The last time Dean had woken up without his brother pressed tightly to his chest and snug in his arms, Dean had panicked. He couldn’t remember the last time he had woke without that warm and comforting (and sometimes very welcoming) embrace. His eyes had snapped open and the covers thrown off as his simultaneously bolted upright. When he’d called out ‘Sammy!’ it had been filled with dread, worry and fear.
The last time he’d been mocked was that time he had bolted up in panic, and Sam had a breakfast feast laid out on the unused bed. This feast consisted of the few donuts and coffee found in the motel’s sorry continental breakfast. Sam had been lounging there in his boxers taking a bite out of a very appetizing looking donut when Dean’s eyes rested on the bed. He’d watched as Dean’s eyes went from wide in fear, to relaxed relief, to eyeing the food, to eyeing Sam in the flash of a second.
The last time Dean had eyed Sam shortly after having panicked, Sam had all but dropped the donut as he unfolded himself free of the bed, careful to avoid spilling any plates of food. He had stepped over to the other bed and shoved his knee between Dean’s thighs so he could kneel on the bed. Dean had been shoved backwards onto the bed and his lips bruised with the intensity of the following kiss. It hadn’t been long before the heat took over and had them sweating together, gasping for air despite the frigid January air outside.
That’s why this time, when he woke without Sam tucked snugly against his chest, Dean didn’t bolt up. He didn’t panic, he didn’t worry. He scratched his stomach lazily with one hand and reached the other high above him as he arched his back in a stretch. An expectant smile played upon his lips as he raised his other hand to join the one above his head and laid himself out for Sam’s view. “Wanna eat before breakfast, Sammy?” Dean smirked.
Dean laid, nonchalant, as he waited for the typical answer, a pillow whapped in his face, or more commonly, a body slowly pressed down on top of his, pinning him down before they wasted another couple of hours in bed. When he didn’t receive a response, Dean’s green eyes blinked open as he rolled his head to the side. The second bed was undisturbed, which wasn’t a surprise but Dean was still relieved because the last time both beds had been disturbed had been when Sam didn’t talk to him for a week. It hadn’t been Dean’s fault, of course, if Sam couldn’t take a little prank. It had served his point though. Dean didn’t mess with Sam’s laptop again.
The last time Dean had woken to an empty, undisturbed second bed and with no Sam in the room, Dean had sleepily sulked into the bathroom only to discover the shower running and a very familiar form outlined through the curtain. Dean had perked right up—in a number of ways—stripped down, and slid in front of Sam. He needed to make sure that Sam indeed was sweaty and messy enough to warrant a shower, not to mention inspect to ensure no deadly bubbles hid from being rinsed away. It had been for Sam’s benefit, obviously (guy’s skin is just too sensitive!), and it was only a bonus that Dean had also gotten an extra hand in making sure all his own hard to reach places were taken care of.
So this time--with nothing in recent memory that he did to piss his brother off, and an undisturbed bed-- Dean rolled out of bed. Yawning loudly as he glanced at the clock, he noted that it was just before eight, and then he shuffled for the bathroom. Pushing open the unlatched door, he smiled at the sound of water running. When he stepped into the bathroom and his footfall made a splash, his lazy and sleepy attitude disappeared and he snapped to attention. “Sammy?!”
Two long steps had him at the shower and yanking the curtain back with the urgency of his heart hammering. The cold water misted his face as the plastic containing the spray to the tub was moved. Dean’s eyes widened as they laid on the edge of the tub that was glistening with the slow flow of water over the edge like an elegant waterfall. In a second’s time from discovering the empty shower, Dean switched from worry, to confusion, to panic. “Sammy!” he called out again, desperation making his voice rough as he dropped instantly to his knees and his arms plunged into the tub up to their elbows. The water wasn’t clear. It was a murky black. Eyes wide, Dean’s hands frantically searched the tub, looking for something to grab onto—anything. Demon, the tub’s plug or his brother; it didn’t matter what, but he needed answers.
When his hands glided along the bottom of the tub end to end, and he hadn’t been grabbed by anything in hiding, the tub began to drain when he popped the plug. Slouched back on his haunches and staring at the tub again, he sighed before he stood. He made a full turn inside the room, eyes darting over every feature and every dirt mark in the tiny motel bathroom. Nothing stopped his attention long enough to be of concern. Towels were still maid-folded, their toothbrushes were still in the same haphazardly tossed location they had been when they had gone to bed and the pile of clothes Sam usually left stacked neatly on the toilet cover while he showered was still there.
