“You okay, Dean?” Sam asks with real concern, one hand on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean holds onto Sam’s hand, grateful for his brother’s presence more than he can communicate. His mind has been blown a few times in the last half hour. He’d always secretly hoped that Ben was his and now he knows for sure he wasn’t—isn’t. And finding out that Lisa had done this test thing and not even told him because of the state he’d been in, makes him feel even worse. “Not really, no.”
Sam moves closer when he hears that and is just about to hug Dean to him when they hear Lisa’s footsteps pounding back down the stairs. He steps back and leans against the counter, trying to look innocent which is stupid and Dean glares at him to cut it out. Sam shrugs and rolls his eyes because he’s just trying here, neither of them know what to do or how to act with this new thing, with Lisa, especially in the middle of trying to figure out how to get Ben back from the damn fairies. Dean smiles at his brother, trying to communicate all that silently and Sam seems to accept it and settles down a bit with a roll of his shoulders.
“Here it is, all the stuff from the testing place,” Lisa says, handing Sam a neatly labeled file folder. Ben ~ DNA Test is the label on the edge, nothing at all about Dean on the outside of the thing.
Dean steps away from the two of them and studies something terribly important out in the backyard because he doesn’t want to look at the proof himself. He always knew it was true, deep down, that he didn’t deserve to have a kid like Ben. That it was the last thing Lisa would have wanted to be true.
“This should work, assuming the fairies know what DNA is, I guess,” Sam says, shutting the file once he’s carefully scanned the documents.
“So do we summon the leprechaun here and show him or what?” Dean asks.
“No, I don’t think so, we have to go there, to argue in the Court of Fae,” Sam says.
“Go where?” Lisa asks.
“The lore says the fairies, or fae live on a different plane of existence from us, like a world one half-step away from our reality. There are ways for humans to travel there and back, so we just have to find one.”
Dean digs around in his pocket and pulls out the button he just found in Ben’s room. “Like this, maybe?”
Sam steps forward and takes the button out of Dean’s outstretched palm. He examines it under the bright light coming in the kitchen window, turning it back and forth in his elegant, long fingers. He looks at Dean with an impressed, almost proud look on his face. “Yeah, exactly like this. This looks like the one you stole off the guy’s coat, but that’s still in the ashtray out in the car. Where did you find this one?”
“It was in Ben’s room just now,” Dean says, a little pleased with himself that he might have part of the solution.
“Wait, I forgot to ask you. How did you even know about the buttons?” Sam asked, apparently impressed and surprised with Dean’s fairy knowledge.
“Hard to forget all those fairy stories you were always begging for when I used to read to you. Small things taken from fairies always get you to Fairyland if you want to go,” Dean says, remembering all those hours spent curled up with Sam in the backseat of the Impala; deep into one of the fairy tale books they’d swiped from the last library Dad had left them in for an afternoon of self-care.
“So, we’re off to the Court of the Fae then?” Sam asks with a full-watt grin that makes something settle into place deep inside Dean’s belly. That last morsel of wondering if his Sam was really, truly back is gone now.
“It’s not really a court court you know,” Dean says, pushing away the fuzzy memories of the short time he’d spent there recently.
“I know that, of course, but if their king is there, any gathering is considered a binding council as far as the fairies care about that kind of thing. At least that’s what it said in Brennan’s book.”
“I’m going with you guys. It’s not a question, he’s my kid,” Lisa insists, fierce as any mother lion.
They both look over at her, and nod, because they get it, they’d do the same for each other.
“Okay, rules for dealing with fairies that we know about so far. They can be invisible if they want to, if you’re touched by one, then usually you can see them from then on. The stories say not to eat or drink anything while you’re in Fairy. Don’t agree to anything or make any promises. They are really good at twisting meanings of words. What else?” Sam asks.
