridge when the unexpected happened. The smoke and fire had flushed out the roosting bats in the rafters and they swarmed in pandemonium. They were everywhere. All around him in large numbers, every one of them blinded and confused and in a panic, and like Sam, unable to find escape. Some of the bats had actually flown toward the heat, their tiny bodies igniting, spinning fireballs flying through the air and bouncing of the sides of the bridge up ahead of Sam, setting Dean's side afire prematurely. Others flew back toward Sam – cremated mid-flight – the wind and draft of the roaring flames blowing their hot ashes into his face, stinging Sam's eyes and sticking to his sweat-soaked hair.
Sam stumbled along, trying to duck away from the flapping of leathery wings and scorched bodies, but there was no place to run or hide.
"Guh," he cried out, as tiny claws racked across his cheekbones, neck and exposed hands and arms.
The high pitched squeaks mixed with the thick black smoke quickly filled the interior of the bridge and near blinding him. Sam panted in and out, short sharp breaths. Still the deadly smoke entered the spongy tissue of his lungs. He was dizzy and disoriented, suffocating.
Gasping for breath, Sam stopped running. He could hear Dean calling out orders, but could not hear what he was saying over the screech of bats and roar of fire.
The blaze licked at the roof like forked dragon's tongues, and the flames started eating up the road as well.
"Sam!" Dean's freaked-out voice ricocheted all around like a stray bullet and this time he heard. "Sammy, answer me!"
Sam opened his mouth to do just that, but the smoke trailed down his throat like a punch. "De – "he choked out, dropping to all fours.
He crawled on hands and knees several feet before a coughing fit stopped his efforts once again, his head hung low and desperate to catch a breath.
"Saaaaaaaaam!" Dean screamed full volume from somewhere up ahead.
"D…ugh," Sam gagged, lifting his head, damp bangs falling over his burning eyes.
His arms started shaking as more and more oxygen was sucked away, weakening him. Squinting through hot tears, Sam searched for Dean. All he saw was orange on orange. No longer able to tell right from left, walls from road. And worse, the bats had gone quit.
Not good. So not good.
Dean wasn't calling him anymore. At least Sam couldn't hear him if he was. The noise of the fire was like a hundred caged lions roaring in his ears. The heat intense like a sunburn blistering his skin.
What to do? What to do?
He was out of options. Stupid or not, the river was looking like Sam's only hope. He flopped flat to his belly on the road. Barely able to function, he pressed as close to the wood as he could, doing a one arm; one leg army scrabble toward what he hoped was the edge of the bridge.
His breathing was reduced to hiccups, his vision almost gone. Sam's jeans snagged along the uneven wooden road, his energy and oxygen levels dropping with each movement. His vision turned spotty and his arms and legs were tingling and his lungs felt cramped, most likely stuffed full of smoke. Just when Sam thought he was going to blackout he banged his head against something. Lifting a shaky hand, Sam groped blindly, clawed fingers grappling and pulling himself along. Hot wooden slivers slid into his palm, but he didn't let go.
Sam swiped a scorched hand over his eyes, nose and mouth achingly trying to gain his bearings and clear away gobs of drool and sweat and tears. He was woozy, deaf, near blind and very close to unconsciousness when a gust of fresh air hit his overheated face. Sucking in deep open mouthfuls of air, he retched and coughed trying to catch a breath.
"Okay, okay," he gulped in oxygen, blinking repeatedly and clearing the spots from his vision.
He knew where he was now – at the edge of the bridge, head poking out at one of the missing slots his brother was yammering about. Sam took only a second more to breathe, knowing he didn't have much time, the roaring inferno melting the bottoms of his boots.
The tingling in his limbs finally lessened and his vision crept back in a bit as he stayed pressed to his belly sucking in the night air, and staring down at the black, slow gurgling river far below.
Sam realized he wouldn't just plink down like a wishing penny. His body would fall fast and hard like a cement block. Even though the river was slow moving and looked deep there was always the possibility of landing on a floating log or unseen jagged rock. It would be no swan dive; he'd hit awkwardly, maybe break the other wrist or an arm or worse. If that happened, Sam just had to remember to hold his breath and keep swimming through the pain until he could get to shore, get to Dean.
