"So what are we dealing with here, Bobby?" Sam asked, having restrained himself as long as he could.
Bobby paused in the act of sitting on the single chair in Danny and Rusty's room, his ass halfway down, and glared at Sam for a long moment before he flopped the rest of the way with a groan.
"Sorry," Sam apologized, though he was practically vibrating where he stood. Even after all the running around in the woods and adrenaline of the Hunt, when he might reasonably be expecting to crash, here they were on the verge of finding out what had taken their Dad. Sam might fight with John, and Dean might have assured him that the man was safe, was "sleeping", but Sam found that he was abruptly hugely concerned, realizing how much he really loved his Dad, even if the guy drove him crazy and pissed him off to no end. He hoped that Bobby had good news and that they'd be able to rescue John quickly.
As well, and perhaps more importantly, whatever had their Dad was also after Dean. And Dean wasn't safe, and Sam was even more concerned about him than he was about their father. That might have been unfair and maybe even selfish, but it was just the way that it was.
"Hello there, nice to see you too, Sam," Bobby said dryly. Sam grimaced, but he knew that Bobby was only irritated, not angry.
"Hi, Bobby," Dean chirped, plopping to sit on Bobby's thighs, arms ringing his neck, snuggling. Bobby hugged Dean back, even though he didn't seem completely comfortable having him in his lap.
They'd met up with Bobby in the hotel parking lot and decided on using Danny and Rusty's room for their pow-wow -- Sam had said it was because his and Dean's room was too small, but honestly it was because he couldn't remember whether he'd left the lube out on the bedside table -- and now Danny and Rusty were in the bathroom, rinsing off the worst of the mud and changing their clothes. Sam knew they were being as fast as they could, but he still wished that they'd move more quickly.
It was actually less than two minutes before the two Hunters were back in the room, tumbled on one of the beds. Rusty slouched back against the collected pillows, his arms folded, his eyes heavy-lidded but alert where they were focused on Bobby. Danny lay on his side, propped up on one elbow, his shoulder nudging Rusty's hip. They were both in sweats and were still a little sooty around the edges, but they looked ready to listen to whatever Bobby had to tell the group.
"Sam, sit," Bobby commanded, pointing at the vacant bed. "And Dean, you go and sit on your brother 'stead'a me, so he don't start climbin' the walls."
Sam reluctantly but obediently sat, and Dean obediently and eagerly squirmed off of Bobby's lap -- with one parting kiss on the cheek -- then tackled Sam so hard he knocked him back into the mattress.
"Ow! Dammit! Dean~!" Sam protested, because that had really kind of hurt. Dean might be a lot smaller now, but he was solid. Then he flinched, remembering the last time they'd been in Oregon and he'd lost patience with Dean. With this memory all of his irritation vanished instantly, but fortunately Dean was in much better shape now and he hadn't been upset, certainly wasn't frightened, and he actually seemed to be more concerned with Sam's state of mind than anything else.
"You need to take a deep breath and calm down, Sammy," he informed Sam, sitting up, straddling his hips, and brushing long bangs out of his eyes. "Daddy's okay for now and Bobby's here to help us."
Sam grumbled a little but Dean had a point that he couldn't argue. He wriggled himself and manipulated Dean until they were both sitting on the bed, Dean's legs hanging over the edge, Sam crosslegged behind his brother, and Dean leaning back against his shoulder.
"Are all'a you ready to listen now?" Bobby growled, scowling at them from under the brim of his baseball cap.
"Yes sir," Dean replied before Sam could. He settled for nodding, not sure he could find his voice again, and Danny and Rusty made affirmative noises.
"All right then." Bobby dragged a hand over his chin, his palm scraping at his beard. He looked really tired and Sam felt abruptly guilty. They needed Bobby and Sam was so incredibly grateful that the man was here, but it had really been a lot to ask of him.
"Thank you, Bobby," he put in before the moment slipped away.
