A/N: Hope everyone had a good Christmas! :) No Jensen under my tree (that damn Santa just never listens!) but I had a great day anyway. I have to say a big thank-you to everyone who's still reading this, and all of you who have out it on your faves or alerts. Also, thanks to Miss E Charlotte for Quinn's name, which I totally stole from her story Hard to Love You (with permission, of course).
Previously: Sam and Quinn set a trap for demons and get one to tell them that Dean is being held in a house in Montecito but the demon tells Quinn that Jenna is dead. Meanwhile, Dean and Jenna finish the hole out of their room and escape into the house. They open the other 3 rooms with steel doors and find other psychic kids. Teenage Tyler in one, who can read minds, Reagan the traitor who gave Sam the fake vision, who Dean knocks out and they leave there. Then there's Chelsea and Caitlyn but Chelsea is too scared to leave the room and they have to leave her.
CHAPTER 8 – INTO THE WILD
Dean threw one last, regretful glance back at the terrified girl hugging her knees on the bed and stepped back out into the hallway, followed closely by Jenna, Tyler, and Caitlyn. He had debated slugging Chelsea and carrying her out but had a feeling they weren't going to get out of here without having to run at some point. It wasn't just his freedom at stake here; he now had three others to get to safety. He would come back with Sam to get her - Bobby too if his old friend could get down to California quickly enough.
As they made their way towards the living room at the end of the hall, Jenna turned to Tyler. "There aren't any more of us, right?" she whispered, pointing to the regular wooden doors they were passing.
Tyler shook his head. "Nah, I think the demons use those."
Jenna stifled a chortled sound and the escapees fell completely silent as they moved on hurriedly. Dean halted them with a hand signal once they hit the big room, motioning for them to stay still. He grabbed a small stone carving from the mantle and hastily scraped a large devil's trap into the hardwood floor at the end of the hallway, trying to keep the noise to a minimum.
"That oughta hold them if there's any in there," he whispered, beckoning them to follow him up the stairs. They headed up and then along the long hallway Dean remembered led to the foyer and the back door. The house was dark and quiet and there were no demons in sight.
Dean was just about to pull the back door open when it moved in his grip, swinging towards him to reveal Righty and two other demons on their way in. The hunter jumped a few steps backwards in alarm, his arm extending out to keep the other three behind him. There was no time to get out of the way, no time to hide.
"Shit," he cursed when he saw the eyes of the demons widen and flash black, their stances stiffening as they reacted to the sight of four escapees in the foyer.
"Come on!" Dean barked, grabbing the closest arm behind him and yanking it towards one of the other doors that led into the main house. Back the way they came was a dead end so he preferred their chances through one of the unknown doors.
It was Jenna's arm he had his fingers wrapped around and as he tugged her through the doorway after him, he turned to see her other hand wrapped in Tyler's sleeve and Caitlyn close behind. Dean waited until Caitlyn was barely over the threshold before slamming the door shut and twisting the lock on the knob. He grabbed the carving from his pocket and scraped a devil's trap into the beveled mahogany as he waved a hand behind him. "Keep going! Go!" he urged.
Despite the pounding of the demons on the other side, the solid door held until he finished the symbol. He turned and raced after the others, through the utility room he was in and into a huge kitchen. He glanced to see Jenna ahead of him, pulling a couple of knives out of a knife block. She tossed him the larger of the two, handle spinning neatly in the air into his extended hand. Dean allowed a smirk at the skillful throw, remembering that the blonde was indeed a hunter, a fact he had forgotten. A second person with some fighting skills would surely come in handy getting away from the demons on their tail.
He slammed the door shut behind him, again using the carving to etch a hasty devil's trap into the door. He turned to see Jenna leading the other two towards the back of the large kitchen and raced after them. There had to be a back door in a kitchen.
There was, but it was steel and locked with an intimidating, large steel latch that needed a key, even from the inside.
"It's bolted shut!" Jenna griped, giving the door a hard kick that didn't even cause a decent tremor.
Dean gave the lock a quick inspection himself and his stomach turned. That was going to be hard to get out of. He debated leading them all back through the kitchen and out another door but the sound of the demons thumping on the door they had entered quickly quashed that idea. He turned to Jenna, about to ask her if she knew how to draw a devil's trap but she was already moving.
