|Demons V: Cry Me a River
Author: Guede Mazaka
“I just want to say, I still think—” Dean started.
“Yeah, I know. I heard you the first fifty times.” Sam’s reply was sharp, sharp as the exhaustion and gaunt determination cutting red into the whites of his eyes, but he wasn’t so far gone that he didn’t wince at it. He started to go on but took a short breath instead, and when he began again, he’d toned down his voice a little. “Look, I need to do this. I can’t just—sit around, and I obviously can’t go with you. I’m not going to screw up any other things just by being around.”
That was bad logic, and Dean badly wanted to explain in great detail, using much hand-waving and maybe even the Powerpoint program on Sam’s lap-top, how bad it was. He did, but he restrained himself. Now, anyway. Instead of catching up on his sleep, he’d spent the whole day following Sam around yelling and ducking whenever Sam lost his temper enough to forget about the wings. In spite of all that, Sam was stubbornly holding to what he’d said in the bar.
“I’ll call you every two hours, Mom,” Sam jokingly said. The joke fell flat right at the last word, and they both felt it.
Dean put his hands behind his head and stretched, then leaned against his car. He needed some coffee. His eyes felt like someone had taken sandpaper to them. “I am so not looking forward to this. Why is it you get to stay in L. A. while I have to drive John and his bitchy demon?”
Sam reached out and gave Dean’s shoulder a couple of thumps. “Come on. You’ve survived worse. Just remember to disinfect anything they touch before you come pick me up.”
Before Sam could take down his hand, Dean reached up and grabbed his brother’s wrist. He gave it a hard squeeze. “Yeah. If they start anything in the backseat, I swear to God I’m pulling over to the nearest fire station and hosing them down.”
They lingered a little longer, awkward as hell. Personally Dean wouldn’t have minded longer than that, but Sam shook himself free. He stepped back onto the sidewalk, then turned to go into the club just as John and Balthazar came out. Dean watched them stuff their bags into the trunk, then got in the driver’s seat.
“Okay, one of you is sitting up here. I don’t need to get pulled over and cited for your act of public indecency,” he said. He popped in a tape just as the front passenger door opened and John got in.
Balthazar slid into the backseat and promptly laid down. He muttered a little when the engine and the music started up, but chose to just turn his back on it and ignore the whole thing.
Getting back on the highway was on the tricky side, and anyway Dean wasn’t feeling all that sociable, so nobody said anything till about forty-five minutes later. By then the silence was getting to Dean; sometime after picking up Sam he’d lost the ability to make do with just the thump of the music. He already missed his stupid thick-headed brother.
“He sleeps a lot.” And Dean’s conversational skills were just great outside of Sam. Really wonderful. “Balthazar, I mean.”
“Yeah.” John glanced in the rear-view window, then slouched back down. He’d cracked open his window a little to let out his smoke, but the smell of his cigarettes was still pretty strong. It wasn’t as bad as Dean had thought it was going to be—more like burning leaves than burning hair. “Well, he didn’t go to human while he was alive. We resurrected him, so the mismatch gets to him sometimes.”
Dean blinked at the road. On second thought, maybe bad conversational skills were good. Every second thing that came out of John’s mouth was something about which Dean really didn’t need to know more. “So that’s why he’s so annoyed all the time.”
A little cough puffed out of John’s mouth. “That’s part of it, yeah,” he said. He stretched and settled back into silence, apparently content that way.
L. A. traffic noise filled in the second stretch of silence for a while, but eventually they got too far away from the city. It always surprised Dean a little how the volume of traffic on the roads abruptly dropped off a certain distance away from any metropolis; one minute he would be sandwiched by semis and the next, he had the highway virtually to himself. Sometimes he wondered if there might be a real law of nature that described it.
“So this place we’re going to…” he started. Slowly, because John had his head tilted back and could’ve been sleeping, though he still had a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. John moved a little and Dean went on. “I looked it up. I mean, I tried to look it up. We’re just driving out to this random point in the desert.”