Bobby looked a little mollified, if no less weary, and nodded briefly in acknowledgment. "Well, I found yer Dad's room in Corbett," he informed them with no preamble. "And I found this in it." He reached into the knapsack he'd brought in with him, pulling out something that Sam recognized very well, something that made his stomach twist.
"That's Daddy's journal," Dean said, and he didn't sound as worried as Sam felt, but neither did he sound as calm as he had a moment before.
"He wouldn't have left that behind," Sam confirmed. If John had left Corbett voluntarily, no way would he have left his journal in the hotel room. He might desert clothing and weapons, but that tattered book held all of John's experiences in Hunting for the last twenty-two years; it was personal and full of invaluable information, and there was no way he'd leave it. None.
Bobby shrugged. "Well, we already knew that he'd been taken," he said, setting the tattered, leather-bound book on the table beside him. "But this confirms it beyond a doubt, I suppose."
"Did you find anything else?" Sam asked anxiously.
"A'course I did." Bobby rubbed at his face again, seeming to be fighting sleep off by sheer force of will. Well, it was almost four in the morning and who knew when he had slept last. The rest of them had napped, but Sam was willing to bet that Bobby hadn't. This was way too important to suggest they leave it 'til later though.
"For one thing," Bobby continued, "Yer Dad's truck was still parked out front. He didn't take any luggage or weapons with him, near's I can figure, seeing as I don't know every single thing he owns. There wasn't any sign of a struggle. Really, I didn't find out that much more'n what we already knew or expected."
"But you found something, right, Bobby?" Sam sought reassurance. Because Bobby looked so grim that he must have gotten something out of his trip to Corbett. Not that Sam was looking forward to hearing what had Bobby so stressed, but any news was better than no news, and would bring them closer to getting Dad back.
"A'yep," Bobby confirmed with a curt nod. His jaw was set and Sam was abruptly nervous. But, again, it was better to know than to be lost in the dark. "In the back of his journal," he said, tapping a fingertip against the book in question. "John wrote out what he'd found so far. He figured out what'd killed the Melusine, what put the mark on Dean."
"It wasn't the Melusine?" Sam asked, blinking.
"It wasn't," Bobby confirmed. "If it had been, Dean woulda been better right after she was killed and probably coulda kicked those freaks' asses. No, it was the being that destroyed the Melusine that set Her mark on Dean. She's the one that's after him right now, wants him back."
"She? Her?" Sam knew that everyone had been throwing the feminine designation around -- Dean, Missouri, Rusty -- but it sounded as though Bobby had concrete proof. Or, rather, John had found proof and Bobby had read it in his journal.
"What are we dealing with here, Bobby?" Rusty put in, speaking quietly, but definitely involved in the conversation. Danny had fallen down and to one side, lying on his back with his head on Rusty's stomach, his hands folded over his own belly, staring at the ceiling, but still listening.
"A goddess," Bobby replied succinctly. Sam boggled, and Danny turned his head to stare at the grizzled Hunter with an expression of mild startlement, but Rusty simply pursed his lips and nodded as well as he could with his head sunk back into the pillows.
"Dean?" Sam questioned, craning his neck down and around, trying to catch a glimpse of his brother's face, his expression.
"I'm sure Dad's right, Sammy," Dean answered him, looking up and meeting his eyes without hesitation. "He wouldn't make a mistake about something like that."
"But you don't remember anything?" Sam persisted. Anything that Dean could bring to mind would be of benefit, and it sounded as though they were going to need all the help that they could get.
Dean shook his head against Sam's shoulder. "Uh-uh. It's all still a blank. Missouri helped me to 'member everything that happened before, even though it's still all mixed up and I have trouble thinking of things on purpose. But everything after that is a big blank. Until Engram and the others had me and hurted me and sold me--"
"Okay," Sam interrupted, because he didn't want to think about that, wanted Dean to be able to forget it, to leave it in the past. "And then we came and rescued you." Because it was important that Dean, that they both, remembered that part too.
Dean nodded again. "Yeah. That's a blur too, because I was so lost. But there was blood and a big bang...."
"That was Bobby blowing up the church."