Maybe Dean was right. Not such a good idea.
The bridge creaked and crackled and popped like a giant fireplace. No choice, he had to go for it. Sam dipped his head and drew in a few readying breaths, releasing each slowly like an Olympic diver who was about to perform a difficult technique. That's when he saw it, a flash of gold and a glint of white, peaking out of a large crack in the wood. Sam reached for the object with a shaky hand; clumsy fingers digging until he held the object in his palm. A woman's ring. Dirty and tarnished and the band bent, but the diamond was intact. Diamonds truly were forever. Even the heat of the fire burning the bridge down probably wouldn't destroy it completely.
Sam was shaken from the momentary distraction by the creak of footsteps behind him and a woman weeping.
"I want it back," the woman cried. "Give it back."
Shit. Sam clenched the ring tight in his fist. The timing was all wrong. Everything was all wrong. But even through his smoke muddled brain, he registered quickly what was about to happen…or rather who was about to happen.
"Emily," he whispered. Sam scrambled to his knees, but before he could get to his feet and jump into the river he felt it - her cold breath against his singed neck. "Shit."
"Give it back," Emily growled again.
Sam turned to see a pair of electric blue eyes. And that was all he saw just before claw-like fingers lashed out, catching him across the ribs sending him airborne and putting him on his back a few yards away in the center of the bridge.
"Umph," he gasped, the hard impact driving what little air he had left from his lungs.
He wanted to call out to Dean, but Emily suddenly appeared on top of him – crushing. With a wide, blue-lipped smile on her pale face she wrapped cold fingers around Sam's throat and started squeezing the life out of him.
Sam couldn't move, couldn't breathe, and couldn't make a sound. All he could do was look up into the ghost's face while she tried to end him. He could feel his eyes popping out of their sockets, warm liquid leaking along his ribcage where he figured Emily's claws had slashed into his flesh. And crap, what were the odds. She wasn't attached to the bridge. Burning Emily's bridge wasn't going to get rid of her ghost. She had to be attached to the ring. However the ring got there, Sam couldn't be sure and it didn't matter. Hell, the odds of him finding the thing were a billion to one, like finding a brand new Armani suit for twenty bucks on the clearance rack at Walmart. But wasn't that the way Winchester's lives went? Always beating the odds, after all what were the odds of your mother and your girlfriend, both, burning to death pinned to the ceiling above your head while you watched.
The heat of the fire was closing in. Sam parted his lips and tried to draw in some air, but all he took in was smoke. He felt his blood boil and his heart begin to melt. This was it. He flicked his eyes away from Emily, he sure as hell didn't want the last thing he saw to be her pale, angry face.
He stared down the burning bridge, to where he knew Dean to be. At least this way, his brother wouldn't have to keep his promise to kill him. As if he would anyway. This way Sam would just be gone.
Be okay, Dean. Just be okay.
A strangled sob escaped Sam, and a cloud of blackness swarmed about him like the bodies of those damn bats. Flames spit orange and blue and fierce, but the bats kept coming, bursting through the swirling chaos of twirling smoke and blazing fire. Sam stared hypnotically; everything moved in strange slow motion. The bats all combined into a big blob, shapeshifting to form a powerful, sleek leopard prowling through the flames on a hunt. The shadow shape closed in on him, stalking. Its back was arched and its hair bristled on end, ears flat, eyes glowing bright as a low throaty growl rumbled deep in its animalistic throat.
Sam started shaking. If not for Emily pinning him down and choking him out, he would have tried to get to his feet and run from this fierce beast. The animal didn't slow, didn't waiver, wasn't afraid, never once veered off its path in hopes of finding escape from the blaze.
The leopard came to a skidding stop.
White-hot, angry eyes met Sam's, blinding him completely.
