The light outside is barely starting to get brighter yet, and he needs coffee, his stomach growls at the thought, reminding him that they’d skipped eating the dinner he’d brought in last night. He’s just about to ask Sam what he wants for breakfast when he hears his brother turn over his pillow and settle back onto it with a quiet clearing of his throat. Dean’s heart sinks. Was this where Sam would let him down easy? He hates how his mind goes there instead of accepting what they’d said and done last night was what they both wanted and needed.
“So, what are we doing about Crowley, now that we don’t have to work for him any more? We’ve still got to figure out what he’s doing with the alphas, right?” Sam asks, hands behind his head, eyes fixed on the ominous grey stain on the popcorn ceiling.
“I’m not feeling like we’re up to taking on the King of Hell right now, are you? Can’t we give it a few days to settle?” Dean asks, a breath of relief coming out of him at Sam’s question.
“You mean my soul?” Sam asks.
“Yeah, and everything else,” Dean says, waving his hand between the two of them, indicating all the changes that have recently happened.
“What about Cas?” Sam asks, eyes still fixed on the stain on the ceiling above them.
“He was here, right after the leprechaun left, checked your soul, told me it was one hundred percent and scrammed. I think he’s busy with the whole war in Heaven business,” Dean answers.
“So he knows?” Sam asks.
Dean isn’t sure what Sam is asking, whether he’s worried that Cas knows about the two of them being together now or just about the soul stuff. He doesn’t want to talk about Cas while they’re naked in bed together, so he chooses to assume Sam is asking about the soul and leprechaun business. “That your soul is back thanks to a couple of leprechaun deals, yeah he knows. Told me he hoped it was worth whatever the fairies were going to take from us.”
“You think it will be?” Sam asks, finally looking over at Dean. He takes one hand out from behind his head and trails it up and down Dean’s arm.
“What do we have that they’d even want?” Dean scoffs, stopping Sam’s hand from the tickling movements by lacing their fingers together. He feels himself falling back into Sam’s eyes, marveling that he’s really all in there, and that he’s really all his now.
Dean’s cell phone rings on the nightstand, interrupting them, the screen lighting up with a picture of Lisa and Ben smiling. He sees how early in the morning it is and a bunch of adrenaline dumps into his system. Something’s got to be wrong, she wouldn’t be calling this early. Especially after how they left things the last time they’d talked.
“Heya, Lis, what’s up?” Dean says into his cell.
Dean stands up abruptly from the bed, and throws a worried look in Sam’s direction before he roughly pulls on his boxers. “When did you last see him?”
“I’m on my way to you, hold tight, Lis. It’ll be like, four hours max to get there, okay?” Dean says, tugging on his jeans and throwing the rest of his clothes into the duffel bag. He listens to her answer, hangs up the phone and disappears into the bathroom.
“What’s going on?” Sam asks, sitting up on the edge of the bed.
“Ben’s gone, and she says the only thing that’s weird is her house smelling like flowers,” Dean says, reappearing with his bathroom kit that he zips up in his bag.
“We’ll find him,” Sam says, standing up and looking for where he’s left his own duffel.
“Need anything out of the car before I leave?” Dean asks, crossing to the motel room door.
“Just leave it all in there, let’s get all our stuff and go,” Sam says while he finishes dressing.
“Hold on, you want to come with me?” Dean asks, hand on the doorknob.
“I just assumed you’d—but I can just stay here and wait for you to come back,” Sam says, sitting back down on the bed, looking at his hands twisting between his legs.
“It’s probably nothing, I didn’t think you’d want to get in the middle of all of it. Shit, Sam, of course you’re coming with me. He wouldn’t have wanted to and I’m just not used to you being…all you again. C’mon, let’s get moving.”
Sam looks up with a heart-breaking smile of relief that makes Dean wish he hadn’t caused. He crosses the room and puts his hands on Sam’s shoulders, looks into those eyes that are fully occupied once again and leans down to kiss him. “I’m sorry, that came out all wrong.”
“It’s okay, it’s an adjustment for both of us, but we should go figure this out,” Sam says, standing up and hugging Dean close for a moment. “We’re going to find him, don’t worry.”
