SUMMARY: After crashing into a ditch in a winter storm, Sam and Dean try to help another stranded motorist, only to discover she's far from the helpless victim she first seems. Case-fic, with plenty of h/c and the brothers looking out for each other.
SPOILERS: Set in Season 7, but no spoilers.
RATING: T, for some swearing
DISCLAIMER: Still don't own the Winchesters – they're way out of my budget. Continued gratitude to Kripke & Co. for allowing us to play in their sandbox with their awesome toys.
A/N: Big thanks to Madebyme who gave me a poke to write something and shepherded some plot bunnies my way to get the ball rolling. Hope you enjoy.
THE DAY CARTOON PORN SAVED OUR LIVES
A violent shiver jolted Dean back to consciousness. He blinked to force his vision into focus but all he saw was white.
It took a few moments for his muzzy brain to process that he was staring at snow covering the driver's side window. He was behind the wheel – draped over it, technically – his cheek resting against the balding vinyl that wrapped it. The blaring noise that filled his head, rattling his aching brain inside his skull, was the horn his chest was leaning on.
"Son of a bitch…" With a groan, Dean pushed himself off the wheel and slumped against the seat-back. He screwed his eyes closed and swallowed, reveling in the quiet now the horn had been silenced, as he tried to piece together what the hell had happened.
They'd been driving through the Rockies toward Denver. A storm had moved in with no warning and their 'borrowed' clunker was no match for a mountain blizzard. They'd hit black ice and it had taken every ounce of driving skill he possessed to keep them on the road. He'd almost – almost – got the car back under control when a second patch of black ice did them in. The car spun another 360-degrees before slamming hood-first into a snow-filled ditch.
That was the last thing Dean remembered before waking up on the wheel with the horn blasting through his head. "Piece of crap," he muttered, smashing his fist against the car door. "No more borrowed rides, Sammy. We're getting Baby back." He frowned when there was no answer from his brother. "Sam?"
Dean's head snapped to the right. Sam was slumped forward over the glove box, his head turned away from Dean, his left arm hanging limply at his side, knuckles grazing the floor mat. "Sammy?"
Worry for this brother quickly cleared Dean's head. He pushed himself up, slid across the seat, then pulled back Sam's hair so he could press two fingers to his neck. His brother's skin was cold to the touch but, beneath it, a pulse beat slowly but steadily. Dean exhaled audibly, his breath frosting in the chilly air. "OK, dude, talk to me." There was still no answer or movement from his brother as Dean ran his hands over Sam's head, neck and back, searching for injuries. When he found no telltale signs, he gently pulled Sam off the dashboard and laid him back against the seat.
Sam groaned softly, his eyes fluttering open briefly before sliding closed again.
"Hey, come on – stay with me." Dean frowned at the blood trickling down his brother's face from a cut across the bridge of his nose as he checked Sam's heart rate and breathing. Both were well within acceptable range; the only obvious injury was the blow to the head.
Dean scowled as he wiped away blood that was running down Sam's face and took in the bruising that was already starting to spread under both of Sam's eyes. "Dude, seriously, the number of times your head's taken a hit lately… Blows my mind you can still put two and two together."
His scowl deepened when he realized Sam was shivering. "I know, I know...It's cold enough in here to turn balls into ovaries." Dean glanced into the back seat; the blankets they'd used two nights earlier when they'd slept in the car in much balmier southern Arizona were still there. He pulled both into the front and quickly draped them over Sam, tucking them around his shoulders.
Dean then reached into the glove box and pulled out the canned survival candles Sam had insisted they buy before heading into the mountains. "Yeah, yeah… But don't even think of saying I told you so, or I'm gonna punch you in the face – even if I have to wait 'til you feel better to do it." Dean hooked his finger through the ring tab, opened the can, then wedged the candle in the car's ashtray. He glanced again at Sam as he fished his lighter from his pocket and lit the wick. "There. Now, you work on waking up while I figure out how to get us out of this mess before we have to do that sharing body heat thing." He shuddered for effect.
The candle's heat was meager but it would keep them from freezing to death. Dean blew on his fingers, rubbed his hands together and tucked them under his armpits as he glanced around the car. The skid on black ice had sent them off the road and, given the angle of the car, plummeting into a fairly deep, snow-filled ditch. The car's nose was buried, the front and side windows completely covered in snow, while her ass was high in the air, with just a few streaks of dull, gray light pushing in through the rear window.
Dean checked his watch. It was 3:10 in the afternoon. They had less than two hours of daylight left at this time of year. Once the sun went down, it would get a helluva lot colder and their odds of being found a lot lower. He smashed his fist into the wheel in frustration, then turned on the emergency flashers in the hopes they'd catch the attention of any passing vehicle.
