Title: Under the Surface and Rising
Word count: 5,030 words
Warnings: some violence and bad language
Notes: Thank you to twasadark for betaing! This story was originally written for just_ruth for spn_summergen and posted here.
Summary: John gets a paying gig for the summer not long after Sam learns the truth about the supernatural. While Dean's off being a teenager, Sam worries about what might be waiting for his family, what might be lurking beneath the surface.
Sam sat on his fold-up bunk and looked around the inside of the RV. He thought he remembered staying in one of these when he was really little, but it had been a lot bigger. Sam lifted his legs up until his feet were propped up against the ceiling and thought maybe the other RV had just felt so much bigger because he was little. He'd have to ask Dean sometime; Dean would remember better.
Except Dean was hardly ever there, hardly ever around, and that was the real problem, not the size of the stupid borrowed RV. Sam was used to Dad being scarce, but Dean was his brother and he was supposed to be around. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. Most of the time. But this summer Dad said fifteen was old enough for a job, all legal and everything with a work permit, so Dean was spending most of his time down by the lake. He was selling sodas and hot dogs and popsicles at the Snack Shack, and it seemed to Sam like Dean was gone a whole lot more than the 25 hours a week Dad said he'd be allowed to work.
Dad was working, too, fixing the engines of boats people needed to pull people on water skis and inner tubes and speeding around like stupid drunk assholes, or at least that's the way Dad explained it.
Sam flipped back over on his stomach and opened up one of the books Pastor Jim had let him borrow. There were a lot more books for him to look at in Pastor Jim's library now that he knew what the pastor and Dad really talked about in low voices, huddled around the kitchen table late at night. Pastor Jim used to choose books for Sam, handing him biographies and books about animals, but now that he knew about monsters bring real he was allowed to choose any of the books that he could reach without climbing on anything.
The books had been really hard to read at first, but Sam got used to the tiny print, and he was learning more and more of the big words all the time. He kept a little notebook with a list of the words he didn't understand and crossed them off as he found definitions in other books or figured them out from context. Whenever he got to talk to Pastor Jim or Bobby he'd ask them about as many of the not crossed off words as he could.
It was important to know things, to understand them. There were so many books out there, and Sam figured there had to be enough of them to make sense of everything, enough words to go around the earth and around and around and around until they made a net to hold everybody safe and sound and keep out everything bad.
Dean leaned over the counter of the Snack Shack and watched the giggling girls walk away. They wore bikini tops that showed the tan lines from other bathing suits and jeans shorts that gaped at the waist, giving him a glimpse of the pale skin near their bikini bottoms. Getting them to smile back at him was so easy it oughta be illegal, didn't even take free refills on their sodas most of the time, but it was harder to get just one of them to talk to him at a time.
The girl who said her name was Allison, the one with the dark blonde spiral perm and the purple ruffled bikini top, looked back over her shoulder at Dean and smiled. It was a secret smile, not shared with her friends who still had their heads bent toward each other, laughing. Allison tossed her hair over her shoulder and looked away from Dean slowly, so slowly, and Dean had to rub his suddenly clammy hands against his jeans before he went back to helping the impatient dude asking for hotdogs.
If he biked back to the RV park straight after his shift ended at five he'd get home in plenty of time to make Sam's dinner for him, but the thought of it chafed at Dean, rubbed him the wrong way for the first time in his life. He'd been making sure Sam was good for so long that he hardly knew any different, but maybe that was the point. Sam was eleven, they'd gone to Denny's just a month and a half ago so he could get dinner for free, and that was plenty old enough to heat up his own damn can of Beefaroni in the microwave.
Sam could do what he wanted all day, and Dean was working a real job for real money so he figured he deserved some time to himself. Time to hang around in the patch of trees behind the Snack Shack and make out with Allison, get rubbed the right way. Time to bum a smoke off Kevin, the guy working at the ice cream place and tell himself it was research.
After all, Kevin said he saw the lake monster one time, and that's what they were in town for. They weren't exactly hunting it, at least not yet. Cryptozoology wasn't exactly Dad's area of specialty, and they weren't equipped for hunting some big motherfucking carnivorous fish or dinosaur or whatever might be living within Lake Champlain. But people were dying out on the lake the last few summers, and some guy offered Dad the use of the RV and a day job working on boat engines down by the lake in exchange for looking for evidence that Champ was responsible for the deaths.
