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The Long Long Winter in South Dakota

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Born of cold and winter air
And mountain rain combining!
This icy force both foul and fair
Has a frozen heart worth mining!
Cut through the heart, cold and clear!
Strike for love and strike for fear!
See the beauty, sharp and sheer -
Split the ice apart!
And break the frozen heart!
Frozen

 ***

Jack Frost is swirling like a dervish on wings of the first snow storm, bringing the early chill to South Dakota. He shouldn't be here yet, he should wait one more month at least, but he is the King of Winter which means he can do pretty much what he wants, and what he wants is to gate-crash the golden days of Autumn, to cover South Dakota hills with merciless grey ice and freeze the cotton tails of South Dakota rabbits and generally be a nuisance. He arrives in Sioux Falls at the first tick of the first minute of the first October midnight and that's IT! Enough with this namby-pamby pussyfooting around with warm aerial currents and mellow fruitfulness and whatnot, Jack Frost will start the proper weather the next day, thank you very much.

The next day, Jack Frost falls in love with Dean Winchester.

It happens like this:

Jack is spreading some harsh winter love in a glittering junkyard; he has already coated all the grass and weeds with hoarfrost, started some promising rime-to-slow-rust artwork on a number of chassis and froze the ground an inch deep. The local fauna is quick to take notice; just by his presence, Jack terrified an old grumpy badger, a family of foxes and a few dozen mice into a last loot-or-die scurry for provisions. (The house at the end of the yard doesn't know what it has coming to it.) All in a good day's work!

The day is ending in twilight; the sun, weak and watery in the sky, gave up early in the afternoon already, subdued behind the bulk of Jack's belly-dragging grey clouds. The wind is picking up and the King of Winter is busy, working on some finishing touches for today.

Jack is leaping from car to car, dancing on their ruins, nails touching the jagged edges of glass, covering them instantly in icy frosting. Flowers are blooming beneath his fingers, way more beautiful than the living ones - in Jack's opinion anyway! He grins, teeth glinting.

Speaking of which... one! - two! - three! long jumps and he reaches a tangle of rose bushes as tall as a human male. He strokes a flame-red late blossom with long pale finger. The petals recoil and wither towards their core, burned. Even as it is dying, the flower's scent intensifies, sweeter in death, desperate and yearning as a swan's song. Jack loves it! He throws himself back into his macabre dance.

The junkyard is dark now, leaves and dust whirling among the dead metal. Only one car has lights on. It is a wide, old cruiser, one of those which usually give Jack no difficulty reaching inside and winding freezing tendrils around the driver's extremities. Fun and games!

He jumps on the black Chevy and pirouettes in a sudden gust of wind, bowing, contorting his body grotesquely like a rubber-jointed Harlequin and rubs his cheek against the windshield in sheer joy, buoyed by the wildness of winter. He turns his head to breathe beauty on the glass and there, a few inches from his face, inside the dark interior of the Impala, is Dean Winchester kissing an angel.

 ***

It is very fair to say that Dean is having a fantastic time right now. He did not expect that a trip to town would end in a snogfest even before they got out of the car, but hey, he's a dude who can flex it. He's flexible. Yeeeaaah.

The whole problem is, damn straight he is your hard-assed warrior 24/7, but once he gets Cas's mouth in a reachable distance, his off-switch gets kinda blown to Hell? Or, possibly, Heaven. Hey, all he's saying is that when the deed is on, he kinda...needs to take his time. Just like now.

He kisses Cas like he can never get enough, chases the plump lower lip when his sweetheart head-tilts for a better angle, making Cas smile. Which, in return, makes Dean smile. They are both kissing and smiling like goddamned fools, and then they sort of just breathe and rub their mouths together a bit, lips catching, just there, silent. Dean's breath leaves in a little white cloud of mist and he realizes that although he left Baby's motor running, his fingers are freezing.

"Dean," murmurs Cas into his mouth, voice gravel and broken glass. "You're getting cold in here." Then he plants one more kiss on him, soft and sweet as you please, and opens his door. Icy wind whooshes inside, making Dean shiver. His eyes linger upon the fine sight of perky angelic ass climbing out of the car and then he turns, still smirking. His hand freezes on the door handle.

It seems that while he was…distracted, the weather went bonkers. In front of him, the windshield is covered by this silver-white jungle of tropical flowers, oddly symmetrical, like a frozen wedding arrangement. He looks from his romantic paradise on the driver's side to the shotgun seat, still warm from Cas's body heat. But the flowers end sharply, and where the angel sat, the glass is plated with a thick sheet of grey-black ice.

 

 DCBB_2014_Impala

***

Jack has apparently forgotten how to move; he certainly cannot stop staring. He is still pressed against the car, completely taken by the picture in front of him. Because Dean Winchester is beautiful.

Jack can see Dean's name, shining like a brand in his soul. It is almost stronger than the angel's Grace, which is waning enough that the Old One is probably unable to even see Jack anymore.

Dean's cheeks are burning with warmth, and the way he is kissing the angel, as if he is never going to stop, as if this is the last chance for him to ever kiss. He cannot even let his lips go when catching a breath; they are still catching against each other, hands skimming the angel's cheeks, tangling in his hair. He tilts his head and kisses the angel again, so gentle, that Jack feels a stab of dull pain deep inside, in a place long left unvisited, forgotten for hundreds and hundreds of years.

And here is an odd thing: flowers are now blooming on the windshield without Jack even touching it. They are wild, exotic and fragile, framing Dean's shiny pink lips, his flushed skin, long eyelashes resting against his cheeks, dusting of freckles on his nose. Jack just blinks and black ice covers half of the glass, erasing the angel from the picture. Jack does not like the angel. Jack doesn't want to look at the way his hands sneak around Dean's waist, caressing the dip of Dean's spine. He does not like the angel at all!

Eventually, the angel and the hunter separate, say a few words and the angel steps out of the car. Jack ignores him, utterly captivated by Dean.

