Genre: Crack, case-fic, gen
Character(s): Sam, Dean
Rating: T for the odd naughty word
Warning(s): None apart from the afore mentioned naughty words. No spoilers. Not canon.
Word count: ~ 6,500
Prompt: Written for the worldwide_spn Sports Challenge. I chose England and Cricket
Disclaimer: DoI don't own them, and for that they should be very thankful.
A/N: This is a little bit of fun for the Worldwide-Spn Sports Challenge over on Livejournal. The brief is: Bring an international flavour to Supernatural using a sporting theme; write a story revolving around a sport that is associated with the country of your choice, excluding the USA.
As I grew up in a Cricketing household; and Cricket is England's national summer game, I couldn't resist!
Cricket is an odd little game, which although surprisingly simple, confuses the hell out of a lot of people. It is responsible for some of the strangest phrases in British sport, with gems such as silly-mid-off, googly, wrong 'un, dibbly dobblies, cow corner, short legs and my personal favourite; bowling a chinaman.
So, this little tale will be predominately humour, plenty of brotherly humiliation, a little bit of whump, and a bit of case!fic, all set against the crack of leather against willow - the soundtrack of an English summertime.Also on AO3
ASHES TO ASHES
The brothers' new case leads them to entirely new experiences - with mixed results.
"I am so gonna kick Bobby's raddled old ass when we get back from here," sighed Dean.
Sam shrugged nonchalantly, "well, he's workin' that ghoul job in Chicago; he can't be in two places at once."
"We could have taken that job and sent him down here," countered Dean; "then we could have been celebratin' a job well done with a beer an' a deep pan pizza 'stead of standin' here lookin' like a pair of freakin' pussies."
Sam sighed; "well, we'll get this job done, then you can unpussyfy yourself, and then I can get some peace."
"Bite me," Dean grumbled sourly, and folded his arms across his chest.
The job had been intriguing, both Winchesters were prepared to testify to that..
A cricket league made up of ex-pats from all across the US, mainly out of England and Australia, meeting once a year in Florida to play a big tournament; and each year for the last three years, the tournament had been blighted by an unexplainable death.
The first guy had been found spread over the outfield, late after the match, torn up real bad by a rogue coyote apparently. That's what the cops had said. So the Winchesters knew for sure that was a crock of crap.
The following year, an unfortunate batsman slipped, halfway through the England innings, and impaled himself on his wicket, (which the Winchesters had discovered, through the wonders of Google, was the little wooden gate-stick-thing that the batsman stands in front of). Now, that had actually made page four of the Tallahassee Gazette.
But the best was yet to come; last year following a hard-fought competition, the after-match party had been a doozy, but when the English team's fast bowler was found dead in mysterious, and frankly quite disturbing circumstances, it had somewhat put a dampener on proceedings.
Sam had felt compelled to look into the matter further, and his findings more or less sealed the deal on it being something supernatural.
"That guy last year?" he announed; "he choked."
"On his own bat."
It was Bobby who had found the job first, his interest piqued because this years' tournament was imminent. Since when do rogue coyotes make a bee-line for ripping a man's heart out? And as for unexplainable impalement and bat-swallowing – who could resist?
And so a plan was hatched.
Under the guise of journalists looking to learn more about the mysterious game of cricket, and spread the good word across the USA, the Winchesters would infiltrate the teams and in the process, learn more about what was picking off these cricket dudes.
It was a well-thought-out and neat plan, but it was fair to say that it was also a plan that had majority, rather than unanimous support.
"But Sam, Cricket's got to be the most boring, pointless game in the history of boring pointlessness!"
"Actually, I've been doin' some reading up on it," Sam replied calmly; "it sounds quite interesting; it's a game of strategy and patience as well as endurance."
"Endurance? Standing around in a friggin' field scratchin' your ass all day?"
"Five days," corrected Sam; "the toughest challenge in Cricket is Test Match Cricket and that's played over five days; seven hours a day," he grinned; "they're out so long, the players even have a break for lunch each day."