"Ach," Sam gaged helplessly, squeezing his eyes shut, keeping an iron fist around the ring, preparing to be turned into a piece of bloody meat. Besides, maybe, just maybe, Dean would find his burnt, ravaged body and the ring. Dean would figure it out. He'd stop Emily. Several seconds flew by, but the sound of jagged teeth grinding into bone never came. Instead Sam heard a click, and then the fast paced thump, thump, thump of a pair of boots.
Strange. Sam opened his eyes. Thought he was delusional when he saw his big brother racing toward him through a ball of orange.
"Get away from him!" Dean shouted furiously as he raised his rock salt gun. "Sam, out!" he screamed in warning, just before aiming his sawed-off pointblank at Emily's head, and pulling the trigger.
Sam slammed his eyes shut against the small pieces of crystals that rained down on him. Emily's tight hold on his throat disappeared, but before Sam could even think to take in a breath a pair of hands grabbed a firm hold of both his biceps and sat him up.
"Come on, come on, get up," Dean shouted.
Sam fell forward; nose pressed against Dean's chest, an uncoordinated hand searching for comfort and collecting a fistful of leather.
"Sam, help me. Need you to find your feet."
Sam held on tighter to Dean's jacket, and with his brother's help fought his way up.
"Quick. Go, go, go," Dean yelled as he dragged Sam awkwardly alongside of him toward the shadow shape.
Sam had no choice but to trip and stumble along.
"Get in." Dean pushed Sam's head down and stuffed him inside the beast, tossing the sawed-off aside.
Sam frowned. "The Pala," he gasped as he gripped the steering wheel with one hand to hold himself up, smoke bellowing into the car.
"Yeah, no kidding, slide over…Baby's no M&M, man. She melts." Dean shoved Sam further across the seat.
Sam slouched sloppily against the passenger door, his lower body sprawled across the seat. "De-" he hacked and coughed, trying to sit up, desperate to tell his brother about the ring.
"We're good, we're good, buddy, just hold on to your pretty pink tutu, Samantha," Dean shouted. Looking over his shoulder, he shifted the car in reverse, and stomped on the gas damn near redlining her.
The Impala didn't hesitate, jumping backward as she was ordered to do.
Sam squinted at the speedometer, unable to see how fast they were going but guessed it was at the speed of life – their lives.
Dean maneuvered the Impala skillfully. Accelerating rearward in a perfectly straight line through the flames and somehow managing to avoid a few falling timbers.
"Eat my dust, Knievel," he muttered, brow scrunched in concentration.
Sam inched himself straight, still hacking away, trying to scream Dean's name. To tell him they still had Emily's ghost with them. She wasn't attached to the bridge. Unable to get any words out, he tried to raise a hand, but his arms felt like they were chained to cement.
"I am awesome!" Dean whooped, busy driving backward, looking out the back windshield as they cleared the burning bridge, but kept on going several extra feet. "You okay over there, dude?" He slammed the car in park, quickly turning to Sam.
Sam gathered all the strength he had left, rocked his head to one side, took a breath and said, "Rrrrriii…" the word cutoff when Emily suddenly appeared straddled on top of him.
Her hands wrapped one-finger-at-a-time around Sam's neck as she sandwiched him between her and the leather upholstery "Give it back," she snarled, so close their noses touched.
"Guhhh," Sam choked, eyes fluttering open and closed as he struggled to stay with it.
"Son of a bitch, you bitch," Dean screeched, scrambling to his knees and bending over the back seat.
Knowing Dean was going for the sawed-off, Sam tried hard to wiggle-worm his way out from under Emily, but it was all to no avail. A rock salt shot at this close of range… in the confines of the car… was going to hurt both he and his brother, and wouldn't stop Emily – not for very long. Not when he had what she so desperately wanted tucked tight in the palm of his hand.
"Nuuuu….De….rrrrrrr," Sam struggled to speak, frantic to gain Dean's attention, his hand involuntary gripping the ring tighter. Emily wasn't getting the ring back. If she did, they'd never be rid of her.
"Sammy, hold on, I got this." Dean came up with the weapon, pointing it at Emily's head, ready to blast her away.
"No!" Sam somehow barked out, the hand that fisted the ring flying up to punch Dean solidly in the chest.
