Of course, it wasn't that simple. Even if Rusty had pinpointed the spot where they could find the goddess, it would be insanely foolhardy to go rushing off without having a plan. And they might all of them be some parts insane or foolhardy, but none of them were both.
Besides, it was hard to come up with a plan when they didn't really know what they were dealing with. Knowing it was a goddess and knowing her name and location didn't bring them any closer to figuring out what to do; how to go about getting John back or getting her mark off of Dean.
"We'll need lunch first," Danny spoke up, because an army marched on its stomach, and he knew that Rusty wasn't going to be any more use to them until he got a meal under his belt. "Are we ordering in again?"
"I... yeah," Sam answered, shooting a quick glance at his brother. Dean had been okay going to the Pig 'N Poke that one time, but no one wanted to push things, and with five of them now, they weren't going to fit into a booth. A table would leave Dean with a lot less shelter than he'd had when they'd eaten out before.
"I'll go and get the food," Rusty offered unexpectedly. Danny suspected he wanted some time alone to soothe his nerves after spreading his consciousness so far, so he didn't offer to go with. Bobby did, and was politely rebuffed, then Rusty was gone. He didn't ask anyone what they wanted, but if Danny knew his partner he'd be coming back with enough food that everyone would find at least one dish they liked, no matter what restaurant Rusty got it from.
"We should head to Corbett after we eat," Bobby suggested. "Pick up yer Dad's stuff before it gets confiscated by the Bed and Breakfast he's staying at. I only grabbed his journal when I was there last night."
Sam nodded. "Sounds like a good idea. Maybe you can ride with us, and if Dad left his keys you can drive his truck back."
Bobby grinned and shook his head. "Sam. Look who yer talkin' to. Even if John didn't leave the keys I'd be able to bring the truck back here, no problem."
Sam couldn't argue that, and he and Danny spent the time waiting on Rusty's return looking at the map on the computer. Rusty had pinpointed where he said the goddess was. A spot in the middle of the wilderness, but it was actually startlingly close to the Multnomah Falls hiking trail.
"We might be able to get there from there," Sam said, pointing at the laptop screen but careful not to touch it.
"We might only be able to get there from there," Danny replied, grimacing. The Larch Mountain area was rocky and could be dangerous if they went in blind. Danny would much rather take an actual pre-forged pathway, at least to start with. There'd be better parking too. "We should go and check it out in the daylight, after we get your Dad's stuff in Corbett."
"Do you think that's safe, Bobby?" Sam asked anxiously. The older Hunter was sitting at the table with Dean, listening as the boy described the fire salamander Hunt in great detail, grunting and exclaiming at all the right parts even though he'd already gotten the tale from Danny and Rusty.
"Should be," Bobby replied, after asking Sam to repeat himself, since he'd been paying close attention to Dean. "Multnomah Falls itself is still quite a ways from the spot Rusty nailed, right? S'long as you and Dean stay near the Lodge and you don't let him out of your sight for even an instant while the rest of us go up the trail and check it out, it should be okay."
Sam looked a little anxious, but Danny knew that he was just itching to do something, and the prospect of staying behind while the others went off on a recon trip couldn't be very appealing.
All right then. They had a plan, even if it was only a sort-of plan. Still, it was better than nothing.
"We'll head out as soon as Rusty gets back and we eat," Danny proclaimed, as if there was any question of it. "See if we can't get a better idea of what we're dealing with."
Bobby nodded, his expression a little grim. "A'yep. One way or another."
Danny hoped that they weren't headed into too much trouble. But what else could this entire mess bring them?
Sam called Missouri while driving to Corbett, letting her know that they now had a physical location for the goddess and filling her in on the plan to scope things out at the Multnomah Falls area. He felt some anxiety that he hadn't even been entirely aware of slip away when she didn't say anything against the plan, just cautioning he and his brother to be careful.
"We will be. Of course," Sam assured her.
"I mean it, Sam," she pressed. "Don't take your eye off of Dean for so much as a blink."