“You really think it’s random?” A second before a half-inch of ash hit the leather cushions, John tapped off his butt out the window. He threw his arm over the top of the seat and did something to Balthazar, which resulted in John snatching back a slightly bloody hand and a loud snarl from the back.
Dean stifled a snicker. The two of them weren’t exactly ideal company, but he was building up a tolerance. At times they were like a live-action version of Looney Tunes. Well, if Looney Tunes had had moments scripted by drunken and sexually-frustrated artists.
He looked away just as Balthazar flopped over the seat top and yanked John’s bleeding finger towards his mouth. “Sacred Indian burial ground?” Dean guessed. The little information he had managed to find put it within striking distance of both an old Spanish mission and a local legend about a maiden and a water-snake. “But wouldn’t the paper have gotten blown away in the wind?”
“Not if someone’s got it. The thing about these pages is that they tend to wake things up. You know anything about the local history?” When Dean finally chanced a look, John was just sitting back and Balthazar had retreated to the darkness of the backseat. John shifted around so his head was all the way back and his knees were knocking the gearshift and the door, respectively. He slanted one eye Dean’s way. “The river down there’s experiencing a sudden surge in drownings.”
“And a hysterical report of a scaled-down Nessie.” Which was why Dean had gone with the Native American angle instead of the Catholic one. “You guys want me to fight a water serpent?”
“You shouldn’t have to. Physically, anyway. You shouldn’t even see it. It’ll all be a mind-game.” It was plainly hard for John to keep himself from sniggering at the last word.
Dean actually thought that made sense, but since his neck was depending on this, he wasn’t really happy about it. He’d rather get out his shotgun. “You know, I have run into a lot of monsters and they always like a straight-up fight. Why’s this one going to be any different?”
John made another one of those faces that said Dean had to be the greenest greenhorn ever to walk into L. A. Which definitely wasn’t true, because there was at least Sam—damn it, Dean really missed his brother. He hoped he wasn’t going to come back to Sam being charged with that cold bastard Midnite’s murder.
“Well, I wasn’t there so I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing that you mostly ran into amateurs,” John said. He put out his cigarette butt in the ash-tray and squinted at the bloody sun crouching on the horizon before them. “No offense; I’m just stating a fact. I mostly run into amateurs…if I had a dime for every stupid teenage wannabe witch that should’ve been fucking around with pot and sex instead of…never mind. The point is, the vast majority of things out there aren’t any more aware of the big picture than—well, than you were before you popped into L. A.”
It was on the tip of Dean’s tongue to object, but right then, the tape he had on ended. The time he needed to swap in another one disrupted his train of thought long enough for him to reluctantly begin considering John’s point. One memory that came up was the shape-shifter, and what it’d said to Rebecca about growing up alone and tormented. Dean’s instincts said the bastard had been playing the dramatic card for some sympathy, but there probably was some truth to it. And the ghosts they tended to run into always seemed to be “stuck” on something. Usually their anger and/or last vengeance kick.
“But there are some things out there—some old things. They’re powerful as all hell, but the more powerful and the older you get, lazier you get. Good for us, not so good for them.” John’s fingers twitched, and at first Dean thought they were going for another cigarette, but then John splayed them out on the seat cushion. “Plus Balthazar and I are going to be there.”
“I’m so relieved. All my worries are gone,” Dean muttered.
The corner of John’s mouth flicked up. He closed his eyes. “Whatever, Dean. You remember what exit to take? Then wake me up when we’re there.”
At least John wasn’t calling him ‘kid’ so much, Dean thought. He sighed and re-gripped the steering wheel. Checked the clock. No, it wasn’t time for Sam to call him yet.
He looked at John again—really looked at him instead of concentrating so hard on what they’d been saying. The man was…well, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to see the hot woman in him. Dean winced and made a note to never let that thought come out of his mouth, since he didn’t want to get killed for sheer stupidity. But yeah, it was true. John was good-looking. It was okay to say that. Dean was just making an observation.
