Chapter 56: Stroke of Midnight

Logan stood against the wall watching Winchester work. A couple of times he had to look away, and that was sayin' somethin'. Good thing they had lunch 'cause there weren't no way he could eat supper after this.

Winchester poured Holy Water from his bucket into some of the open wounds. The demon screamed, high pitched and hysterical, while the flesh bubbled and boiled. Looked like that black smoke escape trick didn't work inside one-a these traps.

"I asked you a question," Winchester said real calm, like he tortured demons every day. "I want an answer."

The demon shook his head, little streams of blood and water runnin' down his face and neck. He laughed and the sound made Logan's stomach seize up.

"It won't help," the demon said, looking Winchester right in the eye. "Dean and little Sammy? You're worried about your boys, Johnny? Aw, that's so sweet."

Winchester reached for another cup of water.

"Go ahead," the demon taunted. "It won't matter. Kill this meatsuit. I was looking for a good excuse to off him anyway." His lips curled up in a bloody smirk. "We don't like busybodies like this running around."

Meatsuit? Sounded like the demon was as crazy as Winchester.

Winchester shrugged, pulling a thick leather book out of his jacket. The demon laughed again.

"Go ahead," Winchester said in the same voice, "laugh it up, sparky. Straight back to Hell." He gave the demon a piercing look over the top of his book. "Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars."

"Don't you want to ask me more questions?" The demon acted more scared now. About time.

"Why?" Winchester was gruff and to the point. "You don't know a damn thing." He flipped through the pages of his book. Logan caught a glimpse inside it. Most of it was handwritten, like a journal or diary. "Here we go." One finger tapped on the page as a wolfish grin spread. "I hear this one hurts going down, but it's not as bad as being there."

"So I answer your questions and you let me go?" he asked. "All I have to do is tell you which demon has yellow eyes?"

"Yep." Winchester kept his book open. "But you don't know, so why are you wasting my time?"

"An exorcism, now that's wasting time," the demon replied. "I can make this worth your while. How about not having to worry about Dean for the next ten years?"

"What?" Winchester's frame stiffened, as did Logan's spine. Logan pushed off the wall he had been leanin' against to take a couple-a steps closer.

"I can arrange that," the demon promised. "It's easy. Then you won't have to worry about that son. Sam I can't do anything about, but I can protect Dean. For ten whole years."

Winchester frowned and shot a hard look his way. Logan shrugged. Like he was s'posed to know what was goin' on here?

"Why can't you protect Sam?" Winchester demanded. Now he sounded more like a father than some soldier on a mission.

The demon smiled again. "I don't know, that's above my paygrade. But I can help out with Dean. Tonight." He glanced at the wall clock and his grin broadened when he saw the minute hand pointed straight up. "Now."

Logan was getting all kinds of bad feelin's. He reached out to tap on Winchester's shoulder, but Dean's Pop shrugged him off.

"What's the payoff?" the seasoned hunter demanded. "Let me guess. My soul?"

The demon shrugged, still smiling.

Winchester threw the cup of Holy Water in its face. "Get Dean on the phone," he barked as the demon howled in agony. "Now!"

Dean stared up at the darkened ceiling of Adam's room wondering what in the hell he had done to piss Kate off like that. She seemed to like the idea of Libby coming when he discussed it with her on the phone a couple of days ago. Story of his life – whenever something good happened, something else always had to come along and screw it all to hell. Like Sam's full ride to Stanford. Sam going to college should've been -

His cell went off, breaking his train of thought. Oh, now what? Somewhat relieved at being called with problems outside of this house, Dean rolled over to rescue his cell from his jeans pocket.

An ear-piercing scream coupled with sheer horror and terror ripped through the house.

Adam sat bolt upright, eyes wide open. "What was that?"

Dean knew but he was too busy charging out the door and down the hall to answer when the second scream erupted from behind the guest room door. He burst through the door and flipped on the light.