Dean wasn't too sure there was anything behind the legend. Kevin was probably stoned half out of his mind when he was at that party where he said everyone saw Champ swimming out in the middle of the lake. Stoned and probably x'd out too, if the variety of things he kept offering to sell Dean was any indication. But Dean's quitting time wasn't for another two hours, and there was a line of people gathering in front of the Snack Shack with not a cute girl among them. He adjusted the brim of his dorky green visor to soak up some sweat and put his mind back on the task at hand.
Sam sat on the dirty beach near their RV and watched the lake in front of him roll, waves heaving the water up like the ocean. The water was dark, and a darker shape moved underneath it. There was something small and white bobbing on the top of a wave, and Sam suddenly realized it was a boat carrying Dad and Dean. Such a shrimpy little boat, no way was it supposed to go out on big waves like that, but Sam knew they'd be okay if it weren't for that huge shadow shifting around in the water beneath them. The monster under the water slithered and twisted, its tail arcing up above the surface to one side of the boat before its head roared up on the other side, mouth gaping wide and red, and Sam knew it had to be huge, HUGE, for him to be able to see it from shore.
The wave broke crashing down on the monster's face, and the boat was gone. The boat was gone, and Dad and Dean were gone, and Sam was alone. Alone in the dark, alone in the beach, alone, alone, and he woke up gasping. He sat up, bumping his head on the roof of the RV, and looked over the side of his bunk, looking for Dean. But Dean wasn't there. Sun still shone through the RV's windows, and Sam really was alone. He sank back onto his bunk and wiped his face against his pillow. Upstate New York wasn't that hot for summertime, but the inside of the RV was warm and stuffy, and it was hard to stay awake when the book he was reading was hard going.
It was especially hard to stay awake when he hadn't slept the night through since they'd driven up here from Oklahoma, leaving behind the dry western heat for muggy days and nights with the mucky green smell of the lake washing over him. Still, Sam needed to get some more reading done if he was going to be any help at keeping Dad and Dean safe, and there was nothing much else to do. He had sworn not to go swimming in the lake without Dad or Dean there, and it wasn't really that tempting anyway when he thought that there might be something lurking around below his feet waiting to pull him down.
But he could go outside as long as he didn't go so far away that Dean couldn't find him when he got back from work. Eventually. And there was air outside, fresh air that would keep him awake. Sam rolled down off his bunk, tucked his book under his arm and grabbed one of the old aluminum and nylon folding chairs that had come with the RV. It made a satisfying sort of clunk as he carried it through the narrow door and down the stairs to the ground. The chair was big enough that Sam could pull his skinny legs up and fold them under him. The book fit comfortably on his calves, and he bent forward to concentrate on the words against the glare of sunlight reflecting off the water.
Sam had got through almost the whole chapter about water nyxies and spirits and other things that might be out there instead of an animal-like lake monster when he felt somebody watching him and heard footsteps off toward his right. He didn't have any weapons on him, but he knew how to defend himself, and he knew that most of the time his best choice was to run, fast as a jackrabbit across the dirt and scrubby grass and sidewalk that separated him from Dean and Dad. Warily, Sam looked up from his book and saw a girl looking at him.
She was about his age, definitely in middle school, with her almost-black hair in braids on either side of her head. "Hey," she said. "What are you reading?"
"A book." Sam looked back down at his book and tried to remember what paragraph he'd been on.
"It looks kind of boring." She leaned in closer, and Sam angled the book away from her.
"You look kind of boring," Sam snapped and immediately wished he hadn't. He and Dean talked to each other like that all the time, but it probably wasn't too cool to talk to girls that way. Especially this girl who was glaring at him like she wanted to kill him with her mind. She spun on her heel and took off toward the lake; Sam shrugged and went back to his reading. He looked up when he heard her coming back and then his eyes went wide at the sight of the bucket of water sloshing as it dangled from her hand. He scrambled up off the chair and stuffed Pastor Jim's book into the back of his jeans just in time to keep it from getting wet as the water washed over him, drenching his hair and face and the front of his clothes.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
"Do I have to go back and get more water?" She put her hands on her hips and it made her look weirdly like their old landlady back in Toledo.
"No, geez." Sam shook some of the water out of his hair and blinked it out of his eyes. "You're not boring, I swear." You're crazy, Sam thought, but he didn't say it; he figured if he got another face full of water it was going to seep back and get the book wet no matter what.
"You better swear," she murmured before sitting down on the stairs to the RV. She rubbed her flip-flops around in the dirt, making random patterns of swirls and lines for a minute and then looked back up at Sam. "So, my name's Grace."
