Getting the deer back to camp proved more challenging than hunting it did. Dean was surprised to hear that Daryl made such a routine out of hunting, at least since spring had hit. Stalking and tracking was easy if you could be quiet. Hauling large game back wasn't, and it was extra hard to be quiet about it. They drew the attention of more croats than they expected to see after the previous day's massacre. He didn't know how Daryl ever managed to bring deer back all by himself.
“I usually have to leave the heads,” Daryl explained. “Sometimes I'll take a rope and tie the head in a tree right above where I field dress it. They come to eat the guts and stuff, and if too many gather, they'll waste their time fighting each other to try to reach the head.”
“Pretty smart,” Dean had to admit.
“Wasteful. Good when we get plenty to eat though. Shit, back in the day, a lot of guys used to kill 'em and just take the heads. Especially on a big buck. Take the trophies, leave the meat. That's even more wasteful.” Daryl laughed, shifting his grip on the buck's legs. “Of course, Merle – that's my brother, or was, anyway – Merle and I knew where all the poachers liked to go, so when we saw one like that bringing a big rack in, we'd go get the body and eat good for a while.”
“So why don't we just cut off the head and save some hassle?” Dean asked him as they half-carried, half-dragged the buck through the woods.
“'Cause I don't usually have help. And now that I do, I can have my trophy and eat it too. I mean, look at him! He's a little small for a rack like that, but that's just even more impressive. Would be ten points, if that one weren't broke.”
“Yeah,” Dean snorted, “that's an impressive rack all right.”
“All this time trying to feed everybody, and I finally have something to show for it. This one's going on my wall.”
“As it should. You deserve it.” Daryl snorted right back, and Dean hurried to add, “No, I mean it. That was a great shot. And then those three croats that tried to take it from us? You're good, man.”
Daryl didn't say anything, but his speed increased a little bit. After a small sprint, he set his end down. Dean gratefully followed suit. Even field dressed, the thing got heavy going up and down hills.
“All right,” Daryl said, peering over a log and trying to get a view through the trees. “We're near the prison. With a rack like that, we're not gonna be able to pull him through the hole in the fence that we came out of. We're going to have to cart him up to the front gates. That means through the yard.”
“That's a lot of croats to fight off with our hands full of bloody meat...”
“We just gotta be fast. They'll open the gates.”
“Why don't you sneak back in through the side,” Dean suggested, “and then get one of the trucks? I'll stand guard here. Just hurry. Smell's likely to draw them to me.”
“Yeah, all right.” Daryl slapped him on the arm. “Having a partner helps.”
“Yeah, sometimes it does,” Dean agreed.
“Don't let them get to it. It'll spoil the meat.”
“I got it. Just hurry.”
Croat traffic was pretty slow now in the woods. Daryl seemed to take longer than Dean expected, but he still only had to kill two croats while he waited. He had a clear view of the side yard where they had come out earlier that morning, but he couldn't see the front at all. Finally, he heard the unmistakable rev of an engine, and Daryl came driving down the yard in their big Ford, Michonne killing croats from the back bed. He stood as they neared, and Daryl pulled the truck to a stop as close as he could get, the silver truck backed part way into the treeline.
He and Michonne ran to Dean, and all three of them grabbed the young buck and hauled. As they reached the truck, Michonne hurried to take down two walkers coming up from the back of the prison, then she returned to help load the deer onto the truck. Dean hopped in the back and pulled, then stayed there as Daryl jumped back in the cab. “Pull it up in the middle,” Michonne said as the truck pulled around. “We're gonna have a fight when we get in.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was the only one at the gate. We left the inner gate closed, but we had to leave the outer ones open to get back inside. I'll keep the walkers off if you can pull the big doors shut.”
“Sure,” Dean said, his heart beating faster as they neared the front gates. The large metal doors stood wide, with only three or four croats inside. Those came at the truck as it neared. Several were cunningly impaled on spiked fences the prison residents had erected outside the metal doors. A few bodies were in the road, heads cleanly sliced, from Michonne's earlier attentions.
