Sam and Dean are both made offers to save Castiel and Adam, and must decide if the price is worth it...
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
AN: This chapter borrows heavily from 6x09 (Clap Your Hands If You Believe), and so if you haven't seen it before I'm posting a general spoiler warning for it, although I do end up doing my own thing more often than not. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
The sensation of many hands reaching out to Dean, sharp and grabby, filled his awareness. Out of reflex he tried to pull away from them, and when that didn't deter he swiped at them with his knife. Exclamations and noises of surprise burst out around him, but try as he might, he couldn't see what he was facing.
The bright light that had overtaken him blotted everything out with painful intensity, forcing him to keep his eyes shut. Even then, it shone through the backs of his closed eyelids, causing tears to form and spill over his lashes in reaction.
Something or some things continued to reach out for him, trying to restrain him, but he kept thrashing wildly out of their way. Someone uttered a command and the voices faded away, until only whispers and a sound like music – haunting and hypnotic – filled the air.
His vision cleared and he prepared himself for a face-to-face with something resembling either E.T. or Predator, only to realize with shocked dismay that it might be worse than that.
Hundreds of glowing balls of light fluttered overhead, twirling, sparking and laughing. Where he stood, he could see dozens of the creatures, some of which danced and caroused in the strange light while others surrounded him.
"Son of a bitch," he murmured, staring around the space that was most definitely not the cornfield. 'Crazy cat lady was right. They're fuckin' faeries…'
They were very angular humanoid creatures of all shapes and sizes, with pointed ears and teeth. All of them had bright eyes and bright hair; even their skin shone, glowing pearly green in the eerie illumination. He was getting a pretty close look at that, too, because most, if not all, of them were naked.
Those closest to him stared, their gazes laced with curiosity or disdain, either toward him or his still-raised weapons; several of them bled dark green from where he had nicked them with his knife. He gripped both tools tighter, sure that they were his only protection right now.
Forcing himself to focus, his eyes flicked around the place where he now found himself, looking for some clue as to where there might be a means of escape. Wherever he was, it was neither outside nor inside, and seemed to exist beyond natural day or night as well. It looked like the inner hollow of a tree, judging from the bark-like texture of the walls, but he was pretty sure there was no tree in existence big enough to hold what this one did.
Large sections of the bark walls were covered in tapestries of woven grass and flowers, while a reaching football field-sized expanse of floor stretched out beyond him. It was made of some sort of earthy, marble stone, but was both less and more grand. The reflection of the hundreds of glowing balls – more faeries, he told himself – shone in the smooth surface, and the air itself gleamed in response.
'No Exit sign, then,' he thought, tensing up in preparation for an attack. It was a mystery to him why he hadn't been swarmed yet.
"Calm yourself, boy," someone said, and Dean inexplicably shuddered in reaction. The voice was like the sound of the wind and the thrum of a bass and the purr of his baby's engine, all rolled into one amazing package. "There is no need for weapons here."
"Oh, I think there's a nee –" he began, turning to face the one who had spoken, only to have the ability to talk disappear.
In the middle of the hallway, there was a throne of black onyx; on it sat a woman that Dean could barely find words to describe. She wasn't even his usual type, yet he still felt himself going a little weak-kneed.
He told himself it was just because she, like the rest of the faeries, was naked.
Instinctively, he knew that this was a primal creature, a lot older than it looked. The woman was tall and willowy, with a perfect hour-glass shape and pale skin. Long dark hair fell in wild tangles down her back and over her full breasts. She was smiling at Dean in welcome, although from the mischievous quirk of her full lips it looked almost more like a suggestion. Her bright eyes were an intense blue that made him think immediately of Castiel, although he had never seen the angel look at him with that particular hunger before.
'Cas,' Dean reminded himself, his thoughts jarring as he came back to himself. He couldn't let himself become distracted right now, even if there was some really hot faerie chick giving him come-hither looks. He needed to get back from wherever the hell he was so that he could find Cas. 'Focus, Winchester.'
He looked away from the woman, trying to regain his composure, but she seemed determined not to let him.
"Dean," the woman whispered his name, and he couldn't help but look back at her, surprised that she knew his name and recognized who he was despite his new packaging. "Don't look so confused. The Fae are creatures of Nature…of Change. We know when something has been altered." The woman smiled wider and wandered toward him, her gaze holding his. The music seemed to grow louder. "You look tired, boy. Come, sit – eat."
