Dean’s arms don’t feel right when he wakes up. There’s something missing, a weight and warmth that should be there, that he’s already grown used to having. Before he even opens his eyes he knows. That bastard has taken Sam now.
The boxes of Lucky Charms filling the cabinets of the motel room’s kitchenette are all the proof he needs. Uaine has collected his boon again, and this time it’s Sam. He wants to set all those boxes of cereal on fire or something, but first things first, he’s gotta go after what’s his.
After he gets dressed in his clothes from yesterday, Dean reads over the research Sam had compiled on boons and the definition of the term as far as it goes with fairy deals. What he comes up with is that Uaine must think he’s somehow Sam’s parent, which given their activities of last night gives a whole new meaning to the incest they were already engaged in. It makes Dean shiver with revulsion to even think of it. Maybe a long time ago, he’d acted like a parent to Sam when their dad wasn’t around enough. But it’s been a very long time since he’s felt anything like parental towards Sam. Brotherly sure, more-than-brotherly is a whole other category, right? As far as how a boon would be counted, that’s got to be the argument he makes.
Ben had given him a button yesterday that he’d swiped from the leprechaun, and it’s still stuck in his jeans pocket so he doesn’t have to dig out the first one that’s still in the ashtray out in the car. As Dean eats his breakfast, a Power Bar he’s dunked in motel room coffee, he pats the button in reassurance. “I’m coming for you, Sammy, hold on.”
Dean’s back in that tunnel before the beautiful wooden door in less than an hour. His hand is on the knob to open the door when he’s stopped by a voice hissing right in his ear. “Oh ho ho, you’re not here again, human. Can’t stay away from us once you get a taste. Oberon never should have touched your diseased human flesh.”
Dean flaps his hand because something is buzzing next to his ear, it’s the messenger fairy that had been on Oberon’s throne yesterday. “Leave me the hell alone, I’m not tasting anything and I sure as hell don’t want to be here.”
“If it’s Hell you want, sweet thing, then Hell I can give you,” the fairy purrs and tinkles, licking the shell of his ear. It flies away from him, hovering above his head, growing suddenly larger and darker. It’s wings look bat-like, leathery and foul just like some of the worst demons of hell that had tormented him during his brief stay.
Dean pushes past the thing with a shudder of remembrance and opens the door. Just like last time, the music abruptly cuts off and all eyes are on him. He tries to remember how Sam had argued this yesterday. The messenger fairy has transformed itself into the beautiful small thing and accompanies him towards the throne.
“Dean Winchester, I am surprised to see you are here again, and without your beautiful brother this time,” Oberon says, with that same unsettling hungry smile that makes him remember too many vague images of his time spent here under this fairy’s control. “Wherever, is your dear Samuel?”
“Greetings or whatever, Oberon, You’ve got Sam here already, at least Uaine has. That’s why I’m showing up here again, I need him back,” Dean says, stating his case as plainly as possible.
“Why ever would Uaine have collected Samuel as a boon from you?” Oberon asks, sitting back in his throne chair and crossing his legs. He’s looking Dean up and down like he’s cataloguing and remembering how each body part tastes in those sharp white gleaming teeth of his. Dean tries not to think about the fact that Oberon does know exactly how he tastes.
“I believe Uaine has made a mistake again. This time, I believe he has misunderstood the place Sam has in my life,” Dean says.
“And in your heart, I assume,” Oberon says, eyes twinkling with amusement. “That beautiful boy, well, I’d imagine he just takes everyone by storm.”
Dean is just about to question that, demand answers about what the hell Oberon is hinting at when the messenger fairy flies off. “I’ve sent her off to gather up Uaine and Samuel for us, please take a seat while we wait.”
Choosing among the available sitting options, Dean picks the purple overstuffed divan that is closest to Oberon. He doesn’t say anything, afraid of revealing too much or angering the fairy king.
“You are a very different man than your brother, aren’t you?” Oberon asks with a command in his voice that is very hard to ignore. Sam had told him about having to fight off the powerful glamour Oberon has control of yesterday.
“Yeah, I guess so. He’s four years younger than me, never will cut his hair and has piss-poor taste in music, and don’t get me started on what he eats,” Dean says.
“His body is in very fine shape, his is one of the most pleasing human forms I’ve seen in an eon. I think he likely makes good food choices, you just don’t happen to agree with them,” Oberon says in a haughty way that makes Dean grind his teeth.
