Title: Water
By: elfin
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: PG-13

Frantic, eyes wide, chest heaving, air leaving him faster then he could suck it in.  It felt like he was drowning, his insides screaming, throat on fire.  He was staring at his hands where they clawed into his brother's soaking shirt, and wondered abstractly why he couldn't feel his own fingers.  But he could feel Dean's.  They were digging into his shoulders, translating the raw terror in the mirrored expression into physical touch, into what might have been pain if he'd cared enough about it.

"It's coming back."  For a moment Dean's words didn't translate into any actual, real meaning in Sam's brain.  He heard the panic, though, and he knew what it meant before he realised what his brother had said.  "Sam…"

The water, because as far as they knew and as ridiculous as it sounded that's what it was - possessed water - flowed back towards them from both sides, along the tunnel, sloshing up the curved walls in its rush to reach them.  The spray hit them first, a single hammered heartbeat before the tide was upon them.  But unlike last time, when it had dragged them both under, it only took Sam, leaving Dean standing as his brother was ripped from his grip and swallowed by the flood.

Sam fought it.  The water was heavy, thick; pushing at his sealed lips, into his nose but not running down his throat.  It crushed his chest as it pulled him under and held him there, taunting, just inches from the surface.  He could see Dean yelling, hear the muffled screams before the water crept into his ears and blocked the sound.  He struggled against the grip of it, trying desperately to lift his head to the surface, to get air before his burning lungs exploded.  But the water was holding tight, like a thousand soft fingers gripping him, and his mind was just starting to catch on to what his body had already worked out; this thing was drowning him, and there was nothing he or Dean could do about it.  There was nothing to burn this time - how did you kill water?!

He couldn't hold his breath any longer.  Air was escaping through his nose in tiny bubbles and once it was all gone there would be nothing left.  Open his mouth and there would only be the water, only the same wall of water that was pressed into his nostrils and ears.  No way he could breathe through that.  He was going to die.  He flailed with his hands under the surface, desperately searching for something to give him leverage against the suction of the water, something to pull up against or push down on, to give himself a chance, something… anything.

Something warm settled over his mouth.  A cry lodged in his throat, making him choke, and his eyes flew open in his clear liquid surroundings.  He stopped struggling.  Dean's lips were over his and for the single most bizarre moment of his life he thought his brother was kissing him as he died.  Then his brain caught up, and he opened his mouth.  Second-hand oxygen filled his lungs and relief flooded through him.  One of his hands clutched at Dean's hip, index finger hooking through the belt loop of wet jeans, so that when his brother's head lifted away he kept that lifeline.  

He fought to relax, to slow his heart rate, not to use up the oxygen Dean had given him too quickly.  But still it felt like an hour before a hard mouth was covering his own again and he was parting his lips to receive the air into his lungs.  Then all of a sudden he was being pulled further down, the back of his head hitting the floor of the low, narrow tunnel.  He clamped his mouth shut as he was yanked away from Dean but a second later his brother was back with him, breathing into him, a foot or so below the surface of the water.  How long could they keep this up?  He'd lost his grip on the belt loop, but Dean's fingers had followed his hand and they were twisted with his own, reassuring him, promising him.  He wasn't alone.  His brother wasn't going to let him die.  

Through everything they witnessed, everything they battled against, they both held tight to that stark, impossible promise to one another.  Neither of them would ever leave the other alone.

Dean was all he had.  He was all Dean had.

It took all his strength not to clasp hold of his brother's short hair when the next lungful of air was delivered.  He held on awkwardly to the fingers wrapped around his hand and staved off the panic as best he could.

Without warning the flood subsided.  The water flowed away from them as fast as it had arrived, just like the last time, receding back through the tunnels in both directions.  Mouth wide, Sam dragged in a couple of deep, relieved breaths and Dean pulled him to his feet, catching him as he pitched forward, head spinning, ears ringing, a darkness at the edges of his vision threatening to overwhelm him.

"Stay with me, Sammy."

Dean's arms wrapped around him as he pressed his face into his brother's neck and found his balance, breathed in and out slowly until the threat of collapse passed.  Finally he managed to force the word 'thanks' out of his throat and over his lips but Dean just gripped him harder.  He understood the sentiment but it had to wait.

"We have to get out of here before it kills us."

He pulled away gently at the same time as Dean pushed him back.  "Yeah."  For a second his brother didn't seem to be able to look him in the eyes.  "Any bright ideas?"

They'd run after the first attack, as fast as the drag of just those few inches of water in the bottom of the tunnel would allow.  It was almost sticky, almost… almost as if it was making a grab for them with weak, plump fingers each and every step they took.  As yet they hadn't found an exit.  The way they'd come in wasn't an option - swept from the sewer they'd been investigating - searching for a deadly stench - straight down a wide pipe, a sheer drop into the deep tunnels they were now in.  Even if they could get back to the spot where they'd landed, there was no way back up that pipe.

