Crowley's Christmas Gift Fic at SPN_BigPretzel on Livejournal
1. A festive away day for the Winchesters and any friends you wish to include. Mountains, hot chocolate, snow and... a hot tub!
Snow Days or Rocky Mountain Hunt
Sam Winchester sat patiently at the Motel 6 room's non-descript table, surfing his laptop. The remains of his fast-food pancake breakfast were pushed off to the side, his coffee in easy reach. Dean was stretched out on his bed catty-corner from Sam's back, watching TV.
Dean noticed as Sam straightened in his chair. "Got something?"
"People being chased by a phantom skier in Colorado."
"A phantom skier?" Dean asked skeptically, turning off the television.
"Eyewitness accounts said something chased them down the trail. Two of them crashed, one made it to the bottom of the trail, and caught a glimpse of a skier upslope that vanished out of sight."
"Uh huh, and what's your source on this?"
Sam shifted in his seat. "A website called Paranormal Confidential."
Dean snorted. "Two words, Sam. Ghostfacers."
"That's one word."
"Smartass." Dean grumbled, then said, "Hellhounds Lair—remember that?"
"Y'think the phantom skier is a tulpa?"
"Did I say that? No, I just wanted to remind you about the last time we relied on a 'local paranormal website' for intel."
Sam shook his head. "This is different. For one thing, the eyewitnesses aren't teenagers, they're adults—and they sound genuine."
Dean got up and walked over to the table, leaning over Sam's shoulder to read the information on the laptop's screen. "Hmmm, a phantom skier—that's a new one. Where is this, exactly?"
"Ski resort near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. It's about 700 miles from here."
Dean straightened. "And you want to go there."
"No. I—we need to go there, check it out."
Dean stiffened. "Your spidey senses tingling?"
"No. I don't have that, anymore."
Unlike your hand of demon death, Dean thought but didn't say aloud. Sam really was trying not to use his powers; Dean owed him the benefit of the doubt. "So, you wanna go there, talk to the vics?"
"We need to go to Pagosa Springs, do some skiing and get acclimated." At Dean's raised eyebrows, Sam continued. "Pagosa Springs' elevation is over 7100 feet—and that's not counting the ski slopes. Here in Norman, the elevation's under 700 feet. We need to get used to the altitude before we go hunting anything—especially if we're hunting on skis."
"Rocky Mountain high, huh?"
"Look, it's Wednesday. We drive to Pagosa Springs, find a hotel tonight, get some second-hand ski stuff tomorrow, hit the slopes Friday, and get the lay of the land. Then we go hunting Saturday night. The full moon is Friday, the twelfth, but it'll still be full enough on Saturday."
"In case we're hunting a werewolf, or something cyclical. I thought you were leaning towards a spirit or ghost?"
"I'm not sure what it is, but if it's something on skis, it's intelligent."
Dean frowned. "Do wendigos ski? Or Yetis?"
"Guess you'll find out when it chases you down the ski trail. You're the bait."
"What d'ya mean, I'm the bait?"
Sam said, "You heard me."
"That's not SOP."
"Well, it is this time."
Dean crossed his arms. "Why?" Don't you think I can watch your back anymore?
"Cause you can't snowboard down the mountain—and I can."
Dean's eyebrows flicked up and his eyes widened. "You learned to snowboard in California?"
"Two words, Dean. Lake Tahoe."
"And snowboarding is necessary because-?"
"Keeps my hands free for firing weapons – shotgun, flare gun, whatever."
Dean skied down the hill, the moonlight illuminating his path as he breezed down the slope. They had learned just enough to be dangerous. The three witnesses had been weekend warrior skiers, with limited skills and a strong desire to not break any bones while on a ski vacation. As such, they had been among the first skiers to try this new, intermediate-plus trail, which started at the top of a ski run, but branched off away from the double- and triple black diamond trails into a much less challenging but lengthy run.
