Title: Snake Eyes [Or @AO3]
Genre: gen, horror, post-10x23
Characters: Dean (POV), Sam
Word Count: ~3500
Warnings: [Spoiler (click to open)]a lizard meets a cruel fate
Summary: There’s something in here.
When Dean wakes up, he feels something slither from his arms.
Not a woman.
It has scales, high and ridged, like armor.
There’s nothing there when he turns on the light, but it takes him a while to get that far. Who the fuck needs light, anyway?
Sam in the kitchen, playing his best pretend. Dean doesn’t remember what page they’re on.
Coffee? Sam asks.
‘Kevin’ and ‘Keurig’ are kind of spelled the same. Dean rubs his eyes.
It’s normal to feel that way, Sam says knowledgeably.
What way? Dean wonders. Or which? Maybe Sam’s just shooting in the dark.
He’s probably not talking about the dragon.
Because of course, dragon. They’ve already got the dungeon; there’s probably an ampersand hanging around somewhere.
Dean hopes Sam doesn’t have one, too. A dragon, that is. He doesn’t think he can handle plural.
He checks, when he can. For chafing at Sam’s wrists, his neck. Any hint of scale or claw. But Sam wears too many damn layers, and Dean can’t get a good read on the situation. If Sam’s face were to betray anything, it’d have to show over Dean’s own marks.
He wonders if Sam honestly thought he was gonna get his head sliced off.
Dean thought so.
(if i had a hammer~♪)
It doesn’t keep to the bedroom. Dean waits for it once--hours and hours. But his arms stay empty.
Eventually Sam comes. He shoulders open the door Dean left ajar.
(For his monster. Christ, next he’s gonna start leaving cookies and milk.)
You said you wanted to go out today, Sam says.
Those are the words, anyway. He’s probably saying something else. Dean hopes that’s not the ‘them’ they’re defaulting to. That’s exhausting.
Shit, Dean replies, because it always means exactly how it sounds.
Well, Sam shrugs. Cenex never closes.
Then Dean goes rigid. There’s a moving pressure at his sternum. It streamlines across his chest and toward the door, notched like a bike chain. It goes fast enough to spark heat, and it leaves Dean feeling cold and light.
The thing’s been sitting in his lap this whole damn time.
Sam’s gone now. He must not have seen it--and of course not, the lights are out. He must not have seen it.
If Sam was ever there at all.
Dean wonders if Sam makes a habit of talking at the dark like that.
But he probably does.
Sam’s arms around him. Holding him up. Sam’s hands, cradling his head. A touch at his back, a voice in the darkness, moves that no one else would ever make. Not for you, Dean thinks. No one else would ever do that for you.
Dean tries to find the value in that, for Sam’s sake.
There’s nothing Sam won’t do for you.
Dean’s hand scrambles for the emergency brake when The Darkness arcs over that furthest copse of trees. He’s not sure why. Maybe he’s announcing his commitment to staying and dying in the pothole that claimed them (because fucking seriously?)
Sam grabs his shoulder. Sam grabs him.
Dean can only ever feel it leaving. The dragon. He never gets used to the raw graze of scales against his body, always quick and always hot.
Absently, he wonders where the sun lamp room in the bunker is. If somewhere in here, the Men of Letters have got the Jurassic Park of terrariums going on. That’s really the only explanation Dean can think of for why his cold-blooded friend hasn’t just curled up and died somewhere.
Dean’s never noticed it before, but it’s drafty and dark in the bunker. Light bulbs have improved a lot in the last sixty.
Sometimes Dean feels scales punch between his arm and his chest--this sudden, train-like explosion of paper-thin dragon at his arm pit. (Was it warm there?)
It’s everything not to stop what he’s doing and strip off his shirt. Check for marks, or chaffed and splintered skin.
Sometimes he feels it at his nape.
He thinks once that it’s not a dragon at all, it’s his fucking spine. His spine, gone rogue without him.
That actually makes a lot of sense.
Spineless, he says to his face in the mirror. How many times has he lost his mouth, when Sam was calling out to the darkness? (In the darkness. For the darkness. Prepositions are complicated. Dean’s attendance of the second grade was spotty. Prepositions are trivial.)
How many times have you just let him hang?
Sam’s class had a pet lizard once. In Arizona. Dean held Sam’s hand while Sam cried, the day someone gave it a spin in the microwave.
They’ve been eating a shitton of canned soup. It has a metallic tinge to it that Dean kind of likes. Sam once confessed altogether too many feelings about that tinge, too. Something about something-or-other. But they’re not nine anymore, and they can’t survive on broth and giblets.
I’m serious, Dean says.
