No Man's Lake
Ogemaw County, Michigan
"Real inviting, calling this place No Man's Lake," Dean says as he pulls the car under the trees that line the parking lot. The heat shimmers off the blacktop and there's not much shade. "I know it makes me wanna bring the whole family up for camping out and making s'mores."
"Yeah, well it hasn't hurt the tourist trade," Sam says, looking up from the laptop and squinting at the light that reflects off the lake itself. There's a few boats anchored at the docks on the south side, but the only other car in the marina parking lot belongs to the sheriff.
"Right," Dean says flatly. "This place is hoppin'."
"It was until two weeks ago." Sam winces at the heat wave that hits when the door opens and lets in the humid air. "Families around here own cabins that go back for generations. Motels are booked up for whole summers. It's a tradition."
Dean raises an eyebrow at that as he looks around the deserted lake. "Awesome. And now instead of family fun we got some kids drowned in the lake."
Sam nods as he rubs one hand through his hair. "And kids missing. Probably just not found them yet. It's a big lake, some parts are pretty deep."
"OK, all this sucks, no doubt. Why are we here?" Dean turns and smirks at his brother. "Right. You think there's a sea monster."
Sam shakes his head. "Why do you do that? Whenever I get the jobs, you have to just run them down. I didn't just pick this place for the hell of it. I looked into it."
"And found the Loch Ness Monster. Two thumbs up, Sammy. This should be a ton of fun. We can sell pictures to the Weekly World News and get rich. Bright side to everything." Dean nods towards the marina. "Let's go find us some monsters and get outta this place. It's too freakin' hot."
Sam huffs as Dean heads off, then follows behind, sweat already beginning to run down his back.
The hotel is tacky but clean, and for that both of them are grateful. Spread over one bed is all the data Sam's been able to gather. He sits in the middle of it all and frowns at the screen of the laptop.
On the other bed, Dean's spread out raggedy towels and lined up all the guns. He listens to Sam's voice give him the more grisly details and methodically cleans each gun. Names of the dead kids -and he is still wondering at being able to call someone who is 16, 17 years old a kid. Locations of the bodies. The ones still missing. Nasty stuff and he does so much better when he can keep his hands busy.
"So, there was nothing on the bodies, no marks, no injuries, these kids just all drowned? Seriously?" Dean asks as he lays down the last one and rubs his hands on a rag. "These kids all summer regulars, tradition and all that crap?"
"Uhhh..." Sam grabs his list. "One girl was up here with her friend for the first time but the others were all from families who have either rented for years, a couple for three generations, or their families owned a place." He scratches the side of his face, frowns at the paper. "The first one to go, Bradley Chace, had a set of long scratches down his back, the coroner said it was fingernails of some sort. Nothing left for them to pull out of the wounds, the time in the water took care of that. But everyone else, not a mark on them. They just went under and drowned."
"Grew up on this lake and they just drowned? That makes no sense." Dean grabs his wallet and stands up. "I need pizza and beer. You want something?"
"No sausage," Sam tells him and goes back into his work.
When Dean comes back, Sam's asleep on the bed. Dean stacks the papers and pictures on the floor, covers his brother up and eats his pizza, watching free porn with the sound off. He jerks off in the bathroom, drinks one more beer in bed and then goes to sleep on sheets that smell like gun oil.
"Bradley and three of the others went out on their dad's boat two days before they went missing," Sam reports over eggs and coffee in the diner. "Sarah Winters, Rick Mason and Jenny Parker were sneaking around, took the boat without Brad's father's permission, went out into the deeper part and had a little party. Beer, wings, more beer. Coming back, they apparently hit something in the water. Did some damage to the boat, for which they were all punished."
"Time out?" Dean asks as he stabs a sausage and takes a bite. "Smack on the hand? Took away the Jag for a week?"
"Brad's father said that Brad was under house arrest. Pretty much looked forward to the rest of the summer in the house." Sam shrugs when Dean gives him a look that says he's not impressed. "Whatever. Guess it got to him, because he snuck out of the house the night he drowned. His sister says he was going to hook up with Sarah. Sarah says he never showed up. And Sarah's family own a house right by the marina."
