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Sunday, August 15th, 2010 04:46 pm
Part 8 - Brothers in the Snow

The first thing they do after breakfast, which was passable at best, is hoof it on over to the main drag where the shops are. Dean refuses to drive the car through the snowy streets, and Sam doesn’t blame him for that. The snow comes up to their ankles, and while at least it’s stopped snowing, no one has plowed the roads. The sun actually comes out while they walk as briskly as they can along the sidewalk, but it doesn’t seem to warm them. Sam thinks they probably look like idiots to the cars driving by, wearing sneakers and windbreakers; everyone he sees is dressed with thick down coats and wool hats like they’re ready for the North Pole.

“I am fucking freezing,” says Dean.

Sam nods in agreement, but his lips are too numb to speak. He’s got his hands jammed so far into his jacket pockets that his clenched fists meet. He is soaked from the knee down. The air is thin and sharp, and Sam still can’t breathe fully. He doesn’t want to tell Dean, or maybe he should tell Dean so Dean can tease him about being such a wimp and—

“And I can’t feel my feet, now. Swear to god, Sam—”

Dean’s teeth are clicking together too fast for him to get any more words out, but Sam can pretty much finish what Dean wants to say, because he himself is agreeing: no more mountain gigs in winter. End of story.

Gratefully, they stumble on to 2nd street, where storekeepers have done them the blissful favor of shoveling the walks. But now that they are aligned with the canyon leading up into the mountains so the wind picks up and flings errant snow in their faces. Sam’s jeans flap in icy sheets against his legs.

Sam scans the signs as fast as he can, and briskly opens the door to the first store that looks the least bit mountany. He hits the jackpot. The entire store is filled with an array of boots and down jackets and woolen socks and hats, and blessed, blessed gloves.

A clerk comes over to them right away. He’s got a flannel shirt on and khaki pants with a billion pockets. He looks warm, to boot, and Sam hates him on principle.

“You boys from out of town?” the clerk asks, and there is a smirk in his voice as well as on his face.

“Damn right,” says Dean. “I wouldn’t be caught dead living in this freezing hellhole.”

Sam chuffs him across the back of the head without thinking, and if Dean’s head hurts as much as Sam’s hand stings, it’s nothing more than either of them deserve for being stupid enough to not be more prepared.

He flexes his hands to warm them and gives the clerk his best smile. “We’re from Florida,” he explains. “And were just in the area visiting our aunt, and we need jackets—”

“And boots,” Dean adds.

“Yes, and boots, and gloves and—” Sam pauses as he tries to think of warm things that they’ll need. Even if they’re only going to be in town for another day or two, if they’re hunting down a snow ghost, and there’s no point in getting frostbite.

“And you’ll need some warm socks,” the clerk adds helpfully. “If you’re going to do any hiking at all, you’re going to need woolen socks.”

“Fine,” says Sam. “Can you set us up?” He doesn’t care what the clerk thinks their goal is; hiking is as good a lie as anything else and he marvels at the easy way that most people fill in the blanks on their own.

The clerk might be too snotty for Sam’s tastes, but he does seem to know what they need. Or at least he acts like what he’s bringing out to them is what they need, and that they’ll be at great risk if they don’t purchase exactly everything that he’s suggesting.

“Here’s a coat for all occasions. Definitely everything needs to be able to handle 30 below zero,” says the clerk. His name is Steve, according to his nametag. “You don’t want to risk a sudden blizzard, now, do you.”

“Like yesterday?” asks Dean. Sam can tell he’s trying to be snide, but the clerk is oblivious.

“That?” asks Steve. “Just an early warning system mother nature gives us to alert us to what’s to come. It’s going to be a long, hard winter, gentlemen, and if you want to set foot outside at all, I recommend 100% down. Pure goose down filled jackets and nothing less.”