Dean straightens up, smiling, and turns to open the door himself. His eyes crinkle at the corners and he looks straight at Jack through the windshield. The green glitters, reflecting the fragile beauty of the Winter King's flowers, and Jack sees Dean Winchester as he is in the whole of Time.

Dean's soul rises around him, huge luminous source of light, and it doesn't think anything special about itself.

Dean Winchester, warrior of the people, tortured both in Hell and on Earth to the bone and beyond all too many times and still always rising up and coming back and fighting on.

Dean Winchester who is fond of mechanical things and enjoys repairing them by tinkering with judiciously applied physical force, Dean Winchester with a brand on his shoulder and wicked tongue.

Dean Winchester with eyes like Summer, Dean Winchester who is scornfully unafraid of monsters red in tooth and claw in a world where people are constantly terrified by the smallest of small petty troubles.

Dean Winchester, who is currently watching Jack's flowers in startled awe, while his heart is singing with love, vast and beautiful and terrifying like an army with banners.

And just like that, Jack is gone.

Technically, there have been only several minutes between his jump on the hood and the cracking of the shield around his heart, but he is shaken and robbed and he feels this sort of unpleasant painful stab slash stretch in his chest and he does not understand what is happening to him.

As Dean closes the door and trundles towards the house, a warm yellow pool of light from the windows illuminating his silhouette, Jack still stares after him in shock, unmoving. Dean opens the door and gets inside. The sound of lock clicking in the place is sharp in the evening silence. Only then does Jack snap out of his numb, shocked state.

He straightens up, eyes unseeing but his poise still graceful, and steps between realities, to recuperate in his inner sanctum.

 ***

At home, it is a little better, as everything usually is. Jack is not big on interior decor, but he knows what he likes: vast spaces, icy filigree and clean smell of ozone. He is in a frozen grandmother of caves, with hundreds of halls and underground snowy gardens. A mortal man could wander through here for months if he didn't freeze in first hour. But no mortal man has been here for a long, long time.

Jack summons his tools - an anvil, hammer, long silver pincers and basket of buffing moss - and proceeds to sooth his mind by hammering out snowflakes. For every crystal flying from beneath his hammer, billions of variations form, whirling up on Earth, above the vast plains of Siberia, among the floating icebergs of the Arctic, around the yellow windows of a house in a Sioux Falls suburb.

It takes hours before his hands stop trembling and even longer before he stops seeing the face of Dean Winchester every time he blinks, but eventually it works; the beauty of Winter never failed to save Jack and it does not fail him now. It's time to regroup, so Jack puts away his tools and gets to it.

First, he takes stock of his entity, looking through the gossamer veils of his being, until he finds the source: a fresh wound, right in his core in a place where no one, living or undead, ever manages to score a hit without Jack losing an open battle in a major God-on-God war conflict. And he hasn't taken part in any of those in millennia.

He gingerly explores the injury and hisses. It is just a small crack, hair thin, but long and winding, like a crack in a wall. His heart somehow got a direct hit through it. Jack concentrates and tries to heal. Predictably, nothing much happens, except the wound pulsing painfully. Jack huffs. The only thing he wants to do now, really, is to go back to the house at the end of the junkyard and try to get a glimpse of Dean through a window. He can find his room easily and then he could curl on the windowsill or on the roof quite comfortably, and watch over him…

Except Dean has someone else for that, doesn't he? He has a freaking expert on watching over Dean. Jack wonders how much watching the angel does, and how much time is spent making Dean weary with his body instead. His wound throbs angrily, an invisible blade twisting in his heart. If this is what jealousy feels like; he can tell he hates it already.

Jacks lips tighten. He needs to deal with this. The problem is that he doesn't know much about the workings of human mind. He teases people for fun and gets a certain gleeful satisfaction from hardening the environment of men, thus reminding them who the Hell is the one with power here and where should their respect be aimed. This, however – inconvenient doesn't begin to cover it, really. He blinks, thinking about the shape of shadow in the place where Dean's neck disappears into his leather jacket and is distracted again, staring with unseeing eyes for the next few minutes. He is used to biting people's cheeks and noses to see them squirm. The desire he feels now is completely different, although it also involves Dean squirming.

It is bloody confusing, is what it is.

What to do, what to do? He could summon a familiar for advice. Usually, he uses one of his three trusted ones, depending on which of them best suits his most pressing agenda. None of them has quite the set of skills needed here, though. His polar bear knows how to fight and is made to carry him to battle, his short-tailed weasel knows about money and mercurial shifting of wealth, and his comic-relief arctic tern knows fuck all about anything except fish. They won't help him with a green-eyed hunter and his boyfriend, who happens to be a shapely personified wave of celestial bloody intent.

Jack sighs deeply. He is unwilling to go too far from the place where Dean is dwelling and the only potential ally who lives nearby is a bit… complicated. Well. Nothing for it – time to call on an old acquaintance.

 ***

*EXTRACT FROM DE PRAESTIGIIS DAEMONUM BY JOHANN WEYER (1577)*

Name of creature: Raum

Characteristics:

Raum, Reym (Rey) or Raim is a great earle, he is seene as a crowe, but when he putteth on humane shape, at the commandement of the exorcist, he stealeth woonderfullie out of the kings house, and carrieth it whether he is assigned. He destroieth cities, and hath great despite unto dignities. He knoweth things present, past, and to come, and reconcileth freends and foes, he was of the order of thrones, and governeth thirtie legions.

 ***

Jack is standing in Singer Auto Self Service Salvage Yard in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He is a transparent statue in the middle of falling snow. The crack in his heart is deeper now, starting to manifest itself like a twisted, three-dimensional scarlet gap.  The snowflakes brushing it whirl to the ground infused with bleeding glitters of red.

Jack closes his eyes and concentrates. Deep breath and everything is still, outside and inside. The winter calms instantly and softens around him, vast still space filled with cold.

