It never failed to startle Sam when an angel performed that trick of appearing or disappearing out of nothing, with only that strange fluttering disturbance of the air to signal arrival or departure. This occasion was no exception. Was it a rustle of invisible wings or an arrhythmia of a heartbeat? A catch of the breath and Castiel was almost standing on Sam's feet, so close that the younger Winchester could smell a faint cold fresh scent of reminiscent of something wild; the sea perhaps, or a mountain breeze. The big man took an involuntary step back and an apologetic expression crossed the angel's unshaven face.
"I am sorry, Sam. Dean has been reminding me to allow more 'personal space'."
The rumpled angel also stepped back, allowing Sam some breathing space and gazed around the cheerfully pink room. His piercing blue gaze alighted on Bobby, who nodded a greeting.
Before either hunter could open their mouths, Castiel made a low voiced solemn pronouncement that had all the blood draining from Sam's face.
"Lucifer is here."
"Here, here…or here in Chicago?" Bobby asked sharply, taking a firmer grasp on his whiskey bottle without even realising it.
"In this city." Castiel expanded slightly, if a little unhelpfully. Sam was gripping the back of the kitchen chair so hard, his knuckles where white and he thought absently that the flimsy wood might snap. His voice when he finally found it was choked and rough.
"Lucifer has Dean? Is that what you are saying?" He swallowed hard, tried to take deep breaths over the rising panic.
"I fear so." Castiel confirmed, his normally impassive face showing a worn concern. That was one fallen angel who was starting to look a bit like he was unravelling at the edges, and Sam knew exactly how that felt.
Oh God, oh God, what am I going to do?
What if Lucifer offers Dean in exchange for saying yes?
Can I really doom my brother to death or torment by refusing him?
When Dean surfaced this time, he was alone. The first instinct was to try and move, but once again, the invisible cold had him in its icy fingers, and apart from being able to move his head, he was pretty much as Lucifer had left him, very effectively immobilised. He cursed, colourfully, under his breath, then was suddenly overwhelmed with a ridiculous elation as he realised that he had regained the use of his vocal chords. Like any Dean-sweet-talking was going to get him out of there, but still. He strained and managed to lift his head just a fraction and was rewarded with the discovery of another plus – he was fully clothed again, as per Big Bad Daddy's instructions. In fact, he was no longer laid out on the concrete floor like the piece of meat Meg had called him, but on a bed, its mattress a welcome softness he could just about feel against his back.
"Hey, Winchester, things are looking up!" He said out loud, just to wallow in the sound of his own voice.
That was when he found that he wasn't alone after all.
"You should be quiet, boy." Came a soft whisper, accompanied by a cloud of white frozen breath that puffed across his face like cigarette smoke from the bright carmine lips of Yuki-onna. Her beautiful oval face hoved into view from somewhere behind his bed, long dark locks swinging down to brush against his cold face with a feather-light touch, and in spite of himself, he flinched.
C'mon Dean, she's under orders not to kill you...get a grip!
He gathered himself together, and mustered up his best, most charming smile and plastered it on.
"Well, hey, if it isn't my own personal Snow Queen. What's up, Yuki? Forgot to remove your ice chip from my heart?"
A small white hand rested briefly on his chest and he wished for a moment he'd been able to think up a different quip as he felt the icy touch burning deep into that aforementioned heart. The sheer arctic cold of it took his breath away; then she lifted her hand and he could breathe easy again.
Yuki-onna smiled at him, sitting herself on the edge of the bed, very carefully (he noticed with deep gratitude) keeping her body at least two inches away from his.
"I like you, Dean Winchester." She leaned forward, bringing her face so close to his that he could see the tracery of tiny blue veins under her transluscent pale skin, even see his own pallid face reflected in her black eyes which brought an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. Her voice was soft and seductive as silk.
"You are a pretty boy, and so young…"
"Oh, that's great, a demon-succubus-spirit likes me."
Shut up with the snarky remarks, stupid, you don't want to make her angry…
Fortunately for Dean, the Snow Maiden ignored the sarcasm, standing up as the door opened and Meg stormed in, the demon's waxy face fixed in a petulant pout. Yuki-onna drifted away and seemed to Dean to fade silently into the whitewash of the walls.
"What's the matter, bitch, Daddy been tearing you a new one for damaging the merchandise?" he sneered. Meg strode over to his bed, her bitter expression not improved by Dean's attempted banter.
"You know, Dean, you really are the dumb one in your family, aren't you? You never learned when to shut the hell up!" she hissed as she backhanded him viciously across the mouth. Ruefully, Dean thought that although she was an evil lying demon bitch, she might just have a point there. He gingerly probed the bleeding split in his lip with his tongue. He spat out a mouthful of blood, carefully aiming at Meg's shiny black boots. Bullseye. Sadly that accuracy earned him another smack in the mouth, but he considered it was probably worth it, and it was the best he could deal out in his current constrained circumstances. He smirked, then grimaced. That hurt.
"So, no kiss for me today then?" he asked, "Was it 'cause I hurt your feelings last time by telling you that you taste of peanut butter?" He wrinkled his freckled nose in disgust. "I have to say, it was gross."
Meg had clearly decided not to be drawn any further by Dean's taunting, though he could see that his pathetic barbs were hitting home. He wasn't really sure what he was hoping for, maybe just to tip the demon over the top so Lucifer would punish her good and proper this time; though having Meg sent back to Hell might not be sufficient compensation if she was goaded into killing him. After a moment's reflection, Dean decided he did know when to shut up after all, and closed his bleeding mouth and let Meg have her turn.
"You and your brother have been hard to track down, thanks to that pathetic milksop tame angel of yours."
"Yeah, my heart bleeds for you. So how exactly did you find us this time then?"
"You really are dim, aren't you Dean? I thought even you would have figured it out by now. We didn't find you, we simply allowed you to find us – thanks to Yuki here, of course."
Dean closed his eyes for a moment, gritting his teeth. He supposed he had already guessed it had all been a trap, but it was distinctly annoying to have Meg point it out. Besides the fact that the bad guy had been happy to kill three innocent people and a hunter solely in order to draw the Winchester boys in. And that, apocalypse or no apocalypse, really sucked.
"It suits us to keep you invisible from angels, we don't want Michael finding you before we are ready, after all." Meg pressed her hand down on Dean's ribs and leaned, hard. "Just as well for your sake, otherwise I might be tempted to break a rib or two and mess up that lovely Enochian seal Castiel branded you with…"
Dean felt himself get a little paler at the thought, he had no desire to have another face to face with Zachariah or worse, the Archangel Michael himself; not just yet, if ever. What Meg said next was a lower blow.
"Anyhow, I don't expect we will have to wait too much longer for Sam to offer himself up to my Father. He is with your brother right now, offering your life in exchange for Sam's consent." Meg laughed at the stricken look on Dean's face. "Oh, he's not there in person, you understand, just visiting Sam's dreams; but how long do you think Sam will be able to resist with your sweet little ass on the line?"
With that parting shot, Meg flounced out of the room, leaving Dean screaming silently, straining against the icy cold that kept him trapped and helpless, raging against the dying of his hope.