"Sam I am!" She laughed, covering her face with one purple-fingernailed hand.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Oh, that's so original, I never heard that one before."
"Oh, shut up!" Grace snapped, but she giggled again.
"You shut up." Sam smiled and made circles of his own on the dirt with the heels of his dollar-store Keds.
"You wanna go get some ice cream?"
Sam thought about the $5 in his backpack and nodded. "Yeah, okay. I'll be right back."
Sam scrambled back up onto his bunk and wrapped the mostly-dry book in a t-shirt before tucking the $5 into the pocket of his shorts. Dean and Dad both had said to stay near the RV, but if he was old enough to stay by himself all day then he was old enough to walk to the ice cream store, and he wouldn't even be by himself.
The whole way up the road, Sam tried to decide what kind of ice cream he wanted to get. He was leaning toward black cherry--they had the kind with the big, fat cherries that squished and popped in his mouth, sweet and sharp against the vanilla. Cookies and cream was good too, but the cookie bits always got stuck in his teeth, and he didn't want Grace to make fun of him for having black spots on his teeth. There was nobody standing behind the counter of the ice cream place when they got there. Sam pushed himself up on tiptoe to look over the counter; maybe something bad had happened to whoever was supposed to be there, but there was nobody anywhere.
Sam thought about walking around to the back of the little square building, but Grace beat him to the punch. "Hey!" She shouted, her voice a little screechy and annoying, but definitely attention-getting. "Hey, do we have to get our own ice cream or what?"
The door behind the counter opened with a dull slap and a guy with long hair in his eyes stepped through. "Chill, girl." Grace glared at him, but he just shrugged his shoulders. "What can I get you?"
"Regular size rocky road in a sugar cone."
Sam heard footsteps in the gravel behind him, but he didn't turn fast enough to avoid the grip of a finger through the belt loop on the back of his jeans. "Heads up, Sammy."
Sam elbowed Dean in the ribs and jerked away. "Aren't you supposed to be at work?"
"Got off half an hour ago." Dean smirked. "Hey, your little girlfriend's got a hell of a mouth on her."
Sam suddenly and distinctly wished he'd just stayed back at the camper by himself. "She's not my girlfriend. I'm not even old enough to have a girlfriend."
"Aw, Sammy, I had six girlfriends when I was your age."
"Liar," Sam spat out. He knew Dean was lying, knew Dean had been stuck with him whenever they weren't in school, stuck wherever they were calling home. He hated it when Dean tried to act like he was the Fonz or something, like being himself wasn't good enough.
Dean just quirked up his eyebrow and smiled that cocky smile that made Sam want to sock him in the face.
That started a new routine, and every afternoon Grace walked over from her own camp site to hang out for a while before they walked up to get a coke and fries or an ice cream. She said her parents were working for the place that rented out paddle boats, and when Sam used the old traveling salesman story to explain why he was on the road with his family she looked at him like that was a good job. He liked spending time with somebody who wasn't Dean, even if she was a girl, and she knew a lot of good card games.
Sam got used to Dad coming home with wet shoes and black grease on his hands, got used to Dean coming home smelling like hot dogs and smoke, and he almost let himself forget that there was really a hunt. Maybe something waiting out in the water, lurking in the deep darkness. He only remembered in the middle of the night, when he'd wake up gasping in the dim, humid camper, sweat on his face and his stomach churning like the dark water in his dreams, the dark water that had a mouth and wanted to swallow Dean, swallow Dad.
Dad took him down to the boat dock one day, showed him the boat that belonged to the guy who was lending them the camper. The Lisa Louise, it said on the side in looping letters, even though Sam didn't think it was a big enough boat to need a name. Sam peered into the water and saw some tiny fish swimming around, slithering in the sunlight, and he wondered how far out he'd have to go until something a million times bigger could be hiding under his feet. How far out, how far down--how would anybody ever be found if they got lost out there?
When Dean and Dad sat making plans at the camper's tiny little dining table, Sam knew he had to do something to keep them from going out on the lake, to keep them safe.
Dean should have known something was up when Sam didn't say much about he and Dad going off to do night patrol. Sam knew he wasn't allowed to come along on real hunts, but he could be a pissy little bitch about wanting to coming along when it was just research or recon. Truth was, Dean didn't like the plan that much himself, and he didn't think Dad was thrilled about it either. They had worked out the cycle that the deaths were occuring on, but it wasn't a moon cycle, wasn't anything natural either of them could think of or find in any research. Still, they were in town to do a job--a real job that didn't involve serving slushies or replacing gears on pleasure boats--and there was a guy out there expecting them to prevent some deaths and maybe prove that some mythical creature was real.
