A/N: Just for reference, this fic takes place several years post-movie for Rise of the Guardians, and season 2ish for Supernatural. Please keep in mind I've only watched the first two seasons of Supernatural and relied on wiki for more canon knowledge, so some things might still be off. If they are, I apologize for it, and just chalk it up to this being an AU mashup universe, where the world mechanics mesh a bit, muddying up the waters for what's canon in both.
Which also means Jack himself might not be exactly the same as in the movie. I'll just leave that little fact dangling ominously.
A Colder Shade of Pale
Dean thought he'd done everything right. He was sure of it. When their dad had left them at the cabin to go on his hunting trip, he'd done everything his dad had told him to do. He'd even set some traps of his own, little mechanical monsters, things with jagged metal edges and broken glass that could hurt anything that could feel pain.
Still, they'd gotten in. They'd gotten in through the chimney and they'd knocked away the gun his father had left him and they'd knocked him and Sammy to the floor and now they were laughing and he was fighting and it probably wasn't going to matter that he was.
"Let him go! Let my brother go!"
"He's a little on the shrimpy side, so tell you what - you stop trying to kick me in the face, kid, and I'll let your little brother live. He doesn't look like good eatin' anyway."
Dean went still, completely still.
"That's a good boy. I promise you, I'm a monster of my word. You just keep still while I kill you. You can scream, though; feel free to scream all you like."
"Dean!" Tears were streaming down Sammy's face where he was pinned to the ground by the other demon. "Don't hurt him!"
"Please don't make him watch," Dean begged. "I won't fight, I swear, but please don't make him watch."
"I said I'd let him live, kid. The only way it'd be worth it is if I got to make him watch me rip you apart. That's what I wanna leave your father for what he did to us - both of his sons in pieces, even if it's not in the same way."
Bright teeth gleamed in the light, and the man - the monster - raised a hand that sprouted jagged claws -
- and then his head promptly exploded into bloody fragments, causing blood to spray all over Dean's face.
In the doorway of the cabin, John Winchester cocked his shotgun again, pointing it at the demon pinning down his other son. Before it could make a move, it was blasted back, a bloody hole now gaping in its chest. Taking out his sidearm, he finished the job, putting two bullets between its eyes.
Dean sat up, shoving the corpse of the demon off of himself, shaking the blood and brains from his arms with a grossed out expression, as John raced over to his younger son, dropping to his knees next to him to scoop him off the ground and into his arms.
"It's alright. It's alright, Sammy. Dean, are you hurt?"
"No, dad, I'm fine -"
"I told you to stay inside! I told you to stay inside, to line all the windows with salt -"
"Then how did they get in?"
"I don't know. I don't know, dad. I did everything you told me to do, the salt, the holy water, I even made some traps -"
"You must have missed something. I told you to double and triple check it, I told you -"
Where Sam knelt, shaking in his father's arms, he buried his face in his father's chest and said, in a plaintive wail, "It's all my fault."
"What do you mean it's your fault?" John asked him.
"I took the traps for the chimney down," said Sam.
"Sam," John said, taking his son by the shoulders to look him in the eyes. "Why would you do that? I told you how dangerous it was."
"I just -" Sam gulped down air, trying to stop his crying. "It's Christmas Eve. I just wanted to make sure Santa could come."
It was only last year that Sam had found out about his father's hunting trips, about what had really happened to their mother. Before that, he'd never believed in Santa. This was the first Christmas after he'd found his father's journal and Dean had explained everything, after he'd told him that monsters and make believe things were real.
So Sam believed that maybe other make believe things were real too, too. If all the bad things were real, shouldn't some of the good make-believe things be real, too?
"I thought...I thought if everything else is real, Santa might be, too, and with all the traps and the salt and everything, what if the reason he's never come is because he could never get in?"
John sighed as he looked his youngest son in the eyes, but Sam couldn't look at his father without flinching - and there was someone else he wanted to focus on more. Breaking free from his father's grip, he went over to Dean, throwing his arms around him.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I just wanted to see Santa, I'm sorry."
Dean hugged him back. "It's okay, Sammy. I'm not hurt."
"You're just slimy."
"Yeah," said Dean, arms curling even more tightly around his little brother. "Yeah, I'm just slimy."
That was the day that Sam Winchester stopped believing in Santa and far north, on a globe hidden in bright place under the ice, a little light went out almost as quickly as it had flickered into being.
For Dean, who had never believed in Santa at all, it was just another day in the life of a hunter. He didn't believe in Santa or the Tooth Fairy or all those other nice things, but he believed in everything else. He'd always believed, ever since that day his father had shoved little Sammy in his arms and told him to run.
You had to believe things were real so you could to kill them. And you couldn't believe the good ones existed because that's how the bad ones snuck in when your guard was down.
Marissa Wilberson was six years old and that meant she knew a lot of things. She knew that Santa wasn't real, for instance. She had figured that out recently. It was just a feeling, just a strange feeling that made her stop believing one day. She'd asked her big cousin to confirm it and had been sad to be right. She knew that the Easter Bunny wasn't real, too, and that had made her even sadder.
She also knew that something was scratching at the window outside her window at night and that it wasn't nice.
Her mommy and daddy didn't believe her and told her it was just bad dreams, but it was there and had been there for three nights now. Sometimes it even whispered to her through the windowpane, saying "Let me in" in a hissing voice that sounded like a teenage boy's but was as brittle as a frozen flower.
