This story is for Clif Kosterman, who tickled the fancy of the Supernatural fans when he playfully requested ducks for Jensen and Jared's Duck Pond. He made us smile in the face of the long summer Hellatus, so in turn, those ducks kept popping into my consciousness and this story was eventually born. It was a difficult birth, multiple eggs with more than a few cracked shells, so I suppose you could call this Quack!fiction.
In any event, I hope it brings a smile. Thanks to everyone at Supernatural who makes the Winchesters' stories so inspiring and so much fun to respectfully play with. I love our show and everyone who brings Supernatural to life. Thanks for stopping by, B.J.
"With a rubber duck, one's never alone." - Unknown
A well-documented, commonly known fear is Ornithophobia – fear of birds or feathered animals (i.e. ducks).
Dean Winchester is hardly common, not by any stretch of the imagination, so a simple case of Ornithophobia just wouldn't do, not for our bold hunter.
A far more serious and potentially deadly fear is Antidaeophobia - fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you. The commonly held belief (misperception) holds that this is a fictional fear, totally made up and spoofed in the Gary Larson cartoon, but anyone versed in "The Truth is Out There" knows that nothing is as it seems, that "made-up" is more often code for secret.
There are reasons why the CDC can't produce any documented cases. Reasons why the victims have all disappeared or appear to have never even existed. Reasons why every top government agency denies the existence and refutes any knowledge thereof.
The Winchesters are not so easily deterred or led astray. Over the course of their fractured lives they've seen more than most and they trust what they know. They believe what they see with their own two eyes and once they are on a case they are not so easily dissuaded. They know evil. They know the unknown is lurking in the shadows awaiting the chance to pounce on the unaware.
Dean was aware. He was acutely aware…and he was ready.
He was locked and loaded and itching for a duck hunt.
This is the story of an unbelievable incident that actually happened, File WB200522JBC1102KAZ83SD792Y5. Go ahead and scour the internet, you won't find any proof to substantiate that claim. The file is buried along with all the evidence, warehoused with every other strange and impossible artifact that Uncle Sam doesn't want John Q. Public to know about.
Even the tabloids never printed a word of it. Their sources mysteriously dried up and silent. In fact, this was the case that closed down the Weekly World News after years of sensational true tales masked by the fantastical excess of their yellow journalism. Yes, this story was simply too much. This tale finally shuttered their doors in dark frustration. It would have made a tremendous headline, sold a gazillion papers and kept the rag in the black, forestalling its demise, but greater powers deemed not.
This is the incredible case of the stalking, talking and unusual duck or as those clandestine operatives in the most secret government agency never known to man coined it: STUD.
This was Man against Duck.
This is the stuff of legend.
How it began -
"Hey, you see that?" Dean quirked his head towards the side window of the Impala, a comical expression twisting the corners of his mouth as he motioned towards the road sign, another reminder they were in farm country. The bright orange diamond-shaped sign showed a large duck with a brood of smaller ducks waddling behind it. Above and below in black were the letters of the cautionary tale, Duck Crossing.
With lazy annoyance Sam made note, a slightly exasperated sigh escaping as he sloughed off the comment. They hadn't seen any ducks today, so while the sign was mildly amusing, it was hardly a sign…not in the foreboding or shadowy ominous Hitchcockian sense. The facts were ducks were ducks, nothing more and nothing less. Certainly no cause for concern, today or any other day for that matter. A duck is a duck is a duck…even if Dean seemed to think he was being haunted by Donald and his Disney nephews.
It had all started with a dream, and that is totally Dean's terminology. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Dean adamantly maintained it wasn't a nightmare. With an expansive puff of his chiseled chest, the firm set of his squared jaw, and the steely glare of his liquid eyes, he'd proudly proclaimed he didn't have nightmares. He'd survived Hell, goddammit! One or two or truth-be-told a hundred ducks invading his dreams wasn't cause for mobilization, not for a man such as he. In fact, it took three nights of the recurrent dream before Sam managed to wrangle any specifics out of his obstinate brother. This was one tightly held duck tale.
Being the intuitive sort, Sam knew something was going on, the signs pretty freakin' clear: the restless shifts throughout the night resulting in the twisted sheets come morning, and then the sweat-slicked skin and the rasping breaths as Dean struggled to pull himself together and present his bold façade as each day started anew.
Initially Sam was certain the only explanation was a return of his brother's PTSD, the liquor and denial finally worn down and soundly defeated. That wouldn't have surprised him or sent him scrambling for answers. That he would have expected. What he didn't expect was what was eventually revealed.
It was only after much insistence and patience on Sam's part that the truth finally slipped free. In a rare moment of weakness or need (depending on your point of view), Dean confessed the true nature of his torment.
Sam had to admit, it was a doozy.
Yes, you heard right…Ducks!
