There was no way that any of them were going near the surface of Agron's pool after that, but they needed to get away quickly, and all their bags were back at Sulvis' waterfall. Sulvis was perfectly willing to magic them back there, but She needed water, and since Her sister's pool was out, they needed to find the closest source.
Sulvis directed them to a nearby creek then vanished between one blink and the next. Bobby and Rusty took turns hefting Dean toward it; the boy was naked, soaking wet, and practically catatonic, certainly in no shape to walk under his own power. Bobby supposed that with his brother gone, and with whatever the goddess had done to him, this was hardly unexpected. Fortunately for them -- though it was a sad comment on how much recovering he still needed to do -- Dean didn't weigh very much and was easy enough to carry.
At least Rusty seemed to be physically fine after his stint as a power source for Sulvis, though he was silent and grim, his jaw tightly clenched. Bobby really hoped that Danny would be okay, but he'd already been hurt and unconscious, and what use would Agron have for him?
"Here." Sulvis was standing before them, ankle-deep in the creek in question, after they'd spent less than five minutes hiking overland. Thank God for small blessings, but Bobby wondered why in the hell they were still trusting Her. Well, it wasn't as though they had any better option, and it was a long way back to where they'd parked the vehicles.
Besides, Sulvis was still holding John Winchester, and they were going to have to get him back. Dean would need his father, and they needed all the resources they could get if they were going to rescue Sam... and maybe, hopefully, Danny. Bobby reckoned that the only reason they hadn't demanded She give them John back earlier was that with Dean in pain and in imminent danger of death, they'd all had to act as quickly as they could. There were no such excuses left.
He would never get used to traveling through the water like that, and he didn't like it. Dean whimpered and shifted in his arms, but settled once they were back by the side of Sulvis' shallow pool.
Rusty immediately delved into Sam's duffel, and together he and Bobby got Dean toweled off as well as they could, then wrestled him into some warm clothes. His skin had been icy and even though there was a lot they needed to do and a lot they needed to discuss with Sulvis, getting him warmed up was their first priority. His captivity with Agron had not been kind to him, that was for sure.
Dean didn't look any different to Bobby than he had when he'd last seen him the evening before, physically at least. But in the blankness of his face and the dullness of his eyes, he reminded Bobby forcibly of the broken boy he and Winchesters had rescued from that church two and a half weeks ago. Whatever this Agron had done to "cleanse" him, it hadn't been pleasant. As if Sam passing out hadn't been enough of a clue. And being trapped underwater like that could only have terrified Dean, reminding him of his time held captive by the Melusine and all he had suffered then.
It made Bobby's heart ache and his skin crawl, and he gathered Dean's unresponsive form into his arms before turning to face Sulvis. He didn't know how aware Dean was right now, but he knew that the boy needed as much comfort and support as he could get. He also needed his father. Bobby was going to tackle that issue and wasn't going to take no for an answer, but first he wanted to know;
"So just what the hell happened? What went wrong?"
Sulvis was standing at the shore of Her pool, twisting Her slim fingers before Her and gnawing on Her lower lip. It was wrong to see a goddess look so discomfitted, so worried, so... mortal. It made Bobby feel even more anxious, because if Sulvis was visibly concerned, it was entirely possible that they were all screwed.
"We went down, as planned, and rescued Dean, as planned," She said, Her bright green-blue-green eyes fixed on the boy in question, before She raised them and met Bobby and Rusty's gazes in turn. "We set the charges and I sent Samuel to his brother while I engaged my sister. But we were in her realm, even though I was in a strong mortal body and had access to your powers," She waved a slender hand at Rusty. "She got the better of me, and I had to go to Samuel. I tried to get us all to the surface before Agron could overtake us, but I failed, and regretfully, Daniel was damaged."
Rusty's jaw clenched so tightly Bobby could hear the joints pop. "Is he alive?" he ground out, and Bobby wouldn't have wanted to be on the receiving end of the fierce, icy look in those bright crystal eyes.
