Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and make no money from this story. No copyright infringement is intended. Kripke owns the Winchesters and Whedon owns Illyria. Lie Back and Let Me Count the Stars
Hunting an Arctic wolf – much less a were-Arctic wolf…hell, a whole fucking pack of were-Arctic wolves - was more of a challenge than John had thought.
Not only could the fucking things handle the transition between the Snow and Heat hemispheres without even ruffling their god-damned-white-as-snow-so-he-couldn’t-see-them fur, but they fucking knew they were onto them and had hightailed it further onto the Snow side, hoping their hunters would freeze to death before the planet rotated to the Heat again – god-damn-human-brain-too-smart-for-their-own-good were-wolves – in approximately two years. Now they were too far in to do anything but wait it out.
And why was he cursing so fucking much? Oh, yeah, he was fucking cold
and fucking hungry
and could not very well fuck his wife
without fucking freezing
something off he wanted to fucking keep
. And the only reason that final concern came up – ha
– was because Illyria had absolutely blossomed in the icy conditions like some sort of god-damned Grimm Brothers’ Snow Queen who almost deserved some kind of ritualistic sacrifice, worshipped with the spill of hot blood on the snow like a bright wash of paint, the coppery scent her subtle perfume.
If his blood were not creeping through his veins like some kind of syrup, he’d undoubtedly have other things besides the snow making it difficult to walk. Sometimes John wished he’d been bound to something less…intriguing – maybe with horns - so these matters didn’t interrupt the job.
“Quit the inner monologuing,” Illyria interrupted, blinking at him with her usual unsettling directness. “It accomplishes nothing and your face gets all red when it is over 70% profanity.”
John puffed out an irritated breath, his cheeks pink with a combination of the aforementioned vulgarity, the unquenched desire for Illyria, and the glacial temperatures they were enduring. “I hate the fucking cold,” he grumbled.
“Yes,” Illyria said. “I know. As does every living creature in the vicinity since you refuse to shut up about it.”
John frowned at her, not that she could see it under the swatch of scarf covering the lower half of his face, and pulled the hood of his parka further forward to block out the wind. They’d been picking off what they could find of the pack as they trailed them into the ice-covered cities that lay nearly empty on this side of the planet, until they’d nailed the last three rummaging through the entrails of the man left to care for the abandoned estate of one of the ruling elite.
Right now, John regretted nay-saying Illyria’s common sense rebuttal of his plan to follow the were-wolves. She had rightly pointed out the cold, lack of provisions, and assorted other potential problems, but John said that it was their duty to protect the humans who were still on the other side – the few who were paid to remain behind to ensure the survival of the water systems, electricity, hospitals, and other public utilities, keeping them working well enough so that immediate use could be made of them when the rotation made them necessary again.
Oh, and the few the rich paid to stay behind to baby-sit their estates to ensure looters didn’t rob them blind before their eventual return.
Illyria had just shrugged and reminded him to pack extra socks and gloves. John reminded her
that sarcasm wasn’t an attractive quality, but did as she suggested. Now he was wishing he’d packed even more because - he wasn’t sure if he’d made this clear - he was fucking freezing.
Illyria dragged what was left of the man’s body out to the garage, which would serve as an adequate morgue until they could hike their way out of there in over a year’s time. While Illyria was gone, John bypassed the security system to break their way into the caretaker’s house, once more cursing the cold as he had to remove his gloves to handle the tiny wires.
God-damned high-tech security systems to make his life harder, but he knew they were necessary to fend off the looters that started seeping over the Temperate Zone when the rotation brought the towns within a few days’ hike, sneaking their way past the Border Patrols to make some money off what they could carry out of the abandoned homes. Security had become a state-of-the-art pain-in-his-ass, and if he could think of any more hyphenated phrases to express his displeasure, he was going to god-damn use them before he froze his ass off in the middle of this fucking desolate snow-covered wasteland.
When Illyria returned, he was standing naked in front of the fireplace, his snow damp clothes flung haphazardly around the room. “Shut the door,” he growled, kneeling to huddle closer to the blaze as he tugged a blanket off the couch to wrap himself in. The white snowflakes dusting his black hair like sugar quickly melted, leaving a rather damp and irritated John Winchester behind.
“If you set yourself on fire, I am going to laugh and then wait for you to resurrect and then laugh some more,” Illyria warned him. “I take it we will be remaining here for the foreseeable future?”
“This place was built to withstand the long winters,” John said. “We’ll have plenty of food, water, and heat to last us until we need to leave.”
Illyria studied him thoughtfully, noting the bright redness of his nose and the tremors shaking his body. “I will return,” she told him, turning to wend her way through the short halls of the caretaker’s house. When she found what she was seeking, she readied the room and made her way back to John, who was nodding off curled up on the warmed brick hearth surrounding the fireplace.
Without bothering to ask, she leaned over and scooped him up – blankets and all – startling him from his doze as he protested, “I hate it when you carry me around like a toddler.”