Sam later regretted that his first reaction was to laugh.
Naturally, Dean didn't react well to laughter…his feathers ruffled by the implication. His pride not buying into his brother's hurried and quite earnest explanation that he was being laughed with, not laughed at.
It wasn't Sam's fault he couldn't contain that high-pitched girly laugh, the full-on, belly-busting shrill expulsion of air and concern as he let the lightness of the moment carry him back to the good old days when fun and laughter brought a much needed distraction from their jobs. In the old days it was a means to draw them closer as brothers, not drive a wedge between them.
It just sounded funny…like a joke, an elaborate hoax perpetrated by big brother in their on-going prank war. One-upmanship of the highest order. A return to their youth and the endless antics that buffered them from the turmoil of their twisted lives.
You can't get any more twisted than ducks stalking you. This was good…one of Dean's best, if not a rather perverted flight of fancy and fabrication. But then, that's Dean, outrageous and inventive and absurd. Dean was always big on absurd. His dimples and smirk rather enjoying the resultant action and reaction…normally.
Unfortunately, they'd left normal far behind in their rearview and sped off toward some bizarro version of the Twilight Zone, complete with Duck narrator. And the little guy turned out to be the pesky sort, quite the vociferous talker.
It didn't take long for Sam's initial theory to crash and burn, the wounded look on Dean's face deep-sixing the notion that this was a joke. Sam truly felt bad about that, but come on…it was the logical first call.
Being ever ready and prepared as any good hunter should be, Sam soon came up with his next hypothesis. Sam was always good about theories, proving even more adept at digging into the research and coming up with a plan of action. He was in his element. He was like a duck to water. And no, he didn't find that thought amusing.
Striking out the first time up was never out of the realm of possibilities considering their line of work, so he moved on to his next best guess: gastrointestinal revenge. Prior to the first incident, Sam had insisted on a sit-down restaurant and Dean had picked Thai. One of the prominent meats in Thai cooking just happens to be duck and Dean indulged in a wide assortment: roasted duck curry, duck egg rolls, duck pot-stickers, duck this and duck that. Dean ate his fill and more and pushed back from the table with a contented grin on his lips, a silent burp heading for release, and his belt loosened ever so subtly so he could breathe through the fullness. Dean was satisfied and happy, as a full stomach and the residual aftertaste in his mouth often left him. Face it, the boy doesn't have a lot to be happy about, so allow him his passion for food.
So, as I mentioned, when Sam finally yanked the specifics of his dream out, he naturally assumed it was a joke, just another in a long line…but then the look in Dean's eyes shifted and the expected joy was obviously lacking. The old Dean would have basked in the glory of the prank, delighted in the tease…there was none of that, only anguish and turmoil lingering within silent eyes begging for salvation. Those sensitive, vulnerable eyes revealing the true agony of his dreams, the bitter pill the brave hunter refused to swallow. Hence the food connection…which worked for a few hours before being shelved along with the joke theory.
Which left them back at square one.
Getting Dean to communicate fully was difficult, but not impossible, not for Sam. After all, Dean trusted his brother, and together they needed all the facts if they were going to solve this case. As disturbing as it was, this was just another job and they were professionals. Going back to their roots, they concentrated on doing the job. They asked themselves, what would Dad do? What would they have done in the past if this was just another job with Joe Schmoe suffering the effects?
The answer was clear: start at the beginning, analyze the facts, determine the cause and smite the sucker, that's what!
The facts seemed pretty damn simple, Dean was dreaming every night of ducks. Big ducks, little ducks, ducks that quacked and ducks that trash-talked, ducks that strutted and crowed and even jive-talked and boogied. Ducks that stalked his every move, shadowing him in his sleep and continuing to haunt his consciousness as night turned to day and ducks appeared everywhere.
Huh…alrighty then. This was certainly different, but then, different is what they do best.
Sam set about figuring this bitch out, because that's what brothers do. He still had sources, angles, and options. They had yet to find a hunt or be faced with a quandary they couldn't conquer. This would be no exception. Problem being he was slowly losing Dean. Despite his objections and insistence that he was fine, the wear and tear were beginning to show around the edges. Dean was skittish…and that is so not Dean. Which in turn made Sam nervous and anxious, which was kind of like Sam, particularly when the issue concerned his brother and his tenuous grip on reality. Unfortunately, this was an unwelcome glimpse back to Dean's ghost sickness, not a particularly good place to stroll down memory lane, not for either brother.
"C'mon, Dean, work with me." Sam was rifling through Dad's journal, more to appear busy since he was pretty sure any duck references would have stood out like a duck on a busy intersection in downtown Manhattan. And yes, that was one of Dean's dreams, a duck and David Letterman engaging in a shouting match over rental cars and insurance. It quickly escalated into a shoving match and that duck was a monster…Dave did not fare well.