Dean pulled out his phone, the illuminated panel casting an eerie glow on his face as it flashed No signal. "Damn." He leaned over to reach under the blankets covering his brother, snagged Sam's phone from his jacket pocket, and hit the power button. The message was the same.
"Damn, and damn." Dean dropped both phones onto the seat between them, his breath frosting with each exhale. "Looks like I'm going outside, Sammy – see if I can flag us down some help. Emergency lights are on but I've got no clue whether we can be seen from the road." He glanced over at his brother, rechecked Sam's pulse, then re-tucked the blankets around him. He smiled. "You know, if you're still doing that praying thing, ask whoever's on the other end to send a vehicle along this road when I get out there. A tow truck would be awesome, but I'll take anybody with snow tires and working phone."
Dean fastened his shirt and buttoned his jacket, pulled on his gloves, then pushed open his door – or at least tried to; it didn't budge. "Oh, son of a bitch." The front of the car was apparently buried deep enough in the ditch that the snow was pinning the doors closed.
Dean pushed himself up on the seat and hauled himself into the back. Since light was breaking in through the rear window, the back doors were likely not as deeply buried, so he had a better chance of opening them. Worse case scenario: He'd have to kick out the back window, although that would destroy any protection from the elements the car offered them if they were forced to spend the night.
"One problem at a time, dude," Dean muttered to himself as he turned his attention to the door, yanked on the handle and pushed. He had to put his shoulder into it, shoving back snow piled window high, but the door eventually opened enough for him to squeeze through.
Once outside the protection of the car, the cold and wind stole his breath. Dean raised his arm in front of his face and squinted through the squall to get his bearings. The road was to his left, up the steeply-sloped side of the ditch, about five feet above his head. The mountainside, mostly hidden behind a veil of blowing snow, stretched out to his right. As he'd suspected, the front of the car, to just past the driver's side door, was buried in snow at a pretty steep angle. The vehicle's back wheels were suspended in the air.
Bottom line: It wasn't going anywhere without a tow-truck. And with gusting snow rapidly filling in their skid-marks off the road and into the ditch, other vehicles could drive right by them without knowing they were there.
Dean scowled at the car; their current clunker was nowhere near as well-equipped as the Impala, but they always traveled with the basics – and that included flares. He could fire one off when he heard a vehicle coming. That should grab the driver's attention and get them to stop, or at least call in the accident.
He ducked back into the car, slamming the door after him. The loud thud roused Sam. Dean smiled at the hazel eyes watching him in confusion as he reached over the seat to pull the keys from the ignition. "Hey, Sammy. How you feeling?"
Sam frowned. "Why're you in the back seat?"
Dean shrugged. "We're in the ditch, half buried in snow. Front doors won't open, so I went out the back."
Sam cleared his throat as his eyes slid closed again. "We're in the ditch?"
"Yeah, we slid on black ice." Now it was Dean's turn to frown. "Sam? Just how hard did you hit your head?"
Sam shivered under the blanket as he looked up at Dean. "I hit my head?"
Dean's eyes narrowed in worry. "Hard enough to answer every damn question with a question, apparently."
Sam's confusion showed no signs of clearing. "What?"
"Never mind." Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "Look, stay warm 'til the fog lifts. I'm gonna grab the flare gun, then go up to the road and see if I can flag down some help before it gets dark. The phones are on the seat beside you. There's was no signal last time I checked, but that could change if the storm passes. Keep trying, OK? I'll come back every ten minutes or so to defrost."
Sam glanced down at the phones then back up at Dean and nodded, but how much of those instructions he actually processed, Dean couldn't be sure. He clapped his brother on the shoulder as reassurance, then pushed open the door and hauled himself back outside.
Dean slammed the door closed, ducked his head and turned his back against the wind; if anything the storm had picked up in the short time he was in the car. "Son of a bitch," he muttered as he moved around to the trunk, opened it and sorted through their things until he found the flare gun.
"Help me… Please… I need help."
Dean's head snapped around. He strained to listen, but the only sound was the howl of the wind. Then-
"Can anyone hear me? Please… help me."
It was a woman's voice, muffled by the wind and snow but clear enough that Dean could tell she was terrified. "I can hear you. Where are you?"
For a moment there was only the howl of the wind, and then… "You're real? You're not my imagination?"
Dean snorted. "Lady, plenty of women have told me I'm their dream guy but, trust me, I'm as real as they come. Frozen flesh and blood. What the hell are you doing out here?"
"My car…it went off the road."