"Give it!" Emily squeezed harder and harder.
Dean hesitated only a split second then quickly dropped the salt gun and grabbed hold of Sam's clenched hand. "Sammy, what?" He pried Sam's fingers open. "Holy crap," he shouted, making to swipe the ring from Sam's hand.
"Nuuu," Sam clenched his fist tight again, keeping the ring in his possession. If Dean took it, she'd go after him and Sam was in no shape to try and stop her.
The power of thought between them was strong, Dean obviously catching on fast.
"Right, right. Hold on to it, Sam, I got this," Dean shouted, exiting the car in a flurry not bothering to shut the door.
Knowing each other's thoughts wasn't always a good thing, but in this case it was, Sam went back to concentrating on not being overcome by blackness as Emily kept on in her efforts to get her ring back from him.
Whatever Dean thought he had, he better hurry up and have it. Ghosts only saw what they wanted to see, and right now Emily saw Sam the current threat as he still had her ring. As soon as she figured out what Dean was up to – ending her – she'd be on his ass like white on milk. Speaking of what Dean was up to... Sam wondered the same. Diamonds were forever, as the clichéd saying went, so how was Dean going to destroy the ring?
Over Emily's screeching and Sam's own gurgled gagging, he heard a lot of commotion going on in the trunk and Dean swearing up a storm. Emily pressed Sam flatter against the seat, clawed fingers encircling his neck, practically shoving through to the other side. Sam tried to recall if he'd ever seen a ghost decapitate someone using their bare hands. Dean better hurry up with all of his hullabaloo or that was exactly what was about to happen.
Just when Sam thought it was all over for him, Emily stopped choking him out and drew away, staring at him, silent and confused.
Sam gasped for air, the black pinpricks that had been swirling madly in front of his eyes fading some.
"This what you're so hot for, sweetheart?"
Sam and Emily both turned their heads at the same time. Dean stood at the car door with a small open-lidded, red box painted with black symbols in one hand, and a stick of dynamite in the other.
It was Sam's turn to frown in confusion. The curse box he got. Emily needed to see her ring being shut inside, locking her spirit away forever. But what was the dynamite for?
"Stupid friggin' ghosts." Dean gave the box a shake, metallic metal sliding side- to-side, proof the ring was inside. "Now you see it." He smiled wryly.
"Give it!" Emily flew off Sam and lunged toward Dean, fingered claws digging at the air like a rabid badger.
"Allakhazam." Dean slammed the lid of the box down just as Emily reached inside. "Oops, now you don't." He winked.
Emily's frustrated scream hurt Sam's ears. It was that sharp distinct scream of a soul being trapped for all of time. Her apparition twisted and contorted into strange, ghastly shapes then burst apart like shards of glass and grains of sand scattering to the four winds.
"Yippee ki-yay mother – "
Sam's ragged coughs and convulsive gulps for air interrupted his brother's joyous whoop.
"Sam!" Dean screeched.
Sam lifted a hand to rub at his neck. It hurt and was horribly swollen, and his whole body seemed to be on fire. He whimpered dropping his hand to join the other in his lap still working on not hacking up the pair of smoke-filled balloons in his chest that were his lungs.
"Hey, hey." Dean unceremoniously dropped the cruse box into the back seat and quickly slid over to Sam. "Let me check you out." Caring, cool hands roamed over Sam's exposed skin, "You burnt bad anywhere?"
"Don…don… thi…" Sam hacked weakly, the back of his throat feeling like it was coated in hot pizza cheese.
"You look pretty singed." Dean slowly and gently rolled up Sam's tee shirt. "Nice cat scratches, no stitches needed," he quickly assessed. "We got lucky," Dean said dryly, loweirng Sam's shirt.
"Pffffff," Sam hissed as the material clung back to his wounds.
"Easy." Dean reached for a bottle of water lying on the floorboards. "Here, try this," he said, unscrewing the cap and dumping some of the water into his palm to dab onto Sam's face.
Sam sighed, the water felt so good.
