Title: Picture This
Rating: Maybe PG-13 for some swearing.
Disclaimer: The boys, their toys and all their joys belong to El Kripke and the folks at CW. I'm just playing with them for a while.
Spoilers: Set between Scarecrow and Faith in season 1.
Summary: Trying to track down some missing persons land Dean in rather an interesting situation. For shayrenoyld's spndailylife challenge.
Prompt: #23 – Portrait.
The minute Sam woke up, he knew something was wrong. It took quite a few minutes to place exactly what it was. Dean wasn't in his bed but that was nothing particularly unusual for seven in the morning. Dean usually insisted on getting the breakfast, complaining that Sam got too healthy crap. Dean was probably the only person alive who would consider bagels or croissants or muffins to be too healthy which wasn't to say he was the only person who had considered that, just that the rest of them were dead of heart attacks.
Sam headed into the bathroom for a leisurely shower, figuring that if Dean was already up and out then all the hot water left was all his. A thought tickled at the back of Sam's mind that maybe there shouldn't be that much hot water left but he soaped it away with minty shampoo. When he stepped out of the bathroom and there was still no sign of his brother, that strange tendril of thought gained strength, winding its way through Sam's mind.
It was when he saw the picture that he realised they were really in trouble.
They'd arrived in the town yesterday evening, looking to investigate a series of people who'd gone missing on cross-country trips. Dean had been muttering about hoping no 'Freaking apple-pie loving norse gods' were involved this time. Sam had mostly been looking forward to a rest and a hopefully easy job.
They'd stopped off in the first motel along the way, hoping to get a good night's sleep. The place was obviously trying to give off a homely feel with rich brown carpeting, wooden beds with real carved headboards and the wallpapered walls hung with pictures of kittens and Victorian couples and lovers running through orchards.
Sam was pretty sure the picture of a man fishing at a pond hadn't been there before. More to the point, Sam was pretty sure he recognised the legs sticking out of the rolled up trousers.
Most of the picture except for the pond and the edge were covered up by a lamp shade but Sam could see a white scar running the length of the left calf. Sam still remembered how much blood there'd been when Dean got that scar and the lecture he'd got from their Dad for panicking and leaving him to finish off the wyvern.
Sam lifted the lamp shade and saw his brother's distinct face depicted in oil paints staring back. "Oh shit." Sam said, taking in the full scene of the painting. His brother was reclined in a fishing chair in rolled up jeans and a flannel shirt. He looked like an extra out of Huck Finn. There was even a piece of straw stuck out of his mouth. If it hadn't been for the fact his brother was in a picture then Sam would have been rolling on the floor laughing. As it was, he just asked, "Dean, can you move?"
Sam took the lack of response as a no, either that or his brother wasn't able to see or hear anything outside of the painting. The expression on his brother's face at least managed to capture the kind of bored, irritation that Dean would probably have if ever forced to just sit there and fish. Unless of course it was for demon salmon. Even then, Dean would have had a six pack resting next to his seat.
"Okay, stay there." Sam said rather pointlessly, "I'll go…" Sam had his hand on the door handle where he realised he had no clue where the correct place to go for 'My brother has been turned into a painting.' He returned to the painting and frowned, he could've sworn the painting wasn't rolling its eyes earlier. "Dean, make another expression." Sam turned his back, thinking maybe Dean could only move when he wasn't looking before spinning back. Dean's expression was unchanged this time. At least Sam thought it was. Maybe the eye roll was a little further along.
Sam headed towards his duffel and pulled out a pair of callipers. He was about to place one of the pointy ends on Dean's face to see if the distance had changed when he realised that might be a bad idea. Sure, it would be tiny pinprick now but when Dean got back to full size, it would probably be a lot worse. Death by pinprick wasn't one of the authorised guts and glory Winchester ways to die. Instead Sam hovered the callipers as close to the painting as he could to get an accurate reading without actually letting them near the surface, trying to get as many distances as possible that could be significant. Sam smirked at the end, "Well, Dean. We have final proof. You really do have ten inches." A miniature scowl slowly manifested.
"Right," He concluded once he'd finished scribbling them all down, "Let's try raise your right eyebrow for yes, raise your left eyebrow for no." Sam turned away, still unsure if that was necessary and then took measurements cautiously, comparing the result. He frowned, "Dean! That's both eyebrows up." He took the measurements again, this time just the eyebrow on the left was up, "No?" Sam scratched his head and then comprehension dawned, "Oh, my left or your left. Better make it your left." Dean's right eyebrow went up.
"Okay, did you see what did this?" Left eyebrow for no. "Ever heard of anything like this?" Right eyebrow for yes. "What?" Both eyebrows for 'How the hell am I supposed to answer that, dumbass?' Sam was fairly sure Dean must be the only person who could convey that much with a millimetre movement of two eyebrows.
"Okay, fine. Is it larger than a breadbox?" Right eyebrow says yes. "Is it larger than two breadboxes?" Right eyebrow says yes, mouth twist down says we're gonna be here all night at this rate. "Three breadboxes?" Right eyebrow says yes, cheek twitch says 'if you ask about four breadboxes I'm leaping out of the painting and smacking you'.
