Do Dandelions Roar" - Chapter Twenty Seven - by KnM
The rain that had been threatening since the day before had finally started to come down in a light sprinkle when they started up the trail. Bobby didn't mind too much, seeing as he was wearing a cap, and neither Danny nor Rusty complained. They were Hunters, after all, and a little rain was the least of their worries.
What really worried Bobby was the fact that they were coming up against a goddess. One who had already taken out one experienced Hunter, a Hunter who'd seemed to have had a better idea than they did of what he was dealing with. That was certainly worse than the rain, in Bobby's opinion.
Still, they were going to soldier on because there wasn't anything else to do. And because they needed to get John Winchester back. And because they needed to get the mark of the goddess off of Dean's flesh. Bobby was still incredibly grateful that Danny and Rusty were willing to help.
They hadn't gone but four yards beyond the bridge in front of the Fall itself, though, when Rusty suddenly snapped a hand out and grabbed Danny's upper arm, yanking so hard that he nearly pulled him off the trail.
"We have to go back down," Rusty declared urgently, before his partner could even sputter out an articulate query.
"Okay," Danny said equably. Bobby certainly wasn't going to argue; he had already gained a healthy respect for Rusty's abilities and how they applied to this Hunt in the short time they'd been working together.
And so bump, bump, bump, back down the hill they went. While they made their way swiftly down the last leg of the trail after the bridge, the heavens opened and the heavy black clouds overhead did their best to wash them off the side of the hill. Bobby was even more grateful for his cap, though it only kept his eyes clear and did nothing to keep the rest of him from getting drenched.
They made their way back down to the Lodge in record time, and Bobby squinted. It was hard to see through the deluge between them, but it looked as though Sam and Dean were speaking to... someone.
Rusty forged ahead and Danny and Bobby didn't have much choice but to follow behind him. By the time they reached Sam and Dean the two were alone, no one else in sight. There were still tourists, but most of them had taken shelter in the Gift Shop or other areas of the Lodge.
You couldn't've slipped a sheet of paper between the Winchester boys, they were that close right now, Bobby thought. Not that he would have been inclined to try and part them, even a paper's width, for any reason, right now or at any time. They were each of them all the other had, and right now they were the only thing holding one another up.
"You boys okay?" Bobby gruffed, because that was his first concern. And Sam looked pale and shaken, even though it was a little difficult to see him through the rain still pouring down.
Sam opened his mouth but didn't answer. Dean was kind of lost in his brother's embrace, but his eyes peering at Bobby over the muffling line of Sam's bicep where he was buried against Sam's chest, seemed clear and calm enough. Whatever had spooked Sam, Dean seemed largely unaffected.
"That was Her, you know," Rusty said, almost conversationally, folding his own arms and squinting in the pounding rain.
Sam stared. They all did. This was news to Bobby and Danny, though it would certainly explain Rusty's hurry in returning to the Lodge.
"That-- But--" Sam sputtered, blinking rapidly. The rain was beginning to let up a little, and he and Dean both looked less soaked than the other three were, but Sam's hair was hanging in his eyes in a wet curtain. "B-but that was a guy," he protested vehemently.
"Nevertheless, that was Her," Rusty insisted firmly.
"Look, can we argue about this somewhere out of the rain?" Bobby interrupted, because he recognized the stubborn set of Sam's jaw and because they really were getting soaked. He didn't mind getting rained on in the pursuit of a Hunt, but not when it was abortive and unproductive.
One of Dean's slender, pale hands came up to pat at Sam's upper back, even though he was still all but lost against his brother's broad chest. "It's all right, Sammy," he spoke up, or at least that's what Bobby thought he said; it was a little hard to hear when the rain was hitting the bill of his cap and Dean's face was being pressed into Sam's body.
With Bobby and Danny guiding them, they repaired to the concrete underpass that led back to the parking lot. There was a family of five sheltering there as well, and the parents smiled at Sam with something that looked like relief, even though they were strangers to Bobby.
"You found your brother okay, then?" the mother queried, her eyes running over Sam and the skinny boy he was clutching close. She had an infant in a sling riding her own chest and was holding hands with her oldest, a preschooler. The father was hefting the toddler, and they were all damp in their matching red jackets but seemed cheerful enough.
"I did," Sam responded, and if his answering smile was a little weak and watery, the family didn't know him the way Bobby did, and so they couldn't tell. "Thank you." Bobby wondered just what had happened while they'd been making their short, interrupted trip up the trail. He didn't think they'd been gone that long!
Direct questions were going to have to wait, though, until there wasn't a civilian family hanging around. Danny was sweeping soaked hair out of his face, Rusty was peering back the way they had come with keen eyes, and Bobby took off his cap, shaking it a little to remove excess moisture. They all took a moment to just breathe, and Bobby wondered if Dean was freaked out by the strangers sheltering with them. He couldn't really tell, since Sam's larger body still eclipsed his smaller form nearly entirely.