If they were fish, they’d be caught hook, line and sinker. Sam knows he is. The down jacket Steve pushes at him looks warm even before he puts it on. It is rated to about a zillion below zero, has inside and outside pockets, zippered up everything, and, best of all, a hood that snaps in the front, right under his chin. The last coat Sam had with a hood with a chin snap was from a Christmas barrel when he was ten. That coat had been mud brown. This one is dark, forest green. When he’s all zippered and snapped up, he sticks his hand in the pocket and feels the clean, grit free bottom. Everything smells like packing plastic and he’s warm for the first time since Mammoth Spring.

He smiles at Dean. Who, surprisingly, smiles back.

“You want it?” asks Dean. “Then buy it.”

Dean’s tone is indulgent, but then why should he care? The money isn’t coming out of his pocket or Sam’s. Sam hopes he remembers to pull out the right credit card when it comes time to pay.

Steve brings out another down jacket; this one is blue and has no hood. Without being asked, he helps Dean out of his leather jacket and puts the blue down one on him. Dean raises his eyebrows at Sam, but lets Steve do his thing. Sam thinks the blue looks good on Dean and wishes he wasn’t thinking it.

Sam waits till Dean puts his hands in the pockets. “See?” he says, nodding. “Clean pockets, when was the last time you—”

“Knock it off, Sam,” says Dean, cutting in to Sam’s good mood. “It’s just a coat.”

Undeterred, Steve leaves them and brings back more outdoor gear, which he flops in a pile in front of them.

“You need everything,” he says. “From socks and boots, to mittens and ear warmers. Let’s start with you trying on these gaters.” He shoves Dean into a chair and fits the gaters over Dean’s sneakers, making loud snaps with the elastic.

“What are they for?” asks Sam.

“To keep snow from getting into your boots,” says Steve. “It’s important to keep your feet dry when hiking in snow.”

Sam doesn’t recall telling Steve that they’d be doing any hiking at all, but it doesn’t matter. If Steve is talking, he won’t be asking them about their mythical aunt, nor asking them where the last place they hiked was. Sam’s sure a salt and burn along the banks of the Canadian river at sunset will not count. Nor will it impress Steve overly much to be informed that Sam gave his brother Dean a blow job after they came back from the river. Would it matter if he let Steve know that Dean let him? Sam’s suddenly sure that Dean did, even if it was only for a second, when Dean turned off the light. He’s not sure if it makes Dean pissed-off state less justifiable or not.

Sam is sweating so he takes off the down coat. “I’ll take that,” he says, as he lays it on a chair. “How about you, Dean, you want the blue one you have on?” 

Dean nods and squirms in his seat as he takes it off. Sam takes pity on him and helps him out of it, and the blue coat joins the green one.

Steve selects socks for them, and thick gloves, and adds them to the pile, pretty much without asking if they really want them. Then he brings over several large boxes, which he lays at Dean’s feet, like a sacrificial offering. He slips off the gaiters without being asked, and opens the first box, which he presents to Dean on a flat palm like he was serving up something rare on a silver platter.

But the boots are pretty cool, even Sam can see that. They’re the color of buckskin, and have striped laces and a little bit of green cloth beneath the leather, just where the boot curves up from the laces. The soles are thick, but the boots look light, like you could run like a nimble deer across the rocks in them. From Dean’s indrawn breath, Sam knows Dean thinks the same. He even traces his finger along the side, lingering across the softness.


(Really Cool Boots)


“Would you like to be alone with those?” Sam asks, joking, and instantly wishes he hadn’t. Dean curls his fingers back into a fist, and puts his hand in his lap.

“Do you have any, uh, basic black boots?” Dean’s voice is flat and he doesn’t look up at Sam. “I can’t want these.”

“Sure,” says Steve. “But these are flexible and waterproof, made of the finest nubuck leather, you really can’t go wrong if you break them in slowly and—”

“Just bring the black ones, okay?”

The tightness of Dean’s voice almost breaks Sam’s heart. The boots beneath Dean’s fingers are still touching the leather, but in the Winchester world there is only enough room in the Impala for the basics, and extra pairs of boots, no matter how flexible or watertight or just damn cool looking, just don’t matter.

Sam turns away. He can’t really bear to watch this part.

*

They discuss the case over lunch, and determine that since there’s so much snow, they’re likely to be able to find the Yukki Onna.