Dean was noticeably twitchy, his voice breaking, his irritation and alarm obvious. "Sam, there ain't nothin' there. I've read Dad's journal a thousand times, you don't think I'd remember a reference to a Quacker?" Dean's voice was low, guttural and rasping out the words, just rough enough to come out garbled…or duck-like. Another symptom or clue (Man, but didn't big brother still hate that!) was Dean was clearing his throat a lot and every time he coughed it sounded more and more like a quack…but that's just silly, suggestive thinking or something equally reasonable and explainable. Dean certainly wasn't turning into a duck. And yep, you guessed it, that was another one of his nightmares, his full duck lips extending even further, morphing into a duck bill and then the most humiliating thing Dean Winchester could ever face…he started to waddle, his slightly bowed legs taking on a distinctly side to side swaying motion, while his neck kept extending up and then down, exhibiting more and more duck-like mannerisms. To add to that nonsense, there was his growing fascination with aqua and his inexplicable draw to water. That's when Dean most often awoke in a cold sweat, his arms flapping about like a bird unable to take flight. One more reminder that ducks were everywhere and there was no escape.
With a heavy sigh, Sam closed the journal and balanced it on his knee. It gently bounced as his pent-up energy displayed itself through the nervous jostling of his leg. "I just thought…" he stuttered, pausing and drawing out the comment as if his mind was trying to come up with something logical and hopefully significant to say. Instead his look was vacant and apologetic, one step short of desperate as he haltingly continued, "Maybe something similar…like an animated object or something." Sam knew he was grasping at straws, knew he wasn't making sense, but then, how do ducks make sense in any version of the Winchesters' universe?
And the list of strange sightings was growing.
From turning on the TV to find Daffy Duck cavorting across the screen to the small bottle of Soft Soap in the motel bathroom that just happened to have a floating duck trapped in the liquid, it was becoming Duck Central Station wherever they went.
It had started out slowly, the AFLAC Duck advertising on the radio which caused a barely noticeable twitch of Dean's dimples in nervous response to the irony, followed by the tightly clenched determination of his jaw in rigid protest. Next was a billboard advertising the largest Duck Pond in Lane County. Even Sam noticed all the ducks in the pond were staring…right at Dean as they drove past. It caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up, so he could only imagine Dean's reaction…the tightening of his hands upon the steering wheel, the fleeting glance to the side and then back, eyes front and center, fixed on the road before him, as if ignoring those penetrating beady little duck eyes could shift them back to where their focus should lie.
After being accosted by a hundred ducks in one day: staring, following, haunting…Sam and Dean had retreated as fast as they could from the open road and were holed up in a motel off the interstate.
"Yeah?" Dean was staring out the window of their room, the curtains held open just enough so he could see out but there wasn't much chance of anything seeing in. He stood rigid, broad shoulders tense and face fixed with no emotion showing, locked down tight…waiting.
If past events were any indication, it wouldn't take long.
The first quack caused Dean to jump and then scowl because he hated being that jumpy. His eyes closed in silent humiliation, dread and disgrace twisting his features before those brilliant crystal orbs snapped open in fierce determination, a low expulsion of air bursting forth as he clenched his jaw and his hand tightened in a death grip on the threadbare curtains.
The procession past their motel room started almost immediately. First up was a kid dressed in a stupid costume, a duck costume, and it wasn't even freakin' Halloween! The duck bill on the costume was open and large enough you could see the boy's entire face behind it. The kid appeared to be about ten, much too old to be fascinated and appeased by his parents into wearing his favorite outfit year round. One wouldn't think the sight would evoke terror, but it wasn't the kid that scared them…it was what the kid signified. Whatever this thing was, it wasn't above using a child to inflict its wrath…just like every other evil creature out there that trampled the boundaries of common decency.
Next was a family with matching sweaters, cutesy blue with even cuter stitched ducks appliquéd on. An entire family, one duck for every member of their nuclear family, like homage to the stupid duck family they aspired to be.
Last was the backwoods idjit with the duck call, which could be considered slightly bizarre, right? Like the guy was actually hunting in the motel parking lot? He was dressed in camouflage and blowing on that stupid whistle, a throaty duck quack calling for his mate. Thankfully she failed to respond before the boys managed to shoo him off along with costume kid and 'Duck' family.
Once the brothers managed to rid the motel parking lot of all duck offenders, they retreated back inside to relative safety. That is until Dean perused the TV listings and started to read the movie schedule with shaky breath. He tried to hold it together and did an admirable job, but his voice turned brittle as he relayed the listings to his brother.
"Ah…Sam?" he croaked out.
Sam arched his brows as he responded, all attention on his brother and the coming words…words that would soon transport them further into the Outer Limits of believability. "Yeah?" His voice turned softer as he observed the stricken look in his brother's eyes. "Dean…what is it?"