“Big-ass rope hanging from the doors,” Michonne said, pointing with her sword as she prepared to leap out and cover him. She was all sorts of glorious.
Dean nodded, then launched over the side as the truck slowed just outside the doors. He pulled with all his might, surprised at how much heavier they were than he expected. I'm just tired from carting that deer around, he told himself, ducking as Michonne's sword swung a little too close.
“I'm not gonna cut that pretty face,” Michonne assured him, slinging the blood from her blade. Two more croats were shuffling awfully close, but Michonne grabbed and helped pull the gates all the way closed.
“Good job,” Daryl said from the opposite gate. Dean hadn't even seen the guy get out, but Daryl had put down two croats that had made it inside the gates. The inner chain link fence was much easier to swing open.
“The fence crew will burn these guys,” Michonne told him as they rode up to the prison.
“Where is everybody? Is there usually only one person on watch?”
“No.” Michonne avoided his gaze.
Dean stared at her. “Michonne, what is it?”
“Something happened with Rick and your brother.”
“What? Is Sam okay?”
“I don't know. Better than Rick, last I saw.” She jutted her chin across the yard, toward the garden. “Rick was out doing his morning thing. Something...tried to get him. Your brother got him away and inside. Maggie and Glenn were on watch. They ran in to see what was going on. I was the only one left outside, so I figured I'd better stay, in case that wasn't the only thing around.”
“What did it look like?” he asked as the truck pulled to a stop. He stood, ready to go.
Michonne's lips tightened. “Kind of like Lori. His wife. Or so I gather. Never met her, myself.”
Dean ran to his car and quickly pulled a sawed-off shotgun and box of salt from the trunk, then ran inside. He hadn't thought about a light, and he blinked as the door swung shut behind him and he went completely blind. There were no windows in the hall. Dean closed his eyes and listened as he waited a moment for his eyes to adjust. He could hear a very distant murmur of voices, but no screams. No smell but a slightly dusty smell lingering in the long hall.
He opened his eyes again, able to see clearly enough to head down the hall. He took off at a jog, rock salt rounds ready, and quickly made his way to the cell block where he and Sam were staying. A lot of people he didn't really know were sitting in subdued clusters at the tables in the little lounge area. A few of them cringed when they saw Dean's gun, but nobody questioned him about it. He noticed spilled salt on the ground as he entered the doorway. “Sammy!”
Dean crossed the room, following his brother's voice, and saw Sammy jogging down the length of the cell block. He was smiling. “What I miss?” Dean asked him.
It was a skinny buck so early in the season, but it was much welcome meat. Dean was miffed about missing the big showdown with the ghost, but he was actually more than a little contented with the hunt he and Daryl had gone on. It felt good to provide food for a whole little town. So many people nearly groveled in thanks. He began to wonder if this little place was as thriving as he had thought when they first drove up and saw the garden. Maybe nobody thrives anymore. Maybe the best we can do is scrape by.
Some little Harry Potter kid came up wanting to shake his hand, so Dean had to shake the mopey thoughts and plaster on a smile. In truth, he'd kind of had fun with these people. It was worth it for the venison steak, anyway. Folks were even pressing a roast on them to take home, since Daryl knew that their cooler was empty for the ride back. He figured Ben and Bobby would appreciate that. Assuming they were still alive. They really needed to find some longer range radios, ASAP.
Dean was even more surprised when Rick came up, in front of everybody, to shake hands and apologize for being such a dickweed. Whatever had happened, and Dean expected a more detailed version on the ride home, Rick was no longer a skeptic.
“Hey, man,” Dean said, shrugging him off, “can't say I blame you. I'd have thought we were crazy too.” Everyone chuckled, and the awkward moment was gone. Dean leaned toward Rick and added, “I lost one too. Really, I know how it is. I'd have thought I was crazy, too.”