“But nothing in the lore says how to destroy it,” says Sam. His pork loin sandwich is good, but what he really wants to do is put on his coat and go outside and maybe get Dean to throw snowballs or make a snow fort like they used to do when they were kids. Anything to cheer him up.

“How does anyone get away from it then?” Dean asks. He’s shoveling chili into his mouth like he’s not eaten in days. Sam can’t stand to watch Dean slurp up the bits of stewed tomatoes, so he concentrates on poking the lettuce back into place beneath the toasted slice of thick bread. Thinks about how the mayonnaise tastes homemade.

“I’m not sure,” says Sam. “Sometimes the victim makes a deal to return in ten years, and if they’re faithful, the Yukki Onna just lets them go. In other stories, she just lets the victim go because she’s grown a soft heart.”

“Like the Grinch.”

Sam can feel his face scrunching up in a frown. “What on earth does the Grinch have to do with a snow ghost?” he asks. Sometimes Dean comes up with the weirdest ideas.

“You know,” says Dean, waving his spoon around. “His heart grew ten sizes that day? Never mind.”

Sam looks out the window. The room café is pleasantly warm and the blue sky and sunlight on the snow-covered mountains is pretty to look at. “I think I need to do some more research,” says Sam. Which he figures will keep him on track and not thinking thoughts he shouldn’t be thinking.

*

When they get back to the room after lunch, they are wearing everything they bought and are not even the least bit cold, even though it’s started snowing again. Sam puts down the shopping bag with their thin, not-suited-to-blizzard clothes, and starts to take off his thick, new jacket. Dean does the same and tosses the blue down jacket on the bed. Sam wonders if after they go back down to the plains, if he’ll ever need his down jacket again, or if he’ll have to give it to goodwill or something to make room in the Impala for something they really need.

As Sam sits down to unlace his new boots, Dean reaches for the bag, and starts pulling out his leather jacket, which is so seasoned that there aren’t even any crease in it as he unrolls it. Which Sam is glad to see, otherwise, he’d never hear the end of it.

Sam’s concentrating on his new laces, feeling the satisfying thickness beneath his fingers, when he hears Dean rattle in the bag some more.

“God damnit, Sam!”

Sam looks up. “What?”

Dean yanks a large shoe box out of the bag; damp socks and ratty sneakers roll across the bed unheeded. He pulls out the nubuck boots and holds them up as if they were a bloody and dismembered head. “What the fuck are these?”

“Boots?” Sam asks, trying for humor.

“I have boots,” says Dean. “They’re on my feet. Do you see them?”

Sam looks down. Dean is wearing his new boots; they are basic black, army-style boots with a thick sole.

“But you liked them.” Sam says his and bites his lip. He wants to make it up to Dean in so many ways, and he thought this was a good way. “I saw you.”

Well,” says Dean. He slams the boots back in the huge box. “You shouldn’t have been watching.”

Obviously, Dean wanted the boots, but he won’t let himself have them. And it’s not because of how much they cost, Sam knows. Instead, it is the idea of luxury, which is not allowed, especially not for Dean. At least not in Dean’s mind. Maybe if Sam’d gotten himself an extra pair of boots, in the same, soft deer-hide color, then Dean might have said yes to a pair for himself.

But now Dean puts the boots back in the box and after dumping everything else on the floor, puts the box back in the bag. Then he holds out his hand. “Receipt. Now.”

Sam fumbles through his pocket and hands over the receipt and credit card. Dean’s in no mood, and Sam can’t hold him up.

Dean shoves the credit card and receipt in his pocket and bundles up in the new coat he agreed to buy. Even if he doesn’t seem as taken with his coat as Sam is with his, at least it’s thick and warm and he won’t freeze while he stomps through the snow back to the store to yell at Steve for letting his brother buy untoward things. Dean zips and snaps so fast, it’s a wonder the closings don’t break.

“I’m taking this back,” he says. “And then we need to be ready to go hunting, because it’s supposed to snow again.” And all this around the words he doesn’t say. Things to Sam and about Sam and drives in the mountains and closeness they can’t share. At least, that’s what Sam imagines Dean is thinking. With his face all closed off like it is, there’s no way of telling.