Sam hit upon an idea, "Is it in Dad's journal?" Right eyebrow says yes, eye tilt up and pinch in bottom lip says 'I thought you'd never ask!' Sam left the painting reluctantly and reached out the worn journal, flicking through the pages, trying to spot anything that looked similar. Finally Sam found a page in his father's chicken scratch about certain warlocks who were able to seal people into objects, most of it spoke about vases or pottery but Sam figure it could apply to paintings easily enough. It brought a whole new interpretation to paintings with eyes that followed you around the room.
Sam returned to the painting, holding the page up for Dean though he didn't know how much his brother could see, "It's a warlock?" Right eyebrow for yes again. "All the disappearances have been linked to here so it's probably one of the staff. Who do you reckon it is?" Sam asked absently. Dean's lips pursed a tiny amount and his eyes tilted further up to the sunny sky above him. Sam took that to mean 'Isn't it obvious?' "The motel owner?" Right eyebrow for 'Of course, genius.'
"No need to be rude," Sam grouched, "Some of us read more books than just Dad's journal incessantly." Sam read the page again, "So it must have some sort of charmed object. Smash that and we set all the people free." Sam glanced around the room, picking out the pictures with people in. There were at least three that he could see at an easy glance.
"It's probably gonna get a bit crowded in here." Sam turned and headed towards the door and then hesitated once again with his hand of the door handle. He glanced back to where Dean's painting hung forlornly on the wall. It turned out Dean could pull a puppy-dog look, he just needs to be turned into wood, canvas and some oil paint to manage it. Thoughts ran rampant through Sam's mind, churning the idea that just about anyone could sneak into the room and steal his brother or scratch his brother or anything while he was gone.
Sam returned to the painting and angled it upwards so he could have a look at how it was fastened to the wall. Fortunately it was a simple hook. When Sam laid the painting back flat against the wall, his brother's smirk had noticeably grown.
"Dean!" Sam whined, "If you are trying to make a joke about me staring at your ass, just don't." The smirk increased by a millimetre.
Sam lifted the painting carefully off the wall and then curiously tilted it from side to side. The water in the pond stayed level but Sam thought Dean's face turned a little queasy, "Sorry," He apologised before tucking the painting under his arm, making sure the canvas was facing outwards to avoid any inadvertent scratches against his jeans.
Halfway to the office, Sam lifted up the painting to check on his brother. Dean had managed to get his tongue protruding out of his mouth in a moue of distaste. Sam scowled, "I don't need a backseat walker, thanks. Maybe I should just take you to a jumble sale, I could probably get quite a bit." Sam paused a moment, "For the frame at least."
Sam saw the scowl this time. It seemed Dean was mastering changing his facial expression a bit quicker. Sam was briefly tempted not to break whatever the warlock had done, a painting of Dean would be far less likely to charge into danger all the time and get himself killed, not to mention Sam could do all the driving instead. It was almost like Dean could tell what he was thinking as the painted eyes seemed to narrow.
Sam didn't bother knocking before he went into the motel office, figuring that giving the warlock warning probably wasn't the best idea. The manager was standing over his fish tank sprinkling food in but he spun around as soon as he heard Sam's footsteps and then gaped, "What are you doing out?"
"I guess that saves me asking if you have anything to do with this." Sam gestured to his brother's painting, being careful to keep it out of reach of the motel manager.
The man rang a hand back through his long, dark hair and scowled at Sam, "I should've known you two would be trouble. I guess I'll have to make alternative arrangements." He smiled leisurely, a cat playing with a mouse that doesn't even realise it's cornered yet.
"I don't think so," Sam said, shifting a little nervously as he tried to scan the immediate vicinity for anything that resembled the charm that their Dad's journal has mentioned. So far, he was coming up blank. Dean appeared to be trying to do his best 'Don't mess with my little brother' expression which was usually fairly effective, unfortunately less so when Dean was currently ten inches tall and, well, a painting.
The motel owner fished a cigarette out of his pocket and stuck it into his mouth, keeping an eye on Sam as he flicked a match along the rough side, sparking it to life and lighting the end of his cigarette, "I should applaud you for working out the pattern but I'm just not that generous a man." He flicked his hand out so fast than Sam could do little more than an attempt too little, too late to block the path of the match as it arced towards the painting. Sam's relief when the painting didn't immediate scorch to life was doused when he noticed the match had fallen through the painting's surface and landed in the dry grass not far from Dean.
Unlike Dean, the fire seemed perfectly capable of swift movement and soon swift strokes of cadmium yellow and vermillion overlaid the scratches of raw sienna of the dry grass. Scarlet added a high flush of panic dusting along Dean's cheekbones before Dean disappeared from view in swirls of charcoal and burnt sienna.
Sam held himself back from punching the man and desperately searched for the charm. A glitter of gold drew his attention at the bottom of the fish tank and Sam surged forward, elbowing and punching the man out of the way with barely a thought. He seized the gold object from the bottom of the tank and tossed it as hard as he could to the ground, crunching it beneath his feet.
