Dalton, Wyoming hadn't been the site of any particularly nasty hunts, and all three of them had managed to go six months in that town without needing to be hospitalized. Sam couldn't even remember having to get the first aid kit out more than a few times - things always got messy when rituals or spellwork was involved, but when it just came down to strength and speed and stamina, he and Dad and Dean were pretty tough to beat.
Still, though, he was glad to leave, even sang along to Dean's music as they packed up the apartment that always smelled faintly of mildew. They had to drive by the school on their way out of town, and for the first time he didn't wave goodbye, even though Dean had carefully turned to Dad and struck up a conversation just then. No way was he waving to the place that knew him as "Pudge" and "Doughboy," even though the weight was dropping off as he started to grow.
The new place is, like always, a sty. Cold, too, and he can either wear sweatshirts all the time or shiver uncontrollably. Dean fixes the heater, but the windows aren't sealed or something, and there are still drafts all the time. He keeps a blanket pulled over his legs when he reads, enjoying the silence.
The first time he sees himself in the mirror without all those layers, it's when he's stepping out of the shower. He doesn't recognize his reflection - no more little rolls of fat, just smooth skin dotted with moles. He cleans the steam off the mirror and looks again. The same shock hits him every morning, though it does grow fainter with time.
Kaspaw, New Hampshire is the place where he discovers a way to astonish both Dad and Dean. He just gets hungry, feels like he is starving even after he's eaten half a meatloaf. Doesn't seem to matter what he eats or how it tastes; it's all about quantity, and he can't get enough.
Dad just looks at him and then sideways at Dean, like he's trying to remember if his older son had ever been that voracious. It gets to the point where Dean stops trying; meat and pasta are no longer on the grocery list, just canned beans, cheap and filling, and they're eating the same meal for weeks on end. Sam starts looking forward to school lunches, and his favorite cafeteria lady asks him one day where he put all that food. "You got a hollow leg, Stringbean?" she asks, and he smiles and lets her give him a second helping of just about everything.
Kaspaw High is the kind of school where the kids are bored with everything their money bought them and drive cars at least twice as expensive as the principal's. Looking like you aren't trying at all - on the athletic field, in the classroom, in the parking lot before school - is the key to success, and Sam has had a lot of practice acting. He doesn't raise his hand in class but he is meticulous with his homework and essays, studies hard for every exam with only Dean for a witness.
It's so easy to fit in that he wonders why he never bothered before. All it takes is staying quiet about what makes him different. He doesn't think anyone would want to hear anyway.
There seem to be more hours in a day to fill up, somehow. He thinks sometimes about how everyone else does it, if school and homework and friends are enough for them. It doesn't matter really; all that counts is that he blends in during the day, where everyone can see him.
He's good enough at the game that no one thinks twice about the way he disappears after school to work with his dad. Lucy McCall starts bringing him cupcakes he can eat on the way to his job, little works of art with his initials spelled out in shining silver beads on top of sculpted swirls of frosting. He takes his time with the first one, admiring her handiwork, but after that he simply scarfs them down, taking the edge off his rampant hunger.
Every morning when he wakes up he has to take a minute to remember that those huge shapes are his feet, that they are all the way down there because his legs really are that long. He stretches and then crumples in on himself, guiltily, like those movements are triggering his weed-like growth.
He goes to the kitchen and pours himself a big bowl of cereal, not worrying about saving milk since Dad and Dean have taken to having only cup after cup of black coffee in the mornings. He studies over breakfast, leaving the newspaper for Dad and the dishes for Dean, and then he walks to school, wishing he had a cupcake to eat along the way, that he'd saved some of yesterday's treat.
When the time comes to move on, Dad actually comes and pulls him out of class. Just seeing Dad inside the school makes him consider dazzling new possibilities. Now he knows he can be the person he is expected to be, by his classmates and his teachers. He should be able to do the same for Dad in the next town they settle in; he can pretend to love the hunt, the life of constant motion. On his way out of the front doors of Kaspaw High, he bangs his head on the jamb when he forgets to duck.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.