He can feel the spirit of the house at the end of the yard, the genius loci of the place; not quite a consciousness, but a guardian entity, protecting the souls inside by the power of its threshold. It is formidable, strengthened by hundreds of spells and wards interwoven in the walls, even in the very foundations of the place. It will not be easy to enter unless invited.

He stretches his senses and feels the air and ground around him. Little sparkles of life move slowly below him - termites and other creepy crawlies, surprised by the early frost, are burrowing deeper into the soil. Behind the fence of the yard, in the meadows and in the forest, animals are preparing for hibernation in their dens underground, in hollows of trees. Birds are dozing in their nests or gliding silently through the air on a night hunt, anchored in reality just as steadily as their prey.

The place Jack and his inflamed heart are currently looking for has a tendency to get a little shifty. It is not quite what it seems like and not always where it was the last time he left it. Which was, if Jack's memory serves, some hundred-and-sixty years ago…? Mmm. Maybe less.

Eventually, he catches a glimpse of a shadow, but before he can grab on, it is gone.

He slows down in his mental prodding. It would not do to scare the thing off; if he is not successful, he might not get another chance for days. Like a hunter with a wild animal, he stills again, motionless, and waits.

An hour passes. The night is slowly fading and red sun sends a rosy-fingered envoy over the trees in the distance. Jack waits still, watchful. He sees another glimpse out of a corner of his eye; pretends he does not notice. Then, quick as a snake he pounces and latches on. The tip of the shortcut is lashing in his hands, trying to break free, but Jack's grip is iron; and smoothly, he slips through it to his intended location.

 ***

Castiel is eating a sandwich. Dean is puttering around in the kitchen and pretending he isn't watching him. Cas doesn't eat much, on account of still having some, if far from all his Grace, so when he deigns to chomp down something Dean's made for him, it makes Dean kinda chuffed. Not that he would admit it, mind you.

Cas finishes up his ham and mustard (with crunchy slices of pickle). He contemplates the plate thoughtfully, then picks up the crumbs with a tip of his finger and licks them off. Dean makes a mental victory fist. He turns to the counter and is pouring himself a glass of Jack, when angelic arms slide around his waist and a warm body presses to his back.

"Thank you, Dean," murmurs Castiel and rubs his scratchy cheek against Dean's neck.

"No prob, man," says Dean, very manfully melting. God help him, he is so totally nesting. They decided to have a quiet weekend at Bobby's between hunting jobs, but now he would not be opposed to staying a bit longer. Four days, maybe. A week, max. They could do with a bit of peace and quiet. Fooling around in motel beds is not the same as fooling around at home, dude.

"Hey, did you notice the ice on the windshield?" he says, turning around in Cas's arms and taking the...situation...firmly into his own two hands. So to speak. "That formed pretty fast. I thought maybe we got ourselves a ghost." Cas's ass under his palms feels amazing. Dean would swear his hands were made for this.

"It was pretty fast," agrees Cas. "We should check tomorrow." He licks the corner of Dean's mouth, lips his lower, then upper lip with little butterfly kisses.

"Yeea," murmurs Dean, sighing a bit as Cas slides his palm beneath his t-shirt, stroking gently along his stomach. "Not like anything can get inside here. Place is a fortress, babe. Mmmm." They get lost in each other's eyes for a moment. "Still," Dean adds in a theatrical voice, "from ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties…and things that go bump in the night, eh?"

"Good Lord deliver us," agrees Castiel. He smiles. And slowly sinks to his knees. Dean's head bumps against the kitchen cabinet, mouth falling open. Oh CasCasCasyesssss. They'll check…tomorrow...

 ***

Picture, if you will, an idyllic winter scene. We find ourselves on top of a woody hill, in a quiet clearing. Patches of first snow are adding light here and there as the sun breaks through the clouds. Somewhere near an unseen gateway opens and closes quietly; a breeze breathes through the trees and all is still again.

The clearing is silent. It is an odd little place; perfectly situated, with a view of the whole forest but God knows why, no one ever comes here. The trees are gnarled, branches reaching out like talons. Below them pillows of moss, now frosted by rime, are dappled with sunshine but not even an insect chirps, not a rabbit moves, not even a mouse dares to dart through the hungry meadow.

In the center of the clearing stand three oaks. The middle one is the thickest and the darkest. It stands sixty-six feet and six inches tall, it grows six hundred and sixty-six green acorns and deep below the ground, its long iron roots tap right into a corner of the ceiling of the entrance hall of Hell. Anyway. It is a pretty forbidding tree and on its uppermost crooked branch sits a raven.

The raven is black. Midnight black plumage, coal black beady eyes, claws curved into a circle and black beak razor sharp. His name is Ray.

Jack stands silently in front of the oak, as tall as the tree itself, wrapped in his official royal cloak and waits.

Jack is currently invisible, but he might as well be wearing a neon sign that says HERE BE FROST and playing a trumpet for all the difference it makes to the bird. The raven squints at him, eyes glinting red for a moment in the morning sun. Several minutes pass by, the two creatures measuring each other, calculating. They use Time as a whetstone for sharpening their weapons. They have been practicing this for as long as the Earth exists, after all. It would not do to rush things needlessly.

If anything changes at the end of this little standoff, it is mostly the fact that the raven seems to be growing ever so slightly...amused.

"Now this is an unexpected pleasure," says Ray eventually. He has a suave voice of an old-fashioned con man. If Ray were a human, he would look like Omar Sharif.

He flexes his huge claws on the branch and inclines his head in a small courteous nod. "To what do I owe the joy of your visit, your Highness?" the raven adds.

BLACK EARL RAY, says Jack Frost in greeting and gives a small courteous nod back. HOW ARE TRICKS?

"Just peachy, thank you very much," says the raven more cordially and flicks his wing, causing a dusting of snow to fall from the branch with a hiss. "I cannot help but ask how your tricks fare as well, sir Wintersmith; you have come especially early this year."