Quirking his head to the side and leaning forward slightly, Sam again repeated himself. Dean appeared to be struggling and he only wanted to offer the maximum support. "Dean, what is it?" he coaxed.
Taking a deep breath, Dean started to read, not stopping until he had finished an impressive list of duck classics. "Attack of the Killer Ducks at 10:00, Duckmare on Elm Street comes on at noon." He chuckled then, an anxious, get-me-the-hell-out-of-Dodge, last gasp frantic laugh. "Two o'clock has a double feature, Alfred Hitchcock Presents The Ducks, followed by Duck Over Miami." He appeared done, actually more like finished. His head tilted and his eyes dimmed, his mouth contorting around the last of the movie titles, the tremor of his dimples trying to regain control or reinforce his denial, neither of which was working on this particular day. The last distorted movie titles were even more bizarre. Dean sucked down another ragged breath and continued, "As if that's not weird enough, how about at 3:00 we get Ducki Driver on TNT with some competition from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Duck on Turner Classic Movies." He again laughed, a nervous, raw, surreal laugh which held no amusement. "Course, AMC can't be left out, they're showing their own double feature, The DaVinci Duck and Field of Ducks." Once he stopped talking, Dean simply stared at his brother, his face a blank canvas, drawn and somber. Only his eyes betrayed his anxiety, the quiet slide into their fractured reality drawing out all previous terror of the bizarre.
If they hadn't already covered that this wasn't a practical joke and Dean wasn't pulling Sam's exceptionally long leg, Sam would have cracked up at Dean's inventiveness and wild sensibilities. As it was, all Sam could do was solemnly reach across the aisle between their beds and take the offending digest in hand to see for himself. Dean wasn't delusional…unless of course they both were, because there it was in black and white. Every title, just as Dean had read it. Weird…ain't no other word for it…unless you want to go with insane, freakish or outlandishly bizarre, just to name a few other equally appropriate adjectives for the impossible situation they seemed to be mired in.
Gripping the remote tighter in his hand before turning on the TV, it appeared Dean was looking for refuge, looking for something to take his mind off of ducks. He quickly bypassed the listings in the TV Guide pertaining to ducks; most likely assuming with a hundred channels there had to be something suitable. He paused on a young Robin Williams, his finger trembling on the channel forward button as the image flickered away and a voiceover led them to commercial. The measured voice brought chills to both hunters as it intoned, "We'll be right back to our feature, The World According to Duck, after these messages."
Casting a futile, desperate glance towards his brother, Dean eased forward from leaning against the hard headboard of the bed and hit the channel up button. An even younger Matthew Broderick came into view, driving that classic red convertible, the wind blowing his scarf back, his fetching lady smiling contentedly from the front seat. Dean returned the smile and leaned back again, the familiarity bringing comfort and a certain peace to his face…that is until they too cut to commercial and the words appeared on the bottom of the screen, "Back soon, Ferris Bueller's Duck Off". Dean cleared his throat, that disturbing rasping sound coming out as he groaned, "What the hell?"
Sam nervously shifted and clasped his hands to his knees, leaning into the aisle and then burying his head in his hands. He quickly shook off his own distress to support his brother, rising back up and gazing lovingly at him as Dean sat there momentarily unresponsive, paralyzed by the horror. Sam started to speak but was too distracted and late.
Snapping back to attention, showing even more force and irritation, his voice rising along with his terror, Dean again demanded, "I mean, what the hell, Sam?"
Dean looked broken and scared and just so not like Dean. He was trembling, from frustration, fury, or fear; it was hard to tell, possibly a combination of all three.
Sam stammered; his mind void of any reasonable explanation. "I don't know…I mean, this is weird."
Dean glared at him, his firm jaw set while that tension tremor in his left cheek throbbed in a steady pulse. "Ya think?" He appeared a heartbeat away from developing an eye tick.
Reaching over to grab the remote from his brother's slack hand, Sam changed channels, hoping to distance Dean from whatever was stalking them. They just needed time, time to settle down and time to think.
He flicked through several infomercials and reality programs, at last finding something familiar and real, a normal show with no noticeable mutations, proving they weren't duck-haunted and could last a few minutes as regular Joes watching the regulation dribble that saturated conventional TV. Sam recognized the show as NCIS, a procedural show with regular characters and decent storylines. Not the most inventive of shows, holding to a certain style and tempo, but just what they needed now, a chance to escape from the fantastical and settle in normal. Sam had watched it a few times and liked it, in a noncommittal, it's-better-than-most kind of way. "Okay, this is more like it." He looked to his brother, trying to gauge his reaction. What he got was nothing: nothing good, but nothing bad…which was in and of itself good.
Appearing mildly engaged, Dean quietly watched for a few minutes before asking, "So what is it?"