"Join the club." Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. He'd heard stories like this; cars sliding off the road in the midst of a storm, landing within yards of each other and none of the stranded occupants aware of the other's existence 'til the storm cleared. "Are you still near your car?"
"No… I needed to get help but now… I'm lost."
"Shit…" Dean slammed shut the trunk, plowed his way through the waist-deep snow to the passenger side and hammered his fist on the roof. "Sammy! We've got a woman stranded. I'm gonna get her to come to me. Keep trying that phone." He shoved the flare gun in his pocket, then clambered up the far side of the ditch to where the land stretched out into forested mountainside before raising his voice against the wind. "Okay. Follow my voice. I'm by the road. I'll keep talking – you come to me."
The woman sounded like she was about to cry. "I…I can't. I'm so tired."
Dean rubbed his hands against his arms in a futile attempt to warm up. "You can do it. You're not that far if you can hear me. Our car's right here. You can warm up, and then I'm gonna flag down some help." For a long moment there was no answer. "Hey! Can you still hear me?"
Through the howling wind came the sound of crying. "I can't…I just…can't."
Dean reached inside his collar and pulled up the hood of the hoodie he'd borrowed from Sam; he'd only been out of the car a few minutes and already his ears were numb, his cheeks raw and the denim of his jeans soaked through, his legs feeling like ice underneath. By the sounds of it, this woman had been stranded in the storm even longer. What the hell kind of shape was she in? He raised his voice again. "Look, what's your name?"
"Okay, Anna, I'm Dean. I'm gonna come to you, but I need you to keep talking so I can follow your voice."
"Good." Dean pushed his way through snow, grunting as it changed from knee deep to thigh deep as he entered the cover of the trees. While it was hard-going moving forward, the trees at least served as a wind break, making the temperature slightly less bone-chilling. He reached up into the nearest tree and snapped off two thin branches, each about six feet long, then laid them on the snow behind him. He'd do the same thing every ten feet or so, marking the path so that, once he found Anna, they could get back to the car as quickly as possible. If the snow kept blowing, the crosses would be easier to pick out than just trampled snow. "Were you hurt when your car went off the road?"
"Good." Dean closed his eyes. Her voice seemed to be coming from his left, but she was further from the road than he'd initially thought. The storm was playing havoc with perception. "Keep talking."
"My… my phone wouldn't work. The car wouldn't start. I thought… I thought if I stayed in the car, no one would find me…that I'd freeze. I had to get help… But…but I got lost."
Dean scanned the trees as he laid down two more branches as a trail marker. Anna sounded close but he could still see no sign of her. "You're not from these parts, are you?"
"What makes you say that?"
Dean raised an eyebrow. There was an almost defensive edge to Anna's voice. "It's just that anyone who lives in the mountains knows if you go off the road, you stay in the car. You travel with blankets, food, a heat source – just in case."
"And you've got all that?"
"Thanks to my Boy Scout brother, yeah." There was a stand of conifers about fifty feet to Dean's left; Anna's voice seemed to be coming from that direction. "Look, wave your arms or something to help me find you." A slight movement against the green caught his eye. "OK, I think I see you." He snapped off two more branches to create another marker, then resumed his trek through the deep snow. "Wave your arms again."
This time he was able to make out the movement of a white-sleeved arm against the green of the trees. "Gotcha." He frowned as he set off again; the snow around him was pristine. If, like him, Anna had stumbled here from the road, where were the footprints or trampled snow? Sure, the snow and wind could have scoured away some signs, but there should still be some remnants of a trail. Dean shuddered, but it had nothing to do with the cold.
After five minutes of hard-slogging through sometimes waist-deep snow, he saw her. Anna was crouched against the trunk of a large evergreen, sheltering beneath its graceful branches. She was turned away from him, her long dark hair spilling down her back almost to her waist. "Hey. You ready to get the hell out of here?"
Anna's head snapped around and Dean's eyes widened; she was...hot. Of Asian heritage, her dark eyes glittered, even in the half-light of the storm, and her skin was flawless. His stomach did a somersault like he was fourteen years old all over again when she smiled up at him in gratitude, his earlier suspicions momentarily forgotten.
"Thank you." Anna's large, almond eyes welled up. "I don't know what I would've done if…if you hadn't found me." She turned towards Dean and struggled to push herself to her feet.
When she did, Dean inhaled sharply; cradled in her right arm, deeply swaddled in blankets, was a baby. He caught just a quick glimpse of a tiny face, dark hair falling over closed eyes, before Anna pulled up the blankets. He stared at her incredulously. "You brought a kid out into this storm?"
Anna's expression darkened. "What did you want me to do? Leave him in the car by himself?"
