Author's Notes- Don't you love incongruous television? I have picture proof that Sam is the one who went into the lake, and this is the story behind it.
Thanks to Amy for keeping such a tight hold on the reins.
"I am not going in there."
"Dude, yes you are."
Sam shifted his weight, planting his boots in the mud and crossing his arms over his chest. "No, Dean. You go in."
"Like Hell," Dean huffed, mimicking Sam's actions.
Together, they looked out over the smooth surface of the near-frozen lake. "Well then," Sam said at last, "I guess the truck can just stay down there."
"Right, and we'll just sit back and watch as Cassie is killed," Dean retorted, shooting a sidelong glare at his brother. "Just suck it up and get your pansy ass in there."
"We're not kids anymore, Dean," Sam replied. "You can't order me around."
"I can still kick your ass, which I'm about to do if you don't get in the damn lake!"
Sam uncrossed his arms and waved them in exasperation. "Why do I have to go in? It's freezing out here and it's not like we know where the truck is. I could be fishing around in there for hours!"
Dean turned his back on Sam and headed towards the bulldozer. "Well you better get a move-on then, Flipper. Time's a wasting."
Sam took a couple steps after his older brother. "You always make me do crap like this! Remember the cursed land and the housing development? You sent me into the giant hole in the ground when we thought there were killer bugs on the loose. And then you made me spend the night in jail when we were looking for the hook man!"
Dean rested a hand on the bulldozer's front wheel. "Yeah, that was a good one, wasn't it."
Sam sighed, and his breath misted in the frigid night air. Then he got an idea. "There's only one way to settle this," he said, bending his right arm behind his back. He looked at Dean expectantly and waited.
"Oh come on," Dean groaned. "The Rock, Paper, Scissors thing again? Sam, we did that when I was ten."
Sam cast a quick glance heavenwards, praying for strength to descend upon him through the bare, frost-covered treetops. "Just get over here and do it. It's the only fair way."
Grumbling incoherently, Dean stomped forwards, stopping just in front of Sam. Their eyes met. "I can't believe I'm doing this."
"Shut up. One, two, three."
They looked down. Sam's hand was flat. Dean displayed horizontal bunny ears.
"Ha!" Dean beamed. "Read 'em and weep, little brother! Scissors beats paper."
"That's not fair!" Sam retorted, studying his gloved hand. "You're suppose to be the rock. You're always the rock."
"You're always the scissors," Dean replied, patting Sam on the back so that he stumbled forward a step, towards the lake. "That's you're problem, Sammy. You're too predictable. Too sure of yourself."
Sam let his hand fall to his side, lost in thought. "So all those times when I beat you- you set it up?" His mind was struggling to apply this new revelation to all his memories.
"Relax, I was just watching out for your ass." Dean's grin was easy and his eyes sparkled in the moonlight. "That's what awesome big brothers do."
"I-" Sam forced a laugh. Admitting he cared wasn't something Dean did easily. "I don't know what to say."
Dean grabbed his hand and shoved the tow hook against his palm. "How 'bout, 'Ready or not, here I come!'"
Dean's hard shove interrupted him and Sam stumbled down the embankment and broke the water's surface with a cracking splash. Instantly, his boots and socks were soaked by the ice cold water and he stood, voiceless from both the audacity of Dean's move and the shock of the frigid water.
"So what-" Sam yelled, turning in the water and throwing his hands up in the air. "I'm just suppose to wonder around in here and hope I find a huge ghost truck by sheer luck?" His toes were already going numb.
Dean shrugged. "Well, I guess you could use the metal detector."
Sam's jaw fell. He blinked. "You have a metal detector and you're just now saying something?"
Dean grinned before turning and going to the trunk of the Impala. Sam shifted his weight and fiddled with the towing cable as he waited. The air was silent around him, save for the occasional hoot of an owl. Mist rose up off the surface of the lake and blanketed the water, spilling up over the embankment and creeping through the forest as well. The moonlight solidified the mist, making it nearly impossible to see under the water's surface. Sam heard the trunk slam shut and snorted softly. A metal detector would most definitely help.
Dean reappeared, homemade device in hand. "Here ya go," he said, tossing the object to Sam. "Happy hunting."
Sam caught the object and eyed it closely. It really was nothing more than a battery pack connected by metal tubing to two Frisbees that were taped together to form a protective case. He flipped the switch and a small red light came on. Sam looked to Dean wearily. "This thing really works?"
"Dude, I know how magnetic currents work. You don't have to go to college to learn that stuff."
Sam raised his shoulders in surrender. "Okay." Then, lower, he mumbled, "Whatever you say."