"I won't!" He might have been more indignant if he hadn't gone out for food and left Dean alone to wander away two nights ago. As it stood, he knew that Missouri had a point, even if he didn't want to admit it.
"Then it'll be fine," she said smoothly, and of course she'd known he was nervous even when he hadn't really been aware of it. "Now let me talk to your brother, please."
Sam handed the phone over to Dean and tried to listen in on Dean's conversation, but it consisted mostly of "uh-huh," and "yes, Missouri." It wasn't long before Dean handed the phone back to Sam, and he finished off the conversation by promising to call that evening.
He glanced in the rearview mirror, meeting Bobby's eyes where the older Hunter was lounging in the backseat. "You'll have to direct me once we take the exit," he said, and Bobby nodded.
Danny and Rusty were following in their Falcon, and Bobby got them all to the Bed and Breakfast John had been staying at with no difficulties. He'd pocketed the key, which had been lying on top of John's journal, when he'd been there the night before, so he didn't have to break and enter a second time to get them all in.
Sam glanced around, thinking how familiar this all was. A few of their Dad's clothes, some weapons -- which would have been carefully put away if John had left voluntarily -- and a whole lot of papers tacked up on his walls.
Danny whistled. "Love what he's done with the place." Then he grunted when Rusty elbowed him hard, presumably for his insensitivity.
Sam normally wouldn't have minded, knew Danny was probably just trying to lighten the mood, but it was hitting him hard all of a sudden; Dad had been here. He had been here and he hadn't been planning to leave but now he was gone and all his things had been left behind. He might drive Sam crazy, they might not have spent any time together in the last three years, but John was his father, and something had come and taken him away. Sam was betting it was this goddess, Sulvis. Whatever, he and the others were going to find them both and get John Winchester back!
"It'll be all right, Sammy," Dean assured him, patting his arm, and now Sam was the younger brother all over again. Pausing a moment, he resolutely sucked it up, calling on his courage and determination. They weren't just here for Dad, they were also going to try to find a way to fix his brother. Sam had to be strong for Dean, for their father, and for himself.
"I know," he murmured, giving himself a little shake and a mental order to get on with it. There was work to do here.
"Hey, Dean, you wanna help me take your Dad's stuff out to the car?" Bobby suggested in a bracing tone that only sounded a little bit forced.
"Okay." Dean peeled away from Sam -- who felt the loss like a wash of chill air against his side -- and knelt to begin shoveling clothing into John's duffel.
So. If Dean could be busy and productive, Sam would be too. Bobby went into the bathroom, which left the papers on the walls for Sam. He could handle that much. And maybe there'd be a clue hidden in the mess.
"Well, Dad was definitely on to something," he mused, wandering over to peer at the maps and articles on the wall by the desk. "He might not have written it up in his journal yet, but there's too much here for him to've just been stabbing in the dark."
"You mind if we look too?" Rusty queried, standing carefully and politely midway between the door and the bed. Danny, already on his way toward the opposite side of the bed, paused and shot Sam a slightly sheepish grin.
"Sure thing." Sam gave them both a nod. It was more likely he'd see something, since he was used to working with his Dad, had grown up with this sort of thing, but Rusty was evidently some sort of psychic or something, and anyway, having three sets of eyes would definitely be better than just one.
"Can you make any sense out of this?" Rusty asked Sam as he and Danny moved to peer at the walls. Sam frowned slightly.
"Well, not as much as Dad probably could," he admitted. He could see the sense in what Dad did, had actually done something similar once or twice when he'd been at Stanford -- though it'd been homework, not a Hunt -- but his mind didn't work exactly the same as his Dad's did, and so he wasn't sure....
"Here's a couple of stories about the local goddess," Danny announced, peeling the faded newsprint off the wall. "Looks like your Dad had some of the same trouble we've already had. This one," he flourished it, "Says she's in a lake, and this one," he waved the other, "Claims that she's the personification of a local waterfall." He squinted at the second one briefly and grunted. "Huh. It also says that she'll grant a boon if you ask her right, but that you'd best beware." He skimmed the text swiftly. "Says that there's a legend about an Indian chief, long time back, who wished for an end to a debilitating disease that was hitting his tribe... and that to get it, he had to sacrifice his daughter. Huh. Wonder if that was in the fine print."