This isn’t the sound of me objecting, believe me, replies Sam. I’m fucking hungry.
Then what are we waiting for?
Topside, the sky is blue, stressed white in places. Life smells like cut hay and dust. There’s thick algae in the river. Maybe The Darkness only comes out at night.
Dean’s knees ache from the stairs. Sam’s face is only sort of bruised now.
Dean wonders how many cans of soup it’s been.
In the Exotic Foods aisle (enchilada seasoning, salsa, and ramen) Dean loses the dragon. He feels it catch on his elbow, nick his hip on the way down, and scramble down his sciatic nerve. He doesn’t realize he’s followed the motion til he’s eye-level with 10-cans of refried beans and nacho cheese.
Why are you on the ground? Sam asks, with his arms full of tortillas pulled from the aisle cap. If nothing else, Sam’s learned how to keep his shit together at the grocery store. He doesn’t just drop everything for panic.
Dean doesn’t say ‘I let a dragon loose in Kansas,’ mostly out of respect for trademark infringement. There’s definitely porn by that name. But when he doesn’t say anything, he ends up with Sam in his face, a patina of tortillas around them. (So much for no panic.)
Sam pulls Dean’s jacket off.
Why are you so hot? Sam asks. Seriously, you’re burning up.
And goddamn it, Dean thinks, you can’t just say, ‘There was a dragon in my pants.’
Sam doesn’t care about Dean’s pants, though. He pulls back Dean’s sleeve. Dean’s forearm is pale and empty. No Mark, no marks. No scale burn.
So, I’m thinking nachos, Dean says, when Sam is done.
Kansas can go fuck itself. That’s what weatherproofing is for, isn’t it? If you’re voluntarily living in Tornado Alley, you should be prepared for one lost fucking dragon.
But the next morning, when Dean wakes up, he feels something slither from his arms.
There’s a song about this, except with cats.
Dean prefers dragons to cats, but it’s starting to wear on him.
Fundamentally, it’s not a big deal; the fact that Dean’s still alive after all this time is enough to class this dragon a 0 on the Big Deal scale. Even though it’s not death Dean’s been terribly concerned about--not since killing Death, or the last time he died, or maybe even the last few times.
Still, he’s fucking exhausted. Can’t-finish-more-than-one enchilada exhausted.
Sam tells him again that it’s normal to feel that way. Dean’s still not sure what he’s talking about. Whatever makes Sam feel like things are under control, though.
It’s not like it’s stealing his life force, because that’s not what dragons do.
He’ll be fine.
He needs to stop calling it a dragon.
One of these days, he’ll forget that that’s not really what it is.
Claws prickle against the ball of his foot.
He tries shower steam. Infra-red. He puts his lights on a dimmer switch, and tries that, too. He spends a full day doing nothing but count minutes, trying to pin down a pattern. Sam’s down the hall, mainlining a full season of that show about the wives, and does not interrupt.
Dean strips down to inspect his neck, his arms, his thighs. He’s just hair and freckles and scars.
He adds a few more scars, after several casual blood-lettings. The thing seems to like arteries, after all. He’s not desperate; just thorough.
He also tries smoke, thick billowing stuff that comes from searing nacho cheese to the bottom of your every pan. (No dragons.)
I thought you were good at this, Sam coughs, as together they try to salvage their kitchen. He’s up to his arms in sooty grease, steel wool making shorter work of his fingers than the char.
Me too, says Dean.
That night, Dean ends up naked in bed with a samurai sword. This is stuff from crazy town, he knows. But when you’re trying to find a dragon, there’s only so many things that aren’t.
It’s not a dragon.
You think it’s time maybe we get another laptop? Dean asks one morning, because The Good Wife is seriously impacting his ability to Google. Sam’s got this system going where he’s playing files off the laptop on his big screen, which is insane--but then, Dean’s the one with the invisible tapeworm dragon.
Where are you going? Sam asks suddenly. He’s afraid.
Are you going?
What? No, Dean replies. He’s not.
Don’t leave me.
It’s always a part of him until it leaves. It’s so natural, like it’s not even there. Then Dean feels the bite of its scales, the last kiss of its tail, and it’s gone.
He checks his spine in the mirror again, just in case.
Sometimes he fools himself. There’s a heaviness in his chest--the dragon. It’s tight around his throat--the dragon. He’s dragging ass--must be all that extra dragon.
But then it leaves--usually, from his arms; usually, from between his arms--and Dean never feels any different.
He tries hugging it, once. He’s lying in bed and he turns onto his side, pretends he’s holding something close. But he just passes out.
Billiards at the bar. Not for money. It’s only regulars tonight, and they’re all smart enough to steer clear of even the friendliest match. They know Sam and Dean--hustlers--and they know themselves--inveterate fucking gamblers, and proudly so.
