Warnings: A few spicy words
Disclaimers: Ha, Me? Own the Winchesters? Only in my dreams *wink*
Summary: The Winchesters find themselves up the creek without a paddle while hunting a Nixie.
A/N: Sweet charity fic for the lovely apgeeksout who bought my fic goodie for a second time. Bless her; she actually came back for more? *shrugs* Anyway, she ordered some mouthwatering hurt, WET, Dean for starters. A delicious main course of angst, comfort and canon. And I've thrown in some special sides as she has been so patient and kind. Thank you! Bon appetite!
Beta'd by the magnificent pdragon76, fearless taster of my fictional word cookery. Special thanks to deanish_ness for preliminary tasting and grammatical pointers.
You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there ~ Edwin Louis Cole
In a blanket of darkness and artificial street light, weary eyes fix on a brown stain that's marbled into the carpet. Sam leans forward, settles his heavy head into a sweaty palm and listens.
It's silent for a while but then Dean whimpers, and Sam watches him from his bed while his brother stifles a suppressed cry. Dean's muscles are clenched, whole body so tensed up it looks ready to snap. Quivering lips unconsciously release a sharp gasp for air that has Sam standing over Dean's bed. Sam flips on the bedside lamp, floods the room in an iridescent glow. His face is pinched and his hand hovers anxiously over Dean's shoulder. He hesitates for the second time this week; by now, Dean must be running on less than ten hours sleep for the last seven days. There's another distressing groan from the unconscious hunter. Waking him would be the right thing to do, Sam tells himself. He has to release Dean from this nightmare … into another that is all too real and full of agonising memories that pierce and burn the soul. He frowns and sighs. Restful sleep is hard to come by these days, for both of them. Sam closes his eyes, imagines Dean's time in hell, tries to imagine the pain. When he opens them, it feels as though he hardly has to visualize, it's there in front of him. Sam bites his bottom lip, backpedals on his thoughts. He knows that even if he multiplies what he can envisage by a hundred, he'll never get close to the magnitude of what Dean has to live with everyday. That reality slaps him out of his thoughts, has Sam placing a gentle hand on his brother's bare shoulder.
"Dean, wake up," he whispers. Sam leans in closer when he gets no response, keeps a soft undertone, tries again. "Hey, Dean, it's okay, you're dreaming." Sam has to clear his throat before he can speak louder. "Come on man, wake up."
Now, he's cursing himself as he is staring back at Dean's startled bloodshot eyes.
"Yeah." He stands up, takes a clumsy step back.
"Jesus…" Dean places a clammy hand over his face.
"You okay?" Sam inquires, waiting.
It's a good lie, considering. Anyone but Sam would buy it. He watches Dean for a few seconds, nods when he has visually confirmed what he needs to know.
"Okay," he replies, then pads over to the table. He digs his hands into the duffle and pulls out the whiskey. He sucks in a deep breath, takes a good swig before he approaches Dean who has his hand out ready. It's no surprise to Sam when Dean takes the offered bottle without question, or when he places the bottle to his lips, closes his eyes, drinks.
Morning makes a leisurely appearance, jubilant rays blazing through the center curtain breach. Sam yawns, straightens in his seat, uses his sweats to brush moisture from his palms. He squints and pushes back the laptop screen, angling it away from the sun's rays.
"You done?" he asks groggily, eyes following Dean out of the bathroom.
"Yeah," Dean grunts. He drops the towel that's loosely tied around his waist and makes little effort of slipping on clean boxers.
"'Kay," Sam sluggishly makes his way toward the bathroom. He pauses, hugs the door frame, points a finger to an empty polystyrene cup on the table. "Your turn, dude."
Sleep deprivation, they can do, proud experts in that field. They just need caffeine. Lots of it.
"Whatever." Dean is zipping his jeans. He groans as he bends over to tie his boots. Clumsy fingers grab, scrape the keys up from the table.
"Pennsylvania?" Dean chokes, a few drops spilling over his bottom lip onto his lap. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. The bitter coffee refuses to go down. He swirls a tepid mouthful for another second and tries again, struggles with the urge to regurgitate. The hangover is close, he knows. Once he's ridden out this intoxicated haze, he's in for one hell of a bumpy ride. Dean snorts in amusement. Hell. Been there, done that. Doesn't need the t-shirt. Not a lot of people can say that so literally. The black stuff in his mouth wants out again. He battles with the caffeinate until he wins, swallows the last drop.