"We carry on.  We don't have any choice."

Dean nodded and started forward, leading the way.  They were both dripping wet.  It was disturbing to realise that whatever was in the water was coating them too, all their hair, over their skin, under their clothes.  Something was touching them everywhere, in the most intimate places, and it was making Sam's hairs stand on end.  He wanted them both outta here, wanted nothing more than a hot, innocent shower in water that wasn't trying to kill him.  

He tripped.  No, that wasn't right.  Something grabbed at his foot, just for a second, so that he fell forward but regained his balance before going face-first into the water.  Catching his breath he straightened just in time to see Dean turn to check on him.  Sam's brain helpfully slowed everything down, playing it out in slow-mo.  He watched the concern on his brother's face turn to surprise and shock as he dropped backwards, looking for all the world like he'd slipped but Sam knew better.  He went down so fast and Sam heard the sickening crack of Dean's skull against the concrete floor before the flow of the water suddenly increased as it quickly rose to cover the gasping mouth and blinking eyes.


Half a second later, he was gone, the water carrying him away, off down the tunnel, and Sam was following as fast as he could; half-running, half-swimming, shouting his brother's name whenever he had enough breath in his lungs to do it. 

The tunnel rounded a slow corner, and in the side of the curved wall about ten meters from them Sam saw a dark patch, a patch that as they were swept along became an alcove, or a door, or something that at least wasn't wall.  And there was a step.  Two steps.  Maybe more.  As they came hurtling towards that one possible escape, Sam leapt, made a grab for Dean's foot and caught a grip on one sneaker which he quickly shifted upwards to his brother's ankle before the shoe could come off in his hand.  At the same time he reached out with his other arm and snagged the step that extended out less than four inches into the tunnel itself.  His shoulder was yanked hard as the water tried to sweep him and Dean away with it, and at such an awkward angle he screamed with the pain.  It wasn't about to give up easily, and although it didn't exactly stop, turn and fight, the power of it, the strength, increased, pulling at Dean, testing Sam's grip, trying to wrestle its victim free.

And he wasn't getting any help.  Either the bang of his head against the tunnel floor had knocked Dean unconscious or he'd drowned in the fast-flowing inches of water he'd been dragged through, tossed and turned, face-down half the time.

Tears ran from Sam's eyes over his cheeks and into his mouth.  He didn't know he was crying until he tasted the salt of them.  His shoulder was going numb, his fingers freezing with the effort of holding on but he refused to let slip even a millimetre of that socked ankle and finally, after a lifetime, an ice-age, the water let go, dissipated as quickly as it had done before.  Sam got himself up onto the step and dragged his brother with him, pulling on his ankle before managing to get his free arm under the heavy shoulders, moving up another two steps into the solid darkness of the alcove and yanking the sodden body of his brother half into his lap, half onto the narrow but deep ledge.

"Dean?"  Sam pressed trembling fingers to Dean's cold throat, searched for a pulse, leaning over to press the side his face to the still chest.  No pulse.  No heart beat.  No breathing.  "DEAN!"

Kneeling up on a scarce couple of square inches of concrete, Sam linked his fingers, one hand over the other, and leaning over he pressed the heal of the bottom hand two fingers' width from the base of Dean's sternum and leant his whole weight to depressing his brother's chest.

He counted in his head, 'one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…', but on his lips Dean's name spilled over, again and again, four letters tumbling after one another.  Fifteen.  He stopped.  Reaching up he pinched Dean's nose, tipped back the dark, dripping head and breathed twice into his mouth, deep as he could.  "Dean, please…."  Fingers linked, he went back to the chest compressions and again, fifteen later, breathed into Dean's mouth.  Once.  Twice.

He was just fast enough to prevent himself swallowing the water coughed up out of Dean's lungs.  If it was water.  It came up as one long stream as Sam tipped Dean's head to one side, and it remained on the step in a small pathetic puddle, separated from the whole.  He breathed, deep and hard, as he ran dancing fingers through Dean's wet hair, waiting, willing his brother to please stop choking.  It took a minute, but finally he was sure that Dean had choked up everything but his lungs themselves.  Sam pulled his shaking body up against him, dropping to his ass on the hard, cold step, concrete pressing into his back, holding his brother awkwardly but so possessively that it wasn't until Dean's hands came to rest, trembling, on his arms, that he realised he was stopping Dean from breathing properly on his own.

"Sorry…."  He didn't know how much more he could take.  "Sorry."


They sat like that, uncomfortable, dripping wet, both gasping and shaking and clinging to one another, until the strength returned to Sam's arms and legs and neck and he was able to turn to look up into the blackness behind them.

"We have to get out of here," he murmured when he thought he could trust his voice again.  As it was it sounded like rough, like he'd swallowed sand paper.