A tangled lump of sheets and white comforter writhed in the bed, an amorphous blob like something from a monster movie. Dean crossed the distance from the door to the bed in a split second, grasping the sheets in his hands and giving a strong pull. A dazed Libby rolled out of the mess, hair plastered to the sides of her face with sweat, breathing heavy. Her eyes blinked slowly open, fighting the grips of the nightmare she was having.

"Dean!" she breathed, both arms lifting and desperation and need filling the room. He scooped her into a tight embrace while whispering quiet words of reassurance into her ear. Her arms clung tight around his neck. He could almost swear he could feel how hard her heart pounded inside her chest and the fear and adrenaline coursing through her body.

At complete odds with Libby's horror-induced emotions, smug pleased feelings drifted from the doorway. Dean turned his head to see Adam and Kate standing there. Adam's confusion was familiar and easy to identify, but this smugness was new. It was not Kate. Most likely, it was wearing her.

"What was it?" he asked when Libby's breathing slowed and she could talk.

"Bad dream. Huge fire," Libby explained, still sounding out of breath. "It was all over, engulfing everything. Then a man walked out of it. I wanted to run away but the fire stopped me. He was horrible, Dean." She leaned into him, her head pressed tightly against his chest. "He had these awful glowing eyes."

"Yellow?" Dean asked. So far her story matched every nightmare from the kids at the Institute. She nodded against him.

He leaned back to smile at her and felt her relax, a little, but it wasn't exactly safe yet. "I know just the thing for that, but I need to run out to the car. How about I leave Adam here to protect you?" Dean winked, hoping she would take the cue and not ask why.

Libby swallowed hard, her gaze darting between him and the doorway, before she nodded. "Sure. If you say so."

Yep, she was definitely a 'keeper'. Dean pressed a kiss to her sweaty forehead.

"Adam, you're in charge. I need your mom to help me grab some things from my car." He gave 'Kate' a knowing look and nodded towards the front of the house.

"We'll be right back, Adam," she said with a nasty grin and a casual wave.

Oh, he would enjoy this one.

"He ain't answerin'," Logan announced.

John's anger and frustration surged up and out his fist, crashing into the demon's face with an unsatisfying crack. The demon lifted its battered human head with a deep chuckle.

"Oh, Johnny. It's already started." He laughed in John's face. "I hope you said goodby the last time you saw him, because it really was the last time."

Every muscle and tendon in his body tensed, his nerves fired out orders to attack, hurt, maim, kill. His jaw clenched so tightly John could hear the strain in his teeth; they creaked. Mindless rage boiled up from deep within. John had not been aware of raising his fist to strike again, but he felt Logan holding him back.

"Let go," he growled.

"No, bub. It's my turn." John tried to fight the hands pulling him back but Logan was strong and determined. John spun to face his help on this case, determined to exert his authority. Instead he received a face full of three foot gleaming claws. The protest died on his lips and his rage settled. Some. Okay. Logan could take a turn.

Logan approached the demon, claws to the side.

"Find a new attack dog, Johnny?" the demon taunted with a sneer. "Thought you could do better than some worthless mutant." His black eyes peered around Logan at John. "Ol' Deano has been making some bad choices in friends lately, hasn't he?"

One set of claws turned the demon to face Logan, pressing hard enough into the flesh to make indentations but not hard enough to draw blood. "What do you know about Dean?" Logan's voice was a steady growl, perpetually angry, violence in every syllable.

The demon grinned brightly at Logan. "What don't I know?"

Logan made a nasty face. John wondered what he would do next when he saw trickles of blood running out from under the claws. Again the demon screamed, as if it had been doused with Holy Water. Logan shot John a questioning look, yanking his hands back and the claws retracting.

White smoke poured from each cut made by Logan's claws.

"What the hell are those?" the demon screamed, black eyes wide as it panted and stared at Logan's hands.

"Yeah, what are those?" John repeated.

Logan flicked his wrist and the claws erupted from his right hand. "Adamantium. Hardest alloy on Earth."

"That doesn't exist!" the demon yelled. "It's only a rumor!"

John gave Dean's friend a small grin in appreciation. "I like it. Let's see what this bastard knows about Dean."

