Title: of rabbit, trout and an old tin roof
Characters: young Dean and Sam, John
Word count: 2,124
One day, the stream out back floods its banks. They hadn't thought it possible: it's four tall steps to get down to the water normally, big enough that Sammy has to jump down them and scramble back up. He uses his hands as well, but only when he thinks Dean can't see. Dean hasn't teased him about it yet, but he will. Sam's such a shorty.
It was raining all through the night – the sharp rat-a-tat on the old tin roof of the lean-to Dean and Sam sleep in was loud and constant. Loud enough to block out the normally cheerful rush and splash of the stream for the first time in the two weeks they've been here. Loud enough to keep Dean awake even after Dad had turned off the TV, hidden empty beer bottles in a duffle Dean's not supposed to touch, and gone to bed.
First thing, even before breakfast, Dean rolls up his pajama bottoms and says he's going paddling in the back yard. Sam does the same, of course. Caleb once said he was Dean's mirror, and Dean thinks that's kinda cool, even though it's a pain sometimes. Dad doesn't let them though – he says there might be dangerous currents, and when Dean looks puzzled, explains that he doesn't mean the type of currants Dean always picks out of fruit cake. When Dean looks out the window again and sees the yellow-brown water boiling back on itself - big, angry waves trying to go backwards - he rolls his pajamas back down again and promises that he and Sammy will keep out of the water.
Instead, once they're dressed and the rain has died away to "it's hardly raining at all, Dad," Dean and Sam go out and collect stones, big ones, and make a line of them to show where the water reached. They measure the closest the water has gotten to the house – fifteen of Dean's big paces, and twenty-one of Sam's. That's close.
Three days later, when the stream has gone almost back to normal, Dean asks Dad to help them come build a dam.
Dad says he'd love to, and Dean thinks he looks happy for once with a real smile that makes his eyes crinkle in the corners the same way Sam's do when he's happy and not whining, but when Dad tries to get up off the sofa he bites down on a groan and eases back down gently.
"Maybe not right now," he says, "but you boys can do it between you just fine."
Dad hasn't said much, but Dean knows he's still hurting from the daeva he took out in Dubois.
Dean feels kinda guilty. He loves it here and so does Sam, and he doesn't want the summer to end. Doesn't want to move on and go back to school - a new school - again. But that feels almost like he's glad his dad got hurt bad enough to take all this time off hunting, and he isn't. It's just—nice here. He likes having Dad around to salt the doors and windows every night, and check outside if there are the bad kind of noises. Dean's still the one who checks up on Sammy though, if he whimpers or calls out in his sleep, or if he wakes up crying from a bad dream. Dean's always been best at calming Sammy down. But Dad's best at the other stuff.
"Come on, Dean," Sam calls out, hand on the back door knob, bouncing on his toes, and Dean just nods at Dad and follows Sam out the door.
There's a wooden bridge a few yards below the cabin, and they dam the stream just above it. There's a natural pool there: the water rushes in over huge boulders, then swirls around in the pool before slowing down over the shallow bed under the bridge. Dean scopes out the perfect place to build the dam, just like Dad taught him – it's not the narrowest point, but it's shallow and if they build it well, the water should settle deep enough in the pool for them to swim in. Well, for Dean to swim, and Sam to learn to swim – it's about time he learned now he's nearly a first grader.
They start by building the base, good and wide and solid, with the biggest stones they can find. Dean wants to use the stones they used to mark the high water point as filler, but Sam pouts and so they don't. They dredge up fistfuls of stones from the bottom of the pool, and even though they've both rolled up their short sleeved tees, they're soon wet. It's warm though, the storm and the chill it brought long past, so it doesn't bother them.
It's not long before they've got company – two kids from another cabin just downstream. They introduce themselves as Liz and Joel. Liz is plump and a bit taller than Dean and talks loudly all the time, but seems to know what she's doing, whereas Joel is mousy and barely says a word. Sam seems to take to Joel though – they work together comfortably without talking - and Dean can be just as bossy as Liz, so it works out fine.
By mid-afternoon, the dam is looking good. They've dug up clods of earth and grass from the opposite bank to cover the outer side, and there are barely any leaks at all. The pool is waist deep on Dean and Liz, and chest deep on the other two, and, just as Dean thought, there's room for a few strokes. Joel and Liz can both swim, and Sam looks pleadingly at Dean, so Dean doesn't say anything about Sam not being able to swim, and puts off the lesson until later. They mostly just mess around, splashing each other until they're all dripping, clothes and hair, and no one notices that Sam can't swim. Then Liz looks speculatively at the boulders above the pool, like she's plotting something. She's Dean's kind of girl, even though she's bossy – she's almost as good as a boy. She climbs up the rocks, then settles into a grove worn away by the water and lets go. It's the perfect slide, fast and smooth, and Dean could kick himself for not being the one to discover it.
