Dean felt his heart pounding as he explained how to carry out a circular search and sweep pattern to the kids, repeating over and over that they all had to stay in each other’s sight lines. Neither of the twins could look him in the eye; they stood shoulder to shoulder, holding their guns – their resolute stance spoiled only by the shame on their faces.
Dean knew from experience that Mel was almost as good a shot as he was with her old Remington shotgun, so he put her in the middle while he and Sam took the flanks. The twins would be sharper eyed but he hoped to God they wouldn’t have to shoot anything. He hoped none of the kids would ever have to shoot in anger, never have to kill anything more than a tin can, but if one of them had to – it would be better for it to be Mel.
The whole family was armed to the teeth with canteens of holy water and several bottles of rock salt and gas. Sam had printed off a selection of different rituals that might come in useful and Dean had enough ammo to bring down a herd of cows.
They stayed at it for hours, pulling out flashlights when the sun went down and not stopping for dinner as they continued to search the area for clues – any kind of clue. Sam even had the old EMF reader out.
But it wasn’t enough.
He’d called John Green and Dean knew the moment he had flipped closed his cell phone that the shaman was setting up an entreaty ceremony, trying to appease the Wolf so that it’d protect his baby girl. John told him to be ready, that Dean would know if it had worked; John Green had never steered him wrong before but… he trusted John but this was his granddaughter’s life.
Sally had been the one who called Sam, to tell him that the dark power was moving again and something was rushing through the ether to fight it. Dean figured that was them, all Winchester rage and fire, but Sam looked thoughtful and shook his head before he rejoined the search.
It still wasn’t enough; dawn was already stabbing at the sky and he hadn’t brought his little girl home.
There was no sign that Sammi had been taken anywhere through the woods near home and with no other clues it was like searching for a needle in a pile of pins. Dean leaned against the hood of the Impala, one hand brushing through his hair; mind full of flickering images detailing every possible thing going wrong with Sammi – her body broken against an altar or lying on the ground with her hands holding the blood-filled stripes clawed across her stomach while her eyes faded, or her gone and turned into something else entirely. Something with yellow eyes.
He knew he should be doing something besides leaning against the freaking car, mind racing with images that would come true if he didn’t get up off his ass and find her. Dean stood up, moving forward until he was kneeling next to the bent grass next to the road.
The breeze lifted the hair off his forehead, bringing with it the smell of trampled grass and a sickly sweet stench that made his stomach roil. Dean brushed the grass with his fingers. Sammi…. The bastard had used chloroform.
Dean opened his mouth to call out to Sam but his cell phone began buzzing on his hip. He didn’t even look at who was calling, just flipped it open. “Yeah?” he barked into the receiver.
“Grandpa?” Sammi sounded small, wrapped up in herself, and her breath came out in a sob that nearly cracked open Dean’s ribs. “I’m so sorry, Grandpa. He came up from behind me and I scratched him hard but –” She was crying and she sounded so young. “But I did what you said. I got out and…”
“Shhh, baby,” he whispered. “You in a safe place right now?”
“Then hold tight, sweetheart. I’m coming to get you.”
She was waiting for them at a Sinclairs gas station on the outskirts of Lawrence, a small shadow near the telephone booth. She looked so small, hunched over by the side of the wall that Dean’s stomach flipped.
As soon as the Impala roared into the lot, Sammi’s head turned towards it and she ran straight for the car – he barely managed to get out before she barreled into him, almost knocking him over. Dean wrapped his arms tight around her, and suddenly they were engulfed by her cousins and Sam had his arms around all of them and Dean might have felt like he was stuck in the middle of a bad chick flick if Sammi hadn’t been trembling.
“You’re safe now, baby,” he said. “Let me see you properly.”
He sat her up on the hood of the Impala and started checking her over – the red raw rope burns on her wrists, the ugly looking bruise on her leg and the red, angry looking skin around her mouth from the goddamned chloroform. There was nothing that wouldn’t heal, given a little time. He looked over at Sam. “Get me some water Sammy, I need to get her cleaned up.”
He sat next to Sammi and closed his eyes, waiting for Sam to get the first aid kit. Protected by the strength of the pack, he heard John Green whisper in his head. Dean blinked.
They were a pack. Always had been. Always would be. It was how Winchesters were made.
“You folks okay?” A voice asked. Dean looked over and saw an older man with gray streaks in his hair, dressed in one of the vests from inside the store.
“Not yet,” Sam said and Dean heard the growl underneath the words, the way it trembled from deep within his chest, and it matched the look in the twins’ eyes when the words sunk in. But there was no sense in scaring a poor man trying to do his job and Dean coughed. “We need to get her cleaned up and take her home,” his brother added, catching the glance and moving his voice down to those registers Sam could still manage – all comfort and reason.
“Been watching her near the phone. Good to see she’s found her folks.” The man’s shoulders relaxed under the weight of Sam’s friendly smile. “I was worried about her. Getting ready to call the police when you all showed up.”
“Nothing to worry about,” Chris said, squeezing Sammi’s arm. “She’s a Winchester.”
“Yeah,” Dan added.
The shine in Sammi’s eyes could have eclipsed the sun, even though she was still hunched up and making herself small. The bastard who hurt her wasn’t going to see another day. Dean would see to that.
