he best way to deal with a Hunt like this was to divide and conquer, but Danny would never in a million years have thought that Sam Winchester would trust him alone with his brother.
It might have been simply because Danny and Rusty had sort of forced his hand... only not really. They'd just laid out the plan, and things had fallen together the way they'd had to.
As they'd put it to Sam, someone was going to have to go out and bait the fire salamander. Danny was going to be occupied elsewhere, and Rusty -- understandably -- really wanted someone to have his back. And since there were only two other Hunters, and there was no way that Sam was going to risk his brother, there was only one way that it could play out.
Danny supposed that there'd been the chance that Sam would get stubborn, declare the entire thing too dangerous, and insist that he and Dean stay back at the hotel. But Dean's eyes had been glowing, his face bright, and Sam had actually seemed to be caught up in the excitement of the Hunt himself. Danny and Rusty could have done it with just the two of them, but they were both profoundly grateful that they hadn't had to.
Sam had made Danny promise a dozen times that he would keep his eye on Dean at all times. Remembering how he and Rusty had found the boy wandering dazed and dirty in the woods, Danny was perfectly willing to agree. He'd also pointed out that it was more likely to be Sam in danger than Dean, since he'd be out in the woods with the fire salamander. That was the point at which Dean had made Rusty promise to keep his Sammy safe.
Rusty had shown Dean the fire extinguishers he and Sam would be carrying on their backs, within easy reach, assuring the boy that Sam's well being would be his first priority, even before the success of the Hunt. Though Danny was of the opinion that Sam would do just fine once he was out in the field, even if he was a little out of practice.
At any rate, both Sam and Dean had felt better once they'd seen the extinguishers, and even though Sam's brows had risen when Rusty handed him a rifle with instructions not to shoot at anything unless it was their quarry, the two Winchesters had fallen in with the plan eagerly.
Right now Danny and Dean were on a bluff overlooking the original construction site. It was dark, the night approaching two hours past midnight and the sky still heavily overcast, but Danny had been here earlier, shortly after sunset, while there'd still been a little light, so he knew where things were.
"What are we doing here, Danny?" Dean asked in a whisper, even though there was no sign of the fire salamander, or any human beings, anywhere nearby. Danny had Rusty on his bluetooth earpiece, and he'd know when it was time to put their plan into effect.
"Right now we're waiting," Danny replied, speaking softly so as not to distract Rusty on the other end of the line. "But things should get crazy soon enough."
"Okay," Dean said, seeming to be perfectly fine with taking that at face value. Danny was a little startled when the boy slipped his hand through Danny's arm, clinging to his elbow. Danny didn't think that Sam would approve, but he wasn't here and Danny didn't have any problem with Dean seeking physical reassurance. It was easier to keep tabs on him that way.
"Spotted it!" Rusty suddenly hissed into Danny's ear. "Any time you're ready!"
"Right," Danny replied, sliding his free hand into his jacket pocket and grabbing the slim detonator that he'd secreted in there earlier. "Hold on..." he glanced down at Dean. "Hey, kiddo, I'm gonna make a big noise now, okay?" At Dean's wide-eyed nod, Danny gave Rusty the word. "All right, I'm blowing it now."
He thumbed the trigger and counted the blasts that went off in the hillside before him. Two... three... and four. Good, there were no un-detonated explosives. That could have proven disastrous to their plan.
Dean was clinging more tightly to his arm as the ground settled beneath them. Danny really hoped that this site was remote enough that the authorities would take a long time to reach it, because that had in no way been subtle, and they weren't done yet. They'd destroyed the fire salamander's lair, so that it had nothing to return to, but they hadn't killed the creature yet. That was phase two of this Hunt.
"All right, Dean, you ready to do our part?" he asked.
Dean let go his arm and stared up at him in the dark. "You mean we're not just gonna stand here and watch?" he asked breathlessly. "We get to do stuff?"
Danny nodded, grinning. "Yep. Might not be as exciting as what your brother is doing, but it's essential to the plan."
"Awesome!" Dean exclaimed, clapping his hands together and bouncing on the balls of his feet. He looked so cute and young, even in the dark, that Danny suffered a brief qualm -- Sam would be at least a little pissed if he knew what Danny was planning on having his brother help him do -- but the danger was minimal and it would be worse if Danny did it alone and took his eyes off of Dean, potentially allowing him to wander away again.