Dean tilted slightly to the left to avoid a mogul. He could almost enjoy the brisk December mountain air, gorgeous scenery and endorphin high of schussing down the slope, but he'd caught a glimpse of another skier behind him as he'd navigated the mogul—and it wasn't Sam, because Sam was on a snowboard. The hair rose on the back of Dean's neck as he heard the chatter of skis closer behind him, and he bent over his skis, trying to increase his speed. He zipped around two moguls very close together, then straightened his skis, trying to get back to his original trail. His divided attention caught up with him and Dean found himself skiing towards a small tree just off the trail. He overcorrected, lost his balance and crashed to the ground, rolling over a couple of times before stopping in the deeper snow off the trail, breathless.
He jerked his head up, frantically searching for his stalker. Dean glimpsed the dark figure of a man skiing towards him, then it scattered into black smoke.
Sam appeared seconds later, stopping his snowboard a foot or so from Dean. "Y'all right?" Sam's right hand held his shotgun, elongated a few inches by the makeshift silencer that Dean had concocted to avoid triggering avalanches.
"Peachy." Dean groaned and felt around the snow with his gloved hands. He'd landed on something; he'd felt it shift under him as he ceased rolling, what was it? Encountering an object he pulled it out of the snow: a femur, a human leg bone. He waved it at Sam, "Our phantom skier is a spirit."
Sam brought the shotgun up and ready to fire so they wouldn't be caught short when the spirit returned. "Can you ski? We need to get out of here and alert the authorities."
"Alert the authorities?" Dean snorted. "Sam, they're not gonna believe us when we say we found a body on the ski slopes."
"We can take the femur as evidence—they'll have to believe that."
"No, Sam. Just no," Dean leaned on one of his ski poles to rise, watching his breath frost in front of him and tensing. Sam jerked his head around, peering intently at their surroundings, but no phantom skier re-emerged. "Did you see the skier, before you blasted him?"
"Describe what he was wearing, will ya?"
"Ah," Sam thought a moment. "Short woolen coat, fur-trimmed cap and gloves."
Dean gestured at the short waterproof ski jacket and matching ski pants he was wearing. "Nothing remotely modern, right?"
"Right, and his skis were wooden—that's sixty, seventy years out of style, at least."
"For all we know, he's a trapper or scout or something from" –he air-quoted "when the west was wild."
"Great." Sam sighed. "What're we gonna do?"
Dean released his boots from his skis, pushed his ski poles into the snow and rested his skis against the pole bottoms. "We're gonna find as many bones as we can and salt and burn 'em. There's plenty of snow around here, we won't have any problem with the fire."
"What if we miss some of the bones?"
"You can keep tabs on this place online; we'll come back later if we have to. Now, let's get crackin'."
Dean woke in his motel room bed late the next morning, groaning. His muscles had tightened overnight, courtesy of his little spill on the slopes, and the late-night salt and burn. Spotting Sam at the table, he guessed that his morning person brother had been up for hours already. Goody for him.
"Morning, sunshine." Sam rose from the table and brought Dean a steaming mug.
Dean brightened, sitting up and reaching for the cup. "Coffee?"
Dean frowned but took a sip of the hot chocolate anyway. Maybe he could drink half of it and add some coffee to the chocolate. That didn't sound like Sam's half-caf chocolate mocha frappe at all, right?
Dean eyed the clock; it was after ten. "So, d'you get us a late check-out for this morning?"
"Nah, I moved our checkout to tomorrow."
Sam plopped on his bed, farther from the door. "Because we need some R&R. We need a break from the angels, and demons and late night hunts, and—and everything."
Whoa, Sam. Tell me how you really feel. Dean didn't say that aloud, because Sammy kind of had a point. They certainly could use a break. "So, what d'ya wanna do?"
Sam smiled. "We're gonna have a snow day. Consider it an early Christmas present from me. Now, finish up your hot chocolate, we'll get breakfast on the way into town. I strongly recommend boxers over briefs and NO WEAPONS."
Dean started to protest.
"And I'm driving," Sam finished. "So, get crackin'."