"I got the other door," she told him, dashing back into the main part of the kitchen towards the second door that led into the main house. It would be a matter of seconds before the demons ran around to come in that way.
He nodded and turned to Caitlyn and Tyler. "See if you can find some salt," he ordered, his eyes already scanning for something heavy he could use to try and break through the back door lock. Tyler was just a kid and the scared look on his face was eating at Dean's protective instincts. Caitlyn couldn't be much older, maybe twenty, and she looked pretty terrified also. He had promised to keep them safe.
The kitchen was commercial size, with plenty of large equipment but not much in the way of steel mallets or pick-axes. He settled on some kind of slicing machine that had a large handle and swung it at the lock.
Not even a dent. He kept going, not even turning around as he asked for an update from the other hunter in his group. "Jenna?"
He heard her cry out and glanced back to see her jumping back from the door she had been carving with her newly-acquired knife. The door was shaking now and angry shouts and banging coming from behind it also. "It's okay," she called back. "I got it finished."
Dean let out a quick breath of relief before swinging at the back door lock again. Fucking thing wasn't budging! He began to try and jam the thin edge of the slicer's handle down behind the bolt, thinking maybe he could lever it open but suddenly there were voices outside.
He dropped the slicer and speedily carved another devil's trap into the steel paint with the tip of the knife Jenna had given him. Within seconds, this door too was rattling.
Shit. They were penned in. There were only three doors and there were demons behind all three. He looked around to see the same realization hitting the other three escapees.
"At least we're in the kitchen," Jenna shrugged, trying to look optimistic. "We've got food. We can hold out until Quinn gets here." She looked over at Dean with a half-hearted smile. "Or Sam, whoever finds us first, but I bet you twenty it'll be Quinn."
Dean appreciated her efforts for the younger two who looked terrified, but couldn't bring himself to smile. He rubbed a hand down across his face and looked around again, not ready to give up on devising a way out of this.
"Who are Quinn and Sam?" Caitlyn asked.
Jenna bit her lip, clearly not wanting to get the girl's hopes up. "People who are looking for Dean and me," she supplied hesitantly.
"Will they be here soon?"
"Uhh, probably not," Jenna admitted. "I doubt they know where we are."
"Keep looking for salt," Dean interjected, moving back into the main part of the kitchen with the rest. A demon couldn't open or pass through a door with a devil's trap on it but it was a matter of time before they thought to use Reagan or Chelsea. He didn't want to have to hurt a human to keep the wards intact but he wasn't going back to that room. Salt might help if they had to retreat.
Caitlyn turned to Tyler and grabbed his hand. "Draw a devil's trap," she said slowly, looking right into his eyes waiting for him to nod before she turned and grabbed Jenna. Before Dean could even register her strange actions, she and Jenna disappeared.
Fucking disappeared - into thin air.
"What the hell?!" he cried, racing to the spot the girls had been standing. "Jenna!" He looked around wildly. "Jenna!"
"Dean, wait!" Tyler called to him, waving his arm in the air trying to get the hunter's attention. "It's alright!" He waited until Dean's eyes locked on his before saying much more quietly. "They're fine. We need to draw a devil's trap on the floor."
"What for? Where'd they go?"
"Caitlyn can zap herself into devil's traps," Tyler explained in a hushed voice. "She told me she was going to take us back down to the one you drew in the basement, at the end of the hallway."
"Say what?" Dean said, trying to figure out what was going on. It took a moment for the explanation to sink in. Devil's trap wormholes? What the hell?
"I read minds, remember?" Tyler explained patiently. "She told me when she touched my hand. She took Jenna back downstairs so they can sneak out behind the demons, who think we're all still in here."
Okay, it was starting to make sense. Ten shades of crazy, but crazy was par for the course these days. Dean nodded slowly. "So if we keep the demon's attention, Jenna and Caitlyn can escape?" He could accept being recaptured if Jenna got free. She would call Sam and warn him.
Tyler shook his head. "Us too, dude. If we draw a devil's trap in here, she can come back to get us too. But she can only go into a trap drawn on the floor."