"So what, this kids was headed out to get laid and decided to drown himself instead? Or did Sarah lie about the hook up, and they did get it on and *she* left the marks on Brad's back? At least he got lucky one more time before he bought it." Dean ignores Sam's glare of disapproval. "I'm just sayin'."
"I am so sure that we are not related at a cellular level." Sam refuses to speak for the rest of the meal.
They go to the Chace house, and Dean's a little annoyed to see that it's not the dream vacation home he'd imagined it to be. The little Cape Cod is in a sad state, dingy and missing shingles. When they look through the window, the furniture is old and faded. So much for his spoiled rich kid theories, Dean thinks to himself.
The boat is out of the water and on a hitch in the driveway. The damage is still there, unrepaired. It's obvious that there's no money to go ahead and fix the thing. They look around it thoroughly and Sam pokes his head down inside, sniffing the scent of mold. He starts to lean out again and then stops, breathing in deeper.
"Hey Dean, get me a light," he calls and reaches back. The flashlight slaps his hand and he wriggles as much of his frame into the small space as he can. On the inside of the boat, just where the damage was done, he finds a sliver of something that looks like flesh and hair, and smells like ammonia.
It's not much but it's all he needs. At least now he can show Dean something concrete.
"It's what?" Dean asks, beer paused en route to his mouth. He stares at Sam and the image on the laptop.
"It's a mermaid," Sam says again, gritting his teeth.
"So Bradley teleported his dad's boat to a Disney flick, ran over some chick with a tail, then came home again. Good job, Sammy. Case closed. Miller time." Dean guzzles half his beer before he can even look Sam in the eye without laughing.
Sam's not smiling. Sam's getting his bitch face in high mode. "Mermaids are not anything like the cartoons, Dean. They've shown up in mythology and literature for hundreds of years."
"Right. Like what?"
"They might have been the sirens, calling sailors to their death, making them steer their ships into the rocks and throw themselves into the ocean." Sam turns the laptop back towards himself, taps the keys. "Look, there's been sightings all over the world from the time of the Greeks and Romans."
"Give me something that explains what ocean feeds into the middle of freakin' Michigan and I might give this crazy theory of yours a little more weight." Dean sits, elbows on his knees and beer bottle dangling from one hand.
"Look, there's only so much I can give you here. I can't tell you how it got there, I'm just telling you that it's there." Sam stands up. "I want to find out who fishes on that lake, not the people on vacation here. The ones who live here and make a living at it."
Dean groans and shakes his head. He stands up, finishes his beer and slams the bottle on the table. "Fine. But if you even hint that you're looking for mermaids as catch of the day? I'll kick your ass all over this stupid town. No matter how sweaty it makes me."
Three fishmonger in and they strike gold. Herman Stanckiewitz is jittery, nervous, flinches when they flash their badges. When they ask him about anything unusual he might have pulled out of the lake, something strange, he almost overruns their question with his denial. They thank him for his help, walk off as casually as they can and immediately make plans to check out his place.
Unsurprisingly, his place is as unappealing as Herman himself. It smells like fish and looks like a junkyard.
"Dude, this better turn something up. This place reeks," Dean says as he breathes into his shirt to catch something more pleasant than old trout. He hasn't been to the laundry in a long time and even this is better than "eu de Herman."
Sam agrees but he's not about to admit it. Not now anyway, when he's too busy trying to make Dean respect him for even five damn minutes. "Just help me find the freezers. If he got something, he's got to have it on ice somewhere."
"So he can come home from a hard day of fishing and do what? Whack off to his special?" Dean sounds appropriately disgusted at the thought. Sam doesn't dignify it with a response.
The freezers are pretty junky, rusted and banged up. There's three of them in his basement and two are empty. The third, though, holds a couple packs of freezer-burned hamburgers, a turkey that was fresh a decade ago and one large, unidentified thing wrapped in a black construction garbage bag. It's about four feet long and weighs more than either of them expected, even frozen.