Tonight it was there again, fingers scratching at the glass, little patterns of frost spreading out from them. She knew if she told her mommy and daddy it was here that it'd be gone by the time they came to look and that they wouldn't believe her, so she simply lay there, cowering in her bed, a blanket pulled over her head.
It whispered the same whisper as it had the times before, the same creaky "Let me in" that had scared her the other nights, only now it said more things, things that weren't quite as scary.
"I just want to play," said the voice through the glass. "Don't you want to have fun?"
Marissa finally sat up when she heard that, a little bit less afraid, enough to stop hiding under her blankets at least. In the window, she could only see the shadow of the thing but now that she thought about it, it looked more like a boy's shadow than a monster's, more like something she'd heard about from her friends at school that wasn't a monster at all.
"Are you Jack Frost?" she asked.
"Yes," the voice said after a moment's hesitation. "Yes, I am."
"I heard from the other kids at school that you make it snow in people's rooms and that you bring all the snow days."
"Yes," the voice hissed.
"You're not supposed to be real, though. Just like Santa isn't real."
Marissa tilted her head, bringing her legs over the side of her bed and tiptoeing across the cold floor. If she had it snow in her room she could tell all the other kids at school she got to play with Jack Frost, too.
She really wanted him to be real. Maybe if he was real, all the other things were real and her cousin was wrong somehow.
"If I let you in, will you make it snow in my room?"
"Let me in. I'll come in and play."
His voice was a little strange and scary, like it was coming from the other side of a mirror if your reflection could talk, but underneath the strange echo, he sounded like just a boy and that wasn't scary at all, if Marissa really thought about it. If he was something magic, that made all the snow days and let kids have fun, then maybe that meant he just didn't have a normal voice. Maybe he had a magic voice that sounded a little funny.
The lure of something special and magical proved to be too strong to resist and overcoming her fear, Marissa stood up and walked over to the window, clutching her bunny doll to herself protectively. Slowly and cautiously, she went over to the window. Now the boy wasn't perched right on the sill like he had been. Instead he was off to the side now and she could see nothing outside but the open night sky.
Marissa unlocked the window, then scrambled back cautiously and got back up on her bed, kneeling there on the blanket, waiting for Jack to come in.
A long-fingered hand reached down and opened the window and then a dark, long-limbed shape clambered into her room, just outside the ring of light her nightlight provided.
"Are we going to play now?" she asked.
"We're going to have so much fun."
The figure suddenly smiled and though she could see nothing else about it, its teeth caught the smallest edge of light from the nightlight and gleamed just a little too bright, and looked a little too sharp and narrow, like icicles.
The screaming was what woke Mr. and Mrs. Wilberson up, becauses it was the kind of screaming no parent ever wanted to hear from their child. Immediately, the two of them toppled out of bed, going from sleeping to moving in nearly no time at all as they rushed out of their bedroom towards their daughter's.
Mrs. Wilberson was the first to kick open the door and that was why she saw the shape in the window, a long-limbed shadow with a smile that was too bright in the dark that slipped away so quickly she thought she'd imagined it.
It was also why she was the first to see her daughter where she lay still and completely pristine on her bed, her face far too pale and glittering with ice. She fell back, screaming an anguished scream, into her husband's arms just as he started screaming, too.
"Hey Dean, check this out. We're having no luck with tracking down that shadow demon, so..."
Dean was a little too busy checking out the bacon and eggs he was stuffing into his mouth - and also the waitress that had brought the bacon and eggs - but eventually he reined his attention in to look back at his brother, who turned his laptop so Dean could see it.
The headline read:
In-home exposure deaths of 3 children mystify local authorities
"Saw a paper someone left on the seat and found some news reports from a town nearby online. Burgess, Pennsylvania. Over this last week, three kids were found dead in their beds, frozen to death."
"Frozen how? Are we talking the kids just left their windows open or Leggo my Eggo frozen?"
"The reports say that the kids had to be thawed out before they could even do autopsies. The were frozen solid. Even though their bedroom windows were found open and it was cold outside, their parents had seen them at least an hour - and sometimes only minutes - before they were found. Nowhere near enough time for them to die of exposure and freeze that way naturally."
"Definitely something oogie going on there."
"Bigtime oogie," Sam said, turning the laptop back to face himself again.
"What are you thinking? Spirits that freeze their victims aren't that common to come by."
"But they do exist in a lot of cultures, like the Yuki-Onna in Japan."
"Snow ladies, right? They punish guys who can't keep it in their pants."
"They're also thought to freeze lost travellers or even break into homes and freeze whole families inside. They're usually women that died in the snow themselves. Even if it's not one of them, there are probably other vengeful spirits out there with the same MO."
"Makes sense. Miserable death in the cold leads to a miserable spirit, and they take out their bad days on other people instead of investing in a ghostly stress ball. Did you search for any local stuff that fits?"
"I did some research on the town to see if anything fit and apparently," Sam cocked his head in a 'lookee what I found with my nerdy nerd research skills' gesture, "local legend holds that the town is where a certain fairly famous winter spirit originated."
Sam turned his laptop around again to show a woodcut of a spindly-limbed boy that looked as if he was made of jagged ice.
"Are you telling me the people in this town think that Rankin and Bass, pointy-shoed reject is real?"
