Title: 'On the Wind', 2/2 (If you haven't already, read 1/2 here.)
Inspiration: Written for fhionnuiscetine's 'Macabre March Madness' prompt o'er at sharp_teeth (whole shebang found here.)
What's that I thought I heard you say?
Lunarscape and cold winds on their way
Whistling banshee through the screen
Salt air and isolation sting
Melon seed-spitting wars
Toys lost in the sand
Innocence is scorched
Summer leaves its brand
-Carbon Leaf, 'Summer Song'
Characters: Sam, Dean
Wordcount: 2,300-ish for Part II
Summary: A routine ghost hunt gets less than routine when Dean succumbs to the siren song of the sea...
Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' is not my creation. Would that it were. All characters used with great appreciation to Kripke and Company. Amen.
Warnings: Pretty tame for horror, I'm afraid. Some swearing, nothing radical. Possible drowning and a visit to Davey Jones' locker! Arrrrrr.
Author's Note: Un-beta'd once again, but it's not a terribly challenging piece. Shouldn't be too many glaring bits of stupid. There's a touch of H/C, some brotherly banter, a spot of tension...an SPN goulash of this, than 'n the other.
Cold. Cold water. Feels like satin sheets, or at least I imaging it does. That’s on the ol’ bucket list: a weekend on satin sheets, Ecstasy, and a blonde with no hang-ups.
Why are you calling to me, anyways? Are you lonely? You sound lonely, and I know lonely. Been there, done that, bought the postcard. Though I’ll never admit it to Sammy. Kid’s got enough shit rolling around in that big, scary brain; he doesn’t need to worry about the gaping, needy hole in my fucking heart. That’s my dirty little secret. Oh, I know. He wants to be there for me, wants me to be happy. But…but I’m not sure I’d know happy if it bit me on the ass, to be honest.
Who’s Sammy? My pain in the ass little brother. Not exactly little anymore but—what? Why don’t I just let him grow up? Please, gimme a fucking break. He needs me. And my dad needs me to look out for him. I promised. And I keep my promises. Well, the ones I want to keep.
Speak up; I can’t hear you. No, don’t’ cry. God, I hate it when women cry. Pushes all my sucker buttons. What’s your name? Wow, that’s, uh, yeah…a really fancy name you’ve got there. You must’ve been something when you were alive. Aw, come on. Stop it; it’s okay. I…I know you miss your family. Family is ALL, I get it. Boy, do I get it. Hang on, I’m coming. I can help, I swear. I’m a God-damned hero, you know? I can help.
Sam’s fingers curled through the hard sand, grit grinding under his nails. His breath came in ragged draws as he tried to quell the unreasonable sadness that shook him like a pitbull with a chew toy. He heard his breath again, and the ocean. The wailing had suddenly ceased, and Sam dragged his face up from the beach, glaring through wet, trembling hanks of hair. There was the water, but no Dean. Low on the horizon from where Sam could see, about 30 feet out, was a familiar illumination, flickering once before it dropped beneath the surface.
“Oh no you don’t…” he whispered. Lumbering to his feet, Sam ran into the surf, great icy slices exploding from each purposeful step before he dove into the ocean, struggling out towards the submerging light.
He was a decent swimmer, but add jeans, boots, a t-shirt…it wasn’t cute. Compiling trouble was the temperature; already Sam couldn’t feel his extremities. The cold squeezed his chest and set his teeth to chattering, even as he urgently crawled through the waves. He couldn’t lose sight of the ghost. It was his only hope, his only beacon, to Dean.
Her glow, if indeed this was Theodosia and Sam had no reason to believe otherwise, still issued from beneath the surface like the lights at the bottom of a swimming pool. Unmoving. Was she waiting for him, too? Trap or no, Sam’s only choice was to walk, or rather swim, right into it. Sometimes you simply had to take the bait and pray once the shit hit the fan, you had the wherewithal to handle the situation.
Sam neared the light and taking a great breath, he ducked beneath the surface and powered down through the dark ocean toward the glow. His heart pounded in his ears, hands flailing forward, grabbing at anything he could. Seaweed brushed through his fingers and tickled around his throat. All he could see was the ghost’s faint light. Dean…where was Dean, God damn it? Sam’s lungs throbbed and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could tolerate the debilitating cold. He was starting to feel sluggish and disoriented. Soldiering on was becoming not just difficult, but potentially lethal. Logically, he knew he should give up the ghost, so to speak. But that wasn’t how the Winchesters rolled; never say die. Just do it. Stubborn was in the genes.