"No. both of you should've stayed in the damn car." Dean shook his head, fighting to rein in his temper. "Whatever. The important thing now is to get you both out of the cold." He held out his hand. "Come on."
Anna started to reach for his hand but at that moment, her legs gave out and she dropped into the snow, slumping back against the tree. "I'm sorry…I'm just so cold. I…I can't feel my legs."
Dean's always short temper frayed even more. "Lady, for your kid's sake, you have to move. You stay out here much longer, neither one of you is gonna make it. That what you want?"
"Of course not." Anna's eyes filled with tears again as she glanced from her son to Dean, her expression pleading. "Could you carry him? If you take him…I think I can make it."
Dean moved forward, instinctively reaching for the child, then froze. Realization hit like a punch to the gut; he knew who she was, and it was no stranded driver. He took a step backwards and shook his head. "No."
"No?" Anna looked up at him in horror. "What kind of monster are you?"
Dean stared at Anna, for the first time seeing past the beauty, past the woman in distress. His earlier suspicions had been right; she was what they were hunting. "Oh, it's not me who's the monster."
Anna's shocked expression slowly transformed into a cold smile. "You know who I am. That's a first – in these parts, anyway."
Dean returned her smile in kind. "What can I say? I'm more than just a pretty face. Something was killing people around here. I just didn't know what – until right now." He waved a hand at the baby in Anna's arms. "The kid was the clincher. Maybe it's time to overhaul your playbook."
"Why would I do that?" Anna stood slowly, but with graceful ease, all pretense of exhaustion and weakness gone. Her right arm fell to her side, the blanket unfurling before being snatched away by the wind, but the baby inside had vanished. "This…playbook, as you call it, has worked for centuries, on both sides of the Pacific. Why mess with success?"
Dean shrugged "Oh, I don't know – maybe because someone like me was gonna figure out it was you, and take you out." His mind was racing as he tried to recall just how to do that.
"Take me out?" Anna's smile returned, like she knew his threats were empty. "Please, I'd love to see you try." As Dean watched, her white down ski jacket and soaked, snow-encrusted jeans morphed into a long, white, kimono-style robe, its soft silk hugging the swell of her full breasts and shimmering like freshly fallen snow in sunlight. The long sleeves fluttered in the same wind that blew open the robe as she walked toward him, giving Dean flashes of long, toned legs and bare feet that moved gracefully across the snow-covered ground and left no prints behind.
Dean whistled. "You know, while I appreciate the view, I'd say you're a little under-dressed for the weather. Your-" His attention snapped from Anna to the ground as he tried to step back. He couldn't move; the wind had stirred up the snow around him, creating icy tentacles that curled around each limb, holding him firmly in their grasp and pinning his feet in place, his arms at his sides. He glared at Anna where she now stood, directly in front of him. "Oh you are a real-" She silenced him with a touch of a finger to his lips, a touch that seemed to draw every last bit of remaining warmth from his body.
Anna leaned in close, her icy breath burning Dean's skin. "Now, let's see." She reached up and pulled down his hood. "I can't kill you for stealing my child, because you didn't take him from me. I can't kill you for leaving me stranded, because you tried to help." She ran her fingers down his face and he gasped, his skin freezing and cracking under her touch, as she studied him intently. "And you are a very handsome man. Very handsome."
"Yeah, I get that a lot." Dean swallowed as he stared back at her. "You, though, you're a little frigid for my taste."
"That's too bad." Anna traced the outline of Dean's lips with her finger, making him shudder again. "We would have made beautiful children together."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Geez, lady, we just met. I usually like dinner, a few drinks, a roll in the hay at least once before I start the family planning discussion."
Anna wrapped her fingers around the back of Dean's head, and pulled him into a passionate kiss.
Dean couldn't breathe; it was like lungs had filled with ice and he was slowly freezing from the inside out. Then, as Anna broke off the kiss, he could breathe again, and he coughed and choked as he greedily sucked in air.
Anna smiled. "You're lucky I have a weakness for beautiful men. Tell no one we met, and you'll never see me again. Your life is my gift to you in gratitude for trying to save mine." She cupped his face in her hand, her expression darkening. "But speak of this to anyone…anyone… and your life is forfeit."
Dean started to answer but as he watched, she transformed into a flurry of snowflakes that raced away with the wind.
The bonds holding Dean released him suddenly and he toppled over. The wind picked up as he struggled to stand, swirling the ice and snow around him. It stung his skin, stole his breath and completely disoriented him until he couldn't tell up from down, never mind pick out the marked trail back to the car. He stumbled through the snow and wind until, exhausted, he collapsed and the swirling mass of white that surrounded him faded into black.