Dean turned quickly, something grabbing his attention as he looked straight at the window. It was open. Two paces got him to the frame and his hand lifted quickly to run his fingers along the edge of the sill. The line of salt Dean had ritually triple checked last night was barely even noticeable. As the green of Dean’s eyes darkened and his brows furrowed, Dean gripped onto the window frame and leaned hastily out the window. The grass around the window was flattened and the salt from the frame was scattered beow. ”Sonovabitch...”
Dean practically ran out of the bathroom to toss his clothes on and grab his weapon bag from under the bed before sloshing back through the water and hoisting himself out the window to follow the trail.
With a groan, Sam stumbled against a conveniently nearby tree, his arms wrapped around his stomach attempting to curb the pain pushing at his stomach, his knees sinking to the ground with the burn that tore through his muscles as he dipped his chin to his chest. His eyes squeezed shut and his nose and mouth twitched in pain as he unwrapped an arm from his body and pressed his palm to his forehead. The world tilted and tossed him around, images blurring, duplicating and spinning anytime he opened his eyes in attempts to get a bearing as to where he was going. He had lost count how many times he had fallen, and he seemed to be losing control of the ability to tell whether he was standing, let alone moving.
He knew where he wanted to go; knew that he needed to get back to Dean. He knew that he’d been in the motel shower when the pain in his neck forced him out and to grab his robe. Sam knew that he’d left the water running because before he could turn it off, his chest exploded in pain and he stumbled from the bathroom with the intent to rouse Dean for help. Before he could call to Dean he staggered backwards back to the bathroom and against the sink, clutching the edges with a white knuckled grasp. When he tried looking in the mirror, he knew he wasn’t seeing properly when he saw swirls along the walls and four Sams looking back at him. He knew that the water pouring from the showerhead shouldn’t be black or smell like dirt and he definitely knew that his neck should not look spotted or like it had grown three inches.
Dean’s voice had echoed in his head, disjointed but firm. Sammy, outside, through the window, now! Sam was sure it wasn’t actually in his head; was sure that he could hear a fight breaking out in the other room. He had staggered to the window, knowing that he was in no condition to back Dean up—and would likely get them both killed if he tried. So Sam had pulled himself away from trying to mentally press the four swimming Sams in his reflection back together, and towards the open window. Dizzy, he’d managed to lift one leg up to fit through the window. But just as he tried ducking his head through, a burning spasm tore through his chest and through his arms and legs that made him try to double over. In result, he’d gracelessly fallen out the window onto the uncut grass that laid below.
He’d meant to just move to a tree to sit beside it, to scoot along the ground to a stable spot, but somehow he’d lost his way and now had no idea whether the motel was even in sight. He had found a tree, but even as he leaned against it now, it was all he could do to keep from yelling at the world for the agony that vibrated in his nerves, pulling at his muscles. His head felt off balance and his arms and legs felt weird and wobbly, but he was sure it had to be a hallucination. There was no way that his arms now seemed to reach the next tree without effort—a tree that had to be at least five feet away.
Sam startled and fell backwards onto his ass when his head suddenly hit a tree branch without him standing or moving. Licking his lips, Sam blinked and was surprised to find that the world seemed to be in better focus, though he was thirsty as hell. Giving his head a tiny shake, he went to push himself to his feet, and that’s when he realized that he was looking at the leaves of the trees. “What...?” Given that he still felt disoriented and his limbs still throbbed with the agony pulsing through him, Sam was willing to over look the fact that his single word seemed to have come out a warbled grunt of sorts.
What he couldn’t overlook, was the fact that when he tried to move his arms and legs, they felt like they were bending the completely wrong directions. In fact, he couldn’t seem to stand at all. Twisting his head around to look behind him seemed to take longer than usual too, and the same warbled grunt as before came out of his mouth when what he’d meant to say was something far more colourful.
Behind him was a large, brown spotted lump and what seemed to be legs attached to it. When Sam tried to move again to turn and look at this mound, it snapped together in his brain that when he moved his legs, this thing did too. The pain had subsided, leaving only a sense of being far taller than he usually felt. When he took a minute to look down at his chest, it only confirmed his horrible (and totally outrageous) feeling of what had somehow happened. The ground seemed miles away from him and tucked under him were similarly spotted legs.
Somehow, Sam had turned into a giraffe.
