Chapter 17

"Wha th hell?" Sam said, frowning up at Dean blearily.

Dean pressed his forehead against his brother's, relief making him light headed. "Oh God, Sammy," he gasped weakly into Sam's face. "You scared the crap out a me."

Sam laid a hand against Dean's chest and shoved feebly. "D..don call me S…s…"

Dean choked out a laugh. "I know, I know. Sorry man." He heard the scrunch of boots in snow and looked up to see a wide, wondering smile on Abby's face. She stood in the falling snow with her arms full of gear.

"Abby, give me that stuff," Dean prodded her.

"Oh, yeah." She knelt beside them shaking her head. "Wow, Dean. Do you know what you just did? I mean, wow Dean!"

"Help me; we have to get this frozen jacket off him."

Abby shook her head again. Dean hadn't noticed that the canvas jacket was no longer frozen, but sopping wet.

Sam groaned as Dean lifted him.

"You hurt?"

"Some. M..mossly c..col."

"Yeah. We're gonna fix that." They peeled off the wet coat. All three struggled to get Sam's arms into the parka; his movements were clumsy, more of a hindrance than a help. When they finally zipped the thick, down parka snugly up to his neck, he let out a shaky sigh.

Abby tugged the wool cap onto his head then found each hand and checked his fingers for frostbite. There was none. It should have cost him his fingers. By the time Dean got him into dry socks and boots, Sam was trembling uncontrollably. Dean might have brought Sam back from the brink, but he was still in danger as long as they were outside.

The snow fell faster than ever. They'd been working instinctively with their backs to the wind. When Abby looked around, it pounded her with random, breathtaking gusts. It'd take them at least an hour to make it back to the SUV; that was if they could keep Sam on a sled and alive. Digging in, trying to rig up some kind of shelter would mean an even more likely death sentence for all three of them. Even with all the right gear it'd be tough to survive out in this. They didn't have all the right gear. The weather service said that the snow would likely taper off by midnight, but then they'd lose the cloud cover and the temperature would plummet. They hadn't come prepared for this kind of a rescue.

"Dean. We have to get to shelter," Abby shouted.

"I know," he said.

Abby could barely make out the snowmobiles just ten feet away; their headlights slicing through the darkness seemed to emerge from nowhere. The track left by the stolen snowcat was only a slight indentation leading up the hillside. The grim look on Dean's face told her she wouldn't have to argue with him. His thoughts had taken the same bitter path as hers. There was only one shelter they could hope to reach.

Dean tipped his head toward the quickly disappearing trail. "We need to get moving."

Abby fought down a surge of panic. She felt circumstances twisting, herding them along. Yes, they'd planned to confront the demon in the ruins, but not like this.

She jumped. Dean had touched her cheek with icy cold fingers.

"You're not alone."

Despite the wind and the muffling parka hoods, she heard him clearly; or maybe just read his lips or his eyes. They gazed at her calm and clear. Abby reached up and squeezed his outstretched hand. She managed a smile.

She went to the sled for the red Ski Patrol duffel, then they each grabbed an arm and hauled Sam to his feet.

"Sam, you gotta walk," Dean yelled. The wind snatched away both words and breath, but Sam jerked his head up and down in what Dean accepted as a nod. Heads bent into the wind they kept their eyes glued to the trail and plowed doggedly up the rise.

Dean didn't realize how far they'd come till Sam planted his feet and pulled them up short.

"What's wrong?" he shouted, following Sam's gaze up. Despite a face full of snow, he made out the silhouette of a huge tree. The twisted, black branches creaked as the wind made them dance.

"No. N…no, D…Dean!" Sam's teeth chattered so hard he could barely get the words out.

"It's okay, Sammy. We've got to get out of this storm." Dean hated to do this to him, he knew his brother was living his nightmare. "Come on, Abby!" They both tightened their grips and forced Sam on.

Past the tree, the ground sloped into the hollow. The dark morados, much larger than Dean had expected looked oddly softened by the heavy layer of snow covering the jagged, caved-in roof. Dean guided them off the snowcat's track. He hoped they'd run into the wall of the low section of building Sam had sketched jutting out from the side of the main church.

