Crooked LegsAuthor: hkathRecipient: smilla02Rating:
This evolved out of smilla02
's request for “a classic horror story”. I wanted to go in a Twilight Zone-ish direction with that, and I started asking myself what sort of TZ story (where characters are generally faced with very literal versions of their anxieties) would suit Dean. It's morphed
since then. Summary:
Sam goes through some changes.Crooked Legs
It could start with something subtle, but it doesn't. It starts with tentacles.
Sam passes the salt and his hands don't move.
A few days later, outside Toledo, Sam crouches, fighting with his bootlaces.
“Velcro,” Dean says. “Look into it.”
An single eye flutters open, just barely visible beneath the shaggy fringes of the hair at Sam's nape.
Dean gasps and chokes. Sam rolls his eyes. All three of them.
Dean doesn't call Bobby. He doesn't call anyone. He mulls, spends the whole night in Ohio staring at the back of Sam's sleeping head and forming theories.
: Something is transforming Sam into a hideous creature.
It's simple, a straight line from A to B. Dean likes this theory because it gives him something to do. Old school gypsy curse, a shot of magic juice in Sam's beer, enchanted lettuce in his BLT, whatever: he'd have some idea of how to handle that.
Trouble is, it doesn't feel right. Blaming some run-of-the-mill supernatural entity seems too easy, somehow. Like a trap. Like Dean's supposed to assume the obvious and start combing through ancient spellbooks for an antidote while Sam destroys Tokyo.
He's not sure why he's suspicious of the most obvious explanation. That, more than anything else, should worry him.
Sam clips his toenails on his bed, as usual, cleans black sock lint out from between his toes, picks at a flaking corn on one of them.
Dean stares, feels his lip curling in disgust. It's not easy to gross him out.
"I'm just that talented," Sam says.
Dean rewinds the last sixty seconds in his mind, tries to remember if he spoke the thought out loud. Tries to feel it out, oddly frustrated with himself, like if he knew how, he could still feel the air vibrating in the shape of his words. It doesn't work. Obviously.
He keeps staring at Sam's toes. They're freakishly long and thin. But then, they've always been freakishly long and thin. He's pretty sure.
: Sam has always been a hideous creature.
The big brother in Dean quite enjoys the wording of this theory. He likes it a bit less, though, when he thinks about how it involves him spending the last 27 years turning a foolish blind eye to extra body parts and some decidedly worrisome proportions. Maybe he's always seen
the tentacles, but just didn't want to process them as belonging to his kid brother.
This is the thought process that leads him directly to theory #3
: Dean is going crazy.
He's not really a fan of that one.
Sam drools in his sleep.
The drool leaves black scorch marks on the sheet and pillowcase.
Dean waits until Sam's in the shower to investigate, touches the back of his fingernail to one of the spots, waits for it to start hissing and bubbling, but nothing happens.
From the bathroom, there's a sudden squeaky sound of flesh against the tub's worn enamel. Dean jerks his hand away, presses tense knuckles to the small of his back. He doesn't relax until they're entering Indiana.
Theory # 4: Sam's transformation is a direct consequence of his past.
It's a little literary for Dean's tastes. Hell, he remembers high school English, all those depressing books they had to read about geezers stuck on their childhood crushes for seventy years and criminals consumed by guilt and driven to confession or suicide. Never before had a lesson in school seemed so sharp and personal, or so shitty. You can't outrun your past,
the teacher had said, and she might as well have been addressing him personally. Dean's forearms had sprung impressive goosebumps inside the sleeves of his father's leather jacket.
Sam's lived a complex and shaded life. Maybe, just maybe, it's catching up to him now: all those years of discontent and dysfunction, all that demon blood still stored up in a deep dark place inside.
“You skip shaving or something?”
Sam hefts a 50 pound sack of rock salt onto his shoulder and pivots to raise an eyebrow at Dean.
“What? No. Move.”
He swings the sack down onto the lower pallet with a grunt. Dean steps aside and looks over the shopping cart's contents: bread, salt, socks, underwear, five boxes of ammo, a Colts cap, a bunch of bananas, a toy harmonica. God bless Wal-Mart.
Of course, the checkout lines are a disaster, crammed full with cranky families. Dean leans on the pushbar and reads Hello!
magazine. Sam's staring blankly into housewares and fidgeting, and Dean says, “This Sam Ronson guy looks like a chick,” mostly just to snap him out of it.