Rusty rolled his eyes and Sam bit back a smile. Yeah, Danny's irreverence could be a little obnoxious sometimes, but he meant well and it reminded Sam of how Dean had used to be, before the Melusine had taken him.
"Hey, I've got something here," Sam said, as his gaze fell across it. He reached up and pulled the colorful sheet down. It was an aerial photograph, and there was a big "X" marked in ink, scratched into a particularly green area. There was another, smaller "X" with a red question mark next to it, in a different area a little ways away.
"Bobby, did you see this?" he called, summoning the man from the bathroom, John's shaving kit in his hands.
"I musta missed it." Bobby sounded chagrined, after he had crossed over and looked at the map. "But it was late and I had just driven halfway across the U.S. for the third time in two and a half weeks."
"Of course," Sam hastened to assure the older Hunter. "Not criticizing. I mean, it's not like we could've done anything with it even if you'd found it right away."
Rusty joined them, looking at the map from Sam's other side. "Huh."
"What is it?" Danny queried, where he was taking down articles and carefully stacking them on John's pillow.
Rusty was frowning. "Well, this one," he pointed at the smaller "X", with the question mark, "Is pretty close to where I figured our goddess was. In fact, it might be that exact spot. But this larger one...."
He plucked the map unceremoniously from Sam's hands, staring at it, his crystal blue eyes intense. Sam didn't protest, because if anyone here was going to be able to do anything with the map without actually going to the areas his Dad had marked, it'd be Rusty.
"What do you think?" Danny asked, coming and peering over Rusty's shoulder.
"There's." Rusty's frown deepened. "Yeah. There's something there. I think. I'll have to...."
"Well, it's even closer to the trail than the first place you pegged," Danny said when Rusty let his sentence slide away unfinished. "If I'm reading this map right. So we can just hit it on the way in, right?"
"Yeah, I guess...." Rusty sounded distracted.
"Are we taking this out, Bobby?" Dean asked, hefting John's bag. His arms trembled slightly with the strain, and Sam was reminded all over again of how much his brother was going to have to gain back after his two years of captivity. But he knew that Dean was too stubborn to accept any help he might try to offer, so he didn't.
"Sure thing," Bobby replied. "Just follow me."
Sam watched them head out, keeping a close eye on Dean, but he seemed to be doing all right. And Bobby was... well, maybe not quite hovering, but not too far from it. He had a stained, surprisingly graceful but sturdy hand resting lightly on one of Dean's narrow shoulders, not guiding or supporting, but there.
Dean would be okay with Bobby. In fact, under Bobby's care was about the only way Sam was going to let Dean out of his sight, now that he'd had multiple warnings from more than one person that a goddess wanted his brother. And it was only because Sam knew that they'd be right back in that he was at all okay with even that much.
"Let's finish up with the walls while they get the other stuff," Danny suggested, returning to the spot he'd already mostly cleared. "Then we can get going."
"Yeah." Sam dragged his gaze away from the door. Being apart from Dean, even at this short distance, even though it was only for a few minutes, was like a physical pain. He felt the ache in the heart of him, and he wondered how he'd survived nearly three years of it. But then, when he'd left for college, he and Dean had been... well, brothers, sure, but there hadn't been this current level of intensity to their relationship. And after Dean had been taken by the Melusine--
"What is it?" Danny and Rusty both asked, in almost the same moment, in almost the same tone.
Sam had been lost in thought as he returned to pulling down his Dad's notes and articles, but a photocopied picture, one he was holding in a hand that was beginning to shake slightly, had recaptured his flagging attention and basically smacked him upside the brain.
