glorious_spoon (glorious_spoon) wrote,
glorious_spoon
glorious_spoon

In the Wells of Silence

Title: In the Wells of Silence
Pairing: Gen
Rating: PG
Warnings: None; general spoilers for Season 8.
Summary: A voice seems like such a small thing to barter, compared to everything he’s already given up. Written for the Wish List/Wish Fulfillment Party at hoodie_time in response to nong_pradu's request:

Wish 2. Dean loses his voice (like full-on Little Mermaid, voice-stolen). Can be funny or angsty.

A/N: Crossposted at Archive of Our Own.

“An offer, mortal man.”

“I’m not in the mood.” He thrashes again. It’s stupid, he knows it’s stupid, struggling is only gonna make this last longer, hurt worse--but he can’t help it. He’s never been able to help it. There’s a faint scrape of something beneath the toe of his boot--the stony riverbed, probably, just a few inches out of reach. If he could get himself free he could probably just wade out of here, but the slimy weeds wrapped around his ankles and arms and throat are impossibly strong, and it’s all he can do to keep his head above water.

Of all the stupid fucking ways to die, seriously.

“So proud. It’s a small enough payment I ask, in exchange for your life.”

He turns at that, or tries to; the grip of the weeds tightens and he goes under, cold silty river water in his nose and mouth before he manages to break the surface again. He coughs, gags. The creature on the riverbank is just watching him. It’s inhumanly scrawny, translucently pale, and apparently sexless; its wet hair is long and stringy, hanging in its face and forming dark curlicues on its white shoulders. Its eyes are like two cold, strange moons. “Do I look like I was born yesterday?”

“You look like you were born squalling betwixt a woman’s thighs on white sheets, and then again in the heart of a fire. Fire is a terrible thing,” the creature adds in its eerily genteel voice. “It purifies, of course, but it also destroys. Of course, you know that. You were carried out of the darkness to be born into darkness in a wooden box beneath the earth, and you birthed yourself that time, you paid your own passage back into the land of men.”

“Spare me the monologue,” Dean says. “Please.”

“I am simply trying to explain. Most men are given one birth, and one death. The stories you could give me.” It licks its lips, the first sign of emotion it’s shown so far. Avarice. Great. Because his life isn’t complicated enough without a river spirit with a crush on him. “If you accept my terms, I will let you live.”

“Yeah? What are the terms?”

“I will release your bonds. You can walk away unscathed, and I will trouble you and yours no further.”

“What. Terms?”

“Your voice.” It sniffs the air, and takes a deep, shuddering, delirious breath. “I’ll release you in exchange for your voice.”

***

Sam hears the footsteps behind him, but Dean’s on his six--or at least, he’s supposed to be--so it’s not until he feels cold, fetid breath on the back of his neck that he realizes something is terribly wrong.

The footsteps were man-like, and that’s what fooled him. Aughisky, he thinks, already ducking away and bringing his gun up, too slow, the monster’s teeth tearing open a fiery line of pain across the top of his shoulder as he spins.

Scottish water-spirit, a shapeshifter that can appear as a man or a horse. Or, apparently, as a grotesque combination of the two. Its bottom half is more or less man-shaped, though it’s covered in wet gray fur; its head is that of a horse, albeit a horse with two-inch fangs and red eyes. Its pale muzzle drips blood.

They’re supposed to be harmless away from water. That’s why he and Dean had it cornered in this stretch of woods, but there must be a stream or a river or something that wasn’t on the map, because this thing looks anything but harmless. Sam grits his teeth, feels a fresh wash of hot blood as he brings his gun to bear.

There’s a gunshot, then another, thunder echoing off the bare hills. The aughisky jerks, two holes blossoming in its thick equine skull, and Sam stumbles back as Dean jogs into view.

He’s completely soaked, hair sticking up in wet spikes, streaks of river mud on his dripping shirt. The .45 in his hand is still trained on the fallen monster, and his face is white and furious.