Dad wanted to take the car down to the docks so that they wouldn't have to walk around in the open with the bags of weapons. Problem was it was a pain in the ass--walk out close to half a mile to get to the parking lot, drive a couple miles out of the way to get from their ass to their elbow, and then park by the dock less than a mile from where they started. When they left, Sam was reading, stretched out on his stomach on the floor. He wasn't even sulking for once, and Dean would have poked at that if he'd had time--given the kid a noogie, something--but called that it was time to go, and Dean went.
Sam waited two minutes, counting off the seconds in his head until he figured Dean and Dad were far enough down the road to the parking lot that they wouldn't hear him. He crept out of the camper and then took of running, dirt and gravel and dry grass skidding under his feet as he pounded down the footpath, the shortcut from the camping area to the docks. He arrived at the dock with no sign of the Impala, no headlights visible anywhere, and then he was scrambling onto the Lisa Louise. He'd scoped out the storage compartment, knew he could fit if he just squished himself up with the life jackets, so he just jumped inside. He slid around, skin slipping against nylon and foam, but then he was far enough in to pull the hatch closed over his head.
It was completely dark inside, nothing but black until his eyes started to adjust. When his eyes opened up to the darkness, he could see a pale line of light around the seam of the hatch. There wasn't a lot of air, but Sam wouldn't suffocate, didn't think he would suffocate. A few minutes passed, and then Sam heard footsteps on the dock. He felt the boat dip and sway and then he heard familiar voices and then the boat's motor started. They started to move through the water and Sam held himself still, pretending he was in the back seat of the Impala, covers pulled up over his head as they rolled over a bumpy road.
The stars lit up the night a little, but the moon was just a fingernail sliver, and Dad had flicked off the boat's running lights once they got a good distance out from shore. Dean kept watch as well as he could, peering out into the night for any kind of movement or shape, but the nearly unremitting darkness played with his sight and twice he'd had Dad steer over toward something that turned out to be nothing. Fog rose off the water, obscuring things farther, and when they came upon the other boats it was with almost no warning. Simultaneous shouts from him and Dad and a spray of water as Dad steered the boat hard to the right. Dean held onto his seat and strained to look across the water. He could hear men shouting, engines gunning. A shot fired. A splash.
"Dean, get down!" Dad shouted, his voice hoarse.
"No, we need to know what they're doing!" Dean climbed up to stand on his seat, trying to get a better vantage point above the fog that lay low on the water. He saw the boat barreling straight toward them in time to yell, "GO!" but not in time to get back in his seat, not in time to grab on, not in time to keep himself from falling as the sudden movement of the boat took his balance from him. He felt himself falling, but there was nothing to grab, nothing to stop him. His feet hit the water and then the back of his head glanced off the side of the boat. The darkness exploded into stars as he slipped underwater, pulled down by the weight of his boots and the water soaking into his jeans.
Dean struggled, trying to move his legs in the heavy denim, but his head swam at a different pace than the water around him, and he wasn't sure exactly where to find up even if he knew how to get there. His lungs burned, that last gasp of air dwindling down to nothing, and the stars fizzled out to black.
Sam huddled inside the storage compartment clutching the thick life vests to his chest. He couldn't hear much of what was going on over the noise of the boat's motor, but something was wrong. The boat had jerked out of its smooth path, slowed nearly to a stop. Dad shouted, Dean shouted, and the boat tilted sideways then started to speed up before stopping.
Sam heard a gunshot--sharp and horribly close--and then Dad's voice shouting, "Dean! DEAN!"
Sam couldn't stay put one more second. He came bursting out of his hiding place to see a boat speeding away from them and Dad standing with his pistol in his hand, staring out across he dark water. Dad turned towards Sam, gun up, finger on the trigger, but then the anger on his face fell away and he turned back to stare at the water, nearly hanging over the side.
"Where's Dean?" Sam felt his heart beating hard in his chest, and he thought about that gunshot. Had it been Dad who made the shot or somebody on that other boat? And where was Dean? "Dad? Dad, where's--"
"Look on the other side of the boat," Dad bit out. "Jesus motherfucking Christ, look on the other side of the boat."
Sam stood still with shock for a moment, and Dad stumbled forward, landing on his knees on the outer wall of the boat. He learned foward, nearly hanging off into the water.