Dean tipped the bottle over Sam's hands, dousing them as well. "Oops," Dean glanced down watching water spill onto Sam's pants. "Dude… that," Dean pointed a finger at Sam's crouch, "Is not cool. How many times have I told you, no matter how comfy cozy you are… find a john, man."
Sam shot Dean 'the look' and nabbed the container from him, digging his fingers into the bottle so hard the plastic crinkled as he took in a few sips.
"Think you can cool your heels here a moment?" Dean asked seriously, holding up the stick of dynamite and waggling it in the air.
Sam coughed up water, wiping the dribble off his dry cracked lips onto his smoke-smudged arm. He stared out the windshield at the burning bridge. The wood on either side was on fire, the roof had collapsed and thick black smoke rose high above the trees. The cops would be waking from their nap soon and the fire department would be called, if they hadn't been already. It was time to shag ass.
Sam drew in a deep rattling breath and said, "St…op jerk…" he coughed. "jerk…ing 'round 'n- g – " he coughed harder, scowled even harder.
"Right, bring on the bitch face," Dean grouched. "Never a good look for you, Sam."
Sam cleared his throat, getting his cough under control and wordlessly gestured with an exaggerated hand wave out the window. Go.
"You do know you suck all the fun out of the job, right, Sam?"
Sam shrugged. Too bad.
Way to ruin a perfectly good barbeque," Dean sighed reluctantly tucking the stick of dynamite into his inside jacket pocket. "Joy kill," he mumbled under this breath.
"Kill joy," Sam corrected, clenching his teeth to stifle a cough.
"Potatoe, potato." Dean turned his attention back to Sam's exposed hands and arms. "These burns aren't that bad. Tilt your head back," Dean hooked two fingers under Sam's chin helping him do so.
Sam titled his head against the upholstery and stared at the Impala's roof.
"Pretty purple necklace, you got around your neck there, princess," Dean said, feather light fingertips brushing across Sam's tender skin. "This hurt?"
"I take that as a yes."
Sam gave a small nod of agreement.
Dean winced. "Your cheeks are pretty red and puffy and your knuckles and fingers are blistered," he diagnosed, pushing damp bangs off Sam's forehead. I think they could use some salve." Dean turned to get the first aid kit, but the blare of distant sirens interrupted him. "We got to get going," Dean swore turning back to the steering wheel and peering uneasily over at Sam.
"'Em 'kay, D'n," Sam's body grew heavy, weak and floppy and he fell forward.
"Whao there." A quick hand drove flat to Sam's chest.
"Guh, Sam groaned, jerking back up just before his head hard-knocked against the dashboard.
"Hey, easy. You with me?"
"Still with," Sam said hoarsely, his eyes blinking shut.
"Good." Dean kept his hand where it was. "Just hold it right there, kid, I'll have us out of here in a minute."
Sam's belly was sloshy, his lungs rattly, but Dean's soft grumblings cooed in his ears and the gentle rumble of the Impala rocked him into unreachable oblivion.
For a while Sam zoned in and out. Mostly out. Images of monsters crowed his head. Awful, hateful beasts full of anger and violence and blood thirst. It scared the hell out of him because every one of those monsters…was him.
The thought made Sam crawl out of deep unconsciousness, and he became slowly aware. The first thing he thought: he should be dead, but he wasn't. He was leaning against something soft, a low hum and comforting motion rocking him like a baby. Every now and then a bump would jolt him from that comfort. When that happened, he thought he should move, figure things out.
Things like what had happened, where he was, and why. But he was too beat to even try so he just stayed put. As the humming grew louder, Sam found it more and more difficult not to respond. He took in a few shallow breaths, the smell of leather and double cheeseburgers – heavy on the onions – caused his eyes to slit open, but he just couldn't keep them that way. They felt gooey and crusted and stung like a son-of-a-bitch, and his throat burned ten times worse than before.
Before what? Sam frowned. "Mmmmm," he moaned.
Another bump – this one a doozy – jolted him so hard he thought he cracked a rib. "Ung," his only response as he shifted uneasily and tried to lift his head away from a soft warm spot he was nuzzled warmly against.