“I take it you found the river,” Sam says dryly, rubbing his shoulder and wincing. The gash isn’t that deep, but it still stings. Dean looks up at him, just a quick glance, assessing the situation--Sam is still vertical and coherent, which in their fucked-up world means good enough--then kicks the still-twitching aughisky over and fires another three rounds into its skull. It jerks, then finally goes limp. Dean kicks it again, and Sam snorts. “I think it’s dead. Did you find a lair?”

Dean doesn’t answer. Doesn’t even look up for a long moment, and when he does there’s a strange tension in the corners of his mouth. Rivulets of brownish water are dripping from his wet hair to catch in his brows and eyelashes and stubble. He’s breathing hard, must have run flat-out to get here in time.

“Lair?” Sam says again, and Dean finally shakes his head. His eyes land on Sam’s bloody shoulder, and his mouth twists further; Sam touches it again, and grimaces when his fingers come away red. “Well, if we’re done here, you mind heading back to the motel? I’d like to get a few stitches in this, and you look like a drowned rat.”

No smile. Not even a twitch.

“Dean?”

The sound of his name finally seems to galvanize Dean into action. He holsters his gun, looks up at Sam again, jerks his chin in the direction of the hill where they parked the car, a wordless come on gesture. No Sammy, you okay? or Dude, seriously, I hate hiking. Just that. Come on.

Sam opens his mouth to say something--he doesn’t even know what--but Dean has already turned his back and started up the hill, booted feet heavy on the mossy ground. After a moment, Sam follows him.

It’s been like this ever since Dean got out of Purgatory. There’s an unfamiliar coldness to him, a constant, silent impatience. No comfort and very little humor; it’s like hunting with Dad, which is just wrong on levels Sam doesn’t even want to contemplate.

At the motel, Dean follows him into the bathroom, tracking muddy water all over the peeling linoleum floor, and pushes him down on the closed toilet seat. The first aid kit is open on the counter, like always, and he grabs the scissors, cuts the shoulder seam of Sam’s t-shirt open until the bloody material is flopping, limp and ridiculous, at his side.

“I liked that shirt,” Sam mumbles, and Dean doesn’t answer. He’s peering at the injury, brow furrowed. It really isn’t that bad--no serious muscle damage, and the bleeding has almost stopped already--but it does look pretty gross. It seems to be reasonably clean, at least, and aughiskies aren’t supposed to be venomous. Small blessings.

There’s love bites and then there’s love bites, Sammy, and this ain’t the good kind. Dean always used to to talk when he was stitching Sam up, a constant banter that was frequently annoying and usually bordered on obscene, but always something to take his mind off it. Sam hates stitches, always has, and never mind that they’re a necessity in this line of work. That’s just one more reason why this line of work sucks.

Dean is threading the curved needle with fishing line, his thick fingers quick and competent. He holds up the whiskey bottle, sloshes it a little, a question in his eyes.

“No thanks.”

Suit yourself, show-off, he imagines Dean saying as his brother silently pours whiskey over the open wound, one hand braced firmly against Sam’s shoulder to keep him still when he jerks involuntarily against the sting of it. Hold still. Jesus, you’re such a princess.

It’s no good. He can’t quite imagine the affection in Dean’s voice, the worry underneath. He hasn’t heard either of those things in way too long. He closes his eyes, and doesn’t open them again until Dean starts the first suture. At least then he can blame his watering eyes on something other than the deep, empty sadness in his chest.

***

His sodden jeans are heavy and stiff, gritty with river mud and almost impossible to unbutton with fingers gone numb from the cold. The shower has steamed up the whole room by the time Dean finally manages to get them off and climb into the narrow stall. He braces his hands against the molded plastic, eyes closed against the spray, and lets the hot water pound some of the tension out of his shoulders. He feels stiff and old, chilled despite the fact that motel shower is actually decently hot, like the icy river water has somehow managed to seep beneath his skin and settle there.

