"He doesn't exist," Dean Winchester says in his final, definitive, this is absolutely the end of the argument tone.
"Come on, Dean, all I'm saying is--" Sam Winchester begins, in that lawyer-rebuttal tone that sets Dean's teeth on edge.
"Look, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa, I figure sooner or later I had to tell you about them, I know there's some reasonable doubt there," Dean says. "After all, there's hundreds of years of tradition and mythos to go off of. Heck, you never know, maybe there is something to the Tooth Fairy after all." He purses his lips and looks reflective. "Though I'd be more willing to believe she's some kind of goblin, I mean, come on, human teeth? Who goes around collecting those outside of serial killers?"
Sam throws his hands up. "I get that you don't like the guy, Dean, and I'm sure the fact that he upholds the institution and the homegrown trifecta of truth, justice, and the American way does nothing for him in your eyes--"
Dean is shaking his head, and here he interrupts. "Sam, Sam, for someone who always does his research, you are sadly behind on this one. The fact that this particular myth gets reported in a major urban newspaper rather than tabloid rags doesn't make it any more real - he's a comic book character, for crying out loud! Who goes around in blue tights and a red cape and swoops down to catch the bad guys? Please."
Sam blinks. He swipes his overlong bangs out of his eyes and gets that mulishly stubborn look on his face, the one that means Dean's words might as well be served to a brick wall for all the impact they'll have. "I know there's a number of differing sources of canon on this one," he begins. Dean's snort doesn't deter him this time and he plows on doggedly, "and no one's really sure if he's been around for ten years or seventy-five, but don't you see? That's part of the thing that makes it more real, timeless, makes me believe it could be true. There are too many different people from too many different parts of the world that relate accounts of being helped by him--"
"Shut up a minute," Dean says, because he's just started guiding the Impala over a suspension bridge on their way to check out a routine haunting and it always makes him superstitious, ever since that time in Jericho, California.
Sam subsides and slumps down on his side of the car, arms folded, jaw set, as he looks out of the window over the wide, wide river. Dean glances over at him, rolls his eyes, and then concentrates on the road. Part of him is convinced this is some kind of obscure payback for telling a four-year old Sam that Santa wasn't real when Dean was eight and smarting over the fact that Dad had decided presents weren't in the budget anymore.
There's no warning. There's just a sharp, cracking noise and the world tilts.
"Oh God," Dean gulps, and Sam is shouting something and Dean is gunning the engine. A split appears in the bridge ahead, widening in a second to a chasm, and Dean knows they're not going to make it. A Hail Mary is on the tip of his tongue as he shoots an angry glance over his shoulder because this is so unfair, it's such a stupid way to die, but he's still not going to pray to a God he's not sure is even up there let alone liable to answer. They can still get out of the car and try to jump clear as the bridge crumbles into the river but so many things can go wrong with that... as he looks behind him, though, he sees the bridge has already split apart in that direction, too.
"Dean," Sam says urgently, tugging at his door, getting it open then hauling it shut as the whole block of bridge tilts precariously, tipping them off in a sickening slide as Dean grips the wheel and tries to figure how the ghost they're hunting managed this.
I'm sorry, he wants to say to Sam maybe somewhere in there with that three-letter phrase Winchester men never say as the car topples.
Then they're airborne.
A noise escapes Sam, the most undignified sort caught between a hiss and a yelp as they rise up from where the river was rushing to take them; the Impala straightens out, and flies over the remains of the crumbling bridge to the other side. Dean's running monologue runs more along the lines of "ohshit-ohshit-ohshit" and he'd be reaching for a shotgun if they weren't all in the trunk. The car settles onto the road front wheels first, then back, then Dean is glancing in the rearview mirror eyes wide, mouth open as a dark-haired, red-caped man tips him an obliging smile - and an infuriating wink, as if he's heard Dean's entire litany of disbelief.
Once the car is on all fours and safe on asphalt, they sit and watch the blue-and-red streak pass up and away, aimed like an arrow at the horizon, cape snapping behind the aerodynamic figure in a breeze of its own making.
"Well, shut my mouth," Dean says at last, and puts the Impala in gear again. He speeds away from the bridge as fast as he can.
"I'm telling you, it's an urban legend, there's nothing worth reporting there," Richard says dismissively.
"You're just saying that because we're on vacation," Clark replies, looking up from his road map and riding his glasses up the bridge of his nose with one finger. "I'm not saying we need to report on it, exactly, I just think it's more exciting than some of the other local attractions, and if there really is something, I don't know, paranormal going on, then--"
"I swear, if you say 'Winchester brothers' again I'm turning this car around," Richard threatens. "You know what an urban legend is, right, Clark? This latest legend that's been cropping up, it's like something out of Kerouac with a twist of Sixth Sense thrown in, come on. The Winchester brothers are not real! People don't go around hunting ghosts and other creepy crawlies, it's a myth."
Clark is quiet for a moment, then says, "Anyone else would say a man who can fly couldn't possibly exist, either."
Richard sighs, because Clark never did know how to fight fair, and if he turns the puppy eyes on him that's a sucker punch he sure as hell can't resist. His jaw flexes briefly, because he did want to get to the inn by dark, but it's not a bad thing sometimes to have one's priorities reordered. "All right," he gives in. "One haunted house." He doesn't need to turn to see Clark's face light up like Christmas morning.
It was strategic, of course, and it's not forty-five minutes before Clark is saying "turn right here," and Richard does, pulling the rental past a moldering stump of a mailbox and down a long, deserted drive.
"It sure looks like a haunted house," Richard says, slamming the door and wishing he'd had the sense to ask if he could stay in the car. Clark wanted to explore a haunted house in the Midwest? By God, Clark would explore the haunted house, but did Richard have to go with him? Then Clark makes eyes at him over the stretch of car hood and Richard is sighing and following in his footsteps.
They poke around dusty corners for a while in the abandoned house before Clark gives up and hooks a finger into Richard's belt. "There's nothing here, let's go," he invites.
Richard gives him a trace of a smile he knows Clark can see even in this dim light. "Yeah, the bed and breakfast awaits," he says.
They take two steps toward the door and it slams shut.
"Uh-oh." Richard takes Clark's elbow - because it's dark, of course; he can't see, they don't have a flashlight, and... "What's that?"
A white shape flickers between them and the door, rapidly taking shape as a tall woman with short dark hair and a mess of gore down her front. Her eyes glare and she's headed for them, skipping several steps in fits and jerks and they're backing up but she's following, fast.
"Do something," Richard urges, because the pen is hardly a match for the paranormal and he's with Superman.
"Uh, this is hardly my purview..." Clark replies, putting an arm out nevertheless as if to shield Richard from the worst of a ghostly blow or however else she'll attack.
They both reel back as the front door bursts open, kicked in from outside, and a pair of guys barrel through the door. They aim and fire in a motion simultaneous, both pumping rounds through the apparition that cause it to dissolve in a burst of sparkling white spray.
"Get out of here!" shouts the shorter, handsomer man, aiming his shotgun at the ceiling and jerking his head at the two of them. "Sam, the bones?"
"Basement," the taller one says tensely, covering the room. "Dean, you've got the lighter."
"Dude, I know; you keep this room covered, I'll go downstairs." Dean glares at the two of them. "Well? Got a hearing problem? You two get the hell out of here!"
Richard's knees crumple beneath him before they've made it down the front step and he shakes his head, palming his eyes with the heels of both hands.
"Clark?" Richard says, feebly.
"Don't ever let me disbelieve you again," Richard says, and stays on his feet when Clark hooks an arm around him and helps him up, and they leave the house together.