Rick nodded and gave a kind of half-grin. “Yeah, well, that one's not been disproven yet, either.”
The plan was to eat early, catch one last shower, maybe a short nap, and head out before sundown. The old man, Hershel, didn't seem to like that idea. “You can't travel at night. It isn't safe.”
“True, but we've got a long way to go, and there are two of us to switch out driving.” Hershel tried to argue the point, but Dean held up his hand. “We appreciate the concern, but truth be told, with this matter settled, I'm starting to get worried about my boy. This trip added several days to our travels, so I want to get back before he starts to worry.”
They tried not to take any of the people's gas, knowing how little they had, but Hershel and Rick finally succeeded in pushing a little three gallon tank on them. They finally accepted only on the condition that the residents in turn accept some antibiotics and pain pills Sam was pushing on them - and that they'd stop trying to give away their food. “We're doing all right back home. Really.” It pained him to call their latest refuge a home, but it made the point.
Sasha, who was rather comfortably nestled in the crook of Sam's arm, suddenly sat up straight. “I'd like to take a small crew and go with you. Just for a little bit.”
Sam smiled, and Dean suppressed a groan. He just couldn't seem to get free of these people. They'd still avoided talking about the fact that Sam's soul was apparently missing. He didn't need to be babysitting a bunch of strangers. They needed to get home and do some major fixing.
Sam looked to Dean, who gave a tight smile. “No offense, sweetheart, but we're gonna be moving fast. This isn't a day run.”
“First, I'm not your sweetheart,” she started. Oh yeah. This is one I really want to travel with. “Second, this is some fucked up shit. And what I saw in that book was even more fucked up.”
Dean glared at Sam. “You showed her Dad's journal?”
“No, I showed her Rufus's journal.”
“You can't just---”
“Look!” Sasha said, interrupting the fight. The big guy, her brother, Dean thought, was trying to argue with her in low tones as well, until she stuck a hand in his face. This like a freaking Thanksgiving dinner, with the whole family all fighting around the table, Dean thought. Or guessed. It's not like they often had big family dinners. “I was starting a log...journal, whatever you want to call it, for us. There's all this crazy stuff out there we never knew? I appreciate the, the blood and salt and stuff, but I'm not just going to sit back and be surprised by whatever comes at us. Not anymore. I want to know what's out there, and I want to know how to kill it. You guys leave...” She looked at Sam. “I'll probably never see you again.” Sasha squared her shoulders, then looked back at Dean. “So, Hershel says we need to find medicines. You told Henry to build a forge. He's got a list of things he needs. We're getting low on some other things. So let a couple of us come with you, help clear out and keep watch at night in exchange for learning more.” She frowned as Dean said nothing, then smiled slyly. “Castiel can ride with us.”
Dean rubbed at his eyes, studiously avoiding Cas at the far end of the table. “Fine. But just for a day or two. I'm not taking extra time here. I'm going home to Ben.”
“You can ride with us,” Sam volunteered. “I'll help you flesh out your journal.”
Dean groaned. “All right, enough. Who else is coming?”
Sasha looked questioningly at her brother, who shook his head slowly. “I don't think this is a good idea, Sasha.”
“Yeah, me neither,” Dean said.
“It's happening,” Sasha said, brooking no argument.
“I'm in,” Daryl said.
“Sure,” Michonne said.
Glenn and Maggie looked at each other, but Dean waved his fork at them. “Uh-uh. That's plenty. You'll need room for Cas to ride.”
Dean pointed his fork at Cas, shushing him, then turned back to his plate. He shoveled the last few bites in his mouth. “That was fantastic. Thank you all for a lovely time, really.” He looked at Sasha and Sam. “Break it up, kids. You, and anybody else, go pack. I'm ready. I'll take a quick nap, but we leave in twenty. As in packed and pulling out of the drive in twenty.”