She gestured beside her, and unexpectedly Dean was confronted by a richly decked table, with every kind of food he'd ever eaten in his life upon it. Fruits and vegetables grown almost to bursting point rested on intricate glass plates, succulent meat cuts of every kind glistening with gravy and sauce, sweet-smelling breads and – oh, hell - every pie imaginable had been laid out before him.
Even if he hadn't been before, Dean was suddenly famished.
"Uh…yeah, sure. Sounds good," he found himself saying and letting her lead him over to the table.
He frowned, inwardly. His response didn't seem right. For whatever reason, his instincts were screaming at him, but he couldn't for the life of him think why. It felt as though he was in a fog, unable to see beyond the woman and the table of food. The sensation was annoyingly familiar.
He found himself allowing faceless creatures to ease the weapons from his hands and then the woman was gently guiding him down into the chair that had appeared just as mysteriously. Someone hissed in the distance, and dimly his brain registered the sound of something dropping – the knife, he thought – but it was only a vague sense.
Dean was fully aware of the fact that he'd lost control over himself. Whether it was the strange music that continued to echo within the cavern, or the voice of the woman, he wasn't sure, but the feeling itself was disconcertingly familiar.
Dimly, he remembered that the last time he had felt like this was in Bedford, Iowa, a year before.
'Siren,' he recalled, grimacing with effort as he tried to focus his thoughts. This hazy sensation was a lot like that had been, only he knew he hadn't been dosed with any mind-control spit or had anything like the angelic-fingers-of-mind-whammy placed on him.
So what the hell was going on?
The faerie woman took a place beside him, watching him with hungry intensity. She made a gesture to some of her attendants without looking away from him; the gaze was unnerving enough that Dean had to break it, or he might go mad. His eyes fell lower, zeroing in on her breasts in an ingrained habit only to find his attention momentarily captured by the tiny, red globule that hung from a cobweb-thin strand above her cleavage.
It reminded him of something…
'But these things bleed green,' he thought. 'So who…?'
The skin on his knuckles stung and he then recalled splitting them open on that douchebag Rick's teeth. He blinked with effort and looked down, staring at the wound healing there. It shouldn't really have meant anything to him, but at the back of his mind he remembered…
The Hindu goddess had been able to bind a person with their blood. Maybe he had ended up in a similar situation with this faerie chick.
"Dean," the woman murmured, and he was forced to look back into her eyes; her gaze was pleading. "Won't you stay with me? Time passes differently here…it's been centuries since I had a visitor. I'm so lonely."
The sadness there sounded real, and it was on the tip of his tongue to agree, but something kept getting in the way.
'Sam,' he reminded himself, focussing on the one thing that trumped everything else. 'Just got him back. And we have to get Cas and Adam. Can't stay. Family.'
The woman appeared to sense his thoughts, because she smiled sympathetically.
"So much responsibility, Dean Winchester. Have you not done enough?" she reached over and stroke the left side of his face. It was an odd sensation, the rub between her cold fingers and his softer-than-usual cheeks, and a shiver of anticipation shot through his treacherous body. "Your loved ones will survive without you. Why should you be asked to descend back into the Pit again? You served your time."
Dean shook his head, the motion thick and heavy like he was immersed in a swamp. "Doesn't matter…family…"
The words somehow meant less than they usually did, and it was getting harder and harder to remember why. The smells from the table were becoming hard to bear, along with the woman's too pleasant touch.
She leaned in close to him, her lips hovering close to his left ear.
"Sam is safe, Dean – he'll discover what happened to your friend. Together they will find your youngest brother – none of them will begrudge you peace. You saved the world, after all. You deserve it," she whispered, bringing her hand down in a slow caress. She trailed is suggestively down his neck and collar bone, and Dean felt his eyes roll back a little in pleasure. "Come now – sit back, eat something. Stay with us. Stay with me."
She continued to trail her fingers downward, over his shoulder and his arm –
The pleasure abruptly turned to seating pain as she touched the shoulder that had once born an angel's brand. A sharp, electric sting of agony flitted across his senses, as though she had poked an exposed nerve –
' – Dean – '
'Cas,' Dean thought dimly, his body reacting to the ache automatically. He shoved himself backward, knocking over some of the delicious looking food and drink. All around him, faeries expressed surprise at his sudden outburst, and even the woman looked alarmed when a goblet of some kind of liquid upended over her, drenching her down the front.
If she'd been a regular woman, the sight might have been tantalizing, but all Dean could register through the quickly ebbing pain, was that the little globule of blood had been washed away.
He shook his head, feeling his senses sharpen again. His mind rebooted itself, focussing on one thing: escape.