After that, they can't get enough of the slide, clambering up and sliding down with great whooping cries. Even Joel screams and shouts as loudly as the others when it's his turn. It's not until Liz points at Dean's ass and starts laughing that they stop: his shorts have worn right through behind, and his Scooby-Doo briefs are showing through the hole. He doesn't blush, obviously, no matter what Sam says when they're telling Dad what happened, but he checks Sam's shorts, and they're wearing thin too, so Dean calls it a day for the slide. It isn't as though they've got suitcases full of clothes to waste.
It was fun though, while it lasted.
There's another storm, later in the week. The weather has gotten hotter and hotter until everything goes dark and angry as though it's nighttime, not midday, and rain pelts down so they can barely see out the windows. It doesn't last long this time, but it's enough to do serious damage to the dam. Dean's got his holey shorts on so as not to wreck another pair, so he jumps down into the pool to check the damage. The pool isn't as deep, even though the stream's swollen: it's silted up from the dirty water coming down the mountain.
Dean sets Sam to patching up the holes in the dam, while he digs out the pool. There's all sorts of garbage in there – mostly logs and leaves, so he pushes them up against the dam to add to that. It's all a bit slimy, but it doesn't really bother Dean – he's felt worse things when Dad's come back from a hunt covered in goo. He catches hold of another log or something, but when he brings it up out of the water it looks at him, glassy eyed. It's a dead rabbit, its fur stuck down with the wet so it seems thinner that it must have looked alive.
"Hey, look, Sammy," Dean calls, and Sam wrinkles his nose when he sees what Dean's holding up. Sam insists on burying it, and the dam is just about water-tight again, so it's safe to leave it for a while. Sam fusses around for ages, finding the right place to bury it, until Dean's about to go spare and throw it back in the water, or at Sam. Then Sam finds a small bush higher up the river bank, and declares it the perfect spot. They borrow a shovel from Dad, and take it in turns to dig, though Dean does most of the real work. When they've finished and covered it over, it all looks rather bare, brown soil an ugly square on the grassy bank, so they get some stones and pile them up on top. It looks like something Dean saw in a book once, a carn or something it was called.
They don't spend much time in the stream after that. It's not because of the dead rabbit, of course, because Dean's not bothered by little things like that, even if Sam is. They just find other things to do.
Then one morning, over pancakes and syrup and juice, which is Dean's favorite breakfast, Dad tells them he's going to teach them something. Dean stuffs the rest of his breakfast down so fast he can barely taste it, and drags Sam off to get dressed as quickly as possible. Sam complains a bit, because he's not finished his pancakes, but Dean promises him it's going to be worth it, so then he hurries almost as much as Dean.
Dean expects Dad to get something out of the trunk of the car, a weapon hopefully, so he's surprised when they head out into the back yard and toward the stream empty-handed. He's even more surprised when Dad takes off his boots and socks, and rolls up his jeans, pointing to the boys to do the same.
They paddle up the stream, until they come to a part where the bank overhangs a small pool.
"This is perfect," Dad says, and squats down. "Watch, boys, and keep as still and quiet as you can."
Nothing happens for a while, and Dean's beginning to feel fidgety, though he doesn't move a muscle. He can sense Sam getting impatient though, and spares a quick smile to the side. Sam smiles back, and Dean hopes he'll keep still a bit longer.
Then Dean sees it. A fish, shiny scales gleaming as a stray ray of sunlight catches it. Dad's hands are cupped, and the fish is swimming right into them. Sam lets out a faint 'oh' of surprise, but Dad doesn't seem to hear, he's so focused on the fish. When it's right above Dad's hands, Dean expects him to grab it, but he doesn't. He just moves his hands in a little, and seems to stroke the underbelly of the fish.
Dean's amazed. The fish seems to like it, because it doesn't move at all, and then—then Dad tightens his hands and catches the fish tight. He bangs its head on a stone, killing it instantly, and lays it on the bank.
"Want to see if you can catch the rest of our lunch?" he asks, and Dean and Sam both nod, eager.
It's not as easy as Dad made it look: one little move at the wrong moment, and the fish (rainbow trout, Dad says they're called) swim right away. But they keep at it, and eventually Dean catches one, and then another two in quick succession. Sam still hasn't caught any, and Dean thinks it must be harder for him with having smaller hands and not being so good at staying still. So he stands behind Sam, and holds him steady, and, sure enough, the next trout they see, Sam manages to catch. He holds onto it too, which makes Dean proud because he'd nearly let go of his first one out of excitement.
Dad fries the trout for lunch, and they eat it with big chunks of fresh bread. It's the best lunch Dean's ever had.
They move on the next day, onto another town and a new school. They leave the mountains behind, and the stream, but they have enough trout left over to make sandwiches for the journey, and Dean thinks they taste of all the things he loves about the summer.