Thin Ice of a New Day
Dean was freezing.
Without opening his eyes, he knew he was no longer in the safety of the motel room. He could feel the cold wind ripping along his exposed skin, the tail of his shirt, flapping in the icy air.
Forcing his eyes open, he took in his surroundings. The worn yet comfortable furnishings of the Perham Palms motel room were no longer visible, replaced with the dark shadows of snow-covered trees surrounding the familiar clearing. The moonlight played through the patchy clouds in the night sky, illuminating the snowy ground to an almost surreal luminescence.
Which made perfect sense, since Dean was pretty damn sure he wasn't really here.
Turning slowly, he took a step back into the very real feeling snow. Hw noticed with a detached part of his mind that he wasn't wearing shoes, and the socks that were the only barrier between him and the cold, wet ground, were already soaked.
But what was a little frostbite when you were looking into the bright blue eyes of a demon intent on sucking out your life?
The demon floated directly in front of him, not touching the frozen ground. The same little part of Dean's brain that had registered the no-shoe thing was completely disgusted with the extreme injustice of the situation.
"Fancy meeting you here," he took another step back, but was halted by a strange vibrating force, which began to pull on his chest. "Okay, so you're the type who wants to lead." Dean held both hands out to his side. "So, it's your party, Yoko. What's the first number?"
The demon floated closer, its glowing robes and hair rippling as if under water. "You do not fear me."
The demon's voice was more of an itch in Dean's mind rather than an actual sound, which notched the hunter's annoyance level up another level.
"It takes a lot more than a magic act and a good light show to scare me, sweetheart."
Truthfully, Dean was scared. Not because he was facing a demon that had tricks they had never encountered before – that sort of came with the job. After all, hunting was more of a learn-as-you-go kind of profession and that had always worked well for him. There was always something new and unexpected popping up and a good hunter knew to be prepared for anything.
The real reason for Dean's trepidation was that while he was here, dancing with this ice bitch, Sam was back in the room, hopefully noticing that his older brother was currently not breathing and turning a lovely shade of blue. Dean had drifted off almost as soon as he'd laid down and had no idea whether his brother had decided to catch a few hours like him or if he had opted to re-examine the information he had gathered earlier at the library. When Sam got involved in research, it was extremely hard to tear the younger man's attention away. He'd always been that way, which is probably why he'd excelled in school. If his mind caught wind of a problem, it wouldn't rest until he'd solved it. Dean had resorted to insults and throwing projectiles to get his little brother's attention when they were kids and his methods hadn't really changed much since then.
He could only hope that Sam would notice he was in trouble before it was too late.
Sam stretched, wincing as the muscles in his lower back protested the movement. He shifted the pad of paper to the far side of the table, currently covered by a large road map of the city of Perham. He'd managed to find the addresses for all the employees of the pharmacy and mapped out a route for them to take which would allow them to check each of them for possible possession. Of course, after the fiasco at Kara's, they would simply stick to ringing the bell and greeting the people with a simple 'Good morning, Christo.'
God, Dean was never going to let him live this one down.
It had been uncomfortably obvious that Kara had been attracted to him. What was worse was that it had been even more embarrassingly obvious that Sam shared the attraction. And he was entirely sure that his brother, despite his condition, had picked up the signals loud and clear.
Of course, there was no place for any kind of romantic notions when they were on a job. And with Dean's deal looming, as well as the demon army becoming more and more aggressive, Sam couldn't afford to let his guard down right now. He needed to stay focused on what was important.
Maybe after all this was over he could –
Who the hell was he kidding? Even if…when… they found a way to save Dean, the demons were becoming stronger, more disciplined. They'd proven that back at the sheriff's station when they had banded together to come after him and Dean out in the open. They were unifying and that couldn't be considered a positive sign for the good guys.
He caught something in the corner of his eye and turned quickly toward his brother. Dean still lay on the bed where he'd fallen after their trip to Kara's. Sam had rolled him onto his back and clicked off the bedside lamp to give his brother some privacy. Now Sam squinted through the darkness, his eyes watching for the slow rise and fall of his brother's chest.