"Right…well, thanks for the invite, but I'm gonna have to pass," he said slowly, inching away from her with difficulty. "It's a real nice set-up you got down here – out here? In here? – Anyway. I've got to get going."
"Don't be silly," she purred, following him even as he backed away. She moved with all the grace of a cat. "You should eat something before you go."
Dean made a face. "Yeah, lady, I may not know much about Tinkerbelle, but one of the first things my old man told me was not to take food from strangers. And if you're not strange, I don't know what the hell is."
He began to edge away from the table, looking for his weapons. He cursed himself for allowing whatever magic was at work here to lull him into a sense of security. 'A rookie mistake Sam'll never let me here the end of. 'The day Dean was kidnapped by faeries and punked out'; I can see it now…' "
"Come now, Dean, don't be silly – "
"Can it, Lady Godiva," Dean snapped, sensing more of the creatures beginning to surround him, cutting off all possibility of his running away. "Your Jedi mind tricks aren't working anymore, so if you don't want to be in a world of hurt, you'll point me to exit."
This was going to be messy, especially without any kind of weapon. He probably still had a flask of holy water in his jacket pocket, but he didn't think it was going to do anything about faeries.
The woman's eyes narrowed, and in an instant her body lost the alluring quality to it. Her skin seemed to harden, taking on the same texture of the walls, and her curves turned into harder edges.
"I'm not an angel, boy," she told him coldly. "I'm allowed to use coercion to fulfil this covenant."
"Yeah, well, I didn't spread my legs for the archangels, so don't hold your breath about me doing it for you."
"That's too bad," she sighed. "I would have made it worth your while." She shrugged, a gesture that didn't seem to fit her primal aura. "But pain is also an excellent motivator, I've learned."
Before he could even blink, the faerie woman had darted forward and clutched his shoulder tightly, fitting her grasp over the part of his deltoid where Cas's mark had been.
Against all logic, pain exploded across his synapses.
Sam was having a little trouble making his brain work past the disbelief.
"You're the leprechaun," he intoned incredulously, levelling his crossbow at the newcomer.
The man he'd known as Wayne Whitaker Jr. smiled coldly as he cleaned off the blade he'd used to impale Brennan. Gone was the fanatical gleam in his eyes that had marked him as a UFO chaser, and he was watching Sam with calculating gravity.
"Indeed I am," he simpered. He inclined his head a Brennan's crumpled body. "Sorry about the mess, but your friend here went back on his deal."
"Well, you weren't very clear with him on the terms," Sam replied stiffly.
The leprechaun chuckled. "Now, now – no lawyering from you. He knew there was a price."
"Once we come, we come to stay. It's how we've been doing things for millennia."
"I doubt you've been using UFO cover stories for abducing people for millennia," Sam said, trying to put together the pieces. If this thing had been around for as long as it said, if was probably the 'guy' that Aggie had sent him and Dean to find. However, Dean's disappearance notwithstanding, the creature – or creatures, as there were probably many of them – was causing mayhem.
Which meant Sam had to find a way to stop it.
"Maybe not always, but in this day and age, where even reality can be faked? It works out great."
"Hate to tell you, but your cover's pretty much blown now," Sam pointed out, his mind racing to come up with the next part of his plan. The book Brennan had used to try to banish it was far enough away that if Sam tried to make a break for it, he'd probably end up on the business end of the leprechaun's blade.
"Blown? To whom?" the leprechaun chortled. "Brennan's dead and your brother's cooling his heels back on the ranch." Off Sam's startled expression, he continued impishly, "Oh, yes, Sam, we know all about your particular situation. Nice disguises, by the way. Pagan handiwork, I take it?"
"How did you – ?"
"I knew there was something a little off about you two when you got here," Whitaker said. "You're both marked by something beyond this world, and that's before taking into account our friend Aggie's particular signature. Dean's a bit more obvious – it rolls off him in waves. But you?" Whitaker shook his head in mock affection. "You, I had to concentrate on. I thought it was just proximity to your brother, but that wasn't it."
"What are you talking about?"
The leprechaun laughed again. "We faeries folk are all about the energy. And the human soul gives off a certain perfume – one that changes based on where it's been. And judging from your particular bouquet? You've done some time." He shrugged. "Of course, I can't tell where or how long – someone's gone and covered it up. Probably for your own good."
Sam tightened his grip on the trigger of the bow.