It didn't look like much. It was a picture of a deep pool surrounded by greenery. The copy was in grayscale, but Sam could see the emerald of the ferns in his mind's eye, could feel the depth of the water in the darkness of its center. Because he'd dreamt this place, more than once. He hadn't had any memory of it until he saw it, but once he'd seen it, the realization hit him, hard.
"I know this place," he said, surprised to hear how weak his voice came out sounding. His hand had stopped shaking but his words trembled a little.
"You've dreamt it too?" Rusty asked, giving Sam a long piercing look with his bright blue eyes, after glancing briefly at the paper.
"I.... Yeah." Sam wondered who was more weirded out -- him or Rusty. Okay, so it was definitely Sam, since he was pretty damn sure he didn't have any psychic powers.
"What about this?" Rusty asked, handing over a similar photocopy, only this time of a narrow waterfall tumbling into a smaller pool that looked a lot more shallow, even in the grainy copy.
Sam shook his head. "No. Why, have you seen this place?"
"She's there," Dean piped up unexpectedly from Sam's elbow, poking the paper with a firm finger. He was pointing at the waterfall, and Sam was suddenly, inexplicably glad that when he'd taken the second sheet from Rusty he'd put it over top of the picture of the deep pool. He was somehow certain that showing it to Dean was a bad idea. Which probably meant that he should do it, see if Dean recognized it as well, but he didn't want to upset his brother. Maybe... maybe he could do it later.
"I wonder if that's the first mark on the map or the second?" Danny murmured, rubbing at his chin and sharing a wordless look with Rusty. Sam wondered what they'd just communicated, but he'd finally come to believe that the two men were trustworthy, so he didn't worry too much about it.
"Well, Dean and I have gotten everything else of John's," Bobby rumbled, hefting a heavy guncase. "Once I've got this loaded we're done. So if you lot are finished here...?"
"Just about," Sam said, adding the papers he was holding to his pile. He, Danny, and Rusty made quick work of the rest, nothing else catching their attention. They'd all go through everything later, in the hotel back at Troutdale, but Sam thought that it was promising that their Dad's research had backed up what they'd already figured out -- it meant that they were on the right track.
Now, if only John had actually written down what he'd found....
But he hadn't. And so they were going to have to figure it out themselves. Thank God they had plenty of help.
"I've got your Dad's truck keys," Bobby announced, dangling them so that they jingled. "Shall we head for Multnomah Falls?"
Sam collected the papers into a pile as neat as he could manage and slung an arm around Dean. There was nothing of John left in the room now. They had to go and find the man himself. And his sons wouldn't stop until he was safely back.
"Let's go," he replied a little grimly. And away they went.
Dean was worried about his Sammy. He knew that Sammy had been having bad dreams ever since they had left Missouri's, and even though it probably wasn't because Dean had stopped having nightmares, he couldn't shake the sense that there ought to be something he could do about it.
He knew that Sammy was dreaming about deep water, and that made him scared, and it made him glad that it wasn't him, which in turn made him feel guilty.
Dean huddled closer to Sammy on the Impala seat. He was worried and he felt bad but he loved Sammy so much. And even though they were all upset, all of them, about the goddess and Dad being missing and all of that, it made him feel good to be close to his brother.
No touching in sex ways when other people were around... he knew that. He remembered it. But Dean was having a little trouble with that rule. Because for so many of his yesterdays every touch had been sexualized.... Except for the ones that were only meant to cause pain, because there had been those too. But mostly he'd been used for sex. So sometimes he wasn't sure what was and what wasn't touching in sex ways anymore.
He didn't want to embarrass Sammy or upset Uncle Bobby and their new friends. But he also couldn't stand it when he and Sammy weren't touching. He wasn't able to play it safe and not touch at all. Just the idea of that made him want to cry.
Here in the Impala it was okay, though. They were alone now, because Bobby was driving Dad's truck and Danny and Rusty were in their own car. So it was just him and Sammy, and if he wanted to snuggle and kiss Sammy wherever he could reach him -- being careful not to distract him when he was driving on the freeway -- then he could do it.