Sulvis winced slightly, then raised Her pointed chin. "Possibly. He was alive when I left his body. But...."
"But?" Rusty bit out. Bobby felt for him. He couldn't imagine a world in which Danny and Rusty weren't partners. They were practically one entity; where one went, there was the other. They'd been together for as long as Bobby had known them, and there was just no way to fathom Rusty becoming a singular Hunter.
"Agron cannot use his body for her consort," Sulvis explained, Her arms wrapped tightly around Her torso. Her lower lip was fat and She looked genuinely upset, but Her feelings were nothing to the emotion rolling off of Rusty in waves. "He doesn't have the same power running through his veins that you have, that the Winchesters have. She may feel that she can put him to some use, but...."
Rusty went silent and still, and Bobby figured that Sulvis had just as good as said that it was likely that Danny was dead or would be soon. But Her words had raised in him a more urgent question, and he needed to find out what was going on and what they were going to do next before he worried over what had already happened.
"You said the Winchesters," he broke in, holding Dean's shivering body close to him. His own clothes were still soaked, but he figured Dean needed the physical comfort more than he needed to be completely dry. "Is Agron going to use Sam to house Her consort now?"
Dean jerked slightly when Bobby spoke his brother's name, and Bobby felt thin fingers clutching desperately at the material of his shirt, Dean trembling more violently against him. He held Dean closer, feeling him shake, but he listened closely for Sulvis' reply. This was hugely important.
The goddess shook Her head, copper curls bouncing once again, now that they were away from Her sister's pool. "She cannot use Samuel for the same reason that I could not use him to walk into her pool."
"And why is that?" Rusty asked, his voice as hard as his eyes were. Bobby was concerned for the other man, but there wasn't anything he could do right now, other than to forge onward in the coming rescue attempt. Because there would be one; they were all sure of that much.
"Samuel's blood is tainted," Sulvis explained, Her pretty face twisting in a moue of distaste. "Since he was a baby. It makes him... unsuitable for use as a vessel."
Bobby blinked. That was news to him. If John Winchester had known, he'd kept the knowledge close to his vest. Well, that'd certainly be in character for the man. Bobby was sure that Sam himself had no clue. He wondered exactly what Sulvis meant, but several unpleasant scenarios presented themselves within a moment of that thought passing though his mind, and he figured it wasn't anything that couldn't wait.
Dean jerked in Bobby's arms, and Bobby realized after a moment that the boy was weeping, harsh sobs jolting his skinny body. Bad news, unprecedented revelations, and plans for the future could wait. Right now, there were two things Dean needed; two men that Dean needed. One of them was at the bottom of Agron's pool, well out of reach, but the other....
"All right. I assume that you were holding John Winchester in reserve, maybe intending to use him to blackmail us if you needed to," Bobby said to Sulvis, and She wrinkled Her nose at him, though he noted that She didn't argue. "But now we have to have him back. Dean needs his Daddy in the worst way, and we're down two men," he could see Rusty flinch beside him, but it was only the truth, "So we need all the help we can get."
Sulvis nodded, which was a relief, because Bobby was determined to get John back, but he hadn't had any clue how to go about wrasslin' him away from a goddess if She'd turned out to be unwilling.
"I was reluctant before," She said. "Because it will cost me to wake him and restore him to the mortal world. But Agron has expended much energy recently, and doing so will not place me in a weaker position than hers. I will return him to you, now."
Without waiting for any further discussion, She turned and strode across Her pool, then walked into the waterfall, vanishing from sight with a flicker of copper waves above pert white buttocks. Bobby rubbed a hand soothingly over Dean's back and glanced at Rusty.
The other Hunter looked pretty bleak, his angular feature etched in taut lines, his eyes hollow in the bones of his skull, but he was holding it together.
"I'm sure Danny is fine," Bobby ventured, and Rusty turned that harsh glare on him, not aimed at him, but it made Bobby's pulse jump in a fight-or-flight response anyhow.