I GREW RESTLESS UP NORTH, says Jack, who sees no fucking need to lie about this point. He got just about half bonkers in the bloody Arctic. Glacial ice, sea ice, snow, every second week a polar bear and that's basically it. There is very little point in making various types of ice on ice and with no people, the opportunities for shenanigans are minimal. The wound in his heart throbs painfully, reminding about his predicament. UNFORTUNATELY, I SEEM TO HAVE RUN INTO SOME...DIFFICULTIES ALREADY.

"You don't say," says the raven and shuffles on the branch eagerly. "What happened, old friend?"

Here is the thing about ravens: They love gossip. They might be big on dignity (theirs, naturally, not anyone else's), but tittle-tattle of any sort is their utter kryptonite. Not even creatures of spirit who borrow a body of a raven can keep this innate propensity out. Say you are, for a random example, an Earl of Hell in charge of thirty legions; after a few hundred years in black feathers, you will be gossiping like a fishmonger's wife and relishing every fucking syllable of it. It gets to you. The only thing ravens love even more than gossip is to meddle.

SAY, Jack continues, dispensing with the hauteur, Dean back on his mind making him restless, DO YOU KNOW THE HOUSE BY THE OLD JUNKYARD? WITH THE MAN AND THE ANGEL?

"Ooooooh," says the raven. "The Winchesters. It is always those two, mark my words, oh yes. They are trouble. And old Castiel, don't get me started, and do you know that him and the Dean boy are an item now? Always all over each other, it is ridiculous. Castiel, he used to be a God and now? Hopelessly smitten with the uncouth lout, will be picking up wedding rings in Sioux Falls in no time, mark my words." Jack's posture stiffens involuntarily; there is a shocked pause and as the raven puts two and two together, he starts to laugh, cawing so hard he almost falls from his branch.

The clouds darken, swirling with wind, veins of lightning flashing through them; Jack's eyes are hard chips of white ice. He reminds himself that he came here for advice. The teasing was unfortunately inevitable. Despite this, he freezes the air so hard that black feathers change to grey, covered with crystals of rime. The Earl looks as his own statue, covered with crumbling plaster. He gradually calms down, coughing in quiet wheezes, and has the decency to look ashamed.  

"Sorry about that, Jack," he says eventually. "It is not every decade when I get an impossible surprise like this. Hell, this might be the best zinger of several hundred years, even. Now come here. Let me look at you."

The raven walks along the branch and back, tilting his head, inspecting Jack from every angle. Bids him closer, lower, a bit more, just there. He commands him to open his mouth, say AAAAA. Looks at his palms, prods his ears. Then he sits back, claws flexing.

SO? says Jack, uncomfortable. The wound in his heart throbs and burns.

"So butter my bum and call me a biscuit," says the Earl of Hell. "You are in love with a Winchester, my boy. Heartfelt condolences. How did he do it? I would sincerely like to know, because I don't mind to tell you, it blows my mind. I have never seen an Elemental in such a state, and I make it my business to know things. And I am as old as sin."

DOES IT MEAN IT IS NOT CURABLE? asks Jack. He did not have a lot of hope, really, but still…

"Nope," says the raven. "Sorry. No one of our ilk would even ever start to look for a cure, you understand. Desperation is good for business. Nah, you're stuck with it."

Jack's heart sinks some more. What on Earth is he going to do now?

"The way I see it," says the Earl, "you have two options. Option one, you pack up your stuff, go somewhere solitary, lick your wounds and wait for them to heal. Time does a lot of work for humans. Of course, with you guys there's no precedent and you're not fickle when you get your teeth into something, so that could be a trouble. I know Spring and Summer are slutting it all over the place every time they're here - but they never ever get their heart invested, not even a little. And from what I see, you got it bad. Slashed from top to toe. You could wait for ages, if that thing will ever go away. And humans have an expiration date."

WHAT IS THE OTHER OPTION?

"You can lure the boy in the sack, bang him like a screen door in a hurricane and get it out of your system," says the raven. "Not to exert an undue influence or suchlike, but I know what *I* would prefer to see. Only one of these options is fun."

I KNOW NOTHING OF HUMAN DESIRE. I KNOW NOT HOW TO ELICIT SUCH AN AFFAIR.  

"Well," says the raven, "I'm no expert or anything, but I'd say if you want to get into this boy's practical thermal bloomers, you should woo him."

WOO-WHAT?

"Court him. You know what courting is."

Jack nods. He has, after all, been around the world. He has seen the French.

"Exactly, so give him the works. The whole dancing – bowing thing, showing off your plumage. Boxes of chocolates, assorted sweatmeats, that sticky pastel shit from Laduree. Flowers."

I AM GOOD AT FLOWERS.

"The living ones, Jack. They like those so that they can stick them in a jar and let them die. Assorted bouquets with a bow and a letter on perfumed paper. With a bow. Shove a bow on every goddamned thing and make it a big one. Ladies like that, so I don't see why a South Dakota hick should not."

The air crackles with frost and the raven blinks. So does Jack. He did not even realize he was doing this. Apparently, his protective reflex is triggering automatically when it comes to Dean Winchester.

Anyway, gifts. Jack will try to woo with gifts, but which? Flowers are out of the question, they die the moment he touches them. Macarons are too far away and he doesn't think he could bear to be too great a distance from Dean right now. But he can write letters about how he feels. Oh, he feels so much. It is very disconcerting.

Jack doesn't understand why people bang on about love all the time. As far as he can tell, it is an extremely uncomfortable sensation. He is restless and throbbing with dull pain. When he thinks about Dean for longer, he feels hungry, and when he remembers the angel, the pain gets suddenly unbearably sharp. It is all too much to take in at once, really.

WHICH GIFTS WILL CONVEY MY INTENTIONS THE FASTEST?