Dean tried to control it, but his eyes kept flicking to the couple in the review mirror. They had migrated closer and closer to each other, their voices dropping as they leaned into one another. “Dude, come on! I feel like a freaking chauffeur...no, what's the word?”
Sam looked at him in the mirror. “Chauffeur is the word.”
“No, no. Chaperone! That's it. I feel like I'm taking you to the eighth grade dance or something.” Sam rolled his eyes, and Dean glowered at him. “Just keep your hands where I can see them, okay?”
Sam gazed into Sasha's eyes. “It's not like that. We're saving lives here.”
“Yeah. That's what you're doing.”
To his credit, Sam stopped breathing all over Sasha's ear, and Dean could tell that the conversation took a legitimate turn toward the difference between a skinwalker and a werewolf. Dean put in some music and tried to ignore them.
They swapped drivers after a couple of hours, and Dean napped in the back, alone, until he felt the car pull to a stop. He sat up, hand on his gun. “What is it?”
“We're near the vet college Hershel talked about,” Sam explained. “Sasha wants to check it out. You don't mind a quick look-see, do you?”
“What, in the middle of the night?”
“You're the one who wanted to leave after dinner.”
“Yeah, to go home.”
“Dean,” Sasha's voice was soft and pleading. “Please. You don't have to come in. Just be ready for a quick getaway if we need one.”
“Argh!” Dean wiped the sleep from his eyes. “Let's do this. Be fast!”
He did go in, since Dean never could handle sitting back while everyone else risked their lives. To be honest, he didn't much care one way or another at this late hour and inconvenience, but he would have only worried about Sam. And Sam was sticking close to Sasha for now. He hoped it was just a phase. She seemed a little bossy.
To Dean's surprise, Sam seemed to know the most about the medications. He helped bag up everything that might be of use to people. Afterward, he confessed with a grin that he grabbed horse tranquilizers for them. “What? A little time in prison and you're a dope head now?” Dean asked, disturbed by Sam's glee.
“I thought we could see if they worked on croats. If they do, man, we can toss a chunk of drugged up meat at a herd and maybe have a chance next time.”
“It's worth a shot, I guess,” Dean said, although he personally didn't think their bodies would still react like living ones. Still, never know 'til you try.
Of course, it couldn't just be an easy run. Whether it was the broken glass as they made their way inside or the flashlight beams swinging around in the windows, Dean didn't know, but at least two dozen croats had gathered outside – blocking their return to the vehicles.
“We get in formation,” Sasha said. “Move fast. We can get to the vehicles.”
“Don't lose the bags!” Daryl warned, readying his crossbow.
Sasha opened the door, and Daryl led the way out. As he and Sam piled out behind them, Dean realized that 'formation' was basically shoulder–to–shoulder, with no one's backs exposed. Everyone else preferred some kind of melee weapon, but Dean was glad he had a couple of guns on him. They wouldn't be staying here, so he didn't give a damn about making noise.
Cas, useless piece of shit that he was, beamed himself into the back of the truck and waited almost patiently while the mortal folks battled their way to safety. Dean huffed and glared as he stood next to the Ford. All but Cas were covered in blood and croat bits. That last blessed shower hadn't meant a thing. “Great job helping, Cas,” Dean spat.
Cas held up a bloody knife. “I killed one.” He pointed toward the ground on the other side of the truck.
“Oh. Well, good. Peachy.”
“You said you didn't want my help.”
“Tell you what, Cas - whenever people are in danger of dying, that's when you get off your ass and do something!” Dean hurried to his car.
Behind him, he heard Cas whine, “But I did that last time, and he got mad at me.”
Back in the car, Sammy took the wheel and Dean finally got some sleep. Sasha was also sleeping when he woke up. The sun was high, and Dean figured it was getting close to noon. “Sammy, man, pull over. I gotta piss, and you need to get some rest.” He shielded his eyes as he looked around. “We're about half way home, huh?”