"I'm sure that he's not." Rusty chewed out the words like broken glass.
Bobby really didn't have any way to respond to that, and he'd never been one to speak when he didn't have anything to say, so he remained silent.
Sulvis stepped back out of the waterfall, which should have been impossible, seeing as it was more narrow than even Her slim shoulders, and Bobby experienced a moment of concern seeing that She was alone, but She moved forward, to the deepest part of Her own small, shallow pool, and held both hands out, palm-down, over the water.
It didn't seem as though She did anything special, but suddenly John Winchester's body breached the smooth surface, sending ripples out to battle with the ripples caused by the waterfall. He lay on his back, hands on his chest, his eyes closed and his face relaxed. His dark hair curled around his temples, looking dry from where Bobby stood, and he needed a shave, but he was a sight for sore eyes. Bobby figured he hadn't been so glad to set eyes on a Winchester since he'd seen poor little Dean huddled in that corner of the church.
Sulvis whispered something that they couldn't hear from the shore and placed a pale hand over John's face for a moment. He started, flailed, then sank into the water like a rock. Only Sulvis' hand, which She had moved around to support the nape of his neck, kept his head from going under.
Bobby let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Sam was gone and had left him with a shattered Dean. Danny was missing and possibly dead, and Rusty was holding on by sheer force of will, with no strength left to support anyone but himself -- not that Bobby blamed him one bit for that. They were dealing with two deities, one of whom was malevolent and seemed intent on destroying one or both of the Winchester boys, and the other who seemed helpful, but who clearly had Her own agenda, and who Bobby wouldn't trust any further than he could see Her....
John Winchester could be a stubborn ass, but he wasn't an idiot, and it was his sons who were in danger. He would do whatever it took to get Sam back, and he'd be able to calm Dean, hopefully. Bobby still intended on doing his share and more if necessary. But he was definitely glad to be getting John returned to them.
The man hadn't stopped until he had gotten Dean back from the human predators that had been holding him after the Melusine. The fact of a goddess capturing Sam wasn't even going to slow him down. Bobby'd be willing to stake his life on that. In fact, before this was over, he may very well need to.
And it might be foolhardy of him, but that was a risk he was willing to take.
It was like waking from a deep sleep without dreams. He felt groggy, his head heavy, his eyes puffy and gritty. But the sight of his baby boy, Dean in his new, younger body, trembling and fearful, vulnerable and in need, quickly chased the cobwebs and shadows from his mind, and he moved forward with a single-minded determination.
Nothing was going to keep him from his boy.
The fact that he'd been immersed in a body of water didn't strike him until he was out of it and holding Dean tightly, soaking his son's clothing as it came into contact with his own.
For long minutes he focused only on Dean, his boy's slender body wracked with great choking sobs, clasping his son close and doing his best to soothe him. He didn't need to know what had upset Dean; the fact of his boy breaking was obvious enough to him and it made his own heart splinter to painful shards in his chest.
Eventually, of course, the realization of a huge lack and the probable cause of Dean's distress penetrated, and he raised his head, glancing around. There was Bobby, and a strange Hunter that he thought he should maybe recognize but didn't, but no sign of his other son.
"Where's Sammy?" he asked, a little surprised by the way his voice croaked out of his throat, as though he hadn't used it in ages. Bobby looked worried, angry, and freaked out, but he didn't look sad, so John didn't go into full-blown panic mode. Yet.
"He's been taken," Bobby replied tightly, and John tensed, because he was beginning to remember what he'd uncovered before he'd directed his sons to come to the Northwest, and what he'd discovered after that phone call. And while he didn't know what had happened between his last waking memory and standing here with Dean in his arms, he knew that some bad shit must have gone down.
"Taken by who?" John growled, because no one took his boys away from him and got away with it, and that certainly explained why Dean was such a wreck now, when he'd been doing so much better when John had left him in Kansas, with Missouri.