"All right, we're doing it now," he told Rusty over his phone. "Give us about ten or fifteen minutes to be sure."
"Shouldn't be a problem," Rusty replied quietly. "We're probably at least twenty minutes away on foot."
"Well, remember that we don't know how fast the thing can move," Danny warned. "I'll give you the word once we're close to done."
"Roger," Rusty shot back, and Danny grimaced slightly, because they weren't on walkie-talkies or anything here, dammit. "That blast didn't so much as make it twitch, even though we could feel it all the way over here. So you've got as much time as you need. Don't rush."
"I wouldn't," Danny told him mildly. What, did Rusty really think he was an idiot? Hm. He supposed he really didn't want to know the answer to that.
"Let's go, let's go!" Dean was urging, tugging at Danny's arm, and he chuckled.
"Tell Sam that Dean's doing fine, by the way," he instructed, then hefted the heavy backpack that had been sitting at his feet. Time to get the plan moving and get on to the next step.
"Here, Dean," he said, digging in the front pocket of the bag. "You can wield the flashlight, okay?"
In the illumination thus provided, Danny could see the skeptical look the boy was giving him, but after a long moment Dean evidently decided that he wasn't being condescended to, and he took the proffered tool.
"Okay, let's go!" he said again.
And Danny and Dean went thumping down the hill.
"Danny said to tell you that Dean's doing all right," Rusty informed Sam, speaking quietly. They were crouched in the underbrush at one side of an unexpected field about a mile from the bank of the river, watching the fire salamander flicker at the other side of the clearing. It hadn't set anything on fire yet, at least so far as they could see, its own glow dim but easy to see in the darkness. Rusty wasn't sure what it was doing, but he knew what it would be doing in about twenty minutes... if everything went according to plan.
So far it didn't seem to realize that the two Hunters were so near. Or maybe it was aware but it didn't regard them as a threat. Either way, Rusty had no qualms about keeping in touch with Danny over his phone, and the fire salamander continued to do... whatever it was that it was doing right now. Speech wasn't disturbing it, and as Rusty had told Danny, the explosion that had shaken the forest didn't seem to have registered with it. It had certainly startled the fuck out of Sam, even though Rusty had warned him.
On the other hand, maybe saying, "Big boom now," about two seconds before the first explosion had rocked the woods hadn't been much of a warning.
Sam nodded, his brow creased in a frown. But Rusty knew Sam was going to fret until he was back together with his brother. All the more reason to move this Hunt forward quickly. Of course, they were pretty much stuck here until Danny gave the go-ahead or twenty minutes had passed, whichever came first.
"You doing okay?" he asked, easily ignoring the instructions he could hear Danny giving Dean over his earpiece. He could tell when Danny was speaking to him, and with the delicate work his partner was engaged in right now, the last thing he needed was a distraction.
Sam hesitated, but then nodded. "I... yeah. I'm a little weirded out by how easy it's been to fall back into Hunting," he confessed, staring at the distant fire salamander, not glancing at Rusty, but not seeming to have any problem unloading on him. Rusty figured that the kid probably needed an unbiased ear to vent to; someone who understood about Hunting but who didn't have a personal stake in Sam's life or his choices. "I mean, I spent two years at college, living in the 'normal world'.... But I gave that all up in a heartbeat when Dad found Dean, and I don't regret it. Even though it was what I spent most of my teens longing for."
"You found out that there was something more important," Rusty offered.
Sam nodded. "Dean. Dean's more important to me than anything else. Even my Dad."
Rusty nodded in turn. He'd already been able to see that. And he knew that Sam's brother returned the sentiment. So, hey, it worked out for both of them, really.
"Don't tell Dad what I said about Hunting," Sam requested, slanting Rusty a quick glance from under thick bangs. "When we find him. I don't... I don't want him dragging Dean back into that life. Not now that Dean has a chance to have a real life...."
"But Dean's real life involves Hunting," Rusty put in. He was taking a chance, arguing this with Sam when it was essentially none of his business. But Sam had brought it up, and Rusty had an outsider's viewpoint that might benefit the young man. "He knows that. I realize that you want to keep your brother safe. I think that you should. But you can see that he's doing much better now that he's on a Hunt. It's true that he has a chance to be a teenager again, to do all the things he might not have done the first time. But do you think he'd be happy turning his back on all those people out there being hurt and killed by supernatural monsters? I haven't known your brother long, but I can already tell that he wouldn't be able to do that."