The door slams behind Dean as he stomps out of the room. A sudden wind whips snow from the trees to splat against the window, and then Sam listens to the silence fill the room, even as he can hear the elevator doors pinging to announce the arrival of a car to take Dean well out of range of his stupid little brother. Sam is sure that Dean is never going to forgive him. He’s also sure that Dean is never going to touch him like that again.

To distract himself, he spends the time poking around on the internet, trying to find more information on their quarry. For a time he confuses Yukki Onna with the Yama Uba, who can be destroyed by killing a special flower. But for the Yuki Onna, there is no fallibility, at least nothing that the internet can tell him.

There are legends of her letting young and beautiful boys go, or being kind for the sake of a child, but that’s it. If he reads between the lines, which he does because he is good at it, the Yuki Onna can be turned back with the power of love. It has to be that, otherwise, why would she be reported as being so gentle to children. But what shape would that love come in?

Outside the window, the wind picks up and starts slapping snow on the glass. It’s snowing again. Sam flicks on the news to make sure, and yes, another blizzard is on the way. Sam goes to look out the window.

The clouds are coming down the side of the mountain without so much as a by your leave, and Dean is not back. If Dean has wandered off to a bar after returning the boots, then fine. He could have called, but he hasn’t. Sam doesn’t think Dean has just decided to take up snow hiking as a sport, either, so he figures he will track Dean down. Just because the snow has now covered up all of Dean’s tracks, metaphorical and otherwise, shouldn’t matter. He’s a Winchester, right? He has been raised to track a snow cube in a snowstorm. Finding one brother in a town with about 10 bars should be a cakewalk for him.

He pulls on a pair of thick woolen socks, and lovingly, slowly, he puts on and laces his boots. His feet feel solid and capable enough to climb any mountain at this point. Then he pulls on his jacket. They’d not gotten gloves, but that’s okay, he can keep his hands in his pockets. He snaps the hood snuggly beneath his chin; he is in love with this coat.

As he walks through the hotel and the lobby, the coat is overly warm, but once he sets foot outside, it is perfect. His nose is nipped by the cold, but the rest of him feels as warm as if he were in front of a fire. Snow comes down in big lacy flakes that are pretty at first, but then they start to get into his eyes, and he mutters under his breath about stupid older brothers.

He checks out the mountaineer store, first, and yes, Steve assures him that Dean did come buy, and sadly returned the boots that were so suitable for him. Alas, Steve can’t remember how long that was.

He’s overly warm in the store, and Steve is of no use, so Sam steps outside, and thinks he sees Dean, going around the corner of a building, like he’s headed back to the motel. But when Sam gets to the corner, the figure, dressed in what looks exactly like Dean’s new dark navy down coat, is way ahead of him, and in fact is almost at the bridge right before the motel. How can Dean walk so fast?

Sam calls out as loud as he can. “Dean!” The wind and snow whap him in the face, and for a second, he thinks that Dean didn’t hear him. Then, the figure stops and turns, and yes, it is Dean. It has to be, otherwise why would he have stopped? Sam hurries to catch up, which in his new coat and boots, is warm work. He stuffs his hands in his pockets and keeps his head low to keep the snow out of his eyes.

Then he looks up to see Dean leave the road just after the bridge and head north along the frozen river. The path has to be snowy, if there is a path, and Sam runs to catch up. His breath whistles in his lungs; they might both be outfitted for the Arctic, but neither one of them has much training at high altitudes.

Dean is ahead of Sam on the path that heads along the river that goes up a ravine and further into the mountains. But as fast as Sam walks, whenever he gets close, Dean skirts ahead and vanishes amongst the snow covered trees that grow along the banks of ice. It’s a good thing Dean’s coat is dark because with the snow swirling around and coating everything else, the coat sticks out.