"That's a long story," Bobby sighed, but he wasn't putting John off, he knew, because Bobby wouldn't do that. He wouldn't be stupid enough to do that, and he was going to tell John the whole story. "I suppose it begins and ends with Her."
John glanced where Bobby gestured, his gaze fixing on the naked female standing in the shallow pool of water he had just emerged from. She smiled at him and he remembered... remembered... he didn't remember, but he almost remembered... something. He knew who She was, he thought....
"Hello, John," the goddess said to him, and John narrowed his eyes. Now he remembered.
"I think I need to get the whole story," he snarled, holding his Dean tightly against his chest, and glaring around impartially at all of them. Sammy was missing and John needed to get him back. He had made a mistake calling his boys to him in the Northwest, he already knew, but they were here now, and obviously they had both paid the price for his error. It was time for him to rectify this.
There wasn't going to be anything that kept him from getting both his boys back by his side, safe and sane and healthy.
Bobby filled him in as quickly as possible, and he probably glossed over a few things, but John was anxious enough that he didn't ask for clarification.
"Thank you," he said earnestly to Rusty, once they'd reached the part that brought them all here, by the side of Sulvis' pool. The man nodded sharply. John sincerely hoped that Rusty's partner was still alive and that they got him back along with Sammy; he wouldn't wish any loss of life on anyone who had voluntarily chosen to help them. But it was keeping Dean safe and getting Sam back that were his only real priorities.
"Now, what about you, John?" Bobby asked, once he'd gotten him up to date. "You called the boys here, said you'd found something, but you didn't leave us much to go on, in your journal or your room."
John grimaced. Another mistake that he'd made, and if he had been clearer, maybe his sons wouldn't have come blundering into an utter disaster. He might not be the cause of this, but he'd played his part, and it was up to him to fix it.
"I called them because I'd found Sulvis here," he replied, pulling Dean closer to him. His boy had stopped trembling, was leaning against him silently, but John knew that Dean wouldn't be right until they got his Sammy back. "I was going to ask Her a boon, to get Her sister's mark removed from his body."
"I don't just hand those things out like candy, you know," Sulvis said dryly, though She didn't look put out. She'd kept silent during the dialogue, but Her presence had been impossible to ignore.
John shrugged, feeling his wet clothes shift, an icy trickle running down his collar and tracking along his spine. He wished that he had a change of clothes. They were all of them soaked, except for Dean, and he had gotten damp as well, pressed against his father like he was. "I'd have done whatever it took."
"It requires a great sacrifice," She pursued the subject, giving him an arch, almost flirty look.
"Whatever it took," John growled, and he meant it. For his boys he'd give up anything, even his life. Sulvis smiled at him, as though She was pleased with this answer; for whatever that was worth, which didn't seem to him to be all that much right now.
"So you knew that Sulvis and Agron were sisters?" Rusty asked. The man was handsome but he looked as though he'd been carved out of stone and John could feel his pain. He knew that pain. At least they still had hope that Danny was alive, even if it was only faint hope
"I did," he confirmed. "That was why I'd hoped that Sulvis would be able to remove the mark."
"There was a question mark on Agron's pool on your map..." Bobby mused. "Because it was really Sulvis that you were looking for?"
"Actually, I found out that Agron was in the area too, after I'd told Sam to bring Dean here." John grimaced. "I was just about to call him back and tell him to stop somewhere until I'd decided whether it was safe, when I was taken." He shot a narrow glance at Sulvis, who contrived to look largely innocent.
Bobby and Rusty nodded, their curiosity satisfied. Stories had been exchanged and they were all up to speed. Now it was time to decide what they were doing next.
But first. John removed himself from the moment, focusing his attention solely on the boy in his arms.
"Dean." He gently cupped one hand beneath Dean's bony jaw and chin. "How you doing, champ?"
Dean didn't reply, but he did meet John's eyes, which was better than he'd done directly after being rescued from the church. His eyes were huge in his pale face, filled with a desperation that John understood and echoed. And it was up to John to make it better. He would make it better.