"Do you want to make a run for it?" the father asked his wife, tugging up the toddler's hood which had begun to slip. "Go and have some lunch while we wait this out?"
She agreed and with a final smile and nod for the motley crew collected in the tunnel, she and her husband set out for the Lodge as fast as the oldest child's short legs would take them. The father gave Sam a quick pat on the shoulder as he passed him, and didn't seem to notice the way Sam twitched in response.
"You okay?" Bobby asked as the family moved out of the range, leaving them the space to themselves... for the moment, anyhow.
"He didn't mean any harm," Rusty informed, watching the family go.
"Yeah. No, yeah, I know," Sam replied a little confusingly. He loosed a hand to drag over his face, though he kept Dean close to him with the other arm. "He offered to help me find Dean before."
"Find Dean?" That would certainly explain why Sam looked so pale and was so jumpy. Bobby couldn't see how Sam would have let himself be separated from Dean, though. Especially not after the scare two nights before!
"We were going to go back to the car," Sam explained, his voice quavering slightly. "We were just coming through here, and someone bumped into me, and it...." He frowned, rubbing at one temple. "It was like getting an ice pick through my head. It hurt like hell, almost put me down, but it was only for a second. I thought. But when I came out of it Dean was gone."
"How did that happen, Dean?" Bobby asked, fixing Dean with a sharp stare. Dean was leaning into Sam, his cheek resting on his brother's chest, arms slung around Sam's waist, looking sleepy and thoughtful. Certainly not panicky and freaked out like his brother.
"I don't know," Dean replied, his voice calm and even. "All I could feel was the rain, and I'm not sure how I got apart from Sammy. I only remember the water and cold air and then Sammy came and grabbed me."
"Do you remember talking to a guy?" Sam asked urgently, gripping Dean's upper arms and levering him a few inches back, so that he could meet his brother's bright eyes. "Did you tell him who you were? Who I was?"
"Her," Rusty put in quietly, but didn't persist when Sam ignored him.
Dean shook his head. "I didn't say anything, Sammy. I didn't have to."
Bobby wondered what that meant, but Sam seemed more concerned with another question. He cupped Dean's face delicately, his hands so huge that they nearly engulfed his brother's whole head, and tilted his chin up so that he could meet Dean's eyes directly. It was something intimate, that Bobby almost felt he shouldn't be looking at, and yet he didn't want to turn his gaze away, because both of these boys were at the crux of this entire bizarre situation.
"He didn't touch you, did he, Dean?" Sam asked anxiously.
Rusty wrinkled his nose and mouthed "she". Danny smacked his shoulder. Outside the tunnel the rain was finally beginning to lighten up a little.
"No." Dean's reply was prompt and firm enough to settle even Sam's nerves.
"She touched you, though, Sam," Rusty declared, his bright eyes narrow. He scratched at one forearm through the material of his sleeve and seemed more edgy than he had been when they'd first arrived at the Falls. "I can see it on you, glowing like a sigil."
"Are you sure that was Her?" Sam asked, finally shifting his attention from Dean to Rusty, reeling his brother back into his arms and against his chest. "I was pretty sure that was a guy. He was wearing a wet teeshirt, after all. I think I'd have noticed...."
"Breasts?" Danny prompted when Sam faltered, grinning crookedly. People were beginning to emerge from the Lodge, and they all suddenly felt a little exposed. "I'm sure. But let's go back to the hotel before we discuss it. Okay?"
"The further away from here, the better," Sam declared fervently, and even though Bobby had more questions, for Sam, for Dean, and for Rusty, he had to agree. Danny had the right of it; this was neither the time nor the place.
"Let's get a move on, then," he directed, herding everyone toward the parking lot. He might not be in charge here, he might not even have been Hunting the longest, but he was the oldest of this group, and that had to count for something.
This trip to the Multnomah Falls area hadn't gone as they'd been anticipating, but it might very well have yielded more fruit than they'd thought it would. They'd have to wait to find out, though.
Bobby just hoped that this unexpected meeting wasn't a precursor to even more danger and discord.
They regrouped in Danny and Rusty's room, which had come to serve as the unofficial headquarters for this Hunt-slash-rescue mission. Fortunately neither man minded and, after all, theirs was the only room that had any hope of holding all five of them with anything approaching comfort.
Of course, no room would have seemed large enough to contain Sam Winchester once they arrived back from Multnomah Falls. His anxiety and targetless rage swelled until it seemed -- to Rusty, at least -- that the walls might well begin to split from the pressure.