Dean anxiously fiddled with a pencil as he flipped through one of the many books lying beside the computer he’d claimed at the local library. His eyes were focused on the text whenever they weren’t scanning the computer screen frantically, and the small notebook he carried everywhere with him contained mostly scribbles and doodles. He hadn’t worked on a hunt by himself in a long time, and if that wasn’t bad enough, this time it was his brother’s life on the line. Having to save him was totally different than backing each other up. His survey of the area around the motel had turned up nothing but a small piece of ripped cloth. It may be nothing, but since the khaki coloured fabric with a blue emblem and a familiar black ‘OO’ embroidered on it was all Dean had, it was his strongest lead, and it took him back to their last hunt at the zoo.
It took a frustrating six hours to go over everything from the hunt they’d just finished, to make sure that they hadn’t missed anything. It had been a strange case, a demon had been host-hopping, changing its meat-suit every few hours. And because that had been, of course, terribly easy to begin with, she had been using animals as her host. Trying to convince the zoo manager to let them anywhere near the lions had needed a quick flick of a generic badge (used for obscure cases where they never knew who they might need to be) and some intense flirting with the zookeeper. Sam took point and had gone in because getting close to a lion possessed by a demon and long exorcism rituals didn’t mix well and Sam didn’t need the journal to rattle off a perfect incantation. He’d done it in record time, and they had split from the zoo to head back to the motel for one night’s rest before moving on.
That one night’s rest now seemed seemed to have extended into at least another day with a side of another hunt. Now the hours of research had led Dean full circle and back to Andreya Barston (the regular at the zoo with the fixation on possessing animals) and to her sister, Naella. Andreya had been their focus and the final exorcism, but somehow both Sam and Dean had missed the fact that the sisters were very close. So close that perhaps both of them had been in together on whatever plan they’d had. Naella had been spotted at Andreya’s usual feeding spots, taking over the position that had recently become available thanks to Sam and Dean.
Dean was the last person to stroll through the zoo gates before they closed by the time he made his way back to the zoo but making a bee-line for the lion habitat. It didn’t take long to spot the short, plump frame of the red haired woman clasping to the railing tightly. He kept a distance, casually looking at the nearby map of the park with one hand shoved in his pocket while keeping Naella in sight. Dean wasn’t sure whether she was showing her true self for a moment, or whether the shadows were playing with the color of her eyes; either way, the black beads of eyes flipped to blue with a blink, and she was straightening up and striding away.
Staying behind her, Dean watched as she crossed the path to the giraffe exhibit, staring at the six animals with intensity that had them promptly choosing to move to another area to graze. They then either stood around, or some knocked their heads against another’s hind legs. Raising an eyebrow and lazily licking at his lips, he noted that the tallest giraffe seemed bored by the way it was shaking its head frequently while shuffling around in the sand, almost in a circle it seemed.
Fingers thrumming against his side from inside his pocket, Dean followed Naella as she strolled away from the giraffes. Following her for a half hour until being shoo’d out, he watched her stare with the same intensity at the monkey’s, the snakes and the parrots before she left the park.
The last twenty four hours had been hell. Sam had become a clumsy teen all over again, readjusting to his new body and extended limbs. It had taken him about ten minutes to figure out how to stand up, and another ten to realize that being a giraffe on the outskirts of a small city wasn’t very easy to disguise. Whether he stood behind a tree or a building, somewhere, a giraffe part stuck out. He’d discovered that despite becoming an animal, it didn’t mean that everything came naturally. In fact, only three things did. First, his tail had a mind if its own. He’d discovered this when he had thought it felt like a bug was biting his back, and he suddenly felt something tugging at his tailbone and then a swat of coarse fur hitting his back (much to his surprise). Secondly, his neck didn’t have the versatility or stealth he was used to. ‘Glancing’ behind him took almost half a minute by the time his long neck twisted and arched to practically rest on his shoulder to look behind him. Thirdly, nothing around him seemed to make sense until he let his tongue slide out and taste it. Once he had that taste, clarity simply seemed to settle in. So Sam found himself licking almost everything in a way to map out the environment in his mind’s eye.
Figuring out how to move had taken up a good portion of the first half hour of his staggering around attempting to stay hidden (and attempting to find the motel and Dean). Despite his extreme giantness, Sam thought he did a fairly decent job at it. With all the hunting he and Dean had done, they’d learned to assess the situation—to determine whether they were safe to fight where they were or if they had to take the fight elsewhere with more cover. Therefore, Sam had been fairly confident that he’d remained pretty well hidden, aside from the occasional flick of his tail. When a large truck rumbled nearby, and stopped just around the gas station from where Sam had been attempting to find some water to drink, Sam tucked his head quickly down against his body and wished his tail to remain still; confident the truck would move on in a few minutes.