"We're gonna get your brother back," John promised his son, clasping Dean's upper arms carefully but firmly, trying to communicate his determination by his touch as much as his words. He wasn't sure how much was getting through. He didn't really know if there was anything he could say or do to comfort Dean until they got Sam back, but he had to try. He was Dean's father, after all, was Sam's father; was father to both of them. "It's going to be okay."
And it was going to be. It didn't matter what he had to do; John Winchester was going to keep this promise. He was going to make sure that both of his boys were all right.
No matter what. Like he had told Sulvis, he was willing to do whatever it took. And he wasn't going to stop until he had his Sammy back, and his Dean was safe and whole again.
This was his dream, Sam realized foggily, struggling his way back to consciousness. This was what he'd had nightmares about on the way to the Northwest, this was what Dean had been suffering through until Sam and Sulvis had come after him, and it was where Sam was now.
God, he hoped that Dean was safe. Bobby'd had a hold of him when Agron had attacked them, Sam was pretty sure. His brother wasn't down here with him, in the cold and the dark, death-filled water; that much he was sure of, and it gave him hope.
Without Sulvis, without Dean, Sam was all alone down here, and he realized how truly terrible this was. He was being crushed under the weight of the water pressing down on him, he was frozen through from the chill, and his lungs were flooded all over again after that too-brief moment of oxygen on the shore of Agron's pool. His ribcage felt in danger of collapsing, and he couldn't really feel his extremities. He thought that he moved one arm, but he couldn't really tell, and he certainly couldn't see whether he had actually succeeded.
He was lying on his back, the way that Dean had been when he'd found him. Sam wondered if he was in the same place, and this thought scared the fuck out of him, because he knew how very deep down that was.
Even if he could have moved, he wasn't going to be getting out of here without help. And as he attempted again to shift his arm, his leg, his anything, he found that he wasn't going to be able to even do that much.
He was pretty well fucked. But he wasn't dead. Agron must have a plan for him. Probably going to hold him to ransom, to try and get Dean back. Sam knew that Bobby was too canny to fall for that, which was some comfort, but he wondered if there was any way that the others were going to be able to get to him.
Sulvis had come down here into Agron's pool before, but She'd had the element of surprise, and She'd been using Danny's body. Sam wasn't sure what had happened to Danny, but he remembered seeing the older Hunter laying at the edge of the pool when they'd broken the surface of the water. He'd been hurt, hadn't been conscious, and then Agron had struck, and... well, that was all Sam had known until he'd come back to himself down here.
Sulvis had something about an altar, hadn't She? That was where Dean had been, and Sam was pretty sure it was where he found himself now. He could feel the stone hard under his back, even though he could barely feel anything.
He was so fucked. If panicking would have helped anything, anything at all, Sam would have given in to the fear rising in his chest. But what would it accomplish? He couldn't run away; he couldn't even move. He couldn't swim to the surface; whatever force Sulvis had used to keep their feet rooted to the bed of the pool, whatever Agron had used to hold Dean to Her altar, it was in full effect right now. Sam had never felt less buoyant in his life. It was like being waterlogged, like being dead weight, and this thought freaked him out even more, but, again, what good would panicking do him?
And then, abruptly, Sam knew that he was no longer alone. And that was even worse, because it was Her. The bitch who had taken his Dean away from him. The bitch who'd been planning on erasing his brother from existence for the sake of Her own asshole boyfriend.
She appeared above him, floating in Her water, not weighed down the way he was, and he could see Her, even though he couldn't see anything else in the murky darkness down here.
She didn't resemble Sulvis, really, but Sam and Dean didn't look much alike either. Her face was sharp and angular, but more wedge-shaped, with a less stubborn chin. She had large, wide-set eyes in a bright blue that didn't shift shades like Sulvis' did. Her hair waved around Her face in sickly green streamers that Sam thought might be pale blonde in daylight. If this water-bound bitch ever saw the sun. She was corpse-white, and as pretty as She was, She reminded him of nothing so much as She did the belly of a dead fish.