“Thanks for keeping an eye on our girl for us,” Dean said. Sam had brought a holy water canteen and a bottle of peroxide from the trunk along with the first aid kit. Dean set to cleaning Sammi up, holding her shoulder tight as the peroxide hissed in the open wounds, feeling a deep relief when the holy water didn’t. He washed off any remnants of the chloroform from her face; it would probably blister later on as the chemical burn healed, but it didn’t look like it would cause any permanent damage.
“What’s the game plan, Sam?” Dean tried to keep his voice calm for the kids.
“We take care of Sammi.” His brother’s eyes were still angry, his voice still low and determined. “Then the kids go home and we take the thing out.”
The twins exchanged glances over Sammi’s shaking head and turned to speak but Mel got there first.
“We’re going with you,” she said.
Sam’s eyes flashed. “Absolutely not! You’re taking Sammi and going back to the house.”
“We’ll just follow the ‘Pala,” Dan folded his arms across his chest.
Chris nodded, a mirror image of his twin. “She has to be the easiest car in the world to follow.”
“He’s right,” Mel added. “Heart and guts, right? Doing the right thing when it’s hard?” She frowned. “This might be the hardest thing we ever have to do, Granddad, but if you think I’m letting you and Uncle Dean go in there alone when I can still stand, you’re going to make me break every promise I’ve ever made to Dad.”
“They took Sammi!” Chris’ eyes were a slow burn, his voice tinged with the same low growl. “We need to stop it before it hurts someone else. Hurts one of us.”
“And I’m the only one who knows where he is.” Sammi’s voice was quiet and she looked shaken – like she couldn’t believe what she was saying but she’d made her decision.
Dean’s mind started racing; he’d trained them all well, but they weren’t combat-ready. No. They weren’t going into a hunt. Not his family, he’d given enough.
“I can take you straight back,” his granddaughter added, a quiet voice of reason – unpleasant, inescapable reason.
“If we do this,” Dean said carefully, breathing heavily, “You all have to do exactly what we tell you to do. Stay right behind us.” All he wanted to do was take them all home and lock them up so they couldn’t get out, couldn’t get hurt. But the bastard that hurt Sammi had to pay. He understood what had driven Dad all those years; personal hurt didn’t matter much at all, but when someone hurt your family…
Dean’s blood was boiling with the need for revenge.
The woods around the old, disintegrating, driveway were thick and dark and Sammi was practically glued to Dean’s side as they quietly approached the place where she’d been kept. She grabbed a handful of his jacket and stopped. “It’s just over there,” she whispered, pointing at a broken down wall marking the edge of someone’s property. “There’s an old falling down house, and a shed with power running to it.”
“How far from here?” Dean checked the clip of his gun, tapped it and slid it home again.
“About five minutes to the gate. The old house is really close to it, and the shed’s further back, behind the bit that’s not fallen down yet.” Sammi had screwed her eyes shut while she was speaking and her free hand sketched out the relative locations of what she was describing.
“You saw all that when you were running away?” Dean asked.
“That’s my girl.” he smiled at her, but his heart felt heavy. Why did the Winchesters have to be the ones who were good at this stuff? He wanted to be proud of his granddaughter for being a nurse or a ballerina, or a fucking fairy princess, not for being a good hunter.
Dean gestured towards Sam, waiting for his brother to limp forward. There was a chill to the air that had probably hit his brother’s knees ten times worse than it was ripping through Dean’s shoulder but Sam stayed silent, bracing more of his weight on his cane than his actual leg.
“Not many lights,” Sam observed.
“There was only power to the shed and the…” Sammi scratched her arm, looked down at her feet. “The root cellar…where I was…”
“Shed’s our best bet,” Dean said and Sammi shivered. “You don’t have to do this, Sammi. We can go back to the car right now and Sam and I can come back alone.”
“I don’t want to go back, Grandpa, he might get away,” she whispered. “But I…” Sammi shook her head sharply.
Dean coughed to cover the ache in his throat, and gestured back towards the kids. They loped forward quickly, almost silently – just like they did when they played paintball. They gathered around him, heads as close as they could get.
“Here’s the plan,” Dean said when they all looked at him. “We’re going for the shed. Got it?”
“That’s it?” Sam’s voice was a hiss. “We’re going for the fucking shed?” He snorted softly. “Why the hell are you in charge of this little escapade when your only plan is to go for the shed?”
“I’m the oldest, Sammy.” He grinned, his blood humming “And watch your language, goddammit! I don’t want my grandchildren picking up your bad habits. God knows one day they might end up screwing a junkie with a unicorn fetish, and I don’t want anyone else like Hulsu’s mom hanging round my family.”
“Being the oldest has only ever made you right in your own head,” Sam retorted. “And if the kids haven’t picked up your goddamn language by now, they probably never will.” His little brother’s lips pursed, accentuated by the moonlight, and he turned to Sammi. “Do you remember the layout, Sammi?”
She nodded and he handed her a branch for her to scratch out a basic map. When she was done, Dean grabbed the branch and drew an X a couple of feet away. “Here’s where we are,” he said, voice low and serious. He snuck a glance at Sam. “And there’s the shed,” he added, drawing a path between the two points.
“Brilliant, Dean.” There was an edge to his little brother’s voice. “Maybe we should work out where the kids will be during all of this, and if we’re going to approach from the front?” Sam glared at him.