"Yep. We leave now, should be there by tomorrow afternoon." Sam looks out the window, frowns. "Look … erm, you okay to drive?" He tries to angle his voice away from the scepticism that it wants to go with.
It doesn't work. Dean gives him the look. It's the look that makes Sam slide into his seat, swallow further questions and change the subject. Dean is happy Sam can still read him so well. They're both tired, and it's just too early to get into an argument; they have a twenty hour drive ahead of them for that.
"Dude, I can't believe we're going after mermaids," Dean shakes his head, tries to bite his amusement, "in Pennsylvania?" He fails, and bursts out laughing.
"Well actually, not mermaids as we know them. German folklore describes them as river sprites known as Nix, male, or Nixies, female." Sam swivels the laptop. "See, they were thought of as harmless in some quarters, malignant in others." Sam scrolls down the page, pauses at a picture. "The female has been known to lure men away to drown. Looking at the reports of those recent deaths in Pennsylvania…" He tilts his head, shrugs in a I've-done-my-research-on-this-but-I'll-pretend-to-be-unsure kind of way. Nerd. It's amusing so Dean says nothing about it.
"Explains all the drownings." Sam nods causally; he sits back after his speech waiting for Dean's input.
"Females, huh?" Dean says, taking an interest in a particular picture and shuffling closer to the screen. His eyes are focusing on strawberry-pink flesh contrasted with waves of lustrous golden locks resting on bare beasts.
"Topless …" He licks his lips, lets his mouth part, index finger fixing to enlarge the image. Sam's mumbling something, but he ignores him, bats his brother's hand away and scrolls further down the web page.
"Naked!" Dean corrects himself. He silently mouths the word 'damn' and nods to Sam. "Right, better get to it. What are we waiting for? What's the name of that town?" Dean slides into his jacket. "Let's get going, we might make it before nightfall."
"There's seriously something wrong with you," Sam says in a deep snubbing tone.
Dean chuckles. "I assure you, Sammy, there's nothing wrong with me." He flashes a cheeky grin at his brother and continues in a pert tone. "You on the other hand?" Dean is too amused to continue. Judging by the look on his brother's face, he doesn't need to.
"Fuck off." Sam elbows him hard in the side, brushes him out of the way to collect their belongings.
Dean folds away from the punch and laughs louder. Sam curses at him again, but Dean's already on his way to the door, one hand rubbing his side. For that, breakfast's on Sam.
Dean's never going to admit it to him, but he's glad Sam insisted on taking the wheel for a while. The drive isn't bad; they've had much tougher terrains. But when the impending hangover coupled with fatigue decides to pay a visit, plans on staying, it screws his plans of keeping his baby on the road. Luckily Sam's snoozing when the wheels meet dirt.
Dean yawns, scoots lower into the leather and folds his arms. He decides he'll attempt some shut eye for a couple of hours.
Physical exhaustion buys him an hour before the blood curdling screams, endless torture and putrid stench of burning flesh hits replay. He opens his eyes, visually confirms his surroundings and closes them again.
"Hey…pull over wouldya." There is no urgency in it, but it's a command rather than a request.
"There's a gas station about a mile away," Sam replies, frowns when he catches a glimpse of Dean. "You look like shit."
"Yeah, thanks … I wasn't asking, Sam. I said pull over."
"Whatever." Sam drives the car off to the side of the road, shakes his head, his hands still placed firmly on the wheel.
Dean groans at him, opens his door. He walks round the back of the car to the driver side. "Don't start, Sam. I mean it."
Sam sits still for a few seconds before he jacks the door open with more force than is needed, catching Dean with the edge.
Dean makes a low winded sound, shoulders Sam as he slips in behind the wheel.
After switching seats, they sit in silence for a couple of minutes, each in their own thoughts. An unspoken cessation. It's not the first time Dean has woken in a bad mood; he wants to say it's nothing personal. But it's Sam, and he's lucky because he doesn't need to. He looks over at his brother, uses his eyes to apologize then keys the ignition.
"Jerk!" Sam spits. Dean knows that's Sam Winchester for apology accepted.
"Yeah." Dean nods lets his lips curl into a smile.
"Montgomery County, Pennsylvania." Dean bellows as he raps a beat on the wheel, turns his attention to Sam. He stretches his hand out to the side, ruffles his brother's hair.
