Characters: Sam and Dean (Gen, Humor)
Summary: At a Christmas tree farm, the Trees. Are. ALIVE…
Author's Notes: Seasonal silliness set in some rare angst-free moment of S2 (darn the S3 Xmas show for Jossing all over my Sam and Dean fanon). For spn_christmas, my own prompt of the above.
If a tree falls in the forest and no-one sees the other ones take revenge… were the screams actually real?
"So, where've you been?" Sam looks up from his computer when Dean walks in the door.
"This and that, scoping out the town."
"We're not staying Dean, you know that." Sam closes the lid. "Women or food?"
"Then what's in your hand?"
"Oh— eggnog. Want some? I added a little whiskey."
"Nah. Raw eggs are like Russian roulette." Sam stands up and stretches, fingers brushing the overhead light fixture. "I've found our next job."
"Just while I was gone? Wait, is it in Florida? I could really use some sun."
"Not this kind of case." Sam starts shoving clothes into his duffel. "It's in New York. We need to get going."
"Geez, more snow—that's just perfect." Dean chugs the eggnog and tosses the cup.
They clear the room in five minutes, leaving the key on the nightstand. When Sam opens the outside door, the Impala gleams in the sun. Car wash—I should've known. But he keeps his mouth shut.
What Sam's found, courtesy of the Internet, is the kind of Ho-Ho-Homicide that'll bring the holidays to a halt. Specifically, a bunch of dead people turning up at Christmas tree farms near Palmyra. No clues, no footprints, just tree-mash all over the victims' bodies.
"So, some of the victims' feet were missing?" Dean asks.
"Apparently so. Sounds like someone's idea of poetic justice."
"Or something's idea of it. I thought we were talking psycho trees here, after all."
"Sure looks that way," Sam agrees.
He almost regrets picking up this case, almost, except that thanks to Jess he learned to love the idea of the holidays again, and god knows other people deserve that innocent enjoyment too. Not to mention that this kind of interference has to be rare, he's certain. Pretty sure, anyway. Mostly.
"Did Dad ever mention anything like this to you before?" he asks.
"Deadly shrubbery?" Dean says. "Hell no." He slams AC/DC into the tape deck and cranks up the volume.
New York's a long way off.
"Why're you stopping here?" Sam asks.
"Why does anyone stop at a miniMart?"
The reason is self-evident when Sam comes out of the bathroom. "Eggnog? Again?"
"It's not a crime, Sammy."
"Why do you like it so much?"
"It's Christmas-y. Like candy canes and wreaths."
"You hate wreaths, Dean."
"I don't hate 'em. Just no reason for them when you move around all the time. And I'm not putting one on the car."
"I wasn't asking."
It's roughly eight more hours of travel to Palmyra, broken down into two more mini-marts followed by a diner that serves broasted chicken and rum raisin pie.
"Good?" Sam asks after Dean tries a forkful of dessert.
"Not bad," Dean answers. "Different."
Not an endorsement, but it doesn't sound like regret. And in the end, Dean finishes it off.
They arrive in town by nine o'clock, the last couple of hours slowed by drifting snow. There are two motels, one advertising cable but Sam holds out for the other's promise of "kitchenette." By ten, they're under the covers watching Boston Legal as the scent of microwaved popcorn fades into the background.
"It was terrible— and he was such a nice man," Mrs. Knappleby assures them for the second time.
Sam and Dean are in her kitchen, trying to find out more about what happened to Stewart Wells the week before. They started with Mrs. Wells next door, but she kicked them out as soon as Dean finished saying her husband's name. Sam knew he should have done the talking himself.
"And was this at nighttime, when it happened?" he asks now.
"I don't believe so." Mrs. Knappleby considers the question for a moment. "No, because they left after coming home from church. Bethel Presbyterian—I go to the eight-thirty service, and they go to the ten o'clock. It was just last week…"
She turns to gaze out the window, and Sam intercepts Dean's hand on its way to the plate of fudge on the table in front of them. Dean's glare is poisonous.
"What about the other man, Harold Bicksley?" Sam finally says after the silence has dragged out awhile.
Mrs. Knappleby blinks and seems to remember that Sam and Dean are there. "Well he didn't have family of course, though he rented a room from Charley Teague. Over on Winters."
Already their next stop.
"Did anyone actually see either of the incidents happen?" Sam presses.
"Surely your company wouldn't hold up a life insurance claim on the basis of something like that," the woman says suddenly. "Is that what this is about? You just get on out of my house, then!"
On the porch steps, Dean ruins their professional image by slugging Sam in the arm. "No fudge and no leads! Thanks a lot, genius-boy."
Winters Street is on the other side of town, which is to say that it's five minutes away. But there's no answer at Teague's place when they knock.
"Probably got on the horn to all her kaffee-klatsch friends the minute we left," Dean mutters. "We'll be lucky to talk to anybody in this town now."
"Like you did so well at the first family's house," Sam rubs it in.
"So let's go someplace outside the church-lady network," Dean suggests. "Like a bar."
Sam should have thought of that one himself. A bar…
Murray's Tavern has dollar beers on draft, and Sam can see Dean perk up right before his eyes at that little piece of information. At least it isn't eggnog.
"Yeah, I was there." They hit paydirt with one of the other customers, on a hint from the bartender. The heavyset man in a John Deere cap eyes the two of them, probably wondering if they're bloodthirsty whackos. "Most terrible thing I've ever seen." Dean signals the bartender to bring another beer for the man, but he waves it off. "Gotta get back to work— one's my limit."
