The cold was all pervading, as if winter itself had lodged in his body, ice spreading from the inside out. The hunter took a rasping breath, then another, seeing the moisture condense in a pale cloud in front of his face. His eyes were open because he could no longer close the lids, and darkness was creeping in around his peripheral vision. He felt his heart judder as she returned – floating above him, her dark hair gently moving in the air as if underwater, her pale perfect oval face smiling warmly at him through red, red lips. A final breath sighed past the hunter's cracked lips and his fluttering heart butterfly-beat once, twice, then stopped forever.
Dean was looking sulky, Sam stern and unrelenting as they pulled into the parking lot of the Traveller's Rest Motel on West Diversey Avenue, Chicago. As he switched off the roaring V8 engine, Dean attempted to fill the silence by reopening the debate that had led to their respective expressions on the long drive from Storm Lake, Iowa, some eight hours before.
"Man, you know I hate cities – surely there was someone else who could've taken this job?"
"Nope, Bobby said we were the closest hunters, and the best qualified."
The argument was put on pause as the brothers got out of the car, suppressed a shiver at the icy wind that whistled through the nearly empty lot, and busied themselves transferring their duffel bags out of the capacious trunk of the sleek black Impala into the Motel room.
"Besides, why wouldn't you want a job that involves chatting up gorgeous women in seedy bars? Isn't that one of your favourite pastimes?"
"Just because your favourite pastime is geeking out with your best friend the laptop…"
"Well, at least my laptop won't give me the clap, Dean."
"I've never had the clap!" Affronted.
"Ain't that a miracle, then?!"
"Ha, ha, very funny. You're just jealous because I'm such a chick magnet."
Satisfied he had gained the last word, at least on that subject, Dean grinned as he dumped his bag on the bed nearest the door, effectively taking point as usual. Looking around he wrinkled his nose in disgust as he took in the excessively pink floral décor, but even as he opened his mouth to make a sarcastic comment, his brother jumped in to head him off at the pass.
"Don't say anything, this was the last twin room they had. We could have shared a double bed in a better class of room but …"
"God no!" Dean interjected vehemently, "Never again, man! Not since you reached puberty and got so gassy…"
"Oh thanks, Dean, that's rich coming from you with your stinky feet and aversion to washing!"
Dean absently ignored this last riposte, his mind had already made a quick-silver-salmon leap ahead to the details of the job that had brought them to the Windy City. He had emptied the contents of his duffel onto the pretty patterned bedspread, oblivious to the incongruous juxtaposition of his hoard of deadly weapons displayed on a pattern of roses and carnations and the sundry other girly pink designs that adorned the Winchester brothers' latest temporary home. Ever restless, Dean stayed on his feet while Sam made himself comfortable, stretching his long legs out on the other bed. While the younger Winchester flipped open his laptop and called up the old news stories that were the precursors to the story in that day's paper, Dean pounced on the newspaper he'd had picked up at the Motel reception area when Sam had been checking in and rustled his way to the relevant story.
"So. We have three men, all mid twenties to early thirties, all fit and athletic jock-types, all found apparently frozen to death after taking a jog from this Lincoln Park Sports Club; even though the weather hasn't been all that cold lately."
Sam nodded, Dean opened the map of Chicago he'd bought in their last gas station stop and spread it out on the small table in the room's tiny kitchenette. He pulled out a red marker pen and held it poised over the map, ready for Sam to call out the locations of the three bodies. He was interrupted by the tinny strains of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, and scrabbled in his jacket pocket for his cell phone. The caller ID said it was Bobby. Dean answered, somewhat puzzled, as they had only spoken to their old friend a matter of hours ago when he had given them the information about the job. There couldn't be any good reason for their old mentor to be calling again so soon.
"Yo, Bobby, what's up?" Dean felt his expression change from puzzlement to grim resolve and he waved a hand to catch Sam's attention. "Hang on a sec, Bobby, I'll put you on speaker." As his brother looked up from his computer screen, Bobby's gruff tones filled the room and Dean put his phone down on top of the map.
"This is looking bad, boys. That hunter I mentioned to you yesterday, Sam, who'd gone missin' a couple'a days ago – well they found him last night. Dead."
Dean passed a hand over his face, suddenly feeling very tired. He turned his back on the phone and stared out of the grubby window at nothing at all, wearily letting Sam ask all the right investigatory questions. Another good man dead, and no sign of an end to it all.
"So, this hunter, was he killed in the same way as the three other men?"
"Yup. Looks like. From what I can gather from the initial police reports, there wasn't a mark on the body and their initial diagnosis is hypothermia. The temperature has been dropping over there in Michigan but it's still pretty mild for this time of year, so I think we were right, Sam."
Dean turned round at that, making a herculean effort to wipe what was feeling more and more like a permanent frown off his face. This whole apocalypse thing really sucked out loud.
"Great," he said, with something like his old patented Dean-grin plastered on, "So at least I do still get to check out some hot chicks on this hunt, eh?" Ignoring Sam's obligatory eye-roll, he continued. "These succubusses…"
"Succubae, Dean!" Sam corrected
"Succu..succi…oh whatever, dude. Anyhow, Bobby, how do we kill the damn thing?"
"Got to find her first, and that won't be easy unless she decides to hunt you…"
"Set a trap then? We can use Sammy's tender young body as bait…yeah, I bet any self respecting succubus would go for those washboard abs….ow!" Dean broke off under Sam's punch to his bicep, grinning at his little brother's full on pissy-face.
"Will you two idjits stop bickering so we can get planning?" Bobby interjected, dryly. Dean could see the older man's exasperated amused expression from 900 miles away.
The brothers exchanged guilty looks and knuckled down to business.