Fortunately Sam didn't seem inclined to blame Rusty for thinking that the trip would be safe when it had turned out to be anything but. He'd mentioned something to that effect in the parking lot, but hadn't pursued the matter once they'd gotten back to Troutdale. Also fortunately, Bobby Singer seemed to be adept at dealing with the Winchesters. Danny was taking his cues from Rusty, and Rusty took his from Bobby, who was doing his best to calm Sam the fuck down.
It was just a good thing that Dean was safe and sound, his fragile spirits apparently not damped at all by his little adventure. It was Sam who was freaking out. But then, it was Sam who had been touched by a goddess.
Rusty could see it on the flesh of his cheek still, gleaming like sunlit ice. Sulvis had marked Sam; not the same way Dean had been marked, but with equal certainty. Rusty wondered what it meant, why She had done it. He hoped it wasn't going to prove disastrous at some unspecified point in the future.
"Are you sure that was Her?" Sam asked for the fifth time.
Rusty rolled his eyes. He wasn't going to lose his temper, but he really wished that Sam would just take his word for it already. He hadn't seen the encounter clearly, the rain had been coming down too hard, but he'd felt the goddess long before he'd seen Her, and Her presence was lingering on Sam in a manner that Rusty could easily read after the fact. "Because I'm pretty sure that was a guy. Dean, wasn't it a guy?"
"I don't remember, Sammy," Dean replied, not much help at all, but at least he was quiet and collected. Rusty was hoping that he'd be a calming influence on his brother. So far that seemed a faint hope.
"Look, it's not impossible that She took a male form," Danny surprised Rusty by speaking up. He shrugged a little when all eyes turned on him. "She's a goddess, after all. Who's to say that She's restrained to only one look? She knows you're leery of strange women, so She decides to appear to you as a guy. Doesn't seem too far-fetched to me."
Sam blinked, abruptly shut up, and Rusty sent his partner a grateful look. Danny smirked back at him, the insufferable prick.
"Do you hear the singing yet, Sammy?" Dean asked, tilting his head to one side. And that was what Rusty was afraid of, especially seeing how brightly the marks still shone on Sam's face.
"I-- No," Sam answered after pausing momentarily; presumably checking whether or not he could hear. "Do you hear it, Dean?" he asked urgently.
"A little bit," Dean answered equably. He was sitting on the bed, curled up beside Danny as Sam paced the room. Rusty privately thought that Sam might cool down if he had his brother in his lap, but Sam seemed to need to burn off some excess energy and had ignored their suggestions that he sit. Rusty was holding down the other bed, and Bobby was at what had evidently become his usual spot, in the one chair at the little table, going over the papers they'd collected from John Winchester's room.
"The song is in the rain," Dean continued. "But it's not very loud. We're far away here, and the rain is going to stop soon."
Rusty listened, but he didn't hear anything. That didn't surprise him, since that wasn't the direction his gifts lay. If he hadn't heard anything at Multnomah Falls, it was unlikely he'd hear anything now.
Sam's face was twisted into a rather unattractive expression; Rusty couldn't tell if he was still trying to hear the singing or if he was just worried about his brother. Not that he couldn't sympathize, either way.
"You should sit," he prompted again, and to his mild surprise, this time Sam did. He sank down at the foot of the bed Danny and Dean were on, and the mattress hadn't finished settling before Dean was in his brother's lap, Sam's arms automatically closing around him. Rusty thought that he might be more relieved by this renewed contact than either of the Winchester boys were.
"Have you found anything yet, Bobby?" Danny asked, climbing to his feet and crossing over to join the older Hunter, peering over his shoulder. There wasn't really enough room on the one bed for anyone else along with the Winchester brothers, even though it was a queen.
"Not a lot," Bobby replied, which wasn't very promising, but still better than a flat-out negative would have been. He was frowning at the photocopy of the waterfall... or, rather, at the post-it note that had been stuck to the picture.
"Dean, you said that She was at this Fall?" Bobby asked, raising the sheet in question.
"That's where She's singing," Dean replied, sounding a little dreamy, his eyes heavy-lidded as he rested his head on his brother's broad shoulder. "But Sammy dreams of deep water."
Sam chewed on his lower lip and squeezed his brother tightly. Rusty thought it looked a little uncomfortable, but Dean just seemed contented.
"John's note here says that this is where Sulvis is," Bobby stated, tapping the post-it note with a finger. "And he mentions some sort of a boon...."
"That was in an article," Danny explained, since Bobby had been clearing out John's bathroom when he'd found it. "One of those 'be careful what you wish for' dealies."
Bobby grunted and nodded. "Well, looks like John took it seriously. And he was probably desperate enough to try it." He frowned at the photocopy. "So, if this waterfall is where Sulvis is, then I suppose the pertinent question becomes... is it the big 'X' or the smaller 'X' on his map?"
"He was certain it was the waterfall?" Rusty asked. He could have sworn....