He doesn’t even bother to wash himself, just stands under the water until it starts to turn cold. When he gets out, he wipes a spot clear in the fogged mirror and stares at his reflection for a long moment, unsure of what he’s expecting to see. He looks normal. Tense and tired and bruised, but not cursed, or at least no more than usual.

My name is Dean Winchester, he thinks. The words are there, clear as a bell in his head, but when he opens his mouth what comes out isn’t his name, isn’t even close to a word.

It sounds like a dying animal, guttural and inhuman, and the hell of it is that he can’t even swear.

He curls his hand into a fist instead, knocks it hard against the metal door frame. The pain in his knuckles makes for a welcome distraction, at least.

“Dean?” A tentative knock on the door. Sam. “Dean? You okay in there?”

He’s fine. He’s absolutely fucking fine. He’d tell Sam as much, if he still had the words for it.

A long silence, then an annoyed sigh and the sound of footsteps retreating into the bedroom. Bed springs creak, and then the TV comes on, probably tuned to one of those lame-ass wildlife documentaries that Sam started watching sometime when Dean was busy trying not to be eaten by Purgatory’s own version of wildlife. More of Amelia’s influence, most likely. One more thing that he’s not allowed to bitch about anymore, not that he could anyway at the moment.

He scowls at his steam-fogged reflection, and then, struck by a sudden thought, reaches out. The wet glass is cool beneath his fingertip. He’s half-afraid that what comes out will be an illegible scrawl but the words, his name, are there on the glass in his own familiar blocky script.

My name is Dean Winchester. He wipes the glass clear with his hand and smiles, grimly. That’s something, at least. That’s a start.

***

“I’m going across the street to the grocery, you want anything?”

Dean shrugs, holds up the can of beer in his hand and taps it without looking away from his laptop. He doesn’t say a word; hasn’t, in fact, said a word since they got back to the motel. Sam’s shoulder aches, and his head is throbbing, and if he has to sit in the smothering silence of this room any longer he’s going to shoot himself, or possibly Dean.

Hell, he thinks, is other people.

Although, strictly speaking, that’s not true. He should know better, after all. “Any particular brand? Or is PBR okay?”

Dean shrugs again. Doesn’t look up. The blue light of the monitor smooths out his stubble and scars, the lines around his eyes and mouth that will eventually be wrinkles in the unlikely event that he lives that long, and lends a faintly inhuman cast to his impassive face.

“Fine,” Sam says, yanking his coat on. If he slams the door behind him a little more forcibly than necessary, he thinks he can probably be forgiven for that.

When he gets back with dinner for him and beer for Dean, Dean hooks a can out of the six-pack and pops it open, chugs half of it in one gulp and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He doesn’t thank Sam, or smile at him. He barely even looks up.

“So,” Sam tries. “Do we have a case, or something? You’ve been staring at that thing all day, man.”

Silence. It’s starting to rain outside, and the drip drip drip of water from the damaged gutter outside their window is the loudest thing around. Dean types something one-handed, raising his beer to his lips with his other hand. His brow is furrowed in concentration; Sam might as well not even be in the same room.

Sam doesn’t know what the hell his problem is, and he’s starting not to care.

***

It’s the moaning that wakes him, a deep, wordless, animal sound. The room is dark, barely lit by the street lamps outside; it’s only because Dean is between him and the window that Sam can even see him, a dark thrashing shape on the other bed.

The nightmares are one constant that have remained even after Purgatory. He’s used to Dean flailing, yelling, begging in his sleep, the only vulnerability he shows to Sam at all these days.

There are no words this time, though. Just that awful moaning, and Sam is about to break all the unspoken rules they’ve established over the past few months and go shake him until he snaps out of it when he hears the sudden stillness and the sharp intake of breath that mean Dean is awake.