Sam parked in Pagosa Springs' public parking lot and they left the Impala. They passed a large The Springs Resort Mineral Waters sign decorated with an ornament-encrusted fir garland. "We've got day passes," Sam said as he led the way into the Bath House. Dean almost balked at that but calmed when he realized it was just a fancy name for the men's locker room. Sam stopped by a large locker, opened it and removed his coat and gloves, then kept on going, taking off his overshirt, jeans, boots and socks, revealing a pair of long-legged black swim trunks. "Your turn."
"Pagosa Springs has world-renowned hot springs, full of natural minerals. It's like a hot tub on steroids—you'll love it."
"Uh huh," Dean said skeptically, undressing down to his navy boxers and a t-shirt. Sam gave him a pair of swimshoes and a towel. Sam put a pair of swimshoes on his own feet and draped a towel over his shoulders, then closed the locker and pocketed the keys.
"Let's go," Sam said and they exited the bath house into the maybe-thirty degrees in the sun outdoors. "There's twenty-five hot springs here, and the day pass gives us access to twenty of them. They're all different temperatures, which one d'you wanna try first?"
Dean absorbed the multiple small pools each with a silver metal handrail and steps leading into the pool. The pools appeared to be carved out of the rocks, with names and temperatures listed next to each hot springs. "The closest one!" he said, trying to keep his teeth from chattering. He stepped down a short stairway, then followed the paved stone path to the pool, Sam trailing him. Approaching the pool steps, Dean tossed his towel by the side of the Tranquility hot spring and stepped down into the wondrously hot water of the spring. He crouched low in the water, so only his head was exposed to the air and reveled in the warm water. He then watched in amusement as his taller little brother had to crouch even lower to immerse his body in the warm water.
Contentedly soaking in the warmth, Dean examined their surroundings while Sam went into encyclopedia mode. "The Mother Spring is the world's deepest geothermal hot spring, at least 1002 feet in depth. It's the source of all twenty-five of these carefully crafted hot springs pools. These springs vary in temperature from 86 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. They vary greatly in size, the Blue Lagoon is big enough to do laps in, but most of the pools go for the intimate, cozy vibe. Or the views, the Rockies are splendid from some of the springs, and the Venetian hot spring is known for its sunset views. Several of the hot springs are also close to the San Juan River, offering spectacular river views, and some bathers even alternate plunging into the 55 degree river with dipping into the 100 plus degree hot springs."
"I said it before," Dean interrupted, "people are crazy."
"Not arguing," Sam said mildly before continuing. "The Springs are also known for the healing power of the minerals in the water – thirteen minerals in varying concentrations, that's why some of the surrounding rocks have white, orange, and reddish streaks and stains on them. There are all sorts of health benefits to the springs, fixing muscle aches is just one of them."
"Not arguing," Dean said, smiling.
"You'll be pleased to know that the springs area also includes a canteen and a fully stocked bar."
"You know me so well."
They spent the next several hours hopping from one hot spring to the next, whenever their current pool became too populated or they wanted to stretch their legs. They sampled the food and the bar, with Dean pronouncing the Mother Spring Special almost as good as purple nurples. They bypassed the Lobster Pot (112 degrees) when they overheard another bather saying it was "hotter than hell" and opted for the nearby Waterfall hot spring at a mere 106 degrees instead.
"Nice scenery," they heard a feminine voice say as they settled into the water, causing Sam to blush slightly.
. "Idjits," snorted a familiar voice.
"Bobby!" Sam and Dean said in stereo.
Sam expanded. "Didn't think we'd see you until Christmas, almost two weeks from now. What're you doing here?"
"Amber here," Bobby indicated the woman soaking to his right, the thirty-something blonde who had made the scenery comment, "asked me to help her with a revenant. She lives in Durango and she's treating me to this 'spa day' as a thank you. Amber Stringford, this is Sam and Dean Winchester."
"Pleased to meet you boys," the blonde's sharp blue eyes gave them the once-over. "Any friend of Bobby's is a friend of mine."
"Likewise, I'm sure," Sam returned and Dean just nodded, smiling.
"A revenant, huh?" Dean asked. "We just finished hunting a phantom skier. Y'ever dealt with one of those? It was different, let me tell you…"