Dean wants to tell him to stop talking about his brother like that, emphasis on the his. But he holds himself back because that will just complicate the whole argument he needs to make here to get Sam back. He’s got to keep it focused on the parental thing. “Can’t argue with you there, Oberon,” Dean says through a grimace he tries to make look like a smile.
Oberon is about to offer him the food laid out on the low table before them, but they’re interrupted by the messenger fairy swarming back in, announcing the arrival of Sam and the leprechaun.
Uaine has his hand firmly wrapped around Sam’s bicep, (his long fingers not even coming close to touching, Dean notes proudly) and is frowning mightily at Dean across the throne room.
“Uaine, it is all of us together once again, is this to become a now-daily occurrence? Dean has returned to lodge a protest about your collection of Samuel as his boon sacrifice,” Oberon says, waving a hand at them to seat themselves.
Uaine forces Sam to sit on one of the love-seat sized couches near the throne, across from where Dean is perched on the edge of his.
“Greetings, your majesty, I am unclear what the issue Dean could have with my choice of boon,” Uaine says, bowing deeply yet his hand doesn’t come off of Sam’s arm for a moment.
Dean tries to make eye contact with Sam across the small distance between them but Sam’s eyes are glazed over and not focusing on much at the moment.
“Sam! Hey, wake up! What the hell have you done to him?” Dean protests.
“Just a mild glamour to calm him until he becomes accustomed to living here in Faery with us,” Uaine assures Dean, assuming this is an answer Dean will accept.
Oberon waves his hand in Sam’s direction and his eyes instantly clear. Sam shakes his head and smiles with clear relief when he sees Dean across from him. “I knew you’d come, Dean.”
“Of course, Sammy, you can’t get rid of me that easily, thought we went over that yesterday,” Dean says with a matching grin.
“You two are indeed adorable, but to the matter at hand, shall we?” Oberon says, clapping his hands together. An aura of officialness descends on his shoulders. “I will hear now the boon requirements, Sir Uaine, please proceed.”
Uaine lets go of Sam’s arm reluctantly and stands up, arranging his green coat with the three missing buttons. “I am owed a boon from Dean Winchester. To fulfill this boon, I claim his first-born and only son, Samuel Winchester.”
Both Dean and Sam burst out laughing at the very idea, meeting each other’s eyes across the food table. Sam nods at Dean, knowing that he has a good argument worked out, otherwise he wouldn’t have come to get him.
“Besides rude laughter, the disputant’s statement is what in response?” Oberon asks in an offended voice, turning to Dean.
“I guess I’m the disputant, and I apologize for laughing. I dispute that I am not Sam’s father, he is not my son, he has never been my son. Sam is instead, my brother.”
“That is not strictly true, Dean, from what I have seen in Sam’s soul when I retrieved it from Hell,” Uaine argues.
“What is that exactly that you saw, Uaine?” Oberon asks. “Be clear and true now or you will forfeit with your life.”
“My view when I held his soul in my hands was that Samuel has years of memories of Dean acting as his de-facto Father deep in his soul that have come to form the basis of his person.”
“You are misinterpreting how we perceive and classify ourselves. The relationship between us is not parental, it is only sibling based,” Sam says.
“That is not all though,” Uaine protests. “And be quiet, you are not the disputant, you are the boon.”
“Uaine,” Oberon says in warning. “Samuel may speak, but it seems moot as there is more to Uaine’s argument than yours, Dean.”
Dean thinks for a moment, his eyes searching Sam’s across the space between them. He turns his attention to Oberon who is looking hungrier than when he’d first arrived. “That may have been true when we were children, I’m sure those memories are in his soul, of course they would be. Someone had to be there for Sam, our mom was killed when he was six months old, and our Dad did his best. But that isn’t what I mean to him now or how I think of him now,” Dean says.
“Is this maybe a definitional thing? Do fairies and humans see family relationships differently?” Sam asks.
Oberon tips his head to the side considering, his gaze raking up and down Sam’s body. “Childhood memories are one thing, but—you both have the same mother and father, correct?”
Both Dean and Sam nod vigorously.
“Then you are brothers to each other, not parent and child. What say you, Uaine?”
“Dean has been acting as Samuel’s parent his entire life and has essentially raised him from infancy as a mother-substitute,” Uaine says, rising to his feet, letting go of his hold on Sam in his anger at being challenged.