So Sam and Dean play each other. And it’s actually a lousy game, much to the disappointment of Tom, Lou, McGarry, and Steve. Sam thinks nothing of it.
But halfway through, he’d asked Dean, Where’d Donnie get off to, anyway?
You can tell me, Sam says. What you’re going through. You can talk to me.
Apparently he’s being enough of a sad sack Sam thinks he’s going through something. But mostly, he just feels the same. Life with the Mark is the same as life without it, except now he’s tired instead of committed. He’s still on edge. He’s still afraid. He’s still making the same jokes.
He’d made a point of Sam not being there for most of this, but even as a demon, he’d made the same jokes.
There’s a dragon in my pants, Dean says. And this is seriously fucking me up.
Sam doesn’t blush, because he never does. He’s hardly a virgin. But he does look rueful, like he’s sorry he asked. Like he feels like he’s being made fun of.
Sam doesn’t believe him.
Are you going to come back? Sam asks. They’re eating canned soup again, with the tortilla chips that were supposed to be nachos. It’s been a few days since their laptop talk, and Sam’s somehow got it in his head that Dean is definitely leaving. He doesn’t even ask anymore.
It’s just, Are you going to come back?
Sam doesn’t believe him.
Dean tries to prove himself by never leaving. Show, don’t tell, and all.
But it’s getting to where Dean can’t function if he doesn’t feel those scales against his skin in the morning. He swears they’re getting tougher; sometimes blood from the road rash (dragon rash?) seeps from the pits of his shirts. Not that it’s ever there when he goes to change.
I don’t know what to do, he tells Sam, who still doesn’t believe him.
Sam’s turning the dragon into something else--a code word, or a safeword. He doesn’t believe in the dragon itself.
Which is fine, as it’s never been a dragon in the first place.
But this isn’t a metaphor.
I don’t know what to do, he repeats.
The bunker is vacant and drafty and this thing likes the heat.
So why doesn’t Sam have one? If it likes Dean’s pits so much it should be in love with Sam’s sweaty ass.
Did the steel wool hurt? Dean asks.
Uh uh, Sam objects instantly. You’re off kitchen duty--we’re not doing that again.
Dean asks because it’s iron wool, in point of fact, because the Men of Letters are paranoid douchebags.
What? Sam asks, because Dean’s staring.
Okay, is all Dean says.
But what if--
Sam wakes him up. He’s in a chair, not his bed, and there’s a pen in his lap. It smarts where it bounced off his temple.
You were serious about this dragon thing? Sam says. The computer’s whirring in front of him.
There are probably all sorts of innocent reasons Sam would check their browser history; he’s been going hardcore librarian these last few weeks, after all, transcribing the kerosene books Cyrus Styne never set on fire.
The dragon scours Dean’s shoulder blades as it leaps into the seam of the chair, like it means to file them off. But Dean doesn’t even react anymore.
Nah, he says. Just bored.
They know only one cure for boredom. The sky is blue and beautiful again. Darkness schmarkness, really. Primordial evil probably just got intimidated when it saw all the slick new models running around.
Dean stands too close to the pyre, trying to catch his outlines in the smoke. It’s hissing and black, but there’s still no dragon.
Sam pulls him back, but says nothing.
Are you trying to catch yourself on fire?
Nah. Just bored.
Well, it’s a little predatory, Sam admits.
He’s not okay with Dean’s checking him for dragons; but maybe it’s all the near-fratricide that it turns out Sam’s actually not all that okay with, and that’s bleeding over. Not that Sam’s aware that dragons are still on the table.
He’s just annoyed by all Dean’s staring.
I’m sorry, man, Dean says. I just, I dunno. Maybe I need something to focus on.
Sam grips Dean’s shoulder when he goes to turn in for the night. Gives the shoulder a reassuring slap. These feel somewhere between hey man, I got your back, and hey man, please get your shit together.
Dean wonders if Sam locks his door.
Once inside, Dean turns the key in his own lock and lets it dangle.
They’ll leave in the morning. For the Rockies, maybe. Adirondacks, if Colorado feels too close. Sam didn’t say anything, but Dean just knows.
Sam probably thinks Dean’s going alone, because that’s what he won’t stop saying. But these are places Sam likes. They’ll have a good time, and it will be together.
He catches the glint of what might be that samurai sword under his bed. So that’s where he’d put that. In retrospect he’s not sure what he thought he’d be able to do with it. Slice the dragon’s barbed feet from his own skin? Cut its head off?
Cut its head off, Dean decides. Definitely cut its head off.
Dean takes one step forward.