Dean shook his head in dismay; only the English could invent a game that takes five days and has meal breaks.
"And it's named after a friggin' insect for chrissakes," he threw up his hands in despair; "you invent the stupidest game in the world, and then you name it after a bug! Who were these people? Why weren't they locked up for their own good?"
Dean's heartfelt objections were duly noted and considered.
Then they were ignored.
If Sam had hopes that the experience would improve once they got on the road and down to business, he was tragically mistaken.
"Dude, I'm tellin' you, I am not going out in public dressed like this!" Dean's face was a study in indignant petulance; "why the hell do we have to play the stupid friggin' game? I thought it was gonna be bad enough having to watch it." He stomped across tiny changing room that they currently stood in, a full three strides taking him the whole distance; "We only came here to check out batsman-kebab and bowler popsicle; how the hell have we got roped in to ..." Dean gestured down the length of his body; "THIS?"
"Because the teams invited us," Sam stated bluntly, as if Dean wasn't already aware of the fact; "they're being polite and trying to make us feel welcome."
Dean harrumphed grouchily; "they wanna make me feel welcome? They can give me a beer an' let me keep my goddamn jeans on!"
Sam's eyes scanned the pacing figure in front of him, and he had to admit, it was a very different look for Dean. His whole body longed to subside into helpless mocking hilarity, and the only thing stopping him was the fact that he was similarly attired, and was in no position to laugh and point at Dean's misfortune.
"What's the big deal?" Sam asked; "everyone's dressed like it."
Glaring at Sam from under the drooping brim of his cap which appeared to beat least two sizes too big, Dean paused; "what's the deal?" he snapped; "what's the deal? The deal is that I'm WEARING FRIGGIN' CABLE-KNIT!"
Dean bounced belligerently on the balls of his white cricket boots, a slightly demented glaze forming across his eyes. He was resplendent in a full set of cricket whites, so crisp and new and eye-wateringly white that the blush colouring his cheeks seemed to glow molten against them.
He fidgeted miserably, looking around him for a hole in the ground to crawl into, as he picked listlessly at the knitted sweater-vest, lip curled in abject disgust.
"You look fine," lied Sam.
"But … cable-knit Sam," Dean whined; "no-one wears cable-knit except fishermen and German U-boat captains."
"Well, apparently cricketers do too," Sam replied sharply; "think yourself lucky, at least they had pants that fitted you; mine look like they've fallen out with my boots."
A brief silence fell across the tiny dressing room, as Sam stared down at the loose white slacks which flapped breezily around his ankles, exposing a good two inches of blue sock.
"We should go out," Sam coaxed, breaking the silence; "c'mon, get your bat, they're waiting for us."
Knowing the battle was almost lost, Dean was painfully aware that he would have to pull out all the stops for a last-ditch reprieve. He looked up at Sam, employing his rarely-used, own-brand, weapons-grade puppydog eyes, the super deluxe version, complete with tiny lip-tremble; "but dude; ca …"
"If the words cable-knit pass your lips," Sam warned, completely unmoved by Dean's Oscar-worthy performance; "I'm going to snap a photo of you right here and now and text it to Bobby."
"I hate you."
The Winchesters sat in the stands as the game progressed and watched the proceedings with differing degrees of attention.
'The Other Ashes' this tournament was called. The coach of the England team who had parked himself between them and proceeded to give them a running commentary, had seemed so pleased with himself when he told them that small fact; until, that is, he was met with blank faces from either side.
The Ashes – the REAL Ashes, he'd explained patiently, was the greatest prize in international cricket. Played between England and Australia every other year, it was a series of five gruelling test matches. Twenty five days of cricket spread over a whole summer played with crushing intensity with no quarter given by either side.
