Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. Written for entertainment, not profit.

Notes/Warning: Setting is around mid season 7. This is intended to be more hurt/comfort than smut, but it does have a scene involving non-con, which I have edited the details out of to fit an M rating, so please keep that in mind if you want to continue. If you prefer, the original higher rated version as well as art made by the wonderful Patricia de Lioncourt can be found here: twisted-slinky. livejournal 56263. html (remove spaces).

If We Fall or Merely Stumble

Part 1 of 2

His back pressed against the bathroom door, long legs splayed out in front of him, Sam remained a statue while the devil watched from his seat on the edge of the closest bed. Sam could hear the sounds from the tiny room behind him, of the water-damaged flooring groaning with the weight of Dean, of medical tape being ripped, of towels being tossed. He'd swear he could even hear his brother's breathing, deep and paced, as if all were right in the world.

But all wasn't right, and Dean had been in there a long time.

"One day," Lucifer said, his eyes rolled upward, as if recalling a fairy tale, "he's going take a great fall and not be able to put all the pieces back together again. Of course, it won't really matter then, will it? You're not going to last that long, are you, Sam?"

Sam stared straight ahead, dark eyes unwavering in their refusal to acknowledge the hallucination. But Lucifer was right, and because he was a figment of Sam's imagination, he knew he was right. There was no winning with Satan. Still, Sam stayed quiet, partly because he didn't want his brother to know he was listening in, waiting to hear a sound that was wrong, any excuse to bust through the door.

Seven hours ago, things had been different. Seven hours ago, Sam hadn't yet realized what should have been obvious, that the brothers Winchester would never feel things the way other people felt things. They'd seen too much, been torn asunder, and were still breathing. That perspective, Hell's gift to them, would make all other woes more numbing than destructive. A piece of Sam died with that realization.

"Oh, come on, Sammy," Lucifer groaned, bored already, "it's not like it's even the worse thing that's ever happened to him."

Seven hours ago, they'd been on a job.

The chill in the air worked better than the three cups of coffee he'd downed earlier, but it remained unwelcome. Dean's gaze was wide, overly aware, arms down to his side, even though he wanted to cross them over his jacket to ward off the stiff breeze off the ocean. He slid beside one of the many sycamores growing in the shallow valley, listening for movement from the closest group of campers. Off-season or not, there were still more civilians around than he would have liked.

"Malibu," he hissed, annoyed at the mere name. "Ranger Tina owes us one for this."

Sam, at his side, frowned, but didn't voice a disagreement. "You're the one who told her we'd take the job."

"I thought the beach would be warmer," Dean muttered.

"It's winter. And three in the morning."

"It's Malibu," Dean snapped, but his heart wasn't in the argument. Neither was Sam's.

They both knew the real reason they had returned the park ranger's call, and while, aloud, they'd agreed it was because she was an old acquaintance of Bobby's, the main draw had been the state of the bodies being found. They'd been half eaten. Not a big surprise considering they were talking about corpses exposed to the ocean, only these poor saps hadn't drowned and had been discovered far from Leo Carrillo beach, despite the fact that it was their last known location. And the distance had nothing to do with the current. Something was trying to keep its hunting grounds off the radar; something that left a black substance behind on two of the vics.

Sam wasn't sold on it being leviathan related, but Dean wasn't willing to pass up the possibility. Either way, a hunt was a hunt.

Ranger Tina, having had a run-in of the supernatural variety before, had placed the call as soon as she realized something had seemed off about the deaths. She was the only reason that Sam and Dean had been able to sneak in after hours and could rest assured authorities would be mysteriously absent from their usual beach rounds until opening. It was good to have someone on the inside, but it didn't make Dean less worried about partiers leaving their tents for midnight strolls and running into two guys with guns and no camping permits.

Past the roll of waves, the sound of Sam's feet crunching Earth, there was, oddly, nothing. Dean gave a swift nod, then headed out of the copse of trees and brush, moving from sandy soil to sand in minutes. Out in the open, exposed, he stood facing the water, watching the glimmer of moonlight on its choppy surface. Past a grasping tide, a boulder jutted out of the water, sprayed with foam at every push of the waves. Dean took it all in, trying to ignore the peace settling in his stomach in favor of the alertness that so often kept him alive.

He felt rather than heard Sam at his elbow.

"This is nice," Sam said, an ache in his voice.