He had had a suspicion there was a reason he couldn't remember his brief stint in Hell, but he had expected it to be his mind repressing the memory to protect him. Apparently whatever had brought him up had done it purposefully. It was yet another point in the 'Castiel column', because the angel knew what it had been like for Dean after he came back from Hell; it would be just his style to try to save Sam the pain. Or at least to save Dean from having to see Sam's pain.
"Now," Whitaker said, businesslike, "let's talk shop. Hunters don't really investigate UFO flaps – not since that whole Roswell thing, anyway, and let me tell you: someone did some seriously excellent PR for us on that one!" He grinned reminiscently, before continuing. "You wouldn't be here if someone didn't send you, and judging by the stench it was the Phrygian. We haven't heard a peep out of her for almost four thousand years, so you must be in the market for a big favor."
Sam did, but he had his priorities. "I want Dean back from wherever you took him."
The leprechaun smirked. "I doubt that's why you drove out to this little hick town, though. Let's talk about big brother later."
Sam pursed his lips to keep from replying angrily. Alienating the asshole leprechaun right now was probably not a good plan. He needed his help – and even if he didn't, he still wasn't quite sure how he was going to kill the thing if it decided not to be helpful.
"We heard you knew a way into Hell," Sam said at last, knowing that the faster he revealed why they had come to Elwood, the sooner he might be able to convince the leprechaun to return his brother to him. He refused to consider the idea that he wouldn't be able to.
"What do you mean, 'which one'?"
"Smart boy like you should know there's more than one hell realm out there, boy," Whitaker chided. "Are we talking Norse, Buddhist, Abrahamic…?"
"The last one."
"And why do you need to get to that hell? There's not exactly a waiting list for folk who want to take a cruise in that direction," the leprechaun remarked. "So you're either looking for something…or someone."
"Our brother. Adam. He's down there."
"Well, that's rather anticlimactic," Whitaker snorted. "That's easy work – hardly something befitting my people. Go find one of your Crossroads Demons."
"Not an option. We were told you could do this," Sam said firmly, not wanting to go into detail about the many reasons a crossroads deal was a bad idea.
"And you were told correct. If I was so inclined and not completely bored by a task so routine, I could get him out for you. For a price, of course."
The matter of fact way he said threw Sam for a second. "How? He's locked in a box with the Devil."
Interest flicked in Whitaker's eyes, before he reminded him coyly, "Your devil, not mine."
"Maybe so, but I'm still finding it hard to believe that a faerie can do what angels can't."
"Angels," Whitaker scoffed. "Please. There's a reason you had to go to a pagan god to get your little body transplant, boy. What my kind does is real magic. Got a way of getting in back doors. And we'd be glad to help – but as I said, for a price. No such thing as a free lunch, and all that."
"And what's your price?" Sam asked.
"Leave town," the leprechaun said. "Right now. Just up and go and forget you ever came here – let us keep doing our thing and never come looking for us again. Pretend faeries are nothing more than stories in cute little Disney movies. You do that, we'll get Adam back for you."
"So basically you want carte-blanche to keep abducting people," Sam frowned.
"Oh, don't make it sound so terrible. The firstborns we take don't suffer – how could they? They get to be immortal and party in our realm for all time. Not a bad deal for them – especially the folks around here. Not many ever leave this dunghill. They'll end up poor and miserable in their middle age. We give 'em something better."
Sam shifted indecisively, and Whitaker took a step forward. He held out a hand.
"Well, Sam? What do you say?"
Sam narrowed his eyes at the leprechaun. "I'm still waiting for you to bring Dean back."
"He's already one of ours," Whitaker dismissed with a cold smile. "Meeting the boss and everything as we speak. He's part of the ones we've already taken, Sam. And like I said, it's not like he's suffering. Wouldn't you want your brother to be at peace?"
Sam tensed up, because he wanted nothing more but peace for Dean. He wanted his brother to never again have to deal with some great big scheme to destroy the world. He wanted him happy and safe and to never have to wake up to another day of screwed up reality. But he also knew that no deal was ever as good as it sounded. Even if that lesson hadn't been firmly burned into his own soul, he knew that Dean would find a way back from wherever he was right now and beat the shit out of him for agreeing.
It wasn't just about Dean, either. If he agreed to the leprechaun's offer, many other families would continue to be rent apart by the faeries presence. Along with finding the thing that had killed their mother, hadn't the whole point of his and Dean's upbringing been about making sure no one else ever went through what they had? Agreeing to the deal right now would completely invalidate everything that they had suffered through and fought for.
Losing Jess and Dad, Dean going to Hell, losing Adam and Cas –
There really was no other answer for Sam to give.