“Stick together, maybe bring some gold jewelry if you’ve got some, sometimes gifts or bribes are required. And we need iron or silver weapons, you can’t kill them with it, but it will hurt them. Oh, and if you spill salt or sugar they have to sit and count every grain which helps to stall or break up a fight,” Dean adds.
“All the iron I have is the stuff for the fireplace or maybe some of the barbecue tools? There’s a few pieces of silver cutlery I inherited from my aunt in that drawer,” Lisa points at one of the kitchen drawers. “I’ll go get some of my jewelry.”
“I’ll grab our silver and iron knives out of the car,” Sam says as Dean starts looking for the barbecue supplies in the mud room.
“Grab some of those salt rounds too. It couldn’t hurt to have them if we need to make them count stuff, that worked for you, right?” Dean says.
Sam nods and heads off to the car with that serious, intent look on his face that means he’s probably thinking up some way for them to deal with the intricacies of fairy deals.
They meet back in the kitchen and hold hands, all touching the button while Sam prepares to read one of the spells out of Brennen’s book. “This spell will bring us to the Seelie Court. I’m guessing that’s where the leprechaun would be. These are supposedly the ‘good guys’ compared to the Unseelie Court. Hopefully none of them will be lurking around.”
Dean can’t take his eyes off of Sam as he performs the spell, drinking in the whole competent earnest thing he is giving off. Sam smiles at him as they start to travel through the Veil that separates the human world from the fairy’s.
They shook themselves all over, dusting off the sparkling cobwebs that cover them. Dean reaches up and grabs some off the top of Sam’s head that he missed. They seem to be deep underground, in a tunnel that’s quite tall, the ceiling at least a few feet above their heads. The supports for the tunnel are carved stone that gleam in the low lights that travel off into the distance in either direction as far as the eye can see.
Right in front of them there is a beautiful wooden door set into the tunnel wall, fire torches flaring on either side, highlighting the intricate wooden filigree carvings. It vaguely reminds Dean of some of the elves’ homes in the Lord of the Rings movies. Some of the designs begin to trigger his memories of having been at this door at some point during his abduction. A trill of light-hearted music floats through the door, low voices murmur and sing all of which made Dean shiver with recognition.
“Everyone ready?” Sam asks in a low voice.
Lisa nods, eyes gone wide with the rush of being transported somewhere; they had both forgotten to warn her, forgetting it was her first time getting zapped someplace. This transfer feels very different from when Cas or Crowley transported them somewhere on Earth. The Veil as insubstantial as it seems to be is still a real barrier for a human body to pass through without any consequences. He doesn’t remember feeling this when the fairies had abducted him from the cornfield. Maybe he’d passed out before the transfer.
Dean pats Sam’s lower back as he passes, one of those reassuring taps they usually give each other when heading into unknown danger, but now it feels different. Probably because he knows what the skin under his hand tastes like. Dean grasps the doorknob and opens the door that hopefully led into the Fae Court.
As they pass through the doorway, their weapons fly from their various hiding places on their bodies, clattering into a heap just outside the door with a clatter. What they see on the other side is pretty much as Dean expected based on all the fairy tales and his own vague memories. The room is packed with many people, scratch that: beings, scattered around, though not crowded together. They are lounging on couches, plush chairs, even some in hammocks up near the edge of the ceiling. All of their eyes are examining the humans, and the music that had been playing abruptly stops.
“Well, if it isn’t the delectable Dean Winchester,” says one of the largest male-looking fairies seated on what could possibly be a throne near the center of the room. Enormous vases of beautiful flowers flank the throne and several low couches are arranged in a half-circle in front of him.
There is something so familiar about this fairy king, Dean struggles to remember. He has to be Oberon, right? “Oberon, it is such a pleasure to see you once again,” Dean says, going with a guess based on his half-memory, bowing low at the waist. He side-eyes Sam and Lisa, who sketch out bows of their own.
“Who have you brought to us this lovely day, Dean?” Oberon asks with a hungry grin.