"Like we blew up the dragon tonight!" Dean exclaimed gleefully. And if they'd stirred up bad memories by talking about his captivity, both with the Melusine and with the humans, it wasn't apparent in his voice or demeanor.
"So that worked, huh?" Bobby cracked a grin for the first time since they'd seen him, even though it was a small one. "I thought it might."
"Too bad a goddess won't be so easily taken out," Danny mused absently, staring at the ceiling again.
"You guys...." Sam hesitated. He didn't want to lose their help, and they'd offered it freely, but that had been before they'd known what they were dealing with. "You don't have to.... I mean, if we're dealing with a goddess here...."
"We've dealt with deities before," Rusty put in, sounding so calm and collected that it settled Sam's scattered thoughts a little.
Danny snorted. "I think this will be a bit different than buying a down-on-his-luck demigod a few drinks and talking him into making it snow in June," he said dryly, turning his head toward Rusty. Then he glanced over at Sam. "S'okay, though. Rusty's right; this isn't entirely new territory. And we're not abandoning ship now."
"You could," Sam insisted. "It'd be all right."
"No one would think less of you," Bobby put in. And Sam knew that their old family friend would be so insulted if he tried to give him the same 'out' that their relationship might never recover from it. So he kept his mouth shut even though the offer had sprung to his mind. "This isn't gonna be any walk in the park."
"Parks are boring," Danny answered with a little chuckle. "And it's a good four or five years too late to be concerned with our reputations. We're in this because we want to be."
"I'm more concerned about your lives than your reputations," Bobby drawled, his eyes sharp under his cap, even though his face was blurred with exhaustion. "I already know that those are a lost cause."
Danny chuckled again, but it was Rusty who spoke.
"You won't be able to face the goddess successfully, get John back, any of that, without us." It was a matter of fact, the way he said it, and Sam was abruptly certain that Rusty was speaking from some sort of paranormal knowledge, rather than any exaggerated bravado. He didn't take offense; he was just worried that Rusty was right. "I'm not saying that we're sure of success with me and Danny on board, though," he warned. "Just saying that without us, you'd be fucked."
"So we're more than happy to help," Danny added, and at least he was as normal as Sam was. "I'm pretty sure we would even if Rusty hadn't dreamt it. I mean, if we can pull this off, think what it'll do for our soiled reputations!"
This got a small smile out of Sam, but Bobby was back to looking serious. "I'm glad to hear that," he told them. "You have no idea."
Rusty shrugged as though to imply that he did have an idea, but now that they'd established that there would be five of them working this Hunt, everyone there of their free will -- though, if it hadn't been for their Dad and Dean, Sam would be so long gone -- Sam wanted to find out what else John had discovered before he'd gone missing.
"Do we know anything about this goddess?" he asked, squeezing Dean anxiously. He was glad that Danny and Rusty didn't seem intimidated, but he thought that the idea of going up against an actual deity was pretty damned intimidating.
"John found out as much as he could," Bobby explained, settling back into the chair and yawning. "The legend is local, and a little confused. There's some disagreement as to Her origins. Some say She's the goddess of the river, some say She lives in a spring up in the hills, some say a deep pool even further in the hills, and some say She rides the rivers and waterfalls in the area. Not that many say anything. It's pretty obscure lore. Yer Dad was able to get a name, though."
"What's that?" Sam asked, clutching Dean close, as though he could see phantom hands reaching out for him. No watery bitch was getting Her claws into him! Bad enough his flesh still bore Her mark!
"Sulvis," Bobby answered, and Sam didn't think it was entirely his imagination that the word, the name, seemed to take on more import as it rolled off of Bobby's tongue. It was as though they were close to Her place of power, and they were in danger of summoning Her by the simple pronunciation of Her name.
Bobby glanced at Rusty. "Something wrong?"
"Not... wrong..." Rusty replied slowly, sitting up and jostling Danny so that he sat up too. Danny got up off the bed and grabbed his laptop while Rusty crossed his legs and rubbed at his eyes. "That's not wrong... but it doesn't feel completely right, either."