Sam was silent for a long moment, then he heaved a huge gusting sigh. "I know," he said reluctantly. "You're right. But that doesn't mean that I have to like it...."
"Of course you-- Hey, Danny, it's moving," Rusty switched tracks quickly, his tone sharpening. "You almost done?"
"Close enough," Danny grunted in his ear. "Go ahead and go after it. By the time you get here we'll be done and out of range, no matter how fast it can move."
"It's showtime, Sam," Rusty said, hefting his shotgun and standing. The fire salamander was actually moving toward them, not away, which was good. Rusty didn't know whether it had finally decided to come and fry them or if they were just in the path that it had chosen, but either way it was in range and he was ready to be done hiding in the bushes and to move on to the next step of the plan.
"What are we...?"
"Let's find out," Rusty said, taking aim. "Hold your fire 'til I say," he instructed, squeezing the trigger and getting the first shot off.
Sam started next to him, but it was the fire salamander that Rusty was avidly watching for a reaction. He wasn't disappointed. As the bullet hit, it let out an ear-piercing squeal -- that had Danny, on the other end of the phone, cursing -- and writhed momentarily in the tall grasses of the field. He could smell burning greenery.
"Yeah!" Rusty grinned as the flaming creature turned tail and fled. Several triumphs at once; it had been damaged, it was moving in the right direction, and it wasn't running any faster than a grown man's sprinting speed, which meant that Rusty and Sam could easily keep pace, herding it.
"Bullets can hurt it?" Sam gasped, his eyes wide.
"When they've been blessed by a genuine Shoshone shaman in Nevada," Rusty told him, speaking through the teeth of his grin. "I admit I was sort of hoping they'd kill it, but I suppose that would've been a little anticlimactic. Let's go. Keep on its tail, but don't waste bullets -- I only have so many!"
Sam might have had further questions or exclamations, but Rusty was already in motion, chasing the fleeing fire salamander and the young man had to dash to catch up.
Once they were moving it was Sam who set the pace, with his longer legs. Each time the fire salamander tried to turn to strike at them or veered off the course they wanted it on, one of them shot it again. Rusty was pretty sure that they wouldn't run out of bullets -- he had more in the pouch on his hip -- but he was still relieved when he saw the woods opening up, as they hit the original construction site.
"Go on up there," Rusty instructed Sam, pointing at the bluff to their left where a small point of light, Danny's flashlight, gleamed. "That's where Dean is. You two stay there; it's safe. Danny'll come and help me as soon as you're with your brother."
Sam took the rifle Rusty handed him and took off running. Rusty was pleased to see his urgency. Whether it was for Dean or for the Hunt, Rusty couldn't move on to the next step without Danny, and Danny couldn't leave Dean until Sam reached them, so the faster Sam got up there, the better.
Rusty stood at the edge of the construction site, watching the fire salamander. It hovered at the entrance to its lair... or, rather, where the entrance had been before Danny had destroyed it with the explosives he and Rusty had set when they'd come here the first time, around sunset that evening. Its retreat cut off, the fire salamander had no choice but to stand and fight. This was probably the most hazardous part of the plan, for Rusty at least, and he hoped that Sam's long legs had gotten him up that hill quickly.
"I'm in place," Danny's smooth, familiar voice said in his ear and Rusty felt a little of the tension that had been building between his shoulderblades ease. "Go for it... but be careful."
"I'm always careful," Rusty retorted, smirking as Danny snorted in response to this blatant lie. "Here goes nothing."
Stepping into the construction site, Rusty approached the fire salamander. It hissed at him, its gaping maw and slit eyes glowing gold-white, the rest of its body flaring bright orange-red. Rusty could feel the heat, even from a good fifteen feet away.
This had better work, or he was barbecue.
"What the hell is he doing?!" Sam gasped, staring down at the tableau in the construction site in horrified shock. He had his arms around Dean, Danny had vanished, and Rusty was facing off with the fire salamander, literally face-to-face with it, and it looked as though it was poised to leap and take his head off or something.
At first Sam had been a little disappointed by the fire salamander. When Danny and Rusty had first told him their story about how they'd found Dean, he'd imagined it as being a good twenty feet long, breathing flames, standing taller than a man....