“That is our ancient history, and not our primary relationship though. The vast majority of our adult lives has been spent as brothers,” Dean protests.
“Then why did I find you in the state I did this morning when I collected Samuel?” Uaine asks, a dark cloud over his face, the forty-six remaining buttons on his green jacket jangling together making angry music.
Dean feels himself flush an instant red, he puts a hand up to the back of his neck and tries to smile at Sam. He makes himself look up at Oberon then, knowing this mention of sex would be the deciding factor since the fairy king is so sex-focused. “That is…uh, something new for us, just since the time Uaine returned Sam’s soul to him. I’m not sure how it has a bearing on this question before your court, Oberon.”
Oberon looks much more interested and amused at the same time. “Oh do tell, Uaine, what state exactly did you find these brothers?”
Uaine grimaces, knowing he’s probably lost the argument. “Naked, in each other’s arms.”
Oberon claps delightedly and laughs that irritating musical laugh. He schools his face into seriousness. “So a bit more than just brothers it seems.”
“Listen, if I let you touch me, you can read my mind, right?” Dean asks, he remembers Oberon taking advantage of this ability, rifling through his memories during the short time he’d been captive here.
Oberon motions Dean forward and slowly unbuttons Dean’s shirt, opening it wide. He touches Dean’s chest over his tattoo, running his sharp nails over the design as he reads the contents of his heart.
After a minute or so, Dean gets uncomfortable having the fairy king up close in his space, touching him so intimately. He glances at Sam and he gets a reassuring smile from his brother. Dean feels his heart flare up full and hot at the reminder of what Sam means to him in this fraught moment, and what it would mean to have him taken away.
Oberon gasps and pulls his hand away from Dean’s chest looking at him curiously. “Based on what I have just seen, your claim is denied, Uaine. Dean is no more Samuel’s parent than I am. After your two spectacular failures in collecting a boon from him, I now declare Dean’s debt to you is paid in full.”
“As you say, majesty. What of the boon, Samuel owes me?” Uaine asks, his face a barely controlled mask of anger.
“As far as I am concerned, that has not been discussed and remains in effect, but I advise you to take care in choosing your boon from Samuel. It won’t go well with you if they are back in my court on the morrow,” Oberon says with a stern nod dismissing Uaine.
Uaine leaves in huff, buttons jangling and angry. He whispers in a low hiss to the brothers as he passes by them, “Don’t worry I’ll be seeing you both again.”
“I apologize for my subject’s ineptitude, please take this as a measure of my feelings. I hope to go a few days without seeing you here in my court. Farewell,” Oberon says and with a flick of his fingers they are pushed back through the veil landing on their un-made motel bed with a bounce.
They fall into each other’s arms again, so relieved to have passed out of Fairy together once again.
“Thanks for getting me back, Dean,” Sam says, kissing his brother with gratefulness that they’re on the same plane of existence, at least for now.
“Hopefully that was the last time we have to go there, I don’t like Oberon creepin’ on you like that,” Dean says, hands roaming around Sam’s body like he’s checking to see that he’s still all there, no parts left behind for Oberon to chew on.
“I still owe Uaine a boon, remember?” Sam says.
“We’ve gotten out of it the other two times, third times the charm, right?” Dean says with a hopeful light shining in his eyes that Sam doesn’t want to dim with reality. Sue him, Dean is in his arms, they’re back safe in their motel room, in the bed that still smells like the sex they were having all night. Was it really just last night?
“Hey, what is this thing?” Dean asks, holding up a velvet bag that’s between them on the bed. “Is this what he gave us as our parting gift?”
The contents of the bag jingle as Dean tests the weight of the thing before opening the drawstring. “Same as what Lisa and Ben got, fairy treasure stuff. Looks like human coins mostly,” Dean says as he spreads the contents out on the bedspread between them.
Sam digs through the coins and finds some really special ones that he sets aside to research the value of later. “That’s probably because fairy gold doesn’t always stay around here, remember that one story of the disappearing treasure? So this is probably from their hoard they’ve stolen over the years.”
“If all this is still here in the morning, I’ll believe it’s the real deal. No, I’ll believe it when we can spend it on something.”
Sam’s stomach growls, loud and empty and he looks up at Dean to see his response.
“You haven’t eaten anything since, when?” Dean asks.