"Looks like it. Apparently, the local lore isolates Burgess as the place where several legends about Jack Frost originated. He's just a folk figure everywhere else, more a fictional character than anything, but in the last year or so, around the town, they've come to see him as more of a cryptid like the Jersey Devil or how some places see their local Woman in White. There are even websites that track supposed sightings of him. They've only sprung up recently, but they're taking this pretty seriously."
"But it's Jack freakin' Frost. That's like thinking Santa's real."
"Maybe they've had something real in this town, a local spirit that the lore built up around, and it spread until it turned into other legends and stories. Look at how they treat vamps in the movies, not knowing the real thing is out there. The Jack Frost legend had to start somewhere, right?"
"Alright, I guess we know where we're heading next. But our next hunt after this better not having us chasing Rudolph or Frosty the Snowman, that's all I'm saying."
Sam grinned as he packed up his laptop, and Dean continued on.
"Or Heat Miser. We're not fighting Heat Miser or Snow Miser..."
The thing about belief was that the nature of it could change. The thing about beings that were sustained on belief was that when it changed, they could feel it change.
The figure that perched on the chimney of the Wilberson house held its hand to its chest as it perched there, listening to the despondent sobs coming from the parents' bedroom. Eventually they went quiet and the shadow-shape swung down to the window and perched on the sill, looking in through the glass at an area no longer cordoned off with police tape, where pink pony figures lined shelves and stickers had been placed on walls.
Silently, the figure peered into the room, taking everything in - especially the emptiness.
Then it noticed the glass of the window, cracked from extremes of cold, in shapes much like frost. Pale fingers pressing against the glass made new frost shapes emerge, filling in the cracked patterns that were there.
The figure hissed.
Mrs. Wilberson heard the hiss through the glass of the window as she passed by the doorway of what had been her daughter's room, on the way back from the bathroom with tissues. She quickly turned around at the noise, throwing herself in through the doorway, just in time to see a long-limbed shape disappear from window again, like she had the night her daughter died.
This time, she got a better look, though. This time she was absolutely sure of what she'd seen. It had been a boy, a pale boy with spider-like limbs and a blue hoodie. Racing over to the window, she peered out and saw a flitting shape in the trees outside, holding what looked like a staff, disappearing into the treetops.
Looking down, she saw that the window had been frosted over, and there were little curls and fractal patterns of frost that matched the cracks, just like there had been the night her daughter was killed.
"Oh my God."
Whenever you wanted information on a killing like this, it was best to go straight to the source, and that was what brought the Winchesters to the Krupke house, where one of the victims had died.
"Hello, Mrs. Krupke, Mr. Krupke. I'm Agent Theodore Kord and this is my partner, Michael Carter," said Dean. "We're from the FBI. We were hoping to ask you a few questions about your son."
The two of them flashed their fake IDs as they stood there in the Krupke's doorway, dressed smartly in their suits.
"But we already spoke with the police," said Mrs. Krupke, confused. She was blonde, her hair messy and frazzled, sticking out in little wisps in every direction, her eyes tired and bloodshot.
"They've given us their report, but we wanted to speak to you ourselves, to see if we could turn up any fresh information," said Dean.
"I don't know if we - I don't if we can do this again," said Mr. Krupke, a stocky, balding man in his forties.
Sam gave them his gentlest, most doe-eyed look, and his voice was gentle as he spoke. The actual empathy in his voice sold it.
"Sir, ma'am, I know you've suffered a terrible loss, but sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can help turn up something new in an investigation like this, and the more information we have, the more likely we'll be able to figure out what happened to your son - and if there was foul play involved, the faster we'll be able to bring who's responsible to justice."
The couple looked at each other and silently seemed to come to an agreement.
"I suppose you can come in," said Mr. Krupke as his wife held open the door. He went off to put on some coffee, his voice fragile. "I just don't know what else there is to say."
Before long, they were settled at the kitchen table. Sam had a notepad and a pen out.
"When was the last time you saw your son before you discovered what had happened to him?"
"It was sometime around 9:30 pm. We heard the -" Mrs. Krupke had to take a deep breath to steady herself. "We heard him screaming around ten o'clock and when we ran up to see what was wrong, he was -"
She pressed his lips together in a trembling, thin line and leaned against her husband, who put his arm around her.
"It was just a half hour, at most. And we heard him just seconds before we walked in and saw him - saw him like that."
"Was the room cold?" asked Dean.
"It was freezing," said Mr. Krupke. "And the air was so dry, like all the moisture had been sucked out of it. Even with his window open, it didn't seem right. It was colder in his room than it was outside."
"Were there any signs that there were liquids there, or vapor from something like liquid nitrogen?" asked Sam.
"No. It was just cold, and he was there on the bed, just..." Mr. Krupke couldn't finish the thought, trailing off instead into quiet misery.
"Did he mention anyone following him around? At school? When he was outside with friends?" asked Dean. "Someone that might've targeted him, wanted to hurt him?"
"If there was anyone acting strangely towards him, he didn't tell us anything," said Mrs. Krupke.
"Did he ever mention something about someone nosing around the house when they shouldn't have been? Anything that might have frightened him," asked Sam.
That made both the Krupkes pause and turn to look at each other. They turned to look back at Dean and Sam with new understanding in their expressions. Apparently, they'd tripped on something the Krupkes hadn't thought to tell the police.
"The night before, he said he thought there was something outside his window. Something that wanted him to open it. I checked, though, and there was nothing there. We figured it was just a bad dream," said Mr. Krupke.
"Did he describe what he saw?" asked Dean.