Dean's spirits lifted slightly. He hadn't particularly wanted to be left behind but had been willing; this way he and Tyler were getting out also. He quickly shoved a prep-table aside and started shaping a large devil's trap on the tiles using a can of spray-grease.
No sooner had he finished and stepped out than Caitlyn appeared in the middle of it. She staggered a step and locked her eyes on Dean's. "There's no demons left downstairs," she said quietly, reaching for his hand. "Let's go."
"Tyler first," Dean demanded, practically shoving the youngest inside the trap with her. Caitlyn nodded and the two of them disappeared, leaving Dean alone in the kitchen. Demons were still banging on every door and shouting both threats and bribes to give up. Dean yelled a few choice curse words back at them, basically telling them where they could shove their offers, in an effort to stall and keep their attention.
He only had to stall for about thirty seconds before Caitlyn reappeared, this time staggering a few steps and swaying on her feet. He jumped forward to catch her, wrapping his fingers around her upper arms to steady her. "Hey, hey, you alright?" he asked, concern in his voice.
She nodded, pulling her weight back onto her own feet. "It's hard," she panted. "Taking people with me."
"You sure you can manage me too?" he asked, not wanting to be the reason she got hurt. There was also that voice in the back of his head screaming that this was insanely weird and he really really wasn't looking forward to being 'zapped' anywhere, especially by a demon-given mojo.
"I think so," she said, grabbing his arms as he released hers. Before he could argue further, a quick but dizzying wave ran through him top to bottom and he was standing in the small devil's trap back downstairs, Jenna and Tyler waiting anxiously to the side.
Dean sucked in a sharp breath to fend off the nausea then had to move quickly to get his arms around Caitlyn, who slumped almost completely into his arms.
"Caitlyn?" he whispered, holding her up. Her head had fallen forward onto his chest when her knees buckled beneath her. "Caitlyn?"
She lifted her head and gave him a weak smile but couldn't get her feet under her properly. Dean pulled an arm over his shoulder, easily hoisting her thin frame up. "Okay, let's go," he said to the others. He knew Caitlyn would slow them down but there was no way in hell he was leaving her after what she just did for them all.
Jenna nodded and beckoned Tyler in behind her as she led the way back up the stairs and down the hallway that led to the back foyer. Dean was relieved to hear the demons inside the house, still shouting into the kitchen. Awesome, their ruse was working.
The back door was still open so the group moved as quietly as they could across the foyer and outside. They hugged the back wall of the house as they moved away from the demons outside that were staking out the kitchen door just fifty feet away, on the other side of an ivy-clad trellis. Dean remembered from their arrival at the house that the van and the driveway and vehicles were all on that side of the house, in view of the demons milling about the back door.
Just his damn luck – looked like they were going to have to get out of here on foot. Surely a neighbor would have a car he could steal, or at least a phone he could use.
Once they rounded the corner of the house they could see the wall that surrounded the huge property. It was across a wide, open well-landscaped yard that would leave them exposed and vulnerable but the hunter reckoned they'd have to chance it. The demons would be figuring out any second now that they were no longer in the kitchen.
Jenna threw him a questioning look, tilting her head towards a smaller gate just a hundred feet along the wall from the main gate. Dean nodded and, still supporting Caitlyn at his side, started out across the open grass. They hadn't made it twenty feet before the yelling got louder and shouts of "They're out!" and "Find them!" rang out.
"Go! Go!" Dean urged them, picking Caitlyn right up off her feet and running. They reached the gate just as the demons spotted them.
"You get up; I'll boost her up to you," Jenna told him, stepping in quickly to take Caitlyn's weight from the stronger hunter. Dean nodded and sprang up to the top of the eight-foot high gate with surprising grace for his size, earning himself a "Whoa, dude!" from a grinning Tyler. Dean extended a hand down to the teen and pulled him up, holding his wrist until he got one leg clumsily over the top. Dean allowed him to jump down on the other side while he reached back down for Caitlyn.
The brown-haired girl was awake and trying to support herself but with only partial success. Jenna managed to keep her upright while cupping her hands and 'legging' her up into Dean's grip. Dean scooped her over the gate and lowered her down to Tyler, who steadied her on her feet on the other side. He then reached down for Jenna and they were all on the other side a few seconds later.