This was such a long drive, he thought. He needed to stop brooding and just lose himself in the miles of gray pavement. Or even better, plan for what was coming up. Fun and relaxation were necessary parts of life, but they had their time and place, and that wasn’t till Dean was back in town and keeping an eye on his pigheaded brother. He really didn’t need to be speculating on other things right now.
* * *
They arrived at a dusty little town about five miles from the place as the last remnants of light were disappearing from the sky. Dean was all for heading out as soon as they’d filled up the gas tank, and he thought John was too, but Balthazar coolly needled the hell out of them till Dean threw up his hands and drove them to a diner. Whereupon Balthazar complained about the food.
John had excused himself about ten minutes after going in, and hadn’t come back inside. When Dean found him, the other man was sitting on the back end of the car and smoking. Of course.
“Hey, do you mind?” Dean irritably said. He gestured at his car.
The brief confusion that had filled John’s face cleared up; John looked down, shrugged, and lazily got off the car like he was doing Dean a big favor. At least it didn’t look like he’d made a dent in the top. “How’s the princess?”
“Having dessert even though if the food is as bad as he says, he should’ve died retching fifteen minutes ago.” Once John was off the car, Dean found it hard to stay irritated at the guy. Or maybe it was better to say Dean was having a case of nerves that was taking over everything else. Sam had finally called, but it’d just been a quickie and the talk had ended with Sam saying he was going hunting with Midnite. Not exactly the best situation to have back at the ranch while Dean was out. “Why do you keep calling him ‘princess’?”
John grinned around his cigarette. “Because when we brought him back, we stuck him in a woman’s body. He spent about a month and a half that way before he figured out how to switch between genders.”
These days it seemed like Dean did a lot of blinking. It made his eyes water and definitely didn’t help his self-confidence, but he wasn’t sure what other reaction even remotely came close to being appropriate. “So…he can…”
The other man watched Dean’s hand-gesturing with an amusement that bordered on pathological. “Yeah. He avoids doing it in public because he’s only five-eight that way.”
“Huh.” Dean rocked back on his heels. He looked at the sky and figured that since God really did exist, now would be a good time to take up praying: Please, for the love of everything, don’t make me into a woman. If he had to get something from his freaky ancestors, then anything but that. Even wings would be better.
The expression on John’s face changed a little, or maybe it was just a shift in the glow of his cigarette. “Christ. Just ask, Dean. I promise I’m not going to be offended.”’
“Uh. Well, do you two…have…that…thing…” Damn it, this was so awkward. But Dean’s brain refused to not ask the obvious questions.
“If I know it’s coming, I can switch male and skip it. But Balthazar is in a woman’s body to start with, so he’s still got to have one every month.” John made a face. “But yeah, I’ve had to have a couple. Believe me, it really is as bad as women say it is. I’m a little surprised there aren’t more homicides because of it. God knows Balthazar always ends up breaking someone’s neck when he’s bleeding.”
Gross. Sometimes Dean wondered where the hell his curiosity got its weird streak. “And—uh, do you two…ever…try…”
John was grinning again, and this time it was more self-satisfied than mocking. He glanced at the diner, then leaned forward so the heat of his cigarette’s tip warmed Dean’s cheek. “Girl-on-girl is much better than women admit,” he said.
Damn near purred it, frankly. A moment later, Dean shuffled about so he was slightly angled away from John and cursed his curiosity. As if the situation wasn’t already awkward enough. He’s a man, they’re men, he’s a man…
And he was still really close to Dean. The warmth of the cigarette vanished—John took it out of his mouth and dropped it on the ground—but was replaced by the softer, stealthier warmth of John’s breath. “Dean. Relax. At this level, things get very fluid. You don’t go with it, you tend to drown.”