Dean set his jaw. "It's cold," he corrected and pulled the flask out of his inside pocket. A quick swig didn't burn the way it used to, but he figured that had more to do with him than the liquor, so he held it out, giving a little shake. "Warm you up."

He was almost surprised when Sam took the offer. Dean watched from the corner of his eye as Sam took a shallow sip and then hid the flask away in the folds of his own jacket. Away from his brother. "We're on a job," he reminded.

"And the victims were all drunk when they were taken," Dean reminded. "Maybe I'm just trying to attract the evil son of a bitch."


Dean pretended the reply was lost beneath the roar of the water; it was easier than noting the disappointment in his brother's voice. He stepped on, his boots dragging up sand, and he was happy the car he'd be tracking the mess back into wasn't his baby.

"So, Tina said that by her best guess the last guy who went missing was—" Dean's voice broke off, brow wrinkling as he took a few more quick steps forward. "You hear that?"

"Hear what?"

The answer became apparent a split second later, when the sound of the cry became louder. It was a shout for help, carried on the wind. Dean turned his head so quickly it made him dizzy, and then his feet went to work on their own. He broke into a run toward the south side of the beach, Sam's tromping pace not too far behind him. It wasn't until he passed the closest rock formation that the girl came into sight.

Dean didn't hesitate, sloshing up shallow water as he grew closer. He could see her well by the moonlight, her bare skin pale as she splashed up water, screaming whenever her dark head of hair broke surface, her pretty features twisted in fear. She wasn't far out, still in the shallows, but something was beneath her, a shadow on a shadow, twisting and contorting as it trapped her in place.

Her eyes locked on to Dean, and she threw her arms out, desperately beckoning her rescuer, but as soon as her mouth opened to cry out again, a figure rose out of the water behind her and wrapped around her neck. It was oil slick and just as black and glistening with pale, familiar circles on its bottom half; a tapered arm from a dweller of the deep.

Dean didn't have time to process that detail, but he did anyway, and he came up empty. He couldn't think of any supernatural creature with arms like those. Dean pulled his handgun free from the back of his jeans, holding it above the sloshing of the water as he ran forward, knee deep, then thigh deep, until he was practically on top of her. The weapon was useless until he could get her out of the way.

Sam was still a few yards from the water. "Dean, wait for me!"

"Help!" she screeched, latching on to Dean's wrist as soon as he held it out to her. "Please—help me!"

He returned the move, yanking her toward him, but she didn't budge. "I've got you," he bit, and pulled again. He turned his head to the side, spotting Sam out of his peripheral. "Sam, I need a—"

The massive black arm slapped the words right out of his mouth and the gun out of his hand. Dean wavered, almost losing his footing on the shifting wet sands, his thoughts dazed by the blow, but he'd dipped just low enough to see his attacker…His gaze ran down the woman's bare chest, no time for it to linger on her heavy breasts, and then to her lower stomach, where the paleness of her skin disappeared. He blinked, confused, until he realized those arms didn't belong to anything beneath her. They were part of her.

The bitch had tricked him.

Pissed, he jerked out of her grasp, moving for the knife still in his pocket, but something wrapped around his waist, pulling him toward her again with a strength that knocked the air from his lungs. It was thinner than the fat black arms, and longer, its tip splayed wide like an open leaf and covered in tiny suckers that ripped a patch out of his jacket with just a flick of movement. He could only imagine what it would do to his skin. He'd watched too much TV, and too much porn, not to recognize a tentacle when it had him it its grasp.

A goddamned tentacle monster had him.

There was a joke there, one he was desperate to crack, but one look at its face, and he, for once in his life, managed to swallow down the pun in favor of keeping his breath. Maybe he was getting soft with age, or maybe the lesson had finally sunk in—Dean refused to think too hard on it, concentrating on freeing his fingers enough to find the sheathed knife's handle.

The monster smiled as he struggled, her eyes catching the light. The dark pupils were growing in size and horizontal, split across the width of each orb in an eerie mockery of an eye inside an eye. The features he'd seen earlier, accepted as beautiful, now disguised him.

"You'll do nicely," she hissed, running her fingertips over his jaw.

"I don't taste as good as I look, lady," he growled, straining against her grasp. So much for the lesson sinking in. He tossed his head back, bellowing out at a near growl. "Sam!"

Dean kicked out at her, only to feel other limbs grabbing him from beneath the surface and pulling him even closer. He craned his neck, opening his mouth to call out to his brother again and swallowing a mouthful of salt water instead. He came up coughing, just in time to hear a gunshot go wide and see Sam take a blow to the chest thanks to one of the long tentacles. His tall form flew out of the water as if he'd been hit by a wrecking ball, landing back first in the lapping foam with a thud.