Usually there would be a quiet bout of cursing in the wake of a nightmare that bad, but not this time. There’s just the sound of a cap untwisting, the sharp smell of rotgut whiskey. A deep sigh, and the creak of bedsprings. Self-medication, Winchester-style. When he was with Amelia--

No. He’s just not going there. He gave that up, and she’s alive, and happy, which in his book counts as a win. If it leaves Sam with nothing but the road and the hunt and his uncommunicative alcoholic brother, well, that’s about as much as he’s ever had.

It’s several long moments before Dean recaps the bottle and sets it aside, settles back onto the mattress. Sam lies there, staring at the ceiling and waiting for Dean’s breathing to even out. He’s a light sleeper, and an erratic one--has been since Hell--but they’ve been running full-tilt for the past few weeks, and that plus the alcohol might just be enough to keep him out. Hopefully, anyway, because if he wakes up and finds Sam going through his stuff there’s going to be hell to pay.

Sam is damn well done waiting for Dean to come to him. They’re partners, and if something is going on, he has the right to know about it.

***

It doesn’t take him nearly as long as he expected to break into the laptop. Less than two minutes to guess the password, and absolutely no attempt at deleting the browser history. It’s like Dean wasn’t even trying to stop him from looking, and huh. There’s a thought.

Browser history. Search logs and typed notes in Dean’s fractured, erratic style. Sam scans them with the ease of long practice.

Aughiskey. Fr. Scott. - Each-uisce. Wagers? Or pair w/ other spirit. Keep VOICE not WORDS. Signif.?

Sea witch - river witch? Kill/disable? Break deal?


And underneath that, bolded, LITTLE MERMAID??

Sam rubs his eyes, wondering what the hell it says about his life that this isn’t even weird for him. Dean is researching The Little Mermaid. Sure. Because that makes--

He stops. Rereads the last few lines. The Sea Witch. He’s not exactly up on his fairy tales--which might be something to rectify, all things considered--but he’d have to be a lot more oblivious than he is to miss the connection. Dean met something out in the woods, and he hasn’t spoken since. And the Sea Witch, originally, was the thief of voices.

He leans back in his seat, runs a hand through his hair, and eyes his sleeping brother. “You idiot,” he says out loud, not particularly caring if he wakes Dean up. “You stupid, stubborn jackass.”

Dean grunts wordlessly and rolls over, but doesn’t wake. Sam shakes his head and goes back to the computer. Dean might be impersonating the Second Coming of John Winchester these days, but he’s still no match for Sam when it comes to research. This is something he can do for his brother; a way, maybe, to bridge the a little bit of the gap between them.

***

The sun is up and Sam is starting to feel like the glare of the laptop is etched on the back of his corneas when Dean finally rolls over, scrunches his face up, and opens his eyes. It takes him about three seconds to spot Sam with his laptop, but he pulls his reaction pretty well, just a brief pause before he’s sliding out of bed and lumbering toward the bathroom. He slams the door way harder than he needs to, takes a piss that lasts approximately three hours, flushes the toilet, runs water into the sink for several minutes, and then finally stomps back into the bedroom, face wet, wide awake, and thoroughly irate.

Normally, this would be the point where Dean starts shouting, or maybe throwing punches. He can’t do the first one, Sam’s pretty sure, but the second is still a distinct possibility. Sam was expecting that, and is prepared. He holds up the notebook upon which he’s written a question. You can’t talk, can you?

Dean stares at it for a long moment, scowling, then crosses the room, snatches the notebook and pen out of Sam’s hands, and scribbles something down on it. Sam glances down at the words as it’s shoved back at him. Not FUCKIN deaf, ok?

“Fair enough,” Sam says out loud. “You could have said something, though. Or, you know, written something. Told me.”

A shrug, and for a moment he thinks that’s all he’s going to get. Then Dean takes the notebook back. He’s still scowling, but he writes more slowly now, not like he’s trying to tear through the pages. Research 1st. Was gonna tell you.

