Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural, Rockbridge, Metallica, French fries, or the Goats.
A/N: Hey everybody! This story was written for the Every Picture Tells A Story Super Challenge hosted by Random Fandom dot Net. It didn't win, but thanks, anybody who voted for it. I had a ton of fun writing this.
Information about the story is as follows:
Prompt #: 31
Title: Trip Trap
Characters: Sam, Dean, and John Winchester (Bobby Singer mentioned in passing)
Word Count: 3,826
Pen Name: Indigo-Night-Wisp
Beta: Ana M.
Summary: "Aw, c'mon, Sam. You like it when a hunt has literary connections!" "Literary connections, Dad. This is not a literary connection. This is a bedtime story for toddlers."
"Why is it always Ohio?" Sam wondered from the backseat.
Confused by the non-sequitur (they'd been talking about Bobby's evil puppy a few minutes before), John glanced in the rearview mirror at his youngest son. "Why is what always Ohio, Sam?"
"Well, not always Ohio, I guess," Sam clarified instead of answering. "But it seems like a lot of the time it is."
Lost, John turned to the tried-and-true method for deciphering Sam-speak: "Dean, what the heck is he talking about?"
The fourteen year old in the passenger seat rolled his eyes. "He means hunts, Dad. A lot of the jobs we do are in Ohio."
"Huh." Trust Sammy to notice something like that. John certainly hadn't. "I don't know, son. Maybe Ohio's just a supernatural hotspot or something."
Satisfied with this answer, Sam settled back in his seat. John breathed a sigh of relief.
The Winchesters were driving through Rockbridge, Ohio, where hikers and cars full of people were disappearing without explanation. They just walked or drove into the hills surrounding the town and never came back. Bobby Singer, who had been hunting a banshee one state over in Indiana, called John.
In between assuring his friend that yes, Sam and Dean hadn't started school yet –it was only August- and no, they were not on the other side of the country, John had managed to get an address out of Bobby and then the little family were on their way, packed into the Impala and roaring out with Metallica blaring from the open windows.
"This is it, Dad," Dean spoke up suddenly, pointing at a little sign that read Welcome Center.
"Alright, boys," John said, parking the car and reaching for the box in the glove box holding the fake ID's. "You two stay in the car. I'm gonna go get some information."
"Can't I help?" Dean asked.
Grinning at Dean, John backed out of the car and closed the door. Leaning into the open window, he said, "You are helping, Dean."
Suspiciously, Dean asked, "How?"
John smirked. "Babysitting."
Ignoring Sam's indignant squawk and Dean's exasperated huff, John cheerfully strolled into the office building.
About ten minutes later, he strolled right back out, much less cheerful than when he'd gone in.
"Stupid little…" he trailed off as he got in the car, mindful of ten year old ears listening. Dean shot him an amused smile.
"And?" he asked innocently. John glared at him.
"What kind of a welcome center doesn't have any information on the area surrounding the place they're supposed to be welcoming people into?" he complained. "All I got was that the town was originally settled by Scandinavian immigrants." His boys grinned at each other and he felt his face soften. "Alright, alright," he said good-naturedly. "Let's go get a room and figure out what we're dealing with."
Dean groaned. "Research?"
Sam beamed in satisfaction. "Research."
Research for the boys meant reading, and possibly a trip to the local library. For John, it meant heading for the local hang-outs and finding a friendly soul who liked to gossip about what was going on in their town.
Dean grumbled only a little bit about the reading, because local libraries often had local girls and Sam was happy, which meant Dean was happy. Sam settled in comfortably with a thick book on mythological creatures, opened to the section on Vanishing Victims. Dean made sure his brother was positioned in a direct line of sight to the microfilm machine before strolling over and requesting help from a bored looking librarian.
Winchester looks got the girl's attention and Winchester charm convinced her to help him find newspaper articles about mysterious disappearances in the town. Dean began writing down names, ignoring the girl as she went back to work.
Ethan and Rose Meyers
Marianne, Morgan, and Peter Hanson
Jessica and Sullivan Barret
The list grew as the teenager jotted down name after name. They were mostly tourists, traveling through the town to see the sights and go hiking in the forest. They had nothing in common except for their choice in vacation spots.