Dean lets himself be held and squeezes his brother back, thankful once again that it’s really his brother, because that soul-less bastard wouldn’t have cared at all. Robo-Sam probably would have seen it as a good thing, one less complication.
The drive isn’t too long to Battle Creek, Michigan where Lisa and Ben live now, but it’s strange between them and getting stranger the closer they get. Over the four hours in the car, Dean is consumed with a bone-deep worry that he’s trying really hard to hide from Sam. Ben isn’t his kid, but he is his responsibility, and he came to love him pretty fiercely over the time they had together. It had been strange trying to make a relationship work when he was at the lowest point of his life, but Ben had met him where he was and soaked up whatever attention Dean could spare.
All that time Dean had spent researching ways to get Sam out of the Cage had been busy work to keep his mind off of where his brother was. Having Ben there as a reminder to be in the here and now of life had been a real blessing. Lisa’s gratefulness and patience had been the icing on that particular cake when he’d finally gotten to a place to be able to indulge. Those had been some dark months in-between though, and the Braedens had gotten him through it to the other side each in their own ways.
As far as he can tell, Sam is off in his own world, probably trying to reintegrate all the horrible memories from the last year. They’re about fifty miles away from Lisa’s when Sam seems to come back to himself, clearing his throat abruptly and sitting up straight, doing that fidgeting with the folds in the knees of his jeans thing he does when he’s nervous.
“What’s up with you, Mr. Fidget?” Dean asks, worried that maybe what they got up to last night has made Sam have second thoughts or maybe he’s just freaking out about it more than his soulless self would have expected.
“Just tired of being in the car I guess,” Sam answers, pointedly looking out his window.
Dean knocks the back of one of his hands into Sam’s bicep. “C’mon, tell me.”
“I’m reconsidering whether I should be there. Won’t it add to Lisa’s stress and everything?” Sam asks.
“She already knows about me being back hunting with you, Sam. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal.”
“But she doesn’t know, uh…the rest of it, right?” Sam asks with this hesitance that breaks Dean’s heart.
No, it doesn’t quite break his heart, but it hurts Dean deep down to realize that Sam is probably worrying that if he sees Lisa he’ll want to stay with her and Ben. Which means Sam didn’t believe him last night, or something else he can’t think of right now.
“No, I haven’t shared the whole story about your soul with her, and definitely not what’s happened the last couple of days. But seeing her isn’t going to change anything between you and me,” Dean says, and now that Sam’s brought it up, yeah, it’s probably going to be super weird.
He hasn’t ever had to deal with an ex and a current lover in the same place before. One of the benefits of being a love-em-and-leave-em kinda guy for most of his life. This thing with Sam seems so new and fragile, even though it’s the most solid ground he’s ever felt his feet on. Sam hasn’t said anything, won’t even look in Dean’s direction, so he reaches out to grab one of his hands. “I want you there with me, Sammy, and I don’t think it’ll bug Lisa at all. She knows you’re the second best hunter in the country, so she’ll want you on her team.”
Sam grimaces at the second-best hunter joke. “I wasn’t thinking about just that,” Sam says, leaving the rest unsaid.
“It’s gonna be weird, I know, but we’ll just have to cool it until we find Ben. The less details she knows about the whole thing, the better.”
“The whole thing?”
“Yeah us being together now as well as the whole soulless thing, all she knows is about you being in the Cage. I didn’t mean to tell her, but the first couple months with them, I couldn’t stop saying stuff when I was researching and drinking…and I eventually spilled my guts.”
“So no PDA then, got it,” Sam says with a teasing grin.
“Shut up, or you’re getting nothing at the motel tonight,” Dean says, tickled that Sam’s teasing him about this already, it’s a good sign that his brother’s already getting comfortable with the changes between them.
“Like you could ever say no to this,” Sam says, blowing an exaggerated kiss at him.
Dean rolls his eyes and grins, stomach swooping with how damn true his brother’s words really are. He has no idea if Sam quite gets that yet. “True, true, you got me there.”
They pull up to Lisa’s house and she meets them on the porch. She throws her arms around Dean and he holds her for a long minute that starts to feel awkward much sooner than Dean would have thought possible. She doesn’t fit in his arms anymore, it’s like they’ve re-shaped themselves to only fit around the Sasquatch lurking awkwardly behind him. Maybe Sam was right about this being a bad idea.