“I will stop doing it when you stop acting like one,” she informed him, carrying him into the bathroom. John’s eyes brightened at the sight of the warm bath, soft curls of steam floating over the water. “You are nearly hypothermic,” Illyria said, blinking at him with a hint of reprobation.
“Illyria, you are a god
,” John said with a smile, his more pleasant personality finally peeking out now that they were inside away from the cold.
,” she reminded him as she set him on his feet.
Illyria then continued with her diatribe, refusing to be distracted by his accolades. “Mortals are so weak
. How you can survive even a day without being killed by some more powerful creature, some unfortunate accident of nature or fate, or some microscopic germ I will never understand.”
She dragged the blanket from his shivering skin. “You
appear particularly robust, but nevertheless can be felled by a simple drop in temperature. If our bond had not ensured your longevity, I would feel compelled to hunt down that wizened old crone that calls herself Fate and threaten to tear her spine out through her nose if the hag did not willingly cede control of your lifeline to me.”
John laughed, grinning at her teasingly. “Awww, I knew ya loved me.” He shakily stepped into the water with a soft hiss of discomfort. As he settled into the warm bath, he grabbed her hand, tugging on it playfully. “You comin’ in? Make sure I’m warm enough?”
“To make sure you do not drown,” Illyria replied, her blood-dark armor melting from her lithe frame as she stepped into the tub and slid in behind him.
John leaned back against her chest with a contented sigh, draping his arms along her legs like he was resting in an easy chair. “You know,” he said, his voice rumbling contentedly deep in his chest as the warmth of the water seeped into his aching muscles, “the one thing I miss about Hell – and I never thought I’d miss anything
- is the climate. I haven’t been properly warm since we left.”
“You will not find temperatures similar to those environs anywhere on any planet that is livable,” Illyria agreed. “Unless you wish to reside in the middle of a volcano.” She tilted her head to the side, considering. “I would not recommend it.”
“El Azizia came close.” John gave another sigh of satisfaction, wriggling his back against her as he made himself more comfortable in the water, sliding his arms around her legs and absently rubbing his hands along her shins. “This is a sort of vacation for us. No hunting possible for over a year; we’ll be able to just kick back and relax.”
“However will you manage?” Illyria asked, amusement coloring her tone. “You go a few days without hunting something and you turn into an unpleasant pain in my backside.”
“Ass, Illyria,” John replied dryly. “It’s ass and thank you
so very much.”
“You are welcome. It shows personal growth that you have learned to accept your flaws,” Illyria replied, her intonation suggesting she might be laughing at him on the inside. She idly wiped a cloth over his lightly furred chest with one hand, surreptitiously checking for frostbite or nerve damage by running her fingers over his extremities with the other.
John began to fidget more restlessly at the feel of her wandering hands, her ministrations managing to wake him up in every respect. “You’d make a good nurse,” he commented huskily, grabbing one of her hands as it wandered over his belly and guiding it lower to brush over his swollen dick bobbing beneath the water.
“I see that your circulation has improved since your last detailed report on the status of your equipment,” Illyria said, softly mocking. “And I am not shifting into costume while bathing,” she told him as she gripped him firmly in her hand. “It is too constricting, as I have told you before.”
John groaned softly at her touch, unable to formulate a response to her teasing tone. Instead, he turned to nuzzle at the column of her throat, rubbing the rough bristles of his unshaven skin against the soft spot under her ear as she stroked him, running her fingers expertly over the ridge along the head.
Decades upon decades of practice had made Illyria an absolute savant when it came to John’s penis, granting her the skill to draw out his release or speed it up as the situation demanded. This
situation demanded that he rest soon to regain his strength, so with a quick twist of her wrist he came, his body tightening against hers as pleasure sapped what little energy he had reserved.
John knew that Illyria reveled in this tiny power that she had over him – of course, it wasn’t opening portals to various dimensions or altering time, but it satisfied her need for control in a universe that had stripped her of nearly everything else. It was a gentle conquering, a pillaging of the senses, an erotic plundering of nerves and flesh and sensations.
John had once told her it might be love, but having never had the capacity or motivation to investigate the concept before, she had to take his word on the matter. Sometimes, a glimmer that she might understand what he meant peeked through the cold blue of her gaze. She would mention to him her disappointment in this human defect that plagued her in this shell, and John would laugh in that deep, slow way and cup her face in his hands, kissing her softly on the temple or the corner of her mouth, disturbing her equanimity. She would stoically tell him that this was a serious matter and he should show appropriate commiseration; John would school his features to something properly solemn and offer to rend his garments and to cut his hair to show his grief over her disgrace.
After the brief bath and even briefer – but still treasured – hand-job from his wife, John collapsed on the bed, his manly vigor depleted for the next several hours. Once Illyria assured herself he wasn’t going anywhere and wouldn’t suffocate in his burrow under the quilts, she went outside to deal with the bodies of the were-wolves.