But then the luminescence went out. Extinguished like a snuffed candle. The dark was absolute and Sam was flooded with panic. No choice; he was forced to return to the surface. He hit the air with a convulsive gasp, back arched, face lifted to the heavens. Legs scissoring to remain afloat, he called his brother’s name. Weak, garbled, choking on saltwater, Sam’s voice was a burning cough. No reply. Just the echo of the sea and his own pathetic wheezing.
“Dean…” he tried again. Nothing. Sam turned in a slow circle but it was nigh impossible to keep his eyes open. Every square inch of flesh was numb and likely shading blue. So tired. He’d gotten far enough out that the ocean’s bottom had dropped off to an uncertain depth. Gotta think of something. Anything.
“Theodosia?” Sam sputtered as a wave broke over his face. “THEODOSIA. I—I know it’s you.” He paused and tried to focus, to listen. “It hurts; it hurts bad. Being alone. But you c-c-can’t have him. He’s g-got important work to do.” Sam sank farther down. His boots felt like they were full of lead, pulling through mud. Muscles burned. The lazy lub-dub of blood pumping in his ears was an ebbing tattoo, slowing with the ice in his veins. “I need him, Th-thea…I…need him. D-Don’t t-t-take him…”
The wind stilled. A horn sounded over the water from a great distance, deep and forlorn. And something grabbed Sam’s calf. Hard. It pulled him down so fast he couldn’t draw a last breath before ocean rushed into his mouth, up his nose. Sam’s eyes flew open wide despite the salty sting, and through a curtain of effervescence, he saw her.
She was beautiful. Her weightless body levitated before him, radiating a pallid green that reminded Sam of those plastic glow-in-the-dark stars kids sometimes stuck on their bedroom ceilings. If you had a permanent bedroom ceiling. She canted her head and stared at Sam, a claw firmly pinched upon his shoulder to keep him submerged. Not that he could struggle if he wanted: Sam was too frozen to flail, his brain full of slush, lips working wordlessly as the last of his breath rode out on a clutch of bubbles. Drifting closer, Sam could see she had no pupils or irises---just orbs of bone-white that drilled into his fading consciousness with a misery Sam hadn’t the presence to describe. He made one last attempt to pull away, shifting his shoulder back but she moved along with him, cupping his sagging chin in one palm with her free hand, delicately avoiding his cheek with her strange, sharp talons. Then the world went black.
A shadow passed across his closed eyelids and he shivered. Grit crunched between his molars as he wedged his jaw back and forth, fighting the abrupt urge to empty his stomach all over…the beach? Why the hell did he decide sleeping on the beach was a capital idea? His mouth tasted like ass, and that was putting it politely. Dean groaned and cracked one eye. Yep, a beach. And sneakers? Dean followed the shoe up the scrawny legs to jeans and the kid that wore them. The boy was peering down at Dean with indifferent curiosity, backlit in cool morning haze. Dean tried to say something suitably clever but when he opened his mouth a gallon of salt-water rushed up his gullet. The boy responded with a firm “EW.”
“Sorry…sorry…” Dean coughed, rolling onto his back. His stomach lurched again but Dean swallowed hard, wincing and quivering and cursing his shitty luck. He and Sammy must’ve really tied one on last night. Someone had better have gotten laid. Wait. Where…?
“I’m not Sam,” the kid scowled and set his hands on his hips, jutting a freckled chin off to Dean’s far side. “That him? I think he’s dead, mister.”
It took Dean a few seconds to process that pronouncement and get the brain working in cooperation with the body. Even though the earth spun when he sat up, he powered through the nausea and squinted along the beach. Maybe twenty feet down the shoreline was a conspicuously tall, shaggy lump, one boot missing, t-shirt carelessly pulled half-up his torso. The skin was fish-belly white, which cleared Dean’s head but fast.
Dean lurched down the beach, stumbling when his knees buckled, forcing him to crawl the rest of the way. His coat chafed, having dried with salt in the fibers.
“Kid, get your ma. Call 911. Call 911!”