"You," She hissed inside of his head, and Her voice wasn't much like Her sister's either.
Sam sneered, because he pretty much echoed that sentiment. She had stolen away his Dean, right out of their bed, and had done terrible things to him. She was going to pay for that! Sam wasn't quite sure how yet, but She would!
"You have cost me much time and energy. And my perfect vessel," She raged, slapping his sharply across the face, Her hand moving as quick and easy as though they were in the air, not underwater, but that only made sense, seeing that they were in Her realm. It didn't really hurt -- hell, Sam couldn't even feel his face anymore -- but he supposed it was mostly the principle of the thing. "Never again will I find one such as him!"
Sam's brow furrowed. That sounded as though She was prepared to give up on Dean... but that was too much to hope for. No way would things be that easy, would they?
"I have already set the process in motion," She continued, though whether She was answering his unasked question, monologuing, or just talking out loud to Herself, Sam wasn't entirely clear. "I cannot delay and my chosen vessel is out of my reach. Many have given their lives and I have made many sacrifices of my own. I will not miss this, my only opportunity."
If he could have spoken, Sam would have snidely asked Her what She was going to do about it. If he could have moved, he'd have beat the shit out of Her, female or not. There was a time and place for chivalry, and She had hurt Dean, he didn't even know how much!
But he couldn't speak, he couldn't move, he could only lie there and glare up at Her as She floated above him, glaring back at him with Her blue-blue eyes.
Sam wondered how one went about killing a goddess. Because no way was this bitch walking away from this encounter without paying for what She'd done to Dean.
"Better you should fear for yourself," She whispered into his mind, Her eyes narrowing. "If I cannot have your brother, I shall take you instead. And once my Eil Ton is housed within your flesh, we shall claim your brother as our pet and play with him at our leisure."
Sam was pretty sure that he moved that time, the surge of rage rising in him so hot that his blood must be boiling, but then She reached down, laying Her hands on his chest, pressing him down against the stone and sudden pain hit him like a blow to the head, like a strike over the entire surface of his body, and all the fire was wrenched away from him as a frigid burst of freezing pain overwhelmed him.
He hadn't known it was possible to hurt so much and remain conscious. It was like being flayed alive by icy daggers, stripping his entire being down to the bone, leaving him raw and shaking in its wake, the chill sinking into him until there was nothing left but the cold and the pain, and he shook with it, unable to fight it, unable to endure it, but unable to escape into the oblivion of unconsciousness.
This was what She had done to Dean, Sam had just enough capacity to process, anger rousing in him but not enough to battle the pain coursing through his veins. This was what She had done to his Dean, how She had hurt his brother, and She was planning on doing worse. Sam was just as scared for Dean as he was for himself. If Agron used his body for Her consort and they got their filthy hands on Dean....
Sam threw his head back and screamed, even though there was no breath in his lungs to scream with, and it was as much because of Agron's threat against Dean as it was his own agony.
No way was the bitch getting Her hands on his brother! Sam would die before that happened.
"That's the plan," She whispered in his head, and a fresh wave of pain shot through him. He felt as though he was being torn apart on a molecular level, and if he could have opened his eyes he wouldn't have been at all surprised to see crimson blood streaming off of his flesh and diffusing in the water.
But Dean had undergone this same torture and had been whole, and even though his body was spasming with it, Sam clamped down on his fear. It hurt, worse than anything he had ever experienced before in his life, but he could endure it.
"Your blood is unclean," the bitch spoke insidiously inside of his head, and he was lucid enough to hear Her, but not lucid enough to understand. Or maybe She just wasn't making sense. "Foul and polluted by a vile creature. Not like your brother's. His flesh was merely tainted by human hands."
Sam could feel Her fingertips raking down his chest, though how he could feel anything in this blinding hell of anguish was beyond him.