"Does everyone get their Christmas trees at the same place?" Sam asks.
"Pretty much. 'Less they got relatives near a forest who can get a permit. But then they've got to haul the thing back— hardly worth it."
"Did you hear anything before it happened?" Dean puts in.
"There was the ax, of course, and a kind of rushing sound. And then the screams." The man shakes himself, remembering. "Looked like Wells was beaten to death with a tree. But who would do that? And why?"
Sam nods thoughtfully. "Hardly seems possible."
"You're damn right it doesn't." The man wrestles his way out of the orange-backed booth. "Sorry, but I've got to get going— I'm back on the clock at twelve-thirty."
At Lenny's Lounge no-one knows anything, or so they say. The boys have better luck at the Twilight Club, where the lone customer regales them with gory details and alcohol fumes.
"This guy reeks," Dean mutters in Sam's ear.
"It's two in the afternoon, what do you expect?" Sam whispers back.
They confer in the parking lot afterward. "Well, that was pretty explicit," Dean says. "What do you think?"
"Sounds exactly like The Enquirer said. Right down to the body parts." Sam can't help wrinkling his nose.
"That's the last bar in town, and that's probably all we're going to get. Which still doesn't tell us what or why."
"I think the 'what' is pretty clear," Sam says wryly. "The 'why' is the real mystery."
"Yeah," Dean says thoughtfully, rolling a piece of loose asphalt under his boot. "But I can live with it. As long as we destroy the things, the 'why' doesn't so much matter. And I've got an idea…"
They're parked in front of the Ace Hardware store, the same argument still running since they left the bar.
"You can't blowtorch the tree farm, Dean! That's the kind of thing that tends to draw attention."
"Unlike death by tree-massacre, which happens every day."
"I didn't say that."
"Well take it to the next level and you'll get there." Dean looks at Sam like he's five again.
"The point is," and Sam's exasperated, "we don't even know why it's happening."
"Sometimes you've just got to solve the problem and move on— before it turns into a Red Christmas for the whole town!"
"Yeah, Sammy. Exactly," Dean nods sagely. "Wish we hadn't traded the blowtorch for those silver bullets, though."
"Hey, that was a good deal! You can't exactly buy silver bullets retail." Sam thinks for a moment. "But what if we're not fast enough? Those trees could attack us while we're working."
Dean looks at him and smiles a slow, evil grin.
"Careful!" Sam whispers sharply, as Dean bumps into one of the trees. They're weaving through the planted rows of the tree farm, dousing the branches methodically and working their way backward.
The Impala is right there behind them, keys waiting in the ignition.
"Faster!" Dean hisses. "I think some of them are starting to move." He sloshes each tree rapidly in turn, careful not to get anything on himself.
"Almost done…" Sam gets the last part of his row and works toward Dean for the finish. "Got it!"
"Okay—here we go."
They stow the cans in the trunk and haul the blowtorches out, starting at the top of the property. The trees are writhing.
"Better hurry." Dean launches the stream of flame at the first tree, and works his way around the edge of the plot while Sam goes in the opposite direction.
"Jesus—they're breaking loose!" Sam says.
"Step it up!" Dean yells.
They run around the perimeter, aiming occasional bursts of flame toward the middle as the air fills with smoke. The ground begins to rumble.
"Break it off!" Dean rushes around to the side nearest the car, blasting a line of fire along the edge of trees as Sam comes around the corner. "Get in!"
When the door slams behind him, Dean turns and sprints toward the car. Sam's already behind the wheel as Dean opens the door and jumps into the passenger seat.
Gravel pings against the wheel well as the tires find purchase, and the car goes fishtailing out into the night.
"Hot damn," Dean breathes, "that was close."
Sam keeps up the pace until the road arcs back underneath a half-mile down, and then he slows and pulls off to the side. He leaves the motor running while they watch and listen. "Hear that?" he says softly.
"Sounds like screaming."
"Yeah," Sam grins. "But it doesn't sound human."
Dean's smile flashes in the dark as he slaps Sam on the arm. "Score!" he chortles. "Think we should go back and check after awhile?"
"Probably better get our stuff out of the motel and leave town before word gets out about the fire," Sam says. "We'll be the first people they think of when they see what happened."
"Yeah, okay. Sure as hell was fun, though."
You're not kidding.
There's a certain primitive glee in torching stuff, and Sam's not immune to it any more than Dean. Not that he'll give Dean the satisfaction of knowing it. "I smell like a gas station," he complains instead.
Back at the motel, they change their clothes and jam the incriminating 'evidence' into the laundry bag for later. They're on the road again in five minutes flat.
"What's next, toxic pets? Evil furniture?" Dean must still be riding the residual arson high, because he's happier than Sam's seen him in weeks.
"Could be anything. Lethal Christmas wreaths even."
Dean dismisses the idea immediately. "Nah, that's crazy talk. Better be something good."
"Find us a Starbucks and I'll get on the Internet and see what comes up," Sam says casually. "Maybe you'll get your chance for someplace sunny after all."
Dean's eyes light up, and he whistles 'Margaritaville' under his breath.
They're on their way to another town and another motel for the night, but Sam's already thinking ahead— he's been waiting all day.
He's not about to say what else Starbucks has, but when the time comes he'll be ready, and he'll be sure to place his coffee order privately and quietly:
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