"Dean said it too," Sam put in. Rusty scowled, but not because he disagreed. He just felt that there was more to it. The waterfall was definitely a place of power. But it wasn't the only place of power he had dreamt.
"Yeah, but... what about this?" Danny asked, lifting the photocopy of the deep pool that had captured Sam's attention back in John's room and brandishing it toward the Winchester boys.
Before Sam could react in any way, Dean let out a small choked sound and did his best to vanish into his brother's chest.
"Oops," Danny blurted, startled, setting the picture down quickly. "Sorry, sorry."
Sam shook his head and cradled Dean closer, rubbing his bony back soothingly. "That's all right," he said. "I knew I was going to have to show him that picture sooner or later." He didn't look very happy, but at least he wasn't upset with Danny.
Rusty plucked at his lower lip. He'd dreamt that pool. It wasn't a good place. There was death at the bottom of it. He didn't know anything else, but he knew that. No wonder Dean was so upset.
"Dean, are you okay?" Sam murmured, curling his larger body around his brother's in a comforting, all-encompassing embrace.
Dean nodded, but didn't lift his face from where he had it pressed into Sam's shirt. His fingers were white where he clung to his brother's shirt, and he was trembling slightly.
"Can you tell us anything about that picture?" Sam pursued gently. This time Dean shook his head into his brother's chest, and Sam grimaced at them. Rusty wasn't very good at reading either of the Winchester boys, but he took this expression to mean that Sam would pursue the matter later. Which was fine; he didn't think any of them felt like pushing Dean right now, no matter how much they needed more information. Not when he was so obviously very upset.
Sam's jacket pocket buzzed, where it was hung over the back of the chair Bobby was sitting on, and Danny retrieved it for the young man before joining Rusty on the other bed. Bobby paged through more papers, frowning, as Sam answered.
"Hey, Missouri." Sam paused a beat, obviously fielding a query, and then he replied, "Not so well, actually."
Rusty grimaced. When he'd come back from getting lunch that day, they'd asked him if it would be safe to take Dean so close to Multnomah Falls, and he had thought that it would be. It was still pretty far away from either of the spots marked on John Winchester's map, one of which Rusty had already nailed, and one of which was presumably the seat of the goddess. Of course, Rusty hadn't anticipated the rain or the fact that Sulvis could evidently go traveling while it was raining.
"She was there," Sam was explaining over the phone; it was the mind reader who had helped Dean in Kansas, if Rusty wasn't misremembering. She seemed to be keeping tabs on the boys and their Hunt here, and if she might come up with something to aid in the Hunt, then that'd be fine with him.
"No, Dean is okay," Sam hastened to add, squeezing Dean with his free arm. Dean had relaxed his death grip some and was leaning against Sam like he had been before. He didn't look quite as relaxed as he had before he'd seen the photo, but it was still an improvement over a minute ago. "She was talking to him but he doesn't remember. He said She didn't touch him."
Sam gnawed at his lower lip a moment, listening intently to Missouri, and then, just when Rusty was beginning to wonder whether Sam was going to 'fess up, he told her, "She, uh, She touched me, though."
Rusty couldn't make out the words, but he heard the woman at the other end of the phone raise her voice, and Sam winced. Dean snuggled closer, his arms ringing Sam's chest.
"It was just my cheek," he said defensively. "And I didn't know it was Her; She looked like a guy!"
Rusty hid a grin. At least Sam finally seemed convinced that Rusty was right. His outrage over being fooled by a gender-bending goddess was quite amusing, despite how serious their situation was. She probably had appeared to him in a male guise, Rusty figured. Danny was more than likely right, and She'd been trying to avoid spooking Sam.
Though why She'd want to put him at ease and then not pounce, Rusty couldn't figure out. She'd had Dean right there, in Her sights, separated from his protective older brother, and She hadn't taken him. Surely She'd have been able to... right? With the rain and being so near to Her waterfall, and without Sam there, at least at first?
Well, who could figure out the workings of the mind of a goddess. Rusty had enough trouble figuring out regular mortal females; usually he didn't even bother trying, unless it involved a Hunt.
"All right, Missouri.... Yes, ma'am.... Yeah, I've already got that up, on the door.... Okay, okay, I will.... I swear, I will!"
The conversation was a little one-sided for a while, then Sam described his encounter with Sulvis, filled Missouri in on what all they didn't know, communicated the few things they had been able to figure out, and then the phone call was over.
"Missouri doesn't have anything new to add," Sam declared, a little unnecessarily after he hung up. He sighed heavily, and Dean patted his back lightly before laying a hand on his chest, over his heart, his head resting on Sam's shoulder. "I just wish that someone knew something. Other than Dad and the goddess who has him!"