“Sam, I’m so glad you’re here too. Thanks for coming with Dean. He’s told me how busy you’ve been lately,” Lisa says, craning her neck to look up at Sam. She hugs him lightly and Sam awkwardly bends down to reach her. Sam meets Dean’s eyes briefly over Lisa’s shoulder and Dean feels himself going red with a blush that he’s not sure what it’s even about. The possibility she might figure them out, how awful it would be to have to try and explain it to her, all mixed up with how he feels kind of jealous seeing her small form wrapped around Sam.
She brings them into the house and Dean gets her to sit down on the couch in the tidy living room. Sam scurries off to the kitchen in search of beer as a cover to give them a little time to talk.
“So, you two are doing a lot better, I see,” Lisa says as she settles into her spot on the couch.
“Yeah, it’s going a lot better lately,” Dean says, and decides to immediately change the subject to why he’s even here again. “So, I can still smell the flowers you mentioned. But tell me about Ben. What’s the latest, any news since we talked?”
“It’s probably nothing, but you said to call if anything strange happened with me or Ben,” Lisa says, hand stroking her hair like she’s regretting having asked him to come.
“I’m glad you did, Lis. C’mon, what’s the story?” Dean encourages her. It might be nothing, some routine pre-teen boy disappearing thing, but with the last few times the supernatural has targeted Lisa and Ben, he’s glad he got it across to her that it’s not smart to ignore anything weird.
“Okay, like I said on the phone, he was supposed to spend the night at his friend’s house last night. And the plan was I was picking him up at baseball practice this afternoon. But he wasn’t there. His coach said he hadn’t shown up, and the friends I talked to said they hadn’t seen him around.”
“Hadn’t seen Ben at school?” Dean asks.
“No, he was at school, just not at practice. And the friend said he never showed up last night for the sleepover. He got a text saying Ben had gone home and then Ben never answered again after that.”
“Did he text or call you last night?” Dean asks.
“I got a text about the same time his friend did, saying that he was over at his buddy’s house and they were having pizza. That’s the last I heard from him.”
“No goodnight call or anything?” Dean asks.
“I was out on a date, so no, I didn’t make one, and neither did Ben.”
“You were otherwise occupied, huh?” Dean teases.
“That’s none of your business now, remember? But yeah, thanks for bringing it up so I can feel guilty all over again,” Lisa says with a frown, hugging her arms around herself.
Dean pats her on the shoulder. “That wasn’t what I meant. Have you called the police yet?”
“I was going to if you didn’t come today, but with the flower smell thing not going away. I thought the chances were pretty high it was something related to your world of stuff, and the cops would just get in the way of things. Ben has never done anything like this, he doesn’t ever lie to me. We’ve pretty much been on high-alert since you moved us here.”
“Unfortunately you’re probably right,” Dean says, squeezing Lisa’s knee in apology. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Please, Dean, we can’t keep having this conversation. No apologies about this, you’re the reason I even still have Ben. I knew what I was signing up for when I let you back into our lives. And like I said, best year of my life, totally worth it.”
Dean looks up at a noise in the archway to the kitchen and sees his brother’s back as he’s turning away. He hears beer bottles clinking together and Sam’s boots on the kitchen floor. “We’ll find him, Lisa,” he says, taking his hand off of Lisa’s knee and moving away from her as far as possible on the couch. “Sam, you got those beers yet?”
Sam comes back through the archway holding out a beer bottle to Dean, not meeting either of their eyes. He sits in one of the easy chairs facing the couch and concentrates on memorizing the beer label.
“Lisa, we’re going to work this like any other case, okay?” Dean asks.
“Last you heard from Ben was yesterday, what time?” Sam asks when Dean doesn’t say anything to get them started.
“Three-thirty, it was after school had let out when he texted me. And his friend got a text around the same time. Exactly the same time, which I thought was weird.”
“And then nothing at all after that?” Dean asks.
“No, nothing, which is weird. Like I said, I thought I’d be seeing him at four this afternoon. And I was a little occupied this morning.”
“Lisa had herself a hot date last night,” Dean says, trying to put a gentle tease in his voice for Lisa, but looking over at Sam with a significant glance. See, Sam, just like I said, she’s moved on like I have.