Then there’s a twinge at his ankles and a rush of scales burning through his socks. His hands land on spine. Maybe “through” is more accurate. Dean’s hands feel like they pounced on a rip blade.
Reflexively, he curls his fingers into the pattern of teeth and gullets.
Then his back twists, and his legs throw out from under him. He’s pretty sure he screams, but maybe he doesn’t. Sam would hear. He curls what’s left of his hands into his chest and tries to scuttle backwards. The bed, the wall, he’s not sure. He just needs some cover. Not that it’s gonna do any good.
You know, we were doin’ okay, Dean says to his dragon. He has the unpleasant sense that even if the dragon’s never tried to crush his throat before, it’s about to. He feels large scales slash across his stomach. There’s math here, the size of the scale and the part of the dragon that might have been--the possibility of extrapolating, then, the size of the dragon itself. But that’s a lot of fucking math and Dean already knows it’s i for imaginary, and not just invisible. Ghosts occupy more space than this thing does.
Ghosts, at least, have atoms.
Dean feels something in his back pop, and a surge of force slams his head to the ground. He can’t move, but he smells a lot of blood. At least he wasn’t wrong about the arteries.
He wasn’t even wrong about the dragon, except for the part where it’s still not a dragon. He chokes on the blood slipping down his throat and what that is is proof. This is proof.
And he’d known this was coming.
Why else would he have locked the door?
We were doing okay, Dean repeats, weaker this time. He can feel the dragon’s belly padding along his own, like it’s trying to nestle comfortably against him. Fucker.
He’s pretty sure the sword’s still under the bed.
If Dean had hands, he’d see if the sword was still under the bed.
He just hopes all his blood minds the limits of the bedroom. Suddenly it’s all he can think about: He doesn’t want to seep out from under the door.
That’d be tacky.
Speaking of tacky: The next day, they stop in Eads for breakfast, under terminally blue sky. Sam orders a smoothie; Dean, coffee. There’d been a big wedding in town the day before, and truthfully Cinnamon Joe’s hadn’t been expecting guests today; they’re cleaned out--no fixings for nothing. And the rest of Eads is still sleeping it off.
That’s nice, Sam replies primly, which sends Joe (or does he go by Cinnamon?) off to the kitchen.
Why’re you so grumpy? Dean asks.
I’m not ‘grumpy,’ says Sam. I’m hungry.
Mostly, Dean’s surprised he still has a stomach.
That morning: Dean wakes up in bed, alive, with empty arms. The sword is under the bed, his hands are attached to his wrists, and the dust on the ground is undisturbed.
Sam is plodding down the hall, bringing with him the smell of grass and mud and fresh outside.
Howdy, Dean calls, hoarse but not unduly so. Sam’s sneakers squeak when he turns.
Hey, says Sam. Then his eyes refocus in the bunker’s dimness and for some reason, he lights up. It’s like whatever he sees, he thinks Dean just vanquished a dragon, which Dean is pretty sure definitely did not just happen.
What? Dean asks suspiciously.
Sam shrugs, but he doesn’t say that Cenex never closes. If “says” means the same thing as “noncommittally offers.” This time, he says, I dunno. You look good.
Dean rolls his eyes.
But Sam insists. I’m serious, dude--you just do. Something’s different.
He ducks briefly into his bedroom, then re-emerges. And he says, Hey, you wanna go for a drive?
Now Dean’s staring at the clouds in his coffee--cirrus stretch marks.
Just like that, the wait is over. He and Sam are moving on. All their elephants and ghosts are on the out. Their dragons, too.
What’s the weirdest room you’ve ever found in the bunker? Dean asks.
What, besides the dungeon? Sam replies.
I mean, it’s not exactly Bed, Bath & Beyond, Sam points out defensively.
Whatever, says Dean, and drinks the clouds out of his cup.
Fuck dungeons. Dragons. The whole mess. If there’s an ampersand in there, Sam’s been holding it out and waiting for Dean to grab tight, too. That’s all that matters.
Sam takes a slurp of smoothie, thick and red. Then he says, But other than that, the greenhouse, I guess.
Dean freezes. The what?
(He put the sword in the trunk.)
The greenhouse, Sam repeats. Or I guess it was more of a terrarium. Someone in the Men of Letters was really into bromeliads, I guess.
Dude, you’re doing it again, Sam says. Stop staring.
(The sword is in the trunk.)
Sssh, he says, and raises a quieting finger.
Dean’s watching the riffle of Sam’s hair against his neck. It just brushes his shoulders when he leans in for his straw. He’s watching for movement. For any depression of claws at Sam’s carotid, or the slip of his hair against a rip saw spine. He’s watching for a shape.
The first two times, it’s just the wind.