"Andrea and Josh Brooks. Newlyweds, disappeared last week," he muttered. "Last known location was the Auld Trool Bridge, off Braxton Road… Huh. Wonder if…" he went back to the earlier articles. Sure enough, three more victims were last heard from near the Bridge.
"Sammy," he called softly. His little brother's head came up and Sam left his books and hurried to Dean's side.
"Look like a pattern to you?" Dean asked him. Sam read the articles carefully, eyes darting across the screen, searching for clues. He checked against Dean's notes, double and triple-checking every name. Finally, he sat back and looked at Dean.
"That's a pattern alright. There's nothing in those books. Let's go tell Dad we have a starting point."
Dean shut down the microfilm machine, gathering his notes and jacket. Sam neatly stacked his pile of books on the table and then, with a smile and wink at the girl by the counter, the Winchesters left the Rockbridge Public Library.
John was waiting for them at the motel room.
"Auld Trool Bridge, Dad," Dean announced. "At least four of the disappearances occurred around Auld Trool Bridge."
John nodded. "The guys in the diner were chatting about it. Seems like the bridge was built about fifty or so years ago, and a few people went missing around that time as well. Then, the disappearances stopped, abruptly. Sound familiar?"
Sam was already there. "So, this thing –or something like it- has done this before, fifty years ago, and a hunter got wind and got rid of it."
"And now another one has set up shop," Dean finished. John took a moment to be proud of how quickly his boys had put all of that together then brusquely ordered, "Alright, let's go check out the bridge."
The Auld Trool Bridge was a large stone affair in "the middle of freakin' nowhere," as Dean so eloquently put it. It had three arches, two of them half-buried in trees and brush. The other opened right over the road. Dead leaves from last autumn were piled up on either side of the road.
The Impala pulled up in front of the arched opening. The road was deserted. Glistening patches of asphalt showed evidence of the summer storm that had passed through the night before.
Dean got out first and whistled softly. "That… is a big bridge," he said, staring at the moss-covered monstrosity. John came up beside him, equally impressed.
"Eh," Sam grunted. "It's actually fairly normal-sized for this area. What?" he asked when his father and brother turned to give him identically incredulous looks.
"Dude, why do you know that?" Dean asked him. Sam shrugged.
"It was in one of those brochures at the motel."
"You read those?"
Dean stared at him for a few seconds before shaking his head slowly. John grinned.
"Okay, you two. Let's check it out."
They walked under the arch, craning their necks to look up at the stonework above them. John climbed up on a small rock pile to get a closer look at some of the stones. Noticing what looked like markings, he leaned in, almost pressing his nose to the rock.
That's when the roaring started.
Hands clapped over his ears, Sam frantically spun around, already disorientated from the deafening sound. "Dad!" he shouted. "Dean!"
John was already running to his side, reaching out and snagging Dean's arm as he ran past. Together, the Winchesters high-tailed it back to their car, slamming the Impala's doors and making a sharp U-turn as they made their escape.
Dean and Sam pushed up in the backseat, glancing out the rear window just in time to catch a glimpse of something dark and big as it withdrew into the shadows under the bridge.
The ride back to the motel was silent. John was berating himself for not bringing the guns with them from the trunk while they checked out the bridge. Sam was trying to remember all the details of what little he'd seen of… whatever it was. And Dean was hungry. And a little freaked out by the giant, freaking monster under the bridge, but mostly hungry.
"Can we get dinner?" he asked. John looked at him in the rearview mirror and nodded absentmindedly.
"Burgers?" he asked.
"Please," Dean grinned. Sam rolled his eyes.
"Let's get on the books," John said when they got back to the room, bags of burgers and French fries in hand. "Figure out what this thing is. Sammy, make some coffee, will you? Dean, come help me get the books out of the trunk."
John was looking for anything resembling the odd symbols he'd seen at the bridge. A large circular shape, filled in with jagged edges.
He found it in a book entitled Magien I Nord. Settling in to read the paragraph, he felt his eyes growing wide.
