Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts
by Kira
PG-13
Summary:
Sam and Dean visit relatives, take in the sea air, and encounter a lost ghost with less-than-good motives while attempting to figure out Sam's new abilities all in a classic lighthouse ghost story.

Prologue

He had always thought red tide referred to the color of the ocean as the sun was setting, when it turned a reddish version of itself and rolled towards a half-circle like the sun was supposed to be a different shape that what schoolchildren thought.

Perhaps he was like the water; rolling in and out no matter what appeared before him, accepting everything he saw as normal, expected, natural. Changing colors as things came, a chameleon in a world of monsters and skeptics. You could hate the sea when it turned red, but never hate the thing itself; you still loved the scent, the sounds, and those waves crashing on the shore. Reject the color of the moment, not the object itself.

But as he stood atop a cliff overlooking the Atlantic as it slowly eroded away the seaside, he found red tide had nothing to do with the sun.

"It's a bacteria," quips the know-it-all at his side. He resists an urge to smack his brother on the back of the head to learn more information. "Flesh eating. It's actually pretty gross."

"And it's red?" Dean asks. Of course it was red -- why else would they call it 'red tide?' But part of his brother enjoys the intellectual superiority he holds over Dean -- it's the only kind he has -- and Dean isn't going to take that away from him. It doesn't bother him; compromise is giving away a little pieces of you soul, but he'd gladly give the entire thing.

Sam gives him that sideways look, rolling his eyes before shoving his hands in his pockets and glancing back at the lighthouse towering behind them. "Yeah. You know, this might not be our thing after all."

"Ya think?"

"Yeah. Listen. They probably just had an accident and fell in or something."

Dean scoffs. His brother's inexperience and time away shines through sometimes; he looks for logical conclusions where the illogical makes the most sense. Rationalization is the enemy of their work and Sam's been trained by the best of them.

"Right. A whole family just...falls into the ocean one night and happen to knock themselves out so the bugs just eat them."

"Bacteria."

"Which takes even longer, right?" Dean frowns. The cliff is high and even he's getting a little dizzy standing there, looking down into the ocean as it changes into that midnight blue of night. Hate the tide, not the water. "Does this bacteria eat the bones?"

"Probably not."

That settles it. He gives the cliff and the ocean beyond one last glance before tugging on his collar and turning back towards the lighthouse. They're the only people for miles around; whaling isn't exactly a profitable business around here anymore, and most of the families left decades ago, leaving just a smattering of cottages and a few high-end mansions.

"You coming?" he calls over his shoulder. When Sam doesn't respond, he stops and turns around, instincts ruling over common sense.

His brother's gaze is focused on the rusted green swing set behind where the keeper's house once stood. One of the swings remains, swaying in the slight breeze. It creaks as it goes back and forth. Sam's captivated by it.

"Hey, Sam!"

His brother holds up a hand but doesn't turn his head.

"Great," Dean mutters as he walks back to Sam's side. Find the bones, salt them, burn them, get away from this dead city and it's tall, creepy lighthouse. "Plugged into the Psychic Friends Network now, huh?"

"Can you just lay off for a minute?" Sam retorts. Dean huffs and fiddles in his pocket with his Zippo, itching to get this done with. Something about this just bothers him, irks him in the wrong way, and his instincts haven't failed him yet.

Sam just stands there watching the swing with that doe-eyed look he gets whenever people need to see a degree of innocence in one of them in order to be convinced they aren't creeps or con artists. It's a look Dean himself could never pull off, and he's a bit jealous. The swing sways a bit more, then stops dead.

"Okay, that's a bit creepy," Dean remarks. The swing is halfway through a small arch, sitting at a forty-five degree angle with the ground.

"Just shut up."

Fine. Dean crosses his arms and leans back on his heels, trying to ignore the hairs raised on the back of his neck. Sure, he isn't the psychic one, but it doesn't take that to understand something odd is going on here. "Sammy, c'mon."

The swing falls with a clang of rusted iron that reverberates over the side of the cliff and fills the brothers' ears. Dean's ducked a bit, a hand on Sam's shoulder just in case, but there's nothing but the subtle creak of the wind against the collapsing chain link fence surrounding the complex.

"There was someone on that swing set," Sam states as if it's some startling revelation. Dean just scoffs and removes his hand from his brother before he notices and starts one of his chick-flick conversations about feelings.

"No shit, Sherlock. Did you see that?"

"Yeah."

And finally, they're off to the car. Dusk has fallen, but every three seconds or so, the light atop the lighthouse swings around and illuminates the car in a bright white light that reflects off the glossy finish almost painfully.

"So, if that tide doesn't eat the bones, I'd say we have a pretty good chance of finding them."

"Dean, we don't know the first thing about this place," Sam says, the ever-constant voice of reason.

Dean pushes open the trunk with a creak, although this one's from cared for metal opposed to the rusting set behind them. He's propping up the spare tire compartment before he replies, "The faster we're out of here, the better. I don't like cliffs."

"Have you even considered how you'd find the bones? What are you going to do, wade out there through flesh-eating bacteria to find them? The tide's been eroding the cliff for decades; they could be anywhere."

"Has anyone ever told you what a pick-me-up you are?" Dean smirks. "Seriously, Sam, you think too much." He grabs a shotgun and a flashlight, tosses a flashlight to Sam, and slams the trunk closed.

"Yeah," Sam comments, following his brother up the slight hill to the door of the lighthouse, "and sometimes you don't think enough."