Sam woke with a start, feeling stiff and disoriented. His rapid breaths clouded with each exhale, his vision slow to focus as he glanced around. He was in the car, huddled under blankets in the shotgun seat. It was eerily quiet and there was no sign of his brother.
He frowned at the candle wedged in the ashtray, the flickering light casting shadows that danced across the dashboard. Why was there a candle in the car?
Dean's voice filled his head. "We're in the ditch, half buried in snow. Front doors won't open, so I went out the back."
Sam groaned as he sat up, the blankets falling into his lap. They'd gone off the road, that was it. Dean must have gone to flag down some help. He exhaled slowly, holding his head in his hands as he tried to think around a headache that could be measured on the Richter scale. He was supposed to do something, but what the hell was it?
He lifted his head and glanced around the car, his gaze eventually settling on the two phones lying on the seat beside him. That was it; Dean had told him to call for help. Sam snatched up a phone, turned it on and cursed at the No Signal message that was clear, even with vision that refused to stay focused. He dropped the phone back on the seat in frustration. "Dean!" His voice cracked as he shouted and he winced as his headache protested the volume. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Dean!"
"Sammy! We've got a woman stranded. I'm gonna get her to come to me. Keep trying that phone."
Sam's eyes widened as his mind replayed the pounding on the roof and Dean's shouted message. "Damn it." If his brother was trying to help someone in trouble, he wasn't staying parked on his ass, doing nothing.
Sam threw off the blankets, leaned forward to blow out the candle, then clambered over the bench seat into the back. He got only as far as closing his fingers around the door handle before a wave of dizziness and nausea toppled him, his forehead slamming into the window. Sam screwed his eyes closed and swallowed, welcoming the icy cold of the glass against his skin as he willed his head to stop spinning and his stomach to settle.
When both refused, he forced his eyes open; a damn headache wasn't going to stop him from making sure Dean was OK and that the woman who was in trouble had been found. If luck was with them, he'd get outside and find Dean walking back to the car, his arm wrapped around her shoulders, reveling in the chance to play hero. And if she was hot… God knows a little gratitude from a good-looking victim was just what the doctor ordered for Dean right now. But then again, when was luck ever on their side?
Sam inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly, then shoved open the door. He gasped as he stumbled out of the car, the raging storm stealing his breath and momentarily disorienting him. He leaned against the car as he fastened his jacket, pulled up his hood and yanked on his gloves. Shielding his face with his hand, he peered through the storm, picking up the red glow from the car's emergency flashers and the snow trampled down by Dean as he'd moved around the car. The wind was doing its best to scour away all evidence of his brother's movements but thanks to the depth of the snow, there was still plenty of trail to follow. Sam swiped the snow from his face and slammed the door shut. "Dean!"
There was still no answer but the bitter cold was helping to clear Sam's head. Dean's trail led from the back of the car, up the far side of the ditch and away from the road. He was sure Dean had said he was going to get the stranded woman to come to him, so where the hell were they?
Sam felt nauseous again as he climbed out of the ditch, and lost the battle when he reached the top, doubling over and puking into the snow until there was nothing left to throw up. He spat to clear his mouth, swiped a hand over his watering eyes then stared out across the snow-covered landscape. The trail stretched out toward the trees. Sam swallowed, grimacing at the taste of vomit, and set off, literally following in his brother's footsteps. "Dean!" He shouted as he struggled through the snow but the wind seemed to eat his calls, long before they carried any distance.
Still, Sam managed a smile as he entered the tree cover and saw two snow-dusted branches laid out in a cross on the trail. "And you call me a Boy Scout." Sam moved on, now on the lookout for more twig crosses. He found them, one after another, and continued calling out to Dean, hoping each time for an answering call but getting none.
Abruptly, the wind died out and snow stopped falling. Like someone had flipped a switch, the storm was gone.
Sam stumbled in surprise, and landed on his knees, his arms punching elbow-deep into the snow as he tried to steady himself. He heard each labored exhale in the sudden silence, heard the crunch of snow under his boots as he struggled to get to his feet "Dean!" His shout now echoed clearly through the mountainside but as the repeats of his brother's name faded, the post-storm silence was the only response.
Sam pushed on, stumbling more frequently as exhaustion stole motor control. He veered to the left as Dean's trail turned toward a stand of evergreens, then froze, his breathing hitching audibly. A body lay face down in the snow; a body wearing a jacket that looked a lot like… "Dean!"