"Are you okay, Dean?" Sammy asked, and that made Dean feel both good and bad too, because he was supposed to be making Sammy feel better and safer, not making him worry.
"I'm okay," he answered honestly. Because aside from his worrying about Sammy, he was okay. He felt better and stronger than he had before, he was free, he was safe, he was with Sammy, and he was Hunting again. He wasn't going to tell Sammy that he was worried about him, because that would just make Sammy feel guilty, and there wasn't anything either of them could do about it anyway.
"Are you okay, Sammy?" he asked, because even though he knew the answer, even though he knew his Sammy better than Sammy knew himself, he needed to show his concern and support.
"Mostly," Sammy said, after a little pause that caught in two beats of Dean's heart. Dean knew what it meant, though. It was because Sammy didn't want to tell him the truth, that he wasn't okay, but he also knew that Dean would call his bullshit if he tried to say he was fine. Dean understood, and he rubbed Sammy's thigh comfortingly. "I'll just.... I'll just feel better once we find Dad, you know?" Sammy burst out.
Dean was relieved, because it was always better when Sammy could put his feelings into words. When he didn't, they all just stayed inside and came out in a rush at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way.
"I know," he reassured his brother. And now he felt a little better because he knew what to say. "We'll find him, Sammy. Don't worry."
"I can't help worrying," Sammy told him, and his smile was kinda sad but it was real. "There's so much we still don't know. And I need to keep you safe."
Dean felt something in his chest twist and his heart hurt; not in a good way. "We take care of each other, Sammy. Remember?" He couldn't remember if they'd actually had that conversation or if it'd only been in his head, because he was still all mixed up, but it was such a huge truth that he thought that Sammy ought to already know it. After all, even if he was broken and smaller now, Dean was still Sammy's big brother!
"I... I know," Sammy answered, and Dean thought that he sounded sincere. He hoped so, anyway. "But that doesn't make me worry less."
"Okay." Dean thought that sounded fair. He still wished that he could do something for Sammy's peace of mind, though.
Well, they'd find Dad and rescue him, then they'd get the mark of the goddess off of Dean's neck, and then everything would be fine. He and Sammy could go to the Grand Canyon like they'd planned, and then they could start Hunting again, because Dean would be not broken and would be stronger by then.
Things were bad and scary now and Dean was all mixed up inside his head, but they would fix him. And then Sammy could stop worrying.
"Are you all right with going to Multnomah Falls, Dean?" Sammy asked, which was a little silly, Dean thought, since they were already almost there. The Impala was purring around and under them, and Dean felt safe and warm next to his Sammy.
"Yeah." He was, too. He couldn't hear the singing now. Maybe it was because he was so close to his Sammy. Maybe because he was inside the Impala. He could sense the water all around them, the river to the north and the waterfalls to the south... even the bottom-heavy clouds hanging low overhead.... But there was no singing. Not right now, anyway.
"It'll be all right, Sammy." And when he said it, he thought that it would be.
It wasn't Sam's fault this time. It really wasn't.
Maybe it was stupid -- scratch that, it was definitely stupid -- but Sam felt safer surrounded by other people, normal people. It came back to that instinctive gut-feeling, that nothing bad could happen in a crowd, that nothing supernatural would attack when there were witnesses.
And that was just foolishness. Sam knew that damned well, had grown up with his father pounding reality into his head. Anything can happen, any time, anywhere.
But Rusty had said it should be okay, Missouri had said it should be okay, and Sam had trusted them to know what they were talking about.
He ought to have known that nothing was ever that certain, nothing was ever that safe.
It had started out well. They'd reached Multnomah Falls, and had actually found parking for all three vehicles in the same part of the lot. It had started sprinkling as they walked to the Lodge, and Sam had debated taking shelter in the gift shop while Bobby, Danny, and Rusty set off up the trail, but there were too many people in there.
"We won't be long," Bobby assured him. "We just wanna go and see if there's a good place to leave the path and head toward the spots marked on your Dad's map, and then we're coming right back down. We need to do more research before we actually trek off into the wilds."