“May I have the honor of introducing my brother, Samuel Winchester, and our friend Lisa Braeden,” Dean says, gesturing grandly at each of them in turn. Sam nods and Lisa shyly waves.
“I welcome you to our court, but we are in the midst of a concert, which we would all love to invite you to stay and enjoy. Or do you have urgent business that must be attended to?” Oberon asks, gesturing to seats near him that had been vacated by some of the other fairies.
Dean ventures forward and takes the seat nearest Oberon, waiting until Lisa and Sam have been seated next to him before he speaks. “King Oberon, my friend, we are here on urgent business I’m afraid. It concerns one of your subjects, a leprechaun we met in our world recently. I do not know his fairy name, but he went by Wayne Whitaker.”
“I am most pleased to hear you name me a friend, Dean,” Oberon practically purrs at him.
Dean struggles not to shiver with the feeling of Oberon’s gaze, the memories of his time here are all coming clearer and he doesn’t want to remember.
“Yes, Uaine has recently returned after collecting several boons from several of you humans. Let me call for him, so we may discuss your concerns.” Oberon turns to a small fairy that has been hovering near his elbow. It has gossamer thin wings that shine in changing colors with every beat. It’s hard to look at because it is so beautiful and bright. As he speaks to it, the thing seems to shrink until it is only dragonfly size. Then it takes off like a shot, buzzing out through the open door. “He will join us shortly.”
“Sir, one of the boons he collected is my son,” Lisa says, sitting up straight and addressing herself to Oberon. “I am here to take him home.”
“The collecting of boons bargained for is quite a delicate matter. Reneging on a debt to one of our kind is not advisable, my dear lady,” Oberon chides.
“I did not incur this debt myself, sir. I have made no bargain with any fairy,” Lisa says, almost growling. “And yet my son has been taken from me.”
“That does not sound like a thing one of our leprechauns would do. We shall get to the bottom of this, madam. This I promise you,” Oberon says, smiling at Lisa with that hungry grin once again.
“Dean and Sam, or is it Sam and Dean? We meet once again,” the leprechaun says in his cheery voice. He is escorted into the room by the dragonfly sized fairy that steadily grows larger as it nears Oberon’s throne. It perches on the top of the throne and glares at them with its color-changing eyes.
Dean looks the leprechaun over, because he looks very different here in Fairy; the glamour the fairies use on Earth changes their faces to look more human. He satisfies himself that it’s the same leprechaun by checking the green coat he wears to see that it’s missing two buttons.
“We are here because a grievous mistake has been made,” Sam says, addressing both the leprechaun and Oberon. “When Dean made his deal with you, the understanding was that you were to collect a boon from him at the time of your choosing, correct?”
“Yes, that was our deal, which I have done as you no doubt know by now. I trust the good lady here is enjoying the cereal. I’m told you humans enjoy that sort of thing,” the leprechaun says with a mischievous grin.
“The boy you have brought here is not, in fact, Dean’s son. Not legally by human means and not by human reproductive means either,” Sam states in a firm voice.
“But he is a son of the heart,” the leprechaun insists.
“You have some proof of this claim, I assume?” Oberon asks Sam, a crease between his wide-set eyes marring his beautiful face.
Dean stops staring at the beauty of Oberon’s perfect face, not wanting to fall into that particular trap again, and concentrates on the issue he’s supposed to be dealing with. He pulls up an image of Ben in his mind and is able to get out of Oberon’s hold. He gestures at Sam who pulls the folder out of his jacket and hands it to Oberon.
“This is a report from a laboratory that compared the DNA of Benjamin Braeden and Dean Winchester,” Sam says, in a very formal, official-sounding voice. “According to the science there is not a match. Dean is not Benjamin Braeden’s father. DNA is what we humans call the building blocks of our bodies. They are only passed from parent to child in patterns that can be compared.”