It didn't come.
The demon floated closer, whatever force it was emitting effectively paralyzing Dean enough to stop him from moving away. Without pulling his eyes from the glowing blue orbs of the demon, Dean slowly forced his hand around to his back pocket, almost audibly sighing when he felt the solid weight of the silver flask.
"Hate to tell ya, honey, but I'm already spoken for." The heavy force of the demon was making moving difficult as if under water. If he could just get the lid twisted off the flask….
"Your soul is spoken for, Hunter. I require something different."
Dean grinned. "I'm sure you do." As the top of the flask fell away, he steeled himself to move against the demonic force slowing his body. "I've got something for you right here."
Crossing the room in two leaps, Sam dove toward the bed and caught his brother under the shoulders. He tugged the prone man from the bed, backing up as they both landed in a heap on the threadbare carpeting.
A screech from the area above the bed was followed by a sudden shift in the air and the demon suddenly became visible. The dark cloud of smoke drifted to the edge of the bed, stopping abruptly at the edge.
Sam grinned as he chanced a glance up at the ceiling, the crudely drawn Devil's Trap doing its job as it contained the demon inside its hallowed circle.
He slid back across the carpet, pulling his unresponsive brother up against his chest. Dean wasn't breathing and his lips were beginning to take on a bluish tinge, pushing Sam to wrap his arms tightly around the still chest. He began the exorcism he'd committed to memory in those long, solitary months after leaving the Mystery Spot in Florida. As the demon began to writhe, he tightened his grip around his brother, his voice picking up in volume and intensity.
He wasn't about to lose Dean again.
Dean winced at the screech emitted from the demon as the Holy water hissed through its translucent form. As the wail died, the pressure on his chest began to fade and he found he was able to take a few stumbling steps backward, increasing the distance between him and the demon. Falling to his knees as the cold began to leach what was left of his strength, Dean watched in shock as the demon began to writhe, it's form fading in and out like a faulty neon sign. In a bright flicker, the demon finally disappeared from view, the force throwing Dean backward. As he shivered on the snow-covered ground, the blackness rapidly closing in, he couldn't help the grin that lifted his lips.
"Go get her, Sammy."
Sam shouted the last words of the exorcism, throwing himself across his brother's head and torso as the black cloud rose, violently smashing against the ceiling in a flash of orange fire. After a moment, Sam chanced a look up, relieved to see the ceiling charred, but no sign of the demon in the room.
His attention was drawn to his brother as the older man suddenly gasped painfully, his eyes snapping open, his back arched as his lungs attempted to draw in the oxygen they craved.
"Easy, Dean," Sam pushed him a little higher, hoping that sitting up would make it easier to pull in air. "Easy, just breathe."
"What…the hell… think…I'm trying… to do…." Dean's voice was weak, disjointed between gasps for breath. It was a harsh and painful sound, but it was music to Sam's ears.
He smiled brightly and pulled his brother close. "Well, try harder, dude. You're sucking here, big time."
As soon as dawn broke over the crystal clear morning, the hunters were packed and ready to go. Although neither had gotten any real sleep after the demon had been destroyed, Dean had dozed in and out, wrapped in every blanket Sam could find until he'd stopped shivering uncontrollably and finally drifted off for a while.
Sam, on the other hand, had been content with sitting in the dark room, watching his brother breathe. He still didn't have a clue how he was going to save Dean from whatever demon held his contract, but he knew without a doubt that he would do whatever it took to save his brother. After almost losing him over and over, Sam couldn't see a future if he failed – for either of them.
They'd packed the Impala, deciding to stop at the diner for breakfast. Sam had wanted to say goodbye to Kara, but the pharmacy was closed, and he decided it was probably better if he just disappeared. She'd be hurt, but she'd be better off if she forgot about him. Leaving without saying goodbye would be the kindest thing he could do for her.
While waiting for his brother to return from the restroom, Dean snagged the local paper from the counter and skimmed the front page, his breath hitching as he read the small headline at he bottom right.