"Giant tuna? Hunk of deer? Anaconda?" Dean asks when they lower it to the floor. He flips his knife out and slits the side of the plastic. "Last chance to make a bet."
Sam tugs the plastic away without a word. Inside the wrapping lies four feet of frozen solid mermaid.
Dean blinks. "Huh."
It starts to thaw in the trunk, and no matter how much ice they throw on it in the tub, it keeps defrosting. The smell is incredible -- old feet, ammonia and something that Sam is convinced he will never get out of his nose even if he scrubs it with bleach. The mermaid itself looks a good deal like one of the prints of a woodcarving Sam has on his laptop, which is to say ugly with a lot of teeth and a face that is more eyes than anything else.
"How the hell did they come up with Darryl Hannah in a fish tail after lookin' at something like that?" Dean asks as he holds his nose and stares over Sam's shoulder. For the sake of the room, they're dissecting the thing in the tub. It's starting to decompose at an exponential rate and Dean's sure at some point he's going to have to make an excuse to get the hell out of here or puke right in front of his brother.
"No idea," Sam says, breath held as much as possible. He wrinkles his nose as he leans in and tries to pry the jaw open. "This is disgusting."
"You were the one who wanted to open it up, dude."
Sam turns to look at Dean -- to give him a decently withering gaze and to take a breath of slightly less nasty air -- and his hand slips. One of the teeth he's been trying to get a closer look at slices his finger open, shallow and stinging as the fluid in the creature's mouth slips into the cut. "Fuck!"
"Dude, wash that shit out," Dean says and turns on the sink faucet too fast and too hard. It sprays everywhere, soaks his jeans and shirt as he tugs Sam to his feet. In the bathroom's small space, they barely have room to move past each other and Dean ends up holding Sam's arm between his own, pressed to his side, as the cut finger gets a blast of water that makes him shout.
"Damn it, that's too hard," he growls and yanks his arm away, holding the hurt hand against his chest. "Are you out of your mind?"
"I'm trying to make sure your arm doesn't turn green and fall off," Dean says as he almost stumbles into the tub with the mermaid's remains. "Fuck this! I'm out of here. You play sushi chef all you want."
Dean leaves in a huff, glad to be rid of the stink of dead things and ready for more than a few beers.
Sam patches up his finger, hauls in enough ice to cover the body and drinks the rest of his hidden bottle of whiskey. He's passed out cold, fully clothed, when Dean comes back. This time Dean lets him lie there. He's pissed off that Sam scared the shit out of him and the room smells like that damn thing even with all the ice in the machine covering it and the door to the bathroom shut.
It's not hard to rent a boat. The guy at the marina almost falls into the water when he sees them coming and gives them a good deal on something simple they can maneuver. Getting out onto the empty lake doesn't take much skill. Wide open water all around means they can get out to where the kids told Bradley's dad they had the boat before they all died.
"Tell me again why we're doing this," Dean says when they get where Sam wants to be.
"Something is still killing kids," Sam says patiently. "I found some information on mermaids and they apparently live in pairs. They sometimes have more than that but always at least two. So there must be another one out here."
"And how the hell are we going to get it?" Dean asks. "You think we can just go down there, lure it out with a worm on a hook and snag it in a net?"
"I have no idea," Sam admits. "I just thought maybe if we went out here, we could... get it to come after us."
"Great. We're bait. We're freakin' bait." Dean throws his hand up in the air and then leans over the bow and looks down into the water. "Hey, fishy! Hey! Come and get us, we're right here!"
The thing that comes out of the water rises fast and strong, streaking from the depths into the air right in front of Dean's face before he can do so much as make a sound to warm Sammy what's coming. It almost seems to hover there, tail flipping in the water like a mutant dolphin as the arms, tipped with claws, make a grab for Dean's body.
Sam reacts, lurching forward to snag the back of Dean's jeans. He hauls back with all his weight, but the thing in the water is faster still and so agile. The nails on the end of those arms are dug into Dean's arm below the shoulder, in the meat of his bicep. Dean makes a sound that Sam hopes he never hears again as the thing drags itself up his body and sinks those wicked teeth into his shoulder.