"Hey, Sam?" he said, scanning the words again, making sure he'd read them correctly.
"Yeah?" his youngest asked, distractedly.
"You remember that story with the grumpy sheep?"
Now both of his sons were staring at him. Sam frowned. "You mean the Three Billy Goats Gruff?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"Uh, sure, why?"
John flipped the book around, propped it up on the table, and tapped his finger on the picture. "Meet the villain of that story."
Dean studied the picture for a second. "Trolls?"
"Trolls," John confirmed with a nod.
Sam grabbed the book and pulled it close to him, finger trailing across the page. He looked up at his father and brother.
"This is a children's story."
"For little children." The disgust could only have been more apparent if Sam had stood up and said, "I am disgusted."
"Oh, come on, Sam, you like it when a hunt has literary connections."
The precocious ten year- old gave his father a disbelieving look. "Literary connections, Dad. This, this is not a literary connection. This is a bedtime story for toddlers."
"This is ridiculous. Isn't this ridiculous, Dean?" he turned to his brother for help. Dean shook his head slowly, for once, not playing along with his brother. He was reading the book.
"Dad, how do we kill this thing?" he asked. Sam became serious. John sobered.
"We have to distract it," he said. "If we don't catch it off guard, we'll never have a chance."
Dean was reading the story again. "Then I think I have a plan," he said slowly.
"What?" his dad and brother inquired.
A sunny smile broke out over Dean's storm cloud of a face. He picked up the book and copied his father's move, spinning it and propping it open on the table, to tap a picture with one finger.
"It's all in the manual," he smirked.
"I would just like to make it known that I resent having to play bait every time you two actually agree to let me come on a hunt."
"Shut up, Sam," Dean said pleasantly from the front seat of the Impala. "And be glad we're letting you come at all."
"You need me, jerk, for the distraction."
John headed off Dean's predictable response by cutting in. "Hey, can it, you two. Sammy, next time, I promise I'll let you shoot something. But for now, just get across the bridge safely, okay?"
Sam's lips pursed, but he nodded and fell silent. Dean did the same next to his father, and John breathed a sigh of relief. They did need three people to properly distract the troll, at least if that book was to be believed –and John had no reason to think it wasn't. But the necessity of a third person aside, John really couldn't say he was comfortable with bringing his baby boy along on a hunt. And the boys' bickering wasn't helping any.
He'll be fine, he told himself. He'll cross the bridge, wait for Dean, keep his gun at the ready, and be there, safe and sound, when I get across. He'll be fine. They'll both be fine.
The Impala stopped, and the Winchesters all took a moment to glance at each other before taking deep breaths and swinging open the doors. The Auld Trool Bridge loomed up before them.
Wow, that's bright, Dean blinked as a ray of sunlight pierced his pupils. Have we ever gone hunting in daylight? Feels like a first to me. The meager shade provided by the bridge's shadow only stretched so far below. And the Winchesters were going up. He sighed. Think I prefer night hunting.
"Ready?" John hissed to them softly. His sons nodded determinedly and he set his jaw and motioned them up the hill. If they could be brave about this, then he could darn well make sure they had his support.
Trolls were… odd. Well, pretty much everything they dealt with was odd in one way or another, but trolls were a whole 'nother level of oddness entirely. For one thing, they had subspecies. And, apparently, ate goats –in Dean's opinion, the strangest thing about them.
Anyway, apart from the snacking on of defenseless barnyard animals, trolls were big, ugly, and carnivorous. They could be killed with a headshot, directly to the center of the forehead, but in order to get that perfect shot, the troll had to be manipulated into exposing it. Usually, trolls kept their hands pressed over the spot when in the presence of potential enemies. Thankfully, trolls were easily manipulated. And, they loved to hear themselves talk.
Dean's plan was simple: follow the story. If it worked for the goats, it should work for the Winchesters, right? Dean and Sam would pose as bait, causing the troll to relax its guard. If it didn't see them as a threat, it likely wouldn't see John as one either.
(Later, when re-telling the adventure to Bobby, it occurred to Dean how very, very much could have gone wrong with the plan. Shockingly enough-considering Winchester luck-it didn't.)