"Don't try and rush things." A hand braced across his chest keeping him put.
"Wha?" Sam's eyes fluttered and he got a glimpse of a fog of a face just before his heavy lids fell shut again. "Guh."
"Take it slow, little brother."
"Huh?" A confusing, languid, liquid sensation ran through Sam's body, causing his lips to part and his breath to go shallow as he started a slow side back under.
"Hey." Someone shook his shoulder. "Oh no you don't, Sammy." There came another small shake. "Don't run off on me now. You can wake up. I just said to take it slow."
Sam was quiet a second, safe and warm where he leaned, cozy even, until everything suddenly exploded into heat and smoke, hurting his nostrils and cutting off his air supply. He was on fire. No not him…the bridge. And Emily was on top of him, pinning him to the road. If he didn't do something soon his bones would be a pile of ash.
"Nuuh." Sam bucked straight upward in a rushed panic.
"Sam!" A hand snagged a handful of hair at the back of his shaggy head, persuading him not to move any further.
Sam turned; startled to see he was sitting right next to Dean.
"You know you're safe, right?" Dean regarded Sam from behind the wheel of the car, glancing from the road to him, and then back to the road. "Sam…?"
For a second Sam had no breath and everything suddenly went grainy, a sandstorm whirling around Sam's head.
Sam was aware of the comforting rocking motion of the car coming to an abrupt stop and the engine cutting off.
"Hey," Dean hissed, letting go his hold of Sam's hair in exchange for patting Sam's chest. "Sam," he grouched, now rubbing circles, first clockwise then counter, the gentle action not matching his angry tone.
"Dean," Sam barely could gasp his brother's name, slamming his eyes shut and sucking too deep of mouthfuls of air making him cough up phlegm.
Dean scolded, "I got you, you big horses ass, okay?"
Sam slowly peeled open his eyes. It took a minute to focus. He stared out the front windshield. They were parked in a vacant lot in front of a boarded up gas station.
"We'll hold up in this dump for a few days until I can get you back on your feet," Dean bellyached, caringly easing Sam to a sitting position and staring hawk-like at him.
Sam grimaced. Damn his lungs burned, his eyes burned, his hands, the hairs on the back of his neck not to mention the hairs up his nose. Pretty much everything ached and burned. "Hurts," Sam sputtered, rubbing his throat.
"Open up. Let me see." Dean forced Sam to open his mouth and peered inside. "Bro, that hanging thing back there looks like it's on fire."
"Uvula," Sam muttered with a wince, hunching forward.
"Dude, don't swear at me, "Dean ordered assisting Sam back against the seat.
"I…" Sam cringed.
"Just don't talk right now, okay?"
"You –" Sam sucked in a few huge cleansing breaths, his shoulders shrugging up and down from his efforts. "You hurt?" he wheezed.
"No, I'm not hurt!" Dean barked. "But your stupid ass got roasted."
"Like…. like a pe-peanut," Sam muttered, a wracking cough sending spasms through his body, causing his eyes to tear.
"Damn it, Sam! I said don't talk." Dean gripped his shoulders roughly and held tight. "More like a marshmallow. Charred black on the outside, ooey-gooey on the inside. You're a friggin' idiot," he mumbled. "Short breaths, Sam, take in short breaths."
Sam did as he was told, knowing Dean was freaking out and wanting to ease his brother's fear. He fought extra hard to gain control of the coughing spasm, but the fit was so severe he choked and retched and hoped to hell he didn't vomit in the car. Every muscle was sore and his head felt light as the spell continued. Sam leaned forward trying to ease the attack; shoulders bunching with each hacking cough and fingers gripping the edge of the dash so hard his knuckles turned bone-white.
"Son of a bitch…you're lips are turning blue," Dean cursed, swiftly reaching around to thump a closed fist – hard – against the center of his back.
The car grew silent as Sam's breath caught in his airway – a rock jammed down his throat that he couldn't dislodge.
"Come on!" Dean's voice boomed in Sam's ear.