Dean popped open his trunk, 'Kate' following close behind him.

"I thought you were teaching these days?" she asked, her voice cold and cutting.

"I am." Dean grabbed two canisters of salt before slamming the trunk lid closed. "We need to tell Adam the truth."

She shook her head and an ugly expression, along with emotional glee, appeared. Damn thing was playing with him. "Oh, no. I made John promise not to."

"Dad, not me," Dean pointed out, shifting one of the canisters to his empty hand. He flipped them so they were both upside down, then starting walking slowly towards the house. "I never promised."

"I'll take Adam and disappear," she threatened as Dean popped both salt canisters open with his index fingers. Salt poured out on each side of him. He sped up to walk in front of her, forcing her to stop.

"You can't do that," he protested, like he actually believed her. Dean gave a quick shrug of his shoulders to beef up the energy field surrounding him, willing it to project extreme fear. Admittedly, not a huge stretch.

"Oh, he's afraid of being abandoned. Again." She gave him a triumphant smile as he faked a look of shock. "Isn't that right, Dean? Everyone you love abandons you?"

Dean dropped his head low and walked around her on the other side, his ring of salt around the demon nearly complete. He continued pouring it behind her.

"What is this?" she asked pleasantly, one house-shoe clad foot in the air to take a step but unable because of the solid lines of salt in her way.

"It's called a trap, bitch," Dean growled.

She spun to face him. "You were scared!"

Dean shook his head. "Doesn't mean I didn't know exactly what you were."

Then she smiled gleefully. "You're in your underwear. I don't suppose you have an exorcism ritual tucked away in your tighty-whiteys?" She cackled, black film covering her eyes. "If you want Adam's little mommy to come out of this in one piece, I suggest you let me go. I'm only here for you anyway."

Oh, wonderful. His presence had endangered Adam and Kate.

Dean wondered briefly over the ritual tucked in his underwear statement until he realized it had to come from the demon on the bus. "That was you?" he demanded. "Do you have something against kids going to the mall?"

"Those kids." A bitter look came over her face. "You don't understand how dangerous these mutants are. They'll destroy the human race."

"Uh-huh. And I suppose you're going to explain it to me?" Dean asked sarcastically. The bitch didn't know he was one too?

"I can." She batted her eyes at him and ran both hands down Kate's chest. "Among other things."

"Oh, dude, that's just wrong!" Dean snapped. He launched into his memorized exorcism ritual; on the last word Kate's head snapped back and her mouth opened. Dark smoke billowed out, a swirling tornado of evil, which then dove straight down into the ground beside her. Dean caught her body as it crumpled bonelessly towards the snow covered ground.

She was lighter than he expected. He carried her to the house, managing to open the door with the hand under her knees. Depositing her on the couch, he yelled "Adam!"

"Mom!" Adam hollered as he raced into the den. "What happened?"

Dean shrugged, trying to play it off. "I guess she passed out."

Libby gave him a meaningful look and waves alternating between worry and curiosity pelted him.

"Adam, is there any paint in the house?" Dean asked as the teen boy hovered worriedly over his mother.

"What? There's something wrong with my mom and you want paint!" he shouted, anguished worry racing out in torrents.

"She'll be fine," Dean assured the kid. "But maybe I should make a call."

Bobby Singer spewed profanities with each step from his bedroom to the ringing phone. It stopped the moment he reached out for it. Not to be outsmarted by some damned pieced of technology he waited, staring venomously at the contraption. He checked the clock on the wall, it was nearly one in the morning.

The instant Bobby turned his back, the ringing started again. Darting across the kitchen to the grease-stained phone, which once upon a time could have been called white (when it was new), he snatched the receiver from its cradle.

"What the hell do ya want?" he shouted into it because, god-damn-it, if somebody wanted to wake him at this god-forsaken hour of the morning, whoever it was deserved to go deaf in one ear.

"Hey, Bobby, it's Dean."

Dean. Oh, holy crap. What happened with that boy now? Bobby rolled his eyes and looked up for guidance before speaking again. "Uh, hey, Dean. What's going on? Because it had damn well better be big!"