Sam turned his back to Dean and started to wade out into the lake. Behind him, Dean climbed aboard the bulldozer and waited. Sam pushed through the water slowly, the thick mud swallowing his boots with every step. The water whooshed and splashed around him in the otherwise motionless lake as he took exaggerated steps, swinging the Frisbee-end of the metal detector slowly across the water's surface. Skeletal tree limbs hung over head, casting a spider-web of shadows onto the swirling mist. The red light blinked steadily, and Sam's confidence in the apparatus was waning.
"Hurry up, Sam! We ain't got all night!"
Dean's shout echoed through the woods and Sam tensed even further, knots tying themselves in his shoulders. He nearly stumbled over what he hoped was a twig and shivered as the water sloshed around his knees. Just when he was about to turn and voice his protest over this stupid, hopeless plan, the metal detector beeped.
"I think I got something!" he called over his shoulder, staring at the spot in the mist. The water was just barely over his knees though… surely it wasn't the truck, was it?
"Well don't just stand there like a damn bird dog- find out what it is! I'm getting cold."
Sam rolled his eyes and shifted the metal detector to his arm pit, freeing his hand. He tugged on his glove, making sure it was on snuggly, then plunged his arm into the cold, murky water. He splayed his fingers and felt around, going deeper and deeper until the water was over his elbow and he felt something. He grabbed it and tugged, grunting under the weight of the object. When it finally emerged, Sam threw an angry look at Dean. "It's an old hubcap!" he said accusingly.
Dean merely shrugged and grinned, wrapping himself tighter in his coat. "Keep going, then."
Sam threw the muddy, vegetation-covered hubcap to the side where it sank with a satisfying gurgle. Now his glove was heavy with icy water and his fingers were quickly getting as bone-achingly numb as his toes. Great.
An owl fluttered from its resting place overheard as he passed underneath. Last night Sam had been so warm and content, watching TV in the motel room, no older brother to make annoying comments about the people on-screen. He'd sent long-overdue emails to college friends, took a deliciously long and hot shower, then simply basked in the joy of doing nothing.
He'd known before Dean left that he wouldn't be back. Sam could read Dean like an open book; he could see the unsettled business and sexual tension between Dean and Cassie. She knew who Dean truly was- she knew one of his most guarded secrets and there was no escaping that level of intimacy. Sam had been unsure at first- after all, Dean was his big brother and she had obviously hurt him- but the more he saw in the way they carefully avoided each other, the more Sam began to like Cassie. It was clear that the breakup had hurt her too, but the stolen glances towards Dean spoke of an attraction that couldn't be denied.
And after all, Sam wanted Dean to be happy. The residual warmth of Jess's love was still easy to remember, and Sam was glad that Dean also knew the feeling. He was glad that Dean had found someone to care for after he'd gone to Stanford. Because that's what Dean did best, he looked out for people. It wasn't something that could be turned on and off- it was there all the time, like some misplaced parental instinct. It was self-assuring, like thumb-sucking or the blanket that belonged to that kid on the Peanuts. Protecting people made Dean feel good. And if he were protecting someone he loved, then the feeling was intensified. Sam could see it in his brother's eyes. Cassie had been a source of comfort for Dean. A source of love.
Sam was brought back to his surroundings by the metal detector's rapid, mechanical beeps. His foot collided with something then, and unlike the other lake-bottom debris, it didn't budge. Sam stopped, the water now more than half-way up his thighs, as he narrowed his eyes and studied the misty, inky water before him. He reached out slowly, dipping his fingers, then his hand, then his arm into the water until he felt an over-sized, algae-covered bumper. "No shit," he huffed with a lopsided grin. "Dean, I got it!"
"So hook it and get the Hell out of there," Dean replied. "I'm turning hypothermic waiting on your ass!" Then the bulldozer rumbled to life.
Sam rolled his eyes, feeling along the bottom of the bumper and attaching the tow hook. "Okay!" he shouted over the bulldozer, holding one hand high in a thumbs-up gesture. Then he turned and began making his way back to shore, his teeth rattling as tremors shook his body. "You are gonna owe me so big for this," he muttered, climbing numbly up the side of the embankment, tossing the metal detector in the direction of the Impala. His fingers and toes were aching from the cold and the goose bumps on his legs itched against his wet, muddy jeans.
Dean smiled at him- a smug, cocky smile- then shifted the bulldozer into drive and started pulling the truck from the lake.
Sam shook his head and monitored the truck's progress as it was pulled onto land. Revenge would come later, after Dean had fallen asleep.
Right now, they had a ghost to bust.
"Alright, let's get her up..."