We got back to my apartment around two in the morning, or that’s what the floppy haired kid said. He had the watch, and because my mere presence tends to foul up anything remotely technological, those fancy time pieces most people wear on their wrists are out. I drove the Blue Beatle, not wanting to separate now. Dean near about pitched a fit at leaving his car behind, wanting to drive us all back himself, but I pointed out that I would be more harmful to his car than any random teenage kid with a penchant for artistic expression. He grumped about that, but he got over it.
Though I’m sure the three of us in the Beatle were a sight to behold. Me, all lanky and thin and Floppy about even with me, but with more build, and finally Dean, not short but it looked that way compared to his brother and me, but he had more mass to him than either of us.
I felt like I was driving the clown car.
I pulled the Beatle into the drive, wheels crunching on the gravel and we piled out, and I’m sure somewhere Murphy was smiling and didn’t know why.
Without words we hustled to my door, and before I turned the key in the lock I extended my hand, reaching out to my wards to let them know I had friends with me and they were not to be torched on reflex. Hey, paranoia isn’t bad, it’s just a way of life. The wards relaxed and I opened up, whereupon Mister gave me his usual greeting of a full-body tackle to the shins before he sauntered on his way to whatever clandestine catty meetings he went to. I ushered the brothers inside before anything else came and went, closed the door and checked the wards to make sure they were doing their job. Strong and steady, they were on full alert tonight.
They both puttered around for a bit, Dean relaxing on my ugly but comfortable couch while Sam stood off a little, taking in what details he could in the darkness. I muttered a quick flickum bickus to get the candles going and I noticed they both jumped a little at that. I shook my head and got a fire going. Not that early fall is all that cold, but my subterranean lair never really gets all that warm.
But it figured, those two. Just aware enough of the supernatural to be wary, to know how to kill some of the nastier monsters that humans might encounter on a regular basis, but fairly ignorant of the bigger things at play. Though it wasn’t like I could blame them for being ignorant, the White Council and everyone else in the community liked to keep low profiles, because the second the population at large had a firm grasp as to what was going on around them, they’d destroy it first, ask questions later. No one, myself included, wanting that nuclear bomb going off. I only operated without too much flack from the normals because they all thought I was a crackpot.
Still, they were good kids.
“Alright, now what?” Dean asked, no preamble, just wanting to know what he should point himself at next to take down. No finesse, no skirting around the issue that something was going to die. I liked him for it.
“We research, figure this thing out,” Sam said, and I got the feeling that this is how the conversations normally went. And as much as I hated to break routine, I figured I should pipe in with a time saving device.
“Or, we could ask Bob,” I threw out.
“Bob?” Dean asked, one eyebrow going up.
“What’s a Bob? Is it short for some kind of… of…” Sam tried, but I had to shake my head.
“Bob is a spirit of intellect that makes his home in skull. He’s my version of a computer,” I told them, remembering that I had to make Sam leave his laptop off for this whole time under threat of random magical energies and the subsequent affect on hi-tech devices.
“Dean, you come with me, give Bob all the information you can on this thing. You fought it, so you’ll be able to give the best description. I’ll be taking notes. Sam, you might want to stay up here, the basement isn’t that large and we’d be kind of crowded down there, and one clown car incident a night is enough for me.”
The brothers exchanged a look, like they weren’t sure if they could trust me or not. Made me feel kind of sad for them, if they’ve gone their whole lives only trusting each other. Then again, look at me. I’m not exactly the paragon of trusting my fellow man, monster or Outsider. Dean followed me with a quick, “Alright, let’s chat up this skull guy,” while Sam looked to be ready to settle down a bit.
I tossed a quick, “Help yourself to the icebox,” over my shoulder as we went into the subbasement.
Dean and I clamored down the stairs, me talking to Bob before I hit the concrete floor. “Bob, you gotta wake up. We’ve got an eyewitness and we need your expert advice on identification.”
Two pinpoints of orange light sprung to life the eyesockets of the skull surrounded by swimsuit issues and paperback romance novels. “Starting early with the flattery, Harry. Bad sign.”
“Hey, just think of it as me turning over a new, sunny diplomatic leaf.”
I don’t know how he managed it, but he snorted. “Gimme what you got.”
“Not me,” I said and stepped aside to let Bob take a good look at Dean. “Him.”
Dean, for his part, didn’t freak out. He just nodded and started to give the best description he could of what attacked him and his brother. “It was short, thin but I swear it had more muscle on it than it should, to throw me around like that with that frame. It was blue, or a cold blue, like ice you get further north where it’s got a bit of color to it. Two sets of eyes, both blue.”
