These Crimes of Illusion
Rating: R (for language)
Genre: Pre-Series, Gen
Summary: "Out in the real world, he can't see a thing." An encounter with fae leaves its marks on Dean, leading him and his father on a dangerous journey to recover things stolen -- and uncover truths that challenge their perceptions of good and evil.
Note: The term fae is used in this story to refer to faeries, or fairies. Not the small ones, but those mentioned in legends and tales from Ireland and Wales. I'd like to thank the following people for their support and hand-holding: Scout27, Gisela, P.L. Wynter, Koyote19, & Ambino1111.
Crimes of Illusion
"But maybe it's a false alarm
And all the answers sound the same
Just colours bleeding into one
That doesn't have a name
Maybe I can't see
Maybe it's just me..."
- "False Alarm," KT Tunstall
It starts with a bang and ends with a whimper instead of the other way around.
John Winchester recovers from the departure of his younger son in the same way he "recovered" from the death of his wife -- to John and Dean, leaving and death are synonymous when it comes to those they love -- drinks and bars and the thick smell of smoke clinging to his skin. He's not at the top of his game and he knows it, but still decides to get back into it.
The hunt's a welcome distraction for both, even if John wears his emotions on his sleeve and Dean burrows them so deep inside, he's convinced himself Sam was never really there at all, that it's always been him and John -- dad -- and it always will be. They work through the motions like robots. Clean weapons, research, scout, kill.
Each night, they fall into bed and dreamless sleep. Neither move unless the other does; cars pass the hotels and one or the other will jar awake, check it out, and fall back asleep. The world becomes a blur of grey and green and red, jumbled up like the words printed in the newspaper get mixed up when you try to read it before a cup of coffee. It soon loses meaning and Dean attributes that to the loss of Sam, of his other half, and refutes the claim that only twins have that deep connection.
There's less time between hunts; John's become obsessed with some shadow Dean can't see. His father says he casts too bright a light upon the world sometimes, and that's why some shadows remain out of his reach. It was a lethargic night when he said that, and Dean feels odd hearing something so poetic come out of his father's mouth. He doesn't like to think his father's dark and he's light -- Sammy's light, if any of them are, not Dean. Dean's sharp angles and half-shadows, stuck in-between the world.
Dean doesn't meet her in a bar. He's taking a walk after midnight in a small town in Pennsylvania or Kentucky. State lines have become arbitrary to him, just as the line between dedication and obsession has to his father.
He needs a break, needs some fresh air and a bit of normal before things spiral too far out of control. The air here is crisp and cold; he can see his breath as he walks down Main Street, called Peach here, and looks in the windows of all the closed shops. They sleep, but he doesn't.
A few people stumble out of a bar up ahead, and Dean thinks that would be a good place to rest his feet -- just for a few minutes, at least. He'll get a drink, let himself take a rest, and get on with his walk.
He never makes it to the bar. A woman walks out at that moment, her eyes shimmering in the moonlight. There's an odd glow about her, and he finds another image transposed over her that contradicts what his eyes are seeing. Her hair's blond, but the opaque image he sees layered over her has black. Her clothes are tight and sexy, but over her he sees a dark twisted dress.
When she walks past him, he frowns and tries to reconcile the two images, but finds himself unable to. There's a woosh of air, and the second, darker image walks over to him, and then he finds her in front of him without even taking a step.
She's standing there, all smiles and sweet innocence, and that's when he really sees her. Images from textbooks and old volumes his father totes around flash through is mind.
Dean knows what she is, and there has to be something in the way he looks at her that tips her off, because before he knows what's happening, the world swirls out of view into those blues and grays and reds he's been seeing lately, then shades of gray that fall into black, and his eyes are as useless as his mind.
There are certain sounds humans have grown used to over the last two hundred years or so. In cities, it is the sound of cars, the hum of lights, idle chatter from apartments with paper walls. It's the same outside the cities, in the small and medium towns of the American Midwest, just to a smaller degree. Humans are used to the white noise of their society, and pure silence is something they've never experienced.
When Dean Winchester hears it, he doesn't know what to think.
His brain just can't get it. There's something missing, something off, and he notices that before anything else. His mind takes a moment to wrap itself around a complete absence of even ambient sounds, and even though it still tries to reject it, he moves on. Opens his eyes.
What he sees confuses him, because it's like before, with the girl and two images unable to reconcile into one. Maybe he has a concussion, though how he got one is something he can't answer, much like a bruise you find in the morning that wasn't there before.
Just pick one, he tells his brain. Pick an image and stick to it. Because this split focus is giving him a pounding headache in the same way he learned he needed glasses in the third grade. Right behind the eyes, the tender spot that makes you think your head's going to explode. Dean pinches the bridge of his nose, closes his eyes, and gathers himself.
He tries again, this time, his brain finally choosing and image and sticking with it. With the assistance of this newfound clarity, Dean can finally scan his surroundings. Dark, sleek walls that match the low ceiling. He half expected to see stalactites of black marble hanging over his head to complete the cavernous aesthetic, but found a chandelier instead.
A real chandelier stuck in a world of Glamour.
Because that's what it is, and he knows it, though why he can see right through it to the bare bones is beyond him. He's never encountered Glamour before, no one is his family has. The odds for that are pretty high, and for once, luck was on their side, because Glamour only leads to Fae, and if there has ever existed something outside the realm of human existence one didn't want to go up against, it was them.