Sam nodded. That sounded good. And it wasn't so bad, being here. It was the middle of the week so the place wasn't too crowded, and with the rain, most of the tourists had taken shelter. Sam didn't mind a light drizzle, and Dean was bundled up warmly in the new coat their Dad had bought him. Sam would make sure he turned up the heater in the Impala on the way back, and then they'd take a hot shower, and Dean would be fine.
Actually, after a minute or two he noticed that Dean wasn't getting wet at all, and Sam wasn't getting as damp as he probably should have. He assumed that Dean was using his newfound powers to keep them both relatively dry, and that made him feel better about staying out in the rain.
They wandered toward the Falls, skirting the Lodge because all the people there made Dean nervous. He kept a tight grip on Sam's arm, just above the elbow, and Sam wished that they could hold hands, but they were in public and that would just look a little too questionable. Or at least weird, but Sam was more concerned with attracting the wrong attention.
Otherwise, Dean seemed to be doing fine. He got a little edgy whenever anyone got too close to them -- especially if the stranger was male -- but his posture was otherwise relaxed and he was looking around with more curiosity than anxiety. He seemed to be enjoying the scenery, and Sam dared to take him closer to the water at the base of the fall.
"Do you... hear anything?" he asked as they stood there. All Sam could hear was the roar of the tumbling water. Dean had taken one look at the uphill trail that the other Hunters were ascending, at the bridge that arched in front of the waterfall a good hundred feet up, and he had blanched. Sam wondered what they were going to do if Bobby or Rusty decided they needed to take Dean up there after all. Well, they'd... um... cross that bridge when they came to it. If they came to it.
"No singing," Dean replied, pressing so close to Sam that he could feel his warmth even through Dean's coat and his own jacket. "She's here but she's not in the water."
"What?" Sam felt the hair at his nape prickle, and he looked around quickly. There was a family of five also staying at ground level; a mother and father with a baby in arms, a toddler on a leash, and a four year old who were all in matching red jackets with their hoods up. There were a couple of teenagers huddled together at the corner of the Lodge, where they sold ice cream in nicer weather, and Sam was pretty sure they were making out, not just avoiding the rain. That was it, though.
There wasn't anyone resembling a goddess, but the words in John's journal came back to Sam with chilling clarity; "sometimes on rainy days...."
"It's okay, Sammy." And Dean didn't have that dreamy, disconnected tone that Sam had come to fear, but his words were terrifying enough.
"Let's go wait in the car," he said, clasping Dean close to him and turning to leave. "I-- I don't want to get too wet. I'll call Bobby and let him know where we'll be."
Before, he hadn't wanted to be excluded from the Hunt, hadn't wanted to remain behind, safe and bored... but now safe sounded good. Safe sounded perfect. It sounded like what he wanted more than anything.
On their way toward the parking lot there was a short, broad concrete-lined tunnel that passed beneath the I-84 and that was where it happened. There were two groups, one of rowdy teenagers coming in, and one of laughing twenty-somethings leaving, both of which were running to get out of the rain that had just begun to really pelt down.
Sam thought that he was holding Dean closely enough. He thought that Dean would be sticking closely enough to him with all these strangers around. But someone bumped into him and there was a sudden slicing pain that flashed from temple to temple, flaring sharp and hot at the bridge of his nose like a supernova going off in his skull, momentarily stunning him, and when he had recovered, his senses clearing quickly, the two groups were dispersing, and there was no sign of Dean.
To say that Sam panicked at this point would be an understatement. What had happened in Troutdale couldn't begin to compare. Running around, shouting for his brother; if he hadn't been so freaked out over Dean going missing he might have been embarrassed. He didn't even know whether to head toward the parking lot or the Lodge, and no one he questioned seemed to have seen Dean. Most of the tourists he accosted were sympathetic, even though a few seemed a little intimidated by his size and intensity, to put it mildly. The father of the three kids offered to help Sam look, but just then Sam caught sight of a familiar figure over by the entrance to the Lodge gift shop.