"Quit it, Dean." Sam swats him, syncs his own constricted stretch with a yawn.
"Dude," Dean tilts his neck from side to side, "I gotta pissss." The last word drags, exaggerated with his desperation.
Sam ignores him, takes a good look around then feels for his watch, frowns when he realizes it's missing. "What time is it?"
"Time to get a room, food and beer...after I take a leak." Dean climbs out of the car, extends his arms into the air. He leans over the hood facing his brother. "'Bout 8:40," he says, with a wide smile.
Dean watches him for another long second. "I say we talk over the details in a bar somewhere?" Before Sam can comment he continues. "Do some 'research'?" He adds, waggles his brow mischievously.
"Sam." Dean says it in the same droning tone. He faces Sam, smug, knows he's already won this.
"Come on, man. We've been on the road all day, let's wind down a little, go over our notes and get stuck in tomorrow."
Dean hands Sam his bag.
"Whatever," Sam replies, shoulders his backpack.
The Winchesters decide on a corner bar a couple of minutes walk from their motel. It's got ticks in all of Dean's boxes; medium sized, fairly modern and has good classic tunes playing in the background. Also has its fair share of voluptuous blondes.
"Dean!" Sam slaps a firm hand over the pile of papers in front of him. "Focus."
"Oh, I'm focused, Sammy," he replies, his eyes following a young lady to the bar.
"On the work." Sam rolls his eyes, takes a sip of his beer. "Are you even listening to me?"
"Three middle aged men drown, no sign of struggle." He returns his gaze to the documents on the table, then to Sam. "See, I'm listening."
"To your dick." Sam begins gathering the notes. He shakes his head, "Okay, Dean look. We're both beat. We should go back to motel and try get some sleep."
Dean has no intention of sleeping any time soon, and deep down, Sam knows it. This is just part of their new routine, each playing their role; they'd become well rehearsed at it.
"The night's still young, Sammy."
Sam has his confirmation; he's returning to the room alone. He bites his lip nervously. This is how his brother's dealing with it, and for now, he'll let him be.
"You…" His eyes circulate around the room, locks back on Dean. "You have to be careful. We're in the Nixies' territory, she could…" Sam's voice is hushed and serious. "Just stay away from the creek, Okay?"
"Yes mom," Dean replies.
"You're such a dick." Sam steps back, produces another classic eye roll that has Dean smiling.
"Least I have one."
They stand facing each other, chuckles and smiles fading.
"Yeah." Sam says. It's silent for a few seconds.
"Catch you later, dude,." Dean calls out. He's already heading towards the bar, blends into the crowd, and then he's gone.
Sam is slouching, back resting against the headboard. He rubs his eyes, lazily looks up at the clock on the wall. Twelve forty-two, which means only five minutes has passed since he's last checked. He scoots lower with his butt until he is lying flat again, pulls the blanket over his chest.
Dean usually shows up around two or three in the morning, making little or no effort to be quiet. It doesn't really bother Sam though; this is how his brother is dealing with it. Whatever 'it' is, because there are no words for what his brother has gone through. Hell, there's nothing anyone can do to fix it. Nothing can fix Dean. Sam is swimming in his thoughts, feels like he's drowning, stuck in a never ending whirl pool.
He forces his eyes closed, buries his face into the pillow and stays there for ten seconds. He's counting. His fingers are tapping on his phone keypad before he's even registered what he's doing:
'Still up. Call if you want me come pick you up. Sam.'
Sam sends the text. He sits up cringing at his action. Dean will have him for that move. There's a bit of relief as he's been holding that off since he got back to their room. Least now he can go back to pretending to sleep.
Twenty minutes later Sam hears the familiar text message alert. He picks his vibrating cell, cracks an eye to read the message.
'cluck cluck cluck.'
The screen illuminates the dark room with its glow.
He tosses his phone onto the bedside table, sinks into bed.
Dean has that feeling in the pit of his stomach right around the time he's getting dressed. The feeling of knowing something's not quite right. There was nothing wrong with the sex, he smiles. The sex was amazing. But now he's slightly sobered, he can see all the signs that scream trouble. Fact is, every hunter bone in his body had been screaming at him since he met this chick. He drowned it out with three quarters of a bottle of whiskey.
"Stay a little longer?"
She's still naked as she strolls back into the room holding two glasses. Still looks as stunning as she did before.