All thoughts of exhaustion, of the cold gnawing at his skin through his clothes, of the headache still playing games with his vision vanished as Sam launched himself toward Dean, clawing at the snow with his gloved hands to pull himself forward, to get him to his brother than much faster.
Sam's stomach lurched and it had nothing to do with nausea; Dean was half-covered in blowing snow which meant he hadn't been moving in some time. Finally reaching his brother's side, Sam dropped to his knees. He grabbed Dean's jacket, rolled him onto his back and pulled him up so Dean's head was resting in the crook of his arm. "Hey…hey! Come on, wake up." Sam brushed the snow from Dean's face and lightly shook him, trying to rouse him. "Dean? Come on. I know how much you hate the cold. The sooner you wake up, the sooner we can get back to the car." Fear was making him ramble. "Those candles work, you know. And the car may look like a piece of crap, but it's actually pretty warm inside. And, bonus – there's hot soup in the Thermos. Told you you'd thank me for that."
Sam pulled Dean closer to him, and rubbed his arms, trying to generate any kind of heat. When there was still no response, he yanked off his glove with his teeth and pressed his fingers against his brother's neck in search of a pulse.
Sam's attention snapped to his brother's face and he found a pair of bleary green eyes staring up at him. As consciousness returned, Dean began shivering violently and the three simple words tripped over those shivers.
Sam grinned, pulled up Dean's hood and hugged his brother even tighter. "Not dead is good. Really good." He kept rubbing Dean's arm. "Man, you scared me there for a minute."
"S-scared…me t-too." Dean was fighting against the shivers. "F-fuck, it's c-cold."
Sam nodded. "No argument there." He studied Dean worriedly. "Look, think you can walk? Snow's pretty damn deep. I can carry you but-"
Dean gave Sam a weak smack. "Screw that. I'm w-walking out."
"That's what I like to hear. You just let me know when you're ready." Sam's grin faded as he glanced around. "What happened to the woman who was stranded? That's who you came out here for, right? Or did I get that wrong?"
"N-no." Dean snorted weakly, then screwed his eyes closed as he was wracked by more violent shivers. "Sh-she was w-what we were h-hunting, S-Sammy." He twisted his fist in his brother's jacket. " Y-Yuki –O-nna…"
Sam frowned. "We're hunting Yoko Ono?"
Dean gave him another swat. "Ass-h-hat. Yuki-Onna, a J-Japanese s-spirit."
Sam's eyes widened in surprise. "A Japanese spirit in Colorado? How the hell did you figure that out?"
Before Dean had a chance to answer, a blast of cold wind hit Sam from behind. He hunched instinctively over his brother to protect him, then snapped his head around, shielding his face with his hand until the wind died down. A Japanese woman stood ten feet from them, her long hair and the sleeves of her robe both fluttering in the wind, fury etched deeply in her features, turning her beautiful face ugly.
She glared at the two of them. "I spared his life as long as he agreed to never mention our meeting. Promises mean little to him, I see." She laughed softly. "He's far from the first to break his promise, but few have done so so quickly."
"T-technically, I p-promised squat." Dean waited for his brother to turn his attention back to him, then grabbed Sam's hand and guided it to his pocket. Sam's face crumpled in confusion, but then a look of unspoken understanding passed between the brothers. "She l-left before I s-said any-th-thing."
The Yuki-Onna walked towards them. "I will never understand why some men value the need to share a secret more than their own lives. Now I have to take not only your life, but that of this man – your brother, right? The Boy Scout you spoke of?" She smiled coldly at Sam. "Tell me, Boy Scout, are you as bad at keeping secrets as your brother?"
"To tell the truth," Sam's eyes glittered with anger as he turned to face the spirit, "our family's pretty damn good at keeping secrets when we have to – like now." His right arm shot out, his hand curled tightly around the flare gun Dean had guided him to, and he fired.
The flare hit the Yuki-Onna square in the chest. As it ignited, the yellow flames quickly turned blue. Yuki-Onna's scream echoed across the mountainside as the fire consumed her, her shimmering robe morphing from silk to blue flame, her human form into crystalline ice. As her scream was silenced, the howling winds returned, swirling fiercely around her.
Sam protectively drew Dean closer and ducked his head against the sting of the wind and ice. Then, the Yuki-Onna exploded, shattering into millions of sparkling shards that were drawn into the howling winds that circled the brothers twice, then sped off into the mountains.
Silence once again settled on the clearing, broken only by Sam's harsh breathing as lifted his head and glanced around, warily.
Dean struggled to sit up, grabbing hold of Sam's jacket to help haul himself upright. "Damn. That was m-more impressive than I ex-p-pected. Thought she'd j-just m-melt – y-you know, l-like the w-witch in W-wizard of Oz."