"I don't think you understand," Sam replied and fit his finger into the trigger of the crossbow. "You're bringing him back."
"Sorry, boy, but he's part of the price. Otherwise it wouldn't be a sacrifice, would it?"
"Guess I'll have to change your mind," Sam said, finally pulling the trigger on the crossbow. The bolt whizzed through the air and caught Whitaker in the right shoulder.
The leprechaun jerked in surprise.
"Silver! Painful," he spat, as smoke began to rise from the wound. Sam raised the crossbow again, fitting another bolt as he watched the leprechaun grab at the thing impaling him. With a quick jerk, Whitaker broke off the shaft and tossed it away, rounding on Sam. "Not a deal breaker, though."
Sam fired again.
This time he missed, and the leprechaun cloaked himself, disappearing from Sam's view. Tossing the crossbow aside to give himself more mobility, Sam unsheathed one of the silver knives he carried. Even if it wasn't going to stop the son of a bitch, it would still hurt him at least.
As he listened for the leprechaun, he began to inch towards the book. It seemed like the best option right now –
The air beside him moved, much the same way it did when an angel was appearing in the general vicinity only without the telltale flap of wings. Sam whirled around, jabbing towards where he thought the creature's torso would be. A vice-like grip stopped his blade, and although he couldn't see it, he could smell the leprechaun's breath on his face.
"So much for hunter reflexes," the leprechaun hissed in his ear. "That was a bad mistake, Sam. Let me show you why."
Sam felt an invisible hand on his head, and grasping, sharp fingertips dig through his hair and into the side of his face.
He lurched as images assaulted him from every direction, blotting out the real world. Invisible flames licked at his skin while a searing cold filled him up from the inside, the contrast creating a world of agony.
He couldn't hold back his scream.
It was like acid had been poured into him, filling up every empty space that had once been held together by an angel's grace. Prodding, clawing fingernails inched their way farther and farther within him, tearing him apart from the soul outward.
Dean jerked, trying to pull himself out of the faerie's grasp, but she held on with a determined grip. It was as though her palm was welded to his shoulder. The longer she touched his skin, the more pain he was in. It was almost like being on the rack, only not quite as bloody.
His senses blurred together and his vision swam with dark spots. He was going to pass out soon, and there was nothing he could do to stop it – or to stop those winged fucks from taking advantage of him in some way.
'Dean Winchester, Saved to World, Molested to Death by Faeries,' he thought through his exhaustion. But try as he might, he couldn't move.
He could taste blood in his mouth from where he was biting down to keep from screaming, and he could hear his heartbeat, thrumming a steady, relaxed beat.
He tried to tune out the scorching pain, focussing on the heartbeat. He could feel his own – inarguably racing in reaction to the agony the faerie's searching essence was instilling in him – but he could also hear that other rhythm.
Slow and peaceful, and somehow the most comforting sound that Dean had ever heard in his life.
He didn't know what it was or who it belonged to, but he grasped onto that feeling, holding tight. If his stay in Hell had taught him anything, it was that the only way to survive was to latch on to the least damaging pain he could and ride it out.
As he surrendered himself to that one, constant sound, he felt a jarring sensation, like a wall coming down.
The invisible force that was rending him open from the inside out appeared to hit somewhere they couldn't go. The woman let out a hiss of surprise and discomfort, jumping back. As Dean came back to himself, he saw that her palm was smoking where it had once rested on his shoulder.
"What's this?" she snarled in disbelief. "That should be gone!"
Confusion twisted within him, but Dean knew that if he didn't act fast, she would have time to recover herself. Whatever compulsion had paralyzed him before was gone, and although there was still remnants of the phantom pain from whatever the faerie bitch had done to him, his thoughts were clear again.
'Kinda wish I'd asked the crazy cat lady what kills these bastards,' he thought as he backed away from the woman and looked for some kind of weapon. He had no idea how he was going to get away from them or how to get back to the real world. 'Well, when in doubt, go for the old standbys.'
Those old standbys being silver and decapitation; he was fresh of the former, what with his weapons having been commandeered, but he might be able to pull off the latter.
He moved quickly, seizing the nearest dishes from the table and shattered them against the edge. The shards in his hand were small, but sharp – not the most ideal weapon, but he had once beheaded a vampire with an X-Acto-knife. He hoped this wouldn't be any different.
And then they were on him – coming from many different directions, shrieking and hissing and laughing as they attacked him, and the woman disappeared into the myriad of many bodies. Dean lashed out automatically, trying to fight off the barrage of faeries.