"Hell's bells, Jack, I'm not a freaking love guru. Just, you know. Give it some fucking thought. I mean, love spells are speedy, but I only give those to people when I want to harvest their soul and quick. They'll bring you no slaking of that thirst. They'll just bring you to me, and I don't want a smitten Elemental in Hell. First, you guys have no soul to damn, and second, if I cause Hell to freeze over, I'll have Crowley on my ass and I loath that smug, fat son-of-a-bitch. Just… give the boy something from the heart and try to get him horizontal."

WHAT ABOUT THE ANGEL?

"Fight as dirty as you can," says the raven. "And then kindly get your ass here and tell me how you're getting on. I want to know everything."

 ***

Dean wakes up pleasantly sore with Castiel wrapped around him like a particularly friendly  octopus. He gropes for his phone in the feeble morning light and squints at the display. He blinks. Apparently, it's ten AM?

He looks at the window and curses out loud.

"Mrrrmmff," complains Cas from below the blanket and tightens his limbs around Dean.

"Cas," says Dean, still staring at the window and shakes his shoulder. "Wake up, man. We are freaking snowed in."

Cas burrows deeper and starts to snore.

 ***

With the introductory courting gift, Jack decides to go traditional. As a symbol of intent, just for Dean, during the night he assembles the fattest, deepest avalanche he could hustle up without moving too far away from Singer Salvage Yard and leaves it right at his doorstep.

When Dean opens the door on the third morning of October, he is welcomed by a dense wall of white. Jack, curled up small and jittery in a knothole in the door frame, waits for his reaction, hardly daring to breathe.

At first, Dean very gratifyingly stands astonished. Unfortunately, he soon snaps off it.

"Jesus tapdancing Christ," growls his beloved then and disappears, only to re-emerge with a bigass shovel. Then he starts to systematically demolish Jack's beautiful gift. It takes him the rest of the morning and man, the swearing is educational.

After a few hours, Dean has hardly made a dent. Eventually, the angel appears behind him, dishevelled, palms cradled around a steaming mug; he stares for a tick at the massive looming snowdrift, then rolls his eyes and snaps his fingers. Jack's gift disappears.

Jack Frost is now seriously pissed off. He was cruelly deprived of watching Dean sweating and breathless in his shirtsleeves. To add insult to the injury, the angel got a glare - as well he should - but then a kiss as well. Two kisses (!) turn to full-on frontal snogging and then the door slams and Jack is left with a few puddles of his melted ex-avalanche on frozen ground.

 ***

After all the - apparently useless, to make it even more humiliating - shoveling, Dean is cold, cranky and sore. Cas warms him up with a massage and a slow, gentle ride in front of the fire. With mood strongly improved, they fetch the EMF meter and check the wider area around the house for ghosts. They get squat, except faces full of slush. At least Castiel does. When they get back inside, Dean is relatively dry, while Cas is soaked like a wet cat and even his eyelashes are frosty.

At least there is some justice, thinks Dean secretly and kisses the frost off. Then they make themselves some hot grog and get back to bed. After all, it is an absolutely perfect weather for it.

 ***

A few days at Bobby's turn to a fortnight, and the fortnight turns to a month. The weather is getting constantly worse and the roads are closed. Bobby has no way to get back from his solved case of Djinns in Minnesota and Dean and Cas are stuck; manning the phones, organizing the hunters, getting things done but not getting their hands dirty. Dean grumps about it on principle. He is, however, mollified by the fact that domestic life offers amazing amount of opportunities for unhurried, pleasantly domestic and increasingly creative sex. Being snowed in is not so bad.

Outside, the snow continues to fall.

 ***

Frost clings to the house like a goddamned menace.

"I sure don't remember ever having to clean this shit twice a day when we were kids," grumbles Dean, scraping the thick flower-like crystals of rime from the groaning shutters. They are kinda pretty to look at, but an absolute bitch to get off. Bobby's sure lucky they are here. Without them, the roof would probably cave in already under all that frozen crap. Dean finishes chopping the relatively normal child-sized floral icicles off the gutters. He will leave the huge ones to Cas.

This winter escalated real quick. He was suspicious at first, but half an hour of weathermen droning on TV about global warming got him so bored that he tossed the remote to Cas and went for a new round of damage control instead. Doesn't look that warm to him, but what does he know?

 ***

The problem is that Cas is not strong enough to zap people in and out of places anymore.

"So I won't see you at Christmas, guys," says Sam into the phone. "That sucks, man."

"Tell me about it," grumbles Dean. "I had it up to here with this joint. If I have to bail Garth out of jail one more time this week, I might just go outside and voluntarily freeze my ass to death. Mind you, it could be enough to do me in if I just opened a freaking window. This weather is absolutely insane."

"I know," says Sam. "Listen, me and Bobby had talked about it, and this isn't exactly normal anymore, right?"

"Yeah," says Dean. "Me and Cas thought the same thing. But I dunno, maybe we're just paranoid. I mean, winter is winter, right? It's bound to be harsh sometimes, and we're not in freaking Florida, man. Cas can still get us provisions, the fireplace is working. We can rough it out easy. It'll get better."

 ***

It is January and Jack is getting worse.

He is confused and in constant pain. Nothing works like it ought to. His overtures are proving fruitless, no matter how hard he tries. He conjures the best kind of Winter for Dean, hard and relentless like Jack's passion, with long, whirling storms singing Dean's name in the wind. He buries the land under the snow. He buries the whole land.

In the rooms of the protected house, Dean kisses the angel long and deep and does not hear the longing in Winter songs.

 ***

There is a wendigo in the forests near Dean Winchester's house.

As soon as Jack notices, he is giddy with excitement. Finally he can give Dean something he will appreciate! Hunters like dead monsters most of all, everyone knows that. Jack does not have silver on hand and cannot even come close to fire, but overpowering the monster is still laughably easy. Its sharp senses and superhuman strength are no match for the strength of Winter.