“Uh, the Greek restaurant I guess,” Sam says, remembering everything that came right after that, the bag of Baklava is still probably in the car where they left it in their rush into the motel room. “I didn’t eat anything while I was stuck there, even though Uaine kept offering me stuff. I was counting on you getting me out and I didn’t want to mess that up.”
“I’ll go get us some sandwiches or something, okay?” Dean says, standing up a bit reluctantly. He stops at the door and looks back at Sam lying there riffling his fingers through the shiny coins. “Don’t go anywhere without me this time.”
“It wasn’t up to me, you know,” Sam says with a pout that makes Dean cross the room back to him, kissing him so slow and thorough his toes curl up inside his boots.
“If this is how you apologize now, I think I’m going to get used to this pretty fast,” Sam says in a murmur against Dean’s lips.
“Hopefully I won’t have much to be apologizing for, right?” Dean says with a laugh that breaks them apart. “I’ll be right back,” he says, jingling his keys as he exits the door.
In the small amount of time Dean is gone, Sam takes a shower to wash the sticky-sweet feeling leftover from being in Fairy. As soon as he’s dressed again, he sits down to research some ways to make sure neither of them ever end up in that place again. Now that he’s experienced it himself he feels it deep in his bones that Dean still hasn’t told him everything that happened while he was Oberon’s captive. He tries not to picture the fairy devouring his brother with more than just some uncomfortably long looks.
As soon as Dean walks back in the door, Sam rattles off what he’s found all in a rush. “So get this, we know we’ve got to get some fairy protective charms figured out asap, and I think we should tell Lisa about what I’ve found too, right away, maybe Bobby also. Just in case Uaine goes the father-figure route next. Do we have any red ribbon or thread? Have you seen any hazel or rowan trees? I know it’s winter and everything, but I looked it up and they’re definitely sold here. I found a tree farm not too far out of town and they’re still open. We should probably go right now.”
Dean is still standing in the doorway, his mouth as wide open as the door. Several plastic bags with their food dangle from his fingers and Sam realizes he’s worried Dean with his outburst.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure we protect ourselves, from…you know, getting taken again,” Sam says, feeling stupid for not presenting the whole thing to Dean in shorter bursts of information like he usually does. It just seems so damn pressing and important though, he feels it fiercely, deep down that they’re going to get messed with again, probably soon. He can’t let that happen to Dean, not again.
Dean finally comes all the way in the room, closing the door behind him, the cold air cutoff from gusting inside. He sets the plastic bags on the table next to Sam’s laptop and sits in the chair across from Sam. “Can we eat first?”
Sam nods and starts unpacking the bags, pleased to see Dean’s gotten him a salad to go with a sandwich. They inhale all the food, both of them were hungrier than they’d thought.
“Okay, so what’s the deal with the red ribbons, or red thread?” Dean finally asks, breaking the silent meal.
“If you carry Rowan sticks that are tied up with red thread and bit of iron, that’s supposed to be intolerable to fairies,” Sam says, licking the last of the salad dressing from his plastic fork.
Dean’s eyes go a little soft, while he focuses on Sam’s mouth. “Sounds a little bulky, but okay. What about the red ribbons, is that something else?”
“Yeah, you’re supposed to tie red ribbons around your neck and use sticks of hazel to beat your own back with. Supposed to scare the fairies away.”
Dean rolls his eyes at the idea. “Either of these things really going to protect us from a fairy deal, though? Just asking before I start hitting myself, you know I’m not into that kinda thing,” Dean says with a snarky huff of breath.
Sam sits up straight in his chair and takes Dean’s hand, he looks him in the eye for a moment, letting him see how serious he really is about this. “After what I just went through, now that I know…I can’t let them take you again, Dean, I just can’t.”
Dean smiles at Sam’s words, the kind of smile he’s used to seeing when he’s surprised Dean. “I remembered one thing like this from all the fairy stories I used to read you. To get them to give back someone they’ve taken from you, you’re either supposed to throw dust from the road, threaten them with an iron knife or your left shoe. At the same time you have to say, ‘This is yours, that is mine!’”
“Well, if we’re in Fairy again, our iron knives will be gone, there won’t be any road dust but we’ll presumably have our shoes, guess I’ll have to go with that,” Sam says with a chuckle at the image of threatening the King of Fairy with his shoe.