The 'Ashes' themselves were the ashes of one of the tiny cross bars on the top of a wicket, burnt nearly a hundred and fifty years ago to symbolise the death of English cricket after the Australian team had beaten them – in England – for the very first time. Apparently the English team were pretty sore losers back in those days …
Dean smirked quietly; invent a stupid game, give it a stupid name, and then get beaten at it by everyone you teach it to. Dean rolled his eyes; only in Britain!
And the best part was that these freakin' ashes were kept in the smallest, tattiest little urn ever. No more than three inches high, the dang thing looked like a goddamn egg-cup and had the power to make grown men weep.
So, the coach explained, as these guys were all British and Australian, their little tournament was the 'Other' Ashes. Okay, whatever; he thought it was witty.
Nope, the game of cricket still hadn't won over a certain Dean Winchester.
Dean had been drafted into the Australian side; one minor plus point as far as he was concerned. Their team captain (the name's Bruce Lawson, but everyone calls me Digga), had taken one look at Dean and announced to the world; "Jeez Deano - those shoulders were made to swing a bat; we're a batsman down – welcome to the team."
That left Sam to join the England side. Their team captain, a man blessed with the disturbingly horse-like features that only the centuries-old unbroken bloodline of the English aristocracy could produce, had announced enthusiastically that the tall, long-limbed stranger was 'born to be a fast bowler'.
And thus, here they were, decanted in the stands to watch the proceedings and 'get the hang' of what was going on before they made their grand entrances onto the pitch.
Dean sighed, picking forlornly at the sweater-vest that had caused him so much anguish in a subconscious attempt to unravel the freakin' thing. So far some guy had pitched the ball, some other guy had hit it once or twice then run up and down a cut strip in the middle of the field with some other guy. More often than not, however, the batsman stood there like a plank and allowed the ball to sail past him where some catcher guy squatting behind him caught it.
One guy out in the field did some stretches; he moved three paces to the left, then changed his mind and moved back again. Apparently that was as exciting as it was going to get for the moment, Dean mused.
Fair to say, the entire game thus far had left him breathlessly underwhelmed.
Sam, on the other hand, appeared to be lapping it up. Leaning forward in his seat, hands steepled under his chin, he watched the 'action' with rapt attention; occasionally making observations that drifted over Dean's head like the mid-day breeze. "So, there's two batsmen, one at each end of that strip, and the pitcher – sorry – bowler bowls from one end, so when they run, sometimes the batsmen change ends and then the bowler's facing a different batsman; so it's kind of a challenge for the bowler as well as the batsman!" Sam's face lit up with enthusiastic glee at his new realisation;
"Then a new bowler comes on every six bowls, so then the batsmen are facing someone new; oh man, this is really cool, dude!"
Dean huffed non-committally in response. His mind had wandered onto the job they were here to do. He was sitting here watching grass grow – literally - and if they didn't wrap this job up properly, and soon, one of these poor sonsofbitches would be a doornail by the end of the game.
Of course, he reflected, if any of the players did kick it out there, would anybody actually notice?
It was early afternoon before the brothers eventually stepped onto the pitch.
Carrying his bat with heavily gloved hands, Dean stumbled over two enormous shinguards, as he irritably rearranged his 'box' which somehow seemed to have travelled south - probably trying to get away from this freakin' god-awful sweater.
Sam was already on the field waiting to bowl, raring to go and fired up to win the game for his temporarily adoptive nation. Sam the honorary Englishman was ready to take on the world as he twirled the little red ball in his pseudo-English hand.
Reluctantly taking his place at the wicket, Dean stood absently fiddling with his gloves, until he heard a voice behind him.
"I know you're an honorary Aussie, mate," it said; "and so normally I'd rather poke my eyes out with a bat handle than help you, but just this time, I'll make an exception." The voice belonged to the catcher guy crouching down behind Dean. "Remember, this isn't baseball. Most of the balls you have to hit will be near the ground – you're trying to protect your wicket – we're trying to get you out by breaking it with every ball we bowl."
Dean pushed up the hard brim of his visored helmet and peered out from under it as he nodded to the source of his advice.