But there was nothing there. No nearby houses, no stores or gas stations or even pedestrians. Just an empty street and lots of trees, looking very inappropriately picturesque in the pink hues of the breaking dawn.
The shouts of the demons on foot were getting closer and Dean could make out the white van they had been brought here in making its way up the driveway towards the main gate. Silently praying for a passing car to flag down, he tucked himself under Caitlyn's arm again and started running down the road.
He caught Jenna looking back over her shoulder, a worried expression on her face. "There's more!" she hissed. "There must be a dozen of them!"
"They're coming fast in that van, too!" Tyler added, glancing up the road behind them at the white van pulling out onto the street.
"Dean, we can't outrun them on the road," Jenna panted, her eyes darting back and forth between the crest of the hill ahead of them on the road and the wilderness to their right.
Dean had just been arriving at the same conclusion. He had hoped to get over that horizon and find more civilization but there wasn't enough time; that van was closing in. "The trees," he decided, veering off the road and into the ditch on the far said, Caitlyn in tow. "We can lose them in the trees."
They scrambled up the far side of the ditch and through a cluster of brush before finding themselves under the shade of an expanse of large oak trees. "Keep going!" Dean urged when Tyler slowed to look back at him for direction. "They won't give up that easy." He pulled Caitlyn up a little higher and picked up his own pace. With a dozen demons on their tail, they needed to get deeper into the forest to lose them. Either that or get to the civilization on the other side of these trees and commandeer a car.
They kept running, each of them taking more than one nasty tumble over overgrown roots or stumbling on uneven ground, but they all got up without a word and kept moving. They were panting and sweating but nobody stopped, staying as close together as was possible in a headlong flight through the dense trees while being chased by demons.
Sam and Quinn were just a few minutes out of Montecito when Ash called back with an address. Apparently one of the cell phones registered to the dummy company had made a few calls to a landline at a large estate on the north edge of the town, on the border of the Los Padres National Forest. With that being the only link the cyber sleuth could find to anything in or around Montecito, it had to be the place.
Another ten minutes and they were parked just down the street from the address, loading up on holy water and salt rounds. They crept around to the side of the walled estate and picked the lock on an eight-foot high wrought iron gate. Seeing no guards or demons or damn hellhounds lounging on the front stoop, Sam swung the gate open and started towards the house, Quinn moving a quick step ahead of him.
They made it to the house unhindered and chose a side door to enter. Sam picked this lock also, ignoring Quinn's teasing that a seven-year-old schoolgirl could do it faster, but found the door still wouldn't open.
"There's some kind of huge dead bolt on the inside," he frowned. "I can't pick that."
Quinn was already at the closest window. "Bars," she spat. "These mullions are steel bars embedded right into the frame. This place is Fort Knox in disguise, inside and out."
They moved around the house checking every window and door but had no luck until they reached the back where they found a door wide open.
"That's weird," Sam whispered, peering in the door to find a large foyer and a silent house beyond.
"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, Winchester," Quinn grinned, moving quickly past him inside. Sam shook his head in exasperation but followed, finger twitching on the trigger of the shotgun in his hand.
They searched the mansion's main floor and moved on to the upper floor but found nothing. No people, no demons, no evidence of any sinister plan involving kids with weird psychic powers. Just a regular house. Okay, a giant, wealthy, luxurious, opulent house, but just a house all the same - not a secret demon lair. Sam's stomach knotted a little tighter with every empty room they searched, his hope of finding his brother fading quickly.
"Damnit!" Quinn swore when they circled back to the foyer where they had entered the house. "What if…"
"We'll find them," Sam assured her, knowing her well enough by now to see her nerves were frayed with worry over what the captured demon had said about Jenna being dead. "Both of them." He pointed towards the door on the left. "Still got some more house to cover. Come on."
He watched the lump move down her throat as she swallowed but she kept quiet and nodded, letting him lead the way for once. They made their way down a long hallway to find a set of stairs at the end.
"There's a cellar!" Sam exclaimed, his spirits rising as he quickened his pace and trotted down the stairs. He barged into a living room, less ornate than the rest of the house but large. What got his attention, however, was the man standing in the middle who turned to face him.
"Did you get them…?" the man asked before Sam came into full view, when he stopped abruptly with a shocked look spreading across his face. "Winchester!"