He nails the creature to the front door with a thick frozen shard through the chest, hands and feet clamped in manacles of black ice. Through the clear icy spear, the pulsing insides of the creature are visible. Jack frowns - something is missing, but what? He tries to remember Ray's advice. A-ha!

 ***

"Cas," says Dean from the hall in very calm voice, "you might wanna come check this out."

Castiel puts down his book and stands up.

"Oh, by the way," adds Dean, "bring the silver dagger from the kitchen, will you, honey?"

When Castiel comes with the dagger, even he has to do a double take. A wendigo gruesomely crucified on ice and wood, with a monstrous icicle stabbed through its body. The spear of the icicle is decorated by the biggest red satin bow the angel has ever seen. It is covered in onyx glitter, nicely complementing the black pool of blood, which is slowly seeping in between the flagstones in the hall. The monster gurgles, immobile.

As it turns out several hours of interrogation later, the wendigo did not see this coming either. Literally. Super sight and super speed did not do it a lick of good. Something just grabbed it, stabbed it and a while later, slapped a freaking bow on it. Easy as a kitten. Even as the wendigo dies, it looks insulted.

The angel and the hunter look at each other.

"Now that," announces Dean to the empty sky eventually, "is creepy."

An absolute silence is his answer, interrupted only by a loud cawing of a raven from a nearby tree.

 ***

"Do you think you might have a super fan?" says Bobby later on the phone, amused. "Somebody showing you how shit gets done proper?"

"Ha bloody ha, man," growls Dean. Castiel pats him on the back consolingly, making the situation worse.

"Did you say it had glitter on?" Bobby says gleefully and Dean slams the phone down. Outside in the sky, snow clouds are a deep mournful grey.

 ***

February is ending and the wound in Jack's heart is festering and draining him of joy. He can no longer remember fun and games. He has not danced since the day he jumped on the black Chevrolet in Dean Winchester's yard. Deeply unhappy for the first time in his existence, he does not know what else to do than continue with his courtship. After all, human folk are known to be fickle. Their opinions change with time. Jack simply has to persevere.

 ***

March comes, but Spring does not and Jack does not leave the garden behind Dean Winchester's house. He is deeply entrenched in the bushes near the shed, with a good view of the house. Some days he does not move at all, just stares at two silhouettes moving behind the windows, his open wound bleeding sluggishly every time they melt together into one.

 ***

"And now, the weather. In the whole state of South Dakota is expected steady snow, with chance of storms in Sioux Falls and surrounding area. The night temperatures will drop down to minus thirty degrees Celsius. Strong caution while driving is advised, even while the most of the infrastructure remains closed to traffic."

Dean turns the radio off, disgusted expression on his face. Castiel watches him thoughtfully from the kitchen table. While the man and the angel talk, Jack covers the windows with poems, his fingers tracing the shape of Dean's face as he is glued to the window from outside.

 ***

April is nearly gone and still Jack lingers, cold patch of rime frosting the same spot on Dean's doorstep every morning.

(By his frequent lingering, he inadvertently froze all the roots and the hibernating pupae seven feet down. His agitation marks the spot. Nothing will grow or be born here for seven Summers.)

 ***

They are kissing again.

This is an absolute torture. Dean's proximity is sweet to Jack, Castiel's proximity is irritating, but to each other, they are acting like magnets. Joined at the lips. And often other places as well. But mostly at the lips.

I WANT A KISS, thinks Jack and climbs an old leafless apple tree and sulks for three days. During them, snow falls so heavily that the windows of the house are constantly buried, even with the angel zapping the snowdrifts away every once in a while.

On the fourth day, the apple tree shakes off a portion of the snow and a raven settles on the branch next to Jack. They sit for a while in silence.

"So," says the raven, observing the white wasteland around him, with the frozen house in the middle. "The courting did not get us much further, I see."

NO, says Jack despondently. NOT MUCH FURTHER.

The snow continues to fall around them. The whole countryside has that special muffled kind of silence that only a thick coat of snow can produce. Sky is full of doleful gray clouds, their bellies dragging low and heavy.

The raven and the Elemental are sitting quietly together on a tree, watching the house.

 ***

It is May, the month of lovers.

Dean makes first step out of the door and Jack is immediately winding around him, head over heels in love, gently gnawing on the tips of Dean's fingers, his earlobes, rubbing his cheek against the bridge of Dean's nose. Dean slaps him away without even looking.

"Fucking spring in fucking South Dakota, ha," he grumps, rubbing his ears and palms. He pulls his collar up and stomps through the snow towards the shed.

Jack, dejected but undeterred, trails behind Dean like a kicked puppy. He curls at his feet, watching while Dean chops the wood, admiring the play of his muscles beneath his shirt as he sheds the jacket. Rivulets of sweat are dripping down Dean's body and Jack is consigning every second to his memory, to be uncovered and cherished later, again and again. Today is a good day for Jack. He got a few crumbs.

 ***

Anyone will tell you that being snowed in a house for an absurdly long time can put a considerable strain on a relationship. What is happening to Castiel and Dean is slightly different: They are learning how to live together. Their life is now consisting of small domestic scenarios, a tentative dance of two partners who never had a chance, the luxury to stop and enjoy the simple small life for a while. If there is anything they have in abundance now, it is time.

The garden and the junkyard and the city and the county and the whole of South Dakota are buried beneath snowdrifts, while in surrounding states, cherry trees are in full bloom. The house in the center of this icy wasteland is freezing. Dean comes out every morning, shakes his head in increased irritation and slams the door again, causing a miniature avalanche to fall from the shrubbery.

Castiel cannot leave the house without being immediately circled by a whirling cloud of clingy wet snowflakes, which appear from God knows where. It's nasty and muddy and clings everywhere, seeping under his trench coat within a second of contact.

 ***

Dean and Castiel are watching the evening news, huddled together on the couch in a nest of blankets. The weather forecast is, as usual, grim. Nowhere in America is the situation nearly as bad as South Dakota, especially around Sioux Falls. The government called in the army to help clear the roads, dig out the snowed in citizens and distribute foodstuffs, staples and basic equipment where most needed. The debate about global warming is raging while the animals and birds of Mount Rushmore State are freezing and starving to death in the middle of summer.