Now he is hiking; Steve would be so pleased. Sam tries to keep his eyes on Dean, but the snow is thick and the trees all look alike, and he looses him. But he keeps going. Every once in a while, Sam looks down, but if he thinks he sees tracks they are quickly obliterated by the snow. Snow sticks to his eyelashes. He pulls down his sleeves to cover his hands. His hands are red and freezing, but he can’t keep his hands in his pockets because he needs to use them for balance. He can’t imagine Dean is that mad at him, not to wander off in the snow and not slow down, because he can see Sam is right behind him. Right? Can’t he just wait up a damn minute?

Sam keeps hustling and the air gets thinner and colder, burning his throat as he slips across icy rocks, trying to stick to the clearest path, trying to follow Dean’s tracks. The river is frozen over, but there are breaks where the water flows underneath with sharp, crackly gurgles. The snow fills the air with a low hum, bringing down the breath of the mountain. Everything is white. The trees are so thick with snow they are leaning towards him.


(Snow Covered Trees)


Along the trail there is a dash of dark brown where a tree root has been pushed up, and there is a blank space as wide as a footprint. As if someone had stepped on it for leverage, trying to make a way through the trees and off the path. Which is a stupid thing to do, blizzard or no. Neither he nor Dean has much mountain experience, let alone in a blizzard. Dean should know better.

The narrow track of footprints is laced with stones, and Sam slips to his knees. His hands smack hard against the stones under the snow. He scrambles to his feet, sucking his stinging hands that are raw with cold. Panic rises in his chest. He has to find Dean and Dean has to forgive him so they can go on as they always have. But what if he can’t? He feels like crying; hot and helpless tears sting in his eyes. They are the only part of him that is warm.

He makes himself keep going, not sure when he should give up and turn back and call for the park ranger or whoever does rescues in the middle of blizzards. Then he sees the mouth of a cave. The tracks lead there. Of course it’s a cave that Dean has led him to. A cave would be a nice and private place for the fight that has been brewing since Mammoth Spring. And Canadian.

Sam hasn’t touched Dean since then, not even in a brotherly way, nor gotten so much as a real smile. But it’s not Sam’s fault. Not all of it. Besides, Dean had said I can’t want it about the boots, which he had wanted, in the same way he’d said it to Sam. So maybe he did want.

There is movement in the cave. Sam peers in, wishing he had a flashlight. There is a flurry of white and red, and Sam is slammed to the floor, on his back, looking up at something so soft, he almost imagines he imagines it. Dark hair spills over his face as hands undo the zipper on his jacket, the snap at his chin, and slip ice cold fingers against his ribs.

“You wanted me,” says a voice, as thin as a whisper. “I led you here. You came.”

Sam makes himself concentrate though his head is pounding. This is definitely not Dean. He squints into the shadows. The thing has long dark hair and a face as white as iced paper. It has red lips and there is a band of red around its neck.

With a bolt of shock, he realizes he has found the Yukki Onna. But then, she has found him, too. She was waiting for him, and laid this trap. She draws him close, and he can feel the frost forming on his cheeks where her breath is misting, feel the claw of ice against his ribs. He feels the heat easing away to be replaced by glacial cold. She leans down to kiss him on the forehead, the way a mother would, and gently presses her cheek to his. Then she pulls back and smiles.

“You are beautiful.”

Her breath comes out as crystals that hang white in the air before falling on his face like tiny snowflakes, freezing his skin where they fall. She has him. He is in her arms and she is draining him of warmth and light, and he lets her. Not that he doesn’t want to fight, he is a fighter, a warrior trained since birth. But he can’t move, and part of him feels eager to move into the cold embrace and he wishes. He wishes he could feel his feet, tucked inside his cool new boots and that his new green coat wasn’t getting ripped up and ground against the rocks. And, oh, he wishes, he could say goodbye to Dean.

Then he wonders if she is wearing those little sandals like she was in Dad’s drawing. He squirms a bit in her arms, he just wants to see how accurate Dad was, but she holds him fast and it is then he realizes that he’s in big trouble. He never was following Dean, who is probably back at the hotel right now. Bitching about fancy Best Westerns and little brothers who don’t have the sense to stay home in bad weather.