"Do we know anything else?" Sam asked, feeling some urgency, even though he was actually beginning to droop. They all were, really. Dean was resting heavily against his shoulder and Bobby looked ready to nod off where he was sitting.
"Nothing that can't wait until tomorrow," Bobby replied, and he was so clearly out of energy that Sam couldn't bring himself to protest. "Yer Dad didn't conveniently leave a note saying where he was going to be going, and it's possible he was snatched right out of his room anyhow. According to Dean he's still safe, and that don't seem likely to change in the next few hours, seein' as he's been missing fer a couple days now, so I say we all crash and tackle this with clear heads in the morning."
"I second that motion," Danny said, setting his laptop back down without turning it on. "Sam?"
Sam blinked as they all looked at him. As though it was his decision? "Uh, yeah," he stuttered. "I'm as tired as you guys are. Well, probably not you, Bobby."
"Do you want to stay in our room tonight?" Rusty offered Bobby as Sam stood, settling Dean carefully on his feet. He noted that at some point Dean had lost his shoes. He'd have to track those down.
"Naw, I got a room while I was waiting for you lot to get your sorry asses here," Bobby drawled, heaving himself to his feet and grabbing his knapsack. "Thanks, though."
"Dean, where are your shoes?" Sam asked.
"Here!" Dean held them up, seeming to have no intention of putting them back on, and Sam sighed, figuring it wouldn't hurt his brother to walk barefoot over to their room. He was too tired to tackle that issue right now; at least Dean hadn't stripped any further.
Scooping up John's journal off the table, Bobby held it out to Sam. "Hold onto this, Sam."
"Thanks," he accepted it, holding it tightly, the worn leather smooth under his fingers.
"Thanks for your help with the Hunt tonight, guys," Danny said, grinning at them both. Dean grinned back and Sam nodded.
"No problem," he replied, then yawned. "Thank you guys for being willing to help us with this."
Danny waved this away, and with a grunted farewell Bobby left the room, headed for some well-deserved sleep. Sam knew that they really ought to follow his example.
"Good night, Danny. Good night, Rusty," Dean bid the two men and then the Winchester brothers exited, walking across the parking lot to their own room.
"Sammy, come to bed," Dean commanded when Sam would have settled in with their Dad's journal. He tugged at Sam's arm, and he let himself be convinced. He probably wouldn't find anything more in it than Bobby had already communicated anyway.
"Are you feeling okay now, Dean?" he asked as they brushed their teeth and stripped down; to his boxers and a teeshirt in Sam's case, and Dean down to his skin. "Tonight didn't wear you out?"
"No, it was awesome!" Dean answered, obviously meaning it. "Thank you for letting me Hunt, Sammy. It makes my head feel a lot clearer. I feel stronger than I have in a long time. Well, since before."
Sam just hugged Dean, instead of saying anything in return. He still didn't like the idea of Dean being in danger, or of his brother diving right back into a life of Hunting when he had a chance at a second adolescence, but he couldn't argue that it had been good for Dean. Like he had said, he was obviously doing better and feeling better. Sam just wished that this new "Hunt", the one to find and rescue their Dad and get Sulvis' mark removed from Dean's flesh, wasn't so personally hazardous for his brother. He had a bad feeling... but he was pretty sure it was just nerves and his own paranoia, since he didn't have the shining, like Rusty appeared to.
"Let's go to bed, Sammy," Dean urged, tugging on his arm again, where he had spaced out in front of the bathroom sink. "You need some sleep and I'm tired too."
"All right," Sam agreed easily enough, because it was finally beginning to hit him in a swamping rush, how exhausted he was. Worries and concerns slipped away, not vanishing, but diffused in the need for sleep that was overtaking him.
"We'll go looking for Daddy tomorrow," Dean promised as they sank into the covers, and Sam was a little annoyed that even though he was the older brother, it was still Dean who was the big brother... but mostly he was comforted by that fact.
They'd look out for each other; more than ever before that was true. And, really, there wasn't anything about this that Sam could complain about.