Rusty grimaced as Sam's vehemence, but he couldn't very well blame him for his bitterness. This would all be a lot easier if John Winchester had either told Sam what he was planning on doing when he'd summoned his boys here, or written it in his journal. As it was, they were all just fumbling around in the dark and the only one who had all of the information was the deity that they were up against. If even She knew everything; Rusty had his doubts about that.
"We'll figure it out, Sam," Bobby gruffed, and to his credit, he actually sounded like he believed his own words.
Sam shook his head, though not in negation, and slumped, looking miserable and still a little damp. "Do you guys mind if Dean and I have dinner by ourselves?" he asked quietly. "I want to get us both into a hot shower and then some warm clothes, and maybe go to bed early. I don't think we're going to get any further tonight. It's not that we're not grateful for all your help, and not that we wanna be unsociable--"
"It's fine," Danny interrupted before Sam could ramble any further. He waved a hand, grinning easily at the young man. "Not a problem. Go ahead. We'll contact you if we turn anything up."
Sam nodded, smiling back a little weakly, but then sat for a while longer before he finally seemed to summon the strength to lever himself and his brother off the bed.
"Come on, Dean," he murmured, herding him toward the door. "Good night, everyone. And thank you all, for all your help."
"Think nothing of it," Danny directed smoothly. Rusty gave both the Winchesters a wide grin and a snappy salute. Bobby mumbled something where he was hunched over John Winchester's papers, but he was practically family, seemed like, so neither Sam nor Dean minded.
"Good night, Danny, Rusty," Dean piped, seemingly over his fright regarding the photocopy. He smiled at them, and they couldn't help smiling back. Rusty felt a surge of protectiveness, and a firming of his resolve to find something to help the boy. Because that was what they were here for, just as much as they were here to find his father.
After the Winchesters departed, closing the door behind them, Danny blew out a great breath and collapsed back onto the mattress. Rusty laughed, but he sympathized. It felt as though a great pressure had been released, with Sam and his emotions finally out of the room.
Bobby glanced up, then grinned, undoubtedly following the same train of thought as Danny and Rusty. "Maybe now we can get something done," he commented wryly.
"Is he always that... intense?" Danny asked, not lowering his gaze from the ceiling, but obviously speaking to Bobby.
"You've no idea." Bobby chuckled grimly. "And you think that's bad? Just wait until you meet his Dad."
Danny groaned and Rusty rolled his eyes. Great. He'd a feeling Bobby wasn't exaggerating. That was their goal, though, and he'd be damned if he didn't do his best to make sure it happened for the boys.
Dean was unusually quiet after they got back to their own hotel room. Lost in his own thoughts, at first Sam didn't notice. Dean's levels of conversation had been variable recently, alternating between calm stillness and extreme garrulousness, but they bathed in silence and put on sweats in silence, and it wasn't until Sam was flipping through the local phonebook, looking for a place that delivered that wasn't pizza, that he realized Dean hadn't said a word to him since they'd been in Danny and Rusty's hotel room.
"Dean, are you okay?" he asked, suddenly anxious. He might not remember it, but Dean'd had an encounter with the goddess today, and that picture of the pool had really shaken him up. Sam should have been more attentive--
"I'm fine," Dean answered, so easily that Sam could only assume he was speaking the truth. He was sitting beside Sam on their bed, twisting a strand of damp hair around one finger with a faintly dreamy expression -- though not the one that meant he was lost in his own head. Just lost in thought, maybe. "I was letting you think, Sammy."
Guilt speared Sam in the gut. "I'm sorry--" he started, setting aside the phonebook, but Dean interrupted him.
"That's how you deal with things, Sammy. If I didn't let you think about it you'd just get all twisted up in your head." He crawled into Sam's lap and wrapped his arms around his chest, looking up at him almost shyly. "Have you got it worked out yet?"
Dean knew him better than he even knew himself, Sam thought, hugging his brother in return, squeezing him with a rush of affection. He probably always had, but he'd never have communicated it so freely before.
"As much as I'm going to be able to, I think," he responded honestly. "There's too much we don't know...."
"It'll be all right, Sammy." And this time it was the older brother in Dean speaking, because Dean didn't know that, he didn't believe it, and he was only saying it to make Sam feel better. And even though Sam didn't believe it either, hearing Dean say it did make him feel better. Because he knew why Dean had said it; exclusively for his Sammy.
"What do you want to eat?" he asked, deciding to focus more on what they could do than what they couldn't. And he was hungry, knew Dean had to be hungry too, especially since he was a growing teenager again. "Chinese or pizza?"
Dean pulled a face. "I'm tired of both of those."
Sam sighed. "Yeah, I know. But those are the only places in Troutdale that deliver."
"What about this place?" Dean asked, pointing at a Thai restaurant advertised on one of the two pages in the book Sam had left open beside them.
"I didn't know you liked Thai," Sam said incredulously, because he'd never known Dean to be very adventurous where meals were concerned. He liked food and had an appreciation for good cooking, but....