Sam was bent over in a panic, making strange squeaky noises as he struggled to draw air in or out. It frightened him as much as he could tell it was frightening Dean. His body went ramrod straight, neck muscles popping, eyes bulging, his fingers slipping away from the dashboard and arms going stiff at his sides. Watery shit – probably drool – bubbled hot, like a witch's cauldron in his throat and he could feel his Adam's apple bobbing as he gurgled.
"Dude!" Dean barked, each frantic fist punch coming harder and faster.
Sam trembled, shocked when he took in little gasp after little gasp until suddenly his airway opened and he inhaled long and sharp."Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
"That's my boy," Dean whispered, "That's the way."
Sam coughed up foam. Inhaled and choked it back down. Inhaled and whooped. Inhaled and wheezed. His chest was tight and his heartbeat rapid. He grunted with each breath, but at least now he was getting breath and his panic eased.
"Next time I call the shots, Sam. I'm not crapping around," Dean continued to vent his fear, rubbing a hand up and down the full length of Sam's back. "That was too close back there. I am serious, man…you ever scare the hell out of me like that again and I'll beat you down so hard you won't get up for a month."
Sam's coughing eased further, and he flopped against Dean – exhausted – his chin hooked over his big brother's shoulder, rasping.
Dean shook his head. "Make that two months. You understand me?"
Sam's lips twitched.
"Don't." Dean gave him a small warning shake. "You open your mouth to talk one more time and I'll make it four months, you get it?"
Sam quickly clamped his lips shut and gave a small nod of his head. Got it.
"Good. Now let's get you inside." Dean gathered Sam into the safety of his arms and maneuvered them toward the building.
Sam reached up a hand and patted Dean's chest as they entered in through a broken doorway around back. 'You still have that book you were writing in?'
"Uh-huh," Dean snickered, "You liked all that prosperity stuff. Sammy, you sly dog, you."
Not wanting a four month beat down Sam didn't talk nor did he correct his brother's grammer.
"Atta-boy, Sam, learning the tools of my trade. About time," Dean chimed happily as he settled Sam in a dirty office chair. "Glad to see you're coming around to my way of thinking." He dug out the book and handed it over to Sam. "Stay put, I'll get our stuff." Dean headed back out the door and paused a second. "And, uh, stay away from page twelve; you're not ready to read about the man from Peru," Dean laughed reciting the verse loudly on purpose from outside the room. "There once was a man from Peru, who fell asleep in a canoe. He dreamed of Venus and beat his peni…"
Ignoring his raunchy brother, Sam settled in to read the good stuff, knowing tonight they'd beaten the odds. Rid the world of yet another ghost. Beating odds was what they did. He wouldn't become the rampaging, twisted wreck of a monster his destiny claimed he'd become. He was going to march his way through choking dirt, flaming fire, high waters and cloudy storms saving people, hunting things. After all that was the family motto. He would kill the monster that supposedly held him in its grips, from the inside out. The fact of the matter was a matter of fact…the more people he saved, the more he could change his own destiny.
He'd send Destiny's monster back to hell.
AN: Grafitte used in this piece was taken from real bathroom poetry posted and found on the internet.
Emily's Bridge is a real place in Vermont: Built in 1844. The locals call it Emily's Bridge because that is who they believe, haunts it.
The story goes: In 1849, Emily wanted to marry a man her family did not approve of. Though forbidden to marry, the couple decided to elope and met one night, on Stowe Hollow Bridge. Still a working bridge but for my story I have it blocked off. There are at least three dramatic stories about how the name "Emily's Bridge" came about:
1. (Date unknown) Emily was on her way to her wedding when her horse bolted and threw her while crossing the bridge; she died of her injuries.
2. Sometime in the 1800's, Emily was jilted by her fiancé and hung herself from the rafters.
3. In 1925, homely Emily fell in love with Donald, who got her pregnant. When her father insisted that he marry her, Donald killed himself here. Following the birth of twins, Emily did the same.
Whatever the truth behind the name, there are numerous "eyewitness" accounts of continued haunting of the bridge, supposedly by Emily's ghost.
I went with the last only adding in that she killed herself before her child/children were born.