Abby stood and rubbed her hands together briskly, feeling re-energized, "Okay, you guys head on upstairs. The guest room's in the loft on the left. I'm gonna get a couple things, then I'll be right up."
"You're gonna cast the spell right now?" This was moving too fast for Dean.
"Sure, Sam's exhausted. There's no time like the present."
The boys watched her almost skip into the kitchen.
"She's having fun," Dean remarked blandly. "Let's hope it's in a 'Glenda, Good Witch of the North' kind of way and not a Wicked Witch of the..."
"At this point, I'm too fried to care," Sam sighed. Dean circled the couch to grab his elbow as he stood up. Sam jerked his arm free, "Hey, I'm not that fried! Jeez, Dean." But the stairs up to the loft looked long and steep. "Hey, you think she has real beds or just some kind of cots up there?"
"Beds. Absolutely. Blankets and pillows too, bro."
"Oh God! I swear I'll give her a million dollars if I sleep through the night." Sam was pleased to see his feet were moving.
"Watch it; remember she knows when you're lying."
"I'm not lying; if I ever have it, sweet dreams or no dreams tonight, it's hers."
The familiar flow of banter carried them into the loft.
At the top of the stairs Sam stopped.
"What's wrong?" Dean gently pushed his brother out of the way. His jaw dropped. "Oh, no."
Abby came up behind them. "What? What's so funny?"
"This…this must have been your room?" Sam asked, between gasps.
Puzzled, but beginning to figure out that she wasn't going to get in on the joke, she was the joke, Abby said, "Yeah, so?" She set the basket of supplies on to a bedside table.
"It's so…it's just so…Pink!" Dean's eyes were bright, at her expense true, but the veil of worry he'd worn all evening had lifted. The humiliation that colored her cheeks was worth it.
"So what's wrong with pink?" Abby asked with mock indignation. The boys doubled over. "Hey, I was fourteen when I decorated this room! I haven't gotten around to redoing it for company." Honestly, she couldn't see what was so bad about it. Her two twin beds were covered in cheery, pink satin bed spreads with layered ruffles flowing down the sides. Purple and lime-green throw pillows accented each one. Her grandmother had found the plush, pink rug, shaped like a giant heart on sale at Target. Okay, the teddy bear lamps were a bit much, but come on…
Sam collapsed on the nearest bed. A shower of pillows and Beany Babies bounced to the floor. "Oh man, the dreams I'll be having in this bed might be worse than the nightmare."
"Okay, enough dissing the witch. Sam, get ready for bed. I've got a few things to set up." She met identically awkward stares. Oh, modesty, right. She grimaced. "Uh, I'll just go downstairs for a minute then."
Dean shrugged at Sam's raised eyebrows then slouched over to the other bed. Sam kicked off his boots and started to shrug out of his flannel shirt. His movements were slow, his limbs pleasantly heavy. His sleeve tangled at his wrist and Dean tugged it off his hand then helped him with the other side. "Abby's really somethin', isn't she? I think…" Sam pulled his t-shirt over his head.
Dean caught the clothes as Sam dropped them. "What'd you say?" he asked.
"I said, I think everything'll be all right tonight. I feel good here. Better than I have in a long time."
Dean pulled the edges of the bed spread back. The boys blinked at the rainbow of flowers exposed on the sheets. "Get in touch with your feminine side, bro. Climb in."
Sam scowled, but couldn't resist the urge to be horizontal. "Oh man!" he sighed. "I just have to keep my eyes closed and this is the most perfect bed I've ever...You gonna be alright; with the spell casting and all that?"
"Oh yeah, I'll be fine. I'm more worried about what I'm gonna find under the other bed spread over there."
Sam smiled faintly, turned onto his side. "Wish me luck," he breathed and was asleep.
"Good luck, Sammy." Dean looked down into Sam's face and clenched his fists around the jeans he was still holding.
"Is he already asleep?" Abby whispered as she came up the stairs.
Dean dropped Sam's jeans onto a chair. "Yeah, the minute his head hit the pillow."
"Good." She crossed the loft to her basket and began to pull out her tools. "We'd better get started, he'll be dreaming soon."
"Did you say, we?"
"Sure." She smiled at the dismay on his face. "Don't worry. Here, take this and put it on the floor at the north corner of the bed."
"Yeah. Okay. Which corner is north?" He took the small, carved, wooden bowl from her hands. It was full of salt or sugar. He stuck his finger in it to find out which; tasted salt.
"North is on the right side, up at the head of the bed." She pointed. "North is aligned with the Earth element."
Dean gave a derisive snort as he squatted beside the bed. Abby bit her tongue and decided to ignore him for the moment. She got out another bowl, this one pewter, and filled it with water from a matching flask. "Set this one on the west corner. Can you…"
"Yeah, I can figure out the direction now. So, we'll set up all four elements?"