It was harder than usual to fight off a hoard of assailants; he decided to blame that on his new body rather than the numbers, just to pander to his pride. Every time he landed a blow on one or slashed through an outstretched limb, another creature took its place.
Dean couldn't think, couldn't worry if his body was about to give out. He ducked and dodged, executing sloppy yet forceful moves that made his opponents yell in anger and frustration. Not pain, though. It seemed like there was nothing here that could hurt them, and yet Dean could feel himself bleeding as nails like talons dug into his flesh.
He managed to get through the throng of bodies, only to find himself in a dead-end.
His glass weapons were knocked from his hands and something shoved him up against the mossy wall of the hallway.
An unearthly calm settled over the area, and Dean continued to struggle against the faceless faerie holding him back. The crowd cleared and the faerie woman was coming toward him again, all slink and seduction, but with a definite air of pissed-off anger.
One of his hands was being held close enough to the pocket of his jacket that he could dig it inside, wondering if he might not have salt or maybe grab the holy water he knew he had. It wasn't much, but he'd at least get one last move in before he inevitably died – or worse. Because there were things worse than death.
His fingers closed around a rectangular metal shape, and Dean's eyes widened. His lighter.
He might be able to make a distraction and make a run for it, if only he could…
"Why are you struggling, Dean?" the woman asked him, as though she was really curious to know the answer. "You know how this is going to end. And as admirable as your bravery is, it won't do you any good."
"Makes me feel better," he grunted, finally managing to get his lighter out. He tried to angle his hands toward the wall, figuring if it went up in smoke the creature holding onto him might let go –
He flicked the lighter to life.
"What are you – ?" the fat faerie asked, shifting as he felt Dean move. The lighter caught against the moss, and Dean could smell burning – and then the faerie let out a shriek and released him.
Dean moved away, surprised that that had worked – and then felt his jaw drop.
The fat faerie must have touched the fire, because he was burning, literally. Flames raced up his skin and across his body, encompassing him until he disappeared into a shrieking wisp of smoke. The effect was not unlike salting and burning a spirit's body.
The other faeries let out shrieks of dismay and agony, and Dean glanced down at his lighter as he registered this new information.
'Faeries are flammable. Good to know.'
Even the faerie woman had stopped and was staring at him with wide eyes, obviously having not expected this development.
"Here's the deal," Dean said, gripping the lighter threateningly. "You're going to let me back to the real world. Or I'm going to torch this place so badly not even clapping is going to bring it back, hear me?"
The woman's eyes narrowed. "You think we can't stop you before you try?"
"I'm thinking I can take out enough of you before you do. And sweetheart, you're the first one I'm going for. Cutting off the head of the snake and all."
Her expression remained fixed, but he could see a glimmer of wariness in her eyes.
"I thought you wanted our help, Dean? Is that not why you came here? To try to save your brother? Did you think you wouldn't have to pay a price for that?"
Dean paused for a moment, letting that sink in. "What do you mean?"
"It's the way it had always been, Dean Winchester. You are the Given Sacrifice," the woman said. "Agdistis sent you here because she knew what we could do – and she knew what you were willing to give. If you want us to bring Adam up from his cage, the price is you. I did not lie when I said Sam would find a way to return Adam. I just neglected to mention that it was your sacrifice which would allow him to do so."
There was a hollow feeling in the pit of Dean's stomach. He'd known all along that catch would be something like this. And he knew that he was inclined to make this sacrifice, too. Except…
"And Cas? Can you find him?"
"We do not meddle in the affairs of angels," the woman said stiffly. "And even if we did, the angel that rescued you from that hell is no more. Surely you feel that? His grace is gone."
"No," Dean insisted. He thought about the strange, calm heart-beat he had heard and the way the woman had recoiled. "He's still alive. I know it. Somewhere, he's alive."
"Even if he were, why should it matter? He is not part of the agreement we are offering."
"Then I'm not taking it," Dean growled. "It's bringing Adam up and finding Cas, or it's nothing."
"Then I suppose it's nothing," the woman retorted. "The innocent boy will continue to rot in the Pit. And you may keep that on your conscience. There's the way out." She pointed at a doorway, made up of stone and vine.
"What the hell makes me so important to you freaks, anyhow?"
The woman snorted. "Are you joking? Dean Winchester, Vessel of the Jealous God's Sword? Do you realize just how much bargaining power there is in that, even to us fair folk?"