"There's a lot you don't know about me, Sammy," Dean replied, and even though his tone had been teasing, the words tore at Sam's heart. Because they were true, and they reminded him of how much he had taken for granted growing up, how much he had thrown away when he'd left for college, and how much he had almost lost forever when Dean had been taken from him by the Melusine.
"Sammy?" Dean touched his jaw lightly, carefully, where the goddess had touched him. "Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah," Sam answered, shaking off his morose mood. Dean had been through so much already; he didn't need more of Sam's issues dumped on him. Especially since it was something that Sam had brought on his own head. He couldn't change the past, so he'd have to make the present and the future count for something. "Thai sounds great. Do you know what you want?"
After placing the order, Sam sat on the bed and cuddled with Dean while they waited. There wasn't anything he wanted to do more, and he felt that they both needed it after the debacle at Multnomah Falls.
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean said softly into the curve of his brother's neck, so low that Sam almost missed hearing him.
Dean raised his head and kissed Sam lightly on the mouth. "It's okay that you lost me," he clarified, one arm still locked around Sam's chest, the other hand running restless patterns over Sam's upper chest and shoulder. "I know that you want to keep me safe, keep me with you, but something hurt you and She knew that She could act then. So it wasn't your fault." And of course Dean knew that Sam was blaming himself for that.
"Do you remember anything yet?" Sam asked, carding his fingers through Dean's drying hair. The gold-brown curls caught at his knuckles, and he was glad he'd caught their Dad before he'd chopped it all off, even if it had resulted in a major blow-out.
Dean shook his head and then kissed Sam again. "Nuh-uh. I just know what you told the others. I don't know if it was Her that hurt you in the tunnel or something else." He frowned slightly and this time Sam kissed him. "I don't think it was Her, though. I think it was something else."
Sam didn't question Dean further on that, recognizing that he was speaking from instinct and nothing more, and just then their dinner arrived so they had to untangle themselves from one another. Dean hid in the bathroom while Sam paid for the food, even though he pretended that he was only taking a leak and washing his hands. Sam let him get away with it because even though Dean was doing better, they'd had a hell of a day and the last thing he wanted tonight was to make his brother uncomfortable
Which was too bad, because he knew he was going to have to bring up the subject of that pool. Dean's reaction had been so violent that Sam just couldn't let it go. And he'd dreamt it himself, and so had Rusty, evidently. The waterfall might be where Sulvis was, but there was something about that pool, something important, and they couldn't afford to ignore it.
He waited until after they ate, though. He hated to bring it up at all, but he figured that on a full belly was better than on an empty stomach.
"Dean," he began, once they were done eating and cleaning up after themselves. They were lounging on the bed again, curled close, sucking rice out of their teeth and enjoy the after-burn of spices. Dean had made a good choice and that had been a tasty meal.
"Yes, Sammy?" Dean sounded trepidatious, and Sam couldn't blame him. His brother could read him well enough to sense that something was coming.
"About that picture of the pool...?"
The full-body shudder that shook Dean startled Sam and he instinctively clutched his brother closer.
"That's the Bad Place, Sammy," Dean said, his voice quavering. He was trembling, and Sam regretted asking, but he'd had to. "There's bones down there, so many bones, and it's dark and cold and no one can breathe!"
Sam swallowed tightly, feeling a memory of his dreams -- thick, dark, wet, choking, drowning, sinking -- surge up to engulf him. But only for a moment, and then he was lying on the bed, holding Dean's warm body close to him. They were safe. They were together.
"Have you been there before?" he asked Dean, wondering, because Dean had said he hadn't had any nightmares since Sam had started having them. So how could he recognize that pool?
Dean didn't answer, only shuddered again and buried his face in Sam's chest. Sam felt that the answer might be important, but he didn't want to push Dean, didn't want to force him to relive any more traumas. Not tonight. Maybe he'd ask him again in the morning.
"Okay, Dean," he murmured, soothing, rubbing at the bony line of Dean's back through the material of his sweatshirt. "It's okay. Forget about it, all right?"
Dean raised his head and they exchanged a kiss that became two kisses and then dissolved into a series of deepening kisses that turned into what was a full-on makeout session.
Sam realized as he rolled Dean into the mattress and did his best to kiss his brother breathless, that he'd missed this. They couldn't behave inappropriately in front of the others, and while cuddling Dean and holding him in his lap was acceptable, and even though their relationship was about more than sex, he'd really missed this. Being able to touch and taste, to make Dean feel good, and letting Dean make him feel good....
They didn't even make it out of their sweats before getting each other off. It'd been a good twenty-four hours since they'd screwed, since Sam had been too distracted and rushed that morning, what with having to call Missouri and then get over to Danny and Rusty's room. But Sam wasn't disappointed. Any sex with Dean was good sex, and the tiny uncontrolled noises Dean made when he came were some of the hottest sounds Sam had ever heard.