"Yes. I usually cast a circle with only three, but since we're specifically protecting Sam's sleep, I decided to ask Water too."
"Ask water. Oh, good idea," Dean muttered.
"Dean, if you can't crack your mind open just a little bit, you might as well…"
"I'm sorry. I'll get with the program. Heck, after all I've seen why shouldn't I give Wicca a chance, right?"
"Right. Just shelve the doubts for a little while, okay?"
He nodded and set the pewter bowl on the floor.
Moving to the next corner of the bed, Abby lit a candle. She held a bundle of herbs over the flame, let them flare briefly then blew them out. A slender tendril of smoke rose slowly into the air. Dean caught the scents of rosemary and lemon.
When Abby switched off the light, violet-grey moonlight fell through the curtains. Barely a flicker before, now the candle loomed up large in the dark and set everything in the room twitching. Dean looked away from the flame to let his eyes adjust and caught sight of Abby in the moonlight… She's morphed again!
She'd left her moccasins downstairs. The flawless, pale skin of her legs and face reflected light sources, moon and flame, so perfectly that she glowed like a gas light in the fog. Sensuality wafted from her like a perfume. He couldn't tear his eyes away. Way, way out of my depth here.
Abby stepped slowly toward him. "Casting a spell is like a prayer or meditation on a specific intent," she explained in the low voice they'd both adopted to avoid waking Sam. "Everybody has a protective circle around them. Most never know it exists. I'll give you a little demonstration." She faced him a bit more than arm's distance away. "There's nothing threatening about our positions now, right?" Her smile was open and secretive both at once.
"Right, threatening's not the word I'd use."
Moving smoothly, she took one giant step toward him. Now he could feel her breath on his face, feel the warmth of her body radiating down the length of his. He swallowed and nearly rocked back a step, but caught himself.
"Ah, now this is uncomfortable. I'm inside your circle, uninvited. Even though I haven't touched you, I've invaded your space and that's threatening."
Their eyes met and for a moment Dean thought he might lose himself in that gaze. Abby stepped back.
There was a new huskiness to her whisper. "What we're going to do now is strengthen Sam's protective circle."
"With the help of the elements."
"Yeah, and our own powers."
"Uh, I don't think I have any powers, Abby. That's you and Sam's department."
"Everybody's got powers, Dean. Not everybody learns to use them, but they're everywhere in everything." She waved him into the gingham chair. And you'll totally screw up the vibes if you don't relax. She knelt in front of him, her patchwork skirt pooling around her, then reached for his hands turning them palms up. You could tell a lot from a person's hands, as any good palm reader knew. Like the rest of Dean's body, his hands felt strong and lean. He wore no rings. The rough calluses on his palms told her he wasn't afraid of work. The ones on his knuckles said he wasn't afraid of a fight either. When she placed her palms lightly against his, his fingers curled around hers.
Abby took a deep centering breath. "Are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be. Just tell me what to do."
"Okay. First take a deep breath and relax. Focus your thoughts on Sam; on specifically what we want tonight."
Dean turned to Sam's sleeping form under the blankets. "No friggin' demons in his dreams," he snarled.
"Right. Now, I'm going to open my Sight." He shifted uncomfortably. "I won't be reading your mind or anything. Seeing your aura is just a byproduct of being open for the casting."
"It's alright. Let's get on with it." He watched her walk silent-footed to kneel beside the bowl of salt. She tipped it. White crystals glistened in the candle light as they flowed into a small heap on the floor. Dean tensed when drew an ornately carved dagger from a pocket in her skirt and held it in her right hand, point down. But, she only inscribed three clockwise circles over the sparkling pile with the dagger's point.
"Mother earth, Gaia, this is your son, protect his rest, rebuild his strength. Enfold him in your perfect love." Abby stood, and this time chanting her incantation in Latin, she inscribed a larger circle, one that enclosed the whole bed.
Dean blinked. In a trick of the light, he thought he could actually see the circle, pale and green; glowing around Sam. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again. It was still there.
Okay, open my mind. Take a deep breath, Dean thought. He focused on the hallucination and imagined strengthening it. The circle glowed brighter. Abracadabra, man.
Abby let her arms glide to her sides, then with a dancer's grace moved clockwise to the east corner, Fire. She knelt again, completely serene; every movement unintentionally seductive.
Again, she inscribed three small circles with the dagger, this time over the flame. With each motion Dean could swear that the tip of the dagger glowed brighter.
"Spirit of fire, warrior's soul, guard your brother's rest tonight. Rekindle the strength of his heart. He has work to do."
It has to be real! Dean could see the red glow leave the dagger's tip as Abby sketched a larger circle in the air. He reached for everything he felt for his younger brother and focused his thoughts; Keep the bastards out. Leave him alone while he sleeps. Let him dream of fine women and basketball and Abby's stew.