“Lisa, did you notice anything strange around here lately?” Sam asks. “Did Ben mention any new friends, or have there been strange smells or noises besides the flowers?”
“There hasn’t been anything I’ve noticed. I mean, I’ve been on pretty high-alert ever since Dean moved us here. He trained me for that at least.”
Dean nods in acknowledgement, hating the reminder of how much he’d screwed up their lives.
“We’re going to need to talk to the kid he was supposed to sleep over with last night. And probably a list of names of the kids he knows on the team, at school, that kind of thing,” Dean says.
“I’ve got all the phone lists in the kitchen. C’mon I’ll fix you guys some lunch if you want,” Lisa offers. She stands up from the couch and quickly disappears through the archway into the kitchen.
Sam hesitates to stand up once Dean is past him, following Lisa into the kitchen, but Dean reaches back and tugs on the back of his hair. Sam hisses at him, “Cut it out,” and finally gets up to join them.
She opens one of the kitchen cabinets to get some food out for lunch and the whole thing is filled with boxes of Lucky Charms, top to bottom. At first glance there are at least twelve boxes of the stuff.
“All that time I kept asking for these when I lived with you, and now you’re all stocked up. That’s cold, Lis,” Dean says from behind her.
“I didn’t buy those, you know I don’t buy that crap, ever. What the hell are those doing in my kitchen?” Lisa asks, sounding pissed and a little freaked.
Sam opens the cabinet closest to him and finds it’s also filled with box after box of the sweet cereal. Lucky the Leprechaun’s cheery smile mocks them as they open the rest of the kitchen cabinets and find them all in a similar state.
“Guessing all this cereal is a clue, right?” Lisa asks in a shaky voice, leaning up against the counter.
“Yeah, we know who we gotta call,” Dean says, grim and almost angry.
“I’ll go get the book and stuff out of the car,” Sam says, heading out of the kitchen.
“Wait, should we do it right here, or go somewhere ya know, safer?” Dean asks, grabbing at Sam’s shoulder and whispering urgently.
“They’ve already been here, or know where it is. I don’t think it matters too much, do you?” Sam asks in a low voice.
“Guys, you’re freaking me out, I’m gonna go check Ben’s room again, while you do whatever it is you’re whispering about,” Lisa says, arms wrapped around herself like she’s barely holding it together.
“Good idea, I’ll come check it out with you, while Sam gets the stuff,” Dean says, putting an arm around Lisa’s small shoulders to lead her out of the kitchen and away from all the menacing leprechaun leers. He’s glad Sam is there to help, especially because he needs to concentrate on helping Lisa, who’s shaking as they get closer to Ben’s room.
“Dean, could you, uh…look in there for me?” she asks in a hesitant voice.
“Sure, of course,” Dean says, patting her shoulder as she leans against the wall.
He pulls his gun from his waistband and slowly opens the door.
There’s nothing strange in Ben’s room, like no piles of Lucky Charms boxes. Nothing strange beyond the funky pre-teen boy smell and way too many comic books. Until Dean sees it, glinting on the floor near one of the bedposts. It looks familiar, like something he knows the shape of all too well. He leans down and scoops up the metal button and instantly knows it’s from the same green jacket. He tucks it into his front pocket and slides his gun back into place.
Lisa is leaning up against the wall, face white and full of fear, her whole body shaking; just like she was when he’d last been here. When he’d been a vampire; the frames had fallen off that very wall. There’s where he’d almost broken through the plasterboard, there’s where he shoved Ben and almost hurt him. Dean’s senses start to overwhelm him with the memories of that intense time of being a vampire and how it had broken he and Lisa apart for good.
He steers her back to her bedroom and gets her situated in bed, covers her up with a blanket that he’s never seen. It’s complicated, realizing this familiar room that smells like recent sex, he hasn’t slept in it in ages. That it’s been months since they’d been together, and how he doesn’t want it or miss it in the least. Not now that he has Sam. The words Lisa had said to him when he was under the truth spell come back to him now as he sits on her bed, trying to comfort her the best he can. The mixed-up, crazy thing he has with Sam, she really had no idea how right she was.
