ASHES TO ASHES
A time for reflection.
The small hours of the morning saw the brothers back at their motel room.
The acrid tang of antiseptic hung in the air as Sam worked; for over an hour, labouring with untold care and precision as he cleaned up the glass-torn disaster zone of Dean's back.
Dean's high-velocity plunge into the glass cabinet had seen a mass of scratches and cuts carved across his back and arms by a thousand shards of glass. Sam was only thankful that Dean's jacket and flannel shirt had protected him from worse and more widespread damage, as if the gruesome bloody lattice criss-crossing his back and shoulders wasn't bad enough already.
The pink-tinged bowl of warm water on the table beside them, and the pile of blood-stained cloths, which the room's spare bedsheet had given its life to supply, was a testament to the magnitude of the task that had faced Sam on their return to the motel. The pair of tweezers laying on the table beside a saucer containing stray slivers of glass, spoke of the tireless precision with which he'd worked.
Dean let out a sharp hiss and flinched, arching back as Sam carefully guided the tweezers to pick out another fragment of glass from a particularly deep cut nestled into the small of his back. Rubbing his eyes, Sam took a long draught of cold coffee to stem the exhaustion he was trying to fight; he knew he had to get this job done and done properly before sleep was an option for either brother, but fatigue was dulling his fingers, making him clumsy.
"Sorry dude," he sighed, pressing a damp cloth to the wound, now freshly bleeding without the glass to plug it. Despite everything, however, Sam couldn't help but inwardly celebrate that none of the wounds appeared serious enough to require stitches; that really would have tested his diminishing co-ordination to the limit.
"I think I'm almost done now," he announced, wiping his hands on the last fresh cloth and taking one last look at his handiwork.
Beneath the dark, angry welts criss-crossing Dean's back, Sam could see the shadowy bruising from his stint at the wicket in their game earlier. All down his left side, the cluster of ball-shaped bruises over his ribs and forearm was borne of a total lack of technique and almost psychotic over-enthusiasm to make Sam's bowling look hopeless.
Sam recalled with a smile how the Australian team's coach sheepishly admitted at their after-play drinks that he hadn't burdened Dean with too much padding as they never expected him to have remained at his wicket without getting out for so long. Despite his earlier snarking about the 'stupid game', Sam had distinctly seen Dean's chest swell with pride at the man's words and he knew Dean would have been wearing those bruises as a badge of honour for as long as they lasted.
It was a damn shame they had been obliterated by the petulant, small-minded grudge of a man who craved honour but could deliver only small-minded vengeance.
Dean silently nodded his thanks for Sam's sterling efforts and drained a tumbler of scotch in front of him before leaning forward over the back of the chair once again to give Sam access to his back. All Sam needed to do now was to tape a layer of gauze in place to protect the still-raw wounds, and then sleep; beautiful, delicious sleep, beckoned.
The sheer thought of it gave Sam's fingers a new lease of life and the job was complete within moments. Carefully helping Dean to shrug on a clean T shirt, Sam watched patiently as he sunk belly-down into bed with a groan, and was asleep, face mashed deep into his pillow within minutes.
It wasn't long before Sam followed his brother's lead.
The next morning, the Winchesters sat over breakfast watching a news item on the room's miniscule TV set. The newscrews' cameras panned slowly across the very same cricket ground where the brothers had spent most of the last few days learning various aspects of the game of Cricket – both good and bad. In this case, the very worst.
In the background of the shot, fire and rescue crews crawled all over the smoking ruins of the pavilion.
But in the foreground, a sympathetic reporter was interviewing a man that both brothers recognised as the English team's captain. The man looked utterly, profoundly broken and the Winchesters' hearts went out to him.
"I can't believe this;" he sighed; "for the last three years the league has suffered some dreadful accidents among our members and now again this year, our pavilion burnt down and worse still, the police are saying our wicket keeper was lost in the fire."
He looked down at his feet, wringing his hands forlornly.
"He was good friend; the very best. I don't know what we've done to deserve this terrible, terrible tragedy."
"Well, having that douchebag as a friend, for a start," Dean grumbled darkly.
Sam smiled sadly at the TV. "Trust me, your luck's gonna improve," he murmured to the bereft figure on the screen; "not that that helps right now."
They both quietly grazed as they watched the footage of their evening's work.
"Hey Sam," Dean suddenly mumbled through a mouthful of coffee.
"What?" Sam replied, eyes fixed on the screen and the terrible pictures of the devastated captain in front of the smouldering wreckage of the pavilion.
"They're gonna need a much bigger urn for all that ash," Dean snorted.
He chuckled wickedly as Sam hurled a bread roll in his direction.
By mid-afternoon, Dean had pointed the Impala due north and the Winchesters had put the cricket club and the larger part of Florida in their rear-view mirror.
They had been sitting in a comfortable silence for a while, and it was eventually Dean who spoke up first. "It pains me to admit it," he announced; "but I kinda enjoyed that game."
Sam glanced across at him, eyebrows raised in mute surprise.
"I mean," Dean explained; "apart from the bit with the nutjob catcher guy and the skeevy, hexy little midget-trophy, it was fun."
Sam nodded in enthusiastic agreement. "Well my shoulders feel like someone's tied a knot in them, bowling is damn hard work; I tell you, you got it easy as a batsman."
"Suck it up bitch," snorted Dean indignantly; "I felt like I'd been in a war zone after your craptastic bowling … and that was before the glass." He fidgeted irritably as if to reinforce his words.
"My bowling was awesome," Sam gloated; "the whole England team said so."
"Awesome, my ass," Dean countered; " you were supposed to be aiming for my wicket, but you were bowling so freakin' wide, there were people ducking in Alabama."
"Yep, on the whole, I guess I'm converted," Dean continued with a nod; "for a boring pussy game with stupid rules and even stupider clothes, it's freaking hard work, dangerous and, yeah, fun!"
"And y'know what?" Sam replied; "that cable knit kinda suited you."
"Well, I make anything look cool …"
The Impala continued smoothly on her way, filled with the sound of companionable bickering as she crossed the Florida state line into Georgia and beyond.
It was a beautiful golden dawn over northern Florida the following morning when an honest, hardworking farmer stepped into his cornfield and froze, staring in bemused confusion at his scarecrow.
When the hell did it suddenly start wearing a white cable knit sweater vest?