Sam and Abby took the first few nights in four hour shifts. Nightmares surfaced as promised and not just with Dean. Nobody got much sleep.
Every morning Liz arrived like a USO volunteer to cheer up the beleaguered troops, brewing coffee, frying bacon and eggs or whipping up a batch of cinnamon rolls. She always left them with something bubbling away in the crock pot for dinner.
Within four days some semblance of natural sleep patterns had returned. Sleeping arrangements had also solidified by mutual, but unspoken agreement, with Sam upstairs and Abby and Dean down. Dean's nightmares woke them all less and less frequently. Sam listened through the heating vents to the muffled sounds of his brother's frustrated curses in the middle of the night and Abby's murmured reassurances till silence returned and he could drift back to sleep.
The smell of a hard-boiled egg, a heavy book dropped casually on to Dean's lap, triggered flashbacks. As horrifying as they were for him, they had an equally gut wrenching effect on the two people watching him go through them. The startled moments before Abby and Sam realized what was happening, desperate attempts to pull Dean out of it without making it worse, then bringing him down trembling and sweating when it was over, left all three of them strung out.
They drank a lot of Doc's teas.
After making it through the two days flashback free, Dean dared to hope that he'd plugged most of the leaks and he wasn't going to lose his sanity after all.
At the end of the week, Doc made another visit and pronounced everyone to be healing admirably. He gave permission for outings and solo showers for Dean, if he cared to do so. He did not.
Sam ventured out of the house first and found himself on campus. During his previous visit there, only a little more than a week ago, he'd been too addled by the coven to take much in. Now every afternoon he drove the Impala, parked off campus and walked to the library indulging himself in memories of his all too brief foray into normal life at Stanford.
When he and Jess lived together, she was forever tempting him away from his books and admonishing his taciturn outlook on life. Every Saturday night Jess pulled him off to get-togethers with friends. She called Sam her Mystery Man from the Midwest. Ridiculous. Endearing.
Sam ended his walks onto campus in the rare books room. He found a willing ally in Carl. They spent each afternoon researching entries in John's journal and trying to find answers to what it meant to be angel-touched and a guardian.
The snow that the storm had deposited like an afterthought at the base of the range Halloween night had melted under the onslaught of blazing sun and clear blue skies of a mild November.
Abby and Dean wandered outside around her property. They talked about themselves, their lives, family, relationships, sports, movies, the weather, anything and everything except the hunt. There was a sense of urgency in their exploration as if they needed to learn and experience everything about each other quickly to store it up for the long, inevitable dry spell to come. John was still missing.
Abby led Dean slowly around the house to a spot some little distance from her kitchen window. They sat in an old, oak porch swing that hung from three thick cedar posts. Abby wrapped them both in a quilt. The sun, not quite risen to noon warmed their backs and lit the mountain range before them like a grand movie set.
There was that awe again.
Abby started the swing moving with the tip of her booted toe. They rocked and took in the view with their shoulders pressed together and their fingers intertwined.
"This is free?" Dean asked and swept his arm out to indicate the panorama.
After several moments disturbed only by the chatter of a flock of grackles in the dormant grass, Dean shifted, sending the swing into a wobbly rock.
"You cold?" Abby reached up to pull the quilt higher up on his shoulders.
His eyes were cast down. He was running a finger back and forth across the silver bracelet on her wrist. "Abby, talk to me about talismans."
She was surprised by this choice of topic since it skirted so close to the edge of shop talk, but she picked up the little angel hanging as it always did at his neck.
"Sam gave this to you?"
"Yeah. He was about eight.” Dean's hand came up and she dropped the angel into his palm.
The little angel's silver surface shone dully in his palm. He'd never polished it. The engraving that once must have represented feathers on the tiny outspread wings was barely visible. Fine scratches and dents marred the robes and head of the figure.
"Do you know where he got it?"
“Hmm. A talisman can be anything; a rabbit's foot, a stone." She shrugged. "Each bearer imbues the talisman with his or her own…vibe." Abby held up her wrist. Her talisman, the simple twist of silver, glowed in the sunlight. "My dad gave me this. He bought it in a shop in Mexico. I don't know its history, but it has meaning to me. That lets me use it as a focus for my spells."
Abby glanced up at Dean expecting skepticism, finding only quiet attentiveness. She went on, "Now when a talisman is a gift like yours, it carries a measure of the power of the giver too. The most potentially powerful talisman is one intentionally passed from one person to another."
"Right. Blood ties would be the strongest, but any loving relationship would strengthen it; husband to wife, lover to lover, friend to friend. The stronger the bond, the stronger the talisman."
Dean held his pendant in the sun light. A memory of the demon's breath on the little figure tightened his chest. He closed his fist, heart hammering.
Abby pressed closer. "Dean?"
"I'm okay." Once he was sure he really was, he let his hand drop into his lap. Abby's fingers curled back into his and he felt her relax beside him. “I want to learn to use it."
"I'll teach you."
That night and several after, they gathered back home around the kitchen table and experimented with Dean's "guardian powers”. They met mostly with frustration. The power to heal Sam seemed to be dependent on life threatening situations. Laying hands on Sam's blistered finger when he burned it on a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven had no effect. Sam went for an ice cube instead.
One of the last nights they were together, Abby came home from work bearing gifts.
"Wow, it's turning cold out there." Abby bent over a bag as she set it on the floor, rubbing cold hands together.
"Come over here and let me warm you up." Dean patted the couch and gave her a wolfish grin.
Abby turned a smoldering little smile on him. "I've got a surprise for you," she cooed.
Dean swallowed. His eyebrows inched toward his hairline. He shot a glance toward the kitchen where Sam was busy putting the finishing touches on dinner.
Abby walked to the couch with her hands behind her back. "Turn around. No peaking."
Dean complied and she came up behind him, her belly lightly brushing the back of his head. With a throaty chuckle he tilted his head back and she leaned down to give him a Spider Man kiss. He reached up and ran his fingers into the curls at the base of her neck. A pleasant little moan escaped her.
Sam cleared his throat. "What 'cha got behind your back there, Abby?" he caroled. They turned to him with totally unapologetic smiles.
"Just a little surprise to help you guys beef up that pitiful arsenal you have in the Bat Mobile."
Sam walked up to her, curious and she turned to keep her surprise hidden. Then, with a flourish, she said, "Tah-dah!" And brought her hands out to reveal two unbelievably garish and totally cool water guns.
"Whoa, Abby these are great!" Sam said as she handed him the yellow one.
Dean squinted. "Wow. Bright." He turned the weapon in his hands. It looked like a Disney Land versions of the Baretta.
"Of course it's bright. You wouldn't want to get confused in the middle of a brawl with a vampire and come up with bullets instead of holy water, would ya?"
"True. I hadn't thought of that."
"They each hold about a pint of holy water. Oh, and I talked to Father Brian. We can stock you up tomorrow morning."
"Great, thanks,” Dean said
"They're not loaded," Sam commented with a note of disappointment in his voice.
"You don't think I'm nuts enough to hand you two loaded water guns in my living room do you?" They looked down, guiltily noticing that the guns were already pointed not so innocently at each other.
Sam sputtered, "We wouldn't have…"
"What do you think we are, twelve?"
"I refuse to answer that question since I need your help finishing dinner.”