His eyes flashed black and he lunged at Sam, who raised his shotgun and fired a salt round into the man's chest. He fired a second time just as he heard a shot from Quinn's ten-gauge behind him. The demon staggered and howled in pain but kept coming, landing a punch on Sam's jaw that sent him reeling back into Quinn. The hunters landed on the bottom stair in a heap and scrambled to get back up.
They tried to fire more shots but took more hits than they landed as the fight continued. It wasn't until Quinn was thrown over the couch and the demon paused to gloat that Sam managed to fire three shots in a row that hit their mark, stunning the demon long enough for him to get out the Latin words that sent a black cyclone of smoke into the floor.
The hunters only allowed themselves a few seconds to catch their breath before continuing their search, this time calling loudly for Dean and Jenna since any attempts to keep quiet had been blown in the fight. The door on the left opened into a large, empty room that had cement walls and floor and strange symbols were painted all over the place. The door on the right was just a bathroom so they turned their attention to the long hallway, noticing a devil's trap scratched into the hardwood at the end of it that had been broken with a large burn mark.
The first four doors in the hallway led to empty rooms but the next held a surprise Sam didn't expect.
"Chelsea?" he stammered after sliding the dead bolt free and swinging the heavy metal door open.
They were exhausted. Every time they tried to stop to catch their breath, they heard demons shouting in the distance. No matter how fast they ran or what direction they turned in, they couldn't seem to shake the demons in pursuit. Demons didn't tire as easily as humans and Dean was more than worried. Caitlyn still wasn't able to run without his help and his heart was thumping so hard in his chest he could hardly breathe. Tyler and Jenna were keeping up but they were all near their breaking point.
They had found a narrow path, an animal trail running alongside a gushing stream, and were following it upriver. Dean stopped abruptly when he heard voices around a rocky outcrop up ahead and fisted a hand in Tyler's t-shirt to stop him.
Demons. Too close to run without being seen.
He looked around and without missing a beat, dragged Caitlyn and Tyler towards the banking on their right, Jenna just a few steps behind them. They ducked down under a large overhang and huddled together, still tucking limbs in when the voices came clearer and the demons rounded the corner. Thankful for the noise of the water that would help to mask their heavy breathing, they froze, all four of them gripping tensely onto someone else.
The demons were having a heated conversation as they drew closer. Dean recognized one voice as Redhead and the second to some other demon he hadn't given a name to yet.
"This is such a waste of time," the male demon growled. "We don't need them anyway. There are other ways of keeping the cage closed."
"Getting them back isn't really the priority at this point, you moron," Redhead snapped. "It's stopping them from blabbing. The Boss would rather see them all dead than it be known what he's up to."
The first demon snorted. "Like he has to worry. He isn't exactly sticking his own neck out. He expects to stop this whole thing from going down without ever showing his face. I mean, using that Yellow-Eyed bastard's own freaks against him? It's insane."
Dean heard a slap that sounded a lot like a fist hitting a face and tried not to derive smug pleasure from the image it brought him.
"That's why you're not supposed to think," Redhead sneered. The pair was right above the hidden humans now. "It's a brilliant plan."
"It's our necks on the line! You know what happens to us if other demons ever find out what we're up to?"
"Same thing if boss ever finds out we lost three of his toys and a Winchester."
"Well, I for one am for killing them over dragging them back." The voices were getting fainter as the demons passed. "All of them."
"Just shut up and find them. We'll decide what to do with them then."
The four huddled escapees stayed where they were long after the voices disappeared. It was Tyler who spoke first.
"Dude, we're like the hobbits in Fellowship of the Ring."
He was grinning and Dean couldn't help but smile back as he extricated himself from the huddle. "What the hell are you talking about, kid?" he said, keeping his voice hushed as he stood up to his full height. "Do I look like a freaking hobbit to you?"
Dean was pleased to see a smile on Jenna's face also, especially considering the unpleasant conversation they had just overheard. She reached out to help Caitlyn back up the banking.