Sam’s tracks will have been wiped out by the snowfall. There is no way that Dean will know where he is. But worse, he has misinterpreted the lore about the Yukki Onna; yes, she’s probably the ghost of a woman lost in the snow, but maybe she’s something more. Maybe she collects the souls of people like him, who have lost at love and can’t try again. Or something. His head feels muddled and his vision is going fuzzy.

He hears Dean’s voice calling for him. Calling to say goodbye, probably, in a ghostly way, like it always is in his dreams. But the calling is loud, and breaking on the edge of panic. It is a voice that Dean uses when no power on earth will stop him from getting to his little brother. Even if he’s pissed at Sam, his first and last order of business of every single day is keeping Sam safe.

Of course this is all in Sam’s head, that Dean still loves him enough in spite of the blowjob. In spite of the obvious way Sam had liked it and how he licked his fingers at the pizza place. And that maybe, in spite of it all, Dean will forgive him this and save him from dying by frostbite.

There is a flicker of light. Sam turns his head, and there, standing at the black mouth of a cave, in a blizzard, holding up the lighter that Sam found for him is Dean. His legs are braced wide against the blowing blizzard he has walked through to find his brother.

The Yukki Onna starts, shifting Sam in her arms. He feels stiff and frozen enough to break and sure enough something snaps. It might be a rib, brittle from frost. It’s going to hurt when he thaws out. If he ever does. He squints at the lighter and the flickering flame and the fall of snow behind it.

“Get away from him, bitch,” says Dean in that voice that indicates that he expects to be instantly obeyed.

“You didn’t want him,” says Yukki Onna. “You cast him aside. He is mine.”

“No, he’s not,” says Dean, without pausing.

“I saw you,” she says. Her voices hisses like snow falling on rocks. “You pushed him away, his love, his gifts. You don’t deserve him.”

It is the wrong thing to say, because if there is anything Dean thinks he doesn’t deserve in the world, it is the thing he wants.

Dean says nothing. The flame from the lighter dances in the wind as it swirls into the cave, bringing a layer of snow. Dean is a black outline. Sam can only see the side of his face, the glint of one eye. And he can see that Dean is hesitating. 

Sam knows that there is never any hesitation in Dean about anything that Sam wants. If he wants it, it is his. If Sam had bought new boots, extra boots, made of mouthwateringly soft deer hide, for himself, there would have been no question. Dean would have teased him and called him princess, but there would have been no question that he could keep them.

But not so for Dean. He doesn’t deserve extra anything, at least in his own mind. And Sam thinks maybe he’s figured part of it out. It is the wanting that made the denial. The hesitation is because Dean wants this. 

If Sam had pressed the issue after the blow job, well, maybe it would have been different. But that might have made it worse, somehow, because if Dean had responded a second time because Sam wanted it, then that would have been wrong. Dean had to want it because he wanted it. Sam wished he’d figured this out before he was at death’s door. Dying by degrees from hypothermia and frostbite in the arms of the very ghost they’d been hunting.

Sam is so cold he’s stopped shivering. If he could feel any part of him, he knows that his blood is slowing, slowing, and that any colder and very quickly now there will be no bringing him back. He is no six year old to miraculously survive even five minutes in sub-zero temperatures. He is Sam, and he is lying in the arms of a Yukki Onna, and his brother is saying nothing.


(Yukki Onna: http://yoshiyukikatana.deviantart.com/art/The-Yuki-Onna-55978373?offset=40)


He wants to turn away, but he can’t even move. His eyes flicker up to the Yukki Onna. She is beautiful and white as death and her eyes glitter like sharp pinpricks. Her mouth curves into a smile, red as blood against the snow, and with an ice-cold finger she pushes an errant lock of hair from Sam’s forehead. He can’t even feel that.

“He is beautiful,” says the Yukki Onna. She is looking at Sam with that secret, stiff smile. Sam looks back at her and thinks that this is not such a bad way to die. There is no running, no terror, just a calm, icy sleepiness that is stealing over him.

“He is beautiful and young and I want to keep him.”