He wasn't even aware of traversing the space between himself and his brother, and then there he was, grabbing Dean and reeling him in, holding him in a hug so tight it had to hurt.
It was only after he'd gotten his brother back in his arms that Sam realized that Dean hadn't just been standing there; he had been talking to someone.
The rain was really coming down now, and Sam squinted as it hit his face, getting in his eyes. It seemed that everyone had left the area in front of the Lodge, getting out of the downpour, or maybe fleeing the crazed guy on a rampage who'd been slamming around grabbing people. But the young man in front of Sam and Dean didn't seem bothered in the least by the monsoon.
He looked to be around Sam's age, though he might have been a little older; it was hard to judge with the cap he was wearing low on his brow. He was taller than Dean but had to look up at Sam. His eyes were bright and gleamed a strange quicksilver color that seemed to shift more the longer Sam met his gaze; dark to light, blue to green, and back again. He had an angular face and his long gold-brown hair was plastered to his sharp cheekbones and bony shoulders. He was only wearing a soaked white teeshirt and a pair of worn jeans, didn't even have shoes on, but he looked both comfortable and confident. His lush pink lips were curved in a smirk and Sam felt instantly put on the defensive.
Though maybe it had more to do with finding Dean with a strange male than anything else. Sam ignored the newcomer for a moment in favor of loosing Dean enough that he could look him over for damage, check him for the same stark terror that had gripped Sam when they'd been separated.
"Are you okay, Dean?" he asked urgently, gripping Dean's upper arms, then freeing one hand to cup his brother's bony jaw.
Dean looked up at him, not bothered by the rain that was coming down with such ferocity. His lashes were starred and his skin was lightly dewed, but he wasn't drenched the way that Sam was.
"I'm all right," he replied, and Sam felt relief unfurl in his chest and belly, huge and hot and so overwhelming that his knees almost gave out on him. He let out a choking breath that was more like a sob, and reeled Dean in again, holding him close. Dean squeezed him back, his slim arms ringing Sam's torso, and Sam tried to slow the frantic pounding of his heart. He was shaking now, with surging adrenaline, and then he remembered the strange young man who was still standing there, who had been talking to Dean.
"Who--" Sam began, trying to think what he could say that wouldn't be too rude, but the guy had been talking to Dean, and that was just not cool, when Sam hadn't been there to keep his brother safe! "You're--"
The young man was still smirking at him, and Sam unaccountably felt the desire to punch him in the face. Not for any valid reason. He just....
"You need to be more careful with your brother," the guy said, his voice low, throaty, and amused, and he winked, he fucking winked.
Sam opened his mouth but couldn't force anything out. He clasped Dean more tightly to him and the stranger's gaze flickered over them, his smirk growing broader.
"I can see that it runs in the family," the young man purred, speaking so softly that Sam almost couldn't hear him over the pounding of the rain on his head and on the pavement around them. He reached up before Sam could flinch and ran a hand over Sam's jaw, his fingers cool and soft, smearing the rain into his skin. "Best watch yourself as well, Sam."
"Wha--" Sam managed to croak, and then all amusement vanished from the young man's sharply-etched features. His eyes were hard and ice-blue under the brim of his cap, and Sam felt as though that keen stare had sucked all the oxygen out of his lungs.
"Stay away from deep water," the guy warned in a hard tone. "You can't breathe there and Dean's not ready."
Then he turned and vanished into the torrential rain before Sam could get his brain working again.
They were still standing in front of the Lodge. There was a hail from nearby, signaling the return of the other three Hunters. Dean was safe in his arms, was holding Sam as tightly as Sam was holding him. They were all here, they were all okay. Sam should have felt safe.
But he was chilled through, and all he could hear was an amused voice in his head, repeating the same words over and over again.
"Stay away from deep water."
"You need to be more careful with your brother."
Sam had the sinking sensation that no matter what they did, they were screwed.