Standing on the right side of the bridge, not quite standing on it, but ready to cross, Sam gulped. Dean clasped the back of his neck encouragingly, and John took a deep breath before softly commanding, "Alright, Sammy. Go on."
The ten-year-old straightened, lifted his gun slightly, and started walking. He made it about halfway when a low rumbling sound started shaking the stones under his feet. It took him a few seconds to realize the troll was talking to him.
"WHO DARES TO SET FOOT ON MY BRIDGE?"
Sam jumped a little, then responded, just like he and Dean had rehearsed.
"It's, uh, Sam, the youngest Winchester. I'm crossing the bridge," he said. His child's voice went a little higher pitched than he really preferred toward the end. Stupid nervous tendencies.
"MY BRIDGE IS NOT FOR YOU TO CROSS! YOUR LIFE AND FLESH ARE FORFEIT!"
Sam stuttered a little as he made his reply. "I-I j-just want to get across! I'm the smallest of my family. There's hardly any flesh on me. But if you'll wait, my brother is coming behind me, and he's way bigger."
There was silence for just a second, and Sam spared a terrified instant to think that the troll was on to them before it said, "FINE! CROSS NOW, BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND."
He ran, scurrying quickly to the other side of the Auld Trool Bridge and thanking God that Dean's plan was working so far, even if there was something fundamentally wrong with offering his brother as an appeasement for a troll.
It was Dean's turn. He stepped out confidently onto the bridge.
He didn't get far.
"WHO DARES TO SET FOOT ON MY BRIDGE?"
Puberty had been good to Dean Winchester, and he had escaped the dreaded voice-cracking almost entirely. But he was still a fourteen year old boy, and his voice still held the timbre of a tenor at times.
"Uh, it's me, Dean Winchester. I'm crossing the bridge to meet my brother."
"MY BRIDGE IS NOT FOR YOU TO CROSS! YOUR LIFE AND FLESH ARE FORFEIT!"
Knowing the troll couldn't see him from its place under the bridge, Dean grinned. Perfect. Everything was going exactly according to plan. He licked his lips and answered the troll, "Oh, come on! I'm only a kid! My dad's coming along after me, and there's lots more flesh on him! Just wait a little."
The troll considered only briefly this time before:
"DONE! GO NOW!"
The teenager wasted no time in hightailing it across the stone and to his little brother's side. Not missing a beat, the two youngest Winchesters slipped off down the path, slid down the hill, and hid in the trees next to the road, trying to catch a glimpse of the troll under the bridge. They peeked up over some bushes, but then turned to each other with perplexed faces.
There was nothing under the bridge.
Meanwhile, John was strolling along the bridge. He put a little spring in his step, just to aggravate the already frustrated troll. Sure enough, it worked.
"WHO DARES TO SET FOOT ON MY BRIDGE?"
"I am John Winchester," the hunter said calmly, deep voice echoing off of the stones.
The troll snarled.
"I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU. MY BRIDGE IS NOT FOR YOU AND YOUR OFFSPRING TO CROSS. YOUR LIFE AND YOUR FLESH ARE FORFEIT!"
John yawned. "Yeah, yeah, sure. Come and get it, ugly!"
The troll roared.
In the trees, the boys watched in wide-eyed silence as the air under the Auld Trool Bridge seemed to split, and out of the rift stepped the creature they'd glimpsed the night before. One hand was pressed to its forehead, partially obscuring the saucer-sized eyes and the long, poker-nose. Grey, moss-covered skin rippled over the thick limbs, and when the thing opened its mouth, a row of sharp, moss-covered teeth greeted the Winchesters. Dean wrinkled his nose. Dude, get a toothbrush.
"YOU WILL PAY!" the troll thundered, climbing up over the side of the bridge. Dean and Sam scrambled out of the trees into the middle of the deserted road. They stared up at the scene taking place at the top of the bridge.
John stood his ground, cradling his gun defiantly. "I'm shakin' in my boots here!" he yelled, mostly for his boys' benefit, because, snap, if he wasn't actually enjoying this now. He grinned fiercely.