"Refill?" she says, handing him another shot of whiskey.
Dean eyes it. "Sorry, I really have to go."
Her fingers brush through his hair, hand rests on his jaw.
"So soon?" She's close to him again, their bodies touching. He gets a damp, earthy whiff of her hair.
Dean is trying to formulate the words but all the blood has left his brain again, gone south, apparently ready for round two. She has definitely spiked his drink, he concludes watching the room spin.
"Okay, since you asked so nicely, I'll stay. Where's your bathroom?" Dean's hand feels in his pockets for his phone.
She backs up, looks at him and licks her lips. God, she's beautiful, Dean thinks. He panics when he tries and fails to remember where he is. She grabs his hand, clasps hard and pulls.
Sam groans. He's finally fallen asleep when he's woken by the chiming of his phone. His movements are sluggish and confused at first. A glance to his right, and he realizes the bed beside him is still empty. Shit. His mind spinning, he works quickly to answer it.
There's nothing but labored breathing on the other end.
"Dean, what's wrong? Where are you?"
"I don't know, Sammy…I …shit." Sam can hear rustling on the other end. "Sam, it's her. Think I knew all along."
"The Nixie? Dean, look around for something-" Sam is cut off by Dean's voice. He's struggling, sounds completely out of it and Sam can't make out the words. He hears Dean take a deep breath before speaking again.
"She spiked drink. Took gun… River."
Sam's already dressed and fumbling with his trainers. "I'm coming, Dean." He's jogging to the car, phone balanced on shoulder, against his ear.
"Silver. Find something silver, Dean." Hang in there, I'm coming.
Sam is running so hard he feels he might pass out. His heart thumps hard against his chest. He had to dump the car and trek the rest of the way on foot. Doesn't want to think about how much time has passed since he lost the connection with his brother. Sam has the folded map clenched in fist, though he doesn't need it. He's heading for a spot in the creek where all the previous drownings occurred. He remembers the picturesque photo of the place while researching. It looked like something from a book, a fairytale. He wishes none of this is real, wishes he isn't racing to save his brother from drowning.
His foot slips on mud. His whole body drops and piles against the stump of a tree. He bites down a scream. It's a bad fall, but it doesn't prevent him from scrambling up again, ignoring his blurred vision.
He has his torch out, its puny beam flickering through trees. While he's trudging through marsh, he can hear the river. He moves as fast as he possibly can. His eyes barely catch a glimpse of a reflection in the dark. Something in the water, bobbing on the surface long enough to be seen.
"Dean?" It's a choked cry. His eyes are burning, he's already knee deep in water. He wades close enough to see it isn't Dean. The soaked white cotton sticks to her body, folds and molds around her tail. Her scales are translucent, with a tint of green and gold. She's pale, pristine in appearance, but judging from the blood stains and large gaping gash in her abdomen, she's dead.
"Dean." He's screaming now. His throat is sore, and he's wiping tears.
"Dean!" Sam releases the lifeless body, lets it float downstream as he crawls out of the water, heads off in the opposite direction.
His heart is still racing. Sam's about to try the cell when he notices something ahead. Two steps closer and confirms it's a body. A couple more steps and he knows it's Dean, lying face down in the creek.
It's true what they say about drowning. After the initial panic, there's a hunger for air, and an overwhelming sense of doom. But once the lungs have finally filled with water, it is peaceful. Dean knows he's not dead yet because he can reflect on how he prefers drowning to being torn to shreds by hell hounds.
Killing the Nixie is his last conscious action. She may have taken the gun but she obviously missed his five inch silver blade inside his right boot.
Nixies aren't any stronger than humans on land. In water, they are in their element. Her tail acts as a dual purpose. She uses it to keep her steady as well as deliver firm blows to the hunter's head. Dean's swimming skills are better than average but after the concussing clouts and water battle, he passes out.
Drowning isn't much fun in reverse. Between the point where the lungs are full of water to the point where they are filled with breathable air, it hurts like hell.
His throat constricts, confused, unsure of what to do. Dean feels a press against his chest that has him gagging. Warm hands fumble and roll him onto the side just in time, because he's heaving and throwing up all the water lodged in his lungs. It feels like it lasts forever and he desperately wants to breathe.
The rubbing and sudden thumps on his back help with purging the water. The touch feels familiar. He coughs, more water flows like a spring from his mouth. He produces a bubbly gasp.
