Abby whimpered; a panicky animal sound that sent a flare of outrage through Dean. Without a conscious thought, one hand curled into an iron grip around a handful of parka on his brother's chest, the other pulled out the Beretta and swung it toward the door.
"Get the witch," the voice outside rasped.
In the space of a blink, a black, ragged figure sprang out of the dark and straight over Dean's head moving faster than he could track. He got off two rounds that cracked like whips to his ear drums.
The lamp went out.
"Abby!" Dean yelled. He heard a scuffle from the far corner of the cell then nothing; absolutely nothing. Blind, he dared not swing the gun in her direction. He kept it aimed as near as he could to the doorway. Sam shivered violently under his grip.
The laugh rippled out in hideous mockery.
"Where are you, you son of a bitch?" Dean roared.
"Lux," the voice wheezed, and the room filled with a lurid red light.
Dean's blood went cold. A black, leather scarecrow pinned Abby's arms against the wall above her head in the corner of the tiny room. The thing gripped a jagged blade; its tip dimpled her throat. Abby's breath came in shallow gasps. Her wide, terrified eyes were fixed on the doorway.
"Let her go!" As Dean half rose from Sam's side, Vetis Izar Garanth stepped into the cell.
It was the old man they’d met in front of Abby’s house. Her neighbor. He'd gone from Senator Palpatine to evil emperor. His shoulders were stooped under the priestly robes he'd exchanged for the snappy business coat he'd worn that first day, but it was definitely the same guy. Skin hung loose and sickly pale on his bony face. Dark circles made his eyes look like two holes with cloudy yellow marbles at the bottom. Breath rattled in his chest like he was rotting from the inside.
Dean cocked the hammer of the gun and aimed it squarely at the thing's chest. "Tell that thing to let her go. Now."
The demon's mouth curved into a nasty grin. "Interesting dilemma," he said. "Will you leave your brother's side to save the witch?"
"Don't have to. When I blow you away your puppet priest will lose its strings. Kill two bastards with one stone, so to speak." Dean prayed that Abby's theory about the connection between demon and priests was right and that he wasn't bluffing.
The old man's eyes narrowed to jaundiced yellow slits then abruptly his face relaxed. He lifted his chin and nonchalantly waved a bony hand. "Your bullets would merely inconvenience me." Vetis's eyes went to Abby, still helpless under the priest. "It would take only a flick of the wrist to slit her throat." He nodded slowly. "But as you see, I haven't taken her life...yet. I spare her now as a gesture of good will."
"If you're looking to make some kind of trade, forget it. I'm not interested." Sam struggled feebly; Dean tightened his grip on the parka. "I figure to stick to our original plan."
The demon leaned one rounded shoulder against the door frame, completely unruffled by the threat. "You might try it. Even if the witch dies, you and the dreamer might manage to escape this sanctuary…out into the storm. I doubt, however that your brother would fare well." Another grin stretched his mouth. "It's cold as hell out there. Your range of options is quite narrow."
Dean could feel the burn starting in the shoulder of his gun hand. His other fist was clenched so hard around Sam's parka it ached. He'd give himself no longer than three minutes to keep this stand-off going.
Fear gnawed his belly, but fear he could handle. His answer to terror when neither fight nor flight was an immediate option - annoy your opponent.
He unballed the fist that clutched Sam's parka and laid his hand flat on his brother's chest. Hang on Sam.
"You know, you look like hell." Dean said with an easy smile. "My guess is you're runnin' outa juice. Sending nightmares, whipping your coven into shape, makin' your scarecrows dance…" He tipped his head to the back corner never taking his eyes off the demon. "…that's gotta take a lot out of an old man. Especially since my dad and a little, old granny kicked your butt last time you tried to recharge." Dean heard a squeaky, only slightly hysterical giggle from Abby behind him. He gave an inward sigh of relief. She was coming around.
The demon's eyes flared. The sympathetic smile slipped.
It was Dean's turn to smirk. "I figure if we just sit here jawin' for a while you'll eventually keel over."
Dean flexed cold fingers around the Beretta and flirted with the impulse to pull the trigger and take their chances. Then he felt Sam take a deep shuddering breath against his palm. His brother's mittened hand closed firmly around Dean's wrist. Dean risked a glance down. Their eyes met and Sam's were sharp and clear. Maybe there was a chance.
He looked back and Vetis's smile had disappeared entirely. The demon had noticed Sam's awakening.
"You waste your powers, Guardian. I'd hoped for your cooperation; an exchange of your own free will." Vetis's face twisted angrily. "But as you have pointed out, I haven't the time to persuade you here."
Dean caught movement in the dark behind the old man; the second priest appeared at his shoulder.Sam struggled to get his elbows under him, but Dean pushed him back. "Stay down."
A rough cry erupted from behind them. Dean spun, half expecting to see a red ribbon of blood at Abby's throat.
The priest was pulling away, releasing Abby. She jumped back. It slashed out, but it no longer held a knife. Instead, the confused priest clutched a bright, pink Popsicle on a little wooden stick. Dean caught Abby's eyes. Her terror had been joined with fury and mischief that sparked and fizzed with energy.
"It's an illusion you fool!" the demon shouted. "Kill her!"
"Dean shoot him!" Abby screamed at the same time.
Time slowed. Dean saw Abby bring a knee up fast and hard into the priest's groin. She slammed a solid strike to its wrist and the Popsicle clattered to the floor with a disconcertingly metallic clang. Dean's eyes shot back to the priest as Sam began to struggle up. His finger tightened on the trigger. The cell plunged into darkness as black as pitch.
Two shots in quick succession didn't hit their mark. The demon's voice floated impossibly around the room rasping out commands; always out of reach. A chaos of limbs and blows, curses and groans ensued in the blackness.
Sam tried to stay out of Dean’s and Abby's way without leaving his brother's side; a tricky business. He didn't have the strength to put up a decent fight, but he strained all his senses to keep track of Dean.
A grunt of pain snapped Sam's head around. "Dean!"
Abby screamed his name too. In both their efforts to launch themselves in the direction they thought they could find Dean, Abby and Sam collided. Went down.
"Take the guardian! Lock them in," the demon commanded.
"No!" A booming crack. The shriek of rusty metal. As suddenly as it had begun, the fight was over.
Sam opened his arms and eyes wide, searching the dark. "Dean? Dean? Abby, is he here?"
"Oh God, Sam." Abby found Sam's hand and gripped it hard. "They took him," she gasped, sounding utterly bewildered. "They took him."