"NCIS. Crime show."
"Cops?" Dean snickered, his disdain for the usual suspects showing. Not that he had a prejudice against law enforcement, more he'd had his fair share of run-ins and wasn't on the best of terms with that side of the badge.
"Not exactly, kind of detectives…Naval Criminal Investigative Service. They solve cases," Sam elaborated with a smile, relaxing more and more as he continued, "Just not our kind of cases. Regular murders, national security…that sort of thing."
"Huh," was all Dean commented but he seemed to ease into restful viewing, allowing all thoughts of ducks and duck hauntings to slip away for a moment. That is until Gibbs headed to the morgue. Dean's head bobbed up like a drowning duck that'd just been given a buoy when he heard him address the coroner, Ducky. "Okay, that's it!" he yelled as he jumped up and grabbed the remote, shutting off the TV and throwing it down on Sam's bed in disgust. He suddenly looked deadly serious, solemn and rigid, like the next duck sighting might cause him to go ballistic with the shotgun and his Colt or that big-ass knife he keeps in his back pocket. He stared straight at his brother, his eyes tunneling through as he softly chanted with the barest hint of panic, "They're haunting us, Sam." His eyes blinked back the realization as his dimples twitched, trying to register and only succeeding in short bursts, flickering like all the thoughts crowding his mind. "There's no escaping them." Dean offered his patented smirk, a slight nod and a barely audible gasp acknowledging they were screwed. Then just like Carol Anne he replayed that famous line with a fine rendition of eerie, "They're here…" He raced to the window again, peering through the curtains like a spy on a secret mission, so tense he appeared ready to explode in spontaneous combustion.
Moving to action, Sam rushed to his side, towering over the smaller, but by no means small man, and grabbing hold of his arm in an attempt to hold tight…to not lose Dean to paranoia. "Dean, Dean!" he yelled. He shook him, barely moving the man set and primed for a fight. Sam did manage to attract his attention for a second and that's when he spoke, frantic to get his message across before Dean tumbled into the abyss, never to be heard from again. "Dean, that's the character's name…His real name. It's not a sign of anything. It's real."
Blinking back his disbelief, Dean paused, his eyes registering the words as his mind tried to process the facts. "What?" he incredulously responded. "That's a stupid name for a real guy. I mean, who would want to be called that? Don't make sense."
Relaxing ever so slightly, stepping back and giving Dean his space, Sam calmly offered, "Well, actually, it does. His last name is Mallard…like the duck, so…"
Breaking in, Dean breathlessly quizzed, "But he lets people call him that? That's crazy."
Sam couldn't argue the point, but then it didn't matter. What mattered was it was a real show, not some Twilight Zone perversion or Rabbit Hole trap.
He settled Dean down and kept the TV off because they couldn't risk another meltdown, but he still had one more question to field from his inquisitive big brother. One that seemed odd, but then, what exactly about this case didn't appear off?
Dean was earnest in his query. "So, that other guy, who's he?"
"The guy with the smart mouth," Dean spat out. "He looks kind of familiar." He then arched his brows, his appearance dismissive and a bit petulant. "I don't like him, Sammy…he's too cocky."
Gently laughing, smiling broadly, Sam couldn't help but find that rather amusing. After all, the guy displayed certain personality quirks that to a cursory eye were somewhat similar to how Dean acted on occasion, snarky and flirty and just generally a pain in the ass. Except no one could match his brother, Dean was unique, totally original, and any attempt to duplicate him would be a poor substitution, flattering in the attempt…but impossible in action. Still, he had to admit, there were startling surface parallels, even if he knew Dean's true essence ran deep, more complex and endearing than any portrayal on a TV show could hope to capture. "That'd be DiNozzo, played by some Michael something guy."
"Well," Dean decreed as his eyebrows shot up again into crinkled arches, "He's too much."
Sam simply nodded.
They settled back into an uneasy silence. Sam snapped open the laptop and started scrolling through more sites while Dean took out his cell and made a few calls. Even Bobby had no answers for them. After an hour of research and feelers, they both sat back down on opposite beds in disgust, apparently no closer to solving the mystery of their feathery stalkers.
"What'cha got?" Dean inquired.
Sam replied with a frustrated huff, "Nothin'… You?"
Now the TV seemed to be mocking them, the silence so unnatural and oppressive. The black screen mirroring the darkness their lives had descended into. Dean was the one who couldn't stand it any longer and flicked the thing on, finding a college football game and settling in to watch. With no leads to pursue and no desire to brave another walk down duck lane, hunkering down seemed like a good choice, at least for the night.
Once Sam noticed what the game was he sat up alert, poised with hope springing eternal in his eyes. "Maybe…" Sam started and stopped.
Dean latched on, hope still distant but tenaciously trying to find its way back home. "What?"