LOCAL GIRL DIES IN BIZARRE HOUSE FIRE
The picture next to the headline was unmistakable even without the name below in eight point bold type: Kara Winslow. The article stated that the fire was contained to the bedroom and the only damage was to the bed and victim before it somehow extinguished itself. The authorities were currently investigating the unusual circumstances of the blaze.
"Damn," Dean sighed, rubbing a hand across his face. When was life going to cut them a break? Sam had really liked that girl. This was going to kill him.
It could have been a bizarre coincidence, Kara dying in a fire the same night they exorcized the demon back to the fiery pit, but Dean doubted it. Coincidence didn't seem to have a place in their world. They had never really gotten around to testing Kara to see if she was possessed due to how the situation unfolded. That was a mistake that would haunt them for while. She had seemed normal – but they couldn't trust even their own feelings. They needed to be vigil. They couldn't afford to get sloppy now.
Whether they would have been able to help Kara was debatable. If the demon had been around since the Devil's Gate opened, he doubted if there was anything left of the human girl anyway. Even if the demon hadn't been possessing the girl all along, Dean was convinced it had something to do with the fire that consumed her body. Either way, they hadn't been able to save her, but then they hadn't been able to save a lot of people lately…
"Ready?" Sam returned, a light smile on his face.
Deciding that some things are better left unknown, Dean quickly folded the paper and stuffed it into the back of the booth. "Yep," he responded. "Let's go find us a thief." He pushed himself up from the booth, pausing to drop a few bills from his pocket onto the table. He took a quick glance back at the newspaper tucked into the corner of the seat before taking a deep breath and following his brother out the door.
The road conditions were still less than stellar. Although the plows had managed to clear most of the snow from the highway and the dark gray of the wet pavement was at least noticeable as it snaked through the blanketed countryside, there were still many patches of packed snow and ice which made driving a challenge and forced Dean to keep the Impala well under the posted speed limits.
Almost an hour after leaving the small town of Perham, Dean slowed the big Chevy as he noticed a small vehicle sitting at a haphazard angle along the ditch on the westbound side of the highway. As they drew closer, the vehicle took on a familiar shape and Dean couldn't stop a small grin from lifting the corner of his mouth.
"Well, I'll be damned," he said in a low voice. "Looks like out luck may just be looking up for a change, Sammy."
Crossing the deserted highway, he pulled the heavy black car onto the snow-covered shoulder about ten feet in front of the silver Mercedes. The sleek sports car was tilted down into the ditch, its right front wheel buried in the snow while its left was at least a foot off the ground. The car was resting on it's undercarriage, the tail end stuck up in the air like aristocratic snob.
Which was rather fitting, once he thought about it.
Dean threw the Impala into park without bothering to cut the engine and pushed against the driver's side door, jumping out into the cold and around the front end of the car to the snow-obscured Mercedes. The driver's window was fogged over, so Dean stuck one hand in his jacket pocket, using the other to lightly rap against the opaque glass.
"Am I glad to see you," the voice rang out as the window began to slide down. "I've been sitting here for hours. There's no cell reception and you're the first car that –" Bela Talbot looked up, her smile freezing as her eyes registered the identity of her would-be rescuer. "Dean," she recovered quickly, her overly salacious smile replaced by one a bit more lackluster. "How surprising to run into you here."
"Bela," Dean responded, his own grin nearly splitting his face. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that karma has a way of coming back and biting you in the ass?"
The woman raised her eyebrows. "I would have thought that was something more up your alley."
Dean refused to be baited. "Even I have my standards, sweetheart." He yanked the door open, allowing a small avalanche of snow to tumble into the car. "Allow me." He waited for Bela to reach for his hand before stepping back, forcing the woman to pull herself ungracefully from the vehicle. He stepped back up onto the shoulder and thrust both hands into his pockets, making no move to help her up the short embankment.