In reality, it was only about six feet long, plus a whip-thin tail of about the same length, and it only stood about three feet off the ground. In build it reminded him more of a newt than a dragon, or even a lizard. Its head was blunt, it had no horns or fringes, or even fangs. Its flesh emitted a low-level orange glow that looked more like lava than flames. It had definitely been supernatural, but Sam hadn't found it threatening in the least.
Now, as it advanced on Rusty, it was suddenly a lot more fearsome. Sam swallowed tightly, abruptly and horribly concerned for their new acquaintance. The fire salamander's flesh had surged, gold-bright flames now crackling all over its surface, making it seem larger. Its eyes were burning white-blue, its open mouth filled with the same super heated flare, and it no longer looked bland and harmless, but quite deadly.
It was within less than ten feet of Rusty --and that was way too close, in Sam's opinion -- when the man shouted, "NOW!" loudly enough that Sam could hear him all the way up the bluff, then dived backwards, into the churned up earth of the construction site.
Out of the darkness to the opposite side of the fire salamander from the Winchesters' vantage point, a huge burst of water came surging, a steady blast that hit the fire salamander, hissing and sizzling, huge clouds of steam billowing up from its skin. The water kept coming, the fire salamander let out that horrible keening shriek again, the steam was lit from within by its flames, and then suddenly it was extinguished. The entire site was plunged into darkness, Sam could smell scorched earth and something more organic, not quite like burnt flesh, but more like the musk of a wounded animal.
"I thought that water wouldn't kill it," he mumbled, not even really realizing he'd spoken aloud until Dean answered him.
"It's not just water, Sammy," he said, sounding gleeful and excited.
Sam was going to pursue this declaration, but in that moment a burst of lights went on, filling the construction site with stark yellow illumination.
Evidently Rusty had evaded the fire salamander handily and had thrown a switch, though whether the floodlights had already been there or whether he and Danny had set them up earlier, Sam didn't know.
The construction site was a mess, Sam could see now that it was exposed in the harsh electric glare of the lights. There was a huge pile of disturbed earth at the base of another bluff, that Sam assumed was where the entrance to the fire salamander's lair had been. The open area in front of it was torn up, chunks of soil quickly becoming mud. There was a thick stream of water shooting from a hose that Sam could now see that Danny was wielding, attached to a large water tank, and he continued blasting the fire salamander with it, not giving the monster a moment's respite.
As Sam watched, squinting in the sudden light, Rusty moved to take the hose from Danny, and both of them backed away from the fire salamander. It looked somehow even more unnatural now that its flames were extinguished, its body dark and slick, its eyes still burning hateful, fierce blue-white. It was drenched, retreating to where its lair had been, hissing and writhing in the barrage of water, unable to hide, unable to attack its tormentors, and yet Sam didn't feel sorry for it. This wasn't some wild creature whose territory had been encroached on by careless humans. It was an elemental being of malevolent power that existed solely to destroy and damage, and it was a miracle that no one had yet been killed by it. It had almost killed Danny and Rusty the night before, after all.
"What are they...?" Sam wondered. Danny and Rusty had the thing on the run, and yet they were pulling back. Shouldn't they advance on it and destroy it, now that it was helpless?
"Just wait, Sammy," Dean instructed sagely. "And cover your ears."
That was about all the warning Sam got, understanding of this Hunt's grand finale striking him an instant before it was enacted by Danny and Rusty.
The explosion was much larger than the one that had wrecked the creature's lair. Sam felt it shake him to his bones, the ground beneath him rocking. His ears were ringing even before the last of the roar had faded, and his eyes were dazzled by the fierce flash that had been at the center of the blast. Whether it had been the explosives or the demise of the fire salamander, or both, Sam didn't know. But it was obvious, as he blinked his sight clear, that Danny and Rusty had succeeded in their Hunt. They'd blown the fire salamander up.
"Holy fuck," he whispered, clutching his brother close to him. Dean was vibrating with enthusiasm, but Sam was just kind of stunned.
They'd blown the fire salamander up!
It wasn't that it hadn't worked. There were a few steaming chunks of lizard in the wreckage surrounding the blast zone, but even if this was the sort of creature prone to regeneration, there was no way the fire salamander was coming back. Sam was actually really impressed.
But, dude. Heavy explosives?