"That's it, let it all out, Dean."
Sound slowly returns. Dean hears a soothing voice.
"You're gonna be fine."
It's Sam. He feels himself uncurl, relax a little as he leans into the touch on his back.
His body is racked. Throat burns from bringing up cold river water. He can breathe but everything hurts. He is sore all over; even Sam's gentle touch irritates his skin. He lets his eyes close, tries to concentrate on steady breaths.
Doesn't know how much time has passed but he's being woken and Sam is talking to him again.
"Dean, we need to get out of here. It's nearly light. Can you get up?"
Dean processes the question, ponders the thought of moving and groans. He feels Sam rub his shoulder.
"It's okay, I can carry you. But we better get moving."
Dean feels Sam's warmth disappear from behind him; he hears the slosh of Sam's feet moving around before he is yanked vertically and placed in a fireman's carry over Sam's shoulder. It's one swift movement but the agony of it causes him to cry out in pain.
"Sorry," Sam says softly.
Dean can hear it's sincere and coated in concern.
Dean realizes he must have passed out while being carried. He opens his eyes to find Sam placing him in the back of the Impala. Sam's panting hard, his hands and voice are shaky. He's saying something, but it's not registering. It feels good to be in his baby; it feels safe. The tension in his muscles goes lax when he feels the leather against his skin.
Sam is talking to him again.
"Dean, your clothes are soaked through, and you're freezing."
It's only then that Dean realises what Sam is trying to do. He cooperates with him to remove his shirt, shivers involuntarily at the chill. Sam is taking off his hoody.
"Here, wear this." He helps Dean get it over his head. A towel is placed over him and Sam is tucking it around his body. "We'll get you dry and warmed up."
The back door slams shut, and shortly after he hears the rumble of his car. The Impala jerks into movement. Dean swallows convulsively, closes his eyes.
"Hang in there," Sam tells him. "You're gonna be fine."
Hours. It could even be days, he's not sure. He knows he's on a bed the way his back aches. Sam is with him. That's all he knows.
"Dean? You with me, bro?"
Dean feels Sam hand under his neck, pulling him forward.
"Time to take these." He holds out some pills in his left hand. "Bobby says they'll help get the poison out of your system."
He must have frowned because Sam explains. His voice is calm and slow.
"The Nixie poisoned you, tried to drown you in the river, you remember any of that?"
Dean manages a nod. It all comes back to him in a wave that's followed closely with nausea.
"You okay?" Sam doesn't wait for the answer.
Dean feels something placed in front of him, stares at the bottom of the bucket. First heave brings nothing but pain. The next one has him groaning as he fills the bucket.
"Sorry, dude. It's the stuff I gave you before. Helps flush the system." He shrugs.
Dean heaves again, and Sam curses. The only comfort he can offer is a circulating hand on Dean's back, another supporting him because Dean doesn't have the energy to remain upright anymore.
"Ahh, Sammy…make it stop." Dean doesn't care that he sounds like he's whining.
"Just gotta ride this out. It'll get better, Dean, I promise."
Dean wakes feeling slightly better. He racks his brain trying to calculate the days, gives up. It's been a while. He drags a hand over his face, feels at least three or four days worth of stubble. He looks around the room, appears the same one they booked into when they came.
Sam isn't in view but he knows he's around. He sees open books, empty bottles of water, guns, first aid kit, used towels, discarded clothes. Dean lifts his blanket and notices he has a fresh set of sweats on. Doesn't remember changing but judging by the time he's spent in bed, Sam must have done the honors. He makes a face, that must have been…awkward. He's glad to have been unconscious for that.
"Sam?" His throat still feels scratchy.
His brother comes out of the bathroom towelling his hair.
"Hey, you're awake. 'Bout time. I was getting bored." Sam laughs at his own joke, moves closer to him. "How'd you feel?"
"Good." Sam drops the towel, grabs a bottle of water, hands it to him.
Dean drinks, gulps it down.
"Easy. No offence, dude, but I've seen enough puke to last me a lifetime."
Another joke, the ordeal must've been hard on him, Dean concludes. Lame jokes and plastic smiles being the tell tale signs. Sam's still smiling, but then it fades and he's just staring at Dean.
"I'm fine, kiddo." Dean chuckles, grimaces. "Hey, um…Thanks."
Sam takes a deep breath in, relaxes a little. "Don't mention it.