"It's just…we're in Oregon!" Sam exclaimed, like that was news or something.
"University of Oregon…you know, the Ducks."
"Yeah, Sammy, I know, ducks…so?"
Memories of Stanford and following the different football schedules made it all so clear to Sam, but then he realized it wasn't so clear to the guy who never made it to college and wasn't the sort to spend time watching others play. Not when he was normally too busy hunting or in his downtime, carousing with the ladies. "Dean, Paddles is the mascot for the Oregon Ducks." He quickly did a search on his computer and came up with an image, turning the screen so his brother could see.
"Donald Duck?" Dean asked, his left eyebrow contorting comically as his mouth twisted around the words.
"Not exactly…looks like Donald and has the approval of Disney, but he's the mascot for the University."
"Not seeing a connection here, Sam. You saying I'm being haunted by a university?"
"I'm not saying anything," Sam loudly sighed in exasperation, his most dominant feeling of late, unless you want to count that nagging anxiety that twisted his gut every time he saw a duck. "It's a start…might lead to something."
"Well, that dude's wearing a green and yellow sailor outfit and so far all my ducks have been as naked as the day they were born." Dean stuttered to a stop, his eyes widening with realization, obviously rolling a distressing thought around in his head before quickly coming to a decision and again speaking before he chickened out. "Except for that one dancing fool…"
"What?" Sam snapped to attention, all focus on his brother, desperately hoping Dean's courage would allow him to reveal what appeared to be deeply disturbing. So disturbing he'd failed to mention it in their earlier debriefing.
Swallowing hard, turning and facing his brother dead on, Dean barreled down the path of truth, revealing the Disco Duck that nearly shattered his resolve and forever damaged his psyche. "White suit, slicked-back hair, glittery disco ball casting sparkly lights everywhere…" He stopped, momentarily closing his eyes to the appalling vision before opening them again with the most intense depth of pain Sam had ever before witnessed pulsing within. It only took a few seconds for him to regain his strength, pushing forward, refusing to allow the horror to defeat him. "I swear, Sammy…it was like that alien slow-dancing with our frat boy, only this was fast and furious…with a freaking Bee Gee's soundtrack for godssakes!" His eyes trembled from the startling image, flickering in distress before he fixed them in a fierce glare. Reaching deep he then declared, "It was a freaking nightmare, Sam. That damn duck strutting across the dance floor…twirling and shaking his…" His voice petered out, unable to divulge more. Dean appeared as close to broken as he ever had, the image scorching his mind, so acidic and unpleasant. "I don't want to ever see something like that again."
Nodding, allowing his sensitive puppy-dog eyes to convey his heartfelt empathy, again one with his brother, Sam simply waited, allowing Dean the time to move past the intolerable memory and regain the present. The knowledge that he wasn't alone to face this horror the only comfort he could offer.
It didn't take long. Dean was tough, as tough as they come and he soon conquered the horrific image that assaulted him, his unease shoved down deep with all his previous terrors. He took one last look at the picture of the college mascot and pushed the computer back to his brother, his aggravation showing alongside the tremor of terror that still seemed to have him in its tenacious grip despite his best effort to contain the damage. He nodded toward the image. "Don't see this helping, Sam."
"Maybe not then…" Sam dejectedly agreed. His eyes were plaintive, soft and needy as he gazed upon his brother. "Then what?"
It was a long game and knowing that Paddles, the Duck, was the mascot, Dean managed to not jump out of his skin when the halftime show began and the mascot took to the field. Still, that didn't mean he was in any mood to watch another duck's antics. Instead he chose to use the bathroom. At least his bladder could find relief and he knew without hesitation that he could best that Soft Soap duck if it came right down to it.
After the game was over, as time stilled and they sat in their small room ruminating on this duck fiasco, they had time to further analyze their situation. Thinking back over all their cases, Sam pointed out something Dean had said back on the Bugs case. You don't stop a curse; you get out of its way. Sam had no proof this was a curse, but he also had no proof that it wasn't. When all was said and done, neither was inclined to stick around and find out. So far no actual victims of this thing had turned up; hence no lives that needed to be saved or real reason to stay. It appeared the only hunt here was for their sanity, and being constantly confronted with ducks wasn't helping. They decided to retreat…or in Bobby's cranky terminology, run for the hills. A quick call to their old friend rolled out the welcome mat and they headed off to South Dakota.
Problem being…sometimes there is no escape…not when ducks are on your tail.
The answer to your burning question is unequivocally, Yes…the ducks followed.
After all…after all they'd inflicted on the boys, why stop now?
Sightings continued and the tension grew.
By the time they reached Bobby's, Dean appeared ready to snap. He furiously banged on Bobby's front door seeking safe harbor from this duck squall, but when the door opened he was confronted with an intolerable sight, just one more nightmare in a life that seemed embedded in nightmarish sights.