Sammy tended to worry; Dean knew that and usually it exasperated him. Only this time not so much, because this situation really was kind of bad and worrisome. Dean was keeping a brave face on it so that Sammy wouldn't freak out, but he knew that things were not good.
He wasn't too scared for Dad right now, because Dad was safe. But Sammy wasn't and Dean wasn't, and they might be headed straight into trouble if they weren't super careful. Dean knew that a goddess wanted him, even if he didn't know why, and it would just be stupid to ignore that.
Dean lay, wrapped up in Sammy's strong arms, sunk into the warmth and love of his embrace, snuggled against Sammy's chest, thinking hard. He couldn't sleep, even though Sammy had been out like a light as soon as they'd gotten under the covers, and so he used this quiet time to try to cast his mind back.
He couldn't do it, though. Couldn't reach those hidden yesterdays. He couldn't even remember the times when he was underwater, with Her, only catching a sense of darkness and pain around the edges of his mind when he really tried. He was sure that his Dad was right, that after the Melusine and before Engram and the others, he'd been with a goddess... but there was only a big blank spot. Not even vague memories of feelings, like with the Melusine.
Shifting carefully, he touched fingertips to the place where he knew there was a mark on him, at the nape of his neck. The skin didn't feel any different on the outside, and the spot didn't feel any different inside of him. He might as well have not been marked for all he could tell and yet he could feel it in his blood, like a song singing in his veins. Moving water, flowing, trickling, calling to him.... Sinking into a deep, still pool, drowning him, choking....
But then Sammy snorted, squeezing him closer, and Dean felt the call, the sensation of drowning, receding. Sammy trumped everything, he always had. Dean clung to his brother. He wasn't sure that Sammy could always keep him safe from the goddess, because it was entirely possible that Sammy would need to be protected from Her too, but Sammy would always be able to keep Dean from answering Her call.
When Sammy had gone out for food the night before, that had been a mistake. When they'd been separated Her call had gotten loud enough that Dean had wandered away before he realized. But when Sammy was close to him, all Dean could sense, all he could feel was Sammy. And that was more than sufficient to quell the call of a goddess.
So long as he and Sammy were together, Dean knew that they would both be okay. He was only worried that She would figure that out and try to pull them apart.
Well, he wouldn't let that happen! That was all there was to that.
Once he'd made that resolve, Dean felt better, and he was able to fall asleep. Snuggled close to Sammy, he was safe and he could be sure that Sammy was safe. And right now, that was all that mattered.
Sam woke to Dean drooling on his shoulder, one of Dean's hands shoved up under Sam's teeshirt, resting over his heart. The sun was shining in his eyes, and he had the distinct feeling that he'd forgotten something.
He lay there and blinked at the ceiling, judging it to be mid-morning by the light, maybe a little later, then it hit him.
"Whu?" Dean snuffled, rousing and squirming against Sam, making him aware that they were both sporting the usual morning hard-ons -- at least, usual ever since he'd started sharing a bed with his rescued brother. But Dean wasn't quite so much broken anymore as he had been, thank God for that. "Whazzit, Sammy?"
"I should have called Missouri last night," Sam mumbled, rubbing his sleep-crusted eyes. "She wanted to know as soon as we found out anything...."
"Was too late to call her," Dean yawned, wriggling down more deeply into Sam's embrace. "Would've woke her up."
Sam couldn't fault that logic, and even though he knew he ought to rouse, he lay there several long minutes, just holding Dean close, soaking in the warmth and the love.
"I should call her now, though," he mumbled, when it became evident that neither one of them was going to fall back asleep.
"Mm." Dean squirmed up out of the covers and draped himself over Sam's chest, his hair a mess, his eyes heavy lidded, his cheeks flushed. "We should have sex first, Sammy."
"Oh," said Sam. And, "Okay."
It turned out he had left the lube on the bedside table, after all. And this morning that was a good thing.