"You mean when they're hiding in the woods," she said to Tyler. "Under the tree root…"
"…And the Ring Wraith is hovering over them!" the youngest finished, still grinning. "Yeah! It was just like that. I mean, you gotta admit…"
Dean rolled his eyes and laughed, putting on a front to keep the mood light as his mind tried to piece together the demon's conversation. The demons would rather kill them all, including the three psychic kids they had been using to further their cause, than to be found out by other demons and Yellow Eyes. It seemed there was some kind of demon war going on after all, and they were right smack in the middle of it.
"Come on, Frodo," he urged Tyler back onto the path. "We gotta keep moving."
The mousey girl hugging her knees on the bed looked up when the hunters barged into her room.
"Sam?" she questioned meekly.
"Yeah, it's me. Chelsea, how… what… how did you get here? What happened?"
She shook her head and drew her feet in closer. It was clear she was terrified and would take a bit of coaxing from Sam to get her to talk so Quinn went to check the other rooms while he worked on her. Their conversation a couple of days ago must have had an impact becasue she eventually began to talk.
Turned out just a few hours after Sam had dropped Chelsea off at her friend Donna's house, two men had come to the door claiming to be federal agents with some questions regarding Greg. Sam winced at the mention of the abusive boyfriend whose head Chelsea had literally smashed like a dropped watermelon with a flying bowling ball. The men had put her in the back of their car and driven here, where she'd been locked up with another girl called Caitlyn. That had been almost two days ago.
Sam was intuitive by nature and figured out quite easily that Chelsea thought this was all her fault, that this was her punishment for killing Greg and had reverted back to the terrified victim she had been before her bout of vigilante justice.
"So there are others," Sam pressed upon hearing about Caitlyn. "Is there a guy, a few years older than me, short hair, tall - I mean, not as tall as me but…?"
"Yes! Dean. He's my brother. You've seen him?"
She nodded. "He escaped with the others."
Just then Quinn came back in, followed by a pretty girl with short, brown hair. "They were here," she blurted, relief plastered all across her face. "Jenna's alive! They escaped a couple of hours ago. Dean, Jenna, and a couple of other kids." She jerked her thumb over her shoulder towards the brunette. "This is Reagan. She didn't make it out."
Sam looked back at Caitlyn. "Is this true?"
"They couldn't take you?" He found it unlikely his big brother would leave two girls behind.
Chelsea hugged her knees a little tighter. "I didn't want to go," she whispered. "I was too scared."
"Well, you're not staying behind this time," Sam told her, his tone leaving no room for argument. He reached a hand out to her. "Come on, I'll get you out of here."
"But if the demons find out I tried to leave…"
"They won't," he assured her. "You can trust me. I'll keep you safe this time, I promise."
She reluctantly took his hand, glancing at Reagan and Quinn as she was pulled to her feet. "I can't go back to Donna's."
"Don't worry. I'll find somewhere safe for you to go this time."
"She's a liar."
"What?" Sam frowned at Chelsea's confusing statement as he followed her gaze to Reagan.
"She's working with the demons," Chelsea elaborated. "Caitlyn says she's been here the longest and that she's helping them find more of us."
Reagan gasped and started to retreat towards the door but Quinn reacted quickly, grabbing a wrist and twisting it around behind the girl's back as she slammed her face-first into the wall.
"You working with demons, bitch?" she hissed in Regan's ear.
"N-n-no," Reagan stammered. "I mean, they made me. I d-didn't h-have a choice."
"Don't lie to me!" Quinn seethed, twisting the girl's arm further and eliciting a sharp cry of pain from her. "Did you help these bastards find Jenna?"
"Ahhh, owwww!" Reagan practically sobbed. "Please, let me go."
"Quinn," Sam protested.
Quinn ignored his objections and only tightened her grip. "No, there's something that doesn't click. If they've escaped, why haven't they called us?" she demanded, addressing Sam but not taking her eyes off the frightened girl she had pinned against the wall. "Jenna would call me as soon as she could. Something else is going on here."
"They ran into the woods!" Reagan cried, her voice pleading. "The demons are chasing them in the woods."
"The woods?" Sam repeated. "You mean the National Park across the street?"
She nodded, another whimper escaping her. "Yes. Last I heard, they were way deep into the woods."