Reaching Sam’s side, Dean let loose a barrage of murmuring nonsense in panic when the younger Winchester didn’t so much as twitch, despite a careless shower of sand. Sam’s lips were slack and bruised-looking. Dean slammed his cheek to Sam’s chest, praying for a heartbeat or even the faintest issuance of warmth, but all he could hear was his own pulse in his ear. And the skin…the skin was weird and rubbery. It didn’t feel---but Dean wouldn’t allow himself to go there. He slipped a trembling hand under Sam’s neck and lifted, angling the chin back to ensure there was nothing unexpected in Sam’s mouth, like a hermit crab or whatever the hell else lived on the beach. Pinch the nose, breathe, BREATHE. Sonofabitch, Sammy, come on. Sorry if I crack a rib but…urgh, this isn’t as easy as it looks. Breathe, God damn it…breathe…if you die on me I’ll fucking kill you, I will. I swear.
Everything smudged together in a mash of stimuli. The boy returned, having told his mother there was a dead guy on the beach. Someone’s dog passed too close and Dean nearly snapped its neck. Way off in the distance a siren began its keening wail, which gave Dean pause. It felt oddly familiar and yet…not. The sound made his stomach curdle with dread and he forgot, for just a moment, to force borrowed air into Sam’s lungs. Someone softly coughed. Twice.
Dean’s gaze snapped downwards; he hadn’t realized he’d been staring out at the watery horizon. Sam’s blue-veined lids fluttered.
“Holy shit, Sammy…come on, man, live.” Dean croaked urgently, slapping Sam’s cheek, willing him to draw air.
Sam made a painful, strangled sound. He was still alarmingly pale, except where Dean struck him but he seemed to be coming ‘round, albeit slowly.
Dean hovered, frowning hard. “The Little Mermaid, you ain’t.”
It took Sam a good long moment before he could focus on Dean. Mustering a drabble of strength through his numb fingers, he flipped Dean the bird. And grimaced, which might’ve been a smile had the situation been less desperate.
The EMTs came and went, as did a small gaggle of off-season tourists renting near-by cottages. Apart from salt-dried skin and the odd bruised rib, the Winchesters checked out and hobbled back home to their own little borrowed bungalow.
As the noon sun burned away October’s chill, the boys sat on the ramshackle porch and ate fast food from Buccaneer Burgers. Or rather, Dean ate while Sam nursed a coffee. Light, no sugar.
“Theodosia, huh?” Dean said around a mouthful of hushpuppy, reclined in a weathered wood rocker, stocking feet on the deck’s railing. He seemed none the worse for wear, a tad rumbled and rough around the edges, but that was nothing new for the elder Winchester. “That’s a helluva big-ass name for a ghost.”
Sam shrugged, stared at his coffee. “Yeah, well, those were the days. They did that to kids, saddled them with names no one could spell.”
“You mean like ‘Shaquinnetta’ or ‘Da’Vontaylicious’ or—“
“Okay, okay, point taken.” Sam smirked and raised a hand to halt that particular topic in its tracks. “I do wonder, though, if ghosts are allergic to salt, how she managed to survive the sea.”
“Dunno. YOU were the one talking to her; you didn’t ask? Oh man, these shrimp…” Dean had a breaded, deep-fried crescent pinched by its little pink tail and his expression was bright with appreciation.
“NO. That didn’t come up in conversation. I was too busy drowning. Sue me.” Sam had a moth-eaten plaid blanket swaddled around his shoulders and for a tall guy, he could often seem quite fragile. Like now. He still didn’t have a healthy color back. “I mean, she was so sad. Such ennui—“
“What? ‘Ennui’? Really?” Dean arched a brow. “Dude, could you be any gayer?”
“Dean, it’s French. Means ‘utter weariness’. It’s okay to use your big brain sometimes, you know?”
“I’m just sayin’, ‘ON WE’. Sounds, well—“
Sam slid a benign, long-suffering glower at Dean. “You done yet?”
Popping a shrimp into his mouth, Dean shrugged. He knew Sam was fixing to emo on. And emo, he did.
“Her last days must’ve been truly awful. Lost in a storm at sea, or brutalized by pirates. Either way, un-fun. I can’t blame her spirit for being vengeful. Lonely.” Sam sighed and set his coffee aside, weaving slender fingers together and resting them in his lap. “I’m not sure why she let us go. Maybe…maybe I got through to her. Convinced her she couldn’t have you. Have anyone. Misery may love company but…”
“—but dead things can’t have the living.” Dean nodded sagely, punctuating his comment with a toast of his strawberry/banana shake.
“Hey. Using the ‘big brain’.” Dean tapped his temple with a straw and that…was that. The boys settled into a comfortable quiet and spent the remains of the day on the porch, until a distant bar band began their nightly homage to All Things 70’s and drove the Winchesters inside with a particularly inept rendition of Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” Little too close to home, perhaps.