"No sure I can walk."  Dean sounded like he was still chewing it.

"Walk or I'm carrying you, either way we can't stay here."

"We're high enough up, aren't we?"  It sounded a little bit whiney, but he deserved to sound that way minutes after being brought back from the dead.

Sam reluctantly loosened his hold on his brother and with one hand flat against the straight wall of the alcove, started to carefully rise to his feet.  "It's water, Dean, not Daleks, it can get up steps if it puts its mind to it."

"That… that's the strangest thing you've ever said."  But Dean was using the step and Sam's leg to pull himself into a standing position.  "What's up there?"

Sam wasn't sure, but he thought he could see light about five feet above them, back in the distance.  "I don't know."  He turned to Dean, saw how pale his brother's face was even in the dim bluish glow from the tunnel.  "Walking or carrying?"

"Walking, but I think I'll need a crutch."

They climbed the steep steps with Sam's arm around Dean's back, hand under his shoulder, Dean's arm wrapped weakly around Sam's waist.  At the top was a door.  Metal, rusting, heavy, and locked.  Or at least, not opening as Sam tried the handle.


The first words into his head dropped from his tongue.  "It's okay, Dean, we'll get outta here."

"How many steps did we come up?"

"What?"  He glanced at his brother, wondering if his head colliding with the concrete floor had had a permanent effect.  But Dean's head was turned, eyes wide, and when Sam followed his gaze he saw that the bottom three steps were already under the rapidly rising water.  "Fuck!"  He re-energised his attack on the door, kicking, shoving, concentrating, yelling….

"Sammy…."  He didn't have to look around to see the fear in his brother's large eyes, didn't have to look down to see the water lapping at their shoes.  Holding Dean, stepping back, Sam kicked out with all his strength, all his passion, all his love for his brother who had almost died in his arms.  And it opened, revealing more steps upwards and a clear light around a second door at the top.  Escape.

When they got to the top, kicked open that second door, he didn't think he'd ever been so happy to see the road.


They lay in the motel room that night, both of them on one of the two narrow, single beds, Sam with his back against the pillows, head dropped to the mouldy wall, his eyes closed.  Dean lay next to him, head on Sam's chest, Sam's arm wrapped possessively around his shoulders.  The elder Winchester brother was sleeping; soft, shallow breaths against Sam's shirt, recovering, healing.  They'd been to the hospital at Sam's insistence, where they'd both been checked over after a four hour wait.  Two of Dean's ribs were cracked and he had bruising where his brother had leant on his chest with his whole weight in order to save his life.  The doctor had wanted to keep him in over night on account of his heart having stopped, but Dean had refused, promised he had a home to go to and that his brother was responsible enough to take care of both of them.  The doctor seemed to know he was lying, but let him go anyway.

Turning his face into Dean's hair, he took a deep breath.  They were getting away from this place at dawn.  The water was still down there, still a threat, still waiting to kill whoever stepped foot in it.  But not all mysteries could be solved.  How boring would the world be if there weren't poltergeists or spirits or demons to play havoc with the lives of the innocent people who lived on it?  Did Mars have ghosts, he wondered; were there phantoms in space?  Did astronauts have nightmares?

Dean shifted against him, under his arm, and Sam loosened his hold just enough to let him, tightened it again when he settled.  The movement had pulled the short arm of Dean's T up over his bicep and Sam's hand settled over the muscle; easy and comfortable, tracing a light pattern across smooth skin.  As kids they'd played like any siblings did, fumbled with one another until they were old enough to have the rest of the worlds' sense of moral outrage, in perceived right and wrong.  For a while they'd grown up, grown apart as they'd made attempt at living their own lives… Sam more than Dean apparently.  And now they back together, back to leading the same life, back to being two fucked up kids who slept in the same bed when they were frightened.  Back to those little touches that had kindled that misunderstood fire all those years ago.

Despite everything they saw, all the horror they witnessed, the one and only thought that terrified him was the thought of losing his brother.  Screw the possessed water.  It was a long way underground, it wasn't hurting anyone.  They themselves had only found it accidentally.  Live and let live, he decided.  In the morning they'd get out of here, get in the car and drive, find another town, another haunting to investigate, another malevolent spirit to track down; one that only turned on them when they turned on it.

Pursing his lips, Sam pressed a dry kiss to his brother's hair.  I love you, Dean.  In his sleep, Dean responded by dribbling on Sam's shirt, stiffening for a moment and farting, before relaxing again to wrap a tight arm over Sam's stomach.  Rolling his eyeballs under his closed lids, Sam smiled to himself, collecting ammo for the next 'no chick flick moments' standoff, or a time when he really needed to win an argument.

Reaching out blindly, he found the button for the bedside light and flicked it downwards, plunging them into a relatively safe darkness.