An incandescent blue light filled the room, brighter than anything Sam had ever seen before yet oddly not painful to his eyes. When it faded away, Sam turned to the motel owner, ready for an attack. It turned out to be unnecessary as the man seemed to wither in front of Sam's eyes, fleshy cheeks hollowing to sunken pools, wrinkles spreading around his paling skin like cracks on thin eyes. His sharp grey eyes turned unseeing cloudy from cataracts while the colour bled away from his dark hair leaving it just a gritty grey. The man sank down to the floor, wheezing hoarsely.
It was then that Sam noticed another noise in the air, a stifled pained coughing and Sam turned to where painted fire now consumed the picture and dropped his eyes to see Dean sprawled out on the ground in front, back to normal apart from wearing the same outfit as he had in the painting. Sam noticed with horror that fire still flickered on the sleeve of Dean's shirt and he hastily stripped off his t-shirt and smothered the flames. "Dean?" He gently turned his brother's head to face him.
Dean's eyes still streamed from the astringent smoke and soot covered most of his visible skin. Dean gave Sam a half-smile which gave way in its turn to another coughing fit that wracked through his brother's body. Sam crouched down by his brother and pulled Dean onto his side, feeling helpless in the face of his continued coughing, "Stay here, I'm going to call an ambulance."
"No," Dean spoke, his voice a little rough and forced out between coughs, "I'm okay. I didn't breathe that much in, I'll be fine."
"I don't trust your definition of fine, not when it comes to yourself." Sam replied, "Just get checked out, okay?"
"We can drive there," Dean conceded, "Else how the hell are you going to explain me managing to get smoke inhalation nowhere near any fire."
Sam hated it when Dean decided to be practical, especially when he was right. "Fine. Stay here, I'll pack up our stuff and bring the car around." Sam glanced towards where the motel owner seemed to be pulling in his last breaths, making sure he wouldn't be any danger to his brother again and then headed outside.
The scene that greeted Sam was almost comical. From various rooms in the motel, oddly dressed people were emerged. Some in Victoria era dress, some in Dixie farm outfits, there was even one in a leather corset and fishnets though Sam had a suspicion he'd just been caught up getting up to mischief and was playing along. Sam fought the way through the crowds back to his and Dean's motel room and rapidly packed up the few of their belongings which had actually been unpacked and carried them out of the Impala, pulling the car around to outside the office.
When he returned inside, Dean quite clearly hadn't obeyed his instructions as he was now sitting up, leant against the wall. His coughing had calmed somewhat but his chest still hitched. Sam scowled and then offered a hand to pull his errant brother up. "I can walk, Sammy." Dean protested, even as he wavered on unsteady legs.
"Fine," Sam said and moved away his support, moving just far enough to catch his brother when the inevitable topple began. When it did, Sam just stepped back into his brother's personal space and grabbed onto him, "Come on. Sooner we get to the car, sooner we can get you treated."
Amongst the rest of the oddities cluttering the forecourt, Sam and Dean drew very little interest. Sam couldn't suppress a chuckle when he glanced at his brother, check shirt now a little scorched.
"What?" Dean asked, peering around through still bleary eyes.
"Nothing, it's just…" Sam motioned down his brother's body, watching as Dean's eyes followed and then the utterly horrified expression that appeared. Sam couldn't resist and swiftly tugged his camera phone from his pocket and took a snapshot. "Dad always warned you about hanging around with painted ladies."
"Oh hell no," Dean protested, the hint of a wheeze in his voice already worrying Sam, "Give me that." He tried to reach across his brother's body.
"Nope." Sam used his superior reach against his brother for once, "Guess your stubby little arms can't reach." Sam couldn't resist teasing, anything to keep his brother off the fact he was practically being carried to the car, "Hey, Dean. Is it just me or do you seem a little shorter than you were? Maybe it's just the rolled up trousers."
Dean's look of horror increased tenfold as he glanced down at himself and he picked up the pace, "We're getting to the fucking hospital now!" He said, barely waiting for Sam to open the passenger side door before he slung himself in.
Sam hastily stepped around to the driver's side, plugging the key into the ignition and turning. He glanced quickly to make sure none of the confused people were milling into the road and then peeled out of the car park and towards where he'd seen the local hospital. He'd make an anonymous call to the police later and let them sort it out.
Fortunately the hospital assured Sam that nothing was wrong after setting Dean up on an oxygen mask to help with the breathing. They'd also cleaned and bandaged the burns on his arm which was a relief for Sam not to need to do. An hour later, they were back on the road though Sam couldn't resist one last trick.
"Dude, did you move the seat back?" Dean asked when his legs seemed further away from the dashboard than they were. Sam just smirked in response. "Seriously not cool." Dean fumed.
"So, where's the next job?" Sam asked, trying to distract his brother from the foul mood that he was working on. He was hoping for a nice easy job after this.
Dean looked up from his sulk, twisted oddly in his seat to keep his burnt away from anything that might rub, "Heard about a rawhead not too far from here. I want that sucker deep-fried."
Sam nodded and pressed his foot down on the accelerator, relief flooding through him. A nice easy hunt for Dean to work out his frustration on. Things were looking up.