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15 April 2007 @ 11:59 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Under Water  
Written for numb3rsflashfic Challenge #36 - Water


Title: Under Water
Pairing/Characters: Charlie, Don
Rating: PG
Spoilers: None
Summary: Eleven year old Charlie wishes he could spend his beach vacation surfing
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

Other comments are housed at numb3rsflashfic.


The ocean is warm - like bathwater.

The tourists all pick up and leave when it gets windy in the afternoon, but locals know to come back after the winds die down, just before sunset.

It's perfect.

It's quiet too, save the crashing of the surf on the shore.

That is until Don starts yelling at him to come out of the water.

He ignores his brother.

He's eleven. He doesn't need a babysitter, especially when their rented beach cottage is only a three minute walk from the pier.

He glances around, embarrassed, but at this hour all the surfers are on the other side of the pier where the waves are breaking better.

He's alone on this side and stares longingly through the pilings, wishing he was good enough, strong enough to try surfing.

For now he focuses on body boarding. He figures the more he studies the mechanics of waves now the better he'll do when he finally gets the surfboard his father promised him for his twelfth birthday.

Distracted by Don's interruption he misses a wave coming up behind him. It smacks him hard and douses his mop of curls, making them sodden again after they'd nearly dried out.

Annoyed now, he turns his board away and paddles out further, a tiny act of defiance, but he figures Don won't come in after him wearing jeans so he's set.

His hands glide through the water, propelling him forward even as each swell he floats over tries to push him back to the shore.

Don yells again and Charlie tunes him out, lost in the physics of two opposing forces.

He senses something wrong - maybe through a subtle shift in the ocean itself, maybe recognizing a note of fear in Don's voice that wasn't there before - and looks up.

A massive wave, bigger than any he's ever seen, towers over him and his heart skips a beat.

Raw adrenaline floods his body. He turns his board towards the beach and starts to paddle and kick for all he's worth.

It's futile.

No one outruns the ocean.

He turns frightened eyes towards his brother on the beach and they share a look of understanding. He knows.

There's no way Charlie can get out of the water before the wave crashes.

Scared, he makes a snap decision with the precious seconds he has left.

He tears off the Velcro leash from his wrist, setting his board free and shoving it away in the hopes it won't come back and hit him later.

He takes the deepest breath he can manage and dives down into the body of the wave just before it breaks over him.

The last thing he sees is the white froth of the wave coming right at him.

At first he thinks it might be okay, that he dove down fast enough and far enough.

And then the ocean booms around him as the full force of the wave finally hits the sand.

It grabs his legs first, twisting them, pulling him in to the maelstrom.

He's sucked in in a split second, tossed around head over heels.

He tries to cover his head, protect himself, but the force of the water tugs his limbs too strongly and he's helpless to control where they go.

He hits the ground hard with his hip, his head, his knee. He rolls in free water then feels rough sand abrading his back as he's pushed down again.

It should stop soon, he thinks, and yet it doesn't.

He feels a shift though and senses the sand rubbing against his back moving faster.

He freezes inside as he realizes he's being dragged out to sea in the undertow.

He tries to be patient, ride it out. He consoles himself thinking he'll be released from its clutches any second now. The power of the wave will diminish now that the cycle is ending.

He has enough air to last.

Just.

But he forgets.

Cycles don't end.

Another wave crashes and he's lifted anew into the roiling waters, tossed around just as viciously as before.

His air is running out. He can't last much longer.

His lungs are burning, his body protesting the lack of oxygen.

He panics, clawing at the churning water, but he finds no purchase.

Unsure which way is up now, he flounders even as the wave starts to ebb.

His arms flail and strike something solid.

He grabs onto it, clutching with every ounce of strength he has left.

It's an arm.

He's pulled up, out of the water and into the fading sunlight.

He gasps for air, sputtering as the arm keeps pulling, dragging him towards shore.

He coughs and stumbles as another wave crashes around them.

He loses his footing, but he's held up and they are close enough to shore to make it.

Once they are clear he falls breathless to the wet sand and looks up into the worried face of his brother.

"Are you okay, buddy?" Don asks, concern furrowing his brow.

He sits panting for a moment, flooded with a newfound respect for mother nature and the big brother who pulled him from her grasp.

"Yeah... I am." He takes the hand his brother offers him and stands, pulling Don into an awkward yet heartfelt hug. "Thanks," he mutters into his brother's neck, trying not to let his emotions overwhelm him.

Don seems to understand, looking away once they separate.

"I'll grab your board," he says and takes off at a jog down the beach to where the body board floats in the shallow water.

Charlie grabs his towel and dries off as he catches up with Don. His brother carries his board home for him, something he'd never do normally.

They walk in silence until the house comes into view.

He gestures to Don's wet jeans and t-shirt.

"What are you going to tell Mom and Dad?" he asks tentatively.

Don looks at him and flashes a grin.

"That you pushed me in the water." He reaches over and musses Charlie's towel damp hair. "They worry enough about us. It's their vacation too. I think they deserve a break."

"Yeah..." Charlie grins back, feeling the last of the tension slip away.

"Besides," Don says, holding the front gate open as they pass through. "I don't want to ruin your shot at convincing Dad to get you that surfboard at the beginning of next summer instead of the end so you can actually use it during the vacation before your birthday in September."

"How did you know I was going to try to get him to do that?" Charlie asks, his ordeal finally slipping into memory.

Don laughs.

"Because... You're a genius."

=
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on April 16th, 2007 08:25 am (UTC)
Confession
I was having a discussion with one of my betas recently about authors putting themselves into their fic versus using their life experiences to inform their fic.

This - I hope - is the latter.

I have been in this sort of situation many times. Normally you ride out a wave like that and eventually make it back to the surface not too much the worse for wear. But then there are those few times when you go past the point of riding it out and cross a threshold where it occurs to you that you could actually die.

It's truly frightening.

Mother Nature is not to be trifled with. Look at Katrina. Look at the tsunami. She is beautiful yes, but also horrible and heartless. She demands respect. That is an important lesson for everyone to learn.

Very special thanks to beta iolsai for her assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
Karen: numb3rs charliebyrons_brain on April 16th, 2007 08:49 am (UTC)
Wonderful piece of writing...
PhilLeeGirlphilleegirl on April 16th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
No one outruns the ocean.

This may be my favorite line you've ever written. I truly love it.

This was a great fic. I love seeing your take on the boys as kids, very sweet. Oh, and having lived most of my childhood summers at the Jersey shore, may I just say that this painfully correct and well done. Also, I don't think it was you putting yourself in the story, because it is a shared experience and your words put me in the story. Brava!