“Only in L. A. so far,” Dean hissed. “And anyway, what the hell are you doing? Bal—”
Shouldn’t have had a name with a first syllable that made Dean open his mouth wide to pronounce it. John’s lips sealed over Dean’s bottom lip, then dragged a hot numb streak to Dean’s throat before Dean’s shocked muscles could react. Something grabbed Dean’s chin and held it still against his initial jerk back and down. Something nudged Dean’s rigid legs apart, then induced severe relaxation by pressing up and hard against his dick. John knew what he was doing.
Oh, like that was a new discovery. That’d been pretty obvious from the beginning. John knew what he was doing and okay, in this case it wasn’t altogether a bad thing. It was warm and wet, oddly slow, and dark enough for Dean to visually not have much of a disconnect. He could feel it, though. Flat chest. Slight perturbation in the lines of John’s thigh that ended up being John’s own…johnny. Dean was sort of losing the plot in a big way, and his vocabulary was going first. The tightness in his crotch turned into a pinch of denim against interested dick, against John’s knee and his exploratory but definitely not hesitant fingers; Dean’s knees started to skew funny and he had to put out a hand.
Touching his car regrounded him the same way a tall pole did lightning. Dean twisted, then stumbled away. A light touch grazed his mouth and he nearly tossed himself over the back of the car to get away from it before he realized it was just his hand, coming up to disbelievingly touch his mouth.
“Don’t fucking come over here,” he gasped, doubled over. He held onto his knees till they were steady again. “I’m not going to play your—your—whatever. I’m not a way to piss off Balthazar.”
“Sorry, but you already are. Stupid fucking jackass that he is. I wouldn’t consider it all the time if he wasn’t always accusing me of fucking around.” Funnily enough, John sounded less disappointed than pissed off with himself. It occurred to Dean that maybe, just maybe, the other man didn’t always have a motive besides ‘well, seemed like a good idea at the time.’ Then John sighed. “You know, you’re really not that bad. You actually use your brain.”
“I’m so incredibly flattered,” Dean muttered. He took a last breath, then stood up. The world instantly turned the right way up, which surprised him for a couple seconds. The half-queasy, half-excited swirl of heat in his gut hadn’t really gone away; his cock was still twitching between leg muscle and jean denim. That didn’t surprise him so much.
Balthazar strolled out just then; Dean barely avoided doing the obvious thing and rushing into the car. He still couldn’t quite make eye-contact, but that didn’t matter because it was obvious Balthazar had gotten a clue way before then.
“How was dinner?” John said, tone arch. The undercurrents between him and Balthazar could’ve wiped out the whole West Coast.
“You’re pathetic, Johnny.” Then Balthazar pushed past John and got into the backseat. The stiffness of his shoulders belied his coolly contemptuous tone.
John moved his head like he was rolling his eyes. “Never said I wasn’t,” he muttered.
He got into the car, but in the backseat instead of the front. At first Balthazar ignored him, but as big as Dean’s Impala was, John managed to sprawl over so much of it that Balthazar couldn’t pretend he wasn’t there. When Dean slid into the front seat, he saw in the rearview mirror that Balthazar was trying to subtly nudge John out of the way. This just made John spread even more, till finally Balthazar snarled and struck out. John intercepted the blow and used Balthazar’s momentum to pull him forward; he kissed Balthazar full on the lips, instead of just glancing off them like he had with Dean.
Dean started up the car, but couldn’t help watching. Hell, if Balthazar was using as much teeth as it looked like, then John was going to have no lips in a couple seconds…
Balthazar was, and in the dark the blood smearing over John’s chin looked like black molasses, but John got one hand around the back of Balthazar’s neck. The sensible thing would’ve been to yank Balthazar away, but instead John pressed them closer together. His other hand had moved to Balthazar’s shoulder and its fingers were digging into Balthazar’s flesh so hard they should’ve been breaking bone. Maybe they were, because Balthazar now was twisting not to get at John, but to…well, he still was trying to do that. Just in a different way.
He had John by the arms, and was hauling the other man forward with a desperation so sharp that Dean felt its edge slice into his cheek. Then Balthazar suddenly, pointedly reversed directions and John went down. For a few seconds, all Dean could see was the curve of Balthazar’s bent back.