"Sam! We need to get him out!"
And Sam went. All he could hear was his own breath, Dad shouting Dean's name into the darkness, his own voice barely loudy enough to carry, tiny waves slapping against the side of the boat. Sam ran up and down the short distance of his side of the boat, but Dean was nowhere, and it was like his dream. Dean was swallowed up into the blackness, and Sam would never see him again.
"Please!" Sam shouted. "Please!" And he didn't know if he was calling for Dean to come back, begging Dad to make it happen, praying to God to save Dean's life, or just pleading with whatever might be out there in the dark, whoever might be listening.
Dad was still shouting Dean's name, his voice hoarse and raw, and Sam couldn't look at him. He closed his eyes and felt the boat heave up under them. He didn't know what was coming, but he didn't think it could be worse that what had already come. And gone.
Dean felt himself jerk to a stop, not falling through the water anymore, not floating. A thought flittered through his mind, that he'd gotten hooked up on the hull of some old shipwreck, and he thought maybe that was kind of a cool place to die, if he had to. Then he thought about Sam, back at the camper, thought about Dad waiting for him up on that boat, and he didn't want to be dead, not even on some cool fucking shipwreck. He worked his legs, searching for something to push off of, some kind of leverage to get himself moving toward the surface. Then he was moving.
He was moving upwards, but he was still caught. He flailed around with his hands to see what he was stuck on and he found teeth. A mouth. Rough-edged slippery scales with muscles working under a neck. They were rising quickly, and Dean thought that at least he'd get a breath of air above the surface before the thing tried to eat him. Maybe get a chance to fight back once his head stopped spinning. They broke the surface and Dean gasped in a long breath that hurt like hell but tasted so sweet.
The thing flicked its neck, flung him into the air in a slow arc, Dean had a moment to think that he ws about to be eaten like fucking popcorn before he landed on his ass on the boat deck. He saw a weirdly uneven double image of Dad and Sam looming over him with matching wide-eyed expressions until his lungs seized and he rolled over on his side, coughing and hacking up water until everything went dark again.
The sight of that giant head cresting up through the water with Dean hanging by his shirt from its jaws, the broad curve of the creature's body pushing the boat halfway out of the water, got Sam to hit the deck more than his father's echoing commands to get down. He landed on all fours on the wet deck, and then Dean landed next to him with a thud. The boat dipped sharply beneath them, and when Sam looked up he saw the creature disappearing back into the water. He felt Dad next to him as he hovered there over Dean. Dean's mouth was wide open, the tendons of his throat straining like he couldn't get a good breath, and then he twisted over on his side, gagging and coughing, choking up water and trembling like it was January instead of July.
Sam didn't know what to do. His own lungs felt like they were tight and funny in his chest, but he hadn't been the one drowning a minute ago. Dad fell to his knees beside them and rubbed his hand up and down Dean's back. Sam watched, feeling too far away to touch anything, but he wanted to laugh when he saw his father's thick fingers catch in the holes left in Dean's t-shirt by the creature's teeth. "I guess--I guess that was Champ," Sam said.
Dad nodded but kept his eyes on Dean, who finally stopped coughing but then went limp and still under Dad's hands.
"Dad?!" Sam stood up on shaky legs ready to run...somewhere, wherever he had to go to get help for Dean.
Dad's hands shook as they moved from Dean's back to his chest, but then they relaxed, laying flat over the front of Dean's t-shirt as he got Dean positioned on his back. "He's breathing, Sammy. He just passed out." Dad looked back at Sam then. "Do you blame him?"
"N-no." Sam wrapped his arms around his chest and looked at all the blackness around them.
"Come here." Dad's voice was strangely soft, and Sam walked forward, knelt down next to Dean again. "I need to get us back in to the dock. Do you think you can lay down here with Dean and keep him warm?"
"Yeah." Sam nodded and stretched out on the damp floor next to Dean. It felt weird, cuddling up to his brother like he was a little kid again. He lay on his side next to Dean and curled one arm over his chest, which steadily rose and fell just the way it was supposed to. Dad turned on the boat's lights and the night ahead of them lit up against the surrounding darkness. Sam closed his eyes and tried to hold in his mind the way the creature's scales had shone even in the dim starlight, the grace of its neck.
He wondered how long it had lived there, circling the lake mostly unseen, and he wondered if it had a family too, or if it was all alone. Maybe all alone in the whole world. Sam moved his leg over the waterlogged demin of Dean's jeans and held on tight.