“Even more than that, but we made good time. We need to find some gas though. There's a junction with the interstate up ahead. I think we could find a gas station, and it leads to that mall you wanted to check out.”
Sasha roused in the front seat. “A mall? Is that safe?”
“Probably not. But we need some long-range radios, and it sounds like you guys needed some stuff too. We need to at least look at it.” Dean stretched as Sam pulled off at a small gas station. “Glad we got here in daylight though.”
Daryl was driving the truck they had brought, and he filled it with gas they had brought with them. Sam and Sasha went in search of gas for the Impala while Michonne kept watch. Dean headed around the corner to piss away from the ladies. He jumped and nearly got his shoes wet when Cas appeared beside him. “Oh, I'm sorry,” Cas said, looking away.
“Jesus, Cas!” Dean turned away, and it took a moment to resume his stream even though he really had to go.
“I would have knocked if you had been in the bathroom.”
“Rule three, dude,” Dean said as he packed it away.
“I don't understand.”
“What do you want, anyway?”
“I want to help on the run. I'm really trying to be helpful. I can procure whatever it is you need, and then we can hurry you back to Ben.”
Dean rubbed his neck. “Look, there's got to be some kind of happy middle. I don't need you doing my work for me. Hell, Cas, you're messing my work up anyway! Why are you even hanging around?”
“There is no place for me in Heaven right now. Dean, it doesn't matter whether I'm here or not. If Kali learns where you are, she'll come for you, just to get at me. Better that I'm able to offer you and Sam what little protection I can when, not if, she shows up.”
“You know, that's kind of been bothering me. You didn't come when I prayed for you. So how, exactly, did you find us?”
“Jody didn't have a warding. She and Bobby told me where you were headed.”
Dean cursed and turned to hurry back toward the car, but Cas grabbed his arm, stopping him. “Kali doesn't know about Sheriff Mills. She'd have no reason to tie her to you.”
“We need to get some protection on her now. No, last week!”
“It's taken care of.”
“What do you mean?”
“I tied up those loose ends while you were busy at the prison. I told you, I'm trying to be helpful.”
Dean looked at him. “Really? Does Jody know she's warded?”
“I brought her to the prison for Daryl to tattoo. After he did mine.”
Dean's fist raised, and he had to swallow back his anger. Cas even had the nerve to look surprised. “Are you kidding me? Why didn't you tell me?”
“I tried. You wouldn't speak to me.”
“What about Ben?”
“Ben's fine. And he knows you're fine. I didn't take him to the prison, though. I thought you keep a hex bag on him.”
“I do. Jesus Christ, I bet he's gonna need a tattoo too. Who all is after you?”
“Kali and her army. Many of the Norse gods. I'm not sure where Gabriel's loyalties lie.”
"What? Gabriel?" Dean asked, frowning. "As in Loki-Gabriel? I thought he was dead."
"I saw him in battle," Cas said.
“Well, Gabriel's loyalties obviously lie with Gabriel,” Dean said, heading back around to the front. Sam was carrying two full gas cans, so that was a good sign. "Still, he was pretty hot for Kali. Be careful with him."
“Gabriel's not the angel I'm worried about. Naomi is trying to take over the resistance now that I'm underground, and I fear she hopes to turn me over to Kali in exchange for Heaven.”
“Oh, you're worth so much?”
Cas shook his head. “No, but they never really wanted Heaven. They want Earth.” Cas shoved his hands in his pockets. “And then there's Crowley.”
“What? Crowley's after you too?”
“Not exactly. He saw me at Samuel's and pulled me aside.” Cas lowered his head. He took a deep breath, hesitated, then said all in a rush, “He wants to ally with me.”
“What do you mean?” Dean asked, pulling him to a stop. Cas looked like he was actually debating whether to tell the truth. “Cas!”