He gritted his teeth and tried to effect a neutral expression that didn't give away how freakin' sucktastic this was.
Dean took up his stance in front of the wicket as he had seen the others do before him and watched as Sam thundered in toward him.
Sam's arm flipped over in a whirling arc, and released the ball down the cut strip toward his brother. It bounced a few feet in front of Dean and rose up viciously, hitting him square in the bread-basket.
Sam's momentum carried him halfway up the pitch toward Dean; "sorry man," he panted; "you okay?"
Knees buckling, Dean doubled over "f-freakin' peachy," he gasped.
His fellow batsman ambled up and knelt down beside him; "you, uh, did remember your box old boy, didn't you?"
Dean fired a watery glare up at the man from under the brim of his helmet.
The man gave Dean a reassuring pat on the back. "Only you're supposed to use your bat, not your belly," he grinned; "welcome to the grossly misunderstood game of cricket." He offered a hand to help his stricken teammate up and returned casually to his end of the strip.
Sam's next ball bounced and whistled past Dean's ear, spinning him round in its slipstream, until he nearly tumbled backwards through his wicket.
That was followed up by another missile that reared up and smacked Dean on the shoulder, but this time via the edge of his bat, so he guessed that was progress of a sort.
Sam trotted up again. "You okay, dude?"
"Kiss it, bitch," Dean snorted. Behind him, the guy, who only a moment ago, had been giving him advice was sniggering annoyingly, and Dean made a mental note to remember to clock him with his bat at some point during the game.
Sam charged in again, his face contorted into a grimace of single-minded concentration as his long arm whipped over and released the ball once again towards Dean's hunched figure.
This time, however, something clicked and Dean's bat put in an appearance, swinging round in a powerful arc that owed far more to Babe Ruth than any known cricketer, and smashed the flying red ball into orbit with a satisfying crack that echoed across the pitch.
He stood and watched in smug glee as the ball flew into the stands and basked in the resulting cheer that erupted.
The only silence came from Sam's astonished gape.
Huh, perhaps this game wasn't so bad after all!
The hazy silver light of a waning moon filtered through the window of the pitch-side pavilion where the brothers had enjoyed after-play drinks with their team-mates earlier that evening. Now deserted and silent, the faint scratching of Dean's pen-knife against the window latch was just audible over the soft whisper of night breezes through the trees.
There was a pained squeak as the window sash was pushed up and Dean's head and shoulders lurched forward with a pained grunt, as he heaved himself through the open space.
Struggling manfully, he wriggled and squirmed to wedge his broad shoulders through the tight space, but his forward momentum stalled rapidly and he soon found himself dangling helplessly, half in-half out of the window.
"Ah jeez, dude," he groaned, legs flailing weakly as he tried to gain some purchase on the outer wall either side of the window; "'m friggin' stuck." He sucked in a deep breath, succeeding only in wedging his chest even tighter into the confined gap; "can' move properly," he gasped; "ache all over … legs feel like friggin' spaghetti."
He groped through the darkness, trying and failing to keep find a firm grip against the windowsill; "my goddamn fingers ache from holdin' that stupid bat," he moaned breathlessly; "I've got bruises on my bruises - I lost count of how many times that goddamn ball hit me.
Beside the building, Sam stood furtively hiding in the shadows which veiled the wall as he looked up at Dean's dangling rear end; "you're breakin' my heart dude," he hissed; "now quit assin' around an' get inside before someone sees us."
Inside the pavilion, Dean blinked as his eyes began to adapt to the darkness; "now all the guys are gone, it looks real stuffy and borin' in here."
Sam frowned as he looked up at Dean's ass, wiggling and bucking only inches from his face; "yeah dude, the view's not too great from this side either," he snorted. He flexed his aching neck and shoulders with a groan. Fast bowling was fun, exciting, and goddamn hard work, he'd decided. He ached in parts of his body he didn't even know he had.