So he goes on what he's learned through reading, something that amuses him to no end; for so long he's rebelled against reading and thinking, just to piss his brother off, and now here he is, working through photocopies and yellowed pages, trying to remember what he should expect.
Such as chains, but his arms and legs are free. He's slouched in a chair, no cushions, just hard rock or metal, feet sprawled, arms splayed, a body thrown to storage until it became useful. He tries not to make any sound as he moves, slowly gathers his wayward limbs, wincing as his shoes scrape against something on the floor. Dean pauses, waits, listens, then goes again and makes it to a standing position before there's a rustle of fabric and a pungent breeze.
"Where do you think you're going?" is whispered in his ear, hands coming to rest gently on his hips. They slide around to rest just over his stomach, a woman's weight resting against his back. He's stood like this before, when drunk or lonely, and the chill that emanates from this woman confirms his belief that she's anything but.
Dean clears his throat, uncomfortable, but no fool; he's not going to push away, not until he knows exactly what he's up against. "Just lookin' around. Nice place you got here. Very...black."
She tightens her grip, just a bit, but enough to clarify who's in control. "Pish. Most complain the décor's too...feminine. But you, I knew you were special."
"Well, my mother did always say I was a special kid," he quips. "She taught me manners, too. You got a name, sweetheart?"
She twists him around so they're facing each other, still locked in a forced embrace. Leaning in, she purrs before saying, "You can call me Estrella."
Her breath is a gust of freezing wind on an icy day. A shiver runs down Dean's spine.
Estrella releases him in a fluid motion, hand slipping down his arm, raising goose bumps across his skin wherever she touches, and grasps his hand in hers. They're spinning and twirling across the open black marble, Estrella alternating between leading and following. From nowhere, music streams over them, wrapping around them, and she pulls Dean into a complicated waltz he only knows half the steps to.
They're moving around in erratic circles, and Dean looks into Estrella's eyes and sees nothing but bleak darkness, twin black holes of nothingness. Her grip around his waist tightens, her lips parting slightly, face coming closer.
There are certain lengths Dean will go to in order to save his own hide, but making out with a demented Unseelie fae isn't one of them, and as she comes in closer, eyes locked with his, he shuts his mouth and pushes her out into a spin. Using her own momentum against her, Dean lets her go, watching as she spirals across the floor and almost hits the wall; he's halfway across the room to the doorway she entered through before her hands grasp his shoulders, fingers squeezing into them.
"You are a wonderful toy," she says. "But a troublesome one. Do you dislike me? Am I not beautiful?"
"Lady," Dean growls, "you practically have horns."
"Oh, you are a feisty one."
Estrella circles around him, finger tracing it's way from shoulder to chest, and over her shoulder, Dean sees other fae enter, some older, some younger, all wearing the same black lace dress, eyes full of bloodlust. This wasn't covered in any of the books he's read, and for a moment, he wishes for the brother he's burned from his memories and his encyclopedic knowledge of the world.
He's a fish out of water, gasping in oxygen when his lungs lust for water. It's a poor analogy, but the only one he can think of with Estrella smiling at him with thin, pale lips and her friends in the background. Her finger's tracing its way up his neck, across his lips, up his cheekbones.
"Ladies," Estrella coos, "have you ever met a human who could see through Glamour?"
A murmur runs through the growing crowd. Surprise. Wonder. Fear.
"Who knew?" Estrella continues. "Who knew such a human existed? You know what needs to be done about this."
"Are there more?" one of the fae asks.
"This isn't supposed to happen," another voices. "This is against the Laws."
"And what happens to those who break the Laws?" Estrella asks.
This is the bang with which it starts. From light to dark instead of the other way around, an eclipse of the sun which burns if you look directly into it. Estrella brings her hands up to his forehead as Dean cycles through the ways he could possibly escape, even if he can see Glamour.
It starts with mild discomfort, that pounding headache resting just behind his eyes swelling to twice its size. He reaches up to pinch his nose again, to put a hand on the side of his head, but his arms are locked to his sides and the world is spinning wildly around him. He wishes he would have looked around one last time, would have memorized the location of the door the women, no, fae, entered through, but hindsight is 20/20 even if you're only seeing half the picture.
It shoots through him like a supernova; his eyes burn and he resists the urge to rub them. This isn't that mild burning that comes with exhaustion after a hunt, that sandy feeling when you haven't slept in three days and your body craves sleep. This is a deep, intense, blinding burning that brings him to his knees. He can hear Estrella cackling, can hear the others laughing, but they're at the end of a long tunnel.
Her hands are no longer on him. Dean falls to his side, wondering when this will end, even if he feels it has to end in death because there is no way to survive pain this horrible. The cool marble comes to rest against his side, but he doesn't remember falling, doesn't remember curling up on his side, doesn't remember bringing his hands up to clutch his head.
He blinks, blinks, hoping this is all a bad dream, that he'll wake up and his father will be there reading over papers even at two am.
His eyes, oh, God, his eyes! He opens them as wide as he can -- mere slits -- and looks up to Estrella and her hoard of evil fucking bitches and finds beautiful women standing in a white room, a white, beautiful, ornate room and fuck, what did she do?
"Beautiful ice blue eyes," she says as the world tilts and spins. Bile rises in his throat. The white room's fading to gray, to black, and God, he just wanted to take a walk and clear his head...