John, half-hoping to awaken to the previously mentioned nurse outfit, awoke to a much less pleasant surprise many hours later – Illyria standing at the end of the bed holding the skinned pelt of one of the were-wolves, the fur still damp from the snow on one side and still moist with blood on the other. Proudly she held it up for him to see, declaring, “Look what I have done. We have two more drying in the entryway.”
“Um…lovely, Illyria,” John rasped, still trying to wake up. “What do you plan on doing with them?”
Illyria frowned at him. “It is cold. The fur will keep you warm should there be a problem with the heating.”
John knelt on the edge of the bed, tugging the edge of the fur closer to study the back. “Good work, Illyria. You scraped the meat clean. Once the blood dries we can rub that off and make something out of this.” He smiled up at her leeringly, making his dimples flash. “Are you familiar with One Million Years B.C.
“The movie or the year?" Illyria asked drolly. Her eyes glittered in the dim light. "You made me watch it repeatedly in Topeka,” Illyria reminded him with a quirk of her lip. “What use would I have for a bikini made of animal pelt?”
John’s darkening eyes caught hers as he tugged her closer to the bed, squeezing her wrist to drop the pelt to the floor. “Oh, I think it would be more for me,” he purred hoarsely, burying his face in the crook of her neck and dragging his teeth lightly across her skin. “How ‘bout you
get in here to keep me warm?”
Illyria planted her hands on his chest and pushed him down on the bed, crawling up his body with her oddly sinuous grace as her armor slowly melted away, leaving supple blue-tinged skin sliding under his hands. “It is about time you awakened. The tedium was growing tiresome.”
Illyria dipped her head down in a way that made John flash on a tiger he’d once seen with his boys in San Diego – how it had caught sight of them watching it camouflaged in the shadows of the trees and it had lowered its head in warning, muscles bunching in its shoulders and its eyes gleaming with undisguised threat, even behind the walls and wires separating them. John shuddered softly at the memory, the feel of Illyria’s tongue and teeth slipping roughly over the vulnerable, soft meat of his throat giving the image an erotic twist.
One thing about having sexual relations with a one-time Demon-God – a man definitely took his life in his hands. John often felt there was the high probability he wouldn’t make it out alive.
They never brought up the one time he didn’t.
A short time later the power cut out, the generators set on a cycle that would ensure they lasted as long as was necessary. John expressed suitable amazement at Illyria’s foresight, complimenting her on her inherent rapaciousness with a teasing grin.
So, when the skins were finally cured enough to work with, John fashioned them into a sort of blanket that he laid out in front of the fire, the place they spent the most time in the house, and there it stayed – the smooth rippling of firelit shadows over the silky fur a blatant invitation to them both.
As they lay in front of the fire on the soft blanket of were-wolf fur, the fire the only source of heat while the electricity cycled off for the next several hours, John ran his hand over the skin of Illyria’s back, idly tracing his fingers up and down her spine, following the delicate tracery of blue speckles shading that bare expanse. The blue stood out in startling contrast to the pale hue of Illyria’s skin and the pristine color of the fur, Illyria’s hair swirls of blue-brown ink across the nearly blinding whiteness beneath them. “Like the night sky,” he murmured softly, his fingers flowing back up towards her shoulders, “but turned inside out.” Illyria began to roll over to question his statement, but John restrained her with the gentle pressure of his hand, his voice a pleading rasp of need, “Lie back and let me count the stars.”
That idle comment, expressed with such breathless awe and devotion, gave them a mission. For the next year, as they made their home in that tiny house buried beneath the drifts with nothing to distract them from each other but the soft sound of snow brushing against the frost covered windows, John occupied their endless hours by counting the stars. With a gentle brush of a fingertip or the soft sweep of his tongue, he took note of every spatter of blue on Illyria’s skin - from azure to cobalt and from navy to sapphire, each tiny dot was accounted for and received its due devotion.
It wasn’t an easy endeavor – the distractions seemed to multiply with every attempt. The nape of Illyria’s neck lost them a couple of weeks, while the hues of blue under the curves of her breasts occupied nearly a month and a half. The backs of Illyria’s knees proved particularly troublesome, and had to be abandoned for a later time so that the count could be completed before it was time to leave. The span of skin from her wrist to her elbow on her right arm rolled through the hours from breakfast to the tolling of midnight over three separate days, while her ankles required the bringing in of provisions so that John wouldn’t go hungry from the amount of attention each received.
The firelight flickering over the curve of Illyria’s left hip made John completely lose count and that entire limb needed redoing, as did the soft star-shaped spatter around Illyria’s belly button when she gasped at the feel of John’s unshaven cheek against the inside of her thigh. The extensive canvas of her back took the longest, leading to several sessions with John resting his coffee cup on the swell of her buttock or abandoning a piece of toast on a shoulder blade as another speckle called for tasting.
As the sun rose on the day they had determined to leave, to make the long hike back to the Heat, the final tally was made. The stars that delineated John Winchester’s universe numbered 893,471 - he knew each and every one of them by sight and by taste and by touch – and only by their unwavering constancy would he chart the course of his future.Author's Note: Thanks to hakirby for her awesome beta-ing skills.