Another hour had passed and their pace had slowed. They had been driven off the path a while ago by demons on the ridge, forced to take cover in the denser undergrowth. Dean hated to admit it, but he was completely lost at this point. They had been turning and doubling back and sidestepping for ages and even his uncanny hunter's sense of direction hadn't been able to keep up.
"Jesus, how big is this forest?" he griped as they rounded a corner to find more trees and even more trees. He stopped, panting as he leaned forward with his hands on his knees, freeing Caitlyn to do the same next to him.
"Depends where we are," Jenna answered, short of breath also. "Could be some random greenbelt, or Angeles National, Los Padres, Boney Mountain…" she shrugged. "California's full of forests."
"Are there bears in here?" Tyler asked, giving them a nervous look.
Dean laughed. "We're being chased by demons and you're worried about bears?"
The teenager shrugged, his endearing, toothy grin appearing once more on his flushed face. "Demons don't eat you," he pointed out.
"Don't worry," Jenna offered. "Dean's got more meat on him than you. The bears'll eat him first."
Dean looked back to Jenna as he straightened up and prepared to get moving once more. "You seem to know your California wildernesses," he ventured. "Got any idea what direction to civilization?"
The blonde shook her head. "Sorry, I lose my car in the parking lot."
Suddenly distant shouts sounded from over the ridge on their right. Dean groaned, giving Caitlyn a dubious look of assessment as he gripped her arm again and prepared to get moving. "Looks like it's this way," he mumbled, steering the group to the left. So far, their only saving grace had been that the demons didn't know where they were. It would be over once they were spotted. They were all too tired to fight.
It seemed they had lost the oblivious demons when Caitlyn let out an exhausted sobbing sound, stumbling and leaning more heavily on Dean. "I don't know how much further I can go," she whimpered. "I'm sorry."
Jenna gave her a worried look. "Can you zap yourself to safety somewhere?"
Caitlyn shook her head. "Nowhere to go," she murmured. "I need a devil's trap at the other end and we're too far."
Dean had been letting her support more of her weight to relieve his own aching shoulder but he hoisted her farther up once more. "Come on, you can do it," he encouraged her. "We'll lose them soon. They're spreading themselves too thin. Eventually we'll be able to slip back through between them. We'll rest soon, I promise."
No sooner had he finished his sentence than a gush of black smoke snaked through the trees up ahead, barreling towards them with a violent force that billowed in their hair and caused them to throw up their hands in defense. It swirled around the four of them, powerful and furious. Dean thought it was going to try and possess one of them but instead it started to rise, circling above them for a moment as if taunting them.
"Damnit!" he swore. "They're gonna know where we are!"
The swirling vortex above them started to move away when Jenna stepped forward. "No!" she cried, extending a hand upward.
Dean watched, both amazed and horrified as the black smoke seemed to struggle, trying to pull upwards while simultaneously being sucked back down towards the blonde. It only took a few seconds and although he somehow knew Jenna was doing it intentionally, he cried out in alarm as the smoke spiraled down her throat. She closed her eyes and sank to her knees, her fists clenched at her sides.
"Jenna?" he shouted, pulling Caitlyn behind him as he placed himself between Jenna and the other two. She rose up slowly and opened her eyes, quickly searching him out and Dean was relieved to see they were still their usual green.
"Devil's trap," she panted, her voice raspy and hoarse. "Draw me a devil's trap."
Dean faltered. "Jen, is that you in there?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I got him. But he's pissed. Please, Dean, draw a devil's trap – we'll exorcize him."
Her plan suddenly became clear and Dean jumped into action, clearing the brush on a patch of dirt and grabbing a stick. If the demon was in Hell, he couldn't tell his buddies where they were.
"Where are we?" Jenna asked and it took Dean a moment to realize she was talking to the demon inside her. "How many of you are there?...The Rangers? Why?... What for? Tell me, fuckhead!"
Dean spared a chuckle at her outburst but started to quickly chant an exorcism. He fumbled just a few words in, however, Latin never having come easily to him and gave her an apologetic look.
She waved a hand, her face tense and her breathing heavy. "That's okay," she told him. "I can do it."
She stepped into the devil's trap and within seconds, the black smoke was spewing out of her mouth, disappearing down into the ground around her feet. She shuddered heavily, resting her hands on her knees and looking up at Dean. "It's gone."