"No!" Sam's voice is louder than Dean's scream of pain, and the mermaid jerks back when Sam tries to grab it. Slithers down Dean's body back into the lake like it's going down a water slide and disappears as fast as it showed up.
"Dean!" Sam's almost afraid to look at the wound, afraid there's a chunk of Dean missing and he'll bleed out right here on this rented boat.
"Fuck, that bitch was fast," Dean says and clutches at his wounded shoulder. "Tell me there's something on this piece of shit boat that is gonna take the fish slime out of me."
"Let me see it," Sam says, Pulling Dean's hand away. He lets out his breath, unaware he was even holding it, when he sees that there is no missing piece to worry about. There's puncture marks, needle sharp and deep, and the smell of the thing's saliva is acrid and ammonia just like the one in the tub. "Shut up, you big girl. It didn't try to eat you."
"Stings like a mother fucker," Dean says as he looks at the wound. "Am I gonna grow scales or what?"
"Doubtful," Sam says and climbs to his feet, showing Dean the cut on his finger. "I'm still resistant to the whole turning into a fish thing. Pretty sure you will be too."
"Good. How do we kill the son of a bitch?" Dean asks and rests his back on the side of the boat. "I want it dead before it does that siren thing to any more kids."
Back in the hotel, Dean takes three steps into the bathroom before he backs out again. "Damn it, that thing is turning into sludge and I need to take a shower. I'm gettin' another room, you live with Charlie Tuna."
Sam blinks as Dean shoves a handful of clothes into his duffel and heads for the door. He's gone with a slam and a growl of "Son of a bitch" when he tries to hang the bag on his hurt shoulder.
Sam huffs and rubs his hands over his hair, then reopens the file on mermaids he's compiled. Killing the one in the lake seems to be the only option, he knows that, and it seems like it won't be too hard to do. He'll let Dean do some taunting and they can shoot it when it comes out of the water. It's got nothing to protect it other than those teeth and claws, Sam can find nothing about them other than the luring of sailors to their death that speaks to them turning aggressive.
He has no idea why the one in the lake would suddenly start calling kids in. It's not hurting the bodies, other than the first boy. It's not eating them. It's just... bringing them into the lake and drowning them. Which makes no sense, none at all.
He opens another document, one written by a self-described scholar of all things aquatic. He frowns at the last paragraph on the page:
"Mermaids live in pairs, generally keep as far from contact with humans as possible, and cause no upset. They are peaceful creatures, mating for life and raising their families. So little is known of them precisely for this reason. It is theorized that the sirens were mermaids whose mates had been killed by the very ships they caused to wreck, so strong is the lifetime bond between mated mermaids."
"Holy shit," Sam says and looks towards the closed bathroom door. He grabs his phone and dials Dean, then heads out the door instead.
The room the manager gives Dean is smaller and less clean than the one he has with Sam. Dean could not care less so long as the shower works and the water is hot. He tosses the bag on the bed and checks out the bathroom.
The shower works fine, hot and strong. He strips down and climbs in, hissing when the water hits the wounds. That nasty slime from the bite has had enough time to get in there and Dean grits his teeth and lets the water pound down hard, hoping that and a serious dose of antibiotics will take care of whatever it is that crawled into his blood where she bit him.
The bathroom door slams open and Dean damn near takes Sam's head off with the knife he's left on the sink. "Are you out of your mind?" he asks as Sam looks up from the position he's taken on the floor.
Dean is soaking wet, naked and entirely pissed off. Sam starts to apologize, to tell him he knows how to get the mermaid to go away without killing it, but somehow there's a serious lack of words in his brain. What there is, instead, is a heat in his skin and under it that has nothing to do with the heat of the water from the shower or the steam in the tiny bathroom.
"Well?" Dean asks, turning off the water and grabbing for a towel. "You got a death wish or just want to see if my reflexes are any slower than they used to be? And get up, you freakin' Sasquatch, there's no place for me to get out of the tub."