"He just said it was a voice outside in the dark and that it was scratching on the glass. A dark figure. That's all," said Mrs. Krupke.
"What did he think the voice was saying to him?" Sam asked, notebook at the ready.
"He said...it wanted him to open the window and play," Mrs. Krupke. Her lip quivered. "Do you think that might have been a person? Somehow climbing up to his window? We didn't tell the police, we just thought he was dreaming -"
"At this point in the investigation, we can't really say, Mrs. Krupke."
"It's just, if it was, we didn't believe him, we didn't believe him, so if it was, if we had -"
"Chances are, he really might have just had a nightmare, so I wouldn't fret over it just yet," said Sam. Before she could continue on such an upsetting train of thought, Sam asked, "Is there any chance we could see his room? We have all the crime scene pictures and evidence in lockup but we'd like to get a sense of the space there."
"Yes. Yes, of course."
Later, as the Krupkes sat downstairs, crying yet again because of the grief stirred up by Sam and Dean's questioning, Dean knelt to look under the kid's bed and Sam checked the bedposts to see if there was any ice damage or ritual markings.
Sam muttered to Dean, "If this thing was powerful enough to freeze someone to death, why did it need to be invited in?"
"I dunno, said Dean, waving the EMF meter under and around the bed, the ticking noise it was making unmistakable. "EMF's going crazy, though, so it can't have been some nut with liquid nitrogen or the world's most portable blast freezer."
"I'm not seeing any symbols carved anywhere or signs of black magic." Sam paused. "Wait. Over the bedroom doorway."
Sam went over and pointed out a very small symbol that had been carved into the doorframe.
"What is that?"
"I think that's a yan," Sam said, frowning.
"What's a Yanni who now?"
"It's Thai. Symbols of mystical protection against ghosts and spirits. It would have only warded the door, though, not the window. Still, somebody was expecting some kinda spirit, demon, or monster."
"Think it was the parents?"
"I doubt it. They were too shaken for people that knew this was something that could happen." Sam looked around the room, going over to the window. "Dean, look at this."
Dean stood and walked over. The window had the slightest golden tinge to it, but that was probably some kind of coating to prevent glare. There were little cracks in strange shapes all along it, spreading out from a few points. "It's cracked."
"Yeah, in the shape of frost patterns. I think it cracked because of the cold. That's a big part of the Jack Frost legend, him leaving frost patterns on the windows."
Sam looked over at his brother at the same time Dean turned to meet his gaze, raising an eyebrow just slightly.
"And if it was cold enough to stress-crack glass," said Dean, "it was cold enough to turn these kids into kidsicles."
He whispered in the childrens' ears. When they walked alone anywhere, he darted overheard from roof to roof, a flash of white and blue, watching, waiting. He caught them during moments alone, asking his quiet questions. Sometimes he hovered outside their windows at night, whispering through the glass, listening to them whisper back.
They trusted him as they always had - and that was possibly was the undoing of the ones who had died.
It was all the more reason to carry on with his plans.
"That's two families down, and the Millers didn't know much more than the Krupkes," said Dean as he and Sam walked down the sidewalk away from the Miller house, towards the Wilberson's.
"Pattern seems random, too," Sam put in "The Wilbersons are right down the street from here, right? Within walking distance. But the Krupkes are all the way across town. If there is a pattern, we haven't seen enough of it yet to figure out what it is. We need to hit the library or the town hall archives after we talk to the Wilbersons, to see if we can dig up anything on the Jack Frost legend."
"I'm still not sold on that being a real thing, Sammy. Should we focus in on it that much when we hardly have any clues on what this thing is?"
"I don't really understand why you're so skeptical about Jack Frost existing when all the other stuff we've seen exists."
"It's the whimsy. I just find that crap harder to believe."
"It's not exactly whimsical if he's murdering kids."
"Yeah, but if he exists then you still start getting into territory that involves things pissing fairy dust and crapping rainbows and making dreams come true. You have to consider that the other ones are real, too."
The corner of Sam's mouth twitched up in amusement. "It's almost like you want to think that's impossible."
"I don't want to think it's impossible, it just is."
"Don't you ever wish things like Santa were real? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Just to...balance the rest of it out, I guess."
"Even if those guys ever did exist, they'd be demon chow in a hot minute. We don't live in that kind of world."
"I'm not saying we do, I'm just saying...wouldn't it be nice if we did?"
"It'd be nice if there was world peace. It'd be nice if right now we weren't tracking down something turning kids into Swanson frozen dinners. It'd be nice if Scarlett Johansson was warm for my form and could magically be summoned whenever I did the little nose wrinkle from Bewitched. There are a lot of things that would be nice, Sammy, but we don't live in a nice world."
"You can't even do the nose wrinkle from Bewitched."
"Exactly my point. Some things will just never be."
"But don't you ever just -"
"Just what?" Dean asked Sam, narrowing his eyes slightly. "What's this all about?"
Sam looked everywhere but Dean as he walked along the sidewalk, not wanting to voice the things he'd been thinking about since their father died in the hospital. It was all so complicated, how he felt, the grief and the relief, the love and the resentment. Even as he loved his father, now gone, he was angry at the way things had been his whole childhood and the fact that now nothing could ever change between them.
"Did you see that kid's room? Teddy bears and ponies and stickers on every surface. She had a drawing in her dresser drawer of the Easter Bunny. No Glock hidden under her pillow, no traps set up by the windows. Don't you ever feel like we missed out by never having a chance to believe in stuff like that? By never having that kind of childhood?"