With a little assistance from a brotherly leg-up, Dean eventually managed to scramble through the window, landing sprawled across a table in an inelegant tangle of limbs, in the process dislodging a rack of dusty leatherbound books all over the floor.
Stumbling stiffly to his feet amidst the pile of strewn books, he managed to disable the alarm and quickly opened the door to let Sam in.
Together, they wandered slowly through the darkness, flashlights bobbing and weaving as they explored the small building, trying to glean some clues to the gruesome deaths of three innocent men among the trophies, pictures and miscellaneous other effects on display.
Sam paused and pointed his flashlight at a small glass display case in the centre of the room. "Hey, Dean," he hissed; "look, this is the trophy the team coach was talking about this morning; the 'other' Ashes. I was looking at this earlier." Dean walked over to his brother, grimacing as his aching legs protested at having to take the journey, and stared at the tiny little urn in the case.
The urn couldn't have been more than three inches high, standing on its polished wooden plinth in the centre of its glass cabinet.
"what's the point of that?" Dean asked, face crumpling into a contemptuous frown, "I mean really - what is the point of a crappy little thing like that?"
His lip curled in disgust as he stared at the little urn.
Sam shrugged; "it's tradition, I suppose."
"Last time I handled something that small, I was shakin' salt on my fries," Dean snorted; "and to think I stood out there all afternoon looking like a total asshat in freakin' cable knit an' getting battered half to death with you and your freakin' bowler buddies for this!"
"Uh-huh," Sam shrugged then groaned as his stiffening shoulders protested. "Apparently that England 'catcher guy; the - uh - wicket-keeper, who was squatting behind you most of the afternoon - made it to look exactly like the real 'Ashes' as a gift to the team when he joined a few years ago."
He was rewarded by the patented Dean Winchester eye-roll. "He ought to have made the league a decent trophy worth getting the crap knocked out of you for; the game might actually catch on then."
Dean had only just turned to walk away, and continue his explorations, when Sam called him back.
"Hey Dean …"
Dean sighed; "what?" He trudged back toward the glass case, tripping over the edge of a rug as he went.
"What do you make of these markings?"
Squinting through the beam of his flashlight, Dean focussed on a neat narrow band engraved around the bevel at the base of the urn.
A brief moment passed before either brother spoke. "Those are occult symbols," Dean whispered; "that's not some random pattern."
Giving a cursory glance over his shoulder, he pulled out his lockpick and made short work of the tiny lock on the glass cabinet. As the side of the cabinet swung open, Sam reached in and took out the little urn, rolling it over in the palm of his hand.
He took a sharp intake of breath. "I've seen these sigils before," he whispered, looking up at Dean in alarm. "Yeah, so have I," Dean replied, staring at the urn; "and they're bad news – freakin' real bad news."
Dean picked the urn up out of Sam's palm and tried to ease the lid off, eventually letting out a grunt of effort as he gave up. "It's not goin' anywhere," he observed; "fixed on tight."
Rummaging in his pocket, he pulled out his trusty penknife and grinned; "but it hasn't met my friend yet!"
A few moments, a continuous stream of muttered obscenities and a cut thumb later, Dean's blade succeeded in lifting the tightly sealed lid with a soft click.
The Winchesters peered into the little urn and groaned when they saw its contents. Contrary to its name, the one thing that the little urn didn't contain was ash.
Instead, Dean tipped the contents into the palm of his hand and was confronted with a tooth, a rabbit bone, a tiny vial of something that could only be blood, a bootlace and a clipping of hair.
"Sam, this isn't a trophy," Dean growled; "it's a hex-uh-urn."
Sam nodded, not taking his eyes from the objects in Dean's hand. "I hate witches," he mumbled absently.
"Oh well done."
The brothers spun round on hearing the unexpected voice behind them.
Through the darkness, they could see the guy who had earlier been so obliging to Dean; the England team's wicket-keeper, standing in the doorway leaning casually on the doorframe.