Dean pulled his wits together. "You okay?" he managed.
"I didn't know you could do… that." Dean was careful not to sound too appalled or horrified, remembering how it had taken some heavy reassuring on his part over the past couple of days to convince her she wasn't a freak. This wasn't her fault any more than it was Sam's. He worked at keeping his expression neutral, despite his churning stomach.
"I didn't know," she answered, her voice wavering. "I don't even know what made me try – it just sort of… happened."
That was the way Sam had described moving that dresser to get out of the closet when Max had been about to shoot Dean.
"You could talk to it?" he changed the subject. "While it was inside you?"
"I could tell what it was thinking when I asked it questions," she admitted.
"What did you find out?"
"We're in Los Padres Forest," she informed him. "The demons have possessed a lot of the park rangers and they ordered the park closed, some bullshit story about containing an African Beetle outbreak that can eat the redwoods or something. They're trying to keep their presence under wraps from other demons but they've got over thirty of them searching the woods for us."
"Awesome. That means our chances of finding a camper or a hiker with a cell phone just hit the toilet," Dean groaned. "Which way out?"
Jenna shrugged. "Sorry. I didn't get that far. Shit, Dean, my dad used to take my brother and me hiking here when I was young - Los Padres is like three thousand square miles! We could walk in the same direction for days and never get out of here."
Dean bit his lip and glanced around at the three discouraged faces looking to him for answers. This whole mess was getting crazier by the minute. Here he was, on the run with a mind-reader, a demon-bringer, and the real life version of Nightcrawler. It was like a fricking X-men movie and for the first time in his life, Dean was the normal one. But as usual, Dean felt it was his responsibility to get them all to safety.
"Don't worry," he told them, sounding far more confident than he felt. "We don't know which way is out so we'll just hit the high ground - get a view and figure it out."
Sam made sure Chelsea was safely on a bus heading for Harvelle's RoadHouse in Nebraska before meeting back up with Quinn, who had volunteered a little too eagerly to stash the traitor Reagan somewhere while they found Dean and Jenna. He hadn't asked too many questions but Quinn had assured him the girl wouldn't be hurt and that she would simply leave her 'immobile' in a nearby motel and call some 'people she knew' to guard her until they had time to deal with her later. He tried not to think too hard about the specifics of her plan for Reagan because Dean couldn't really afford the delay of what he would no-doubt refer to as 'Sammy-conscience' right now. Sam had come to realize Quinn was fiercely protective where Jenna was concerned and had zero tolerance for what she perceived as traitors. Much like Dean, he thought with chagrin, picturing how his brother would deal with someone who had sold Sam out to demons.
But they didn't have much time to waste on the two prisoners they had rescued from the empty demon-lair so Sam let her do her thing and met her less than an hour later at the Montecito entrance to the Park. He parked the Impala behind a playground and they continued up the dirt road in the 4x4 Land Rover Quinn had stolen so they could split up.
The sole Park Ranger in the entrance ranger station was rude and his eyes turned black when Sam said the word 'Christo' to his face. The fight was short but brutal and Sam cried out and clutched his injured side when he took a direct hit to his stitches. Between the two hunters, the exorcism was eventually recited and no sooner had the smoke disappeared into the floor than Quinn moved to stand before the map on the wall with her hands on her hips.
"This place is fucking huge," she bitched. "How are we gonna find them before the demons do?"
Sam came to stand next to her, his brows knitted in thought. "They entered here," he said, pointing to where the house was on the north edge of town. "Into a river valley. They'll be keeping off the roads to avoid the demons. Reagan said they were deep into the woods so…"
"So they could be anywhere," Quinn finished impatiently.
"Nah," Sam shook his head, pointing to a circle of tight contours with confidence. "They'll go here. To high ground."
"How do you know?"
"Because that's the highest peak in the area and because there's a firetower on the top," he told her. "And probably a radio."
"So what, we just head up there and wait? What if you're wrong?"
"I'm not. I know my brother. My dad trained us together. Trust me, that's where he'll go."
A/N: So sorry I've been MIA for almost 2 weeks – Christmas turned out to be hectic, as usual! I have story alerts piling up in my inbox and will get to them soon, I promise! Please review and Happy New Year!