Balthazar lifted his head and sluggishly moved aside for John sit back up; he had to hook his arm over the top of the front seat for balance. “Dean, when you’re facing the serpent, try not to think of anything important. It feeds on conflict,” he muttered. He wiped at his swollen mouth. “If you’ve…any unfulfilled desires, it’ll probably take advantage of them.”
“He’d be less one if you weren’t so goddamned possessive.” John was smiling as he leaned over and ruffled Balthazar’s hair. It took one second too long before Balthazar slapped his hand away, so maybe John was justified in doing it. “I haven’t offered to carry them around when they’re cramping too much to walk, have I?”
Too much information there. Way too much, even if tucked into it was a tiny nugget that made Dean feel slightly better about himself. John assaulting him in the name of helping him out later was less insulting than John doing it just to annoy Balthazar…and Dean was pulling out onto the road now. This was going places he wasn’t interested in going. “Are you two done back there?”
“Don’t know.” Suddenly John was draped over the seat, his mouth dangerously close to Dean’s ear. “Can you drive like that? You look uncomfortable.”
“Look, you’re not—no one’s having sex in my car, and you sure as hell aren’t touching the wheel.” Dean clamped his hands around said object. If anyone tried to get him out of the seat, they’d have to break each finger separately. “I’m fine.”
John snorted and hauled himself backwards. He was forcibly helped along by Balthazar, which made for the first time Dean actually liked Mr. I Was a Big-Shot Demon.
“If you say so,” John muttered.
* * *
The place was tucked back in an outcropping of hills and rocks, so the water wasn’t actually visible from where they had to park. Dean would’ve edged closer, but the ground quickly turned from sandyish to seriously pebbly and he didn’t want to risk tearing up his tires.
Just after they got out, Dean’s phone rang. He signaled to John and ducked around to the other side of the car, cupping his hand around the cell. “Sam?”
*Dean. How’s it going? They getting on your nerves yet?* Sam sounded a little tired.
There were so many ways to answer Sam and none of them were very good. But if Dean stuttered, Sam would get the hint like that. “I’m dealing. You?”
*Got a name.* Though Sam wasn’t tired enough to avoid the dramatic pause. *Moloch.*
Maybe Dean wasn’t as personally acquainted with the modern state of demonology as John was, but he still knew that name. He ducked lower and sat himself down by the front tire. “Jesus. Well, good job, Sammy. I should be back in town in time for us to tackle him first thing after sunrise.”
*Nice try, Dean,* Sam muttered. *Midnite came up with this idea. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.*
“Wait—wait, Sam! Don’t—” Damn it. He’d hung up on Dean.
Dean stood up and put his hand on the top of the car. He slid his cell into his pocket and started to reach for the door-handle, then abruptly shoved himself away. Gave the front wheel a kick that hurt his foot and his pride, but didn’t do a thing for his situation except get John staring at him. “Nothing,” Dean called over. “Just Sam checking in. Let’s go.”
Apparently reconciled, John and Balthazar exchanged a look. A half-hearted sneer came and went over Balthazar’s face, as did an expression that tended more towards ‘anxious.’ Then Balthazar abruptly turned on his heel and went off, presumably in the direction of the river.
“He’s going to raise it for you,” John said. He ambled around the car and stopped in front of Dean. “You really need to calm down. You fuck this up and—”
“Let me guess—the world will end? Let’s get this over with.” Dean attempted to stalk past John, but the other man slid so their shoulders knocked together. He shoved at John and somehow got deflected so his hip banged against the car. “What? Now? Okay, maybe Balthazar’s fine with it this time, but you’ve got to be—”
John sighed. “Dean, you’re going to jump in the water, and Balthazar and I are going to be busy. Now, that looks like a nice jacket…”
“And I can’t strip down by the river?” Dean asked.
The other man just looked at him. After a second, John turned around with an exaggerated air of courtesy. He rotated his shoulders a couple times.