Afterwards, he fetched a warm, damp washcloth to clean up with, and before he could return to John's journal or anything else so foolish, Dean dragged him down into bed and under the covers.
"I love you, Dean," Sam murmured against his brother's lips as they snuggled together in the dark, Dean a warm, breathing, solid weight in his arms.
"You're such a girl, Sammy," Dean returned, which Sam knew meant, 'I love you too,' and they kissed a little more before falling asleep.
All in all, a satisfactory end to a less than satisfactory day.
The Larch Mountain area was beautiful, vibrant and green, with fern and moss sharing the same rocks and scant soil, small wildflowers bobbing in the light breeze. Sam huffed as he climbed, the sun beating down on his shoulders through the thin material of his teeshirt. He was sweating, but then the trail plunged down, into a narrow gully, filled with waist-tall grasses and shadowed by thick leaves. It felt cooler immediately, out of the sun, and he could hear water tinkling into water, onto rocks, directly ahead of him.
Beneath the sound of the water came a low, dulcet melody, and suddenly Sam knew what Dean had meant by the singing. And he wondered how he could have missed it all this time. It was so clear, so pleasant. It grasped him, wrapped itself around his mind, and drew him onward before he even realized his feet were moving.
He stumbled over rocks and tripped over exposed roots, but before too long he broke through into a small clearing. Before him was a thin waterfall, the water plunging silver before a rock face, spray bouncing crystalline in the sunlight, catching the gold in tiny sparking rainbows.
It was beautiful and Sam was suddenly parched. He wanted nothing more than to dip in the broad, shallow pool at the base of the fall, to bathe his feverish flesh, to stand under the streaming water. And that was what made him stop and consider. He was the son of a Hunter, and he knew better than that. The singing was inside of his head now, so sweet and silvery, and he didn't trust it for an instant.
"You've a stronger will than I thought."
Sam started at the unexpected voice, immediately going on the defensive. He wasn't alone in the clearing, and he stared at the slim figure that had appeared before him, standing in the mirror of the pool.
N-naked, his brain supplied unhelpfully. But then, why would a goddess need to wear clothing in Her element, in Her home?
It was definitely the goddess.... But once Sam got past the fact that She was nude, he realized that it was also the youth from that afternoon at Multnomah Falls, in the rain. She was bare, willow wand slim, pale and perfect, flesh flawless, hair curling copper around Her face and shoulders, and Her eyes shifting all the shades of blue and green. Just like at the Falls, only more with the naked, and Her breasts might be small, but She definitely had breasts, and Sam had been certain She hadn't before.
"I thought.... But you were...."
She smirked at him as he stammered, Her plush lips pink and full, Her face angular. Sam tried to keep his eyes above Her collarbone, but it was difficult. He hadn't thought that... well, he hadn't really thought that a goddess would have pubes. It was a crude thought to have, but it floored him almost as much as the gender issue had. Maybe he was taking his cue a little too much from Classic art and sculpture, but he wouldn't have expected to see a thatch of auburn hair, a couple shades darker than the hair on Her head.
"Will this help you?" She asked, and before Sam's eyes Her flesh shifted. It was subtle. Narrow shoulders broadened. Slim hips became even more slim. Breasts vanished, and genitalia bloomed at the junction of Her thighs like an unfolding flower, though Sam did his best to avert his horrified gaze. The transformation had seemed completely natural, and maybe that was what had freaked him out the most. It shouldn't be so natural.
"Is this better?"
Her voice was unchanged, low and a little raspy but smooth at the same time. It was equally suited to both Her male and female forms.
"Not really," Sam managed, a little humiliated by how his own voice squeaked, but his ears were burning, his cheeks were flaming, and he wasn't even quite sure why he was so embarrassed. It just seemed that Her change had been such a personal thing, even if She didn't evidently consider it to be.
Anyway, if he was going to be talking to a goddess, She might as well be a She. Yeah?
"All right." She sounded amused, and even though the pitch of her voice hadn't changed, somehow Sam knew even before he carefully peeked, that She had switched back. Now he was a lot less disconcerted by the pubes, since he knew that there was something worse. So much worse.
Besides, Dean was the only male that Sam enjoyed seeing naked, even though this goddess was definitely attractive in both Her forms.
"What am I doing here?" he abruptly realized, looking around frantically. Dean wasn't here, which meant that there was something wrong! The last thing Sam could remember was going to sleep curled up around his brother's smaller body, holding on tightly against the night.... Which meant that.... "Am I dreaming?"