Bob watched Dean intently, and I could almost see him accessing his vast collection of knowledge like file draws in his very essence. “Anything else?” Bob asked.
Dean frowned, but eventually nodded. “Yeah, it smelled. Like.” His nose scrunched up with the memory. “Nothing, really. Just a bit of chill.”
“Aha!” Bob exclaimed at the exact same time Sam yelped and Mouse barked.
I ran upstairs, just behind Dean. Dean ran to Sam, but nothing was wrong. Sam was standing, looking abashed and brushing something off his shirt, and Mouse was stretching, tail wagging and mouth open in his doggie version of a grin.
“I’m fine, Dean, the dog just surprised me. I though he was a pile of blankets on the chair.”
Mouse gave an offended bark, like he expected better of us humans.
“That’s a dog?” Dean demanded. To be fair, most people have that reaction to Mouse, a genuine Temple Dog that’s larger than some people I’ve met.
“Yes, he is. His name is Mouse.”
“He was smaller as a puppy,” I said in my own defense. Anyway, I liked the name and Mouse approved, so I saw little point in disliking it. “We should go and get the name of this thing from Bob.”
“Yeah, alright.” We went back downstairs, Dean just behind me, and I heard Mouse’s growl a second too late.
The candles went out, so did the fire. Cold suffused the apartment, sucking the warmth and life out of the whole building. It seemed to crawl around the floor and walls, looking for anything warm to sink its frigid claws into. I could feel it in my chest and if the boys were any indication, we were all due for a dose of hypothermia; their lips were blue. It had never felt so cold in the apartment, even in the deepest winter.
My wards are good, but they don’t do anything against what they think is the natural change in temperatures, and right now it looked like there was something outside my little boarding house that was smart enough to not attack my home directly. It was patient enough to wait until we were all human (and doggie) popsicles.
That’s when Bob decided to be helpful and point out the obvious. “Harry!” he shouted, “it’s a frost demon!”
I ran downstairs, dragging the boys and with me, Mouse covering our flight.
“You know, I’m sure you’re good at this, but shouldn’t we be getting somewhere warm?” Dean glared at me, like it was my fault all of this was happening. He kept shooting glances at his brother, who was hunching over and hugging himself to keep warm, like we all were.
“The less air I have to heat, the better,” I told him as I closed the trap door and began to extend my will around us, making the air particles move faster and investing a bit of general heat to help. Lucky me I’m good with air and fire.
“Alright, Bob, more information than the name would be nice.”
“Well, fire is a good bet Harry.”
I gave him a flat stare and the boys looked at me like I was monumentally useless, me and my talking skull.
“Okay, Bob, less than obvious information. Its outside right now and making the area go deep winter, and my wards aren’t designed to keep out weather, that’s what the house is for.”
The two pinpricks of orange light flared and I got the impression Bob was looking at something I couldn’t see. Mouse filled the silence with his rumbling. The boys unfolded themselves as the air warmed, but I knew it was only a temporary solution. If the demon didn’t try attacking my wards and it stayed outside, it could keep lowering the temperature until I couldn’t hold it off with my own will. Probably not until sunrise.
I explained that to Sam and Dean. Dean frowned and leaned against some shelves that were fairly stable. Sam started to pace and mutter to himself, like he was working out a puzzle.
Bob came back before things got strained.
“Alright, you’re right, it’s just altering the weather around the house, but just around the house. It’s not powerful enough to do more than that. Even now it’s stretching itself. You don’t have one of the bigger ones, luckily. Even the heat you’re putting out right now wouldn’t have stood a chance against an older frost demon.”
“But what about killing this thing?” Dean demanded. “You got a handle on that, right?”
Bob shrugged, or as much as he can, but it was the distinct impression of a shrug. “If you can’t get out of this basement without freezing to death, you can’t set fire to it. Needs to be a direct blast to shake it, and then you could probably just torch it and watch it melt.”
“But we’re stuck here,” Dean said, voice flat. I got the feeling that he was accusing me of doing something stupid, and I didn’t like it much. I’d bought us the time to get a better idea about this thing and had kept us from freezing to death. I was about to remind him of the fact when Sam’s head snapped up and he looked like the kid no one liked when they figured out that damn Rubrics cube thing.
“Your wards, Harry. What do they do?” he asked, smiling and pleased with himself.
I promptly felt like an idiot.
“They set off a huge blast of destructive energy, mostly fire. And I can set them off at any time, because they’re my wards, keyed to me and if I want to I can trigger them.” I felt like hitting my head on the stone floor for my own stupidity. “Damn it. Alright, I’m going to need to focus the blast on the demon, so that means I’m going to need to see outside the house and direct it.”