It’s an apology, or as close to one as Sam’s going to get, and he nods, accepting it even though it probably isn’t completely true. There isn't much that Dean's willing to trust him with these days. Sam has done his fair share of lying, too. He gets it.

In the full light of day, Dean looks like shit. There are bruises criss-crossing his forearms and forming a faint purplish necklace at the base of his throat. Deep bruises, but no abrasions. If he was tied up with something, it wasn’t rope. The lore Sam could find says that sea witches would wait for their victims to come near water and then trap them there to drown, but it was sketchy on the details.

The bruises, though, he should have noticed those.

The guilt trip can wait, though. “Okay, so, it looks like there’s a time limit on breaking the curse, but that hasn’t run out yet. Most of the supplies we need that we don’t have are things we can get locally, but the catch is, we’re gonna have to go find the spirit and deal with it directly. We’ll need...” He trails off. Dean is staring at him, something unreadable in his tired face. “What?”

Dean shakes his head, mouth quirking into something that could almost be called a smile, and lifts a hand to rub the back of his neck. It’s a familiar, habitual gesture, and Sam realizes with a bittersweet twist that he doesn’t need words to know what Dean’s thinking.

“What, you thought I was just going to leave you hanging? Dude, seriously--” He stops, because Dean seems to think that he did exactly that as far as Purgatory is concerned, and that argument really should wait until they’re both capable of speech. “Seriously, Dean, you couldn’t research your way out of a wet paper bag and you know it. Here.” He spins the laptop around so Dean can see the screen. “I found some lore on water-witches. There’s not much, but they seem pretty straightforward. Iron, purification herbs, salt, blood--lore says we’ll have to anoint it directly, so we’ll need some way to restrain it. Sea-witches tend to find one spot and stick to it; I’m not sure about river-witches, but if we can find the body of water, we should be able to track it down.”

Dean peers at the laptop, frown creasing from his brows as he scans the page. He pulls one of the crumpled papers littering the desk toward him, reads the list of ingredients Sam scribbled down, and then reaches for a pen.

When he pushes the paper back to Sam, there’s a single word scrawled across the bottom. Thanks.

Sam swallows, smiles around the sudden tightness in his throat. “You’re welcome, you stubborn jerk. Do you want to go kill this thing, or what?”

***

The river is deceptively narrow, a rock-strewn tumble worn into soft gray limestone. Leafless trees bend over its steep banks, which are choked by tangles of slimy dead weeds. Dean rubs his throat surreptitiously when Sam isn’t looking. He hates things that try to strangle him. Pain he can deal with, but that slow, squeezing lack of air--

“Is this the place?” Sam asks softly. He’s carrying a plastic grocery bag, gun in his free hand, face creased with worry.

Dean glances around. He wasn’t exactly in an observant frame of mind when he dragged himself out of here yesterday, but keeping tabs on his surroundings was a necessary survival skill even before Purgatory, and at any rate the giant, twisted willow tree that sinks thick roots into the soft riverbank across from them is pretty memorable. He nods.

“Okay.” Sam sets the bag down and begins unloading it on the cold ground. “Keep watch. This shouldn’t take too long.”

Dean nods again.

“Okay, so it’s a pretty simple spell. We need some of the water from its home to bind it--salt and vervain to purify--” It’s Sam’s lecturing voice, the one that sounds like he’s pontificating in front of a lecture hall full of geeks instead of one dropout brother who can’t even tell him to shut up, and it’s comforting in the weirdest way. “According to the lore, blood is key. It’s sort of like in The Little Mermaid--don’t look at me like that, dude, I saw your search logs--fresh blood is what breaks the curse. It only takes a few drops, but the catch is that it has to be the blood of someone the cursed person lo--someone important to them, I mean. I thought...” he trails off, looking suddenly uncertain, and it takes Dean several long, confused moments to get what his problem is.