The Winchester brothers were late joining the party in the morning, but Bobby wasn't surprised by this, nor was he bothered. It gave him time to enjoy some coffee and donuts -- there was always food around when Rusty was around, provided he hadn't eaten it all already -- and time for Danny and Rusty to fill him in on exactly how well the Hunt last night had gone.
Bobby had thought that Dean had seemed to be doing a whole lot better than the last time he'd seen him. It appeared that being back in the game agreed with him. Well, and probably the passage of time and being alone with his brother had helped. Bobby was happy to see that Dean was recovering, was glad to be able to see the improvement. And he was a little stunned to hear that Sam had not only agreed to help with Danny and Rusty's Hunt, but he'd also allowed them to split himself and Dean up, even if only briefly. So Dean wasn't the only one growing and becoming more whole.
"I was the only one who couldn't see her clearly," Danny grumbled, finishing up their story by telling Bobby about the spirit of the Indian priestess, while Rusty played around on the laptop. They were hanging out in the two Hunters' room, waiting until Sam and Dean deigned to join them. It was coming up on ten-thirty and Bobby figured that he'd give them until eleven before he came after them. "But I could sense that she was thanking us. It must've sucked to be sacrificed so young, then spend eternity playing watchdog for a elemental critter like that."
"It doesn't exactly work that way," Rusty spoke up, though he didn't glance away from his screen. He was sitting crosslegged on the bed, tapping away on the keys. Danny was lying on his belly next to him, and Bobby again had the only chair. "I don't think she was really aware, until the construction blasting broke the seal."
"God, I hope not!" Danny averred. "I mean, I know her sacrifice was noble and all, but if she ended up serving thousands of years of just watching that lizard sleep, then I say she should've negotiated a better contract from the get-go!"
"You're such an ass," Rusty replied mildly. Danny flipped him off but was too lazy to roll so that Rusty could see, and Rusty was focused on his computer, anyway.
Bobby grinned into his coffee cup. He'd worked with Danny and Rusty before and they never failed to amuse him. They were good guys, decent, big-hearted, and Dean couldn't have gotten any luckier than to stumble across them. Though, if Rusty's hints were right, it hadn't just been luck, had been more "destiny". Bobby didn't believe in that sort of thing, liked to think a man made his own path through life, but Rusty made a good argument
"Just because something is meant to happen doesn't mean there isn't free will, Bobby," Rusty said, glancing up at him with those piercing blue eyes. It was a testament to how easy Bobby felt with them that he didn't immediately get his back up over the intrusion into his thoughts. "After all, Danny and I could have chosen not to involve ourselves at all." Almost as an afterthought, he added. "I wasn't snooping. I've got my shields down to try and see if I can get a feel for this Sulvis, and you're thinking really loudly."
"S'okay," Bobby grunted, because it was. He trusted Rusty not to pry, and he hadn't been thinking anything he'd be ashamed of saying aloud, not really. "And I guess you're right. It jest makes me a bit anxious, that's all."
Danny yawned, looking a little lost but not seeming to care much. He was probably used to this sort of thing, being with Rusty all the time. Generally speaking, he was one of the most laid-back Hunters that Bobby had ever met. Danny and Rusty both. It took a hell of a lot to get either of them riled up. Of course, if that did happen, well, just watch out. Because they could also be deadly dangerous. Fortunately, they worked on the side of good.
Just when Bobby was figuring he ought to go and get the Winchester boys, there came a knock at the door and he rose, letting Sam and Dean in.
"Sorry," Sam apologized as they stepped into the room. "I had to call Missouri, to update her, and that wasn't a short phone call."
"No problem," Danny grunted, waving at them from his sprawl on the bed. "And g'morning."
"Morning," Sam said a little awkwardly, but Dean cut straight to the heart of the matter.
"Is there coffee?" he asked, forging over to the table. Bobby grinned fondly and reclaimed his seat. Dean was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, that was for sure. He and Sam were showered and dressed warmly, both looked rested, and while Sam appeared a little drawn and anxious, Dean was bouncing with energy
"Did you two sleep well?" Danny asked politely as Dean poured himself some coffee and Sam sat gingerly on the free bed. It looked as though someone's suitcase had exploded on it, and since most of the clothing was of various garish hues and patterns that no one in their right mind would choose to wear, Bobby could only assume that it had been Rusty's.