“What do you need?” Sam asked, doing a little Vanna White impression for my ingredients.
I set the boys to work, gathering items and preparing them while I did my best to weave a little spell that would keep the lab warm while I had to spend all my focus on triggering and directing the ward’s blast. It wouldn’t hold long, but I hoped it would be enough.
The boys were fast about getting everything ready, too, and I realized that they must have practice with rituals and spells of some kind. Some of the better Hunters eventually pick up a few things like that, if only to survive, and if what they had told me was true, these two were living breathing miracles. It was hard to imagine children of a Hunter surviving to adulthood, and I figured their father must have been one of the best.
I sat and drew a circle around myself, cutting myself off from what was happening in my lab to give me a clearer picture of what was going on outside. Dean lit the candles and then the brothers stood back, and Mouse placed himself in front of them, solid body pressed against their legs. I took a deep breath and concentrated, holding in my mind what the outside of my building looked like and willing my vision outside of it. For a moment I saw the house as it normally would look this time of year, a bit ramshackle, but sturdy and solid in the way that only an old building can be, with the nearby trees turning their brilliant shades with a light dusting of leaves on the ground. Then the picture resolved into the demon that had attacked Dean and what looked like a freak localized blizzard. It had changed since Dean had seen it, a crest of ice like a Triceratops’s bone plate shooting up from its head, and its limbs had crystallized as well, no longer bothering with the semblance of flesh. It sat in front of my door, just outside the wards, and was waiting. I guess nothing can be patient like a creature based on ice and winter.
I hovered just inside the wards, looking down on it, and was happy to see that all its focus was upon keeping it cold and decreasing the temperature. It didn’t have the strength to look out for an attack while it tried to kill me and the kids. I sent my will along the lines of the wards, pulsing with ready heat, live wires of magic ready to destroy a hostile if it tried to enter my home. I started to alter the lines, a nudge here and there, pushing the energy toward the front of the house and focused on one tiny spot.
Then the demon looked up, saw me, and I could see the hate in its eyes, and the realization of what was about to come, but it was too late for the little bastard. I touched off the wards, firing them like a missile at the demon, and I didn’t miss.
I didn’t stick around to see how badly the thing got burned, I snapped back to my body, noting that the spell I’d woven to keep us warm had started to fail and Sam, Dean and Mouse were huddled together for warmth, while my body had suffered on its own. But I didn’t have time to be stiff and sore from the chill that had seeped into my bones. I hauled myself to my feet and the boys were already clamoring up the stairs. By the time I got upstairs and had snagged my blasting rod, they were out the door, Mouse between them, shooting incendiary rounds into the demon, keeping it down, but not quite killing it.
I stood behind Mouse, but it was enough to see what I needed to do. I leveled my rod at the demon and shouted “Fuego!” and fire rushed toward the frost demon in a torrent, clearing snow from the ground as the fire passed over it. The blast hit the demon full in the chest, making it melt like a demented and evil version of Frosty the Snowman. It burbled and went back to whatever frozen hell it came from.
Mouse, satisfied that the danger was over, decided that he deserved a romp in the snow for his troubles. He didn’t go too far, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.
I sagged against the door frame, watching the brothers as they checked their guns and stored them in pockets I didn’t think they had. They looked like men used to having to carry weapons into places you really shouldn’t.
“Well, that’s dead. Score one for the good guys.” Dean smiled, not looking one bit concerned that we’d all almost frozen to death.
“Now we just have to find out why it wanted to kill us. We haven’t run into elemental demons before.” Sam frowned, trying to suss out what could make what we now knew to be a relatively week frost demon try to murder us.
I shook my head. “It didn’t care about us, it was summoned and sent after us. Or more likely you two. Something else wants you dead and was just using this demon to do the job. They’re smarter than you’re average flunky demon, it seems. It knew enough to not trigger my wards and try to freeze us out. That means we’re dealing with someone else who’s smarter than the demon they summoned, if they knew about these guys.”
“Great. Just another thing trying to kill us dead. We always need that,” Dean said, sarcasm in his voice, but I got the impression that he liked the danger. Just a little bit.
I declined to comment, but called for Mouse to come back inside. I could bet that we were safe enough for the evening. Summoning something like that took a lot of power and we’d just sent it back. The person who’d summoned it would know that it was gone, but couldn’t do much. And me being smart, had set up my wards to recharge after every blast. So while we weren’t as safe as we could be, it was safer.
Satisfied that we could live through the night, I started to close the door after us when something large and grey and feline sauntered through the opening.
Mister gave me a look that said he wasn’t amused by the snow and walked around the apartment to make sure I hadn’t done anything else wrong.
Some days it seems like everyone disapproves of how you do things.