"Does Libby having a dream about fire and the demon with yellow eyes count? Or would Adam's mother being possessed be better?"

Dean did not sound like he was having a fun night. Bobby tried to rub the sleep from his eyes as he sat at his kitchen table.

"Okay, boy. What happened? And I want all the details."

Honestly, he should've known better than to ask for ALL the details, but he did. So Bobby tried to be patient while Dean described the lousy dinner and going to bed. Finally he reached the good part, with Libby screaming and the demon admitting she was possessing Kate. Now Kate was unconscious on the couch.

"I doubt it was in her that long. You said Adam mentioned she was in a bad mood? Did he say when it started?"

"Uh, I think he said she had been in a bad mood all day," Dean replied.

"Good. It probably means that she was only possessed for the day," Bobby said with relief. "Most likely she's just exhausted. If you can't wake her up soon, you can take her to the hospital to be checked out, to play it safe."

"Right. No problem," Dean assured him. "That's what I thought too."

Uh-huh. Knowing Dean, he was calling because he didn't know if he should take a possession victim to the hospital or not. At least the boy was willing to listen to good advice.

"I don't suppose you've heard from your daddy?" Bobby asked. "He bolted from Jim's place a few days ago. Bastard didn't even leave a note."

"Yeah, he's on a hunt with Logan." Dean chuckled. "Man, I am really looking forward to hearing about this one."

"With Logan?" Bobby repeated, astounded. "No kidding? Yeah, I'd like to hear about that one too."

"I'll have Logan call you," Dean promised. "I'd better go back inside before my toes freeze off. Later, Bobby. And thanks."

"Bye, Dean."

Bobby hung up the phone in a much better mood than when he answered it. Demons, dreams and possessions aside, it was always good to hear that kid's voice. Kind of made him feel...needed.

He was halfway to his bed before the comment about Dean's toes freezing off penetrated. Better not to worry about the little things, he decided and crawled between his cold sheets.

Dean walked inside the house to a scene with Adam sitting on the floor beside his mother holding her hand while Libby held a glass of ice water and after dipping her fingers in it flicked droplets on Kate's face.

"How's it going?" he asked, moving to stand beside Adam.

Adam looked up with a fearful gaze. "She's not waking up," he said in a shaky voice. Poor kid was barely holding it together. He was so full of fears Dean didn't have a prayer of screening them out.

"I'm sure this will work," Libby said confidently, although she felt anything but confident. She sprayed Kate's face again. This time she was rewarded with a soft groan. Dean motioned for her to do it again. With the next spray, Kate's head rolled to the side and the annoyance people felt when they were awakened early spread from her.

With a bolt of fear Kate jumped to a sit, her eyes wide open and darting around the room while she panted and panic, electric emotional bolts, seared through Dean's chest. He swallowed a gasp and pressed his hand against the sore spot while he kneeled beside her.

"Kate?" he asked gently. "Do you know where you are?"

Her head snapped to the side, her eyes still wide and unfocused, her breathing heavy. She stared at him for a long time before her brow furrowed. "Dean? Is that really you? What are you doing here?"

Adam surged up from his spot beside his mother to hug her tightly, his fear thick and the acrid taste stinging the back of Dean's throat. Kate's arms came up to return the hug but her focus was still on Dean.

"Yeah. It's me." He waited a moment and all she did was stare at him, a prisoner of her panic. The sore spot, right in the middle of his chest, throbbed with her panic. He needed for her to begin to think rationally. "Kate, is there any reason I shouldn't be here?"

Kate swallowed hard, the panic beginning to ebb away slowly with fear creeping in to take its place. "Uh, I didn't think you would be here until tomorrow, Christmas Eve."

She lost a whole day, just like Bobby said. "It is Christmas Eve," he replied, knowing no way to break it to her gently. Kneeling like this put Dean eye to eye with Kate. "It was a demon."

Kate shook her head, tears forming in her eyes to stream down her cheeks and overwhelming fear coursing from her, bathing the room with its tart tension. She hugged Adam tighter. The kid did not say anything as his fear doubled, mingling with Kate's to the point Dean could not tell who was more scared. At least the panic was gone.