Sam turns, scratching absently at his wrist, and Dean stares at the thick, uneven tufts of hair visible just at the edge of Sam's sleeve. No, not hair. Fur. That's definitely new, and it casts the patchy 3-hour stubble on Sam's face in a new, slightly disturbing light.
“What,” Sam says flatly after a minute.
“Buh?” Dean says.
Sam rolls his eyes, clearly annoyed at Dean's unabashed staring. Maybe he's feeling self-conscious.
“I make a better door than a window, you know.”
The line shifts forward a whole three feet, and Sam glances over at the candy display.
“You want a Butterfingers?”
“Nah. You knock yourself out, though.”
The girl ahead of them reaches for a box of TicTacs and smiles at Sam. Sam smiles back, all charming and casual, his typical non-threatening approach.
They talk for ten minutes, and Sam doesn't stop playing with his newly-sprouted fur the entire time. The girl never notices. Neither do any of the other 3,000 people that make up the Sunday morning Wal-Mart crowd.
: Dean has a brain tumour.
The fact that theory #5
is Dean's favourite doesn't say much for his current mental state.
He steps into the shower after Sam's done with it, finds the bottom sprinkled with translucent, curled scales.
He doesn't even want to know.
When Sam starts behaving weirdly, instead of just being weird, it's almost a relief.
Well, Dean's sure it's not much of a relief for the Blue Diamond Motel's maintenance staff, who are going to have to deal with the person-sized hole Sam gnawed into the dry wall behind the TV. But Dean, at least, is glad for the validation.
That is, until Sam tears his way face-first through a dozen packages of raw steak at the A&P and no one bats an eye, not even the stock boy who's currently setting up a display of dijon mustard just across the aisle.
Honestly, a brain tumour. It would explain so much.
Improbably, they fall into the a routine.
In the morning, Dean opens the door, scattering whatever stray dogs and woodland creatures have gathered during the night, and goes out for coffee.
Then they go about their day, whatever that entails. Lately, it's mostly back to basics – salt, gasoline and good old investigative prowess. It's almost like old times. You know, if Dean ignores Sam's floppy extra limbs which no one else seems able to see. Oh, and his terrifying appetite.
At night, Dean pretends to sleep while Sam burrows into the walls.
In Tennessee, the fattest possum Dean's ever seen scurries across the road, narrowly escaping a death sentence. Sam looks over at the clump of bushes it disappeared into and says, “Pull over. I gotta piss.”
When he gets back in the car five minutes later, he's wiping his hands on his jeans, his mouth on the back of his wrist.
“You good?” Dean says.
“Mmhm,” Sam says, and smiles.
In the end, he probably should have expected it.
He wakes up in the morning to a hole that runs all the way through the outside bathroom wall and no brother.
Sam's not hard to find. There's still so much of him, and in such an inelegant package, that Dean makes quick work of spotting a trail and following it across the motel's back field and into the woods.
Sam's already a good two miles deep when Dean catches up with him, and he's rubbing up against a tree trunk, restless, like a deer rubbing velvet from its antlers.
“This is it, right?” Dean says. “This is me, finally losing it.”
Sam grunts. It's just a grunt, no meaning in it. He's drooling, his jaw slightly misaligned, sharp lower fangs curling up over his upper lip.
“Sammy, please,” Dean says. “Let's go home. We can deal with this.”
Sam turns from him, moves on to another, larger tree.
“I have no idea what you're talking about, Dean,” he says, his voice strikingly normal. “Everything's fine.”
Dean wishes he could see his brother's mouth move. He wonders if it's moving at all.
: Everything's fine.
Bobby meets him at the gas station just outside of town. He's driving a ridiculous car: mid-nineties Corolla with a decal of Calvin peeing on something stuck to the back window.
They talk about Dean's case, about the vengeful ghost of a retail employee trampled by Black Friday shoppers a few years ago. It's been an easy one. It's not the reason Dean called. But Bobby doesn't ask about Sam.
Dean doesn't say anything. He doesn't know how he'd even begin to explain it. Doesn't know how he'd react if Bobby suddenly noticed a whole person was missing from Dean's side.
The phrase keeps running through Dean's head, his brother's voice delivering it with gentle conviction.
Sam's out there somewhere. Somewhere close. He's sure of it.