“He wants to find Purgatory.”
“If I can help him, or if I can get you guys to help him, then he'll split the souls with me.”
“What does that mean, 'Split the souls'?”
“Each soul in existence is like a tiny little nuclear reactor. They're incredibly powerful.” His voice hardened. “Crowley says he'll give me half, and he'll take half. I can take back Heaven from Kali, and he'll rule both Hell and Purgatory.”
“You're actually considering giving Crowley more power?”
“Probably not. Maybe I'd take the power. I don't know yet, to be honest.”
“Well, let me help you with that. It's a stupid idea!” Dean said. “Let's get one thing straight. Your little problems? That's on you. I shouldn't have to clean this mess up.” Cas's eyes flashed angrily, but Dean didn't give him a chance to say shit. “I probably will end up cleaning it up, but that really and truly ain't my problem right now. Right now, my problem is Sam. His soul is gone, and we need to get it back. And if it's that powerful and dangerous in the wrong hands, then we need to get it back quick. You're going to help us, and then we'll help you.”
“I wish I could.”
“There ain't no wishing, Cas. Either you're gonna step up and work with us during this mess or you're on your own. You can't have both.” Dean stepped forward, getting right up in Cas's face. “But you decide you're on your own? That's it. For good. You're either all in or all out.”
“All in,” Cas said, his eyes softening as he stared at Dean. “Of course. Always all in.” Cas shook his head. “But I'm not sure putting Sam's soul back is a good idea. It's in the cage with Lucifer and Michael. I guarantee you that it's an angry Lucifer and Michael. His soul is likely to be a broken mess. Assuming we could even get to it.”
Dean hung his head, but he was unwilling to accept defeat.
“I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, Dean. I did everything I could to get away. I nearly made it, and then I saw Raphael fall.” Cas took a wavering breath. “We didn't often see eye to eye, but he was my brother. I couldn't leave him to die alone for my cause.”
"Yeah, well." Dean gazed out over the road. "I get it.”
“Let's get back on the road!” Sam said, pulling out a map. “Thought you were in a hurry,” he teased Dean.
Dean walked around to get a good view of the map. The mall was only three miles up the interstate, four miles away all together. He hoped like hell that the roads were clear. “I take it everybody's got enough gas? Take the truck first, and they can push any smaller cars off the road. We'll follow and stay close on your rear. We get to the mall, we do a perimeter check all the way around. See how many croats, see which stores have easiest access. Sam and I need a Radio Shack or something like it. We all need to grab any batteries, water, or food that we see.”
“We should definitely all stick to the same side,” Sam added. “In and out fast. Daryl and Michonne would be best guarding the vehicles while we pair up and hit two stores at once.”
“You're gonna stick me with Cas, aren't you?”
“Didn't you guys just bro it out?”
Dean scowled and shook his head, then turned his attention to the prison residents. “All right, guys, what do you guys need most?”
“Everything. Clothes, especially socks, shoes, and underwear. Food. Drinks. Kid stuff. Feminine products.”
“Okay, okay. We'll just start a circuit until it looks like we ought to leave. Cas, you're pitching in with defense and bagging, right?”
“I'll do whatever is needful.”
“Good. Let's do this. We get split up, we meet back here at the gas station. If we have to push back, we go back to the main road and head west. Anybody gets outnumbered, we help them out, but somebody's got to stay with the cars at all time.” Everyone nodded, and then it was go time.
It was always a bit of a rush to go into a more heavily populated area. The truth of it was, Dean was pretty out of practice. He had kept Lisa and Ben to the unpopulated edges. Bounced from safe house to safe house. Or storage garage. Always on the outskirts; never in a city.