Sam dropped his right arm, the flare gun falling into the snow. He was still breathing heavily, staring at the spot where the spirit had stood just moments before. "She's gone. That's all that counts."
Dean tried to break free of Sam's hold, almost toppling over again. "She was h-hot though, huh? Why d-do all the n-nasty bitches have to be so f-freaking hot?"
"You got me." Sam held onto Dean until he was sure he wasn't going to fall over. "Besides, I couldn't really see her, y'know."
Dean scowled at his brother. "What's that s-supposed to mean?"
Sam shrugged as he brushed the snow off the flare gun and shoved it in his pocket. "Since I woke up, my vision's been a little …off. Keeps sliding in and out of focus."
"That's what y-you get for b-bouncing your head off the d-dashboard." Worry deepened Dean's scowl. "B-but that sh-shot looked pretty damn d-dead center t-to me."
Sam grinned as he pushed himself to his feet. "I just did what you taught me. I listened…focused on her voice." He hooked his arms under Dean's and hauled him up. "That, and her sleeves kept waving about. I just aimed for somewhere in the middle."
Dean snorted. "Kinda g-glad I didn't know that b-before I gave you the g-gun." His knees gave out and he would've gone down had Sam not wrapped an arm tightly around his back and pulled Dean's arm over his shoulders. "S-sure you can find your way b-back? Y-you know, with h-half blind, and all."
"Yeah, Dean, I'm sure." Sam took a step forward, watching Dean intently as his brother did the same. "I don't have to read a map. I just have to pick out those big-ass trail markers you made. They're kinda hard to miss."
"G-go big or g-o home. T-that's my m-motto." Dean grimaced at the snow-covered landscape as he stumbled along at his brother's side. "S-Sammy."
"When y-you find us a n-new case, m-make sure it's south. W-way south. Got it?"
Sam just grinned.
"You got a lock on us?" Sam waited for the response from the other end of his now-working phone, then nodded. "Good… Don't worry, we're not going anywhere. Just bang on the roof when you get here… Thanks." He clicked off his phone and nodded at Dean. "Tow-truck driver pinpointed our location once I turned on the GPS. He'll be here inside of half an hour."
Dean, bundled in a blanket in the passenger seat and sipping soup from their Thermos, shot a sideways glance at Sam. "'Sure you don't want an ambulance, Mr. I-Can't-See-Straight-But-I'll-Take-The-Shot-Anyway?"
"Oh, that's rich, coming from Mr. I-Half-Froze-To-Death-But-Screw-Off-Sam-I'm-Fine. And, hey, I hit her, didn't I?" Sam grinned as pulled up his blanket and checked on the survival candle, now re-lit in the ashtray. "We both just need to warm up, get a good night's sleep. We'll be good as new tomorrow."
"Uh-huh." Dean didn't seem convinced, but turned his attention back to his soup, grateful his shivering had subsided to the point he could hold the cup himself. Having his little brother haul him into the car and wrap him up in blankets was one thing, but Sam feeding him soup?
"So how'd you know?" Sam, now cocooned in his own blanket and also drinking soup, was looking at him curiously.
Sam's eyebrow quirked. "How'd you know that stranded woman was this Yuki-Onna, that she was the one behind all those frozen corpses we came to town to investigate? It's not like we've run into one before."
Dean took another drink of soup. "You're not the only one who can research, you know."
Sam held onto his cup with both hands. "I know, but something tells me there's more to it than that."
"Yeah." Dean stared at the snow covering the car windows. "Anime."
"What?" Sam snorted. "You mean cartoon porn?"
"It's an art form, damn it." Dean scowled at his brother. "And it saved your ass. Yuki-Onna is one of the most popular villains in anime. If I didn't know that, we'd be two more of those frozen corpses you were just talking about."
Sam's eyes widened. "Seriously? Everything you did today, including knowing how to gank her, you learned from car-…anime?"
Dean shrugged, then took another sip of soup. "Yuki-Onna is a character from Japanese folk lore. Her name means Snow Woman and she's able to control snow, wind and ice. According to lore, sometimes she appears as a pregnant woman, sometimes she's carrying a baby. But she's always hot. Most times she naked, with incredible-"
"Prude." Dean cleared his throat. "Anyway, her victims are always men and she can either kill them with a kiss, which sucks the life out of them, freezing them from the inside out, or if the dude tries to take her kid, the baby becomes so heavy he can't move and he freezes to death in that spot."
Sam leaned forward, his interest definitely piqued. "Which did she try to do to you?"