"Hate to break it to you, but Michael's on the bench. He won't be coming off it any time soon."
"Not in your lifetime, maybe. But the end of all things will come eventually," the woman said. "And not just the Judeo-Christian Apocalypse. This planet – the earth around us – will shudder and die, and with it all of us. Everything." A look of extreme sadness flickered on her face. "Think of watching your brother die, Dean. And magnify that by billions. And that is what we will experience when the end comes."
"And what exactly am I supposed to do about that? I'll be dead and gone."
"Only if you leave," she told him beseechingly. "If you remain here, you will be immortal. You'll be at peace, and by dint of your sacrifice, so will your loved ones. They will live their lives and then pass to the next world as they are meant to. Isn't that what you want?"
Dean hesitated, for a moment unsure. He glanced from the door to the woman, and then asked. "Would you have to collect now?"
She cocked her head to one side. "What do you mean?"
"Say I said yes – would I have to stay here now or would I get a period of grace?"
The woman smirked. "We are not Crossroads Demons, boy. If you make the sacrifice, you do so immediately. But the results would be immediate too. We would pull Adam from Hell right away."
"But you couldn't find Cas."
"No. He is gone, and I can't even sense where."
"Then I'm going to have to say 'no'," Dean said heavily, and headed toward the stone doorway. "We'll find another way."
"Know that you've shed blood in the realm of faeries, Dean Winchester," he heard the woman's voice echo as he headed for the door. "Even as we send you back, this is not the last time you will see us. You're marked."
"Get in line behind the demons, angels and hunters already on my ass," Dean muttered to himself.
The pain was unlike anything Sam had ever experience – the kind of agony that couldn't be understood without experiencing it firsthand. The fire was as sharp as a knife, slicing across flayed nerves and veins, scraping and sliding against his skin, brutal and loving at the same time –
Lucifer was still within him, but he could also see the bastard's face, the same face he had seen before he said 'yes'. He smiled beatifically at Sam, and another wave of pain rolled over him.
"You have no one to blame but yourself, Sammy," the Devil told him with a smile that was anything but kind. "You could have stopped all of this – but you're so selfish. Your entire family's so selfish." He chuckled. "Good thing we have some time to cure you of that, huh?"
And Sam was somewhere long past pain and screaming, his throat raw like it was lined with broken glass, and he could taste blood and bile and maybe even brain matter from the torture that Lucifer was putting him through. He would shred him and then build him back up again, and only to tear him apart cell by cell.
It went on for hours…days…years…
Sam wasn't the only one there. He was aware of Michael, both the towering pyre of fire and the creature wearing his brother's face. Adam was only alone when the archangels decided that Sam's torture wasn't enough – that he wasn't being punished enough by being eviscerated and flayed by his own fingers.
At those times, they forced Adam to remain still as Sam took him apart.
He could taste the blood, warm and wet and rich, just the same way the demon blood had been on his tongue, but with a different aftertaste. Perhaps the taste of an archangel's power lingered in it. Sam was sick and his stomach heaved in response, in disgust and in hunger that wasn't his.
'Sam, please…' Michael made Adam beg, and God help him, Sam tried.
He tried to fight the archangel's influence, tried to summon up some of that strength that he had found when the Devil was crushing Dean's face in in that damned graveyard. And sometimes he even managed it.
It was getting harder and harder to fight the Devil, and Sam was getting more and more weary. He clung to those moments where he wasn't being torn apart by the one who shared his body, when he wasn't ripping into Adam, but they were so few and far between.
There was a reason for this. There had to be a reason, but he was starting to forget.
It had been years –
The leprechaun's grip on him faltered, and Sam could distantly hear the familiar trill of his blackberry. "Oh-Ho! So that's where you were. And you got out, but baby brother didn't. Well, you must feel extraordinary about that."
Sam let out a wordless yell and shoved the leprechaun away from him, panting harshly. The Hell memories continued to come at him, and he could feel tears inching down his cheeks.
Adam's face remained in his mind, and he felt the urge to vomit. He had been freed and Adam had been left behind. He had been there at least ten years – but by now, Adam would be the only one there. The only one for Lucifer and Michael to torture.
The phone continued to ring.
Sam dug into his coat, not to answer it, but to find another weapon. He knew he had another knife in his pocket, but his thoughts were so scattered right now, he couldn't remember which pocket. He cursed mentally as his fingers brushed the spare salt rounds he always kept there, but then his wits kicked in again.
His eyes darted to the book across the room, and he knew he could send the leprechaun back if he could get to the book. Then he would find Dean, because there was no way he was losing anymore family, faeries or not.