Castiel looks at the window with face of Jack Frost pressed against the pane, surrounded by whirling snow out in the dark, where the wild things are.

 ***

I love you, writes Jack on the window in Winter-speak and paints a picture of an anatomically correct heart made of snowflakes.

Dean asks Cas to bring more ammunition from the town and cleans all his weapons extra carefully.

 ***

Enough is fucking enough.

They have tried every single trick in the book but they still cannot find out which goddamned son of a bitch is responsible for this frozen-ass bullshit. Cas can feel a presence lurking around, but not pinpoint what it is. Ghosts are out, EMF does not even so much as peep. They basically narrowed it down to old gods (because they are wankers), Gabriel (because he's an asshole) and fairies (God please no, anyone but those evil glittery little fuckers). There is also a nosy raven, who keeps hanging around the house like a diseased mongrel around the butcher's, disappearing every time they get a glimpse of his ugly black hide.  

Having no better clues, they start with him.

"It could be several creatures, and none of them are up to any good," informs them Bobby from two states over, voice crackling with static over the line.

"You don't say," growls Dean, beckoning Cas closer to the phone, to listen in with him.

They narrow the count to a few bastards, who manifest as ravens.

*EXTRACTS FROM THE DEUTSCHES WÖRTERBUCH AND ASSORTED LORE ENCYCLOPEDIA*

1. Nachtkrapp.

A German spirit. Some of the most common legends claim that the Nachtkrapp leaves its hiding place at night to hunt. If it is seen by little children, it will abduct them into its nest and messily devour them, first ripping off their limbs and then picking out their heart. According to other legends, the Nachtkrapp will just put children in his bag and take them away. And then there's the third version: instead of abducting children, it simply crows loudly and flutters its wings, until the children have been terrorized into silence.

"You know, sometimes I would really like to meet that third kind. Would make a nice change from all the bloodsucking monsters we have to fucking deal with on regular basis. But wait a sec - that would mean that we would get to actually catch a fucking break for once. Go on."

2. Badb.

In Irish mythology, the Badb or Badhbh is a war goddess who takes the form of a crow, and is thus sometimes known as Badb Catha (battle crow). She is known to cause fear and confusion among soldiers to move the tide of battle to her favoured side. Badb may also appear prior to a battle to foreshadow the extent of the carnage to come, or to predict the death of a notable person. She would sometimes do this through wailing cries, leading to comparisons with the bean-sídhe (banshee).

"Did the son of a bitch give us some wailing cries?"

"No Dean. The bird simply shuffled around in the snow, and tried to gaze into the window several times. When approached, he withdrew quite hastily and flew off."

"There you have it. Douchebag withdrew hastily, ain't no battle crow. Read on."

3. Rainbow Crow

The story of the Rainbow Crow is a Lenape legend, symbolizing the value of selflessness and service. After a long period of cold weather, the animals of the community become worried. They decide to send a messenger to the Great Sky Spirit to ask for relief. The Rainbow Crow, the most beautifully feathered bird, offers to make the arduous journey. He travels safely, and is rewarded by the Great Spirit with the gift of fire. He carries the gift in his beak back to his people, but he is not the same bird upon his return. The fire has scorched his plumage black, with only hints of his previous color, and his voice has been made rough and hoarse by the smoke. In this way, his sacrifice is commemorated.

"Damn right after a long period of cold fucking weather the animals become fucking worried. Could be our guy."

"Do you have anyone else there, Bobby?"

"Just the one."

4. Raum.

In demonology, Raum is a Great Earl of Hell, ruling thirty legions of demons. He is depicted as a crow which adopts human form at the request of the conjurer. Raum steals treasures out of kings' houses, carrying them where he wishes, and destroys cities and dignities of men (he is said to have great dispraise for dignities). Raum can also tell things past, present and future and reconcile friends and foes.

"A demon," says Dean thoughtfully. "My my, if we only had some way to summon a demon and knew an effective technique to interrogate his ass. Oh wait a minute - we DO! Cas, if I may request the pleasure of your assistance…?"

Castiel smiles at him and goes to fetch the equipment.

In the end, the conjuring is surprisingly simple. What they find out, however, is nothing short of stunning.

"I can see the end of the winter," says the Omar Sharif lookalike in the middle of the Devil trap, "but it keeps shifting. And frankly, I don't think Jack has quite thought it through. When I overlook the fact that he fell for a village idiot."

"Watch your mouth, disgusting abomination."

"Oh, get over it, feather brain," growls Omar. "Even I am getting sick of this weather, and I can be very patient. Look Winchester, you cannot talk to Elementals. You don't have the mojo. Your angel can, but Jack will sooner turn South Dakota into fucking Siberia before he utters one single word to him. You need my help. Now hold still. Daddy has to spell you up."

 ***

"You don't say," says Bobby, simultaneously fascinated and horrified.  

"Unfortunately, I fucking do," says Dean. "I feel like I'm a self-aware character in a horror movie," he adds.

"Well that's no different than what we deal with every day," says Bobby. "At least you've identified the culprit. Gotta tell you boy, you sure can pick 'em."

"Me?" Dean bristles. "The only one *I* ever picked was Cas! Not anyone else and sure as hell not a whole frigging season of the year! And now I have to deal with hypothetical icicle-up-my-ass situation and chatty ravens and asshole brothers sniggering like high school chicks in the background, don't think I can't hear you, Samantha."

To Dean's indignation, Bobby sniggers as well. Unfeeling bastard.

 ***

It has now been winter for seventeen months and Jack is wearing his wolf suit tonight. He is a huge wolf, coat white and gray, his eyes cold chips of blue ice rivaling those of the angel Castiel. The raven Ray told him that Dean will be able to hear his voice now. Jack  has a feeling that the end is coming closer and he wants to be ready. For anything.