Dean didn't have time to see him get back up. Before he could catch his breath, he was pulled under the water, his last sight that of the smirking creature holding him close before the dark depths beneath turned his world to black.

The sound of the rolling waters was soothing, enticing him to stay in place and enjoy its lullaby.

Sam thought he'd had this dream before, but not often enough. It was based on a memory from years past, too many for him to count—or, at least, it felt that way now. He'd fallen sleep on the damp sands after a dip in the water, at an odd peace, despite his instinct to not be so exposed, so out in the open. A beautiful blonde, the woman he was in love with, lay beside him, watching him, he could tell, even as he drifted out of consciousness.

Only something about the memory didn't sit right this time. The dream had changed the happy moment to something less pleasing. Gone was the touch of the sun on his skin. In its place was a bone deep chill. Some part of Sam panicked right then, as that detail sunk in. He wasn't sure why, but he was suddenly mad at himself for keeping his eyes shut. These minutes, wasted in a nap on the sand, were precious for a reason he couldn't quite put his finger on.

As soon as his eyes cracked open, taking in the moon above, reality flooded back to him. He scrambled onto his knees, nearly falling over again when the pain at the back of his head hit him. He fingered through his hair until he found an egg-shaped lump, where his head must have bounced off of one of the smaller rocks littering the sands. There was no blood, though, which was a plus, he supposed. The wind hit him, sending a shiver over his whole body, and he crawled the few feet necessary to hit the dry sand, plopping back down to wait for his head to quit spinning.

It was then that he realized what was still missing from this picture. The woman—the thing in the water—was gone. And so was his brother.

"Dean." He whispered the name, as if it might conjure the man. It didn't work. He took a shallow breath, fighting back the panic rising up his throat like bile. "Dean, where are you, man…?"

He patted his aching chest, feeling the square in the inside breast pocket. It felt surprisingly dry, somehow spared by the water he'd been lying in. He pulled out the cell phone, not taking the time necessary to note the miracle that it was not only in one piece, protected from the blow, but also working. He was too preoccupied by the fact that he had no service and the clock across the screen was wrong. Had to be wrong. He'd last checked when they were still in the camp ground but…best guess? He'd lost at least ten minutes lying in the water. Maybe more.


Dean had been gone for over ten minutes.

Sam rubbed at the tightness over his heart, the worry working its way to surface. If the creature had pulled Dean out to sea, if the creature had pulled him under the water, it would only take a few minutes for...

"No. No." Sam shook his head, swallowing down that thought. There was no way Dean was dead. He'd feel it if Dean were dead, and he refused to believe otherwise.

He pushed himself up onto his feet, jaw set as he turned a circle, finally finding the duffel he'd dropped before running into the water. He pulled it up, letting the jug of Borax solution drop out as he dug free the heavy Desert Eagle at the bottom. It wasn't his choice weapon, but the caliber would insure the creature slowed down, even if he didn't know how to kill it. Yet.

He stared out at the night, livid, as if it were somehow responsible for his missing brother. He refused to collapse in hopelessness just yet. Instead, he mentally combed through every detail he could remember of what Tina had told them about the case, what he'd learned about the park from his own research, what the coroner's report had said about the corpses—the corpses. Sam's eyes widened. The victims—Tina had even made note that their causes of death hadn't involved drowning. Which meant that maybe they were killed outside the water.

Sam took off at a dead run, refusing the urge to look at the phone again, see just how many more minutes he'd wasted, to consider how long it would take the monster to get where it was going and start chowing down on its supper. Sam tasted acid at the back of his throat at the mere thought.

He scanned the rocks in the distance, considering them. From what he'd read, the park had several sea caves and grottos, perfect places for a creature to hide in when the beach-goers were away. It was possible the monster had circled back toward the beach with its victim—with Dean.

The beachfront couldn't have been two miles long, but his body was sore, heavy with water, his feet digging in the sand, and his head pounding. The journey to the closest formations seemed painstakingly long. He forced himself to slow down, just as he approached, and listen.

He forgot the breeze, his body flooded with heat when he heard the soft chuckle bouncing off the rocks. Nostrils flared in anger, he forced himself to concentrate, leveling his weapon, and easing around the first formation and into a short tunnel lined in mussels. It led back out to the beach and closer to the cave. There, floating on a pool of water, was the shredded jacket Dean had been wearing.