"Hell no," said Dean, an expression on his face that showed that he found the idea ridiculous. "Why, so we could just have all that innocence crushed like a beer can as soon as we found out how it all really worked? We were better off not being raised like these kids, because if we had been raised like these kids, we'd probably be dead right now. Dad prepared us for the way the world really was and it was - you know, it was good you didn't get into it until you were a little older, but lying to you about all that stuff, like Santa and the Tooth Fairy, that wouldn't have done anything for you."
"Maybe there's just a part of me that wishes it was real."
"Why's that? You hoping the Tooth Fairy will come and do more than leave money under your pillow?"
"Because if those things don't exist, the joy, and the innocence, and the wonder - then what are we even fighting for?"
Dean was quiet for a moment, thinking about that.
"We're fighting for people to be able to live their little lives without getting their faces eaten off by gribblies. And for them to be able to go about their day completely oblivious to the things knocking around in the dark. That's plenty," Dean said flippantly as they made their way up to a house with light blue siding and a maroon pickup in the driveway. "144 Blackwood Drive, this is it."
Sam went quiet as they made their way up to the Wilbersons' door.
They didn't get a chance to knock before the door opened. Mrs. Wilberson was standing there, her face wan, dark circles under her eyes.
"I saw you coming up the drive. Are you the FBI? You look like -"
Authority figures. Apparently, she wanted to see them because she wanted some answers.
They got out their fake IDs.
"That we are, ma'am" said Dean. "I'm Agent Theodore Kord. This is my partner Michael Carter. We wanted to ask you a few questions."
"We're hoping to fill in some gaps in our knowledge that we couldn't with the evidence collected by the local police," added Sam.
"Come in," Mrs. Wilberson said blankly, and she moved away from the door to let them in.
She didn't so much walk as float into the den, a wisp of a thing, her long, black hair tangles, her clothes hanging off her thing form as they were about to fall off at any moment because her body was going to dissolve in grief.
She sat on the very edge of the couch cushion and looked at the both of them, her expression filled with pain and with a strange timid longing, as if she was dying to tell them something but afraid of how it would sound.
"I hope you'll excuse my husband for not joining us. He's hardly been out of bed for days."
Sam had seen this before. Some couples supported each other in their grief, others fell apart. Right now, it seemed like the Wilbersons were at that stage where it was difficult to tell if the latter was happening or if they both just needed time alone to process and lick their wounds.
"I'm very sorry for your loss, Mrs. Wilberson. We'll try to keep this brief."
"I know what killed my daughter," she said before either of them could ask a single question. The two brothers shared a brief surprised glance before turning back to her. "My husband thinks I'm crazy, the police think I'm crazy, and you're probably going to think I'm crazy, too, but I saw it. I saw it in the window. Twice."
"Mrs. Wilberson, what did you see?"
"A figure. With long arms and legs. The first time it was just a shadow and I saw it smile as it slipped out the window. Its teeth were too bright. That was the night my baby -"
She closed her eyes tight and fat, glistening tears slid down her face, though she didn't make a sound.
"And the second time?"
"It was a few nights ago. I heard a hiss outside the window, looked into my daughter's room - and there he was. This time I saw him - it - better."
"What was there?"
"A teenage boy. With white hair, and - and a blue shirt. Maybe a sweatshirt? And he was pale like a corpse. He had the same long, skinny legs and arms, like a spider. He didn't look entirely human; there was something about his skin, about his proportions, that was just...off. And there was something vague about him, like he wasn't entirely there, like something was shifting in my head so I couldn't quite see him clearly. He saw me, though, and then he disappeared and by the time I got over to the window, I saw him disappearing into the treetops, like he flew there. And on the window, there was frost, just like the night my baby died."
"Mrs. Wilberson, have you ever seen something like this before, or any hint something was following your daughter around?"
"I did but I didn't see the signs. She told me there was something outside her window, whispering to her, and I thought it was just bad dreams."
Mrs. Wilberson was crumbling now, her expression agonized, her tears quietly plopping onto the fabric of her jeans.
"You couldn't have known, ma'am," said Sam comfortingly. "Not with something like this."
"But I should have. She told me that the kids at school all talked about playing with someone during the winter, a boy in blue, that brought the snow. A boy with a magic staff. The other kids were telling her he was real, that they played with him. I took her over for playdates with the Bennett kids around the block - and they have pictures. They have pictures of this thing on their refrigerator. And their kids aren't the only ones. I've seen pictures at the houses of the other kids when I took her over for playdates."
"What do you mean they have pictures?"
"The kids have all been drawing pictures of him. Kids that my daughter played with drew pictures of him before I ever saw him in the window. What I saw was exactly the same as in those pictures and the pictures are all exactly the same, from one to the next. Don't you see?" She leaned forward, looking desperate for them to believe her. "This thing is real and it's been playing with them, toying with them. They trust him and he's going to use that trust to kill them all."
Sam and Dean walked briskly as they left the Wilberson house, back towards the Impala.
"We've got to get to the library and start going through some historical records."
Dean was quiet.
Sam was smug.
Finally, Dean said, "I'm still not saying he's real. There's something creepy the character is based on, but that whole pointy-shoed, folksy mother isn't the real deal."
Sam just grinned. "You sure you don't want to try the nose-twitch thing, see if Scarlett shows up?"