 ***

Dean pulls on his heavy boots and warmest coat. Then he checks out his gear (just salt and iron, more out of habit than anything else) for the last time, kisses Cas and goes once more onwards unto the breach.

The garden is white and stabs in in the eyes. Dean squints for a while, his eyesight adjusting. He hears a quiet animal whine and turns around.

Under the apple tree sits a wolf. He looks straight at Dean and whines again, a quiet, exhausted, mournful sound. Even sitting, he is as tall as a standing man.

Dean gulps and starts to trudge slowly towards him, palms slightly raised to show that he is unarmed. The wolf seems startled, but does not move. His eyes are riveted to Dean's.

"Hey," says Dean soothingly, crunching through the snow. "I'm Dean. I hear you are Jack Frost, that right?"

DEAN, says the wolf. DEAN.

 ***

Castiel is watching Dean from the open window, ready with all his remaining Grace. Dean is safe. The second anything goes awry in the slightest, Castiel will be at his side. He has been gathering all the waning threads of celestial light for weeks, ever since he got the first inclination that they might need to prepare a last bastion of defense.

So far, everything looks peaceful. Dean and the Elemental in form of a beast are sitting in the snow, one on the ground, the other on a log. They appear to be deep in conversation. Castiel can hear only fragments of sentences, brought to him by breeze. It seems as if they are getting to know each other, establishing trust.

 ***

"So," Dean tries, "what do you like, man?"

Jack Frost gives it a deep thought.

BLIZZARDS, he says, eventually. He pokes at his mind and examines the sincerity of the statement. He cannot stand the thought of lying to Dean, even about something insignificant.

It holds soundly. Blizzards are, plain and simple, the best. AND STORMS, I'D SAY. BLIZZARDS AND STORMS. AND ICE, STRETCHING OVER WATER AND SOIL, THE MORE THE BETTER. AND COLD. AND YOU, DEAN. OH, DEAN. YES. I REALLY LIKE YOU, AND STORMS, AND BLIZZARDS. AND A GOOD AVALANCHE, IF I CAN HAVE ONE, BUT YOU KNOW, THEY GAVE ME LIMITS ON THOSE, Frost says, displeased, BUT I AM ALLOWED A CERTAIN AMOUNT, AND I ABSOLUTELY LOVE A GOOD, MASSIVE AVALANCHE. THEY'RE FUN, DEAN. DEAN, YOU SHOULD GO WITH ME TO THE ALPS SOMETIMES. I WILL SHOW YOU.

"Better not, dude," says Dean. "The whole snow and ice thing, that's not the game for me, you know. I could get a major case of…dead. Not that that would be likely to stick, mind you. I have a tendency to get out of pretty amazing jams. But still, there's frostbite and stuff. I don't want to rain on your parade, man, but I'll pass."

YOU WILL NOT GET HURT, says Jack simply. I LOVE YOU.

Something in Dean's chest tightens and he has to blink a couple of times. Damn sun on snow. Stabbing in the eyes.

YOU SHOULD SEE THEM, DEAN, Jack looks at Dean, and his eyes are burning with ice so deep and wild, that the fact that he is inhuman slams home with a force of a anvil. SNOW STORMS AND BLIZZARDS, GLACIERS AS LARGE AS CITIES, UNDERGROUND HALLS MADE OF ICE. I CAN MAKE YOU IMPERVIOUS TO COLD, DEAN. LET ME SHOW YOU MY HOME. I WILL GIVE YOU ANYTHING IN THE WORLD AND BEYOND. I WILL FIGHT ANYONE FOR YOU, DEAN. LET ME SHOW YOU. PLEASE.

"Jack," says Dean and his throat burns. Impulsively, he touches the huge wolf's head, buries his fingers into the thick fur. The beast closes his eyes in absolute ecstasy, a growling purr tearing from his throat and resonating through Dean's whole body. The wolf plants his head on Dean's lap and rests there as if he never, ever wants to raise it again.

 ***

Dean feels a familiar presence beside him and remembers how to breath. At the same moment, the wolf cottons on as well and the purring turns into a menacing sound full of cold fury. Dean tightens his fingers on the beast's neck.

"Shhhh, Jack," he soothes, "it's okay, I'm here and Cas won't touch you unless you say so, right Cas?"  

"Of course," says Castiel, his voice quiet and gentle. The wolf remains wary, but calms down beneath Dean's touch and with the sound of his name on his love's lips.

"Jack," repeats Dean. Even while his hands are still, he is gently stroking the wolf's neck with his thumb, a slow, hypnotic movement. Instinctively, he knows how to calm down a wild, hurt creature. And in that hour and at that place, Castiel falls for him all over again, even harder than the first time, even harder than the second and third and all the times that followed. When it comes to my Dean Winchester, Castiel thinks, the fall of the proudest is inevitable.  

"Jack, baby," says Dean for the first time and with his palm, gently lifts the wolf's huge, tired head and looks straight into his eyes. "Castiel can heal up your heart."

 

DCBB_2014_Jack

 

 ***

 *EXTRACT FROM THE WINCHESTER GOSPEL BY CHUCK SHURLEY*


And so came the end of the longest winter in recorded American history.

After Castiel and Dean waited for, and received, Jack's consent, the Angel reached inside the gossamer layers of the Winter King's entity and found the wound in his heart and healed it with gentle hands and all the final vestiges of his Grace, up until the last heavenly spark.

What returned to Jack Frost was joy for life, his fun and games, his wild dance on the wings of last snow storm of the long, long winter. What remained with Jack was a memory of love and of two beautiful humans, one of whom used to be an angel.

And ever since that year, the Winter is in turns mild, savage, but always, always very beautiful in South Dakota; and nowhere more so than around the house which is a home of the hunter Robert Singer, the Winchester brothers and of Castiel, former angel of Thursdays.

 

 

***