"Danny! Rusty! It worked!" Dean crowed from Sam's arms as the two Hunters reappeared at the top of the bluff. Both were a little muddy, a little sooty, but were completely unharmed. And both were sporting matching broad grins that Sam understood all too well. After all, even though he had been eager to escape from Hunting, he'd had his own share of adrenaline-spiked triumphs before he'd left for college.
"Well, it was Bobby Singer's plan," Rusty demurred. "Since dousing it didn't kill it, we had to settle for exploding it."
Dean seemed to find this inordinately funny, cackling with laughter and falling against Sam. Sam propped his brother up and shook his head. He got the sense that the larger part of the plan had originated with Danny and Rusty, Bobby only supplying the initial idea, and they'd certainly been the ones to implement it so skillfully. He could see now why they'd said that they could do it with two men, but had preferred a four-man team. What Rusty had done, acting as bait to get the fire salamander where Danny could hose it, had been very dangerous.
"We blew that son of a bitch up!" Dean exclaimed, sounding so thrilled that Sam had to smile. He just couldn't bring himself to regret their involvement in this Hunt. Danny and Rusty had kept their promise and kept the Winchesters out of harm's way, the monster was dead, and now they could focus on what was really important; figuring out what was after Dean, and finding their Dad.
"Speaking of which," Danny put in, removing his bluetooth earpiece and grabbing the empty bag sitting on the ground near Sam's feet, "We'd best vamoose before the authorities get here. I don't wanna get arrested for trespassing and setting off illegal explosives."
"We're not done yet anyway," Dean put in seriously.
"What do you mean?" Sam asked, glancing at the mess under the floodlights. The fire salamander definitely wasn't going to recover from being blown up. The little chunks that were left were just laying there looking meaty. Not on fire, not regenerating. The fire salamander was dead.
"We need to put her to rest," Dean explained, panting a little as they clambered down the bluff away from the construction site and set off into the trees, headed for the cars. He was doing better, yes, especially mentally and emotionally, but he'd been essentially bed-ridden for the last two years... and, wow, that was an unfortunate turn of phrase that Sam wished had never crossed his mind!
"Oh, yeah, the priestess," Danny realized before Sam had figured it out. But of course Dean was right, and they weren't finished yet. There was still an unquiet spirit to put to rest. "She's at the Mount Hood Community College, right?"
"Yep," Rusty replied, his flashlight beam steady even if his voice and his steps through the thick underbrush weren't. "Looks like we might be ending this Hunt with a good old fashioned salt and burn after all."
"You up for that, guys?" Danny asked Sam and Dean.
"Yeah, sure," Sam grunted, nearly twisting his ankle stepping on a rotten log. Thank goodness they were almost to the vehicles. He knew that Dean was going to want to see this thing through, and he had to admit that he was curious. He didn't like the thought of just heading back to the hotel and crashing. He had a feeling that neither he nor Dean would've been able to sleep. And while having sex might have been a fun alternative, seeing this Hunt through to its very end was even more compelling. It might not be his and Dean's Hunt, but it was the first Hunt either of them been on in more than two years and so far it had gone remarkably well. It would seem a shame to bail out now.
"Thank you, Sammy," Dean said quietly as they got into the Impala. And there was the other reason to follow Danny and Rusty to the college. Because it was what Dean wanted.
On their way back through Troutdale, heading for Gresham, they passed several wailing emergency vehicles with their lights flashing. Sam couldn't help smirking. They'd gotten away with plenty of time to spare. The fire salamander had been taken care of before it had claimed any victims and they were headed to take care of the last loose end. Not bad for a night's work and they weren't even done yet.
Not even the CCR cassette that Dean popped into the stereo for the drive could dampen his mood. Because when Dean was happy Sam was happy. And Dean was downright gleeful right now.
The college was ridiculously easy to get into, Danny thought. But, really, he was just as glad. Setting up the explosives and the floodlights, making sure that the tank at the construction site was full and the hose functioning, and keeping an eye on Dean had been about as much strenuous work as he'd wanted to do this night.
"This place is huge," Sam whispered, as they made their way through the campus. Rusty knew where he was headed, so Danny was just going along with him.
"What'd you expect?" Danny asked curiously.
"I dunno.... I just heard 'community college' and I assumed...."
"Snob," Rusty murmured, and Danny didn't even bother biting back a chuckle.
"Hey, I got into Stanford because I was on a scholarship," Sam objected hotly. "Not because Dad could afford to send me!"