Oberon carefully reads through the files in the folder and looks from Lisa to Sam to Dean slowly as if measuring their worth or maybe just their truthfulness. “Is this true, Dean?” Oberon asks, handing the folder over to the leprechaun.
“Yes, it is true, I am not Benjamin’s father,” Dean answers with a slight nod.
“Is Benjamin a child of your heart as our leprechaun friend here insists? Do not lie to me, or I shall know it,” Oberon says with a solemn cast to his normally merry features.
“He is not a child of my heart or my body,” Dean says, jaw tightly held.
Sam leans against his brother’s shoulder, trying to communicate that he knows how hard it is for Dean to say those words out loud.
“Sir Uaine, I do believe you should return this fine lady’s son to her as soon as possible,” Oberon says. “Your choice of a boon from Dean should be more carefully considered the next time.”
“Yes, sire, I understand my error,” Uaine says, handing the folder back to Sam. “I shall fetch the child right away.” Uaine backs away quickly from the throne room and flees down the hallway before they even notice the door opening.
Lisa collapses against Dean, going limp with evident relief. He feels it too; the focus of Oberon has gone off of them and onto the screw-up of his minion. He puts his attention on her, because she needs him the most. He holds her close to his body with one arm, the other hand petting her hair and speaking softly, lips close to her ear.
Sam watches Dean take care of Lisa and tries his best to focus his attention on what Oberon is saying.
“He normally is so exacting in his bargains, I do not know what has gotten into him lately,” Oberon says to Sam, shaking his head.
“Perhaps he has been in our world hunting UFO’s too long,” Sam offers with a smile, remembering how he’d first met the leprechaun in his disguise as a human UFO hunter.
“You must explain that to me while we await his return. What is it you are calling a UFO, Samuel?” Oberon asks, making the word sound creamy and delicious. Sam’s mouth waters to eat it from Oberon’s mouth and shakes his head to dislodge the glamour from taking hold. All that time Dean had spent here alone with the fairies was coming back to him now, all the ways Oberon had probably used his glamour to control his brother and make him do who knows what. He can’t let it happen to himself or his brother ever again. Sam concentrates on the jealous rage he feels at the thought of Dean in the hands of this fairy to push away Oberon’s control.
“Some humans believe that beings from other planets have visited us, here on Earth. The ships they use to fly through space are called UFO’s, which is an acronym meaning Unidentified Flying Object. The stories told of them make them out to be non-human created flying machines, moving in ways that ours are unable to, at least so far,” Sam says, hoping the explanation and the amount of his attention he is granting Oberon will be enough to satisfy him and keep his attention from Dean.
Oberon takes the words in and laughs a high-pitched, silvery musical laugh that makes Sam’s insides cramp and curl up on themselves with just the sound of it. Dean’s hand on his elbow breaks him out of the trance more completely and he leans into the press of Dean’s hand, the connection holding him from becoming en-spelled by the fairy again.
“Please do help yourselves to some refreshments until Uaine’s return,” Oberon says, gesturing at the table in front of their seats which is covered in glittering crystal dishes filled with colorful fruits and desserts.
“You are too kind, I don’t believe any of us are hungry at the moment. But thank you, though,” Sam says, giving Dean and Lisa a reminder look of warning. Both of them sit back in their seats so he stops worrying that they’ll forget themselves and try the fairy food.
There’s a commotion at the doorway as Ben scuffles with the leprechaun.
“Let me go! Hey, Mom!” Ben yells from the doorway.
Lisa leaps up from her place on the couch between the brothers and crosses the room to her son. She sweeps him up in her arms and glares at the leprechaun who takes several steps back.
“I apologize, please accept this as a small recompense for my error,” Uaine says, bending almost in half in a deep bow while holding out a small velvet bag to Lisa.
Lisa accepts the bag from Uaine and walks back to the brothers, still holding Ben in her arms.
“Should I take it?” Lisa asks them quietly.