Bobby, their friend and mentor and surrogate dad (who really should be more in tune with their needs), was wearing a green sweatshirt emblazoned with the image of a mallard (or duck for those who don't recall the story of the coroner on NCIS)! As he took in the unbelievable sight, Dean was 'this close' to coming unhinged, his voice as gravelly as it had ever been, stern and accusing. "Bobby, what the hell? What happened to the bull?"
"Dirty…found this one though," Bobby looked down nonchalantly and rubbed his hand across his chest, the residual grease on his fingers leaving a light trail on the previously pristine sweatshirt. "Don't recall where it came from…just went lookin' for something clean and there it was."
Dean's eyes grew wide, round saucers as he took in the disturbing sight. His voice cracked, ever so subtly, and then a gasp escaped. Bobby seemed distracted and oblivious, so not like him…normally. Dean repeated himself, because, quite frankly, his mind was stuck and on overload, unable to process anything beyond one overwhelming thought. "What the hell, Bobby!"
"What? What's up with you? Why you staring at me?" the older hunter innocently asked, the beady eyes of that offending duck watching…those invisible little ears listening… That's when Bobby's own slightly beady eyes opened wide and seemed to register what Dean was seeing, what the implication was and the resultant cause for all that hurt on Dean's face. He quickly stammered out a heartfelt apology. "Hell, Dean…I didn't…" Concern filled tender eyes, that fatherly protective instinct instantly ashamed and regretful. "Balls!" he exclaimed. Ever softer he tried to explain. "I didn't think…never noticed."
As unsettling as the reunion was for all, including Sam, it was Sam who managed to steer them past the awkward moment and into the house to gather at the kitchen table to face this curse that seemed to be dogging them. Bobby pulled out a bottle, the good stuff, the Johnnie Walker Blue. Times like this, Dean appreciated the little touches and they could all use a good belt of whiskey to soothe them.
After a few rounds and much conversation, all details of their duck adventure laid out and exposed, they were no closer to closure. Dean scrubbed at his eyes, the anxiety making his face look tired and old. Not old in the physical sense, still a young man in his prime, but old in spirit. Worn down and just freakin' exhausted. It didn't help that every time he looked at Bobby those duck eyes looked back.
Nothing was going to alleviate Dean's worries, not until they managed to figure this bitch out, but there was one thing that might ease the tension in his muscles and the ache lodged deep in his bones. And no, Bobby's Vietnamese masseuse lady with the tiny fingers and the impressive grip was unavailable so they settled on their next best option. Bobby was the one to suggest he take a shower, to wash off the dust of the road and massage away the physical effects of this haunting. Dean agreed without much persuasion. Once he left, Sam and Bobby continued to discuss, not only the case, but the obvious strain on the older Winchester. Both were concerned, both were downright worried. Aside from that, they had nothin'.
Dean tended towards long showers, always had…either to relieve the tension in his body and soul or to attend to other needs. So it wasn't unusual for him to be under the spray for an exceedingly long time. Still, he'd been gone forever and Sam was getting antsy. They hadn't heard anything except running water…but somehow that sixth sense of his concerning his brother kicked in and Sam knew. Knew Dean was in danger, knew he had to get to him now.
Who the hell knows what those ducks are capable of?
Sam raced up the stairs and pounded on the bathroom door, not wanting his freakish fear to embarrass either of them with an inappropriate barge into the inner sanctum of Bobby's bathroom to find Dean appropriately naked and annoyed. Been there, done that…not a pretty sight…unless you were one of Dean's many female admirers. But for Sam, not a great time.
Getting no response, Sam tried the door knob…locked. And that was so not Dean. Dean was never shy or inhibited about his nakedness, the annoyance thing came from Sam being a jerk and just busting in. A polite need to use the toilet was never denied, as long as you refrained from flushing until the shower was shut off; after all, they were brothers and were used to coexisting with one bathroom, in which case you make allowances.
After a few frantic kicks and ragged screams, still with no reply, Sam managed to bust the door in and that's when his world came tumbling down…down in a massive avalanche of ducks. A ton of rubber duckies rained down on him and he felt himself drowning, gasping for breath beneath a wave of latex and rubber, yellow and orange filling his field of vision until there was nothing.
"Sam, hey…Sammy, you with me?" There was something frantic and insistent in Dean's tone, that edge of concern that indicated something majorly amiss.
Sam wasn't sure what as he slowly stirred, shifting and blinking his eyes in confusion. "Huh?" he managed, his scattered thoughts still trying to catch up, to process where he was, what was happening. Slowly awareness seeped in, firm hands gripping his arms, the cloud lifting with the hazy image of his brother coming into view. Sam was lying on a bed and his head hurt, hurt a lot, like concussion hurt, and as a hunter he knew how that went. "What happened?" he finally groaned out, his memory of recent events muddled, the only thing clear were the ducks. Hard to forget those ducks. He could still feel them watching, hear them quacking, feel their feathers tickling his ankles as they swarmed around him. He shuddered from the disturbing images that assaulted his mind and ignited his senses.