Sam straightened, letting his inner hunter take over. There wasn't time to be a brother right now, to save the ruined remnant. He moved, shoulders tight, walk loose and graceful, back into the moonlight for a better look at the cave. It was still too dark for him to see much beyond the shifting of shadows and the porcelain glimmer of her bare, feminine shoulder blades, but there she was, just a few feet inside the grotto, blanketed in shadow, her voice drowned by the sounds of the morning tide but harsh.

"Now, now, hunter…We're not finished yet. You're young, strong. You've got more in you still…"

Sam lined up the Eagle, waiting for the chance to take the shot. Below the waist, her body was massive, fanning out elegantly in dark, textured flesh, a long arm at each tip helping her lift herself up. Two longer appendages grew out from either side of her hips, tentacles, which danced through the air a moment, coming back down in front of her…down to Dean. Sam hesitated only a moment, concentrating—he had to make sure Dean was still on the ground, not sitting up in front of her or the shot could take them both out.

Then she cocked her head, her slick hair spilling down, and a ripple ran over her form, shifting her body enough for Sam to see the awkward tilt of Dean's boot peeking out beneath. It was confirmation enough.

The blast of the gun echoed over the rock, sounding like a canon had been fired, but Sam was deaf to it, watching only the spray of brain matter and hair. The top half of the creature's head was gone, the bowl of the skull swaying on the neck a moment before the monster collapsed forward, its arms twitching against the sand like so many snake tails.

"Dean!" Sam called out, running forward, gun still at the ready, but the creature's human-like torso remained at a twisted angle.


The reply was muffled, and a moment later Dean's arm thrust out, clawing at the rock. Sam hopped over the closest black arm, his foot catching it. The flesh peeled away as a gelatinous goo. Close up, he could see that the creature's torso was undergoing a similar transformation. It reminded him too much of a shifter shedding his skin.

"Gross…" Sam muttered, shaking his head as the scent of the decaying monster hit him. A barrel of two-day-old fish guts couldn't have been more rancid. "But at least we don't have to worry too much about clean up."

He reached the other side of the creature, where his own shadow blocked the moon from casting its light any further, and tucked the gun at the small of his back as best he could. Still, even in the dark, he could make out Dean's silhouetted form, struggling to pull himself up, yanking at his pants legs as if they were still caught beneath the monster's weight. Sam was blinded to his features but managed to grab his elbow and help him back to the mouth of the small grotto.

When they stumbled out together, Sam paused, frozen in place as he got a decent look at his brother. His eyes widened as he took in the shredded t-shirt and ripped jeans, both of which were streaked with dark stains. And, there was something marring the exposed skin as well, strange, rounded cuts.

"Jesus, Dean—you're bleeding."

Dean stared back at him, his eyes shadowed. His lips twitched, as if he'd almost replied, then thought better of it. He nodded, looking down at himself. "Some of it's ink."

That explained the black stains on the victims. Sam frowned. "Like ink from an octopus?"

"Hell if I know. Looked more like a squid to me, but, shit." He swallowed hard, as if he were trying not to gag. "Can we get the hell out of here? That smell..."

Dean shivered, reminding Sam that they were both soaking wet in winter and standing next to the ocean. Not a great combination. Sam pulled off his jacket, quickly unbuttoning his outer shirt, which was only slightly drier, and shoving it at his brother.

Dean took it, his movements stiff as he slipped it over his shoulder. "I need to wash this smell off," he said, softly.

Sam touched his arm, carefully leading him back toward the short tunnel. "Someone will have heard that shot, too. Waves or no waves. Think you can make the walk back? If not, Tina could—"

"I'm fine," Dean interrupted.

As if to prove his point, he trudged forward, limping slightly, as if he'd banged his bad leg against the rocks. He passed his brother, leaving Sam to grab their duffel bag out of the sand. Lucifer stood on the beach, holding the strap out to him.

"Fine?" One brow above a narrow, pale blue eye cocked in surprise. "Now, we both know he'll never be fine, don't we, Sammy?"

Sam didn't need this right now. He gave his head a sharp shake, remembering his wound too late. He winced, pinching the spot between his eyebrows in an attempt to ward off the sudden headache the movement brought. By the time he looked up, Lucifer was gone, and Dean was far off. The ocean, though, was exactly where it had always been.

End Notes: Thanks for reading! Part 2 of 2 should be up shortly.