When he does, he rolls his eyes. Right, Sammy. Because there are so many other people in that category to choose from.

Sam is still looking at him, though, like he’s actually waiting for a response, and when Dean jabs a finger at him, he grins. Like it’s a favor, being chosen to bleed for Dean.

Like they haven’t been doing that for each other their whole damn lives.

Normally, this would be the point where he’d head off any dewy-eyed bullshit with a quick joke and a hurry it up already--even with things as screwed up as they are between them, that’s an easy role to slide back into--but since that’s not an option, he just watches Sam smile and go back to his concoction, looking oddly vindicated. Something tense uncoils in his own chest and dissipates. When he can talk again, he'll tell Sam--

“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

It’s a human voice that has Dean’s head jerking up and his gun coming to bear, all without any conscious intent on his part. Human, and weirdly familiar, but it’s not until he sees Sam’s colorless face and the creature squatting under the willow tree on the other side of the river that he makes the connection. The ‘shifters used his voice, too, but it always sounds different coming out of someone else’s mouth, especially when the owner of the mouth in question doesn’t look even remotely human. The last time Dean saw the spirit, it spoke in a smooth Irish tenor. He wonders what poor bastard used to own that voice.

“Sam! I’m talking to you!”

Sam jerks this time, although he doesn’t look up from his bowl. It’s instinct, Dean knows. Even after a year in Purgatory, he can’t not react to Sam shouting his name like that. Nice to know that it goes both ways, but it’s a pretty fucking inconvenient distraction right now.

He could just shoot it, get things over with real quick.

“Don’t,” Sam murmurs without looking up, low enough that Dean can just barely hear it. “If you kill him now, the curse is permanent.”

Dean feels his mouth twitch, an honest-to-god smile catching at the corners of his lips, and that’s when the creature gathers itself, skinny legs bending like springs, and springs clear across the river. It lands squatted like a frog, and then straightens up to its full height, which is--woah. Taller than he expected. Taller than Sam, even, and with a reach to match. It darts at them, and Dean gets off two shots that don’t seem to make a damn bit of difference at all before it wraps its bony hands around Sam’s neck. Before Dean can lunge at it--before he can even move--it springs backward with him to land with a splash in the swift river.

Dean lets out a strangled sound and rushes to the edge of the water. For a moment he can’t see anything at all, and then a pair of dark struggling shapes rise to the surface. Sam’s head breaks the water for an instant, gasping desperately for air before a long, bony hand tangles in his hair and drags him back down.

It’s a water spirit. Odds are, however solid it looks, it doesn’t actually need to breathe. Sam, on the other hand--

The bowl is still where Sam left it, miraculously still upright. Dean grabs it, cradling it securely in the curve of his elbow, and runs for the river.

The water is at least as cold as he remembers, the current dragging at his clothes. It’s hard enough to swim fully dressed and one-handed without also having to worry about spilling his bowl and its precious contents into the river. Sam hasn’t come up in at least a minute, though, and that’s plenty motivation enough.

A flailing foot kicks him sharply in the shin--Sammy, unless river spirits have taken to wearing steel-toe boots--and he reaches out, groping blindly under the water. His fingers close around a warm shoulder, solid muscle under wet flannel, and he drags at it with all his strength. For one agonizing moment, nothing seems to happen, and then there’s another sharp kick, a hand grasping at his sleeve, and Sam comes up choking and coughing up water. His panicky eyes flicker over Dean’s face twice before he seems to grasp what’s going on. Then they clear, and an expression of grim determination settles onto his features. He uncurls his hand from Dean’s sleeve and holds it out.

If he could, Dean would say something reassuring. Instead, he shoves the bowl at Sam as the water spirit surges out of the river behind him.