"Sammy, hush," Dean commanded quietly, where he was clinging to his brother's hand as they made their way through the shadows between the buildings. "No one here cares about what college anyone goes to. And we all know you're smart."
This time Danny did bite back his chuckle, because Sam was obviously a little touchy, and they needed to be quiet. Security here was basic, but not nonexistent, and the last thing they needed was to end the night calling Bobby Singer to come and post bail.
"Where are we headed anyway?" he asked Rusty, partially to change the subject, and partially because his partner shouldn't really be the only one who knew.
"This college has a Funeral Sciences program," Rusty informed them, speaking over his shoulder.
"Really?" Danny supposed he shouldn't have been surprised; those sorts of skills would need to be taught somewhere. "Huh."
"Evidently, it's a very lucrative field," Rusty said with a small shrug.
"I guess it would be," Danny mused. "I mean, people might stop buying VHS or switch to a cheaper grocery store, but they never stop dying...."
"Euw," Sam added to the conversation, which amused Danny way more than it should have. Especially since what he'd said was nothing but the truth.
"Quiet now, please," Rusty commanded and they all obeyed instantly.
They made their way silently into the correct building, tracking down the right room by the light of the flashlights Rusty and Danny were wielding. Once they were in, it was a simple enough matter finding the body. Danny was glad it wasn't at the local morgue, because those were a little harder to get into at four in the morning.
They stood there a moment, in the empty room in a silent building, gazing down at the earthly remains of the priestess. Danny didn't think that he was alone in feeling just a little reverent. There wasn't much left, some dried skin over delicate bones, scraps of heavily beaded deerhide robes, some long black hair that was still smooth and glossy, but Danny almost felt he should cross himself; even though he'd left that believe system behind long ago, in his childhood, and it was the wrong religion for a Native American, anyway. It was just... he wanted to offer her some showing of respect somehow.
"She looks so... small," Sam whispered, his eyes wide in the dark.
"See how much of you there is left in a few hundred years," Rusty whispered back. Then he raised his gaze from the priestess to run over the tall, broad-shouldered Winchester and grinned, his eyes twinkling. "Never mind. There'll still be plenty of you, even then."
Dean snickered and the solemn moment was gone. Not ruined. Not wrecked. Just set aside in favor of those still living. Danny was just as glad; he wasn't that great at taking anything seriously for an extended period of time, aside from sex or money. And neither of those was involved here.
Any response Sam might have been inclined to make was lost as Dean and Rusty stiffened, and Dean declared softly but clearly, "Oh. She's here now."
"Where?" Danny asked, but Rusty, Dean, and even Sam were all turning to look at the darkest corner of the room, where none of the outside lights penetrated.
After a moment, Danny could sense her too, even though he only saw the faintest flicker of the spirit. For half a second he thought he caught a glimpse of an oval face, a thick wing of black hair, some sparkling beads... but then it was gone again. He was pretty sure that the other three could see her just fine, and that didn't seem entirely fair to him.
He could feel her, though. She didn't speak their language, had died before the first white man had set foot on her land. Danny wasn't sure how he knew that, but the awareness was there. As well, he could feel her gratitude and joy over the demise of the fire salamander. Not only had they salvaged her inadvertently wrecked eternal task, but now she wasn't tied to containing the beast any longer.
"She can go now," Dean whispered softly, clinging to his brother's side, his eyes huge in the darkness, his plush lips parted. "She can be with her People, her family."
Danny wasn't sure what his beliefs on the afterlife were, but he figured that if there was such a thing as a Happy Hunting Ground or Heaven, this gal had more than earned her place there. He definitely approved.
The flicker in the corner grew in intensity, and for the space of two blinks, Danny could see her as well. She was young, a tiny little thing, with a sweet face and bright eyes. She looked melancholy and yet happy at once, spreading tiny birdlike hands toward them in thanks. Danny bobbed a little bow, and felt dumb doing it, but he just couldn't leave her emotional offering unacknowledged. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Rusty nodding, Sam bowing his head, and Dean staring at her fixedly. He wondered if Dean was communicating with her further, but then she flickered like an old movie, like the reel breaking and burning, flashing bright for an instant and then fading out of sight... and out of the room.
Now it was only the four of them and a lifeless body. There was no trace of the priestess left. Danny felt a little bad that he didn't even know her name. But not too bad; nothing that he was going to lose sleep over. She'd been dead long before Danny's ancient ancestors had ever set foot on this continent, after all.