Jumbled voices rang out, and even though Sam had trouble deciphering what they were yelling, he had no problem determining that it was official. The voices were quick, demanding and in charge. When one lady had turned the corner and laid eyes on Sam, she’d let out a whistle. Before Sam could really figure out what was going on through the blurred movements (he’d learned his eyes couldn’t track quick movements clearly—just that they were there and the direction they moved), he found himself ushered onto a truck, and forced to lay down on the floor with his head sticking out the top. Somewhere in the jumble he’d been able to bite at someone’s arm and rip the logo off and toss it to the ground before the truck pulled away. Maybe, just maybe Dean would see it.
Now, Sam stood at the edge of an enclosure after an hour of very uncomfortable poking and prodding by people in masks, gloves and hats. Part of him recognized that it was a medical check since he was out ‘in the wild’, but the larger, more curious part of him won over and his gigantic giraffe tongue slipped out and pulled one man’s paper thin fabric hat off and pulled it back to his mouth. He wasn’t sure why, but it felt fully satisfying to chew on the item, and no one seemed to care because they had all just laughed and the man had gotten a new hat. Chewing it had made the prodding more bearable, but Sam was fully thankful to be outside now with three other giraffes casually wandering around the area, even if they were tossing him curious looks.
The zoo. He was still getting used to the idea of such simplicity. It had thrown Sam for a loop. He’d assumed that it was demons, or something evil getting their jolly on. Either way, it still had frustrated him that he’d been unable to fight other than uselessly tossing his head side to side. Was that the only defence that giraffes had? Because it sucked ass for survival skills.
Racing to think of a way to get out, to get free, to alert Dean, he began to pace the corner that he’d claimed. Shaking his neck and head to rid himself of the bugs he could feel settling along his hair (or, his mane Sam supposed it should be) he caught a look at the ground that made him pause. He was standing on sand. Most of the enclosure was grass, but he was by the water hole and it had an expanse of sand around it. Working to twist his head in a way to be able to look at his feet for more than a second, he scuffed his front feet forward by trying to move his hands. Two distinct lines trailed behind his shuffles, and Sam cried out with happiness. When the giraffe vocal box translated it, it came out louder than anticipated, and also like a cry of pain from a dying moose. The other giraffes stopped simultaneously to stare at Sam, along with every small form of a person wandering around the fence and trees. Glancing back and forth, Sam casually walked toward the tree that suddenly looked really inviting, hoping to lose the attention.
Before he realized what he was doing, Sam’s tongue lapped out at the twigs and wrapped around the closest twig with leaves and Sam mentally winced as it pulled back into his mouth, stripping the leaves. He’d anticipated having a mouthful of slivers, but then it dawned on him that of course he wouldn’t. He wasn’t Sam, he was a giraffe. Humans weren’t made to lick twigs, but giraffes were. Once he realized that, he realized that the leaves tasted rather delicious and almost silky on his tongue, and he couldn’t help but spend the next hour, at least, lapping at the tree, losing himself in pleasure as he reached out with his tongue to strip the branches of their delicious gourmet leaves. He hadn’t realized he was so hungry.
Once the growling in his stomach (that was really just a mental knowledge that he needed to eat as opposed to feeling hungry) subsided, movement caught Sam’s eye and he twisted his head lower to look at the spot where he saw it. Something was waving at him. A hand? Shifting a few steps over, Sam lowered his head a bit more and noticed that it was a man’s hand pressed through the fence. Hope pounded at his chest that the face attached would be Dean’s, but the face he found was wrinkled with a near white, full beard and an old golfer’s hat perched on the top of his head. The man seemed to be around sixty, at least, and he seemed very much in awe that Sam was looking at him. Sam didn’t have time to think about this, and he suddenly focused on the hand again. The man’s fingers had uncurled to reveal some pellets; disgusting, yellow pellets that Sam found his tongue reaching out and swiping up quickly much to his disturbance. He was pretty sure that man said something that would explain why the hand suddenly disappeared, but Sam was stretched back to full height and chewing on the food messily.
With a deep breath, Sam cleared his head and turned away from the trees and the new line of waving hands peeking through the fence and strolled back to the sand, staring at the two parallel lines he’d made before. Focus...
An hour later, Sam let out a groan that sounded nothing like a groan, and focused on bending his arms and legs in the direction he needed to get his stomach to rest on the ground. His eyes felt heavy, and he was tired. He settled carefully in the middle of his artwork, and waited.