The troll straightened up, turned to face him, and got its first look at John Winchester.
It started laughing.
"HOHO, LITTLE ONE!" it cried. "YOU DO NOT FEAR ME? FOOLISH HUMAN! I WILL CRUSH YOUR BONES AND DRINK YOUR BLOOD!"
John simply cocked his gun, cocked an eyebrow, and said, "Try it."
With a roar, the troll lowered its hand from its head and charged.
Faster than a snake, John Winchester whipped his shotgun up and pulled the trigger. One shot. He only had time for one shot.
(Later, when re-re-telling Bobby the whole story –again- Dean felt it necessary at this point to include the disclaimer of: "Yeah, well, Dad was a freaking sniper in the United States Marine Corps. So there, Rock-breath!")
The shot landed right between the troll's humongous eyes.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, slowly, the troll seized up. Its skin became grey and stony. Its eyes closed. A second later, it crumbled. The bridge shook a little, absorbing the new stone. John released a tightly controlled sigh of relief.
And below, on the road, standing next to the Impala and clutching their handguns, Sam and Dean Winchester turned to each other and said, "That. Was. So cool."
Later, as they drove away from the Auld Trool Bridge, John remembered something.
"Hey! Dean, what did you mean, 'There's lots more flesh' on me?"
His sons cackled in the backseat.
Once upon a time, there were three Billy Goats, and they were all named, 'Gruff.'
Now these Goats were of a mind to go over yonder to the hillside, where the grass was the greenest and the flowers were the sweetest and there were always a few Nanny Goats hanging around waiting for a nice young Bill to pick them up.
On the way to the hillside, there was a great stone bridge. Under this bridge lived a mean old troll, who spent most of his time sitting under the bridge, contemplating the meaning of life and the universe, and growing moss.
The first and the smallest Billy Goat Gruff arrived at the bridge and pranced across it.
The mean old troll stuck his head out from under the bridge and said, "Who's that prancing over my bridge?"
The smallest Billy Goat Gruff announced himself like the troll should actually care about who he was and where he was going and what he intended to do when he got there. "I'm the smallest Billy Goat Gruff, and I'm going to the hillside to eat grass and flirt with the small Nanny goats!"
Briefly, the troll considered eating the Goat, before deciding it probably was too small to be worth the effort. "Yes, yes, go on then."
The second and second-smallest Billy Goat Gruff arrived at the bridge and thought he's strut across it like he owned the thing.
Irritated, the mean old troll stuck his head out and said, "Who's that strutting over my bridge?"
Like the first Billy Goat Gruff, this one seemed to think the troll actually gave a snap about his afternoon agenda. "Going to hillside, cute Nanny goats, good eating!" was what it basically boiled down to. The troll waved him away, not even bothering to think about eating him.
The third and biggest Billy Goat Gruff arrived at the bridge and eyed it doubtfully for a moment before ducking his head under and addressing the mean old troll.
"Pardon me," he said politely.
"Whattaya want?" the troll asked, in a cross voice.
"Is it likely that the water isn't too deep to swim? I honestly don't believe this bridge will hold my weight."
The mean old troll looked up and gave the Big Billy Goat Gruff a once-over. Suddenly, he grinned.
"Heheh," he said. "You'll do."
The First and Second Billy Goats Gruff kept waiting and waiting for the Third one to come over the bridge, but he never came.
(And these days, in addition to sitting under the bridge, contemplating the meaning of life and the universe, and growing moss, the mean old troll spends quite a bit of time picking goat out of his teeth.)
"I don't think it goes like that, Bobby."
"Shhh, lemme have my fun, John. An' look. Sound asleep, the both of 'em."
"Heheh. Bedtime story for toddlers, is it, Sam?"
"They've had a long couple of days, John."
"Yeah. Thanks for taking us in."
"It's always a pleasure."
"Sure, sure. Get Dean for me? I'm carrying Sammy up to bed now."
"Will they wake up?"
"Not a chance."
A/N: Yes, this story is now posted in two places. It's on the randomfandomdotnet fanfiction account profile, and here, on mine. Just so you know.