Sam licks his lip, struggles to stand on the wet floor. His jeans are soaked, his sneaks slide and he reaches for Dean when he loses his balance.
"Dude!" Dean snaps, dropping the towel as he catches Sam. "What the fuck are-"
He doesn't get the rest out, Sam's mouth stops him. Sam's mouth and tongue, hot and slick, cover Dean's, and Sam's hands pull Dean in even closer. Dean, too shocked in the moment to struggle, actually finds himself being held in his brother's arms. Kissed.
Kissed well, if he's honest.
Things happen very quickly after that. Dean reaches up to shove Sam away, Sam reacts by kissing harder and holding tighter. They struggle there in the slick tiled room, awkward and insistent, each of them wanting something quite different. It's Dean who wins the fight, at least for the moment, when his feet slip and he goes down in the tub. Sam is left standing there, panting as he tries to get a grip on his out of control impulses. The ones that tell him to get himself naked as soon as he possibly can and get in there with Dean. Skin to skin. Slippery, wet and together, the way they should be.
"Sammy, get out," Dean says very plainly. He stares up and doesn't move, waiting and wondering if he is going to have to kick Sammy's ass for whatever the hell he was just doing.
"Dean, I'm sorry," Sam says and shakes his head as he backs towards the door. "I don't know what happened."
Dean sits up in the tub, waiting for Sam to back out of the room before he stands up again and reaches for the towel, soaked now and lying in a puddle. "You came running in here to... forget it, I'm not even gonna ask what it was or why it happened. Go back to the room."
"Are you coming back?" Sam asks, pulse quickening as he makes himself walk away from the open door, when every instinct in his body screams for him to go closer instead.
"Yes. And you better not be naked when I get there, either."
Dean reads the article and then looks at Sam, who is pacing on the other side of the room like he's just mainlined ten cups of coffee. "So the kids killed this thing's mate and now it's killing them all and all the kids in town. And you think if we give it back the body, it might stop."
"Yeah, pretty much." Sam nods, inches his pacing track closer to Dean on the bed. "And if that doesn't make it back off, then we shoot it and kill it."
"How about we cut to the chase and shoot it, then they can be dead together and no more kids die." Dean folds his arms and watches Sam angle closer. "Stop that."
"I can't," Sam says bluntly. He puts his hands on his hips and stares down at the carpet. "I think I'm infected with something."
"You got infected with something that makes you go all Flowers in the Attic on me?" Dean looks skeptical. "What exactly does that?"
"The mermaid." Sam shrugs. "I think I got infected when I got that cut on my finger, and when the other one bit you today... you know, its mate... I think it's something making me want you to be... my... mate."
Dean stands up. "Give me the rifle, I'm gonna go shoot that son of a bitch right now." He stands in the room with his hand out and when Sam just looks at him like he's maybe going to lick him instead of arm him, Dean glares. "Give me the gun and go take a cold shower."
Sam flushes, face pink, but he turns to get the rifle and hands it to Dean from a distance. "I want to come with you," Sam says. "Can we at least give the body back?"
"Fuck that," Dean growls. "You stay here or I will cuff you to the bed. And stop looking at me like that."
He gets to the road that leads to the marina before the burning in his gut starts. Dean frowns, the car wavering on the road, but he doesn't pull over. Another mile and he has no choice but to stop -- his hands are shaking and his body is on fire. Sweat runs down his face, stinging in his eyes before he can rub it away. He fumbles for his phone and dials Sam.
Sam answers so fast that Dean knows his brother's going through something similar, maybe worse since he's been infected longer and it has a deeper grip on him. His suspicions are confirmed when Sam groans his name into the phone.
"Sammy? What's happening?" Dean asks.
"Come back," Sam tells him and the line goes dead.
Dean swears out loud but he turns the car around in the middle of the road. There's no traffic and he presses the pedal to the floor, speeding down the line towards the hotel. The closer he gets, the easier the burning is to bear. And when he pulls into the parking lot, when he drives right up outside the room where Sam is waiting, the heat slips easily into another kind of need.