The Winchesters stood and stared open-mouthed at the figure in the doorway. Illuminated by their flashlight beams. A casual smirk had twisted his previously open, friendly face into a coldly malicious mask.
Dean felt the empty urn drop from his limp fingers.
"I really thought," the man said, taking a step from the doorway toward them; "that thing was failsafe. You guys are the real deal; well done."
"You," Sam stammered; "you're a w-witch?"
"Please," he waved his arm airily; "do I look like I should be riding a broomstick?"
He folded his arms, seemingly unmoved as Dean's lip curled into a sneer; "no, but you'd look great with one shoved up your ass," Dean muttered under his breath.
"Who the hell are you?" Sam asked.
"Not that you're really in a position to be asking questions," the man began; "but I'll tell you who I am anyway."
"I am the sixth generation grandson of the great Theodore Beauchamp," he announced proudly, "and as you will be well aware, I still carry the family name."
There was an awkward silence across the room as the Winchesters glanced vacantly at each other and shrugged; "that s'posed to impress us?" asked Dean bluntly; "'cause we've never heard of this dude."
Beauchamp rolled his eyes as if to suggest he was talking to halfwits and continued regardless. "Many said he was the greatest cricketer of his time – of all time. He was adored and admired by all who knew the game. 'Poetry in motion,' that's what they called his god-given talent."
"Thanks to his skill," Beauchamp continued; "my family were rich and powerful, we had the ear of her Majesty Queen Victoria and our future status and prosperity was assured."
Dean shot a sideways glance at Sam; "what's with the freakin' history lesson?"
"Then one day in a match there was a terrible incident," Beachamp continued, seemingly unconcerned as to whether the brothers were listening or not. "What is was, no-one now knows; the details are lost in time, but the result was that Theodore Beachamp was accused of cheating by a fellow player."
He bowed his head as if what he had told the Winchesters was a human tragedy of biblical proportions. It was clear he didn't appreciate the sudden snigger that Dean struggled to stifle.
"Nothing was ever proven," he barked, as if to defend his maligned ancestor; "but it didn't need to be. He was a ruined man."
Dean snorted another derisory laugh; "seriously? You've got a freakin' ass-ache 'cause he cheated in some stupid game?" He shook his head in disbelief; "overdramatic much? I've spent most of my friggin' life cheating, an' it never done me any harm."
Beauchamp's lips pulled into a tightly petulant scowl; "I wouldn't expect you to understand, you ignorant low-life."
The insult washed harmlessly over Dean like a summer breeze.
"You see, mud sticks," Beachamp continued, determined to justify himself; "and believe me when I say the English aristocracy is a bear pit; if you don't fit in, you'll get torn to pieces," he ground out angrily; "suddenly Theodore found himself ostracised, rejected by the team and barred from the game. His 'friends' abandoned him - after all no-one wanted their name to be linked with a cheat – they weren't going to let a little thing like lack of proof sully their precious reputations."
"The final heartbreak came when his wife left him," Beachamp's voice dropped to a despondent whisper. "Tobias took to drinking and after five long, lonely years he died destitute and broken in a debtors prison, and with him died my family's honour."
The silence that followed Beauchamp'ss self-pitying diatribe was deafening. If he was expecting a wave of support and sympathy from the bewildered men standing before him, he was sorely disappointed.
Eventually, and taking the silence as a hint that perhaps he wasn't winning over his audience, he spoke up again; "Do you know who the man was that destroyed him?"
Dean folded his arms across his chest with an impatient eye-roll. "No, but I get the feeling you're gonna tell us."
"It was the great, great, great grandfather of our illustrious England team captain."
Another silence filled the small pavilion; eventually it was Sam who spoke up.
"And?" He shrugged; "it's not like the guy can be blamed for whatever his ancestors did. How is that his fault?"
His words met a brick wall composed of centuries-worth of wounded indignation; "it has taken my family this long to escape the shame of what happened, to begin to regain some of the respectability that we once enjoyed."