He looked over the back of the couch at Libby. "Would you grab that package for Kate?"

She rushed from the room, setting her glass of water down on an endtable on the way.

"It was a demon, Kate," Dean repeated firmly. "I think it came here for me. You have a couple of choices. Either you can stick your head in the sand, pretend it never happened and ban me from coming over and calling, or you can face the facts and take a few precautions."

Adam was so scared he was crying against his mother's stomach. Kid had already been right on the edge, it wouldn't have taken much to push him to this point. Talking about demons felt like overkill. Dean wasn't sure what to do, not even when his hand went out to rest on the boy's back. The kid settled down a little at his touch, which was kind of shocking. Dean rubbed in small circles on Adam's back as Kate lifted a hand to wipe her eyes.

"If you promise to keep coming for visits, we'll take whatever precautions you say," Kate stated, her voice full of forced confidence. "And you can tell Adam about your other job." Her voice cracked then, not that Dean blamed her.

"Dean?" Libby said softly. He had barely noticed her return to the room. She held out the tissue wrapped necklace. Dean took it from her hand with a smile of gratitude. He unwrapped it to reveal the thick silver rope chain with two pendants dangling from it.

"This one," he said, pointing to the circle surrounding a pentagram, "is for protection in general from all kinds of supernatural creatures. This," he tapped the narrow silver charm, "prevents the wearer from being possessed."

"By demons?" Kate asked, her trembling hand reaching for it.

"Yeah." Dean helped fasten it around her neck. He sat in the floor to chat for a while, knowing none of them would be able to go to bed now. Dean heard his cell go off. He excused himself to answer, remembering that someone had tried to call earlier. Dad. Now what?

Logan rested his claws against the demon's face, holding it captive, while Winchester tried calling Dean again. Damn kid better pick up or Logan would have to hunt his ass down and give it a good kickin'.

"Dean!" Winchester shouted, angry and relieved all at the same time. He began pacing in the hall. "Why the hell weren't you answering your phone? There's a demon – what?" He stopped pacing, his mouth drawing down into a deep frown. "How is she?"

Logan looked over. She? She who? Libby? The kid brother's mom? Better not be Libby, Logan thought. He didn't want to have ta deal with the aftermath of that, whatever 'that' was. Libby bein' sick had been downright miserable, Dean moody and cranky for three straight days until she was bein' more of a pain than real sick. He couldn't imagine what Dean would be like if -

"Need any help demon-proofing?" Winchester asked. "We can leave tomorrow by-"

Winchester's face went kinda white then. "Now?" he asked, his voice creakin' a little bit. "Actually, I have a demon to exorcise here."

The demon jerked, shooting Winchester a dirty look.

"You didn't really believe we was lettin' ya go?" Logan said with a chuckle.

"Let Logan do it?" Now he was gettin' dirty looks from both sides. "Don't tell me Logan can read Latin. … And how is he supposed to exorcise the demon without reading Latin?"

"Ya need this creep fer anythin' else?" Logan demanded. People really shoudn't talk about him like that, and right in front of him too.

Winchester shook his head, still glarin'. "I don't think we'll get anything else useful out of him."

Logan stepped back, out of the symbol painted on the floor. He stared down the demon and began to recite the ritual Dean made him learn. They had been practicin' it almost every day since the school field trip.

The demon started growlin' and snarlin', that wood chair bouncin' on the floor as it tried to escape. He kept saying the words that didn't make no sense while the man in front of him dropped his head low. With a shudder that shook the floor, his head snapped backwards and his mouth opened wide. The same nasty black smoke that had been in that cop came flyin' out. It took off through the floor.

The guy sagged in the chair unconscious. Was that it?

Winchester sighed from behind him. "Fine. Put Adam on." He covered the mouth part of the phone with one hand. "Logan, go dial 9-1-1 in the kitchen. Don't say anything, just bang the phone on the counter a couple of times to make some noise and then leave it off the hook. We're out of here."