"Your pain is more than his pain was," Agron whispered into his head, Her voice its own added irritation. "But don't worry; he is sharing in yours right now. Better he should not miss one exquisite moment."
Sam flailed, struggling against the pain and the magic binding him to the altar. This was hard enough to bear, but if She spoke the truth, and Dean was feeling this too--
"I grow impatient."
Sam screamed again, convulsing once in agony as Agron settled Her hands more firmly on his chest and focused on cleansing him completely. There it was, on the edges of his vision, the blackness that he had been longing for.
With a last broken moan, Sam gave in to unconsciousness. As he slid under he spared a moment to hope that this would mean a cessation of pain for Dean as well. Because there wasn't anyone in the world who deserved pain less than Dean did.
The others had better be preparing a rescue for Sam. Because it didn't seem as though he was going to be able to save himself.
And then he went under, and knew no more. And senselessness was a blessing.
"So, what are we doing now?" Bobby asked, in the tone of a man who had asked this question one too many times. Or maybe it was just that he'd asked it too many times without receiving an acceptable answer.
Rusty could sympathize. Of course, he only had one question, and no one here was able to answer it.
He wanted to reach out, spread his consciousness, to see if he could find Danny's mind, make sure that he was still alive... but he knew that doing so would leave him completely vulnerable to Agron. He'd been lucky before, when they'd first joined forces with Sam and Dean, in that Agron had been too busy with Her own plans and machinations to pay him any mind. Now, however, She knew that they were after Her. If Rusty went poking around now, She'd probably swat him like a fly, and then not only would their group be down one more man, but he wouldn't be able to do anything to help Danny.
"We get Sammy back," John Winchester declared firmly. Rusty wasn't sure how the man thought he was going to do anything with his son in his arms. Dean was clinging to him desperately, and it didn't look as though John planned on relinquishing his hold on his boy any time soon. Not that Rusty blamed either of them, of course, but it was going to make things more difficult.
All eyes turned to Sulvis. She was sitting on the surface of Her pool, crosslegged, slender fingers wrapped around Her ankles, Her head tilted as She listened to them speaking. She looked thoughtful, contemplative, but not too concerned.
Rusty wasn't sure whether he should take heart from that or not. On the one hand, when She'd shown distress previously, everything had fallen all to hell in a spectacular way. On the other hand, She was a goddess, and while She wanted to prevent Eil Ton from being resurrected, and while She had said that She liked the Winchesters, She didn't really have much of a vested interest in getting Sam Winchester back. Now that they'd wrested Dean Winchester away from Her sister....
"Are you asking me?"
"Does anyone else here look as though they have a clue what's going on?" Bobby growled, and Sulvis had a good graces to look slightly chagrined. Now was not the time for teasing, for levity, but try telling that to a goddess.
"We can get Sam back," She declared easily, Her plush lips curving in a wide smile. Rusty actually felt a little reassured, because whether She was taking this whole thing seriously or not, She wouldn't have looked so cheerful if it was hopeless, would She have? "And I think we can do it in a way that takes care of my problem as well."
"You mean the one where your sister's lover wants to kill you," Rusty sought clarification, "On your sister's orders?"
She pulled a face at him, but nodded.
"I thought that was your main goal," Bobby spoke up. Good man. Smart man. "And helping us out was just a fortunate bonus."
She scowled at the older Hunter, though Her eyes sparkled turquoise blue and She didn't seem genuinely put out. "I told you, I've taken a liking to all of you Winchesters, and your friends. Yes, I'm in it to thwart Agron, and to prevent her from resurrecting Eil Ton. But that's not my sole purpose."
"So you have a plan?" John Winchester asked flatly, scowling darkly at the woman. Rusty remembered Bobby's words of warning, that John was even more intense and stubborn than Sam, and he could see it. He was grateful, though. Dean had his father, John would do whatever it took to keep him safe and to get Sam back, and that left Rusty free to concentrate on retrieving Danny. Because Danny had to be alive, and Rusty had to get him back. Anything else was unthinkable.