He and Abby were gasping with the effort of dragging Sam by the time they found it. Dean kept them moving along the wall. They rounded the back corner and ducked into a dark, recessed doorway. Still carrying most of Sam's semiconscious weight on one arm, dean yanked the solid wooden door's handle with his free hand. It opened no more than a crack.

"Let me try," Abby shouted. She let go of Sam then got down on hands and knees and dug the snow away from the base of the door. With one foot braced against the wall, she pulled. Three good jerks and it was open. Abby slipped through.

Dean missed a clumsy grab for her. "Damn it!" He hung back, eyes glued to the dark rectangle, straining to hear any cry for help. When Abby finally stuck her head around the door and gestured them to come on, Dean started breathing again.

She shined a flashlight on the ground, lighting their way over two treacherously crumbling steps.

Dean leaned his brother against the wall. "Keep him upright for a second," he told Abby. She moved next to Sam and wrapped her arm around his waist.

Dean pulled the heavy wooden door closed. The noise and fury of the storm went dull, the sudden quiet stuffing his ears like cotton. The only sounds now were their labored breathing and the occasional creek as the old timber roof adjusted to the weight of snow.

The long, dark hallway diminished to the size of a rabbit hole in the flashlight beam. Its low ceiling leaked snow like cascading fairy dust that piled up on the floor. The rough stone walls were draped with the cobwebs.

Abby pulled from her hair. "Nobody's been this way in a very long time," she whispered. "I got a face full of frozen cobwebs when I stepped through. No tracks in the snow or in the debris on the floor."

"We're too exposed here," Dean said.

"There are small rooms all along the left side. This must have been the monk's dormitory wing. Let's find one with the roof intact then I can work on Sam."

The second door they tried opened into a relatively snow-free room. Cramped and low, it looked like a prison cell to Dean. One long narrow slit in the outside wall seemed a stingy way to let in air and light. Fortunately for them, it was covered by a wooden shutter that still did a decent job of keeping out the elements. The remains of a crumbling wooden cot and a small table were the only hints of any furniture. On the wall above the rotting cot, a rusted set of manacles dangled. Dean shivered.

They laid Sam on the gritty floor. Dean took off his cap and gloves to form a makeshift cushion for Sam's head. While he double-checked the mittens and snugged Sam's wool cap down, Abby moved her flashlight around the walls. She stopped the light on an iron sconce that held a very rusty, old oil lamp.

"Good enough," she whispered and headed to it.

Dean was about to protest her taking the light when he heard her mutter a few words and watched her blow gently on the lamp. It lit, filling the room with a mellow flood of light. Abby turned the flashlight off and dropped it into her pocket. Dean gaped at her.

"How did you do that?"

She dropped her duffel beside Sam and started pulling out supplies: a thermos, a candle, little packets of herbs. When Abby stopped and looked up at him, a tiny smile momentarily lifted the tense set of her lips. "The lamp remembers."

He arched a brow at her. "Oh. Sure."

Dean felt a hand at his elbow and looked down to see Sam's face pinched with effort. He was trying to talk past chattering teeth, couldn't manage.

"Sam, you're gonna be alright." His brother's eyes looked desperately afraid. "Abby, he's shivering like hell. Can you hurry with whatever cocktail you're servin'?"

When Abby didn't respond, he looked over at her impatiently.

Her eyes were wide, the thermos frozen, tipped over the cup.


"Shhhh. Listen," she hissed.

Dean stopped breathing, literally, straining over the sudden pounding in his ears to hear what had put that look on Abby's face.

Voices. A deep, rasping chant somewhere far off in another part of the ruins. Dean felt a tingling flush run along the surface of his skin as every hair on his body attempted to stand up under the weight of winter gear.

Abby's head jerked toward the open door. A heartbeat...two... Dean heard a new sound.

Out of the inky blackness, just outside the door, a low, phlegmy laugh echoed.

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