Warnings: Clowns, metaphors
Summary: The prompt I picked was "Sam and Dean get lost in a maze
Author's note: Tips on navigating mazes are from "Other ways to solve a Maze" by Micromouseonline. Beta by the wonderful counteragent
* Where the intended recipient defaulted, stories are posted as gifts for the community as a whole.
It's Dean who carries Sam out of the inferno and into the maze.
Dean knows the way; at least that’s what Sam tells himself. Somewhere in front of them is their Dad, and Dean tells Sam that he won't let them get lost, but too many times John Winchester leaves them to their own devices, or tells them to turn left while he goes right for seemingly no good reason. Whatever; Sam follows Dean. As long as he doesn't lose Dean, the rest will take care of itself.
In 1895, Tarry published a method for solving mazes. You will need a sack of rocks.
"Sammy, keep up."
At 15, Dean is a couple of years and a surge of testosterone taller than Sam. Twelve year old ‘it’s Sam, not Sammy’ keeps pace with Dean, mostly.
Sometimes Dean will make him wait while he goes ahead a ways or decides to explore just for the sake of it, but he always leaves a trail of pie crumbs so that Sam can find him. When Sam follows them he eats the buttery crumbs as he goes. After a childhood of this, his heart is fat with love.
It's a shock when Dean tells him about the monsters. Sam thought he was the only one who saw them, the dark shapes and whispered threats in the dark, the glimpses of horror and corruption lurking in the dead ends and dim passages. He thought they were his own fears, figments of an imagination fuelled by vague memories of screams in the night and the smell of burning flesh. Dean tells him they are real.
Sam turns left, and a monster looms up at him through the darkness. It is an evil creature smeared with makeup, twisted green hair and scraggly, pointed teeth. It is unspeakably horrific. It is a clown.
"Down here, Sam," it snarled, "you all die."
A rainbow explodes around him - red, blue, green, gold and silver glitter. It slices into Sam's flesh, little ninja stars of metal stinging his eyes, clogging his throat. He coughs until he thinks he'll vomit and then he does, spewing a bloody rainbow across his shoes.
Sam turns right and leaves his childhood behind.
The "random mouse" method of solving a maze involves taking a random left-or-right decision at every junction and wandering aimlessly until the exit is found.
Sam tries to find his way on his own. He figures if he can, then maybe he can help Dean and Dad and not just forever trail behind them. It's not that he doesn't trust Dean, but all his life he's felt like someone Dean just glimpses at over his shoulder. If he were in front, he could be seen. He could sometimes find the way for both of them.
But Sam doesn't really know which way to go. Every turn he takes ends up with him back where he started. He plays "rock, paper, scissors" with himself at every junction to decide which way to turn.
He ends up at Stanford.
Then the ceiling catches on fire and Dean, again, pulls him out.
Dean has no fucking clue where he's going. He keeps following John even when his dad is just a memory and a worn leather coat and a feeling Dean gets behind his ribs when he hears the opening riff of "Smoke on the Water".
Dean knows that they only safe place for Sam is behind him.
He doesn't want Sam to know this, so he tries to keep Sam behind him His strategy is to proceed with confidence and deal with the danger as it comes. And it always comes. It’s a good thing he can shoot or stab his way out of most tight corners. What Dean fails to realise is that those tactics don’t work for the demons inside him, and that sometimes the most dangerous thing in Sam's path is Dean.
Dean strides on, taking a left, and then two rights, pretending they haven't been this way before even when the echoes of their last conversation still hang in the air. When Sam suggests that maybe he can help find their way, Dean bristles and gets angry. Not because he's afraid that Sam couldn't lead them out – maybe he could.
Dean would rather die than let Sam know that they're lost in this labyrinth.
And so he does.
The Pledge Algorithm will work when things are disconnected. When you hit an obstacle you walk around it. When you are facing the direction you were when you started then you stop following the left-handed move and continue to move in the original direction. If you understand that, then you are either drunk, crazy or a Winchester.
Sam and Dean each try and find the way on their own.
They are offered advice by many – well-meaning friends, acquaintances with no sense of direction, and those with more malevolent intent. Everyone tries to tell them how to find their way, but no one asks them where they want to go.
Sam and Dean forget that they need to look behind them, as well as in front, that there are lessons to be learned in studying where they've come from. Even when they double back over the same way again and again, they each swear this time they will do it differently.
They both lose their way and stumble on paths slick with blood and regret. It turns out that not only is the road to Hell paved with good intentions, but so are the passage to Purgatory and the stairway to Heaven.
The Theseus approach utilises the assistance of a friend who has a long ball of string.
Sam and Dean have visited the world's largest ball of twine in Darwin, Minnesota thirteen times. Sam once tied one end of the twine to the back of Dean's jean's, figuring if he ever got lost he'd find his way back to Minnesota. Unbeknownst to Sam, Dean has done the same thing to his brother.
When they are separated from each other, by multidimensional space-time barriers, stubbornness and anger, they each follow the piece of string tied to their jeans, and find themselves back, not to Darwin, Minnesota, but to each other.
Sam once told Dean that he had slayed a monster in the labyrinth and it turned out to have his own face.
Dean asked Sam "When last on Dagobah, were you?", and then proceeded to sing "Yub Nub" so many times that Sam's ears bled.
An infinite recursive fractal Maze is a true fractal, where the Maze contains copies of itself, and is in effect an infinitely large Maze.
Sometimes Sam gets lost in Dean.
Finding your way using the Wall Follower Algorithm involves placing your left hand on the wall and never letting go as you walk. This means you will always be able to find an exit. This rule fails when there are bits that aren't connected.
Sam wakes in darkness, just the beams of the headlights slicing into the black, as the car swallows white lines down the centre of the blacktop. Route 66 stretches out straight before them – well signposted, straight ahead. He doesn't know where they are going, or what they'd find when they get there. But he reaches out his left hand, fingers brushing the denim of Dean's shirt, and Sam knows that he has all he needs to find his way.