Dean glanced across at Sam, then back at the figure still silhouetted against the doorway.
"Holy hell, I've come up against some creepyass douchebags in my time," he snorted; "but congratulations dude - you are the most whiny, up-your-ass sonofabitch I've ever had the bad luck to meet."
Beauchamp's face darkened in outrage.
"So some guy pisses off uncle Theodore a million friggin' years ago, and now you're stamping your foot? Well boo hoo," Dean snapped; "crap happens - deal with it."
"Dealing with it is exactly what I am doing," the response came to Dean's outburst; "my family has waited; oh heavens, how we have waited for our sweet revenge. I am the first of my line to finally acquire the means to engineer it; and so here I am."
"I secured the services of a local witch," he explained; "who made up this delightfully deadly little package and then three years ago, I emigrated to America to join my target."
"So why those other poor bastards over the last three years?" Dean asked, tiring of this charade, and discreetly reaching round his back for the handle of his glock; "your argument's with the Captain, why not him?"
Beauchamp canted his head, as if he were trying to make sense of the stupidest question ever asked; "because that would be too quick; too neat," he replied with a saccharine pleasantness; "I want him to stand by and watch his world fall apart around him over years and years; just like my ancestors had to."
Dean scowled as his hand tightened around the glock's square handle.
"But, you can congratulate yourself gentlemen, because tonight my friends, you have saved a life." He smirked as his gaze switched between the brothers; "my target this year was going to be that Australian fool, Lawson, but thanks to your inane interference, Digga lives to – um, dig another day."
He grinned nastily, "you, on the other hand," he stooped and picked up the tiny urn which had earlier dropped out of Dean's hand, rolling across the floor toward him; "I'm afraid your innings has come to an end."
In a split second, Dean snatched his gun out of his waistband, but as he did, an unseen force bodily lifted him and hurled him across the room, smashing heavily into a glass trophy cabinet.
Rushing blindly across the room, Sam clambered over the wreckage of the cabinet and scattered trophies, his feet crunching through the carpet of shattered glass as he stooped towards Dean's prone body.
Dean groaned and rolled over, dislodging a cascade of broken glass that tumbled over his moving body like an april shower. "That's one more bruise to add to the five hundred I've already got," he croaked, as Sam stooped to help him up.
"Never underestimate the reflexes that this game hones," Beachamp smirked, striding toward the brothers, the tiny urn nestled in his fist.
Sam stood, hauling Dean up beside him. Any shred of sympathy he had tried to engender for this man and the mighty chip that he had cultivated on his shoulder his entire life, had disintegrated along with the pulverised wreckage of the cabinet. As he looked at Dean's pain crumpled face, a narrow ribbon of blood working its way down his cheek, all he felt was blind fury.
"People who don't know what they're doing really shouldn't mess with this stuff," Sam stated in the most patronising tone he could manage; "because when they do, they're likely to get hurt."
For his trouble, he received a sneer that suggested he was talking utter crap.
"You see," he muttered breathlessly, reaching across and tracing a finger down Dean's bleeding face; "I happen to know that that spell your witch friend etched around the bottom of your stupid little pot," he continued, choosing his words carefully to cause maximum offence; "and it's very, very nasty ."
Beauchamp's brow furrowed as his expression shed its air of superiority, replacing it with a suspicious frown.
"And anyone in the know, can make it turn on the one who controls it like a badly trained dog."
In a matter of seconds, Sam had reached forward and traced a sigil on the wall in Dean's blood, perfectly matching those engraved around the base of the urn.
"Like this," he added triumphantly.
At his word, the little urn burst into flames; flames which flashed up the arm of the shocked man holding them, engulfing him and room in seconds.
Without looking back, Sam hooked Dean's arm over his shoulder and half-led half-carried his dazed brother out of the wrecked pavilion, running fast enough to put a good distance between them and the burning building before the flames exploded into the night sky, throwing both Winchesters off their feet.
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?