"Man, I wish."
"Face the facts, we are never going to find what we need in here."
"We still have more to go through."
"We're all the way back in the 1700s now and we've got some cases of people freezing to death, but no way of knowing if any of them could be our guy."
"Well, he's gotta be a teenager, right? We have some cases of kids, of adults - and they could just be exposure but those might even be his first victims. If we find one that's a teenager..." Sam's brows furrowed as he thumbed through another page in the musty book he was reading. "I think I found something."
"This book talks about local lore and legends but it's a reprint of a book put out in 1750. So it's still got some of the historical accounts that the legends are thought to be based on. It says that the Jack Frost story started back in the early 1700s, among the children of Burgess. The author thinks it was based on the true story of a 'a boy of seventeen years drowning most tragically in a frozen pond.' They don't know who started the legend initially but think it may have been someone in his family, spreading a folk story that he was 'dancing on the winter wind.'"
"Where exactly does all the homicide come in? This thing's gotta have a reason it's doing all this, right?"
"Actually, this might be it," Sam said, tapping a passage on the page. "So, get this: it says his sister was with him when he drowned and talks about the tragic life lost that day on the ice. Maybe it has something to do with the sister?"
"That makes sense. The two of them take a dunk, they both die, he doesn't move on, his sister does, and he comes back a spirit. Maybe over time, he gets more and more resentful over the death of his sister, upset that she didn't get to live? Thinks the kids that are alive are undeserving, takes out his anger on them?"
"It's as good a theory as any. The only thing is if this thing is talking to the kids and, I don't know, grooming them to trust him to be his future victims, that's a lot more calculating than most spirits are."
"It's an old spirit, Sammy. Three hundred years being stuck between life and death? Stuck as a teenage boy but can't get laid? Who knows how twisted it's become. Maybe it's gone right through the blind rage some spirits have and come out the other side into something even crazier."
"Looks like we got our man. Any chance we can find the body and torch it?"
"In a town like this that preserves its local history, there's got to be a historic graveyard somewhere where the earliest settlers were buried. We just have to find the grave of..." Sam turned the page back, read the name, and looked up at Dean. "...Jackson Overland."
They had to search three graveyards to find it and the last one was off the beaten track a bit, a good way into the woods around the town. The only reason they found it was because a clerk at the town archives had known it was there. The gravestones here were all crooked, some of them half-sunken into the ground. Others were crumbled or uprooted by tree roots jutting out of the ground. Weeds grew everywhere, obscuring most of them.
"Most of these are so worn down you can barely see the names," said Sam.
"We've searched two graveyards already and there aren't any other ones from this early. It's gotta be here."
"Unless he wasn't buried in a graveyard. Sometimes people back then were just buried somewhere random, with a wooden cross or marker. If that's the case, any markers would've long since rotted away."
"Wait, I think I found it."
Sam loped over to the grave Dean was pointing at and took a look at it.
SON TO JOHN
AND MARY OVERLAND
JANUARY 26TH 1710
IN Ye 17TH YEAR
OF HIS AGE
It gave Sam pause. "Huh. His parents had the same names as mom and dad."
Dean gave a half-shrug, as if shrugging that fact over his shoulders and letting it cascade away. "I'll get the shovels."
Before long, they were jamming shovels into the packed earth and trying to make short work of digging up the grave. The sun would be down soon.
"I wonder what the 'brave soul' part of it means," Sam said after a while, using his foot to get the blade of the shovel in deep.
Dean perked up, looking up from digging, with a slight look of confusion on his face. "Does it matter?"
"I'm just wondering what it means."
"You've been wondering about a lot of stuff lately. Stop it. It's annoying."
"I don't know, something about this is weird to me."
"What's so weird about it? Standard dead guy with vengeance issues, taking it out on other people."
"Why does it need to be let in instead of just breaking the window or going through the walls? The protective marks are on the inner doors, not the windows."
"Standard polite dead guy with vengeance issues, taking it out on other people."
"Dean, I'm serious."
"You're the one that was dead set on it being Little-Boy-Blue-From-Frostbite here."
"And I think that's what the story is based on, but I think we might be dealing with something...different."
"Even if it is, let's get its body up, salt, it, torch it, and see if that does the job. If not, we'll try curtain number two."
They dug and they dug and it was when they were about ten feet down and had dug out several feet sideways in both directions (In case the bones shifted under the earth) that they realized their efforts were futile.
"I don't think the body's here," Sam said, wiping sweat from his brow and smearing dirt to his forehead in the process.
"Do you think the bones broke down? His spirit could always be attached to something else."
"Ground's not really peaty here. Pretty neutral in acidity. Bones should've been preserved, even after this long."
"Our boy drowned, right? What if this an empty grave? What if they never recovered the body and just put up a headstone for the family?"
"That must be what happened. Either his body's at the bottom of whatever pond he drowned in or an animal dragged it out and carried it off somewhere."
"Great, so he could be anywhere. Even if we can find where he drowned, we'd have to dredge the whole freakin' pond," Dean grumbled.
"And that's even if his bones aren't in some random spot in the woods. If the body was dragged out by a bear or a wolf..."
Dean tossed his shovel up over the edge of the grave and heaved himself up to climb out.
"Curtain number two then," he grunted, as he dragged himself out. "Let's leave this open in case we have to pin him in it with silver or something."
"What exactly is behind curtain number two?" asked Sam as he did the same.
