Dean tried to ignore the shock of the cold water as he waded out into the waves. The surf was choppy due to a storm way off the coast. The waves smacking against his chest impeding his forward motion did nothing to alleviate his mood. Dean continued to struggle, walking against the waves, turning to allow the swells to crash against his shoulder until he caught a glimpse of his father's impatient stance upon the shore. Giving up what little grounding he had, Dean picked up his feet and started to swim.
It didn't matter that Dean knew he was an excellent swimmer. It didn't matter that he knew that if he needed to, he could turn right around and head back to shore. In his head, Dean understood that everything was fine and this was just a training exercise. But still, he couldn't shake the feeling that the water was out to get him.
Unconsciously Dean was aware of the moment he swam past the point where he could put his feet down and still stand with his face above the water. A knot formed in the pit of his stomach. He tried to ignore it while he swam out further. Dean knew he needed to make Sam work for this "rescue" or Dad would just make them do it again. Sam had sprouted in the spring, shooting up inches over his big brother. His new size had led to new training; suddenly Dean was cast as the "victim" in a variety of rescue scenarios now that Sam was strong enough to carry his weight.
Dean hated being the victim.
More specifically, Dean hated being the victim in the water. Being "rescued" on land was not the worst job in the world; all he needed to do was allow himself to be carried around and make sure Sam didn't knock his head into a doorframe. But in the water – it was different. Ponds, lakes, bathtubs – Dean had no problem with those. Small areas of standing water were just fine with Dean. It was water like this – with movement and a life of its own – that made Dean uneasy.
Turning back toward shore, Dean waved to signal that he was in position. Dad and Sam looked impossibly far away on the empty beach. Dean turned again and stared at the horizon. He gave a mental count of fifty as he treaded water floating up and down the waves. Dean shuddered at the feeling of seaweed tickling like tentacles around his calves. He didn't want to consider what else might be down there.
Though Dean longed to maintain his position, it would be no good if Sam arrived and he was just calmly treading water. Dean took a deep breath and turned his face up toward the sky before plunging himself down into the briny water. There was a moving blackness to the water surrounding him that Dean could sense even though he kept his eyes tightly closed. Propelling himself upward, Dean breached the surface and started flailing. "Help! HELP ME!"
Dean felt like a world-class ass pretending to drown, but at least his performance took him mind off of being in the water. Dean dropped into the water again and swam sharply to his left wanting to give Sam a moving target. Dean came up to the surface slightly disoriented. "Help! It's got my LEG!" With a realistic scream of agony, Dean dove beneath the waves again. He tried to push himself to stay below the water for a little longer than he was comfortable with. He swam in random directions so Sam wouldn't have a bead on where he might resurface. A cold spot drove him to the surface.
Dean resurfaced facing the shore and didn't see a swell approaching from the further out. The wave hit him in the face just as he turned and was inhaling. Dean's lungs screamed in protest as he started hacking up the salty water. Another larger swell was heading his way. Dean had given up any pretense of drowning as he tried to clear his lungs. Swimming with one arm up over the top of the wave was only semi-successful. Dean flailed over the top of the wave and slid down into the trough, but a second wave, right in the wake of the first chose that moment to crest and crash onto Dean.
Submerged beneath the weight of the second wave, Dean was pushed along under the dark water. His already abused lungs were screaming in protest, but Dean had no idea which way to turn to reach the surface. True panic had begun to set in when a familiar hand grasped his bicep and pulled him up for air. Sam.
Dean wasn't pretending when he came up sputtering and gasping for air. Sam's urgent, "Hey! Hey Dean, I'm right here." helped bring Dean back to reality. Sam had a love for the water that Dean had never understood. He also had an ease and a confidence that Dean trusted absolutely. In the water, Sam was in his element and Dean knew he was safe. Sam's arm snaking around Dean's chest filled him with a feeling of security that he would never admit to.
Dean let Sam do all the work of getting him situated and just concentrated on breathing. Dean had no idea if Sam could feel the pounding of his heart inside his chest, and he made a concerted effort to pull himself together. Sam had a solid grip on Dean with his left arm as he headed back toward the shore. The sun broke through the low cloud cover and Dean welcomed the warmth on his face.
At once point as they approached the beach, Sam paused as though readjusting his hold on Dean. Dean, back to playing the unconscious "victim" was surprised when Sam hoisted him up until he was nearly vertical and then pushed him down until his feet hit solid ground. It was a brief maneuver, taking only a few moments, but Dean was grateful to Sam for grounding him like that. Feeling totally secure once again, Dean let Sam control the return to the beach. Maybe he helped a little more than a truly unconscious person would by floating and maintaining his balance, but what Dad didn't know couldn't hurt him.
As Sam guided them through the choppy surf Dean returned to true "unconsciousness" but this close to the shore he was no longer uneasy. By the time Dad had joined his efforts to Sam's to help them get up on the beach Dean was completely at ease. He let the feel of the sand beneath his shoulders and the sun on his face center him and turned his thoughts to what training Dad might come up with next – Dean hoped it might have something to do with a cave. A cave or fire…then he'd be in his element.