"Well," Rusty spoke the word on a weighty exhale. "No need to salt or burn."
"Nope," Danny agree succinctly.
"Let's get out of here," Sam said nervously. They were in here illegally, after all, and he had a younger brother to care for.
Danny had no problem with that and they exited. Once they'd reach the parking lot and their respective cars, they just stood there a moment. Not quite ready to go back to their hotel yet, still a little high from the successful Hunt. And Danny was glad that they weren't going to have to desecrate any ancient bones this time. Yeah, that was definitely a good feeling.
"I'm glad we could bring her a measure of peace," Rusty said, more solemnly than was his wont. Sam and Dean nodded in agreement.
"Correct me if I'm wrong," Danny put in, his curiosity driving him to ask. "But you all could see her clearly the whole time, couldn't you?"
"You couldn't?" Sam asked incredulously. When Danny glared at him he hunched uncomfortably into himself. "Sorry. Didn't mean to sound.... I just meant, if I could see her, I'd have thought that everyone could. I mean, I haven't got any powers or abilities or anything...."
"Hm," Danny responded, staring at the tall young man. He was pretty sure that there was more to Sam than met the eye. Maybe both Winchester boys had a touch of the supernatural. Dean had already exhibited his abilities... well, some of them. Rusty had hinted at more, though he refused to get specific. And Danny knew about Rusty's powers. Maybe Sam Winchester was 'special" too, though he didn't seem to realize it.
"She was pretty, Sammy," Dean put in quietly, his pale face solemn in the yellow lights of the deserted parking lot. "Really, really pretty."
"You're still a horn-dog, Dean," Sam replied, grinning slightly and ruffling his brother's hair. "Some things don't change."
Dean squawked and tried to fend his brother off, then pouted up at him. "I didn't mean her outside, Sammy. I meant her inside... her self... her soul," he gestured ineffectually at his chest, his hands flapping.
"Well, good," Sam declared, slinging an arm around his brother. "I'm glad to hear that." Though Danny noticed that he didn't specify why he was glad.
"Besides, Sammy," Dean protested, hooking his fingers in the front pocket of Sam's jeans with easy familiarity. "She was only, like, thirteen!"
He sounded so outraged that Danny had to fight not to laugh.
"Uh, news flash, Dean," Sam responded dryly. "You're only fourteen right now."
Dean rolled his eyes. "I'm not really fourteen, Sammy," he said, punching his brother lightly on the arm. "You know that."
"I know that," Sam agreed warmly, squeezing Dean. Danny pondered for a moment. That was true, and it might make dating a little awkward for Dean, for the next four years or so. But then he took a closer look at the two brothers and decided that dating probably wasn't going to be an issue for either of them any time soon, if ever. There was absolutely no room between the two of them for anyone else right now. Danny had to wonder if there ever would be. Probably not.
"Anyway, I've never been hot for a ghost--" Dean began, but just then Sam cursed and stuck his hand in his jacket pocket, grabbing his phone, which he had conscientiously set on vibrate before the Hunt had even really begun.
"Bobby?" he squeaked, answering it before it had finished its second ring -- or, rather, buzz.
Danny could hear Bobby Singer's voice even from where he stood. "I'm in Troutdale now, at the Sandy River Inn. Where the hell are you?!"
"Oh shit," Sam gulped. "We're in Gresham, Bobby. We'll, uh, we'll be there as soon as we can. About thirteen minutes!"
"Get here faster," Bobby growled, and hung up abruptly. Sam stashed his phone away, looking a little wild-eyed.
"Race ya there," Rusty grinned, already sliding into the driver's side of the Falcon.
The Impala was out of the lot before Danny had even gotten himself buckled in. But, glancing over at the maniacal grin on Rusty's face, he'd have laid even odds that they'd beat the Winchesters back.
He settled back, ready for a bumpy drive. They'd do it in under ten minutes, he had no doubt. Then they'd all find out whatever it was that Bobby Singer had discovered regarding John Winchester and the power that wanted Dean Winchester.
The Hunt that had brought them here was over, successfully completed, but the real reason that he and Rusty were in Troutdale was about to come to light.
Danny found that he was actually looking forward to it, even though he suspected that this enthusiasm wouldn't last for very long.
"The shit's about to hit the fan, isn't it?" he asked Rusty.