"Find the spirit and toss stuff at it until we find something that works," Dean said matter-of-factly
"And how exactly are we supposed to find this thing?" Sam asked as they gathered up their shovels, the can of gas, and the salt, to put it back in the trunk of the Impala.
"We look for it."
"Look for it where?"
"I dunno, but I don't see you coming up with any bright ideas."
"Even if our plan is to toss whatever we can at it, we need more information to find it."
"This thing strikes at night. If we sit on our heels, there might be another frigid first grader by morning."
"We have no idea where it's going to be and we can't cover the whole town. We should head back to the hotel. I can do more research online, especially since I know more things to look for after hitting the library."
"We're not spending the night with our thumbs up our asses while you fiddle around on your laptop."
"Okay, then what do you propose we do?"
"What did that lady say? That there was someone she had her kid have playdates with, right?"
"A family called the Bennetts."
"Small town like this, there can't be that many families with the same name. Why don't we crack open a phonebook, find 'em, and pay them a little visit?"
There were only two families named Bennett in the Burgess phone-book. The cover they'd come up with wouldn't work without knowing the names and some information about the kids, so a quick side trip to Burgess Elementary School and one brief break-in later, they'd made a phone call to the right family. With the cover they'd come up with, just showing up at the Bennett house definitely wouldn't fly, so Sam put on his best conciliatory, touchy-feeling tone of voice when making the call.
"We can be there in an hour. Would that work for you? I'm sorry I'm being so pushy about the timing, but with them renovating the office and having all of us make home visits to do this, my schedule's all over the place."
Sam bit his lip as he listened.
"I know, it's very unconventional, Mrs. Bennett, and even a little intrusive. We're really wondering why the district decided to do it this way ourselves, but they're the ones calling the shots. Anyway, we'll be there at eight o'clock. See you soon." Sam hung up the phone. "She bought it."
"Since when do school crisis counselors make home visits?"
"Does it matter? She bought it, even if she was a little skeptical."
"So what should we wear for this one. Do we have a sweater vest somewhere? This seems like a sweater vest kinda gig."
Sam had opted for the sweater vest and his hair parted in the middle. Dean went with a navy blue cardigan and fake glasses.
"Hi, Jamie, hi Sophie, my name is Oliver Queen and this is Dr. Carter Hall, the school sent us out to talk to some of the students and see how they're dealing with the scary things going on," said Sam gently.
Jamie Bennett was a brunette, twelve, small for his size, and had the most skeptical-looking expression on his face Sam had ever seen on another human being, let alone a twelve-year old. He was wearing loose-fitting jeans, a t-shirt that read "Keep Calm and Kill Zombies," and a blue flannel shirt that made him look like a holdover from the '90s. His six-year-old sister Sophie was pretty much his polar opposite, blond, chirpy and cheerful, and dressed like a unicorn had helped her pick out her clothes.
"Since when do school counselors make house-calls and do it this late at night?" Jamie asked, arms crossed as he sat at the kitchen table, his eyes flicking over to where his mother sat in the dining room, as if silently judging her parental judgement call.
She had checked their IDs (stolen during their elementary school break-in and then altered at the hotel) but even so, she wasn't entirely comfortable leaving her two kids alone with strangers, so she was occupying herself on her laptop in the dining room, within clear sight of her kids over the kitchen island.
"It's very unusual," Dean agreed, "but you know how school administrators can be."
"Principal Pretfield is usually pretty reasonable."
"Not with this," Dean said with a strained smile.
"And since when do they send two counselors at a time?" Jamie went on.
"Well, there's two of you," Sam pointed out. And they'd doubted their mother would let them be split up when she was already jumpy about it already.
"But you're talking to the both of us at the same time. You're not even splitting us up so it's one-on-one."
Sam was smiling the strained smile now. "Like we said, it's a little unusual, but we're just doing what we're told and trying to do our jobs. Now Jamie, Sophie, we're here to let you talk about your feelings. It's a scary and upsetting time right now -"
"I think the bogeyman did it," Sophie suddenly declared, as she made her bunny doll hop around on the table, her mouth pursed into a frown. "I think he's the one that hurt Marissa and the other kids."
"It wasn't the bogeyman," Jamie said with his eyeroll.
"Why not?" asked Sophie.
"Because that's not his M.O."
Sam's and Dean shared a brief glance and then Sam looked back to Jamie, tilting his head with interest.
"What do you mean by that? That it's not his M.O.?" he asked.
Jamie stared at them both suspiciously, looking, for just a moment, as if he'd been caught in a lie.
He recovered quickly. "Everyone knows he hides under beds and he gives people nightmares. He doesn't freeze them."
"Do you believe in the bogeyman?" Dean asked Jamie.
"No, that'd be stupid."
"But Jamie, we've seen Pi-" Sophie started and Jamie gave her a Look, which made her immediately go quiet and focus on making her doll hop around the table again.
"What were you going to say, Sophie?" asked Sam.
"Nothing," said Sophie in sing-song.
This was a little weird, Sam decided. He tried a new tactic.
"So you like zombies, huh?" he asked Jamie.
"Not really," said Jamie.
"Then why the shirt?" Sam asked.
"I just think everyone should take zombie preparedness seriously and make an action plan in case of a future zombie armageddon. I have a whole kit ready and I figure we could knock out the stairwell and live on the upper floor if we had to, but only if it was the slow Romero type zombie. Otherwise, I think we'd be out of luck since mom won't let us keep a gun in the house."