"Come on, lad, you've already gotten in your best shot," Whitaker told him with mocking sympathy, following Sam's gaze. "Why not just cut your losses and get out of here with your life intact?"
"Maybe you're right," Sam panted, disliking the raw quality to his voice. Reliving his memories had obviously been more vocal than he realized. He fingered the salt-round in one pocket and then finally found his knife. "So do me a favor, and count this."
He hauled out his chosen weapons and slit the round open with his knife, spilling salt all across the floor.
The leprechaun's face fell, twisting with horror. "Oh, no."
He was already going to his knees to count the grains of salt as Sam walked over him, bone weary. "Why the hell didn't I do that earlier?"
He grabbed the book and turned it around, squinting at the unfamiliar script as the sounds of the faerie's counting filled the watch shop.
It took Sam a few minutes to find the right passage – he had very little experience with any of the Gaelic languages, although he knew enough of the basics to at least have a passable pronunciation. Not for the first time was he glad that Bobby had drilled some rudimentary language skills into him and Dean.
" – air ais gu'n àite-breith –"
The leprechaun seethed, but couldn't do anything, "Damn it."
" – cum sabhailt aar naoidhein gun am breith, agus cum dùinte an geata uamhasach seo!"
There was a blast of white light, and when it cleared, Sam was the only one left in the work shop, except for Brennan's corpse.
He inhaled a shaky breath, momentarily unsure of what to do, before the phone began to ring again.
He dug into the pocket of his jeans, expecting to see Bobby's number flash before him. It would be a welcome sight, because then they could figure out how they were supposed to get Dean back now that Sam had just closed the door the Faerieland.
The number, however, was unfamiliar.
"Hello?" Sam rasped.
Relief and disbelief washed over him at the sound of Dean's voice – even though it was the female one he had only just gotten used to, it still filled him with a sense of comfort. "Dean?"
"Yeah, it's me – Listen Sam, it's not UFO's, it's –"
"Faeries, I know –"
"How do you know?"
"Because I just faced off with a leprechaun, that's how," Sam retorted. "I managed to find a spell to close the doors on the place but – Dean, I thought you were stuck there, how did you…how did you get back?"
There was a pause on the other side. "They let me go."
"Long story. I just…there was this deal they wanted me to take –" For a second, the bottom dropped out of Sam's stomach. He waited for Dean to tell him he had made yet another sacrifice for their family, " – but I couldn't. Not this time. I wasn't willing, so they let me go."
Sam swallowed, his knees suddenly feeling weak in the aftermath of the night's revelations. "Just…just like that?"
"Yeah, well, the usual threats…'you haven't seen the last of me, a pox be on both your houses'," Dean was trying to sound offhand and cheerful, but Sam could sense that he wasn't exactly relieved at the outcome. "No big."
"Not that I'm not relieved," Sam said after a moment. "But why didn't you take it?"
There was a pause, and then a heavy sigh.
"Terms weren't good enough," Dean told him, honesty fuelling his words.
Sam gritted his teeth. "So if they'd been good enough…"
"Think you know the answer to that, Sammy."
"Damn it, Dean, are you serious?"
"It doesn't matter," Dean told him. "The point is, this angle didn't work. We'll try another one."
Sam decided to let it go, for now. They had more pressing issues to worry about. "Well, we'd better do it fast. We have to find a way to help Adam."
"Way to state the obvious – "
"No, you don't get it," Sam interrupted. He took a deep breath and forged ahead. "That…the leprechaun. Before I managed to shut the doors on the faeries, he…he made me remember. I remember Hell, Dean."
There was silence on the other end of the phone, and then an exhaled curse.
"I was there longer than a day," Sam continued, knowing that every word was probably like a searing iron on his brother's already overburdened conscience. "It felt like…years. A decade, maybe."
"I think the closer you get to the Pit, the more time passes," Dean theorized, his voice carefully neutral. "Shit. We're definitely going to have to find Cas, and soon, if we're going to make any headway."
"But Dean, we have no idea –"
"Cas is still alive." The tone of voice dared Sam to argue with him, and he didn't take the challenge.
"How do you know?"
"I…I just know, okay?"
"So bring that piece of shit car of yours and come get me so we can get the hell out of here," Dean ordered. "If these faerie fuckers can find a backdoor into Hell, I'm willing to bet there are others who can. And that they can find us our missing angel." There was a pause, and then he added, more determined than before. "We're going to get them back, Sam. Both of them."