"Of course I do."
"Yeah, because your last plan went so well," Bobby grumbled, and this time Sulvis did shoot him a sharp glance.
"It worked fine," She declared, sounding almost sulky. "Up to the part where I had to battle my sister in her home element. Until then it was perfect. And we did get Dean back, which was the most important thing, since Agron was prepared to use his body to house her consort. At least we know that Samuel is--"
She was cut off abruptly as Dean let out a shrill shriek of pain and collapsed in his father's arms. Everyone started, even Sulvis, and John fell to his knees, clutching his boy close as Dean thrashed in his arms, letting out tiny keening moans, his eyes squeezed tightly closed, his face etched in an expression of pain.
It startled Rusty to hear the goddess utter a profanity so coarse, so common, and with such violence, but it matched the expression She was wearing; a mixture of wrath, fear, and shock.
"What's wrong with him?!" John asked frantically, holding on tight. Dean was lost in whatever pain he was currently experiencing, shaking with it and whimpering through clenched teeth. Whether he was trying to contain himself or whether the pain was just too much for him to deal with, Rusty couldn't tell but he knew that the boy was in agony, and whatever had caused it was freaking Sulvis out.
"Agron is cleansing Samuel," She bit out, Her hands twining before Her chest in a strangely vulnerable manner. "I didn't think she would willingly expend so much energy when she knows that we're coming after her, but she must be that desperate."
"And Dean is feeling Sam's pain, the same way Sam felt Dean's," Bobby asked.
Sulvis nodded shortly, Her eyes, a blue so pale it was almost translucent, fixed on the writhing boy.
"Well, can't you shield him the way you did with Sam?" Bobby snapped.
"I can't," She replied, spreading Her hands helplessly before Her.
She frowned, Her pretty face twisting. "Dean's bond to his brother is too strong. Samuel hasn't awakened to his powers yet, and Dean has. He's so far inside his brother's head now that they might as well be one person so far as Dean is concerned. I can't counter that."
"Can't you do anything?!" John Winchester snarled, holding his son's quaking body closely against his chest. Rusty had never been a parent, so he could only imagine what it must be like to see one's child in agony and to be able to do absolutely nothing about it. It had to be one of the worst feelings in the world, and he pitied John in this moment, almost as much as he did Dean and Sam, who were actually feeling the pain.
"I can't," Sulvis whispered, sounding almost ashamed, casting Her vibrant gaze down and catching Her pink lip between sharp white teeth.
John opened his mouth, no doubt to say something scathing and not easily retracted, but then Dean let a little sigh loose and fell bonelessly into his father's embrace, his head flopping, effectively distracting the man. John checked quickly, frantically, but Rusty could already have told him that Dean was only unconscious. And wasn't that a blessing. He had been writhing in echoed pain for less than two full minutes and yet it had been agonizing for him, and horrifying for all them to see, when there was absolutely nothing they could do to help.
John held Dean close, reassuring himself, running his fingers through Dean's gold-tipped brown curls, promising his boy in a soothing murmur that they were going to get his brother back, they were going to rescue Sammy, that they'd both be safe and together, and he said it with such fervor that Rusty almost found that he believed him.
Sulvis shifted from one foot to the other at the edge of Her pool, clasping Her arms around Her torso, and watching them all with huge blue-green eyes. The sun had climbed past noon, and their soaked clothes were beginning to dry out. A light breeze stirred the greenery around them, and Rusty felt chilled through.
He met Bobby's eyes over John Winchester's bowed head and shoulders, and saw his own determination reflected back at him in the older Hunter's jade green eyes.
"Well." Bobby spoke up, his voice as grim as his face was. "That pretty much tears it. We'd better get Sam back, and we'd better do it quickly."
Rusty just hoped they had a chance in hell of doing so before it was too late. If it wasn't already too late.