It didn't feel like a dream, though. Sam could feel the warmth of the sun slipping through the leaves, touching his back and shoulders, could feel the cool spray caressing his face gently even at this distance from the waterfall, he could see each individual blade of grass catching the light like an emerald dagger, could hear the buzzing of insects and the rustle of the breeze in the foliage. He'd had dreams where he'd thought he was awake before, but they had never been this clear and pervasive.
"Strong and stubborn," the goddess said, and Her smirk softened into something fond and gentle. Sam didn't like that he'd engendered that reaction from someone who had stolen his father away, who wanted his brother.
"You're not dreaming," She said, taking a step back, Her smile becoming sharper, Her eyes harder. The water eddied around Her calves, then caressed Her knees. Sam felt a sudden chill soak through his shoes, wrap his ankles in shock, and he realized that he'd stepped after Her without even noticing. "And you're only half right."
"About what?" Sam asked, hoping that She wasn't able to read his mind, because that would really suck.
"This is my place," She purred, answering his thought, rather than his spoken question. Sam cursed, not even sure if he swore out loud, but it didn't really matter did it? "This isn't a dream, Sam. Call it a memory, my memory, that I have drawn you into."
Sam scowled. "You're Sulvis," he snarled, wanting to get it out there.
He glared at Her. "You can't have my brother! He's mine!"
"Such familial devotion," She murmured, and the water was up to Sam's knees, swirling around Her thighs. It was icy cold, drawing Sam's skin into pebbly beads of gooseflesh, but She seemed perfectly comfortable. Well, it was Her element, after all. "Only it goes deeper than that, doesn't it?" She smirked at him, and Sam's hands clenched into useless fists, the blood throbbing heavy in his temples, fear and horror pulsing through him. "What would Daddy say?"
Sam opened his mouth to respond, but then it stayed ajar as he caught sight of a body under the waterfall.
It was John. Laying on his back, his face peaceful, his hands folded over his chest. He was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt over a teeshirt, and had several days' worth of stubble. Sam was abruptly certain that his father was here, that John Winchester was laying there, that this was no illusion.
"Dad!" he shouted, and when he tried to surge toward his father, it was as though the water had turned to concrete around him. He couldn't move a step, could only stand there helplessly and stare.
The cascading water from the fall sheeted over John, sliding over his face and body like a thin veneer of plastic or glass, distorting his features slightly, and Sam's stomach twisted. No one could breathe through that, the water coated him completely. But his father didn't seem to be dead....
"You're so morbid," Sulvis muttered, sounding put out. She slipped over to John, the water never reaching higher than Her upper thighs -- it really was a shallow pool -- and reaching out to brush Her fingertips along his jaw. "He's only sleeping, Sam. Do you think I don't have that much control over my water?" She turned Her head and fixed him with a fierce look. "Besides, I told you that this was my place, my memory. He's no more here than you are... and no less here."
Sam blinked, because that made sense and it shouldn't have. "Give my Dad back," he demanded, feeling as though something important had gotten lost in the thread of their conversation, only he couldn't go back and figure out what it was. Alarm was blazing loud and bright in his head, and he was standing in the water, in Her element, he'd been lured out here, and even if this place wasn't real, he'd made himself vulnerable in a way that he shouldn't have. He felt stupid and inept, which made him angry and scared in turn. And being afraid only made him angrier.
"You're going to need all that strength and stubbornness," She mused, still touching his father, Her gaze distance, flickering over his shoulder as though She was seeing something he couldn't sense. "If you intend to keep your brother safe."
"You're not laying a finger on Dean--" Sam started, harsh and furious, but then Her eyes flared wide, blazing a fiery green that almost matched Dean's and She flung both hands toward him, palms out, fingers spread.
"GO!" She yelled, the command cracking in his head like thunder, like a bolt of lightning.
Sam started awake, his entire body jerking up out of bed before he even realized he was in the night-black hotel room.
The first thing he noticed was that he couldn't hear the singing, that the silence echoed through him like dead, dull air. The next thing he realized was that he was soaking wet. Not just damp, but absolutely drenched, water running down him in frigid rivulets. The open door of the hotel room let the night air in, making it even worse. Sam began to shiver and his tremors only got worse when he realized what he should have seen first, what his brain might have been trying to shield him from.
The bed was empty, the covers thrown back to reveal a puddled indent where both he and Dean had lain... and no sign of his brother.
Sam sucked in a horrified breath, his eyes following the small wet footprints that led from the bed out of the room, soaked so deeply into the carpet that he could see them even in the dark.
He followed them to the door, his stomach plunging as they stopped -- they just stopped -- in the middle of the walkway outside their door. The night was clear, the stars shining down brightly, not obscured by clouds. There was no drop of rain, the ground had dried after the afternoon's deluge, and Dean's wet footprints just stopped.
Somehow, without a drop of water anywhere but in Sam's dreams and drenching their bed, She had gotten Her hands on Dean and spirited him away.