Dean was hovering over him, blocking the light from behind and looking huge from this angle. "You got a nasty bump on the back of your head there, kiddo. Took a header in that damn bathtub." With exasperation that was based in all those tender feelings that rarely showed, Dean chastised him, "I warned you that motel tub was slippery as hell."
Sam simply stared at his big brother. This was wrong…it was Dean in the shower…Dean who was in danger… Sam remembered that much.
Or did he?
Blinking back his confusion, allowing everything to settle, slowly the puzzle began to fit together and Sam remembered more, his mind searching back further, the aches from their last hunt, the need for hotter water, reaching in and being surprised by the duck on the ledge, the little yellow rubber ducky watching him as he stood naked in the tub. It had been a startling moment of off-balance, slipping and righting himself and then hearing a crash…his mind slowly realizing that it was him that hit the floor of the tub and then nothing…nothing until now.
Dean was leaning over him as he lay stretched out on a bed, that concerned brotherly look registering from every bit of his facial structure, in the raised eyebrows twisted into an almost perfect rendition of caterpillars contorted over those penetrating emerald marbles, in the jaw set firm awaiting the final relief of an assured recovery. Then those full lips parted and a soft sigh released in a gentle whoosh, the tension dissipating simply from hearing his brother speak. Past experience in this sort of thing allowing him to relax…or if not relax, at least lessen the pressure. He held up his right hand with fingers extended. "How many?"
Squinting into the light, following the motion and grunting from the effort, Sam responded, "Six."
"Three," Dean replied. "Double vision…good to have you back."
From there it was the normal routine, stay awake and yet rest, baby steps until the next attempt at counting yielded the correct number. Slowly the headache receded and full awareness and memory resumed. Other than waiting the requisite amount of time before checking out of their motel room, there wasn't much else to do.
Soon Sam was steady enough on his feet and it was time to hit the road.
Once Sam appeared back to normal then Dean did too. No evidence of duck trauma, no indication that ducks bothered Dean in the least. Sam relaxed, accepted the reality and released the duckmare of his delusions or dreams or nightmare. He almost had to smile at that thought, almost. He was still a little tense, whatever he'd invented in his head was too bizarre to totally ignore, but he was glad he'd returned to Kansas. Glad that like Dorothy, he was finally home, or as close to home as a Winchester could get. He was with Dean and the Impala was parked and waiting. And damn if that didn't feel good.
It was on the drive out of town, as they passed the park with the state's largest duck pond and Dean motioned to the bright orange diamond-shaped sign that Sam felt himself take a deeper breath as his heart stalled for just a second.
"Hey, you see that?" Dean motioned with his head toward the sign, Duck Crossing.
Then déjà vu kicked in and the next twelve minutes were a perfect replay of Sam's original dream. Every word and reaction from Dean just as it had been, the bemused expression, the lightness in his voice before he turned and got his freak on. Then there were those beady little duck eyes from every duck in the pond penetrating the steel frame of the Impala and watching as they headed out of town.
"Hey, you okay? You don't look so good." Dean had that look on his face again, the big brotherly concerned and worried look, wide eyes waiting and watching.
Sam scrunched down as far as he could so his head rested against the top of the seat. He closed his eyes to the sight and the memories, hoping the next town was void of ducks. "Yeah, I'm fine. Let's just go, okay?"
"Yeah…okay." There was something in his voice that made Sam open his eyes, something hanging in the air that made him expectant and concerned, waiting for the coming comment. Dean was grinning, highly amused and as carefree as he'd been in a very long time. The playfulness of his voice was refreshing…that is until his next words popped out. "What's the matter…you look like you've seen a duck?"
Sam barely had time to react with a gasp and desperate twitch as the radio went to ad time, the announcer reminding listeners of the upcoming Rock Festival, the Duckapalooza, featuring the best in classic rock groups.
And so it begins…again…
"If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands." – Douglas Adams (Unless of course we live in the Winchesters' supernatural universe! lol)
All standard disclaimers apply.
And simply for the purpose of full disclosure, this was written before the unfortunate VanCon 'incident'. Oh, poor, poor Jensen…just shows how nasty a case of Antidaeophobia can be. Ducks were everywhere, so just like Dean, he did what he had to do. It may not have been pretty, but it was effective. Every fan there owes him a debt of gratitude for nipping it in the bud before a full outbreak of Antidaeophobia infected the entire group. They know not how close they came to true terror.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my efforts. Take care, B.J.