“I’m gonna find him, and I’m gonna get him back, Lisa. I swear I will.”
“I know you will,” Lisa says with a small smile. “It’s what you and Sam do, save the day, right?”
Dean leaves without saying anything else, because it’s true, and shuts the door quietly behind him.
The summoning circle is almost complete on the open area of the kitchen floor. Sam is crouching with the chalk finishing up the last figures and shapes. Dean stops and marvels at the wideness of Sam’s shoulders, the muscles bunching and flexing under his shirt, remembering how they’d felt under his hands this morning. Was that really just this morning when the whole world had changed?
“Earth to Dean?” Sam says, snapping his fingers with a frown from his kneeling position on the floor.
“Yeah, do it, ‘m ready,” Dean says, gesturing at the ritual bowl Sam is holding under his lighter.
“What are we saying to him, once we get him here?” Sam says, hesitating.
“We want Ben back,” Dean says.
“Obviously, but what if he’s the boon, the one he is supposed to take from you?” Sam asks.
Neither of them had stated it so plainly, even on the drive here. But it’s of course what’s been roiling around in Dean’s brain the whole time. “Of course he is, and we’re going to…”
“What are we going to do, offer them another boon to trade, so they’ll just give him back?” Sam interrupts. “We don’t have anything else they’d want, Dean.”
“Okay, say you’re right, what the hell else can we do?” Dean asks.
Sam looks up at him for a long moment. “I don’t know, I’ve gone over all this, I mean I did a couple days research on it before I made my deal, and there isn’t going to be a way to just talk our way out of this.”
“We can threaten him with one of the spells that’s probably in that book,” Dean says, pointing at Brennen’s book on the floor next to Sam.
“I’ve practically memorized that whole thing on the way here, Dean. There isn’t anything in that book that would threaten a fairy, I’m sorry.”
“We can threaten to make him count salt again and again?” Dean suggests.
“That’d just piss him off even worse, wouldn’t it?” Sam challenges.
Dean throws his hands up in the air in pure frustration. “Well, hell if I know, Sam, but I gotta get Ben back. I owe that to Lisa, okay?”
Sam makes calm down motions with his hands. “I know, I know, I owe her too. I’m just trying to get a plan together before we summon the dude, all right?”
“I didn’t ever really think of Ben as being mine, ya know like actually mine, so when I bargained with the leprechaun to fix you, I didn’t consider this even being a possible outcome,” Dean explains.
After a long pause where Sam looks like he’s changed his mind several times about asking, he finally does. “Don’t get mad that I’m asking this…but, do you know if he’s yours?”
“No, he’s not,” Lisa says from the stairway where she’s been sitting, listening in for who knows how long.
“Do you know that for sure, Lisa?” Sam asks, leaning back a little so he can actually see her face.
She stands up slowly, holding onto the stair banister tightly, paused there on the steps. “Yeah, I got a DNA test done, when Dean came to us last year,” Lisa says, slowly walking into the kitchen and leaning on the counter next to Dean. “I didn’t tell you about it. I’m sorry, Dean, but I had to know one way or the other; because it was always a possibility. I took a cheek swab when you were passed out, one of those times early on when you were with us.”
Dean nods but doesn’t say anything. What is there to say to a thing like this? She had to check that her kid wasn’t related to the unstable, alcoholic, fuck-up she’d let in her front door, as a just-in-case. He gets it, of course he does. Who would want someone like him to end up being their kid’s dad?
“Do you have any way to prove that, like with a document or something?” Sam asks with a worried look at Dean’s silent answer.
“Uh huh, why though?” Lisa asks.
Sam looks at Dean until he sees a nod that says go ahead, tell her the whole thing. “I’m just going to tell you straight out. We’re pretty sure it’s a leprechaun that took Ben as payment for something Dean asked him to do. In fairy terminology, it’s called a boon. But I think I could argue in their court that he was not Dean’s to give if we can prove it somehow.”
“He sure as hell wasn’t!” Lisa exclaims. “I’ll go get the papers, hold on,” Lisa says, leaping up and running up the stairs.
The brothers can hear her rummaging around in one of the rooms upstairs. Both of them look a little impressed that she didn’t freak out about the whole leprechaun thing.Chapter 3