Sam meets him at the door but this time the hunger to be close, to be naked and close as possible, is mutual. Teeth clash in a rough kiss before the door is shut behind Dean and they're both tearing at t-shirts, pushing them away so they can be skin to skin.
It takes very little time at all to get there, kisses slowing from the frenzy, allowing them to taste and linger. The beds are too far away, and the floor does quite nicely as Sam gets Dean beneath him and tugs his jeans open. Rough fingers find hard flesh, wrap round Dean's dick and tug as Dean's back arches and his hips lift from the carpet. From the bottom, Dean struggles to get Sammy's jeans open as well, tugs hard enough to break the zipper and grabs for the stiff length that he knows is waiting for him.
The room is full of their noises, groans and gasps as they rush towards something that needs to happen. There's desire in it but there's something more. There's absolute need, as unstoppable as the need to breathe, and giving in to it means relief before release. Sam spills first, hot splash on Dean's belly and it sends Dean over. He groans Sam's name, slickness over Sam's fingers as he comes, and they collapse together on the floor, sticky and sweating and exhausted.
Taking another boat out with a chest of ice is nothing to the rental guy. He's thrilled to see them again and gives them something faster when they ask for it. When they get further away from the dock, they let the boat drift as they get everything ready. The body of the mermaid is lashed to the bow, still wrapped, and the guns are loaded and close to hand.
Dean doesn't bother to shout this time. He stands beside the body and just leans over, knife resting on the rope that holds the body on the boat. He can feel so much in this moment, the rush of the water around the boat, the sun on his skin, and Sam, just there behind him. He feels safe. He feels strong. And when the thing rises up through the water, Dean is ready for it.
"Now," he tells Sam and just that fast it's above the waves, tail lashing as it sees or smells its mate there. Dean slices plastic and rope in one swift move and pushes the body into the water. The mermaid's huge eyes follow the body of its mate until it drifts downward and then they fix on Dean's.
There's a chill, a shiver in his head, as though someone is drawing nails over a blackboard in his skull. He thinks its the mermaid, but he knows that's insane. Even so, he makes no move for his gun and Sam stays perfectly still beside him, behind him, ready to fire at the first hint of attack.
It doesn't come. The mermaid drops out of sight, one moment there and another gone under the water. Sam and Dean both lean over, Sam with his gun leading his line of sight, but there is nothing at all. Not a shadow, not a ripple or flash, just the empty water.
"Now what?" Sam says. "Do we wait for it to call someone else to the lake?"
"One more night," Dean says. "We park down by the lake tonight and keep an eye out, make sure no one takes a midnight swim."
Sam sighs. "And then we go?"
"Dean, what about the rest?" Sam asks. "What about this thing inside us?"
"What about it?" Dean asks as he turns around. "It's in our blood. It's not gonna go away."
"You're pretty fucking calm about it," Sam says, licking his lip. "One day we're us and the next day we're..."
"Still us," Dean says and shrugs. "Nothing to do about it now. You wanna spend the rest of your life looking for a cure, you're gonna do it right next to me. Try to leave, see what happens. Now you know why that other one was killing the kids. It was crazy from the pain. It lost something that it was bonded to on some kinda level we don't even know anything about and it went insane. That something you wanna try and cope with?"
Sam looks down at the deck of the boat and sighs. "No. I just thought you'd be more.... pissed off. Freaked out. Something."
"Maybe I'm in shock." Dean shrugs. "Maybe this feeling I got now, you and me? Maybe this is something other people get to feel when they say they're in love. Or maybe I'm crazy and you'll wake up some morning and find me a hundred miles away. Can't tell you for sure, Sammy. You're gonna have to go with the flow on this one."
Sam swallows hard. "You sure about this?"
Dean shrugs again. "Beats me. Let's get the hell outta here. I'm feelin' a serious urge for something bad for me. Double cheeseburger, extra onions, cheese fries... you?"
Sam blushes but there's no argument. "No onions. Or you're sleeping alone."
"Tease," Dean huffs. But he doesn't argue, maybe for the first time in as long as Sam can remember.