Sam simply stood back, allowing his brother to take the lead. They'd both been raised to respect women, but this particular woman had pushed them way too far, and despite his inherent desires to treat women with respect, he couldn't force himself to step between Dean and his revenge.
After a few stumbled, Bela managed to make it through the foot high snow to the road, rushing the powdery white flakes from her lower legs before raising defiant eyes to the Winchesters.
"Where is it?" Dean growled, his voice no longer carrying the hint of amusement he had found at Bela's predicament.
The thief crossed her arms and returned his glare with a look of wide-eyed innocence. "Where's what, Dean? I'm afraid I really have no idea what you're talking about."
Dean chuckled and shook his head. "Stupid really doesn't look good on you, Bela. Where's the Colt?"
"Oh, that?" Bela asked as if only just catching onto the reason for the man's ire. She shrugged, her smile becoming slightly apologetic. "I'm afraid I don't have it."
Dean took a deep breath, his hands fisted inside his pockets. "Where. Is. The. Colt." He enunciated each word slowly, his voice transmitting danger.
Bela apparently understood that the hunter was not in any mood to be trifled with and sighed dramatically. "I lost it," she said simply.
It was Dean's turn to be surprised. "You what?"
"I was meeting with a client. I'd stashed the Colt somewhere safe, but when I returned to retrieve it, it was gone."
Dean stared at her for a moment, trying to determine whether to believe her or not. He prided himself on being a fair judge of reading people, and despite their past disagreements, he was pretty sure she was telling the truth.
"You were robbed."
Bela threw a glare toward Sam, obviously not appreciating his choice of words. "Yes," she admitted. "I was robbed. Does that make you happy?"
"No," Dean answered for the both of them. "But it does prove my point about the karma thing." He exchanged a look with Sam, neither man sure of whether to be angry at the sudden turn of events or burst out laughing at the irony. "I don't suppose you saw who took it?"
She shook her head. "Like I said. It was there when I left, it was gone when I returned."
"That's just peachy." Dean shook his head and pulled one hand from a pocket, throwing a small wave at the young woman as he started back toward the Impala. "Good luck, Bela. I'm sure someone will be by to give you a lift before the day is out."
The British thief took a step forward, her hands held out to her sides in shock. "You can't seriously be considering leaving me out here! I'll freeze to death!"
Dean calmly walked to the driver's door and opened it, leaning forward to give the woman a lopsided grin. "Oh, you're a pretty resourceful girl, Bela. I'm sure you'll figure out something." He winked at her and ducked inside the car, pulling the door closed with a loud clang.
"Sam!" Bela turned to the younger brother, who was still standing in the open passenger door of the Chevy, one arm leaning against the shiny black roof.
Sam simply shrugged before sliding into the seat and closing his own door against the cold wind. He watched Bela as she stomped her feet in frustration before turning to look at his brother. "We're not really gonna leave her out here, are we?"
Dean sighed and ducked his head for a moment before raising his eyes and taking a long, deep breath. "If there's one thing Bela Talbot is good at, Sammy. It's taking care of number one." He turned his head and looked pointedly at his brother before shifting the Impala into reverse and slowly backing it onto the highway.
As they slowly rolled past the irate woman, Sam felt a twinge of guilt at leaving her in the desolate Minnesota cold. A small muscle in Dean's jaw twitched as the drove by, but the older man kept his eyes forward, adhered to the road and Sam reminded himself that Bela had knowingly stolen the one thing that could have possibly saved his brother from Hell.
Without the Colt, they had very little change of stopping whatever demon would come for Dean not to mention the army released from the Devil's gate. And, now they had no idea where the Colt was or whether it had fallen into enemy hands.
Sam leaned back into the familiar leather seat and sighed. He couldn't help but think that the slippery ice they'd found themselves sliding across for the last year had suddenly become a whole lot thinner.
A sincere thanks to everyone who read this story. I truly appreciate all of you, whether you reviewed or not. Just seeing all the names that had this on alert really made my day!! Thank you for all the support!!
My apologies to anyone who likes Bela – I don't. Wonder if that came through? g