Dean and Sam shared a glance again. Dean looked moderately impressed that Jamie was thinking ahead.
"You believe in zombies?" asked Sam.
Jamie went quiet here, as if he was trying to figure out his answer. "It's a big world out there. I like to keep my mind open to the possibilities," he said slowly. "I just don't believe in the bogeyman."
There was something unsaid there, Sam could tell.
"So, do you believe in other things?" asked Dean. "Like ghosts, spirits?"
Now Jamie's eyes darted back and forth to each of them and his eyebrows furrowed slightly. Clearly the kid was picking up a vibe from them he didn't like.
"Yes, you do, Jamie," Sophie chirped up suddenly, "Mom says it's not nice to lie."
"Soph," Jamie said sharply and she went quiet again.
"It's just we noticed that picture up on the fridge. Looks pretty old, like it's been there a long time, but it's kind of interesting," said Sam, pointing. "That's you, isn't it? Riding a sled in the air?"
"That's like four years old. I drew it a long time ago."
"Who's that boy flying in the air? The one in blue, with the staff?"
"Nobody. One of my friends."
"Which is it? Nobody or one of your friends?" asked Dean.
"What does this have to do with what happened to the other kids at school?"
"We're just trying to get a sense of how you cope with things, Jamie," said Sam disarmingly. "Some people use art or their imagination."
"So that kid in blue, is that a classmate?" asked Dean. "An imaginary friend?"
"That's Ja -" Sophie started, but Jamie reacted quickly, putting a hand over her mouth and whispering something in her ear, too quiet for Dean and Sam to hear.
"Jamie says I feel like going to play in my room now," she said, getting up from the chair and skipping off.
"Why did you do that, Jamie?" asked Sam. "What was she about to say?"
Jamie leaned in close.
"You're not from the school," he said. "And if you don't leave right now, I'm going to scream and call in my mom and get her to call the cops."
"Of course we're from the school," said Sam.
"I know our crisis counselor because I've gotten sent down a bunch of times for freaking out my teachers for being weird. Our crisis counselor is Mrs. Leakey and she's always complaining about having to work by herself."
"We're very new, just recently hired -" Dean started.
"- and Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow from DC Comics and Carter Hall is Hawkman. The only way you could have been more obvious fakes is if you said your names were Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. You're not from the school. Get out of my house right now."
Sam leaned in, speaking earnestly, "Jamie, listen, we just -"
"Mooom!" Jamie yelled.
"- right, okay, leaving," Sam said as he and Dean got out of their chairs.
"Jamie, what's wrong?" asked his mother, getting up from the dining room table.
"We're going to be heading out now, ma'am," said Sam politely and he and Dean motored for the door.
They didn't start running until they reached the end of the driveway, and by that time, Jamie's mother had talked to Jamie and was yelling out the front door.
"Hey! Hey, if you're not from the school, who are you? I'm calling the police!"
"Well, that went well," said Dean as the two of them hauled ass back to the Impala and jumped in.
He started the engine and floored it, turning out of the neighborhood and trying to put some distance between them and the Bennett house before the cops came.
"Both those kids knew something," said Dean. "The little girl even started to say his name."
"Jamie seemed like he didn't want to hear a word against him. He was definitely protecting him. Do you think he's messing with the kids' heads?"
"Pulling a little Pied Piper thing? Definitely possible."
"What should we do now?"
Dean shook his head. "You're right about us not knowing where to head next. So, let's head back to the hotel, see if you can find more, doing some research. We just have to hope this thing doesn't strike again tonight."
"Let me in."
Sally Whitman sat in her bed, staring at the figure at the window.
"Let me in and we can play."
"Are you Jack Frost? I heard from Pippa that Jack Frost can fly and he made Jamie Bennett fly to her window and he made it snow in her room and Cupcake's room and Jamie's room and Claude and Caleb's room and Monty's room -"
"Let me in."
"- but I stopped believing in you the other day and I'm not sure why but now that you're real and you're here, can you make it snow in my room? I want it to snow in my room. Can you do that pretty please?"
"Let me in and we'll play."
"Okay, but I want to see snow. In my room."
Sally got out of bed and slipped on her pony slippers, walking over to the window.
Right as she got over to it, there was a smashing sound and the glass cracked as if the figure outside had been slammed into it, hard. Sally jumped back and scurried back to her bed, scared. She turned on her bedside lamp to see the window better.
There was another loud smack and this time she saw a teenage boy slammed into the glass, headfirst. Blood spattered across the cracked window pane.
Sally screamed at the sight of the blood.
There was a moment that his face was pressed against the glass, as if something was holding him there. His expression was pained. With a cry of rage that made the glass reverberate, he managed to twist away, there was a bright flash of blue light, and thick ice suddenly blocked the cracked window.
"Daaaaddy!" Sally screamed.
Reggie Whitman burst through his daughter's door.
"Sally, what is it? What's wrong - oh my god," he said, the moment he saw the cracked, bloody, iced-over window.
"Daaaaddy!" his daughter wailed and he grabbed her up in his arms and raced out of the room.
Outside the window, someone screamed in frustration, then a hand touched the ice, wiping the condensation from it. A face peered in to see if the girl had left the room, blue eyes glittering in the scant light, and then gritting his teeth in frustration, the boy flew off into the night.
His quarry had eluded him tonight.
That wasn't going to happen again.