"Both." Dean shrugged at Sam's puzzled expression. "I found her huddled under a tree, holding her kid, and told her I'd get them back to our car where she could warm up. When she asked me to carry the baby, that's when all the pieces fell into place. The description fit, the circumstances, the weather… So I said no."
Sam's eyebrow quirked. "And…"
"She was busted and she knew it, but…" Dean grinned at Sam. "She has a weakness for hot guys." His grin turned into a scowl when Sam snorted. "What? You don't think I'm hot?"
"Oh no." Sam shook his head. "I'm not answering that. I lose either way." He bit back his grin. "Please – go on."
Dean's scowl remained. "She decided that because I tried to help her - and because I was hot - that she'd let me go. She kissed me to seal the deal." He shot a glare at Sam. "FYI – I was frozen in place at the time thanks to some, I dunno, Yuki-Onna hoo-doo – couldn't exactly fight her off." He shuddered at the memory, then cleared his throat. "Anyway, the deal was, if I told anyone about our, um, date, she'd come back and off me."
Sam frowned. "So you deliberately told me, knowing she'd be back and we could take her out."
Dean nodded. "She let me go, but the next ugly dude who walked into her trap was toast. And the next do-gooder who tried to help her kid, and so on." He rolled his eyes. "Then there's the rest of the lore."
Sam reached for the Thermos and offered Dean more soup. "What's that?"
Dean held out his cup for Sam to re-fill. "She's shows up disguised as some other hot chick and sucks you into a relationship. You settle down, have kids… then, eventually, she reveals herself to you, tells you that if you even think of harming the kids, her kids, you're dead meat. Then she disappears, but the dude lives the rest of his life with that sword hanging over his head, worrying that every time he fights with the kids over missing curfew or a bad grade, she'll be back."
Sam's smile didn't reach his eyes. "I thought you'd given up on the idea of a family, of getting out of the life… Can't see you falling under her spell."
Dean glanced out the window. "I have, and I wouldn't. But knowing any chick I meet could be her would suck the fun out of every one-night stand from here on in. She had to go." He turned back to Sam. "It just took me a while to remember how to gank her. Like my wheels, I don't work best in cold weather."
Sam grinned. "Fire makes sense, if her powers are all tied into snow and ice. But I'm guessing they didn't use a flare gun in the porn…er, anime."
Dean snorted. "Dude, you know as well as I do, in this job you gotta think on your feet." He wrapped both hands around his cup and breathed in the aroma of the hot soup. "According to legend, she haunts the mountains until she melts away with the snow in spring, but I've seen anime where she's lured into a kind of Devil's Trap and left to melt in the hot sun, where she's taken out by flaming arrows and where she's burned at the stake like a witch. So, yeah, fire is her natural enemy. I had a flare gun – you use what you got." He shook his head. "The only thing I can't figure out is why a spirit from Japanese folk lore is haunting the Rockies in the good ol' U.S. of A."
Sam shrugged. "Denver has a good-sized Asian community and the mountains offer plenty of snow and ice for a big chunk of the year. It wouldn't be the first time a spirit or creature from the old world hitched a ride with immigrants and set up shop here." He stared at the snow that covered the front and side windows of the car. "The other five victims… The coroner said all their cars went off the road and they died of exposure. But they couldn't figure out why because their cars were full of gas, worked fine and the weather was clear at the time they went in the ditch. This Yuki-Onna, she stirred up her own storms to strand her victims, right?"
"But the storm that landed us here, it wasn't hers, it was in the forecast. We knew we were pushing it to make it to Denver before it hit."
"Which is why you insisted on all the Boy Scout provisions." Dean held up his hand. "And stow the I-told-you-so's – you were right, your merit badge is in the mail. And, hey, just cause the bitch can brew up a storm, doesn't mean she can't piggy-back on one of Mother Nature's."
Sam frowned. "Think she came after us intentionally – cause she knew we were coming after her?"
Dean grinned. "No, I think she came after me 'cause I'm hot."
"God." Sam rolled his eyes. "You're gonna be playing that card for a while, aren't you?"
Dean's grin widened.
Sam shook his head. "Whatever. Here's to getting her before she got us." He raised his cup. "And here's something I never thought I'd hear myself say – here's to the day cartoon porn saved our lives."
Dean snorted as he clinked his cup against Sam's. "Anime, dude. Anime. But I'll drink to that."
A/N: When I found the Yuki-Onna legend, I thought she'd make a great SN MOTW. But I really knew I could have some fun, when I discovered she is a popular figure in anime, and loves hot men. Oh Dean! Like the show we all know and love, I played a little fast and loose with the lore facts, but the essence remains intact. Hope you enjoyed. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers!