A heavy silence settled on Abby's living room. Their thoughts tumbled too fast for speech.
Dean's mouth caught up to his brain first. He stood, grabbed the tea tray and headed for the kitchen. "I'm sorry Abby, but we have to leave."
"What?" Sam's relief at finally getting some answers vanished.
"We're going now. We shouldn't have come here in the first place, Sam. Dad warned…"
"No! We're not running away from this!" Sam faced Dean across the couch. Anger and exhaustion tunneled his mind down to one thought; he was sick to death of having no way to fight back. "This is our job. It's what we do. Isn't that what you're always saying? It doesn't matter how we got here. We're not leaving until we stop this!"
"They're using your dreams to reel you in for the kill, Sam. You're giving them exactly what they want. If we get you away from here, their plans are screwed."
"How do you know that? Maybe they'll just choose another victim, Dean, and it'll start all over. Or maybe the dreams won't stop."
Despair edged his brother's voice. Dean's grip on the tea tray produced an ominous creak so he set it down and reached for Sam across the back of the couch. "How are you gonna fight them, Sam?" His hand tightened around a fist full of Sam's shirt. "Look at you. You're half dead already. You haven't slept for days! When you do, you wake up in a cold sweat. Before we got here, how long had it been since you ate a whole meal, huh?"
"What dreams?" Abby asked into the tense silence. She had watched them collide not knowing exactly what was going on. They were both desperate to stop whatever was happening to Sam. That was obvious. If it was nightmares, then maybe…
Sam grabbed his brother's wrist and twisted out of his grip. "I'm twenty-two years old, Dean. I don't need you watching every mouthful…"
"Damn it, somebody has to! You'd stumble right into their trap. You…"
"What dreams?!" Abby yelled. She was gratified to see that she'd finally gotten their attention. Then Dean turned his glare on her.
He growled, "Those friggin' priests have been sending Sam dreams…nightmares."
"We don't know that for sure."
"What else could it be, Sam?"
"Hold it!" Abby held her palms up, facing them like a traffic cop. “What. Dreams?”
Dean glanced at Sam daring him to interrupt again. "They're sending Sam nightmares somehow. Lotta snow, dead guys hangin' in a tree. Gruesome stuff. And it's killin' him."
She looked from one smoldering face to the other, "So Dean, your theory is they drew him to Colorado Springs to set him up for the ritual?"
Dean jabbed a finger at Sam. "Yes, Abby, that's exactly what I think. And that's why we have to go."
Sam huffed out a disgusted breath and dropped down on to the couch. "No. That’s why we have to stay!" The bastards are messing with my head. Why? He was glad for another flash of anger; it burned out the knot of fear in the pit of his stomach.
Abby rose and sat on the coffee table in front of Sam. "Guys, I can't tell you what to do, but I don't think leaving will help."
"Then what?" Dean asked hotly. "We just give up and let 'em have him?"
"No, of course not!" Abby said. "It's late and we're all too tired to think straight." I can't believe I'm about to say this. "Stay here tonight."
"That's not going to help Sam. He won't sleep…"
"Yes, he will." The absolute certainty in Abby’s tone dropped into the room like an ice cube in boiling water. John's gonna kill me, Abby thought, but plunged on. "Sam, you won't have nightmares tonight; not here."
Sam lifted his head from his hands. Disbelief clear on his face.
"As long as you're in this house, you're protected from the coven or any other bad psychic mojo out there."
Dean stepped up and gripped the back of the couch. "Protected how?"
"My grandparents lived here from the day they got married. They raised their kids here. I'm the third generation. This house is a loving home." Dean rolled his eyes. "There's power in that, Dean! And, remember, my grandmother was a kick-ass witch. The herb garden you passed through so easily would've stopped anyone demon-tainted before they could open the gate."
"Oh come on! A bunch of dead flowers? This is nuts."
"The protection comes from the garden, the trees, the family and some very powerful wards my grandmother set around the place that I've beefed up. My home is a psychic fortress! Sam, I promise you not one of those priests could walk in here bodily or otherwise." She put her hands over Sam's and squeezed tightly. She knew she could help him. Please just give me a chance!
Sam searched Abby's face for some clue to the source of her certainty. He could feel hope poking at his frayed nerves; threatening to keep him from thinking straight. Needing it to be true won't make it true. He stared at the remains of Abby's tea potions, the fire burning low in the hearth, at all the smiling faces in the pictures on the mantel. There's power in a loving home.
He felt a weight lift as realization dawned. He'd felt more relaxed and safe tonight than he had in days. He didn't have to trust Abby's word alone. His own gut was telling him that he could let his guard down here. He met Abby's eyes again.
"How can you be sure?" Sam asked, trying to keep the desperate hope out of his voice. "The dreams are real. I wake up shivering and bruised like I've actually lived through them." He glanced over at Dean, knowing this little revelation wasn't going to sit well. It hadn't.
Abby caught the brief interplay. Between Sam radiating exhausted determination and Dean barely suppressing his urge to hit something; her own stomach was in knots. She narrowed her eyes at Sam and thought for a minute. "I'm sure the house alone could protect you, but I can add another layer. I can cast a protective circle around you for the night."
"Cast a circle? You mean like cast a spell on him?" Dean shifted uneasily.
"Not on him, around him. It's complicated." Abby felt her jaws clench as she watched Dean pace. Maybe if she turned him into a slug and back he'd get the idea. A grin tugged at the corners of her mouth. She firmly tugged them back. How could she make them understand in fifty words or less what it meant to be Wiccan. She leaned toward Sam, his hands in hers. "Please, just trust me."
"Dean, I've got to rest, man.” Sam turned to his brother. “I think the nightmares would find me no matter where we went. I can feel the taint of pure evil every time they get inside my head. And I can't…" He clenched his teeth and swallowed hard as a hitch in his voice surprised him. "I've got to take this chance."
"I promised you sweet dreams," Abby said squeezing Sam's hands.
Dean frowned at them. There was so much at stake. Sam's life. And something new; a craving for something from so deep in his past it shocked him to realize he still remembered it. The last time he'd had a home, their mom had been alive, and this place... All he knew was, it felt good and fragile and he didn't want to test it and have it all turn out to be an illusion or worse, a lie. But looking at the two of them he saw he didn't have any choice. He was going to have to swallow his doubts at least for tonight.
"Cast your circle," Dean told her.
Abby grinned at Sam as he bristled with annoyance. "We'll let your big brother think he just gave us permission."
Sam's angry words became a choked laugh.