Her voice is as thin as crystal and Sam can almost see the ice shards falling from it. And he thinks that he would nod if he could. He would want to be kept by someone who thinks he is beautiful. He is not beautiful to Dean. He is dorky and scraggly, his hair is not long, and though Dean calls him princess, he is not girly in any way. There is nothing for Dean to love. Not like that. Better to go off with a ghost with the red smile and be loved.

“You can’t,” says Dean. His voice cracks with cold.

“Then,” the Yukki Onna says as she looks away from Sam and up at Dean. “If you want him, then you must take him from me.”

Sam can see the flame in Dean’s hand jerk as the challenge hits him. There is want and there is take, and when it is for himself, that is what Dean never does. Getting something for himself, simply because he wants it. The hesitation almost breaks Sam’s heart, but then, he will soon be dead and Dean will have to mourn in his own way. The cave seems to darken around him, the light is going out, maybe this is what death feels like.

But the light is coming closer, golden and yellow and red, smelling faintly of butane and burnt air. There is flame, shining in Dean’s hand and in his green eyes, reflecting off his skin that is pink and red from cold. There are strands in Dean’s hair that are as golden as remembered sunlight.

“You must take him,” she says.

For a second, Sam thinks that Dean already has him in his arms, that this is the love that Sam read between the lines. Love could take you back from the arms of death, like this, like Dean is doing.

Dean kneels down, close to Sam. He shifts the lighter to his right hand, and reaches into the cold that is Yukki Onna and takes Sam from her with one strong pull. He shifts Sam’s shoulders to rest on Dean’s knees. They are warmer than the Yukki Onna, so warm they feel like fire beneath Sam’s skin. Soaking into him.

Beneath his legs, the Yukki Onna’s icy kimono is still drawing his heat away. Beneath his shoulders, there is Dean’s fire, like in a hearth. Like home would be. Dean holds the lighter up high. The light curves like a halo around his head. He bends close, his breath touching Sam’s face, warming it like sunlight. He whispers something against Sam’s lips, and Sam feels that part of him start to thaw. All the parts that are touching Dean are thawing, but there is one spot, under his left hip that the ghost still has. Sam wants to turn into Dean’s body, to fling himself across Dean’s thighs and soak up all that heat. But he still can’t move.

“Tell him,” says Yukki Onna. “Otherwise, I will keep him for my own.”

Sam wants to open his mouth, to tell Dean it is alright. Dean came for him, he tried, that’s what matters.

Dean takes a deep breath, and Sam can see the green in his eyes, emeralds with fire in them, and knows he is delirious with cold for seeing it like that.

Dean’s mouth is on Sam’s, dry from the cold, and chapped. But warm. And he is talking. Sam does his best to focus. “—go on like we always do, like I said, like I promised.”

Sam’s eyes are wide now, and staring at Dean. He is thawing, even the part that is still touching the ghost.

“And it was okay, what we—I just couldn’t. You know. I just couldn’t. But I—”

But I want to. Sam fills in the blanks of what Dean is not saying, like he has his whole life. He tries to shift his head so that he can touch Dean’s mouth with his own, but all he can manage is a stiff, jerky movement. And Dean, like he has his whole life, reads Sam’s body, knows what he wants. Reads the tiny movement for what it is. And wants it right back.

Sam feels Dean’s lips on his. Soft, oh, so soft. And warm, heat rising from a fire, gently. Dean’s breath streaming over Sam’s face, his chin. Delicious and sweet, and Sam can move his head enough to press back, to touch with his tongue and taste Dean’s salt.

Beneath him, the floor grows harder and colder as the icy cushion of the Yukki Onna’s lap begins to melt away. Now there is no ghost. Now there are only stones and the hard cold floor. And there is Dean. Dean. Dean’s arms and the bony edges of his knees. As Sam thaws, he begins to shake. His hands reach for Dean’s coat, and pulls him close.

Dean snaps the lighter shut and shoves it into his coat pocket. He cradles Sam’s head in his and looks him right in the eye. “Promise me,” he says. “Promise me.”

“Like we always do,” Sam manages between chattering teeth. His stomach is swirling, bringing the nausea up his throat. He knows he is still dangerously cold and they still have to get back down the mountain. “Always do.”