"Pretty well," Sam replied, but he didn't sound completely convincing. Or convinced.
"I didn't have any bad dreams," Dean announced, sipping his coffee with a blissful expression. Then he frowned a little. "But Sammy did."
Bobby and Danny glanced at Sam, who looked uncomfortable and shrugged. "I don't remember," he said. "But Dean would know."
Bobby thought about the boys twined about each other in bed, as they'd been during the trip from Washington to Kansas, as they undoubtedly were each night now, and he knew that Sam was right.
"Missouri says that She... that Sulvis knows Dean's here now," Sam offered after a moment of silence that wasn't really too awkward. "I mean, we kinda already figured as much, but it's good to know for sure. I guess...."
"She knew the moment you two started heading back this way," Rusty spoke up from where he was staring fixedly at the computer screen. Then he blinked and raised his gaze. "But that only just now came to me, when you said that, so it's good that this Missouri that you spoke to was able to verify that Sulvis knew Dean was here."
Bobby frowned when Rusty pulled a face and shook his head as soon as he finished speaking. "You still have a problem with the goddess' name?" he asked curiously.
"No," Rusty said, reaching up to rub at his lower lip with the edge of his thumb. "Not really. I mean, it's right, but it doesn't feel like that's all there is to it. I can't figure out what's missing, though."
Bobby respected Rusty's powers, but sometimes they were irritatingly vague. Especially in a tense situation like this, where a vulnerable, broken young boy was in danger and a seasoned Hunter had already gone missing.
"That's why I have my shields down," Rusty continued, meeting Bobby's gaze levelly, but not seeming to take offense at what had just passed through his mind. "I'm hoping that I'll be able to figure it out before it becomes vital. I can't make any promises, though."
"You're not putting yourself in any danger, are you?" Danny asked, craning his neck to scowl at his partner.
"Naw," Rusty replied easily. "I'm aware of my limits. I'll lock down quick if anything seems the slightest bit dangerous."
"Are you able to read everyone's thoughts in this room?" Sam asked, wide-eyed and maybe not panicked, but definitely not at ease with that idea.
Rusty laughed and shook his head. "Dean's shielding himself and you, Sam. No need to worry. I'm doing what I can to filter Bobby out, and Danny...."
"Huh. I've got no secrets from you," Danny grunted.
"You're just background noise," Rusty agreed affably.
Sam was staring at Dean, who was now leaning against Bobby's shoulder, munching a donut. "Dean is...."
"Missouri taught me how, Sammy, remember?" Dean said guilelessly. He smelled of vanilla soap, coffee, and teenage boy, but not in an unpleasant way. Bobby was just glad he hadn't decided to plop in his lap again. Not that he minded, but the boy got heavy after a while.
"I know she taught you to shield, Dean," Sam said, his eyes narrow. "But I didn't know you could do it for me."
"I couldn't before," Dean said equably. "But I've been practicing. And I think being here makes me able to do things better. Even the things that only come from inside myself and not from Her."
Sam opened his mouth, blinked, shut his mouth, and shook his head. "Okay. So if you're shielding, does that mean that you won't be lured away again?" he asked hopefully.
Dean was nibbling on his lower lip. "I don't think that I can shield out Her call when I still have Her mark on me, Sammy," he said, dashing his brother's hopes. "But as long as I'm close to you, I'll be okay."
Sam's dark expression lightened, but Rusty just had to go and rain on that parade. "That may be true now," he spoke up earnestly. "But when we begin to get closer to Her seat of power, you might very well find Her call overwhelming, Dean."
Dean pulled a sour face but he didn't argue. Instead, he set down his empty coffee mug and sidled over to Sam, climbing into his lap and unabashedly tucking his head under Sam's chin.