There’s nothing of the cool detachedness from before about it now. Its moon-pale eyes are narrowed, sharp teeth bared. It’s solid enough when Dean kicks out at it, though, and Sam is treading water, holding the bowl above water with one hand, murmuring the Gaelic spell he must have memorized like the good little college boy he is. Almost there. If they can just--

“Let it go, Sam,” the spirit snarls in Dean’s voice. Something slimy wraps around Dean’s foot, and he kicks out at it again, to no avail. Another weed wraps itself around his wrist and tightens painfully. Great. Because what he really needs is a rerun of this. “He made the deal willingly. It’s none of your business. Don’t interfere.”

“Screw you, " Sam says hoarsely, and flings the contents of the bowl at its face.

It screams shrilly, recoiling, and then surges forward, skin blistered and steaming, claws crooked to rip and tear. Sam brings his palm up, and it’s a ridiculous motion, like he’s trying to slap the thing across the face.

His hand leaves a smear of red behind. Blood. The final component. There’s a breathless instant of silence and then the creature screams again; the weeds tighten agonizingly and, like burned fingers recoiling from a flame, draw back and drag Dean under the freezing water.

He has--just barely--the presence of mind to keep from gasping in a lungful of water, but the binding weeds are tight enough to cut off circulation, and he didn’t have time to take a deep breath, and it feels like no time at all before his chest is aching for want of air. Surrounded by murky, fast-moving water, he can’t see anything but dark shapes thrashing above him, and he can’t move.

Dark spots crowd his vision.

There's a strange concussive noise, like an underwater explosion, a shift of pressure. The weeds wrapped around his wrist loosen abruptly, and a solid arm slips under his shoulder. There’s a disorienting moment of struggling to free his trapped feet, and then he’s kicking free, clawing his way toward air and light. He breaks the surface of the water with a gasp, cold air like a slap, and then Sam is hauling them both up onto the bank.

For several moments Dean just lies there on the cold ground, staring up at the gray sky and trying to get his lungs to remember how to breathe. It’s Sam’s hacking cough that has him levering himself up onto his elbows, then painfully upright. Sam is curled in on himself, coughs shaking his giant frame, but he waves one hand in a vaguely reassuring way. “Okay. I’m okay, Dean.”

“You sure?” Dean asks automatically, then stops when Sam’s head lifts, streaming eyes blinking at him. He rubs his throat. It feels sore and raw, like he swallowed something jagged, but who the hell cares about that? He can talk. His voice, when he speaks again, is hoarse and nowhere near as nonchalant as he’d like. “Huh. Guess it worked. Nice job, Sammy.”

Sam coughs again, smiles up at him, tired and satisfied. “You’re welcome.”

Dean climbs to his feet, offers Sam a hand up. They’re significantly downstream from where they started; the river is wider and shallower here, the trees thinner. He can hear traffic on the highway not far away, and the water spirit is nowhere in sight. “Dead?”

“He sort of--disintegrated,” Sam says raspily, making a vague motion with one hand while he pushes his sopping hair out of his face with the other. “So, yeah, I think so.”

“Dude. Nasty.”

Sam lets out a soft breath of laughter. “I think he was mostly made of water anyway.”

“Still.” He rubs the back of his neck, feeling cold gritty mud against his skin. It’s chilly out, enough that he can feel a shiver settling into his skin, and Sam is watching him with a warm, fond expression that makes him flush and look away. “Come on, Gigantor, I’ll race you back to the car.”

“It’s, like, two miles uphill, Dean.”

“What’s the matter, getting slow in your old age?” Dean asks, and breaks into a run before Sam can make a retort. “Winner gets dibs on the hot water,” he calls over his shoulder, and grins when he hears Sam groan and break into a jog behind him.

With his freaky legs, it only takes half a minute for him to catch up to Dean, but he doesn’t pass him. “If I’m old, what does that make you?”

“I’m like a fine wine, Sammy. I just get better with age.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” Sam says, but he’s grinning, and his voice is light.

They match pace all the way back.
Tags: dean winchester, fic: spn, sam winchester
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