Abby released her connection to Fire, preparing to move on to Air. Dean's aura had been glowing steadily in her peripheral vision since she started. As she moved to the southern quarter, it expanded toward the circles enclosing Sam's bed. Sam's aura leapt to meet his brother's. She smiled, closed her eyes and let the easy harmony of the three of them flow in and out with her breath.
"Mighty Air. Sweep away the evil tendrils that twist your brother's dreams. Guard his rest." A golden circle coiled around and between the other two.
The last call, Water, would be the key, for water was the realm of dreams and of love and a more perfect binding she couldn't imagine. She knelt one last time at the bowl of water and dipped her blade into it.
"Dear sister Water, queen of dreams, you are your brother's best and brightest hope. Wash the taint of the evil ones from his sleep. Send him dreams to buoy him up. Let him sleep in perfect trust of our protection." The blue line of power wove itself in perfect counter point to Air, Earth and Fire and the circle was complete.
She breathed her thanks to the elements then quietly stepped back and closed her Sight with a sigh. Dean sat in her silly gingham chair absolutely still, his gaze fixed on Sam. Though she couldn't see it now, she knew that his aura was still firmly focused on pouring energy into the circles. Abby gently laid her hands on his shoulders.
"Dean." She breathed. "He's alright now. We did great. That's got to be one of the strongest circles I've ever cast."
"We did it," he whispered. "The circles were awesome."
"You saw them?"
"Yeah. Green, red, gold, blue all kind of woven together." Abby's eyebrows rose. "What's the big deal?"
"Well, nothing much, except it took me months to sharpen my focus and unclutter my mind enough to actually See what I was doing when I cast a spell." She knelt beside his chair resting her hands on his forearm and smiled. "You've got real witch potential, Mr. Winchester."
He shook his head, knuckling his eyes, "Ooooh no. I'll leave the psychic gig to you and Sam." He stood with a huge yawn.
It was contagious. Abby suddenly felt every minute of the long, dramatic day settle like a heavy blanket on her shoulders.
Dean took her hand and pulled her to her feet.
"Whooa." She stumbled against his chest. "Sorry. Must have come up too fast." One hand dropped to his bicep; firm as the branch of a tree. She was acutely aware of the warmth of his hands around her waist steadying her. Drawing her closer.
His breath warmed her lips before he leaned close, and kissed her.
She slid her hand up along the beard-roughened line of his jaw and kissed him back. The weight of the long day disappeared. Their bodies pressed together and she lost herself in the rush of heat that swept from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.
When their lips parted, Dean let out a slow, shuddering breath. She saw her own surprise mirrored in his brown eyes.
"Wow, that was…unexpected," Abby breathed. All on its own, her hand drifted toward his neck again. She stopped it at his cheek, ran her thumb along his bottom lip still glistening from the kiss, and sighed. Her next words came out in a whisper as if she hoped he wouldn't hear them. "And, we both really need to get some rest."
"Yeah?" Dean had been tired; about two minutes ago. But now, what he really wanted was another couple hours to kiss the weariness from this woman's face, to memorize the arch of her dark brows and the smoothness of her cheek, the curve of that sweet mouth…Ah crap!
What he needed was a cold shower. What the hell did he think he was doing?
Dean had a lot of respect for women, but only had two types of relationships with them: professional, meaning he worked with, rescued or used them in the hunt; and sexual, meaning pure unencumbered, uncomplicated playtime, no emotional entanglements allowed. He was very upfront and had no shortage of enthusiastic playmates. In homage to the "no entanglements" rule he was fanatical about practicing safe sex.
When Dean felt potentially dangerous twinges in the area of his heart, he had an off-switch, very effective. If necessary, it could be combined with getting the hell out of Dodge.
He'd just met this woman and already several dangerous signals had gone unheeded. Off-switch? What off-switch? Dean stepped back. Separating their bodies took conscious effort; like pulling two magnets apart.
"Yeah, we ought to get some sleep." He noticed that his hands were still circling her waist and forced them to his sides. "I'll, see you in the morning."
"Yeah, you will." She beamed up at him like that was the best news she'd heard all day.
He tried not to return that smile.
"Don’t stay up all night watching over Sam. He'll be okay. We did a great job."
Dean let the smile come. "I know. Abby thanks, for everything tonight. It's been... amazing."
"You're welcome." She gave his hand a final squeeze, then she was gone.
As he climbed into sheets almost loud enough to require earplugs, he argued a losing battle with himself. A treacherous little voice kept saying… Abby already knows your secret. She won't be like the others. She's a hunter too.
Right, she's a hunter. He answered the voice. So she knows we work alone.
The traitor again. You hunt with your brother.
That's completely different. She's a woman!
You're a chauvinist pig.
Oh, for God's sake, I'm going nuts!
He finally slept promising himself that the kiss had been nothing more than the result of a post witchcraft buzz. A dream woke him once in the night. The only thing he remembered was the scent of Abby's breath and the softness of her hair.
Crap! He grumbled, turned over, and fell soundly asleep.