Bobby decided they needed to pull things together, since it was getting too close to noon to be called morning any longer and they hadn't really covered any new ground. "So Sulvis knows Dean's here," he laid it out. "We know Her name, thanks to John, though there's some question as to that last," he glanced at Rusty, who shrugged and transferred his attention to his laptop. "We know She's got John, even though it seems that he's safe for the moment. What we don't know is why She wants Dean, where She has John, or where She is."
"That sounds about right," Danny agreed. "So what are we going to do first?"
Sam looked completely lost and pretty unhappy over that fact, and Dean was just snuggling against his brother, didn't seem inclined to contribute anything, so Bobby decided it wouldn't hurt if he jumped in.
"First thing, ideally, would be to figure out why She wants Dean," he said. "But since that don't seem likely, then I suppose we ought to figure out where She's at. Since She's probably got John there or somewhere nearby."
"It would help if there was any coherent, cohesive lore on this goddess," Danny grumbled, sitting up and running a hand through his hair. "We did some online research this morning and didn't dig up anything more than John Winchester found out. And that's a lot of contradicting stories, nothing concrete, nothing that we can use."
"Missouri says she's been dreaming about waterfalls ever since we got to Oregon," Sam put in. "But I think I've been dreaming about deep water."
Danny frowned. "Huh. Rusty's seen both, but more waterfalls, I think." He glanced at his partner, whose attention was firmly fixed on his laptop. "He doesn't tell me everything, though."
"So we know to look for water," Bobby mused, then he snorted explosively. "Fat lotta good that does us. There ain't nothin' but water in this area!"
"Missouri said it's not either of the rivers," Sam put in. "Not the Sandy River or the Columbia River."
"Well, that makes sense," Bobby reasoned. "Since it's over more toward Corbett and the Multnomah Falls area."
"Still, that's somewhere to start." Bobby thought that Danny was grasping at straws now, but he kept his mouth shut, because maybe the man had figured out something he hadn't. "Although, we kinda already knew that it was more over there than around here." Or, maybe not.
"The last words Dad wrote in his journal were 'sometimes on rainy days', but that was it," Sam put in. "No period or anything, and it's not like him not to complete a sentence; if anything, he was usually too thorough."
"Huh. Well, it looked like rain last night, but it hasn't started coming down yet." Danny rose and shifted aside the curtain, peering outside. "Any time now... but we're in the Northwest, so you never know."
"I feel like we're just spinning our wheels here," Sam said, sounding frustrated and miserable. "Dad had obviously figured something out, if he was having me bring Dean to him -- why couldn't he just tell me over the phone?! Stupid Dad and his stupid 'need-to-know' bull!" He huffed, slouching over Dean and squeezing him so tightly it must have been a little painful. "If he'd even just written it out in his journal...."
"He probably got taken before he could, Sammy," Dean said, a little breathless, but reaching awkwardly to pat his brother's back.
"Yeah, it sounds like he was in the middle of writing it out when he got..." Danny trailed off, but it was too late. Sam looked even more forlorn and tragic.
"So we have no way of knowing where this Sulvis lives," Bobby mumbled, mostly to himself, trying to figure out whether he'd missed something in John's journal, wondering if there was any way for them to figure it out, if there was any hope at all.
"Found it!" Rusty suddenly, unexpectedly, declared, looking up from the laptop, his pale blue eyes gleaming, teeth flashing in a wide grin.
"What?" Sam blinked. "Wait, how did you...." He sputtered a little. "With the computer?!"
Danny chuckled and rolled his eyes, returning to the bed. "Rusty Connor, hi-tech human dousing rod."
"Think of it as a psychic G.P.S." Rusty said with a sheepish grin and a small shrug. "Only... not really like that at all. I can't quite explain it; I can only do it."
Bobby felt like this was too good to be true. No way was it this easy!
"Did you really find...?"
Rusty's grin widened and Bobby noticed that his pupils were pinned, slowly beginning to open back to normal. Okay, so maybe he was for real. Maybe they did have a hope in hell of tracking this Sulvis down and retrieving John.
"So!" Rusty clapped his hands together and cast his manic grin around the hotel room. "Who's up for going hiking?!"