Dean was really impressed with how the prison residents, as he kept thinking of them, handled themselves. It was Dean's plan, but it was obvious from the start that these people were quick and experienced. Michonne and Daryl worked together beautifully, their defense like a dance. He couldn't say the same about him and Cas. For some reason, Cas was intent on using a knife like all of the regular old humans. He actually did a fair job, fighting two-handed with his angel sword in one hand and a survival knife in the other. Dean briefly wondered where he got the knife, then he focused on looking for radios and walkie talkies.
Unfortunately, Cas didn't really guard his back so much as stalk through the store calling for croats. “Cas! Keep it down, will you? There are surely more inside the mall. We don't want them breaking through the doors to come at us, okay?”
“Oh, sorry.” Cas looked around. “But I've already killed all the ones in here.”
“Great job! How's about you grab some bags and start loading up with anything that seems useful? A lot of this technology stuff won't really work anymore. Skip it over and we'll go find clothes or food.”
Dean grabbed several different kinds of radios, mp3 players (which he had been envying since he saw Rick's), and stacks of cds from a box near the counter. Cas brought out three boxes of batteries that he found in the store's back rooms. They loaded it all into the trunk of the Impala, and Dean was pleased to see that there was still plenty of room. Now that they mentioned it, Ben was going to be needing some bigger shoes very soon. And it was a little late for winter coats, but he'd had to wear a blanket or Dean's leather jacket around all season, so Dean wanted to see if he could find any big enough for next year.
It looked like Sam and Sasha were bringing out what food hadn't been looted from a Mexican place next door, so they headed the other direction toward a JC Penney. Dean gave Cas a few pointers before they headed in, and it was much easier going even though there were technically more croats. They didn't have time to hit the changing rooms or anything, but Dean got coats and shoes for everybody in his group, and he even picked out a few expensive-looking outfits for Jody. Technically that was a gift for both Jody and Bobby.
They filled the rest of the trunk, and they had to put all the big coats up front to just cover up with. It was a decent run. They hurried back to grab stacks of clothes for the prison folks, making sure there was plenty of baby items, both for Judith and any other kids that came down the line.
The back of the Ford was pretty full. Dean was glad to see that over half of it was food. “Gotta go, gotta go!” Sasha screamed, and she and Sam threw heavy boxes in the back. “Go, go, go!”
Dean turned just in time to see a horde falling out of the Mexican restaurant behind them. He scrambled into the Impala, screaming for Cas as he saw Sam and Sasha just dive into Daryl's truck bed. Little room left there, Michonne cut a swathe through the oncoming croats as she hurried to join Dean and Cas in the Impala.
“Nice haul,” she said as they sped away.
Dean hooted and floored the pedal. “Yes, it was. Not bad at all.”
Back at the gas station, Sasha danced around, flushed with excitement. “We made it out into the food court,” Sasha explained. “There were lots of them inside, but Sam was amazing. And so much food was left unlooted! We snuck two loads out before Michonne had to come for backup. The meat and stuff was bad – ugh, those freezers stank! But we have so many cans of fruits and vegetables, lots of rice, beans, and nuts. Even ice cream cones! I don't know what to do with them, but we have some.”
“After seeing your farm set up,” Dean admitted, “I'm thinking about getting a goat. Or, no, maybe cows. Milk and meat.”
“You can eat goat.”
“Huh. Not me.”
“Okay, that herd is probably going to try to follow us,” Daryl said. “Think we ought to go. I know we were gonna part ways, but we got enough gas. How about we see you back and share some of this food with you?”
Sam looked at Dean questioningly, putting an arm around Sasha's shoulders. Dean rolled his eyes. “It's all the way out on the Mississippi River.”
“Really?” Sasha looked at her friends. “Well, we have gas. We just won't stay too long. You guys already cleared the roads, right?”
“Back roads. It'll take a bit longer, but if you don't mind, fine. Can we be done with the stops though? You gotta pee, go now. Next stop, Winchester Manor.” Dean didn't mention that they'd not even been there a week before he and Sam had left on their hunt. He just hoped to find everything in order, and everyone still alive, when they got there.