That’s enough for Dean. The softness is buried beneath his skin as he stands up and hauls Sam to his feet. As he stands there, Dean runs his hands all over Sam’s body, wherever he can reach.


(Sam and Dean by [livejournal.com profile] radishface )


“You’re cold,” he says, announcing this as if Sam were completely unaware of it. “But you’re shivering, so that’s good. Keep shivering.”

Sam nods, feeling sick and off balance. But when Dean circles his arm around Sam’s back and tugs him in the direction of the mouth of the cave, Sam follows where Dean leads him, right into the swirling snow.


(Swirling Snow)


*

The hike down the mountain takes twice as long as the hike up the mountain. Sam stumbles often and almost pulls Dean down with him once or twice. But Dean is like a rock, and keeps them walking, almost at a marching pace. Their new boots hold up well, though the snow gets down Dean’s collar, and Sam’s coat feels as thin as paper. But the hotel is quickly in sight, and Sam feels even more appreciation for those pioneers, for living through this kind of weather in thin miner’s shacks without central heating.

Dean swings open the glass doors and they march across the lobby to the elevator without even pausing. But this is Nederland and snow-covered hikers returning safe from their jaunt on the mountain are old news. Sam feels like he’s stepped into a furnace and can’t wait to get his coat off. Dean hustles them into the elevator, and then out again when they reach their floor.

The second the door is shut and locked behind them, Dean starts taking off everything that is wet. But he starts with Sam. He peels him from head to toe, till Sam is standing there shivering, naked and sleek in snow-damp skin. Then Dean shoves him into the bed nearest the door. Dean’s bed. Sam knows this, but doesn’t say anything. His teeth are clattering too hard to speak anyway. Dean cranks up the heat, and then peels off his clothes. He does this so fast, Sam can hardly breathe before Dean is bare to the warmth of the room.

Then he slips into the bed beside Sam. They are skin to skin, and Dean feels like warm silk. His hands are all over Sam, slipping and moving and caressing. Dean’s breath fills the space beneath the blankets and the sheets, and he pulls Sam to him. Their knees touch, their thighs press and the cold starts to fade away. It still jags through Sam’s chest, until Dean takes his hands and presses Sam’s chest to his. He tucks Sam’s head in the curve of his neck. Warmth seeps into Sam. His shudders begin to fade, and fast-twitching muscles respond to the heat.

“Sleep now, Sammy,” says Dean. His voice is the one that Sam only hears when it is dark and they are in a place where no one else can hear them, not even Dad. It is soft and gentle and Sam knows if he were to ever tell Dean about this particular tone, let alone tease him, it will be the very last time he hears it.

So instead, he presses down, and lets the length of his body sag against Dean. He wants to hear the tone again, though, before he falls to sleep.

“Not tired,” he says.

“C’mon, Sammy.” Dean pets him with long, slow strokes. Sam feels warm all the way through now. “Just try.”

“Try.”

“For me?”

For Dean he would do anything. Anything. But he doesn’t know if Dean knows it.

“Okay,” he says. “And in the morning?” he asks.

For a second, Dean’s hands are still, and his heart thumps through his chest to echo the beat of Sam’s heart. Then he takes a breath.

“In the morning,” Dean says, “we’ll go on like we always do. And maybe—” His voice breaks off, as if the thoughts in his head cannot be spoken aloud. He takes his hand and sweeps it along the curve of Sam’s hip. He doesn’t touch any other part of him, but Sam can hear, through the sparks his fingertips leave behind, all the things that Dean isn’t saying.

And maybe something else.

Maybe. Sam won’t push it. He can’t. Dean has to want what he wants, as does Sam. Sam knows he wants this. And maybe Dean does too. And if not, they’ll go on like they always do. Dean saved him. Dean kissed him to take him from the arms of a cold and icy death. Dean loves him, and probably has forgiven him. And for now that is enough.

A strange wind lifts snow up from the banks of the river and flings it at the window. But it can’t get in.

~

Part 9 - The Morning After
Master Fic Post

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