“Yes, if it’s freely offered, it should be okay,” Sam says, looking at Dean who is opening the bag and peeking inside.
Dean looks up and nods his agreement with a smile. “You’re going to like what’s in there, Lisa,” Dean says. He puts one hand on Ben’s shoulder, “Hey, Ben, you okay?”
Ben wraps his arms tighter around his mother and nods. “I’m okay, just hungry and I really want to go home. It’s weird here.”
“That’s what we’ll do then,” Sam says, turning towards Oberon. He bows deeply and holds it for what he imagines is the requisite time. “We thank you, kind Oberon, for assisting us today.”
Oberon laughs again, and claps in delight. “Samuel, any time we get the chance to see you or your brother here is most welcome. I am glad we were able to set things to right. Until we meet again,” he says, waving a hand which pushes all four of them tumbling back through the Veil.
The sparkling thin cobwebs don’t make it through with them this time, but they all shake themselves off, because the feeling of passing through the Veil is so utterly strange. They are back in Lisa’s kitchen where she sits Ben down gently on one of the barstools, but keeps an arm around his shoulders.
Dean looks at the leprechaun button he still has gripped in his hand and holds it up to the light. It’s gone black with tarnish and looks quite old and used-up. “Maybe this was a single-use thing?”
“Could be, but we should hold onto it, just in case,” Sam says, thinking of the boons they both still owe the leprechaun.
“Dean, can I talk to you?” Ben asks.
Dean looks at Lisa for her agreement and then goes off with Ben to the living room. Lisa putters around the kitchen making sandwiches, which Sam helps her with.
“Sam, I want to thank you,” she says once they were done putting them out on the table.
“For what?” Sam asks, thinking it was his fault that Ben had been taken in the first place.
“For what you did today to get Ben back to me, and oh yeah, for saving the whole world,” Lisa says seriously.
Sam feels himself blush, going hot at her praise, not feeling like he ever deserves it. “No thanks required. Anyway, I should be thanking you for taking care of Dean while I was uh…gone.”
Lisa sits at the table and gestures for him to sit with her. She looks at him steadily for a moment, while she chews her sandwich, like she’s deciding exactly how to phrase something. “I’ve told Dean this a couple times already. It was the best year of my life. Ben and I, we needed the chance to have a man like Dean around for a while. But I can tell he’s happier back with you.”
“I…uh, you think so?” Sam asks, the blush coming back, but for a completely different reason this time. He concentrates on his sandwich, not having a clue at what to say to her.
Lisa quirks her eyebrow as she obviously tries to figure out his blush. “Yeah, Sam I do. Once I heard you were back, I knew it was only a matter of time before Dean would be out of our lives again. He wanted to have it both ways, hunting and having a home. We gave it a try as you know, but it just wasn’t meant to be. You guys are though.”
“Meant to be?” Sam asks, genuinely confused as to what she really means to suggest here, because there is no way that she knows. Right?
Lisa just smiles and hands Sam a plate with the two remaining sandwiches to take to Ben and Dean in the living room.
Sam pauses a moment watching Dean with the boy who he just had to proclaim isn’t his son of the heart just an hour ago. And all of a sudden it seems like the best lie Dean has ever told. Lord knows there was a list to choose from there. He feels himself fill up with happiness that Dean had a chance at this at all; a connection with a real, unscrewed-up family. But in that darker part of himself he usually tries to ignore, he is filling with a raging jealousy that Dean obviously still wants or needs them more. It should be okay, it really should, for Dean to have this after a life of putting others first. Maybe it’s finally Dean’s turn to get a chance at happily-ever-after.
After a day of hanging around with the three of them, Sam can see that his brother needs this more than he’d managed to understand based on what Dean had told him. He seems to be a changed man, so open and happy, kidding around with Ben and Lisa. Even though Lisa told Sam at lunch that she thought he and Dean were meant to be, who knew what she really meant? Or if she was even close to right.