Dean opened the car door again and pulled off his jacket, then tossed it in. He hesitated, then tugged his shirt over his head and took off his belt. Those went on the seat, and then he closed and locked the door. Some of the day’s warmth still lingered, but it was rapidly chilling and goosebumps instantly covered his bare skin.
He turned around to see John casually watching. And standing a little too close. “Christ!”
“You need to work on that.” In two long strides, John was across the space between them and on his knees before Dean. One businesslike flick of the wrist had Dean’s fly open and long cold fingers wiggling between his jumpy skin and his boxers. “Having nerve is good; having nerves will get you possessed and me riding you out of it. Hard. So don’t, all right?”
With that, John yanked Dean’s jeans down out of Dean’s too-slow hands and—and practically inhaled Dean’s dick, which hadn’t quite gotten over the deal at the diner yet. Dean’s ass hit the car. The car handle, actually—it felt like Dean was getting half his right buttock gouged out of his ass. His entire backside flamed with pain, then went numb. Up in the front, it felt like every single one of his nerves was burning out with gusto.
He scrabbled behind himself, got a hold on that stupid handle and clutched it tight just as the tip of his cock bumped something softish and hot. Zinged back through him and up his spine to make his brain swell, crowd out his eyeballs. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed through his mouth. John’s tongue was cradling his cock, but it wasn’t a static sensation: things rippled and went wetly concave, wrapped round Dean even tighter so he saw tight white bursts behind his eyelids. His nails caught on the car and he vaguely scolded himself for it, but couldn’t quite remember why because John’s cheeks pressed in and John’s tongue pressed up and the roof of John’s mouth was iron covered in soft hot velvet. Hell of a trap.
Dean’s eyes fluttered as spasms racked his whole body. Once his right eye nearly came completely open and he barely clamped it down again. His hips weren’t helping; they were bucking and twisting frantically like he could just climb into John’s mouth. Once they whacked him against the car so hard his teeth came unclenched and snapped down on his tongue. The brief pain shocked open his eyes once and for all.
He saw a sky that was upright and that seemed weirder than the sparkly lights dancing all over it. His vision tilted right—about twenty-one degrees, his mind inanely said—then spiraled downward till it staggered upon meeting John’s eyes. John. Man. Fuck.
Hell. Dean sagged against his car and calmly spent the next two minutes restarting his brain. He had to stop in the middle of that because something was different.
“I liked that,” his mouth said.
John snorted. “Thanks, kid. Now go take a flying leap into the river over there.”
Okay. That jiggled a memory, so it was in the plan somewhere. Somehow Dean got his jeans back up and fastened before he reached the edge of the water. The ground stopped sounding snuffly when he scuffled over it and instead sounded crunchy, which made him grimace and look up. He didn’t see anyone, which wasn’t good—
--“In you go,” Balthazar said. Balthazar. Serpent. Page. Water.
The bastard had just kicked Dean in the back of the knee and once Dean was done floundering around, he was giving Balthazar an introduction to Mr. Baseball Bat no matter how fond of him John was—
* * *
It was really dark down here. Dark, but surprisingly not wet and cold, considering that Dean was supposed to be in the bottom of a river. He stood up and put out his hands, but didn’t feel anything. He kept waving his hands around and still didn’t feel anything.
The darkness was changing, though Dean doubted it was because of him. Mostly because it seemed to be lightening up, and not in proportion to how much he flailed around. It suddenly occurred to him that he probably should stop that just in case anyone was waiting to see him.
When things finally did clear up, he was standing in a version…a version of his old bedroom. Dean shuddered, then smacked himself for that. Whoever was doing this now had a damned good idea of what one of his weaknesses was.
He counted to fifty, but nothing changed. It wasn’t exactly how he remembered it; the place looked like it’d been lifted from his memories, cleaned up a lot and then set in a frame. A museum piece. He slowly turned around, looking for any movement. There was something and he instantly dropped down, but the movement increased all over and Dean realized what it was: the room was rippling. It was like he was in an aquarium. But other than that, there was nothing.
Dean did notice one out-of-place detail: an oldish-looking, slender book sitting on one of the shelves that he didn’t remember owning. He walked over to it and picked it up, and then that was when things went weird. The room suddenly plunged into darkness; Dean instinctively slapped the book to his chest and wrapped his arms around it.
Something slammed him back—or was it down? It was too dark to tell. Disoriented and breathless, Dean scrambled away, only to be smacked around from the opposite direction. He had to switch the book to one hand in order to fend off whatever it was with the other. He punched out hard and the thing gave, but so much that it sucked in his hand. When he jerked it back, part of it still clutched his wrist.
Too fast to dodge, it swiftly oozed over him and took him into a…a kind of embrace. He could feel sections of it shape themselves and solidify into good approximations of human limbs, and there was even a…Dean jerked away his thigh, then twisted around and pushed in the opposite direction. The fucking thing snuggled up to his back and humped against him, cock sliding insidiously between his buttocks, which only made him struggle faster in the—
A wild thought made him pause. Then he whipped wildly around and, gritting his teeth, threw an arm around the thing. He squeezed it, but it flowed away. Away and away and suddenly Dean was wet. He was in cold damned water and his nose was stinging with it and his lungs were fucking burning. He opened his eyes and saw rocky bottom; he’d been diving deeper in his attempt to get away from the monster. Mind-game. Yeah. Well, it could take its little manipulations and stuff them up its ass.
Dean kicked his heel into the river bottom, and with all his strength, he propelled himself upward. The current snagged him before he’d gotten more than five feet up, carrying him fast sideways, and he forced himself to claw out with his hands. But he barely seemed to be moving.
Goddamn it, he was not dying here. He needed to get back to L. A. and boot sense into Sam’s head. He kicked and threw out his arms, and finally he seemed to be near the surface. But it was getting dark again, and Dean didn’t have the energy to outswim it.
At the last second, something brushed his wrist. Then it whipped around, snagged him good and he broke the surface. Dean gulped air so hard he thought he was going to break a rib that way.
He nearly did when John unceremoniously dragged him onto the shore. The other man, soaked sleeves rolled up past his elbows, smacked Dean a couple times on the cheeks, then heaved Dean up just as a surge of water came tearing up Dean’s throat.
Someone else lightly poked at Dean’s hand, which had clenched itself into a fist. Balthazar—who had a couple splatters on his clothes, surprisingly enough—neatly avoided Dean’s reflexive punch and pried apart Dean’s fingers. He held up a crumpled wad of parchment that he delicately unfolded into a wrinkled sheet. It was the driest thing Dean had ever seen.
Dean finished puking river water and stared disgustedly at the page. “That better be it, because I’m so not doing that again.”
“It is.” Balthazar tipped his head towards Dean and looked patronizing. “Did it try to seduce you in the form of a man? No wonder you’re so skittish.”
All right, Dean had had enough. He grabbed Balthazar, hauled him forward and shut him up.
He didn’t mean for it to have anything to do with lust or whatever; he just was irritated and half-drowned and hoping to trigger whatever reflex John used to keep the bastard in line. But by the time Dean and Balthazar mutually shoved each other apart, it’d gotten kind of…well, interesting. Okay. Men could kiss. Okay. Dean could swap spit with a man and enjoy it, sort of, and not be pretending hard that he was with a girl.
This was…okay. New and weird, but he was getting used to it. He stood up and glanced at Balthazar, just to check: no, nothing except when they’d actually locked lips. He looked at John and there was a funny hot mutter in Dean’s gut, but not enough to seriously freak him out. So he could do this and it was just another layer. Acknowledging it wasn’t automatically going to morph him into somebody unrecognizable, which Sam would say was a stupid and prejudiced fear, but whatever.
Plus Balthazar was beautifully, blessedly quiet.
“Okay,” Dean said. “Let’s get back to Sam.”