While the three of them are occupied looking at a photo album from one of the trips they took during their year together, Sam takes his chance to fade into the background. He calls himself a taxi and washes the stupid tears from his face in the bathroom closest to the front door. He’ll text Dean or something once he gets a few states away. It’ll be best for all of them not to have a big good-bye scene here in front of Lisa and Ben.
Sam is waiting out on the front porch for the taxi he’s called when Dean unfortunately notices he isn’t in the house. “Sam, what the hell are you doing out here? We were just about to order a pizza,” he says from the front door.
Of course the yellow taxi picks that moment to pull up in the driveway, the driver tooting his horn briefly. Sam waves and stands up with his bag in one hand, his backpack already over the other shoulder. He can’t bear to look at Dean, knowing that if he does he’ll probably just stay and that isn’t what’s right for Dean. But he does anyway, because he can’t help himself to have one last look.
“What is this, you’re leaving? Without even saying anything to me?” Dean asks, and Sam is struck again with how the puppy eyes Dean has at his disposal are far more deadly than his own.
“I’m trying to give you what you need here, Dean. Don’t make it harder than it already is, okay? I get that you’d rather stay with them. Even if you don’t realize it yourself. I’ll call you when I get where I’m going,” Sam says, stepping off the porch.
Dean stops him with just a few words. “They're not what I really want though. Yes, I love them, but it’s not like with you. Sammy, you’re what I need. Please don’t go.”
Sam spins around and looks up at Dean standing two steps up on the porch, backlit by the cheery lights of a suburban home where he looks so damn comfortable. “I can’t take all this away from you again, Dean, I’m sorry, I just can’t.” The taxi driver honks again and Sam turns to start walking towards the car when he feels Dean’s hand land on his shoulder.
“Wait just a damn minute! All of that last night, this morning, all of it was what to you? Nothing?” Dean asks, “You’re just gonna walk away after all of that without a word. Jesus Christ, Sam, I gave you my fucking heart on a plate and you’re just dumping it in the trash leaving like this. I should have known you’d run, you always do.”
“Hey! You’re the one that promised me, that you’d go have this life, remember? And even soulless me knew you needed a chance at it. That’s why I made myself stay away as long as I did, so you could have all this.”
Dean doesn’t say anything for a long moment, but then he makes a low growling noise before speaking, “It almost killed me, every damn day I almost joined you down there. And if you leave, Sammy, I can’t…”
The taxi starts backing up down the driveway and Sam steps towards it, shaking Dean’s hand off his shoulder. Dean lets him go, plopping down onto the porch steps like he has no strength left in his body.
Sam has a short conversation with the taxi driver through his rolled-down window and hands him some cash. The taxi takes off and Sam stands in the driveway looking up at the house. He can see Lisa and Ben’s faces in the window, they’re probably wondering what the hell is going out here in their front yard; so much for not making a scene.
He finally lets himself look at Dean, sitting there on the steps like a stone-faced gargoyle, he looks beyond lost and Sam’s heart breaks. He walks back up the driveway, to stand in front his brother. “What the hell am I supposed to do with you, Dean?” Sam asks, standing at the edge of the porch, the toes of their boots almost touching.
Dean looks up at him in surprise, like he hasn’t noticed that Sam was still there. “Thought you weren’t gonna do anything with me anymore, wasn’t that why you were supposedly leaving?” Dean snarls, his eyes flash, red and wet with tears.
“I didn’t know, Dean. I didn’t understand—“ Sam says.
Dean interrupts him by leaping up and grabbing him into a fierce hug. They cling to each other like it’s the last time. Sam thinks maybe it’s the first time, this is where they’re both consciously choosing them over everything else. His heart swells with the thought and he holds Dean even closer.
Dean lets him go and looks up at Sam, wipes the tears from Sam’s cheeks and his own and smiles. “Let’s go make our goodbyes, huh?”Chapter 4